5 Ways to Protect Your Plants From the Summer Heat

Summer sprinklers

It is easy to forget or ignore how the summer sun can affect plants over an entire season. Prolonged heat stresses garden plants and lawns out, and can quickly undermine all of the hard labor you put into your vegetables and greenery in the spring. To enjoy the beauty and bounty of summer flora all season long, it pays to take some precautions to protect plants from extended periods of heat. Round out your summer garden care with these tips for keeping it green.

1. Mulching Matters

Plants that have shallow surface roots will typically do just fine in warm weather. A true heat wave, however, can turn the top layer of soil to dust, stressing root systems beyond their capacity to cope. The answer is mulch. The benefits of sufficient mulching are threefold (at least). First, mulch reduces the amount of direct exposure soil has to the sun, helping it to retain some surface moisture even as the mercury climbs. Secondly, mulch reduces evaporation, increasing the effectiveness of your daily watering sessions. Due to its moisture-retaining qualities, mulch potentially reduces the frequency that plants need watering. Thirdly, mulch protects against wind, which combines with hot temperatures to over-dry soil. When selecting mulch for your vegetable garden or bedding plants, go for light-colored mulches. They tend to work best because they reflect heat better than darker materials. Effective mulches include:

  • Grass clippings
    For vegetable gardens, let cut grass dry out for a day or so after mowing to reduce the amount of nitrogen. While nitrogen is an important nutrient, it can support plant growth at the expense of fruit and vegetable production.
  • Straw
    This makes excellent mulch due to its light, reflective color. Be sure to get straw and not hay, which may carry and introduce unwanted seeds into your garden.
  • Bark
    This is a great choice for moisture retention and weed control around shrubs and other landscape plants. However, it may be too acidic for vegetables. Some bark mulches have been shown to carry weed-producing seed, but in general, it forms an effective and attractive layer for beds and borders.

2. Watering in the Heat

In a period of extended high temperatures, thoughtful and responsible watering is essential to keep plants thriving. Water is lost at the surface of the soil as well as through the leaves, so sufficient watering is critical. Timing plays a large role. Effective summer garden care during a heat wave involves early morning watering. There is less loss of moisture to evaporation in the earlier, cooler part of the day. In addition, with morning watering, you can avoid the scalding damage to leaves that can occur under the hot midday sun. Morning watering also reduces the slug population and the growth of fungal disease, as conditions stay drier overnight. That said, there are times when you may need to water again in the evening.

Watering Can

Water conservation is an important consideration in a heat wave, and certain states have water restrictions in place during the summer. For this reason, hand watering may be a better option that sprinklers. Ambient heat causes water from a sprinkler to evaporate more quickly than water directed from a hose. Soaker hoses are often the best choice, as water is channeled directly where it needs to go. Soaker hoses may be placed under mulch and out of sight, and regulated on a timer just like a sprinkler.

3. Made in the Shade

Garden centers package and label protective coverings by size and shade factors. A shade factor indicates how much sunlight the material blocks. Typically, shade cloths can protect plants from 25 to 90 percent of the sun’s rays. The choice depends upon the hardiness of the plant. The object of a shade cloth is not to completely cover the plant, but to limit its exposure to all-day sun. It is important to maintain good airflow around the plants, and to make sure the shades can stay put under windy conditions. Thrifty gardeners may rig their own shade covers with netting or row covers, although these homemade versions will lack the shade factor of the ready-made material.

4. Help Plants Help Each Other

Transplants are particularly vulnerable to the effects of heat. To give transplants a fighting chance in hot and dry conditions, use the buddy system. Find a spot in the garden where tender starters may get a little shade from a taller, more established neighbor. The larger plant can provide some protection from the wind, too.

Ideally, the plant you use to provide protection for the transplant will be one that you will pull out after the smaller plants become mature enough to benefit from more direct exposure to the sun. In this way, early vegetable crops such as peas can give way to the midseason delights of summer squash and beans. You can even plant successive crops of the same vegetable, pulling up the mature plants after production slows down. A staggered planting schedule may require a bit of planning, but you will be rewarded with continuous growth throughout the season.

