Gardening Tips and Guides for Beginners

a fantastically lush green garden

When you buy a house the chances are, that you will also take on a garden. The house and garden together make one entity—the home. If you take a pride in your home, it is logical that you should also want to take pride in your garden. Your garden is yours and yours alone; you may do with it what you wish. You may leave it to become a wilderness—in which case it will probably reproach you as might an undusted living-room, or you can try to make it attractive—in which case it can become a rewarding hobby.

There is of course, a middle road. The making of a garden that gives the maximum of pleasure with the minimum of effort, and that is probably what most people want, right?

There is no mystery about gardening. There are no secret, rustic incantations to make things grow.

Successful gardening is simply a matter of deciding what you want to do, finding out how to do it, and then doing it, preferably in the right sequence of events, and, also preferably, at the right season.

Gardening Intel: An Introduction

This website is not a comprehensive treatise embracing the whole of horticulture. Its aim is to show every gardener, whether keen or reluctant, how to achieve a garden that is colorful and fruitful with the minimum expenditure of time, money and effort.

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No matter whether the garden is a pocket handkerchief plot or a couple of acres, whether it is an established garden or merely the bare earth the builders left behind, the articles available on this website give you all the information you need to turn it into something attractive. If the simple, practical advice in the articles is followed, even the most unpromising site can be turned into a place of beauty and enjoyment.

It is often said that what the keen gardener is striving to do is to recreate an earthly paradise. In other words, attempting to create his own private Garden of Eden. And in this age of noisy machinery, jangling phones, whirring computers, aggressive competition and frayed nerves, there is indeed a need for some such dream. Perhaps that is why gardening is now one of the most popular hobbies of all.

But there are other reasons too…

You see, a garden can be more than just a background to living. It actually can be a challenging and rewarding pastime. Apart from the pleasures of growing flowers larger and more colorful than your neighbor’s, there are also the rewards of growing fruit and vegetables both cheaper and tastier than those you can buy in the stores and markets.

Gardening is indeed all things to all men.

Garden Design

a very pretty garden design

Designing a garden is a fascinating occupation but it calls for a lot of patience and while it is sometimes excitingly rewarding, it is often frustratingly disappointing. Very few people can choose what they consider the ideal site for a garden, whether it’s an existing garden or merely a rectangle of land left by the builder, or a sea of mud and lumps of brick and concrete.

Most of us have to live near our work and acquire the house that is available and within our means. The exceptions are the retired people, who may be able to live where they choose, but the majority of us have to come to terms with what we’ve got and a compromise must be reached between the ideal and the reality. It’s no good pining for a garden of rhododendrons and azaleas, unless your soil is lime- free, nor striving after superb roses and delphiniums if you have a light, acid soil.

What Sort Of A Garden Do You Want?

If you are young, with small children, a garden that can be played in without causing too much damage will save a lot of heartbreak and scolding. Balls don’t always go where they are hit or kicked, and broken glass and smashed tulips will result in tears. Much the same applies to animals.

Little children love sandpits, climbing frames and swings, and while these may not improve the view from the house, it saves mother a lot of worry if she can watch the family at play. If there is space for a terrace this is always worthwhile. You can have meals outside in the summer, a place for a pram or even a play area when the grass is damp.

Gardening Recommendations for Older Senior Citizens

On the other hand if you are retired, you must face the fact that at 85, you won't feel energetic as you do at 65 and a lot of mowing, hedge trimming and fiddly weeding will be tiring chores. After all, gardens are for relaxing, so think ahead and aim for more flowering shrubs and plants that need no staking. Consider a raised flower bed that will save kneeling. A small greenhouse is also recommended and will provide hours of happy occupation.

Building a Boundary for your Garden

a solid wall as garden boundary

The boundary of your garden is probably the first consideration. It may already exist. If not, it can be a wall, a fence, a hedge or just wire netting. To inherit a wall is wonderful. To build one is costly because to be of real value, it needs to be at least 2m/6ft high. However, there are so many marvelous plants that will grow up a wall or under its protection.

There are a number of composition blocks on the market from which it is possible to construct a highly decorative and very satisfactory wall at less cost than using bricks. And the great advantage is that it requires no maintenance! From the gardener's point view, a fence is probably the next best thing. It doesn’t take up a lot of space, it is easy to fix things to and it keeps out the next door weeds. Though it will need a certain amount of maintenance and will not last a lifetime.

Hedges make delightful backgrounds to herbaceous borders but they have disadvantages. They have to be kept cut and they tend to grow around 24-36 inches wide. Weeds lodge at their roots and they take a lot of goodness from the soil around them. A wire fence is fine if you don't object to your neighbors’ weeds, cats or children’s toys coming through, or if you don’t mind a lack of privacy. Plants can grow close to it and climbers trail over it so that in summer, at least, it will be more or less invisible.

The largest area of any garden is usually the lawn. It is very much simpler to mow in straight lines so a simple rectangle makes for least work, but it is also rather dull and a pleasantly curved edge to the grass seems to make the area look larger. The thing that really makes for hard work is a lot of little beds cut into the lawn or single trees and shrubs that have to be mown round.

Ponds in the Garden

a very beautiful garden pond

Everyone is fascinated by water and a garden with natural water is a delight, but small ponds have drawbacks. A toddler can fall, hit his head on a stone and drown in a few inches of water. If this is not a problem, there are many charming plants for a water garden and the sound of a little, bubbling fountain is very pleasant on a hot day. For fuller details of water and its uses, check out this article.

Building Garden Rockeries

Rockeries are a very popular garden feature. They can be extremely beautiful, especially in spring, if they are well constructed and designed to fit into the contours of the garden. The bad thing about rockeries though is they can all too easily become a jumble of any available rocks and stones, piled together with no thought as to the strata of the rock, nor the need for leaving suitable areas for planting.

If you want a rockery, it is best to consult someone who really knows or make a careful study of it before you start to build. I’ll tell you the basic information, which is covered in this article.

Weeding a rockery can be a problem. Roots get wedged under rocks or entwined with a spreading mass of rock plant. A peat garden built of peat blocks might be a simpler alternative, and it offers a wonderful opportunity for growing a wide variety of fascinating and unusual plants.

Planning Your Garden Layout

A vegetable garden, however small, is a very good idea, even if it only produces lettuces and herbs. With a large family and a small garden, unless you are prepared to give up most of the ground, it is hardly worthwhile attempting to grow more than salad crops and herbs. Still, two people can grow enough for their needs in quite a small space. Having decided on the type of layout you want, don’t be too impatient.

Make quite sure you know which parts of the garden get full sunshine and which areas are shady and, if possible, whether you have any frost pockets. Your house will probably face at least partially south, so that the area opposite the house will face north and will not get so much sun. You will want shade but site any tree you plant carefully and make sure that you know how big it will grow.

A weeping willow charmingly delicate when young will all too quickly develop a twenty foot spread and a silver birch will grow to 15m/50ft. There are plenty of small trees to choose from. Evergreens and conifers, used sparingly, give color in the winter and there are many very attractive dwarf varieties of conifer in all shades of green.

Shrubs are labor-saving and carefully chosen will provide color throughout the year. If they are planted in groups, 'bays’ can be left for herbaceous plants, bulbs and annuals. It is an excellent idea to go round any gardens in your district that are open and look at what your neighbors grow successfully.

One can get good ideas from other peoples’ successful planting and owners and gardeners are usually only too happy to share their knowledge and experience. Wherever possible buy from a local nursery or garden center as the plants will have been raised in similar conditions.

Make sure that you know the maximum size of what you are buying and remember that plants don’t grow very much for the first two years, but that then they will suddenly get big. It’s so much easier to add new plants than to decide what to dig up and the gaps can always be filled with bulbs and annuals.

Planting Pointers

When planting a garden there are a few points worth bearing in mind. Straight lines look horrible unless you want a totally formal and immaculately kept garden or go in for carpet bedding. Groups of flowers of the same kind or of the same color make a far greater impact than single blobs of color, and three plants triangled together will not only support each other, but if one fails to do well the others will help fill the gap.

Blue and mauve are colors that will fade into the background and can give an impression of depth, while white and yellow flowers 'come forward’ and will shine against a dark background. Color combinations are very much a matter of taste and while no colors in nature can be said to clash, some are certainly more effective together than others.

If you can imagine the colors of the rainbow i.e. violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red carefully graded into each other and forming a circle, you will find that any color will blend well with the colors next to it and make a splendid contrast with the color diametrically opposite. Think, too, in terms of seasons.

