Wednesday, February 23

Impressions of Giverney

This week my daughter and I read a wonderful children's book, 'Linnea in Monet's Garden" by Cristina Bjork, Lena Anderson, and Joan Sandin. With Monet on my mind, I searched youtube for videos to take a 'virtual field trip." What I found was "Impressions of Giverny."  Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 22

Indoor Gardening: Terrariums

As long as I can remember, my family has kept terrariums. My grandmother had a special talent for terrarium making. She created some beautiful displays that lasted for years.

We usually use what we can find in the forest. My kids and I made the terrarium above. It's just a large vase with a clear glass dessert plate for a lid. The dessert plate sits nicely on this particular vase. It doesn't completely seal it, but I've found it still works well. I also check the moisture level every so often, but so far, have not needed to water. Plastic wrap is another option, but I didn't want to use plastic and liked the look of the plate.

We've used several types of moss, Prince Pine, Ajuga, and Creeping Jenny, most found in the Maine woods. The Ajuga is from my own garden. I added a tiny green bottle and a gnome for decoration. I've recently seen some tiny embellishments at our local nursery in the form of houses, pails, gardening tools and more.  Our gnome is actually 'Uncle Sam' who came from a box of Red Rose Tea, but we're pretending he's a gnome. This little bit of forest in our house cheers us when the snow is waist deep outside and all of nature slumbers under the white blanket.

Making a terrarium is so simple:

  •  put some pebbles in the bottom of a glass container.
  •  then add a layer of activated charcoal.
  •  add soil.
  • Plant taller plants and lay down moss.
  • Add some decorations and cover. 

Once established this should be self contained and not need watering, but at first, I watch for too much water and open to air if it seems soggy. If using a plate as a lid, check moisture to make sure it doesn't dry out.

When I was at Savers the other day, I found a glass container perfect for another terrarium. It didn't have a cover, so I looked in the aisle of plates to find a clear glass dessert plate to fit the top. Total cost: 69 cents for the plate; 5.99 for the container. Thrift stores are great places to hunt for terrarium containers. I've seen some really interesting shapes and sizes- from fish bowls to unique vases to tiny glasses. Try to think outside the box- any clear glass, water-tight container will work. 

Above is a photo of my new terrarium container. The bell is 8 inches high by 6 inches diameter at the top; tapering down at the bottom. I am itching to plant it, but with the forest covered in several feet of snow, I'll have to make a trip to the nursery for a few plants. I'm open to suggestions. What plants have worked well for you? What plants do you think would work well in my new terrarium? If you have a photo of your own terrarium, please leave a link to your blog in the comments, so we can see your own creation. 

Monday, February 21

Portland Style

There definitely is a district Portland Gardening Style going on here. First, I must tell you that everyone seems to be into gardening here. Young or old, it does not matter. Everyone is an expert gardener. Here are some things that are noticeable about the Portland gardening style:

1.Gardens are a mix of vegetables, flowers and even tropical plants.

2.Portlanders take pride in growing unusual plants that are not known to grow in Pacific North West Climates. I have seen Palm trees and all sorts of tropical plants that seem to survive the winters here.

3.Portland style is, to put it politely, slightly messy. No tidy gardens here. Some people even believe in leaving weeds in place.

4.Tree lawn gardens rule here. Portlanders just take over the tree lawn, you know that space besides the road. You will find vegetable gardens, rose gardens and even seating right next to the road.

5.This is not the place for garden gnomes and other cutesy garden ornaments. Asian and modern art in the garden are the norm. Everyone is an artist here and many make their own garden art. You will also see many plastic toys like soldiers or toy soldiers. Don’t ask, it is a Portland thing.

6.Looking for a nice green lawn? Look again. You won’t find much of that. Most people replace their lawn with plants and vegetables gardens.

7.Portland is obsessed with watering their gardens. Evident by the most in-ground sprinkler systems which I have ever seen. Coming from a Midwest gardening background I want to shout “why do you need to water when it rains every day here.”  There must be a good reason that the sprinklers are on even on a rainy days here.

Livestock in the urban garden?

8.Yes, you were not imagining that that you saw chickens in the garden. Portlanders have a right to a certain amount of chickens per person. They roam around neighborhood gardens and occasionally can be found on the sidewalk.

9.Gardening all year round? Yes, it is possible here. The ground never freezes, so most plants don’t die. It is always green in Portland even in the winter.

10.Green mature ground covers are popular here, especially red clover, which is planted in the fall and hoe back into the ground come spring. My first impression was that it was a waste of time, as I am used to a cold climate where the ground freezes and nothing grows. Gardening here, I have began to realize that without ground covers, the good stuff in the soil would just wash away. It rains almost every day here from late November to late February. It is a great organic way to replace nutrients to the soil.

