The Busy Gardener

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Making an Easy DIY Chicken Watering Barrel

Anyone with backyard chickens knows that feeding and watering them can be a daily chore. This is especially true in the summer when it’s hot and dry and the chickens are drinking more water to stay cool. One way to make things easier is to build a DIY chicken watering barrel. With just a few supplies and some simple instructions, you can have your very own chicken watering barrel up and running in no time!

Watch how we made our own DIY chicken watering barrel

Watering Barrel Container Choices

Containers should be food-grade, and most sizes will work!

First, you’ll need to find a food grade container. A good option is a used pickle barrel or similar type of container. For a few chickens, a 5-7 gallon bucket works great. You can usually find these at your local hardware or feed store, or online. I like to use a 30-gallon drum, but you can use anything that will hold enough water for your chickens. Be sure to choose “food grade” so chemicals in the barrel don’t leech into the water.

Choosing Your (watering) Nipples

Next, you’ll need to buy the watering nipples. There are many different types available, but we recommend getting ones that are made specifically for chickens. You’ll need roughly one nipple for every 3-4 chickens in your flock.

Drill Holes and Install the Watering Nipples

Next, drill holes in the container and install the nipples. Be sure to place the holes about 6 inches from the bottom of the container so that the chickens can reach the water easily. This is the trickiest part, but as long as you drill the holes in the right place and put the nipples in correctly, you’ll be fine. We found that using a drill powered installation tool (like the one that comes with this kit)made the insertion very easy. TIP 1: Elevate your barrel by placing on a couple of concrete blocks so you can install the nipples lower on the barrel.

Fill it to win it!

That’s it! You’ve now made your very own chicken watering barrel. This DIY project is easy to do and only requires a few supplies. Your chickens will appreciate having an easy way to get water, and you’ll appreciate not having to fill their water dishes as often. Thanks for following along!

Garden Pests

How to Get Rid of Hornworm Caterpillars Organically

Anyone who’s ever had a garden knows that pests can be a big problem. One of the most destructive—and hardest to get rid of—pests is the caterpillar of the tobacco hornworm moth. These voracious eaters can quickly strip a plant of all its leaves, leaving it vulnerable to disease and death. Luckily, there are some organic methods you can use to get rid of them.

Pick Them Off By Hand

This is probably the most time-consuming method, but it’s also the most effective. Check your plants daily for caterpillars and pick them off by hand, dropping them into a bucket of soapy water. If you’re squeamish about touching them, you can wear gloves or use tongs.

Attract Natural Predators

A bird snatches a juicy caterpillar. One less caterpillar to eat your tomato plant!

There are a few different predators you can attract to your garden to help control the caterpillar population. One is the braconid wasp, whose larvae parasitize caterpillars. Another is the trichogramma wasp, which lays its eggs inside caterpillar eggs, preventing them from hatching. You can buy these wasps at most garden stores, or you can attract them by planting certain flowers in your garden, such as dill, fennel, or cilantro.

Organic Pesticide Options

Make a Homemade Insecticide

If you’re looking for a DIY solution, you can make your own organic insecticide with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. Start by boiling 1 cup of water and adding 3 tablespoons of dish soap (any kind will do). Then add 1 tablespoon of Tabasco sauce (or any other hot sauce) and let the mixture cool. Pour it into a spray bottle and apply it to your plants every few days, or after it rains. The dish soap will degrade quickly in sunlight, so make sure to reapply it as needed.

Buy Ready-to-Use

If you don’t want to use chemicals, there are a few organic pesticides that will kill hornworms on contact. Neem oil is one option; just mix it with water (if a concentrate) and spray it on your plants. You can also use Bacillus thuringiensis (BT), a bacteria that’s fatal to caterpillars but harmless to humans and animals. Just mix it with water (if a concentrate) and spray it on your infected plants.

In Conclusion

Hornworms are destructive pests that can be difficult to get rid of, but it’s definitely possible to control them using organic methods. Try picking them off by hand, using BT, Neem Oil, Homemade spray, or introducing beneficial insects around your plants. With a little patience and perseverance, you’ll soon have hornworm-free gardens!

Fruit Trees Planting

5 Tips for Growing Productive Avocado Trees

Grow Avocados

Avocados are delicious. They’re also great for your health, and they make a really nice addition to any meal. If you have a garden or yard, then it’s likely that you want to grow some avocados of your own. These trees are notoriously challenging to grow when young. Lucky for you, with some care and attention, you will be harvesting avocados in no time! Here are 6 tips for how to successfully grow an avocado tree and watch it produce fruit for years to come:

1. Choose a Location

Plenty of Sunlight

Avocado trees need a lot of light to be able to grow and produce fruit. It’s best if they have at least six hours of sun per day, but eight is even better. Choose the spot for your avocado tree carefully! Remember that the avocado tree is a sensitive plant and will need protection in its first weeks and months.

