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Frugal Watering
Drip Irrigation Systems (Homemade and Purchased)

• Yes, the drip irrigation system on a timer is the best money saver for a garden. It will pay you back by not wasting water and give you beautiful vegetables and flowers. You don’t forget to turn it on or turn it off and even if it rains the one or two extra doses of water won’t hurt. I would also collect water in rain barrels (covered with screening and a lid to keep out kids and debris) for any extra spot watering I need such as in planters. Otherwise a deep soaking before you leave and again when you get back if you can’t have someone take care of watering for you once or twice in between while you are gone. – Joyce B

• I travel for busines and would be gone for extended periods of time, and found drip irrigation systems worked wonderfully, but the intial cost was far from frugal. Many years later, when faced with some irrigation repairs and expense, I slowly started to redo all of my garden and landscape, selecting natural local growing varieties, and only those that would tolerate long periods of time without additional watering. Success, a lush and colorful garden, many plants divided (most frugal), I just figured as I drove around and saw many flowers and plants growing on the roadside, no one was coming by and watering them, so that is what I should have in my garden. Peter H

• I live in central Washington State which is very dry and windy. We save water and time by using drip watering systems for our trees and flower beds. We also use soaker hoses for some. I’m sure I could go into great detail but I think you can see the advantages for our area on your own. I think they would work where you are too. Sincerely, Bev W

• In Australia, with my outdoor plants and shrubs when going away and thru out Summer l fill 2lt milk containers with water (usually recycled from the bath or washing machine) l pierce the base of the containers so it works as a drip feed for the water while we are away. First try of this l made the holes to large and the water ran out before much time had passed – so it is good to try well in advance.- Regards Leanne T

• It’s not as pretty as the fancier methods, but I know in the past, I’ve filled 2 liter bottles with water, heated a needle,then used the needle to pierce a small hole in the bottom (you can test it out and see how long it lasts) and left the bottle in the pot. I have rather large plants; so I don’t know how well this might work for smaller ones. I would assume if you change the diameter of the hole it would drain more or less quickly – Susan

• I am just going through a lot of old mail that I saved to read when I had time. You talked about your dry plants when you came home from holiday. Just before reading the 7/11 issue of Frugal Life, I read another list message. Someone was talking about recycling plastic milk jugs. They place them next to the plants in their garden, upside down with the bottom cut out. They fill the jugs with water and the water slowly seeps out into the ground to help keep the plants watered during dry spells. It also keeps you from watering the dirt between plants. Good luck, Carol B

Children’s Pool / Bathtub• Regarding the question of watering plants while you are away: we put our potted outdoor plants in a small children’s plastic pool and fill with a few inches of water. they are fine when we get home – a little wet but not dead. – Susan

• I ask my neighbors to water my plants once a week for me when we go on vacation. They pick up mail and keep an eye on things anyway, so I just ask if they would mind taking care of the plants too. I live in Florida, and due to water restrictions, we’re only allowed to water once a week anyway. Drought tolerant plants are always a good bet too. That way, they don’t need that much water

When my folks used to go on vacation, my dad would get out a child’s wading pool and put an inch or two of water in it, and then would set the plants right into the pool. I don’t know if enough water was absorbed through the clay pots, or exactly how it worked, but my parents always had beautiful plants. Also, this would all be done in our basement, so it was cool and dark, which probably also lowered water need by the plants. Obviously, this was for house plants. Outside plants were also taken care of by next-door neighbors. – Beth Casey

• I have found when I am away for a period of time the best thing to do is put my plants in a few inches of water in the bathtub, it keeps them alive! Hope this helps.

• Purchase a plastic kiddy pool and put all your potted plants in that with about an inch of water.

• Water potted plants very well then slip a loose plastic bag over the top. Tuck the loose edges in around the bottom. This creates a little greenhouse that allows the water to evaporate up to the bag and then "rain" back down on the plant. This was the principle used to create the self-contained terrarium gardens that were so popular a number of years ago. Linda Foster

• I first water the plant. And then I place a clear plastic bag around each plant, allowing as much air into the bag as possible, and then seal it. The plant will take care of itself under these circumstances. – Barbara H

Miscellaneous • 1. Keep a plastic receptacle underneath downspouts on rain gutters. Use the collected water to water plants.

2. After a party or camping don’t toss the ice from your ice chest. Place cubes in soil to slowly water plants as cubes melt.

3. When you leave for a few days move potted plants into shade and make sure all potted plants have a deep water-proof saucer. Fill the saucer with water so the plant can "drink" while you’re away. For terracotta pots, soak the pot with water so it insulates pot and keeps pplant cool. Mulch even potted plants so moisture stays in and doesn’t dry out in heat.

4. Mist leaves of potted plants with a spraybottle so they can drink from outside as well as from root system. – Susan G.

• Conserving water, in Canada, and keeping a green yard is simple. I re-route the water from my washing machine into 45 gallon barrels and use that water to keep my garden and flower beds watered and as a bonus, BUG FREE! Bugs hate soap and as a result of using my washing machine water, I no longer have a bug problem in my yard. We tend to do a lot of laundry since there are five in my family so when my barrels are full, I re-route onto the lawn as well. It has rid the yard of all those annoying little flying pests as well as caused ants to move out. I used to have a real anthill problem in my lawn, now? none! – Carrie K.

• This is a great way to save water on potted plants (or you might even use it in planting holes too!): Use the filling inside diapers in the bottom of your pots! It will hold a TON of water, and slowly release it. – Pam G

• If there is water remaining in a water bottle then I pour it into a larger pitcher. I use that water to water my plants. Any "leftover" water I put in the pitcher and use it for my houseplants. – E. Miller

• Mulch mulch mulch

We heavily mulch our plants. this apparent expense isn’t really!

