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.

Winter Seasonal Gardening

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Posted by Julien Stern | Posted in Gardening | Posted on 26-05-2013

winter-snow-treeGardening during the summer is a fun and relaxing past time that millions of people enjoy.  As fall comes around, many people think that it is time to put away their gardening tools for the winter, but there are actually some great things you can do with your garden during the winter.  In some climates it will not be possible to grow anything outside because of the cold weather and snow, but in warmer climates you can often keep your garden going as long as you take extra care.

Winter gardening is not as difficult as many people might think, but it does take some planning and a little extra attention.  Most people agree that this is a great hobby to enjoy all winter long as long as you give it then care it requires.

Colder Climates

In parts of the country where it is simply too cold to do any gardening in the winter, you can still enjoy this excellent hobby.  You can start an herb garden inside.  Due to the small size of these plants, you can keep them on window ledges or even have a small area in a room dedicated only for them.  You can grow them through the winter inside and then either move them outside in the spring, or just keep them as an inside project all year.

There are many other plants which can do quite well in pots during the winter season.  The main concern for most people who take on indoor gardening activities is the size of the plant.  They wouldn’t want to grow corn for example, because the stalks get so large.  Tomatoes, however, are an excellent option for indoor growth.  Just make sure to place them in an area which has plenty of sunlight.

Warmer Climates

Winter gardening in warmer climates is not too difficult.  As long as it stays warm enough to keep the plants growing during the day, you can take steps to ensure they survive the nights easily.  Some people will grow everything in pots so they can move them inside during the evening and days when it is too cold, and then move them outside on warmer days.

Another option is to have your plants in the ground throughout the winter and use protective coverings to keep them warm during the night.  There are blankets designed to keep the frost and cold off of plants at night, and you can also consider custom glass enclosures which will help fight the cold.  They can even help intensify the sunlight so they will grow better on cool days.

The Importance of Home Landscaping

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Posted by Julien Stern | Posted in landscaping | Posted on 25-05-2013

Landscaping has been around for many years. In fact, it started off as early as our ancient history records. It creates a sense of relaxation and balance every time a homeowner comes home greeted by the sight of a beautiful garden. However, landscaping is not just about planting flowers, shrubs and trees in a vacant lot. It should have a great design concept and a good plan to initiate the project.

People are continuously in the lookout for a great design. A common requirement for these concepts should have a blend of both homely charm and beauty. The art of landscaping helps to boost the kind of living standards a homeowner has. It also increases the market value of the property the moment a sale comes to mind.front

Landscaping is also a great hobby especially for stay at home moms, old age individuals and for those who just want to try out gardening. Studies show that those who are highly interested in gardening are often those who can develop great landscaping designs. It is also a good way to boost one’s creativity and a great form of exercise.

Tips to Achieve a Great Landscape

There are few things to consider for you to achieve a great landscape. The following tips will help you achieve the desired home garden you want.

• Plan Carefully. This is the first and the most crucial step in getting a great home garden done. Choose the theme and design you will use. Once you know your design, you will be able to identify the type of plants you need to use. This will save you time and energy as you cannot simply pull out an already planted flower because you want to change your concept.

• Be Creative. Don’t just plant one kind of flower in a single plot. Also, don’t over crowd your flower bed by planting two kinds of flowers in alternating patterns. Instead, imagine your dream garden and make that a reality.

• Make Up Your Mind. Ask yourself what scenery you want to see the moment you arrive home. This will help to get your creative side thinking what to do and decide the kind of materials you want to use.

• Follow Simple Patterns. The basics of landscaping should never be forgotten. You have to bear in mind that color, form and texture must be coherent in creating your garden. Unity, proportion, balance and transition should also be observed. Simplicity, rhythm and repetition should be carefully chosen to create a well-designed garden.

• Create a Landscape with a Natural Feel. Landscaping often links nature and people closer. That is why you should make a garden that will give you the feeling of being one with nature. Incorporating water themed concepts is a good idea to bring you closer to nature.

