Let’s Plant Some Herbs – Ideas for Space

Maybe you already know which herbs you’d like to grow. First, you need to look at the individual herb and make sure the ones you’re interested in growing are suitable for your region. {The USDA Plant Data Base in the pages section can prove to be quite resourceful}. Even if you’re unsure about a particular herb, it’s often worth a try. In some cases, you may be able to adjust your environment and provide comfortable growing conditions for a variety of herbs, by amending your soil and by carefully choosing planting locations for their different light and exposure conditions, their preference for shady or sunny spots in the garden, water needs, and soil preferences.

After you make your plant selections, you’ll need to decide whether to buy plants or start them from seed.

Preparing the Bed or Row:

Before you plant anything, you will want to prepare {and possibly amend, or feed} the planting area. The best time to do this is in the fall because it allows the winter snow, rain, and the wind to work their magical alchemy, along with the soil microbes and the tunneling creatures. But spring can be just as good a time for preparations, particularly if you live in a colder region.

First, clear all “weeds.” {In the process see if any of them are “medicinal weeds,” if they are, harvest them!} Using a shovel or digging fork, break up the soil in the bed or row to a spade’s depth. Next, armed with your analysis of the nutritional or textural needs of your garden, spread several inches of compost, aged manure, or fine mulch on the surface. If you know that your soil needs to be adjusted for pH level or a plant’s nutritional needs, now is the time to add your organic, slow-release fertilizers. Work them into the soil. If you know you will be growing herbs that achieve their best medicinal potency in lean soil, omit or go easy on amendments.

If you need to loosen heavy clay soil, add compost, perlite, vermiculite, coir {shredded coconut hulls}, or sand. To firm and enrich sandy, poor soil, add sterilized topsoil, compost, or aged manure.

Raised Beds:

There are advantages to growing herbs in raised beds. If your drainage is poor, a raised bed will give you a lot of room for excess water to drain away from plant roots. If you have a tired back or use a wheelchair or are otherwise differently-abled, you will find the extra height provided by a raised bed helpful. In addition, raised beds to allow you to vary the soil mixes and fertilizers used for different plants, and you can even add rodent netting under raised beds to block tunneling animals.

A framed raised bed keeps soil from eroding and creates a tidy area for growing. Many growers make wood frames from 2 x 4’s, wooden boards, concrete blocks, or recycled materials such as bricks, broken up concrete, and rocks. After you have set your framing, line the bottom with a few inches of gravel for drainage, if needed, and fill the bed to within several inches of the top of the frame using the soil you’ve collected, a purchased planter’s mix, or a mix of compost and soil. Raised beds are easiest to care for when their maximum width is between 4 and 5 feet so that you can comfortably reach the middle of the bed without having to stand or walk on the soil.

Vertical Gardening:

If your outdoor space is limited, grow up! There are many ways to grow vertically, from living wall installations to free-standing columns, arbors, suspensions, and trellises. Vines, such as honeysuckle and hops, are ideal for vertical gardening. Living walls allow you to set non-vining, clumping plants along the length of your support, resulting in a lovely cascading effect.

Cold Frames:

A cold frame is like a mini-greenhouse that can be used to protect tender plants from the biting cold or a possible frost or can protect seedlings in the early spring. Portable cold frames are generally low, bottomless boxes, with sides made of wood and a glass or plastic top that allows light to enter and warmth to collect inside. You can further insulate the sides with hay bales or other thick materials when temperatures drop. The back of the cold frame should be 4 to 6 inches higher than the front, so the lid sloes forward and maximizes the amount of light that reaches the plants inside. Face the cold frame toward the south for the greatest sun exposure and thus the greatest amounts of heat and light. It can be moved around your garden and can be as large or small as you find useful. As the weather warms, you can prop open the lid, swing it open fully, and eventually remove the frame. A cold frame can often add a month or more to each end of the growing season, and in warmer climates, it can enable gardeners to grow plants outdoors throughout the winter.

The Potted Garden, Indoors or Out:

If you have a rooftop corner, a sunny breakfast room, a warm sun porch, an attached greenhouse or atrium, a deck, a porch, or a kitchen windowsill, you can grow herbs successfully. There are a number of medicinal herbs that do remarkably well in pots and planters. In fact, growing this way can allow you to cultivate botanicals that you couldn’t otherwise grow in your climate and can dramatically extend your season.

Choose Your Space:

Naturally, your type of residence may determine the type of potted garden you can create. But don’t limit yourself; think creatively when designing spaces to incorporate herb growing into your daily care routine.

Windowsills:

herbs on a windowsill, Gardenista Houseplants Photo GalleryAs long as you have enough sun streaming in through your window or can provide artificial light suspended directly over your plants {for when the sun’s angle is low, in winter, or if the window is on a northern wall}, you can successfully grow herbs. You’ll have to pay attention to the sun-pattern, noticing when the light is direct and indirect. More than 2 to 3 hours of direct sunlight on the herbs daily will mean that you’ll need to water and feed the plant more often. Without enough light, however, your herbs will become leggy and their growth will be soft and lax. Believe it or not, the biggest mistake people make with windowsill growing is neglect.

In a very sunny window, you can experiment with setting pots of herbs in a tray filled with stones and adding water to the tray. {The stones prevent the water from soaking directly into the pots, so take care that the water level doesn’t reach the pots themselves.} This technique provides some humidity, which cuts down the dramatic effects of direct sunlight. Check your pots morning and evening, and let them dry out before watering, but don’t allow the plants to wilt.

Decks and Porches:

Lucky you – you have the closest thing to a land-based garden and can style it any way you wish with containers. You might want to place a potting bench in one corner of the space, so you have somewhere to work on your plants.

Decks and porches have sun and shade patterns that can be stark and change rapidly, which can create a challenge for plants until they adjust to the new space. Reflections from walls, glass, and water features can add to the effect of sun and shade, so spend some time closely observing the changing patterns to determine where on your deck or porch the shade-loving herbs should go and where to place the sun lovers.

If you work outside the home or are gone for long periods of time, you’ll have to pay special attention to your plant’s watering requirements. Some people set up drip irrigation tubes with timers to allow for consistent moisture and lessen plant maintenance time.

Greenhouses, Atrium’s, Sun Porches, and Four-Season Rooms:

dee2e-winter-garden-1These indoor growing areas are full-service rooms, where you can grow in containers or make use of beds, benches, tables, or boxes. Having a true greenhouse is a luxury. If you are blessed with enough space to construct a greenhouse {or can purchase a ready-to-assemble kit online}, you’ll have flexibility and variety in your gardening activities. You’ll be able to start seed in very early spring, long before you would be able to plant outside, and you’ll be able to house tender perennials over the winter months. Greenhouses do have ongoing costs – such as heating, ventilation, and lighting – that should be factored into your buying decision. But if you live in a warm climate, you may be able to make use of an unheated greenhouse. For enthusiastic gardeners, greenhouses are indispensable, but the costs of building and maintaining one can be considerable. If you’re considering a greenhouse, you could start with a temporary or “pop-up” model; they’re available as lightweight kits that snap together, and they can be assembled and disassembled easily.

