Use the plastic milk jug as the perfect one-gallon measurement for watering in your garden.  It takes six of these filled with water per square yard once a week to adequately water most plants.  Use a utility knife to cut the carton along the dotted line, put some holes in its bottom and voila! You have a pot for your seedlings.



You can make a birdhouse from cardboard milk cartons:  Rinse well and make a hole around the side of the carton. Then, add pine needles, straws, and any other natural liner. Ensure it comes off as a soft and comfy nest for the bird.  Place the carton somewhere high. This way, mice and rats will not be visiting your birdhouse.

Plant Protector

Cut on the dotted line, turn upside down and place on tender transplants to protect them from an unexpected cold snap in the spring or fall.

Detail for:


First there is the adult only preparation part:

  1. Rinse the milk Carton
  2. Paint the outside of the carton with an outdoor paint
  3. Cut the necessary holes:
    - The entrance hole should be large enough to admit the bird, but not so large as to admit unwanted species. If you want to attract smaller songbirds, a 1½" diameter is a common size of entrance hole; however, it is an advantageous to use a smaller size if you are planning to attract chickadees and wrens specifically. Entrance holes to bluebird nesting boxes measure 1½ inches in diameter because this size prevents European starlings from entering. Starlings compete with bluebirds for scarce nesting sites. The hole should be placed 4" - 6" above the floor. The hole for a Chickadee birdhouse is 1 1/8” in diameter placed 4 to 6 inches above the floor.  Entrance holes for other species: 
    The entrance hole size depends on the species you hope to attract: 25 mm for blue, coal and marsh tits. 28 mm for great tits, tree sparrows and pied flycatchers. 32 mm for house sparrows and nuthatches.

    -Air circulation holes
    Drill small holes (1/8 to 1/4-inch diameter) through each side of the birdhouse just below the roof. This will provide better air circulation.

    - Approximately 1 inch below the entrance hole cut a small X with a utility knife.  Once the child has decorated the birdhouse and put in the nest, you will insert a twig or dowel and hot glue to secure it in place.

    -Poke holes in the bottom of the. Carton to allow water to drain. (8 small holes are sufficient)

    -Cut a small hole on either side at the top of the carton.  After it is decorated and the nest made by the child, you will run strong twine or wire through these two holds for hanging the birdhouse.
  4. Have the child decorate the box with water-based paints.
  5. After paint is dry, adult spays with a clear sealer
  6. After   dry, insert the material for the nest--dry grass, straw, bits of string , tiny scraps of cotton fabric.
  7. Some like to put a couple of rocks to weight the birdhouse a bit.
  8. Insert the perch into the X you cut if you are going to have a perch and hot glue it to the carton.

    Perch diameter should match bird size. Birds should be able to wrap their toes around a perch to grasp it, not just stand on top of it with their toes spread open wide. If a perch is too big, a bird can fall or slip if they cannot grasp it properly.

    Bluebird boxes do NOT need perches on the exterior of the box.  They will fly straight into their home. Also, the presence of a perch may attract house sparrows which seem to prefer them.  The entrance hole for a blue bird house is 1 ½ in diameter.
  9. Slide twine or wire through the two holes near the  top of the milk carton for hanging.
  10. Hang the finished birdhouse and wait. . .

    NOTE:  The birdhouse should not be swinging in the wind. Nestle it in branches.  Secure it by wrapping the twine or wire around a branch above it.  Make sure the entrance hold is clear and accessible. You might use some Gorilla tape to secure it.




Keep bird houses out of the sun.


The best time to put up a new birdhouse is in the fall or winter so that birds will have plenty of time to locate them before the breeding season.

 The following heights (in feet and meters) are the ideal ranges for how high to mount birdhouses for different species.

  • Barn owls - 8-25' (2-8 m)
  • Bluebirds - 4-6' (1-2 m)
  • Chickadees - 5-15' (2-5 m)
  • Finches - 5-10' (2-3 m)
  • Nuthatches - 5-10' (2-3 m)
  • Purple martins - 10-15' (3-5 m)
  • Screech owls - 10-30' (3-9 m)
  • Titmice - 5-15' (2-5 m)
  • Wood ducks - 6-30' (2-9 m)
  • Woodpeckers - 10-20' (3-6 m)
  • Wrens - 6-10' (2-3 m)


Birds are attracted to the color red, according to a Chicago zoo authority. Birds protect their nests by flashing red and use the color to attract mates. 

Do birds actually use bird houses?  The answer is “yes”.

