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?

How to Prepare Your Vegetable Garden for a Harsh Winter

According to Game of Thrones fans everywhere, winter is coming. And while this may mean snowmen, Christmas decorations and mulled wine for some, for the keen gardener it can mean fingernails bitten to the quick and sleepless nights worrying about cabbages.

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Image credit: vegetable garden

Well, maybe we wouldn’t go quite that far – but after all the effort you’ve put into your vegetables, you won’t want your hard work to go to waste for next year. Fear not – we’ve got a guide on how to make sure that your vegetable garden is both ready for next year and useful throughout winter. Here’s how…

Harvest

First things first, take in all of the vegetables that are ready to be harvested and make the most of them. Make sure that you cure and store your produce properly, and you might just end up with a stash that will last all winter long!

Clear out

After you’ve collected all of your delicious vegetables but before you get started on the chutney, it’s time to clear up your yard. If you’re tempted to put this job off, think of it as a treat for your future self when you’re planting more vegetables in the spring. You’ll be glad you put the groundwork in when May rolls around! While you’re there, prepare perennial vegetables for survival by removing old foliage and stems.

Make your garden useful throughout winter

Though it may seem like all plants are dead in winter, there are a few vegetables that will actually be ready for harvesting when it’s very cold outside, so with a little preparation and clever planting you can make your garden produce food until late in the season.

  • Carrots are actually sweeter when harvested after the frost. Plant them around late August or early September and cover them with straw for a little insulation.
  • Plant kale and collards in mid-August and harvest young leaves from October onwards.
  • It’s best to plant Spinach around four to six weeks before the first frost of winter – again, cover with straw, then harvest in late winter or early spring.
  • November is the ideal time to plant overwintering onions.
  • Don’t have space in the pantry for all of your produce? Don’t worry – your garden can act as a fridge. Bury cabbages, with their roots still attached and a marker in the soil above so you don’t lose them, and dig them up when you fancy bubble and squeak. Potatoes and carrots will also keep when buried in the garden, but add some straw over the top to protect them.
  • Give your vegetables lots of compost and a layer of mulch, for nutrients and protection. And, while the soil is a great protector for vegetables – especially root vegetables – it won’t hurt to give them a little water before a big freeze, when it may be difficult for your plants to reach water. However, be wary of over-watering, which can lead to cold, soggy roots and very unhappy plants.

Plant a cover crop

You may not be using your whole garden to grow overwintering vegetables, so to keep your soil ship shape and ready for spring it’s a good idea to plant a cover crop such as buckwheat or rye. These plants will suppress weed growth, feed bees and keep soil in place, then they’ll act as a ‘green manure’ for your garden by breaking down and providing your soil with lots of lovely nutrients.

About The Author

This guest post was written by Ricky Peterson. Ricky is a keen gardener and loves spending time outdoors, he works at Swallow Aquatics, who sell various pond and garden supplies. Ricky also likes to travel and loves hiking and climbing.

Growing vegetables from kitchen scraps

If you’re fond of gardening and you want to do something fun you can always use kitchen scraps to grow new vegetables. It’s not a difficult job, and you can ask your kids to help you. The activity can be extremely engaging, not to mention that you’ll have the chance to improve your kitchen’s overall décor.

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Grow your own spring onions, fennel, leeks, and scallions

To plant the vegetables mentioned, you need the white roots. Your next step is to put the white roots in a pot and add some water, but pay attention because they shouldn’t be totally immersed in water. Put the pot on a window sill so that the sun can have access to it. In the next 3 to 5 days, you’ll see them grow. Take as much as you need and let the roots in the pot. Don’t forget to change the water once a week.

Lemongrass

The same applies to lemongrass, which means that all you have to do is put the roots in a pot, add water and place it near a sunny window. Note that lemongrass might need a little more sun than the vegetables mentioned above. After approximately seven days, you should see new growth. As soon as this happens, you have to move the plant into another pot, and add soil. Then, place it again near a sunny window.

Celery, Cabbage, Romaine Lettuce, and Bok Choy

You have to do the same as with the scallions. Remove the leaves, but not completely. Leave about one inch and face the white roots down; put them into a container and add water. Just like before, pay attention not to immerse the whole plant in water. These roots also need sun and constant fresh water. After a few days, you will notice that your plant will start sprouting, and in no more than 10 days, you will have to put it into soil. Obviously, the leaves must remain over the soil. In just a few weeks, you will have the possibility to harvest your produce. Lettuce, cabbage and celery will certainly compliment your kitchen’s décor, not to mention that they’re delicious.

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Ginger

First of all, you have to know that growing Ginger is a really easy job. All you need is a chunk of Ginger that you will put in soil. Unlike the vegetables mentioned above, this one prefers filtered light. What is more, apart from using it in the kitchen, you can also utilize Ginger as a nice ornamental plant.

