Green Gardening: Starting Seedlings with What?? (Toilet paper tubes)

26 March 2012
So as I've mentioned before, this year I'm trying to be "green" with my gardening.  I've already told you how eggshells can be used to start your seedlings, now here's another tip for you!!!

All you'll need for this is to save some toilet paper tubes and keep around a small container that you don't care about.  In this case, I used an old Glad Ovenware that I had bought and lost or destroyed the lid to.

First, you'll cut your toilet paper tubes in half, like this:

Then you'll set them in the container like this:

Then, go ahead and fill them with your seed starting mix!  After this is done, I add water, but not directly to the dirt, but to the outside of the container surrounding the little tubes.  The water will soak up through the toilet paper tubes and into the dirt. 

After everything looks like it's moist, go ahead and plant your seeds!  When you're ready to plant, you can either choose to leave the toilet paper tube in place or just rip it and it will come right off.  I'm going to take mine out only because I don't know how fast they'll decompose.  Perhaps I'll leave one or two as an experiment. :)

Are you a "green gardener"?  If so, share your tips!  We would love to experiment with more green gardening!

Reader Shared Freebie!!! Ben and Jerry's Free Cone Day!!!

21 March 2012

Now seriously, who doesn't like Ben & Jerry's?  (my daughter would say, "only silly people, mom")

April 3, 2012 from 12-8 pm, stop by any Ben & Jerry's location and get a free cone! 

Which one to choose?  Are you a Chunky Monkey fan, or more of a Cake Batter or Chocolate Therapy?

My personal favorite is the Coffee Heath Bar Crunch... yumm.

Now, if only I had a Ben & Jerry's where I lived... I'd totally be there.  Go live it up for me, would you?

Click here for more information on Free Cone Day!

Celery: Seed Starting and General Information

20 March 2012

This is our first year growing celery.  I'm growing just a couple of plants as an experiment, so this is all new to me as well.  This is all information that I have gathered from other resources, and I hope it helps both me and you, my reader.

I started my seedlings in eggshells, on 3/4/12 in a regular seed starting mix.  According to my package, these should sprout in 10-25 days.  I just scattered these on the top of the soil, as they need light to germinate.  One of my gardening books indicates that it can take a long time to germinate and to stay patient.  When two true leaves appear, transfer them into 3" pots and let them establish.  Then you'll harden them off and replant them when they have 5-7 true leaves.   According to one book, temperatures on these seedlings should never fall below 50 degrees for longer than 12 hours or they will bolt later in life.  If the weather isn't good enough for transplanting, trim them back with sharp scissors, keeping them at about 3" until outdoor temperatures are higher.

If your space is limited, container growing is good, when grown in deep containers.  When they reach 12" in height, begin blanching (or tightening) the plant by binding loosly with a collar by placing a 9-10" piece of thick paper around the stems of the plant.  Add more paper as the plant grows and develops.  These plants do not like to be dry.  Keep them very watered, especially when it is warm.

You'll be able to harvest this difficult plant somewhere between 100-120 days after you've planted it.  Harvest it gently by pulling the roots out from the ground with a garden fork.

If you have any helpful hints on growing celery please leave a comment!  Check back to see how our celery does!

Emerald Bell Peppers: Seed Starting and General Information

19 March 2012

In our family, we almost always keep a bell pepper in the refrigerator.  There are more than enough meals that can utilize a pepper, and there are some times where I'm scrounging for dinner and a pepper sets off my imagination.

We've had good crops of bell peppers in the past and it's a great plant to have around if you're like me.  This year, we're growing Emerald Bell Peppers and I started the seedlings in eggshells, at a depth of 1/4" and they will take anywhere from 10-21 days to sprout.  You'll want to try to transplant these when they have three true leaves, placing them in 4-5" pots and moving them into their final position when they're about 4" high.  Make sure to harden these off and plant them after there is no danger of frost.

You want to make sure they're getting enough water when it's really warm, but to not waterlog them.  This is especially important when you're growing them in containers.  Harvest them with scissors or pruning shears when they're green to encourage more growth, or leave them on to have them change color.  Waiting to harvest them will make your yield less, however, so I recommend picking them when they're green.  They will store for about two weeks once harvested.  At the end of the season, you can uproot the plants and hang them by their roots and the fruit will continue to ripen.

