Sunday, October 13, 2013

Fall to-Do list for my cold climate garden

I am ever so busy in the garden this time of year. So many tasks to get accomplished to both put my garden to sleep (metaphorically) for the year and to prepare for a wonderful spring!  I thought I would share the items on my list.

Fall Flower Garden To-Do List:

Add Mums for Fall Color
  • Divide day lilies (trade with friends :) )
  • Divide peonies
  • Plant hardy mums (from friends or rescued from commercial sites)
  • Remove annuals as they are spent
  • Select any annuals for overwintering. (get tips on this blog entry)
  • Collect fall flower seeds
  • Prepare for winter sowing (cone flower, shasta daisy, gaillardia, salvia)
  • Move perennials which were in containers into the garden
  • Scour garden centers for plant sales 
  • Clean out dead plants and leaves (to mulch) 
  • Dig out hardy decorative grasses as needed to manage spread 
  • Pick aster flowers for drying

Fall Garden To-Do List for Bulbs:
Fall - dividing time for iris
  • Divide daffodils (note marked with yellow and white golf tees. Note, I mark the placement of bulbs in my garden with golf tees. Yellow for daffodils and red for tulips. When I think a clump is ready to be divided, I place a white golf tee there too. Then in the fall I know where to dig and not dig)
  • Plant daffodils, tulips (mark with yellow and red golf tees respectively)
  • Plant garlic
  • Start drying down canna for storage
  • Dig up begonia tubers for winter storage
Fall To-Do list for Shrubs and Trees:
  • Prune off diseased, damaged or broken stems.
  • Plant new shrubs
  • Trim back long branches that may be broken by snow
  • Stake down limbs of Japanese Maple for bark-over the winter (move into the spot you want the branch to be in when it is limber. As it barks over in the winter it should stay in that spot next year when you remove the line.)
  • Fertilize those trees/shrubs not done in springtime
  • Mulch in trees
  • Cut down and remove invasives (buckthorn, honeysuckle, privet)
Fall To-Do list for Vines, Ground Cover & Ornamental Grasses:
  • Propagate by layering the euonymus vines (make shallow cut in vine and bury it.)
  • Cut back vines from house and shrubs
  • Pull tender grasses for over-wintering indoors. See this blog for how-to
  • Pull out invasives (buckthorn, poison ivy)
I love fall weather! So crisp and just a great time to be outside! Which is great because I know what I'm doing today, tomorrow, and the next day!

Today I'm singing and feeling Forever Autumn by the Moody Blues!


Teresa Marie

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Review of Tour at "The Plant" vertical farm in Chicago

For some time I have been eager to get down to the Back-of-the-Yards neighborhood and tour The Plant - an experiment in vertical farming located inside an old meatpacking facility. How cool is that? Well - for me it turned out to be not so cool, it was an outing that I do not recommend at this time.  I bet in 3-5 years it will be an awesome venue.

OK - what I liked about it. The fundamental premise of the organization and the mission it serves. That's what got me there. I wanted to see the hydroponics lab too!

Let me give you an over view of the tour - which ran about an hour, and cost me $20 for my friend and I.

- Introduction (15 minutes) - in the lobby area I was provided an overview of The Plant organization and facility. The tour guide also educated visitors on the closed loop system and linkages between various parts of The Plant that are planned or anticipated future developments. Key here is future - much of The Plant facility is still in a state of disarray or construction. The introduction presented essentially the exact information which is available on the website. Visual aids were pages from printer taped to the wall. :(

- Review of future brewery location (10 minutes) - we walked to a large room, full of rubble, which will eventually house a brewery. Here there were posters on the wall discussing the principles of anaerobic digestion, and we were provided an overview on this science. We also looked out the windows to the vegetable garden below. 

The Plant, Chicago - hydroponic garden - 2013
- Tour through lower level - (12 minutes) he we walked by an area where mushrooms were grown. The door was shut, there was nothing to see.  We then went into the Hydroponic garden to see floating beds of lettuce and other greens and tanks that housed the tilapia.  There was another brief discussion of the principals of the vertical farm (same material reviewed previously).  While there were folks working here and discussion of the science and study occurring - we were not treated to any additional insight to their learnings. The set-up itself seems kludgy - well I'm used to touring manufacturing sites with lots of automation and sleek equipment, maybe this is as good as it gets.

