Sunday, 1 May 2011

Vegetable Gardening Tips

Growing vegetables at home has always been popular, but has had a large resurgence in the last few years. This is partly due to rising food prices, but mainly in the pursuit of fresh organic produce. Knowing exactly what has gone into growing your vegetables is very reassuring. Growing your own vegetables also is a very satisfying and relaxing hobby. Starting your own vegetable garden can be quite daunting especially vegetable gardening for beginners. Here I have suggested some vegetable gardening tips that can be applied to small or large gardens or even to allotment gardening.

Before you start it is a good idea to plan your vegetable garden using a vegetable garden planner. There are several ways you can do this. You can use one of the many online garden web vegetable design planners. Some garden design online sites offer free planning software to help you plan your vegetable garden.

If you prefer to do it yourself, drawing it out on graph paper first or on the computer will help you design the right size and style vegetable patch for your garden. You may decide on a raised vegetable garden bed. These can be made from a variety of materials such as, wooden sleepers, bricks or rocks. Or you might decide to buy a raised vegetable garden bed kit, making the job very simple.

Next you need to choose the right location for your vegetable garden. To enable vegetables to grow their best, they need at least 6 hours of sunshine a day. The best location should not be shaded by over-hanging trees or shrubs As the position of the sun changes according to the time of year, it is important to bear this in mind when choosing your spot.

Once having chosen your location for your vegetable plot you need to prepare the soil. If your soil is very stony, vegetables such as carrots will not have the room to grow down. Investing in a good garden sieve or rotary sieve will help you to remove the stones. A garden hoe and garden rake are both good investments in tending your vegetable garden.

Making sure your vegetable garden has enough nutrients for a good harvest is important too. Digging in a good compost that is either ready bought or your own homemade compost will not only provide the correct nourishment for your vegetables, but improve the soil structure. Digging in garden compost to soil that is mainly clay will help to lighten it and aerate it. Soil which is very sandy and dry can be improved with compost by helping it to retain moisture.

Using a mulch on your vegetable garden will help to control any weeds and those that do come through will be easier to pull out. Not only does this cut down on the number of weeds, but helps prevent many common fungal disease spores from reaching young plants. A one to two inch layer of mulch is recommended.

Once having planned and prepared your vegetable patch you need to decide on what you are going to grow. One simple gardening vegetable tip is to only grow the vegetables you actually like. For beginners it is best to start with easy to grow vegetables such as beetroot, carrots, lettuce or runner beans. Start by making a list of the vegetables you would usually eat to make the best possible use of the space you have. Only plant enough of each plant that you are likely to need.

If space for your vegetables is at a premium, think vertical gardening. Many vegetables can be planted on canes vertically such as runner beans or tomatoes. These can not only be a  practical way to grow your plants, but add another dimension to the overall design of your garden.

To keep your vegetable plot in order, mark out rows using string to plant your seeds along. The general rule is the bigger the plant the deeper they need to be planted. Make sure you leave space between seeds for plants to mature. Always follow the planting instructions on the back of the packet of seeds. It often suggests growing and watering advice too. Vegetable seeds or plants can be bought at your local garden nursery or garden supply store. There are now many garden catalogue companies that supply a vast selection of garden supplies as well as information and gardening help and advice.

Growing some flowers in amongst your vegetables can be beneficial to the vegetables. Not only do they attract bees and butterflies into the garden to pollinate, flowers such as marigolds will also deter some unwanted insects from your vegetables.

Of course watering your vegetable garden is vital. The use of soaker hoses or timed sprinkler systems will ensure your plot is never short of water. This is particularly important if you go away on holiday and have no-one to water your vegetables.

Once having planted your seeds you may need to consider protecting your crop from unwanted visitors to the garden such as  cats or your seeds being eaten by birds. The use of garden mess or garden netting is useful for this problem. And if you need to protect your young plants from the frost, garden fleece or the use of garden cloches will give some protection.

Vegetable gardening can be great not only for the satisfaction of growing your own vegetables but it can be beneficial in relieving stress and very good exercise too. A vegetable plot can be designed to suit any size of garden on any budget.

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Vegetable Garden Planner

As many of us are finding out, it is much healthier and satisfying to eat your own home grown vegetables. However, vegetable gardening for beginners can seem a daunting task. For this reason making a vegetable planner can save you a lot of time in the long run and save you making costly mistakes on your vegetable garden.

