Category Archives: Garden Helpers

Ideas and tips to help you create and maintain your ideal garden.

Saving for a Sunny Day

As I sit here after watching the rain come down in sheets after weeks of drought I think of how useful this rain could be in just a few days.  Collecting rainwater is nothing new, but it can be a challenge if you have never installed a rain barrel before.

Rainwizard 50 OakRainbarrel With Planter 50Gal

Here I’ll help you find a good place to locate your rain barrel, prepare a sturdy base and connect it to your downspouts to collect all that rain water that would otherwise flood your garden.

First, if you are going to collect all the rainwater you can you must determine how many rain barrels you need.  Many people will opt for only 1 to water their container plants and foundation plantings.  If you are determined to collect all the rainwater that falls on your roof here use this formula to determine how many gallons of rain runoff you can expect from a storm.

1 inch of rainfall x 1000 square foot section of roof = 623 gallons of rain.  My roof is 2,500 square feet so in a storm that produces 1″ of rain about 1,500 gallons of rain will fall on my roof.  (2,500 sqft x 623 gallons ÷ 1000 sqft = 1557.5 gallons)  That, of course if if every drop of rain that fell on my roof would be collected.  There will be a bit of rain that falls on your roof that does not make it in to your rain barrel.  A fair estimate is that you are able to collect only about 70% of that rain that falls on your roof.  That would mean for my roof I would need to be able to collect 1,100 gallons of rain.  (1557.5 gallons x 70% = 1090.25 gallons)  Most rain barrels commercially available can hold 50 – 75 gallons of rainwater.  In order to collect all the rain that falls on my roof I’d need 14 rain barrels.  I really don’t have space for 14 rain barrels, but I do have 5 (2 on the downspouts of each of the larger sections of my roof and 1 on the smaller).  This keeps me in enough water to keep my full sun, sandy soil plants from getting parched.

Once you decide how many rain barrels you are going to be installing (it really is easy to start with just one) you need to determine where you are going to place your rain barrel.  It should be somewhere close to your downspout, but with flexible tubing you have some ability to move it a few feet away.  Wherever you are placing your rain barrel you need to make a firm foundation.  1 gallon of water weighs a little over 8 pounds so your rain barrel when full can weigh more than 500 pounds!  The average size for a rain barrel foundation is 16″, yours could be larger or smaller depending on the style of your barrel.  The best foundation for a rain barrel is a concrete pad.  If you can not place a concrete pad where you are going to place your rain barrel you could dig down 2-3 inches into the soil, creating a perfectly level base.  You can then add 2″ of crushed gravel to help maintain a firm base.  You could place your rain barrel directly on the gravel, or because rain barrels work on a gravity feed, you could raise your barrel up a little. Concrete blocks and deck piers make good, stable platforms to raise the height of your rain barrel.  Just be careful not to raise the rain barrel up too high or you could find it unstable.

Quattro downspout filter diverter functional diagram

After you have created a firm foundation for your rain barrel it is time to mark your downspout.  Put your rain barrel in its forever home then mark the placement of your diverter on your downspout.  Cut the downspout with a hacksaw and install according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  A downspout diverter with a filter will help prevent clogs in your line from leaves and other debris.

Connect the hose from the downspout diverter to the intake port of your water barrel.  If you have more than one barrel make sure you connect them together according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Finally, hook your hose and watering nozzle up to your rain barrel and after the next rain you are ready to keep your plants watered during the dry days that are sure to come.
Rain barrels are a great addition to your garden, and come in so many styles you are sure to find one that will fit seamlessly into your garden decor.  Visit Home and Garden Welcome for your rain barrel today.

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Beautiful Berries, Caring Craft

I am fortunate enough to live in Northern Michigan where Mother Nature is generous enough to  provide us with several options for berry picking.  In my yard we have both wild blackberry and raspberry patches that provide abundant harvests year after year.  These plants seem to thrive on neglect and produce enough berries to make jams, pies and other yummy treats.

Know what you Have

It is important to know what kind of berry patch you are picking in.  If you try to pick blackberries thinking you are in a raspberry patch you will be in for one very sour surprise.

Blackberries are a much larger, more stout plant.  The stems are much larger, more woody with large thorns.  The leaves are large with thorns as well.  The berries are much larger and have very distinct ‘fruits’ that are joined together to make one larger fruit.  These fruits are the size of a thimble once mature and are a dark, rich black color.  The smaller red fruits look like ripe raspberries, but if you try and eat one you will quickly realize your mistake.  Blackberries also have a much larger seed in the berries when compared to wild raspberries.

