Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Planting Heather and Crocus Bulbs

I spent time this weekend planting the remaining three heather plants and planting crocus bulbs. I purchased three boxes of crocus bulbs and planted them in the long flower bed under the tall jasmine vines growing up the wall surrounding the hot tub on our deck. The three remaining heather plants were planted at the base of this structure as well. The heathers look great in their new place and the variety of bigger crocus in whites, yellows and purples should provide a nice show in the early spring. The smaller crocus were planted beneath the ferns and calla lilies near the gate. I already have some primrose, violets and two cyclamen planted under this area but it still looks sparse so crocus were added to liven up the spring display.

I received some tiny sized pruners from my husband for my birthday recently. I used the new pruners to trim the two summer blooming heathers in the back yard; they are located in the flower bed that needs to be torn down and rebuilt. I planted these two plants as my first heathers in place here a few years ago. The plants have grown quite tall and wide. I used the curved pruners to trim off the old flowers from the plants and the pruner worked perfectly for trimming heathers. The curve of the pruners helped to shape the plant while pruning. Since both plants bloomed quite a bit it took a while to trim off all the old flowers but I finished it up and they look pretty good overall. Most of my heaths and heathers are fall or winter blooming shrubs so I'll have lots of trimming to do by early spring.

I used the new curved pruners to trim up my small carnation plants in the large flower border in the back yard. Lots of clipping of old flowers from the tops of the plants, they have a nicer curved shape now thanks to the new pruners. The list of garden work is still long but lucky for me my husband trimmed back the runners on the pink jasmine vines and the few spurts of growth on the hedges while I was working on heather and crocus planting, giving me two less tasks to do as the garden year nears its close.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Coastal Winter Garden

Winter is in full swing on the north coast and the cold weather finally managed to wilt back the kiwi leaves on their vines in December. It was a little strange watching the kiwi leaves and drooping cherry leaves stay on for most of the month of December. We have had less rain than usual here, November is the latest the rains hit and there were only a few sessions of rain in November and December. Typically here on the coast we start getting non-stop rain by the beginning of November if not sooner. There were a number of very cold days and frosts during December, colder weather that is usually not felt until January.

The holidays slow everything down as does winter and my garden is no exception. Robins show up in numbers to eat holly berries starting near Thanksgiving. The robins ravaged most of the holly berries on the holly tree but there were still a number of them shining their bright red berries throughout December. We've had to turn on the watering system every two weeks with the lack of rain, although there is moisture from the fog and early morning frosts. Near Christmas we had to break down and hand water a few plants because of the unusually clear skies. Now that the leaves have dropped from the kiwi vines it is probably time to start pruning them back. The fruits on the kiwi vine has been no good ever since the first year we moved in here. It seems awful to waste the fruit but unripe kiwi is pretty unpleasant, not even good to make into jelly unfortunately. Even the raccoons do not seem interested in the kiwi fruit that has fallen on the ground. We're not sure why the fruits only ripened the first year we were here but it's been that way for four years now.

The heathers are doing their best to brighten up the garden and are growing beautifully with golden bronze and yellows highlighting the front yard and blooms of cream and pink decorating the Kramer's Rote heathers we have planted throughout the garden. The naked lady bulb leaves started growing in December and look very healthy, although only a few of the bulbs flowered last year. Some of the earlier blooming heathers need a trim, something to keep me busy during the winter months in the garden. The trellis boxes in the front yard are looking bare and really need to be redone this coming spring. The pink jasmine in the trellis boxes is the only place this vigorous plant is underperforming, and the two passionflower vines left alive from the original four are barely flowering. Driving around our neighborhood we noticed a passionflower vine featuring vibrant red flowers which might be a perfect choice to add to the trellis boxes in spring. If not we will look for some fast growing annual vines or clematis to grow in the boxes and provide some new life to the front yard.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Woodland Plants for Your Garden Part III

Republished from my blog gardeningbytes.com.

Ferns are one of the most beautiful plants for the woodland garden. There are many different kinds of ferns, each with its own pattern in leaves and delicate sway in the wind. Ferns are a fantastic addition to your shady garden area and some do well in partial sun. Evergreen color in the garden can be an easy choice to make when it comes to ferns. Some ferns die back in winter but others stay green all year long depending on climate.

Sword Fern
Common Polypody Fern
Hart’s Tongue Fern
Five Fingered Fern
Golden Shield Fern
The King Fern
Japanese Holly Fern
Japanese Painted Fern
Sensitive Fern
Parsley Fern
Maide Fern
Soft Shield Fern
Shaggy Shield Fern
Male Fern
Chilean Hard Fern
Silver Lady Fern

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Woodland Plants for Your Garden Part II

Republished from my blog gardeningbytes.com.

There are many wonderful plants you can use to fill out your shady garden areas. Some of my favorite woodland plants from this list include fuchsias and foxgloves. Fuchsias like cool summers, keep your fuchsias shaded in hot weather and watered as needed. Foxgloves are fantastic tucked into a corner next to a house, or in the back of a border. When it comes to heather ask for a shade-tolerant variety for shady areas, there are some specific heathers that tolerate shade well but most heathers require six hours of sunshine a day. Geraniums are not just your old-style grandma plants anymore, and they are workhorses in the garden, pretty much fool-proof other than dieing down during hard frosts but they always come back. Check out the variety of scented geraniums, they have more delicate flowers and wonderful scents. Ivy leafed geraniums are also prettier than the old-standard geraniums. Johnson's Blue is a beautiful blue flowered geranium that produces a big rounded bunch of flowers and dies back during winter here on the coast but comes back every season. If you are planting ivy just know they can be invasive left to their own devices.

Delphinium
Bleeding Heart
Foxglove
Eleagnus
Winter aconite
Heather
Evergreen Bittersweet
Euphorbia
Forsythia
Fuchsia
Snowdrop
Broom
Geranium
Ivy
Hellebore (Christmas Rose/Lenten Rose)
Heuchera
Ocean Spray
Hosta
Bluebell
Rose of Sharon
Holly
Iris (Dutch iris and dwarf iris are easiest to work with)
Japanese Maple
Jasmine
Kerria japonica
Forget-me-not
Evening Primrose

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Woodland Plants for Your Garden Part I

Republished from my blog gardeningbytes.com.

Woodland plants work well in shady gardens and are plentiful in terms of varieties to choose from. Woodland plants prefer a good soil with plenty of leaf material or compost. Most of these plants do well in partial shade to shaded conditions. If you have a shady area in your yard a good starting point is to choose one of the many varieties of ferns, they lend a feeling of the woods to your yard and are low maintenance. Sword ferns are an easy entryway to provide a woodland feeling, or get ambitious and plant an Australian tree fern as a focal point in your garden.

Azaleas (beautiful flowers, smaller than Rhododendrons, many varieties and colors to choose from)
Barberry (prickly thorns with red coloring)
Bear’s Breeches (very pretty display of huge leaves and tall stalks of flowers)
Bugle (low growing with colorful flowers)
Clematis vines (many varieties and colors, grow them up trees and shrubs or alone)
Conifers (huge variety of shrubs)
Cotoneaster (great as a ground cover)
Cyclamen (low growing and colorful flowers)
Foxgloves
Glory of the Snow (colorful low growing bulb for spring)
Ladies Mantle
Columbine (re-seeds readily)
Dogwood
Elephant’s Ears
Flowering Quince
Harebell
Heather (hardy shrub, make sure they have a minimum of six hours of direct sun a day to thrive and is a variety that takes semi-shade planting)
Hellebores
Lords and Ladies
Montbretia (can be invasive bulbs, if they love where they are planted they spread quite a bit)
Nettle-Leaved Bellflower
Perennial Cornflower
Perennial Forget-me-not
Rhododendrons (beautiful displays of flowers, give them plenty of room to grow large)
Spotted Laurel
Trilliums
Viburnums
Wood Anemone

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Fall Coastal Garden

The annual heather trip was great as usual. I picked up about seven heathers with colorful foliage of orange, red, green and brown. One of the heathers has white flowers, something a little different for the garden. The property has tons of heaths and heathers planted in the field and a lot of fruit trees, including numerous apple trees and a fig tree. There is a beautiful tall blue spruce that sits near the apple trees too. It is a lovely location out in the country and a nice way to take a moment to relax and enjoy the fall weather. I plan on planting the newly bought heathers in another barrel, this time I'd like to set a barrel right next to the back steps so I can see the heathers when I take a break on the deck.

