Archive for the ‘Home & Garden’ Category

Chicken Raising

by on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 1:32 under Home & Garden.

Read full story

Chickens are probably the most popular animals on the small farm since they produce both meat and eggs and contribute valuable manure to the compost pile. Raising chickens can be especially economical if you can raise your own grain for feeding; and if allowed enough room and access to range they seldom sicken or have the diseases that plague commercial poultry-raisers who keep thousands of birds in close confinement.

Chicken Breeds

In general, you can buy egg breeds, meat breeds and what art called general-purpose breeds. This means that the bird produces a fair number of eggs per year and also possesses a good configuration for meat production-large size, a broad breast and rapid growth.

Rhode Island Reds, and White, Barred and Plymouth Rocks are popular general-purpose breeds for the homestead. They are good layers, producing large brown eggs. Other breeds, such as Cochins/Light Brahmas and especially Araucanas, are popular because they are good setters. These birds also tend to be seasonal layers, so you will get a large egg production in spring which will slacken off as the days get shorter and the weather gets colder.

For most efficient egg production, buy White Leghorns or Leghorn crosses. These are the breeds used by professional poultry men. Since they are bred-for laying, cost per dozen eggs is low but leghorns make poor meat birds. Any chicks will have to be purchased or raised from fertile eggs in an incubator or under a banty that will set them.

For meat production, Cornish and Cornish crosses are best. They reach a large size quickly, have white breasts, yellow skin and white pin-feathers which make them a good market bird. Egg production is low, however, and since they eat more, cost per dozen eggs is high.

There are numerous other fancy and unique breeds which you might like to try on your farm. You can also buy banties or ban-tams in many breeds. These are miniature chickens, bred for small size from larger species. They are popular on the homestead because they are good insect-catchers, don’t take up much room and are fierce setters who will even set eggs from non-broody hens.

You can usually find a local hatchery that stocks White Leghorns and perhaps some other breeds and will sell you a few chicks. Although you can occasionally buy pullet and cockerel trios (two pullets and a cock) of more exotic breeds from local poultry fanciers, the widest selection can be found in catalogs of mail-order poultry houses. Addresses of these concerns are available from most farm and poultry magazines.

Raising Chickens

Probably the best way to start is with day-old chicks, bought mail-order or locally. Chicks are sold in either straight-run or sexed batches. Straight-run means that you take your chances on how many pullets versus cockerels you will be sent; but remember that you can always slaughter extra cocks or pullets at the end of the summer when you select your layers and breeders for the next season.

The area for starting chicks should have 1/2 square foot of space per bird. It should be deeply littered—use a litter that will not raise a dust, such as peanut hulls, ground corncobs or peat moss. Straw is not a good litter for chicks. Cover the litter with newspaper for a few days; if you don’t, the chicks will eat it.

A heat lamp should provide warmth for the chicks; the temperature two inches and floor should be 95°F. (35°C.). Temperature can be regulated by raising and lowering the light. Provide a circular enclosure for chicks; they will pile up in the corners of a rectangular structure and smother if frightened.

Provide starter mash in small feeders, allowing one-inch-per-chick feeding space. Keep feeders constantly three-fourths full. A constant supply of fresh water is a must; plastic waterers screwed on regular fruit jars are sufficient. Provide two one-gallon waterers for seven chicks.

When the chicks arrive, dip the beaks of each into the water and put them in the closure. Make sure they are all in good condition—hatcheries have different procedures for reporting losses and provide extra chicks to cover deaths en route.

Feeders and waterers should be wavier daily. After the first few days, remove newspaper from the litter. A small night-light of 15 watts should be provided. Reduce the heat in the enclosure 5° F. (2.78° C.) each week until it reaches the outside temperature.

After a month, your chicks are ready move to larger quarters. Allow 3/4 square of space per bird. A five-gallon waterer for each 100 chicks and three inches of feeding space per bird are necessary. Birds can feed a commercial or home compounded or growing mash at this time.

Chicken Diseases

Most books on chickens list many diseases to which the birds are prone. However, allowing plenty of room in the chicken house and access to range keeps chickens pretty healthy.

One problem you may encounter is cannibalism. This can be due to many causes—crowding, too much heat or light, boredom, bad diet. Cannibalism starts when one bird picks another and draws blood, usually in the vent region; the whole flock may join in and kill the affected bird. Some chickens are sold debeaked to prevent cannibalism, and pine tar rubbed on the affected area as soon as signs of cannibalism appear is quite effective. If you allow your chickens to range and give them plenty of room, many causes of the problem disappear.

Other diseases are common to other forms of poultry as well.

Chicken Slaughtering

Your flock can be managed so that unwanted hens and roosters can be slaughtered for specific purposes. Medium heavy birds can be killed for fryers at eight to ten weeks, broilers at 12 weeks, roasters at six months. Older birds are used for stews or soups.

There are a number of ways to kill chickens. You can use an axe, chop off the chicken head, and allow it to run around or thrum about under a bushel basket until it has bled death. A method that uses fewer bushel baskets is recommended to those who plan on picking their birds. Hang the chicken upside down by a cord attached to its legs. With a thin knife, slash the jugular vein at the site of the head just on top of the neck. Insert in blade into the mouth and thrust through the roof of the mouth to pierce the brain located in the back of the head. This method loosens the feathers on the bird and makes them easier to pick.

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try <a href=”http://www.poultry.allotment.org.uk”>Poultry Pages</a>

Planting Mango Seeds

by on Monday, July 21, 2014 1:04 under Home & Garden.

Read full story

Mangoes are fruit trees of great antiquity in Southeast Asia, and are part of the Sumac family. The mango (M. indica) is cultivated throughout the tropics in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres.

