Home & Garden Feed

Dress up your outdoor space with Brightown Solar Fence Lights

Brightown Solar Fence Lights
Super easy to install and operate

BachelorontheCheap.com

I've been wanting to dress up the lighting on my backyard patio.

Currently, I've got some of those stick-the-little-post-in-the-ground solar lights in a flower bed that runs the full length of the patio on the north side.  They function just fine, but they do have their limitations, with one issue a repeat one - the darn things are easy to tilt, be it from a garden hose, bumping the lights when planting or weeding or getting knocked crooked by critters.

So to complement the in-ground lights, I picked up a package of six solar fence lights by Brightown.

Featuring 10 different light colors and fade/jump modes, I can simply set each light to display a choice of white light, cool, warm, or bright for everyday use.  I can have fun on the holidays, green for St. Patrick's Day, yellow for Easter, orange for Halloween, red for Christmas, and I can even alternate the lighting to display red, white, and blue for the 4th of July.

Solar Fence Light installed
10 different light colors and fade/jump options

Super easy to install, I was able to put up six lights in less than 15 minutes.  The instructions were straightforward and nicely illustrated to include a template to mark the placement position of the screws provided.  I am impressed with the initial quality of the lights and the product packaging boasts the solar panels will last 15 years.

Costing me $25.49+ tax on Amazon, I'm giving Brightown Solar Fence Lights 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap Stars.  Easy to install, easy to operate and change modes, these lights do indeed dress up my patio area and secured to the fence posts, these things won't tilt!  Similar light sets on Amazon were priced at $29.99 and up.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike

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Garden Alert: Spring plants need a blanket for the next three nights

Spring plantsBachelorontheCheap.com

It's March in Kansas!

Here are the forecasted overnight lows for the next three nights:

Monday:  29

Tuesday: 21

Wednesday: 31

Tuesday night will be especially cold, brr!

Give plants a drink of water late today before covering them and no worries, they won't have to get out from under that blanket in the middle of the night to go pee.  When covering, I like to use cardboard boxes anchored down with bricks for in-ground beds, and old fitted bedsheets for raised beds.  Despite Spring Fever urges and a penchant for cleaning up planting beds, I've also held off raking up leaves, which I'll be leaf-blowing into protective piles later this afternoon.

Hopefully this is the last of the cold weather, but it is Kansas...

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike


Turning some scrap wood into a mini-raised garden bed

Scrap wood project
Getting creative with scraps

BachelorontheCheap.com

Issue:  What to create with some old bed frame slats and misc. scrap wood?

Project:  Build a mini raised bed garden bed

The older I get, the more I appreciate raised bed gardens.  They're easier to plant, easier to weed, easier to harvest from, and most importantly, easier on the knees!

I had a small stash of scrap materials in my garage, just waiting for a project build.  Always adding to my garden and landscape each new growing season, it occurred to me that I had enough material to build a mini-raised garden bed.

Mini-raised garden bed
The 'mini' is a perfect fit next to my composter!

The wood wasn't ideal for making a garden bed, much of the scrap being pine, but with a good application of a food-safe sealer inside and out, the container should last several years.

A weekend project to include the time spent applying two coats of sealer, I basically built a little box and put some legs on it.  I wanted this 'mini-raised bed' to have a decent planting depth, which with the scraps I had on hand, worked out to 10 inches.  The completed box holds about 2 cubic feet of potting soil.  I drilled some holes to provide drainage and used coffee filters to line the drainage and prevent soil loss.

Mini-raised garden bed
I went with a potting soil mix to fill the box

This was a fun project and only cost me $10 for a box of screws.  Some old bed frame slats and scrap wood were re-purposed into a functional mini-raised garden bed.  I planted some cold-tolerant veggies to inaugurate the bed, peas and lettuce.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike

Related: Garden Hack: Use coffee filters to line container drainage holes

Related: Raised bed garden planter with a self-watering feature


Spring Planting in the Bachelor on the Cheap Garden

Coffee Table 'Garden'
A repurposed coffee table, turned mini raised bed garden.

BachelorontheCheap.com

What a BEAUTIFUL day!

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and it's 72 degrees in my neck of the woods, so I've been playing outside today.

Some early spring plants are starting to come out of hibernation in the yard, such as tulips, periwinkle, and lilies.  Today I added some veggies to the 'getting green' mix, planting peas, carrots, lettuce, onions, and spinach.

According to the Farmer's Almanac, I can get away with planting seeds and sets this early in my neck of the woods.  Here is a list of early spring vegetables that are cold tolerant for USDA Zone 6a for 2024:  Asparagus, beets (Yuck, too 'earthy' tasting for my liking), broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes, Swiss chard, and spinach. 

