Go Sky High With Your Garden


6 Easy Steps to Your Own Pallet Garden

Vertical gardening has become more and more popular every year.  One of my favorite types of vertical gardens are made from recycled pallets!  I have created pallet gardens for both edibles and ornamentals, and have also offered workshops to make your own for many years.  With the urban and suburban sprawl in the DC Metropolitan area, where I live, many people don’t have the space for a traditional garden – or maybe you just want to do something DIFFERENT…so instead of growing out, lets grow UP!

Supplies needed:

  • Empty, clean pallet with all boards intact (Check out http://www.1001pallets.com/pallet-safety/ for info on pallet safety with edibles)
  • Landscaping fabric
  • Staple gun
  • ProMix potting medium
  • Organic fertilizer blend  – Plant Tone, Green Sand, Rock Phosphate, Garden Gypsum
  • PLANTS!

Step 1: Lining your pallet

This can be a one man (or woman!) job but it’s much easier if you have a buddy.  Here you’ll want to line the pallet all the way around with the landscaping fabric (except the front, where we’ll be planting our plants).  I always try to do it with one large piece instead of cutting it up and lining each side separately.  You want to make sure it’s tight, as this is what’s holding the soil in.  The top of the pallet I typically line separately since we’ll be removing that portion at a later date when we stand the pallet up.

Step 2: Adding Potting Medium

Next we want to fill the fully lined pallet with potting medium.  I usually use ProMix Organic Herb & Veggie as it’s a lighter soil…and organic!  Lay your pallet down flat and start scooping!  Be sure to fill in, leaving ruts between each slat (where our plants will go).  I try to pack the bottom pretty tight – don’t forget this will be standing up so stuff can shift a little.  You don’t want to leave room for much movement.  The top doesn’t have to be packed as tight since we’ll be planting there later on.

Step 3:  Don’t forget to fertilize!

I like to use a blend of 4 fertilizers – and I use this blend in ALL my container gardens, so this is a cocktail to always keep in mind when potting…and it’s organic!  My very unscientific method is to take a small scooper and spread a thin layer of each of these products down each row where we will be planting.  When you’re done, rake your hand over each row to slightly blend.

Step 4:  Planting

Now for the real fun to begin!  Get your creative juices flowing – choose your plants and how they will fit in.  I often choose to do an all edibles and then a separate one for color, but feel free to mix it up.  The options are endless!  If you choose to do edibles, I recommend to use herbs and/or cool season leafy veggies, i.e. lettuce, spinach, violas, etc which you can grow two seasons per year – spring and fall.  Summer veggies (tomatoes, squash, eggplant, etc) just grow too large for the pallet.

Once I pick out my plants I line them up in my pallet before planting.  This way I can play around and switch things around if I want to.  So now I’m ready to plant!  It’s as simple as popping them out of the pot and inserting them into the pallet where you want.  Don’t forget to break up your roots like you would if you were planting a container garden or into the ground.

Step 5:  The Backfill

Now that we have all or our plants in the pallet where we want, we’re ready to fill in the gaps with more ProMix.  Fill in and push down tight, just like in a container garden.

Step 6:  Water and Wait

Okay, we’re all done planting so just water these guys in and set for about 10-14 days for plants to grow in a bit.  The root growth is what’s going to help keep these guys in place once we stand the pallet up so water regularly.  Once the pallet is ready to stand up we can remove the landscape fabric in the top and plant something fabulous there!  Tada!!!  Your vertical pallet garden is complete!  Have fun harvesting lots of goodies or simply admiring its beauty throughout the season!

Pro tip:  When watering while vertical I use a watering wand.  The water spray is gentle and thorough.  Be sure to water the top and some will drain down, but also water the body of the pallet as well.

Have fun and please share your own pallet gardening experience with me! Whether you’ve done it before, or starting now, I want to hear about it!

If you have any questions about any of these steps, please ask me for more info/photos. I have more to share!

