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April 23, 2013 11:02 AM

Oceanic Wilderness: Hive Happenings

Originally posted by mlittle from Oceanic Wilderness.

*note the pollen in the cells on the right* Our bees are so friendly! Chris got in there on Saturday to switch out the sugar water and to see how the comb building was going. I hadn't been able to see any comb being built through the window, but sure enough there were at least [...]
January 31, 2013 1:52 AM

Oceanic Wilderness: Pineapple Lily

Originally posted by mlittle from Oceanic Wilderness.

Back in Florida I grew a pineapple lily, I think I got in a trade, in a pot for several years until we sold all of our plants when we moved away. I’ve been drooling over some that I’ve been seeing lately at a few local nurseries and finally last weekend I broke down and [...]
January 30, 2013 10:49 PM

Our Little Acre: British Invasion

Originally posted by Kylee Baumle from Our Little Acre.

We've had a wood split rail fence for years along two sides of our property.  It doesn't do much good for keeping anything in or out, and only serves to mark property boundaries in a pretty ordinary way.  But something is happening on that fence that's anything but ordinary.

Lichens grow on the top side of several of the rails and they've been there for years.  They always make me smile, just like the times I find a tiny red spider mite in the soil as I work in the garden. Just like when I know there are citronella ants in the soil before I actually see them because I can smell their lemony goodness.

I never took the time to look the lichens up to see exactly what they were until last year, when I discovered that they were Cladonia cristatella, commonly known as British Soldiers, so named for their red "coats."

Lichens consist of a fungus and an algae living together, in a symbiotic relationship. Each could survive without the other, but together they're better. The fungus provides a house for the algae and the algae produces food for the fungus.

In the case of British Soldiers, the red part of the fungus makes spores, which are dispersed by the wind. These spores can form a new fungus, but it won't become another British Soldier until it is joined by the algae.  It also won't be red without the algae. 

 British Soldiers are a frutose lichen, which is an upright form of lichens that also tend to have bright colors. They grow on decaying wood, mossy logs, stumps, tree bases, and soil.  They help break down old wood, as well as taking nitrogen from the air, and in these ways enrich the soil. Lichens don't do well in polluted areas, so lichens can be an indicator of good air quality.

Lichens grow very slowly and British Soldiers only grow one to two millimeters a year.  The tallest part of these on our fence are about 10 millimeters tall. They won't make spores until they're about four years old.

Information gathered from
January 30, 2013 7:20 PM

Skippy's Vegetable Garden: January snow drop

Originally posted by kathy from Skippy's Vegetable Garden.


I found a little snow drop blooming in my garden today. We are having a January thaw with temps up to 60*F (!!!) today. I opened my cold frame all day to give the plants some air. Our temperatures are like a roller coaster.
January 22, 2013 2:34 PM

Bifurcated Carrots: Quinoa vs Meat

Originally posted by Patrick from Bifurcated Carrots.

Across the Internet, the debate is raging.  Which is more ethical, eating meat or quinoa?  I posted about this a few days ago, and I’m pleased to see another article from a different point of view has appeared on the Guardian website today.  I was a little brief in my last post about some of [...]
January 21, 2013 9:32 PM


Originally posted by Robin's Nesting Place from ROBINS NESTING PLACE.

There is a new meme called, " No Winter Whining- Finding Color in Winter".  It is Jen from Muddy Boot Dreams and  Heather from, Life is a garden. Winter is in full force today and the temperatures have plummeted! We are under a weather advisory due to wind chills to -20°, but I'm not whining! As the snow fell and the wind blew, I sat for a few hours bird watching! Camera in hand, of course! It

Originally posted by Carol from May Dreams Gardens.

Helleborus niger 'Josef Lemper' I have scoured the garden literature of the 20th and 21st centuries to bring forth for the holidays some tidbits about Helleborus niger, the Christmas Rose.  I did this realizing that it might possibly lead me down one or two or more rabbit holes where securing the keys to escape might involving purchasing a few more old gardening books. This did indeed turn
September 17, 2012 5:21 AM

Lasagna Gardening

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Lasagna Gardening

By Pat Stone


Want to grow a garden the really, really easy way? Try "Lasagna Gardening!"


You don't have to dig.


You don't have to till.


Just pretend that you're making a giant garden "lasagna" with several layers of organic ingredients, and plant away!


Pick a spot that gets the right amount of sun. Cover it with cardboard or three layers of newspaper. Water well. Then begin adding layers of organic stuff. In effect, you're making a compost garden (another name for the technique is sheet composting), so, as in regular composting, you want to alternate layers of nitrogen-rich ("green") and carbon-rich ("brown") materials in an approximately 1-to-4 ratio.