It keeps the ground moist and keeps weeds out [what few you get are easy to pull] , so the investment saves you money from watering and from loss of plants.

We use grass clippings, get them from all the neighbors and pile heavily, also buy bagged mulch on sale [5 bags for $10]. don’t use big "beauty bark" you want the small stuff that will break down over a couple of years and help the garden.

With porch potted plants, first we water only every other day, starting early in season, so they send down deeper roots, and we mulch so then with heat things still do well.

We get temps in 90’s to 100’s and i just harvested broccoli from pots on my porch last week.

Heavy mulching – don’t skimp – is at least 3 in thick. when we lived in Kansas I had 5 in mulch on roses and they bloomed through 3 wks of 100+ temps. – Laura A

Potential Idea
I know next to nothing about physics and am a very amateur gardener, but I will humbly share what just popped into my head and see if it holds water! You know those plastic pinwheels that people put in their gardens to scare away birds… Well, what about a V-shaped plastic "flute" (as in champagne flute), stuck in the soil beside each plant, just wide enough to capture heat and moisture out of the air, but not so wide as to cover up the plant itself. I am thinking of those survival gadgets that one can use in the desert or at sea to capture a few sips of fresh water… Not sure how you could (a) capture enough water to make a difference, (b) without taking it out of the plant itself or the ground immediately surrounding the roots, (c) and make sure that the water that was captured could be passively delivered where it was needed. But perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I can take this idea and do something with it??! – Your grateful reader, KB Earle

Kitchen Herb Garden

by Dori Fritzinger

If you love using herbs as much as I do, you will probably agree that fresh-picked herbs always taste better than store-bought ones.

If you have available yard or garden space, you can plant a kitchen herb garden. Herbs are easy to grow, don’t need a lot of space, thrive in just about any type of soil, and many are cold hardy. An ideal location would be a few steps from your kitchen, but any spot that gets about six hours of sun a day is good. By planting herbs that are most often used in cooking, you can pick what you need all summer.

Herbs commonly grow two different ways, annual and perennial. Annual plants last one growing season and die when the temperature hits freezing. Examples include basil, dill, cilantro, parsley, chamomile, chervil, sweet marjoram and summer savory.

On the other hand – Perennial plants produce new stems year after year. (It doesn’t hurt to mulch in the fall for reassurance.) Examples include thyme, mint, chives, sage, tarragon, lemon balm, lavender, hyssop and lovage.

For the beginner gardener I would recommend starting with plants. This is because many commonly loved herbs are hard to start from seed. Finding and chosing your plants is easy and fun. Herb plants can be found at farmer’s markets, nurseries and many roadside stands. Controlling the quantity of the plants is harder and between you and your wallet. A basic kitchen garden contains enough different herbs to mix and blend into different and delicious combinations.

Let’s start with some of the most commonly used :

Parsley is biennial, which means that it grows for two seasons and then dies and needs to be replaced. The feathery-textured herb (curly and Italian are favorites) adds a tangy flavor to soups, sauces, salads and dressings. Japanese parsley, which is catching on, is a blend of Italian parsley and celery leaves. It is often used as a garnish and makes a nice addition to soups.

Sage – perennial – is an attractive garden plant, and some varieties have variegated leaves. This evergreen herb with a strong flavor comes in many varieties. ‘Berggarten’ from Germany is a hit with cooks (especially for turkey stuffing), pineapple sage sweetens desserts. Sage is traditionally used in breads and dressings that accompany turkey and pork. Hardy in Zones 4-8.

Rosemary – perennial – a member of the mint family, is one of the oldest herbs known to humankind. Through the ages it has been credited with healing wounds, alleviating headaches and improving memory. It is a strong, pungent herb, and a few leaves add a distinctive flavor to breads, poultry and vegetables. It becomes bushy and shrub-like in a few years. Hardy in Zones 4-8.

Thyme – perennial – common thyme grows up to a foot tall and spreads wider. A fragrant, dense, low-growing groundcover with tiny flowers that can carpet a garden or accent pathways and rock gardens. French thyme has the best flavor for meats and vegetables. It has a distinctive, spicy scent and can be used as a salad garnish or to flavor cooked vegetables. Lemon thyme is a branchy trailing plant that forms mats of aromatic, lemon-scented foliage. Hardy in Zones 5-9.

Basil – annual – varieties of the spicy-sweet popular herb range from cinnamon to Thai sweet. Sweet basil is enjoyed for its mild peppery flavor, with a hint of mint and clove. A staple in Italian, Mediterranean and Thai cooking, basil can also be used in flower gardens, as border plants and in hanging baskets. ‘Purple Ruffles’ is a good selection if you want purple foliage with lots of texture; ‘Dani’, if you want lemon-scented basil.

Chives – perennial – chives have a mild onion flavor that enhances salads, egg dishes, soups and vegetables. Although garlic is the Herb of the Year, many growers favor milder garlic chives because it’s a "no fuss, no muss" perennial. Snip chive leaves into salads, soups, pasta, chicken and fish. The clover-like purple flowers that bloom in spring are also edible and make a colorful addition to salads. Hardy in Zones 3-9.

Dill – annual – often associated with pickling cucumbers, is delicious with salmon or potatoes.

Oregano – perennial – is one of the several species of wild marjoram that can grow up to two feet tall. Peppery-flavored Greek oregano is used in tomato sauces and to season meats and vegetables. Creeping oregano works well in a pathway or rock garden. Cuban oregano has varigated leaves that have a fuzzy texture, similar to the leaves of an African Violet. Hardy in Zones 5-9.

Mint – perennial – the fresh smell and taste of old-fashioned mint can’t be beat in an herb garden. Mints are a family of plants known for their aromatic oils. A few leaves adds refreshing zest to a glass of lemonade or iced tea. The many varieties include candy mint, chocolate mint, orange mint and peppermint. Spearmint is ideal for tea, mint jelly and mint juleps. But be sure to contain mint or it will spread. Hardy in Zones 4-10.

