Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dollar Tree stuff - A review! (Part 2)

Today, Garden Science becomes Garden Economics for a day as I let you know whether or not I think the stuff I bought at Dollar Tree was worth the George Washington. I’ll be grading each item on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 meaning it greatly exceeded my expectations. For the sake of continuity, a rating of 5 will mean it exactly meets my expectations of an item with a $1 price tag. Note:  The plant bulbs I bought are not included because they all recommend planting around summer time.

Here we go, in no particular order:

Twist Tie Dispenser

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Review:  This thing gets props right off the bat for general usefulness. I could have really used a twist tie dispenser last year but had never noticed them for sale anywhere before. One feature I did not expect because it was hidden by the packaging is the hole for hanging it - it’s easier to operate while hanging on a wall, so that’s a nice feature. The cutting mechanism isn’t exactly razor sharp, but it’s still plenty effective. The only dings against this might be that the actual twist ties are somewhat thin and the overall length of the spool seems pretty small. Nonetheless, two of these for a buck was still a great deal. 
Score:  8/10

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Butterfly patio swag

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Review:  This is easily the “riskiest” item I bought because it is not intended to be functional. I believe it takes a courageous individual to buy something at Dollar Tree and put it on display purely for aesthetic purposes, so I guess that makes me the bravest in all the land because now the whole neighborhood can see this. I think I may have been drawn to it because it subconsciously reminded me of all those butterfly hair clips from the 90’s. In any case, it contains real glass which is sometimes a hallmark of better-than-average Dollar Tree quality. I had a choice between yellow butterfly/fake crystal or green butterfly/fake crystal, and i went with green because I thought it might look cooler when the sun hits it just right. This, however, remains to be seen (possibly forever, because it just occurred to me that my balcony does not receive any direct sunlight). 

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Say what you will, but even after hanging this up I still think it looks kind of nice. I think the key to garden decoration is moderation, and right now this is one of the only decorative things adorning my balcony so it sort of works. In fact, I think it looks downright cheerful. There’s a little bit of a tacky factor going on but it’s nothing I’m not prepared to live with. Overall, not incredible but not half bad either.
Score: 7/10

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Twine

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Review:  It may not be the most exciting thing I bought, but… never mind, it’s definitely the most boring thing on the list. Poor twine. One cheesy discount store hack that I’ve seen before is to bulk up the packaging on something and then include very little product within. Kudos to Dollar Tree for NOT doing this, as the twine ball is pretty well filled out. At 180 feet, this isn’t a bad buy but it’s not an incredible buy either. Twine is pretty cheap, and I’m not convinced there isn’t a better deal out there somewhere. Still, it will suit my needs just fine and I am pleased with this purchase.
Score:  6/10

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Garden Shears

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Review:  If all Dollar Tree products were competing against each other in a tournament to see who is the best, these shears might just win the whole thing. Seriously, in all my years I’m tempted to say this is one of the highest quality things I’ve ever bought at the Tree.

These pretty much got everything right. The mechanism is smooth, the handles are ergonomically comfortable, they’re sharp, and the plastic doesn’t feel super cheap. On top of that, they have a locking mechanism that actually works. Dollar Tree actually had several types of shears, and I like these enough that I may go back and buy the rest. I can see paying at least 5x the money for something like this. Well done!
Score: 10/10

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Daisy Thermometer

Review:  I had a lot of fun with this one. I did not realize it at time of purchase, but the thermometer actually had suction cups on the back. I was surprised by this and actually thought it seemed like a huge bonus, since this meant I could adhere it to the back of my sliding glass door. Alas, no matter how many times I tried I could not get the suction cups to stick. It would hold for a moment and then crash to the ground. My patio is concrete and it didn’t break, so high marks for that, I guess.

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Curiously, the suction cups are attached to the plastic backing with Phillips head screws. Since the suction wasn’t working, I thought I’d do a little DIY magic and see if I could get the thermometer to hang up another way. I unscrewed the suction cups, then attached the whole thing to the corner of an external wall using the same screws.

