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Jul 18

The Urban Garden Guide : Growing greens in a gray landscape

By chadchaffin | Gardening

When I was still living with my parents, we had no space at all to garden. We lived in the city. It was unthinkable then to tear up a front
lawn and use it for a garden—something I wouldn’t hesitate to do today. However, the next-door neighbor offered us the use of an empty yard between our houses. My mother, who grew up on a farm, sat up at night with me at the kitchen table, planning how to use that little space for gardening.

Most of what I learned about what to plant (and not to plant) was the result of making mistakes.

I began by planting herbs, tomatoes and corn, all neatly arranged in north-south lines with some pathways in between. I knew nothing about fertilizer, mulch or pest control and just planted what I believed would make the best garden, and I watched the results.

Herbs—mints, fennel, oregano, lavender and rosemary, among others—took care of themselves. They tended to be drought tolerant, insect repelling and required very little time and effort. (They are good choices just about everywhere, assuming they are herbs you would normally use.)

Tomatoes grew well, too, but I learned that they just grew and grew—longer and longer—and only began to produce lots of tomatoes when I pinched back the stems so the branches would not grow as long. And, of course, these plants got tomato worms, which I just picked off and tossed to the birds.

Corn was quite an education. It grew tall, and the ears formed. As they got bigger, they became infested with lots of ants, aphids and earwigs.

In horror, I would take the hose and wash all the bugs off. This worked to some extent, because it was a small garden. That first season’s corn was a disaster: The ears were bug infested and half developed.

I experimented with some natural pest repellants and made my own insecticide from a mixture of garlics and hot peppers that I liquefied in the blender and sprayed on the plants. I even added a little Basic H to the mix. I had some results, but I was still trying to grow crops in poor soil.

"I LEARNED THAT … THE HEALTH OF THE SOIL IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR IN PRODUCING PLANTS THAT ARE DROUGHT TOLERANT, INSECT RESISTANT AND ABLE TO SURVIVE IN THE GREATEST RANGE OF TEMPERATURES."

In desperation, I studied all I could about natural pest control. I refused to use any of the various commercial liquid and spray insecticides (I still had fresh memories of an uncle who had to dress in what looked like a bee suit every time he went into his apple orchards so he would be protected from all the pesticides he sprayed on the apples. He eventually died of cancer).

Shouldn’t farming and gardening be about life and not death, I wondered? Can’t nature take care of itself? Isn’t there a way to find a balance so that insects keep other insects in check?

I knew, instinctively, that even in my small garden, nature could find a balance and that through natural methods, I could grow food and encourage good insects to eat the bad ones. Little by little, I learned that this was, indeed, possible.

Drought-tolerant Plants

Some plants naturally grow in the dry deserts and are well adapted to surviving and thriving with little water. Do a little research to find out which plants are native to your area, and then determine if any of them can be used for food or medicine. Here are just a few examples of plants that will grow in desert and drought areas.

Remember that there are special varieties that do best in arid areas. Also, the techniques you use will aid significantly in the success of these plants. Contact local nurseries for native and drought-tolerant plants that will do well near you.

  • Trees

    Fig, olive, carob, pomegranate, date palm, mesquite

  • Bushy plants/shrubs

    Cactus, especially Opuntia spp., jojoba and toyon

  • Vines

    Grape, blackberry

  • Herbaceous plants

    New Zealand spinach, Lamb’s Quarter, certain wheat strains, certain corn varieties, gourds and squash as ground cover, beans

"I KNEW, INSTINCTIVELY, THAT EVEN IN MY SMALL GARDEN, NATURE COULD FIND A BALANCE AND THAT THROUGH NATURAL METHODS, I COULD GROW FOOD AND ENCOURAGE GOOD INSECTSTO EAT THE BAD ONES."

What To Grow In An Urban Garden

  1. WHAT GROWS THERE NOW?

    Before you start buying various fruit trees and vegetables from a nursery, take stock of what you already have. What already grows in your yard with little care? Do those plants have uses? Investigate what is growing in your space, and you might fi nd that some of the vegetation is useful and valuable.

  2. WHICH PLANTS ARE NATIVE TO YOUR AREA?

    Find out what grows naturally in your area and talk to someone at a local native plant society to see what plants will grow “on their own.” As you look over a list of such plants, consider which ones would grow in your yard. Many local native plants can be used for food and medicine, and they are easy to care for.

  3. WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO EAT?

    Make a list of what you already eat and what you’d like to eat. Some of the plants on that list will do well where you live, and some will not. How can you determine the difference?
    Start by talking with folks at a local gardening club or neighbors who have successful gardens. You’d be surprised to find that there are gardening clubs in most cities.
    When you start growing fruits and vegetables, observe which plants grow well and which don’t, as well as those that take a lot of work and attention.
    When you find plants that seem to love it in your yard and do well without much work on your part, grow those.

BUILD THE SOIL

One of the principles of agricultural ecology is that nature can take care of itself more easily the larger the plot of land happens to be. It’s a bit harder to have all these natural systems operating if you’re only dealing with a plot of land that’s about 40 by 20 feet—the size of our little garden. This meant I had to give the little plot a lot more attention, at least in the beginning, until “balance” was found.

I learned that regardless of what I grew and where I lived, the health of the soil is the single most important factor in producing plants that are drought tolerant, insect resistant and able to survive in the greatest range of temperatures.

My next experiment in that small yard was to go to the grocery store and get boxes of old produce. I dug holes here and there in the garden and buried the old vegetables so they’d decompose and enrich the soil. Simultaneously, I went to the local cemetery and obtained bags of grass clippings.

