Beginner Gardening Series: September Edition

September is the month where you can look at your garden and take stock of what worked and what didn’t, harvest the remaining produce growing in the garden (except for a few frost loving plants, will talk about that later) and put your garden to bed for the winter.   If you live in some of the warmer climates, you can now restart your garden!   For the plants that like the heat (like tomatoes and peppers), start the seeds indoors or buy starter plants. I, however, live in zone 5-6, so no replanting of the garden here.  I will be taking the steps to put my garden to bed and do what I can to get it ready for next Spring.

T A K E  N O T E

Get yourself a cute little notebook (don’t we all buy one everytime we go into Target?!) and take note of your garden.  What grew well in the garden this season?  Did your tomatoes get enough sun?  Did your squash plant succumb to mildew?  These are observations that will help you in planning your garden for next year!  Your placement of plants may change based on your observations.  For me, I need to move where I planted my squash because it was affected by mildew.  So…I need to find a place that gets more sunshine to prevent this from happening again.


W H E N  T O   H A R V E S T

Are you daily looking at your peppers wondering if they are ever going to turn red??  While it is ideal to let peppers, like tomatoes, ripen on the vine, there does come a time when all the peppers and tomatoes need to be harvested from the garden and left to ripen indoors, out of direct sunlight.  So yep, harvest your tomatoes and peppers, even if they aren’t perfectly ripe and let chemistry do it’s thing indoors. Now with this said, if you have planted some “cool crops” you can leave them in the garden until after the first frost.  Some cool crops are Kale, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel Spouts, Spinach, Collard, Asparagus. A quick Google search of “cool crops” will provide a great resource if you are wondering if any crops you have planted are considered a “cool crop”.

 

 

 

TIP: you can leave carrots in the ground through the Winter (they may actually get sweeter as the carrot holds on to it’s sugar to combat the cold), however, you will need to harvest them before Spring as they will go to seed and not be edible.

P U T T I N G  the  G A R D E N  to  B E D

One thing I always need when going to bed is a blanket, your garden likes one too!   There are a couple of ways you can create a “blanket” for your garden.  You can grow a cover crop.  Stay with me here, this sounds much more complicated than it really is.  A cover crop is as simple as tossing some seeds on your cleaned out garden bed.  This helps create a barrier between the Winter elements and your garden soil.  Cover crops also give back vital nutrients that were taken from the soil to produce all your yummy veggies!  A seed that I recommend is Cereal Rye.  Sprinkle the seed ideally 4 weeks before the first hard frost, or as soon as you can after cleaning your beds.  Literally let nature do the work and watch it grow.  If planting another crop has you rubbing your temples, then a nice layer of straw or some other type of mulch will also provide a sufficient barrier for your garden soil against the harsh winter elements.

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3 Easy Steps to Carve a Pumpkin

Fall is such a beautiful time of year! The leaves changing colors. The crisp, frosted mornings. The roar of football crowds. Pumpkin lattes, cozy scarves and cute boots – seriously, it’s a season we look forward to year after year. And, if your home is anything like ours, one of our most beloved fall traditions is pumpkin carving! Which is why we thought we’d share some pumpkin carving tips to make the process as fun and as memorable as it should be. So, grab your pumpkin and let’s go!

You’ll need:

Pumpkin                      Damp cloth                 Thin serrated knife

Large spoon/scooper   Quart of water             Tablespoon of bleach

Spray bottle                 Ball point pen             Flameless/Battery operated tea light candle

Optional: Stencils & a pumpkin carving kit – you don’t necessarily need to purchase a pumpkin carving kit from the store, but you can if you want to protect your everyday kitchen utensils and tools.

pumpkin carving

Step One: Clean the pumpkin

The first thing you want to do is, make sure your pumpkin is clean. With a damp cloth, wipe all the dirt off the surface of the pumpkin and dry it completely. Then, you’ll want to cut a fist-sized opening in the pumpkin. Some people prefer to cut the top off at the stem, which does make it easier to reach in and get the guts out or light a candle. Others prefer to cut the bottom off so the finished look is more aesthetically pleasing. It’s totally up to you which way to do it.

pumpkin car

Step Two: Prep the pumpkin

Once you’ve cut a fist-sized opening in the top or bottom of your pumpkin, you need to begin removing all those squishy guts from the inside. Oh, don’t squirm! You know what I’m talking about – all the slimy, stringy fibers and seeds. Call me crazy, but I dig right in with my hand and pull out as much as I can before switching to a spoon. It’s oddly satisfying, right? Should you choose to begin with a spoon, like I’m told reasonable people do, then you may want to invest in an oversized spoon that has serrated edges. They can typically be found in pumpkin carving kits that are sold at most grocery and craft stores. It will come in handy when you scrape all the strings off the inside walls of the pumpkin.

