Gardening Experience

It all started a few weeks after I moved in to my first house. I was
excited just to have my own grass to mow, since I had been in apartments
and condos for quite a while. In between plans to paint walls and renovate
the inside to exactly how I like, I thought it would be a good idea to
start a fruit garden so that I could have some fresh produce and put my
yard to use. At that point I didn’t really know anything at all about
gardening. But still in my spunky youthful years, I decided I didn’t need
help. How hard could it be to start a garden and grow stuff? After all, it
happens in nature all the time and nobody even has to do anything.

I already had a grassless patch in my yard where it looked like the
previous owner had attempted a garden. But any attempt they had made
turned out to be an utter travesty. The area was full of rocks and weeds,
with no signs of any agreeable plants. I spent several hours of work
spread over several days to clear out the entire area, leaving nothing but
dirt. At that point, however, I didn’t realize the difference between
“dirt” and “soil”. I was dealing with barren, hard, nutritionless, and
unforgiving land.

I made some attempt at making my garden look nice; although I think even
Martha Stewart would have had difficulties. I took some stained boards
that were sitting in my basement (quite convenient, no?) and used them as
a border for my garden, to keep out all the pests that couldn’t jump more
than a foot (I figured I would be safe from lawn gnomes). I used the pile
of rocks I had collected from the garden to make a creepy shrine looking
thing in front of it. I don’t know what I was thinking when I did that.

I went to the store that very day, and picked out whatever looked tasty.
Strawberries? Sure! Watermelon? Yeah! I hacked away a hole in the
rock-hard ground and poked the seed in. After that, I think I watered it
faithfully every day for several weeks before realizing that it was not
going to grow anything. But even after I had that realization, I continued
to water in hopes that my seeds would pull a last minute sprout on me. But
I knew there was no hope, and I was heartbroken. After all those hours of
pulling up weeds and tossing rocks into a pile, I had no fruit to show for
my labor.

So, feeling dejected and betrayed, I logged onto the internet and searched
for a guide to gardening. I quickly ran across a site that led me to
realize the true skill required for gardening. It was then I learned about
soil consistency, nutrients, ideal watering conditions, seasons, and all
those things. After I read up on my area and how to grow fruits, I learned
exactly what to do. I learned how to get the ideal soil, when to plant the
seeds, how much to water, etc. Just a night of browsing the internet and
printing off sources, and I was totally ready for the next planting season.

If you’re in the position I was, and you’re just itching to start a new
garden… I urge you to learn from my mistake. Make sure you do plenty of
proper research on the types of plants you’re trying to grow, along with
the climate. Spend money on good soil, good fertilizer, and good garden
tools. Hopefully you don’t have to go through the emotional disaster that
I went through.

Optimizing Your Garden for Drought or Water Conservation

Living in Colorado and being a gardener has been rather stressful in the
past few years, as this state has been undergoing a rather severe drought.
The city is imposing watering restrictions which are not giving enough
water to lawns and plants. I’ve had to renovate my garden to make it more
water efficient. Now, because of the techniques I’ve employed, I’m the
only one in my neighborhood with a garden that isn’t completely brown. So
if you live in an area that is going through a drought or if you just want
to save water, I suggest you use some of these techniques as well.

First, I took out all my plants. The soil I was using didn’t retain water
very well, so I had to water about twice as much as necessary in order to
get it to actually absorb into the roots. If you have this same problem,
you can fix it by loading the soil up with lots of compost. This not only
prevents water from escaping, but encourages the plant’s roots to be
healthy and able to survive more.

Once I was done optimizing the soil for my new low water consumption plan,
I was ready to replace all my plants. I decided that the placement of all
my plants would reflect the amount of water necessary to keep them alive.
All the plants that don’t require much water I placed in on one side of my
garden, and then just progressed in the amount of required water to the
other side of the garden. As a result of my new arrangement, I don’t have
to waste water on plants that don’t need it as much.

The installation of a drip irrigation system was another move on my part
that reduced the amount of water I needed to fully water my garden. The
great thing about these systems is that they constantly drip into your
plants, so that every single drop is absorbed. With traditional watering
systems, usually the roots get too overwhelmed with the sheer amount of
water in the soil. Thus, lots just seeps right past. This is all taken
care of with the drip system.

If you still seem to need more water than you can supply to your garden,
you might consider which plants you could replace with less water
dependent plants. If you want a good shrub that doesn’t use up more than
its share of water, look for Heavenly Bamboo. It is not only tolerant of
droughts, but looks rather decorative in any garden. Herbs such as
rosemary are useful in preparing meals, and are rarely thirsty.

