Preserving Carved Pumpkins

Preserving Carved Pumpkins

While none of us would likely argue the joy of having a front porch fully adorned for Halloween, let’s face it – pumpkins are expensive!

Even if you’re lucky enough to be able to grow your own pumpkins at home, it’s a lot of work. And once the last trick-or-treater has passed and your pumpkins are covered in snow, it can be a real hassle to deal with the clean-up. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if your pumpkin lasted a little longer? There are plenty of tricks you can incorporate to keep your pumpkin looking great long past Halloween, but once you’ve carved it, it can quickly become a haven for curious wildlife and lead to a stinking mess on your front porch. 

Here are some tips to help preserve your carved pumpkin so that it will last – no matter what you want to do with it. 

Ways to Preserve Carved Pumpkins

Choose the Right Pumpkin

The process of preserving carved pumpkins starts long before you even get your pumpkin home! When you select the pumpkin, make sure it is healthy and capable of being used in the long term. The best option will be a pumpkin that is freshly harvested and has at least two inches of stem. 

A long stem is vital – not only does it help wick moisture from the pumpkin but it also reduces the likelihood that bacteria and other rot-inducing microbes have already gotten to your pumpkin. A broken stem invites infection.

Prep Your Pumpkin

Before carving your pumpkin, give it an ice bath. This will rehydrate it and also prevent mold growth. Let it sit in the ice overnight. 

Store Your Pumpkin Properly

Follow some general rules of thumb when it comes to storing your carved pumpkins. For starters, keep them out of direct sunlight and heat. 

Heat speeds up the process of decomposition. After you’ve carved your pumpkin, don’t use real candles to light it. The heat will essentially cook the pumpkin from the inside out. If you don’t feel the need to keep your carved pumpkin out on display, you can refrigerate it to help it last longer. 

Soak it in Bleach

If you want your carved pumpkin to last long for decorative reasons – and you don’t plan on eating it – you can soak it in a bleach solution. 

This is best done before carving your pumpkin, but you can do it afterward, too. To do this, simply mix a teaspoon of bleach with a gallon of water. Allow the pumpkin to soak, fully submerged in the pumpkin for an hour. 

The water will hydrate the pumpkin, preventing it from drying out, while the bleach will kill surface bacteria and spores of mold that live on the exterior of the pumpkin. While you can soak for longer than an hour – up to eight hours, in fact – it’s not recommended. Soaking for too long can make the pumpkin too soggy, increasing the likelihood that it will rot. 

Once you’ve pulled the pumpkin out of the bleach solution, use a paper towel to get rid of excess moisture on the pumpkin (as well as inside it, if you’ve already carved it). Spritz it with additional bleach – put a tablespoon of bleach in a quart of water and then douse the pumpkin with the stronger solution. 

Then, let the pumpkin dry upside down for about twenty minutes. That’s all there is to it!

Coat it With Vaseline

Use Vaseline, or some other petroleum jelly product, to moisturize the pumpkin. This will lock in moisture to prevent the pumpkin from drying out and it will also block out bacteria and mold. Most people will combine this method with the bleach method listed above – it will get rid of existing bacteria instead of locking them in. 

For this method, all you need to do is rub the exposed flesh of the pumpkin with a thin layer of petroleum jelly. Some people use vegetable oil instead. After wiping down your pumpkin, put it in a spot that does not receive a ton of direct sunlight. 

Make a DIY Pumpkin Preserving Spray 

If you want to preserve your pumpkin but aren’t interested in any of the heavy, strong-smelling chemicals we mentioned, you can also make a DIY spray to prevent mold/ simply combine a capful of liquid perfecting soap and six drops of peppermint oil in a  spray bottle. Spray the mixture on the inside and outside of the pumpkin to keep it moisturized and to repel mold and bacteria.

Freezing a Carved Pumpkin

Now, if you want to get more bang for your buck, you can also freeze your carved pumpkin to be eaten later on (and remember, even if you don’t eat it, your chickens or pigs will love it!). 

To start, make sure you have a pumpkin that has not already begun to rot. You will want to use a pumpkin that was carved not too long ago – think just a week or less – for the best results. In general, you shouldn’t be carving your pumpkins any sooner than four or five days before Halloween, anyway. 

Begin by thoroughly washing your pumpkin. Use lukewarm water to do this, using a vegetable brush to gently remove dirt if necessary. Do not use soap or any kind of detergent to clean your pumpkin. 

Then, cut each pumpkin into small chunks. These should be about two or three inches in size. A serrated knife will work best, as it will make it easier for the knife to grab on to the tough skin of the pumpkin. 

Blanch the chunks, dipping them in boiling water for about three to five minutes. Then, you can remove the pumpkin chunks and either peel them or freeze them whole. It’s best to use a vacuum-sealed bag to prevent moisture from getting into the package and causing freezer burn.

Freezing and Pureeing a  Carved Pumpkin

While it’s easy to freeze pumpkin chunks for roasting later on by using the method described above, a lot of people prefer to puree their pumpkin so that they can later use it in recipes like pies. 

To do this, wash and cut the pumpkin just as you would if you were going to freeze the chunks whole. Then, you have a choice. 

Some people peel their pumpkin chunks as the next step, but it’s generally easier to wait to pee until after you have boiled the chunks. As a result, you should next boil your pumpkin chunks until they are soft. Place them in a stockpot and cover them with water, boiling for about half an hour (or until you can poke through the flesh of the pumpkin with a fork). 

If you don’t want to boil the pumpkin, you can also bake it. To do this, you should cut the pumpkin in half and place each half in a baking dish, facedown. Cook it in an oven at 375 degrees for an hour and a half.

