Garden Design – How to Design a Small Garden

Designing a small garden involves making use of every centimetre of space, and using visual tricks to make the garden seem larger. The plan for a small garden must be millimeter accurate as there is no room for adjustment if the plan is found to be incorrect when constructing the garden. Many people think a…

Designing a small garden involves making use of every centimetre of space, and using visual tricks to make the garden seem larger. The plan for a small garden must be millimeter accurate as there is no room for adjustment if the plan is found to be incorrect when constructing the garden.

Many people think a plan is not necessary when they are landscaping a very small garden, whereas the absolute opposite is true. It is especially important to prepare a plan where space is limited to ensure that the finished garden meets the practical requirements and looks great too. Preparing a detailed garden design plan will ensure all the functional areas are the correct size for their purpose and will fit into the garden. A good garden design plan allows you to check that the garden will work before you approach landscaping contractors and start spending money. Some well-prepared 3-D visuals bring the garden to life and help you see how the garden will feel once it is constructed. The garden model and visuals are the final check that the spaces all work in harmony with one another ensuring that the garden is a comfortable, relaxing space in which to spend time.

When designing a small garden a simple layout with clean lines and strong geometric shapes works best. The design should not be overly complicated. If curves are required a central circle which can be either lawn, planting, paving or a path is better than fussy freehand curves.

Although it is tempting to scale down the garden features to avoid cluttering the space this will result in a muddle of insignificant elements that does the exact opposite. Including a single bold structure like a chunky pergola or a rendered blockwork wall around a seating area creates a sense of enclosure, introduces a touch of drama and holds focus inside the garden. Textured finishes like slate or pebble cladding can be used on courtyard walls to add interest and also stop the boundaries from becoming overbearing.

Wooden structures like pergolas and arches enable vertical planting and provide height. A heavily planted pergola placed against a boundary wall blurs the edges of the garden and suggests extra space beyond. Paint a black rectangle on the wall at the end of the pergola to suggest an entrance to another garden area beyond the wall to increase the sense of depth in the garden. Another extremely good way to add height and drama to a garden is to include a tree. A well-chosen tree will give immediate internal focus to the garden as well as adding an essential 3-D element. There are small trees suitable for even the tiniest garden.

A gate fixed to a wall or fence surrounded with climbing plants creates the illusion that the garden continues beyond the boundaries. A well-executed trompe l'oeil doorway painted on a wall framed with evergreen planting and climbers is a simple, fun way to add interest and give the appearance of more space. Using diminishing sized pots, plants or statuary, or narrowing a path as it approaches the boundary will create a false perspective that makes the garden seem larger.

Level changes like steps, raised beds, or a raised pool give the garden an extra dimension, make it appear more interesting and distract attention away from the boundaries. Raised beds and retaining walls for pools can also double as seats if they are between 450mm and 600mm high. Creating extra useable space in the garden by introducing features that have a dual purpose it more useable as well as more attractive and this automatically gives the illusion of more space.

Using contrasting colors is another way to suggest that the garden extends beyond its actual boundaries. A pale wall with a door-sized rectangle painted in a darker color framed by some climbers and planted pots looks like a passageway. Contrasting flower and foliage colors are also effective for creating interest, contrast, directing focus and adding the illusion of extra depth.

When there is not much ground area using the vertical space helps to provide more visual interest without cluttering the garden. Some ways of doing this include attaching planters to walls, hanging baskets and troughs from fence posts or mounting them along the top of fence panels.

In a small garden is it essential to use a limited plant palette – too many different plant species will make the space seem busy and closed in. It is also important to make clever use of all available planting space. Climbers are a great way to introduce greenery without taking valuable space, and shrubs like Garrya elliptica, Fatshedera lizeii and Itea illicifolia, Ceanothus and Rhamnus alaternus perform well when secured to a wall or fence. In courtyards where there are no borders place trellis panels in floor mounted troughs. Green walls work extremely well in small spaces. Sedum roofs on sheds, bin stores, and other covered spaces are a great way to introduce low-maintenance planting into smaller gardens.

A small garden does not have to be boring and featureless. With some careful planning and creativity smaller spaces can make stunning gardens and wonderful, low-maintenance places to de-stress and entertain.

PVC Fencing: An Eco-Friendly Alternative

High-quality polyvinyl chloride (PVC) fencing is an attractive option to both home and business owners for many reasons: Strength – PVC is five times stronger and four times more flexible than wood, so it will not easily bend or crack. This means it can more readily handle the impacts of falling or flying debris due…

High-quality polyvinyl chloride (PVC) fencing is an attractive option to both home and business owners for many reasons:

Strength – PVC is five times stronger and four times more flexible than wood, so it will not easily bend or crack. This means it can more readily handle the impacts of falling or flying debris due to, for example, severe weather or the wayward lawnmower.

Durability – Because it does not absorb moisture, it will not scratch, stain, warp, deceive, chip, rust, corrode or blister. UV protection makes it fade-resistant. Life expectancy ranges from 25 to 50 years – up to seven times longer than that of a wood fence.

Safety – PVC will not splinter or conduct electricity, and has no nails or sharp edges, making it an excellent choice around children and pets.

Flame-retardant – PVC does not easily combust, making it ideal for drought-PR climates and locations. If ignited, the by-products of combustion are reported to be no more toxic than other natural materials.

Customizable – There is a wide range of styles, colors and heights from which to choose.

