The Cozy Gardens: Cottage Garden Must-Knows

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Posted by Julien Stern | Posted in Gardening | Posted on 22-04-2013

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cozy gardenDo you want to have the old “English” theme in your backyard? If so, then having a cottage garden is the best idea for your home and yard beautification purpose. Besides, having a little cottage with plants inside is kind of classy, right?

Cottage gardens are traditionally found in small English villages for the purpose of growing crops to sustain families that are poor or have little abundance in life. It was in the later years, more specifically in the age of renaissance, that the cottage gardens were used by wealthy families to grow beautiful and fragrant flowers, and ornamental plants.

If you want to have a cottage garden of your own and take care of plants closely or in a more “controlled” environment, then you should have enough knowledge at hand in this type of gardening. Let me share to you a few tips and must-knows in the field of cottage gardening.

The Basics

Before you try to dig deeper with the idea of having a cottage garden of your own, you should first be aware of the basic elements and principles used in this specialized form of gardening. You should get to know more about the foundations of cottage gardening.

The following features are what are found distinctive to cottage gardens:

A Cozy Atmosphere. The cozy feeling of having entered a garden with a refreshing scent and beauty of flowers and vines is the unique characteristic that can only be found in cottage gardens. It is such a wonderful feeling that you would definitely like to stay in that place all day long.

Mixture of Just Any. It is not only flowers and vines that can be found in a cottage garden. There are also trees, shrubs and vegetables that can add more texture to the scene and without you even noticing it. The beauty of this type of garden is such a marvel that it can fool you at times.

Welcoming. The cottage garden is like a person who is ushering visitors to come in and guiding them around. This is because most cottage gardens have beautiful walkways and pathways that make the strolling and looking around the garden easy and accessible even though it is filled with so many plants.

The Bench. This is one of the unique characteristics of a garden that has been imitated by other types of gardens – a peaceful area to sit down. Benches can be mostly found in cottage gardens and is a very unique idea to have a place where you can sit down and relax and watch the whole garden at the same time. Most of the time, traditional benches that are made of wood are being used.

Keeping Formality

This is the main idea in keeping and maintaining a cottage garden – keeping it formal. As you have noticed, the things that are being used in this type of garden are those that are traditional and mostly made of wood. Simplicity is beauty in the first place, right?

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]

Biodynamic Gardening, A Garden’s Natural Cure

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Posted by Julien Stern | Posted in Gardening | Posted on 07-01-2013

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gardenBiodynamic gardening is a method of special organic gardening that calls for treatment of gardens as individual and unified organisms. It emphasizes balance in the holistic interrelationship and development of plants, animals, and soil in a self-nourishing system even without external outputs.

The very special aspect that biodynamic gardening brings into the picture is that is gives emphasis on looking at the soil and the farm in a broader perspective. This only means that a garden is not just any area or plot but more of an environment where living organisms thrive. Having this line of thought the message of giving care and sustenance to every bit of creatures within the vicinity is given a high level of significance.

Although biodynamic gardening is regarded by many as a form of a pioneering modern ecological gardening technique, it would be more fair to say that it actually exists since the beginning of life on Earth. Natural eco-systems are, in fact, well-balanced ensembles of plant and animal life suited to the specific weather and soil conditions of the area they grow in.

Principles of Biodynamic Gardening

Biodynamic gardening emphasizes the use of composts and manures instead of the usual artificial chemicals applied on soil and plants. While it has many things in common with other organic gardening methods, biodynamic gardening is unique in that it uses fermented mineral and herbal preparations (e.g. compost additives, natural field sprays), and an astronomical planting and sowing calendar.

One of the best-known techniques of biodynamic and organic gardening in general is crop rotation, otherwise known as crop sequencing. This is a method that involves the cultivation of a series of crops that are part of different types within the same area or agricultural vicinity. This is done in sequential times or seasons to promote many benefits in crop production. One very good example is the prevention of pathogen and pest build up that is normally takes place when only a single crop type is used.

Crop rotation also creates a specific balance that is vital in avoiding deterioration and reduction of soil nutrients. This balance can be associated with the varying fertility demands of the various crops utilized. Soil structure is also strengthened when deep-rooted and shallow rooted plants coexist in a given land plot.

Crop rotation offers an ideal medium for cultural control. This means that there is adequate defence against pests and diseases that can wreak havoc in a garden. The principle behind this is that the use of constant variation in crop types helps in placing pest population levels to a low percentage. As plants that are members of the same taxonomic family attract similar pathogens, the regular change in the planting location can break down or limit the cycles of pest development.

Besides the use of animal-originated fertilizers (manure), one of the methods extensively used in biodynamic gardening is planting cover crops (green manure) with the goal of improving and enhancing any conditions pertaining to sustainable agriculture. Moreover, cover crops offer an essential way of managing soil fertility, moisture and quality, while they also help battle weeds, pests, and diseases that may inhibit ideal plant growth and crop production.

More Biodynamic Gardening Techniques

Animal life in biodynamic gardening includes mainly useful insects and earthworms. In the past, the use of earthworms and their castings or excretions in promoting plant growth had been widespread. These days, more and more gardeners and agriculturists are reverting back to the old, organic and chemicals-free mode of gardening.

Putting earthworms into gardens and plant plots has become a standard in ensuring that plants will grow better and healthier. Earthworms take care of loosening the damp soil, transporting rich nutrients from the topsoil to the subsoil and making burrows that could facilitate further entry and circulation of air and water into the soil.

Vermicompost has been observed to free cabbage, pepper and tomato from savage and harmful pests like aphids, mealy bugs and caterpillars. Though the exact scientific reasons for the events are still yet to be determined, experts suggest that it is because vermicomposts are rich in highly essential nutrients that help vegetable cops become stress resistant and eventually unattractive to pests.

To Sum Up…

A garden is able to produce or come with a certain result geared to positivity if allowed to. This can only happen when the proper resources are manipulated accordingly.

Due to climate changes and natural calamities erosion may occur that may lead to the destruction of soil components and quality. Now, biodynamic techniques of gardening aim to boost the defensive mechanisms of the soil and increase its vitality and richness. This will eventually lead to the formation of even more fine soil structures that will produce high quality flowers and crops, while promoting a healthy and sustainable gardening model.

The unique facet of biodynamic gardening is that it teaches soil handling and care as a significant way of life by building a relationship with nature. It helps forge a strong connection that can truly lead to massive changes on the quality and benefits of crops and flowers. Moreover, it brings the practitioner in a certain oneness with the land, a land that will solidify his very existence in this world.