A more practical approach to indoor growing may be an atrium, or attached greenhouse, built onto an outside wall of your home. It will allow you to heat and light the growing area separately from the rest of the house, and it will bring in extra solar heat in the winter as an added benefit. It’s ideally positioned on the south wall, and it may be less expensive to build and maintain than a traditional greenhouse.

The next best indoor option is a roomy sun porch or glass-walled room, as long as you can provide supplemental heat and light when needed. Light is the only limitation to indoor growing; without enough light, your herbs will become leggy and start to topple. The most ideal setting will be a south-, east-, or west-facing window, although you need to factor in shade from outdoor trees and neighboring buildings.

Rooftop Growing:

If you’re living in a high-rise, you’ll find an enthusiastic club to join – a whole set of rooftop gardeners enjoying the benefits of vegetables and herbs in planter boxes, wine barrels, old bathtubs, and even plastic kiddie pools. The possibilities are endless. Before attempting a rooftop garden, you’ll need to research any local restrictions your building or town may have in place, and you should check with an expert who can advise you about structural issues that may arise from the extra weight you’ll be adding to the roof. So proceed cautiously. Once those steps have been taken, you’ll need to make decisions about water sources, bed and container design and placement, and drainage, as well as determine how to deal with weather extremes your plants may face {such as high winds or intense heat} and how to bring your supplies to the rooftop.

Your Organic Garden: Pest Control Without Chemicals – Sustainable Baby Steps

Organic garden pest control doesn’t have to be difficult or intimidating with these simple and safe methods (that truly work).

Source: Your Organic Garden: Pest Control Without Chemicals – Sustainable Baby Steps

8 natural & homemade insecticides to save your garden without killing the Earth : TreeHugger

These natural and DIY pesticides are effective at helping to rid your crops of harmful critters, but safe enough to keep from poisoning you and your family.

Source: 8 natural & homemade insecticides to save your garden without killing the Earth : TreeHugger

The Disorders Of Herbs {Pests and Diseases}

Herbs that are used to treat numerous health conditions are themselves susceptible to the plant diseases that inflict many other garden plants. While some care is required to grow garden plants to keep them healthy, it is essential to take special care while growing herbs since they are primarily cultivated for culinary or remedial reasons. When herbs are grown under glass, ventilation and hygiene are especially vital while cultivating herbs. In addition, you may help the herbs to avoid fungal infections by getting rid of the dead leaves and flowers as well as by using gummy traps to catch flying pests prior to the temperatures becoming extremely high to take initiatives for biological controls. At times it may be necessary to spray insecticides and in such instances ensure that you only use those insecticides that are safe and suggested by those who supply biological controls. In addition, while spraying insecticides, it is also important to follow the instructions meticulously. It is also advisable that you immerse the pots that have been brought under glass in biological solutions with a view to eliminating any slug or snail that may be present.

Aphids

Aphids are known to be one of the most disparaging pests that invade the cultivated plants in the temperate climatic regions. In effect, they have turned out to be the enemies of the farmers as well as gardeners across the world for the extent of the damage done by them to the cultivated plants. However, when you look at aphids from the zoological viewpoint, you will find them to be among the most successful groups of organisms. Partially, their success is owing to some of their species’ ability to reproduce asexually.

Plants that have been damaged by aphids may have an assortment of symptoms, for instance, lower growth rates, spotted leaves, undersized development, yellowing, coiled leaves, drooping, burrowing, low yields and even untimely deaths. Taking away the plant’s sap results in absence of vitality in the diseased plant. Also, the saliva of aphids is noxious to the plants. In effect, it has been found that often aphids pass on organisms that cause diseases to the plants, such as viruses to the plants which they inhabit. Especially, the green peach aphid (biological name, Myzus persicae) is known to be a vector or carrier for over 100 plant viruses. Similarly, the cotton aphids (botanical name, Aphis gossypii) generally taint the papaya, sugarcane, and peanuts with viruses. It may be noted that aphids have been responsible for spreading late blight (scientific name, Phytophthora infestans) amongst potatoes during the Irish potato famine that occurred in the 1840’s.

On the other hand, the black cherry aphid or the cherry aphid (biological name, Myzus cerasi) is liable for various leaves curling of the cherry trees. This symptom can be easily differentiated from ‘leaf curling’ caused by the species of Taphrina fungus owing to the presence of aphids underneath the leaves.

It may be noted that the harm or diseases caused to the plants, especially the commercial crops, have led to the spending of huge amounts as well as great efforts in trying to control the actions of aphids. Therefore, it is advisable that you control the growth, spread as well as destruction using insecticidal soft soaps, or direct a potent, fine stream of water onto the part swarming with the pests to knock off the aphids from the plants.

Gray mold (Botrytis)

Gray mold, also known as Botrytis blight, is known to be a gardener’s nightmare. In fact, this is a widespread plant ailment, particularly non-woody plants that are grown under humid conditions. Gray mold may be a major problem in the greenhouses, especially when the dampness is high, while the temperatures are reasonable. This disease generally infects tomatoes and, sometimes, cucumbers too. At times, this disease is also a problem on decorative plants, especially the African violets.

It has been detected that Botrytis blight distresses the plants in several ways. This disease may result in the collapse and can weaken the seedlings, cause disfigurement or blotched to blossoms, lead to the rotting of the fruits, stem and the plant crown as well as afflict the shoots. The first symptom of this common plant disease is generally a water-soaked spot on the plant that subsequently makes the tissue soft and watered-down. The inflicted parts of the plant gradually droop and collapse. In case the humidity level stays high, you will notice that a greyish-brown outside layer or mesh of mycelium of fungus threads as well as spores developing over the surface of the bowed tissue.

The infected parts of the plant develop numerous spores that are easily blown or splattered on top of the healthy foliage. In case there is a thin layer of moisture and other conditions are encouraging, germination of the microorganisms as well as contagion may occur only within a few hours’ time. In addition, sclerotia (a vegetative, resting food-storage body in specific higher fungi, made up of a dense mass of toughened mycelia) may develop on the plump parts of the stems and fruits. The sclerotia are the hard-wearing resting structure that allows the fungus to stay alive at times when the conditions are not conducive for its growth. The sizes of the sclerotia differ and may be up to one-fourth of an inch and are generally black and evened out. In fact, sclerotia are always not noticeable but may be entrenched in decomposed tissue or covered with soil and other wreckage or plant remains.

