Showing posts with label Gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gardening. Show all posts

Monday, July 22, 2019

Defiant Wireless Motion Sensor Solar Light Review

Need an outdoor light but no electrical outlet? The wireless motion sensor solar light by Defiant can assist. I recently needed to light an outdoor walkway which was marooned between electrical outlets and hard wiring the area was not an option.


I purchased the Defiant Wireless Solar Light to solve the no electrical outlet, need light problem and have been very impressed with its' performance. 


Brightness

Brightness
Motion Sensor

x
This is a bright light! It is not for subtle soft lighting along the deck, patio or home. The solar light has the equivalency of 20 LED lights.

The unit actually has two lights. The main light facing out and an interior back light behind the main light. The two lights are synchronized to provide the full brightness. The motion sensor feature then regulates how the lights are dimmed after activation.




Motion Sensor


I found the motion sensor to be very accurate. The small unit is deceiving as to how quickly it will pick up motion. Activity to trigger the motion sensor is up to 26 feet with a 120 degree radius according the the specifications.

There are two settings for the motion sensor:

1. When motion is detected the front and back light turns on to full brightness. After 10 seconds of no motion both lights turn to low brightness.

2. Standby mode. When motion is detected the front and back light turns to full brightness. After 10 seconds of no motion the front light turns off and the back light turns to low brightness.

The light does not have an option for both lights to be turned off after activation. 


Solar Light & Wireless

The solar light takes eight hours of charging to provide 12 hours of continuous light during the night. 

The wireless feature is perfect for areas of the home, deck, landscape or yard which are not located near an electrical outlet. The unit is easy to install as it is lightweight and requires two wall screws (included.) However I liked the portability of the unit due to its' lightweight and shape so I positioned the unit on the deck stairs to face the sun.

 

 

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Monday, June 24, 2019

City Pickers: Raised Garden Bed Review

My collection of pots for the container garden had become sad and unusable. A refresh was desperately needed and I went on the search for raised garden beds.

 I'd love to have truly raised garden beds about five feet high in the yard, but for now I was searching for a garden bed suitable for the deck. I am very happy to have purchased the City Pickers raised garden bed and will be purchasing more!
City Pickers green raised garden bed on wheels

City Pickers Raised Garden Bed


The size of the garden bed at 24.5" by 20.5" is perfect for the deck. Large enough for room to plant a nice selection of plants, but small enough to move easily. The watering system is also a huge plus as the system holds 2 quarts of water.

They seemed to think of everything when designing this mobile garden including:

  • Self Contained automatic watering system
  • Mobile, on caster wheels
  • Aeration
  • Mulch cover
  • Easy to move
  • Fun colors from the neutral to bold
  • Reasonable price point
  • Waist height version on wheels

Who Wants Color?


I loved the City Pickers is available in 9 colors!

  • Terra Cotta 
  • Aquamarine
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Brown
  • Grey
  • Hunter Green
  • Lime Green (my choice)
  • Red
  • Sandstone

How Much Potting Mix To Fill The Garden Bed?


I used 4 bags of 8 quarts each of potting mix to fill the garden bed plus the recommended cups of lime. The directions are very specific to use potting mix, not topsoil or potting soil! The directions stated 1.5 cubic feet of potting mix is needed to fill the bed; however it depends upon how much muscle you or you have access to! The smaller bags of potting mix are easier to transport and are also frequently on sale.

Assembly Of The City Picker


The City Picker does need to be assembled and the assembly took less than five minutes! It is very easy and quick and requires little labor. One of the advantages of a mobile raised gardening bed is the ease of movement and convenience.


The City Pickers is on wheels which do need to be inserted into the bottom of the bed. I was very pleased to find it took no effort to insert each wheel! Seems like a simple request, but one of my pet peeves for furniture that needs to be assembled is wrangling with the coaster wheels;  these wheels were so easy to pop in and lock on the bottom of the City Pickers garden bed.

Best Way To Save! Swagbucks Hack


This is my favorite way to earn rewards points combined with the ease online ordering! I found one color of the City Pickers in my local big box store, but knew there was a wide selection of colors as I had researched the garden beds online. I really wanted a cheery blue or fun green garden bed.

Back to the internet and I used my swagbucks account to order online from the big box store and have the bed delivered to my door. The option to have the item delivered free of charge to the big box store also is very handy to use and saves time as the items can be picked up at the door at the customer service area.

Swagbucks is a free account in which points are earned for purchases at most online and bricks and mortar stores. The points can then be used for gift cards which are ordered online from the Swagbucks account and the gift code is delivered to your inbox. I love it and this system has worked flawlessly for my shopping.

Click here to sign up for Swagbucks (free!)

