October ... Ghosts, Ghouls and Garlic

October, I love October. No other month compares. Our days get shorter, the air is crisp, leaves change into vibrant colors and there is the smell of wood smoke in the air. October means pulling out our sweatshirts, eating caramel apples, raking leaves, Halloween and garlic.

Yes folks, October is for garlic.

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Garlic, especially fresh garlic, is absolutely delicious and it is crazy easy to plant. There is really nothing to it. I try to get mine in around Halloween, not to ward off vampires, but because that’s just the best time in our region to do it. I used the following video off YouTube to plant my garlic patch. I hope you find it as useful as I did.

Repel Insects ... Naturally

Here it is, mid-June and by now your garden is established and producing an array of colorful blossoms.  If you're like me, there's always room for more. So, try to include plants that will not only add texture and color, but a purpose.

All of your hard work in planting your garden can be all for naught if you can't enjoy it. Those pesky mosquitoes and insects can ruin an evening in the garden or patio. This is the time to consider plants that will not only look lovely, but will also be productive ... plants that will help control insects naturally.
There are several that will produce the results you want and be eye pleasing in your yard. Here are just a few herbs and flowers that can help repel insects, produce flowers to add to your home, herbs to add to your cooking and beauty to your already existing garden.

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Lavender; for centuries it's been used for its fragrance. It should be planted in the sunny areas of your yard and areas that will you wish to be pest free. When dried and made into sachets, lavender makes a wonderful repellent against moths. 

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Lemon Balm; another mosquito repellent, grows well in this area, can be utilized dried as tea and is a lovely leafy plant that loves the sun. Though it is from the mint family is doesn't spread by underground runners, but rather by seed. It's best to trim down a few times during the growing season to prevent it from seeding and getting out of control.

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Marigolds; beautiful and in all types of varieties. Their distinctive aroma not only repels mosquitoes, but aphids, white flies and cabbage maggots. Marigolds are often used in companion gardening for just this reason. You want plants to work for you especially if they have these extra benefits for the gardener.

Lemon Basil; this variety of basil seems to be the favorite to repel mosquitoes. There are many different varieties of basil available. It wouldn't be summer without fresh basil and tomatoes or fresh pesto. Lucky for us, pesky insects are repelled by it's wonderful aroma no matter which variety you choose.

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Chrysanthemum; incredible colors and a truly hardy plant, bringing color to any flower arrangement. It produces pyrethrum which is a very effective bug repellent. Use as a companion plant to discourage aphids, leafhoppers, spider mites, ticks among others.  Tolerates high heat and early chills of fall.

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Lemongrass;  a close cousin to Citronella. Lemongrass is a natural repellent because it has a high geraniol and citral content. It can be applied directly to the skin by crushing the base of the stalk until the inside is mushy pulp. Twist and squeeze the oils directly to the skin. Another plus, it makes a great tea.

So, this is just a few of the herbs and flowers that help repel insects. Granted, if you are being overpowered by mosquitoes there may be other problems in your garden or patio. The big one is standing water....get rid of it! Just a small cap full of standing water enables mosquitoes to bred and make your life miserable. Below, I've added a few recipes for natural insect repellent that I found on the web. It might be worth trying it out...at least you'll smell like a million bucks!

 

HOMEMADE CITRONELLA SPRAY
1/2 cup distilled water
1/8 teaspoon Epsom salt
1/2 cup witch hazel
10 drops citronella essential oil
10 drops lemon eucalyptus essential oil
10 drops lemongrass essential oil
5 drops tea tree essential oil
5 drops cedar wood essential oil

DIRECTIONS: Pour the water into an 8oz plastic spray bottle. Add the Epsom salt and shake until the salt is dissolved. Pour in the witch hazel. Add the essential oils. Ready to use.