October Tomatillos & my Salsa Verde Recipe

So, as you may know, I grow my veggies in my front yard every year due to lack of sunshine in my back yard.  This year though, I had even less veggie space in my suburban front yard since I planted some perennials that needed a home in half the area I usually do my veggies.  With that being said, I skipped the tomatillos this year because of such limited space…until those volunteers popped up out of nowhere and I didn’t have the heart to yank them out of my new perennial garden (even though it looked absolutely ridiculous and completely blocked the beautiful flagstone front walk way that someone pretty awesome built for me).

Since my lovely volunteers showed up a bit late in the season, I got a late harvest, which was totally fine with me!  I finally picked the last of my tomatillos last weekend and decided it was time to get these guys out of here…along with my now ratty looking tomatoes lined up in front of my boxwoods.  I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of the jalapenos or banana peppers quite yet however.  This is the latest I have kept my summer veggies going, by the way.  I usually pull them in the end of September right before we go on vacation.  I am certain that the mail man and the US delivery person were pleasantly surprised about this decision now that they can reach my front door without having to navigate through this obstacle course!

So what did I do with my newfound tomatillo harvest?  I made my favorite Salsa Verde of course!  Check out my “unofficial” recipe below!

Stephie’s Salsa Verde

  • Tomatillos husked and cut in half – enough to fit on a regular size baking pan (20ish)
  •  1 small onion
  • 1-2 Jalapenos (depending on how spicy you like)
  • 1 clove garlic or a couple small spoons of already minced garlic
  • Sprinkle of salt (approx 1/2 tsp)
  • Sprinkle of sugar (approx 1/2 tsp)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • Cilantro if you like – I’m not a big fan so I usually leave it out

1. Husk and wash your tomatillos.

2. Line your baking pan with foil.  Cut each tomatillo in half and lay flat side down.

3. Pop in the oven.  You can either broil or just 350 in the regular oven until browned on top.  Sometimes I throw a jap or 2 in the oven with the tomatillos as as well just for fun!

4. Throw all the ingredients in the food processor and blend.

5. Let sit over night in the fridge so flavors can mingle.  ENJOY!

So how did yours turn out?  Please share your experiences or recipe twists!

These are a few of my favorite things…

Spring is coming and like any gardener, I have my favorite tools that I use on a regular basis. In my job (and at home) I use all kinds of tools. I’m sharing with you some of my very favorite things, things that really I couldn’t live without! – All garden related of course. Disclaimer: These are all my own thoughts and views.


DeWit Potting Trowel – Hands down my favorite potting tool ever! It has a perfectly curved blade for potting your favorite plants without spilling soil everywhere. I use many DeWit tools on a regular basis and all of them are super but as a container gardening enthusiast, I don’t go anywhere without this tool. Check out DeWit Garden Tools at http://www.dewittoolsusa.com and don’t forget to follow their awesome feeds for endless gorgeous photos and information at:
http://www.facebook.com/dewitgardentools
Instagram: @dewitgardentools AND @sietsedewit
Twitter: @dewitgardentool
https://www.youtube.com/user/dewitkornhorn


Atlas Nitrile Touch Glove / Mud Glove – Gloves are always a gardeners best friend and these are no exception. I’m not a huge fan of gloves in general, but as a gardener we all know there are times you just need them and can’t go without! I love these gloves because they aren’t bulky and I can actually FEEL what I’m doing with my hands. They are light weight and breathable, and the rubber fingers can really grab. Mud Glove is also a fantastic glove which is similar to Atlas. I have a number of these in my glove repertoire as well. Check their styles out at http://www.mudglove.com.


