C A N T E R B U R Y.   N I C E   C O U N T R Y.

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PLANT DISEASE- Limiting the Risk in Your Garden

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Bacteria, fungi and numerous microscopic creatures are just below the soil where your plants’ roots feed and grow. Although most are helpful and even essential to keeping your plant healthy, there are also some that attack the plants’ root keeping them from taking in water and nutrients, hindering their growth and eventually killing them.
Plant disease usually starts as spores in the soil and at some time in the stems of undeveloped plants and they wait for the right condition to incubate and develop into an organism that will cause havoc to your crops. And once this fungal disease establishes itself, only a few options are left for you to counter it, resort to using fungicide or destroy the whole infected crop.
Regardless of how much time and effort you spend on your garden pruning, you simply cannot protect them against plant diseases. But there is a way to keep bacteria and fungi from assaulting your garden. Not all hope is gone. By studying and being able to recognize the symptoms, knowing what causes them and by practicing some preventive measures, you will be able to avoid the damage it can cause to your garden.

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Watering Your Seedlings

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Water is one of the crucial components when you’re starting plants from seeds. Too little of water, the seed will not germinate and much of it will drown the seed. Watering seedlings are a lot different and not as simple as watering matured plants. Extra care is needed as seedlings are very delicate and can easily be damaged or washed out. Water gently to prevent damping of the soil. Dampened soil will crate pathogens that can attack the seeds even before they germinate. Seeds need breathing space for them to grow and it will be difficult if the space they have are always filled with water. Actually, at this tender stage, seeds or seedlings just need to be well moistened and not literally “watered”.
There are three ways to provide water to your seed(ling)s.
The most popular way is watering them from the top. Seeds are usually placed an inch from the soil’s surface and this is where water is needed the most. The top part of the soil dries up quickly because they are very much exposed to air, allowing more evaporation to occur. The best tool to use is a spray bottle and a small watering can. Invest in a good spray bottle and get one with an adjustable nozzle. And remember, never use them for other purposes like for insecticides.
The second way is watering from the bottom also known as “wicking”. This is probably the easiest way, but it takes some time to completely moisten up the soil. In this process, a base tray is used with about a quarter full of water and having the seed container sit on it. Through the bottom hole of the seed container, water is soaked up into the soil mix. Keep just enough water on the tray to avoid growth of fungus or molds.
And the third way is making pre- moistened mix that you will be putting on the growing containers. Potting mixes or garden soil can be quite dry, so they need to be watered just enough to have a consistent moisture level. This process allows you to have a moist potting mix ready for seeding without the need of watering for a day or two. Try to make a good batch estimate that will just be enough for the seeds you will be planting, you don’t want to end up with so much wet dirt.
It’s really a bit trickier when watering seedling and it would be a good idea to use a combination of the mentioned watering systems. Keep in mind that seeds enjoy water that has reached room temperature. Too cold or too hot will surely shock the seedlings. The best time to water them is in the morning where it’s fairly cool and with low winds, keeping evaporation to a minimal.
Good luck and have fun!

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Raising Your Own Backyard Chickens

