Learning About The Right Tools Essential For Gardening

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Learning About The Right Tools Essential For Gardening

Learning About The Right Tools Essential For Gardening

God made rainy days, so gardeners could get the housework done – Gardening can be that addictive and more so if you have the right tools! Selecting the right gardening tools is also important when taking up a gardening project. Opt for tools that are neither too heavy nor too light. Heavy equipments are difficult to use and quite tiresome while lighter ones are poorly made. Good gardening tools have handles made of high quality wood like ash.

Here are some popular gardening tools –

Garden Rake

A garden rake helps to soothe the soil after it is tilled. This tool is helpful in finishing work when making planting beds or a new lawn.

Cultivator

Cultivators help in cutting the hard compacted soil. Some of them have broader edges while others have narrow ones. These are useful in making the annual beds for vegetable gardens.

Edger

An edger is another gardening tool that helps the flower gardens and shrubs maintain their shape. Gardens lose their crisp lines over time when grass intrudes in the garden. Using the edger will prevent grass roots taking a firm hold in planting beds.

Pitchfork

A pitchfork is a tool used for aerating compacted soil and preparing garden beds. They are also used for dividing grasses and also to spread mulch in spring.

Reel Mower

Reel mowers are used to cut grass. They give a cleaner cut as compared to other tools. They do not use gas and hence there is no pollution with reel mowers. These are great for small lawns. It is a lightweight and easy to use tool.

Hand Pruners

Hand Pruners are gardening tools used for cutting branches. They give cleaner and precise cuts. They have bypass blades that help in cutting the branches neatly.

Loppers

Loppers are just like pruners but are provided with long handles and the ability to cut branches of around 2 inches thickness.

Pruning Saw

A compact pruning saw is a tool useful for cutting branches. It is small enough to fit into the middle of a shrub to cut the branch.

Other Tools

Gardening tools are essential for maintaining your garden but it is not really necessary to spend a lot on buying garden tools. You need not have all the latest tools to give your garden that perfect look. You can just buy some basic tools to start with. With minimum tools, you too can make your garden attractive.

One of the basic gardening tools is a spading fork. This helps to dig down the soil and break the ground. This is very essential since at some point or the other you will need to open and improve the soil. Hoe is a gardening tool useful for weeding and cultivating the soil. This is done to allow the penetration of nutrients and water into the soil. For larger digging projects you will also require a round ended shovel.

A watering can is also one of the important gardening tools. It has long nozzles and allows water to flow gently. A good bow rake is essential to level the soil and also for removing large clods of earth or rocks from the soil. Having a pair of garden shears known as clippers are essential for cutting, shaping and removing foliage or branches.

Give your garden that perfect look just by using the right gardening tools without spending money on expensive professional gardeners!

What is Mulch?

What is Mulch?

When your local tree contractor disposes of tree branches and prunings they do this by processing them through a woodchipper. This results in a coarse, additive free, green mulch suitable for garden beds and paths.

Benefits of using Mulch

  • Low cost.
  • Helps retain moisture in your soil.
  • Suppresses weed growth.
  • Helps protect soil organism and plant roots from heat & cold.
  • Encourages earthworm activity and development.
  • Coarse enough to allow easy water penetration.
  • Heavy enough to stand strong winds.
  • Locally produced, totally organic product.
  • Free of artificial colouring agents. (many black mulches are coloured).
  • Will slowly decompose and enrich your topsoil.

Using green mulch may consume a small amount of nitrogen out of your soil in the decomposition process. In my experience native plants don’t seem to be affected by the use of green tree mulch. However I do suggest that a small quantity of nitrogenous material such as aged or processed chicken manure, dynamic lifter or blood and bone be placed around the base of heavy feeding plants (e.g. citrus, roses, etc.).

How Much Do You Need?

I recommend a minimum coverage of 3 inches which means approximately 1 cubic yard will cover an area of 10 square yards – but allowing for a coverage of 8 square yards will ensure you don’t run short.

When to Mulch?

The best time to lay down mulch is during fall. This allows it to begin composting over the winter while also blanketing the soil and keeping it warmer than the surrounding earth.

