Category Archive: Landscaping

Repurposed Gardening – Seed Starting Containers and Feed Bag Weed Barrier

I love to find a new purpose for materials that would otherwise be discarded.  I enjoy the challenge of re-imagining the use of items found in our recycling bin or stored in the old hay loft of our barn.  I also much prefer using materials that I already have on hand instead of buying something brand new.

A few of my favorite repurposed materials are put to use here in our gardens at 1840 Farm each growing season.  We have found them to be incredibly effective and cost saving.  I hope that you will enjoy using these no cost, repurposed materials in your garden this year.

Dairy Carton Seed Starting Containers

 Recycled Seed Starting Containers at 1840 FarmWe give our garden a head start by planting seeds indoors long before the weather outside would permit us to plant directly in the garden beds.  Here in New England, our growing season is painfully short, averaging about 120 days from start to finish.  In order to have a successful harvest, we need to give our heirlooms a good start inside the farmhouse.

In the spring, we plant our seeds down in the old root cellar of the farmhouse.  With enough light and attention, they grow well and ensure that we will be able to harvest our beloved heirloom tomatoes before the first frost occurs in fall.  Because we grow our plants from seed, we are able to purchase a diverse variety of heirlooms.  For less than the price of one healthy seedling from a nursery, we can purchase a packet of heirloom seeds to grow at least 20 seedlings.  We also love having the ability to seek out extremely rare and interesting varieties that are not available at our local garden center.

We use many of our seed starting supplies year after year.  No matter how many trays and containers we have, we always seem to need more.  We discovered last year that we had the perfect containers for our tiniest seeds right in our recycling bin.

We like to broadcast plant the tiny lettuce, herb, and onion seeds and then divide them by hand as they are added to the garden.  We find that this saves time by allowing us to tend to the young plants for several weeks without needing to thin them or move them to larger and larger containers.  The resulting plants are strong and healthy with well developed root systems.

We discovered that paper dairy cartons made ideal containers for these seeds.  By removing the top surface of the empty cartons, we create fantastic seed starting containers for these crops. The money we save by using these containers easily covers the cost of the seeds we plant in them.

Simply rinse out the used paper container before removing one side of the carton with a sharp knife or scissors.  Fill the container two-thirds full with your favorite seed starting mix.  Scatter the tiny seeds over the top of the mix before covering the seeds with more seed starting mix.  Label the container and tend as you would any newly planted seeds.  After moving the healthy plants to your garden, the container can be added to your recycling bin.

Creating Repurposed Seed Starting Containers at 1840 Farm  Recycled Dairy Carton Seed Starting Containers at 1840 Farm

Paper Feed Bag Weed Barrier

I love to spend a summer day working in the garden.  We plant close to 100 heirloom tomato plants each year along with cucumbers, squash, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, and countless other crops.  With so many plants, there is always something that needs to be done.  I enjoy the work, knowing that my efforts will produce delicious, fresh food for our family table..

One garden job that I could do without is weeding.  I know that weeding is necessary, but I want to spend as little time as possible pulling weeds.  Weeding our raised beds helps our plants to have all of the soil’s nutrients instead of sharing them with the weeds that will happily take over.  Yet I find weeding to be my least favorite chore in the garden.  I love sharing the weeds with our hens as a fresh treat, but I can find plenty of fresh treats for them from the garden without spending hours pulling weeds.  I also find the prospect of spending a large portion of my gardening budget on weed barrier to be rather unpleasant.

Luckily, we have a steady supply of weed barrier materials thanks to our chickens and goats.  Our animal feed is packaged in paper bags that make a fabulous weed barrier.  I stockpile them all winter long in the barn for this purpose.  When planting time finally arrives, I can transform each large bag into a flat piece of paper weed barrier with a few snips of my garden shears.  Using landscaping staples, I secure each piece to the soil, covering all but the perimeter of the beds where I will plant onions, herbs, and zinnias to attract beneficial pollinators.

Using my shears, I cut holes exactly where I want to plant,  I then tuck the plants into the soil warm soil.  When we mow our untreated grass, I collect the clippings and add them on top of the paper surface. With very little effort and little to no expense, I have added an effective weed barrier to our garden and made use of materials that we have on hand.

The paper and grass mulch help our garden beds to retain moisture while minimizing weed growth.  Over the course of the growing season, both the grass and paper begin to decompose.  When we clear the beds in the fall, we simply remove the staples, reserving them for the next season, and add the paper bags to our recycling bin.

