Garden Projects

4 Easy Ways to Help the Bees

bees and sunflower

By now most people know that the bee population is declining and we need to act swiftly to stop and hopefully reverse it.
But you might think there is little you can do personally to help. That’s not true, you really can make a difference.

Here’s how:

1. Give them a home.
Build a Mason Bee House with a few simple tools. Mason bees will populate the house and help your garden at the same time.
Then build a few extra and give them to your family and friends.

2. Have their back.
Read this article on helping the bees. In it there are a number of things you can do to be a part of the solution.

3. Clean up their environment.
Find out if the plants you are buying at your local garden center contain the deadly pesticide known as neonicotinoid that you saw mentioned in the above article. To do this, simply ask the staff who their plant supplier is, then send them an email.

An equaintance of mine did this. The supplier at her center is Bonnie Plants, so she sent them an email. This was their response:

Bonnie Plants does not utilize any form of systemic neonicotinoid pesticides/insecticides (neonicotinoids class includes; acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, nitenpyram, nithiazine, thiacloprid, dinotefuran and thiamethoxam) in the greenhouse production of transplants. Neonicotinoids are not contained in any seed nor are they utilized in any stage of the growing process. I do hope this information is helpful to you and alleviates your concern.

Thanks for writing in, and have a good day.
(Since this was a personal email, we removed the people’s names.)

And by all means, stop using products such as Round Up in your yard.

4. Feed them well.
Intersperse your veggie garden with the types of plants bees love. You can call your local cooperative extension and see what plants are best for your area.
Here in Northeast Pa. we find they are attracted to sunflowers and creeping thymus in particular. Look for plants that bloom early to get things started, and for others that have a long blooming season.

If you have any friends that are interested in nature, please pass this on and encourage them to help as well.

To win the battle we need the good guys to outnumber the bad guys. It’s important to the bees, and to our food supply.


Categories: Garden Projects, Keeping up with the Joneses, Preparedness & Green Living


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12 Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs to Grow Indoors

growing food indoors

And so it begins

When it comes to larger financial decisions, my husband and I hold off unless we both agree. Usually, when one person doesn’t want to spend the money, the other one finds creative ways to talk him into it. ;-)

And so it was with an unheated room that would be a great place to not only start seedlings, but also to grow food through the winter.

“You would have to make it worth it,” he said, not really wanting an increase in a utility bill.

To a gardening addict, just the activity itself is worth it.

“Like how?” I asked.
“Well, if you grew tomato plants and sold them, that would be good.”

Hmmm, that was part of the plan but that would be months away yet.
“How about having fresh tomatoes and herbs all year?” I suggested, appealing to the cook in him.

“And hot peppers?” he asked.

Let the growing commence.

Here are some of the best veggies to grow indoors:
1. Carrots- small round types such as Parisienne.
2. Tomatoes- romas, Tiny Tom or patio
3. Parsley
4. Basil
5. Hot peppers
6. Scallions
7. Garlic chives
8. Meyer lemons
9. Snow peas
10. Beans
11. Watermelon- small types such as sugar baby
12. Fruit trees on dwarf tree stock

Note there are a number of fruiting trees that are available grafted to dwarf root tree stock, far too many to list.

Categories: Container Gardening, Extending the Season, Garden Projects, The Experiments



How to Make a Soil Sifter

A handy tool to have whenever you are starting a new garden bed, a soil sifter helps you easily remove a lot of stones, twigs, and anything else that might be unwanted in the area.
They also work well for rinsing and separating seeds you are saving.
Yet I have never seen one in the stores.

Easily handmade.

Easily handmade.

Perhaps it is because they are so easy to make.
All you need is some wood, a few nails, galvanized screening and a staple gun.

The most basic requirements are met.

The most basic requirements are met.

The simplest way to make one is to cut 4 pieces of wood, 2 of any size you want, and nail them together to form a frame. The cut the screening and staple it to the wood.

Simple yet useful.

Simple yet useful.

You can make it more durable by adding an outer frame, but this isn’t necessary.

Additional framing for a more finished look.

Additional framing for a more finished look.

The size you want depends on the job you will use it for. Our smallest one is good for re-potting plants and cleaning out the used soil.
We also have another one that fits neatly in the sink. It has a much smaller screening so we use this one for separating seeds.

Smaller screening for a different job.

Smaller screening for a different job.

The largest just fits on top of the wheelbarrow, and can take a shovel of soil at a time.

Sturdier than it looks.

Sturdier than it looks.

We also have a 100 year old professional soil sifter that belonged to my great uncle.
That one holds memories.