If you don’t live in an area with enough sunlight year round (for example, if it’s too shady or dim) then consider planting avocado trees near a deciduous tree that allows sunlight during the less sunny months while providing a little shade when there are leaves on its branches.

Sheltered from Wind

It’s best if avocado trees are planted outside in a sheltered spot where they will be protected from strong winds but still exposed enough to get sunlight. If you have a grower nearby who sells avocado trees already grown for planting (and not just seeds), ask him or her about what kind of environment their plants enjoy most – this way you’ll know exactly how much care these particular plants need so they grow into healthy specimens that produce tons of fruit.

2. Plant the Avocado Tree in Good Soil

Well Draining

Don’t plant it in heavy clay or very sandy soil. Avocado roots struggle with soil that stays too wet, or which doesn’t retain any moisture.

Add gypsum to improve drainage if necessary for heavy soil, or compost mixed with garden loam (or topsoil) if too sandy.

Preparing the Hole for Planting

Dig a hole that’s twice as wide as the root ball, but not deeper than the original height. Your avocado plant will suffer from being planted in a hole that’s too deep.

Score the soil on the sides of the hole using fingers or a hand rake so the roots don’t get pot-bound.

Planting your Tree

Lower your plant into the soil, and avoid pulling or holding the on the stem. Avocado trees have fairly brittle wood, and you don’t want to damage the stem or branches.

Don’t add any fertilizer to a newly planted avocado tree. Wait until you see some growth before you fertilize with a balanced fertilizer.

Apply at least three to four inches of wood-chip mulch (at least 3 inches) around the base of the tree to conserve moisture, control weeds and help regulate soil temperature

Water your tree deeply (a slow, long watering) so the roots make solid contact with the soil around them.

3. Protect Avocados from Sunburn

Whitewash Your Tree

A young avocado tree should be whitewashed to protect it from sunburn. Avocados are an especially sensitive tree, and they take so long to fruit. You spend the time to get the soil ready to plant, choose your avocado trees, plant your tree, protect the root ball, and then you wait for it to fruit. Now imagine your beautiful avocado trees burn in the harsh sun.

Whitewashing the trunk can help prevent sunburn in two ways: first, by shading the bark and second, by discouraging any boring insects that may attack.

To effectively protect your avocado tree’s sensitive bark, you can apply a high-quality interior latex white paint.

For an organic option, we exclusively use and recommend using an organic option like IV Organics 3-in-1 Plant Guard.

This is a green way to protect your avocado trees from pests, fungi and diseases while also reducing the risk of sunburn to your plant.

If you absolutely don’t want to paint your avocado tree with whitewash or use organic pest control products, we recommend you plant your trees in an area that receives some shade during the hottest part of the day. An option is to plant your avocado trees under another plant or close by a building so the tree bark can stay cool.

Shade Cloth

You can also utilize something like shade cloth to reduce the amount of time your avocado tree are exposed to hot sun. This will protect your avocado plants from the sun, while still letting your tree receive some sunlight as a reduced intensity.

Read more in depth on TBG about sun protection.


Another option would be to plant avocado trees in a container, meaning the pot will go on your porch or patio. We advocate for planting in the ground, as a pot isn’t an ideal way to grow avocados. Avocados can grow to 40-90 feet when planted in the soil, producing hundreds of fruit. It’s possible to grow avocado trees in a container, though there are some drawbacks.

Container planting limits the roots, is more sensitive to changes in soil, and requires you cut it back so the canopy doesn’t overwhelm the roots in the pot. A container will require well draining potting soil, as avocados don’t like their roots wet.

We recognize that planting in the soil isn’t an option for everyone’s avocados. Planting avocados in a container gives renters an option to grow this tree and experience its delicious fruit, even if less than ideal.

4. Water your Avocado Tree Regularly

Avocado trees require more water than most other trees because they originate from a tropical climate. That said, you should avoid overwatering your tree to prevent roots to rot and other problems.

The best way is to water deeply as infrequently as possible – this will help the soil retain moisture more effectively without keeping its “feet” wet than watering it just once per day or so. A good rule of thumb is that if there’s any dry dirt beneath the surface of your soil after an irrigation session, then you didn’t give it enough water. If all the soil has been moistened but not soggy by irrigation session, then your avocado tree was watered sufficiently. Of course, using an inexpensive water meter probe is the most objective measure of your soil’s moisture content.

