Protect your lawn of weeds

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A nice lawn can not only add to the appearance of your home, it can also prevent soil erosion and help to absorb heat and noise. However, invading weeds will often spoil lawn evenness and appearance. Weeds, which are often introduced through vehicles, human and animal movement or via the wind, compete with the lawn for water and nutrients. Control of these weeds can be difficult in a lawn situation, where manual removal may be ineffective and selective chemicals are required to ensure protection of the lawn itself. This Gardennote aims to provide information on the most common weeds in lawns and the methods used to control them. Weeds can be divided into broadleaf weeds, grasses and sedges.

Broadleaf Weeds

Jo-jo or Bindii
Jo-jo (Soliva sessilis) is a mat forming annual weed that first emerges with the winter rains in May. Flowers are inconspicuous and are produced in spring at the base of the leaf axils. Seeds harden and become brown when mature, developing short, sharp spines which can make it impossible to walk barefooted on badly infested lawns.

Burr medic
Burr Medic (Medicago polymorpha) is an annual weed that can often invade lawns. It is usually hairless, with stems up to 60 cm long, and having clusters of two to seven flowers borne on short stems in winter and spring. The leaflets are oblong to heart shaped. The seed pods or burrs are like disc, or cylindrical in shape, and consist of oneto six coils that are densely spined. These burrs when mature and brown can often be painful to step on and attach easily to clothing like socks and shoes and also to pet hair, where the seeds are then spread to other areas.

Carrot weed
Carrot weed (Cotula australis) is a native annual species with fern like leaves, and is often mistaken for Jo-jo at first glance due to its similar appearance. However unlike Jo-jo which produces its green flowers at the base of the leaves with no stalk, carrot weed flowers are white to pale yellow and occur on long slender stalks.

Caustic weed/eyebane/spotted spurge
Caustic weed (Chamaesyce drummondii (syn. Euphorbia drummondii)) is a prostrate multibranched annual weed that infests both gardens and lawn areas. The leaves are circular to oblong shaped and often have a purplish blotch in the centre. The flowers are inconspicuous and small and are often tinged pink. Flowers appear in summer to autumn.

Clover
There are many varieties of clover but white clover (Trifolium repens) is most commonly found infesting lawns. It is a prostrate perennial weed that has stems up to 30 cm long and has the ability to spread by rooting at each node. This makes removal difficult as any portion left behind has the ability to keep growing. Leaflets are oval to rounded, trifoliate, with a pale crescent on the upper surface. Flowers can be white, yellow or pink and occur in a cluster on slender stalks above the foliage. Flowers are borne in spring and summer.

Dandelion
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is an increasingly common weed in lawns in Western Australia. It is a perennial, with a strong taproot and a rosette of toothed leaves. The stems are hollow, with only ever one flower head per stem. The distinctive flowering heads, which can be produced throughout the year, are 3 cm across, contain yellow florets and are followed by a sphere of plumed parachute seeds. The plant exudes milky latex if cut.

Flatweed/smooth cat’s-ear
Flatweed (Hypochaeris spp.) is an annual or short lived perennial that is very common in lawn and garden situations. There are two species: Hypochaeris radicata which consists of a basal rosette of rough, bristly leaves and yellow dandelion like flowers at the tops of slender leafless stalks, and Hypochaeris glabra which is very similar in appearance, with the exception of the leaves being smooth and having slightly smaller flower heads. They can often be hard to tell apart, with many hybridising freely. Flowers may appear all year round but are most common in spring. Seeds form after flowering, with both species having feathery hairs (pappus) which enables seeds to spread readily via wind dispersal.

Cudweed
Cudweed (Gamochaeta calviceps) is an annual herb with a densely woolly, spike-like, leafy inflorescence. The leaves are spoon-shaped and somewhat woolly, and the flowers golden-brown.

Fleabane
Fleabanes (Conyza spp.) are upright annual herbs of various heights. They are typically grey-hairy plants. The stems branch below each pyramid of inflorescences resulting in a candelabra shape. Fleabanes flower in summer and are prolific seed producers. Each plant produces up to 110,000 seeds and the pappus on the seed enables it to be dispersed long distances by wind.

Mouse-eared chickweeds
Among the mouse-eared chickweeds, Cerastium glomeratum is the most common weed of lawns. It is an annual weed. The flowers, produced in spring and early summer, are in clusters with white, notched petals, which often do not fully open. The leaves are ovate and the plant is densely hairy all over.

Creeping oxalis/wood sorrel
Oxalidaceae, the wood sorrels, are a family of perennial herbs, that regrow annually from tubers, bulbs or corms. The leaves usually consist of three heart shaped leaflets, similar to clover.In the metropolitan area, creeping oxalis (Oxalis corniculata) is a common lawn weed. It is highly branched with a lightly fleshy taproot, producing slender stems that creep horizontally, rooting at intervals and with leaves along the stem. Small yellow flowers in clusters of one to six arise on stalks from the leaf axils. Creeping oxalis flowers in spring and summer. Other wood sorrels common in lawns are O. perennans, which has larger flowers and O. pescaprae which is known as soursob or sourgrass.

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Grass Weeds

Summer Grass
Summer grass (Digitaria ciliaris) is an annual weed of lawns with spreading stems that grows close to the ground. Leaves are soft and hairy. A feature of this grass is the inflorescences which are 20–80 cm tall. They are composed of conspicious seed heads found at the ends of slender stalks.

Mullumbimby couch
Mullumbimby couch (Cyperus brevifolius) forms extensive rhizomatous patches in overwatered lawns and garden beds. It has bright green, shiny, grass-like leaves and may be mistaken for a lawn grass until it flowers in summer (often only on the margin of mown areas).

Parramatta grass
Parramatta grass (Sporobolus africanus) is a tufted perennial with basal leaves, to 50 cm tall. The dense, narrow inflorescence is dark green, flat, spike-like, to 20 cm long, produced from November to June. It is a lawn weed from Perth to Albany.

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Winter grass

Winter grass (Poa annua) is a tufted annual grass, usually about 10 cm tall. It produces pale-greenish seed heads, mainly winter and spring, but can also flower in summer. It is a common weed in gardens and lawns.

Grass-like Weeds

Guildford Grass/Onion Grass
Guildford grass (Romulea rosea) is the most common of plants which grows from corms.
The flowers, with petals up to 1.8 cm in length, open first at ground level. As they mature, the flower stem elongates and bends over, eventually pushing the seed capsule back under the surrounding leaf litter.

Control
Herbicides should be applied via a sprayer, dedicated to herbicides only. Avoid spray-drift and if other garden plants are contaminated, use a garden hose to wash the chemical off thoroughly.

Pre-emergence
Selective, pre-emergence herbicides are typically used to control annual weedy grasses and some annual broadleaf weeds in lawns. To control winter grass, pre-emergence herbicides need to be applied in autumn and winter, before the weeds have germinated. A regular application every 6 to 8 weeks will also control summer grass. Commonly available garden products contain pendimethalin or propyzamide.

Post-emergence
Selective, post-emergence broadleaf herbicides can be used to control broadleaved weeds in lawns. Commonly available garden products contain one or more of the following active ingredients: MCPA, dicamba, DSMA, Bentazone, Bromoxynil, Mecoprop, 2,4-D, clopyralid.

Make sure that the products being used state on the label that they are for use on your variety of lawn and will control the targeted weed.

Protect Your Lawn of Weeds

 

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Natural Lawn Care Calendar

Disclaimer
Please keep in mind that the timeframes provided for the following
lawn care calendar are subject to modification based upon our unpredictable weather conditions. If there is a foot of snow the second week of April, it is okay to wait until you can see your grass to start your seasonal lawn care!
Before starting your natural lawn care program, get your soil tested to identify a baseline measurement for pH and key nutrients.

Mid-April
First, rake off winter debris from your lawn so that fertilizer can penetrate down to the soil level. When forsythia and daffodils are in bloom (usually between April 1 to April 15), it is time to apply your corn gluten. For maximum effectiveness:
1) Don’t forget to apply it on time; 2) Apply at a rate of 20 lbs of corn gluten per 1,000 sq. ft. (two lbs nitrogen/1,000 sq. ft.). Shady areas require less nitrogen, so you can reduce your corn gluten application rate to 10 lbs/1,000 sq. ft. in the shade if you wish. In order to correctly apply corn gluten or any other type of fertilizer, you must know the square footage of each area of your lawn.
You can download a square footage calculation sheet at www.healthycommunitiesproject.org or simply measure the length x width of each area and then add up all areas for a total square footage. To determine how much corn gluten to apply to each area, use the following equation: square footage of area ÷ 1,000 x 20 = # lbs corn gluten to be applied to area; and 3) to activate corn gluten’s ability to inhibit seed germination, apply about a quarter-inch of water immediately after application, then let it dry for a few days. Try to avoid applying it right before an extended rain is forecast, as too much water will reduce its effectiveness. Corn gluten remains present in the soil for about six weeks, so wait a full six weeks after application to over-seed.

May/June
Pull existing weeds as they appear, preferably before they go to seed to prevent new weeds from germinating.
Weeds come out more easily if pulled after watering or a good rain. You can hasten how quickly your weeds counts go down by pulling as many as possible at the beginning of your natural lawn care program.