The film or thin covering of moisture is essential for the germination of the spores and infecting the plants. Hence, gray mold normally has a preference for humid and comparatively cool climatic conditions. It is possible to bring down the levels of humidity by opening up plantings while cultivation, by leaving greater spaces between the rows and plants or by means of pruning. This helps the more free movement of air through the plants and reduces humidity. When plants are grown in greenhouses, gray mold can be brought under control by making provisions for excellent ventilation. It may be noted that the gray mold fungus flourishes on plant remain.

In addition to proper ventilation, sanitation is another vital aspect for controlling the germination and growth of gray mold. Therefore, it is important to get rid of the fallen leaves and dead plants from the greenhouses and set ablaze, buried or leave them at some place where they will dry quickly. By doing this, you will be able to lessen a number of contagious substances in the area.

Leaf miners

Generally, leafminers feed in the leaves or needles that result in tunneling or digging injuries on the leaves. In effect, numerous types of insects, as well as the larvae of moths (Lepidoptera), sawflies (Hymenoptera), beetles (Coleoptera) and flies (Diptera), have assumed this habit for their survival. The majority of these insects spend their entire larval period feeding in the leaves. While a number of them also develop from the larva stage to pupa (pupate) in the leaf mine feeding on the leaves, there are others whose larvae, when full grown, cut their way out of the leaves and drop on the soil to develop into a pupa.

In fact, occasionally the leaf miners are categorized depending on the type of mines they create in the leaves. For instance, the serpentine leaf mines meander like a snake across the leaf slowly broadening while the insect grows. Blotch leaf miners are more widespread and they are normally erratically curved. The tentiform leaf miner is a sub-group of the insects that create the swelling stained type of mines that bend upwards something akin to a tent as the tissue of the damaged leaf dries up. Usually, the mining prototypes are generally a mishmash of what has been described above. For instance, the insect species initially create serpentine mines, but in the end, they enlarge the leaf cavity of a splotched mine.

Normally, the areas of the leaves that the insects have mined gradually dry out and die. While the damages caused by the leaf mining insects may appear to be ugly, these insects are seldom known to affect the health of the entire plant. In addition, the majority of the leaf miners have significant natural controls that usually put a check on their population prior to any excessive damage is done to the plants.

Damages done by insects that engage in leaf and needle mining may sometimes apparently look like the symptoms caused by leaf spotting fungi or different abiotic problems. These can be differentiated by separating the mottled part. In case the leaves have been harmed by insects, there will be a hollow area in the leaf or the needle, which may reveal the insect and/ or its droppings. On the other hand, the leaf spotting fungi result in the collapse of the affected areas and there is no tunneling whatsoever.

Before concluding, it may be mentioned that the larvae of an assortment of moths, flies, and beetles survive by mining through leaves of various plants. In order to check this menace, it is advisable to get rid of the affected leaves and destroy them immediately. In addition, you should spray the herbs regularly with water to keep these insects away.

Spider mites

Spider mites belong to the Acari mite family Tetranychidae and include as many as 1600 species. In fact, spider mites are quite widespread pest problems affecting several plants grown in the yards and gardens. These mites damage the plants by feeding on the plants, especially ingesting the sap, with their mouthparts that resemble whips causing bruised cells. Generally, the damaged parts of the plants are noticeable as they are marked with several minutes, pale spots making the plant appear speckled to some extent.

The leaves are discolored when there is an acute swarming of the insects, making the plant look deep gray or bronze. Eventually, the leaves, as well as the needles, may turn out to be seared and drop from the plant. Very often, spider mites kill the plants they invade or inflict grave stress on them.

Spider mites are included in the class of arachnid, closely related to insects, including spiders, scorpions, ticks and daddy-longlegs. The spider mites are so minute that it is normally difficult to see them with the naked eye. Depending on the species of the spider mites as well as the seasonal changes in their look, the colors of the spider mites vary from red and brown to yellow and green.

Several species of spider mites create webs, especially when their population is very high. Such webbings provide the spider mites as well as their eggs with protection from their natural enemies as well as the changes in the environment.

Hot and dry climatic conditions are ideal for the spider mites to thrive. In order to control the menace caused by spider mites, it is advisable to get rid of the webs created by them on the leaves as soon as you notice them. In addition, you also need to spray the plants with insecticidal soap and water or, alternately, use biological control by introducing a predatory mite called Phytoseiulus.

Rusts

Rusts are basically a type of plant disease spread by disease-bearing fungi belonging to the class of Pucciniales. Thus far, as may as 7,800 different species of such fungi have been identified. In fact, rusts have the ability to damage an assortment of plants, including their stems, leaves, fruits and even seeds. When any plant is affected by rusts, it can be seen as a colored powder made up of minute aeciospores that land on vegetation pustules or uredia that develop on the surfaces underneath. Yellowish-orange or brownish bristles or ligulate formations are known as telia grow on the leaves or surface from the bark of woody hosts, for instance, the Juniperus species, during the later part of spring or in the early part of summer. These telia result in the development of teliospores that subsequently germinate into aerial basidiospores, which spread all over the plant infecting it further.

When the humidity level is high and the air circulation is poor, blotches of rust appear on the affected parts. In order to control this problem, it is essential to provide the herbs with adequate space and sufficient ventilation. At the same time, remove the herbs that have already been infected and never replant the same species for a while.

Whitefly

Whiteflies are basically tiny hemipterans that are the only member of the family Aleyrodidae. Thus far, over 1,550 species of whiteflies have been identified. These small insects generally feed on the underneath of the plant leaves.

In greenhouses, whiteflies can be controlled best by making use of biological control – i.e. utilizing another insect that eliminates them and, thereby, does the job for you. In addition, if the temperatures are low, it is advisable to enhance the circulation of air, dangle sticky traps and also spray the plants with insecticidal soap. When the plants grown under glass are affected by whiteflies, use a biological control by introducing a parasitic wasp called encarsia.

It may be noted that encarsia is a tiny parasitic wasp that lays its eggs in the deposits of whiteflies where the larvae develop and, thereby, eliminates the invading insects. The larvae grow into adults that find additional scales to parasitise. It is interesting to note that when the larvae have done their work (in other words, eliminated the whiteflies) there is no food left for them and, hence, their life cycle ends. In case the invasion of whiteflies reoccurs, you will be required to introduce encarsia once again to combat the menace.

It is an excellent plan to once again use some covering over the ventilators and doors if you wish to keep the whitefly eliminator (encarsia) unharmed inside the greenhouse where they will continue to deal with the whitefly menace. In addition, you may also use insecticides even when the biological controls are in place. However, it is advisable that you use the soft insecticidal soap prior to introducing the biological controls, for they too are harmed by the insecticides.

