Saturday, April 19, 2014

Great Spring Garden Deals: Aldi, Costco, Home Depot, Dollar Store

Last week there were a number of great garden deals here in Orlando (April 2014). To start off Home Depot had their annual Black Friday Spring sale.

This sale went on for 11 days, however they purchased a lot of mulch which was on sale at 5 bags for $10, that sale was only 4 days long - at $2/bag, with a retail of roughly $3.59 a bag, this was a great bargain.

I went back about three times because I didn't know how much I needed and they had extended the sale due to the large amount of stock. What's even better is one of the salesclerks told me that they had a few torn bags on the side for half-price, so for a dollar I got a few more bags.

Home Depot also had plant starters for the same special of 5/$10 - at $2 each for plants that are usually about $3.69, another great deal as I had a late start on my seedlings so I needed plants to put in my community garden plots.

 Right next to my local Home Depot is one of my favorite bargain stores, Dollar Tree. Everything in the store is truly a dollar, unlike other dollar stores where the prices are rounded to the nearest dollar but more than one dollar each.

Items in the Dollar Store can change so if you see it there, buy it that day. I purchased six 3-gallon plastic buckets to make my version of a self-watering planter. It worked pretty well so I went back to purchase more and they were all gone! I hope they bring it back again. They also sell 8 lb bags of potting mix, not organic but the mix was better than top soil and although the bags are small, it's cheaper than buying a non-organic bag of potting mix for $8/$9 although the mixture might be better and higher fertilizer content.  Anyway, back to the things I bought at the Dollar Store this trip are in the picture: tomato spike fertilizer, 3-pack of plastic planter pans - I use them to place pots in not to catch water, but to fill with water and water the plant from the bottom up!  Lastly I purchased oil pans in the auto section, when I saw them I thought it would work great as a larger water catcher for potted plants. right now I'm using them on my Costco tomatoes I write about below.

 In the same shopping center as Home Depot and the Dollar Store, my favorite grocery store - Aldi's. They will bring in special items that are seasonal and this past week I couldn't pass up under $4 weed barrier, landscape fabric. I didn't need any right at this moment but for that price and length it couldn't be beat.

They also had organic garden soil, or potting mix. It was about $5 for 1 cubic foot. Not only was it less expensive than Hm Depot but it was easier to carry. I mixed one bag with half of a five gallon bucket of free compost from the local landfill to re-pot some starter plants that I also got at Home Depot.

The next great deal and I'm hoping they will catch were berries. They were selling for a little over $5 a plant. I purchased three Giant Blueberries, aka Sharpblue which are supposed to be good for this area. I won't be able to see how they grow and bear fruit for another couple of years since they are pretty small and from what I've read you should have at least three plants and different varieties but costs are prohibitive right now so I bought 3 of the blueberries and 2 black berries. All were planted in my community garden for the space. I noticed another gardener put up a bird net barrier as the birds were eating his fruit that took a year to bear flowers/fruit. I hope they survive the heat this summer and I mulched the ground with hay and removed the flowers per some videos I watched so the plant would put it's growing energy into the plant and not trying to bear fruit.

Later in the week I went to Costco Warehouse and noticed that they had a garden shop outside of the warehouse; that's new for the one that's in Winter Park, Orlando. These little hybrid tomatoes, of which I wrote an article here: Heartbreaker Tomato Vita F1 is a new breed to the US which is shaped like a heart, especially when cut in half and has a great taste, slightly larger than a cherry tomato and grows in very little space. Check out my picture below of the fruit that was bearing when I bought it and it's still growing strong. I placed each pot in the oil pans I purchased from the Dollar Store and every other day I put water in the pan to water it from the bottom up, works great and they are near our front door so they get the most sun; they supposedly grow better with full sun and most of my other plants are in the back screened in patio which only gets partial sun and of course not accessible by wild animals. Bambi hasn't come to visit the tomatoes yet so we're doing well in front and I harvest every couple days also. 