 

More Reviews From The Gardeners And Nature Friends at Review This Reviews

Balcony Gardening Tips by Olivia Morris
Garden Kneeler Review by BarbRad
Water A Flower Day by Wednesday Elf
Hostess Gifts For The Gardener by Olivia Morris 
Planting In Spring For Summer by Cynthia Sylvestermouse
Creative Flower Photography by Mary Beth Granger



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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Fabric Pots Reviewed

Gardening In Fabric Pots

garden vegetables
Could these grow in a cloth container?
Image courtesy of pixabay.com
Do you have a garden? Have you considered growing in fabric pots? Let's review the possibilities. 

I am familiar with the concept of container gardening and have tried it a few times over the years. Until recently, I was not aware that another option is to grow my vegetables, herbs or flowers in a fabric pot. Now, that sounds interesting!

The advantage to using a cloth container is that it allows for better aeration for the roots and better drainage, too. From what I glean from the description of the brand that I am interested in using; transplanting from them allows for a better chance of the plant not going into shock. I am thinking it might work well for starting a small tree to be planted elsewhere when it gets some height to it. 

I love that there are so many options for sizes to grow in, too. A fabric pot can be as small as one gallon or as large as 100 gallons. (Now that is a huge bag!) Personally, I am drawn to the 7 gallon size because I think it offers some real versatility. It also seems to be a very popular size with other gardeners, too. The pots made from cloth would also fit in places that a standard pot or container might not. They won't be as heavy to move, either. 

The possibility of using these little fabric pots over and over again appeals to me. When the growing season is over they can be laundered and saved for the next batch of gardening. Granted, we can do the same thing with clay, resin and plastic pots but the bags would take up much less storage space when not being used. Storage can be a problem for most of us especially the urban gardeners who need to grow their items on a small patio or balcony. 

How about you? Did you know that fabric pots were even an option? Would you be willing to try them out? I am going to give them a try.




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Monday, April 29, 2019

Reviewing the Basalt Birdbath by Stone Age Creations

My birdbath on a West Virginia ridge.
I have been eyeing these beautiful carved stone birdbaths for years. Only last week did I finally splurge on one. The Basalt stone bird bath by Stone Age Creations carried what I consider a hefty price tag but I think it is worth every penny.  This unique stone bath speaks to me, it is a perfect addition to my "yard", and it will be appreciated by the birds that visit me at The Shack for years to come.

Why Bird Baths are Important


Not only are bird baths wonderful lawn ornaments but they also provide water for the local birds. Birds need water; most birds drinking daily. And birds bathe in order to clean their feathers. Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides important information about proper upkeep of healthy bird baths and why birdbaths are useful. 

Birdbaths also attract a variety of birds to your yard. If you enjoy backyard bird watching and want to attract more birds, you'll love Mary Bath's gorgeous photographs and story about her own backyard birdbath. I always look forward to seeing her photography of her feathered visitors.

What is Basalt?


By looking at and touching the birdbaths at Sun Nursery (where I purchased my birdbath), I could guess that Basalt was some sort of stone. For the purpose of this article, I looked up more information.

Basalt - "the dark, dense igneous rock of a lava flow.... often displaying a columnar structure"  - dictionary.com 

Basalt is also described as
  • as heavy as granite, sometimes heavier
  • high in iron content
  • as durable as granite
  • aesthetically interesting due to the iron content
  • is a stone that has been used in architecture for centuries
  • in addition to landscaping and architecture, basalt is used as massage stones and as healing stones in jewelry
And an interesting bit of trivia is that some of the iconic "head" sculptures of Easter Island are carved from Basalt! I don't know very much about those Moai carvings but I have always thought they are made from beautiful stone. 


Easter Island Moai stone carvings
(photo credit: public domain courtesy of Aurbina)

A Basalt Birdbath at The Shack


I wanted this particular bird bath for several reasons. It is beautiful. The rustic stone exterior and super smooth interior portion of the dish is interesting in appearance and blends perfectly with the rugged ridge landscape.

It comes in two pieces. Each piece is still quite heavy, but the two pieces allowed me to haul it in the Jeep and carry it to it's spot under the apple tree.

My beautiful basalt birdbath
The bowl is quite shallow. During my next visit I am going to add a flat rock to the bowl - giving the smaller birds another spot to perch or use as a step. I really like that this bowl is flat-bottomed and Cornell Lab recommends shallow bird baths. 

The deer are into every single thing that is outside at The Shack. I am hoping that they are not able to knock this heavy birdbath over if they decide to help themselves. Also, the wind blows quite hard coming up and over that ridge. I am sure this bird bath will not blow over.

My land is at the top of the ridge. The terrain is rocky and dry. There is a creek somewhat nearby but it is at the bottom of the hill. I'm sure the birds will be appreciative of a convenient water source.