Either way, once your pumpkin is cooked, it should be soft enough for you to handle. You will now want to let the cooked pumpkin cool. Once it’s cool, you can scrape the pulp from the rind and put it in a bowl. 

After all the pulp has been removed from the skin, put it in a food processor or blender. You can also use a handheld potato masher. You want to mash it until it has reached a pureed consistency. 

Pack the pumpkin puree into rigid containers, leaving about an inch of headspace between the top of the pumpkin and the top of the container. This way, it can expand as it freezes.

Unfortunately, no pumpkin is going to last forever. And often the best way to help improve a pumpkin’s longevity is not to carve it at all. But if you want to make the most of the Halloween and fall season – but don’t want the fun to end after the 31st! – these tips for preserving your carved pumpkins will make that possible.

Gardening Zones

Gardening Zones

Read any gardening article, tutorial, or how-to, and you will inevitably see endless amounts of information about “zones.”

It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but really, it’s not that complicated. Gardening zones, or hardiness zones, refer to the areas set out by the USDA for planting. The USDA Hardiness Zone Map separates North America into 11 separate planting zones, with each growing zone about ten degrees Fahrenheit warmer or colder on average than an adjacent zone.

If you’re new to gardening, here’s everything you need to know about gardening zones. 

What Are Gardening Zones – and Why Are They Useful?

Gardening zones make it possible for you, as a gardener, to compare your climate with the climate where a plant is known to grow well. Information about your gardening zone can tell you not only which plants will grow well in your region based on temperature but also based on rainfall. 

The most updated zone maps don’t just take into consideration these factors, but also things like changes in elevation, proximity to bodies of water, and terrain features, making them even more accurate when it comes to predicting the temperature and its effects.

Gardening zones are separated by ten-degree differences, spanning the lowest up to the highest potential cold weather conditions. The types of vegetation that has the lowest numbers can survive the coldest weather, and those with higher numbers prefer warm climates. If a plant falls right in the middle – for example, if it belongs to gardening zone 3-7 – it can survive a bit of cold but probably not prolonged freezing conditions. It will likely not hold up well to desert heat, either.

When you buy plants either from a nursery or online, you’ll notice that they are broken down into hardiness zones. These often are broken down further into “a” and “b” counterparts. We will break down the various zones for you below – and while we won’t go into detail about the “a” and “b” counterparts there, essentially all you need to know is that plants marked with “a” usually tolerate winter temperatures about five degrees cooler than those marked with “b” for the same gardening zone.

Once you know your gardening zone, you can choose the best plants for your area without having to waste your money on plants that will inevitably die. You will be able to provide better care for your plants and you may even discover that some of the plants you grow are much more versatile than others. By understanding which plants work best for your gardening zone, you can grow a more diverse, more successful garden. 

How to Find and Interpret Your Gardening Zone

There are numerous hardiness zone tools available online. These will tell you all kinds of information, such as temperature ranges, first and last frost dates, and even the type of ecological system in which you live. You can also refer to one of many USDA gardening zone maps online, which are usually color-coded for easy comprehension. 

Each plant type has its own designated hardiness zone, meaning the plant will be tolerant of the lowest temperature in that area. Planting outside the hardiness zone can result in your plants being shocked by extreme cold or heat. Therefore, it’s important to understand your gardening zones to hat you can choose the best trees, vegetables, shrubs, and other plants for your area. 

Zones aren’t stagnant entities, either. As the climate continues to change, zones can change, too. They are usually updated every few years. The USDA continues to get better at classifying zones as it focuses in on certain features of climate that can affect plant growth beyond temperature, such as wind, urban heat, humidity, and rainfall. 

Make sure you know your exact gardening zone and don’t just assume that the farther north you are, the lower your gardening zone will be. Average temperatures aren’t just affected by latitude but also by other factors, as we’ve mentioned already. Seattle, for instance, has a warmer gardening zone than Baltimore – which is located much further south. 

The 11 Gardening Zones of North America

Here, we will break down for you the major gardening zones. Interested in learning which gardening zone applies to you? Look at the 

Zone 1-2

Winter Temperatures Can Reach: -60 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit

Includes: Northern and Central Alaska 

What to Plant: Lettuce, kale, asparagus, broccoli, eggplant, vine tomatoes (plants with short times between planting and harvest)

Growing Season: April to September

Zone 3-4

Winter Temperatures Can Reach: -40 to -20 degrees Fahrenheit

Includes: States bordering Canada such as upstate New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Minnesota

What to Plant: Broccoli, asparagus, spinach, lettuce, kale, vine tomatoes, eggplant, strawberries, sweet peas, potatoes, winter squash

Growing Season: April to October

Zone 5-6

Winter Temperatures Can Reach: -20 to 0 degrees Fahrenheit

Includes: Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut 

What to Plant: Corn, squash, tomatoes, melons, strawberries, beans, lettuce, leafy greens in the fall and spring only

Growing Season: March to October 

Zone 7-8

Winter Temperatures Can Reach: 0 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit

Includes: Arizona, Northern Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Oregon, Northern California

What to Plant: Tomatoes, corn, melons, collard greens, squash, carrots, bush beans, leafy greens during cold months

Growing Season: March to November

Zone 9-10

Winter Temperatures Can Reach: 20 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit

Includes: Central Florida, Southern California, Arizona

What to Plant: Tomatoes, squash, melons, peppers, yams, peaches, citrus, figs, bananas, salad greens and peas during cold months only

Growing Season: February to November

Zone 11-13

Winter Temperatures Can Reach: 40 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit

Includes: Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami, Hawaii, Puerto Rico

What to Plant: Passionfruit, sweet potato, cassava,  mango, Thai chili peppers, citrus, taro, bananas, Okinawa spinach, pineapple 

Growing Season: Year-round

How to Work With (Instead of Against!) Your Gardening Zone

Start by figuring out your gardening zone with one of the tools mentioned above, and then realize that there are ways to make your gardening zone work for you – instead of against you. 

