Monday, October 18, 2010

Gardening Herbs

Gardening Herbs

This article outlines key considerations for successful herb gardening including planning, selection, culture, and harvesting herbs for culinary, medicinal, and crafting purposes.
Plant an herb garden and your harvest will include culinary delights, plants with medicinal value, and aromatic leaves and flowers for crafting and gifts. Whether you desire sweet basil for pesto, spearmint for tea, or lavender for sachets, your herb garden will provide the all the flavors and fragrances you need.

Herbs are incredibly versatile. At home, almost anywhere, herbs can be planted along a pathway, in a terrace, in raised beds, in window boxes, or in containers on a deck or patio. The herbs you choose to grow and the space you have available will determine how you plan your garden.

There are several key points to remember when planning an herb garden. Although some herbs, including mints, watercress, and lemon balm, grow very well in shade, most herbs prefer at least six to eight of full sun each day. Lovage, sorrel, rue, and parsley can be successfully grown in partial shade. While many herbs can survive in almost any type of soil, most prefer well-drained sandy loam. The exception to this rule is mint, which will thrive in all except the most harsh conditions.

Probably the most important consideration for success with herb culture is soil pH (the level of acidity or alkalinity in the soil). Herbs do not like acidic soil. They will survive in neutral (pH 7.0) soil, but prefer sweet or alkaline soil to thrive. Be sure to test your soil and add generous amounts of lime if the soil is acidic. If you have clay or heavy, compacted soil, do not add peat moss to increase drainage. Add sand instead. Peat moss will lower the pH and make the soil more acidic. Sand will not affect the pH of the soil. If your soil is very poorly drained, you should consider raised beds for your herb garden.

Most herbs respond poorly to overfeeding. Fertilize in early spring with organic fertilizers such as well rotted manures, compost, fish emulsion, and cottonseed meal.

There are three types of herbs, perennials, biennials, and annuals. Perennial herbs, once established, will live for several years. In northern areas, some perennials such as rosemary and bay, must be protected in winter or treated as annuals. In addition to rosemary and bay, other perennials include mint, thyme, chives, oregano, sage, and tarragon. Annuals may be started from seed or transplants each year. Anise, basil, borage, chervil, coriander, sweet marjoram, and summer savory are all annuals. Some herbs are biennials, producing flowers and seeds their second year of growth. Parsley and caraway are biennials. Rosemary, oregano, marjoram, and thyme are difficult to grow from seed because of slow or poor germination and are best propagated from cuttings or root divisions.

When you plan your herb garden, you should take into consideration the growth habits of the herbs you intend to grow. Wormwood and members of the mint family are aggressive growers. Mint can grow up to three feet tall, spread quickly, and take over a small garden in one growing season. All mints, including peppermint, spearmint, apple mint, orange mint , and lemon mint, are best grown in confined areas. Rosemary, on the other hand, can grown up to six feet tall and can shade smaller, compact herbs like chives and lemon verbena. On the positive side, the woody stems and small, needle-like leaves of rosemary allow it to be shaped into bonsai or topiaries for more formal gardens. The trailing growth habit of thyme makes it a perfect candidate for a hanging basket or a rock garden.

Fortunately, most herbs do not have many insect pests. Bay trees can attract scale insects, and flea beetles will occasionally attack dill. Such infestations can usually be repelled using a spray made of crushed garlic cloves soaked in water.

The best methods of preserving herbs are drying and freezing. Leaves and soft stems can be frozen in ice cubes for seasoning soups, stews, and bean dishes. Dried herbs have many uses other than flavoring prepared dishes. Sweet woodruff and lavender can be dried and used in sachets. Dried bay leaves repel moths. Rosemary, mint, and catnip make comforting medicinal teas. Experimenting with combinations of herbs for potpourri will yield some invigorating scent sensations.

A well kept herb garden is a delightful addition to your landscape and a wonderful source of flavors and scents for your home.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Trees For Small Yards

Trees For Small Yards

Six varieties of trees that have limited growth potential and are aesthetic enough to become a focal point in a small space or urban garden. Yards that are too small to accommodate a large shade tree can still benefit from a specimen tree of some kind. Trees bring seasonal color to the garden in the form of flowers or foliage, lend a vertical element to a flat landscape, and offer winter interest whether deciduous or evergreen.

Here are some suggestions for trees for small spaces.

Japanese maples. There are hundreds of varieties, the most exquisite of which can cost hundreds of dollars. Look for red or variegated foliage, or fine-textured, dissected leaves for a strong visual appeal. One variety has tri-color leaves, variegated with pink, green, and white. There’s a great deal of size variation within Japanese maples, from varieties that reach 20 feet to those that grow more wide than tall, remaining a bonsai-like shrub.

Spring-flowering trees. Most of these, including dogwoods, redbuds, and silverbells grow slowly to a maximum height of 20 to 25 feet. In wooded areas, they occur naturally as understory trees – those that grow beneath the forest canopy. They tend to bloom early, before the taller trees can shade them, and before they leaf out themselves. They can, however, be used as specimen trees, offering spring color. Dogwoods are white (though there are pink varieties), four-petalled flowers. Redbuds feature branches lined with bright, rose-pink florets, and silverbells sport dangling, translucent, bell-shaped blossoms.

Weeping trees. Because their branches grow downward instead of spreading out, weeping varieties of trees are excellent candidates for small spaces. For spring color, try a weeping cherry. For evergreen interest, use a weeping Yaupon holly – an excellent choice for a screen to create privacy.

Crepe myrtle. These southern favorites are really large shrubs grown into a tree-like form. They grow well where winters are mild, and bloom in the heat of summer when everything else is looking parched and wilted. Colors range from white (rather dull and muddy looking) to pale lavender to bright, watermelon pink.

Crabapples. When choosing a crabapple at a nursery, check the specific variety to see what its mature height and spread will be – some crabapples can grow quite large. Like any fruit tree, however, crabapples respond well to pruning that will limit its size and shape. Fragrant, white or pink blossoms line the branches in late spring, and fruit ripens in fall. Some varieties sport bright red fruit that hangs on the branches long after the leaves have fallen, providing winter interest to the garden.

Rose-of sharon. Really a large shrub, the rose-of-sharon is a summertime favorite. Related to the hibiscus, it blooms from June through September, with pink or rose flowers. Since the tree flowers on new wood, it will bloom most heavily when pruned well in late winter. This is a good candidate where space is really limited, as it can be pruned back to a nub when necessary.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Growing Bonsai Trees

Growing Bonsai Trees

Bonsai is the ancient oriental art of growing dwarf trees. Learn how to grow your own Bonsai tree! Bonsai is the ancient oriental art of dwarfing trees; even when these trees are young, they appear to be very old. Everything about a bonsai tree is miniature, including its leaves, flowers, fruits, branches, and trunks. It will take at least a year or more to train your own bonsai tree. To begin, you will need to purchase a young, small-leafed tree with an interesting shape. You can also dig up a seedling from your yard to train. A bonsai garden can consist of one lone, twisted tree--such as an evergreen--or a group of straight trees--such as maples or birches. Even flowering shrubs, such as cotoneaster or azaleas, can be used.

Once you have chosen the tree with which you wish to work, study the shape of the tree and try to visualize its final form. When you begin pruning the tree, keep several main branches on each side of the truck. Remember when you are working that your final result is not symmetry. Work for a composition of pleasing proportions and balance. The bottom roots of the tree will need to be trimmed to fit in a shallow bonsai tray. If the tree you have chosen has a central root, you will need to trim it back slightly. Plant your tree using insulated electrical wire to anchor the roots to the bottom holes of the bonsai tray. Spiral wire up and around the trunk and branches, bending them slightly to achieve the shape you desire.

Placing moss on top of the soil under your bonsai tree will give the appearance of grass. The tree will need to be rewired each year to allow for its growth, and the center roots will need to be trimmed after one year. Keep in mind that bonsai is a Japanese expression used to denote an artificially dwarfed potted plant or plants that have been painstakingly trained to suggest a natural scene. In most cases, a bonsai that is only twelve inches tall with an outcropping of thickened roots can appear to be a very ancient tree. Even a symmetrical miniature that is on top of a straight trunk can remind you of a stately old shade tree. In Japan, there are miniature trees that are truly centuries old, and these living heirlooms are passed on from one generation to the next.

You can purchase a bonsai that is already trained from a garden center, but it is virtually impossible for Americans to purchase a ready grown bonsai of old age. Today, many gardeners who are devoted to the art of bonsai grow their own miniature trees from hardy trees and shrubs, the foliage of which changes with the seasons. In many cases, such plants often weaken and die in the arid winter climate of an artificially heated window garden. During the summer months, these trees take a constant vigilance to keep the soil moist and protect them from drying winds.

Several bonsai adaptations have been developed that are useful to the average window gardener. Try using rapid growing tropical trees with medium to small leaves and some flowering bushes to make your bonsai. The difference in these pseudo bonsai is that on an accelerated schedule they grow throughout the year. This type of bonsai needs warmth, sunlight, and a moist atmosphere at all times. The best types to use are acacia species, calliandra surinamensis, carissa grandiflora, pink showers, weeping figs, Kaffir plum, and Brazilian pepper.

When growing your own bonsai tree, you will need to keep it sheltered outdoors from spring through fall. During the winter it should be in a cool, frost-free place with good light and temperatures between 35 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It should be watered enough to keep the soil moderately moist and misted daily. If the tree begins to droop during a hot dry spell, you should fertilize it with a complete house plant food that has been diluted to 1\4 strength at least once a month. During the one or two hottest months of the summer and in the winter, the bonsai tree should not be fed at all.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bonsai Tree Care

Bonsai Tree Care

Learn all about the amazing Japanese art of Bonsai - the growing of dwarf trees. Bonsai – the growing of trees in miniature is an age old art-form that is a pleasure to behold. On just one table can be seen small windswept pines, lonely oaks in valley basins, droopy branched trees overhanging cliffs and ripe, ready to be picked plum trees. But just how are Bonsai created? And how did it all get started?

