Uses for fallen leaves

I live in the woods. My house is on a 2-acre clearing smack dab in the center of the woods. When your house is surrounded by acres of trees you have a lot of fallen leaves to pick up every year! 

Fallen leaves in yard being cleaned up for use in garden

At first you just rake them into the woods or burn them or even suck them all up with a lawn vacuum type thing and dump them somewhere deep in the woods where they can't blow back out. After a while though you come up with ways to use said leaves, because leaves could be very useful for a gardener!

There is one school of thought that leaves and dead plants should be left where they fall as certain insects will hide in them over winter and the leaves help them to survive. Unfortunately many common garden pests are on that list and allowing them a space to survive over winter is making more pest problems for yourself next year!

I'm pretty sure that's how my earwig problem got so bad the last 2 years! 

I also didn't till for 2 years because of a new fence, so that certainly didn't help. Tilling does help break up their little buggy homes and disrupts the lifecycle of many garden pests so I can't blame my earwig problem on 1 thing...but I'm sure the 2 changes worked together to make the garden particularly buggy this year. That won't happen again!

30 years gardening and still learning and trying different things. About the leaves though...

Make your own grape jam!

One of my favorite things to make instead of buy is grape jam! I grow concord grapes and there is just no comparing the flavor from homemade jam to store bought. It's one of the simpler canning recipes out there, though it can be a bit tedious at first.

Homemade grape jam and concord grapes

Grape jam is probably the only preserve I make every single year! It's also one of the simplest preserves to make. All you really need is grapes, sugar, water and lemon juice. First you separate the grapes and cook them apart, then strain, blend and combine and cook again. That's it!

It's also really easy to water bath can grape jam, so if you're new to's a great way to get started without investing a ton of money.

How to grow bush beans

I have been growing bush beans in my home garden for years! They are one of the easiest vegetables to grow and generally produce well from spring into fall. They are one of the easiest vegetables to grow and 1 plant will produce dozens of beans! Plus they don't take up a lot of space.

How to grow bush beans, a guide

A few years back I started growing more than just the standard Blue Lake bush beans. I love the color of purple bush beans and have recently started growing some of the yellow bush bean varieties! It's crazy how many different types of bush beans are out there! So lets talk about growing them.

How to raise Monarch Butterflies

Last year was my first full year raising monarch butterflies. Since the 1970s the monarch butterfly population has been declining. As the only butterfly to make a 2 way migration, the monarch butterfly can live long and go through quite a lot. Or it can have a very short uneventful life. It all depends what time during the year they come about.

Raising monarch butterflies

Let's start with the sad facts. A monarch butterfly egg only has about a 10% chance of becoming a butterfly when left in the wild. However if those eggs are brought into a controlled environment, hatched and the caterpillars raised to a chrysalis, that changes to a 90% chance that each egg will make it to a butterfly. 

That's an insane difference, isn't it?

If you guessed that is why I raise monarch butterflies, you're correct! There are lots of disease and predatory insects that affect the monarch caterpillar. Last year I lost less than 10% of my monarchs, almost all of them in the caterpillar stage. I released almost 40 healthy butterflies!

One of the other problems monarchs face is that the caterpillars only eat milkweed. It grows wild pretty much everywhere but is often perceived as a weed and most people don't want weeds growing in their yards. 

Milkweed grows wild on the side of the roads which would be a good thing but many states have a mowing program and will mow it right down with no concern for the monarch caterpillars that are living on it!

How to grow tomato plants in containers

The one good thing about the big shut down a few years back is that so many people are more interested in growing their own food! Since a large number of people live in apartments or just don't have a yard to plant in, container gardening has become a way they can still grow some of their own food...even with limited space!

tomato plant growing in pot on porch

If you would like to grow some of your own food in containers then tomatoes are the perfect plant to start with. As long as you have sunlight, tomatoes can be grown anywhere. Growing tomatoes in containers is not limited to people with a lack of gardening space though. Plenty of home gardeners grow their vegetables in containers, even when they have free space in the backyard.

There are many reasons for container gardening, but we grow tomatoes in containers mostly for convenience, control, and flexibility. Also if you have a problem with deer in your garden, putting your plants on your porch in containers can circumvent that! Not many deer are comfortable walking up onto your porch! Nor are rabbits which can really damage a traditional garden

Growing tomatoes in containers is not too different from growing tomatoes in the outdoor soil. Like planting in the ground, it's best to raise young tomato seedlings carefully indoors until they're strong enough for transplant. This gives them a few extra weeks to grow instead of waiting to plant seeds when the soil is warm enough.