Blackberry Bush

Blackberries beginning to ripen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild raspberries, on the other hand, are a much friendlier plant.  While they do have thorny branches they are not as painful as the blackberries.  The stems are less woody and the thorns lean closer to small thread.  The leaves feel more hairy than thorny and are smaller than the blackberries.  The fruits are smaller, too.  They appear more smooth rather than having the distinct ‘bulbs’ that the blackberry is made of.  The seeds are smaller and less prominent.  Wild raspberries also ripen about 1-2 weeks earlier than their thornier cousin.

Wild Raspberry Bush

Wild Raspberries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you have picked your berries (I suggest bribing the neighborhood kids – give them a bucket to fill for you to use, then give them each a smaller bucket that they can eat) you have so many options.  I make jam with the berries.  Sometimes pies, and I even make some preserves to put in a very popular gift basket for my friends around the holidays.

Once you have prepared your preserves, tie a nice card on with the recipe.  Add the dry ingredients into a basket (or even a mason jar), add a ribbon and you have a wonderful handmade gift that is sure to put a smile on someone’s face.

Raspberry Bars Gift Jar

 

Here is the recipe I use for my Raspberry bars.

filling:
4c fresh raspberries (or blackberries)
4c White Sugar
1c Water
Bring to a rolling boil over high heat.  Boil, stirring constantly until well thickened.  The mixture should evenly coat the back of a metal spoon without breaking.  Set aside to cool.
crust:
1pkg yellow (or white) cake mix
3/4c butter, melted
2 eggs
1c rolled oats
3/4 c brown sugar
1t cinnamon
1t vanilla
Mix all ingredients together until well combined.  Set aside 1 1/2 c of crust mixture.  Spread remaining in the bottom of a 9×13″ pan, packing down evenly.  Spread the cooled raspberry mixture evenly over the bottom crust.  Crumble small pieces of the remaining crust mixture evenly over the raspberry mixture.  Bake for 35-40 minutes at 350° F or until golden brown.  Cool completely before slicing.
 

Visit Home and Garden Welcome for papers, ribbons, stickers and other items to add your handmade recipe card to your delicious gift!

Happy gardening and creating!

~Nikki

 

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A Water Garden For All

I love to listen to the gentle sound of falling water as I relax on my patio.  While I would love to have (and do plan on building at some point in time) a garden pond complete with a waterfall, fish and blooming plants that will have to wait.

Imagine relaxing with your morning coffee or an evening glass of wine…….

In the meantime, I am content to have my patio fountain.  You can bring the same to your backyard as well.  My fountain attracts bees (no one has been stung in 4 years!), butterflies and birds looking for a sip.  It has attracted kids and dogs looking for drinks, but that practice has been highly discouraged….

A relaxing fountain

You can create a relaxing water feature on your patio quickly and easily with the help of Home and Garden Welcome.

The simplest way to add a water feature is to purchase one of our complete water fountains.  As the saying goes, just add water!  For a little extra ‘rustic’ appeal allow moss to grow along the edges of your fountain.

Your Fountain is Here!

Add moss for a rustic look.

Looking for something more substantial?  You can create a container pond in just a single afternoon!

Start with an urn or planter that fits your decor.  You want to make sure this vessel is deep enough to allow you to completely submerge your pump.  At this point you have a few options :

  • You can add another utilitarian bucket to your pond to act as support for a wire mesh, feed your fountain head through the mesh and place your pump in the inner bucket, lay rocks on the mesh to allow water to flow through and back down into your custom made reservoir.

Images from www.shelterness.com  Thank You!

  • If instead you would like to have a more lush look with plants in your fountain the process will be similar, but you will want a larger bowl.  You want it deep enough to submerge your planting baskets and wide enough to hold the baskets your plants are growing in.  The result can be very striking!

Urns with a deep bowl shape like this are perfectly suited to holding a patio fountain with plants.

Finally, you can take things a step further if you wish and create a self-containing pond right on your deck or patio!  Using pavers, cobblestone, brick, even rocks you find in your yard you can build a retaining structure, line it using a high quality membrane, add a pump, filter, plants, even FISH!  All without digging.

All the supplies you need to create your own custom backyard water feature are available at Home and Garden Welcome.  Whether you are looking to create a free standing patio fountain, or build a free standing pond complete with plants and fish we have what you need.

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First Harvest

Late June and I have just harvested my garden for the first time.  I am a little later than usual, but thanks to some roving neighborhood deer I had to start my garden a second time.  Darned Deer……

Today I went out and picked the first of my peas (Oregon Sugar Pod II).  This year, rather than setting up the netting I usually use for my peas I tried using tall garden stakes as ‘pea spikes’.  As you can see, it seems to be working quite well.

Use these stakes as ‘pea sticks’ to provide support to your growing plants.

I don’t know if you can tell from the photo, but I have VERY sandy soil.  To help improve soil structure I add large amounts of compost in the spring and readily through the summer as well.

