Tag Archives: Gardening

I love creating new garden beds. When I divide my perennials I hate to throw them away so I just create a new garden bed to move them to. I’d much rather have more garden beds and less lawn! When you want to turn an area of your lawn into a new garden bed you must get rid of the grass.

expanding your garden, gardening

Garden bed - early spring.

There are different ways to go about this, some methods give you quick results while other take a bit longer. There are four basic ways to go about this.

Digging a new bed. This method produces the quickest results and allows you to plant your garden immediately. It also takes a bit of hard work. Using your spade or fork you must remove all the sod.

gardening, my garden

Removing sod.

If the sod is in good condition you can use it elsewhere in your yard. Use an edger or a sharp spade to cut small sections of the sod. This makes it easier to remove. If you don’t plan to move the sod and are just going to compost it try to remove as much of the soil as possible. Inspect the soil for any hiding grubs and decide whether or not you want to add any compost before planting your garden.

Another method to create a new garden bed is to break up the sod with a tiller. One advantage of using this method is that the organic matter is retained in the garden as the sod is turned under. You can also add compost or manure before tilling. This bed can also be planted immediately but you may have to do some weeding as you may have turned up some weed seeds.

A third method to try is smothering the sod or unwanted plants.

gardening, gardens, prudent living

creating garden beds by smothering

I have used the first two methods but I have never tried this. You just cover the grass with plastic, newspaper or cardboard.  Depending on the type of material you use this method could take several months. The newspaper and cardboard will decompose but the plastic will have to be removed eventually. This is relatively simple; lay your material down over the sod you want to eliminate. Cover it with grass clippings, mulch or compost to hold the layers in place. You will want to lay down six to eight pieces of newspaper, use only the black and white sheets. Your objective is to eliminate light, causing the chlorophyll to break down. Once this happens, photosynthesis stops and the grass will die. After this happens you can begin to plant your garden, if you’re using cardboard or newspaper just plant your plants into holes that you have punched through the paper to the soil. When we were out hiking earlier this week I happened to spot this garden. A perfect example for smothering the weeds!

The last method I will mention but I wouldn’t recommend it. You can also use herbicides to kill the grass. The downside of this method is that you may injure or kill nearby plants; it can also result in environmental contamination or harm beneficial organisms if used improperly. We have kept beehives near our gardens and for this main reason we do not use this method.

I have been working on expanding a garden on the east side of our house. It is shady and the existing garden had a curve in it which was hard to mow. I wanted to increase the garden bed, transplant some hostas and have less lawn to mow as well as having the existing lawn easier to mow. First I marked off the new garden area.

removing sod

old lawn to be removed

I dug up the hostas I wanted to divide and transplant.

perennials, dividing plants

hostas to be divided

Used some river rock to edge the new garden bed.

creating gardens, prudent living

Edging the garden

A little mulch and my new garden is finished! I am so pleased with the result. Plus other than the cost of the mulch and some hard work it was an inexpensive project!gardens, perennialshostas, perennials

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Before I get down to taking about dandelions I wanted to make you aware of my Facebook link on my page! Yes, On The Home Front  now has it’s very own Facebook page! Be sure to check it out and “Like” it!

Now welcome to my garden!  I don’t know about you but I have a lot of dandelions in my yard.

weeds, Clara


After watching this video I am inspired to do something more than just pick them and toss them in the compost heap! Don’t know how many of you are familiar with Clara. Clara is a 94 year old cook and Great Grandmother. She is 100% Sicilian-American and grew up in a Chicago suburb, Melrose Park. She survived the Great Depression and claims to have actually gained weight during America’s worst state of financial despair. She has her own blog, her own website and numerous videos on YouTube all about depression cooking. Today I want to share one of her videos with you. If you are getting this in your email it is worth clicking on the video and watching it on my website!

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In taking the time to plant a garden and harvest your own food you are interested in growing what’s best for your family. Part of the reason I have an extensive garden is to know what we’re eating. I want the food to be organic and good for us. I have become more and more interested in growing heirloom seeds and learning how to save the seeds. I want to have control over what is being planted in my garden.