But PVC is not “natural” like wood, so it must not be environmentally friendly, right? Not necessarily! Determining eco-friendship is not an exact science – you have to account for more than just the material itself. Weigh in other health and environmental impacts, such as: Where was the raw material harvested? How far was it transported and at what cost? How is it processed or chemically treated for market? What happens after it's installed?

An Eco-Fence Is Born

PVC is a “thermoplastic polymer,” the third most widely produced plastic. While it sounds counterintuitive to describe plastic as “green,” PVC is increasingly popular as a wood alternative.

Although PVC is categorized as a plastic, unlike other plastics it is not made from 100% fossil fuels, and the manufacturing process differs. The PVC process makes efficient use of water and energy, and uses only half the fossil fuels. This makes it more climate-friendly, lowering its impact on global warming. Once manufactured, PVC is lightweight and easy to transport to the marketplace.

In contrast, wood starts to deceive from the moment the tree is cut, and there are concerns about preserving older forests. Wood is heavy, and toxic chemicals and pretreatments are applied during manufacturing to slow the decay of the fence.

Eco-Care and Feeding

PVC fencing is easy to clean and maintain, typically requiring only soap and water. It holds up better against the elements, and does not require sanding, painting, staining, or water-sealing. This reserves resources, and protects the air and soil from fumes and chemicals.

PVC masks can be more expensive upfront, but they require less maintenance, saving time, materials, and energy. They also outlast other materials, making them more affordable over time.

Other fines need regular upkeep requiring stains, paints, or other treatments that can leach into the ground.

The Eco-Afterlife

PVC is described as “recyclable,” but more often it is “downcycled” – used for different purposes where scraps are remixed and reused, versus refabricated as a new version of the original. PVC is reused for such things as hoses, packaging, floor tiles and billboard signposts.

Virgin PVC is stronger than recycled (which may introduce impurities), so some manufacturers may pay consumers to recycle via buy-back programs. However, due to its durability, PVC fines are not often recycled … they do not need to be!

The Bottom Line

Consumer trade-offs depend on the types and quality of materials used for each fencing option. But PVC fencing is an excellent alternative that makes for a strong, eco-friendly contender.

Is Your HOA Fencing You In?

You really want a nice, new fence, one that will keep your children safe, allow your dog to run free, and complement your lovely landscaping. But your homeowners' association (HOA) has some rules about it. How to start? Do Your Homework Start by carefully reading the HOA-published covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC & R), looking…

You really want a nice, new fence, one that will keep your children safe, allow your dog to run free, and complement your lovely landscaping. But your homeowners' association (HOA) has some rules about it. How to start?

Do Your Homework

Start by carefully reading the HOA-published covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC & R), looking for restrictions concerning fines (eg, height, colors, materials allowed). If allowed, you will likely need pre-approval from your community's architectural committee. Attend HOA meetings to acquaint yourself with board members and the tone of the meetings. Face-to-face interaction can make a difference during the approval process.

Follow the rules, or you could end up having to pay fines or remove your recently installed fence. If errors are prohibited, resist any advice to “beg forgiveness” rather than ask permission, or you may find yourself in the HOA spotlight, and not in a good way.

Be aware that just because your neighbor has a similar fence, this does not mean it will be OK. Rules may have changed, or decisions may have been made by a different board.

Speaking of neighbors, speak to your neighbors! It could help that they approve, and maybe one or more of them will help split the cost. However, if a neighbor is not on board (maybe they do not like a certain fence, or think it will affect their property value), it can make the process more difficult. Either way, it's good to know what you may be up against.

Finally, find a reputable fencing contractor that can help plan options for fence types, colors, sizes, materials, and design. Ask lots of questions when getting your estimate – they may know about property lines, zoning laws, or permits not covered in the CC & R. Ask if they have any recent experience with construction within your HOA.

Submit Your Plans

Just because fines are not specifically prohibited or restricted does not mean they will be acceptable. It's smart (and usually required) to get pre-approved before you begin construction.

It's not up to your fencing company to check with your HOA. But if you found the right company, their advice, drawings and pictures should help with your plan submission.

Submit your request to the HOA architectural committee, clearly and in writing. You can include additional reasoning about the benefits of fencing, or how your fencing will benefit the neighborhood. If by-laws are not clear, ask for clarification.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

Hopefully your HOA has reasonable board members rather than arbitrary or punitive ones, but always err on the side of caution. Learn how to deal with your HOA. Expect that there may be questions, take a breath, and be respectful when you voice your opinion. Remember that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar! Find out how long approval normally takes to ensure your request is being considered in a timely manner.

Do not Forget to Follow Up

If you do not hear back as expected, do not assume you are good to go. Get the approval in writing. Be diligent in communicating for a response, either by phone or in person.

Be prepared for the possibility of a rejection. If there's a detail that needs clarification, do it quickly. If it's a larger objection, it can be extremely difficult to access published restrictions, unless you are prepared to vote for a new board, help change your CC & R, or brace for a legal battle.

But with good planning and a little luck, you'll be enjoying your new fence in no time!

Be Prepared for These Common Sod Problems

Planting or rolling out sod is a great way to be able to quickly get a green, lush, and healthy lawn that will enhance the look of your property and immediately give you a place to relax or play. Without diligent attention to details of sod preparation and maintenance, some unsightly problems could easily crop…

Planting or rolling out sod is a great way to be able to quickly get a green, lush, and healthy lawn that will enhance the look of your property and immediately give you a place to relax or play. Without diligent attention to details of sod preparation and maintenance, some unsightly problems could easily crop up that could destroy all or parts of your new lawn.

