Archive | How to make… RSS feed for this section

How to Propagate Succulents in 5 Easy Steps

14 Oct

 

With all the rage about creating frames or terrariums filled with  succulents, I am often asked where one would find affordable solutions to this plethora of plants.   Even though putting the garden to bed seems to be my primary task at hand, it is  a good time to take cuttings too.  These tips will also work for succulents purchased at a greenhouse or garden center, thus allowing for an endless supply of little succulents to use for indoor growing projects.

 

Succulents are probably one of the easiest plants to propagate.  Slow growing, these plants usually thrive in warm sunny locations and require very little care.  Unlike a cactus that barely needs to be watered, succulent plants should be watered anywhere from  ten to fourteen days depending on their growing location.  Keep in mind more sun = more water.   I have found a wide variety of sedum (stonecrop) and sempervivum (hen and chicks) that make great succulents for propagating and growing and using for plant crafts.  Look for a wide variety of colors and textures.  The groundcover sedum varieites in your garden also work great.

To propagate, follow these 5 easy steps:

1: Pinch off the tip portion of a stem only.  You don’t want to use another parts below this, as the newer growth at the tip of a stem will produce better roots.  You don’t need any more than one inch of stem, depending on the plant.  Cut between two nodes, which is the part where a leaf meets the stem.

2: Remove lower leaves, leaving only a few on the tip.  Set aside for at least a day to allow the stem to callous, or heal over.  This will allow better root formation.  You can also use the leaves to make new plants.

3: I like to stick the new cuttings in a flat when allowing for time to grow roots.  I use a traditional peat/perlite potting mix for houseplants.  I never use cactus mix as it is too sandy and have found that my succulents have grown better in the general potting mix anyway.  It looks pretty too.

4: Once they have developed roots, it’s time to plant them into your frame, container or terrarium. 

5: Once planted, little care is needed.  Keep in a low light area for about two weeks before moving them to receive sunlight.  Water when the soil dries out. 

Caring for your Succulents:  If your new plants become “leggy” pinch off the tips and start a new plant.  The original stem should develop smaller shoots. I like to keep my creations pinched back and have a continuous supply of baby succulents.  I never know when I need a little gift for something.  These little treasures make great gifts when planted in small terracotta pots. 

TIP:  Want to increase the variety of your collection of succulents?  Share this post with friends, and have each of you purchase a succulent plant, propagate, and hold a plant swap.  Soon you will end up with many different varieties!

Sedum Lime-Zinger PPAF
photo by Chris Hansen courtesy of http://www.PerennialResource.com

Funky Pumpkin Totem

7 Oct

It’s October and it’s pumpkin time!  Not only do I love to eat everything pumpkin, I love decorating with them.  Not the traditional carving the Jack-O-Lantern type of decorating like when the kids were little, but finding the most unique pumpkins and gourds to decorate my front porch with.  Needing an inspiration piece, I decided to create a totem of pumpkins and set out on a journey to find the funkiest pumpkins around.

 

Roadside stands are one of the best places to start.  Here my daughter and I found these nice white pumpkins.  Definitely a keeper. 

 

 

 

 

 

I LOVED these variegated white, green and orange pumpkins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hearty Harvest in Remus, Michigan

With a selection like this, who needs to go anywhere else!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I thought the cat would be a nice touch to my autumn decorating, but she wasn’t for sale. 

 

 

 

 

 

A swan and her babies maybe? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once we got a nice selection, we headed back home.  Initially, I thought that they should all be somewhat flat.  Some people call these Cinderella pumpkins.  But there were some that looked really cool, and were anything but flat, so decided to use them in the totem anyway.  Besides the pumpkins, some re-rod and a drill with a really long drill bit were used.  Here are a few tips to make your Funky Pumpkin Totem.

Line the pumpkins from largest to smallest.  Remove the stems if they have any from all except for the top pumpkin.

 

Starting with the largest, place that one on the ground where you want your totem to permanently be.  Level it using your eye as a guide.  You may need to bury it in the ground a little.

 

Drill a hole in the center of the first pumpkin and drive a stake or piece of re-rod through it.  You want to have something strong enough to keep your pumpkins in line and prevent them from falling off of each other.

 

Stack the pumpkins, drilling a hole in each one, until you get it as tall as you want. 

Now I have a starting point for my autumn decorating! 