Plant Drama

We discovered that it is well worth the extra time to research any unique varieties which you are planning to grow, versus relying on the seed packet and catalog descriptions. It was not that the seed packet and catalog information was inaccurate. It was more like we imagined that strawberry spinach would look like, excuse our ignorance, spinach.

A chance Internet search proved that we were more than a little wrong about our assumption. We knew it had edible berries, but imagined the plant as a stack of low growing leaves with a stalk of berries. What were we thinking?

Turns out that Strawberry Spinach is a tall plant with berries at every level of the plant; berries here, berries there, and berries everywhere. Each plant produces more berries that we imagined and, as an extra bonus, the plant is very pretty. It has a holiday look to it and would be pretty in any Christmas arrangement.

After discovering how Strawberry Spinach looks and grows we are very excited about growing it. We suspect that the variety will do well in both of our climates and may have to ability to be over wintered in Oregon.

We will keep you posted on this exciting sounded variety of Spinach.P.S the posted photo is from the Park Seed Catalog.

Portland Yard, Garden & Patio Show

Saturday, February 19

Signs of Spring on my Way to Work, Portland

I am lucky that I can walk to my business every day. It always amazes me how green Portland looks. Even in February there is always something in bloom.

Thursday, February 17


The tulips my children gave me for Valentine's Day are starting to open up. It's a beautiful thing in the middle of a white winter.

Tuesday, February 15

Note to Caroline: Missouri, Disclaimer and other thoughts

Do you think we should have some kind of disclaimer statement that we have no association with Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds? We would not want people thinking that we own stock, know anyone, are dating anyone (smile), or have any kind of association (that we know of) with them at all. For that matter I know I have never visited Missouri or know anyone from there. I am sure it is just lovely out there, and just wondering what your thoughts are on the subject. Didn’t you pass through that state on your summer trip driving from Maine to Oregon?

As a side note we should find out what the climate is like there. I know that the catalog company grows most of their seed varieties in their test gardens. Not sure if the climate there more matches Southern Maine, Oregon, or neither.

Off the Baker Creek Heirloom subject my mother has booked her Reiki Class at Stonehenge this May. I visited there when I was a child. I think that we could have her write a post about Stonehenge. If you think about it Stonehenge can be thought of as a garden of sorts and certain aspects of the magical properties of the stones can be incorporated in any garden.
W.W. Rawson & Co. antique seed packet artwork -- 1899

Note to Michele: About Missouri, Disclaimer, and Stonehenge

 I agree a disclaimer is a good idea.We'll be ordering from other seed companies as well. I've been looking through my catalog collection here, trying to decide what else to order. I had good luck with several varieties of hot peppers last year, however, I've never been able to produce Bell Peppers. I've had terrible luck with Chamomile and Lavender, too, but would like to try both again. I think maybe my climate is just wrong for lavender or maybe I don't have enough sun.

 We did travel through Missouri on our trip. It's a beautiful state.  I'd love to go back some day. We stayed in Springfield and were treated to the best all you can eat breakfast ever. They offered us huge waffles, biscuits and gravy, cereals, all sorts of baked goods, eggs, ham, fresh fruit, fruit cups, pastries, and more. Talk about hospitality!

We visited the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum in Mansfield, which is where Baker Creek Seeds is located. Laura and Almanzo Wilder lived on and successfully farmed Rocky Ridge Farm, having settled on the land in 1894.  It's been preserved for fans to visit the place where the Little House books were written. Did you know Laura started her writing career as a columnist for the Missouri Ruralist? (Can you Laura is my favorite author?)
Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, Missouri
I really loved the state for its natural beauty and super nice people. The only thing I know about the climate off the top of my head is from my readings about the Wilders. They farmed there for decades, having moved from South Dakota for a better climate. I think the winters are milder than Maine, but colder than Portland, Oregon. I'd have to look it up to be certain.

Your mother is going to have a wonderful experience with her Reiki class at Stonehenge.  I think it would be wonderful if she'd write as a guest blogger for us. Do you think she'd post regular updates while there? Maybe you can write more about stones from your experience in energy work, explaining how it could be used in the garden. I'd like to learn more. I bet others would be interested, too.

More Seed Arrivals

The last of the seed packets have come in. So far we have ordered all our seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. We were impressed by their large selection of heirloom seeds and, frankly, their beautiful color catalog caught our attention.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed is based out of Missouri. All their seeds are non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated and non-patented. They do not buy seed from Monsanto-owned Seminis (more about the Monsanto issue at a later date). Their catalog states that they work with a network of about 50 small farmers, gardeners, and seed growers.

