Seed Sprouting Success

DSC_0894Chances are you have everything at your finger tips for creating perfect seed sprouting success. Sprouting seeds yourself is economical and expands your ability to grow many more varieties.

Materials Needed: 1) Saved plastic tubs with lids and with bottom holes for drainage. Fruit such as berries are often store-packaged in these containers. 2) Potting soil, or seed starting medium. 3) Desired seeds to sprout. 4) A handy chopstick, to make a hole or indention for your seeds. 5) Label gun to label your seeds started and the date. 6) Spray bottle with plain water to mist your seeds in soil medium. 7) Safe place with filtered sun exposure. 8) Time and patience.

I started my saved heirloom pumpkin seeds this way. I simply picked out my desired size plastic tub container. I filled each tub with moistened seed starting medium. I took a chopstick and made my number of desired holes in each tub for my seeds. I then filled each hole with a different heirloom pumpkin seed, and covered the seed over with soil. Once again, I misted each tub again. If you create a label and date for each tub containing seeds, you'll always know what you planted where and when. I keep the container lid closed, as it acts like a mini-greenhouse creating warmth and keeping in extra moisture for your seeds. This further helps germinate your seeds. I placed each tub in a filtered sun spot, in this case, in my potting shed. Every morning I opened the lid of the tub, and misted the seed starting medium, and closed the lid once more.

In about 8 days my pumpkin seeds had germinated and were too tall for me to close their lids. My pumpkin seedlings were now ready to be transplanted to shaped mounds in the ground. Since I started my seeds in my outdoor potting shed, they are already to be planted in the ground. If you had started seeds in your garage or an indoor environment, you might have to include the step of hardening off, or gradually acclimating your delicate seedlings to the outdoors for small periods of time before actually planting them in the ground.

Here is a fun link for more information on starting seeds, Seed Starting For Real People by Kelly Roberson. She suggests starting seeds in an empty egg carton, as an alternative to plastic containers. Roberson also includes a handy chart for Best and Worst Seeds to Sow Indoors and Outdoors. Thanks Kelly for sharing.

Please comment if you have a favorite method for seed starting success. Please share your favorite seeds to start yourself.

Composting with Grape Pomace

DSC_0971 I'm a firm believer in backyard composting. I love the idea of recycling what you have from your own garden, property, and kitchen scrapes into your own personal compost recipe. It is especially important to compost when you have backyard chickens. In fact, I really delve into this subject of backyard composting and backyard chickens in my book, Gardening with Free-Range Chickens for Dummies. See also my previous post, How To Compost In Your Backyard.

I call backyard composting a personal compost recipe of your life, because it is the layering of greens and browns, essentially by-products of your cooking, gardening, and property which create this custom compost mixture. My husband, John, and I have a small backyard vineyard. We use the grape pomace in our compost each fall. Grape pomace is the skins, seeds, and stems of the vineyard grapes after the wine making process. Grapes are a form of green or the fire that heats up the compost mixture, where the browns such as our chicken bedding, or rice hulls is considered the browns and fuel for the compost. Grape pomace heats up our compost to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, an incredible temperature for a backyard compost mixture. Composting with our grape pomace creates a rich organic material called humus, which will go back into our garden soil, and flowerbeds.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to visit Annie's Annuals and Perennials with my fellow garden bloggers attending the three day San Francisco Fling. One of the highlights of this three day adventure was Richmond east bay nursery, Annie's Annuals and Perennials. If you are ever in the Bay Area, make a visit to Annie's Annuals. A truly incredible nursery. Plants can be purchased online and shipped, too. While visiting Annie's Annuals, I noticed a sign and display, that grape pomace is one of her favorite compost materials.


This was the middle of summer, and not Halloween, as this sassy and colorful mannequin greeted you at the nursery entrance. I can only imagine how she is costumed this week, two days before Halloween!


Annie and I know a good thing, composted grape pomace. Try contacting your local vineyards in the fall, for possible sources of grape pomace. It is a great way to enjoy the colorful autumn season, maybe have a quick wine tasting, and purchase wonderful grape pomace for your backyard composting.

