If you are feeling crafty this holiday season, we have found a ton of ways for you to create your own decorations without spending a full paycheck on accessories and supplies. These hands on activities are a way to get your whole family involved in the festivities of the season. Not quite sure where to begin? We will take your from your entryway to your kitchen and living room, giving you a variety of ways to dress up your home. No snow to build a snowman outside? Use round fruit, like oranges or clementines, to construct a bright and colorful version inside that can stand the heat. Or, you can purchase an inflatable and set it up on your front lawn for all of the neighbors to admire. If you feel safer in the kitchen than at a craft table, you can cook up creations to use as decorations in your kitchen. Gingerbread cookies can be personalized as place settings for your holiday party dinner party. Can’t resist candy canes at this time of year? Try using them as centerpieces in the middle of your table. Real Simple’s ideas will give you inspiration and instructions about how to make your home the most festive it has ever been.
Flank an Entryway
Give your guests a dramatic welcome: A pair of inexpensive plastic urns from the garden center (or you can even order them online and have them shipped straight to your door) can instantly dress up a front entryway and make it feel complete. The urns are available in a variety of colors and sizes, so you can find one that goes with the outside of your home. To construct a festive display, place a tall foam cone in each urn and then anchor it with sand. When that is complete, use florist sticks and wire to attach greenery and Christmas balls.
Make an Easy Table Topper
How simple and elegant is this centerpiece? Buy a garland of lush winter greenery (available at garden centers or online) to run down the length of your table. Want to use it year after year? Buy a replica that will outlast the season. You can also get your kids involved by sending them out to collect pinecones, and use them as rustic toppers throughout your table scape. (You can also buy pinecones at garden or craft stores.) Simply secure them to the garland and you will have Christmas table decorations that are sure to impress all of your dinner guests this year.
Go With a Simple Centerpiece
Here is another festive idea: Load a simple glass jar or bowl with multiples of the same fruit, nut, or your favorite holiday candies. Here, trifle bowls are filled with red apples and green baby artichokes—the colors of Christmas—and walnuts. Or to add a pop of color to your space, grab a bag of lemons or limes and put them in a clear bowl. If you have extra Christmas decorations still in their storage boxes, take them out and put them to use. Monochromatic ornaments can be displayed in clear containers throughout your home for all to see.
DIY Outdoor Decor
Looking to embellish outside this season? For a subtle outdoor decoration, gather pinecones of various sizes and arrange them in a window box or in pots on your porch, putting the largest ones on the bottom and sprinkling the tiniest ones on top. By doing this, you don’t have to leave your boxes stark and empty until the weather starts to change and get warmer—this weatherproof display should last until you can replant your favorite flowers in the spring. And if you don’t know where to begin when it comes to planting, we have you covered. Check out all the tips and tricks right here.
Give the Kids a Holiday Craft
A perfect, zero-supervision craft for kids is making a bunch of aluminum-foil ring chains. All you need to give them is squares of foil (cut up a roll yourself or buy a box of precut sheets): no scissors, glue, tape, or—huzzah!—sparkles. Then, the little ones can help hang them throughout the home to add some extra shine. Don’t want to ruin your walls? Command strips are easy to adhere and will not destroy your latest coat of paint or wallpaper. Removal will be super easy when it comes time to take the shiny decorations down come January.
Spell Out Your Message
Stencil letters (available at the stationery store) will say it loud and clear. Back some—or all—of the letters with brightly colored construction paper, then attach with a removable adhesive so painted walls go undamaged.
String Up Some Starlight
Wind a strand of battery-powered fairy lights around a medium Styrofoam ball. Tie it off, then tape the end of the strand to the ceiling or loop it around a curtain rod. Suspend three or four balls of varying sizes together for an even brighter arrangement.
Set Up a Forest
Decorate a buffet table with a trio of snowy cookie trees. Make a base frosting by beating together six egg whites and 3¾ cups confectioners’ sugar. Spread a thin layer of frosting on a Styrofoam cone, then, working up from the bottom, overlap vanilla wafers (use straight pins to hold them in place until the frosting dries). Use a small sieve to dust each finished tree with confectioners’ sugar.
Build a Snowman
Use the same frosting for snowman decorations made from oranges or clementines. Stack the fruit, holding the pieces together with toothpicks. Add cloves for eyes, peppermint sticks for arms and a nose, licorice for a scarf. The hat is a vanilla wafer and peppermints layered with frosting.
Make an All-Purpose Display
Streamline seasonal decorating with a mantelpiece tableau that can take you from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Mix various ivory and pure white candles. If setting up the display for Thanksgiving, tuck wheat around the candles’ bases, adding walnuts here and there. Later, replace with greenery.
Prop Up Some Art
Blank canvases in assorted shapes make an artful (ha!) mantelpiece display when wrapped with cheerful ribbons.
Do Something Sweet
Something as simple as glasses and dishes filled with seasonally appropriate candies can make a sweet table topper, especially at dessert time. Here, classic candy canes pair with chocolates wrapped in tinsel-colored foil.
Make Decorations Good Enough to Eat
Bake (or buy) gingerbread men to personalize for your guests. Pipe their names on the cookies and use as gift tags, place cards, or tree trimmings.
Make “ornaments” by wrapping rubber bands in a multitude of colors to form balls (maybe you have a few of these started?). Tie on a bit of ribbon and cord and suspend in your windows.
Take a Cookie-Cutter Approach
These unique window decorations take just minutes to make. String tin cookie cutters of assorted shapes—such as angels, bells, and stars—on pretty ribbons, then tack them to the window casing.
Blow up a Float out Front
Want to make a statement to your neighbors? Try blowing up a float out front to dress up your lawn. Or, invest in some oversized light up decor to brighten up your yard at night. Here are our favorite decorations for Christmas this year—the more the merrier.
Display Your Cards
Why tuck away your greeting cards when you can display them beautifully for all to see in your home? With some greenery from outside, attach ribbons to a branch and then hang your cards using a pretty binder clip or safety pin. This project can be done with kids as an afternoon activity leading up to the holiday.
Most winter vegetable plants are fully hardy and will cope well with cold winter weather, but if hard frosts threaten then you can always throw some fleece across them to provide some extra protection.
Most can be planted or sown directly outdoors to ensure that your winter vegetable garden is fully stocked.
1. Onions and Shallots
Autumn planting onion sets are easy to grow and will virtually look after themselves over winter. Onions have a long growing season and won't be ready for harvesting until next summer, so you will need to plan carefully as they will still be in the ground when you start planting other crops in spring. Onion 'First Early' is a popular and reliable variety or for a brightly coloured red onion try Onion 'Electric'. In recent years Shallots have become more popular with the trendy gardener. Autumn planting 'Echalote Grise' is a particularly choice variety for its intense and concentrated flavour.
Growing garlic couldn't be easier and there are lots of varieties to choose from for autumn planting. Like onions, they have a long growing season and won't be ready to harvest until next summer, but it is well worth the wait! 'Wight Cristo' is well suited to most culinary dishes, but if you enjoy the fuller flavour of baked garlic, then try the attractive variety 'Chesnok Red' for its delicious creamy texture. For true garlic fans (and customers with vampire problems) T&M offers a full collection that will provide you with bumper crops of garlic.
3. Spring Onions
Winter hardy varieties of Spring onion make a tasty accompaniment to winter salads. They are a fairly quick growing crop and early autumn sowings should be ready to harvest by early spring. Spring Onion 'White Lisbon' is a popular and reliable winter hardy variety.
4. Perpetual Spinach
Perpetual spinach makes an excellent 'cut and come again' crop that will produce huge yields of tasty leaves. Early autumn sowings will keep you supplied with tender young leaves throughout winter and with regular harvesting it will continue to crop well into summer! Be sure to remove the flowers to prevent it running to seed.
5. Broad Beans
Autumn sown broad beans can be harvested in spring up to a month earlier than spring sown plants. Broad Bean 'Aquadulce Claudia' is one of the best for autumn sowings, being particularly quick to establish. Once the plants are well grown you can even use the plant tips - they are delicious wilted with a little butter.
Enjoy an early crop of peas next spring. Autumn sowings of rounded varieties such as Pea 'Kelvedon Wonder' and Pea 'Meteor' are particularly hardy and will give you a head start next season. You will be the envy of the allotment when you start harvesting peas 3 or 4 weeks earlier than other growers!
If you have plenty of space then why not plant a permanent asparagus bed this autumn. Choose an autumn planting variety such as Asparagus 'Mondeo' or the colourful variety 'Pacific Purple'. Although asparagus beds take several years to establish, each asparagus crown can produce up to 25 spears per year and will continue cropping for 25 years. You will need to be patient with this crop as it will be 2 years before you can harvest them properly - but the promise of tender, home grown asparagus spears is well worth the wait.
Vegetables to grow in the greenhouse in winter
Growing winter vegetables outdoors will make good use of your plot, but there are some crops that will need a little protection from the cold. These vegetables to grow over winter can be sown into cells and transplanted later into the soil borders of an unheated greenhouse, or grown under polytunnels, cloches and cold frames.
8. Winter Salads
Salads are not just for summer! Sow tasty 'cut and come again' mixes such as 'The Good Life Mix' under cover for harvesting throughout the winter months. Plant rows of Lambs Lettuce, Land Cress and Mustard alongside to add a spicy, peppery flavour to your winter salads. For tasty, crisp heads of Lettuce you can also try Lettuce 'Winter Gem'.
For an exceptionally early crop of carrots in spring try growing Adelaide. This fast-maturing variety can be sown as early as November in the greenhouse and as late as July outdoors.
10. Pak Choi
This dual purpose oriental vegetable can be harvested young throughout the winter as individual salad leaves, or let the heads mature and add the succulent stems to stir fries. Pak Choi is quick to mature and packed full of healthy vitamins A and C as well as Calcium, Iron and Folic Acid. Although it is often grown as a summer crop, Pak Choi can still be sown in late summer for transplanting under cover in autumn.
Wintertime in the Northeast can get pretty drab. I know it's pretty tempting to want to grab some fresh cut flowers from the corner store, but why not consider some winter blooming plants (with roots)!
Over the years, I've enjoyed blooming flowers not just in the spring and summer—but all season long. The key is finding the plants that like to flower in winter, or in some cases, like to bloom all year long. Here are fifteen of my fresh picks.
Jasmine typically blooms in the spring through fall, but it also can bloom in winter, and is often sold in stores during the winter months in bloom. If you want to produce winter blossoms in your home, you will need to give your jasmine a period of rest in the fall. Nights should be dark, as any light—like streetlights or indoor lights—can affect this. Once it blooms, prune it back quite heavily, which in general is a good practice since jasmine has a tendency to grow unwieldy.
This beautiful succulent is a member of the Asteracea family and prefers well-drained soil for succulents. It doesn't mind being in slightly cooler conditions in the winter, around 50°F, but I keep my plant near a drafty window and it still puts out great flowers. It's not atypical for these plants to die back after a few years, so if you see signs of that, just make a cutting and restart the plant.
Crown-of-Thorns (Euphorbia milii)
The Crown-of-Thorns gets its name from its thorny stems. The plant also exudes a poisonous white latex when broken, which you should try to avoid getting on your skin. Cuttings are made at the tip, and the flowers of this plant, much like the Poinsettia and the Anthurium, are relatively inconspicuous but are surrounded by petal-like bracts—often in red or yellow hues.
Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)
The Poinsettia's flowers are actually the inconspicuous little yellow buds that are subtended by the red, white or pink bracts. These plants are often tossed after the holidays, but you can continue having the Poinsettia around your house. If you take care of it, it may even turn into a shrub. The key to taking care of this plant is to keep it warm. It hates drafts. And it needs to be in a sunny area, but kept away from too much hot afternoon sun.
Anyone who can garden in their backyard can transition to gardening in a greenhouse. Greenhouse gardening offers many advantages, including being able to grow all year long, keeping favorite plants alive all through the winter and starting seeds more easily. You must purchase special equipment and apply certain methods to garden successfully in a greenhouse, but they are well worth the effort.
Benches on which to put plants and trays are an important part of the greenhouse. Benchesline the walls and you can use them on their own or stack them like shelves against the walls of the greenhouse. Slotted benches allow excess water to run through them when it drains from the pots or trays. Most benches are made from either redwood, because it is so durable, or aluminum. Collapse benches to store them when not in use.
A heater is essential if plants are to survive the winter in cold climates. Most small greenhouseshave an electric heater.
