5 FLOWERS THAT ARE DEAD SIMPLE TO GROW FROM SEED

When I first started growing plants from seed I limited my growing to vegetables only. I can't really explain it, other than to say that it seemed like flowers might be fussy to start from seed. Boy was I wrong. Most flowers, in fact most plants, are pretty easy to start from seed. But some are just dead simple.



Here are five of my favorite super simple flowers to grow from seed. And when you see how much these plants cost at the nursery you'll wonder why you weren't doing it sooner.


NASTURTIUMS
'Cherry Rose' nasturtium

Are you sick of me blabbing on about nasturtiums yet? I'm sorry, but I really can't say enough about them. To review: They are beautiful, edible (both leaves and flowers), may help fend off "bad" insects and, most importantly, are easy as pie to grow.

The seeds are quite large, usually bigger than a pea, which makes them easy to handle and easy to plant. They have a hard seed coat, so it's a good idea to soak them first. I used to soak them overnight, but then I switched to a shorter soak of two to three hours in hot water (changing the water a couple times to keep the temp up) at about 85 or 90 degrees. I haven't noticed a bit difference, but I've forgotten seeds before while soaking and that definitely isn't good.

I usually start them with three seeds in a 4-inch pot but I've also grown them in soil blocks. They are equally easy to direct sow in the garden. I'll start several kinds early inside but then I go back later and fill in empty holes in the garden by popping in a few seeds.

Nasturtiums are great for filling in empty spots in the garden.

Start them about four weeks before your last frost date, planting them about a half-inch deep and keep them cool. You can plant them out after the danger of frost has passed. In my area they grow equally well in full sun to relatively shady conditions, but hotter areas may requite a touch of protection from full sun. The key to success with nasturtiums is to not plant them in soil that is too rich or fertilize them. If your nasturtium is growing lots of leaves and no flowers, it's because you're treating it too well.

POPPIES

Even in a crowded border, poppies will hold their own and look great doing it.

I can only speak to the simplicity of growing some poppies, as there are many varieties, but most truly couldn't be any easier and, as a benefit, they are the single easiest seed to save so you'll have as many as you need forever.

Here are the super simple directions for planting them: Throw the seeds on the snow or soil where you want them in February. I'm not kidding. That's zone 5b so you may need to adjust the timing a little, but don't sweat it. You can actually plant them by raking them in to a prepared bed, but try not to get later than a month or so before your last frost. They need light to germinate, so don't cover them. Plant them in full sun.

Equally as beautiful as the flower, or perhaps more so, the seedbeds of poppies continue to shine after the blooms are spent. 

When they are finished flowering, which isn't a particularly long time, their seed pods provide just as much interest, if not more, than the blossoms. Let them stand but later in summer cut all but a few otherwise you'll have poppies everywhere (they will readily reseed themselves). In early fall, give the seed pods you left standing a little shake. If they rattle, the seed is ready to harvest. Simply cut off the seed head, keeping it upright and just pour hundreds of seeds into a bag.

I've grown something very similar to this in the past but this year I'm adding Iceland poppies that I think I'll start indoors just to be safe.

CALENDULA

'Geisha Girl' Calendula

Also known as pot marigolds, calendula has all sorts of edible and medicinal purposes, but it's worth growing if you do nothing other than enjoy looking at it. The flat seeds are large enough to be handled easily and starting them is simple stuff.

I start them in soil blocks but small pots or cells would work fine too. Plant them about 1/4 to 1/2-inch deep as they need darkness to germinate. I put them on a seed-starting heat mat at 70 degrees. Every time I've grown them I've had about 99% germination. You can certainly start them outside as well by direct sowing. I start them about eight weeks before my last frost date and they can be planted out a couple weeks before the last frost, although I don't recall ever doing that, only because I like to plant all my annuals at the same time and so many can't be planted out early.

Orange calendulas are so bright even a few random flowers stand out in a garden. (Bonus prize for counting the number of poppy seedlings coming up in this photo.)
They come in traditional marigold colors and some shades of pink. My favorite is a bright, neon orange call 'Geisha Girl.'

