Elsewhere: Enviro-Cakes terrarium giveaway at Our Little Acre

I entered this giveaway for this cool take on a terrarium from one of my fellow Saturday6 members — Douglas

Earlier this year, I received a new product introduced by Batson’s Foliage Group, a family-owned business in Florida, called Enviro-Cakes™. I’d read about it in their newsletter, wrote to Kelley to tell her how awesome I thought the product looked, and she offered to send one to me.

When it arrived, I got a kick out of the box and its handwritten labeling…

Read the entire article

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A few things done (or at least doing!)

I took a few minutes today to get the last 30 or so daffodil bulbs in the ground. We are expecting a significant storm over the weekend, so it is the perfect time to finish up that job. While I was out putting these bulbs in the ground I saw our first bulbs of the season popping up.

First Bulbs

First Bulbs 2011

Click for larger image

These are probably snowbells. I think these are typically the first bulbs to appear, but there is a slight chance they are paperwhites. The daffodils come up much later, so I should be ok getting them planted just today.

A little painting project

We are also planning on doing a little painting repair or, I should say, having someone do some painting repair for us. The painter was out today for an estimate We only need a small area painted. There is a selection of shingles on one part of the house which are peeling and are now more visible since we removed the large pine tree that stood in front of them. We are taking the opportunity to add some accent color to the house by painting this area a dark red, leaving the fake shingle white. You can’t see it in the picture, but the garage door on the opposite end of the house will also be painted the same color to keep a little balance in the coloring.

Here is a (badly Photoshopped (LAUGH)) before and after. The red will be much darker, I think than this, rather weak salmon color.

House color update before House color update after

Click for larger images

Pumpkins, maybe?

Finally, we are trying something with our last, rather rotten, pumpkin. Since the pine tree was removed and the stump ground out there is quite a mound of shredded wood and soil where the trunk had been. I dug out some space there, added a bit of homemade compost and chucked in the pumpkin. A few quick slices with the shovel opened it up and spread around the seeds. I finished with a topping of more compost and then leveled the area again. Who knows, come Spring we might see a few pumpkins sprout up there.

As part of this tree removal, we were already planning on planting some edibles in this area and an old rose bed that runs along the north side of the front yard. It is one place that gets some sun during the day. This pumpkin planting became the first step in the remodel of this area.

Finally, my picture didn’t come out, but the cherry tomatoes we have growing are just now starting to ripen. I was afraid they wouldn’t ripen at all, but they surprised me. Rosanne should soon be enjoying them in here homemade tomato, olive, spinach, pasta dish that she likes to much.

Keep digging!


Giveaway: Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce book

I have a copy of this book to give away and the contest will run for the next 2 weeks. You can enter with a comment here on the blog post, following the @gardenersnotebk twitter account or Liking the AGN page on Facebook.

You can read my review of this book in this blog post and see more information and reviews on Amazon.com
Continue reading Giveaway: Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce book →

Gardening Tips – Recent collection from @gardenersnotebk on Twitter

Here is a collection of recent tips shared on the @gardernersnotebk Twitter feed…

  • [Tip] Get your garlic in the ground now, before the freeze, for a big crop next Summer.
  • [Tip] Go to your garden. Sit down — on the ground — and run your fingers through the soil. It brings ideas to mind, doesn’t it?
  • [Tip] Making compost is as simple as green stuff, brown stuff and time. Add each in equal proportions and black gold will result.
  • [Tip] Often your garden dictates timing on big projects and plans. Trees need to be removed when they need to be removed. Take the hint.
  • [Tip] As Oct Snow shows, Winter can happen any time. Be prepared with covers, mulch, and moving plants inside.
  • [Tip] A good general pruning rule is to never remove more the 1/3 of the plant or shrub. Most people don’t remove enough, though.
  • [Tip] SoCal – get those bulbs in before the first rain. I have a bag of 75 daffodils sitting in the garden right now. Time to move!
  • [Tip] Sometimes building your garden requires tearing stuff out and replacing it entirely. It isn’t a step back, but forward.
  • [Tip] You can get lost in a garden that is no wider than a backyard, but also find yourself there.
  • [Tip] My favorite guide to gardening in Southern California – Pat Welsh’s SoCal Organic Gardening Guide – 
  • [Tip] Check out new gardening magazine online – The Leaf – Free –
  • [Tip] Take your garden foot-by-foot, yard-by-yard and concentrate on improving one section at a time. Weeding, planting, pruning, etc.
  • [Tip] Growing your own garden is unique, but it doesn’t mean you can’t steal from others. Keep a “Swipe” file of favorite designs then make
  • [Tip] Fall is not the end. Plant for Winter structure and beauty. Think and plan this Winter so you can create for next year.
  • [Tip] Often, YOUR plant is lovelier than anything in any catalog. Appreciate what you have, even if without pedigree. It is yours!
  • [Tip] Dreaming about the garden to be can be just as fun (and sometimes more) than your garden today. Dream big. Especially in Winter!
  • [Tip] Propagating your own plants is the simplest and cheapest way of developing your garden. Ask friends for cuttings and seedlings.