Although modern chemical techniques can be used, many still prefer to use the natural method of reducing the size of a tree. Bonsai can be cultivated from seeds or cutlings. In the case of seeds it is preferred to use them from naturally smaller trees, planted in soil mixed with half sand. After four to eight months they germinate and are left to grow in the normal way. Cuttings are planted like those of any other tree. The miniaturizing begins after about nine months of growing outside.

The side roots are cut out with a spade, at about six to eight inches from the trunk. At eighteen months the side roots are cut again. This procedure is repeated at 24, 32 and 36 months. Then the tree is planted in a shallow flowerpot. The taproot is now cut, stopping all means of future growth.

The shape if the container is carefully selected to blend in with the theme of the scene envisioned and the type of tree being cultivated. Containers are usually of earthenware. It will be lined with a metal net to prevent the earth from sticking to it’s sides. The tree remains in it’s original container for two or three years, after which it is replaced to prevent the roots from rotting. Then the twigs are pruned with scissors, and the branches are bent by wire to achieve the desired look. At regular periods, the tree is lifted out of the pot for cropping of the roots. Bonsai thrive in fresh air and so, unless in cold weather, can be left outside. They shouldn’t be left indoors for more than a week.

So, how did Bonsai come about? The credit is attributed to a Twelfth Century Japanese Temple owner by the name of Honen Shonin. He wanted small trees to decorate his small Bodo Temple. It is not known, however, whether he originated or merely copied the dwarfing technique. In the Seventeenth Century the Dutch introduced Bonsai to the western world.

The word Bonsai means ‘shallow pot cultivation.’ Some bonsai are very old, with one in Osaka reputed to be over 600 years of age. This delicate, loving art-form has, therefore, thrilled young and old for a long time. If you haven’t already seen this wonder of nature in miniature for yourself, why not seek it out? You won’t be disappointed.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bonsai Care

Bonsai Care

Bonsai means growing miniature trees, shrubs or landscapes in small pots or containers. Learn more about how to care for these trees. Bonsai is the art and also the science of growing miniature trees and shrubs in a confined space, usually in decorative pots or trays. Ideally Bonsai is practiced to recreate nature but on a very reduced scale. Most specimens are no more than a meter high compared to their natural counterparts that grow to a height of 30 meters or more.

There are also two Bonsai variations. The Chinese introduced “pen-jing”, which means potted landscape. The Japanese enjoy an equivalent of this called “sai-kei”, or tray scenery. The object of both is to use live plants to create a pleasing three-dimensional scene. The bonsai artist might decide to use a single miniature willow and shape a “landscape” around it. Or may plant an entire forest of tiny maples that bud out in the spring and drop their leaves in the fall. A “windswept” effect could be added where each tree is bent a little to the left or the right to make it appear as if a stiff breeze is blowing through the tiny glade.

The Chinese were the first civilization to cultivate trees and shrubs in ceramic flower pots. Evidence dating back as far as 200 AD shows that bonsai was used as part of everyday gardening. China is known for its diverse variety of flora: forsythia, azalea, rhododendron, roses, tree peonies, and camellia to name just a few. It made perfect sense that these indigenous plants be transferred from their natural settings into the more artistic bonsai displays.

The art of growing trees in a pot has evolved into a very sophisticated art form. Specimens are maintained by the bending, shaping and pruning of the limbs, and by selective root pruning. It’s important that the pot and the tree be perceived as a unified whole. Some Bonsai specimens have been dated at 500-700 years old. But for the Bonsai connoisseur age is never the most important factor it’s the final “artistic marriage” of the horticultural ingredients.

Bonsai has gained steady growth in North America. Societies and organizations thrive in many cities and towns. Dealers or growers can be easily located by inquiring at garden centers, checking the yellow pages or browsing around on the Internet.

There are certain things to consider before trying bonsai:
  1. Bonsai is an outdoor activity. Since most trees are outdoor plants, bonsai collections MUST be started and maintained outdoors. Very few tree varieties tolerate the indoors so moving a bonsai specimen inside for the winter will usually kill it.
  2. Attend bonsai workshops or lectures to determine just what kind of care, maintenance and time commitment growing bonsai will need. And ask lots of questions.
  3. It might take many years to achieve the desired result. Impatient people shouldn’t try Bonsai. Those who have a keen eye for the beauty and the aesthetics of plants and shrubs are also more likely to enjoy bonsai.
  4. Choose a tree or shrub variety that is hardy, easy to work with and is tolerant of beginners mistakes. The dwarf garden juniper is a popular choice for the bonsai first-timer.

Growing bonsai might sound challenging, or even daunting. Some people do eventually give it up after they’ve killed one too many trees. But for those who persist the rewards are many. Most enthusiasts generally pass along these simple words of encouragement -- “your first bonsai will never be your last.”

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Japanese Garden Design

Japanese Garden Design

Japanese garden design elements found in classic Japanese gardens; how to re-interpret and incorporate them into home landscapes. Japanese gardens offer four seasons of beauty -- unlike English-style perennial borders which peak in the summer and completely disappear by late fall. They rely on the use of evergreen plant material and are planned to soothe, rather than stimulate the senses. They work well in small spaces and can be very low-maintenance in their simplest forms.

The underlying philosophy of Japanese gardens is to recreate the natural landscape of Japan in miniature (usually in the form of a mountainscape with waterfalls and tumbling streams). This ‘distant view of nature’ gives the style much of its current appeal. What many Americans appreciate about the Japanese style of gardening is the use of boulders and the water features. People really seem to admire those elements.

There is an overwhelming number of plants, native not only to Asia but to the United States, that are suitable for Japanese-inspired gardens. Here are a few guidelines:

Limit the number of varieties. Repeating a few species throughout the garden creates a sense of continuity, which is especially important in smaller spaces.

Work with a controlled palette. Let shades of green predominate for most of the year. This style is more about form than opulence. Incidental color in the form of flowers or berries is used to show the passing of the seasons, but should be handled through a few well-placed specimens.

Use contrast. Again, this is about form and texture: a low mass of azaleas beneath the height and open branches of a dogwood; the broad leaves of a maple next to a pine’s spiky needles.

Plan for all seasons. Evergreen shrubs are the backbone of the Japanese garden; many do double-duty by producing seasonal blooms. Certain flowering perennials, such as iris and hellebores, also offer attractive foliage year-round. When using herbaceous plants such as hosta and ferns, incorporate them into rock groupings to avoid blank spots in the winter landscape.

Learn basic bonsai techniques. These can be applied to pines and other trees planted in open ground not only to limit their size in small gardens, but to achieve the aged, gnarled form that is characteristic of the style.

Well-done Japanese gardens tend to impart a feeling of antiquity and timelessness. Nothing gives the patina of age to a newly-placed boulder or stone lantern like moss. In a humid climate, moss will eventually settle in on its own. If you’re impatient, it’s possible to hasten the process by digging moss specimens from a wooded area and carefully transplanting them. Keep them moist until they settle in.

In Japanese gardens, water should take a form that is natural; not contrived. It can be a pond, a bubbling stream or a cascading waterfall, but not a fountain. Water brings another dimension to the garden by masking undesirable noises, providing a home for fish and attracting wildlife.

Where the use of water is impractical because of cost or maintenance issues, a dry riverbed can symbolize water. These features are created with gravel and the smoothest stones possible and, from a design standpoint, have the same function as water itself-- not only to act as negative space, introducing the element of contrast when juxtaposed with planted areas; but to lend a theme to the landscape, allowing the use of plants that would normally grow in a waterside location. If skillfully planned, a dry streambed can create the illusion that the water has dried up, suggesting that rain will bring it to life again.

Requiring more maintenance than the dry stream is the raked gravel “sea” of the Zen-inspired garden. The patterns made by the rake suggest the eddies and currents of water around rocks.

Tastefully placed, ornaments can help create the mood of a Japanese garden, and perhaps none is so popular as the Japanese stone lantern. Once used with candles to provide light for tea ceremonies, a concrete version is now readily available from many garden centers.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Soil Testing For Your Garden

Soil Testing For Your Garden

How can you test your soil? How do you know if your garden is good enough to plant things in it? What can you do to make your soil healthy?

Quality soil is essential to an effective garden. Without proper soil condition, the roots of your plants won't get enough water, nutrients, and minerals they need to survive and thrive. You should monitor your soil throughout the growing season, but especially before you get started.