Hydroponic greens - The Plant, Chicago

Fish tanks, Hydroponics garden, The Plant

- Tour of food production areas (20 minutes)  - Here we walked through old meat preparation areas and old smoking units.  We learned the plans of the organization for this space. I was hit by the very strong odor still remaining from the smokers. The most interesting part for me was that one of the individuals on the tour had worked at this facility back in the day when it was meat processing. His stories were excellent - if not a bit gory at the same time.  We saw two areas in current production of baked goods. This was a very lean operation for small scale production.  If you've toured the Eli's Cheesecake Factory here in town, you will understand the low volume nature of this test-kitchen.  

The Plant, Chicago - old smoker room. 2013
The Plant, Chicago, future shared kitchen space. 2013

- View of Anaerobic digester - look out the window to see the machine which we learned of earlier.  This will eventually be used to generate energy from food and plant waste material. Great idea! 
the Eisenmann anaerobic digester, The Plant

That was it. End of the tour. I had hoped to see more items in operation or to learn more about their findings.  I wanted to know more than I learned on the website. I was disappointed. That said - I do support the mission and direction The Plant is going.

If you do head to The Plant for a tour, pop around the corner to Garfield Park Conservatory afterwards for a bit of green, it will round out your day :) 

For some reason, singing the Oscar Mayer wiener song...

Teresa Marie
Harvesting Hydroponic Garden - The Plant

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Behind the scenes at Garfield Park Conservatory - Spring 2013

This spring I had the opportunity to peek behind the scenes at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago. The conservatory is over 100 years old - and the buildings behind it, on the Northside, are almost as old.  In the photo below you can see the conservatory (square shape with the (A) marked on it), the production greenhouses just north, and then just north again, in the blue box, are these working buildings.

Garfield Park Conservatory Grounds - Aerial View

The West Park System was the part of Chicago politic responsible for the conservatory.  This was before the formation of the Chicago Park District.  When the smaller conservatories in Douglas Park, Humboldt Park and Garfield Park were taken down a key element in the decision on where to place the larger "Jensen Conservatory" was the existence of the Power Plant building in Garfield Park.  The Power Plant is the eastern most building in this space.  It's got this great brickwork and high windows. Really pretty. It was constructed in 1896. That's some old architecture :)
In 1928, the West Park System built the "works" building adjacent to the Power Plant. Today it is used by the Chicago Park district for various trades.  The trade building was designed by Michaelsen and Rognstad, so it's affectionately called the M&R building.
Below are a few photos of a quick exploration of these old buildings.  The last two photos are from inside the M&R building looking back onto the Conservatory.  It was a really fun day and an interesting perspective that I'd never before experienced.  One portion of the works building houses the shop that makes signs for the Chicago Park District, that was pretty interesting. There is also a carpentry workroom - that smelled just amazing.

I kept thinking these would make great loft offices or apartment spaces. Or perhaps an awesome party venue?
I enjoy the rich history of Chicago and the Conservatory. Always something old to learn :)
Power Plant and M&R Building Garfield Park - 2013

Garfield Park Conservatory - Back Yard, 2013

View from M&R Bldg over back of Garfield Park Conservatory, 2013

View out of Woodshop window

Happy Exploring,

Teresa Marie

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Up-cycling DIY Coffee Table - pallets, fence posts and fruit crates parts

Anyway, today I was inspired by this DIY project.

A friend quickly put together the frame of a box from pieces of a fruit crate and pallet. I liked the added detail of putting little handles on the sides. Then cut up a square post to make the legs. Viola - I have a new coffee table.  I brought this home and had to put my little touches on it.

I grabbed the hand sander and went over all the surfaces and edges to make sure that there were not rough edges or potential for slivers.  I also checked to see if it was level - which it wasn't, but a little sanding fixed that right up.  I was about to apply a coat of stain, but was halted by my daughter who liked it just the way it is.

DIY Coffee Table from Pallet & Crates

Pallet and fence-post Up-cycles Coffee Table

Quite rustic - and lovely for the sun room. It matches the end tables which are fruit crates :)  but not so much the Victorian couch. Well eclectic is nice right?

It all works for me!  Give this project a try.

