Wednesday, October 16, 2013

natural fertilizers versus store-bought

Natural organic fertilizers versus store-bought

I use to be one of those people that bought their fertilizer ( manure) at the store. I believe like everybody else, that store-bought fertilizer didn't have any weeds. Not once did I stop to think, that it did not matter. The wind, birds and other animals do a very good job of spreading seeds. After a year of not using any fertilizer, I noticed that I did not get any better results. I still got weeds in my garden and it did not produce any more or any less than when I fertilized with store-bought fertilizer.
    This last year I finally took my father's advice and used real manure from a farm. As you can see from the photo above, my father produced a bumper crop of over-sized banana squash.What was interesting, is that I got similar results , and just as many weeds. I do not know what they put in store-bought fertilizers but as far as I'm concerned they're worth next to nothing. I will never buy store-bought fertilizer ever again. Cow manure seems to work the best. I tried chicken manure and it seemed to burn anything I put it on, no matter how small an amount I used. I am trying the chicken manure on my compost in hopes of reducing how hot the manure seems to be. Worm castings works really good but is expensive if you have a large garden like mine. Raising your own worms would probably be cheaper. Rabbit manure also works very good and if you put your worm beds under the rabbit pens you get two for the price of one.
    The true test of a healthy soil is simple, pick it up in your hands and smell it. It should feel good and natural and have a nice smell to it. If it smells like chemicals you can bet there are no organisms alive in the soil and it is pretty much dead. The problem with chemical-based fertilizers is that it does not stay in the soil. It ends up in the plants you grow and in the water you drink. It kills the good bacteria and organisms as well as the bad. We need to stop buying into the illusions and lies of chemical companies and corporations that only want to make money at any cost.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

DIY solar lighted stepping stones

How to make solar lighted stepping stones.

[note:  The glass used in this project is not safety glass and can break under certain conditions. If rocks or other objects strike the glass with sufficient force it is possible for the glass to break creating sharp edges and unsafe conditions. The author of this blog is not responsible for misuse or persons not taking do care and it's information is intended for conceptual purposes only. A plexiglass version is described at the end of this blog if you are concerned about glass breakage]
To make your mold  cut off the bottom of a 5 gallon plastic bucket. (note: do not throw away the upper half as it can be used to be used to protect plants and other things, but that is for another blog.) Using a ruler or tri-square cut 3 inches off the bottom of the bucket. This should give you a mold that is 2 1/2 inches to 3 inches deep. Steppingstones need to be at least 2 inches thick in order to support your weight. Be sure and spray a mold release such as vegetable oil on the inside of your mold.(note; do not spray the glass jar as you want the cement stick to the jar. you may even want to sand the outside edges to make the cement stick better, but do not sand the bottom.) Be sure and select jars that are wide-mouth and large enough and deep enough to fit your solar light inside of before you pour the cement.
 Once your cement is poured (mortar mix works best - NO ROCKS ) be sure and tap the edges to remove air bubbles. Wipe any cement sticking to the edges of the lid, as you'll want to remove the lid later. Let your cement set overnight to cure and your stones should be easily removed from the mold. Be sure and take care as the cement will not be completely cured as yet and the stones are still fragile. If it does not easily remove from the mold, then allow the cement to cure a little longer. Once they are out of the mold set them in a tub of water or keep damp inside a plastic bag for at least 5 to 6 days to finish curing. The slower cement cures (dries), the stronger the cement.

I used these glass ball solar lights. The LED is mounted on top of the solar cell, which makes them perfect for this project. Using gloves, safety glasses and a screwdriver I carefully pry off the glass ball. Work the screwdriver down the edges loosening any glue and then twisting the screwdriver to pry the glass ball loose. Discard or save for another project the glass ball and tube stand.
                                         Remove your lid from the glass jar. Using a Styrofoam ball I cut off the bottom of the ball to create a flat surface and cut a hole in the center of the ball to mount the solar light in. (Any piece of Styrofoam will work as long as it holds the solar light up right.) I used a low temp hot glue gun as I wanted to be able to remove the solar light if I needed to make repairs. I glue the flat bottom to the inside of the jar lid and tack the solar light to the Styrofoam ball to hold it in place while it is being assembled.            
Once you have your stone assembled, you are ready to set the stone in the ground. Select a site that is free of rocks and other debris. Rocks and other debris could score the glass causing it to break or cause uneven pressure on the stone itself and break the steppingstone. Digg a depression large enough for the stone itself (about a 1/2 inch deep) and a small depression slightly smaller than the diameter of the jar and slightly deeper than the depth of your jar in the center to accommodate the glass jar. Be sure and do not set the stone too deep as you do not want the stone to become buried. Move the stone around slightly and tamp the soil firmly making sure the stone is set firmly and does not rock back and forth. Uneven pressure on the stone could cause it to break, so it is very important that the stone is set firmly before you put your full weight on the stone.
So there you have it, solar lighted steppingstones to light your path or just add accent to your garden or landscaping.
If solar lights are not your thing or you just want to add color to your stones then a low voltage system may be what you want. The diagram below shows how you might use wine bottles cut in half to make your lighted stepping stones.