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Several years back, if you wanted to raise chicken, you need to move out to the country, where there’s a lot of open space. But do you know that many families now, regardless of how small a space they have, are putting up their own small backyard chickens. Nothing beats its simplicity and it makes life more exciting, giving you some measure of self-sufficiency.
Raising your own chicken helps you turn your kitchen scrap into fertilizer, they are an efficient insect terminators, they make a wonderful pet and of course, they will supply you with fresh and tastier eggs every day. But, you need to be sure that raising backyard chicken will fit into your lifestyle, because raising backyard chickens entails some responsibilities too. Hey, you can always change your lifestyle… right?
Everything starts with a plan. Here are some basic things that you need to know before you start bringing in chicken to your backyard. Try to find out first if your community allows raising backyard chicken. Many communities now in the U.S. are chicken friendly, so I think it’s not going to be much of a problem.
Choosing the right chicken breed for your project. Try to get some advice from local farmers or friends as to what age and breed to pick. For a beginner, raising them from chicks may not be a good idea. Aside from being costly (spend a lot on feed before they start producing eggs), mortality is high and unless you know how tell their sex, you may end up with a lot of rooster. It is best to start with hybrid hens that are just about ready to lay eggs, they are usually 18 to 21weeks old. Each hen lay one egg per day and they are also friendly in nature. There are other breeds that are flighty and are not children-friendly. If you want a good egg producer get the Isa Brown variety, they produce brown eggs.
Now, Chicken has the same basic needs like us in order to survive, like shelter, food and water.
Shelter. You need to provide a shelter for your flock or more appropriately called a chicken coop. They have three main purposes, protection from weather and predators, a place to roost at night and a safe place to lay their eggs.
Food. You can feed them with kitchen scraps and garden waste if you have them. This will help you cut down on commercial feeds. Buy them crumbles or grains to supplement their diet during rainy days and winter. They don’t move around much when it’s wet and cold. Make sure that their feeders are always clean. Never let the grains get moldy or wet.
Water. Yes, chicken gets thirsty too. Provide them the right watering bucket, like a 5 gallon type so you don’t have fill it often.
So, there you have it. It’s really not so expensive and chicken is really low maintenance. Plus the thrill of collecting fresh eggs every day!
Have fun!

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Effects of Synthetic Fertilizers

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The only good thing I see about synthetic fertilizer is its ability to give instant nutrient to plants and soil, nothing more. Actually, synthetic fertilizers do more harm than good to us and the environment. Its long term use has detrimental effect on both health and structure of the soil, which lead to compaction and erosion.
You see, our soil is a living soil… an ecosystem on its own. It is made up of mineral, water, air and organic matters that includes humus, earthworms and several millions of micro-organisms, like bacteria, nematodes, fungi, algae and actinomycetes. Organic matters live, eat and die in the soil, in various stages of breakdown. By converting nutrients into compounds, these micro-organisms are able to provide the plants the nourishment it requires to grow. We often fail to see just how significant micro-organisms are in keeping the soil healthy.
Chemical fertilizers are usually made up of synthetic nitrogen and phosphorous. Nitrogen is only present in the atmosphere and very rarely on soil. To make a synthetic nitrogen, anhydrous ammonia (NH3) was developed, which is salt based. And we all know what salt build-up in soil can do. The Romans knew that salt can permanently eliminate soil fertility and that is what they did when they conquered Carthage. They salted Carthage and turned it into a vast arid land.
Use of chemical fertilizers poses a lot of danger to the environment. The most damaging effect of synthetic fertilizers is the elimination of micro-organisms and the ability of soil to nourish itself. Without these micro-organisms, there’s, just no way plant will survive. Since the 1940s, close to 4.7 billion acres of soil worldwide have been degraded due to the heavy use of synthetic fertilizers. This resulted to poor crop yield.
It causes water pollution. With rain water or excessive watering, chemical fertilizers leach into rivers, stream or lakes and possibly our water supply polluting them in the process. This creates a widespread health hazard not only to us humans, but also to our wildlife. Synthesized nitrogen when converted to nitrates and presented itself to our drinking water can be a serious threat to infants. Have you heard of “blue baby syndrome”?… Well, nitrate is the culprit.
Over time, it becomes a serious threat as these harmful chemical accumulates in the bodies of humans and animals via ingestion, respiration or direct contact. Mercury and cadmium which are commonly found in chemical fertilizers are taken up by plants through soil and water or by animals in our food chain. Once this contaminant gets into our bodies, it stays around for a very long time. Take mercury, for example, it becomes a neurotoxin once inside the body which interferes with the brain and nervous system.
There’s always a better way, a natural way to feed the plant without depleting the soil and polluting the water.
Have fun gardening!

