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Mulch Much? Discover Why It’s Important

May 2nd, 2012

Biting into a crisp carrot, or admiring the brilliant red color of a beet has more to do with the quality of top soil than most consider.  With climbing temperatures in the Spring and Summer, soil can easily lose it’s efficiency if not protected and nourished. Mulch is either an organic or non-organic protective cover placed on the top layer of soil.  If you’ve never considered using mulch, simply applying it can enhance your garden’s vitality at a low cost and with little maintenance (seriously, everyone’s a winner).

Why Mulch?

For one, mulching is a lot of bang for your buck.  Many gardeners find that mulching with a variety of materials can yield a good list of benefits!

To name a few, mulch

*insulates soil and stabilizes temperature, especially in the warmer months.

*provides shade for soil, which reduces evaporation and increases moisture levels.

*helps to reduce erosion from rain and wind. This can also improve the permeability of the soil.

*can suppress weed growth.

*protects soil from solar radiation damage.

*encourages faster growth and a more vital garden

Mulching Materials

A variety of organic and non-organic materials can be used as mulch in your garden. In a forest, we see dried leaves and twigs become “mulch,” as it forms around tree trunks, protecting the top soil and roots of each tree.  Many gardeners use the same idea as they mulch in their own garden.  Natural falling leaves, twigs, and pine needles all work well (and come at no cost!).  Yet grass clippings, nut shells, plastic mulch sheets, shredded wood, hay, cardboard, bark, sawdust, crushed rocks and aged compost are also commonly used.

Which Mulch Is Which?

Start by brainstorming what you would like to accomplish from the mulch. Would you like the mulch to look attractive, or would it serve a more functional purpose? Are you applying in the spring and summer, or are you looking to winterize your plants? Do some research on which mulch is best for the plant(s) in your garden. For example, when mulching around annuals and perennials, small pieces of shredded wood or bark work best. Or, to show off the vibrant colors of your flowers or vegetables, applying dark mulch will heighten their beauty. Also, pine needles can create more acidity in your garden, which can benefit a potato heap.

How To Apply It

It is most beneficial to apply mulch at the beginning of the growing season and then reapplied when necessary. Once you have done further research and selected the right mulch for your garden, clean the area you plan to mulch by weeding or removing unwanted materials. Apply the mulch in a single layer on the surface of the soil, about 2-6 inches thick and wide enough to cover all potential underground roots. Keep in mind that trees require thicker layers of mulch while flower and vegetable beds need only a thin layer to be effective.

If you’re looking to lower the maintenance in your garden, drip irrigation is not a bad idea! It’s less work intensive than manual watering, and normally only needs to be adjusted seasonally. Drip irrigation is the most efficient watering system when mulch is present in your garden, as the water can be applied directly to the root zone. When irrigating, keep the soil bed moist yet never flooded or too dry.  Also, use caution not to over water your plants, as mulch can prevent most water evaporation.

Friends, what types of mulch do you prefer in your garden?

 

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Natural Pest Control That’s Safe For Family And Pets

June 12th, 2014

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Has this happened to you? Just when you think all is well in your garden, you notice tiny, pear shaped insects clustering on the leaves, sucking out the juices and leaving damage behind.  Before you grab a bottle of synthetic pesticide, consider that natural pest control is not old-fashioned, and are very effective. Furthermore, natural pesticides mean there are no health concerns for your family, pets, or water supply. Check out these common pests that could disrupt your garden, and the natural pest control options to keep them at bay.

Aphids

About this bug: These pear-shaped insects may appear harmless at first glance, but these little guys defy the laws of science and are born pregnant; which can lead to a quick infestation. 

Organic pest control solutions: Try spraying them off with forceful water or using a plant based soap (recipe below). You can also let nature take its course by attracting beneficial insects like ladybugs, lacewings and hoverflies to your garden. Plants like parsley, fennel, coriander, sunflowers and Queen Anne Lace will attract these beneficial insects, and could help keep aphids and other harmful critters out of your garden.

