Questions? Write Me at

Questions? Write me at fullcirclegardener @ cableone . net.

Gardening with Kids: Garden in a Glove

The kids and I joined the Northern Plains Botanical Garden Society for their Garden in a Glove With Kids event this afternoon.  What a great kids event & kid friendly garden learning opportunity!  (Thank you to Gail for sharing her knowledge, time & afternoon with us.)  I love the idea of creating a mini-green house with a plastic glove so that all the sprouting and growing is visible to young inquisitive minds! :)

I love the idea and simplicity so much that I decided to share it with you so you can inspire the future gardeners in your home.

plastic gloves (kind used by food servers; nothing fancy)
permanent marker
5 cotton balls
5 seeds (5 different varieties is optimal but 5 of the same variety would work)
bread bag twist tie

How To:

1.  Write the names of each variety of seed on each finger.
2.  Moisten the cotton balls so they are just wet.
3.  Place seeds on the cotton ball.  (Choose the number of seeds based on the size of the seeds.  For example, a bean probably only needs one seed while carrots several.)
4.  Slide the seed and cotton ball into the labeled finger.  Do this for each variety.
5.  Gently blow air into the glove and twist to seal in the air.  Wrap a twist bread bag tie around the end to keep it closed.
6.  Place or hang the glove in a warm window and watch what happens.
7.  Once the seeds have sprouted, you can cut off each fingertip and plant the cotton ball and new seedling in soil for further garden/plant learning.

Consider including a few great book to read with your activity and make it a great science lesson. :)  Some great gardening books we have read are:
"Zinnia's Flower Garden" by M Wellington
"Jack's Garden" by H Cole
"From Seed to Plant" by Gail Gibbons
"The Magic School Bus Plants Seeds: A Book about How Things Grow" by Joanna Cole

I truly believe that memories are made when hands are involved and I love when we are making garden memories whether it is using the garden to learn, do a craft or harvest together.  Take time to share your love for gardening with the young people in your life!  For other kid friendly, education friendly ideas check some of my other posts here.

Happy Garden Learning!!! :D

Check other garden learning ideas at these link-ups as well:
Teaching Mamadiscover-explore-buttonThe Homeschool Village

 How fun!  This post was featured on the following sites...    :)
' The Ultimate Homeschool Linkup #16'
'Kids Science in the Garden'

Test Soil Temperature and Plant!

                             April 7, 2013                                                    April 23, 2013

Two weeks ago I said that I was ready to start outdoor planting.  Well, several snow storms and a lot of cold temps later we are finally expecting spring to hit this week.  My south facing garden bed is now completely snow free and today I decided to see if it is ready for planting.

How does one know if a garden bed is 'ready for planting'? 

First, if you did not clear the dead plant debris last fall, now is the time.  It really is best to clear dead debris in the fall so that any diseased material is removed and doesn't incubate for the following season.  It also allows the soil to warm up quicker in the spring.  If you have roots, bulbs or perrienal plants that need winter protection, cover them with a layer of fresh straw or chopped leaves rather than leaving their dead stems & leaves standing.

Second, the soil needs to be dry enough to work without causing clumping.  This is especially important in high clay soils like those we have in the Red River Valley.  Working the soil before it has adequately dried will create clods of soil that become very brick like once they dry.  You will not enjoy trying to break them up and neither will your plants.

                            about 4 inches deep                                       about 2 inches deep

Third, check the temperature of the soil.  Most seeds need at least 40F or greater soil temp to germinate.  You can use a soil thermometer or if you like, you can do like my Mom & raid your kitchen drawer for a reliable meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer at least two inches deep (seed planting depth) and wait a minute or two to take your reading.  Once your soil temp is 40F or greater, the soil is ready for the cool season seeds (peas, kale, spinach, some lettuce, etc).  If you are transplanting started plants, take a deeper soil temp to be sure the deeper soil is warm enough for the established roots of the transplants.

Now that I know my south bed is ready for planting, I am looking forward to getting my fingernails dirty later this week.  How about you?  Do you have a garden bed ready for spring planting?