Memorial Day
The last weekend of May is the best time to over-seed your lawn. The following steps will maximize your efforts and increase your lawn’s soil health and structure at the same time:
Step 1: Pull any remaining weeds to prevent further propagation.
Step 2: Aeration. Aerating the average lawn only takes about half an hour, so consider renting a core aerator with your neighbors and splitting the cost to make it more economical. Aeration relieves compaction, opens up your lawn’s root system to oxygen and nutrients and makes room for roots to expand. Because aeration is
fairly stressful to your lawn, it only needs to be done every few years.
Step 3: Over-seed and patch bare spots. Apply top quality grass seed that is right for the conditions, i.e. high traffic, sun, or shade. You may need to purchase different mixes for the various areas of your yard. Now is also the time to patch bare spots. Loosen existing soil and add more soil if necessary, heavily apply grass seed and stir up a bit, apply a thin layer of compost over the seed (just enough to cover the seed), and then a thin layer of hay. Compost adds vital nutrients that improve germination, and the hay helps retain moisture
and prevents seeds from washing away. Keep these areas moist but not soaked for a full 30 days for the most successful germination. Your grass seed may look like it has fully germinated after two weeks, but remember that there are several grass varieties in each blend, some of which germinate faster than others.
Step 4: Top-dress with compost. Now is a great time to apply compost to your lawn (1/8 to 1/4-inch layer).
Compost improves soil structure, increases organic material and adds microorganisms which process organic material and produce nutrients for your lawn. These nutrients improve seed germination, so applying compost right after over-seeding maximizes germination and helps establish healthy new grass. You may also want to
apply a low-nutrient organic fertilizer at this point to add key nutrients for the summer season.

June, July, August
Follow a one inch per week watering rule (water in early morning or early evening to minimize evaporation) and be sure to incorporate rainfall into the one inch/week rule. To keep track of how much water your lawn receives, keep a rain gauge or straight-edged bowl in your garden. The first few times you water, keep track of how long it takes for the water gauge to get to one inch of water. Eventually, you’ll have a good idea of how long to water to reach one inch. Remember that different sprinklers apply water at different rates, so get to know each one. Keep pulling those weeds before they go to seed. Along with using corn gluten, this will jump start your weed reduction plan. The number of weeds you have to pull will be minimal after a couple of seasons.

Late August
When the temperatures begin to cool, grass and weeds come out of their semi-dormant state and begin to grow more quickly again. If you choose to apply corn gluten, now is the optimal time for your second application.

Labor Day
Optional: If you have not already aerated and/or over-seeded in late May and feel your lawn would benefit from over-seeding, now is a good time to do so. Do not apply corn gluten if you over-seed as it will prevent your grass seed from properly germinating. Instead, forgo the corn gluten and wait until mid-October to apply a second application of organic fertilizer if your soil test recommends it.

Mid-October
The season is almost over, but there are a few important steps you can take to keep your soil and lawn healthy. Even if you’ve applied corn gluten in April and late August, your lawn will benefit from an end-of-season application of an organic fertilizer. Keep in mind that the most important nutrient to add at this point is
potassium (K), which helps promote resiliency and good spring growth.

End-of-Season Tips
An easy and FREE way to add compost to your lawn every fall is to mow it with the fallen leaves left on it. Mow over the entire lawn a couple of times and then rake up the larger pieces as usual. The small pieces work their way to the soil layer and will serve as food for microorganisms over the winter, which in turn convert that food to nutrients for your grass. Compost also has a very low N-P-K ratio as well (about 1:1:1), which can be counted as part of your winterizing fertilization. Consider mowing over your leaf pile a few times and spreading the material around your ornamentals, perennials and roses for added winter protection and nutrients. At the very end of the season, mow grass to two inches to avoid winter damage and snow mold.

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Water Garden

Construction and Maintenance

Aquatic plants have been an important part of gardens since early history when they were first used in ancient gardens of the Far East, Egypt and India. Early herbalists extracted tannin from the roots of water lilies to calm a variety of nervous and digestive disorders. Many water lilies also provided some of the earliest fabric dyes which were extracted from their roots.Contemporary aquatic gardening has received a lot of attention by homeowners and commercial landscapers. The development and increased availability of various types of preformed pools,flexible liners and other containers has helped to foster the current increased enthusiasm in aquatic gardening. These new materials are a great improvement over the old tedious process of building pools out of concrete.The style and size of a water garden can range from a simple
above ground tub garden, a small preformed pond, or to a large pond constructed with a flexible liner.

Pond location

The first step in designing a water garden is to consider where it will be enjoyed the most. Some good locations for a pond are near a patio, deck or within view from a window. A pond can be either formal or informal in shape. Informally shaped ponds are the most popular. Some common shapes are the classic kidney
bean and the figure eight.In addition to locating the pond for best viewing a pond should be located where it will receive at least five or six hours of direct sun if flowering plants are desired. As the hours of direct
sunlight decreases, so do the blooms. The hardy and tropical bog plants will perform best in semi-shaded sites. It is generally recommended to avoid locating the pond directly under trees because of the leaves and other debris that will fall into the pond. Also, avoid locating the pond in a low spot because surface runoff may wash mud, lawn fertilizers and pesticides into the pond.

Pond Construction
A pond can be made almost any size or shape desired if a flexible liner is used. If a rigid preformed pond is chosen the size and shape will be limited by what is available on the market. The depth of a pond should be at least 18 inches in the center for the successful over-wintering of hardy aquatic plants. A shallow ledge should be provided along the outside edge of the pond for placement of potted marginal plants. These plants cannot tolerate growing in deep water. Make the ledge about 10 inches below the surface and wide enough to submerge potted plants in a stable manner.

Installing a Flexible Liner
The development of flexible pond liners has done much to make pond design and installation easier. It has played a major role in the growing popularity of aquatic gardens. A flexible liner is a thin rubber-like material cut from a large roll of material. Its flexibility allows it to conform to the contour of any size and shape desired. When properly installed, these liners will last for many years.There are three types of flexible liners on the market: polyvinyl chloride (PVC), butyl rubber and ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM). PVC liners were one of the first liners to be developed. It ranges in thickness from 20-32 mils. PVC liners are the least expensive and will last 7 to 10 years. The most limiting factor of its durability is exposure to the sun. PVC is only moderately resistant to the effects of ultraviolet radiation and will eventually crack when exposed to prolonged sunlight.Always keep the pond filled to the top to prevent the liner from being exposed to direct sunlight.Butyl rubber has also been used for a long time. It is a highly recommended synthetic rubber liner because of its resistance to ultraviolet radiation. It has a useful life of 20 years or more. It is 30 mils thick. It is easier to work with than the stiffer PVC liners because it is more flexible.
A more recent entry into the pond market, which is very similar to butyl rubber, is EPDM. This is also a type of synthetic rubber that is less expensive than butyl and has the same appearance and durability. It is the thickest liner available (45 mil). It is a dark charcoal gray or black and quite flexible and easy to install. EPDM was originally used in the roofing industry and was manufactured with an antifungal mineral talc coating. Some problems of fish toxicity have been reported with earlier EPDM.The products marketed as fish safe EPDM do not have these
mineral talcs and are very safe to use for ponds.

Determining Liner Size
Flexible liners are cut from rolls that may be 10, to 25 feet or more in width. To determine the size of the liner required,determine the length and width of the proposed pond. Next determine the maximum depth in feet and multiply this by 2. Add this amount to both the length and width. Finally add at least one additional foot to both the length and width for the top edge overlap.
Formula:
Liner width = pond width + 2x depth + 1 ft.
Liner length = pond lenght +2x depth + 1 ft.
The extra 1 ft is to allow sufficient quantity of the liner to go under the edging stones and behind them. Do not trim the liner until the pond is finished and the water level is adequate. Allowing the water level to submerge part of the rock edging helps to make a very natural-looking edge.Remove all sharp objects like stones and tree roots to protect
the pond liner from puncture. These lines are very tough but if a puncture or tear should develop, it is easily repaired with a pond liner repair kit.
For additional protection use a spun underlayment material made for this purpose. Rug padding or several layers of wet
newspapers can also serve as a cushion under the liner.
Carefully spread the liner to fit the contours the best you can to make the liner conform to the excavation. Don’t worry too much about the unsightliness of the folds. They will lay flat with the weight of the water. When the pool is filled with plants, these folds will be difficult to see. Gradually fill the pond with water as the liner is folded into place.

Installing a Rigid Liner
Actually almost any water tight container if large enough can be a potential water garden. Many things, such as large ceramic pots, plastic horse trough, child’s swimming pools, half whiskey barrels, etc., are suitable for above or below ground. New whiskey barrels should be aged by filling with water, emptying and refilling until the odor of alcohol is gone. There are plastic inserts that may be used in them to avoid the toxic effect of the alcohol. To assure the successful overwintering of hardy plants in above ground containers, install a stock tank or pond heater.
Using a rigid liner has merit because it is tough, durable, quick and easy to install, has a life expectancy of over fifty years (for fiberglass) and comes already molded into various shapes. Other types of preformed liners are made of molded semi-rigid plastic which are less expensive but also less durable than fiberglass. As with the flexible liners all sharp objects should be removed and the excavation be lined with an inch of sand. After the site preparation, place the pool so that the rim is slightly above the soil line. Level the pool from side to side using a carpenter
level. Place soil around the pool exterior while filling the pool with water. This will help reduce stress on the pool as it is being filled with water. Edge the top with flat stones.
Constructing a water garden is really not a very difficult task.When the proper site has been selected and the pond properly installed, it will provide you with years of beauty and enjoyment.
slika jezero

Pond Maintenance Tips
Like any garden worth keeping, there is some basic maintenance techniques to practice. In the spring remove any debris that may have fallen into the pond during the winter. If there is an excessive accumulation over many years, the pond will have to be drained completely to remove this material.Water lilies and other aquatic plants grow very rapidly and, in time, become crowded, reducing their vigor and bloom. Every two to three years they should be lifted from their containers and divided in the spring as new growth begins to appear. Give them their first fertilization at this time.
In the summer, remove dead plant debris. Water lilies, in particular, continually have older leaves dying as new leaves
emerge. Excessive plant growth may need to be removed to make viewing the fish possible. Continue to fertilize lilies
during the summer. Occasionally, insects specific to aquatic plants, such as the water lily aphid and the water lily beetle, will invade the pond. Fortunately their destruction is usually not very severe. Their are no registered pesticides for home aquatic ponds. Simply dunk the leaves in the water or hose off the aphids. The fish will enjoy eating them. The water lily beetle is easily controlled by removing infested leaves. This
will break the life cycle. In the fall cut back the frost-killed tops of the hardy plants. The tropical plants can be discarded. Stop feeding the fish when the water temperature drops below 55 degrees F, this usually occurs
in mid to late November. Move all plants into the deeper area of the pond (18 inches) for freeze protection. If the pond is in a location where tree leaves might fall into it, cover the pond with chicken wire.
And lastly, if there are fish in the pond, install a floating stock tank heater to keep a small portion of the pond free of ice in the winter. This is an automatic deicer than comes on when the temperature is a few degrees above freezing. A heater of 1500 watts is recommended for Maryland winters. One word of caution, the fish will group around the heater and those that get pushed against the heater element get burned. A good heater will have a small guard panel to keep the fish from touching the heating element. The fish will benefit from this ventilation hole which allows oxygen to enter. However in larger ponds the heater will freeze in place during very cold winters. If the pond should freeze over do not try to crack or break the ice. The shock may injure the fish.

