Tips For Selecting The Right Companion Plants For Your Garden

Companion planting is not a new thing. It has long been known that certain plant species have mutually beneficial effects when they are planted together. Each plays a part in the system. In many places in the world, people apply the agricultural knowledge to improve the yield of food crops. Definitely, the planting method can also be applied on a smaller scale. If you are into home food production, interplanting compatible crops will allow you to use garden space efficiently. There are some considerations, however, before adding new plants to your garden.

Before anything else, think about what you want to achieve. Think in terms of which plants can help the existing ones grow. If you are growing fruit trees, you can try to plant beans beneath them. Beans will interact positively with fruit trees by adding nitrogen to the soil. In North America, corn, beans and squash are planted together for better yields. Taller corn support beans, and in return, beans provide atmospheric nitrogen to the corn and squash. The broad leaves of squash create healthy ground cover, preventing the loss of moisture in the soil. Lupin, wildflower which is actually a legume, can also be used to fix nitrogen for your trees’ high needs.

If you are into veggies, intercropping radishes with lettuce is something worth trying. Lettuce, as you know, is one of the easiest plants to grow from seed. Not only it is an easy plant to grow and maintain, the leafy green can yield more than one crop per season. More than that, the leaves of the plant will serve as a living mulch to prevent moisture evaporation, helping the other plants get established.

Some people employ mixed plantings in order to minimize pest problems. The use of living plants to discourage harmful insects is definitely a great way to reduce the need for chemical treatments. Garlic, for example, is a good companion for tomatoes, as it can act as a natural repellent for red spider mites. Garlic, as well as onions, also makes a good team with fruit trees. They repel fruit tree borers that attack the woody parts of apple and pear trees. Onions and garlic are also beneficial as a pest repellent for insect pests that favor celery and carrots.

Another purpose of companion planting is to attract pollinators. Flowers like Spring bulbs, for example, can help with pollination by attracting bees. Talking about pollination, it is worth noting that fruit trees are either self-pollinating or require a pollinating partner to successfully bear fruit. If you are growing apples or pears, the technique of multiple planting may be needed for fertilization to occur. When choosing a good companion for them, you can simply opt to plant another cultivar of the same species to meet their pollination requirements.

While it is true that mixed planting offers various advantages, it is important to know what not to grow. To minimize nutrient competition, it is best to select species with different structures of roots. Cabbage, for example, goes well with carrot as they have different rooting patterns. Also do not forget that some plants can be somewhat invasive. Pairing cabbage family plants with strawberries is not a good idea. The rapid growth of strawberry may offend your older plants. Chemical or flavor interactions is another thing to consider. Growning onions and beans in the same spot is something to avoid.

When it comes to companion planting, many relationships have not been scientifically verified. Furthermore, there is no one magic solution. Like borage, marigold seems to benefit a wide variety of plants. It discourages various harmful insects. Even so, not all plants will tolerate its presence. With all that being said, growing a diverse mix of plants is usually beneficial. Your own experiments with different combinations and arrangements will in the end help you create a harmonious garden. Many resources are available which can be a good starting point.

5 Ancient Farming Practices That Are Worth Trying

It is always interesting to see the advancements of modern gardening practices. But that does not mean that older methods of planting can be forgotten. A number of centuries-old techniques can still be adapted by small-scale farmers or home gardeners for better plant growth. Here are some of them:

Floating Garden
The idea of floating garden has existed long long time ago. Aztec Indians are believed to have implemented this farming method for their crops. According to historians, sand-covered rafts served as floating gardens where squash and beans were grown. This creates an efficient delivery system for water and nutrients. The system is self-watering and self-fertilizing. Fish bring nutrient rich water to the plants while plants create food for the fish. More than that, it is very productive. This age old method of planting can also be a great way to protect crops from animals. For those with lakes or ponds, this proven old technique is definitely worth considering.