Let The Soil Dry a Little

Avocado trees like to dry out in between watering, so the best time to water them is when it’s actually needed. A good rule of thumb for how often this would be is every five days during hot summer months and once every couple weeks during winter months. Of course your climate will determine how long you should wait to water.

5. Keep your avocado tree pruned to keep it from growing too tall or wide 

The size of the avocado tree is going to depend on how tall it grows, so the best thing you can do for your plant is to keep it at a manageable size. By pruning your avocado tree regularly, you have the ability to control its growth and make sure that it doesn’t get too wide or grow too high.

If an avocado tree does grow taller than 25 feet, this will mean you will have difficulty reaching the fruit, even with a pole mounted picking basket.

Unlike other fruit trees, avocado trees do best by allowing the low branches to grow, which protects the root system from summer temperatures and sunlight.

To prune off a tall branch or to thin out low branching, use loppers for cutting through large limbs that may be too thick to cut with hand shears. With smaller branches and shoots that have grown into other parts of your tree, use hand shears so as not to damage the plant tissue when making cuts.

Like with any fruit tree, you will prune your avocado trees to remove any dead, diseased, damaged or crowded branches from their stems with clippers or shears.

Avoid removing healthy shoots that form new growth at the tips of branches as this may hinder future flowering and fruiting.

BONUS: Growing Avocado Trees From Seed

Although this article focuses on growing an avocado tree already growing as a potted plant, you can also grow avocado from seed. Growing avocado trees from seed or pit is a fun, easy and rewarding way to start your avocado tree garden. The first thing you need for seed starting is; an avocado seed! Just save the pit from an avocado fruit, and you’ll have what you need. And don’t worry if it’s not fresh – the avocado seed is pretty hardy so they last quite awhile before going bad.

Keep the seed in its brown skin and store it in a cool, dry place.

Once the seed is fully dried out and hard, you can suspend it over a glass of water with toothpicks pointy side up. The water should be at room temperature with the bottom 1/4 of the pit submerged.

Changing out the water every day or two and keep your avocado seed suspended over the glass of water until it starts sprouting roots from its base. After a few weeks, you should also begin to see a stem begin to spout from the top of the pit.

Once you see this happen, remove the toothpicks, and gently plant your avocado pit into potting soil a couple inches with only about an inch showing. The stem will continue to grow from the mostly buried pit.

Keep your avocado tree moist by watering it regularly and watch the inches turn into feet!


If you have a garden, or are considering planting one this year, consider adding an avocado tree to your landscape. Avocado trees can be grown in most warm climates and need basic care for the first few years of their life.

The tips we’ve provided should help with getting started on growing these beautiful trees – but if you still have questions about how best to grow avocados, don’t hesitate to contact us! We love answering gardening questions and want nothing more than for our readers to succeed in bringing nature into their lives through sustainable practices like fruit-bearing plants that provide healthy food sources. Enjoy your new avocado tree!

Garden Seeds/Young Plants

6 Steps to Growing Ginger in Containers: Easy and Versatile Grower

Growing Ginger in Containers: Easy and Versatile Grower

Ginger is a plant with many culinary uses, but it’s also known for its health benefits. Ginger can be used to relieve nausea, improve circulation and treat colds and chest congestion! Growing ginger in containers is a fun activity for all ages – even kids can help by planting the ginger rhizomes. The process of growing ginger in containers is surprisingly easy, as long as you have some basic gardening skills. This blog post will show you how to grow your own fresh ginger at home – from planting seeds to harvesting them later on!

Choosing your container and soil

If you’re growing ginger in containers, it’s important to choose a container that will be large enough for the plant. It should have at least one inch of depth on all sides and hold around 12 plants if they are grown together closely. Ginger is very tolerant of different soil types, so gardeners can use potting mix or their own compost with great success!

Can I REALLY Use Store Bought Ginger?

Selecting ginger sounds more difficult than it actually is! The first step is to find out which type would work best for you. If you live in USDA zone nine or higher, rhizomes can be planted outside because they will need at least two months of warm temperatures (above 50 degrees Fahrenheit) and enough water throughout the year. There are plenty of varieties on the market that do well in containers too – some examples include: ‘Poncho’, ‘Thai Pink’ and ‘Mammoth’. For all other zones we recommend growing indoors where temperature control can help ensure proper growth. If finding one of these other varieties sounds too daunting, just use ginger you buy at the grocery store. It might not be the perfect type for your setting, but it’ll get you started.

