Thursday, April 30, 2015

Notes From the Garden

It's nearly May, and my gardens are beginning to wake up.  After a long winter, I've grown desperate for flowers and green, growing things.  The trick is to know which ones will survive those still-chilly nights ... or if they wouldn't, how to help them do so.

In my previous blog post, I talked about a raised bed greenhouse for tender plants.  It snowed since, and I lost one of my two tomato plants even though I had a cloche over it and the greenhouse cover down.  The other survived, so I'll remember that variety for next year's planting.  (The cloches I bought were from Hobby Lobby and ran about $20 on their bi-monthly 50% off sale.)

The picture at the top is Viola "Rebecca," and it's supposed to be hardy in my zone (Zone 5).  Whether or not that actually happens, I'll find out, but it appears to love shade and moist soil, and should bloom through fall if I pinch back the blooms once they die.  So far, so good, and the flowers smell like vanilla!  Yum!

My mother bought me a cast-cement bunny for the front landscaping.  I couldn't resist him.  He looks like a storybook rabbit.  A garden just doesn't seem complete without statuary or hardscaping to offset all that greenery.  If you can't afford statuary, bring home a large stone from a trip somewhere - or a trip through your local woods - to set in your garden!  It makes a wonderful memory to add to your outdoor living space.  Just be sure you have permission to take it, and that it's thoroughly cleaned before re-homing so you don't accidentally put chemicals or soil diseases into your soil.  (You can find ways to sterilize non-native stones in many resources online.)


My overgrown butterfly garden has managed to surprise me.  I thought it was going to need a total overhaul, but the early bulbs have flowered, and my wildly-vining clematis is beginning to leaf out.  I may just let nature do its thing, because even the creeping charlie has cute little blue flowers.  Creeping charlie is considered an invasive weed, but the bees and butterflies like it, so I leave it alone as long as it doesn't overtake other plants.  Besides, it keeps the soil in place when it rains!  Happy Spring!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day Project - Raised Bed Greenhouse

In Zone 5, where we're still wearing our parkas into April (that's New York, slathered in blue), it's hard to get a jump on the growing season.  Last year, by the time I put seeds into the ground, it was too short a season to get a meaningful booster crop for our dinner table.  This year, I decided to try my hand at making a cheapskate - er, economical - greenhouse or for our raised bed garden.

If you're like me, you don't have a lot of scratch for a glazed greenhouse.  While it might be a dream come true to afford one, the reality is, the more you spend on the greenhouse, the less money you have to put something in it.  And isn't that the point of gardening?

My trip to the hardware store yielded the following items for under $30.00:

  • One bag of assorted plastic clamps
  • One package of 9' x 12', 2 mil clear plastic drop cloth
  • Two ten-foot pieces of 1/2" PVC pipe (conduit is cheaper, but I needed something smaller-gauge so it was easier to bend)
  • One 1" PVC cross

That's it - five items!  This is all you need to make a hoop house or cold frame for your raised bed garden.

To assemble the frame, insert each section of PVC pipe into the cross, making a large "X."  The cross is loose enough to admit both pieces of PVC, which will lie one top of the other inside the cross where they intersect.  The cross has no sharp edges to tear your plastic sheeting, and there's no tool-assisted assembly.  Tension holds it all together once you put it into your raised bed.

Next, carry the structure to your bed and sink the ends of the pipes down about 10" into the corners of your raised bed.  The farther down you sink it, the more secure your cold frame will be.  If your bed isn't as deep as mine, or you're concerned about wind, you can secure the ends by sliding them into metal, U-shaped pipe hangers or "hanger tape" (also available from your hardware store) screwed to the corners of your box.  I opted for a more low-tech solution, as my raised bed is deep enough not to make wind a concern.  There's no one right answer, as long as it works for you!  When you've set up the frame, it will look like this:

Next, open the package of poly sheeting and lay it over the frame.  It's better to err on the generous side, so you have enough around the perimeter to clamp some of the sheeting edges to your box, preventing air from getting into your raised bed and chilling your plants. Trim the sheeting to size.  My raised bed is about 4' x 4' and I was left with a section of about 4' x 12' - good for covering containered herbs on chilly days or putting over that compost pile to help heat and decompose the organic matter!

Once you've trimmed the sheeting, clamp the edges down to the box, being sure that you have enough hanging over the edge to prevent drafts.  Use as many of those clamps as you like, depending on your wind conditions.  I still have some left, which I'm sure the hubby can use!

After that, you're done!  The entire project took me under a half an hour, with no technical know-how or special tools.  The temperature inside the greenhouse is noticeably warmer than outside.  You can open some or all of the cover on warmer, sunnier days so you don't "cook" your plants.  You can also use this setup to grow a four-season harvest!  Leafy vegetables like spinach are great at surviving the winter and will satisfy that need for fresh greens when snow's on the ground.  There are many more vegetables that can be grown year-round.  Their vigor depends on length of daylight and protection from the moisture-stealing winter winds.  Check your library or the Internet for possibilities available for your agricultural zone.