Clay Pot Irrigation
Watering can be a tricky thing. But in today’s world, modern devices exist that allow you to more efficiently use water. Water timers and controllers come in many different configurations. Some even allow you to control irrigation based on weather patterns. However, you may prefer to use a more traditional method of irrigation. If so, thenn this centuries-old technique is worth trying. The concept is simple. Unglazed, burried clay pots are used to provide constant drip irrigation. The porous nature of clay pots allows water to seep through the wall of the burried pots when the soil dries. Plants are grown around the base of the pot. Because the water source is in the ground, this little known watering system can help reduce water loss through evaporation.

Terracing
The Incan terrace farming system is known to be very productive and efficient in terms of water use. Today’s gardeners can tap into this ancient strategy to make the most productive use of their sloping gardens. Leveling or terracing a sloping garden helps reduce erosion and allow rainwater to seep into the soil. It also makes gardening easier. Since it allows planting at different levels, you can irrigate different areas at different times. A great way to create several mini-gardens in your backyard. Terracing a sloping yard may not be as easy as it sounds. Every garden is unique and requires a different build approach. However, it is well worth the effort. A range of materials — treated wood, bricks, rocks — can be used to form the retaining walls.

Lithic Mulching
As the name implies, lithic mulch or rock garden is to cover the ground with a layer of stones. Ancient Rapanui people are believed to have implemented this strategy to reduce soil erosion from wind and water. Prehistoric lithic-mulch gardens also have positive effects on soil moisture and soil temperature. Compared to bare soil, less water evaporates from lithic-mulched soil. Unlike organic mulches, lithic mulchs do nothing to improve soil structure. That said, using this strategy, fluctuations in soil temperature can be reduced. The rock material acts as a solar collector during the day and then releases that heat energy into the soil at night. It also prevents soil temperature from becoming too hot during the day. This is possible because rough surface increases wind turbulence.

Biochar
This soil-building method was first discovered by Amazonian tribes. Basically, Biochar is produced by slowly burning organic matter under oxygen starved conditions. The porous nature of biochar enables soil to retain water and plant nutrients much longer than unimproved soil. It also serves as a habitat for many beneficial organisms. Another environmental benefit of biochar is that it is carbon negative, meaning it can keep carbon out of the atmosphere. There is scepticism about the effectiveness of biochar as a soil enhancer and a reliable carbon storage. As a gardener, it is up to you whether or not to adapt this ancient knowledge to the needs of your land.

5 Tips For Low Cost Greenhouse Gardening

A well-designed greenhouse can help you grow a wide range of plants during unfavorable conditions. Unfortunately, setting up and operating a greenhouse can be a costly endeavor. If you have thought about having a greenhouse, there are ways to keep your expenses to a minimum.

Foundation
A solid foundation will make your greenhouse more secure and stable. However, though it is desirable in some circumstances, a greenhouse foundation is actually not a necessity. Many greenhouses are installed as a free-standing unit and sit on compacted soil. Just be sure the ground is flat and level, and the frame is well anchored down to prevent weather damage. A solid concrete pad can be quite expensive. Unless you are planning to build a large unit, there is no need to spend money on unnecessary materials.

Frame
When it comes to framing greenhouses, there are a wide variety of materials to choose from. Each have their own benefits and drawbacks. Aluminum does not offer good insulation value. However, it is relatively inexpensive. Unlike steel, it will not rust or erode. A good option for you looking for a very low-maintenance material. PVC is a cheaper option to alumunium. As with aluminium, it is lightweight and easy to work with. UV-treated PVC is long-lasting. Many hobby greenhouses sold in kits come with PVC frames. Unless you garden in a very windy location, building a greenhouse out of PVC pipes can be a great route to take.

Covering
Greenhouse coverings are made of many different materials, including glass, polycarbonate, polyethylene, and acrylic. They are available in various thicknesses. Polyethylene is the least expensive option. Polyethylene film and PVC pipe are often used for constructing hobby-type backyard greenhouses. Glass and acrylic, though are best for multi-year applications, are very expensive. In houses with double glazing, the difference in up-front cost can be very large. Co-poly film is available in thicknesses of 3 mm, 4 mm, and 6 mm. The low-cost material is only good for one or two seasons. That said, greenhouse grade, UV protected polyethylene can last several years. For cold climates and heavy snow areas, you will definitely need more than thin polyethene plastic covering for your greenhouse. But for many of us, it is a good, cheap option to get started.