I began to layer the bare ground around the base of the plants with liberal amounts of the clippings. This was a thick layer, the top
of which would dry out a bit. However, underneath, it stayed moist, softened the soil and provided an environment in which earthworms and lots of other insects thrived.

With the layered grass clippings on the ground, I noticed that the herbs and vegetables also thrived and grew well and that the insect infestation was at a minimum. In addition, I didn’t need to water as much.

I continued to get as many bags of grass clippings as possible and mulched the soil. And I continued to bury old vegetables in the garden. I produced onions, tomatoes, Swiss chard and zucchinis, along with lots of herbs. I decided to skip the corn, because it still seemed to require more work than I was willing to do to keep it insect free.

I’m not sure everyone would want to get boxes of old produce and bury its contents in their garden space. That was part of my learning. Instead, I suggest you keep a compost bin in your yard and begin to make your own compost from kitchen scraps and yard trimmings. It’s not that hard, and you’d be surprised how well you can supplement your soil from what you ordinarily throw away.

Raise earthworms, which naturally enrich the soil. There are special bins you can buy to raise them, although I have always managed to do so in dedicated compost bins or piles. They cannot tolerate all the heat generated by adding a lot of kitchen or vegetable scraps at one time, so you need to raise earthworms separate from your main compost area. Gardeners generally use redworms for composting, because they reproduce rapidly and tolerate great temperature variations.

"MOST OF WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT WHAT TO PLANT( AND NOT TO PLANT) WAS THE RESULT OF MAKING MISTAKES."

The Hilltop Garden

A few years later, I lived in a little hilltop house in a hilly part of Los Angeles. I had an enclosed yard and kept some ducks there. I grew many vegetables—corn included. I didn’t use grass clippings, but I did maintain a compost pit in which I produced my own fertilizer from kitchen and yard scraps.

I invited a tree pruner to dump his massive load of wood chips in my yard, which saved him the dumping fee at the local city dump. I used the wood chips to mulch every square inch of my garden. At night, I would put the hose in my corn patch and let it dribble out. My ducks would spend the evening there, because they loved to eat all the earwigs and other insects the water brought out.

The corn grew tall and strong—this time, without all the insects I experienced in earlier corn patches. Perhaps the ducks served as my “insecticide.” Standing in my little duck-fertilized corn patch was like being in another world. It was like my own postage stamp-sized field of dreams, my own “Walden Pond.” My garden contained only non-hybrid varieties of vegetables whose seeds I could harvest and replant.

These were also known as “heirloom” varieties. (At the time, I was not aware of how today’s farmers are captive to the corporations that produce the hybrid seeds—that widely touted miracle of “modern farming.” I was always disturbed about hybrids, whose seeds would not produce the same plant they came from.) I have always made an effort to use non-hybrid, or heirloom, seeds and will save some of the seeds for the next season, just as small farmers and families have done for centuries.

Part of my garden grew the famed “three sisters” of the Southwest: corn, squash and beans. This “three sisters” type of garden is a common theme in arid Southwestern gardens, and its plants are easy to grow.

I allowed the squash to sprawl on the ground as ground cover, keeping some moisture in the soil. I planted corn throughout the area. Once it grew to about a foot tall, I planted native beans nearby. (Bean roots “fix” nitrogen, meaning that the roots increase the nitrogen content for the corn.) The corn provided a trellis of sorts for the beans. You can see that it’s not out of your reach to create and maintain your own thriving garden, even in a survival situation.

You can actually be very successful without the chemicals, commercial seeds and other “enhancements” you won’t have access to if things get really bad. With a little effort, experimentation and patience, you can confi dently become a self-suffcient urban gardener.

Jul 07

Best expandable water garden hose reviews

By chadchaffin | Tool Reviews

What you need to know before buying

Garden Hoses are a big help when it comes to any outdoor chore at home. Whether it will be used for gardening, home cleaning, portable pool filling, and car washing, equipment cleaning, hoses are definitely a big help.

Conventional rubber hoses though may be a pain to carry round, use and store. Yes they are durable most of the time, but it can be difficult to use when bent, kinked and even a pain to drain and store. It can also be quite heavy to lug around when you have to use it again.

Fortunately, Expandable Garden Hoses have been introduced in the market, making outdoor chores a lot more bearable. Expandable hoses are usually lightweight, shrinks when not in use, drains on its own, and can be easily stored and reused. As its name suggests it does not take up too much space because it expands only when it is being used.

Most expandable garden hoses in the market today are made of nylon, and durable connectors like brass. The inner lining of the garden hose usually varies, but most of the more prominent brands in the market today boast of durable material like double latex that will keep the hose from bursting.

In this buying guide, we will be discussing what you need to know when purchasing an expandable garden hose. These include how it works, the many features of expandable garden hoses, the advantages of using one, its various applications, as well as factors to consider when buying one. We also included an extensive buying guide to help you make a purchase decision. The buying guide features five of the top performing expandable garden hoses in the market today.

Various Uses for Expandable Hoses

Expandable garden hoses are extremely useful. Apart from the usual gardening activities like watering plants, the trees and the lawn, it can be used in cleaning the exteriors of your home. The roofing, the patio, the driveway, as well as the deck among other parts of the house.

It is also very useful when it comes to washing vehicles, as it will basically make cleaning your car extra easy.

