Get Your Christmas Tree Early Short Supply?

The National Christmas Tree Association says farmers in the Pacific Northwest, will be shipping far fewer this year. The recession in 2008 drove many of them out of business or caused many to plant much fewer saplings. Since it takes eight or nine years for a tree to mature, we're seeing the effects of that now.

Headed to pick out your Christmas tree soon?

Will you go with a noble fir known for its sturdy needles? What about a bright green scotch pine with plenty of room for decorations, or a miniature Christmas tree just for the mantle? Whether you handpick the same type of Christmas tree each year or just go with the first one that stands out, the fact of the matter is that there are many tree types to choose from.

The Christmas tree becomes the focal point of your holiday decor and family traditions, so it’ll be important to narrow down your decision and find the right one. Shape, color, and scent are just a few things to consider. Here are some things you might want to consider when you look at a tree:

That perfect shape that you have in your head
The density of the branches on the trunk
The smell of the fresh needles and bark
The texture of the branches
The durability of the tree, especially if you want to leave it up for a long time

Among the best-selling Christmas trees are the Douglas, Fraser, Noble and Balsam firs, and the Scotch, Virginia and white pine trees. You might be among the growing number of people who choose a living tree. One of the most popular trees for this is the Colorado blue spruce.

Browse through the different types of Christmas trees below.

Colorado Blue Spruce
Used as an ornamental landscape tree, the Colorado Blue Spruce makes an excellent living Christmas tree. Blue-gray to silvery-gray in color, this tree grows in a natural conical shape. Although this tree is primarily grown in southeastern Canada and the northeastern United States, you can probably locate one at a local retail lot or nursery.

Arizona Cypress
This tree has a steeple shape and is pale-green to gray-green in color. This is an aromatic tree that can most often be purchased at cut-your-own Christmas tree farms along the east coast and in the south and southwest regions of the United States.

Balsam Fir
Balsam's are pyramid shaped and dark-green in color with long-lasting needles. This fragrant tree is popular in Canada and throughout the northern United States.

Douglas Fir
Pyramid shaped and dark-green or blue-green in color, this tree has a subtle sweet fragrance. One of the most popular Christmas trees in the United States. Primarily grown in the Pacific Northwest, these trees are shipped throughout the United States and internationally to some Asian markets.

Fraser Fir
Pyramid-shaped, the strong, upward-turned branches are densely covered with two-toned needles. The top side of the needle is dark-green to dark blue-green in color and the bottom side has a silvery appearance. Excellent needle retention, a pleasant aroma, and it's color make this one of the most popular Christmas tree species. Heavy ornaments and lights are easily held by this strong tree. The majority of Fraser Firs are produced in North Carolina and are shipped throughout the United States and internationally. The branches are also used to make wreaths, swags and Christmas roping.

Noble Fir
This tree is also pyramid shaped, with blue-green needles that give it a silvery appearance. The sturdy branches and long-lasting freshness make this a great Christmas tree. Like the Fraser fir, the greenery from this tree can be used to make wreaths, swags, and garland.

Eastern Redcedar
Natural cone-shaped, this tree can range in color from shiny dark-green to blue-green and even purple and are most usually available at cut-your-own Christmas tree farms or plantations. This tree can dry out quickly, so be sure to get the stump in water as soon as possible. The wood from this tree has been used in cedar chests and closets.

Leyland Cypress
This tree has an Impressive cone shape with colors that range from dark-green to gray. Although you will most often see this as an ornamental landscape plant throughout England and the southeastern United States, it has recently become popular as a Christmas tree in the southeastern United States. This is not a fragrant tree, so for those of you who don't like the "Christmas tree smell," this would be a good choice.

Virginia Pine
This pine tree is conical shaped. The soft, short needles are supported by stout woody branches, making this a good tree for ornaments. Normally dark-green in color, the needles can turn a yellowish-green in late fall, making it necessary to use a tree colorant or pigment to restore the natural color. Originally, this was the staple of the Christmas tree industry throughout the southeastern United States. This tree is available at retail lots and cut-your-own farms.