If you’re trying to find flowers that will still be lush and beautiful
despite the lower amounts of water, look for penstemon varieties like
Garnet, Apple Blossom, Moonbeam, and Midnight. You can attract
hummingbirds and butterflies with varieties like Cosmos and Yarrow. The
best part about all these plants is that they don’t look rugged and
withstanding, but they sure are. Your neighbors wont be saying “Look at
them, they downgraded their plants just to withstand the drought. What
chumps!” Instead they will be marveling over how you keep your flowers so
beautiful in the midst of the watering regulations.

One of my favorite drought resistant plants is the Lavender plant. I could
go on for pages about it. A large group of Lavender plants looks
unbelievably gorgeous in your garden, and hardly requires any water to
flourish. Pineapple sage is another personal favorite. It is a 2+ foot
shrub that smells strangely of pineapple. It’s another major attracter of
hummingbirds, and the leaves are also useful to add taste to drinks.

So if you are in the position I was, and you’re dealing with a drought and
perhaps watering regulations, I suggest you try some of the things I’ve
mentioned. Even if you’re just trying to conserve water or be generally
more efficient with it, I think you’ll still be able to benefit.

More About Butterly Gardening

When creating a butterfly garden, the possibilities of what to include in your butterfly garden design are endless. Below are some suggestions to help get you started. They are designed to spark the creative process of your mind and get you started on your way to creating a lovely butterfly garden.

Before you even begin your butterfly garden, find out which species of butterflies are in your area. Consider taking an exploratory hike around your location with a butterfly identification book. This may take a little extra time and effort, but the results will be worth it. After you have compiled your list of local butterfly species, be sure to write down in your butterfly garden plan what these particular species of butterflies use for nectar and food plants.

Be sure that your garden is in a location that provides at least six hours of sunlight per day. Butterflies are cold-blooded creatures and therefore do better where they are warm and sheltered.

Wind can be a butterfly’s worst enemy so be sure to have plenty of wind protection in your design. You can plant tall shrubs and other plants in order to create a wind break, but a location that avoids heavy winds is even better.

The best of all would be a butterfly garden placed on the sunny side of your home with windbreaks on both the west and east sides, or wherever the prevailing wonds come from in your area. Try and locate your garden close to a window so you can view the butterflies from indoors. Provide seating outside too.

If possible, you could excavate an area and build a stone wall around it. This would create the ideal windbreak for your butterflies. Mmake gravel pathways around your garden to save walking in mud.

There are many creative ways for constructing a butterfly garden. Take your time to design a garden that you will enjoy and be proud of.

How to Do Indoor Gardening

Plants are just as popular as furniture when one is deciding on furniture and soft furnishings.
Aside from the aesthetic value plants provide your home with, there are also health benefits – grade school science class tells us that plants cleanse the air through utilizing the carbon dioxide and producing more oxygen. Here is some important information on how to care for your indoor plants to gain the optimum health and aesthetic benefits.

Lighting

Most indoor plants need good lighting. You can provide this through natural lighting in the room of your choice or there must be electric lighting. Darker leaved plants usually don’t need as much light as others.

Here are the varieties of plants (usually those that only require medium to low light) that are known to be suitable for indoor gardening:

a. Philodendrons
b. Boston ferns
c. African violets
d. Cyclamens
e. Creeping Fig

Watering

A common mistake most people make in indoor gardening is they tend to over-water the plants, which may lead to rotting roots. Make sure to research the type of plant you have, because each kind of plant varies on their watering needs.

Potting

Choose good quality and attractive container for your indoor plants. Make sure that the pot is clean before placing your new plant into it to prevent infection and to encourage healthy growth.

Humidity

In indoor gardening, humidity is a big issue. The amount of moisture in the air has effect on the growth of the plants. During mornings, you could spray the plants with water for their much-needed moisture. Make sure the leaves don’t get covered in dust.

Fertilization

Just like watering, fertilizing depends on the type of plant. If you have managed to supply your indoor garden with the right amount of light, water and humidity, fertilization may not need much attention. A good indoor fertilizer can be bought from most home depot or hardware stores. Orchids need the special fertilizer available.

Six Ticks For Organic Gardening

Organic gardening is the way of growing vegetables and fruits with the use of things only found in nature.

Why would one want to indulge in organic gardening?

1.One can easily make compost from garden and kitchen waste. Though this is a bit more time-consuming than buying prepared chemical pesticides and fertilizers, it certainly helps to put garbage to good use and so saves the environment.

2. Organic farming does not use chemicals that may have an adverse affect on your health. This is especially important when growing vegetables. Chemical companies tell us that the chemicals we use are safe if used according to direction, but research shows that even tiny amounts of poisons absorbed through the skin can cause such things as cancer, especially in children.

