Essentials For The Gardening Shed

The right tool can help make any job easier and the garden is no exception. More than 91 million households gardened in 2005, the most ever, according to the National Gardening Association. Gardening is an incredibly enjoyable activity, but if you don’t want to end up sore, blistered or itching, it’s important to be properly prepared before you begin.

Here are some essential items that I keep in my garden shed:

• Gardener’s First-Aid Kit-The most important thing in my shed is my first-aid kit for common garden emergencies including sunburn, bug bites, cuts, and poison ivy, oak or sumac. Every gardener I know dreads poison ivy because the itch can last for weeks. A tiny brush against one of these plants can cause a whole lot of itch, but it doesn’t have to with the help of one of my favorite products, Cortaid® Poison Ivy Care Treatment Kit. It can be used to defend against an outbreak, help to prevent spreading and treat an itchy reaction.

• Gardening Gloves-While I believe in getting my hands dirty, nothing beats a great pair of high-quality leather gardening gloves. The right gloves can protect hands from thorns, an unexpected bee or spider, sharp twigs or sticks and blistering.

• Shovels/Spade & Trowel-A good shovel is the difference between making your garden work easier and giving you a backache. Look for one with a long handle (to take pressure off of your back) and flat ledge, which creates a surface for your foot. A trowel is a must. Find one with a wide, curved blade that fits comfortably in your hand.

• Pruners-Pruning, deadheading (picking the dead flowers off of plants) and trimming plants goes on all year long. Look for “bypass” pruners that make a clean cut on the plant without crushing or tearing it.

• Wheelbarrows and Carts-Toting things around the garden can become a chore. Save yourself a backache and find a lightweight yet sturdy and steady cart to help with heavy work.

• Watering Essentials-A good hose has a 5/8-inch opening, is reinforced with a mesh layer and is kink resistant. It should handle 50 pounds per square inch of water pressure. Cost usually reflects quality, so spend the extra. For areas your hose can’t reach, invest in a sturdy watering can.

With tools like these, gardening will truly be a pleasure, so get out there and “Get Your Hands Dirty.”

Rebecca Kolls, a master gardener, is host of HGTV’s nationally syndicated gardening series “Rebecca’s Garden.”

Before digging in the garden, be sure you have the right tools.

Water Gardening Tips

There are many new trends surfacing in gardening, and water gardening is one of the capital new interests. Water gardening can be in the form of waterfalls, ponds, fountains, all of which can be enhanced by rock work combinations and lighting, plants, and fish. Water gardening doesn’t have to be a pond or natural water base either, it can consist of just a plastic tub, basically anything that can hold water.

When you decide what brand of aquatic plants you wish to have, remember that the plants should only cache around half of the water. Plants can be free floating, beneath, or sideward. Which you choose is all a matter of personal favoritism. Some plants are good for their perfume, some provide moreover oxygen than others and will keep the pool health, and pretty are just charming. Fish are not only delicate to look at but they are also absolutely beneficial. Fish help keep debris at a minimum and help in directing larva and more insects.

The most decisive thing to consider in water gardening is possibly the spot chosen. Since plants and fish both duty plenty of sunlight, places in direct bright elsewhere from trees and bushes is the greatest place. This will also help prevent leaves and debris from aggregating in the water.

Over the years, I have tell people if you are not sure that you will enjoy water gardening , then just test it – start out with a small one and see before digging and putting in a big pond – there is maintenance that has to be done – and you may not want to be doing that year after year.  This is the biggest mistake that I see people do – want the pond but not do the work there is afterwards.

Pre-formed containers come in all sizes and would recommend that this is where you start – the quickest to set up would to be buy a kit – with pump and fountain head included.  Even then I would still buy some floaters to throw on the top to help keep your water clean.  At least 50% of your surface should be covered is what I always tell people.

The newest trend is the pondless waterfalls – with these you can have the sound of waterfalls without the maintenance of the pond – here are some samples

Vegetable Gardening on hard clay

Vegetable gardening can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life. Eating your own fresh vegetables picked straight off the plant or fresh from the ground with the real taste still intact beats store brought produce every time.

I know growing up as a child in North Carolina, we grew everything that you could think in our gardens – and I do miss some of the vegetables from that zone that we can grow upnorth – my favorite that I missed is Okra.  But where I am now it’s sandy soil but just across the river here in Wisconsin Rapids – they have clay soil and I hear all the horror stories that my gardening friends go thru so thought I’d give you a few pointer when you are trying to garden on hard clay.

Clay is one of the most difficult mediums to grow plants in. The particular mix is so fine that oxygen and water have a hard time getting to the roots of any plant. Hard as concrete in the dry and waterlogged in the rainy season. Without special preparation you will be lucky to even get weeds to grow.

To prepare the garden a maddock was used to break up the clay into smaller pieces. It is actually better to do this when the clay is dry, rather than waterlogged. Its just heavier when wet and sticks to the maddock. This is time consuming back breaking work. But take a small patch at a time and come back after a rest. Take several days to complete the vegetable patch, gardening is to help build the muscles, not destroy them. Whilst doing this task many times rock was hit, however most rock on the Gold Coast shatters when hit and breaks into smaller pieces. While many of these were removed pieces smaller than half the size of your fist were left in on the advice of garden manuals. Why? It is said that small rocks help drainage and add minerals to the soil over time. So long as the don’t make up more than 5%-10% of the soil, leave them in. Eventually a base of the patch was laid out.

To further soften and break up the clay store brought clay breakers were added. Easily available at your gardening or hardware store they are added to water and sprayed on the garden though they work best over a period of time.

Next Gypsum was added. This comes in large bags and is easy to spread out by hand, mix in with the clay and it too will further help ‘relax’ the clay.

Some would say, why not just buy a bunch of topsoil and dump it down. Well for a couple of reasons, you still would have a drainage problem at the root level.   Most just provide sand with a minimum of organic material mixed in – just enough to darken the sand. The sand is actually poor draining because it is much too fine. Some argue that you can help clay soil by adding sand. But unless the sand is a fine to small gravel I believe you are wasting your time. Sand that is too fine, acts just like a clay soil, it repells short spells of rain or irrigation or becomes waterlogged during a tropical downpoor or solid irrigation. The second reason why I don’t just buy the topsoil is because if the topsoil is not mixed in and bound to the subsoil it will just wash away.

To really bring the clay soil up to grade you need to add bio matter. Quality top soil is made of plant and animal materials decomposed or in the state of decomposing. Compost made of of shredded leaves, wood, grass clippings and vegetable/food rubbish is good. But the best material I had available for this garden was straw and chicken waste. With a pen of twenty chickens plenty of nitrogen rich matter was produced. Every three months the coup was cleaned out, the straw smelling strongly of ammonia. However once put on the garden the smell quickly went and the straw and its ‘added’ contents quickly broke down into the soil. I can recommend nothing better to add to the soil. If you must add something else to quickly create a topsoil and can’t wait for compost or have no chickens then I recommend products such as worm castings or 6 in one products (includes blood and bone, fish compost, etc), they come in 20kg plus bags and range in price between $5 and $15. Several of these, or if your budget handles it 10-20 of these really help to condition the soil.

Poor soil should not hold you back, it merely presents a challenge.  Some gardening friends have tackle the poor soil a different way with raised beds and actually I enjoy raised beds – to me I feel they are less work, can grow alot in smaller area and easy to work in.  Here are some pictures of raised beds and the higher one would be great way to be able to try vegetable gardening on hard clay.  Once the raised bed is made (many materials now adays to choose from) you can fill your bed with nice rich composted soil which here in our town you can get free from our local dump sites.   With raised beds like this you can put your crawling plants on the edge and let them trail over the side.

With the price of food going up this might be a year to grow your own vegetable.  You can garden no matter what soil you have  – good luck everyone.

Container Gardening Tips For New Gardeners

Container gardening is a fun and rewarding hobby that is enjoyed by millions of people all over the world.  Not only is it relaxing and enjoyable, but you get the satisfaction of knowing that you’re growing your own plants and you know where they came from!  With more and more stories on the news about various outbreaks of food poisoning from things like lettuce and green onions, many people are finding it important to start growing as much of their own produce as possible.

Many people are afraid to deal with container gardening.  They think it is too difficult or too expensive.  On the contrary, it is actually very easy and can be quite inexpensive!  Here we explore the ease of setting up your first container garden, as well as the expenses involved.

We’re going to walk you through the process of setting up your first container garden.  In this example, we will be growing some basil.

Step One:  Purchase your container gardening supplies.  You will need the following items for this example.  Three plastic pots with drainage holes in the bottom, preferably with trays underneath to catch soil and water drainage, about 5-6 inches in diameter, and 5-6 inches deep, one packet of basil seeds, one small bag of organic compost, one small bag of peat moss, one small garden trowel, one small watering can or clean spray bottle, and one very sunny windowsill (or a florescent or halogen grow light if no sunny window is available.)  The total cost for these materials will be somewhere around $20 or less if you have a sunny windowsill.  If you need a grow light, that will cost an additional $15-$20.

Step Two:  Prepare the soil.  Mix together 1 part peat moss with 5 parts compost.  (For every one trowel full of peat moss, put in 5 trowels full of compost.)  Fill the three pots up to about ½ inch from the top with this mixture.

Step Three: Plant the seeds.  Simply make a hole about 1 inch deep in the center of each pot with your finger.  Put about three seeds into each hole.  Then cover the seeds with soil.  Water lightly and place in the windowsill or under a grow light.  Once the seeds sprout and reach about 2 inches in height, remove any extra sprouts so that you only have one plant in each pot.

Step Four:  In order to care for your plants, all you need to do is water them regularly and keep them maintained.  Check the soil daily for moisture.  Whenever the soil feels dry, water lightly.  To maintain the bushy growth, pinch off the tops of each stem every couple of weeks and remove any flower stalks as soon as you see them growing.

Remember that many things can be containers if you are on a limited budget and most towns have compost sites and what I use in my container for my soil – so when you are out shopping at your favorite flea markets or rummage sales – keep your eyes open for little jewels like the cup and saucer above planted with hens and chicks/