Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Growing 4 O'clock flowers

Have you ever heard of 4 o'clock flowers? A few years back I was struggling with growing moonflowers and decided to try growing 4 o'clocks instead. They grew perfectly and my love affair with the marbled, multi colored flowers was born!

The 4 O'clock flower, Mirabilis jalapa earned its name because the flowers open around late afternoon each day, and the blooms close and die come morning. Also called Marvel of Peru, these plants were originally cultivated by the Aztecs for medicinal and ornamental uses. 

Growing 4 O'clock, Marvel Of Peru flowers in your garden

One of the most unique aspects of this plant, is that different colored flowers can grow on the same plant! Flowers can be solid colored or have a combination of two colors in various patterns. The plant can also change colors as it matures. You could plant a yellow flowered Marvel of Peru and months later it can start blooming pink.

While it's often assumed the flowers of the 4 O'clock open in response to daylight, they actually open in response to the daily drop in temperature that happens around 4pm each day.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Remove cat urine smell permanently

We currently have one rescue kitten left at our house and the Bengal is not very happy about it! First she peed in the kittens bed. Then she 'marked' the cardboard box the kitten had been playing in. Finally she graduated to spraying anywhere she could smell the kitten. I absolutely can't stand the smell of cat urine so I did my best to clean up all these messes. I literally tried everything to get rid of the cat odor in my house.

I first started cleaning it up with the rug scrubber filled with pet stain & odor remover. That wasn't strong enough so I bought enzymatic pet odor sprays from the pet store. I also tried white vinegar and I tried essential oils. No matter what I used, it only removed the cat pee smell for a few days and then I could smell the cat pee again. I spent way too much money on this stuff! I was completely convinced that nothing but the strongest, most potent, specially made formulas would work. 

I was wrong. 
homemade cat odor remover

I soon found out, I had the solution in my cabinet the whole time....and it wasn't chemical laden crap from the pet store! 

Peroxide, baking soda and dish soap. Sound familiar? These are the 3 ingredients in my Best Skunk Spray Remover EVER! recipe. The proportions are a little different, but it works just as well on cat pee as it does on skunk spray! Plus it's a lot more natural then all the artificial chemicals I was spraying in my house.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

13 uses for peroxide in the garden

Hydrogen peroxide has long been a bathroom staple, known for its cleansing and disinfecting properties. Those same  properties though, are the reason why peroxide has so many amazing uses in the garden. Not only can hydrogen peroxide be used to clean and disinfect tools, but it can also destroy fungus and even pests like aphids.

Hydrogen peroxide is very similar to water except it has one more oxygen atom. So while the H20 we drink has 2 hydrogen and 1 oxygen, hydrogen peroxide is H2O2 which is 2 hydrogen 2 peroxide. (I promise this ends the science lesson for today!) When you add that extra oxygen atom to the plant, it can do a lot of really great things....and one horrible one!

peroxide uses in the garden

Hydrogen peroxide comes in various concentrations but the most common one is 3%. That's the one in the brown bottle at the grocery or drug store. It'll say on the back  of the bottle though, so flip it around just to make sure. 3% hydrogen peroxide is the strength I use, and I wanted to point this out because that is what I have experimented with and when I mention how I mix the peroxide to use it, it's with the 3% strength. If you happen to have a different strength, then you'll have to adjust for the difference or the solution will be too strong and can cause problems.

How to use peroxide in the garden

1) Faster seed germination: soaking seeds in a solution of 1 tsp of 3% hydrogen peroxide to 1 cup of water for about 30 minutes before planting can help the seed coating to soften and germinate faster. Rinse before planting.

2) Sanitizing seeds: Soaking seeds before planting also destroys any bacteria that might be on the seed surface. Especially helpful if you received seeds through an exchange or are at all unsure what kind of conditions they came from. Rinse the seeds well before planting.

3) Mold and mildew: By applying the hydrogen peroxide solution to soils with bacteria, mold or spraying on powdery mildew it can combat these common garden ailments. When dealing with a particularly stubborn case I had to mix it twice as strong, but it worked without harming the plants. Reapply after rain. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

How to pre-germinate seeds

It's that frustrating time of year for gardeners. It's almost time to get started with the yearly planting...but not quite! Luckily there are a few seeds I can start indoors and that's exactly what I'm doing now. I like to pre-germinate many of my seeds before planting. While you should start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before you plant on transplanting them to the garden, I'm impatient (and don't mind if my house resembles a jungle for a month or two!)

pre-sprouting seeds

Pre-germinating seeds is a good idea especially if you're using older seeds. As seeds age they lose their viability. Many gardeners compensate for this by sowing extra seeds which then requires thinning. Thinning often causes seedling loss, since extra seedlings need removed and trying to untangle their delicate roots often leads to damage in one or both seedlings. Many gardeners just snip off the extra seedling for this reason, instead of trying to save it. 

This break my little garden loving heart! I prefer to only plant what I can actually grow, and by pre-sprouting seeds I know within a few days how many seedlings I have of each variety and can then pre-germinate more seeds if needed. If I sow the seeds directly into potting soil I might need to wait a week or more till seedlings emerge to see how many are going to grow....and I'm impatient, remember? 😉