Coming soon! My first Kindle book on building a Nearing frame

I recently purchased a Kindle Fire, my very first purchase of any of the e-readers. I had previously downloaded a few books on my Android phone to read while I was on the train to Boston so I figured I would see how they looked on a larger format. Ya, ya, I am getting a little older and the Droid just wasn’t cutting it.

I went with the Kindle Fire because I had purchased those books I mentioned from Amazon anyway and have an active Amazon account that I frequently purchase items with. With the Kindle I had the option to download the previously purchased books to it which was a good feature I thought.

When the Kindle arrived, I was a bit disappointed at first. That was until I started reading my books and began investigating how to create my own books or simple articles and reports FOR the Kindle. Of course I hope to make a dollar or two doing so but I don’t think I will be retiring soon! I’ll be sure to let you know if I am moving to a tropical island somewhere…

So I went and took a look at some of the e-books I have written as well as the myriad of articles on my many (too many at times) websites. I decided my e-book on building a Nearing frame would be a good candidate, mostly because it was the one that needed the least amount of reformatting. Hey, I’m just being honest here; I didn’t want to spend a ton of time re-doing an entire e-book or article during the learning process.

Ya, right! 5 hours later I think I may have it right. Everything looks great on my Kindle and hopefully within a day or so it will be for sale on Amazon.


EDIT: Here is the direct link to the book. Thanks for looking!

Wish me luck!

I would love to know your thoughts on Kindle (or other!) e-books.

What is Mike McGroarty really like?

Quite nice actually.

I finally made it to one of his yearly Backyard Growers Shindigs he puts on at his home in Ohio. It took a ton of work but was well worth it! I met fellow Backyard Growers, watched Mike demonstrate grafting Japanese Maples, did some demonstrations on my products, and got to meet Mike and fellow growers in person. It was a great time all the way around!

For the last 4 years I have tried to make it to Mike’s Shindig. Each time, something came up, mostly my work schedule. My summer schedule for my full time job is busy to say the least. Each day can be anywhere from 8 hours to 21. Yes, 21, and that isn’t including the 1 hour commute each way!

I had decided that nothing short of a catastrophe would keep me from attending this year, but I had a ton of work to do first.

First, I had to schedule a few days of vacation during the absolute busiest time of the year for my job. Done!

Next, I booked the hotel room and made sure I prepaid. My reasoning was that I was not going to forfeit the money I spent and that would be a great incentive to make sure I made the trip.

Lastly, I bought a rebuilt engine and installed in into my truck because the old one was making some awful noises. Sounds fairly simple but it was such a bear that it took me 2 months! What a pain in the ass! I ended up replacing just about every part under the hood, radiator, alternator, hoses, sensors, and more. Then I was forced to redo all the brakes and brake lines. Like I said, a ton of work.

Long story short, I had a grand total of 10 miles on the truck when I started my 12 hour trip to Ohio. Oh, I did have every tool I could carry just in case!

The day of the Shindig my son and I arrived to find Mike talking with a few folks as he was showing them around his property. When everyone arrived back at his garage, which had been set up with hot dogs, snacks, and soft drinks, I introduced myself to the group as others introduced themselves. I asked Mike what he had planned and if it would be ok to do a demonstration on the different ways misting nozzles could be installed. He was quite pleased. I think he was happy that someone other than him would be the center of attention!

Mike McGroarty and Backyard Growers

My son and I set up a series of piping I had put previously designed and built that would allow me to demonstrate the different ways to install the nozzles into misting system piping. I then showed how 5 or 6 different nozzles performed as well as how to correctly install them onto the piping.

Next, I found 4 folks who wanted to learn how to program a DIG 5006-IP propagation timer. I passed 4 out and did a step by step demonstration as they followed along, asking questions when they needed help. After the demonstration, Mike came up to me and asked if I would go over it with him. I was honored! We programmed our timers together and he asked a few questions about the timer. He said he was used to mechanical timers but he could see the benefits of this timer, specifically the ability to program it with 6 different programs, unlike the mechanical which can do only one, and the battery backup that retains the program if the power goes out.

Next the majority of the group followed Mike to his field of Japanese Maples where he discussed grafting. I took some video as he was demonstrating grafting Japanese Maples so be sure to watch it!

Mike McGroarty demonstrating grafting Japanese Maples

We then went back to the garage where we all ate and had a Yankee type swap. If you have never heard of a Yankee swap, it is a great way to exchange gifts! Everyone had fun!

Yankee swap

It was getting late and everyone began to slowly leave. My son and I were the last to leave, asking Mike if he needed help picking up and if we could give him some money to help pay for some of the great food and drinks he had provided. He declined both. We talked for a little while and my son took a few pictures of me and Mike. I then mentioned that I needed to find an auto parts store so I could do a little work on the truck before leaving the next morning for the 12 hour return trip home.

