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

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

5 Wildlife Gift Ideas Reviewed

Bird In Tree By Raintree Annie
It is wonderful to buy a gift that will be appreciated and be of use and joy to the receiver long after the day it is given. 

If your loved ones are interested in wildlife or like gardening with wildlife in mind here are some beautiful gifts they will enjoy for a long time. 

These gifts are perfect for helping our wildlife and give hours of happiness and interest to your loved ones. They will enjoy watching the birds, carefully observing the many insects and spiders and learning about the fascinating world of wildlife. 

Many of these gifts are suitable for children to seniors and will keep on being of interest, not just when they open the gift but for all year long.  Here are a few ideas of wildlife gifts from my own experience.

1. Insect Or Bug House. 

These are fantastic for attracting all manner of insects and spiders. You simply hang it up in a sheltered spot away from winds in the garden and ideally about 6-7 foot high. I find it is ideal to place an insect house near a pond if you have one, or a hedge or trees or a mixed flower bed. 

You will know that you are providing a lovely home for all manner of insects such as lacewings, ladybugs and butterflies that will make it their home or resting place and often provide beneficial activities for the garden in terms of predating and pollinating. 

Gardeners will love it as it will attract beneficial insects to help them in the garden and anyone interested in insect life will appreciate being able to observe the bug hotel filling up! I have one and although it takes a little while for the insects to know it is there once they find it they move in!


 A lovely gift for a young child interested in bugs through to an adult gardener. 


2.Wildlife Books

A wildlife book for a child just starting on the discovery of nature is a beautiful and thoughtful gift. When introducing children to the fascinating world of wildlife you want the book to be fun educational and interesting.

 A book like this can be the very start of a lifelong love of nature and wildlife that will bring joy, understanding, fun and interest to children and develop a deep love of wildlife and conservation that can last a lifetime. A beautiful thoughtful and truly giving gift.
  


If gifting to an adult a beautiful wildlife book gift is Kate Bradbury's "The Wildlife Gardener."I have given this book as a gift myself and it was very well received. I then ordered another one for myself it was so good! You can read more about it in Diary Of A Wild Country Garden Why I Bought The Wildlife Gardener Book Twice! 


3.Bird Bath 

One of the most important things we can provide to wildlife is fresh clean water. It is essential for birds to drink every day and bathe to clean their feathers every day for their good health. 

In towns and cities especially, birds need birdbaths with fresh clean water in as many gardens as possible. If you have a birdbath in your garden you will attract a wide variety of birds all year round and once they know it is there it is likely to become very popular!

Our birdbath has bird visitors from robins, sparrows, blue tits and blackbirds to name a few every single day all year round!

This is a fantastic gift for many people from the enthusiastic birdwatcher, to anyone who simply enjoys watching the antics of the birds, to the bird photographer who can gain many opportunities to take amazing photographs of birds in action at the birdbath throughout the year.

Many of these birdbaths are also very beautiful decorative pieces for the garden.

 


4. Bird Feeders Station
 
Especially in winter but really all year round birds need additional food to help them survive. A bird feeder set will be lovely to look at, help the birds and give immense pleasure all year round to anyone who loves birds and enjoys watching their antics or learning more about them.

 Great if a young birdwatcher is learning about how to identify different birds as they will visit birdfeeders again and again and with luck will attract a wide variety of birds to learn about.

For anyone, it is beautiful to spend some relaxing time simply watching the birds and often getting to know regular visitors.  I can spend hours simply watching the birds without realising how much time has gone by! It adds interest to the day and a wonderful connection with our wild visitors.
 
A very useful addition to this gift is to give with a supply of good quality bird feed so that they can get started right away on Christmas day!    

There are various ideas and gifts for attracting birds to a garden along with various birdfeeder products in this post from Diary Of A Wild Country Garden Wild Birds Visiting Our Garden 

Baby Robin By Raintree Annie


5.Birdbox.

Many people like to attract wildlife to their gardens and a great way to do this is to hang up a birdbox. Smaller birds like bluetits often love to use these and I have had success in my own garden.

Anyone of any age interested in wildlife can spend ages watching the birds bringing in nest material and identifying them. If fortunate, they may see the baby birds fledge all the while learning more and appreciating wildlife!

Simply hang the birdbox in a sheltered shady spot far away from any birdfeeders or birdbaths so that it is not too busy or noisy for the nesting birds to raise their brood. Ideally, it should be sited in a place where it will not get too hot as this may be difficult for the baby birds to tolerate. 

Then it is a matter of waiting to see if you can attract a breeding pair and raise young in the garden. I feel it's a good idea to have bird nesting boxes in place by early January at the latest so that the birds have time to get used to a new feature in the garden and can assess it long before nesting time. 

It is amazing to watch and highly educational for young people and a real pleasure at any age. 
 



Whichever gift you choose for your loved one, if they love birds and wildlife they will love the thoughtful nature of your gift to them. 