There are many resources you can use when it comes to vegetable garden planning. Many garden nurseries offer support, but you can also use gardening websites to help you grow a vegetable garden. Some online garden design sites even offer free garden design software for you to plan and design your garden.

The first step to getting your vegetable garden planner is to get it down either on paper or on the computer. It is best to start with a rough plan of your garden marking out what already exists in it, such as garden sheds, greenhouses, trees etc. You will need to measure out your garden in order to determine the size of your vegetable garden. You will also want to consider areas in the garden that are given over to other things such as a childs play area or flower beds.

The same principles can be applied to whatever size of vegetable garden you are planning, whether it is for a small or large garden or even for allotment gardening. However, if you are a beginner it is a good idea to start small, perhaps with one vegetable bed but allow room to expand when necessary.

Space can be very versatile in your garden. You may feel you don't have the space for a vegetable garden, but this can be got round by thinking vertical gardening. Many vegetables grow up rather than out such as runner beans and tomatoes. Making a feature of your vegetables  by using garden trellis or garden obelisks, can add height and structure to your garden design.

Having a raised vegetable garden bed is another option for your vegetable bed. These are a very convenient way of gardening and can be made from a variety of materials, from brick to wooden raised bed garden kits. This makes the job of planning your vegetable bed very simple.

To plan your vegetable bed you need to draw it out on graph paper. Transfer your rough drawing out onto the squared paper, keeping it to a scale, for example each square could represent one metre. You also need to decide if you want to include any garden ornaments, garden statues or accessories. Having done this you need to decide on the best place to put your vegetable bed.

This need not necessarily be your back garden. There are many roof garden designs and front garden ideas available if this is the only place for your vegetable garden. You will need to take into consideration how much sun an area gets and wind factors. For a successful vegetable garden, it should get at least six hours of sun each day and not be overshadow by trees or shrubs.

Once having planned out your vegetable bed you need to decide on the vegetables you want to grow. Choosing which vegetables to grow is part of your vegetable garden planner. For beginners it is best to start with easy to grow vegetables such as beetroot, carrots, lettuce and green beans. Don't grow vegetables that you don't like as this is a waste of space and effort. Start by making a list of the vegetables you eat on a regular basis and then see if you have room for them. If you only have a small space you may wish to avoid those which grow too large such as sweetcorn.

Only plant enough of each plant that you are likely to eat. Some plants produce a large yield and you may find you end up giving away your harvest because you have overloaded on it.

Once having decided on your plants and having prepared the soil you can start to plant out. Different vegetables have different space requirements. So read the growing instructions carefully on the packet and leave enough space for plants to mature. Don't forget to water on a regular basis especially in hot weather. The installation of soaker hoses for gardens is an efficient way of keeping a vegetable bed well-watered and be included on your vegetable garden planner.

It is important when you have established your vegetable bed to keep a diary. Knowing when and what you have planted and how much produce you got from your crops will help you to plan for the following year. It is also important to rotate crops as pests and diseases can build up in the soil. This also helps avoid depleting the soil of nutrients. Vegetables such as brassicas, potatoes and onions should be rotated each year. Also, planting your perennial crops separately from annual crops will make cultivation of the soil easier.

Having a vegetable garden planner will help you to organise your vegetable bed in an efficient and productive way. It will give you not only the pleasure of seeing your crops grow, but the satisfaction that you are eating the very freshest of produce, knowing how they are grown and if desired in an organic way.

Small Trees For Small Gardens

When selecting a small tree for a small garden, it is important to first consider the full mature size of the tree. Garden nurseries and gardening websites can offer excellent advice, information and garden help.

Even the smallest garden or yard can make room for a tree. Not only are they part of  garden landscapes, they can be of practical use in offering shade on a patio or act as a screen for added privacy.

It is important to select a small tree that has interest for the whole year. If you only have room for one small tree in your garden, then it needs to be eye catching, providing color, texture, preferably being as dramatic in spring as it is in the fall. There are now many dwarf forms of trees available or those which grow very upright. Once having selected your small tree it is best to buy it from a specialist garden nursery or garden centre online.

