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Growing Vegetables With Raised Beds in Your Garden

Growing Vegetables With Raised Beds in Your GardenRaised bed gardening is gaining popularity among the gardeners across the globe. Even the first time gardeners and homeowners with smaller yards, senior citizens, and novice gardeners are now understanding the importance of compact and easy-to-maintain gardens.

The gardening times are now changing and now you have raised beds in various sizes available in garden centers, catalogs and online. Interlocking corners make it possible to build one in a short period of time. Price varies with materials — plastic or cedar.

A 3-foot-by-6-foot, 10-inch deep bed will hold a variety of vegetables, both above ground and root plants such as tomatoes, herbs, onions, and carrots.

In case the raised bed is only 10 inches deep then you need to ensure that the soil on which it rests is cleared of all debris, grass removed and soil tilled to allow roots to extend into the soil beneath the bed. Fill the space with a mixture of hummus and garden soil. Fill the area to the top edge, dampen the soil and let the bed rest for a day or two, as the soil will settle. Add more soil if necessary.

When using a soaker hose or customized soaker system, lay it in a circular or serpentine pattern before planting. Both systems deliver water directly to the roots without wasting water. After planting, add a layer of mulch to trap moisture and to keep weeds at a minimum.

With raised beds in your garden, you may select any particular theme. Edible plants that are required for a type of food. One garden bed can grow enough produce provided you follow a little research before selecting the plants.

You can easily grow varieties of tomatoes and peppers. Herbs like basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, parsley, and garlic may also be grown with raised beds. Onion sets may be planted two-inches apart around the edge.

Experienced gardeners suggest that a maintenance schedule involving weeding, watering, insect inspection, and harvesting is required.

Flowers grow well in raised beds. Plan a layout with taller plants in the center and graduate the plant sizes to the edge where cascading flowers provide an attractive border. Flower beds also should have the same maintenance schedule, but substitute deadheading for harvesting.

17 Essential Micro-Nutrients and Macro-Nutrients For Plant Growth

17 Essential Micro-Nutrients and Macro-Nutrients For Plant GrowthLet us go back to the basics and learn chemistry that would be extremely helpful in understanding its applications in gardening. Chemical elements analysis reveals that plants need definite proportions of specific elements.

Plant growth is solely dependent on 17 different elements. Presence of all these chemical elements in perfect proportion is primarily responsible for the healthy growth of a plant. As a gardener, you must know about these 17 essential elements. All these elements have been classified into specific categories. Basis of such classification is also interesting to understand. Let us open it up.

Air and Water Macronutrients

There are three (03) macronutrient elements that a plant can derive from air and water. Carbon(C), Hydrogen (H), and Oxygen (O) are these three elements. Clean environment with clean air and quality water are not only important for humans but also for the plants.

Fertilizer Macronutrients        

Some essential elements are primarily derived from the fertilizers. Nitrogen (N), Potassium (K), and Phosphorus (P) are three elements. Fertilizers are the best sources for their replenishment as these elements are required in comparatively large quantities and at regular
frequency. These elements are responsible for the maximum growth of the plants. Adding fertilizers to the soil is one of the best methods to maintain a minimum required level of replenishment.

Secondary Micronutrients

As the name suggests, secondary micronutrients are added with primary micronutrients. More often the process of such addition is coincidental in nature. Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), and Sulfur(S) are three such secondary micronutrients. When you add lime in any form these elements are coincidentally added to it and plants derive them accordingly.

Trace Micronutrients

In chemistry, they are better known as “Trace Elements”. We may also call them minor micronutrients for gardening purposes. These elements are not required in large quantities rather just a trace present would suffice. There are eight (08) such trace elements that are essential for plant growth. These are Manganese(Mn), Boron(B), Iron(Fe), Chlorine(Cl), Cobalt(Co), Molybdenum(Mo), and Zinc(Z).

Common soils contain sufficient quantities of the micro-nutrients. However, a soil test would be better to identify any further need that can be replenished externally. If you apply good soil-building -practices you will perhaps never face any problem.

If you are using synthetic fertilizers in your garden then you must be aware of the fact that there are no trace elements in it. On the other hand, applying organic fertilizers is far better as there are trace elements present in sufficient quantity. Manure, compost, green manures, and mulching are most recommended for this purpose.

