How to Care for a Live Christmas Tree


Posted by Aimee | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 03-01-2012

Live Christmas trees have steadily been becoming more popular. In a lot of ways this makes sense, many refuse to relinquish the smell and feel of a live Christmas tree for the holidays and a live tree fills that roll without killing a tree.

Live trees come in many sizes but most frequently are small, 2ft or less in height. They also are usually in nursery pots, often within decorative containers. As soon as it is convenient you will want to replant the tree into a pot with good drainage that is larger than the nursery pot it is in. Take note of what type of tree yours is. The most common that I have seen are noble firs. Also popular are rosemary trees that have been pruned to shape.

A rosemary may be a good choice because not only can you use pruning’s for meal seasoning but they are unlikely to grow as quickly or as large as a tree. I did not do my research before purchasing a live Christmas tree and now I wish I had. On hindsight I would have gotten a rosemary version and I would definitely NOT have purchased a pre-decorated one. It was an expensive nightmare and though the company did attempt to rectify the problem the second tree came in nearly as poorly. Fortunately the trees themselves were fine, it was the decorations that were a problem. They were wrapped so tightly and thickly around the tree that it was all you could see.

To care for your live Christmas tree make sure to look up the specific breed you have and make sure to maintain its preferences. In general most will want moist soil with a good organic fertilizer mixed in. Many of them prefer a slightly acidic soil. They do not like to be sitting in water though so make sure they have good drainage and a light layer of mulch doesn’t hurt to help keep moisture in.

Additionally when indoors they usually like to have their leaves lightly misted from time to time and most require a large amount of light. They will need to go outdoors eventually to get the light they need. If carefully taken care of you can get at least a few years Christmas services out of the tree and after that you can plant the tree in a suitable spot so it can really grow wild and provide a lot of shade, habitat, and food for wildlife. Pretty much a win-win situation.

Don’t Let Your Yard Look Like Ragnaros’ Lair


Posted by Aimee | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 29-08-2011

It is good to be back ladies and gentlemen. I love gardening and overcoming its challenges for the sweet, sweet rewards it has to offer. So, for those of you who are WoWers you know that Firelands is in full swing and here in South Houston it looks like we took it a little too literally. There is still a lot we can do though to keep things nice and green that aren’t quite crispy yet.

Though I am against unnecessary turf watering many of us live in areas with HOA’s that insist we keep our yards looking nice and shiny. It also has been somewhat necessary with many of us not seeing a single drop of rain for over a month with daily temperatures in the hundreds. Good thing I like the heat. To conserve water there are a few things you can do to help, when you cook pasta (not too much salt added) or veggies in water drain that water into a bowl let it cool to room temperature and then share it with your thirsty friends outside, the additional nutrients will make them even more happy and then the water doesn’t go to waste! That is a win-win situation in my book. Another good option is if you have to water your yard, let the kids run around in the sprinkler for a bit to get double use out of the water. Just make sure to use sun block!

Though really the subject I wanted to talk about is here soon temperatures will be winding down and September will be rolling in and mid September through the end of October is a wonderful time to pull out the MicroLife and feed your lawn. A spreader is really helpful for this but if you do not have one you can make one by punching a few small, pencil sized holes in a paper plate and shaking it lightly as you walk along (make sure not to put too much fertilizer on at once though or your plate will break)

After you have fertilized, water the yard well or time it before a rain so that it gets settles into place well and your lawn will undoubtedly green back up in no time and send Ragnaros and his fiery minions packing.



Posted by Aimee | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 29-06-2011

Wow! Not the video game this time either! I haven’t had time to post, very sorry but I will be posting again soon and I just cannot wait! Had oodles of work come up which is a good thing and I have to get that done (They take not paying your bills way seriously! So I got to make sure I keep paying them on time =)

I have had my little apartment garden on maintenance and have gotten half dozen tomatoes or better and several bunches of herbs, man I love fresh herbs! So, we will be talking more about all this as soon as I can squeeze out more than 2 minutes to let you guys know where I disappeared!

First book review: How-To Hydroponics


Posted by Aimee | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 29-04-2011

This is my first book review on Uberloots, I hope it is the first of many. Though at this point there is no set method, I will have to work that out over time.

How-To Hydroponics (Fourth Edition)

Author: Keith Roberto


5 stars (*****)

Positive About

This book is fantastic for not only the beginner but also for those that are advanced in the hydroponics area. He goes through many specifics and even covers some experimental methods. I think the best part is he not only covers the traditional, online available prebuilt hydroponics systems but also covers d-i-y systems which cost a fraction of what the other systems cost.