  • Test your soil. You can get a soil test from your local cooperative extension agency. You want to find out the pH level of your soil. Your cooperative extension agency will give you the proper directions for conducting your soil test. For best results, you'll want a pH level of slightly acidic soil for your plants to grow. Depending on the test of your soil, you may have to add lime or sulfur to your lawn or garden over time in order to slowly change the pH level of your yard.
  • Get rid of existing vegetation. When you're creating your garden, you need to get rid of all your existing plant life in order to clear the soil. Your soil will be ready for new vegetation only when the old is out. Otherwise, your plants may not grow as effectively as you hope. The best soil is clean, slightly moist soil.
  • Till your soil. Your garden should consist of dirt that is broken and soft, not hard and in one piece. You want to provide the opportunity for your roots to get the needed levels of nutrients and water. The best way to do that is to have well-tilled soil.
  • Fertilize. Your soil needs food to allow growth. Find out what the best type of fertilizer is for your soil and follow the directions closely. You want to allow your plants to have the optimum amounts of the needed minerals and nutrients.
  • Water the soil. Your soil should remain moist but not flooded. Your best bet is to keep your ground slightly moist, then allow it to dry slightly in the sun. You may want to invest in a sprayer with a timer attached so your plants will get the correct amount of water.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Natural Pest Control For Your Garden

Natural Pest Control For Your Garden

Natural pest control: Vegetables grown without the use of pesticides are tastier and healthier. It is also easier than you think. There is nothing more delicious than a luscious strawberry or juicy tomato, picked at the peak of ripeness, and on your table ten minutes later. If you have never tasted vegetables that have not been treated with chemicals, you do not know what you have been missing. Many people think that organic gardening is too difficult. Others think it is too time consuming. It is neither, and in this article you will learn everything you need to know in order to get started.

The first thing to know about organic gardening is that the best defense against insects and disease is prevention. When you are planning your garden, choose plants that are well suited for your climate. Choose a variety of plants, so that if you do get an infestation of a particular insect it will not wipe out your entire crop. Keep your plants healthy.

The best way to do this is to have your soil tested in either the spring or fall. Your county extension office will do this for a nominal fee, and make recommendations on what to add to your soil for optimum health. Something as simple as lime, well-rotted manure, or compost can make all of the difference in your garden’s health. Once your soil is in condition, go ahead and plant your crops. When you plant your crops, make sure to give each plant plenty of room to allow for the circulation of air.

This greatly reduces the chances of fungal infections. When planting your vegetables you may want to plant some herbs among the rows, as some herbs have pest-repelling properties. Sage repels cabbage moths and flea beetles, chives repel aphids, and marigolds repel a wide variety of harmful insects. Once you get your vegetables planted, plant a flower border. Wildflowers and sweet alyssum provide food and shelter for beneficial insects such as ladybugs and praying mantises, as well as frogs, lizards, and birds, which will eat pests from your garden. By keeping your garden weeded you also reduce hiding area for pests.

Despite your best efforts, you will undoubtedly see some insects in your garden. The first thing you should do is look carefully at the bug. Is it actually eating the plant, or just resting on the leaves? If you deduce that it is a harmful bug, pick it off your plant. You can dispose of it any way you like. This is the simplest method of pest control, and a stroll through your garden in the evening may be all it takes to keep your garden pest free. If you feel like doing a little more, you can spray your plants off with soapy water. Just add a squirt of lemon scented dish soap to your watering can and make a pass over the affected plants.

They will appreciate the bath. If your plants are strong and healthy, they will be able to withstand the occasional nibble from a pest. If your plants develop a fungus, you can bring it under control by picking out all affected leaves and plants and throwing them away, but not in your compost! Do not work in your garden while it is wet, or you will spread the fungus to other plants. If things do get out of hand and you have a real problem, there are several organic solutions. Sticky traps and row covers are available at your local garden center, and are simple to use.

Bacillius thuringiensis is also available from your garden center, and disrupts the digestive tract of leaf eating insects. There are also a variety of insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils, and garlic and hot pepper sprays that will work on pests. The most important thing is to identify your pest before you treat your plant. If you do not recognize the bug take one into your garden center, they should be able to help. Likewise, if your plant develops a fungus, take a few leaves into the store, and they should be able to recommend an organic solution.

Organic gardening is both fun and rewarding. The challenge of staying in tune with your garden is rewarded with succulent fruit and an incredible harvest. I encourage you to give it a try.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Natural Garden Pest Control

Natural Garden Pest Control

Natural garden pest control: ladybugs are a gardiners best friend for natural pest control. The busy little insects and their larvae are aphids natural enemies! If you come across a ladybug in your flower or vegetable garden don’t tell her to “fly away home”. She and her counterparts, of which there are 450 known species in North America alone, are very beneficial insects to have in a garden. Ladybugs, sometimes called “ladybird beetles”, eat 50-60 aphids per day. They also eat other varieties of harmful insects like mealy bugs, leaf hoppers, mites and other soft-bodied garden pests. Even the ladybug larvae are beneficial. They require large numbers of aphids to sustain themselves and to progress from pupae to adult ladybug.

Ladybugs are vibrant and very identifiable insects and have a variety of different markings. The most common colors are red or orange bodies with black spots. Other species have white or yellow spots or are completely black with no spots at all. The larvae, too, are vibrantly colored, most often blue with orange or black stripes. Ladybug beetles are never larger than 1.2 centimetres.

The majority of ladybug species are carnivores, that is, they feed only on other insects. Their favorite prey is the aphid. Some ladybugs will eat only a certain type of aphid while others aren’t quite so particular. In years when aphids are not readily available ladybugs will eat moth
or beetle eggs, thrips, pollen and nectar. Sometimes they even feed on their own kind.

The ladybug is a very valuable natural enemy. The popular “convergent ladybug”, eats her weight in aphids every day and her young larvae need twice as many as they rapidly grow. This species is favored by many farmers. Convergents are collected by agricultural supply distributors and then sold to farmers for natural aphid control. An Australian species, the Vedalia, is used by citrus growers in California to get rid of the cottony-scale insect. Once an aphid colony has been eliminated, the ladybugs will move on to new hunting grounds and search from morning to night for food.

Ladybug adults overwinter, large groups hibernating in places like protected buildings, under rocks or bark, or beneath dried leaves or garden litter. Once it’s warm enough in the spring the ladybugs emerge from their shelters and immediately go in search of prey and good egg laying sites. Female ladybugs lay from 20-1000 eggs over a 1-3 month period. Eggs are always left in close proximity to an aphid colony to assure that the larvae have adequate food once they hatch. Each female lays from 10-50 eggs per day, depositing them in clusters of 3-20 on the undersides of leaves or shrubbery. Once the young hatch they will attack the aphids and consume as many as 400 per day. The larvae go into pupae stage after 3 weeks and 2-5 days later an adult ladybug appears.

If you want to keep ladybugs in your garden there’s a few things you can do to improve your backyard habitat:

1) keep moisture levels high. Ladybugs prefer surroundings with high humidity or continuous access to water droplets. Spacing your plants closer together and more frequent watering cycles are good ways to guarantee higher humidity.

2) make sure you have an abundance of nectar producing flowering plants in your garden. You might even want to try an artificial substitute like hummingbird food.

3) if you find hibernating adult ladybugs in your garden or around your house, leave them alone. Once disturbed there’s a chance they might be attacked by predators or parasites.

Vegetable and grain crops, legumes like beans and peas, strawberries, some fruit tree varieties, all benefit if a colony of ladybugs decide to move in and feed on aphids and other harmful insect pests. So remember, if you see a brightly-colored, busy little ladybug in your garden, then ask her to stay. Both you and she will benefit.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Keep Bugs Away From Your Garden

Keep Bugs Away From Your Garden!

Some advice to keep your garden free from bugs! Low-cost tips for gardeners who want to keep the bugs and ants away for their plants. In mid-summer many plants can be plagued by bugs. Around July, many Hostas and other popular garden-variety plants begin to have yellowish holes. These holes are from bug infestation.

How do I keep bugs off of my Hostas?
First of all, Hostas are those green leafy plants that you see in many yards. The cheapest and easiest way to treat this is with ordinary dishwater. Yes, you read that right. After doing dishes, just take a pan of the water outside and douse your plants that are infested with bugs. Do this about once a week. Every time that you have a sink full of soapy dishwater, you will remember to treat your Hostas to a treat!

How do I keep bugs off of my vegetable plants?
You can use the dishwater for these plants also. Another free and easy treatment that you can do to protect your vegetables (the hardier ones) from tiny invaders is to water them with a mixture of tobacco and water. The tobacco can be any kind. You mix 1 part tobacco to 4 parts water and let the solution set-up for at least a few hours. Then you water the plants with this mixture. Just a small amount on each plant works very well.
How do I keep fleas and ticks out of my yard?
Again, use the tobacco and water mixture, but make it 1 part tobacco to 3 parts water. Since grass is much like a weed, it can handle a much stronger solution.

Do these solutions also work on flowerbeds?
Yes, all of the solutions in this article can also be used for many types of trees and flowers. Always try the weakest solution first, and then introduce higher concentrations later. (1-4)

On which plants shouldn't I use these solutions?
Any plants that REQUIRE certain bugs to bloom like peonies. Peonies need ants to open the buds, and many other plants need bugs as well. It is a good idea to look up the various types of plants in your garden first. You can find this information in any gardening resource. When you mow your grass, be sure NOT to destroy the anthills that are usually near where the peonies grow.

If I have Peonies, how can I keep the ants far from my house?
The best advice is to keep the peonies far away from your doors and windows. These beautiful, although brief budding flowers, can often be your culprit with ant infestation.

What can I do if my house is infested with ants?
To keep the ants outside on your flowers and not inside on your counters, simply sprinkle cayenne pepper around all of the windows and doorways nearest the plants or anywhere else that you find ants entering your house. This is an inexpensive and non-toxic way to keep those little picnickers outdoors. If this is not quite toxic enough, try using some of your pet's flea powder. Yes, this is not a misprint. Flea powder, although mildly toxic, is an incredible deterrent for ant and other bug infestation in the home.

These remedies are much safer, economical, less toxic than the alternatives in your local store.
Now, go get rid of those little pests!

Friday, October 8, 2010

How To Tidy Your Garden For The Summer

How To Tidy Your Garden For The Summer

To make your garden look presentable (and so that you don't havre to spend the whole summer weeding) there are a few quick ideas for tidying the garden for the summer months.
After the autumn leaves and the spring showers, your garden tends to look a little worst for wear. Summer is just around the corner, so following these easy hints and tips, you can quickly tidy up your garden and then sit back in your sun lounger and enjoy!