100 years old and still working well.

100 years old and still working well.

Categories: Garden Projects, Techniques & Issues


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DIY Seed Starting Kit

You gotta love the internet.
There are so many people sharing their ideas and projects, ways to save money and how-to info, that’s it’s all but impossible not to learn something.

seed starting kit

seed starting kit $9.97

I don’t know who first came up with the idea of recycling plastic produce containers into mini-greenhouses.
I suspect it was a ‘Necessity is the Mother of Invention’ kind of thing, and thought up by a number of people in different places.

So when I came upon these seed-starting kits while out shopping, I had to chuckle. As tempting as they were, I knew better.

seed starting kit

Much larger, for less on sale.

One plastic container that housed some delicious organic greens recently, a dozen Jiffy seed starting pellets, and some saved pepper seeds.

DIY seed starting kit

Cost: $1

Moisten the pellets as per the directions, add seeds. Keep moist until seeds sprout.
The snug lid acts like a greenhouse, letting light in but keeping the seeds warm. Remove the lid as the plants grow.

Categories: All About Seeds, Garden Projects, How to Grow



A Handmade Gift? Yeah, You Can Grow That!

This post is part of a collaboration among garden bloggers to promote information on their favorite subject.

you can grow that

For more posts like these, follow this link.

Whether or not you’re the crafty type you can still easily share gifts from your garden.
Here are a few ideas and some links to help:

    homemade garden gifts

    keep it simple

  • Fill a store bought or hand painted pot with some seeds you’ve saved.
  • Got catnip? Make a kitty toy easily by placing dry catnip in a sock, washcloth, or any durable fabric. Then tie closed with a ribbon or string. Make it even more fun by putting jingle bells on the ribbon.
  • Build a Fairy Garden
  • Food gifts are always a big hit. Check out our recipe page to make jam, soup, or sauces. If you don’t process food, you can still make Hot Sauce or a raspberry or other flavored vinegar.
  • homemade hot sauce

    for the heat lovers in your life

  • If you have some fresh lavender, you can make Lavender Bottles. Here’s a link on YouTube to learn how.
  • More gift ideas here.
  • Okay GJ, I can plan on this for next year, but my garden is done for now.
    Any other ideas?

    homemade gardening organizer

    a gardening gift anyone can make

    How about helping someone else to ‘grow that’ with a simple organizer. Include a notebook, dividers, a calender, some seeds, and maybe a few of your own gardening tips.
    It’s sure to be a hit. :-)
    Do you make gifts using what you grow?

Categories: Garden Projects, You Can Grow That!



How to Build a Mini Greenhouse pt.3

Please refer to part 1 and part 2 here.

The mini greenhouse was almost finished at this point.
All that was left was to see how it works, or so I thought.
I found there were some gaps between the windows and their frames, because the windows were not perfectly flat.

how to build a mini greenhouse

ack- a leak!

This was easy enough to fix with just a can of spray foam insulation.

how to build a mini greenhouse

it is great stuff

Although this stuff is somewhat messy to work with, it fills any gaps easily and when it dries it can be trimmed with a sharp knife.
Weather stripping was added to the front doors for additional protection.

how to build a mini greenhouse

done deal

Some milk jugs spray painted black and almost filled with water were placed inside. These will absorb heat during the day and help keep the temperature up overnight.

how to build a mini greenhouse

keep it warm

I went through a few different ways to hang the front windows in order to gain access to the interior while still keeping it warm.
What worked best in the end was to hinge the windows on the outer sides so that they open as a door would.
To not lose too much warm air though, I took a large sheet of plastic twice the height I needed and equal to the width. It was folded in half and stapled to 2 leftover pieces of wood.

how to build a mini greenhouse

heat insurance

This was then stapled inside the front opening. The wood on the bottom will help hold the plastic down.
Of course it would be easier to do this prior to attaching the front panel- hindsight is wonderful.

how to build a mini greenhouse

fairly taut

Finally a latch was attached to the front to help keep it shut tight.

how to build a mini greenhouse

ta da!

I’ve been monitoring temperatures and the interior is from 5-12 degrees warmer, less first thing in the morning or on a cloudy day.
I expect this will be better later in the winter when the days are longer and the sun is closer.
An overnight low of 50 degrees F. is needed before tomato plants can go inside, so when Mandolin asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year I didn’t hesitate. Instead I directed him to a hi-low thermometer, also called min-maximum. This records the overnight low and will help me know when I can start using the new addition to the garden.

how to build a mini greenhouse

just a matter of time now

Yahoo- Planting time is coming sooner this year!