Scotch Pine
Nice conical shape. Color ranges from bright to dark green and sometimes blue-green. Sturdy branches, excellent needle retention, and lasting freshness make this a great Christmas tree. Don't worry about hanging heavy ornaments and lights on this tree.

Norway Spruce
This spruce is conical shaped. Dark green in color. This tree is not known for good needle retention, so make sure you get a fresh cut and keep it watered.

Eastern White Pine
An impressive cone shape, the soft needles on this tree are blue-green to silvery-green in color. Heavy ornaments do not work well on this tree. Sometimes the needles can turn yellow, so a tree colorant or pigment is used by the growers to restore trees to their natural color. This tree has very little fragrance and is reported to be less of an allergen than some of the more fragrant trees.

There’s no better way to get into the Christmas spirit than to decorate your Christmas tree, but that means you’ll have to pick one out first. With so many different options to consider, hopefully, our guide to the different types of Christmas trees will help you narrow down your top picks. Once you have your tree at home, don’t forget to take proper care of it. You can always get a permit from your local DNR and harvest your own, on state-owned land of course. This is always a wonderful option.

Grandma And Grandpa's Root Cellar Re-lived Today

What can a root cellar do for you? It can give you fresh endive in December; savory Chinese cabbage in January; juicy apples in February; crisp carrots in March; and sturdy potatoes in April

Root cellars are as useful today as ever. In fact, root cellars in all forms are very up-to-date, what with the costs of food and its processing getting higher every year. As we see it, root cellars are right up there with wood heat, bicycles and backyard gardens as a simple, low-technology way of living well — independently.

The term "root cellars," as used here, includes the whole range of ingenious vegetable-saving techniques, from hillside caves to garden trenches. The traditional root cellar is an underground storage space for vegetables and fruits. Where space and lay of the land permit, these cellars are dug into a hill and then lined with brick, stone or concrete block. Dirt-floored or insulated basement rooms — less picturesque but probably more numerous.

It's amazing how the uprooted plants can maintain their quality and appearance for months with no sunlight, water, or nutrients while standing on the cold, earth floor of the root cellar. Root cellars aren't high on the list of options for home builders anymore, but you can recreate the conditions using crawl spaces or unheated storage areas. Barrels or large containers sunk into the ground at an angle and insulated with straw and earth can also serve as improvised root cellars for storing fresh produce.

Most modern basements are too warm for long-term winter storage, but you can create an indoor version of the cellars that have long served homesteaders well by walling off a basement corner and adding the vents. The two vents create a siphon effect that lets you regulate the flow of cold outside air into the insulated cellar room, allowing the temperature to remain near freezing through the winter months.

Rules for Storing Winter Vegetables
Whatever produce you stash in your keeping room, there are several rules of thumb that will help the food stay sound and healthy until you're ready to eat it.

1. Treat all winter-keeping vegetables gently at all stages of harvest, preparation, and storage. Bruised produce spoils sooner.
2. Store only your best fruits and vegetables. Cut, bruised or diseased vegetables not only spoil more quickly but also encourage spoilage in neighboring foods.
3. Pick produce at maturity—neither unripe nor overripe.
4. Harvest fruits and vegetables during a dry spell if possible.
5. Leave vegetables in the garden as long as possible, but keep an eye on the cooler fall weather and rescue them before First killer frost hits. Beets, for example, can stay out well past the first light frosts, but they should be dug before night temperatures dip to 24°F unless their exposed shoulders are well protected by mulch. Low temperatures in the autumn encourage vegetables to store more sugars and starches and less water, making them better keepers.
6. Choose varieties of vegetables that are well-adapted to storage: Long Season beets,  cabbage, and potatoes, for instance.
7. After digging root vegetables, chill them as promptly as possible. Don't leave them out in the sun.
Preparing Vegetables for Root Cellar Storage
To prepare root vegetables for winter storage, simply trim the green tops, leaving a one-inch stub (if left untrimmed, the top growth will decay and encourage the deterioration of adjacent roots. Take care not to cut the root flesh, and don't cut off root tips, either—any skin break invites spoilage.