  • Firstly get rid of any weeds and dead plants/bulbs. Try and do this after is has been raining as they¡¦ll be easier to pull out.
  • Sweep up all dirt and leaves from the path.
  • Start planting all the new bulbs and plants for the summer. Give them plenty of water for the next few days until the come accustomed to the soil.
  • Mow the lawn as short as you can. Most lawnmowers have adjustable blades so you can easily change them. This will save you time having to cut it again after a few weeks
  • Make sure that all your established plants are healthy and cut back the buds which have already appeared.
  • Make sure that trees and staked well and are strong.
  • Cover any borders with bark chips ¡V these keep the weeds out and keep the soil underneath moist for the existing plants during the hot months.
  • If you are planting sunflowers, do these as soon as possible. Make sure you plant them against a fence or something you can tie them to when they begin to grow.
  • Get out your patio furniture and give it a good was with soapy water. Rinse with clean water and leave to dry.
  • Make sure your parasols/garden umbrellas are close to hand are not broken.
  • Leave the furniture in the front of the shed or garage ready for use.

Now sit back in front of the widow and wait for the sun to come.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How To Plant A Cutting Garden

How To Plant A Cutting Garden

Like vegetable and herb gardens, cutting gardens are planted more for production than for display. Here's how to plant a cutting garden that will provide fresh flowers to cut and bring indoors, from early spring until the first killing frost.

The purpose of any cutting garden is to supply fresh flowers. However, if production is the only goal, then many of the traditional design issues associated with gardens can be set aside. Take, for example, a cutting garden that is tucked away behind a garage. Because it is not meant to be viewed, flowers with strong or clashing colors don’t have to be separated and plants can be cut right down to the ground without worrying about the garden’s patchy appearance. Paths and other features can be planned strictly for utility rather than decorative value.

Sometimes it is possible to make a cutting garden do double duty as a display garden. Many people don’t have the space to devote just to cut flowers. The greatest challenge in a garden like this is to avoid a ragged, over-harvested appearance. You can accomplish this by snipping individual blossoms here and there without picking every flower, but to do this, you have to have a lot of material. Try using the technique of “over planting,” growing things much closer together than is usually recommended, to squeeze more flowers out of a small space. To keep plants from crowding each other out, cut perennials back hard when they finish blooming and pull out annuals as soon as they are spent, replacing them immediately with something else. When you’re deciding which flowers to cut, a good trick is to leave the older blooms in place and pick the ones that are just emerging.

The National Garden Bureau offers the following tips for planting a cutting garden:
  • For best production, pick a sunny spot with well-drained soil. If the soil is poor, mix in compost or peat moss.
  • Before planting, mix into the soil a granular, slow-acting fertilizer. This will provide consistent, balanced nutrition to plants over many weeks.
  • During the growing season, use periodic doses of diluted liquid fertilizer to boost production.
  • Rather than interplant seeds or young transplants of many different kinds of flowers, group the species together for ease of harvest and efficient use of space. Plant tall types together, away from where they might shade smaller ones.
  • To minimize watering and weeding, spread a 3-inch layer of mulch on the soil around the plants as soon as they are a few inches tall.
  • To maintain flower production, pick blossoms regularly. A plant will keep setting buds if old blooms are not allowed to go to seed.
  • As soon as seasonal plants begin to peter out, pull them out to make way for others. For instance, plant pansies in an area for an early supply of flowers during cool weather. When the heat begins to weaken them, replace them with marigolds or zinnias.
  • Don’t forget foliage plants that contribute texture and color to fresh flower arrangements. Herbs such as lavender provide grayish-green foliage that is both handsome and aromatic.
  • Planting bulbs such as tulips and daffodils in the fall is usually regarded as a virtually foolproof way to obtain flowers for cutting in the spring, at least the first year you plant them. In cutting gardens, they can be planted much closer together than is usually recommended, supplying a mass of blooms for both cutting and outdoor display.
  • Summer bulbs including gladiolas, dahlias and tuberoses can also be planted successively in small batches once the danger of frost has passed, to yield an ongoing supply of fresh flowers.

To get the best performance from any cut flower, it’s best to do the cutting in the morning, and then get the stems in water immediately, a feat best accomplished by carrying a pail of water into the garden with you. Other tricks are re-cutting the stems while they are under water, adding a drop or two of chlorine bleach to the water in a vase to keep bacteria down, and changing the water daily.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Gardening In The Shade

Gardening In The Shade

Make a shady spot come to life by gardening in the shade. It's a given that plants need sunlight in order to grow. So, it follows that gardening in the shade presents its own special set of problems.

The first thing to remember is that shade gardens are not going to contain great riots of colorful blossoms. They are, by nature, gardens that rely on texture and contrast rather than on color. For example: lacy fern fronds provide a pleasing contrast when planted alongside a broad-leaved hosta.

Most shade-loving plants that do flower will bear their blossoms in early spring. They can receive enough sunshine in order to set buds before the tree canopy leafs out and shades them. Some examples are columbine, bleeding heart, celandine poppy, and bloodroot. The rest of the year, most shady gardens will be peaceful shades of green.

Even with foliage, there is a remarkable variation in shades of green from the greyish-green of silver fern to the blue-green of certain hosta types. Train your eye and learn to combine shades of green to form a rich tapestry.

Yellow or chartreuse foliage is a good way to light up the shade. So are variegated plants which have white margins around their leaf edges. In the summertime, plants with colorful foliage can take the place of flowers; caladiums have red or pink streaked leaves, and coleus comes in a range of shocking leaf colors. For actual blossoms, impatiens is a warm-weather shade-lover that comes in a host of colors. The deeper the shade, however, the fewer blossoms it will put out. In general, plants adapt to shade by lengthening their stems toward the light and reducing flower production and size.

It's sometimes difficult to judge the degree of shade you have and make decisions as to what will grow there. There are no set ground rules for determining the amount of shade a plant requires for optimum health. Especially in the south, plants that would normally require full sun can get by with partial shade. Don't be afraid to experiment with new plants or to move an ailing plant around until you can find it a happy home. When talking to other gardeners about a plant, ask them to describe the type of shade they grow it in. Ask about the orientation of the site, the tree canopy, and what time of day the site receives light. Early morning or very late afternoon rays can make all the difference in a shady setting. Here are some general description of the shades of shade.

  • Filtered light. A sparse, spotty dappling of shade through at least the hottest part of the day (10 AM to 6 PM in summer), a condition often found under tall pines. Although large patches of the site may be in sun part of the time, the sun/shade pattern is always changing. It¡¦s possible to open up a tree canopy to admit more light by the practice of ¡¥limbing up¡¦ or removing the lower branches on a tree.
  • Half shade or semi-shade. Shade for 4 or 5 hours of the day. Similar to morning shade or afternoon shade, except that as the sun moves behind structures or trees, periods of full sun will alternate with periods of full shade several times. In a situation where the sun is received during midday, many full-sun plants will adapt. Try daylilies, foxglove hardy geranium, columbine, antique roses.
  • Full shade. Hee, spreading canopies of trees let in only the laciest pattern of dappled sunlight. Use ferns and variegated hosta. Experiment with spring bulbs and woodland wild flower that bloom before deciduous trees leaf out (celandine poppy, mayapple, bleeding hearts, trillium).
  • Afternoon sun. Areas that catch the western sun from approximately 2 PM to 6PM. These areas will prove to be too bright or too hot for many woodland plants. Best if combined with some filtered shade from high pines. Again, experiment with the sun-tolerance of shade lovers and with the shade tolerance of full sun plants.
  • Morning sun. Areas that catch the eastern rays. Often the ideal conditions for shade plants, as long as the sunlight becomes diffused by midday.
  • North wall shade. This refers to areas that are shaded not by something overhead, but because the areas lies on the north side of a wall or fence. The north wall of a house, for example, will receive little sunlight because the house is between the plants and the sun.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Garden Pest Control Using Natural Allies

Garden Pest Control Using Natural Allies

Garden pest control can be accomplished by encouraging allies that feed on the pest. Learn what they are and how they help. There is a natural and simple way to combat pests in your garden by encouraging natural allies that feed on the pest. Today many gardeners are unknowingly killing or destroying the natural habitats of garden allies such as black snakes, garden spiders, toads, praying mantis, ladybugs, lacewing flies and parasitic wasp. Stocking your garden with beneficial insects is the most natural way to protect your plants and insure a healthy harvest.

Eggs for the praying mantis are sold at most garden supply stores. These insects pray on several different garden pest such as larvea and most caterpillar forms. Ladybugs released in the garden will eat aphids, mites, scale insects and more. Toads are well known insect eliminators. They can be encouraged by placing an inverted flower pot in the garden and a small water supply. Like the toad, birds such as the purple martin will happily rid you of many garden pest. A special birdhouse for these beneficial predators near your garden will attract their attention. The trichogramma wasp is well known for laying eggs inside the eggs of many species of caterpillar so the wasp larvae can feed on and destroy the caterpillar eggs.

