rainy days got you down? ideas for gardeners on a rainy day

God made rainy days so gardeners could get the housework done.  ~Author Unknown

It’s a cool, rainy  day here–the kind of weather that makes me want to lie on the couch and doze on and off, dreaming of warm, sunny days and veggies growing on the vine.  Sadly, however, the inside of my house beckons me.  She’s a bit jealous that I’ve been spending so much time outside recently.  It’s hard to justify indoor chores when I could be doing a number of outside tasks that fill my spirit.

So , what does a farmer or gardener do on a rainy day?  Here are some thoughts:

  • Get outside anyway:  Wet ground = Let’s transplant!!  All those great plants that are ready to split (lillies, hostas, iris, ajuga) will survive much better if moved to damp soil in weather that won’t dry them out.  You’ll spend less time having to care for them if you transplant sooner rather than later.

hosta rain

  • Plan your gardens.  Look out the window and think about where seeds might go or where you’ll put the new yard art your going to make from a Pinterest post.  Get out some paper and markers or colored pencils.  Enjoy it, be creative!
  • Speaking of Pinterest, get on there and see if you can find some great new ideas–vertical trellises, pallet gardens, yard sculptures.  Who knows what you can find to do with all those things you’ve been upcycling.
  • Plant some seeds.  It’s a great day here to sow rainbow chard seeds–wet ground will help them soften up so they can sprout more easily.
  • Start some seeds indoors.  Get going on those more tender plants that require indoor growth.  If you’ve already started seeds, check for dampness and size.  Make sure your seedlings aren’t overcrowding each other.
  • Speaking of seeds, why not do some seed saving?  It is a great way to preserve the heritage of particular varieties and saves money (that you can invest in other flowers and veggies!).

seed saving peas and okra

  • Try a little homesteading project.  I’m ran outside this morning and pulled up the mint taking over my kale.  Voila!  Time to start drying the herb for winter mint tea.
  • Can, freeze, preserve.  Enough said.
  • Pull out the cookbooks.  Get excited about harvesting all those great fruits and veggies by looking up some new recipes and putting sticky tabs on the ones you want to try.  They might even encourage you to grow something you’ve never attempted before.
  • Pick out a new gardening/farming/homesteading skill and research it.  It is never too late, and you are never to old to learn something new.

So, next time you feel like the preteen who walks around saying “I’m bored!  There’s nothing to do,”  consider this list or challenge yourself to add a few other ideas.  And if you’re still bored?  There’s laundry to wash, floors to mop, and dishes to dry. . . . .  uh, huh, that’s what I thought.

the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out–cultivating compost

Now that we’re revamping the gardens around here, I have been working on some new composting holding areas.  Sundays are usually compost turning day so I thought I’d repost this one.  ~cameron

Sunday around is compost turning day.  After a week of tossing stuff into the bin, I spend time on the weekend taking my pitchfork to the pile.  I find that my compost breaks down more quickly if I move it around a bit.  Doing so helps it get the air it needs to different layers as well as mixes up the goodies I put in there so they break down more quickly.

compost turned

So what do I compost?

  • any raw fruit and veggie scraps or those that have not been cooked with any meat, fish, egg, dairy, or oil
  • egg shells that I crunch up first to help in the decomposition process
  • leaves, lots and lots of dead leaves
  • paper bags, paper towel and toilet paper tubes, corrugated cardboard
  • tea bags, tea leaves, tea filters, coffee filters, coffee grounds
  • shredded: newspaper, old telephone books, non-shiny paper from the recycling bin at work
  • plant cuttings EXCEPT weeds
  • old mulch or small pieces of wood/sticks
  • shredded paper/filling used to line the chicken coop

compost unturned

While I don’t consider myself an expert on compost (you need to go visit #CompostJunkie if you want the whole shebang), I do find that my compost breaks down quickly and creates rich, organic matter that has done wonders for my veggie and fruit beds as well as around hydrangeas and other bushy plants.

So how do I compost the matter?  I create layers of the stuff I noted above.  I keep a nice compost bucket on my kitchen cabinet so that it makes for easy scrap collecting.  Once I pour those onto my compost bed, I cover with a light layer of dried leaves.  The coffee and tea grounds get sprinkled evenly on top before turning the compost. Paper and cardboard are always shredded or torn to make the job easier.

As for where I compost. I used to have a natural pit in the woods beside my gardens.  I always threw clippings, leaves, and scraps in there then found that it was making amazing food for my farm.  Unfortunately,however, when I tried to box it in last summer, I stirred up a few yellow jackets who were living in a hole in the moist ground.  Needless to say, I didn’t step foot in that area until it was cold enough for them to be tucked away for winter.

I have ended up making compost bins out of upcycled pallets, wood and dog fencing.  The key is to have air circulating around the scraps.  Putting it all in a giant trash can without holes–no way.  In the mean time, here’s what I learned from that experience:

  • Long, low pallets work better than short high ones.  By using shorter pallets, I am able to get enough leverage on my pitchfork to turn the compost.
  • Make the compost bin wide enough so you can get your hauling “equipment” in and out.

And finally, do NOT cover the bottom floor of you compost bin–this will allow for worms and other creepy crawlies to enter.  They are great for breaking down stuff and creating new organic matter.  I have been known to throw a few extra worms in there myself when I find them skittering in the leaves after a rainstorm.

the worms crawl in. . .

