Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

My New Greenhouse

If you are growing many plants from seeds, you may want to obtain a greenhouse. This will protect the plants, while making the seed starting process easier.

I am growing more of my plants from seed this year. This makes sense for gardeners on a budget who want many plants. You may have seen those plastic trays that have the clear plastic cover. I have used them, but these mini-greenhouses break down on me. They are not too expensive, but I did not like buying something that I knew would be thrown away after a few years. This past year I ad success with using mulch bags. I previously mentioned this technique, but I am currently having a problem. Well, there are two problems: my two year old; and squirrels. A greenhouse was in order.
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Finding Inspiring Gardens

What inspires you to create a garden space? Have you considered creating a garden for contemplation? You may find that your church has thought about creating such outdoor spaces, and they may inspire you.

I was working all weekend, so my wife and children went to spend time with my wife’s sister. They went to her church on Sunday, where my daughter’s discovered a garden where they wanted to stay. Upon coming home, I was greeted by my older daughter with the request that I had to watch a video. “Do you like it?”, she asked. “Yes, I do.” “Well, you need to get the paint right.” “The paint?” “Oh yes, for the statue that you are going to make of Jesus’ mother.” I had been conscripted into re-creating this garden in our own home. Our already crowded yard may not hold another garden room (was my thought). However, I agreed as my girls discussed their plans on how to design this garden.
    Many gardeners will add spaces for contemplation. I noticed in one garden center that they had various objects of a more oriental flavor to meet this gardening need. For some people, these spaces can be little garden nooks. Others can fill the entire garden. I have to look as to how I can create room for this space, but I think that I have an idea. For the girls, the important part is having the stone mulch path in the form of a cross, a statue of the Virgin Mary, the roses, and a bench for sitting. A contemplation garden may be a great room to have. Everyone needs time to sit down to meditate on the day.
    Garden inspiration can be simple. You may find a landscape that fascinates you, so you can find a way to replicate the space in your own yard.

Simple Seed Starting Kit

The children and I are planting seeds, a lot of seeds. I would love to have one of those mini-greenhouses, considering how many flats of seeds we have been starting, but sometimes you can make do with what you have.

My wife is not always happy when she sees me setting items aside to save. I have been saving the containers from plants that I purchased. They are not recyclable. My daughters have played with them, but I had another goal in mind. She really began to wonder why I was saving the bags for the mulch. I kept telling her that they would be useful. She thinks that I hoard items just for the sake of keeping them. Maybe I am trying to reuse to much; however, this time I had a plan that worked out well.
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Of Food Deserts, Food Insecurities, and Natural Disasters


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How does your family cope when there is no money to buy food? What if you have money, but you cannot afford the ingredients for a healthy meal? Maybe you ave suffered from a natural disaster, can you prepare a meal. An edible landscape can be one method of providing food.

    My children and I are each preparing a flat for more seeds. This process has been happening every day for the last three days. I do save time by purchasing vegetables in pots, but that habit can be expensive for all of my vegetable needs, and I do not always find the variety of vegetables that I want. An herb farmer mentioned that he had to be planting almost every day to keep up his supply, and I almost feel that I am doing the same. Late August was rough on my vegetable plants, and I did not harvest as much as I desired. When I scan the garden beds now (not long after August), I discover a great deal to use in my meals. A series of questions and conversations caused me to wonder about the availability of healthy food.
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Did My Builder Forget to Put Grass in the Backyard?


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If you are purchasing a newly constructed home, you expect grass in the yard. A builder may place grass in the front yard, but what happened in the rear yard?

As I am performing my home inspection, different crews are busy around me. They want the house to be ready for the final walk-through with the buyer. This is an amazing process. When I come to the house, you can tell that this is a real construction site. By the time that I am leaving, the lawn has been laid and the interior cleaned. Various stored items have been picked up. The house looks like a home. My client arrives, and she comments on the backyard. Where is that grass? That crew has already left.
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Should I Be Watering Even if My Plants Do Not Need Water?


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The water restrictions have imposed a schedule on us that may not be accomplishing our goal of water conservation.

Did you water on your scheduled day? Did you possibly over water? I ask, because I feel that there are people who may not be paying attention to their gardens. Sure, I saw lawns that have not been watered. I am seeing bushes and trees perishing. I find yards with no annuals producing flowers. I can understand making planting choices. Why plant if there is no water to help establish the plants. I think most homeowners have focused on keeping their plants alive, so they water just enough. I cannot understand the homeowners who have allowed so much in their gardens to be lost. A walk through the neighborhood brought an opposite issue to my attention: over watering.
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In Pursuit of Celery


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Have you ever wanted certain plants in your garden? Have you found that growing them from seed does not work for you? Maybe you need to expand your network for finding plants.

