Garden Map Hack

There are many ways to mark what’s supposed to be growing where in your garden. They often become faded, knocked over or hidden by your vegetables. The best solution is to create a map of your garden.  A simple sketch to a spreadsheet, you’ll find they come in very handy when you’re in the thick of it.  What were you going to plant next?  Did I plant this in the same spot last year?  What should I grow here next?

There are a lot of online gardening maps available, from gardener’s supply‘s free site to paid for sites like the one on and others. They can all help you plan, especially on raw windy days.

The Hack:

Create your own map to print out and modify as you need. You can do this in a spreadsheet program such as Excel, or you can create one on google sheets.  The important information includes the plant family, start date, specific name, days to maturity, and when your harvest date is.  I also include what I’m planting next since I do succession gardening (plant, harvest, plant again in the same location).

Even easier: here’s a link to a google sheet already created.  Simply save to your google drive and adjust as necessary.  There are two sheets: the first is an example 3×3 garden, the second is a list of plant families for crop rotation. If you don’t grow one of the families, skip to the next one.  The harvest date appears automatically (so don’t worry – you don’t have to wait until Dec. 30 to harvest!). Here’s the link:

Garden Planner on Google Sheets

There is also an excel spreadsheet available here:

Garden Planner (via 27 Minute Gardener)

Posted in 30 Min., FYI

Grocery Bag Weed Block Hack

Paper grocery bag with the bottom cut off and cut down the seamBack to blogging, though mostly on the “” site – I’ll be putting quick and easy hacks here that I’ve used or find interesting.  This is one of the easiest (and free) hacks for supressing weeds.

  1. Cut the bottom off of a paper grocery bag
  2. Split the bag at the seam
  3. Cut it in half lengthwise
  4. Fold accordion style so you have 2″ panels
  5. grocery bag folded accordion styleCut a half a hole on the folded edge in the center
  6. You now have approximately six holes in a strip of thick paper to plant your plants!

You can fold it with wider or narrower panels to make the holes closer or further apart, cut two holes on one side and one on the other to create a staggered planting pattern, or just lay the strips down on either side of a row to keep the weeds down.hole cut along folded edge and paper unfolded



paper laid on soil with soil and coffee filters along one edge



Posted in 30 Min.

Quick, Weedless Garden Path (Recyclable!)


Old path to be rejuvinated

Raked path with weeds already growing

Paths are necessary to get to your vegetables. Some gardeners plant in rows leaving the paths as grass and mowing it. Others will create paths laying down sand, weed blocking cloth, then brick or stone.  Which way is the best way? It really depends on how permanent your garden is, and how much time you want to spend on the paths versus your garden.


Paper bags, split and laid down overlapping the edges.

So why make paths at all?  The path should “make itself” – the well trodden area finally succumbing to the compressed earth. That would be okay, except for the weeds.  The weeds will grow any place they can.  Even the tightest laid brick walks will have little spots of green where a seed has slipped in between or a root has reached through enough of a crack underneath to sprout and grow.  Blacktop?  Aside from being extreme, anyone who has a blacktop driveway knows the same thing happens there, too – and who wants the smell (and the chemicals) in their garden?


Wood chips raked back over. Good night weeds!

One simple solution is to lay down a biodegradable weed block, then cover it with wood chips or other compostable material. As stated above, weeds will find a way, so why not make it easier for yourself, minimize the time you spend and actually get a reward at the end of the season?

  1. Level your paths if they aren’t already, and remove any larger clumps of grass that have already started
  2. Using 5-10 thicknesses of newspaper per  or one grocery bag soaked and split apart, cover the area, overlapping the edges
  3. Lay wood chips, mulch hay, freshly cut grass, etc. on top, enough to weigh down the paper so it won’t blow away in a high wind.
  4. Add more wood chips, etc. to bare spots as necessary.
  5. At the end of the season, rake up what’s left and add it to your compost pile as a “brown” or carbon source, laying down new paper/chips/mulch hay at season’s end to get a jump on next season.


Posted in 30 Min.

Don’t Be a Seed Scrooge!

Okay, I admit it, I’m a seed miser when it comes to my packets.  I just looked in my collection and found several of them mostly untouched dating back to 2011.  Some may germinate, but I’m not betting the garden salad on them.  Better planning for succession planting, planting most if not all the seeds in the packets and giving them away, trading the unused seeds with neighbors in the same year I bought them are all better use than where they are now.

The lettuces from years gone by are going into the indoor containers regardless, I’ll be planting them on the same day I plant my first batch (I plant greens biweekly), so if nothing shows up then I replant with this year’s seeds, and plant liberally.  Same will go for the tomatoes, the beans, the snow peas, etc.  All my favorites from years past will be put out. If they germinate – great! If not, their pots or plots will be replanted.  Helps get rid of the clutter, too.

Posted in Container, Wicking Bed

Is It Time To Garden Yet?

Icy stream

Icy streamIs it time to garden yet?  The outside says no, but the calendar says now. Not outdoors – I tried – the shovel won’t break through the mulch unless I use a blowtorch, but I won’t go to those extremes.  Indoors, the sun is reaching one of our only southern facing windows and it’s waking me up sooner in the mornings.  Ah, Zone 5b.  March 6 marks 13 weeks before the last frost. Certainly not close enough to start tomatoes, close to the time if I decide to try my hand at Hubbard squash, definitely time for onions…

A quick win to chase away the winter blues is lettuce and greens.  Lettuce doesn’t need warm soil (from 40° F to 80° F – 4.4° to 27° C), can be grown under grow lights, the roots for “cut and come again” varieties allow for shallower planting medium, and – it’s green and growing!