Negative About

It is hard to say anything bad about this book. It really is amazing and is the reason I chose it for my first review because in the months I have owned it not only have I carried it with me to show several others, but also I have read it several times and there is a wait list to borrow it! The only thing is that I still have some questions, I don’t know that I can hold that against the author though because I am an exceptionally inquisitive individual as no doubt most of you reading this are.

Overall Feelings

I love this book enough I plan on buying it for several friends and family members, as well as one for the library since they do not currently carry it as I had hoped when first learning of the book. I can say with sincerity that I will be purchasing any future editions of this book. Also, I find it unique that the author posts his contact information within the book and opens questions. I do plan to email him when I work up my nerve. Maybe after some more experimenting on my own to see if I can find some of my own answers and then comparing them to his suggestions as a self test. I really hope you all enjoy this book as much as I do.

Get that Garden Started


Posted by Aimee | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 28-02-2011

Starting a garden may seem like an impossible or even insurmountable task. Often not knowing where to begin or seeing the task as too daunting often keeps potential gardeners from ever starting. Don’t let it be that way, a garden does not have to be big or elaborate. One of the most wonderful things about gardens is that you can make them as fancy and over the top or as simple and cheap as you want. It is even possible to get a garden set up and going all in one day! (which we will detail more carefully in our next post.)

If you have no money but need food or crave flowers then you can grow plants literally just by scratching up the grass in a spot and planting right there. Of course this is not an ideal environment for plants, but as long as they have sun, earth, air, and water, they will grow, production will suffer to an extent. This garden will take more effort to help it thrive but it can be done without spending any money at all beyond the cost of seed to plant. This is very important for people to know, if you are careful, you can find seed very, very cheap and sometimes for free. (Check with places at the end of the growing center or Craig’s list.)  Many victory gardens were little more than grass pulled up from the back yard to plant seeds. If you are looking for optimum results without using any money here are a few pointers.

Start with a budget, even if that budget is zero. Write it on paper and write what you want to add to your garden with that budget. Be realistic, and see how to make your desires match your budget. Suggested lines are fertilizer, soil amendments, garden structures (like bricks to build a garden bed), seed, decor, etc. Where you can, find or reuse things you have available like maybe there happens to be a stack of bricks extra from someone on Craig’s list who just needs them hauled off? Being resourceful and a little planning really comes in handy here.

I know I have preached about this before but start a compost pile, even if it is just a spot on the ground where you toss your extra veggie scraps and collected material, that is all it has to be and it will break down with time into compost for your garden. You can also find free material for your compost pile all over, talk to landscapers in the area, they often would love to get rid of some of their extra lawn clippings. Or talk to lawn mowers, neighbors, even the grocery store may be willing to give you produce that needs thrown out. Another place to check is stables, if you are willing to muck the stables for them and haul off the manure, all that fine material is yours for free! Just make sure that the things you put into your compost pile are not treated with pesticides or chemical fertilizers because you do not want these sorts of things going into your food.

If you are starting with nothing at all except a patch of recently bared earth and seed, you may want to spend the bulk of your seed budget on big producers. Especially easy care big producers, a few examples are tomatoes, squash (especially zucchini), sweet potatoes (though not technically from seed), lettuce and all other greens, cucumbers, and radish. Choose proven producers and wait to test exotics until you have a bit more of a seed budget.

Unfortunately some of my favorites such as Irish potatoes and corn are heavy feeders and demand more care, while not out ruled, they take a lot of space and will not yield as well without ample fertilizer and tons of attention.

If you are very short on funds I highly recommend starting with seed and not transplants, use the extra money the transplants would cost towards fertilizer for your garden. Soil building will likely be the most expensive part for you and any extra funds should be reserved for this. People have grown food on nothing more than piles of dust and sprinkles of water but we can do better than that, even when starting with nothing, observing organic practices builds the soil and so naturally over time with proper care the soil will become increasingly more fertile. If you don’t have money it just means it is going to take a lot more time and effort.

Now is the perfect time to start your Texas garden, spring is almost here and temperatures are not hitting freezing any more (though there could always be a late freeze so keep watch!) Starting a garden is a fantastic way to cut your grocery bill by growing what you will eat and doing it cheaply. Just do not fall pray to the oodles of gadgets and exotic plants available.

Recipe for win


Posted by Aimee | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 29-01-2011

In our last post we spoke of making an excellent soil base for our plants, if you are interested in knowing more about why each component is vital, and what important characteristics it should have, please read on. I always suggest experimenting and trying to find a mix that works perfect for you in your specific area. This recipe was developed in Houston, Texas but I have had equal success with it at my parents in Salem, Missouri. The key components to building our own soil mix are: vermiculite, peat moss, compost, composted chicken manure, MicroLife fertilizer, soil moist, kelp meal, fish meal, and worm castings.

