Tips for Growing Your First Garden

Starting your own garden is great a way to save money. It also provides you with delicious, homegrown fruits and vegetables that in most cases far exceed the grocery store produce. And growing your own garden is fun too. It gives you an excuse to spend time outdoors and in the sun. It’s also a lot easier than you may think. If you plan right, you can have fresh vegetables all year long!

The benefits of growing your own garden are plentiful, just like your crop of healthy, organic vegetables will be. Here are five easy tips to growing your own garden:

Decide what to grow

While planning your first garden, try to start small. A smaller garden is easier to control and manage. When you plant more than you need, you end up wasting food and feeling overwhelmed by your garden. Consider how much your family will eat and plant accordingly. It’s best to start small and to expand a little every year.

Size of your garden

The size of your garden will be determined by the amount of available space and the time you wish to commit to the project. For example, a 10 x 10-foot space will be suitable for a starter garden. It will produce a steady supply of fruits and vegetables for your whole family. Your garden will require a minimum of five hours of direct sunlight per day, so find a place with adequate sunlight.

Test soil before digging

Before you begin digging your garden, test the soil. Check the drainage by soaking the soil with a hose. Wait a day and then dig up a handful of soil. Squeeze the soil, if water streams out you will want to add compost or organic matter to improve the drainage. Next, loosen up the soil either by hand or till. Once the soil has loosened you can spread out compost and work it into the soil. When you’re done, rake the surface and water thoroughly. Then allow the bed to rest for five days before you plant.

Caring for your garden

Vegetables require a steady supply of moisture. About an inch of water per week will suffice. Keep in mind that raised beds drain faster and may require more frequent watering than non-raised. Also, try to weed your garden regularly because weeds tend to steal water and nutrients from your fruits and vegetables. Finally, consider applying a packaged vegetable fertilizer as recommended in the directions.

Harvesting time

After all your hard work, it’s time enjoy the fruits of your labor! Different vegetables can harvest in various stages. For example, leaf lettuce can be picked as young as you would like. The same goes for summer squash and cucumbers, which can be harvested when the fruit is only a few inches long. A good rule of thumb is that if it looks good enough to eat, it probably is. With most vegetables, the more you pick, the more the plant will produce in the future.

How to Eat in a Healthy and Affordable Way

There are many health advocates who recommend a variety of different foods that will promote your health such as sushi, fresh organic fruits and vegetables, and low-carb diets.

While these are considered to be healthier food options by many nutritionists they often come with a higher price tag. There are many ways to eat healthy on a budget and some basic ways to improve your diet in a healthy ad cost-conscious way will be the focus of this article.

Protein

Lean cuts of meat and fish are often expensive and a big drain on your budget. Try substituting these expensive cuts of meat and fish with alternatives at least a few times a week.

Alternatives such as beans and lentils provide the same amounts of protein as more expensive meats at a fraction of the cost. Beans and other types of legumes are considered to be healthier in some ways than many mats as they contain lots of fiber and do not have the cholesterol levels that many meets have.

Tofu is another meat substitute that has virtually no flavor but can absorb the flavor of the sauce that it is cooked in. Tofu contains a significant amount of protein and comes in many shapes and textures.

Some people avoid tofu because of its slimy consistency. But a trip to a Chinese market will reveal that there are many forms of tofu that you may not be familiar with including tofu skins and puffy tofu balls. These have varying textures that work well in many dishes.

Fruits and Vegetables

You may be aware of the importance of eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet but may be hesitant to do so regularly due to the cost involved with buying expensive produce.

The key to buying tasty and affordable produce involves knowing and buying what is in season. Purchasing berries out of season can be very expensive but doing so when they are in season yields lower food costs but also tastier fruit.

Better yet, you can grow your own vegetables and fruits to lower your costs and obtain healthier food options. Living in an apartment is no excuse. Container farming can be done on your windowsill and yield many healthy foods that can be added to your foods regularly to enhance both health and flavor.

If you are in a windowless apartment, then simply use a bean sprouter. A bean sprouter needs no light and just a little water. Bean sprouters are cheap and reusable and the seeds cost close to nothing. Further, they are quite healthy and can be added to any meal.