Bonus tips:

Don’t toss the seeds in the trash! Let them dry out a bit, then roast them in the oven for a tasty treat. And, if you cover your workspace with newspaper than clean-up is a breeze! Just roll up the mess and toss it!

 

Ok, we’re just about ready to begin carving, but before we do, there’s one last step to making sure it’s cleaned properly. Now that we have the strings and seeds removed from the inside, we need to prepare a mixture of water and bleach to wash the inside of the pumpkin. Add one tablespoon of bleach to one quart of water and spray the inside of the pumpkin. Allow it to dry for 20 minutes before you begin carving. The typical untreated-carved pumpkin will begin to show signs of decay in as little as one week. The bleach water serves as a preservative and can prolong the life of your carved pumpkin up to three weeks! Additionally, the smell of the bleach is detectable by small critters that may want to snack on your artwork. It will keep them away from your masterpiece!

**Note: Do NOT eat any pumpkin that has been treated with bleach water!

 

Guess what, y’all! It’s time to get carving!

Step Three: Carve the pumpkin

Unless you’re planning to carve a simple jack-o’-lantern face or you have the drawing skills of Da Vinci, then you may want to invest in pumpkin carving stencils for this part.

 

Use the ball point pen to draw or trace your chosen image onto the pumpkin. Using a pen, opposed to a pencil, makes the lines easier to see when you’re cutting into the pumpkin, and don’t worry! – you can easily “erase” any mistake by using a q-tip that’s been dipped in rubbing alcohol.

 

Ok, now that you’ve got your super-awesome design drawn on the pumpkin you can use the thin serrated knife to carefully cut along the lines you’ve drawn. Once you’ve fully carved your design the way you want it, you’ll want to grab that spray bottle of bleach water and give any newly-exposed fleshy areas a spray. After all, we don’t want your happy jack-o’-lantern’s smile to begin shriveling into a frown.

 

The final step to creating your perfectly carved pumpkin is to place a flameless, battery-operated tea light candle inside your pumpkin. You can purchase a multi-pack of these candles at any craft supply store. We like them because they don’t put off heat or produce soot, which can cause your pumpkin to go bad more quickly.

 

So, there you have it! You, my friend, just carved a fabulous pumpkin! Happy fall, y’all!

PUMPKIN carving

How to Preserve Your Pumpkins | 3 Simple Steps

pumpkin preservation

It’s pumpkin season! September is a month for getting back into a routine, pulling out the sweaters, and setting out the pumpkins. While there continue to be more and more faux pumpkin options that look pretty realistic, to me, not much beats beautiful fresh pumpkins from the garden or local farm. We are going to share with you a simple way from On Sutton Place to keep your fresh pumpkin looking, well fresh, all season long.

  1. In a large sink or tub, prepare a mixture of bleach, water and dish soap: One gallon of water, 2 tablespoons bleach, and a couple of drops of dish soap. Soak the pumpkins in the mixture for 15-30 minutes.

2. Rinse the pumpkins thoroughly with fresh water and dry completely.

drying pumpkin

3. After the pumpkins have thoroughly dried, give them a coat of spray matter sealer which will help preserve them even longer…Christmas pumpkins??😉

white pumpkin display

How simple is that?! Hopefully these tips will help you keep those pumpkins looking fresh and vibrant all season long! Now to choose which color of pumpkins to add to the front porch…

3 Ways Gardening Can Reduce Stress

3 ways gardening reduces stress

Does Gardening Reduce Stress?

Yes, it does. Class dismissed. There will be a test on Tuesday.

You have likely heard that gardening can reduce stress, and you thought:

 Yeah, I buy that.

But, how does it work, and how much does it really help?

There are 3 ways gardening can reduce stress:

  1. Lowers cortisol and boosts mood
  2. Lowers blood pressure
  3. Increases sense of well-being

 But first, let’s first take a closer look at stress and how it affects the body.

gardening reduces stress

How Stress Works

Stress includes acute, isolated events and prolonged periods of tension. When confronted with a stressful situation, the brain sends commands to the autonomic nervous system which controls body functions such as breathing, heart rate, metabolism, and digestion.

The Autonomic Nervous System

The autonomic nervous system is a yin-yang-like network composed of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.

  1. Sympathetic

The sympathetic nervous system generates the well-known “fight-or-flight” reaction which delivers high levels of hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) to the body through the bloodstream. This speeds heart rate, slows digestion, and raises blood pressure.