Related Link: 

During my last trip to The Shack, it rained a lot. So much so that I didn't get much done. I wasn't able to prepare a spot so the bath sits level. But I did have an opportunity to take a hike. If you want to see the photos from that hike, click here

I have wanted this bird bath since discovering Sun Nursery years ago. Sun Nursery has a HUGE selection of plants and staff that are both helpful and knowledgeable. If you are near the Maryland and DC areas, Sun Nursery is well worth a visit. 

Stone Age Creations makes some gorgeous items. I am partial to their birdbaths, benches, and boulder owls. If there is not a distributor of their items in  your area, you can find some of their items on Amazon. 





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Monday, April 15, 2019

Gardening Reviewed on Review This

Treasures from the Archives of Review This!


 Gardening Reviews on Review This! As the winter winds roar away, the spring breezes arrive whispering the names of gardeners everywhere, beckoning them to come out and play. Our contributors respond to those breezy whispers, not only by working in their gardens and flower beds, but also by sharing tips and gardening suggestions here on Review This Reviews. 

We recommend plants, flowers, gardening tools, garden maintenance and care tips, as well as, how to attract and provide for birds & butterflies.  We even feature a bit of gardening decor just for fun. 

Readers have a world of gardening experience and expertise literally right at their fingertips when they visit Review This.  Because our contributors live in a variety of climates, states and countries, we are able to offer something for everyone, just about anywhere.

There are several ways you can explore our gardening articles section. You could click here to see a list of gardening articles on our site directory.  Or, perhaps, you would prefer using the tab at the top of our site labeled "Gardening' which provides an easy drop down list of articles.  Plus, there is Pinterest.  We have a Pinterest board dedicated to our gardening articles shown below that allows you to peruse via images.  By simply clicking the image of the article of interest, Pinterest will automatically redirect you to the published review here on Review This.


Sit back, read, relax and enjoy.  Then, listen for your name on the wind and be ready to respond to the invitation.  For many of us, gardening is the best form of therapy and meditation.  Plus, it yields gorgeous rewards.


Welcome to Our Garden!  



 A Preview of the Pinterest Board - Gardening Reviews 

 There are over 50 Gardening Reviews on Review This! 
This small board features the 30 most recent reviews. 





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Monday, April 8, 2019

Attracting Northern Cardinals

How to attract Cardinals.
I love Cardinals. And frequently see them in the area around my apartment near Baltimore. They are plentiful here. But I rarely see them at The Shack. The Shack is located on a ridge in Northeastern West Virginia. I enjoy birdwatching at The Shack and have been puzzled about the absence of these beautiful red birds at my feeders there. So I reviewed what they are attracted to and am sharing that information here.


Types of Bird Feeders and Seed that Northern Cardinals Prefer 


Cardinals are attracted to the type of birdseed I purchase; mixes with black sunflower and/or safflower. Where I may be going wrong at The Shack is that they tend to prefer platform feeders or feeders with trays. My feeders at The Shack all have the circular openings for the seed.

After studying a bit about cardinals I realized that I already had witnessed that Cardinals preferred to feed from the ground or from platform feeders. A friend had kept a seed block on the ground and the Cardinals had flocked to it constantly.  At The Shack, the most bird seed that ends up on the ground occurs during the process of my filling, flipping, and hanging the feeder. After that process, the majority of the seed remains in the feeder. 


Cardinals Love Trees and Plants with Berries


While I have had some shrubs and trees that produce berries, I don't have a great amount of those plants. I have planted a thornless blackberry plant and plan to plant blueberry bushes. After reviewing what Cardinals like, I suspect I'll spot many more Cardinals after my berry bushes begin to produce!

Cardinals also are attracted to Viburnum shrubs and Mulberry trees. The Viburnum Dilatatum "Henneke" is highly recommended to attract cardinals. Yes, I've just added Viburnums to my lengthy plant shopping list.
Viburnum Dilatatum "Henneke"
Dogwood trees also attract Cardinals. I do have Dogwood trees but they are deep in my woods, at the bottom of my property. Perhaps I have more of these gorgeous red birds at my property than I know. They may stay down at the other end of my land.


Bird baths


Cardinals are a type of bird that "readily visits bird baths". I need to get a bird bath. The water at the top of my ridge is limited. And while I have no way of keeping the bird bath full during the dry months and in between my visits, at least I could fill a bird bath each time I visit. 

I've had my eye on the Stone Age Creations bird baths for a long time. Maybe it is finally time to splurge!
Granite Boulder Birdbath by Stone Age Creations
Hopefully, planting more berry-producing trees and shrubs, hanging a different feeder, and putting out a bird bath will help attract these birds to my yard at The Shack.

*photo courtesy of wikimedia commons/public domain. Photographer: Ken Thomas.

