The Benefits To Mulching Trees And Shrubs

Are you a gardener? There is something that is so relaxing about spending some time out in the sun working on a garden. You get the benefits of feeling satisfaction through your hard work and great fruits and vegetables to eat. It has many health benefits as well as studies show it helps to burn calories and provides help with mental well-being.

Growing a garden can be time consuming and hard work, but there are a few things that you can do to help improve the quality of your garden and make it easier to grow great produce. It is vital that the plants get enough water. Also, you need to make sure they are protected from bugs, deer, or other animals that may eat them. Finally, it is important that they get the proper nutrients. One great way to make sure your plants get the nutrients they need is by mulching them.

What is Mulch?

Mulches are material that covers the soil to help retain moisture, improve soil nutrients, and suppress weeds. This can make a big difference in how your plants grow. One thing that can be difficult is making sure that they get the water that they need. By covering your trees or shrubs with mulch, they will hold on to water for longer so that you don’t have to be as worried about them drying out.

A second benefit to mulching is that it helps keep the soil nutrient dense. As the mulch decomposes it releases nutrients into the ground so your trees and shrubs will have a constant supply of the minerals and nutrients they need. You can even make your own mulch out of recycled food products. This is great for the environment and it can save you a good amount of money.

A third benefit of mulching is that it can help keep weeds down. Much of our time working in a garden is polling those pesky weeds. It seems like every Saturday growing up I was spending hours pulling weeds in the morning. Weeds can take water and nutrients from your plants so it important to keep them away. But mulching your plants you will keep them weed free, properly watered, and give them good nutrients.

Make Your Own Mulch

Using the right tools can make a difference in maintaining your yard properly; this site has parts for Echo hedge trimmers and other outdoor tools. You can easily use the scraps from your old trees and other shrubs and make them into mulch. Here is a simple process to make your own mulch:

  1. Section off a part of your yard for your mulch/compost pile.
  2. Start off by adding leaves to the base. They tend to decompose faster.
  3. Rent a wood chipper so you can add the old branches from trees and hedges.
  4. Place additional layers of leaves on top of the branches that you have chopped.
  5. Allow the mulch pile to sit through the winter, about 4 months or so.
  6. In the spring, till the mulch into your garden to have nutrient-rich soil.
  7. For a layer around plants, use the wood chipper in the spring to create a nice-smelling mulch that can be added around the yard.

Making Gardening Your New Hobby

There are a lot of people that have a hard time understanding what they can do in their spare time.  As you find that you have spare time you should be sure that you understand how you are going to be wise about spending your spare time doing something productive.

First, you should make sure that you take the time that you need to understand how you are going to be wise about the way that you are going to choose a hobby.  Finding a hobby can be a great way of ensuring that you are able to be productive throughout your spare time.

While you are looking for a hobby you should make sure that you start by learning what you are passionate about.  Make sure that you take the time that you need to be sure that you can understand the many different passions that you may want to explore in your spare time.

Gardening is a hobby that many people like to take up.  When you want to garden you should be sure that you understand how you are going to be wise about gardening successfully and starting a garden that you know is going to flourish and provide you with fresh foods.

As you are learning how you are going to start a successful garden you should make sure that you take the time that you need to understand how you can be wise about the entire process.  Starting wisely from the beginning will make all of the difference with your garden.

Make sure that you take the time that you need to be sure that you understand what space you have to work with.  When you are gardening you want to make sure that you have enough space for each of the plants to grow and for each of the root systems of the plants to grow.

There are many people that pack their plants too close to one another.  If you find that you are packing your plants too close to one another you are going to have to make sure that you reevaluate your space and either plant less plants or give yourself more room.

When you do not have a lot of room you may want to look into some alternative gardening solutions.  There are many ways that you can garden with limited amount of space and still find that you have plants flourishing and taking root in the small amount of space.

Make sure that you take the time that you need to investigate raised garden beds.  Raised garden beds can be a great way to ensure that you are going to be able to it the plants in your home into a small amount of space without having to worry about taking up too much room.

When you are looking into raised garden beds you will also find that you can control the soil very easily in these beds. You will be able to use the raised garden bed without any problem and you want to make sure that you take the time that you need to build the right bed.

As you are building your raised bed you should also make sure that you understand how you are going to ensure that it has the support it needs.  You do not want the bed to break open after a few months and then ruin the plants that you have worked hard to grow.