Mike McGroarty and Dwayne

Mike and his son Dustin both did some calling and web searches for an auto parts store that would have what I needed. Mike was able to find something I could use at a nearby Napa after calling and confirming they had one on hand. Mike and Dustin both went out of their way to help me find what I needed and it was greatly appreciated.

After finally making it to one of Mike’s Shindigs, I will surely make an effort to attend another. Every person I met felt like a family member because I knew them from the Grower’s Board, that special board Mike has where detailed information, tips, and advice from Mike himself can be found. All that and the buy/sell board where plants can be bought for next to nothing. I just saw a post on the board from Mike that he just purchased almost $3000.00 worth of Japanese Maple trees from a board member. I can’t wait to see his field  full of them the next time I attend his shindig!

How do you get your rooted cuttings or potted plants to survive the winter?

After you have successfully rooted your cuttings you need to be sure to get them through their first winter. But exactly how do you do that?

Well, you could do what professional nurseries do and cover them with plastic. What kind of plastic? White.

Here is a picture I took of a local nursery that put their potted plants to bed for the winter:

Winter protection of plants

They simply covered them with the white plastic and placed a few heavy items on the edges of the plastic to help hold it down. Once the snow arrives, the edges will get held down even better, making it hard for the wind to get under and potentially tearing off the plastic.

It also looks to me like they placed the pots on their sides before putting the plastic on top which is a common practice. Why do I think this? Simple, there are no large bumps in the plastic. If you look close you will see a few small bumps but nothing that is much larger than the rest.

What’s your secret to getting you plants through the winter?

How to divide ornamental grass

I divided a few clumps of my ornamental grass this summer and took a few pictures to show how it was done. The pictures are of my absolute favorite grass, Gracillimus (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’ – Maiden Grass). I just love how it has a vase-like shape and the fine leaves sway with the slightest breeze. It looks awesome all winter long too which gives me something to look at other than plain white snow.

One thing to keep in mind when dividing ornamental grass is to do it during it’s active growing cycle. For warm weather grass like Gracillimus, that is during spring to mid-summer. For cool season grass, spring and early fall is the best time. Just remember to keep the divisions well watered for the first year regardless of when you do the dividing. That being said, I have successfully divided and planted some warm weather grass in early September by keeping it well watered until the ground froze, but don’t recommend doing so.

This first picture shows the clump before it was divided. Notice how large and round it is. This clump was planted just a few years ago and was about a foot or so in diameter.

Ornamental grass before dividing

This picture shows the tools I used. A sturdy shovel and a sawzall with a coarse toothed blade. Notice that the shovel is a flat bladed spade, not the curved spade that most homeowners have. The flat blade makes it much easier to cut through the clump. Truth be told, I don’t own a curved spade anymore. Once I began using the flat bladed one I realized I never wanted to use the curved one again.

tools for dividing ornamental grass

Here I am undercutting the clump. I am digging down and severing any roots that are in the way. I will also be using this cut to pry up the clump I am trying to cut off.

digging ornamental grass

Here I am using the sawzall to cut through the top of the clump. In the past I just kept jumping up and down on the spade but decided to try the sawzall this time because I nearly killed myself cutting through the clump with just the shovel.

digging and cutting ornamental grass

And now for a friendly warning about dividing ornamental grass: be very careful! The next picture will show you just how sharp the edges of the leaves can be. The wound was surprisingly deep for being done by a blade of grass!

Ornamental grass is sharp!

This picture shows the root system that was cut using the sawzall. You can see just how dense the roots are and can imagine how tough it is to divide a clump like this with just a shovel. As I mentioned before, I did exactly that the last time and about died from the exertion! I recommend the sawzall over just using the spade to cut through these hard, dense roots.

Ornamental grass roots

This picture shows how much of the original clump I removed. It turned out to be about 1/3 of the original clump. I just filled in the hole with soil so the clump would begin to grow into it.

Ornamental grass after division

Next, I divided the large divisions I just removed into smaller pieces using the sawzall.

Cutting ornamental grass divisions into smaller clumps

The next picture shows just how big these divisions are. Each one is almost as large as the original clump of grass I planted a few years ago!

Large ornamental grass divisions

This last picture shows the 4 large clumps I ended up with that I planted in various locations on my property. In just a few years, each one will be just as big as the original plant I removed them from. I can’t wait!

Ornamental grass divisions

Do you have any tips on dividing ornamental grasses?

And the winner of the plant propagation book is…


Congrats Trisha, I will contact you for a mailing address and get the book out ASAP.

As I stated in the original post about the contest, I sent a text to my son while he was at work and asked him to pick a number between one and three. He asked why. When I told him he was choosing a winner for a contest, he chose #1, which was Trisha’s comment.