No more decorating for today, it’s time to go indoors to eat some pumpkin muffins and drink some cider while I come up with my next outdoor project.  YUM!  Don’t you love October?

Building a Cold Frame

16 Sep

I was driving around northern Michigan today and noticed some of the leaves starting to change color. Then I realized that with the first frost date rapidly approaching, it was time to think about protecting my garden. Plants such as basil and peppers won’t tolerate temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit let alone a frost. I suddenly felt the urgent need to harvest everything before it was too late.

You can extend your growing season long into the fall, maybe into winter in a small unheated greenhouse or cold frame for some crops such as carrots, beets, spinach and arugula. Remember how early spring came? I got so tired of covering and uncovering plants. Hot, cold, hot cold. Well, nighttime temperatures are what you need to pay close attention to now, and the covering and uncovering is about to start again. If it is going to dip down below that magic 50 degrees, protect your warm season vegetables like tomatoes which can tolerate an occasional dip, but then you will start to notice how the fruits stop maturing and they aren’t turning red. Best to pick them and make some fried green tomatoes. If you want to seriously continue to garden and save what you can, you can build a simple cold frame. WARNING!!! You can now cook your cool season crops on a sunny day. So not only do you need to keep them warm at night, you need to keep them cool on a sunny day. For now, protect with newspaper or lightweight fabric such as a frost cloth which is available from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Protect this way on these occasional frosty nights, and prepare for colder temperatures by building a simple cold frame like I did here.

I cut 1/2 inch PVC pipes 10 feet long. Since my beds are raised it was easy to push them into the ground on one side. The bed that I am working on is 4 feet by 8 feet. I have equally spaced 5 PVC pipes (you only see part of it here).

I bent the PVC around and pushed into the ground on the opposite side of the bed.

I secured the PVC to the inside of the raised bed using this galvanized piece.

Then I used zip ties to secure an 8 foot pipe to the top. I would recommend adding a screw to prevent it from sliding down the sides.

Cover with poly. Here I used a horticultural grade poly that I had left over from a greenhouse we built at our farm. You can buy this at greenhouse supply companies or catalogs like Farm-Tek. More light penetrates, which is important for plant growth and development.

Notice how transparent it is.

This was an inexpensive alternative using painters plastic from the hardware.

For finishing touches, you can use scrap pieces of wood screwed to the bed frame to secure the poly at the bottoms. I used pink foam insulation pieces for the ends to make it easier to remove on sunny days to prevent the temperatures from getting too high.

This was the simplest and most inexpensive way that I came up with to make a cold frame. There are many other options to explore whether you want to protect your crops, extend your season, or get a jump on next year. Click on the Grow Veg link to the right, or below on the links to go to Amazon for my favorite books to learn more. Or the last link to a Juwel Cold Frame like the one you see in the background of the above picture. This is one of my favorite cold frames. Just ignore the snow for now. We still have a lot of time before that gets here.

Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live

Juwel Cold Frame 1000

Sunflower S-M-I-L-E

2 Sep

I have never met a sunflower I didn’t like.  Have you?  Honestly, don’t they make you S-M-I-L-E ?  They are so easy to grow.  And I’m sure if you feed birds, you have witnessed the sunflower that was randomly “planted” next to the bird feeder.  They are so easy to grow.  Even when I go to the farmers market I can still find some to buy.  The farmer I buy mine from each week sells sunflowers at 3 for $1.00.  So, for 33.333333333 cents each, I can afford to pass them out to friends and co-workers.  Then I get to watch them S-M-I-L-E .  Did you know that the heirloom sunflower “Mammoth” can grow ten to twelve feet tall?  And have heads that could possibly stretch up to twelve inches across?  This is the biggest sunflower out there.  And the best part is, if you grow one, you will never have to buy seed again.  WHAT?!!?!  I have been growing this sunflower for many, many years, and save one of the heads each year, and have hundreds of seeds.  I have so many seeds, that I am going to send some to you if you are one of the first 25 readers to like or share this post.  Really.  I want to share the Sunflower S-M-I-L-E and then you can grow some and share them with your friends too.  Don’t worry about the size, they are perfect for an urban farmscape.  I fell in love with them when I first grew them at my farm.  I planted a 10 x 10 space in a small culinary garden.  They are tall, and I didn’t have much room, but I decided to try them anyway.   Don’t be surprised if they are the center of attention in your garden. 

