Garden Soil Biology – Living Components Of Soils

Soil biology is the living components of the soil. A healthy soil has a relationship to the plants you grow, along with air and water quality. Arthropods, bacteria, fungi, nematodes, protozoa and earthworms all have a relationship in a healthy soil.

Arthropods are invertebrates that make the home in soil. They range in size from microscopic to several inches in length, and are grouped as shredders, predators, herbivores, and fungal feeders. Most of the soil dwelling arthropods have a very important part in improving a soils structure by aerating and mixing soil, regulating the population of other soil organisms and shredding organic matter.

Bacteria are one celled organisms, and very small. There lack of size is easily made up by their large population. One teaspoon of a productive soil will generally contain between one hundred million and one billion bacteria. These one celled organisms fall into four groups, decomposers, mutualists, pathogens and lithotrophs or chemoautotrophs.

Fungi are microscopic cells, and usually grow as long threads or strands called hyphae. These hyphae can span from just a few cells to several yards in length. They play a very important role relating to water disease suppression, nutrient cycle and water dynamics.

Nematodes are non-segmented worms that are typically 1/500th of an inch in diameter and 1/20 0f an inch in length. Some are plant and algae feeders, bacteria and fungi feeders and others feed on other nematodes and protozoa. Divided into four groups of bacteria feeders, fungal feeders, predatory nematodes and root feeders, they all have their purpose in the soil food web.

Protoza are single celled animals that primarily feed on bacteria and will also eat other protozoa, along with soluble organic matter and fungi.

Earthworms, the most common member of the soil food web. They are a major decomposer of dead or decomposing organic material. Divided into twenty three families, these invertebrates can range in size from one inch to yards in length, and be seasonally found in all depths of soil.

Keeping a healthy soil in balance for the natural biology to work and improving the soils structure will provide many benefits for plant life to thrive and keep the environment clean. This can be easily done by just supplying the soil with the organic material it needs to feed the living organisms, for the soil is their home.

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Creating Your Own Hummingbird Sanctuary Garden

The essentials of a Hummingbird Sanctuary Garden start with rich, organic soil and colorful blooms they love. Plants designed to give them nesting materials and sites, along with a fun water feature will bring these tiny flying jewels to your hummingbird haven.

1. Plant a patch of your yard with red flowers. You can intermix other colors with the red blossoming plants to add interest and eye candy. Passing hummers will be attracted to the bright red color, and come to explore your yard. Don’t forget to add a few red garden accents or ornaments as well. These serve as additional signposts for hummingbirds who, just like real-life detectives, love to investigate! They have a poor sense of smell, so fragrant blooms don’t do anything for them. They use their eyes to find important food sources.

· Fill your garden with soil that drains well and is rich in organic material for vigorous plants.

· Choose both annuals and perennials to ensure continuous bloom all season long.

· Be sure to dead head blooms that have passed their prime. This will keep the energy flowing inside your flowers so they will produce more blossoms longer.

· No toxic pesticides or herbicides! Hummingbirds use spider silk to line their nests, and they pluck tiny insects from webs as well. Use the best natural garden materials available, and let the birds take care of the insects. You and your environment will be a lot healthier for it!

2. Hummingbird-attracting Shrubs and Flowers to try:

· Korean Spice Bush

· Trumpet Vines

· Cardinal Flower

· Butterfly Bush

· Old-Fashioned Lilacs

· Foxglove

· Agastache (hummingbird mint)

· Delphiniums

· Larkspur

· Azaleas

· Flowering Quince

· Indian Pink

· Bleeding Hearts

· Mexican Sunflower

· Bee Balm

· Lemon Balm

· Day Lilies

· Coral Bells

· Honeysuckle

· Impatiens

· Columbine

Plant any of these beauties in your gardens, and don’t be surprised when the hummingbirds find your yard. They will return year after year as long as food is abundant. By the way, hummingbirds choose their nesting spots based on the availability of food. If you provide food plants and/or feeders, their offspring will also come back to your yard and gardens each year.

3. Don’t forget hummingbird nesting material plants:

Use trees and shrubs of varying heights and diverse leaf textures. Small trees and shrubs may shelter perfectly camouflaged hummingbird nests in the forks of their branches. Hummingbirds use lichens and mosses to ‘glue’ their tiny quarter-sized nest to the tree. This way the nest virtually disappears and becomes part of the branch on which it rests.