After finding out what type of gardening you want to take part in, you should then make sure that you understand how you are going to be wise about the consistency of your gardening.  When you want to have a successful garden you have to be sure that you can be consistent.

Being consistent with your garden will ensure that you are able to avoid big days of weeding.  When you are just weeding for an entire day it can be exhausting and it may take away from the joy that you receive while you are gardening.

Make sure that you take the time that you need to be sure that you are able to be wise about your gardening.  Gardening on a daily basis will ensure that your plants are going to be well fed and watered and the weeds in your garden will be kept at bay.

A Grow Light Helps Give Plants An Early Start

One way to get a jump-start on a garden each year is to plant the seeds inside and use a grow light to help them germinate and grow. Seeds can be planted indoors as early as February or March. When they are given water, light and lots of tenderly loving attention, they can be ready to plant as soon as the last frost has passed somewhere around the middle of May. This early planting of seeds gives the garden more mature plants at an earlier time and allows the plants to produce an earlier and more bountiful harvest.

The first step is to set up a grow light that will give the seeds adequate light and warmth to germinate. A grow light system can be purchased from many garden supply stores or from garden stores online. It is also possible to create a functional grow light system from supplies that are purchased inexpensively from a local home improvement store. A standard shop light works very well. To create the right light and heat for germinating seeds, it is necessary to purchase two different types of fluorescent bulbs. One bulb must have a warm spectrum of light and the other bulb must have a cool spectrum of light. The last thing to purchase is some hooks and chains to hang the grow light above the newly planted seeds.

The next step is to purchase the best type of seeds to plant and grow indoors. Some of these seeds are beans, onions, pumpkins and peas. These types of seeds sprout without much trouble and are easily transplanted to the garden. Herbs are also great seeds to start indoors as they also transplant without much trouble. Some types of vegetables are a little more difficult to grow from seed. They also don’t survive the transplanting process as well. Vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers seem to be better when they are bought as an already established plant from a garden center. Once the seeds have been determined and purchase, it is now time to set up a planting system.

One way to start the seeds is to put potting soil in individual small pots and plant a few seeds in each pot. Peat pots are another simple method for planting the seeds. Peat pots start as small disks. When they are watered, they expand to tiny pots of soil held together by biodegradable netting. They come in a convenient tray that holds 24 to 48 peat pots. Planting three seeds in each pot guarantees that at least one of the seeds will germinate and grow into a healthy plant.

Next, the seeds should be given a thorough soaking with water and placed under the grow light. The light should be hung approximately eight to ten inches above the seeds to give them adequate light and warmth. The grow light can be set on a timer to give the seeds the same amount of sunlight that they would receive if they were growing outdoors. The pots must be checked every day. In order to germinate, the seeds need to be kept moist at all times. It is also important to not over water the seeds.

Now the waiting period begins. Many seeds take at least eight to ten days to germinate. Sometimes only one seed will appear and sometimes all three will germinate at once. If all three seeds germinate, it is important to clip off the extra seedlings with a pair of scissors. This allows the seedling to have adequate room to grow. Once the seeds have germinated, the seedlings will grow quickly into small plants. They may need to be transplanted to larger pots before it is time to transplant them into the garden. Once the warm spring weather arrives, the plants will be ready to transplant and grow to their full potential in the outdoors.

Frustrating Spider Mites – They’re A Problem, So Let’s Solve It!

When you’re cultivating a garden, you must be on the lookout for the various pests which can cause trouble. While there is a seemingly endless supply of hazardous pests to look out for, some are much more prevalent than others.

One of the most common pests are spider mites. These tiny arachnids can infest most types of plants, including vegetables, fruits, and flowers. Among the vegetable plants they can ruin are corn, tomatoes, peppers, and more. They’re a major threat to any gardener who is planning on growing food in their garden.

They can be found on the underside of the leaves, eating the plant sap. The affected plant will lose energy, and brown spots and mottling will appear on the leaves. Fruits will display russeting. As the infestation grows, leaves become discolored, appearing bronze or yellow. Eventually, leaves can be scorched and major damage will be done, as the spider mites rapidly reproduce.

