Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Urban Container Gardens

We have discussed gardening for people who have larger yards or some land. But what about those of you who do not have the luxury of living out in the country, but want a garden of your own? Well today we are going to go over a few basics of Urban Gardening to try to help you out.

Today we will focus on container gardens; these are great if you have a balcony, sunny window, roof, or patio area where you don't have any usable dirt, but have space to keep containers.

You will want to plan your container garden, just as someone who uses land needs to plan their plot. You will need to look up your USDA zone so that you know which plants grow the best in your region. After discovering which plants grow best, you will need to decide which of those plants are ones that you want to grow.

With a little practice, experimenting, and hard work nearly any plant that grows in the ground can thrive in a container. However, if this is your first try you might want to stick with plants that are easier to get going until you gain more practice and skill with gardening.

Nearly any container that has holes in the bottom for drainage can be used for your container garden. You can easily use a galvanized bucket or tub as a planter for your container garden, just drill some holes in the bottom. Now keep in mind if you are going to have your container inside near a sunny window, you will want something underneath your container in order to catch the excess water that will run out.

When filling your container with soil keep in mind the needs of the plants that you will be growing so that you can be sure you have the proper soil pH. You might also want to go ahead and purchase fertilizers etc that are recommended for your plants so that you will have them on hand if needed.

Watering is a tricky aspect to container gardening. You will want to water them thoroughly when you water them, but you will not want to water them too much. As you can kill a plant by over and under watering.

Now, there will be the occasional failure, even the most experienced container gardener experiences these. But as you get more experienced the failures will become further between, and you will learn ways to recognize when a plant is failing and how to bring it back from the brink.

And as always, we love to hear from YOU! So please let us know about your experiences with container gardening, which plants worked the best, what tricks have you learned?

View one of our employees first container garden attempt.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Composting is a wonderful way to naturally give your garden the fuel it needs to thrive.  Composting is also environmentally responsible, as it is using things that ordinarily would find their way into the landfills which are already full enough. It can also save you money on buying compost in the store, and by lessening the garbage that you need to haul off each week, if you also recycle your metals, papers, and plastics, adding composting to your routine can save you quite a bundle in what you are paying to the landfills (if you live in an area that charges for garbage pick up or drop off).

Just what is so great about composting anyway? Well, composting is great for many things; it is good for your garden and the environment. Compost is good for the soil in your garden as it gives your plants a slow, steady, nearly continuous stream of nutrients that they need while they are growing.  In addition to the reasons that we already mentioned that composting is good for the environment (less waste going to landfills) it also improves it due to creating less of a need for chemical fertilizers. And less chemicals is almost always a good thing.

Well, we’ve been convinced that composting is a good, no a GREAT thing. So how does one get started composting?

To make compost you need to bring together items that are mainly green and moist, such as grass clippings, weeds, kitchen scraps, etc. Also you will need to add in some brown ingredients like dead leaves, hay, wood shavings, saw dust, hay, and so forth. Make sure that your items stay moist and turn every few days to make sure oxygen is getting reintroduced to the pile. You can do this with a pitchfork or a compost aerator. However, if you are using a spinning compost container, the action of spinning it will aerate your compost for you. 

Now, you might want to reduce the size of your compost ingredients by chopping them up, or in the case of leaves you can use a lawn mower or mulcher to decrease their size. This will help your compost break down more quickly.

When you add your ingredients together you will want to layer them in 3 to 4 inch think layers (however if using a spinning container you can just chuck them all in there together). The ratio you will want to stay close to is between a 5:1 and 8:1 by volume of brown materials to green materials. However, if the ratio is off then there are ways to tell how to get back on track.

If after 24 hours your compost pile has not heated up you most likely need more green material. The best way to gauge whether or not your pile is getting warmer is by using a thermometer, or more particularly a compost thermometer. 150-160 degrees Fahrenheit is where you want the temperature of the middle of your compost heap to be. Now on the other end of things, if your compost smells like ammonia then you need some more brown materials. Once these are added and mixed into your compost then that smell should dissipate.

Your compost mixture should remain moist throughout the process (not sopping wet however). Between the moistness and the oxygen that the compost is getting from you aerating it your mixture will soon become compost. The more frequently you aerate your mixture the quicker your compost will be ready.

Now, once your compost is done there are several uses for it. You can add it to garden soil, container mixes, or use it as mulch. If there are still coarse pieces in the compost you may want to sift your compost through a “riddle” or garden sieve. Any large pieces that are left can be added to your ingredients for your next composting adventure.

Composting ingredients: (a few ingredient ideas to get you started)

Brown Ingredients:
Woody Prunings
Tea Bags
Corn Cobs
Saw Dust

Green Ingredients:
Grass Clippings
Fresh Manure
Coffee Grounds
Young Hedge Trimmings
Plant Cuttings

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Seeding Your Garden

Planting the seeds in your garden can be a time consuming task, even in a smaller garden. If gardening is something that you practice yearly, you might find yourself wondering if there is something that can make this task just a little bit easier.  If this a question that has been weighing on your mind, then you are in luck as there are definitely items out there that are made specifically for this task.  One of those items we are going to be talking about today.