We've got lots of pruning to do before the rainy season starts in November. The kiwi vines are way overgrown so that's the next job on my list in the garden, along with finishing up cutting back the front yard roses. The curly willow tree has grown so big it shades most of one side of the front yard. The drooping cherry tree has gotten wider and taller, I don't think it will ever be over six feet tall, which is the perfect size for our front yard. The drooping cherry tree is full of leaves this year and bloomed quite a bit more this spring. I think this is the first year it has looked this good since we moved here. What is really unusual is that the drooping cherry tree usually starts to drop its leaves in early October, here we are towards the end of the month and only a few leaves have dropped.

The three October Glory Maple trees planted in our front sidewalk are coloring very slowly this October. It could be because they are getting taller and older and perhaps the leaves and color will stay a bit longer on the trees, at least that's what I'm hoping for. The trees usually drop their leaves entirely by the end of October. The maple trees were planted by a city beautification group and we were happy to have three planted in front of our house. For me there is nothing more pleasing in the fall garden than watching leaves change color as the weather turns cold.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Gardening Article: Five Reasons why a Garden Pond will Benefit Your Home

Thinking of installing a pond into your garden? Here are five benefits that you’ll get from adding a little mini sanctuary in your own back yard!

1) Environmental Benefits:

A small garden pond is a fairly low-maintenance garden element; it uses less water than a lawn and requires less energy and water consumption to keep it looking beautiful. It also attracts plant and animal life, creating a safe haven, rather than taking away from the natural environment. Additionally, the pond can serve as shelter for wildlife. The pond also provides food through the plants you add around the pond, helping any habiting animals thrive.

DID YOU KNOW: It’s thought that a pond can actually offer outdoor “air conditioning” through its ability to create evaporative cooling. This provides a great, natural way to stay cool outdoors!

2) Ambiance Benefits:

The sound and sight of running water is a delight to the ears and eyes, creating a sensory experience. The pond’s water sounds can mask other manmade sounds (such as street traffic) to improve relaxation in the garden.

3) Educational Benefits:

For your family and friends, the pond can become a great educational experience, especially the first-hand contact with all types of living things that are attracted to living in the watery habitat. You might see dragonflies, frogs, toads, pond snails, zooplankton, snakes water beetles, mayflies and all types of birds visiting your pond. These critters and animals come in search of a home and food, plus they use the bathing facilities. Meanwhile, you get the joy of watching nature in its element, plus an opportunity to teach the youngsters about how the ecosystem works.

4) Social Benefits:

A pond can create a great talking point for your family and friends, providing hours of entertainment. The garden pond can even become a focal point at a backyard barbecue or dinner party, becoming part of the decorations - especially if you have highlighted it with solar powered LED lighting or garden ornaments (we love strings of mirrors that twinkle as they reflect the sunlight).

A beautiful pond can offer intangible feelings of relaxation, as you have effectively created a little sanctuary in your backyard.

TIP: Building a pond with the family can bring you all closer together too. Finally, we bet your neighbors will comment on your pond-building efforts and compliment your beautiful garden once its finished!

5) Value Benefits:

Some research suggests that a garden pond can increase the property value of your home. While this may hold true for those buyers who would enjoy having a pond, it’s important to remember that not every buyer is looking for the commitment and responsibility of maintaining a pond.

A garden pond will ensure your house stands out against other comparable houses, which will make a difference to a potential buyer who truly appreciates the beauty of that beautiful garden pond and a little natural sanctuary.

The garden pond can also add to the curb appeal and accentuate the finer features of your home’s architecture as well as offer the advantage of a low-maintenance yard that so many busy families can greatly appreciate.

On all fronts, it is hard to find any downside to having a garden pond!

Image © Public domain, via Pixabay.com

About the author: This article was written by Carly on behalf of Swallow Aquatics. When not writing, Carly enjoys training her first 5K race and walking her two cute doggies.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

YesComUSA Flexible Expandable Water Hose Review

YesComUSA was kind enough to send me a free Flexible Expandable Water Hose for review. You've seen this expandable hose hawked on TV for the 25 foot size at $24.99 (YesComUSA's price is $14.99) price point. YesComUSA has the 75 foot version of the hose on sale at $39.99, the market price is regularly $54.99, which is a great deal!

I was eager to test out this flexible garden hose. I received the Flexible Expandable Water Hose via UPS, it was packaged in a short box and securly wrapped. When opening the package the Flexible Expandable Water Hose was in excellent shape, the hose was wrapped in plastic with detailed instructions for using the garden hose, and the green color was the same as the photos of the product online.

The Flexible Expandable Water Hose is extremely lightweight and easily affixes to the water spout and my watering wand. The garden hose fittings for the threaded end of the gardening hose are black and fit both the water spout and attached to my watering wand perfectly. The top part of the hose fitting has a lever to control water output. The hose is small and lightweight for storage, when it becomes filled with water it expands easily and stretches to 75 feet long. One note on this, if you are looking for a quick spurt of water it takes 30 seconds or so for the hose to fill up for spraying and the same for it to release the water once you turn off the water.

The best part is the hose is still very lightweight, making watering the garden and storage of the hose a cinch. The material feels very sturdy once it is filled with water and does not kink. Anyone who waters their garden by hand knows what a PAIN it is when the hose kinks and you are halfway down the lawn watering and have to trudge back to unkink the hose. You'll never have this problem with kinks with this expandable hose. I also noticed the water flow through my watering wand was much better using this hose. I highly recommend the Flexible Expandable Water Hose for gardeners who want easy hose storage, a lightweight hose when watering and no more hose kinks when you water! If you are interested in the 25 foot version of this hose you can check it out on their gardening equipment page.

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Plants for Hanging Baskets - Part IV

Republished from my blog gardeningbytes.com.

Plant up a basket of brightly colored chiles for your kitchen. Hang your chile basket near the back door for eacy access to your chiles. Smaller chiles are hotter, choose hotter or milder chiles to fill your basket. Plant up a few varieties of small peppers with an herb like cilantro for a colorful kitchen basket. Plant one variety or two or three varieties together in the basket depending on the size of the pepper plant. There are also brightly colored ornamental chile plants available in nurseries if you just want color in your basket. Choose your chiles using this helpful list with information and pictures of chili peppers, and a link at the end of the page to the scoville scale of peppers. This site has a beginner's guide to growing chiles and plenty of information to get you started.

Ancho
Anaheim
Cayenne
Cherry
Chile de Arbol
Guajillo
Habenero
Jalepeno
Passilla
Pepperoncini
Poblano
Serrano
Mini bell peppers
Ornamental peppers
Tabasco

Hanging baskets need the same attention as container plants, water them regularly as they dry out quickly and are often dried out from wind where they are positioned.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Plants for Hanging Baskets - Part III

Republished from my blog gardeningbytes.com.