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Reviewing The Joys And Uses Of Autumn/Fall Leaves

Autumn/Fall Leaves

I appreciate all the seasons and I love the time of year when the leaves start to change colour. Although the vibrant colours of the beautiful spring and summer flowers are now a fond memory, Autumn leaves are equally gorgeous. 

I love to see all the different colours and when you look more closely all the diverse shapes and textures of the leaves. Underfoot if it's dry they feel scrunchy and if it's wet they are all slippery.

When the wind blows you can hear the rustle of the dry leaves and some get caught up and fly higher into the sky like wild confetti! 

In the Fall/Autumn season we are treated to the stunning show of reds, golds, bronze and russets to lift our spirits as the days grow colder and shorter. I do have happy memories of Autumn that stay with me always.

There are many beautiful and lasting memories that can be made at this time of year between children and their parents or grandparents and I wanted to highlight some of the uses and joys to appreciate this season's beautiful falling leaves.

There is nothing quite like standing under a large tree when its leaves are changing color to golds and reds gazing up at the sky as the sun is streaming through, it is truly a magical experience.


Autumn/Fall With Children

This time of year always raises memories of my childhood. My parents always encouraged a love of the outdoors and Autumn always evokes memories as a child walking through deep rifts of crunchy leaves holding hands with my Mum and Dad kicking up the leaves, having fun!

We collected leaves of all shapes, colours and sizes to press, make into a picture and learn about. To succeed in this process on a basic level all you need is tissue paper and a very heavy book. Simply lay the leaf between 2 layers of tissue paper then place in the middle of a heavy book, close and leave. Before very long you will have beautifully preserved leaves. If you wish to learn more about leaf and flower pressing this book is a great starting point to learn how to create really lovely personalised art from simple leaves and flowers.

The Art of Pressed Flowers and Leaves


For younger children dried leaves can be laid down on white paper, the outline drawn and then coloured or painted in whatever authentic or imagined colours they like!

Autumn leaves are so beautiful to paint and also to take photographs of. They have amazing colours and shapes and are always interesting for the artist. Such gorgeous rich colours and moods to capture. 

When older children are involved in looking at and experiencing nature in this way it is then very educational to teach children about the different leaves and which trees they come from. 

This gorgeous book is a wonderful resource, beautiful, visual and well organised to teach children about leaves, trees, seeds, flowers and so much more to encourage an interest in and appreciation of nature.


Trees, Leaves, Flowers and Seeds: A Visual Encyclopedia of the Plant Kingdom




Children and adults can enjoy making a collage of beautiful shapes and colours together from collected Autumn leaves.

As a child, I did this activity throughout Autumn with my parents and it was an enjoyable craft in the long dark evenings.

 All we need is a large sheet of paper, a safe means of adhering them to the paper and dried pressed leaves. The only limits are our imagination!




Making Leaf Mould For The Garden

I heard a neighbour say the other day how he would like this time of year if it wasn't for the leaves falling. I was surprised to hear this as I always see this time of year as a bounty! Fallen Leaves are a great harvest for me. Each year I eagerly wait in anticipation for the leaves to change colour and then fall. My task is then to gather them all up to make gorgeous leaf mold.

I make it by first raking up all the leaves on a dry day, then I set the mower blades on the highest setting and give a gentle mow over to break them down into smaller pieces. This helps to speed up the process. Next, I either place the leaves into black bags or a simple chicken wire crate.

If they are in black bags I make holes with a fork for drainage.  If it is not raining I water them and place them out of sight around the back of the garage. This is so easy to do and I simply wait a year and then I have lovely crumbly free leaf mold to mix in with potting compost and use freely on our beds and borders!


Autumn/Fall Leaves And Wildlife

We can all enjoy the fall leaves but we should not forget about our wildlife. I always leave piles of leaves around in the borders of the garden in sheltered places so as not to be destroyed by strong winds. If we add large or medium-sized logs or piles of sticks that assist wildlife even more by providing protective cover.

Over the years I have seen blackbirds kicking these piles of leaves around to find dinner beneath, hedgehogs taking the leaves to another place getting ready for their winter hibernation, or even deciding that the pile itself will make a cosy home!

There are also all the unseen bugs, creatures and minibeasts who will inhabit the leaf pile to make it their home and find some winter comfort there. 


So just a few examples of how we and our garden creatures can enjoy and use this bountiful resource that is the fallen Autumn/Fall leaves. How do you enjoy Autumn/Fall leaves?   



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

My Favorite Hamama Microgreens Seed Quilt Accessories

Recently, I wrote about my successful experience with growing microgreens, using Hamama Seed Quilts. I thought it would be helpful to also review both the decorative accessories and most helpful extras I use and love for growing these delicious and extremely nutritious microgreens indoors, in the comfort of my living room.

Although the Hamama's bamboo grow tray frame, seed quilt label holder, and other decorative accessories are designed specifically for the company's innovative, patent-pending growing system, the other recommended products I'm reviewing here would be both useful and beneficial to anyone who enjoys gardening, cooking, or both!

