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Home Garden Greenhouse Maintenance Tips

By Jill Hogan

Many gardening enthusiasts look forward to winter when they can rest right along with their gardens! That leaves the hard core gardeners who depend on their home garden greenhouses to feed their gardening addiction even during the cold winter months.

The walls and ceilings of greenhouse structures are usually made of glass, plastic or the newer polycarbonate materials. The structure must create a stable environment regardless of what’s going on outside – even when the temperatures drop, the snow falls, and the wind howls. Inside, the home garden greenhouse needs to maintain a warm, suitable atmosphere that simulates the plants’ normal growing conditions.

Creating an environment that protects the plants from extreme heat or cold, does require a bit of work. Now it’s nothing too laborious but does require ongoing maintenance to successfully care for your plants. Here are four maintenance tips suggested for home garden greenhouses:

1. Plants need to be in a heat regulated environment so check the inside temperatures regularly. That means more heat is needed when the outside temperatures fall below 0° than when they sit steadily at 20°. Programmable electric portable heaters are available if power is available inside the structure or alternative sources of fuel should be considered. Also, some bright sunny winter days can really increase the inside temp in the greenhouse. You’ll probably need at least one window that will open to provide a bit of ventilation even if it’s just for a few minutes.

2. Plants need to be watered so make sure you have access or a ready supply. Some home garden greenhouses are equipped with a faucet and water supply. Otherwise, you’ll need to run a garden hose from the house or containers of water should be available for watering and providing the necessary humidity. Check the hoses and the water lines – you don’t want them to freeze and burst!

3. Plants need to have adequate light so add artificial light if there isn’t enough natural sunlight. Southern exposure is critical for plants during the winter to maximize the available light and positioning of the sun. Greenhouses can be built next to another structure (commonly called “lean to” greenhouses), or they may be stand-alone structures. When selecting a location for all home garden greenhouses, try to avoid long shadows cast by other buildings or trees that will minimize or even obstruct the light.

4. Plants need to be continuously protected, even when accidents or treacherous conditions occur. So be prepared with a back-up. Regularly checking the structure is a must. Keep a supply of replacement materials on hand just in case of damage caused by weather – such as hail breaking out a pane of glass, heavy wet snow compromising the structure supports, or even wind blowing or ripping the heavy plastic.

Don’t be intimidated by these basic maintenance suggestions. After all, home garden greenhouses allow the gardening enthusiast to enjoy a continuous growing season regardless of what’s happening outside. The gardener just needs to be prepared to proactively create and maintain the correct conditions inside the gardening haven.

Jill Hogan is a gardening enthusiast who loves to find unique garden gifts and share her gardening tips. For more about home garden greenhouses or to find the perfect garden gift that fits any budget, check out her garden and gift ideas at http://www.GreatGardeningGifts.com.

For more great tips on greenhouse gardening, from how to build to how to grow to how to EVERYTHING,  consider buying Greenhouse Gardener’s Companion, Revised: Growing Food & Flowers in Your Greenhouse or Sunspace.  Thanks for supporting Frugal-Families.

Strawberry Care- Fall actions for spring success

By Hans Dekker

Contrary to popular belief  the success of your spring and summer strawberry harvest is largely dependent on good care in Autumn. In autumn you lay the basis for a successful strawberry fruit production. It doesn’t really matter if you have an established strawberry patch have been active just one season.  Talking from experience many gardeners will tell you this is a pretty good example of the 80/20 rule.

Here are a few tips to improve the yield and even the taste of your strawberries next spring:

Yearly renovation is an important part of caring for June-bearing strawberries. If you are growing this variety in matted rows, you should begin season-end plant care by renovating the bed after the harvest. Just in time renovation keeps your strawberry bed productive for three to four years.

Here are the steps you need to follow:

After harvest, mow foliage to within an inch of the strawberry crowns, remove all clippings. Clean the patch to keep it free bed free of all discarded plant matter

Although some gardeners may advise you to rake or till disease-free clippings into the soil, in addition to harboring disease, clippings from renovation may contain weed seeds. For that reason it’s best to keep your strawberry beds free of all discarded plant matter.

  • remove any remaining weeds and narrowing your rows to six to twelve inches wide.
  • thin your strawberry plants, retaining only strong healthy specimens, with about four to six inches between plants.
  • keep your the bed moist, but not wet, to promote new growth for next year.

Although strawberries do well in areas that have some cool weather, frost is disastrous to your strawberry bed. A basic part of caring for this plant is to protect it with a layer of mulch during the winter. As well as protecting your strawberries from killing frosts, a three to four inch layer of hay or straw will provide even temperatures to protect them from the possibility of refreezing after an early spring or mid-winter thaw.