Suggested References for Further Reading:
Waterlillies and Other Aquatic Plants. Frances Perry. 1989. Henry Holt and Co., Inc.
Water in the Garden. James Allison. 1991. Salamander Book Ltd.
Encylopedia of the Water-Lily. Charles Masters. 1974.T.F.H. Publications., Inc., Ltd.
Water Gardens. Ken Aslet, John Warwick and Jan Bolders, 1977.Royal Horticultural Society
Pond and Water Gardens. Bill Heritage. 1981. Blandford Press,Ltd. Distributed by Sterling Publishing Co.
Author: Raymond V. Bosmans

 

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About Home Composting

Recycling makes a difference in our environment, in the wise use of our natural resources and in the economic well-being of our state. It’s everyone’s responsibility to do their part and recycling is easy. Don’t forget to ask about recycled products when you shop. Every small effort combines with others to make a big difference.

What Is Compost?
Compost is a dark, crumbly, earthy-smelling mixture that consists mostly of decayed organic matter.
Composting is a simple way to recycle nutrients and return them to the soil to be used again. By composting your yard trimmings and food scraps, you can help lighten the load of waste that would otherwise go to a landfill. Compost is often mixed into the soil to make it richer for growing plants. It can also be used as a mulch around plants and trees.

What Can I Compost?
• Yard trimmings, such as fallen leaves, grass clippings, small branches, weeds and the remains of garden plants.
• Kitchen scraps except for meat, fish, bones and fatty foods (such as cheese, salad dressing and leftover cooking oil). Egg shells are fine to add.
• Large woody branches that are cut, chipped or shredded into pieces can be added to a compost system to create air spaces in the pile. Woody material can be chipped into smaller pieces and used as a mulch or for paths, where they will eventually decompose.

How Do I Start Composting?
Begin by collecting yard trimmings and throwing them in your pile or bin. You can then add yard trimmings and food scraps anytime but it is best to bury the food scraps in your pile. Chopping or mowing your materials makes the process go faster.
Food scraps should be added to the center of the waste layers where heat will be the greatest. This also reduces unwanted critters coming to your compost pile.
Pile material loosely in the bin. Too much compaction inhibits the flow of air through the pile. Wood chips or course weeds will create air pockets which help provide oxygen to the microorganisms.
Water is key to successful composting. A compost pile should be kept damp – but not soggy – especially during dry spells.

Be patient! It will take six months to a year before the compost is ready for use.

How Do I Build A Compost Pile?
It’s easy! Follow these simple steps, and in just a few hours, you’ll be in business.
Compost Mound – This is the cheapest and easiest way to compost. Yard trimmings can be composted without a bin if you do not mind the appearance of an uncontained compost mound in your yard.

What To Do – Find a good location and loosen the soil where your pile will be. Pile your yard trimmings in a mound about 3 feet high and at least 3 feet by 3 feet in area. Alternate wet (green) and dry (brown) materials and add materials as they become available. If you mix your compost pile with a pitchfork or other tool, it speeds up the process. This is called ‘turning’.
What You Need – All you need is a pitchfork or shovel and work gloves.
Compost Can – Another cheap and easy way to compost small amounts of yard and food waste.

What to Do – Drill holes 4 to 6 inches apart all around your garbage can. You also need to drill holes into the bottom. (This allows for air movement and for excess water to drain off.) It is best to put 2 to 3 inches of straw or wood chips in the bottom to help
it drain. Since a limited amount of air gets in, this system tends to work slower and the
compost is wetter.
Turn the compost with a shovel or pitch fork. Keep the garbage can cover on, it helps keep out the critters.

What You Need – A garbage can with cover, straw or wood chips and a drill for making the holes.
Compost Bins – Can be made out of many types of materials – blocks or bricks, snow fence, used pallets,wire mesh, etc.

Bins do not have to be square, they can be rectangular or cylindrical, it’s your choice. Remember, for a typical home garden, a bin 3 to 4 feet in height and 5 to 8 feet per side will do.
Store Bought Bins – There are a variety of commercial bins that can be bought at your local hardware or garden store or you can find bins online.

Compost Tumblers (Rotating Drums)
Compost tumblers also called rotating drums are increasing in popularity. Rather than turning the materials with a pitchfork,which can be labor intensive, users simply push the unit or turn a crank once or twice a day. Each rotation introduces more air into the system, and mixes the materials together. This helps speed the composting process. To harvest the finish compost, stop adding materials to the tumbler and keep rotating it daily until the compost is ready. To compost newly generated materials while you wait, either get another tumbler or create a pile or stationary bin to contain the materials until your compost is ready.
One challenge with tumblers is that most are not insulated and have difficulty retaining high enough temperatures throughout the winter to keep the composting process going. If you can keep a large sized tumbler mostly full throughout the winter it will likely retain enough heat. You can build your own system or buy one. There are many varieties sold online.

How Does Composting Work?
Many organisms are involved in the composting process. They include bacteria, fungi, protozoans and centipedes, millipedes, beetles, ants and the most famous – earthworms! Composting is an aerobic process (requires oxygen), since these organisms use oxygen as they break down the materials and turn them into compost.
In addition to oxygen, compost organisms need water to thrive. That is why the compost pile must be kept moist. If there is too much water not enough air can get to the microorganisms. Use the squeeze test to find out if you have the right amount of moisture. Grab a handful of material and squeeze. If a few drops come out, you’re doing great.

Compostable materials contain carbon and nitrogen. We refer to them as greens and browns. Greens are fruit and vegetable wastes, coffee grounds, grass clippings, manure. Browns are leaves, straw, wood chips, sawdust and shredded paper. The microorganisms use the carbon in leaves and other browns as an energy source. As the microbes breakdown this material, heat energy is released. Nitrogen helps the microbes build proteins to grow and multiply. The decomposing organisms need a certain amount of both carbon and nitrogen to work well. Approximately 1 part greens to 2 part browns is a good mix.

HINT: ALWAYS HAVE A STOCKPILE OF BROWNS NEAR YOUR COMPOST SYSTEM, SO YOU HAVE BROWNS AT HAND TO ADD ON TOP OF YOUR GREENS.

Chopping or mowing your compost materials speeds the process since it provides more surface area for the compost organisms. As the creatures decompose the materials into compost, the height of the pile will reduce by over 50%!
For optimum composting, the compost temperature should be around 90 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The pile will be hot soon after adding materials and then will cool down. Here in New York State, unless you have a big pile that keeps in the heat, composting will shut down for the winter as the microorganisms become inactive. This is not a problem, because the composting process will start up again when the weather gets warmer. However, if you want to add food scraps to your compost pile through the winter, you can insulate the pile.

Insulating Your Compost Pile or Bin
The easiest way to insulate a compost pile is to build a large pile as the cold weather approaches. A pile at least 3 feet high and 5 feet on each side will normally retain temperatures above freezing in the center of the pile. The top of the pile should be covered with about 1 foot of leaves. When adding food scraps, scrape away the top layer of leaves, add your food scraps and cover it back up.
If you have a bin instead of a pile, you can insulate it by putting leaves, straw or other lightweight browns around the bin. A layer one foot thick around the bin will provide good insulation during the winter. Lightweight browns can be fenced in to keep them in place. Sturdier browns such as straw bales can simply be piled around the bin. When the warm weather arrives, these insulating materials can be added to your browns stockpile to be used after adding greens to the bin.

Why Should I Make Compost?
• Composting is an easy, practical way to recycle your organic yard and kitchen waste.
• Compost is an excellent soil conditioner for even the smallest yard and garden – it’s safe to use and it costs practically nothing to make.
• Compost grows healthy plants and healthy plants improve the air by removing carbon dioxide and making fresh oxygen.
• For serious gardeners, compost is an inexpensive alternative to peat and other soil enhancements.

Uses for Compost
Gardens and Lawns– Mix it into the garden soil or sprinkle it on the lawn to improve moisture retention and soil texture and add beneficial microorganisms and nutrients. Prior to adding it to the lawn it is best to finely screen the compost.
Landscaping – Use it around garden beds, trees or shrubs as a mulch.
House Plants – Use 1/2 to 1/3 of your container volume instead of soil.

Composting Do’s And Don’ts

DO mix grass clippings with other wastes to loosen them up. They have a tendency to compact. The best way to manage grass clippings is to mulch them into the lawn.

DO keep the compost pile damp, especially during dry spells. Squeeze test.

DON’T use unfinished compost. It will rob your plants of nitrogen.

DON’T add dog and cat droppings. They can contain diseased organisms that may not be destroyed through the compost.

DON’T compost weeds that are heavily laden with seeds. Some seeds will not be killed during the heating process.

DON’T add diseased vegetable plants to the pile if the compost will be used on a vegetable garden. The disease organisms may reappear the following year.