Buy Ginger Rhyzomes Online

Growing ginger is easy to do because it has such a forgiving nature – but there are some tips to keep in mind before planting your seeds and starting your harvest. We recommend using ginger that has growth and care habits that work for your setting. Ginger comes in many shapes and sizes – our favorite kind is called “finger” ginger…but any size will work well for beginners

Preparing Ginger for Planting

Preparing your ginger rhyzome for planting is important and will ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible. Dig a hole in your container that is deep enough for the ginger to grow into and wide enough so it doesn’t rest on any edges or corners of the soil.

-Use potting mix or topsoil and put some compost in the bottom before adding dirt from outside if necessary. Ginger likes rich dark soil with a PH between six and seven…or neutral pH levels like those found in most soils at home gardens.

-Add one tablespoon of lime per plant depending on how acidic your soil is – this will help balance out acidity if needed but may not be necessary all plants because ginger can handle more acidic conditions than other plants typically grown.

Take the rhyzome and plant it in the ground at a depth of about four inches.

-It’s best to plant ginger on its side because that is how they grow naturally, so just make sure you have enough soil and nutrients around them for when they start rooting.

Now That You’ve Planted Your Ginger

-Ginger likes to be watered regularly but not too often because if their roots get wet more than once every day, they may rot. Let the potting mix dry out between waterings or use self watering containers (which are great for container gardening in general) for your ginger plants!

The first year will always be slow growth – this is normal as new rhizomes take time absorbing all the necessary nutrients from the potter soil before growing rapidly like mature ginger plants do after several years.

Harvesting Your Ginger

You’ll know when to harvest by looking at their leaves – they should start turning yellow before anything else. Dig up a single ginger rhyzome; You can tell that your ginger is ready to harvest when the skin looks wrinkled, papery and brown.

Storing Your Harvested Ginger

You can use your ginger right away in a tasty dish, or can store your ginger at room temperature for up to one week or in the fridge for about two weeks (though sometimes up to a month).

Once you have a ginger plant going it’s easy to harvest all the ginger you need. You can also propagate from a rhizome that is just about ready for harvesting or give some away to friends and family!

DIY Building Methods Garden

DIY Raised Bed Garden: 3 Building Materials for Creating a Successful Raised Garden

Why a DIY Raised Bed Garden?

The DIY raised bed garden is often used by amateur and avid gardeners alike. It is preferred because they’re perfect for growing vegetables without bending down every day. They’re attractive additions to any backyard or patio too! Giving you plenty of space to grow flowers on your deck during the summertime months too.

When deciding what material to use for your raised garden bed, you’ll want to take into account durability and cost. Generally speaking, constructing a raised bed garden is best for those who intend to keep it there for a few years. This post will walk you through three different materials that can be used for this type of project: wood, concrete blocks, and metal paneling.


Wood is a good material for the average home gardener who wants something that is realtively easy to work with. The natural look of wood is one of its main draws as a construction material for raised beds. It may not be durable enough for some people over time. Whereas wood used to be the least expensive option, it increased in cost relative to the other materials on this list. As such, it might not be a good option if you’re looking to save money over the long haul with permanent.

One main downside to wood is that it may not hold up well in areas where there are harsh winters. Especially when exposed to moisture buildup throughout winter. You’ll want to opt for a type of wood that is resistant to rotting and insects. Cedar has the benefit of resisting pests and rotting, while also not leaching harmful chemicals into the soil.

Concrete Blocks

Concrete blocks are another excellent choice for building raised beds! They offer flexibility and durability that can withstand various climates over time without issue. They’re cheaper than wood too, offering an affordable alternative for those who want something durable but don’t have enough cash on hand at one time. Concrete blocks are a little utilitarian looking, but for me, beautiful means lasting a long time without intervention!

Metal Paneling

Metal paneling is growing as a popular material for raised in recent years. It comes with all sorts of benefits depending on what type you choose. For example, some metal panels come pre-painted or designed with attractive finishes that look great even after countless hours outside. This is an advantage over wooden alternatives which may deteriorate quickly over time due to exposure to the elements.

Metal panel raised beds often come pre-fabricated (like the popular “Birdies Raised Metal Garden Beds“), only requiring a few screws to assemble. One downside to metal panel raised beds is that they are the most expensive of the three options. The investment is worth it if you plan on using your garden for years and want something that will last without worry of weathering or pests damaging it over time.

You’ve Decided on a Material: Now What?

After you’ve selected your building materials, you’ll need to decide on the shape and size of your raised bed garden. For those who don’t have a lot of space to work with, the square plan is great for smaller spaces. It’s also easy to add plant containers that can serve as additional planting space at any point in time.

The shape of your raised bed garden should be influenced by the space you have available and what type of plants will grow best in that particular shape. The most common shapes are square (for smaller spaces), rectangular, hexagonal and octagon-shaped beds for larger spaced gardens. Rectangular shaped raised beds work well when trying to maximize growing space while hexagons can create a more orderly feeling with closer planted rows or simply allow for easier access from all sides.

Ready to Go!

The key to building your raised bed garden starts with making sure there are no gaps between either the boards or blocks from which you’re creating your structure. This will ensure precious soil remains inside your containers.

I hope this post has helped you decide which material will work best for your raised bed garden. Just remember that whichever materials you choose to build with should be able to withstand a few seasons of use without any problems or major repairs needed. Happy building!

Fruit Trees Planting Spotlights

Planting Multiple Fruit Trees Close Together for the Perfect Backyard Orchard

Planting Multiple Fruit Trees???

Planting Multiple Fruit Trees??? You’ve got a backyard, but want to plant more than just the usual one or two fruit trees. Did you know you can plant multiple trees in a small space, even three or four trees in the space you’d usually only plant one? We use “Backyard Orchard Culture” method (popularized by Dave Wilson Nursery).

BYOC is where fruit trees are planted close together to create a high density planting. The main advantages of this method include successive ripening for longer harvest season, and trees kept at manageable size through pruning; usually no higher than a person can reach. This is an excellent method for those who have limited space and want to enjoy fresh produce year-round while also having easy access to it.

By keeping your trees at a manageable size, you won’t have trouble harvesting your fruit. And you avoid climbing a ladder on uneven ground. Ultimately, it’s important that the branches are kept in check so they don’t grow too high and out of reach from humans. (One exception to this is citrus and avocado trees who hold their fruit for months, and can be picked using a pole-mounted fruit picker basket without damaging fruit. We let these trees grow to 10-12 feet.)

Planting Your Fruit Trees

Planting fruit trees close together also helps to maximize the amount of fruit that you’ll get from each space over a season. A backyard grower doesn’t usually have the same expectations as a commercial grower. Instead of 500 of one type of plum or apple all at one time, you’ll have 100-150 of three to four different varieties over an extended season! High Density Planting follows the same guidance as planting individual trees, with just a few added considerations.

  • Select fruit trees that are compatible with each other (when cross-pollination is required) and grow well in your area.
  • Find a spot in your yard that gets at least 6 hours of sun per day 
  • Place the trees as little as 2-3 feet apart from one another (trunk to trunk), and aim the desired branched of each tree away from the center of the grouping.
  • Dig a hole for each tree about twice as wide as th existing root ball is level with the ground 
  • Plant the tree a few inches above the existing soil grade and mound with dirt, to account for settling
  • Water them more regularly for the first couple months after planting (2-3 times per week, especially if hot weather is approaching) and fertilize after the tree has pushed out a few inches on initial growth.

Keeping Tree Size Manageable

We keep all size in check with two main methods: pruning, and fertilizing with a low-Nitrogen fertilizer to minimize vigorous vegetative growth.


Pruning is a great way to keep trees manageable. Although pruning can feel like a daunting task, we recommend pruning the tree twice a year; In summer to control for size and vigor, and in late winter or early spring to prune for detail. Generally speaking, you prune to remove any branches that dead, dying, diseased, deformed, or damaged. This also includes branches which are crossing over others. This can cause rubbing which makes them more susceptible disease like fire blight or other pests and diseases.


We also keep fruit trees at a manageable height is to limit the amount of Nitrogen they receive through feeding/fertilization. This is because Nitrogen encourages growth and can lead to a tree that’s too tall or wide for the space. You can use a balanced fertilzer for the first couple years after planting, then switch to a low Nitrogen fertilizer once you have an established canopy. Nitrogen is the 1st number represented on a fertilizer’s N-P-K numbers. When growing a new tree’s canopy we use 15-15-15, switching to a 3-12-12 once the canopy is established.


The benefits of planting fruit trees close together are many. First, you’ll have a higher density orchard which means more types of fruit and less space required to grow them in your yard (or wherever they’re planted). Second, you’ll enjoy some variety in your harvests. Finally, successive ripening allows an extended harvest season that lasts longer than just two weeks – instead lasting many months of the year depending on what type(s)of fruits you plant. You can do this!

