Thursday, 24 July 2014

How to Choose Gardening Tools

Many homeowners make the mistake of buying too many gardening tools that they don’t need. When you head down to the local nursery or garden center, the choice of gardening tools on display can get confusing and bewildering. The fact is, you only need to buy the ones that are most important. Gardens can be well looked after with just a handful of tools. There is no necessity to spend a lot of money to fill your tool shed with every gardening gadget under the sun. There are basic tools that will benefit most gardeners like: a strongly made fork, a sturdy hand trowel, a square blade spade, a stirrup hoe, watering cans, a garden hose, a bow rake, a garden fork, a leaf rake, hand pruners, a hand cultivator and a wheelbarrow. Here are some basic tips to let you choose the right gardening tools that prove useful and are high-quality in nature to last a lifetime.
  • Firstly, make sure you have all the tools listed at the beginning of this article. If you have lots of shrubs, hedges and trees, you can invest in shears, hand saws and bypass loppers.
  • Make sure you buy only high quality tools. You can choose stainless steel tools because they are easy to clean, long lasting and don't rust. But they are a bit expensive. A good alternative to stainless steel ones are those that are made from carbon fiber steel. They are durable, sturdy and easy to sharpen.
  • Before you buy your gardening tools, thoroughly inspect them to see if the shaft is straight and the wood grain is even. Hold the tool to check if it’s too heavy or light for the job you intend to use it for. Don’t buy tools with painted handles, as the paint is used to disguise lower quality wood. Buy handsaws, loppers and pruners with replaceable blades.
  • Don’t buy tools that have no use for your garden. Make a list to determine which tools need to be replaced.
  • Many tools will do several jobs at the same time. In that case, put back tools that has only one use, for example a bulb planter. That’s because you will probably own a tool that will do that specific work and several jobs as well, for example a trowel. There may be tools that will work well with only one specific job, like a weeder. In this case, it is worth buying it because it makes weeding the lawn easier.
  • Buy ergonomic tools if you have physical limitations. They are innovatively designed to reduce stress on joints and muscles. Cutting tools with rubber bumpers will absorb shock when you make a cut. Tools with longer shafts and handles will increase leverage. They will also prevent you from stooping over as you use them with the exception of hand tools. If you have weak hands or arthritis buy shears, loppers and pruners with a ratcheting mechanism. They will multiply your strength and make cutting easy and efficient. 
Warnings and Tips
  • Soil tends to cause steel blades to rust over time. Make sure you clean your tools before storing them.
  • Oil and sand wooden handles with linseed oil at least once a year to remove rough spots, splinters and nourish the wood.
  • Steel blades need to be oiled with linseed oil a few times every year to prevent rust.
  • Use loppers and bypass pruners on live wood instead of anvil style ones. Anvil style tools should only be used on dead, dry wood as they crush branches and stems rather than make a proper, clean cut. 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Growing a Garden That Will Attract Life

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better – Albert Einstein

As from the quote mentioned above, Albert Einstein understood that every living thing on this planet has the right to revel and enjoy in the company of nature. All of us as homeowners have a little bit of nature in our very own backyard. It would be nice to give back to the earth’s tiny creatures by creating a space that they can use for food and shelter. A home garden is the ideal place for attracting wildlife every season. Nature’s pollinators are birds, hummingbirds and butterflies. They visit your yard for nesting and food and in return give you a garden full of their colors, sounds and new life. You will get wildlife in your own backyard if you make the effort to provide food, water and a place to nest. It’s important to know what kinds of plants will attract birds and butterflies in your garden. Take a look below to know what kind of plants to plant and simple gardening rules to keep in mind to have some wildlife visiting your yard in the days to come.

Attracting Butterflies

Some varieties of plants attract a specific species of butterflies. A butterfly has a complex life cycle of four stages where two of it requires different host plants, one for laying eggs and one for food. If you want a wide variety of species to visit your garden, you have to do a bit of research on plants and their bloom time. Bright and beautiful colored butterflies are a pleasing and welcome sight to your garden. They make your garden attractive and are also useful in pollinating your flowers.  You need to plant varieties that will serve the needs of all the life stages of the butterfly. Here are some tips to follow to have your garden swarming with butterflies in no time.
  • Use native flowering plants - Butterflies and native flowering plants depend on each other for reproduction and survival. They have co-evolved over time and if you want them visiting often, make sure you plant native flowering plants that are local to your specific geographical region. Native flowering plants are known to provide butterflies with the nectar from flowers they need for food during their adult and caterpillar life. Another important factor is to plant specific types of colors as adult butterflies are attracted to yellow, red, pink, orange and purple blossoms that are clustered or flat-topped with short flower tubes.
  • Plant different flowers for continuous bloom - Butterflies need nectar throughout their adult life span. You need to plant different varieties of flowers with different blooming stages. If one plant stops blooming, then another one begins to give butterflies continuous food source.
  • Use plants with good nectar sources – All types of plants with good nectar sources should have access to full sunlight. Adult butterflies generally feed only in the sun from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. If your garden doesn’t receive adequate sunlight, try adding plants with good nectar sources to the vegetable garden.
  • Don’t use insecticides - Insecticides are marketed to kill insects and this includes butterflies. They should not be used anywhere in your property if you want to attract butterflies to your garden.
  • Feed the caterpillars – Caterpillars won’t grow into butterflies if you don’t feed them. They feed on only a limited variety of plants. If you plant different varieties and give caterpillars their food source, there are increased chances of attracting uncommon and unusual butterfly species. Most caterpillars will not cause leaf damage to plants.
  • Provide a place for rest - Butterflies need a place to rest and bask in the sun. This is because they need to warm their wings for flight. You can place flat stones in your yard to provide ample space for orientation.
  • Give butterflies a place for puddling - Butterflies often partake in puddling, where they congregate on mud and wet sand to drink water and extract minerals. To encourage puddling, you can place moist sand in a shallow pan and insert it into the soil of your garden.  

Attracting Birds

To attract birds to your garden, you need plants that produce seeds or nuts for them to eat. For a water source, install a small pond or bird bath and for a nesting area, install a bird house. These can provide for pretty landscaping elements in your garden with a visual point of interest.  There are probably hundreds of plants and trees that attract birds. To determine which is best for your garden and region, do some research before planting them.

Hummingbirds in particular, are drawn to the color red and they really like perennials. You can plant something fragrant and bright with attractive perennials if you want them in your garden.

Some of the plants and trees you can install in your yard to attract wildlife are:-
  • Honeysuckle Vine
  • Eucalyptus Tree
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Red-Hot Poker
  • Yucca
  • Iris
  • Beech Tree
  • Lime Tree
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Crabapple