Thursday, September 29, 2011

Scorch 'em, Kill 'em - Weed Control

One of the best ways to eradicate weeds from your garden is through organic techniques. Weed control is achieved by using natural materials found in your house and of course- nature.

A method called soil solarization is a technique of controlling weeds by subjecting it to the heat of the sun during the hot months and the cooler months as well. This method will not only make your soil weed-free and pest-free but it also makes it ideal for planting crops and vegetable and other flowers.

Start Digging

The first step is to cultivate the soil to loosen up hard, compacted soil, and also to bring to the upper inch of the soil some dormant weed seeds.

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Rake It, Soak It

After tilling the soil, use a rake to smooth and level the entire surface. This is important to make sure all the seeds of the weeds are in close contact with the soil. Water the soil until wet but not soggy (moist soil will trap heat better than a dry one).

Cover it Up

Spread a plastic over the soil to wrap it up. Make sure to cover the plastic's edges with stones or bricks to really efficiently trap the sun's heat and kill any weed seeds, pesky pests and soil-borne fungal diseases. Depending on the gardener, the plastic can be left in place for utmost 6 weeks enough to kill any weeds and pests in the soil. Two weeks is usually enough to kill weeds and pests when you are in a warmer zone. However, in mild to moderately chilly areas, the plastic is ideally placed on the ground by autumn and removed during spring.

Sandwich Effect

You can cover the plastic with another layer of plastic to heighten the level of solarization. Heat coming from the sun will be trapped in between two plastic layers intensifying the heating process. One month before you decide to grow plants, you can remove one layer of plastic to reduce the heat inside.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Friendly Insects, Deadly to Pests - Lacewings

green lacewing
Since I am campaigning for organic gardening, I also include in my blog articles, topics that relate to organic or natural ways of taking care of plants. In this article, I will discuss to you about the benefits of taking care of predatory insects- these are small insects that are harmless to humans yet fatal to pesky garden pests.

One insect that proves to have a voracious appetite for almost all of the nasty suckers in the garden are the lacewings.The lacewings- particularly the green lacewings- it feast on aphids, spider mites which usually invades cyclamens; thrips, mealybugs, white flies present in the undersides of tomato leaves and squash leaves; immature scales and many other pests.

The scientific name of the green lacewing is Chrysoperla rufilabris. There are several garden stores that sell biological pest controls such as lacewings. If you put at least ten eggs of this insect on each plant, or apply about one thousand eggs per 200 square foot, the green lacewings will reduce the aphid population to a significant level. Do this three times and the aphid population will be culled.

Lacewings like to munch on aphids. The insects are particularly handy when you have a rose garden for roses are highly susceptible to aphid infestation. Ants harbor aphids and they have a mutual relationship in which the ants suck honeydew from the aphid's body. In turn, the aphids are being provided with a free transport to the juicy parts of the plants where they suck the plant's sap.

No matter what season it is during the year, a pest-infested garden will not look pleasant to your eyes and beneficial insects are needed to feed on these menacing pests and eradicate them.

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Plants that Treat - Lotus Flower, Many More

Not only is the lotus flower gorgeous, but it also has medicinal healing properties which makes it deserving to be added in your water garden.

There are many species of the lotus plant and there are classified into different groups: Blue Lotus ( Nymphaea caerulea), White Lotus (Nymphaea alba), Cape Blue Water Lily ( Nymphaea capensis) and many others.

photo courtesy of flower picture gallery
Religious Significance, Healing Properties

The lotus plant also serves as a sacred religious symbol like in Buddhism. The lotus flower rises up unscathed from the murky waters of the pond. It is the symbol of purity from worldly desires. Once in the garden, it exudes that relaxing effect on you just by staring at it. The lotus flower is actually used by the ancients to treat certain maladies like it is utilized in treating the eyes. The lotus is known to improve vision and its juices are being mixed in beauty products for it naturally removes dead skin cells and helps new skin cells develop.

Its young leaves, rhizomes or roots; seeds and stalks are eaten in Asia. There are mixed in Asian cuisines. The roots are especially rich in Vitamin C, thiamine, Vitamin B6, Copper, Manganese, phosphorus, and it is an excellent source of dietary fiber. The lotus flowers are often used as garnish in exotic dishes while the young roots are boiled and mixed in soups and has a sweet, tangy, and crunchy feel to it.

How to Grow a Lotus

Lotus plants survive in temperatures where it is moderately warm but there are research showing lotus flowers being able to regulate temperatures and stay warm even if its cooler. The research was performed in Adelaide, Australia.

To plant a lotus you will need to have 1) clay soil 2) a water garden ( a large tub will do) 3) lotus plant of your choice 4) water.
  • Plant the Lotus plant in a tub or a huge container (without holes), that provides ample space for its roots to grow. The roots are very sensitive to cutting so be careful that you won't kill the plant. Put water on the tub. Keep in mind that the roots of the lotus plant only is to be submerged under six inches.
  • Once the plant is established, there is little care needed for the lotus to grow. The lotus plants are pretty much pest-free although occasional aphids which are brought by ants can sometimes gnaw on the plant. Just spray the aphids and ants with a forceful water hose to wash it away.
  • Be sure to put your lotus plant in a spot where it gets hit by the sun's rays for at least six hours everyday. Do not fret when your lotus die back to the ground level in winter. This is natural and the plant will grow again in spring.
The lotus plant is one of the many ethnobotanical species of plants which have been prized for its cultural significance, medicinal properties, and divination by the ancient ancestors.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Amaryllis for a Vibrant Happy Holiday Basket

photo courtesy of
We often see them in groceries and shopping centers. They are baskets filled with assorted gift items and the more common ones I see are laden with chocolates, cereals, cans of coffee and fruits. Wouldn't it be nice if we could make a unique happy holiday basket?