A significant population of mites will weave webs. These are nothing like normal spiderwebs, rather, they appear as gauze-like, thin blankets. This is one of the surest signs that an infestation is in full swing. These webs are used for various functions. Most species of spider mites prefer dry conditions, and their webbing wicks away water. Spider mites also lay numerous eggs, and the webs help secure them. The fact that their population can increase so quickly is another reason why they are so hazardous to plants. Without predators, spider mites will reproduce until the host plant is eventually killed off. Another purpose of the webs they weave is for transportation – they can move to new leaves and new host plants.

The fact that spider mites can travel is important to consider. If one plant is affected, then any plants within the vicinity are at risk. The damage can quickly spread in a garden setting. That’s why it’s best to remove any infested plants and treat them separately. If you remove all the plants that are infested, you can save a lot of trouble in maintaining the rest of your garden. Also, make sure to handle the infested plants separately, with different gloves, tools, and even different clothes. Anything you can do to prevent spreading spider mites is useful. If you have an indoor garden, make sure that it has no indirect contact with outside plants.

You must be thorough and consistent in treating spider mites. Even if you wipe out one generation, the small, round, sticky eggs are very difficult to get to. You must do follow-up treatments every few weeks or so to completely get rid of them. Otherwise, the resilient eggs will hatch and their numbers will rebound.

There are many different options for treating spider mite infestations without harming your plants. There are special sprays called miticides which are great tools to kill spider mites and keep a healthy garden. You can release natural predators that will consume mites and eggs. There are other methods, but whichever you choose, it’s important to treat thoroughly.

How to Keep Squirrels Out of Your Texas Garden

Texas gardeners are blessed with two seasons each year to harvest home-grown tomatoes. Texas squirrels are blessed with two seasons each year to take a great big bite out of home-grown tomatoes before Texas gardeners can harvest them.

Squirrels feast on pecans, fallen fruit, squash, cucumbers, and even watermelons and cantaloupes. Rummaging through your garden beds, they may dine on bulbs that are a lot fresher and tastier than the nuts they squirreled away the year before. They can take over feeders you leave out for birds and other wildlife, and they don’t reward you for your sacrifices by becoming good pets.

If you have not had a lot of interactions with squirrels, there is a fundamental fact of the relationship between the squirrel and the admiring, animal-loving outdoor Texas gardener: Squirrels bite. That furry friend from the trees above will take bite out of your finger when given a chance. And it might even dine on your smaller pet chickens and eat their eggs as if it thought it was a raccoon or a skunk.

If you want to win the battle for garden supremacy with Texas squirrels, you are going to need to plan ahead. Here are 10 tips to taking action to help squirrels find a better habitat than your garden in Texas.

1. Confuse the critters. Gray (although not red) squirrels have a keen memory for landmarks. If you want to direct squirrels out of your garden with a minimum of fuss, move any shiny objects to a different location in your yard or garden every three or four months.

2. Install squirrel baffles on lines and wires leading to your home or garden. When a squirrel shimmies across a line, it grasps the top of the line with its front paws and the bottom of the line with its back paws. Putting a roller on the line makes it impossible for the squirrel to proceed.

3. Call out the hounds. Although this strategy may not work if your hound is a chihuahua, allowing your dog to patrol your yard or garden once a day or so, especially in the middle of the day, may keep squirrels off your property.

4. Get rid of squirrels humanely with a Havahart Two-Door Squirrel Trap. Just be sure it is not more than 5-1/2 inches high, so if you happen to trap a skunk, it can’t raise its tail to spray you.

5. Keep squirrels out your attic with ultrasound. Electronic noise machines generate high-pitched sound at 56,000 Hz. This is too high for humans to hear but drives squirrels batty. It’s a lot more useful for keeping squirrels out than it is for getting squirrels out. Once a mother squirrel has made her nest in her attic so she can raise her 4 to 10 babies, you are not going to be able to get rid of her with nuisance devices.

6. Make sure branches are cut within 15 feet of your roof. A squirrel can jump that far from a tree limb to the roof of your house, and then gnaw its way inside.

7. Dig mesh wire around valuable garden beds to a depth of 15 inches, with at least a three inch margin above the ground. This will deter both squirrels and, if you live in the Panhandle or East Texas, also gophers.

8. Place mothballs in the corners of the attic, where mother squirrels like to build their nests. Fumes from the mothballs make squirrels woozy so they want to leave. Be forewarned that the fumes can have a similar effect on people.

