Category Archives: Gardening

Gardening Information and Tips

How to keep your lawn clean

Needless to say, a good looking lawn has to be clean. If you have a very small lawn, it is easy to keep it clean. But even a small lawn can require a fair bit of effort if you have plenty of trees. Especially in autumn, twigs and leaves have a habit of turning your lawn into a mess. The old solution has been to use a rake. It still works but takes time and effort. Fortunately, you have a couple of tools that can help you clean your lawn.

The lawn sweeper is a simple device that has brushes which pick up leaves and debris from the lawn. The lawn sweeper has no engine, the brushes are powered by the wheels. When the lawn sweeper is moving, the brushes are automatically turning. There are two main types of lawn sweepers, push lawn sweepers and tow lawn sweepers. The push lawn sweeper is similar to an old-fashioned push reel mower, you push it across the lawn and it picks up whatever comes in its way. The tow lawn sweeper is larger and is attached to a lawn tractor. All lawn sweepers have a bag, often called catcher, into which the leaves and debris are put.

Lawn sweepers work very well, as long as you have adjusted the height of the brushes. Also, lawn sweepers need an even lawn otherwise they will have trouble picking up leaves and debris. Despite being simple devices, not all lawn sweepers are created equal. Good models are sturdy and have a high-quality catcher. One common problem with many of the cheaper models is the bag which often gets damaged.

A garden blower or leaf vacuum is another way of keeping your lawn clean. Often you only need one device, a combined blower and vacuum. Some models even include a mulch function. For home owners, a handheld blower/vacuum is generally good enough. You have three different types of blowers/vacuums, gas-powered, electric and cordless models. The gas-powered models are the most powerful but also the nosiest. In some places, they are banned due to the noise pollution. Electric blowers/vacuums are less powerful but also quieter. If you have a small lawn a corded model is a good solution but you are restricted by the length of your power cord. Thanks to improved batteries, you can get a reasonably powerful cordless unit which, of course, are not restricted by a cord.

Combined blowers and vacuums are very popular, they are easy to use and are relatively cheap. Apart from being noisy, they don’t have many significant shortcomings. Of course, they are not very efficient if it is windy. If you have a large lawn, you may prefer a lightweight model. Note that combined blowers/vacuums are generally less powerful than a dedicated blower or vacuum.

It is still a good idea to have a rake. You will probably have some difficult spots which can’t be cleaned by a lawn sweeper or blower/vacuum.

Basic Garden Tools

Gardening is great fun but you need a fair bit of tools. Nowadays you have a wide variety of garden tools, from the good old manual tools to very expensive sophisticated equipment. For most garden tasks, cheap basic tools will be good enough. But some power tools can save you a lot of time and effort, making tedious back-breaking tasks easy tasks that are quickly done.

A shovel or spade is needed for digging. The difference between a shovel and a spade is the shape of the digging edges. Shovels have rounded edges while spades have square edges. Shovels are very good at penetrating the soil whereas spades are better for lifting, moving and throwing soils and materials. Forged shovels and spades are the best, they are made of one single piece of metal. If you have compost or stodgy soil, a garden fork is much better than a spade.

For weeding and smaller digging tasks, a trowel is the best tool. You will most likely be using trowels a lot so it is well worth investing in a high quality trowel. Stainless steel trowels are the best. Another basic tool that is very often used is the rake, despite being so simple it is a very versatile tool.

You also need some cutting tools. A hand pruner or a secateur is the best tool for pruning. Good hand pruners are lightweight but strong and have replaceable blades. A telescopic pruner allows you to prune trees without having to use a ladder.

Hand pruners can be too small for some tasks, you can use a lopper instead. If you have a hedge, you need hedge shears to keep it under control. For big branches, you should use a pruning saw, don’t use a carpenter’s saw for pruning.

A watering can be used for both watering and applying liquid fertilisers. Using a garden hose is quicker and more comfortable than using a watering can. Multi-layered hoses are expensive but in most cases they are worth paying extra for. If you need to do a lot of watering, then sprinklers can be worth having a closer look at. The easiest solution is a hose-end sprinkler. It screws into the garden hose and you move it around until everything has got enough with water.

Many of the manual tools can be replaced with electric or gas-powered power tools. They are more expensive but can save you a lot of time and are much more comfortable to use. The gas-powered tools are typically effective but noisy. Generally, they are heavier than electric tools. Corded electric tools are relatively powerful and quiet. But you are limited by the cord. Cordless, battery-powered, tools have become very popular. They are the least powerful but battery technology is improving all the time.

Cointainer Gardening Overview

Container gardening is an easy way of getting a small garden even if you don’t have garden. But even if you have a garden, container gardening is a useful option. Container gardening is a very easy way of getting started growing plants. One of the main advantages is that you can easily move plants around. It is also a cheap way of getting good soil for demanding plants.