Growing Vegetables Outdoors All Winter Long

Hoop FrameIt is indeed possible if the plants are kept properly warm. It would be good to cover the plants during winters, tucking them in and letting the natural light do all the work. Learning this to do with a little skill would enable you to harvest fresh homegrown vegetables any time of year.

Gardeners know it well that planting vegetables normally wouldn’t grow well in winter. Every generation seems to have a better idea and sometimes these ideas give birth to new ideas.

An innovative idea would be to extend the growing season by at least a month on either end with the raised bed hoop house.  The wooden raised bed with required dimensions needs to be installed with flexibility for removable hoops that could be draped heavy with clear plastic. The bed could be as long as we wanted. The plastic should be used to keep out the cold air but let the sunlight in.

The beds should be no wider than four feet. This is because a person’s arm reach usually averages around two feet and this made it possible to pull weeds from either side without straining or having to walk onto the garden bed. Staying out of the garden bed avoided tamping down the soil.

It would be good to plant and seeds more than a month earlier than usual by keeping the plastic tucked around the hoops and the ends of the bed. You may take the plastic off the hoops for the summer, but at the end of the season, you should manage to keep cold tender plants going for a month longer than usual, even after a few good frosts.

Many vegetables including few varieties of lettuce and spinach and other greens can be harvested all winter long with a similar setup. Instead of using clear plastic you may also use floating row cover that keeps plants warm. Floating row cover also ensures keeping insects off the seedlings. The cover enables sunlight and water to permeate its fabric. Different types of row covers with varying strengths are available which would offer even more protection.

It is possible making the hoop houses portable so they can be moved from one garden bed to the other offering a chance to rotate the crops each season. It is extremely important to tuck the cover completely around the bed including both ends and secure it to the ground by either laying boards or pinning it tightly. You can lift off the plastic to harvest your lettuce or spinach, but cover it back up immediately and don’t lift it again until the next harvest.

Perfect Time To Order Seeds

Perfect Time To Order SeedsIt is a perfect time to place orders for your seeds. If you don’t have enough seed catalogs, borrow some from a friend or go online and search for “garden seeds and plants.”

You will surely locate few great seed companies that will send you a catalog or take your order online. You can search for “garden seeds” and find a treasure trove of seed companies specializing in organic seeds, heirloom varieties, exotic and unusual seeds, as well as your favorite varieties of vegetables, fruits, flowers, trees, and shrubs. Don’t overlook the specialty companies, which feature potatoes, garlic or tomatoes.

If you plan to start a vegetable garden you can start onions from seed. Seed 20 to 30 seeds in a 6-inch pot filled with seed starting mix. Give them lots of light, a cool temperature, water as needed and fertilize with weak, liquid fish fertilizer.

If they get too tall and leggy, trim them back and use trimmings for salad or stir-fry. When the weather warms a little, expose the whole pot to outdoor conditions gradually. When you get ready to plant them, dump out the whole pot and carefully separate the individual plants by teasing apart the roots. Starting onions this way protects against transported disease and allows you to try lots of different varieties, not just the ones available as starts at the nurseries.

For flower lovers, it is the best time to start perennials from seed. Yarrow, hollyhocks, purple coneflower, dame’s rocket, blanket flower, salvia, speedwell, pansies, and others germinate readily. When growing plants indoors, be sure to provide lots of light either from sunlight or grow lights and slowly expose them to cold before planting them outside.

It is best to plant young perennials in a “nursery bed” the first year where you can keep track of them and baby them just a little. The next year they can be planted in their permanent home. Many will not bloom until the second year. This is a cheap way of adding perennials to your yard — if you have the patience.

Perfect Tips For Non-Chemical Pest Control

Chemical Pest ControlHome vegetable gardeners have been trying to avoid usage of chemical pest controls as this has become a new gardening trend main objective is to garden with no pesticides. It is always better to keep the pesticides at bay from the vegetable garden. Here are some common examples of nonchemical pest controls.

Look for plant varieties that have some degree of disease resistance. New hybrid resistant varieties enter the market each year after extensive evaluation. Roses and tomatoes are susceptible to many diseases.

The newer Knockout shrub roses have a strong resistance to common diseases, including leaf blackspot. These roses require no spraying.

Tomatoes suffer from a wide range of disease problems. Today, many hybrids are much less prone to disease.

