Posts in Garden Economizing
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...

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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.

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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?