Styro shipping containers used by specialty food mailers work well indoors as long as you make an overfill hole in the side, and you can “cheat” a bit by putting inverted yogurt cups or taller drink cups in the bottom before you fill it with soil.  This will make a reservoir in the bottom for extra water, the soil that goes between them will allow for the water to wick up to 10″ (25cm), so once the roots start reaching down they’ll have enough to grow. Until then  a gentle top watering will allow for germination.  After the first true leaves appear a 1/2 strength solution of organic fertilizer will help them along, and tide me over until the shovel doesn’t hit frost outside.

Posted in Container Tagged with: , ,

Gardener’s Journal Hardcover – Record Your Gardening Ideas

Gardener's Journal Hardcover Picture

Gardeners Journal HC 3Gardeners Journal HC 2Hard Cover Gardener's Journal

Keep a journal filled with your own garden musings, writings, observations and sketches. On each page is a quote about gardens and gardening, giving you something to ponder as you exercise your green thumbs writing about your own adventures in horticulture. It’s a great way to keep track of your gardening trials and triumphs, a journal about your garden in it’s own book makes a great reference. Keep track of your plots, scrapbook, add your findings over the summer to the back of the book for next season’s garden or write them down as you go along. You and your family will enjoy looking through it and remember the recipes you made with the food you grew, marvel at the pictures you saved of the arrangements that graced the table.

Available at


Posted in 30 Min., Container, Raised Bed, Soil, Tangents, urban Tagged with: ,

Preserving Your Herbs for Winter

Some great information from to help you carry the flavors of your garden through the winter.  Herbs have always been an afterthought for me, usually surfacing after the first frost when I remember I’d planted some basil or other herbs next to the now dead tomatoes.  Hope to create distinct patches next year of my favorites so I don’t forget them!

Posted in FYI

Potato Rings

Ring of potato plants ready to be harvested

First Ring of Potatoes 2015

Try as I might, I’ve never actually filled these 18″ potato rings to the top. Either I have other uses for the yard clippings or get sidetracked, but this year I did fill them to 8″.  With four plants in each, they were each filled with green grass clippings, then some wood chips for carbon, some soil when I’d used up the clippings elsewhere, then finally another batch of clippings. Each time you add clippings, within three to four weeks they compact down and start to compost, ending up 1/3 or less of their height by the end of the season. Keeping a supply of nutrient rich materials under a plastic tarp or in another container may be the solution when I use the rings again next year.  The original idea was to stack a second ring on top of the first when the plants and compost got high enough, but I abandoned that idea for now since I can’t seem to fill them over a season.

Vowing to do at least something in the garden every day, I noticed one of the rings had died back,

10-12 lbs potatoes from one 2.5ft ring

Yield from Potato Ring #1

meaning it was time to get in and harvest before the other creatures decided it was time to stock up on the starches.  Lifting the ring, several good sized spuds toppled out, with many more underneath. About 10-12 lbs from the 2-1/2 foot ring – and that was the one that gave up the ghost early.  If it’s not pouring rain out tomorrow I may go for another one to see how it faired.

I was able to get a couple of canvas sacks from our local “Elbow Room Coffee” roaster for free (I go there when I can – can’t beat her coffee and I drive over 100 miles a day, so she’s that good!). Next year, along with the rings, a sack of potatoes with three or four stakes to hold it up will be competing in one of my garden beds.  Perhaps the overgrown strawberry bed will be their home in 2016.

Posted in Container, urban Tagged with:

Bag o’ Soil and Manure Hack

Bag of manure with x's cut into it

Cut X’s in the bottom for drainage, but not so much the bag breaks. 

This is an experiment I’ve been wanting to try for years. Better for the spring and for one large or two cherry tomatoes, using a couple of bags of gardening material stacked on top of each other (potting soil on top, the “good stuff” underneath). NOTE: the bag of manure is COMPOSTED MANURE – it’s got an NPK of 1-1-1 so it shouldn’t burn the roots.


  • easy to set up
  • contained
  • saves water
  • 4-6+” of material for roots to grow in plus the ground below (depending on how thick the bags are)
Bag of manure with x's now on the bottom, cut the top away, leaving the sides intact.

Turn over the manure bag and position it. Cut around the top


  • Ugly…
  • expensive (in the long run)

If you were to set up a whole row of these, say a 4 ft. by 20 ft, it would cost you $880! The two bags cost all of $11 + seeds (had some left over so it was $0 for me).

Cut the holes in the top according to the spacing of the crop you’re going to grow in the bags. More for something like leaf lettuce (or just make slits instead), less for broccoli, bok choy, etc.

When you’ve harvested your crop, you can either plant again or incorporate it into the soil, recycling the plastic bags if at all possible (my mother-in-law’s transfer station is now accepting bags, but I’ll need to ask them if these are appropriate when the time comes).


It’s a quick way to smother weeds and extend your garden by a foot or two, takes five minutes to set up, great for a small kid’s garden or some last minute experimenting, but it’s not the way to go unless you’ve only got a small spot on the blacktop or you’re going to transplant the

Bag of top soil with x's cut into the bottom similar to the composted manure

Cut X’s into the bottom of the potting soil for drainage, stack with X’s facing DOWN on top of the open bag of composted manure.

items later.  That being said, we’ll see if I get a quick crop of lettuce before the frost.








Bag of potting soil with x's cut on the bottom and planting holes on the top

Place the potting soil with the X’s facing down onto the open bag of manure, cut holes into the top for planting

Posted in Container, Tangents, urban


HTTPS:// Great plans for a large clotche. In the northeast it would be wise to insert rebar into the pvc tubes and make them 16″ on center to hold the snow.

Posted in Container, FYI