  1. Parasympathetic

The lesser-known parasympathetic nervous system stimulates the “rest and digest” functions. It slows heart rate, speeds digestion, and lowers blood pressure. Adrenaline and cortisol decrease when the parasympathetic system engages.

The body’s reaction to stress helps people navigate threatening situations, which is good, but too much yin-energy without enough yang-recovery can lead to dangerous health complications.

Effects of Chronic Stress on the Body

Chronic stress can interfere with immune, cardiovascular, digestive, reproductive, and sleep functions. For example, the long term use of adrenaline wears on the circulatory system, which increases blood pressure and the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Like a car, delaying general maintenance for a short time is fine, but extended delays cause major, expensive, and often irreparable issues. Your entire body needs regular maintenance, or, restorative periods.

Gardening Reduces Stress

Relaxing hobbies, exercise, and socializing all help engage the parasympathetic system. Gardening is a relaxing hobby that frequently involves exercise and socializing, so one could assume that gardening lowers stress, but how much?

 One science journal article highlights several studies exploring community gardens and their effects on mental health. In one study, gardeners reported considerably lower stress levels than those who participated in indoor physical activity.

Scientific studies show that gardening significantly reduces stress.

1.   Lowers Cortisol and Boosts Mood

In one experiment, 30 community gardeners completed a stressful task and followed it with half an hour of outdoor gardening or half an hour of indoor reading.

The gardening group experienced significantly lower cortisol levels in the recovery phase than the reading group.

Furthermore, positive mood measurements returned to pre-stress levels after gardening. The reading group experienced a decrease in positive mood throughout the recovery phase.

The increase in positive mood compared to the reading group strongly supports gardening as an effective stress-management tool.

2.   Lowers Blood Pressure

The sympathetic nervous system raises blood pressure. Studies continue to show that exposure to nature and sunlight lowers blood pressure.

For example, one medical journal describes a Japanese study in which observing plants resulted in lower blood pressure, pulse rate, and muscle tension. Also, people working in computer rooms experienced lower blood pressure when plants were introduced.

Gardening involves observing plant life and sun exposure, which both decrease high blood pressure. This makes gardening an effective way to counteract the body’s stress response.

3.   Community Gardening Increases Sense of Well-Being

This science journal article focusing on community gardens and mental health features a study in which community gardeners reported a much greater sense of well-being than individual gardeners and non-gardeners. They also reported higher levels of resilience and optimism than non-gardeners.

Gardening promotes mental health and reduces stress, but adding a social element to gardening appears to increase one’s sense of well-being considerably.

Well-being is different from reduced stress, but a greater sense of well-being creates resilience in stressful situations.

Gardening is a scientifically-proven way of significantly reducing the stress levels in our bodies. Even if our circumstances are beyond our control, we can choose activities like gardening that encourage our body’s recovery response.

Understanding USDA Climate Zones: Your Complete Guide

Climate zones are an extremely helpful -but slightly confusing- tool for gardeners. Seed packet diagrams and nursery stock labels often list climate zone data along with recommended planting dates.

But, what exactly do climate zones tell us, and how do we use them?

USDA climate zones are based on the average minimum temperature for the region. Gardeners can use this information to select plants that will tolerate the average winter conditions for their area.

 Basically, climate zones tell us what will grow in our area.

This information is often combined with frost data to generate recommended planting dates, which has led gardeners to believe that climate zones tell us more than they actually do.

What USDA Climate Zones Can Tell You

Climate zones are divided into 13 major categories, with Zone 1a being the coldest and Zone 13b being the warmest. 

Each category is separated by 10°, starting at -60° Fahrenheit annual minimum for Zone 1, and increasing to 65° Fahrenheit annual minimum for Zone 13.

Each category is divided into subcategories a and b. Subcategories are separated by 5° Fahrenheit. So, Zone 1a has an average annual minimum temperature of -60°, while Zone 1b has an average annual minimum temperature of -55°.

 Here’s the cheat sheet:

Plants are categorized according to cold hardiness. However, most plants (perennials/biennials) also need a dormant period, which can only happen when temperatures decline to a certain point.

So, when a plant is rated for zones 5-9, this means it could die at -25°, but it needs to get colder than 30° over the winter to enter dormancy.

Most vegetables are annuals, so they don’t enter a dormant period.

Vegetables are loosely divided into cold-season and warm-season crops.

Cold-season crops, like most leafy greens and brassicas, should be harvested when they are in the juvenile stage before they flower/fruit. Flowering, or bolting, happens when the temperatures warm up. When cold-season crops bolt, they are no longer edible (they probably won’t kill you, but they won’t taste good).