Biological forms of insect control can also be beneficial to your garden. Milky spore disease seeds or Bacillus popilliae can be applied to the garden to control the grubs of such insects as the Japanese beetle, rose chafer and others. When these insects ingest the spore seeds they become diseased and die, which also aids in reducing the food supply for moles. It is good to know that none of the natural predators listed in this article are harmful to humans. Although it is a gardeners nature to destroy a spider or snake found in the garden, you would do well to allow the insect eating black snake and garden spider to coexist within your garden space, orchard or berry patch. Bacillus thuringiensis, or what is know as BT, infects several species of destructive caterpillars including the gypsy moth and cabbage worm. BT is a bacterium that can be applied to the garden as a spray and last for seven days. Neither BT or milky spore seeds are harmful to your natural garden predators or to humans.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Garden Pest Control

Garden Pest Control

How do you control unwanted pests in your lawn and garden? Learn here.
Outdoor pests can do significant damage to your lawn and garden: you need to take some preventative measures in order to keep your pests out and encourage them to leave. Here are some tips.

  • Learn which plants make good natural repellants and plant them occasionally throughout your lawn and garden. For instance, if you plant rosemary and thyme next to your cabbage, you'll keep worms away from your cabbage plants, because worms won't go near rosemary and thyme.
  • There are some varieties of plants that are actually insect repellant. Insects won't go near these plants. Many herbal plants repel insects, such as thyme and garlic.
  • Get rid of all dead leaves and plant remains after the growing season is over. If you leave old plants lingering around, that will attract unwanted pests.
  • When you shop for new plants and seeds, check them thoroughly to make sure they're not infected before you buy them and put them in your garden.
  • Remove all weeds from your garden and grass. Weeds naturally attracted pests, and those pests will make themselves feel right at home in other areas of your garden as well.
  • A natural way of removing pests is to prepare a mix of soap and water, using a small, harmless level of soap. Usually two or three tablespoons of soap per gallon of water will suffice. If you spray this mix on your plants, that will keep your pests away.
  • Vary your planting cycle. If you plant the same plants in the same spots each year, there may be certain pests that live deep underground and wait for your annual plantings. If you mix up your garden a bit each year, the pests may not have a chance to attack the same vegetation.
  • Use some animals to your advantage. If you have certain birds, frogs, or lizards around your garden, they will often feed off these pests and remove the unwanted creatures for you.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Design A Garden Using Color

Design A Garden Using Color

A discussion of using color theory in garden design. Tips on combining colors, the emotional effects of colors, and creating drama. Color is often what makes or breaks a garden. According to the National Garden Bureau, colors go in and out of style just as clothing fashions do. Yet other principles of color remain constant, such as the pleasing contrast between complementary colors (those colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel). The following tips may help you to color more effectively in the garden.

  • To brighten shady areas use light-colored annuals such as white, pale yellow, and light pink. Dark colors tend to get "lost" in shady areas. You can still use deep colors in a shady area, but be sure to use lighter colors around or behind them to provide contrast so that they can stand out and be seen. Amethyst-colored impatiens surrounded by lime green coleus or white impatiens, for example, will stand out due to the contrast.
  • The above principle also applies to sitting areas that will be viewed in the evening. White flowers virtually glow in the twilight, while deeper colors become invisible in the fading light.
  • For maximum effect, think about how the colors of plants will blend or contrast with their surroundings. For example, deep red flowers planted against a red brick wall or redwood fence will not stand out as well as white or pink flowers. And white flowers will not stand out dramatically against a white fence or white siding. Think of using a more dramatic color scheme, such as purple or magenta, against a white or light-color background, and something lighter, such as peach or pink against darker surfaces.
  • Borrow the notion of ‘theme colors’ from interior decoration. Theme colors used with repetition will unify different garden areas just as they unify the rooms of a house. For example, bordering all your garden beds with a row of white alyssum can tie different garden areas together for a unified look. Repeating the same colors in plant with different heights and textures can also create a unified look. If red is your theme color, for example, combine tall red hollyhocks, the spiky red flowers of bee balm, and a low-growing scarlet verbena. Do the same thing with your accent color, which might be white or lime green.
  • Use color in a way that enhances the emotional effect of the garden. Bright colors such as red and golden yellow are exciting; they may be put to use indoors in a room used for entertaining, in order to create a sense of drama. For the entrance to a home, you may want to create a feeling of warmth and excitement, and could choose stronger, more exciting colors. Shades such as blue, lavender and pink are considered cool colors and they tend to be calmer. Around a patio, you may want to create a more relaxing and serene mood by choosing cooler or softer colors such as these. Shades of green are perhaps the most restful colors of all. That’s why Japanese gardens rarely include flowers at all, relying instead on foliar effects to create a place for meditation.
  • Bold color combinations can give your garden beds a distinctive look. Instead of something as ordinary as blue and white, consider orange and purple. Coral and blue can also be dramatic. And for an attention-getting effect, the new yellow-greens, from screaming chartreuse to a bright lime green, are currently all the rage. Many plants in this color range are foliage plants like coleus.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Cost Cutters For Your Garden

Cost Cutters For Your Garden

Many of us would love to spend a lot of time and money on our garden but have neither to give. This article will show you several ways to keep your garden looking good without either time or money spent on them.

We’d all love our gardens to look neat and just right all the year round, but most have little time to devote to the job. Making your garden just the way you want it also means spending some money on plants, fencing, seating etc.

There are many ways to save money and still have the garden you dream of:
  1. Take cuttings from friends and neighbours plants and plant them in small pots with lots of compost. Keep them in a sunny position and soon you will have your own version of their plants, without costing you a penny.
  2. Instead of buying new ceramic pots for your flowers and seeds, spruce up your old ones with spray paint especially for outdoor use (otherwise that may go rusty) or use oil paints and paint a landscape all the way round the pot.
  3. If you have ants’ nests, using the proper powder and sprays does get rid of the ants, however a kettle of boiled water poured over the nest will also do the same job.
  4. See if your local garden centre has a bargain section of the shop. This often has plants that aren’t looking too healthy at discounted prices. All the plants need is a great deal of water and they’ll soon be back to their old selves again.
  5. Buy out of season plants and keep them in your greenhouse until they are ready to be planted. They are usually cheaper in the shops.
  6. Never pass up an opportunity of free plants and bulbs.
  7. To save yourself money, just buy the plants and shrubs that come back every year. Buying bedding plants may add some extra colour but after a few months they will have died.
  8. If you have the patience, buy seeds instead of fully-grown plants. They are usually under a pound each, however they can take a while to grow and it will be a while before you see your efforts.
  9. To keep your garden in flower all year round choose your plants carefully. Try and pick out plants that flower in different seasons. Sometimes after the summer a garden can look drab and with no life. With flowers all year round the garden will look good whatever the weather.
  10. Save water. Have a water tank outside somewhere connected to the guttering on your house. This will save you money, as you’ll be recycling the rainwater and not paying for it yourself.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bean Tower Garden Support

Bean Tower Garden Support

A bean tower provides much needed support to delicate bean plants and makes caring for them much easier. Gardening supports can add a good deal of growing space to a small area. By growing vertically, plants produce a larger crop because more flowers are exposed and fruits and vegetables do not rot because they do not lie against the ground and are easier to pick. A bean tower provides these benefits to bean plants and makes growing them much more rewarding.

To build a bean tower you will need:
  • 4 uprights: 2 x 2 x 96"
  • 4 top crosspieces: 2 x 2 x 12"
  • 4 bottom crosspieces: 2 x 2 x 48"
  • 3 diagonal braces: 2 x 2" x 9', cut to fit
  • 28 screws: #10 2¼"
  • Ball of string

The tower itself is easily moved in order to allow optimum placement in your garden. Three sides are covered by string, and beans are planted against these sides. The last side is open to allow you to reach in and pick the beans.

The four upright pieces, as well as the top and bottom crosspieces, can be made by ripping 2 x 4s. Make sure the crosspieces are their proper length, and drive nails partway into three top and three bottom pieces to hold the string. Make one side using two uprights and a top and bottom crosspiece. Put one screw through each end of the crosspieces into the uprights. Make another side the same way and put both upright on a flat surface. Fasten a top and bottom crosspiece to connect them, forming a three-sided structure. Attach the opposite crosspieces in the same manner.

Set the assembly squarely and drive a second screw through each joint to secure it. The diagonal braces are fastened onto three sides to add further strength. Wind the string around the nails in the crosspieces and your finished product will have string on three sides with the fourth side open. Position the tower in your garden, mulching the inside to keep weeds from growing inside it and plant the beans against the outside of the three sides.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Attracting Humming Birds To Your Garden

Attracting Humming Birds To Your Garden

Attracting hummingbirds to your garden is easy with specific plants and feeders.
One of the smallest and most enjoyable birds to watch is the hummingbird. There are fifteen species of hummingbirds in the United States. If you live in the mideastern part of the United States, chances are you will be able to attract the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Three other common hummingbirds are located in the southwest. These are the Rufous Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, and Anna's Hummingbird.

There are many species of flowers that will attract hummingbirds to you yard. Some of the more common plants are the Trumpet Honeysuckle, Trumpet Creaper, Morning Glory, Columbine, Impatiens, Coral Bells, and Hollyhocks, just to name a few. Contrary to popular belief, flowers do not have to be red to attract hummingbirds. They prefer red, but will feed from other flowers as well. Hummingbirds look for specific plants and materials for building their nests. You may want to encourage hummingbirds to nest in your yard by making these materials available. Some good choices to have in your yard are ferns, lichens, and moss. Hummingbirds will also use spider silk and small twigs for their nests.

As an additional food source you can provide a hummingbird feeder. There are many sizes and styles of feeders available. Nectar can be purchased ready-made, or you can make your own hummingbird nectar. To make your own nectar, you will need to boil together four parts water to one part sugar. Red food coloring is not necessary, and it is not good for birds. Most hummingbird feeders are red, and they will attract the birds without additional color. After the sugar mixture cools, store any leftovers you may have in the refrigerator. Your feeder will need to be cleaned every four to five days, and the nectar should be changed. Never use honey or artificial sweeteners in your nectar. Honey can spoil, and artificial sweeteners do not provide the carbohydrates and nutrition that hummingbirds require.