Chair container
Carrots planted, Black Eyed Susan Vine will be planted when the time is right, to grow up the back of the chair.

This year I've decided to make my coffee table planter exclusive to onions, planting a combination of seeds and sets in red, yellow, and white onion varieties.  The combination of seeds and sets will give me a steady crop of green onions through the summer.  For the last two years, the coffee table planter has been a 'salad bar.'  A mini raised bed garden, it's situated close to my grilling area.  Along with some other strategically placed containers, to include herbs, I'll be able to pick items needed for a grilled meal, as I grill.  It doesn't get any fresher than that!

OK, the writing break is over, it's time to go plant some taters and rake up some leaves for the compost pile!

Related: Creating a "Salad Bar" with an old coffee table

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

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike


The chore of cleaning and how to avoid doing it on the weekend

BachelorontheCheap.com

Cleaning products
Break down cleaning tasks into segments, vacuum one day, dust the next...

It's therapeutic for some, a sigh of feel-good relief for others once done, but for many, it's a chore that, well, you would rather not do, but know it must be done.

It doesn't matter if it's tidying up the house or apartment, sweeping out the garage, or detailing the car, cleaning things up gives life a sense of order and the unobstructed freedom to focus on other things.

Aside from cleaning some dirty dishes daily, the bulk of cleaning the house is done on the weekends for most folks.  That's how it was in my house growing up anyway.

My mother was a very clean-conscious and orderly woman.  She was always cleaning something it seemed, washing dishes, doing laundry, ironing, dusting, etc.  She was also a divorced mother of four, and money was tight because my father got away with not having to pay much at all for child support.  Working full time, mom started delegating cooking and cleaning chores as she tried to balance work and home life, and one of my chores as a 'youngin' was vacuuming on Saturdays.  We lived in a 1-1/2 story house with a full basement.  After vacuuming the basement carpeting, which was a full shag and included having to rake it after vacuuming, it was time to lug the Kirby vacuum up the stairs to take care of the living room, dining room, two bedrooms, and kitchen.  Yes, even the kitchen was carpeted and no detail was left undone, we're talking about pulling out vacuum attachments and vacuuming under the couch and other big pieces of furniture, vacuuming anything upholstered, moving chairs, and running a brushed attachment all along the baseboards.  I asked my mom if I could take a break from vacuuming after completing that portion of the house before moving upstairs to knock out two more bedrooms, a sitting area, and the carpeted stairs themselves.  Mom's response:  "You can take a break by dusting."  She was no-nonsense, it was a simple life lesson of work before play, and once the work was done, there was still plenty of time to have fun and be a kid.

Being a bachelor living in a modest home, it's just me keeping the house and garage tidy, the grass cut, the garden weeded, and the vehicle detailed.  I appreciate my mother's 'clean' attitude and maintaining an orderly environment.  There are those times when I'm not in the mood for it and let things slide, but then Mother's "Work before play" lesson kicks in again and I'm back at it.

It can be hard to maintain a clean and orderly home by yourself, balancing work, home life, activities, friends, romance, all those things, it ain't easy!   Back in the day, mom had little choice but to pretty much break things down to a work-during-the-week, clean-on-the-weekend approach, so I've taken mom's old-school regimen and tweaked it a bit.  

Spend 15 minutes a day cleaning, it will free up your weekend.

If you like to cook and do that for yourself on a daily and nearly every-meal basis like I do, then cleaning the kitchen is pretty much a daily need, there's no other way around it.  Thank goodness for dishwashers, right?!  But everything else can be broken down into little 15-minute segments of tidiness.  Consider giving a house-cleaning routine similar to this a try, adjusting it to your schedule.

  • Monday, vacuum for 15 minutes.
  • Tuesday, dust for 15 minutes
  • Wednesday, sweep/mop (or dry/wet Swiffer) for 15 minutes
  • Thursday, bathroom duty, for 15 minutes
  • Friday, Windex mirrors, glass 

Spending as little as 15 minutes of cleaning routine on your day can really free up your weekend!  I've also done a 'clean one room a day' routine, but it's not as efficient as the above.  It's much easier and faster to focus on one type of task, such as dusting everywhere, rather than pulling out (and then putting away) all the equipment and items needed to do a complete clean in just one room.  Simple 15 minutes of tidiness can also be done before work, giving you more free time after the workday is done...  Work, before play.

$pend Wisely My Friends...  In this case, time.

~ Mike


Seed Starting at the Bachelor on the Cheap "Greenhouse"

Starting seeds
Starting a herb garden, using re-purposed nursery containers and flats

BachelorontheCheap.com

According to the time-tested Farmer's Almanac, it's time to start some seeds indoors for spring planting.