Teresa Marie

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Woodland Restoration - Adding in Mature Trees

One of my major projects is the restoration of a woodland adjacent to my house. I think I should start to call it a garden restoration, since as I've continued to clear away at the under-story of buckthorn, I'm finding more and more decorative plants. I've even found old wire supports for peonies which are sadly  all faded away.  I also found a new favorite wildflower - the privet. This year as I was clearing I came across 10 or so bushes in bloom. The fragrant is so wonderful! Can't wait until next year as these mature some more!

Anyway, the parcel I'm working with is approximately 294 ft long x 62 ft wide. It's the eastern portion of the woodlands that is closest to my house. That's right - it's 0.42 acres. Nearly a half acre that used to be someone's showcase garden, and is not trash.

Woodland restoration satellite view - google maps. 
In the photo to the left - this is the area between the two roughly horizontal roads and approximately three-quarters of the distance between the major road on the right-hand side, and the end of the photo on the left hand side.  I call this my "guerrilla garden."

The photo is wintertime clearly - so it's hard to see just how dense the trees are.  In the next photo below, the perspective is from the intersection in the lower right hand side looking back against this parcel. There is a little rock garden I carved out, a big overgrown rose bush, and a big burning bush (almost 12 feet tall!). Almost every thing else is buckthorn and poison ivy.

Before restoration, east side of woodland - looking west.
Happy days - removing buckthorn by the truck-full
I've started clearing from the south and east sides of the woodland (garden.) Mostly because this is the side that I see all the time!  For the past 10 years I've been planting the little saplings givin away for free on Arbor Day in this space. I think about half have thrived.

Nobody else in this neighborhood had the vision that I did for the restoration. This includes the owner of the land whose house is way off to the left hand side of the first photo (which is why they don't care about it at all.) Every time I was out there hacking away at the "trees" - someone would stop and complain, or I'd just get dirty looks. I generally have the buckthorn piled up in the street for pick-up so I have also gotten actual notes in my mailbox about what a mess I'm making in the neighborhood.  This sentiment was particularly acute when I had completely cleared the eastern side - the after clearing photo below. More open, light streaming through, room for, the property owner was now so pleased she is begging me to keep going!

After clearing Buckthorn - wide open spaces

Digging a big hole for tree
It was pretty interesting watching them plant these trees.  They are to be planted in  a low area. I was worried about the quality of the soil. There were a few surprises. For example, we found lots of pavement chucks and stones. Looks like someones dumping ground for road work. :(  On the positive side, the soil is rich so we didn't need amendments.  The trees were planted to sit about 8-10 inches above ground level. This is because the water pools here with heavy rains and we wanted there to be some portion above water. Then soil was ramped away from the trunk to match the existing ground level. Then we applied mulch over that. Later I'll also apply a layer of wood chips.

In addition to these evergreen trees, I planted two serviceberry and one crab apple that I purchased at the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance plant sale a few years ago.  In addition I had a few native plants from local sale - a button bush and two chokeberry. I also picked up a few items from close out a Lowes (distressed for $1 - $5 each ! Yeah)  These were three golden privet, and two mountain fire pieris. Lastly, I picked up some daylilies and hosta for free of craigslist and scattered these in front of the trees.  I had some leftover stone from a porch demo that I used to create a little pathway.  In fall I'll distribute the existing flowers from the left had side along the front as well.

June 2013 - Woodland Restoration with new trees

Taking the long view - I really hope the next owner is passionate about this garden. In the past few days as I've been out there working neighbors driving by have actually yelled "great job" as they fly by!  In a few years I'll start redistributing some of the saplings into the open spaces created by continued removal of buckthorn, dying elm and ash.  I envision my kids coming here years from now and showing their own children the "little trees" then cared for as a child - which should be reaching for the stars.

Dreaming big!

Teresa Marie

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Woodland Restoration - aka Killing Buckthorn

What is a woodland and why am I trying to restore it? Great questions, I'm glad you asked :)

A woodland is a natural area where, unlike a forest, trees form an open canopy, with a ground layer made up of shrubs, grasses and flowers plants.  (In a forest the canopy is all closed off and it's pretty undisturbed on the interior)  Anyway, a woodland can have plant composition and appearance which are very different from it's surroundings (for instance, the woodland space I'm working to restore is between houses with grassy lawns). Woodlands are very susceptible to invasion by exotic species because it has a high amount of edge environment - waging wars on lots of fronts.