Install a spigot or an irrigation system to make water readily available.
Regulating temperature in a greenhouse is the most important aspect to monitor when growing in a greenhouse. Sunlight through the window panes keeps the greenhouse warm in the daytime. Ideal temperature is 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. When the sun is bright, it can raise the temperature too much. Greenhouses usually come equipped with vents in the ceiling. Open the vents during the day to keep the temperature down and close them at night and use the heater to keep the temperature balanced. Place panels made of film or plastic on upper windows to regulate heat by reflecting the sun's rays.
Water plants when they are dry. Some greenhouses come with drip irrigation systems that save water from having to be sprayed on the leaves. This type of system is easy for gardeners as they only have to turn it on.
Almost any plant can be grown in a greenhouse. Grow tall plants like tomatoes in tubs on the floor so they will not shade smaller plants placed on benches. If there is a dirt floor, grow melons and other vining plants as well as corn right in the ground. Place lettuce, herbs and peppers in containers on benches or shelves. Plant root crops in boxes that can go under the benches.
It is necessary to fertilize plants in a greenhouse because they are usually in containers. Use a water-soluble fertilizer every four to six weeks.
Disinfect the greenhouse one or two times a year by removing plants so they are not in the way and mixing bleach with water to scrub down walls, benches and non-dirt floors. Hoseeverything down before bringing the plants back inside. Between major cleanings, spray the walls with disinfectant cleaner while vents are open and wash down the walls. This will keep away insects and disease.
Fall home cleanup tasks can be dangerous — know the risks and follow these safety tips when cleaning gutters, raking leaves and trimming branches.
Fall may be full of favorites — Halloween, colorful leaves, kids going back to school — but it's also a good time for some essential home maintenance. Before cold weather comes, take time to safely complete these essential fall cleanup tasks.
Tips to safely clean your gutters
Clearing your gutters of fallen leaves and other debris is a crucial task before temperatures drop and snow begins to fall to help keep ice from building up in your gutters. It might also help prevent water from leaking into your basement. Do it safely with these tips:
- Alert your family or a neighbor that you'll be cleaning the gutters, and check in with them at a planned time.
- Practice ladder safety:
- Inspect the ladder for defects and tighten any loose parts before climbing,
- Always keep one hand on the ladder,
- Avoid reaching too far, and
- Enlist the help of a family member or neighbor to hold the ladder base.
- Wear gloves to protect your hands from potentially harmful bacteria or thorns.
- If you have to get on the roof to access part of your gutters, wear nonslip shoes.
- Consider hiring a professional if you believe cleaning your gutters is dangerous.
Removing fallen leaves and other debris from your yard helps maintain curb appeal and a tidy landscape. Plus, it helps gets rid of material that might kill plants and lawn underneath. But even the simple task of raking leaves can lead to back injuries or falls. Follow these tips to help keep leaf-raking safe:
- Do a 10-minute warm up before you start raking.
- Wear gloves and long sleeves to prevent hand blisters and protect against any thorns or poisonous plants that you might collect.
- Avoid twisting your back to rake in a new direction; turn your feet first.
- Use your knees when lifting, and stop working if you feel pain in your back.
- Wear shoes with strong traction. Wet leaves can be slick.
- Stay hydrated and take frequent breaks.
Storms and wind can snap dead branches, which can injure people or damage items in their path. Trim your bushes and trees to keep them in good shape using the right tools and a ladder, if needed.
- Choose tools that are made for trimming trees, such as a hand pruners, loppers or a pruning saw, and make sure your tool is sharp.
- Follow proper trimming procedure according to the size of the limb. Check pruning guidelines for more guidance to achieve healthy growth.
- Wear gloves and long sleeves to protect your hands and arms.
- Follow the guidelines for ladder safety listed above.
BENEFITS OF A THOROUGH FALL CLEANUP
IN THE YARD
Once the leaves have started to fall, many of them will come to rest on your lawn. A small number of leaves isn’t a problem, but when those leaves really start to gather, they need to be removed! Leaving a lot of tree debris (fall leaves, branches, and bark) on your lawn over winter is detrimental for three reasons:
Thick layers of leaves can become wet and heavy, smothering grass and inhibiting growth in the spring.
Leaves will break down over time, but the buildup of mold and fungi may eventually spread to the grass, too.
Leaf cover can encourage springtime pests, such as mice, moles, and voles, to be more active and destructive in the area.
All three scenarios can leave your lawn looking patchy and unhealthy after winter. To prevent them, you should remove the leaves before the first hard frost occurs.
Tip: The quickest and easiest way to do your fall cleanup is to use a leaf blower or leaf vacuum. Keep in mind that raking can put a lot of strain on your back and shoulders, so we recommend stretching beforehand and taking regular breaks, if needed.
In some cases, if the layer of leaves isn’t too thick, it’s possible to mulch the leaves right into the lawn with a lawn mower. (Just make sure that you’re able to chop them down to confetti-size pieces!)
IN THE GARDEN
Many gardeners like to leave a layer of fall leaves in their garden beds through winter because the leaves can act as a natural mulch. Like the mulch you would buy at a store, a layer of leaves can provide protection from harsh winter temperatures, with the added bonus of being full of beneficial compounds. However, you don’t want to let the leaves pile on too thickly unless you plan on removing them in the spring, as they may end up smothering plants. A thick layer of leaves in the garden can also encourage pests to take up residence.
Tip: Raking in a garden bed can be a delicate operation—you don’t want to pull up any of your precious bulbs! A leaf blower can help to get any leaves that are annoyingly ensnared in the stems and branches of your plants and shrubs out of the way.
AROUND THE HOME
Leaves that are allowed to collect on the creases of your roof or in your gutters can cause big issues later on, when rain and snow really start to come down. Stuck leaves and branches can cause blockages, which eventually become ice dams, resulting in leaky roofs or busted gutters. The easiest way to clear out blockages is to use a leaf blower with a gutter hose attachment.
In addition to the leaves on top of your home, you’ll also want to remove leaves from around your home’s foundation, as a buildup of wet, rotting leaves can encourage mold to develop on your house.
WHAT TO DO WITH FALL LEAVES
Now that you’ve cleared off your lawn, tidied up your garden beds, and blown out your gutters, you may be wondering what to do with all of those leaves. The most efficient way to use leftover leaves is to turn them into compost! Compost made purely from fall leaves, called leaf mold, is a great source of beneficial nutrients and can be added to your garden soil after a few years of composting. We have different sizes of the wire compost bin for choice. Learn how to make leaf mold here, then check out a few other uses for fall leaves!
Fall is here, and with it comes the inevitable slowing of activity in the garden. Depending on your location, perennials may be blushing with color and starting to drop their leaves.
Annual vegetables are nearing the end of their lifespan and are starting to succumb to the nip of successively heavier frosts. After the rush of spring planting and the peak of summer’s harvest, it’s tempting to shut the garden gate and let nature take its course. After all, you’ve done the heavy spring lifting and reaped summer’s benefits. What more is needed now that fall is here?
The answer depends on how much easier you’d like things to be when spring rolls around. A few careful steps executed now will save you effort in the long run. If you would like to reduce the amount of work facing you during next year’s spring frenzy, consider some of these suggestions for putting your garden to bed.
1. Clean up rotting and finished plants:
Besides looking untidy, old plants can harbor disease, pests, and funguses. According to Colorado State University’s cooperative extension, unwanted insects feeding on your crops throughout the summer may lay eggs on the plant’s stalks and leaves. Removing spent plants from the soil surface or burying them in garden trenches (if they are disease-free) prevents pests from getting a head start come springtime. Burying old plants in your garden also adds organic matter to your soil, improving soil tilth and overall health.
2. Remove invasive weeds that may have taken hold over the growing season:
Remember the bindweed that colonized your raspberry patch? Or the Himalayan blackberry encroaching from your garden’s borders? Now is the time to deal with those renegades. Dig them up and place them in the trash or burn them on autumn’s burn piles. Most invasive weeds remain viable in a compost heap or weed pile, so resist the urge to simply shift them to another part of your garden. Removing invasive plants completely is the only way to prevent those plants from sprouting all over again and disrupting next year’s crop.
3. Prepare your soil for spring:
Despite the fact that most people reserve this activity for the spring, fall is a great time to dig in soil amendments like manure, compost, bone meal, kelp, and rock phosphate. In most climates, adding nutrients at this time of year means the additions have time to start breaking down, enriching your soil, and becoming biologically active. It also means you won’t have to wait until your garden dries out in the spring to work the soil for the first time. Amending, turning, or digging soil now means you’ll have already done some of the work when the busy season hits. Similarly, a fall tilling (if you till your soil in the first place) helps improve drainage before extreme weather becomes a reality.
Once you’ve added any amendments in fall, you can cover the bed with sheet plastic or other covering to prevent winter rains from washing the amendments below the active root zone; this applies especially to raised beds since they drain more readily than in-ground beds. Remove the sheeting in early spring and till lightly with a hoe in advance of spring planting.
4. Plant cover crops:
In many climates, late summer or early fall is a good time to sow cover crops like rye, vetch or clover. These crops help prevent soil erosion, break up compacted areas and increase levels of organic matter in garden beds. Cover crops also add nutrients. Planting legumes in your garden such as clover or field peas can increase the levels of available nitrogen for garden vegetables. While a general guideline is to plant cover crops approximately one month before your first killing frost, some cover crops are hardier than others. Consult your local extension agent or seed provider to identify the best fall cover crop for your region.
5. Prune perennials:
Fall is a good time to trim some perennial garden plants, though take care to ensure you choose the right ones. Although plants like fennel benefit from a fall pruning, research shows that spent raspberry canes continue to nourish the plant’s crown into the winter. Blueberries also prefer a spring pruning, which helps safeguard the plant from exposure to disease and stress. Focus fall pruning efforts on herbs like rosemary, thyme, and sage; and vegetables like asparagus and rhubarb. Blackberries also benefit from a fall clean up. Remove spent or crossing canes to help control the plant’s vigorous spread.
6. Divide and plant bulbs:
Although spring bulbs have long since flowered and died back, other flowering bulbs like lilies bloomed more recently. Three to four weeks after that glorious array, it’s time to dig up and divide any plants that appeared crowded or straggly during the growing season. For spring bulbs, this might mean some guesswork to determine location. Other plants will be more obvious. Dig 4-8 inches away from the plant’s growing stalk, carefully loosening the soil. Lift bulbs gently and separate bulblets for immediate transplanting elsewhere in the garden.
If you previously dug up your spring bulbs for dividing, now is the time to plant them again. Daffodils, tulips and crocuses are all ready to go back into the soil for another year’s display.
7. Harvest and regenerate your compost:
Now that the heat of summer is over and nature’s microbes are settling in for their winter’s nap, you may be tempted to ignore your compost heap. This would be a missed opportunity in two ways. First, material composted over the summer is probably finished and ready to go. Using this rich material to top up garden beds, amend deficient soils, or fertilize lawns and landscaping will nourish your soil and jumpstart growth come springtime. Second, cleaning out finished compost means making way for another batch, which—in most areas—can be insulated against winter’s chill. To keep those microbes working a little bit longer, build your fall compost heap with plenty of autumn leaves, straw, or sawdust layered with kitchen scraps and other active, green matter.
8. Replenish mulch:
Mulching in winter has many of the same benefits as summer mulching. These include reducing water loss, protecting the soil from erosion, and inhibiting weeds. But winter mulching has other benefits as well: as the soil transitions to colder weather, the freezing and thawing of the earth can adversely affect garden plants, whose roots suffer from all that churning and heaving. Adding a thick layer of mulch to the soil surface helps regulate soil temperatures and moisture and ease the transition into winter. A thick layer of mulch around root vegetables left in the garden for your fall and winter harvest can also buffer against hard frosts and prolong your crop. And as the mulch breaks down it incorporates fresh organic material into your soil.
9. Review the cultivars in your garden and assess your growing season:
Did the varieties of fruits and vegetables planted this season perform adequately in your garden? Now is the time to reconsider under-performing plants and find out if a better variety exists for your location. If your plants are performing adequately, consider extending your harvest by adding varieties that ripen earlier or later in the season. When considering vegetable performance, take careful notes for next season about what worked and what didn’t. Some of the season’s successes and failures can be chalked up to weather, but others are within your control. These include soil fertility, moisture levels, and plant placement. Although you might think you’ll remember the highs and lows of summer come springtime, recording a short list of lessons learned now will provide more information in the end.