Coarse grade vermiculte can be difficult to find in bulk but is worth the search, I suggest checking with the local feed store, garden center, or agricultural supply, it can be found online but the shipping would probably make the costs prohibitive. The reason I prefer vermiculite over perlite is it seems to stay mixed with the soil better, being so light it will have a tendency to float to the top of the soil but in my experience the pearlite will do this to a much larger degree and much more quickly. However, perlite is often easier to find and will work as a substitute if needed. The reason you want to use vermiculite is because the particles are large enough they will create air spaces in your soil, which are vital for plant growth. Also, vermiculite will retain water like a sponge and when it has reached its capacity it ignores the water letting it trickle on to prevent holding too much water against the roots and drowning them.

Peat moss is another ingredient that will absorb moisture and hold it until needed by your plants. It is not a renewable resource though so I use it sparingly. As time goes on you will need to add more of all the components except these first two. You only need to add the vermiculite and peat moss once. Peat moss also helps absorb nutrients into your soil. It resists decomposition, though there may be suitable substitutions I have not been able to test these yet. Coir may be a good choice as it is renewable but it is unavailable to me in quantities needed for good testing at a price I can afford. Peat moss is readily available at most “box” home centers such as Home Depot or Lowe’s.

Next on the list is compost. In my opinion the most important of the components. Compost carries vital nutrients for your plants and promotes microbial soil life to thrive. It also provides the soil with necessary organic compounds. You want as varied a compost as you can get, by that I mean that you want not just one ingredient in your compost, such as cow manure compost or mushroom compost. You want a compost built off of several ingredients, like one you would build at home off of your kitchen and yard scraps. One that would contain fruits, vegetables, grass clippings, sticks, and hedge clippings. If this is not readily available the best thing to do is buy as many varied ingredient composts as you can and mix them all together.

Composted chicken manure is very high in nitrogen and also has a lot of potassium and phosphorus. The high nitrogen can be dangerous if the manure has not been composted properly. Too much nitrogen can burn or even kill plants. The balanced nutrients of this composted manure make it a very valuable addition to your soil mix. This counts as one of your compost types and if you happen to know someone who keeps chickens you can get the manure for free and compost it yourself. This will save you money and help you find a source of chicken manure that is antibiotic free.

As you know I preach on a regular basis about the awesomeness that is MicroLife fertilizer. I love that it is a convenient pelleted organic fertilizer. Made from dozens of ingredients and those ingredients are listed for you to see. I have always used the regular to great effect but they also have an Ultimate, and Azalea version. Once our soil is built I recommend adding MicroLife per manufacturer instructions every three months or so. If you are in South Texas like I am, we get to grow things year round and that means year round fertilizing, though keep in mind the plants needs. The thing I like about organic fertilizers like this is that they encourage microbial life in the soil and they cannot be washed out be heat and water like non organic fertilizers can. If you are unsure how much to fertilize, remember, you are better safe going light than killing your plant with too much.

soil moist is mostly for if you are using your soil as an indoor potting mix. It will keep you from having to water plants as often and the polymer contracts and expands helping to keep the soil less compacted which can be a serious problem for indoor potted plants. The brand you use is not important and as this is not an organic ingredient it can be omitted if you desire but I find it does miracles for my indoor plants when I have to go away for a few days.

kelp meal is a type of seaweed and it makes for a wonderful soil amendment and I also recommend adding it to your compost pile from time to time just toss a handful in as it is a great bioactivator. Meaning it will set the microbes that break down compost into action a lot faster and with all the trace elements that kelp contains it helps promote good healthy diverse soil. When I have a sickly looking plant I use liquid seaweed to perk it back up. It is amazing how well and how quickly it works, just make sure to not over fertilize.

Created from the grinding of whole fish and waste parts from fish used for food fish meal is most commonly found as a brown powder. It is exceptionally high in nutrients and I have you add it to build your soil as an activator of sorts. It makes a lot of nutrients readily available to plants and microbes until your soil has sufficient life in it to maintain the processes so beneficial to your plants. You can make your own fishmeal if you have easy access to fishing. The most common method is to let any superfluous fish or inedible fish bake in the sun or oven until thoroughly dried out and then grind them fine. The drying process is important as it removes the moisture making grinding and storing easier.

It is hard to find a better fertilizer than worm castings, it is however frequently expensive unless you make your own and even then they are usually hard to come by. The liquid that drains from your worm bins can also be used quite effectively in the garden. Use as much of this as you can conveniently get your hands on. The worms make easily digestible remains that microbe life loves and in turn those microbes will feed your plants. The overall goal of all good soils is to feed your plants. In the end you should have a good friable soil that smells sweetly earthy and is crumbly but capable of holding water and draining for your plants. Worm castings help with not only the nutritional content of your soil they also help it hold water and they let excess water drain away. The worms used to make vermicompost, red wigglers will not live well in your garden but by adding their castings to your garden you will bring on changes that will attract worms to your garden!

