As the Garden Grows so does The Gardener’s Rake.

Fall is a time when most gardeners are putting their gardens to bed and dreaming of the new seed catalogs that will fill their mailboxes. But here at The Gardener’s Rake the website is being revamped, please be patient – It’s getting a major wake up call and overhaul.

In the last few years I have changed some of the styles of my gardens and added new layers. Animals, an Urban Garden and Food Forest are a few changes. The most exciting are the plans for a chinampa and building micro climates to help extend the growing season. My climate is a bit on the short side here in Pennsylvania.

Chickens, rabbits, goats and a worm farm have been added. They give new depth to what I do and a constant supply of fertilizer for composting and lasagna raised bed building techniques

The ducks and chickens help with ticks and other bugs and the goats keep the grass down. There are many other benefits from having animals, the most unexpected is the continual humor they add to the days. The other day I fed the last of the tomato harvest to the chickens and the goat decided she took try one. The one chicken did not want to share and took the tomato right out of her mouth.

I am in the process of adding a urban garden to the property. It provides ease of harvesting, better use of space and time saving benefits. To be abler to step outside the door and harvest a complete meal and fruit for desert is a wonderful feeling. I have also added or are in the process of adding Permaculture design and practices to the land.

Head foreman checking out work detail, making compost

So what is Permaculture and why would it benefit your garden? Here is a description of Permaculture. For me it is working with nature and simplifying and uniting what I do. Making gardening, care of the animals and use of land easier has simplified my life and I see huge benefits to the land.

All these new processes and adventures will be documented here. So pull up a chair, grab a seed catalog and pen and paper and lets plan out winter garden or summer garden, depending on your location.

Today’s thought: To plant a tree is to believe in tomorrow.

Rainy Day Gardening Ideas

It’s another rainy day but the call of soil and planting is calling. If your spring has been a cool and wet as mine you have the urge to be digging in the dirt. But for me the soil is too wet for any gardening so its time for rainy day gardening activities.

Rainy day gardening ideas

  • I cleaned my containers for the patio and made sure they were ready for the new small space garden area. One planter is cracked but I want to make several Hypertufa planters and this will be the perfect garden pot to use and a base for making new creative pots. Hypertufa planters look great in a mossy setting or with a mini moss garden and a garden gnome.
  • I sorted my gardening tools. I keep my old ruined tools for garden art projects or to use the good handles to replace on other tools with broken handles. I have one garden rake, and old push mower and a spade that need a new purpose other than garden chores.
  • I cut the boards I needed for a mini raised bed. The area is 2-½ foot deep by 8 foot long. I used two boards to get a height of 12 inches. One side has hinges on it so that I can drop the side and use a hoe to rake the soil out. I’ll plant onions, lettuce varieties, cold crops and flowers in this area.  The raised bed frame will be placed near a lattice fence so I will also use the back of the garden area for planting cucumbers that will trellis up the fence.
  • At the end of the season I will drop the front board and remove the soil and add to the compost pile to renew its nutrients. During the winter I will add layers of composted sawdust, manure, straw shaft and leaves. By spring this will have broken down and I will add fresh compost and my garden will be ready to plant. I may even throw old windows on top of this raised bad and use it for a cold frame next spring.
  • Even though the soil is soggy and too wet to plant it’s a great time to dig up and separate perennials. The plants pop up of the ground easily and I just trench or lay them in a prepared soil bad until I can repot them or put them in a new perennials garden bed. Today I dug up the deep-rooted peonies from the flowerbed I am redoing.
  • The peonies should have been moved last fall so that they would have flowered this spring but this garden was not an area I had intended to redo. This garden bed suffered from the cold this winter and I decided it was time to redo the area – so the peonies will have to be moved. I’ll just mix them in with annual flowers this year and they will add green texture and form to a flower garden while developing better roots for flower production next year.

And next year the area I planted the peonies will be a perennial garden area with a bench for reading.

Even on a rainy day there is always a garden project that can be planned or started. It may be planning, repotting or creating garden art. But often these small tasks are overlooked on sunny days so a rainy day makes the perfect time to do mini garden tasks

How to plan The First Time Garden

How to plan The First Time Garden

If you plan on gardening for the first time here are a few ideas to help make your garden experience fun and successful.

Flowers and herbs are easier to grow than vegetables. Why? They have less insect problems, usually need less watering and you aren’t getting used to a harvesting schedule.

But vegetables are not hard to grow, you just need to watch for insects and harvest the crops when they are ready. For the first garden its usually better to only grow a few vegetables and select the ones you like the best. It’s said one of the biggest garden mistakes is planting too much. The garden becomes overwhelming.

Growing a combination of flowers, herbs and vegetable together creates an interesting garden and they help each other. For example many flowers and herbs control insects or deter small animals like rabbits.

The soil in your garden is one of the most important considerations in a garden. You need soil with nutrients and that will drain well. You can have your soil tested and many garden centers or the local extension office.

