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Using Burlap in the Garden

August 2nd, 2012

A few years ago, I discovered burlap and it’s many uses in the garden. It comes in very handy for a variety of applications and is very inexpensive. Burlap can be found at your local fabric/craft store by the yard.

The best use for burlap is as mulch. When you harvest an area of the garden, lay down a piece of burlap to cover the soil until you plant something else. It will help with moisture retention and to limit erosion of the soil you’ve worked so hard to build. We all know that soil is the most valuable item on our property and we should be doing whatever we can to keep it from eroding away.

Where burlap really shines is for direct seeding in mid-summer. With the heat and lack of rain most gardeners experience this time of year, burlap is a valuable tool to improve germination rates. I have found that laying a piece of burlap over newly sown seeds makes them germinate much faster. Not only does it help keep the area moist by preventing evaporation, it prevents seeds from being washed away when it rains.

I have found burlap to be essential when starting seeds that take a long time to germinate and prefer moist conditions, especially carrots, chervil, dill, and parsley.

To use burlap for seed starting:

  1. sow your seeds following package directions
  2. lay burlap over the seeds
  3. water when the soil gets dry
  4. check daily for germination
  5. when seeds germinate remove burlap


Burlap also comes in quite handy for wrapping plants in winter. If you grow things that are on the edge of your hardiness zone, they’ll appreciate a burlap blanket during the cold winter months. Plants like figs, hydrangeas, and boxwood all love a cozy warm wrapping of burlap. The wrapping doesn’t necessarily keep them warmer, it just protects them fro the desiccating cold winter wind. Sometimes plants don’t need wrapped for weather protections but to keep nibbling deer away. I usually wrap my blueberries for this reason. If you’re uncertain about how to wrap plants, here’s my post about it.

Burlap also comes in handy to protect the root balls of plants while you move them, especially if you can’t replant them right away. You can use small pieces of it in the bottoms of pots to keep the soil in. If you keep some in your garden tool area you’ll find that it comes in handy often!

Do you use burlap in the garden? Any great uses to recommend?

Every Gardener Needs…..

January 14th, 2012

Up until last year I have never owned a pair of rubber boots. Perhaps I did when I was little, but I don’t remember ever having a pair and I’m pretty sure I’d have memories of rubber boots! As a very frugal person, I really dislike spending money on things I don’t think I need, so I put off buying boots for the longest time. I finally broke down and purchased them, mostly for photos actually, but then I realized what an important tool they are!


I wear these boots ALL THE TIME, and I’m not joking. I wear them around the garden so much that I can’t remember what I used to wear? They come in so handy when it’s raining, snowing or in the muddy messy days following snow or rain, which is pretty much every day here in NE Ohio. They’re also very handy because you can slip them on and off very quickly and easily, thus saving me few valuable minutes every time I need to run to the compost, out to the garage get something, or down to the mailbox.

The funny thing, these boots became working boots instead of photo props, these are some of the few photos they’ve cameoed in. If you were reading back when I talked about the footwear I used to wear in the garden you’ll know how much better these are!


If you don’t have a pair of rubber boots, I cannot recommend them highly enough. I believe they are a tool that every gardener needs!!!

Do you wear rubber boots around the garden? What is a tool you’d recommend that every gardener own?

Keeping Track of Small Garden Tools

August 30th, 2010

I used to have a bad habit of carrying trowels around with me when I was gardening and leaving them where I was working. I often forgot where they were and when I needed them again, I’d have to walk around the garden looking for them, trying to remember when I had used them last. As much as I tried to always put them back in the garage, I just couldn’t seem to remember. I love my trowels and thus never want to lose them. Not to mention a good garden trowel is not a cheap purchase.

A few months ago I decided to put a bucket by the back door to keep my trowels and my cultivator in. After doing this I’ve been able to keep track of them. I find myself carrying my trowels back to the house with me and throwing them into the bucket. This has worked well for me and I have only had to look for my trowel once or twice since I started doing this. I also like that they’re right there when I walk out the back door. I no longer have to open the garage door and head into the garage to get my tools, I simply grab the one I need from the bucket and head out into the garden.