 

HOMEMADE CITRONELLA LOTION
2 to 2 1/2 tbsp emulsifying wax
1/2 tsp stearic acid (a plant-based stabilizer)
1/3 cup (75ml) grapeseed oil
1/2 cup distilled water or lavender floral water
1 teaspoon (5ml) vitamin E
10 drops grapefruit seed extract
10 drops citronella essential oil
10 drops lemon eucalyptus essential oil
10 drops lemongrass essential oil

DIRECTIONS: Stir grapeseed oil, emulsifying wax and stearic acid in the top part of a double boiler, warming slowly over a low heat until the wax is completely melted. Remove from heat and pour in the Vitamin E. In a separate pot on the stove, gently warm the water just until lukewarm. Slowly pour the water into the oil, stirring constantly with a wire whisk until the mixture is thick, cream-colored and smooth. Let cool slightly. Stir in the essential oils and the grapefruit seed extract. Pour the homemade bug repellent lotion into a clean, sterilized 8oz (250ml) dark glass or P.E.T. plastic bottle and allow it to cool before putting the lid on. Shake the bottle occasionally as the lotion cools to prevent the ingredients from separating. Store in a cool, dark place.

 

 

Garden Whimsy

For June, our newsletter will be short and sweet. With just a little imagination and maybe some help from Pinterest, you can create an outdoor paradise. Your garden can become your escape to tranquility and solitude, a place for reflection and meditation or simply a place of whimsical delight. The following photos are just a few examples...

Fairy Light Watering Can

Fairy Light Watering Can

Recycle and paint an old bike for a planter

Recycle and paint an old bike for a planter

Stained glass bicycle wheel garden spinner

Stained glass bicycle wheel garden spinner

Landscaping posts sharpened in to colored pencils

Landscaping posts sharpened in to colored pencils

A garden easel...

A garden easel...

A fairy house tucked away at the base of a tree. I've seen a wide variety available for sale on Etsy.

A fairy house tucked away at the base of a tree. I've seen a wide variety available for sale on Etsy.

Brighten an old shed with colorful flowers made from plates and garden hose stems

Brighten an old shed with colorful flowers made from plates and garden hose stems

I love this! Garden mats made from old garden hoses and zip ties...genius!

I love this! Garden mats made from old garden hoses and zip ties...genius!

Put those marbles to good use!

Put those marbles to good use!

Terra cotta pagoda pots

Terra cotta pagoda pots

Paint dead tree branches for color...

Paint dead tree branches for color...

Using E6000 silicone, glue copper pennies to a bowling ball. Make sure to bring it inside during the winter though.

Using E6000 silicone, glue copper pennies to a bowling ball. Make sure to bring it inside during the winter though.

Something fun to do with your kids!

Something fun to do with your kids!

Who knew saws could look so dramatic.

Who knew saws could look so dramatic.

This is so clever ... I wish I had somewhere to do this!

This is so clever ... I wish I had somewhere to do this!

Succulents in an old birdbath ... beautiful.

Succulents in an old birdbath ... beautiful.

Garden tool trellis

Garden tool trellis

Thrift store finds ... old bud vases and dishes

Thrift store finds ... old bud vases and dishes

A different kind of garden border

A different kind of garden border

Second life for these rain boots

Second life for these rain boots

Well, there are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing. There is no need to go into any expense. Hit a few thrift stores or see what's been hiding in the garage. Make your garden your own, you'll only have the summer to enjoy it.

Pallet Gardening

Garden envy? You want one, you need one, but where? Maybe you live in an apartment or simply don't have the backyard space. Try pallet gardening. It's a great alternative to traditional gardening and a chance get creative in limited spaces.

Raised pallet garden

Raised pallet garden

With pallet gardening, you have options. Live in a balcony apartment? Try hanging your pallet vertically for a growing wall. Limited yard space? Place pallets horizontally on the ground as part of your landscaping. For raised beds, multiple pallets can be stacked, or as in the photo above, placed on sawhorses. 

Horizontal pallet garden

Horizontal pallet garden

Pallet gardening is easy and all you need are a few basic tools and supplies.

