Thursday, 18 August 2016

How To Collect Seeds From Green Onion Plants


Green onions are awesome perennial plants. They die back and hibernate during the cold Canadian winter and emerge faithfully every spring. Along with rhubarb, they are one of the first plants to shoot up in the spring garden and are always warmly welcomed by Canadians after a long, cold winter bereft of garden fresh vegetables.

One way to propagate green onions is by collecting and planting the seeds. It's fairly easy to do and a great way to share your garden with friends near and far.

Seed collection can be accomplished starting in mid August in Canada. Keep an eye on the flower heads at the top of your green onion plants. You will know that it's time to begin collecting once the seed heads become brown, wilty, and begin to open slightly. The black seeds inside will become visible.


With a clean pair of scissors, collect as many seed heads as you would like. Just snip them off at the base. Don't take them all as you should leave some to help replenish your existing crop Next year.


Lay out your seed heads on a clean paper towel. If they are moist from rain or dew, allow them to sit and dry out in a safe place for a few days.


Once your seed heads are dry, place them in a clean paper bag and fold over the top.


Shake the bag vigorously to release the seeds from the heads.


Open the bag and take a look. You should see a plethora of non-uniformly shaped black seeds. Remove the now empty seed heads and compost them.


Pour the seeds onto a clean surface and remove any superfluous plant matter from the seeds.

Here is what the seeds look like close up.


Store your seeds in a cool, dry place. Plant the seeds the following spring once the threat of frost has ended. Sprouts should come up in 10-20 days.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Happy seed saving everyone!

P.S. Don't forget to like Keen Koala on Facebook and never miss a post! CLICK HERE!


Monday, 8 August 2016

How To Increase The Life Of A Disposable Razor


Disposable razors are great. They are widely available and simple to use. But, they are also quite expensive, especially for some of the really fancy ones that have moisture strips and multiple blades!

While shopping with my father a while ago, he was on the hunt for some disposable razors. He purchased a large bag of single blade disposable razors. I wondered why he needed so many, so I asked him how often he changes his razor. I was shocked when he told me that he threw his razors away after about 2 weeks of use.

Myself, on the other hand, I use the same disposable razor for anywhere from 3 to 6 months. And I'm going to let you know all of my tips and tricks for keeping my razors working great for such a long period of time.

1. Always store your razor in a dry place.

Keep your razor away from the moisture of your shower and sink. I keep mine in my bathroom cabinet, laying on a soft, dry towel.


This is one of the most important steps. Moisture will dull your razor blades and it also promotes the growth of rust on the blades. Do not use razors with rusty blades.

And don't forget, always dry your razor with a soft towel after every use!

2. Keep your razor clean. 

Have you ever noticed the little tab on the top of your razor head? It's a button, that when pressed, ejects hair that was caught between the blades. 



It is a good idea to routinely inspect your razor for hair and debris. Sometimes, the eject button isn't enough to remove all of the stubborn hairs and soap particles. If this is the case, try rinsing your razor under a stream of hot water. And for really stubborn debris, gently remove it with a soft toothbrush.

3. Keep your razor sharp.

Did you know that you can sharpen a disposable razor? It's true. I have been doing so for years, and it really works. This is something that can be done weekly, or before every shave, and it only takes a few seconds.

To sharpen your razor, I recommend a method known as stropping. To strop your razor, you will need an old leather belt.

Place your belt on a flat, hard surface. With a dry razor, glide the blade along the inside of the belt in the opposite direction that you use when shaving. Hold the razor at the same angle that you would use when shaving. Use medium pressure. Once you reach the end of the belt, lift your razor away from the belt and start over.  Strop your razor 10-20 times.



And that's it. Just a few quick tips that will significantly increase the lifespan of your razor, help save you money, and reduce waste!

I hope you enjoyed this post. Don't forget to follow Keen Koala on Facebook by clicking here !

Thursday, 7 July 2016

How To Prune An Overgrown Leggy Aloe Vera Plant


I love aloe vera plants. They are both an interesting feast for the eyes and useful. I'm not too sure about the science behind rubbing a sunburn with aloe vera, but I do know that it sure makes it feel better, and that's reason enough for me to always keep this plant in our house.