Attaining a height of 90 feet, it is a handsome, round-topped tree with lance-shaped, alternate leaves, eight to 14 inches long. The flowers are small, pink white and usually in terminal clusters. The large, red or yellow-orange fruit is drupe like, fleshy and aromatic. It is very juicy but extremely perishable.

Mango Culture

Mangoes are propagated either by seed or grafting. Grafting is preferred because when used the new planting will be true to type. With seed planting, an entirely different type may grow.

When planting, be sure the soil is rich in compost and manure. Dig a large hole to accommodate the new tree. Irrigate the new planting at least twice a week in dry areas. When mature, the trees require wide spacing, at least 30 by 30 feet. Bearing of fruit takes at least five to seven years.

Mango Diseases and Pests

The ambrosia beetle is a cylindrical insect which bores in the limbs and trunk of mango trees and spreads a fungal infection. The best prevention against fungal spread is to prune the diseased portions and burn them.

Red, mango, wax, and shield types of scale insects spread fungal diseases that may kill off the planting. A dormant-oil spray and the introduction of ladybugs to the orchard are good precautions against disease.

Anthracnose, a fungal disease evidenced by spots on flowers and fruits, can be controlled by cutting out the infected branches and burning them. Stem rot, believed to be caused by a lack of moisture, will disappear if trees are kept well ventilated and watered. Dry, light brown leaf tips, caused by tip burn, are best controlled by proper watering, mulching and application of potash.

Planting Clematis

by on Tuesday, July 15, 2014 10:53 under Home & Garden.

Read full story

The many clematis species and hybrids are not as popular in America as they are in Great Britain and parts of Europe, yet if the plants shown at our great spring flower shows are a criterion, they certainly are not to be neglected here. About 230 species are widely distributed throughout the temperate regions of the world. One hundred species and hybrid varieties are being commercially grown in America and probably nearly twice that number are offered in Europe. One English nurseryman alone lists 130.

Clematis is native chiefly in the northern temperate regions of the world. Three of the American species are excellent garden plants and from Europe are likewise important, but in the following list it will be noted that to species and botanical varieties which are natives of Asia also make good ornamentals. It is the large-flowered hybrids which seem to capture the public fancy, and it is these which are forced for display purposes in the shows. There are of course herbaceous species as well as woody species.

Although the first man-made hybrid was probably made in 1830, it was not until about 1858 that the first large-flowered hybrid of C. lanziginosa originated (C. x jackmanii), and this started many an enthusiastic hybridizer in his efforts to obtain large-flowering varieties. Although a century has elapsed since growers first became interested in the hybrids, we do have fairly accurate records of where and when these originated. These vines are frequently not the easiest to grow properly. They need an alkaline or limestone soil, some shade, and frequently they respond well if in some way the lower parts of the stems are protected from breakage and mechanical injury. It is at this point that disease frequently enters the plants, and when injury does occur, disease enters and is often quickly followed by destruction of the plant.

The leaf stalks act as tendrils in clinging to supports. Clematis flowers have no true petals. It is the large, brilliant-colored sepals which are so interesting. Actually, some of those species and varieties with medium-sized to small flowers make the best general ornamentals. Clematis paniculata, C. montana rubens, C. texensis are all in this class, as is the variety ‘Huldine’ with 4 whitish sepals and an over-all dia. of about 4 in. A poorly grown plant of ‘Nellie Moser’ may have flowers only 4 in. across, whereas, one that is well grown would have flowers twice that size. Clematis climb by attaching their leaf stalks about the means of support. They have opposite, usually compound, leaves, with either solitary flowers or flowers in clusters.

Clematis Propagation

The behavior of seed is variable. It may be stored dry in airtight containers in a cool place for up to a year and then processed. If in doubt concerning its behavior, stratify for 3 months at 40° F., then sow. Softwood cuttings usually root well, best taken from young shoots in the greenhouse in Jan. or Feb. Sometimes the large-flowered hybrids are grafted or layered, but own rooted plan always preferable to others.

Goat Raising

by on Monday, July 14, 2014 22:50 under Home & Garden.

Read full story

Goat keeping is very simple, and the equipment for the “backyard dairy” is just as simple: A stanchion and a manger for feeding are the basic requirements. You may wish to add a milking stand, attached to the wall.

By their nature, goats are affectionate and gentle. They are highly intelligent and can be taught almost any trick that can be taught a dog. The milk they give is easier to digest than cow’s milk. Also, goats are easier to handle and less expensive than cows.

Goat Breeds

There are five principal breeds of dairy goats in America.

  • Nubians are of English, African and Oriental origin. They are characterized by large size, long drooping ears, arched nose, and any color or combination.
  • French Alpines range from white to black spotted. Ears are upright, face dished.
  • Saanens are of Swiss origin. They are white, of good size, with short, erect ears, dished or straight faces.
  • Toggenburgs are a Swiss breed. They are medium-large; brown in color with light markings down the face, on legs and under body; ears short and erect; face dished.
  • La Manchas are very calm goats and excellent milk producers. They have small, almost unnoticeable external ears and long, straight faces.

Within each of these breeds there are grade classifications such as purebred, recorded grade, American, and crossbred. A purebred goat is one whose parents are registered as the same breed. A recorded grade goat has only one registered parent with the other one being of mixed or even unknown breed. American goats are the result of three successive crossings of a grade goat with a purebred. When two purebred goats of different breeds are mated, the result is a crossbreed. In addition to these types, there is the unrecorded grade goat whose parentage is unknown.

