Fall Gardening Update

In case you have not heard the news, its Fall. The air is finally crisp at night, the trees are turning and the leaves are falling. It would be wonderful if the leaves would just fall all at once so we only had to rake once or if they would just all fall in one little spot. That’s not how dead leaves work.

Well I have started to wake up just a bit earlier every morning and do a bit more of yard work on a daily basis. I have a leaf blower that also vacuums and slightly mulches the leaves into a bag attached to the leaf blower. I got it out twice already this fall. Well it looks like I am going to be using it daily until winter. I tell my husband that I am going to vacuum the patio, we giggle about it. I have never used it to blow the leaves. I collect and mulch them and use them to winterize the garden boxes and flower beds.

I had written a blog post probably almost a year ago about how I was making more garden space. I had dug out nearly all of the decorative plants and flowers in the designated area and put them in other places around the yard. What happened to the new garden space is not what I had anticipated. I had taken away the plants that were holding the mostly clay dirt in place. When it rained it was a swampy mess and the 400 corn seeds I had planted in the area didn’t take well, we only had thirty stalks and none of them produced any significant edible corn.

The area just doesn’t have enough sun or nutritious soil. One of the three pine trees close by this garden spot came down this summer and really let in a great deal of light. We would keep the pine trees in this location because they give a wonderful amount of privacy from our closest neighbors but all three of them were half dead the whole way up the trees. A bit over a year here and the two remaining pine trees are more close to three quarters of the way dead the whole way up the trees. So they both need to come down as well.

It is a bit upsetting but with them not doing well, we are heading into plan B for the area. We are planning on putting in a permanent fire pit and seating area in the place of the trees. We would like to get matching brick to the current brick patio and extending this into the pine tree area. Its a win win. Sunken fire pit and less grass seed we have to put down. The bonus is a friend of ours found a place about 20 minutes away where they have piles of reject bricks, come and get them for free on the off hours! Free Brick, I am into that. My husband is not nearly as thrilled to climb and search through broken brick.

I think that it will be easier to mow around a bit more patio compared to, jabbing the mowing in an out of under the dead branches of the pine trees in order to get the sparse grass around the edges all while trying to watch your head and face. Wolf spiders like to jump out of the pine trees at our heads and those dead branches have a love of stabbing us in the eyes.

I am also thinking that it may be easier with the fall clean up as well. I find that it is much easier to use the leaf blower/vac on the patio then in the yard. The grass likes to grab and hold onto the dead leaves, so I have to put the leaf vac right on top of every leaf. While on the patio areas I use much less energy in leaf removal. I only have to get mildly close and the leaves get sucked right into the vac.

As I am slightly mulching the leaves that are falling daily I have been building up the new garden bed with grass clippings, chipping material from plant cut down, leaf mulch and ashes from the very small fire pit and the fire place inside. In early November I will be emptying the compost bin onto the area with a nice leaf mulch covering for over the winter.

leaves collected from the leaf blower/vac.

There are plenty of leaves to go around so I am also going to be collecting and putting the leaves through our chipper which does an amazing job at reducing the leaf litter into one twentieth of its size. It really is interesting. This will be what we add to the raised garden boxes. I have found that their levels are pretty low and could use some refreshing.

Leaves ran through the chipper turn into a very fine mulch, almost dirt.

The last fall prep that needs to be done this weekend particularly because of the dropping temperatures would be to trim and pot up the tropical plants I have growing in the back yard. Such as the banana tree and the 4 elephant ear plants that have done so well. They will not survive the cold weather, many choose to cut down and place in dormancy. Last year we placed the banana tree in a large pot and put it in the living room and it loved being inside and grew well, when we transplanted it in the spring it had three full grown leaves on it and did not have to start from scratch. The base of the tree has doubled in diameter this summer and it had doubled in height as well. I have several pots set aside for these tropical plants to come in and continue to prosper. below are the photos of the the banana tree we have and a photo of one of the elephant ear leaves.

Banana tree that does not grow bananas.

Elephant ear plant that does not grow baby elephants.

RickabaughReviews approves of fall prep! Share your fall prep ideas and photos with me I would love to see and share what we all are doing together.

Indoor dirt alternative

Last year I separated a bunch of my indoor plants and I found that the dirt that I had gotten was infested with gnats. So I went and got all new indoor potting soil and of course the gnats came back.

Just so we are clear I re-potted over 40 indoor plants. I washed all of the roots and pots. The gnats came back. Eew. I then started putting colored cups of soapy water by every single plant. I would change the water twice a day. I could catch about 300 gnats a day. Then I started watering my plants with soapy water, which I had read that it would kill the eggs. This did not work with killing the gnat eggs but it did kill off 5 of my more sensitive house plants.