When we first moved into our house a few years ago, my mom gave us an aloe vera plant. I had since neglected the plant and only paid attention to it when I needed to steal one of its leaves. I just kept winding its leggy stalk around the pot. 

Well, yesterday my husband had a sunburn. He was pouring concrete in the hot sun all day. I ran over to my trusty aloe vera and stared down at its sad state of being. I made a silent promise to the plant as I plucked one of its leaves, that tomorrow, I would prune it. 

I kept my word.



I thought I would make this into a tutorial as aloe vera plants are kind of unusual and how to prune them is not as immediately obvious as many other common household plants.

Materials:

- Aloe Vera Plant
- Fresh Potting Soil 
- Hand Shovel
- Scissors (clean)
- Rooting Hormone (optional, but recommended)

Method:

Choose your workspace. I chose to work outside, as working with plants can get messy. If you can't work outside, line a hard surface floor with newspapers before proceeding.

Gently lift your aloe vera plants out of the soil. Mine wasn't even really connected to the soil. It was just sort of laying on top of it. Lay your aloe vera plant(s) aside in a safe place.



With your hand shovel, work-up the soil in your pot. If your soil looks unhealthy, use fresh potting soil instead. Press the soil into the pot firmly but gently. You don't want to compact the soil too much.



Now, back to the aloe vera plants. Just look at that long string of aloe vera. It was actually a lot longer than I thought it was.


To begin, look along the length of the entire plant, do you see stalky portions with no leaves? Take your scissors and cut across the stalk in these places. I made 4 cuts in total, turning one long plant into 5 shorter plants. 



Line up your 5 plants and remove any dead, dry, rotting, or mushy foliage with your scissors and any areas of dry, dead stalk.



Now, we need to create some roots. Gently pull off the bottom 2 leaves from each new plant. This will expose some roots or root nubs (small brown protrusions which kind of look like small claws), which will later become roots. 



Dip the roots or nubs into your rooting hormone, if you have some. The rooting hormone will help the new plants grow new roots faster.



Now, your plants are all ready to go, we just need to plant them. With your finger, poke as many holes in your soil as you have plants. Insert one plant, in each hole and firm the soil around it. 



Give your plant a drink of water, but do not overwater. Aloes don't like too much water. 

Now, stand back and admire your new aloe vera plants! 



But wait, don't leave yet, there's more! Look at this huge pile of aloe trimmings. Go through your pile and collect any healthy, juicy looking aloe leaves.



Bring them inside. Wash and dry them carefully. Package them up in a sandwich bag and store them in the freezer to use on future sunburns! 



The rest of aloe scraps that are not useful can be placed into your compost bin!

Well, there you have it, folks. We're all done. Here's one more picture of the aloe plant, returned back to its home beside my kitty cat draft chaser.



I hope this tutorial gives you the inspiration to prune your own aloe vera plant! Do you enjoy my tutorials? If so, you can Like me on Facebook by clicking here.








Sunday, 3 July 2016

DIY Upcycled Gnome Garden


A few years ago, when my husband and I first moved into our house, our backyard was a shambles. The trees were overgrown, it was overrun with weeds, and it was simply overwhelming to me as a first time home owner. This was the first year that I made a gnome garden. It was my little piece of serenity amongst the jungle that was my yard. 

Flash forward a few years, and our backyard looks pretty good. Sure, it still has its spots where lawn refuses to grow, and weeding is a never-ending project, but it's definitely manageable, perhaps even lovely. 

I decided this would be the year that I would make another gnome garden, or fairy garden, whichever you prefer. I prefer gnomes. Something about them is just so cute, sweet, hard-working, and mischievous!

This post is going to be more of an inspirational post, rather than a detailed how-to. Simply because its an upcycling project. I only used things that I found in my house or backyard. I didn't purchase anything new. So, the things you have may differ from mine, but this post will definitely give you some great ideas about how to make your own upcycled gnome garden.

