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.

Clothing
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.

Birdhouses
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.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Florida Gardening

Florida Gardening


Tips about gardening in the unique Florida landscape and how to have a succesful garden in the southeast. Florida is a subtropical paradise with balmy beach breezes, abundant flowers, and long, sun drenched days. Relocated gardeners may be surprised to learn that this combination provides many challenges and may require some simple but important adjustments to ensure a healthy lawn and garden in Florida.

The gardener must understand the basic fact about the Florida climate. Some of Florida is a lush tropical world, but most of Florida is a pine forest on a sand bar surrounded by salt water. The pine forest causes the sandy soil to be acidic, and it drains poorly. The salty shores are more alkaline and have a high salt content, which is caustic to many plant varieties. To have a successful garden in Florida, you must improve the soil, find plant varieties that are native and hardy to the conditions, and use fertilizers and pesticides with caution.

The sandy soil throughout Florida benefits from the addition of organic material, such as compost and manure. Organic additives will provide nutrients, improve drainage and provide the "good" bacteria necessary to combat the microscopic pests prolific in Florida soil. Nematodes are the bacteria that can kill your plants and grass quickly, especially when your soil lacks organic components.

Fertilizers and pesticides can be useful, but if not used with caution, they can destroy your garden and contaminate your water supply. The key is a balance of the components. You must follow the manufacturer's instructions for the application of the product. Too much water and too much fertilizer will cause more problems than they will solve. Thatch is one conditon caused by too much fertilizer and water. Thick, gnarled patches of grass and root lead to dense, thick, brown patches that can only be cured by backbreaking work to break up the dense mass. Proper proportions of water and fertilizer will prevent these problems and keep you from having to mow the lawn every other day during the rainy season.

Your next step to achieve your Florida dream garden is to take a look around your neighborhood and see what plants are thriving. You will find that native plants provide a broad spectrum of color and landscape interest and require the least effort to maintain. Check labels carefully and ask at your local garden center for varieties that are hardy. You can save the challenging varieties for a year or two down the line when you have more experience in your Florida garden.

The basic guidelines to a succesful start in your Florida garden are to choose heat tolerant plant varieties, balance water and fertilizer, and improve the soil. You will achieve the lush garden paradise you dream about when you work with the climate and adapt to the unique conditions in Florida.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Japanese Garden Design For Small Spaces

Japanese Garden Design For Small Spaces


Follow these tips to design your own Japanese garden in a small space. Japanese gardens (known as Nihon Teien in Japan) are famous the world over for their peace, beauty and tranquility. They are easily recognizable but require careful planning in order to achieve the look of natural beauty. While some gardens are elaborately created on a grand scale, others are much smaller to fit easily into apartment verandas, walled areas of Japanese tea-house gardens or into any other small space available to house the beauty that is the Japanese garden.

For our purposes we will discuss three distinct types of Japanese gardens: the landscape garden, the rock/stone garden and the tea-house garden.

The landscape garden notoriously includes the following five elements of nature: mountain, river, sea, forest, and field. They are meant to imitate nature as closely as possible. Unlike many of the organized and symmetrical gardens found the world over, the Japanese landscape garden is designed to reflect the exotic beauty that is found in nature. A beautiful array of ponds, small rivers, waterfalls, pebbles, stones, grass, trees, shrubs and a variety of plants make up the landscape garden.

The rock/stone garden is exactly that, a garden of small pebbles or gravel and strategically placed rocks and boulders. While this may not appeal to some, the Japanese delight in their rock gardens. A rock garden is composed almost solely of rocks, pebbles and stones and on occasion, a small amount of greenery strategically added for interest and softness. Gravel is sometimes spread and then raked to give an appearance of the movement of the water in the sea.

The tea-house garden is usually in a small, enclosed area just outside a tea-house or room where the tea ceremony is performed. The purpose of this type of garden is to add peace, tranquility and meditative state of the tea ceremony. The flow of nature is present in the tea-house garden in the form of trees, shrubs and grass and will often include a spring or other water source; however, not all five aspects are required as in the landscape garden.

No matter which type of garden you prefer, the true objective is to feed the spirit and promote tranquility and nature. The flowing and peaceful look is the goal and can be achieved in many ways. When creating your own Japanese garden, especially for a small place, remember the following:

Choose a Style and Stick With It
While this may not be true when you've gained some expertise with the Japanese garden, it is best for beginners to pick a style and stick with it. It is simpler and less confusing to have a clear objective in mind, landscape, rock garden or tea-house. It also makes it easier to scale down for a small area if you are clear about what you want and where you're headed.

Keep It Simple
When working with a small space, remember, simplicity is best. While you may be able to incorporate many elements into a larger garden, limited space makes it necessary to scale down and avoid a cluttered look. The simpler, the better. You can still make your point and incorporate many beautiful aspects without congesting the garden.

Choose a Focal Point
Particularly in the rock garden, you may want to choose a particular focal point such as a particularly beautiful boulder or majestic rock. In the tea-house garden you may prefer a Japanese lantern or spring. In the landscape garden you may choose a particularly majestic tree. Whatever you choose, be aware that the eye will be drawn first to the focal point and choose carefully.

In This Case, Size Counts
A garden for a small space must be kept in perspective. While it is tempting to buy one or two large items, you will want to remember to keep everything to scale and not let any one piece over- dominate. While a focal point is nice, do not let it be too imposing. Remember, the keywords here are flow and unity.

Do Your Homework
Before beginning your Japanese garden, study up on the subject. There are many beautiful, colorful pictures available to feed your imagination and creativity. Better yet, try to locate a Japanese garden in your area and visit for inspiration. The more you know about the varieties of plants, trees, shrubs and grasses available, the easier your job will be when scaling down for your small space.