Omega-3 Chicken Forage Blend

Starting PVFS Omega-3 Chicken Forage Blend in Garden Flats In doing research for my upcoming new book, Gardening with Free-Range Chickens For Dummies (For Dummies (Home & Garden)) with coauthor Rob Ludlow of BackYard Chickens, I stumbled across Peaceful Vally Farm Supply's Omega-3 Chicken Forage Blend. What a find!

This organic forage blend is a real treat for your hens. It is available in 1 pound to 1,000 pound quantities. You can grow in it on a large scale in a pasture, in your garden, in a chicken run or zone, or even in 17" garden flats like I did.  Warning, Peaceful Vally Farm Supply recommends not grazing horses on this mixture. Flax can form prussic acid when exposed to frost.

This forage blend is a warm season crop in mild climates, and can be sowed after danger of frost in cooler climates. It needs regular irrigation, and most likely needs to be replanted each year. Keep your seeds moist, and your chickens away from this blend until it is the desired height for your chickens. Surprisingly, seeds germinate immediately, and in less than two weeks time is 3" to 5" high, the perfect height for chickens to graze.

In 2 weeks time, the forage blend is ready to be given to your chickens.

Peaceful Vally Farm Supply has refined this unique forage blend from their own expertise, feedback from backyard poultry enthusiasts, and university research. This blend consists of alfalfa, buckwheat, clover, flax, millet, rye, and rye grass. Feeding your chickens this forage blend ensures their eggs will be rich in Omega-3  fatty acids, an important component of a healthy diet for those eating their eggs.

My happy hens love this forage blend, and your chickens will too

My chickens go crazy for this blend as you can see in the photo. Most chickens devour the blend before the plants can set seed. Peaceful Valley Farm Supply tells me you can try and grow this forage blend in a raised bed with a protective wire over it to keep your chickens from eating it roots, and all. With the protective wire, the grass might have time to replenish itself, if you keep your chickens away from it as regrowth begins.This blend is not only great for chickens, but ducks and turkeys,too.

If you order the Omega-3 Chicken Forage Blend from Peaceful Vally Farm Supply for your chickens, be sure and tell them VintageGardenGal recommended it.

Simple Country Bouquet from the Garden

Besides growing your own edibles, it is a great idea to grow your own flowers for bouquets. Here is a simple country bouquet idea for an event I had this spring.

Flowers. My perennial sweet peas were abundant and in bloom. I have written about my lovely perennial sweet peas in more detail, Perennial Sweet Peas. Perennial sweet peas are easy to grow, bloom spring to summer, and return year and year. Perennial sweet peas are one suggestion. Let your garden dictate your bouquet.

Vessel. I collected Bulgarian yogurt jars back in the seventies. When traveling through Bulgaria, yogurt was sold in these simple-shaped wide mouth jars. Such a nice size, and an appealing shape. You can use any vessel you have on hand. Try using vessels which appeal to you and are a little out of the ordinary.

Embellishment. These Bulgarian jars are clear. For fun, and a little color, I lined the jars with peppermint geranium leaves. These leaves are very soft and fuzzy. They hold up well in water for several days. The leaves are the prettiest "Ireland" green which is fabulous with the various pinks of the perennial sweet peas. I could have added a pretty ribbon, or glass balls at the bottom of the jars.

In a way, this simple country bouquet from my garden is exactly what my dear friend, Debra Prinzing, and her photographer, David E. Perry, are trying to convey in their new book, The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers. Following after the "Slow Food" movement, Prinzing and Perry introduce us to the "Slow Flower" movement. Do you know where your flowers are grown? When they were harvested? If chemicals were used to grow them? Prinzing and Perry introduce us to local organic flower growers, gathering, and ultimate "Slow Flower" design. Using fresh flowers out of our own gardens is one easy step in this direction.

Please share if you are aware of local organic flower growers in your area? Please share if you create your own organic flower bouquets out of your own garden.