Propagating Herbs

Plants can be propagated by four fundamental means. They can be propagated by their seeds, grown from root divisions, stem cuttings as well as layering. In order to undertake any of these techniques successfully, it would be prudent if you start by studying the attributes as well as the growth patterns of the particular plant you wish to proliferate. Gaining more and more knowledge about the habits of a plant will help you to propagate the plant more easily.

Growing from seed

Plants produce copious seeds that are vigorous and live for a long period. Naturally, the seeds are driven out of the plants by the force generated when the seedpods split open. Subsequently, they are transported far and wide by sticking to the hairs on the animal hide or under the bellies of birds or by the wind and they land in a new place far away from their original home. In fact, it is possible to sow a number of seeds immediately when they are collected from the fruits enclosing them. On the other hand, some seeds remain dormant for a while prior to becoming feasible as well as ready for germination.

Again there are other seeds that require stratification to facilitate maturing and become feasible for sowing and germination. In fact, when seeds are stratified, they are kept in cold temperatures which they would generally go through in nature during their dormant period in the winter months. Seeds that need to be stratified should be cleaned of dust, soil, and impurities and drenched in water for anything between 24 hours and 49 hours. Subsequently, they need to be packed in any damp medium like sphagnum or sawdust and stored in the refrigerator for a period roughly between one and four months, subject to the species. There are a number of seeds that have further complicated dormancy prerequisites and simply keeping them in cold temperature for any period of time is not sufficient. They require being alternately kept in warm, cold and again warm temperatures.

There is a third type of seeds that are dormant for a considerable period owing to their tough seed coat, which stops moisture from going through till they are notched or lacerated. A section of horticulturists employs a little file to make scratches on the seed coat or to put these seeds in simmering water with a view to make them soft. Soaking seeds in warm water actually make them livelier and makes them ready for germination.

It has been seen that the majority types of seeds germinate most excellently when sown in a neutral soil medium that is porous in nature. However, some plants, for instance, rhododendrons have a preference for acidic soil for germinating, but these types of plants are certainly among the exceptions. Several substances including sand, perlite (a product from volcanoes), sphagnum moss (obtained from swamps), vermiculite (also called expanded mica), pounded granite as well as uncontaminated soil are utilized in the form of germination mediums. You should ensure that the medium is not very weighty and, at the same time, sufficiently substantial to enable the seedlings to grow up straight, while their roots hold on to the soil steadfastly. Using a mixture of equal proportions of crushed granite and sphagnum moss is an excellent medium to start with. In fact, many people prefer to use sphagnum moss as a starting mix, as this substance is extremely resilient to invasion by fungi, which generally weaken and deteriorate the seeds as well as the cuttings. Ideally, you ought to sow the seeds in rows maintaining a space of no less than one inch between them. A common guideline to decide on how deep the seeds need to be sown in the soil says that usually the seeds should be sown up to a depth that is equivalent to their vertical measurement.

Much before you sow the seeds, you need to keep watering the growing medium. Keep the flat in a temperate place, about 70°F. You should keep spraying the seeds many times every day till they begin to germinate. When they start germinating, examine the seedlings closely to detect if there are any fungal diseases. In case you find that the plants have been damaged, prick them out cautiously and annihilate them. Generally, biodynamic gardeners (people who grow plants organically) mist chamomile tea on the germinating plants with a view to avoiding damping off. This herbal tea is prepared by infusing the herb chamomile in water for a couple of days or even more. It is advisable that you apply the spray in the form of a mist with a view to preventing any further damage to the seedlings.

Besides developing damping-off fungus, the major threats to the germinating seeds include allowing the growing medium to become parched and not maintaining a sufficiently warm temperature. Provided you are watchful and succeed in preventing the occurrence of these conditions, you will be able to produce several healthy seedlings, thereby helping nature.

It is worth mentioning here that biodynamic gardeners often bathe the seeds with special preparations based on herbs. People who advocate this method say that when you spray the seeds with diluted solutions prepared with a variety of preparations containing biodynamic compost, it accelerates the pace of germination, makes the seedlings vigorous and also prevent the occurrence of fungal diseases. In addition, biodynamic gardeners support using rainwater for watering the seeds as well as seedlings, as rainwater contains dashes of nitrogen, which is collected when the water from the cloud falls all the way through the atmosphere. According to biodynamic experts, the seedlings are able to absorb the nitrogen easily. However, using rainwater may not be a good thing to do in polluted areas or nearby places where the wind is flowing from the polluted areas.

It may also be noted that the moon affects the sowing pattern by biodynamic gardeners. Substantiating their process, they reveal that the level of underground moisture rises to the surface of the soil during the lunar fortnight when the moon is visible at night (also called ‘waxing of the moon’). The gravitational pull exerted by the moon brings up the maximum amount of subterranean moisture in the soil during the full moon phase. Hence, seeds that are very slow in germinating are generally sown during a full moon and a week following it. On the other hand, seeds that sprout very rapidly, in addition to the seeds that germinate very slowly, are sown two days prior to the new moon and during the following seven days.

When the seeds have sprouted and produced numerous leaves, the seedlings are all set to be transplanted into small, separate containers. In case you want to transplant the seedlings into beds outdoors, make sure that you plant the seedlings no less than 1.25 inches apart. Also be careful while handling the small plants, ensuring that you do not cause any harm to their tender stems as well as roots. You may prepare an excellent potting soil by blending compost, loamy topsoil and sharp sand in equal proportions. Allow the seedling to nurture in the pots for many more weeks with a view to enabling the tender plants to expand their root system as well as produce more new leaves. Once the plants have established their roots and produced numerous leaves, they are all set to be transplanted into their permanent positions outdoors.

Division

Often, perennial plants are propagated by dividing their crown – a procedure involving dividing a large cluster of plants into smaller clumps and replanting them. Generally, the crown division is undertaken during the fall when the plants are in a dormant state. However, some types of plants are also dividing in the early part of spring, prior to the beginning of the new season’s growth. In order to undertake crown division, you need to unearth the clumps carefully and cleanse the soil sticking to the roots using a brush with a view to seeing what you will be doing. Subsequently, separate the plants by pulling them apart or cut the clumps all the way through the top growth using a sharp knife or spade with a view to dividing them into many smaller clusters. Some of the plants that can be propagated well by dividing their clumps with a knife include mugwort, oregano, hyssop, and tarragon. On the other hand, it is better to separate the clumps of garlic, onion, mints and German chamomileusing a spading fork after you have evacuated them from the soil.

It is advisable that you should be very cautious while dividing the plants, because even the slightest damage to their roots may render them unviable for propagation. Be careful while separating the roots and ensure that every plant has its stem/ shoot and roots intact. Once you replant them, you need to water them carefully. In case you are undertaking the crown division during the fall, you also need to provide mulch to the clumps that have been replanted with a view to shield the roots during the harsh winter months.

