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January 16, 2014

Matoes!

Well, I got some new gardening equipment on the way… Seedling lights, even some new tomato seeds for tomatoes larger than I can grow in containers… which of course our HOA requires, nothing in the ground. Anyways, I’ve got some garden space to use as well so this summer I should have a huge quantity of tomatoes coming in! I also got a setup with four T5 grow lights and a small fixture. I am hoping to use it to grow spinach, lettuce, herbs, and a few other things all year round. At least that is the idea, we will see how that all goes.

December 20, 2013

How my cats litter evolved into a vital part of my garden…

Okay, so I’ve only been gardening for about a year now… So I’ve still got a lot to learn, and one of the first lessons I learned was the expense of being eco friendly! Now, I know that eco-friendly is a subjective term, if everyone used coconut coir like I did for the most part last year it would no longer be eco-friendly, the idea is to find balance. I’ve used pine cat litter for years… not to be too hipster but I used pine saw dust before the average store that sells pet supplies carried pine cat litter. For my cat (And by my cat I mean our family cat, but I have had him since before I even met my wife, so we still often refer to him as my cat) it was always sufficient. I changed out the litter in his box only once a year, and only because there comes a time when the pine no longer smells like pine and more like cat pee. Then we got a new kitten this year, and this kitten drinks and pees more than I do! She just about goes through a gallon of water a day, and then pees out a gallon a day… this means that the pine litter never gets the chance to dry out, even with two large litter boxes.

This is where the evolution of cat litter to garden supply came in. Pine litter is super cheap now, I can get a 40lb pag for $10, and even with our kittens peeing habits that lasts 6 months. Pine kitty litter is extremely absorbant, and kind of fluffy once expanded much like coconut coir. It was only natural that I took this opportunity to stop buying coconut coir, and start using the wasted kitty litter in its place (after letting it dry outside). A 40lb bag of pine kitty litter comes out to about the same amount of material as coconut coir, and while it does break down pretty quick when I mix it with bokashi, it seems to be able to enhance the water holding abilities, and capillary action where it need it most.

August 12, 2013

Hardening Off

The most painful experience for me starting my garden this year was the “hardening off” process… Aside from a horridly timed cold snap that included snow in May… The hardening off process was a bit emotional… granted I’ve never raised any plants successfully, much less from seed, so to watch my plants wither and seemingly die for several weeks nearly took the life out of me. Well, maybe it didn’t suck the life out of me. But it was sad watching my plants go from the healthy bright green plants I raised inside, to sickly looking plants that their leaves were falling off of. After a little time though, they began with some new growth, darker and stronger than before, and now the places leaves fell off of are sprouting new growth just as strong as the growth above. I had one tomato plant that I had inside that got to about 3x the height of the plants outside… but the ones outside are getting more leaves and have much thicker trunks… so I moved that one outside, and the process is starting all over again. The leaves of the larger plant I put outside aren’t all falling off like before, but it does look sad, tall, but sad compared to the others. I have faith that it will flourish like the others, and I’m not sure which will produce tomatoes first… but with three plants now I have a good shot at getting lots of good tomato growth… and I will probably bring the larger one back in for the winter, put it by the best lit window, and use grow lights a few hours a day to help it get the light it will need to keep producing tomatoes.

April 12, 2013

Flower Power!

Okay, so I’ve always said that I am terrible at gardening… for years everything I touched died. The only plant that I was able to successfully grow was an aloe plant, and it only survived because of it’s ability to survive with almost no water for extended periods of time. I always attributed my lack of plant keeping alivedness to a lack of attention span (I don’t do things like… oh… watering consistently), and a lack of patience (often to get faster results I’d use excessive amounts of chemical fertilizers to boost productivity). And while those things surely contributed to my inability to effectively grow plants, that’s not exactly the whole story. As it turns out I really needed some knowledge about plants… now that I am attempting to feed the family as much as possible from foods I grow… well I’ve been doing a lot of research.

First off, I’ve learned why Organic is better for your health, better for the environment, better for the plants, and is simply more sustainable. I’ve learned a lot of tricks that I want to use, such as in our yard I’m going to grow a combination of clover and grass. Clover has the unique ability to pull nitrogen from the air and put it in the soil! Because grass is “all leaf” it primarily uses nitrogen to grow, so with the clover fertilizing the grass it grows extremely fast choking out any weeds. I’ve also learned why “April showers bring May flowers” because nitrogen gets washed away first from the soil with the rain it creates a soil that is dense with phosphorus which is the nutrient plants use to bloom! This is how you can manipulate growth cycles using a phosphorus rich fertilizer like certain types of bat guano. This can give you additional blooms when your flowers may not traditionally do so. Probably the most important solution I’ve learned is with the capillary action self watering planters… these allow me to do my irregular watering schedule while keeping my plants alive! Another fun trick I’ve learned, is similar to the symbiotic relationship of grass and clover with companion planting… which will come in handing planting in such a small place on our patio. I will need to effectively group plants that can help each other grow in tight container spaces!