The first steps are deciding if the woodlands need restoration or simply better management. Woodlands management means means taking care of what’s already planted and encouraging continual growth and improvement. I think of "management" as a weak form of restoration, improving the site but largely keeping most of what's there intact.  Restoration represents a much more intensive,hands-on effort. Restoration, as the name implies, restores a degraded natural woodland, to a desired plant structure and species composition.  These areas to  be restored have the building blocks required for the woodland, but perhaps not the right mix, quantity, or quality. Plus there may be building blocks that need to be removed from the foundation and thrown away - for example, invasive species. Restoration is coddling the baby woodlands back to health by removing exotic species control, seeding and planting new items.

So - how did I decide? I took an inventory of the site. I mentally mapped it out and walked almost every inch of the land. I had a small patch to deal with so this was feasible and easy to do. What I was looking for / and what I discovered was:

Starting point - buckthorn hedge (trashy!)
  • Invasive species - too many buckthorn, honeysuckle, mustard ginger, poison ivy, poison oak to count. (check this site for how to identify buckthorn, they are trees that hold their leaves longest in the fall.)
  • Great woodland plants (keepers) - Good oak, maple trees. A nice Pagoda Dogwood too. I found two straggly apple trees (probably crab apple)
  • Decorative garden shrubs / flowering plants: This area I was told used to be a brilliant garden about 50 years ago. Sure enough in between the buckthorn I discovered a beds of vinca, iris, daffodils, tulip (mind you none of these last three were blooming), lilac, viburnum, grape hyacinth,  - lots to work with. Plus wildflowers - trillium, white trout Lilly, solomon seal, maybe morel mushrooms? and more.
  • Topology - Without the buckthorn - half of this will be shady, the part by the street with be part-sunlight. The north side is a flood-plain, the south side is generally dry. 
  • Diversity of the canopy - not so great, lots of dying ash and elm. Evergreens, while large, are also stressed.  

Poison ivy vine - two inches thick!
Under-story of buckthorn crowding out mature trees

You can see a bit of the challenge in the photos above. Very thick with buckthorn - and check out that poison ivy! The vine went all the way to the top of the elm tree and even though the tree was dead, the ivy gave the appearance of it being alive it was so leafy! Buckthorn is a real challenge in Illinois and as I'm close to the Forest Preserve I think there will always be a management issue. But for now, what all this meant - I needed to get on the restoration path. I don't think that I appreciated at the time the amount of work that I was signing up for! This was a decision that I made almost 5 years ago. I'm still working on it!

I would estimate that I have spent nearly a 10 solid weeks working on this project just clearing out the invasive species. Some invasive plants just keep coming back. Here's an update on my battle with Garlic Mustard. Sometimes a few helpers but mostly a solo gig. I work it in spring (before the poison ivy comes out) and in the fall when the buckthorn is the only thing that's green. It's slow but steady progress. Plus considering that this isn't my land, I need time for the neighbors to get used to the changes. Finally this year many are appreciative - however, there are plenty that are mad that I've taken out the "hedge" and privacy. I think they will be happy as the years pass - but they don't share the vision that I have for this space.

Wild grass with delicate flowers that appeared
Native wildflower returns to woodlands

This year the lilac bloomed, significantly, for the first time; the iris as well. 

I created a little flower garden on the south side - which is pretty much a cottage garden. I've been putting in all sorts of odds and ends, free items from CL, and seed bombs over time. It's a bit messy, but this way I can see what takes and I'm not spending my resources on it. 

On the street side - stay tuned. I'm going to be doing some major planting this month and look forward to sharing the (hopefully dramatic) results.

Anyone got ideas on plantings please do share with me. Or if you want a lesson in killing buckthorn - just shout, I would welcome a few hours of help :)

Teresa Marie

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Barley Twist - antique furniture!

Ornate Antique Oak Barley Twist Stool
One of my weaknesses when it comes to antiques, and I have a few, is late 19th century oak barley twist furniture.  The smooth deep patina and the soft gentle curves is so sexy. Really! The first antique furniture I ever bought was a barley twist - and I've been hooked ever since.  I can't imagine the time, patience, and experience it would have taken to be able to hand carve the curve just right. Many an apprentice were probably driven made by their woodworking masters with this design! Even looking at how these are made on lathe makes me crazy. See these videos if you like. 