 

Composting Summary

Composting is simple and easy! Now that you read this booklet, you can be a composting expert! Just remember your compost pile needs:

• Microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi.

• A good C:N Ratio (greens and browns).

• A large enough pile to keep itself warm if you want compost in six months.

• Enough moisture (but not too wet).

• Air.

• Time.

Put it all together and the microorganisms and other organisms will do the rest!

 

Yard Waste Management Besides Composting

Mulching - Yard waste can be used for weed control and water retention. Use branches, leaves and grass. Just spread the materials around your plants. Branches may need to be chipped first.

Leave It On The Lawn – Even better than composting grass clippings and leaves, mulch/mow them into the lawn. For more information on this, see our “Leave It On The Lawn” pamphlet.

Composting Indoors with a Worm Bin

If you don’t have the ability to compost outside, you can still compost inside with a worm bin. Using a worm bin has several advantages. The composting material does not need to be turned; the worms do it for you. The bin is often located inside so you don’t have to take a trip to the compost pile. The resulting compost is rich in plant micronutrients and helpful bacteria.

What Kind of Worms Should I Get?                                                                                                                                                                                                             The most common type of worm in a worm bin is the red wriggler (Eisenea fetida), also called the manure worm. The ideal number of worms in your bin depends upon the amount of ‘worm food’ you put in. The ideal worm: vegetative waste ratio is 2:1. For example, if you generate 1/2 lb of vegetative waste per day, use 1 lb of worms. (There are approximately 1000 worms in a pound!)

What Kind of Bin Should I Use?                                                                                                                                                                                                                Worm bins are typically made of wood or plastic and come in all different sizes. The size of the bin depends upon the amount of ‘worm food’ you produce. Add one square foot of bin surface area for each pound of vegetative waste produced in a week. Make sure that there are some holes in the bin to allow air flow. Don’t forget holes for the bottom to let the liquid drain out. The worms like temperatures between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, it is best to keep your worm box inside during the winter months.

What Do Worms Eat?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Worms eat decaying fruit, vegetables and bacteria. Bacteria, fungi and other organisms in the bin also contribute to the degradation process. While milk and meat products do degrade, they can produce odors and attract pests. Therefore, they should be avoided in a worm bin.  Collect food waste in a covered container. Add food to one third of the bin every 5-7 days. Add the food to a different row each time. Start off slowly, adding just a few handfuls each time.

What Else Should I Add to the Bin?                                                                                                                                                                                                     Besides food, worms need bedding. The bedding should be high in carbon and moist (about 60% moisture). Shredded newspaper, office paper, cardboard, or partially degraded leaves work well. Wet the bedding with water. Grab a handful and squeeze. If a few drops come out, the amount of water is about right (approximately 60% moisture). Fill 3/4 of the bin with moist bedding. Sprinkle in a handful of soil or eggshells. This provides grit to aid the worms’ digestion. A handful of finished compost or soil can speed the degradation process by adding helpful microorganisms.

Harvesting Compost from Your Worm Bin    

After approximately 4-6 months the compost is ready to be collected. To allow the material in the bin to further degrade, don’t add food to the bin for one month. One method of harvesting the compost is to move it to one side of the bin. Then add new moist bedding and food waste to the empty side. Most of the worms will move to the new food in a few days – then simply removed the compost.

Trouble Shooting Your Worm Bin  

Odors 

If the bin is too wet, the degradation process may become anaerobic which leads to odors. To prevent this, add dry bedding if more than a few drops of water can be squeezed from the bedding.

Fruit Flies                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Fruit flies are the most common pest in a worm bin. They are attracted to yeast and rotting fruit. Flies can be avoided, or at least minimized, by burying the food waste 2 inches below the bedding. Another way to avoid fruit flies is to use a bin with small air holes that flies can’t get through. Once the flies are present, stop putting food in the bin for approximately three weeks. The worms can survive over a month without adding food to the bin, but fruit flies cannot.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

In this post listed the basic things you should know about composting. There are plenty of useful information. More information can be found in the professional literature or agronomic institutions.

 

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Planting a hedge

Hedges are normally planted during the winter months when the trees and shrubs are in their dormant stage, but planning for a hedge must begin much earlier.
Hedges may be planted for a variety of reason, marking boundaries, creating wind breaks, hiding unsightly features, creating a
scenic landscape, and encouraging wildlife, are just some of the purposes of a good hedge.

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What type of Hedge?
The ground in which the hedge is to be planted needs to be considered. What type of soil is it? Does the ground need to be prepared? What type of plants should be used? Generally a mixture of native species are preferred but this is not necessarily so, depending on the purpose of the hedge and the type of soil. Some trees and shrubs prefer acid soils and others may need well-drained conditions. As a general rule:
For Livestock Use prickly plants, hawthorn (quicks) and blackthorn, as animals are deterred by them. But for Livestock shelter and Wildlife use a base of hawthorn and blackthorn, with occasional holly and/or beech, although these last two may be slow growing, many other plants can be used and lay well, but have disadvantages Ashgrows fast, but makes an edible hedge, Field maple – also edible to livestock and brittle to lay, Oak – slow-growing & edible, Hazel – lays well, but laid stems don’t last very long, though they soon sends up replacement shoots, Rose – though prickly, is often eaten. Never include elderberry or sycamore as although they grow fast, they shade out other plants near them and thus create gaps in the hedge. Shrubs which can be poisonous to livestock should also be avoided, yew, laurel, privet, etc.
For other types of hedge the choice is wide, almost any shrub or small tree, apart from firs, you can including lilac, crab apple, cotoneaster, wild pear, etc. Use those that grow best in your area, (look at the hedges around you), so that there are some colourful leaves / flowers / stems visible in places all year round.

Planting
Planting a long hedge can be a labour intensive job especially if the plants will need canes and guards to protect against rabbit or deer damage. It may also be appropriate to lay matting on the ground to suppress weed growth. If rabbit fencing is to be used then specialist equipment may be required.
If possible, dig (or plough a couple of furrows) on the hedge line and incorporate well-rotted manure in Spring/Summer, allowing the soil to settle in Autumn / early Winter, then plant up January/February.(NOTE: if you wish to use weed killer on the dug ground before planting, ensure it is a type that is neutralised on contact with soil.) If you have to dig holes and plant at the same time, dig the hole deeper than needed, put manure in the bottom and cover it with soil before putting the plant in.
Manure ‘burns’ young roots, but they will find it when needed, and by then worms will have mixed it well with the soil.

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Hedge Trees.
Consider adding hedge trees to your hedge. Oak or Ash to grow tall as standard mature trees. They should be spaced about every 30 Metres, and will require stakes and guards. Ensure that when the hedge is trimmed the trees are clearly visible so that the tops are not cut off.

Obtaining the plants.
Having decided what is required it will be necessary to obtain the plants. For large quantities commercial nurseries will provide better value for money than garden centres. Be prepared to shop around and order early. The more you buy, the cheaper each individual plant becomes. The plants are bare-rooted. If they arrive during snow or frost, put them in a plastic bag, shake potting compost around them,water well and keep in a frost-proof place until conditions improve. Once in the bag, it is an idea to remove the wire or string from around the plants. The 12 – 18 inch plants transplant better, but for a quicker result, the 2 – 3 feet plants are better. The number you buy depends on how thick you want your hedge. You can plant in either a single or double row, plants spaced about 9 inches apart. A double row allows for occasional failure without obvious gaps forming.

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Care of the Growing Hedge.
Keep the weeds from smothering the plants, but a little grass around the base will protect the roots from the hot sun or hard frost. The sides can be trimmed so that they don’t extend too far, but the top must be untouched for 12 months after which it
can be trimmed. Lightly trim the top of the hedge every two to three years, each time raising the level of the cut slightly. This encourages the hedge to grow and bush out without creating a “lollipop on a stick” effect. When the hedge is Two and a half to Three Meters high it will be ready to lay, ideally the stems would be about the thickness of your arm. Laying will ensure that the hedge remains stock proof by thickening the base and encouraging bushy growth.

From the above it will be clear that planting any substantial length of hedge is not at all straightforward. For anyone who has not done the job before it is recommended that they seek advice from a reputable hedger. Remember, planting a hedge, which
fails to grow, is a costly exercise.

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Growing Herbs

Growing Herbs

Herbs

Herbs are plants used whole or in part for flavor, but many of these same herbs are also used for fragrance, health, ornament, and many other uses. Records show that herb use can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians and Chinese. References in the Bible
and documents from medieval monasteries show that herbs were used by most households, including those of wealthy lords and monks. Over the years, use of herbs declined, and until recently they were relegated to a small patch growing by the back door. Today, herbs are again recognized as useful plants that make flavorful additions to culinary dishes and attractive features in gardens. Culture Most herbs prefer well-drained soil and a sunny location. While only a few herbs prefer full shade, many will grow well with afternoon shade. Add organic matter if your soil is heavy or compacted. Herbs usually suffer from few pest or fungal problems and require only minimal watering when established (perennials are established by the second growing season). Fertilizer is also unnecessary for most herbs unless frequent, heavy harvests are desired. Herbs can be grown in a designated bed, as part of a vegetable plot, or in a perennial flower border. The final location of the herbs may also be related to their ultimate use: a kitchen garden may be near the back door, a
moonlight garden near a porch or screen room, or scented herbs near a pathway.
As with other garden plants, herbs can be classified as annual, biennial, or perennial.

Annual

Annual herbs produce foliage, flowers, and seed in one growing season and then die. For some plants, the seeds will fall to the ground and survive the winter, sprouting new plants the next growing season. For others, seed must be collected and stored over the winter or purchased fresh every year. Examples of annual herbs include basil and cilantro. Note: Using saved seeds from hybrid annuals (and biennials) will likely result in plants that do not retain the hybrid characteristics.

Biennial

A few herbs are biennial. Biennials form leaves in the first growing season and flowers and seed in the second season, then die.