Handmade Garden Projects

Seattle-based freelance garden writer, author, blogger, and new editor of Pacific Horticulture, Lorene Edwards Forkner, has an exciting new book out called Handmade Garden Projects.

Swinging through Southern California on a recent speaker circuit, Lorene had time to give a special hands-on demonstration and sell some of her "hot" books. Lorene demonstrated her Galvanized Wire Plant Support craft to my enthusiastic garden friends. It was a beautiful Monday morning, and there under my Torrey pine, she crafted a wire garden cloche from 36" galvanized wire fencing. Lorene's wit and humor was "icing on the cake" as she maneuvered through her demo. Thanks Lorene!

Lorene has been a special friend of mine for several years now. Last summer as part of "Seattle Fling" (a national garden blogging event) I attended, and Lorene helped organize, I had a chance to visit Lorene's special garden. There, I saw first hand many of the projects created and photographed for Handmade Garden Projects.

There are  33 projects in this book, with two options to every project, which makes a total of 99 potential projects you can make. Her book is cleverly organized into six chapters, such as "The Ground Floor" and "Supporting Acts." Each garden project is beautifully photographed and detailed in easy-to-follow steps. True to my own heart, Lorene embraces eco-friendly salvaging and re-purposing for these projects. Above all, she urges us all to "Go outside--it's a nice day!"

Publisher, Timber Press is hosting a Handmade Garden Projects Blog Tour this week with several other participating garden blogs. I invite you to visit these fab gardening blogs from all over the country, and read more about what they have to say about the talented Lorene Edwards Forkner, and her new book.

Organize Your Garden Shed

Now is a great time to get organized in the New Year.  Besides the usual closets, pantry, and garage, don't forget about organizing your garden sheds , too. A neat and organized garden shed will help ensure you have a healthy, productive, and thriving garden.

Take a look at this garden shed, from a client of Karen Contreras of Urban Plantations. Urban Plantations is a design and maintenance of edible landscape for an urban environment in the Greater San Diego area.

Check List for Your Garden Shed: 1) A garden shed should be clean, and well lit. The door opening is big enough to move bulky tools and bags around easily. 2) Keep a huge calendar to jot down, when seeds and seedlings were planted, harvest dates, and important days to remember. 3) A huge white board, keeps your "To Do" list visible and on track. 4) A cork board keeps important charts and papers in place, and easily accessible. 5) A place to hang a garden hat and coat is a must.

6) Garden tools are clean, organized, and hung up on a wall. 7) Sturdy shelving provides space and organization for garden products.

Take a cue from this garden shed, and start your gardening year on the right "hoe." Please share if you have a garden shed for your tools, equipment, and products. Please comment how you organize your garden shed.

Incompatible Vegetable Pairings

I saw this "Bad Bedfellows List"  in Troy-Bilt's  Great Gardens, 6th Edition, Garden Hints, Tips, and Techniques, and wanted to share it with all of you. Not all vegetables coexist well when planted side by side, in a friendly vegetable garden.

Have you ever witnessed a friend's or neighbor's "picture perfect" vegetable garden. They are probably incorporating the vegetable garden techniques of crop rotation, successive planting, inter-planting, and oh yes, compatibility likes and dislikes when growing vegetables.

Generally speaking, plants of the same "plant family" will grow and thrive together. Below, is an informal list of vegetables that are "imperfect pairings" and should not be grown in close proximity to each other.

Incompatible Pairings: Asparagus and Garlic Beans and Onions Beets and Beans Broccoli and Beans Cabbage and Strawberries Carrots and Celery Corn and Tomatoes Onions and Peas Potatoes and Tomatoes

If you are curious for more information and a source on plant compatibility, read  Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte.

Glossary Crop Rotation. Rotating your vegetables to a different spot or bed in your vegetable garden. Avoid growing the same vegetable in the same spot each year. An example is tomatoes.

Successive Planting. Planting the same crops in timed intervals, allowing for a longer harvest of one particular crop. An example is lettuce.