In addition to the above-mentioned foods, you can store your canned tomatoes, peaches, pears, green beans, peas, fish and meat, in fact, any type of canned foods in your root cellar. They will provide a pleasing array of natural colors; the result of a summer's hard work and patience, all neatly lined up on shelves.
There are several types of the root cellar and different ways in which to construct one. There's the Hatch Cellar, Hillside Cellar, and the Above Ground Cellar.

The Hatch Cellar.
The Hatch Cellar usually consists of a large hole dug into the ground then lined with rocks. The floor is left in its natural state, just plain dirt. Beams and plywood sheets are securely laid over the hole, with a hatch door incorporated into the ceiling/floor, along with the installation of a ladder for safe and easy access. A shed is then built over the top of the cellar, overlapping the walls by about three feet each side

The Above Ground Cellar is made from a wood frame, covered thickly with sod on the outside, lined inside with rocks, with a regular insulated door at the front.

The Hillside Cellar is dug out of a hillside, lined with rocks, and then a plywood ceiling is attached to overhead support beams. This type of cellar has a regular insulated door to walk through

It's amazing how the uprooted plants can maintain their quality and appearance for months with no sunlight, water, or nutrients while standing on the cold, earth floor of the root cellar. Root cellars aren't high on the list of options for home builders anymore, but you can recreate the conditions using crawl spaces or unheated storage areas. Barrels or large containers sunk into the ground at an angle and insulated with straw and earth can also serve as improvised root cellars for storing fresh produce.  A few weeks of curing and they will be ready to hang up in your root cellar or somewhere cool-ideally 60-70% humidity with a temperature of 35- 40F.

When our house was built in 1979 there was a wood room for a wood stove, already had the vent in it. We built shelves and bins for produce. I use saw dust and sand to protect the vegetables from air exposure. The cellar keeps a constant 36 degrees even when it gets below zero, very impressive. I am sure it gets some heat from the basement walls. This intern will save us money, we only have one chest freezer for meat. Next year I would like to use some of the old-time meat preservation techniques.

The love of gardening has brought us to the gardening tool business.Unique garden tools brought to you by Hand tools, garden supplies, pots and planters, power tools and composting supplies Garden Tools FREE Shipping. We do not sell generic tools by any means. These tools are for serious Gardener,s as well as beginner's who enjoy well-crafted tools. No disappointments. Happy Gardening. Enjoy!

How Will You Heat The Greenhouse This Winter?

How to heat a greenhouse in the winter
If you’re busy in your workshop, seeking sanctuary in the shed, or squirreling away in your home office, you need to make sure you stay warm and cozy when the mercury starts to fall.
  Insulation is the first part of the heating equation. If you’re investing in ways to warm your garden building, make sure you keep all that heat in.
  You can insulate the floor with foam insulation boards. Rockwool or fiberglass rolls in the walls and ceiling are ideal ways to stop your precious warmth escaping. Rugs and curtains will also help to contain your coziness.
  The right heating solution depends on the size of your building, level of insulation, power sources, and of course your budget. Also bear in mind the overall style of your outdoor room: is there a particular ‘look’ or ambiance you want to create? Once you’ve worked out your needs and priorities you can then turn your attention to the heaters themselves.
We’ve found six of the most popular and practical heating options