Moreover, for families with outdoor portable pools, an expandable garden hose can be very beneficial. Pet owners will also find this hose extremely useful in cleaning pet cages.

The Advantages of using Expandable Hoses

There are many benefits of using Expandable Garden Hoses. These includes the following:

1.Expandable Garden Hoses are Lightweight.

Have you tried lugging around a conventional rubber hose? The longer a rubber hose gets, the heavier it becomes a pain to carry around especially when it is time to store it.

To give you an idea, conventional hoses are three to five times heavier than the standard expandable garden hoses available in the market today because it is made of rubber or plastic material. Expandable garden hoses on the other hand are made of lightweight materials like Nylon and latex.

Expandable Garden Hoses do not retain water as well, so you would not have to carry around that extra weight too when packing away. And because it is lightweight, it is easier to transfer from one place to another, and you would not even have second thoughts about storing it safely after a day of outdoor chores.

Since it is lightweight, even children can help around in the garden as well as other washing chores that would require the use of a hose! It is also very user-friendly to senior citizens and those who may have difficulty carrying heavy things because of a physical condition.

2.Expandable Garden Hoses do not take too much space.

Unlike its counterpart, expandable garden hoses shrink when it is not being used. So there is no need to find a permanent area for it to be kept because it can fit in almost any cabinet in the garden, patio or garage. To sum it up, it does not need a reel when storing, you can get by with storing it by using a hose hanger.

3.Expandable Garden Hoses are very easy to store and pack away.

Forget coiling 50-feet long rubber garden hoses because expandable garden hoses drain and shrink by itself, so you can just keep and store accordingly.

4.Easy to use when mobile.

Travelling in a camper van or RV? Bringing a hose for camp out purposes will not be troublesome because expandable garden hoses will not take up space, and will be easy to carry in and out of the RV.

5.Gives Extra Convenience.

Garden hoses have added convenience features like the ability to drain itself, expand three times its original length, 360-degree flexibility, and it being non-twisting.

How does an Expandable Hose Work?

Expandable Garden Hoses works much like conventional garden hoses, only it is much more convenient to utilize. It works basically by harnessing water pressure. For instance, once it is connected to a water source, and the faucet is turned on it automatically shuts off the valve on the other end so that it can fully expand.

Once the expandable garden hose has maximized its full length, it will be ready to use just like any other normal garden hose.

When watering or washing is done, leave the garden hose to drain itself, then pack it away

Factors to consider when buying Expandable Hoses:

1.Materials Used

It will always be wise to consider all the materials used in manufacturing an expandable garden hose. Since expandable garden hoses are not as heavy duty as the conventional rubber hoses, choosing one that is made of materials that can withstand harsh elements is a must. The materials used in the hose will definitely dictate its durability factor.

Nylon is usually the outer material used in expandable garden hoses. As for the inner lining, it can either be TPU or Thermoplastic Polyurethane or Dual Latex. The latter is much more durable compared to TPU and can last relatively longer when properly maintained and cared for.  Dual Latex is usually paired with a brass connector. A brass fitting should always be used to join the inner layer to totally prevent leaks.

2.Quality of the connector and the valves.

One of the factors that will determine the usefulness of any garden or outdoor hose is the connectors. And why not, without a durable one, it cannot be useful and it can just spring leaks that will only increase your utility bills. Find one that is made of heavy-duty materials such as brass, and those with good threading. Find ones also that can easily adapt to the plumbing fixtures in your property.

3.Check out the Measurements.

Check out the length of the expandable garden hose that you are eyeing, as well as the width of the hose. Make sure that it measures up to the areas that you will be using it on. Ensure maximum convenience by taking all these into consideration.

4.Cost and Warranty.

There are a lot of high-end expandable garden hoses in the market today, but this does not mean that low and mid priced ones will not serve its purpose. With careful planning and research, you can end up with the expandable garden hose that gives you the best value for your money. Always keep in mind though to not expect really durable and high quality products from those bought at a really low cost.

Ensure as well that necessary warranties are in place so that if there are any after-sales concerns, you can be sure that either you can get a refund or a replacement.

5.Added Features.

Always take into consideration the special extra features of the expandable Garden Hose that you are eyeing to buy. Usual additional features are the pack way containers, extra nozzles, extra connectors, various watering patterns, and hose hangers.

General Tips When Buying An Expandable Garden Hose:

  1. Always measure the area where you will be using the hose so that you can purchase the hose that is just the right length. Buying a hose that its too short, nor too long will just be a waste of money and effort. You may have to double up on the gardening or washing effort simpy because too long a hose can be more expensive, and too short a hose may require repeated transfering of water source.
  2. Know the surface where you will be using the expandable hose most of the time. Expandable garden hoses are not as durable as rubber garden hoses that withstand even a car running over it. Make sure that your hose can withstand everyday use, and abuse especially if your garden or outdoor area is made of rough concrete or has sharp stones, or if the garden has plants with thorns.
  3. Compare prices and features of at least three expandable garden hoses. It is critical to know the prices of similar products in the market and what features that come with it so that you can be sure that you have made the right purchase decision. Never buy the first garden hose that you come across with before comparing it with other expandable garden hoses in the market.
  4. After-sales will always be important. Know the warranty and after sales services available to customers of the brand. A money back guarantee and a long warranty is definitely helpful making a choice of what hose to buy.
  5. Do not be fooled by the price. Too low a price may mean that the hose can be made of low-quality materials. Too steep a price on the other hand does not necessarily translate to being the best expandable garden hose in the market. Always compare the prices of at least three similar products before picking a hose to buy.
  6. Do a research. Do not be too busy to read up on the features of the product that you are eyeing and compare it with the others that appeal to you as well. Reading up on the features, feedback and reviews will definitely help in determining the best expandable garden hose to buy.

