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 …

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 Many Benefits of Garden Fencing

A garden fence is a great way to combine the practical with the stylish, by both adding security to your garden and creating a beautiful and stylish touch to your yard. Enclosing your yard or garden can help keep pests and deer from eating the fruits and vegetables you have spent so much time on, and the fence can also be a reflection of your individual personality.

Gardening is a hobby that more and more people are starting to pursue, partly because it is rewarding and can reduce stress and partly because of the green movement. Protecting your garden with a fence can be a big deal especially if you live in an area with a lot of pests and animals that eat plants. Deciding which materials to make your fence from has a lot to do with individual preference as well as the look and style of your home.

Old country homes that could be described as rustic usually benefit most stylistically from a garden fence made from wood. There are many different types of wood available for the purpose, but one of the best and most cost effective is bamboo. Bamboo fences are usually solid and add a sense of security and privacy to your garden as well. Other wood fence styles are not solid and do not do an adequate job of providing privacy or of keeping animals out.

Modern homeowners often use vinyl to create their garden fences. Vinyl comes in numerous styles, some of which are made to resemble real wood. The main benefit of a vinyl fence is that it is very easy to keep clean and maintain. These fences can easily be made to match the style of various modern home styles.

Metal is another option when it comes to garden fences, although this option is less popular than it used to be. Metal fencing can be expensive and can rust. It does have the advantage of lasting for many years if properly taken care of, and it can keep animals out of your garden fairly effectively.

There are a couple things you can do to save even more money on your garden fence. It has become popular to “patinize” metal fencing, giving it an aged and rusty look. Visit your local salvage yard to find metal fencing panels that are already rusted. Used brick is another good option, as there is no reason for structural support with a garden fence. This can also provide a stylish aged look. Finally, if you live near a creek, dry stone is a great option for a garden fence and it’s completely free. Dry stone is also easy to maintain and will last for years.

A garden fence is a great way to add security to your yard and garden, as well as creating a bit more style in your yard. They can also be used to portion off a section of your yard where you will not be bothered by neighbors and you can relax …

Garden Tillers And Cultivators

The best garden tillers and cultivators

Troy bilt and Mantis build some of the best tillers but it's good to have a list of your specific needs before shopping too much. There are quiet models, and models that are harder to start and tillers that don't till deep enough, etc.

How tough of a tiller do you need?

There are a lot of mini garden tillers and cultivators that should work well for you. The Mantis 7262 model works well for many and can till deep enough into the ground and handle small rocks, etc. Mini tillers like the Mantis 7250 are usually reviewed very well by customers as the 7250 is able to till deep and in narrow rows and spaces. It's also easy for storage. It folds up nicely.

Watch out for loud tillers!

Some tillers seem to be just too loud and too bouncy. These garden tillers and cultivators are very powerful but fairly light. You probably won't get worn out pushing it because it isn't heavy, but you may want to get a pair of good gripping gloves to help you hold down the tiller if it gets bouncy.

Electric or gas powered garden tillers and cultivators.

You may be surprised to find that there are battery-powered cultivators that may be able to get the job done for you just as good as a gas powered one. It depends on the job and your yards needs, but sometimes an electric cultivator may be easier to maintain than a gas powered cultivator.

The Black and decker Gc818 18 Volt cordless electric garden cultivator is very convenient yet functional. It's inexpensive and it weighs only 8 pounds.

The Sun Joe TJ600E Tiller is another electric cultivator that may be right for your needs. It's another lightweight yet powerful tiller that you need to keep a good grip on and it will help you tear up your garden to get the soil ready for planting and seeding. Just be sure not to use these garden tillers and cultivators while you're distracted, be careful while listening to music. These machines are so powerful you don't want it to accidentally destroy something while you aren't looking.

Be sure that you don't overestimate the abilities of your tiller if you are going with a mini cultivator as they are not suitable for dealing with large rocks and tough roots. For smaller rocks and roots you should be fine.

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