Saturday, January 14, 2012

Choosing the Best Plants for your Garden

Many times we buy plants on impulse then find there is nowhere in the garden that really suits them. Before buying plants carefully examine your garden to see how much sun and shade it gets, whether the soil is well drained or waterlogged and whether your aspect is sheltered or windswept. You'll then be equipped to go and buy the best plants for your situation; shade-loving plants for the sheltered areas, sun-lovers for the warm spots, drought-resistant plants for the parched areas which may be either sunny or shaded, and swamp plants for the poorly-drained parts.

But wait! Test your soil first, to determine the pH level of your soil and what kind of nutrients you need to add, if any. Is the soil acid or alkaline? Most plants prefer soil that is slightly acidic, but there are some that must have alkaline soil to grow.  You can alter the soil's pH level, but it's much easier to simply plant for the soil you have.

Now you are ready to plant. Well - almost. Will you plant in groups or singly? If you buy 'one of everything' your garden may seem rather spotty. Group plantings are organized, harmonious and you can vary the color for interest.

Before planting out, place your chosen plants around the garden bed in their pots to see how they will look. Re-arrange them until you are satisfied. Grouping plants in sets of threes or fives usually looks better than planting in groups of even numbers. Be sure that you have an interesting combination of colors and textures of plants. Tall plants should go to the back, or the center if your garden will be viewed equally from all sides. Try to keep your plants away from trees. The roots of trees are fiercely competitive and will steal all the nutrients and moisture meant for your flowers.

The right color scheme is one way to maintain the harmony in your garden. Imagine the color of the flowers when they are in bloom. Some colors may clash with others, but can still be planted side-by-side if they have a different blooming season. Foliage color is also important. Many flower plants have silver, grey or purplish foliage that is just as attractive as the flower. This means that they are still attractive well past the blooming season and so have added value.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Care of the Flower Garden

Knowing how to care for your flower garden can make a big difference in the look and over-all health of your plants. Here are some simple hints to make your garden bloom with health

1. The essentials must always be given major consideration.

Your flower garden must have an adequate supply of water, sunlight, and fertile soil. Any lack of these basic necessities will greatly affect the health of plants. Water the flower garden more frequently during dry spells.

When planting bulbs, make sure they go at the correct depth. When planting out shrubs and perennials, make sure that you don't heap soil or mulch up around the stem. If you do, water will drain off instead of sinking in, and the stem could develop rot through overheating.

2. Mix and match perennials with annuals.

Perennial flower bulbs need not to be replanted since they grow and bloom for several years while annuals grow and bloom for only one season. Mixing a few perennials with annuals ensures that you will always have blooms coming on.

3. Deadhead to encourage more blossoms.

Deadheading is simply snipping off the flower head after it wilts. This will make the plant produce more flowers. Just make sure that you don't discard the deadhead on the garden or mildew and other plant disease will attack your plants.

4. Know the good from the bad bugs.

Most garden insects do more good than harm. Butterflies, beetles and bees are known pollinators. They fertilize plants through unintentional transfer of pollen from one plant to another. 80% of flowering plants rely on insects for survival.

Sowbugs and dung beetles together with fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms are necessary to help in the decomposition of dead plant material, thus enriching the soil and making more nutrients available to growing plants.

Other insects like lacewings and dragonflies are natural predators of those insects that do the real damage, like aphis.

An occasional application of liquid fertilizer when plants are flowering will keep them blooming for longer.

Always prune any dead or damaged branches. Fuchsias are particularly prone to snapping when you brush against them. The broken branch can be potted up to give you a new plant, so it won't be wasted.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hydroponics Gardening

Hydroponics was derived from the Greek word hydro, which means "water" and ponos, which means "labor or water-working". Hydroponics gardening involves growing plants with their roots in other nutrient solutions and without soil.

Hydroponics gardening is as simple as ordinary gardening. Both of them necessitate sufficient light, water, temperature, light, and humidity. But with hydroponics, no soil is used. Instead a soil substitute holds the roots while nutrients are carried by the water. Indoor hydroponic gardening is not that hard and plants respond well to this method of growing.