Joyce Chen Scissors – Whether I’m simply dead-heading plants or giving them a full on hair cut, my Joyce Chen’s are always around to do the job. This is another tool that I have multiples of in every location of my life. I literally use these things for EVERYTHING! http://www.joycechen.com


Felco Pruners – These pruners rock! Light yet sturdy, these guys cut through all my tough stuff in the garden. Parts can be purchased separately and be replaced…and there’s also a lifetime guarantee! I have always used the Felco 2 (which says they are made for large hands but my little hands do just fine with these). Check out their website http://www.felcousa.com to see which ones are right for you.


TubTrug – I pretty much don’t go anywhere without a trug in tow. I use these most often as a portable compost bin. They make it so easy to drag around while dead heading and repotting plants and dumping remains in the compost pile. I use these regularly both at work and at home. Trugs come in various sizes and colors – see which ones you like best at http://www.tubtrugs.com


Touch ‘N Flow Pro Watering Wand by Dramm – My favorite way to water is with a watering wand. I use a few different “models” of the Dramm watering wand – some are like this with the one touch lever, and others have a switch valve to control the strength of water that comes out of the head. What I love about these watering wands is that there is a constant flow of showering water that doesn’t break or beat up my plants. You can see all Dramm products at their website http://www.dramm.com.

So, I’ve shared with you some of my favorite things for when I’m out in the garden. What is your favorite garden tool or product and why?

PS – Don’t forget to support your local independent garden center where you should be able to find all of these products to gear up for spring!!

Everybody needs a little winter inspiration!


Begonia hiemalis (Rieger Begonia) Collage of Color

Winter is still young here in the Mid-Atlantic region – temperatures below normal already and we still have half of January and all of February to go!!! Ugh! So, what keeps you motivated during these dog days of winter? For me it’s color in the greenhouse…which inevitably ends up at my house since I have absolutely no self control (and now an empty pocketbook!) when it comes to plants!!! Here are some of my favorites right now that will surely brighten your dreary winter days!


African Violets
TL: ‘Amour Elite’ TM: ‘Iceburg TL: ‘Candy Swirls’
ML: Unknown Variety MM: ‘Austin’s Smile’ MR: ‘Island Hideaway’ (My current fave!)
BL: ‘Island Hideaway’ – Again! BM: Unknown Variety BR: ‘Frosty Cherry’ (My friend Meryl’s current fave!)


Cyclamen persicum – Unknown Color Varieties


Orchids
TL: Dendrobium ‘Micro Chip’ TR: Vuylstekeara Robin Pittman ‘Everglades’
BL: Phragmipedium cardinale ‘schlimii x sedenii’ BR: Phalaenopsis – Unknown Variety


Calceolaria herbeohybrida – Pocketbook Plant


Streptocarpus hybrid
Left: Ladyslipper White Ice Right: Ladyslipper Blue Ice

And don’t forget about foliage plants! These guys can offer some great winter interest inside your home as well!


Foliage
TL: Begonia Rex ‘Jive’ – Atlas Collection TR: A selection of terrarium plants
BL: Aglaonema ‘Crete’ Chinese Evergreen BR: Begonia Rex ‘Spitfire’ – Atlas Collection

Speaking of terrarium plants, what a great winter project! Check out my Facebook and Instagram accounts to see the nautical themed terrarium I made for a Christmas gift! So much fun!

What are you guys doing gardenwise to help alleviate your wintertime blues?

Winter Container Gardens…How do you do?

Just because the temperatures are dropping doesn’t mean you have to drop gardening for the season.  There are still so many options for the cool (or cold!) season.  Think about cool season annuals such as ornamental cabbage and kale, pansies, and even snap dragons. Perennials such as euphorbia, carex, acorus or evergreen ferns…and of course evergreen shrubs – the opportunities are endless! Below are some of this years containers to get me through the winter. What are you doing to get your gardening fix this winter?