5. Let Lawns Go a Little

This can be a tough one for homeowners who like a fairway-fresh lawn. Holding off on the mowing and leaving your grass a little taller helps the soil retain the moisture it needs to keep the lawn lush, even in the heat. Three inches is the minimum to provide enough shade to be of benefit. Set the mower to six inches during a drought.

Try to avoid the temptation to overfeed your lawn during a hot spell. The ability for root systems to take in nutrients is greatly diminished during a heat wave. Fertilizing in the heat is not only a waste of product, it may also more harm than good. You are much more likely to get the results you are after if you wait until the temperature drops a bit before you supplement the soil. With some preparation and patience, summer garden care will yield a full season of enjoyment under even the warmest conditions.

5 Tips for Starting a Compost Bin

Compost Soil

Compost soil, a dark organic matter created by a compost pile, is an environmentally friendly and economical way to feed your garden. The food scraps from your kitchen, dead flowers, yard waste, animal manure, and shredded newspaper combine to make rich, dark-colored soil that is nourishing for your plants and flowers.

By composting, you’re not only saving money, you’re also keeping organic waste out of the landfill. Using compost instead of conventional fertilizers is also better for the long-term health of your soil. Both organic and conventional gardens can benefit from compost and most people who use compost find that they don’t need other fertilizers. Compost adds nutrients to your soil, helps your plants retain moisture, and introduces microscopic organisms to your garden, which help to aerate the soil and break down organic material.

Starting a compost bin is easy, and maintaining it only takes a few hours a week at the most. Read the tips below to get started on creating a rich compost that will help your garden flourish.

1. Choose Your Bin

The first thing you need to do is establish a place to grow your compost. Although you can create compost without a container, if you want to keep your compost pile compact and tidy or protect it from rain, it’s a good idea to make or buy one. The two things you need to keep in mind are the importance of aeration and the ease of turning the pile, both of which can impact both the time it takes for your compost to finish as well as the amount of time you’ll spend turning it. Some bins make rotating the pile easier, which is useful if you don’t feel like muscling through it with a shovel every few weeks. Below are some options for compost bins:

  • Build Your Own

    There are plenty of economical ways to build your own compost bin, whether you want to build a sturdy wood and chicken wire enclosure or modify a large plastic garbage can.

  • Buy a Rotating Bin

    A rotating bin or a tumbler is a free standing container that can be spun in place to mix and aerate the compost. These can be a bit more expensive than a standard compost bin.

  • Buy a Standard Bin

    A standard compost bin often doesn’t have a bottom, making it easy to open and use. These bins usually hold more volume, so if you have a large garden and don’t mind getting in there to turn the compost, they are a good value.

2. Know Your Greens and Browns

There are two essential elements that will create the perfect chemical balance in your compost pile: carbon, known as “brown” material, and nitrogen, known as “green” material. You need a mix of these in order to feed and grow your compost pile. In general, you need more browns than greens. Don’t get too hung up on the color, though, as this isn’t an exact rule. For example, nitrogen-rich used coffee grounds belong in the green category. Here are a couple more examples:

  • Carbon/Brown Material

    Straw, shredded newspaper, cardboard, dead leaves, wood chips, paper bags, husks and nut shells all qualify as brown material.

  • Nitrogen/Green Material

    Vegetable peels, fruit rinds, coffee grounds or tea leaves, grass clippings, and even weeds if they have not gone to seed are all good green material.

3. Layer

Layering is important for correct drainage and interaction of your materials. You don’t want your compost pile to be too wet, as it will rot, but too dry and the organic materials won’t have the moisture they need to decompose. It should have the moisture content of a wrung-out sponge for the best balance.

Start with a good layer of browns, about five or six inches, and then add two or three inches of greens. If you want to get your compost kick started with a good dose of microbes, you can sprinkle a layer of existing compost, garden soil, or manure on top of this layer. Lightly water it–remember, you don’t want it completely wet, just a little moist. Then continue in the same way: browns, greens, microbial, water, repeat, until you have a pile about three feet high.