Backyard composting, make your own ‘black gold’.

Now that I have completed my first harvest I have to decide what to do with my ‘haul’.  Those of you who are gardeners know that that first harvest is generally not the best, I am looking forward to WAY more fresh from the garden peas as the weeks go on but in the mean time this is what I have to work with.

    One of my good friends made a quinoa dish with bacon and snap peas when we visited one afternoon.  It was DELICIOUS, even my kids and my ‘the only protein is meat’ hubby said it was ‘okay’ (although he did take seconds).

Bacon-Quinoa-Snap Pea Salad with Honey Lime Dressing (courtesy of Nobel Pig)

Serves 4-5
Salad:
4 strips of thick-cut smoked bacon, diced
1/2 pound sugar snap peas
1-1/2 cups quinoa, dry
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1/3 cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Dressing:
Juice of 1 lime
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon honey
2 cloves of garlic, crushed through garlic press
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  • Over medium heat, fry bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.  Blanch peas for one minute in water.  Remove and immediately plunge into a bowl of ice water.  This will stop the cooking process and allow the peas to keep their beautiful green color.  Remove from ice water after two minutes, and place peas on paper towels to dry. Cut the peas into 1″ pieces.
  • In another pot, bring 2 cups chicken stock or broth to a boil.  Add quinoa and stir.  Cover and cook over low heat until all the stock has evaporated and the quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes.  Uncover and fluff the quinoa, then transfer to another bowl so it can cool to room temperature.

I regretfully had to use the photo from the recipe site because the salad was gone too quickly to get a nice picture.  When I made this recipe I did not have the pepitas or the black sesame seeds (and my friend didn’t either).  I don’t think the recipe missed anything without those two ingredients.

Those of you who have not tried quinoa before (click here for more information about this wonder food) , I really enjoy it but my family is on the fence.  Each time I make it (or my friend serves it) they eat a little bit more.  I hope you enjoy this refreshing summer salad as much as my family does.

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What the heck is Nut Sedge

You go to bed at night after an evening in your green carpet lawn.  Proud of the perfect manicured turf you rest easily knowing you have the best lawn in the neighborhood.  Then you wake up the next morning to a nightmare.  Your perfect, even green lawn has been invaded by a yellow grassy looking weed that you’ve seen in patches of your neighbor’s yard.  You try your normal turf grass weed control products but this ‘grass’ seems to thrive on herbicides.  You have nutsedge.

Yellow nutsedge growing in turf.

Nutsedge is an invasive grass-like weed that is very difficult to control.  Although it looks like a grass it is in a different plant family all together.  More closely related papyrus plants we remember learning about in world history this weed is one tough nut to crack (pun intended)

Sedges are grass-like plants that generally grow in marshy areas and are found along sandy dunes bordering on oceans, lakes and rivers.  These plants help stabilize soils preventing erosion and provide a food source for wildlife.  These plants spread primarily through underground tubers that are only able to sprout when the naturally occurring waxy outer coating is washed off by rain and ground water.  Once this coat is washed off the sedge is able to sprout from the new tuber creating another plant.  Each plant is capable of sprouting at least 3 times per each tuber, and the tubers are present and ready to grow by the time the plant is visible on the surface.  All these characteristics are important to keep in mind when battling this tough weed.

If sedges are better suited to beach and marshy areas why is it growing in my yard?  Because our turf cultivation methods often create a great environment for these plants to grow.  The removal of thatch from our lawns and aeration opens the soil surface up to sunlight, increasing the chance for sedges to thrive.  Our regular watering helps quickly wash the waxy covering away and our fertilizers help keep these buggers growing happy and healthy.

So I just need to resign myself to having this ugly yellow weed in my lawn.  All my hard work seems to be for nothing, my beautiful carpet thick lawn is being invaded and there is nothing I can do.  Not quite.  Nutsedge is a difficult weed to control but using a little bit of know how, some elbow grease and persistence you can be rid of this invasive  plant.

Control of Nutsedge

As with almost anything else prevention is the best way to control nutsedge.  Don’t wait until you are over run with these weeds to start doing something about it.

If you have just a few plants in an otherwise healthy lawn your best route is to hand pull the weeds.  These plants can grow back very easily from rhizomes and tubers left behind when the weed is pulled.  Knowing this you must be diligent continuing to remove the plants from your lawn.  This is a huge commitment, and is really only applicable if you have just a handful of these invaders creeping into your lawn.  If you have a large area of nutsedge in your lawn you may find yourself pulling your own hair out with just as much effect as pulling the plants.

When a large patch of turf has been invaded by nutsedge give SedgeHammer a try.