While handling plants that are very tender or having elongated taproots, you should opt for their propagation by root division. When you undertake propagation by means of root division, you actually chop the plants’ roots into several pieces, each of them having a bud. As new shoots will develop from the buds, you should ensure that each root division has at least one bud attached to it. In addition, root division may also entail separating/ dividing the offshoots developed from subterranean corms, bulbs or tubers, provided these offshoots have the potential to grow into new plants.

Cuttings

Cuttings are of many dissimilar types, including leaf and bud cuttings; stem, root and leaf cuttings; softwood cuttings as well as hardwood cuttings. To ensure that the cuttings thrive and grow into new plants, you need to take them from vigorous plants and at the appropriate time; be cautious while setting the cuttings into a good quality rooting medium; and ensure that you keep the cuttings moist as well as warm till they give out roots.

However, hardwood cuttings are exceptional. Generally, these cuttings are made from the latest growth of deciduous trees and only when the trees have shed all their leaves. Actually, hardwood cuttings are an excellent way to produce sufficient plants to serve as windbreaks and hedges. Each hardwood cutting ought to be roughly between 6 inches and 8 inches having at least three to four nodules or nodes. The node at the uppermost of the cutting should be just roughly one inch from the top. Tie up the hardwood cuttings and put the bundle in somewhat damp sand and keep them in a refrigerator at roughly 50°F for about a month. Subsequently, keep the cutting in further cold temperature, just higher than the freezing temperature, till the spring thaw. When the last spring frost is over, plant these cuttings in a furrow with just their topmost node (bud) remaining above the soil. Water these cuttings every day and keep a careful eye on them till they begin to develop new shoots. Here is a word of caution: ensure that you do not store the cuttings in the refrigerator for an extended period or else they may possibly sprout even before you plant them outdoors.

Softwood cutting are also referred to as greenwood cuttings, which are made by cutting majority of the plants, counting those whose wood is tough. Usually, the new growths of healthy deciduous plants are used for greenwood cuttings. In fact, the stem that would be used as the cutting should split with crack when it is bent. However, if you are able to crush the stem between your fingers, it is considered to tender to be used for cuttings. On the other hand, if the stem just bends somewhat between your fingers, it is considered to be too mature for softwood cuttings. In fact, this is best way to test as well as know whether the plant is sufficiently mature to tolerate cutting, but yet quite young to produce an excellent cutting. Ideally, softwood cuttings should be done either in the latter part of spring or the early part of summer. However, the timings for making softwood cutting differ depending on the type of plant.

Usually, the length of the cutting differs from two inches to six inches. Ideally, you need to cut the stem at about 45° angle and roughly half an inch away from the bud (node) to separate the cutting from the original stem. Softwood cuttings are usually made from the branch terminals and, hence, often they are also referred to as terminal cuttings. Immediately after making the cutting, cover its base with a moist cloth or paper towel and put it in a plastic bag. Examine the shape of the cutting and carefully get rid of nearly all the leaves. It may be noted that having lots of leaves will diminish the prospects of the cutting taking roots.

Remove the cloth or the damp paper towel just before planting the cutting into a bed prepared with moist sand and tiny gravels. Make sure that the cutting stands straight and is properly supported by the medium in which it will take roots. If cuttings have been made in the latter part of the spring or early part of summer they should develop enough and healthy roots by autumn. However, if the cuttings have been made from plants resilient to winter, you may plant them outdoors with a view to allow them to become firm and also let them experience their first winter outdoors after you have relocated them into a medium prepared by mixing equal proportions of topsoil and sharp sand and fertilized by adding little quantities of compost. However, if you are growing the rooted cuttings in containers or pots, you need to keep them under careful observation all through the cold spells, because the soil in the pots freezes much more rapidly compared to the soil in the gardens.

Layering

The traditional method of producing a new plant from a plant that already exists is known as layering. This process is employed very frequently for propagating shrubs whose roots are very difficult to cut or separate. Different from cuttings, wherein a part of the plant (especially the stem with nodes) is cut from the mother plant, layering involves encouraging a branch to give out roots by bending it down into the soil and keeping it in that position for a period of time by means of putting a weight (usually a rock) on it. In fact, the process involved in propagation through layering is a very secure one, as it can be undertaken without causing any damage either to the parent or new plant. However, the downside of layering is that it takes much more time to propagate a plant by this method compared to root division and cuttings.

Ideally, layering should be taken up during spring prior to the bud of the plant you have selected open up. First, you need to select a good and sturdy branch, which is long as well as sufficiently flexible so that it can be curved to the ground without much difficulty. Next, you bend the branch to the ground and make a marking at the place where you want it to develop new roots. Remove a small portion of the bark from the place which will be buried into the ground for rooting. Ensure that while cutting the bark you do not cause any damage to the plant tissue just under the layer of the bark. Put in some sand, sphagnum and peat moss to the soil at the portion of the branch where you have removed the bark and set the layered part of the branch into the ground for rooting using a forked stick or a small rock. You may also use a hairpin to hold a slender branch in its place into the ground. Make sure that the top part of the branch that you have layered sticks out from the ground – the tip should never be buried under the soil. At times, gardeners keep the tip of the layered branch out of the soil by fastening it with a stick or by bracing the branch.

By the next spring, it will be time to unearth the layered branch. In order to grow the new plant, unearth it cautiously with a view to protect the new roots and then cut the original branch at a place a little lower than where the new roots have developed. Subsequently, plant this rooted branch in the same manner as you would plant a cutting. This method of propagating plants is known as simple layering. Tip layering is another way you can propagate plants and it is actually a more rapid method of proliferating plants. This method involves only burying the tip of a plant, not the stem, during spring. When you undertake tip layering you can unearth and start growing the new plant in the next fall.

Growing Herbs In Containers

Having a garden where herbs are grown in containers simply appears very pleasant and is also extremely expedient. In addition, a container herb garden also possesses the immense charisma of being formed all of a sudden. When you have successfully put the containers as well as your choice of herbs together, it is simple and also pleasurable to pot the most companionable partners.

The awareness regarding growing herbs has actually persuaded nurseries, garden centers as well as potters to make their assortment of attractive pots and containers available. Hence, in case your finances do not permit you to establish a garden comprising gorgeous and traditional jardinières, still reasonably priced tubs made of wood and terracotta are extensively available in the market. You may also procure inexpensive plastic containers which may be made to look more attractive by including a shallow layer of mortar or domestic filler painted green or gray.