We still have the summer heat, yet the nights have been cooler. Morning dew seems to be helping the plants; I do not see them suffering from a lack of water. This may also be due to the fact that we are not having the triple digit heat every day.I have been looking forward to the Fall planting season, and I have several plants already in the ground. Mainly, I have focused on seeds. This is a practical way to obtain more plants at a better cost; however, water restrictions may have cost me a few plants. What has bothered me is that certain plants simply do not take when I attempt to grow them from seed, so I have to look to other sources.
   Seed packets make sense to me if you want enough vegetables to add to your family’s diet at a reasonable cost. Of course, saving your own seeds, or letting plants be self seeding, is the most cost effective means of obtaining plants. Sometimes plants do not transfer well from those seed starter kits. I also admit that I like the ease of skipping those starter flats, but I think if you really want vegetables for your family, you have to to work with that method. I have been fortunate that many seedlings have taken hold in the garden. There are a few plants that I want, but do not seem to grow when I am trying to use seeds. Celery is one vegetable that I have tried and failed growing.
   I have been to my regular haunts to see if they are stocking up on the next season’s crops. I did find parsley, cilantro, arugula, and a few other herbs. I ended up buying some of these delights for my cooking. There was also the tomato and pepper plants available. I guess these are the standard go-to vegetables, and I was not looking for them. I headed over to Buchanan’s Nursery in the Heights, since I was in the area, and I did find some items that I wanted. I had to buy the Ricola mint, considering that lozenge seems to always be in the house in the winter months. I also found epazote. This herb used to be in my garden, but then it disappeared. This is not to everyone’s taste, but I do like using a bit of the leaves when cooking beans or stews. I was surprised to see the great variety of herbs and vegetables already available, since I had not seen too much in other places. I spotted the celery, so I bought five plants.
   Do you use celery? Someone told me that celery is not used much in the United States. I am not sure if that is true, but the person was a chef. I also often hear that celery offers no nutritional value. Again, I do not know if I can believe that fact. The vegetable does provide fiber. I like to make snacks with celery, and I like to cook with it. Maybe buying celery to grow would not be seen as cost effective. You may spend three dollars for a plant, so purchasing a stalk from the store could be cheaper. Growing celery in your own garden does ensure better quality, and you can turn the plant into a value investment. Instead of harvesting the entire plant all at once, harvest a few stalks from each plant each time that you need celery for a recipe. The plant will last longer, and you will  not be spending three dollars per bunch of celery.
    I still prefer seeds over plant purchases. I can find an unusual variety of a vegetable when looking at the plants (is that a red okra that I see in the corner?), but I do not think that this is the best means of being wise with my money. I think this thought comes into play when we do look for other plants for our gardens. I found a dwarf bamboo for $5 in a two gallon pot at one nursery. This is not the time of year that people usually purchase this plant. The bamboo was also small. When it matures, it will fill in the space quite well. I think some people buy plants at their full size to have that instant effect. I think others do not look for the bargain. Two years ago I purchased ornamental grasses at the end of Fall for a good price. They will never last, I was told. I still have them in the yard. I might not drive out to Buchanan’s often, but the trip can be worth the drive when I come home with objects of my desire. Maybe I should check out a few more nurseries around town.

Is Getting Rid of Your Lawn the Hot New Trend?


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I have the tendency to meander through a neighborhood, looking at houses, when I complete a home inspection. Maybe I am seeing the beginning of a trend.

My wife stares down the street, stating that many people are letting their grass die. I point out that it is not only grass. A garden shows how people feel about their homes, and the water restrictions have made some of those feelings more clear. She wonders how people can simply let what they have go to dust. My wife enjoys gardens, but she is not a gardener. She believes that homes should be maintained, so that is the origin of her concern. For me, a garden should reflect something of the character of the homeowners, and the yard around your home should make you enjoy being in that space. When I see a yard of grass with a few shrubs against the home, I think boring and standard. However, I have noticed a few changes happening to homes in neighborhoods where I often drive: grass is being taken out to be replaced by landscaping.
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What is the Best Mulch in Drought Conditions?


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Are all mulches created equal? I use cedar mulch for insect control, and I have rock mulch for decoration. I have a compost mulch made from prunings around the house. With the water restrictions in place, I noticed something about my mulches.

rock mulchI interacted with a group of real estate agents who were criticizing a green building technique as horrible. They thought it was new, and they did not understand it, so they dismissed it. The fact was that the technique is millennia old. I know fellow home inspectors who also do not give credence to what they see as fringe building techniques. I came to realize that there are old solutions to current problems, yet we go along blind to them. With the water restrictions in place, I hear people discussing ways to keep their gardens alive. I have used the condensate water from my air conditioning system for quite some time to water my garden beds, yet others are discussing this as a new concept. We are paying attention more to which plants can handle the heat and lack of water (my poor azaleas do not fare well), yet focusing on native plants or appropriate plants for a certain area has also long been part of the gardener’s repertoire. The one thing we do not seem to be including in our discussions is how have we farmed deserts in the past. Humans have farmed dry conditions previously, so there must be some solutions. Could these fixes revolve around mulch?
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With Drought and Water Restrictions, My Corn is Thriving


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Some plants do not seem to mind the imposed lack of water, and I was surprised to see some doing quite well. Here is what I have learned from the drought and water restrictions.

I have a lawn, yet I do not wish to be a grass farmer. I have seen a few neighbors let their grass die, and they have no other visual interest in their yard. Watching my yard carefully, I thought that established plants would be doing alright, and my plantings for an early fall crop would suffer. The gardener’s shadow proved me wrong. A gardener’s shadow? Well, it is the best tool that you have in taking care of your garden: your walking around the garden to observe the plants causes a shadow to fall. My shadow held surprises for me that will change what I plant next year.
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Greetings

This site came out of my desire to write about my love of gardening, but also to connect it to my knowledge derived from home inspections. That is why I tied it to the home inspection site.If you have questions, you can email them to me (frank at yourhoustonhomeinspector.com). For home inspections, call 713.781.6090.
Happy gardening, Frank

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