Just because you live in a cold growing zone (we’re looking at you, zone 2) doesn’t mean that you can’t grow anything at all. You just need to become more skilled at planning and being flexible when it comes to your garden. 

First, realize that plant hardiness zones vary. As accurate as the USDA attempts to be in its estimations of growing zones, there are variations. Some chunks of a zone will receive a ton of rainfall, while others in the same zone might be very dry. 

Either way, use a planting schedule based on your area to take the guesswork out of gardening. These will give you a better idea of when to start seeds inside and whether there are crops that can be planted a second time in a season in your gardening zone. 

You may have to change what you want to grow. Sorry, zone 4 folks  – you aren’t going to be growing pineapples outside any time soon! There are some plants that just don’t work in certain areas. 

However, there are always ways you can make it work. For example, you can grow heat-loving plants indoors in containers or you can use a greenhouse to extend your growing season. Additional tools, including frost protection methods like row covers and cold frames, can help make it possible to create the ideal gardening environment, too.

What to Keep in Mind With Your Gardening Zone

Like all things in life, gardening zones aren’t perfect. There are some situations that zone maps aren’t fantastic at working with.

For example, the USDA map does an excellent job of determining the garden climates of the eastern portions of the United States. Since this section is relatively flat, it’s easy to draw zone lines parallel to the Gulf Coast every 120 miles or so as you move north.

Yet there are still drawbacks. In this region, the USDA map doesn’t take into consideration how helpful snow cover can be over perennial plants or the regularity of freeze-thaw cycles (we all know how unpredictable those infamous January thaws can be!). In addition, it doesn’t factor in soil drainage during cold months. 

Moving westward, the gardening zone maps become even less reliable. Once you reach North and South Dakota down through Texas – and then moving westward- you’re going to struggle to figure out the most accurate gardening zone because of the elevation. In addition, as you get closer to the Pacific Ocean, it’s more challenging to predict temperature and weather because of the unpredictability as patterns move over numerous mountain ranges. 

As a general rule of thumb, though, knowing your gardening zone is a great place to begin if you are new to gardening. It will help you figure out which plants may not make it in your climate – and which ones will thrive.

Gardening Tools Every Beginner Needs

Gardening Tools Every Beginner Needs

When you first start gardening, it can be tough to resist the temptation to buy…well, everything. There are so many neat gardening gadgets and gizmos, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

However, when you’re first starting out, you really need just a few basics, and less is often more when it comes to building your gardening arsenal. As long as you are good about cleaning and maintaining them, a few tools can really go a long way. 

Here are some of the gardening tools that every beginner needs. 

Gloves

A good pair of gloves is crucial for a beginning gardener. Not only can gloves protect your hands from thorns, splinters, and dirt, but they can also guard against rashes from plants you might (unknowingly) be allergic too. 

When you’re looking for gloves, consider those that are durable but not bulky. You’ll want a bit of flex and moveability, especially if you’re working with seeds or transplanting delicate seedlings. Fit is the most important quality because gloves that fit poorly can cause blisters or even slip off altogether – usually at the most inopportune time. 

Water-resistant gloves can be helpful so that you don’t find yourself dealing with sodden fingers all the time – but you also need gloves that will help keep your hands cool and comfortable, too. Breathability is key! 

Caring for your gloves is important, too. Stash them out of the direct sunlight to prevent fading and wash them according to the manufacturer’s instructions to keep them in tiptop shape. 

Garden Hose 

If you can’t provide water to your garden, it’s not going to get very far in its growth. That’s why a good garden hose is essential. Not only will a good garden hose be one that can reach and spray every square inch of your garden, but it will give you good control of your water pressure, too. 

Before you buy a hose, estimate or even measure the length of hose you will need. Remember that hose length affects water pressure, so while you may feel tempted to splurge on an extra-long garden hose, this may not be the best idea. If you only have a small amount of garden to reach, you’d be better off with a shorter hose so that you can apply greater pressure. 

Hoses are made out of all kinds of materials, including vinyl, rubber, and even metal. A vinyl hose is usually the least expensive option but tends to kink and wear out more quickly than a rubber hose. Whatever you do, store your hoses coiled and out of direct sunlight – leaving them kinked for a long time can cause weak spots to appear in the hose. 

Hose Nozzle or Watering Wand

A hose isn’t the only gardening tool you need in your toolbox. You also need a good nozzle or watering wand. A hose nozzle will allow you to change the diameter of your hose and to adjust the water pressure and spray radius of your hose. This is perfect for applying different levels of water to various types of plants. 

A good watering wand will let you give your plants a gentler shower instead of a torrential downpour. It usually has an extended reach, making it easier for you to reach hanging plants, the edges of borders, and out-of-the-way containers. Watering wands vary in length, from 10 to 48 inches. 

You may need to use a longer watering wand if you have a lot of high-growing plants or hanging baskets. Some have shut-off valves in their handles, too, which can be helpful if you’re trying to conserve water.

Watering Can

If you have container plants, a watering can is essential. This is also a handy tool to have if you’re starting seeds inside or for whatever reason have other plants that are difficult to water with a hose. 

When you’re shopping, you’ll be given a basic choice when it comes to watering cans – and although there will be other decisions to make, this one is the most important. Water or metal are the two basic materials that watering cans can be made out of. Although there are plenty of colors, styles, sizes, and nozzle options besides that, the material is key. 

