Create a Bee Habitat in Your Garden to Protect the Ecosystems

Bulb Gardening and Bee Habitats
Many people don’t like bees, yet they are necessary for the existence of the planet. Unfortunately, we are losing these amazing insects at a rapid pace which is destroying the health of our agricultural systems, not to mention the damage being done to the ecosystems.

You can help keep our precious bees alive by creating a natural habitat for them in your flower or bulb garden. Here are some tips on how make a habitat that you and the bees can live with.

1) The most important thing to consider when making a bee habitat is what type of chemicals you will be putting on your vegetation. Pesticides and insecticides kill bees, and they are unhealthy for animals and humans as well. If you want a healthy garden that will attract bees, you need to consider using organic products.

2) If you have enough space on your property, designate a section as the “bee area”. Let the vegetation grow naturally, or plant a wildflower garden to attract the bees. Wildflower gardens not only add natural beauty, they give the bees a place to call their own.

3) The main thing about bees is they are local insects. The vegetation they use to make honey and to pollinate should always come from plants and flowers that would grow naturally in your area. If you don’t know what these plants and flowers are, ask your local nursery for advice.

4) Bees love water and need it to survive. Make sure your bee habitat has plenty of water naturally, or purchase some type of water structure. You can get adventurous and put in a small pond or add a couple of inexpensive bird baths; you don’t really have to get fancy. Bees can’t get directly into the water so make sure they have a safe place to perch. Rocks sticking up out of the water makes for a nice landing pad.

5) Leave the bees to live in peace. If you want to allow your children to bee watch, have them do it at a safe distance. This keeps the bees calm in their own environment and it will keep your children safe from stings. It is very important that the bee habitat stay as natural as possible without too much human intervention.

Providing a bee habitat is something to consider if you have the space for it. That is not to say you can’t have bees fluttering around your flower or tulip beds too—whatever works so that you and the bees can be happy living in the same natural space.

Early Spring Gardening – Soil Preparation

Spring Gardening Strawberry PlantFew times of the year are more exhilarating than early spring. When you garden, it’s especially exciting. For those who are just getting started, it’s helpful to know some of the basic steps toward preparing your garden for the summer’s growth. Here are some ideas and suggestions on early spring gardening.

Is Your Soil Ready?

Gardening involves a lot of dirt – which is really properly called soil – and learning when to work your soil is important.

Working your soil too early subjects it to clumping and hardening, as it is usually too wet from melting snow and the decreased sunlight of winter. Wet soil makes cement-like clumps that are tough to break up.

Working your soil too late can also be problematic, as any organic matter or lime you’ve added won’t have time to settle in and decompose.

Take a good handful of soil from your garden site, and give it a squeeze. If it stays in a lump with your finger indentations clearly visible, it’s far too wet. But if you can give the lump a tap and it falls apart easily, then it’s ready.

Dig!

Digging is one of those things that just must be done. There are various ways to do it, and as a general rule, deeper is better.

Gas-powered tillers are one option. They churn up the earth with rotating blades. They do well with chopping up weeds but may not get deep enough.

Digging forks look like short, thick pitchforks. They are the same size as a full-length spade, and the tines are usually around 8 to 12 inches long. You push this into the soil and step down on it like you would a spade, then twist and “pry” up the soil, poking apart any large lumps.

Full-length spades work well, too; you use them the same as you would a digging fork.

Hoes and hand-cultivators are good for chopping into the soil and prying up weeds, and they are also good at digging and aerating the soil.

Fertilize

It’s a good idea to work some lime and compost into your soil. If you are lucky enough to live near a farm or have your own manure-producers, and you have access to a well-aged manure pile, this is a great form of compost. You can also create your own compost with yard clippings and kitchen scraps. Just make sure it’s well-aged; raw compost may carry harmful bacteria and tends to “burn” young plants.

Weed Control

After the soil is first turned and the sun warms the soil, weeds will begin to take over. One of the easiest, earth-friendly ways to deal with this is to cover your garden with several layers of newspaper. Lay rocks or compost on the newspaper and then wet them thoroughly. When it’s time to plant, you can just make slits in the newspaper and insert seeds or seedling. Newspaper allows the soil to warm and “breathe,” unlike plastic and other weed-control covers.

If you don’t want to use newspapers, a thick layer of mulch will also help.