SedgeHammer Herbicide to control Nutsedge

SedgeHammer is a selective herbicide designed to kill the entire plant, right down to the rhizomes and and tubers.  The more common herbicides will only kill the main plant, allowing the tubers to grow replacing the parent plant.  By the time the new plant is susceptible to the herbicides the tubers are ready to replace the dead and dying plants once again.  This vicious cycle is enough to drive any turf aficionado to replacing their lawn with stone.

SedgeHammer works differently.  SedgeHammer kills not only the plant, but the product also kills the tubers preventing resprouting.  Following the application guidelines SedgeHammer is a safe product to use on your lawns, not harming children or pets who play in the area.

Here are a few hints as to help you win the nutsedge battle, and to help with the application of any lawn products:

Apply your herbicide in late spring/early summer when the weeds are actively growing and make sure the soil is well moistened before applying.  Applying fertilizer a few days before using your herbicide can be beneficial, also.  All these practices ensure you have a healthy, robustly growing plant to kill.  Think of it like feeding a teenaged boy, the faster they are growing the more they are going to absorb along the line of nutrients, and herbicides as well.  Herbicides are most effective on the parts of the plant that are actively undergoing cell division.  A heavy feeding, fast growing plant has the most cell division happening at any given time, therefore is more susceptible to the effects of the herbicides.

By making sure your soil is adequately moistened before applying any herbicide you are doing a few things.  If the soil is moist you will see less run off of the product you are applying.  This helps your pocket book as well as the environment.  The more product used by plants the less will be left to leech into the ground water, and the less you will need to apply every time you use the product.

When you are preparing to apply the product do not cut the the grass for the few days before and a few days after applying the product.  By cutting the grass/weeds you are giving them quite a shock.  Think of yourself trying to continue a normal conversation in the event you cut your finger or stub your toe.  That brief shock stops you in your tracks and cutting does the same for a plant.  By keeping the plant intact a few days before and after applying your herbicide you are ensuring that during the time immediate to administering the product the plants will absorb and use the chemicals quickly, allowing for a quick kill.

Finally, when you are applying the product use a non-ionic surfactant.  A what?  Yep, a non-ionic surfactant.  What the heck is that?  Surfactants break down waxy/oily coating on the leaves of plants.  You want a non-ionic product so it does not combine or alter the way your herbicide works.  Okay, now you know what it is.  Where do you find it?  That is easy, dish soap!  Yep, plain old hand washing dish soap.  Make sure you read the label.  Avoid using anything that says detergent, antibacterial or softening on the label.  Another thing to try – baby shampoo or soap flakes dissolved in water.  These surfactants will help ensure more of the product is absorbed by the leaves.

Keep in mind that even following the label and putting in place these guidelines for applying your herbicides it may take several weeks to completely eradicate the nutsedge.  Be persist ant and vigilant and you can rid your yard of this evasive invader.

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Mother and Chicks Sculpture

Mother and Chicks Sculpture.

Get out and enjoy your garden!  The summer is just beginning.  How much fun would it be to have these guys accompany you as you relax and enjoy the sun?  All the fun of chickens wandering the yard, none of the work!

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All the fun, none of the work!

15% on any garden decor item at http://www.HomeandGardenWelcome.com  Just use coupon code Garden12

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Welcoming Friend

Here is a cute little amphibian friend to add to your garden.  He is at home in a toad house I made from an old flower-pot, book pages, Distress Inks, glitter, decoupage glue and other ‘found’ materials.

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He fits nicely in his new home, and there is plenty of space for a ‘roommate’ to squeeze by as the summer progresses.

In addition to looking handsome, this little guy works hard for his keep.  No, he doesn’t eat bugs like some of his warty friends, but he will hide a spare house key for those times when you walk out the door forgetting your keys.  We all need a little friend like him in our garden to rescue us in our time of need.

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For more information visit www.HomeandGardenWelcome.com

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Scarecrow

The Scarecrow motion activated sprinkler can keep birds, deer, cats, raccoons and other pests away.  Protect your vegetable garden from the wandering deer.  Keep those raccoons from feasting on the fish in your pond.  Keep the neighborhood cats from using your kids sandbox, or your flower beds as a litter box.  Keep those pesky people who can’t read the ‘Please stay off grass’ signs from trampling your newly planted grass seed!

Easy to install, ready to go out of the box.  Just add a hose and (purely for entertainment purposes) set up a video camera.  Watch those pests run as they are startled by a blast of water.

Environmentally safe pest protection, and unending entertainment.  What more can you ask for?

Scarecrow Motin Activated Sprinkler

Scarecrow Motion Activated Sprinkler

Do you have a fun video of the Scarecrow Motion Sprinkler?  Enter your video to win a $50 Gift Certificate to HomeandGardenWelcome.com

To enter post your own video of ‘Pest vs. Scarecrow’, add a link back to http://www.HomeandGardenWelcome.com and comment on this blog post.

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