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Best Drip Irrigation System

The best drip irrigation system is the one that gets water to the plants in a sufficient way. No matter what plants are being grown, they all need sunlight and water to grow vigorously. They come by sunlight pretty naturally – as long as they are grown in the appropriate areas – but water can be a little trickier in certain places. Some areas of the country receive plenty of rainfall to water gardens sufficiently; other areas need supplemental irrigation to make their gardens grow.

Best Drip Irrigation System - SprinklerWhile a simple watering can is all you need to give your garden the water it needs, there are other irrigation options available that deliver water more efficiently. After their initial setup they will also significantly cut down on the time it takes you to water your plants; some setups can be even put on a timer/programmer so they come on automatically.

Do It Yourself or Hire Someone?

With most projects, the first decision you have to make is if you’re up to tackling the project yourself or whether you are going to hire it out. If you choose to hire it out take some time and research landscape contractors/sprinkler companies in your area to find someone well qualified and highly recommended. Doing it yourself is a feasible project but it will take some planning and more than likely a few unanticipated trips to the hardware store.

When it comes to designing an irrigation system for your garden it’s best if you start by drawing out the layout of your plants and the garden space. This will make it much easier to decide what kind of system will work best for your needs. It will also allow you to see the sprinkler system configuration on paper, allowing for a more precise estimate of the supplies you will need to purchase.

Above Ground Sprinkler System

Spray or rotor irrigation setups are the systems most people think of first, when contemplating home systems. This is the type where the heads pop up out of the ground and spray water either in a fixed pattern or a rotating stream.  The two systems work really well for lawn irrigation but not so much for vegetable gardens and container plants. In gardens or container plantings it’s best to utilize drip/trickle irrigation.

Best Drip Irrigation System

Drip irrigation is exactly what its name implies: water is slowly delivered/dripped to plants through specialized tubes or hoses that have bubblers, emitters, or micro-sprayers attached. This puts water closer to the root system and greatly reduces evaporation. Drip irrigation can reduce overall water usage by 30-50% if implemented correctly.

Water SprinklerThe simplest way to set up a drip irrigation system in your garden is to lay soaker hoses by the base of all your plants. Soaker hoses ooze water through tiny holes the entire length of the hose, providing moisture slowly to plants. This minimizes evaporation, runoff, and overspray compared to other irrigation methods. Soaker hoses work best for small garden plots on fairly level ground. To get the most benefit from a soaker hose system stretch the hoses straight and then lay them about 2-3” from the stems of vegetables planted in rows.

If plants are not planted in straight rows, wind the soaker hose in and out between them and wrap the hose entirely around the perimeter of plants that have higher water needs. After positioning the soaker hose use wire pins to hold the hose in place. If you want to further increase water efficiency, cover the soaker hoses with a couple inches of mulch to prevent more water loss. A timer can be added to the system to turn the water on/off on scheduled intervals.

A slightly more complicated drip system uses tubing and special nozzles/hardware. This has a higher price tag than soaker hoses but can be customized more to your garden, and the needs of your plants.  A system like this can be installed by a homeowner but many opt to have it professionally installBest Drip Irrigation System - Hoseed. Irrigation tubing – either solid of perforated – is laid through your entire garden and then the appropriate hardware can be installed to deliver water.

Perforated hose works well in garden areas where the plants are evenly spaced; solid hose works well when you are configuring a variety of water needs and plants are not evenly spaced. Dripper heads can then be run directly to the base of plants and deliver a variable rate of water. Micro-sprayer cans be purchased in a variety of spray angles/patterns and volumes to cover a larger range of area.  The benefit to a system like this is the flexibility it gives a homeowner, allowing you to tailor water delivery to specific areas and plants.

Installing irrigation systems in your garden is a great way to cut down on labor and increase water use efficiency. Instead of dragging hoses from area to area, or lugging a heavy watering can around, it’s much easier to turn on a hose and run a system that is set up specifically for your garden.

Drip irrigation systems are the most effective for vegetable and container gardens and can be as simple as laying soaker hoses around the base of plants. If you’re looking for a more complex system then one can easily be tailored to your garden. You can also decide to go full hydroponics, where there is no soil and use only use water.

Best Drip Irrigation System2019-03-13T23:14:20-04:00

Benefits of Hydroponics

Benefits of Hydroponics - Growing Lettuce

The benefits of hydroponics are numerous. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants, without soil, providing all of the nutrients and resources needed for optimum growth through an aquatic solution. Hydroponic growing systems are increasing in popularity due to the many benefits of hydroponics, and have helped expand the possibilities of urban and indoor gardening.