Set the Mood
Last but not least, set the mood for creating by playing Japanese music, studying Japanese art and adopting the gentle and meditative Japanese attitude. This way, you can truly incorporate peace, joy and a spirit of tranquility into your own small garden.

No matter what style of garden you choose or what elements you incorporate, a Japanese garden will add beauty and peace to your small space. Relax and have fun while creating your work of art and the results cannot be anything less than perfect.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Forest Gardens

Forest Gardens


Discover how to grow the seven layers of a forest garden, a great environmentally friendly way to grow your own organic produce. The idea behind a forest garden is that the constituents of the garden will compliment one another, each doing different jobs, in order to prevent disease, provide protection from the elements, and help the growth of other plants. Another element behind the concept is that the majority of what grows in the forest garden can be harvested and eaten, all of which is organic.

There are seven layers to a forest garden. Starting on ground level, some creeping plants should be put down. These will spread over the floor of the garden very rapidly, thus deterring weeds. The next layer is the herb layer. Once ready for use, herbs can be picked and used in many different types of cookery. Next you will need a root layer, such as Jerusalem artichokes, which are quite happy growing low down, requiring very little light. The fourth layer is the bush layer, gooseberry for example, which can be grown in partial shade. The fifth layer comprises a small tree layer such as hazel, and the canopy layer should be a fruit tree. A climber such as Nasturtium should be encouraged to grow up this fruit tree and this comprises the seventh layer.

So the fruit tree is the canopy layer just as the larger trees are in the forest. This provides protection from extreme weather conditions to the plants below it. It grows best given plenty of sunlight though so is ideal as the top layer. The climber brings nutrients from further down in the soil to distribute in the garden, which otherwise would not be present. It also provides annual leaf mould. The hazel tree might not survive if the fruit tree didn’t protect it, and because the bush layer requires little light it is an ideal addition in the lower areas of the forest garden. In turn the creeping plants protect the root and herb layers from the detrimental effects of weeds.
The added bonus of having a forest garden is that it is environmentally friendly, and you have a constant supply of organic produce. You don’t need a huge garden space to realise such a project so give it a go!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Creating A Kitchen Garden

Creating A Kitchen Garden


How to grow a lovely kitchen garden so that you can have the freshest vegetables directly from your own garden in your meals Gardens are always a source of great pleasure to the young and old alike. Be it a vegetable or a flower garden, it has been the monument of one's self-respect and accomplishment through ages. The peace and satisfaction that lies in planting a seed, watching it sprout, nurturing it grow, let it spread it's branches and finally witnessing it bear flowers and fruits, is simply beyond explanation. It is like giving birth to a baby and watching it grow and mature.

Gardening is an art. Flower gardens are a common sight but that doesn't mean they are any less than a vegetable garden. My personal favourite is a vegetable garden since it is uncommon, both attractive and productive and has a different kind of joy underneath it. Growing vegetables in your own garden using the least amount of chemicals and then taking the fruits directly to the kitchen ensures a good and safe source of nutrients from the freshest of the fresh vegetables. Does that sound interesting? You may jolly well find all your favourite vegetables all through the year either as canned or frozen forms, but the preservatives added to maintain them at that state take away some of their nutritional values. You may enjoy the taste of the food prepared from them but that would not be so healthy as that made from something fresh. I know this sounds scary but the truth is always bitter. So don't waste your time and space and start gardening. The benefits of fresh, crispy vegetables are overwhelming.

I'll provide you with some helpful tips and tricks regarding growing a kitchen garden along with growing some of my favourite as well as 'essential for health' vegetables.

How to Start?

Plants need to photosynthesise, ie, prepare their own food with water from the soil, carbon dioxide from the air and most importantly, sunlight. Different plants have different tolerant levels and thus behave differently under various sun conditions. Some fruit abundantly in profuse light while others need diffused or partial sunlight for half of the sun period (the time during which the plant receives sunlight). So the performance of the plants depend mostly on the selection of planting area where there is sufficient sunlight according to the plants' needs. Choose a small acre of land for your gardening and expand it later. Acquire knowledge about the various successful and ornamental vegetable gardens from books, magazines and botanists and plan your garden. Prepare your mind about how much time you want to spend tending your garden and the size of your planting area that will be comfortable to handle by you. Then choose the plants you favour and your land can support with the amount of sun it receives. Get some professional help in designing your garden because other than the plants, you may later on decide, amazed and inspired by the beauty you created, to add a little more color by decorating it with a fountain, a small paved path, fence, trellises, bird-bath, statue, stone footings or even spread out a lawn table and some chairs.

Learning about the habit and habitat of the plant is essential

I have already pointed out that the sunlight requirement of each plant may vary from that of the other. So choose plants accordingly that are all suited in the particular plot. Also some plants grow in rows or hills on tilled lands, while other can be planted in groups. In addition, knowledge about the climatic conditions of the place, the humidity of the air, soil conditions like texture, salinity, pH, water holding capacity, microbial life forms etc, water requirement of the plants, their frost tolerance, whether they can be row-planted or furrow-planted, their companionship with other plants - all are essential to develop a luxuriantly fruiting garden. The viability of the seeds, their planting method, depth of soil, distance from the fellow plants vary according to the different genera and thus a careful study is needed.
Don't be afraid! Your reward is waiting!

Prepare the soil first

Determine the type of soil with the help of an expert because different soils has different requirements to support biological life. The soil type, sandy, clayey or loamy, amount of aeration in the soil and it's water holding capacity circumscribe the type and quantity of fertilizer needed to fortify it. Dig down deep into the soil, at least 2 feet (moisten it first, if necessary), remove all sorts of weed roots and seeds from the planting area, crumble the soil clods until they are very fine with a tiller or a spade, turn over the soil several times and add about 2-3 inches of compost. Compost includes any biodegradable material which can be broken down into a fine, dark humus. Well rotted livestock manure is the best choice for getting a clay or sandy soil into shape. Whatever you use for compost apply it often, like once in the spring and once in the fall. It will take a few seasons to improve a poor soil type. One more thing that you can do is raising the seed bed. Besides enclosing your garden and making a good growing medium, a raised bed helps planting and weeding much more easy.