Beetles 

About this bug: There are many varieties of beetles, and many will hide under the leaves and flowers of your plants, chewing away the foliage and leaving your plants looking tattered.

Organic pest control solutions: If you’re not terribly squeamish, pick them (or dust buster them) off the plants, and destroy their eggs that may be hiding just beneath the surface of your plant. While beetles love feasting on starchy plants like potatoes, they tend to loathe horseradish, yarrow, catnip and garlic plants. Keeping these plants nearby along with beneficial insects may prevent beetles from trespassing in your garden.

Caterpillars

About this bug: Caterpillars may look charming, but as they increase in size, their mouths grow even larger; leaving gaping holes in their feasting paths. 

Organic pest control solutions: Once they become butterflies, they will deter harmful pests in your garden. But if their caterpillar stage is wreaking havoc on your garden, a natural pest control option is plucking them off the plants and make your own organic pesticides (see recipe below) to deter them from inching along your favorite vegetables.

Leafhoppers

About this bug: Feeding on plant sap, leafhoppers are another villainous garden pest.  Leafhoppers belong to the Cicadellidae family, and there are numerous species that could damage your garden.  Just as their name implies, these insects hop from plant to plant when disturbed. Ranging in size from approximately ¼ – ½ inch, wedge-shaped leafhoppers feed on plants using their sucking mouthparts, similar to their sidekick; the aphid.  Some species of leafhoppers can transmit a virus particularly harmful to beets, tomatoes and other crops causing crinkled, dwarfed or distorted roots and veins. 

Organic pest control solutions: If you suspect a small leafhopper problem, forceful water makes for natural pest control. For more severe infestations, consider incorporating beneficial insects ladybugs, lacewings, hoverflies and praying mantids in the garden (see Aphids for plants that attract these insects).

Mealybugs and White Flies

About this bug: Common in indoor plants, these critters can weaken your plants while mealybugs leave a sticky substance behind. Normally infestations occur from a new infested plant exposing the others to the insect. 

Organic pest control solutions: To keep these pests at bay, try creating more air circulation in the area the plants reside in. For severe infestations, spray the leaves with diluted alcohol which acts like organic pesticides (remember to administer a test a patch first). Neem oil, plant based soaps and even natural dish detergent has also been studied to rid your plants of these non beneficial insects. 

Slugs and Snails

About this bug: Similar to caterpillars, these plump pests leave holes in your plants, while leaving behind their trademark sticky trail.  

Natural solutions: Luckily, slugs and snails go wild for a cold brew, and some prefer leaving a container of beer at the base of the plant for the slugs to eventually drown in. If the thought of watching a slug drown in your favorite stout seems hard to swallow (pardon the pun), try attracting lizards and garden snakes to your garden by leaving sunning stones and water nearby.  Your garden will feel like an oasis to these slug-loving reptiles.

*Make your own organic pesticides*

Caffeine Spray: Combine a few tablespoons of used coffee grounds with herbs like: catnip, lavender, yarrow and thyme which acts like organic pesticides. Add 2 cups of water, and allow at least 24 hours for the mixture to steep. Strain, and spray liberally on insects and plant leaves. Combine with organic pesticides soap (below) for a stronger treatment.

Organic pesticides: Add 1-2 tablespoons of castile soap to 2 cups of water. Spray insects as needed. Add boiled garlic cloves to boost the effectiveness.

Beneficial nematodes: Beneficial nematodes are effective microscopic fighters of soil borne pests like gnats, fleas, rootworms, grubs and cutworms. Beneficial nematodes can be applied in mulch with a garden sprayer or watering can. Another benefit? Beneficial nematodes will also reproduce and spread for long lasting organic pest control. Have you tried beneficial nematodes in your garden?

Friends, how have you naturally treated bothersome pests in your garden?

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed. We’re also proud to say we have taken the Safe Seed Pledge!!