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Voila!  There are some sloppy globs of glue around the actual glass thermometer and the plastic is not particularly high quality, but it gets high marks for accuracy. I also cannot ignore that this device’s intended mechanism for display did not work at all. Still, I appreciate the inclusion of real screws versus irremovable plastic rivets and I’m sure this will see some use. Overall, I think this was exactly worth the dollar I paid for it.
Score:  5/10

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Little Solar Powered Lamp Thing

Review:  Review is pending on this, as I want to bring it into the house first and test it indoors. This wasn’t in the gardening section which leads me to believe it may function better inside near artificial light.

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Overall, this was a very successful Dollar Tree mission. I should mention that all items reviewed were part of a “Gardening Essentials” line, which I think may be a Dollar Tree exclusive brand. I was impressed enough that I may make a second trip!  At very least I’d say if you’re looking for cheap gardening shears, this is not a bad place to start.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Dollar Tree stuff - A review! (Part 1)

Today was a Dollar Tree day, and that is the best kind of day.

My favorite part of shopping at the Dollar Tree is searching for those legendary items that seem to be of significant value for the money spent. This is no easy task. Despite my fondness for the place and despite the alleged “deals” everywhere, only a scant few items at Dollar Tree earn the distinction of feeling like they were really worth the money once you get them home and put them to use.

Still, every once in a while I strike gold. Today was one of those days.

One of the sure-fire places to find great stuff at Dollar Tree is in the “seasonal” area of the store. After swimming through buckets of Easter grass and plastic eggs, I reached a row of shelves entirely devoted to gardening stuff.

I’ve found gardening stuff at Dollar Tree before, but the store appears to have gone above and beyond this year. Behold, my haul:

  1. Top left:  Daisy graphic novelty thermometer
  2. Top center:  Twine
  3. Top right:  Twist tie dispensers
  4. Bottom left: 6 “Yellowstone” gladiolus bulbs
  5. Bottom left of center:  3 Rain Lily bulbs
  6. Bottom center:  6 “Blue Lagoon Mixture” gladiolus bulbs
  7. Bottom right of center:  1 Daylily bulb
  8. Bottom left:  Garden shears
  9. Not pictured:  Little solar powered lamp thing
  10. Not pictured:  Sweet patio swag 

Look at all that awesome stuff!  But, as with so many Dollar Tree items, I really need to put this stuff to the test before I can determine just how great a deal I got. Stay tuned for Part 2 to find out how everything stacked up, and whether or not I thought it was all worth more than a dollar!  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

tango-mango:

Recycling newspapers for a gardening project

Gardening is a really big deal in our family and it’s my favorite subject to photograph and write about. If you have been a follower over the years you have seen all of our plants grow and produce – from seedlings through harvest. My husband has the green thumb, but I work my magic in the kitchen. It’s a perfect, win-win arrangement.

After the peas are planted in early March, we always wait until the fear of frost has passed to plant seeds for summer-loving vegetables.

This year we are trying something different. A cold frame was built using an old, glass storm door and last weekend seeds were planted for almost everything we’ll grow this season. The advantage will be that by the time May comes around we will be ahead of the game, transplanting our little plants to the garden beds.

We knew we needed lots of little containers for our seeds but didn’t want to spend the money for tens of pots pressed out of peat. We also disliked the idea of buying plastic pots or trays. After a little searching online we made a wonderful discovery. We found a nifty tool that could help us create pots out of recycled newspaper. 

It’s raining this week, but last weekend it was glorious outdoors. I set up a card table in the sunshine and got to work. With a long, metal ruler I tore strips of newspaper into 12 x 4-inch pieces. After I had a nice stack of them I began assembling the little pots. I would roll a piece of newspaper around the wooden dowel, crimp the bottom, repeat with another strip of paper, and then press the little pot into the base of the pot maker. We were amazed by how well it worked.

Some unused plastic containers in the garage worked perfectly to arrange our little, homemade containers. Like children, we check every morning and night to see if any seedlings have poked through the soil.

Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, back at the house…

The former site of Garden Science’s Experiment 8 is playing host to some new experiments of its own this year. I had the pleasure of rolling one of the first of these newspaper seedling starters, and after doing so I must say this is one of my new favorite gardening money-savers.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

My primrose planters in more detail!  The primroses in the bottom one languished for weeks without being planted, until finally yesterday I got my act together and finished up the effort. They may not look great yet, but they have already perked up considerably since their transfer to the railing pot.

A beautiful morning

I am finally finding solace this weekend from having a blisteringly busy schedule, and one thing I made an effort to do was to finally put the finishing touches on my balcony cleaning effort. This morning, I was greeted by the reward of an awesome new spring day.

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It is just AWESOME outside right now. 

One of the best things about my balcony/patio is the view. I don’t even see the parking lot anymore; I just see the hills in the distance.

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Both of my railing baskets are now hosting primrose plants left over from some planting my mom did recently.

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Even though it may be a little early, I also moved my plant shelves outside. 

I think I will be having some gardening adventures today, so expect (hopefully) a bunch more posts in the near future!

Edit:  Here’s one more picture, for the road:

Friday, March 7, 2014

Experiment 2, experiment 4, and experiment 8 collision

AKA “Unexpected Visitors”

I had written in one of my previous posts that the Dinosaur Dome was dismantled and that its contents were planted in new locations. The wispy little ferns from the dome, which I had thought were dead, actually appeared to have living roots so I planted them in with my two largest lemon trees. I honestly was pretty prepared for neither of them to ever grow again… it wouldn’t have surprised me at all.

Imagine my delight when I looked over the other day and saw this (the skinny green thing in the foreground):

And this:

My camera has always had difficulty focusing on 1-dimensional objects, but you get the idea. I was so surprised to see these unexpected visitors that at first I thought they were random weeds. I had to thoroughly inspect them and the dirt around them to verify that they were indeed ferns from the Dinosaur Dome. Currently they are not looking so fern-like.

Here’s another bit of weirdness I found in my third largest lemon tree:

I’ve done enough vegetable gardening in my time to recognize that as a BEAN. How did a bean get in here??  My only guess is that this must have happened on patio cleaning day. At one point I spilled beans from some bean soup mix all over the balcony and I’m guessing one must have sneaked in here. 

Unexpected plants all around!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Here are all of the happy participants in Garden Science’s balcony cleaning day!  A recap of everything that happened, including some stuff not mentioned in the previous post:
3 of experiment 2’s lemon trees increased their square footage
Ambassador Jade stepped in to take one of the lemon trees’ old  pots
All living inhabitants of the Dinosaur Dome moved out of the dome
The African Violet got a lovely new abode that matches its eyes
Last year’s magnificent fuchsia is looking pretty dead, but it got pruned and watered anyway. Come back this year, fuchsia!
The shamrock got a haircut
The rescue geranium got a manicure and a new pot. I apparently didn’t take any photos of this, so I’ll be sure to do a follow-up post soon

Here are all of the happy participants in Garden Science’s balcony cleaning day!  A recap of everything that happened, including some stuff not mentioned in the previous post:

  • 3 of experiment 2’s lemon trees increased their square footage
  • Ambassador Jade stepped in to take one of the lemon trees’ old  pots
  • All living inhabitants of the Dinosaur Dome moved out of the dome
  • The African Violet got a lovely new abode that matches its eyes
  • Last year’s magnificent fuchsia is looking pretty dead, but it got pruned and watered anyway. Come back this year, fuchsia!
  • The shamrock got a haircut
  • The rescue geranium got a manicure and a new pot. I apparently didn’t take any photos of this, so I’ll be sure to do a follow-up post soon

Garden Science has a balcony cleaning day

Things got kind of out of control on the balcony this winter. With no living plants out there, it became a sort of dumping ground for random stuff.  Are you ready for this?  Behold, the huge mess:

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Funny, I remember looking at this through my viewfinder and thinking “Wow, this has got to be the biggest mess of all time.”  Upon reflection, it doesn’t really look that bad. It even looks kind of staged, like maybe I put some stuff there in order to trick you at home into thinking my balcony is messy when really it is not at all. I’m going to go ahead and give myself a pat on the back for not being as untidy as I thought I was.

