In Search of the Best Gardening Tools

Different kinds of gardens require different kinds of garden tools. Hardware stores mostly cater for a wide range of tools, but there are shops that specialize in the more expensive kind of garden tool that shouts quality. Wherever you decide to shop, here are a few pointers to advise you.

Do you have small garden or a large one? A small garden will not require the same large equipment that would be of use in an extensive one. A ride-on mower is unnecessary if you only have a small strip of lawn. Another point to consider is who does most of the gardening? Some tools are too heavy for use by women.

When you buy secateurs make sure the blade always stays sharp to avoid damaging the plant. Look for models that have blades that can be sharpened or replaced, models with tension control and with sizes that best fit your hands. Secateurs usually cost around $50 – $130.

Hedge trimmers or shears are handy – but only if you have a hedge, or plan on growing one. Some hedge trimmers have curved blades to stop branches from sliding out when cut.

Forks are used for turning and aerating compost and breaking up lumps of soil. The cheaper ones are often not strong enough for heavy soil, so go for sturdiness instead of price. Forks usually cost around $30 – $100.

A shovel has a scoop blade and is best used to move around dirt and garden soil. A spade has a flat blade great for cutting edges, digging and dividing plants. The edge of a spade should be kept sharpened for clean and efficient cutting will cause the least amount of damage to plants. These are a basic garden necessity and usually cost from $30 – $50.

A pruning saw is used for pruning trees and larger shrubs, while secateurs are for plants like roses. Pruning saws have a narrow curved blade that fits between stems or branches and easily and cuts them as you pull the saw backwards. They are approximately $27- $55.

A chipping hoe is a handy tool for getting rid of small weeds. The Dutch or push-hoe is slightly more user-friendly as the action required to use it does not jar the neck and shoulder quite so much.

A rake is also a basic requirement for the garden. The strong rake with the flat head and sharp metal prongs is used for smoothing a garden bed and getting out the last of the bumps and weeds. The plastic rake is used to gather leaves and grass clippings only.

Gardening tools don’t have to be expensive. Flea markets and garage sales can be excellent places to pick up great tool bargain.

Butterfly Gardening

What is butterfly gardening? Simply put butterfly gardening is the art of growing flowers and plants that will attract these colorful and dainty creatures to your garden. Delight your family and visitors with beautiful butterflies, but be sure to create a safe habitat for them. If you own cats rethink your plans, because it would be a shame to attract these lovely insects to their death.

The design your butterfly garden is a matter of personal preference. Typical points to consider are the size of your garden and the types of flowers and plants you want to grow. Pick a style of garden that appeals to you, but ensure it also contains the plants and flowers that appeal to the butterflies you wish to attract.

It is important to find out which plants and flowers will attract the species of butterflies. that live in your area. This information can be found at the local library
To create the kind of environment that they find attractive, you will also need water of some kind. A birdbath will look attractive and keep the butterflies up off the ground, away from stray cats or mischievous puppies. A shallow dish on a post or hung in a tree will do just as well.

When planting your butterfly garden be careful how you coordinate the colors you choose for your flowerbeds. Although butterflies do not care about your choice of color, you don’t want your garden to be a hodgepodge of unrelated colors and textures. Butterflies are attracted to those flowers that have nectar rather than pollen, like honeysuckle, milkweed, summer lilac, Valerian, daisies, Purple Coneflower, Yellow Sage, day lilies and lavender.

Some people find it helpful to draw and color a layout of their butterfly gardening plan to see what the finished product would look like. Keep in mind that warm colors like red and orange are flashy and showy. These colors have a greater impact against a strong green background. Cool colors such as blue and purple are soothing and toned down and would work better with a white contrast to create the look of freshness and brightness.

Choosing the Best Plants for your Garden

Many times we buy plants on impulse then find there is nowhere in the garden that really suits them. Before buying plants carefully examine your garden to see how much sun and shade it gets, whether the soil is well drained or waterlogged and whether your aspect is sheltered or windswept. You’ll then be equipped to go and buy the best plants for your situation; shade-loving plants for the sheltered areas, sun-lovers for the warm spots, drought-resistant plants for the parched areas which may be either sunny or shaded, and swamp plants for the poorly-drained parts.

But wait! Test your soil first, to determine the pH level of your soil and what kind of nutrients you need to add, if any. Is the soil acid or alkaline? Most plants prefer soil that is slightly acidic, but there are some that must have alkaline soil to grow. You can alter the soil’s pH level, but it’s much easier to simply plant for the soil you have.

Now you are ready to plant. Well – almost. Will you plant in groups or singly? If you buy ‘one of everything’ your garden may seem rather spotty. Group plantings are organised, harmonious and you can vary the color for interest.

Before planting out, place your chosen plants around the garden bed in their pots to see how they will look. Re-arrange them until you are satisfied. Grouping plants in sets of threes or fives usually looks better than planting in groups of even numbers. Be sure that you have an interesting combination of colors and textures of plants. Tall plants should go to the back, or the centre if your garden will be viewed equally from all sides. Try to keep your plants away from trees. The roots of trees are fiercely competitive and will steal all the nutrients and moisture meant for your flowers.

The right color scheme is one way to maintain the harmony in your garden. Imagine the color of the flowers when they are in bloom. Some colors may clash with others, but can still be planted side-by-side if they have a different blooming season. Foliage color is also important. Many flower plants have silver, grey or purplish foliage that is just as attractive as the flower. This means that they are still attractive well past the blooming season and so have added value.

GARDENING’S MOST VALUABLE ADVICE

Many people may not be aware that gardening can actually harm the environment. A large amount of carbon dioxide can be released through tilling the soil. This contributes to global warming. When you cultivating and compacting the soil, destroys good fungi. Fertilizers like nitrogen and manure often leach out of the soil and pollute the water you drink.

Global warming

Did you know that the earth’s soil gives out carbon dioxide in the atmosphere 10 times more than all human activity? This comes from the pill bugs, microbes, fungi and worms when they breathe, digest food and then die. Although in the past plants have been capable of absorbing carbon dioxide caused by small-scale tillages, this isn’t the case nowadays.
The increase of the globe’s average temperature is because of the carbon dioxide the soil emits when tilled. The good news is that tilling can be minimized by mulching or sheet composting.

Good Fungi

In untilled soil, there is beneficial fungi known as the vesicular-arbuscular-mycorrhizae or VAM for short. VAM actually forms a symbiotic relationship with plants. Their filaments increase root hairs and provide nutrients to the plant. They give out zinc, copper, potassium and phosphorus. Plants provide carbohydrates for the fungi in return. It is possible to grow a garden without tilling the sooiil at all by mulching heavily until the soil is soft and friable.

Surplus Nitrogen

Many gardeners waste nitrogen and manures; farmers do otherwise. Farmers only need a quarter to a third of nitrogen to mix with an inch of compost, horse, or cow manure. Kate Burroughs of Sebastopol California, uses the same rule for her home-grown lettuce and sweet corns. When it comes to broccoli and pear trees, farmers only need a small amount. Notice that gardeners apply larger amounts of compost and manure than farmers. Obviously, they are not only wasting their fertilizer but also their money.

The best gardening advice that can be given to those concerned is to do all things with moderation. Keep in mind that too little and too much of something is not healthy. This is the most valuable advice one can have in gardening.

Care of the Flower Garden

Knowing how to care for your flower garden can make a big difference in the look and over-all health of your plants. Here are some simple hints to make your garden bloom with health

1. The essentials must always be given major consideration.

Your flower garden must have an adequate supply of water, sunlight, and fertile soil. Any lack of these basic necessities will greatly affect the health of plants. Water the flower garden more frequently during dry spells.

When planting bulbs, make sure they go at the correct depth. When planting out shrubs and perennials, make sure that you don’t heap soil or mulch up around the stem. If you do, water will drain off instead of sinking in, and the stem could develop rot through overheating.

2. Mix and match perennials with annuals.

Perennial flower bulbs need not to be replanted since they grow and bloom for several years while annuals grow and bloom for only one season. Mixing a few perennials with annuals ensures that you will always have blooms coming on.

3. Deadhead to encourage more blossoms.

Deadheading is simply snipping off the flower head after it wilts. This will make the plant produce more flowers. Just make sure that you don’t discard the deadhead on the garden or mildew and other plant disease will attack your plants.

4. Know the good from the bad bugs.

Most garden insects do more good than harm. Butterflies, beetles and bees are known pollinators. They fertilize plants through unintentional transfer of pollen from one plant to another. 80% of flowering plants rely on insects for survival.

Sowbugs and dung beetles together with fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms are necessary to help in the decomposition of dead plant material, thus enriching the soil and making more nutrients available to growing plants.

Other insects like lacewings and dragonflies are natural predators of those insects that do the real damage, like aphis.

An occasional application of liquid fertilizer when plants are flowering will keep them blooming for longer.

Always prune any dead or damaged branches. Fuchsias are particularly prone to snapping when you brush against them. The broken branch can be potted up to give you a new plant, so it won’t be wasted.

Safe Pest Control Tips

Pest control must be done with utmost consideration to safety; safety in terms of the plants, animals and humans. This holds especially true for those with vegetable and organic gardens.

The main purpose of growing vegetables organically will be defeated if they become tainted with pest control chemicals.

Here are a few long-term maintenance tips to make pest control less damaging and more environmentally friendly.

1. Use the physical pest control process.

This may be accomplished through picking grubs off by hand, creating barriers and traps and plugging holes. Snails can be found hiding in damp places under rocks and towrds the base of those plants with straplike foliage.

2. Apply biological pest control.

Encourage predatory insects such as green lacewings and dragonflies to feed on aphids and other pests that attack your plants. You can do this by placing a shallow bowl of water in the garden. Dragonflies especially will hover around water. Bacterial insecticides such as B. thuringiensis could also be used against caterpillars.

3. Only as a last resort should we turn to chemical pest control.

Organic pest control methods can be successful and the ingredients for many of the recipes can be found in the kitchen cupboards. If chemical sprays are really necessary, try and find the least-toxic. These include insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils, dehydrating dusts, etc.

4. Consider the use of safer pest control substitutes.

Recipes for alternative pest control include the following:

Against Green Aphids and Mites – Mix 1 tablespoon of liquid soap and a cup of vegetable oil. Dilute a teaspoon of this solution in a cup of water and spray on aphids and mites.

Against Cockroaches – Dusts of boric acid can be applied to cracks or entry points of these insects. Bay leaves on pantry shelves could also help in warding off these critters.

Make sure that the chemicals you use are made specifically for the insects you are targeting.