There are a few other materials you can also add to your compost pile. Composting is an aerobic process, so if you live in a humid climate or your compost bins don’t have air holes, you can add wood chips to improve the aeration. If you want to keep them out of the landfill, egg shells are abundant in calcium and also have trace amounts of other minerals. Make sure they are completely clean and dry to avoid introducing salmonella. They can take a long time to decompose, so crushing them or grinding them to a powder first is ideal.

Never put meat or fish, inorganic materials, or waste from carnivores into your compost pile.

4. Turn Your Compost

Compost Pile

Once you have your nice compost cocktail, you can sit back and ignore it for a few weeks. Then you need to give it a good stir. If you bought a tumbler, this is pretty easy. If you didn’t, rotate what’s inside the pile to the outside and what’s outside to the inside. Your compost pile should have a distinctive earthy smell and should be hot–especially near the center. The heat is a sign that good decomposition is happening. Once you’ve given it a good stir, leave it alone for another couple of weeks. Repeat this process until your compost is ready. You’ll know it’s done when the pile is no longer generating heat. Once you get to this point, let it cure for another month or two. There might still be a few bits that haven’t decomposed entirely. Screen those out and save them to start your next pile.

5. Feed Your Garden

Now that you have some fresh and rich compost, it’s time that you let your garden benefit from it. You can spread it about an inch thick around your flower bed or your garden, or mix it into your soil before you plant. If you have more than you can use, you can store it in clean garbage cans or plastic bags–or perhaps even give it to your other gardener friends! They’ll appreciate it.

Nothing beats the satisfaction of feeding your garden with compost you made yourself. Once you get started, you’ll be thrilled at the alchemy of the process, and you’ll be eager to feed your compost pile year-round.

8 Delicious Vegetables for Fall Gardening

cabbage garden

As the summer months draw to a close and temperatures start to decline, out natural tendency is to spend more time indoors and less out in the garden. However, this means that we are limiting ourselves from growing some delicious fall crops in our very own backyards! This fall, make the effort to stay outdoors a little longer and cultivate your very own garden of fresh salad ingredients.

There are some wonderful greens and root vegetables that grow happily in the cooler months and even taste better when they come to maturity in colder temperatures. Most fall vegetables are nutrient-dense, which is exactly what your body craves when the cooler months arrive.

The first thing you need to do when fall planting is have a general idea of when your first frost will be, then you can count backwards from there to determine when to plant. Below are some of the best vegetables you can plant for delicious fall eating.


1. Pumpkin

pumpkin

When to plant: Mid summer
When to harvest: 75 to 120 days after planting
Soil type: Any

Pumpkins might be the quintessential fall vegetable. Not only are they a staple of any fall holiday meal, but they are also a significant element of Halloween decor. They do take a lot of effort to grow, though, as they require a whopping 75 to 120 days to mature. Pumpkins thrive off lots of water, lots of space, and a healthy amount of high-nitrogen fertilizer. Pumpkin is packed with Vitamins A, C, E and B-6, stuffed with carotenes, and rich in minerals including calcium and potassium.

Not just for pumpkin pie and jack-o-lanterns, this plant makes delicious soups and can also be baked or steamed. Pumpkin seeds are dense with fiber and iron and some cultures will even eat the greens. There are dozens of varieties with adorable monikers like Cinderella, Baby Bear, Fairytale, and Aladdin, just to name a few. Choose your pumpkin based on what you are going to be using it for–some are better for carving, others are perfect for the fall tradition of baking a casserole or stew in individual little pumpkin bowls.


2. Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

When to plant: Mid summer
When to harvest: 90 days after planting
Soil type: Any; Neutral

Healthy and versatile, Brussels sprouts are cropping up in menus across the country with unique and tasty preparations that have made them one of the most popular vegetables on the market. Halved and roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper they are a delicious side dish, or sliced thin and tossed with walnuts, pecorino, olive oil and lemon juice make for an amazing salad.