About 30 bird species in each region of the country are so-called cavity nesters, which means that most of them will also use a birdhouse. Bluebirds, purple martins, house wrens, chickadees, tree swallows and house sparrows are the most common birds that nest in houses.





We loaded up an upside down tomato grow container this afternoon. I'm curious to see how well the plants grow in this container.  Supposedly, its two-foot square  6 1/2 inch deep bed on top will support four four  tomato plants growing from beneath  and at least 4 other vegetables or herbs on top.


This bed is 2 feet square; 50 inches tall; and 6 1/2 inches deep on top. The first photo shows it in our truck laid on its side. You can see the underside of the bed. It has four holes about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. You poke the roots of four transplants (one plant through each hole and then add soil to the container and plant herbs or vegetables in the top.
My friend, Jane, who donated this container bought it in 2008. I was able to find a photo of it on the Internet but nowhere could I find it for sale today  on the Internet. Perhaps you can get one on E-Bay? Jane said the she grew indeterminate cherry tomatoes in it. First they grew down toward the ground and then they curve back up toward the sun when they almost touched the ground.
In the top bed we will plant basil which is a great companion plant for tomatoes and perhaps parsley as well.
Since the bed really isn't that large 2 foot square and 6 1/2 inches deep) for supporting four tomato plants and four basil plants we will have to watch to ensure that we feed and water the soil well and regularly. If indeed, we can grow four tomatoes upside down, this container will really be an efficient one for urban dwellers as it only takes up two square feet and yields the growing space of four square feet.

The photo below shows what the container looks like with plants growing in it.  To set it up, you first fill the base with gravel, sand or water.  It has a hole with a cap for  filling.  You need to do this  to  stabilize it with some weight.  The next step is to poke the roots of four tomato plants up through each one of the four holes (upside down from the bottom of the container).  Then add soil that is  rich with nutrients. Fill the rest of the container  with soil up to the top and plant basil and parsley.

I just made another sign for the Garland Community Garden.  Our garden will be filled with signs this year.  Making these signs reminds me of when I was a youngster and took cross-country vacations with my parents.  From 1925 to 1963 the landscape of the USA was dotted with Burma Shave signs.  They came down in 1963 when the corporation was gobbled up by another corporations.Typically, six consecutive small signs would be posted along the edge of highways, spaced for sequential reading by passing motorists. The last sign was almost always the name of the product. Here is a typical sequence:  

  • Shave the modern way / No brush / No lather / No rub-in / Big tube 35 cents – Drug stores / Burma-Shave

As I've mentioned more than once:  the garden is a great teacher and the lessons it offers are endless.  To learn from the garden, all the visitor need to do is to stay fully present in the moment.


Rule of Thumb - a broadly accurate guide or principle, based on experience or practice rather than theory.

If it has been a hot day and you have already given them their weekly quota of water, but the plants look wilted, wait until early morning and return.  If the plants still appear wilted, then water them.   (Green rule of thumb for water amounts for vegetables are six gallons of water per square yard per week which equals to one inch of water per week.  This required amount varies some with vegetable variety and drought conditions--thus, green rule of thumb.)

Look for any signs of pests or diseases.  Take photos and visit the Internet to see what the remedies are for the particular issue.

Life’s Lessons from the Garden:       

The garden is a wonderful place that is full of lessons that we can apply to our lives and teach our children and grandchildren. This important rule of green thumb teaches us that problems can be managed and even solved if we pay attention to changes and then take action to remedy the threat when we see it.  The gardeners who visit the garden only once a week to water it may find that the vegetables have succumbed to heat or insects in their absence.


Hard to believe, but February is almost half over!

What can you plant now?

The good ole Farmer’s Almanac have a great modern online site with lots of great gardening tips tailored to your area. These tips that appear in my post are most relevant for those to live in the Garland/Richardson, Texas area which is mostly in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 8a. The suggested planting dates in my post are for Zone 8a only. You can go to this link and find the planting dates for your area.
All gardeners should know the average frost date for their area. A frost date is the average date of the last light freeze in spring or the first light freeze in fall. The classification of freeze temperatures is based on their effect on plants: The nearest climate station to Garland where I live is Richardson, Texas. Our last spring frost is typically March 14 and our first fall frost is typically November 13.
Light freeze: 29° to 32°F (-1.7° to 0°C)—tender plants are killed.
Moderate freeze: 25° to 28°F (-3.9° to -2.2°C)—widely destructive to most vegetation.
Severe freeze: 24°F (-4.4°C) and colder—heavy damage to most garden plants.
[Note: I saw in a recent forecast for my area that we have one more night of moderate freezing weather in February next Friday, February 17 when the temperature is to dip to 27 degrees. Otherwise, the low temperatures are all predicted above freezing for the rest of February.)
We’ll have to wait and see what is predicted for March.
Frost dates are only an estimate based on historical climate data and are not set in stone. The probability of a frost occurring after the spring frost date or before the fall frost date is 30%, which means that there is still a chance of frost occurring before or after the given dates!


