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Handy Tips for a Great Garden

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Put an end to the mini-gardens you have been planting along the windowsills and rooftops. They are well kept and easy to look after but are in no comparison to the garden you can plant around your house. Let this be the time when you decide to go with the urge of planting a proper garden and experience its beauty and charm.

Garden lovers do plan to plant their own garden every year, but without proper information they expect that it may soon turn into a disaster.

A well-planned garden may save you from many problems. Once saved from these problems, your garden will be your admiration and the best part of your territory.

Here are just a few handy tips for a great garden. Keep these in mind before you pick up a trowel or open a seed packet.

1. Plan Your Garden

A complete plan should be made to plant a healthy garden, which may save you a lot of time and energy later. Everything is important, from selecting the right place for a garden to choosing what you can grow according to the season. Seeds are usually sown in spring, while Fall is favorable for planting trees, shrubs, bulbs and some other perennials.

You should keep in mind what kind of garden you want to grow, a fruit garden, a vegetable garden or a flower garden. Know when to sow and when to reap. And the area should also be selected according to your plants’ need of sunshine.

It is your garden and it is up to you to plant whatever you wish to. As in the beginning, we suggest that start on a small level and once you understand the nature of your plants then go expand the boundaries of your garden.

2. Clean up the Area

You need to clean up the area where you are planning to start growing a garden. You can get rid of the sod covering by smothering it with newspaper. Place a layer of five sheets of newspaper with a 3-inch layer of compost (or combination of potting soil and topsoil) on it and then wait for about four months to let the compost and paper to decompose.

3. Your Soil Matters A Lot

If you know your soil type, then you can easily manage it and get the best out of it. The three basic types are – sand, silt and clay. And if you can’t recognize which one is yours, then take help from a nearby nursery on garden center.

Soil needs a boost as well, which can be done by adding some simple organic matter to it. Such organic material includes the addition of a 2- to 3-inch wide layer of compost, decayed leaves, dry grass clippings, or old manure. It enhances the nutrient level and encourage life-giving soil microbes and worms.

Know when to dig the soil. Though, digging loosens the soil so roots can penetrate more easily, but digging when the soil is too wet or too dry can ruin its structure. You should dig only when the soil is moist enough to form a loose ball in your fist, but dry enough to fall apart when you drop it.

4. Mulch, the best friend of your garden

Sun, rain and mulch are known as the best friends of a garden. A couple of inches of mulch will help in keeping weeds out and water in. The different sorts of mulch which are available are pine needles to cocoa hulls to bark chips. As for a vegetable garden or bed of annuals, you may choose a mulch that decomposes in a few months. Longer-lasting mulch is used for perennials, such as bark chips.

5. Bring seedlings home

Bring all the seedlings outdoors (whether home grown or store bought) and expose them to a steadily increasing amount of sun, wind, and temperatures lower or higher than what they were used to indoors. This process of hardening off gradually introduces seedlings to the conditions in your garden. It may take about 2 weeks.

6. When to Plant

The ideal time to plant is when there is rain in the forecast and no frosts or heat waves expected. Incase forecasts are not that helpful, then try to plant in the late afternoon or early evening to minimize the time the seedlings bake in the sun. And before planting anything, water the soil a day before to keep it moist.

7. Planting

You should know which species to plant together depending on their similar requirements of soil, light and nutrients. You can either plant a single type or multiple types. Planting different species together may eliminate the risk of facing attacks from plant-specific pests.

Keep some space between your plants. Spacing is good for their growth and the bare patches can be filled with flowering plants.

8. Water Wise

The most important element in a plant’s life is water. Seedlings should never dry out; they should be watered daily while they are small. New transplants also need frequent watering, every other day or so, until their roots become firm. The rest of the water requirements depend on your soil and climate.

Watering should be done slowly and deeply. The way you water a plant determines its health.

9. Pests and Diseases

Once you have decided to plant certain species, then make sure you know what kind of pests and diseases attack them. Find organic ways to keep your plants healthy enough to avoid any pest problem. And be prepared to tackle their arrival. It is better to know your problem beforehand.

10. And the hard work continues…

A healthy garden is not a single-day story. You have to keep watering your plants properly and keep maintaining your garden. Fertilizers may change according to the season and you shall need to fertilize the soil halfway through the season. Keep up with your plants’ needs and take care of them.

Get ready to have a garden of your own and rejoice its pleasure. You just need to keep investing time and effort. It will all pay off when the plants will grow up and you will be sitting back enjoying the blessing of having your very own garden. A little hard work today will bring in plenty of joys later.

Author Bio:

Christine Rudolph is a content writer at B&C Pest Control, a Lake Mary Pest Control Provider. Serving homeowners and business owners with its effective pest management and extermination solution.