Kohlrabi: Seed Starting and General Information

18 March 2012

This is by far one of my favorite summertime vegetables.  I have a lot of memories of sitting around with my dad eating it raw, sliced with salt on it.  (Just the thought of it is making me drool right now)

The year before last, they did really well and I had much snacking.  Last year, I tried to do them in pots, however, and they really didn't like it.  I think it once again has to do with the two weeks where it was ridiculously hot and I couldn't keep anything watered properly.

This year, I'm again growing Kohlrabi, and am planning on doing some in pots and some in the garden, with the hope that I'll get at least something from my garden to eat this year.   This is a type of plant that you will want to grow in succession, so that you keep having harvests throughout the year.  planting one mound every 2-3 weeks is ideal if you have the space.

I started these in eggshells on 3/4/12, and will start another set on 3/25/12, and then another sometime in April.  After this time, I'll start the seeds in the ground directly as the weather should be consistently warm enough.  Start them at a depth of 1/2" in a regular seed starting mix.  They typically take between 10-14 days to sprout, but these little guys sprouted in less than a week! 

They really need to have their own space, otherwise they will check they're own growth.  If you plant these in containers, fertalize them moderately every 2-3 weeks and maintain a regular supply of water.

You'll harvest these in about 55 days, and try to pick them when they are between golf ball and tennis ball size, because when they get large, they tend to become woody.  They can be stored for a little while, but tend to lose flavor the longer they are stored.

This year, I'm really hoping to get a good crop, as I found this recipe that looks like it would be great to try!  I've never actually tried cooked kohlrabi, so I'm hoping this year's crop is a success.

Kohlrabi Sauteed in Butter

Peel any tough skin off kohlrabi, trim and scrub.  Boil whole for 20-30 minutes, then drain, cut and saute in a pan for a couple of minutes with melted butter.

The leaves are also said to be good boiled.

Jalapenos: Seed Starting and General Information

16 March 2012

The Jalapeno...  My favorite Pepper.  My favorite way to eat it is in popper form, stuffed with cream cheese and deep fried in a fluffy beer batter.  Yummmm.  I'm drooling just thinking about what I'm going to do with these peppers.

The year before last, we had 9 jalapeno plants, and at any given time, usually had around 30-40 jalapenos.  It was wonderful, almost overabundant.  Last year, I only grew one plant and ended up with only about 6 jalapenos all summer.  Last years harvest overall was very poor.  There was a point during the summer where we had 90-100 degree weather with no rain for about two weeks.  This coupled with a pre-planned vacation where we weren't around to water our plants, pretty much dwarfed our harvest and I ended up spending two weeks nursing everything back to health.  We lost a couple of plants too.  (This year, there won't be any vacation during the month of July... I've learned my lesson)

So this year, I'm starting 8 plants, with the hopes of recreating the bountiful harvest we had the year before last.

Jalapenos take a little work as they grow and develop, and it takes a long time to nurse them up to where they'll bear fruit.  This is the technique that I prefer to use when growing my jalapeno seedlings.
I start them in pods at a depth of 1/4" (this year we're doing eggshell seed starting on this plant), and keep them warm, about 70 degrees.  They will sprout somewhere between 10-25 days from when you plant the seeds.  When they have three true leaves, I move them into a 3-5" pot, where they'll stay until they are about 4" high and the soil is warm outside and the danger of frost has passed.

They like the sun outside, and they like to be mildly watered, not soaked.  When the weather is very hot, it pays off to water them multiple times during the day.  Droopy leaves are a sign that you aren't watering them enough.  They are easy to grow in containers, and this is how I've grown my best jalapenos.  They need about 8-10" pots for a full sized plant, in a loam based potting mix.

Your plants will reach maturity close to 65 days.  Harvest the Jalapenos when they are green, and about 3-4" in length.  Continual harvesting will encourage more fruiting, so go out every day to check your harvest!  They will store for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator in a paper bag.