Photo of bamboo accessories and other supplies for Hamama micgrogreens growing system, overlaid with title text, "Hamama Seed Quilt Microgreens Growing Accessories"
My favorite accessories and useful supplies for growing microgreens with Hamama's seed quilt growing system
Microgreens are a delicious, nutritious way to add essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to salads, sandwiches, and other dishes for those of us who try to live a healthy lifestyle. Since health was my primary motivation for losing nearly 60 pounds on a keto diet, my new healthier lifestyle focuses quite a bit on healthy eating, and especially on getting more nutrition from food and relying less on supplements, something that is especially important when following a ketogenic approach to eating.

My Favorite Hamama Microgreens Growing System Accessories and Helpful Supplies

As I shared in my previous post, the Hamama microgreens seed quilt growing system is so easy, even this “brown thumb” gardening amateur is successfully growing delicious, healthy, nutrient-dense microgreens throughout the year, even here in New England. Now that my husband and I are no longer are at the mercy of the unpredictable and often scant selection of packaged microgreens at our local stores, we use our fresh, home-grown microgreens for more than just garnishes. In fact, they make up half the dark, leafy greens in our large, nightly dinner salads!

Along with Hamama's seed quilts and grow trays, the core of their unique container gardening system, I've also purchased a few accessories and supplies that have made the process of growing my own fresh, nutritious kale, broccoli, clover, daikon radish, zesty salad mix, and other varieties of microgreens more enjoyable and convenient. 

Hamama's Custom Growing System Accessories

Bamboo Grow Tray Frames and Seed Quilt Label Holders

Photo of two side-by-side Hamama seed quilts with decorative bamboo grow tray frames and seed quilt label holders
I love the way the bamboo grow tray frames and seed quilt label holders dress up my microgreens growing setup by our living room windows
Since counter space in our small kitchen is at a premium, I grow my microgreens in our living room, which has a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows (although Hamama microgreens seed quilts don’t require a lot of light). So, I successfully harvested a few different varieties of microgreens using this unique growing system, I decided to spring for Hamama’s proprietary bamboo frames and seed quilt label holders. The bamboo frames fit either style of the company's grow tray. I started with Hamama's white ceramic tray. See how nice the bamboo frame looks with it?
Photo of microgreens growing in white ceramic Hamama grow tray with bamboo frame
The white ceramic grow tray is thicker (and heavier) than the black plastic tray.
Not long after, I decided to switch to the black plastic grow trays, which weigh very little and are much easier to carry back and forth to the kitchen (on the other end of our house) for cleaning. Although I try to avoid buying plastic for disposable items, these trays are reusable, and I plan to be using them for the foreseeable future. The walls are much thinner, allowing a narrow margin around the seed quilt, so it's much easier to check the water level in relation to the coconut coir mat (and to add a bit more water, if it's evaporating faster than expected). The marked fill line is also thinner than on the white ceramic tray, so it's easier to gauge how much water to add for soaking the seed quilt.

Whether you prefer the black plastic or white ceramic grow tray, the simple, sleek and stylish bamboo frames make them much more attractive and blend well with any style of home décor. There is a Hamama logo in the lower left corner of one side of the frame. Usually, I'm not a fan of displaying brand names, especially on decorative items. But in this case, I think the logo has been done quite tastefully and doesn't detract from the look. However, it can easily be hidden by facing that side of the frame toward the window, if you prefer.

Photo of Hamama microgreens germinated seed quilt in tray with decorative bamboo grow tray frame and seed quilt label holder
The Hamama bamboo grow tray frames and matching seed quilt label holders give my microgreens growing setup a more attractive, "finished" look.
The matching bamboo label holders are great for displaying the coated cardstock labels that come with each seed quilt at an easy-to-read angle. These labels provide a useful reminder of which type of microgreens I’m currently growing, as well as the approximate number of days until the paper cover should be peeled, and the total number of days until harvest. Before I got these label holders, I used to tape the cardstock labels to the grow trays. The tape left a sticky residue and wasn’t very attractive. Now, my bamboo seed quilt label holders coordinate perfectly with my grow tray frames.

Each holder is a nicely finished, rectangular block of bamboo the exact length of a Hamama seed quilt label, with a thin slot for the label. Whenever you start a new seed quilt, simply slide the label that comes with it into the slot, which holds it upright and angled slightly back for easy reading. When you finish harvesting your microgreens crop, just remove and discard the label from the holder, so it’s ready for the label from your next seed quilt.

More Matching Bamboo Accessories

Hamama makes a matching seed quilt holder for storing your extra seed quilts, but since I don’t store mine out where people can see them, I didn’t need one. The company has just announced its brand new bamboo "grow shelf," a gorgeous self-standing, five-shelf, open shelving unit to current customers, who can preorder one now. I expect it to be added to the Shop section of the website soon, so everyone who wants will be able to order one.