Planting of seeds

Seeds need to be collected from the local nursery in packets. Buy variety seeds to gain the maximum success. Read the instructions carefully and then proceed. Some seeds need to be planted indoors first and then transplanted to the field under the sun after the seedling has grown for a few weeks. Others can directly be planted in the field.
It is a nice experience to behold how the seeds germinate and the first leaves appear, as if, a plant is awakening from a deep slumber. Sprinkle water, as necessary, and slowly dig the soil weekly or semi-weekly to help the delicate roots respire efficiently. Vigorous digging can damage the roots that are not yet properly grown and thus can kill the plant at a very early stage.
So, be careful!

Take care of the seedlings

Damping off: The young seedlings, being tender, are often subjected to fungal attacks to the stems at the soil level resulting in a condition called damping-off. The fungal spores are very minute, often microscopic. Since they are not clearly visible, the seedlings can be affected by the slightest negligence and can die overnight. A tip to get rid of these fungus infections is by sprinkling little water and keeping the surface of the soil dry. A wet surface is the most favourable condition to enhance fungal growth. You can cover the soil surface with a thin layer of sand which will help keep the stem at the soil level dry where the damping-off starts. Since the acid soils are highly susceptible to fungal infestation, it will be best to use neutral pot soil for the initial growing stages of the seedlings. Identify the affected seedlings by their bent and discolored nature and remove them as soon as possible. Change the soil before any more of them gets affected. Seedlings planted indoors are more vulnerable to damping-offs.

Hardening off: The simple but crucial process of acclimatising seedlings to life in the garden from a life indoors is called hardening off. Like a fish in new waters, the seedlings, so far in an artificial greenhouse, when grown enough to be transplanted to the garden, often find it difficult to adjust to the unfamiliar conditions of the outdoors. Start hardening 2-3 days defore the actual date of transplanting by placing then first at cool, shady places and exposing them gradually to the sun. Water them well but do not subject them to the harsh rain or wind which may hamper the delicate stems. After about 3 days, keep them in the direct sunlight for half the day and bring back to a shady place afterwards. After treating the seedlings this way for about a week, they are now hard enough to be safely exposed to the sun all throughout the day and ready to be transplanted. Do it in a cloudy day with a low temperature to allow the seedlings better adjust to the change in environment. See to it that they do not fall prey to the notorious garden pests like deer, dogs, critters, rabbits, moles etc at this sensitive stage. Fencing would be the best idea. Watch for insect infestation. Well spacing between the plants and occasional application of insecticides wil contain the insects and keep them at bay. But, nevertheless, proper spacing, weeding and fertilizing is a good way to prevent disease and insect infestation without having to resort to harmful insecticides.

Fertilize your plants

Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are known to be the best and most essential fertilizers needed for plants. Different plants have different levels of hunger and for that you need to treat each variety separately. Apply them in granular or water soluble forms so they are easily absorbed.
The organic mulches (grass clippings, fallens leaves, straw, bark etc) improve the soil by adding nutrients as they decompose and encourage earthworm activity. Mulch improves the appearance of your garden, and keep dirt from splashing up on your flowers and vegetables when it rains. However mulch in wet weather may hold up too much moisture thus may attract snails, slugs and even rodents to damage your plants.

Now you know the basics of gardening. It's time to start your garden. You may fail initially but do not give up that easily. Plants are not machines but biological lives. Just like a baby, if they do not get the proper care, they will succumb no doubt.

All set, let's now discuss about the vegetables that you have been so long waiting to grow. You will experience a certain thrill that you have never felt before when you see the first flower coming and more, when the fruit develops from it. Take my word for it.

Growing Mustard

Mustard is one of the most commonly grown plants in a vegetable garden. It is soft and herbaceous and is very popular because of it's pungent odour. When you have a field full of mustard plants, they make a beautiful sight with small yellow flowers whose 4 petals are arranged in the form of a cross.

Planting

Sow the seeds during spring time in a moist soil under the sun and harvest late in the summer when the pods mature and the seeds inside ripen. Mustard doesn't a lot of a care and grows luxuriantly and easily on varied soil types.

Harvesting
Harvest the pods after 2-3 months and separate the seeds in a jar.

Uses
Mustard powder or paste is a delicious salad dressing due to it's pungency. Various spices, pickles and sauces are prepared with these seeds. Imagine what you can do with a further knowledge from the cook book. A mustard bath, where the powder is mixed with hot water, is comforting for sore and aching feet and relaxes and revives the entire body.


Growing Beans

Beans, known as string beans some time earlier, can be grown as bush or pole varieties producing a heavy yield. They can be called protein packets because of their high protein content.

Planting and fertilizing
Plant the seeds during mid-spring to late-summer in a neutral or alkaline, well drained warm soil under full sun. They are less tolerant to frost and make sure that the frost period is over when you sow the seeds. Beans have the capacity to draw nitrogen from the air and fix it to their roots. So some additional compost and manure will be just fine for it's growth. Add lime if the soil is acidic. The shallow root system demands watering at the times of sowing, the appearance of seedlings and during flowering. This nearness of the roots to the ground level makes weeding difficult. So maintain extreme precaution while weeding. The pole varieties need about 8 feet tall trellises or poles to support them.

Harvesting
After about 10-12 weeks it's harvest time. Start picking the beans frequently and carefully without damaging the stems. This facilitates the appearance of more flowers and thus greater yields. The best time to pick is when the pods break easily from the stem and the seeds remain not yet fully developed.