My mom has a similar technique, she has a bucket that she keeps trowels, forks, fertilizer, a companion planting guide and a few other items for gardening. She carries this bucket around the garden with her as she works and deposits back in the garage by the door when she heads inside. This means her garden bucket is always ready to grab when she heads out. This is a great idea if you have a covered area for your bucket. Since mine sits on the back porch in the weather, I simply leave my 4 garden tools in it. They can take the weather as can the old bucket I keep them in.

If you’re in the market for good quality small garden tools I would highly recommend The Rumford Gardener large trowel, transplanting trowel, and the cultivator. I purchased them many many years ago at Target, but they are now available on Amazon. They’re solid die-cast aluminum and they’re cast in one solid piece with a rubberized handle coating. They’re tough as nails and strong as an ox yet light enough to use for a long period of time. In my rocky tough soil they keep on going where a lesser trowel would have been bent long long ago. I also find them quite comfortable to use.

What techniques have you developed to keep your garden tools easily accessible and easy to find?

What Happened to the Rake?

November 9th, 2009

I was out raking leaves yesterday and it occurred to me that I haven’t seen anyone using a rake in years. While I whooshed leaves with my rake, all around me I heard that annoying leaf blower sound. I really appreciate the quietness of raking.
Raking_leaves
It’s interesting to me the extinction of the humble rake. As a child we loved to rake leaves into big piles and play in them. What could be more fun on a beautiful fall day? I still enjoy raking leaves, it’s a great time to think about the changing seasons and be thankful for them. I have used a leaf blower once and I didn’t find it any faster than raking. Not to mention it’s much cheaper, my rake cost me about $10 and it takes no electric and no gas.
Rake
The bagging and throwing away of leaves is also something that befuddles me. I don’t really understand why people don’t put them in a pile out back and then use them in the spring instead of buying bags and bags of mulch and fertilizer. It’s kind of funny since we live in a very wooded area and just about every property here has a wooded border somewhere. Why don’t people just blow the leaves into the woods? Why go to all the hassle of bagging them? These are the things I think about while raking.
Leaves_to_rake
In my front lawn I do collect the leaves with grass clippings in the mower, and I use these as mulch. If the lawn doesn’t need mowed it gets raked, along with the rest of the property.

What do you prefer, leaf blower or rake? (do you think the leaf blower sound is the most annoying sound in the world as I do?)

Square Foot Gardening Templates

March 19th, 2009

A few of you asked about the template I was using in my photo yesterday, so I decided to explain what they are and how we made them.
seeding-template
I use the Square Foot Gardening method in my raised beds. Which basically means that I break my raised beds down into square foot sections for planting.
raised-bed
I don’t plant each square with something different as other people do, I usually plant large sections of different types of plants. This is how I like my beds organized. On Monday I planted a bed full of beets; 2 different kinds, Bull’s Blood Beets and Crapaudine Beets. I had Mr Chiots make me these squares for quick and easy spacing of seeds.
planting-seeds-in-cold-frame1
Basically these are a square foot piece of some scrap plywood we had laying around. We measured and drilled holes for 3 inch and 4 inch spacing of seeds and plants. Mr Chiots even routed the edges to give them a nice finish.
planting-beet-seeds1
I contemplated having him make ones that had dowels or small squares of wood nailed for spaces so I could “punch” the holes into the soil with them, but we didn’t have any dowels and these were much faster (I think they’re 2 inch holes).
square-foot-gardening
You could drill smaller holes in these, but I decided I wanted larger ones to have room to work and so I wouldn’t risk getting any splinters or anything. This also allows me to plant small plants through the holes as well. I like to plant my seeds in vermiculite so these allow me plenty of room to punch the hole, drop the seed in and cover with vermiculite.
square-foot-seed-plates
I sanded and painted them yesterday to help protect them while using them in the garden. I had some spray paint sitting around that I needed to use up and I figure it will help protect them if I accidentally leave them outside sometime.

What method do you use for planting? Anyone else using the square foot method?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.

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