Don’t mulch with fallen leaves since leaves tend to compact and will smother new growth in your strawberry bed.

Although many cultivators of strawberries are hardy to 15 Fahrenheit (-10C), mulch should be applied before the temperature dips to 20F (-6C) to protect buds and new growth from killing frosts. Do be sure all growth has stopped before you mulch. Otherwise, the crowns may decay. Winter mulch should be left in place until the first signs of spring growth.

Then, remove just enough to let the growth come through. Your winter strawberry care is finished and you are ready for a fruitful growing season! When you are interested in getting the most of from your fruit trees, plants and bushes you will find a lot information at our site.

Hans is writing for gardening-guides.com he loves growing cooking herbs and small fruits like strawberry pots and the blueberries. Apart from growing he also loves to write and talk about it. Find more of his tips at http://www.gardening-guides.com/

Late Summer-Early Fall Gardening and Yard Care Tips

By Charles Bellman, writer for Mantis.

Here are some useful gardening and yard care tips for late summer and early fall:

1. Continue to weed your garden often to stay ahead of weeds. Weeds can spread very quickly during the late summer, and they’ll rob your plants of both nutrition and water. Pull weeds when the soil is moist and the weeds are small. Early morning weeding sessions after an overnight rainfall can be very efficient.

2. Take pictures while your garden is fully grown. They’ll help you remember what you planted, and where. Crop rotation is a good practice that helps reduce diseases and the effects of some pests. If your tomato plants or annual flowers are too crowded, use these photos to remind you of proper spacing next season.

3. Make some notes. This is an ideal time to set up a gardening notebook or a PC file. Note what worked well, what you’d like to do better, what you’d like to learn before next season, and any tools or supplies you might need for next season.

4. Harvest squash and beans before they get too big. If you have extras, and choose not to can or freeze your bounty for later use, find a way to share it. Many food pantries and churches will accept fresh produce for distribution to those in need.

5. If you don’t already have a compost bin or pile, now is a great time to start! You’ll soon have finished tomato plants and other garden leftovers. Areas with a lot of deciduous trees will soon be covered with falling leaves. Composting is easy with the help of a composter!

6. Make a plan to collect as many fall leaves as you can easily compost or store. If you collect more than your compost bin or pile can handle, store dry, shredded leaves in large garbage cans or bags. Shred them with a shredder or a lawn mower; make sure that you keep them dry during storage. The shredded leaves can be used next season to mulch vegetable gardens, and they can provide the necessary “brown” material that your compost needs when it can be overwhelmed with “green” materials.

7. As fall approaches, avoid the temptation to prune… except large, overlapping branches that might break under the stress of snow or wind. Pruning always encourages new growth and should be avoided as winter approaches. New, tender branches are much more susceptible to winter damage.

8. Aerate and Dethatch your lawn if it needs it. The very dry summer that many of us have experienced has resulted in abnormally high thatch build-up. Aerate and dethatch your lawn at least 6 weeks prior to the end of its growing season, so that it will have time to recover before winter dormancy.

9. Continue to add mulch to your flower and vegetable gardens throughout the season. A combination of shredded dry leaves and grass clippings is our favorite. The leaves help prevent the grass clippings from matting, and the grass clippings help prevent the leaves from blowing away. Mulch helps suppress weeds and also keeps your soil retain moisture. As mulch decomposes, it will boost your soil’s tilth and fertility.

10. Plan to clean up your gardens when they’re “done.” Not only are messy gardens an eyesore, but they’ll harbor more damaging insects and diseases. Clean up your vegetable and annual flower gardens before the ground freezes and you’ll be ready to get off to a clean start next season.

To learn more about composting, click here.

Preschool Theme – Planting a Garden To Celebrate Spring!

The snow is melting, the trees are budding once again, and the puddles are collecting at street corners: that’s right, spring has sprung, and what better place to celebrate the arrival of spring than the preschool classroom! The preschool theme of spring can be explored with a wide variety of activities, games, art, crafts, field trips, and stories.

Spring makes for an excellent preschool theme because it’s colorful, fun and an excellent way to learn about the way plants grow and reproduce yearly. This craft, called “Grow your Name” allows children to observe the rate at which small plants grow, resulting in a garden shaped like their name.

To begin, give each child a small box lined with plastic and filled half-way with potting soil. Let each child trace their name or a small picture in the soil, and fill the newly formed path with grass seeds. Gently sprinkle enough potting soil to cover the seeds and water the soil. Remind children to water their name gardens every few days, and watch for their name to sprout from the soil.

April Showers bring May Flowers

Flowers are another central image for the preschool theme of spring, since their arrival is one of the hallmarks of the season. Flowers can be incorporated into a wide variety of simple, colorful preschool crafts, such as this one called “Paper Plate Daisy”.