Here is a selection of unusual plants and vegetables you won't always see in hanging baskets. Start up with vegetables in hanging baskets. You can plant cherry or grape tomatoes in hanging baskets, small peppers, or even strawberries. Herbs can be planted in baskets. Thyme is perfect for edging the basket, chives with their pink blossoms reseed readily, taller herbs can be placed in the center of the basket like rosemary, sage, oregano or tarragon. Place your herb basket outside your kitchen door for easy access when cooking. Some other interesting choices for hanging baskets include coleus, small orchids or succulents to make an interesting basket of color. A display of one plant is striking, baskets filled with all fuchsias, hanging begonias, lobelia, geraniums, allysum, bacopa, petunias, violas, and ferns are striking to look at. Dwarf bulbs can be used for colorful baskets that hang low enough to see the basket at eye level. Choose bulbs tall enough to show over the edge of the baskets, such as dwarf tulips and daffodils, crocus, babiana, grape hyacinth, etc. Hanging baskets need the same attention as container plants, water them regularly as they dry out quickly and are often dried out from wind where they are positioned.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Plants for Hanging Baskets - Part II

Republished from my blog gardeningbytes.com.

Plant herbs in a hanging basket for a unique take on colorful baskets. Choose a large basket for maximum space for your herbs and choose lower growing herbs with a few taller herbs that will fit within the basket height. Thyme is a must for soups and will work well for the edging of the herb basket. Choose one or two taller plants for the center of the basket such as basil, cilantro, coriander or sage. A variegated purple sage will look wonderful in the herb basket. Rosemary may be too heavy to include in a basket unless you grow it for a short time and repot it afterwards into its own pot. Chives are short with rounded pink flowers and make a good edging plant or to mix with other short herb plants. Oregano and marjoram are good herb choices for cooking and will fill out an herb basket in the center. Winter Savory is another great herb for beans or soups. You can use edible plants like nasturtiums to add color and fill out your basket. An herb basket is not only beautiful but ideal for fresh herbs as you cook. Hang your basket in the back yard outside your kitchen for quick access when cooking. Hanging baskets need the same attention as container plants, water them regularly as they dry out quickly and are often dried out from wind where they are positioned.

Basil
Chives
Cilantro
Dill
Lemon Balm
Oregano
Marjoram
Parsley
Rosemary
Sage
Tarragon
Thyme
Winter Savory

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Plants for Hanging Baskets - Part I

Republished from my blog gardeningbytes.com.

Hanging baskets are a great addition to a front porch or deck, providing a higher-set visual for flowers and a chance to draw focus on cascading type flowers and plants. Plant hanging baskets in early spring to be hung outdoors after the final frost. Water your hanging baskets when you water your container plants. A sturdy cocoa fiber or moss lining will help keep moisture in and protect the dirt and plants. Keep shade loving plants together and sun loving plants together when you choose a spot to hang your basket. A basket with all annuals or all perennials, or a mix of annuals and perennials will all work fine in a hanging basket. Hanging baskets can help make a small garden area appear bigger using various levels in the garden, and added to enhance the structure of larger gardens. Hanging baskets need the same attention as container plants, water them regularly as they dry out quickly and are often dried out from wind where they are positioned.

Alyssum
Bacopa
Tuberous Begonias
Wax Begonias
Diascias
Dusty Miller
Ferns
Fuchsias
Dwarf nasturtiums
Dwarf sweet peas
Geraniums
Heliotrope
Impatiens
Lantana
Lobelia
Pansies
Petunias
Trailing ivy
Verbenas
Violas

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How to Grow Sweet Peas From Seed

Republished from my blog gardeningbytes.com.

I love the look of a cottage garden and grow many of these type of plants in my garden. Sweet peas are a frost-tolerant annual climber, they are fragrant with profuse blooms and are beautiful winding up structures, fences, bamboo tripods, trellis, or growing up through branches of tall shrubs much like clematis. Sweet peas can also be grown in the vegetable garden to attract bees and other pollinators. Dwarf variety sweet peas are ideal for planting in hanging containers. There is a perennial version of sweet peas that is not fragrant but will continue growing in your garden. Plant sweet pea seeds six weeks before the last frost date in your area early in the year. For hot summer climates plant seeds in the fall. For moderate climates planting seeds from October through April works well. Give sweet peas a longer growing time by pre-starting the seeds in areas with cold winters and hot summers.

Sweet peas like rich soil and a sunny location. You can help the sweet pea seeds sprout quicker by scraping the seeds with a metal nail file. Scrape a small section of the side of the seed, then soak the seeds for at least 4 hours or overnight. Plant in the ground directly or in a pot. I usually plant my sweet peas in a pot and let them grow six inches or more before planting into the ground under my metal obelisk structure. Snails love young sweet pea shoots, growing them a little taller gives the plants a better chance of surviving in the garden. When sweet peas have reached a height of 3 to 6 inches, pinch the seedlings at top to encourage strong side shoots. Plant sweet peas in rich garden soil and feed with liquid fertilizer, manure, or a time-released fertilizer. Keep the vines blooming by picking flowers often, towards the end of blooming season leave some flowers in place to harvest the sweet pea pods containing seeds. Allow the pea pods to dry completely and pick before they split to drop their seed. Sweet pea blooms can be limited by hot weather. Sweet peas bloom late spring into summer, in cooler climates sweet peas can bloom through fall.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Use Biodegradable Paper to Pot Up Seeds

Reprinted from my gardeningbytes.com blog

Tired of all the plastic pots you use when planting seeds? A good way to plant seeds that then turn to seedlings to plant out is to use biodegradable pots made of paper. The pots can be planted in the ground when the seedling is ready as long as you have some holes in the bottom of the pot to help water drain out. This one stop method makes for less use of plastic pots. Paper is often used as part of compost and the paper pots will not harm your soil. If you can't find small paper pots or pots made of other biodegradable materials in local stores you have some items in your home that will work in the garden. Toilet paper rolls and egg cartons are made of cardboard, these simple household items can be used to plant seeds in and then plant your seeds directly into the ground. Once again be sure to have some holes in your egg carton and cut up the individual egg container sections so you can plant out each seedling without disturbing the root system. Place the toilet roll holders on top of a plastic tray since they have no bottom, from there it will be easy to transfer and plant into the ground. You can size the toilet rolls to shorter plant containers as needed.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

An Abandoned Tree in the Garden

I had an unusual thing happen a few weeks ago. We were headed up to see family in Crescent city last month on a weekend and as we walked out of the front door I saw a small pine-like tree in a pot on our front lawn. In fact the pot was placed on top of one of my big lavender plants and really dented the lavender which kind of ticked me off. It was odd to think that someone would drop off a plant on our lawn but they did so I put it behind the gate in the back yard.

The next day I took a closer look at the tree and placed it on our patio deck. It looks like someone was training the tree to look like a topiary, the two stems are wound together and the pine needles are above the mostly bare stem with a little umbrella of branches. Its actually a very pretty plant and so far has been doing well on the deck other than very windy days when it bends a little too much in the wind. I will leave the tree in the plastic pot since the pot is fairly big and let the tree grow as it will. Its a nice gift for me but whoever heard of abandoning a potted tree on someone's lawn?

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Gardening Article: Select the Right Watering Equipment for your Landscaping

From herb containers on your apartment’s windowsill to extensive gardens that surround your estate, all plants need water to thrive. Keep your garden and lawn green, healthy and attractive when you water it properly. Instead of buying a shed full of garden hoses and attachments, though, select the right equipment to hydrate your landscape.

Gardening Hoses

Typically made of rubber, nylon, PVC or other flexible materials, hoses attach to your outdoor spigot and carry water as far as they reach. Many can extend 50 feet or more, allowing you to water plants all around your home. Because they are versatile, use them without attachments or with sprinklers and nozzles.