The first step, one that is vital to insure a healthy start to any new sod installation, is to make sure that the soil is prepared properly. The soil bed for sod must present an even surface that is accessible to the grass roots so they can dig in and get nutrients and water for even color and growth. Unprepared soil will be uneven, so areas of the sod may be left high and dry, turning brown as the grass in that area fails to take root.

Loosening and Preparing the Soil

Preparing the soil means removing all the rocks and as many stones as possible. Removing weeds will eliminate a fresh weed problem and take out the competition for the water that your new sod will need. Use a rake to loosen the top couple of inches of soil to make root access easier. Be sure to test the soil for the proper pH level and the proper nutrients to provide the level that is best for the type of sod that you have selected. When preparing the soil, be sure the grade is about four inches below any sidewalks or driveways. This is to ensure proper installation of the sod so that it is level with hardscapes and will not cause problems walking or create an impediment when rolling something onto the lawn.

One of the greatest enemies of new sod is insects. It does not take very long for webworms to spot new sod and invade, planting their flag by laying eggs that will hatch into lawn-eating grubs. A webworm infestation is visible when circular brown patches begin appearing. Worms may also leave tunnel openings the size of a finger at the surface. When pulling back a roll of sod, check to see if there are grubs on the bottom, which is where they feed.

Prevention is the Best Medicine

The best way to battle webworm is to get them at the larval stage. Keep the sod watered and well irrigated and try introducing rove and ground beetles, which are natural predators and are not grass-eaters themselves. You can, finally, resort to chemical weapons such as chloronicotinyl and diacylhydrazine. They are most effective on webworm larvae.

Cinch bugs can also be a problem for new sod. These pests usually appear during excessively hot and / or dry weather. They will create round brown spots that are visible in the lawn. To get rid of them, it's best to spray them with insecticidal soap for small invasions. You may use botanical insecticide for more severe cases.

If you are not sure why your new lawn is turning brown in some locations, contact a lawn care professional who is familiar with common sod problems in your region.

How To Show Your Trees You Love Them

This is an article I wrote to outline some of the best ways to keep trees healthy, happy and growing. The first thing we need to understand is how much water a tree needs. To make things simple I like to classify trees into one of two categories: desert trees and everything else. In our…

This is an article I wrote to outline some of the best ways to keep trees healthy, happy and growing.

The first thing we need to understand is how much water a tree needs. To make things simple I like to classify trees into one of two categories: desert trees and everything else. In our low desert environment a desert tree, such as Mesquite or Palo Verde, will probably need no additional water other than the natural rainfall. When initially planting desert trees it is usually helpful to supplement natural rain fall with irrigation just for the first Summer, as this will help them recover from the shock of being planted outside of the container. Beware of planting desert trees in a lush, maintained lawn, as extremely rapid, chaotic growth can be the result. I once had a wonderful client who had to have her mesquite trees trimmed three times per year since they were planted in her lawn area, which gets frequent shallow watering. I think Mesquites planted in a lawn area are some of the fastest growing trees on the planet, but unfortunately this rapid growth is weak and brushy.

For everything that is NOT a desert tree there is a simple formula for watering established trees: water a tree two times per month in the Summer and once per month in the Winter. If you keep an eye on the tree and notice wilted leaves then it is way past time to water. Once or twice per month may not seem often enough. It is, as long as each the trees get a lot of water each time. A good, easy way to water a tree is turn the hose on its low setting on the uphill side and walk away for 4-6 hours. It should be enough water to soak the ground to a depth of three feet or more. This is important, as it will help help flush salts, and other chemicals that can make for poor soil in excess, below the level where roots can absorb them. Deep watering will also encourage the roots to grow deep. Roots are not going to grow where there is little water, there's just nothing in it for them. The worst thing for a tree is shallow, daily watering like that which occurs in many lawns. The trees that grow in a lawn with constant easy access to shallow water are most likely to blow over in a storm because their roots are not deep enough withstand heavy winds. It may help to picture a tree's roots as underground roads that anchor the heavy trunk and the wind-exposed canopy.

The next thing to consider is soil quality. There is a myth that soil quality has something to do with the structural makeup of the soil. In some case this may be true, as is the case with sandy soils that will not hold water. For the most part, all soil problems can be alleviated through the addition of a magic ingredient. This ingredient is organic matter. When a person takes a handful of rich, black soil and say something farmery like “this is the soil of the gods” or something dumb like that, what they really should say is “this dirt has lots of terminated organic matter in which plants will grow very well. ” Good soil does not usually just happen on accident; it is created through the constant addition of water, which causes microbial growth, and the addition of organic material that is a natural by product of decaying plant matter. So if you have “bad” soil you can almost always fix it simply by adding mulch and water. An alternative (or supplement) to adding mulch is to plant nitrogen fixing plants such as legumes, buckwheat or clover. These are basically magnetic bean types of plants that are able to absorb nitrogen from the air. When they die they release that nitrogen into the soil. One cheap source of organic material is the wood chips from tree services like ours. Be prepared though, if a tree service brings you a load of wood chips it may be a lot more than you anticipated or can easily handle. You may need to spend a Saturday hauling them into your backyard. It is not necessary or even advisable to work the wood chips into the soil. An above ground application 4-6 inches deep is a good way to do it. A surface layer of wood chips will also have the added benefit of retaining water. I estimate that mulched trees use less than half the water of trees whose soil is exposed directly to the air. It always amazes me when I dig down under the mulch and find water and worms and decaying matter, even if the trees have not been watered in a month, in such contrast with the Arizona heat blazing away above. You will be surprised at how quickly your mulch disappears. I have an unproven theory that worm castings covering the chips are what causes the wood chips to rapidly disappear; to be integrated into the soil below. Whatever the reason, you will probably need to reapply the wood chips annually to get the best results.