Extra Hamama Grow Trays

Once I knew I was going to be using this unique microgreens growing system regularly, I ordered two additional grow trays. As of this writing, the price of two black grow trays is only four dollars more than the price of just one. And, since it’s essential to clean each grow tray thoroughly after harvesting one seed quilt and before starting another, it’s nice to have an extra tray so there’s a clean one standing by to start my next microgreens seed quilt as soon as I harvest the previous one. I can soak, scrub, and disinfect the used tray at my leisure (it’s also safe to clean in the top rack of the dishwasher).

Hamama Microgreens Harvesting Kit

The company offers a convenient set of three tools for harvesting the microgreens grown with their proprietary seed quilts and grow trays. The kit contains:

  • 1 reusable Stasher silicone bag (sandwich size)
  • 1 pair of scissors (with the Hamama logo)
  • 1 bamboo scrub brush with natural fiber bristles (for thoroughly scrubbing your grow tray)

It's a very useful kit, particularly if you prefer to harvest your microgreens by trimming them just above the top of the seed quilt, rather than pulling them out, roots and all. Alternatively, you can purchase a Stasher silicone food storage bag, a pair of sharp, stainless steel scissors, and a bamboo scrub brush with natural fiber bristles (or use equivalent items you may already own) to create your own customized microgreens harvesting kit.

Save Money on Your First Hamama Grow Kit, Seed Quilt, or Accessories Order

Helpful tip: Don't miss my Hamama shopping link and discount code at the end of this article to save 10%!

My Favorite, Practical Products for Growing, Harvesting and Storing Fresh Microgreens

Stasher Silicone Food Storage Bags

You don't have to grow microgreens to fall in love with these fabulous food storage and cooking bags

In August 2019, I wrote a review of my favorite silicone kitchen tools and accessories, including silicone food storage bag. But, after trying the Stasher silicone bag in my Hamama Harvesting Kit, I fell in love with it. I purchased three more in larger sizes, and I definitely plan to add more over time. Although they cost more than other silicone bags, they're totally worth the price!

These Stasher silicone bags are a cinch to open and close, unlike any other brand of silicone food storage bags I've tried. Yet, they're also airtight and watertight. Many people use them for sous-vide cooking, placing the sealed bag of raw food in a pot of boiling water. And since these bags are leakproof, They're also perfect for marinating meats, poultry, seafood, fish, or vegetables to infuse them with extra flavor.

Photo of four Stasher silicone food storage bags
The Stasher silicone food storage bags I have purchased to date

The Stasher bag that came with the Hamama Harvesting Kit is the sandwich size (7.5" x 7.5" x 1"), which has a 15 oz. capacity. (It's the smallest one in the photo of my current Stasher bag collection.) However, since I wrap my harvested microgreens loosely in a paper towel before placing them in the bag to store in my refrigerator, I find that I need a larger size if I want to harvest all (or most) of a seed quilt at one time.

The sizes I use to comfortably contain an entire crop of paper towel-wrapped microgreens from a Hamama seed quilt are the tall Stasher Silicone Reusable 1/2 Gallon Food Storage Bag (10.25” x 8.25” x 1.5” with a 64.2 oz. capacity), and the Stasher Silicone Reusable Stand-Up Food Storage Bag (7.75" x 7" x 3" with a 56 oz. capacity) that, true to its name, stands up on its own for easy filling and removal of the contents.

Dedicated Scissors

If you prefer to harvest your microgreens with scissors, it's a bad idea to use your general-use utility scissors that are also used to cut paper, crafting materials, etc. I highly recommend dedicating a pair of scissors exclusively to harvesting microgreens and herbs, and cleaning the blades scrupulously before each use. They don't need to be fancy kitchen shears, but they should be sharp and comfortable and have stainless steel blades. (Who wants specks of rust in their microgreens or herbs?) 

If I were putting together my own harvesting kit, it would include the Fiskars 01-004761J Softgrip Scissors with 8-inch stainless steel blades (or something similar), which are backed by a lifetime warranty. 

Bamboo and Natural Fiber Bristle Scrub Brush

It's important to clean Hamama grow trays very thoroughly before starting each seed quilt. Although the trays are top-rack dishwasher safe, the top rack or our modestly sized dishwasher is usually filled to capacity with glasses, cups, bowls, long-handled spatulas, cooking tongs, etc. So, I prefer to scrub my grow trays by hand.

It can be challenging to clean between the ridges inside the black grow trays, particularly at the corners and around the perimeter. That's why the Hamama Harvesting Kit includes the small, round, bamboo handled scrub brush with natural fiber bristles, which I find invaluable for this purpose.

When I looked for a similar brush, most of them had either synthetic bristles or components made of plastic or other non-biodegradable components. After considerable searching, I finally found a palm-sized, mildew-resistant round bamboo scrub brush with organic, natural fiber bristles, very similar to the one in the Hamama Harvesting Kit. As a bonus, it comes with soap dish that can also be used to store the scrub brush out on the counter, if desired (just make sure both the brush and the dish are completely dry first). 