The ability to move plants easily makes it possible to quickly replace flowers that finished blooming with new colorful flowers. Containers are also a good solution for plants that you don’t want to let loose in your garden. By putting them in a container, you efficiently limit their possibilities to spread to the rest of the garden.

Containers also extend the season. The soil in containers is warmer than the garden soil, meaning that you can start planting earlier. Of course, you can have the container indoors first and move it outside once the weather has become warm. The same can be done in autumn, if frost is coming, you can simply move the containers.

Most people only grow single-season flowers and plants in their containers. It is easy, you plant the seeds in the spring and throw the plants away in the autumn. Next year the same procedure is repeated. But it is not necessary to limit oneself to just annuals, plants that last more than one season can also be planted in containers. You can also take a plant out of the container and plant it in your garden later on.

Container gardening is in many ways easier than traditional gardening. You don’t need to use any heavy garden tools and no weeding is necessary. So container gardening is more comfortable but sometimes the plants need more ongoing maintenance. You must make sure that they get the right amount of water and that the soil is right for the plants.

Containers give you the possibility to give different plants the soil they need. You can have plants that require complete different conditions next to each other, just in different containers. You can create a variety that is not possible to achieve with your garden soil.

Containers also decrease the risk of diseases, if you are unlucky, you can move the affected plants away from the healthy plants.

Getting watering right can be tricky in some cases. If you let the plants dry, they will really dry out. But too much water will also create problems. The roots can die due to lack of oxygen or start to rot. Needless to say, every plant has its own water requirement and you need be aware of how much water your plants need. You may also need to apply fertilizers to your containers.

Grow A Lawn From Scratch

Growing a lawn from scratch is not easy but it gives you the chance to get a perfect lawn suitable for your local conditions. Finding the right grass can be a harder task than expected, you have a lot of different possibilities. Lawn grass comes in various blends, mixtures and varieties.

Check the labels carefully for the words blends, mixtures and straights. Straights contain only one single variety of grass. Blend means that the bag contains several varieties of the same grass type. Mixtures contain different types of grass, sometimes one good grass type is mixed together with inferior types.

Obviously, just finding the right grass is not enough to get a great looking lawn. It is a good idea to check the quality of your soil before you plant your new lawn. It may be necessary to add six to eight inches of fertile soil. Since grass roots seldom go deeper than six inches, it is not necessary to add more soil. It is also a good time to get rid of any dips in the garden, a good looking lawn should be even. It also prevents problems with water ending up in the lowest part of the lawn.

Lawn grass is divided into two main groups, cool season grass and warm season grass. As you have already guessed, cool season grass is meant for cool climates while warm season grass is meant for mild climates. Warm season grass have trouble surviving cold winters while cool season grass go dormant if it gets too hot.

Most grass types can be grown from seeds, with the exception of a few warm season grass types are generally sold only as sods or plugs. Using seeds is cheaper than sods but it takes longer time and requires more work to grow a lawn. Regardless if you grow your lawn from seeds or sods you need to select a grass type that suits your local conditions. This is unlikely to be a problem if you go a garden center in your neighborhood, they probably only sell grass types that are suitable for your location. If you use mail-order, you need to do some research on your own you before you buy.

Cool season grass from seeds should typically be sowed in early fall. This gives the grass a lot of time to settle in before the summer heat arrives. It is possible to sow cool season grass in the spring as well, but the grass will not have much time to settle in before the heat arrives and once it gets hot, cool season grass grows very slowly.

Warm season grasses should generally be planted in the late spring. They like it hot but need to get started before the real heat sets in. When it gets cold, they don’t grow much at all.

Trees For Your Garden

In most cases, some trees in your garden will make a good impression. Fruit trees have the added benefit of producing healthy fruits as well. Since trees will be around for a long time, make sure to get the right trees for your garden and that you plant them in the right place. Trees also means more maintenance so be prepared to put in some extra hours to keep everything in order.

Bushes and small trees are relatively easy to move, big trees are not. So it is best to put them in the right place from the beginning. Remember that most trees grow a lot over time so make sure that they have enough space to grow into.

Trees are divided into two main groups, evergreens and deciduous. Like the name implies, evergreens are green all year round. They never lose their leaves or needles. Deciduous trees on the other hand shed their leaves or needles in the autumn. Most needle trees are evergreens, but you have a few exceptions, such as larch trees. Deciduous trees tend to grow faster than evergreens. It does not really matter if you plant evergreens or deciduous, just make sure that they are suitable for your climate.

You should not select trees only on how beautiful they look. As mentioned, it is important that they are suitable for your climate but make sure that they are resilient against pests and diseases as well.

You can plant trees in spring or autumn, just make sure that the tree has time to settle in before freezing temperatures move in. Before planting a tree, make sure that there are no electric cables, gas or sewer lines at the spot you have selected. Septic fields need to be avoided as well. Also make sure that no utility lines are above the tree. Note that trees with shallow roots may damage sidewalks.

Most deciduous trees are best pruned when dormant, in late autumn or winter. Exceptions are maple, horse chestnut, birch, walnut and cherry trees which should be pruned in mid-summer. Conifers require little or no regular pruning.

Newly planted trees need to be watered but make sure not to overdo it, too much water is not good. The soil should be moist but not soggy. Young trees need plenty of water so that they can grow. Older trees generally survive without watering, unless you live in a dry place. Fertilizing is seldom necessary for trees, except for newly planted trees. If the soil is of poor quality, fertilizing may be necessary. But don’t overdo it, too much fertilizer will have the opposite effect, decreasing the health of the plant.

Organic Gardening Overview

Organic gardening is nowadays very popular. Let’s first define organic gardening, it simply means gardening using natural biological processes. You can’t use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. But organic gardening should not just be seen as what you can’t do, you should look at the whole picture, to work in harmony with natural systems so that any resources the garden consumes is naturally replenished.

Like most things in gardening, organic gardening needs a solid foundation, a healthy and fertile soil. Rather than using synthetic fertilizers, you add organic materials. Compost is the main source of organic matter, manure is another popular source that has been used for ages.

A healthy soil is very much alive, containing lots of organisms which decompose organic matter and release nutrients. Soil may not be a very exciting topic but a good soil is essential for successful gardening. Soil is made up of a lot of different materials, the main components are water, oxygen and minerals.

Getting the soil texture right is very important. Soil texture refers to the size of the particles that make up your soil and the relative amounts of these particles. Good soil for most plants is made up of about 40% sand, 40% silt and 20% clay. Clay particles are the smallest of these and sand particles are the largest. Too much clay and the soil contains less oxygen and becomes very hard when it is dry. Sandy soils are not very fertile and water drains quickly.

The term soil structure refers to how the soil particles clump together. A loose structure allows water and air to penetrate the soil easily. Clay particles clump together, making it difficult for water and oxygen to pass through. You can’t do much about the texture of your soil but you can improve the soil structure. The most common ways of improving soil structure and maintaining a good structure is to add organic matter and tilling.

Since you can’t use synthetic fertilizers it is very important to select plants that suits your local conditions. This also means that you have to pay attention to things such as sunshine, shady places, climate and soil structure. You want to create a balanced ecosystem in your garden. In order to achieve this you need a diversity of plants.

By cleaning up debris you make it more difficult for unhealthy organisms to stay in your garden. Additionally, frequent inspections of your plants will help you to quickly take action if you detect a problem. Note that some pesticides can be used also in organic gardening.

For the gardener, the good insects outnumber the bad insects, many insects help gardeners by pollinating flowers and predatory insects eat pest insects. So be careful with the insects, they are more important than most people think.

How to compost

A compost is a great way of getting rid of organic waste, both garden waste and household waste. Composting is a natural process so it is almost impossible to fail. But of course you will get better results if you know at least the basics about composting.

Composting can be done in various ways, some ways are more efficient than others. But in essence all you need to do is to provide the right ingredients and let nature do the rest. That said, although composting is a natural process, there a quite a lot you can do to help nature.

First you need a place for your compost. You can buy a compost bin or create your own compost heap. A ready-made compost bin has a couple advantages which often is worth paying a little bit extra for. After all, a compost bin typically lasts for a very long time. You can also use worms, vermicomposting, which is a very efficient form of composting. Apart from the bin, you don’t need anything else except for maybe a garden fork for turning the compost.

The temperature in the compost pile is very important. The colder it is, the longer the breakdown process will take. If the temperature inside the compost is close to the freezing point, the breakdown process virtually stops. Once the temperature in the compost is above 100 degrees Fahrenheit the composting process is going fast. Ideal temperature range is between 130 degrees and 150 degrees. If it gets too hot, some beneficial organisms may find it too hot and leave or die.

The moisture is also important. If your compost becomes too dry, the composting process halts. If you think your compost pile is too dry, it is best to sprinkle a little bit of water onto it every now and then.

A pH-neutral compost needs oxygen. The breakdown process works also without oxygen but the compost will be acidic (pH-negative) and it will take longer time and smell more. The level of nitrogen is maybe the most difficult to get right. Too little nitrogen slows down the compost but too much nitrogen and the compost starts to produce ammonia which smells badly.

Only put organic waste into your compost. You need to put in both green stuff, nitrogen rich ingredients, such as vegetables, grass cuttings and tea bags, as well as brown stuff, carbon rich ingredients, such as paper, cardboard and leaves. Nut shells and egg shells are ok to put into the compost but they take a long time to break down. The waste does not need to be chopped into small pieces but small pieces will break down quicker than large pieces. Never put any meat or fish into the compost.