Your garden location will be determined by soil conditions and available light. You need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight for most plants.

Have your water source close to your garden so that you are not carrying water or using miles of water hoses. You may even want to place a rain barrel near the garden for easy watering.

Using a ground cover will help the soil to stay cooler and hold moisture in the ground, cutting back on watering use and time. It also helps cut down on weeds.

You may want to consider container gardens so that they are close to the house or even on the porch or patio for easy care and harvesting.

Buying seedling may be the easier route the first time you have a garden. Just check to make sure they are healthy and insect free.

Read the back on your seed packets for growing and harvesting information. You will find the proper times to plant the seeds, how deep and how long it takes the plant to grow. You can also get quality gardening advice from your local Extension Office or Master Gardeners.

Remove any unhealthy or sick plants from the garden or planters. They will attract insects that could spread disease.

Talk to local gardeners. They like to share tips and will often share a spare plant or two. And if you have a neighbor that would like to do a combination garden you will both learn form the experience.

If your gardening space is limited, use can use windowsill boxes, vertical gardening techniques, containers and pots, hanging baskets or intensive gardening plans.

These are only a few ideas that will help create a successful garden. But the most important part of gardening is to enjoy the outdoors and your garden area.

Keeping Squirrels Out of Your Birdfeeder: 5 Tips to Ensure Success

Taking care of our feathered friends has been a passion of man’s for the past 150 years. That tradition can continue today. Just set up the bird feeder and sit back on an outdoor patio storage bench to enjoy nature without interfering. You might even be able to inspire a child to take an interest in the great outdoors.

Plus, the birds may just “tweet” a thank you too. Considering that there are over 100 species in North America that visit birdfeeders, there should be no shortage of patrons. This is especially true when weather conditions such as snow or ice make finding food more difficult. Migrating birds may also appreciate a stop at your facilities.

Of course, the problem is that squirrels have a way of inviting themselves to dinner. When they steal the valuable feed, they take not only from the birds, but they interfere with our enjoyment as well. Unfortunately, squirrels have a way of circumventing most of our plans to keep them out.

However, don’t give up at the first skirmish. Here are five tips that will help you succeed.

Tip #1: Use Inventions on the Market

There have been several clever inventors that have created designs that successfully stop the squirrels. Spring-loaded weights have been used to cut off access to the seeds, and metal cages will keep out the squirrels but not the birds. A baffle with a spring bounce is another useful tool.

Baffles are umbrella-shaped domes that provide the squirrels with a slippery slope they find impossible to hold onto. They can be either clear or colored and can be added to the poles of existing feeders. By placing the baffle above the feeder, squirrels will be unable to jump onto it. Placing it under the feeder a minimum of four feet from the ground will make it difficult for the squirrel to scale the pole.

Tip #2: Serve Something Unappetizing

Though squirrels aren’t picky eaters, they do have their dislikes. For example, house finches may love white millet seeds, but squirrels don’t. Also, go ahead and feed nuthatches and woodpeckers their suet and goldfinches their niger or thistle. As far as the squirrels are concerned, they can have it.

Tip #3: Placement! Placement! Placement!

Squirrels possess an amazing acrobatic talent. They can climb almost anything and jump incredible distances. They can even hang on upside down. That’s why placement of the feeder is so important and can have a huge impact on the success of your mission.

For best results, the feeder needs to be 12 feet from any launching point. A minimum would be eight feet. From the ground, the feeder needs to be at least six feet. Just remember, those pesky squirrels can leap incredible distances.

Another tactic is to mount the feeder on a strong monofilament line. Its thin, slippery surface does not give even the most athletic squirrel anything to hold onto. To make it even more challenging, add obstacles like plastic soda bottles or sections of garden hoses.

Tip #4: Out Smart Them

Try to come up with your own home remedy. After all, there are some pretty clever people out there, and you just might be one of them. For example, filling old nylon stockings with mothballs can be an effective deterrent. So can PVC pipe wrapped around the feeder pole. These were invented by your “average” people.

Tip #5: Give Up – Feed Them Too

So, you’ve tried everything under the sun and nothing seems to work? Have you tried feeding the squirrels? Put a feeding station near the ground and fill it with some dried cracked corn or even some peanuts. Give them easy access to food they love, and they won’t bother with the challenging bird feeder. You may even discover that you can enjoy the squirrels too.

So follow these five tips to convince the squirrels to leave your bird feeder alone. Your birds will eat in peace, and you can enjoy their presence. Who knows? You might even develop a fondness for squirrels.
A Little about Stan Horst
Dreams do come true. Stan Horst knows, because he spends most of his days outside. With his business partner and wife, Deb, Stan runs Cabin Creekwood. When the two are not “on the job”, they can be found hiking or camping along with their two teenage children.

Stan has also managed to include his love of wood into his current life. Drawing upon his expertise as a former carpenter, he publishes Betterbenches.com. Among many things, you’ll find bench reviews and items such as a garden bench for sale.

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