Disease and pest resistance

Beans are mostly affected by anthracnose, bacterial blights, common bean mosaic, and rust. Consult a botanist and horticulturist or get some help from books and catalogs to plant resistant varieties. Rotate planting beans with other plants to get rid of the seed borne diseases. Keep the garden area clean and devoid of any affected plants, dead and decaying materials that can be the host of various diseases. Baited traps, soap and powder sprays on damp plants will help you keep the aphids, beetles and red spider mites at bay.

Uses
Because of it's high nitrogen content, beans are highly proteinaceous and are indispensable for both young and adults.


Growing Beets

Beets is a root crop and the thing we eat as vegetable (beet) grows under the soil and is a modification of root. It requires lots of phosphorous and less nitrogen than most other crops. Excessive nitrogen will lead to the formation of abundant leafy top and thin roots.

Planting and fertilizing

Beets can be planted in spring or late summer. Planting in a cool weather will be the best since the roots can dry up during the hot weather. Seeds can be sown directly in the garden under the sun. They are slightly frost tolerant. Apply superphosphate in the soil to fertilize the plants. Beets need an alkaline soil, and the addition of a pound of lime for each square yard of bed will sweeten the soil. Maintain a steady water supply for quality beets. A light mulch around young beets will help the soil retain the necessary moisture. Avoid damaging the roots while weeding. Minute apllication of boron enhances the taste as well as improves the growth.

Harvesting
Harvesting starts after 3-4 months when the beets mature. Baby beets can be harvested earlier.

Diseases and pests
Beets are seldom attacked by insects and diseases.

Uses
Because of it's betacyanin pigment, beet has it's red color which makes it very popular as a salad material. It is highly nutritive and can be eaten raw as well as cooked.

Growing Coriander

Fan shaped feathery coriander leaves and seeds are very popular in the kitchen to enhance the taste of curries. Coriander looks like flat-leaved parsley. The seed is sold both whole and ground and is the main ingredient in curry powder. It has a sweet taste reminiscent of orange peel.

Planting
Coriander grows well in dry summer and humid climates. It needs a lot of sun. After the cool weather and frost are all gone, the seeds are sown in the garden. Growing in containers can also be successful in a sunny corner in the verandah. The stem is soft, weak and herbaceous and has a mouth-watering aroma.

Harvesting
Cut the tender leaves before complete maturity to catch that delicate flavor. Store in air-tight plastics in the refrigerator and do not let dry outside, otherwise you are done with the flavor.

Uses
It is used as a spice or dressing in Indian and some of Asian foods. Coriander makes good pickles with lemon and sugar, and a pinch of salt.


Growing Cabbage

Cabbage is known to be the largest bud. It can be grown in a wide range of climates but is not tolearnt to extreme heat.

Planting and fertilizing
Plant in a well drained, sunny location and keep the soil well watered since the plant grows very fast. Enrich the soil with compost or manure before planting. Growth of leafy portions demands excessive nitrogen supply. Sow the seeds indoors on trays or large garden bowls and then transplant at the appearance of 5-6 leaves.

Harvesting
Harvesting or cutting of the heads can be done after 14-16 weeks when the heads mature.

Uses
Cabbage id a very popular vegetable as it has got a lot of green leaves. It can be eaten both as cooked or as raw (the young ones) in salads.


Growing Garlic

Garlic is one of the most favourite spices in Indian food. It can be had both as cooked or raw. Growing them from the bulbs is easy. It thrives mostly in winter.

Planting and fertilizing
The cloves separated from the bulb can be planted pointed end upfacing upwards. They grow well in loose, moist soil fertilized by manure.

Harvesting
The top of the plants fall over to indicate that it is harvest time. Dig down and after collecting the bulbs, air dry them before storing in jute bags to prevent rotting by the soil moisture.

Diseases and pests
The yield may be reduced by small insects called thripes which feed on the leaves thus weakening the plants. Splashing the plants with cold water may inhibit their infestation and keep them at bay. Eliminate the weeds from the nearby areas and apply soap sprays to avert other pests. Stem borers like onion maggots are not uncommon. Main area of their attack is the plant bases where they lay eggs. The larvae crawl inside the stem and suck the sap leading to drying up of the plant body. It is best to protect the base by making tarpaper collars around them or by sprinkling the soil with wood ashes, diatomaceous earth etc.
Garlic may suffer from neck rot disease because of ill treatment of the harvested crop. They must be well dried in open air and warm temperature before storing to prevent this disease.

Uses
Because of it's delightening flavor, garlic is used as spices in many Asian food. It can also be used in salad dressings or picles, sauce or salsa etc and is also good for heart diseases, arteriosclerosis, protective against cancer, colds and flu. It improves clood circulation.


Growing Corn

Corn is a warm weather crop needing bright sunlight. The beautiful corn plants are a feast for the eyes as the female flowers mature to develop fruits. The male flowers occupy the topmost position in the plants and their pollen fall on the female flowers down below on their receptacles. Do not splash down the pollen grain at the time of dispersal or else the productivity will be less.

Planting and fertilizing
Enrich the soil well in advance before planting with manure. Plant seeds 8 to 10 inches apart in a furrow or trench, then hill the plants as they grow. This will help you to get rid of weeds. If you plan to plant different varieties and get a hybrid, then plant them at least 100 ft from each other to ensure efficient cross pollination.
These plants need a lot of water during the tasseling and kernel forming time. Well water the soil upto 4 inches in depth to get the maximum results.

Harvesting
After 12-14 weeks, check the plants if they have befome ready to be harvested. The husk turning green, brown silks and well-filled ears indicate that they are mature enough to be plucked.

Uses
Corn is an extremely nutritional food at it can be had at breat or lunch or anytime during the day. It is a very popular food among the Americans and somewhat to the Asians.