You can also use hoses that are specially designed to deliver water efficiently and thoroughly to plant roots. Known as soaker hoses, they operate without attachments or supervision. Water gently seeps out of the holes and into the ground where it nourishes plants rather than causing mud holes or running down the street.

Adjustable Gardening Hose Nozzle

As attachments to your watering hoses, nozzles deliver water via several types of sprays. Nozzle options range from a fine mist that protects lambs ears and other flowers with delicate leaves or jet spray that provide a solid soaking to sturdier plants like bamboo. Simply twist the nozzle to select the spray type you want, and then aim at the plants and squeeze the trigger.

Extension Gardening Hose Nozzle

Hanging plants won’t receive nourishment from a ground sprinkler, and you don’t want to climb a ladder with the watering can every day. Attach an extension nozzle to the garden hose, and satisfy thirsty hanging baskets. An extension nozzle also works perfectly when you need to water plants on a hillside or in window boxes.

Gardening Shower Wand

Designed to imitate natural rainfall, a shower wand gently mists your flowers and plants. It’s the preferred watering method for delicate plants because it won’t deliver a hard stream of water that damages fragile leaves and petals.

Industrial Strength Gardening Hose Nozzle

When you need more power, use an industrial strength nozzle. It streams water to plants the hoses can’t reach, and it washes debris and dirt off lawn furniture or the deck.

Garden Sprinklers

Save yourself time by setting up an automatic watering system. A sprinkler system works off a timer and delivers a set amount of water to your lawn or garden every night when the weather is cooler and ground is most likely to soak it up. If you don’t have money or space to install an automatic system, place a rotating, oscillating or whirling sprinkler on your lawn. You’ll need to move it frequently to ensure every plant receives a drink, and sprinklers on wheels make that job easier.

Gardening Watering Can

Hard-to-reach plants sometimes escape the reach of a sprinkler because they’re hidden behind larger plants or are located out of the sprinkler’s path. Fill a watering can, and manually water any plants that don’t have access to water. If possible, conserve water when you fill the watering can with rainwater that collects in your rain barrel.

Never underestimate the value of the proper watering system. It allows you to maintain the health and vibrancy of all the plants you nurture, including the herbs you grow on your windowsills and the extensive gardens that surround your estate. Which watering tools do you prefer using?

Image courtesy of gardenersworld.com.

About the author: Lindsey is a professional writer living in the Indianapolis area and she writes on behalf of Sears and other deserving brands. Currently, Lindsey is completing work on her master's degree.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Old-Fashioned Sweet Peas are Blooming

I put a whole package of sweet peas in a plastic pot to grow last fall and the seeds did well and grew tall enough for me to plant them in the ground against the trellis next to the front porch. Since spring the sweet pea vines have been covered in flowers and continue to flower for a long period of time.

I've tried for years to get something to grow in that spot and it is finally looking great! The sweet peas are very fragrant and about five feet tall with pink and purple flowers, the vines are a little shorter than some sweet pea vines. I also planted a perennial variety of sweet peas around the same time in the back yard under my metal obelisk. The perennial sweet pea has less flowers but is a really tall vine and stretches all over the obelisk and fence behind it. I'm going to save seeds from both sweet pea varieties and try planting them in my front yard trellis boxes.

I have a red passionflower vine in each of the boxes that were planted last fall and neither vine is growing at all, really disappointing. Hopefully the sweet peas will grow so I have something blooming up the trellis. Hard to understand that passionflower vines grow like wild all through our front and back yards but can't grow in the trellis boxes. Considering the trellis boxes used to have passionflower vines growing in there its been frustrating to say the least, especially since we dug out the old dirt and added new dirt and time-released fertilizer for the boxes. Sure hope the sweet peas will grow there after I plant the seeds.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Gardening Article: Creating a Critter-Friendly Garden

Not all critters that may wander through your garden are bad. Some can actually benefit your garden by fertilizing flowers and plants, by keeping bad bugs away and by making your landscape more attractive. Cut down on your garden maintenance by planting flowers, shrubs and green plants that attract the right kind of animals to your garden.

The Garden Guest List

Where are several animals that get along well with garden plants, you may not enjoy having all of these creatures in your garden. Choose among species on the guest list for help keeping pests out of your garden, but don't feel like you need to have all of these animals in your backyard.

Ladybugs - Not only are ladybugs pretty to look at, they actually eat bad bugs, including aphids. If your roses have suffered aphid infestations in the past, consider getting ladybug help. While yarrow, scented geranium, coriopsis and cosmos attract ladybugs to the garden, you can find "ready to go" ladybugs at your local garden center.

Bees - Honey or otherwise, bees are responsible for pollinating many plants and flowers. If you keep cucumber, melon, squash, eggplant, berries, fruit trees and many other plants, the more bees you attract, the better for your garden! Bees enjoy herbs like thyme, mint, clover, lavender, rosemary and hyssop. As a bonus, you can harvest the herbs for culinary use.

Birds - Birds can be good, but if you have too many you may lose out on fruit and veggies as a result. Nonetheless, birds do eat insects that are bad for the garden. A birdfeeder will certainly draw birds to your yard, and high trees that are perfect for perching or nesting will also attract birds.

Butterflies - Butterflies are so pretty that you may enjoy simply watching them. Buddleia (commonly known as butterfly bush) will draw these winged creatures to your yard, as will clethra, dogwood, witch hazel, honeysuckle, lilac, yarrow, milkweed and lavender.

Lizards - Lizards in the garden? Since they eat irritating pests, they’re beneficial. They like berries and nectar-producing plants, like honeysuckle. Rock and wood piles make natural homes for lizards, so consider landscaping around these.

Frogs - Frogs do double duty, eating both insects and insect larvae. You'll need a wet or boggy area, either natural or manmade, to attract frogs to your garden.

The Critter No-Shows

There are certain animals you definitely do not want in your garden. These include:

  • Rat
  • Mouse
  • Opossum
  • Mole
  • Gopher
  • Chipmunk
  • Squirrel
  • Deer
  • Rabbit
  • Snails and slugs

How can you keep the bad guys away without the use of chemicals that will also deter good creatures? Consider fencing off important garden beds. Chicken wire will keep the big critters out while allowing bugs and birds to fly over or crawl through. Certain compounds deter these animals. Slugs dislike eggshells and copper, so put pennies or crushed eggshell in the garden. Rabbits and deer dislike bloodmeal, so spread it around the yard.

The more time you spend in your garden, the greater your likelihood of noticing some of your garden's new occupants. And the more helpful creatures you attract to the garden, the greater potential for plant health and higher yields of your favorite flowers, fruits and veggies.

Image courtesy of stockphotosforfree.com.

About the author: Lindsey is a professional writer living in the Indianapolis area and she writes on behalf of Sears and other deserving brands. Currently, Lindsey is completing work on her master's degree.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Gardening Article: Painting a Picture of Your Dream Garden

Most gardeners and even aspiring green thumbs have fanciful visions of what their dream garden would look like. Without the constraints of cost, space and a lack of free time, most gardeners would adore fleshing out their current space into something fit to be a photographer's muse. But it's those constraints that force gardeners to pick and choose what’s most important — or so they may think.

While some limits are hard to overcome, creativity goes a long way in the garden. Colors, plant combinations, foliage types and other factors can all be manipulated to change your garden space and bring it closer to your ideal conception. It's worth any gardener's time to do some research and create a comprehensive idea of what their dream garden would look like — with that vision in hand, you can proceed with working toward that goal. Here are some considerations to help you in that pursuit.