NICOTIANA

Nicotina alata 'Lime Green'

I've been growing Nicotiana alata 'Lime Green' for a few years and it is a favorite. Although some Nicotianas can be extremely fussy (I once tried to grow Huichol Nicotiana even though the company I ordered from warned me it was difficult to start and sure enough, nada), this one and many others are no problem. In fact the hardest part about planting them is that the seeds are even smaller than poppy seeds so it's very difficult to not oversow.

I love how nicotianas look mixed in a bright annual planting. Because I start them from seed I'm able to plant them in masses for just pennies.

They need light to germinate, so don't cover them, just gently press them down so they have contact with the soil. I also put them on the heat mat. Then be careful to only water from the bottom or use a mister until they germinate so you don't wash them away. Start them about eight weeks before the last frost, potting them up as necessary. They can be planted outside after the danger of frost has passed.

CASTOR BEANS


I may be pushing the "flower" definition here a bit because castor beans are generally grown for their foliage but they do have beautiful, if a bit strange, flowers.

What kid hasn't been handed a cup full of dirt and a dried bean and been told to plant it as a grade-schooler? Kids are filled with pride as the bean quickly sprouts and grows to a size large enough to take it home and present it to their parents. Teachers pick beans because they are pretty much guaranteed to grow and the same holds true for castor beans.

I start them in 4-inch pots about six weeks before the last frost, planting them one per pot, about 1¼ inches deep. I give them some bottom heat to get them started on the seed mat. Once they germinate and start growing you have to be careful about giving them even light or rotate them at least once a day as the plants can take off in one direction seeking sunlight and never really straighten out.

The spiny flowers of castor bean are unlike anything else in the garden.

The key to castor beans is to make sure not to plant them out too early. They will not handle anything below 60 degrees, at least as young plants and will sulk at best and die at worst if they get colder.

It's important to note that all parts of castor beans are very poisonous, so some care must be taken in where you plant them. And although I love the spikey, bright red flowers, I don't bring them inside because I don't trust the cat to leave them alone.

I've grown 'Impala' and 'Gibsonii' and wouldn't be able to pick a favorite. 'Impala' is a "dwarf" variety, meaning it stays about 5 feet tall or less but 'Gibsonii' has spectacular flowers and has more of a tendency to flop later in the year, especially if they get dry.


There are many other flowers that grow very easily from seed but I've either never grown them (or not grown them for several years and have therefore forgotten their habits) or for whatever reason I personally haven't found them to be as easy as other people have so I left them off the main list. Still, they are worth checking out:

  • Sunflowers
  • Zinnias
  • Cosmos
  • Marigolds
  • Violas
What are your favorite flowers to start from seed?



WEEKEND FINDS

I had to change the name of Friday Finds this week since this is going out so late that most of you won't see it until Saturday.

Here's what I've been liking and loving online this week.

Loi Thai / Tone on Tone photo

Loi shared some of his tips for growing the amazing myrtle topiaries he grows. I'd love to give this a try.

I just signed up for Margaret Roach's "A Garden for 365 Days" webinar. I missed the first one, which was held earlier this week, because I assumed it would be unlimited, but I was wrong. So I quickly signed up for the next airing of it (actually I was on a wait list for a few days). There are three more airings scheduled if you're interested and she just announced a seed-related webinar as well. If you are interested, my advice would be to sign up right away.

Count me in for spicy meatballs.

Some good tips on how to find a hairstylist, although I think they work better in bigger cities. I left my longtime stylist about six months ago and I've been bouncing from stylist to stylist hoping to find someone I like within my price range and haven't had much luck.

Some gorgeous arrangements straight from the garden.

Garden Matters photo compilation

I know you're all thinking about gardening as much as I am so here's a great list of gardening hacks to use this summer. 

MY SWEET PEA ORDER

Dear me. It's still a good four months before I have a hope of planting anything, but I'm very much behind on making a plan for what I will grow from seed this year. I need to start by going through what I already have and that will require riffling through boxes and Ziploc  bags and generally realizing that my "organizational system" is lacking.