In an effort to learn more I recently enrolled in a Seed Saving Class, offered by Sylvia Davatz, a local seed saver. Sylvia has her own seed catalog, Solstice Seeds, where she highlights seeds from plants that have successfully grown in her Vermont garden. This class will stretch over the entire garden season. We meet in her garden once a month from May to October to address questions and issues around seed saving. Each two-hour class allows for instruction and discussion of the various topics of seed saving as well as an opportunity for questions and comments.

I can’t think of a better way to spend two hours than exploring someone else’s incredible gardens.

Solstice Seeds, seed saving

Sylvia's Garden's

Sylvia’s gardens are absolutely beautiful, very well thought out so she can space her plants to collect the seeds. As we toured the gardens Sylvia discussed overwintering biennials, and which plants are good candidates for overwintering both in the garden and in her greenhouse. We were able to view which plants were just being planted as well as which plants had made it through the winter.

spring gardens, seed saving

Well planned garden beds

There was a wonderful greenhouse set off on the edge of her property.

greenhouse, season extender


A greenhouse is a wonderful addition to the garden, especially here in Vermont where we have such a short growing season. There was spinach growing and potatoes almost ready to be harvested!

greenhouse, gardening

Potatoes about to be harvested

Numerous seedlings are waiting to be moved into the garden.

vegetable seedlings, greenhouse

Seedlings in the greenhouse.

seedlings, greenhouse

Vegetable seedlings










There is no heating source for the greenhouse and the ground never freezes! There is also a hand pump to supply water, what a wonderful idea!

water, gardening, prudent living

Hand pump in the greenhouse.

I would love to add a greenhouse to our property.

At the end of the class we gathered together and went over some important theory regarding seed saving. An important factor is to know the various types of seeds and why saving seeds is so important. I’ve discussed this before talking about the difference between heirloom and hybrid seeds for example.

I hope you enjoy these pictures of Sylvia’s beautiful gardens. I am counting the days until our next class in June!

spring garden, Vermont, prudent living

Sylvia's spring garden


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Buying perennials for your garden can be expensive. I have grand visions of what I want my gardens to look like but I also have a limited pocketbook. There are two ways to get around this, when your friends are dividing their perennials ask for the plants they no longer have room for. My original garden was created this way. My good friend Maggie, was dividing her perennials and supplied me with hostas, day lilies and iris. I have divided and divided these perennials over the years and am now in the position to give my extras away. Garden clubs also hold plant sales in the spring; this is another way to find perennials for your garden at a reasonable price. The plants you purchase at garden club sales have the added benefit of being grown locally. They will do well in your garden.

You can also divide store bought perennials. If you purchase a large hosta in a half-gallon pot you can divide it into a number of smaller plants. Just let it dry out a little before you attempt this. Dry soil and roots are easier to work with. Knock the plant from its pot, then with a sharp knife cut it into equal size rooted segments. If you already have hostas growing in the ground, you can increase your stock for no cost at all. Simply dig the clumps out and divide them. You’ll be amazed at how many plants you can acquire this way. Hostas recover from plant division very well. Just make sure you give them a little water after transplanting.

I am in the process of creating a new garden bed on the east side of our house, which is quite shady.

gardening, removing sod

Removing sod from new garden bed.

First the sod is carefully removed, this is saved and moved to another area of the lawn.

sod, grass, transplanting

Sod awaiting replanting.

There are some hostas growing on the side of the house already, which need to be divided. I can increase the garden bed (less grass to mow) and transplant my divided hostas at the same time. It’s a win-win situation. The clump is dug up.

hostas, perennials, dividing

Hosta clump

Using the shovel the large clump is divided into four smaller sections.

hostas, gardening, prudent living

Divided hosta

Each of the smaller sections are replanted into my new garden bed.

gardening, frugal tip

Transplanted hostas.

In expanding any garden in Vermont you are bound to find rocks, this one will be used in a garden wall!

rocks, Vermont gardens

Large garden rock!