Categories: Extending the Season, Garden Projects, Keeping up with the Joneses



How to Build a Mini Greenhouse pt.2

If you haven’t already, you can read part 1 here.

After the 3 sides were together, clear plastic was attached to the windows to help better insulate.
Three 2×4 posts were attached that are 1 ft. taller than the framed-in area, increasing the back height by 1/3.

how to build a mini greenhouse

added protection

Landscaping fabric was put down to help keep any weeds out. Even though this is on gravel, some weeds still get through. You could also use cardboard just as easily.
To help hold it in place, sand and stones from long ago projects were put on top.
The sand will also help keep in some moisture, and the stones will hold a small amount of the day’s heat.

Using a few pieces of scrap lumber, a base was made to add a shelf.

how to build a mini greenhouse

here comes the shelf

Scraps of 1×2′s were used to complete the shelf. This will allow some plants to be on the top area and more below.
As long as they all get enough sun, this should work fine.

how to build a mini greenhouse

2 growing areas

The front panel was added next. If you look close you can see that the front windows were hinged at the top to open upwards. This was later changed and I’ll talk about that tomorrow.

Three pieces of 2×4′s were used to build the top section. To get the right angle of cut, hold one piece of wood on the outside against the back supports and the front frame. Mark the angle where they meet, and cut those off.
This picture was taken before the third piece was added to the middle of the greenhouse, to further support the top windows.

how to build a mini greenhouse

upper area construction

Pieces of leftover wood siding were used to enclose the back and sides, one rectangular piece and 2 triangular pieces. I got lucky and found a scrap that was almost the exact angle I needed. Woohoo!

To get more insulation in these areas, garbage bags were stapled onto the inside of the siding, leaving an opening. Assorted other bags were then stuffed inside. The dark bag will collect some warmth during the day to help keep the inside warmer all night.

how to build a mini greenhouse

insulation- the more the better

Two windows that are the same width as the others, but longer, were then added to the top. There were gaps found where the windows met the frames (I’m a gardener, not a carpenter) so additional clear plastic was attached to the outer perimeter of the inside of the window frames. I gathered a wider piece than the frame, so it would be a bit bulky. This helped it fit so there will be less temperature loss.

How to build a mini greenhouse.

scrunch it up

They were then attached with hinges on the front to open from the top, allowing excess heat to be vented out when the weather warms up.

You can see moisture developing inside the window panes.
:-D =Happy Gardener!

how to build a mini greenhouse

warming up

Categories: Extending the Season, Garden Projects, Keeping up with the Joneses


1 Comment »

How to Build a Mini Greenhouse pt.1

It was 3 years ago on the day after Thanksgiving that I first admitted my addiction to gardening via this blog format.
In all that time I have never wavered from where I firmly stand- in the garden of course.

This month something I have always wanted came to pass, albeit in a smaller form. So over the next few days you’ll find pics and directions of how this mini-greenhouse was built. Maybe it will help you to do the same.
Hey, if I can do it so can you.

how to build a mini greenhouse

free windows

The project began when a nearby neighbor, who remodels homes for a living, offered some used windows for free.
It was a win-win really, as he didn’t then need to dispose of them.
I love stuff like that.

Using 6 windows the same size, a design was sketched showing 2 windows on the front, 2 more on the back, and 1 on each side.

how to build a mini greenhouse

measure twice, cut once

Step 1 was to build frames for the windows buy cutting 2×4′s the proper length and then sawing the ends at 45 degree angles.
When all the pieces were ready, they were clamped down (on the picnic table) and nailed together.

how to build a mini greenhouse

clamp 'em down

how to build a mini greenhouse

one down and 3 to go

The windows for the back and sides were then carefully nailed in place.

how to build a mini greenhouse

the back is done

It’s a good idea to assemble this where it will eventually remain, preferably facing south but more importantly where it will get the most sun. If you live in a wooded area, keep in mind that the majority of the time it will be in use all but the evergreen trees will be bare or just budding.
Since this was built in November it was easy to gauge.

how to build a mini greenhouse

attach the sides to the back

You’ll want to get the 3 sides together first, so you can make some additions to the inside before the final wall is up.

how to build a mini greenhouse

it's coming together

This is where the nail gun ran out of nails, and I had forgotten to ask Mandolin how to reload it.
Hmmm… a good time to take a break. :-)

Categories: Extending the Season, Garden Projects, Keeping up with the Joneses



5 Things to Consider When Getting a Greenhouse

It’s not unusual for people to ask us what they should look for in a greenhouse, or even for a brand recommendation.
So when the subject came up again recently, it seemed it was time to get some info on here to share.