Hydroponics Vs Soil

Plants grown in hydroponic systems use less resources, occupy less space, and are higher quality than those grown using traditional growing methods. When it comes to hydroponics vs soil it may seem contradictory to grow plants without soil, hydroponics is actually an intricate system that works very well.

In order to flourish, plants need water and nutrients. If the essential nutrients are provided in water directly to the root zone, there is no need to have any soil at all. Hydroponic systems have been around for thousands of years but have taken off in popularity in the last 60 or 70 years.

Hydroponics Benefits - Growing in GreenhouseIt’s been proven that there are distinct hydroponics advantages over gardening in soil. When grown under the same conditions, plants in hydroponic systems grow on average 30-50% faster than those sown in soil and have higher yields. This is thought to be due to the increased oxygen amount in hydroponic solutions.

The extra oxygen stimulates root growth and encourages faster hydroponic nutrient absorption. Roots are constantly in contact with essential nutrients making it easier to find food and break it down within the plant. This saved energy can be put towards faster plant growth and increased yields. If you are interested in traditional garden irrigation that is easy to accomplish with a drip irrigation system.

Benefits of Hydroponics

One of the biggest benefits of hydroponics is the year-round growing season. Indoor gardening can be accomplished at any time as long as ample light is provided for the plants to complete photosynthesis. In urban environments the ability to grow plants indoors without soil is providing communities with fresh, local produce year round.

There are also environmental benefits of hydroponics over in ground gardening. Even though plants are grown in aquatic environments, the best hydroponic system actually uses less water than traditional gardening. The aquatic solutions are constantly reused keeping water usage lower.

Hydroponics benefits also include not having to worry about weeds which are not a concern in hydroponics, and insect pests are reduced as well, depending on the location of a system – this cuts down on the amount of pesticides and herbicides applied to plants, reducing environmental impacts. Topsoil erosion is not an issue either.

Disadvantages of Hydroponics

The biggest hydroponics disadvantages is the initial cost incurred to set up a system. Small, home-based hydroponic systems can be built fairly inexpensively but large, commercial operations are cost prohibitive. This is the key reason hydroponics hasn’t been implemented on large scale systems more readily.

Large scale operations also require more labor to maintain and monitor the system, more inputs in terms of nutrients solutions, and the cost of lighting a large scale operation. Growers believe if some of these drawbacks can be resolved, hydroponic gardening and hydroponic farming could be a more economical alternative to traditional farming on a large scale, despite this the benefits of hydroponics far outweigh any disadvantages.

Indoor Growing Systems

Benefits of Hyrdoponics - Indoor GardeningWhen setting up a home indoor hydroponic system, the first consideration to take is whether to build a system or purchase a hydroponic garden kit that is prebuilt. No matter the type of system wanted, or the space available, even the best hydroponic system needs a water source, nutrient solution, and some sort of reservoir to contain the solution. Indoor hydroponic systems that do not have access to natural light will need artificial light sources.

Many people prefer the ease of buying a hydroponic garden kit, which is a complete system that is already pieced together for them. Hydroponic equipment is readily available and a hydroponic garden kit can be purchased to meet the needs of new or inexperienced growers.

Some people though, like the challenge of putting together all the components and creating a system that meets their needs specifically. There are many resources available for hydroponics for beginners providing instructions on how to build simple, starter systems.

Types of Hydroponics

HyrdoponicsAnother benefit of hydroponics is there are many types of hydroponic systems to choose from. These are classified as active or passive, depending on how the nutrient solutions are delivered to the root systems.

Active systems rely on pumps or other mechanisms to circulate solutions and deliver them to the roots. In active systems the nutrient solution is typically cycled over and over through the solution. The big drawback to active systems is their reliance on electricity; in the event of a power outage, the system quits working.

Passive systems, on the other hand, are easier to set up and maintain. For this reason they are often recommended to beginners. These systems use a growing hydroponic medium –rocks such as hydrocorn or expanded shale, sand, vermiculite, or perlite – through which the nutrient solution is passed.

The roots come in contact with the solution, plants then absorb the water and nutrients. Passive systems require no pumps or moving parts making them easier and cheaper to maintain. The types below each offer hydroponic benefits and drawbacks to be considered before deciding on which to pick.