Cold-season crops generally benefit from a light frost, which only happens near 32°.

 

Warm-season crops, like corn, melons, and tomatoes, should be harvested after they mature, or after they flower/fruit. Again, this happens when the temperature warms up.

 

Warm-season crops generally die off after a light frost, and they only begin active growth when temperatures are above 60°.

.

So, cold-season crops only thrive in climates where temperatures get down to freezing during the winter, while warm-season crops must have a few months during the summer where the minimum temperatures are above 60°.

 

Confused?

 

No worries. The most important takeaway here is that climate zones tell you what you can plant.

What USDA Climate Zones Cannot Tell You

joey gardening apron

The most important pieces of information missing from climate zones are first and last frost dates.

While the climate zone determines what cold-hardy plants grow in your area, frost data will give you a planting calendar for optimum planting dates.

Frost dates also determine how long the growing season will be. The last frost is the beginning of the growing season, and the first frost is the end of the growing season.

This is the information that drives planting calendars, and this is what many gardeners think they will get from climate zone maps.

 

But, here’s the thing-

 

Although climate zones don’t technically give you annual high temperatures, frost dates, or other crucial information like average precipitation, climate zones are relatively uniform.

 

So, climate zone 9a will have similar frost dates, seasons, and overall growing conditions whether you’re in Los Angeles, Houston, or Jacksonville. This is why many seed packet and nursery stock labels use climate zones as a rough guide for planting dates.

Climate zones definitely tell you what plants grow in your region.

 Climate zones generally tell you when plants should be planted in your region.

 Climate zones do not tell you the first/last frost dates in your region.

 Once you become familiar with your regional weather patterns, climate zones and frost dates take a backseat to observable seasonal temperature changes.

The primary reason a seasoned gardener will use climate zones is to see what new plants they can plant in their landscape, orchard, or veggie garden.

And remember- if in doubt, plant it anyway!

Find your climate zone by visiting the USDA interactive climate zone map.

understnading gardening climate zones

3 Steps To Drying Hydrangea

how to dry hydrangea

Hydrangea are one of the most popular summer flowers.  They put on quite a show during their peek and we all want a way to enjoy them well past the summer months. Taking a lesson from P. Allen Smith, here are 3 easy steps to enjoy these beautiful blooms well past their summer prime.

  1. Leave the hydrangea on the stem until they have come to complete maturity. They will, most often, start to turn a pink/green shade and their leaves will become more paper-like rather than feeling like a soft petal. When this happens, it is time to cut your hydrangea from the bush. Do so at an angle with sharp clippers.  Leave about 14-18″ of stem for the drying process.
how to dry hydrangea
how to dry hydrangea

2. Using a hammer, gently smash the bottom of each stem to help aid the hydrangea in absorbing the water and glycerin.

how to dry hydrangea

3. Mix 2 parts water to 1 part glycerin. Glycerin can be found at your local pharmacy or grocery store. As the hydrangea absorbs the glycerin, it will begin to turn a golden brown. The blooms may continue to turn a richer brown days after all the liquid has been absorbed.

how to dry hydrangea

It may take a week for the hydrangea to absorb all the liquid, but once it does you are left with a gorgeous bouquet of dried hydrangea with varying shades of brown, that almost look like copper!

how to dry hydrangea

15 Garden Gift Ideas For Her

gift guide for the gardener

Knowing what to get the gardener on your list can be hard!  We have put together a list of 15 items that is sure to bring a smile to any garden lovers face. You may even find a thing or two to add to your own wish list.

gift guide for the gardener
gift guide for the gardener

Made with fine English lavender from the Bonny Doon farm, the Gardener’s Lavender Salve is an effective healing agent for dry elbows, knees, hands, heels, and cuticles.

– Key Ingredients: Extra-virgin olive oil, pharmaceutical grade cocoa butter, premium beeswax

4 oz.

gift guide for the gardener
gift guide for the gardener

With this stunningly photographed greenery guide, anyone can master the art of making your living room thrive. When done correctly, curating any decent houseplant can be just as effective as hanging a beautiful work of art. After all, our green companions are known to be beneficial for mental health and for general health (being oxygenators), as well as a key element of any well-balanced interior. Authors Lauren and Sophia run the wildly successful nursery and interior-design store Leaf Supply, in Sydney, Australia. They cast their plant-loving net far wider than simply fabulous Australian interiors, featuring jungle-y architecture from around the world! For each spread of beautifully verdant interiors, the duo breaks down how the foliage within is surviving (and thriving). Ablaze with jaw-dropping photography, Indoor Jungle will deserve its own prominent place in your new, improved, and jungleified living room.

