Soil Care: 4 +1 Tips for Soil and Garden Health

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Posted by Julien Stern | Posted in Gardening | Posted on 31-01-2013

lupin, cover cropAs you must have noticed by now, I am mostly concerned with the creation and maintenance of gardens that follow, as much as possible, the rules established by nature itself for its healthy and balanced development.

One of the most important – if not the most important – among the elements contributing to the creation of a beautiful, thriving garden is the good health of the ground on which the plants grow. You will see me insisting on this point, because soil is a living organism, and it needs the presence of several conditions to be able to nurture other living organisms — your plants.

Each and every material we add to the soil plays a specific role in the life cycle of plants by covering one or more of their various needs. The purpose of these additional materials is

  • to provide (or to assist the provision of) much needed nutrients;
  • to contribute to better aeration of the ground, thus helping the oxygenation of the roots;
  • to help with moisture retention;
  • to avoid extreme temperature conditions (heat or cold, depending on the season) that would hurt the root system;
  • to help prevent diseases and other situations that could prove harmful for your plants.

Let’s take a closer look to these components of a healthy soil:

Humus

Humus is a degraded organic material that has reached a certain point of stability in which no further breakdown can take place, thus leaving it unscathed for a long period of time. It is identified with topsoil horizon composed of organic materials, and it can also be described as mature compost naturally occurring, e.g. in forests, and is added to gardens with the purpose of amending soil.

Have you ever seen a cross section of garden soil, with some of its layers displaying a dark brown or black characteristic color? Well, that’s humus.

We could differentiate humus from organic matter by its appearance, which is more uniform and reminds of a dark, spongy, jelly-like substance.

Humus is usually tagged as the life-force of the soil. Now, this so-called life force can occur via a process known as humification which can take place via natural means with the soil itself or by compost production.

Humus significantly improves the structure of the soil. It contributes to the retention of soil moisture by adding up to its microporosity, and facilitates easy access and absorption of plant nutrients by incorporating oxygen into the organic molecules that are charged with transferring the said nutrients to plants. This makes plants stronger and more resistant to plant diseases.

Compost

Compost should serve as a significant and wise replacement or substitution for chemicals and commercially available fertilizers. You can easily and conveniently produce natural and organic fertilizer right at your own backyard or at the garden.

Things to know about making your own compost:

  • Always remember to use organic or biodegradable materials that will naturally and easily decompose for your compost.
  • Be sure to prepare the bedding appropriately. To do so, just put shredded fallen leaves, aged manure, chopped up straw and dead seaweed, plants, compost and sawdust.
  • Keep the compost bed moist all the time. You can do so by watering the area at least twice a day, one in the morning and another before night falls. To retain moisture, you can put shredded cardboard or newspaper on top of the area or heaps of hays or dried leaves.
  • Keep the bedding protected from possible attacks and intrusion from animals, insects and other possible predators like birds, ants and rats.
  • Encourage and promote growth and multiplication of earthworms. Red worms are most ideal for outdoor vermicomposting; they are usually found in aging manure and in compost heaps. It is not advisable to use dew worms or those large sized worms usually found in composts and soils as they would not likely survive outdoor composting.

Mulching

Click here to see what mulching is. Mulch is used to cover the soil’s surface in order to

    • prevent and control weed growth;
    • protect the soil and the root system from extreme heat – that would otherwise lead to evaporation and drying of the ground, depriving plants from valuable moisture during summer – and freeze – that would irreversibly damage plant tissues and destroy the plant;
    • provide nutrients for plants, when organic matters are used for the covering of the ground;
    • embellish the flower beds with application of decorative elements of various colors and textures.

You can use either organic (bark chippings, crushed cocoa shell, grass clippings, chopped wheat straw, well-rotten farmyard manure, leaf mould, sawdust, pine needles, peat moss, shredded newspapers and cardboards) or inorganic (gravel, grit, crushed or tumbled glass, crushed lava rocks or bricks, rubber, geotextiles) materials to cover the ground.

Cover Crops

Another elegant, practical, beneficial way to protect and enrich soil is to sow low-growth annual, biennial, or perennial plants, also called cover crops, or green manure. They are usually grasses, legumes (esp. the pea group), and broadleaves. If chosen wisely, they will benefit greatly your garden. You can also grow several types of these together, and get a more appealing visual effect with the same advantages. Cover crops improve and enhance the soil by:

      • providing nutrients and other beneficial substances, thus increasing fertility;
      • regulating ground moisture, providing shade;
      • being incorporated into the ground by means of tillage, which will increase content of the soil in certain elements (nitrogen, phosphorus, etc); doing this before maturity of the plants will prevent future growth from seeds;
      • forming symbiotic relationships with rhizobia bacteria, useful in the process of nitrogen availability.
          Plus, they make handsome garden features.

Garden soil is a living organism (do I repeat myself?) sustaining living organisms (yes, I do). If you’re trying to grow healthy foods for consumption, you’ve got to take care of your soil. There are several techniques for dealing with annoying and harmful situations in the garden, such as biological pest control (the plants’ wars).