Now we need to plant them.

Follow these planting guidelines for a successful herb garden:

Plant early in the morning or late in the afternoon to prevent the transplants from wilting in the midday sun.

Dig each planting hole to about twice the width of the root ball of the new plant .

Space herbs about 18 inches apart to give them room to spread out and grow.

Place taller herbs, like sage, rosemary and marjoram, towards the back of the garden. Parsley and cilantro are good for the front.

For accents of color in your herb garden, add flowering plants like zinnias and salvia.

Plant perennials on one side and annuals on the other for easier replanting next year.

Give the new transplants plenty of water. Once established, make sure your herbs get an inch of water each week throughout the growing season.

Begin harvesting from the herbs as soon as they are mature, but take only a little bit each time you harvest. If you remove more than a third of the plant at one time , it takes longer to recover and produce new foliage.

To promote branching, keep the tops of the plants pinched back in early summer . With frequent picking, most herbs can be harvested for several months.

After all the work of planting is done, the best part is enjoying them. Here are some simple recipes to get you started. Some of the herbs used are different than the ones you may already know.

Herb Sugar
This is a wonderful use for sweet herbs such as lemon verbena, rose geranium, lavender or mints. Makes about 2 cups.

1/4 cup leaves and flowers of sweet herbs
2 cups sugar
zest of 1 citrus fruit – cut in strips (optional)

Gently bruise the herbs with a mortar to bring out their aromatic oils, then mix them with the sugar and citrus zest. Put the herbs and sugar in a jar and cover tightly. For the next two weeks, give the sugar a shake or stir every few days to spread the aromatic oils around and to break up any clumps. After 2 weeks, the sugar will be infused with the herb’s flavor. Strain the sugar, discard the herbs and zest, and store, tightly covered.

New Potatoes with Butter and Herbs
Wonderful way to use fresh potatoes and your favorite herbs. Makes 6 servings.

2 pounds small potatoes
2 cups sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup finely chopped mixed herbs: marjoram, chives, lemon basil, etc.
freshly ground pepper

Scrub the potatoes, but don’t peel them. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil with the salt. Stir to dissolve the salt, then add the potatoes. Boil over medium heat until the potatoes are fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. Drain the potatoes, then toss them in a bowl with the butter and herbs. Season with pepper and serve.

Red and Golden Beets with Dill
Baby golden beets mixed with the snap of fresh dill makes this dish a wonderful side. Can be served room temperature or well chilled.

2 Large red beets
20 golden or Chioggia beets
2 small red onions
3 tablespoons of champagne or white wine vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 leafy flat-leafed parsley or cilantro sprigs
1 tablespoon of chopped dill leaves

Stem the large beets until tender-firm when pierced with a knife, about 35 minute. Steam the little beets until tender-firm, about 20 minutes. Peel and trim the red beets. Cut them into halves and quarters. Skin the small beets and trim, if necessary. Leave them whole. Peel, then thinly slice the onions into rounds, toss with the vinegar, sprinkle with salt. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

The beets can be thinly sliced and placed with marinated onions on top of fresh salad greens, dressed in vinegar and oil, garnish with parsley. They are also very tasty served as a vegetable side.

Plant a kitchen herb garden. It will bring you many hours of enjoyment both by the beauty of the plants themselves and the wonderful tastes it can bring to your cooking.

About the Author:
Dori Fritzinger is a freelance writer who writes from her family owned farm, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. When not busy tending to her family, farm, gardens – she enjoys writing about garden produce, herbs, berries, and the interaction of the family in the garden. She has studied both culinary and medicinal herbs and gardening for most her adult life. Now that her children are grown and she is a grandmother, she has more time to devote to her writing.  Vist her website.

Building a Strong Trellis

Squash on Trellis
Butternut and buttercup squash crawl right to the top and over.

Here is how to build a *simple arched trellis* that will be very strong as well as beautiful. You will leave this trellis in place all year around.

It holds up to high winds – we know because we have had ~60 mph winds several times during tornado-like storms.

2 - Cattle Panels for a Trellis
2 cattle panels side by side arched over between 2 – 4′ x 8′ boxes.

Start with 2 cattle panels. Check the sizes available in your area at the local Tractor Supply, Rural King, or Menard’s. Ours are 36-38″ high x 16′ long. This gives enough room to walk under, yet easy to reach beans, squash, or melons when you are ready to harvest.

Gurney’s ‘*Straight Eight*’ cucumber did very well last year. Stagger your planting of seeds every 2 weeks for a succession of cukes.

Squash, pole bean, and melon plants will flower better and bear more if given room and sunlight. Plant as many as you want, but thin leaving 5-6″ between pole beans, 5-6″ between cucumbers, and 8-9″ between squash or melons.

These panels can be used to grow small melons like cantaloupe or honeydew, but not watermelon.

The plants will naturally develop thicker stems to hold the heavy fruit than if they lay upon the ground. It will support all but the heaviest of the squash varieties like the hubbards. Everything stays cleaner and leaves develop less fungal problems.

Harvesting is usually at eye level or above, except for cucumbers which don’t grow so tall. You can sit in a chair in the shade to pick your green beans! My favorite is disease-resistant *’Kentucky Wonder*’ pole bean.

*Now for installation:*

Fastening Cattle Guards With Galvanized Nails
Use 3″ galvanized or exterior nails to fasten down

You will need two people to install these safely. They are quite stiff and can poke you if it springs back when you arch it. Wear heavy gloves and thick jeans. One person on either end, walk together folding the panel. Do not push the ends together too hard, or it will bend the metal at the top and crease it. The 4′ x8′ boxes will hold it in place until you can fasten it permanently.