A number of gardeners who deal with herbs have a preference for limited formalism of plant being pruned to give them a decorative appearance, for instance, growing concise bay trees in containers and placed near the entrance of their townhouse. It is also possible to prepare as well as prune additional timbered herbs like lavender and rosemary into the form of a mop-head. If the location is very breezy, it is advisable to envelop the growing means using heavy pebbles or gravel with a view to load down the tub or pot. If you use harmonizing pots that have been properly planted and craftily placed may help to attain a spectacular as well as eye-catching impact. In addition, containers having herbs that grow tall may be used in as a nice-looking and casual partition in your garden.

Herbs grown in pots thrive well when they are planted in compost as well as a sterile medium comprising peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite along with a fertilizer that is quick as well as slow releasing. It may be noted here that compost is sluggishly releasing. In the case of every pot, add sufficient compost to permit space to add a sterile medium of additional six inches depth. The medium should be carefully blended with polymers that soak up water since they reduce the requirement for watering by making the optimum use of the moisture available.

It may be noted that majority of the herbs, whether grown in pots or in an outdoor garden, require total sunlight – a minimum of six hours every day. Having said this, it needs to be mentioned that on a very hot day, containers can actually swelter. Hence, if you are living at any place where the temperatures rise rapidly, it may be necessary to place your herb garden in a shady place when the temperature is hottest during the day.

It is advised that you should exercise caution to ensure that you do not use excessive fertilizers while growing herbs in containers. A majority of the herbs loathe growing in too much fertilizer, while a number of herbs are likely to be susceptible to squawk provided they are bothered and fed with excessive fertilizers. Applying fertilizers in profuse amounts is also likely to make the plants have out-sized growth, while their essential oils that are responsible for their essence and fragrance would also be lessened significantly. A number of herbs, such as thyme and oregano subsist on inattention and they would not be as flavored if excessive attention, food or water is provided to these plants.

Interestingly enough, nearly all things may be used as containers for growing herbs. However, while choosing anything to serve as a herb container, you ought to ensure that it has a suitable drainage. Since a majority of the herbs do not have huge roots, you may do well even with little containers. This is all the more true in the case of herbs which do not have problems even if they dry up between two watering. Moreover, when you are using a smaller container, you require a lesser amount of soil and, therefore the error margin while watering the plants is also relatively small.

On the other hand, a number of herbs flourish well in containers that are self-watering, as they prefer a steady moisture level. In fact, herbs, such as parsley, chives, marjoram as well mint would do well provided they are grown in self-watering containers. Other different herbs, such as thyme, oregano, basil, and rosemary have a preference to shrivel up between watering and, hence, it would not be good for them to be grown in self-watering containers.

It is possible for you to grow several different varieties of herbs in a single container as you may wish, provided you ensure that all the herbs are grown in one pot share the same amount of sunlight, water as well as soil inclination. For instance, rosemary has a preference for a hot and dry environment, while parsley requires constant moisture. Growing these two plants having a diverse preference in one pot would never be a good idea.

In case you are using a large container to grow herbs, it is advisable that you place vertically some length of punctured hose pipe in the middle of the container to enable to water the plants using this hose pipe. You should use the growing medium in a way that it encircles the pipe and then plant the herbs. You may use a strawberry tub or pot that appears delightful when planted with dissimilar selections of thyme. In this case, it is best to plant the herbs once you have filled the pot with a soil blend. Prepare a stratum of rock at the bottom of the container and fix in place a length of punctured hose pipe in a vertical position and subsequently coat the rocks using soil till it comes to same the plane as that of the first opening at the side of the container. Put the herb on the soil and subsequently push out the plant’s leaves gently through the opening. Subsequently, outstretch the herb’s roots and cover them with soil, pushing them downwards gently to keep the herb in the correct position. Following this, put in more soil using a trowel till it is on the same plane with the next opening and then plant a new herb following the same procedure.

If you are growing herbs in hanging baskets, it is best if you line them using sphagnum moss with a view to making drainage easier as well as to reduce the weight of the baskets. In order to pack up, a basket made from wire, put some pieces of damp moss together with their greenish tufts leveled against the wire. Subsequently, fill up half of the basket with the growing medium, put the herbs in the desired position and bed the plants properly using additional growing medium. In case the soil planted in a container newly appears to be too uncovered, you may try to cover it using gravel or chippings of bark. Alternately you may also sow some cress and mustard that germinates rapidly and supplies a green fit to be eaten grass that may be harvested, while the primary herbs develop and increase.

It is essential to water the herbs as per their requirement keeping in mind that all flesh and leafy herbs, for instance, basil, have a preference for moist soil, while the herbs having their origin in the Mediterranean region like rosemary prefer somewhat dry conditions. Remember to give the herbs a good dousing each time you water them. In effect, hanging baskets have a propensity to lose humidity faster compared to the herbs grown in other containers. It is advisable that you provide the fast-growing herbs with liquid organic nourishments sometimes during the hot summer months. The woody or timbered herbs, such as rosemary, hyssop, and lavender, ought to be clipped following their flowering season with a view to making certain that they have a healthier growth during the next year. Also, spruce the herbs grown in containers on a regular basis with a view to maintaining their shape and, if required, you also need to winter or provide warmth to the gentle herbs that grow perennially, for instance, chives and tarragon, below the cover in a place that has light and is frost-free.

You should never feel reticent as far as using the herbs as ornamental components in any container garden are concerned. You should know that the herbs in a container garden may appear to be out of this world as well as offer an immense quality and aroma when they are blended with perennials or annuals. Then again, always remember to grow the herbs having similar water and light requirements in the same pot or container.

You may grow various types of herbs in a container garden – what you consume or what you believe is good-looking/ attractive. Several people have been growing plenty of basil for culinary purposes. In addition, they like growing enough of the herb to enable them to prepare sufficient pesto that they can freeze and make use of all through the winter months. Remember, the common practice is that the more you harvest, you will get more. In addition, you ought to tweak back a majority of the herbs to help them to turn bushier as well as properly shaped.

Before concluding, it needs to be mentioned that it is possible for you to grow nearly all herbs in a container garden and growing majority of them is extremely trouble-free. Nevertheless, different herbs may have dissimilar requirements for water and a number of them are additionally fussy compared to others. Hence, ensure that you place the herbs requiring comparable concern in the same container.

Improving Garden Soils For Herbs

Improving the quality of soil makes you feel deeply satisfied and there are definitely several reasons for such a fulfilling feeling. In fact, the soil is among the most valuable resources we have. As the soil preferences of different herbs are so varied, it is perhaps impossible to provide any guideline on ways to develop a soil that will be excellent for growing all types of herbs.