  We’ve been surprised at the number of greenhouse operators using wood heat to warm their buildings. With propane becoming more and more expensive, wood and pellet stoves, again with provided circulation, are operating effectively and more cheaply than other fuels. Large, commercial-sized greenhouses are finding wood a viable alternative to expensive gas and petroleum products. When installing a wood stove in the greenhouse be sure to follow all your local code requirements. Stand-alone pellet stoves are especially easy to load and operate and most come with some kind of temperature control. Some have blowers to circulate heat.
Gently warm planting areas with our Soil Heating Cables. Includes a built-in thermostat that maintains temperatures between 77-85°F for faster germination and better growth. Use indoors or out to extend the gardening season. The waterproof 48 ft cord is flexible and heats 12 sq ft.
1.  Electric Radiators
Electric radiators are either water-filled and wall mounted, or oil-filled and free standing. Both types are simple to operate and have fairly low running costs. Portable units require no installation at all and can be used wherever you need warmth, right out of the box.
Available in contemporary and classic styles, radiators are a safe choice for dusty workshops and log cabins. If you opt for a model with a 24-hour timer and thermostat, you’ll always be assured a warm welcome when you enter your greenhouse!
2.  Electric fan heaters
Fan heaters are easy to use and provide instant heat. Just plug in, turn on, and away you blow! They’re energy-hungry, though, so to keep running costs down it’s best not to use them for hours on end. But they’re perfect for quickly heating smaller spaces, and are highly recommended for workshops. They circulate heat, so they don’t just warm you, they warm the whole space - and everything in it!
3.  Halogen heaters
Portable halogen heaters are powered by electricity but use halogen elements instead of traditional electrical coils to provide heat. They cost a little more to buy than some of their electric counterparts but are durable, highly energy efficient and cheaper to run.
 4. Underfloor heating
Underfloor heating is ideal if you don’t have much floor space. Water-based or electric systems are available, the electric system is usually the most suitable for an outdoor building. Installation costs are higher than free-standing heating units, but underfloor heating gives an even heat to an entire room rather than just a localized spot.
5.  Solar powered heaters
If you don’t have mains electricity in your garden building, why not use free solar energy instead? Solar panels on the roof can be used to warm water, which can then heat a small radiator. It's an economic and environmentally-friendly as you can get, and safe to use.
6.  Wood heat
Log burners are a stylish addition to any timber cabin or year-round summerhouse. While they can be pricey to set up, running costs are low - especially if you live near a ready supply of free fuel! A carbon monoxide alarm is also a must when you have a log burner.Fuelwood, waste wood and biomass are potential sources of heat for greenhouses. An adequate supply at a low cost is needed to pay for the additional cost of the equipment and operation as compared to conventional fossil fuel units. The wood-fired heating system is a major investment that should be selected to give efficient operation for many years. It pays to spend a little more on the initial investment to get a unit that will reduce handling, increase efficiency and provide a safer operation.

A Few Garden Tool Maintenance Tips

There are several good reasons to make tool maintenance a routine chore. The more important reasons include  Tools last longer when they are cared for.  Sharp tools make better cuts on foliage, allowing the plant tissue to heal properly. Clean tools help prevent the spread of plant diseases. When it comes to digging in the garden or pruning trees and shrubs, having high-quality tools that are cleaned, lubricated, sharpened and otherwise properly maintained, makes any outdoor job simpler and more efficient.  Clean, well-maintained tools take less effort to work the ground than those that are rusted and caked with soil.  Sharp tools are especially important for properly cutting grass, pruning tree and shrub branches                                           

 How do I clean my tools?  Always try to clean your tools after each use.  Rinse tools under running water or soak them in water.  Then remove any remaining soil using a cloth, bristle brush or wire brush.  Get rid of any sap that may have collected on cutting tools with soapy water. Then remove any remaining soil using a cloth, bristle brush or wire brush.  Get rid of any sap that may have collected on cutting tools with soapy water or turpentine.  If tools are rusted (whether it be shovels, hoes, saws or pruning shears), use coarse-grade steel wool or lump pumice to remove the rust.  Use abrasive materials like sandpaper, emery cloth or a putty knife cautiously as they can leave scratches where rust can redevelop.  Disinfest tools by treating them for at least 30 seconds with 10% bleach or preferably 70% alcohol (because of its less corrosive properties).  Rubbing alcohol and many spray disinfectants typically contain approximately 70% alcohol.  Once tools are clean, rust-free and dry, apply a light coating of vegetable oil as a rust inhibitor to all bare metal surfaces. Make an “oil sock” to rub metal parts and keep them clean. Stuff a sock with sand or wadded rags. Tie a knot and apply vegetable oil. Store the sock in a zip-lock plastic bag.  Vegetable oils work and are less toxic than the engine oil that's often recommended.