This versatile brush has medium-hard bristles that can also be used to clean even non-stick pots and pans, dishes, vegetables, and more.

3% Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide and Fine Mist Spray Bottle

Only one of my Hamama seed quilts has ever developed mold, back when I was still a seed quilt "newbie." It was hot and humid in our living room, since we don't have central air conditioning and only turn on each room's A/C unit when we are actively using the room. I made the common rookie mistake of over-watering that one seed quilt, so that the paper covering was wet. When, unsurprisingly, about a third of the sections failed to germinate. I then compounded the problem by covering those water-logged sections with strips of newspaper for two days, after reading a troubleshooting tip for a different problem. (I did say I had a brown thumb!) Of course, when I pulled off the newspaper strips at the end of two days, there were signs of mold, and unfortunately, the seed quilt was unsalvageable at that point.

Before throwing away the moldy seed quilt, I took a couple of photos and shared them in the Hamama Friends group on Facebook and asked how I could prevent a recurrence. The answers were very instructive. One of the best recommendations I got was from a woman who recommended that spraying the surface of the water in the grow tray with food-grade 3% hydrogen peroxide before soaking future seed quilts. She also said she mists the leaves with it after peeling off the paper cover, and hasn't had any mold issues since she started doing that.

I immediately ordered a bottle of food grade 3% hydrogen peroxide. A while ago, I had purchased a dozen small, cobalt blue glass mister bottles. I filled one of them with the 3% hydrogen peroxide and labeled it (since the rest of my cobalt glass misters are also filled with clear liquids), and it now lives next to my Hamama grow trays to remind me to spritz the water before soaking each new seed quilt. And, like the helpful person who suggested I use the 3% hydrogen peroxide for this purpose, I haven't seen a speck of mold since I started following her excellent advice!

I find these pretty and practical cobalt blue glass spritzer bottles useful for many different purposes. They spray a very fine mist, which makes them ideal for evenly and lightly moistening metal clay with distilled water, since this material dries out very quickly when exposed to air while working with it. I keep another filled with isopropyl alcohol for sanitizing makeup brushes, tweezers, manicure implements, etc. in between full soap-and-water cleanings. I also find that they don't leak, so I'm considering keeping another bottle filled with a CDC-approved alcohol-based disinfectant in my purse for when I leave the house. The cobalt glass isn't just pretty; it also helps protect the contents against UV rays.

Save 10% on Your First Hamama Order!

If you haven't ordered directly from the Hamama website before, you can use my Hamama shopping link (or click on the image below), add the products you want to the shopping cart, then use the discount code SUPERGREENS during checkout to get 10% off your product total. And if you're lucky enough to have receive a Hamama grow kit as a gift, you can use this link and discount code to save 10% on the beautiful bamboo accessories made exclusively for the Hamama seed quilt and grow tray system.

My Favorite Hamama Microgreens Seed Quilt Accessories by Margaret Schindel

Posts In This Series About My Keto Diet Journey

My Favorite Hamama Microgreens Seed Quilt Accessories

Hamama Microgreens Growing Kit Review & Success Tips

Good Dee’s Keto Cookie Low Carb Baking Mix Review

Low Carb Keto Chocolate Yogurt Granola Chip Pudding Recipe

Low Carb Muffins & Cupcakes: Treats to Enjoy on a Keto Diet

Preparing to Succeed on the Keto Diet, Part Two

Preparing to Succeed on the Keto Diet, Part One

My First Year on The Keto Diet


Reviews of the Keto Diet by Barbara C. (aka Brite-Ideas)

My Personal Keto Testimonial

How I Stayed Committed to the Ketogenic Way of Eating


Read More Reviews About Health and Wellness by Our Review This Reviews Contributors

Read More Gardening Reviews by Our Review This Reviews Contributors






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Thursday, October 15, 2020

Review Of Wolf ByPass Secateurs

 




As an avid gardener, there is a myriad of tools to buy to help with everyday tasks and it can be confusing to know what you really need. You could spend a significant amount of money on dozens of tools. With an experience of your needs and your garden's requirements, you will probably find you settle in to a few that become old friends and you use them all the time. 


Uses Of Bypass Secateurs

One of my most treasured and most used tools is a pair of bypass secateurs. They are so well used I just keep them in my pocket or hang around my waist whenever I venture into the garden. There is always a spent flower head to be snipped off, a stray tendril to be clipped, flowers to be cut for the house, or a shrub that just needs a little neatening around the edges. 

 



We have a  lot of beautiful roses and so there is much deadheading in the summer months. Bypass secateurs give a nice clean cut to snip off the faded flower heads and do not damage the plants. I also love taking cuttings of a variety of plants and find bypass secateurs are great for this job. 