Some good green materials are:


grass clippings or other green plants


manure (with or without straw)


coffee grounds           




blood meal


Some good brown fixings are:


shredded paper (black-and-white)


dead leaves


wood chips or sawdust


hay or straw


peat moss


Build your new "garden" several inches high (up to two feet), watering as you go. If you're going to plant right away, you'll need to add some soil or finished compost wherever you plant. It's better, though, to create next year's garden now--this fall! That way, it will have time to break down over winter and be ready to grow next spring. (It'll be shorter then, too, making it easier for you to plant all the way in the ground.) Plus, fall is a great season to gather other people's leaves, clippings, and yard waste.


Patricia Lanza coined the term lasagna gardening (and wrote a bestseller with that title) after she became single and didn't want to try manhandling the family John Deere rototiller. She started using this above-ground-layers growing technique--and never ran the tiller again. That's right (you see this coming, don't you?) she gave it the "Dear John" treatment!


You may, too!


Pat Stone is the Editor of GreenPrints, "The Weeder's Digest," the prize-winning magazine that shares the personal side of gardening.


August 13, 2012 6:20 AM

Fall Garden Advice

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Picking Vegetables

By Pat Stone and Phyllis Gricus


Fall is both the end of this growing season--and the start of next! Take these steps to help make next year's garden is even better than this.


The Vegetable Garden

• Clean up. Gather and compost dead plant litter. This reduces overwintering sites for insects and disease. (Fall is also a great time to forage for compost material, like neighbor's bagged leaves.)
• Sow cover crops. Broadcast winter rye and hairy vetch (which adds nitrogen to the soil) or, in mild-winter areas, banner fava beans in empty beds. This will improve soil fertility and tilth, and provide future compost material.
• Sow winter-hardy crops like kale, spinach, hardy lettuces, and Chinese cabbage. You can protect them with clear plastic over PVC arches, wooden cold frames, or recycled windows atop bales of hay.
• Plant garlic. Garlic grows biggest (in most areas) if started the fall before. Set cloves, pointy end up, an inch deep and three inches apart. Mulch immediately to keep down spring weeds.
• Tend tools. Clean and store your hand tools. Drain gas from motorized ones to keep water from condensing in their tanks.


The Ornamental Garden

• Fall is an ideal time to plant trees, shrubs, grasses, and bulbs. The soil remains warm compared to air temperature, an ideal environment for root development.
• Move any trees or shrubs that you want to relocate.
• Transplant and divide spring- and summer-blooming perennials in early fall.
• Water plants well prior to winter to help prevent winter injury, especially evergreens.
• Prep your houseplants for their return indoors by thoroughly rinsing leaves and container. Look out for insects.
• Move your potted amaryllis to a cool dry spot indoors to begin its dormancy period.
• Core aerate your lawn, seed bare spots, and fertilize--this is the most important application of the year.
• Once soil has a crusty frost layer, apply winter mulch of straw, shredded leaves, or pine needles to keep soil evenly cool through winter.

Pat Stone is the Editor of GreenPrints, "The Weeder's Digest," the prize-winning magazine that shares the personal side of gardening.


Phyllis Gricus is the owner of Landscape Design Studio in Pittsburgh, PA, creating sustainable and imaginative gardens for all seasons.  Visit her on Facebook.

July 11, 2012 8:28 PM

Picking Vegetables

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Picking Vegetables

By Pat Stone


It's surprising how fast homegrown crops can go from being too young to too old. How can you tell when they're just right? Depends on the vegetable:


Green Beans: Beans are most tender when their seeds are one-quarter normal size.


Broccoli: Cut when the heads are big but still tight. Small side shoots will develop for weeks afterwards.


Cabbage: Heads are full but haven't started to split. (To delay splitting, pull on the head until some upper roots snap.)


Cauliflower: To keep them white, tie outer leaves above the heads when they start to get big. Harvest a week or two later.


Corn: The silks are brown, and the ears feel full. To make sure, peel back the top and poke a kernel. If "milk" comes out, it's ready.


Cucumber: Get them just before they mature, when the spines are still soft and the seeds half-sized.


Eggplant: Bright, shiny, and full-grown? Prime. Dull color and brown seeds? Missed it.


Leaf Crops (Swiss chard, collards, kale, leaf lettuce, spinach): These are cut-and-come-again crops. Harvest some leaves continuously, and they'll keep producing as long as weather permits.


Okra: What you want are two- to three-inch-long pods that are easy to snap. Tough and woody is not.


Shell Peas: The pods are filled out but still light-green, not yellow.


Snow Peas: The pods are full-sized but not filled out.


Hot Peppers: Anytime--younger peppers are hotter. (At the end of the season, pull the entire plant and hang it upside down in a dry place.)


Sweet Peppers: Fruits are firm and full. (If you want to wait, they'll turn red!)


Potatoes: The tops have died down and the ground is dry.


Summer Squash: Young and tender. Check daily!


Winter Squash: A fingernail can barely scratch them? Harvest time.


Tomatoes: Fully colored but haven't turned soft = ripe.


You may find that the hardest thing is keeping up with the yields. But, hey, that's a good problem to have!

Pat Stone is the Editor of GreenPrints, "The Weeder's Digest," the prize-winning magazine that shares the personal side of gardening.