The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond

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Gardening the Pinterest Way

I don’t know about you, but Pinterest has opened up my world. Many a winter evening was spent scanning through pin after colorful garden pin in search of inspiration for DIY ideas on garden beds, specific plants, pots, potting benches, fences, fertilizer, seed starting and more. The list goes on.  With “Piddling Season” quickly coming to an end and the garden beginning to emerge, I thought, what the heck, let’s give one or two of them a try.

I’ve always shied away from starting seed indoors. Mostly, I don’t have a lot of indoor space and second, I don’t really have any equipment, such as a grow light. But every year after my fourth or fifth visit to the garden nursery, I tell myself that I’m going to save some money by starting seeds. But I never do.

This year is different. I was given some seed packets…

And so it begins. A carton of eggshells fits my space limitations. My family room has lots of windows so I think I have plenty of light. By starting small, I may just get a taste of success.

Egg carton garden 3 (1280x960)While I have direct sewn lettuce, broccoli and spinach outside, I’m using eggshells indoors to start spinach, broccoli, basil and geranium seed. Apparently, you can plant the whole kit and caboodle; no need to discard the shell.  Using a Sharpee, I marked each shell with the type of seed planted. Doing this experiment takes me back in time to 4th grade science experiments.  Clearly, I’ve matured because I didn’t hate doing this.

Here’s the recipe for success:

boiling eggs

Boil the eggshells to clean and sterilize. This only take a few minue. Then, punch a small hole in the bottom of the shell for dranage.

Egg carton garden 1Next, fill with seed starting material. I used potting soil.

Basil seeds (1280x960)Add seed and cover with more soil. Here, I’m planting basil.

egg carton garden 4 (1280x960)Mist to thoroughly moisten the material. I mist daily.

Sunny window (1280x960)Place in a sunny window.

My Pinterest experiments won’t stop at eggshell seed starting. There’s a plethora of pins on using Epsom salts to boost plant growth. I need to research which plants like magnesium and sulfate, which, apparently is what Epsom salts are.  And then there’s coffee grounds. My research on coffee grounds tells me not to put them directly into the garden as is sometimes extolled on Pinterest. They should be put into the compost pile because alone they are too acidic. And although I have seen lots and lots of pins extolling the virtues of burying banana peels in the garden by the roses, I’m not sure I’ll try that one either.

What Pinterest tricks have you tried in your garden?



The Understory Story

Larson park (1280x960)Understory trees, shrubs and flowers may play a supporting role to the landscape most of the year but not in spring. For a few brief weeks each year, they put on show as their flora awakens a sleeping landscape. And you don’t want to miss this show. Here in St. Louis the understory has come alive and is bursting forth with magnificent color.

forsythia (3) (960x1280)

Street view spring (960x1280)

yellow magnolia (960x1280)

White daffodil (960x1280)

magnolia spring 16 (960x1280)

Tulip buds (960x1280)


What’s an AAS Winner, You Ask?


Pelagonium x hortum “Pinto Premium White to Rose” geranium. Image courtesy of All-America Selections.

I’m hopeful one of my patio containers will include Pelargonium x hortum “Pinto Premium White to Rose,” a 2013 All-America Selection bedding plant winner. I received a packet of the geranium seed last year and am doing my best to start the seeds to later be transplanted to a patio container.

My beloved VegTrug is home to Artwork broccoli, Amanda lettuce and Green Beret spinach. Artwork is an AAS winner as well. As I also mentioned in a prior post, I’m volunteering to help grow a vegetable container garden at work.  These too will be planted with some AAS winners.

My familiarity with AAS is limited to viewing the flower and vegetable Display Garden at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Beyond strolling past the beds and looking at the selections, I never took the time to understand the organization’s purpose. All-America Selections officially describes itself as an educational, non-profit that evaluates new seed-grown flowers and vegetables from around the world.

Their web site told me much more. First, AAS is independent. Since the 1930s the organization has set about earning gardeners’ trust and promoting varieties by testing new, unsold varieties. Annually they conduct impartial trials all over North America so that gardeners can have an understanding of what grows well locally. Winners are named three times a year: January, July and November. Of course there are multiple divisions in the Flower, Bedding Plant, Vegetable, and Cool Season Bedding Plant categories, such as ornamental veg, edible, perennial. You get the idea.

Winning seed meets criteria for important qualities such as pest or virus resistance, early or late blooming, length of blooming (tops on my list!), novel colors, flower forms and yield.

How important is AAS to you when making garden selections?



Brrrrrr…Time to Cover Spring Bloomers

Rhodo in bloom March 20 (1024x768)

We’re a little less than a month away from April 15. That’s generally the last frost date in St. Louis. While temperatures are refreshingly crisp, they’re dropping and frost warnings are in effect tonight and for tomorrow night.

