Design a Brown Thumb Garden with Cacti and Succulents

CACTUS-SUCCULENTSGardeners with brown thumbs are no longer limited to silk or plastic vegetation in their home.  Instead, live low maintenance vegetation is available in the form of cacti and succulents.

Anatomy of Brown Thumb Plants

Plants that fall under the brown thumb family consist of cacti and succulents.  While the growth requirements for both of these plants is very similar, there are differences in their structure.

Both cacti and succulents are found in the natural environment where the soil is very sandy and rain is very scarce.  To compensate for this environment, both plants have come up with their own strategies.  Typically, cacti have developed a shape that reduces water loss through the epidermis of the leaf.  This strategy is the folds and the barrel shape.  The folds reduce moisture loss from a flat surface and the barrel shape makes the folds more efficient.

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Green Living – Start a Composting Program Anywhere Part II

compost2A simple composting program is easy to do at home whether you live in a house, apartment or condo.  A composting program geared for the workplace can be a little more challenging but it can be done.  All it takes is some like-minded people and an understanding of how to correctly compost.

Before starting on any type of garden or composting project, make sure the management of the business has approved it.  Once this is done, the type of composting program that you would like to start needs to be decided upon.

The first type of composting program is one that utilizes a commercially built compost bin.  The closed type of structure will prevent odors and keep pests away.  Before choosing this type of composting program, make sure there is room for the bin and it is located in a convenient area.

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Green Living – Start a Composting Program Anywhere Part I

compost16Composting is the process by which organic material is broken down into soil or humus.  In nature, the easiest way to find humus is in a forest.  If you remove the leaf litter, you will find a beautiful layer of very dark soil that is rich in nutrients.  While Mother Nature does a fantastic job of creating this rich soil, it can also be produced at home and/or work with ease.

Before jumping into the composting realm, one must understand the process involved in converting a simple apple core into compost and then to humus.  The process begins when the spent apple core is thrown on the ground.  As organic materials such as leaves, grass and soil begin to cover the apple core; soil organisms begin to eat upon it.  This includes bacteria, fungi, worms, and numerous insects.  These organisms begin to generate heat through the decomposition process.  This process can be sped up with the addition of water from rain and animals mixing up the pile.  Compost is formed when most of the organic material has decomposed.  While compost may smell sweet and appear to be finished, there still exists organic material that is decomposing on a microscopic scale.  To finish off the compost it must go through a process called humification.  The process of humification is not understood very well and cannot be replicated by humans. Instead, compost that is added to the garden soil will naturally be converted into humus.

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Green Kids on the Block – Grow Your Own Pumpkin Pie

pumpkinrowsOne of the favorite dishes of fall is pumpkin pie and roasted pumpkin seeds.  While pumpkins are easily available at the local grocery store, homegrown varieties build family memories whether you go to a U-pick It farm or grow your own.  If you decide to create your own pumpkin patch for The Great Pumpkin there are a few steps that need to be followed.

Great tasting pumpkins start with a great soil.  Preparing the soil for next year’s pumpkin patch begins in the fall with a soil test.  The information on how to take a soil test and where it needs to be sent can be found at your local extension office.

Once the report is back, check the pH level.  Pumpkins thrive in a soil environment that is 6.5 to 6.8.  If the pH is not at this level adjust according to the soil test recommendations.  After the pH has been adjusted, add three to five yards of composted manure per 30-foot area.  Top this area with winter rye, which is a green manure.  This “green manure” will be tilled under in the spring creating another source of fertilizer.

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The Primo or the Egg what’s first?

Primo LifestylePicture the blueprint for your outdoor kitchen. Which grill add-on will you consider first, the Primo or the Big Green Egg? For many decades the Big Green Egg has been considered the best charcoal cooker ever on the planet, however, there is now a new competitor gaining massive ground for the title of best charcoal cooker and this fierce competitor goes by the name of Primo. The mad scientist behind the Primo design decided to create this grill because of his love for the BGE, but exactly how do you improve the Mona Lisa? You paint the Primo. In this article I will be doing some side-by-side comparisons in hopes that which ever weapon you choose you will be knowledgeable enough to decide what cooker is the best fit for you. We will begin with a brief overview of what makes these grills so amazing and then dive into design, versatility, and finally the manufactures promise to the consumer.

