Home & Garden Feed

Keeping your landscape watered even in the winter

Kansas Drought MapBachelor on the Cheap

It was nice to see a nice gentle rain today.  Despite some lingering sprinkles however, looks like the landscape in my neck of the woods only received about a 1/4 inch of moisture for the day.

For an area that's still in "D3" Extreme Drought status, that means supplementing Mother Nature with some watering is needed.

Low precipitation amounts, the high winds of Kansas and those fluctuating temperatures can take its toll on a landscape, resulting in a less-than-stellar green spring.

Here are some tips to watering during the winter:

  • Water once or twice per month through March
  • Water when the temperature is at least 40 degrees and ideally, at mid-day. 
  • Watering should be done manually, no hoses, no sprinklers.  If you do use hoses or sprinklers, be sure to disconnect them when the watering is done.  Frozen pipes and equipment is not a good thing.
  • Do NOT water if the ground is frozen or if there is snow cover.

Don't forget the trees!  By all means hit those newer plantings with water first, as they'll suffer the most from this drought combined with Kansas winter weather, but don't forget to give those trees some love!  I've got a Magnolia tree in my front yard, it's actually the first thing I water.  I'll be darned if I'm going to lose it to winter drought.

February historically is another dry month as far as precipitation, averaging just 4 days of rain.

Happy watering!

~ Mike

 


Breaking out the seed catalogs for the 2023 season

Burpee CatalogBy Mike Thayer

Even during the winter months there is the joy of gardening.

Today I'm taking some time to flip through some seed catalogs, making the joyful determinations on the fruits, flowers and veggies I want to add to my homestead haven in 2023.

I've got Burpee, Breck's, Gurney's and a half dozen or so others to thumb through.  What's available can really vary from one catalog to another, one nursery having more herbs than another; one company stronger on bulbs over others; one catalog featuring more accessories than the competition.  Then there's pricing and shipping (delivery schedule & cost) to consider.

While having fun doing that, I also put together a little weather average chart for 2023 for my planting zone 6B neck of the woods.  It's a handy tidbit of information, especially when setting plants out in the spring, using a cold frame and/or covering plants in the fall.

Wichita Weather AveragesI'll be adding some more raised beds to my landscape this year.  The older I get, the more I appreciate them.  They're much easier on the knees, visually appealing and it's easier to extend the growing season with them.

Getting those raised beds in place before the last frost takes place is my goal and starting plants from seed will be key to a solid spring planting in those new beds.

Let's see...  those Vivacious Tomatoes look good, and the Burpless Beauty Cucumbers, I need Caladium, Coleus, some Nasturtium would be nice...

What is your favorite catalog?

Have a great 2023 garden season!

Coming Soon:  A store-bought plants vs. starting your own plants from seed article. 

$pend Wisely My Friends...

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Get ready to pay more to heat your home this winter

Heating your homeBy Mike Thayer

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, households that heat their homes with natural gas will spend 28% more to do so than they did last year.  Heating oil costs are projected to go up 27%, electricity by 10%, and propane 5%, respectively.

Ouch!

So if you heat your home with natural gas and your average monthly heating bill was $100 last year, you'll pay around $128 a month this year.  Supply constraints coupled with a new $5+ charge tacked onto your monthly bill approved by state regulators (Kansas) were cited as cause for the price hike.

What can you do to keep your heating costs down?

  • Sign up for the Average Payment Plan with your service provider.  Your provider takes a look at your monthly average cost over the last year to determine your bill.  So using that hypothetical monthly heating bill of $100 in the winter, factored in with an average $40 natural gas bill during the warmer months gives you a yearly average of $70 per month.  That's what you'll pay (hypothetically) moving forward.  Having a set monthly amount is much easier to budget for than a surprise $173 heating bill in January because it got super cold out.
  • Turn the temperature of your water heater down.  Typically, a water heater is set at 140 degrees, as in, water too hot to touch once it really gets flowing.  Turning that temp down to 120 degrees (still nice and warm) can save you up to 11% in heating costs.  Reducing the time spent in the shower, turning the washing machine temperature setting from hot/cold to warm/cold or even cold/cold will save you even more.
  • Caulk seals on windows and doors and replace old weather stripping as needed.  Drafts cost you money every month, new weather stripping or one of those plastic window kits don't.
  • Turn your ceiling fan on but change the blade direction.  Running your ceiling fan in a clockwise direction helps to circulate the warm air around the room.
  • Have a professional check your heating system to be sure it's operating at its best.  Change the furnace filter regularly (the furnace has to work harder with a dirty filter) and close the vents in rooms you don't frequent as much.  This will direct more warm air to the rooms you spend the most time in. And of course there's the turn the thermostat down a few degrees and put on a sweater to save money...