Over the years I have had many secateurs, some good, some awful. There were the ones that hurt my hands due to the jarring action. The ones which broke all too easily, the green ones I lost and never did find and the ones that were just not up to constant use in my garden! The best pair I had I inherited from my Mum, but after years of use, they needed to be retired. 




For those few months I didn't have any secateurs  I felt a little lost walking around the garden and certainly frustrated trying to prune with a large pair of kitchen scissors which did neither my plants nor me any good!! As my most used tool I always coveted Wolf secateurs and this spring my husband gifted me a pair.


Using Wolf Bypass Secateurs

Wolf Bypass Secateurs

I am impressed. They look good and are mainly red in colour and therefore easy for me to see in the garden. This is important as if I get distracted I can and do leave them anywhere, but red is a good colour for me to notice! 

They are light, so carrying them around is not a chore and they are small enough to fit easily in my pocket. The handgrip is good and the correct size for me. I have not yet felt any hand strain from using them and I can be out in the garden for hours at a time.

They are strong! I have so far had no problems with any of the cutting and pruning jobs I needed to do. These have coped admirably with small jobs and the more challenging tasks. For example, I have deadheaded flowers, taking cuttings of shrubs and lightly pruned back a large jasmine plant, ivy and hebes with no issues. They are not for heavy pruning jobs and thick branches though, we need different tools for that task. 

Do check the width you are supposed to cut when buying any secateurs and try to stick to it. You will feel if they are struggling and it's best not to push too hard or you will shorten the lifespan. Get the right tool for the job and you will be fine. I have included two Wolf Bypass secateurs in this review because they cut at different widths and you need to choose the correct one for your garden needs. 

The bypass action makes them precise and neat enough to do more delicate pruning as well and I can now power round all our roses and other flowers deadheading with precision speed and ease!  





Generally, in my experience, these secateurs glide through jobs with no problems. I have noticed occasionally if I am doing a lot of jobs one after the other, where they might become sticky with sap, sometimes the blades clamp together.  I then need to clean them with either just a damp cloth or sometimes WD40 and a cloth. They are easy to keep clean and I have always had to do this with secateurs though, so for me, it's just a part of the process. 

These secateurs also come with a guarantee. This is important to me. I want to know when I buy garden tools now that they are going to last. If I am going to spend money and buy quality, I would like to have them for a long time. Like with any tools, if we want them to have a long life, we do need to look after them, clean regularly and don't leave out in the rain!!
 

As we all have different needs in the garden I also wanted to include this pair of secateurs for if you feel you need a pair of secateurs that will cut greater widths.

Wolf Bypass Secateurs


 

More than all of that I simply enjoy using my Wolf Bypass Secateurs. It is a pleasure, not a chore and so lovely to be able to do those tidying jobs and pruning required with ease to make our plants and gardens look and feel beautiful! 



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Hamama Microgreens Starter Kit and Seed Quilts Review

Image: collage of Hamama microgreens photos with superimposed title, "The EASIEST Way to Grow Your Own Microgreens"
With a Hamama Microgreens Starter Kit and the company's proprietary seed quilts, growing and harvesting fresh, delicious, and nutritious microgreens is nearly effortless!

Fresh, crisp microgreens are colorful, refreshing, and extremely nutritious. Since last year, when I committed to making healthy lifestyle changes, including a special focus on healthy food choices, I have been adding microgreens to salads, sandwiches, soups, eggs, and other dishes as often as possible.

Although buying packaged microgreens at our local Whole Foods is an expensive and frustrating proposition, growing my own hadn't seemed like a viable option, given my poor track record with keeping even healthy plants alive, much less growing them from seed.

Then, four months ago, I found out about an innovative microgreens growing system from a company called Hamama, which was designed to be as as simple, effortless, and low-maintenance as possible, so that even container gardening newbies like me could grow these healthy, tasty, nutrient-dense greens year-round.  

The proprietary, patent pending Hamama Seed Quilt Growing System is the brainchild of co-founders Camille Richman and Daniel Goodman, who met when they were mechanical engineering students at the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Following their graduation from MIT, they worked together full-time at the MIT Media Lab, researching high tech indoor agriculture. After growing food both in the lab and at home for several years, they wanted to make it possible for more people to experience the benefits of growing healthy food at home.

In May, I decided to order a Hamama Microgreens Starter Kit, including three seed quilts and a reusable grow tray. I was surprised and delighted by the results, and a few weeks later,  I ordered two more growing trays and 18 more seed quilts. Although I've skipped a week here and there, I've successfully grown and harvested around more than a dozen seed quilts at this point. Now, I'm anxious to share my experience, and perhaps inspire others to try growing their own healthy, delicious, superfood microgreens, even if they have never had any experience, or luck, growing vegetables in the past.

P.S. Make sure to read all the way to the end of this review to find out how to get a 10% discount off the purchase price of your first order of a Hamama Microgreens Starter Kits, Seed Quilts, or other microgreens growing accessories!