Proper drainage is another important issue in what concerns soil health, and there are several reasons for this: root rot, poor garden image, pooling, and flooding. [Read more here]

Lawn Care In Reno: The Do’s And Don’ts You Ought To Observe This Fall

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Posted by Julien Stern | Posted in landscaping | Posted on 18-11-2016

Fall has finally arrived! The wind whistles your name as the nostalgic foliage refreshes your memories and the cool weather cradles you to relax. It is indeed that time of year again when we deserve to indulge in the relaxing ambiance of our own homes, specifically in the comforting setting of our front or back yard.

Seeing a green, luscious and colorful landscaping just puts everything into perspective, right? Starting every morning with a cup of coffee, the vibrant rays of the sun, tranquil chill and a breath of fresh air as the leaf changes colors and falls on the ground, is probably the fantasy that we all have. I admit, I do have the similar reverie and I bet you do too.

Now, in as much as you dream to have a sight of an amazing lawn and landscape, you have to do our part in order to achieve best results. The climate in every city or state is not the same all the time because there are factors affecting it, just like in Reno. Besides, lush landscapes are an import the arid climate in Reno.

Moreover, one of the most crucial parts of a successful landscaping project is the lawn maintenance. The tender, love, and care you give your lawn during fall are different than any other seasons, which is why you have to be aware of the proper lawn care. Here are the do’s and don’ts worth considering this fall.

 

  1. Don’t Forget To Rake

During fall, tree shed its leaves and foliage can be seen almost everywhere in your lawn. Given this, you should not forget to keep raking your lawn as often as possible. Why? The carpet of colorful leaves is not as appealing as it looks when it fatally knocks out the grass below.

It also blocks the sunlight and nourishment that your grass requires in order to thrive. Also, ignoring to remove leaves can lead to a soggy mat and smother your grass.

Raking lifts the grass, clears it of any sun-blocking leaves or other matter, and prepares it to grow. After raking the leaves, you can make a compost which is an excellent fertilizer for your garden and lawn.

 

  1. Don’t Use Fertilizers Mixed With Poison

Oh yes, if poison can kill humans, it could also be lethal to plants growing in your garden or even the grass in your lawn. Therefore, don’t resolve to use fertilizers with poison content at any cost. Application of this chemical will result in the burning of your lawn.

 

Plus, the poison will be absorbed through the roots of the plants to the leaves and it will kill it. It could also cause the weakening of the plants which is in contrast to its original purpose. Always aim for organic fertilizers to ensure that its safe and supplementary for your garden’s overall growth.

 

  1. Avoid Using Commercial Pesticides Or Insecticides

In your yard’s lifetime, the presence of annoying critters is inevitable. These pests feed on the leaves, stems, and roots of your garden plants or grass which leads to their death. Now, in leading with this, first, you have to determine the problem and provide a solution that will target it.

Using pesticides or insecticide have been the most common solution, however, you have to check the content before you purchase it. There are pesticides and insecticide with strong chemical content which frays grass and kills plants, but not the pesky critters. There are natural ways to deal with critters that are worth trying.

 

  1. Don’t Ignore Lawn Mower Maintenance

Oh yes, one of the most important tasks involved in proper lawn care is mowing the lawn. Cutting the grass at an ideal 3-inch height should be your aim when mowing. When you do this task, most certainly dull blades are not good because it can aggravate lawn care problems and opportunity for diseases and pests to take over. Hence, you should pay attention to your lawn mower maintenance. Here are the tips to help you:

 

  • Sharpen Lawn Mower Blades
  • Change The Air Filter
  • Change The Oil Regularly
  • Change The Spark Plug
  • Add Fuel Treatment and Stabilizer

 

  1. Get A Soil Test

Before you start reseeding your lawn or digging to grow shrubs, perennials or any other plants, you have to test your soil. Results of the soil test can help you determine the pH level and nutrient content, and will tell you what to do in order to apply the right soil amendments. Through this, you’ll know what type of soil you have and how much organic material your soil contains.

In Reno, the best time to do a soil test is in late fall just before the soil freezes or in early spring before the growing season. For this, you can collect soil samples first then send it to a lab for testing. Or, you can prefer the Do-It-Yourself Soil test kits, however, the former is more accurate. A collection of 10-15 samples with a depth of 2-12 inches and taken from different locations throughout the growing area.

Once it’s done, you need to submit soil samples, completed sample submission forms, and appropriate payment to the Reno County Extension Office then the lab may recommend doses of fertilizer or soil amendments suitable for your area. Results are usually mailed after two weeks although it may vary depending on the time of year and the number of samples the lab requires to analyze.

 

  1. Tend To Bald Spots

Bald spots are very unappealing and no matter how beautiful your lawn is, it always sticks out. These patches on the lawn may indicate bug infestations, seasonal dryness, mowing damage, pet waste, grass diseases, and killer weeds. So, before you try to solve it, make sure to be certain of the underlying cause.

 

One of the simplest and most effective ways to deal with bald spots is over seeding the lawn. Before that, you have to do these task first:

  • Rake the soil
  • Remove any leaves or debris in the turf
  • Cast the seeds over the turf
  • Spread about a half an inch of compost or topsoil on the lawn

After doing these, you can over-seed your Bermuda grass-filled lawn this fall with perennial rye grass which is ideal for the fairly cold weather in Reno. Perennial rye grass can thrive through the fall and winter and go back successfully in spring and over-seeding your lawn with it can promote a continuous green lawn. When the weather turns warm next spring, you can reseed your lawn with Bermuda grass or Zoysia grass.