Early spring gardening takes a little work and soil preparation is a must. Luckily we are all excited about the new gardening season and the chores that go into making your garden beautiful are welcome.

The Easiest Ways to Recycle Your Lawn and Garden Waste

The Easiest Ways to Recycle Your Lawn and Garden WasteWhen organic materials are allowed to go into the landfill, the waste breaks down anaerobically—without oxygen—thereby producing greenhouse gases like methane. Making lawn and garden waste into compost—which decomposes aerobically with oxygen—means you have a natural fertilizer that does not contain harmful chemicals and is least dangerous to the planet.

Recycling lawn and garden waste is something any good organic gardener should do. If you would like to recycle your lawn and garden waste, here are some easy ways to accomplish this task.

Tips to Recycle Your Lawn and Garden Waste

Mulch your grass clippings back into your lawn. The clippings fall back onto the ground creating a cover to hold in the moisture. Often times you will water less if you mulch because the moisture does not evaporate as fast. As the grass clippings rot, they create natural nitrogen that also helps fertilize your lawn.

Create a compost heap. This is by far the best way to recycle your lawn and garden waste. You start by piling up any debris you have after yard and garden work. Add food scraps to get your compost heap “cooking”. Stir your compost heap often using a pitchfork. It won’t be long until you have a nice pile of all natural fertilizer to recycle back onto your lawn and garden.

Trimmings from bushes and trees can be added to the compost heap as well. This may be a little more time consuming since you have to chop them up into smaller pieces before mixing them in. At the end of the growing season you can add all your flowers and food plants from the garden into your compost heap. You will have fertilizer ready to go for next season.

After you have enjoyed the beauty of the colorful fallen leaves of autumn, you can recycle them by mulching them up and allowing them to stay on the ground. As the leaves rot, they add beneficial nutrients back into the soil. You can also add them into your compost heap.

Donate your lawn and garden waste. Many community gardens would love to have your leftover trimmings. Place them in biodegradable trash bags before you send them off to their new homes.

You don’t have to make rotting piles of fertilizer in order to recycle your yard and lawn leavings. Use dried leaves, branches and twigs for crafting projects. You can also chip up your branches and use it for a natural landscaping cover in your flower beds. At the end of the year, just till the trimmings back into the soil.

By recycling lawn and garden waste, the planet is not getting the harmful greenhouse gases that will in time destroy the ozone layer. Caring for the soil in an organic way will be a benefit for the planet and it will also reward you with a gorgeous looking lawn and fruits and vegetables that don’t contain harmful chemicals.

A Frugal and Eco-friendly Way to Garden and Save Money

The Shoestring GardenerWould you like to discover new and better ways to approach all aspects of gardening and still stay eco-friendly and frugal? I encourage you to check out “The Shoestring Gardener“. It’s a 300 page eBook (download) of hundreds of eco-friendly, creatively frugal gardening techniques, remedies, and tips.

Frugal Gardening and Eco-Friendly Gardening Tips Include:

How to repurpose a multitude of items into useful garden implements.

Composting A-Z and other techniques that very few gardeners know about.

Non-toxic methods for pest and bug control that save you money over store bought brands.

How to grow more robust veggies, fruits and flowers using non-toxic organic methods.

And so much more!

You can get more information on the The Shoestring Gardener eBook right now!

“The Shoestring Gardener” PDF eBook – Remember, because it’s frugal and eco-friendly, this is an Instant Download, saving trees—and proud of it!

How Composting In Your Garden Helps The Environment

compost binYou may have heard many people rant and rave about how composting helps the environment. It is one of the most ancient methods of soil preparation. Natural composting is great for tulips and bulb gardening as well. But how is that possible? And how can you start using compost to aid your garden?

Why Composting?

Composting is often considered to be nature’s way of recycling. In fact, if you walk through pristine forests you’ll find the ground covered with compost. Decaying leaves, limbs, and trees create composting that nourishes the forest floor. If left alone, nature will take care of the waste it produces.

If nature can use composting to dispose of leaves, limbs, and animals that die in the forest, why can’t we follow suit and use it, too? It’s really not that difficult to do and can help the environment in so many ways.

Environmentalists claim that twenty percent of the trash we produce, on the whole, comes from the clippings and waste generated when we care for our yards. Instead of taking that trash to the already overflowing landfills, you can use the clippings and organic waste to create something useful and beneficial for your yard and the environment.