Brussels sprouts don’t hit peak growth until the weather starts to cool off, so don’t panic if your plants appear dormant. They’ll take off once the weather cools. They need to be planted in full sun but can withstand temperatures down to 20°. Brussels sprouts take 90 days to reach maturity.


3. Cabbage

cabbage

When to plant: Summer (indoors), transplant to outdoors once temperature cools
When to harvest: 70 to 100 days after planting
Soil type: Sandy; Neutral

Napa, savoy, bok choy, green and red–there are dozens of varieties of cabbages, most of which are ideal for fall gardening and all of which are delicious given the right preparation. With a little bit of extra care, you can maintain your cabbages well into the winter.

Cabbages dislike hot weather and sun, so if you hit a sudden hot spell, be sure to protect them, and keep your soil moist and cool with compost or bark. Most cabbages mature in about 70 days, although some take as many as 100. With this many varieties of cabbage, it would be wise for you to do your research or check your seed packet for more specific estimates.


4. Broccoli

broccoli

When to plant: Mid to late summer
When to harvest: 70 days after planting
Soil type: Sandy; Neutral to slightly acidic

Nothing beats the taste of fresh, home-grown broccoli from your garden. This versatile health food can be enjoyed raw, steamed, sautéed, roasted, or pureed into soups. Their dense heads soak up flavor and are especially good in a stir-fry.

It takes about 70 days for broccoli to reach maturity, and it’s important to harvest them before the buds start to flower or else they’ll turn bitter. After harvesting the large head, broccoli will continue to produce smaller offshoots, giving you delicious flavor throughout the fall months. Interestingly enough, broccoli is a member of the cabbage family. Use mulch to suffocate weeds and keep temperatures down around the shallow roots.


5. Beets

beet

When to plant: Beginning to mid summer
When to harvest: 50 to 70 days after planting
Soil type: Sandy; Neutral

Beets are known for their distinctive purple-red color but also come in golden yellow and pink varieties. Try them with goat cheese and balsamic vinegar for a wonderful combination of flavors. The dense flesh also holds up well to canning, freezing or pickling. These qualities make beets a sturdy plant to work with, which is great for beginners.

Beet greens have a higher nutrition value than the bulb and are delicious in a salad or cooked like kale and chard. They prefer neutral soil but need a high phosphorous level to germinate. Beets can tolerate temperatures as low as 30° F and mature in 50 to 70 days, depending on the variety.


6. Kale

When to plant: Early to mid summer
When to harvest: 60 days after planting
Soil type: Loamy; Neutral to slightly Alkaline

Kale is yet another vegetable that has developed a cult following over the last few years, and with good reason. Kale is a wonderful leafy green that is packed with nutrients and antioxidants. It’s perfect for marinated salads, where its firm structure stands up to the marinade without wilting, and it’s delicious stirred into soups in the last 5-10 minutes of cooking. Kale also works well in smoothies and can even be misted with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, and baked until crispy for a delicious and healthy snack.

Kale reaches maturity in about 60 days, and requires neutral or slightly Alkaline soil.


7. Spinach

spinach

When to plant: Late summer to early fall
When to harvest: 45 days after planting
Soil type: Loamy; Neutral

Spinach, which is known for being high in iron, is easy to cook and is also delicious raw. It is higher in nutrition than most garden greens, rich in Vitamins A, B and C and high in iron and calcium.

Spinach takes about 45 days to reach maturity, but large leaves can be bitter, so pinch off tender young leaves as soon as they ready, letting the inner leaves continue to mature. Be sure to plant your spinach seeds when your soil temperature is below 70° or they won’t germinate. Spinach can overwinter for a delightful spring crop.


8. Radishes

Radishes

When to plant: Early to mid fall
When to harvest: 25 to 50 days after planting
Soil type: Any; lots of moisture

Last but not least, consider planting a radish crop. Radishes are ready to be harvested in only 25 to 50 days.

