Archive for "Gardening"

Gardening Vivian | 07 Jul 2011

3 Important Greenhouse Heater Facts For Amateur Gardeners

Temperature may changes many times in a day. During the nights, it can drop to very low levels which won’t be healthy for all plants. Hence, to maintain temperature at the correct level for plant growth, generally greenhouse heaters are required. For selecting the correct heater, one must look into capability of producing correct temperatures during cold in winter and nights, but also in the money needed to installing and hence run it.

1. Different Kinds of Heaters For Greenhouses
- Electric heaters. This type of heater is suitable for tiny greenhouse structures. They can maintain the specified temperature levels. Also they don’t produce fumes and also there is no use for ventilation while using these.

- Gas heaters. These heaters are run by natural or bottled gases, they are less efficient when compared to electric heaters. Waste products while combustion are put back in the greenhouse and hence ventilation is needed while using these. These heaters must be located in a safe and secure location and also need replacement and monitoring.

- Paraffin heaters. These are the very basic among all the three. These require constant wick trimming and replacement. They also require fuel , thus, fumes enter into greenhouse and hence need lot of ventilation. These also reduce the risk due to frost damage and also prove to be emergency standby.

2. Types Of Heater Mounting
- Hanging. This heater is mounted in the ceiling or plainly just hung down from it. It’s advantageous to implement since less floor space is needed. They must be hung high so as not be an irritation or obstruction.

- Wall. These kinds of heaters are placed in the wall and also vent outside the greenhouse. Less or no floor space is needed but the place in front must be clear.

- Floor. These kinds are not mounted since they have a stand and hence can be located anywhere in the greenhouse floor. The disadvantage is that it takes up a lot of floor area.

3. Types Of Heater Combustion
- Open. These types of heaters make use of air inside for combustion needs. So long as air doesn’t contain contaminants, this works fine. Generally flammable liquids must not be kept near the open heater since the burner isn’t sealed.

- Separated. The gas heater makes use of this type of combustion mechanism where it makes use of air outside for combustion needs. The burner is sealed in order to trap air outside. Exhaust pipe is placed outside the this structure.

- Sealed. These kinds are like the separated type. It’s burner is totally sealed in and also there isn’t way use the air inside. Some sealed combustion heaters also use direct venting for exhaust and also intake.

Heater Vents
- Unvented. Unvented heaters, the combustion produced gases are released into heated location. They are for temporary use due to sensitivity of plants.

- Gravity. Exhausted air in this kind must rise via pipes and are released outside, hence, vents must be vertical. Air put out has to be gotten back by air outside.

- Power. The power vented ones have blowers which push air via pipes to outside the structure. These vents can be made horizontally or vertically, the vent pipe is smaller and hence makes it efficient.

- Direct. These kinds of venting are for sealed combustion types. They have one vent pipe for both exhaust and inlet; with one pipe being inside another.

Gardening Vivian | 07 Jul 2011

Worm Farming, the Easy Way

If you don’t feel like making your own worm farm, they are easy to find. Available from some hardware shops, local councils or even online, worm farms are very popular.

But if you can get hold of four crates or storage boxes, you are well on your way. The boxes will be stacked on top of one another, so make sure the bottom one is waterproof with no holes and large enough to take the weight of the other boxes when filled with soil. The other three boxes need holes in them or perforations, so that the worms can move from box to box and the box on the bottom will collect the worm juice.

Don’t try to collect worms from your garden, not only will it take you ages but they just won’t do. The best worms are red worms or tiger worms. You will also need a good supply of vegetable scrap waste.

Step One

Line the first box with soil and newspaper, add some fruit and vegetable scraps and then add the worms. Place a hessian cloth or more newspaper over the top to block out the light. Now place this box on top of the waterproof “bottom” container.

Step Two

Look after your worms for a couple of weeks. Don’t put orange and lemon skins in your worm farm, worms don’t like acidic food. Also avoid raw onion, tomatoes and pineapples. Remove the hessian or newspaper every time you add food scraps and replace afterward. Add leaves or paper with every second or third batch of vegetable scraps and spray with water occasionally to keep moist. After about two weeks your worms will have grown larger and your box will be full.

Step Three

Set up box two in the same way as you did in step one, remove the hessian or newspaper from box one and place box two on top with the hessian or newspaper over it. Keep adding scraps to this second box and when this box is also full of worms you do the same thing with the third box.

