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Monthly Archives: August 2018

Creative Flower Planters

Snail Shells

Make sure that these shells are discarded by their owners. As an animal enthusiast, you can collect as many empty shells as you can to create an entire bunch of small flower planters that you can line-up on your window sill. This is perfect for those who are living and dorms and apartments, which does not have space for large plant containers.

Old Suitcase

If your life peg is wanderlust, then an old suitcase as flower planters suits your spirit for traveling. Look for a defective suitcase from your pile of travel essentials and enjoy creating planters made from it. Nothing says creative than marrying your interests in one craft project.

Rain Boots

Flowers have always been a staple motif for fashion. You are never caught in bad fashion, even when it rains. But, as the seasons change, we just threw away key fashion pieces. So, if you have rain boots with a missing pair, make use of it by repurposing it into artistic flower containers. Being a fashionista, this project has you written all over it.

Old Toys

One thing that Toy Story taught us is that we all grow and our most cherished toys will become a distant memory. Don’t just keeping them in the attic. Bring them out and make imaginative planters out of them. You can recreate scenes straight out from your childhood days.

Candle Holders

Some people are into scented candles and all those relaxation shenanigans. If you are one of these fanatics, you may have a couple of candle holders hidden in your storage room. These things will make magnificent flower planters that are effortlessly creative. You are rid of unused things, while having an artistic representation of your inner yoga diva.

Baskets

What can you remember when you see baskets? Perhaps it will remind you of the picnics you had with family or friends or how your grandmother brings one while going to an early market shopping. For whatever use you have of the old baskets, these can also be good and decorative containers for plants and flowers.

Tulips Bloom in the Spring

Tulips are fond of mountain region climates by nature, however, a quick tour of your neighbourhood each spring will reveal many gardens contain a glossy display of colourful tulips. What’s the secret to growing tulips?

Tip 1. Buy reputable tulip bulbs from your garden centre and make sure full instructions are written on the back. That sounds obvious, but as a regular at garden centres, I’ve noticed a few cheap brands skimp on some important details such as what time of year to plant them, what shade/sun is required, and how deep to plant the bulbs.

Tulips should be planted with the pointy end upwards, and around 20-25cm underground. One of the most common errors when planting tulip bulbs is to plant them too shallow. Depending on the kind of tulip you buy, each tulip could yield between 1-4 flower heads, and most need to be planted around 20-25cm apart. I have seen people plant them closer together, however this will cause you problems in future years, when you dig them up to space them out a bit (as the plant is perennial and grows back and ‘spawns’ new blooms each year – in English and European climates, especially).

Tip 2. Deciding where to plant your tulips can be part of a grand experiment. This year, I planted some in a border near daffodils, some in hanging baskets where I had a spare bit of space, one or two in a ground planter and approximately 40 in row sets under wood-chip bark. Each lot of tulips have come up, successfully revealing the gorgeous bloom for which they were intended! (You can see by now I’m a bit tulip-crazy!)

The best looking tulips, health-wise, are the ones I planted in full sun in a hanging basket. The leaves are pest-free, and the potting mix seems to have nurtured them into full bloom. The only negatives are tulips near the sides might not reach a good height as the top is touching the hanging basket chain. Planting many and close together in a small hanging basket does work, yet considering they top out at about 30 cm tall, take that into account when deciding where to plant them. By the way, these tulips are sharing the basket space with pansy flowers, which seem to be amiable companions for them. My other lot are in a ground planter with a cyclamen, and whilst they seem happy, the cyclamen is not. I’m not sure they like sharing space with other bulbs (the cyclamen, that is).

One thing to remember wherever you plant your tulips, the green leaves come up around February time, the flowers mid-late April, and the blooms are all done by June at the latest. For the rest of the year the bed will look a bit bare. I suggest you plant something compatible with them on the surface, so if you are not too sure about this (I wasn’t) experiment with hanging baskets to see what works. Around the neighbours’ houses I’ve seen tulips planted under low-lying ground cover plants, the grassy borders of tree trunks, or pansy flower beds. I can see why no-one puts them under a large bush – they need light and height. If surrounded by too many bulbs they won’t come up so great either, it seems from my observations. However, the exception to that rule seems to be they will share a spot with the humble daffodil – as long as there’s room – otherwise the “daff” wins the spot, every time. by inference, you’ll need to prepare any bed you plant tulips in by digging the soil over deeply (to 35-40cm) and pulling out bulbs that are already in there by hand. These include bluebells, daffodil and snowdrop bulbs which could all potentially inhabit a garden bed. This is particularly relevant if you’ve inherited a new garden to play around with. If you haven’t seen the spring flower show, be prepared to dig!