The last frost date in my neck of the woods is on or about May 1, and with Spring Fever peaking, I'm anxious to get a head start on the growing season.

Today I'm doing some seed starting with cucumbers, a variety of peppers, tomatoes, marigolds, and a boatload of herbs.  This is going to save me quite a few bucks vs. buying starter plants at a nursery or one of those pop-up garden tents come outdoor planting time.  Starting plants from seed is a great way to not only save money vs. buying over-priced starter plants in the spring, but you get to customize what will be in your garden.  You get to choose what goes in your garden rather than having to settle for what a garden shop has in stock.

Egg carton seed starting
You don't need special trays, egg cartons work just fine.

It's easy to start plants indoors and doesn't take up as much space as you might think.  Have a window sill big enough to hold an egg carton?  Start some seed.  Have some space on your desk by that desk lamp?  Start some seed.  Heck, I've been known to pull some small appliances off my kitchen counter to make room for starting seed.  Being an avid gardener though, I've since bought some shelving dedicated for such a purpose.  My living room is my "Greenhouse."

You don't need special trays or those "Bio-Dome" kits for starting seeds either, egg cartons do the trick just fine. You can break down the carton to a smaller size if desired, and depending on the type of carton you can plant it directly in the ground, it will decompose in the soil.  You can write what you planted directly on the carton as well, easy peasy.  For those times you do buy starter plants at a nursery or pop-up, $19 flats of pansies at Stutzmans for example, saving those starter containers and trays for re-use is a penny-saver too.

After the joy of planting those seeds in a Spring Fever fix, comes the pleasure of caring for them, watching them pop from the soil, going from seed, to seedlings.  You can easily have all the starter plants and then some you'll need for a custom garden in about six to eight weeks, perfect timing for spring planting!  Start from seed, it's the Bachelor on the Cheap wallet-friendly thing to do!

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike


Vegetable and flower seeds now in stock at Dollar Tree

Vegetable and flower seeds from Dollar Tree
You can't get seed packets any cheaper than this.  You just can't.

BachelorontheCheap.com

The recent warm weather that has brought us 60 and 70-degree weather in my neck of the woods has been quite the tease.  The warming trend is coming to an end though, when reality comes to town on Sunday.  Temperatures get back to normal for mid-February, with a forecast high of 45 degrees.

February is a great time to plant some seeds indoors and grow starter plants for transplanting in the spring and there's no better place to buy seeds right now than Dollar Tree.

At just 25 cents per seed packet, you won't find a cheaper price.  No, Dollar Tree doesn't carry anything elaborate, unique, or heirloom, but they do have all the basics.

Shoppers can pick up a nice mix of flowers and veggies, marigolds, morning glories, wildflowers, cucumbers, carrots, peppers, radishes, and a whole lot more for a whole lot less than buying a bunch of starter plants from a nursery or one of those pop-up garden tents in the spring. 

Dollar Tree Receipt
Look at all that for the garden, at that low price.

With a decent selection of basics, shoppers can get plenty of seeds to create several starter plant trays with and the timing is perfect, by the time the seedlings are ready for transplant to the great outdoors, it will be spring.  If you were to wait, not start from seed, and buy starter plants from the local nurseries and/or pop-up centers come planting time, you'd be spending A LOT more money!  Starter plants from the nursery and pop-ups are convenient, but at $1, $2, $3, or more each, well, I don't know about you, but I'd rather spend my garden money otherwise.

Two Dollar Tree stores were visited on this occasion.

  • 1625 S Rock Rd #115B, Wichita, KS 67207
  • 11333 E Kellogg Dr Ste 200, Wichita, KS 67207

Both stores were busy, with each store having a line of customers waiting to check out.  The Rock Road store didn't have anyone at the register when I got in line, Francisco was focused on restocking a nearby shelf rather than paying attention to customers waiting to check out.  The Kellogg store had what looked like a new employee learning how to work the register, with a manager tutoring.  The manager was oblivious to the line, only calling someone up to assist on another register after a customer spoke up.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike


Garden seed battle: Amazon vs. seed catalogs and related websites

A collection of seed and bulb catalogs
I'm old school, I like receiving the free catalogs in the mail and flipping through them. Selecting some favorites from each, I then go to the respective site and order online.

BachelorontheCheap.com

It's that time of year, the dead of winter when I start laying out plans for the garden and the 2024 season.

Part of that annual ritual, in addition to filling in some blanks on a spreadsheet and re-drawing my garden plots, is browsing through various seed catalogs and related online sites in selecting herbs, veggies, and flowers I want to include in containers, raised beds, and the landscape this year.  