Garden Seeds/Young Plants

Starting Vegetable Seeds Indoors: 7 Steps to a More Successful Garden

Starting Vegetable Seeds Indoors

Many people start their vegetable seeds indoors and transplant them into the garden once they have sprouted. This is a great way to get an early start on your garden, but it can also be tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing. We’ve put together 7 steps that will make starting vegetable seeds more successful!

Once you’ve decided on the plants you want to grow, you’ll need the following items:

Use a seed starting mix 

Once you’ve decided on the plants you want to grow, you’ll need soil. You can purchase prepared seed starting mix from a garden store or make your own using peat moss and vermiculite (or perlite). The seed starting mix is a special type of soil that will keep the seeds moist, but not wet. This makes it easier to transplant them into your garden when they’re ready because you can just bury their roots in dirt and water regularly until then without worrying about rot or fungus destroying all those beautiful plants!

Fill your containers with the soil and seeds 

The easiest container for starting seeds is in something like a seed-starting tray or even just a small pot with drainage holes at the bottom. The seeds should be planted at the depth indicated on the seed packet. Once you’ve got all your containers filled up (you can start more than once before winter), put them in an area that’s warm enough not frozen but cool during sunny days so as it won’t dry out too much indoors until then when their ready outdoors!!!

Keep moist at all times, but don’t overwater!

New seedlings prefer moisture in the soil to be moist rather than sopping wet. Too much water will cause young plants’ roots and stems (stems are what carry nutrients up from underground) to rot, which can lead them dying early on in life or never growing into a strong plant with good yield!

 So make sure you don’t overwater those seedlings during this time as well-otherwise these little ones might die before making it outside! The design of your seed starting tray will usually help to avoid overwatering by allowing the plants to wick up the moisture they need.

Keep them comfy while they germinate

Place in a warm location (between 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit) with plenty of light for germination to take place 

Usually this will mean having your trays indoors, near a window for natural light, or on the patio. This also means that you won’t want to store your seedling trays in an area with too much high humidity and low temperatures-like outdoors during winter!

You will need some sort if grow lights as well but these can be purchased at most department stores nowadays (just make sure they are plant/vegetable friendly!)

“Harden” your plants

When you see sprouts coming up from the soil, move them into an area where they can get more light, grow taller, and deal with some of the environment they’ll be planted into – this is called “hardening off” or “stratification” 

To harden off your plants, you’ll want to move your seedlings outside for a few hours each day, and then back inside. You will increase the amount of time you harden them over a one to two week period. This will help them become more resistant against frost, wind or the cold of night as winter approaches so that you can enjoy fresh greens from an early harvest all year round!

Transplant your plants

Transplant outside into your garden or planters when weather permits (after your last frost!)

You’ve started your seeds, you’ve cared for your seedlings; now it’s time to plant those vegetables!

When you see roots coming out of the bottom, it’s usually time to transplant: move them outside in a sunny spot and cover with mulch or soil if necessary so that their delicate root systems don’t get too chilly at night as winter approaches Wait until there isn’​t any more frost predicted before moving plants from indoors–that way all those hard work hours won’t go down in one sad, chilly night.


Starting seeds indoors is a great way to grow your own produce for any season! The best part of all? You’ll get fresh vegetables from an early harvest without investing too much money or effort by starting seeds indoors.

Fruit Trees Pruning

How to Winter Prune for Happy Fruit Trees (the 5 “D’s”)

Winter Prune Your Fruit Trees

Pruning fruit trees can feel really intimidating! I remember the first time I cut a branch off a fruit tree. I was convinced I’d just killed it. It turns out that pruning trees is a very important tool in the gardener’s toolkit. Replacing old wood with new wood is a natural process for a tree. This wood replacement happens through wind, too much fruit breaking limbs, etc. A tree is designed to respond to pruning by generating new, healthy growth.

As you prune while trees are dormant (usually in the winter in North America), you’ll want to focus your pruning on what are called the “5 D’s” of winter pruning. Be sure to use a pair of quality pruning shears to prune off any wood that is: dead, dying, damaged, diseased, or deformed.

