Monday, July 30, 2007

Garden Ponds, Aquatic Plants and Koi Fishes

  • What is the best place for a pond ?

It is advisabel to construct the pond as far as possible from the house. The ideal place would be one that has direct sunlight for just a few hours, being the rest covered by the trees. It must also be safe from winds. It's better if the water pond has no caduceus trees close, both for the auttum leaves that may fall into the pond as well as for the roots that could damage its structure.
  • The water pond should always have a fountain, it will look great !
  • To keep the children safe from falling into the pond there are special nets that surround the pond
  • How avoid algae in the water pond ?
Algae are sunlight lovers. Is the water pond is located in a place that is covered from the sun during the hottest hours of the day, that should be enough to protect it from algae.
Avoid organic waste in the water pond: take out the dead leaves, do not add compost, fertilizer or humus in the bottom of the pond, and do not feed the fishes excesively.
The currents produced by waterfall streams, fountains, water feeders, are really benefitial for the oxygen they provide. In case you do not have any of these, try using a high pressure hose into the pond (specially during summer)
Cultivate oxygenating plants: they take minerals from the decomposition of the organic matter, the CO2 from the fishes and they release oxygen to the water. The best plants are the Ceratophyllum y Elodea.
There are some anti-algae products that, when correctly employed, are not a problem for fishes and aquatic plants. The biggest algae must be taken out manually.
  • When the aquatic plants are too big for the water pond, they must be taken to a bigger one
  • Can we fertilize the aquatic plants ?
They can be fertilized, even though it's not essential. For these cases we used granulated fertilized of slow reaction, it must be covered with sand.
  • Water Pond Fishes
If you want to have fishes in the pond, this should be at least 60 centimeters deep, so the fishes can go down and up, according to the temperature
  • Koi Fishes
These fishes are very resillient. The water temperature is not really a problem for them, of course, it's always better if you have aquatic plants to protect them fomr direct sunlight.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Organic Matter: Humus

When we refer to organic matter in the soil, we mean the humus that the soil has. There is more organic matter in the soil that is not humus, like: rottening leaves, all kind of solid element that we can still recognize as such.

But, What exactly is humus? Humus Definition: I'll give an example to understand it better: When a leaf falls to the ground, it's immediately atacked by fungy and bateria mainly responsible for it decomposition. The result is the following:
  • A part of the leaf transforms into mineral nutrients (nitrogen, potassium, etc)
  • The other part becomes humus. The same process ocurs in any other organic matter that we may add to the soil, for instance, animal waste, compost, etc. All of them are attacked by organisms and they produce mineral nutrients and humus as well
  • If the leaves weighs 2 grams the percentages would be as follows: 0,1 becomes humus and the rest minerals
  • As the years go by, that same humus will also become minerals, but that process can last around 3 years
Humus is a very special anb beneficial substance for plants. It has some qualities that contribute to the following properties to the soil:
  1. Provides airing to the soil, improving its structure
  2. It retains water and mineral, otherwise they would wash away with the rain
  3. Provides mineral nutrientes for the plants as it decomposes (nitrogen, potassium, etc)
  4. Humus also has some other less-known benefits. It produces something like growing boosters that the plants can absorb, favouring nutrition and resistance against diceases: vitamins and plant growing regulators
How do I tell how much humus my soil has ?

Taking some of the soil in our hand, telling by the structure and color, we can diagnose how rich (or poor) our soil is in humus. The most accurate method is taking a sample to the lab. Most soils range between 1 and 3% of humus. Soil from woods may have up to 5%. In order to increase the humus level in our soil takes time. It takes years. For instance, if we add animal waste, around 10% of this matter becomes humus. Bear in mind that no all plants prefer to live in a soil with a high humus composition (desert plants).