Have each child cut a small circle from yellow construction paper. Next, they will create petals by cutting a paper plate in half, and then cutting each half into five or six pieces. Glue or staple the petals to the yellow circle to create a lovely, simple paper plate daisy.

If desired, this craft can easily be converted into a sunflower by using a black center circle and yellow paper for the petals. Sunflower seeds can also be glued to the center of the flower for additional decoration.

Children love finger painting because it’s a hands-on activity that allows them to get a little dirty. Here’s a craft called “Foot Flower” that’s sure to be equally as popular as finger painting because children get to paint their feet instead! Have the children dip one of their feet into a small dish filled with washable paint, then stamp their painted foot onto a piece of white paper. After the paint has dried, they can add a stem with green paint or other decorations to their foot flower garden.

Make sure to perform this craft in a newspapered area since it tends to get quite messy. Also ensure each child washes the paint from their foot before putting their sock and shoe back on.

Let’s Go Fly a Kite

Another great craft for exploring the preschool theme of spring is the kite. Kites are colorful, easy to create, and provide hours of entertainment on breezy Spring afternoons. Here’s a simple kite that can be created from paper plates, tissue paper, streamers and string that actually flies!

To begin, have each child design their kite on a paper plate using crayons, paint, markers, or tissue paper. Once they’re finished designing and coloring, staple some foot long streamers in the color of their choice to the bottom of the paper plate.

Next, using a hole punch, make a hole in the top of the plate. Tie a piece of yarn or string through the hole, and wrap the rest of the length of yarn or string around a piece of craft stick. Don’t forget to tape the yarn to the string before wrapping it around to make sure it sticks.

Mary Robinson has been teaching preschool for well over a decade. You can get instant access to her preschool activities, crafts, and lesson plans by visiting her website:

http://www.preschoolwhiz.com

4 Easy to Do Winter Crafts For Preschoolers

Break free of the winter doldrums with some hands-on crafting fun geared toward preschoolers. Rare is the child who does not delight in glue and paint, so snap on the smocks and get started. The four easy winter crafts below will keep preschoolers occupied and learning at the same time.

Puffy Snow People

Combine a handful of fluffy white cotton balls, a stick of glue and a snowman shape cut from construction paper for this fun and easy craft. Children will enjoy gluing cotton balls on their snow person and teachers will enjoy the low-mess glue sticks. For a jaunty cap cut a top hat from black construction paper that can be glued on after the cotton balls are adhered. Small circular pieces of construction paper can be used for buttons if so desired. Use the puffy snow people as a tie in to a discussion about the science of snow.

Symmetry Snowflakes

Teaching symmetry starts in the preschool years. It can be made easy with a simple snowflake craft that will allow the children to practice their fine motor skills. Have them take a sheet of white construction paper and fold it in half lengthwise (like a hot dog bun) and then again in half widthwise (like a hamburger bun). Prepare a snowflake quarter template for them to trace onto the folded paper after it has been neatly lined up along the folded sides. Safety scissors will help them cut out the pattern. Once the snowflakes have been cut out, open them to see the symmetry. Add coloring, glitter or glue on sparkles to make the snowflakes stand out.

Silly Seedling

Bean plants grow year round and are a great craft activity turned science lesson for the preschool set. Have the children decorate a Styrofoam cup with a silly face using magic markers. Fill the cup about 3/ 4 of the way full with potting soil and place a dried bean into the dirt. Place the cups in a warm place that receives light and watch for the beans to sprout. The children love drawing the faces on their cups and getting dirty in the soil while the teacher has an instant lesson plan in hand.

Mitten Memories

It is never too early to have children tell of things that they remember, and the winter is full of fascinating memories and stories. In this simple craft the children will trace from a pattern and cut out two mitten shapes from construction paper. On each mitten they can recite to the teacher a fun winter memory that she will write onto the cut out. After a memory has been written on each mitten the child can decorate them on the blank side and tie a length of yarn to connect the two pieces. For very young preschoolers assistance may be required with tying the yarn. Hang the mittens around the room or on a classroom bulletin board for display. This activity is great to integrate into story time or show and tell. Consider sending  the completed mittens home with a note asking parents to share their favorite winter memories with their children.

Crafts provide a wonderful opportunity to integrate other subjects into a lesson. They do not have to be overly messy or expensive to be effective and fun. Allow children the freedom to express their ideas and memories this winter with the easy craft projects above.

Jennifer Dobson invites you to take a look at MPM School Supplies where you will find all kinds of teacher supplies, resource books, classroom decorations, school furniture, classroom carpets, educational toys, and much more. The best part is by shopping at MPM School Supplies you are helping children in need all around the world because 50% of the gross profits are donated to children’s charities!

By Jennifer Dobson