A group of spring flowers will look much more striking than a patch here and there, and a small area devoted to winter flowering plants will be much more noticeable than peering for little bits all over the place. A small conifer, some winter flowering heathers and a plant or two of the lovely green Helleborus foetidus will give color on dark days and last well into the spring.

Daffodils are a joy. We can’t all have orchards full of them, though where possible they look best coming naturally out of grass. Keep them in loose clumps so that grass or soil shows between them. They will look much prettier than in a solid yellow mass. Don’t be afraid to plant your early flowering plants and bulbs at the back of a border. The other plants will not have grown big enough to hide them and when they are over, you won’t be left with an untidy patch in the front.

If you love tiny, unusual plants that are such fun to collect, keep a special place where they can all grow together, otherwise they get lost and dug up or overtaken by larger neighbors. If the site on which your garden is to be made already has some natural feature e.g. an old tree or a mound or hollow, leave it, if possible. It will look much more attractive than something ‘contrived.’ An old fruit tree may not produce much fruit, but the blossom will be lovely and a Clematis montana or Rosa filipes will romp through branches.

The Advantages of Growing Your Own Vegetables

growing your own vegetables is advatageous

As the population continues to rise in almost every part of the world, the necessity for increased food production becomes obvious. The price of vegetables in shops and markets is a further great incentive to gardeners to grow edible crops instead of cultivating almost exclusively ornamental subjects. Beyond these motives, there is the question of freshness and flavor, experienced at their best with produce newly harvested from your own garden.

In addition, the vegetable grower can select his own varieties, choosing those subjects which he and his family like, and those having nutritional and vitamin values. It is no more difficult to grow the best varieties than those of poor quality. By careful planning it is possible to obtain a continuous supply of vegetables throughout most of the year, particularly if care is taken to store the right crops for use in mid-winter.

There is also a great deal of satisfaction to be gained from eating fresh food which you have grown yourself. There can be very few people who do not eat some vegetables, for apart from those that are eaten raw, there are others that can be canned, frozen, boiled, stewed or fried. We use various parts of vegetable plants including roots or bulbs, stems, leaves, seeds such as garden peas and broad beans from the pod, and fruits—notable examples of the latter being cucumbers, sweet corn and tomatoes.

Superstitious Beliefs about Vegetables

A number of vegetables are natives of widely separated parts of the world. Potatoes, sweet corn and tomatoes come from South America, onions originated in Egypt, radishes and soybeans were known in China centuries ago, carrots are said to have come from Greece, while the lettuce was known to the ancient Romans.

With such examples of the background of some of our popular vegetables, it is hardly surprising that many stories and superstitions have arisen, some of which make interesting reading even if these days they sound a little farfetched. We can mention only a few beliefs once held by many people.

Silly Beliefs Regarding Onions

some fresh onions

Some people claim that onions are capable of remedying a range of health symptoms such as headaches and earache. The method for addressing the former is to slice an onion bulb in a half and then apply it on the patient’s forehead. As for the latter, an onion needs to be well roasted beforehand. The heart of the roasted onion is then removed and then placed directly into the patient’s ear. The truth is, the heart of the roasted onion did not remedy the earache–chances were, it was the warmth that helped.

When it comes to treating baldness, there was this old Oxfordshire suggestion that some raw onion juice should be applied directly onto the balding patch. Of course, this suggestion is simply way off and a person with hair loss disorder should not even bother giving it a try.

And that’s not all…

Apparently, people of centuries ago even used onions to put the holy fear in witches! What they did was hung a bunch of onions on their doorways. Another silly belief concerning onions is that in the old says, girls were encouraged to consume large amounts of raw ones in order to better their chances of finding a suitor. This belief is very funny, especially when you consider that onion has a rather unpleasant scent. How on earth it was associated with bringing about feelings of love, I cannot begin to fathom.

The Rhubarb as Remedy and Decorative Piece

One of the most obscure vegetables in the world is the rhubarb, which was once regarded as a fruit. Chinese people in the 27th century BC made use of it as remedy for various ailments. The rhubarb has been used for many centuries, but people only started growing them for cooking in around the early 19th century. According to a number of really old gardening literatures, the rhubarb was grown for ornamental reasons. Its tall spike of whitish-yellow flowers was regarded as its most desirable characteristic.

Silly Beliefs Regarding Potatoes

When potatoes were first brought into Europe, people of that time did not include them in their everyday diet. Instead, potatoes were used to feed livestock. At the time, some people actually refused to consume animals which had been fed potatoes. These people believed that potatoes are a source of fevers and leprosy, and those who ate potato-fed livestock could easily be infected by the aforementioned illnesses.

The consumption of potatoes eventually became widespread thanks to King Louis XVI of France. He was one of the first persons to popularize them. In fact, King Louis XVI didn’t just consume the potatoes, he also instructed his gardeners to plant them in large sections of his garden because he was fascinated by the flowers that bloomed from the potato plants.

During the Napoleon Bonaparte era, it was said that love potions were conceived using potatoes! There are tales floating about of Josephine who consumed a love potion, in addition to numerous single women at court in search of a suitor.

Silly Beliefs Regarding Tomatoes

lots of juicy tomatoes

Brought to England sometime in the year 1596 from South America, the general public only started to consume tomatoes in the 18th century. Since tomatoes are categorized as part of the lethal nightshade family of plants (most plants from this family are toxic), people of that time believed that they were completely unsafe. As a result, tomatoes were grown as decorative plants—also due in part to their attractive appearance and aroma.

The identity of the person who first tasted a tomato in England is never known, but sometime later, a new belief was brought out. This time, people believe that tomatoes were responsible for causing people to become very passionate–for a short period of time of course. As such, tomato was termed “love-apple.”

Actually, a number of common vegetables were at one point in the past, were linked with elements of romance. Nine peas in a pod for instance, were regarded as an indicator of good luck. So if a single woman discovered a pod, she would simply nail it over her home’s front door. The first guy who entered through that door would end up being her spouse. Of course the woman’s male relatives were ruled out!

Silly Beliefs Regarding Cabbage and Lettuce

During the medieval era, the juice of lettuce was utilized in the creation of charms as well as love potions. Women who were seeking a husband would consume plenty of raw lettuce in the hopes of boosting their appeal. Cabbage was extremely well regarded by the Romans, and they even incorporate this vegetable in their rich mythology.

It is said that during Roman orgies, one could find several sizeable bowls containing raw wet cabbage leaves set on the table. The Romans would consume the leaves in between bouts of joyful wine consumption. The reason the Romans did this was because they thought that the cabbage leaves had the ability to soaked up the fumes emitted by the wine, which means they would be able to go back home minus the alcohol on their breath.

The Healthier and Cheaper Approach

To come back to more practical things we find in vegetables something more than luxuries—we find food of the highest order, from which may be derived strength and good health. Today more than ever before, there is an appreciation of naturally grown fresh food coupled with an urge for self-sufficiency and a 'back-to-the-land' approach. This in part, is a reaction against processed and frozen convenience foods. In addition, the cost of buying vegetables rises continuously and we are now in a ‘belt-tightening’ era.

One does not need to be a financier to notice the difference in cost or a gourmet to appreciate the difference in taste between freshly harvested crops, and those that are wizened through having been gathered days previously. Most vegetables lose at least some of their vitamins as soon as they are gathered. Therefore, the sooner they are eaten, the more beneficial they will be for health and a well-balanced diet. When growing for the table, large size is not the criterion as it may be on the show bench.

Giant Brussels sprouts, huge beetroot, carrots and leeks are less likely to be as tasty as smaller specimens gathered and eaten when young. Very often vegetables are cooked far too long and may become tasteless and lose their vitamin value, especially cabbages which are a natural provider of vitamin C.

Growing Veggies Originating From All Parts of The World

Fortunately there are now very many varieties of cabbages. This means it is possible to have a supply throughout the year by selecting the right variety and sowing at different periods. It is pleasing to realize that while everyone cannot travel to far distant places, we can grow vegetables originating from all parts of the world.

While they may have been raised in greatly differing conditions from those in this country, a number of them are outstanding in growth and flavor. As we shall see in detail later, east meets west in the garden, through Japanese cucumbers, onions, winter radishes and melons.

From China come mung beans, Chinese mustard, Chinese cabbages such as ‘Pe tsai’ which are first class as a salad crop, or can be cooked like ordinary cabbage but with much less of an unpleasant ‘cabbagey’ smell.

The range of vegetables from the United States increases annually. Green celery, lettuce ‘Salad Bowl', tomato 'Big Boy’, various large pumpkins and squashes are all proving to be worth growing. Whether you grow the very new subjects from far distant places or rely on well-tried favorites, it is advisable to plan the garden so that gluts and shortages are avoided.

