Monthly Archives: February 2016

Organic GardeningIn this age of global warming of our planet, increasing pollution and fast food, many people no longer are confident of fresh products that are offered as many try to exert some control over what they eat.

Similarly, chemicals that have been used for so long within gardens are no longer accepted as the only means of channeling the vicissitudes of nature.

One of the key ways to improve our environment (and our health) is to 'be organic. "

Why organic gardening?

Organic gardening is one that uses only naturally occurring materials and does not use artificial fertilizers or chemicals.

Try to work with nature rather than against it.

Advantage

Organically grown foods taste better than those grown with artificial fertilizers.

Costs: the organic material can be created by returning all waste back to the land, which is a cheap process compared to Inorganic which tend to be way more expensive in the long run.

Same with chemical sprays, If an orchard where parasites do not prove a problem is created, it saves a lot in the cost of chemicals.

Another advantage is that by adding organic material to Earth, it keeps getting better, pitching chemicals ultimately impoverishes the soil.

The size of the fruits of an organic garden are usually larger and higher quality.

Tips for planning organic garden

The first step to take when planning a garden is to make a list of what you want from it, imagine what you can achieve within the space and time available.

Once you have determined the priorities, then its time to situate or organize space available within that garden.

Some areas will be sunnier, others will have better land or soil, some spots much more humid and so on.

To cultivate a good garden you will have to look for the best position in relation to the sun and air.

If weeds grow better in one part than another, this may mean that the land is better there, Note the areas which have sun all day or only a partial day.

Caring for the Earth

Land is the most important part of your garden, the soil composition varies so keep a watch for this variance.

Sandy soils are very light and friable and easily drain.

The clay is formed consists of fine particles that stick together creating the stickiness characteristic of the clay. Clay drains very slowly, so clay soils create a wet and slippery environment in which few plants feel comfortable. Sticky and dry land is also very difficult to work.

Between these two types, clay and sandy soils can be improved simply by addition of fertile mulch.

A soil may be acidic or alkaline. The relative acidity / alkalinity of the soil pH is measured on a scale of 0 to 14 where 7 is neutral.

For the best organic garden soil it should be on the acid side of neutral point, at point 6.5, Below that the soil is too acidic and will not allow some minerals that plants need.

But clay soils, sandy, alkaline or acid can be modified.

Another consideration of soil structure is its profile. usually in a garden the topsoil contains the best land. The layer beneath it is known as groundwater. And below this is the true underground.
It is essential to keep these layers in their respective places.

Identification of layers of earth

Surface layer: is the darkest and richest part of the garden profile. It is where plants grow mainly and also where the most worms, bacteria and insects reside, many of them beneficial for plant growth.

Finally we must consider the area of hardness which can occur between the different soil layers. This is a correctable problem if it is not known early, If not correct it may compromise ones digging depth.

Soil analysis

To find out if your garden soil is clayey or sandy place a sample of it in a jar with water then shake it up, allow the different components to settle in layers and any organic material will float to the top.

For their ability to retain or lose water, dig a hole depth of a shovel and fill with water. Allow to drain and refill the hole. If that water disappears quickly that means that the soil drains well too. On the other hand if you still there after a few hours or even days it is clear that it is blocked to the opposite extreme.

If it disappears on a regular basis in half an hour or so, then its usage and capacity is correct.

There are several natural indicators of acidity or alkalinity of your soil. For example, if ferns are rowing in your garden or rhododendrons this means the soil is acidic.

Improve the land

Once the soil is analyzed only then will it be possible to see what can be done to improve it.

In light soils, such as gritty, its best to add decomposed organic material, this will help retain moisture and also provide nutrients for plants.

Clay soils are more problematic to treat, especially because they are hard and difficult to work. To improve it, you must add stones (gravel), because it improves drainage, separates the soil and makes it easier to work.

You can also add ash burnt weeds, organic material in the form of manure or poultry manure also help transform the ground into a lighter medium. Worms will constantly break it up and mix with the ground, worms will mulch most of the new layer down so that the original ground becomes fertile and usable again.