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Quick Tips to keep a flowerpot garden

  1. Plastic flowerpots are not suitable for gardens that are directly exposed to sunlight for too many hours, or during the hottest hours of the day. These get overheated and can damage the roots very badly
  2. You can install hanging pot racks and cultivate some species there, creating a tropical atmosphere
  3. Places near windows are ideal to cultivate flowers and aromatic species. The fragance will spread through the house
  4. Do not use soil extracted from the garden, as it has too much clay. It could also carry some plagues. Use only potting soil that you can buy at any store
  5. Mix the potting soil with round gravel: this combination will help with the airing and water retention
  6. Before pouring in the potting soil, you should add first some gravel, little pieces of broken ceramics, etc, so the draining holes do not get stucked
  7. Be careful, in small ground spaces like flower pots, the watering and fertilizing must be done much more carefully than in an outdoor garden
  8. The water evaporates much faster in terra cotta pots, so we have to water more often than with other kinds of pots
  9. An automatic watering system is really necessary, specially if you get absent for long periods of time
  10. A quick method to know when it's time to water your plants is by introducing your finger into the soil and see if it's humid
  11. There are some really useful humidity meters in the market if you look for something more accurate
  12. The smaller flower pot are watered wit more frequency than the large ones
  13. The main mistake when cultivating plants in a flowerpot it's the excessive watering that ends up rottening the roots
  14. Many plants have a season where the watering should be minimum or none. Cactuses are a good example, as they don't have to get any water during winter
  15. For flower pots and hanging pots, you can use liquid fertilizers every 15 days since the ending of the winter to the beggining of auttum from only once a month during the rest of the year
  16. An overdose of fertilizer causes more damage to the plants than using non fertilizer at atll
  17. Another way of oxigenating the ground is by adding a few earthworms in the pot
  18. Every one or two years, change the flower pot for a bigger one, according to the species

Friday, July 20, 2007

Buying Healthy Plants

Hope these quick tips help you next time you buy a plant:

  1. Examine carefully their leaves and stems just to be sure they don't already carry any disease or plague: spotted leaves, or with holes, bear in mind that it you take a plant that is carrying a dicease, it will probably spread it to the rest of your plants in the garden
  2. Never take those plants with roots coming out of the pot drain holes, that is a very good sign that they have been waiting a pretty decent time waiting for someone to buy them
  3. The plant must have already grown roots. You can test it by slightly pulling the stem, it should stay in the ground. Many tree nurseries try to accelerate the growing process by putting the tree inside the post before it's ready
  4. Do not buy plants that have their sides asymmetrically developed
  5. The winter season is never a good time to buy indoor plants: the heating, a low humidity level and poor lightning a very different factors than those in the tree nursery. The sudden environment change could cause them damage to death
  6. Inspect leaves and stems to verify they don't have insects on them
  7. Take out the rootball to see if it keeps its shape, if it doesn't, then it hasn't grown roots
  8. The roots must be abundant and with a light color, when the roots are dark, it's a sign that they are rotten
  9. If the rootball it's excessively crowded with roots, don't buy, it's an old plant
  10. When it comes to flowering plants, always buy those which blooms are not opened
Follow these tips before buying a plant, you won't regret it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Rosebush, Rosebushes and Roses Care Tips

Rose care tips

  • Most of rosebushes we see are actually hybrids obtained from a wild rosebush in wich the wanted variety is grafted
  • Plant the rosebushes in a zig-zag pattern to obtain a nice and compact effect
  • Growing roses tip: Roses need a very sunny place to grow, but sometimes it's too hot during a long period of time, so some shadow during the day would be fine
  • Fertilize the rosebushes 2 times during the growing season. During auttum and winter fertilize with organic compost, vermicompost or animal waste
  • Eliminate whitered roses: if you leave them they will take the plant's energy for new roses to grow healthy
  • Miniature Roses Care: miniature roses would grow healthy only outdoors, because indoor places are too dry for them
  • How to preserve wax roses: melt some candles in a can, once it's ready, hold the rose by the stem and introduce it for a second inside the wax, the take it out and put it into a glass with cold water
Hope these gardening rose tips were useful

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Building a Plant Terrarium

Terrariums are enclosed areas in which we can simulate the conditions of a tropical environment, meaning, high humidity, warm and constant temperature. These variables allow to grow tropical plants that otherwise would be impossible in an outside garden. When building a terrarium, the following advices must be taken into consideration.