TIP:  After taking that hot shower in the morning, don't reach for the exhaust fan switch.  Let that warmth venture out to neighboring spaces.  You'll benefit from the humidity as well. 

$pend Wisely My Friends...

 

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It's time to dig up your ornamental sweet potato vines and store them for the winter

Raised Bed on the Porch
Potato vines planted in July, margarita variety

By Mike Thayer

Ornamental sweet potato vines are quite popular, with both the margarita and purple varieties adding a nice punch of foliage color in containers, borders and hanging baskets.  Easy to grow, they also make great houseplants! 

I'm partial to the margarita variety myself, I love the chartreuse color and how the foliage drapes off the side of a pot or container.  Versatile, these plants are low maintenance and drought tolerant.  They thrive in moist but not wet soil and despite the ornamental tag, the tubers are also edible, but I've heard they're bitter tasting compared to their traditional sweet potato cousins.  I'm not going to do the tasting thing, I'll save the tubers for replanting.

Raised bed container w/sweet potato vines
Time to dig up the potato vines after low overnight temp caused wilt.

Often grown as throw-away annual plants and disposed of once that first hard frost hits, you can actually save the tubers and over-winter them for spring planting, or move the plants inside before the first frost and make them house plants.

Buying three margarita sweet potato vines at a clearance discount at Walmart back in July, I planted them in a small raised bed container I purchased to dress up my front porch.  The color contrast matched up well with plantings of Vinca flowers and Dragon's Breath.

After temperatures dropped below freezing last night, the potato vines suffered, with two of the three plants severely wilted.  Time to harvest the tubers!

Sweet Potato Vine
Without tubers, I cut back some foliage and made the vine a house plant.

In digging the plants up, I was surprised to see very little tuber development, but then again, the vines didn't get a full season of unrestricted growing, being planted in July.  I'll be storing what tubers I did harvest for spring planting, and transferring the one plant without tubers to a small pot in making it a houseplant.  Luckily, the tuberless plant is the one potato vine that didn't wilt with the low temps last night.

To store the tubers, cut away the greenery and lightly brush off any soil.  Place the tubers in a cardboard box filled with peat moss and keep in a dry, cool location where the tubers won't freeze.  In the spring, replant those tubers in your garden or outdoor containers after the last frost and in no time you'll have those great foliage colors popping up - no need to buy new plants from the garden center!

$pend Wisely My Friends...

If you appreciate this Home & Garden tip and want to support more great content, recipes, product, service and food reviews, etc., on BachelorontheCheap.com, you can help keep this site going with a one-time or a monthly donation.  Thank you so much for your support! ~ Mike

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Product Review: Lalahoni Garden Obelisk Trellis

Garden Obelisk Trellis
Easy Assembly

By Mike Thayer

I love climbing plants and it doesn't matter if it's flowers or veggies, morning glories, roses, climatis vine, sweet peas, vucumber, tomatoes, pole beans, you name it.  Climbing plants provide a nice vertical visual appeal to the garden and going vertical can save on valuable veggie garden space.

If you don't have a fence to take advantage of, a trellis will do the trick in going vertical.  I like trellises better than tomato cages and the like, they just have a better look, presenting a cleaner, permanent feel. Bonus:  You don't have to remove and store a trellis during the winter months like you do with cages, you can leave a trellis in place.  Trellises range greatly in size, material, shape and most notably, price.  You can easily pay $100 for a trellis, that would be for something large and elaborate, fortunately, if in need of a decent sized trellis, you don't have to pay near that much.

Garden Obelisk Trellis
Metal bars in a plastic casing

Enter the Garden Obelisk Trellis by Lalahoni

Rustproof, sturdy yet lightweight, this trellis is ideal for climbing plants, inside, out in the veggie garden or as part of your flowering landscape.  Versatile, you can place it directly in the ground or place it in a large container.  At six feet tall and 12 inches wide, this trellis is great for training climbing plants, allowing them to showcase their beauty.

Constructed of metal poles with a plastic casing, the plastic contains UV inhibitors to resist sun damage and fading.  The plastic support rings are adjustable, allowing you to 'custom fit' a variety of plants.  The obelisk shape maximizes plant growth, resulting in a more robust foliage and flower display or making it far easier to grab that veggie harvest.

The trellis was easy to assemble, from the time I started opening the box until it was fully assembled took like 10 minutes.  The instructions were clear, there were no issues putting it all together and there were no missing parts.

Garden Obelisk Trellis
A Morning Glory on the front porch

Costing me $25.99 on Amazon, I'm giving the Lalahoni Garden Obelisk Trellis 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  It's a good looking lightweight trellis that works really well in large pots, supporting plants such as morning glory and equally well placed directly in the ground supporting cucumber and pole beans making this repeat buy worthy.  I have found however that sturdier, heavier plants such as tomatoes and climbing rose can displace the plastic support rings.  Using a zip tie easily secures them in place.