Radishes come in several varieties and add a distinctive, peppery zing to salads. If you’ve only eaten spicy, woody radishes, growing your own will allow you to harvest them early when they are still fresh, crisp and peppery. They need plenty of moisture in well-drained soil, but are extremely tolerant to different types of soil.


Whatever you choose to grow, fall gardening is a delicious and fun way to enjoy the bounty of your hard work through the autumn months. Be sure to start your planning now in order to allow your plants enough time to grow to be enjoyed this fall.

8 Tips for Planning the Perfect Garden

Perfect Garden Planning

Whether you have just bought your first home or are excited to spend your retirement developing a green thumb, designing a garden can be an exciting but intimidating prospect. If you’re looking to infuse new life into your existing landscaping, you’ll have to decide what elements you want to alter and replace and how to plan around those that you wish to keep. If you’re starting with a clean slate, you are blessed with the freedom to do almost anything. However, that blank space can leave you paralyzed with indecision and fear of getting it wrong. These 8 tips can help you create the perfect efficient garden you didn’t even know you were dreaming of.

1. Consider Your Space

The first thing you must do is understand the potential of the land you are working with. Take a look at the area your garden will occupy. Using grid paper or a drafting program, you can create a blueprint of the space. Make copies so you can sketch in several different ideas.

When deciding what features you want to include in your perfect garden, ask yourself these questions:

  • How much space do you have to work with?
  • Are there existing features you’d like to highlight, downplay or remove altogether?
  • How will the layout influence your design?

Consider the elevation at various points–it will influence how the landscape looks, but also which plants will thrive, as some need more or less drainage and shade. Think about the view from your windows, both upstairs and down, and from your porch and other locations where you might sit and view the garden. Choose eye-catching trees, bushes or flowers for the most visible locations, then build around those anchor pieces.

2. Understand Your Climate

Do your research or visit your local garden center to learn which plants thrive in your climate, which ones will require some work, and which ones will simply not survive. If you already have certain species in mind, ask about their hardiness rating and how much sunshine and moisture they require. If you are open to suggestions, the staff can make recommendations specific to your area.

While careful watering and strategic covering can enable some selections to survive in warmer or cooler weather than they would normally be able to, this might be more work than you are willing to do. It’s best to know as much as you can about your climate zone, especially if you are new to gardening.

3. Utility

strawberry garden

It is important that you have an idea of the purpose your garden will serve. Will you grow fruits and vegetables for your family’s consumption? If so, you might consider raised beds or square-foot gardening. Are you hoping to create a beautiful backdrop for summer barbecues and family get-togethers? Incorporate insect repelling plants for beautiful, all-natural pest control. Do you have pets or animals that will live or play in the yard, and if so, how do you incorporate their needs into the plan? Some vegetables and flowers are poisonous to dogs or cats, while others can contaminate the flavor of free-range eggs. You may also need to protect your yard from your pets, so consider a fence or especially hardy flora. Do you want a lot of grassy space for playing or laying in the sunshine, or do you prefer a lot of vegetation? These questions will help you narrow your focus as you plan.

4. Choose a Theme

Think about scenery that you really love, and identify why it appealed to you so much. Try to figure out how you can incorporate those elements into your own landscaping.

For example, if you’ve always loved the clean lines of an English garden, aim for symmetry, strong geometry and monochromatic florals. If you prefer a cottage garden, fill your beds with fragrant, old-fashioned blooms and a quaint touch like a picket fence, bird bath or wind chimes. For a tropical look find bold, leafy plants with bright colors, dynamic water features and hand-crafted décor.

By focusing on a theme you ensure that the elements of your garden come together in a way that makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

5. Size Matters

When designing a garden, consider incorporating a variety of different sized elements to create a more interesting design. For example, if you want to have decorative stones in your yard, pick a couple large stones, mostly medium sized ones, and a few smaller ones. You can also do this with trees, flowers, and decorative grasses. Keep in mind that smaller features should be places in front of the taller pieces.