Potatoes

Everyone likes eating potatoes, especially children. So now you have the possibility to grow your own potatoes, whatever variety you prefer. The essential thing is for the scrap to feature those “eyes” growing on its surface. Every piece that you intend to use should have one or two eyes. Cut the vegetable into pieces, and let them in room temperature during the following days. Then, you have to plant them in a nutrient-rich soil. Hence, you need to add some compost into it prior to putting the potato cubs with their eyes up in the pot.

Garlic

To grow garlic you need just one clove. Put it in soil with the root facing down, and let the pot in a place that features warmth and sunlight. Then, the plant will grow and you will see how new shoots pop up. Once the plant is fixed into the soil, remove the shoots. After this, a new tasty garlic bulb will come out.

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Mushrooms

If you want to grow mushrooms, make sure you do it in a pot and not in your garden, because otherwise, you will have a hard time trying to protect your mushrooms from other fungi. If you plant them in a pot, you will have the possibility to move them from one place to another in order to offer them the conditions they need. For example, you can try putting the mushrooms in a place that features warm filtered light throughout sunlight hours, and keep them in a place that features cool temperatures during nighttime. In order to grow mushrooms, you have to remove the head, and then put the stalk into a pot filled with soil. Note that the top of the stalk must remain at the surface.

Author Bio: Peter Smith wrote the awesome article. He is a part of site http://www.kitstone.co.uk/ where you can get a wide range of furniture collections. He is also a freelance writer who writes about everything fashion, health, home décor etc.

Building Your Own Pond

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So you want to build a pond in your garden? There is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. First, you have to pick the area in your yard that will be a good fit. In order to do that, you have to know where all of the underground utility pipes are located. Whether it is water, electrical or cable, you don’t want to hit any of them when you start digging. You utility companies will be happy to come out and mark the locations to prevent any mishaps.

Next, you want to decide how large you want the pond and make sure it is not near a lot of trees. The leaves will clog it up and make a lot of extra work for you. An average pond is two to three feet deep. Unless you plan to put Koi in it, it will need to be three to four feet deep. Even if you decide against the Koi, it is always best to make sure you have running water to keep the mosquito population down. A simple pond pump will help ensure that the water is always moving.

You can easily find reading on how moving water makes a pond environment much healthier for plants and fish. To find ways to keep your water in motion see more info on pond pumps and water systems.

Now comes the time to go get your supplies. You can buy either a preformed or flexible liner for your pond. A flexible one allows you to determine the shape and size and are relatively easy to work with. You can build your pond with common garden tools; there is really no need to have heavy machinery, unless it is going to be a very large pond. You will also need sand to spread around before you put down your liner. This prevents tears from happening due to rocks and roots. Just spread it evenly and as thick as you can to be safe.

Make sure you get the rocks you need to line around the outside and to build a waterfall should you decide you want one. Most hardware stores will deliver them, so you shouldn’t need a truck. Don’t forget your water plants and decorative plants for around the pond either. 

Not everyone has a yard or the space to build a pond. However, do not be discouraged, because you can still have a water garden by using a sealed decorative container. Just put rocks on the bottom and choose what water plants you would like to have. Once again, you will have to do something to prevent mosquitoes, even if it is only a small water garden. They will breed in any standing water. Either the water has to move, or you need goldfish to kill the larvae.

A pond can bring a lot of joy to you and your family. They are very calming and soothing to sit next to after a hard day at work. Especially those with the gentle sounds of water flowing over rocks. You’ll be surprised at how good it is for relaxation and even meditation.

Latticework that Works!

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Lattice fencing has been a go-to tool for gardeners forever. Its classic crisscross or grid structure has remained unaltered since its inception for one reason: it works! And as we all know, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Indeed, the lattice is the one "fixing" things – it provides privacy fencing for yards, serves as a blank canvas for clinging vines and ivy, helps climbing vegetables to reach new heights, keeps out unwanted critters, and functions as the main building material for decorative arbors, trellises, screens, pergolas and more!

Let’s learn a bit more about lattice by delving into two of its main purposes: vertical gardening and natural pest control.

Vertical Vegetables

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One of the wonderful things about the overlapping strips in latticework is the structural support they provide for climbing vines and vertically-growing plants and vegetables.

In the world of trellis climbers, you can’t go wrong with selections such as tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, peas and pole beans.

Once the frost threat passes for your region, lay out your garden in front of your lattice incorporating each plant’s specific spatial needs – this info can be found on the transplant’s nursery container.

After placing each transplant in its specified hole, cover with soil (mixed with compost for nourishment) and water liberally. From here, attach each of the climbers to the lattice by looping a soft piece of twine around the main stem of each plant and tie the loose ends to the lattice.

As the plant grows, the twine will guide the stems to grow vertically against the lattice. As soon as the vegetables ripen, harvest them and enjoy a homegrown bite of your hard work!