This is one of the major considerations in hydroponics gardening since it sustains the plants. One has to make sure that this nutrient solution maintains a pH level of 5 to 6 after dilution. In hydroponics gardening, the plants should be watered more than three times a day. this is usually done using a pump and timer.

If your hydroponics garden is located indoors, the most suitable temperature is between 71 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, this temperature may change depending on the different types of plant you are working on, e.g. tropical plants.

Place your plants somewhere they can receive ample amount of light. Otherwise artificial light must be used. High pressure Sodium lights or bulbs are a suitable substitute for natural light.

Humidity is good. When the room’s temperature rises, the air will be able to hold the sufficient amount of moisture your plants will need.

A hydroponics system can be fully automated. Since it is water-based, the gardener has no soil to dig or weeds to pull. Also, the water can be re-used to prevent wastage.

With hydroponics, an excellent yield of quality plants can be easily achieved. Home hydroponics systems and DIY kits are are readily available in most hardware stores.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Butterfly Gardening

What is butterfly gardening? Simply put butterfly gardening is the art of growing flowers and plants that will attract these colorful and dainty creatures to your garden. Delight your family and visitors with beautiful butterflies, but be sure to create a safe habitat for them. If you own cats rethink your plans, because it would be a shame to attract these lovely insects to their death.

The design your butterfly garden is a matter of personal preference. Typical points to consider are the size of your garden and the types of flowers and plants you want to grow. Pick a style of garden that appeals to you, but ensure it also contains the plants and flowers that appeal to the butterflies you wish to attract.

It is important to find out which plants and flowers will attract the species of butterflies. that live in your area. This information can be found at the local library
To create the kind of environment that they find attractive, you will also need water of some kind. A birdbath will look attractive and keep the butterflies up off the ground, away from stray cats or mischievous puppies. A shallow dish on a post or hung in a tree will do just as well.

When planting your butterfly garden be careful how you coordinate the colors you choose for your flowerbeds. Although butterflies do not care about your choice of color, you don't want your garden to be a hodgepodge of unrelated colors and textures. Butterflies are attracted to those flowers that have nectar rather than pollen, like honeysuckle, milkweed, summer lilac, Valerian, daisies, Purple Cone flower, Yellow Sage, day lilies and lavender.

Some people find it helpful to draw and color a layout of their butterfly gardening plan to see what the finished product would look like. Keep in mind that warm colors like red and orange are flashy and showy. These colors have a greater impact against a strong green background. Cool colors such as blue and purple are soothing and toned down and would work better with a white contrast to create the look of freshness and brightness.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

In Search of the Best Gardening Tools

Different kinds of gardens require different kinds of garden tools. Hardware stores mostly cater for a wide range of tools, but there are shops that specialize in the more expensive kind of garden tool that shouts quality. Wherever you decide to shop, here are a few pointers to advise you.

Do you have small garden or a large one? A small garden will not require the same large equipment that would be of use in an extensive one. A ride-on mower is unnecessary if you only have a small strip of lawn. Another point to consider is who does most of the gardening? Some tools are too heavy for use by women.

When you buy secateurs make sure the blade always stays sharp to avoid damaging the plant. Look for models that have blades that can be sharpened or replaced, models with tension control and with sizes that best fit your hands. Secateurs usually cost around $50 - $130.

Hedge trimmers or shears are handy - but only if you have a hedge, or plan on growing one.  Some hedge trimmers have curved blades to stop branches from sliding out when cut.

Forks are used for turning and aerating compost and breaking up lumps of soil. The cheaper ones are often not strong enough for heavy soil, so go for sturdiness instead of price. Forks usually cost around $30 - $100.

A shovel has a scoop blade and is best used to move around dirt and garden soil. A spade has a flat blade great for cutting edges, digging and dividing plants. The edge of a spade should be kept sharpened for clean and efficient cutting will cause the least amount of damage to plants. These are a basic garden necessity and usually cost from $30 - $50.