Think about variety in the height and circumference of your plants, as well as in their shapes, colors and textures. Try to repeat certain elements at regular intervals to keep the selection from looking too haphazard, but don’t be afraid to mix things up in between.

6. Think of a House

There’s another way to think about varying the elements of your garden: think of it like a house. The floor might be grass, ground cover, pavers or planting soil. The walls include vertical elements such as fences, trellises and even the outer walls of your home. The ceiling may be purely sky, but can also include awnings, an umbrella or the branches of a tall tree. Furnish your garden with patio furniture, potted plants, a bench, an umbrella or even a whimsical garden gnome.

7. Color Outside the Lines

Rose"

The right combination of colors can create the effect of a fine painting, but a hodge-podge keeps the eye from perceiving the garden as a beautiful, unified and whole. Most flowers are easy to move if you don’t like their placement, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

If you want to play things safe, there are a few tried and true combinations that look great every time. If you like bold blooms, try a selection of bright primary colors or hot shades of pink, red, orange and yellow. Colors opposite each other on the color wheel look great together–think orange and blue, purple and yellow or red and green. For a more romantic look, use soothing pastels and creams instead of white.

8. Friendly Flora

Variety not only looks great in the garden, but it can help your plants thrive as well. Many plants are natural allies and placing them near one another will help your blooms thrive.

Trees, bushes and anything tall with wide leaves can provide necessary shade for smaller vegetation. Marigolds are known to repel aphids and can protect your vegetable patch from being eaten up. Clover and nasturtiums can even protect cabbage from harm. Rue protects roses and raspberries. There are many beautiful and mutually beneficial combinations that can be incorporated into your landscaping.

The most important thing to remember when designing a garden is to be creative and to trust your instincts. Choose elements that speak to you and your garden will always feel like home.

7 Ways to Prevent Weeds From Growing in Your Yard

Weeds in sidewalk

Weeds are a dreaded sight for anyone who takes pride in his or her yard. Like many people, you may feel like the only way to keep these invasive plants at bay is to invest in professional garden care. However, there are several do-it-yourself tactics for driving off or killing weeds that are easy and economical. If you’re struggling to keep your yard free of weeds, try the following measures to get those intruders under control once and for all.

1. Leave Your Soil Alone

There most likely are already weed seeds in your soil, lying dormant and waiting for the right conditions to support growth. By leaving your soil as undisturbed as possible, you can lower the likelihood that these seeds will receive enough sunlight to begin sprouting. Instead of tilling your soil with a machine, do it by hand to limit the amount of dirt that gets churned up.

Rather than planting your flowers and vegetables directly in the soil, consider planting them in an overlying layer of compost or bagged soil. This can further reduce the risk of weeds growing in.

2. Suppress Weed Growth

In addition to minimizing soil disturbances, you should proactively stop seeds from developing into pesky weeds by covering your soil with materials that block sunlight. For the best effects, you will need to create a layer that is two to four inches deep to ensure that stubborn weeds don’t poke through. The following items are all affordable, easily accessible and highly effective as mulches or sun blockers:

  • Store-bought mulch. Beneficially, any kind of mulch will hold in moisture and add nutrients to your soil.
  • Grass clippings. These clippings, which smother weeds and fertilize the soil, act as a natural and readily available mulch.
  • Newspapers. When layered with other types of mulch, newspapers ensure that sunlight and even oxygen can’t reach the soil.
  • Carpet swatches, wallpaper or shower curtains. These items help block sunlight when they are placed underneath a layer of mulch.

Many kinds of plants can make effective mulches, but one type of dried grass that you will want to avoid using is hay. Hay can contain seeds, which could leave you dealing with other unwanted plants growing in your yard.

3. Crowd Out New Growth

Another measure that can inhibit weed growth is a crowded planting design. The key is to eliminate barren or empty spots that allow weeds to take root. If you have a lawn, make sure to reseed it in areas where the grass has died.