Advantages of Having a Landscape Garden at Home

Hearing chirping birds and seeing butterflies in your lawn can be very rewarding. The sight of beautiful flowers and green plants can also give you a relaxing and pleasant mood. It gives you a sense of motivation to keep a serene surrounding that appeases your mental state.

Aside from these, there are other advantages that you can enjoy from having a landscaped garden at home. You will be able to enjoy fresher and cleaner air because the bushes, trees and shrubs you plant can help to improve better air quality. A haven for wildlife is also created when you make a landscaped garden.

A landscaped garden can also reduce pollution. The plants you have can absorb carbon dioxide and gives out oxygen that is helpful to the environment. Your garden trees and plants can also help to block out noise that will enable you to rest peacefully. A green landscape can also soothe tired and weary eyes the moment you take a look at your garden.

Top Gardening Tips for Winter

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Posted by Julien Stern | Posted in Gardening | Posted on 26-04-2013

I visited Melbourne, Australia recently and as a gardener, what do you think I was noticing?

Gardens and landscaping in the area. So I reached out to an Australian native and asked them if they would like to write a guest post. This post will give you a little insight into gardening in that area during the winter time.

How to Make the Most of Your Melbourne Garden

Melbourne and winter – two things that fit together like a hand in glove.

If you live in Melbourne you’ll either love or hate winter; very rarely if ever will you find someone who is indifferent towards it. No matter what your opinion of winter though, one thing is for sure; your garden loves this time of the year and will love you just as much if you give it the TLC it craves.

Here are six handy tips for a great Melbourne winter garden.

1. Winter is the time to prune!

Got a deciduous tree or two in your backyard? Maybe you’ve got a rose bush in the garden that has grown a little too big. If this sounds all too familiar, then perhaps it’s time to pull out the pruning shears.

Winter is the ideal time for pruning; the lack of foliage on deciduous trees and bushes makes the job easier and allows you to better identify and repair structural problems.

As a general rule it’s best to prune roses during the months of June and July – any earlier and you could potentially impede the possibility of new growth. When pruning your trees, we highly recommend maintaining the natural shape and growth habits.

2. Now’s the time for annuals

Get some color into your garden with a range of beautiful annuals. Whether you opt for pansies, snapdragons, sweet peas or sweet violas, or perhaps a combination of some or all of these flowers, these flowers will introduce a vibrancy and vitality to your garden that you’ll truly appreciate – especially during a grey and gloomy winter.

Winter annuals will typically begin flowering in June / July and last up until September. They’ll make a worthy addition to your garden that friends and family will love.

3. Don’t like the garden arrangement? Re-arrange it!

Here’s a mind blowing idea – if you’re not happy with the way your garden is arranged, or you simply think it’s time to change things up a bit, re-arrange it!

Want to move an evergreen shrub from one end of the garden to the other? Winter is probably the best time to do it. It’s important to get as much of the root as possible when extracting the plant from the soil, and we’d strongly suggest cutting down the leaf canopy for the relocation process.

4. Start preparing for spring

Certain plants and trees typically flower or produce fruit during spring, so the best time to maintain your garden to ensure maximum growth in the warmer months is to get things ready in winter. If you have hydrangeas in your garden, cutting them just above the buds in winter will help them grow beautifully in the spring.

If there are apple or pear trees in your yard, winter is the optimal time to thin out the branches in order to grow better quality fruit in the spring (even if there might be less growth, it’ll certainly be quality over quantity).

5. Update your soil profile

Like humans, plants and trees require quality soil for nourishment and survival. Throughout the warmer months of the year, say from September to April, most plants and trees draw heavily on the nutrients in the soil in order to remain healthy.

This means that over time the soil becomes depleted of those essential nutrients. Therefore we recommend replacing those nutrients during the winter months; infusing the soil with such organic products as mushroom compost, cow manure (for mineral supplement) and Blood & Bone for strong root growth.

6. It’s all about the bare-rooted plants

Throughout winter you’ll find that bare rooted plants and shrubs – plants that have had their soil removed – are quite cheap, simple to grow and easy to come by. They are typically sold during winter because evaporation levels in the air are low and so they have a greater chance of survival. This makes them the ideal winter garden option.