In order to make a terrarium, the containers we could use are:
  • Terrariums already manufactured for this purpose that can be found in many stores
  • Fish Tanks and Fishbowls
  • A cristal or plastic box
  • Glass cans that are often used in the kitchen

Crystal is far better that plastic in order to setup a terrarium
Inside the terrarium you could simulate miniature landscapes, from woods to tropical forests. You could include water, small animals.

How to build a terrarium

  1. If you use an aquarium, it will be much cheaper
  2. A low power fan must be installed to avoid mildew growing
  3. We have to buy some special fluorescent tubes for plants for the the terrarium lightning
  4. The ground will be filled with susbstrate and gravel
  5. It's advisable to put some vegetable carbon in the bottom of the terrarium to avoid rottening

Terrarium Maintenance and Care

  1. Place the terrarium in an area where it doesn't receive direct sunlight
  2. The fish tank cover must be open at least once a day to help ventilating the terrarium
  3. To keep the terrarium with a high humidity level, it has to be sprayed very often
I will be posting more in detail on how to set up a terrarium

Monday, July 9, 2007

Vermicomposting: compost made by worms

The vermicomposting technique consist in using the end-product of organic matter produced by some earthworms, to create an compost worm aerator for the soil, the vermicomposting does not produce heat and besides making compost we can use the worms we breed to aerate the Garden soil. When trying to reach a compost pile of high quality, we can even use these technique after we have an already made compost pile.
Things we need to make Vermicompost:
  • Bin
  • Bedding
  • Worms
  • Organic Material
Worm Bins or Tumblers

Vermicomposting bins must be solid, opaque (because worms don't like direc sunlight), it must be closed to avoid leaking certain smells and keep away the flies and other undesirable insects. Besides, the bottom should have draining and ventilating holes. In case the vermicomposting bin is left outside, it's advisable to treat the bin surface with special paint and and the inner side of the vermicomposting bin could be treated with wax. To maintain the perfect aerobical conditions the horizontal bin extension is much more important than the depth.
The relation between size and organic matter should be: 1 square meter per 10 pounds of kitchen waste added. For the vermicomposting process to be eficient enough we need 3 pounds of worms per 10 pounds of organic material in the compost pile. If the amount of worms is little compared to the amount of orgnaic material, the vermicompost will produce undesirable smells, until the worms reproduce.

Bedding in Vermicomposting Bins

Bedding is the living medium for worms and also the place where they obtain part of their food. Bedding provides the earthworms an aerobical medium capable of maintaining humidity.
Between the materials that we can use are: newspapers, aged animal manure (vegetarian animals), saw, straws, dried leaves. We must never use glossy paper because it contains toxic materials.

What kind of worms to use to make Vermicomposting

Genus Name: Eisenia
Species Name: Fetida
These worms are better known as: red wiggler, manure worm, tiger worm etc.

Worm Feeding

These worms only feed on kitchen waste, they are not able to compost Garden waste, because the temperature produced by these king of organic matter would kill them.
Between the regularly used material for feeding the worms are: fruit , fruit peels, bread, eggshells, coffee grounds. Never add to many acid fruit peels,

Vermicomposting worms Care and maintenance

The red wigglers are more comfortable in a dark medium, humid and with moderate temperature.
  • Red wigglers don't like light, that is why the vermicomposting bins must be tapped.
  • The medium must be humid but not wet, we must bear in mind that worms are aerobical beings, that is why water should not be present.
  • Worms tolerate temperatures between 55 to 70 degress farenheit. (13 and 25 ° celcius)