Microgreens Are Superfoods That Pack a Powerful Nutritional Punch

Increasing our consumption of nutritious, dark leafy greens is an important part of healthy eating. The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating more fruits and vegetables, including dark leafy greens. For those of us who have chosen a low carb, ketogenic approach to eating, dietary restrictions make it even harder to get enough nutrients from the foods we eat, rather than from supplements.

Adding more microgreens to our diets, in particular, provides even greater health benefits. A 2012 research study found that microgreens contain between four and 40 times higher concentrations of essential nutrients than their mature counterparts!

These nutrient-dense, immature plants can be excellent sources of key vitamins such as C, E, K, and also carotenoids including lutein and beta-carotene (a precursor to Vitamin A aka retinol), two important antioxidants provide a wide range of health benefits, including helping to protect our eyes against macular degeneration. 

Photo of a large, colorful, salad topped with Hamama microgreens
We enjoy a large, colorful, salad with a generous helping of freshly harvested microgreens every day!

Why Not Just Buy Packaged Microgreens Instead of Growing Them?

Unfortunately, many supermarkets and grocery stores either don't sell them, or run out of them quickly. Even when I've been lucky enough to find one or two containers, those commercially grown microgreens have cost a pretty penny. Far too often, the expensive organic microgreens we've bought at our local Whole Foods Market have become not just limp but slimy and inedible after just one or two days in the vegetable drawer of our fridge. Most are also sold in single-use, plastic clamshell packaging, which is bad for the environment. 

Finding organic microgreens or ones that have been grown from non-GMO seeds can also be a challenge. 

Unfortunately, since March, these problems have been further exacerbated by the widespread negative impact of the current, unprecedented health crisis.

The Pros and Cons of Using Hamama Seed Quilts vs. Growing Microgreens From Seed

Buying packets of loose seeds and growing them on a bed of moistened potting mix, soil, or coconut coir is, without question, the cheapest way to grow microgreens at home. However, it also requires watering the seeds once or twice a day, and monitoring their progress daily, from the the time they are planted until they are ready to be harvested, usually takes somewhere between 9 days and a few weeks. And they do best with 4–6 hours of direct sunlight, or natural light supplemented by a grow light(s).

While this may be a good option for experienced container gardening enthusiasts, not everyone was blessed with a "green thumb," or enjoys growing things from seed. Some of us just want to have convenient and consistent access to a variety of microgreens and enjoy them when they are at their freshest, tastiest, and most nutritious, and are happy to pay more for an approach that requires significantly less time and effort than growing these immature greens from seed.  

That's why Hamama developed its proprietary seed quilt system, which makes growing fresh, delicious, nutrient-rich microgreens indoors as easy, effortless, and care-free as possible. 

Anatomy of a Hamama Microgreens Seed Quilt

Each seed quilt consists of three layers (excluding the seeds):

  1. The bottom layer is a loosely woven coconut coir mat (aka coconut fiber mat or coconut husk pad).
  2. The middle layer is a thin sheet of white felt
  3. The top layer is some type of unbleached paper.

The seeds are sandwiched between the white felt layer and the light brown paper cover, divided into 20 long, narrow, rectangular, "quilted" sections that hold the seeds in place in a fairly even distribution.

Key Benefits of the Hamama Seed Quilt Grow System for Microgreens

  • By combining the seeds, the growing substrates, and the papery cover into a single, compact unit and pairing it with a perfectly-sized growing tray, Hamama has removed as many variables as possible.
  • The Hamama Starter Kit contains everything you need to grow microgreens, except the 24–26 ounces of water for the initial soak. (Depending on the quality of your tap water, I recommend using filtered water.)
  • Starting a new seed quilt takes as little as 1–2 minutes! After that, you can basically ignore it for the next 4–6 days, until the seeds have germinated.
  • This bottom-watering and self-watering growing system is the closest thing to "set-it-and-forget it." Once you pour water inside the grow tray up to the fill line and briefly submerge the seed quilt to get all 20 sections evenly moistened, you shouldn't have to mist the seeds quilt or seedling, or top up the water. (Toward the end of the growing period, I try to check the water level every couple of days, if I remember. just in case it drops below the midpoint of the coconut coir mat.) 
  • The brown paper cover helps to filter the ambient light during the initial 4–6 day germination period, then it peels off easily to provide the seedlings with full exposure to the ambient light.

Hamama Microgreens Seed Quilts Are So Effortless, They Practically Grow Themselves!

Growing a Hamama microgreens seed quilt is as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Do the brief initial "soak." Add water to the growing tray's marked fill line (no higher) and submerge the seed quilt for 10–30 seconds, just until all 20 sections have uniformly changed to a darker shade of brown.
  2. After 3–5 days, when the seeds have germinated, pushing against the paper cover and causing the sections to puff up or balloon, peel the paper cover.
  3. Approximately 7–10 days after the initial soak, harvest your microgreens!

You can harvest the entire seed quilt at once and store whatever microgreens you won't use immediately in the refrigerator, if you wish, or harvest a few sections at a time over the next few days. 