Planning a butterfly garden

I got the word this weekend we had enough vegetables and not enough flowers in our garden beds so got the idea to start a butterfly garden. Upon telling my 6 year old daughter she got very excited and started talking how we can charge admission for people to see our butterfly garden.

There are two ways to get butterflies in your gardens, provide nectar to eat and/or give them a great environment to lay their eggs. If you remember your grade school science classes those eggs turn into caterpillars which depending on what else you have in your vegetable garden this might not be exactly the pest you want to encourage to inhabit your garden. If that is your situation I would recommend only planting the nectar attracters. After carefully investigating what caterpillars eat by reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar from cover to cover I decided my risk should be minimal if we have our butterfly garden on the other side of our yard away from our strawberries.

To attempt to get the butterflies to lay eggs, we bought Snapdragons and Daisies. To provide butterflies with tasty nectar we picked out Black-eyed Susan, purple coneflowers, zinnias, and nasturtiums, Lavender, Daisies (as well), and Mint. We are also planning on creating a butterfly feeder by taking a small jar and drilling a hole in the top. Put some cotton snuggly in the hole and fill with solution of 1 part sugar to 9 parts water and cheap butterfly (or hummingbird) feeder is ready for visitors.

Will keep posted with progress on the butterfly garden and I anticipate the butterfly feeder will have plenty of “decorating” involved. If you want something that might look a little more attractive in your garden you might want to take a look at the commercial butterfly feeders.
Read Other Butterfly Garden Posts

Doing a Garden Makeover or Building from Scratch? Here are the Tools You’ll Need

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The first tool, and perhaps the most important tool for any project, is a solid plan of action. The list of tools needed for a garden makeover or for building a garden from scratch will change slightly depending on your plan. The term garden encompasses many different outcomes.

This article focuses on the tools needed to build a vegetable garden. Plan your garden in accords with what you consume and with ideas that suite plants that grow in your area. Consider seasonal changes and whether or not your garden will need a greenhouse or a hoop house for extending your gardens growing season.

Giving your garden shape:

The second set of tools that are important are a ball of twine and marking stakes. These two tools allow your garden to move from one dimensional planning into a three dimensional form. Stake out the area that will become your garden and then stake out any features that you might consider putting into the garden. These may include raised beds, pathways, irrigation/hose bibs, a greenhouse, and a planting table. Using twine and stakes allows the gardener to see exactly how space is going to be used, and it breaks up a large project into manageable pieces.

Implementing Garden Elements:

The third set of tools that you will need to focus on are the tools that will actually help you begin to create the elements that make up your garden plan.

If you are creating raised beds than you will need a saw, a drill, and wrenches/hammer for fastening the wood pieces together. You might also consider buying a raised garden bed kit.

If your garden plan calls for an in-ground garden, then you will need a sturdy shovel and perhaps a tiller for turning the earth. It is also recommended that you use a soil screen and a wheelbarrow for sifting the soil. Most experts agree that an in-ground garden needs to be dug down to a minimum of 18 inches. Expert gardens may dig down to 2 feet and replace the bottom six inches of soil with compost/manure.

Sifting the soil helps to promote root growth from plants, especially root crops such as carrots and potatoes. Note: Even with a tiller, a shovel is still needed to dig down deep enough to create a productive in-ground garden. For raised beds do not forget to factor in the cost of soil, to fill them. Long term projects can recycle aged compost in to new beds to help build up soil levels over time. This is not only free it improves soil composition for plants. If your garden plan calls for yearly expansion, then consider building the raised beds first, planting a cover crop and using garden produced compost to fill them over time.

Standard Garden tools:

A sturdy wheelbarrow, shovel, hoe, a bow rake, and hand tools for weeding amid your vegetables are all that are necessary for maintaining a garden. This means that the cost of buying tools to start a garden is a relatively low cost investment. Even the creation of a compost-system can be done free of charge. It is a wonder that more people do not take up gardening as both a means of producing food and as a hobby.

After all, nothing is a better return on your time investment than a vegetable garden. It continues to produce regardless of the economy, and when recession hits, its value outshines even the best investment.

About the Author: Thad works with O’Connor’s Lawn—Your source for riding lawn mowers . Thad is an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys writing about landscaping and lawn care.

Giving the Toads a Happy Home with Earth, Water and… Garden Furniture?

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There was a toad that lived in my mother’s garden, and I always considered myself lucky to happen to catch a glimpse of him by a rock before he hopped back into the dense flowers and vegetables. When the summer rain was fresh on the plants, little toad would always be hanging out by the edge of the garden. I always wondered what his home looked like, and why he lived in the garden instead of the wilderness. Now that I have my own garden, I wanted to see more of little toad and other amphibians. They truly are amazing animals, and it is such an honor to be able to provide a good habitat for them so I can sometimes look in on their life and wonder what it’s like to be a toad!

