Gardener's Corner

Join us for tips, helps, questions and answers about the gardening world. Monitored by a Certified Master Gardener but wisdom is shared by ALL.

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Latest Activity: Apr 12

Gardener's Corner

Chief Walks In Shadows is a Florida State Master Gardener.
He will post information that he feels will benefit everyone as a whole. But basically this will be a question and answer group.
Chief Walks will answer all questions asked to him directly. He has over 40 years of experience. And a sizable personal research library.

We are here to meet ALL of your gardening questions and/or related subjects.



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The USDA Hardiness Zone Map divides North America into 11 separate zones; each zone is 10°F warmer (or colder) in an average winter than the adjacent zone. If you see a hardiness zone in a catalog or plant description, chances are it refers to the USDA map. To find your USDA Hardiness Zone or use the map below. 



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Comment by Chief Walks on April 12, 2019 at 5:44am

How to Break Down Eggshells in Compost

Composting eggshells can be tricky because they often take a long time to break down. This tip will help speed up the process.
Grind eggshells into a fine powder to help them break down quickly in garden soil. 

We have a short growing season in eastern Washington, so gardening can be a challenge. We have to make efficient use of the time we do have by supplying our gardens with the best soil possible. The natural soils here tend to be sandy, and they contain a lot of decomposed granite. As a result, nutrients wash out quickly, so we have to water frequently.

To improve the soil structure and provide organic material, many gardeners in our area are avid composters. However, eggshells in compost don’t break down well, so they’re a topic of frustration. Both of our neighbors have confessed to finally just giving up on composting eggshells and they now throw their eggshells in the trash. Tired of intact eggshells in my compost, but not ready to throw such a good source of calcium away, I found a method that works for me.

I air-dry eggshells on a cookie rack for a day or two and then throw them into my Vitamix on high. In a few seconds, the shells become a fine, granular powder that’s perfect for adding to the soil around tomatoes and other plants that suffer when calcium levels are too low. This eggshell powder is the easiest and fastest way I’ve found to use eggshells’ soil-enriching properties.

Comment by Chief Walks on April 11, 2019 at 12:04pm
Comment by Chief Walks on April 11, 2019 at 11:59am
Comment by Chief Walks on April 11, 2019 at 11:45am
Comment by Chief Walks on April 11, 2019 at 9:02am

Free Wood Mulch! Some for Me, Some for You

Rather than buying mulch in bags, contact local tree-trimming companies to inquire whether free mulch is an option.
Gardener With Mulch
Free mulch is easier to get than you may think.
I’ve found a way to obtain piles of free mulch for my gardens, and to still have plenty left to share with friends and neighbors as well. Some tree-trimming companies will dump a truckload of their mulched trimmings in a person’s driveway for no charge. The company who is contracted by our local power utility to trim the trees near power lines is happy to dump mulch for any resident who calls and asks. I tip the guys who drop it off, save hundreds of dollars in mulch costs, and avoid the packaging waste of buying mulch in bags. Plus, I enjoy the opportunity to share with my neighbors. It’s a win for everyone!

Two added bonuses are that my grandkids have a great time playing on the pile before it disappears, and my neighbors use less herbicide now that the extra mulch keeps their weeds at bay.

Comment by Chief Walks on April 7, 2019 at 10:16am

Saving Kale Seeds – Learn How To Harvest Kale Seeds

In recent years, nutrient dense kale has gained popularity among mainstream culture, as well as with home gardeners. Noted for its use in the kitchen, kale is an easy-to-grow leafy green [1] that thrives in cooler temperatures. A wide range of open pollinated kale varieties offer growers delicious and extremely beautiful additions to the vegetable garden.

Unlike many common garden vegetables, kale plants are actually biennials. Simply, biennial plants [2] are those that produce leafy, green growth in the first growing season. After the growing season, plants will overwinter in the garden.In the following spring, these biennials will resume growth and begin the process of setting seed. In this article, we will discuss how to harvest kale seeds so you can plant another crop.

How to Harvest Kale Seed
Beginner growers may be quite surprised by the presence of bolted kale plants in the garden. However, this scenario presents the perfect opportunity for collecting kale seeds. The process of saving kale seeds is really quite simple.

First, gardeners will need to pay close attention to when kale has gone to seed. For optimal seed production, growers will want to leave the plants until the seed pods and stalks have started to dry and turn brown. This will help to ensure that the seeds are mature at harvest time.

After the seed pods have turned brown, there are a few choices. Growers can either cut the main stem of the plant to harvest all the pods at once, or they can remove individual pods from the plant. It is important to remove the pods promptly. If you wait too long, it is possible that the pods may open and drop the seeds onto the soil.

Once the pods have been harvested, place them in a dry location for several days to a couple weeks. This will ensure that moisture has been removed, and will make collecting kale seeds from the pods much easier.