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Avoiding Usual Garden Fail

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In gardening, we are all bound to make some mistakes, even seasoned gardeners have made their shares of recklessness. But making mistakes is not a bad thing, it is part of the learning process. Not learning from those mistakes, now, that is bad.
Growing crops in your garden is not as difficult as it seems, you just need to know some practical measures, some hard work and a little bit of luck. For some beginners, it can really be so frustrating when things go wrong, especially when you have no idea what and how things went wrong.
Some of the common mistakes that we make in the garden could have been avoided if a little planning was done in the first place. Oftentimes, we fail on one of the basic things to consider before starting and that is the amount of time we can spare or dedicate for gardening. Maintaining a vegetable garden requires time, effort and most importantly, patience!
We become very excited and try to take on something too much to handle, particularly beginners who are starting their very first garden project. So, they start out with a big garden which often comes with a big problem. As a beginner, your skill also needs time to grow and if you’re working alone in your garden, it’s better to start with a manageable size.
Another mistake is not giving attention to the type of soil in the garden which can spell disaster for your crops. Soil is where your plants will be getting the nutrients they need to grow. You therefore need to have it tested before you start planting. Testing your soil will tell you what nutrients it holds including its pH level. Then you can make the necessary adjustment to correct the soil’s present condition and help you decide on what appropriate crops to plant. And if the type of soil you have is not good for planting, you may consider building raised beds and create your own soil for the type of crops you want to plant.
Location, location, location! There are bad garden locations. To have a productive garden, it must receive good amount of sunlight throughout the day. Knowing your plants and their needs is just as important. Remember, not all plants are to be treated the same. There are plants that enjoy a lot of sunshine and can grow in just about any soil while other, requires rich soil and prefers to be in shady places. Do some observation on how much sunlight each part of your garden receives during the day so you will know the spot where you are going to put the plant. Planting too far from your water source is really, really bad, unless you don’t mind bucketing water back and forth twice a day. And over-watering is just as damaging as under-watering. Be sure to consider your water source.
Gardening can be fun, healthy and a very effective de-stressing activity when you are able to dedicate your time and energy to ensuring that your crops grow beautifully. And when it’s harvest time, that’s when the rewards come.
Have fun gardening!

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Making Compost Tea For Your Garden

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There are a lot of good reasons using compost tea in your garden. Aside from putting back organic matters into the soil, it’s an ideal fertilizer to use in your garden plants and especially for seedlings to stimulate growth and prevent diseases. It is natural, low-dilution and effective.
Spraying compost tea directly makes it easy for plants to absorb and distribute nutrients to produce greener leaves and a bigger yield. It wards off pest, fungus and prevents pathogens from infecting your plants. When applied to soil, fast acting nutrients and minerals are quickly absorbed, which improves the biological activity of the soil. A healthy soil will then produce a healthy crop.
Compost tea brewing is basically extracting the goodness in a compost with water to produce a “tea” solution. When brewing compost tea, one very important factor to consider is the use of the right compost. It should be matured with a sweet earthy smell. If it’s not, don’t use it.
To have a good quality compost, you need to have a sustained pile in a 135° to 150° temperature for at least a week or more, turning the file as often as possible. If you are maintaining a compost pile for more than a year, you have a tea ready compost you can use straightaway. It is important to note that E. coli can be present in raw ingredients used in composting and maintaining a hot compost will eliminate or at the least minimize them.
Let me share with you a simple way of making your own compost tea for your garden. You will need a 5 gallon bucket; a good quality, matured compost; an aerator or aquarium pump; compost catalyst (to help encourage the microorganisms in the compost to multiply); and water. If you’re using tap water, it needs to be de-chlorinated by letting it stand for a day before using it. The reason: chlorine will kill beneficial microorganisms. Water from deep well or gathered from rain can be used directly.
You can start with a 5 gallon bucket by filling it up about 1/3 full with matured compost. You then add water to the top of the bucket and let it steep for 5 to 7 days, you may add some molasses to feed and boost up the microorganisms. Stir the mixture regularly. At the end of the process, strain the mixture using a fine plastic screen mesh or cheesecloth to another bucket. You now have your compost tea ready for use. Don’t throw away the remaining compost solids, you can top them on your garden plot or put them back in the compost bin. Nothing is wasted!
That was quite easy… Right? So, start brewing compost tea instead of using chemical based fertilizers in your garden and save some money.
Have fun gardening!