How to save seeds from your sunflower.

  • First, the outer petals will start to dry up.  You will be able to see the seeds when the flowers begin to fall off. 
  • If the birds start eating the seeds, you know for sure it’s time to harvest. 
  • After harvesting the flower, place in a warm dry location to dry completely.  Keep the heads whole if you like and use as bird feeders or for crafts. 
  • Sunflower seeds are really hard to remove.  If you want to remove them from the head, take two seed heads and rub them together.  Wear gloves as the stem may have small sliver type pieces that could irritate your skin. Once a few seeds begin to dislodge, it will get easier.
  • You will end up with some seeds mixed with some dried plant material.  Clean the remaining seeds from the plant debris and then store in a cool dry location in a paper bag or paper envelope. 
  • You can feed the birds, feed yourself, or even make crafts with sunflowers.  

 

 

Here’s what I made this weekend while camping from a sunflower head using florists wire and picks, and some dried flowers and items found in nature. 

Step 1:  First I used some floral picks to wrap wire around pine cones.  Set aside to use later.

 

Step 2:  Next, I arranged some dried flowers across the lower portion of a grapevine wreath.

 

Step 3:  Wire the dried flowers to the wreath using floral wire.  Trim stems.

 

Step 4:  I used floral wire to attach this sunflower head to the wreath, covering the stems of the dried flowers.

 

Step 5:  Here I inserted some fresh-cut hydrangeas as“filler”.  These will dry, and still look nice. 

 

For the finishing touches, I hung it up and then placed in the pinecones where I felt they were needed.  I like to look at it a bit.  Then while out on a walk, I picked some ferns and used them.  They will get curly and brown, and might not look as good as the others, but for now, I liked it! 

 

I’m sure that if you haven’t grown sunflowers before, you will want to grow them next year.  So if you want some free Sunflower “Mammoth” seeds, this is what you need to do, it’s easy, and it will make a lot of people S-M-I-L-E !

  1. “Like” or “Share” this post using any of the sharing buttons below to get a packet of 10 seeds.  Only the first 25 people to do so will get seeds.  So hurry!
  2. Next, send me an e-mail to request your seeds (I need the address to mail them too.  Don’t worry, I won’t keep, share, or use your address in any other way than to send you your seeds.  patti@myurbanfarmscape.com 
  3. I will pay for the postage!  Hooray! 
  4. You will receive your seeds with planting instructions, let’s say, within ten business days of requesting, at which time, you will experience a small smile 🙂

 

Magical Lavender Wands

24 Jun

One of my favorite plants is  lavender, Lavandula sp.  I love the way the foliage is a shade of grey-green, the purple flower spikes, but most of all, its delightful fragrance.  It’s easy to understand why it has been such a popular herb for cleaning as well as perfumes since medieval times.  In recent years, chefs have been using lavender flowers to add a bit of its floral notes to culinary delights such as lemonade, cookies, as well as more savory dishes.

I live in zone 5, which is good for growing both English lavender varieties, Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’ and ‘Hidcote’.  I have My Urban Farmscape bordered with Munstead.  It’s nice to smell it as I brush up against it while weeding.  I can harvest and dry the flowers to use for cooking or crafts.  I sometimes put the dried flowers in fabric bags and place them in my drawers.

English Lavender at My Urban Farmscape

One thing that I like to do is to make lavender wands.  These date back prior to the Victorian era.  It is a simple way of preserving the flowers and stems and can be as decorative as I like.  When they dry, the flowers are tucked inside the satin ribbon-stem weave, and with a quick roll between my hands, the most wonderful fragrance is released.  The best variety for making lavender wands is Lavandula x intermedia ‘Provence’ because it has such long stems and the oil content is so high.  It grows well in zone 6 and up.  So I wondered, what if I planted Provence in a garden tucked away in a little warmer microclimate, maybe I could grow this. I tried and have had been growing Provence for two years. Maybe luck. 

Top = Provence Bottom = Munstead

To make lavender wands, regardless of the variety you have, just follow these simple steps:

Harvest the lavender flowers at their peak, just as the lower petals start to open.  Do this in the early afternoon on a sunny day which will allow the flowers to be dry from any overnight dew or moisture from earlier rains.

Cut the stems as long as you can, and count out an odd number.  I used 21 for this lavender wand.  For Hidcote or Munstead, I would use a smaller number of stems or you will end up with a really fat wand, like a lollipop.