You should also make aeration and fertilization regular yearly practices. If you grow vegetables or flowers, consider planting them in a diamond pattern, which leaves fewer gaps than conventional rows do. If you loosen the underlying soil down to a depth of 24 inches, you can plant your flowers or vegetables very close together without worrying about the roots crowding each other, since the roots will be able to grow downward.

4. Try Natural Measures

Pulled weed

If you prefer natural garden care, you’ll be glad to know that you can usually prevent weeds from growing in your yard by using a simple home remedy. Treating your soil with corn gluten meal can stop weed seeds from germinating. This treatment has the same effect on virtually any seed, though, so make sure that you only apply it once your vegetables and flowers are well-established.

If weeds have already grown into your yard, you can kill them by applying vinegar, vodka or salt. Vinegar is a natural herbicide. Vodka can be mixed with water and a little soap to act as a desiccant. Like vodka, salt dries weeds out, and it additionally stops them from taking in nutrients. It’s important to use these three treatments with caution, however. All of them can kill the plants that you are deliberately growing, and salt will render any soil that it comes into contact with unusable in the short term.

5. Apply Herbicides

The use of chemical herbicides can also help prevent weed growth. Spraying a store-bought herbicide before weeds begin sprouting can halt unwanted growth without causing any harm to established plants. Make sure to use a pre-emergent herbicide about three weeks before you normally start seeing weeds appear in your yard.

To deal with weeds that grow even with this treatment, you can make your own homemade herbicidal soap. However, make sure to use it carefully, since it can kill plants that you aren’t trying to eradicate as well as weeds. To make the soap, combine equal quantities of dish soap, vinegar and water, and then spray it directly onto the weeds.

6. Remove Them by Hand

Removing weeds by hand is an effective option if you want to avoid the use of harsh chemicals and ensure that no harm comes to your flowers or vegetables. You’ll need a trowel or small shovel so that you can dig down and access the roots. Protect your hands and limit the spread of seeds by wearing a pair of gardening gloves.

Make sure to fully remove the weeds, including the entire root system, or they will grow back later. To improve efficiency, try weeding when the soil is damp. Many people find that pulling weeds is easiest early in the morning or after a storm.

7. Heat Things Up

Heat can be a great tool for removing established weeds. One easy approach is to simply pour boiling water directly onto weeds. This should kill even the toughest plants after just a few applications. You also can invest in a weed torch, which heats the water present inside weeds to kill them. Once you get used to this approach, it can be very effective, although it isn’t safe to use on poisonous weeds. When using either method, remember to take precautions to protect yourself, such as wearing close-toed shoes and clothing that covers your limbs.

Keeping weeds out of your yard can feel like an overwhelming task, but it’s important to remember that even a small amount of regular work can go a long way. Practicing smart preventative measures and treating any weeds that do appear quickly can keep your garden looking beautiful and leave you with more time to focus on the plants that you actually want to grow.

Father’s Day Sale & Gift Ideas

Father's Day Banner

Just say NO to ties! Whether your dad uses the backyard to house his grill or his garden, keeps wine or beer in stock, we have the perfect gift to make his Father’s Day extra special – and none of them can be worn around his neck (at least not comfortably). Plus, we are currently offering an extra 5% off most products that are already discounted 20% off! Break the tie tradition and get on Dad’s good side with any of these choices:

For the Beer Enthusiast:

Krups Beertender Mini Kegerator   Nostalgia Electrics Kegerator   EdgeStar Dual Tap Kegerator   28 Quart Jockey Box

from left to right: Krups Beertender Mini Kegerator ($141.55*), Nostalgia Electrics Kegerator ($399.99), EdgeStar Stainless Steel Double Tap Kegerator ($616.55), 28 Quart 2 Faucet Red Jockey Box ($398.05)

For the Wine Lover:

Summit Countertop Wine Chiller   EdgeStar 26 bottle Wine Cooler   Koldfront 4 Bottle Wine Cooler   EdgeStar 155 Bottle Wine Cooler

from left to right: Summit 8 Bottle Countertop Wine Chiller ($341.24), EdgeStar 26 Bottle Dual Zone Wine Cooler ($699), Koldfront 4 Bottle Wine Cooler ($94.99), EdgeStar 155 Bottle Dual Zone Wine Cooler ($1499.99)