9. Recycle kitty litter underneath bushes or thicket at the edges of your property. Since cats sometimes eat squirrels, they will steer away from the odor of used kitty litter.

10. Shut the garage door at night. Squirrels sometimes find their way under the hood of your car or truck. You’ll make an unwelcome squirrel tartar should the squirrel get caught in your radiator fan or alternator belt, and a single broken wire in your vehicle’s electrical harness can result in more than $1000 in auto repairs.

Blackberrys Planted – Apache and Araphao

Today I planted my Apache and Arapaho Erect blackberry cells from Stark Bros (3 of each).

There are both thornless varieties, and with any luck I will get an extended harvest from having two different breeds. I have planted them in a row of 6, with about 2 feet between each seedling, in the front garden by the approach to my door. This is not the sunniest place I have available, but I am hoping it gets enough sunlight to keep these guys healthy.

The Apache, in the foreground in this image, are looking very healthy, lots of nice green looking leaves, at the time of planting.
Apache in the Foreground, Arapaho in the Background, May 06, 07
In this image, with the Arapaho in the foreground, you can see they are a lot smaller.  All three of them had some yellow leaves that were nearly dead which I removed (hopefully that was a good idea!)
Arapaho in the Foreground, Apache in the Background, May 06, 07

When I was digging the holes for this I was pleased to come across Earthworms in most of them.  I haven’t done anything to this soil myself , but the landscape firm my subdivision uses does mulch it every year.  While it was some rather heavy clay under the mulch, at least it is fertile enough supporting the basic soil critters.

My long term hope is here is that blackberries will fill in to make somewhat of a hedge, roughly 10 feet long.  I’m not entirely sure that the landscapers won’t interfere with this (assuming I can keep them alive!), but I have my fingers crossed.

You will notice the mysterious grass the landscapers have planted, scattered around my planting area. I am going to leave them there for now, but if the look to be taking over I will remove them.

Blueberry Bushes Planted

Last night I finally got around to planting the two Blueberry bushes I have had parked in a box in the house for a few days.

Both plants are ‘Rabbiteye’ varieties…one is of type Tifblue and one of type Climax.  The theory is that having more than one variety of Blueberry improves the yield, I shall see how that pans out.

As you can see, there is not much to them right now, they arrived as sticks with a root.  Hopefully I will see some signs of vegetation soon.
My Blueberries safely in their pots
Say a prayer for the Japanese Boxwood lying on the grass in the background…he gave his life so that the Blueberry could have a home:)

Why I Started Building An Organic Garden

While I have heard many times that the pesticides that we find on our fruits and vegetables that we buy from the local grocery are bad for you, I really never took it seriously. That was until I saw exactly what residue came off some fruit that I rinsed under our water ionizer. This lead me to start my own veggie garden a few years ago. Not only did I end up saving money by growing my own veggies, but I also had the piece of mind of knowing that my family was eating pesticide free food. Here are some steps on growing an organic garden that I used to get started.

Started A Compost Pile

I had never had a compost bin before, so I bought one from our local Costco that reduced my kitchen scraps and lawn clippings into nutrient-rich compost in a matter of weeks. I know that many people opt to make their own compost bin, but I wanted to make sure that my compost was ready for me to use at the beginning of the gardening season so I bought one to speed up the process.

Figured Out My Growing Zone

Unfortunately I don’t live in Texas…I live in a zone 3 area. This means that I do not get to grow watermelons or more delicate fruit that needs a longer growing season. Up North, the ground starts to thaw toward the end of April and we sometimes can get snow fall or frost in September so we only grow hardier types of veggies. I did try out some different types of peppers as well as a watermelon (that is how I know it won’t grow up here) with no success so I just stick to the basics that I know grow in our climate.

Started A Rainwater Collection

I had already started conserving rainwater in a barrel that I bought from the local town office so that I could water my indoor plants and my outside flower planters. The year that I started my veggie garden, I beefed it up and actually added three more barrels so that each drain spout coming off each corner of the house added to my water collection. I was able to water my garden all summer with my water collection which saved me a bit of money as well as being more environmentally friendly.

Used Soilless Mixture In My Veggie Patch

As my soil in the backyard is not that great, I decided to use the Square Foot gardening method. This meant that I used Mel’s Mixture which is a combination of compost, peat moss and vermiculite. Because it doesn’t have any dirt, I ended up with a weed free garden which meant that I had more spare time to do other things other than weeding which is not my favourite part of gardening.