There's still some question about what vegetables and flowers I'll grow this year, but there is no doubt that I'll be growing sweet peas, so earlier this week I at least finished up with that order.

A bouquet of sweet pea blooms from my 2015 garden. The scent was absolutely heavenly.

Of course I ordered too many. How can a gardener possibly choose? Plus, I enjoy giving spares away to good homes. A sweet pea charity if you will. The past two years I've bought a mix of heirlooms and spencer varieties to make sure that I had the scent from the heirlooms but the more showy flowers of the spencers. This year I bought mostly spencers but focused on varieties said to have good scent. There is no point whatsoever to growing a sweet pea if it doesn't smell like a sweet pea, in my mind.

Here's this year order.

I ordered the majority of them from Owl's Acre Seed, a British company whose seed I had great success with two years ago. Whether it was just a better year for them than last year, or the seed really is better I can't say but I'm hedging my bets and going back to what worked better for me. Plus, they have a better selection than a lot of seed providers in the U.S.

Noel Sutton

Owl's Acre Seed photo

I have a weakness for sweet peas in general but show me anything in the blue family and I go all weak in the knees. I love setting them off with pink  and white. Noel Sutton appears to have a blue-turning-pink type of thing going on. And it is said to have great fragrance.

Erewhon

Owl's Acre Seed photo

I grew Erewhon two years ago and it is the best sweet pea I've grown. A bi-color pink and blue. Obviously a winner in my book.

Unique

Owl's Acre Seed photo

I like a sky blue sweet pea to go with those deep blue and purple flowers so this one caught my eye. It's said to be smaller growing and therefore good in a container so having that option attracted me to it. This is an heirloom variety so I would expect that what it lacks in long, cuttable stems it will make up for in scent and an abundance of flowers.

Anniversary

Owl's Acre Seed photo

I wanted a white sweet pea to mix in with this bunch and this one with pink edges caught my eye. I grew Mollie Rilstone last year and was underwhelmed by it so I hope this wasn't a mistake. Anniversary sounds like it will be excellent as a cut flower, which is my favorite thing to do with them.

Beaujolais

Owl's Acre Seed photo

After all that same old-same old I was feeling like I should at least try something different and this wine beauty caught my eye. The fact that it said it has excellent fragrance sealed the deal.

Spanish Dancer

Owl's Acre Seed photo

I like to mix different varieties of sweet peas on the same support so I needed to find a friend for Beaujolais and I thought the deep pink tone on the tri-color Spanish Dancer would tie in well. I'm the most nervous about this choice because it will be beautiful if it looks like the picture but I've seen this same color combination look completely muddy in other flowers.

This last variety came from Floret Flowers. I was picking up a couple other seeds there and this sweet pea (which is also offered at Owl's Acre but is sold out) came along for the ride.

Valerie Harrod

Floret Flower photo

I'm definitely on a coral and salmon kick when it comes to flowers and this punchy pea caught my eye. The folks at Owl's Acre call this one of their favorites, and that's good enough for me.


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FRIDAY FINDS

It feels like it has been a long time since there's been a Friday Finds post here. I can't even tell you how busy this month has been and amazingly I feel like I'm already behind on gardening. There are seeds and dahlia tubers to be ordered and I've not done anything about formulating a plan yet!

But there will be time for that soon (and if not, I'll make time). For now, let's check out some of the goodies the Internet has been dishing up lately.

Margaret Roach's podcast of Q&As with Ken Druse is great. I love the question about decyphering degrees of shade. I wonder if in our quest to simplify plant labels we haven't gone too far.

http://www.flowerpatchfarmhouse.com/ten-rose-care-myths-debunked/
Flower Patch Farmhouse photo
I mentioned that I haven't ordered seeds yet but back in fall I ordered eight David Austin roses. Eight.  You may recall it was just a few years ago that I swore off roses. I'm a sucker. But there's an excellent rose care article over at Flower Patch Farmhouse that I'll be hanging on to.