Dead and Dying

Dead twig held in a hand

Wood that is dead and dying should be pruned off without thinking twice. Cutting already dead wood is probably the easiest cut for most gardeners, as the wood is already dead. Nobody feels guilty pruning off a dried twig or branch. One way to visually tell if a branch is dead or dying is whether or not the branch is flexible. A healthy branch has some flex to it, while a dead branch is very rigid and brittle. A dead branch can often looks gray and shriveled. This IS one of the more crucial cuts, because dead wood is a common entrance for bugs to enter the tree. Keeping your tree free of dead or dying wood is an important step in keeping your tree healthy.


hand indicating a broken twig

Wood can become damaged in many ways, often through some sort of apparent trauma. Leaving damaged wood on your tree is an invitation for trouble. Damaged wood can allow pathogens to enter the tree’s system. Boring insects can use a damaged section of a tree as an opportunity to set up shop. Damaged wood, as sad as it is to remove, should be pruned off right away to allow other healthy wood to grow in its place.


a closeup of a diseased area on a tree branch

Diseased wood should scare most people straight. If your tree has a disease, it is IMPERATIVE that you cut this diseased wood off. Left unchecked, the pathogens can travel from the currently affected parts to the healthy parts of the plant’s system. There are many of diseases which affect different types of trees. These diseases range from devastating “fire blight” in apples and pears, to “bacterial canker” in peach and nectarine. When removing diseased limbs, there are 2 main things to keep in mind:

Cut a few inches below the visible diseased area

A disease will often be found further into the tree than is visible from the outside. When pruning off a diseased limb, cut a few inches below the visibly diseased area to ensure you removed all the diseased wood.

Sterilize your shears between cuts, and between trees

Plant pathogens are like human pathogens, in that they can travel from subject to subject through contact. In the case of a tree, the disease travels on the pruning shears. When you cut a diseased tree, you must sterilize your shears between cuts, or you risk spreading the disease to other branches on the tree. This is especially true when moving from one tree to the next. Any type of pathogen that makes its way onto your shears from a cut will affect other limbs or trees if not sterilized with bleach, Lysol, or a number of other sterilizing substances.


A deformed tree branch

When tending to fruit trees, you want to train the tree so it will support long-term healthy production of fruit. A deformed limb will not benefit the structure over time, so it makes the most sense to prune it early. These deformities may compound and have unintended consequences if left to continue growing. Remove this type of wood and allow more healthy wood to grow in its places.

“Just Make The Cut”

A pair of pruning shears cutting a branch.

Tom Spellman (of YouTube gardening fame) says “If you’re wondering whether or not you should make the cut; just make the cut”. He has recognized that beginner gardeners are often apprehensive about cutting a branch. The truth is that trees are resilient, and we have the privilege of encouraging them to produce excellent fruit. By taking a principled stand and making those winter pruning cuts, you set your tree up to happily produce for the long term.

DIY Building Methods Fruit Trees Garden Uncategorized

2 Options for Protecting Your Plants From the Harsh Sun

Protecting Your Plants from Sun?

The sun is critical for fruit tree and plant growth. The rays of solar energy get absorbed by the leaves, promoting photosynthesis, allowing the plant to thrive and grow. Because we eat plants (or eat animals who eat plants) we’re all considered to be solar powered! There is a downside; Just like too much sun can give us a sunburn and speed up dehydration, too much sun can harm plants.

In this article, I walk through a couple options to keep your plants from getting too much sun. This is especially during the hotter months where plants are already dealing with higher ambient air temperatures.

Man standing in front of trees

Shade Cloth

The easiest method I’ve found to to protect your trees and plants is to use inexpensive shade cloth. Shade cloth is usually made of a UV resistant polymer, and comes rated in percentages of sun protection. For example, a 40% shade cloth will provide 40% shade, while letting through 60% of the sun. Most fruit trees or other plants generally left in the open benefit from a 30-40% shade cloth. That moderate coverage ought to provide enough protection from the sun’s rays. For more fragile plants (veggies and flowers), a higher shade value (60-70%) could be beneficial.

How to Use Shade Cloth


Man standing in front of berry bushes

I deploy shade cloth two main ways: I drape it over a tree or plant, and I use a wooden frame. Draping the shade cloth over plants is a very quick way to get your plants covered. I use garden clips to secure the edges of the shade cloth around branches to keep it in place in wind. It’s possible to also poke a stem or two through the shade cloth if you haven’t got clips available. One downside to draping shade cloth is that it makes contact with the actual plant. Depending on the plant, this added weight may cause some issues or damage.

Shade frame

Man standing in front of shade cloth frames

For a longer term or no-contact method, I created wooden frames out of 1X2’s and a few nuts and bolts. I then stapled on sheets of shade cloth to the frame. Shade frames have a few advantages, especially for smaller trees and plants. They allow a no-contact method which limits smooshing or bending of branches you’d see with the draping method. She frames are easily deployed and allow you to select the angle of protection, as well as the height. The cloth doesn’t need to be clipped to the tree, because it is already clipped to the frame. One nice thing about these frames is that they fold up, allowing you to stack several of them in a small space.