Focus on Garden Colors and Foliage

The visual aesthetic of a garden is one of its important aspects. Bright colors offering great contrasts with one another will be a great installation in your yard. You can complement these bold colors with lush green foliage that serves as a visual backdrop—consider trees as well as shrubbery, but don't use too much shade in the garden area, and remember to choose plants accordingly.

When you're looking for the best color combinations, red and yellow often seem to stand out. You can pair these colors together in a variety of ways, from bold red and yellow tulips to more sedate wildflowers of the same color. Or, for a more offbeat, but visually striking pairing, consider the fiery spires of the celosia paired with a yellow butter rose. Allow yourself to experiment with different combinations to give your garden the precise feelings you’re seeking.

Consider Garden Curb Appeal

How your garden looks from a distance should matter, especially if you might eventually sell the home. Some landscaping in and around the garden area can give it a more open, cultivated feel, and these features will be more evident from a distance than the individual plants. Also consider adding trellises, stones and other garden accessories to diversify the textures and features. And when choosing plants, consider ones that will attract favorable wildlife, particularly birds. A birdbath can look impressive on its own, but add a small bubbler in it and the pleasant noise will drown out nearby traffic and attract birds at the same time.

The Challenges of Shade in the Garden

Whether you're overexposed or are struggling to get your plants enough sunlight, the amount of shade is an important consideration. Lighting is sometimes overlooked as an aspect of garden care, but the location of your garden will determine how successful its plants are. Choose a garden plot carefully and keep in mind how the daily sunlight will affect the plants you’re able to grow. Remember that you can plant trees to provide shade if your garden is getting too much sun and the plants are struggling.

Investing in Yard Privacy

If you'd prefer to enjoy your garden in relative privacy, a fence—particularly a wood privacy fence—will keep intruding eyes out of your area. You can also consider cultivating thick shrubbery as a natural hedge, if you want to keep appearances as natural as possible.

Follow a Garden Style Guide

If and when you've settled on a garden style, seek out a guide to help you create that space. Garden guides for cottage, country and Japanese gardens are all easily found in stores and online, and they can help you form your space by showing aspects you might have overlooked.

Gardens can be as simple or as complex as you'd like. If you're only interested in learning to grow some plants or flowers, you might not need to invest a ton of thought into the garden as a cohesive unit. But if you want to maximize its value and aesthetic qualities, do your homework and piece together a space that will be greater than the sum of its parts.

About the author: Lindsey is a professional writer living in the Indianapolis area and she writes on behalf of Sears and other deserving brands. Currently, Lindsey is completing work on her master's degree.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The LAShop - Patio Furniture Wood Market Umbrella Review

The LAShop.com was kind enough to send me a sample of their outdoor furniture to review. I chose their Wood Market Umbrella for the review. The LAShop.com sells a wide variety of unique and quality products, including a number of outdoor and gardening products at great prices.

I received the Wood Market Umbrella via UPS, it was packaged in a long box covered in plastic and securly wrapped. When opening the package the Wood Market Umbrella was in excellent shape, the material was sturdy and the green color was the same as the photos of the product online. The wood pole was made of heavy wood, painted brown and felt of a substantial weight, and the umbrella material was lightweight but sturdy. The patio umbrella does not come with a stand, you must have a patio table with stand for the umbrella.

I placed the umbrella into my patio stand and the pole was slightly smaller but fit perfectly once I tightened the part of the stand to hold the umbrella. Opening the umbrella was easy to do and the coverage of the patio table was perfect! There is a handy rope that helps you raise and open the umbrella, and there is a metal piece you place at the top underneath the umbrella that keeps it in place. The spokes under the umbrella are attractive and sturdy, holding up well to the coastal wind here on the north coast. I often use my patio table for plants I'm rooting and also for picnics in summer on the deck. There was plenty of shade over the table and the umbrella will come in handy with the drizzles and showers we experience here on the north coast of California.

The package included:

  • 1x 8 Feet High-Quality Umbrella
  • 1x Top Finial For Umbrella
  • 1x Bottom Pole

Features:

  • Umbrella available in Green, Red, Tan and White.
  • 8 Feet in diameter.
  • Solid wood poles unscrew at middle for easy and compact storage.
  • UV protective and anti-fade polyester.
  • Water-proof canopy for outdoor scenery & breeze enjoyment even when drizzling.
  • 8 firm ribs construction, the most stable support to the canopy.
  • Attractive matching air vented top.
  • Firm supporting nail fixed on pole when stretched.
  • Pulley and rope for convenient lifting and lowering.
  • Finials of each rib wrapped with cloth to assure stability and best stretch.
  • Can be mounted on your existing stand or in the middle of tables if holes available.
  • Tool free erection and retraction.
  • Perfect for garden, gazebo, sandy beach, pub street, business street, lakeside fishing and more.

The list price for this 8 foot patio umbrella is $73.99, LAShop.com's sale price is $59.99, saving you 19% on the purchase.

I found the Wood Market Umbrella is well-made, colorful and easy to install and use. I recommend LAShop.com's Wood Market Umbrella as a good quality outdoor product that will be a great addition to your back yard furniture and will beautify your garden area.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Deer Resistant Groundcovers

Republished from my blog gardeningbytes.com.

Deer will eat just about anything if they are hungry enough, so be prepared to see nibbles on your plants if food is scare. Here are some plants and shrubs that will help keep the deer from being interested in eating them. Low growing heathers are a good choice because they always look good with only a trim of old flowers off the stems, they tend to be strong growing shrubs. Kramer’s Rote is a beautiful green leaf heather with abundant pink and cream flowers that looks good all year long and grows about a foot tall and twice as wide. Catnip may float cat’s boats but deer do not like the aroma of this plant. Blue Wonder is a dwarf catnip that grows about a foot tall. Periwinkle (Vinca minor) is another choice for planting that deters deer and always looks good in the garden. Lilyturf (Liriope spicata) is an ornamental grass that grows only 1 inch high and produces a spikey flower when blooming. Low growing herbs such as Thyme are a good choice for gardens and less appealing to Deer. Wooley Thyme (creeping thyme) is a good choice for a thicker version of thyme with a wooley texture that forms a wide mat when growing, keeping weeds down and looking attractive beneath the base of other plants. Lambs Ear Silver Carpet is a perfect low growing ground cover, give it a lot of room to grow. This non-flowering Lambs Ear creates a thick carpet of silvery shaped leaves that crowds out weeds and makes a great easy care groundcover for hard to plant areas.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Time for Trimming in the Spring Garden

We've been able to get out in the garden over the past few weeks and mowed the overgrown lawn. I did some trimming of the fuchsias in the back yard; these two-toned pink fuchsias grow really big and are covered with flowers during the summer months. My heather barrel near the dining room window is doing well; the heathers seem to be full-sized finally and are just the right size for the barrel. There have been some blooms but I'm hoping they will bloom better this coming year. The barrel in the back yard near the parking pad where our car is parked has herbs and heathers in it. Unfortunately the mint plant we planted is taking over the barrel so I'll need to move my other herbs and heathers sometime this spring or summer. I knew that mint can be invasive but we really wanted a mint plant and so we took a chance. We certainly will have plenty of mint! Our last mint plant was in a smaller pot and it never did much of anything but this spearmint plant is really growing fast. Just means we need an additional barrel for the back yard. I'm thinking I'll ask for a new birdbath for my birthday or Christmas this year, the old birdbath has always been a little too deep for most of the small birds to drink from. The birdbath's coating is peeling and it is looking pretty worn out at this point. I guess I've had it for a good fifteen to twenty years so it's done well for a cheapy birdbath. I've always wanted a mosaic birdbath so maybe I'll get one of those this year.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Gardening Article: Tips for a Greener Lawn This Spring

Step away from the lawn mower...