Of course you may want to undertake larger scale tasks to improve your garden – you might need a tree removal service in Melbourne or clear up some storm damage. Whatever the case may be, don’t let the grey and gloom of the Melbourne winter deter you from enjoying your garden. Now is one of the best times to exercise your green thumbs!

About the author:

Stuart Briggs never used to be a keen gardener, but has developed an experienced green thumb in a short space of time. When he’s not getting his hands dirty in the soil, Stuart loves surfing, going for a lengthy run on a cold, brisk morning and taking photographs from some of Melbourne’s most picturesque locations.

Fertilizer For Free: Make Your Own Fertilizer

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Posted by Julien Stern | Posted in Gardening | Posted on 26-04-2013

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compostFertilizers are used to be mixed in the soil and enrich the soil where you have planted your plants. Fertilizers make the soil “healthy” and filled with nutrients and minerals that plants need. Ensuring the health of the soil will also ensure the health of your plants.

The use of chemical commercial fertilizers can cost so much sometimes and the results are not that satisfying. Another problem with the use of commercial chemical fertilizers is that they may cause harm to the human body when ingested (especially when used in vegetables that we eat). Chemicals can also make the soil acidic thus making it unhealthy and inappropriate for planting or plant cultivation as time goes by or with prolonged use.

What if you can make use of a free fertilizer that is guaranteed to work and make the soil healthy, packed with nutrients that plants need, improves soil condition and is not harmful to the soil? It would definitely be amazing! All these can be possible with the use of a home-made fertilizer or more commonly known as compost.

DIY Fertilizer Steps

Dig a hole in your backyard. The best size for an average family will be about 4×4 feet and 3 feet deep. Choose a spot where sunlight cannot be available almost throughout the daytime. This hole will be the place where all biodegradable garbage and trash like food leftovers and dried leaves will be dumped to decompose.

After making the hole, put a fence or barrier made of wood or galvanized iron to make a compost pit. Make it at least 3 feet tall to prevent small children and pets from accidentally falling into the pit.

Dump all your biodegradable wastes into the pit. Leave it there and let nature do the magic. Be sure that the pit is not soak with water.

Cover the pit at all times but open it up once in a while to let it “breathe”. This will prevent sunlight from penetrating deep down.

Use earthworms to enrich your compost even more. Earthworms can be bought from your local agricultural establishments and depots. These earthworms can help in the decomposition of the biodegradable matter in your compost pit. They eat up the matter turning them in tinier and easily-decomposed matter. Their movement in the soil and matter in the pit will aerate it, thus making it easier to decompose.

Go Black and You’ll Never Have to Go Back

Keep in mind that the right texture and color of ready-to-use compost is fine and dark or sometimes black.

Paradise in Your Yard: Beach Theme Landscape

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Posted by Julien Stern | Posted in landscaping | Posted on 24-04-2013

beach theme landscapeEverybody love going to the beach to enjoy not just swimming, but also the wonderful and breathtaking scenery. The view of the beach is a very relaxing sight that can free one from stress or having an overworked mind. But what if you want to go to the beach every day but the thing is, you don’t live near the beach? What to do?

There is actually a way to have the scene of a beach within the comfort of your home. The answer to this is through creating a theme garden – more specifically, a beach theme garden. Imagine the possibility of having the view of a beach right after stepping out of your own home, amazing right?

Beach theme landscape is a type of landscaping design that is specifically intended to imitate the view of a beach with plants and other things that are commonly found in the seaside and beach area. So whether you are living miles away from a seaside, you can actually bring the beach right at your backyard. All that is left for you to have beside you is a glass of piña colada or a refreshing fruit shake and you can relax all you want, anyway you want, for you have all the freedom because you are just outside your house.

Preparation Phase

Before you start doing something, preparation is always key. When starting a project like a beach theme landscape, it is much better to make a sketch of your home and yard. Through this, you can make consideration whether you want to add up a water feature such as a pool to make your landscape more realistic and refreshing or landscape lights to help improve the feel of your yard at night (tiki torches are awesome).