For the Grill Master:

 Outdoor Greatroom Company Portable Gas Grill   Minden Master Gas Grill   Napoleon Mirage Grill   Grill Dome Infinity Series Kamado Grill

from left to right: Outdoor Greatroom Company 20″ Portable Gas Grill ($219), Minden Master Gas Grill ($479), Napoleon Mirage Grill w/Infrared Rear & Side Burner ($1899), Grill Dome Infinity Series Kamado Grill ($799.95)

For the Gardener:

Exaco ECO Square Rain Barrel   Brill Razorcut Push Reel Lawn Mower   Good Ideas Compost Wizard Standing Bin   Exaco 39 sq ft Green House

from left to right: Exaco ECO 70 Gallon Rain Barrel ($208.99), Brill Razor Push Reel Mower ($239.99), Good Ideas Compost Wizard Standing Bin ($128.25), Exaco 39 sq ft Green House ($427.49)

*NOTE: All prices are valid as of 6/14/12, but are subject to change.

What are you getting Dad this Father’s Day?

Living Green for Earth Day

Earth Day is Sunday, April 22, and to help bring awareness, we’re going to discuss two things you can implement in your home to help the environment.

Composting

Compost consists of organic matter that has been decomposed down into a rich, fertilized soil. Because of its nutrients, it serves great use in organic farming and gardening. There are several benefits to composting at home, including the reduction of wasted space at landfills and its use in your own lawn and garden.

Compost BinComposting, the process of creating compost, requires four things to effectively decompose the organic matter: carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and water. An easy way to keep your compost healthy is to provide a 50/50 mix of dry, brown material and wet, green material. The process will require you to mix the pile often to provide oxygen. You should also make sure it gets enough moisture, otherwise the decomposition process will take longer.

There are several options to get started with composting at home. You could get a large wooden like the one pictured (Exaco ECO Composter), a taller, black bin like this GeoBin which is easy to setup and affordable, or a solar heated cone system that comes with a kitchen caddy as well. Explore these and other composters on our site.

What Can I Compost?

Here are some examples of thing you can compost. Remember to try and feed your compost with a good 50/50 mix of dry, brown and wet, green materials. Really, almost everything that was living at some point can be composted, but some things may take longer to decompose.

FruitDry/Brown (Carbon-rich material)

– Fall leaves
– Small twigs and branches
– Paper coffee filters
– Shredded paper (newspaper, office paper, etc.)
– Paper towels
– Wood chips

Wet/Green (Nitrogen-rich material)

– Fruit and vegetable peels (or whole ones that have gone bad)
– Coffee grounds
– Tea bags
– Egg shells
– Plant trimmings and fresh leaves
– Cooked plain rice or pasta

Depending on the size of your compost, you could have rich soil ready to go in 3-4 months, or 5-6 months for larger piles.

Rain Water Collection

Rain BarrelAnother way to help the environment and save you money is to implement a rain water collection system (also called rain harvesting). The concept is that you collect excess rainwater from your home gutters during times of heavy rainfall and store it for use in your lawn and garden, especially through times of drought and water restrictions. Environmentally, you help lessen the amount of flooding that occurs on streets and lessen the amount of pollution that reaches our oceans through rainwater run-off. The run-off carries pesticides, oil and harmful, inorganic materials. Another added benefit is the use of rain water in your garden, where you’re feeding your plants soft water that doesn’t contain added minerals. Your plants will be happier!

The most common solution is a barrel that sits below your drainage gutters of your home. The barrel comes with a faucet where you can easily hook up your hose. They come in different colors and sizes to blend into its environment. For extra storage, you have the ability to connect multiple barrels together as well. Browse our selection of rain barrels on our site.

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For more ways to go green this year for Earth Day, check out our Pinterest board, Living Green!