Ear to the Ground: The Insider Dirt to Gardening in Upstate NY

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Hula hoop plant shelf

by cathym on July 21, 2021

by Cathy Monrad

Need a fun place to display your favorite (small) plants? You can make this shelf with just a few items you may already have laying around. The specialty spray paints on the market for use on various materials has grown tremendously and are an up-cyclers dream come true. Note: this stand is meant for lightweight plants and memorabilia only. Heavy items may cause hoops to sag and distort their shape.

2 hula hoops about 26 inches diameter
2 cedar fence boards 24 inches long, stained to your preference
2 pieces of 3/4-inch wood dowel 6 1/2 inches long 
Spray paint for plastic
8 thin wood screws 1 1/4 inches long
Multipurpose adhesive

Small grit sandpaper
Painter’s Tape
Sewing tape (measuring tape) 
Power drill with small drill bit

Figure 1


  1. Sand hula hoops to ensure paint adheres properly. 
  2. Match hoop seams up, then tape hoops together at various points.
  3. See Figure 1. Starting from the top hoop center seam, measure 14 inches and mark topside of hoop, then measure and mark 28 inches from seam. Repeat in opposite direction of seam. These marks note the placement of the shelves.
  4. Use power drill to drill holes through both hoops at marks. 
  5. Starting from each end of one board, measure, and make a mark 1/2 inch from edge, centered. Turn board over and repeat on other side. Repeat on second board. Pre-drill both boards where marked.
  6. Dry-fit shelf together: Use screwdriver to add screws into holes of one hoop, with the tips of screws barely protruding from reverse side. Lay boards on their edges and line up hoop screws with holes in shelves. Take turns turning each screw until all are snug. Turn project over and repeat with second hoop.
  7. Disassemble shelf. Paint hoops and dowels as desired. Let dry completely.
  8. Reassemble the shelf, tightening screws snuggly, but not to the point the hoops dent. 
  9. Lay project down on flat surface. From each hoop seam, measure and mark at 5 3/4 inches in both directions. Place a dab of adhesive on each mark, then place dowels on glue. Let dry per instructions on adhesive package. 

Cathy Monrad is the graphic designer and garden crafter for Upstate Gardeners’ Journal.


Fruits of the Forest Crumble

by cathym on July 21, 2021

by Cathy Monrad 

Crumb topping
1 1/4 cup quick oats
1 1/2 cup flour
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup cold butter, diced

Fruit filling
2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch slices
12oz raspberries
12oz blueberries
12oz strawberries
6oz rhubarb
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup flour

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9×13″ baking dish with nonstick spray, set aside.

2. Make crumb topping: In a large bowl mix together the oats, flour, sugar, and salt. Mix in the butter with your hands or a pastry cutter until mixture form crumbs when squeezed together. Refrigerate until ready to use.

3. Make fruit filling: In a large bowl add the sliced apples, berries, rhubarb, sugar, orange juice, and vanilla. Mix until combined. Sprinkle flour on top of fruit mixture and toss to coat. 

4. Pour fruit into prepared pan and sprinkle with the topping mixture evenly.

5. Bake for 45 minutes, until the top is golden and filling is bubbly.

Cathy Monrad is the graphic designer and garden crafter for Upstate Gardeners’ Journal. You can find her experimenting in the kitchen when she is not at her desk or in the garden.