Aka Rope Twist, Barley Sugar Twist, Sugar Twist.  

To me it's just heavenly.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

For the love of Tulips

I love tulips. They add a nice pop to the garden mixed in with daffodils in the springtime. Everyone recognizes the flower and it's an easy choice with lots of variety.  Thank you to breeders out there making lots of hybrids!  Tulips can be simple, large, showy, charming - dramatic in mass, or just a pop with a few.   I'm a bit of a lazy gardener - so tulips have always posed a challenge for me. I've amassed a large selection and learned a few tips to ongoing success.
I like that I'm planting flowers that originated in Persia and Turkey. There was a tradition of wearing a this flower in your turban - so  Europeans named tulips using the Persian word for turban. At one point in the 17th century bulbs sold for exorbitant prices. Would you think of paying $150,000 for a bulb? Well that's what they were doing during the Dutch Golden Age - during Tulipomania!  While all "new" flowers command a premium for some period of time, this mania was dramatic and historic. Luckily prices came down! 
Ten years ago I decided that I "needed" a spring display of daffodils and tulips. Today I still have a great set of daffodils that have multiplied from the original planting - and  I've replaced the tulips several times.  I didn't realize how much deer and rabbits love tulips! Also I guess there is a reason that commercial buildings and park systems use tulips once and then rip them out as trash. Although Tulips are a perennial, they can be a challenge to keep year after year. Each subsequent year the flowers diminish even with care. Large varieties, those really interesting sexy tulips that I love, need replanting every few years. However, small types usually multiply and spread on their own. Well this brings me to my first lesson learned. 

A distinctive tulip shape - colored edged, melded tones, single color beauties

My #1 tip for success with tulips is a process I fondly call "Tulip Rescue."  Several times during late spring I stop by shopping malls and even Michigan Ave to rescue the tulips as they are being removed.  I can easily make a deal for the bulbs with the grounds crew.  In some cases, spent tulips are given away for free. Garfield Park Conservatory has often been the site of their own "Tulipmania" - in 2012 they had two days of giving away free tulips from all the Chicago Park planting and a great variety. 

Second interesting thing I've learned is that tulips do best were there are very dry summers - in the picture at the right are some red tulips that have bloomed steadily for many years. These are up against the house, and under the eaves. There are no other plants in this bed other than spring bulbs (and weeds :)  ). So I never water here plus no fertilizer; no nothing. I have found it very hard to grow anything here at all - yet the tulips love it. For tulips that remain in the ground after blooming, do not place annuals or perennials planted over the tulip bulbs; expecially plants that are very thirsty. All that water reduces tulip life. Since I have only a few places for flowers I mix it all up which  this means that I'm choosing to reduce the lifetime of the tulips. Too much water during summer and fall can lead to fungus, disease, and rotting. Hence another plus to having a tulip rescue process to replenish the bulbs each year.  

Early in the spring I apply bulb fertilizer when I see the plants emerge.  I also spray with a deer/rabbit repellent product.  I'll use deer repellent 2-3 times more than is recommended on the label in the springtime. If I don't the deer nibble off the tulip buds with precision!  Once feed and protected, I sit back and wait for the blooming to begin!  I am most fond of the appearance of the inside of the tulip! Scroll down and just take a look at the symmetry and beauty of these tulips. 

I put on an application of bulb fertilizer as the flowers start to fade.  After the tulips have finished flowering, I cut back the flower stalks but allow the leaves to die back naturally.  For rescued tulips, I cut off the old bloom/seed pod and plant in the ground with a little fertilizer and then allow leaves to die like others. Cutting off the bloom puts more energy back into the bulb. It gets a bit messy with the dying leaves, but with continual flowering in the garden there are other focal points. I let the old leaves stay until they are really yellow - about 5-6 weeks. Finally I cut those off too.  

In the fall, I mulch the whole garden which I think helps the tulips. In the spring, as the tulips begin to emerge I hit them with bulb food again. With this process - I have been able to get  3-4 years of blooms from bulbs.  Alternatively it is recommended to dig up bulbs each season and keep them in a dry cool space until the next season. I've never had enough energy for that...