Related Link:

Mary Beth recently reviewed Facts and Photos of the Northern Cardinal. If you like these beautiful red birds, be sure to take a peek at Mary Beth's article.

My online source for bird identification and information: Cornell's All About Birds. The variety of photos and audio clips of the bird's songs are very helpful.


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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Greenworks Blower Reviewed

Let the Spring Clean Up begin! Tidy up the yard, the  porch, the lawn and the garage in minutes with the Greenworks Single Amp Electric 160 mph Blower.

Greenworks blower

Easy To Use

Very easy to use with a one touch control. The Greenworks blower was ordered with Amazon Prime and arrived in two pieces. Simply snap in piece A to piece B and the assembly is complete in under one minute.
The cord is adequate, but more than likely an extension cord rated for outdoor use will be necessary depending upon the location of the electrical outlet. I highly prefer a lightweight blower with an extension cord versus a heavier cordless model.

Power

The Greenworks Blower has plenty of power for blowing leaves off the deck, the front porch and off the driveway. It provides enough power for a light Fall or Spring clean up for a small yard or between visits by a lawn service if the area is full of trees.

Trees drop their leaves in our area from September through November and last year we were buried in leaves between the last lawn mowing and the Fall Clean Up. The blower was a great convenience to blow a path on the driveway until the Fall Clean Up was completed.

Light!

The Greenworks 160 MOH Blower weighs in at a nice and light 5.6 pounds. Light enough to generate the power needed with the maneuverability necessary to aim the blower at its' target(s) without shoulder and arm fatigue.

Dust Off The Car Inside And Out!

This is not my original idea which begged me to ask myself, "Why didn't I think of that!" It is a little leaf blower hack that works great!

My friend mentioned to me when the Fall weather started to worsen and the outdoors was not conducive to car washing. Use the leaf blower to dust out the interior of the car. Yes!
Simply open all four doors and remove any objects in the car that are NOT to be blown onto the driveway or the garage.

Point the handy dandy Greenworks blower to the interior of the car and blow out all the dust! It works! Fabulously! Three minutes and the dust and debris from the interior of the car is gone.
This was a great hack for the middle of winter to freshen up the car in the throes of salt and winter weather.

Recommendation

I highly recommend the Greenworks blower if a lightweight blower is necessary for the health of your shoulders and arms. The blower has come in very handy and is one of my favorite home purchases. This Spring the blower has already used for a car dust off, driveway clean up, garage clean up, porch dust off and cobweb clean out.




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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Birds Butterflies and Bees in the Garden, What you Need to Know

How to successfully attract birds, bees and butterflies to your garden and enjoy them all season long!

Everyone that I know is so tired of winter.  Once the clocks have moved ahead for Daylight Savings Time, all of us are just counting down the days until we see those first signs of spring.
I have not yet had the delight of my first Robin or Blue Birds.  I know though that they will be coming very shortly.  And I am ready to welcome them all with some special treats that I know they will love.
birds, butterflies and bees in the garden, attracting wildlife, garden birds
Monarch Butterfly and bee on Asters
                                          

Three Basics That Are Essential

If you want the birds, bees and butterflies to come to your yard, you need to provide some of the things they will want.  
Like any other living creature, these little marvels of nature are looking for shelter, food and water.  Those are the essentials for any living being that you would care for.  Garden visitors are no different in that regard.  The only other thing that they may be looking for, would be a safe place to nest.  Trees and bushes are great for that!


Flowers are food!

Bees and butterflies and yes even the birds are looking for flowers to feed their appetites.  Pollen laden plants are a bee's best friend.  Butterflies and bees like nectar laden flowers too.  Birds are more attracted to seed heads that will come later in the year.  But they will use petals, and leaves to line their nests.  


Attracting different kinds of birds.

If you set out bird houses, you will certainly get some feathered friends calling your yard their home too.  Feeders for finches and hummingbirds will almost guarantee their arrival at your doorstep.  Plant the right kinds of flowers and you will have an abundance of these lovely little creatures to watch and enjoy.

Butterflies, birds  and bees will enjoy a bird bath.  The birds will splash around cooling themselves off in the heat of the summer, while the butterflies and bees will also stop for a drink and a little rest.  Butterflies and bees can also make use of the sugar water that is in your hummingbird feeders, so don't be surprised to see them there too. 

Having a place that is rich in flowers and shrubs with a few trees for their safety will make all of these creatures very happy to call your home, their home too!

Picking the flowers and shrubs to enhance your garden!

If you really want the butterflies, bees and birds in your garden, here is a list of some of the best ones to plant.

