Archive for December, 2009

Indoor Gardening

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Growing your own vegetables and herbs is a great way to save money and eat healthy.  Indoor gardening has many uses for both personal and commercial use. Whether you just want a few peppers in your home or a produce store in your town, any amount of fresh vegetables can be grown with the right equipment. There are also multiple ways to grow crops in bigger yields and faster rates. If you know what you want and have space to grow it, indoor gardening pays off after a little bit of work.

If you just want a small selection to grow, many companies offer all-in-one grow kits that fit on your counter top and only use a small amount of water and electricity. They cost around $200, but you can find better deals if you shop around. Many use nutrient packs to feed the plants for weeks. Within 3-6 weeks, you have fresh produce to cook with in any meal. These counter top grow kits are great for cherry tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and small veggies. You can also use these to transplant bigger plants outside or in a bigger space to grow some more.

If you wish to grow plants and vegetables that are bigger than 3 ft, it’s best to hire a home improvement specialist that works on indoor green houses. It’s possible to do it yourself, but it’s not recommended. Electrical setup is needed for lighting and water pumps, which if not done right can burn your house to the ground. You also have to keep the temperature constant, so you may need a separate thermostat to keep it in check. Some plants need more light to grow than a person can stand. After the makeover, you have a man-made garden that can produce goods all year round.

It all comes down to your budget. Whatever you wish to spend, you can have a little garden to grow whatever you choose. The grow kits are a great choice for beginners, while advanced setups are better for those born with a green thumb. Indoor gardening is a great money saving technique, no matter what recessions and economic booms fly by. It’s also great for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, since none of the seeds in stores come with toxins or dangerous chemicals. Also, you get more vitamins, nutrients, and a different flavor in your food when you cook with fresh produce.

Indoor gardening is an affordable hobby that saves money in the long run. The health benefits depend on what you’re cooking, but make the food better for you when done right. Remember: the larger the garden, the more complex the growing gets. Get the pros to make a room into your new indoor garden. This way, you know the system is safe to use and assembled properly. Compared to the outdoors, indoor crops can grow twice as fast and during every season. If you feel like having some more green in your life, creating an indoor garden is a healthy and smart way to go. 😉

Indoor Garden

Indoor Garden

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All About the Christmas Poinsettia

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

There is just something about the poinsettia that makes you think Christmas.  With its vibrant reds and lush greens, there is no questions as to its beauty.  It also makes an outstanding gardening gift.  While they are the most popular of Christmas greenery, making up 85% of holiday potted plant sales, most people know surprisingly little about the poinsettia.  Let’s take a look at some of the common misconceptions and set the record straight.

Myth:  Poinsettias are native to the United States

Fact:   Native to Mexico  poinsettias were used by the Aztecs to make a dye from the bracts (the red part) that was a reddish purple color.   They were introduced to the United States in 1825 by Joel Poinsett.  Commercially, poinsettias are grown in every state in the union with California leading the pack as the top producer (California ranch, The Paul Ecke Ranch, is credited with growing more than 80 percent of the U.S. poinsettias to supply to the wholesale market.  This is also where about 90% of all flowering poinsettias worldwide originate.).  In fact, 90% of all poinsettias sold nowadays are exported from the United States.

Myth:  The colored part of the poinsettia is a flower.

Fact:   The colored part of the plant is actually not a flower, but leaves that have been modified.  These leaves are also  known as bracts.  The flower part of the poinsettia is actually located in the center of the bracts.  Very little, if any, pollen is visible on the flowers.  Once the poinsettia has shed its pollen, it will also soon shed its colorful bracts.

Myth:  All poinsettias are expensive.

Fact:   While some poinsettias can get pricey, they are actually priced by how many blooms each plant has.  The more expensive plants have more blooms.  This makes the poinsettia a versatile gardening gift.

Myth:  Poinsettias are Poisonous.

Fact:   Ohio State University conducted a study to determine the toxicity of the poinsettia.  The conclusion was that if a child weighing 50 pounds were to eat 500 bracts, they may get a slight stomach ache.  However, the poinsettia sap can be irritating to some people who have a sensitivity to it.  It can also cause an upset stomach if too much is consumed.

Myth:  There is only one type of poinsettia.

Fact:   There are more than one hundred different varieties of poinsettias from which you can choose.  They also come in different colors, red which is the most popular, white which comes in at second place and pink which comes in last.

Myth:  All poinsettias are small plants.

Fact:   When found in nature, poinsettias grow as shrubs that can get as tall as ten feet in height.  However, they are a perennial which makes them a great gardening gift that keeps on giving.