Place the panels all the way down to the ground for stability. Use 3″ galvanized or exterior nails to fasten the panel to the box. Drive the nail in deeply and bend the head over the wire in several places all along the bottom.

Once there are vines (especially the giant leaves of the heavy varieties of squash) crawling up and over, they can catch wind like a sail. We put ours arched so you can walk from *east to west *to take the wind well.

Now, the foundation of your garden is in place. Later this summer, take time out for yourself; get a chair and rest in the shade of one of these leafy, cool arbors. Then watch the bees and hear their ‘hum’ as they work the flowers. Enjoy the fruit of your labor!

To see pictures of the harvest go here.

signatureJacqueline is the author of Deep Roots at Home, a site designed to grow your roots deeper in healthy living, gardening and God’s reflection in creativity.

Come to Tea: An Elegant Garden Gathering

By Debbie Rodgers

Perhaps nothing says "garden party" like having afternoon tea outdoors. It’s a charming reminder of bygone days and childhood make-believe. Outdoor spaces of all kinds, including balconies, can be successfully adapted to a tea party.

Tea parties span generations and will be enjoyed by your most sophisticated women friends or all the giggling little girls of your acquaintance.

What makes an elegant tea party? Look at these factors.


Plan to hold your tea party when your garden is in its fullest bloom — perhaps it’s lilac time, June roses, or peony season. Be sure to cut some of the blooms for the tea table vases. If you don’t have a garden, buy an armful of flowers at a farmers’ market or stop by a country ditch and pick bunches of wild daisies and Queen Anne’s lace.


Send handwritten notes by snail mail. Your guests will recognize your party as an elegant affair and dress accordingly! Typically, tea is held around 4 p.m. — perfect for day-blooming flowers. Include an invitation for the little ones to bring along a doll or teddy friend.

Table Setting

The more elegant, the better. Stash the paper table covering and the plastic glasses just for today. Instead, use a crisp linen tablecloth, pressed cloth napkins and your best bone china cups and saucers. If it’s a little girls’ party, you might want to invest in two or three miniature tea sets.

Try to have adequate seating for everyone. Consider setting your straight-back indoor dining chairs outdoors. They can add an elegant touch, whether left unadorned or covered with flowered chintz.


Encourage all of your guests to wear hats — big-brimmed, floppy and flowered. If the party is for little girls, collect old hats, scarves and silk flowers at a thrift shop, yard sale or discount store. Make decorating the hats a fun activity at the party. You can also include a box of flowery cast-offs for dressing up. Include "grown-up" shoes and old jewellery — anything that will make the little ones feel elegant. Tea time is a fun way to introduce young ones to "elegant party" manners.


Other than teaspoons, no cutlery should be required at tea. All sandwiches and sweets should be dainty finger-food. Try sandwiches of watercress, cucumber, or egg with the crusts removed and cut in quarters. Sugar cookies and petit fours are traditional sweets. You can substitute mini-cupcakes or tiny tarts.


One of the first things that I learned in seventh grade home economics class was how to brew a proper pot of hot tea, but that was many years ago. I suspect that tea-making is becoming a lost art.

Tea is actually the common name of one plant: Camillia sinesis. The three basic types of tea — black, green and oolong — are distinguished by the amount of oxidization that the tea leaves have undergone. The more than 3,000 varieties of tea in the world are all derived from those three basic types.

Herbal teas — more properly, tisane or infusion — are made from a wide variety of flowers, herbs, barks, berries, fruits and spices.

At a minimum, offer your guests a traditional tea and a caffeine-free herbal choice. Have milk (not cream!), sugar and fresh lemon wedges available.

So, dust off your teacups and your manners and sit down with your girlfriends for a proper tea party. It’s a lovely summer interlude!

Debbie Rodgers, the haven maven, owns and operates Paradise Porch, and is dedicated to helping people create outdoor living spaces that nurture and enrich them. Her latest how-to guide "Attracting Butterflies to Your Home and Garden" is now available on her web site. Visit her at and get a free report on "Eight easy ways to create privacy in your outdoor space.

Improving Your Water Logged Soil

Q. I want to ask if any of you know what to do with soil that is holding water. I planted a dogwood tree 3 months back and saw it was doing poorly and when I removed it I had to "ring the roots out." Everytime I watered it and fed it the liquids were choking the roots. I want to put a dogwood in the same place but I really don’t know what to do with that much standing water except to build it up with a berm. Do any of you have any ideas on the subject?

A. I’m in Australia (southern) and I would suggest planting tea-trees (melaleucas species), willows, gum trees, iris, anything that thrives on being in boggy conditions. (its called ‘puggy’ where I live ) because its like a sponge in winter (soaks up the water) and cracks in the very dry drought like conditions (not very often) Dogwoods, in Australia at least, seem to like dry conditions, build up a hill like formation of soil and then plant so that it drains really well and keeps the roots out of damp. Gail in Australia

A. Most problems with water and trees and bushes start with too small a hole dug with a shovel thus packing the outside edges as the next shovelful is levered out. The water has a hard time getting past this wall of packed dirt. BUT, first you need to determine if the surrounding area just plain holds water due to hardpan soil or a high content of clay. OR is the water table naturally that close to the surface? If is just a high watertable, raise the surface level to keep tree from standing in water. If the problem is small hole or packed earth there are solutions. Never dig a planting whole with a shovel; ever. Use a mattock and dig the hole twice as deep and three times the rootball size. place the soil that was on or near the surface in the bottom of the hole mounded up so that when the bare-root of the tree or bush is placed on it all of the main trunk or stem is slightly higher that the surrounding area. 2-3 inches. then fill in the hole, adding water to make a sticky mud. This is called ‘mudding-in’. The second option is to use a ‘clamshell’ type post hole digger. Dig the hole twice as wide and twice as deep as rootball. Then mud-in, again inverting the soil.  Why bareroot? Your soil will not match the soil from the nursery. When roots hit the unfamiliar soil they can shock and the roots quit growing. When you bareroot the entire plant may shock but will recover. Shocked roots usually do not. If your tree is planted using one of the preceding methods your tree will thrive, IF you resist the temptation to water and fertilize; ever. The inversion of the soil is all the fertilizer it will need. Fertilizer, even starter fertilizer is only needed in nurseries and orchards to prevent exhaustion of the soil. Native trees need no fertilizer. Home orchard trees should only be fertilized in the late winter and not needed every year. Hope this helps. Michael Futrelle