10. Clean and sharpen tools:
Although most gardeners know they should keep Garden tools clean and well oiled throughout the year, its difficult to keep up with this task when gardening is in full swing. Fall is a great time to rejuvenate your tools’ lifespan by giving them some attention. Begin by washing tools to remove dirt and debris. If rust is present, remove with sandpaper or a wire brush. Sharpen hoes and shovels with a basic mill file. A whetstone works well for pruners. Finally, rub the surfaces of your tools with an oiled rag coated in light machine oil. This will help seal the metal from oxygen and extend your tools’ lives for another year.
Wherever you live, there are always steps you can take to prepare for next year’s gardening season. Taken now, these steps will not only help your spring and summer run more smoothly, they can also improve your yields over the long term.
Planning for an Outdoor Fire Pit Ring
Our fire pit kit is comprised of blocks and a metal ring insert. Check the contents of your kit to see if additional materials are needed before assembling. Our kit can be installed on grass — on top of a gravel paver base — or on top of a patio. You can also design and build your own custom-sized fire pit using rectangular retaining wall blocks, or set the fire pit in ground. See Fire Pit Ideas for instructions and design inspiration.
Before beginning any excavation, call 811 to check for underground utilities. Also, before you buy materials or begin work, check local building codes, ordinances and homeowner association guidelines to make sure that fire pits are allowed.
- Shop Fire Pit Project Kits
- Shop Fire Pits & Patio Heaters
- Shop Pavers & Retaining Walls
Choose a Location
- For safety, choose a spot located away from your house and low-hanging limbs, or anything else that could catch fire.
- Make sure you’ll have enough room for outdoor furniture around the fire pit. It's best to keep the back legs of furniture about 6 to 7 feet away from the pit.
- For convenience, you may want to locate your fire pit near your wood pile.
Prepare the Area
Begin by marking the fire pit layout. If you’re building on grass, use a stake, string and marking paint to create a compass and mark the outline of the pit. Our kit required us to dig a base slightly wider than the assembled kit to ensure a wider, stable base for the blocks. After the kit is assembled, you can fill in areas around the stones with soil and grass seed.
If you’re building on a patio, set the metal ring insert in place and lay the first layer of stones around it. Then set the insert aside and continue with installation.
Installing a Fire Pit Kit on a Patio
If you’re installing on a paver patio with polymeric sand in the joints, you’ll need to line the bottom of the fire pit to protect the sand. Use fire-rated bricks cut to fit the inside of the pit. Cut the bricks using a circular saw with a concrete blade or a stone chisel and hammer. See Cut Patio Block for detailed instructions.
Lay the Paver Base (If Installing on Grass)
If you're building the fire pit in your yard, you'll need paver base to create a stable foundation for the blocks.
Remove the sod and dirt to a depth of 2 inches.
Compact the soil using a hand tamper.
Check the area with a level. Adjust if necessary by adding or removing soil as needed and tamping again.
Add approximately 2 inches of gravel base and spread evenly using a garden rake.
Wet the paver base with a garden hose and tamp down. Then add another 1/2 inch of paver base and tamp again, keeping the base level.
Keep the sod slightly wet if you plan to reuse it.
Set the Stones
With the paver base down, you can start placing the blocks.
Lay the first row of stones in place, making sure the blocks are touching.
Set the ring in the middle of the stone ring to check the layout and make any adjustments. Also, check for level as you’re working. Remove the metal ring and set aside.
Set the second row of blocks in place, staggering the joints with the first layer.
Remove two stones at a time and apply landscape adhesive, then reposition the blocks.
Set the third row of blocks in place using the same technique used for the second row — checking the staggered joints and locking in place with landscape adhesive. Allow the adhesive to cure according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Good to Know
Make sure the construction adhesive has completely cured before lighting a fire.
Set the metal ring inside the fire pit. Finish by filling the pit with lava rock up to the bottom of the metal ring insert.
Add some kindling and logs and relax next to the warm glow of a backyard fire!
Only use stones that are specified as heat resistant in your fire pit. Keep a fire extinguisher or a bucket of sand or water nearby just in case, and always fully extinguish fires before leaving the fire pit area unattended.
Compost is the gift that keeps on giving. Cut back on food waste and turn your scraps into "black gold" that will feed and enrich your garden.
Some common misconceptions of home composting are that it's too complicated, it'll smell funny, and it's messy. These are all true if you compost the wrong way. Composting the right way is a very simple approach: Simply layer organic materials and a dash of soil to create a concoction that turns into humus (the best soil builder around!). You can then improve your flower garden with compost, top dress your lawn, feed your growing veggies, and more. With these simple steps on how to compost, you'll have all of the bragging rights of a pro!
Types of Composting
Before you start piling on, recognize that there are two types of composting: cold and hot. Cold composting is as simple as collecting yard waste or taking out the organic materials in your trash (such as fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds and filters, and eggshells) and then corralling them in a pile or bin. Over the course of a year or so, the material will decompose.
Hot composting is for the more serious gardener but a faster process—you'll get compost in one to three months during warm weather. Four ingredients are required for fast-cooking hot compost: nitrogen, carbon, air, and water. Together, these items feed microorganisms, which speed up the process of decay. In spring or fall when garden waste is plentiful, you can mix one big batch of compost and then start a second one while the first "cooks."
Vermicompost is made via worm composting. When worms eat your food scraps, they release castings, which are rich in nitrogen. You can't use just any old worms for this, however—you need redworms (also called "red wigglers"). Worms for composting can be purchased inexpensively online or at a garden supplier.
What to Compost
Composting is a great way to use the things in your refrigerator that you didn't get to, therefore eliminating waste. Keeping a container in your kitchen is an easy way to accumulate your composting materials. If you don't want to buy one, you can make your own indoor or outdoor homemade compost bin. Collect these materials to start off your compost pile right:
- Fruit scraps
- Vegetable scraps
- Coffee grounds
- Grass and plant clippings
- Dry leaves
- Finely chopped wood and bark chips
- Shredded newspaper
- Sawdust from untreated wood
- Compost bin
Editor's Tip: Think twice before adding onions and garlic to your homemade compost pile. It is believed that these vegetables repel earthworms, which are a vital part of your garden.
What NOT to Compost
Not only will these items not work as well in your garden, but they can make your compost smell and attract animals and pests. Avoid these items for a successful compost pile:
- Anything containing meat, oil, fat, or grease
- Diseased plant materials
- Sawdust or chips from pressure-treated wood
- Dog or cat feces
- Weeds that go to seed
- Dairy products
Step 1: Combine Green and Brown Materials
To make your own hot-compost heap, wait until you have enough materials to make a pile at least 3 feet deep. You are going to want to combine your wet, green items with your dry, brown items. "Brown" materials include dried plant materials; fallen leaves; shredded tree branches, cardboard, or newspaper; hay or straw; and wood shavings, which add carbon. "Green" materials include kitchen scraps and coffee grounds, animal manures (not from dogs or cats), and fresh plant and grass trimmings, which add nitrogen. For best results, start building your compost pile by mixing three parts brown with one part green materials. If your compost pile looks too wet and smells, add more brown items or aerate more often. If you see it looks extremely brown and dry, add green items and water to make it slightly moist.
Step 2: Water Your Pile
Sprinkle water over the pile regularly (MTB garden hose/ water hose)so it has the consistency of a damp sponge. Don't add too much water, otherwise, the microorganisms in your pile will become waterlogged and drown. If this happens, your pile will rot instead of compost. Monitor the temperature of your pile with a thermometer to be sure the materials are properly decomposing. Or, simply reach into the middle of the pile with your hand. Your compost pile should feel warm.
Step 3: Stir Up Your Pile
During the growing season, you should provide the pile with oxygen by turning it once a week with a garden fork. The best time to turn the compost is when the center of the pile feels warm or when a thermometer reads between 130 and 150 degrees F. Stirring up the pile will help it cook faster and prevents material from becoming matted down and developing an odor. At this point, the layers have served their purpose of creating equal amounts of green and brown materials throughout the pile, so stir thoroughly.
Editor's Tip: In addition to aerating regularly, chop and shred raw ingredients into smaller sizes to speed up the composting process.
Step 4: Feed Your Garden
When the compost no longer gives off heat and becomes dry, brown, and crumbly, it's fully cooked and ready to feed to the garden. Add about 4 to 6 inches of compost to your flower beds and into your pots at the beginning of each planting season.
Some gardeners make what's known as compost tea with some of their finished compost. This involves allowing fully formed compost to "steep" in water for several days, then straining it to use as a homemade liquid fertilizer.
Every gardener is different, so it's up to you to decide which composting method best fits your lifestyle. Fortunately, no matter which route you choose, compost is incredibly easy and environmentally friendly. Plus, it's a treat for your garden. With just a few kitchen scraps and some patience, you'll have the happiest garden possible.
How to Choose the Best Solar LED Garden and Landscape Lights
Solar LED Technology + Innovative Decorative Housings = The Best Garden Solar Lights. Our goal in this review is to identify the best LED solar garden and landscape lights for your needs and aesthetic preferences.
Solar garden lights are an efficient way of illuminating areas around your home landscaping and in your gardens.
Solar-powered garden lights are eco-friendly and affordable, and as an added benefit, you don’t have to worry about wiring and stringing cables to provide an outdoor power source.
What Are The Best Solar LED Garden And Landscape Lights?
Whether you’re looking for the best solar garden lights or the best solar landscape lights, we’ve reviewed the 5 best solar yard lights and solar landscaping lights with which you can create ambient light effects, and illuminate garden paths for the enjoyment of your family and guests.
Solar garden lights are easy to set up and use. They commonly consist of a pole with stake you can simply drive into the ground to place the light wherever you need, for example next to a garden path or flower bed. The top of the pole houses a light source and a solar panel to charge the internal battery.
A sensor will automatically trigger the solar garden lights when it’s dark. The main differences between models are in size, materials used as well as battery and solar cell capacity. We’ll give you more tips on how to select the right model for your garden after our top selection of best solar garden lights.
The solar garden lights we’ve reviewed are similar in some aspects: they are easy to assemble, don’t require any wiring, include a battery and a light sensor for automatic on and off, and come as a pack with more than one light included. However, there are some factors you will want to consider in order to choose the best solar garden lights for your needs.
How many lights do you need?
There is no clear formula, so this will always involve some guesswork and a bit of trial. Depending on the size of your property and what you want to illuminate, chances are you will need more than one pack of lights.
For paths and walkways, you might want to place a light to both the left and right of the part and space them close together, or no more than 3 feet apart.
For stairs, a light to the side of each step might be best to ensure proper visibility. For landscaping and decorating, think of the effect you want to accomplish and where you’ll place the lights.
If you’re on a budget, look at the packs with a larger number of lights.
Design & Dimensions
We’ve specified the size of each model, and from the pictures, you can get a good impression of what the lights will look like in their surroundings. Many go for the unobtrusive look with stainless steel, but there are other color options available. A taller light can illuminate a slightly larger area around it.
The strength of light is measured in lumens. Solar garden lights use LEDs as an efficient source with low consumption. Depending on the model, they commonly range between 5 and 15 lumens.
That is very soft light – casual reading requires ambient light of at least 300 lumens. In terms of color temperature, most solar lights come in bright white, although some models also feature a soft white or warm white option, emitting a light that appears warmer or more yellow.
These are great for decorative purposes. As an example, the Gigalumi landscaping lights comes in these different light colors.
Solar Panel & Battery
Solar garden lights have a set & forget configuration. When you first receive them, you should initially charge the battery to its full capacity. Usually the solar panel and battery are well combined to give you enough light for one night with a full charge. A common battery capacity is 600mAh, although some models feature more or less powerful batteries.
FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Garden Lights
Question: How do you decide which model is best for you?
Answer: Solar garden lights are an effective and affordable way to illuminate your property and outside areas with soft, ambient light. The primary factors you’ll need to consider are:
Brightness as expressed in lumens
Lighting time from a full charge
Light color and hue
Light housing style and aesthetics
Question: How do solar garden lights work?
Answer: The solar powered garden lights we’ve reviewed feature a classic design: a metal or plastic tube has a light source attached at one end, commonly in an opaque and light-enhancing plastic container. A lid on top houses the solar cell.
With a stake at the bottom, the lights can easily be placed in the ground. During the day, solar cell charges a battery inside. When it gets dark, a sensor triggers the light source, usually an LED.