Just encase you are wondering, my main veggie garden is still under snow as well as most of my front flower bed. 

Happy Spring Gardening from the Frozen North! ;)

More Light Please!

Tomatoes reaching for light and peppers just germinating in the center.
Did you plant a few seeds inside over the last several weeks?  Do they look like my tomatoes that I made the mistake of planting alongside some peppers that took over a week longer to germinate?  Are they a little 'leggy'?  If you answered yes to this last question then you and I need to provide our young friends with a little more light!  'What?' you say, 'I put them in my south facing window.  What more can I do?'  The answer is supplementary light.

Plants need more broad spectrum light than our northern latitudes can provide at this time of year.  For more details about light needs of your plants check out my post about lighting for seedlings that I wrote a couple of years ago.

So, what can you do to provide more light for you seedlings now that they are up and reaching for the sun.  You can buy something, make something or make what you have work...

Photo credit: Harris Seed Co
Buy Something:
This is the most expensive but also most likely the least time consuming option.  You can check out any number of on-line seed/nursery companies for light stands that range from a simple on the counter stand to a multi-layered, adjustable light stand.  I'll leave you to search those options out yourself since I have no experience with these.

Make Something:
This can be as expensive or in-expensive as you choose.  I took this option when I began my adventure in starting my own seeds.  I ended up spending about $45 on my 4 layer, 3 light stand about 4 years ago.  You can get more information on how I made my stand in my post on lighting for seedlings.  My stand has grown over the years, but the basic structure and working are still the same today.

I have also seen and pinned several ideas on Pinterest that would be worth checking out, like this counter top stand made from PVC pipe or this one from wood.

Make It Work:
I have a very good friend who decided to make what she has work and that for her was as simple as her under the cabinet lighting in the kitchen.  She places her seedlings on a shelf so that they are just a few inches under her standard florescent kitchen cabinet lights, turns the lights on and leaves them on.  I have watched her do this with success for several years and it works very well for her.

Whatever you choose to do, the key is placing the light about 2 inches above the seedlings and giving them the number of hours broad spectrum light they need.  Do that and your plants will be healthier and stronger when you are ready to move them outside into their summer homes.

I'd love to hear what you do to provide your seedlings with the light they need to stay strong and healthy.  If you make your own stand come back & let us know how it has turned out.

Happy Indoor Gardening. :)

Started Spring Planting Yet?

Main Garden
Are you ready to start planting your garden?  I was looking at my spring seed starting and planting guide today and realized that I am just 5 weeks from the average last 32F frost for my area!  That means that technically I should be able to plant spinach, kale, kohlrabi, potatoes, peas and other seeds already!  Woo! Hoo! Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to get all of those cool season seeds in the ground and enjoy some early garden produce!  :D
South Garden
A look out my windows tells me that it will be a week... or two, or three, or... until I will be planting anything in my main garden yet this year.  There is probably a foot of snow still standing in my main garden, but the little garden I started on the south side of the garage last year is almost clean of snow.  That little space is my little ray of garden 'hope' for early spring planting. :)  It is still too wet, but maybe next week it will dry out enough to drop a few seeds.

So, planting outside is at least a week away at my house.  How about yours?

Happy Spring Gardening...?  :)

Local Gardening Workshops: 2013

Get out your calendars & planners!  Gardening workshops and events are starting to show up and you will want to catch at least one this year. :)

Here some local events for  eastern ND & west central MN.  No matter where you live, be sure to check out your local county extension agency and master gardener programs to see if there are any gardening events or workshops that interest you.  Also check out local home improvement stores & nurseries for gardening events and seminars (many of which are free!).

Feel free to pass on any local garden event you come across and I will add them to the list. :)

University of Minnesota Extension 
This site lists many of the Garden/Horticulture Days that they sponsor/co-sponsor this year.  Check out their list, descriptions and registration information here.

2013 Gardening Saturday  - March 30, 2013
Cost: $25 by March 21 ($35 at door)
Fargo, ND (Loftsgard Hall, NDSU; free parking)
Topics include -Gardening with Herbs, Hardscape Construction, Square Foot Gardening, Beginning Wine Making, Flower Arranging, Shade Gardening and more.  Find more details and register here.