One of the things I'm hoping to do in 2017 is increase the number of garden conferences and events I attend. Here's a great roundup of several excellent ones to consider.

http://www.theimpatientgardener.com/2017/01/garden-trends-for-2017.html

Did you catch my predictions for gardening trends for the coming year? Tell it to me straight: Do you think I'm on the right track?

And lastly, I just wanted to take a moment to toot my own horn a tad. I was thrilled to find out last week that I was named to two great blog lists.


I was named to Lawnstarter's Top 50 Garden Bloggers list (aka the Golden Trowel awards).


And I was also named to Toolversed's Top 10 Gardening Bloggers list.

In both cases I'm delighted to be in the company of some of my favorite bloggers. Check out their blogs at the links above.

There's lots on the agenda for this weekend. More work on the basement, a Green Bay Packers game, maybe some quality time with plant catalogs and a bit of birthday celebrating (such as it is when you get to be my age). What are you plans?

GARDEN TRENDS FOR 2017

What will gardens look like in 2017? It's a question I asked about about the same time last year and I loved everyone's thoughts on the topic. The caveat with making predictions about gardens is that they are more insulated from trends than fashion or home decor simply by the fact that it takes so long for a garden to develop that it's not practical or possible for them to follow trends as easily. But I believe that gardens that are created or renovated in 2017 may very well follow these trends.




1. POLLINATOR GARDENS


Pollinator-friendly gardens will be hot, hot, hot, and thank goodness for that. Gardeners, both casual and serious have embraced their part in the important fight to promote the health of pollinators. The Perennial Plant Association has even named Ascelpias tuberosa—butterfly weed—its perennial of the year. From home gardens and school gardens to public gardens and even containers, more and more gardens will be planned with an eye toward inviting in pollinators and beneficial insects.



2. SMALL GARDENS


As more and more people choose to rent instead of buy and people find themselves with less time to dedicate (or perhaps less time they choose to dedicate) to home and garden maintenance, gardens continue to get smaller. For some this means a small vegetable patch, for others it's a grouping of containers on a balcony. Vertical gardening will be of interest as gardeners look to pack in more plants in a smaller space. I also think that gardeners are learning about all new ways of gardening that work in 5 square feet or 5 acres.



3. EDIBLE EVERYWHERE


In last year's garden trends predictions, I said that edible gardens would continue to be popular but that they would become more decorative. I'm pretty sure I was wrong and I'm actually going to go the other direction on that this year. I think many gardeners, and particularly people new to gardening, will focus on edible gardening, but the goal will be producing, not necessarily pretty. DIY containers and raised beds will continue to be popular and gardeners will focus more on growing interesting varieties of vegetables and fruit than how they look while they are growing.


4. THE RETURN OF COLOR



This is another departure from my 2016 predictions when I said that white gardens would be hot. I still think there is a population of gardeners who will love all white gardens. But I think these are advanced-level garden design. A good white garden requires a host of design factors, including choosing plants for blooms all season, a variety of greens to compliment white flowers and, perhaps most importantly, the right combination of varied textures.


Pantone's Color of the Year—"Greenery"—is, I think, reflective of a move away from the muted palettes that have dominated home decor in recent years. I feel like there is a pent-up desire for vibrant, although tasteful, color, and new gardens are more likely to reflect that.


5. OUTBUILDINGS ARE COOL


First there was the man room. Now there is the she shed. And before any of that there were a whole bunch of fantastic sheds, writing rooms, greenhouses and other outdoor spaces across the pond, where a lot of garden trends come from. Living spaces are getting smaller (see No. 2 above) but that doesn't mean that people don't crave a private retreat. Slowly but surely I think we're going to see beautiful and more elaborate multipurpose buildings outside the house. These will be far more than a place to hang your shovel or park the mower; they'll be hangouts and zen spaces that can be customized to an individual's specific and uncompromising tastes.


So how did I do last year (check out the original post here)? Let's review.