– 256 pages
– Hardcover

gift guide for the gardener
gift guide for the gardener

Adorn this plant holder with a lush green or use it to store pens, paintbrushes, and so much more. Made from backstrap loomed and foot loomed cotton, featuring a dainty tassel detail, it’s the perfect unique addition to your home or workspace.

-Materials: 100% Cotton

-Measurements: 5″H, 4.5″D

4. Merino Wool Marled Navy Throw $138

gift guide for the gardener
gift guide for the gardener

Super soft and so cozy, this throw was made in Ireland from the finest quality merino wool. It’s fibers are lighter than sheep’s wool, making it incredibly soft to the skin. Woven in a contemporary marled navy design.

– Merino lambswool
– Dry cleaning recommended. Can be machine washed on a wool setting only and reshape after washing. Do not tumble dry
– Ireland

57″W, 80″L

gift guide for the gardener
gift guide for the gardener

Go with the flow in this go-to tank, made from exceptionally soft poly-viscose blend, in a flattering draped silhouette, round neck and racerback. Available in size xs-2x

gift guide for the gardener
gift guide for the gardener

Our collection with Corkcicle pairs our signature florals with their innovative, triple-insulated drinkware—so you can enjoy your favorite hot or cold beverage anytime, anywhere. This 12-ounce stemless wine cup keeps drinks chilled for 9 hours or warm for 3 hours.

gift guide for the gardener
gift guide for the gardener

Our collection with Corkcicle pairs our signature prints with their innovative, triple-insulated drinkware—so you can enjoy your favorite hot or cold beverage at home or on the go. This 16-ounce canteen keeps drinks chilled for up to 25 hours or warm for up to 12 hours.

gift guide for the gardener
gift guide for the gardener

The Roo Apron is perfect in assisting you with harvesting your vegetables, weeding and deadheading your garden or collecting anything that needs to be put away. Simply release the ropes and everything you have collected funnels out the bottom.  O/S fits all.  Machine washable.

gift guide for the gardener
gift guide for the gardener

Elevate your backyard veggie patch into a work of sophisticated and stylish art. Kitchen Garden Revival guides you through every aspect of kitchen gardening, from design to harvesting—with expert advice from author Nicole Johnsey Burke, founder of Rooted Garden, one of the leading US culinary landscape companies, and Gardenary, an online kitchen gardening education and resource company.

gift guide for the gardener
gift guide for the gardener

The Joey Apron is perfect in assisting you with harvesting your vegetables, weeding and deadheading your garden or collecting anything that needs to be put away. Simply release the ropes and everything you have collected funnels out the bottom.  O/S fits most.  Machine washable.

plant lady hat
gift guide for the gardener

Express your inner Plant Lady with the Roo Apron’s newest hat! Made from a quality poly/cotton blend, this low profile hat can be worn and enjoyed by any gardener on your list.

Plastic Adjustable Snap

Size: OSFM – Adult (58cm/22.8″)

gaden life gift set
gift guide for the gardener

Express your love for living the garden life with our Garden LIfe git set. Includes a Roo or Joey apron in any choice of color, a Garden LIfe t-shirt and Garden LIfe hat. Our aprons are one size fits all, t-shirts are unisex size xs-xl and hats are one size fits all.

 

gift guide for the gardener
gift guide for the gardener

Fall in love with a new houseplant variety every month.  We curate more than cute collections of containers & accessories, we lovingly pack everything you need to easily assemble and care for your own living decor. During the cold season, we even winterize boxes.

gift guide for the gardener
gift guide for the gardener

This handy journal keeps track of everything a passionate gardener needs to know—all in one spot!

Individual plant history pages allow you to keep a yearly log of how you’re doing with each crop. Set annual goals, keep a record of your work, track your performance, and note what you’ve learned over each season. Chart garden design and plan next year’s layout. Keep a record of plantings, soil chemistry, fertilizing, compost rotation, pest issues, weather, watering needs and more. With a convenient 6×8 size that fits easily in a tool bag, My Gardening Journal is the perfect gift for the beginner gardener—or the gardener who has everything!

15. Ceramic Fern Mug $24

gift guide for the gardener
gift guide for the gardener

Hand-painted in Italy using a cut sponge to create a natural, organic effect, this fern mug is crafted with earthenware, making it a durable addition to your kitchen.

– Earthenware
– Hand wash recommended
– Microwave safe (may get hot)
– Do not place in oven or freezer
– Handmade using natural materials; variance may occur
– 15 oz
– Italy

5.7″H, 5″ diameter