Avoiding the Expensive Solutions

While some expensive healthy foods are good treats from time to time such as fresh fish, others are overpriced gimmicks that should be avoided. Examples include organic foods that are grown in a similar manner to other fruits and vegetables, concentrated plant extracts, and vitamins. Be cognizant of the health benefits and costs of these items when purchasing.

Conclusion

Health and budget are not mutually exclusive terms. You can eat a healthy diet regularly on a limited budget. Try incorporating the aforementioned ideas or find your own solutions to eat healthier at more affordable prices.

Don’t Let Your Farm Sheds Get Blown Away

Agricultural farms belong to the list of major sources of sustenance for all humans. In Australia, farming is a significant economic sector. In the manufacturing of goods, especially food products, farms of different types are pivotal in primary production. To put it simply, we’ll starve without farms.

Proper maintenance of produce, grains, livestock and farm equipment is highly significant in maintaining constant and better flow of production. People who have been in the industry for long know the value of sustaining the functional capacity and endurance of farm equipment. To do so, they make sure to put up a strong and stable storage facility that can stand through time and harsh weathers.

Building and maintaining sturdy farm sheds is one structural investment farm owners should take into account. However, nature’s harsh onslaughts, like storms harboring fast, strong winds can jeopardize the safety and stability of farm sheds. Other than making sure farm and other industrial sheds are built with durable materials, it is still a must to take extra precautionary and protective measures to protect these sheds from nature’s assault that can come unpredicted.

  1. Survey the area of your farm especially the space directly surrounding your farm shed. Make an ocular site inspection and evaluate the area for possible modifications to make it safer during storms.
  2. If there are loose and weak branches of trees near your farm shed, then have them trimmed so they won’t fall onto the shed. If possible, eliminate trees that could fall on the shed during a storm. Keep the areas directly surrounding your shed free from any destructive objects that might hit it hard in the onset of strong winds. Aside from causing structural damage, falling trees and debris also cause human fatalities.
  3. Instead of using rock or gravel landscaping material in your yard, replace them with shredded bark instead. Shredded barks are more lightweight and won’t cause damage when blown around by strong winds.
  4. Although humans have no control over the force and direction of severe winds, damage can somehow be minimized by making sure that all openings of farm buildings and industrial sheds are securely closed. The strong force of the wind is doubled when it has easy passage inside the farm sheds. Outside, the wind puts pressure or lifting force on the structure. Inside, the wind can break the walls and roof off.
  5. Watch out for important weather updates from radio and TV stations. The more information you have and the sooner you get it, the better you will be able to prepare and protect your property from the harsh forces of nature.
  6. Once some parts of your farm shed gets damaged or hang loose, have it fixed immediately– a dented roof or loose window parts may be viewed as minor imperfections, but when the strong winds come they can cause serious damages. When the strong winds hit them before you had time to do the fixing, they can totally break apart and affect the whole industrial shed especially the equipment inside it.

How to Take Care of Your Garden the Eco-Friendly Way

Many people have gardens in their homes or, if they live in an urban area, within the confines of a community plot. There are a lot of benefits to having a garden including yielding your own food, feeling connected to the living creatures and plants that you grow, as well as a significant feeling of accomplishment for successfully cultivating your own ecosystem!

While most people have good intentions to be environmentally sustainable with their gardens, there are some small tips that you may be overlooking that can make your garden even more ecologically friendly.

Compost

Instead of fertilizer or chemical products that are synthetically created in laboratories, it is much more eco friendly to utilize composting techniques.

Composting is when one collects the organic waste such as fruit peels, vegetables that weren’t eaten as well as compostable paper, tea bags, etc, and then decomposing them together to create organic compost fertilizer. Composting is a big and upcoming trend so there are many resources available online on how to begin composting.

Permaculture

Permaculture is a technique used increasingly by home owners and small scale farmers. Permaculture focuses on designing a garden so that every part of the garden has multiple uses.

Thus, if one has a chicken coop, they need an incubator to keep the eggs warm. The permaculture approach would utilize the incubator for another source of heat, possibly to keep the temperature of a green room stable as well.