Preparation of the plants that you are going to put in the beach landscape is also a must. You should choose your plants wisely by making sure that these plants are commonly found in a seaside and beach area. It is much better to visit an actual beach or have a thorough research of the plants you are going to incorporate.

This is also the time to prepare the site you are going to transform into a beach-wannabe area once you have decided the spot to have your beach theme garden. Remove the things and other obstacles in your way for the construction of your landscape. Pull out weed and till the soil where you are to plant the beach vegetation and ornament into.

The Start

Once you are done with all the preparation, you can have the new plants transferred and planted in the area of your beach landscape. Make sure that you choose the appropriate plants to use in the landscape. If you have a pool installed in your landscape, make sure not to put the plants near it because the roots may affect the integrity of the structure of the pool or may damage the walls of the pool underground.

You can also add commercially-bought sand and have it placed on top of the soil in your landscape. You can also make a pathway or walkway towards the beach landscape with the use of pebbles and sand to make your work more realistic and creative. Add a dose of your personal touch and your beach theme garden is good to go.

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?

Texas Azalea

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Posted by Julien Stern | Posted in Plants | Posted on 22-02-2013

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Texas azaleaAzaleas have a reputation of being quite exacting plants in their growing requirements – yet few vistas can surpass a garden or a flower bed of azaleas in full bloom. And, well, rumor may be exaggerated sometimes.

While modern horticulture has created hundreds of variations of this spectacular and delicate shrub (each with different tolerance thresholds to the various conditions that characterize a given garden), there’s this one among them that is especially fit for our Texas gardens – for the simple reason that it’s native to our area.

The name of this beautiful lady is Texas azalea, and, if taken care of properly (which is not at all difficult, as we shall see in a moment), she’ll be embellishing your outdoors – with her dainty white flowers, her lush deep green foliage, her lemonish, slightly spicy fragrance, her discreet yet powerful presence – like few other plants can. Yes, you can call me a bit prejudiced here…

So, let’s get down to exploring a few facts about Texas azalea and its optimal growing conditions:

Texas azalea (rhododendron oblongifolium)

Soil
The natural habitat of Texas azalea is the sandy, organically enriched, slightly acidic (pH 4.5-6.0) soil that can be found in pine forests, wooded stream banks, and boggy areas. This is a light soil, unlike the heavy clay that abounds in several Texas areas and can cause root rot (indicated by yellowing, wilting foliage and collapse of the plant) – but that can be amended with proper preparation of the ground.

Incorporating peat moss, bark mulch (especially pine bark), and compost rich in leaves down to a depth of 12” will increase acidity of the ground and improve aeration, so much needed by the shallow root system of Texas azaleas. Constructing raised flower beds will work fine with these plants, although it’s not a sheer necessity, if preparation is done correctly. Another way to make pH levels more suitable is to add agricultural sulphur.

Texas azaleas don’t like limy, alkaline soil either, as it can lead to iron deficiency and, subsequently, to chlorosis, characterized by yellow leaves with distinct, dark green veins. However, there’s a number of ways to treat chlorosis such as:

  • applying copperas (iron sulphate), which is a soil acidifier and will allow iron to return to an available form;
  • applying granular iron to the soil; some gardeners simply drive iron nails or iron shards into the ground, waiting for them to rust and release the substance;
  • applying a foliar spray of an iron compound – this method will have much shorter residual action, though, and it must be repeated frequently.

Sun exposure
Texas azalea’s natural habitats are very telling of the kind of sunlight it prefers: partial sun or filtered light beneath trees with high limbs. This means that azaleas do not fare well in places that receive excessive amounts of our hot Texas sun, especially during the afternoon hours. Excessive exposure to sun will initially bleach the leaves (due to the deterioration of chlorophyll) and then burn them, with brown spots and edges appearing on the foliage.
On the other hand, complete shade invariably leads to lanky growth and to insufficient blooming. Plant your Texas azaleas in a spot that receives afternoon shade – the east or north side of your home are usually the best picks. Another advantage of optimal sunlight conditions is that they will help increase the plant’s hardiness to low temperatures.