The light will stay on until the sun rises, or until the battery is depleted.
Question: How long do solar garden lights last?
Answer: The light hours of solar garden lights vary, but most are designed to last through the night on a full charge. A higher battery capacity means longer charging hours until full, but also provides a longer operational span each night. A light time between six and eight hours is common.
Question: Do these lights require maintenance?
Answer: After the initial setup, you should make sure that the solar garden lights receive enough sunshine during the day and are not in the shade of plants or buildings. You can optimize charging by cleaning the solar panel on a regular basis to avoid dust and dirt interfering with the charging. In the wintertime, snow on top of the solar panel will also prevent it from functioning. If you’re not using your solar garden lights, turn them off and store them in a dry place. Eventually, you’ll have to replace the battery.
Question: How durable are solar garden lights?
Answer: Stainless steel is a common material for these outdoor lights, with additional plastic parts. One model we’ve reviewed is entirely constructed from durable ABS plastic. None of these lights use glass to avoid shattering of the material and possible injury. The lights are sealed to protect the battery and LED as well as the solar cell, yet you should not submerge them in liquid. They are weatherproof to withstand rain, snow and frost.
Solar powered garden lights are not only environmentally friendly, they also save you money on your energy bill. They are incredibly easy to set up and give you endless flexibility in designing your garden and landscaping projects, all without the hassle of having to string any wires or relying on a power outlet. You can quickly rearrange them to your liking and are almost maintenance-free.
October and November are good months to do some gardening and landscaping. Here are just a few things a gardener could -- or should -- be doing.
If you have cool-season turf, like fescue or bluegrass, you are about out of time to renovate or overseed your lawn. However, if this is still on your to-do list, be sure your soil pH is around 6.0 to 6.5. A soil test from your county extension service can give you this information, as well as any additional nutrient requirements that might be needed, along with the appropriate amounts to add to your lawn.
However, these reports can take a couple of weeks to get back. Depending on where you live in the country, by then you may have missed your window for this season. Go ahead and add seed now if needed. You can add the required nutrients after you get your report. Keep new grass seed moist. You may have to water briefly several times each day until germination. Try to keep fallen leaves off the seeds without disturbing your seeds in the process.
It's time to clean up the summer garden. Many pests and diseases over-winter in old plant debris. Get it out of your garden and into the compost pile, as long as it is not diseased. Otherwise, have it removed from your property.
Hopefully you're growing some cool-season crops right now such as broccoli, spinach and lettuce. Floating row covers do a great job of providing a few extra degrees of heat and provide frost protection for those tender young seedlings. Most cool-season crops can handle cooler temperatures than you might imagine, and many taste even better after a few light frosts. If you've never had a fall vegetable garden, you're missing a real treat.
Fall is absolutely the best time of year to plant any tree and /or shrub. The soil is still warm enough for roots to actively grow and yet the demand on foliage growth is waning. Trees and shrubs planted now have months to develop a healthy root system before the heat of next year.
Be sure to keep your new plants watered. The drying winds of the cooler weather can quickly dehydrate plants. Check the soil moisture often, and water when needed. For new plantings, provide water once a week in the absence of rain.
Don't waste those fallen leaves. My single biggest job this time of year is rounding up all of my and my neighbor's leaves. As they say, one man's trash is another's treasure. My neighbors are glad to let me take their leaves off their hands.
I dump the leaves onto my grass, and run my mower over them. This shreds them into small pieces, which then get raked into my beds. They break down rather quickly and are a very good way to add organic amendments to my beds. They also pull double-duty, serving as that important layer of mulch over the winter.
Plant those bulbs, or at least store them in a cool, dry place like the refrigerator. In cooler climates, plant in October. In southern climates, the best time for bulb planting is in middle to late November. Tulips, daffodils, crocus, iris and hyacinths are all great choices for spring color. This is also the ideal time to divide perennials and plant perennial seeds for next spring.
That should keep you busy for the next few weeks. The best part is that next spring, our efforts will be rewarded with a garden that comes alive, looking better than ever and due in large part to the work we're doing now.
Good New the MTB Home Patio Folding Adjustable Chaise Lounge Chair and MTB Home Patio Folding Chair will be launched soon !
After a hard day’s work, there’s nothing like kicking back in an ingeniously designed and ultra-comfortable lounger. The MTB home patio folding adjustable chaise lounge chair allows you to lie back and feel nearly zero pressure on your muscles and joints. With a durable metal frame and textile fabric, just watch as this lounger becomes a functional part of your daily life. But that’s not all! The adjustable angle back and folding legs allow this lounger to be easily stacked and stored. This means it is multifunctional, operating not only as patio furniture, but also as a utility fit for a camping trip, day at the pool or even beauty salon.
The home patio outdoor folding chairs are ideal for any gathering both indoor and outdoor. The sturdy and durable steel frame to ensure the sturdiness and durability of the chair set. You don’t have to worry about the warp or damage after using for a period of time.The Textilene material brings extra comfortableness and relaxation to your body. The back of the chair has a slight tilt angle. It perfect fits your head, whenever you want to rest and sit in the chair, you will feel very comfortable and relaxed. With the foldable legs, the chair can be compact and space saving to put in your car, super convenient for you to transport from one place to another when you need it for a camping, a trip or moving houses.
September should bring relief to gardens in the Northern Hemisphere and signal the start of a new season for gardeners in areas that have been too warm for anything but hothouse tropicals, as well as southern hemisphere gardeners. So whether you are beginning the process of putting your garden to bed or gearing up for a fresh start, September can be one of the busiest months in the garden. Let's just hope the weather cooperates.
Garden Tasks for Everyone
- Stop pruning and fertilizing
- Bring summer vacationing houseplants back indoors while the windows are still open. Check carefully for hitchhiking pests
- Start fall clean-up in the flower beds, cutting back anything that has finished blooming or is diseased
- Take cuttings to overwinter indoors
- Start winterizing your water garden
- Watch for frost warning and cover tender plants
- Photograph your gardens and containers for a record of the year's triumphs and frustrations
- Give the compost a last turn
Flowers and Other Ornamental Plants
- Divide and move perennials
- Dig and store tender bulbs like: dahlias, caladiums, cannas and tuberous begonias
- Start planting spring flowering bulbs
- Harvest remaining vegetables, including green tomatoes. (Tips for ripening green tomatoes.)
- Wait for a hard freeze before harvesting Brussels Sprouts
- Pick herbs for drying or freezing
- Cure winter squash for storage. Place in a cool, sheltered shady spot for about 1 month.
- Clean up fallen fruit
Trees & Shrubs
- Plant trees and shrubs. Keep well watered, if there isn't sufficient rain.
- Dispose of any diseased or infested plant debris, to avoid overwintering the problem
- Restart the vegetable garden. Start seeds of heat lovers like tomatoes and peppers.
- Direct sow seeds of lettuce, greens, onions, peas, beans and broccoli
- Seed cool season annuals
- Plant fall bulbs
- Plant perennials and shrubs
- Keep fruits picked as they ripen
- Prune summer flowering shrubs
Garden Tasks for Warmer Areas
- Restart the vegetable garden. Start seeds of heat lovers like tomatoes and peppers.
- Direct sow seeds of lettuce, greens, onions, peas, beans and broccoli
- Seed cool season annuals
- Plant fall bulbs
- Plant perennials and shrubs
- Keep fruits picked as they ripen
- Prune summer flowering shrubs
Where I grew up in central New Jersey, lawn sprinklers were for running through. We rarely thought of using them to irrigate the garden. Now I live in the northwest corner of the state with rivers, mountains and lakes. There’s water, water everywhere—including a river that splits to flow around my property and a canal bisecting it. But the irony is that there still isn’t enough water. We have had serious droughts for five of the past six years. Last year, we had the worst drought in recorded history.
The gravel garden was originally planned as a heat sink to trap the warmth of the sun and radiate it back to plants that didn’t grow well in the shaded river valley. Here the yellow and orange tones of yarrow mingle with lavender, thyme and the burgundy globes of Allium sphaerocephalon. The soil mix is half crushed stone and half clayey loam. Most of the plants went in during the summer of the worst drought. Druse worked hard to get them established, before water-use restrictions were in place. A year later, he is finding that the garden will not need watering at all, thanks to the tolerance of the plants. That is, of course, unless the region experiences another serious drought.
ADAPT TO SURVIVE
I came late to drought gardening. Much of the country has suffered similar dry spells in the recent past, especially California, where drastic water restrictions came into force in the 1970s and 1990s, leading to ongoing battles over who gets the limited supply. Despite the rain in May, the Northeast has remained in a declared drought emergency that won’t be lifted until reservoirs return to normal. We are not allowed to wash cars or water lawns, and can only use hand-held devices like watering cans and hoses to water new plantings and gardens.
In reaction to these restrictions, I took a series of measures. I hooked up a rain barrel, the rage in all the catalogs but mostly a symbolic gesture. I go through the 55 gallons the barrel holds quickly, and if you consider how much water runs down the spout, the little barrel holds only a fraction of it. An inch of rainfall on a 1,000-square-foot roof equals around 750 gallons. Now I want a million-gallon cistern dug under the house.
I never have watered the lawn on the island. I wouldn’t. Lawn can take drought. Turfgrass plants go dormant during dry spells. But my lawn doesn’t resemble a velvet putting green. It is a mix of anything that will tolerate mowing. Most of its plants are what people buy herbicides to kill in their lawns. I set the mower blades high and, by not bagging the clippings, let them return to the lawn.
When coping with drought, my principal strategy is to get the water into the ground, hold it there and keep it in the soil for as long as possible. Much of the island is floodplain and has very sandy soil. So I add humus in the form of compost all the time—every spring and whenever I plant anything. The sand eats it. I add more.
The 72-foot-long native stone wall around the gravel garden was built in a reverse question mark shape by Ken Druse’s neighbor, Chris Hagler. As the wall was being built, Druse inserted seedlings in tube socks of soil. He found this method helped to develop a good root system, which is vital to survival. Sempervivum (hens and chicks) and sedum flourish in dry nooks and crannies where other plants couldn’t survive. Other plants that do well are campanula, alpine dianthus and Phlox subulata. Photo by: Ken Druse.
To keep the soil cool and moist, I mulch. Even the gravel garden has a mulch—a 1- to 3-inch layer of crushed stone over the soil. The other beds are mulched mostly with chopped leaves. In some places, to suppress weeds I lay wet corrugated cardboard, which is always in great supply, and cover that with chopped leaves or wood chips. There are other ways of protecting the soil, too. For example, my driveway is gravel rather than asphalt to let the water percolate into the earth. There is no mortared stone for that same reason. Pavers, where they exist, are set in sand.
DELIVER WATER TO ROOTS
Most plants would love an inch of water per week, but that would be hard to supply with a garden hose or a hand-held sprayer. Watering from above usually leads to quite a loss through evaporation. This shallow irrigation can do more harm than good because it encourages roots to grow near the surface of the soil, where they are most susceptible to drought damage. That’s why I laid in-ground soaker hose (buried up to 3 inches deep) wherever possible. This delivers moisture directly to the roots where it is needed. Plants are not knocked to the ground by the weight of the water or the force from pulsating impulse sprinklers.
The system of buried soaker hoses laid out in a new border before planting.
Soaker hoses, for the uninitiated, are made from recycled rubber tires and are porous along their length. These slowly “weep” water into the soil. It’s best to lay a soaker hose in warm weather when the hose is more flexible and, ideally, before the plants go in. Typical spacing between hoses is about 18 inches; lay hoses closer together in sandy soil, farther apart in clay. Keep a hose-repair kit at hand in case you accidentally damage the hose when digging. I used plastic pegs to help in the laying and can usually find them when it is time to plant.
GIVE PLANTS A GOOD START
In general, native plants survive the odd swings in weather better than nonnatives. Around the outer edges of the property, I grow native trees and shrubs that originated in this area—like sugar maple and shag-bark hickory. They survive without extra water, but these, too, were carefully established when planted in the early days. Trees get careful watering the first year. I’ve used water-filled bags around their trunks to provide moisture for a week at a time. The specially designed reservoir bags release the water slowly. You can buy them from gardening catalogs or Web sites. I also water with recycled 1-gallon plastic jugs. I fill the jug with water, replace the cap and then poke a little nail hole or two in the bottom to let the water slowly drip out for a plant that needs a little extra watering.