 Moorhead Area Public Schools Community Education has several gardening related classes coming up. See their page for information on individual events.
-Making Your Own Rain Barrel (April)
-Make Your Own Compost Tumbler (May)
-Rain Gardens: Capture the Rain of the Plains (May)
-Composting: Give Your Soil a Boost and Conserve Water (May)

Northern Plain Botanical Society Classes
They list 10 classes scheduled for 2013.  Some are free while others have a fee.  Pre-registration is required to attend any of their workshops.  Limited number of spaces available for some workshops.  Find workshop details, fee and pre-registration infomation here.
-Bulb Forcing - Feb 23, 2013  10-11:30am
-Mini-Garden - Apr 13, 2013 10-11:30am (fairy garden)
-Hardy Roses for our Northern Climate- Apr 23, 2013 10-11am (Speaker: Joe Bergeson of Bergeson Nursery.)
-Garden in a Glove with Kids - Aprl 25, 2013 3-4pm (FREE - geared to kids)
-Concrete Birdbath & Stepping Stones - June 8, 2013 9-11am
-Watercolors in the Garden - July 13, 2013 9-10:30am
-Birds, Butterflies, Beetles and Bugs - July 25, 2013 2-4pm (FREE-geared to kids)
-Herb Harvest - August 24, 2013 9-11am
-Natural Dye - October 5, 2013 9:30-12pm
-Holiday Greenery - Nov 16. 2013 10-11:30am

Fargo Public Library - Spring Gardening Series 
Cost:  FREE
Location:  Main Library

Part One: Great Trees and Shrubs - April 23, 6:30 p.m.  Speaker: Fargo Forestry Dept
Part Two: Square Foot Gardening - April 30, 6:30 p.m. Speaker: Ron Smith (Cass Co Extension)
Part Three: Separate and Propagate - May 7, 6:30 p.m. Speaker: Eric Baker (Owner: Baker Garden & Gift) 
Part Four: Blossom Barter - May 14, 6:30 p.m. (bring healthy plants to share & exchange see details here)

Happy Gardening! :)

What Should I Plant? 6 Questions to Guide Decision Making

I have been in the midst making my planting list and purchasing seeds this week.  In the last month I have spent a lot of time looking through seed catalogs and sales displays, but now it is time to make some decisions.  I have found that it is important for me to have a preliminary planting plan before I make any purchases so that I am not making impulse purchases that leave me short on space for what I really want or I spend money on something that I will not use.

Here are six guidelines that I use to help me decide what I should plant and what seeds I should purchase. 

1)  What are my family's favorite veggies?  
This is my favorite place to start.  Gardening is a complete bust, in my book, if there is nothing to enjoy out of it, not only myself, but also my family.  I love to watch my kids harvest fresh peas and shove those sweet, juicy bites straight into their mouths, and I love the healthy taste-buds they are building too.

"Ice Cream" ;) Favorites
-beans (me!)
-cherry tomatoes (me!)
-pumpkins (for carving)

General Favorite
-peppers (hot)

2)  What plants will give me the biggest bang for my buck?
I look at this two ways.  1) The cost of fresh eating produce and for those I plan on preserving for later use 2) the cost of the product (ex - salsa, tomato sauce, pickles, frozen veggies).  I try to keep my garden organic & chemical free so I compare to the cost of organic produce/products in the store.  This pin on my gardening Pinterest board links to a post that gives some good insight on cost vs production of most common veggies.  I use it as a starting point and also pay attention to the normal and sale prices at the grocery store to help me decide where my biggest bang is.