Live plants that are given as presents to people are one of the creative and thoughtful ideas that one can think of. Aside from the holiday poinsettia commonly given at Christmas season, live amaryllis is prized as a precious gift as well.

Here is how you can make a happy holiday basket out of planting amaryllis bulbs.

These types of perennials are already sold at garden nurseries by the start of September. If you purchase the fall bulbs at this time, you will get huge discounts for buying them in bulk.

TIP: Select amaryllis bulbs that feel firm and do not have scars, cuts or any damage. Choose the bigger bulbs and not the small ones. Bigger bulbs produce better flowers. The amaryllis plant actually flowers in summer but you can coaxed it into flowering indoors by tricking the plant that it is spring and then summer.

  • Plant about two bulbs in a 7 inch container- preferably clay. Mix in organic potting soil with a mix of sand. Amaryllis rots easily when it gets excessive water. You can add some slow release phosphates like bone meal to help it grow healthy.

TIP: Never water the plant on the top of the pot. Do the watering at the bottom of the container using a shallow basin or dish. Wait for a few minutes for the soil to absorb the water. Feel the soil if it is moist enough to about half an inch below the soil by poking your finger into it.

  • Place the bulbs in an area of the house where it is cooler between 7 to 12 degrees Celsius. A basement or a garage room is preferable. Resume watering (sparingly) only when you notice signs of leaves emerging from the bulbs. Transfer the pot into a sunlit area or in a room where you adjust the temperature to little bit warmer. 

By December, the plants start to flower just in time for you to give it as a present to whoever you want to give it.

  • As for the basket, you can save money by buying one from a dollar store or from a thrift store. Choose a wicker basket or any type that you like. Pick a ribbon with festive colors like a combination of red and green or simply red. Tie it around the handle of the basket and attach with it your personalized greeting card.
This happy holiday basket of Amaryllis is ideal for giving to the special ladies in your life like your mom, your aunt, your sister, or even your female boss. 

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Lettuce, Pepper, Tomato, Pumpkin: Vegetables for Fall

Summer is the time where almost all of the trees bear fruits; plants bloom; vegetables flourish and the grasses go green. But when you start to notice that the leaves of the trees start to turn yellow and orange, you will know that its fall and pretty soon winter.

Fall is actually the best part of season for a gardener. When one plants crops in late June to July, he will have some vegetables to harvest in fall. Here are four types of vegetables that are ideal for sowing and then harvesting in fall.

Juicy Red Tomatoes
tomatoes from the garden

Do not be discouraged when the month of fall is approaching. This is actually the perfect time for sowing tomato seeds. Keep in mind that there are assorted varieties of tomatoes and they bear fruits at a certain time. Be sure to check this important aspect before planting tomatoes. Check the exact day when the first frost comes- you don't want to sow your seeds and have them frozen dead when Mr. Frost arrives!

Scorching Hot Peppers
photo from Yahoo images

Peppers are excellent additions to a fall vegetable garden. Hot, red peppers such as Pimiento and Jalapenos; bell peppers and other members of the Capsicum family, when harvested, they are great for making tasty and spicy veggie salads. They can actually be stored in the freezer. Some cut the bell peppers into halves after washing them, seed them, then cut them further into strips before putting them in the freezer. I prefer just slicing them in halves and place them in zip lock bags.

Oh! Pumpkins
photo courtesy of

The best time to plant pumpkins is mid May to July. You will notice that they are actually sown in spring. Spring temperature is just like the coolness in fall season. The only variation between the two seasons is that in springtime the flowers bloom; in fall the flowers fade and trees shed their leaves. Pumpkins though do not get harvested until fall where they are big enough for making into pumpkin pies and being used as Jack-O-Lanterns in Halloween. There are two methods to plant this crop. You can sow pumpkin seeds either in pots, then thin them out and move them to the ground where they are to grow further. Another option is to plant them directly on the ground where they are to establish growth. Plant them in sets of 5; about 2 seeds per hole. Leave about a foot of space between pumpkins for even spreading of their vines. Never plant other crops along the pumpkin patch to avoid competition of nutrients. Pumpkins planted along other crops tend to have weak and spindly growth.

lettuce from the garden

There are several species of lettuce that are grown for their distinctive taste when mixed in vegetable salads. These vegetables are usually sown in the months of April and May, but they multiply in late spring. Lettuce are sun loving but they dislike direct sunlight, thus, they are the first to get their leaves parched from the heat of the summer sun. Species of lettuce like that of Romaine, is ideally sown in late summer. They then mature when temperatures goes down 20 degrees Celsius.

When you have these nutritious vegetables to harvest, Thanksgiving Day will surely be a blast.

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