This means not only sowing little and often to spread out supplies, but making sure to grow certain items which will keep or store well. Whether or not vegetables are being stored for winter and spring use, the way the crop is harvested is of importance both for the actual plant, as well as the portion being taken off the plant.

Vegetables and Their Original Names

a bowl of fresh vegetables

As the result of official trials by experts from many countries, it has been decided that identical varieties of vegetables, known and grown under more than one name, must now be known by their original name. This means that some names we know so well are now not offered in seedsmen’s catalogues. This does not indicate that these favorite varieties have been discarded or are unsatisfactory, but simply that they are now offered under the name originally given to them.

For instance beetroot ‘Showbench’ should now be catalogued as 'New Globe’, lettuce ‘Sugar Cos’ as ‘Little Gem’ and Brussels sprouts ‘Continuity’ as 'Early Half Tall’. Although the loss of some favorite names will be regretted, it will avoid the possibility of growing two or more varieties of the same vegetable under different names, only to discover this when the crop matures.

Hydroponics Gardening

A different method of growing plants is known as hydroponics. In this method the soil is replaced with a water solution that has very similar nutrients to soil. There are some people that have never heard of or come across this method of plant production and think that method of cultivation is a new technique.

The fact is that it originated many hundreds of years ago; we know this thanks to historians and archaeologists, who found evidence of this method as far back in time as the Aztec period. The word hydroponics actually originated in Greece and means 'working water'.

Why Use It To Cultivate Plants?

There are more advantages to using the hydroponic technique for growing plants and vegetables than there are disadvantages. With this method you are never likely to over water your plants, which eventually causes the stems and roots to rot.

There are many pests and diseases that can destroy plants and crops associated with soil but are not found in water (the use of chemicals and pesticides is virtually nil). I am surprised that this method of growing crops is not more popular as it would be an ideal way of growing crops or flowers in areas that have poor soil, or the weather conditions are too harsh.

Hydroponics has proved to be a valuable teaching aid in schools and universities. Quite often when a teacher or lecturer is trying to describe the growing cycle of plants or bulbs, the only examples of this growth are diagrams in text books. By using this technique of growing plants in water students will be able to see each and every different growth stage for themselves in great detail.

Hydroponics is an amazing method of growing plants and crops, but not as good as it has been made out to be. If it was the best technique of producing crops then everyone would be using this method. The crops that are produced via this method do not taste any better than crops grown in soil and nor is the yield any greater.

Hydroponics is an alternative method of growing plants and crops where no other suitable growing material is available. It has been said though that it is a much cheaper way of producing fruit and vegetables, and if using this method on a large scale, one does not have to install expensive sprinkler systems to keep the plants watered in hot and sunny climates.

Homemade Hydroponics Systems

a mini hydroponics system

​If you are planning to construct or buy one of the various kits for homemade hydroponics, you should carefully think about what plants you will be growing as few home hydroponics systems are suitable for growing a wide range of crops.

If you are only just starting in gardening or you are considering an agricultural business using home hydroponics, then you will need a large amount of specialist equipment which is only really available from specialist stores. Unfortunately, even for the smallest systems, things can be rather expensive so careful consideration is required.

Getting Started With a Simple Setup

Firstly you will need the following basic equipment, a container (32 liter plastic tote) which will act as the main reservoir for the nutrient and mineral solution, a water pump to shift the solution around, an air pump to oxygenate the solution, another container(s) sufficiently sized to hold your individual plant containers, tubing and, finally, a timer device.

In the upper container you will need to create two holes, one is for the flood and drain and the other is a simple overflow tube. The drain and flood holes should be connected to the pump using a length of tube. Your pump should also be connected to the timer device.

Once you have the basic setup fixed together, and water tight, you will need to set the pump to work for half hour intervals four times daily. You should now have a complete homemade hydroponics system and all that is left to do is to learn how to use it.

Start Growing Your Plants

Firstly you will need to understand the basic elements concerning feeding plants, which is completely different to feeding plants in gardens. How you feed your plants depends greatly upon the exact type of crop you have decided to grow as specific species require differing levels of nutrients and minerals to grow well, and this balance may not be fixed during the plants life cycle.

Additional Equipment

Homemade hydroponics systems can be a little bit more difficult to control than a professionally built system. To grow plants well, you will need to keep a constant check on the nutrient and mineral levels so it is strongly advised that you purchase an EC meter and also a pH meter which makes the task far easier to perform, and using them means your measurements will be far more accurate.

Building a homemade hydroponics system is a relatively easy task to perform using specialist equipment. Some of the equipment can be bought elsewhere, such as aquarium water and air pumps, but some of the flood and drain fittings and the timers are best bought from somebody who understands your requirements.

Also, if you buy all your equipment from a single source you may be able to get a small discount or maybe a few things thrown in for free, there is certainly no harm in asking.

Aquaponics Gardening

Aquaponics gardening system enables us to obtain top-notch organic vegetables that we grow ourselves. In today’s unhealthy environment, getting quality natural produce is not as easy as it was in the past. To go on a healthy diet, that may actually cost us a fortune long-term wise. Cheap foods are easy on the wallet, but they tend to be really low in quality.

However with the introduction of aquaponics done at home, we can now get healthy food and save money at the same time. Yes, aquaponics gardening can be done in the comfort of your own home. Home aquaponics is almost similar to hydroponics but it is even better. It combines both agriculture (hydroponics gardening) and aquaculture (fish farming).

The concept of aquaponics is actually, very, very simple. You raise some fish in a sizeable tank. The fish will swim in the tank that has been cleared by the roots of the plants. Later, the water in the tank will contain enough nutrients from the fish waste to feed the plants.

In other words, the water in the fish tank will feed your edible crops. No pesticides or fertilizers needed, therefore allowing you to embark on a healthy, organic diet from the vegetables you grew yourself. This is the beauty of setting up an aquaponics system at your place of residence.

DIY home aquaponics gardening is actually a fun and relatively easy project. You can scale it up whenever you feel it is necessary to do so. Here’s a detailed step-by-step guide to help you get started.

After everything has been set up, you can watch you plants grow gradually but surely (as long as you maintain the system regularly). At the same time, your fish will also have adequate nutrients to feed on. The party that will benefit the most from this symbiosis is definitely you, of course!

You get to eat as much healthy veggies as you want, and what you are mainly required to do is grow the crops and raise the fishes at home. The plants and fish will be organic due to the absence of chemicals and pesticides. So those two things will never get the chance to ruin your health in the long term.

In addition, you do not need to spend so much money at the market anymore. Setting up your own aquaponics system will help you save money in the long run. You can get healthy vegetables at a lower cost than store-bought ones, plus the initial effort and investment to get the system up and running are not that high.

It is also easy to set up and even easier to care for. The system is pretty relaxing and quite enjoyable to maintain. So, why wait? Start your own home aquaponics system now so you get to eat loads of healthy veggies without spending a bomb, and make yourself proud because you actually grew those veggies yourself.

The Basics of Setting up The Proper Home Aquaponics System

a compact home aquaponics system

So, you are interested in home aquaponics because you know it can benefit both you and the environment. And you want to have one at your place. However, you are not sure how to set up even a basic system. Is it difficult? Can it really be done?

Yes, of course it can be done. Do not worry as setting up a DIY aquaponics system is not as difficult as you might think. Putting together a really basic system is almost as easy as setting up a fish aquarium.

The basic things that you need for conceiving an aquaponics system at home are a tank, a filter, a grow bed, a pump, water, and some plants. The first and one of the most important things is the tank. You need to prepare a clean tank for running the system.

Aquaponics tank setup may sound tedious and difficult, but it is really not that much of a fuss. It is just like setting up a fish tank aquarium. You just need to attach the filter to the tank and connect it to a tube.

After preparing the tank, you need to prepare the grow beds. Make small holes at the bottom of the grow beds, and also a hole at the back for you to insert a tube. This is to ensure that water can easily flow out from the grow beds.

Next, you have to submerge a pump into the tank and connect a couple of tubes. One tube is for directing water to the grow beds, while the other from the grow beds to the tank. Once you have done all those things I mentioned, it is time to fill the tank with water.

Prior to filling up the tank with water, you should keep in mind that the water level requirement will depend on size of the fish that you wish to put into the tank. Do not forget to add some chlorine before placing the fish into your tank. Also make sure you check the pH level from time to time. This is to make sure that your fish and plants are able to live well in the water tank.