If leaving mulch on the ground is not feasible, then the next best thing is some kind of fertilizer. There is lots of hype about how great “deep root fertilization” is but it does not need to mean that “shallow root fertilization” is not just as effective. If the fertilizer is water soluble, which they all are, then the fertilizer will be transported to the roots via water. It just makes sense that the fertilizer will dissolve in the water and make its way to the roots. Deep root feeders are really just a way to make tree fertilization more cost effective as more trees can be fed this way versus the spreading of a granular fertilizer above ground.

The debate about organic versus inorganic is a tired one and I have to admit I do not really feel too strict about it either way, especially for shade trees that are not producing edible fruit. On an instinctive level I would say that something organic is better and less harsh than something that came out of a deep pit mine. The organic fertilizer will have a wider variety of micro-nutrients and will tend to have a sustained slow release as compared to so-called synthetic fertilizers which tend to be rapidly available and quickly washed out of the soil. Where I work we use organic fertilizers because that is what the majority of our customers want. I've never had anyone specifically ask for “inorganic” fertilizer, whereas many people want organic so that is what they get.

The last thing I can say is to keep an eye on your trees. I have often been asked to consult on trees that are seriously declining but the change happened so incrementally that the home owner did not even notice. A casual glance up every month or so can really help solve some problems before they get serious. If you notice a lot of dead branches or the leaves turning yellow that might be a sign that it is time to fertilize or change the watering schedule.

Good luck nursing your trees along!

Paling Fences: A Step-By-Step Guide To Building A Timber Fence

Step # 1 Lay out a fence by staking off the site and stretching a mason's line between every stake. If you'll build a fence that is over 30 feet long, put a stake on every 15 feet or so to make sure that the line remains straight. Remember to allot space for your gate.…

Step # 1

Lay out a fence by staking off the site and stretching a mason's line between every stake. If you'll build a fence that is over 30 feet long, put a stake on every 15 feet or so to make sure that the line remains straight. Remember to allot space for your gate. Most gates are around 42 feet in width. This opening allows smooth clearance for garden equipment such as lawnmowers.

Step # 2

Mark the holes for the post every 6 or 8 feet along the perimeter. The most arduous part of the fence building process is the digging of the holes. So consider renting a post-hole digger or just hire a professional to dig the post holes for you. Before you begin digging, contact local utilities to make sure you're digging away from utility pipes and lines. And the holes need to be deer than the frost line to avoid heaving. The typical depth is three to four feet.

Step # 3

Tamp a two-foot gravel base in the bottom of each hole. Place the post on top of the gravel that's in the hole. Add a couple shovel-full of concrete mix into the post hole. To make sure each post is perpendicular, place a level on it. Fill the post hole with the concrete mix, frequently checking if the post stays upright. Brace the post (for at least an entire day) until the concrete complete sets.

Fence post spikes are a good alternative to concrete. They enable you to install the posts while eliminating the need to dig post holes and use concrete. You can attach fence boards and rails to your posts immediately.

Step # 4

It is best to use galvanized fence clips to install the fence rails. Begin in one corner and attach a clip to your post. Place rail in the clip and lay the rail against your next fence post. Level the fence rail and then mark the bottom of the rail on the following post. Attach a fence clip exactly at this mark. Secure the fence rail to both fence clips with galvanized nails. Use a square to move the position of this fence clip to the opposite side of the post and perform this procedure for the following post.

Step # 5

Attach the vertical boards to the bottom and top rails along your fence. The type of look you like for your fence will be the determining factor for the pattern that you attach the fence boards in. Use a piece of wood as a spacer to make sure the placements of the fence boards are even.

Garden Lighting Design

When the sun goes down your beautiful garden in which you've invested reasonable time and money becomes invisible. Not only can you not use it, you can not even see it. The solution is to install a lighting scheme. Well planned lighting will make the garden safe and useable after dark. Dramatic lighting effects can…

When the sun goes down your beautiful garden in which you've invested reasonable time and money becomes invisible. Not only can you not use it, you can not even see it. The solution is to install a lighting scheme. Well planned lighting will make the garden safe and useable after dark. Dramatic lighting effects can also make a feature of the night-time garden.

Garden and landscape lighting is often overlooked or ends up being just the bland wash of a flood floodlight and maybe some ugly, low-level spreadlights illuminating paths. That's because garden lighting, like anything else in the garden needs to be planned if it is to succeed on anything other than a purely functional level.

You can change the entire feeling of the garden by night simply by uplighting some key architectural plants, a sculpture, or a water feature. You can even create different effects depending on your mood or the occasion – an intimate dinner, or a lively party. Instead of looking at the rain on the window, you can look out on a dramatic scene with depth and emphasis created by lighting.

Walk around your garden, look out of upstairs and downstairs windows and take account of the focal points and viewpoints. Viewpoints are places from which the garden is viewed. Focal points are those things that are important within the view. Then decide which of the focal points is most important (primary focal point) and those that are less so (secondary focal point). Light the primary focal point more brightly than the secondary focal points, which ensures attention is directed to the most important features in the view. Washing surrounding planting and hedges with a lower level of lighting than that the more bright lit features creates a backdrop for the focal points.