When the pods are fully dry, they can be placed in a brown paper bag. Close the bag and shake it vigorously. This should release any mature seeds from the pods. After the seeds have been collected and removed from the plant matter, store the seeds in a cool and dry place until ready to plant in the garden.

Comment by Chief Walks on March 27, 2019 at 9:35am

Dirt is mostly made of bits and pieces of this rock, which is broken down into smaller and smaller pieces.

Dirt is the thin layer of soil that covers our planet. In most places, it is just a few feet thick, because nearly all of the Earth is a big, hard, solid rock, with an inner liquid core.

Dirt is mostly made of bits and pieces of this rock, which is broken down into smaller and smaller pieces because of weathering and microorganisms breaking down plant matter. Moisture, temperature, wind, rain, freezing, and thawing are all part of the weathering process. Over hundreds of years, rocks break down into tiny grains, and these small grains, mixed with plant and animal matter — decayed roots, leaves, dead bugs and worms, and other organic matter thrown in, along with water and air, is what we call dirt or soil.

The type of rock determines the alkalinity and texture of the soil. Limestone produces soils that are fertile, neutral (not base or acid), and finely textured. We have a lot of limestone-based soils where I’m from in Wisconsin. Soft shale rock yields a heavy clay soil. Sandstone becomes a coarse, sandy soil. Granite gives a sandy loam and acidic soil.

Dirt that is dark and black has a lot of old plants in it. The dark soils of southern Minnesota are some of the richest on Earth. Dirt that is light-colored contains a lot of silicate or sand. Sandy soils drain quickly and tend to need a lot of water to grow productive crops, which is why you often see irrigation systems on land with sandy soil.

Clay soils are composed of extremely fine minerals and flat particles that pack together tightly. Clay soils tend to be reddish, harden when dry, and drain poorly. They tend to feel sticky when wet. The southern states of Georgia and Alabama are examples of areas with clay-based soils.

On a lighter note, dirt is what you track in on your mother’s floor. The soil is what plants grow in. Dirt is what you get on your uniform sliding into second base. The soil is vital to the crops that feed people. Every state has selected a state soil, twenty of which have been established by their states’ legislatures. In the state of Wisconsin, the 1983 legislature named Antigo silt loam as the official state soil. It is a well-drained soil suited for forests, dairy, and potatoes.

Comment by Chief Walks on March 27, 2019 at 8:04am

Children love to water plants. Generally this is good news, and watering is a helpful chore the children can take on in the garden. Sometimes, though, overenthusiastic watering can be bad news — plants can become waterlogged and seedlings can rot away. Sometimes seedlings can be damaged in a deluge, and sometimes, especially in a class garden, you simply don’t have enough watering cans to go around. This DIY watering can with a rose head could be the ideal solution. Made from a plastic milk bottle or similar carton, it’s free and a great way to upcycle your junk into something practical. It’s easy to make and holds just the right amount of water, so it’s not too heavy for young children, and everyone can take a turn at watering without causing a flood.


  • 1-quart plastic milk or juice bottle with a lid
  • Craft knife or scissors


  1. Start by washing out your milk bottle. We use a quart-size bottle, which gives enough room to fill with a good amount of water without the bottle’s being too heavy.
  2. Use a knife or a pair of scissors to make small holes in the bottle’s lid. Give the knife a little wiggle to create a hole rather than a slit, to allow the water to come out freely. Always consider safety: this might be a job for an adult.
  3. Remove the bottle top to fill your new watering can with water, pop the lid back on, and you’re ready to go. The handle on the bottle makes it comfortable to hold, and if necessary, a gentle squeeze can help the water come out.

Comment by Chief Walks on March 27, 2019 at 6:55am
Comment by Chief Walks on March 21, 2019 at 6:47am

How Do I Attract Earthworms to My Garden?

Practical ways to increase the earthworm population in your soil.

Organic amendments earthworms 
Organic amendments and regular watering go a long way toward encouraging earthworms to take up residence in your gardens.

Organic amendments earthworms 
Q: How can I encourage more earthworms in my soil? — Tracy Musicc

A: Any and all natural, organic amendments and fertilizers will encourage earthworms. Well-made compost may be the most efficient way to go, especially if made with pumpkin, which worms love. Rock minerals, such as lava sand, basalt, and Azomite, are also important for encouraging worms.
While adding good stuff to the soil, stop using toxic pesticides and high-nitrogen synthetic fertilizers, which are damaging to soil microbes and other life, including earthworms.
Watering properly and keeping the bare soil around plants covered with a mulch of shredded native tree trimmings is the final step to encourage beneficial soil life. I also have good results drenching my soil monthly with a mixture of 1 cup of concentrated compost tea and 1 ounce each of apple cider vinegar, liquid seaweed, and liquid molasses per gallon of water.


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