This basic theory can be used in multiple ways and the possibilities are rather endless. For example, another permaculture project could be harvesting rainwater and using it to water crops instead of using more water.

Some permaculturists like to use natural building applications, where the mimic the ecosystem of the animals that live in the area naturally and build a garden that works off of the symbiotic relationships of the creatures.

Even more ideas for permaculture are waste management techniques where waste is utilized as a part of the ecosystem and used to benefit the garden itself. This can range from using recycled materials as building resources, or introducing various bacteria or fungi that break down waste and transform it into nutrition for the soil.

Pesticides

Pesticides can be harmful for the environment. From runoff into the local water supply to just tampering with the local ecology, pesticides are a hotly debated and increasingly frowned upon method of protecting your garden from bugs and other harmful creatures.

Instead of pesticides, there are natural alternatives to protecting your yields. One option is to identify which natural bugs in your area combat the bugs that are eating your garden and then promoting their growth in your grow area. The other option involves using some old but proven traditions.

Panchakavya is an indian method of promoting growth in plants while protecting them from the harmful effects of bugs and bacteria. Made from three or four derivatives of cow’s milk (which is sacred in India), panchakavya is seeing a recent resurgence in urban farming and home gardens for its effectiveness.

Although these techniques require some time to learn and adapt, green gardening will have many benefits. By applying them you can make sure you use less chemicals and waste less energy so your garden will not just provide you with fresh produce but it will be cheaper to upkeep. Achieve it either by using modern techniques or ancient knowledge, you will do some good for your budget and the environment at the same time.

5 Autumn Tips for New Gardeners

Whether it’s your first autumn as a gardener or your fifth, there’s no denying that the season can be difficult. Many gardeners feel lost after the summer, and the temptation to pack up for winter can be great — but really, there’s no need.

As with any season, during the Autumn there are all kinds of fantastic changes taking place, and a gardener with a close eye can take advantage of those changes to make their garden even more glorious than before, during even the drabbest of weathers. You can make the most of this glorious season with these five top tips:

1. Cuttings

Autumn through to early spring is the time for hardwood cuttings. The tougher, mature-looking growth is what you’re after, so cut the branch here and trim off the softer, greener part. The cuttings should be about the thickness of a pencil for the very best results.

2. Compost

What with the leaves starting to fall, now is the perfect time to start a compost pile. Grass cuttings, leaves, and leftover food can all be added to the pile.

Turn the pile every now and then using a garden fork, and you’ll have a fresh, nutrient-rich pile of compost in no time. Compost is great for growing everything from flowers to vegetables, so having a good stockpile of it is worthwhile.

3. Wildlife

Earthworms mean that your soil is fertile, and having them around increases the nutrient level in your soil. If you can’t see any worms, you might want to lay down some organic matter (such as manure or compost) to attract them into your garden.

It might be worth investing in a bird-feeder, stocked with a variety of seeds to attract various different species— yes, they probably will eat some of the worms, but on the other hand, they’ll also get rid of those pesky snails! Besides, when the trees are bare and your garden’s looking quite barren, birds make everything seem brighter.

4. Lawns

Give your lawn a good feed before winter with some slow-release fertilizer. This should keep your grass loaded with nutrients and carbohydrates well into the winter.

If you’ve already applied weed killer to your lawn, now’s a good time to make sure it’s worked. You may need to use more or change brand if it hasn’t, but make sure you go for a selective herbicide — any non-selective type will wipe out theweeds and the lawn.

5. Tools

It’s not uncommon for gardeners to take great care of their gardens but still neglect their tools. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you — autumn is the perfect time to clear out your shed, throw away any out-of-date products, replace blunt blades and treat wooden handles. If you need new tools, you can purchase them from your local garden centre, or any number of online retailers.

Following all these tips will ensure that you have a thoroughly productive autumn that will see your garden in great condition when the winter eventually rolls around.

8 Ways to Fill Your Garden With Life

Is your garden a little scarce of wildlife? Do you find there are not many birds that fly onto your lawn? Well we have written eight ways below to help you manage your garden to attract more animals and birds whilst not compromising the way it looks.