St. Patrick's Day Crafts: Leprechaun Traps {Craft Tutorial}

14 March 2012
This is our first year making leprechaun traps, and let me just say that Lily has been super excited to do this from the moment that we started gathering pebbles to make up our fake gold, to her drawing a schematic of what she wanted the trap to look like, to helping me design the trap.

We took up inspiration from several places, such as:

Root's and Wing's Leprechaun Traps
A Holiday Haven's: Leprechaun Traps that Work
A Holiday Haven's: How to Catch a Leprechaun
Disney Family Fun: To Catch a Leprechaun
Leprechaun Trap Photos

First, we started by talking about leprechauns.  I did a little bit of research ahead of time and picked and chose what our leprechauns would be like.   According to most Leprechaun folklore, any leprechaun, if ever captured by a human, the leprechaun has the magical power to grant three wishes in exchange for their release.  I decided this would be our reasoning why we should catch a leprechaun.  But why would the leprechaun be coming to our house anyway?

Well, Saint Patrick's day is an Irish holiday, and a darn good reason to dye rivers green, imho.  And while we're dying rivers green, why not invite the leprechauns in to our homes to steal our precious  gold?  Sounds like a great idea.  My four year old has been asking these sorts of questions, and I simply tell her that leprechauns are tricky like that.  So immediately, of course, she was on board with making the leprechaun traps.

First, we set out making a schematic for our trap:

Ok.  This was a great start.  It engaged her for a while, helped her practice her writing, and she had fun explaining what everything was.

We found a box that was perfect for the trap and she set about painting that while I prepped the stuff to paint our fake gold.  We had gathered some pebbles on our trip to the park the other day, I brought these home, washed them and they were ready to go.

I dumped them in a clean dry cottage cheese container that I had been saving to reuse in some craft projects.  Then I added a few drops of gold paint...

Then we shook them up, and dumped them on some aluminum foil to dry.

We built a simple cage made out of popsicle sticks and glued some poly fib*r*fill to the outside, and glued the rainbow on top of that.  We tied a string to the top of our cage so that the trap would actually work.

You can't really see the cage in this picture, and that's the point.  You don't want to give the trap away to the leprechaun, do you?

Overall, she and I both had fun with this project, and we both had fun making a working trap.  She thought it was hilarious that it actually worked when I made her take the gold and test it.

It will also be fun when we set it up on St. Patrick's day and see if we catch a leprechaun, or if he gets away and leaves us a special treat.  (Either way it will be cool!)

What are you and your family doing for St. Patrick's Day Crafting activities?  I'd love to hear about them!

I'm linking up to these St. Patrick's Day linky parties!

Creations by Kara

Link up here if you did something cool for St. Patrick's Day!!

Five Ways to Get your Kids Excited about Gardening!

11 March 2012
Antonio M. Rosario

Gardening is a great learning exercise for children of all ages; it teaches them how things grow, where the food we eat comes from and can help get picky eaters to try new foods.  Besides teaching valuable lessons about food, it can also teach a variety of useful life skills, such as; how to be patient(it takes time for plants to grow), dependability (plants need you to be there and care for them every day), responsibility (to take the initiative), and also places respect for environment in your child's hands.  Whether you are able to grow 1 plant or 100, it's a worthwhile summer activity that is bound to teach your children many valuable life skills.

If you don't have much space, or live in an apartment building where you cant plant in the ground, find a plant or two that you can grow in a pot!  There are also many "co-op" gardens, where you can rent a space in a shared garden or pay to receive a portion of their crops.  Many of these ask or require participants to help tend the plants and/or maintain the garden.  For those with less time, this may be the best option.

Tips for "growing" a successful gardener in your child:

1.  Start small. If this is your (or your child's) first time gardening, don't overdo it.  Many people make the mistake of trying to work with too many plants at once or learning too much at once.  With new gardeners, especially children, it is important to not let anyone get overwhelmed.  Chances are, if you let that happen, a lot of your plants will suffer due to your frustration.