4 stars

Related: Planting potatoes using ANPHSIN 10 Gallon Garden Potato Grow Bags

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Related:  Taco Challenge 2022

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If you appreciate the article you just read and want to support more great content on BachelorontheCheap.com, you can help keep this site going with a one-time or a monthly donation.  Thank you so much for your support! ~ Mike

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A hard freeze is coming, it's time to do some winterization prep work in the garden

By Mike Thayer

Planter Box Porch
I'll need to either re-pot this Dragon's Breath, an annual, or take cuttings.

Fall is my favorite season of the year, the cooler weather, the fall colors and FOOTBALL!  Other bonuses include not having to cut the grass as much, planting bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and hyacinth for that spring bloom as well as the bounty that is a fall harvest from whatever remains in your veggie garden.

But the end of fall means the dreaded beginning of winter and in my neck of the woods here in Kansas, a possible hard freeze has been forecast for Monday, October 17 with the temp falling to 32 degrees, possibly colder with the wind chill.  That's a little earlier than normal, with the first frost typically hitting the Wichita area on or about October 23 each year.

Time to take cuttings of plants, put select annuals in pots, pull the houseplants from the porch (don't forget to debug) and break out the garden blankets to extend the garden season.

Depending on your plant collection, this could be a weekend chore or an afternoon task, a fun one!

TIPS:

  • Containers that are being brought indoors should be submerged in tepid water for about 15 minutes to purge any bugs that may have burrowed in the soil.
  • Spray plants with an insecticide.  If you haven't already started doing this, you may still unintentionally bring in some bugs before the first frost.  You may have to continue spraying per product instructions until those bugs are gone.
  • After debugging, scrub those pots clean and while they're draining from the submerge and drying from the scrubbing, make the indoor placement area ready. 

Did you clean the windows?

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Related:  Taco Challenge 2022

Enjoy this post?

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If you appreciate the article you just read and want to support more great content on BachelorontheCheap.com, you can help keep this site going with a one-time or a monthly donation.  Thank you so much for your support! ~ Mike

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The 2022 gardening season is coming to an end

Chair Planter
First put in my garden back in 2019

By Mike Thayer

The first frost for my neck of the woods is but a couple weeks away.  It's been a terrible year for tomatoes and much of the garden is now weary from harvest.

It's a good time to start thinking about bringing some plants indoors, take some cuttings and harvest some seeds.  It's also a good time to address structure needs for your garden such as planter boxes, trellises, perhaps a cold frame.

Today, I'm cleaning up a whimsical piece of my garden, a "chair planter."  I first put this piece into use back in 2019, but it's starting to show some wear, rust at the joints.  So it's in need of a good cleaning and a fresh coat of Rust-Oleum paint.

Chair Planter
Cleaned up, drying and ready for a fresh coat of hammered black paint in my modified 'paint booth' in the garage.

Instead of the flat black, I'm going with a Hammered, glossy black finish, just to dress it up a bit.  I'm not into colors for my planters or containers, I like to let the flowers and veggies trumpet their colors, to strut their stuff so to speak.  They are after all what we're displaying right, not the structure/container?

All I had to do was give the chair a bath, let it dry and then hit it with the Hammered black spray paint.  This new paint job should last for several years, making this a very low maintenance garden container piece that can endure the winter weather.

Related: Adding a bit of whimsy to the garden

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Related:  Taco Challenge 2022

Enjoy this post?

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If you appreciate the article you just read and want to support more great content on BachelorontheCheap.com, you can help keep this site going with a one-time or a monthly donation.  Thank you so much for your support! ~ Mike

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If you're into Mums, buy them at Aldi

Mum
These are great looking plants

By Mike Thayer

Today's Shopping Tip

It's Mum season! 8" Mums are just $3.99 at Aldi while supplies last. That price beats what you'll pay at Lowe's, a garden center or the mainstream grocery store. I picked up 5 plants this morning for a grand total of $19.95 + tax.

These are great looking plants and Aldi has three main colors that I saw in stock, the purple you see pictured right, classic yellow and a rust variety.

Purple Mum
Healthy plants freshly watered when I was browsing

 

$pend Wisely My Friends...

 

Enjoy this post?

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If you appreciate the article you just read and want to support more great content on BachelorontheCheap.com, you can help keep this site going with a one-time or a monthly donation.  Thank you so much for your support! ~ Mike

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Growing your own potatoes in a grow bag is super easy!

By Mike Thayer

ANPHSIN 10 Gallong Garden Potato Grow Bags
Talk about making it EASY to grow potatoes!

Back in March and suffering from spring fever bad, I worked through that 'fever' by planting potatoes.