Consider the five components needed to compost successfully: nutrition, moisture, surface area, volume and air. While you can include grass clippings from when you mow your yard to your compost pile, those are better left where they fall to help nourish the lawn by replacing nitrogen. If you do choose to compost some of them, the clippings will provide those same nutrients to the compost pile.

What To Put In Your Compost

Composting requires a 50:50 mix of “green” sources and “brown” sources. Green plant matter would include spoiled fruits and vegetables from your refrigerator, as well as small amounts of manure from cows or other plant eating animals, fresh cut leaves and soft stems, and weeds that have not yet seeded. Brown matter would include dried leaves, straw, dead grass, and the tough stems from vegetable and flowers. This matter will provide the compost pile with all of the nutrients it needs.

Many recyclable items can be put into compost piles. The more items – such as newspapers, food scraps, twigs, and wood shavings – that can be composted means there’s less to go into the landfills. By composting, you limit the items being sent to landfills and help your plants grow faster and healthier.

Be sure to keep the composting pile damp to provide the moisture needed for microorganisms to break down the plant matter. You’ll want to give the compost pile more water in the summer and less in the spring. You’ll also want to turn or stir the compost periodically to ensure it has enough air to sustain decomposition.

After your compost is ready, you can use it to reduce the amount of water you have to use on your garden because compost will help the soil retain moisture. The compost will also provide the plants and soil with much-needed nutrients. Finally, by getting your children to help gather, place, and turn the compost you’ll be able to see how many items thrown in the garbage can be used to benefit the environment, and ultimately your family, by nourishing the fruits and vegetables in your garden.

I talk more about composting the article alternative fertilizing options for your garden.

Three Plant Diseases To Look For When Bulb Gardening

healthy tulip bulbsMany people choose bulb gardening because unlike other types of flowers, bulbs tend to have less disease and pest problems. Specific bulbs tend to have specific diseases and most are not common, so you would rarely have the opportunity to ponder over a cure for them.

If you do happen to run into a problem, here are three typical bulb diseases you can compare the symptoms to with ways to try and resolve the problem.

Tulip Fire

Tulip Fire disease is very serious for your tulip garden. This fungal disease will cause brown abrasions on the stalks and shriveled-yellow leaves. If even one tulip bulb has this disease, it can quickly spread throughout the rest of your tulip bed.

Unfortunately, there is no remedy or cure for Tulip Fire. Once it has been detected, your only recourse is to dig up the bulbs and destroy them. This disease gets into the soil, so you should not replant in that particular soil again for at least three years to ensure the Tulip Fire has been destroyed.

Tulip Fire pops up under very wet conditions. Prevention is easy—don’t over water your tulip bulbs and try rotating the soil in your beds so fungus cannot take hold in one spot.

Miscellaneous Rots

There are many different kinds of bulb rots that could ruin your bulb garden. You can tell if you flower bulbs are suffering from rot because they will soften and start to decompose whether they are wet or dry.

The best way to cure rot when bulb gardening is to never let it get started in the first place. Once disease sets in on bulbs, the only recourse you will have is to destroy them. Like the prevention of Tulip Fire, bulb care is the same; never over water your bulbs, make sure your garden beds have adequate drainage and never plant a bulb that does not look healthy.

Grey Mold

Grey mold is probably the most common in the bulb disease category. Many times it takes over your bulb garden during very wet growing seasons. You can control the water you put on them, but you can’t control mother nature if she wants to dump water for days on end. You can tell if you plants are getting grey mold when the leaves form brown spots and a fluffy mold starts growing.

You may be able to save your bulb garden when plants get the grey mold infection. Pick off the flowers, buds and leaves that are infected. Once you see that your bulbs are starting to look better, feed them a fertilizer specifically made for bulb gardening.

The key to the success of bulb gardening is to keep you bulbs happy by caring for them correctly and you will more often than not, have happy healthy bulbs that are pest and disease free.

Garden Landscaping – Layering Your Design For Maximum Beauty

garden landscaping - layeringIs your lawn ready for some garden landscaping? If you are tired of the same old look, then maybe it is time for a change. People who love gardening wouldn’t think twice about a major redo and neither should you—giving your garden landscaping a few alterations will be fun. Besides, think of all the new plants you can purchase—maybe even some you have always wanted, but never got around to trying.