2.  Don't pressure.  Encourage your children, but don't push them to enjoy it.  Last year, it took three different times before our seeds were actually in their pods.  The first time, she got distracted, so I put it all away, the second time, she got more interested in making signs for the plants, so I embraced it as an craft opportunity, and the third time, she sat with me for over an hour and planted every little seed herself.  By letting it be her decision, she came to be interested in the plants by herself, and then devoted all of her attention to it.  

3.  Set a Routine.  Plants need attention.  Some days they need more than others, but you should never go a day without checking on your plants.  Since children and plants both thrive on attention and routine, the two will go together easily.  I always like checking on the plants right after breakfast, and then again shortly before dinner.  If I make this a habit, that every day at these times we go check on the plants, it fosters a sense of responsibility and normalcy to what we are doing. 

4.  Let them explore.  There's many ways that you could do this, for one example, you could let your child have one plant that is all their own.  You let the child do all of the work nurturing it and helping it grow.  (You can of course provide suggestions, ie. Your plant is looking a little sad today... do you think it needs something?) This develops a sense of pride when their plant does well, as well as the consequences if it doesn't.  (of course, if you aren't the type to let a plant die, like myself, there's nothing saying you can't water it on the side....)  For a second example, you can let your child take the lead in your garden exploration.  Let them go ahead and look for new fruits and vegetables, find worms, bugs, weeds, etc.  You could take it a step further and make a chart before you go out with things to count, like Flowers on the Rose Bush, or Weeds we pulled, etc and let your child mark when they find this item!

5.  Show and Tell.  Let your child be proud of the things that they have grown.  Encourage them to help prepare it in the family meal, draw/take pictures of the garden, and talk about it.  Also encourage your child to take part in the gardening process from start to finish.  Let them help pick out seeds and pots and dirt and keep it up all through the summer!

I bet if you follow these simple tips that you will soon have a master gardener helping you and excited about all the new, fresh things they've discovered!

Free! Sesame Street "My World is Green and Growing"

09 March 2012
So by now, you should have figured out that I love Sesame Street.  I think they're a great educational tool for children, and both of my kids have loved growing up with the whole cast of characters.  There's a reason that they've had so many seasons and are still going strong.  Well, today's Freebie is another great one from Sesame Street, entitled "My World is Green and Growing."

It is an 18 page booklet that you can print out and it contains activities, ideas, games, and much more for your children to do to get out and explore the world.  I thought this was especially timely as things are starting to turn green again (I just saw my chives peek out from the dirt two days ago, and my first seedling popped out of its pod as well!)

There is also a Nature Tip video that you can watch with your child to help get them excited.  I just printed my copy, and I think spring break is the perfect time to start some fun!

Visit Sesame Street's "My World is Green and Growing"

Let the Gardening Begin... How to start seeds!

08 March 2012
What do Eggshells, Dirt and seeds have in common?  Nothing if you are a normal person... but if you're a gardener, it could mean a lot to you.  There are many different ways to start a seed.
For most, Jiffy Greenhouses are the way to go.  They're easy, the dirt is already there, all you have to do is add water and the little peat pellets puff up and you can press in your seeds, pop the lid on and you're done.

I've done these in the past, and they are easy, they are probably the most compact of all of the options out there, but they aren't very green.  I have to dispose of, or store, this large plastic case, and there have been times I've found that my little seedlings weren't able to push their roots through the meshy casing that is supposed to dissolve over time, and their growth has been stunted.

Plus, I'm all about being green, so this year we're trying several new "green"  seed starting techniques.

The first of these techniques we put into effect this past weekend when we started our first batch of seeds (only 4 varieties of plants, of the longest germinating variety.)  Next week, we'll be starting a larger batch, and sharing another green seed starting technique with you.

I read about this technique on some website, I really wish I had bookmarked it, because it was a great website...  *facepalm*  For this technique, it requires some planning ahead.  Whenever you use an egg, try to crack just the top off on the smaller end of the egg.  Rinse it out and let it dry upside down, and then when it's dry, store it in a spare egg carton.  When you've got a dozen or two, you're ready to start some seeds.