Inter-planting. Planting compatible vegetables with different maturing times, space requirements. An example is the Native American Indian technique called "Three Sisters" comprised of planting corn, beans, and squash together.

Please share if you are aware of incompatible vegetable plant pairings. Please comment if you use these techniques for better vegetable growing and yield.


VintageGardenGal Tidbit Thyme....

VintageGardenGal, a garden lifestyle blog, is celebrating it's third anniversary this month! Fab Sponsor, ORGIN DAY SPA in the San Diego, California area, is offering 20% off of services for a limited time, when you mention "VintageGardenGal" at time of scheduling.

Thank you everyone for your interest and support. See you in the garden!

Beauty in Burlap

Beauty in Burlap When my husband and I remodeled a year ago, I carved out a perfect office and workshop area in a single car garage. With the addition of our new master bedroom wing, it created this small, private, very intimate garden room which I can look out and access from my office and workshop. I planted a Podocarpus hedge along the north fence on one side, a row of espaliered Silver Wave Camellias along the stucco wing on the south side, and the third side was my very old working garden shed to the west.

In the middle of this garden room, I created a pea gravel square edged with dwarf Euonymus and placed my vintage garden baby fountain smack in the middle. My garden baby fountain, see Everyone Loves a "Garden Baby"  finally had a permanent home, after years of transit traveling around my garden.

The reason I'm describing all of this in detail is because I had an unappealing open door and side of my garden shed which desperately needed some sprucing up. The answer was burlap, the reasonable landscape burlap which has incredible texture, durability, and vintage-like appeal. This is another idea for garden economizing--reasonable landscape burlap as a material. If you don't know about it, you must look for it at your garden and landscape centers. I find my burlap locally at Grangetto's. You can also be creative and re-purpose coffee burlap bags.

I created a small vignette with an old warped wood table, matching symmetrical pots, a pair of young cypress trees for height, and blue-gray shutters for interest and color repetition.  I pulled out my "dusty but trusty" sewing machine, and loosely measured my spaces as everything was uneven. Presto, a working burlap curtain door, and a sweet table skirt for my table. I secured hidden dowels to hang the burlap for my shed opening and table. I also dug out one of my old hooks, and placed it on the side of my shed for a quick way to hold up the burlap curtain door when I needed the large opening.

What a difference, and what beauty in this burlap. Think of this landscape burlap material when you have a project where it might conveniently lend itself. Please share if you use this burlap material already in your garden. Please comment on creative ways you have worked with this burlap.


Mailbox Delivers Garden Tools

I love going on garden tours because there is always something new I learn, something new I've never seen, something clever someone has done with their garden.

On a recent garden tour this spring, this was the case, with the garden owner using a mailbox to store her garden hand tools. Look closely and you can see the whimsical "bluebird blue" mailbox, which is now functioning as a safe haven for garden tools.

This garden which has been in the making for over twenty years, is simply gorgeous to mention first, with meandering paths, and filled to the brim with mass plantings of roses, native shrubs, vines, and trees. There is no place for a potting or storage shed in the middle of this garden. The garden owner blended and styled a mailbox into her garden, so as to save steps, and have her tools handy.

This is all about garden economizing. Saving your energy to reach for the mailbox to deadhead that rose, rather than running all over. Hand tools are close by, and stored together when they are needed. It is the concept that I want to point out to you. You can adapt this concept to your style and garden.

Yes, that is Larry Himmel, a local news celebrity, in the garden. His crew was filming this delightful garden the same day. Please share if you have a special container to keep your garden hand tools. Please comment on where you store your tools for your garden.

VintageGardenGal Tidbit Thyme...

Attention Chicken Lovers! Spruce up your chicken coop for VintageGardenGal's Annual Chicken Coop Photo Contest. Send in your photos this month to

Wine Box Container Gardening

On the recent tour of this year's Encinitas Garden Festival, one of the private gardens had a beautiful white-picket fence enclosing an immaculate raised bed vegetable garden. Adjacent to the vegetable garden was an open area with a pathway and fruit trees. In addition, there was a fabulous focal point of creative staggered containers, using wine boxes, galvanized tubs, and burlap bags. Something so simple, with a "wow" factor. It is structural, functional, beautiful, clever, and unique all in one. Hats off to this homeowner, and their herb garden.