Flowers Equal Food

I’m sure you are aware that flowers provide nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies and other insects. So adding flowers to your garden can help get it buzzing again with the hum of bees and bright butterflies. However, choose your plants carefully, cherry-pick plants that actually provide pollen or nectar as many contain little or none. Also don’t be too concerned about how native the flowers are, studies have shown that plants from china are loved by European and US butterflies.

Provide Food and Shelter

Growing a number of trees and shrubs helps to provide food and shelter and support larger wildlife such as birds. This is because as well as providing flowers, fruits and seeds for food they also give shelter for nests.

Trees don’t retire

Older mature trees are often overlooked and left untreated, make sure they are protected and watered if needed, they will help provide sustenance for larger animals.

Everything Needs a Drink

If you dig a pond that is a great way to get wildlife back into your garden (This is the simplest way to add wildlife). However, this may not be possible or you may have young children and so be put off from a pond, here you have several choices:

  1. Build a pond, but use pond covers that can keep children safely away.
  2. Put a shallow container out such as an inverted dustbin lid to attract small pond life.

A common misconception surrounds adding fish to the pond; they will actually eat many of the insects so if you have a small pond you should avoid this.

Keep the Deadwood

A common turn of phrase or figure of speech is to “get rid of the deadwood”, but when it comes to wildlife in the garden you should collect it and put in a shady spot, this can encourage beetles and their grubs and even different types of fungi.

Go Compost!

It’s always a good idea to use a composter not just for the fact it speeds up nutrient recycling, but it makes healthy soil for all you garden plants and wildlife love it. Compost heaps to shelter many small insects and even larger ones such as slugs and snails.

Bird Whispering

Okay well that’s not going to work, but if you want to attract birds into your garden you should provide food and water for them all year round, if you only do this during the summer months they may move on and no longer come back for fear of loss.

Ideally, offer a mix of various foods from nuts, sunflower seeds and hearts and some kitchen scraps. The key thing to look out for with a feeding table is the bird’s nemesis the “domestic cat”.

Allow a patch of grass or two

If you want to give small mice, voles and shrews a fighting chance allows a few sections of your grass to grow longer than others, this ensures they have some shelter and protection from predators.

Benefits of Having a Garden Shed

When you say garden shed, the first thing that comes to mind is a small, weather-beaten timber frame full of a lot of rusty, unused garden tools. Larger and more useful garden sheds are becoming more and more popular, as materials to build your own, such as roofing supplies, timber etc. are becoming readily available.

Rather than the forlorn figure of a dilapidated shed sitting at the foot of your garden, a new, more modern image has popped into the imaginations of amateur and professional builders alike.

Uses

A very popular and wise decision lately has been to convert a garden shed into a larger, multi-purpose area either for storage or completely separate room on its own.

As people crave bigger living spaces in their home, this may not be possible due to the downturn in economy and so people are turning to utilising what space they have already got. Transforming your shed into a space where you can retreat and completely switch off is a very tempting notion, but how would you even go about doing this?

Building Your Shed

Why have I never thought of this great idea before? You may be asking yourself this question but the answer is simple; it just didn’t cross your mind due to the amount of time and effort you thought you would have to put in. However, it is actually quite easy and straightforward, as there a readily available sheds to be bought from your local hardware store.

If you would prefer to build one with your own personal touch, you can also get your own roofing supplies, materials for walls, doors and windows as well! Alternatively, pay a visit to a building contractor who can design a shed specifically for the space available while still taking some recommendations from you.

Using Your Shed

People take serious pride in what they have built, and nothing is different when it comes to garden sheds. Being able to completely customise your own shed is a really good feeling as you begin to see it transform before your eyes.

You aren’t limited by a certain amount of windows, doors or even skylights in your roof. Building a shed can become your new playground. Your shed gives you a chance to show off your creativity and individuality as you really customise your unique shed.