Natural Pest Control

Another fantastic use for lattice is as a tool for border control for those annoying animals that threaten to move into your home, completely uninvited. Just take a look around at all of the crawl-space homes surrounded with lattice under-fencing and you will understand the widespread infestation issues that lattice solves in such a lovely manner!

But more to the point is how to keep hungry critters like rabbits and deer from feasting on the fruits (and vegetables!) of your labor: installing lattice fencing is a great way to keep their grubby little paws off your peas and carrots and little hooves away from your rose bushes.

Although a picket fence works well as an exterior border surrounding your entire yard, if it is not at least 6 feet tall it may not thwart all deer, as some can clear that height in a single leap. Rather than installing a completely new fence, consider adding a level of lattice at the top of your existing fence.

Attaching a length of lattice to the upper railing of your fence not only provides the additional height to keep the deer at bay but it also adds texture and interest to your fence and can soften the entire look of your yard if you allow vines or ivy to grow on the lattice. Plus, you are repurposing what you already have which is a great way to save some green for the planet and your wallet!

When it comes to rabbits, here’s a quick tutorial on installing a lattice border around your garden:

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You’ll need:

  • Wire rabbit fencing, with openings no larger than an inch: Ensure you have enough wire for the length of your entire garden area that is at least four feet wide
  • Decorative lattice, in the same length as the wire fencing and at least three and a half feet wide
  • Garden trowel

To build your border:

  • Use the garden trowel to dig a narrow channel around the perimeter of your garden, approximately 12 inches deep
  • Bury the wire rabbit fencing in the trench – there should be 12 inches below the surface and three feet above ground
  • Fill in the trench halfway, leaving six inches of space from the surface
  • Enclose the wire rabbit fencing with the lattice, burying the lattice approximately six inches deep
  • Replace the remaining soil and firmly pack the ground around the new fencing

With this type of border, you have form and function. The decorative lattice masks the presence of the wire rabbit fencing, at least partially, and cursory garden admirers may not even notice it, depending on the style of lattice you choose. By burying the fence in the ground, you discourage burrowing and digging and at three feet tall, even Bugs Bunny will have difficulty breaching your barrier!

What other garden projects do you plan to complete with lattice?

Chris Long, a long-time store associate at a Home Depot in Illinois, writes for the Home Depot website. He enjoys writing on outdoor projects ranging from lattice to lumber and fencing.

How to keep termites out of your home

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Termites are the last insect most homeowners ever want to see on their property.  Their voracious appetite for wood can do untold damage to even the newest and best-built homes in any neighborhood.

Making sure they don’t do this to you takes persistence and anticipation.  Waiting for signs of termites before you initiate a treatment program is the wrong way to handle it.  If you don’t already have termites, don’t think of it as a treatment program. Think of it as a prevention program, or else it may become a treatment program.

You must deal with professionals on termites.  An infestation requires skills, tools, and chemicals that homeowners do not have.  Finding a reputable exterminator is as easy as dropping in on www.pestcontrol.us and placing a phone call.  From that initial contact, your situation will be handled by people who are well-trained in termite issues.  Don’t select some no-name startup local company, staffed by freshly-minted technicians who might not be able to find termites in their own homes.  To get the best results, work with the best people.  This is your home we’re talking about!

Calling a professional isn’t exactly how-to instruction.  But there is a significant DIY component to the process of termite-proofing your home.  We’re getting there…

First, you must limit the availability of cellulose.  That can best be handled at the time of construction, of course, but even with renovation you can look for places where wood is within six inches of soil.  Consider lattice work, structural members, and decorative items.  And note that pressure treated wood is not immune to termite damage.

Second, don’t store wood on the ground.  Whether it’s firewood or scrap lumber, placing it on the ground is making it a vector for termites.  When you grab a 2×4 block for a household repair, it may already be infested with termites.  Bringing in an extra armload of firewood to get you through the night will also bring in a squadron of these destructive pests.  Mulch, in excess, can stay moist enough to provide a home for termites that’s just inches from your home.  If you like to replace mulch annually, rake away last year’s accumulation (and any previous years’!) and use a modest layer that covers the soil just enough to get the look you want.  Don’t let mulch mound up in a thick, damp layer.  That is Club Med for termites.

Finally, manage moisture.  Termites are soft-bodied insects that cannot survive very long in a dry environment.  By taking away the moisture that keeps them alive, you will force them to relocate elsewhere.  That applies to inside your home and out.  Check for damp areas around your foundation.  Ensure that gutter downspouts can easily drain away from the home.  Get a dehumidifier for summer use, and make sure you keep it emptied as needed.

The battle against termites never ends, but with vigilance on your part and skilled work by professionals on theirs, you can stay ahead of the monsters that would eat your home.