Layering your garden landscaping is an easy way to make changes to your yard. Layering plants is an easy, yet artistic way to make your lawn the talk of the block, with very little effort on your part. The key is in the flowers themselves and how you place them.

To start your garden landscaping project you need to roughly sketch how you want your garden laid out. Putting it all on paper first makes your project go a lot faster, or you could try the wonderful garden landscaping program I wrote about here: Landscaping Designs – Ideas4Landscaping Product Review. As you are designing your garden, keep in mind the height of the flowers and plants you will be using. Always put the tallest in the back, the medium in the middle, and the shorter ones in the front. Simple, right?

When you are layering a garden, you only need three layers to make this work. Because of the way the sun rises and sets, you should put the back row facing to the north if you can, that way your plants are guaranteed sunshine from sun up to sun down.

Do the research or ask your local garden center about the garden plants you should use. Always plant what is best for your region and your soil type. Make sure you purchase tall, medium and small plants and flowers in order to get the layered look. Mark each one so you know where they go on your garden landscaping sketch—an easy way is to mark the tall as row 1, medium as row 2, and small in row 3. Keeping it simple!

Layering your garden landscaping will bring a much needed change to your same old yard and garden. Keeping it simple is the key to layering garden landscaping success.

Garden Plants – What To Consider Before Buying

garden plantsGarden plants are often times purchased on impulse and wind up being of little use to your garden. When this happens, the plants may not thrive as they should. Before buying your garden plants, here are some things to consider prior to making a commitment.

Taking a close look at your garden is a must before deciding what types of plants to buy. Take note of the amount of sun and shade that is available. Does your garden drain well or hold water for long periods of time? Even wind factors into which garden plants will work well for you.

If you are serious about your garden, have a pH level test done on the soil. This may give you clues as to what types of nutrients you will need to add in order to grow healthy garden plants. High instances of acid or alkaline can make a difference. Once you figure out what your soil type is, you can better decide which plants will work best. It is easier to purchase plants that fit your soil type than try and change the soil itself.

Now that you have purchased the correct plants for your garden, it is time for planting. Don’t run out and plant until you get a visual for where you want the plants to go. Leave your newly purchased garden plants in their pots and lay them out in your garden where you think they should go. This is your opportunity to mix and match colors, heights and even textures to make your garden look unique.

Your garden plants may not be in bloom yet so you will have to use your imagination when grouping them. Some colors may not go well together, but these plants can be placed side by side if they bloom at different times.

Take into consideration the color of the foliage as well as the bloom color when placing garden plants. The colors and tints of the leaves of some plants are pretty all by themselves and deserve a premier spot. When placing plants with appealing foliage, try and picture the blooming cycle of the other plants around them. Garden plants that bloom early like tulip bulbs, could benefit from having foliage plants around them—when blooming period is over, you still have an attractive garden for the rest if the season.

How to Grow Tulips

yellow and red tulipsWhen I was just a 12 year old girl my dear Grandmother said to me “It is time to teach you the secrets on “how to grow tulips”.  I was very enthusiastic as my Grandma was very talented, people would come from all over town to see her garden and get tips on how to grow tulips as well as her. I loved visiting my Grandma, she lived in a small row of  houses in the city with a postage stamp yard that was bordered by an alley behind her house. Every spring I looked forward to seeing the stunning blaze of color that transformed her tiny yard. The highlight for me was to be amongst her bright colored tulips  . Over the years, I have followed her loving instructions on how to plant tulip bulbs and the best time to plant them. Each spring I have never been disappointed.

 Top tips on how to grow tulips

 1. Choosing your bulbs

Purchase your bulbs in late August or in early September. These bulbs have the small beginnings of a flower hidden inside, waiting patiently until spring to emerge. Choose bulbs that are firm. Stay away from those that are soft, moldy or those missing their delicate papery cover. Choose bulbs that will reflect your personal tastes. Tulips come in many colors and shapes. They may be single, double, ruffled or fringed, ranging from simple to intricate.

2. Storing your bulbs before planting 

Once you have selected your bulbs, store them in a paper bag in a cool location. My grandmother always stored them in paper bags, but I have heard that you can also keep bulbs in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator…just don’t put them with apples or other fruit. Fruit can emit ethylene gas, which can kill your bulbs. Growing tulips successfully requires treating the bulbs with care at every stage of their growth.

