Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Mystery of the Disappearing Bench

Red House Garden Bench

It stands about 3 feet high, is made out of Tennessee sandstone blocks, and weighs approximately eleventy gazillion pounds.

It was last seen in the backyard last fall.

Sometime in the last few months it has gone missing.

Search parties have been sent out, combing the backyard and nearby areas for the vanished bench, but to no avail.

Here at the Red House Garden we are following every possible lead, determined to track down how this bench disappeared and what malevolent forces could have carried out such a deed.  Garden authorities are currently in the process of rounding up and questioning the usual suspects.

photo source - Wikipedia
If anyone has any information pertaining to the whereabouts of this garden bench or would like to report possible suspicious Garden Gnome behavior in connection to this case (or in general), please contact your local garden authorities.

We certainly hope that this garden bench will be found in time for the spring gardening.  

Friday, February 21, 2014

What Kids Want in a Garden

I have fond memories of the little tire planter garden I had as a kid, and it is very important to me that our kids have their own little patch of dirt.  We'll be building our daughters' gardens this spring here at our new house, once all the snow finally clears. Until then, we are eagerly making plans!

So what do kids want in a garden?  To answer this question, I enlisted two experts on the subject - my 4-year-old and 6-year-old. These are their expert opinions:

1.  Flowers - Lots and lots of flowers were requested, of course.  (Good, they know what a garden is, check!)

kids' garden at the old Red House
2.  Fruits and Vegetables - Surprised, parents?  Picking and eating veggies in the garden apparently has much more appeal than prepared veggies on a plate. This year, the kids are requesting to have two gardens each, one for flowers and one for edibles!

3.  Bugs - My kids requested 'lots and lots' of butterflies and ladybugs!  Children are naturally inclined to be wildlife gardeners, I think!

(Sorry bees, you didn't get quite the same amount of love.  And mosquitos, you were specifically asked to stay away from the party.)

4.  Water - Actually the specific requests from my daughters included the terms 'water fountain' and 'heated pool'.  (Where do they learn these things?)  Thankfully, they also mentioned a 'giant mud puddle.'  I think we can all guess which one has a better chance of being in the kids' garden..

5.  A place to run around - I guess I'm keeping a patch of lawn, after all!  My husband will be happy.  (Seriously, what is it with guys and grass?)

6.  Play structure - Okay, the term my daughters actually used was 'castle'.  Well, I did tell them to imagine their dream garden, after all.  I have a feeling that they are imagining something like this:

Cinderella's castle
source - Wikipedia
Do you think they'll settle for a big rock?

Happy gardening (or at least garden planning), everyone!

And here's to inspiring the next generation of gardeners!
Anyone have anything else to add to the list from their own little 'experts'? 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine's Day is Coming - No Pressure

When it comes to Valentine's Day, I must admit, I side with all those clueless husbands who are wondering, what, oh what, did they do to the greeting card companies to deserve this holiday.

You see, in our relationship, Mr. Red House is actually the romantic one.  For our first Valentine's Day together, he put together a scavenger hunt for me through a part of town.  My friend gave me instructions with the first clue, which led me to a florist who gave me a bunch of roses and a card with a clue for where to go next.  The trail led to half a dozen stores, all of which gave me a little something and a card with a clue in it, and then finally led, of course, to Mr. Red House, who took me out to dinner.  Yeah, he's a keeper.

We both agreed that he could never top that, so we should keep expectations low from then on.  So of course, for our second Valentine's Day together, the only thing Mr. Red House did was build me a little crate made of handmade chocolate planks with homemade chocolate raspberry truffles nestled inside.  And also give me a couple hard to find books that he had scoured the internet for to add to my book collection of old girl detective novels.

Yeah, how am I supposed to live up to that?  I have no idea what I gave Mr. Red House for our first couple of Valentine's Days - it was probably socks or something equally practical.  (Who doesn't love a good pair of socks?)  I'm usually the one who is still wracking their brain right before Valentine's Day, wondering what in the world can I get that proves I still love this guy (just in case he doesn't know) and that I can afford and that doesn't require shipping because it's by now it's too late for that.  

Last year I stumbled upon an idea that was pure genius - Mr. Red House loves to get packages, so on Valentine's Day I told him I was going to send him one package for each year we were married throughout the month of February.  Thus I didn't have to pick what to get him right then (though I had the vague notion that he needed some more black socks), and it was the gift that keeps on giving all through the month!  (I was very thankful we had Amazon prime with all those shipping costs.)

Mr. Red House isn't just romantic at Valentine's Day.  These are all pictures of the birdhouse he built for me for Christmas that I had to show off.  He painted it red, because he knows how much I miss our red house.  (I won't tell you what I gave him, as it would look sad and pathetic in comparison.  Unless you really enjoy homemade salsa.)

Isn't the birdhouse gorgeous?  As beautiful as it looks out in the snow, this is one birdhouse I'm keeping indoors.

Does anyone else have the same problem as me?  Or are you the romantic one in the relationship?  Or have you decided to rebel against the greeting card companies and just not celebrate Valentine's Day at all?