Finally, after putting your fish into the tank, place your growing plants on the grow beds. Do this gently, as most of the initial dirty work is almost done here! No dirty fingers so make sure your hand are clean before handling the plants. Generally, it would take up to four weeks for the system to create suitable growing environment for the plants.

Now, you might be asking, what sort of fish should I use for my home aquaponics gardening system? Well, this system is ideal for using Coldwater fish. But there are folks out there who prefer to use freshwater fish for their DIY aquaponics setups. The choice is in yours really.

Hopefully this particular section has enabled you to become more informed concerning aquaponics gardening at home. Just remember that to make it work, you need to take action as soon as possible! In the coming months, you will be able to enjoy organic vegetables and thus get healthier each day.

Growing Indoor Houseplants

Indoor house plants add a touch of sophistication to any room and can be bought in abundance from most gardening stores. It is rewarding, however, to grow these plants yourself. Choose quality seeds and plant in well-prepared soil.

Use sterile soil from garden centers rather than soil from the garden as this may have unwanted weeds, insect larvae or harmful bacteria present. Plant seeds in a seed tray and place in a warm area to stimulate their growth. If the temperature drops below 645F/18C at night, use a lamp or other means of artificial heating to keep them going.

As shoots begin to surface, make sure the tray is placed in good sunlight, or supplement with artificial light if necessary. Light and warmth is vital to the photosynthesis process.

Once the seedlings begin to grow leaves, tease the shoots out gently and replant in pots and containers where they can then be fertilized as they grow into strong, healthy plants. Plants can also be grown from cuttings and are done so in a similar fashion. Choose a stem that contains a node (where the leaf attaches to the stem) as this node will develop into a new plant. Remove most of the leaves apart from the ones with nodes as this is where new roots will emerge.

Prepare the soil as you would for planting seeds and insert the cutting. Keep the soil moist but not too wet as this will cause rotting. Again, supply artificial light if natural light isn't plentiful and keep in a warm place.

As a cutting grows into what eventually will become healthy indoor house plants, it can be replanted into its long term pot or container.

Caring for Your Indoor Spider Plants

a healthy indoor spider plant

​The spider plant is an excellent plant to have in your garden or inside your house. It is excellent because it thrives in both environments. Care for spider plants doesn't really involve any special care requirements.

Spider plants are also attractive. They have narrow, long leaves striped with dark green and yellow colors. The spider plant grows quickly with plenty of leaves to show. If the spider pant gets root bound in the pot, it will still survive.

Spider plants require the regular dose of water. As long as the soil is moist, the spider plant will be fine. Don't overdo it with the wetness though. Too much can cause the roots to rot. You can leave the spider plant without water for a couple of days without any worries. When fall and winter sets in, the spider plant requires even less water.

The main problem with using tap water is chlorine. While the spider plant can use chlorine, too much of a good thing can be poison. If you notice browning or spotting on the tips of the leaves, it might be a good idea to shift your water source from tap to purified.

You can try using collected rain water as well. So long as the water you use has very low mineral content, the spider plant will happily drink whatever you pour on them. Although spider plants can survive direct sunlight, they are best suited to places in your home where they can get reflected sunlight. Spider plants can also endure a surprising range of temperature variance. Places with temperatures of 55F t0 65F are considered as ideal spots to install the spider plant.

 You only need to apply NPK fertilizer mixture two times a year during the spring and summer seasons. Don't give your spider plant too much nutrient content. As with the chlorine, too much fertilizer can turn into poison.

Spider plants bud in the summer and grow white, star shaped flowers. They grow a stalk that can measure three feet or longer. You'll have to support the stalk sometimes because it can bend due to its weight.

If your spider plant starts to bloom and spring, then you’re lucky enough to have the experience of having your spider plant bloom for you twice in a year. There is even a slight chance that a spider plant will bloom for a third time in autumn.

Assuming that it doesn't crack the pot it is using, the spider plant can grow two feet wide and two feet high. What's more, the spider plant spreads. You may suddenly find that your pot is getting crowded. You can get two new pots and divide the original spider plant into two. Now instead of having only just one spider plant, you have two!

Plants are always a pleasure to see but a chore to care for. If you want plants but aren't sure whether you can devote your time to green things, get a spider plant. It's easy to care for spider plants and it multiplies all by itself.

Caring for Your Indoor Bonsai Tree

Growing and maintaining the bonsai tree is an art in itself and something which requires practice and patience. Bonsai trees grow in porous soil to enable suitable drainage. Bonsai tree care and mindful watering is a must, but this isn't as easy as it sounds, however.

 Just as under-watering is a problem, over-watering can also lead to devastating results such as fungi and root rot. To make sure your little tree lives a long, healthy life follow a few simple rules.

Test the soil frequently for its moisture level, either by pressing your thumb down on the soil to feel how springy it is, or by using a more accurate moisture gauge.

These are much like ordinary thermometers and will give you an accurate reading to follow. The only drawback is that these tests will not give you an accurate reading of the moisture level throughout the whole of the soil, only the places you test.

To ensure the bonsai is adequately watered, dip the pot, up to the base of the tree, in a container full of water once a month. Leave the tree for a few minutes to absorb the water and then remove to drain.

Make sure the pot is allowed to drain to prevent root rot as mentioned above. This process will ensure the water is absorbed throughout all of the soil rather than it just reaching certain areas.

For daily watering, try to make sure the water flows through to the bottom of the bonsai's container as best as possible but remember not to leave the pot standing in the tray. The amount of times you will need to water your bonsai will much depend on your location and its climate, along with the particular requirements of the species of tree itself.

Never follow instructions or advices that indicate you should water your bonsai every few days. Always judge the tree yourself as to whether it needs watering daily, a few times a day, or every other day.

Bonsai tree care all depends on the environment and surroundings it is being grown in. If you are a total beginner, then you might want to get one of these newbie-friendly indoor bonsai trees.

Caring for Your Indoor Air Plants

a cute indoor air plant

Air Plants are truly low maintenance and they add beauty and clean oxygen to your home. Caring for Air Plants is sometimes misunderstood by newbies. I wasn’t really sure what to do with them. But after caring for these gorgeous plants, I feel like a hero. My wife is the one who loves growing and caring for indoor plants, but these air plants brought out my love for growing indoor houseplants too. Here’s the low down on caring for Air plants.

Water

Watering is one of the most important aspects of succeeding with Air Plants. It’s also one of the most misunderstood. Because of their name people tend to think they require minimal or even no water at all (as living on air). That’s simply not true!

Place them into a bowl of room temperature water for a few minutes or hold them under running water until the leaves absorb water and the plants appear wet. DO NOT OVER WATER the plants.

They should dry out over a matter of several hours. If you water in the morning, by evening your plants should feel dry to the touch. This is how Air Plants prefer to live.

Sunlight

Air Plants prefer indirect sunlight. Placing your indoor Air Plant close to a window so it receives adequate light is important. Air Plants are sensitive to direct sunlight though; don’t place them in a location that gets bright light all day.

Planting

NEVER ‘plant’ your Air Plant. Placing them in soil is a bad idea. This is not the proper environment for an Air Plant. The best way to anchor your plant is by using pebbles, rocks or shells. I placed my air plants in a glass container with a mixture of small stones and decorative shells. My plants are HAPPY in this environment.

It’s pretty simple really. Don’t neglect watering your Air Plant and give them adequate indirect sunlight. Be sure they’re displayed in a well-draining media, such as stones or pebbles. Then enjoy the beauty and fresh oxygen they provide!

Get Air Plants for your Home

The Air Plants I received are a source of joy in my home. Every time I walk by the beautiful glass jar sprouting with life, I get a huge smile on my face. Not to mention, I breathe easier with the fresh oxygen they supply.

Garden Tool Kit Essentials

Gardening is a hands-on hobby and you need to be fully equipped with all the correct garden tool kit for the job. Some tools are useful but not necessary while others are absolute essentials. Choosing necessary tools must go hand in hand with the idea of making life easier for yourself. Choose good quality gardening tools that are durable and versatile.

Choose a shovel that is strong and one that won’t bend and chip when digging heavy going material such as rocks and clay. Shovels will endure lots of work in their time and come in different shapes and sizes for different purposes.

Big, square ended shovels are perfect for moving large amounts of loose matter or spreading compost or fertilizer but not so handy when digging into tough earth. This is where spades come in useful. Spades are particularly useful for all sorts of jobs and are perfect for digging holes of all sizes.

Gardening shears are another must for the tool shed. Be sure to purchase one that feels comfortable in the hand as you will be using them for all sorts of trimming and pruning. They have curved blades—one concave and the other convex—for effective usage and many brands of shears are available. They often come with a lockable switch to keep them safely closed when they aren’t in use.