This is reminiscent of an idea in Rosalind Creasy's new book, Edible Landscaping, where she describes how to stagger and arrange different size half-wine barrels for a perfect container grouping.

Most of these containers can be found in local farm and garden supply stores, such as Grangettos, Home Depot, or even flea markets for the weathered and rusty look. Look around your garage, sheds, utility areas for possible containers you might already have. Wine boxes can be found at wine shops, wineries, and friends who are in wine clubs.

It is still important to create holes for drainage in the case of the galvanzied tubs, and line the wooden wine boxes with heavy plastic, small rocks for drainage, and then your preferred soil. Eventually burlap bags will break down exposed to weather elements, but will hold up through a few seasons. Gardener's burlap is strong, yet very reasonable, coming in ready-sewn bags, or longer sheets of material.

With very little expense, and a lot of creativity, you might be able to create a unique container focal point in your garden, too.

VintageGardenGal Tidbit Thyme...

Attention Chicken Lovers! Spruce up your chicken coop for VintageGardenGal's Annual Chicken Coop Photo Contest. Send in your photos this month to

Feed Your Blueberry Bushes Coffee Grinds

Just-Picked Blueberries In Vintage Berry Basket Home-grown blueberries were recently highlighted in a post written by Sharon Cohoon, Sunset senior garden writer at Sunset's creative garden blog, Fresh Dirt, Fruit For Your Cereal In One Container. Her words reinforced my own experience growing blueberries, and especially for every syrah grape grower, one must not miss the mentioned recipe, "Blueberries in Black Pepper Syrah Syrup."

Blueberries have a lot going for them. The bush itself is extremely attractive and has year-round foliage interest. In the fall, some blueberry bush varieties turn autumn hues. Its berries are hailed as a super antioxidant food, which destroy harmful free radicals in your body. Blueberries are delicious, beautiful, and versatile in our diet. Blueberries are great in your cereal for breakfast, as Sharon Cohoon mentions, add flavor to breakfast breads and muffins, add surprise in summer salads, and are a crowd pleaser in desserts such as cobblers, crisps, and home-made ice cream.

Here are some economizing tips that have helped me grow happy blueberry bushes. Plant your blueberry bushes in a large container. Look for halved used wine barrels on sale. When planting, be sure and use a large portion of peat moss in each container. Make sure your blueberry bushes are in a sunny area, and give them moderate water.

Plant at least two different types of blueberry varieties, specific to your climate zone, for a better abundant crop over all. Look for possible bare root blueberry varieties available for sale during the winter season. I currently have Oneal and Misty varieties.

Blueberry bushes are acid-loving plants. Until recently, I would add cottonseed meal to my blueberry bushes for acidity, but now I regularly sprinkle used coffee grinds for the same purpose, at the base of my bushes and mixed thoroughly into the soil. Just be careful not to over do it. This was a hot tip from a blueberry specialist at the local farmer's market.

Are you growing blueberry bushes now? Please share with us what variety has worked best for you? Please comment on your personal tips for growing blueberry bushes.

Summer Economizing Tips For Roses

Tournament of Roses, Grandiflora Tree Roses How many of you have heard of Heirloom Roses? They are a year-round mail order rose grower, 25 miles outside of Portland, Oregon in the pristine Willamette Valley. Their roses are virus-free and grown on their own root. Not only do they have a thick "picture perfect" rose catalog available for sale, they showcase 1,500 rose varieties at their on site display gardens. Worth a visit if you are in the area. Last June on a "garden touring" trip to Portland, my friends and I had the opportunity to stop at Heirloom Roses for a visit and spontaneous tour by their "chief rose grower". Besides the lovely tour, she shared with us a few summer tips for roses.