Security lighting does not have to be bland. Instead of using an overly bright, ugly fixture to light entrances doorways can be lit by downlights that graze brickwork and create a warm, inviting entrance. Rather than illuminateing paths with spreadlights, wash adjustable plant or hedges with light by grazing over their surfaces with pole or spike mounted spotlights. This will provide a more subtle effect which is sufficient sufficient for safe navigation. Where security lights are essential, for example, to access the garage, these can be put onto a timer with a movement sensor so that they are only on when absolutely necessary. Modern movement sensors can be adjusted so that they are not triggered by nocturnal animals.

Consider what you will want to do where in the garden and put in extra lights to accommodate these tasks, for example, getting to the shed, cooking or eating. Then have more than one circuit so that you can switch on the extra lights when needed.

You can use understood, spike mounted spotlights to create some really interesting effects in your garden, transforming it into a dramatic night time space. Try downlighting, uplighting, shadowing, grazing for highlighting texture, washing to draw attention to color, crosslighting to change how a sculpture is viewed, and moonlighting down through trees to create dappled effects. I like to downlight pergola posts as it throws light onto the flowers of climbing plants and creates pools of lights at the base of the posts which provides a lovely gentle light for a summer al fresco meal.

As a general rule using several low wattage lights distributed around the garden is better than one bright light source. A single, bright light flattens out the landscape whereas small, low-wattage spotlights can be understood and directed so that they highlight garden features to provide the desired effect. Decorative lighting can be designed typically functions well as security lighting enabling safe navigation of the garden and deterring intruders.

Spike mounted spotlights are really useful in garden lighting schemes, they can be moved and easily adjusted. I also use post mounted spotlights to downlight pergola posts and graze down walls onto planting. Good lighting suppliers will supply spike and pole mounted spotlights with a choice of beam wattages and also beam angles. Varying the beam angle of the lamps allows more precision when lighting the garden. A narrow beam angle is perfect for uplighting the slim trunks of small ornamental trees. A medium beam angle works well when downlighting onto box balls in pots. A wide beam angle is required for washing across a lawn. Lamps are relatively cheap so you can buy a few and experiment.

LED lighting is improving rapidly, it is much cheaper to run than mains voltage lighting. Unfortunately, I have yet to find any low cost LED fittings that I like the look of, so I only use them when they can be understood. I tend to specify low-voltage lighting which requires transformers. It is important to add up the total wattage of all lights and ensure you are installing sufficient powerful transformers. Low-voltage transformers will specify a total capacity and this must not be exceeded, in fact, it is a good idea to allow a little spare capacity on each transformer. It is also important not to have long cable runs between lights and transformer this will result in cable voltage drop which reduces the power to the lights and they will not work correctly.

When designing garden lighting, the best way to get it right is to draw a plan of the garden and sketch the planned lighting onto the plan. I use a triangle with a number in it to represent each light. Then make notes about each light and what effect is required. This will result in a list of all the proposed lights in the garden with lamp wattages and beam angles which can be used to get prices for the fittings, lamps, transformers and cables. This plan can be given to an electrician to get quotes and help then when installing the scheme.

Why Is Your Garden Soil Important?

Agriculture and horticulture took a serious wrong turn when scientists realized that plants fed on certain naturally occurring elements in soil, and determined that they only needed to supply these elements in concentrated chemical form to improve plant growth. In our rush to embrace modern technology, we forgot that the return of organic matter to…

Agriculture and horticulture took a serious wrong turn when scientists realized that plants fed on certain naturally occurring elements in soil, and determined that they only needed to supply these elements in concentrated chemical form to improve plant growth. In our rush to embrace modern technology, we forgot that the return of organic matter to the soil is part of Mother Nature's cycle of life, and is essential to sustainable agriculture, healthy gardens and a healthy environment. The chemist who made the original discovery later realized his mistake, but no one would listen. Many farmers work hard to care for their soils in harsh conditions but, generally, farming practices and government policies still reflect a state of denial in expecting more advanced chemicals, or plants that produce their own pesticides, to solve problems that can be traced back to dye soils.

In our first year of farming some eleven years ago, our culinary herb crops had continuing pest and disease problems. Our property had previously been used as a horse stud and the topsoil was shallow and very compacted. We resistant the temptation to resort to chemical solutions for these problems, and worked on gradually improving our soil using green manures, organic compost and manures, and organic mulches. Now it is difficult to find a spade or trowel full of soil in our growing areas that does not contain at least one fat earthworm. After the worst droughts in a hundred years, we have not needed to apply pest or disease treatments at all. Organic farming is not just an ideological rejection of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, it is the basic belief that healthy soil – healthy plants -healthy people and animals, and a healthier environment.

It is large a waste of effort to work on improving soil while continuing to use pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers. Fungicides used to kill pathogens will also kill off mycorrhiza and other beneficial fungi that keep soil healthy. Fungicides and cabbage dust, in particular, are very toxic to earthworms. Synthetic fertilizers determine the activity of beneficial micro-organisms, as can be seen when adding these chemicals to a compost heap. The initiation of organic matter breakdown is delayed.

A wide range of commonly used pesticides are toxic to birds, bees, butterflies, natural pest predators, fish or frogs. Some also cause reproductive problems and tumors in animals and humans. It is downright cruel to plant shrubs to attract birds to your garden, and then spray for lawn grubs or fruit fly. Significant numbers of birds are killed by walking on sprayed lawns, or eating grubs which contain pesticides.

