Sunday, May 12, 2013

Recycling 2 liter bottles

Around my house we drink quite a few two liters.  I'm not aware of anywhere to recycle them around my house, but then again why should I send them somewhere, when I can use the around the house.  While there are probably a lot more uses for them, I have found two good uses for them, planters and minnow traps.

Minnow Traps

To make a minnow trap, I use two bottles and cut the top off one, and the bottom of the other.  You want to keep the parts that are funnel shaped. Nest the smaller piece inside the larger one as shown to the side.

 The easiest way I've found to attach the pieces together with a couple of twisty ties (see picture on the side).  I've always used a sharp knife, or a drill bit to add some holes.  This can be a little difficult to do though.  I recently read about using a soldering iron to burn holes through the plastic.  I don't own one, so I haven't tried it, but the principle is sound, and this seems like a really easy to do that.

Now that you have a minnow trap, find a pond, creek or other body of water and bait it.  I've tried a few different items to "bait" the traps.  I haven't found the one item that works the best.  I would recommend dry pet food, fish food, cheese, scrap meat (chicken livers, left over hamburger and the like), and bread.  A lot of it depends on what you're attempting to catch.  If you bait with some kind of animal parts, there is a good chance you'll get some crawdads.  So keep this in mind, in case you don't want them.  No matter what you bait with, make sure you check the traps everyday.  We managed to catch a water snake last year, and you don't want them to drown (you might, but I prefer not to harm innocent animals, if they are leaving me alone, and killing snakes is a punishable offense in some states).  You never know what might show up in your traps.  We caught a fingerling bowfin, northern pike, crawfish, a water snake, fingerling crappie, minnows, grass shrimp, and a bunch of water bugs.  I always keep an aquarium running in my garage for "desirable" fish we catch.  The kids love to check the traps and everyday is like Christmas when you run minnow traps.

The best thing about these traps is that if they get washed away or stolen, you're only out a few cents for the twisty ties.  You can buy professionally made traps starting at $10.00 at most outdoor stores, but why bother if you drink soda out of two-liter.

 Seed Starter

Making a seed starter or planter is even easier.  To make a seed planter, I use one bottle and cut it almost in half.  Add a little water to the bottom, poke a hole in the lid, and nest the top inside.  Add some dirt and seeds, and you should be ready to go.  I've got five corn and 5 bean seeds in mine, and they are starting to come along.

Just make sure you water regularly, as the Sun will heat these up and evaporate the water pretty quickly.  As far as I can tell, this is the only downside to them. 

Carrot Planters

I found another use for 2-liter bottles on Pinterest.  You can use them to grow carrots.  I plan on potting up a few this weekend, and seeing how they work.  I can see the uses, especially in my soil.  My soil is a hard clay, and carrots need a looser type of soil to grow long and straight.  I still managed to grow some carrots last year, but the long drought we had in our area and my bad soil kept them stunted.  I'm hoping that by growing them in some planting soil, they will turn out much better.  I'll post an update later this summer letting you know my results.

Quick Edit:  These seed planters worked out extremely well.  My beans and corn I planted in them, sprouted in about a week.  The best estimate I had was that they would take 2 to 3 weeks to sprout.  I also started some tomato seeds, and they are off to a great head start.  I can highly recommend using these in your future gardening efforts. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Gardening with Spreadsheets

One thing that all rennaissance persons need to be able to do is grow their own food, but another equally important aspect is the ability to use technology to help with everyday problems.  This post is one of my solutions.  I know not everyone is programmer like I am, but keeping records in a digital format is a great way to keep from losing them, and to keep clutter down in your house.  Just make sure you back up important documents in a few places.  I like to use Google's Drive.  You can download copies of spreadsheets to a variety of formats.  That way if Google announces Drive's demise, you can still have all your spreadsheets on your computer. This is my take of using digitization to help with gardening.

I planted a  spring garden earlier this year and parts of it are coming along pretty well.  Some parts not so well.  One thing that I didn't do was mark what I planted.  I'm pretty lazy person, and didn't feel like taking the time to make or buy some labels.  And I didn't really think it would matter.  I usually just see what's growing when it's time to start picking it.

I decided that I wanted to be more scientific with my gardening.  My first goal was to start to  tracking what I planted.  Below is an example of my garden spreadsheet from Google Drive.  You can use any spreadsheet program you want, but I like to use Drive.  It's free, it works, and I can access it from anywhere.

It still needs a lot of work, but at least it's a start.  My next goal is to actually count the seeds I plant and try to kee an accurate count of germination rates.  This way I can weed out bad seeds from good ones.  There's nothing worse than spending money on seeds where only 1 in 5 will actually turn into a useful plant. 

A well planned garden is the first step to a successful garden.  You need to rotate plants to help keep the soil rich in nutrients.  To keep plants rotated, you need to figure out what you're growing now, and what plants to grow next year in that spot.  A spreadsheet makes this process simple and painless.  Take this years spreadsheet, save a copy of it under a new name, and figure out what plants will complement what you grew this year, and plant them.

One thing I've learned this year, is that certain parts of my garden are growing very well, and some parts are not growing worth a darn.  I've color coded my spreadsheet based on what plant is growing there right now, but I think using a color code for fertilization would be even more useful.

This is a basic outline for now.  I'll post more on it later, as I get to a point where I make it even more useful.  I hope it helps you on your way to a bigger green thumb.