You might not think that an ordinary rake is an essential tool for gardening but rest assured this handy tool will come in useful for all sorts of jobs. Even when you have other, more advanced tools for the task, you will often find yourself reaching for the trusty rake.

They are available in a range of materials, such as bamboo, plastic and metal so choose a rake that you think will be better suited for the work you have in mind. If unsure, go for the metal rake as this will last for years and can be used for light or heavy work.

Where would we be without the wheelbarrow!? They can be used for carting absolutely anything that will fit, compost, fertilizer bags, potted plants and more. No gardener should be without one. They save many hours of back ache trying to hoist heavy bags or objects from one spot to another—simply lift into the wheelbarrow and be on your way.

These are only the basics. There are hundreds of useful gardening tools and products available and there are many outlets or online stores around to buy garden tool kit so have a look around and get that garden shed stocked up.

Tool for Efficient Gardening #1: Garden Hose Reels

a well made mounted hose reel

​Garden hose reels are such a practical garden tool and if you do not have one, then you are really missing out especially if you have a pretty sizeable yard to look after. Most hose reels look rather lovely and they come in all sorts of shapes and designs.

A garden hose hanger or reels that are retractable can actually extend the lifespan of your hose. They keep the hose from sustaining damage from day-to-day use or from adverse weather conditions. These garden hose reels allow you to water your flowers and vegetables easily while moving freely around your home.

They can travel with you and reach areas as far as the hose will reach. Keep in mind when you begin investigating what type of garden hose hanger to purchase, determine the length of you hose to be sure the hanger will accommodate your hose. Most garden hose hangers are categorized based upon capacity in feet.

Steel Hose Reels

These quality steel hose reels come in a variety of styles. The wall mount reels are perfect for those smaller yards with limited space. These steel hose reels can be mounted on garages, pole barns, on the exterior of your home or storage sheds. 

Wall mount reels usually come in three basic types:  parallel, perpendicular and swivel.  Select the one which will allow you to access the hose from any angle.

Retractable Garden Hose Reels

Forget about those days when you had to loop and coil the garden hoses and the tangled mess would frustrate you to the point where you would through the hose down and leave it in the tangled mess.

Now you can simply pull on the hose and lengthen the hose to your desired length. When you have completed watering the lawn, flowers and garden, simply pull on the hose and allow the hose to rewind back to its original position. The hose is now neatly stored away with no tangled or eyesore mess.

Keep in mind, most retractable hose reels operate based upon a rechargeable battery. Read the instructions to be sure your battery is charged and ready for use.

Garden Hose Hangers

Garden hose hangers come in all sizes, shapes and have features to meet anyone gardener enthusiasts. They can accommodate large capacity garden hoses while others hangers are lightweight for hauling around the yard. Overall, garden hose hangers will keep your yard neat and prevent your hose from becoming damaged during severe weather conditions.

Tool for Efficient Gardening #2: Cordless Leaf Blower

a cordless leaf blower in operation

​Autumn is that time of the year where cleaning of the yard becomes almost a daily routine. You do not have a choice because those dead leaves won't keep themselves from falling. If you do not want yourself and your house to drown from that huge pile of dry leaves, it's best to get your tools out and get started with cleaning.

There are different tools or equipment that can be used to clear the yard from all those falling foliage. There is the classic broom and rake most people use. In fact, even though many of us have bought other alternative tools for sweeping the lawn, we still have our old rakes and brooms reserved whenever we want to use them.

But because doing the cleaning with a rake alone is a pretty tough job, devices such as leaf blowers, blower vacuums, lawn sweepers and others were made and sold in order to provide convenience, and to do the job significantly faster and so much more effectively. Some gardeners would even buy most, if not all of these tools so as to have more options on hand. Others would just choose one and stick with it.

If you're planning on using a leaf blower for cleaning the leaves off your garden, you should at least try to identify which kind of leaf blower is best for you to use. Is it an electric leaf blower or the gas powered kind? Or maybe you should go for that cordless leaf blower.

But what is a cordless leaf blower exactly? Well, this blower runs on battery that is rechargeable. What's good about it is that it is portable and its mobility is not limited by a power cord. That means it can be used in almost any part of your yard, including places that are hard to reach or located farther from the house. Plus, it is not that noisy compared to other blowers.

But since its power source is just a battery, it can only do so much thus its blowing power is not as strong as compared to those with powered by gas or electricity. Cordless leaf blowers are recommended if you own a small yard and cleaning would just take a few minutes. Otherwise, you should look into either the gas powered or the electric leaf blower to get the job done quickly.

Cordless and electric leaf blowers are known to share some terrific features like being less noisy and less heavy. The huge difference lies on their main source of power. While the cordless type is run on batteries, electric leaf blowers, as implied by the name, uses electricity to run their motors. This is why their blowing power and speed is superior compared to the cordless ones.

Because they need to be connected to a power outlet, electric leaf blowers prevent you from moving freely around your lawn. It's obvious that it's not portable and you can only reach places that the electric cord can allow. Nonetheless, if you have a rather large lawn, and you need to get the task done as quickly as possible, you'll do better with this type.

Lastly, we have leaf blowers powered by gasoline. This type of leaf blower has a very powerful engine that drives the fan and motor to produce stronger and faster air blow. Gasoline powered leaf blowers are known to displace a larger volume of air compared to the first two, thus getting the work done faster and easier. Those dead leaves and other stuff like dry weed and grass won't be spared.

However, what's not so great about gas powered leaf blowers is the loud and annoying noise sound they tend to produce, as well as how heavy they can be. Moreover, they tend to emit gasoline gas which can be dangerous to one's health. There is also the possibility of leakage or spilling of gasoline. But if you have a very huge lawn to cover and clean up, this type of leaf blower is perfect for your needs.

Remember that in deciding which tool is the most ideal, you should not just base your decision on blowing power and speed alone. You should also consider several other things such as your budget, the size of your lawn or garden, the comfort level, safety features, online reviews and ratings, and the overall performance of the product.

Tool for Efficient Gardening #3: Broadcast Fertilizer Spreader

As mentioned before, a shed full of gardening tools is essential for creating and maintaining the best gardens around but to make sure your lawn is as dynamic as the rest, there is one tool that will do the trick.

The broadcast fertilizer spreader is used to distribute a range of lawn care chemicals such as fertilizers, pesticides and weed killers on the garden to keep it trim and healthy. It is quite straightforward to use and comprises a tub on wheels with a handle and handlebars.

When the user walks, he/she squeezes the leaver which in turn dispenses the chemical out of holes in the bottom. The amount of material spread can be adjusted by a dial which alters the size of the holes.

Read the instructions of the chemical carefully before using the spreader. They will indicate how much of the compound to use and when it should be applied. Some chemicals need to be watered into the soil while others won’t be effective if rain ensues in the following 24 hours. Applying too little of the chemical will result in failure of its purpose while too much may lead to burned lawns and wasted products.

Spreading chemicals including herbicides and pesticides can be harmful to the skin, eyes and lungs so protective materials such as gloves and a mask must be worn at all times. Always check the instructions when using harmful chemicals.

It is always a good idea, especially for the amateur, to test an area of land first to see what quantity and what level to have the chemical dispensing at – check the package first as this will often give instructions as to how much needs to be used for each setting.

Once the dial has been adjusted, get testing. It spreads chemicals in an arc of about 5-10ft. However, the distance of the dispersal much depends on the speed and pressure you use. The faster and harder you push – the further the chemical spreads.

Once you have had a test and are comfortable using the spreader, walk up and down in straight rows to ensure there is no overlay of chemicals. On the turn, gently release the lever until you are ready to start dispensing to the next row.

Make sure you keep the tub as near to level as possible. This will eliminate flinging chemical too high up or too low into the ground. Also make sure you have a good idea of what area you are covering so that you don’t double up on yourself.

If you need to cover smaller more precise areas, use a drop spreader rather than the broadcast spreader as this will target the area more precisely. The drop spreader is ideal for specific areas such as edges of lawns or edges of paths as their dispersal only covers a width of about 2 feet.

Like the broadcast spreader, you must be careful not to cover the same ground twice. Or similarly to miss sections. A broadcast fertilizer spreader is quite handy in that they spread more material to one side than the other. When you do your test area you should be able to see which side this is.