Sewer system

Drainage is an important part of improving the your soil. In the waterlogged terrain you can add gravel but if it's a serious problem with water stagnating after each downpour, you must install a proper drainage system.

This is done by digging ditches in the form of drainage pipes.

Cover with small stones or simply fill trenches with gravel covered rubble.

An alternative is to use water to create a pond then install water drainage pipes.

Gardening is not just about planting seeds and then sit back and wait for the harvest. In between these two events weeds try to colonize the bare soil and crop eating bugs seek these succulent plants.

Gardener job is to prevent this from happening.

For some, hoeing and weeding can be a very relaxing and not to mention therapeutic. When control of weeds or soil balance is lost, the gardening becomes a battle.

The secret is "little and often". If time permits devote an hour a day.

Another obstacle will be nature, it tends to get in the way of the gardener with occasional bad weather.

You can take steps to minimize their effect:

Wind

Creates several problems. First the wind can easily bring down the whole garden bed.

Windbreaks is something to consider in setting up any garden, although it may not be essential if you live in an urban area where the buildings protect it from the wind, but in rural areas it can be vital.

The best windbreaks are those that allow air to seep through. Although a wall or a fence will have a solid look and seem the best against strong winds, actually they cause much turbulence that can be as devastating as the wind itself.

A row of trees allows the wind to seep through naturally.

A much quicker solution is to build a fence to allow the wind to pass through it, It can be built of wood or bamboo.

A modern alternative is to use screens, sold especially for this. this type of wind shield must be firmly anchored in the ground and need to be renewed or replaced from time to time.

A hedge creates a perfect barrier slowing the wind causing it to seep through at a moderate stream.

Cold

The cold is not bad during the winter. It helps break down and kill the bugs that have surfaced. But when spring starts and you have started plantations, frost can be a killer or at very least a hindrance.

The gaps can be covered with metal or fabric, place a fence or a hedge at an angle across the slope above the frost hole so that the cold air is diverted to one side and go elsewhere. A row of shrubs or curve as V uphill also divert cold air frost.

It is always advisable to have a flower garden near a field of vegetables. In some cases it may even help to mix the two.

An alternative preferred by many organic gardeners is to create a series of raised beds, each with one type or more of vegetables, planted in blocks rather than in rows.

Some plants grow better in containers or trays for planting later.

It is best to plant on cold days, preferably if there is a possibility that a light rain may fall. The damp and cold help the plant survive.

Cemetery Rose CollectionsOne of the spring activities which I notably enjoy doing is to seek out the older cemeteries in our area and seeing what manner of antique roses are growing wild there. These beautiful but forgotten rose beauties are not restricted to cemeteries alone but can occasionally be discovered in the yards of old abandoned houses as well as in unused vacant lots. The sad part of this is that these wonderful plants have been forsaken by their planter and the rest of society.

Preserving heritage roses found in the local graveyards can readily reveal hundreds of antique and old garden rose varieties and in some cases rare specimens that are difficult or near impossible to obtain. Emphasis is usually placed upon those roses which are retrieved from abandoned sites, homesteads, cemeteries or along roadsides throughout the nation.

The one training topic which I have found to be lacking is the availability of hands-on workshops which deal with the topics of pruning climbing roses and re-rooting them. Remember some of the tales you heard years ago on how so and so would place a small rose stem into the ground and over it place a Mason jar to encourage growth? Or perhaps you recall the story of the early pioneers as they made their way out west in their covered wagons and bringing with them their cuttings from their favorite rose bushes? To me growing roses from cuttings has always provided an appreciation of the plant. I see nothing complicated about taking a small rose cutting and rooting it in order to start a new plant. Naturally there are various means at our disposal to accomplish this task. It has been said that some people might get their kicks by "rose rustling" at one of the deserted cemeteries in the area. I am one of those people. Although most roses have a scientific name and to be proper and correct you should label your rose with its scientific name, I like to christen the roses which I stumble upon with that name of the deceased person where it was discovered. If I find a rose bush on the gravesite of Joe Smith than I fittingly name it out of respect to the deceased the Joe Smith Rose.