Phantom 100′ Expandable Garden Hose Bungee Style Expanding Hose Solid Brass Connectors Expandable Hose

via Amazon.com

The Phantom 100 Expandable Garden Hose is a Bungee Style hose that comes with Solid Brass Connectors. It is one of the highest rated expandable garden hoses in the market today because of its leak-free and highly durable materials.

The double layer latex inner lining holds up even high water pressure without bursting or causing a leak. It is really convenient to use as well because it shrinks back and drains water by itself, removing one or two tiring steps before you can store and pack away this hose.

PhoebusTech 100ft Expandable Garden Hose Set

Via Amazon.com

The Phoebus Tech Expandable Garden Hose is one of the most popular expandable Garden Hose in the market today given the great client feedback received by the brand. It has evolved into an even better product as the manufacturers endeavored to improve its make and performance.

It also happens to be one of th most durable expandable hoses out there as it is made of 100% Solid Brass, and Triple Layer Latex Core that does not only withstand punctures, it can also handle the highest of pressures. The Quick Connect Type fittings as well as special features like a great ariety of spray patterns and bonus inclusions make it a popular choice among homeowners.

50 ft Expandable Garden Hose 5 piece BUNDLE

Via Amazon.com

The Gardenirvana Expandable Hose boasts of the most durable inner lining made of Triple Core Latex supported by Brass Connectors. It also comes with a collapsing technology that allows for very convenient use.

And because it is durable and very easy to use, more and more customers are raving about this brand. It comes with bonuses in the package that includes a spray nozzle, a hanger, a storage bag and a splitter.

iZEEKER New Design in 2017,Three Times Expandable 50 Feet Magic Hose

Via Amazon.com

The I-Zeeker Expandable Garden Hose is not called a magic hose for nothing. It expands and lengthens to three times its original size when there is water pressure. It also is made up of a dual-layer inner lining that is made up of latex core. Its outer fabric is extra strength making it even more durable even when used in rough surfaces.

It is lightweight but it can withstand high water pressure. It does not kink nor tangle and is the ultimate space saver. No wonder it has earned a lot of great customer feedbacks and is recommended by most people who have bought the same item.

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Phantom 100’ Expandable Garden Hose

PhoebusTech 100ft Expandable Garden Hose Set

Gardenirvana 50 ft Expandable Garden, Car Wash, RV Pocket Shrinking Water Hose

iZEEKER New Design in 2016,Three Times Expandable 50 Feet Magic Hose

Length

The Phantom Expandable Garden Hose has a length that runs up to 100 feet when in use.

This expandable garden hose has a 100-feet full length measurement.

Fully expands into a 50-feet garden hose.

This expandable garden hose has a 50-feet full length when in use.

Material Used for the main body (hose)

The Inner layer of the Phantom Expandable Garden hose makes use of a double-layer latex core that is puncture resistant. Its ends are made up of Solid Brass.

Its inner lining is made up of a triple layer of latex and a 5000 Denier Woven Casing.

Its outer fabric is made up of an extra strength elastic fabric that can withstand harsh environments and sharp surfaces. Its inner lining meanwhile is made of a triple layer core latex that helps this expandable garden hose withstand high water pressure.

The iZeeker Expandable Garden Hose has an inner layer made up of triple core latex, which makes it highly durable.

Strength and Durability

It is very durable considering the double lining made of latex and the brass fittings that prevent leakages. It can definitely withstand high water pressures without leaking or bursting. Definitely perfect for any outdoor chore that requires high water pressure, such as washing and cleaning.

This is one of the most durable explandable garden hoses in the market today. Apart from having a triple-layer latex core lining and Denier Woven Casing it has 100% Solid Brass Ends and Fittingswhich can completely work on any type of faucet made in the United States.

This explandable garden hose is extra ordinarily durable given the three-layer core latex inner lining. This is complemented by an even more durable outer layer of fabric made of an extra strength elastic material. This durability combo makes this expandable garden hose even better stronger when it comes to punctures and sharp corners, as well as thorns.

The triple core latex inner lining of this expandable garden hose makes it withstand high water pressure.

Coupling and Connector Features

This hose is connected using Solid Brass Ends.

Its connectors and ends are made of 100% Solid Brass which would not crack or break.

The connectors of the expandable garden hose is made of solid brass that is heavuy duty and can withstand harsh environments. The ¾ Inch Solid Brass Connectors come with a shut-off valve that prevents leakage and breakages.

The ¾-inch fittings can adapt to most faucets within the United States as well as US-made faucets.

Pricing and Warranty

It has a 12-month Manufacturer’s Warranty. It is priced in the same range of mozt 100-feet expandable garden hoses in the market today.

It has a 12-Month Worry-Free Warranty and it comes with a Free Life-time Technical Support for all after-sales needs. Price-wise, it is within the cost range of the same products in the market .

Has a 12-month money-back guarantee that will allay your hesitations about purchasing this expandable garden hose. When it comes to pricing, it is relatively expensive, especially when compared with expandable garden hoses that can expand up to 100-feet when in use. This is maybe because of the superior materials used in manufacturing this expandable garden hose.

This explandable garden hose comes with a 30-day money back guarantee that is meant tomake your purchasing decision even easier. Full refund awaits dissatisfied customers.