Temperature
Texas azalea is generally spread in regions included in the USDA hardiness zones 7 to 9 – in other words, areas that manifest lowest temperatures of 0-25º F. It is also tolerant of high heat. The secret to always remember is to keep the plant’s “feet” cool, and this is accomplished by adequate mulching (2″-3″ deep).

Apply mulch in spring, just after the blooms fade. This will help lock moisture in the ground, and it will also protect the roots from summer heat. On the contrary, avoid mulching in fall, as this will hold heat in the soil, thus delaying the onset of dormancy and increasing the odds for winter damage.

Texas azalea

Watering
Texas azaleas love moisture, but need a well-drained soil to develop properly. Try planting them on a slope: besides seeing your shrubs thriving, you will have the additional advantage of preventing soil erosion.

Watering the azaleas is finding a delicate balance between keeping the ground moist, but not soggy, without letting it get too dry either. When the plant is new, check the soil around it every day to ensure it is slightly damp. Mature plants need about 1″ of water per week during cool seasons, and more during hot summer spells, as azaleas have shallow root systems that dry out quickly. Curling, twisting, or drooping leaves are a certain sign of water deficiency.

Prefer watering deeply and infrequently rather than in regular small amounts. Apply mulch to prevent evaporation, and amend your soil with compost to improve texture and water holding or draining capacity. Avoid drip irrigation, as it will benefit only a very restricted area of the widely spread roots.

Texas azaleas also absorb water through the foliage, which means that you can water both roots and leaves. In this case, prefer to water early in the morning in order to avoid leaving moisture on the leaves, thus preventing the onset of fungal diseases.

Pruning
The best season for pruning Texas azaleas is during the first two to three weeks after flowering is finished, and definitely before budding begins around late July. Any pruning that takes place after that point must be done with major attention, as it will affect the overall shape of the plant and the flowers of the following blooming season.

Don’t be afraid of performing minor shaping of your plants throughout the growing season; this will help the shrub maintain its fullness and compact shape. Just pay close attention and be very selective with your cuts after budding, as they will significantly impact the display of flowers for the following season.

Texas azaleas are deciduous shrubs, meaning that during winter (and until March) they are dormant and leafless; this makes it also a good time to prune – always keeping in mind the above cutting restrictions.

Fertilization
The best time to fertilize Texas azalea is in spring, right after the blooms fade and the shrub is pruned. Use a slow-release, acidic fertilizer such as cottonseed meal or commercial azalea-camellia-gardenia dry fertilizer, applying it evenly around the roots. Fertilizing in a concentrated area will most probably cause fertilizer burn. At any rate, avoid lawn fertilizers; they are too high in nitrogen and they may burn or even kill the shrub.

Never fertilize late in the growing season, like after budding (July) or in the fall, as this can cause tender new growth to develop right before winter — with its chances of severe frost — sets in.

Texas azalea flowers


Other Considerations

A Texas azalea in full growth can reach up to 6 ft in height and 3 ft in width. Be sure to provide 36” to 48” spacing when planting your azaleas, thus leaving adequate room for the shrub to develop.

As mentioned above, Texas azalea has a shallow root system —the roots tend to spread horizontally near the surface rather than drive deep into the ground. When planting Texas azaleas, perform 2-3 vertical cuts in the root ball, so as to help the roots spread apart. In the opposite case, the plant won’t be able to hold fast on the ground, and the plant will be severely under-achieving in growth and appearance.

The family of Rhododendrons, to which Texas azalea belongs, has leaves and flowers containing poisonous substances that are dangerous when ingested by humans and animals. What’s more, honey made from these flowers may also be toxic.

Native plants are generally pest and disease free, or they wouldn’t have survived and propagated in the regions where we see them thriving today. It’s a law of nature, and it’s called adaptation. This doesn’t mean that these plants are plastic and invulnerable to natural enemies, pests, and diseases – and Texas azalea has its own share of this type of problems. One thing’s for sure, though: given the proper environmental and growing conditions, your native azalea shrubs will fare much better than rumor has it.

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Photo credits:
– Clarence A. Rechenthin @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
– treegrow in Flickr