Moreover, a fine fescue and a Kentucky bluegrass blend is also a great choice for fall, however, you may need to put a little extra effort on its maintenance.

  1. Fertilize Your Soil

The fall season is the ideal time to start planting and tending to your lawn to prepare them for the spring and thrive in winter. It is one of the secrets of a dense lawn which is a good protection against weeds.

When choosing your lawn fertilizer, pick the ones with high-nitrogen content as well phosphorus, and potassium, respectively. Fertilizers with potassium stimulate root growth, disease protection, drought tolerance, and cold resistance.

The aerating of soil is also an important thing to do and you have to do this before spreading fertilizer to your soil. As an alternative, you can make your own compost out of organic matters in your kitchen as well as the grass clippings.

Adding organic matter to your soil can increase your soil’s ability to hold on to the nutrients until your plants are ready to use them. The more organic matter you put into it, the better. In Reno, when you apply compost or any other organic materials of the kind, you can add up to one-quarter inch of compost on top of the grass. Rake or water it in and it’s best to do it after you aerate the soil.

 

  1. Water Your Lawn And Garden

An essential thing to do in order to keep your lawn healthy is through proper watering techniques. Watering depends on the climate in your area and during fall, your lawn will most likely not need as much water in autumn as it would during other seasons. However, it should be stopped in early fall.

You may anticipate precipitation in winter, however, it may not be enough to sustain the requirements your lawn needs. In connection with this, you may have to check your irrigation system early in the season and you may water twice a week and during the rest of the season, it may drop to once a week. You have to do this in order to ensure that evergreen shrubs and trees thrive throughout the dormant season.Your local water company or community will keep you posted on this, so, you don’t have to worry.

In case you didn’t know, landscape experts in Reno suggest fall that is the time to cut back on watering your lawn and during the late season, sprinkler systems should be turned off completely, which gives room got the turf to go dormant for the winter. Follow suggested procedures by Truckee Meadows on how to properly shut down sprinklers during fall in order to avoid any pitfalls.

 

Doing all these tips will guarantee a successful lawn care which will result to an excellent landscaping. Remember, the dense, green and healthy lawn is a crucial part of the entire landscaping project and it is one of the first things that home buyers look at when they check a property. Hence, if you’re planning to add curb appeal to your home and place it on the market, then it’s all the more reason to pay attention to it.

More importantly, your assessment of your capabilities is important. Why? It’s because DIY can help you save money but if you think you’re not fit to do these tasks then it’s the time to ask assistance from local contractors. This will ensure that you’ll get the best value for your landscaping in Reno and you’ll be able to make your dream a reality. Say hello to a new and refreshing view!

5 Ingenious Little Tricks To Achieve The Best Results For Your Landscaping in Reno This Fall

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Posted by Julien Stern | Posted in landscaping | Posted on 09-11-2016

Listen to the whistling wind and nostalgic chill in the air – it’s definitely autumn! The leaves are changing colors, trees start to shed its leaves, kids are going back to school, the NBA season has started and people are unpacking their sweaters from their closets. Indeed, fall brings changes to the weather as well as to activities people do. During fall, most of us just want to take a break and relax – relieve ourselves from the stress of the previous months. On the other hand, some may even want to spend time with friends or family, hiking and camping in the famous Lake Tahoe in Reno. Nature truly is a sanctuary.

 

Furthermore, in as much as fall brings changes to the weather, it’s also an ideal time to make renovations or updates to your landscaping. This season is a great time to prepare your lawn and garden for the next growing season or in spring. There are countless landscaping ideas for fall to choose from, you only have to select the best ones that fit your budget. Here are five ingenious little tricks to help inspire you for your landscaping in Reno this fall.

 

  1. Spread Mulch

Spreading mulch in fall plays a crucial role in plant health more than you can imagine. It is a simple and effective way to ensure the health of your landscape especially when the grass is dormant. It is beneficial because it protects plant roots from extreme temperatures and helps retain moisture in the winter season. Also, mulching is potent in suppressing weeds and keeps the soil around your plants’ roots warm in fall. In as much as you have prepared your soil for the season, you have to pay attention to adding mulch. Here are tips for you to follow:

  • Determine the size of the area that you want to cover.
  • Choose what type of mulch you want to use: wood chips, shredded bark, sawdust, cocoa hull mulch, and straw mulch.
  • Spread 2 to 3 inches of fresh mulch evenly across the landscape beds using the back side of a hard metal rake or using your hands.

Remember, the limited supply of water in the desert in Northern Nevada, especially Reno, means that landscapes must be water efficient. Meaning, adding mulch can help keep moderate soil temperatures, keeping them from swinging between extremes of heat and cold which is great for your lawn’s health.

Note: Buying mulch in bulk can help you save money and the trips to the store.