As with any animal, the purebred type is the most valuable goat though it will not always produce more milk than an unrecorded or crossed type. The main advantage to any of the graded goats over the unrecorded ones is that you have proof of the goat’s age, records of its parentage, and perhaps even some information on the dame’s milk production. A purebred, grade, American, or crossbred goat costs a bit more than one that has no papers, but at least you know what you are getting.

Buying horned goats is usually ill-advised, because of the harm they can cause. Horn growth can be stopped when the kids are tiny by applying dehorning paste or cauterizing the small from buds.

Goat Milking

Goat’s milk is more easily digested than cow’s milk because of its smaller, more easily assimilated fat globules. For the same reason, it is also more nourishing, for people are nourished not by what they swallow but by what they digest. Tuberculosis does not exist among goats, so their milk needs no pasteurization and runs no danger of losing its vitamins or having its calcium salts altered by heat.

Many people start to use goat’s milk to help them through an illness, and then develop a taste for it. Goat’s milk is sweet and pleasant to the taste. Goats are particularly discriminating in their feeding habits. The doe is odorless and clean and nearly always produces high-quality milk.

A good doe will give three to four quarts of milk a day-plenty for most families’ needs. To produce this amount of milk about four pounds of hay and two pounds of grain daily are required. You should purchase two or more goats, however, and by having them freshen (produce milk) at different times of the year, a reasonably constant milk flow can be maintained throughout the entire year.

Goat Breeding

Young females may be bred to freshen at 14 or 15 months of age if the well developed. The gestation period is approximately 5 months. Fine, purebred males are available within driving distance of most communities.

The average suburban lot can provide, much of the maintenance for goats, unsprayed leaves and trimmings from family gardens will go far to meet the feed requirements. Add alfalfa hay, or any good leguminous hay, with a light grain ration and the goats will thrive at nominal cost.

Feed represents the major portion goat-raising budget. Goats, like cattle sheep, are ruminants. They have stomachs that lets them store large amounts in one compartment while “chewing their cud” (breaking down plant fibers adding the enzymes needed to extract). For this reason, goats should have regular access to hay, grass, bark, and roughages.

There are various commercial rations prepared specifically to insure proper nutritive goats. Hay and grain make good feed, with the proper protein and mineral (especially calcium) supplements. Organic garden can add kelp, molasses, cider vinegar, and other nutrients to their feed.

Goat Manure

The goat also converts into high-grade manure. The goat’s digestive system is such that few if any weed seeds through her undigested. The composition of goat manure is about the same as that of manure, but of course varies depending the kind and quality of feed she receives. Disregarding minerals and some other similar nutrients, goat manure will contain about:

  • Water – 64 percent
  • Nitrogen – 1.44 percent
  • Potassium – 1 percent
  • Phosphorus – 0.22 percent

The manure of the goat, being dry and is clean and odorless. In fact, the dairy doe is perhaps the cleanest of any animal, and premises can be absolutely free of any if reasonably sanitary conditions are-rained.

Goat Housing

Goats do not require costly housing. Only a few essentials must be remembered: House them in a clean, dry, free from drafts but well ventilated stay, they will stand almost unlimited cold in any climate.

Minimum space requirements for a goat is approximately 20 square feet per animal, sand or gravel floors are desirable since they remain dry and are easy to clean when the goat house or pen is scoured each spring and fall.

Bedding can be made from sawdust, straw even ground cornstalks. Old bedding makes excellent contribution to the compost heap. Stock fencing is often preferred in manger construction. A keyhole manger is one way to minimize hay, since the shape discourages goats from eating uneaten hay.

Goats require a constant supply of clean water. Salt and mineral blocks are essential.

Planning Your Garden

by on Saturday, July 12, 2014 9:29 under Home & Garden.

Read full story

Simply moving a few plants is rarely enough to transform an uninspiring garden into something special. It is worth having a goal, a plan to work to, even if you have to compromise along the way. Bear in mind that you may be able to stagger the work and cost over several seasons, but having a well thought out design ensures the garden evolves in a structured way.

Use the checklist to clarify your needs, then decide in your own mind the style of garden you want. Make a note of mundane and practical considerations, like where to dry the clothes and put the refuse, plus objects that need to be screened, such as a compost area, or an unpleasant view.

Labour-saving tips

To minimize cost and labour, retain as many paths and areas of paving as possible, but only if they don’t compromise the design.

If you want to enlarge an area of paving, or improve its appearance, it may be possible to pave over the top and thus avoid the arduous task of removing the original.

Modifying the shape of your lawn is easier than digging it up and relaying a new one.

Garden styles

The garden styles outlined here are not exhaustive, and probably none of them will be exactly right for your own garden, but they will help you to clarify your thoughts.

Formal

Parterres and knot gardens: Shaped beds and compartments originally designed to be viewed from above. Knot herb gardens, such as ones based on intricate Elizabethan designs, can be stunning but are expensive to create, slow to establish and labour intensive.

Formal herb gardens: Easier to create than knot gardens. Seek inspiration from illustrated herb garden books -both old and new. It is easier to create one if based on a theme.

Formal rose gardens: Easy to create and can look good in first season. For year-round interest under plant with spring bulbs and edge beds with seasonal flowers.

Paved gardens: Particularly suitable for small gardens. Plant in open areas left in paving, up walls and in raised beds and containers.

Courtyard gardens: Floor tiles and white walls (to reflect light), together with some lush green foliage, an architectural’ tree or large shrub and the sound of running water will transform a backyard into a delightful courtyard garden.

A modern interpretation of an Elizabethan knot garden, with gravel and brick paving to keep weeding to a minimum

Traditional designs: A small formal garden, with rectangular lawn, straight herbaceous border plus rose and flowerbeds is a popular choice for growing a variety of summer bedding and other favourites.