Your shed can now be used for a lot more than just storing rusting old tools and unwanted children’s toys. Really go that extra mile to make the most out of your shed and deck it out with couches, shelves, table and chairs. An option is to make it into a completely self-sufficient building, fully equipped with electricity, water and the whole works!

Remember, don’t be afraid to build your own from scratch, but do ask advice from professionals who know what they are doing. They will guide on what roofing supplies to buy, what sort of walls to use and whether or not to insulate the place. Heat retaining windows and doors are also a great idea if you’re thinking of using this garden shed as a separate living space.

Commercial Growing With Controlled Environments

For the small, domestic grower, a small greenhouse is adequate enough to grow the produce they need. Once the average greenhouse owner has got more skilled and specialized, they naturally want to progress to more advanced growing mediums.

Even the serious fruit and veg grower, who is still a hobbyist, can still have very large greenhouse setups with all the advancements that go with it, like controlled temperatures, humidity, etc.
But, once growing has to be done on either a commercial level or to grow delicate or specialize plants, commercial growing environments then come into their own. We will look at some of these different types of growing environments and when and where they are used.

Botanical contained environment facilities.

This may seem like an overly technical term but essentially it’s having a large-scale building where every part of the growing process can be closely monitored and regulated. When you are dealing with optimum, delicate and possibly rare plants and vegetables, you need to make sure that every aspect of their well-being is catered for round-the-clock.

One such company that deals in these type of large-scale facilities, is unigro.co.uk. These guys are mentioned, simply because they are some great case studies on their website about how these facilities are used. In their overview, they document how they worked with Kew Gardens, one of the most reputable growers in the UK.

From reading their website, they had to design a quarantine facility, which prioritize bio security and containment at the top of the list. For most of us, this almost sounds like a top-secret operation from a film, but at the top end of the growing spectrum, this attention to detail is needed in every single aspect, so only the best facilities will do for the purpose.

These plant quarantine facilities are used quite widely within this area. If you want to know any more about this area, try out the guys above or search for similar controlled environments suppliers online.

Commercial growing.

Really, you could argue that commercial growing is just a reaction to demand. More people require regular fruit, veg. and plants, in season all year round. Commercial growing environments cater for this.

They grow their produce in the most optimum way all year round, allowing us the luxury of eating out of season fruit and veg any time we want. It may also seem on the surface, that large-scale commercial growing environments are there to just grow in bulk, with not much care, as long as the produce meet minimum standards.

This could not be further from the truth, as all these facilities are run by workers which have a passion for this line of work and treat what they grow with as much dedication as if it was their own.

Many commercial growing environments specialize in certain species, which means the workers will have in-depth knowledge in their certain specialism. they will know every aspect of the growing process from start to finish and the individual, optimal requirements for the species they specialize in.

When you speak to these guys, it is almost like they have study Ph.D. in every aspect of the growing process, from growing mediums, temperature, humidity, CO2 levels, etc.

Commercial growing environments, although on the surface have many similarities to your domestic greenhouse, are simply run to get the most efficiency out of the system with the most care. It is a very interesting area, at the least can be great supplemental reading for the average gardener. Even for those who wish to get into this area.

Healthy Eating Tips For Growing Your Own Salad Ingredients

The most obvious benefit of growing your own vegetables is that you get to enjoy fresh greens that you know are not laden with pesticides. With the rising costs of basic commodities, you can also save a few bucks by growing your own salad ingredients. So, how do you do this? Here are some tips that you can consider.

— Where to Grow Veggies

A lot of people shy away from any form of gardening because they don’t know how to use the space that’s available to them. Others, especially those who live in cities, don’t think that they can actually grow their own vegetables because they find it hard to find space for this kind of activity.

But wherever you are, there is a way to start your own organic garden. You could allot a small space in your backyard or grow plants in smaller containers if you live in a tiny flat or apartment.

— Protecting Delicate Plants from the Elements

A successful yield will largely depend on many external factors, including the soil and weather conditions. Seedlings are particularly vulnerable to environmental threats, such as frost, strong winds and heavy rains.

The best way to give seedlings a better chance of surviving is to grow them first in small containers or pots. If you live in a high-rise apartment where the nights can become very chilly, particularly once winter approaches, make sure to bring the pots inside at night.