Far Left: Kale Red Bor, Pansy ‘Dynamite Wine Flash’, Snapdragon ‘Liberty Bronze’, Heuchera ‘Black Taffeta’, Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Standing Ovation’ – Little Bluestem, Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ – Golden Japanese Forest Grass
Far Right: Kale ‘Winter Bor’, Cabbage ‘Pigeon Red’, Carex ‘Evergold’, Euphorbia amygdaloides hybrid ‘Helena’s Blush’, Ivy – Hedra Helix ‘Yellow Ripple’, Pansy ‘Matrix Morpheous’


Variegated Iris, Euphorbia x martinii Spurge ‘Ascot Rainbow’,
Heuchera Little Cutie ‘Blondie’, Viola cornuta ‘Sorbet Orange Jump Up’,
Rumex sanguineus – Red-Veined Dock

Not everything in your containers has to be a plant…below I added some Red Twig Dogwood branches to add some height to this container. Also think about Yellow Twig Dogwood, Birch branches or Curly Willow. These can really add another element to your cool season containers.


Kale ‘Red Bor’, Kale ‘Emperor Red’, Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance – Autumn Fern,
Muehlenbeckia axillaris – Creeping Wire Vine, Pansy ‘Cool Wave Mix’,
Pansy ‘Dynamite Wine Flash’, Pansy ‘Delta Premium Blotched Mix’, Viola cornuta ‘Sorbet Blue Heaven’,
Variegated Vinca Vine

Don’t forget to jazz up your stoop or patio with a great seasonal container of fragrant cut greens…


For this arrangement I taped oasis floral foam into a mache liner and went to town with a few birch logs and my greens (the Carolina Sapphire being my fave this year!). I dug out some of the soil left in my container garden from fall that finally kicked it, and dropped this arrangement right in. Just be sure to keep it watered for long lasting results.

How are you celebrating the winter gardening season at your house? Share your gardening photos with me on my Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/Petalpushin!

Top Performers of 2014 – What were yours?

Ok, Ok…I know it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me but it’s been a busy fall so far! A brand new nephew has arrived, a new deck was built (bigger and better for, you know, more plants!!) and of course lots of gardening! So fall is now in full swing which means dismantling of summer containers and digging out all those plants you want to save!  You know me, a self admitted plantaholic, so it’s quite a process for me to winterize, dig out and repot everything I’m trying to save from Jack Frost – which was late this year thank goodness.  I was trying to streamline and not bring in SO much this year…but that didn’t work out too well for me.  Anyway, that’s another post for another time!  Right now I want to share my favorite plants from this year and hear about yours!  Below are just a few of my favorite containers from this summer…


In this pot: Cordyline australis ‘Red Star’, Surfinia Heavenly Blue Petunia, Petunia ‘Suncatcher Pink Lemonade’, ‘Dreams Appleblossom’ Petunia, Lysimachia hybrid ‘Sundew Springs’, Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’, Lantana camera ‘Samantha’


In the Blue pot: Pelargonium x hortorum ‘Mrs. Pollock’ Brocade Geranium,
Gazania rigens ‘Daybreak Mix’, Petunia ‘Potunia Papaya’, Lysimachia procumbens ‘Outback Sunset’
In the Black pot: Abutilon ‘Biltmore Ballgown’ Flowering Maple, Heucherella ‘Brass Lantern,
Cuphea hybrid ‘David Verity’, Solenostemon scuttelarriodes ‘Lava Rose’ Coleus, Petunia ‘Crazytunia Sparky’


In this pot: Acalypha wilkesiana ‘Copperhead’, Abutilon pictum ‘Biltmore Ballgown’ Flowering Maple, Pentas lanceolata ‘Graffiti Red Lace’, Dorotheanthus bellidiformis ‘Mesbicla’ Mezoo Trailing Red, Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘Saturn’ Coleus


In this pot: Cassia didymobotrya Fresen Popcorn Cassia
(blooms all summer and foliage actually smells like popcorn!!!),
Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ (super for attracting hummingbirds!),
Acalypha wilkesiana ‘Inferno’, Surfinia Variegated Baby Purple Petunia,
Portulaca Cupcake ‘Peachy’, Crossandra infundibuliformis ‘Orange Marmalade’

And finally, my fall container on my front porch still going strong!!!