Does starting your first garden seem too overwhelming or you have limited space? Check out this option: The Tower Garden Aeroponic Growing System.  Grow healthy and nutritious food year round!

 

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Soil Temperature- Tips You Can Implement Now

March 24th, 2014

 

 

Have you heard? Knowing the last frost date in your area is crucial for starting your spring vegetable garden. Perhaps you’ve heard this advice as many times as an Adele song on the radio, but you’re having trouble finding a good planting date based on a calendar guide. Even natives have mistakenly planted too early or too late in the season. We have a few tips regarding soil temperature to get you warmed up (pardon the pun) for planting season.

Soil Temperature Tips You Can Implement Now

- If you’re new to gardening, try cold tolerant and hardy vegetables first – think broccoli, carrots and collards. This leaves more wiggle room for mistakes, or an unexpected late frost. If you’d like to learn more about what to grow, check out our post on Frost Tolerant Plants.

- Be patient and wait for optimum soil temperatures. (the payoff is worth it!)

- Learn how to take a correct soil temperature (see our guide below).

- Be prepared for the chance of an unexpected late frost. Store a blanket, or have another method for protecting plants from freezing temperatures handy.

- Consider using organic compost in lieu of store bought fertilizer. It will enrich your soil with vital nutrients, and it acts as a natural pesticide and soil conditioner.

- Strongly consider using mulch to stabilize soil temperature, especially in the warmer months. Mulch will also increase moisture levels, suppress weed growth, and safeguard against erosion.

Check out, if you’d like:

Here’s a handy list of desired soil temperatures for a variety of vegetables and herbs. (This list includes the minimum, optimum, and maximum soil temperatures for growing from seed. Be sure to also pay attention to the letters “b,” “c,” and “d” next to each vegetable, as “b” indicates a hardy vegetable for direct seeding, and the “c” & “d” signifies a tender vegetable for direct seeding.) Our Humble Seed Garden Planner also gives valuable insights and specifics for successfully planting 22 popular vegetable varieties.

4 Simple Steps To Using A Soil Thermometer

1 Buy an inexpensive probe thermometer: These are available at local gardening centers or online. The most cash-friendly thermometers have a glass bulb and a strong metal point, and they work just fine.

2 Find the recommended depth of your seed: Plan on checking the soil at that plant depth. If you’re planting a variety of seeds, then plan on checking at least 5-6 inches deep.

3 Make a pathway for the thermometer: Use a screwdriver to pilot a hole so that the thermometer will not break in hardier soils.

4 Follow Directions: Use the instructions on the thermometer package for the most accurate reading. Take multiple measurements by reading the temperature at different points of the day, including sunny and shaded times.

*Friends, what are your tips for checking and using soil temperatures for direct seeding?

 

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed. We’re also proud to say we have taken the Safe Seed Pledge!

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The California Drought, Food Prices & How to Prepare

March 2nd, 2014

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You may be clear across the country, and have heard little discussion about the current drought California is facing. Yet there is a good likelihood it can and will affect your food prices. Read on to discover why this is, and how you can prepare for it.

Some background: Much of the drought began in 2013, when the state received well below normal rainfall that year. Coupled with this issue, the neighboring Sierra Nevada region had only 10% of it’s average snowfall in December, leaving the reservoir levels at 30% of normal.  Almost immediately, desperate lawmakers passed mandatory water conservation orders across California to cut water consumption. The situation is serious enough for the Sacramento City Council to pass a water restriction forcing residents and businesses to cut usage by 20% or pay a fine up to $1,000.

To give you an image about the severity of this drought, this is what one blogger found as she drove through the farms of Central California, “…the fields were mostly dormant and being “prepared” for planting, but that did not prepare me for their utter NAKEDNESS. Not only were there no weeds or wild plants (even at the edges) but there were no cover crops, no mulches, no PROTECTION for the soil, either. The soil was dry and barren—a dust bowl just waiting to happen!”

How does the California drought affect your food prices?