When you put out a new hummingbird feeder, it may be several days before you see any birds. Most hummingbirds have territories where they regularly feed, and it may take time for them to notice your feeder. Have patience, and soon you will be enjoying these beautiful, iridescent little jewels.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Planting A Garden, Seed To Harvest

Planting A Garden, Seed To Harvest

Planting a garden: when to plant and when to harvest. Vegetables and melons planted too early or late in the season can be the cause of a gardener’s greatest disappointment. Because of this, to raise a successful garden it is most important that the gardener know how long it will take their seeds to reach fruitation.
  • From seed to harvest, beans and beets will take no less than 60 days.
  • Brussel sprouts average 90 days, while most cabbage will need to grow from 50 to 105 days with Danish Ballhead taking the longest to produce.
  • Snow King cauliflower will take about 45 days, but Snowball cauliflower can take up to 65 days.
  • The average growing time for celery is 110 days, with corn taking 100 days.
  • Cucumbers will take from 54 to 60 days.
  • Eggplant is usually ready to harvest in 70 days.
  • Lettuce is not ready for picking for 45 days while peas take at least 62 days.
  • Melons will need to grow for 75 to 90 days while peppers can take between 62 to 84 days, depending on the type.
  • Radishes are ready in a mere 23 days and most squash can be harvested in 48 days.
  • Spinach is ready in 60 days but watermelon will take about 82 to 83 days.
  • Last but not least is one of every gardeners’ favorites. The tomato, with its numerous varieties, have some like the Early Salad that are ready in 45 days while others like the Roma can take up to 76 days and the big juicy Beefsteak needs 96 days to harvest.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Growing Azaleas In Your Garden

Growing Azaleas In Your Garden

Growing azaleas in your garden: discusses characteristics and needs of azaleas, a popular garden shrub closely related to rhododendrons. Provides information about specific varieties of azaleas.
Azaleas are an immensely popular shrub in gardens from Georgia to Maine, famous for their beauty and their large displays of stunning, funnel-shaped flowers. They belong to the same genus as rhododendrons, but tend to have a smaller and more compact growth habit than varieties called rhododendron. Plants termed rhododendrons by nurseries, however, are generally taller, with larger flower clusters. They are not as well adapted to hot summers as some varieties of azaleas are.

There is a type of azalea to suit every taste. Azaleas may be deciduous (shed their leaves in the fall) or evergreen, although more azaleas are deciduous. Their color range spans pink, orange, red, yellow, purple, and white, and there are also some bi-colored varieties. Azaleas look beautiful in shrub borders, foundation plantings, masses, groupings, or, for some smaller varieties, in rock gardens. They look exceptionally good massed under deciduous trees.

With both azaleas and rhododendrons there is one cardinal rule: they must have acidic soil. If your plot does not naturally have acidic soil, you must either correct the situation with an application of a product intended to make the soil more acidic, or plant your azaleas in raised beds with specially treated soil. Azaleas also tend to prefer moist, semi-shady conditions, but some varieties can take full sun. They like soils rich in organic matter, such as compost.

There are many varieties of azalea available, and the gardener would be wise to consider carefully which type of azalea is most likely to thrive in his garden. Southern and Belgian Indica types are hardy only in the South and California, in zones 8 - 10. They are evergreen species with flowers ranging from white and violet to pink, red, and salmon. Kurumes is another popular evergreen variety, which tends to be slow growing and is hardy in zones 6 - 9. Knapp Hill - Exbury hybrids, on the other hand, are a very hardy, deciduous variety of azalea. They thrive in zones 6 - 8, although some are hardy through zone 4. The blooms of this variety are huge and are borne in large trusses. The medium green foliage turns yellow, orange, and red in the fall. These hybrids are also relatively large for azaleas, growing from 4 to 8 feet tall, and as big around.

Once you have your azalea and have planted it in a place where it is likely to thrive, very little maintenance will be required. Pruning most varieties is not necessary and does not lead to a larger display of flowers. In fact, azaleas thrive best with lots of moderation - moderate water, moderate light, and moderate fertilizing and pruning. So just sit back and enjoy.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Gardening For People With Disabilities

Gardening For People With Disabilities

Older people often forfeit the joy of gardening due to age or physical disabilities, when they could continue this healthy, rewarding hobby throughout their lives. Many Americans, when they reach retirement age or suffer a serious physical disability, give up one of the most satisfying and healthful hobbies ever known; that of gardening. In most cases, a very simple adjustment would allow these people to continue to indulge in a hobby that has brought them great joy over the years.

A recent bout of severe arthritis in my lower back threatened to halt my gardening this year. Like a grounded teenager, I moped about, cursing my fate and wishing for what I could not have. Then, one day, a thought hit me. My arms still worked. Why couldn't I sit down to garden?

I lost no time in dispatching my husband to the nearest lumber and hardware supply store to purchase what would be needed to build me a raised garden; one where I could sit on a chair and garden to my heart's content. All it took was:
  1. One 4'x8' sheet of treated plywood.
  2. Three 8-foot pieces of 2"x8" treated lumber.
  3. Two 8-foot pieces of 4"x8" treated lumber
  4. A few nails, a hammer, and a drill.
  5. A cubic yard of garden loam & a shovel.
  6. A willing husband and a couple hours of his time.
In what seemed no time at all, my husband called me out to see my new garden plot. He had cut one of the 2x8 boards into two 4-foot lengths, and nailed them to the two 8-foot pieces to make a 4x8 foot rectangle of treated lumber. He then nailed the 4x8 piece of plywood to the bottom of the rectangle.

Next, he bored a number of small holes in the piece of plywood to insure adequate drainage for my garden and cut each of the 8-foot treated poles into four 24 inch lengths. These, eight "legs," he attached to the bottom of the garden box, three on each long side and the other two somewhere in the middle to hold the weight of the dirt that would be in the box. At this point, he turned it over and we gazed upon something that looked a bit like an eight-legged child's sandbox sitting 24 inches off the ground.

While I watched, my husband shoveled the garden loam from his pickup into a wheelbarrow over and over again to fill the frame nearly to the top. At last, my garden was ready. That was about two months ago.

Without having to bend over once, I now have a thriving, if somewhat tiny, garden of cucumbers, radishes, a couple of tomato plants, some squash, and 3 cheery petunias. I'll admit, it's a bit crowded, and not the garden I would have preferred, but it's the next best thing.

If I am still incapacitated next year, hubby has promised a second, and maybe even a third box. Even if I am well, I think I will keep a few raised garden boxes around. They sure do save on that common gardener's complaint, "Oh, my achin' back!"

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Unique Garden Gifts

Unique Garden Gifts

Unique garden gifts are perfect for avid gardeners. Here are some tips to guide non-gardeners along the way no matter which holiday is coming up next. Many high-end nurseries carry a large selection of specialty items that make great gifts. Mail order catalogs are also wonderful sources of garden tools and accessories that gardeners covet. Here are a few ideas.

One of the most useful items in this category is an apron or smock with many pockets. It not only helps to protect the garments worn under it, but aids in carrying tools, plant ties, labels, etc. Choose one in a fabulous botanical print. Also to consider – rubber garden clogs that are easily slipped in and out of and rinse clean easily. Look for ones with removable, washable in-soles. A wide brim straw hat makes a great gift for gardeners in sunny locales. And every gardener goes through several pairs of gloves in a season. Soft leather kid makes a nice, durable alternative to canvas.

Fine Tools
Hand trowels that are constructed to resist bending when used in heavy soil are always welcome gifts to gardeners who tend to buy themselves the cheap version. Any ergonomically designed tool, such as those with fat, padded handles to allow a better grip, is also a good idea. And you can never go wrong with a top-notch set of hand pruners, especially if it comes with its own case. Expect to pay $30 to $50 for a good pruner.

These can be either decorative or functional, depending on the personality of the gardener. Also, feeding centers (particularly the squirrel resistant ones) make wonderful gifts. Birdbaths come in a variety of different styles, from terra cotta to natural copper that ages beautifully.

Garden Art
This can take many forms, from classic statuary to whimsical sculptures made from found objects, to Victorian gazing balls. Plaques, decorative stepping stones, and sundials are also good options. Again, keep the personality of the gardener and the theme of the garden in mind.

Outdoor Furniture
Most gardens have a spot where a cedar bench or wrought iron bistro set can be tucked in. Also consider patio umbrellas and luxurious cushions for existing furniture – most gardeners enjoy relaxing and entertaining outdoors.

Plant Supports
Wonderful systems of linking stakes exist to help stake and support tall plants; many gardeners covet such supplies but opt for less expensive bamboo stakes. Ask for these at garden centers or look for them in mail order catalogs. Also in this category are beautiful trellises, either in cedar or wrought iron. In a higher price range are obelisks, arches, and arbors (may require assembly).

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Newspapers As Garden Mulch

Newspapers As Garden Mulch

Save all your old newspapers to use in your garden. Placing a layer of newspaper over bare dirt, makes a great mulch and has many organic benefits. Save all your old newspapers to use in your garden. But stick to the black and white print. The ink used by most publishers is water based. However, inks used in advertising supplements or “glossies” may contain heavy metal.

Placing a layer of newspapers over bare dirt makes a great mulch and has many organic benefits. Soil moisture is conserved by allowing rain to penetrate it. The cold is kept out and the paper protects root crops against early or late frosts. It reduces weeds, keeps vining vegetables off the ground, and helps to build soil structure.