And if you are romantic, do you by chance have any good ideas for what to get a guy for Valentine's Day?  Preferably something that doesn't require shipping at this late date...

Happy Valentine's Day to all of you! 
(And to all you fellow non-romantics, good luck!)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Looking for a Valentine's Day Activity?

Looking for something romantic to do for Valentine's Day this year?  
How about talking a nice romantic walk outside together?
Maybe with a pencil and paper..
while counting birds?

Eastern Bluebird
Okay, so the bird counting might or might not be your idea of romance, but this Valentine's Day is the start of this year's Great Backyard Bird Count!

Started in 1998 by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Great Backyard Bird Count occurs one weekend every February, and this year the count is on 
February 14 - 17.

Downy Woodpecker
How to participate?  Just count how many and what type of birds you see in a 15 minute chunk of time.  Then sign up and log your results on the GBBC website - or, if you are a smart phone lover, there's even an free app for it! 

Count me!  Count me!
You can stay inside (and cuddle with your significant other!) and count the birds you see out the window, or you can go outside.  You can count one day, or each day of the count.  You can count for just 15 minutes, or you can count longer, as long as it is in 15 minute increments.

Carolina Chickadee
The data gathered in the Great Backyard Bird Count is very helpful in providing info about how bird populations are doing, if bird ranges are changing, and what habitats different birds live in.  A big change in numbers of a bird population can indicate a change in their environment that needs to be looked at more closely.

Last year participants in 111 countries documented over 4,000 different species of birds for a grand total of over 33,000,000 birds.  What a great amount of data!  

American Goldfinches enjoying one of the feeders after our last snow storm
Not sure how to identify all of the birds you see?  The Cornell Lab has a great website to help identify birds.  And if you can't identify them all, that's okay, just report the ones you can.  

hmm... having trouble identifying this bird..
So next weekend, consider giving the birds some love and making bird counting part of your Valentine plans...

Yellow-rumped Warbler
though I must admit, my kids were a lot more excited about this activity than my husband :)
Happy bird counting!

the Great Backyard Bird Count website:  birdcount.org
more about the Great Backyard Bird Count: gbbc.birdcount.org/about/

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Easy Way to Start Seeds - Winter Sow Them!

I am, admittedly, a lazy gardener.  I don't have a lot of extra time on my hands with two young kids, so if there's an easier way to do things, I'm all about it!  That is why I was so excited to find out about winter sowing a few years back.

the blossom of Nasturtium 'Empress of India', winter sown
Winter sowing is a method of starting your seeds outside in winter in what is essentially little greenhouses made out of recycled containers such as milk jugs and plastic salad containers.  You let Mother Nature do the germinating. No lights, no heat mats, no nicking or refrigerating of seeds needed and less problems with damping off?  Count me in!

Winter sown seeds sprouting outside in a recycled juice container
So what type of seeds can you winter sow?  The best ones are perennials and cold hardy annuals.  Many vegetable and herb seeds can even be winter sown to give them a head start.  Winter sowing is especially great for those seeds that need moist stratification - being outside provides the seeds with the cycles of freezing and thawing that many perennials need to break dormancy and germinate.

winter sowed Balloon flower
For more information on what type of seeds do well with winter sowing, you can go to WinterSown.org, which has lists of seeds that can be winter sown.   Though winter sowing has been around for ages, Trudi Davidoff, who created WinterSown, really refined this technique and started the website as a great resource for gardeners.

So how do you winter sow seeds?

1. Cut clean milk jugs or juice bottles in half.  You can also use plastic containers such as salad boxes, just make sure to cut holes in the top for ventilation.  (You don't want to cook your seeds.)

2. Cut holes in the bottom for drainage.  (I use a screwdriver or a big nail to puncture holes.)

3.  Fill the bottom with about 2 to 4 inches of dirt (use a light mixture that drains well).  Water it well, and then let it drain.

4.  Sow your seeds.  Plant them at the required depth, or if they need light to germinate, just gently press them into the soil.

5.  Duct tape the top back on, and label.  (I label them in a couple places, as even permanent marker can fade over time.)

6.  Put outside in a sheltered spot.  Check on them occasionally to see if they need more water, especially after the seeds germinate and the seedlings start to grow.  As the seedlings get bigger, cut bigger holes in the top or crack the top a little bit to finish hardening them off.

Look at those roots!  These plants want out!
7.  Once the seedlings get big enough, transplant them where you want them!  Make sure to protect from frost if needed.

One of my Lanceleaf Coreopsis plants I winter sowed.
(I moved before I got to see them bloom, sadly.)
I've had a great germination rate with winter sowing.  The main problems I have run into was when I used too heavy of a soil (retained too much water) or used containers with too many holes (those berry containers will just dry right out!)  For a lot more great info about winter sowing, as well as a lot of answers to FAQ's, WinterSown.org and GetBusyGardening.com are two good resources.

winter sown Candytuft
Happy Gardening!

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