The item that we mentioned above is none other than the Earthway Precision Garden Seeder.  This neat little machine is one that can ease many of the troubles that come with seeding your garden by hand, one of those troubles being back pain with frequent bending and stooping, using a Garden Seeder can help to alleviate this problem. As with any product, you should always read all the instructions that come with the garden seeder before using it. If you want to know how to properly work a garden seeder before making the investment in one, the instructions for the Earthway Precision Garden Seeder can be found on our Web site.

But we are going to give a few pointers here for your convenience:
  • You will want to be sure that your seeds are dry before putting them into the seeder, as damp or wet seeds can clog the garden seeder up.
  • Also, you will want to be sure that the seeds you are using will properly fit with the seed plate that you are using (there are many different seed plates available for the Earthway Precision Garden Seeder)
  • The hopper needs to be kept clean so that the seeds will be evenly distributed during the seeding process. 
  • There is an attachment for the Earthway Precision Garden Seeder that is used for fertilizing. If you decide to purchase this item with your garden seeder, keep in mind that you cannot seed and fertilize at the same time. However, even using the garden seeder twice still saves time over doing both of these things by hand.
We hope that you have a wonderful experience in your garden this coming year. If there are any blogs that you want to see about gardening please let us know either in the comments or by emailing us at 

  Did you know that you don't have to have a lot of space for a garden? Read Urban Container Gardening for more info.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Starting a Garden

There are many things that you need to do before you even start your garden in order to prep yourself for the planting season.  Many of these things are common sense, but some are not. We hope that those of you who have never gardened before, have dabbled in gardening, and maybe even some expert gardeners will find some of these tips and instructions helpful on your path to creating your ideal vegetable garden this year.

Before you begin, you will need to have an idea about what types of vegetables you will be wanting to plant. We recommend only growing vegetables that you and your family thoroughly enjoy, especially for your first few years gardening. As you gain more experience you might want to try new vegetables, there are some that you might like when they are fresh that you never enjoyed the grocery store canned versions of. Once you know which plants you want, you will need to find out what they need for the best growth conditions, this step will help you to plan how you are going to plant your garden, once you have chosen your garden's location you will want to use your research and draw out a map of where you want to plant each vegetable allowing room for plants to grow, also while you are doing this, you might want to write out a planting schedule if you are using a big variety of plants that need to be planted at different times of the year. If you are ordering seeds, you will want to go ahead and place your order. And this brings us to the next step:

Where should your garden be located? If you have a small yard you may not have much choice on where to locate your garden, however, if you have a large area that  you can choose from there are some things that you will want to keep in mind when deciding which spot to place your garden in.  You will want to choose a spot on your land that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. Sunlight is the best light for plants and most vegetable plants need a lot of it. The soil type is also a good thing to keep in mind when choosing your garden's location. Many people are surprised at how much the pH of their soil can vary from one spot of their yard to the next. Now, even if your soil is not perfect you can take measures to balance the soil. You will need to do a soil test in order to determine what the pH level of your soil is. We have written a blog about soil testing on Red Hill General Store's blog.

You will also want to be sure that your garden is either located near a source of water, or that you have the means to transport water to it. Water is vital to a garden's survival. Also, your garden will need to be located in a place that is convenient for you to tend to it frequently. Gardens do have a bit of upkeep, and you are more likely to achieve this upkeep if your garden is located where you can easily have access to it.

When deciding how big your garden needs to be, you will need to factor in how many people you intend to feed with your garden, and also how much work you want to do in your garden. We feel that it is okay to have a smaller garden, especially if this is your first one and you are learning the ropes. You do not want to overwhelm yourself in the process.

Now, you will want to take your information from your soil test and determine if you need to add nutrients to your soil in order to balance the pH of it for the next step. for this step you will want to break up the soil in the area that you have determined to have your garden in and you will want to add some compost and whatever your pH test determined that you need. After adding this to the top of your soil you will want to till everything so that it mixes well with the topsoil in your garden. Tilling can be done with one of our Earthway Cultivators.

One thing that can make planting a bit easier, is to take the plan that you drew out earlier, and use a hoe or shovel, to transpose that plan from your paper to the soil. This will help you to determine if the plan you drew will genuinely work in your garden location. This is best to do before planting anything so that you can easily redraw your plan up if you find that something needs to be changed. Now if your plan is good to go, you will want to apply fertilizer and use a rake to blend it in with the soil so that the fertilizer does not burn your seeds.

Going by your schedule that you wrote out for your plantings, you can start planting your garden. You may want to do a little further research on your seeds to find out what types of rows they work best in, and the best way to sow a certain type of seed.

Follow our Blog for further postings on how to maintain your garden, container gardening, and more!

Ready to start gardening? Read more at Seeding a Garden.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Red Hill General Store's Outdoor and Gardening Blog

We are bringing you a blog that ties in with several of our sister sites. and are just two of our Web sites that we will feature products, projects, advice, and ideas from on this blog.

Once harvest season rolls in we will also feature some tips from

We want to know what kind of blogs and information you want to see about the outdoors and gardening. What type of information are you needing this coming year?

Some great places to start:
Starting a Garden
Urban Container Garden
Harvest Time

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