Other Special Features and Accessories

It has a puncture resistant protection afforded by its double layer latex core.

It comes with eight watering patterns which include mist,center, jet, shower, cone, flat, soaker, and rinse. It also comes with a hook and a storage bag which comes very useful when it needs to be stored or moved some place else.

This expandable garden hose does not scrimp on freebieas and bonus features. It comes with a free spray nozzle. It has at least seven watering patterns that will suit the needs and preferences of any homeowner. It also comes with three extra rubber washers, a hose hanger for easier storage, a two-way splitter, and a handy storage bag.

It comes with an extra shut-off valve.

Winning Product:

The Gardenirvana 50 ft Expandable Garden, Car Wash, RV Pocket Shrinking Water Hose is hands-down the best expandable garden hose in the market todaty. Its superior product features helps customers fully experience all the convenience using an expandable garden hose comes with.

The highly-superior and genuine materials that it is made of make this product highly useful and super durable. Definitely, the triple-layer core latex inner lining, extra strength outer fabric that can withstand harsh environments and rough surfaces, plus very durable 100-percent solid brass fittings make it the best hose to purchase among the many choices available in both online and physical stores.

Moreover, the 3’4” brass fitting can be used on all types of faucets within the UniteD states as well as all standard faucets. No need to worry about adaptability at all.

It is also super convenient. It stretches on its own once connected into a water source. At the same time it drains water by itself, and shrinks automatically for easier storage and keeping. Twists, tangles and kinks are definitely a non-issue with this product. It is super lightweight too!

Another thing that makes it a runaway choice in the best expandable hose in the market are its special features and additional freebies. The package comes with three extra rubber washers, a two-way splitter, a spray nozzle that comes with seven patterns, as well as a wall mount hanger and a storage bag. You will definitely not regret purchasing this product. And if in the slim chance you ever regretted your purchase, you can return it with a full money back guarantee within the next 12 months from the date of your purchase.

Yes it may be quite expensive, but it is definitely worth it.

May 06

Best Indoor House Plants: A guide to greener room and greener life

By chadchaffin | Gardening

Nurturing a plant indoors is one great way to liven up a home. Aesthetically-speaking, plants can become an all-natural decoration that can accentuate any room inside a house.

For instance, living rooms can definitely look lovelier with an indoor blowing plant. Toilets and Bath meantime will have fresher air with a small indoor plant. Herbs meanwhile are best in the kitchen area as it is like hitting two birds with one stone – herbs are decorative, and at the same time it can be used in cooking.

This article aims to help you decide on the indoor plants that are best for your home, taking into consideration your lifestyle, preferences, as well as needs. Plants may look complicated to nurture, but most of the time, once you got the right variety, they will thrive into your own home and lend more life to it. In fact, it literally breathes life to your indoor air as one of the main benefits of having houseplants is having a natural air purifier inside the home.

Apart from providing you with a guide on indoor plants, we will be discussing the many benefits of having indoor plants, the different types and uses, as well as what you will be needing to plant indoors.

The Benefits of Indoor House Plants

Indoor plants are very beneficial to the homeowners as well as all the occupants of a home. Nurturing one (or many) comes with a lot of advantages. Here are some of the major benefits of nurturing plants at home:

  1. Plants purify indoor air. Have you ever heard about indoor air pollution? Yes it is as detrimental as the air pollution we all know and breathe in when we get out of our homes. Fortunately for us, there are houseplants that can clean the air just by growing inside your home.

In one of its web entries, WikiPedia mentioned about the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA’s Clean Air Study that backs up the claim that plants clean indoor air.

Note About [Topic]

The NASA Clean Air Study[1] has been led by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in association with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA). Its results suggest that certain common indoor plants may provide a natural way of removing toxic agents such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air, helping neutralize the effects of sick building syndrome…NASA researchers suggest efficient air cleaning is accomplished with at least one plant per 100 square feet of home or office space.” Read the continuation of this WikiPedia entry here.

NASA Guide to Air-Filtering Houseplants

The best indoor plants for clean air are out there for you to nurture.

  1. Plants help prevent illnesses. Plants have so much life in them that they continue to nurture life around them too. Preventing sicknesses from striking a household member is one superpower every indoor plant has. Treehugger.com emphasized this fact in one article that they published, which discussed the benefits of planting indoors.

“In the great outdoors, plant roots tap the groundwater table for water which then evaporates through its leaves in a process known as transpiration. Studies show that this accounts for about 10 percent of the moisture in the atmosphere! The same thing happens at home (minus the groundwater table part), which increases the humidity indoors.

While this may sound unappealing during hot moist months, it’s a gift during drier months or if you live in an arid clime. According to Bayer Advanced, studies at the Agricultural University of Norway document that using plants in interior spaces decreases the incidence of dry skin, colds, sore throats and dry coughs.

And other research reveals that higher absolute humidity is conducive for decreased survival and transmission of the flu virus.” Read the other benefits of indoor plants enumerated by Treehugger.com in their article here.

  1. Indoor Plants Help Improve Over-All Health. Plants do not only help prevent illnesses among occupants of a home, it also helps improve the general well-being of the whole family.

Life Saver

“A small 1998 Norwegian study reported that workers had fewer complaints of fatigue, cough, dry throat and itching when they had plants in the office, and experiments in England and the Netherlands found that employees in buildings with plants were more productive, had better concentration and greater work satisfaction than those in bare offices.