Witch hazel, poplar, birch, mulberry, willows, cottonwood and alders are examples of the catkin bearing trees hummers prefer to use for downy nest-lining material.

Foliage that is soft and fuzzy will attract hummingbirds as well. Think about planting milkweed, or ornamental grasses that produce soft plumes. They also love Lamb’s Ear with its fuzzy leaves, blanket flowers and honeysuckles, which are …

The Best Gardening Tips for Spring Preparation

With such a cold winter, many gardeners are delighted that the spring is finally here. Even better, it is time to plant seeds and cultivate gardens which will bring about the hot green attractiveness of the spring season. However, without early preparation, your gardening might not be successful. Below are some of the very best strategies to organize your gardens for the spring season.

Start looking for seeds and bulbs

If you'd like to plant flowers such as lilies, it is time for you to start ordering seeds and bulbs. Otherwise, you will miss out on the radiant summer display. You could get the seeds online or purchase them from the nearest store in your neighborhood. Make sure the seeds and bulbs are in excellent condition to avoid disappointments late in the season when the planting season has passed.

Cleaning the garden

If there are debris in the garden, it is time for you to throw them out. Don't ignore the lawn and the pond. Remove any weeds from the garden and put them in a pile to create a compost that could be used when gardening. Dig up the soil in the garden and flowerbeds to make sure it doesn't harden. If you cannot do this yourself, it is time to find a gardening service.

Cleaning the greenhouse

If you'd like to plant in a greenhouse, it is time to do tidying. If there are any leftover plant debris in the containers, clear them out. Ensure that the seats and floors are cleaned completely to avoid bringing in any pests. Look at the temperature and everything necessary to make sure the greenhouse is in an amazing condition when the spring season starts.

Repairing gates

If you would like to divide the plants in your garden, you need to start fixing the gates. If you are using wooden fences, make sure they're properly treated to avoid pest attacks. Fix any broken latches and re-paint them accordingly to make your garden appealing when the planting starts.

Clean the gardening tools

Having thrown the gardening equipment in the shed during winter, it's about time to take them out of storage. Clean, sharpen and inspect them to make sure they are functioning well. Change broken or damaged equipment so that everything is working before you start planting.

Prepare compost / manure

If you'd like your crops to grow completely when the spring season comes, you have to be equipped with a large amount of garden compost and manure. However, you need to avoid using fertilizers or pesticides that can harm your plants. As such, any unwanted weeds or plants picked from the garden need to be placed in a compost area. On the other hand, it is also sensible to collect any animal droppings in your garden and store it for use as a compost.

Last but not least, you should be prepared with plenty of water supply when the seeds are planted. Without water, the plants will die within a short time. …

Begin Your Own Organic Garden in Southern California

Starting an organic garden in town can be a rewarding experience in many ways. As the inclination of rising food costs expands across the globe, the return to the land is becoming an intelligent and more affordable way to eat well. For Southern California residents who are concerned about caring for their environment and giving back to the land rather than contributing to its growing deterioration, organic gardening can be an effective step towards the preservation of the earth. You may need to make conscious adjustments in your spending habits and daily schedule, but you will swiftly learn to appreciate the rewards that come with growing your own produce.

Whether you are a seasoned gardener or just getting started on your first endeavor in cultivating the land, there are some tips you should know for beginning any type of organic garden in the city. The main trick to gardening organically is figuring out how to work with nature in its original landscape and weather conditions at your specific plot of land. The difficulty these days comes in overcoming the ways the natural landscape has been disturbed by chemicals and unnatural landscaping conditions over the course of several decades. It will take a little extra effort on your part to recondition potentially damaged earth, but nature is generally forgiving and will restore itself to its proper state as you persist in treating it with TLC.

Strategize to Reduce Your Work and Maximize Your Garden’s Production

After years of heightened use of fertilizers and pesticides, gardeners have lost the habit of planning in ways that will prompt nature to care for itself. Rather than trying to completely manage the garden with unnatural techniques, the idea is to create systems that allow the garden to do much of the work itself. As you begin plans for your organic garden, you will want to pay careful consideration to valuable insects, companion planting practices and the native plants which grow best in the weather and soil condition in this area of Southern California. You should also think about ways that you can attract pollinating insects, butterflies and birds which will keep back the arrival of harmful pests.

One of the most important priorities for creating a plot where an organic garden can thrive should be in the multiplication of organic matter within the garden. The more organic material you can add to the soil, whether it be with compost or another mulching material, the better the soil will become and the higher the production of your garden will be in the coming years. Organic material helps to neutralize the effects of harm that has been created by chemical fertilizers and surplus salts that come from chlorinated tap water.