Nothing in life is free and even though you may think that those rose cutting obtained from a cemetery are without cost they are not. In the interest of good will and playing our part in beautifying the older cemeteries and grave, I like to prune and clean up the rose bushes which I find. I do not just take a single cutting from the rose bush but rather give it a manicured look when I am finished. The managers who oversee the cemetery where the roses are will greatly appreciate the time expended to clean up a few gravesites. This is a good policy to follow and ensures that future rose hunters will be welcomed with open arms. Personally, I would not be opposed for the management of these graves to create their own rose plants and sell them in order to generate enough funds to help with garden maintenance, irrigation and repairing of damaged headstones.

Incidentally, years ago I had a lawn service and we specialized in lawn care for cemeteries. In order to win the contracts we would need to provide a million dollar insurance policy in the event we caused any damage to the headstones. We are lucky at this time that we as rose collectors do not have to comply with this sort of directive. Please do not ruin it for others and take care in all you do in collecting your rose cuttings.

Various historic rose collections often include several species of roses which are native to your particular part of the country. Rose lovers who discover these surviving roses which have been neglected and abandoned frequently will trim the plant and take cutting from their castoff branches. These cuttings will eventually grow and can be planted elsewhere. It is totally possible that you may find some unidentified cultures of roses which are unknown of in our modern times.

Who knows what you may find hidden in these graveyards. Perhaps you will uncover a unique seedling which will grow for many years and continuously bears huge clusters of flowers as it develops with its strong fragrance and odor. One rose bush I saw had grown into an unattractively shaped shrub which stood approximately five feet tall and as much as six feet wide. It was totally out of control. If you wish to keep your bush small you can prune and shape it as you please.

Once you have obtained your rose cuttings from the cemetery you can consider propagating them. Here are a few important tips to ensure that your cuttings take root.

When making your rose cuttings make sure to use very sharp cutters or you will risk crushing your rose stem. Make sure that all of the cuttings you obtain are from young but firm stems. These could be those stems where the flowers are beginning to fade or even from the fallen rose petals found around the plant. On some rose plants you may wish to use the stems from where the flowers have begun to fade in the springtime. Always keep your cuttings moist and provide good air circulation and plenty of sunlight. When you take your cuttings allow about 6 inches of stem with at least 3 bud eyes.

Roses tend to root better if you obtain cuttings which still have leaves attached. This will provide valuable sugars resulting from photosynthesis for root development. I like being safe and allow three leaves to stay upon the cut stem. When collecting keep a small spray bottle filled with water handy in order to mist your cuttings as you work on them. This will keep them in a fresh state since wilted rose cuttings usually will not root properly.

Roses represent an incredible plant species which is capable of forming roots from any bud eye along its stems. What this means to a collector is that where you make a cut is really immaterial. Often people will "wound" the plant at the base of the cutting by making a 1-inch vertical slice through the stem. Another method that is popular is to slice a strip of the stem from several sides of the base of the plant with a common nail clipper. Difficult to grow varieties often will benefit from such wounding as it sends out new roots along the cut of the wound.

Most roses will root without the benefit of plant growth compounds or rooting powders. The cuttings from roses contain a root promoting compound known as auxin. This product is created by the leaves or the growing buds and shoots tips. This compound collects at the base of the cutting at a point along the stem where the plants roots start to form. Those roses which fail to produce a sufficient quantity of this auxin chemical will usually find it is too difficult to root. This is the reason that many rose growers employ a commercial root growing compound.

One of the major factors which contribute to successful rooting of your cuttings is providing adequate amounts of moisture within the plants soil as well as in the surrounding air. Planting soil is very important to your roses. The medium which I found to be successful in rooting rose cuttings consists of a 50-50 blend of perlite and potting soil. This soil composition encourages root development and produces healthy plants. Some people prefer the simpler routine and merely place their cuttings in some moistened sand or a fine potting soil than they cover the pots with a zip-loc bag. I like to use and inverted soft drink bottle which has had the top portion cut off. This creates a miniature greenhouse and maintains a high humidity for the cuttings.