When you're finished using the greenhouse (i.e. your zone has finally reached a warm enough daily temperature not to need it), simply break it down and store it.  It's that easy!  Happy gardening, and Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wakey, Wakey (Spring in the Garden)!

There's nothing more wonderful than seeing the first flowers of spring pop up in your garden - even if it's overgrown like mine! I've let it get a little wild, but my butterfly garden still manages to impress me.  Among the weeds and grasses that have encroached in it are the first hardy little flowers popping up from bulbs, like the windflower above (Anemone blanda). These little bursts of color are like Nature's gift for our patience over a long, harsh winter.

The flowers above are Chionodoxa, aptly named glory-of-the-snow because this flower is one of the earliest to arrive after the cold season has finished. It's hard to imagine a flower so delicate braving those still-frosty nights.

Finally, framing my stone birdbath are groups of daffodils just starting to bud.  I have scads of daffodils in the yard, and tulips, too, that are begging to be transplanted to a more natural bed.  That's just one of the projects on tap this spring.  I can't wait to get to my favorite garden store to begin choosing the new plants for my vegetable and butterfly gardens!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Spam, Revisited

It's April again, which is of course the month in which we celebrate Earth Day and turn our thoughts to better care of the environment.  It's also a good month to think about those things which, in helping the environment, can also help you.

Years ago, I posted a blog about all things spam - by mail and phone - and how to get rid of them.  I have some more information for you this time, including better resources for stopping those unwanted, harassing contacts from telemarketers and spam mailers.

The Phone

There's always the National Do Not Call Registry, which is your first line of defense against those unwanted phone calls from telemarketers.  Unfortunately, the Do Not Call Registry is not as good as it might be at catching those new numbers that pop up like mushrooms.

Much more effective is NoMoRoBo, which helps you screen those unwanted calls and makes them disappear like magic.  The best part is, it's free!  All you need to do is set up NoMoRoBo and your own telephone service so that they accept simultaneous ringing.  This means that when a number dials in to your home, it also gets called in to NoMoRoBo, which screens for a list of robo-callers and "poof," makes them disappear from your phone.  Legal robocalls, like school cancellations, are allowed through, so you only get the automated calls you want.  The service has been applauded by everyone from CNN to Popular Science, and is easily canceled at any time.

The Mail

Last time I blogged on this topic, my mailbox overflowed with unwanted ads and credit card offers.  It's much better now - and I have the website for you.  DMAChoice helps you get out of those direct marketing nightmares so that half of your mail doesn't wind up going to the recycling bin, wasting energy to recycle unwanted paper, and the gas it takes to get all those unwanted flyers out to postal customers.  That is good for the environment, and good for your peace of mind, too!

Next, I'll search out ways to eliminate unwanted texts and cell calls.  Until then, happy tree-hugging!

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Happy Easter!

I can't believe it's Easter already!  I'm pretty excited this year, because just two days ago, my newest book, AIR, went on sale.  That's almost as good as a big chocolate bunny. *grin*

About two weeks ago, I began craving my mom's Bunny Faces, which are sweet bread rolls, almost like a doughnut in consistency, but light and airy and absolutely delicious.  It's one of my favorite times of year just for that alone.  This year is even better, because we're finally emerging from that long, frosty, snowy winter.  I hope you have a wonderful holiday if you celebrate Easter, and just enjoy the warming weather if you don't celebrate.  Cheers!

Friday, April 03, 2015

Release Day for AIR!

It's officially release day for AIR, Book Three in the Elemental Series, and you can get your very own copy from your favorite bookseller!

Are you the sort who likes to try your luck instead?  You can enter my Earth Day Giveaway, going on now through April 30th, by clicking this link to enter the contest for a free ebook.  (AIR is included in the contest!)

Want a little taste of the book?  You can check out a sneak preview at Amazon!  Just click here to look inside the book.

About AIR:

Air Elemental Elsa Pemberley is a born idealist. Instead of resenting her power over the wind, she uses it to help others. The best way to do that is to chase storms in the heart of Tornado Alley. She meets her match in Harrison Litchfield, a man who is fleeing from a past both treacherous and tragic. Masquerading as a traveling blues singer, he has managed to keep moving ... but beautiful Elsa stops him in his tracks.

She makes a life out of chasing. He's made a living by running. When Harry's past catches up to them both during a devastating storm, there's only one thing to do—hold on tight with both hands...

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Nicki Greenwood’s 2015 “Earth Day Giveaway” Contest!

My 2015 “Earth Day Giveaway” Contest is here!

** Permission To Forward Granted **

It’s April, and that means it’s time once again for the “Earth Day Giveaway” contest!  All month long, you can enter to win one PDF eBook of your choice of any of my currently released paranormal, paranormal lite, or contemporary romance books (EARTH, WATER, THE SERPENT IN THE STONE, FLASHPOINT, HEAVY NETTING, or my newest, AIR)!  Not sure which to choose?  For details on each book, click hereEnter for a chance to win by clicking the link below:

Nicki Greenwood’s 2015 Earth Day Giveaway!

Contest ends at 5:00 PM EST on April 30th.  The winner will be announced that evening on my blog.  Good luck, and Happy Earth Day!