Native California Vegetation Grows Best in the Autumn Weather

The weather conditions in San Diego are most propitious for a fall garden, as October generally ushers in the rainy season and cooler temperatures. If you are located in an area of wild lands on the periphery of …

Gardeners Secrets Revealed: How To Get Rid Of Caterpillars In Your Garden

You’ve got a beautiful garden in which you are growing a wide variety of plants and a few trees very well. But to your horror you discover one day caterpillars munching away on your cabbage, your lettuce, your tomatoes and everything else. All your hard work and effort is being munched away happily by these larvae. Your heart cries out, doesn’t it?

Caterpillars are larvae of butterflies and moths. In other words, caterpillars are the feeding stages of moths and butterflies. Yes, the stage itself is solely a feeding stage in the growth of these insects. They may be small but they eat too much. They eat and only keep eating. They eat the leaves, new buds and shoots and even flowers! There are many different kinds of caterpillars, each eating lots. You should know what kind of caterpillars you are dealing with before beginning your evacuation mission or it will simply be a waste.

There are a tremendous number of ways of tackling caterpillars. One of the most common and simple methods is to handpick them. Caterpillars are most active come early morning or evening – dusk time. When hand picking them, be sure you wear rubber gloves and carry an empty cup or tray with you. Your target should be the bottom side of the leaves. You’ll see egg clusters there. Remove them and also, look for caterpillars. You can pick them out too. These can be discarded in two ways. You could either release them somewhere far off from your garden or you can always kill them in soapy water.

It is always advisable to stay organic when it comes to dealing with pests in your garden. Pesticides can even damage your plants and trees and that is certainly not what you want. Hence, eco friendly remedies are the best. One of the best ways is crop rotation. Also, add lots of compost to your soil and make sure you don’t grow your plants in continuous rows. Releasing a predator into your garden is also a good and healthy idea. Frogs, wasps or lizards feed on caterpillars and protect your garden against them.

The best way to get rid of caterpillars and to control them is to spray the bacterial called Bacillus thuringiensis or BT in short. It is not only the most effective way to control caterpillars but also very eco friendly and does not damage your crops or the environment. BTK is the best type of bacterial for caterpillar control.

Other ways to get rid of caterpillars are neem oil which works wonders and acts instantaneously. Neem is extremely bitter and caterpillars will not dare touch plants that have neem oil sprayed on them. There is also another spray called Rotenone-Pyrethrin that is effective.

There are many ways in which you could get rid of caterpillars before they create havoc in your garden. Try one of the methods mentioned above and your garden will be caterpillar-free for sure.

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Garden Water Features

Garden water features are of course water features for your garden and this means things like waterfalls and fountains that you can use to add atmosphere and scenery to your garden relatively easily. When you add a water feature to your garden there are many types to choose from, from natural looking rock pools with built in fountains that will blend into the fauna and greenery in your garden, to more modern looking arrangements using stone balls and other features.

There are many benefits of water features and if you choose a good one for your property then you will find that this not only gives you a great feature to look at, but that it also transforms the feeling of your garden environment in other ways too. Here we will look at just a few of the benefits of garden features and what they can offer you.

Appearance: A garden water feature is a great looking thing to have in your home and one that will create a very natural feel in your garden. Often these will be made to blend into the appearance of your garden with natural looking rocks and the appearance of a small waterfall or rock pool. This can make a great feature for a garden and can take center stage, or it can be a smaller side attraction in the corner that shows attention to detail in your garden layout – something to find for those who are looking for it.

Sound: A garden waterfall doesn’t just look good though it also sounds great, and it’s highly relaxing to listen to the trickling noise it makes which can be likened to a babbling brook in a river giving your home the feeling of a natural setting. If you’ve ever listened to one of those relaxation CDs then you’ll not that they tend to feature trickling streams quite highly. This then is a sign of just how relaxing and calming a stream really is and how we are almost ‘programmed’ to enjoy that sound. If you enjoy sitting outside and listening to the birds for a moment’s respite from the busy pace of modern living, then this is the perfect way to get to enjoy that even more.

Light: Another great thing about a fountain is the way it refracts and reflects light. Here the sunlight will sometimes catch on the glass and reflect off of it, while at other times you will get to enjoy the lighting included in it. Usually this will be in the form of LEDs lighting the water from underneath and this will tend to be an electric blue or a neon green. In the evening then this serene lighting will be refracted and will dance around the garden in a similar way to the way in which a flame dances in the light – it can be completely hypnotic.