A SWELL IDEA
I often use water-holding polymer gel when planting perennials in areas that I hope to avoid watering. Polymer gel crystals look like kosher salt and swell to many times their original size when moistened. They hold water and return it slowly to the soil. I hydrate the crystals and add the already swollen gel to excavated soil. Follow directions carefully. It is hard to believe that about a teaspoon of crystals will swell up to about a pint of material, but it will. I made the mistake of not believing this and planted a container only to have it erupt like Vesuvius every time it rained, all summer.
One teaspoon of polymer crystals makes a generous bowlful of water-holding gel. After digging a planting hole, Druse mixes the hydrated crystals into the excavated soil and backfills deep around the plant. This helps new plants get established and cuts down on future watering. The crystals work well in containers, too. Photo by: Ken Druse.
Gophers, also called pocket gophers, are small rodents that live in tunnels under lawns and gardens. They are a seasonal recurring problem in some areas, but can be a constant problem in others. Gophers seldom venture above ground, so it’s a battle generally fought underground. They target moisture-rich roots of plants and trees and can ruin years of growth in just a matter of hours. Additionally, the holes and dirt mounds that they create can be serious tripping hazards for people and pets, and their tunnels can weaken the ground to the point of causing patios and walkways to collapse.
The size of your yard or garden, the type of plants you have, and the areas surrounding your yard can all affect the rate of success you’ll have with gopher control. The quicker the problem is identified and action is taken, the better. If you’re looking for ways to keep them from destroying your yard or garden, short of blowing them up Caddyshack-style, here are some humane ways to try:
Gopher mesh barrier: Create a perimeter or in-ground fence around your garden or lawn with galvanized wire mesh or chicken wire. The barrier should extend into the ground 1 to 2 feet and above ground as well. They may dig right up to the barrier and you can wage your war there.
Under-lawn barrier: Lay galvanized gopher mesh 4 to 6 inches under the soil when planting a new lawn, laying sod, or in shallow flower beds. It’s a tremendous amount of work for large areas, but if you have a serious problem it can save your lawn for many years to come.
Gopher baskets: If installing an entire foundation or perimeter of mesh isn’t practical, welded wire mesh baskets can be placed around individual plants that you want to protect. These can be a good solution to protect prized rose bushes, fruit trees, succulents or vegetable gardens. Gopher baskets are available in multiple sizes and are usually made of chicken wire or galvanized mesh, which will last longer.
Plants gophers won’t eat: Gophers usually won’t eat daffodils (Narcissus) and most allium, onion or garlic plants, so you’re safe planting as many of those as you want.
Plants that repel gophers: Other plants can be used to repel gophers, such as gopher spurge (Euphorbia lathyris), crown imperials, lavender, rosemary, salvia, catmint, oleander and marigolds. Try planting a border around your flower beds or vegetable garden with these. Some of these will also repel unwanted insects like mosquitoes.
Scent: Repellents that rely on scent can be somewhat hit or miss, because it can be difficult to get enough of it deep enough into their underground spaces. Also, when applying any repellent product to the holes, you need to get it in every hole that you see. Some that you can try are:
- Pine disinfectants: Soak a rag and stuff down the hole.
- Chili powder: Sprinkle inside hole as far down as you can get it.
- Peppermint oil: Soak cotton balls and place in hole.
- Fabric softener sheets: Place in the hole.
- Garlic stakes: These small stakes contain garlic oil and can be placed throughout your yard in the gopher’s holes.
Castor oil granules: Spread the granules over the yard where gophers are the worst, and water them in. The granules will dissolve and release a scent underground that is unpleasant to gophers and moles. Apply castor oil granules in stages, starting at the furthest part of the yard and expanding the treated area closer to the exit with applications every couple of days. The gophers aren’t harmed, just ushered out of your yard and sent elsewhere. Follow instructions for application rate.
Sound: Gophers are sensitive to loud noises and may be annoyed enough by a loud radio, or even windchimes, to move along. This is generally a short-term solution and won’t completely solve the issue.
Ultrasonic repellents: Most of these products are battery or solar powered. The ultrasonic vibrations they put out aren’t harmful to humans or pets, but are annoying to gophers. Ultrasonic repellents are visible above ground, but can be placed in out of the way locations around the yard.
Although these options may not be non-lethal ways to get rid of gophers, they’re certainly natural ones.
Barn owls: A gopher’s #1 enemy are barn owls, and a small family of them can eat up to 1000 gophers a year. Encourage barn owls to take up residence in or near your yard by installing owl nesting boxes. Keep in mind though that there needs to be a pretty steady supply of gophers to keep the owls around.
Gopher snakes: True to their namesake, gopher snakes will eat gophers; however, they only eat every four to six weeks, so they’re not very efficient if you have multiple gophers.
Pets: The presence of dogs and cats can make life uncomfortable for gophers and they might move on. Some cats and dogs will chase and kill gophers; however, gophers can carry diseases, so this isn’t always a good idea. Ultimately, the biggest threat to pets from gophers is if they get ahold of one that has ingested poison, thus transferring the poison to your dog or cat - one huge argument for not using any type of gopher poison or gopher bait.
Live traps will catch some gophers and give you the opportunity to relocate them. However, gophers are fairly prolific breeders and in mild climates they can have three to five litters per year, so trapping is needed year-round. Your best solution for live trapping may be to hire a professional who knows how to place traps successfully and how to handle the gophers once trapped. Traps are more practical for smaller areas.
How to set a gopher trap: If you’d like to try your hand at trapping, you’ll be most successful placing the traps in the main tunnel runway which is usually five to ten inches below ground. Follow the exit hole down to the main tunnel, which usually leads away in the direction of the flat side of the above-ground dirt mound. You can also use a long metal rod or screwdriver to poke down through the dirt to help you locate the tunnel. Dig down to the tunnel and place two traps back to back, with one facing each way down the tunnel, or use a 2-door trap. One popular bait to use is Juicy Fruit gum. Some swear by it and say that when the gophers eat it, it will clog their intestines and kill them. It may work, but you’ll probably find it’s best simply used as bait. Check the traps intermittently and handle them carefully once the gophers are trapped.
Call a professional: If you’re in need of a quick solution, have a large area to treat, or are heavily infested, you may want to call in a professional for gopher removal. Once they’ve come in and gained the upper hand, you may be able to take over and maintain control.
For particularly stubborn gophers it may take multiple approaches used simultaneously, such as repellent plants, an ultrasonic repellent and some physical barriers. After all, the only permanent solution would be to concrete your entire yard.
Methods Not Recommended
Flushing water down their tunnels to drown or chase them out is not recommended and may even make the situation worse. The excess water softens the ground, actually making it easier for them to dig. Gophers have many tunnels they can escape in and even block off temporarily. Their tunnels may run under patios or walkways and the underground flooding can cause damage or even collapse.
Poison bait is just as deadly to your pets as it is to the gophers who consume it. Rodenticide is the most commonly ingested poison by dogs; they either eat it directly or get secondary poisoning from getting ahold of a poisoned gopher. Either way, there are disastrous results. The same holds true for birds of prey, owls or hawks, that eat gophers or other rodents that have ingested poison. It’s just not worth the risk to use poison.
Igniting propane, butane or natural gas in the tunnels is dangerous, and although it might get the gophers, you’ll most likely do irreparable harm to the plant roots that you’re trying to protect in the first place.
Using gas-producing flares or blowing exhaust into the tunnels isn’t always effective either. Gophers have a keen sense of smell and are able to plug up their tunnels rather quickly. Pumping exhaust from a lawn mower through a garden hose is exceptionally dangerous as the exhaust is extremely hot and can melt the hose.
With any type of pest problem, identifying the culprit is the first step. A common pocket gopher is larger than a hamster and has a tail that is shorter than a rat or mouse. They have small ears that don’t stick out from their head and prominent front teeth. They have whiskers that help them move around and gauge the width of their tunnels. Gophers also have keen senses of smell and hearing, but their sight can be somewhat limited, especially when first exiting the dark tunnels into daylight. Gophers rarely venture out of their tunnels and spend most of their time underground.
A classic gopher mound is C-shaped around the entrance hole and is made as he pushes the dirt from the tunnels to the surface. The entrance and exit holes drop down at an angle to the main runway. Gophers make many side tunnels, hideouts and nests that branch off the main runway, as well as other entrance and exit holes.
Gopher vs Mole? A gopher mound is C-shaped, but a mound made by a mole is more like a volcano and surrounds the entire entrance hole. Moles don’t eat plants or roots, but eat grubs and earthworms. Their burrows are more shallow than gophers, often making surface ridges in the lawn or garden.
Why did I coax a sprawling-by-nature Armenian cucumber and its yard-long cukes to grow 6 feet up in the air? Probably for the same reason, I’m guessing, George Washington espaliered apples at Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson trellised lima beans at Monticello: for the satisfaction that comes from creating something aesthetically pleasing that also offers an epicurean payoff. But unlike Washington, whose tree work provided decades of beauty, I was tackling the recurring dilemma that occurs when you grow vegetables in a typical garden situation—the annual face-off between the practical and the ornamental.
(Garden plant stake to make plant trellis)
Of course, there’s something beautiful about neatly planted rows of productive vegetables, but if you’re short of space, want to add vertical interest, or just like creating order among some unruly sprawlers, there is nothing like a trellis or arbor. In the beginning of the season, the structure offers an interesting visual anchor; a month or so later it is completely transformed by the plant and then later by the harvest. The following year, you can move the structure and try it somewhere else.
“Vertical structures turn a vegetable garden into a magical place,” says landscape architect Jennifer Bartley of American Potager in Granville, Ohio, who uses them at home and on her design projects. “They create spaces that seem like an enclosed room, a special destination where you want to be.” Trellising systems come in all shapes and sizes, so the first thing is to decide what effect you want. For example, there’s nothing more welcoming than a vegetable garden that you enter through an arbor draped with lush green foliage and, say, dangling pole beans. Arbors of this size, preferably 8 feet or taller (available in kits, custom-built, or pre-made), work best with rapid growers such as beans or gourds.
Another traditional support for edibles, an obelisk-shape tuteur makes a striking sculptural statement. A pair on either side of a path can create an entryway to a kitchen garden; a single tuteur can add height and drama to the center of a mixed flower border. Scarlet runner bean, with colorful, edible flowers and pods, counts as both flower and vegetable. “Be bold with tuteurs,” advises Bartley, by which she means go big. Smaller versions of these structures may disappear as soon as plants leaf out. “A minimum height of 6 or 10 feet is not too large in a big space,” she says.
(Garden arbor for climbing flower and vegetable, as garden trellis)
Other types of trellises, either stand-alone or wall-mounted and suitable for vegetables, come in countless shapes, styles, and materials. Tall, narrow forms set into containers can display smaller plants on patios or decks; in those more intimate settings, it’s best to go with finer materials such as lattice, bamboo, or copper pipe that won’t be visually overwhelming. A 6-foot tepee for pole beans or peas consists simply of three bamboo poles anchored in the soil and tied at the top with twine. Bartley has her own version at home: eight bamboo poles fastened with twine and painted royal blue to match her dining room. Riffing on some of those same classic trellis systems, Los Angeles landscape designer and artist Jennifer Asher creates brightly colored contemporary sculptures that can also support twining vegetables and other climbers—and look great in the off-season when nothing is growing on them. Her TerraTrellis supports are made of welded steel and cable. They include a generously proportioned two-hoop arbor; a small square trellis that can fit into a container and displays a vine like a picture frame; and a 6-foot steel tuteur in wild chartreuse or fuchsia that can support tomatoes, summer squash, or gourds.
(Spiral tomato plant support, have aluminium and iron steel material for choice)
Whichever system you use, make sure to choose suitable plants. For lightweight trellises or tepees, it’s simplest to go with vining crops equipped with tendrils for clinging, such as peas and beans. (Get the climbers, not the bush types.) For something different, try Chinese yard-long beans, which yield up to 30-inch-long beans in only a couple of months. Non-climbing squash, cucumbers, gourds, melons, smaller pumpkins, and tomatoes also work but typically have to be coaxed upward with twine or other ties. For really fast coverage, consider hyacinth bean or Malabar spinach (a heat-resistant vining perennial, not an actual spinach but high in vitamins A and C and used in several Asian cuisines).
Or you could always join me and try Armenian cucumber. This misleadingly named member of the muskmelon family requires a tall, sturdy trellis but is easy to grow and yields awesome results—prolific, 2- to 3-foot fruits with furrowed, light green skin so thin it needs no peeling. And as for taste, its satisfactions are fit for a president.