On the average, a child ingests four to five times more cancer-causing pesticides from foods than an adult. This can lead to various diseases later on in the child’s life. With organic gardening, these incidents are lessened.

Remember, pesticides contain toxins that have only one purpose – to kill living things.

3. Less harm to the environment. Poisons are often washed into our waterways, causing death to the native fish and polluting their habitat.

4.Organic farming practices help prevent the loss of topsoil through erosion.
The Soil Conservation Service says that an estimated 30 – 32 billion tons of soil erodes from United States farmlands every year.

4. Cost savings. One does not need to buy costly chemical fertilizers and pesticides with organic gardening. Many organic recipes for the control of pest and disease come straight from the kitchen cupboard. Sometimes other plants can be grown as companions to the main crop. An example of this is the marigold, which helps to repel aphids from vegetables.

Mixing 1 tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap and 1 cup of cooking oil can make a cheap garden pest spray. Put 3 tablespoons of this mixture in 1 quart of water and spray on plants.

5.A simple mulch of pine needles will help to suppress the growth of weeds as well as keeping the moisture in.

6. Organic gardening practices help to keep the environment safe for future generations.

Picking a Healthy Plant

When it comes to getting started with your garden, you have two choices; planting seeds, or buying entire plants. Both have their own benefits. If you plant seeds and care for them every day, you will find it is a much more rewarding experience when you have a full, healthy plant. However, this method is a lot more risky. I can’t tell you how many seeds I’ve planted and never seen any trace of whatsoever.

If you choose to buy the plant from a nursery and install it in your garden, it reduces a lot of the work involved in making it healthy. However, I have found in the past that many incompetent nursery workers will absolutely ruin the future of the plant by putting certain chemicals or fertilizers in. I have adapted to this incompetence by learning to choose the healthiest plant of the bunch. Here I will discuss some of the techniques I use in my screening process for plants.

It may sound superficial, but the one thing you need to check for on your prospective plants is how nice they look. As far as plants go, you can truly judge a book by its cover. If a plant has been treated healthily and has no diseases or pests, you can almost always tell by how nice it looks. If a plant has grown up in improper soil, or has harmful bugs living in it, you can tell from the holey leaves and wilted stems.

If you’re browsing the nursery shelves looking for your dream plant, you want to exclude anything that currently has flowers. Plants are less traumatized by the transplant if they do not currently have any flowers. It’s best to find ones that just consist of buds. However if all you have to choose from are flowering plants, then you should do the unthinkable and sever all of them. It will be worth it for the future health of the plant. I’ve found that transplanting a plant while it is blooming results in having a dead plant ninety percent of the time.

Always check the roots before you plop down the money to purchase the plant. Of course if the roots are in absolutely terrible condition you will be able to tell by looking at the rest of the plant. But if the roots are just slightly out of shape, then you probably won’t be able to tell just by looking at it. Inspect the roots very closely for any signs of brownness, rottenness, or softness. The roots should always be a firm, perfectly well formed infrastructure that holds all the soil together. One can easily tell if the roots are before or past their prime, depending on the root to soil ratio. If there are a ridiculous amount of roots with little soil, or a bunch of soil with few roots, you should not buy that plant.

If you find any abnormalities with the plant, whether it be the shape of the roots or any irregular features with the leaves, you should ask the nursery employees. While usually these things can be the sign of an unhealthy plant, occasionally there will be a logical explanation for it. Always give the nursery a chance before writing them off as horrendous. After all, they are (usually) professionals who have been dealing with plants for years.

So if you decide to take the easy route and get a plant from a nursery, you just have to remember that the health of the plants has been left up to someone you don’t know. Usually they do a good job, but you should always check for yourself. Also take every precaution you can to avoid transplant shock in the plant (when it has trouble adjusting to its new location, and therefore has health problems in the future). Usually the process goes smoothly, but you can never be too sure.

Maintaining a Compost Heap

Many people who maintain gardens have a large amount of organic waste, from grass clippings to leaves and dead plants. Unfortunately, many waste money and time having these wastes transported to a landfill. It isn’t just a waste of good compost; it’s a waste of everything that goes into the process of transporting it (the garbage man’s time, the money you pay for the removal, etc). It is truly a travesty.

All this garbage that people are trying to get rid of can be a better supplement for your garden than any fertilizer or chemical. If you properly facilitate the decomposition of all of the garbage, it will alter chemically until it is in such a state that it can be nothing but beneficial nutrition for other plants. Therefore you can turn all the stuff you would have thrown away into top grade fertilizer for your garden.