Two randomized controlled trials reported that surgical patients placed in rooms with plants reported less pain, anxiety, stress and fatigue than patients without plants.

Over all, they had lower systolic blood pressure, were more satisfied about their rooms and felt more positively toward hospital workers. One of the studies reported that patients who had their appendix removed used fewer painkillers if they had plants in their rooms.” Read the other details of this article here.

  1. Indoor plants helps elevate the mood, increases chances of being happy, and helps in productivity. These three benefits may seem odd, and far-fetched, but yes – indoor plants carry with them these benefits to humans.

How it Works

UK-Based Media Agency, The Guardian quoted a study that proves just that. Offices devoid of pictures, souvenirs or any other distractions are ‘the most toxic space’ you can put a human into, say psychologists in a paper published on Monday, which says workers perform better when household plants are added to workplaces…

Dr Chris Knight from Exeter University and his fellow psychologists, who have been studying the issue for 10 years, concluded that employees were 15% more productive when "lean" workplaces are filled with just a few houseplants, as employees who actively engage with their surroundings are better workers.” Check out the continuation of this article here.

So get even a couple of small indoor plants and realize their uplifting benefits.

  1. Indoor plants improve a home’s aesthetic features. Plants can be decorative, and flowers can definitely spruce up rooms. Even the most minimalist of homes have a place for plants, and it will still be consistent with its theme.
    For instance Orchids give a romantic touch to any bedroom and they are easy to take care of. Inhabitat.com recommends this indoor flowering plants for the home.

Note About [Topic]

“Orchids have a bad reputation as being finicky and difficult to grow, but really, the opposite is true. On our last trip to Costa Farms, we learned that orchids actually love to be neglected and most people end up killing their orchids with kindness (too much water and sunlight).

Aside from being easy to take care of, orchids rid the air of xylene—a pollutant found in many glues and paints—so they make wonderful housewarming gifts for anyone who recently moved into or renovated a new space. Unlike some other plants, orchids also respire and give off oxygen at night, so they’re great for the bedroom.” The continuation of the quoted write up can be found here.

Best Indoor Houseplants for Your Home

So what are our most recommended indoor plants for your home? Below are some of our suggested plants, plus a brief description on what it is best for, what it can do for your home and how much effort it will take for you to grow and nurture it.

  • 1. Moth Orchid
  • 2. Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree
  • 3. Bromeliads
  • 4. Peace Lilies
  • 5. Aloe
  • 6. Snake Plant
  • New Tab
  1. Kalanchoe. This indoor plant looks like a bunch of little adorable flowers that spring up inside the home.
    Good Housekeeping has it on its list of Indoor Plants that are hard to kill in spite of neglect. “This succulent, water-retaining plant grows colorful, bell-shaped flowers.”It takes very little care,” says Nejman. Kalanchoe welcomes dry climates and temperature swings. It’s even fine with 45-degree winter weather, she adds.”

Tips for growing houseplants

Now that you are already familiar with some plant varieties that can be easily grown and nourished at home, it is now time to get busy with caring for plants. Here are some tips in growing houseplants:

  1. Choose the indoor plant that will suit your lifestyle. Are you always out of the house? Then choose a plant that will survive watering for every couple of days. If you are busy and you tend to forget things, then get one that does not need extra care such as pruning, fertilizing, and too much watering.
  2. Decide where to plant it before buying one. Aesthetic wise, and sunlight wise, homeowners should consider where to situate their plat pot or plant box. There are plants that can grow with not much direct sunlight, so take that into consideration when picking a houseplant, and choosing where to place it.
  3. Do not get intimidated. A bit of reading on the plant that you are growing will definitely go a long way. Familiarize yourself on how the plant will thrive, and surely this living thing will thrive in your own home.
  4. You do not need a lot of tools and supplies. Often times those who are considering to care for a plant get intimidated with what the plant may need. The gardening equipment which may look foreign to a first-timer, as well as plant vitamins, sprays, pesticides and fertilizers can be overwhelming for a gardening newbie.
    Do not get intimidated. Watch a video about the plant, or read up a bit about it. In reality, all your plant needs is your care, plus some watering if it is the really, really low-maintenance type.
  5. Enjoy your plants. Plant owners will never turn out into hobbyists and gardening enthusiasts if there is really no joy in planting. Planting is beneficial, and it is fun if you really are interested in it. Savor the joy of having it in your environment and experience its many benefits.
  6. Do not over water. This may be a problem when you have over-eager children who would like to water your plants X times a day. Find a plant that will enjoy such attention. For those that you like but require drying times in between like Peace Lillies – transfer them into a place that is out of your children’s reach.

Indoor house plants are a joy to nurture when one discovers the happiness in caring for plants. Learn more about the plants that you wish to nourish. Enjoy caring for them. Let the plants send the good vibes back to your home by purifying your air, and making your home space even more attractive and relaxing.

Apr 30

The Basics of Using Natural Pest Control for Gardens

By chadchaffin | Gardening

Choosing to use natural pest control for the garden is a great way to ensure a safer environment and an even more sustainable gardening. Natural pest control after all, does not have dangerous chemicals that can pose health risks to the user, the plants, the family, as well as its pets.

Moreover, natural pest control for the garden is also a more affordable alternative compared to buying store-bought chemical based plant pesticides. Some ingredients in fact can be found at any home’s pantry, and are very easy to mix up. Other methods meanwhile just involve attracting other insects by taking advantage of companion planting. Netting and barrier methods are also natural ways to remove pests from the garden and the plants.