Heating
One primary purpose of a greenhouse is to extend the growing season. That said, heating a greenhouse can be expensive. To lower energy expenses, passive heating methods can be implemented. Thermal mass materials like water or stone can be used to store solar energy during the day and release that energy at night when the greenhouse drops in temperature. This natural heating method is very popular due to its low upfront cost. Compost pile heater is another common greenhouse heating system. This method takes advantage of the biological activity of aerobic bacteria that breaks down organic material and give off waste heat. These methods alone may not be sufficient for four-season operation. Some people who operate four-season greenhouses combine active and passive heating. However, the above mentioned heating systems can help provide increased warmth during the colder parts of the year.

Cooling
There are ways to cool down a greenhouse without spending a lot of money. Depending on where you live, exhaust fans and passive ventilation may be all you need to extract the warm air out of the house. Shade cloth or materials that reflect radiation can be added to protect the house from the sun’s burning rays. When better cooling performance is needed, evaporative pad cooling system is one of the options available. As the name indicates, lowering temperature is accomplished through the use of fans and wet pads. The fans pull the air through the pads. When particles of water evaporate, the level of humidity will increase. This leads to a drop in temperature. This method provides the most benefits in dry climates.

Building a greenhouse, even a hobby-type unit, requires careful planning. To keep costs down, careful selection of materials needs to be made. Weather conditions, plants grown, and greenhouse location are important factors to consider. A well-designed greenhouse will prevent you from having to spend your hard-earned capital on expensive supplemental devices and reduce your energy requirements to a minimum.

If you can find an ideal southern location for your greenhouse and your greenhouse covering diffuses sunlight well, additional grow lights may not be needed. Proper roofing materials that create an evenly diffused light will also help keep your greenhouse moderately cool during hot days. This, along with strategically placed vents, can eliminate the need of an electric cooling system or at least help lower your electric bill.

Gardening In Sandy Soil – 3 Different Options

Gardening is a rewarding hobby. Unfortunately, not all of us are blessed with fertile soil. Many of us live in dry locations with high sand-content. As you know, sand particles are microscopically large. They cannot hold as much water. Organic matter is also limited in sandy soils. Even then there is hope. There are some solutions that can be employed to successfully establish a good garden in light soils.

Sand-Loving Plants

Though most plants grow best in soil a healthy loam, there are ones that do well in sandy soil. You can try to plant your garden with cacti and other succulents. They store water in their leaves or stems. If you prefer edible plants, root vegetables such as carrots and radishes are worth trying. Potatoes also thrive in acidic conditions that sandy soil provides. Watermelon which is a native of southern Africa can also be planted in loamy sand.

Improving Soil Structure

Mixing sandy soil with clay can improve its ability to retain water and nutrients. Soil will hold more moisture for a longer period of time, meaning you will use much less water. To promote plant growth, humus levels need to be built by adding soil with organic matter. Microbes will then turn it into nutrients. Better soil structure will develop over time. These days, compost machines are available in the market that you can use to turn leaves, grass cuttings, or kitchen waste into compost.

Sand Hydroponic System

Due to its advantages, sand is one type of growing media that is often used in hydroponic systems. An automatic system can be built by utilizing small sand beds. A pump that is controlled by a timer can be employed to distribute water and nutrients to the plants. In a wick system, two pots are used. One pot is filled with growing medium (sand) and the plant. The other pot acts as a nutrient reservoir. Inside the system is a fibrous wick that moves nutrient solution from the reservoir to the growing pot as the sand dries out. This system works through capillary action. Think about the rapid wetting and retention of liquids by absorbent paper and fabrics.

