Monday, August 22, 2016

Soda Bottle Seed Starting Pots

It's late August, and here in Southern California we are reaching the height of the summer heat.  It's much too hot to work in the yard so I am mostly content to reap the rewards of my hard work by harvesting and cooking my summer produce.  It's always difficult to limit my gardening activities and I find my mind is already thinking ahead to the fall season.  Just because it's too late to sow summer seeds doesn't mean it's too early to get our fall seeds sown.  Of course, putting them out in the garden would require me to keep them shaded, damp and, generally, growing with something akin to "fall" conditions.  This would be tough to do outside knowing there's still another 6 weeks of potential triple digit heat. It must be time to start some seeds indoors.
I found 2 methods on-line for using soda bottles as seed starting containers and I decided to give both methods a try in a (semi-controlled) test to see which worked the best.  The 2 sites I used were: and 

My list of items needed was short:

An empty bottle
A drill (or a hammer and nail)
Cotton string
Wood (or something to protect your table)
Potting Soil
Hole punch (optional)

For our 1st project....

Using a drill (or a hammer and nail) make a hole in the lid large enough to thread the string through.  This is most easily accomplished with the cap turned upside down. A piece of wood protects the table underneath 

Thread both ends of the string through the upside down cap and tie a bow in the top of the string.

Using a sharp knife (and a pair of gloves for safety) cut off the top portion of the bottle.

Screw the cap on bottle

If you have a hole punch you can make a hole about an inch below the top of the "base" of the planter.  This will help you add water easily later on.  Place the top half into the bottom (base) of the bottle. 

Add soil and plant your seeds.  The string will wick up water to keep the soil moist, but if the top dries out you will want to add a little water from above.

For our 2nd project....

Use your knife to cut the top off of the bottle

Use the drill (and the wood) to drill drainage holes in the bottom of the base.

Use a pair of scissors (or your sharp knife) to make a couple of 1 inch long cuts up the side of the top portion of your bottle.

Fill the base with soil and plant your seeds.  Screw the cap on the bottle.  I placed the top portion inside the bottom half.  The cuts made this rather easy.  You may want to place the top portion outside the base, but personally, I found this a little difficult, and the small gap in the cuts I made would have allowed moisture to escape.

I'm anxious to see which of these methods germinates my seeds most quickly, as well as how effective my self-watering pot is.  I'll keep you posted.

Be well, and Happy Gardening.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Walking In A Winter Indoor Garden

When the chill of winter is setting in, and spring seems like it's months away, bring your outside garden indoors.  While you can't grow all of your plants inside, you'd be surprised at just how many of your winter plants will thrive on a window sill or in a sunny window. 
There are lots of reasons to bring the garden inside: 
1. It's too cold outside
2. It's too wet outside
3. You don't have a yard
4. Location (you don't even have to leave the house)
5. Plants clean the air
6. Less pests and diseases

My favorite choices for winter indoor growing are leafy greens (kale, chard, lettuce and spinach) as well as herbs.  During the summer months you can include bush beans, cherry tomatoes and eggplant.

So where do you start?  First, pick a location.  Your garden can be as small (windowsill) or large (sun room) as you'd like.  For large gardens you might want to consider using a bench or table.  Be sure to put a piece of plastic on the floor to protect your carpet.

Plants need light to photosynthesize, and they need to photosynthesize to survive.  Make sure that the area you choose gets plenty of sunlight.  Selecting a south or east facing window is best. If your location doesn't get enough sunlight, you'll need to supplement your garden with grow lights.  Many units can be purchased online, or if you're the handy type you can rig up a shelving unit with grow lights. 

Your plants will do best with an average temperature of 65-75 degrees.  A variation of 10 degrees either way won't be a deal breaker.  If your room is too hot, leaves will be small and weak.  If your room is too cold, leaves will drop.
Many homes can be dry during the winter months.  Your plants will benefit with some humidity.  Consider misting your plants, setting a saucer of water near (but not underneath) your plants, or running a humidifier. 
Soil is very important.  Don't use garden soil.  It can be too heavy and may contain weed seeds, pests and pathogens.  You want soil with good drainage. My favorite is "Fox Farms-Ocean Forest" but that's just my personal choice.  Choose your favorite container mixture.
You can start your garden using seeds, seedlings, cuttings or, try growing plants from vegetable scraps. 