6 Tips for a Happy Healthy Lawn

A lush green lawn is the backdrop of many happy memories: picnics, barbeques, and family gatherings included. Unfortunately, droughts, pests, and other factors can make lawn care more challenging. And let's face it; on a hot, humid day, sitting inside with a cool drink is a lot more appealing than the weekly or biweekly mowing!…

A lush green lawn is the backdrop of many happy memories: picnics, barbeques, and family gatherings included. Unfortunately, droughts, pests, and other factors can make lawn care more challenging. And let's face it; on a hot, humid day, sitting inside with a cool drink is a lot more appealing than the weekly or biweekly mowing! Here are a few tips to better care for the “large green room outside your home.”

Less Is More – Do not Cut Too Short

Taller grass is healthy, prevents weeds, and allows grass roots to reach water underneath the ground surface. Cutting your grass too short will make it dry out faster. A rule of thumb is to not cut more than 1/3 the blade's length and to leave about a finger length of blade (3 inches).

Chose the Right Plants for Your Unique Terrain

Florida State Extension suggests choosing “the right plant for the right time.” Are you living in an arid environment? Temperate? By choosing plants, shrubs, and landscaping that works with the natural climate, your plants and yard will be happier and you will be working with nature and not against it. Some species, such as the Tropical Soda Apple, are invasive and should be avoided.

Be Water Savvy

Certain bushes, shrubs, and trees are hardier in low water conditions and are drought tolerant. Consider container planting or rock gardens to lower water needs. Be aware of community water use requirements and how this supports your dream lawn. Are you envisioning acre after acre of green turf with free trees or bushes? This may be difficult to realize if you live in a locality that practices water rationing. Call a local professional for direction, advice, and to assess your unique lawn-care needs.

Educate Yourself

Do you know which plant species are considered invasive? What kind of mulch to buy? What is soil pH? Organic Lawn Care professionals, state extension programs and the library all have great resources for answering these questions and learning to maximize your lawn's health and beauty.

Make Time for Your Lawn

Today, people are living busy lives, but surrendering your lawn to daught, weeds, and pests only diminishes your home's value and your own peace of mind. Do not wait for the neighbors to nag. Your lawn needs you and will repay you and your environment with lush green beauty, oxygen output, and a natural filter for rainwater.

Do not Forget Pest Control

Pest control does not begin inside the home but outside. Many people consider their yards an extension of the home; something that's hard to do when mosquitoes are swarming or fire ants are chomping on your barbecue guests. Luckily, there are organic pest control options out there these days to mitigate and eliminate a pest occupation of your yard. These include kid and pet-friendly non-toxic solutions.

Law care is an investment of time and resources. But with the right tools, know how and support, it will be well worth it. Now, onto that cold drink.

Adding Stone Bird Baths to Your Garden Entices a Wide Variety of Birds

Stone bird baths are not only a beautiful addition to any garden or outdoor living space they are also a critical element for enticing birds into the area. Keep in mind, while not all birds will dine at your feeder simply because some birds do not eat birdseed, all birds drink, and many like to…

Stone bird baths are not only a beautiful addition to any garden or outdoor living space they are also a critical element for enticing birds into the area. Keep in mind, while not all birds will dine at your feeder simply because some birds do not eat birdseed, all birds drink, and many like to play in the water and will visit your garden.

You may have a hard time choosing, there are many beautiful sizes, shapes and materials and one of the best materials is natural stone like granite that Mother Nature made herself. Stone bird enticing baths are easy to care for and with good placement; a good brush along with fresh water weekly will keep the debris from building up inside the bowl. Granite stone is naturally resistant to staining, cracking and deterioration and in areas where cold weather works its way through, you do not have to worry about bringing them indoors so allowing the birds to enjoy the water all year round.

Using Stone Bird Baths to attract a variety of birds

A granite birdbath will last for years to come -, unlike the resin, plastic and concrete type. The stone is naturally resistant to staining, deterioration and cracking (a benefit in colder or extremely hot climates).

Easy set up – typically these garden features will include a base and the bowl. All that is need now is and a level piece of grown or base, shade / partially shaded area to keep the water cooler and detour algae growth. Try not to place the bath too close to bushhes etc. (see below)

Simple safety for your feathered friends – first the placement should be at least 10 – 12 feet from shrubs, walls etc. to detour attack from predators. Also make note of the texture in the bottom of the bowl. If it has a polished finish, it may be slippery under water. Birds like humans are much more relaxed when they feel safe. Make the bath safer for the birds by adding pea stone in the bowl or again layering larger stones to create various levels for the birds to hang on to, perch and sit on.

Accommodation a diverse bird population – birds like humans, come in different shapes and sizes and we must not forget the little guys. One way to provide a pleasurable experience for all sizes and heights of birds is to place stones inside the bowl of your bath, stacking if necessary to create different levels that the birds can perch on.

Easy care – change the water weekly, scrub the interior of the bowl with a scrub brush and only if needed – a simple acid wash (according to manufacturer's instructions) will do the trick.

Maintenance – No need for painting here, Mother Nature, has already given them a beautiful color. A bristle scrub brush and water should do the trick. If there is a lot of buildups, a simple acid wash can also be used (follow the manufactures instructions) for the sake of the birds'. Also please rinse well.

By adding a stone bird bath , you will add to the beauty of your garden and entice a wider variety of birds to your yard. With the low care and maintenance of stone, there is simply no better choice.

Custom Built Sunrooms – A Great Space to Work, Play and Have Fun

There are lots of people who decide to build a custom sunroom. This type of space is definitely a room with potential. This is why you will want to take into account some of the best offers available on the market. You are not sure if you actually want or need a sunroom? There are…

There are lots of people who decide to build a custom sunroom. This type of space is definitely a room with potential. This is why you will want to take into account some of the best offers available on the market. You are not sure if you actually want or need a sunroom? There are lots of reasons to go forward with a custom sunroom project. Further on you will find a few reasons that will convince you that you are taking the right decision.