Perennial

Most culinary herbs are perennials. Perennials live more than two growing seasons. Perennials grown from seed may grow slowly the first year but gain vigor and maturity in the second year. The herbaceous perennial will die back over the winter and return in the spring. Woody perennials such as lavender have stems that survive and continue to grow from year to year.

Herbs in Containers

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Herbs will do well in pots, if adequate drainage is provided. Use a good-quality potting mix, and if the mix does not already include fertilizer, add slow release pellets to the potting mix or use a water-soluble product after planting. Container herbs will require more moisture than garden-grown herbs, and many will benefit from afternoon shade. Groups of pots, each planted individually with a different herb, or a larger pot planted with several herbs, work well. Group the pots as accents in the garden, or on a porch or deck. Keeping tender plants in pots also reduces shock when the plant needs to be brought indoors for winter. For convenience, group herbs with similar soil and moisture requirements together. Other grouping ideas may include combining different textures or complementary colors, or planting with a theme such as a salsa garden.

Selected Herbs for Indiana Gardens

Basil (Ocimum sp.). Basil is an annual that needs warm soil to grow and summer temperatures to thrive. Although easy to germinate from seed, basil needs good light (more than 10 hours/day) to perform well. When established, the plants will thrive in low moisture and at high temperatures. Do not rush basil plants into the ground—it is safest to wait until a few weeks after the last average frost. Pinch the growing tips of basil frequently to ensure a bushy plant. Mulch to conserve soil moisture and temperature after the soil has thoroughly warmed. Basil also makes a good container plant. Basil cultivars come in different colors (e.g. green and purple), different growth habits (e.g. compact, globe, and lettuce-leaf), and different flavors (e.g. camphor, lemon, and cinnamon). New cultivars of basil are often hybrids (particularly purple basil). Fresh basil should be stored in a cool, but not cold, place as the foliage turns brown below 40˚F. Basil is best preserved in vinegar or other liquids, as it neither freezes nor dries well. Purple basil will turn white wine vinegar burgundy in color. Use the vinegar to replace fresh basil in salsa and pesto. Drying basil between layers of coarse salt will give a flavored salt (discard the basil once it’s dry and brown).

Borage (Borago officinalis)

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Borage is an annual that germinates readily from seed and often “volunteers” as self-sown plants. However, for a guaranteed supply, purchase new seeds or gather seed in the fall and sow in the spring. Although borage is not a tidy plant, it goes well in an informal perennial cottage garden or herb border. The attractive flowers are sky blue, five-petaled stars with black centers. Before opening, the flowers hang like bells and have a pink tinge. Occasionally the entire flower is pink.

Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile and Matricaria recutita)

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Used most often for teas, both of these plants bear flowers resembling white daisies. The annual German chamomile (M. recutita), grows to about 18 inches in height and will self sow. The perennial Roman chamomile (C. nobile) is a groundcover that produces flowers atop 6-inch stalks. Both plants have foliage that is slightly apple-scented. A non-flowering chamomile, sometimes called English chamomile (C. nobile ‘Treneague’) can be used as a grass substitute in lighttraffic areas.

Cilantro/Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)

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Wait until after the last frost date to sow seed directly in a warm, semi-shady spot. Cut leaves when they are 4-6 inches in length, and they will produce a second cutting. The plant generally goes to seed after this second cutting. The interval between the first and second cutting is around 14-21 days, so planting a small handful of seed every two to three weeks will yield a steady supply. To recognize the bitter flower stalk, look for small, feathery leaves and a thicker stem. If you let cilantro flower, it will produce clusters of white blossoms, then form seeds that are first green and mature to a brown color. The seed is known as the spice coriander and is harvested when the seed and leaves turn brown. Some of these seeds may self sow, or they can be saved for the following season.

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

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Chives are hardy perennials that will grow in most garden soils in full sun. They primarily spread by rhizomes, so dividing the plant every few years will be beneficial. Early spring growth may be coarser in mature plants (2+ years) and produces attractive pink or lavender-colored flowers that also are edible. After the flowers have faded, cut the whole plant to within 2 inches of the ground, and tender new growth will appear within 10-21 days. When harvesting chives, encourage new growth by cutting close to the base, a few stems at a time. Other types of chives include the late-summer, whiteflowering garlic chives (A. tuberosum), which self-sows readily, and a curly, non-edible ornamental (A. senescens var. glaucum) .

Dill (Anethum graveolens)

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Dill is an annual herb that grows readily from seed sown directly into the garden. Dill will freely self sow each year if left to set seed. The feathery, blue-green leaves, which are sometimes called dill feathers or dill weed, as well as the flowers and seed are all used in cooking and preserving. The stems may grow to 3 feet on larger varieties and may need staking unless you grow them in a sheltered spot away from heavy winds. Common cultivars of dill include ‘Dukat,’ which is a darker green than most, ‘Bouquet,’ and ‘Fernleaf’ which yields smaller plants.

Lavender (Lavandula sp.)

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Lavender will only grow in well-drained soil, so heavy or compacted soils should be amply amended with compost prior to planting. Lavender prefers a higher soil pH than most herbs, thus a little lime sprinkled around the base in the spring may be helpful.
Do a soil test before amending with lime to assess the pH of your soil. Damp conditions created by bare soil and hardwood mulches can encourage fungal disease. A light-colored mulch of marble chips or gravel is helpful in keeping the plant away from damp soil surfaces. In the spring, delay cutting lavender back until new growth is well underway. Spring growth is frequently delayed and live branches may be mistaken for dead when they are still dormant. When active growth is established, trim only in those areas where active growth occurs. Lavender rarely re-grows from older woody stems. Most lavenders grow 12-18 inches. Of the many types of lavender, L. angustifolia is the only group that reliably survives Indiana winters. ‘Lavender Lady’ will bloom the first year from seed and grows well in northern climates. ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’ are also popular cultivars that will perform well. L. x intermedia (‘Provence’ and ‘Grosso’) may survive all but the coldest winters. L. dentata (French fringed lavender) and L. stoechas (Spanish lavender) will not survive harsh winters and so should be treated as annuals or overwintered inside.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

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Lemon balm is a highly scented, vigorous herb that can become invasive if let go to seed. The plant is one of the earliest perennials to break dormancy in the spring, and grows up to 4 feet by mid-season. The bright green leaves should be harvested regularly and before the white flowers are borne. The flowers attract bees and butterflies, but should be removed prior to seed formation. Trimming the plant down to about 2 feet high after flowering will encourage more lush green foliage to grow. Lemon balm usually has solid green leaves, but can also be found in golden (with a lighter, yellow-tinged leaf) and variegated forms. There is also a lime-flavored balm. Marjoram (Origanum majorana). Also called knotted marjoram or sweet marjoram, this plant has a white flower and upright habit. It is in the same genus as oregano, but grows more slowly than the Greek oregano species and is not generally hardy in Indiana. The name knotted marjoram comes from the leaves, which unfurl from a ‘knot’ form. Pot marjoram (O. onites) is not hardy.

Mint (Mentha spp.)

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Of the many available species of mint, peppermint and spearmint are the most common. Pineapple mint, applemint, chocolate mint,variegated mint, blue mints, silver mints, and many more also can be found. Most are potentially invasive perennials that should be kept in a pot, preferably away from the garden. They will spread rapidly by runners that can break to the surface many feet from the mother plant. Some also will set seed, but the seedlings are rarely good specimens. Although the pale lavender flowers are attractive, they should be removed prior to seed formation. Plants should be heavily trimmed mid-season to retain vigor and fresh leaves. Grow mints in an asterly location if possible, as they wilt and burn in hot afternoon sun. Mints, particularly spearmint, require a higher moisture level than most herbs.

Oregano (Origanum spp.)

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Common oregano (O. vulgare) and Greek oregano (O. heracleoticum) are both easy to grow from seed and grow sufficiently well to provide a modest harvest the first year. Common oregano has a low growing habit and white or pink flowers, while the white-flowering Greek oregano has a more upright habit   (18-24 inches).

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

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Parsley is a marginally hardy biennial, so it should be sown from fresh seed each year. The seed has a tough outer shell that takes up to three weeks to soften, a process that can be hastened by soaking in warm water overnight. Once germinated, transfer the seedlings to a permanent position while still small, as parsley will develop a tap root as it matures. Rarely, parsley may survive and stay green during the first winter and send up a flower stalk in midspring of the second year. However, seeds from this flower stalk are unlikely to result in quality specimens. There are two types of parsley widely available: curly (P. crispum) and Italian (P. crispum var. ‘Neopolitanum’).

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

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Rosemary is not hardy in this area and thus needs to be treated as an annual or overwintered indoors. Outdoors in the summer it may develop such problems as fungal disease and aphids. To help overwinter the plant indoors, give rosemary good drainage, air flow, and a sunny but cool location. Cultivars of rosemary that are hardiest include ‘Arp,’ ‘Salem,’ and ‘Hill Hardy,’ and these may overwinter in a sheltered spot in mild winters. Other common forms include ‘Gorizia’ (coarser-leaved variety), ‘Tuscan Blue,’‘Prostratus’              (low-growing, creeping plant), and var. Albus (white flowers).

Sage (Salvia officinalis)

 

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Garden sage will grow easily from seed, and although harvest will be small the first year, this strong-flavored herb will produce sufficiently for modest kitchen use. After the second year, sage needs to be trimmed back in the spring to avoid the center of the plant becoming too woody. If left to flower, it will produce blue blooms that attract butterflies. Plan on replacing sage plants every three to five years. Some types of sage are tender and should be treated as annuals. Among the tender sages, Pineapple sage
(S.elegans) is very popular as it produces scarlet flowers late in the summer and has a fruit-tasting leaf. Hummingbirds and butterflies enjoy this plant, too.
Purple-leaf sage (S. officinalis ‘Purpurascens’), golden sage (S. officinalis Aurea’), and tri-color sage (S.officinalis ‘Tricolor’) are marginally hardy throughout Indiana and may not survive in severe winters.

French Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa)

 

Tarragon

A perennial that requires at least 30 (preferably 60) days of dormancy in cold weather, French Tarragon may be weakened in warmer southern Indiana winters. Gardeners with heavy or compacted soil may have trouble keeping plants from year to year. As French tarragon does not set viable seed, the plants are propagated by root division or stem cuttings and should be purchased from a reputable nursery. Seeds for Russian tarragon (A. dracunculoides) are available, but the plant is not considered sufficiently flavorful for culinary use and has few, if any, attractive features in the garden. French tarragon can be recognized by its glossy green leaves in the spring, which turn brown in mid-season. Cutting back the tarragon in mid-season will help restore the attractive green foliage. Tarragon is most commonly preserved by infusing into vinegar and is used in many traditional European recipes.

Thyme (Thymus spp.)

 

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There are over 300 species of thyme! The most common can be divided into two groups: culinary and ornamental. Common, English, and
French thyme (all Thymus vulgaris), which may also be mistakenly labelled Mother of Thyme, have small green leaves and an upright habit. Lemon thyme (T. citriodorus) also has an upright form, as well as creeping and variegated versions (T. citriodorus vars.). Silver thyme (T. x argenteus) is primarily an upright ornamental with pretty pink flowers. Thymes can also make a great lawn substitute or slope retainer. The low-growing thymes include Woolly thyme (T. praceox ), Miniature thyme (T.praceox minimus), Mother of Thyme (T.pulegioides), and caraway thyme (T. herba-barona). Flowers on the thymes
vary from deep rosy pink and red to lavender and white. T. serpyllum var. coccineus has a particularly pretty red bloom. Garden thyme (T. vulgaris) can be grown from purchased seed, but many of the cultivars can only be propagated by cuttings, division, or layering. Provide thyme with a sunny location and good drainage, and the plant will survive for many years without pest or disease problems.

Preserving Herbs

Herbs can be preserved in three ways: freezing, drying, or in a medium such as vinegar or salt. (Note: To prevent contamination and botulism do not preserve herbs in oil.) To preserve a main harvest

• Timing: Both wind and heat disperse essential oils quickly, and fewer oils are produced on excessively wet days. So choose a calm, dry morning, and pick just after the dew has dried from the leaf. Most herbs will have maximum oil content just before the flower opens, so this is a good time to harvest.                    • Amount: For a mid-season harvest do not take more than one third of the plant foliage at one time. The plant needs sufficient foliage to re-grow vigorously.                                                                                                                                          • Inspect: Check the foliage for insects and damaged leaves.                                        • Rinse: If necessary, rinse the foliage in tepid water, and pat dry with paper towels.

Drying herbs

• Bundle 6-12 stems (depending on thickness).
• Remove any foliage near the base of the stems.
•DSecure with an elastic band (this is preferable to string as the elastic contracts with the stem as it dries).
• Hang the bundle away from sunlight in a cool location.
• Note: For individual leaves, place them on a screen or rack and turn frequently.
• Dehydrators can also be used to dry herbs. Follow the directions on your appliance and check frequently.
• Using a cool oven with the door open (which wastes energy) or a microwave (which can quickly over-dry herbs) are the least satisfactory ways to dry herbs.

Freezing Herbs

Chives, tarragon and many other herbs also freeze well. For chives, snip the stems into 1/4-inch pieces, place on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper, and place in the freezer. Put the chives into a bag when frozen, and use by the spoonful as needed. Other herbs can be frozen in a similar way, after stripping the leaves from the plant stem. Young stems with leaves can be frozen together.

Preserving Herbs in a Medium (Liquid or Salt)

Preserving herbs in a liquid is another versatile way to package your herbs for winter use. Chopped mint, tarragon, or basil covered with vinegar will be preserved for many months and ready to use. Additionally, you may can or freeze herbs in a tomato or stock base.
Another alternative for preserving herbs is to make a flavored salt. Alternate shallow layers of fresh herbs in between layers of coarse salt. When thoroughly dry, store the flavored salt in an airtight container. Discard the brown, dessicated herb.

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Growing Annual Flowers

Growing Annual Flowers

 

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Most home gardeners consider annual flowers among their favorites. Although annuals only live for one year, most provide season-long color, making them a good value. Annuals come in a wide array of colors, shapes, and sizes. Marigolds, petunias, and impatiens are among the most popular, but there are many other annuals that are both practical and easy to grow.

Uses

The term “annual” describes plants that go through their entire life cycle—from germination to seed production—in a single year. Because they last only one growing season, annuals are versatile members of the garden. In addition to offering a diverse palette of color on their own you can also:
• Plant annuals among perennials or shrubs in a new
bed where you need to fill spaces between small,
developing plants.
• Use annuals to add accent in planters, boxes and urns
(next year you can pick a new pallet!).
• Plant them over fading spring flowering bulbs. Annuals
add color in summer without interfering with next
spring’s flowers.
• Grow annuals in a garden for summer cutting or for
drying to make winter arrangements.
• Create a temporary low-growing hedge or border of
annual plants along a foundation. As you choose annuals to plant, think about color, form and texture. For example, you can choose lacey Nigella for a dainty effect or bright, coarse coneflowers for a bolder resentation. Although most annuals bloom all season, there are some that offer only seasonal interest. The sweet pea and other cool-weather annuals quit blooming in the heat of summer. Coneflowers begin their show in mid to late summer. Pansies can be planted in fall to provide early spring blooms.

Location

Most flowering annuals grow best in full sun and welldrained soil. Sun-loving plants that are grown in shade tend to be spindly and produce fewer flowers. Likewise, shade-loving annuals tend to get leaf scorch and flower poorly when grown in too much sun. Few annuals will thrive when planted in wet, heavy soil. Before you plant, check to see how well the soil drains. Dig a hole 10 inches deep and fill it with water. If the water drains quickly, you have a droughty soil. Adding organic matter will aid water and nutrient retention. If thewater drains after an hour or two, you have a welldrained soil. If the water stands overnight, you have poorly drained soil and may need to consider constructing raised beds.
Choose plants that can thrive in the environment you have. Table 1 lists information on germination, location, and spacing for many popular annuals. You can also find similar information on seed packets and plant tags.

Soil Preparation

If you’re working ground that has remained unplanted for at least a year, add organic matter, such as peat moss, compost, or well-rotted manure the previous fall. For established planting beds, add organic matter several weeks before planting in spring. Spade or till the top six to eight inches of soil, thoroughly incorporating the organic materials.
To start annuals from seed directly in the garden, level the bed and rake it smooth after tilling. Remove all stones, clods, and old plant refuse.
To plant annuals into a bulb or shrub bed, cultivate only lightly. You can add a little organic matter to help annuals become established, but excessive cultivation will damage the roots of established plants. If you plan to grow your annuals in containers, use new potting mix each year. Try a mix of garden loam, sphagnum peat moss and vermiculite or perlite (1:1:1 by volume) or use commercially available mixes. Containers should be large enough to provide adequate space for root growth and must have drainage holes in the bottom to allow excess water to escape.

Seeds

Seeds of a few plants, including babies-breath and gaillardia, can be sown as soon as you can work the soil in early spring. For most other annual flowers, wait until soil warms above 60°F before sowing outdoors. Most annuals can be started from seed indoors or in
hotbeds or cold frames outdoors to get a head start on the growing season. You want to time the sowing of seeds so that plants will be ready for transplanting to the garden when the appropriate weather arrives. A few annuals, such as poppies and sweet pea, don’t transplant well and should be sown in their permanent location.
Purchase fresh seed from local garden centers or reputable mail-order catalogs. Saving seeds from oldfashioned varieties can work well, but many of today’s annuals are F1 hybrids. Seeds from these plants often grow into plants very different from their parents in color, size, or habit of growth. Sowing Smooth the seedbed, then make a furrow for the recommended sowing depth with a rounded stick or hoe handle. Place seeds in the furrow and cover them with a fine layer of soil or light mulch such as vermiculite. Water gently to moisten the furrow trying not to disturb the seeds.

 

Fertilizer

 

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Add fertilizer to soil as you cultivate and incorporate organic matter. Use one to two pounds of 5-10-5 or similar analysis, fertilizer per 100 square feet of bed area. If the soil fertility is low, you may need to fertilize again during the growing season. Usually, 1/2 -1 pound of 5-10-5 per 100 square feet every month to six weeks will suffice. For home gardeners, remember that one pound of dry fertilizer is about equal to 2 cups or 96 teaspoons.
Therefore, use 1-2 cups of dry fertilizer per 100 square feet, or about 1 teaspoon per square foot. Do not let dry or concentrated liquid fertilizer touch the foliage or flowers. Water thoroughly after applying fertilizer. Good soil preparation will help promote speedy seed germination. However, in heavy soil, it can be helpful to cover the seed with fine vermiculite or finished compost to prevent a hard soil crust from interfering with seedling emergence. Label all plants with the plant and cultivar for later ease of identification.

Thinning

When the seedlings have developed two true leaves, thin them by pinching out excess plants or transplant them to another location.

Transplanting

Many homeowners find it more convenient to buy started seedlings rather than start their own. Most annuals transplant easily and often are already blooming when you plant them, though your selection will be more limited than if you started from seed. Choose vigorous looking plants with healthy looking leaves. Most annuals should be transplanted outdoors after the danger of spring frost has passed: May 1, southern Indiana; May 15, central; May 20-30, northern.
If you’ve raised your own seedlings in a greenhouse or in some other controlled nvironment, it is helpful to harden them off before planting outside. The goal is to gradually increase exposure to wind, sun, and drought. Put the seedlings outside next to the house, and bring them inside at night at first. After a few days, you can leave them out at night but protect them if the temperature dips close to freezing. After a week or so they’ll be ready to plant out in the open.
To remove seedlings from trays or flats, slice downward through the soil between the plants with a knife. To remove seedlings from fiber, plastic, or clay pots carefully lift out each plant with its intact block of soil.
To transplant seedlings in peat pots, tear off the lip of the pot that would otherwise extend above the soil surface as a safeguard, or the lip may absorb water away from tender seedling roots (wicking). Peat moss can be difficult to wet once it becomes dry, forming an impenetrable barrier between the roots and the surrounding soil. To ensure root penetration, poke holes or remove the bottom of the pot. You can plant the sides of the pot with the seedling. Set the plants at the same depth they were growing in the original container and at their recommended spacing. Press the soil firmly around the plant. To help give the root system a boost, water with a dilute, high phosphorus fertilizer solution, such as one tablespoon of high phosphate e fertilizer (10-52-17 or similar analysis) in 1 gallon of
water.

Mulching

Mulching flower beds not only makes them look better, it conserves moisture, reduces weed growth, and can help moderate soil temperature. Common mulches include straw, wood chips or shreds, ground or crushed corn cobs, pine needles, and black plastic. Apply 2-3 inches of mulch around the plants after soil has had a chance to warm. Black plastic mulch will warm the soil and is particularly effective for heat-loving plants such as petunias, marigolds, and zinnias.

 

Pinching

Pinching

Most annuals benefit from pinching resulting in more flowers during the growing season, even though it may remove blooms initially. The first pinch should remove the top inch or two from the growing tip, leaving 3 or 4 leaves. Greenhouse-grown transplants have usually been pinched by the grower so check the plants at purchase time. Many annuals that bloom all summer will benefit from additional pinching throughout the summer to keep them compact and full of blossoms.

Cultivation

Lightly cultivate soil early in the season to break the crust that forms on the surface. After the plants are growing vigorously, stop cultivating. When you cultivate large plants you may damage some of the shallow feeder roots. Cut weeds off with a shaving stroke at the soil surface instead of pulling them. Pulling weeds usually brings other weed seeds to the surface, where they will germinate. Mulching will eliminate the need for cultivation.

Watering

Generally, plants need a single watering of 1 inch of water each week. Watering with a sprinkler or soaker hose works better than with a hand-held hose since it can take 1-3 hours to provide sufficient water. Allow the water to penetrate at least 6-8 inches into the soil. Soaker hoses are most efficient, since they apply the water slowly and directly to the soil, reducing water loss to runoff and evaporation.

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Flower Removal (Deadheading)

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Annuals are prolific bloomers on their own but removing old, faded blooms every 5-7 days will help encourage additional blossoms. This is called deadheading. When you leave spent flowers untouched, the plant puts its energy into developing seeds rather than into producing more flowers. In some cases, the fruits or seeds are themselves ornamental and you’ll want to let them develop. Ageratum, calendula, cosmos, marigold, pansy, rudbeckia, scabiosa, and zinnia respond especially well to deadheading.

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Growing Perennial Flowers

Growing Perennial Flowers

 

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For many home gardeners, perennials are the backbone of the flower garden, adding beauty for many years. Perennials vary in size, leaf texture, and flower color. Delphinium, peony, hollyhock, columbine, hosta, and daylily are traditional favorites. But there are many other species from which to choose.A perennial plant normally lives at least three years under local growing conditions, but many live even longer. Those perennials whose stems die to the ground each winter are known as herbaceous perennials. Those perennials whose stems live from season to season andcontinue to grow in size each year are known as woody perennials. This publication focuses on herbaceous perennials. Bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, are also herbaceous perennials, but usually are considered separately as flowering bulbs.

 

Plan Your Garden

 

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Most perennials have a relatively short season of bloom compared to annual flowers. Planning on paper before you plant can help you have something in bloom much of the year. Most perennial plants prefer a sunny location with well drained, fertile soil, but a good number can adapt or may actually prefer shade. The size and shape of your garden
will depend on the space available, but try to place the garden where you will enjoy it most. A stone wall, building, trellis, or fence will make an attractive backdrop for the perennial garden.
Ideally, a perennial border garden should be at least six feet wide. Allow enough space for air circulation, care, and cultivation. Designs that fit well with other landscape elements give perennials a sense of “belonging” in the landscape. Taller plants should be placed to the rear, medium height plants in the middle, and low-growing perennials in front. By alternating plants of different heights, the perennial bed can have greater visual appeal.
Interesting color combinations are possible for your garden, since many perennials are available in several colors. Selecting perennials that bloom at different seasons will give you color throughout the year. For display, planting perennials in masses works best. You
can also add annuals, bulbs, and shrubs to complete the effect.

 

Preparing The Garden

 

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Preparation of the perennial planting site is important, since the plants will be in the same location for many years. Most perennials planted in poorly drained soils seldom live for more than one year. Thus, a planting site with proper drainage as well as adequate moisture retention is a must. Test the site for drainage by digging a hole 10 inches deep. Then fill it with water, and allow the water to drain away. If the hole is empty in 8 to 10 hours, the site is
acceptable. For poorly drained areas, raised beds can be formed by either adding new soil or elevating existing beds. The preparation of new beds usually should begin in the fall, well before planting time. Spade or rototill the soil to a depth of six to eight inches. Turn the soil completely and remove all large stones, roots, debris, etc.
Then, incorporate two inches or more of an organic material such as peat moss, compost, or well-rotted manure. In spring, re-till or spade the area prior to planting, but after fertilizing.
Fertilizer should be applied to all beds when the soil is prepared in early spring. Add 2 to 3 pounds of a general purpose fertilizer such as 5-10-5 or similar analysis per 100 square feet of bed area. One pound of dry fertilizer is about equal to 2 cups and there are 48 teaspoons in each cup. So a rate of 2 pounds per 100 sq. ft. of area would need approximately 4-6 cups per 100 square feet or 2 teaspoons per sq. ft. If soil fertility is low, additional applications may be necessary throughout the growing season. Usually 1/2 to 1 pound of 5-10-5 per 100 square feet used as a side dressing will be sufficient. Side dressing can be applied during the active growing season of the specific perennials involved. A yellow foliage color or poor growth pattern may indicate a lack of nutrition. Do not over-fertilize, or you will stimulate production of foliage, with a decrease in flowering. Do not let dry or concentrated liquid fertilizer contact foliage or flowers.
Water thoroughly after applying fertilizer. To help plants get ready for the coming dormant season, do not fertilize after August 1.

 

Seed

 

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Although starting from plants is generally easier, some perennials can be successfully grown from seed. Always obtain fresh seed from reputable dealers. Many perennials are hybrids and their seeds usually produce a wide range of unpredictable colors and growth habits.
Seed can be sown in the early spring or late fall. Plants produced by early spring sowing should be large enough to overwinter successfully and bloom in succeeding years. Fall-sown seeds usually remain dormant until the following spring. Many perennial seeds require a moist chilling period before they are mature enough to germinate. Fall sowing outdoors accomplishes this naturally. If you plan to spring sow, you can give the seeds a moist chilling period (called stratification) by mixing them with a small amount of vermiculite or other porous organic matter, moistening the mixture to even dampness (not soaking wet) and placing the mixture in a sealable plastic container. Then, place the container in the refrigerator for 10 – 12 weeks. Time the stratification so you will be able to plant the
seeds immediately when they come out of the cold. For best results, sow the seed in a hotbed or cold frame. Or choose a well-drained location in the garden which has at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. Sow the seed in short rows, making the furrow the recommended depth. Cover with a fine layer of soil or vermiculite. Do not allow the seed to dry out. If equipment and space are available, seed can be sown in trays and handled like spring bedding plants.

 

Plants

 

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Early spring is the best time to set new perennials from plants. However, divisions of established plants can be made at the proper time in the fall. Plant as early as possible so that newly set plants develop good root growth before freezing weather occurs.
Perennials can be purchased at many garden centers and nurseries or ordered from reputable dealers. Select plants that are compact and dark green. Named cultivars are most reliable because their heat and cold resistance and their growth habits are well known. Set the plants at the same depth they were growing in the original container. When transplanting plants in fiber or peat pots, remove the portion of the pot above the soil surface to prevent the rim from acting as a wick which takes moisture away from tender young roots. Because peat can be difficult to wet once it dries, it may be helpful to slash the sides of the pot or poke holes through it to ensure that roots will be able to penetrate to the surrounding soil. Press the soil firmly around each plant. Water with a diluted fertilizer solution such as 1 tablespoon of high phosphate fertilizer (10-52-17 or similar analysis) in one gallon of water. Label each plant so you’ll know its identity and location.
If the plants wilt, cover with baskets or newspaper tents for several days. Be sure the plants have enough moisture for good establishment. Perennials usually should be planted in clumps or groups. Do not crowd perennials, for most will develop into sizeable plants as they reach maturity.

 

Mulching

 

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Mulching perennials will help conserve soil moisture and keep weed growth to a minimum. Apply 2-4 inches of chipped or shredded bark, straw, grass clippings or other suitable material. Pull weeds by hand frequently. A winter mulch may help carry over plants that are not quite winter hardy, or in the case of fall-planting, have not yet had a chance to develop a strong root system. Apply winter mulch only after the soil temperature has dropped, usually after several freezes. If the mulch is applied too early, the soil will remain too warm and may force new growth which is easily winter damaged.

 

Staking/Support

garden-trellis

Some perennials have weak stems, grow tall, become top heavy, and ultimately fall over. For such plants, place a stake or wire cage when you first set the plant so that growth will hide the support. Use stakes or support frames made from twigs, wood dowels, bamboo, wire, or plastic. Stakes should be 6 to 12 inches shorter than the full height of the plant. Place the stake behind the plant and sink it into the ground far enough to be firm. Tie the plant loosely to the stake with soft cloth ties or wire covered with paper or plastic. Tie the plant with one loop around the plant and another around the stake rather than a single loop around both the stake and plant.

 

Watering

 

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Most perennials require a steady supply of water for good growth, especially during the first growing season.
Many perennials tend to produce a large number of shallow roots, so supplemental watering is a must when rainfall is not reliable. A single, gentle soaking to provide one inch of water each week is preferred to frequent shallow watering. Allow the water to penetrate 6 to 8 inches deep. A sprinkler or soaker hose does a better job than a hand-held hose. A soaker hose is most efficient because it allows little water runoff and minimizes evaporation and soil compaction. If possible, water during the early part of the day to allow
the plant ample time to dry before nightfall. Nighttime watering increases the chance of disease.

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Propagation

 

propagating-plants

Most perennials can be propagated by cuttings or by division. Generally, most plants benefit from division every 3 to 5 years to rejuvenate flower production and remove unproductive sections of the planting. To divide perennials, dig up the clump and cut into several sections using a sharp spade or large knife. Replant the sections as soon as possible, having prepared any new planting locations ahead of time. Many plants can be started as shoot tip cuttings. Make the cuttings 3 to 6 inches long, and treat the base of the cutting with a root hormone powder. Trim off any foliage which would otherwise be below the soil line.
Place each cutting in a container filled with a mixture of 2 parts sand, 1 part soil, and 1 part peat moss. Be sure the container has drainage holes at the bottom to allow excess water to drain. Water thoroughly and cover loosely with a plastic bag to keep relative humidity high.Place in a bright area, but out of direct sunlight. After the cuttings begin to root, make air holes in the plastic to help “harden off” the cuttings. Finally, remove the cover and allow the plants to grow. Then transplant to cold frames or outdoor beds.

Cleaning Up

To keep perennials looking their best, remove faded mature flowers, commonly referred to as “deadheading”. Removing spent blooms will also encourage reblooming in some species. When the leaves of the perennials die in the fall, cut the stalk back to 3 or 4 inches, and compost the old stems and leaves. In some species, such as ornamental grasses, the brown, dead stems provide winter color and texture, as well as cover for wildlife. Cut back these plants in late winter or early spring before new growth begins.

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Raised Bed Gardening

Raised Bed Gardening

Raised Bed Gardening
Raised beds aren’t new. They have been used in various forms for many years.Their real value is utilitarian,especially for gardeners with poorly drained soil. But their advantages make them a good choice in many gardening situations.
Anyone who has investigated drainage procedures quickly finds that the amount of effort, time, and expense is substantial. Even you are willing to undertake the task, the most effective drainage path is not always feasible or convenient.
Raised beds are often a lowercost option to provide plants with well-drained soil.
To test a site’s drainage, dig a hole 18 inches deep and fill it with water. An hour later there should be little of no water remaining in the test hole. If the water doesn’t drain, you have three options: lay drain tile, ameliorate the soil through a process called doubledigging,or build raised beds. Gardeners constructing their first raised bed may question any labor-saving claims for this type of gardening. A small, 3-foot by 6-foot raised bed requires a
surprising amount of work. Installing drain tile is expensive, time consuming, and not always possible in towns and suburbs. Double-digging is also timeconsuming,and digging into heavy soils often results in the “bath tub effect,” where water collects in the bed area in even greater amounts than before the digging operation. This can be useful for plants with high moisture requirements (marsh or bog dwellers, for example). But loss of air in the root-zone caused by excess water harmful to most common garden plants. Building beds that raise the level of soil above the surrounding ground helps solve drainage problems. Gardeners constructing their first raised bed
may question any labor-saving claims for this type of gardening.
A small, 3-foot by 6-foot raised bed requires a surprising amount of work.
The first step is to decide where the bed will be located. Mark the outer dimensions of the bed with stakes and twine. If you are constructing more than one raised bed, paths between the beds should be large enough to move a wheelbarrow through. Cover bed sites with black plastic or a thick layer of organic mulch for at least a month to smother existing vegetation. If you are in a hurry, you can remove sod by hand or kill it with a herbicide.After killing or removing the vegetation, till or spade soil to a depth of 6 inches.
Raised beds work best when framed.
Raised beds without frames tend to require more watering and may erode during periods of heavy rainfall.
Framing may be built of stone, brick, rot resistant wood, such as redwood. Do not use wood containing creosote or compounds containing pentachlorophenol, which are toxic to plants or humans. 2”x6” or 2”x8” lumber works well,nailed and staked at the corners. Landscapetimbers are another good choice. Frames should be at least 6” high and no wider than 4 feet so you can reach the center of the bed from either side. Beds constructed 2 to 3 feet tall can be worked without bending over or while sitting. If the bed is longer than 6 feet, the sides should be staked or fastened together with cable every 4 to 6 feet. Use galvanized nails to prevent rusting.Once
constructed, the frame needs to be filled with soil. Avoid using ordinary garden or topsoil alone as these tend to crust over, settle, and shrink away from the frames.Heavy rainfall may also cause them to compact.
Instead, mix 1 part organic matter (peat moss, compost, etc.) to 1 part sand or perlite to2 parts soil. Perlite and sand facilitate excess water drainage while organic matter helps keep an even moisture level. Maintaining high levels of organic matter is particularly important in raised beds because they tend to dry out quickly.
As with normal garden soil, raised beds require regular fertilizer and lime application. Conduct a soil test to determine soil needs.
Overhead irrigation does not work well on raised beds due to their limited size. For small beds, hand watering works well. Drip irrigation systems work well in larger beds. Mulching raised beds with organic or other mulches helps reduce water loss from the soil.Give some thought to the paths between beds. A few inches of wood chips can make a luxurious path. However, in a surprisingly short time these paths break down into a wonderful growing media for weeds. While weeds are easily pulled from the loose soil of raised beds, this is usually not the case in compacted pathways. Laying a durable covering on the pathways, such as landscape fabric or even old carpeting, helps control weed growth. Any plant that is normally planted in the ground can be planted in a raised bed. In addition, raised beds can be used to contain plants that spread aggressively by underground stolons,such as mints. The adaptability of raised beds in terms of size, soil,and location makes them useful for growing a
wide array of plants of various cultural needs. It is not advisable to build raised beds around existing trees and shrubs. If you are willing to invest the time initially required to construct raised beds, the result will be increased control over several important factors essential to good plant growth. These factors include: better drainage,and moisture retention, a loose, open soil which enhances root development, and an area in which to experiment with intensive planting techniques or plants with special requirements. The geometry of grouped raised beds can produce a pleasing, semi-formal effect in the home landscape.

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Vertical gardens

Vertical gardens

Vertical

Vertical gardens provide an opportunity to use every bit of space available in a small garden.They are also a way to create living artworks in the garden. Vertical gardens can be made using all types of low-growing or cascading plants including herbs, grasses and groundcover perennials. However, the most popular forms of vertical gardens are those using succulents.
The ultimate form of vertical gardening is the living wall. Many large scale living walls are grown in soilless environments using hydroponics, a system that provides a constant nutrient rich water supply. Given their cost and complexity, these are not really suitable for the home gardener. However, a small picture-sized version of a living wall can be easily made with a vertical planter box using cuttings and offsets or “pups” from succulents
plants or small herb starts.
Below are directions for creating a living artwork using succulents. However, the same procedures can be followed using small herb, grass and perennial starts. Succulents are easy to use as they possess very shallow root systems and can grow in a meager amount of soil. They also are able to go for long periods of time without water. These properties make succulents ideal plants to use when creating living art.

Step1. Collect your materials and tools

1. Planter box
Boxes can be constructed (there are excellent instructions on the websites listed below) but it is easier to use a
box purchased from an antiques/collectibles store or wine boxes or apple crates from a recycle center or a prefabricated wall planting system. Preassembled frames or planting bags can be purchased on line. Stick with smaller boxes not larger than 18”x24” and approximately 2” deep as the soil in larger boxes may slump down.
2. Wire hardware cloth – ¼” mesh
3. Cactus planting mix
4. Cuttings or small rooted succulent plants
5. Succulent cuttings are prepared by removing offsets of rosette type plants; stem cuttings can be taken from other succulents. All stems should be ¼” to ½” long.
Prepare enough cuttings to fill the entire space to be planted. For example, a 12” x 12” box will require approximately 100 plants. Store the cuttings in a cool shady place for several days until a callus forms over the end; this prevents rot.
6. Wire cutters
7. Old spoon, fork or small trowel
8. Screw driver
9. Hardware for hanging planter

Step 2. Prepare the planter

1. Attach the hardware cloth to the front of the planter box. It can be attached to the front edge or, for a neater appearance, cut and folded to fit inside the box. Secure with screws.
2. Fill the box with planting mix, pouring a small amount of dry mix on top of the mesh and working it through with your fingers or a spoon.
3. Lift the hardware cloth gently using the fork to allow the soil to fall through. Shake the box to distribute soil evenly.

Step 3. Plant your box

1. Arrange plants within the frame, placing larger plants as focal points and gently push the stems through the wire mesh, cutting it to make larger holes if necessary.
2. It is not necessary to water the plants until roots form. This will take 2 to 3 weeks or longer depending on the type of plant. Once roots begin to form, start watering, using sufficient water to dampen soil all the way through,but taking care not to over water.
3. In approximately 8 to 12 weeks, when the plants are well rooted in the planter, it can be hung vertically.

Step 4. Maintenance

1. Hang your living picture where it will receive filtered sun (an eastern exposure is best).
2. Rotate the frame occasional as the plants at the top receive more light and can shade those planted below.
3. Water once a week by removing the planter from the wall and laying it horizontally. Use sufficient water to
dampen soil all the way through, taking care to not over water.
4. Fertilize once a month with liquid fertilizer at ¼ strength.
5. Trim and thin plants as needed and replace plants that are not thriving.
6. If the soil becomes compacted or slumps to the bottom of the frame, it is time to replant your living picture.

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