Growing Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a very tasty vegetable with a beautiful appearance when grown in your garden.

Planting and fertilizing
It is less tolerant to hot weather and thus need to be protected from the sun. It also has less tolerance to frost. Sow seeds in trays and transplant after 6 weeks in a cool weather to a soil rich in manure and organic matter. Water well avoiding the heads and add additional nutrients or manure to the soil. It needs a lot of fertilizing.

Harvesting
After 4-5 months it is time to cut down the heads. If delayed, they lose their fiemness and discolor.

Uses
Cauliflower is a good vegetable. Both the head and the leaves can be cooked.



Overall tips
Enough of planting and harvesting. Take some additional care to succeed in your endeavor.

Winter Protection
The delicate plants may or may not survive the harsh winter conditions for which you need to take some actions. Erecting wind breaks by netting or webbing will help stand against strong winds. Erect poles and put up the wind breaks.

Mulching
For hardy perennials, mulch is often the best protection. When applying mulch, remember that mulches with small individual particles, such as coffee grounds, should be applied in thin layers while a courser mulch such as straw or pine needles can be applied liberally. Leaves and grass clippings that are abundantly available are a good source of organic mulch and are easy to apply. Plastics help to keep the soil warm and should be used in case of only those plants that can thrive in warm soil. Another source of mulch is hay which is cheap and readily available and adds organoc matter to the soil. Manure is a good fertilizer.
However, while mulching, weed seeds may come by to contaminate the mulch and hamper all your effort. So keep a good eye on it.

Cover or Green Manure crops
The plants grow in certain seaons and for the rest of the time your garden remains barren. So to prevent soil erosion and compaction that may result, cover up your land with some cover crops that are grown only when the land is kept unused to retain it's structure and fertility. A cover crop should be tilled under about a month before you plant your garden. Buckwheat is a good choice for summer planting. It matures about 40 days after planting. Just before it flowers, cut it down and till it under.

Some beneficial Insects
Insects play a great role in plant life. they are one of the most important pollinating agents by transferring pollen grains from the male organs to the female receptacles thus playing a major role in their life cycle. Also some large beneficial insects feed on the smaller harmful insects thus checking their infestations in the garden. But by applying the various pesticides to get rid of the harmful insects, we kill those helpful to us too. A knowledge about the good bugs is thus necessary here. Predatory mite Geolaelaps control thrips. Phytoseiulus persimilis help iradicate spider mites. Aphid Midge Aphidoletes aphidimyza and lady Beetles Hippodamia convergens check aphids. Mealybug Destroyer Cryptolaemus montrouzieri control mealy bugs. Spined soldier bug Podisus maculiventris eats on colorado potato beetle. Further knowledge from a professional regarding the availability of these pests , their sustainence, life cyclye etc on specific crops will be helpful in the long run.

Rabbits Control
Rabbits make most of the lawn and gardens their homes as they can easily find their food for living. Beans, carrots, lettuce, peas are some of their favourite foods. So control them before they eat and mess up all your garden. Put up fences or barriers all around the garden or use sme repellents. Keep these chemicals away from children in a safe place. Another alternative is to set up traps with baits.

Deter the birds
The birds are very clever to attack the crop as soon as they mature. Some crops are invaded even as early as before ripening. They may help in one respect by attacking the insect pests but your fruits are not spared in the process. So you better try to distract them by scaring or annoying to share your crop. The use of various types of scare crows, made up of straw as well as plastic or paper are good and efficient methods of repelling them. Position them in various locations in your garden to make it look as if they are moving around. Flashing lights, unusual noise, house pets can also help in the process. Providing them alternative food may help you to some extent. If all fail, try covering the whole field with a net or wire mesh.

Watch and learn from other gardeners. Discuss with experts and read books to get the maximum benefits out of your toils. All the best. Happy gardening!!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Create A Butterfly Garden

Create A Butterfly Garden


Create a butterfly garden: how to entice Monarchs and other butterflies into your garden with flowering plants, warm, sunny spaces, a birdbath or other water source, and a pesticide-free yard.
Have you noticed that butterflies like the neighbor's garden better than yours? If you're like me, not only have you noticed, but it's become a source of disappointment and jealousy.

I have never received a complaint from the Japanese beetles, aphids or earwigs, and I try to discourage them. Yet, for some reason, the flightly butterfly has turned its tiny antenna away from my backyard year after year. Oh, sometimes a lost soul floats through, but ultimately it sails off again on the next available breeze and is never seen again.

The need to discover my error was strong. So, last year I chased Painted Ladies through my neighbor's garden. I ran circles around Monarchs in the meadow where they danced from blossom to blossom until finally depositing eggs on the undersides of milkweed leaves. I stalked the beautiful Swallowtail unmercifully. Where it went, I went. Then I checked out the local library. After careful study, I have determined several things about this light-as-air creature.

One: It needs a constant source of water. The mud puddle in the driveway counts, by the way, you just have to make sure there's water in it. The birdbath is good, too. Since butterflies like to sit in the water and sip, pay close attention to water depth.

Two: Butterflies are insects, therefore are cold-blooded. They require a pesticide-free, wind-free environment where they can absorb the sun's warmth undisturbed. They tend to congregate in corners and along fences. They also like to sit on rocks, cement statues and warm sidewalks. Anything that retains the sun's heat will do.

Three: Butterflies prefer fragrant, colorful flowers that bloom a long time. Such plants include bee balm, dahlia, impatients, zinnia, snapdragon, yarrow, marigolds, mints, phlox, bougainvillea, coneflower, and geranium. Host plants, such as milkweed are essential to their young.