For one, California is one of the leading food producers in the nation. With over 80,000 farms and ranches spread across the state, there’s a good chance that some of the food in your refrigerator was grown in California. Even more likely is that your olives, almonds, figs, persimmons, pistachios, prunes, strawberries, walnuts, dates and raisins were grown in the state – since California grows 90-100% of these crops distributed world wide.

Unfortunately, when these big farms aren’t getting the water they need, crops aren’t producing and even more troubling – fruit and nut trees take up to two years to recover. Therefore, families must anticipate two years of nation-wide increased food prices and food shortages. So, this begs the question-What you can do now?

Carolyn Nicolaysen, a disaster preparedness expert suggests families do the following before food prices start rising:

-Plan and plant a garden

-Stock up and store produce that is in season now

-Save and store 100% fruit juices

-Store abundant supply of any fruit or vegetable grown in California or any product using these as an ingredient.

-Store foods that contain any California grown produce as ingredients.

-Can or freeze and store produce grown in your garden (find a mentor to help plant and can if needed, help is out there!)

***Friends, what will you do to prepare for the increase in food prices? 

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed.

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Ways to Weather the Winter: Outdoor Edition

January 5th, 2014

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No matter where you are in the country, the chances are pretty good that you have experienced at least one cold day so far this winter. Even if your days have been relatively warm, it’s a different story as soon as the sun goes down.

It’s easy for us humans when the chilly night air creeps in because we simply retire to the warmth and shelter of our homes. But what about the lives that remain outside in the backyard – what options do our plants, trees and flowers have in terms of weathering the winter weather?

Fortunately, their source of survival is you! By addressing their most basic needs, you can ensure a safer winter for all of your green backyard residents. So here are a few tips to help you take stock of what you need to accomplish for the good of your backyard growth.

Mulch Ado about Nothing

Mulch is the mighty warrior of winter when it comes to keeping your plants and trees nice and toasty. Begin your winter work by removing all of the old mulch from around your trees and plants to remove insect eggs or disease spores which may have accumulated after the dead leaves fell off the trees.

After the first frost, apply a generous layer of new mulch around all of your trees and plants to help your greenery maintain a consistent under-the-surface temperature throughout the harsh winter season.

Flowery Advice

For the flowers and plants that are settling in for a long winter’s nap, simply snip away the dead leaves and diseased stems as soon as they become dormant. Avoid doing this before they drift off, otherwise you risk stimulating them into new growth.

From here, you’re free to select your next order of flower seeds and plan what you’re going to plant when the ground thaws!

Bushy Burlap and Tree Toppers

When you have invested time and money (not to mention the emotional energy you’ve expended in rooting on those little roots to establish themselves) in planting and growing tree roses and evergreen bushes, for example, the last thing you want to do is abandon them when they need you the most.

To protect your beauties, build a burlap snow fence and wind guard by driving four wooden stakes (the same height as the bush or tree) around the bushes and trees just outside the perimeter of mulch. Wrap burlap around the stakes to encircle the tree or bush and pull it taut. Secure it with string to keep the snow and wind out while letting the sunshine in for evergreens. For roses also fill in the enclosed area with mulch.

Leaf Patrol

Although you have put away your lawnmower, don’t stow your rake in the garage or garden shed just yet. Wait until you have complete yard coverage or until the trees have given all they have to give and then rake up the leaves rather than leaving them where they are until the spring.

When leaves are left on the ground, the sun has no way to penetrate through to the grass underneath. Plus, if you wait until the spring thaw, all of those leaves become a wet mess and are much harder to remove than if you get them while they are dry.

Other Backyard Winter Basics

In general, don’t forget about these items during the colder winter months.

  • Protect the ‘Over’ – Regularly replenish bird feeders so that they stay stocked and keep the birds from having to root around in your yard for leftover grass seed that may still be present.
  • Protect the ‘Under’ – To prevent rodents from digging up your garden and nesting in the soil, wait until the ground freezes and add a 6-inch layer of organic material to serve as your winter mulch around the base of your trees and plant beds.
  • Protect the ‘Around’ – Wrap strips of burlap diagonally around the base of young tree trunks (securing with twine) and encircle them with wire or a tree-guard product to protect their tender bark from cracking in the cold and from the teeth of critters looking to gnaw on something!