Harvesting the vermicompost

The vermicompost contains worm excrement, and little amounts of organic decomposed material, and partially decomposed material. In order to obtain a vermicompost with higer amount of worm waste, the vermicomposting bin could be left alone for a while, but this technique is risky, because the worms could died in the absense of food and the toxicity produced by their own excrements.
There are several methods to separate the vermicompost:
The first method is setting apart the bedding material until covering half the vermicomposting bin., a division must be put as we lay more bedding with food in the other side. After a while we can expose the other side to direct light so the worms go deeper and we can extract the vermicompost ready to use.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Compost Recipe: the organic materials mixture

When making a compost pile , the deposited remnants must always be mixed. There shouldn't be a layer separation between fresh materials or dry materials, in order for the compost pile to age properly, all the elements must be mixed. The compost pile doesn't have to be turned in a daily basis, but only when a considerable amount of organic material is added, for example grass clippings, autumn leaves or dry, straw-type material.
Now, if we want to build compost to it's highest quality the compost recipe and compost ingredients should be as follows:

  • Three parts of fresh organic material, higher in "green" nitrogen content (kitchen organic waste, fresh green plant residues, grass clippings, fresh green leaves, fruit trimmings, vegetarian animal manure)
  • One part of materials, rich in "brown" carbon content (dry leaves, straw, wood chips, cardboards, etc.)
In case we deposit little amount of organic material to our compost pile every day, mixing the compost once a week it's ok.

Never add non-vegetarian manure to the pile (like pet waste or human waste). Hope this compost recipe is useful to you and your soil , I will be adding more articles in the next days.

You may want to read the following introductory articles to know a little bit more about home compost:
Organic compost
Homenade compost

Friday, July 6, 2007

Organic Compost - Organic Waste Recycling through composting

Organic compost constitutes an organic waste treatment method that, besides recycling matter that otherwise woul pollute water streams and lands, can give our kitchen garden the lost organic matter through years of intensive activity, closing this way, nature's life cycle.
Composting is an oxidative process that takes place in anaerobian conditions over a group of solid organic materials through the action of several and varied microorganisms. This decomposition of organic compost requires certain air, humidity, temperature and ph conditions that favour the microorganisms work. As a result of these decomposition processes takes place mineralization of part of this organic matter and the stabilization of the remmants, obtaining what is called organic compost (stabilized organic matter similar to humus), and also C02 and water.
The use of organic compost as a soil amendment, constitutes much more than a simple fertilization, because is not only adding nutrients and organic matter, the compost improves the structure and soil properties, acting over water retention properties, draining, soil airing, or nutrient retention so it is available for the plants.
Besides, it is an incentive for the existence of microorganisms that do their own recycling work.

Homenade Organic Compost

Even though industrial composting can carry certain risks due to the presence of toxic substances, if we make organic compost at home, we can choose our own compost materials. We must choose waste remmants of natural precedence, that cannot be polluted with toxic substance. Ususally we will use plant based material, from grass clippings and pruned trees and shrubs, as well as organic waste from our kitchen (potato shavings, carrot tops, etc). The use of animal excrement, can be beneficious for a high quality organic compost made at home, but could also be dangerous, due to the presence of patogen microorganisms, that cannot be eliminated if we not control accurately the organic compost process and we don't keep temperature above 65 ยบ centigrades for a long enough period of time.

Besides, the excesive use of plant based material that is still very new, fish remmants, meat or other matter rich in proteins, will yield a putrefaction process instead, that we must always aoid.
In case we have enouh ground to fertilize in our garden, it is convenient to make our own organic compost piles. If the enviromental conditions are not good to let the compost piles outside, we have several compost bins or compost trumblers made of
many different materials and sizes that can help us keep our organic compost pile in optimal conditions so the compost pile it' ready to use, causing you little inconvenience.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Compost - The "green" option for your garden

Chemical Fertilizers intensive use is nowadays, one of the main sources of pollution in water streams and lands. Even though its efectiveness is very high, we shouldn't forget that nature can provide us with natural fertilizers coming from the life cycle itself. This is the case of compost, an ecological alternative for your garden or kitchen garden.
Organic waste is also polluting, specially when its disposal is not under control, that is why we must consider this a useful resource and recicable.
It makes sense take advantage of the...of grafting, rotten fruits or vegetables making fertilizer with these, thanks to the land's natural cycle, that transforms in....the dead organic matter.