3. How to plant tulip bulbs

Growing tulips is not complicated, but they need to be planted correctly. The best time to plant tulips is October or November when temperatures dip down to around 50 degrees…or even in early December in milder climates. Zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 are the best locations for growing tulips. And they especially love areas that have cold winters and dry summers. Just be sure to plant your tulip bulbs 5 or 6 weeks before the first frost. Bulbs are eager to grow, and if it is too warm, their leaves will shoot up too early and could freeze in the winter. Plant them in a wide hole, 6 to 8 inches deep and 3 to 5 inches apart. You may want to add some sand if the drainage is poor. You don’t want those precious bulbs to rot! Some people plant their bulbs 2 to 3 inches deeper than recommended so that they come back year after year. Place your bulbs in the holes with some bone meal, making sure that its tip is pointing up. Some people mix 5-10-5 or 5-10-10 granular fertilizer with the soil, but my grandmother always advised bone meal. Cover the bulbs with soil, pressing firmly but not shifting their placement. Then water and cover them with 2 inches of mulch.

4. Arranging your bulbs in your garden

Plant your tulips in borders or beds. Groups of ten seem to showcase them most effectively. You can also pair them with other flowers, perhaps having the tulips standing tall behind smaller, more delicate flowers. Growing tulips under deciduous trees is possible, but they do not do well with too much shade. Make sure that they have enough sun.  Check out this easy to watch video on planting tulip bulbs.

5 Caring for your bulbs

Bulbs do not need a great deal of continual care. They just need watering from time to time. You may also want to lightly fertilize them once in the spring just as the tulip leaves poke out of the earth. After they have bloomed, carefully “deadhead” the flowers, and then later, when the foliage also dies (this takes about 6 weeks), you can dig up the tulip bulbs and store them in a dry location to replant in the fall. Although tulips are classified as perennials, many people treat them as annuals in North America.

6. Pest control

Once the tulips’ foliage emerges, you may want to spray with an animal repellent or build a barrier around them. Talk to an expert` at a garden center to help you protect both the bulbs and the flowers.

7. Tulips as cut flowers

Growing tulips outdoors doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy them inside! Tulips cut from your garden make a lovely display in your home. If you cut the stems diagonally and then place your tulips in cool water, they should stay lovely for several weeks. Choose tulips that have not quite opened. First bundle 6 or 8 tulips together and tie them loosely with twine or place them in a paper cone to carry inside. Then immediately put them in cold water (32 t0 35 degrees F). Leave them there for at least a half hour or up to two days. When you are ready to display them, remove the tulips from the water and re-cut the stems about ½ to 1 inch off the bottom at a 45 degree angle. Arrange in a vase and fill with lukewarm water and flower preservative. Place out of direct sunshine in a cool location.

8. How to grow tulips in containers

My grandmother never taught me how to grow tulips indoors, but I have tried it on my own as an experiment, and it’s quite simple (if you have enough refrigerator space). The beauty of growing them inside is that you can grow them any time of the year. Just fill attractive flowerpots halfway with potting soil. Place the bulbs pointing upward. Then cover the bulbs with potting soil. Water well and let the excess water drain out. Refrigerate the bulbs for 8 to 12 weeks. Then remove the flowerpots from the refrigerator and put them in a bright location. Begin to water when the leaves begin to emerge and keep the soil evenly moist. Then just wait until they bloom!  For more information please go to How to grow tulips in containers.

9. Send messages with tulips

Growing tulips give you a means of communication to someone you love. Tulips have a language of their own. When you give someone a bouquet of tulips, you are communicating a personal message. For the most part, tulips signify “love.” Red tulips represent “perfect love,” or “believe me.” Yellow tulips signify cheerfulness or “there’s sunshine in your eyes.” White tulips mean forgiveness and purity. Cream colored tulips say, “I will love you forever.” Pink tulips signal affection; and orange tulips symbolize desire and passion.

10. Pass it on

Just as my grandmother shared her special tips with me, I have now shared them with you. She taught me that flowers belong to everyone. So with that in mind, once you have grown your own tulips successfully, share your success with others. Teach other would-be gardeners how to grow tulips. The world can never have too many of these glorious blooms!!

This was a guest post from my friend Justine who lives in Australia. Thanks Justine!