Let's now talk about the light requirements for the plants. Roses often tend to root better when they are placed under a bright light. A word of caution is necessary at this point. If you are using the miniature greenhouse method you must ensure that you avoid overheating the plants and provide adequate shade from the hotter afternoon sun. This is easily accomplished by placing your cuttings in a shaded area perhaps against a northern facing wall of your home or even beneath a tree.

You can not just go out and start cutting up the rose bushes as you please. Most rose cuttings are best accomplished in the spring or early summer season. The weather should be warm but not extremely hot. Naturally you can successfully root during just about any time of the year however be aware that it can take longer and your successful rooting may diminish in numbers. If rooted during the months of May or beginning of June you should have a good root system within a matter of two weeks. Any variety of rose is able to be rooted within a time frame of four weeks. The process may take longer if accomplished at different times of the year and might even take as much as eight weeks. Additionally, 100 degree intense summer heat is not conducive for rose cuttings or are the colder 32 degree and below winter temperatures.

Let's discuss several methods of rooting your rose plants. The first way to grow your rose cuttings is to simply stick the rose cutting in the ground without covering it. This method works exceptionally well in mild climate areas of the country. As a beginner perhaps the easiest way to grow you rose cuttings are with a mason jar. As the method says you do not need much equipment other than a quart size glass jar. A 2-liter plastic soda bottle with the bottom removed will also work well. Cut your rose stem to about 6 inches and remove the leaves from the very bottom. Stick several inches of the stem into the ground and cover the stem with the jar or the soda bottle. Periodically provide water to the soil surrounding the jar or your stem will dry out and die. In a few months your rose will take root and start showing new leaf development.

Another popular method of propagating rose plants is known as the baggie method. I have used this method to generate both lemon and orange seeds in the past. The process is actually very simple. Fill a 2-inch plastic pot with a good quality potting soil and insert the stem partway down into the pot. Place the pots into a one-gallon zip-lock bag and you sit back and wait. If you are planting more than one stem you can safely put four 2-inch pots into one gallon bag. It may also be of help if you place a few small sticks inside the bag to keep it upright and away from your stems.

In order to tell if your cutting is successful and has rooted properly you can lightly tug on the plant and if you feel any resistance it has developed a strong root system. If you happen to see roots growing from the drainage hole at the pot's bottom you can rest assured that it has rooted. If you see new leaves on your cutting than it has rooted sufficiently.

Once the rose cuttings have properly rooted they can be removed from the rooting space and hardened off for several days. This is done by placing the rose pots in a shady location where they will be undisturbed and protected from strong sun. Do not move them immediately into an area of hot sunshine as this will likely kill your new plants. As soon as they have developed a good root system and are displaying signs of developing new growth you can safety move them to an area of the sun light.

Now you can sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor knowing that you have done a great service to the deceased by cleaning their gravesite rose bush and preserving the heritage rose you found.

Conservatory to Your HomeAs home is a place that we spend most of our leisure time, therefore making it a relaxing and enjoyable place is paramount. For those who have a garden and like to experience some of the pleasures of the outdoors whilst indoors, adding a conservatory or an orangery to your property is a great idea.

There are several specific benefits to having such an extension to your property; the first one is that it can actually add significant amount of value to your home. If you have the space for it and you have an enjoyable view to the exterior of your property, a conservatory is considered a highly desirable feature for many. This is especially true if your conservatory gets a lot of natural light.

It is true that the amount of value that your conservatory or orangery adds will all depend on the quality of design and build. There are many leading companies such as Ultraframe that are dedicated to supplying high quality frames and stunning finishes that will leave a strong positive impression on not only you, but anyone who decides to buy your property at a later date.

The next major advantage of having this kind of extension is that it adds a great deal of natural light to your home. This is especially a benefit if you live in one of the darker countries in the Northern Hemisphere such as the UK. Many of us enjoy the outdoors, but the disadvantage is that the weather does not always permit us to.

Having a conservatory or orangery can allow you to appreciate your garden and the outdoors while not being subject to the chilly temperatures and bad weather in your country at certain times of the year. It can also provide an excellent place to grow plants if you do not have a greenhouse, due to the excellent heat and light conditions.