Fresh Eating
-fresh herbs
-cherry tomatoes
-summer squash

-salsa (tomatoes & hot/sweet peppers)
-hot pepper sauce (hot peppers)
-tomato based sauces (tomatoes/swt peppers/onions/celery/herbs)
-frozen fruit (rasp/rhubarb) 

3)  How much space do I have?
Here is where I decide what are 'must haves' verses 'wants'.  When I was in college and renting, the only space I had was a container or two in the south window.  I was very restricted and kept to what was most enjoyable for me to both grow and eat.  Now that I have a garden space of my own, I have more options but somehow I still never seem to have as much room as I want! ;}  I know that I need to plant more tomatoes and peppers to meet my fresh and preserving needs than I do salad greens.  I also know that I can buy raw carrots at the grocery store for less than I can kohlrabi so if space is tight I'll remove carrots from my plan.  On the other-hand, I have been know to 'create' more space by planting in containers or scattering the more colorful/unique items into my landscaping.

4) How much time/energy do I expect to have this growing season to care for my garden?
If I know I'm going to be gone for the month of July or have an injury that will restrict my ability to care for the garden, it is a good year to cut back to a few items that we will really enjoy or require minimal maintenance or (Gasp! Don't know if I could pull this off!) let the garden rest of the season.

5)  Will I start my own bedding plants from seedlings or purchase them from a garden center?
I can't wait until April/May to get my fingers into the soils so I opt to start my own bedding plants that require a longer growing season (commonly 100+ growing days).  Many common garden plants need to/can be started anywhere from 6-12 weeks prior to my average last killing frost.  If, for some reason I chose to not start my own plants, I would not purchase seeds for those long season plants (most times they say on the back of the package that they must be started inside).

Early Starters for Northern Gardener
-head lettuce 

6)  Are there any fun or new to me/my family additions I'd like to try this year?
I always consider something new or unique to add to my garden.  I find it part of the fun of gardening.  Last year I tried garlic, pole beans & kale for the first time.  Another year I planted a few soybeans to try edamame.  This year I am considering starting some perennial flowers from seed, just for the fun of it. :)

It was good for me think through and put down my thoughts regarding these questions.  Even writing this post has helped me begin to bring all my garden dreams into a plan that will work for myself and my family.   I hope that you have found them as helpful as I have.

Happy Garden Planning! :)

Garden Planning In Progress!!!

I have had the garden bug since long before the calendar flipped over to 2013, but I was able to wait until January 1, 2013 before I opened my first garden seed catalog. ;P  I have since spent many hours dreaming about and planning for the upcoming garden season!  How about you?  Oh how I long for the taste of garden fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, peas,.... {DROOL!}

So, what specifically have I been doing?  The same thing I did last year.  I reviewed my garden 'journal', inventoried seeds, made a preliminary 2013 planting plan, did some reading on garden structures (cold frames, green houses, etc.) from one of those free ebooks that have been catching my eye on Facebook, and cruised my Gardening Pinboard on Pinterst over and over.  (Check out my post last January on planning, making notes and reviewing for more details.)

Now, it is already February and it's time to start purchasing seeds since I plan to start my own bedding plants indoors.  I have a fairly large 'To Purchase' list this year.  It includes cucumber, carrot, parsnip, kohlrabi, shell peas, spinach, dill, mint and rosemary.  I also would like to purchase some bedding flower seeds, but that will depend on whether I order seeds or purchase from a local store.

Based on the average last killing frost for my location, May 12, I calculate that my first possible indoor planting date is Feb 17... only twelve days away!!  Wow!  (Fellow North Dakotans see this NDSU Extension link for the frost free dates closest to you, everyone else contact your local county extension agent.) The Indoor Seed Starting and Planting Guide I created will help you figure out when you should start your favorite veggies indoors this year.  If you have never done it before, give it a try!  It is a great way to indulge your garden bug long before the ground has begun to warm up for the season.

I look forward to sharing my gardening journey with you again this year.  :)  I don't plan on posting a weekly 'Plant of the Week' post this year, but be sure to check out previous posts if you are looking of information on a specific plant.  I do hope to get back to my weekly menu post using garden produce and have a weekly harvest post in which we can all share what we are harvesting each week.

Tell me, do you plan to start your own bedding plants this year?  Have you purchased seeds yet?

It is a new garden season and it is full of garden opportunity!  Let us dream big, plan well and encourage each other to make our 2013 gardens a happy, bountiful reality!