  1. Butterfly bush, as the name indicates is a magnet for many different types of butterflies, but they are also a magnet for hummingbirds too!
  2. Sunflowers, their flat heads are wonderful landing pads for all garden critters.
  3. Coneflowers will attract bluebirds, bees, and butterflies as well.
  4. ServiceBerry Bushes will attract cardinals, robins, cedar waxwings and more.
  5. Phlox is another great plant to attract birds and butterflies.

If you enjoy having these critters in the garden with you, make their lives easier by planting lots of the flowers that they love.  The list above is just a small sample of what plants are great to encourage wildlife in the yard.  It is by no means a complete list.  For that I refer to my book produced by Birds and Blooms Magazine.  


Gardening for Birds, Butterflies and Bees!



You can get your own right here! It is a great resource book and one that you can come back to and reference for future garden projects or additions.

You might also like to take up photography when you see how beautiful it is to have these creatures in your garden.  Mary Beth (another writer on Review This) shows us what it's like to take pictures and how to do it too!  You can check out her article right here: Bluebird Facts and Photography

Having a natural flower filled garden will surely bring you and all the visitors to your garden a lot of joy and happiness.  The colors and scents, along with all the activity will inspire you to enjoy the beauties of nature.

butterflies in the garden, attracting butterflies into the garden, garden flowers
Swallowtail Butterfly
attracting bees into the garden, garden bees, garden flowers
Bee with sunflower






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Sunday, March 10, 2019

Two Durable Plants that Have Survived for Over Twenty Years

After reading this article on Houzz about a plant that's hard to kill, I realized, heck that's the plant I have! It all makes sense now.

The photos on this page feature the two plants we've had in our family room for over twenty years.

I haven't been the best plant caretaker. Nobody in the house has.

These plants have even withstood a move from our previous home to this one. Yep, they're durable and as the article on Houzz says, hard to kill.

The Houzz article only references the Pothos plant. That's the leafy green plant positioned to the left in the photos. The plant on the TV stand is our spider plant. We've owned it for so long that I had to confirm it was indeed a spider plant.

Plants for the Forgetful and Neglectful

The Spider Plant and the Pothos Plant have both survived my flawed gardening thumb. But they're still my babies. Over the years I've learned to adopt a kinder loving nature towards them. I no longer ignore or forget them. They've taught me to be a better gardener.

As we get older I believe we become drawn to things that grow. Maybe it's when the kids are all grown-up that we itch to help another living thing grow again. I have to say that's kinda what happened to me.
These plants were patient, they knew I would eventually come around.
What I Did Right

These are the few basic things I did do correctly without knowledge or effort:
The flowers in the Pothos Plant aren't Real
The Spider Plant is Beside the TV

  1. I tried several locations in the home until I found the spot that gave them the right amount of light. They're by a window that gets the morning sun.
  2.  My mom once told me to never over water your plants. So I only water them about once a week. They almost dry out completely before their next watering. I have no idea if that's what these plants need, that's just how I roll.
  3.  Do plants like being close to each other? I dunno. But if they could talk I think they'd say they're family. So yah, for that crazy reason, they're positioned fairly close to each other.
  4.  Once in a while I clean up dead dry leaves.
  5.  I ask them how they're doing from time to time. Hubby cracks up.
What I Did Wrong

These are the few things I've done wrong.
  1.  I used to forget to water them for weeks. My poor baby plants. I no longer do that!
  2.  I never fertilize them. Yah I know, I should.
  3.  I've never transplanted them. 
  4.  I should probably freshen up their soil, so yah, I've never done that.
  5.  I used to keep them in a place where they didn't get enough light. However, that was just a guess on my part. They seem happy by the morning sun window.
A Few Things I Love About These Plants
  1.  The Pathos and the Spider plant clean the air
  2.  The Spider Plant is said to be an EMF (electric magnetic field) cleaner. I have it positioned near the tv for that reason as well.
So don't hesitate to become the mother or father of either the Spider or Pothos plants. In my book, they're durable and easy.

If you're looking for a little more guidance on plants and gardening, a fellow reviewer Olivia suggests the Old Farmer's Almanac, there's even a farmer's almanac calendar. Pretty cool.




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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Excellent Gardening Advice from The Old Farmers Almanac

Gardening Advice


Gardeners are a wonderful bunch of people who just can't seem to get enough dirt under their fingernails and still have lots of fun. February and March are the months when their fingers get really itchy to be in that soil and moving it about!


Image by kmicican on Pixabay
Everywhere they look, they see the signs of spring to come.  Maybe the weather has had a few nice warm sunny, or there has been a small thaw.  The ground under the snow is peeking out and just teasing the heck out of all.  Most of us are tired of the winter and are ready to move on.  Then there are the gardeners who look out on that frozen wasteland and just know that in a few short weeks, everything will change for the better.


