Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gardening Article: Plant Your Dream Vegetable Garden No Matter How Little Space You Have—Three Tips for Green Thumb Success

You don’t need a large, expensive plot of land to grow the vegetable garden you have always wanted. You just need good soil, water, sunshine and getting creative with the space you have. Sound easy enough? It is, with a creative mind, some know-how about which vegetables grow best in small spaces and the patience and care to watch them thrive. Whether you are preparing to grow your first New York City indoor apartment garden or an outdoor one in your studio in Phoenix, here’s what you’ll need for a successful start.

Sunshine

If you want your tomatoes, onions and potatoes to grow in a productive and timely manner, you’ll need to give them about six hours of sunshine every day. Sunlight and the warmth it provides your veggies is important and unfortunately, not always in your control, so it’s important to know which plants need more light than others. Know your vegetables! Are certain varieties of potatoes easier to grow than say, broccoli? Lettuce, carrots, peas and kale can handle some shade while squash, eggplant and tomatoes need to be perched on a sunny backyard space like a patio or balcony for full sun exposure in order to thrive.

Soil, the Perfect Food for Your Precious Plants

Soil is another crucial ingredient to think about before you plant your vegetable garden. Don’t just buy the cheapest soil at the gardening store or you’ll end up with a crop of vegetables that have a hard time growing. Instead, you want a soil that is full of organic matter, crumbly, and drains well (allowing the roots plenty of room to grow and receive nutrients). As you learn more about soil for your gardening efforts, feel free to incorporate organic household material such as coffee grounds, vegetable and fruit waste from the kitchen.

Water

As a general rule of thumb, your vegetable garden will need 1-2 inches of water every week to keep them growing at an optimal level. Depending on which vegetables you are growing, will depend on the type of watering you need to give them. Salad vegetables like lettuce leaves, salad greens and spinach grow well when sprayed rather than watered with a hose. Knowing which plants respond best with each watering type will help you to become a successful gardener, whether this is your first garden or fifth!

Additional Tips for Small Space Gardening

As you begin to shop around for the type of vegetables you are considering growing, make sure to pay attention to the seedlings information. This will tell you how big they will become in their mature state, and how much room on your balcony or backyard you have to give them. Wondering if you can really have a garden inside or outside of your New York City studio apartment? Survey your apartment and find the best patch of sunlight you can, and place your plants here. If you’re dealing with a vertical and narrow space, invest in some window boxes which can hold many vegetables and are narrow enough for even the smallest balcony.

Image courtesy of Boston.com.

About the author: Heather J. enjoys writing about all aspects of home gardening, especially vegetable gardening.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Gardening Article: Be Tickled Pink with Autumn Plugs

There seems to be a theme of fashion in this year’s autumn plug plants, and pink is definitely the common denominator. More and more plug plants are blushing their way through a harsh winter and emerging with a rosy glow as the sun comes out to play again in the spring.

If you’d like a garden to make the boys wink, check out the plugs on offer this time of the year to ensure your spring borders are pretty in pink:

There are Bellis, a low growing daisy like flower with vibrant pinks, deep reds and six flowers at least to a plant. Deliciously decadent in hanging baskets, these pretty little pinks brighten up any garden.

The Pansy, a mainstay of tradition is now available in a range of reddish hues giving a deeper warmer feel to their pretty petals in pink. Of course Winter Pansies are one of our favourites, poking through the sow when everything else has gone into hibernation. For a more contemporary twist, try the Pansy Can Can (it really Can), or the Frizzle Sizzle, now there’s some warmth you’ll benefit from come March!

Polyanthus are a must for Primrose lovers, usually sold in a spectrum of colours, the pinks are pipping the others to the post. The plugs generally come with a 6cm leaf ensuring you don’t mistake them for weeds, and they’re always a lovely surprise flowering first as the Snowdrops die off. Very versatile, being able to be planted in pots, baskets, borders, even hedgerows and paddocks, the Polyanthus is the perfect pink.

Stocks or Matthiola range from purple to white with a myriad of pink in-between, releasing a fragrance that is second to none, these generous tall flower heads blow in an evening breeze as they release their scent into your private plot. A personal favourite, stocks will look great at the back of a border and even better in a vase as a centrepiece to the dining table.

We couldn’t mention pinks and fragrance without some favourite Lavender. There are so many varieties that a garden could easily benefit from an abundance of lavender and look amazing all year round. Lavender can be bought in plug plant form, and some can be planted now or taken care of in a greenhouse re-potting as they grow.

Our favourite in this theme is Lavender Rosea, and as the name suggests they form tufty flower heads that compliment any rosy sunset. French lavenders are developing at an alarming rate, and along with the lavender Red Kew Head, there is a new addition in town, lavender Little Bee Rose is bound to look as pretty as a picture in any pink border.

Image courtesy of http://www.lavenderworld.co.uk.

About the author: Sam Goodwill enjoys writing about perennial plants and other great ideas for the garden.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Gardening Article: Winter Color for Your Garden

Summer is a beautiful time. Trees and gardens are often luscious green and different types of flowers bloom all sorts of wonderful colors. However, as soon as autumn hits these colors disappear almost overnight. Here, we will explore how you can make the best of the colors available to you over the winter season.




Create the Impression of a Full Garden

Keeping healthy topsoil through the summer is advised because it will help you to grow plants in the winter. However, you will be lucky if you can create color throughout your Garden. If you want to give the impression that your garden is full of color in the winter, plant the flowering plants right next to your door. This will offer the impression that your whole garden is full of life. The reality is that it is much better to have ten flowering plants next to one another then spread out all over the garden.