I'm closing with a shot of a little garden. This is under a large oak tree and is shady most of the year. However, in the springtime I can get a few tulips and daffodil to bloom adding a nice pop!

Happy Gardening;

Today I'm singing "Tip-toe Through the Tulips"

Teresa Marie

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Overwintering annuals - great rewards

This week I will start planting the containers that will go by my front door and on my back porch. I have been known to go a bit crazy with container gardens, but this year I promise restraint :)  The most fun will be the containers with Corn by the front door - lots of drama and I hope people are thinking "is that corn?" 

Luckily for me, a few years ago I started overwintering my containers and so now I have lots of great plants to start with already.  I regularly overwinter the following plants:
- Geraniums
- Tender Grasses (See this blog post on grasses)
- "Spikes"
- Coleus  

It all a started with the Spikes. I'm sure you have seen these available at your garden center - fairly small and not so expensive. They are "pushed" as accent plants for containers. My problem was that everything else in the container would always grow so fast - that in a month or so, the Spike Plant was lost in the growth.  So, one year I decided to put that container into the basement and keep it over the winter. The Spike survived and today I have the very large specimen plant you see in the photo. It's turned into a focal point for my garden (not where it's placed in the photo.) And it still stays in a container.  Take a look below at how brilliant these little spikes can become! It's hard to tell but this is a 14 inch white pot, and the spike is now about 3 1/2 feet tall!  Check the size relative to the garden bench.

Impact of Overwintering Annuals (In containers)
Left side - as purchased, Right Side - after 3 yrs overwintering

Here are a few of my lessons' learned from over wintering annuals in containers. 

  • Insects - check the container carefully for insects and if you need, spray with insecticidal soap (a few times over a week or so ) before bringing inside.
  • Light - If possible place plants near a sunny window or I have a friend who uses grow lights (I'm to frugal to do that!)  
  • Pruning - I cut back the annual (except in the case of a spike type plant) to reduce foliage to perhaps 1/3 or 1/2 the final summer size. This depends on your light. It's got to get cut back so it won't get leggy and stressed.  I cut back a few weeks before I want to put it inside the house.
  • Re-potting before winter - I try to take the plants out of the container, check the soil and perhaps amend, then put them back in the same pot. I'm not 100% of this step, sometimes I just haul it inside as is!
  • Fertilizer/Water - as you would for your house plants. I try to fertilize a bit more aggressively as the spring gets closer. This corresponds to more light and my plants get a boost before I push them back outside. 

By early spring, your Coleus could be over a foot tall.  Impatiens can be overwintered too and they can get very large. Geraniums grow easily indoors in containers; I minimize flowers and really cut these back for winter.  Geraniums and coleus I prune back a few times during the winter to get branching and prevent straggly growth. The coleus I also start from these cuttings.

So just think -it's easy to do, you get to garden all winter, it saves money, and you have awesome plants early in the season.  So as you plan your garden in the spring - think about what you can save over until the fall. Or if you are reading this in fall, think about what you can try to save. 

Don't worry if the first time or the plant you chooses doesn't survive the winter. Trial and error happened with me too. :)

Listening to the birds sing today!

Teresa Marie

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sedum Propagation - Spring check-in

Last fall I blogged about easy ways to propagate sedum perrenials.  This is one of my more populat blogs. I hope you all are having success with the techniques I described.

I'm placing here the results of the direct placement and controlled grown cuttings you see in the prior blog.  Just a few months inside or our in the wintery cold - and the sedums are popping back to life!

Direct Set Sedum Cuttings - after over wintering
The cuttings to the right were simply snipped from the host plant and plunged into the dirt. I did not use rooting hormones or any treatments. Neither did I check on or water these cuttings. Here you can see in early April just a few months later, a) the old stalk which just looks like a stick, and b) the sprouts of new sedum plants are peeking out. Of the handful I propped in this manner, about 60% are growing. That's acceptalbe to me.

Controlled Growth Sedum Cuttings
Here on the left hand side are the cuttings that I placed into small pots and kept inside for the winter. These were placed in a cool room and did not have much sunlight. Further, I pretty much ignore them, watering more in the springtime.  You can see that as in the case with the direct set cuttings above, the original stalk has died away giving it's energy to the new plants which sprout from the roots below dirt. The controlled growth cuttings are a bit larger since they were warmer and more gently treated. If I had placed them in a better environment inside - they would probably be even larger.