So, your asking, what plants grow best indoors?  Here's a partial list:
Vegetables: Salad greens, kale, chard, peppers, tomatoes (especially cherry), beans (bush), eggplant, carrots and onions.
Herbs: Basil, parsley, oregano, cilantro, catmint, lavender, chives, and rosemary.
Flowers: Alyssum, geranium, pansy, orchid, roses, begonias, and marigolds.
Fruits: Strawberries and blueberries
Trees: dwarf apple and citrus.

Need some tips for indoor growing? 
Choose plants appropriate for the location you are growing in.
Choose plants appropriate for the season you are growing in.
Remember that all plants need sunlight (a minimum of 5-6 hours) but more is usually better.
Choose containers with good drainage.
Space the plants well, Don't overcrowd. 
Grow plants with similar needs (water, sunlight) together.
Water the plants regularly.  The soil should be moist but not soggy.
Drain the saucers from standing water.
Fertilize every 2-3 weeks with a diluted liquid or granular fertilizer.

Wait, didn't you say I can regrow plants from kitchen scraps?  Who knew.  What plants are best regrown from scraps:
Vegetables: Green onions, scallions, leeks, celery, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lettuce, cabbage, turnips, and bok choi.
Herbs: Ginger, lemon grass, fennel, basil, cilantro, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme.
Also consider: Avocado, mushrooms and pineapple.
Not all of these will do well in your indoor garden, but it's always nice to get plants for free.

Be well and happy Winter gardening!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Garden Hose Door Mat

At a recent composting class I received a great tip on "chopping" garden greens for my compost bin.  To quickly and easily chop your garden greens, and therefore speed up the composting process, simply pile your greens on the soil and stab at them with a shovel or pitchfork.  Every spot that gets torn or pierced by the garden tools will allow bacteria and other decomposing organisms to get to work breaking down your garden waste.  Wow!   What a great idea.  Why didn't I think of that myself.  I couldn't wait for the weekend and a chance to try this tip out for myself. 
With my Cana Lily leaves piled two feet high I start stabbing my way through the pile.  I couldn't believe how easy (and fun) this was.  After dozens of hacks at the stack, I move the shredded leaves to my compost bin, only to reach the bottom of the pile and the sorry sight of my garden hose that had been laying underneath the leaves.  Oops.  There's a mistake I won't make again.  Now I need an upcycle for my ruined hose.  The obvious (and easiest) would be a soaker hose, but I don't need one. I loved the idea of a door mat.  Our furry friend Maryah chewed ours up and I was looking for a recycled replacement.  Wouldn't a garden hose door mat be an indestructible rug for her to deal with?
My 1st attempts were complete failures.  I tried keeping my rug together with fishing line, and then a staple gun, but neither one worked.  Then I saw an AWESOME rug on  This blogger made a great rug out of a garden hose and black zip ties.  Check out her site for this and other great sustainable ideas.  I don't want to use the few zip ties I have (it's not frugal if I'm not recycling something) but this post gives me the idea of using twist ties that I've been saving.  I finally have the missing link to making my garden hose door mat.  

I gathered up all of the twist ties that I could find.  It takes a lot of ties even for a small rug.  Longer ties work best for this project.

Start with about a one foot section of hose, bending and wrapping the hose around itself.  Use a twist tie to hold each side of the hose to the piece next to it.  I used one tie on each end, but bigger rugs would need more ties. 

                    My hose wasn't long enough so I had to use more than one piece. 

When the mat reached the size I wanted (actually, I ran out of ties) I finished it off with one last tie at the end. 
While my door mat isn't anywhere near as artistic as rug I found online, my first attempt was a success.  Here's to reducing/recycling and reusing!
Be well and happy gardening.

Follow up 04/27/15:

After finding a few more twist ties, and breaking down and using 5 zip ties, I finally used up the last piece of the garden hose.  The zip ties are stronger than the twist ties and a good choice to finish the rug securely.  Actually, they are a better choice overall than the twist ties, but I wanted to keep things frugal. I love my door mat.  It's durable, waterproof and almost 100% upcycled. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


I love Christmas.  The beautiful holiday decorations, the incredible food, the time spent and memories made with family and friends.  This really is the most wonderful time of the year for me.  What I don't like is the waste.  With all of the boxes, paper and packages, it can be a challenge to keep trash cans and recycling bins from overflowing.  But holiday celebrating doesn't have to be a burden on landfills and recycling centers.  With a little fore thought, just about everything can be reused and recycled.  Here are some of the ways I keep my Christmas "almost zero waste".