We also use this paper feed bag mulch for our garden paths.  We cover the paper bags in the paths with untreated wood chips and have a weed free path all summer long.

Empty Feed Bags at 1840 Farm  Empty Garden Bed at 1840 Farm

Feed Bag Mulch at 1840 Farm  PlantinginBagMulch

I’ll be sharing a few other tricks for using repurposed materials in the garden in the coming weeks.  Until then, you can take a photo tour of  the gardens here at 1840 Farm.  I’d love to hear about your strategies to use repurposed or recycled materials in your garden.  I’m always looking for new, great ideas to use in ours.

Repurposed Gardening at 1840 Farm

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French Harlequin Heirloom Marigold

The 1840 Farm Pollinators GardenFrench Marigolds have a centuries old secret:  they aren’t really French.  It is believed that they made their way to France in the 1500s.  An illustration of a striped French Marigold appeared as early as a 1791 edition of Curtis’ Botanical Magazine.  This marigold was described as being yellow with red striped petals.

Centuries later, we still refer to some varieties as “French”.  Perhaps this is a nod to the gardeners of France who worked diligently to cross their most beautiful specimens in a quest to better the blooms.  Or, it could simply be due to the fact that all things French were thought to be beautiful and of the highest quality at the time that the marigold first came to America.

American gardeners in that era were eager to  attempt to replicate the beautiful gardens in France.  Travelers took garden tours, carefully noting both the species and methods used to create France’s most notable gardens.  One of those travelers was  the man who would become our young nation’s third President:  Thomas Jefferson.

The French Marigold was a common sight in Colonial gardens, bringing beauty and utility to the garden plot.  In 1808, Jefferson wrote in his garden journal about having two varieties of marigold in his gardens at Monticello in Virginia.  It is believed that the French Marigold was one of the two varieties that he had growing on the grounds at Monticello.  He often referred to the French variety as the “lesser African marigold” as it was thought to have made its way to France via Africa.

Jefferson enjoyed marigolds so much that he sent them to his granddaughter Anne.  Anne happily wrote to him, reporting that the two varieties of marigold seeds he had given them were still flourishing.  It is thought that the French Marigold was one of the two varieties he had sent her.

Marigolds were long thought to be poisonous due to their pungent aroma.  Gardeners believed that any flower with a strong, unpleasant scent was sure to be poisonous.  Centuries later, we can still use their scent and pest deterring qualities to our advantage in the tomato patch.

Marigolds make excellent companions for tomato plants.  Their pungent aroma is thought to help deter harmful nematodes who love to decimate the tomato patch.  They also bring beauty to the tomato garden by filling the space beneath the towering vines.

Their beneficial properties can be taken advantage of long after the growing season has ended.  Allow spent marigold plants to dry in the garden at the end of your growing season.  Before the first frost, break the dried marigold plant into small pieces and turn them under the top layer of the soil.  Doing so will discourage nematodes from overwintering in your garden’s soil, giving next year’s plants a head start on overcoming these garden pests.

Tennis Ball Heirloom Lettuce is one of the four varieties included in our The Pollinators Garden Heirloom Seed Collection available in The 1840 Farm Mercantile Shop on Etsy.  The 2014 Heirloom Seed Collection is a collaboration between 1840 Farm and Fresh Eggs Daily.  Together, we have curated our favorite heirloom varieties into collections that are ideally suited for growing together.  The heirloom, non-GMO seeds in our collection are from family owned seed purveyor Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.

1840 Farm

We invite you to join The 1840 Farm Community on Facebook and Fresh Eggs Daily on Facebook to share updates from your garden and keep up to date on what we’re harvesting from our heirloom gardens. We’ll also be sharing regular garden updates along with fresh, seasonal recipes in our 1840 Farm Community Newsletter and The Fresh Eggs Daily Newsletter.  In the meantime, you can view photos from the gardens at 1840 Farm by visiting our Garden Photo Tour.  More photos will be added as we progress through the 2014 growing season.


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Cast Your Vote for The 1840 Farm Heirloom Seed Collection

Tennis Ball Lettuce at 1840 FarmOver the last few weeks, I have immersed myself in seed catalogs and gardening history books.  While it has taken some time, I have finally narrowed down my wish list of varieties to include in The 1840 Farm Heirloom Seed Collection for 2013.

All of the seeds offered in our collection will be non-GMO, heirloom varieties.  The collection will be offered for sale in our Etsy shop in the next few weeks.  Each seed packet will be paired with a brief history of the variety and my family’s favorite recipe for enjoying our garden harvest at our family table.