Tip 3. The pests that can attack your tulips include the four-legged kind! The bulbs, which resemble onions in their smell, are attractive to burrowers when tulips are newly planted. There’s not much food around in October/November time, as autumn becomes winter, and believe me, if you’ve spent hours planting a tulip bed, as I did, you won’t appreciate a badger coming around and having a little meal. The solution here is to plant the bulbs at the correct depth in the ground (25-30cm), cover with soil, firmly press down and immediately water. One of the main reasons I put mine under wood-chip this year was to deter cats using the bare bed as litter tray (and possibly digging them up), and foxes deciding the bare garden was a good area for them to pass through, have a little sleep, or bury some bones they are fond of.

Once the tulips begin to show signs of budding, there is the need to watch out for squirrels. They love to eat the head of the tulips! After all that effort you could lose them all – so aside from using an air rifle and being an incredible shot – if you live near squirrels you can forget about growing tulips. Have a little think about this – how many tulips do you see growing in public parks where squirrels roam loose? Exactly! (Or maybe public gardeners are a great shot?)

Another pest which can put little holes all through the leaves is the common garden slug. Slug pellets will keep them at bay, but not totally eliminate them. If you are not too worried about a few nibbles, the tulip flowers will come up just fine, but the leaves look a little mottled. I’ll say straight off I use organic pellets so the birds can eat the dead slugs, which seems a pleasing result for all concerned.

In a second and third year of growth (which you will get if you plant little ground covers, pansies or compatible plants with shallow roots above your tulips) the leaves are much more robust. After the first year you will have a super-strong showing. Add fresh manure or garden compost around Autumn and re-cover the bed with wood-chip or the plants I’ve suggested. I’ve noticed slugs can also be slowed down by wood-chip (which is why I tried this as we are infested with the critters where I live), and of course, the usual slug traps will work too. When you notice more blooms, or crowded beds, you need to dig up the plants just after they bloom, and replant them (deeply) to give them the extra room needed for your next season (usually do this every four years or so).

Vegetable Garden

Level ground with good drainage or ground with a slight slope is just about ideal. If the ground is on a slight slope make the slope even by filling in any depressions with soil taken from obvious high spots otherwise some plants will suffer from excess moisture while others, a few feet away, suffer from the lack of it. It is difficult to obtain an even stand of seedlings on uneven ground, for germination is always patchy.

If the only ground is on a moderate to steep slope it will be necessary to construct a number of bench terraces to conserve soil and moisture. The grade of the slope will determine the number of terraces necessary. Moderate slopes need two or three wide terraces; steep slopes call for several narrower ones. On moderate slopes the terraces can be shaped with soil, but on steeper slopes retaining walls of concrete, brick or stone are essential to prevent severe damage and soil loss during heavy storms. For preference these terraces should slope back slightly from the retaining wall. At all costs avoid, if possible, low-lying ground which is likely to become waterlogged in the rainy season. These lower soils often attract amateur growers because of their dark color, and appearance of fertility.

Good drainage is essential in vegetable gardens for no crops of consequence will tolerate “wet feet” for long. Too much soil moisture is detrimental to plant growth because the roots must have moisture and air circulation to function properly. Saturated conditions also slow down appreciably the beneficial activities of soil organisms which, as with roots must have air to flourish.

In laying out a garden there are two generally used methods each with its advantages and drawbacks. One method is to dig over and prepare the whole ares allocated to vegetables and to grow the crops, in rows, side by side with no defined paths between. This is the usual system in temperate regions and has the advantage that the area is used to the full.

The alternative method, and probably the most used, is to grow vegetables in slightly raised beds with each bed devoted to a single crop. It may be worthwhile to practice the first method in the dry season for winter crops and then resort to the bed method during the wet months to assist with drainage, as was mentioned earlier in my article to avoid the “wet feet” syndrome.

Gardeners practicing the bed method usually make the mistake of making the paths too wide and the beds too narrow and too high. The bed can be of any convenient length but should be at least four feet wide if the are to accommodate several rows of crops such as beetroot, carrots and lettuces. Beds of this size will still make it possible to allow for hoeing, thinning and harvesting to be done from the paths, which can be about fifteen to eighteen inches wide. Potatoes, sweet potatoes and other widely spaced crops are unsuited to bed culture because of the distance between rows necessary if adequate soil is available to earth them up.

Organic Gardening

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

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

Why organic gardening?

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

Try to work with nature rather than against it.

Advantage

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for planning organic garden

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

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

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

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

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

Caring for the Earth

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

Sandy soils are very light and friable and easily drain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Identification of layers of earth

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

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

Soil analysis

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

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

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

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

Improve the land

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

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

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

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