Active and Passive Indoor Hydroponic Systems are Broken Down into Six Types:

  • Wick System – Nutrients are stored in a reservoir, and move into the root zone via capillary action using some sort of wick. This passive system is easy to set up and maintain but is not the most efficient.
  • Deep Water Culture System – Also known as DWC, deep water culture systems are simple to set up and maintain. Plants are held up by some sort of platform that allows them to float on top of the nutrient solution. Air pumps and air stones then provide oxygen to the plants, much like in an aquarium. The drawback is that few plants other than lettuce do well in these systems.
  • Drip System – The most widely used system in hydroponics, a drip system is similar to a wick system setup. Plants are suspended in a growing medium and then slowly fed nutrient solution through a small drip line. A hydroponic drip system utilizes a timer and pump, requiring upkeep of mechanical components.
  • Aeroponic System – This is the most high tech system. Plants are suspended in the air and roots are misted with nutrient solution either in a cycle, or continuously. Aeroponic systems obviously require more technical equipment and are not recommended for hydroponics for beginners.
  • Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) System – In this type of system plants are grown in long channels with nutrient solution constantly running along the bottom of the channel. NFT systems are very popular in commercial operations, but require pumps and timers to control the delivery of nutrient solution to plants.
  • Ebb and Flow System – In an ebb and flow system, plants are grown in trays filled with the appropriate growing medium. On regular intervals the trays are flooded with nutrient solution and then drained back into a reservoir until the next cycle. They are very versatile systems but are not as popular as the others.

The best hydroponic nutrients needed for any of these systems follows the same principles of garden fertilizers. To be effective, it must contain all of the essential nutrients a plant would obtain from the soil or fertilizers applied. Nutrient solutions come in liquid or powdered mixes, with some organic options available.

One key aspect in growing plants hydroponically is maintaining the nutrient solution at the appropriate pH. Although easy, it is necessary to check the pH frequently to make sure all of the essential nutrients are available for plant uptake. Testing kits are fairly inexpensive and simple to use, giving you a quick result.

Hydroponic Plants

Hydroponics Advantages - Growing LettuceMany different types of plants can be grown hydroponically, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Crops such as cucumbers, melons, squash, corn, and root vegetables are not well suited to smaller systems because of the space they need to grow.

Plants that have a smaller footprint work better since they are more space efficient. Leafy green like lettuce, kale, chard, and arugula grow extremely well hydroponically and are recommended for hydroponics for beginners. Basil and sage are great herbs to start with; hydroponic tomatoes and peppers also grow really well.

While is seems counter-intuitive to grow plants without soil, since the nutrients they need are found in the soil substrate, hydroponics gardening is becoming popular among gardeners.

It allows higher quality plants to be grown faster, with higher yields, while using fewer inputs. The best hydroponic system can vary in technology and cost commitment but provides a very valuable option for people who are practicing urban or indoor gardening.

Benefits of Hydroponics2019-03-13T23:18:52-04:00

How to Grow Tomatoes

It is easy to learn how to grow tomatoes. They are the most commonly grown vegetable plant in home gardens. It is estimated that 9 out of 10 home gardeners choose to plant tomatoes plant in their garden plot(s). Overall, tomatoes are relatively easy to grow, and provide bountiful yields in relation to the care needed. One tomato plant can yield 8 to 10 pounds of fruit in a growing season; growing one or two plants in a tomato garden can easily meet the needs of a small family. With thousands of active varieties grown worldwide, it is easy to find one, or a few, that meet your taste preferences and household needs. A few basic principles to follow when you learn how to grow tomatoes will help to ensure a productive growing season and a successful tomato garden.

Tomato Garden

Tomato Garden

Types of Home Grown Tomatoes

When you learn how to grow tomatoes the type chosen is highly dependent on the tastes of the gardener, and how you intend to use the fruit. For classification purposes, tomatoes are broken down into 5 main types: beefsteak, slicing, plum, cherry, and grape.

Beefsteak tomatoes – The largest of the types, with fruits exceeding 4” in diameter. They are a favorite of home gardeners because of their large size and juicy interior. Beefsteaks are a favorite for slicing to use on sandwiches and hamburgers.

Slicing tomatoes – Slightly smaller than beefsteak, with fruits averaging 2-2.5” in diameter. They are popular because of their medium size and high yielding plants.

Plum tomatoes – Often known as paste tomatoes. They contain lower water content, resulting in a meatier flesh that is perfect for making sauces and tomato paste. Plum tomatoes grow to be oblong in size, typically 3-4” in length and 1.5-2” in diameter.

Cherry tomatoes – Small and round, similar in size to their namesake. Often sweet they are a favorite for fresh eating and using on salads.