There are many types of physical barriers to keep insects, birds, rabbits, raccoons or deer at bay. A floating row cover is a lightweight fabric that lets in light, air, and water, but keeps insects out of a row of melon or cucumber vines that are susceptible to wilt disease. The fabric is kept in place along the edges with old boards or other weights.

The cover prevents cucumber beetles from feeding on the plants. As beetles feed, they transmit wilt disease bacteria to water-conducting vessels. In time the water vessels plug up and cause severe wilting and death of the plant.

When vines begin flowering, the cover has to be removed so bees can pollinate the flowers. It’s important to keep young seedling plants protected from beetles so they get off to a healthy start.

Garden fencing is a common and effective barrier to pests.  Use fencing to protect small clusters of tulips or other plants from rabbits and deer. Deer feed on the young foliage and flower buds. A circular wire collar with netting on top gives complete protection from deer or rabbits. The fencing should be as tall as the plant is when flowering.

A small vegetable garden can be protected from deer with a 6-foot tall plastic netting fence around the garden. Deer won’t jump into a small area because of poor depth perception. For a large area, fencing should be at least 8 feet tall.

single-wire electric garden fence will give complete protection from raccoons in a corn patch. The electric shock is harmless and intermittent so it frightens away the raccoons. The wire gives off enough “bite” to discourage return trips to the sweet corn.

Netting of various types can be used as a protective cover for berry plants. For a large cherry tree, it is easier to cover only a few branches. Birds are clever and will find any small opening to bypass the netting. As raspberries are not attractive to birds and require no protective cover.

Probably the oldest method of insect control. The fingers are readily available to do the job. If the idea of picking up an insect is unpleasant, use a pocket knife to push the insect into a can of soapy water. While time-consuming, it can be effective if done daily.

The larger the insect, the easier to see and handpick. The largest is usually the tomato hornworm, although it is sometimes missed because the green color resembles the tomato leaf color.

Handpicking Japanese beetles from roses is best done during cool temperatures in the early morning or evening. The beetles move slower at that time and are less likely to fly away.

Other common vegetable pests that are good candidates for handpicking include the Colorado potato beetle and cabbage worms on members of the cabbage family. Aphid populations can be dispersed with a forceful spray from a garden hose. Repeat until they are brought under control.

Perfect Small Space Container Gardening Tips

Container GardenAdding cheers and glory to your garden is easy with container gardening. You can have a good summer garden with a splash of lovely colors if you grow some beautiful ornamental plants in containers.

Even vegetables can also be grown in containers if you lack enough open space in your garden. You only need to try it and with a little knowledge, beautiful creations are possible.

Begin with selecting any container you like — something that suits your sense of taste and style. Containers now come in plastic, fiberglass, stone, concrete, terra-cotta, various metals,  marble, wood, recycled drums, old buckets, bathtubs, and so many other forms that even the most discerning taste or limited budget should be able to find one to suit.

In order to ensure that your containers can be used around the year, you need to choose a type that will not crack during winter frost and must be capable of holding with extreme temperatures. Your container must have drainage holes in the bottom preferably more than one. Plants grown in containers that do not drain will die a slow, suffocating death.

Use the right quality potting soil for your containers. Potting soil types could range from high-tech, store-bought potting mixes to whatever soil is available from the garden or compost. The key component of a container soil mix is that it should be well aerated so it will breathe properly in the small surface area of the container.

Home-made soil mixes will compress over time and lose aeration, therefore, the soil-mix must be changed more frequently than custom potting mixes.

Never attempt mixing sand with potting mix. The sand will plug up the pore space in the soil and prevent good aeration. You can increase aeration of a homemade soil mix by using angular rocks, perlite or foam packing chips. Soils that resist compression will provide the best growing environment for plants in pots.

You should not be adding anything else to the bottom of the container except soil. Adding anything to the bottom of the container simply perches the soil’s water table above the drainage item and deprives your plants of a deeper root zone.

The soils, when watered in containers, will leach out some soil and colored water for a while, but this will end as soon as the soil settles down. The physical laws of gravity, water movement and leaching cannot be altered by landscape cloth or anything else.

Gardeners may go innovative with container gardening and grow almost anything be it flowers, plants, or the evergreens, perennials, and even food.

How To Get Rid of Voles in Your Garden

How To Get Rid of Voles in Your Garden?Getting rid of voles is a challenge. The best strategy for gardeners is to learn to live with voles, minimizing their damage. The most vital tool for controlling voles is good information. You must know your enemy well.