How do you describe a good soil? Well, a soil having outstanding texture, constitution and permeability are considered to be a good soil. In addition, a good soil will also have a wonderful smell. It will also be absorbent, brittle, aerated and finely textured. A good soil is complete with valuable soil life and its health works to put off all toxic organisms from populating it – something very similar to a fit and fine human body naturally fending off all pathogens that are responsible for various diseases. A nourishing or beneficial soil is vigorously inhabited by earthworms as well as microscopic organisms like bacteria. In addition, it also contains certain growths like algae, actinomycetes, protozoa and fungi, which have a complicated interrelationship among them. When all these organisms are present in a soil, it is not only healthy and living but becomes an altogether different world by itself. Each of the organisms mentioned here and some more play a vital role in decaying organic substances present in the soil and thereby, makes it richer.

It is worth mentioning here that clay, as well as sandy soils, are not considered to be the most excellent soil types, as they characterize a disparity of the perfect soil ecology. In fact, not many gardeners get a good soil when they start gardening on a small plot for the first time. Thus, they need to work with the different not so good soil types – either clay or sandy soils and enhance their quality. It has been found that in nearly all instances, clay soils enclose a remarkable range as well as the quantity of mineral nutrients. However, it becomes problematic for the plants to make use of the nutrients present in a clay soil, as the structure of the soil is extremely dense.

You may adopt various organic methods to lighten the structure of a clay soil. Among these, gardening experts recommend that you put rice hull into clay soil and work them down up to roughly three feet in depth. There are other experts who suggest that you use adequate rice hulls making the soil look like rice hulls with bits of clay sticking on them. Subsequently, they recommend that you continue to change the soil by adding organic substances till the soil contains 50 percent original modified clay and 50 percent organic material.

You can speed up the decomposition of the soil by means of scattering the modified soil along with a tea prepared from stinging nettles and manure soaked in unpolluted water for roughly a week or little more over the soil. Before scattering the tea, you should ensure that it has been watered down such that its color turns pale. Alternatively, you may also use bacterial cultures that are prepared commercially for the purpose. Till the land once more in the subsequent year and plant a leguminous cover crop with a view to improving the soil by nitrogen fixation. In case, the cover crop you have planted is deep-rooted, it will bring up nutrients from the subsoil by means of its elongated roots.

On the other hand, unlike clay soil, sandy soil does not contain nutrients. While a clay soil contains nutrients in large variety and amount, it is not permeable and hence, the plants are unable to assimilate those. In contrast, sandy soils do not contain much nutriment but are extremely pervious. You can only use one method to improve the quality of sandy soils. What you need to do is continuously add organic substances like leaves, kitchen wastes, manure, and green manure to the sandy soil. If you continue doing this for about two to three years, these organic substances will work wonders. Well, it is definitely plenty of hard work, but if a gardener is committed, he will agree that the end product is worth undertaking the labor. After three years, when he collects a handful of soil from his garden, he will notice that the soil that was once just sand, has turned out to be alive, sweet-smelling, and spongy making it a good soil.

Cultivation

Like there are several perceptions regarding the different gardening systems, the notions about soil cultivation are also varied. While numerous gardeners employ farm machinery for cultivation, biodynamic gardeners are of the view that machines are extremely heavy and make the soil more compact. Therefore, they like to plow using their hand with a view to maintaining the aeration of the soil.

In fact, a biodynamic gardener will usually engage in ‘double-digging’ his garden’s soil and during the process, separate the subsoil from the topsoil carefully. The concept of double-digging is not a new one. About 2,000 years back, the primeval Greeks were aware of the fact that plants thrive excellently in the earth that has been moved due to landslides. It has been found that these types of soils are loose, excellently aerated, and can also absorb moisture, warmth, and nutrients without any difficulty.

If you are following the biodynamic method of cultivation, the ability to breathe is vital. In fact, when you engage in ‘double-digging’ your purpose is to undertake deep cultivation – for instance, digging up to two spades or roughly 24 inches is believed to be fine. Double-digging also aims to split the hard layers below the soil and enable the moisture as well as the gasses underneath the ground to come upwards, while facilitating the movement of gasses and moisture from the atmosphere downward.

Testing your soil for nutrients and pH

You can save plenty of money if you test the soil of your garden for its nitrogen, phosphorus and potash content with a view to determining the pH level of the soil.

In case you find that the pH level of the soil in your garden is very elevated, you may add a stratum of decayed pine needles, acid peat moss or oak leaf mold. On the other hand, if you want to increase the pH level of the soil you need to include some dolomitic lime in the soil. Properly prepared compost is considered to be the best-balanced material that can be incorporated into the soil. In fact, methodically aged compost naturally aids in rectifying alkaline as well as acidic soil conditions. When you add enough organic substances to the soil, the plants generally have a propensity to endure a wider assortment of alkaline or acidic soil conditions and yet be in excellent health.

Trace elements and soil deficiencies

Humus naturally contains trace elements and they are also necessary for any good soil, which is healthy too. Today, there are many soils that are dangerously imbalanced owing to excessive use of chemical and artificially manufactured fertilizers as well as the use of various other inappropriate farming methods. In addition, some types of soils naturally contain very less amount of specific trace elements. Hence, it would be a fine ‘health insurance’ for your garden’s soil if you ensure that the soil in your garden is loaded with all trace elements, which are vital for the plants to flourish.

Organic gardeners usually employ various techniques, for instance, mulching, composting and adding soil amendments such as fish fertilizers and seaweed. All these techniques aid in sustaining the vital trace elements in your soil. In addition, there are certain plants that work to accumulate the trace elements. When gardeners grow these ‘weeds’ between cultivating different crops, compost them or utilize them in the form of green manure, they are particularly helpful in redeveloping or renewing the soil. For example, stinging nettle is one plant that helps to accumulate trace elements like calcium, potassium, sulfur and iron. Similarly, chamomile helps to concentrate sulfur, calcium, nd potash inside the plant’s tissues. Another plant that concentrates trace elements zinc and potash is dandelion. Similarly, valerian improves the content of potash in the soil as well as the adjoining areas where it grows. Gardeners in China grow these plants on the soil directly for fertilizing their crops organically.

Composting

Omitting compost from this article would leave the discussion on soil regeneration or redevelopment incomplete. Precisely speaking, compost is garbage that gets a rebirth in the form of humus. Several organic materials, including weeds, grass cuttings, kitchen scraps (excluding bones and meat), garden residues like stalks and vines, nut shells, leaves, hay, saw dust, manure, sewage sludge form excellent compost. In addition, various organic waste materials like vegetable pulp discarded by juice companies, coffee wastes, leather dust, and wastes from breweries are also good for being used as compost.

Basically, there are two major compost types – aerobic compost (with air) and anaerobic compost (devoid of air). Among the two, aerobic composting is used more often, as it is faster. Below, we will briefly discuss three different aerobic methods.