What are some of the ways you have cold-proofed your backyard to help your greens weather the winter months?

 

About the Author:

Humble Seed welcomes guest bloggers. This great content was created by Chris Long. Chris has been working as an associate in various departments at The Home Depot for over 10 years. He is a regular contributor to the company blogs and likes to give advice on a plethora of topics ranging from lawn care to Holiday decor.

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Oh, Christmas Tree! Which is the right one for me?

December 5th, 2013

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It’s the first week of December, which means it’s time to start thinking about Christmas trees and other holiday decorations. For some people decorating is the best part of the holidays, but others greet Christmas decorating with a combination of dread and nausea.

Picking the right Christmas tree type, for example, has become a trial in and of itself. It seems like everyone in your family wants something different from your tree. Your kids want a big tree that they can hang all their ornaments and tinsel on, while you and your spouse want something small that isn’t messy.

Lucky for you, finding the right tree isn’t complete guesswork anymore. Here are a few tips on selecting the right tree for your home, and also some tips on what to do after the holiday season comes to an end.

Scotch Pine
This is the most popular Christmas tree in the US. It has the classic shape you associate with Christmas trees, and since it is a pine tree so it doesn’t shed its needles as much as other kinds of evergreen trees. If you’re thinking of replanting your tree – which is becoming increasingly popular – the Scotch Pine is able to grow in many different climates.

Virginia Pine 
The Virginia Pine is aptly named, as it is a great tree choice for Southerners. It is one of the few evergreens adapted to living in warm climates and also retains its needles well.

Fraser Fir
The Fraser Fir is a unique tree, due mainly to its needles. They are a dark green on top and a gray-silver white on the bottom. The color variations make the Fraser Fir a popular tree for those that like to go all out on tree decoration. It also has a strong aroma that helps add to the Christmas ambience. In terms of growing, Fraser Firs are for cold climates only.

White Spruce 
If you have an ornament-crazy family, the White Spruce is a great choice. The White Spruce has the right kind of needles and branches that allow for a lot of Christmas tree decorations. The main drawback to the White Spruce is the unpleasant odor that its needles give off when they are crushed. That means you will need to be vigilant in cleaning up any fallen needles.

Maintaining your Christmas tree once it is up is important and shouldn’t be ignored. If a tree isn’t watered properly, it starts to drop its needles and some trees produce a pungent odor that isn’t appealing. Here are some tips to making sure your tree will survive indoors.

  • Cut off the bottom branches that prevent the tree from sliding into the base easily.
  • Cut off the bottom inch of the trunk. That will remove the sap that has leaked out and covered the stump. If you don’t do this, it will be difficult for the tree to get enough water.
  • Slide the tree into the stand and screw it in so it is stable. Make sure you get help with this. Nobody wants a broken window or sap on his or her sofa because the tree tipped over.

After the Holidays
There are numerous options for disposing of your Christmas tree.  Here are a few:

  • Plant it! Depending on the type of tree you have and where you live, replanting your tree outside is a viable option. If you want to replant your tree, it is essential that you provide enough water for it while it’s inside your home, and that you protect it from high winds and cold once you replant it outside. Make sure you ask for a tree that is balled-and-burlapped, which means its roots are still intact and are wrapped in a burlap bag.
  • A protective layer for your garden. If you have a raised bed garden filled with fragile plants you want to protect from the cold, trim the branches off your Christmas tree and lay them over your garden. Yes, you still have the trunk to contend with, but there are other ways to deal with the trunk.
  • Mulch it! Do some research and find out where you can take your tree to recycle it. Many places will grind trees into mulch that you can pick up. Every city is different, so make sure what your city offers and ways you can go about it.
  • Sink it! If you have the means – and the permission – sinking your tree in a lake can provide a habitat for fish and other aquatic creatures. Just make sure that your tree is stripped bare of all ornaments and decorations!