While a plastic can will be lighter, it won’t have the longevity of a metal can. Metal cans last longer as long as they are made out of galvanized materials. Consider how big and heavy the watering can is before you buy, as a single gallon of water can be quite heavy. 

There are plenty of watering can add-ons that you might consider, too. For example, there are some with two-handled designs to give you more stability. 

Wheelbarrow

You may not need a wheelbarrow when you’re first getting started, but over time, this is a tool you are definitely going to want to have around. A wheelbarrow is vital if you have lots of soil, compost, or mulch that needs to be moved around. You can also use it for any project that requires heavy lifting, such as moving multiple bags of topsoil or fertilizer. 

Look for a wheelbarrow that has a single handle and two wheels – these are not traditional but are much easier to balance. A dual-handle, single-wheel wheelbarrow can be quite difficult to balance. 

Either way, make sure you care for your wheelbarrow by storing it in a clean, dry location. Keep your wheels inflated, too, as this will allow for easier pushing. 

Hand Trowel

Hand trowels are perfect for transplanting plants, digging in containers, or even removing deep, set-in weeds. For the best results, pick a hand trowel that has a broad blade so you can easily move soil. It should have a handle that fits easily in your hand and is made out of durable material, like stainless steel. 

Spade

A spade is a quintessential gardening tool, allowing you to make quick work of edging, moving dirt, digging holes, lifting sod, and more. Don’t be afraid to drop some money on a good spade – it’s a smart investment to make, as it can last you the rest of your gardening career. Look for the following qualities in a good gardening spade. 

First, it should have treads on the top to provide for a more comfortable foot surface. Hardwood handles will be more durable and absorb more shock while long handles offer greater leverage (just keep in mind that they are heavier, too). As with hand trowels, spades with stainless steel heads are often more durable, offering you greater longevity because they won’t rust. 

Pruning Shears and Loppers

Pruning shears are also important when it comes to caring for your garden. There are lots of options you can choose from, from secateurs or hand pruners to bypass pruners and everything in between. 

Anvil pruners are another option. These cut just like a knife cuts evenly on a board and are best for dead wood. You won’t want to use them on fresh branches or greenery. 

Bypass pruners, on the other hand, are suitable for live plants, while ratcheting pruners can be helpful for people with limited hand strength or mobility. Secateurs are best for wild, overgrown plants.  

Think about your needs when it comes to pruners – this will help you find the right gardening tools for the job. Either way, look for pruners that fit easily in your hand and aren’t clunky or awkward to use. You will want to care for your pruners by sharpening them regularly, too. 

Another type of pruning shear to consider is a lopper. Loppers are essentially just long-handled pruners that are used to trim hard-to-reach areas or to cut back denser branches. The long handles make it easier for you to reach further and they also give you the leverage necessary to cut thicker branches. 

Just know that long-handled loppers can be heavy, so it’s important that you pick those that you can manage. Ones made out of aluminum or those built with carbon-composite handles are usually quite a bit lighter. As with pruners, it’s good to keep your loppers in good shape by sharpening and cleaning them regularly. 

Garden Fork 

A basic garden fork can go a long way when it comes to inexpensive but effective gardening tools. With more digging power than a spade, a garden fork can really get into dense soil. 

Look for a garden fork with a curve in the spine, as this will do a better job at scooping out compost or soil. Garden forks with straight tines are better for digging in compacted oil while square tines offer greater strength, since they bend instead of give when they meet a rock.

Hoe

Depending on the type of garden you have, there are various types of hoes that will be best. However, a good hoe is essential. A vegetable garden necessitates a sturdier hoe, but if you have perennials, a thinner, more delicate hoe might be better. Hoes can not only prep your beds but they can also be used to chop stubborn weeds. 

As with most of these gardening tools, you will want to find a hoe that is comfortable for you to use. It should have a sharp blade – and keep in mind that you will need to keep it sharpened, too. You can purchase a home specifically known as a weeding hoe, but a flat hoe will do a good job of turning the soil, too. 

Rake

A rake is one of the most important gardening tools to have if you are working on a lawn. Rakes come in a wide assortment of sizes, styles, designs, and even colors, but a basic leaf rake is really all you need. An adjustable rake will be able to do the job of more than one tool by reaching into narrow areas, so it may offer you more bang for your buck.

In addition, look out for a rake that has steel tines. These will be stronger. However, if you have sensitive plants growing in your garden or on your lawn, a rake with plastic items may be a smarter choice as it won’t damage the delicate roots. 

Gardening Tools Make the Gardener

At the end of the day, the most important gardening tools to have as a gardener are any pieces of equipment that help make your job a little bit easier. While you can certainly get by with just some seeds, sunshine, and soil, adding these tools to your garden shed will make it easier for you to get the job done effectively – and to enjoy a bountiful harvest.

25 Gardening Apps For Super Simple Planning

25 Gardening Apps For Super Simple Planning

Whether you’re a novice gardener with zero knowledge of plant care or an expert who can read a sun chart like the back of her hand, you no longer have to go it alone when it comes to caring for your plants.

The days of relying on folklore and the Farmer’s Almanac are over. Today, the Internet has made it possible to get all kinds of information about how to care for your garden with the simple click of a button. 

There are also thousands of useful apps that can benefit your plants, too. Here’s everything you need to know about today’s top gardening apps. 

How Gardening Apps Can Help You 

Gardening isn’t necessarily a high-tech hobby, but in this day and age, there’s no reason not to use every single tool that we are given! Gardening apps can help you in so many different ways. 