Step Four

Now is the time to harvest your compost from box one. By the time box three is full the worms will have finished eating all the food in box one and moved on. All that will be left in this box will be compost material that you can now spread over your garden.

Step Five

The waterproof bottom container will regularly fill up with liquid fertilizer. Dilute this worm juice, two parts water to one part juice and pour on your plants as fertilizer.

Keep rotating your boxes and enjoy your beautiful garden.

Gardening Vivian | 02 Jul 2011

Does Soil Type Really Matter?

We all know plants need soil. But what is the function of soil for plants?

My students performed a little experiment in class to find out how much soil a plant uses in growing. They were surprised to find out that the soil mass really didn’t change. Their conclusion was “plants do not get their mass from the soil.” So, is soil just an anchor for plants? No, soil does provide nutrients for plants. Some plants need more nutrients than others. Lettuce for example can be grown in just water and do pretty well. (And taste pretty good, too.) Try that with tomatoes. Results are not quite as satisfactory.

Sure, tomatoes can be grown with hydroponic techniques. However, additives have to be mixed with the water to get good results. The mixture has to be tested regularly. Gets to be quite a hassle. What is the difference in soil? There are several differences. Soil can be clay, sand, or silt. Generally it is a mixture of the three. None of these soil types have all the nutrients plants need. Soil is simply a mixture of rock pieces and some plant and animal debris. “Rich” soil has plenty of humus. Humus is organic debris that comes from decaying plants, animals, and animal feces. Mixing this with the above soil types increases the “quality” of the soil. Some plants need to be in a well-drained medium. Mixing sand into the soil along with humus provides the drainage needed for the plants. Many flowers need a well drained soil type.

Most plants can not live in a clay soil. The clay doesn’t allow for any drainage and either rots the roots or holds the roots too tight when the soil dries out. If your soil is a clay soil mix a little sand, humus, and compost to the clay. This will cause the clay to clump into small balls so that it becomes workable and drains well. Once you have done this you will have a great garden. Sand is a great draining soil. However sand will move every time there is a rain storm. Sand will not hold water at the surface area, but will at deeper levels. Sand needs plenty of humus.

Loam is the best mixture for soil. It contains all three types of soil: clay, sand, and silt. Add compost and humus and you have the best possible mixture. Few plants will not grow in this type of soil. The compost and humus ensure all the right nutrients for the plant. This is important for healthy plants, but especially important if the plant is intended for human consumption. Adding commercial fertilizer is an option, but not recommended if you are trying to grow organic produce. What kind of plants do best in loam? Just about any plants. Tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and melons are just a few examples of vegetables that do well in loam. Whether the loam be a clay loam or a sand loam both will provide a the drainage needed for most vegetables. Even flowers like a well-drained area to spread their roots.

Gardening Vivian | 01 Jul 2011

Rose Bushes and Greenfly

Growing roses has its rewards: the perfumes on a warm summer evening, the display of color which rather than being gaudy or garish is so elegantly tasteful, or the single red rose that you cut for your special someone.

Ah yes, that single red rose. The one that appears to have developed a life of its own ‘cos it’s moving!
I have a closer look and there they are; millions of them – aphids!

Little green critters that, individually, can produce 50 offspring, or to put it another way, in a month that solitary one, will beget six million descendents, and they’re all on my roses.

Insects in the garden can be beneficial, but not greenfly and certainly not to my pride and joy. I realize that greenfly are the natural prey of some of the larger insects in my garden. Insects like the lacewings, the hoverflies, wasps and the ladybugs. I also appreciate that some of our favorite garden birds will have a bumper harvest of their own when it comes to feasting on these varmints, an opportunity to maybe raise several families, but not in time to save my roses.

As in all areas of nature, the predators are always playing catch-up because they’ll only increase their numbers when there’s sufficient prey, as such these greenfly will have a head start, allowing them to create havoc before their natural predators can rally their forces.

Aphids infest the softest parts of the roses, often the tips of the canes, the undersides of new leaves and the rose flowers themselves. These aphids can spread disease from rose to rose simply by penetrating the new growth and sucking the sap, and because they’re not too meticulous when it comes to personal hygiene, they’ve probably picked up some nasties from my neighbor’s garden. Aphids secrete a sticky liquid called honeydew when they eat, and this can easily lead to sooty mold – a black fungal disease that will further weaken our roses.

Should this happen to you next year, rather than resorting to an insecticide, if you’re not too squeamish, you can squeeze them between thumb and forefinger or, failing that, you can flush them off by playing a water hose on them. Obviously, this is best done before their numbers become uncontrollable.

