Thursday, October 2, 2014

7 Basic Tips for New Gardeners

7 Basic Tips for New Gardeners

Gardening is a simple and gratifying hobby that is enjoyed by millions. A gardener can manage one or two containers on a balcony to a complex lot that spans several acres. Regardless of the size of the garden, the basic rules to maintain the garden are generally the same. Here are several basic tips for the new gardeners:

Right place - Make sure to plant the flowers, fruits, or vegetables in the right place to match the specific type of plant. Avoid trying to suit a plant to an empty plot, as successful growth isn't likely to be achieved if the right shady, moist, dry, or hot spot isn't provided.

Mature growth - The full size of a plant, shrub, or tree should be considered when planning the garden landscape. A common mistake is to plant shrubs or trees too closely, and not appreciating the mature size after several seasons of growth. Compacted plants can leave the perennial bed looking overgrown and crowded.

Start small - Start out with a small bed or patch to give the new gardener time to hone their gardening skills. An ideal size is a single 25' X 25' patch or a 4' X 8' bed. Make sure to carefully plan the garden to increase the chance of enjoying successful growth and avoid improperly sited trees. A fruit-bearing tree planted in a less than ideal position is certain to cause a lot of trouble in 5 or 10 years should it need to be relocated.

Buy the basics - A varied selection of tools and supplies is certain to make planting and maintaining the garden easier. A basic tool collection should include hand tools (trowel, weed puller, cultivator, pruners, etc), hose, fertilizers, and protective gear (gloves, hat, sun block, etc).

Feed the soil - Give the soil a regular application of nutrient-rich materials to help promote strong growth of the plant life. Preferred soil amendments include well-rotted homemade compost, grass clippings, crushed leaves, and similar organic matter.

Mass the plants - Try to plant the small plants or flowers so that the leaves slightly overlap or touch to help with creating a micro-climate. This offers the benefit of minimizing weed growth. Also, this make sure you see a lot more plants and color in the garden, and a lot less soil between the plants.

Varied plant life - A garden landscape that relies on only flower color isn't the most attractive option. A well-planned garden should also consider texture, foliage, and winter interest.

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Epsom Salt - "The Secret" to Organic Gardens, or a Myth?

Epsom Salt - "The Secret" to Organic Gardens, or a Myth?

Good old Epsom Salts, even being as youthful as I am I do recall my grandmother (and even my mother) using it as an alternative to medicines for sore and tired muscles, and other common ailments such as insect bites. Passed down from generation to generation, many have made claims about its potent medicinal applications, as well as its usefulness in the garden.

In the garden, it has earned a reputation as a wonderful alternative to chemical fertilisers as well as an insect repellent. Or has it?

That depends on whether you are a gardener or a researcher. Gardeners for decades swear by it, saying it enhances the growth of their gardens, promotes green foliage and pest free plants, as well as luscious, tasty vegetables. Yet time and time again there are researchers that can find no scientific basis for these claims. Many even say it can be detrimental to vegetables and gardens.

So who is correct?

Well, before I answer that question based on my own personal experience and research, let's have a look at what this chemical compound comprises of - basically the two most important fertiliser compounds - magnesium and sulphur. Magnesium's role is to support the growing process and assist in the production of the plant's fruit. Sulphur accelerates the development of plant protein and therefore greatly enriches the nutritional value of your vegetables.

Nearly all plant chemical fertilisers will have these two compounds mixed in with a whole bunch of other ingredients, which to be honest, may not even be required for plant health.

From my view, I do believe there is a role for Epsom Salts in the garden. There are tell tale signs when vegetable plants are magnesium deficient, particularly if there has been depletion in top soil or erosion from the elements. These signs include:

• Leaf discolouration (yellowish) or curing
• Stunted growth
• Decrease in the production or size of fruit

I have found that if your plants show signs of magnesium deficiency, then Epsom Salts is a safe, cost effective, and organic way to compensate for your vegetable garden, if applied properly. Like many supplements, if you do not follow the directions for attending to your plants, it can be harmful.

Should you wish to apply Epsom Salts to your garden, it is recommended with established plants to mix in one tablespoon of it into the soil at the bottom of the planting hole.

For ongoing maintenance, dilute 1 tablespoon of Epsom Salts into one gallon of water and spray the leaves of the plant when it starts to flower. This is a time when additional magnesium is highly beneficial.

It has been reported that the key vegetables to benefit greatly from the application of Epsom Salts are tomatoes and peppers (capsicums). Feedback suggest it takes the "bitiness" out of them and produces larger, sweeter and luscious fruits!

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