So head outside and scope out a place you can start your own pile.  Believe me–the extra time you spend will not only help the environment but will grow you some amazingly delicious and healthy food!

rainy days and rain barrels

While I’m not so happy about starting my weekend in rain after a beautifully sunny week, I’m grateful for the water to nurture our Spring crops.  Since we remodeled our house, I’ve got to figure out a new system for rainwater collection so will be taking advantage of this grey day to do a little research.  ~cameron

rainy seedlings

Oh yeah!  Finally, the rain is coming down, and the plants are slurping up ever last drop.  Little, dry seeds are sending up a chorus of “Hurrah!” Spring rain blesses each new leaf with a promise of growth, and for anyone with allergies, washes away all that sticky yellow film of pollen and leaves a clean, crisp view of the world.

But, the time will come when mornings will grow hot and afternoons will be dry.  Plants will wilt under the pressure of heavy, humid air.  So how do you keep them watered without spending a lot of money and, more importantly, while supporting the environment?  Yep, rain containers.

Barrels, buckets, bins, and bottles–they all can collect and contain the excess rain when showers become few and far between.  There are many options out there–items that can be purchased, recycled or upcycled to create simple systems for keeping your gardens producing great tasting food and stunningly beautiful flowers.

So, how to plan for what kind of water containment system you need?  Consider these issues:

1.  Do you already have items that you can use as a water container?  Large buckets make quick and easy rain catchers.

2.  Are you handy and want to build a water barrel?   Go for it!  There are plenty of great sites online with easy to understand directions.

3.  Is distance an issue?  Even though I have a little suburban farm, some of my neediest veggies would require lots and lots of hose to reach them.  For me, using smaller containers that can be transported in my wheelbarrow are more realistic.

4.  Do you have place to collect the water?  Gutters that can feed into a barrel?  Run off from a shed roof?   Get an umbrella and head outside and look around.  You may even have a neighbor who would let you borrow a gutter too!

5.  Do you have insects in your area that will breed in standing water?  In the South (USA), mosquitoes will multiply in a hot minute given a tablespoon of still water.  You may need netting or screen over openings to keep those critters from causing issues.

6.  Are you concerned about aesthetics?  If you want something with curb appeal then a recycled water cooler bottle propped up on cinder blocks may not be the greatest option at the end of your gutter.   There are some great options both to purchase or make that are beautiful and functional.

7.  How much water do you need on hand?  If you get regular rain and just need a bit here and there, then size and shape of containers will be much different than those used by folks who go weeks or months at a time without the wet stuff.

Finally, how much of the green stuff do you want to spend to collect the wet stuff?  Me, I’m an upcycling kind of girl–I’ve already found some water cooler jugs that I’m going to place under a trough that catches water from my shed.  But you, you may want to use those bucks for some rain swag.  So whether you go green or spend green, you’re doing something good for the earth while saving a bit of money (for a rainy day)!

starting your seeds

It’s that time!  Every winter I pull up this post with the hopes of inspiring some new yard gardeners or suburban farmers.  Always glad to collect any other ideas you may have so comment away! ~cameron

Oh, where to begin?!  It’s the time of year when I move the tall metal shelves in front of the French doors in the den and get ready to start the seeds.  My daughter rolls her eyes as apparently, it is not the type of decor that will impress her friends.  The wheelbarrow is set up outside the back door so I can mix the compost and dirt.  I get a little hyper about watering the seeds as many rounds have been lost by not keeping the soil damp enough.  The cats compete with the shelf for the “sweet spot” of sunshine.  Starting seeds represents the beginning of our growing season, and for me, also symbolizes the joy of new life.

seed starts group

So–what have I learned about starting seeds certainly wouldn’t fill a book, but as I look through my journals, there are few lessons I’d like to share.

I will say that in my effort to upcycle, I have tried a variety of containers for raising seeds.  In this quest, I will sadly tell you that egg cartons just didn’t work for me.  I can’t tell you how excited I was last year (2011) as I found the dozen x dozen egg crates at a local restaurant’s recycling/upcycling pile.  PERFECT!  I grabbed as many as I could and came home feeling a little smug with my great find.  Well, in spite of covering them to create a greenhouse effect, what I found was that the carton would soak up too much of the water and the dirt on top would stay too dry.   Even trying to spray them with a fine mist didn’t seem to work as well either.  Then the egg crates started falling apart.  Ugh.  Not pretty.

egg crates

In an effort to reduce plastic waste, I had been saving all the rectangular containers that my organic spinach and mixed greens come in from the store.  I’ve also found that strawberry containers with their holes become nice little greenhouses too.  What worked with those containers–easy to move, self-contained, easy to label, dirt stayed moist, seedlings thrived.  Yep–been saving my containers this year so I have plenty to use.


I have used the kits you can buy at the local hardware store–a tray, 6-pk containers, a lid.  They worked for me too, not a problem.  I am just trying to be a better steward of our earth and upcycle plastic that already exists.

My other system has included Mason jars.  Great idea for seed starts but not so good for growing seedlings as the soil can become too moist and grow some pretty funky stuff.  You can read more about it here and here.

seed starts acorn squash

So what else have I learned?

  • soil is key–I use organic soil with organic mushroom compost, organic sphangum, and my own compost
  • I like to wet my soil before shoveling it into the containers/seed pots
  • a fine spray mister is helpful for keeping the top of the soil and the delicate seedling moist without drowning them
  • I turn my seedlings around regularly so the ones in the back get moved toward the front too
  • while I used to think it was time consuming, I have found a difference in taking sandpaper to larger, harder seeds
  • soaking seeds can be helpful as well

Most importantly, remember your seeds are like young children–the more time, care, and energy you put into them when they’re young, the better they’ll be when they begin to grow and produce.  Starting them with the most healthy soil mix and plenty of water and sun will help them be stronger as they mature.

And my most favorite thing about starting seeds–that incredible rush I feel when the first green shoots pop through the dirt.  Best feeling, bar none!

seed starts kale