Do you have a type of Christmas tree that you prefer? What do you do with your tree after the holiday season?

 

About the Author:

Humble Seed welcomes guest bloggers. This great content was written by Chris Long. Chris has been working as an associate in various departments at The Home Depot for over 10 years. He is a regular contributor to the company blogs and likes to give advice on a plethora of topics ranging from lawn care to Holiday décor and live Christmas trees too.

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How to Transition from a Summer to a Fall Vegetable Garden

September 14th, 2013

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Whenever we tell someone that we’re planting a fall organic vegetable garden, we sometimes hear, “Woh! I thought it was too cold to plant.” But there are quite a few vegetables we recommend planting at the end of the summer because they love the cool weather. Be sure to check off your chores, and you’re ready to go for fall!

Chores For Transitioning From a Summer To a Fall Garden

*First look around and see what’s working in your garden and what’s not. Pull out the plants that are no longer producing, and remove any lingering weeds or debris.

*Consider making or buying new tags or markers to label fall crops. We love this crop marker idea if you want to get your children involved!

*Before sowing in particularly hot climates, shade and water the area for a few days to allow the soil to cool down.

*Since the previous plants have used most of the nutrients from the soil, incorporate organic compost and smooth it out well. Adding compost will rejuvenate the soil when planting something new.

*Adding mulch will retain the seed moisture, and helps to prevent the soil from baking at the end of the summer. Straw or hay works well as an insulator, but there really is a variety of mulch options  you can use. If you’re concerned about keeping the straw down, consider using a floating row on top of the mulch.

What To Plant At The End Of Summer

The Brassica family in particular grows very well in cool weather (think broccoli, arugula, cabbage, lettuce, chard, collards, kale, spinach). Mustard greens also tend to be less bitter when grown in cool weather climates. Root crops like parsnips, turnips, beets, and radishes can also do quite well. Most of them can take a little frost – but you can extend the season up to 30 days (give or take depending on mother nature) by using a frost blanket. To learn more, check out our other frost suggestions for keeping your veggies safe. 

Planting Tips

*Count back from frost date but tack on extra time to the calculation. Remember that the days are getting steadily shorter and cooler as fall plants mature. Don’t expect them to produce as fast as in longer and warmer spring time days.

*You generally don’t want to plant a seed more than 3 times the thickness of the seed. Strive to plant the seed two times the thickness; remembering that any deeper can impose stress, making it an issue for the plant to grow above the soil.

*Sow approximately one seed about every two inches. You don’t want to plant too many together, yet being too skimpy can cause problems too! You will be thinning them out later, so make like Goldilocks when sowing seeds. You’ll find your rows will look “just right” after some practice.

*If you’re trying to conserve water, focus watering activities on the most vulnerable plants – along with the oldest trees and shrubs on the property.

**Fellow gardeners, what are you planting for your autumn garden?

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed.

 

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How to Transition Your Garden From Spring Into Summer

July 21st, 2013

Multi_Frame_Vegetable_Gardening-300x289When the seasons change, we all have our own rituals to celebrate the passing of one season and the beginning of another. When winter gives way to spring, we put away the snow boots, stick the gloves in the back of the closet, and enjoy storing away for months the snow tires on our cars. When spring turns to summer, we make sure we have plenty of shorts to wear and that our sunglasses collection is fully up to snuff. But changing seasons also has an impact on our gardens, of course. When the seasons change from spring to summer, we need to take care to transition the garden into the new warmer months. There are a number of ways to do this, and every garden is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Below are some tips for transitioning your garden from spring into summer.

 

Look for the right annuals for your garden. It is important when choosing your annuals that you match them to the lighting of your garden’s locations. Plantingvegetables.net makes the following recommendation: “Try impatiens, begonias or brilliant fuchsias to brighten shaded nooks, as these flowers thrive in shade or partial shade. Petunias, marigolds and geraniums fill the bill for sunny locations. Tuck annuals into the flowerbed between your perennials to liven the bed while waiting for summer perennials to bloom.”