Here’s what to consider before you buy or build:

1. Location, Location, Location: You’ll want your greenhouse where it will get the most sun. Morning sunlight is best to get a plant going (its like coffee to your plants) so if you can locate your greenhouse on the south or southeast side of your house or property that would be best.
You most likely have some cold weather if you are even considering a greenhouse, right? So remember when looking at your property that those trees, unless evergreens, won’t have leaves on them in the winter; so don’t rule out a location just because of a few trees.
The North of your property will get the least sun, so shy away from building there.
When choosing a location, also pre-check any zoning laws or homeowners association rules for your area.

building a greenhouse

location transformation

2.Cost: If money is no object, good for you! Move on to the next item.
For most of us, though, it matters. You may want to consider building your own greenhouse. If you have the necessary tools you can save some money, more so if you can re-purpose old windows.
We are lucky in that there is a home builder, that also does remodels, not far from here. He is kind enough to put windows and doors curbside (so to speak, we don’t actually have curbs) for others to have for free.
You can also try Craig’s List, The Freecycle Network, or other sources for free items to use.
Things like this can save a lot.

re-purposing windows into a greenhouse

gathering materials- for free

3. Size Matters: Directly linked to cost, the size of your greenhouse can be determined by a few other factors: Location (see above) and-

4. Specific Purpose: My Dad built a freestanding greenhouse that I would estimate is about 6 ft. x 6 ft., with a roof peak that is also probably 6 ft. He uses it only to grow seedlings. He doesn’t start them there, he just moves them there to get bigger. There’s only room to stand up in the middle, but that’s enough- the two sides have glass shelves far enough apart for his plants to grow, and that’s what he built it for.

On the other hand, our greenhouse will need to be a much taller lean-to type that will be used over a longer period of time. Location is also playing a major roll in determining it’s size.
We hope to start seeds there and keep at least one tomato plant growing inside into the fall months, past the killing frost.

How do you plan to use your greenhouse? That will help you decide how much room you will need.

venting a DIY greenhouse

small windows for manual, or womanual, venting

5. Time: This human construct seems to be a factor in almost everything. How do you spend your days? Will you have the time to monitor temperatures inside the structure and manually open vents, or do you need automatic sensors and vent openers? Will you need fans to help cool or a heater to keep it warm?

Your local cooperative extension office may have more information to help you decide, or make you even more confused, than before.

We will keep you up-to-date on our greenhouse project.
In the meantime, here’s some good info to look at:
Planning & Building a Greenhouse

Categories: Extending the Season, Garden Projects, Keeping up with the Joneses



How to Make Seed Tapes

There’s this odd tendency for seeds to just accumulate in my house.
Really, I don’t know how it happens.

So when faced with 16 packets of carrot seeds, it was time to do something about it.

seed hoarding


Seed tapes.
Easy to do, can be frozen and kept until planting time.

how to make seed tapes

easy enough for kids to do

To make a seed tape, you will need seeds (no problem there!), non-toxic glue, and some form of biodegradable fabric or paper- the faster is gives, the faster your seeds will sprout; so I use bathroom tissue.

Place a spot of glue the distance you want to space your seeds.
Remember, if you are going by what the seed packet says, look for the ‘thin’ to distance if there is one.
For example, carrot seed packets advise to “Thin to 2-3 inches apart” so that’s how far apart to put the glue.

homemade seed tapes

just fold over

Fold in half and you are done.
You can keep these in the freezer until planting time.

how to make seed tapes

ta da!

Plant the tape at the same depth you would have planted the seed.
In this case, not too deep. Cover with soil and water.

how to use seed tapes

planting is easy

Of course if you water if frequently, it will sprout sooner, and any residual paper will decompose.
Plant your tapes the same distance apart you would have planted the seeds.
Since I plant in raised beds, this is the same distance as is suggested between seeds.

You can store unused tapes in the freezer- I know I can stagger my carrot plantings throughout the season, so now I have some tapes ready to go.

how to use seed tapes

planting is easy

This works wonderfully for any small seeds…and I have tons of them.
Do you ‘accumulate’ seeds as well?

I’ve heard that moderation in all things is the best way.

seed limit sign

consider this limit ex'seed'ed

If only I could practice that.

Categories: Addiction, Garden Projects



Everything here is original (unless otherwise noted) and has legal copyright 2009-2015 by Gardening Jones™, and cannot be re-posted or reproduced without permission. Any re-posting of information, photographs, and/or recipes is considered theft and subject to prosecution.

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