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Testing your garden soil

Soil Test 

I always am good about amending my soil whether it is grabbing a bag of spent coffee beans from Starbucks whenever I notice them there, few handfuls of alfalfa pellets at the beginning of spring, or compost when it becomes ready in my bin.  the thing I neglected to do was actually test my soil to see how I am doing.

The process to do this is actually pretty simple.  You first start by getting a sample of your soil.  If you have a very large garden it is a good idea to take multiple samples and mix them together for a single combined sample.  What I decided to do was prepare my soil as if I was going to plant some seeds (turn up the soil with a claw, smooth it out, etc) then I took a sample about 6-7 inches deep and placed it in an old container than I am pretty sure held baby spinach.

Bucket of dirt

Next comes the fun sciencey stuff, for the pH test you fill one of the cylinders to the first line with soil, add contents of one of the “green” capsules and fill to the fourth line with filtered/distilled water and shake vigorously.

Soil test vial

For N/K/Potash tests the process is somewhat similar where you take one part soil to 4 parts water.  For this I grabbed an old juice container from the recycling bin.  Added the appropriately measured parts and shook for a good couple minutes, which was much more of a workout as the tiny vial…  I then let the soil settle and came back 10 minutes later to see perlite floating on the surface and the water still a bit cloudy…think it was the coffee ground…

Soil test materials

I then took a tea strainer, which I am pretty confident I have never used for straining tea, and poured some of the slightly cloudy water into a clean container to remove the perilite.  I then filled each of the files to the appropriate (4th) line and added the color coded capsules to each of the vials.  After 10 minutes of waiting I had my results…

Soil Test Results

So here is what I discovered:

  • pH: Pretty much perfect, basically neutral maybe a bit on the acidic side but good range for most all vegetables
  • Nitrogen: Though this shows a little color it started out a bit on the brown side so really this was almost no change so appears even with my amendments I am still very low on nitrogen.
  • Phosphorus: Basically off the charts no need to add an more here…
  • Potash: This one looks decent, probably could amend some here but really something I am worried about.

So for me this quick $4 soil test brought me some great information and will plant to give my garden some additional nitrogen boosts throughout the season.

    

How To Make A Tire Planter

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Used tires are a difficult waste product to dispose of as they take up a great deal of space and are discarded in large volumes every year. Through recycling a tire and turning it into a planter, you create something useful and attractive for your outside space for free and help the environment at the same time by keeping the tire out of landfill.

Try asking at your local garage or a breakers yard for unwanted tires, business owners are usually only too happy to give them to you as they normally have to pay to have them taken away. For this reason they are often dumped illegally by unscrupulous people.

If you want ‘how to’ videos then head for YouTube and you will find plenty but if you follow these step-by-step instructions then you will get the hang of this wonderfully simple and fun project in very little time.

First up you will need:

  • An old tire or tires
  • Box cutter knife
  • Leather work gloves (for cutting)
  • Chalk
  • Paint (weather resistant)
  • Soil & some compost
  • Whatever you want to plant – flowers, vegetables etc
  • Old clothes – tires are dirty!
  • Elbow grease!

How to do it:

1. Find some used tires. Car tires are the easiest to get hold of and use for this, but if you have the space, you could use larger tires from a lorry or tractor. Create tall planters by stacking the tires to achieve the desired height.

2. Wash well with a degreaser and leave to dry. Old tires are usually quite oily and in need of a good scrub. This prepares the surface for painting and ensures adhesion.

3. (This step is optional). If you wish to open up the top of your tyre for extra planting space, remove one of the side walls using a sharp knife. With a little elbow grease and a very strong, sharp blade you can cut through and remove the side of the tire. Mark a guideline to follow using white chalk. Take care and wear a pair of leather gloves for added protection. If you will be stacking your tires, only cut the one that will be placed at the top, as the lower ones will need both sides in place to hold their shape. Lorry & tractor tires are much thicker so cutting them requires a powered grinder (or leave them as they are – much easier!)

4. Get creative! – Paint your tire using an oil based exterior (weather resistant) paint. Bright colors make a great impact in a contemporary space, or you could simply use white. If you are feeling adventurous though there is nothing to stop you painting polka dots, stripes, a pattern or whatever you like!

5. Leave the paint to dry fully. Have a rest!

6. Position your planter and fill it with soil and a bit of compost. Prepare for planting.

7. Plant up. Flowers, vegetables, herbs, strawberries, a tree or an architectural feature plant, the possibilities are endless. A stack of tires makes an excellent potato tower, as you can produce a large crop easily using minimal space. Once ready, simply knock your tower over and retrieve your crop. (You may wish to line your tire with plastic to prevent the possibility of any chemicals leaching into edible plants).

8. Sit back and enjoy your planter. Your new tire planter will last for years as it is made from an incredibly durable, weather resistant material. You have created something beautiful and practical and aside from your time and any paint you may have purchased, you project is both environmentally friendly, fun to make and free!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Felix is a member of the evergreenhedging.co.uk team. We are part of Greenshutters Nurseries & Garden Centre based near Taunton in Somerset which was established in 1980.

How to make a pea trellis tower

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Long time readers know this is not the my first attempt at making a sturdy pea trellis I have had posts and posts about this in the past.  Though those creations were a bit cheaper than my current version this one will not be falling down no matter how big those plants get.