If all of these ingredients can be found in your garden, the elusive butterfly may take up permanent lodging. I say may because I now have all of these things, and am still awaiting the sound of tiny little caterpillar feet.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Garden Stepping Stones

Garden Stepping Stones


How to make a garden stepping stone using mosaic techniques. Garden stepping stones are useful and decorative. They can allow you to walk through the garden without walking on the dirt or mud. They can add color and new shapes to the garden for decorative purposes. Garden stepping stones are easy to make, and it can be a project for the entire family. Here is the basic idea.

What you need
  • 1 bag of cement mix (the amount depends on how big the stone will be)
  • Mosaic tiles or decorative stones (these can be bought at most craft stores)
  • 1 aluminum baking pan (try the large roasting pans for oval shapes or cake pans for rectangular shapes) OR 1 plastic mold (this can be bought at most craft stores)
  • Contact paper (optional)

Method 1
This method gives you the opportunity to write names or dates on the surface of the stone. Be sure to leave space in your design for this.
  1. Decide on your design. Plan where all of the colors will go. Use an outline of the pan or mold as a guide. Leave room in between the tiles or stones for the cement. The cement will hold the tiles or stones together.
  2. Mix the cement mix according to the manufacturer’s directions. Be sure not to get it you soupy.
  3. Pour the cement into the baking pan or the plastic mold.
  4. Place the tiles or stones on the cement making your desired design.
  5. Push the tiles or stones into the cement to cover the edges of the tiles or stones.
  6. Write any name or dates in the cement.
  7. Let sit 48 hours in a cool dry place.
  8. Carefully take it out of the pan or mold.
  9. 9. Place in the garden on level ground.

Method 2
This will produce a smoother finish on the surface of the stone, but you won’t be able to write your name or a date on the top. You can always write it on the bottom for reference.

  1. Decide on your design. Plan where all of the colors will go. Use an outline of the pan or mold as a guide. Leave room in between the tiles or stones for the cement. The cement will hold the tiles or stones together.
  2. Put the mirror image on contact paper. You can have the mirror image printed at you local color copy store.
  3. Place the contact paper in the bottom of the pan or mold with the tiles facing up, paper on the bottom.
  4. Mix the cement mix according to the manufacturer’s directions. Be sure not to get it too soupy.
  5. Pour the cement into the baking pan or the plastic mold.
  6. Write any name or dates in the cement.
  7. Let sit 48 hours in a cool dry place.
  8. Carefully take it out of the pan or mold.
  9. Place in the garden on level ground.

Other tips
  1. Don’t leave the stepping stones out during the winter months.
  2. Look in clip art books for design motif ideas.
  3. Try simple geometric ideas with lots of colors.
  4. Make imprints of your child’s hand on the stones.
  5. Bright colors work best.
  6. Add dye to the cement to get even more color.
  7. Break dinner plates to use instead of tiles
  8. Use marbles instead of tiles
  9. Combine different elements like marbles, tiles and seashells to make a design.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Attracting Wildlife To Yard And Garden

Attracting Wildlife To Yard And Garden


As cities encroach more and more on natural habitats, The National Wildlife Federation is actively encouraging homeowners to provide safe havens for small animals. Here's the things you need to attract critters to your yard.

As natural habitats are being cleared away in the name of development, native wildlife also grows scarcer. A growing trend, encouraged by the National Wildlife Federation is for homeowners to plan home landscapes that attract and provide for all types of critters. An added benefit is that gardening for wildlife makes yards extremely low-maintenance shrub beds reduce the amount of lawn to mow, and organic practices eliminate the spraying of chemicals.
Basically, all kinds of wildlife have four basic needs to survive: food, water, shelter and a safe place to raise young. How you meet each of these needs determines which species you will attract. For example, to attract birds, you may be able to provide shelter as easily as providing a few nesting boxes. To attract small mammals like chipmunks, however, you might have to add a brushpile. The greater the variety of these four elements in your yard, the more diverse your wildlife visitors will be.

Water. The key here is to maintain a clean, dependable water source through all four seasons -- even in the dead of winter when you don’t feel like trekking out to check on it. Unclean water or a source that’s allowed to dry up too often will not be visited as regularly by wildlife. Any type of birdbath or garden pond will do, as long as there are shallow spots (place flat rocks inside, if necessary) that give birds and small mammals a safe foothold. It’s also important to protect your visitors from predators, so place your water source at least 15 feet from shrubbery that could harbor neighborhood cats.

Shelter. Wildlife rely on shelter for protection from the weather and predators, as well as for sleeping areas and safe travel lanes. Low shrubbery, especially berry bushes that also provide a food source, make an effective shelter. If it is dense enough, shrubbery can provide a home to ground-nesting birds such as doves and thrushes as well as small mammals like rabbits. You can also construct a brush pile from dead branches. Stone piles will provide a cool home for garden snakes, toads and lizards; all of which help to control insect populations. Also, consider leaving one or two dead trees standing, to attract cavity-nesters such as woodpeckers.

Places to raise young. For the most part these requirements can be satisfied by meeting basic shelter needs. The exception is birds, which benefit from nesting and roosting boxes. These can be purchased or made at home. Each species has specific requirements for entry-hole size, so contact your county extension office or your state's Wildlife Federation for instructions or plans for many types of nesting boxes.

Food. Rather than relying on feeders exclusively, it’s best to let Mother Nature provide a constant source of food by planting shrubs, vines and trees that produce edible nuts, seeds or berries. Holly, beauty berry (Callicarpa americana) and blackberry together provide nearly four seasons of berries. Oak trees provide acorns, dogwoods and sumac provide red berries through the fall and winter and serviceberry (Amelanchier species) bears edible berries in late spring or early summer.