 

  1. Use Color To Your Advantage

Adding pops of color to your landscaping is a great way to make your yard or garden look more appealing. Fall is essentially a good time to plant because the soil temperature is still warm and encourages faster root growth. Autumn colors are in a wonderful assortment of bronzes, golds, reds, and purple to landscapes. Plant some fall perennials for bursts of rich, bright colors in flower beds and along walkways. Here are some plants that worth planting this fall:

  • Perennials: Autumn Joy sedum, dwarf plumbago, chrysanthemums, California fuschia, asters, and ornamental grasses.
  • Shrubs: Four-wing saltbush, Little leaf mahogany, Winterfat, Dorr sage, Rugosa rose, Pygmy pea shrub, Fernbush, and Silver buffaloberry.
  • Trees: Amur maple, Rocky Mountain maple, Incense-cedar, Common hackberry, and Goldenraintree.
  • Flowers: Gaillardia species, Linum perenne (perennial flax), Centranthus ruber (Red Valerian or Jupiter’s Beard), Sedum species, and Portulaca grandiflora (Moss Rose).

Note: In choosing the plants, flowers or shrubs to plant, make sure to consider the climate and your soil type. Pick the plants that thrive in Reno soil this fall.

 

  1. Take Good Care Of Your Lawn

One of the most relevant tasks that you have to think about is lawn maintenance. Fall is the perfect season to develop a lusher, greener, healthier lawn which adds astounding ambiance to your home. Keeping your turf healthy this fall will ensure that your grass will thrive through its dormant season. Lawn maintenance can be achieved by following these six tips and tricks:

  • Rake the leaves. Fallen leaves block direct sunlight and traps moisture which can cause the turf underneath to die, hence, it’s important to rake the leaves as often as possible.
  • Monitor Watering. If your lawn isn’t getting at least an inch of water a week, then install a simple rain gauge to keep the grass roots well hydrated especially now that the winter is coming.
  • Aerate the soil. By loosening the soil, your lawn will have the best chance to receive the nutrients and water it needs to grow healthy all throughout the fall and winter season.
  • Add fertilizer. Fall is the ideal time to fertilize your soil in order for your grass to get all of the nutrients it needs to stay healthy, thrive the entire fall season and come back beautifully in spring. A balanced fertilizer will also help your lawn develop stronger roots and store nutrients over the winter period.
  • Reseed your lawn. Spruce up your lawn by reseeding it to fill in bald or thin spots and contribute to a dense and healthy turf next summer. In reseeding your lawn, the excellent choice would be Perennial Rye grass. This grass type has high drought tolerance and grows very well in Reno soil.
  • Mow your lawn. Give your lawn one or a couple more cuts until it stops growing in early winter. Almost all of the grasses in the Truckee Meadows are classified as cool season grasses which grows taller and faster than warm season grasses. Hence, you have to keep track of the height in order to determine when and how often do you have to mow your lawn. Keep it at an ideal 2½- to 3-inch height to avoid snow mold, diseases or infection.

 

  1. Do Some Lighting

Thus fall, your landscaping could use some outdoor lighting. Brighten up your yard and give space for work or play after the sun goes down especially that the holiday is just around the corner. Your landscape could certainly use a little bit of illumination this all and you can do so by installing low-voltage landscape lighting in walkways, water features, or benches. You could also add lanterns and other illuminating lights as you desire. If you wish to highlight a single item in your garden like a statue, gazing ball or fountain, you should consider using a few landscape lighting fixtures with lower intensity bulbs. The installation of lighting for your landscaping should be left to the professionals because it requires expertise in electrical wiring and stuff.

Here are few outdoor landscape lighting ideas:

  • On stairs
  • Staggered along walkways
  • In plant beds to light up your home
  • Inside columns
  • Under sitting walls

In order to avoid any municipal violation, it’s safer to use LED lights. It can help you save money, it’s efficient and has longer lifetime compared to other lighting such as halogen. Plus, use of search lights or animated lights are highly prohibited in any district in Reno.

  1. Include Edible Vegetable or Fruit Garden

Landscaping is not just about aesthetics, you can make use of it to grow a variety of vegetable or fruits! It’s going to be a unique addition to your garden. Imagine, you can now grow organic and fresh produce which are the perfect ingredients to any sumptuous dish. Plus, once it blooms or bears fruits, it’ll certainly add color to your landscape. You can plant various vegetables and fruits such as:

  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Turnip
  • Cherries

If you only have a small area to spare for your vegetable garden, it’s not necessary to acquire extra plot of land. Many vegetables and fruits lend themselves well to container gardening. You have a lot of option for containers such as flower pots, pails, buckets, wire baskets, bushel baskets, wooden boxes, etc. For example, you have an extra large salad (24-30″) container, you can use it to plant tomatoes – no need to spend. The size of your container shall depend on the size of the vegetable or fruit that you will plant. Arrange them in an organized and well-designed manner and it’ll certainly be incredible.

Note: You must learn more about the fall gardening guide and the fruits or vegetables that flourish in Reno in order to make sure that you’ll have the best harvest next year.

 

Fall is a magnificent time to show off the rich colors of your landscape as well as the beauty of it. These five little tricks that we’ve mentioned are just guidelines for you to follow or consider in your landscaping and by following it, you’ll certainly be on the right track. Bear in mind that before doing any of these, you should already have a well-designed landscaping design and plan – be smart and wise. To make your landscaping in Reno dream a reality, hire a professional and experienced landscape contractor to assist you every step of the way. Pick the one that you deem perfect for the job and don’t fall for scams.

Celebrate the festivity of this season thru your landscaping and indulge in the beauty of it when it’s done! Besides, the holiday season is rapidly approaching, invite friends to dinner or have a little family gathering and set up your newly renovated yard. Surely, it’s going to be a blast!