Another line of attack is to encourage these predatory insects by companion planting the roses with tagetes, calendula, poached egg plant and morning glory nearby. Had I planted these before the aphids arrived things might have been different.

If you already know that aphids breathe through their skin, then you’ll also know that if you spray them with dilute washing up liquid, this will clog their skin and they’ll suffocate. Another friendly way of controlling them is to use a potassium-salt, insecticidal soap which you can get from your local garden center. How about making your own? I’ve heard that oxalic acid from stewed rhubarb leaves can be quite effective too, but I’m not sure about the effects on the beneficial bugs that you can attract.

I realize now (a little late) the best line of defense, is to organize myself at the beginning of next growing season and be prepared for the worst.

Gardening Vivian | 30 Jun 2011

Houseplants That Clean the Air

Common airborne chemicals are found in nearly every home or office. The most common ones are carbon monoxide, benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene, and even in very low concentrations that can cause health problems for many. A live plant in your home or office is one way of combating these chemicals of indoor pollution.

Besides adding extra beauty to your home because of their variety of shapes and growing habits, plants also improve the air quality. The chemicals that are found in your home are in your everyday surroundings, such as the furniture, the carpet, permanent pressed clothing items, natural gas, kerosene and of course cigarette smoke.

The most effective plants for removing these chemical pollutants are the philodendron, spider plant and golden pothos. Since all plants use carbon in producing their growth these three varieties effectively remove low levels of carbon monoxide.

Other varieties of plants such as the Snake Plant (mother-in-law’s tongue), English Ivy, some types of Dracaena and Bamboo Palm also effectively remove harmful elements from the air. Plants produce oxygen and any plant that you choose in addition to these mentioned will increase the oxygen in their surroundings. Most houseplants are easy to grow in moderate lighting or in indirect sunlight, however try and avoid glass doors or direct sunlight. Many plants fair exceptionally well under florescent lights.

To prevent infestation of spider mites, mist philodendron, ivy, palm, spider plants and dracaena often because they are susceptible and avoid placing them in an area that will be hot and dry. Plants such as Golden Pothos, Chinese evergreen and the snake plant should not be misted and should be allowed to dry out before watering to help keep their roots healthy. Do not over-water or over-feed your houseplants.

Always follow the manufacturer’s directions when feeding and water them with slightly warm water. Water only when they need it when the soil feels dry. Adding houseplants to your indoor environment will not only add beauty to your surroundings but will help you to breathe a little better.

Gardening Vivian | 30 Jun 2011

Why It Is Important To Know What Climate Zone Your In When Growing A Rose Garden

One thing that many people do not stop to consider when planning to start a rose garden is what climate zone you reside in. Sometimes we only concern ourselves with the amount of sun we get in our area on an annual basis but this is actually not the most important aspect of growing a rose garden. The most crucial thing to know is how cold it gets in your area as there are some varieties that can not survive the extreme cold.

Most experienced gardeners and farmers rely on The Plant Hardiness Zone Map from the United States Department Of Agriculture which gives eleven climate zones for every state in the country as well as Mexico and Canada. Proper use of this information will give you what you need to know to decide what you can or cannot grow.

Wherever you go to buy your plants you will receive instructions for that particular plant that will tell you what is required in order for that species to do well. Don抰 plant anything without checking this guide first. Even if it is just landscaping you will want to consult the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to find your climate zone and learn what to do.

For a government produced product the publication is remarkably colorful and is also very large. The information it contains comes from decades of weather statistics and records tracking the average coldest temperatures in diverse areas of the U.S. All of the regions are distinguished by different colors and Zone 1 is the area with the coldest temperatures while Zone 11 is the warmest with the lowest temperatures above 40F. The zones are as you would expect, gradually warmer as you head south with the coldest zones being found in the north and in areas of higher elevations such as mountainous areas. To find the climate zone for your area all you have to do is go online and click on your region to give you the information you need.

A Lot of people mistakenly believe that roses are more difficult to grow than many other plants but this is really not the case. Like anything that one chooses to grow they will need to be cared for properly and they need regular maintenance but the most crucial part of the equation is making sure that you are in the proper climate zone to grow them. Roses also come in many different varieties with some being more resilient to cold temperatures than others if proper procedures are followed. What is necessary to do is choose roses that have been specifically raised for your zone if you live in a colder area so that you aren抰 disappointed in the results.

Gardening Vivian | 28 Jun 2011

Getting Rid of Garden Pests with Less Chemicals

Can we avoid potentially harmful gardening ingredients? The best thing about the world these days is the open mindedness as well as the awareness most people have about products that do more good than harm to the environment. This is important both in preserving the planet as well as not compromising the body’s immune system through chemical exposure.

It is a lot easier to find certain products now that are organic in nature compared to looking for such a product five, ten or twenty years ago. The market is now opening its doors to a lot safer and a lot healthier as well as a more effective way of gardening. Believe it or not, Lowe抯 as well as Home Depot now have organic gardening materials at one抯 easy beck and call. Such products are clearly a very welcome alternative to the majority of products that are harmful to nature and humans.

There are now gardening products that are good for the plants as well as for you. Fortunately, there is an insect repellant that consists basically of oil made out of orange which does the same functions of an insecticide minus the bad and unhealthy smell. This insect repellant and killer is made out of diatomaceous earth. Also, a soap that kills insects that it so happens to come in contact with is made out of ?believe it or not ?the fatty acids of potassium salts. Miracle II put in some water is great to throw on ant piles including fire ants probably due to the mineral content.

Those pesky, creepy crawly slugs can be stopped via good old fashioned coconut oil made into a soap. Weeds meanwhile, one of the persistent enemies of the garden, is prevented with the use of a gluten meal made out of corn.

Rosemary oil as well as neem oil is another good repellant as well as killer of those little insects usually found in the outdoors. Worms and caterpillars are also best battled naturally via bacillus thuringienensis.

Mosquitos are best repelled using common and ordinary household garlic. Mint oil could also be utilized to kill away those wasps and hornets from the home. If you do get bitten, miracle ii gel is wonderful for eliminating the itch and speeding up healing.

Fortunately, big name companies are getting to understand the value of getting into the naturally healthy bug killing industry and have now started to offer insect repellents that are based on plants. Most of the ingredients of such products are eugenol and a very minimal risk pesticide as determined by the EPA.

Plus, repellents that are applied directly on the skin have also jumped into the bandwagon of safety. Picaridin is a common ingredient on skin inspect repellents and this chemical proves to feel light on the skin and is recommended by the CDC to be one of their currently recommended repellents. Eucalyptus plants is also used by the product OFF! in their inspect repellant product.

Believe it or not, a just as effective herbicide that is a naturally occurring element is vinegar. It is extremely great to know that hardware stores as well as stores for those who love to do gardening activities already carry vinegar based bottles ?basically about twenty percent vinegar based herbicides. This is a product that is used and certified organic. This herbicide also consists of seaweed, liquid fish and tea compost. All these ingredients are generic and are used as fertilizers that are one hundred percent organic.

All in all, the best gardening products are those that use naturally occurring elements from the garden or from nature. What best way to take care and nurture a garden than using the same products that nature also offers. It is also a non invasive and natural way to keep everything in order, wholistically and perfectly in a manner that is free flowing and does not in any way harm another living being or its natural habitat and does not in any way destroy the intricate balance of nature.

Gardening Vivian | 26 Jun 2011

Herb Garden FAQ

Would you like to grow abundant and healthy herbs?
When starting to produce your own herbs there are many aspects to consider like the kind of soil, the choice of herbs, growing from seeds or cuttings, how much water to use, etc. For those who do not like to buy books on gardening and do not want to bother the local nursery person here is a list of the most common questions that are regularly asked when starting an herb garden:

Which Herbs?
Herb gardening is going to be an enjoyable activity if you start seeing results from the beginning, therefore it is better to plant the three herbs that are easy to grow and require little attention. Mint is a ‘no fail’ herb as it stands a range of temperatures and dry or wet conditions, but be sure to grow it in pot in order to contain its sprawling tendency. Bush Basil is a kind of basil with small, hardy leaves that is very versatile for culinary uses from soups to salads and pasta. Chives is the third herb that easily grows either in container or in the outdoor herb garden and has the advantage of repelling flies and insects.

Seeds or Cuttings?
Annual herbs like oregano and marjoram are better grown from seeds for the reason that they can be sown in trays and kept indoors until the warm season is on its way. Cuttings should be taken from perennial herbs -like rosemary- that are healthy and abundant, that way the new herb will take on the qualities of the original plant.

Sun or Shade?
Most herbs thrive in a sunny position while some soft leave herbs like parsley and mint prefer some semi-shade and do well if planted in a garden with eastern exposure.

Any Soil for Herbs in Pots?
Generic garden soil is fine as long as the soil is of light consistency, it should crumble easily between the fingers and retain some level moisture when watered. Pour two cups of water into a 6″ pot filled with soil and watch. If the water does not drain out of the bottom of the pot this is an indication that the soil is too compact, if on the other hand the water flows quickly out of the container it will take the minerals out and in the long run deplete the herb of its nutrients. In both instances the simple and effective remedy is to mix two handfuls of organic matter or mushroom compost into the soil.

How Much Water?
Herbs that grow in a garden plot benefit from being watered twice weekly. Indoor herbs, on the other hand, require some water at least every second day and flourish when exposed to rainwater, so try to move your pots outside whenever it rains and your herbs will thrive.

Gardening Vivian | 22 Jun 2011

Building Complete Hydroponic Garden Systems

Why Complete Hydroponic Garden Systems?

There was recently a post on business wire stating that the increase in vegetable and fruit costs, has also spurred an increase in suburban hydroponic garden systems. The increase in soil costs has been a huge factor in both cases. The soil prices raise the overall food prices, and it makes complete hydroponic garden systems a much better option. Once a huge greenhouse market, hydroponic gardening has now become a booming market. People are tired of paying high prices for food that could have had contact with any number of chemicals.

What Is Hydroponics?

The word ‘hydroponic’ actually means ‘water working’ in Latin. Hydroponics is the act of growing plants in a nutrient and oxygen enriched water flow. In soil, biological decomposition breaks down organic matter into the basic nutrient salts that plants feed on. These salts are dissolved in water and allows the roots to absorb them easily. For a plant to receive a well balanced diet, everything in the soil must be in perfect balance. Rarely, if ever, can you find such ideal conditions in soil due to the lack of organic matter left behind on the surface, contamination and biological imbalances.

The water in the hydroponics system is enriched with nutrient salts, creating a perfectly balanced nutrient solution. The hydroponic nutrient solution is contained, which keeps it from harming our environment.Most likely because of the lack of runoff from normal soil.

Complete hydroponic garden systems lose almost no water to evaporation. Which makes this system perfect for arid and very dry climates.

Without using energy to increase root size, the actual plant size increases much faster and stronger than soil grown plants.

A Complete Hydroponics Garden System

Complete hydroponics garden systems are built around the primary focus of providing oxygen and nutrient enriched water to the plants roots. Usually created in the hydroponics ‘box’, this system uses either a hanging process or the use of sand or any other porous based platform. The hanging process , called aeroponics, uses a spray method of watering.For the lighting , many are using a new LED lighting system. But normal hydroponic lighting will work just fine. The key to making this system work is the exact process of lighting and nutrient based feeding processes.

There are many options to consider when creating and using complete hydroponics garden systems. From the actual planting tray to the type of supplements, water pumps and CO2 injection, you must do your homework. All the variable must be taken into effect. Climate, type of plants and what you hope to accomplish all must be accounted for when using hydroponic planting systems.

Gardening Vivian | 18 Jun 2011

Stop the Planting, Wait Until March

February in the North is an exceedingly trying month for “the home gardener” The days are growing longer and winter seems to be on the wane, but there is so little that can be done and there is a great desire to be doing something. Some gardeners just can’t wait to get started and they do things that should not be done.

For example, there are those who make the mistake of starting flower seeds in the house expecting to get a head start on the coming season. In the North, February is much too soon for this. The germination of the seeds is not the problem; they sprout very readily, but seedling plants do not have good enough growing conditions in the house at this time of year.

When they have grown a few inches tall, they start to lean toward the light and soon grow pale, thin and spindly. What was started with high hopes soon becomes a great disappointment and usually discourages the eager gardener from trying this interesting and profitable adventure when it should be done, under more favorable circumstances and at a time when there is a very good chance for success.

The recommended time to start plants from seeds in the North is some time early in March. It is only those few who have home greenhouses who can expect to succeed with seeds started in February and even then advantages are gained only with petunias, pansies and snapdragons.

A very important point to remember in connection with garden seeds indoors in advance of the season is that there must be a good light, enough space and the right temperature from the time seeds sprout until the plants can be set out in the garden. A serious lack of any or all of these conditions, even for a short while, will be harmful.

Once started, plants must be able to develop under continuously favorable conditions or they will do poorly. Plants seriously checked in their development make poor specimens even if they survive until outdoor planting time.