In this pot: Pennisetum glaucum ‘Jester’ Ornamental Millet, Nemesia ‘Sunsatia Lemon’,
Celosia caracus ‘Intenz’, Spilanthes oleracea ‘Peek-a-boo’,
Ipomoea batatas ‘Sweet Caroline Bewitched’ Sweet Potato Vine

So, who were your superstars this year?

Gardening is for the birds…Hummingbirds that is!


Ruby-throated hummingbird.  Photo credit: Alex Pawlukiewicz

We’re still in hummingbird season folks!!!  They’re zipping and zooming around my front and back yard as well as the garden center like crazy! Have you seen them?

In Virginia we have three species: Ruby-throated, Rufous, and Allen’s. The one I see the most here in Northern Virginia is the Ruby-throated.

How do you attract hummingbirds to your garden? Do you have a feeder? Grow various plants that are delicious for them? Me, I do a little of both. In my feeder, I’ve used a store bought mix or a pre-made solution before, but making your own is fun and easy. Just bring one part sugar to four parts water to a boil, let cool and fill ’em up! You can store any extra solution in the fridge for a week.


Above is a shot of one of my hummingbird feeders.

While I use my feeders, I also grow lots of flowers that hummingbirds love. Below are just a few of my favorites…


Hamelia patens ‘African’ – African Firebush
Hummingbirds swarm to this plant on the regular! It prefers full to part sun and is drought tolerant. Many varieties of Hamelia are native to Florida, however, I believe this particular one is native to Africa (hence the variety name). I’m growing this in a pot and bringing it inside this year since it is in no way hardy here in Northern Virginia.


Stachytarpheta mutabilis var. violacea – Porterweed

Stachytarpheta mutabilis – Porterweed
I love these guys!! Hummingbirds go nuts for both varieties. Prefers sun to part-sun conditions and blooms all summer long. I saw these growing wild along river banks in Hawaii…I won’t lie, I went a little crazy;-)


Cuphea llavea ‘Totally Tempted’
Hummingbirds totally dig Cuphea…all varieties!

Cuphea ‘David Verity’
Cupheas thrive in full sun to part shade. They can tolerate some drought but perform best with regular moisture. Some trail, some are upright and tall…they come in all shapes and sizes so the perfect one is out there for you!


Lantana camara ‘Samantha’
This variegated lantana might be my favorite variety. Thrives in full sun and is drought tolerant. Both hummingbirds and butterflies love this fragrant flower!


Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’
Ok, this tender perennial might be one of my absolute favorite plants ever! (I know I say this a lot, but seriously!!). This is the very first plant I ever grew that I saw hummingbirds swarm to…then I was hooked!


Ruella brittoniana ‘Purple Showers’ – Mexican Petunia
Another one of my loves! Blooms constantly, but each bloom lasts only for one day. I saw this growing all over Cape Hatteras, N.C. a few weeks ago. It loves the sun and can tolerate salt and some drought, but can be invasive in warmer climates.


Fuchsia ‘Gartenmeister Bonstedt’
More heat tolerant than most other fuchsia varieties! A great hummingbird attracter that grows well in partial shade. This upright grower is perfect for containers!!


Streptocarpella saxorum
I absolutely cannot get enough of this plant. I grow it every year in a hanging basket. Perfect for shade/part-shade. I bring it inside for the winter – it makes a great house plant too!


Nicotiana alata
This flowering tobacco plant, given to me by a great friend, really did a number for my hummingbirds this year…and for me! It’s nocturnally fragrant and prefers full sun to part-shade. What a super performer!

There are many other great plants that hummingbirds love – these are just some of my favorites that I grew this year. Now I wanna hear about your flowering experiences with our feathered friends!!!