October 5, 2012

Next Steps

I think after I’m done doing the six reviews for Your Vacuum Guy, and getting a post from each of my blogs to each new respective review… and doubling that up for each one of the home page reviews (just for good measure)… then I am going to create another “review” type of site. Something using Amazon Associates program like Your Vacuum Guy, but this time go in the direction of gardening! Well maybe specifically urban gardening… since that’s what I’m facing now as my biggest gardening challenge. How do you get the most out of a garden, in a very small space? That might be my new mission! I think it will be a good question to ask, and might lead to some good income 😉 I’ve still got a lot of tweaking to do for Your Vacuum Guy though, so it may be some time before we make the transition. Gotta get everything worked out for the vacuum stuff… make sure that it actually improves my click through AND sales rate… then if it does, I shall move onto other areas of development. Not sure that my linking games are having that much effect anymore… I might have to change strategy or go back to writing unique posts for everything each day. Not that I mind writing unique posts, but I did the Copy Pasta crap this week for a reason! Gotta keep my stuff ahead so that I can focus on coding, and making some money eventually! 😛 I will most likely create it as a subdomain of Healthy Budget Cooking… I mean that’s where it makes most sense to put it, at least I think so 😉

October 1, 2012

How subsidies have directed our food supplies and hurt your waste line

A major problem with our food supply in America is the safety net crops. Because of government regulations, and subsidies Corn, and a few other crops get a favored production by farmers. They don’t get favored production because they’re easier to grow, or better for the land, in fact corn quite often strips the land of nutrients requiring rotation, that doesn’t always happen because farmers can actually make more from insurance from failed crops when coupled with the subsidies from the government. When we were in Michigan visiting the wifes family there was a large berry farm that her dad showed us. The governor has gone on a big “clean up” making sure businesses verify the legality of their workers… well… being that the berry farm requires hand picking and it’s hard to afford pickers at the recently hiked minimum wage, most of their workers were illegals. So this year they tore out most of their berry bushes and replaced it with corn. Corn crops get doubly subsidized, both at the farm levels and again at the pump for ethanol… this provides a big safety net for farmers… Farmers definitely need help in America, it’s really the only thing we produce anymore in America… it would be better if we could do it without all the subsidies. It’s bad enough that our largest export is our dollars, it doesn’t help to inflate our dollars further to drown out what should be our truly largest export (food) the rest of the world really would benefit from our exporting of food across the globe rather than dollars. It would also be good for your waste line since corn is such a huge crop subsidized by the government in America most food producers have found creative ways to incorporate it since it’s cheaper than any other crop… land that could/would be used for veggies and other healthier food is used for corn that often goes into junk food as a cheap filler.

September 19, 2012

fresh veggies in non-garden-friendly zones

Well, the vines are out… at least here… they may grow (but not sure how much they will thrive) at my cousins house. More on that later. I’m going to make our back patio a veggie garden, it’s only 12×12 feet, but should be enough to get a good sized garden together. Unfortunately it doesn’t get the perfect amount of sun… in fact too far back by the house and it hardly gets any sun through the day. My plan is to put about 20 or so 1 gallon nursery pots filled with alternating spearmint and wormwood plants (in the front of the house I plan to grow peppermint, wormwood, and catnip… might naturally keep the cat flea free get him to eat the catnip between a pair of wormwood plants). That will be my natural bug protection zone, keeping bugs out of the house, and out of the garden. I’ll grow the veggies in six Rubbermaid tubs, should give me room for some kale, grape tomatoes, and maybe raspberries. In the middle walkway path lining each side I’ll put peppermint… just really scent the area up and keep the bugs at bay even more 😛 That will give us a good advantage at the grocery store, completely eliminating our need to buy salad stuff all summer long, with the bonus of raspberries, and maybe some grapes at the end of the season from Jordan’s if the grape vines survive. The seeds for these plants cost a couple bucks each but since the peppermint should live all year round I won’t need to replace it each year. That’s a big help and will give instant bug repellent to the area. I figure with a little fertilizer, the occasional new soil, seeds, etc. about $40 a year we’ll easily be able grow $500 worth of groceries a year. At least that’s the goal, keep the family feed organically, and get lots of fruits and veggies for a little work… maybe help get caught up on everything 😛

I would still like to grow more… I’d like some really big Blueberry bushes… and I’d like some Cao grapes… and I’d like this all in our backyard. The HOA did say that if we put up a black chain link fence we can do pretty much whatever we want with our back yard… so here a few years in the future I may do that, put in 6 Cao grapes, a 1KW wind turbine, two big Blueberry bushes, and a big enough garden section that we didn’t need to get fresh fruits and veggies from the store anymore.