How To Grow Thyme From Organic Seeds Found On Amazon

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Posted by Julien Stern | Posted in Gardening | Posted on 30-07-2015

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5500477321_380d0c061a_bThyme is one of the most beautiful and tasty herbs. Being a plant with medicinal properties, but also beautiful and decorative, thyme must find a place in your garden, no matter how big or small it is.
Thyme is a long life perennial plant that grows spontaneously on arid hills around the Mediterranean. There are about 30 different species of thyme. It has small leaves, green-gray interior with curved edges, thin branches and woody stems. From May to August small white or pink flower cones appear.

Thyme has a shaped shrub with a height of about 19 inches. The root is well developed and well branched. The leaves have a short petiole that is lacking for some varieties.

The flowers are small, with sharp aroma and they are arranged in an inflorescence. Brown fruits are very small and may be stored 2-3 years, during which they keep their ability to germinate in a proportion of 70%.

Thyme is a resistant plant and not quite demanding to environmental factors. It needs a lot of light and heat in summer, but it feels perfect at medium temperatures of 77ºF.
It is not demanding in terms of water, being satisfied with what it receives naturally, if in the garden. Thyme grown in pots should be watered only when the soil is dry. A dripping wet drops the essential oil concentration and therefore the flavor.

It can be grown in almost all soil types, but it is sensitive to weeds instead. It should be taking into consideration that in the beginning, plants grow slowly and may be overgrown by weeds.

Thyme Herb Seeds

Thyme is cultivated well in the garden and very well in large pots, to make way for high root systems. Thyme requires nitrogen fertilizer, especially in spring.

Find Them On Amazon

Seedlings are formed from the herb seeds on Amazon, which should be sown directly in the garden or in pots in late March. 0.1 – 0.2 ounces of seeds per square meter are quite enough.

The bushes should be cut in order to grow and extend faster. The plants can be harvested after the first flowering and the branch harvesting should be done at flowering.

You may use thyme to flavor the meat and it also goes well with all kinds of vegetables. It can be used for aromatherapy, but also as a decorative plant.

Creating a Beautiful Outdoor Ambiance through Landscape

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Posted by Julien Stern | Posted in landscaping | Posted on 10-01-2014

Outdoor AmbienceDid you ever imagine yourself in a beautiful garden with all the ornaments and breath-taking sights right outside your doorstep? In a world where everything seems fast paced, there’s a little chance that you can get a relaxation or be engaged in any stress-free activities.

An amazing landscape has been proven to lessen the stress of a person. There’s really a great impact of seeing an amazing scenery right after you open the door. Breathing into the freshness of air, the coolness that plants bring you, and the beauty of blooming flowers greeting you a happy morning.

Have a vacant yard in front of your house? Why don’t you turn it into a wonderful sight to make way to release your stress at the end of the day or to have an inspiration to start your busy day? You have the power to create a beautiful landscaping design to your garden.

Make a Plan or Design for Your Landscape

You need to sketch or draw fixed features of your house or yard like your pool, garage, walkways and other permanent fixtures. You should also consider the impact of placement of plants and furniture on home systems like on pipes, gutters, roofing materials, etc. Make sure that you don’t harm any passer-by.

Use Available Spaces and Consider the Sunlight

The space will dictate how many plants and other elements you will put on every side of your landscape. This will also dictate how big or small the plants should be or what kind of plants you should use.

Plants should be placed on areas where they can have sunlight and where their growth will not be hampered. There are plants that need a lot of sunlight and there are some that need just a little.

Designing Techniques

This is where the use of certain kinds of plants is considered. There are certain plants that should be used so as the theme of your landscape will not be destroyed. The colors of plants and shrubs should really be considered. To have a wonderful landscape, colors of the elements you use as well should be well-coordinated. Lighting should also be considered. These should be put in places where it will give your garden a “magnificent” look every night.

If you have available space, you can create a little pond, an artificial waterfall or fountain to make it more dramatic. You can also put decorative stones and plants that won’t cover the design of the pond, waterfall or fountain. This can indeed be a place of tranquility and peace.

Pathways and walkwaysUnique Patios and Walkways

There are a wide array of patios and walkways that you can use. Certain walkways are needed to enhance the beauty of the garden. Deciding on what color, what design or what style to use would depend on your taste but the beauty of your landscape should not be compromised.

Creating a beautiful landscape depends on the combination and matching of all elements. All should be well-coordinated and should be arranged so as to give a harmonious theme on the color and style that you want to see in your garden. Designing one is not that difficult, if you have the heart for art. Create inviting and appealing landscapes through your own effort and design.

The art of landscaping need not be done by professionals or landscape architects. You can have your own built from your own ideas and imagination which will give an authentic look and not just a commercial one. Seeing a beautiful garden because of your own efforts is much more rewarding feeling compared to letting someone else do it for you.

How to Create a Shady Garden

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Posted by Julien Stern | Posted in Gardening | Posted on 10-12-2013

Most plants thrive well under the sun so what happens on those shady areas outside your house? You can’t keep them barren and unattended or else it will just ruin the outdoor beauty of your place. There are lots of plant varieties that grow well in cool areas and don’t need the direct heat of the sun.