Informal

Cottage gardens: The juxtaposition of old-fashioned’ plants and vegetables creates a casual but colourful look. Place brick paths or stepping stones through the beds.

Wildlife gardens: Even a tiny plot can attract small animals and insects. Planting must provide shelter and food, while a water feature will encourage aquatic wildlife.

Woodland gardens: Shrubs and small deciduous trees suit a long narrow garden and are effective for screening and dividing up the garden. Under-plant with naturalized bulbs, woodland spring flowers and ferns.

Meandering meadows: Where there is an attractive view, a sweep of grass between curved borders can merge with an unobstructed boundary. If the view is unappealing, curve the border round so that the lawn finishes beyond the point of view.

Decorative features

Barbecue

Beds

Borders, for herbaceous Borders, for shrubs Borders, mixed

Birdbath

Bright beds and borders: If plants are more important than design, use sweeping beds and borders with lots of shrubs and herbaceous plants to give shape. Use focal points such as ornaments, garden seats or birdbaths to create a strong sense of design.

Distant influences

Japanese gardens: Raked sand and grouped stones translate well to a small space, making a confined area appear larger. Plants can be kept to a minimum. Stone and gravel gardens: These materials can be used to create a dry-river bed feel. Minimal maintenance if you select drought-tolerant plants.

Functional features

Compost area

Garage

Tool shed

Necessities

Children’s play area Climbing frame

Clothes drying area Dustbin (trash can) area Sandpit

Swing

In most cities and urban environments, back gardens are small and shady, but these factors need not restrict the garden’s potential, as these great splashes of colour show.

Choosing a style

The most comfortable and visually pleasing gardens are usually the result of careful planning, even those with an informal feel to them. Formal gardens appeal to those who delight in crisp, neat edges, straight lines and a sense of order. Many traditional suburban gardens are formal in outline, with rectangular lawns flanked by straight flower borders, and perhaps rectangular or circular flower beds cut into them. Such rigid designs are often dictated by the drive for the car and straight paths laid by the house builder.

The informality of the cottage garden and the ‘wilderness’ atmosphere of a wild garden are difficult to achieve in a small space, especially in a town. However, with fences well clothed with plants so that modern buildings do not intrude, an informal garden can work even here.

Professional garden designers are frequently influenced by classic styles from other countries, especially Japan, but amateurs are often nervous of trying such designs themselves. Provided you start with the clear premise that what pleases you is the only real criterion of whether something works, creating a particular foreign style can be great fun. Adapt the chosen style to suit climate, landscape and the availability of suitable plants and materials.

CHOICES CHECKLIST

Before you draw up your design, make a list of requirements for your ideal garden. You will almost certainly have to abandon or defer some of them, but at least you will realize which features are most important to you.

Use this checklist of suggested features at the rough plan stage, when decisions have to be made… and it is easy to change your mind!

Herb garden

Lawn (mainly for decoration)Lawn (mainly for recreation)Ornaments

Patio/terrace Pergola

Pond

Raised beds

Summer house

Sundial

Vegetable plot

Hydroponic Gardening

by on Saturday, June 28, 2014 16:14 under Home & Garden.

Read full story

From the Greek roots hydro, water, and meaning work, hydroponics is the science of growing plants in water, without soil. Plants are supported in an inert, non-organic medium such as sand, fine gravel or mica compositions, which are saturated with nutrient solutions for short periods. These solutions typically contain phosphorus, potassium, calcium, urn, sulfur, iron, manganese, boron, and copper. All of the essential foods are available to plant roots quantities.

Hydroponic gardening requires a trough for the plants, an aggregate such as gravel or vermiculite for root support water supply with a pH rating of between 6 and 8.5. Nutrient solutions need to be added with water regularly.

Hydroponics has intrigued scientists because it eliminates the need for ordinary cultivation. Its main cost in the labor is saved by automatics and fertilizing, although installation costs are generally pretty high. So greater crops yield result from hydroponic gardens. Until very recently, corn-acceptance and implementation of hydroponics methods have been impeded by the reliance on chemical nutrient solutions and frequent testing.

With mounting interest in urban agriculture and rooftop food production, however, hydroponics seems destined to assume greater significance. The organic grower can either use a tea made from high-quality compost, or can mix a basic solution of one tablespoon fish emulsion, one tablespoon liquid seaweed, and a teaspoon of blood meal to each gallon of water. The mix varies, depending on the type of plant to be grown. Less blood meal should be used with flowering and fruiting produce than with leafy crops. Other nutrients can also be added: blended eggshells, for example, might be helpful when added to a cabbage crop. Organic hydroponics is very much in a developing stage, and a taste for experimentation is essential.

While soil is cheaper than perlite or vermiculite, it is significantly more difficult to cart up to a rooftop in bulk. Moreover, container soil is prone to rapid leaching and usually requires repeated fertilization, so the actual cost of organic fertilizers for hydroponically grown plants is comparable with that for conventionally grown plants. Hydroponics advocates also point out that since hydroponic roots do not need to grow as far in search of nourishment as the roots of soil-grown plants, planting densities can be more intensive and higher yields can be achieved.

The equipment for hydroponic production can be constructed simply and inexpensively. The container must be elevated slightly at one end and have drainage holes at the opposite end. One-inch plastic pipes with holes drilled every three inches are laid about an inch below the medium and raised at both ends of the box. Smaller rubber hoses coming from the nutrient supply are inserted into the pipe at one end; the upward bend in the pipe at the opposite end stops the flow of the solution. A gravity system for controlling nutrient flow composed of two five-gallon buckets elevated on boxes and standing two feet above the top of the growing container, makes it easy to add nutrients and care for the hydroponic plants.