After a bit of research into what type of real estate really does it for amphibians, I found out I need to provide shelter, hibernation spots, and a breeding area. Implementing a few structures with earth, water and garden furniture will really give amphibians a nice place to settle down in. Here are some tips for making your own garden toad-friendly, whether it’s because you like the amphibians or just their positive effects on gardens.

Rocks

Toads love to hide under rocks, so scatter a few throughout the garden in piles and border any paths or boundaries. You can also use wooden logs for this. Either way, it adds some more design to your garden and comfort for the toads. Some toads will also hibernate underground, digging deep below the freezing line, but others will rely on cracks in wood or rocks because they aren’t as good at digging.

Interestingly enough, Scientific American maintains that many frogs will freeze to the point where their heart and lungs stop beating in the winter. The level of glucose in their vital organs acts as antifreeze and the heart and lungs will start working again once the temperature warms back up.

Ponds for mating, hydration, and hibernation

Even if you don’t have a pond, you may still get a happy toad to live in your garden as they are a dry-land equipped amphibian. If you want more variety such as frogs or salamanders though, install a pond to prove the adequate hydration and ecosystem they require.

Putting a small pond in or near your garden isn’t as hard as it sounds. I just dug a hole in the ground, covered it in strong plastic, and waited for the rain to fill it up. You can also fill it with water from the hose, but you will want to make sure the chlorine has fully evaporated by the time any amphibians come near it. If you pick an area of low ground where pools form naturally, the rain should be fine to fill it up.

A pond also provides a hibernation spot for aquatic frogs. They will partially bury themselves in the mud below the surface and take in oxygen from the water.

Make sure the pond is far enough away from chemically treated lawns, poisonous trees or other plants that pose a threat to amphibians and reptiles. Instead, proactively install plants that will proved shelter and attract the kind of insects amphibians enjoy.

Garden furniture for hiding

I really like the wild, overgrown look of vines twisting into everyday objects, so I decided to incorporate furniture into my garden to provide shade, depth of space, and a dense hiding spot for the amphibian residents of the garden. I found a really cool, intricate looking wrought iron bench and planted Black-eyed Susan vine transplants, weaving them through and around the bench. I like to think that the frogs, toads and salamanders love the natural looking fixture as a potential hiding spot.

 Blackeyed Susan Vine

I also added another bench to the front-most outer side of my garden, this time using a cute little wicker design with cushions for actual sitting. Depending on the season, I leave this piece of furniture protected with a garden bench cover for the most part, and wait for it to rain in the early evenings. Once the rain ceases I go out to the garden and quietly uncover the bench for some amphibian (and rainbow) viewing relaxation. It’s probably one of the best things ever!

Amphibians are magnificent creatures, but they’re not the only garden-beneficial animals. What is your favorite garden wildlife, and how do you attract them to your yard?

Frugal way to grow a garden with bird seed for temporary spaces

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Many people love bird watching. It is the favorite pastime of many gardeners too. For drawing the birds to the garden, you need to use the feeders. Instead of buying and storing the feeders every season, you can as well consider turning a special part of your garden exclusively for attracting birds. If the feeders are able to sprout, you can use them for growing the plants. Once the plants grow and mature, the birds can eat the seeds from the plants directly. Apart from that, you can pick the best seeds and store them away for the next season. If this interests you, here is how to grow bird seed.

1. Find a special spot

If you have a large garden, you can make use of the space effectively. Divide it into many parts. One special spot can be left for the birdseeds. The first thing to do is to find the best spot in your garden to attract the birds. The best thing is to consider an area away from your main garden. The birds will not disturb your garden and other useful items there.

2. Choose a good mixture of seeds

Choose a good mixture of seeds that can produce a wide variety of flowers. This can add a lot of color to the area and attract a lot of different types of birds. When the plants grow and produce different kinds of plants and flowers, various birds come to your garden automatically. In order to make the seeds grow well, you have to take the necessary steps.

3. Growing the plants

The soil should be well suited for growing the type of garden and plants you are looking for. First, begin with loosening the soil with a garden hoe. This will make it easy for planting the seeds. When the soil is ready, take a handful of seeds and scatter them on the loosened soil. Rake some topsoil over the scattered seeds. Sprinkle some water lightly over the topsoil to provide enough moisture for the sprouting.

4. Harvest the seeds

After the plants grow well, they start producing the seeds. Harvest these seeds at the end of the season. Store them properly in an airtight container. They can be used for feeding the birds during the winter season. Or, you can also leave them on the plants so that the birds eat them directly from the plants.