My last find at Costco and for the week is something that Costco usually sells but still if you can purchase these great deals when you see them cause they may not be there the next time. These black and yellow "Tough Box" bins are the same bins I used for my aquaponics system and are great because they don't flex or bow when filled with water or soil. 
I didn't need anything this deep, actually about 10" to 12" is more than enough, which would be a 10 gallon bin however at Home Depot a 10 gallon bin is about $7.27, the exact 27 gallon bin at Home Depot is about $11-$12 each. At Costco this bin is only $7.99 So I bought this instead of the 10 gallon cause if I decide to use it for something else I can, instead of being limited to 10 gallons.

I bought just one because I was going to transplant some of my beets that I grew from seed and don't think they'll do well in the garden as I started too late. I used it to mix the above organic soil and compost for some herbs I bought and placed in the front and was busy in the community garden this weekend so I'll transplant the beets later this week. 
That's it for the stores. On Saturday I went to two community garage sales and found some great finds - always thinking of how to reuse items for the garden. I'll post those items soon.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Pet Rabbit Manure: gardener's best free fertilizer

The Circle of Life for a Lettuce Plant
This is what it looks like: lettuce from garden to bunny to poop to fertilizer to garden to growing lettuce again!

Rabbits eat veggies, grass and grass pellets - so when they do their bizness, their manure is ready to harvest, or so to speak. According to The Vegetable Gardener website, when using chicken, cow or other animal manures for the garden, they need to compost or break down for months so not to burn your plants. On the other hand, rabbit manure is one of the best fertilizers. The rabbit poop pellets don't need to break down before adding it to your garden. This is great news, in addition, it rarely smells unless you leave it in a wet place without any oxygen, even then it's very clean compared to other manures you can add to the garden.

Boo Bunny eating fresh lettuce from the community garden he contributed his "stuff" to.
In the rabbit litter box I use a pellet that breaks down to dust when it gets wet and is safe to use in the garden so when I change out ole Boo Bunny's litter box I just dump the entire little pellets/dust into 5-gallon buckets, along with the grass he eats and other biodegradable products that might be in his pan. When the buckets are full I can take them to my community garden plot and layer it like I would in the Back to Eden Film system or I can use them as a bottom filler in the container gardens I have at home. I then top it with compost soil from the landfill and top with potting mix before planting.

So you see, the rabbit eats lettuce from the garden, he poops or pees and that goes into the compost/fertilizer back into the garden. In addition, it seems that red worm wigglers also like rabbit manure so I can put some of it in their worm bin but because the bin tends to be very moist in will smell so I don't do that as often, the worms get more than enough vegetable scraps to munch on. 

So if you're thinking of getting a pet and you have a garden, just remember you can't use dog or cat feces in the garden because they usually eat meat products and you don't want that in your vegetable garden. Cows and chickens aren't allowed in most residential housing areas and a bunny doesn't or rarely makes any noise, usually doesn't need special permission to live with you and when I have time, I'll share my DIY on building your bunny his own condo on wheels. #ML

Thursday, April 10, 2014

DIY Cement brick planters - ideas from Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival

Here's another Crafty Garden Girl favorite - container gardening and Disney!

It's that time of year again and I love the annual Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot in Orlando, Fla. The creative minds of the garden Imagineers are always fun to look at and discover throughout the park during spring. Here's one of the do it yourself planter ideas I saw that I wish we had more room to create at home but just because I can't do it, doesn't mean you can't. I took pictures of the concrete creation as well as instructions that were posted there. In eight simple, but not light steps, you too could put together a cool looking garden in one afternoon and build a small retaining wall for part or all of your backyard garden.

Here's the completed DIY cement brick wall planter. You could use concrete paint to add color if you wanted.

Here's steps 1-5 on how to make your own planter out of concrete blocks.
Here's the final steps 6, 7 and 8.

Let me know what you think and if you try it. Have fun in your garden!