After the Christmas presents are opened and the gifts are put away I separate the gift wrapping into 6 piles:


       Gift wrap, gift bags, ribbons, boxes, "crinkled" tissue paper and "uncrinkled" tissue paper.

                      Folded gift bags slide them under the couch for reuse next year.

            Tissue paper is reused for holiday/birthday gift giving and craft projects.

            "Crinkled" tissue paper protects fragile holiday decorations.

Large sheets of wrapping paper can be folded and reused next year.  Reuse torn or crumpled pieces of wrapping paper to fill in extra space when storing your holiday decorations.

                          Store ribbon and reuse for craft projects and gift giving.

Gift boxes can be stacked and stored for future gift giving use.  Larger boxes can be used to store holiday decorations. 

Cardboard can also be composted or used at the bottom of raised beds

A compost bin and box make a great seed starting tray. 
 The heat from the bin warms the soil
and gets my seeds growing quickly

Next Christmas, when I bring out my holiday decorations, I reuse the boxes and wrapping paper to ship Christmas gifts.  Using Christmas wrapping paper gives me one more reuse of the paper, adds a festive touch to the boxes, and eliminates the use of those pesky Styrofoam peanuts that everyone hates. 

   For smaller gifts and boxes, and for craft projects I shred the wrapping paper.


No need to waste a good Christmas tree.  When the holidays are over we drag it out (stand and all) and turn it in to a bird feeder.  These are great crafts to do with the kids and grandkids.

In early spring I thin out the branches, shredding them to use as a mulch around acid loving plants.

In the summer I placed the thinned out trunk in one of the raised beds and used it as a green bean trellis. 

In the fall we cut it up our tree, mulching and composting the small branches.  The trunk was cut into logs and left in the wood pile to dry.  Next winter it will warm us when burned in our fireplace. The ashes from the wood will be placed in the compost bin.

                          Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to Everyone. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Easy, Upcycled Bird Feeder

I love teacups.  They're practical and beautiful, and when you're drinking out of an old teacup you can imagine the history-the guests seated around a dining room table, enjoying dessert and discussing marriages and kids.  Oh wait, I may be daydreaming again.  Anyway, I saw the cutest teacup bird feeder idea on pinterest.

The artist (Robbyn Mast) used it as a birdfeeder but you could also use it to hold water for birds, butterflies and insects, or you can plant a succulent garden in it.  The possibilities are endless. This idea spoke to my love of the garden, everything old and upcycling.
It looked simple to make and I knew I had everything I needed here at home but it turns out I wasn't ready to part with my grandma's teacups so I've been checking out our local thrift stores every once in awhile.  Wouldn't you know it, they've been a little scarce these days.  But I'm patient, and persistent and it recently paid off with this find at the local Goodwill store.  The cup and saucer cost just .79 each.  I had on hand: household cement (water resistant), a narrow throated bottle (any old bottle will do) to hold my teacup upright, and some sandpaper to rough up the surface of the ceramic.  The roughing up was something that was recommended on the cement package though I'm not too sure it was necessary.

 5 items-5 minute project 
I gave the cup and saucer a quick once over with the sandpaper.

Glue the cup and saucer together.  Put the cement around the edges of the cup and not in the indentation in the center like I did the first time.  Hold the pieces together for 60 seconds. 

Put the cement around the edges of the glass bottle
Press the bottle to the bottom of the teacup and hold for another 60 seconds. 
Let the whole thing dry, upside down, for 2-3 hours (or overnight if you can wait that long).
                                          This couldn't have been more simple.

I love this is my garden

I used an old piece of rebar to perch my garden teacup upon but there are a ton of things you could substitute  (bamboo cane, broken broomstick, copper pipe, pvc pipe) as long as it fits the opening of your bottle.  
Some bird seed will scatter (and germinate) so keep that in mind when looking for a spot to display your teacup feeder.
Enjoy vintage, upcycled garden art and make your local wildlife happy.
Be well and happy gardening!