One of the best tips she mentioned, and one I had never heard before was, feed alfalfa to your roses in the summer for a boost. Head over to your local feed store, rather than favorite garden center, and buy a 10lb or 25lb bag of rabbit pellet food, depending on how many rose bushes you have.

The main ingredient in rabbit food is alfalfa, and it is a lot cheaper to feed the base of your roses with 1-2 handfuls of rabbit food, than purchasing alfalfa meal supplement. As alfalfa breaks down it creates an organic fatty alcohol called triacontanol. Roses in particular, respond very favorably to triacontanol by forming new basal breaks and ensuing new growth.

Be sure and work in the rabbit food thoroughly around the base of your rose. You don't want to tempt the rabbits in your garden with your roses. Follow up by watering thoroughly, and observe how your roses respond. Alfalfa will give your roses a nice natural boost, and another mass flowering through the summer. I tried it, and it and my roses responded beautifully.

In my research to confirm the benefits of alfalfa for roses, I read where rabbit food is not recommended for roses because of its high sugar content. There is a pricing delta between "alfalfa for gardeners" and "alfalfa for rabbits". Returning to my bag of rabbit food for a closer look, I found alfalfa listed as the first ingredient, and amongst 33 other listed ingredients, cane molasses and corn syrup were listed last, so I wasn't convinced that sugar was present in a large amount. If you purchase rabbit pellet food, take a quick look at the list of ingredients. Alfalfa should be first, and some form of sugar if listed at all, towards the end.

Another tip to share with you, is look for "end of summer" rose discount specials. Nurseries and retailers are eager to pass savings on to consumers, and often have wonderful prices to move inventory. Keep your eye open for these specials. Plant your new roses at the end of summer, beginning of fall, and be one step ahead of the winter "bare root rose season" for one-half to two-thirds of normal pricing.

Do you have any summer rose tips to share? What are your favorite roses in your garden, and why?

Let Your Sunflowers Go To Seed

Drop Dead Red Sunflowers This is a new category first called "Garden Economizing", which will offer you wonderful economic and often ecological tips to save you money in your garden, yet enhancing your garden.

Do you grow sunflowers in the summer for flower arrangements? For a dramatic look in the garden? To feed the birds? Yes, sunflowers can become a living bird feeder in your garden....and for a seed packet price.

Two summers ago, I bought the seed packet Drop Dead Red Sunflowers from the Botanical Interests seed company, out of Broomfield, Colorado. See "Meet A Magnificent Mustard", at VintageGardenGal for a previous mention of Botanical Interests seed company. It is a big seed packet for $5.49, net weight 4 grams. Normally, I don't spend that much on seed packets, but their illustration and description lured me in. These "Drop Dead Red Sunflowers" are a beautiful array of various reds, burgundy, and yellow 4'-5' tall sunflowers. Perfect for fall.

I planted my entire "Drop Dead Red Sunflower" seed packet last summer, and they were beautiful in bloom. I let them dry, and go to seed. This spring, some of last year's "Drop Dead Red Sunflowers", reseeded once again, and began another growing season. I was thrilled. After enjoying their long-lasting blooms, I again let these sunflowers dry, and go to seed. This summer, I was rewarded with numerous eye-catching goldfinch every morning feasting in their usual manner, upside down on the bobbing sunflowers.

So for my $5.95 seed packet investment, I have had two growing seasons of sunflowers, and counting, and enough free wonderful natural sunflower seed for my delightful goldfinches to enjoy for a couple of weeks. It is important to note, that In your zone, in your garden, you will attract native wildlife birds to your garden that might not necessarily be goldfinches.

I also hang a year-round goldfinch feeder in our plum tree, for the pure enjoyment of watching these fascinating birds. I regularly fill it up with nyjer seed, a favorite goldfinch seed. Keeping our goldfinch feeder filled can add up, so it helps to supplement their food source with goregous sunflowers grown in the garden.

Add your thoughts, do you grow something special for your wildlife birds to enjoy? Do you have bird feeders in your garden? Do you think letting some of your plants go to seed for the birds, attracts unusual birds to your garden?