A. I know this will sound silly to you, but have you checked to be sure you don’t have a leak in your water pipe nearby? I had a similar situation several years ago. A place in my yard about 20 feet from the rear of my house. I decided to plant a cranberry bush there as they thrive on lots of water. It did well. Later on I was digging in the area about half way between the bush and my house and the hole filled with water almost immediately! Upon checking, I found that there was a leak in the main water supply line for my house. It was a steel pipe and had rusted. I repaired the leak…my water bill dropped so drastically that the water company came out and replaced the water meter! Needless to say, the cranberry bush died, as I had neglected to water it. Bill R.

A. It might be that the water is going to be harder to get rid of than simply planting another variety in it`s place that enjoys lots of water. Willows usually grow well and like lots of water, also certain cyprus trees, also. – JF

A. Standing water in tree planting holes usually indicates heavy clay soil that acts as a water retainer rather than a drain. Gardening books suggest that you dig a much larger and deeper hole than normal. Sometimes you can dig through the clay in depth to better soil. Then put topsoil, a planting mix, or some peat moss in the hole, filling it to the proper depth for the new tree. Use the same product to fill the hole the rest of the way. If you use peat moss, be sure to mix good dirt with it. Ed

A. To increase drainage, work organic materials such as bark, rotted manure, leaf mold, peat moss and compost into the soil. You will need to then wait a season if before planting if your materials have not already been thoroughly composted because otherwise they may burn the plant roots. Also unless you work it very deep and in a large area around the spot it may encourage the roots to stay in the hole and not spread as much as they should. A better idea may be to plant another type of tree, such as a willow, that tolerates wet soil well. Or maybe plant a bog garden. (Irises LOVE wet feet.) Two good sources for information on what to do with different soil types are: and – Celia

A. Two things. First, add sand, lots and lots of sharp sand-you can buy it. Secondly, start yourself a compost pile and next time you have this problem, mix in lots of compost. It breaks down heavy soils, which is what you’ve got. Any gardening book would be able to give you more examples of "soil conditioners" for heavy, waterlogged soil. You need to be sure and make the hole three times bigger than the root "area" of anything you’re planting and mix in the above items when you backfill in the hole. Your area will drain a lot better and give the roots a chance to get stronger and spread before hitting the "brick wall" that is your soil. I have the same kind of soil. – Lauryi

A. I have been trying to get dogwoods going for the last 4 years with no luck. I know it can’t be the area because they are the state tree here!!! I finally decided to splurge and spend all of this years gardening money on having a nursery do it for me. I know the guy there pretty well and he said that dogwoods are kinda temperamental, they don’t like too much water – -well bingo, I had been drowning the trees!! He built up like a raised bed (so there would be plenty of runoff) to plant the trees in and mulched them super heavy, he said water them but not like you would other newly planted trees. So far they are doing good, good luck with yours.- Carolyn

A. Poor drainage problem around dogwood? Do you have heavy clay soil? You need to amend it with compost, humus etc. Maybe even a little sand. – Ivy

A. My husband is a landscape designer. He said you may have a clay soil. You need to dig the hole deeper and add compost or peat moss to create some drainage away from the plant or even add some pea gravel to the hole and then add some peat or compost and then plant your tree a little higher and mound the soil so it sets a little higher. – Toni

A. Use packing peanuts, turned into the soil. They will loosen the soil so water will not just puddle up. – Shirley

A. I’ve been attending our local community college for about 4 years now (at night) taking various landscape courses. I’d like to help out with your standing water problem and your dogwood tree. What exactly IS the problem? I mean, is it poor drainage…is it in some sort of large planter? or is it poor soil? very heavy clay or something? There are various things you can do, if the soil is poor, then you can always ammend it with organic matter, if the drainage is poor, then you have a totally different problem on your hands. In that case you’d have to provide some sort of way for the water to escape, possibly a drainage hole in the planter, or figure some way to channel it away from your tree. I’m sorry I couldn’t have been more helpful. Ask another question!! ;-) – Catfische

A. Glad to have you running the show. I used to take a city friend buckets of sand from our farm so she could add it around her plants. She too had heavy soil that had no drainage. Sand will work like a charm. You can buy it but it can get expensive. See if you have someone nearby that might have sand. It is very heavy, and more so if it is wet. You can sometimes fine good quality from a sand & gravel yard that will even deliver it and dump it where you want. Try the yellow pages and call around and get prices first. If you have plenty, you can afford to be generous. You don’t want to get some that is full of weed stickers. Dig the hole deeper than you will be putting the tree roots and mix with the soil. Mix it all through the soil around the tree. Good luck to your efforts. You and all TFL readers are all invited to check out my new site & newsletter. It’s FREE, email and weekly. Topics: Kitchen Tips, Around The House, Gardening, Assistance, Homesteading, Homespun Creations, Homeschooling, Critters, Free Stuff, Wild Bird Watching. Members only may use the E-postcard Creator with some awesome artwork. You must be able to submit an email address for confirmation and to receive weekly email updates. Thank you, – Nita & Randal Holstine

A. I live in the desert and we have horrible clay soil here that is the death of things if you don’t prepare it well. Since you are planting a dogwood I am surmising that you live somewhere in a nicer climate. How to prepare clay soils: Dig a big hole, much bigger than you need to put the tree in. It should be at least twice as big in each dimension. Fill the hole with water and see if it drains. It may take a while. If it takes more than a day you should probably dig deeper. Then buy some composted mulch and mix it in with the clay you took out of the hole. Use this mixture, about 50-50, to plant the tree. If you have some sand, you can mix in a little of that, too. You don’t want to overwater the tree. I suggest you get a moisture meter (available at places like Walmart and Home Depot, etc) to check the moisture level. Overwatering kills more plants than under-watering. Especially if you have clay soil, overwatering can be a problem.