I labeled my egg shells with a permanent marker indicating what seeds I was going to plant inside, then filled them with dirt.  After they were filled, I watered them a little bit, then put my seeds in, and misted the eggshells all with water to help the seeds settle a little.  I think they not only are useful, but kind of pretty in their own way.  I think they'll look very cool when all the seeds have sprouted :)

When you're ready to plant them in the ground, all you have to do is crush the egg in your hand and put it in the ground.  The egg shells are very good for the dirt and the seedling and will help them grow.

The Kohlrabi is already sprouting!  Just 3 days after planting!!

I also saved the shards from the top of the egg that I cracked and have crushed them up and will mix them into my soil before I add my plants.

You may be asking yourself, how do I know when to start my seeds?  You don't want to start them too early and have to transplant them inside before they can go outside, but you also don't want to get too late of a start and shorten your available harvesting time.

First, know your zone.  You can find your gardening zone here, and by knowing your zone, you'll become familiar with what types of plants you can grow.

Second, know your Average Last Frost Date.  This will give you the baseline to time your seed starting.

Third, read your seed packet.  Each seed packet usually comes with information such as; whether the plant prefers sun or shade, what depth to plant your seed, any germination instructions, how long it will take to bear fruit, how long it will take to sprout, when to plant in the ground and any other information that you need to know in order to start the seed.

I started these four because their instructions all indicated that they should be started 8-10 weeks before the average last frost date.  For my area, my average last frost date is April 25th.  Right around this time, I'll be able to begin hardening off my seedlings and getting them ready to go into the ground or pots. 

These are the four different types of plants that were started on 3/4/12.   Expect some articles on the individual plants themselves coming this week!

Slime {Craft Tutorial}

07 March 2012
After I did Oobleck with the kids, they were screaming for more gooey projects... so I found a recipe for Slime and figured we would try that!  They loved it (though not as much as the oobleck), and played with it for at least an hour after we made it.

Ingredients Needed:

One larger bowl filled with 1 1/3 c. Warm Water (must be warm, but need not be hot)
2 TBSP Borax, added to same bowl of water, mixed well

In smaller bowl, 3/4 c. warm water (once again needs to be warm)
one Cup of Glue
Food Coloring

Mix the glue and food coloring into the smaller bowl.  Mix well!  Try not to get it on the table like me... :D

 Add the contents of the small bowl to the large bowl all at once.  Let sit for about 2 minutes to set up and then lift it out of the water.  It will feel really slimy, but as you pack it together it will gain a little more on the solid form.

We found that this slime snapped apart if you pulled on it, if you made a ball and left it on the table it would flatten out, and you could put two pieces together and they would slowly meld together.

It's not as fun as playdoh, you can't really make shapes out of it, but they had a lot of fun playing with the funky texture and just messing around with it.

We kept ours in ziploc bags and they will last for weeks!


Gardening, my favorite Season!

04 March 2012
Yes, I called gardening a season.  I love it because it's fun, it's educational and it's delicious.  Every year, my daughter and I have fun deciding which types of flowers and foods that we're going to grow and I love looking at the different varieties and exploring new options.  I thought I would share what is going to be going in our garden a little more in depth with my readers, so over the next couple of days, I'm going to have several posts telling about the varieties I've chosen, how I'm planning on growing them and tips that I have picked up over the years of gardening!

Here's a few peeks from last year's gardening adventures:

Potato Stamped Canvas Totes {Craft Tutorial}

03 March 2012
So I saw several ideas for children's storage on Pinterest, which is my favorite place to look for craft ideas.  I saw this one I liked that was like a modular space that could hold those small canvas totes and separate toys.  I picked out 4 really plain white ones that were only $1.50 each.

I then dug through my cupboard, and found two potatoes that were getting soft and that I wouldn't use for baking.  I cut these in half and let my daughter draw on them with a pencil to pick out what shapes she wanted me to cut.  She picked a moon, a flower, a pawprint and a smiley face.

Be very careful when cutting these out, I actually gave myself a nasty cut in the process... :'(

I then painted the design with acrylic paint and we stamped them on the canvas totes:

We liked the way that the stamps looked after they had been painted too!

Overall, it was easy and simple, and it's going to make for great storage in the girls' room!  I'll add pictures of the setup after I get it all organized!

I'm Linking up here:
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