Tool for Efficient Gardening #4: Lawn Tractor Attachments

The lawn tractor is often mistaken as a lawn mower. However, the latter has a far different function compared to a lawn tractor. Some would also confuse this equipment as a huge, heavy-duty tractor, the one that's used in farms and industrial lands. Although it's actually a smaller version of that, you can see an obvious difference between the two.

These lawn tractors are basically used in your yard and sometimes for landscaping. It's one of those personal gardening tools that are very much helpful for everyone. It's actually described as an all-purpose gardening vehicle by many users. It's like a jack-of-all-trades as far as gardening is concerned. The reason behind that is due to what they call lawn tractor attachments.

These attachments basically act as extensions, like added parts or accessories to the lawn tractors so that it is able to do a variety of gardening tasks. It's like you attach something to it and it does a whole new job.

For example, if you plan to prepare and cultivate your garden soil as any time soon you may start planting on it, all you have to do is attach harrows, tillers and cultivators to your lawn tractor.

If you need to move piles of dirt or plow snow in your front yard, blades, snow throwers and snow blowers are the perfect attachments to use. Bush hogs and side mowers, on the other hand, are best for mowing large areas and ditches at the side of the road. You can see how versatile a lawn tractor becomes after you have installed those attachments. But there's still more.

You can use rake attachments if you want to make great strands or rows of hay. There are also such things as planting attachments, spreaders and sprayers. If you want to dig holes with precision, the backhoe is able to help. If you want to move and carry those rocks, try putting in buckets.

Meanwhile, augers and holes diggers are very much useful especially if you are digging holes for your fences or just drilling through the soil for other garden purposes. There are still many others used as attachments to lawn tractors including rollers, levelers, carts, lawn sweepers and vacs, aerators, bagger attachments, dethatchers, etc.

Some lawn tractor parts and accessories consist of tire chains, tractor belts, seat and gear covers, cabs, enclosure, lifts, loading ramps and trailers, and shades. But perhaps the most important attachment would be the quick hitch. This thing is responsible in connecting those aforementioned attachments in a faster and easier way.

Always remember that your safety and that of other people should be your first priority when handling these tools. They can be useful, but they can be risky as well. You absolutely must be very careful in using these lawn tractor attachments.

Tool for Efficient Gardening #5: Hedge Trimmers

Aside from using cordless grass shears and grass cutters for trimming tall grasses in your lawn or garden, you might also need a hedge trimmer if you grow large bushes, shrubs and branched plants.

Shears are similar to scissors. They are also two blades attached together to cut undesirable tall grasses which are covering precious plants in your garden. However, a hedge trimmer is a tool not just used to thin out or trim trees and shrubs, it is also ideal for cutting and forming bushes into attractive shapes and sizes.

For those houses that are naturally surrounded by tall hedges, you most definitely need to go out there and check out a few high quality hedge trimmers. A fence that is formed by a row of closely planted shrubs and bushes should be regularly taken care of and trimmed, so that the branches and leaves are well-shaped, well aligned, and appear pleasing to the eye.

Some hedges are not that tall and act as a fence for the house. As such, some homeowners prefer trimming it in a traditional way which is by using a large garden shears. However, using shears can be quite time-consuming especially if your house is surrounded by long and tall hedges. Sure you could hire somebody to take care of it, but what is the point of hiring someone to trim it when you can easily purchase either a battery powered or an electric hedge trimmer.

Just buy a good quality model and you can trim the shrubs and bushes in the garden yourself, and at any time you wish. This is also much easier as opposed to using large scissors or shears. A decent quality hedge trimmer will make super short work of those large shrubs and bushes.

Aside from not having to hire somebody to do the trimming job for you, and waste money on a one-time service fee, a hedge trimmer allows you to have fun personalizing your own backyard with eye-catching hedges and bushes.

Hedge trimmers are powered by electricity, petrol, and battery. Many gardeners prefer the battery powered models because it provides the greatest mobility, and requires minimal maintenance.

Tool for Efficient Gardening #6: Rolling Lawn Aerator

working the rolling lawn aerator

​Your garden can be a very good place for parties and gatherings. Even for a simple chitchat with your friend, it could be a very good place to hang out. No matter how the activity may be, it could still wear out your garden’s beauty.

The lawn may easily get damaged from the activities held in your garden. Stepping on the grass for instance can cause soil compaction which in turn can negatively affect the grasses’ ability to breathe. It also hinders the grasses’ ability to access to nutrients and water. Those nutrients are essential to their growth, thus compaction can hinder your lawn’s natural restoration process.

Sure, nature has its way of keeping grass in optimal condition. But in this case though, nature may very well be able to restore your lawn to its original, healthy state. However, it might not look like the way it used to be. It is possible that patches may occur on some parts of your lawn. To solve this issue, why not give nature a hand? And how do you accomplish that? Well, just use an aeration tool.

Basically, aerators are a device that creates holes on the surface of your lawn. These holes allow the soil to move freely. Furthermore, those holes allow water as well as various nutrients and oxygen to reach into the grasses’ roots, therefore enabling it to grow healthily.

Such process is actually called aerating which can be implemented either in cold or warm season depending on the type of grass in your lawn. There are actually many commercial aerators available, for example are rolling lawn aerators, so you wouldn’t have difficulty finding one.

There are used ones too and can be purchased at secondhand prices. Both brand new and used models can easily be obtained off the internet. If for any reason you do not wish to own one, there are aerators available for rental.

Now, before you decide to buy one, you must first ascertain the type of aerator that is most appropriate for your lawn. For example, aerator sandals are a wise choice for small sized lawns. It is inexpensive and it is actually powered by you. You see, all you have to do is simply attach it to the sole of your shoes and then you simply walk around your lawn with it!

Now for a bigger sized lawn, you may want to consider either an electric or a rolling lawn aerator. They could either be pushed or pulled behind. Push aerators is self-explanatory. You push them around your lawn. On the other hand, pull behind aerators are usually attached to mowers or tractors in order for it to work. Whatever type of aerator you wish to use though, read the manual before you actually use it.

Tool for Efficient Gardening #7: Push Lawn Sweeper

Whenever autumn arrives, there is the usual activity of clearing up the yard from leaves that had fallen and messing up the yard. Needless to say, having to clean up the leaves off your yard can be a rather strenuous task.

Sometimes, it can even leave you breathless and panting excessively, particularly if you do it the manual way which is by picking up those leaves with your own two hands and putting them inside a trash bag.  You don't have to do that in this modern era, and that is because certain tools are available to help the average guy accomplish his mission of keeping his garden or yard completely free from those annoying autumn leaves.

So what is this handy dandy tool that we are talking about? Let's start with the traditional rake. This is what most would consider as the classic tool for clearing fallen leaves off the lawn. Although more and more cutting-edge garden power tools are available, still, nothing beats the conventional and ever useful rake. That's why most people still have their rakes with them in case they are needed.

Aside from rakes, certain yard tools like leaf blowers and lawn sweepers can be used as well. Yes, they are very useful for sure but they also have their own issues. Take leaf blowers, for instance. They are quite noisy and you will not be able to control where those leaves go flying off after you have blown them away.

Your neighbors may not like it if your leaf blower is too loud or if the leaves are blown onto their gardens or yards. So you may want to choose the next option which is the relatively silent yet effective lawn sweepers.

There are two kinds of lawn sweepers. One is the tow behind lawn sweeper and then there is the push lawn sweeper. The type of sweeper to use is dependent on what type o mower you have stashed in your garden shed. Push lawn sweeper is the best choice if you own a push type mower.

The tow behind lawn sweeper, on the other hand, is really handy with a riding type of lawn mower. Lawn sweepers is very easy to use and are not that noisy compared to leaf blowers. However, there are things that they can't do. One of which is that they are not capable of accessing those hard to reach places such as spots where leaves are stuck under the trees or under a garden wall. A rake is needed for that or you could just grab those leaves with your hands.

When you search online, you may find different reviews and opinions regarding which is the best lawn sweeper to use. Some would stick to their rakes while others prefer the convenience of their leaf blowers and lawn sweepers. In the end, it just boils down to what you think is the most comfortable and appropriate tool for you.

Tool for Efficient Gardening #8: Rain Barrels

succesfully installed a rain barrel

It was nothing fancy. It was purely functional, at best. But it provided me an early opportunity to experience water conservation at a time when our society was really making the final cut away from "using what you had" and "waste not/want not", into our more recent "throw away and replace with new as our resources are unlimited" frame of thinking/living.

Fortunately for Mother Earth, we are beginning to sit up and take notice that we will not sustain if we continue believing and living this way. As I begin to take more notice of my own personal responsibility to nurture and protect our environment, I remember that first rain barrel experience.