You can’t go wrong if you give these lovely gardening gifts to your favorite green thumb.  They are pretty hardy and are highly adaptable to many different climates.  Because they can be grown anywhere in the United States, you don’t have to worry about the region of your gift recipient.  You can give this beautiful gift of holiday cheer and know that every time they look at their poinsettia they will think of you. 😉

Christmas Poinsettia

Christmas Poinsettia

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How Do I Choose a Garden Gazebo?

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

There is something so romantic about gazebos.  They are nostalgic and beautiful.  It makes sense that many people choose to add this gardening gift to their backyard.  They have been around for decades, and due to their longevity there is a great variety in the type of structures that are available to consumers.  Though gazebos used to be something that only the rich could afford, they are becoming more and more affordable so that the average joe can actually afford them.

The first thing that you need to think about is what your price range is.  Creating a budget is definitely important because gazebos range substantially in price.  In fact, this may help you to determine whether you are going to build your own gazebo, buy a pre made structure, or have a custom gazebo built for you.  All of these options cost different amounts, and your budget can dictate which one you want to go with.  No matter what, you should expect to spend at least a few hundred dollars.  The most inexpensive gazebos tent to cost a few hundred dollars while more customized structures can cost upwards of a couple thousand dollars.  Be sure that when you are creating your budget you leave a bit of a cushion for those unforeseen complications.

The next thing that you need to do is to decide where you are going to put your gazebo.  You should take into account the surrounding area of your build site.  You are going to want to think about how this gardening gift would look next to trees, pools, or other structures.  Additionally, you may want to spend some time thinking about what your potential gazebo view is going to be.  The last thing that you want to do is to put in your dream gazebo only to find that when you are sitting in it you are facing your neighbors bathroom window.  When possible, gazebos are best enjoyed when set against a beautiful view.  You may also want to take note of how level the ground is at your build site.  No one wants to sit at a slant, and it can cost a fair amount of money to level the ground.  All of this is important to think about before you start to break ground and spend money.

Lastly, but most importantly you can think about different styled gazebos.  You want to make sure that you get exactly what you want so do not be afraid to shop around.  There are many different sizes out there so you should look at how big your space is, how big you want your structure to be, and how many people you hope to fit into your gazebo.  Additionally, you will also want to think about what color you want for your gazebos exterior.  You could go with a natural brown paint, but you are not limited to that.  Gazebos can be customized, and white and black are other common colors, but if you want something really bold you could choose a bright color.  Additionally, you will want to give some thought as to what shaped gazebo you desire as well as to what other building materials you want it made out of. 😉

Garden Gazebo

Garden Gazebo

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How Do I Go About Container Gardening?

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Gardening is for homeowners with lots of property, and farmers out in the country, right? Actually, that’s not true at all, though many people make the mistake of thinking so. Container gardening makes it easy for nearly anyone to enjoy the thrill of growing their own flowers, produce, and herbs, without having to own a lot of land. Whether you live in a small apartment and grow a few herbs in pots on the windowsill or balcony, or you decide to grow plants in garden containers on your home’s back patio, you can make the most of your green thumb. Here’s a look at a few things you should think about.

First, remember that soil is important when you grow in garden containers. After all, your plants won’t be able to stretch their roots wherever they like. You’ll need to provide them with all the nutrients they need to grow. That means starting with a good quality potting soil, or a compost enriched topsoil. This, plus judicious fertilization, will help keep your plants healthy. Remember not to over fertilize, though – you could end up with plants that become sick from too much of one nutrient.

You’ll also need to look at container size. You’ll usually want to buy larger than you think you need, especially at first. A plant may look small in the garden center, but how much space will it take up when it’s fully grown? Consider the final size of all the plants you’re growing in your containers. If you’re going to grow perennials that don’t take frost well, you’ll also need to think about whether you can use those containers. Some very large garden containers can be set up on wheeled dollies to help you get them where they need to go.

Water is another important factor in container gardening. Unfortunately, potted plants dry out pretty quickly. That means that you’ll need to water more often than you would if the same plants were in the ground. In most cases, you’ll want to keep the soil moist, not sopping or dry feeling. Be sure to adjust your watering schedule to the type of plant you’re growing, and the dryness of the outside air. That will help you end up with a healthier plant.

Container gardening can actually be pretty easy. It’s not exactly the same as growing a plant in the soil, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Just take a little bit of time to learn about the plants you’re planning to grow and what they need. You’ll be enjoying the results of your well contained green thumb in no time! If you have a windowsill, you can have a garden. Take the time to find out more about the fun world of container gardening, and see what a difference it can make. 😉

Container Gardening

Container Gardening

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How Do I Set Up My Winter Gardens?

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Winter gardening is possible, though your winter gardens will be a little different depending on where you live. After all, climate makes a big difference in what can be grown where, and the frosty weather and short days of extreme northern and extreme southern climates (in the southern hemisphere) can make it hard to grow much. But you can still have an attractive garden and get some work done. Here’s a look at winter gardening and what you can accomplish.