Grape tomatoes – Small also but more oblong in shape, similar to plum tomatoes.

How Far Apart to Plant Tomatoes

Green Tomatoes

Green Tomatoes

Plant spacing will depend on the varieties chosen but most plants (besides dwarf varieties) require 18-24” between plants. This gives them adequate space to grow while maintaining air flow around the base of the plant. Most tomato plants will need to be staked or caged to keep the plants upright as they grow.

How to Grow Tomatoes

Since it’s easy to learn how to grow tomatoes, it’s no wonder tomatoes are found in so many gardens across the United States. For optimum growth they need a tomato garden spot that receives 6 to 8 hours of sun and has good air circulation to minimize diseases.

Fresh Tomatoes

Fresh Tomatoes

Tomato plants grow in two different ways; these growth patterns are called determinate or indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes grow to a specific height, set by the plant’s genetics, and then stop growing. The fruit then ripens at about the same time. After ripening, the plant starts to deteriorate and stops producing any more fruit. This is helpful when the resulting crop is intended to be processed, or canned, since the fruit ripens at about the same time, and the entire crop can be picked simultaneously. Determinate tomatoes tend to be smaller plants and work well in container gardening. Indeterminate tomatoes grow in a pattern opposite of determinate tomatoes. They do not have a predetermined height and will continue to grow all season; as long as the tomato garden plant is actively growing it will set and ripen fruit. With continuous growth and setting of fruit, indeterminate plants will provide a slow and steady supply of fruit throughout the growing season. This is an advantage for home gardeners that want to enjoy ripe tomatoes as long as possible. You can also enjoy growing hydroponic tomatoes using the benefits of hydroponics.

Tomato Fertilizer

Tomato Plant

Tomato Plant

Tomatoes are heavy feeders (depending on the variety planted and size of fruit produced), meaning they require more tomato fertilizer than most plants during the growing season for optimum growth. To promote fruit growth on plants versus vegetative growth a fertilizer ratio of 5-10-10 is best. You can use a specific Tomato fertilizer meant just for tomatoes otherwise a general fertilizer will suffice. The numbers on the fertilizer label are known as the N-P-K ratio (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium); this ratio tells the percentage, by weight, of the three main nutrients in the bag. In a 5-10-10 formula, a 10 pound bag of fertilizer would contain 0.5 pounds of nitrogen, 1 pound of phosphorus (in the form of P2O5), and 1 pound of potassium (in the form of K2O). Ideally the nitrogen should be less than or equal to the ratio of the phosphorus and potassium to promote setting of fruit. To fertilizer tomato plants, follow the directions on the fertilizer package for application rate; apply fertilizer to plants every 6-8 weeks prior to fruit set, and then every 3 weeks after fruit set until there is a frost.

Tomato Plant Pest Control

When you learn how to grow tomatoes it is important to remember that garden pest management plays a crucial role in a successful harvest. One of the most common tomato pests, tomato hornworms are found in gardens all throughout the United States. These pesky green caterpillars can devastate an entire tomato crop in record time. Their light green color provides fantastic camouflage, making them difficult to spot on foliage. Tomato hornworms can grow up to 5” long and feed voraciously, eating through plant leaves and fruit rapidly.  Removing pests by hand is the most effective method for control. The tomato hornworm caterpillars are not dangerous and do not sting/bite. Ladybugs and green lacewings make great natural predators by feeding on the young caterpillar larvae. Applying insecticides is usually not necessary; however, spinosad and insecticidal soaps are good options if needed as a last resort.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Aphids are another common garden pests, affecting most fruits and vegetables (including tomatoes), ornamental plants and shade trees throughout North America. The minuscule pear-shaped insects attach themselves to the plant, sucking sap through two tubes projecting rearward from their abdomen. This causes distorted foliage and leaf drop if left untreated. Excretions left behind on plants support sooty mold growth while the feeding itself can spread viral diseases. Hot pepper or garlic sprays can be used as preventative methods. Treatment options include washing infested plants with a heavy spray of water, encouraging predatory/parasitic insects such as aphid midges, lacewings and lady beetles. In cases of severe infestation it is necessary to apply insecticidal soap, neem, or horticultural oil to affected plants.