1. Edible gardens will get prettier: I already addressed this a bit, but I'm going to give myself a grade of C on this one. I didn't see a huge shift in this direction, but I do think the popularity of edible gardens means that more gardeners were looking to do interesting things with edible gardens one way or another.

2. Gardens will get more formal: Looking at new garden designs and perusing sites like Houzz and Pinterest, I'd say this was pretty close to right on. I think they'll fall out of popularity because people who maintain their own gardens will realize formal gardens are an incredible amount of work. Grade: B.

3. White gardens will be hot: I think I a lot of people loved looking at these but not a lot of people took the plunge. Grade: C.

4. Succulents are on their way out: I took a lot of well-deserved heat on this because as several astute readers pointed out, succulents will never go out of style in the places where water conservation and drought are a concern. I don't see people doing as many ridiculous crafty things with them as they once were, but succulents still pop up in bouquets and containers. Grade: D

5. Grasses are back in: Thanks to the prairie style, naturalized plantings popping up in public gardens everywhere and plant breeders introducing all kinds of great new grasses, this one was right on. Grade: A

I think that puts me at about a C+ for last year. Maybe this year will be better.

What garden trends do you think will pop up in 2017? And what garden predictions did you have last year that you were right (or wrong) about? Tell me all about it in the comments.


A BASEMENT BEFORE TO MAKE YOU CRINGE

I've alluded to changes and projects quite a bit here so it's well past time I fill you in on exactly what's happening. Mr. Much More Patient is starting his own business and needs an office here. So, we're making an office.

We already have a den/office type of room, but we both very much like using that room (which started as the original first-floor master bedroom) as a den and since Mr. MMP will require a fairly large desk, most of the things that make the den the cozy spot we like would have to go away. Similarly, the guest bedroom isn't really big enough for both a bed and a desk setup. So that means the office is heading underground to the finished half of the basement.

I'm certain I've written about the basement here before and I may have even written up grand plans for sprucing that space up, but for the first time things are actually happening down there.

This is the epitome of a "warts and all" before picture. The terrible red wall is my doing. But you can also see the pink vinyl floor. Behind the curtained wall is a storage are that actually works pretty well but needs some cleaning out.
Half of the basement was finished by a previous owner. Everything was clearly done as cheaply as possible. Fiberboard was used instead of drywall and furring strips were put over seams instead of taping and mudding. A cheap and exceptionally ugly pink and blue vinyl floor was glued to the concrete. The trim was just flat pine boards straight from the lumber yard. Three lights run down the middle of the room. I'm sad to say that when the current owners took over (um, that would be me), the atrocities got worse. Let's just say there were some bad paint color choices involved. In my defense, it was literally the first room I'd ever painted in my life and after years in beige apartments I was desperate for color. Hey, at least I did it in the basement and not the living room.

There is a shining star though, and that's the fireplace that extends from the one upstairs. A previous owner had the flue for it closed off so it no longer functions, but last year we removed the really ugly insert from it so at least it looks ok.

Time is of the essence with this project (and painting is underway) so I'm going into this with far less of a plan than I usually approach these projects with. And the budget is small so we're tackling the necessities and the cosmetics more than anything. Lighting upgrades, more insulation and even another heat vent (there is one that comes in the room but it's inadequate for the size of the space) would be very practical upgrades, but they are both time consuming and expensive so none of those is happening. Instead, we're working with what we have for the most part.

The fireplace is a nice focal point and the wicker chairs came with the place and I love them, but I'll need to make new cushions for them.

That starts with paint. We're painting everything—ceiling, walls, trim—the same color (Benjamin Moore Mascarpone, which is the trim color in the majority of the house and also the wall color in the living room) to both lighten it up down there and hopefully visually raise the height of the ceiling. I might have picked a different color but we had a lot of Mascarpone around so we went with that. I'll pick up new fixtures for the ceiling, hopefully ones that put out a bit more light than what's there.

This corner will be the office space. The wood box on the wall hides the electrical panel and the tall wood box to the right covers a sump pump.