First I started with a 4 foot by 8 foot cattle panel which ran me about $6 at Home Depot.

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Given the panel had sharp edges and my largest vehicle is a pretty new minivan with leather seats I planned ahead and started the construction in the Home Depot parking lot.  Taking a piece of scrap lumber I placed it on the 5th cross section on one side and bent it up until it was perpendicular to the ground then repeated with the other side.

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The I carefully placed the bent panel into my minivan and brought it home for the remaining construction which pretty much was adding a zip tie in the middle to make a isosceles triangle and then tucked both ends to interweave with the other open side of the tower.

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Next I used some pliers to not have as many sharp pointy parts for my kids…probably more likely me to poke myself with and also filed down any ends that seemed overly sharp.

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So I had a bit of a strategy for planting the peas, to know where to plant I placed my tower in the desired spot and wiggles it around to make and outline to plant my peas.  I removed it as you can see below and planted two rows of peas inside the perimeter.  Then in a few weeks I will plant peas on the outside of the tower.  The idea is the peas will grow and climb up the tower and have sunlight and adequate airflow to thrive.  Then the second crop will start to grow but by the time it starts to disturb the inside crop they will already be harvested.

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I also planted peas on the outside of the tower now on the northern facing side of the tower since it wouldn’t get much sunlight after the interior had a head start.

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I know a few of you are probably thinking, “Wow this is awesome for peas, but I bet this would make an real sturdy tomato tower and way better than the ones I can buy in the garden center.”  Which I would have to agree with you on that one large enough to provide good airflow and sturdy enough to support and fairly large tomato plant.

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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.

Tips to choose plants for indoor gardening

 

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Indoor gardening is one of the best ways to decorate your home. These are simple to maintain provided you give a good amount of attention and care to the indoor plants. Even people having limited space could work wonders and end up getting a rewarding experience. Choosing the right set of plants for your indoor garden could give you some of the best enjoying experience. However, choosing these plants for your indoor garden for your home or office is always a complex affair. At times, even the people from the nursery staff are seen struggling for choosing the plants if you fail to give the right picture of indoor garden or the things you want in the garden. If you select wrong plants for your indoor garden, you may end up creating a mess at your space. Hence it is always recommended to research about the same. The below is the list of helpful tips to choose proper plants for your indoor gardening mission. Let’s check them out:

Check your space size

There are number of plants fit for indoor gardening but each one has its own space requirement. Hence before you choose any check its exact space requirements. Select the right plant for your space, which you are supposed to be filled. Always keep in mind that most of the indoor space doesn’t need any light for plants to blossom and that the flowering the plants and the ones having the variegated leaves simply need higher amounts of light levels as compared to the other plants. The plants, which are seen doing good with the full or partial amount of shade are best suited to live inside the gardens and can move anywhere inside your home or office.

Consider the weather conditions

Another factor that you need to consider is the weather conditions. You are supposed to select a plant as per the weather conditions you have at your space and its surroundings. If you choose flowering plants then make sure you understand very well that these require good amount of light levels but the plants including the gorgeous Phalaenopsis orchid are seen doing good at spaces where you have high humidity levels like the bathrooms and kitchens. Also, the Phalaenopsis orchid does not require direct sunlight or being placed over any draft, hence the areas that are overly air conditioned are certainly not the appropriate for such delicate kinds of plants.

Check the size

Once you have considered the above two factors, it’s time to consider the element of size. The small size flowering plants including the bamboo and cacti could be a good option for placing them over the coffee table or at the spaces with limited amount of space. The herbs are often considered as the ideal option for small size window boxes and palms including thatch palm or the love palm plants. These appear good in the different free standing pots seen over your room’s corner wherein you want to put some little larger plant.

Consider the factor of time

While choosing plants, you need to consider your attentiveness and active participation time as well. The evergreen and Cacti plants would hardly require any effort whereas the violets and several other exotic plants are called as temperamental and demanding in terms of time. Avoid going for a plant, which demands careful controlled amount of water feeding when you know you hardly have time to do so where there is a possibility of forgetting to the feet the water as well. The fact is, most of the indoor plants die down due to over watering hence you are supposed to check the moisture levels of the soil before you start watering your plants abruptly. This will help you in preventing things like the water logging. If you use the sub irrigation over the decorative pots, then make sure the plants would require more amount of water at the roots.

Know the good performing indoor plant options

There is a wide range of indoor plants, which you could choose for your indoor garden. A few of these could be chosen as per the above considerations, while there are few specific high performing indoor plants. These plants could be planted inside any and every indoor garden as they are among the high performing plants. These include Cast iron plant, Dragon tree, Love Palm, Thatch Palm, Hearth Leaf Philodendron, Devil’s Ivy, Mahogany tree, Peace lily, Aroid palm and Mother in law’s Tongue.

Final word

A good array of plants inside your indoor garden could do wonders provided you choose the right amount of plants for your space. However, choosing your indoor plants for your indoor space is always a complicated thing. When it comes to choosing them, consider the above tips.

About The Author: Alia is a writer/blogger. She loves writing travelling and reading books. She contributes to Gamification

Guess it is not quite spring yet

Snow in springtime

I really can’t complain with the many feet of snow dumped over the rest of the country but got a bit of a surprise with a couple inches of snow in the garden when we haven’t had any here all year…

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