Plant diseases are always a challenge when working with plants. Tomato diseases such as late blight are a major concern. It spreads quickly and wreaks havoc on a stand within a short amount of time. As its name implies it occurs later in the growing season, most often after the plant blossoms. Late blight is a disease triggered by rainy, damp weather, and causes plants to rot and die if left untreated. Early symptoms look like grayish-green water spots on older leaves; as it matures the spots darken in color and a white fungal growth occurs on the undersides of foliage. The chemical controls for late blight are limited to expensive copper sprays that work best when the disease is caught early. Often times, an entire stand is infected and plants need to be removed entirely and then disposed.

How to Grow Tomatoes

Tomato Plant

Blossom end rot isn’t a pest but a management condition that adversely affects tomatoes.  It is a common problem found in home gardens, and manifests as a dark, sometimes leathery, patch occurring at the bottom of the fruit. Blossom end rot is thought to be caused by a lack of calcium in the soil, but in reality it develops when the plant can’t adequately take in the calcium available.

This is typically because of too little moisture in the soil, or the plant is growing too quickly and the roots can’t keep up with the nutrient demand. To avoid blossom end rot in tomato plants, water plants evenly, and monitor fertilizer applications to prevent a sudden surge in vegetative plant growth.

Tomatoes are found in home gardens more often than other plants. With many varieties to choose from, and a handful of different types, it’s easy to find plants that suit your tastes. When you combine some basic care, proper fertilization, and pest/problem management a tomato garden will yield bountifully.

How to Grow Tomatoes2019-06-13T21:25:41-04:00

Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart (Dicentra Spectabilis) is a spring flower that gets it’s name from the heart like shape of the flowers it blooms. They are a pinky rose color that hang off of their stems. Even though most are a rose color, some come in white. The foliage of the Bleeding Heart is almost as beautiful as the flower itself. The leaves are a blue green color, and look almost fern like. This is one of the more romantic spring flowers. Bleeding Heart begins to grow in late spring, and continue into the early summer.

Growing Bleeding Heart Flowers

Red Bleeding Heart Flower

Red Bleeding Heart Flower

The best thing about planting Bleeding Heart bulbs is that they are perennials. So you can grow these gorgeous flowers year after year. They grow best in rich soil, with some shade. It is ideal to plant these in a partially shaded area.

This flower will grow between 2 to 2 ½ feet tall. They need to be spaced out a bit when you plant them. Plant them about 2 feet apart and they should grow nicely. They are a great flower to have for cutting and using in bouquets. They are sure to brighten up any flower arrangement.

There is also a fringed type of this flower. It is a little different from the original. They are slightly smaller and produce a different type of foliage. They have a lacy look to their leaves.

The fringed version lives a bit longer than the original. It begins blooming in late spring and continues growing into early fall. They sometimes die during a drought, but can begin to grow again well into the beginning of fall.

Just like the original, the fringed version grows best in rich soil with some shade above. The maintenance for both of these plants consists of mulching them in the beginning of spring, and keeping them hydrated.

Whatever version of this flower you choose they are sure to be a lovely addition to any flower garden.

Bleeding Heart2019-03-11T21:35:18-04:00

Holly Bush

Holly Bush (Ilex) is the December birth month flower. What better flower to have for the month of December then than this? It is a very important plant for the month of December, and especially at Christmas time. Who doesn’t love to decorate their home with these leaves at Christmas?

This is a shrub that grows outdoors all year round. Berries in colors of red, black, or yellow grow among sharp pointy leaves.

Holly Bush

Holly Bush

One of the great things about the Ilex plant is that it is virtually maintenance free. Besides being easy to care for, they grow to become lovely full shrubs.

The only caring they need is to be pruned back when they get too bushy. You will have to decide when your plant needs to be pruned.

This shrub is a very different kind of shrub. It comes in both male and female versions. Holly bushes grow berries, and for a good set, you need to have both, male and female bushes.

There are many different species of this plant. There are hundreds of different varieties for you to choose from depending on region and climate. Like I said, there are also male and female varieties, and both are needed to grow fruits.

The leaves of the plant are dark green, waxy, and have sharp points on the edges. The leaves are thick and pointy to help deter bugs and animals from attacking the shrub. Flowers can grow from this bush, and usually will grow towards the end of spring and into the beginning of summer.

If you want to grow a bush in your yard, you can plant them in a spot that is very sunny, or had some shade. They need to be planted in rich soil that is well drained.

You can begin to grow this plant in the spring, summer, or early fall. If you choose to plant it in the summer, make sure you are watering it daily.

They usually begin to grow during the second season after planting, and reach their full growth in about 5 or 6 years.

Continue to enjoy your plant year after year. They can be a little reminder of Christmas time all throughout the year!

Holly Bush2019-03-20T16:12:26-04:00