Wildlife: A garden water feature will also draw to your garden a host of wildlife and particularly birds that can …

Calabria, and My Garden of Eden

My mother's village, Santa Caterina dello Ionio, was perched high up on a mountain top. Each day at 5am I begged my aunts to take me with them to my grandfather's orto (vegetable garden) he had named 'Giangi', which was a good half hour's hike downhill into the gorge …

We came across people who got to their farms way before we even got out of bed. The aroma of baking bread made my stomach growl and I could see the tiny flames glowing inside their brick and stone ovens as we continued down the path.

I knew we had arrived at nonno's orto when I saw the rivulet, more like a brook, gently meandering through the bottom of his property. One of my aunts lifted hefty boulders to block the water's flow and create a pool where she would wash our clothes, beating them on the rocks before drying them on a branch of the nearby gigantic fig tree that looked hundreds of years old.

We were deep in a revine, and as I looked up I saw the most wonderful garden built on steps on the side of the mountain. My other aunt took me to the water reservoir nonno had built after returning from Philadelphia USA around 1908. It was called 'u concu'. All she had to do was lift a wooden panel and water began flowing through all the pathways especially designed to water everything. I could sense my nonno's spirit everywhere, and although I had never met my grandparents I felt them in my heart, as if they were sending me their love. They were humble hard-working souls who had endured much through World War 2 and had accepted their lot in life. Tears welled in my eyes.

Our first bit of food was at 11am when the church a couple of hundred meters above us tolled its bells helping farmers keep time. Watches were a luxury no-one could afford.

After helping gather some figs, also fica d'India (prickly pears) and more, we sat in the little casetta – the stone house nonno fixed up, but I was told it was originally built centuries ago. Brunch consisted of aromatic slices of Calabrese salami, hard cheese (Pecorino, I think), and yummy crusty Calabrese bread and a jug of that fresh mountain dew water from nonno's concu … I was in heaven and felt what Eden must have looked like . This is my Calabria as I remember it … This is my experience in Calabria 1964 … Memories of a little boy in Giangi, my Garden Eden …

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Zen Garden Design – Principles and History

Zen gardens, originating with Buddhist monks centuries ago, have become all the rage recently. Combining a balance of natural and architectural elements and a blend of humble, simple design juxtaposed with natural wonders, these gardens offer tranquility and beauty galore. As for that balance, Zen gardeners adhere to the principle of (female) yin and the (male) yang. Every facet of a Zen garden is characterized by one or the other, i.e. water is yin; earth is yang. The epitome of a Zen garden is achieved when yin and yang balance for harmonious feng shui; this adheres to a second principle of working with nature’s tendencies as much as your landscape allows.

Designed to produce a 3-D effect of height and depth, a Zen garden is planned with foreground and background to draw one’s focus. More harmony is achieved by balancing different colors, sizes, and shapes of flora, so no one plant overwhelms. Trees and larger shrubbery placed at the rear of your garden offer privacy and a natural backdrop. More feng shui tips for your Zen garden?

Planting for your climate: Mosses, ground covers, ornamental grasses, hardy flowering blooms, shrubs, and focal point trees, in varied heights, colors, and textures, add lush vibrancy to your garden. Drought-resistant plants thrive in a Zen garden’s sandy areas and are perfect for low-rainfall zones. Mosses and low-maintenance ground covers serve to soften straight lines, such as pre-existing walkways, and promote the flow of chi. Choose plants that will flourish in your region.

Nature’s Rocks: Rocks give dimension to a Zen garden. They reflect permanence and respect for the passing of time, while adding energy and emotion to your landscape. Select unique rocks and stones, organizing them according to their special characteristics and sizes; place them where best suited for your garden’s flow. Choose smooth, well-worn stones for added appeal.

Water Features: All elements have a purpose in a Zen garden. Water features such as pools, ponds and fountains offer yin energy and encourage beneficial chi.  Garden lighting to highlight special areas balances that with yang (male) energy. You get the idea. Water elements can include natural facets already in your landscape, i.e. a pre-existing stream or pond, or may be added – either naturally or man-made. Sand and pebble formations can also be used to represent water: swirl sand with a rake or fingertips to create a rippling water effect – the swirls also promote the flow of chi in your garden. While sand areas are lovely, I prefer using them in tandem with actual water features for more dramatic appeal.