Planting Tulips

by on Thursday, June 26, 2014 3:14 under Home & Garden.

Read full story

Tulips are bulbous plants which are natives of the Old World, where they occur in an area extending from the Mediterranean region to Japan. There are some 60 species and several thousand horticultural forms. They are doubtless the most popular bulbous garden plants.

Species of Tulips

These tulips have been derived from wild species, and generally breed true from seed. Species tulips, also known as botanical tulips, are not generally grown in quantity as are the garden tulips. Most are early flowering and prefer a dry, sunny location. They are planted in groups in the border or rock garden. Among the best species are the dwarf T. dasystemon with violet and yellow flowers; lady tulip (T. Clusiana) with striped flowers; T. biflora with white and yellow flowers; and the many cultivars of T. Fosteriana, including Red Emperor or Madam Lefeber with bright red flowers, Gold Beater with golden flowers and Pinkeen with orange flowers.

Garden Tulips

Flowers of the breeder tulips appear in May and can be recognized by their rounded base and square-edged sepals and petals.

They spread them over Europe. Since then the Dutch have been the great breeders of tulips. Most garden tulips were derived from innumerable crosses with the species T. Gesneriana and T. suaveolens, and the thousands of named forms which have since arisen. Garden tulips are divided into groups as follows:

Breeder Tulips

These are tall-stemmed tulips which bloom in May. The flowers are distinctive in that they have a rounded base, while the sepals and petals have square ends. The Dutch varieties have oval or cup-shaped flowers mostly in shades of brown, purple bronze, or red, but the base of the flower is white or yellow, and often stained blue, green or blue black. The English varieties have ball-like flowers, the base of which is yellow or white but not stained with any other color.

Cottage Tulips

These are tall-stemmed, May-blooming tulips with self-colored, mostly pointed or rounded sepals and petals. The flowers in general have a square or somewhat rounded base and pointed or rounded tip.

Darwin Tulips

These are the tallest of the self-colored May-flowering tulips. They may be recognized by the flower which has a somewhat rectangular base, while the sepals and petals are square-tipped or rounded.

Early Tulips

These are the first of the tulips to bloom and follow close behind crocuses. They are chiefly dwarf in habit and may have single or double flowers in a variety of colors. Typical of the early tulips is the Ducvan Thol.

Griegii Tulips

These tulips have mottled or striped leaves and bloom later than most other types.

Lily-Flowered Tulips

These are tall-stemmed, May-flowering tulips with the sepals and petals distinctly long-tipped.

Mendel Tulips

These are medium-early flowering tulips derived from crossing the Ducvan Thol with the Darwin varieties.

Triumph Tulips

These are tall, early-flowering tulips, blooming just after the early tulips.

Tulip Planting and Culture

In selecting tulips for the garden, the background must be considered. For instance, a yellow tulip would seem to be an intruder in front of a pink-flowered dogwood or a flowering crab apple tree, but would be fine near the violet blue racemes of Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda).Matching the flowers of tulips with those of flowering shrubs and trees can be fun.

Tulips seem to be at their best in the garden growing with other plants, such at pansies, bluebells, forget-me-nots, rock cress, lungwort, Jacob’s-ladder, English wallflower, bleeding-heart, doronicum, and the often harsh basket-of-gold. But they may also be plant together in groups in a bed or border to pro-duce striking color schemes.

The bulbs grow best in well-drained light loam. The soil should be deep and enriches with plenty of well-rotted manure or compose to insure good plant growth and large flower, over a period of several years. Fertilizers such as bone meal, cow or sheep manure, or corn-post are excellent dressings. Tulips will usually do better and bloom earlier in the sun than in half shade. Large bulbs may be planted deeper than small ones. The ideal depth is from four to six inches and they should be about four to nine inches apart. If bulbs are planted too deep, they weaken as they push through the soil, but if planted too shallow, they may be heaved out of the soil, or possibly frozen. When setting the bulbs in the soil, give a half twist as though screwing the bulb into the soil; this assures that the base of the bulb is in direct contact with the soil.

Never cut the green leaves at any time, these leaves feed the bulb with new food to be stored for the next season. When the leaves begin to turn yellowish at the base and have a withered appearance, they can be pulled out easily from the soil. The bulbs are then more or less cured and may remain in the ground for at least two more seasons or even a third if the flowers have appeared well the last season.

Lifting and Storing Bulbs

Lack of flower development is a sign that the bulbs should be reset. Lifted bulbs may be reset in new bed immediately, or they may be stored for the fall planting. Tulip bulbs do not usually last for years in the ground without special requirements. Left in the ground, they may rot during the summer from too much moisture or beaten by rodents who love the juicy pulp.

Lifting

The first or second week in June is a good time to remove tulip bulbs. By this time the late Darwins have finished blooming. If you are too busy at the time, the bulbs may be removed as late as the end of the month. But, the sooner the better, as the stems will be firmer, and there will be less chance of their breaking. Stem and bulb must remain intact for proper curing.

Use a spade to lift the bulbs from the ground. A garden fork does not give the necessary protection during the lift. Insert the spade least four inches from each tulip stem. Force the spade straight down to a depth of six inches.

Then, gently press down upon the handle, pushing outward, until the ground heaves and the plant moves. Bring the bulb to the surface and carefully shake it free of dirt, taking care not to snap off the stem. The new bulbs need the nourishment stored in the stem now that their soil food supply has been cut off.