Small homes in urban areas are mostly surrounded by tall buildings and walls which makes it hard for the sun to penetrate the ground. Creating a garden in shady spots can be challenging but it’s worth all the effort and time afterwards.

Best Plants in Shades

Making a good garden in shady portions of your front house may seem daunting but it is not impossible. The secret of this garden is choosing the best plants that grow well in this kind of environment.

  • Camelias – most shrubs and flowering plants in shady areas are actually vibrant and exciting. This variety of plant has glossy, dark green foliage which complement its pink, orange and white blooms.
  • Toad Lily – this is a perennial that grows easily all year round. This looks good on its white flowers towering massive low shrubs.
  • Ajuga – this plant is known for its massive and glossy foliage with blue flowers. It spreads easily, perfect for large shady areas.
  • Hostas – this is the most common plants found in shady gardens. They showcase their dominant large leaves which are available in dark green, blue and gold shades. Also, they are easy to grow and sturdy, ideal for zone 3-8 areas.
  • Evergreen Ferns – among the many favorites of gardeners, nobody can miss this foliage. They grow superbly in shady areas, whether in pots, beds or planters. Its leaves seem to be soft and waving, adding texture for an appealing garden setting.
  • Bleeding Heart – this unique plant has a heart-shaped flower dripping. Its tiny blossoms are usually the highlight in the shady garden. It comes in other varieties so you can choose which one suits your garden theme.

Categorize the Level of Shade

When planning to create a lovely garden in an area where light is not available, and before choosing the type of plant to consider, it is best to determine the degree of shade. This way you can properly recognize which plants will grow healthy in the kind of environment and situation.

  • Light Shade – this is the usual scenario if you house is beside a high wall. The garden is open but the shadow of the tall wall or trees cover most of the area.
  • Partially Shaded – this setting is where the sun supplies light in the area at least 3-4 hours a day.
  • Severely Shaded – this is in a scenario when the entire area is covered by shades or shadows, the sun can’t penetrate to give light.

There are limitless ways to create your own garden at home regardless of the setting and scenario. It actually depends on your creativity on how to input genuine ideas on your garden to make it appear brighter even without the presence of the sun. These lovely flowers in cool areas are usually the most fragrant and appealing – this is nature’s way of balancing things out. So keep in mind to always choose a variety of plant that is appropriate on the degree of shades in your garden.

Basic Home Gardening Tips

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Posted by Julien Stern | Posted in Gardening | Posted on 10-11-2013

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Green leafy vegetables and other healthy produce have become expensive nowadays.  With the current status of the economy, prices will not go down any time soon. If you are worried about not being able to eat healthy produce because of its price, why not try growing your own.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a homeowner or an apartment renter. Homegrown vegetables can be planted in a vacant lot in your backyard or in small pots. These pots can be chosen from a wide variety. They are suited for those people who rent apartments and do not have enough space for vegetable gardening.small garden box

How to Make a Small Garden Box

If you are a homeowner with a vacant space in their yards, you can try to make a small outdoor garden. This can be as small as four square feet. A small vegetable garden will allow you to easily manage it. Here are some tips on how to make your small garden box:

  • Location. This is the first thing to consider in making your small garden. Ideally, the location of a small garden should receive 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. It should also be clear of shrubs and trees that might interfere in your plants’ growth. The location should also be far from puddles and should not have excess moisture. The garden should also be close to your house. This will make it a lot easier for you to do your gardening.

  • Create a plan. Remember that you are making a small garden. Always think within the area of a 4×4 foot square. This will help you decide which plants to choose according to their size and produce.

  • Choose the material for the box frame. Any material can be used to make the box frame of your small garden. However, do not use treated wood as it contains chemicals that could go deep into the soil. You can try visiting a lumber yard and ask for a suitable lumber to use. You can also have it cut for little or no cost at all.

  • Nourish your garden box. You can do this by mixing 1/3 compost, 1/3 course grade vermiculite and 1/3 peat moss. There are organic varieties to choose from to ensure that your garden is chemical free. You can also make your own compost. You can use this to fill boxes and cover afterwards.

  • Create the grid. After you have nourished the soil and covered the compost for two weeks, you can now put the grid. This can be made shorter for it to fit in the box. This will keep make your garden easy to manage and organize. You can choose from materials including wood, plastic strips and nylon rope so long as it does not contain any chemicals.

What to Plant in Your Vegetable Garden

homegrown vegetablesThere are numerous vegetables to choose from for your vegetable garden. You can choose from cabbage, lettuce and even squash. Eggplants and tomatoes are also good choices and bring produce shortly. You can also plant chili that would look good after it bears produce.

The produce you get out from the vegetables you plant is healthier compared to what you buy from supermarkets. You are also assured that no harmful chemicals were added to enhance the growth of your vegetables. Make sure that you start planting during the summer. This will make it successfully thrive. However, start making your garden box at the end of the winter when frost is already minimal. This would allow you to start planting right away when winter finally ends.

 photo credits: serenejournalJames P. Mann

Edging and Path: Two Ways you Bring Beauty to Landscaping

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Posted by Julien Stern | Posted in landscaping | Posted on 10-10-2013

You have chosen the right plants for your vegetation, appropriate flowers for your flower beds and you may have added some water features so now it is time to focus on your garden edging. It can be achieved in different ways such as gathering rocks or seek the help of a skilled mason to build your garden a brick wall. Whatever your plan is for your garden, it is essential to install your garden edging for a more attractive landscape.