Rhodo in bud March 20 (1024x768)I have one rhododendron in bloom, and the euphorbia I transplanted to the garden from a pot last fall is also in bloom. That seems a bit early, but more on that another time.

euphorbia in bloom (768x1024)

I’ll cover the euphorbia with a large pot to protect the young blooms from frost and the rhodo will be covered with a sheet. I’ve also placed a pot over the clematis that has emerged by about four inches.

What’s the weather doing in your part of the world?



Veggie Connections

VegTrug (1280x960)

My VegTrug looks empty now, but lettuce, spinach and broccoli should pop up soon.

Some of my posts have mentioned visits to the Missouri Botanical Garden, which happens to be in my backyard, figuratively speaking. MoBot, locals call it, is the place I go with friends to stroll through its many gardens, listen to summer concerts and enjoy multiple annual events.

My backyard is also home to seed company Monsanto. This controversial company also happens to be my employer. As regular readers know, that’s not what blog is about. I only bring it up in this post because working at a seed company has its advantages. I’m not sure I’d be interested in backyard gardening if I didn’t work in agriculture.

Yet, my gardening hobby has not been about my experiences in growing fruits or vegetables. I’m more focused on shrubs and flowers. There’s no doubt, however, that working in agriculture has focused my thoughts on food and the very necessary dialogue taking place around what goes into the foods we eat.

But that’s not what this post is about either.

Actually, it’s about a conversation with a woman named Sue whom I sat next to on a bus during the 2015 Garden Bloggers Fling in Toronto last summer. Sue’s company, Bonnie’s Plants, is an herb and vegetable plant company as well as one of the sponsors of the Fling. Sue shared with me the joy she gets from vegetable gardening. I told her vegetable gardening pretty well terrifies me. I had tried growing veggies here and there over the years with little success. In fact, last year’s patio tomatoes resulted in nothing more than half-eaten orbs chomped on by squirrels.  Sue assured me that I needed to start with the right vegetable, something easy to grow like lettuce or spinach or other cold season crops. Coincidentally, weeks later I was given some vegetable seeds to try. It was too late to do anything with them so I hung on to them.

Seed packets (960x1280)Throughout the winter, I revisited the Fling in my mind, sorted through the hundreds of photos and I took and recalled the people I met as I contemplated my garden and what to do in it this year. I don’t think I will try tomatoes any time soon, but I am taking the plunge this year and planting a few cold season veggies. And I plan to follow those with some peppers.

Last week my red felt Lee Valley VegTrug was delivered. (Lee Valley was another sponsor of this fine event and I have really enjoyed using the garden tools they gave the bloggers.) Into this elevated planter on legs went lettuce, spinach and broccoli seeds. I was told I could sow them directly into the soil, so fingers crossed.  I’ll report back on my progress.

VegTrug parts and pieces (960x1280)

The VegTrug from Lee Valley was easy to assemble. I love the poppy red.

In come the benefits of working for a seed company.  On a regular basis, I am in contact with experts in agronomy, soil sciences, weeds, insects and plants. Passionate people who know a thing or two about growing things. A couple of colleagues who are aware of this blog invited me to volunteer to help plant a Seminis vegetable garden on campus. Planning is well under way for 20 large vegetable containers. The “team” is made up of all sorts of talent from agronomists to marketers to administrative assistants, and we share a common love of growing things. We’ll face many of the same challenges as my backyard—squirrels, rabbits, deer and watering. Along the way, I’m hoping to meet new colleagues and get some expert advice on my own vegetable gardening experiment.


Do you grow vegetables?

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More Garden Blogger Fling Highlights

Memories from the 2015 Garden Bloggers Fling in Toronto linger. And as I think about what I want to achieve in my small backyard this year, I am reminded of the many gardens that inspire me.

  1. Lush spaces.
Cabbagetown Lush (1280x960)

This Cabbagetown front yard is small but packed with shade-loving hosta and lady’s mantle under the graceful limbs of a dogwood. A purple barberry adds a punch of color.

2. Art in the garden.

hanging sculpture (1280x960)

Strips of metal create a sculptural element. I love art in a garden.

3. Edibles.

Edibles in pots(1280x960)

A Cabbagetown garden proves you don’t need a lot of space to grow edibles.

4. Good things come from small spaces.

DSCN2016 (1280x960)

The downtown Toronto backyard garden of entrepreneur Sarah Nixon, who owns My Luscious Backyard, a floral delivery business.

I can’t say enough good things about my Fling experience. Minneapolis is the host city for this year’s event in mid July. And by all accounts it appears to be shaping up to be a great event.