For example, you might consider some of these most popular features that gardening apps offer. With a gardening app, you can:

  • Identify poisonous plants
  • Determine which insects are beneficial or harmful to your plants
  • Plan out your growing season
  • Know when to harvest certain plants
  • Access advice from other gardeners
    Understand your soil type

The 25 Best Gardening Apps to Consider

Gardening Manager

Gardening Manager is a neat app that allows you to easily keep track of your planting schedule. You can take notes in the app’s diary feature, allowing you to track growing patterns for later seasons. Garden Manager has a sister app, too, which is called Plant ALarm. This app lets you save a variety of gardening alarms to help you keep track of what needs to be watered and when.

Garden Time Planner

Garden Time Planner has information about when you need to harvest and plant your crops. It will give you information about the individual type of plants as well as their region. It also gives you a handy task list so that you can stay on top of everything you need to do. It’s available for both iPhone and Android users.

Plant Diary 

Plant Diary is an easy to use app that is free for Android. It lets you keep track of the gardens you plant and you can even make a physical map of your garden with it. It’s not a fancy or high-tech app by any means, but it’s perfect for someone who is doing just a small amount of gardening. 

Garden Answers Plant Identification

Garden Answers is one of the best apps for you to use if you are new to plant identification. An easy-to-use identification app, it can identify more than 20,000 plants. You’ll walk away with some seriously useful information. It’s also easy to use – all you need to do is take a picture of a plant, press submit, and wait for your answer. 

Gardroid

Available only for Android, this app has a user-friendly design and allows you to peruse a list of vegetables and fruits to give you an idea of what to plant. You can add them to your garden in the app and then plug in the date that you planted them. You will be given a progress bar so you will know when they are ready. You can add or remove items to the calendar. 

This is a great app for people who are new to gardening as well as those that are pressed for time. You’ll learn everything your plants need to be healthy – and you’ll also stay organized in the process. 

Gardenate 

Gardenate is one of the top-ranked gardening apps. It includes a calendar so you know what you should plant each month. It also has a Wish List to let you keep track of plants to grow in the future. 

GardenTags

GardenTags is more of a community app than anything else, providing a platform for helpful gardeners to share tips and information with each other. Plant care is sorted so you can get information about how to deal with pests and weeds. 

Garden Compass 

Garden Compass is another app designed exclusively for iPhones. This app helps gardeners by teaching how to identify certain diseases and pests. If you notice anything odd in your garden, all you need to do is snap a picture of it and the app will identify it. 

Leafsnap 

Leafsnap doesn’t just have a catchy name – it’s also recommended and used by the Natural History Museum. You know it’s got to be good! Unfortunately, it’s only available on iOS. However, the app contains gorgeous high-resolution photos of all kinds of plants and all their various parts, including fruits, leaves, flowers, bark, and seeds. 

Garden Squared

Garden Squared is another helpful app that helps you keep track of what is planted within your garden. Only designed for gardens with a size range no larger than 4×8 feet, it’s perfect for someone who already knows how to garden but just needs an easy-to-follow planning system.

Into Garden

Available for Android and iOS alike, this app is perfect for designing a new garden layout. It’s perfect for small gardens in particular.

Flower Checker

As the name implies, the Flower CHecker app provides useful plant identification services for flowers. However, it doesn’t stop there – you can get information on more than 90% of all plant species! The app has no advertisements, too, which is another great feature to consider.

Vegetable Tree

Vegetable Tree is a fun app that is currently the top-selling app for iOS devices. It contains all the information you need about sowing seeds and caring for your plants, and tells you all the characteristics of the different fruits and vegetables you might grow in a garden. You can choose from just about any kind of plant and you can customize it to your garden’s specifications. 

SmartPlant

Available for both iOS and Android, SmartPlant helps you to identify plants. It’s more than that, though, and also features a Digital Care Calendar to tell you when and what all of your plants need. You can further personalize the experience by adding specific plants you have in your garden. The app will provide you with updates on what you need to do to care for them – and more importantly, when. 

Gardening Companion

Gardening Companion helps you keep track of the progress of your garden. Like many of these other apps, it also has information about how to care for your plants. 

Moon Gardening

Unfortunately, Moon Gardening is not a free app, and it’s only available on iPhones. However, it can be super useful if you believe in the power the moon has on your plants’ growth. It shows you a moon calendar with all the phases and related zodiac elements, letting you know when you should water your plants based on that information.

Plantifier 

Plantifier is a bit different from the other apps on this list because it doesn’t rely on experts but instead on the masses. To contribute, all you need to do is upload a picture of the unknown plant and let the other users on the site will help you figure it out. It also helps you track the progress of your plants and flowers too. 

GardenMinder

GardenMiner was designed by Gardener’s Supply Company and is one of the best gardening apps for you to consider if you want to stay on top of every step of the gardening process. It provides users with weekly alerts and how-tos so you’ll never have to worry about what to do.

My Soil

My Soil was designed by the British Geological Survey and gives you all the information you need to know about the soil in your local area. You can get information on everything from your soil type to its pH, it’s temperature to how much organic matter it has. This is super useful if you’re trying to figure out what kind of plants to grow in your area.

Garden Plan Pro

Garden Plan Pro isn’t just for “pros” – it’s also a great tool for novice gardeners. This app helps you get all the tips you need to design an herb, fruit, or vegetable garden. It includes tools to help you arrange your plants, layout the garden, and even track its progress. 

Home Grown 

Homegrown was created by Bonnie Plants and is a great app for people who are just getting started with growing their own food. It allows you to create a high-tech garden journal and also displays your weather for the next five days. It includes growing advice for more than 250 plants, too. 

Beesmart Pollinator Generator

Beesmart Pollinator Generator is a cool app that you can use to learn how to attract certain types of pollinators to your garden. From annuals to perennials, trees to vines, this includes a ton of information about how to bring these helpful creatures to your property. 

iScape

It can be tough to figure out how to best plan your garden. iScape helps with this, allowing you to virtually design your garden before you even plant. 