It was in fact, just a plastic barrel, open on top, positioned underneath a downspout out behind the garage. There was an old plywood circle cut to size with a concrete block on top to keep unwanted critters and children out.

To access the rain water, my mom would have to move the block and lid and dip her watering can down in to the cool fresh rain water. The simplicity of the rain barrel was not lost upon the grandchildren that enjoyed making the trips to the rain barrel with grandma to dip the bucket and then carry it sloshingly back to nurture her memorable gardens. It all made sense then, and still does today.

Water is not an endless commodity to be disrespected. With a little forethought and work we can make simple changes around our homes to once again use what we have and be good stewards of our environment, so that fresh clean water is available to sustain all, for many more generations.

By collecting water in rain barrels and using it to water our lawns and gardens, or for general household chores such as washing the car, we can collectively work together to preserve the limited fresh water our planet has remaining.

If we think of natural rainfall as a source of water rather than just a random meteorological event that we hope happens at the right time, we can put strategy in place to store the water at predetermined volumes to be used when water is needed.

Any excess rainfall can always be redirected out to another emerging conservation technique, a rain garden. Rain barrels today come in many different constructions.

You can find recycled food barrels fitted with spigots and overflow valving, old wooden wine barrels living their second life, newly molded and constructed barrels of many sizes and colors, some with personal design options, and specialty barrels that either do not look like barrels, or can be completely hidden in fences, under decks, or going way back to traditional times, larger cistern type units buried underground.

We have many options available to us today to catch, store, and use rain water, but if we want to be good stewards of our environment, we cannot continue to believe that we have the option NOT to do this.

You can take a look at a wide range of rain barrels here. We believe that with good rain barrels made available to help consumers meet there varied needs, and with ongoing education about the importance of rain water collection and other earth conservation, we can all work together to recover and retain the overall health of our environment.

Tool for Efficient Gardening #9: Soil pH Meter

When a front lawn or garden isn't looking as it should, a soil pH meter might be able to solve that confusion. If plants are losing leaves, aren't growing as they should, dropping to the floor or appear discolored, the pH level might be off. If the pH level is too low or too high, plants will start to die off.

A soil pH meter is able to tell if the water used features an abnormal pH level that's affecting the growth of the plants. A soil sample can be taken which has been saturated with the water normally used in watering the plants. It needs to be tested with a sensor that's put into the sample. The soil testing and detection limits meter is able to analyze a variety of chemicals in the soil to establish if the pH level has been impacted.

A soil quality pH meter kit can solve this concern. Altering the pH level in the soil might call for fresh top soil to balance the levels, an altered watering system, or to purchase purified water for the plant life. There are a lot of choices for those that wish their garden and lawn to look its finest.

Utilities such as a pH meter are often used by specialist gardeners and others that are getting pH levels that seem out of the norm. The locality is also able to play an element in pH level in the soil. Rain that's been contaminated or acid rain can affect the pH levels in the soil. In that case, a different type of soil is needed.

A soil meter can assist in determining the pH level of soil before planting in a garden. Some plant life isn't going to grow in some pH levels. Locating plants that can grow in a specific pH level is the ideal decision. Plants that call for a different level shouldn't be planted since they aren't likely to survive. A soil pH meter is able to save money over time.            

Tool for Efficient Gardening #10: Garden Gloves

loving these garden gloves!

I find myself loving the garden more and more each day. What can be so relaxing than being in the garden, greens and the colors of flowers? The best part about the garden is having the right tools with you to make your gardening fun.

Being a garden lover myself, I love to find tools, gardening supplies and plants that help me make my garden more beautiful. I believe that every gardener should always own a good pair of garden gloves. Just like a good chef would own his/her own favorite sharp knife!

If you want a really decent pair of gardening gloves, then get a pair that is soft and feels comfy. Its grip ability must be first-rate so that you are able to wield a variety of gardening tools with absolute ease. It should also fit well for maximum sensitivity during application such as planting seeds or weeding and dealing with compost or soil.

I have had the experience of some cotton gloves that claims to be of breathable fabric and soft but end up with dirty fingernails as soil and dirt made its way through the little pores of the fabric somehow.

You can find a colorful selection of garden gloves with soft seamless nylon and natural latex foam coating flexible for better grip and sensitivity. Such beautiful garden can also be an appropriate gift for any occasion to those gardening lovers out there. Nice colorful ones will definitely put a smile on their face.

Garden Décor

No doubt, it is a festive sight looking into the many different works of art. Most of them are utilized as decorative items indoor and outdoor. The garden is one common venue where these interesting creations rest. There is more to discover in their artistic forms that can bridge across time, place, and culture.

The Irony of Form

In philosophy, anything that exists is limited by space and time. It is based on the belief that objects are enclosed in the warp of here and now. It is prone to immediate prejudice that these things are close to disintegration making them only useful in form. It does not exempt the concept on decorative arts.

However, existence in form is absolutely not a limitation. Artworks in particular are channels of expression. It should not be viewed as mere objects but as subjects with significant ends. They are channels of expression inherent in their history.

Notice that there are numerous tales spoken out of paintings, sculptures, crafts, and the like. Oftentimes, beauty is not perceived by the eyes but by the mind and heart. Create a new world across time, place, and culture with an exceptional mix of garden decorative items such statues, gazing spheres, urns, pagodas, wind chimes, fountains, gazebos, and more!

Recommended Garden Décor #1: Statues

beautifully sculpted garden statues

​The combination of natural beauty and an artificial elegance has been the most graceful trend of adornment. Garden statues follow this simple principle. Evolved from animal statues in ancient Japanese gardens, the creation of garden statues is now a booming business.

Garden statues are available in extensive range of makes, styles and replications. Moreover, the material used is a notable factor when it comes to determining the quality of garden statues. Material could be a liquid mix of sand, cement and water; an original marble, resin, or even creating hypertufa mixture can help in creating gorgeous garden statues.

Actually hypertufa is a fun and inexpensive way to enhance your garden with unique items, whether your garden is acres of remote land or a small deck attached to a city apartment.

From fully functional planters and squirrel-proof bird feeders, to lanterns and whimsical animal sculptures, you can fill your garden with delightful hypertufa projects and designs created by the artist formerly known as YOU!

Anyway accordingly, the commercial value of statues is higher if purer materials like bronze are used, or if the masterpiece is actually sculpted and not cast. Garden statues could be anything 3-dimentional: they could be animal statues such as dogs and cats, religious statues, historical figures, mythical creatures, angels, authors, poets, philosophers or Greek and roman gods and goddesses.

Types

Stone Statues

Stone garden statues tend to be of the widespread style. Different types of stones like rock, marble, limestone, tuffstone, durastone etc. are used in creating statues and sculptures. Tuffstone and durastone are the preferred casting plasters, due to their high degree of quality, reduced chalkiness and extended durability.

Bronze Statues

Bronze is known to be the friendliest medium to cast and carve the delicate arts. Bronze can fissure into almost any device, be it as small as the crevices used to form the tiny ear rings of the statues, or their partially closed eyes. The malleability of bronze makes it the ideal substance to capture feelings and emotions in garden statues.

Marble Statues

In early times, a large marble stone was chiseled manually by sculptors, and the statue would be created, one piece at a time. But as the need of mass production gradually rose, more sophisticated processes of sculpturing from marble evolved, known as the ‘casting process.’

 Here a non-porous material blend of white marble powders and resin composites were used in place of actual marble rocks. Such marble is known as ‘Bonded Carrara Marble’. Marble busts of authors, poets and heroic figures are some common garden statues today.

Concrete & Cement Statues

Made of concrete, cement, sand, gravel and water, these statues are robust and relatively less expensive garden statues. They are mainly useful in replicating the sculptures of strong and sturdy personalities. Concrete statues are usually found as outdoor garden statues and fountain statues. Concrete, being thick and grainy, sometimes restricts sculptors with regard to delicate art-work.

Resin Statues

Resin statues are a new idea in the statuary industry. Resin is a long-lasting synthetic polymer, which when used for crafting statues, can produce strong and durable yet lighter-to-lift sort of garden statues.

Resin is a good alternative to statues made of stone, bronze, marble or porcelain. But the point to be kept in mind that resin statues are not tolerant to temperatures below freezing point and harsh winter conditions. A piece may crack due to expansion and contraction of ice in crevices.

Fiberglass Statues

Fiberglass statues are made from threads of glass. Fiberglass when hardened proves to be very strong. But when it is poured as a liquid, it reflects all the fine details of the mold. It is considered ideal for large sculptures because of its light weight, effortless mobility, ease of shipping, and low cost.