September 18, 2012

Gardening, in non-garden-friendly areas

Okay, our HOA offically sucks… they FINALLY got back to us with the disapproval of our vines. So I spent a couple days this week tearing everything down. They gave me a grace period on the vines that I asked for. That’ll give them time to go dormant, then after they go dormant I’ll be able to transplant them (granted with extensive damage to the root structure) to Jordan’s place, he says they can occupy the garden area of his house. Apparently critters have been killing his other plants. No garauntees that they’ll grow their though… first off, the critters will likely do a bit of harm to the vines anyways, since it’ll be a time to start over again I think I might put the vine shelters back on. The vines will need some time to establish their root system, and even though they’ll start out much taller than the shelters it’ll protect their lower sections from critters. It’ll also allow some leaves to grow down low in a greenhouse environment, and reduce pruning needs. I still plan on growing a vegetable garden here, but of course I can’t put it in the ground. Anyways, got the whole area torn up, seeded, and covered in peat moss… of course this winter when I get the vines up that’ll tear up several large patches, and I’ll have to fix them up, reseed them and go from their. It’ll also be a lot of work to get the area ready at Jordan’s for the vines… at least I’ve got a long time to accomplish the goal. The second thing that I’m worried about over there is them getting enough light. His back yard has a lot of treeage… well mostly his neighbors around there have a lot of trees that will shade into his yard, either way you look at it, not sure they’re gonna get the sun they need. In the spot they were here they got sun from sunrise to sunset and they did awesome! At his place about 30% of the day at least will be cut short by shade… not ideal for Grapes. Oh well, I will probably only have room for four anyways, and I don’t plan on fertilizing like I did here, which certainly helped them a lot. I think at most I’ll get a bale of peat moss and mix it in with the soil, maybe a second bale to cover the ground and keep moisture in… that may be all I do though.

September 7, 2012

Clippin’ it like a pro

Well, with all the clipping I’ll be doing with the grape vines, and roses in front of the house, I wanted to get something that would work well, without creating a whole lot of tension on my hands. So I found the ergonomic Fiskars 9124 Professional Bypass Pruning Shears that will let me prune the vines, with a bypass channel to drain the excess sap. I read a lot of reviews, and searched through a lot of blogs where I found that the Fiskars 9124 Professional Bypass Pruning Shears was top rated by a whole lot of people. Plus the price was right, add it to other purchases and I get free shipping! Oh, and I got some Bing Rewards credits built up that’ll give me $10 off.

I was talking about making a test rig, for the vacuum cleaner reviews… Over the last year I’ve made $50 with Bing Rewards, I think I could potentially save up my Bing Rewards this year and use it to buy a vacuum cleaner to start my video vacuum cleaner reviews with the test rig… that way I don’t have to waste my own money on it, at least not the first time around. If I start making $1k a month though, I may not have to worry about it 😛 Of course in order to make $1k a month I’ll have to get top spots in Google for some big terms.

August 8, 2012

Wasp Trouble

I try to respect nature, I only use organic pesticides mostly just repelling plants (wormwood, and peppermint), and I try to leave spiders, hornets, and other bug eating bugs alone. I know ants and worms are necessary for good soil so I leave them be too, well not inside the house I coat a barrier inside the house of peppermint and lemon grass oil. But I’ve never seen so many bugs as this neighborhood has! It kind of shocked me because at my moms house we had a creek running through our back yard and a couple acres of woods behind that… the bugs their were not really a nuisance, but now that we live in a subdivision with hundreds of units and no real open spaces to speak of their are bugs everywhere! Of course this means that sparrows, wasps, hornets, and all manor of bug eating creatures are a bit out of control too. I’ve finally decided that in order to work in my grape garden (without being stung) I’m going to have to put out some wasp and hornet traps. I’ve got a couple made up, but I was avoiding their usage because wasps generally don’t bother me, they’re good for getting rid of other more destructive bugs so I wanted to let them be. They’re leaving me little choice though, the swarms of wasps and hornets that buzz at and dive bomb me for trying to work in my garden has got to be taken care of. I’ve got a nice layer of organic bug repellent along with my mint and wormwood plants… but it’s not keeping the hornets at bay. I think next year I’m going to add spearmint and maybe some lemon grass in my lawn so when I mow it will get cut up and spread around as a bonus layer of protection to get some of the bugs to move out.