Every January, I begin a new notebook for the year, a place to take notes at meetings, programs I attend, interesting articles I read and so on. I do not always remember the source, but here is a selection of things I thought worthy of writing down for whatever reason.
The first is a product I am delighted with. I think it is new this year, at least it is new to me, and I simply love it. Miracle-Gro has a condensed planting mix called expand'nGRO. Yes, spelled like that.
It comes in a bag that is easy to carry and is a dry, fibrous material. When you add water, it expands to three times its volume and can be used for containers or in the garden. It was perfect for my geraniums, which were dormant in the basement all winter long. I just put the root ball into a pot and added this substance to fill about one-third of the pot and then added water.
The texture let it fill all the spaces between the roots without damaging them, and expanded to the right size. It holds water well, and will last a long time for all the containers I fill.
Seeing dying Christmas trees around, it struck me they would make nice natural-looking supports for pole beans and the like.
Someone told me Efferdent dental cleaning tablets are great for cleaning vases and other flower containers that have small openings or are too convoluted to clean with a brush. Just drop a tablet inside and fill with water. As it bubbles away, the tablets dissolve dirt and hard water deposits.
A talk on ground covers included the suggestion to plant woolly thyme between stepping stones in a path. It will survive light traffic all summer and grows quickly. I have always used moss in those places, but it is hard to weed out the grass that invades, and the thyme growing taller would hide it better.
I haven't tried this yet, but plan to plant some this spring. I already have the thyme in the fairy garden, so I will just transplant some.
To remove a splinter or a handful of cactus spines from your hand, paint on a coat of rubber cement. When it dries you can peel off the whole thing, prickles included.
Any fruit or vegetable can be personalized if you scratch a child's name through the rind or skin when the fruit is small. The name expands as it grows, and a child can watch it all summer. I have done this with cucumbers, squash, melons, gourds, eggplant and pumpkins.
Edible flowers give me the creeps! To me, it is like chewing on the decorations from the Christmas tree. But for those who enjoy them, edible flowers to put in your salad or dessert include violets, nasturtiums, calendula, chive flowers and lavender.
Since I got rid of my guppies and goldfish last spring, I have two large fish tanks taking up space in basement storage. Moving them when I put away Christmas decorations, I thought of a good use for them. I am always short of space on the workbench where I start seedlings under the lights in the spring, and there is a solution.
The tanks have fluorescent lights already and will be excellent spots to start more seeds. They will need something in the bottom to keep seedlings close to the lights, and then all will be perfect.
Finally, a few things to start to fill that new calendar for 2013. The Master Gardeners are offering programs for the public with excellent speakers.
From 10 a.m.-noon Feb. 23, Pam Bennett will speak on Totally Awesome Annuals; from 1-4 p.m. March 16, Bill Hendricks will give two illustrated talks, Ground Covers and Fragrance in the Garden; and 10 a.m.-noon April 27 our own Vince Kirchner will demonstrate Food Hydration.
All of these programs are at the Seneca County Extension Office.
Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.