Place your stemmed bulbs neatly in a pile until all have been taken up. If it is bright and sunny, protect the tender bulbs with a damp sack or heavy paper. Never expose tulip bulbs to the direct rays of the sun.

Hilling In

After your bulbs have been dug and each variety placed upon a separate pile, remove them to a protected part of your garden. In a vacant spot, dig a trench long and deep enough to accommodate all the bulbs. Carefully lay the bulbs in the trench and, before hilling in, stake or number each variety so you will know which is which when you lift them later.

Cover the bulbs with at least six inches of soil, but allow the green stems to remain exposed to the hot sun. As the sun dries the stalks, the food supply gradually trickles down to the bulbs. There, it is stored for next year’s growth.

Removing

In about a week or two, as soon as the stems have turned yellow, remove the bulbs from the trench. Never allow them to remain hilled in more than three weeks, or they will rot. Run your fingers through the loose dirt after lifting, to get all the tiny bulblets that might have broken off. Spread the bulbs out on a flat surface in a heavy shade to dry for about an hour. Then continue removing the bulbs from the stems and casings.

As you begin your work you will notice that the bulbs are encased in a thick, brown pouch of cloth like fiber. Tear this apart, and remove all bulbs found among the different layers. No bulblet is too small to save. Even the tiniest grows to a reasonable size in one year. Besides the parent bulb, you will find as many as four or five bulblets with each stem. These smaller bulbs should be planted separately in the fall.

When the pouch is completely empty, throw it on a pile with the discarded stems. Later, this can be added to your compost heap or mulching material.

As the bulbs are removed from their casings, it is wise to place them immediately in trays specially built for tulip bulbs. These trays are nothing more than large squares with two-inch-high sides, and bottomed with heavy window screening to prevent the loss of tiny bulblets. If you have several different varieties, you might partition off the squares and save room. Some sort of legs in the form of one-inch blocks should be nailed under each corner to allow a good circulation of air through the moist bulbs.

Don’t forget to tag the trays if you have several varieties of tulips. This information will enable you to plant different arrangements in your beds next fall to create striking color effects in spring.

Storing Tulips

As soon as you have finished this phase of work, take the bulbs indoors immediately. Set the filled trays in a warm, dry place. The attic floor of your home or garage is excellent. Place the trays on the floor individually. That is, don’t pile one on top of the other. And don’t worry about the heat concentrating too heavily over the bulbs during the hot summer. It won’t hurt them a bit. The hotter it is, the drier the air will remain. Tulip bulbs must be kept completely dry to prevent rotting.

Roll the bulbs back and forth in the trays several times during the first two weeks of curing to prevent moisture from gathering among the bulbs. One turning per week for the following month will finish the job. It is best to allow the bulbs to remain in their tram until planting time.

If your bulbs are bothered by mice, be sure to set traps or tack another sheet at window screening across the tops of the tress. Mice love the taste of tulip bulbs, and can eat away quite a few by fall.

Planting Gourds

by on Wednesday, June 25, 2014 15:11 under Home & Garden.

Read full story

These are members of the Cucumber Family belonging mostly to the genera Cucurbita, Lagenaria, and Luffa. By far the largest numbers of varying ornamental hard-shelled gourds are those originating from Cucurbita pepo ovifera which is the yellow-flowered gourd, easily distinguished from the white-flowered Lagenaria types which take a longer growing season to mature properly. Gourds can be grown in any good soil similar to that in the vegetable garden. They need as long a growing period as possible, especially L. siceraria, the reason why some gardeners in the North just do not have a sufficient number of days of hot sunshine to mature the fruits. On the other hand, Cucurbita pepo ovifera ripens easily in Zones 3 and 4.

Gourd Seeds

One should be certain at the start to obtain good viable seed from a reliable source. Seeds-men are selling gourds in 2 ways. The first is “mixed,” that is, several varieties of differently shaped gourds have been used for seed purposes and one can obtain many interesting gourds from such a package. On the other hand, the unscrupulous person will mix seed from a lot of inferior-shaped types together, and still sell them as “mixed” and be correct in so doing. Other seeds-men who have sources of seed from pure stands of Nest Egg, Striped Pear, Spoon or Miniature Bottle, will sell seeds of these types and the gardener has reasonable assurance they will produce gourds true to name. It really pays to purchase well-grown reliable seeds of this type regardless of whether they are sold as individual varieties or as “Super Hybrids Mixed.” Germination is helped if the seed is soaked in warm water for 12-48 hours before sowing. Seed will keep at least a year, (usually several), if put in a dry cool place.

When to Plant Gourds

Good seed should be sown in hills, 6-8 seeds per hill, after all the dangers of frost are over. It is unwise to sow too early for they simply will not grow until the soil warms up. They can be started in pots in the greenhouse 3 weeks before they are to be set out in the garden, thus gaining a few weeks on the ones planted directly in the soil. However, the roots should not be disturbed in transplanting, but the entire pot full of undisturbed roots and soil set out in one careful operation. Certainly this is the way to plant Lagenaria varieties especially in the North, and even then there may not be sufficient time for the fruit to ripen properly. All gourds should be grown in full sunshine, not in the shade.

Theoretically gourds should be trained on a trellis, up some chicken wire or over some brush to keep the fruits off the ground. Most of us do not have time for that and are willing to take our chances with a few of the fruits being marred on the ground. Seeds might be planted twice their length deep in good, friable soil. When seedlings are up the hills might be thinned to about 4 plants per hill, the hills being about 8 ft. apart. If the seed was “mixed” remember that the seedlings will show variation and one should not remove all the smallest seedlings, because these might just be the varieties with the smallest and most interesting fruits.