Spring is finally here, although in many parts of the country it's coming in slowly. Soon the yard is going to be lush and green, and this is the month to think about prepping it for the coming growing season. Here's what you need to do to have a lush, healthy lawn.

Think About Weeds Now

Weeds are the enemy of a healthy lawn, and they are already starting to germinate. Get a head start by applying weed control now, rather than later when they are growing strong. Using a pre-emergent herbicide is going to be far more effective than trying to kill the weeds once they have sprouted. If you're going to aerate your lawn, do this first, not after, applying the herbicide.

Treat Bare Areas

Bare areas are a recipe for a weed problem, and they are unsightly as well. In addition to applying a weed control product, you may need to overseed your lawn. Overseeding means applying seed to bare patches in your lawn. This is best done in the fall, but you can do it in the spring if you have a desperate situation. Apply seed to lawns in bare spots to prevent weeds and crabgrass from growing in these spots.

Prep Your Hose

You're going to rely on your garden hose and sprinkler to keep the lawn lush in dry spells. Make sure its ready and free of holes. If you need to replace it, do so now, rather than waiting until you have a parched lawn and no way to water it. Run some water through the hose to inspect for leaks, and replace if needed.

Apply Fertilizer

In the spring, fertilizer gives the lawn the boost it needs to grow healthy. However, you must use it properly to avoid damaging the lawn. Choose a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer, and use no more than a pound per 1,000 square feet of lawn. The best time to apply fertilizer is going to vary depending on your region. A good rule of thumb is to watch the turf. When you notice the turf beginning to grow, it's time for fertilizer.

Protect from Pests and Disease

Many fertilizers or herbicides have built in pest control or disease prevention. If yours doesn't, then you want to look for a product that will keep grubs and disease at bay. Choose a product that is specific to the type of pests in your area for the best result. Then, watch your lawn as it grows for signs of disease, and repair as needed.

Mow with Caution

Don't go crazy with the lawn mower in the spring. Yes, getting out there and mowing is exciting because it feels like summer time, but if you mow too often or cut the grass too short, you will ruin it. Research the right cutting length for the type of grass you have, and mow only when you are removing the top third of the blades. This will protect the grass from damage and also help the clippings to decompose easily.

Your lawn is just starting to turn from dormant to thriving. Give it the boost it needs with the right spring lawn care. If you put in the work now, your lawn will reward you with beautiful, lush, green grass all summer long.

Image courtesy of stockphotosforfree.com.

About the author: Lindsey is a professional writer living in the Indianapolis area and she writes on behalf of Sears and other deserving brands. Currently, Lindsey is completing work on her master's degree.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Storing Saved Seed From the Garden

Republished from my blog gardeningbytes.com.

When you collect flower seeds from your garden, wait until the seed is fully dry. Any moisture in your storage package can ruin your seed. Take dry seed, add it to a paper envelope and seal with tape to assure no moisture gets into the envelope. Write the date and year the seed was taken, all pertinent info about the growing of the plant, area you plant the seeds in your garden, and any other notes you need to keep on the plant. Store seeds in a cool area, a shoe box with small envelopes holding your seeds will be easy to sift through when it comes time for planting. Another method for storing is storing dried seed in the refrigerator in small, airtight baggies. The vegetable crisper works well, you want it cool but not freezing cold. You can use plastic envelopes from a craft store or Tupperware containers. If a refrigerator is not available a cool dark drawer or cupboard works best. Vegetable and annual seed may be stored up to 2 to 3 years in a cool area.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Grow Your Garden on a Budget

Republished from my blog gardeningbytes.com.

If you are on a tight budget but want to grow the size of your garden, use what you already have available in your garden. Think swapping seeds, plants, or bulbs either locally, or seek out gardening forums with swap sections on the site. You'd be surprised how much seed and bulbs are traded or given away by members who have too much in their garden. Seed swapping is as easy as a self-addressed, stamped envelope mailed for trading or receiving free seed. If you have an excess of seed or plants grow your own and sell them at a farmers market, or add to your own garden. Read up on how to propagate your own shrubs from cuttings, a little hormone powder, some baggies to create moisture, and you are on your way to creating new plants. If you aren't the best at saving seed or propagating via cuttings, sometimes taking a piece of plant, such as a fuchsia, is easy enough to root in a glass of water, it only requires patience. Do a little research online to find out how you can build on your garden, join gardening communities, and always be ready to learn more about gardening.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gardening Article: Have Fun and Learn Life Skills When you Garden With Your Kids

Do you kids love playing in the dirt? Start a garden, and let them get as dirty as they want. As your family works together to grow yummy food and fresh flowers, teach important life skills right in your backyard.

Give Them Fun Tasks

Your kids probably won’t need any encouragement to work in the dirt, but you can always add games to make gardening tasks more appealing. Give them a small spade, and tell them to dig for worms or buried treasure. They’ll gladly dig holes all day before you insert the seeds.

They’ll also enjoy watering the garden. Every day, they can carry small watering cans or the hose to the garden. As a reward, let them run in the sprinkler for a few minutes after they finish giving the garden a drink.

To you, weeding is a chore, but your little ones will do most of the work when you challenge them to a race. Teach them to identify the plants you don’t want them to pull then assign a row to each child. Whoever reaches the end of the row first wins an extra snack or a later bedtime.

Pests often live in gardens and destroy your hard work. Arm your kids with a magnifying glass and a bucket of soapy water. Any worms or bugs they find will die in the water then you can treat the pests as you work together to keep the garden stay healthy all summer.

Look for Teaching Opportunities

Gardening provides fresh produce and gorgeous blooms for your table, but it also provides teachable moments. Look for these moments as you dig in the dirt and care for the plants.

Teach responsibility, independence and sustainability when you give each child a separate area to care for. They can choose the seeds to plant then water, weed and nurture their section. And each child gets to enjoy the first fruits of their labor after waiting so patiently for the harvest.

Spend Time in the Garden as a Family

As with any chore, gardening goes faster if you do it yourself. But your entire family benefits when you work together to cultivate a fruitful garden. In addition to getting everyone outside into the fresh air and away from the computer or television screen, gardening provides hours of opportunity to spend quality time laughing, playing and working toward a common goal. It builds relationships and memories.

Gardening is also convenient. Simply walk outside and start playing. You don’t have to worry about packing a snack bag, being home in time for naps or finding the nearest bathroom for potty breaks.

You won’t spend a fortune gardening. You probably already have all the equipment you need, but take advantage of sales at your local garden center if you need tools or supplies. You can also improvise. Start seeds in empty yogurt cups. Blow weeds into a manageable pile with a leaf blower. Fill clean gallon milk jugs with water. With creativity, start, nurture and harvest your garden on a budget.

What’s your favorite part of gardening? Share your passion with your kids and spend all summer together growing vegetables, fruit and flowers.

About the author: Lindsey is a professional writer living in the Indianapolis area and she writes on behalf of Sears and other deserving brands. Currently, Lindsey is completing work on her master's degree.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Flowers for a Cottage Garden

Republished from my blog gardeningbytes.com.

Cottage gardens are a traditional English garden that has loose, flowing flowers instead of straight, ordered plantings. Cottage gardens often use annuals that reseed readily, adding to an already dense planting of flowers. Cottage gardens use plants ranging from annuals, perennials, roses, bulbs, vines, and shrubs for garden structure. Roses are always a good choice, particularly climbing roses. Place your roses on a trellis or archway leading into the garden. Foxgloves, lupines, hollyhocks, and delphiniums are all lovely plants with a tall vertical spires and beautiful flowers that will give structure to your cottage garden. For lower to mid-growing plants for your cottage garden bachelor's buttons, Canterbury bells, clematis, columbines, coneflowers, cosmos, dianthus, forget-me-nots, larkspur, nasturtiums, sweet pea, wallflowers, and pansies are good choices to fill the garden.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Early And Late Summer Bulbs For The Garden

Republished from my blog gardeningbytes.com.