In checking out Gurney's, Seed Saver's Exchange, Breck's, Park Seed, and a host of others, it hit me...  How much do seeds cost on Amazon?

Culinary Herbs from Organo Republic
A collection of 18 herbs, the seed catalog companies don't offer this kind of variety

I always compare prices of my favorites and new selections from catalog to catalog and from online site to online site, but it struck me that as a regular shopper on Amazon Prime, I need to update my annual garden planning habit.  I've bought garden tools and accessories such as trowels, cultivators, and potato bags, but never seeds.

Enter Culinary Herbs from Organo Republic via Amazon

I got a boatload of herb seeds including:  Basil, Catnip, Chervil, Chives, Cilantro (Coriander), Dill, Fennel, Thyme, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Oregano, Marjoram, Mountain Mint, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Summer Savory, Tarragon.

The cost:  $15 plus tax, for a collection of 18 herbs.

A look inside the envelope
Each little packet contains about the same amount of seeds that you'll typically find in a seed catalog product

Pricing out all those seeds individually from the seed catalogs and their respective online sites would cost me an average of about $4 a packet.  Multiply that by the 18 varieties I got through Amazon and the total balloons to $72.  To be fair, I probably wouldn't buy all 18 of those herbs individually, reducing the cost.  Most of those seed companies do offer collection seed packages averaging about $18, but you don't get near the variety, typically it's a collection of 3-6 varieties.   So the better deal for me was purchasing herb seeds this year through Amazon, I benefitted from a lower price, and a greater variety of seeds.

Time will tell if it's a repeat buy considering germination rates, plant quality, and production.  So far, I'm impressed, when I opened up the resealable outer bag, I was immediately hit with the fragrance of herbs.  I also thought the QR code taking you to a growing guide was a nice touch.  I can't wait to plant and will be starting some select varieties indoors.

Stay tuned for garden updates!

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike

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

Related: Veggie and flower seed packets just 25 cents each at Dollar Tree


After Saturday's snowfall, Wichita back on pace for average annual amount of moisture

BachelorontheCheap.com

The historical annual average of moisture for the Wichita area is about 34 inches.  

With Saturday's snowfall of 7.8 inches (FYI: approximately 10" of snow equals 1" of rain), the area is on pace for an average amount of moisture for the year.  

Keeping pace with that historical annual average, the state's drought status has improved according to the U.S. Drought Monitor for the state of Kansas, with the Wichita Metro now in Moderate Drought status, rather than Extreme Drought status. 

As Bing Crosby used to sing, I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas...

Rain Gauge Tracking


Boot trays aren't just for footwear

Boot tray used as a plant tray
Boot trays make great plant trays, helping to protect furniture surfaces.

BachelorontheCheap.com

Just about every household has one in some form or fashion, be it a bonafide tray or even a simple small rug to help keep floors clean, dry, and routinely worn shoes organized.  Typically located near an entryway, boot trays help to prevent dirt, mud, snow, and water from being tracked through the house.  The most important feature of a boot tray in my humble opinion is how it keeps moisture off your floors, no slipping, no sliding, less clean up and nicer looking floors long term.

But boot trays can be multi-purpose.

I've got a small coffee table that isn't being used as intended.  I've also got an ever-changing 'plantscape' in my house, so I've put that small coffee table to good plantscape use.  It's a fairly new table, so I also want to help protect the finish.

How do you do that?  Yes, you guessed it, use a boot tray.

I'm into the industrial look for furniture, so I picked up an inexpensive, black plastic boot tray to serve as a plant tray.  This is going to prevent any moisture and/or dirt spills - and they're going to happen - from hitting the surface of the coffee table.  Water spillage coming in contact with wood is not a good combination, especially if you miss getting all the moisture during a clean-up or wipe-down (think misting plants).  Unsightly water stains are one thing, but standing water on wood can give that table or plant stand a distressed wood look in a hurry, NOT good if that's not the look you're going for!

Boot trays range greatly in price, color, and materials, so it's easy to customize a look catered to your tastes.  You can go inexpensive and functional, or go bold!

Other alternate uses for boot trays:

  • Pet food mat (very popular use)
  • Litter box tray
  • Paint tray
  • Put a tray under the humidifier to collect spills, keeping the floor dry
  • If you're into raising chickens in the backyard, boot trays make great 'collection' trays.  They're way easier to clean than the henhouse floor.
  • Keep one in the garage or shop by the workbench, they speed up the process of sorting and organizing bolts, screws, and nails and keep drops off the floor.

Boot trays are multi-taskers, and inexpensive too!

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike