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Peaches Ripening on Tree
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Jan. 28 - Filled the bird feeders and shoveled snow. Lots and lots of snow.
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Archive for the ‘Gardening Tips’ Category

Fake Wasp/Hornet Nest To Keep Wasp Away

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Reliance Grapes Ripening

Since our grapes have began to ripen we have had a lot of wasps under the arbor.  They are getting the juice from the. grapes that have fallen. They don’t really bother anyone but many people, especially children, are afraid of them. It’s easy just to shoo them away but it is much nicer not having them there at all.

I just found out about this neat gadget that you can hang in your garden to repel wasps. Wasp are very territorial and this little lantern shaped thing looks like a wasp nest and so wasp take one look at it and take off.

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Fake wasp/hornet nest to keep wasp away

I was skeptical that it would work, but thought it was worth a try. Just hung it up today and the wasps have all vanished. The juicy fallen grapes are still there but no wasps.

I got it at Lowes and there are 2 in the package. It says that it should clear an area of 200′. Now that I’m a little skeptical of. I only hung one for now though. I’m saving the other for next year in case this one doesn’t survive till then.

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Grapes on the arbor

Black Gold For Only $30 a Ton

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Mountain of rich, black mulch

Even though we have beautiful, black loamy soil, each Spring we like to add a layer of black mulch.

The mulch we use is produced by our town by composting the leaf and limbs that are taken to the land fill. I think the “black gold” we buy is about 4-5 years old. It is so rich and so it not only keeps the weeds down and the roots cool and moist, but it also adds nutrients back into the soil. It will continue to break down over the year and next year we’ll add another layer. The plants respond very well to it and it makes the garden look much nicer too.

The town I lived in in Tennessee did about the same thing but on a much smaller scale. The mulch there was full of debris and not quite as composted, but at least it was free. All you had to do was drive up and start shoveling it into your truck or trailer. Here, we may have to pay $30 a ton, but they load it for you.

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Hosta, Lamium and Forget-Me-Not in the new black mulch.

One little hint, don’t ever go right after a good rain. The mulch will be much heavier and much more expensive.

Spring Gardening – Getting Started

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Raised beds with vegetables beginning to grow.

Do you want to have a garden?

Do you have a plot of land that needs clearing off so that you can either put in a little garden or raised bed boxes for a garden? Whether this plot of land is covered in grass or nothing but weeds, you probably don’t want to have to saturate the whole area with an herbicide and then wait till everything is dead to clear it off so you can actually plant a garden.

An easy way to get started is to till the area, either with a tiller (which you can borrow or rent) or with a shovel. A shovel takes longer but is still very effective. After the area has been turned over and tilled, take a garden rake (a leaf rake might work but not very well) and pull the weeds and grass out of the dirt. As you rake them out, just discard them in the trash and not the compost.

If the area is covered in good grass lawn, then it might be better to lift the sod and transplant it somewhere else in your yard or share it with someone else who might be able to use it.

After you’ve gotten out as many grass and weed strands and roots as possible (the more the better since it cuts down on so much work later) then it’s time to either:

Prepare the soil for the garden by turning in some composted cow or steer manure, which you can buy pretty cheap at WalMart or Lowe’s etc. If you heavy clay soil or very sandy soil, you can add some peat moss (also available at WalMart and Lowe’s). Also, it is a good idea to add a balanced fertilizer at this time. Mix all of t

OR

Build raised beds for your garden. After getting the raised beds in place and making sure they are pretty level, it’s easy to put a layer of newspaper in the bed to discourage weeds from coming up from below. The newspaper will break down and become part of the soil. It’s possible to fill the raised bed with garden soil, but much better to use a combination of other things to create a soil that is light, drains well and won’t pack down.

Some of the things you can use to create a “soil” for you raised beds is: sawdust (no, it won’t hurt the plants), washed sand, perlite, peat moss, compost, composted manure, straw (but it may have seeds), shredded newspaper, and a balanced fertilizer, (see previous post for more information on fertilizers). We also add the polymers from gently used baby diapers (wetnot dirty) as they keep moisture in the soil really well.

Raised vegetable bed with tomatoes and corn

To keep weeds from growing in the pathways between the raised bed boxes or the garden rows, it’s a good idea to lay down some layers of newspapers and then cover that with wood chips.

All done. Now you’re ready to plant. Wasn’t that easy?

Preparing For Spring Gardening

As I try my best to be patient waiting on the snow to melt so that I can finally get back out in the garden, I realize  that there is a lot to do before I get started..

One of the first things to do is to make a list of the things that need to be done, such as clearing away winter debri and checking the plants for damage.  Some of the plants (fruit trees and roses) need to be pruned and as buds begun to swell on the fruit trees, it will be time to spray with dormant oil to prevent pests like aphids from getting a start.

Before the perennials come up or annuals are planted, it’s a good time to work on things like pathways and sprinkler heads.

Early spring is a good time to evaluate your garden to see if you might want to make any changes or additions. Trips to plant nurseries can give you a lot of new garden ideas.

Check out lists above (Flowers tab) for some favorite annuals and perennials.  Don’t forget to check out the seeds available before they get all picked over and scarce. Planting seeds are a great way to get a lot of flowers (or vegetables) for very little money.

Unfortunately, planning for spring gardening makes me even more impatient to get out there and get started.

Don’t Forget the Stock

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Stock plants for sale at nursery

I did try Stock last year and absolutely LOVED it. It is so beautiful with its pink, lavender and white flowers,  but the most wonderful thing about it was the way it perfumed the air all around it. We had so many comments on how good our deck area smelled and it was all because of the Stock.

See last years post about Stock at: http://wp.me/p1OXDF-20u

The thing about Stock is that it likes cold weather and can’t tolerate heat. So plant very early in the spring. We enjoyed them for a long time, until the summer heat knocked them back. What a nice surprise though when the cool weather of fall came, Stock seedlings began to grow and got almost big enough to bloom again when the first frost came. I planted small plants from a nursery and also planted some seeds to see how they would do. Both did great.

That why I’m hopeful that it re-seeds, and this spring will be especially sweet.

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Stock info

 

 

 

Kumquats and Other Plants Wintering Over

We’ve just returned from Arizona where the lemons, oranges and grapefruit are hanging heavy on the trees and it’s the middle of January.

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Kumquats wintering over inside

Here in Zone 6 it’s possible to grow citrus but they have to be in large containers so they can be brought inside to protect them from the bitter cold of our winters.We grow Kumquats and Mandarin oranges in large pots and when it’s nice and warm again they will go back out into the bright sunshine.

They do well inside if there is plenty of sunshine to keep them healthy and thriving.

This spring they will be transplanted into much larger pots so next winter it will be a challenge to bring them inside. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

No, I Didn’t Build The Peas’ Support Too High

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Sugar Snap Pea Vines reach 6 feet

Last year I thought I’d built an adequate support for the Green Peas and the Sugar Snap Peas. After all, it was about 4′ high.

I was so wrong. I just put bamboo in the corners of the raised beds and then strung jute for the peas to climb on. The whole thing collapsed from the weight of the vines and peas. I spent all season trying to prop it back up and not very successfully. Picking the peas was made difficult because we had to hold up the heavy vines to get to the pods. I’m sure we missed a lot of peas last year.

This year I decided to get more creative. I built a scaffolding out of the bamboo poles (we have lots of bamboo, bought in bundles at a thrift store) and then strung twine back and forth. I made it about 6′ tall. I got a lot of comments about how tall it was and was convinced that I had gone overboard a little.

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Sugar Snap Peas forming

Not so. This week the vines reached the top rung, at least the Sugar Snap Peas have and the English Peas aren’t far behind. I am so glad now that I made it so tall. The vines are loaded with pods already and lots of blooms still coming. Looks like a good year for peas.

 

 

 

Getting Rid Of Aphids On Roses

This post is not for the squeamish, so be forewarned.

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Aphids on rosebud

I’ve done things this past 2 weeks that I never, ever, thought I’d do. Actually it had never even occurred to me to do before.

Since we’ve been having such a beautiful, warm (sort of) and dry spring, I thought that we would escape the plague of the aphids that we suffered through last spring. Not so. Well, they aren’t nearly as bad as they were last year, but they are bad enough, and besides, I have a lot more roses to worry about this year.

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Brandy Rose rose bud

My usual tried and true method for combating aphids is to spray them with a mixture of Ivory liquid in water, wait 10-15 minutes and hose them off really well to wash away the soap and the dead aphids.

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Hundreds of buds on the Queen Elizabeth rose bushes

This year the roses are maturing and setting hundreds of buds. As I worked in the garden I began to notice that some of the buds looked like they were wrapped in brown velvet. Since I was very busy and didn’t really have time to stop and mix my aphid-killer potion, then wait to rinse them off, and I didn’t want the little buggers sucking juice from the rose buds for another day or so, I just reached up (with gloves on) and started squishing the aphids. That was gross and I couldn’t believe I was doing it, but, hey, it really worked…except that the leather gloves I was wearing made it hard to do and I wound up actually pulling off some of the buds.

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Sally Holmes roses

So, the next step was (you guessed it) to remove the gloves. I did hesitate, for about 3 seconds, and then I reasoned that I could go and scrub my hands and the aphids would be gone in a fraction of the time it would take to do the civilized method.

After doing this a few times, I realized that some were falling off (only to crawl back up later) and I needed to catch them some way. So, since the aphids were always concentrated on the bud and about an inch down the stem, I found that I could grasp lower on the stem with my left hand, keeping the bud over my palm and use my right hand to smash the aphids.  I was surprised to find how many dropped off as soon as I took the stem in my left hand. It must be an instinct for their survival, which explains why there are a bazzillion of them.

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Yellow rose

Now, not only do I have to kill the ones on the bud and stem but also the ones that drop into my palm.

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Apricot Candy roses

I know that it’s Yucky! I know that it’s Disgusting! But it works. I go on patrol each day to see if any new colonies have been established. I’ve pretty much obliterated them at this point.

The things we will do for our roses.

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Blaze climbing rose (3 yrs old)

I was surprised that when I revealed my revolting aphid-control method to other gardeners, I found that they’d been doing it for years.

Who knew?

 

 

 

 

Gardening On A Shoestring

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Foxglove grown from seed.

Gardening is a hobby that is time consuming and can get expensive. But it doesn’t have to cost a lot. There are many ways to have a beautiful garden without spending much money. Shoestring gardening can be done easily, following these simple tips and gardening how-to’s.

Most of my garden was created by shoestring gardening. I grew some perennials and biennials from seeds. All of our Purple Cone Flowers (Echinacea) were grown from one packet of seed, which took a little longer but I sure got a lot of plants for $1.89. The Foxglove (Digitalis) growing all through our garden came from one seed packet. Both of these plants reseed themselves, as do many other beautiful flowers.

Some of the other flowers I’ve grown from seeds are Delphiniums, Zinnias, Cosmos and Hollyhocks.

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Echinacea grown from seed

 

This is just one way to have plenty of flowers without spending a lot of money.

Growing fresh vegetables from seed is super easy and cheap, cheap, cheap. Check out more ways to garden on a shoestring and have a beautiful, productive garden.

 

 

hollyhocks and peach trees

Hollyhocks grown from seed

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Cosmos grown from seed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Zinnias grown from seed

 

 

A Cottage Garden May Be Just Right For You…But Don’t Plan a Cottage Garden

If you like a lot of different kinds of plants…

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Asian Lilies, Delphiniums and Hollyhocks

If you like a lot of flowers blooming…

If you don’t want to worry about strict, formal lines and forms…

If you want your garden to feel natural, like it all happened on its own…

If you like using vintage pieces in your garden…

If you like the idea of plants seeding themselves or multiplying on their own…

If you want a garden that make you want to just hang out and relax in…

Maybe a Cottage Garden is just for you.

A cottage garden is loosely planned, and heavily planted. I think that most gardeners are a lot like me when it comes to plants. It seems that I’m a plant-aholic. I can’t seem to ever have too many. Even when I’m sure that I’ve maxed out the space available, I can always squeeze in one more specimen I’ve found.

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2011 - perennial bed beside deck

Plants that bloom, smell good and re-seed or spread will eventually find a way into my garden. The great thing about having such a variety of plants is that most of them bloom, but not at the same time. So I have something blooming somewhere all during the growing season. If you have all the same plants then the blooms are all done with at the same time.

I did lay out a plan of the yard but only loosely designated a certain area for “flower bed” or “berry patch”. I paid attention to the height of the plants, so they would all fit together nicely, and to the sun and water requirements. It’s also a good idea to pay attention to the bloom time but I didn’t really do that, and most of the time I was lucky. The blooms for any season, spring through fall, are spread around the whole yard pretty evenly.

If you follow the planting guides on most seed packets or plant instructions, your garden will look good eventually. While the plants are growing and reaching their full potential, there can be a lot of empty space to fill. It can either be filled with annuals for a year or two…or three, or with mulch. I like to plant things much closer than the instructions say because I like a very full garden. If the plants get a little crowded, it’s okay. If they ever get too crowded, I divide and move some or share with friends.

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Loosestrife and roses by garden gate

I like blooms. I love having flowers in the house, so I plant plenty so that I can cut plenty to use and to share. Try some of the cottage garden favorites like hollyhocks, foxglove, phlox, daisies, roses (of course), peonies or lilies.

It doesn’t take a lot of room to have a cottage garden either. A tiny plot by the back door will do. How about a 3′ border down the side of your lawn? I’d rather have the 3′ lawn and the rest in flowers, but that’s just me.

Mix in some vegetable plants along the way. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil, squash and many other beautiful vegetable plants will fit right into a cottage garden.

Formal gardens are pretty but they don’t draw me in and make me feel as happy as I feel when I’m in my (slightly messy) cottage garden.

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Agastache, Sedum, Phlox, Roses and Rhubarb

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Phlox, Echinacea or purple coneflower by birdbath

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Creating Garden Pathways

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Garden path between grape arbor and deck

Since we live on a corner, we have a public sidewalk that goes across the front and down the south side of our property. Between the house and those sidewalks leaves a lot of area for flowerbeds, flowerbeds that couldn’t be accessed if there weren’t pathways winding through the garden. Besides for convenience, garden pathways are

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Garden Path between raised beds and deck

appealing, drawing you into the garden. If I could use any material I wanted for the pathways, I would use old, reclaimed paving bricks. I’d have tiny little plants growing between them and beautiful green moss growing on them.

In the real world though, we’ve found something that is within our budget and looks pretty good. We use wood chips spread pretty deeply (4-6″). They began to break down a bit and we’ve had to add more, here and there. The older they get, the better they look. They do a pretty good job of holding down the weeds and they are not bad to walk on.

Where do we get these chips? When we began work on the yard in 2009, we had 3 huge trees removed. The guys cutting them down ran all of the limbs, that they could, through the chipper. We had quite a few to use, which was great. The next year we noticed there were a couple of spots that needed more chips. We saw a tree trimming crew in the neighborhood and stopped and asked if we could have the chips. Sure, because they were going to have to take them to the city dump and pay to deposit them there, a win/win situation. Keep your eyes out for crews cutting down trees or trimming trees and direct them to your yard.

Another thing that would work would be to use pine straw. Until it breaks down a little, it could be a little slippery, but if you have access to lots of pine straw it would really be put to good use. Plus, pine straw smells so good. I love that about it, smells like you’re in the woods.

You could even use grass, if you don’t mind mowing it. If you already have a lawn and would like to have more bedding space to grow things, then mark the pathways and remove the rest of the sod to prepare the beds for planting. If you did this, it might be best to edge the pathway with something, to prevent the grass from growing into the beds. We’ve used large rocks because here in the Rocky Mountains, that’s what we have access to. I’ve also used old railroad ties or Monkey Grass (Loriope), and both of those work great.

There are so many possibilities, but the idea is to provide a place to stroll through the garden. If you have room for it, along the path would be a really good place for a park bench. Let your imagination run wild as you plan your garden paths.

When landscaping your yard don’t forget to include pathways that draw visitors in and make them want to discover what’s there.

Now Is The Time For Training Young Fruit Trees

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Limb spreaders in the plum tree

Newly planted fruit trees tend to want to grow with the limbs going straight up. To create good scaffolding and to open up the center so that sunlight can get in, the tree must be trained. There are many methods of doing this, such as hanging 2 liter bottles, that contain a little water, from the limb. This pulls it away from the vertical growth and away from the other limbs.

An easier way are by the use of long plastic sticks with notched ends so that it is easy to wedge between the limbs. These can be ordered online (I got mine from Starke Bro) and they come in different lengths for different sized limbs. It is also possible to use long wooden sticks that you can just cut notches into.

The idea though, is to create a good shape to the tree, with good support so that later, when it is loaded with fruit it will be able to withstand the weight without having the limbs break.

Houseplants For Deck and Patio

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Plants on deck

 

I think ALL PLACES look better with plants.

This includes patios and decks. Plants create a more welcoming atmosphere along with adding beauty and interest. Sometimes it’s hard to find potted plants or the deck or patio. You can do bedding plants, but if you want something larger, you almost need a shrub or a tree.

There are a lot of plants sold as houseplants that would do very well outside, in the right conditions. Unless you live in the tropics, most of them would have to come in for the winter, but then your house is beautiful all winter. See http://wp.me/p1OXDF-Bo   Of course, you don’t have to have as many as we do…I just kind of get carried away.

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Young plum tree in large pot in early summer

There are plants that can get tall, and some are medium sized, so you’re not limited to the size of bedding plants or worrying that in a couple of years the shrub or tree is going to be way to big for your area.

Check out these 50 house plants to consider http://wp.me/P1OXDF-13K . Learn a little bit about the ones that appeal to you and then, head to Lowe’s or your local garden center and check out the varieties available there. As you check the information tags on each one, you’ll know if it needs shade or can tolerate some sunshine. You’ll know if it needs to be kept moist or can tolerate drying out between waterings.

Some of these plants are long lived and can be a good investment, both for your home or for your outside living areas.



Starting a Vegetable Garden…It’s Easy

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Very small vegetable garden

Many people, who have never gardened before, are considering growing their own food this year and backyard vegetable gardens are becoming quite popular. If you’re reading this, then likely you are already a gardener, but if not, and you want to start a garden, don’t be intimidated.

 

 

 

It’s easy, if you follow these simple steps:

  • Plan
  •  Prepare the Bed
  •  Layout the Plan and then Plant
  • Water and Keep Moist Till Germination
  • Watch Garden Grow

For information about each of these steps, check out this article:  http://ezinearticles.com/?How-To-Start-a-Garden-In-5-Easy-Steps&id=6559034

Gardening should come with a warning, because it is very addicting.

 

Don’t Forget To Plant The Peas

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English peas

Yes, it’s still very much winter here in zone 6, but even here, English peas go in the ground pretty early. We grow ours in raised beds so maybe we can get them in a little earlier because the soil (planting mixture) heats up a little faster. But they do like it chilly and usually, as soon as the soil can be worked, you can get them in the ground.

If you do plant them a little too early, they’ll wait until the right time, and then they’ll pop up and start growing. It’s easy to forget to plant them and before you know it…it’s too late. They like it cool and will bear until it gets too warm.

English peas are great fresh from the garden, raw or cooked.

Have you tried Sugar Snap peas? They look and taste like English peas (maybe a little sweeter), except the shell can be eaten as well. The shell is plump, like a green bean. They are also great raw or cooked (best if not over cooked). They freeze really well too. Just steam them briefly, then seal them in zip bags and toss in the freezer. The seeds are available near the packets of English pea seeds.

As you plan your garden…don’t forget to plant the peas.

Keep The Thieves Out Of Your Garden

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Dandelion

No, I’m not talking about somebody picking your tomatoes or helping themselves to some of the peaches on the tree.

The moisture and nutrients in the soil are precious to the health and survival of your garden. Both of these can be stolen away by weeds. Not only are weeds unsightly, they actually rob our plants of food and water.

I bring this up now, in the winter, because the best time to get rid of weeds is when they first appear and are very small and tender. They will often appear before anything else does in the garden, so a hoe should be a gardeners constant companion in the spring.

Just sayin’…

There Is A Time For Every Season…In The Garden

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Tulips in spring

I doubt that I’m much different from most other gardeners as I eagerly await the warm days of spring when I can get back out into the garden.

There are a few things that can be done early, that need to be done early…and some that can be done too early.

As I look around the garden I see sticks and twigs from winter winds strewed all over the place. There are still stalks of some of the flowers I leave for the birds to get the seeds from. These things need to be removed before the spring plants begin to appear. Also, after danger of frost, some of the protective mulch can be pulled back.

It is very tempting though, to start digging around in the dirt. It’s important not to work with soil that is wet or moist. It disturbs the structure of the soil and can cause it to compact. So if it’s too early in the spring, wait just a little longer to get going in the garden.

Spring will come…it’s teaching us patience.

Building Your Own Raised Beds For Growing Vegetables

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Raised vegetable bed with tomatoes and corn

Everyone at one stage or another has thought about growing their own vegetables and with the rising price of food, now is as good a time as any to begin, weather permitting. It is also an excellent way to educate your children about where food comes from and encourage them to eat more healthy produce, as we all know how difficult it can be sometimes. Being able to grow your own vegetables comes with a certain satisfaction and pride of being self-sufficient and even children understand this on a basic level and are more willing to eat something they have had a hand in creating.

 

Raised Beds or Vegetable Boxes

A great way of growing vegetables is through the use of raised beds or as some people call them, vegetable boxes, which can be an interesting garden feature. They have various benefits but the main ones include less compact soil as you should never need to enter the raised bed and improved drainage.

 

Necessary Parts

It is relatively simple to build your very own vegetable box, all you need is some wood and some screws. Most people choose lumber or old scaffolding planks if they are available, they should be roughly 9 inches in height but this can be altered depending on how high you would like your bed to be. The wood should also be roughly 1.5 inches in depth which will provide the necessary strength to hold the structure in place against the pressure from the soil.

You will also need around 6 or 7 screws or nails for each corner to join everything together and a piece of wood which can be cylindrical or cubic to act as post within the bed in each corner, for additional strength.

 

Size and Shape

The length of each piece of wood will depend on what size you would like the vegetable box to be. However, you should keep in mind that the width of your bed should not be too great, as you must be able to reach over halfway into the bed from the outside. This removes the need to ever enter the actual bed and compress the soil. You should also take note of the area around the bed, as you will need space to kneel alongside it to tend to your vegetables.

 

Construction of The Bed

If you are using screws, you may wish to pre-drill holes into the wood to make it easier. For each connection there should be three screws or nails, one for the middle of the piece of wood and one either side of it. After doing this for each corner you should have a rectangular raised bed. Before moving it into position, dig out about an inch or two of soil for where the bed will be planted, this should give it some strength to hold its position. Following this, plant a post within the bed at each corner, screw or nail it to the exterior structure and you will have built your very own raised bed.

 

All that is needed now is the soil and the seeds to set you on your way. An additional thought of being even more self-sufficient is to introduce a <a href=”http://www.ukwaterfeatures.com/Shop/Water-Features.html”>water feature</a> such as a water butt into your garden. This would collect rainwater for you which can then be used to water your growing plants. With all this, you can look forward to growing your very own vegetables and tasting the fruits of your own labor.

 

For more information, visit www.ukwaterfeatures.com.

Guest Blogger From the UK to Post On Sunday

A gardener from the UK, Ewan Michaels, has contributed a post that will run on Sunday and Monday.

Even though he is most familiar with water features in the garden, he was kind enough to write about building your own raised beds to grow vegetables in. It’s got some really good tips, so be sure and have a look.

When Planting Seeds In Your Garden…Read The Fine Print To Insure Success

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Hollyhocks and Echinacea grown from seed

Many of us are enjoying going through our garden catalogs and dreaming of next summer’s garden.

There are many plants, besides vegetables and annuals, that can be grown from seed. It’s an inexpensive way to get a lot of really nice plants. It’s one of the ways that I have so many plants in my garden. Seeds may take a little longer to produce the beautiful, mature plants on the picture on the package, but if you need a lot of plants, they are will worth waiting for.

It really pays to read the instructions carefully though. You may be waiting in vain for plants to come up if you ignore the guidelines on the back of the seed package.

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Echinacea grown from seed

For instance, not all seeds like to be covered with soil. Some need sunlight to germinate and should only be pressed into the soil a little and kept moist. These include:

  • Coleus
  • Begonias
  • Geraniums
  • Impatiens
  • Columbine
  • Petunias
  • Snapdragons
  • Lettuce
  • Poppies

It’s fun to plan and plant.

It’s even more fun when the plants actually come up.

 

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