Throughout the course of the growing season, there will be opportunities for you to share photos and news from your garden with the other members of The 1840 Farm Online Community and a few surprises in store.  I can’t wait to share all of the information with you in the coming weeks!

So, cast your vote for each variety that you would be interested in growing for your family.  Vote for all of them if you want every single one to make the cut.  If you have a variety that you would like me to add to the list, leave me a comment.  I can’t wait to see your responses!

The 1840 Farm Heirloom Seed Collection - 2013
Vote for all of the varieties you would like to see included in our 2013 collection.

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Nearly Wordless Wednesday – July 25, 2012

These beautiful blooms greeted me this morning out from the perennial bed.  It was a lovely way to start my day!



This post is listed on the Wordless Wednesday linkup at Katie’s French Language Cafe.


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Lily Season

There’s a season for everything here at 1840 Farm.  Soon, it will be my favorite season of all:  tomato season.  I’ll walk out to the garden every morning to survey the ripe fruit and return to the farmhouse with pounds of delicious heirloom tomatoes to share with my family.  Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.

I am happy to report that there are tomatoes on the vine out in the heirloom garden.  Unfortunately, there are weeks of waiting ahead before they will be ready to enjoy.  Until then, we’re harvesting lettuce by the pound, along with turnips, peas, and raspberries.

No, it’s not quite tomato season yet, but right now I’m enjoying lily season.  Every morning, I seem to be greeted by a new, glorious bloom in the perennial beds.  The blooms are strikingly beautiful and come in a paintbox full of colors.

The lilies are such a welcome sight in the perennial gardens here at 1840 Farm.  Alas, the blooms do not last very long, so I try to capture them with my camera when they are in bloom.  During lily season, I wade carefully through the blooming perennials to capture each color of lily.  While looking at them through my camera lens, I am always amazed at their beauty.

I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do.  Lily season is in midstream here and should continue for a few more weeks.  I’ll be capturing each variety as they come into bloom and sharing them here and on Facebook.  Then I’ll be counting the days until my beloved heirloom tomato season arrives and I can share photos of my favorite heirloom varieties.

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Katie’s French Language Cafe


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Nearly Wordless Wednesday – April 4, 2012

This morning, a welcome sight made its first appearance in the flower gardens at 1840 Farm.  The first daffodils have emerged and brought some much appreciated spring color to the flower beds.  It won’t be long and they’ll be joined by colorful blooming tulips.

The mere sight of them made me daydream about planting the vegetable garden and spending entire days tending to our gardens in the summer sunshine.  Aah, to dream!

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1840 Farm Seed Exchange Group on Facebook

Get ready to welcome gardening season with open arms.  I have created a Facebook group for the 1840 Farm Seed Exchange exchange entitled “1840 Farm Seed Exchange.  You are invited to join in and share photos from your gardens as well as posting questions to the other members.

Joining is the easiest way to stay up to date with what is happening in the gardens at 1840 Farm and with the gardens of other participants in the seed exchange . This group is open to anyone who has a  love of gardening and does not require participation in the seed exchange.

To join, login to Facebook and type “1840 Farm Seed Exchange” into the search bar.  Click on the link displayed in the search results to navigate to the 1840 Farm Seed Exchange page.  In the top right corner, a button labeled “Ask to Join Group” will be displayed.  Simply click the button and I will complete the registration process for you.

I hope that this group will enable us all to share our successes and failures this growing season and become better gardeners in the process.  I can’t wait to see you there!

I hope that

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Nearly Wordless Wednesday – March 21, 2012

Hello, spring!  The temperatures at 1840 Farm this week have been summer-like and we’re taking full advantage.  We’re constructing raised beds and installing them in the garden to expand our growing area.  We harvested some beautiful bearded iris (Iris germanica) bulbs that are available for sale at the farm.

Today, we’ll be starting the first flight of our vegetable, herb, and flower seeds.  Add in our daily farm chores, and we’ve been very busy farmers for the first week of spring.

Here’s a look at the raised beds in progress and a photo of the bearded iris in full bloom last season.  It won’t be long before we’ll be seeing these beautiful blooms in our flower beds.  I can’t wait!


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Nearly Wordless Wednesday – July 20, 2011

Introducing a new resident at 1840 Farm:  Herbert Menninger. . .

Herbert Menninger exploring the perennial gardens at 1840 Farm

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