Bought Some Good Bugs To Keep Down Plant Eating Bugs

I knew lady bugs and praying mantis bugs were good for my garden however I didn’t even realize that I could buy them online. As I didn’t want to use pesticides on my garden, I choose to get rid of my bugs with these good for the garden bugs. I ordered my bugs online and spaced out when they were shipped so that I had a healthy supply to keep the pesky bug population down in my garden.

I have found that growing my own produce in my organic garden is very rewarding. I am able to provide healthy, nutritious veggies that I knew are pesticide free while also saving me money on my grocery bill. If you are looking for a way to cut costs or you just want to be healthy, I highly suggest starting your own veggie garden.

Lasagna Gardening

Anyone who has tried lasagna gardening will be sure to tell you how much easier it is than traditional methods of preparing soil.  It is a procedure for building up soil, usually in a raised bed for a flower or vegetable garden, that basically involves layering different organic materials on top of each other – perhaps separated by cardboard or newspaper – in a manner similar to making a Lasagna.

Making a lasagna garden is a great way to build quality soil for your vegetable garden on the cheap.  Rather than buying expensive soil mixes from Home Depot or Lowes, you can just deposit the basic ingredients of a soil mix into your garden bed and let the processes of nature take care of mixing them together over time.  Earthworms and bacteria work for free after all!

If you have ready access to free materials such as compost, lawn clippings, manure and dead leaves, your soil will be practically free.  Even if you don’t you will find that purchase compost to supplement what you do have is a lot cheaper than filling an entire bed with expensive Miracle Gro.

A great thing about a no dig gardening method like this is you can just do it on top of an existing lawn area.  Simply start with a layer of cardboard to slow down the lawns growth – this should keep it under control until it gives up on trying to grow back and dies due to the lack of sunlight.

A great benefit of lasagna gardening to create a raised bed is that all your gardening will be done a foot or two above the ground.  This eliminates a lot of the crouching involved in most gardening, and makes life a lot easier on your back.  When I used to do row vegetable gardening I would dread getting outside and pulling weeds, as my back would always complain about it the next day!

Lasagna GardeningLayering with cardboard is great for the aisles between raised beds too.  Weeds will grow anywhere given half a chance, but placing a sheet of cardboard between seeds and sunlight will prevent many of them ever seeing the light of day.

Whether you are a new vegetable gardener getting involved in square foot gardening, or just looking for an easy way to expand your beds, lasagna gardening is well worth looking into!  I recommend this book if you want more information.

 

 

 

Square Foot Gardening

One gardening method I have found really useful when space is limited is the technique of square foot gardening.  Pioneered by Mel Bartholomew in the 1980s, there are a series of books available explaining the tips and tricks to making Square Foot Gardening work for you, I recommend this one, the All New Square Foot Gardening book.

Basically, the system consists of using small footprint raised beds for your veggie gardening.  By training your vegetables to grow vertically you can really squeeze a large crop into a relatively small area.  The value of this is obvious if you are one of those people who has a very small yard! Some people recommend the use of Lasagna Gardening techniques when building small raised beds, but this is optional.

As well as being a great way to overcome space constraints, this ‘technology’ has many other benefits.  Firstly, it is a lot easier to work a raised bed garden than it is to work the more traditional rows.  Since they are raised you will find you do not have to bend so far to pull weeds, eliminate bugs, etc…  Also, since they are relatively small, you can easily weed a significant fraction of your gardening space in a very short period of time.

Square foot gardening is great for companion planting too.  Since everything is growing quite close together – the plantings are done in a square formation rather than a row – you can easily gain the benefits of companion plantings.  For example, sewing a crop of carrots in your tomato bed will yield you a nice harvest of carrots before the tomato plants grow large enough to crowd them out.

Water savings are another plus.  You quite simply need less water to water a small garden.  Also, it is a lot cheaper to setup an irrigation system for a square foot garden than it is for row upon row of traditional gardens – the amount of hose and sprinklers needed is greatly reduced.  If you go the irrigation route you can setup an automated watering solution, which can be very handy if you are as bad at remembering to water your vegetable garden as I am!

Mels Square Foot Gardening books are listed here.  I personally recommend the  system as a great way to enhance your gardening enjoyment.  More detailed information on this type of gardening here.