Now that the excitement over finding some unusual varieties, such as ground cherries and pink bananas, has subsided, reality has set in.  Our experienced gardening friends and family chuckle while they tell us most of what we ordered won’t grow in Southern Maine, Portland Oregon or, even worse, both gardens.

Sounds like a friendly challenge to us, and feel we are more than up to trying to prove those people wrong. Hopefully, we can report at the end of the season that we had a bountiful harvest of fresh veggies and lovely flowers.

We have to admit, though, that lately it has crossed our minds about ordering some back up varieties from regional seed growers like Territorial (for Pacific North West) and Johnny’s Seed (for New England). We hate to ask, but wonder if that would be considered cheating or just being practical?

Monday, February 14

Resident Master Gardener and friend

This morning, my son, who is a Master Gardener Volunteer, shared with me the information from his Master Gardener Volunteer training.  He located the seed starting recommendations. As you can see in the photo, our cat Natalie, was quite interested. I think she's hoping we'll grow some catnip.

The UMaine Cooperative Extension has this to say about germination temperature:

"Place seeds in a warm location for germination. Generally, a range from 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit is best. Find a warm spot in the house, like the top of a refrigerator, near a wood stove or on a germination mat to help ensure a consistent warm temperature. A few plants such as larkspur, snapdragon, sweet pea, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are best started at about 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Don't place covered containers in direct sunlight."

Temperature after germination:

"Most annual plants and vegetables prefer night temperatures between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Day temperatures may run about 10 degrees higher. If temperatures are warmer than this, leggy plants result. Cool-season vegetable crops and a few flowers prefer night temperatures no higher than 55 degrees Fahrenheit and day temperatures near 65 degrees Fahrenheit. An unused bedroom, basement or sun porch is often a good location."

Saturday, February 12

Starting Seeds Indoors

We're researching a variety of options for starting seeds in our two locations. We've learned that heat is most important for seed germination followed by light. However, heating units specially designed for seed starting are costly. We checked the internet for frugal ideas and found some of the following suggestions:

-Electric blankets or heating pads. Some people do this, but most felt it could be dangerous for many reason. Could be a disaster. We agree.

-The top of the fridge. A warm spot which would work well, but space is limited. We might use this idea for some of our seeds.

-DIY warming unit made from a tote, tube lights and kitty litter. This possibility is intriguing. As luck would have it, Caroline's Dad had an unopened package of tube lights he donated to the cause.
-A crock pot/slow cooker. Michele came up with this creative idea, so we googled it. Someone else had tried this method and said it worked well.  Affordable crock pots are readily available at thrift stores.

-We're saving recyclables to be re-purposed into seed starting pots and other helps.
Caroline has a large picture window with baseboard heat underneath. She's thinking this is the ideal place to start seeds if a proper table can be found for the space. Perhaps her new little portable greenhouse could be used until outside temps are warm enough to move it  out to the deck.

Michele will start her seeds at her business where she has large glass windows. She's wondering about Portland's frequent overcast days and how this will effect the seedlings. Will grow lights be necessary?  Many options exist for rigging grow lights. Read a great article over at Simple, Green, Frugal, Co-op here.

We're wondering how all these devices will impact our electric bills. And how did people start seeds indoors in the days before electricity?

Thursday, February 10

Reply to Michele: Seed Starting Ideas and Pets

If you use a clear tote with a lid, as long as the lid snaps down tight, she won't be able to get into it. Of course, that means cutting some kind of small hole through which the rope lights could pass, but that wouldn't be too difficult. Another idea would be to put it in a room Chloe can't access or on a high surface. I know most cats can easily jump, but after hearing your description of Chloe's physique and energy level, I'm wondering if she wouldn't bother.
dlings. You should give it a try.
D.M. Ferry & Co. antique seed packet clip art -- 1894

Do you think RC would have any interest in the box? He's so smart and curious, you never know how he'll react. A dog that is possessive of a remote control might very well think you've set up something special just for him.

I also like your idea of using a crock pot to start seedlings. You should give it a try.

Note to Caroline

I have been thinking about Chloe and your idea about using Christmas lights buried in kitty litter, setting the seed try on top, and putting both in a clear plastic tote with a lid. I can see Chloe watching me with great interest while I am setting that up. I can see turning my back on her for only a few seconds and glancing over to see her peeing in my newly set up seed starting tote, thinking that I have supplied her with a new, much improved, heated kitty litter box.

Dig, dig, and dig. “Oh look at these cute toy lights under the kitty litter I can play with.”

Dig, dig, and dig. “This is the best kitty litter box ever and it is even heated so maybe I should lay here for a while after I have chewed on a few more of these pretty toys that light up.”

Dig, dig, and dig. “I think I should pee some more so that the RC does not want to play with my new toys or use my new box."

Can you think of an easy way to kitty proof the plastic tote idea?
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