Happy Gardening!!! :)

On the Menu (11-4 to 11-10)

For the last several years I have challenged myself to focus on using from my pantry and shop less for a couple months each winter... a Pantry Challenge.  With the end of February and this year's pantry challenge complete, I found that I really liked having a basic menu plan to guide me.  I decided to continue making a month long menu, and to be intentional about using fresh garden produce and preserves.  We are still harvesting a few cold tolerant items and preserving a few things, but for the most part it is now time once again to enjoy what I was able to preserve this summer. :}

Overall, I have to say that intentional menu planning has been good for my family. :D  It only takes me 15-20 min to put together a new menu for the month unless I get stuck trying to think of something new to add.  If you are interested in joining me in intentional menu planning, check out my Pantry Challenge post to get an idea of how to get started.

Here is what is on our menu this week...

Still available fresh from the garden:
-a few carrots & kohlrabi
-kale & lettuce

Slow Cooker Garlic & Brown Sugar Chicken, rice and frozen peas 
Hungry Jack Casserole, Cornbread & garden carrots
Pesto Beef Stuffed Shells (homemade frozen pesto & tomato sauce)

Oatmeal squash cookies - frozen squash

Happy Garden Eating! :)

On the Menu (10-28 to 11-3)

For the last several years I have challenged myself to focus on using from my pantry and shop less for a couple months each winter... a Pantry Challenge.  With the end of February and this year's pantry challenge complete, I found that I really liked having a basic menu plan to guide me.  I decided to continue making a month long menu, and to be intentional about using fresh garden produce and preserves.  We are still harvesting a few cold tolerant items and preserving a few things, but for the most part it is now time once again to enjoy what I was able to preserve this summer. :}

Overall, I have to say that intentional menu planning has been good for my family. :D  It only takes me 15-20 min to put together a new menu for the month unless I get stuck trying to think of something new to add.  If you are interested in joining me in intentional menu planning, check out my Pantry Challenge post to get an idea of how to get started.

Here is what is on our menu this week...

Still available fresh from the garden:
-kohlrabi - harvest a couple more again today; such sweet flavor right now!!! :D

Pumpkin/Squash Waffles - garden squash
Buffalo Chicken Stromboli - homemade pepper sauce
Scalloped Potatoes - garden potatoes (didn't happen last week)
Sweet and Spicy Glazed Chicken - peach salsa or zucchini peach marmalade 

-dried apples
-roasted pumpkin seeds

 -roast pumpkin seeds
-still waiting for the rest of my green tomatoes to ripen in my kitchen; down to one last flat!  :)

Is your garden done or are you harvesting and eating fresh yet this week?  Are you preserving any garden produce this week?  I'd love hear about your favorite recipes!

Happy Garden Eating! :)

Plant of the Week: Blazing-star

Blazing Star (Liatris sp.)  photo credit
The Blazing Star, with it's striking spike of purple flowers, is native to the eastern two thirds of North America (east of the Rocky Mountains).  It is an upright plant that stands 1 1/2 - 3 feet tall on average.   Each flowering stem terminates with a spike of pink, lavender/purple, or white flowers that attract butterflies, bees and other pollinators.  This plant is often chosen to add a splash of mid summer to early fall color to a foundation planting, butterfly or rock garden.  Some species are very very hardy and will tollerate both cold (USDA zone 3a) and drought while others are restricted by temperature and/or moisture.  It would be wise to make note of the individual species you are wanting to plant and it's moisture and zone preferences before assuming it will be 'happy' in your garden.

Plant each Blazing Star about 18 inches apart in a full to mostly sunny location.  Many garden centers carry one or two ornamental varieties of Blazing Star as established plants.  Also, the plant's large root system can be divided for propagation if you have access to a well established plant.  Divide and transplant early in the spring to allow them to get well established again before the winter cold arrives.  Another propagation option is to collect seeds after the flowers have faded and are dry.  Broadcast seeds in the fall, start them in an unheated greenhouse or cold frame, or cold treat them before starting them indoors.

Please Note:  Respect native prairie plant communities!  Do not dig up wild plants or gather wild seed.  They are a part of a greater community that depends on them.  Thank you!

Happy Wildflower Gardening! :)