||Holiday Landscape Lighting
Greet your holiday guests in a unique way. On a cold
winter night, ice luminaries (or lanterns) are a beautiful way to
light a path, entrance way, patio or steps. They're excellent outdoor
decorations for parties and celebrations and, best of all, they're
easy to make.
You can make a variety of shapes just by choosing different containers.
Usually old or unused plastic buckets or containers work great.
Find one or more and fill with water. Now you need to create a space
for the candle by placing a paper cup filled with a little sand
in the middle of each bucket. The sand anchors the paper cup and
keeps it from turning on it's side. Place the buckets in the giant
deep-freezer known as the great outdoors. Periodically check the
containers to make sure the cup hasn't floated to one side (although
this shouldn't be a problem once the water begins to freeze). When
frozen, unmold the ice block. If it's really cold out, pour a little
warm water on the outside of the bucket to get the ice block free.
Finally, peel off paper cups and insert votive candles.
To spice up the festive look add red pepper berries, evergreen needles,
and tiny pine cones to the water before freezing--kind of like a
Jell-O mold. Since the ice block glows, your front walk and door
stoop will welcome your guests from far away.
To learn more about professional landscape lighting,
A Newsworthy Garden
Here's a clever way
to use old newpapers to get a "tape"
measure harvest. Make seed tapes...it's a great cold-weather project
that'll save you loads of planting time in the garden.
Seed tapes are strips of paper with seeds adhered down the center
of each strip and evenly spaced. When you plant the strip, the paper
and glue decompose and you are left with perfectly spaced crops.
To make seed tapes
Rip old newspaper into one inch long strips tearing from the top
to the bottom of the page. Use only black & white sections since
colored print can emit toxins into your soil.
Make glue using 1/4-cup water to one-cup all-purpose flour.
Dab each seed with the flour-water glue and stick them in the center
of the strip. Be sure the seeds are spaced evenly apart--check the
back of your seed packet for the recommended amount of space between
When the glue is dry, roll up the strips and place in separate sealable
plastic bags. To keep the seeds dry add one tablespoon of salt.
It's also a good idea to place the seed packet into the respective
seed bag. That way, in the spring, you'll know exactly how to plant
Store in a cool place, such as a basement, until spring.
When it's time to plant your seed tapes, lay each strip seed side
up in rows several inches deep. Cover with soil and water.
Come next spring, you'll have beautifully spaced plants at a fraction
of the effort.
Are Your Seeds Shooting Blanks
There is nothing worse than
sowing a row of vegetable or flower seeds that won't germinate.
So, before planting them, test to see if your seeds suffered from
bad storage conditions or just from old age:
1) Take several sheets of paper towels and moisten with water from
a spray bottle.
2) Sprinkle a few seeds (from the seed pack in question) over the
paper towels, then cover with another layer of moist paper towels.
3) Place this paper towel-seed-sandwich into a plastic bag and punch
some holes in the bag. Place the bag in a warm, dark spot.
4) Check periodically to make sure the paper towels do not dry out.
In a week or so, the majority of seeds you tested should germinate.
If they do then this batch of seeds is worth planting.
|Put Your Seeds On A Light Diet
To get a jump on this season's flowers, plants, and veggies, start
seeds indoors before transplanting outside. But you don't need to
buy a special growing light... an ordinary florescent light fixture
works well for growing seedlings. The florescent lights (often seen
in hardware stores and gardening centers), come in a variety of lengths
with two lights per fixture. For growing seedlings, the intensity
of the florescent lights should consist of one "warm" light
and another "cool" light to give off the right amount of
light for optimal growing conditions. The light should always be kept
two to three inches from the tops of the seedlings and they should
be exposed for approximately 15 or more hours a day. For convenience,
plug your light into a timer. After four to eight weeks, your plants
will be hardy enough to transplant into the newly thawed ground.
|Don't Just Ditch the Tree
relatives are gone, the kids are back in school, and the Christmas
tree has shed its last needle. Yes, it's the end of the holiday
season and time to say good-bye to your once live and beautiful
tree. But don't just throw it on the trash heap (or into your
neighbor's yard at 3 am).