House and Garden

The House and Garden magazine offers a handy app. This app allows you to draw inspiration from gorgeous backyards so that you can easily plan your own display. 

Agrobase

Agrobase helps gardeners identify the most common weeds, insects, diseases, and other factors that are interfering with their garden’s success. Designed for farmers, it can be a bit tricky to use if you only have a small garden. However, it also offers solutions for some of the most common issues.

Which Gardening Apps are Best for Me?

If you’re just getting started with using gardening apps, don’t rush in all at once. It might make sense for you to try one app first and see how well that meets your needs. After all, you don’t want to bog down your phone with a million different apps!

However, gardening apps can be super useful tools for novice and expert gardeners alike. Give one a try this growing season!

20 Fastest Growing Vegetables For A Super Quick Harvest!

20 Fastest Growing Vegetables For A Super Quick Harvest!

Are you super excited about growing your own food? Need to know exactly what the fastest growing vegetables are? You’re in luck – that’s the topic of today’s article!

Back in the day, I was pretty impatient in my garden. I only wanted to plant the fastest growing vegetables, so I could have a super quick harvest. This led to growing lots of radishes, because I didn’t know all of my options!

If you think that all vegetables take from spring to fall to mature, then you, my friend, have been lied to. Whether you’re getting a late start on your garden or you live in a region with a short growing season and want to learn more ways to optimize your brief time, don’t worry – there are plenty of ways to extend the life of your garden. To get started, we recommend choosing some of these fastest-growing vegetables for your garden.

The 20 Fastest-Growing Vegetables for a Speedy Harvest

1. Radishes

Not only one of the fastest-growing vegetables but also one of the most delicious, radishes are ready for harvest just 25 to 30 days after planting. The radish is a great plant for those of us who live in areas with short growing zones, too, as they can be planted once in the spring and once in late summer to allow them to enjoy cooler growing conditions. Too much heat can make them taste woody! Look for a quick-maturing variety such as Purple Plush, Watermelon, Black Spanish, or French Breakfast for best results. 

2. Green Onions

Onions seem to take forever to mature – up to six months in many cases. However, you can make the most of a short growing window by harvesting the green onions talks. These are ready for harvest in just three or four weeks!

3. Kale

Kale is one of the best leafy greens to grow if you are looking for one of the fastest-growing vegetables for a cold growing zone. Kale can be grown year-round in many locales, and well into the fall in zones like 3 and 4. 

Not only will you yield a plethora of healthy, bountiful greens, but you won’t have to wait long after planting, either. Most take just 50 to 65 days to mature, but you can also harvest tender immature leaves as soon as three weeks after planting!

4. Lettuce

Lettuce is a great crop to grow if you are interested in planting via succession planting. You can plant multiple rounds of lettuce each year, since most leaf varieties are ready just 30 days from planting. Cut the leaves once they’re two or three inches tall, and keep cutting until the plant bolts. 

5. Turnips 

In most cases, turnip roots can be harvested in just 60 days – but if you don’t want to wait that long, you can also harvest the leaves after waiting for just 40 days.

6. Arugula

Arugula is a tasty green with a peppery flavor. A perennial in some areas, it also matures quite rapidly. It takes less than two months to produce mature leaves, and you can continue cutting leaves whenever you want to enjoy them.

7. Peas 

Peas are cold-hardy crops and they’re also quick to germinate and mature. The seeds typically take ten days to germinate and are ready to be harvested in just 60 short days. 

8. Spinach 

Spinach is another great crop for succession planting. The leaves will be ready in as little as one month from planting, meaning you can get multiple crops in one season. Plus, spinach is exceptionally cold hardy, so you can grow it well into the late autumn months in many areas. People who live in warm growing zones may be able to plant and harvest spinach year-round!

9. Bush Beans

Not all bush beans mature quickly, but there are plenty of varieties, like Topcrop and Provider, that can be harvested in as little as 50 days. If you’re planting beans for a quick production, always select bush beans instead of pole beans – they mature much more quickly. 

10. Baby Carrots

Carrots aren’t known for being the fastest-growing vegetables, but you can optimize a short growing season by harvesting baby carrots. There’s no special trick here – just plant your carrot seeds as you normally would and harvest the tiny tubers 30 days later. 

11. Summer Squash

Not all squash is fast-growing, but there are certain varieties of summer squash that are ready in just 70 days. Summer squash, which requires warm conditions in order to produce, will always grow more quickly than winter squash. 

12. Cucumbers

Some varieties of cucumbers can be harvested just 50 to 70 days from planting – but if you’re impatient, you can always harvest the tiny fruits, too.

13. Beets

Beets are some of the fastest growing vegetables, particularly if you want to grow a fantastic cold-hardy crop. Beets don’t like a lot of heat, so it’s best to plant for an early spring crop as well as for a fall crop. You can harvest the roots in just 50 days, but the greens can be plucked in just 30.

14. Okra

Okra isn’t the easiest vegetable to grow, but it is one of the fastest-growing vegetables. It only takes about 50 days to mature. 

15. Bok Choy

Bok Choy isn’t only a fun name to say – it’s a fun plant to grow. This quick-growing vegetable is mature in just 30 days. 

16. Broccoli and Broccoli Rabe

Both broccoli and broccoli rabe can be grown in a short amount of time. Like beets and spinach, broccoli is a cold-season crop that grows well when the temperatures are a bit nippy. It takes just 60 days to produce mature heads, and you can get a continuous harvest as long as you continue to trim heads before they flower and go to seed. 