More room to work and play

Building a sunroom adds plenty of room to your house. Maybe you want to add a bit of space because your house is cramped and you need a quiet corner where you can work. And by adding a sunroom you will make your house more beautiful without having to spend a lot of money in the process. You will have the necessary space to relax, play, have fun and anything else you might think of.

Increase the value of your house

Another reason why you should add a sunroom to your house is to increase its value. You do not believe that? Think again! Since you will have lots of loose square footage and an attractive space, your house will be worth a lot. This is a great thing especially if you plan on selling the house at one point in your future. Not to mention that you will be able to borrow more money, if ever in need.

More entertainment

A beautiful sunroom can represent the perfect location to entertain your friends. You can hang out together, relax, have dinner or any of the things that you feel like doing at a particular moment. Take your friends and family and have a blast. For example, if you decide to gather everyone at your place for Christmas, you can arrange a tree there, have everyone decorate it and spend a magical time together.

Get more sun

You can finally get that perfect place to get some sun and relax. If you have been dreaming about it for a while now, go ahead and get a custom sunroom. Forget about all your problems and simply relax, touched by the rays of sun, without thinking about sunburns, cold, heat or insects that may be after you. You will finally get the perfect location to recharge your batteries the way you deserve. This is what a custom sunroom can bring into your life. Sounds interesting?

Nature is a place where we all enjoy spending time. However rain, wind, insects or extreme weather conditions can really mess with our plans. This is why a customized sunroom can let you enjoy the benefits of doing what you want and when you want it, feeling as if you were outdoors – when in fact you will be staying indoors. Cool, right? A sunroom can be utilized all year-long and it is a fantastic place to grow plants, watch the birds, take advantage of the sun's heat without getting skin burns or watch the snow falling without freezing.

If you are ready to have your own sunroom, start your research right now, before you start working with a renovation company. All you have to do is find the right designers or builders who can work with in your budget to create a great space for your family.

Save Time and Effort With a Ride-On Lawnmower

Mowing a regular-sized lawn in your home can be an easy job and does not take any expensive equipment, nor a lot of time. On the other hand, when you've got a more serious task on your hands, such as mowing a larger lawn with a lot of ground to cover, it's important that you…

Mowing a regular-sized lawn in your home can be an easy job and does not take any expensive equipment, nor a lot of time. On the other hand, when you've got a more serious task on your hands, such as mowing a larger lawn with a lot of ground to cover, it's important that you know what the equipment is available on the market that can save your time, because otherwise you may find yourself spending that time (and a lot of effort) on things that could have been done much more easily.

And if your time is valuable to you, there are lots of ways to optimize the way you're using it when you're mowing the grass of a large property. The trick is to conserve your effort while covering a large area at the same time, and that's actually not as difficult as it sounds!

A ride-on lawnmower achieves both those goals at the same time, and it's also a very smart investment in the long run. Not just because of the amount of work it can save you – it's simply a useful machine to have around for ordinary lawn mowing as well.

Of course, when you're buying something with a hefty price tag attached to it, like you can expect from a ride-on lawnmower, it's very important that you investigate all features of your purchase to ensure that you're making a sound investment . When you're buying something you're probably unfamiliar with (as most people are when it comes to ride-on lawnmowers), then you'll need to spend a little extra time learning about the way it works, the way it market works , and how to recognize a quality purchase when you see one.

With ride-on lawnmowers, durability should be prioritized over everything else. If you look up extra information on a particular model, and you see lots of people claiming that they run into problems with it in the long term, you're most likely better off looking elsewhere. With so many parts that can require maintenance and expensive replacements, it's best to minimize the upkeep costs for your ride-on lawnmower as much as possible.

This includes things like consumables, such as fuel. If you're buying a lawnmower that runs on gas, you should get some information about its mileage, and the kind of area that you can cover on a full tank. Much like when you're buying a car, this will play a major role in determining the long-term cost of the lawnmower for you.

Last but not least, do not go overboard. You'll find various complex, heavy-duty ride-on lawnmowers on the modern market, but you will not always need the most expensive solution there is. In fact, you'll rarely need it, and in most cases you'll just have to carefully think about the features you're looking for, and find out which models satisfy them entirely. You can drive yourself into some serious expenses on this market, and unless you're using that lawnmower professionally, you risk wasting a lot of money by buying an unnecessarily expensive model.

3 Reasons You Need Garden Furniture

A garden or yard is a place to relax and enjoy yourself. In fact a beautiful garden is often the sole reason some homeowners choose to purchase the house they do. And it is by using garden furniture that we can truly enjoy our space and add value to our lives and property in doing…

A garden or yard is a place to relax and enjoy yourself. In fact a beautiful garden is often the sole reason some homeowners choose to purchase the house they do. And it is by using garden furniture that we can truly enjoy our space and add value to our lives and property in doing so.

Relaxation
In our fast paced lives there's one thing many people forget to do, relax. Owning garden furniture gives us a great opportunity to do so. Whether your garden, patio, or yard is big or small, just the idea of ​​being able to sit down outside your home is comfortably relaxing in itself. Regardless of whether it's rattan garden furniture, a garden bench, teak patio furniture, or a deck chair, they all provide us with the chance to sit quietly and enjoy the fresh outdoor air, read a book, meditate, listen to the birds, or simply just enjoy being outdoors.

