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Seasonal Projects

Make a Bird Feeder Mobile
Holiday Landscape Lighting
A Newsworthy Garden
Build a Coldframe
Build an Indoor Window Planter

Seasonal Tips

Transplanting Tips
Bird Bath Feeder
Seed Germination
Lighting Seedlings
Watering Plants
Christmas Tree Disposal
Tree Care


Bird Feeder Mobile
Give your feathered friends a treat to eat

Birds can use some extra food this time of year and a great way to feed the birds is by decorating pine cones with seeds and a little "extra" to fatten them up. This is what do it:

Collect some large pine cones and tie string to the top portion of the cone Microwave peanut butter or suet (animal fat) until melted Spread over the entire pine cone's surface Roll the cone in bird seed and nuts Let the pine cones sit for 30 minute to harden Hang outside on tree branches for the birds to eat. And try to position the cones low enough from the branch but high enough off the ground to keep away those pesty squirrels.

From Ashes to Bloom  
  fireplace Recycling is good for the environment...and it's great for plants, too. In fact, did you know that recycled ashes are a great source of nutrients for plants? So don't toss away the ashes at the bottom of your fireplace. Instead, after enjoying a warm winter fire, collect the ashes and store them in a sealed container to use in the spring. When your plants are in full bloom in the spring sprinkle the ashes over flowers and vegetables. These fireplace ashes are an excellent source of minerals that keep plants healthy all season long.


Repotting Can Cure Your Winter Blues
Do your houseplants need a fresh home? You can't hear them scream for bigger, fresher digs, but watch their sign language.

If you're eager to get your hands back into the soil, now's a great time to get your fingernails dirty! Mid winter is perfect for repotting your indoor plants since many plants need to be transplanted into larger containers every two to three years. Here are a few signs that tell you that it's time to move your plants into new digs:

  1. Roots begin to creep out from the bottom of the pot around drainage holes or they peek through the top soil.

  2. Whitish or off-colored deposits appear on the soil's surface. These are a sign of "tired," or nutrient stripped soil, that's begging to be changed. They may also indicate that you are fertilizing the soil too much.

  3. If your plant appears especially listless, if it's not producing buds or new leaves (and your routine care of water and sunlight hasn't changed), this could be a sign that it's time to expand your plant's living conditions.

When repotting, make sure you buy potting soil that is appropriate for the specific plant type and place the plant into a container that is one size bigger than it's current size. If you use a clay pot, soak it in water for 45 minutes to keep the clay from absorbing the soil's moisture.

Transplant Trouble
Cure your clay pots before the operation

If you took good care of your houseplants all summer they may have outgrown the pot in which they started growing. But before you repot the plants into a larger vessels, make sure to "cure" any clay pots you'll be using.

You want to do this because clay is absorbent and uncured clay will suck away water that newly repotted plants desperately need. To "cure" them of this absorbency you need to fully submerge the clay pots in a bucket of water. Listen closely and you'll hear a hissing noise: it's the tiny air pockets in the clay filling with water. When the hissing stops, the pot's ready for the transplant operation.

Turn Their Bath Into A Dining Room
And give your feathered friends something to crow about

Instead of having an empty or frozen-over birdbath just sitting in your yard this winter, fill it with bird seed, colorful Indian corn and red pepper berries. It makes a colorful outdoor centerpiece that attracts wildlife to your yard. And to help fatten up the critters for the long winter ahead you can add some apples, raisins, acorns and leftover nuts. Be sure to keep it in clear view of your home so you can enjoy the abundance of wintertime visitors!

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, click here

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 each seed.
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 them.
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.

" I'm So Thirsty!" Cried the Neglected Plant
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  hose Old Jack Frost and harsh winter winds are drying out plants with shallow roots, such as azaleas and rhododendrons. But if you take advantage of those few precious winter days where temperatures are in the 40s & 50s, you can save your plants from succumbing to the cold.

Generally, on a warm winter afternoon, the top two to three inches of soil are hard--not frozen. And, believe it or not, this is a prime opportunity to break out your hose from storage...or you can use an old-fashioned water bucket! Just run the water from the hose (or pour water from the bucket) slowly around your plants so the top soil absorbs enough moisture. Remember: If you water too quickly, the water will merely run off.

Several gallons of water a few times during the winter can provide enough moisture so your plants stand firmly against the biting cold of winter.


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Don't Just Ditch the Tree xmastree The 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
12 nails
Two stakes
2 screw eyes
2 hooks
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 the job.


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.

Tip :
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.

Materials List

  • Tape measure
  • Clamps
  • 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
  • Saw
  • Hammer, nail set, and 6d galvanized finishing nails, or: 2" finishing screws and #1 Phillips screwdriver or bit
  • Circular or table saw (opt.)
  • Pair of 6" decorative shelf brackets with screws
  • Plane
  • 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 the bottom.
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.

Tip :
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, and clear.

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 nails.

Tip :
If brackets secured to studs would not be symmetrically located, screw a board to the wall and then secure the bracket to the board.

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.

Tip :
Set smaller pots on blocks of wood or on some mulch so their tops will be even with those of larger pots.


Tips courtesy of Gardenplace.com