Fertilizers should be applied as for pumpkins and squash. The roots of gourds are very close to the soil surface hence in hoeing one should be careful not to disturb the roots. They need ample water and should be given plenty of it during drought periods.

Gourd Pruning

Pruning the vines can increase the number of fruits borne per vine. The main stem should be allowed to grow until it is to ft. long, when the end can be removed. It is on this part that mostly male flowers are borne. The lateral shoots bear mostly pistillate flowers. If the end bud of the main shoot is snipped off after the shoot is to ft. long, then the first lateral shoots have the main end buds taken off them when each shoot has developed about 4 leaves, this is sufficient for the pruning. Any sub-lateral shoots, developing after this, are allowed to grow at will. This type of pruning can aid in the production of more fruits.

Gourd Harvesting

Gourds must be thoroughly ripened on the vine before they are picked, for if picked when green or immature they will soon rot. For the varieties of Cucurbita pepo ovifera, the stem where the gourd is attached to the vine should be watched. When this starts to shrivel and dry up, then the gourd should be picked. It is best to cut them off the vine with shears, saving a few inches of stem on each gourd, rather than roughly tearing them off the vine, often severing the stem right at the end of the gourd. If roughly done, this can injure the gourd end just enough to allow disease to enter and the fruit will rot.

Ornamental Gourds

The gourds should not be left out in the field, but rather brought in and washed, often with a mild disinfectant, and set aside a few days to dry thoroughly. The idea is to wash off any soil or impurities which may have become attached to the shell. After a few days they can then be carefully waxed with any floor paste wax, and set aside for use as ornaments. Some will undoubtedly rot, but the majority, if picked when fully mature, will harden nicely and can be used for years.

The white gourds of Lagenaria siceraria should be even more carefully watched and picked just before they start to turn yellowish from too much sunshine. In the South these calabash gourds are easy to grow and to mature, but in the North it is very difficult to grow them properly. They include the Bottle, Depressed Bottle, Powder Horn, Dipper and Kettle.

Gourd Grading

Nest and Dolphin types along with many others are 2 species have green fruits with a rind that is not hard, but dry and papery. These can be a foot long and also take a long growing season. The inside pulp can be dried out and then used as a dish cloth.

It is of interest to note that markings can be made on the shells of any of these gourds when they are half ripe and growing on the vines. Thus, initials, characters, rough line sketches made at this time, eventually look as if they had actually grown on the shell. Also wires, strings or even containers can be placed around the developing fruits in such ways as to permanently change and control the shape. Thus, it is possible to have a square gourd (forced to grow within some confining square metal or concrete box). These then are the popular hard-shelled gourds.

Planting Gooseberries

by on Thursday, June 19, 2014 13:25 under Home & Garden.

Read full story

Gooseberries are fine fruits for home although more popular in Europe, resistant American varieties have wed. In addition to their intolerance, European varieties of gooseberry are more susceptible to mildew.

One-year-old stock should be planted either in late spring. Some gooseberries will tolerate cold winters better than others. Too much nitrogen in the soil produces green growth. Plant bushes four to six feet apart, in rows. Trim the tops back. A thick straw protects the planting through the berry bushes and can also increase layering—covering a length of about three inches of soil. Allow the branch with at least three buds. The covered portion will settle down, and later the branch can be cut back.

Widely cultivated in Europe, several winter-hardy varieties of green and white gooseberries are also available to the American gardener. Bushes which are shaded need more severe pruning than those in direct sunlight. Mildew is a constant threat.

Gooseberries are a potential threat to white pines because of the white pine blister rust which they may carry. In areas where white pines are important and grow profusely, the propagation of currants and gooseberries is prohibited or controlled.

Gooseberry Harvest

Gooseberry picking traditionally calls for heavy leather gloves or other protection against the prickly thorns. Run your hand along the length of the branch and catch the crop in a container placed below the branch. Leaves and other extraneous debris can be removed by winnowing later.

Gooseberry Pests

Mildew is the most serious disease affecting gooseberries. Bushes planted where there is good air circulation will be less susceptible to infection. Anthracnose is also a goose-berry enemy.

Gooseberry Varieties

Welcome is a hardy variety which is resistant to anthracnose. Pixwell is easy to harvest because the fruit hangs away from thorns. Old favorites include Downing, Oregon Champion, Red Jacket, and Poorman.

Bird Watching

by on Tuesday, June 17, 2014 12:55 under Home & Garden.

Read full story

The interest in watching birds and attracting them to the garden has grown enormously in recent years. Their beauty, song and active behavior make birds the most conspicuous form of wildlife that lives in close proximity to man. Their exuberant presence can transform the garden from a collection of plants into a lively community of interrelated life forms. They satisfy a human need for close contact with the wild things that share the planet with us. Organic gardeners value birds highly in their role as efficient predators of insects. A varied population of resident birds will help to control insect pests. Bird and insect populations tend to balance each other out, and birds will disappear from gardens that are doused with pesticides and herbicides at every appearance of aphid and dandelion. The slate gray berries of the juniper will satisfy the appetites of some birds which might otherwise turn to the garden for food. Organic gardeners are accustomed to thinking of pests in terms of balanced control rather than overkill, and they have taken an important first step in making their gardens attractive to birds by refusing to use these poisons. The birds will increase its number and variety if a few other requirements are met.

Birds have three basic needs for survival-food, water and cover. A well-stocked feeder can increase the garden’s bird population dramatically in winter, and a birdbath can be a busy center of activity during the heat of summer. These two amenities in combination with plantings attractive to birds as nesting site, shelter and sources of food will help to insure a year-round population of birds in the garden.