Making Compost

Compost is the result of organic waste decomposition.
Traditionally, all the vegetable rests from the kitchen garden were disposed in some kind of bin, then were heavily sprayed with water and finally covered, letting oxygen make its work until the organic waste became humus, in rich organic matter for the soil.
We must always mix the organic matter, we don't have to make different layers for fresh organic materials and for other material. That doesn't mean we have to remove the compost in a daily basis, but only when disposing a large amount of organic matter, for example when we have grass or dead leaves.
Making organic compost is a natural way of fertilizing the ground. Something very curious about this is that the natural decomposition process produces a nice smell, remenbering us the woods.
When trying to make a good compost, it will always be up to the amount and variety of plant rests, but as a general rule we should since we start to deposit the organic matter until we pick up compost, we will have to wait between 3 or 4 months. And in case we are looking for mature compost we must wait two more months. We can tell wheter the compost is in its early stage or mature because of the amount or organic matter that still keeps its shape, in its final stage, all this will be gone.

Normally we should water the compost so it stays wet and we help the organic matter decompose. Optionally we could add a compost biological accelerator to reduce the waiting time from 4 to 2 months.
We can find in the market the so called compost bins, tumblers specially designed to produce organic compost. If we use a compost trumbler, it's advisable to use the accelerator when we fill the compost trumbler to its maximum capacity.

Garden Compost

The advantage of compost containers is that we don't have to worry about spraying with water, as long as it is exposed to the directly to sunlight. Something we must never do is watering with large amounts of water.
We don't have to add extra soil to the compost, this would obstacle the oxigen circulation inside the compost container. We are just trying to obtain is 100% organic compost, not a mix of soil and compost.
The traditional way of composting, used the very same ground as a container, putting extra layers of soil above so the animals were not attracted there.
The compost containers also run with the advantage of not needing electricity to work. They do not require any maintenance and are specially designed and built to stay outside.

Once the compost pile is ready

We now need a sieve to separate the thin compost from the rest organic parts that may remain. Once sieved the only thing we have to do is choose the soil in which we want to put the compost.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Fern Plants - from the woods to your garden

Ferns like to grow in a enviroment, where the sunlight barely reaches directly the ground. Fern plants like often grow in woods where the sunlight is blocked by trees. The inner leaf structure of fern plants is totally adapted to these conditions.
The vast majority of ferns grows in soils wich have high density of humus. There are also some ferns that have adapted to live on other plants, most of them being trees.
This can be seen specially in tropical countries.

Fern plants show between them a big difference in the growing speed. Many of them have rhizomes, that allows them to reproduce very quickly. One good example is the plant fern with ca..... Others are very small and do not require much space.

They also differ in the color of their leaves. Even some of the plant ferns carry the name of Rainbow Fern (Athyrium niponicum 'Metallicum'), thanks to the abundant and beautiful colors of their leaves. The rest stand out displaying auttum colors during that season.
An additional advice to put fern plants in your garden is the fact that the leaves stay green during the winter, like, for example Polystichum aculeatum variety. Fern usually have two kind of leaves, with and without groups of brown sphoropythe.

They can really stand out when they grow above the ground during spring. The leaves are rolled and during spring they roll out
Fern plants, do not flourish, and, depite that, they have managed to survive during millions of years.
But these prehistoric plants do form groups of sphorophyte in the leaves called "fertiles'. They are brown and are disposed in different ways in the low side of those leaves. Spores get free from the sporothytes and,as they are microscopic, they spread around thanks to the wind.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

How to choose the right Watering Can for your garden

This article intends to give useful tips to choose the right watering can, both for indoors and outdoors.
The main variables to consider when buying a watering can are size, capacity and style.
The rest of the features to bear in mind are style, product quality if we want it to last long and optional removable sprayhead.