Lay the newspapers on the ground at least four sheets thick. Overlap them so that none of the ground is exposed, and anchor them with rocks.

To have an early seedbed in the spring, layer the ground with an inch of newspapers, top with leaves, hay or grass clippings in the fall. When the next spring rolls around, just pull back the mulch enough to plant lettuce, potatoes or cabbage. The ground will be easy to dig under your mulch.

An easy way to grow potatoes is to pull back the mulch you created last fall, drop the seed potatoes on the ground and recover with the mulch. No need to dig. The potatoes will form above the ground, making them cleaner and easier to harvest.

A layer of newspapers spread around your vegetable plants, like tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and peppers is a good weed deterrent. Then at the end of the growing season, either till the mulch into the soil or add more newspapers to create a planting bed for the following year. This newspaper mulch over time causes the soil to loosen and be easier to manage.

Newspapers can also be used as first-aid for broken plants, or plants under attack by pests. Cutworms can be effectively deterred by making a protective band around the plant. You do this by tearing three layers of newspapers into strips, two inches wide and long enough to wrap snugly around the stem. Moisten the newspaper so that it will cling to the plant.

Newspapers can also be used to repair a broken plant. Soak newspapers strips in water until they become the consistency of “papier mache. Tightly wrap the broken section of the stem and heap the soil around the plant so that it covers this “splint. As the paper dries, it hardens and new roots will form above the break.

Newspaper ashes are a good, natural pesticide. A quart of ashes dug into the ground a few days before planting will deter maggots from destroying root crops such as radishes. A good solution for cucumber beetles is a mixture of a cup of newspaper ash, a cup of lime and two gallons of water. Spray this mixture on both sides of the leaves. Works on squash bugs as well.

Newspapers can be used to extend the gardening season. Just protect young seedlings under a newspaper tent; spread a newspaper blanket over root crops such as carrots, parsnips or beets to allow the roots to hibernate without freezing. And green tomatoes harvested before the first frost is due will ripen nicely out on the “floor” of the garden between several layers of newspapers.

So don’t throw out your old newspapers. Use them in your garden, instead!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Garden Mulch

Garden Mulch

Garden mulch: learn how to keep from ruining a good garden plot by mulching your soil.
Unprotected soil is at the mercy of the elements. A heavy rainfall can seriously compact and erode the soil. To keep this from ruining a good garden plot you should always mulch your soil. The practice of mulching is the adding of organic materials to the top of your soil. Mulching should be done in the spring when the soil has warmed. If the soil is cold it could retard the growth of your plants. This not only protects your soil from erosion, it smothers weeds, adds organic matter to the soil and helps retain soil moisture.

Compost is considered to be the best mulch because it also provides nutrients to the soil. Lawn clippings, shredded newspaper, dried pine needles, leaves, sawdust, hay or straw and wood chips are just of few of the mulch materials you can use. Sheets of black plastic film can be purchased at a garden store and used in place of organic mulch. When you use plastic be sure to till and weed the soil before spreading the plastic over it. Also, holes will need to be cut in X shapes to allow for planting and watering.

When applying mulch, the thickness will depend on the material you are using. Loose materials such as straw should be between 7 and 8 inches thick so the sunlight cannot reach the weeds. Sawdust and other denser materials should be no more than 2 inches thick. It is always a good idea to remove any weeds from your garden before mulching even though a thick mulch layer will usually smother them. Also be sure not to smother your seedlings by covering them when you apply mulch.

From time to time the mulch you choose may contain weed seeds, or be shelter for slugs and other destructive insects. Even field mice can find their way into some forms of mulch. The best way to prevent this is to check the material by sifting through it before it is applied. Although weed seeds and some insects are hard to detect, the mulch will usually retard the growth of seeds and simple organic pesticides will remove the unwelcome insects. To save work, get better crops and improve the soil, properly applied mulch is always your best bet.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Edible Flower Garden

Edible Flower Garden

Edible flowers add a finishing touch to your next garden party. Learn which flowers to grow and how to serve them in this article. Edible flowers are a wonderfully imaginative and inexpensive way to add some punch to your next party. There are a variety of flowers that can be eaten, and not only do they add beauty to your meal, they really enhance the taste. One such flower is the Nasturtium. This flower comes in various shades of yellow and orange, and is very attractive and easy to grow. The flowers make a wonderful compliment tossed in a salad and have a rather peppery bite. Once you have tried these delicate petals in your salad, you may be hooked, but be sure to let some of the flowers mature on the plant. The mature flowers will go to seed and produce small pods that can be treated like capers, and used as a condiment.

Other flowers for your salad are dandelion greens (the young, small plants are much milder) and a variety of herbs. Snip a bit of oregano, parsley or thyme right over the top of your salad before serving. Delicious.

Are you ready for the main course? Squash blossoms are easy to prepare and intriguing to look at. Take several large blossoms from your squash plant and rinse well. Stuff with a mixture of cream cheese and peppers (hot and sweet), or a mixture of ground beef (browned) and rice. Dip the blossom into a well-beaten egg, and then fry in a hot skillet. This can be as light or as hardy a meal as you like, depending on the filling that is used.

On to dessert. Probably the easiest way to integrate flowers into your desert is by adding them to your ice cream. A few rose petals or snips of lavender added to some premium vanilla ice cream is absolutely decadent, and gorgeous. Another idea is to garnish your cake with a few violas. A spectacular finish to any meal.

Now that you know how to serve flowers with your meals, you may be wondering how to grow them. Simply follow the directions as you would for any plant, with two notable exceptions.
  • Do not fertilize unless the plant clearly needs it. Food, water and sunlight should be enough to keep your plants going. If they seem a little puny, use a well-rounded liquid fertilizer. Too much nitrogen will give you plenty of nice green foliage, but not many flowers.
  • Do not use chemicals. Although you will certainly wash all of your flowers well before use, the delicate structure of a flower has many fissures and crevices for pesticides to lurk. You are better off using organic methods if you have a bug or fungus problem. Ask at your local garden center, they will steer you in the right direction.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Beautiful Flowers For Non Gardeners

Beautiful Flowers For Non Gardeners

How to have beautiful outdoor flowers even if you don't know anything about gardening. Specific plant and easy care suggestions. If you only want to make one more trip to the nursery this season, read on. If you want something different from the pansies and petunias all of your neighbors have, you will find great ideas here. If you have limited space, resources, or talent with plants, but you love flowers, this article is for you! Are your favorite plants the ones that can survive neglect? Most of the flowering plants you envy on your friend’s patio need daily attention not just to stay beautiful, but to live. Fortunately, there is a way to enjoy the fragrance, beauty, and tranquility of outdoor flowers without too much work.

Azaleas abound in your local hardware and discount department stores. They are so beautiful that you cannot resist, although they bear mysterious and complicated care instructions. If you think the azalea will bloom happily forever in your house in its original container, think again. The azalea prefers to live outdoors, so keep it potted on your front porch instead. Get the correct potting soil and a large enough pot before you take it home, and you won’t have to worry about the soil composition in your yard that could easily kill an azalea.

Gardenias are equally as beautiful and notorious as azaleas. They mock you with their impossibly fluffy petals as if to say, “you don’t really expect this look to come cheaply, do you?” Yet, keep a gardenia in a large enough pot with some daily sunlight, and it will bloom for you year after year with some occasional water.

Lantana are showy and extremely hardy flowering bushes. White and purple varieties are low growing, while the bright yellow and orange varieties are taller. All grow very rapidly and require very little water. These are normally landscape plants and thrive even in the summer heat of Central Texas. If you really want flowers that love neglect, look for landscape bushes native to difficult climates. Lantanta will flourish and bloom for months and then become a bare stick bush in the late fall. Do not fret! Just prune the sticks all they way down to the base and the flowers will come back next year.

Mexican heather, also called false heather, is another landscape bush that is beautiful enough to look at home in a decorative planter. It is much slower growing than lantana, and grows in a delightful wreath-like spiral pattern with purple flowers covering stems of tiny bright green leaves. The care of this plant is so easy that you can actually just water it when it starts to look thirsty (that means brown leaves, for you truly black thumbs!).

Overall, if you have trouble with flowers, stick more to flowering bushes instead of plants that yield a single flower or flowering stem to each root base. The bushes tend to need less attentive watering and they are more likely to be perennial (they will come back year after year, not die of natural causes after one season). The bushes may even do better for you than for your friends who water their plants religiously, because over watering can quickly kill these plants. Do be sure to use pots that have a drainage hole in them. Otherwise, your flowers could drown even if you hardly water them! Finally, when in doubt, place your plants in partial sun. All flowers need sun, but many will scorch, or at least need more water if they reside in extended direct sunlight.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gardening Annual Flowers

Gardening Annual Flowers

Tips for gardening annual flowers. How can you keep your garden colorful during every month of the year? What kinds of techniques should you consider?

No matter where you live and no matter where you want your garden to grow, it is possible to have a beautifully colored garden 12 months out of the year. It will likely require some planning and extensive work on your part, but it can be well worth the trouble.