A. As for your dogwood tree, you could dig a deeper hole and put sand and or gravel in it to let the water drain away from the roots. Then put some of the soil over the gravel and replant the tree. – Fred

Mosquitoes in Your Garden? Try Planting These!

By Scottie Johnson

If you are a serious gardener, you spend lots of time outdoors. And, for sure, you would rather be tending your plants than swatting mosquitoes.

While there are many things you can do to keep mosquitoes away, there are some plants that will beautify your yard and help repel mosquitoes.

As one more way to keep mosquitoes away from you and your yard, try planting these attractive plants.

Horsemint has a scent similar to citronella. Horsemint grows wild in most of the Eastern United States, from Mexico, Texas up to Minnesota to Vermont. It is partial to sandy soils and will grow in USDA Zones 5-10. Native Americans used it as a treatment for colds and flu. It has natural fungicidal and bacterial retardant properties because it’s essential oils are high in thymol.

This wonderful herb we use for seasoning is also a great, natural mosquito repellant. It has been used for centuries to keep pesky mosquitoes away. Rosemary is a native of the Mediterranean, so it likes hot, dry weather and well-drained soil. It is hardy in USDA zones 8-10, and must be grown as a pot plant in colder climates. If you happen to live in a part of the country where rosemary does not grow, you can get a good quality rosemary essential oil; mix 4 drops with 1⁄4 cup olive oil. Store in a cool, dry place. When it comes to fresh plant oils as natural mosquito repellants, there is every reason to have the plant in your yard, if they will grow in your area. It is an inexpensive and attractive way to boost the appearance of the landscape and have natural mosquito repellants on hand as well.

Organic gardeners have used marigolds as companion plants to keep aphids away. Mosquitoes don’t like its scent any better (and some humans feel the same way). Marigolds are sun-loving annuals that come in a variety of shapes and sizes for almost any landscape. They are quite easy to grow from seed.

This charming little bedding plant contains coumarin, and mosquitoes detest the smell. It is used in the perfume industry and is even in some commercial mosquito repellants. Don’t rub ageratum on your skin, though. It has some other less desirable elements that you don’t want to keep on your skin in quantity. Ageratums are annuals, and they come in a muted blue and white that compliments most other plantings.

There are two types of plants that are called mosquito plants. One is a member of the geranium family that was genetically engineered to incorporate the properties of citronella. Citronella only grows in tropical places, but it is a well known repellant for mosquitoes. This plant was created to bring the repellant properties of citronella into a hardier plant. It will grow where any geranium will thrive. Many have questioned its usefulness as a mosquito repellant, but it is attractive enough to warrant planting for it’s ornamental value.

The other kind of mosquito plant is agastache cana. Its common names include Texas hummingbird mint, bubblegum mint, giant hyssop, or giant hummingbird mint. As you might guess, hummingbirds are quite attracted to it. It is a New Mexico native, also found in parts of Texas. It is, in fact, a member of the mint family and its leaves do have a pungent aroma when crushed. In its native habitat, it is perennial, and is usually hardy in USDA Zones 5a-9a. It blooms late summer to early fall, so it catches hummingbirds on their annual migration. The long, medium pink flowers reel in butterflies as well.

CATNIP One of the most powerful mosquito repellant plants is ordinary catnip. Recent studies have shown that it is ten times more effective than DEET at repelling mosquitoes. It is a short lived perennial throughout most of the United States. It is easy to grow from seed, and quickly reseeds. Aside from its intoxicating effects on cats, the leaves make a very soothing tea.

With all of these plants, the leaves must be crushed to release the aroma. Otherwise mosquitoes can’t smell them. And, with rosemary and catnip, you can simply crush a few leaves and rub on your skin and clothing to enhance the effect.

So, next time you are revising your plantings, consider using some of these attractive plants to do more than just enhance the landscape. You can have pretty ornamentals that also drive mosquitoes away.

Scottie Johnson is a life long mosquito warrior and freelance writer dedicated to eliminating mosquitoes from her life. She is also an organic gardener.

Got Powdery Mildew? Get Milk!

by Arzeena Hamir

Less than 3 years ago, researchers in South America discovered a new alternative to controlling powdery mildew. Wagner Bettiol, a scientist from Brazil, found that weekly sprays of milk controlled powdery mildew in zucchini just as effectively as synthetic fungicides such as fenarimol or benomyl. Not only was milk found to be effective at controlling the disease, it also acted as a foliar fertilizer, boosting the plant’s immune system.

Powdery mildew in the cucurbit family is caused by the organism Sphaerotheca fuliginea. It is a serious disease that occurs worldwide. For decades, organic gardeners had to rely on making a spray from baking soda to control the disease. Now, instead of measuring out the baking soda and combining it with a surfactant (a "sticking" substance) of either oil or soap, gardeners need only head for their refrigerators.

In his experiments with zucchini plants, Bettiol found that a weekly spray of milk at a concentration of at least 10% (1 part milk to 9 parts water) significantly reduced the severity of powdery mildew infection on the plants by 90%. While some gardeners may be tempted to increase the concentration of milk for more control, Bettiol found that once concentrations rose above 30%, an innoccuous fungus began to grow on the plants.