As we approach spring its not too early to start thinking about summer planting. Summer bulbs provide brilliant color blooms during the summer months. If you want a continuous bloom in your summer garden, try these plants for a succession of flowers all summer long.





Early Summer Bloom

Aliums
Arum Italicum
Asiatic Lilies
Begonia
Calla Lilies
Foxtail Lilies
Galtonia
Iris
Naked Ladies Lilies
Oriental Lilies
Peruvian Daffodils
Trumpet Lilies

Late Summer Bloom

Canna
Crocosmia
Dahlia
Gladiolus
Pineapple Lily
Ranunculus
Spire Lily

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Gardening Article: 10 Great Gifts for Gardeners

This year, the groundhog did not see his shadow, predicting an early spring. As gardeners in your life are itching to start their spring cleanup by pruning, planting and sowing seeds, surprise them with a gift that's sure to please. These gifts run the gamut in terms of cost, so there's bound to be something for everyone on your wish list. Consider these 10 gift ideas.

1. Gathering basket: Gathering baskets are perfect for safeguarding those fresh-cut flowers or just-harvested veggies. Gift an elegant, stylish modern or vintage gardening basket -- something your gardener may not already have and will almost certainly love.

2. Trimmers: Gardeners may have lawns with ragged edges because they don't want to mow too close to the garden bed. Enter trimmers, which allow gardeners to get up close to the garden bed without harming flowers. An electric or battery-powered trimmer should suffice for most home gardeners.

3. Garden signs: Plant tags are a practical necessity for seed-sown gardens. Look at craft fairs, upscale garden shops or online boutiques like Etsy to find unique plant tags that are works of art themselves.

4. Birdhouses: Give the gift of bird song by gifting a birdhouse or bird feeder. There are many attractive styles and shapes to choose from. If your gardener already has the basics, consider gifting a hummingbird feeder and nectar, or a handmade wooden birdhouse.

5. Gardening book: From fancy coffee table books to sturdy how-to manuals, gardening books run the gamut. Skip the basic books and choose a title that covers something practical and useful, such as square foot gardening, shade gardening or organic garden management.

6. Garden clogs: If your gardener's crocs are wearing out, upgrade to a new pair of gardening clogs or work shoes. The right pair of gardening should be waterproof, flexible and sturdy. If you plan to give shoes, know the right shoe size or get a gift receipt.

7. Gardening gloves: Gardening gloves receive a lot of wear and tear, since gardeners wear them for all tasks. Surprise your favorite gardener with a new pair of gloves. Look for gloves that are water resistant and offer padding on the fingers and palms. This prevents blisters that arise from holding equipment or tools. Tip: Choose machine washable gloves to score a home run with this gift.

8. Bulbs: What better what to signify that spring in on the way than with gift-wrapped bulbs. Classic spring bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, are planted in the autumn months. Think ahead to summer with beautiful bulbs such as dahlia, calla lily, oriental lily or elephant ear.

9. Pocket pruners: Pruners rust when left in the rain and lose their sharp edge with repeated use. Consider getting existing pruners sharpened or replacing them with a new pair of pocket pruners. Gardeners reach for these to trim shrubs, cut flowers for the home and prune suckers off tomato plants.

10. Watering can: Watering cans wear down over time, as metal ones lose shape or develop a drip. While this seems like a simple gift, what gardener wouldn't enjoy a watering can that saves on labor of lugging buckets of water back and forth from the home to the deck? One to try includes the U Can watering can, which stores fertilizer and even reminds gardeners when it's time to fertilize plants again.

Find these gardening gifts and so many more at your favorite garden store. You just may find a new plant or gardening supply item for yourself while browsing, too.

Image courtesy of Etsy.com.

About the author: Lindsey is a professional writer living in the Indianapolis area and she writes on behalf of Sears and other deserving brands. Currently, Lindsey is completing work on her master's degree.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Gardening Article: Bird Feeding 101

Attracting wild birds to your garden is as easy as choosing a bird feeder and filling it with birdseed. However, the type of bird seed you choose, and the design of feeder will determine the species of bird you attract to you garden.

Choosing your bird seed

Bird Seed Mixtures usually contain maize, sunflower seeds and crushed peanuts. If you wish to attract the greatest variety of birds then a good quality seed mix will be a great choice, however you need to be careful when buying seed mixtures as lower quality mixtures will contain a lot of cheaper fillers to bulk the mixtures, such as dried rice, and beans. Larger chunked foods such as beans and barley grains can only be consumed by larger beaked birds such as blackbirds and pigeons. Smaller birds such as house sparrows, finches and tits will prefer smaller mouthfuls such as sunflower seeds, crushed nuts and pinhead oatmeal.

"Black" Sunflower Seed is popular with a variety of seed eating birds. Bird seeds are surrounded by a protective shell which will sometimes be too tough for smaller birds to penetrate. However in the case of Black Sunflower Seeds the shells are very thin and can be penetrated by the smallest of birds such as tits and robins. The other added benefit is that it contains a high fat content. We advise that you provide a fatty foods during the winter months as many birds will rely on their fat stores to survive when food is more scarce.

Peanuts also contain a high fat content making it a perfect winter food. Peanut feed will usually come as ‘whole nuts’ or ‘crushed’. Only larger beaked birds such as blackbirds, starling or pigeons will be able to consume whole nuts. Although robins are smaller beaked birds they are very fond of peanuts. If you wish to attract smaller birds to your garden, then choose a "crushed peanut".

The Nyjer Seed is a very important source of food for goldfinches, bullfinches and chaffinches but will also attract robins and siskins. Nyjer can be purchased cheaply but requires a special type of bird feeder to administer as the seed is quite fine.

Choosing the best feeder

Many garden birding hobbyists will keep multiple feeders to attract a variety of birds. The problem with having a single feeding station is that larger birds such as blackbirds can dominate the feeding area, preventing smaller birds from accessing.

Nyjer Seed Feeder are designed with smaller feeding holes, therefore only smaller species of birds such as finches and siskins can access the feeders. We suggest if you keep multiple feeders, then keep them at least 3 meters apart so that more timid birds are not scared away by larger species.

Tube feeders are the most common bird feeder design. Most hobbyist will fill these with a seed mixture to attract the most amount of birds.

The problem with traditional tube feeders is that they can only hold a single type of feed. Triple Tube bird feeders can hold three different types of feed and provide a better option if you hope to attract a variety of birds.

Window feeder can be attached to window panes via a sticky suction plunger. Many city birders keep window feeders as an attractive window feature and a way to closely inspect wild birds without the risk of scaring them away.

Image courtesy of www.wildbirdfeeders.co.uk.

About the author: Written by Lynne Dickson, Marketing Manager at Wild Bird Feeders. Wild Bird Feeders is the global leader in Bird Seed Feeders and wild bird feeding. We have an extensive range of products, from Peanut Bird Feeders to triple tube feeders. For more information all about birds, please visit www.wildbirdfeeders.co.uk.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Garden Plant Care Tips During Frost And Freeze Weather

Republished from my blog gardeningbytes.com.