Regardless of how it started out, things really did get chaotic when I decided to do some re-potting while I was out there. The inspiration behind the re-potting event was “Biggest” the lemon tree, who was desperately in need of a new domicile. 

Ah yes, this is looking much better.

The other lemon trees were getting jealous so I decided to let them on the fun, as well.

The shamrock was looking a little shaggy so it got a haircut.

The dinosaur dome hasn’t show any real signs of growth in months, so I decided to dissect it and separate the plants. The “prehistoric pine” trees each get their own pots, which will hopefully encourage them to shed those brown needles and thrive. 

Also, I thought that the incredibly wispy ferns that had grown in the dino dome were dead. That doesn’t appear to be quite the case, because when I dug them up I discovered they had vibrant root systems that still seemed very much alive. I didn’t really want to give them each their own pot yet, so they are sharing large pots with the two biggest lemon trees for now.

The “prehistoric plant” actually appears to be dead, so I’m letting it dry back out. I may see if I can revive it again someday as part of experiment 6.

I also got to try out my new Ikea clipper things. Short review:  They are okay, but they could be sharper. Also, I’m much more a fan of things that are operated via a “scissors” mechanism because you can get more power into the cuts than you can with this. It seems like they’ll be great for snipping small green areas, but they weren’t powerful enough to cut away dead growth on last year’s fuchsia, for instance.

One thing that happened on balcony cleaning day that I totally forgot to document:  I got 3 lovely primrose plants that needed transplanting, and those are now right at home in one of my railing baskets. I didn’t take a picture of the basket yet, but you can see the plants themselves in my first “fake messy balcony” picture in this post. 

I’ll be posting an “after” pic shortly after I make this post, so stay tuned!

Sunday, February 23, 2014
livingreenandfrugally:

How To Make A Greenhouse From Old Windows Read This Article HERE » http://www.livinggreenandfrugally.com/how-to-make-a-greenhouse-from-old-windows/
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I’ve always wanted to build a little greenhouse, and I love that this one uses recycled parts. I don’t have enough room on my balcony for this but maybe this will inspire somebody out there to build a cool greenhouse in their yard!

livingreenandfrugally:

How To Make A Greenhouse From Old Windows
Read This Article HERE » http://www.livinggreenandfrugally.com/how-to-make-a-greenhouse-from-old-windows/

Follow Our Facebook Page — https://www.facebook.com/greenandfrugally .we do weekly giveaways for our followers

I’ve always wanted to build a little greenhouse, and I love that this one uses recycled parts. I don’t have enough room on my balcony for this but maybe this will inspire somebody out there to build a cool greenhouse in their yard!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Experiment 12 - Poinsettia makes a new friend

The other day I brought a new friend home for my existing poinsettia (code-name “Princess Toadstool”) to play with. 

This one was kindly donated to me when it was rotated out of a window display in favor of some more seasonally appropriate plants. Despite it hanging out in a rather frigid locale for the past few months, it looks pretty darn good. It doesn’t appear to have lost a single leaf along the way.

Interesting note:  Despite its robust size, the thing is growing out of a positively tiny pot. Maybe growing poinsettias in tiny pots is a common practice that I’d just never noticed until now, but it seems unusual. I guess you can’t argue with results, though.

Princess Toadstool must be enjoying the company because I noticed this delightful bit of new growth. Leaf loss seems to have stopped as well. I imagine they must do a lot of gossiping and/or team-building or something as soon as I leave for the day.

Since I’m in the habit of nicknaming my plants now, I think I’ll call the new one “Blondie”. With a new color, new pot size, and different blooming behavior, it’s a joy to add Blondie to the experiment.