What You Need To Do To Get The Perfect Garden

What You Need To Do To Get The Perfect Garden

Clickbait. I know, the topic is in fact huge. Here I’m going to give a quick summary of some really useful tips to improve your garden experience. Some of the advice contained here requires time and labor-saving tools which are easy to source and yet so useful in getting the job done efficiently.

It can take countless amounts of hours to structure the right garden for you and unfortunate factors such as pests, unprepared soil and weed can ruin any hard work you did. The following five tips will help you craft your garden just the way you intend to.

Grow Plants For the Right Climate

When deciding to buy plants in order to decorate your garden, there are some flowers that will struggle to grow during a certain season. It’s important to take notice of the climate and pick plants accordingly.

Make sure you look at the Hardiness Zones guide to determine if you can grow certain plants. For example, during the winter, you can hope to grow colourful Camellias if you’re lucky enough to be in Zones 7 and 9.

Keep The Bugs At Bay

One of the most common problems in deteriorating gardens is the fact that more and more pests are making their way to plants. In order to get rid of them for good, you can use pesticide in the form of spray bottles.

However, if you intend to grow vegetables and eat from your garden, it’s always best to resort to natural methods and avoid the risk of digesting toxins.

Mix and Match Your Furniture

It’s important not to lose focus on making your garden look beautiful. As you go along think about matching your garden furniture alongside your house; it ensures a good level of sophistication. A good example is if you purchase oak furniture to go into the garden, ranging from benches to tables.

By adding one of Wickes Oak Doors to replace the door leading to the garden, you can continue the oak theme. This allows the garden and house to look more coordinated and as a result, more attractive.

Recycle and Fertilise At All Times

Recycling has become essential for gardening enthusiasts over the years and rightly so as the consequence includes free resources. Instead of spending money on watering jugs, empty milk cartons can be just as useful and plastic bags can be used to protect fruits too.

I like using a mulching lawnmower which is great for re-invigorating the turf with freshly composting material in an innocuous way.

As for fertilisation, there are many alternatives to consider. Coffee grounds, animal manure and excess sawdust are only two of the ways you can fertilise your soil without needing to spend big.

Make It Spacious And A Sight To Behold

Something many gardeners seem to forget is that as eye-catching as they want their garden to look, they must still be able to sit outside and admire the view themselves. By giving yourself, and guests, plenty of space, you can relax during summer days and admire your creation.

Adding extra attractions could be the key to making your garden stand out above the rest. Using large rocks and stones to decorate the scenery and even applying colourful plants and adornments can help you create the perfect garden.

Following these five steps can help your garden progress but it is always important to look after your plants and flowers on a regular basis. In doing so, you can guarantee you’ll be the envy of your neighbors.

Why You Should Always Consider Using a Sprinkler System for your Garden

Why You Should Always Consider Using a Sprinkler System for your Garden

Sprinkler systems that water the lawn can be quite a time saver. Hoses and watering cans are not needed as the watering is automated. Proper maintenance and care are needed to keep the sprinklers working throughout the seasons though.

Anyone with experience of these things knows that sprinklers need to be blown out and winterized as the frost begins to appear. This is so the pipes do not freeze full of water and burst. Common signs of a water line break are inoperative sprinkler heads with low to no water flow and large soggy patches in the lawn above where the break occurred.

In the spring, homeowners need to activate their sprinkler system, but it is not as easy as just flipping the on switch. During the springtime thaw, after the threat of freezing temperatures people call up their local landscape company to start up their sprinkler. A sprinkler system starts up easy enough to do yourself if you know what to do.

The following are steps on how to perform a home sprinkler startup. Using these guidelines sprinkler activation can be a simple easy process but if you go in blindly you may find problems. If it seems complicated just call up your local sprinkler expert. In most cases, a simple springtime sprinkler startup is affordable but if one is budget minded they have the option to do it themselves.

Check for Deep Freeze

The first step is to make sure that there is no longer a possibility of a deep freeze. Seasonal insight can be gained from the farmer’s almanac, but in most cases, the weather forecast from a local tv station’s website is suitable for reference.

Shut Off Main Drain Valve

The second step is to make sure the main drain valve is shut off. This valve commonly found beneath the backflow assembly. Look to the outside of the home to find this. The vacuum breaker is located where the water leaves the house and connects to the sprinkler system. Look to ensure that the knobs on the vacuum breaker are shut off as well.

Locate Main Water Pipe

The third step is to locate the home’s main water pipe that feeds the sprinklers, this is usually in the basement of the home near where the backflow assembly is located on the exterior of the house. Upon locating the valve on that water pipe slowly rotate it open.

The valves on the vacuum breaker are all shut so you should hear water start running then stop fairly quickly. At this point inspect everything for leaks that may have developed over the winter season.

Check for Leaks

The fourth step is to go back out to the side of the house and check for leaks connecting to the vacuum breaker and within the backflow assembly itself.

Turn On Slowly

Fifth, after inspection, slowly turn the primary knob which is located nearest to the exterior of the home. This is the water feed to the vacuum breaker. The backflow assembly should then begin filling up with water. Turn the knob on the second valve to open up water to the whole sprinkler system. As water flows, the sprinkler water pipes will get charged with water pressure.

Check Batteries

The sixth step is to make sure your batteries are replaced on the sprinkler timer.

Check Overall Performance

Seventh, manually turn on each zone to check and see if water flows as it should. Inspect each sprinkler head as it runs to see if there are any blockages from vegetation or debris. Some sprinkler heads may need replacement due to winter’s freeze and thaw process that causes cracks in plastic parts.

Use a screwdriver for fine-tuning and to ensure that sprinkler heads are covering the desired area of the lawn. Individual zones do need to overlap so dry patches don’t occur.

If an area of lawn begins to develop a dry spot of discolored grass you know that the sprinkler system is not accurate. Contact a sprinkler repair expert to perform an on-site inspection. Usually, a free estimate will be given outlining what needs to be done.

If You Grow Tomatoes, You’ll Need This

If You Grow Tomatoes, You’ll Need This

We all love eating fresh tomatoes. There are few things more delightful than biting into a freshly picked tomato. If you are a grower, or if you want to be, then read on. You will learn a useful tip on maximizing the yield from your tomato plant.

Support Your Plants With Homemade Cages

You don’t need to spend big bucks to buy readymade cages from stores, however. In what follows, we will discuss a few points that should be kept in mind while making a tomato cage at home.

Do you think that gardening is all about growing nice and bright flowers on your front porch? Here’s a bit of welcome news for you! You can easily grow tomato plants and other such vegetable crops in your garden, with complete ease too.

All that you need to be careful about while growing tomato at home is whether the plant is in an upright, healthy position and whether it is properly caged.

Take care of the plant first – If your tomato plant is lying along the ground – its days might be numbered.

What’s the point of building a tomato cage then? You can use cable ties to make sure that the plant does not get displaced from their healthy, upright positions.

Choose Good Strong Material For Your Cage

At the very outset; determine what type of cage material will serve your purpose the best. Wooden tomato cages enjoy a high degree of popularity, while metal is also often used as the chosen material. If you wish to go for a more cost-effective option, without compromising on the durability factor, you can also use wire meshes to make long-lasting tomato cages.

Make Sure You Take Account Of Growing Room

You need to find out the exact dimensions for the tomato cage that you require in your garden. Having a large cage in a relatively small garden can look just a tad odd. Make sure that the cage is around 4 feet tall. The circumference of a tomato cage should ideally vary between 4 to 5 inches (depending on your precise requirements).

Secure Your Plant To The Cage

When using wire meshes for making tomato cages, you can make the latter a lot stronger, by weaving in a few cable ties in them. If you find any of the sections of the mesh to be damaged, these zip ties can be used in those areas.

Keep All The Necessary Tools Ready At Hand

Building a tomato cage is not really a time-consuming task – but only if you have all the necessary tools and equipment within easy reach. You will, in particular, need sharp bolt cutters, pliers, hooks, nut-drivers and even a compact circular saw for ripping the timber, along with other related accessories before sitting down to create the tomato cage.

Keep The Different Sides Uniform

When you cut the mesh with bolt cutters, make sure that the panels do not become uneven in size. The lower ring of each of the panels also needs to be smoothly chopped off – so that they can be fitted easily. When properly built, a tomato cage should be roughly cylindrical in shape.

Homemade tomato cages are generally much more reliable than the pre-made ones – and preparing them can be a whole lot of fun too! Why not give it a go?

If you require multiple tomato cages in your garden, make it a point to leave adequate space between them. Over time, the wire mesh of the cages can get worn out. If you detect any such problem, use cable ties to retain the durability of the cages.

Designing the Right Yard for Your Needs

Designing the Right Yard for Your Needs

Owning a home is a long-term commitment, but families change over time. Although the backyard may have been the perfect outdoor space for your toddler, it may no longer work for your teen. When deciding what to change to better suit your family’s needs, take into consideration some of the below tips to ensure the perfect space for the entire family.

Safety

The most important aspect to keep in mind before starting a backyard project is your family’s safety. Before you plant anything, learn what types of plants and yard decorations work best for your family. Prickly bushes and plants such as cacti and roses may be nice to look at but can be dangerous for pets and children. Plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons and hosta contain toxins that can make animals ill. Rhubarb leaves and asparagus ferns have an oil or sap that can cause allergic dermatitis, and certain parts of the stalks of both plants are mildly poisonous when ingested.

Besides choosing non-poisonous plants, if you hire a landscaper, it is important to find a company that uses organic pesticides to minimize the risk of poisoning or skin irritation to children and animals. Sterilized commercial mulch or heat-sanitized mulch is a safer choice than the homemade version since bacteria and viruses thrive in composting materials.

If you property does not have one already, consider adding a privacy fence. A 6-foot fence can keep your pets and young children safe, but be sure to check with your local zoning and community regulations (HOA) before starting the project to ensure there aren’t any current codes or restrictions on building a fence.  That’s something good to check on before you purchase your new home.

Children

Once the appropriate landscaping is done, consider adding a backyard play set for your younger children. Whether you are erecting a backyard play set, a traditional swing set or a clubhouse, make sure it is far enough away from the adult area so kids can run and play as loud as they want, but place it where it can be seen from both the inside and outside of the house.

Teens

Once those children have outgrown the play set, they may request space to play sports or hang out with friends. Establish an area where they can practice their basketball skills or include room to toss a baseball or football around. Remember that a well-lit and open area will give teens additional space to socialize while still under your supervision.

Hosting a Barbeque

No matter the age of your children, barbeque areas are essential if you like to entertain. Plan for it to be close to the house, specifically the kitchen in case an ingredient needs to be retrieved from inside quickly. A table and seating area are also necessary for guests to sit and talk while the food is grilled. Depending on the household, a picnic table could be a good choice for easy clean-up when children are present. Or if the household is looking for a more comfortable outdoor area, consider transforming part of the yard into an inviting space. Big comfortable chairs, accent tables, potted plants and other decorative elements can transform a patio or deck into an outdoor living room.

Don’t forget to provide shade from the hot sun or additional heat from the cold elements. An oversized umbrella can keep guests comfortable on a sunny day, and a space heater can keep them toasty on a slightly chilly night.

Ease Of Care

Some homeowners either don’t have time or don’t want to be constantly working in their yard. Pruning, watering, thinning and dividing plants can eat up valuable time, so avoid putting in large flower beds that require a lot of maintenance if you don’t want to be constantly working on the yard. Avoid planting fruit trees, but consider adding perennials, which will grow back next year.

If avoiding weeding is a priority, non-pesticide treated mulch such as clean straw, crushed gravel or peat moss can be attractive and functional. Weeds are less likely to grow under thick layers of mulch, which means less gardening work for you. Xeriscaping is another alternative, especially if you live in a hot or low-moisture climate. This type of landscaping not only has little maintenance, but it uses less water, which is easier on your pocketbook and the planet.

Designing a backyard can be fun for everyone in the family. Keep in mind when identifying your wants and needs that some landscaping takes more planning and time to properly put together than others. Sketching a layout on paper before breaking ground or purchasing materials will help you better understand the overall concept, and it could even help you decide to consult with a landscape professional if the project is too time consuming to tackle yourself.

Whatever route you take, keep everyone’s ideas and interests in mind when planning the backyard of your dreams.

Cold Spring

I started a fire in the wood stove this evening. It is May 16. This might be the latest in the year I have had a fire going. It is not that cold out, in the fifties. But it is chilly and damp and my wife requested it.

I looked at my tomato plants a little while ago while picking some lettuce. They look sick. They are not that big yet but the lower branches are turning brown and just the top part is still green. I do not know if it is the cool wet weather that is making them suffer or what. I guess we will find out. My green beans have come up and the sweet corn is peeking through. So we need some sunshine to make things grow.

It has been a good stretch for the potatoes, cabbage, second planting of lettuce, radishes, and spinach. I do not think it is supposed to get real warm very soon so maybe that salad stuff will do good. It would be nice to have a nice bunch of spinach. My first planting did not come up very well and I am only able to pick a few leaves every couple of days for a salad.

I have been thinking about getting a small freezer. I have not looked at them but think it would make a nice addition and allow us to preserve or store more of our garden produce. Our electricity is absurdly costly. We are on Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative and the monthly cost is high compared to most places, even rural places. I think now it costs $30 a month just to be a customer. They decided a few months ago to charge every one who has a security light a couple of bucks a month just because you have one. Security lights are those lights on a pole out in the yard or by the garage that come on automatically when it gets dark. One of the first things we did 30 years ago when we moved into this house on the farm was have the security light removed. If I want light outside I will turn my own light on. They are one of those things people accept without even thinking about it, and it seems, the monthly charge was something the accepted without even thinking about it.

Well let’s hope it gets sunny and a little warmer.

Beginning to Reclaim My Garden

I have been working so much at the Old School Museum and also on my porch at home that my garden is going to the weeds. It doesn’t help that it rains about every two or three days. It rained again last night. When I went to be there was nothing close on the radar. But, it was storming again during the night. Anyway, I finally got my tomato cages up and did some weeding. It is tough because like on Sunday I got out to work on the porch windows about 9 AM and by 3 PM I was just worn out from the heat. It is really warm this evening so after fixing supper for everyone and going into our old store/office to haul a load of stuff home I thought I might go out and just run the mower over some of the weeds that have grown up. But, it is just too hot and it has been too long of a day.

I used out battery powered string trimmer and hacked stuff out, then mulched around the tomatoes and then put the cages up. I uncovered 5 pepper plants also and got those mulched. Then I went down the rows of cabbage and just cut down all the grass and weeds. That little string trimmer is very handy in the garden. It is part of a set of Ryobi tools Janis bought a year or so ago. We have used them a lot. Maybe it would be nice if we just could go a week or two without any rain. That hardly seems possible.

Sweet Corn Recovered

Sweet corn recovered from storm winds

Remember the sweet corn that was blown down. Well, it stood back up pretty nicely. Some of it is a little bent at the ground but it will stand just fine and produce as if nothing had happened. 

If you look inside the top of the corn plants you can see the tassel just getting ready to emerge. This part produces the pollen that falls on the silks that come out of the ear. I won’t be long now. 

Corn Storm Damage

Sweet corn after a storm and heavy rain

This happens about every year. Some time during the growth of my sweet corn it gets blown over by a thunderstorm. Below in the pic is what it looked like yesterday evening. We had a big storm come through yesterday afternoon and sheets of rain were blowing from the west and the wind was swirling around. So the corn wound up partially blown over. This happens in part because the ground is so saturated with water it cannot support the plant. It is better this happens at this stage of growth because it will pretty much stand back up when the sun comes out. In fact, this evening it has pretty much stood back up because we had some sun for a while this afternoon. That is all it takes. But, it could very possibly happen again. It is worse when there are ears on the plants. Then they do not stand back up very well. 

We have had a continuous parade of storms the past week. Every day or night some big rain rolls through. It is very wet. The past weekend it was very humid. While working on the porch construction it was just hot and humid and my clothes were soaked. My garden is full of weeds and grass, some of which is starting to put seeds on. We need a couple of weeks with no more rain. I can not even get out and mulch my tomatoes. I think everything would benefit from some dry weather rather than more rain. Things are growing. We had broccoli tonight from the garden. The green beans are blooming. The potatoes don’t look so hot though. Not sure how they will turn out. 

Something that is especially disturbing about the big heavy rains is the amount of erosion they cause. I know I have said before the agriculture is inherently destructive and row crops are probably the worst. Modern agriculture puts profit ahead of everything so everybody looks the other way and they plant on about any surface the machinery will roll over without falling over. So we have all these fields that are not flat and you wind up with what looks like the pic below. And it is only June. There are months to go in this crop year.