The stairs are across from the wall above. Yes, I painted it blue and red. Don't judge. Actually, do judge. I deserve it.  On the far left of the photo you can see the doors that lead to the unfinished portion of the basement.

We absolutely must do something about the floor and not just because it's ugly. It is also very cold, so we need to cover it with something maybe layer area rugs on top of that. Unfortunately since it's a larger space, there is no truly inexpensive solution. We're still weighing the options for that.

I made a trip to Ikea to pick up a desk and a Besta credenza a couple weekends ago and we have plenty of other furniture for the rest of the room.

Here's a better view of the larger space. 

The lighting is just three ceiling lights, all of which will be replaced. About a year ago I got a quote of about $1,100 to add more lights to the room, so rather than do that, we'll supplement the lighting with strategically placed lamps. The bump outs on the right for the air ducts are really low. At 5 feet 2 inches tall, that's not an issue for me, but Mr. Much More Patient has to duck a little to get under them. Hopefully painting everything the same color will make that less noticeable.

I'll show you our progress as it happens. No matter what, I think it can only get better.

Do you have a finished area in your basement? If so, do you really use it?

HOW WE DITCHED CABLE (AND ARE SAVING $$$$)

We are free of cable television. I feel like shouting it from the rooftops. The cord is officially cut.

This is a move that we've been seriously contemplating for at least two years. Every month the cable bill would come and I'd shake my head at how much we were spending for television. Or worse, I'd avoiding looking at it and just pay the bill and try not to think about it. A few months ago I really studied the bill and I'm embarrassed to say we were paying $190 for cable, premium channels, broadband internet and telephone service and that put me over the edge. It was way too much.



The premium channels snuck in there. In fact we weren't even watching anything other than HBO because we didn't realize we had it. At one point Time-Warner Cable (now Spectrum, apparently) gave us three free months of premium channels. I distinctly remember calling and saying I didn't want their "free" offer if it would automatically added on to my bill at the end of the promotional period but the cable company will tell you that never happened. Anyway, we'd been paying for them for a handful of months without even realizing it (because I was in denial and never studied the bills).

So I canceled the premium channels, bringing our bill down to $158 a month. And then I started preparing to dump cable all together. It took a little research and a few purchases but here's how we did it. (Some affiliate links may follow. Thanks for supporting this blog!)

1. We switched our home phone service (our cellphones do not get reliable service at our house so we need to keep a "landline") from the cable company to Vonage. They had a Black Friday sale for a year of service for $9.99/month (although after taxes and fees that goes up to about $18), plus a $100 Amazon gift card (a similar offer is available now with a $100 Visa card) and $24 cash back through Ebates. That took our phone service down to $92 for the year (including taxes, including the gift card and cash back). We were paying $28 a month getting our phone service from cable. Net savings for the next year: $244.

2. Because the ability to record shows and have a guide (the thing that shows you what's playing when) is important to us, we ordered a Tivo Roamio OTA. I learned that most Tivos require a monthly service fee of about $15. That wasn't going to fly. The point of this exercise was to save money (and stop giving it to the evil cable company). The Roamio OTA only works with an over-the-air antenna (so it will never work with cable like other Tivos) but has no monthly fee. The upfront cost can be high, about $400. Fortunately Black Friday came through again. Tivo had a sale on refurbished Roamia OTAs with 500 gigabytes of storage (about 75 high definition shows) for $200 and I picked one up at that price. I found this 1-terabyte version for $314. The Roamio also allows us to access Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Now and other streaming sites. We have an Apple TV that we use for some of that, but we wouldn't need that with the Tivo.

3. We bought an antenna. Thankfully television antennas have come a long way since the giant metal things you used to see on people's rooftops. As far as I can tell, you should choose an antenna based on the distance from the signal and the amount of interference. Although we're only about 35 miles from the towers where most of our signals originate, we're in a rural-ish area with a lot of trees, so we got one with a 60-mile range. In general the longer the range, the bigger the antenna but it's still no big deal, and certainly nothing like the enormous metal pokey-looking antennas of my youth that were on top of every house. We mounted it on the pergola near where the cable line come in the house under the deck and ran the coaxial cable in the same hole. The antenna cost $100.