Types of Garden Edging

Garden is simply explained as the frame you create around the perimeter of your garden. This is very essential for your privacy and also for your plants not to go overboard your property. Hardware stores sell fences and rocks that you can use for your garden edging.

If you want to achieve an aesthetic edge, then you can make use of decorative concrete. They are beautiful and durable but a bit expensive. You can also make use of plants as your edge but it takes a while for the plants to grow fully and become strong edge.

Whatever type of design you want to incorporate in your garden, edging is one element you should not ignore. Make sure to give your time and effort in making the best out of your landscape.

Importance of Garden Paths

Now that you have established your garden edging, it is time to make your garden paths. People might perceive your garden as a closed or private area since you put up the borders but to make them feel welcome to your backyard, you can incorporate pathways from your gate leading up to your garden and your house.

It makes the visitor feel welcome in your beautiful landscape. Garden paths are easier than the garden edging.

Although garden walls are good drainage system, garden paths are also used to keep the water away from your garden. Stone, gravel and concrete are the common materials utilize to make pathways. Also they prevent weeds to invade your plants.

You can also incorporate path covers around your garden so your guests can venture out to your paradise. The path may lead up to a gazebo, a garden patio or a garden fountain. Garden pathways are also used around the pool so you won’t get easily slip when it is wet.

Make sure you have set the budget for this project. If you want to save then you have to do the edging and pathways at the same time. So the materials, labor, expenses and time will all be reduced and you have a garden that is not only attractive but also private.

Garden edging can protect your property and garden 24/7 so you are assured no wildlife will get into your backyard and might damage your garden. You must choose materials that are durable and can withstand extreme weather.

On the other hand, garden paths serve as your guest’s guide towards your house or your garden. Make sure to lead you paths to focal points of the garden so your visitors will truly enjoy what you have done with your landscape.

Garden edging and garden paths both have aesthetic and functional purposes for your landscape but one must be very careful in choosing the designs that will blend well with your garden. These two hardscapes play important roles for the beautification and improvement of your garden.

Easy Ways to Make Organic Fertilizers at Home

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Posted by Julien Stern | Posted in Gardening | Posted on 09-09-2013

Organic is trendy. It is important to use organic materials in all our ways. In gardening, organic fertilizer is the best option – free, practical and earth-friendly. Actually, for gardening life to be simple and easy, buying ready-made fertilizer is a good choice. However, organic waste compost really has more advantages and plants are sure to flourish.

This article will mainly discuss how to create your own organic compost at home. The entire process is fascinating, and once you’ll get the hang of it you will be interested to keep doing it all over again.

Good Composting Waste Materials

The process behind composting is through nature. The secret behind composting is the good mixture of ingredients. Any biodegradable material when left alone will surely decompose on its own but with the right mixture, once moisten and aerated the process will happen faster.

  • Brown Materials – to create a good mixture, brown materials are important. These include shredded cardboard, paper cartons, branches, clippings, twigs, leaves and newspapers.
  • Green Materials – another element needed for the mixture are the green materials. Examples of which are manure, egg shells, rotten fruits, plants, flowers and vegetable wastes.
  • Water – for the process to happen, it has to be moist. Ensure that the pile won’t dry up – the water should be enough but not too much to create sticky wastes.
  • Activators – this is usually added to the mixture for the process to speed up also to add more nutrients to the compost. Previous compost or chicken manures are considered as activators. However, if you don’t have one ready, dog and cat foods are good activators as well.
  • Active Organic Matter – dark crawlers or earthworms are perfect examples of this.

Learn the Proper Way of Mixing

For starters, learning is quite tough and sometimes you may feel frustrated while learning the entire process. But you have to remember that nature’s way of decomposition may take some time. Do your homework, research and read.

Hot or Cold Compost

People that manage their compost pile well are producing hot compost, it cooks as the pile decompose. It doesn’t matter how small or large your compost pile is, as long as the mixture is well-balanced, you will produce good result.

Turning is Optional

Some books will suggest that turning the heap regularly will spread the oxygen evenly, producing good compost. For bigger piles this might be true, but actually as long as the pile is kept moist it will just aerate as it shrinks. Better reason for piles to be turned is checking if materials are moisten enough and as the materials become sensitive, turning them will help crushed to full maturity.

Composting Indoors

It is possible to perform composting indoors through captive earthworms. The process is called vermicomposting. Vermicomposting containers can be kept indoors for easy decomposition of papers and food scraps. This is not messy, composting is actually hassle-free.

During harvest time, get handfuls of material from the bottom of the container. Place the compost in a cone-shaped bucket and place it in a bright area. Two hours later, worms will go down the cone bucket. Scoop the 2/3 of the material and make sure to return the worms for future use.

Composting Livestock Manure

When using this material, make sure that you are one hundred percent sure that it is safe. Be cautious because at some point animal manure contains E.coli bacteria. However, these bacteria are eliminated by microorganisms present in the compost. It is always safe to check if all materials are properly decomposed to inhibit spreading of diseases.

At home, there are lots of wastes that can be recycled and can be used as part of the compost mixture. Be aware and be practical.