Broccoli rabe, also called rapini or rabi, looks like broccoli and grows like broccoli but is actually a closer relative to the turnip. This plant should be harvested as soon as the flower clusters appear – the stems are edible, too, and also fast maturing.

17. Chinese Cabbage

Chinese cabbage can be harvested in a mere matter of weeks. Producing firm heads, this plant grows best in partial shade, so it isn’t always suited to the hot temperatures of summer. 

18. Cress

Another unique green to grow is cress. This plant has a delicious peppery flavor and can be harvested in just a few weeks. You can sow successively for a continual harvest, but keep in mind that cress does not grow well in hot weather – it becomes too peppery.

19. Microgreens

If you haven’t heard of microgreens yet, they’re fast becoming a popular alternative to traditional salad greens. You can sprout microgreens from just about any type of plant – although arugula, spinach, celery, and chives are some of the most popular choices. They’re ready in just a few days, as you are eating the seedling and not the actual mature plant.

20. Mustard Leaves

Mustard is yet another green that grows well – and grows quickly – in cool weather. It is sensitive to heat, producing its best growth in early spring and fall. Give it some shade if you can’t grow it during these times of the year, but keep in mind that it will be ready for harvest in less than a month.

Tips for Producing the Fastest Growing Vegetables

If you think you don’t have what it takes to grow speedy veggies, you’re mistaken. Here are some quick tips to follow when you’re hoping for an equally expedient harvest.

Use Balanced Natural Fertilizers

Fertilizer can help jumpstart the growth of your vegetable garden, but you have to know what you’re doing. A synthetic fertilizer often is too imbalanced for sensitive veggies, but a balanced organic fertilizer (like compost) can give your plants the nutrients they need for a quick jumpstart. Apply fertilizer before planting, but make sure you always test your soil first to ensure you are giving your plants exactly what they need.

Plan Carefully

Time out your plantings ahead of the growing season. This will allow you to make the best use of your growing space without things feeling cramped or overcrowded. Sketch out a map of your garden and pull up a calendar to make sure no space is being wasted!

Consider a Greenhouse or Cold Frame to Extend the Season

If you live in an area with a brief growing season, you might want to consider growing some crops in a greenhouse or a cold frame. Even if you are lucky enough to live in a warm region, these facilities can drastically reduce the amount of time it takes you to grow certain vegetables. 

Seeds will germinate more quickly and plants will mature more rapidly when they are provided with plenty of sunlight and heat – which these structures can provide.

Plant in Raised Beds

It’s no secret that raised beds warm up more quickly and hold heat better than the soil on the ground. If you want to help your spring-sown seedlings mature more quickly, consider planting them in raised beds instead of directly in the ground. The same rule applies to planting in containers!

Plant in Triangles

For plants that seem forever to set fruit after they’ve flowered, you might want to plant in triangles. Not only will this make it easier for pollination to occur, but it will also provide for maximum utilization of every square inch of your garden. A faster harvest, plus efficiency? A win-win.

Choose Compatible Pairings

When you grow plants that naturally complement each other, like beans and corn, you make it easier for them to harness their natural growing abilities for a faster harvest. The theory behind this strategy is this – by choosing plants that work together to repel pests, provide nutrients, and retain moisture, your plants will have to do less “catching up” and can focus all their energy on simply growing.

Why You Should Plant Fast Growing Vegetables

There are lots of good reasons to plant fast-growing or quick-maturing varieties of plants, but only you can decide if this option is best for your gardening plan. 

However, keep in mind that fast-growing vegetables offer a great way to maximize your yields. If you are growing in a greenhouse, a fast-growing vegetable can help you get as many plants as possible in a year. If you’re growing outside, fast-growing vegetables allow you to get the most bang for your buck per square foot of growing space. 

Whatever your motivations for growing quick crops might be, we hope you will find this list of the fastest growing vegetables helpful as you plan out your garden!

Lasagna Gardening Quick Start Guide

Lasagna Gardening Quick Start Guide

The term “lasagna gardening” conjures up images of cheesy, gooey, hamburger-laden goodness. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to grow a lasagna in your garden – and lasagna gardening has nothing to do with the Italian dish we know and love. 

However, lasagna gardening has plenty of other benefits to offer. Not only can it help boost the fertility of your soil, but it can also render a formerly unusable plot of land totally usable. 

Here’s everything you need to know about lasagna gardening.

What is Lasagna Gardening?

Lasagna gardening, as we mentioned, has nothing to do with cooking and everything to do with great gardening. It’s all about layers – you can place lasagna gardens wherever you want. 

A no-till, no-dig method of organic gardening, lasagna gardening results in fluffy, nutrient-dense soil that requires very little work on your part. It refers to a method of building up your garden via layers, producing rich soil that will help your garden thrive. It’s often referred to synonymously as sheet composting, and it’s not only great for your garden, but it’s good for the environment, too. 

As long as there is sun and a relatively flat grade, you can build a lasagna garden. It can be large or small, narrow or wide, long or short. You don’t even have to till anything! All you will need to do is build layers until it’s the perfect height for your needs. 

To make it an even better proposition, you can use any kind of organic fertilizer, too. You should never use a synthetic fertilizer in a lasagna garden, but it’s fine to use compost, leaves, manure, or any other natural ingredients to help build your soil. 

Why You Should Try Lasagna Gardening

There are plenty of reasons to give lasagna gardening a try. As you probably know, we love finding solutions for busy people. Not only is it more convenient for people who have poor soil, but it also is a great solution for the lazy gardener. 

Many of us live in areas where the soil is too rocky, too sandy, too clay bound, or inappropriate in some other way for gardening. Lasagna gardening gets rid of that dilemma. You can place your garden wherever you have sun and you can use manure, compost, and other fertilizers to build it. 