Rain, glorious, rain!


What more can you say?

While we had a short dose of rain a few weeks ago, it did almost nothing for the dry as parchment soil. Hopefully our day long bout of steady rain will soak a little deeper this time. Even more, I hope it bodes the beginning to our Winter here in Southern California. We get almost all of our rain between October and February and a bad Winter can leave us even worse off the next Spring.

SoCal Rain

We can’t control the weather, but we can revel when it brings us exactly what we want. That said, most everyone else in Los Angeles curses the rain. All they can see are longer commutes, an increase in automobile collisions, and mudslides. I always see if differently. I can almost hear the plants ease a sigh of relief. They don’t have to suffer with the limited sip from the hosepipe, but can drink deep and long, as nature intended.


Video: Planting daffodil bulbs

A short video montage of some work I did in the garden today. I purchased a bag of 75 daffodil bulbs to expand my existing plantings a week or so ago. Here in Southern California, our bulbs start to sprout as soon as the first substantial rains appear, so I wanted to make sure and get these in the ground soon. We had a storm pass through last week, but it didn’t bring much actual moisture. That said, it is a sign that the Winter rains are about to arrive.

Today I planted about 25 of the 75 bulbs in some areas where I am pretty sure there are no daffodils already. While my existing bulbs do seem to naturalize and spread, I try to plant a few more every year to create a daffodil “tide” when they all bloom at once. We get probably a month of bloom from the daffodils, which are proceeded by paperwhites, which are usually first and then snowbells and finally, the daffodils


Daffodil Bulbs

Daffodil Bulbs Daffodil Bulbs

Daffodil photos from previous years

Daffodil posts on WelchWrite.com from previous years


Watch “Planting Daffodil Bulbs” – iPod Ready Video


Well ^%$&@(*&! What happened to the sun?

Charmlee Moonlight Hike - 12My day work as a computer and new media consultant and several family commitments have kept me out of the garden a lot lately. This is a pretty usual situation, but sometimes I sneak out into the garden after dinner to do a few small tasks. No matter the envy-producing weather that Los Angeles benefits from, time (and darkness) wait for no man.

The temperature is fine, but the sun has gone long before I can get my act together and into the garden. After such a long and hot Summer it is easy to forget the the seasons roll on regardless. If I want to get anything done at this time of year, I think it will mean setting up my work lights. That said, pruning by halogen work light isn’t the most effective method. The plants always look little worse for wear in the morning sun.

Each school semester, our family gets a little crazed. My wife is an in-demand adjunct college professor, my son has after school activities and I am trying to fit family commitments around carting him to and from school and such. Blah! I hope I can get to some things before the holidays arrive, but they might be the next big chunk of time I have to clean up the garden before the New Year.



Review: Troy-Bilt TBHT57 Electric Hedge Trimmer

Troy-Bilt TBHT57 Electric Hedge Trimmer

Note: This device uses TBCHG 20 Volt Battery Charger and TB20B 20 Volt Lithium Ion Battery which must be purchased separately

(Troy-Bilt provided this product as part of my membership in the Saturday6 program, but they do not control the contents and opinions of this review)

One great benefit of being part of Troy-Bilt’s Saturday6 is that I’m given the chance to try out and review their latest, greatest products. When I visited Troy-Bilt’s world headquarters last Spring, I was most impressed with Troy-Bilt’s entire line of new, Lithium-Ion battery powered products. Several things caught my eye — the first of which was this electric hedge trimmer.