So What is a Gardener Supposed to Do Until Spring Arrives?

Well I know that I have been spending the last couple of days with the seeds that I have saved from last year's plants that I really loved.  I'm just checking that they are still looking good (they haven't got mold on them or rotted from being mishandled in the fall.  So far my seed stash is looking great.    The next thing that gets my attention is all my plant catalogues** from several different suppliers.
When I have exhausted all these lovely reminders of the season to come, I sit back and enjoy the musings from the Old Farmer's Almanac!


Wisdom, Planting Tips and Tricks,  and so much more!

For many years, the Farmer's Almanac has been a source of tips and tricks, planting advice and so much more. Every gardener I know has either heard about it (and really wants a copy)  or has a copy somewhere in their stash of garden related books.  If you have a gardener or two in your family, I know that this little desk calendar from the people at the Farmer's Almanac, would be an asset to them.  Filled with daily hints, facts, folklore and pictures of beautiful flowers, it will certainly brighten up a corner of their desk or workspace. What I love about these Calendars is that they are each so lovely and even though we are already into the year 2019, the dates that have already gone by, are still pretty to look at and have some interesting or funny anecdotes on them.  

Farmer's Almanac calendars are full of useful information too.  When to trim plants, moon phases and schedules for planting and replanting too.  This is one handy, beautiful and practical gift or just a necessary gardening tool like a new hoe or spade.  

Dreaming about what is to come is something Gardeners at this time of year can really excel at.  I know I have my visions  and dreams in place!

**Here are some handy links if you would like to receive some gardening catalogues:
In the USA:
Stokes Seeds :


40 Free Garden Seed Catalogues
https://www.almanac.com/content/garden-seed-catalogs-mail

In Canada:

Canadian Seed and Plant mail order Sources:

These are just a couple of links, you can "google" seed catalogues and come up with many more.  

The time to dream is now and in just a little while, your dreams will start to take shape.

Image by Hans on Pixabay






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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Gardeners and Valentine's Day What a Great Combination Reviewed

There is no doubt about it, when February comes calling, gardeners are already itching to get into the "dirt" of the matter!

#gardeners gifts #valentines day gifts for gardeners #winning combinations for the gardener
Valentine's Day and Gardeners are a great combination.  Around every corner you will find something that will satisfy and excite the gardener in your life.  All gardeners are spending much of February pouring over Seed Catalogs and planning to attend the local Garden Shows that are sure to be happening in March.  I know that I am planning not only my flower gardens, but my vegetable garden too!  I can hardly wait for that first snowdrop or even (heaven forbid) that first dandelion!

What it means is that Old Man Winter is leaving and the warmth and loveliness of Spring is on the way.  Even dandelions with their yellow heads are welcome after a cold and dreary winter season.  And the ladybugs are just an added bonus.  

Valentine's Day is a great time to think about those things that will make the gardener in your family really happy.  There is a list and it can go on and on.  But let me help you make some good decisions when it comes to the gifts that a gardener would really love to have.  

First on the List is Books! 

I don't know any gardener that would not love a beautiful book that highlights not only plants, but gives great instructions on growing them too!  Along with books would be a subscription to Gardening Magazines of which there are many to choose from.  You can find magazines specific to your area and growing zones. You can also go to more general magazines that will cover a multitude of plants, vegetables, trees, shrubs and in gardening zones around the world.  Sometimes pictures are worth the time to dream!

Second on the List is Plants!  

Your local garden center will have a multitude of plants available, especially since it is coming close to Valentine's Day.  You don't need to buy cut roses to make a gardener happy.  Primroses, potted tulips and daffodils, even indoor tropical plants are a welcome addition to the household.  They are reasonably priced and will last a lot longer than any cut flowers.

Third on the List is Pots! 

I personally love pots that are beautiful to look at!  My indoor plants always look amazing because they are in pots that match or contrast with my decor.  It makes a plain plant look amazing when it stands out as a focal point in a room.  And the added bonus is that the indoor plants do a great job of cleaning the air indoors.  This is particularly important in the winter months when windows and doors are shut up tight to keep the cold out.  When you have some really good indoor plants working for you, the air never gets that winter "stale" feel.

Fourth on the List is Garden Tools! 

Every year I know there is another garden tool that I want.  It never fails.  From hoes, rakes, wagons, potting benches and saws to hand tools and garden hoses, there is always something I need.  Make it part of your conversations and I'm sure you will find there is something needed or wanted that would make a unique Valentine's gift.  You can find some great reviews here: Review This Gardening

Fifth on the List is Hand Soaps and Creams! 

Most gardeners are always fighting with dirt under the fingernails and hands.  Playing in the dirt can be very taxing on the skin as well.  A good hand cream/balm and some really fine soaps would be welcome by every gardener that I know.  Even though we love to play in the dirt, we also like our hands to be clean and our skin soft.  There's no need for calluses even though we work with our hands.