Voles are pretty interesting little critters. They’re closely related to house mice and about the same size, but with shorter tails and different habits. Voles live outdoors, moving around through a system of tunnels that keeps them out of sight most of the time. They live only about a year, on average, but in that time they stay busy having lots of babies, sometimes several litters per year. They don’t hibernate in the winter; they keep right on eating their vegetarian diet of leaves and seeds throughout the year.

There are two types of voles hang around. The pine vole or woodland vole is furry all over, with tiny eyes nearly covered up by fuzz. They burrow in the soil and chew on plant roots and bulbs. The second vole species, the meadow vole, spends more time above ground. They construct tunnels from tall grass and weeds. They damage the tops of plants and can “girdle” mature trees by cutting bark around the entire trunk, eventually stunting or even killing them.

Pine voles, since they have a restricted range, maybe a bit easier to control, though their underground sneak-attack tactics are tough to counter.

A good control option is to bury the roots of your plants into underground cages of wire. These cages should be installed when new plants are planted, making sure they won’t interfere with root growth. Gardeners should also simply dig up and disrupt any vole tunnels they find.

For meadow voles, with their above-ground habits and wandering ways, a very helpful strategy is to mow short any tall grass or weeds where they might find cover.  Gardeners growing vegetables should use straw mulch for soil, but be careful not to create vole corridors.

Gardeners should mulch trees correctly. Don’t pile bark mulch right up around a tree’s trunk; always pull it back to create a bare space.

Vole urinary tracts “leak” as they move around, creating a trail that reflects ultraviolet light, something that some raptors, such as kestrels, can see. House cats also like voles on their snack menu.

Traps can be effective, especially against pine voles, if they are put where voles are active. A standard mouse trap baited with peanut butter may work reasonably well.

Perfect Tips To Control Pests and Insects

Perfect Tips To Control Pests and InsectsAfter months of prepping the soil and tending seedlings, you won’t like the pests and insects to chew up all your fresh vegetables. Deer, small rodents, insects and other creatures can quickly destroy a gardener’s hard work, but there are ways to prevent them from launching a full assault.

In earlier time the gardeners did not have easy access to commercial products and fancy gadgets to protect their lettuce and tomatoes. They relied on techniques passed down from generation to generation.

Old-fashioned fixes included sprinkling hot pepper or concentrated animal urine (specifically, that of a predator such as a fox) throughout the garden bedOther repellents that were commonly used included mothballs, cotton balls soaked in vinegar, crushed eggshells, human hair clippings, bacon grease, soap shavings, and garlic juice. Some gardeners plant marigolds among vegetables, because the flower has an unpleasant smell to animals.

The problem is, these remedies are usually temporary. Animals will find a way around repellents if they’re hungry enough.

In order to control the “Groundhogs, Rabbits and Voles” you can place a barrier between animal visitors and your plants, such as fencing made of chicken wire or mesh plastic. It should be high enough to keep rabbits from hopping over (about 18 inches ) and deep enough to prevent burrowers from getting to root vegetables (at least four inches into the soil). For raised beds, lining the bottom with fine-mesh hardware cloth protects against critters that can dig even deeper, such as groundhogs. Check for large holes under fences or shrubs where bigger rodents may have entered, and seal them with wire mesh or wood planks.

Fabric screens (available pre-cut from $5-25), staked over plants, still allow sunlight and water to penetrate. But they also provide shelter for mice and voles, so if you have those, consider another method.

Keeping Deers away from the garden is one of the biggest challenges. Once they show up, it’s difficult to discourage their return. Deer are creatures of habit, so once they find a spot with enough food to eat, they’ll keep coming back for more.

High fences help keep deer from reaching the tops of vegetable plants, but if that’s is not possible, use a repellent that emits sulfurous odors ( i.e., bloodmeal or egg solids).

You have another problem known as “Garden Buggs“.Insect infestation needs to be controlled effectively. While chemical-based sprays and formulas destroy insect pests and keep rodents and other creatures at bay, they also might contaminate your crops and the environment.

Insecticidal soaps and natural, non-toxic oils such as neem oil, which prevents insects from reaching the maturation stage — are recommended to control whitefly, earwigs, aphids, thrips, and other insects. Various types of Insect and animal repellents are available in garden centers nowadays.

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