Trees which are particularly suited to a small garden are Japanese maples (Acer griseum). These come in a wide variety of forms and leaf shapes. They grow from two to six metres tall. They display stunning leaf color throughout the year but especially in the fall. They also have interesting bark that is a striking feature in winter.

Another small tree for small gardens is the Magnolia. These again come in a variety of types and sizes, so check before you buy. Magnolias have beautiful pink or white flowers in the spring and with careful pruning grow into interesting and dramatic shapes as they mature.

If you have a wall or protected area in your garden the fig tree is a good small garden tree. Figs originate from Syria and Persia, but can be grown in cooler climates such as Britain. They may not always fruit in a cooler climate, but their leaves are quite striking and can become a talking point in your garden. They add a decorative, Mediterranean feel to a patio and need very little attention.

The Japanese crab apple, (Malus floribunda) is another easy to grow tree for small gardens.. It is a deciduous tree which has very attractive crimson flower buds that when they open reveal white-pink blooms in late spring. In the fall small red and yellow crab apples appear. The Japanese maple grows to a height of about four metres.

The snow gum tree (Eucalyptus niphophila) is a tree for small gardens that provides all year interest. The bark is particularly interesting with grey, cream and green patchwork. The evergreen leaves are grey-green, and grow longer with age. The snow gum tree bears small white flowers in summer. It is suitable for most types of soil, but does prefer full sun. It can grow to a height of eight metres.

One of the most perfect trees for small gardens is the Prunus serrula or Tibetan cherry tree. It provides all year round interest. In spring it produces small, white flowers, which is followed by small fruits and red or yellow leaves in the fall. It has a shiny deep red bark that remains for the whole year. The Prunus can grow to a height of ten metres.

When it comes to planting trees or vertical gardening, you may feel you do not have the space in the ground for any sort of tree. In this case you could consider planting your small tree in a garden container. Wooden garden planters are ideal for this as they can be bought in any size or style to suit your garden design.

For a contemporary garden design, stone or even stainless steel garden containers will add a dramatic effect to a patio or decking area of your garden. Wooden garden planters or garden boxes add a more natural or classic look to a garden. Always check with your garden nursery if the tree you have chosen is suitable for a garden planter before you buy and ask advice on the right type of soil and garden fertilizer you will need to plant your tree in.

One advantage of having your small tree in a container is that it can be moved around when needed and be easily protected against adverse weather conditions. Either moving it to a warmer, more sheltered spot in the garden or covering it in garden fleece to protect it.

Certainly whichever small tree you choose for your small garden it should give you many years of pleasure and beauty. There are now many ways to seek garden designs for small gardens  A garden nursery, gardening websites or garden design pictures will help you choose the right small tree for your garden.

Raised Vegetable Garden Beds

There's nothing like being able to go down the garden to pick your own fresh vegetables. Making your own raised vegetable garden beds makes the growing of vegetables very convenient and an easy way to add a vegetable patch to your garden without having to dig up large portions of the soil before you start. Raised vegetable garden beds can also be an asset to those who find bending down to dig the garden a struggle, as raised vegetable beds can be constructed at any height.

If you cannot decide whether or not a raised vegetable bed would work in your garden there are various sources of gardening help you can go to. These include professional garden designers, garden nurseries or online garden designs. Some gardening websites offer free garden design software on how to build a raised garden bed. The use of a garden catalogue or gardening pictures can also be helpful.

Once having decided on having a raised vegetable garden bed, you next need to decide on the materials you wish to make it out of. Look at the overall design of your garden to see which materials would blend in best. Many people opt for wooden raised beds as these are not only quick and easy to construct, but you can buy raised garden bed kits, which make the task very simple.

Old railway sleepers have become a popular choice. These can be difficult to source, but many good garden supply companies stock garden sleepers specially made for the job. If you decide to build your raised vegetable bed out of brick or stone, then some skill at brick laying will be required or the need to employ someone to build it for you.

Before you start to build your raised vegetable garden bed, you first need to choose a sunny spot that gets at least six hours of sunshine each day. A south facing garden is ideal for this. You next need to clear the ground underneath the area where your raised vegetable bed will go to give you a flat even surface. If your garden is particularly prone to weeds, a barrier mat can be laid to stop them coming up in your raised bed.