First, I had to figure out a place for my gnome garden. My first thought was at the base of my ancient elm tree. It's mossy and shaded and perfect, except for one thing, my husband and the lawn mower. I didn't want to risk having my gnome garden run over and shredded into a million tiny pieces. So instead, I decided to place it in front of my whiskey barrel and wrought iron basket planter. If you would like to see how I made the upcycled basket liner, click here.



The first thing that I wanted to make was the door. I had an old little garden fence that I was using previously around my compost pile. All of the moisture was causing it to fall apart, so I decided to use it to make my door out of. I used white glue to glue the boards together. I glued an old button on for the doorknob. I also weaved together a very thin twig into a wreath, which I also glued to the door. In retrospect, I should have used a glue gun instead of white glue, as you can see the glue peeking out in spots. 



Next, I wanted some sort of ground covering. I decided to use the faux grass that I had used previously in my gnome garden that I made a few years ago. In front of the door, I placed some flat stones that I found to make a cobblestone appearance. I also placed some smaller stones along the front of the grass. I broke some twigs into equal size pieces to make a fence, which I just then stuck into the grass.



I placed a nice shiny stone that I found in the grass for decoration. I also made a sign out of cardboard, paper, pen, and tape, which I then taped to a twig and stuck into the grass.

What's a gnome garden without flowers? Gnomes are very small, so I used a very tiny pot that I found in my shed and planted 3 different types of tiny clover that I found growing in my lawn. I do apologize for the wilted appearance. It's 90 degrees in the shade today. They will perk up again once the sun goes down.



The whiskey barrel has a hole in it that looks like a window. I wanted to make a miniature rope ladder leading from the grass, up to the window. I did so by cutting several twigs all the same length, and then simply tying them together with some kitchen string. 



Gnomes don't have electric washing machines, so they needed to have somewhere to hang their clothes after wash day. Using 2 sticks and a piece of kitchen twine, I created a miniature clothesline. To the line, I affixed a shirt and pants that I cut out of some leftover felt.



That leaves only one piece of my gnome garden to explain. The miniature hammock. This was the most difficult part of the whole project. On my first attempt, I tried to create a hammock out of brown paper. That didn't work out so well. I decided then to make one out of the plastic netting that onions come in from the grocery store. Sometimes oranges come in this type of packaging as well. I simply cut a length of the netting and then taped it to 2 short pieces of twig, then I used an old twist tie to attach the twigs to 2 small sticks, which I then inserted into the grass.



And there you have it. An adorable gnome garden without spending a dime! 



I hope you enjoyed this inspirational post. Did you make a fairy garden or gnome garden this summer? Tell me about it. I would love to hear from you.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

How To Hand Pollinate Zucchini And Squash Plants

It's that time of year again. Garden plants are getting bigger and everything is so lush and green. I just love this time of year. Some mornings when I go outside, I feel as though my plants have literally shot up overnight.

That was the case this morning. I awoke to two beautiful zucchini flowers, along with my first female flower of the year. I had seen several male flowers before, but never a female to accompany them. 

Now, let's pollinate those zucchini and squash plants! I will be pollinating a zucchini plant today, but the directions are the same for both zucchini and squash.

Before we begin with flower sex identification and pollinating, I should let you know that the best time to pollinate flowers is generally in the morning, as this is when the flowers are the most open, they tend to close themselves during the heat of the day. I like to do my pollinating before 8:00 in the morning.



So, how exactly do you tell the difference between male and female flowers? It's quite simple once you get the hang of it. Let me teach you how.

First, you need to look at the stems attached to the flowers. 

Male flowers generally have a thin, spindly stem.


Two Thin Stemmed Male Flowers

Female flowers, on the other hand, have a thicker, more robust stem that could potentially turn into a zucchini IF it is pollinated properly. The stem looks like a mini zucchini and it will be green or yellow depending on the color of fruit your plant produces. My stem is yellow because this zucchini plant produces yellow fruit.


Thicker stemmed female zucchini

Now, let's take a look at the flowers themselves.

The male flower will have a long single stamen which is covered in a yellow powder called pollen. 


Male Flowers Stamen

The female flower, on the other hand, will have a stigma. This protrusion has multiple filaments. It kind of looks like a flower inside of the flower.