Soaker Hose Irrigation: How To Use Soaker Hoses In The Lawn And Garden
Soaker Hose Irrigation: How To Use Soaker Hoses In The Lawn And Garden Watering By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer Printer Friendly Version Image by Greg Pye If you’re curious about soaker hoses stocked alongside regular hoses in the garden store, take a few minutes to investigate their many benefits. That funny-looking hose is one of the best gardening investments you can make.
What is a Soaker Hose?
If a soaker hose looks a little like a car tire, that’s because most soaker hoses are constructed from recycled tires. The hoses have a rough surface that hides millions of tiny pores. The pores allow water to seep slowly into the soil.
Soaker Hose Benefits
The main advantage of a soaker hose is its ability to wet the soil evenly and slowly. No precious water is wasted by evaporation, and water is delivered directly to the roots. Soaker hose irrigation keeps the soil moist but never waterlogged, and the foliage remains dry. Plants are healthier and root rot and other water-related diseases are minimized. Gardening with soaker hoses is convenient because the hoses remain stationary, which eliminates the need to drag heavy hoses every time you want to water.
How to Use Garden Hoses
Soaker hoses come in a roll, which you cut to the desired lengths. As a general rule, it’s best to limit lengths to 100 feet or less to provide even water distribution. Some people even make their own soaker hoses by recycling an old garden hose. Simply use a nail or other sharp object to tap small holes every couple inches or so along the length of the hose. You’ll also need connecters to attach the hoses to the water source and an end cap for each length. For a more sophisticated system, you may need couplers or valves to allow you to easily switch from area to area. Lay the hose between rows or weave the hose through plants in a flower bed. Loop the hose around plants that need extra water, but allow a few inches between the hose and the stem. When the hose is in place, attach an end cap and bury the hose with bark or another type of organic mulch. Don’t bury the hose in the soil. Allow the hose to run until the soil is damp to a depth of 6 to 12 inches, depending on the needs of the plant. Measuring soaker hose output is easy with a trowel, a wooden dowel or a yardstick. Alternatively, apply approximately an inch of water every week in spring, increasing to 2 inches when the weather is warm and dry. After you water a few times, you’ll know how long to run the hose. This is a good time to attach a timer — another time-saving device.
For garden watering, you can buy the garden bucket and garden water hose. Also can you save money when you make these nifty DIY watering systems from materials you probably already have.
Drip hoses that save water by delivering moisture directly to roots.
Self-watering planter that hydrates plants by wicking moisture from a water well.
Ollas, buried clay pots that deliver water to roots on demand.
DIY Drip Garden Hose
A drip hose soaks soil — drop by drop — without wasting water to evaporation or promoting disease by soaking foliate. You can make one yourself from any old hose you might otherwise toss into the trash. Here’s how.
Rescue an old hose. Clean it and lay it on a flat surface, such as a wood plank.
On one side of the hose, punch tiny holes 1 to 2 inches apart, leaving 6 inches with no holes on both ends of the hose. To make holes, use an upholstery needle or a tiny, 1/64-inch drill bit.
Attach a garden hose cap ( for ¾-in. brass) to one end of the hose. Attach the other end to another hose that's long enough to reach from a spigot to your garden.
Turn on water so that drops fall from each hole along the hose. You want a drip -- not a spray -- so lower the pressure if too much water comes out.
Wind the hose along the base of plants, then cover with 2 inches of mulch.
Self-Watering Earth Box Planter
An earth box is a self-watering planter that relies on the wicking ability of soil to continuously draw water from a built-in well. You fill the well through a tube — far less often than if you watered by hand.
An earth box can be any size or material, so long as it has a water reservoir and soil. Here’s a good one:
Select a Rubbermaid Roughneck Tote (24-by-16-by-12 inches). Using a super-sharp knife, cut out the flat part of the lid, separating it from the lip.
Make “weeping cups” by punching 1/2-in. holes in two 16 oz. plastic cups until they look like Swiss cheese.
Take a 5-ft. long piece of ½-inch-diameter ABS pipe , mark it off every 2.5 inches, and cut into 16 pieces. Use the remainder (about 20 inches) for your watering tube.
In the lid corners, cut out holes to fit two weeping cups and the watering tube.
Using a ½-in. drill bit, punch holes in the lid spaced about 1 inch apart (that’s lots of holes!)
Arrange the small PVC pieces in the bottom of the bin — they should be on-end and evenly spaced. Place the lid on top of the pieces. Place weeping cups and watering tube into their holes.
Pack the weeping cups snugly with potting soil, then fill the box with soil.
Drill a ½-in. drainage hole in the side of the box 2 ½ in. from the bottom.
Fill the bin with water through the watering tube. When it’s full, water will come out the drainage hole.
Check out this video, which shows you how to make an earth box from two Rubbermaid tubs.
Make Your Own Ollas
Ollas (OY-yas) are earthen jars with thin necks and wide bellies that you fill with water and bury in your garden. Water seeps through the ollas’ unglazed walls to feed plant roots without wasting any water to evaporation or runoff. Eventually, plant roots grow around the ollas, drawing water when needed, creating a super-efficient self-watering system.
Make yours from extra clay garden pots and silicone caulk.
Select two 8- or 10-in. clay pots with smooth rims that closely match each other.
Caulk a bottle cap or piece of tile over the bottom hole of one pot to prevent water from pouring out.
Cover the rim of one pot with a thick ribbon of silicone caulk. Place the other pot over the caulk and press lightly.
Let caulk dry for 24 hours, then fill the pot with water to check for leaks.
When you’re satisfied that your olla is leak-proof, bury it in your garden next to plants. Water in an 8-in. diameter; olla spreads 18 inches.
Fill olla with water, and cover the hole with a rock or glazed saucer. Check water levels with a stick and refill as necessary.
Many people ponder how to water a garden. They may struggle over questions such as, “How much water should I give my garden?” or “How often should I water a garden?” It’s really not as complicated as it seems, but there are some things that should be considered. These include the type of soil you have, what your climate or weather is like, and the types of plants you are growing.
When to Water Gardens
“When and how often should I water a garden?” While the general rule of thumb is about an inch or two of water each week with deep, infrequent watering as opposed to the more frequent shallow watering, this really depends on a number of factors.
First, consider your soil. Sandy soil is going to hold less water than heavier clay soil. Therefore, it’s going to dry out faster while the clay-like soil will hold moisture longer (and is more susceptible to over watering). This is why amending the soil with compost is so important. Healthier soil drains better but allows for some water retention too. Applying mulch is also a good idea, reducing watering needs.
Weather conditions determine when to water garden plants as well. If it is hot and dry, for example, you’ll have to water more often. Of course, in rainy conditions, little watering is needed.
Plants, too, dictate when and how often to water. Different plants have different watering needs. Larger plants need more water as do newly planted ones. Vegetables, bedding plants and many perennials have more shallow roots systems and also require more frequent watering, some daily–especially in temps over 85 F. (29 C.). Most container plants need watering on a daily basis in hot, dry conditions — sometimes twice or even three times a day.
When to water gardens also includes the time of day. The most suitable time for watering is morning, which reduces evaporation, but late afternoon is okay as well provided you keep the foliage from getting wet, which can lead to fungal issues.
How Much Water Should I Give My Garden Plants?
Deep watering encourages deeper and stronger root growth. Therefore, watering gardens about 2 inches or so once a week is preferable. Watering more often, but less deep, only leads to weaker root growth and evaporation. Overhead sprinklers are often frowned upon, with exception to lawns, as these also lose more water to evaporation.
Soaker hoses or drip irrigation is always better, going straight to the roots while keeping foliage dry. Of course, there’s also the old standby—hand watering—but since this is more time consuming, it’s best left for smaller garden areas and container plants.
Knowing when and how to water a garden correctly can ensure a healthy growing season with lush plants.
If you'd like your kids to grow up loving gardening and learning how to grow their own food, it's never too early to get started. While there are many ways to get your kids interested in gardening, here are some suggestions to get you started.
Focus on making it fun and exciting. When children realize how many interesting, intriguing and even gross things there are to be involved in, they'll be more likely to want to get involved. Whenever planning anything, work out the fun angle, to keep your children's interest engaged.
Kit out your kids. A big part of the fun is having the right tools and there are many gardening tools made just for kids, in their size, and in wonderful colors. Colorful tools, while not essential, are a helpful way to encourage kids to join in. Gardening gloves for kids often come in wonderful colors and patterns too and each child should have a pair of his or her own.
Buy a pretty watering can which suits the child's size and strength. This will encourage him or her to keep watering the growing plants.
Show children how to clean and put away tools after use. Make this easy and fun too––a bit of splashing about should be part of the cleaning chores.
3.Choose plants that are easy to grow. While it's important to involve your children in choosing the plants, make sure that the choice is from plants likely to be as trouble-free as possible, especially for beginner gardeners. Also choose a few plants that will produce a delicious edible harvest for your children to pick and take straight to the table from the garden. Some good starter choices include:
Tomatoes (from seedlings)
Peas and beans
Sweet peas, poppies, alyssum, marigolds, pansies or nasturtiums.
4.Show your children the basics of planting seeds and seedlings in the ground.Do the hard work of tilling the soil and adding the nutrients for them––they can learn about that later. For now, give them the joy of planting, watering and waiting for their little plants to sprout.
For very small hands, make the job even easier by planting the seeds in cardboard egg cartons. When it comes time to transfer the seedling (or the seed) to the soil, cut out each little egg holding portion and let your kids plant the whole thing into the ground. The carton will disintegrate and no seeds or seedlings get lost in the transition.
5.Include wildlife in your child's gardening experience. Add a birdbath, bird feeder and feeders for any furry wildlife such as squirrels, hedgehogs, possums, or whatever it's okay to attract to your yard. If you have space, include a small pond for fish. Children will love the experience of seeing animals in the garden.
Tell children which animals should not be attracted to your garden! Help them to understand the beneficial role of animals in gardening, as well as pest problems.
If you have a large garden, you might include more pets, such as a rabbit or guinea pig enclosure, a goat or sheep, etc.
6.Show children how to grow plants from cuttings. This will amaze them endlessly, to see how you can take a cutting and get a new plant. Try plants that take easily to begin with, such as succulents, begonias, pelargoniums and bromeliads. They can experiment with harder ones as they become more experienced.
7. Make things for the garden. Get crafty with the kids and recycle, repurpose and remake things that can serve as decorations or tools in the garden. There are lots of possibilities, including:
Turning an old tire into a garden bed or plant protector
Making herb or plant markers from iced confectionery sticks
Painting a planter or flowerpot container in bright colors and designs. Be sure to say how pretty their own flowers would look inside it.
Make a scarecrow to frighten away the birds; or make bird frighteners using old CDs, bits of unwanted foil and clothing, etc.
Make a dangling decoration from shells, beads and pebbles, using thread or fishing line.
Turn coconut shell halves into seedling pots––clean the inside, paint the outside like a face and anything that sprouts will seem like hair.
Make a bird feeder
Design a garden plan.
8.Decorate the garden with your kids' art and craft efforts. After you've made the objects, or purchased some at the garden center with your kids' agreement, have the kids decide where they'd like the garden decorations to go. Encourage continued decorating projects, including removal of decorations that have become a little worse for wear over time.
9.Talk to your kids about the importance of native vegetation in gardens. Explain that while it's fun to grow flowers and veggies, care needs to be taken to prevent non-native plants from escaping the garden and invading the local environment. Show them how to control weeds and how to keep strong growing plants under control. Explain to them why you cannot grow some plants in the garden, such as plants that are considered to be invasive species. Encourage them to learn as much as possible about native plants and how to care for these
10.Acknowledge the place of the digital era in gardening. Kids love computers and electronic gadgets and it can be hard to get them off sometimes. However, you can make the most of their affinity for all things electronic and have them download a suitable gardening app or two, and by doing research about their garden and its plants online. Gardening calendars are another useful tool found in many online gardening sites. And as the kids get older, help them to use the internet to search for harder garden projects, like making a sundial, building a chicken coop or rigging up a solar power warming pad. Encourage the exchange of knowledge online into real achievements in the garden––this is a good lesson in ensuring that they see the computer as a tool in wider life activities
11. Show kids how to compost. It can be a lot of fun seeing kitchen scraps turn to fertile soil in time. Make sure that they don't get rostered to do compost deliveries every day though, or they'll resent it! Share the task around. Another great way to enthuse kids about compost and fertilizer is to get a worm farm. Show them how it works, how to feed the worms and how to handle them. They'll probably start naming the worms and wanting to see them regularly.