Paths and Walkways: Paths should never be straight, as chi energy is supposed to flow gently. A Zen garden craves meanderings and curves to soften straight lines and edging, because a curved path encourages chi to move more slowly and freely. If you already have straight paths, plant mosses to soften them; allow plants to grow over edges to help chi to circulate freely.

Bridges: Most of us have seen the stock …

Spurce Up Your Garden With Decorative Birdhouses

Decorative Birdhouses are active garden ornamentation –the presence and movement of birds creates a fluid focal point for your garden. As such, placement is critical for you to earn maximum benefit from your birdhouses. Cavity nesting birds will not be attracted to your garden without the appropriate environment. Each bird has a particular way they want to live and specific needs.

You’ll have a better chance of getting the feathered tenant of your choice if you do your research. For example, if you want to host Eastern Bluebirds, you’ll need to place the birdhouse at approximately 5 feet high and provide an entrance of 1 ½ inch in diameter. On the other hand, The Northern Flicker is drawn by heights of up to 30 feet and needs a southeast facing home. Wrens like their nests to be located in shrubs, while Swallows desire close proximity to bodies of water. Building a pond or enhancing an existing one will make your garden more attractive to these particular birds. You will also enjoy the added aesthetic.

In addition to bird knowledge, you can attract most birds with a birdbath, carefully selected foliage, and plants that bear fruit. However, keep these a distance from the birdhouse so that the birds occupying it will not have to compete to keep it. If you don’t want to mount a pole in your garden area, you can attach your birdhouse to a tree limb, tree trunk, or fence post.

Additional tips are as follows:

Situate the birdhouse entrance in such a way as to avoid overheating it.

Place the birdhouse out of the way of predators like cats and coyotes.

Allow for a clear flight pattern to the entrance hole.

Place the appropriate nesting material near your birdhouse to make it easy for birds to settle in.

Keep bird food fresh.

Birdhouses provide shelter for birds and also entertaining decor for you and your guests. The birds’ presence provides dramatic beauty as the scenery changes each time you glance into your garden.

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The Idea Behind Green Interior Design

Green interior design is radically different to interior design because it is based on a completely different set of criteria. The main thrust of green interior design is to help the environment and to improve indoor air quality. To better understand how green interior design seeks to address these challenges it is necessary to look at the guidelines laid out under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) organization which was set up by the US Green Build Council in 1998.

LEED identify 5 key metrics which green interior design should address. These metrics are reducing carbon emissions, conserving water, improving energy efficiency, improving indoor air quality and better husbanding of natural resources. Nowhere in the metrics is there mention of fashion or the need for wall hangings or oriental soft furnishings. Of course a home can be environmentally friendly and have a cutting edge minimal look or pleasing rustic look. The point is that green interior design is based on how it benefits the environment and keeps people healthy not on any changeable notion of 'style' or 'coolness' or 'elegance'. Statistics are the indicators of success or failure not the aesthetic sensibilities of the homeowner.

It is important to look at how a house can improve its insulation to help reduce heating and cooling bills and thus lower carbon emissions. To make a house more environmentally friendly it is a good idea to consider installing programmable thermostats, compact fluorescent light bulbs, energy saving power strips and energy efficient home appliances among many other possible actions to lower energy consumption. This is great for the home owner because it means lower bills to pay every month.

Another area that is of the utmost importance to green interior design is water conservation. Actions like installing low flow showerheads and faucet aerators and collecting rainwater to water the garden are good examples of how water can be conserved.

The metric concerned with reducing carbon emissions is very much connected to power consumption. For those people not buying 'green' electricity, every kilowatt-hour of electricity consumed means so much carbon emitted by a power station. As well as lower electricity consumption green interior design is keenly interested with alternative and cleaner sources of energy such as solar power.

People's health is of primary concern to green interior design. People in the developed world spend 90% of their lives indoors so good indoor air quality is vital. One of the key issues is with volatile organic compounds that off-gas easily and cause respiratory problems, cancer and other serious medical conditions. The best way to avoid VOCs is to check flooring, furniture, office and household products for their VOC content and try to replace the worst offenders with healthier alternatives.

Finally there is the issue of natural resource management. This is about switching from using quickly depleting resources like hardwood and using renewable resources instead such as bamboo, jute, coconut, cork, hemp and water hyacinth. Another strategy is sourcing furniture etc. that is produced by …