Opportunity To Spend Time With Friends And Family
Garden furniture not only gives us an opportunity to relax but to do so with our family and friends. Outdoor gatherings, parties, and barbeques are events which we all look back on fondly. And it is our outdoor furniture which helps us to be able to do so to the full potential. Providing comfortable and comfortable places to sit eat, and talk, our garden furniture provides a space where we can catch up with the people who are important in our lives. It always feels great to be able to provide a space where our loved ones can enjoy themselves. Is not that what having a home and yard are all about?

Increase The Value Of Your Home
Your garden furniture not only adds to your relationships with the convenient space it provides but also to the potential value of your home as well. By adding garden furniture to your yard or garden you are in effect making it a much more functional space. To add to this value is the fact that it is most often the people who relax in and enjoy their outdoor spaces that take care of them and enhance them the most in other ways. Whether this means by planting beautiful flowers or hedges or even a pond or water feature, it is the people who enjoy their gardens which are the ones who take care of and maintain them the most. And it is by creating such a functional space for you and your family that you are in effect creating value for your home making it worth more money. Everyone who buys a house wants to be able to enjoy its outdoor space and garden furniture makes that possible.

Purchasing garden furniture is a must for every homeowner. Helping us to relax and clear our minds, and in return becoming more productive and stress free in all areas of lives, it is a great investment. And this investment pays off in many ways by giving us a space to enjoy our lives with our friends and family and increasing the value of your home at the same time.

What To Keep In Mind With Backyard Landscape Ideas

If you have made the decision to transform your backyard into an oasis where you will love to spend your time then you must think about some backyard landscape ideas. It is easy to find a lot of different ideas and options online. All you have to do is start searching. You will be able…

If you have made the decision to transform your backyard into an oasis where you will love to spend your time then you must think about some backyard landscape ideas. It is easy to find a lot of different ideas and options online. All you have to do is start searching. You will be able to find some things that you like. Once you have a few things in mind you will be able to carry them out in a fashion that fits your needs and likes. After all, you are in charge and your landscape has to be related to what you like.

Now, some people will never carry out any of their ideas because they are worried that they are not going to be able to do the work. It is very important to realize that you will get dirty and you are going to do a lot of hard work on your own. However, this is a lot better than paying someone to do the work for you. If you are able to do it on your own you will be able to save a lot of money. Just think about the following things:

  1. If you love wildlife then you will want to pay attention to the flowers that you are planting. You are going to find that certain plants and flowers will attract certain animals and birds. So, if you love to watch the birds then you will want to think about flowers that will bring in different types. You will definitely have a great time watching all of the birds in the summer months.
  2. Water can be very relaxing for anyone when it comes to landscaping and a garden. If you visit any home improvement or garden store you will see a wide selection of fountains. Now, some people will completely forget about these because they are worried that the fountains are too expensive. You are going to see that they really are not as expensive as you would think. So, individuals should not simply walk away from them. Find one you like and search a little bit. You may find it cheaper somewhere else. Just think about how the fountain could be the center of your garden.

One of the most important things that you have to remember when it comes to backyard

landscape ideas is that it depends on what you like and what you want. There is no reason for you to worry about what others have to say about your yard. Their thoughts and comments should never dictate what you are going to do with your own personal space. You have to make it unique to your likes and it must work for you. If you are able to put yourself first and stop thinking about what others have to say you will find that your backyard can quickly become your favorite hangout. If you take your time and do some planning you will find that the hard work you have in front of you can be challenging yet fun. At least you have something amazing to look forward to at the end.

Landscaping Ideas You Are Going To Love

When it comes to landscaping there are a lot of people out there that are simply afraid to get their hands dirty. These people worry that they are not going to be able to do the work by themselves. They become worried that they are going to have to spend a lot of money for…

When it comes to landscaping there are a lot of people out there that are simply afraid to get their hands dirty. These people worry that they are not going to be able to do the work by themselves. They become worried that they are going to have to spend a lot of money for someone to help them. But, that is not the case at all. There are plenty of landscaping ideas out there that you can try and you will be able to do these on your own.

One idea would be to look around your garden and identify a few locations where you can create different rooms. This would be similar to creating different rooms in your home. If you are interested in doing this then you would be able to carry out a lot of different ideas in your garden. For example, you could keep certain colors in one area. Maybe you could put a swing set in one location for children but make another area for adults. It would all be up to you and what you are interested in.

Some people are able to enjoy their gardens all year round. If you are in that type of situation and you love to meditate then you can try a landscaping idea that will allow you to relax to your fullest potential. Put some type of covering or trees in the area so that you will be able to block the sun. Doing so will allow you the opportunity to meditate any time you want without worrying about the sun.

Gazebos are becoming more and more popular. They are also available in a number of different sizes. This means that they will be a lot easier to obtain, even if you have a smaller garden. You will find that this can be a wonderful focal point for your garden and you can complete landscaping ideas around the gazebo. It can certainly be a great place for relaxing and entertaining your guests.

A pool is another wonderful focal point of any garden. So, if you have a pool you may want to consider building your landscaping around it. Some people have found that different types of lighting are available and they can really add a wonderful touch to the pool and any garden that you are building. Maybe a nice fountain that flows into the pool would be possible. Just think about the sound of the running water and how relaxing this can be.

What you have to remember about landscaping is that it really is up to you and what you like. You can always do some research for ideas and things you like but in the end it really is up to you. If you take your time and plan ahead you will be able to create an amazing outdoor atmosphere that you will want to be in all of the time. It will take time and effort but it will surely be worth it when you are finished. Try looking for some ideas that fit your style today.