Wednesday, January 30, 2013

First Week of Class

Minnesota decided to welcome back the students of the Twin Cities campus with some of the most bitterly cold weather I've experienced in a long time. Even though the snow and ice can be beautiful, walking from class to class gets frighteningly cold some days.

Regular daytime temps for the first few days of class hovered between -15 and -8 degrees with a wind chill of between -25 and -20. Thankfully over the weekend we got a break and the temperature warmed up a bit, but we're expecting about a high of 9 degrees Friday. Looks like there's no escaping it, so really the only thing you can do is curl up with some hot chocolate, watch the snow and study.

And speaking of studying, from the little time I've had them, my classes this semester seem to be going well so far. I have Soil Science, Intro to Microeconomics, General Biology and Chemistry for the second time (I'm determined to beat it this time around!) All my professors seem really nice and they all lecture really well, which helps when it's 8AM and all I want is to be back in my bed sleeping.

There's not much new to report with my plants. I'm trying to protect them from the drafty area they're in, but I can't move them completely because that's the only part of my apartment that gets any sort of light. My apartment doesn't get any direct sunlight at all, just shaded daytime light, so I'm using a regular desk lamp on them a few hours a day for some warmth and hoping whatever light is getting through the windows is sufficient for their photosynthetic needs. Over break, I picked up a few new pots to replant a few things in and, my biggest find, a small, egg-shaped terrarium which I'm currently attempting to root an African Violet leaf cutting in.

The two in front are the ones that have new pots. I think they're pretty happy with all the new space they have to spread out in. :)

Please forgive the photo quality. I took the pictures at night and there really wasn't that much light in my living room. Really the only other thing new with plants so far is I think I may have gotten rid of the scale attacking my umbrella plant for good. This time, I used a 1 part water, 1 part peroxide mixture and applied it to the leaves with a cue-tip. I washed all the leaves with water afterward, just in case. I haven't seen any of the nasty patches on the leaves yet, so hopefully they're all gone.

That's about all I have to report for now. I have a feeling the next month or so is going to be pretty slow since it's winter and I'm pretty limited to what I can do to houseplants at the moment. Hope you're all staying warm! :)

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Garden Journal

While reading the gardening books I got from the library this week, I found so many ideas and snippets of useful information, I knew I was never going to remember them all. I found the solution to my problem when one of the books suggested creating a garden journal. Using a barely used sketchbook I found in the piles of notebooks and drawings in my room, I finally had a place to write, keep all the information, ideas and projects I was finding. I also can keep journal entries to track plants I'm growing, record observations on projects and plant growth and plan out future gardening endeavor.

Inspiration taken out of Better Homes and Gardens magazines.

I've jotted down lots of clever ideas for starting seeds, plants I had no idea were edible and projects for some point in the future when I have the time and the space for them. I've also gathered up all of my mom's old "Better Home's and Gardens" magazines and ripped out and included gorgeous garden photos for inspiration and smaller plant pictures for decoration in my journal. A few pages are also devoted to recipes that I've found in the gardening books.

Some ideas and facts about tomatoes. 

The biggest bonus about keeping a journal is, however, having a place to write down those hard to remember varieties or to-do list so when it slips your mind later, you can go back and find it. This can be really helpful when you're off to the greenhouse or garden center and can't for the life of you remember that tomato cultivar or that variety of hydrangea you wanted to try. I know that I'm terribly forgetful when it comes to things like this, so I think the journal will be able to help me keep my head on straight.

Some herbs categorized by different flavors.

I'm having a lot of fun with it and would recommend making one to anyone who hasn't already. I'm definitely not the first person to think of keeping a journal for gardening ideas and garden planning, but I'm certainly a fan after having so much fun making mine. Since I like to draw my plants as well as grow and write about them, I'm using a sketchbook with large, blank pages and lots of room to write, draw and plan. I'd recommend this if you think you'll be sketching your future garden ideas. I love journals and sketchbooks because they can be as different as their writers are different. You can have one as simple as plant names and the dates you planted them, or as complex as conglomerations of pictures, plans, recipes and inspiration for gardens you'd like to have years in the future.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Winter Break in Michigan

Now that I'm a little more than halfway through winter break, I've finally made it home to Michigan for the first time since August. The band trip to Houston kept me away until after New Years, and fall semester kept me so busy that I couldn't even spend a weekend at home. So it's certainly nice to be back for a two week break from campus and the Twin Cities.

Here's my band on the field in Houston before the bowl game! 
I'm one of the little gold dots in the "8"!

The best part about coming home is seeing all the plants my parents have. Almost every room in the house that gets some sort of light has greenery tucked in the corners. The front window that gets lots of southern sun in the winter has our largest tropical plant, gorgeous flowering African violets and a Christmas cactus just finishing up a cycle of blooms.

The kitchen is also full of mason jars full of cuttings of the coleus with lovely root systems starting. Some of these are the coleus plants I started in my plant propagation class last year that we had outside our house this summer. These cuttings will be able to go back out in the spring for another year of potted summer greenery.

Once I got back, I booked it (pun intended) straight to the library and checked out a big stack of horticulture and gardening books. A lot of my free time has since been spent reading and taking notes in the garden journal I've fashioned out of a barely used sketchbook. To keep this post from running too long, I'll have another post about making a garden journal later this week.

A few snippets and ideas I've found:
1. Freeze smaller, edible flowers or their petals in ice cubes to make a pretty, decorative addition to your summery drinks.
2. Use plastic take out containers to start seedlings in early spring. Since they already have a clear cover, you won't have to put a plastic bag over them. Be careful of plastics, however, and stay away from plastics 3, 6 and 7. You can find this number on the bottom of the container.
3. You can actually eat daylily buds before the flowers bloom. One book recommended sauteing them like peas!
4. Pinks can actually be infused in wine or vodka and some begonia petals can be eaten but are sour like lemons.

Some of my time has also been spent reading the book my younger sister got me for Christmas, "A Victorian Flower Dictionary" by Mandy Kirkby. It's a fascinating little book with pages of flowers and their meanings, often accompanied by little snippets of literature or poetry.

My discovery of the week, however, has been a really fun gardening program you can watch for free on It's simply called "Organic Gardening" and it's a gardening and horticulture program out of Australia. Since it's such a different climate than the one many of us are living in up in the Northern Hemisphere, some of the things in the gardens down there might not work in our gardens and their seasons certainly are different than many of ours. But it's still very interesting from a horticultural perspective in learning about how gardening works in a different part of the world. And, of course, some of the gardening advice, such as how to prune apple trees and ways to fix common garden problems, are the same as anywhere else. You can find the program here if you'd like to check it out. Ever the multi-tasker, I've enjoyed watching it while writing in my garden journal and finding magazine cuttings to decorate it.

In my next post, I'll be talking more about the making of my garden journal (along with some rather fuzzy photos of the journal taken with my phone camera) and some ideas for getting your own started, if you don't have one already.