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Ridding Moss Off Your Lawn

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The presence of moss on your lawn is a sign that it is not in its best condition for your grass to grow well, that there is a much bigger problem. And unless you find out the reason why moss is growing where it should not be, it will just keep coming, replacing those that you have just removed.
There are several reasons that cause this problem. Either your soil is not getting enough sunlight, drainage is not good or the pH level is low and it lacks the necessary nutrients.
How do you get rid of the existing moss in the lawn? You may just rake them off easily as they are shallow rooted. Dish washing soap can also be used as well as baking soda, they are both organic and are therefore safe. I have two homemade mix which you can find at the end of this article. I do not recommend the use of chemical herbicides. But you have to remember, these are just temporary solutions, it is important that you find out the root-cause so you can apply a long term solution.
Find the root cause then you can rid of the moss. Is your lawn shaded by your trees? If so, you will have to do some pruning to lessen the shaded area of your lawn. Moss loves the shade and the best way to control them is through sunlight… lots of sunlight! If your lawn doesn’t get their needed light, the moss will just keep coming back regardless of whatever control you apply to it. So now, you may have to choose which one do you want to keep, a lovely lawn grass or beautiful shady trees?
Next thing to check is the soil under your lawn. If it does not drain well it will retain too much moisture and this becomes an open invitation for moss to come and stay. After a spring rain, try looking for any standing water in your lawn. If you find one, then you have a drainage issue. You may want to consider making a rain garden to catch rainwater runoff or by re-routing the excess water. Reduce the frequency of watering except during hot days. If you have a clay soil, you will have to amend it to make it friable.
Finally, have your soil tested. Find out its pH level and the necessary nutrients needed for your lawn to be healthy. If the pH level is excessively acidic, then you will need to correct the soil because moss loves acidic soil. To counter this condition, you need to apply some lime to neutralize the acidity. You may also need to fertilize (with compost) the lawn regularly.
By maintaining a good amount of sunshine, air and water in your lawn will keep the moss away.
For a homemade anti-moss mix: Fill a garden sprayer with a mix of one box baking soda and two gallons of water. Or mixing 2-4 ounces of dish soap (I use Dawn Ultra) per gallon of water in a sprayer.
Have fun gardening!

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DRIP IRRIGATION: A Clean–Water Friendly System

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Ancient people have used drip irrigation for thousands of years. They knew the importance of having water in their plants and even found a way to collect rain water in pots. Tiny holes were made into the pots to let the rainwater escape slowly to the crops.
Eventually, after years of research, farmers were able to come up with a much better and efficient watering system… the drip irrigation.  With this system, water can be released through tubes with holes and thereby distributing water to the plants evenly.
Drip irrigation is a very effective way in watering plants. It helps conserve our clean water supplies and not to mention, the saving you get from water bills. It makes gardening easier, saving us time and effort. You don’t need to drag your hose around or transfer your sprinklers every time. Would you believe that with this system, you can save up to 50% of clean water as compared to using sprinklers and other watering practices?  That is money well spent!
This is how this brilliant system works. By using hose, water is delivered straight to the root area of plants. Each drop leaches slowly into the soil until finally reaching the root. Practically no water is wasted through evaporation and surface overspill which is also the main cause of soil erosion. Since water is delivered directly, nutrients seep through the plant roots and not away from its reach. Plants also grow faster and become more productive because they get the right amount of water they need to develop.
There are some other benefit you can get from drip irrigation system. The plant’s foliage does not become wet, thus making them less vulnerable to fungi and diseases like mildew. The system is great for row crops as it can be easily modified to suit your garden’s layout. It inhibits weed growth. You don’t want to waste water on weeds, you want them on the plants that you want to grow.
Setting up your own drip irrigation system in your garden is really easy and cheap. You just need to buy a soaker hose and the length will depend on your intended planting area. Then, you just lay the soaker hose next to the plants and connect one end of the hose to a garden hose and turn the water on. You can then transfer the soaker hose from different areas of your garden bed if needed. But if your budget will allow, you may buy two lengths of soaker hose so you can leave them in place and will keep you from moving them all the time.
If you are a busy gardener, you may want to try drip irrigation to save time and effort. All you need to do is turn on the water and watch your garden dance with joy!