Birdfeeders are often used to supplement the winter diet of birds. For general feeding, most species will eat black sunflower seed. Ground feeders like doves are partial to a scattering of cracked corn. Suet attracts insectivorous birds such as woodpeckers.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rock Garden Design

Rock Garden Design


Basic instructions on designing a rock garden including planning, selection and placement of rocks, and plant selection and arrangement. Rock gardens offer fascinating possibilities to express your creativity. A well-designed rockery will not only add interest to an otherwise unremarkable landscape, but can also provide an attractive solution for a difficult gardening problem. A rock garden can adorn a hard-to-maintain slope that cannot be easily managed with turf or can be an attractive focal point where dry, poor soil or deep shade limit your gardening options.

Even the most natural looking rock garden must start with a good plan. Make a sketch of the shape of your proposed garden, with measurements, and determine where rocks will be placed. It is always best to use native rock when available and suitable for the intended project. If you must bring in rock, choose a type that is compatible with the landscape. If you are planning to build a rock wall garden on a steep slope, you will need stones that have flat surfaces. If, on the other hand, the slope is gentle or less than three feet high, you will have more options on where and how to place your stones. Experiment with rock placement on paper and then on the ground to achieve the most aesthetically pleasing arrangement. For those who want the "look" without all the labor, there are "light" rocks, developed from composite material, available in many areas.

Select the varieties of plants you want to include in your garden and decide where they will be placed in relationship to the rocks. The plants you choose will be determined by the type of rock garden you want to create as well as your climate and exposure. If you have a sunny, fast draining spot with rocky soil, you should choose among the many succulents and cacti species. For colder climates there are hardy sedums and attractive rosette-forming succulents like hen-and-chickens (sempervivum). For shady rockeries, you can choose among the many varieties of ferns, mosses, and shade-loving perennials. An alpine rock garden will contain plants that are native to stony soils and cool temperatures. To keep them dwarf, the soil should not be too fertile. Some common alpine plants include alpine anemone, alpine pink, alpine rockcress, edelweiss, alpine for-get-me-not, and savory. Whatever varieties you choose, remember that the size of the plants should be on the same scale as the garden itself. Tiny plants are most attractive in a small rock garden; tall perennials and dwarf shrubs are best suited in a large, wide, contoured garden. Be careful about introducing an aggressive or rampant growing ground cover into your rock garden. They will quickly crowd out some of the finer plants. Even though many of the alpine and dwarf plant varieties are slow growers, their beauty will reward your patience.

When you have collected or purchased your rocks, plants, and soil for filling around the plants, you are ready to begin. Whether creating a wall or a small garden, start at the lowest point and work toward the highest area. If you are contouring the landscape, save the soil you remove in one location to add height to another area. When constructing a rock wall make sure the wall is slanted back toward the slope one inch horizontally for each vertical foot of wall. Tilt the flat surfaces back toward the slope to catch the water. All rocks have a “better” face and a more stable side. With luck, the most stable placement of your rocks will showcase the more interesting face. Try to bury at least half of each rock in the soil so it will be firmly anchored and have a more natural appearance, not just sitting atop the ground.

The best time to transplant seedlings is while you are arranging rocks; the rocks will help anchor and protect the plants’ roots. Water the plants and soak the soil around the rocks thoroughly to settle and compact the soil. Any soil added as fill should be wet.

Slugs and some insect pests may find the cover of rocks to be the perfect hiding place. Be on the lookout for possible damage while young plants are becoming established. Be careful when removing weeds from your garden. Remember that some plants may have shallow roots and could be easily damaged during weeding.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How To Build A Rock Garden

How To Build A Rock Garden

Rock gardens are a beautiful addition to any back or front yard. Learn how to build your own rock garden, right down to the plants. Rock gardens are a beautiful addition to any back or front yard. But for the person who has limited space and still wants to enjoy a bountiful floral or plant experience, they can prove to be mandatory. Rock gardens are used in many different ways and for many reasons. They can fill in an overly spacious area, provide a wonderful way to grow in perpetually wet areas, provide a showy array of plant life in limited space, be used as a form of retaining wall for a sloped area or simply provide a decorative alternative for landscaping. A rock garden provides a new world for alpines and other small plants, requiring little care if you choose your plants wisely.

Rock gardens should ideally slope at a rate of 1 foot for every 4 to 5 feet of width. It is best to find an area of your yard that is near a rock outcropping for a more natural look. In smaller yards you can provide the outcropping by using the same native rocks you use in your rock garden. Doing this will help you keep the landscaping scaled down to the area you have to work with. To begin your rock garden you should strip the slope of all plants and top soil. If your yard does not have an existing slope you might consider adding soil to the area where you wish to put your rock garden. Be sure to provide proper drainage for the area in either case. To do this you will need to dig trenches that are approximately 18 inches deep and 3 to six feet apart down the face of the slope. The number of trenches you dig should be scaled to the size of the slope. Fill the trenches about half full of stones, brick rubble or large sized gravel and then add a 3 inch layer of small gravel over this. It is best to mix your own soil for your rock garden to insure you have a good growing medium. A mixture of equal parts peat moss, loam and rock chips makes a wonderful start for your plants. After this is mixed top the gravel in the trenches with your soil.

Since building a rock garden takes numerous stones you will want to collect them in a variety of shapes and sizes. Start with stones that are about the size of a grapefruit, but be sure you have some larger boulders that will take at least two people to move. It is best to avoid contrasting colors and textures. When your rock garden is complete all the stones should seem to rise from the same bedrock. If you are in an area where rocks are hard to find you can purchase a variety of native stones from any local gravel pit or in some areas landscape companies.

Start building your rock garden by placing rocks at the center of the base of the slope. Use one of the largest rocks as your corner stone. Dig out enough of the subsoil so that you can seat the rock and then position it with its most attractive face out. Continue to dig out and place two rows of progressively smaller rocks until you have formed a rough L shape. Be sure as you place the rocks that the grain is running in the same general direction and tilt them slightly so any run off water will flow toward the slope. Pack your soil mixture between the rocks and place some on them. It is perfectly fine to almost bury the smaller ones on the ends. Build upward from the base stones working with one row at a time. Set each rock firmly into the slope and then bury them with your soil mixture. When you have finished setting all of your rocks you will need to allow the soil to settle for about ten days and then add more soil as it is needed. When this is finished top with 1\2 inch of rock chips which can be found at most local nurseries or garden supply stores.