I've grown potatoes before, in a traditional garden plot direct in the ground and in raised beds.  It's not difficult to grow potatoes and I enjoyed some very tasty spud harvests, but potatoes do take up a lot of space in the garden, especially in raised beds.  So with space considerations in mind, I haven't grown potatoes in my gardens for a very long time.

Enter the ANPHSIN 10 Gallon Garden Potato Grow Bags

This was the first time I've used grow bags and what a great concept!  Ordering a 4 pack of these bags on Amazon, these things are made of a heavy duty aeration fabric, come with a Velcro flap to harvest the potatoes and sturdy handles make the bags easily mobile.

Potatoes Looking healthy in the grow bag
Potato plant loving the bag, the tomato pictured left is too!

Planting the potatoes was easy peasy.  I filled the bag about half full with potting mix, put four certified seed potatoes - Kennebec Russets - in the bag eyes up and covered them with about 4 inches of the potting mix. 

Here it is about 90 days later and I've harvested some taters! Easily digging through the base of the bag thanks to the convenient velcro pouch access, I went through about half the bag and harvested 3.7 pounds of potatoes.  That's pretty darn good coming from just four tubers and like I said, I only went through half the bag and the best part, no potato fork required.

Kennebec Russets are a great all purpose potato, good for baking, roasting and mashing.  But their flavor really comes out in frying and that's what I did with this harvest.  I did a rough chop, applied a Southwest spice rub and sauteed those taters in olive oil.  After they got tender I added some Parmesan cheese for toasting then plated, topping the spuds with a fresh lime crema and green onion.  It was another dose of YUM!

Potato Harvest
3.7 pounds of potatoes

With another bunch of potatoes yet to harvest, I'll be able to reserve four tubers and after letting them 'cure' for a couple weeks, I can plant another grow bag for a fall harvest. I estimate another similar harvest of around 3.5 to 4 pounds of potatoes yet to retrieve.  For the cost of those bags, some potting soil and the occasional watering, that breaks down to an initial growing season harvest cost of a little over $3 for an estimated 7+ pounds of potatoes.  Not bad and that cost will only go down as plantings and harvests continue.

Costing me $20 on Amazon for a 4 pack of bags, these ANPHSIN 10 Gallon Garden Potato Grow Bags are awesome!  They're very reasonably priced, durable, mobile, easy to use and will be easy to store.  Bonus:  You can grow other veggies such as onions, peppers and tomatoes and given the nice, tidy soil environment, garden pests that like to live in the soil should be marginalized.

Related: Planting potatoes using ANPHSIN 10 Gallon Garden Potato Grow Bags

 

Home Grown Potatoes
Fried Potato Deliciousness


TKUCC

$pend Wisely My Friends...

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If you appreciate the article you just read and want to support more great content on BachelorontheCheap.com, you can help keep this site going with a one-time or a monthly donation.  Thank you so much for your support! ~ Mike

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Product Review: Expert Gardener Soft Grip Adjustable Pruner

Exper Gardener Softgrip Adjustable Pruner
Inexpensive, with quality

By Mike Thayer

If you're looking for an inexpensive hand pruner to handle all the light pruning needed in the garden, the Expert Gardener Soft Grip Adjustable Pruner is it!

It's light, nicely balanced, the grip is very comfortable and it can cut up to 3/4" branches/stems with ease.

I purchased this pair today at Walmart, it was the cheapest pruner on the shelf, with other pruner options going all the way up to $23.75.  I looked at them all and while I usually buy something in the mid-range of price, I went with the least expensive pruner having bought Expert Gardener products before.  And in researching Expert Gardener, this is Walmart's private label, made by Scott's Miracle-Gro.

The all important blade is high quality forged steel and made clean cuts of the barberry bush I trimmed up this afternoon.  It's an anvil blade, to mean it's got one blade and a solid base, ideal for trimming away dead branches.  When it becomes necessary to sharpen the blade down the road, it will be easy to do so thanks to the adjustable feature.  The grips are high density plastic and non-slip and call it a stress test, I intentionally dropped them on my concrete driveway, no issues, no cracking, not a scratch.  I also like the high visibility yellow, which is easy to see and locate the pruner should I set it down someplace and get distracted.  No, I don't have a pruner holster, I'm not that guy...

Costing me $7.88 at Walmart, I'm giving the Expert Gardener Soft Grip Adjustable Pruner 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars out of the gate, time will tell how durable these are, but all indicators are that these pruners will last quite awhile with proper use and care.

5 stars

 

Barberry Bush
Trimming up dead branches to ensure bush health

 

 

$pend Wisely My Friends...

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If you appreciate the article you just read and want to support more great content on BachelorontheCheap.com, you can help keep this site going with a one-time or a monthly donation.  Thank you so much for your support! ~ Mike

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