A cord is saved

I have long used a standard electric hedge trimmer which came with a long cord (and sometimes an extension cord to get to the further reaches of my yard). My garden really isn’t big enough to justify the expense and complications of a gas powered hedge trimmer, so I have been “making do” for years. One of the biggest problems with my current trimmer is something I am sure you have all experienced. Your attention is focused on your work — trying to make a nice, neat hedge — and suddenly sparks fly in the air. Yes, I will freely admit that I have cut my extension cord with my hedge trimmer on more than one occasion. When I ask if others have done the same, the answer is almost always a very sheepish, “Yes.”

A cordless device like this new battery powered one from Troybilt makes my gardening life much, much simpler. Just using it out in the garden today I caught myself suddenly worrying about the cord and then just as quickly realizing I didn’t have to worry anymore. I also don’t have to haul around 50-75 feet of extension chord — which never fails to get wrapped around plants, trees, sprinklers and a cat or two. Without that annoyance I can focus fully on my work.

That said, there are several other reasons to like this hedge trimmer. First, the blade is almost 1.5 times as long as my current trimmer. With an entire front yard of geometric plantings of azalea and juniper, the yearly trim can take quite a long time. This longer blade will cut down on that significantly. Also, this longer blade allows me to create straighter lines, both on the sides and tops of the short hedges. I can do in one pass, what used to require 2 or more and each pass was one more opportunity to mess up my nice, straight edge.

Weight and Batteries

Even with the large Lithium-Ion battery, the TBHT57 weighs almost exactly the same as my older, wired hedge trimmer. I am sure that advances in manufacturing and plastics over the years have helped Troy-Bilt shed a few pounds so that the battery didn’t make it a too heavy to carry.

The same battery that powers this unit can also be used for the TB57 Battery-Powered Cordless String Trimmer / Weed Trimmer and the TBPS57 Lithium Ion Pole Saw (which I will be reviewing in about a week). If and when you decide to purchase one of these products, you will also need to purchase the Lithium-Ion battery and charger system as a separate item. I think this multi-use system is a good idea as it is rare that I need to use all the devices at the same time, so I don’t need to have a separate battery and charger for each device. That said, if I wanted, I could purchase extra batteries and chargers and send out a whole crew to work.

In my initial tests, battery life seemed great. Using the hedge trimmer for an hour barely reduced the battery charge by one indicator light. I didn’t notice any reduction in power over the use of the unit, but only further, longer use testing will give me a feeling of exactly how long the battery will last. As it stands now, though, it feels as if the battery will more than outlast my tired arms when hedge trimming.


Speaking of my arms, I didn’t find the weight of the unit to be too out of line with other trimmers I have used. Holding your arms at a rather unnatural angle is part of hedge trimming and I found this unit easier to use than my existing trimmer.

Another issue of using a hedge trimmer is vibration. It only makes sense when you have powerful machinery oscillating a blade at high speed. Still, this unit vibrates less than anything else I have user used. After an hour of using my old trimmer, my arms and hands would still feel like they were shaking. With this unit, my arms might have been a bit tired from the work, but I didn’t have the usual tingling sensation. This is something I truly won’t miss.

I am looking forward to using this hedge trimmer for years to come. It is a significant step up from my current tool and the added convenience of the battery power is something that I have wanted for a long time. If you are in the market for a hedge trimmer, I think you would be well-served by this product.


Video: Review of Troy-Bilt TBHT57 Electric (Cordless) Hedge Trimmer

Here is my video review of the Troy-Bilt TBHT57 Electric (Cordless) Hedge Trimmer. A complete written review will be coming soon.

Watch “Review of Troy-Bilt TBHT57 Electric (Cordless) Hedge Trimmer” – iPod Ready Video


* Troy-Bilt provided this product as part of my membership in the Saturday6 program, but they do not control the contents and opinions of this review

Troy-Bilt TBHT57 at Amazon.com