Photo of Hamama Earthy Clover and Super Salad Mix seed quilts and are puffed up and ready to peel
I often grow more than one Hamama seed quilt at a time

What's Included In the Hamama Microgreens Starter Kit?

  • One reusable Grow Tray.
    • Black plastic or white ceramic
  • Your choice of three Hamama Seed Quilts (choose all one variety, or mix and match up to three different types) 

  • Easy growing instructions.

Choose From 10 Different Types of Microgreens Seed Quilts

Hearty Broccoli, Refreshing Cabbage, Spicy Daikon Radish, Super Salad Mix, Sweet Wheatgrass, Zesty Mix, Energizing Kale, Earthy Clover, Hot Wasabi Mustard, and Fragrant Fenugreek. All the seeds in Hamama's microgreens seed quilts are non-GMO Six are also organic (Energizing Kale, Fragrant Fenugreek, Hearty Broccoli, Spicy Daikon Radish, Earthy Clover, and Sweet Wheatgrass). The company is working on making the switch to an all certified organic line.

Save 10% on Your First Hamama Order!

Use my Hamama shopping link (or click on the image below), add the products you want to the shopping cart, then use the discount code SUPERGREENS during checkout to get 10% off your product total.


Hamama Microgreens Starter Kit and Seed Quilts Review by Margaret Schindel


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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Plants That Need to Be Brought Indoors Need Special Care

Plants that need to be brought indoors need special care- A Garden Review


Summer is the time when we gardeners are itching to get our indoor plants outdoors for all the growth opportunity that summer sun and warmer temperatures brings.  But come the end of September, gardeners are counting the days until they need to bring all those tender plants back indoors!

I know I am scoping out all the window areas of my apartment for possible "growing spots", for all the plants I took out to my balcony in the spring.  

One of the most important parts of bringing our favorites back to the indoors, is making sure there are no hidden "bugs" hitchhiking their way indoors.

During the summer months outdoors your plants have been visited by many flying, crawling and maybe even jumping insects.  Believe it or not I had a grasshopper on one of my plants and we are on the 18th floor of our building.  So anything is possible.

When I am bringing my plants indoors, I like to un-pot them!  Yes you heard me right.  I take my plants out of their pots, set aside the soil they were growing in and move the plants into by bathroom.  

Then I shower them well with warm water, on both the top sides of the leaves and the bottom sides as well.  I check their roots and if there are roots that look decayed I will snip them back.  

I also check their stems to see if there are any scale insects that may have made their home on my plants.  One of my Ivies is infested with scale, so I will take cuttings from it and treat the cuttings with Safer's Soap spray.  Then I will root these cuttings and start with fresh soil in a few weeks.  They will be potted up only when I am sure they are free of the scale insects and have set new roots.

I do get the pots and clean them out with a good hot soapy water solution, and then let them air dry.  I will use fresh soil in these pots to give the plants and cuttings a good start in their indoor home.

With my plants, especially the orchids, I let them stay outdoors until the temperatures drop to about 10 degrees Celsiusor 50 degrees Farenheit.  Most orchids like a real drop in temperature for a few nights as it signals the plant to set flower bearing stems.  Do NOT let these delicate plants freeze!  If there is a chance of the temperatures going down close to freezing, bring them indoors for the night.  

By January you should be seeing lots of stems on your orchids that will surely lead to some gorgeous flowers.  One of my orchids starts blooming in January and doesn't stop till June or July.  They are truly one of my many joys.



Having said that, orchids do need special care.  Their leaves are tightly figured and can harbor scale or other bugs.  I make sure they are drenched with Safer's Soap Spray before they come in for the winter!  You can spray them once a week on both sides of their leaves.  Better to be safe than sorry.  If one plant comes in with a scale infestation, it can ruin all your plants in very short order.

Bringing our plants indoors is a time consuming endeavor if you are a crazy gardener like me.  If you only have a few plants(3 or 4) outdoors, you should be able to do this in a weekend.  If you are more like me, and have 8-10 plants to bring indoors, you might need a couple of weekends to finish the task.  

You don't need to be in a hurry yet, but don't leave this task till late October or November.  Then you will be scrambling to get it done.  Bringing in the plants without checking them well for pests, could be your downfall.  Take the time while the weather is still relatively nice and do it now.  Check them all closely and if you don't want to start with fresh pots and soil, you can also drench the plants and soil with the Safer's Soap.  It is better to do that then to just bring them indoors without any preventative measures at all.


 
This is the product I use on all my plants and I have never been disappointed in the results. It takes care of all the insect/bug problems you could have with moving your plants indoors.  I use this product on my plants all through the winter months(if I see a problem) and will be using it again in spring and summer of 2021.  Pests are always just waiting to get a hold of something they like and your houseplants could be on their menu.  Don't be disappointed, be prepared and have a great time in the winter enjoying your healthy happy houseplants while the snow flies outdoors.



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