12. Keep gardening even when the season changes. Bring the garden indoors for winter, so that your kids can still enjoy the benefits of growing plants and learn how some plants can actually thrive in an indoor environment. Good choices include a small herb garden, a windowsill planter, a terrarium built in an unwanted fish tank, or a window box.
Another idea for an indoor growing project is to grow a bulb in a bottle. Fill a bottle with water and place a hyacinth bulb at the top. Task your kids to keep the water level topped off and to wait for roots to develop. As the roots come on, tell them to be patient for the flowers to appear. You get both a gardening lesson and a beautiful table centerpiece from the one project!
13. Keep making gardening an exciting experience and be enthusiastic about it.Gardening is an experience for life and one of the lessons it teaches children is that there is a season for everything and that it all cycles again. Learning this can be highly beneficial, especially for children prone to spending a lot of time indoors and in cars going to other indoor places.
Television and video games have their place, but making a garden play area is a great way to entice your kids away from electronic gadgets and introduce them to the glory of gardening and the wonders of nature. Making a play garden doesn’t require a lot of time or money, but the payoffs are huge. Read on for a few children’s play garden ideas.
How to Make Play Gardens for Kids
How to make play gardens? There’s really nothing to it! Simply designate a small space just for kids – a few square feet is plenty. If you don’t have a yard, you can make a children’s play garden on your balcony, using a wading pool, a large plastic storage container, or anything that will hold dirt. If you choose to use a plastic container, be sure to drill a few small holes in the bottom; otherwise, your play garden will be a soggy mess every time it rains.
When you’re planning a play garden, keep in mind that dirt is the most important element! If the thought makes you a little squeamish, consider this: The National Wildlife Federation reports that contact with dirt improves kids’ mood, reduces stress, improves classroom performance, and that’s not all – the healthy bacteria in dirt actually strengthens the immune system! Of course, you can always fall back on play sand too.
Although it isn’t an absolute necessity, some type of border outlines the play garden and makes the area feel special. Take a look at inexpensive flower bed edging available at any home improvement or garden center. You can also outline the area with pretty, low-growing plants. For example, plant a few bright bloomers, like dwarf zinnias or gerbera daisies, or nice-to-touch plants like lamb’s ear or dusty miller.
Garden Features for Kids
So what goes in the play garden? When it comes to garden features for kids, keep it simple and consider what will make the garden fun. Most kids love to play with various containers such as plastic watering cans, sand buckets, plastic bowls or old pots and pans, baking sheets, muffin tins or various other mud pie containers.
Invest a few dollars in sturdy, kid-sized garden tools like miniature trowels, shovels and rakes. Don’t buy cheap tools that break easily; frustration can detract from the joy of a play garden.
Children’s Play Garden Ideas
Remember that a play garden is for your kids. Include them in planning, and then let them claim total ownership.
If you have space, include a small patch of grass to provide a soft area for playing. You can even plant grass in a plastic basin or baking pan.
Consider placing a bird feeder near the garden, or a few plant butterfly-friendly plants nearby.
If possible, part of the play garden should be in shade to prevent sunburn during hot afternoons. Most kids love a special, floppy hat just for gardening. Also, remember the sunscreen.
If you’re looking for some easy bbq party menu ideas you’ve come to the right place. We’ve even thrown in some game suggestions and tips to make your event a smashing success.
WHEN TO HOST YOUR BBQ
As summer approaches, our thoughts turn to barbecues and outdoor entertaining. Needless to say, with sizzling temperatures above 110 degrees in Arizona summers an outdoor BBQ party can be a challenge.
However, we Arizona residents have learned to “beat the heat” with backyard swimming pools, misting systems, and awnings. Outdoor entertaining after 6 pm during the months of June, July, and August is always advised. If you do choose to entertain in the afternoon, be sure you and your guests are well hydrated and that shaded areas are available.
WHERE TO HOST A SUMMER BBQ PARTY
Backyards (particularly those with swimming pools for a refreshing dip and misting systems) are always great for intimate parties. Local parks are another good option. However, BBQ parties do not necessarily need to be outdoors. It is possible to create a casual BBQ style aesthetic in an indoor space.
Warehouses, in particular, are great choices and Arizona has a diverse selection of warehouse event spaces. If choosing outdoors, we might suggest the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts or Heritage Square, two of our preferred venues with unique outdoor areas.
Or consider a BBQ catered event in a remote desert area for the opportunity to get as creative as you wish. Creations in Cuisine Catering offers a list of venues throughout Arizona.
THEME AND MENU IDEAS FOR YOUR SUMMER BBQ
AMERICAN BBQ PARTY
A 4th of July Traditional American BBQ Party is a favorite of ours. A patriotic theme of red, white, and blue enhanced with American flags, stars and stripes as the decorative theme sets the tone for a meal of grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, corn on the cob, and apple pie.
If you’re looking for something a bit more sophisticated than hamburgers and hot dogs, our prime steaks and slow-smoked Prime Rib is an excellent option. And don’t forget the home-made ice cream to accompany the apple pie! Our home-made ice cream is always a big hit at a catered event! And it pairs well with root beer to create fantastic root beer floats.
WESTERN BBQ PARTY
Western-themed events are very popular in Arizona and the desert provides the perfect setting for Western-themed events.
Think covered wagon, cowboys & cowgirls, checkered tablecloths, cowboy boots, boot-scootin’ music, and throw in a mini-rodeo to truly enhance the event!
When it comes to Western, we suggest this kind of menu:
- pulled pork
- grilled sausage
- baked beans
- pecan pie.
Mouth Watering Pulled Pork Our pulled pork receives many accolades!
In preparation, we brine the pork butt for 24 hours then rub it in oil with our secret spice blend. We allow it to sit seasoned for at least 24 hours then slow smoke it for almost 5 hours.
To finish our pulled pork we place it in the oven for 3 to 4 hours, covered, on a low heat until the meat literally falls apart.
Our pulled pork sandwiches are served with three popular BBQ sauces: Apple, Chipotle, and Hawaiian.
MEXICAN FIESTA BBQ PARTY
What’s not to love about a Mexican fiesta? The vivid colors and festive music sets the tone for enjoying Mexican cuisine. Our smoked pork tenderloin quesadillas with mango papaya salsa are a huge hit as are our street taco stations or Tecate marinated flank steak buffet item.
HAWAIIAN LUAU BBQ PARTY
We have been catering Hawaiian luaus for many years.
In a desert locale, it’s desirable to create an “island” atmosphere. A plethora of green, vivid, big flowers, leis, grass skirts, and Hawaiian music… all create the tropical environment.
Consider a whole suckling pig for a Hawaiian luau. We rub the inside of the pig with a special herb and spice mixture and marinate overnight.
Our preference is to cook the pig in a fire pit, but we can also cook it in a smoker or on a rotisserie. Plan on at least 12-14 hours preparation time.
Once fully cooked, we serve your suckling pig on a large platter accompanied by beautiful roasted vegetables and our Hawaiian BBQ sauce of course! Additional suggestions for a Hawaiian luau include Kalua pork, chicken katsu, white fish, and shrimp.
To view items from our standard BBQ menu here. And of course, we are always happy to customize a menu for any event.
GAMES FOR FUN
Because of the casual atmosphere of BBQ events, games are a great addition to create a fun event and camaraderie. It’s a great way to bridge the gap between generations and encourages people to mix and mingle. Corn hole remains very popular and can easily be played by all ages, and you might consider “custom” cornhole boards for your event.
Another popular game is ladder ball or ladder golf. This is a newer game, it consists of tossing a golfball bola onto a ladder-like frame.
The ladder has three rungs: top, middle, and bottom. The top rung is three points, the middle; two, and the bottom is three points. You win by being the only player with 21 points.
A western themed event calls for a game of horseshoes and volleyball or badminton are perfect for a 4th of July event. For a backyard pool BBQ event, pool volleyball is a must!
SUMMER BBQ TIPS
Having had 22 years of experience catering events, we have a few tips for a BBQ catered event:
Buffet or station style is your best choice for BBQ events. It’s a more casual manner of serving than plated and the types of food served lend themselves well to buffet or stations.
Weather: Be prepared for weather elements. Always have a backup plan such as tents or an indoor facility should the weather turn inclement. Be prepared for wind with decorative weights to secure napkins and paper plates. A catering company will ensure that all weather issues are addressed.
Trash: Plenty of trash cans is a necessity and be sure they are covered to protect from flies and bugs. (Nothing is worse than tons of flies buzzing around your event).
Hydrated Guests: Be sure your guests are well hydrated! Have plenty of chilled water available and serve cool summer beverages such as flavored lemonade.
Beer, of course, is refreshing, but make sure your guests are drinking plenty of water if indulging in alcoholic beverages. For those guests visiting from outside Arizona, it is especially important that they understand the importance of hydration.
BBQ events are some of our favorite events to cater. We enjoy the casual atmosphere and are continually creating new menu items and new décor ideas to craft unique events for our clientele. Summer season is fast approaching so call today to plan a unique Arizona BBQ Party.
After winter’s finally run its course, prove that you're ready for a cheery new season by dressing up your home’s facade. A bright flowerbed and fresh lawn will do just the trick, but a summer wreath for your front door can go a long way too. We have the 12" and 18" wire wreath for DIY These decorative DIY ideas run the gamut from lush flower displays in unique vessels (think: watering can and galvanized funnel floral wreaths) to quirky spins on popular seasonal themes (the mini swimsuit-infused number has pool parties written all over it). Whichever style you choose to glamorize your own home, it’s a lovely way to greet guests and is bound make your house feel even more welcoming. Not to mention, you’ll be the envy of your block, with neighbors left and right demanding to know where you got your hands on such an adorable adornment. And as for when summer comes to an end, maintain your front door cred by simply swapping it out for one of these fall wreaths instead.
Seed Packet Wreath
The garden isn't the only spot where your seeds can flourish—repurpose the packets (preferably pretty vintage versions) for a decorative summer spin. Once you've accumulated about 12-14 varieties, use straight pins to attach the packets to a 12" foam wreath. For an extra dash of seasonal flair, intertwine a few fresh flowers into the arrangement, followed by 1/2"-wide jute of hemp ribbon.
Wrap the best summer motifs into one adorably festive door decoration, with mini swimsuits, clothesline, and pretty pastels. Pool party, anyone?
The best part about this tasteful summer wreath, aside from the gorgeous blooms? It only takes five minutes to assemble (yes, you read that correctly).
Wall Basket Wreath
"A-Tisket A-Tasket," the song goes, "a brown and yellow basket!" Line yours with brown kraft paper first, then place a zip-top bag of damp floral foam in the vessel. Fill with fresh flowers and hang from a nail.
Watering Can Wreath
All you have to do to get this summer-ready front door look is fill the can with water and add a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Then just loop wire through the handle and hang up.
Grain Sifter Wreath
Put a vintage grain sifter to good use by making it into fresh home decor. Take floral tubes, fill with water, insert flowers, and attach to the sifter with wire. Loop the wire to hang on the front door.
Cupcake Liner Wreath
Choose pretty patterned cupcake liners for an indoor wreath
DIY Driftwood Wreath
Always gathering driftwood during your beach vacations? Turn your collection into a DIY wreath!
DIY 'Fixer Upper' Magnolia Wreath
Even if you can't make it to Waco's Magnolia Market, you can still hang a wreath on your door that Joanna Gaines would be proud of.
Ensure your wreath will last all year long by making this wreath with faux blooms.
Hang these summery wreath on your front door, and we guarantee it'll put a big smile on your face every time you walk into the house.
How To Plant A Living Fence – Using A Fast Growing Plant To Cover Fence
Covering chain link fences is a common problem for many homeowners. While chain link fencing is inexpensive and easy to install, it does lack the beauty of other kinds of fencing. But, if you take a few minutes to learn how to plant a living fence with a fast growing plant to cover fence sections, you can have a fence that is both lovely and inexpensive.
Covering Chain Link Fences with Plants
There are a few things to consider when covering chain link fences with plants. Before deciding which plant you will use, think about what you would like the plants that grow on fences to accomplish:
Do you want flowering vines for fences or foliage vines?
Do you want an evergreen vine or a deciduous vine?
Do you want an annual vine or a perennial vine?