While these amendments won’t go into your soil right away, they will accumulate and leach into the ground over time, gradually improving the quality of your soil so that you can one day use it for gardening in a more traditional sense.

You won’t have to dig, cultivate, or till in any way, either. Since you are essentially adding new “soil” on top of the ground, you won’t have to turn anything in to provide the benefits of fertilizing, aerating, and eliminating weeds. This helps to protect the fragile microbes that live in your soil – again, improving the structure and nutrition of your soil over time. 

Once you get it established, a lasagna garden is much easier to maintain, too. You can build it to any height, so if you have accessibility issues, you will have a much less difficult time tending to your plants. You will also have fewer weeds to contend with and you won’t need to water it as much, either. Compost holds water much better than the regular garden soil. 

Finally, a lasagna garden is a great method for people seeking inexpensive organic gardening techniques. It takes just a few hours to prepare the garden and although it can take a full season for the organic matter to break down enough to fully support the plants, you can start growing almost immediately. Plus, a lasagna garden can be built entirely free of cost if you use your own organic waste. 

How to Build a Quick Lasagna Garden 

Building a lasagna garden is easy and entirely customizable to your preferences and growing needs. You can build the garden directly on the ground, by piling up layers, or you can build it in a raised bed. 

The basic principles, however, remain the same. Make sure you have an idea of which layers you are going to include in your garden since the first layer will be on the bottom and the last layer will be on top – the contents of the layers can vary depending on which plants you choose to grow. 

First, begin by selecting your growing area. Choose one that receives at least four hours of sun a day, unless you plan on growing a shade garden with tolerant plants like kale and spinach. 

Next, if you plan on building sides or a raised bed around your lasagna garden, mark the area with stakes. This will give you an idea of the boundaries of your lasagna garden so you don’t have a heaping, sprawling mess. 

If you decide to enclose your garden in any way, stick with wood like pine, oak, or maple. Don’t use anything that has been treated, as these chemicals can leach into your garden over time.

Put down your first layer. This should be either a thick (six to eight layers) layer of newspaper or a single sheet of cardboard. This will provide a strong base for your lasagna garden and it will also help suppress weeds. Another option is straw. Whichever option you choose, make sure it’s at least six inches thick. Wet the layer before moving onto the next step. 

Add some compost or manure. Compost is best, particularly aged compost, as it will allow the plants to use the nutrients more easily. Water this layer, too. Then put down a layer of straw, which will provide additional aeration, and then wet that, too. 

Next, add a layer of “new” compost ingredients. Some options to choose from include coffee grounds, vegetable scraps, eggshells, or other kitchen waste. This will begin to break down slowly in your garden, adding additional nutrients to the soil once the compost has been depleted. Again, cover with straw, and wet it. 

Add a brown layer of ingredients to your lasagna garden. Anything that contains lots of carbon can be used here – think shredded paper, napkins, toilet paper tubes, straw, or wood shavings. Add another layer of straw, and water.  Then, you’ll add a green layer- anything that is nitrogen base will do. You can add more vegetable or fruit scraps (such as banana peels) or coffee grounds or even some lawn clippings. Sprinkle with water once more. 

You’ll repeat this pattern as needed until your garden is at least two feet deep. You can create an even deeper garden if you want it to be taller for easier access – just remember that the garden will break down over time, so it will never be as tall as it was when you started. The last layer of your lasagna garden should always be compost or aged manure. 

That’s all there is to it! The final step is to plant your seeds or seedlings just as you ordinarily would. You will care for them in the exact same ways you would when planting in a regular in-ground garden or raised bed – just with a lot less time and effort involved. 

Things to Keep in Mind 

Although a lasagna garden is much easier to care for than a regular garden, there are some things to keep in mind.  For instance, you may still have problems with pests. These can be magnified if you use young compost. Some pests, like mice and rats, are going to be attracted to the fresher compost ingredients. Try sprinkling some cayenne pepper around them (or building your lasagna garden in an enclosed area) to deter these rodents.

You may also have fungal diseases. Cinnamon can help prevent fungal disease, but often, fungal issues can be magnified in a too-wet lasagna garden. Hold off on watering until you’re sure your garden needs it – a lasagna garden will hold water a lot better than a traditional garden, so it’s not difficult to overwater. 

Finally, any ingredients you use in your lasagna garden should be carefully examined for any signs of contamination. For instance, you will want to look over your cardboard for tape, glue, and staples. These can leach chemicals into your soil and they won’t break down in a garden (or they will take a very long time to do so). You should also avoid using hay instead of straw – not only will it take longer to break down, but it will contain tons of weed seeds, too. 

When to Build a Lasagna Garden

You can build your own lasagna garden at any time of the year. Fall tends to be best, as it will provide you with a multitude of organic materials for free – think of all the fallen leaves and yard waste hanging around. Plus, you can allow the lasagna garden to break down all winter. By spring, it will be time to plant.

However, if you’re reading this in the spring, summer, or winter, don’t think it’s too late to start your lasagna garden now! It can be tough to start a lasagna garden in the winter, but if you’re willing to wait until early spring, you’ll have the perfect environment to get going. Just remember than in spring and summer, you will want to add more soil-like amendments to the final layer of the bed, like topsoil, so you can plant immediately. 

Over time, the organic matter in your garden will shrink and break down. You will want to replenish it every year by adding additional green and brown layers. Otherwise, there’s little else that you need to do except sit back and watch your garden grow. 

Oh – and you can also make some real lasagna with all the delicious tomatoes and peppers you’ll be able to grow in your lasagna garden!