Archive for the ‘Tips & Tricks’ Category

In just two weeks, we had hundreds of them snared. Leafhoppers, cucumber beetles, mealybugs – all hopelessly trapped in our garden, thanks to the genius invention that is the yellow sticky trap.

Lots of bugs stuck to the yellow traps. Kind of gross, but well worth it to save the garden!

Lots of bugs stuck to the yellow traps. Kind of gross, but well worth it to save the garden

I don’t know why we didn’t try these earlier; they truly are a godsend for us this summer. So what is this miracle, you ask? It’s basically a thin piece of cardboard covered in a sticky, glue-like substance.

The yellow color attracts insects that are also attracted to the yellow flowers of cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, etc. Although in theory, this could catch bees and other beneficial bugs, we haven’t had that happen yet.

A pack of 15 (ordered from Amazon) was relatively cheap and it’s a non-toxic way to control insects. It’s something that is well worth it, in our opinion, to stop the little destructors that eat and sometimes kill our plants.

Cucumber beetle trapped!

Cucumber beetle trapped!

I do wonder if some of our zucchini plants would have survived if we used these earlier. Many of them were just destroyed by those tiny bug jaws.

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Radish ready to pick!

Radish ready to pick!

It’s pretty simple, actually. They’ll pop up out of the ground! We pulled four out so far, with more coming soon.

Even though radishes are spring crops, we plan to plant some more by the cucumbers because they help deter certain bugs, including the cucumber beetle which has hurt our plants every year.

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As I mentioned before, the spring weather has not been very “spring like.” It’s been colder than normal, and there have been nights of freezing temperatures and snow flurries. Not exactly ideal conditions for starting our spring crops, which I’ve always been told should be in the ground around the Ides of March.

Because of the wild weather swings, we tried to outsmart Mother Nature and pre-sprout our pea plants. I knew they wouldn’t germinate in the soil when it was that cold outside. And it worked wonderfully!

IMG_9307The basics are pretty easy: take the pea seeds (really just shriveled up peas) and place them in a damp paper towel. If you have two different kinds, I’d suggest labeling them. We just used permanent marker to write on the paper towels before soaking them.

Once the seeds are in place, place them in a covered container (we used a small pyrex bowl, but you could also use a plastic bag) and place them in a warm place. For us, that was the top of the refrigerator. Check on them after a couple of days and dampen the paper towels, if needed. Ours took about three or four days for all the peas to sprout. Once they’re sprouted, plant as soon as possible in the garden.

IMG_9595Ours are up and doing great, even though the day I planted them (March 23), it was spitting snow. But it seems winter has finally released its tenuous grasp on Cincinnati and the weather these past few days has been quite lovely!

Now our only challenge will be trying to figure out how to trellis the peas as they grow because I didn’t think that far ahead when I planted them in the garden.

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Meera, left, and Rajah.

Meera, left, and Rajah.

These two adorable creatures were the inspiration for adding more growing space to our garden. As you can probably imagine, having two cats means we go through quite a bit of cat litter.

When the containers were empty, they started to pile up in our laundry room. We planned to recycle them but kept forgetting to take them out. Now I’m glad we were so forgetful. These have come in pretty hand and allowed us to plant even more.

To start, we washed out each container and drilled a bunch of holes in the bottom. Then we filled it about 2/3 of the way with shredded leaves (which we never have a shortage of each year) and added topsoil and compost to each. The leaves help use less dirt and compact a bit to help provide some extra drainage.

They're not pretty, but they work.

They’re not pretty, but they work.

I admit, the bright yellow is tacky and next year I plan to paint them a more neutral color. They’re perfect for plants that need more space or a deep area to grow. We have tomato plants in two of them, squash and zucchini in two more, and two pepper plants in others. Another added benefit is you can move the plants around based on sun or shade needs.

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This is a great idea. I might try this when we plant some of our smaller seeds. Thanks to the Looking Out From My Backyard blog for the tip!


We recently returned from a nice getaway to sunny Arizona. Not that our Colorado winter had been too bad this year, but there is something about walking through the department store in February in Arizona and seeing beautiful petunias and marigolds on the shelves. Got my spring fever in high gear! I spent a good portion of the 14 hour drive with my nose shoved firmly into a stack of seed catalogs.

Anyone who has ever planted a carrot seed or a petunia seed, for example, will testify that these seeds are TINY! More than once, I have taken a tweezer and carefully picked up the seed to place into a waiting peat pot. At my age, you need bright light for that!

Since I use block planting in my raised beds, I saw a post that should just make my “tiny seed planting” a bit easier! It is a…

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I wrote this in November and forgot to post it. But instead of re-writing it, I’ve decided to put it on the blog anyway. We haven’t been keeping up with the in-bed composting as often as we planned, mostly because we haven’t been collecting kitchen scraps and our stash of leaves is soaked from the snow. 


A couple weeks ago we did some major fall clean up in the garden. It’s always sad to rip everything out, but what wasn’t diseased was cut up and tossed into the compost bin.

We were able to save some of the herbs and preserve them for the winter (more on that later). As I mentioned in other posts, we have lots of beautiful trees on our street. In past years, we’ve shredded them and added the leaves to our garden beds to decompose over the winter. But I recently learned many of the pests that plague our garden – most notably the cucumber beetle – overwinter in leaf debris, so we’re switching it up.

I know it will be impossible to keep all the leaves out of the garden, but I don’t want big piles on each bed, so we’re trying in-bed composting. The basic concept is digging a big hole and adding your green material (plant debris, vegetable scraps, etc.) and brown material (dried leaves, shredded paper, etc.) and burying it. The idea is it will breakdown over the winter and add nutrients directly to the beds.

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I just saw this chart on The Ungardener blog. It’s a wonderful tool to help identify possible problems with your plants. Will definitely keep this on hand for next season.

The Ungardener

nutrient garden problems

I just LOVE little action packed charts like this one!  Thanks to www.thefreerangelife.com for this great chart of Nutrient Deficiencies in the Garden.  I will be paying close attention to it both in my red clay Virginia and rocky mountain Pennsylvania yards.


The UNgardener

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This year we decided to try something new and saved some space in our raised beds for borage and nasturtium. Both these plants can attract beneficial insects like bees but they also repel a whole host of bugs.


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This is still the best year we’ve ever had for zucchini but not everything is perfect.

Quite a few of the baby zucchini have formed only to shrivel and die before they grew into a decent squash. While unfortunate, it’s totally normal and just means they didn’t get properly pollinated.

There aren’t always enough bees to pollinate the flowers, so we had to take matters into our own hands. It’s actually a pretty simple process.


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Save fresh herbs in a small vase of water.

Save fresh herbs in a small vase of water.

Our herbs are always one of the best things in our garden. They’re thriving right now in all the sun and warmth of summer. The basil is especially growing strong. I’ve already pinched back a bunch and made some delicious pesto.

We’ll have to make another batch soon, but usually when we pick basil it’s more than we can ever use in one dish.

To save the basil (and a couple trips outside), we always make sure to get as much of the stem as possible. Then, we use what we need and store the rest in a small vase.

This really works for almost any herb – just make sure to remove any leaves that would be below the water line.

It will stay fresh like this for about a week. Plus, it makes the kitchen smell amazing!

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