More importantly, choosing natural pest control methods also ensure that herbs, fruits, and vegetables harvested from one’s own garden or mini orchard, are all safe to eat.

This article aims to share the many benefits of going the natural way when it comes to controlling pests in the garden. What pest control methods are available for your garden, specifically for flowers, fruit-bearing plants, vegetables, herbs, and the whole garden in general. Lastly, we will giving you some tips, as well as simple recipes and solutions that will help you start off with natural pest control in your garden.

The Benefits of Using Natural Pest Control

Natural pest control has many benefits that each homeowner should take advantage of. Here’s a list of some of the benefits of using Natural Pest Control for your garden:

  1. It is safe for the user and his whole family. Handling chemical based pest control solutions can pose a whole lot of dangers to the health of the one doing the gardening and his whole family. In fact, with young children around, it can be very dangerous to have these highly toxic preparations. Natural Pest Control is definitely the way to go, if you are aiming to have a toxic-free household.
  2. It is safer for the environment. Store-bought pest control can end up in water sources like rivers and streams, polluting the environment. Its production also makes up for carbon footprint, unlike natural pest control solutions that usually makes use of recyclable containers and the like. For companion planting, and usage of other insects as predators it helps promote an even better eco system.
  3. It makes for healthier food. If you are planting your own herbs, fruits and vegetables, using natural; pest control definitely is a great way to ensure that you are not feeding anything toxic to your family.   
  4. It is gentler for the plants. Chemical-based pest control solutions may be too harsh on the plant. Natural pest control definitely is so much better because of its non-synthetic composition.
  5. Better for household with pets. Pet safety is also one great advantage of using natural pest control. Pets can hang out in the garden and sniff or even lick these dangerous chemicals. Some pets unwittingly chomp on plants, and even eat fruits or vegetables in the garden. Make sure that your pets are safe by using natural pest control methods in getting rid of pests in your garden.
  6. It is cheaper. All-natural means it is (almost) readily available to most households. Who does not have garlic, citrus fruits, chili powder, oil, liquid soap and bicarb in their homes? Trust that your expense will be way lower when you switch to all-natural pest control solutions instead of the store-bought ones.

2. Usage of home-made, natural-based pest control solutions.

 There are a lot of Do-It-Yourself recipes for pest control solutions that are shared over the internet, and found in gardening books. Take advantage of these because they do not only come cheap, they can also be as effective as their chemical-based counterparts.

Checklist

  1. Using Natural Pest Predators. There are insects that are great at helping garden plants and crops survive the infestation of plant pests. These beneficial insects can either be attracted to the plants through companion planting or by buying them and letting them take residence on your infested plants. Here are some insects that can be very helpful in removing pests in your plant garden:
    1. Ladybugs. These insects help much in getting rid of aphids, whiteflies, mites, among other pests that may infest your crops. Plant celery, carrots, or parsley to encourage them to stay in your garden and protect your other crops.
    2. Praying Mantis. Although they can naturally occur in your garden, these insects are usually bought from online catalogues. This is one of the most effective est predators since it loves to feast on almost any type of plant insect and pests.
    3. Lace Wings. Lace Wings kill as well aphids that destroy plants. It also combats other insect-pests that may infest your healthy plants. Lace wings can be invited to your garden by planting flowers like Asters.
    4. Nematodes. If you want to get rid of beetles and cut worms, then attract nematodes into your garden. These insects are usually bought from online catalogs. How it works, you ask? It works by laying eggs that should be mixed on soil, which in turn will act as a natural pest control to fight off cutworm and beetle infestation.
    5. Using Barriers and Insect Traps. These methods may seem old school, but they do work. For instance, nets can prevent fruits and vegetables from being eaten by insects, and feasted upon by other pests. Fly and sticky pest papers meanwhile trap pests that could ruin flowers, fruits, leaves, and vegetables. Traps meanwhile work for maggots that invade fruit-bearing plants and trees. Row Covers, paper covers and the like meantime act as a barrier against pests that defend grown plants, or even seedlings from getting infested.
  1. Using Barriers and Insect Traps. These methods may seem old school, but they do work. For instance, nets can prevent fruits and vegetables from being eaten by insects, and feasted upon by other pests. Fly and sticky pest papers meanwhile trap pests that could ruin flowers, fruits, leaves, and vegetables. Traps meanwhile work for maggots that invade fruit-bearing plants and trees. Row Covers, paper covers and the like meantime act as a barrier against pests that defend grown plants, or even seedlings from getting infested.

Natural Pest Control for Gardens

As mentioned, there are a lot of options when it comes to natural pest control for gardens. All you need is to determine which one you will be most comfortable to use, and what will work for your garden.

Bear in mind though, that for do-it-yourself all-natural solutions, the shelf-life of these chemical-free pesticides are not as lengthy as those that are bought in stores. Take note of the refrigeration and usage guides, as well as the date that it was mixed so as to ensure its effectivitiy.