Plants

Of course, the best way to keep your garden looking full of color through winter is to sow plants that you know will be able to survive this period, regardless of the temperature.

Prunus Autumnalis Rosea – this plant will give your garden a nice white and pink color in winter. However, it is not very large, which means that you will only find it suitable in smaller gardens. It might work in larger gardens if you sow it near to your house.

Helleborus Niger – this plant is also known as the Christmas rose, because of its appearance. If you sow this plant in the shade, be ready to have a bloom of white roses with a wonderful yellow centre.

Mahonia japonica Bealei 'Leatherleaf mahonia' – this shrub is green all year round. However, during winter, it will erect yellow flowers, which will look amazing, especially if your garden is covered in a light blanket of snow.

Nandina domestica 'Heavenly Bamboo' – this shrub has leaves that turn a beautiful red in winter, which is an odd color to see at this time.

Chinese Witch Hazel – in autumn, witch hazel is a prominent yellow. Even though it does fade a bit, you will still be able to see the wonderful yellow throughout your garden in December and through to January.


Blue Grass

One of the best plants to keep your garden colorful year round is blue grass (aka Festuca glauca 'Blue Fescue Grass.’) This has a blue/grey foliage that covers your grass throughout the year. Growing roughly 20 cm high, this grass will stick out over a light blanket of snow, which looks simply amazing. Remember, that this height is a maximum and will depend on the quality of your topsoil.

Summary

Sometimes the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere seems like it goes on forever, so much so that some of us start to wonder if spring will ever come. However, by following some of the above steps, your topsoil will reap the rewards. Furthermore, you will have something beautiful to keep an eye on at winter, which will hopefully keep you occupied until summer.

Plant photos courtesy of Wikimedia.org.

About the author: This post was written by James Harper on behalf of Boughton Loam and Turf Management. James is an avid gardener and enjoys writing about his hobby.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Gardening Article: How to Extend The Growing Season for Tomato Plants

An interview with tomato gardener Ernie Shivers

What were the main challenges of this tomato growing season?

Ernie: In this area, which is the Greater Atlanta area, the temperatures this summer have been record breaking. We had many days above 90 degrees. So it has been a problem to keep the tomato plants watered enough and looking after them, and picking tomatoes as they ripen. So this has been a challenge. Some of the plant leaves started dying from the bottom and going up the plant. It is mid-September and the tops of the plants are still green, and blooming, and have small tomatoes. It has been a challenging season and I don’t think I have gotten as many tomatoes from my vines as I have in past years. I think the hot weather has been one of the things that has held the growth back. But it has been a good season and so we look forward to going on to the cooler weather now.

What do I do with tomato plants that aren’t bearing fruit or have dried up branches?

Ernie: I would suggest trimming the branches off, if they are not barren; the leaves have turned yellow or brown so I suggest more than likely they are at the bottom of the plant. I would suggest trimming those off but leave the top, if it’s still green like mine and has blooms and small tomatoes on them. I would continue watching after those. If there is any sign of bugs or worms or that sort of thing, I would suggest that you spray maybe with Miracle-Gro which is a good spray for those type of things. Then I think it might be a good idea to sprinkle a little fertilizer around the base, maybe 10-10-10 in small amounts, and rake it in and water it. Then, like I said, remove the dead leaves and branches.

With the weather cool like it is, the vine insects, the worms, have pretty well gone and I don’t think you will have any problem with them at this time. But if you do, then you can spray for them. I would continue watering the plants so that the ground remains moist and the plants have plenty of water to suck up and continue to produce tomatoes.

Do those things help to extend the growing season for the tomato plant?

Ernie: It will. We will be getting into cooler weather very shortly, like in mid-September. So a lot of areas are already cool. Our temperatures are running between 50 at night and 70 in daytime and so I think the plants are alright under those conditions. When the temperatures drop down to the 40s, I would do several things to extend the growing season. I think it would be best to watch for the cooler temperatures and when it is predicted that the temperature will be dropping to the 40s, it is time to protect your tomato plants.

When it gets down to 40 degrees, I would wrap them with a clear plastic, put them all the way around the plant, top to bottom. Leave the top open and tie the plastic so that the cold wind can’t get to the green tomato leaves and plant. Also, you might use a closely woven cloth to wrap around the tomato plant. That will keep the cold wind off the plants.

One other point I want to make is that when the weather gets down to freezing, just before the freeze comes, I would go out and pick all the green tomatoes, those that started to ripen and are big enough to eat, and bring them inside, lay them out and let them continue to ripen inside in your kitchen or even in your basement perhaps.

You mentioned smaller tomatoes. Is that typical when the sunlight begins to diminish?

Ernie: Spring time and early summer is when you get your largest tomatoes. Then the hot weather makes the tomatoes ripen quicker, so they are smaller size in August. They will continue to be small unless you have some special conditions where you can look at your tomato plants other than just normal weather.

You mean like a greenhouse or something?

Ernie: Yeah, greenhouse or something like that. In normal weather conditions they will tend to be medium to smaller sizes. You can pick the tomatoes when the weather gets down and before freezing, and bring the tomatoes in and let them ripen inside, and they will be good.

If it frosts, then it ruins the tomato, doesn’t it?

Ernie: That is right. It freezes the tomato and it will be too watery. They are not much good then.

Image courtesy of eHow.com.

About the author: Ernie’s Homegrown Tomatoes is an online class where Ernie teaches how to grow tomatoes from your own garden at http://www.growtomatoestoday.com.

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