When I first moved to Houston, I was depressed thinking I would never get anything to grow in all that black clay. However, after a couple years work and diligent weeding, I started seeing worms. Not just one or two, they were all over the place. How they got there through all the neighbors clay I do not know but I know the effects were astounding. I have thick, rich, alive soil that people have even offered to pay me to get some. After some trial and error the above ingredients are the ones I found to work the best for me but that does not mean that there are not other good amendments out there. Just that for the most part I was able to get mine for super cheap by doing the work myself or trading services with others. If you know someone who has an over abundance of compost or other amendment you can use trade them something you have. Maybe you make your own vermicompost (worm castings) or maybe you can grow seedlings for them in exchange, or save/share seed. Most people are interested in sharing the work load so it doesn’t hurt to ask as long as you are willing to offer something fair in exchange and don’t get upset if they choose not to trade.

Sweet Potato Quest Progress Report


Posted by Aimee | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 06-09-2009

Tags: ,

Three months ago or so I wrote about planting sweet potato slips. Now, the ones I planted then are ready to come out of the ground, out of what we have termed the thing (as the original bed itself is no longer visible) and I can hardly wait but, I will continue to wait because they are still growing larger and I also want to have a few left for Thanksgiving. Since we are so far South there is still time to get another crop in for this year if you hurry. I cannot sing enough praise for this vegetable. It is so easy to care for, after I planted the sweet potatoes I mulched carefully around the vines and I have not had a single weed in that bed. Also they have few pests to worry about and will continue to grow until frost kills them (though they prefer warmer weather). As if those fantastic bonuses were not enough, they are also extremely high in nutrition and there are as many ways to make them as a person can imagine. Also there are many varieties with varying degrees of sweetness; there are a few varieties that supposedly are a passable substitute for Irish potatoes. (I have not tried these varieties yet though so that is all just hearsay.) Oh and did I mention that sweet potatoes are fairly drought resistant once established?

The Thing

The Thing

To make the slips is easy, though if you want another crop in you will need to purchase sweet potato slips at this point, you can just use a sweet potato from this harvest or one of a variety you like from the grocery store. Fill a sturdy water tight container about 2-3 inches with sand and bed the sweet potato (uncut) down into the sand, keep the sand moist and warm. Over time the potato will grow sprouts that will form leaves, once these reach 2-3 inches each with a good strong leaf or two you can break them off and let their ends rest in water. After a couple of days the ends of the shoots resting in water will have formed roots. When you have the desired number of rooting slips they can be planted out into soil (make sure to water them thoroughly to help them make the transition from water to soil easier. This is best done in the evening so they do not get too much sun right away, light shade for a few days to a week would also be beneficial to help the plants get a fast start.

Sweet potatoes do fine in raised beds as long as they have at least 12 inches of soil for root formation. (A note here; I had spaced mine about 9 inches apart initially, I later found out it is a good idea for better production to give them a little more room) Like potatoes the vines can be hilled up as they grow, more vine/soil contact means more potatoes. However the more potatoes there are the smaller they will be in overall size. I recommend fertilizing their soil before planting but if you did not do so, a week or two after planting or when planting is a fine time to side dress with a good organic fertilizer like MicroLife. If you can I would mulch the vines shortly after planting, that way the vines cannot root as they grow across the ground, or just lift the vines once or twice a week to prevent rooting. The vines will also grow vertically if given the chance.

When planting space the slips approximately 12 inches away from each other, they will need plenty of room for good root development. After 90-120 days (dependent on variety) you can examine one plant carefully and if the tuber(s) have reached the desired size then you can start harvesting. Until it is nearing time of frost you can leisurely harvest plants as you are ready to use them. When there is a danger of frost you can dig the potatoes gently (you do not want to bruise or cut them) let the potatoes dry on the counter on newspaper thoroughly then you can save them in mesh bags in a cool place (about 60 – 65 degrees is ideal) until ready to use, use the least good ones first. If stored properly sweet potatoes can last a long time, don’t forget to start slips again come late February or March for springs crop!

Gardening Update August


Posted by Aimee | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 02-08-2009

Hey guys, sorry it took so long to put an update up but, I really have been exceptionally busy. The company my boyfriend works for has gone under, it went under in the middle of May and I have been working a lot of extra hours to make up for things. I will be writing more soon, just starting to get things under control. Thanks for all of you that have been following Uberloots even in my absence.

With a little luck the site is going to have a full redesign too, it has been in the works. Feel free to send me an e-mail if you have any gardening questions and I will get in touch with you as soon as possible. I really appreciate you guys sticking with me. You can e-mail me here