Thanks everyone for leaving a comment!


How to have your misting system operate during power outages

Just a heads up:

I am working on a special report that will explain how to get your misting system to operate during power outages. The report is specifically written for a DIG 5006-IP propagation timer, so if that is the timer you use (and if not, why?) stay tuned.

The report will cover how to get your timer to operate as well as a way to deliver water if you have a well.

If you know anyone who uses the DIG 5006-IP propagation timer, let them know that the report will be released soon!

The report will also have a section relevant to the DIG 710P timer if that is the one you use, just saying…

Who wants a free book on plant propagation?

Everyone of course!

I have a brand new book on the shelf that I will send to a lucky winner. It is by James Wells and is titled: Plant Propagation Practices.

Here is what I will do for you:

I will send the book to a resident of the US or Canada at absolutely no charge.

What you need to do for me:

Leave a comment outlining your plant propagation endeavors. Your successes, your failures, your methods, etc.

The rules:

The contest will end Aug 22nd at 6pm Eastern time. I will total the number of comments and ask my son to choose a number from 1 to whatever the total is. The number he chooses will be the winner of the book.

Once the winner is identified I will contact them via email (so leave a GOOD address when commenting!) and after receiving a reply, will send the book to the shipping address they specify.

My decision is final unless the original winner cannot be contacted and at that time a new winner will be chosen in exactly the same way and so on until the book has been sent. Void where prohibited. Must be 18 to participate.


Good luck!

Have you rooted a cutting using a misting system faster than this?

I recently took some cuttings I had rooted under my misting system out of the mist and potted them up. One plant in particular caught my attention because I could have sworn that I just put it under the mist a few days before. Of course, I realized that time flies and I must have been mistaken.

Typically, the cuttings I do will root in 3-5 weeks depending on the species. This particular plant seemed to root extremely fast, even faster than Pee Gee Hydrangea which has up to this point been the quickest cuttings to root. I don’t have a specific number of days on the PG, but it was only 3 weeks or so.

This plant, which is a fairly common perennial, was an experiment to see if cuttings of perennials could be rooted using a misting system. The answer is a resounding yes!

So what is this plant and how fast did it root? Good question.

The perennial I am talking about is commonly called Pink Turtle Heads (botanical name: Chelone lyonii).
I took the cuttings of this plant the same day I wrote this article about how I collect my cuttings for rooting under my misting system.

Here is a series of photos showing the tag I made when I stuck the cuttings as well as one of the cutting I removed from the rooting media that clearly show the formation of roots. Pay close attention to the date on the tag: June 29th. Today is July 13th, just 14 days from when the cutting was stuck! The cutting is not ready to be potted in my opinion, but because I just installed a drip system to keep my potted plants watered, I would give it a try. The cutting will definitely not survive in full sun with the number and size of the leaves as well as the small root system, but I would feel comfortable placing it in a shady area for awhile.

What is the quickest you have gotten a cutting to root? Did you beat me?

Date cutting was stuck

The tag I wrote when I stuck the cuttings (6/29/11)

Cuttings being rooted under a misting system

Cuttings being rooted under the misting system. The large cutting in front is a Pink Turtle Head.

Closeup of roots forming

Cutting showing the formation of roots

Be sure to leave a comment and tell me what kind of success you have had!

How I get softwood cuttings that will be rooted under my misting system

Gathering cuttings to place under your misting system can be quite a chore. But it really doesn’t need to be.

Misting systems are great for rooting cuttings. They make quick work out of the process of the cutting forming roots to become a real plant. I use a few methods to root cuttings but my misting system is by far my favorite. Of course, you need cutting to place under the mist, and that is where the work begins.

Gathering cuttings can be a tedious job, you take a pair of pruners, select a branch or shoot, cut it just above a leaf or pair of leaves, trim the cutting just below a leaf node, dip the stem in rooting hormone, then place the cutting in rooting media and under the misting system. Each step takes time so how can you save some time? Easy, during the gathering of the cuttings.

As the photo below shows, my Pink Weigela has a ton of new growth and looks a bit disheveled. This new growth is what needs to be cut and rooted but I really don’t have the time (or patience) to clip each shoot individually, so I grab my trusty hedge shears and go to town!

Pink Weigela needing a pruning

This next picture shows the shrub trimmed to a more pleasing shape. During the pruning I clipped of a ton of new growth, growth that will be used as cutting material.

Pruned Pink Weigela

How much rooted cutting material? Well take a look at the pile of cuttings I got from just one shrub. All I need to do is clean them up and prepare them to be stuck.
Pile of softwood cuttings for rooting

So don’t be afraid of pruning your shrubs with hedge clippers. Just think of all the cuttings you will end up with.

Oh, as an added bonus, your shrubs will look much better too.