Water your container plants when temps are expected to dip below freezing the next morning, the water keeps the plant roots from going below 32 degrees. When water freezes, it releases heat, acting as an insulator to plant root systems during cold weather. In-ground plants need mulching during winter to help protect them against frost. Plants that are budding ready to bloom have a bigger chance of dropping buds when spring is near and heavy frosts occur. To protect fragile plants use an old sheet or commercial frost cover. Do not use plastic only as a protective cover since plastic heats up considerably when the sun hits it and can burn plants. Plastic can be used over a piece of cloth for added warmth for plants. Remove cloth and plastic first thing in the morning to keep condensation from forming and damaging the plant the next night during a freeze. Use burlap to surround your plants. Create an insulation barrier around your plants to protect them from freezes. Place wooden stakes around the perimeter of your plant then wrap burlap around the outside of the stakes. Use leaves or hay inside the area of the burlap next to the plant to help insulate them. Remove the wrap and insulation the next morning so the plants receive needed sunlight. Bring in container plants that are outdoors when frost is imminent, or move container plants into a greenhouse when available to protect plants. Use use quick hoops to cover vegetables in your garden during freezing weather. Hoops are a tunnel shaped device with a cover that can act as a greenhouse to cover your vegetable crop. Plant low lying, dense ground cover surrounding the base of tender shrubs, the ground cover acts as mulch during colder weather.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How to Grow Bird of Paradise From Seed

Republished from my blog gardeningbytes.com.

Bird of Paradise gets its name from the striking flower heads produced on long stems. These tall plants can grow up 3 to 5 feet in height. I remember my father growing a bed of purple bearded iris and a Bird of Paradise plant. I finally decided to purchase seeds and try my hand at growing Bird of Paradise. From what I've read once Bird of Paradise starts growing from seed it can take 3 to 5 years before the plant blooms, but the beautiful flowers are worth the wait.

You can help the Bird of Paradise seeds sprout quicker by scraping the seeds with a metal nail file. Scrape a small section of the side of the seed, then soak the seeds for at least 4 hours or overnight. Plant in the ground directly or in a pot. Another method is to cool the Bird of Paradise seed before planting for a few weeks, then nick each seed (called scarification) to help the seeds germinate.

I'm not sure how well this plant will do with my coastal weather but I'm willing to give it a try. So far the seeds that were simply filed and soaked in water have not sprouted, while my sweet peas that received the same treatment are growing well. The next set of Bird of Paradise seeds are in the fridge being cooled and will be planted in the coming weeks. Since Bird of Paradise is a tropical plant perhaps a warmer weather area will help the seeds sprout and grow more readily.

Learn more about How to Plant Bird of Paradise Seeds.

You may also want to check here to learn more about How to Grow Bird of Paradise Plants.

And here to learn how to help Bird of Paradise plants bloom their best.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Protecting Plants In Cold Weather

Republished from my blog gardeningbytes.com.

Plants often need extra protection during colder months. As we head into fall and winter, rains, cold temperatures and frost can damage many tender garden plants. A good rule of thumb is to mulch heavily at the base of plants that have difficulty with cold weather and frost. Keep mulch away from stems of plants when applying. Water plants before frost arrives. If you are concerned about tender plants and have a greenhouse dig them up and pot them up then place in the greenhouse for the colder months. For delicate roses surround them with chicken wire cage and fill the cage with leaves as a natural mulch. You can use sheets covered with plastic tarp to surround your plant stems when frosts hit, clothespins work well to gather edges together. Do not use plastic only, plastic conducts the cold and can make it colder under the plastic for the plant. Cut a hole in gallon plastic containers and cover smaller plants, the plastic will help keep the plant stem warmed. Container plants can be brought into the greenhouse or garage until frosts have passed. Add gallon jugs of warm-to-hot water under sheets to help keep temps under the sheets warmer for your plants during frosts.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Gardening Article: Increase Your Crop Yield by Using Marigold in Permaculture

Permaculture is basically about how plants and animals are dependent on each other in their respective functions in nature. There is a general belief among gardeners that planting a combination of plants in a garden can prevent insect infestation.

Marigold is often recommended as a plant which can be used in gardens to prevent nematode and insect damage. However, there are doubts about marigold ability to repel insects. One particular pest that favors marigold is Spider mites, and since these pests are also attracted to other vegetables such as tomatoes it wouldn’t be beneficial to plant marigold with these crops. Spider mites can accumulate on marigold and then spread out to your vegetable plants.

Marigold Control Nematodes

Marigold can help to keep those dangerous nematodes under control. Nematodes are tiny microscopic worms that invade the roots of several vegetables and cause a decline in both the quality and yield. Nematodes favorite plants are tomatoes, but now-a-days the majority of tomato cultivars are bred to be nematode resistant. If your garden is under nematode attack, the adverse effect will be visible by the middle of summer.

Marigold produces a substance that deters nematodes. Research indicates that asparagus, castor beans, pangola grass and neem all produce substances which can kill one or more types of nematodes. Marigold is unlike these plants in that it acts like a trap crop. As the nematodes move onto the plants, they die because they are unable to generate any effective breeding site. Marigolds can control many kinds of nematodes but they are most effective on the root-knot and legions types.

When and How to Plant Marigold

Nematode control is dependent on how marigold is planted and the time it is planted. It doesn’t make sense to plant them beside crops that are prone to root-knot nematodes because this will not be effective, since the root-knot nematodes will amass on predisposed plants. The best thing to do is to plant marigold as cover crops. You should plant marigolds in the rows or the areas where you intend to lessen the problem of nematode build-up. The early crops for summer such as cucumbers, garlic, squash, snap beans, tomatoes, onions and strawberries are usually removed after they have completed their production. You can plant marigold in the same place where these uprooted plants were planted.

Since marigold will only be effective in controlling nematodes for just one crop, you should ensure that the necessary precautions are to be taken to prevent an increase in the nematode population.

Identifying Nematodes

Nematodes are present in all soil types. While these parasitic nematodes are there, they do not have to be present in such great numbers so as to create a problem in your plants. They only pose a problem when the population is large. Nematodes are microscopic in size; therefore if you suspect that they are present in your garden, it’s impossible to see them with your naked eye.

When you become suspicious of their presence call on your Agricultural Extension Office and ask for nematode assay kit. Soil samples that you collect and submit will be tested in the lab for evaluation. If the sample shows high levels of nematode, and is cause for concern, then marigold can be used as a cover crop for control.

Image courtesy of stockphotosforfree.com.

About the author: Lucas Barnes writes about gardening on his site Plantdex.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Bulbs That Bloom In Spring

Republished from my blog gardeningbytes.com.

Spring is the time of year when flowers start to bloom again after the cold dark winter months. Spring bulbs are a great choice to fill out your garden and provide spring colors between established shrubs and plants. Many bulbs manage to naturalise once planted, multiplying your bulbs and color in your garden year after year. Here are some good choices for spring blooming:

Early Spring:
Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow)
Eranthis (Winter Aconite)
Galanthus (Snowdrop)

Mid-Spring:
Anemone (Windflower)
Crocus (Crocus)
Hyacinthus (Hyacinth)
Muscari (Grape Hyacinth)
Narcissus (Daffodil)
Scilla (Bluebell)
Tulipa (Tulip)

Late Spring:
Allium (Allium)
Convallaria (Lily of the Valley)
Sparaxis (Harlequin Flower)
Trillium (Wood Lily)

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Fall And Winter Plants For Garden Structure

Republished from my blog gardeningbytes.com.

Set up your garden to look good in fall and winter. The use of structural plants will provide your garden shape and color during colder months when little is blooming. Plant trees with interesting branch shapes such as curly willow. Trees with interesting and colorful bark, like dogwood, japanese barberry, scots pine, and japanese kerria, provide interesting shapes and texture in the garden. Include shrubs with evergreen leaves that do not drop for green throughout the cold seasons. Plants with seed pods are also a decorative choice for the winter garden.

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