The site of your raised bed needs to be made level before you start and any overhanging branches from trees or shrubs need to be clipped back. Next you need to construct your raised bed from the materials you have chosen. A good working size for a raised bed is about four feet by eight feet, but can be adapted to suit your needs and space in the garden. Making your raised vegetable garden bed too large will cause problems reaching into the center to weed and plant your vegetables.

Make sure your raised bed is stable and can not shift it's position. This can be done by hammering stakes into the ground at the edges of the raised bed leaving about six inches above the ground or level with the tops of the sides if your bed is low. Once having done this you are ready to fill your raised vegetable garden bed with soil. Choose a good garden soil, this can be bought in bags, but might work out expensive for large raised beds. Garden supply companies or online gardening suppliers offer soil by the yard and will nearly always deliver.

Once having filled your raised bed with soil it needs to be watered well and left to settle. Further top ups of soil may be required until there is sufficient soil in the raised bed for your vegetables. Water the bed well and let the water drain and the soil dry out a little before planting your vegetables.

When you are ready to plant your seeds, mark out some rows in the soil with stakes and string for straight rows. It is useful to have the proper tools for the job, a garden fork and garden hoe are two of the essential garden tools you will need. Drag a garden hoe through the soil to make a shallow trench about one inch deep. If planting melons or cucumbers, mound up piles of soil and make one inch deep holes for the seeds.
Using garden markers will help you remember what you have planted where.

Place the seeds in the rows and cover lightly. Follow the planting and care instructions on the packet carefully. Usually, the larger the seed, the deeper the hole. Small seeds need to be tampered down to prevent them from being blown away or eaten by birds. Lightly water the seeds until thoroughly wet.

Your seeds should germinate within six to twelve days, depending on the vegetables. If the weather is likely to turn cold, covering your seeds with garden fleece will help to protect them. If you wish to keep cats out of the garden, the use of garden mesh or garden netting is useful. This also stops birds from eating the seeds and young plants.

Raised vegetable garden beds make valuable additions to any size of garden and can add to the overall design of your garden by adding height and structure. They are convenient and will give you much pleasure and satisfaction in growing your own vegetables.

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Indoor Herb Garden

By using fresh herbs in your cooking you can greatly enhance the flavour of the food. Using dried or even frozen herbs is a good substitute, but the flavour and aroma of fresh herbs is far better. However, depending on where you live growing your own outdoor herbs may not be possible or practical. If you don't have a garden space or live in a climate that is too cold, then growing your own herbs is still possible. Having your own indoor herb garden will ensure a constant supply of fresh fragrant herbs all year round.

There are now available many indoor herb garden kits that make growing your own indoor herb garden very simple. These can be bought in a variety of designs such as pots, bottles, wooden garden kits, terra cotta planters etc. But if you want to make your own indoor herb garden, it can be made very simply and cheaply.

To make an indoor herb garden you only need a sunny, well lit spot. This could be on a window sill or in a porch area. A south facing spot is ideal, but if not available, any well lit area will do. Try to avoid a north facing spot, as this is unlikely to get enough sun to grow your herbs. There are many herbs which make ideal indoor herb gardens. These include, basil, oregano, mint, rosemary, sage, chives, thyme, and parsley.

Most herbs can be bought from a garden nursery or garden supply stores. There are many garden catalogue companies that do mail order herbs or you can buy garden supplies direct from suppliers online. If buying your herbs directly from a garden nursery or store check that seed packets are not out of date. And if buying young plants, make sure they are healthy looking and not straggly.

Next you need to choose your container for your indoor herb garden. This of course needs to fit in or on the area you have chosen for your herb garden. You can either use containers you already have or you will find a wide range of containers in a wide range of materials at your local garden nursery.

You can use any type or style of container to suit you. This could be anything from a conventional plant pot, or something a little different such as a mixing bowl, large cup and saucer or stainless steel bucket. You are only limited by space and your imagination.

Next you need to buy a good quality general garden compost. This is important as the herbs you will be growing will be in the container for some time and will need an ample supply of nutrients to grow healthily.