Another option is to cover your plants with plastic to protect them from harsh weather or temperatures. If you’re lucky enough to have your own backyard, a good idea is to construct a greenhouse. It’s easy to build and it doesn’t have to be very big. You can buy a home kit or customize one and have a building company make it for you.

— Prepping the Soil

The soil is a vital element because it will have a huge effect on the health and development of your veggies. There are many ways to prep the soil. You can have it tested first to determine what types of minerals are currently present in it.

Soil testing will determine the acidity as well. If the soil is too acidic or alkaline, or if it lacks certain nutrients that are needed by the kind of plant that you wish to grow, ask the local agricultural office or the US-EPA for tips about how to address such issues. If you know a respectable organic grower in your area, don’t hesitate to ask for help as well. Another option is to buy pre-mixed soil. You can buy good quality organic soil or other ready-to-plant mixes.

— What to Grow

So, what can you grow in your own organic garden? Well, it depends on what you prefer. Common salad ingredients, like tomatoes, lettuce, carrots and cucumbers are favorites. Other veggies, like spinach, radishes, and peppers, are easy to grow as well.

In order to find out what kind of plants you can readily cultivate in your area, given the natural soil and weather conditions, check out the information provided by the USDA’s Hardiness Zones. If you want to grow certain plants that are not commonly found in your region, read more before you begin because there may be specific conditions that you have to provide for such plants in order for them to grow properly.

3 Simple Tips to Fix A Drab Lawn

With the recent heat wave that swept across the “Garden State” of New Jersey, it’s clear that summer has arrived, even if the first official day of the season isn’t until June 21.

With warm weather now the norm, property owners are working hard to tidy up their yards, and one of the toughest landscaping areas to tackle is the lawn.

Your lawn is one of the first things that a passerby will notice about your home, so having bountiful green grass instead of a dead, dry, and drab lawn is always a top priority.

From raking, mowing, and edging to making sure your yard is clear of weeds and keeping your grass well-hydrated, there’s no shortage of summer tasks required to get your lawn in tip-top shape. Below are the three biggest things you can do to ensure your lawn is the envy of the neighborhood this summer.

1. Properly Irrigate

Grass can’t grow without plenty of water, and in South Jersey, it can be quite a while in between rain. You can’t rely on Mother Nature to keep your grass green, and hooking up the garden hose to a cheap plastic sprinkler isn’t going to get the job done either.

For home and business owners who are truly serious about having a beautiful yard, an irrigation system is a must. Having a sprinkler system installed by local irrigation experts will work wonders for your lawn. According to the Irrigation Association of New Jersey and New Jersey American Water, lawns should be watered with an irrigation system two to three times per week for around 45 minutes each time.

“This allows the soil to absorb the water and enables roots to grow more deeply, which encourages drought tolerance,” the organizations state on a tip sheet.

2. Cut Grass to the Ideal Height

Once you have a reliable irrigation system in place, there are still some things to keep in mind to help your lawn flourish. First, remember that experts recommend you cut your lawn to a height of 2.5 to 3.5 inches. Grass at this height is less susceptible to insect and disease damage.

In addition, when you cut your grass, leave the clippings on the lawn; they provide nutrients that help your grass to grow. Following these tips and mowing your lawn regularly will reduce weeds and prevent the spotty, scorched look that homeowners have come to dread.

3. Use Fertilizer

Fertilization is an essential part of the lawn care process. In order to achieve a plush, green lawn, it’s important to use the proper fertilizers. However, determining what fertilizer is appropriate for your particular lawn and soil isn’t as easy as it sounds.

If you’ve been working with a lawn care company for irrigation services or mowing, it’s a good idea to consult with them on what type of fertilizer to use. South Jersey’s soil composition is unique, so an expert will be best-fit to select the right kind of fertilizers for your lawn.

From South Jersey irrigation to proper mowing practices to fertilization, there’s a wide array of tasks to tackle in order to achieve an awesome lawn, but if you take your time, do some research, and work with an expert, you can be sure your lawn will look incredible all summer long.