There are many different plants that will thrive in a rock garden. Low growing junipers like the Armstrong and many others are the best evergreens to use. Alyssum, candytuft, gazania, pansy, verbena, mesembryanthemum or almost any ground cover will give you delightful color. Roses like the climbing floribundas and other climbers will cascade down the walls adding fragrance. It is wise to select a variety of low growing conifers, ground covers, bulbs and low perennials that will thrive in your climate. If your area has cold winters you will want to use alpines such as drabas, edelweiss and mountain avens. If you live in the desert Southwest you should use stone crops, small, spreading peanut cacti and other such succulents. In the humid south such plants as gesnariads, begonias and ferns will flourish in your rock garden. Along the seashore where you need plants that will tolerate the salt spray use thrift and candytuft. Talk with your local nursery to learn the right plants for your area and be sure to tell them you are looking for plants for a rock garden.

Low shrubs and plants such as sand myrtles or dwarf junipers should be planted at the bases of the larger rocks. Rosettes of sempervivum, bright patches of evergreen candytuft or gentians should be planted in cracks throughout the garden. In fact any clinging stone crop will work well when planted in the cracks. Try to find bright ground covers such as baby’s breath, creeping thyme or thrift to hang over the tops of exposed rocks. No matter what plants you decide to use, try to imagine in your mind the color scheme you will have after they are planted and established. Be sure to water and weed continuously until the plants are doing well on their on. After this, if you have chosen your plants wisely your rock garden will need very little attention. Always be sure that you occasionally weed to keep unwanted visitors from taking over your plants. During dry spell you should always water to be sure your plants are getting plenty to drink.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Intensive Gardening

Intensive Gardening


This method, known as French Intensive gardening, is meant to give the best crop yield from a small area. This method is known as French Intensive gardening. It is meant to give the best crop yield from a small area. It is ideal for standard vegetable gardens such as peppers, tomatoes, carrots and cabbage.

1. Begin with an area four feet by sixteen feet.

2. Remove all sod from the bed and pile it into a corner of your yard for later use. In about six weeks, this sod should be sufficiently decomposed for use as compost. At that time, place the composted material over the bed.

3. Test the PH of the soil. A neutral PH soil is best for a vegetable bed. To test the soil, you can either purchase a kit at your local garden center or you may use the services provided by your state's agricultural extension services. When obtaining a soil sample, take a tablespoon of soil frm each third of the bed and mix the samples together for an average PH for the entire bed.

4. Divide the bed into one foot blocks. Remove all dirt from the first block down to a depth of about 20 inches. Leave the first hole empty and go to the second block. Take the second block of dirt and place it upside down in the empty hole. Repeat this process with each block of soil making sure that you have aerated the soil sufficiently until you have finished the entire bed.

5. Mix the soil with peat moss, rotted manure and compost. Make sure that you use rotted manure since fresh manure will kill plants. The proper mixture of peat moss is six cubic feet of peat moss for every eight linear feet in the garden bed. The proper mixture of compost is six cubic feet of compost for the entire four feet by sixteen feet vegetable bed.

6. If you find that your soil is extra sandy, add more organic matter. If the soil is clay like, add sand as well as peat moss and compost. Be sure to use a building sand (rough grade), not beach sand. The acid content of your soil can be adjusted by adding lime to increase acidity.

7. Mix the peat moss, manure and compost with the soil to a level which raises the height of the bed six inches higher than the surounding lawn area.

8. Dig a shallow (four inches) trench around the bed to help catch rainfall runoff from the vegetable bed. this will provide additional irrigation for the bed.

9. You are now prepared to plant your bed--good luck.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Improving Garden Soil

Improving Garden Soil


Freshly tilled garden soil is rarely ideal for many reasons. Before you plant your garden learn how to fix your soil. The smell of freshly tilled earth can have any gardener grabbing for seeds as they imagine the flavor of juicy ripe tomatoes, plump sweet kernels of corn or spicy radishes. But don't grab those seeds just yet! If you want those vegetables to turn out as you have imagined them, you first must attend to improving the soil.

Freshly tilled garden soil is rarely ideal. It can have too much clay, be too sandy, be full of roots from last year's produce or have other debris. It is usually deficient in organic matter. It may have a pH that is too high or too low. Or perhaps the vegetables you grew last year have leached it of a vital nutrient that will be critical to the growth of this year's plants. It is best to do this in the fall, when soil is warm enough to promote the activity of fungi and bacteria. This is when the process of decaying will not use up the nitrogen needed by new plants.
Lawn clippings, compost, dead leaves, stems from other dead plants and manure are terrific additives. Take care not to use any plant materials that are bug infested or diseased since they will contaminate the soil or could cause problems in the future. Organic mulch that has been used on your garden during the summer months should be plowed under at the end of each season. Alfalfa, rye and clover, which are known as green manure, have nitrogen fixing bacteria growing in their roots. These are perfect organic matter and can be grown in separate patches for this purpose. Organic matter is beneficial to organisms in the soil and provide a rich food for earthworms.

For the best results mix organic matter into only the first 12 inches of your soil. If your soil has too much clay add coarse sand and redwood bark shavings. This will aerate the soil and improve the soil structure. If you soil is too sandy add sphagnum or peat moss with your organic matter. This aids the soil in retaining moisture and will increase the nutrient holding capacity in the soil. Soil that is over acid can be corrected by adding lime. Alkaline soil needs powdered sulfur added or aluminum sulfate.