Female Flower's Stigma

The pollen from the male's stigma needs to make its way to the female's stamen for proper pollination and fruiting to occur. Bees and butterflies are great pollinators, but with the bee populations in decline, I don't leave this task up to chance. This is where hand pollination comes into play.

With your finger or a cotton swab, gently rub against the stamen of the male flower. I keep a cotton swab stuck into the ground beside my zucchini plants specifically for this purpose. I use the clean side for pollinating. 


Collecting Pollen From The Male Flower

Take a look at your finger or cotton swab, you should see a yellow powdery substance. This is the pollen.


Pollen!

Move over to your female flower. Gently rub your pollen laden finger or cotton swab onto the stigma of the female flower. Look closely to make sure that you have deposited the pollen onto the filaments and the center of the stigma.


Depositing Pollen Onto The Stigma

Congratulations, you have just pollinated your first flower! Give yourself a pat on the back. I'm serious. Most people will likely live their entire life and never hand pollinate a flower. Now, when you see your zucchini fruit start to grow, you can feel proud knowing that it's all because of your help!

Here's a handy dandy diagram I drew of male and female zucchini flowers. I'm not a very good artist, but it works!



Oh, before you go, I really should mention one more thing. If you happen to have an abundance of male flowers, you should try eating some. They're seriously delicious. You can eat them raw or fried lightly in butter. They're quite the summer treat. The only way I can describe the flavor is dreamy!

Happy pollinating everyone! If you liked this tutorial, please Like my page on facebook here!

Sunday, 26 June 2016

How To Root Ivy Plants From Cuttings


My mom has an amazing, large ivy plant. She has had it for as far back as I can remember. The way that its curly tendrils grabbed onto nearby supports as it quietly crept along walls and windowsills always fascinated me as a child. 

I was over at my mom's house this morning and took a nice fresh cutting from her ivy plant as I thought it would be nice to have one of my own to enjoy. I love rooting plants, they make such great gifts for friends, and they're also a great way to save money while adding more plants to your collection!

Rooting ivy cuttings is fairly easy, just follow these steps and watch your happy little cuttings take off! Here is what you will need to get started.

Materials:

- Ivy Plant
- Scissors
- Potting Soil
- Sand
- Plant Pot
- Rooting hormone* (optional, but highly recommended)
- Water

*What is rooting hormone? It is substance, that is sold by most garden centers in the form of a gel or a powder. It is a hormone that works specifically on plants to stimulate rooting. It is highly effective and increases your odds of propagation success quite substantially. I would strongly recommend it. I purchased my bottle at our local nursery for about $10.00 and there is enough in it to last me many years. It can be used for house plants and garden plants. 

Method:

In your plant pot, mix together your potting soil and your sand. 2 parts potting soil and 1 part sand.


With a clean pair of scissors, cut a couple of stems off of your ivy plant. cut directly below a spot where a leaf is growing. Take the cutting from a newer, green shoot, not an older woody one. Newer growth is easier to root than older growth. 


In the photo above you can see that I'm pointing at the leaf growing out of the main stem, right above the spot where I cut. You want to pull this leaf off of the stem so that it is completely removed. Roots grow out of these spots where the leaves were growing, so removing this leaf is crucial for successful propagation.

Dip the ends of your cuttings into rooting hormone. 


Gently poke your cuttings directly into the soil in your prepared pot. Ensure there is good contact between the cutting and the soil. The cutting should be inserted about an inch or so into the soil.


Water your new cuttings gently, but thoroughly. 


Check on the soil daily to make sure that it stays moist to the touch. Be careful not to over water, as this can cause the cuttings to rot. Keep the soil moist, not sopping wet.

If you live in a very chilly or dry area, you can place a loose plastic bag over your cuttings to create a greenhouse effect.  

Your little cuttings should have developed roots within a couple of months. I like to write down on the calendar when I started the rooting project, as it's so easy to forget.

Have you ever propagated house plants before from cuttings? Which ones worked for you and which ones didn't? Let me know, I would love to hear from you.