Usually compost is maintained in a pile somewhere in your backyard. Usually the thought of a compost heap brings disturbing images to ones mind; heaps of rotten garbage emitting a horrid odor. However, if you maintain it correctly you’ll be able to produce great compost without producing an offensive odor. When I first began my compost pile in an effort to improve environmental health, I made several major errors. These included preventing the pile from the oxygen it truly needed, and keeping it to dry. It ended up decomposing in a very non-beneficial way, and producing an odor so foul that I had government agents knocking at my door.

When you are choosing your spot where you will be putting all of these materials, you should aim for a higher square footage. Having a really deep pile of compost is not a good idea, because generally the deeper sections won’t be exposed to anything that is required for the process to work. It is better to spread it all out over a large area. If you have a shed or a tool shack of some sort, it is a possibility to spread it over the roof (with boards to keep it from falling off, of course). I have seen this done several times, and it helps keep the pile out of the way while still maintaining a large square footage.

A compost heap can consist of any organic garbage from your yard, garden or kitchen. This includes leaves, grass, any leftover food that won’t be eaten, or newspaper (no more than a fifth of your pile should consist of newspaper, due to it having a harder time composting with the rest of the materials). Usually if you have a barrel devoted to storing all of these things, it will fill up within several weeks. It is quite easy to obtain compost, but the hard part truly comes in getting it to compost.

After you have begun to get a large assortment of materials in your compost heap, you should moisten the whole pile. This encourages the process of composting. Also chop every element of the pile into the smallest pieces possible. As the materials start to compress and meld together as they decompose, frequently head outside and aerate the pile. You can use a shovel to mix it all up, or an aeration tool to poke dozens of tiny holes into it. Doing this will increase the oxygen flow to each part of the pile, and oxygen is required for any decomposition to take place.

If maintaining a compost pile sounds like something that would interest you, start considering the different placement options. The hardest part about maintaining a pile is choosing a spot that provides enough square footage without intruding on the rest of your yard or garden. While usually you can prevent the horrible odors that most people associate with compost heaps, it’s still not a pleasant thing to have to look at whenever you go for a walk in your garden.

Mulching for Free

I’m sure that if you are reading this, you have used some form of mulch during your gardening career. However, you probably didn’t know that there are many other options for organic mulching that you can explore. These days, many gardeners are discovering new sources of free mulch that has been there all along; an untapped resource. These include clippings from a lawn, or woody prunings from other plants in your yard. You will be surprised by how beneficial all these things can be, and how often the opportunity arises to use them.

Many gardeners have taken to spreading out their excess grass clippings across the rest of their yard. You may think this will look tacky, with big piles of grass just sitting in your yard as if you were too lazy to rake them up. However, if you spread them out enough then you won’t even be able to tell that there is an excess amount. Leaving the extra grass on the yard acts as a sort of mulch by preventing evaporation and weed growth. With this extra water, you won’t have to water nearly as much to keep your grass green. When I started leaving my grass clippings, I had to adjust the frequency of my sprinkler system because I was worried my yard was getting too much water!

If your garden is in more need of mulching than your yard, it is not unheard of to rake up all the grass and transport it to your garden. By making a small layer around the vicinity of the plant, you’ll apply all the same benefits from leaving it in your yard. My yard is rather green on its own, but I often have trouble with my plants staying green and healthy. So, rather than leave the grass clipping in my yard, I move them all around my plants. It is just a matter of choosing what your highest mulching priority is.

Sometimes, our pruning activities will lead us to have an amazing amount of branches and twigs. If this is the case, you should consider renting a wood chipper to put all of those branches to use. After one day of intense pruning, you would be surprised at just how many branches you end up with. Rather than throw these away, you can turn them into a huge amount of mulch for your plants. However, if your pruning has not left you with that big of an amount, you should bundle it all up and save it to add onto the next batch. This is because the chipping machines can be slightly expensive to rent, and you want it to be absolutely worth it!

Over time, all organic mulches need to be replenished. This is because they will naturally decompose in the conditions of your yard. Usually you can tell for yourself just by looking at it, but sometimes it can look perfectly regular but still have problems. If you start to notice any poor plant growth whatsoever, you should replace your mulch. Always keep in mind that during the process of decomposition, your mulch will use up the valuable nitrogen in the soil. Without this, the plants will be missing a key nutrient. There are several types of fertilizers available on the market that are specifically designed to deal with this problem.

The use of mulches in the yard and garden is something everyone should try. Not only can it save lots of time by reducing the amount of garbage you have to transport out, but it increases the healthiness and integrity of your plants by putting that so called garbage to good use. So if you think you would be able to save a good amount of branches and twigs for chipping, or if you think that you are ready to stop raking up all your grass clippings, then I think that mulching is for you.