It was the beginning of summer and unfortunately I had lost my patience with the gnat situation, all of the indoor plants went to the front porch.

I was saddened because both my husband and I really love the look of plants throughout the home. But I could also tell a difference in the air quality of inside the home, it was a bit mustier. The main reason why I had gotten indoor plants was to improve the air quality, I have a great deal of allergies and the air cleaning plants also help us sleep better.

I did a bunch of research on different types of replacements for soil. What I have found was floral water pearls. We have purchased them from amazon. They come in many different colors, we just got a multicolored pack of 20,000 to give them a try. They are so tiny when they arrive. You will need to let them absorb water to their full size before transplanting your plants. this process may take about 4 hours. When they arrived the pearls were in very bold colors but once they were full sized and ready for plants they appear pastel colors. We decided that if we were going to get fancy dirt we wanted to get containers that I would be able to see through in order to watch and see if any problems arise such as bugs or mold.

They arrive very small.

We have slowly reintroduced the plants after transplanting them again. We are quite happy with the transformation. We have slowly purchased more and more multi color floral water pearls as well as taking advantage of 50% coupons at various craft stores in order to have clear glass containers.

partially hydrated

Slight problems we have found include: If your plant is very large above the root base such as our snake plants you will need a taller container in order to stabilize the plant. The first very tall one we did fell over and the bottom slid right out of water pearls and out of the container. It was a bit of a very funny mess. This situation was incredibly easy to fix.

fully hydrated

A different problem was watering. I was very excited about the fact that I would be able to see when to water the plants because the pearls would shrink up a bit. What I didn’t realize is that it would not be universal throughout the whole container. The water sits at the bottom of the container and keeps the bottom and middle pearls at the nice stable size enough for the roots. The pearls at the top is a completely different story. They dehydrate at a much more rapid pace because they are next to the open air. I thought that if I just poured water into the container in such a manner that I used to do with dirt it would re-hydrate the pearls. Nope, the water goes straight to the bottom of the container. So I have had to improvise. I now once a week scoop out the smaller pearls on top of all the plants and re hydrate them and then pop them right back in later in the day.

I have come to realize that having to pay more attention with the watering process of each plant helps me to be more aware of each plants’ overall health. I will take the time to cut off dead leaves on a more regular basis. I have also been able to find mold in one of the containers.

Mold in the plants

This brings me to the next issue. Mold in the plants. The nice side is that I can see the mold in the plant containers right away and can take care of the issue right away. I use a clean spoon and scoop out the floral water pearls, usually they are in need of re-hydrating so I will let them soak for a few hours and then I will put them into a large mixing bowl with soapy water for about an hour. I will then put them into a clean strainer and rinse them until no soapy water runs out. I will toss them very gently while rinsing them and look for any permanently contaminated water pearls, they will look foggy the whole way through. I pluck them out and they go into the trash, usually it’s only one or two water pearls, out of the 5,000 that are in the container, not bad.

Overall we really like how it has changed our indoor plant dynamics for our home. They have gone from the background to the foreground and have turned into a really great conversation topic with guests. It is wonderful for the plants in my home to be able to be a topic transition to enable me to have thoughtful discussions about such issues as our environment, sustainability and technology.

Floral water pearls as an indoor plant substitute RickabaughReviews highly approves and recommends!

Bathroom Cleaning Trick

Having multiple jobs can be tricky for the normal cleaning of the household. Luckily my husband and I work together on the day to day maintenance. I have learned that using towels is less wasteful and much easier on the budget than paper towels. I found when tracking my budget closely I was spending close to eighty dollars a year on paper towels. I invested twenty dollars into some inexpensive hand and dish towels and I have paper towels for emergencies. In the last two years I have saved $140, just in paper towels.

Friends and family comment about how clean and tidy our home is. Well first, everyone in the household is on board with a clean and tidy home. Second we both work very hard in multiple jobs and we don’t like to waste our time or money to have nice things so we work hard to keep them nice.

The key is having a daily routine which includes cleaning every day. I use the hand towels in each bathroom every day to wipe down the sink, the tops of the toilets and the floor. Every day, every bathroom. That hand towel then gets put into the laundry and is replaced. There is a stack of hand towels under the sinks. It is a five minute routine that keeps my bathrooms in shape for any unplanned company. This every day trick doesn’t replace my weekend deep clean, but it makes it much more manageable with my busy schedule.