Recommended Garden Décor #2: Wind Chimes

Most home owners these days usually aim for a lovely garden. A garden that is full of plants, completed with wood benches, mini birdhouses and garden chimes that would inspire you every time. The use of chimes is not just discovered in this modern generation for it is already widely used back in the old times, by different cultures and different races of people in this living planet.

The use of chimes is not solely for decoration or to add some glow into your space, it's beyond these things known. To make you aware of these hidden things I am talking about; let's consider the next paragraphs below. Garden chimes originally came from the Indian traditions and the Indians are those people who started the rise of these meaningful decors.

For the Asians, they really believe that the use of chimes can really attract good luck to the owners, anything that is good can be attracted, wealth, job, health, and a lot more. The sound of chimes when the wind blows take away bad energies that use to bring disasters, sickness and evil spirits, which tend to bring misfortunes to somebody.

These are the main reasons why most Asian homes and even offices and other properties are usually guarded by the chimes. The sound given by the garden chimes when in motion is particularly due to the length of the rod itself. If your chimes are made out of short rods, softer sounds are produced while for the larger ones, it will be deeper in tones.

Typically, outdoor chimes are made out of the combination of the two, small and huge rods for perfect matching and sound. There are different types of garden chimes you can prefer to buy these days. Most are made out of natural materials but some looks like very expensive, but still nature inspired. The usual materials used in making chimes are considered earthy. Shells are the usual, stones, ceramic items, and many more.

Lastly, if you want to experience the effect of good luck, you need to place these garden chimes at the right areas. You don't need to place it inside your room for you might never hear the chime producing its sounds. Place it outdoor and if you believe in Feng Shui, you can adhere to some Feng Shui experts.

Recommended Garden Décor #3: Trelises


a very simple diy garden trellis

Adding a garden trellis to any planted area enhances the beauty of the natural landscape. Whether the area is a small patio space, a large formal setting or a side yard, the trellis can be both functional and stylish. There are a variety of sizes, shapes and materials available depending on the plant selection and overall affect.

In some cases, for instance against a wall or fixed structure, the decorative effect of the piece can stand alone. A climbing plant may hide the beauty of the design unless the plant is aesthetically pruned and maintained. Or if the purpose is strictly functional, a simple pattern and basic materials may be the proper choice of the landscape artist.

Sizes and Shapes

The first consideration, for a support type trellis, is the growth pattern of the plant. Small trellises can be used to provide stability in a potted plant. A flowering vine or climbing varietal can be placed in a pot with a support frame and placed on a patio. Choosing a trellis that will be used in a container involves measuring the width, height and stake dimensions to ensure enough room for plant growth.

If the garden trellis is to be used against a wall, width and height should be measured and the attachment method needs to be considered. A free standing trellis that forms a backdrop in a garden allows more flexibility in determining size. Full sized arbor trellises create a focal point in a larger space.

Metal Trellises

The use of metal: cast iron, copper, painted or fatigued metals, adds an interesting contrast to the garden. Wrought iron provides functional support while allowing a multitude of design possibilities.

Simple formed metal frames in a shiny finish create a contemporary look while floral or latticed designs have an Old World appeal. Even in a window box application, a miniature garden trellis adds beauty and interest.

When choosing a metal design, consider the thickness of the metal to ensure that it will support the desired planting.​ Climate conditions also play an important part, some metal compositions will endure temperature extremes and others may only survive one season. Painted metal frames may require upkeep that may not be suitable for a free climbing, dense growth plant.

Wood Trellises

The use of wood as a support material adds a casual, natural look to the garden. A latticed wood piece creates a classic, country or farmhouse style that enhances a cottage garden setting. Wood is suitable for simple designs or can be carved into floral or fantasy shapes.

When choosing a wood design, consider the type of wood and the finished results. Redwood, for instance, can be left unfinished and is suitable for outdoor environments. Painted wood adds color dimensions to a garden but requires upkeep. Antiqued wood is a good choice for trellises and gives a carefree natural look.

The use of a garden trellis serves several purposes. It will add support and allow proper growth for a variety of plants while enhancing the natural beauty of the space. Choosing the correct size and materials can make the choice a valuable addition to an outdoor space that will be enjoyed for many years.

Mushroom Cultivation

You may well see mushrooms growing just about everywhere. Perhaps you are walking through some woods and they are sprouting on old tree roots, broken branches and elsewhere. Or you may be walking through or near to fields that appear to be full of one sort of mushroom or another.

a well cultivated mushroom

​Then there are the urban environments. When you are in or around damp cellars and similar places, it's not unusual to see multiple outcrops of mushrooms. So, given this background, you may be drawn into thinking that mushroom cultivation is easy. Well, it's not quite so straightforward.

The reality is nature can be a little perverse every now and again, and what it makes so simple for itself, might end up being tremendously problematic for you. Surely in some respects, that can be the case when it comes to mushroom cultivation.

For a start, if you're planning to start cultivating mushrooms, you will need to decide whether you are doing it as a hobbyist and using your product exclusively for your own use. Your approach then might be significantly different to if you are considering doing it commercially, in which case a whole different raft of issues apply—including those involving the sordid business of funding.

For the hobbyist, one of the easiest ways to start getting into mushroom cultivation is to purchase a pre-prepared kit. These come in various shapes and sizes and with various types of mushrooms included. The starting point will usually be a pack of ready-to-go growing medium. That will come with mushroom spawn or spores that you will scatter or otherwise distribute into the prepared medium.

You then usually find instructions relating to what to do with respect to things like watering, humidity, temperature and light exposure. The instructions are typically relatively straightforward and in the vast majority of cases you will be getting guaranteed results. If you've never tasted freshly-grown and picked mushrooms before and believe they normally come in tins, frozen packs or dried, you are in for a great culinary surprise!

If you are thinking about small business or commercial production involving mushrooms, be a little cautious and do your research thoroughly. The success you so easily achieved with a mushroom growing kit isn't going to be based upon an approach that is feasible for producing them on a commercial scale.

If you plan to go out and buy a huge number of kits and sell your produce, well, the chances are you're going to go bust fairly quickly. You are going to have to produce your own growing medium—and that is a skilled and far from easy job that takes place over extended timescales. You are also going to need to do it on a commercial scale, so you're going to need a lot of space.

Then there is the business of working with mushroom spores and spawn. Space doesn't permit a full discussion of this but you're going to have to get to grips with some chemistry and biology, as well as some related scientific techniques. Of course, it is perfectly possible and people have started very successful mushroom growing businesses from scratch. Just remember it all starts with extensive factual research including market research.

If you are just growing them for your own consumption, you won't need to worry about any of this and can just get involved in kit-based mushroom cultivation in order to grace your own dinner plates!

Attracting Beneficial Garden Insects

Insects provide a range of benefits for the garden. Whether it's the hard working bee pollinating your flowers or the ever vigilant ladybird protecting your plants from aphids, beneficial insects are a welcome visitor and can be encouraged into the garden by providing the right habitat.

Beneficial garden insects are the ones that help us in some way. These insects occur naturally within your garden. Bees, ladybugs, and praying mantis are all examples of beneficial insects. Identifying and considering the needs of these insects will be beneficial in the maintenance of your garden.

How to Attract Them

Provide alternate sources of food. Pollen, nectar, and plant juices are good substitutes when the insect population is low. Daisies, soybean, and clover are all favored by beneficial insects.

Provide shelter. These need to be areas where insects can be protected. For example, you can get an insect house for ladybugs and bees. You can place hedgerows near the garden, compost heaps, and rocks all provide safe areas for such insects.

readying the insect house

​Provide water. Bird baths, water containers, and puddles all provide and excellent source of water for insects. When using containers, be sure to change the water every 2 days to deter mosquitoes.

Beneficial Garden Insects and Other Pest Management Methods

Relying on insects alone will not take care of all of your pest problems. Other methods that can be used are:

  • Select plants types that are insect resistance.
  • If applying pesticide, choose one that applies to the specific pest. These products will not harm beneficial garden insects.
  • Use materials that act as stomach poisons to pests.
  • Soaps or horticultural oils are other alternatives—preferably organic.

Examples of Beneficial Garden Insects

  • Ladybugs
  • Praying Mantis
  • Assassin bugs
  • Bigeyed bugs
  • Ground beetles
  • Wasps
  • Immature lacewings
  • Soldier beetle
  • Spined soldier beetles

Pesticide Precautions

  • Follow all directions, restrictions and precautions.
  • Store in original containers out of the reach of children.
  • Use at correct intervals.
  • Dispose of containers according to directions on packaging.