Start Seeds Indoors

Feb 13 to Feb 20th Cantaloupes, Cucumbers, Watermelon
Feb 20 to March 6th Pumpkin


Seed Outdoors

Feb 7 to Feb 20th - Carrots
Feb 13 to Feb 20th - Chives
Feb 27 to Mar 14 - Arugula, Beets
Feb 13 to Feb 27 - Parsley
Feb 20 to March 14 Parsnips
January 30 to Feb 20 - Peas. Spinach
February 13 to Mar 6 - Turnips


Transplant Outdoors

NOTE: I have already planted some Swiss Chard and Kale down at the Garland Community Garden, but I put straw around the plants to keep them warm.
Feb 13 to March 6 - Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kale, Cabbage
Feb. 20 to Feb 27 Kohlrabi
Feb 27 to March 28 Lettuce
Feb 20 to Feb 27 Swiss Chard
Feb 9 2023

Good morning.  I'm making more signs for the Garland Community Garden. Here is one on watering.





I thought it would take about 5 hours to build.  It took 15 hours. Also, although I can't imagine why, I envisioned it as being much more sophisticated and slicker.  I made it for my friend Gene who has back problems.  The keyhole garden is a perfect garden structure for people with back problems or who are in a wheelchair.  For wheelchair able people you'll need to place your keyhole garden on a hard surface such as a concrete patio.


The other Keyhole Garden garden is shown in the center near the top of the photo.  It is the large green object made of corrugated plastic often used for roofs.



Update on the Jiffy GreenHouse.

Charlie and I purchased a small seed starter kit just 6 days ago on the Monday right before our cold snap.
There were two main reasons for planting 72+ seeds:
1) to test the viability of 800 seed packets that a generous soul left at the Garland Community Garden about a month ago. These seeds were packaged to be used by December of 2022);
2) and to get a head start on transplants for the spring garden.
In my first purpose I can say that I have succeeded as so far over half of the seeds have germinated--thus we can feel fairly certain that in handing out these seeds to the public that we are giving them reliable seeds.
As in regard to achieving my second goal--to create transplants, well that remains to be seen as Chakota has an unhealthy obsession with the Jiffy Greenhouse. Several times I've had to remove her from lying on the top of it and squashing the lid down. I also have noticed puncture marks in the lid where she has chewed on it. No, of the seeds are catnip.We'll see what transpires over the coming week.
With the dog, it's often about you.
With the cat, it's always about the cat.
No, even though I did acquire  a Master Gardener certificate from Texas AgriLife in 2015, I am far from the perfect gardener or the perfect anything.  As for being the perfect gardener, anyone who lives with a cat will tell you that the chances of attaining perfection are close to zero.


I went down to the Garland Community Garden yesterday and built most of Gene's Keyhole Garden. [Gene has serious back problems.] I just have a little bit more mulch to dump into it. Below is part of the sign I posted by his bed.
Like many of my Einstein's, the project took longer than I anticipated, was more work, and didn't quite turn out as I envisioned. However it is still functional as intended: to provide a gardening format for Gene where he doesn't have to bend down too far to garden. It also demonstrates that it is possible to build a keyhole garden from recycled materials. With the exception of a roll of wire I purchased for about $6 all the materials I used were gently used materials I procured from friends or had on hand: recycled metal conduit pipes, 8 rebars, 14 gauge wire fencing, wood chips from a pile that a tree cutter delivered to the garden last spring, leaves that some citizen left at the garden, used feed sacks from Roaches Feed store here in Garland, Texas. I
'll post a photo later today of my creation.  In the meantime, I'll post part of the sign that I put up beside Gene's new keyhole garden. 
Once again, I've proven one of the adages I live by:  "Never allow the fear of not achieving perfection to stop you in beginning and completing any endeavor."  Yes you can build a keyhole garden too.  Beg borrow or acquire what you need curbside from your neighbor's yard.


Only a gardener would be looking forward to what grows out of a compost pile. . . OK well maybe a hungry possum would but I can tell you that I'm curious to see. what comes out of one of our compost piles down at the garden this spring.  Several of our caring citizens have been bringing down compost weekly to the garden since October. Some of it I've been able to recognize as cantaloupe and squash but other things are unfamiliar to me but I can see they have seeds.  All this pondering reminded me of Ruth Stout, the mulch queen.  So, I decided to make a sign for this compost pile as a tribute to her. 