 

Make room for vines. Vines can make a beautiful addition to a garden, partly because they evoke a romanticism from the time of Shakespeare and Italy, and also because they are often great annuals. The right vines also add texture and a variety of heights to your garden. Morning glories and tall nasturtiums can make things interesting by being tall and beautiful. Wait for the danger of frost to have passed through your area. By midsummer, the vines will cover the trellises and be in full bloom.

 

Don’t forget the mulch. Mulching is an important tool for all gardeners, as most already know. Using it around the base of your flowers will control weeds and help your plants hold onto their moisture. You can buy decorative mulch at a gardening store or you can make your own with grass clippings, woodchips and other organic materials. Stone mulch is another option and is well suited for those gardeners without a lot of extra time to spare: unlike organic mulches, stone will not break down and eventually require being replaced. Find what works for you.

 

Use trimming to help the seasonal transition. Trimming is an essential part of gardening. While some gardens have that unkempt, overgrown look, that doesn’t mean that their gardeners are not trimming. All gardeners trim to some extent. During the spring to summer transition time, make sure you are cutting back yellowed leaves from your spring-blooming flowers. Don’t wait – trim as soon as the yellowing starts. Once the foliage is yellow, it is dead, and the plant no longer needs it. You should safely remove the yellowed foliage to keep your garden looking fresh and summer ready.

 

Hang flowers too. Not all of your plants need to be planted in the ground. Try some hanging baskets to add some depth and variety to your garden. If you have, for example, a large swing in your garden, see if you can hang a basket of flowers from the top of it. If you have a tree, use the branches. There are plenty of ways to hang baskets in gardens, you just have to see what will work in yours.

 

Keep everything clean. While you are in your garden getting it ready for summer, planting the right flowers and trimming the dead foliage, make sure you put in some extra time to straighten things out. Rake away any leaves that have gathered and clear away any gardening tools, toys, or other detritus that has a tendency to collect in the garden. Keeping your garden well maintained includes keeping it clean. Nothing will undo all of your hard work faster than a pile of gardening tools in your garden.

 

Spend time outside! What’s the point of a beautiful garden if you never use it to relax? Grab a glass of wine and a book and spend some time outdoors!

 

About the Author:

Humble Seed welcomes guest bloggers. This is a guest post from Matt Zajechowski who writes for Architectural Garden Design, Located in Lake Forest, IL.

 

 

 

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How to Promote a Healthy Garden on a Budget

July 7th, 2013

Saving Money

 

If you’re a beginning gardener or have problems getting a garden to form, there are ways you can promote a healthier living without investing too much money. While you may have to spend a few dollars here and there for necessities, much of the experience can utilize items you may already have around the home. Whether you are building a beautifully rich garden full of color or trying to get vegetables to grow for home-grown meals, your labor doesn’t have to be fruitless.

1. Starting Strong - Getting your plants to grow healthy can be difficult if your yard is heavily trafficked or the environment is too harsh for seedlings to take a solid root. Instead create starter plants within the home where you can control the entire environment the plants are subjected to. By keeping the seedlings indoors where they can grow stronger you are more likely to be successful in your gardening. Once the plants stand at least three to four inches, they can easily be transplanted to your garden.

2. Soil - Mixing nutrient-rich top soil into your garden can ensure that your plats have a solid base to work with. If you have the budget to include top soil, it would be advisable. However, there are ways to encourage a garden without investing a lot of money. Compost and natural mulch can be a great source of nutrients for your garden. This is the process of taking organic material from the home and yard to decompose in the garden to infuse it with the necessities the plants need. By mixing food bi-products from the home, leaves, and grass clippings into your soil, you can save money from topsoil purchases as well as reducing the amount of waste that you throw out.