Sixth, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth on the List!

If none of the above floats your boat, then there is this extended list too......
6.  Garden lights, Tiki lamps, outdoor fireplace
7.  Garden seating, chairs, umbrellas, tables
8.  Bird Feeders, hummingbird feeders anything that will attract birds and bees.
9.  Bird baths, Fountains, running water.

Last but not Least the Tenth!

10.  I know I mentioned tools, but there are other things that would help a gardener that are a little less obvious.  How about garden hoses, timers for lights, Outdoor glassware (non-breakable),  or a good water bottle to keep that gardener hydrated!

This list is by no means complete.  There are always new products and garden decor that can change just as the seasons do.  It's a great starting point for anyone who wants to make a gardener they love happy at Valentine's Day, that's for sure.  



The products I have chosen to show are just a small sample of what's available.  Just remember that Gardeners love anything that will help them to grow something beautiful or delicious and sometimes both.  
Happy Valentine's Day
   May your garden overflow with the love that you pour into it.
valentine's gifts for gardeners, 10 great gift ideas for gardeners, Valentines Day and Gardeners a great combination





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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review

The Best Weed Field Guide for the West I've Seen


I just discovered the best field guide I've ever seen for identifying weeds here in California. I'll finally be able to properly name all those I find and photograph while out walking and on my own property. The book was sitting on the shelf at my local public library. At almost an inch and a half thick, Weeds of the West includes almost every weed I've seen in my area. It's published by the Western Society of Weed Science. Its seven authors all have advanced degrees and specialize in weeds. I'm reviewing the 5th Edition published in 1996, but there are later editions I haven't yet seen.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review
Wild Cucumber with Grasses and Mustard, Photo © B. Radisavljevic


What I Love about This Reference Book


It's more like what's not to love? The picture quality is excellent. The arrangement of listings is logical. The descriptions provide all the information farmers, campers, gardeners, or hikers need to identify the weeds they encounter. Finally, the pages at the back make everything easier to find and understand.

The Photographs

Poison Hemlock

There are three photographs for each plant listed. Let's look first at the poison hemlock plant listed on pages 22-23 in the 5th edition of Weeds of the West. It's a weed found almost everywhere in San Luis Obispo County that's not cultivated. Each listing has three images like this.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review. This book has all one needs to identify weeds growing in the Western United States.
My scan of pages 22-23 in the 5th edition of Weeds of the West (Western Society of Weed Science)
First we see the overview of the plant in bloom in its habitat. We can compare its height to the other weeds near it. The opposite page shows a close-up portion of the stem, covered with the purple spots that help one distinguish poison hemlock from similar looking plants. We also get a close-up of the leaf. It's a much more detailed look that one would get from the overview shot.

In Roadside Plants of California, Thomas Belzer has given poison hemlock a playing-card size color photo of the top of one flowering stem. It has a good shot of the flowers and a couple of leaves, but the descriptive paragraph doesn't even mention the purple spots. It does mention that Wild Celery is a near look-alike that is not poisonous. Weeds of the West does not mention that.

The Sunset Western Garden Problem Solver's photos of  poison hemlock are so small they are almost useless. You get an overall idea of what one section of leaves and flowers looks like, but no view of the entire plant or its surroundings. You have to rely on the written description of the purple spots because the inset photo is only an oval of 1" x 1½."  It's a good book as far as it goes, but it's purpose is more to help gardeners identify the weeds so they can manage them.

The large full-page photo in Weeds of the West shows as much of an overview as possible, and if a plant is too tall for a photo to hold it all, you will see as much of it as possible for identifying its form. The two smaller photos on the opposite page under the description zero in on the two most important plant characteristics for identifying it. For poison hemlock you see the purple stem and a leaf. For western waterhemlock the smaller photos are a branch with leaves and a split distinctive root, its most poisonous part.

Matt Ritter in California Plants and Plants of San Luis Obispo County has photos with the same high quality, but the book lacks the overview shot. The book also has fewer plants included than Weeds of the West, since it's more specialized. See Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter for a more thorough review of his field guides.

Jointed Goatgrass

When I work in my garden, it seems the weeds that bother me the most are the grassy weeds. So far I've had only the Ritter books and the Sunset Western Garden Problem Solver to help me identify these pests, and they haven't helped as much as I'd hoped. But Weeds of the West identifies at least twice as many of these grassy weeds as the other books. I'll admit it covers more than just California, and that may be part of the reason why.