  • Consider your climate. You need to look at what types of plants do well year round. If you live in the southern part of the United States, you'll likely experience problems of overly hot and extended summers, but then you'll have the benefit of having a shorter winter season. If you're in the northern part of the United States, you'll have a regular seasonal plant life, but you have to consider the length and significance of your winter.
  • Pick out plants that will do well year round. Talk with experts at your nursery to figure out which plants do well in your particular region. Look closely at annuals and perennials, and consider some other plants that will do well for your part of the world.
  • Consider non-traditional plants. If you look at getting some year-round berry plants for your garden, or maybe some rhododendrons, you may be better off. These can provide a lot of color for your garden year round.
  • Vines and shrubs. Vines and shrubs bloom nicely at different periods throughout the year.
  • Group your colors in your garden. You don't necessarily need vibrant hues to make your garden attractive. In the winter months, consider using different shades of green and white to make your garden into a nice place to stay. Try different textures and shapes of leaves and use bright green grasses to add flare to your garden. Try adding white blooming flowers to accent your garden. Bright colors, however, are nice, as well. Try putting the brightest colors in your garden in the back rows. They are more eyecatching when farther away. Put the darker hued colors in front. Both will stand out.
  • Add color by using nice plant containers. Get pots that are several feet tall to add some nice flare to your garden. You can get containers in just about any shape, size, or color. Pick and choose wisely to complement the plants you have. This is a technique that is widely used in the winter months to make a garden more attractive.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Flower Garden That Sells

A Flower Garden That Sells

Every year millions of people plant flower gardens that spawn wonderfully beautiful flowers.
A flower garden is a beautiful addition to any home and lawn. However, what do you do with the flowers if you have an overflow or if you just don't want to see them die in the hot sun?

Below are a few tips that I have put to use with my own garden that help me make money every year.

1. Sell your flowers at flea markets or fruit/vegetable stands

All over America fruit and vegetable stands dot the countryside, selling their wares. Why not offer to sell them flowers to pedal as well? It doesn't hurt to try and more often than not you will get a positive response! Or, if you live near the highway, why not set up a booth yourself? You will be surprised at the number of people who WILL buy fresh cut flowers or will be willing to pick their own! Flea markets are also a great way to rid yourself of unwanted flowers. Set up a booth for under five dollars and sell your flowers on the weekends to tourists.

2. Sell to local flower shops
If you deal in a variety of exotic or hot-demand flowers, why not check with local flower shops to see if you can provide them with a few flowers when needed? It is not a shot in the dark. More than likely you can under-cut their current suppliers and get them the flowers cheaper...for a few months, of course! (Make sure they are aware your supply won't last forever!)

3. Pot Pourri
Why not use your flowers for pot pourri? You don't actually have to use fresh flowers. Dried are the best. You can dry them yourself by leaving them in the sun or in a dry place, or you can wait for them to fall off the plant and gather them. This does require a few scents and a container or two, but this stuff is a hot seller! Homemade pot pourri is very fashionable and desired right now! This is a wonderful seller at craft fairs and shows. Requires just a little work, too!

4. Decorate soap or candles
Use dried flowers to put in candles or clear soap. I used an entire rose in the inside of my clear soap and it looks fantastic! Also, make into dried pot pourri and put in candles, around the edges, to give your candles an unique look.

5. Wild flower pot pourri
A hot seller to tourists! I use wild flowers that grow around my house to make pot pourri and sell as 'Tennessee wild flower pot pourri'! This is a big hit with tourists who love to take home souvenirs, especially ones that are great to decorate the home!

There is so much that you can do with your fresh or dried flowers. All of the above ideas are fairly easy and are worth trying your hand at. Instead of letting your flowers rot this year, why not let them make you a little money?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Foxglove: The Skyscraper Of The Garden

Foxglove: The Skyscraper Of The Garden

The foxglove is known as the skyscraper of the flower gardens. It is easy to plant and take care of. The foxglove is considered a skyscraper in gardens. They add vertical lines of beautiful blossoms to any flower garden. The foxglove is a tall plant, with blooms of purple, yellow, rose or white blooms. The flower stalks grow from a bush of leaves. A single plant is capable of growing various multicolored offspring.

Foxgloves are most often planted as a backdrop for flower gardens. They look great when planted with plants that have round flower heads; these provide a stunning contrast to the foxglove’s vertical lines. Foxgloves also work will with flowering shrubs; they are tall enough to see through the shrubbery.

Classic flowers such as Sweet William, geraniums, and alyssum grow well in the same soil as foxgloves. Summer flowers such as petunias also bloom the same time the foxglove does. These spring and summer flowers are perfect partners for all species of the foxglove.

The foxglove is a very simple plant to grow. By following these simple steps, you can soon enjoy this sight filled pleasures.

You will need:
  • Foxglove plant
  • Mulch
  • Compost
  • Wire hanger
  • Shovel

  1. Dig a hole five to ten inches, wide enough for the plant to fit into the hole. Add a handful of compost and mix well with soil.
  2. Set the plant in the hole; return soil and firmly pat soil around the roots.
  3. 3. Lay one-inch layer of mulch around the new plant. In spring fertilize.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Square Foot Gardening

Square Foot Gardening

With square foot gardening you can grow more food in 1/4 the space of a traditional garden. The secret? The new method of planting in square grids instead of rows. Your grandmother planted her garden in nice straight rows, but did you know she wasted 80-percent of her growing space? Why? Because that’s the way everyone did it. But why did everyone do it that way? Because Americans did not traditionally grow their own kitchen gardens until World War II. The Victory Gardens of yester year originated the family vegetable garden of today.

Because most people in the early 40s were growing a Victory Garden for the first time in their lives, they simply imitated the method of the agricultural farmer. The commercial farmer must plant his crops to accommodate his machinery and equipment. Row planting is the most efficient method that works for him.

However, if you are just an ordinary person wishing to grow your own garden, there is really no good reason to plant in standard rows, unless you like to work hard for fewer results. This new method actually requires less work and produces more food.

You can actually increase your harvest by 200-percent by planting and spacing according to square feet. To plan a more efficiently spaced garden, divide your garden plot into a grid of one-foot squares. An easy method is to begin with 4-feet squares then divide by four until you have divided the space into a grid of 1-foot squares.

In a 1-foot square it is possible to grow 16 radishes. Simply divide the square foot into sixteen 3-inch squares and place one seed in the center of each.

Any plant can be easily conformed to this new method without compromising the required spacing for optimum results. A 4-foot block will hold four tomato plants, giving each tomato 2-feet of growing space. Simply divide the 4-foot block into four smaller squares and plant the tomatoes in the center of each 2-foot square.

Because sweet corn must be spaced 1-foot apart, using the traditional row method in a 10-foot long garden you could plant 5 sweet corn plants in one row. However, in a 2-foot by 4-foot space you could plant 16 sweet corn stalks.

Depending on the crop you plant, each 1-foot square can accommodate anywhere from one large plant to 16 small plants. Just read the back of your seed packet and plant in squares, according to the spacing instructions.

This particular method only requires that you plant one seed in each designated spot. Because the need for thinning is removed, you will have less waste. A packet of seeds can sometimes last years if stored properly using this method.

This system also means fewer weeds. Why? Because every usable space is being used there’s not as much room for weeds to flourish. You will have to do some minor weeding, but usually five minutes every day or two will control them.

Some gardeners construct 12-inch wooden or brick pathways around each 4-foot block. Charming stepping-stones or patio stones add extra charm. This is also a great method to keep the shoes clean and it prevents compressed soil.

This type of garden is usually very attractive to look at because it is so well ordered. Every square holds a different variety of texture and color giving the garden a natural checkerboard pattern. To enhance the checkerboard pattern, try planting flowers in every other square. Marigolds are great for this because of their vibrant color and their scent is a natural pest repellent. Some have found this new garden to be so attractive that they grow it in their front yards instead of hiding the garden behind the house.

The stone or brick pathways can be further decorated with birdbaths, ornate garden statues or fountains. If you try this groundbreaking technique, you will be surprised by its simplicity and beauty.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Gardening Trends: Xeriscaping

Gardening Trends: Xeriscaping

Xeriscaping, the use of native plants, is the hottest trend on the gardening scene today. Information on what exactly is a native plant and the advantages to gardeners and homeowners who use them in the home landscape. One of the hottest trends on the home gardening front today is xeriscaping, the use of plants that conserve moisture and therefore require little watering. Gardeners everywhere are discovering them, incorporating them into established gardens, and planning new gardens around them.

When it comes to origin, plant species are broadly grouped into two classes: native and exotic. Exotics are simply defined as plants which came to us from other countries. Natives, in the strictest sense of the word, include only those plants that were growing in North America on their own before the arrival of European settlers. Looser definitions, however, often include with natives such familiar wildflowers as Queen Anne’s Lace, which escaped cultivation long ago to naturalize in fields and along roadsides.

Aside from their ornamental value, there are many practical benefits to including native plants in home landscapes.

Environmental benefits
Native plants are able to hold their own against local pest populations, so no pesticides are needed. In addition, many wildflower species grow naturally in lean soils and so perform best without fertilizer, reducing the amount of nitrates that accumulate in ground water.

Ease of care
Because native plants are well-adapted to the local conditions, they often get by without the coddling that other species sometimes require. Natives that come from hot, dry areas are usually drought tolerant -- for full sun areas that are difficult to irrigate, try black-eyed Susan, swamp sunflower, and sundrops.

Benefits to wildlife
Again, as components of a balanced eco-system, native plants are invaluable to wildlife. Berries and seeds provide food for migrating birds as well as local populations. Red blossoms in particular are attractive to hummingbirds. And, many birds and small mammals rely on woodland plants for shelter and nesting materials.

Conservation issues
According to the Center for Plant Conservation, one out of every ten plants native to the United States is in danger of extinction. Since this is attributable mostly to loss of habitat, it makes sense to provide homes for native plants in our own gardens whenever possible. But in the true spirit of conservation, it is important to buy only nursery-propagated plants -- never those that were collected in the wild.

Personal satisfaction
There is always something fun and satisfying in planning a ‘theme’ garden. If you’re the kind of gardener that doubles as a “collector”, you will probably enjoy the thrill of the chase as you hunt for plants native to your state or your region.