Line up the flowers so that the bottoms of the flower stalk line up.  Wrap the stems just below the flowers with a satin type craft ribbon that is ¼” wide.  You can use any color.  I like to be traditional and use purple.  Tie the ribbon in a knot tightly.  Leave a tail about 6” long, and don’t cut the rest of the ribbon from the spool just yet.  This is the part you will weave in and out of the stems.

Flip upside down and while holding the bunched flowers, start to fold the stems down over the flowers until they are all folded over them.  Keep the ribbon tail inside with the flowers.

Taking your ribbon still connected to the spool, start to weave over and under each stem, creating a basket weave.  Once you get to the third row it will get easier.

Once you have woven the ribbon to the end of the flowers, and the stems meet each other, tie the piece that was left as the tail and the piece that is still connected to the spool and tie into a knot then into a bow.  Cut the ribbon from the spool and even up the ends of both pieces.

Now you can do with them what you please.  Tuck them away to add a pleasant smell in your drawers, give them as gifts, or wave them in the air to cast friendly magical spells over your garden.  I just like to leave them out decoratively around my house  and as I pass them by, I give them a roll between my hands and am quickly transported to that summer day when I sat on the porch while making them.

Strawberries, Shortcake, and some Jam

17 Jun

As long as I remember, it has been a tradition in my family to have strawberry shortcake on Father’s Day.  Not that it was the favorite dessert, but mostly because strawberries were in season.  We would pick somewhere between 30-50 quarts, go home, wash, cut, bag and freeze them.  Sure, Michigan strawberries may not be big like some other states, but they are the sweetest and most flavorful berries on this earth.  So of course dad loved them, they were “sweet like him” he would say.  Especially when they were freshly sliced, allowing their sugary juices to escape as they were poured over top of a freshly baked biscuit stuffed with vanilla ice-cream.  Final touches of a little whipped cream and then strawberry shortcake dad’s way was ready for him to enjoy.  I preferred fresh strawberries over ice-cream, sometimes a shake, or just a bowl of plain fresh strawberries.  Still to this day, at least weekly, I will have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  You guessed it, with homemade strawberry jam.  Now that I think about it, I eat strawberries and yogurt a lot, and indulge in an occasional strawberry daiquiri made from the frozen strawberries, rum, and some fresh squeezed lime. 

Strawberries are so easy to grow.  You can grow them in the ground, or even hydroponically.  There are June-bearing strawberries, which are strawberries that bear fruit in June or Ever-bearing strawberries, A.K.A. Alpine strawberries, which bear fruit continuously.  These are a little smaller in size, but have more flavor.  At My Urban Farmscape, I have planted some June bearing strawberries around my blueberries.  They will tolerate the lower pH that blueberries need to grow, and it will provide a nice groundcover underneath them.  I have both of my favorite fruits growing in raised beds.  I am growing Alpine strawberries from seeds, so I won’t have any fruit this year.  These do well in containers, especially hanging baskets, which makes a perfect choice for smaller gardens.  I have to be quick to harvest, or protect the bed with a fence to prevent squirrels or some other animals from eating them before I get them.

Almost ready for picking!

Since I love to make strawberry jam, I needed more strawberries than I could grow, so lucky for me that my favorite organic farmer is growing strawberries.  I only paid fifty cents more a quart for certified organic.  Not bad.  I use the recipe that is included with pectin of choice, Sure-Jell or Pamona’s Pectin.    Pamona’s can be found at most health food stores or online.  I like using this when I want to make a no or low sugar fruit spread, or use honey or maple syrup instead of sugar.  If you have never made jam before, I would recommend starting with strawberry.  It is so easy!

Ready for eating…

If you’re not growing strawberries in your Urban Farmscape you should start next spring.  For now, visit your local farmers market for fresh Michigan strawberries,  buy extra for jam, or maybe take dad to pick some at the local u-pick strawberry farm.  Then when you get home, bake some fresh biscuits, slice some strawberries and allow them to become juicy.  Allow the biscuits to cool slightly, but still a little warm so the ice-cream melts just a little.  Pour over a generous amount of juicy strawberries, and top with some whipped cream.  YUM!  Can’t be with dad today?  Send him a jar of homemade strawberry jam.  One of the sweetest of all Michigan treats.

Strawberry Jam

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: