Limited Space? Try a Container Garden!

Even if you don’t have room for planting beds on your property, you can still get plenty of enjoyment out of growing your own flowers, herbs and vegetables.  With container gardening, a deck, patio, balcony or even a doorstep can provide all the room you need.

Choosing a Container

Containers come in many sizes, shapes and materials. Depending on your specific tastes, you may prefer plastic, ceramic, wood or clay containers. For adequate drainage, make sure they have holes in the bottom.

The container size you will need can be determined by the type of plants you’re growing. Shallow-rooted plants (e.g. lettuce, herbs and most annuals) require a container at least 6” across and 8” deep. For deep-rooted perennials, tomatoes or cucumbers, you’ll need something larger.

Soil Type

Regular garden soil tends to hold too much moisture when used in a container, depriving the roots of much-needed oxygen. Instead, lightweight, packaged potting soil may beused, or you can make your own mix using one part peat moss, one part garden loam, and one part vermiculite or perlite. Whether you’re starting with seeds or seedlings, your container should be filled to within 2” of the top with your planting mix.

Care After Planting

Most containers need daily watering in hot, dry weather. Lighting needs will vary depending on plant type, and your container can be moved if a spot is too sunny or shady. To improve plant vigor, a slow-release fertilizer can be added every two weeks.

With just a little bit of space it easy to have your very own garden!

Taking Care of What’s Under Your Lawn

Thatch buildup can be harmful to your lawn!

The thatch layer is a normal part of any lawn. It consists of both living and dead organic materials, including the surface roots, stems and crowns of dead grass plants. Located on top of the soil and underneath your grass plants, thatch can become a problem if too much is allowed to accumulate.

When the thatch layer gets to be more than ½” thick, it can prevent air, water and nutrients from reaching you lawn’s root system. Plus, it can become a home for various types of insects and fungus diseases that can damage and even kill your turf.

Taking Control of Thatch

One of the bet ways to prevent excessive thatch buildup is to have your lawn aerated. During aeration, plugs of soil and thatch are pulled up from your lawn and left behind to dissolve through rainfall or sprinkling. As the plugs dissolve, they help to speed up the natural decomposition of the thatch layer. Aeration also opens up pathways that help air, water and nutrients travel more easily to the roots. Performed annually, aeration will help to keep thatch within acceptable limits while strengthening the root system.

When Aeration Isn’t Enough

If a lawn is very damaged or has an excessively thick layer of thatch, one remedy is to slice seed. With this process, a slice-seeding machine cuts open the thatch, mixes soil with it and plants seed directly into the soil beneath. Another solution is to have the lawn

Slice Seeding

dethatched with a power dethatcher. This equipment uses angled blades to pull thatch up out of the lawn. After dethatching, the loosened thatch must be raked up and removed.

Remember, in moderation, thatch is a normal and healthy part of any growing lawn. Annual core aeration, along with slice seeding or dethatching if necessary, will go a long way towards keeping thatch under control.

 

Compost: Speeding Up the Breakdown

Compost heaps work by generating intense heat and biological activity, breaking down all materials you include into a rich, organic substance that works wonderfully as a soil amendment. The ingredients for successful composting are pretty standard: water, air, and green and brown materials that create nitrogen and carbon. These materials include coffee grounds, tea leaves, eggshells, corn cobs, hedge trimmings, lawn clippings, pine needles, straw, weeds and other plant debris.

To speed up the composting process, it’s important to turn the pile often with a rake or shovel and add water whenever it gets dry. It also helps to add some garden soil every now and then, and an occasional sprinkling of lime will help to reduce acidity (which slows down or stops the bacterial composting action).

For even quicker composting, you can create a homemade “accelerant.” This will increase the amount of moisture, carbon and nitrogen in your pile (the organisms that decompose organic matter need carbon for energy and nitrogen to build cell structure).

To create your accelerant, combine the following in a 5-gallon bucket:

  • 1 gallon of warm water
  • ½ cup of household ammonia (nitrogen- rich)
  • 1 can of flat, warm beer (the yeast in the beer will encourage bacterial growth)
  • 1 can of warm, regular cola (the sugar in the cola provides necessary carbon)

Stir the mixture thoroughly and pour it slowly over your compost heap. Follow this up with a few shovels full of garden soil, then turn the pile to distribute the accelerant evenly.

Once your compost turns dark and crumbly, it will be ready to use in your garden!

 

 

Compost Piles

Compost piles are a familiar thing to most people. Compost Piles come with many benefits that will help all your gardening needs. The primary benefit of compost piles is that the soil produced from them is filled with nutrients and beneficial organisms that help your plants grow strong and healthy.

It is important where you chose to set up your compost pile, it’s ideal to have it in a spot that gets plentiful rainfall and has good drainage. In addition, you should compost in an area that gets half sunshine and half shade. Many people feel that a compost pile may not look appealing so be sure to camouflage it in by planting tall flowers around it in a way it is not an eye sore.

When making your compost pile, do not make it to small or too big, it should be about 5 feet high x 5 feet wide x 5 feet deep, at the max.

To get started, choose an area that does not have a concrete and/or blacktop base to start your compost pile on, bare ground is best.  Here is how you will want to organize your compost:

How to organize your Compost Pile

Layer one: consist of organic materials such as vegetable waste, sod, grass clippings, untreated sawdust.

Layer two: animal manure, fertilizer, or starters can be used to create this layer.

Layer three: normal top soil will work for this layer.

Once you have built your compost pile wait and let it set for about 5 weeks.  After 5 weeks, turn and water your compost. You can then add additional layers to it if you would like.

How much water should you apply, you ask?  Simply feel for dampness or squeeze a handful of it in your hand.  If one to two drops of water come out that means that there is enough water. If this doesn’t happen then you will need to water your compost pile some more.

Good luck!