How does milk control powdery mildew?

Scientist aren’t 100% sure how milk works to control this disease. It seems that milk is a natural germicide. In addition, it contains several naturally occurring salts and amino acids that are taken up by the plant. From previous experiments using sodium bicarbonate, potassium phosphate, and other salts, researchers have found that the disease is sensitive to these salts. It is possible then, that milk boosts the plant’s immune system to prevent the disease.

Milk used around the world

The benefits of using milk to control powdery mildew haven’t been isolated to Brazil. Melon growers in New Zealand are saving thousands of dollars every year by spraying their crops with milk instead of synthetic fungicides. The melon growers in New Zealand have been so successful that the wine industry is taking notice and beginning experiments using milk to control powdery mildew in grapes.

What kind of milk should be used?

In Bettiol’s original experiment, fresh milk was used, straight from the cow. However, this is obviously not feasible to most home gardeners. The research work in New Zealand actually found that using skim milk was just as effective. Not only was it cheaper, but the fact that the milk had no fat content meant that there was less chance of any odours.

For more details on Using Milk for Powdery Mildew

Arzeena Hamir is an agronomist and writer for Organic Living Newsletter. You can subscribe to this free e-newsletter at

Growing Plants from Mango Seeds

Q. Can anyone tell me how to grow a plant from a mango seed. I love mangoes and buy a lot of them and it would be nice to get the seeds to grow.

After cutting all of the fruit from the seed I take a stiff brush and scrub the rest off and put the clean seed in a small cup of water—yogurt cup will do—and fill with water The water does not have to cover the seed but at least 3/4 of it . I set it in the window over the sink and rinse it a couple times a week. Even though  it is scrubbed good it will need the water changed regularly or it will get smelly and will attract fruit flies. When the seed opens and starts showing signs of growth I move it to another container and start adding potting soil until it is growing in full soil like any other plant . As it grows it increase the size of the container. I have rooted and grown several but I cannot keep them living through the winter. When I bring them in they go into shock and no matter how hard I try they are compost by the next spring. I have two very pretty ones now but I need help to keep them living.  Gloria

I have rooted Mango seeds by washing the seed and putting it in between a dishrag and saturate with water, put on a plate and place in a dark area, I put dish in my cabinet and water every 2 days, Will root in about 2wks then plant. Now the last one I planted I did not keep up with and I killed the plant, left it outside  without watering. I had gotten busy with school, work and home. Hope this helps, Melissa

We live in So. California about 8 miles from the Mexican border and have done a lot of seed-sprouting in hopes of growing a few mango trees. They can be tricky, but we planted the seed from every mango we ate for several months, and we did get quite a few–though not all–to sprout. There are three little mango trees in our garden now.  Carefully remove the tough, fiber cover and expose the smooth, bean-shaped seed. This is hard to do, but not impossible. Plant the seed in good soil with its hump just peeking above the ground. If you are in a cold climate, you’ll have to keep the plant indoors, but even if you are in a warm place, keep careful watch over your seeds. We had several sprout and then get eaten in one night by snails. The snails  even got a few we planted in the yard in pots, and we finally foiled them by sticking the pots up on a picnic table until the plants were so big they could stand to lose a few leaves. We watered the seeds when the dirt got really dry. Once they sprout, keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Mangoes don’t want to dry out completely, but neither do they like being constantly wet. If you are in a warm climate and want to plant the little trees outdoors, be very careful handling the roots. Mangoes hate to have their roots disturbed, and if you disturb the root-ball so that a lot of the dirt falls off it, it will take its revenge by losing all its leaves, and maybe even dying. Don’t try to remove the tree from the pot; remove the pot from the tree. Grow the tree in one of those soft black plastic pots that flowers and things come in, and then just cut the pot away before you plant it. This is the voice of experience. We are sprouting our own because in the beginning we bought a $40 mango tree about 3 feet tall, and it wouldn’t come out of its pot, so we thought it must have a great root ball. Well, when we finally loosened it, all the dirt fell off, leaving a long and puny bunch of thin roots and it died in a couple of months, in spite of all our care. If you look under "mangifera indica," you can probably find various helpful Web sites. Look under "Propagation," it should tell you how to know which seeds have been damaged by the way the supermarket handled them and will not sprout, and it is good on how to fertilize and how to water, also how to protect the trees from cold the first few years. We wish you success.  Janice You have to germinate it in a pot and then transplant it to the outdoors.  You must live in a warm climate such as Florida, where I grew my tree. It will have fruit in 7-8 years and will last for the rest of your life.  Fertilize it in the late summer and again in the spring. It will grow to be 70-100 feet tall, and you will be smothered in mangoes every summer. The  good news is that they freeze very well once they are sliced into Ziploc bag. Buy the bags at Costco where the per bag price is less than the store brand at the supermarket. Teri

Gardening on a Budget

by Arzeena Hamir

Gardeners who need to make frugal decisions at this time of the year can take heart in a number of alternatives that will not only lower the cost of gardening, but will also enhance the pleasure! Here are five steps every budget gardener should follow:

Plan ahead
Make a list of what you’d really like to see in your garden and stick to it. There’s no use growing winter cabbage, regardless of how lovely it looks in the frost, if no one in your family eats cabbage. A list will also keep you under control when you see the end-of-season sales and are tempted to purchase something on a whim. In addition, if you plan exactly where plants are going to go, you won’t make last minute mistakes such as placing sun loving plants in the shade.

Start a compost pile
It’s surprising to see how many gardeners haven’t constructed their own compost pile and still pay to have their grass clippings and leaves hauled away and then, in turn, purchase fertilizers every year. Compost is free food for the garden! It helps break up heavy clay soils, absorbs water in sandy soils, and encourages microbial life, thereby decreasing that chances of any one disease becoming rampant in the garden.