Important Tools in Starting Up Your Own Garden

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Posted by Julien Stern | Posted in Gardening | Posted on 12-08-2013

When deciding to create your own garden, it is important that you know what tools to use and what things to prepare before starting up. Right set of garden tools will make your garden experience easy, fun and rewarding. There are several tools that every gardener should have to be able to accomplish a garden of his own. If you have some working buddies with you, that would mean easier tasks to accomplish but if you are working on your own, then here are some tips to follow.

Get Ready With the Supplies

Starting is never easy, but once you begin with the project everything will follow smoothly. You need to prepare all the needed tools so you won’t go back and forth inside the house looking for that missing piece.

  • Garden Fork and Steel Rake – These two are perfect combination to clean up the garden beds and to filter out unnecessary compacted rocks. You have to be careful when using these tools because the handles tend to break easily if you put too much pressure on them.
  • Spade and Shovel – These tools are must-have when starting. These are usually used to dig and pick up loose material.
  • Trowel – This hand tool is designed to dig holes, mix soils and easy transplanting. It is available in different sizes depending on the gardener’s need. So keep one that is comfortable in your hands.
  • Garden Gloves – A good set of quality garden gloves is essential to ensure that your hands won’t get hurt from sticks, sharp stones, cuttings and thorns. There are varieties of gloves available to choose from, so it depends which one fits you.
  • Stirrup Hoe – This is the perfect tool in tilling the soil and the easiest one to use in weeding the garden.
  • Garden Pruners and Shears – There are actually different sizes and styles of pruners and shears. Gardeners collect them for easy cutting of shrubs, flowers and foliage.
  • Kneeling Pads and Garden Kneeler – This tool may not be as important as the others but can help in doing gardening tasks a lot easier. This is to protect the knees as gloves protect the hands. This is used to make planting and weeding easier and it comes in different styles to provide comfort to the user.

Plan, Plan, Plan!

Before starting your garden, a concrete plan is important to give you a guide on what plants to use, what will be the division and where to plant them. A simple graph on a paper will do as long as it serves its purpose. A plan will also help you save time and money.

Choose the Right Seedlings

If you decided on creating a vegetable garden, you will feel the reward of your labor if you prefer to plant easy to grow vegetables. Consider a seedling that grows in any type of weather so you won’t have a hard time maintaining them. But if you choose to plant flowers, take time to grow them as they are more sensitive and susceptible to various plant diseases.

Ask and You Will Be Answered

Do not hesitate to ask farmers if there are some questions that boggle your mind. Read books, visit helpful websites and subscribe to gardening magazines to help you out in this task. Also, if you have time to visit a nursery, go and check one out since they always have the right plants for everyone.

Making your own garden can be a no-sweat job as long as you have the right tools and ideas. Do not be disheartened if some of your plants do not grow the way they should, you’ll learn and become a better gardener along the way.

How to Prepare your Organic Garden?

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Posted by Julien Stern | Posted in Gardening | Posted on 29-05-2013

organic gardeningOrganic garden has attracted many gardeners today. They can create their own garden where herbs, vegetables and fruits are planted. It is either for personal consumption or profit.

In organic gardening, you don’t use pesticides, chemicals and other synthetic materials. You just let nature be in charge and allow plants to grow naturally, just use the materials Mother Nature has provided.

Many gardeners prefer this type of gardening because of the health benefits and you can greatly save money in having your own organic garden. However, organic farming is a little bit tricky than you think specially if you are a beginner. So here are some tips you should keep in mind in growing an organic garden:

Don’t spend too much.

Don’t spend your money on those pricey organic fertilizers, organic products or gardening tools. If you spend too much money on these luxuries you will end up having an expensive organic food.

This is against the whole concept of why you chose organic garden. It is supposed to be free from chemicals and supposed to make you save money compared to chemical gardening.

Find the right place.

Before you plant your vegetables, you should know what kind of environment or condition they need. Some plants need more sunlight than others. Some need to be near a water resource.

If you are unsure of the different needs of your plants, then do some thorough research before planting them in the area. If you do this, in no time you will have fine quality and healthy vegetables.

Check the soils.

The first thing you should do is to check the moisture and pH level of the soil. You have to know what type of soil you have in your garden and then make corrections if necessary. If the soil is not in good condition that you may add compost, manures and grass clippings to improve the soil.

To achieve healthy growing vegetables, you have to set your solid in fine quality. A healthy soil means you have health organic plants.

Make compost.

There are two ways you can make compost. One, you can buy it in a store for a very cheap price. Two, you can use the kitchen scraps and waste.

This is disposing your waste in an environmental way. Making compost is not difficult. In fact, after a few times you have tried to make compost, the next ones would be easier.

You garden needs a bit of your time.

Most people tend to forget or ignore their new garden for just a few days. This is definitely not a good idea if you aim for vegetables in fine quality. It takes patience and time before you have a good organic garden.

You must give time and care to your plants or you will be creating problems of your own. In a day, you must spare time for your garden to check for pests, weeds and most importantly, to look after your plants. It might take a great effort for you but in time you will get used to it and you will see and taste the fruit of your labor.

Growing your crops through organic gardening is truly a safe and healthy way for you and your family to eat. After all, studies show that the chemical fertilizers used in crops by some people are linked to many diseases such as Cancer.