Plastic or metal watering can?
When choosing a metal watering can you will obtain a more durability, metal watering cans resist much better than the rest, they are heavier and more expensive.
In case you need a plastic watering can its main advantages are: they are lighter and cheaper, but their life span ranges bewteen 5 and 10 years. You must never expose a plastic watering can to direct sunlight.

Capacity and Size
Take into consideration how much water you can carry, buy more than one if you don't want to come and go many times.
Long spouted or Short Spouted Watering Can?, if you want to reach hidden areas in your garden, avoiding damaging the leaves or yourself, then the long sprouted watering can fits right. Short sprouted are designed for general gardening jobs, very suitable for spraying pots or watering already grown plants.

Besides, if you are planning to use a fertiliser or weed killer, then it's strongly recommended to buy a cheap plastic watering can for that use only, to avoid the risk of contamination.

How to spray correctly with a watering can
The sprayhead should be looking upwards, while you handle correctly the angle of the can, otherwise the water will start running the brass. In case there is a larger area the sprayhead should be pointing the ground. It's advisable to buy watering cans which sprayheads can be replaced, being these element the one that suffers the most the intensive use.
Always check the spout with a needle or a cane to verify if it's blocked.

Watering Cans at Amazon

Monday, July 2, 2007

Indoor plant watering tips

One of the main factors to keep indoor plants healthy it’s watering. Nevertheless, this is a difficult task of carrying out, since there are to consider multiple factors like, for example, if they are outside or interior plants. In order to avoid negative results on our plants, it’s advisable to know the amount water that these require, as well as the right moment and place to make this vital work.
Each plant, depending on the species, needs a greater or smaller amount of water, reason why it’s convenient to inquire at the purchase place to know what the water frequency should and what is the right amount of water it needs. It is not advisable to use an automatic watering system for indoor plants, before doing that, it’s advisable to review the soil state and to verify its humidity. In case that it conserves a small humidity degree, it is not necessary to exceed in the irrigation, since this can cause problems in the health of the plant. The optimal thing is to provide the necessary water and not to return to do it until the Earth is dry, since to do it of a way it frequents and in small amounts it is detrimental
Nevertheless, there are certain general rules that should be known to apply the exact amount of water necessary.. Then, it’s advisable to water more often the young plants or at growing stage, the ones that are located in a warm place inside the house, and those of tiny leaves. Obviously, the amount of water should be increased during the summer. On the other hand, those plants which don’t have flowers, have strong and thick leaves or those which are in soils that keep humidity for a longer period of time. An automatic plant watering system it's never recommended in these cases.

The watering timer

The best time of the day to do the watering for indoor plants is during the morning, so the plant has the rest of the day to absorb. If the watering takes place during the night, it’s possible that the plant stays too much time with a high humidity level, due to the lack of evaporation. In case the plant it’s in a very warm place inside the ouse, we must take care that the leaves stay wet during the morning. If you pulverize the leaves during the evening, this could allow fungus to grow. The plants that are in pots can be watered in two different ways. The first consist in watering right over the soil surface, while the second is putting the pot over a dish that contains water. Most experts agree that the best method of watering is to poor water all over the soil surface, using the “raining method”. The water that the plant doesn’t need will go to the dish that below the pot. It’s convenient to remove the water in the dish before an hour after the watering, because during this time the plant will have already absorb all the water it needs.
We must pay attention to the importance of pulverizing the leaves, in order to humidify them. During the winter, this task should be made in a daily basis, to avoid the damage that the heating system could do to the. We should use water at room temperature.

Hope these watering indoor plants tips were useful. In further posts I will detail the several watering tools we can find and other plant watering systems.