A pruning saw is used for pruning trees and larger shrubs, while secateurs are for plants like roses. Pruning saws have a narrow curved blade that fits between stems or branches and easily and cuts them as you pull the saw backwards. They are approximately $27- $55.

A chipping hoe is a handy tool for getting rid of small weeds. The Dutch or push-hoe is slightly more user-friendly as the action required to use it does not jar the neck and shoulder quite so much.

A rake is also a basic requirement for the garden. The strong rake with the flat head and sharp metal prongs is used for smoothing a garden bed and getting out the last of the bumps and weeds. The plastic rake is used to gather leaves and grass clippings only.

Gardening tools don't have to be expensive. Flea markets and garage sales can be excellent places to pick up great tool bargain.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Benefits Of Gardening For Kids

Apparently, we can see how nature is treated these days.  It is a sad thing to know that people do not pay attention so much anymore to the environmental problems.  What can we do about this?  It's as simple as starting with the children.  It is good to see the children's involvement with environment-friendly activities. One such nature-loving activity that children could easily get their hands on is gardening. Why should you consider gardening for your children?

Here are the benefits that gardening could easily provide the children with:

1.  Science

In planting, children are indirectly taught the wonders of science like the plant's life cycle and how human's intervention can break or make the environment.  They can have a first hand experience on the miracle of life through a seed.  This would definitely be a new and enjoyable experience for the kids.

2.  Life

Watching a seed grow into a tree is just as wondrous as the conception to birth and growth of a child.  In time, kids will learn to love their plants and appreciate the life in them. Gardening could actually help simulate how life should be treated -- it should be with care. The necessities to live will be emphasized to kids with the help of gardening - water, sunlight, air, soil. Those necessities could easily be corresponded to human necessities, i.e., water, shelter, air, food.  By simply weeding out, one could educate how bad influences should be avoided to be able to live life smoothly.

3.  Relaxation

Studies show that gardening can reduce stress because of its calming effect. This is applicable to any age group.  More so, it stimulates all the five senses.  Believe it or not, gardening may be used as therapy to children who have been abused or those who are members of broken homes.  It helps build one's self-esteem. 

4.  Quality Time with the Family

You can forget about your stressful work life for a while be soothed by the lovely ambience in the garden.  You can play and spend quality time with your children.  You can talk while watering the plants or you can work quietly beside each other.  The bottom line is, always do what you have to do, together with your kids.  You might discover a lot of new things about your child while mingling with them in your garden. 

Let kids become aware of their environment's needs. And one way to jumpstart that environmental education may be through gardening.  It's hitting two birds with one stone -- teach them to respect life while you bond with them.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Healthy hands are the Gardener's Best Tools

Here are the major reasons why one should consider getting a pair of trusty gardening gloves:

Gloves protect your hands from blisters, thorns and cuts while doing rough work like digging or pruning in the garden. Investing in one or more pairs of quality gloves is a good decision.

Here are some tips on how to choose the pair that will suit you best:  
1. Look for quality leather gloves with a cloth back; this will let the gloves breathe and keep your hands dry, cool and comfortable.

2. If mud bothers you, select rubber gloves with cotton lining.

3. When spraying pesticides or chemicals choose gloves that are made from neoprene. Gloves made from latex or any type of plastic may not offer the best protection.

4. When pruning roses, use gloves that reach up to the arms.

5. If you usually operate large garden machinery, buy gloves in brown instead of red as the latter may dye your hands.

6. Light cotton or even fingerless gloves may be useful for transplanting seedlings. They will allow more dexterity and so help to prevent the tiny roots from being crushed.

7. And of course, make sure that the gloves you buy actually fit your hands. If you have small hands, try the children's gardening section. there's nothing worse than trying to garden is gloves that are too big.

Your gloves must be comfortable as well as give protection to best serve your gardening needs.