August 14th, 2013
As I was browsing around over on Pinterest this morning, I was impressed with some of the solutions gardeners found to common gardening problems—organizing garden tools and supplies, protecting and supporting plants, labeling plants, nurturing and decorating. I have also seen some fabulous, clever and cheap garden solutions from garden tours in recent years, so I thought I would pull them out of the archives and share.
I have noticed that gardeners are quite thrifty in utilizing and repurposing available materials. Twigs, sticks and vines can be used to support plants, as trellises and even just for decor.
A series of larger sticks can be pushed into the ground for peas, sweetpeas and other plants that could use a bit of extra support. One year we used branches from mimosa trees that had blown down in a storm to create a cucumber trellis.
If you need to block off a path or area to discourage foot traffic, a collection of salvaged branches can do the trick.
Unusual materials can also be repurposed in the garden for many purposes. I have often seen marine-grade rope draped to create attractive supports for trailing roses and vines.
How about repurposing sandbags? They can be used to create temporary walls, garden seating or raised beds.
Tree stumps can be unsightly and expensive to remove. If it’s large enough, a tree stump can be repurposed as a novelty garden seat, table or planter pedestal.
Aren’t gardeners wonderfully creative and clever?
You can follow my board of garden solutions over on Pinterest.
August 8th, 2013
One of the many joys of gardening is that you get to experiment, explore and take risks. Often the cost is no more than a couple of dollars—the price of a package of seeds. This is the frugal side of gardening. (I can also show you the exceptionally non-frugal side of gardening, but that, my friends, is a story for another blog post.) One of this year’s experiments in my garden was the cup and saucer vine (Cobea scandens).
I don’t recall if this is one of the seed packages I purchased or if it was included in a freebie package from Botanical Interests, one of my favorite seed companies. It seems like something I would order because the description promised this vine would 1) be a quick growing, 2) grow up to 25 feet in a single season 3) have flowers that open pale green and mature to ivory or deep purple and 4) have a sweet scent.
Apparently the only thing this vine doesn’t do is grow hundred dollar bills on every other vine.
I like the idea of a quick-growing, decorative vine as part of creating summer shade over the chicken run. The chickens have a covered porch that allows them to get out of the rain or to shelter from the blazing sun. But in the summer some dappled shade over the rest of the run would improve the comfort factor in the rest of the run as well as shade their water cooler.
So how did the cup and saucer vine perform?
I’m thinking of starting my own rating system. For now, let’s base the rating system on stars. I’ll fancy up the idea later.
What should my personal rating system include? An overall rating, certainly. Beauty? Yes, I do think beauty is important. Pest/disease resistance in my garden? Yes indeed, that seems like a good idea too. I am over having powdery mildew on lilacs and Japanese beetles on pole beans. Toxicity/safety? This might not be important to some gardeners, but it is important to me if I’m going to grow it over the chicken coop. I found a handy list of toxic/non-toxic plants assembled by the California Poison Control System. The cup and saucer vine is, apparently, non-toxic—at least to humans. I didn’t find it listed as toxic to chickens anywhere else on the Internet. And in my bold experiment here it is, apparently, non-toxic since the chickens have kept the lower parts of the vines pecked clean of leaves and flowers.
What else? Scent? Usefulness? Edibility? Okay, we’ll go with that for now.
So, here is my rating for the cup and saucer plant on a four-star (for now) rating system.
*** Beauty – The flowers certainly are beautiful, although they are somewhat subtle. This is not a vine that will draw your eye from a distance as some clematis do, for example.
**** Pest/disease resistance – No complaints here. The Japanese beetles are completely uninterested. The vine doesn’t show any signs of disease or other problems this year.
**** Safety/non-toxicity – Courtesy of the California Poison Control System and my own bold experiment.
** Scent – The flowers do have a mildly sweet scent, but you need to stick your nose right into it to smell it.
**** Usefulness – This is a work horse-type vine because it grows so quickly, providing a nice screen where needed in the summer heat.
* Edibility – You can’t eat it (I don’t think). Well, you can’t have everything.
**** Overall – A grand four-star rating.
The bigger question might be, would I grow the cup and saucer vine again? Yes! And I would also recommend it to other gardeners. It’s an easy, robust and pleasing vine. All for the cost of a package of seeds.