The bonus besides saving money and time in my cleaning is that my husband and I have felt that we don’t get sick as often. The common cold rarely hits our house and when it does we have found it doesn’t stick around.

I love my simple little cleaning hacks. RickabaughReviews approves.

The importance and impact of dead heading your flowers.

This summer we received a new hive of honey bees for our property.  We have a very nice friend of ours who just happens to be a bee keeper. My husband and I have been aware of the environment and its needs to survive. One of these needs is honey bees. Our new home has a great deal of flowers of many kinds, and most of them are perennials.

The soil is mostly clay and so the plants and flowers are of very hardy varieties.

I remember walking around when I was a little girl with my gramma and she would name all of her flowers for me. And we would smell them, and deadhead them. I have told friends in the past few years that deadheading helps for a year round continuous blooming of their flowers depending on the flower. Most of the time the question I get is “what is deadheading?”

Plucking off the dead blooms of the plant. With my research of plant care I have learned that if the dead bloom is still on the plant the roots are still gathering nutrients and sending it to the dead blooms. So if you trim ( with roses because of thorns) or pluck which is easy enough when talking about marigolds,  the dead blooms off the plant it can then send its nutrients to the rest of the plant where it can form new blooms. Thus a consistent bloom of flowers all summer long.

Consistent blooms all summer long means a consistent food source for the resident honey bees all summer long  to stock pile honey so that when winter comes they are prepared to weather the cold and lack of food.

Rose bushes are an incredibly good example. Their response is within just a few days. Marigolds are also incredibly responsive. I also have cone flowers and lilies that love to be trimmed. Another great example which I don’t have and are an annual is petunias.  My gramma would buy a flat or two of petunias every year.

In my constant “save money” frame of mind I have found that marigolds are super easy to save seeds for the next year and do amazing! You just save the deadheads that you pluck off. This does not even include the wonderful addition with color and low to the ground covering.  They do great in the heat and sun. My favorite part is they really help to deter predators from my garden veggies. They have a strong sent and are very bitter to eat.

The one plant that I wasn’t sure if it was helpful to dead head was the many many Hosta’s that I have all over the property. I would like to confirm that my little science experiment of trimming the Hosta’s immediately after I find that every bloom is dead on the very tall stalks that they send up, will force them to grow a new tall stalk with all new flowers on them.  And the bees and butterflies absolutely love it!

I will admit that deadheading a half an acre of landscaping is a huge task, but I have found that if I do just a little bit every day, 20 minutes early in the morning, it is not too overwhelming. Am I able to keep up with all of what the previous owner had, nope. Not when you work two jobs, but the neighbors are not complaining.

Deadheading is great for the local bees and great for the visual aesthetics of the plants, which is why people usually have them. Deadheading is hard work but worth it in the long run. This summer RickabaughReviews is gardening a lot but also approves!

Bee keeping take 2

Last year we were given a honey bee hive. The queen flew the coup with most the hive and didn’t leave a new queen to take her place.

We were very sad when the hive then died off. Last week a new hive was brought by our sweet friend to house in our back yard. He is very knowledgeable and very good with bees and people as well as educating people about the importance of honey bees for our environment.

We have named this years hive Queen E and her attendants.

As you can see they are loving the flowers in bloom here in Manchester, PA.

Stay tuned to RickabaughReviews for updates on the Queen E hive😊

Herbal Tea Struggle

It can be a struggle to find consumables that I do not have an adverse reaction to, because of my allergies, which is a lot. It is very difficult to find in my busy life, time to read every single label, every time I go grocery shopping. If a product changes its ingredients it is not responsible to give me a call and say “Hey, we changed our ingredients so you can’t have this anymore.”

One of my favorite beverages is hot tea. Hot tea on a hot day, hot tea on a cold day. Hot tea in the morning and hot tea in the evening. Love it!! There are less and less I find that I should be purchasing because they can and do cause allergic reactions.

My fix to this is to grow my own ingredients! I sure do love mint. Calming, soothing, refreshing, relaxing mint. Especially with upset tummies. Lavender, chamomile and Echinacea have also been in my top picks for their properties. Lavender helps calm and relax as well as lull one off to sleep. Chamomile helps reduce anxiety as well as improve sleep. Echinacea is an immune booster for your body. I add honey to help reduce my allergies and it does the job.  I specifically choose these ingredients because they can be grown in my back yard, and are perennials for my growing zone.

How I make my home made tea:

I wash off my 4 plant ingredients-Put 4 plants into small pot with water on stove and let simmer for 10 minutes.  I put the used plants into the compost bin and then pour the tea water into my tea pot and then am able to easily pour into tea cups to sweeten with honey and enjoy.