Indore compost: This aerobic method was developed by Sir Albert Howard, who undertook valuable agricultural research in Indore, a central Indian town. In fact, Sir Howard’s findings laid the foundation for the movement of organic gardening. This compost method is also considered to be the most traditional aerobic practice. This compost method entails making compost in open piles or inside bins. The piles are made such that they usually measure anything between 10 to 30 feet in length, 6 feet in width and about 3 feet to 5 feet in height. The foundation of the pile is made by laying a plant waste layer measuring 6 inches in height and covering the total area on which the pile is supposed to be built. The plant waste layer may comprise several organic matters like saw dust, leaves, straw, hay, garden residue or wood chips. Subsequently, this method involves adding two layers of manure as well as animal bedding to the pile.

Then, you add a thin layer of topsoil measuring about 1/8 inch in thickness to the pile. After that, you may spread phosphate rock, lime, wood ashes or granite dust over the layer of earth. As the height of the pile increases, you need to water it at every stage and repeat the layers in the same order till the height of the pile is about three to five feet. At the same time, it is important that you ensure that the pile maintains its aerating characteristic. In order to keep the pile properly ventilated, you need to make several tubes with wire netting pieces and place them vertically in the middle of the pile, at a distance of roughly 3.5 feet from each other.

After several days of its completion, the pile will heat up and start decaying. Once completed, you can use a pitchfork to turn the heap after two to three weeks and once again after five weeks from its completion. When you follow this procedure thoroughly, within three months the compost or peat will be ready for use.

Compost in 14 days: Another way of making aerobic compost is to follow the method known as compost in 14 days. Compost prepared following this method decays sufficiently and is ready for application in the garden within just 12 days to 14 days. This method entails proper shredding of all organic materials that would be used for making the compost. Unless this is done, this method will not work satisfactorily. Subsequently, the shredded organic substances are blended together and heaped into a pile that is roughly five feet in height and no higher. You need to turn the pile once in two to three days using a pitchfork till the compost is fully prepared.

Biodynamic compost: This method involves using six different herbs, such as chamomile blossoms, dandelion flowers, oak bark, stinging nettle, yarrow blossoms and valerian flowers. These herbs are mixed and put into the compost heap with a view to facilitate the ripening of the compost as well as enhance its aptitude to preserve nutriments. One teaspoon of the biodynamic preparations made appropriately is placed inside a hole measuring about 20 inches in depth and angled downwards into the compost heap. It is important to note that the biodynamic compost preparation with stinging nettle needs to be made in amount of four to five teaspoonfuls, but the preparations with the other herbs should be made in amount of just the level of a teaspoon and not heaped. Subsequently, the holes are filled up with the herbal preparations and closed.

Generally, people engaged in biodynamic gardening prefer locating their compost heaps close to oak trees, as the oak tree offers a favourable environment beneath its branches, enabling the development of good soil in the surrounding area. The compost piles are situated no less than six feet away from the tree trunk with a view to prevent the development of any disease in the oak tree.

Nitrogen fixing

It is important to note that three key elements are necessary for the health of the soil and among these elements nitrogen affects the growth of plants most significantly. Unlike humans, plants do not have the ability to absorb nitrogen mixed with oxygen and other gases directly from the atmosphere. As an alternative, they have to rely on bacteria that fix nitrogen in the soil to obtain this essential element.

It is interesting to note that lightning flashes have an incredible power, possess the aptitude for nitrogen fixation in the soil. A number of scientists are of the view that in fact such type of contact between the soil and lightning enabled the development of first life on our planet. Nevertheless, the bacteria present in the soil are more reliable as well as a common means for nitrogen. This way, these nitrogen-fixing bacteria help to enrich the quality of soils that have low nitrogen content. It has been found that the nitrogen-fixing bacteria thrive on the roots of numerous leguminous plants – precisely speaking, more than 1,350 species. Such plants include alfalfa, beans, clover, peas and vetch. In addition, it has been found that a number of trees also possess the ability to fix essential element in the soil, for instance acacia, autumn olive and red alder. Some shrubs also help in fixing nitrogen and these can be used as hedge plants around a garden as well as orchards to enhance the fertility of the soil.

A number of cover crops like alfalfa and clover are usually cut and put into the earth prior to their blossoming. During this stage, these cover crops release plenty of nitrogen within a period of just a few weeks. This is considered to be an ancient way of green manuring and several cultures around the world have used it over the ages. Occasionally, some gardeners use such nitrogen-rich plants for mulching, instead of cutting and putting them into the soil to decompose and release the essential element. In addition, some gardeners also cut these plants and include them in their compost pile. Irrespective of the manner these nitrogen-rich plants may be used by the gardeners, eventually they yield the same result – provide additional nitrogen to the earth.

A number of legumes are fit for sowing during the later part of summer and they grow all through the winter months provided the temperatures do not drop below freezing point. Such legumes include Austrian winter pea, bur clover, crimson clover, sour clover, rough pea, fenugreek and winter vetch. There are other legumes that grow well during the summer and one of the most common summer legumes is alfalfa. In addition, crotalaria is one legume that can even thrive well in infertile sandy soils found in the southern climates. On the other hand, red clover grows excellently in places having cool temperate climatic conditions. Lots of people inhabiting the southern climates grow plenty of a legume called lespedeza. Sweet pea and cowpea are two legumes that have the aptitude to flourish in nearly all types of soils and everywhere.

Mulching

Mulching the soil has multiple benefits. For instance, when you spread mulch on top of the soil in your garden, it not only safeguards the plants from excessive heat during summer and extreme cold conditions during the winter months, but also enriches the soil, helps to preserve moisture and prevents growth of weeds. In fact, a number of gardeners have turned mulching into a genuine art. Majority of the gardeners are of the view that when the soil in their garden has been drained out they need to develop it again by means of covering it with compost prior to starting the no-digging mulch method.

You can make good mulch using almost all organic substances, for instance, rice hulls, a mixture of saw dust and soybean meal, straw mixed with grated leaves, cocoa hulls, buckwheat hulls, grass clippings, shredded corncobs, cornstalks, pine needles and alfalfa hay. You can used mulch to good advantage in the flower, vegetable and herb gardens; in orchard as well as in the fields. In addition, several gardeners grow different cover crops like millet, soybeans, vetch, rye, clover, alfalfa and buckwheat and cut these plants for using them in the form of mulch. A number of gardeners also include a thin stratum of kelp or seaweed in their mulch, because these plants are loaded with various valuable minerals.

It is very important to consider the quality of nutriments contained by the materials that you are use for mulching. Organic substances like corn cobs, straw and saw dust contain very low levels of nitrogen and hence it would prove to be beneficial if you mix them with leguminous mulch. On the other hand, pine needles are known to be acidic like the oak leaves and therefore they are not very useful for mulching plants requiring an alkaline or neutral soil. However, you may use them for mulching if you are growing strawberries or other plants like azaleas, bearberry, rhododendrons and trailing arbutus.