When it comes to sandy soil, there is no one magic solution. Different things will work for different people. One thing is sure, sandy soil is not a curse. There are always ways to successfully grow plants in high sand-content soil

4 Different Solutions For Home Food Production

There are many benefits of growing our own foods at home. Planting our own vegetables and culinary herbs is a great way to provide our family with healthy meals. We control what goes in and what does not. If you wish to start a food garden but always feel that you do not have the room, there are a number of growing systems that allow you to get more out of less space. Here are some of them:

Square Foot Gardening

Unlike traditional row planting, Square Foot Gardening requires minimal yard space. This planting method, which was developed by Mel Bartholomew in 1981, uses a small raised bed (typically 4 feet by 4 feet) as the growing area for your crops. The garden box is then divided into equal planting sections, allowing you to grow a variety of edible plants. A formula is used to calculate how many plants fit into each square. Put it simply, you plant by area instead of rows. It is also worth mentioning that Square foot gardening gives you the opportunity to plant in succession. The fact that the method can produce greater yields with much less space than traditional gardening makes it perfect for home food production. There are countless plant combinations that you can try. Numerous spacing guides are available online.

Aquaponics

For urban gardeners who wish to enjoy a bountiful harvest of freshly grown vegetables, aquaponics can be a great solution. An aquaponics system works by converting fish waste that is rich in ammonia content into plant food with the help of bacteria. In other words, fish waste acts as fertiliser for your plants. The water, that initially contains fish waste, then returns to the fish tank purified. Simply put, fish, plants, and bacteria work together to create a healthy ecosystem. Creating and maintaining a well-balanced aquaponic system may not be as easy as setting up a regular soil garden. This gardening system involves a number of extra tasks that include feeding the fish and testing the ammonia level in the water. However, compared to conventional gardening, aquaponics offer higher productivity. Also remember that the plants grown in an aquaponics system are 100% organic. Another advantage is this gardening method uses less water. Many simple and quick solutions for aquaponics set up are available in the market to help you create a proper system.

Vertical Planting

Vertical gardening is becoming very popular these days. It is a simple way to boost growing space. Hanging baskets and trellises can be utilized to grow nutritious produce. There are plenty of advantages to vertical growing other than using less ground space. Infestations will be easily noticed since all are right in front of your face. Harvesting will be much easier too. Climbing vegs and fruits will happily thrive in a vertical garden. Of course, your options are not limited to plants that naturally climb. With the help of stackable planters, you can grow any vegetable that can adapt to containers. Many different ready to use products are available for you to try. Some incorporate automated hydroponics, allowing you to easily grow your own fresh food without soil. Utilizing soilless growing medium, such systems eliminate weeding and digging. The Tower Garden allows you to grow up to 20 edibles in less than three square feet. Featuring a compact design, the vertical aeroponic growing system can be placed virtually anywhere.

Urban Cultivator

If you are into indoor gardening then this product can be a great solution for you. Brought to the market by a Vancouver-based company, the indoor gardening appliance is designed to fit into any kitchen. The innovative product comes complete with removable grow drawers, humidity domes and grow lights, allowing you to easily turn your kitchen into a source of fresh greens and herbs. The company sells 100% organic, non-GMO seeds to their customers that include cabbage, chives, dill, komatsuna, fenugreek, arugula, sorrel, lettuce, basil, wheatgrass, and radish. Organic plant nutrients and compressed soil are also offered by the company. Urban Cultivator is a high-tech indoor growing system. Watering and light cycles are controlled by an intuitive computer interface. With all of the advanced features, the fully automated kitchen garden does not come cheap. That said, for health enthusiasts who want to experience fresh cut microgreens and herbs year-round, then buying the smart fridge-like apparatus can be a great move.

As you can see, it is not impossible to people with small areas of land to grow their own food. There are plenty of ways to make the most of the minimal yard space. The above systems can also be used by those living in areas with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Obviously, some crops are not the best fit for a home garden with limited space. However. With proper practice, even a small home garden can supply a good amount of fresh and clean food for personal home use.