Warmer Climates
If you live in a warmer area, like southern California, the weather gets chilly in the winter, but it doesn’t get cold. Crisp but frost free winters allow you to plant beets and carrots, kale, cabbages, asparagus, and both leaf and head lettuces. You can also start some varieties of onions, sweet peas, and other plants during the winter. Flowers can be started from seed during winter as well. Consider lobelia, calendula, nasturtium, salvias and many others. If you care for them correctly, they’ll be beautiful for months. You can even plant a few spring flowering bulbs during early winter, though most should be planted during the fall.

For those who’d like fast results in warmer climates, cool weather bedding plants are a great choice. They’ll liven up your winter gardens and keep you going till spring. A few options include pansies, carnations, ornamental cabbages, petunias, snapdragons, coreopsis and many others. Take a little time to check out information on the available plants and get to it. Winter gardening can be a lot of fun, especially if you live where it’s relatively warm.

Cooler Climates
It’s harder to get as much done in areas where the weather is colder and the hours of sunlight are shorter, but that doesn’t mean you have to skip out on winter gardening. Even in areas that get deep snow cover, you can create a structured garden that will look pleasing to the eye. Remember – your flowers are likely to be buried in snow, so it’s the larger plants that will liven up your winter gardens. Lay out paths between your planting beds and have a plan to keep them free from ice and snow. Cut back your annuals, and use perennials to provide interest. Place trees and shrubs with attention to what they’ll look like with no leaves and with a wintery backdrop.

Color can be a part of your winter garden, too. Trees like red twigged dogwood will offer a bright patch even when the leaves are gone. Certain types of rough barked or peeling barked trees can offer interesting texture, and don’t forget about shape. Some trees and bushes are tall and thin, while others are rounded, spreading, or weep like willows. Take the time to think carefully about your winter gardening layout, and you’ll have an attractive scene even when the world is buried in snow. 😉

Winter Garden

Winter Garden

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Why Should I Buy A Ladybug House?

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Whether you are a commercial farmer or run a simple garden, one of your biggest headaches other than weeds and the ravages of adverse weather, are bugs. Your options on how to get rid of the destructive little creatures are not exactly increased by all the negative publicity that traditional pesticide attracts both in terms of its environmental impact and its effect on human health. However, there are natural and safe alternatives that one can use to get rid of bugs. In this regard, obtaining a ladybug house might present one of your best alternatives.

You see, if you want to save your garden from a number of the harmful pests and insects, you need to find a way to attract to your garden or farm as many ladybugs as possible. This is because ladybugs feed on one of the most destructive garden and farm pests: the aphid. It does not stop there though because they eat a host of other insects that you would want to get rid of. In fact, their very name was born from the realization by farmers of their ‘saving’ role as far as protecting plants was concerned.

What is interesting though is that many people still have misconceptions on ladybugs and still consider them pests, not knowing that they actually help rid the garden or farm of pests. The good thing though is that the appreciation of the positive role they play has become understood by more and more people over time.

To reap maximum benefits from these friendly beetles, it would thus be wise to invest in ladybug houses. This is because the ladybugs need somewhere to hibernate or lay eggs. Even if you introduce ladybugs to your farm or garden, they will eventually leave if they do not find a suitable place to lay their eggs and hibernate. A female ladybug lays more than 10 eggs at a time. To protect the eggs from predators, the ladybug will lay them on the underside of a leaf but if available, they would prefer a sheltered place, something that a ladybug house would provide. The eggs hatch after about 5 days.

After hatching, the eggs go through a larvae stage, a pupa stage and finally an adult stage.  The whole metamorphosis takes only a few days, probably an evolved mechanism to reduce the vulnerability of the vulnerable ladybug to predator attack. To protect themselves, ladybugs excrete a liquid that is not only repulsive to their predators in terms of odor but taste wise too. The ladybug at larvae stage already eats starts 25 to 30 aphids a day. A mature adult ladybug consumes more than 50 aphids and pests per day.

As winter approaches, the ladybugs start to look for a place to hibernate. The ladybug houses when available at this time, will serve as the ideal place for them to hide away safe from any predators. There are also commercially available attractant sprays that you could use to draw the ladybugs to the ladybug house. At the onset of spring, the ladybugs will be out and resume their ‘work’ for you.

You may also plant specific flowers and weeds that produce ladybird-attracting scents. These include Angelica, Dills, Dandelion, Wild Carrot and Yarrows.

So next time you see someone trying to crush a ladybug to death, remember that your action of saving the little creature can be one more contribution to not just the continued existence of the ladybug species, but the availability of your next veggie meal too! 😉

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