Instead, turn the tree into useful garden mulch by cutting it
into small pieces with a chain saw or a mulcher and letting them
decompose till spring. It's a good idea to use this mulch around
plants that thrive in slightly acidic soil, such as rhododendrons
and azaleas. This way, even in death, your tree can help add
beauty to your home.
Build A Coldframe
Now's a good time to think about growing seedlings, and a great
place to grow them is in a cold frame. Cold frames are easy to build
and they help ease new plants into unpredictable spring weather.
A cold frame is a season extender that allows you to harvest from
the colder months to spring. The frame keeps the soil from freezing
and when it's early spring, you'll be ahead of the season with harvests
of great vegetables.
To build a cold frame you'll need:
An old window
4 pieces of plywood
2 screw eyes
2 lightweight chains
Pack of seeds
1) Take an old window and build a square frame out of plywood to
fit under the window. Make sure one side faces south.
2) Lay the window on top of the frame in the garden.
3) At the north side of the window drive into the ground two stakes
that are two feet high--one at each corner. Then, screw a hook (frame
side) near the top of the stake. Repeat on the other stake.
4) Attach a lightweight chain from the hook on each stake to the
farthest side of the window. The chain will link one screw eye to
a corresponding hook. You can shorten the chain by putting the hook
on a different level link. This will open the window higher or lower
to let different levels of light in.
In climates where it's cold but without a lot of snow, you can
plant crops that thrive in this kind of weather (e.g. spinach) in
a cold frame. Make sure you buy new seeds each year since they do
not last long unplanted. Plant several rows close together leaving
about 6 inches between rows and sow 1/2 inch deep. Most likely they
will germinate in 5 to 9 days, slightly longer if it's really cold.
Thin plants periodically and when they are 4 to 6 inches tall spread
a high nitrogen fertilizer, such as bone meal, for a growth spurt.
|Is There A (Tree) Doctor In The House?
After a big winter storm, broken limbs are in need of first aid. Heavy
snow and whipping winds can cause limbs from trees and shrubs to snap.
If these broken limbs are not in danger of falling into harms way
(such as the street, sidewalk or driveway), they can wait until a
good thaw to amputate. But if they do pose a potential danger it's
time to start cutting!
When preparing for surgery, you should know that a tree could sustain
further damage if a new cut isn't made because nature will seal
and protect a clean cut. The cut should be at least one inch from
the spot where the branch emerges from an unharmed trunk, limb or
branch (called the "branch collar"). Start cutting from
the branch's underside and use a sturdy hand- or a chain-saw for
heavy, thick branches. If a dangling branch is near electrical wires
or is especially heavy, make sure to contact professionals to do
Build an Indoor Window Planter
Level of difficulty: Beginner
An indoor window planter livens up your counter or table in
front of a window, or hanging on decorative brackets that you
install just below the window. The container is waterproofed
on the inside and will not be exposed to harsh weather conditions,
so you can choose a wood and finish to complement or match
your interior woodwork. You can even try your hand at a decorative
painting technique such as sponging or stenciling. If you plan
to paint the planter, build it with any select (knot-free)
grade of wood such as pine or poplar. If you prefer a natural
finish, consider a fine hardwood such as oak or maple. Normally
a planter might have a vertical back but we angled both faces,
enabling you to turn the planter 180 degrees so the plants
won't all lean toward the sun.
The waterproofed interior of the planter means you can put
soil directly into it, but not all plants have the same water
needs. Setting pots in the planter and filling the gaps with
pine bark or a similar mulch will also make it easier to
change plantings and maintain the planter.
- Tape measure
- 1"x8" knot-free lumber (ends, faces, and opt. shelf)
- Drill and 3/32" twist bit
- 1"x6" No. 2 pine (bottom)
- Waterproof wood glue
- Hammer, nail set, and 6d galvanized finishing nails,
or: 2" finishing screws and #1 Phillips screwdriver or
- Circular or table saw (opt.)