The main rules for safe composting are 1.  NO MEAT.   2. Preferably only raw vegetable scraps and fruit, not cooked--a little cardboard is OK.




Tomato plant growing from a tower on a deck growing in only four square feet.

Think vertical!

You can grow a lot of plants if you grow them up and, in a container, instead of spreading them out in a traditional garden plot. For example, last year from May to the end of October, I grew over $800 worth of okra in 8 five-gallon buckets.  One key is to grow vegetables that your family loves to eat.  Another key is to grow vegetables that are easy to preserve.  For example, Okra is very easy to freeze:  wash, chop and put in freezer bags.  Yet another tip is to choose vegetables that you like that are expensive to buy in the store.  For example, the yellow buttery Yukon potatoes are more expensive (and tasty) than the Idaho potatoes.

You don't need an expensive tower.  You can build your own grow towers our of straw, chicken wire and soil.  Potatoes are a crop that grows well and prolifically vertically. I already have a post showing how to grow lots of potatoes in a pot on this blog in my January posts.  These instructions you can also find down at the Garland Community Garden.  You can take a snap shot of them with your phone if you like.


Speaking of Vertical . . .

Loving Garland Green was recently gifted a plant tower by Jane and Bob Stroud.  I'm very excited about  putting it to use.

Garden Tower 2™, 50-Plant Composting Vertical Garden PlanterThe “World's Most Advanced Vertical Garden Planter”

The composting 50 plant accessible vertical Garden Tower® for organic balcony and vertical gardening by Garden Tower® Project. 

100% UV stable food-grade high-purity HDPE plastic, and backed by a 5-year manufacturer warranty.
Recently named the “Worlds Most Advanced Vertical Garden Planter”, the Garden Tower® 2 features food-grade USA-made HDPE (non-toxic, BPA & PVC free plastic) components, FDA-approved dye, and UV-protection antioxidant package for health, durability, and recyclability.  

Here is the description of the tower:

  • The rotating Garden Tower® 2 is a composter that grows 50 plants in 4 square feet nearly anywhere.
  • Turns waste kitchen scraps into organic fertilizer to grow organic produce.
  • The Garden Tower® vertical garden planter and composting system replicates a natural ecosystem allowing plants to access nutrients recycled through organic composting processes.
  • Easily grow nearly any vegetables, herbs or flowers organically.
  • An organic and resilient 6 cubic foot vertical soil-based alternative to expensive and difficult hydroponic systems.
  • Proudly 100% Made in the USA using 100% UV stable food-grade high-purity HDPE plastic, and backed by a 5-year manufacturer warranty.
  • 43? tall & 24.5? wide. 36 lbs. (~220 lbs. with moist soil)

Yes, I am just the kind of rude person who looks a gift horse in the mouth.  I asked my friends why they are getting rid of the tower.  They had it for several years.  It is basically the result to two bad years back to back.  Two years ago fire ants got in it.  Then last year it was too hot and too much bother to water every day.  [I plan to 1. put a bed of diatomaceous earth beneath it and to coat the bottom and sides of it at as well as its feet to discourage fire ants.  As for watering, I'll put a little bit of moss in the bottom of each cup.]


Think Intensive Planting!

Plants do need space, but not nearly as much as some may believe.  For example, if you plant a tomato plant in the center of an 18-inch square and stake it well, it can be surrounded on the perimeter by other compatible plants.  One big garden rule:  Do not plant peppers near tomatoes.  Square foot gardening is one method of urban gardening that takes advantage of the intensive planting format.  Four by four foot raised beds are divided into 16 one-inch squares.  The Keyhole Garden which also takes up a lot less space than the traditional row garden also takes advantage of intensive planting.


Related Hi-Tech Space-Saving Gardening Methods

Every year it seems there is some new contraption or method on the market that guarantees miracles.




Aeroponics is a method of growing plants without soil. Instead, roots are suspended in the air and irrigated with a nutrient-dense mist. This differs from hydroponics, where plant roots are submerged in a solution of water and nutrients. Aquaponics is a food production system that couples aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as fish, crayfish, snails or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics.  The aquatic animals waste provides the fertilizer for the plants.

I   tried aquaponics and failed.  Basically, for me, it was too much work:  You must feed the fish monitor the temperature of their water, check the pipes to make sure they are not clogged, and there are the plants to watch over. . .   I don’t like the taste of plants grown in water and chemicals.  To me they are watery and taste like chemicals.