Monday, October 18, 2010

Gardening Herbs

Gardening Herbs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Trees For Small Yards

Trees For Small Yards

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

Here are some suggestions for trees for small spaces.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Growing Bonsai Trees

Growing Bonsai Trees

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bonsai Tree Care

Bonsai Tree Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bonsai Care

Bonsai Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Japanese Garden Design

Japanese Garden Design

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Soil Testing For Your Garden

Soil Testing For Your Garden

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

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

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

Monday, October 11, 2010

Natural Pest Control For Your Garden

Natural Pest Control For Your Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Natural Garden Pest Control

Natural Garden Pest Control

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Keep Bugs Away From Your Garden

Keep Bugs Away From Your Garden!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 8, 2010

How To Tidy Your Garden For The Summer

How To Tidy Your Garden For The Summer

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

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

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

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How To Plant A Cutting Garden

How To Plant A Cutting Garden

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Gardening In The Shade

Gardening In The Shade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Garden Pest Control Using Natural Allies

Garden Pest Control Using Natural Allies

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

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

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

Monday, October 4, 2010

Garden Pest Control

Garden Pest Control

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

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

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Design A Garden Using Color

Design A Garden Using Color

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

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

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Cost Cutters For Your Garden

Cost Cutters For Your Garden

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

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

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

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bean Tower Garden Support

Bean Tower Garden Support

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

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

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

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

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