All you need to do now is choose the herbs you want to grow and plant them. One tip is to only grow the herbs you know you will use, or you will waste space in your indoor herb garden. Although easy to grow, they will need some care. Indoor herbs need to be watered regularly, but you need to be careful not to over-water them as this will cause your herbs to rot and die. Once every week or two should be enough to keep them healthy. Check the soil with your fingertips to feel if they are too wet before you water them. Feeding your plants should only be necessary once a year. Using slow release pellets are very useful for this.

Having your own indoor herb garden not only ensures you have a year round supply of your favourite fresh herbs, but it is something the children can do as well. It is fairly simple for them to do and shows fast results. Indoor herb gardens also make great presents for your friends and family.

Cottage Garden Plants and Design

When you think of a cottage garden you immediately think of a garden filled with color, rambling roses and pretty arches. An old-fashioned setting, a place to relax. Cottage garden plants and design can be easier to achieve than you think. Due to the very nature of a cottage garden, which isn't formal or rigid, you can make your garden a gardener's Eden.

Your first step is to design your garden. This can be done by a professional garden designer, but can work out very expensive. You can design your own garden by drawing it out on graph paper or on the computer. There are several online web sites that offer free garden design software for you to design your own cottage garden.

Your plans need to include any structure that is already in your garden such as a garden storage shed, green house or even trees and shrubs you wish to keep. Even if you only have a small garden design, this process is worthwhile to plan your cottage garden carefully.

Once having designed your cottage garden you need to prepare the soil. Incorporating garden compost will ensure your cottage garden plants have the right nutrients to grow. It will also improve the structure of the soil to help with moisture retention.

Before you fill your garden with cottage garden plants and shrubs, it is worth thinking about other structures and garden accessories you may want to incorporate into your garden to give it that cottage garden look. Features such as  garden ponds and waterfalls add a relaxing feel to a cottage garden. They also attract lots of beneficial insects and creatures to your garden. Garden nurseries or garden supply companies offer a variety of types of garden ponds or pools and accessories such as garden pond pumps, as well as preformed garden ponds or liners.

Metal or wooden garden arches or garden arbours can be used to grow those compulsory cottage garden roses up against. A climbing clematis or honeysuckle will not only add color but fragrance as well.

Fencing is another consideration. Most of us think of a white picket garden fence when planning a cottage garden. However, this may not always be practical. Using garden design web sites or garden magazines for garden fencing ideas can help with this. Decorative garden fencing comes in many different styles as do garden wall ideas. Garden hedges or screens can be used instead of fencing. You may also need a garden gate. Your choice will be between  metal garden gates or  wooden garden gates. Trellises are another structural feature you may want to consider. These are not only decorative but are functional too for your climbing plants.

Other structures you may want in your cottage garden are garden storage sheds or garden tool storage. Garden shed kits are quick and simple to put together for a very useful and attractive storage place. A greenhouse will also add to the cottage garden feel as well as being a place to grow your own plants.

Pathways are another consideration when designing your cottage garden. It is best to keep your path in proportion to the size of your garden. Since most cottage gardens do not have a lot of grass, these need to be made a feature. Garden pavers or gravel made into narrow winding paths add charm. Garden decking on the other hand is more for a contemporary garden and would look out of place in a cottage garden.

And finally the cottage garden plants. Putting some 'old fashioned' plants in your garden will get the cottage garden look. These include peonies, bleeding hearts, foxgloves, roses and hydrangea. It is best to group similar plants together for a bigger impact. It is traditional when planting cottage garden plants to plant odd numbers in groups to create the relaxed appeal of the cottage garden. If planting single plants, these should be large to attract attention. Texture, color, foliage and smell are all important when planting a cottage garden.

Perennial garden plants will give your garden some structure to base the rest of your planting on. Plants such as delphiniums. holly hocks and lupins give height and color. These should be planted near the back of your borders. Planting annuals in your cottage garden will add a vast array of changing color throughout the season. By adding wildflowers or cosmos to an area in the garden, they will re-seed themselves.
Use your trellis and arches to grow climbers such as roses or morning glory, with it's beautiful blue flowers. Try to grow plants and shrubs which attract bees and butterflies such as buddleia and lavender.

Your cottage garden plant and design may never be finished as you will always see or think of something else to add to give it that wonderful traditional appeal. Making a cottage garden can be very addictive, fortunately it is the type of garden that lends itself to being packed full of plants and structures and will bring an enormous amount of joy, satisfaction and relaxation to it's designer.

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