You could also use a light set like this and clear bottles to get colored lights. ( note: make sure lights are rated for being buried or exposed to moisture ) or you could paint transparent paint,, nail polish or colored marker on your solar LED.

All in all each solar steppingstone costs about $2-$3 to make as opposed to buying a similar solar lighted stone costing $50 or more. 
     In addition, you could make one using 1/4 inch plexiglass and PVC pipe if you're concerned about glass breakage and still not cost more than five dollars each. Simply cut circles out of your plexiglass the same diameter as the pipe being used. Use a threaded pipe cap on one end and glue your plexiglass circle on the other end.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Drip systems home made DIY.

Homemade drip emitters / systems

The four plex emitter connector on the left is a commercial connector that is usually fairly expensive.
The multiplex emitter connector on the right is my homemade version. It is made from a flexible riser and PVC cap and regular drip connectors. The advantage is that I can connect as many connectors as I need and replace them if they get broke. The cost is usually much less than that of what a commercial four plex is. I drill 1/8 inch holes or the same diameter as the connector shaft. Then using pliers force the connector into the hole.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Sensitive plant, conversation piece for the house.

A houseplant everyone will talk about.

common name: Sensitive plant
scientific name: Mimosa pudica
  This one was grown from seed and is about three to four weeks old. Some garden shops do carry the seed but the easiest way is to simply Google it and order it online. Once they have been touched they take a couple hours to recover. They are one of the more unusual conversation pieces that I have in my home. And if nothing else, a good way to keep the kids occupied for a few minutes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

watering seedlings

So the next time you're looking for something to water your seedlings with that won't wash the seeds away, try a squeeze bottle or reuse an empty dish soap bottle.

hanging planter from recycled soda bottles

Turn your empty soda bottles into hanging planters for indoor and outdoor use.

water is recycled from bottom catch bottle back to top planter.

    I cut a hole in the bottom of a to 2 liter soda bottle just big enough to thread the top of another bottle through the whole. [I recommend using a Dremel Rotary tool to cut the holes. A soldering iron or wood burning tool may do the job as well but be sure to do it in a well ventilated area and try not to breathe the fumes.] I drill one or two a 1/8"holes in the cap. Then I put the two bottles together and thread the cap back on the bottle,to hold the two bottles together. I make the hole in the side of the bottle large enough to put my hand in and thread the cap back on. I make the chain of bottles as long as I desire.I spray paint the bottles white so they do not get too hot in the sun and so they do not decompose while hanging in my window. The bottles on the left have one bottle inverted at the bottom to catch the water dripping from the upper three. This bottle has a hole in the side and is simply hung with a wire hook on the bottom bottle so I can empty it as needed. The bottles on the right painted white will be hanging outside over other plants and does not need a catch bottle.I simply attach a drip line to the top bottle, fill with soil and plant my hanging herb garden. This system should work very well for people living in apartments or small living spaces. 

I hang the bottles by drilling a hole in the top bottle. Run a wire loop through a nut or washer and put the loop through the whole using the nut  to keep the wire from pulling through.
   At the bottom of the bottles I take a bottle and do the same thing with the lid, but instead of the loop I make a hook. Cutting a hole in the side of the bottle to catch whatever water runoff that drips through to the bottom.This allows me to empty the bottle periodically as needed.
  Typically this type of planner does well for  vines or small plants such as strawberries, herbs, or above ground vegetables and flowers. 
Note: In resent trials I found the edges of the holes to be too sharp and I have had to tape the bottom edges to keep the plants from cutting on those edges. Split tubing, foam or hot glue may work better.