How do I sharpen my tools?  Start by always wearing safety glasses and leather gloves to protect your eyes, face, and hands; also always use a vise to securely clamp tools being sharpened.  Typically, garden tools should be sharpened so that their cutting edges are kept at their original angle.  If you make an edge too blunt, a blade will not cut well.  If you make a blade too sharp, the edge will wear prematurely.  You can sharpen either into or away from the cutting edge.  Sharpening into the edge produces a sharper edge, but increases the risk of cutting yourself as you sharpen.  For increased safety, face the sharp edge or your tool away from you and stroke down the slope across the cutting edge.  This will create a metal burr (i.e., a rough edge) on the back of the tool’s cutting edge.  Remove the burr using a light flat stroke of a file, whetstone, or sandpaper along the back of the cutting edge.
Specific sharpening techniques vary depending upon the particular tool.                 

Loppers, pruning shears and hedge shears:  Use a file or whetstone to sharpen these tools, and if possible, sharpen into the cutting edge.  Some loppers and pruning shears have two cutting edges; both cutting edges of these tools need to be sharpened.  Other loppers and pruning shears have a thin, sharp blade that slides past a blunt angled cutting bar, called an anvil; only the sharp blade of these tools needs to be sharpened.  Sharpening must be uniform so the two cutting edges, or the cutting edge and the anvil, meet at every point.  If an anvil has nicks or scratches, these can be removed with a small rat-tail, three-cornered or tapered file.  Hedge shears should be sharpened to their original factory angle.  Most hedge shears have a distinctive squared tip that is approximately 1/16 of an inch thick.  If a hedge shear blade is bent, separate the blades, put the bent blade in a vise and tweak it until it is straight.

Saws:  Pruning, camping and bow saws are typically not sharpened because replacement blades are relatively inexpensive.  Typically, chainsaws are the only type of saws that are sharpened due to the cost of replacement blades.  When sharpening any saw, both a crosscut file with a rounded edge and triangular file will be needed.  Be sure the size of the file matches the size of the teeth being sharpened.  Sharpen teeth so that they retain their original angles.
Axes:  Not all axes have the same blade angle, so it’s important to follow the original angle.  Also, many axes have a double tapered angle composed of a ½ to a 1-inch long angle that extends roughly 1/16 of an inch from the edge of the blade toward the handle, and a sharper angle, roughly 1/16 of an inch wide at the cutting edge.  Inspect the blade for chips or nicks, and remove them with a grinder, being careful not to burn (overheat) the edge.  Keep a bucket of water handy to douse the head after each pass.  If the blade has only small nicks or irregularities, a 10-inch mill file could be used instead of the grinder.  Finish by using a sharpening stone.  Slide the stone back and forth in a circular motion multiple times along the edge on one side then repeat on the other side.

Shovels and hoes:  The most commonly used sharpening tool for shovels and hoes is a 10-inch mill file, which can be purchased at any hardware store.  Mill files cut only on the forward stroke, so do not apply pressure on the backstroke.  To sharpen the edge of the blade, hold the file securely with both hands and push away from your body with long steady strokes.  Be sure to hold the file at the same angle as the tool’s original angle.  As you push down with the file, also push it to the side and across the blade.  Keep doing this until you have a smooth, even edge across the entire blade at the desired angle.  After filing is complete, turn the tool over, clamp it back into the vice and remove the metal burr as described above.   Note that many inexpensive shovels and hoes are manufactured using a stamping machine, which leaves their cutting edges blunt and square.  For these tools, you must first create a new cutting edge.  Typically, a 30° angle is recommended.  To visualize this angle, remember that the edge of the freshly filed metal will be twice as wide as the metal is thick.

Grass-cutting tools:  When possible, sharpen grass cutting tools into the cutting edge; otherwise be prepared to remove the metal burr as previously described.  Long-handled swinging knives and curved scythes have thinner edges for easy cutting.  The blades on these tools should be sharpened to a 20° to 22° angle.  Normally these tools can be sharpened several times with a sharpening stone before eventually needing to be sharpened using a grinder or file.  Grass shears are made of a very hard metal that requires sharpening with a sharpening stone, grinding wheel or diamond/tungsten carbide file.
What other tool maintenance do I need to worry about?  Handles are an important component of all tools and need to be kept in good condition.  Tighten loose screws or bolts as needed.  Clean handles with a stiff-bristle brush, and use medium grit sandpaper to smooth wood and remove splinters.  Use boiled linseed oil to prevent wood handles from drying out, cracking, and splintering.