Anyway you go - it's a fast and easy way to create more plants for no cost. These go into my guerilla garden this weekend!

Happy Day!

Teresa Marie

Gardening with Vinegar and other household staples

Keeping an eye out for DIY in the garden (love this pic!)
I cam across a fellow bloggers post this morning where she lists out various things to use vinegar for in the garden. (it's down below)This took me right back to working along side my grandmother in her household garden. She had a few staples - Vinegar, Urine, Baking Soda, alcohol, and coffee grounds. Yes - kitchen staples also carry over into the garden. (I know urine isn't a kitchen staple but you know what I mean!)

With these items - used alone, mixed with water, or other household products, she raised so many wonderful plants. As she put it, she didn't have time or money to go "all the way to the Piggly Wiggly" and buy fancy products for the garden. All that way was about 5 miles - a lady of the great depression knew her home remedies.

Uses of these staples include:
- altering the pH of your soil
- Adding nutrients (like fertilizer does)
- Killing weeds
- Killing pests (coffee grounds and ants don't mix; alcohol on aphids is ugly)

Check out this fellow blogger's site for tips with vinegar.

If you are wondering - when we would visit as kids she would have us pee into a watering can and then take us into the garden to "water" her plants. Very fun and funny at the same time.

Keep singing.

Teresa Marie

Friday, March 29, 2013

Treasure Hunting Success!! Victorian Garden Tools

I've had two recent successful treasure hunting expeditions - one in my own back yard. I feel a bit like Dorothy Gale.

Craiglist Treasure Hunt uncovers Victorian Gardening tools

Victorian in Park Ridge, IL
As my readers know - I love going to antique stores, junk shops, flea markets, and searching Craigslist for deals.  One treasure hunt was from the latter. I saw a posting on Chicago Craigslist for "miscellaneous garden items found in my Victorian home's attic."  That called to me both for being garden related - and because anything stashed into an attic had to be valueable enough to store at one point, and there long enough to be forgotted (vintage or antique!) Whoo hoo - I was on the trail. 

I arranged to pick up the items and drove over to Park Ridge, IL. This town was incorporated in 1873. There are so many beautiful homes there. Sure enough as I drove to the address given, I was not disappointed. Yes, I even had to take a picture. Look at how lovely this place it. From the painted lady look, to the nice yard. I love the deck too. It wrapped all the way around to the back. Here they had really done it up nicely making an outside sitting room. The home owner confirmed that the home had been build in 1917 and that he was the third owner - the first two being multiple generations of the original builder! My excitement was so high - I thought there is gold here! Because I loved the house so much - here is a picture of it.

Crocks and vintage cardboard tomato carrier
The gentleman took me into the garage where he had stashed the items - getting ready to put them into the trash if nobody responded to hi CL ad. His trash is my treasure! I paid $60 for all the items. Next to each I've put the value of potential resale There were two crock pots (unbranded - $12 - $30), a cardboard tomato carrying case ($9-$19) those I did see online did not have a top , and several tools including triangle spade ($9), loper ($15?), coal or potato shovel ($25-30), Iron coal or garden shovel ($80), Antique version of today's Hula Hoe ($30? couldn't find comparable), another hoe, and a weeder with broken tip. So if I were to try and flip all these items - I would make maybe $120.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Tea Tree Oil - Natural Skin Care

Pre-Treatment Facial Moles
Earlier this year I went to a dermatologist for the first time in my life! I wanted to have a few things checked out. I've had a few moles on my face for 20+ years without issue.  Recently however some of these moles were increasing in the size and roughness of texture. Well luckily the Doctor said there was nothing abnormal about them (not skin cancer or anything like that!). He said removal was "cosmetic surgery" that wouldn't be paid for by my insurance. Further he predicted that the moles would continue to get larger as I got older. ARGH! Like most people, I wasn't too excited about the prospect of having 5-6 moles getting larger on the side of my face. So I googled home remedies for mole removal and stumbled across Tea Tree Oil

After reading several natural medicine websites and blogs I decided to try the tea tree oil because it was inexpensive, readily available at my grocery store, and folks indicated it was pain-free and did not cause scars or skin irritation. I didn't have anything to lose - and really no other options. It sounded too good to be true (and in some cases it was.)