3. Weed Prevention - Once your indoor started plants are transplanted into your compost-rich soil, it’s time to think about ways to prevent weeds from invading your garden. Mulch made from grass clippings, leaves, wood chips, or essentially anything else that can prevent weeds from getting direct sunlight can help eliminate the work of pulling these invaders out every weekend. For those who are developing edibles, many will use black plastic sheets to cover the beds save for the area where the plant is present.

4. Watering - Water is essential to promoting a healthy plant. Depending on your area, you could be faced with drought restrictions. In these areas, rain-barrels can be a savior providing it will rain any time in the near future. If you have the money to invest in a water saving material this can help your plants retain every droplet of water they can by keeping the water locked where it needs to be. These water saving materials are perfect for areas that are only allowed to water lawns and gardens on specific days. Your plants can live longer with less watering.

You’ll get out of your garden the amount of effort you put into the experience. This also includes a constant vigilance over the development and care of the plants themselves. At moments, it can be akin to caring for a child as you provide necessary nourishment and the proper environment for them to flourish. Don’t get discouraged if the plants don’t perform to your expectations and find solutions to what is causing the problems you face.

 

About the Author:

Humble Seed welcomes guest bloggers. This post is contributed by Linda Bailey from housekeeping.org. She is a Texas-based writer who loves to write on the topics of housekeeping, green living, home décor, and more. She welcomes your comments which can be sent to b.lindahousekeeping @ gmail.com.

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Beat The Heat This Summer In Your Garden!

June 15th, 2013

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During the dog days of summer, you and your plants need some extra TLC – particularly when it hits above 100 degrees. It only takes a few hours for the sun’s rays to damage your plants beyond repair while you were splashing around in the pool (not that we blame you!). To make summer gardening beneficial for your plants and more bearable on yourself, here are some quick and easy tips.

Taking note of your plants. When the heat is on, plants will show signs of distress. Look for browning, yellowing and/or wilted leaves with little to no flowering.  They may also feel crisp when touched. If there are already signs of damage, you may be able to save your plants for successful harvesting. Make sure to mulch 3 to 4 inches to help conserve water, and when watering, give your plants a good, deep soak. Mulching also cools the soil temperature by shielding it from direct sunlight. To prevent damage, read further.

Watering. Depending on what region you live in, you may be experiencing drought. If so, and if you are dealing with water restrictions, you will need to be thoughtful with the day(s) and time(s) you water. If you can, water your plants deeply when it’s cooler in the early morning or evening. If you have drip irrigation, great! If not, you may want to invest in soaker hoses. If you’re fortunate to get a summer monsoon season, a water harvesting barrel is a great way to water your vegetables and reduce your water bills.

Feeding your plants. Many plants may hold back fruit in the hot weather, making it important that you continue to encourage fruit by providing nutrients. One easy way to do this is by side-dressing your plants with compost. Making your own compost is easy (see tips here), plus it makes a rockin’ natural fertilizer for your garden. Limiting weeds can also reduce competition for nutrients and water with your plants – pesky little things aren’t they? If it’s too hot to go weed pullin’ – you may want to try in the evening.

Shade. If your plants are showing signs of heat stress, you should provide them with shade during the hottest part of the day, generally between 11am and 3pm. You can purchase shading material at your local garden center or you can construct a shade barrier using old bed sheets and poles. Summerweight garden fabric is also a nice investment; it can shield plants from damaging rays, and protect crops from birds, insects and other nuisances. Lattices and old screens also work well to shade vulnerable plants.

Keeping your cool. Summer’s heat can be brutal and dangerous to the gardener as well, so it’s important that you protect yourself when in your garden. Using sun block and wearing a wide brimmed hat, loose fitting pants and a light-colored long-sleeved shirt or tee shirt will help reduce skin damage due to the sun’s powerful rays. Wetting or freezing a collar or a towel can also keep you feeling fresh. Furthermore – make sure to have plenty of water within reach while you work!

Best of luck this summer! What are your favorite ways to beat the summer heat within your garden? Do tell…

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