You too can have beautiful gardens no matter what the size of your gardening budget. Spring is a perfect time to divide your hostas, especially if you can get the transplanting done before a rainy day!

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This past weekend was a beautiful weekend in Vermont. It would have been a great weekend to be outside working in the garden getting all those outside projects started. However my husband and I were in PA visiting our son who is attending Grove City College. For some reason the school holds their Parent’s Weekend two weeks before the end of classes. It was a fun weekend; it’s always good to spend time with our son.

Parent's Weekend, Grove City College

My son and I at Grove City College

college, GCC

Grove City College

Since his college is a nine-hour drive from Vermont we decided to take two days for the drive out and we found a fabulous Bed & Breakfast called Onanda by the Lake where we spent the night.

B&B, Upstate NY

Onanda by the Lake B&B

Our hostess Linda spoiled us, not only were the accommodations absolutely perfect the breakfast she served us was superb.

breakfast, French toast

Fabulous French Toast

When we attend our son’s graduation next year I think we’re going to have to go back!

I did manage to get some work done outside before the rains came this week. As I’ve said before spring is very slow in coming to Vermont.

spring, stream, Vermont

Our stream in early spring.

My rhubarb is almost ready to pick.

rhubarb, garden, spring


The daffodils are still blooming everywhere and my bleeding heart is finally blooming.

spring flowers, Vermont

Bleeding Heart

spring flowers, daffodils, Vermont

Daffodils everywhere










The creeping phlox is in full bloom and is creeping between every rock.

Vermont, Spring

Creeping Phlox

spring flowers, Vermont, Prudent Living

Creeping Phlox











The lettuce I planted several weeks ago is making an appearance.

seedlings, lettuce

Tiny lettuce seedlings

I had started some lettuce inside from seed and it grew much faster than I thought it would. It really needed transplanting so I planted it in a very large pot and placed it in front of our sliding door. It has done so well and I think we’ll actually be eating it before I can move it to the garden. I’m thinking that next winter I’m going to grow lettuce inside during the long winter. Imagine fresh greens from the living room!

greens, lettuce

Inside lettuce!


Hope you enjoyed your glimpse of the spring progress. Hopefully next week I’ll have made a little more progress in the garden!

Vermont, spring, prudent living

Our field

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Before my garden is fully planted I take a soil test. I try to do this every couple of years. It gives me an idea as to what nutrients my garden is lacking and also will tell me how to correct any deficiencies.  Since I live in Vermont I can have a soil test done through the University of Vermont.

They will provide sample test kits, which include a mailer, sample bag, and information form. These are available from UVM, from UVM Extension offices and from some local garden centers. You can also download a form and mail the sample in your own clean plastic bag.

soil tests, vegetable gardening, home front

UVM Soil Testing Form

They only need about one cup of soil for a garden test.

The directions are very simple. First they need some information such as your name, address, the size of your garden and whether or not it is a home garden or a commercial production. They also want to know what crops you are growing, whether it is mixed vegetables or a specific crop. The basic test costs $14.00.

The reliability of a soil test is only as good as the sample you submit. The ½ cup of soil you are sending in must be a good representative of your garden. You want to take your sample before any lime, fertilizer or manure is added. Use only clean equipment to collect your sample.

The best way to do this is to take a number of samples from your garden and thoroughly mix them in a clean pail. Take about ten samples as a minimum for a garden up to 10,000 square feet in size.

Collect your sample by pushing the blade of a garden shovel into the soil to the desired depth. Cut out a triangular wedge of soil and set it aside. Now slide your blade into the soil again taking a thin slice from the side of the hole. Save this “core” as your sample.

soil testing, vegetable garden

Taking soil samples

Make sure all the cores are thoroughly mixed together.

soil testing, gardening

Mix the soil samples together.

Fill a plastic bag with about 1 cup of your mixed sample and place in a mailing envelope.

soil sample, testing

Place sample in a plastic bag.

soil, testing, gardening

Cup of soil to be tested.










Once they receive your sample they will mail back a detailed report.

soil testing, UVM

Soil sample ready to mail.

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