My scan of pages 408-409 in the 5th edition of Weeds of the West (Western Society of Weed Science)
Look at the right page of the photo above. The top photo on that page shows the part of the plant where the leaf joins the stem -- something people like me might not even notice. (I do now.) This leaf juncture often provides key identifying information, but many books only show the grass blades or spikes and the flowering part of the plant (inflorescence) or seeds with or without a pod. I like that the photos in this book show a close-up of this juncture when important. The text also points it out so I know what I should look for.

The Arrangement of the Listings


Weeds of the West entries are arranged by plant families. Many other books are arranged by habitat. Both arrangements are useful, but I find the arrangement by family helps me see that plants I never would have suspected are related to each other. Since related plants don't always need the same growing conditions or share a habitat, having them together in a book section make the relationships more obvious. 

If you look at the tops of my scanned pages above, you will see the left page has the common name for the weed in boldface at the top. Under it is the scientific name in italics. On the page on the right we see the common name again followed by the plant family's scientific name. Under that is the common name for the plant family. I'm not surprised that poison hemlock is related to wild carrot and wild caraway. I am surprised that the bull thistle is related to the sunflower. I'm amazed at all the cousins the sunflower has.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review
This photo I took in my yard features the wild cucumber (also called manroot.) Weeds of the West will help me  identify the wild grassy weeds that surround it. Photo © B. Radisavljevic


The Text Descriptions


The text that accompanies the photographs in Weeds of the West provides any other information it takes to identify the plant. It points out where to look for what in the photos. It tells you where the plant is native, its size, and its growth habit -- tall and erect  or prostrate and sprawling. Words describe the color and the odor of each plant part if it's a factor in identifying it..

Leaf descriptions include whether they are dull or shiny, how their edges look (smooth or sawtoothed), whether they are divided and if so how many times, how they are arranged on the stem (opposite or alternating), and anything special about how they are attached. Flowers and seeds are also thoroughly described.

The last paragraph explains where you are likely to find the plant (habitat.) It also mentions any other important  information you may need to know. Is the plant poisonous to humans or animals? If it's poisonous, does it resemble closely a plant that is safe?

Handy Helps in the Back of the Book


Many listings use terms laymen may not understand. So there is a Glossary at the beginning of the back matter. Next is an  easy-to-use "Key to the Families in Weeds of the West." It describes what the plant families have in common and what distinguishes them from one another. The final  aid to readers is an index that includes both common and scientific names.

Used editions of this book vary in price.

Should You Buy This Book?


If you live in the American West and garden or spend a lot of time outdoors where wild plants grow, I think you would find this book a helpful addition to your home library. I take a lot of photo walks in parks and I also garden. I like to be able to identify what I photograph, and most books don't supply the information I need. This book is more complete than any of the others I have seen or have on my shelf. The print is large enough for even me to read easily, and the publisher did not skimp on the photos.

 There are bound to be a few mistakes in a book this large -- 630 pages. I don't have the scientific background to judge the facts, but the authors certainly have academic credentials that indicate they know these plants well. I did find one omission quite by chance. I wanted to see if Queen Anne's Lace was listed in the book, since I hadn't seen it with others in the parsley family. It was in the index, but the name of the plant on the page I was directed to only said  "Wild carrot" with Daucus carota L. under it. Nothing in the page for Wild carrot mentioned that Queen Anne's Lace was another common name for it. I had to find that out on the internet.

As soon as I can afford it I will probably buy this book. I'm interested in nature and especially in wild plants, so for me it would be worth it. I like the convenience of a handy reference book when I have a question.



Buyers should be aware that this is not exactly a field guide. It's too large and heavy to take hiking. It does, though, draw attention to parts of plants you should remember to photograph to identify at home later. I have never realized how important it is to observe how the leaves are attached to the stem, for example. If you have found other books for identifying wild plants too limited, I believe you will find this book is different. I believe it's worth buying for the presentation and completeness of the information.




As I was finishing this review I saw another book that may be even more complete. If you're interested in California weeds, you may also like Weeds of California and Other Western States (in two volumes.) I used the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon to check it out and it, too, looks like a book I'd like to own.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review
Photo © B. Radisavljevic

More I've Written about Common California Weeds


Poison Hemlock: Lovely and Lethal: a photo essay with original photos from my property and my nature walks.

Milk Thistle and  Hemlock: The Prickly and the Poisonous: A Photo essay that shows both these common western weeds at all stages of growth so you can easily identify them.

Oak and Poison Oak in Photos: Can You Tell the Difference?: This will help you recognize poison oak  during all stages of growth and in any season. Our local police department asked to use parts of this to help train their search and rescue teams.

Weeds I Love to Hate: Photos of my worst weed enemies and why I hate them

Vetch Runs Wild: Short post from my gardening blog with many photos of vetch I took while hiking

The California  Weeds You Need to Pull Now! If you get them while they are young they won't cause as much trouble later.





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