Compost piles don’t require anything fancy. The walls can be made of recycled 2 x 4s, chicken wire, or even hay bales. All that you need is access to the pile and enough space to turn it every now and again.

What can you put in the pile for free? Grass clippings and leaves are a great choice since you probably have your own source as well as your neighbours’. Check with local tree care companies to see if they have any wood chips to give away. Coffee grinds from the local caf� make excellent compost, as does shredded newspaper. Don’t forget to include your vegetable scraps and egg shells. Once you get hooked on composting, you’ll even start going after the local barber for hair, and even saving dryer lint!

If you’re an apartment gardener or are cramped for space, a great alternative to a compost pile is a worm bin. The requirements for a successful worm bin include a good size container, usually a Rubbermaid bin, about � lb of red wiggler worms, shredded newspaper, and then a steady supply of kitchen scraps. The resulting "worm casts" make excellent fertilizer for garden & potted plants. For more information, City Farmer has this article on worm composting .

Many of the expenditures that gardeners make for containers and equipment can be cut down by re-using items you already have at home. Margarine tubs, yogurt & cottage cheese containers and egg cartons are fantastic for seed starting. Old gardening boots, wheelbarrows, and toolboxes can make whimsical substitutes for expensive outdoor containers. Window frames can be converted into cold frames and plastic milk jugs and pop bottles can be used to make a mini greenhouses or hot caps.

Start from seed when you can
One packet of tomato seed is often equivalent to the price of one tomato start yet you get the potential of at least 30-40 plants in each packet. While it may take longer and require advance planning, starting the majority of your plants from seed can be a big savings, especially if you’re using recycled containers. No need for expensive heat mats – the top of the VCR or water heater is ideal. Fluorescent tubes make a suitable substitute for expensive grow lights and can be rigged up under a table or on a shelf in the garage.

Don’t forget to try to save your own seed during the season. Not only will you save on the seed purchase the following year, but you’ll also be able to select seed from plants that you know did well in your climate. Most communities now arrange for seed swaps in the early spring where you can trade your excess seed for new varieties. Make sure that you save seed from non-hybrid plants.

Choose plants that keep on giving
In the vegetable garden, climbing peas, tomatoes, beans & squash tend to provide more produce than their bush equivalents. If you’re limited in space, growing these plants vertically can be very successful. In addition, plants like zucchini are notorious for their yields. Trade with neighbors for food you didn’t grow.

Among the flowers, try growing multi-purpose plants to get more bang for your buck. Many flowers like bachelor’s buttons, violas, calendula, pansies, & roses are edible as well as beautiful. Yarrow, alyssum, fennel, cumin, & coriander all attract beneficial insects as well.

Find a friend
Not only can you share ideas with a gardening buddy, but you can also share the costs and make it cheaper for both of you. Very few of us require a whole packet of seed for the gardening season; most packets contain 40-100 seeds. Why not split the packet with a friend or else trade seed for a variety you didn’t buy? A gardening buddy is also a great person to share tools with. If you’ve got a fantastic hoe and your friend has an excellent pitchfork, why double up?

Sharing with a gardening partner will also allow you to purchase certain inputs in bulk. If you require potting mix, why not go for the bale size instead of the small packages? Compost, if you can’t make your own, is much cheaper if purchased by the yard and shared with a friend or two.

Joining a garden club is a great way to meet gardening enthusiasts if no friends or family are willing to team up with you. Most clubs also hold plant exchanges or sales where you can get plants for a real steal.

Arzeena is an agronomist and garden-writer for Organic Living Newsletter. Subscribe to this free e-newsletter here.

Growing An Indoor Herb Garden

By Kate Gilby

If you live in the northern hemisphere, then it is likely that your garden is tucked up for the winter. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy freshly picked herbs. Many varieties will grow quite happily indoors on a sunny windowledge or porch. In addition to providing a source of fresh herbs, an indoor garden can look extremely attractive, and they are a wonderful introduction to gardening for children.

Herbs which will grow indoors:

You will need to find a sunny, well lit spot to grow your indoor herb garden. Ideally, it should be south facing, but if this isn’t possible choose a situation that will receive plenty of light through out the day. Try to avoid a north facing place because it is unlikely the plants will receive enough light to grow properly.

What you will need:
Herbs, either plants or seeds
Good quality compost
Suitable containers

Buy your herbs from reputable suppliers, don’t buy seed packets which are out of date, and avoid any straggly or unhealthy looking plants. The same is true for compost, choose a good all purpose compost, your herbs will be relying on it for nutrition for some time.

The containers are easier to select. You will find a wide range at garden centers and nurseries. Alternatively, you can use ones you already have, or adapt other objects. I grow my geraniums in a old mop bucket, and my lemon mint is growing in a teapot with a broken handle.

If your children are helping with your indoor garden, a nice idea is to take some plain plant pots, and let the kids decorate them with paint, paper etc. to produce their own unique pots.

Once you have planted your garden, it will need some care. Remember, indoor plants rely on you totally. Water regularly, but be careful not to over-water, this is the main cause of death for most indoor plants. No more than once a week should be sufficient, I water once every two weeks. Check the compost before watering, if it still feels moist wait and check again the next day. If you have used a good compost, and your winter is relatively short you will probably only need to feed your plants once. If you have a longer cold season, it might be an idea to use the slow release pellets you can buy in garden centers.

Copyright Kate Gilby 2003

About the Author:
Kate Gilby lives in the UK, and is the editor of kate blogs, a blog devoted to writing, web and graphic design. She is also the owner of More Than Mint a resource for herb growers, and Decorating Divas, a home decorating resource.