The third benefit of building a conservatory is that it is actually a more cost-effective option than building an extension. Many people want to enjoy more space in their homes, and feel that adding an extension is the best way to do this. This can be costly however, due to the large amount of brickwork required.

A conservatory is an affordable alternative, and for other reasons listed in this article can actually be a very desirable one. Cheaper than an actual extension and allowing more natural light in as well as a view of your garden, it may be the perfect option for your home.

The fourth benefit is that it allows you to enjoy far more space in your home. This is closely linked with the advantage listed above in that such a construction is a very cost-effective type of extension. For growing families or for those who want to simply have more space on their property, conservatories can be a great idea.

Unlike other functional rooms in the home, a conservatory manufactured by top companies such as Ultraframe can provide the perfect relaxation area, where it is possible to appreciate your garden in natural light without the bustle and heavy traffic of other areas of the home.

This relaxing space is a welcome addition to any home and therefore it is well worth considering adding a conservatory or an orangery to your property if you have the space and the budget for it. High quality conservatories from leading companies such as Ultraframe do not have to be expensive either, and actually are a very cost effective option compared to actual property extensions.

If you are interested in this option for your home, it is advised to contact your local conservatory specialist in order to discover the ideal conservatory or orangery to meet your needs and tastes.

 

BroccoliFor those who are interested in gardening and want to explore the different ways of growing plants, aquaponics is a method that deserves some strong consideration. Aquaponics, as the name suggests, involves the use of the aquatic ecosystem to grow plants and also breed aquatic animals. In a way, it aims to recreate the aquatic ecosystem in order for the plants and animals to grow as nature intended..

If you are interested in starting an aquaponics system, then there are some things that you should take into consideration. Just as there are selected plants that grow on specific mediums, the aquaponics medium, too, has some specifications. In this article, we take a look at what plants can be grown on a hydrated medium, so that you can be well informed before you start your own aquaponics practice.

Plants That Can Be Grown with Aquaponics

There are a number of plants that can be grown with aquaponics. These are of different classes and types, which makes the entire system more versatile and better suited for an increase in yield. The plants that thrive best in an aquatic medium are:

Cruciferous Plants: The aquaponics system is best suited for cruciferous plants. These include:

  1. Broccoli
  2. Lettuce
  3. Cauliflower
  4. Beans

Nightshades: The second category of plants that have a great success rate in an aquaponics medium are the nightshades. These are:

  1. Tomatoes
  2. Capsicum and other bell pepper varieties
  3. Egg plant

Herbs: Other than the vegetables that we have covered in the above two points, the aquaponics system is also great for the cultivation of some herbs. These include:

  1. Basil
  2. Watercress
  3. Coriander
  4. Lemongrass
  5. Parsley
  6. Sage

Salad Variants: If you are someone who is living the healthy life and eating a lot of salads to keep you refreshed throughout the day, then aquaponics is your friend. This is because there are a lot of varieties of vegetables such as red salad onions, shallots, snow peas and tomatoes that can be grown in this way. Along with the cruciferous vegetables, all of this produce can be perfect for those looking to lead a healthier life.

Flowers for Increased Gardening Success: Those who have been cultivating plants in the aquaponics medium are well aware that sometimes you need to add a little something to the environment to allow it to yield better produce.

For this purpose, you can plant a variety of roses in your hydrated ecosystem. Roses are one of the those plants that can help increase your overall vegetable yield without depleting any of the essential nutrients in the aquatic ecosystem.

Moreover, aquaponic roses can ensure that your house stays fresh and fragrant at all times.

In this day and age where the market prices for vegetables keep going up, growing your own vegetables is a good alternative. The aquaponics system is one of the best ways for cultivating certain types of plants as it involves plants and aquatic animals in a mutually beneficial environment.

Being a self sustaining unit, this ecosystem is perfect for those looking for a way to reduce the cost of their grocery bills without sacrificing food quality. All in all, aquaponics is one of the most efficient and beneficial processes for growing your own vegetables.