I purchased a 1 oz bottle of pure tea tree oil. Prices varied from ~$4 - $10/oz.  I used the tea tree oil pure; I did not dilute the oil at all.  It was very easy to apply the oil. 

    Pure Tea Tree Oil
  • Clean your  face and applied toner and dry off 
  • Place the tip of a cotton swab into the tea tree oil (it does not have to be fully saturated, you don't use that much)
  • Touch the cotton swab onto the moles / skin tags you wanted to diminish (obliterate!)
  • Let the oil dry before applying make-up (better to just avoid make-up if you can)
  • Do this twice a day - morning and night; during the week. And 3-4 times during the weekend. 
While I read that the Tea tree oil could impact the moles in just a couple of weeks, it was nearly three weeks before I noticed any differences. At almost 2.5 months now since I started the Tea Tree Oil treatment some great changes. The one ounce bottle has lasted me this long! I am treating 7 different moles and each had a slightly different response to the oil.  In one case the mole just started to get smaller in diameter and height until it now is completely even in height to my skin and seems like a small brown scar. In other cases the top of the mole became dried and peeled away. Each peeling making the mole a tiny bit smaller.  In no cases does my skin "appear normal" yet where the moles were/are - but I am super happy with the results. 

Take a look at the before and after photos above - 1 and 2 months. Its not too clear but I hope you can see the reduced size, height, and color of the moles. In the last picture they look completely gone - but I know they are still there! The treatment was well worth the $10!

Before and After results from Home Remedy Mole Removal with Tea Tree Oil

Skin Irritation from Tea Tree Oil
and Skin Cream Application
Here are a few additional helpful hints that I learned along the way - please note that my skin is very sensitive, so I think I may have had more problems than many people...
  • Avoid applying oil to surrounding skin. This skin will dry out faster and peel more than the moles. In one case I ended up with a wound because the skin was so unhappy to have the tea tree oil - however the moles never had that issue.Do not get excess oil into wrinkles - ditto the drying issue above
  • Do not cover the treated skin with band aid, cloth, or apply other cream. This made my skin become very red and irritated in a broader area than just by the mole. Especially bad one night when I thought to put on a cream mask treatment after oil and leave them on for 10 minutes. Please don't even think about that. It was not pretty :(
  • Alternate with Aloe or Mederma (scar cream) as the moles start to diminish. I scar very easily and this seems to help, or at least makes me feel better!
  • This stuff stinks. Not much to do about that.
  • As a post-script, for some moles once they were gone - they never came back. Others I have had to periodically treat with tea-tree oil (2-3 times a week.)

Once I saw that the tea tree oil was effective on my skin moles, I jumped into using it for other skin ailments. I used it on acne with great success.  I had no luck with skin tags at all. 
What's your favorite home remedy? 
Have a great day!

Teresa Marie

Monday, March 4, 2013

Home-Made / Custom Perfume Experience

This past weekend my daughter and I used a Living Social deal to go to Aroma Workshop and create our own perfume.  It was a fun experience and we made a great day of it. However, I was disappointed in the lack of  science in the process. I had previously been to a perfumer in London that provided a great education and experience in perfumes.
Aroma Workshop Chicago 3/13

In my London experience the perfumer explained that essential oils (which may be synthetically or naturally derived) form the basis of your perfume. Each essential oils contributes a 'notes' of the perfume. A good perfume composition requires base, middle, top and bridge notes.  These “notes” are essentially three different levels of scent, each with varying rates of evaporation. The top note is the most volatile, it's the scent you notice first.  The base note is the part of the perfume that lasts the longest. The middle note linking the top and base notes together, and set the type of fragrance family for the perfume — earthy, floral, spicy, woodsy, etc.  Because the essential oils evaporate at different rates, perfume smells changes as you wear it. Without the base note your perfume will not last. In the London perfumer they systematically walked you through the process of selecting notes, and then weighting blends of up to 10 oils to create your fragrance. They said the best perfumes had roughly equal top and base note percentages and 50% middle notes.  In addition, this shop was expert in understanding from your current favorite perfume, what might be a great blend to recommend for you.