All posts for the month December, 2018

If you’re going to start a garden one of the most important things to consider is the structure of the soil. Not all plant life will grow in all soil conditions and therefore before you waste your seeds, it is best to know what type of soil you are dealing with and how you can go about improving it so that it can properly nourish the plants you wish to grow.

Soil Tests
In order to achieve high quality plant growth the soil has to have decent pH levels. PH levels are measured on a scale of 1 to 14 with 7 being neutral. Soil that is rated below a 7 is acidic (also known as sour), whereas soil rated higher than a 7 is alkaline (also known as sweet). These numbers are needed to determine how well the plant will draw nutrients from the soil.
By taking a soil test you can easily find out if your soil is neutral, acidic, or alkaline and make the proper adjustments according to the types of plants you wish to grow. In any case, most plants can withstand the neutral soil conditions with a rating of anywhere from 5.2 to 7.2. If your soil is too acidic or alkaline you will need to add either lime or sulfur.
You can easily find a soil testing kit by visiting a home improvement store. The kits will provide you with an instant analysis of the type of soil you have, its pH levels, and the nutrient levels. If you don’t want to test it yourself you can also check local laboratories that can test the soil for you. Results will not happen instantly and take a few weeks to return. However, some new gardeners prefer going to a lab because they also receive advice on how to amend the soil to better conditions.

Steps to Home Testing Your Soil
If you’ve purchased a home soil testing kit you will see that it includes some vials and tablets for you to test the soil. There are charts available to help you interpret the results with ease. Be sure to carefully follow all the instructions on the kit for the best results. All you need to do is stick the meter probe into the soil and review the chart for your results.

Steps to Lab Testing Your Soil
If you are going to send your soil samples off for analysis by a laboratory you are going to need to have a garden trowel, a clean bucket, and a clean plastic container. Next you will need to sterilize and thoroughly clean the tools you will be using to collect the sample. Then in the area you intend to plant in, dig up five holes that measure about six to eight inches deep. Remove a ½ inch slice along the side of a hole and put it into the bucket repeating this process for all five of the holes. Mix all the soil into a bucket and then spread it onto a newspaper to fully dry out. Collect a least a pint for a significant sample.

Weeds whether pretty attractive or downright ugly can be a pain in the neck. They can grow in your garden, walkways, sidewalks, and even up the side of your home if not properly removed. If you are looking for safe do it yourself solutions on how to rid yourself of weeds, you have come to the right place. Below are a few common and uncommon ways for which you can kiss those weeds goodbye.

Baking Soda
If you’re looking for a great way to keep the weeds at bay you can easily sprinkle a handful of baking soda onto the concrete areas in your yard which can include the driveways, patios, and walkways. The sodium makes it a less friendly environment for troublesome weeds like dandelions.

Another option for getting rid of weeds found on concrete is to pour a bit of undiluted bleach over the concrete. Let the bleach sit for about a day or so and then proceed to remove them. They should remove much easier and the bleach prevents it from returning so soon.

Carpet Scraps
Did you know that a few pieces of carpet scraps turned upside down can keep your garden free from weeds? Place the carpet upside down and cover it with mulch.

Plastic Shower Curtains
Another great way to keep the weeds at bay in your garden is to utilize a shower curtain. When doing landscaping that involves gravel or bark chips all you have to do is place the shower curtain underneath the mulching materials. This prevents the weeds from poking through.

Another great solution for troublesome weeds poking through your driveway or patio is to try some vinegar. Using a plastic spray bottle you can easily rid yourself of weeds by spraying some full strength apple cider or white vinegar. Early in your gardening season gently spritz your plant in the middle of the flower before the plants go to seed. Spraying more around the stem near the ground will allow the vinegar to also soak into the roots. However, this should be done on a day where there won’t be any rain for a few days after. If it does rain you will need to re-spray the plants again.

You probably wouldn’t have though to look to your liquor cabinet for a safe remedy to get rid of weeds but vodka can work wonders. All you need to do is mix about one ounce of vodka with a few drops of liquid dish soap, about two cups of water into a plastic spray bottle. Generously spray it on the leaves of the weeds until the solution is dripping off. By also applying it to the weeds on a sunny day is a great way to help the alcohol break down the wax barrier found on leaves. This allows the leaves to become hydrated and thus will kill the weeds.

Last but not least on the list of easy remedies to try for getting rid of weeds is WD-40. This is great for prickly weeds such as the Russian Thistle. WD-40 will speed up the withering process and cause them to die.

If you’re a new gardener the very sight of warm spring weather makes you think about planting. The onset of warmer temperatures is nature’s way of saying that the winter frost has passed and gardening season is well on its way. While your seeds will need to be prepped in different ways, there are some basics you can do such as prepping the soil so that you’re ready once planting season begins.

Let’s Get Physical
It is important to point out that there is going to be quite a bit of physical work involved, however, it is very self explanatory and can be done with ease. The process is simple step by step and does not all have to be done at once. So for those who have a larger garden area, prepping your soil in parts is okay so that you don’t stress yourself out physically.

Start Date
Don’t let the warm weather fool you. Simply because the temperatures have changed does not mean it is the best time to begin working on your soil. Prematurely digging into wet soil can damage the structure and cause long term damage to your crops. A great way to test the moisture levels in your soil is to take a handful of it and drop it to the ground while holding it approximately at waist height. If the soil does not break apart that means that it is not ready to work with.

Making Room
If your soil is dry enough to work with then you can begin garden bed preparations by getting rid of all the surface vegetation. This means removing any unwanted weeds or dead crops from the ground.

Fixing the Soil
Once you have your garden bed all cleared out it is time to add any amendments to the soil that you may need. Some prefer to add in a few inches of compost as well as fertilizers to enhance the quality of the soil. If you can, you should also check the PH balance of your soil to see if you need to add either limestone to acidic soil or pipe sawdust for soils that are alkaline. This can be done by scattering either limestone or pipe sawdust around the soil and then incorporating it in. When soil is in good shape you only have to dig a few inches utilizing a fork, however, for compacted soil it may take more time to dig so that you can get the ingredients mixed into the soil.
After you have completed adding the amendments to the soil to improve its overall structure and quality you are now ready for the final step. You will need to break apart all of the large solid clumps of soil you might find laying around. This can be done with a fork easily. Then after breaking up the clumps you should shape the bed using a rake. After your garden bed has been shaped properly you are ready to begin sowing or planting once your garden season officially arrives.