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The History of Halloween Symbols

witch_fountainHalloween as we celebrate it today brings out the wacky, weird and sometimes frightening in all of us. Known as a good excuse for adults to play dress up and behave ever so naughty, Halloween in the 21st Century is more about a good time and less about its origins.

Today’s celebration of Halloween mixes traditions from the Catholic All Saint’s Day and All Souls’ Day, the Roman festival of Feralia, and the Celtic harvest festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in).  This mix of traditions has ingrained individual symbols we associate closely with this holiday however, these symbol have a rich history of their own.


The word “witch” comes from Old English “wicca”. Since the early days of Christian Europe, witches have been synonymous with Halloween wickedness. Shakespeare depicted the witch as cretinous women of prophecy who revealed the fates of Macbeth and his clan. In colonial Salem, Massachusetts, the witch became a young woman offering carnal temptations to men already bound by wedlock.

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Save Money and Garden Smart – Annuals that You Can Carry Over Until Next Year

HANGING-BASKET-ANNUALSDuring the summer, many gardeners fill hanging baskets, planters and containers with annuals.  These plants are typically inexpensive, easy to take care of and simply available at the local garden center but not many gardeners know that these same plants can be saved until next summer.

This misconception of annuals starts off with the definition.  An annual is a plant that lasts one growing season.  These plants do not go into a dormant state and in doing so are killed by a frost.  This is much different when compared to a perennial that goes into a dormant state and is not killed by a frost.  If annuals are brought indoors before a killing frost, they can be saved until next growing season.  While this process seems simple there are a few important steps to follow.

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Unique Garden Style – Creating a Bog Garden

bog_gardenA bog garden is one that contains plants that flourish in perpetually wet soil. Plants that thrive in this type of environment include those in the pitcher plants, which include but are limited to Sarracenia rubra wherryi, Sarrancenia flava x alata and Sarracenia leucophylla x purpurea. Other plants to consider include Iris pseudaconus, Hibiscus coccineus, Bog Gentians, Bog Buttons (Marchallia) and bog orchids.

To begin the process of creating your own bog garden requires planning. The bog garden needs to be placed in a secure location in the garden where it will not be stepped on or into. Once this location is chosen, the next step of the process requires the selection of the container. A container that is going to be converted into a bog garden needs to be at least three feet in width and one foot deep. It also needs to be made of plastic verses wood or terra cotta. In this project, the plastic is more forgiving and less likely to crack and break.

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Lean, Great Tasting, and Healthy: A Vegetarian’s Guide to Grilling

grilled-vegetablesIn honor of National Vegetarian Day, which occurred on October 1, 2011, I have decided to dedicate an article to preparing vegetables and other vegetarian staples on the grill. Whether you are making a side dish, a snack, or a full out vegetarian meal there are lots of easy and inexpensive ways to prepare great tasting food without the use of animal products.

If you are sticking to a strict vegetarian diet, than one of the most common problems people run into is how to fit enough protein in your caloric intake without your meals becoming repetitive. Tofu is probably the most commonly used source of protein in vegetarian grilling. Tofu is a bean curd product resulting from the coagulation of soy milk.  The relationship between milk and cheese is analogues to soy milk and tofu. Tofu comes in several varieties, but for grilling purposes I would strongly recommend using a firm or even extra firm tofu. One of my favorite things when cooking with tofu is that it really takes on basically any flavor that you want it to, so the seasoning plays a vital role into how your tofu dish will come out. Cut your tofu block into slices about 1 inch thick and dunk the slices into your favorite marinade or steak sauce, you could also use a dry rub or herbs if you so desired. What I like to do is mix a little extra virgin olive oil and (vegetarian) Worcestershire sauce together and marinade my tofu in the mixture for about five minutes before I toss it on the grill. The sugars from the Worcestershire sauce and the oil help create some really nice grill lines on the tofu. There is only one trick to grilling tofu, and that is patience. When the tofu is ready to be flipped it will let go of the grill, if you try to flip it before it is ready it will stick to the grill. The easiest way to check is with a pair of tongs. Start at one corner of your piece of tofu and see if that part sticks or easily comes off the grill, and try to remember to be gentle when doing this as I have ruined a few pieces of tofu myself perfecting this method.

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