Planting for Birds

In the wild, more species of birds will be found in the brushy area where woods and fields meet than will be found in the interior of either the woods or fields themselves. Ecologists call this phenomenon “edge effect,” and when it can be duplicated on the home grounds, a greater variety of birds will be encouraged to take up residence there. One way to accomplish this is by surrounding the lawn with a thick border of fruiting trees and shrubs. The wider and more varied in content the border is, the better, but even a narrow boundary hedge can make a garden more appealing to some birds. A gradation of heights in the planting will make it more aesthetically pleasing and more attractive to more species of birds. Some birds, robins among them, forage on the lawn; others like catbirds and mocking-birds prefer to nest in dense shrubbery; and still others such as orioles spend most of their time in tall trees. The outer edges of the planting might be framed by tall shade trees, grading down to small fruiting trees and tall shrubs faced in turn by lower shrubs around the center of the lawn, which should be kept as open as possible so the birds can be seen. Evergreens should be included in the border because of their value as year-round cover. Mass them where a permanent screen is wanted, or where they can serve as a windbreak for the garden and house. This kind of mass border when lawn planting will provide birds with an abundance of nesting sites, a variety of habitats, ample shelter, and food in the form of insects, seeds and fruit. It can be installed over a period of years as the budget permits, and will amuse its owner with little work once established.

Bird gardens are of necessity low-maintenance gardens because birds prefer things tone as natural as possible. Converting large areas of lawn into islands and borders of shrubbery cuts down on the monotonous chore of grass mowing. The shrubs and trees in the bird garden might be pruned occasionally to induce formation of forks and crotches that can support nests, but they should be allowed to grow together, thicket fashion, to some extent. Close dipping of fruiting shrubs should be avoided because it reduces berry production. Use the pruning as pea stakes in the vegetable garden, or to make a brush pile in some out-of-the-way corner. Brush piles are attractive to ground-dwelling birds as resting and feeding areas. Bramble fruits can be planted around them to form dense thickets which are the preferred nesting sites of several species. Leaves which fall in the shrub borders should not be raked up. Leaf litter harbors many insects and is a rich foraging area for birds, and it will slowly decay into leaf mold, which is the only fertilizer the shrubbery will need. Many common weeds will furnish valuable seeds for birds. The common annuals lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium) and pigweed (Amaranthus) produce highly nutritious seeds favored by many species. The plants can be cut in fall, tied in shocks and placed near feeders or among shrubs so birds have access to the seeds in winter. The purple black berries of pokeweed are eaten by 28 species of birds. This plant can make a showy addition to the shrub border. Gardeners may rebel at allowing such pests as ragweed and poison ivy to get established in the garden, but both are excellent bird food plants. Garden flowers are most closely associated with hummingbirds, but many will provide food for other birds if allowed to ripen their seeds. The colorful small-seeded sunflowers, cosmos, China asters, marigolds, and zinnias are especially good.

Even though a planting devoted to birds should be kept as casual and wild as possible, it should be as carefully planned as any other major landscaping project. There are limits to the amount of actual jungle that can be tolerated, especially on small suburban properties where there are usually finicky neighbors to contend with. Make a scale drawing of the area to be planted, and lay out the planting on paper before anything is put in the ground. While it is true that a great variety of plant material means a great variety of birds, don’t overdo it by planting one each of two dozen different shrubs at random around the garden. Try to group at least three shrubs of each species together, and repeat the groups at various places in the border. This will insure good cross-pollination and fruit set, and will make the border more pleasing to the eye by giving it a pattern. Choose plants that fruit at different times so food is available most of the year. A limited list of proven bird attractors follows.

If there are no natural sources of water in the vicinity, a well-placed birdbath will add treatly to the attractiveness of the garden for birds. Almost any wide, shallow container with rough interior surface, gradually sloping sides, and a maximum depth of three inches will do. Place the birdbath out in the open away from shrubbery which might hide lurking cats. A waterlogged bird is a clumsy flier and makes easy prey. Where cats are a problem, a pedestal-type bath is best. Otherwise, a naturalistic bath can be made by scraping a depression in the ground and lining it with concrete. The gleam and sound of dripping water will attract more birds. A hose can be suspended from overhead tree branches and turned on just enough to provide a slow, steady drip, or a bucket with a pinhole in the bottom can be hung over the bath. Make the hole very small initially; it can always be enlarged if desired. The bucket can be camouflaged with bark, and it should be covered to prevent debris and birds from falling in. During warm weather, a popular bath may need a daily refilling and a weekly scrubbing with a stiff brush to remove algae. It can be interesting to watch the elaborate preening ritual birds go through after bathing. Keep them in view while they do this by placing a few dead branches near the bath for them to perch on.

Attracted by the garden insects, eastern bluebirds will nest in the hollows of nearby trees or in homemade birdhouses nailed to fence posts.

Great migrations of birds to and from their breeding grounds take place in spring and fall. The well-planted bird garden can be a welcome resting and feeding place for tired migrants during these seasons, and the sedentary gardener busy with his own seasonal routines can sense the wonder of this continent-spanning flow of life as he watches them come and go. Many northern birds looking for a good place to spend the winter appear in fall. These winter visitors together with the resident birds can make the garden a lively place all season if food is provided to keep them around. Feeder-watching can be one of the greatest pleasures of dreary winter days, and it is a good way of becoming familiar with birds. The lure of a reliable food source overcomes their instinctive wariness and brings them out in the open where they can be easily seen. The birds may become dependent on the feeder once natural food sources are used up, so if you start feeding, don’t stop until winter is over. Any of the commercial wild bird feed mixes or fine cracked corn and sunflower seed will satisfy the seed eaters. Suet and peanut butter will attract additional species.