- Pair of 6" decorative shelf brackets with screws
- Plasti-Dip spray or 1/2-pt. can (found at most hardware
stores and home centers)
- Rubber sanding block or finishing sander
- Paint or other finish and related supplies
- Sandpaper (80-, 120-, and 220-grit)
- Plants, pots, mulch, gravel, landscape fabric, and other
planting supplies change plantings and maintain the planter.
1. Determine the Dimensions
Your indoor window planter will probably look best if it is as
wide as the outside dimension of the window casing and no wider
than the window stool (interior windowsill). The planter should
be at least deep enough and high enough to accommodate a 6-in.-diameter
flower pot. The size of the design shown (see below), which uses
1x8 lumber for the ends and faces and 1x6 lumber for the bottom,
is a suggested minimum.
2. Cut and Mill the Parts
Cut the front, back, and ends from your "good" lumber.
You can use a lesser-grade lumber, such as No. 2 pine, for
2a. Bottom: If you have a circular saw or
table saw, set the bevel adjustment to 5 degrees, and rip
(cut with the grain) both edges of the bottom to 5 inches
wide (at the widest point). Alternatively, use a plane to
bevel a 5-degree angle on the two edges. Cut the bottom 3/4
inch shorter than the length of the faces so it will be recessed
3/8 inch when assembled.
2b. Ends: Rip the 1x8 to 6 inches wide (which
corresponds to the height of the ends), then cut the sides
at an 85-degree angle to create a 5-in. and a 7-in. base
on these two trapezoidal pieces.
2c. Faces: Rip or plane a 5-degree bevel
along the bottom edge of each piece.
3. Sand Parts Smooth
Use a rubber sanding block or finishing sander and sand all
the pieces smooth, starting with 80-grit, then 120-grit,
and finishing with 220-grit sandpaper. Sand along the length
of the boards (with the grain).
4. Assemble the Planter
Brush glue on all edges of the bottom and rest it on 1/2-in.-thick
spacers. Clamp the two ends onto the bottom and predrill
3/32-in. pilot holes for the fasteners. Secure the ends
to the bottom with 6d galvanized nails or with finishing
screws. Glue the front and back edges of the end pieces;
similarly clamp and attach the faces to the bottom and
the ends. Wipe off excess glue with a damp cloth and touch
up with your sander as needed.
Predrilling prevents the fasteners from splitting the wood
(especially hardwoods) and makes it a lot easier to accurately
drive the nails or finishing screws.
5. Waterproof the Interior
Mask the top edge of the planter and apply Plasti-Dip to
the interior surfaces. Plasti-Dip, available in spray cans
or as a brush-on liquid, forms a flexible, waterproof membrane
when it dries. It is available in yellow, black, red, blue,
6. Apply a Finish
When the interior dries, reposition the masking tape over
the top inside edge and finish the sides and top with any
interior paint, stain, or polyurethane finish.
7. Install the Planter under a Window
To mount the planter on shelf brackets or on a shelf supported
by brackets, you must install those brackets with screws
into solid wall framing. If you mount the planter to the
brackets, glue 1/2-in. wood spacers to the bottom at the
bracket locations. Locate studs with an electronic stud
finder or by a combination of tapping (listening for hollow
and solid sounds) and observing the location of any baseboard
If brackets secured to studs would not be symmetrically located,
screw a board to the wall and then secure the bracket to
8. Setting Your Plants and Flowers
If you plan to place soil directly into your planter, you
must provide drainage. Put at least 1-1/2 inches of crushed
stone in the bottom of the planter and cover it with a
layer of landscape fabric before you add soil and plants.
If you prefer to keep plants in their pots, simply put
the pots in the planter and fill around them with sphagnum
moss, pine bark, or similar mulch.
Set smaller pots on blocks of wood or on some mulch so their
tops will be even with those of larger pots.