After the snow flies, which it has been for two weeks now in Northern Wisconsin. I fire up the wood stove and a few brews and get my tools clean and ready for next Spring. I tend to stay away from the use of petroleum products on my tools. I am ready for Spring and can't wait! Invest in good quality tools, take care of them and they will take care of you. We sell tools, but I have not had to buy them for years A little TLC goes a long way. And a good day to all!!!

Why Is Gardening So good for Our Health?

Why Is Gardening So good for Our Health?

1.  Sun exposure

Vitamin D increases your calcium which benefits your bones and immune system. Exposure to sunlight helped older adults achieve adequate serum vitamin D levels. Such outdoor activities like gardening are a perfect way to get your sunshine while pursuing a fun hobby.

2. Decreased dementia risk

A 2006 study found that gardening could lower risk of dementia by 36 percent. Researchers tracked more than 2,800 people over the age of 60 for 16 years and concluded that physical activity, mainly gardening, could reduce the incidence of dementia in future years.

3. Mood-boosting benefits

Gardening fights stress even better than other hobbies. Participants completed a stressful task and were then told to read inside or go outdoors and garden for 30 minutes. The gardening group reported better moods afterward, and their blood tests showed lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

4. Enjoyable aerobic exercise

Gardening is an excellent form of aerobic exercise; plus, you might become so engrossed in your work that you don’t even realize you’re breaking a sweat. Pulling weeds, reaching for various plants and tools, and twisting and bending as your plant will work new muscles in your body and help with strength, stamina, and flexibility.

5. Helps combat loneliness

After retirement, many people struggle with fewer socialization opportunities, and community gardens can be a fun way to engage with others while providing benefits to neighborhoods. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, community gardens are "collaborative projects on shared open spaces where participants join together in the maintenance and products of the garden, including healthy and affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.

6.  Various physical activities—gardening among them—can cut your risk of Alzheimer’s by 50 percent. Other research finds that horticulture therapy is very engaging for dementia patients and has a positive impact on their overall wellbeing.Mounting evidence shows that some health and behavior problems, including anxiety and depression, are directly linked to the amount of time you spend outside. For children, especially, this can constitute a “nature-deficit disorder.” Gardening staves off blues provide an outlet for creativity and nurture a sense of pride and accomplishment when you harvest those juicy red tomatoes.Gardening keeps you active and reduces your stress levels, and that means it can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other associated lifestyle diseases. Plus, eating the nutritious whole foods that you grow is great for heart health, too! Getting out in the garden at the end of a busy day reduces your stress levels and mental fatigue. In one study, participants performed a stressful activity and then were assigned 30 minutes of gardening or 30 minutes of indoor reading afterward. Both reduced stress, but gardening had a significantly more significant impact.  It’s a given that growing your organic veggies improves your diet; but access to fresh, unprocessed food right in your backyard isn’t the only reason gardening is right for you. A recently published analysis of scientific studies on how gardening impacts health has some fascinating insights into how digging in the dirt benefits your mind, body, and soul—not just your soil. Check out the benefits you can expect to reap when you sow some seeds

7. It Helps You Sleep Better

Spending time in the dirt can improve your sleep quality. The physical activity tires you out, but more importantly, tending to your garden reduces stress and anxiety levels, meaning you’ll be able to fall asleep easier and experience sweeter dreams. It Keeps Your Mind Sharp.

  So getting your hands dirty seems to be very beneficial to your health. Even tending to small plot can nurture your soul. We are very caring by nature caring for plants fulfills that urge we all have. The community gardens are the best thing going for city-dwellers. I am very fortunate to live in the country, with one acre of land to fulfill my connection with nature. Gardening is medicine for the soul, whole body and mind. At we have all the tools to simplify the task for even more pleasure while working in the soil. Happy Gardening to all.

4 Beautiful, Fun DIY Garden Ideas

The start of warmer weather signals the beginning of the gardening season. You can bring your entire garden to life with fun and creativ...