The best thing about these plants is that they will produce different kinds of colorful flowers before producing the seeds. So you will be able to enjoy different kinds of flowers and plants in your garden. At the same time, you can get a large amount of seeds for the next season. This is one of the best ways to produce healthy bird seeds in your own garden without spending money too often. Once you get used to the procedures, it will be easy to maintain the garden and follow the different procedures for taking care of the things. Choose an ideal location in your garden and spend some time with the birds daily. Children can also learn a lot of things from your garden.

 

About the author: Alia Haley is a blogger and writer. She loves writing on technology and luxury. Beside this she loves gardening in free time. She recently bought a book on Japanese Garden. These days she is busy in writing an article on patio umbrellas.

How to build a raised vegetable garden

Raised Vegetable Garden

Building a raised vegetable garden is a very easy and with the right planning can also be very inexpensive.  First you need to answer a few important questions before you get started.

The first you have to pick a location.  There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the location; sun, water, convenience, and competition for nutrients.

SUN – You want to pick a location where the plants will get adequate sun for success.  If this is an area where you will be growing summer vegetable a southern facing location should be used.  For other cooler crops East/West facing should suffice.

WATER – You want a place that is convenient to water your plants.  If you have to unravel/coil up 200 feet of hose every time you water you most likely will begin to have under watered plants during the summer months.  If a hose is not really even an option the method of filling a couple five gallon buckets and bringing them to your garden is great exercise.

CONVENIENCE — The more often you walk by your garden the more likely you will not forget about (or neglect it)  If it happens to pass it on your trip from my car to your back door you most likely will notice suffering plants or potential additions for tonight’s dinner to harvest.

COMPETITION FOR NUTRIENTS — Make sure your garden is not too close to other planting such as established plants or trees.  This will force both sets of plants roots to compete for water and nutrients where both may end up coming up short.

Now you know where to build your garden next is to determine the best materials to build you garden out of.  Personally I like cinder blocks since they never have to be replaced, relatively inexpensive, have ability to hold solar energy and as an added bonus have great little holes to grow strawberries in.  Now on the negative side I will be the first to admit they are not the prettiest thing to look at and don’t really make the most comfortable bench to sit on.

Cinder block Raised vegetable garden

Below I have included some of the pro and cons of various building materials.

Building Material Cost per linear foot Tools required Pros Cons
Cinder Blocks $0.97 None (other big muscles) Extra plating area in holes Hard to sit on, not as aesthetically pleasing
Chiseled Wall blocks
(2 high)
$5.96 None (other big muscles) Most aesthetically pleasing Expensive
Bricks
(3 high)
$1.36 None (if dry stacked) More aesthetically pleasing than cinder blocks Expensive, and mortar may be required depending on height
Wood — Cedar
(.75” X 8”)
$1.60 Drill (screws) Looks good, natural appearance Wood is organic so eventually will decompose.  Some assembly required

Third step is actual construction of your raised garden bed.  I agree with Mel Bartholomew’s recommendation (from Square Foot Gardening fame)where he suggests limiting the width of the garden bed to no greater that 4 feet.  This allows for easy watering, weeding, and harvesting of your vegetables without any serious reaching.  This also works out good since lumber normally comes in 8 or 12 foot increments so very limited waste.

For all methods I recommend digging about 2 inches around your perimeter of your planned raised garden bed.  This first will give you a visual idea of your new space but also give the blocks/bricks/wood a good foundation to prevent slipping.  Speaking of foundation the weight of block/bricks is enough to keep the dirt in place, though with wood I would recommend creating a 4 foot 1X1 as a cross support every 4 feet to help spread out some of the load as you add soil.

Finally it is time to fill your your garden bed with some great soil.  If you happen to be luck enough to have this in your backyard go ahead and fill it up.  For the rest of us this is a great time to start your garden off to a good start.  I recommend a recipe of three main parts (compost, filler, and “fluff”) of equal quantities.  Compost should be self explanatory, great organic material thriving with life.  For filler I recommend materials like coconut coir, peat moss, or even some good topsoil.  For “fluff” add a material such as perlite or vermiculite to add some moisture retention and some great aeration for your plants roots.

Now all my recommendations above all mention a height of less than 12 inches.  There are some good reasons for this given there are not too many vegetables you can’t grow in less than six inches of good quality soil.  Assuming you are lucky like me and have an abundance of clay in your backyard this means significantly less soil to purchase when filling.  Now this is harder on the back bending over so for someone with limited mobility you can bring up the garden bed to a more comfortable height though there really is no reason to fill the garden bed with 2-3 feet of soil.  This is an area to be creative, maybe some free fill dirt for the first couple feet, aluminum cans, anything that can take up space and not use your precious garden soil.

Now if your selection of tools are limited or you just want to get some beds up quickly to start growing some vegetables, there are a many commercial raised garden kits out there.

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