Pro-tip: Weigh the bottom of the frame down with a block or rock, as wind can topple these.

Paint Your Trees!

This might sound like a crazy idea, but it’s important to paint or whitewash your trees in order to prevent sunburn and sunscald. This is a larger topic which I will cover further in another article. In short, whitewashing your tree’s trunk and main branches is an important step to preventing sun damage, much like sunscreen protects damage to your skin. There are two main ways you can whitewash.

Latex Paint

For this method, you’ll want to get white interior latex paint. Mix the paint with water in a 50%-50% solution, and use a paintbrush to apply generously to the trunk and main branches. It’s possible to also put this solution in a spray bottle. Although, I’ve found that this sometimes creates clogs or my hand gets tired from all the spraying. There is a downside to using actual paint for this. While it isn’t dangerous to the tree or fruit, as the trunk expands, more and more paint will make its way into the soil, impacting the quality of the soil over time.

IV Organic 3-in-1 Plant Guard

Like the latex paint, IV Organic (10% Off Code BUSY10) is painted on using a brush or diluted down into a spray bottle. Unlike latex paint, however, IV Organic is an OMRI certified organic whitewash. It contains many things that help guard against sun AND pest damage, such as diatomaceous earth, fragrant oils, etc. A big plus is as the tree trunk expands and bark falls to the ground, the soil gets better.

While it is more expensive, I’ve exclusively switched to using IV Organic because of its additional benefits, without the drawbacks.

Man standing in garden

What’s the point?

Whatever you’re using to protect your plants from excessive sun exposure, you’re essentially trying to take the edge off. Like sunscreen on your own body doesn’t prevent all sun from getting through, these methods serve to reduce the amount of UV rays causing damage on the warmest days. Whichever method you use, ensure that you’re protecting against the direction the sun is actually coming from (in North America, make sure to paint or protect the Southern facing side).

Protect them from excessive sun and heat, and your plants and trees will thank you for giving them a reprieve from the sun, and will reward you with tasty, nutritious fruit and vegetables!

Fruit Trees Harvesting

How to Choose a Ripe Pomegranate

Pomegranates are one of the most unique fruit one can enjoy. Hanging on the tree, they resemble beautiful deep red Christmas bulbs. Open one up, and you’re met with gorgeous flesh covered seeds called “arils”, which resemble ruby jewels more than a juicy and tasty fruit. Pomegranate arils come with a variety of nutritional benefits, and are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins (C,K) and antioxidants.

We grow 3 types of pomegranate in our TBG orchard: “Wonderful” (the most common and commercially grown cultivar), “Sweet“, and “Parfianka” (hands down, the best pomegranate I’ve tried!). Because it’s such a unique fruit, many people have trouble detecting whether or not a pomegranate is ripe and ready for harvest. This article will share a few tried and true tips to picking the perfect pomegranate.

Red pomegranate held in a hand.


The first indicator I look for in choosing a pomegranate is Color. I gravitate toward those which are a deeper red than the others around them. Take a look at the area where the stem meets the pomegranate. Is it still green? If so, give it some more time. If its color matches the rest of the fruit, move on to the next step


As a pomegranate grows, the arils inside will expand, pressing against the outer skin. A ripe pomegranate will generally take on a more angular, slightly cube-ish shape.

pomegranate held in a hand


If the shape is looks about right, a very telling indicator for ripeness is sound. By flicking the fruit, you can get a good idea of whether or not a pomegranate is ripe. In fact, among similar looking pomegranates, sound has been the most reliable indicator of a ripe pomegranate for me. A pomegranate’s sound will go from a dull thud to a more hollow “wood block” sound. Some people describe the sound as metallic, but it reminds me more of the percussion instrument. This change in sound means 2 things: 1) The skin is being pulled more tightly across the fruit, like a drum, and 2) The arils are swelling with juice, allowing sound to transmit better than through the soft pith.


Finally, you’ll want to choose a pomegranate by weight. Select a pomegranate that feels heavy for its size. Weight is a good indicator of juice filled arils. To physically pick your fruit, you’ll want to use a sharp pair of pruning shears or snips, and cut the stem off close to the base. Your pomegranate will last a couple weeks after harvesting, though the skin does get more tough and difficult to work with as it ages. Now it’s time to eat it!

Let’s Eat!

You may be like me, where extracting each aril is an enjoyable activity. For others, this sounds terrible! If you just want the juice, the easiest way to juice a pomegranate is to cut a pomegranate in half along its “equator” and to use a sturdy citrus press. Whatever way you enjoy them most, pomegranates are a tasty, healthy treat!