We get 57 channels with the antenna and, as you might the imagine, the vast majority are garbage, but there are a solid 20 channels with some value including several PBS channels we never saw through cable.

Can you see the antenna? No?

Now you can. It's the two black circles with the rods sticking out mounted on the back of the pergola. I was concerned about an unsightly antenna on the roof but I actually had to look for it to take this picture. 


4. We're taking advantage of streaming services. If you're considering cutting the cord you may want to also consider sharing with family or friends. (I think this is all legit, but if it is bending the rules a little, let's call this a theoretical conversation.) You could, for instance, pick up the tab for Amazon Prime and your streaming buddy could pay for Netflix and you could share. I'm shocked by how much I'm finding on Amazon Prime (here's a 30-day free trial) that I'm really enjoying. (I highly recommend "Mozart in the Jungle.") We've always had these services but never really used them much.

5. We did keep our broadband Internet service from the cable company, but I argued with them to extend the promotional price that is supposedly only offered to new customers. This was not easy to accomplish (nothing is, when it comes to the cable company) but we're getting the super high speed Internet (50mbps) for $65/month. We might have been able to slow down to 30mbps but since I knew we'd be doing more streaming I thought we better leave it at the higher level.

After all that we took our bill from $190 a month a few months ago to $83 a month (broadband internet and Vonage phone service), a savings of $107 a month. We spent $300 on equipment (antenna and Tivo) to make the switch, so in less than three months we'll have recouped the "startup" costs, and by the end of the year we'll save $984 (and that doesn't include the $100 Amazon gift card from the Vonage deal). Honestly, it's not huge money, but when you look at it as money that just doesn't need to be spent it is a nice chunk of change. Save it for two years and it's a pretty decent vacation (or two trips to a really good nursery).

So how's it going? Pretty darn well. Yes, I miss some shows. I would really love to watch this season of "Top Chef" but I can't. And you know what? I'm living. I don't miss it enough to justify that huge cable bill. The hardest parts for me have been cracking my HGTV addiction (although some shows are available on the HGTV app even without a cable provider) and not having access to streaming live television on my iPad. We've used our iPads as second televisions for awhile now, and until we got rid of cable I would watch morning news shows while I was getting ready in the morning. That's no longer an option and that's been a difficult change.

One unexpected benefit has been the improved picture quality. Believe it or not, we get a much better high definition picture through the antenna than we did through cable. I read somewhere that the cable signal can degrade (for various reasons that I don't know enough about to repeat), and apparently ours did because the difference is astonishing. The day before we cancelled the cable service, we had both cable and the antenna coming in to the television, so we could flip back and forth between the two to the same channel and it was clear the image was much crisper with the antenna.

I don't think cutting the cord would be as simple for a family that watches a lot of sports. Our sports watching is mostly limited to the Packers and the Badgers and I couldn't watch my Badgers win the Cotton Bowl, which was a drag. But it's a good excuse to go to a bar for a game or, um, drop in on a friend. We will probably add on a few months of HBO Now for $15 a month when some of our favorite shows come back on there, but that's easy to turn on and turn off as we need it.

Bonus to cord cutting: Down to two remotes!

Everyone cord-cutter I consulted with before we did this told me they had no regrets, other than not doing it sooner. If you're on the fence, what I would suggest is just saving some money in the interim and calling your cable company and asking them to look at your package. Better yet, tell them you want to cancel. There is a ridiculous cat-and-mouse game that you have to play with the cable company, but in the process of trying to cancel our service they offered me increasingly better deals. Deals that were good enough that if we hadn't already been full committed to cutting the cord I might have stayed after all. But I'm glad we didn't. We're watching less television in general (this is a very good thing, in my mind) and we're saving money. And honestly, it felt so good to tell the cable company that we no longer required their television services.

Have you thought about cutting the cable cord? Or if you've done it already, are you happy with the decision?