  • Shipping pallet
  • landscape cloth (3' X 50')
  • crowbar
  • hammer
  • utility knife
  • sandpaper
  • 4 mounting brackets (for vertical pallet)
  • potting soil
  • plants

To start, find your perfect pallet. Personally, I suggest using a new, clean, fresh pallet, but you can buy used. In either case make sure your pallet has been heat treated. There will be a (HT) stamp somewhere on the pallet. Also, if going with a used pallet, look for stains. You can never be sure of what chemicals were stored on an old pallet. You want your pallet to be as clean as possible and free from rusty nails and staples. It might be a good idea to scrub your pallet with a light bleach solution to get rid of any bacteria, especially if planting edibles.

Kansas City has several companies that offer new and used pallets. Here are just a few....

Look for HT stamp

Look for HT stamp

Kansas City Pallets
Specialty Lumber Solutions
1301 E. 31st Street
Kansas City, MO 64109
Phone: (816) 506-4131

Midwest Pallet
1161 S. 12th St.
Kansas City, KS 66105-1614
Phone: (913) 371-3555

Keep in mind that Craigslist is a great source for free pallets as well as businesses near your home. Remember, look for that (HT) stamp!

Here's a video that walks you through the process. There are several ways to make a pallet garden, but this is my favorite.

Mounted vertical pallet garden

Mounted vertical pallet garden

 If you've decided your pallet will be hung vertically, make sure to consider the weight of a fully planted pallet after watering. It can be quit heavy so choose the right mounting brackets and a solid location on which to hang. Attach the mounting brackets in place before you add the weight of the soil and plants. After you've added plants to your pallet, keep it horizontal for a few days and water thoroughly. Add more soil as it settles. Once the soil has settled, hang your pallet and monitor it closely. Water frequently, especially the bottom half of the pallet gets the driest.

Vertical pallet garden wall

Vertical pallet garden wall

There it is...easy peasy. 

For more ideas on pallet gardening and other pallet projects, check out Pinterest. You'll wonder why you didn't think of this sooner!

 

Deep Summer Tips

Summer is here, however, as I write, Kansas City will be experiencing record low temperatures, a summertime version of last winter's "Polar Vortex". When the heat does arrive, it can take a toll on your lawn and garden. So far this summer, Kansas City has been fortunate with rainfall, but we've been waiting for the other shoe to drop … and when it does, here are some helpful tips to get you through. 

  • Water … do it early in the morning. Plants will be more receptive in the coolness of the morning and there will be less evaporation. Try to avoid watering in the evening to prevent mold and fungus growth. Also, a deep, penetrating soaking is much more effective than surface watering which can create shallow root systems and can stress lawns and gardens in time of drought . A good rule of thumb is an inch of water a week.
Water deeply, early in the morning

Water deeply, early in the morning

  • Mulch … this is a great way to keep plant roots cool during the heat of the day. Mulch is also an excellent way to retain moisture in the soil. There are a variety of mulches you can use such as grass clippings or chopped leaves. Some folks even use cardboard or newspaper, but I personally find it unattractive in the garden. The decorative wood mulches provide an attractive landscape and are effective in retaining moisture and preventing weeds. Also, as mulch decomposes it will add other beneficial nutrients to your soil. 
Janice uses pine bark mulch in her garden.

Janice uses pine bark mulch in her garden.

  • Deadheading … get the most out of your flowering plants by deadheading. You will extend your plant's life and allow it to produce more flowers all summer long. So, after the blooms have died and faded, simply pinch or snip the dead blooms off the plant. If done daily, it won't take any time at all.
Pinch or snip dead and faded blooms.

Pinch or snip dead and faded blooms.

  • Mowing … raise the cutting height on you mower to its highest level, no shorter than 3-1/2". Taller grass is more drought resistant and will grow deeper roots which are able to handle stress better. Mow regularly and don't wait till your grass gets too high because the clippings can smother your grass. An industry standard is not to cut more than 1/3 of the grass blades. As you do this, don't bag them. Let the clippings fall back onto the lawn for added nutrients. Also, don't mow in the heat of the day as the heat can burn your lawn.
Raise mower blade and let clippings fall.

Raise mower blade and let clippings fall.

Well, these are just a few tips for the deep summer. If you're new to gardening, I hope this helps. If you've been gardening awhile and have any gardening tips, please, feel free to share. 

Till next time … see ya!