Each choice is important depending on what you want for your fence.
Flowering Vines for Border Fences
If you would like to look at flowering vines for fences, you have several choices. If you would like a fast growing plant to cover the fence, you will want an annual. Some annual flowering vines for fences include:
Black-eyed Susan Vine
If you were looking for some perennial flowering vines for fences, these would include: Dutchman’s Pipe
Evergreen and Foliage Plants That Grow on Fences
Evergreen plants that grow on fences can help to keep your fence looking lovely all year round. They can also help add winter interest to your garden or serve as a backdrop to your other plants. Some evergreen vines for covering chain link fences include:
Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens)
Non-evergreen, but foliage focused, plants can bring a startling and lovely backdrop to the garden. Many times foliage vines that grow on fences are variegated or have splendid fall color and are exciting to look at. For a foliage vine for your fence, try:
Variegated Porcelain Vine
Silver Fleece Vine
Purple Leaved Grape
Now that you know how to plant a living fence using vines, you can start to beautify your chain link fence. When it comes to plants that grow on fences, you have many choices on what kinds of vines to grow. Whether you are looking for a fast growing plant to cover a fence or something that provides year-round interest, you are sure to find a vine that suits your tastes and needs.
Soil moisture is an important thing to consider for both gardeners and commercial farmers alike. Too much or too little water can be equally devastating problems for plants, and depending upon where you live, over irrigation can be impractical or just plain against the law. But how can you judge how much water your plants’ roots are getting? Keep reading to learn more about how to check soil moisture and common tools for measuring soil moisture content.
Methods of Measuring Soil Moisture Content
How wet is my garden soil? How can I tell? Is it as simple as sticking your finger in the dirt? If you’re looking for an imprecise measurement then yes, it is. But if you want a more scientific reading, then you’ll want to take some of these measurements:
Soil water content – Quite simply, this is the amount of water present in a given quantity of soil. It can be measured as percent of water or inches of water per volume of soil.
Soil water potential/Soil moisture tension – This measures how firmly attached the water molecules are to the soil. Basically, if the soil tension/potential is high, the water has a firmer grip on the soil and is harder to separate, making the soil drier and harder for plants to extract moisture from.
Plant available water (PAW) – This is the range of water a given soil can hold that’s between saturation point and the point at which plant roots can no longer extract moisture (known as the permanent wilting point).
How to Check Soil Moisture
The following are tools frequently used for measuring soil moisture:
Electrical Resistance Blocks – Also known as gypsum blocks, these tools measure soil moisture tension.
Tensiometers – These also measure soil moisture tension and are most effective at measuring very wet soil.
Time Domain Reflectometry – This tool measures soil water content by sending an electrical signal through the soil. More complex, time domain reflectometry may take some specialization to read the results.
Gravimetric Measuring – More of a method than a tool, soil samples are taken and weighed, then heated to encourage evaporation and weighed again. The difference is the soil water content.
A berm can be a useful and an attractive part of your landscape as border fence , adding height and visual interest while also providing a wind or noise barrier or even changing and improving drainage. Whatever the reason you choose for creating a berm in your garden, don’t forget to choose and put in the best berm plants to make it really pop and look like more than just a random hill. Looking for some ideas for planting on a berm? Read on to learn more.
What to Grow on a Berm
A berm is essentially just a raised bit of the landscape, which you may choose to add to your yard for any variety of reasons: improved aesthetics, as a focal point, for a wind break, as a privacy screen, or to redirect drainage.
Regardless of the reason, your new berm will be just a hill until you add plantings to it that make practical sense and that add to the beauty of your garden. For instance, trees are an obvious choice if your berm is for privacy or blocking wind or noise. But you can also add any number of other plants to make a beautiful garden structure. Here are some great ideas for plants for berms:
- Arborvitae. For screening and windbreaks, you’ll want some type of tree. Arborvitae grows narrow, dense, and tall. These trees also grow quickly and provide year-round cover.
- Rose of Sharon. This pretty flowering tree/shrub provides some screening but in addition, the rose of Sharon produces bright, cheerful blooms all summer long.
- Hackberry. This often-forgotten tree is tough and can tolerate dry soil, which is often what you end up with in a berm. Hackberry will also tolerate a lot of wind and pollution, making this a good choice for an urban or suburban wind and privacy screen.
- Native grasses. Ornamental grasses are great for berms and provide some degree of screening, although less than trees do. Grasses have extensive roots and will help hold in the soil of the berm and resist erosion.
- Cacti and succulents. If you have the right climate, use these desert-like plants, which won’t need to be watered often. The soil at the top of a berm can get dry easily, so these plants will thrive.
- Perennial flowers. To add color and beauty to your berm, and for a mostly hands-off option, add in several different types of flowering perennials: black-eyed Susan, evening primrose, false indigo, hummingbird mint, and others.
Planting on a Berm
A landscape berm planting is not quite like your other beds. The ground is raised up and the soil can become too compacted and dry. To plant a successful berm, make sure you use good soil, cultivate it well, and choose plants that will help prevent erosion. Water your plants regularly, as the soil can dry out quickly. You can also use mulch around plants to reduce erosion and help keep moisture in the soil.
Front Garden Decor Ideas- Enhance Your Front Entrance With These ideas!
A front garden can be said as a magical garden as this is the path which guests take before they approach you. You can use your front garden to your advantage and give it an amazing look with a great variety of ideas. In this article, we will be providing you with some front garden decor ideas.
Let us now view some front garden decor ideas:
1. Window boxes and floral border
This is one of the best and easiest ways to decorate your front garden.Use wall-mounted window box or make a container by yourself and support by plant bracket. It’s a great way to enlighten the entrance to your front garden.
2. Flower wreath decorated door
Use a wire wreath frame,artificial flower and leaves,ivy vines even real cotton to make a front door hanging wall window decoration, holiday seasonal festival and wedding decor. This flower wreath will decorate your front door decor today for a colorful and welcoming entry.
3. Border fence edged pathway
The decorative garden border fence and fence panel will give an excellent look to your front garden and make the walking path to be mesmerizing. This pathway will also motivate guests to walk on the pathway instead of on the grass.
4. Flower tree with plant stand
You can use a shepherd hook and hanging basket to make a flower tree, bulbs, potted flowers as well as small shrubs are great. You can populate your front garden with this amazing décor idea and make use of the empty space.
5. Arch arbor over front door
You can decorate the garden arch arbor with artificial flowers to beautify your front door. It is also great garden vine and veggie trellis for climbing plant such as rose and morning glory as plant supports, ladder trellis, vegetable and flower support tower, plant support structures.
6. Climbing plant wall
If your front garden includes a very ugly and dirty wall, you do not need to worry. This is because of the amazing front garden décor idea of climbing wall. Use vibrant color flowers and place them on the garden trellis ladder fixed on the wall. Or plant some vine flowers and let them grow with the garden fan trellis.
7. Circular flower bed
Create a circular flower bed in your front garden where you have the biggest tree grown. With the use of this front décor idea, your flower bed will be tidy and it will be easier to mow around the tree.
8. Lighted driveway bed
Driveways are long and narrow and an excellent way to guide your guests inside the home. Make use of wired lights and this along with the plants on the driveway will create an amazing look.
This article is about how to anchor post with bolt down to the concrete. This diy step by step project project is very useful, as when building a deck, a railing or a fence, you need to anchor posts to concrete. The techniques needed to attach the wooden posts to concrete are straightforward, as anyone can get the job done very quickly. First of all you have to buy the post, as to know its dimensions when buying the hardware post anchors.
The post anchors come in many forms and dimensions: from standoff post base, up to uplift post base. In addition there are regular post anchors, for home improvement projects, and heavy duty post anchors for greater stability. Irrespective of your needs, you also have to know that there are also adjustable anchors, for attaching posts to an unleveled concrete surface. They are more expensive, but at least you know you are able adjust the height of the posts, as to make sure they are perfectly aligned one with another.
In order to anchor post to concrete, you need the following tools and materials:
- 4×4 lumber – POSTS
- post anchor – METAL ANCHORS
- 2-3” lag screws – LAG SCREWS
- plastic dowels – DOWELS
- wood primer – PRIMER
- post anchor
- lag screws
- Level, measuring tape, framing square, carpenter pencil
- Hammer, rubber hammer, Circular saw
- Drill machine and drill bits
- Electric screwdriver with torque control
- Read safety and disclaimer pages
- Select with great care the wooden posts, to match the railings design
- Use a good drill machine with torque control
- Before fastening the posts, make sure they are plumb
Installing post anchor
In this project, we show you how to anchor post to concrete. In our case, we had to build stair railings and consequently we needed to attach post to concrete.
First of all, you have to take a look on the concrete surface, as to see if it is level. If the concrete flooring isn’t level, then you have to buy adjustable post anchors. Although they are more expensive than regular post anchors, they will allow you to adjust them to the other posts.
Next, we have to build the wooden post, that we want to anchor to the concrete platform. Consequently, you could either buy 3.5×3.5 pressure treated lumber or buy fancier decorative posts. Irrespective of your choice you have to adjust them to the needed length (usually around 3’/1 m), before fitting them into place.
In order to cut the wooden posts we have to use either a circular saw or a wooden chainsaw. We strongly recommend you to use a good circular saw, as it is better for an unexperienced diy-er. We have used the chainsaw, as we were pressured by time.
After you have adjusted the post to the needed dimensions, you have to install the post anchors to concrete. Consequently, in most of the cases the metal anchors have to be fastened to concrete, with several plastic dowels and lag screws. Align the anchors one with another, before making the marks.
In order to dill holes in concrete, we used a good drill machinery and masonry drill bits. Make sure the drill bits are in good condition, otherwise you might damage the drill machinery.
After we have drilled the holes in concrete, we have installed plastic anchors, using a rubber mallet. Make sure the heads of the dowels are aligned with the concrete surface, otherwise you won’t be able to install the post anchor properly.
Next, after we have inserted the plastic dowels in holes, we have to drive in the screws , as to fasten the post anchor. In order to lock into position the metal hardware, we used a wrench key and 3” lag screws.
After driving in the lag screws, we have finished anchoring a post to concrete. The wooden post is plumb, as we have used a spirit level, and it is secured properly with 4 lag screws. There are many types of anchors you could use for your project, therefore use the ones that fit your needs an match the rest of your backyard.
MTB Supply is selling products not only on Amazon.com, but also on ebay.com, Amazon.uk, Amazon.ca, we are dedicate to make more and more people can build beautiful garden with low price but high quality.
At present our post driver is ranking No.1, marked with “Best Seller” on Amazon.com; the decorative garden fence ,wire compost bin, wire wreath, tomato support and stainless steel welded wire mesh are marked with “Amazon’s Choice” . We will do our best to add more products to our line and make more products to win the Amazon honor.
To ensure that you can receive your products earlier, almost all of the orders on mtbsupplyinc.com are shipped from Amazon warehouse by UPS or Fedex.
Welcome ordering and any questions about the products, orders or shipping, contact us freely by e-mail.
MTB Supply Inc is a global manufacturer, fabricator and distributor of steel garden ware and house ware products and by now our products have supplied to a variety of industries.
The mainly garden decor products cover the decorative fence, border fence, plant bracket, garden hanging basket/planter, shepherd hooks,wire wreath, garden flag pole, flag pole holder/ stand and the glow in the dark pebbles,which are widely used in garden for beauty and decoration.. The chain link garden gate, all kind of plant support, fan plant trellis , plant stand, tomato cage, H wire sign stake,wire compost bin and garden staples are the necessities for every garden.
We are dedicate to develop home and garden improvement products to make life easier, our stair riser, earth anchor, post driver, kinds of post holder, fence post, chain link fence gate accessories, poultry netting, welded wire, sand bag, landscape fabric, garden kneeler, green house, lawn aerator and soil tester are warmly welcomed in market and more and more products will be added for choice.
We are considering adding and looking for more products to rich our outdoor and sports products, especially the camping products and now we have launched kinds of BBQ brush, grill mat and drink holder, also the garden tool set or beach play tools and sand play digger for kids play. BBQ grill, camping folding chair, gazebo canopy are coming soon.
MTB Supply also have various kids of duvet cover and pillow case set for choice.
The distribution center is located in City of Industry, California and serves all US market. The brand “MTB” and “MTB Supply” are both registered by MTB Supply Inc. Professional customer service and fast shipping make MTB Supply one of the industry leaders in multiple product categories, providing high quality and high value products for you.