  1. Best Natural Pesticides for Vegetable Gardening. Garlic is by far the best natural pest control ingredient to help stop pest infestation on your vegetables. Blend a whole garlic bulb into half a liter of water. Add the blended garlic solution to a gallon of water, strain, and then transfer on a recycled sprayer. Use this on leaves of your vegetable plants and you will agree that it is one of the best natural pesticides for vegetable garden.
  2. Best Natural Pest Control for Flowering Plants. Oil Insecticide is a great chemical-free insecticide to use on flowering plants. What it does is it coats the body of whatever insect or pest that decides to infest a flower. The oil then prevents the insect from breathing and fully functioning, killing them instantly.Mix a cup of any oil available in your kitchen, mix with a tablespoon of powdered detergent or liquid soap, and then mix. This will be your base concentrate. Every time you will need to spray, mix up 10 ml of the concentrate to a quart of water, transfer into a spray container, shake and spray accordingly.
  3. Best Natural Pest Control for Fruit-Bearing Plants and Trees – bearing plants. Neem Oil is hands-down one of the most effective natural pesticides for plants, specifically for fruit-bearing trees and plants. It is the choice pesticide of those that are working on organic produce because it can kill insect-pest regardless if it still an egg, a larvae, or an adult insect.
    It is non-toxic and is a natural fungicide. It is also a mildew killer. It can also be used as a preventative solution when sprayed unto foliage.
    Just mix a tablespoon of neem oil, a teaspoon of liquid detergent or hand soap, and a quart of water. Shake and spray unto leaves. This pesticide is safe for humans, as well as pets!

Sample Recipes and Solutions that can be used as a natural pest control

You do not have to rush to your nearest plant store to make your own natural pesticides. Just open your cupboard, or even your household supplies cabinet and you will be faced with an arsenal of chemical-free ingredients that you can use as pesticide in your garden.

Apart from the above-mentioned “best of the best” recipes, here are five other effective chemical-free pesticides you can use in your garden.

1. Chili Garlic Oil Spray

Steep a crushed garlic bulb, a tablespoon of any type of oil, two tablespoons of chili powder, and a tablespoon of liquid soap (baby soap is best), and dilute in a quarter of water, shake and spray. This can be used on all plant surfaces to repel insects. It is also a great natural insect repellant for homes. Just make sure that you do not touch your eyes after spraying, and instruct children to stay away from it too.

2. Castile Soap Spray.

Organic Castile Soap can be a very effective spray to ward off aphids, mites, bugs, and beetles from infesting your plants. Just mix two tablespoons of liquid castile soap in whatever scent or flavor you wish. Mix into a quart of water, shake and spray.

3. Eucalyptus Oil Spray

 This is not only good for preventing mosquitoes inside the home, it can actually prevent insects from infesting plants! Simply mix two teaspoons of eucalyptus oil into a quart of water. Mix and spray. This will be very useful against bees, wasps, as well as other flies that may surround fruits and vegetables grown in your garden. No wonder it is one of the more popular natural pest control methods known to organic gardeners.

4. Sea Salt Spray

Are spiders taking over your garden? Worry no more. Add a tablespoon of rock salt or sea salt into a quart of water, dissolve, mix, and spray on plants. Natural pest control companies use sea salt spray to ward off these eight-legged critters.

5. Citrus Oil, Soap and Water Pesticide Spray

This mixture will ensure drive away ants, roaches and slugs from your garden. Simply mix four tablespoons of orange-flavored Castile Soap with six tablespoons of orange oil and a gallon of water. Shake thoroughly until well blended, and then spray accordingly. It can also be used as natural home pest control, particularly in the kitchen which is usually infested by ants or roaches due to food bits and droppings.

Conclusion

Choosing to go chemical-free is very beneficial to your health and safety. It is a great way of staying away from preventable illnesses brought forth by using synthetic ingredients that can be toxic to the whole household including the pests. Moreover, natural pest controlling methods are friendly to the budget and the environment, and brings out the resourceful person in you.

Before heading out to buy chemical-based garden pesticides, try first to go natural and witness that it can be as effective as its store-bought counterparts.

Apr 22

How to mow a lawn: a beginner guide

By chadchaffin | Gardening

Moving on to a new home, or finally deciding to set aside a garden area in your current one will definitely bring on the need to decide on having a grass to grow in your yard.

After all, grass is the bed that will be the back drop of the many plants, flowers, trees and shrubs that you will be planting in your lawn or garden. After deciding on the grass to grow, and allowing it to thrive comes the part when you would have to trim and maintain.

Like any other plant, grass needs to me maintained so that it could retain its lushness, color, and the life it spreads unto the whole garden itself.

But when do we cut new grass? How do we perfectly maintain it without back-breaking and time consuming effort?

This article aims to help you with maintain a lush grass turf in your lawn, garden, or backyard. We will be discussing when to cut new grass, plus other questions you may have when it comes to grass maintenance such as what could happen if the grass in your lawn is not routinely maintained. We will likewise be sharing with you some tools that are available to help you maintain your lawn without having to slave over gardening. Lastly, we will impart some tips on how to keep your grass patch healthy, thriving and vibrant.

Cutting Grass: The Rules of the Game

Generally, newly planted grass can already be cut or mowed once it has reached three to four inches in height. Having said that there are limits of course on how much one can cut in terms of the grass blade’s remaining length in the patch.

Ask any experienced gardener or lawn mowing service, and he will tell you that the rule of thumb is to always, always retain two-thirds of the grass blade when mowing or cutting grass. This means that you should only cut about a third of the blade’s current height such that it can maintain its health and lushness.

Even if it means having to mow the lawn every week, it will still be in your best interest to retain such grass height because any height shorter than that may prevent the grass from growing healthily. Besides, grass cutting should be done at least on a weekly basis to prevent weeds from growing, so better adjust that mower to retain the said height when cutting grass, and allot time to do the mowing.

What can happen if the grass will not be cut regularly?

Well, leaving your grass patch growing on its own without maintenance in the form of routine cutting or mowing would leave it unsightly. Overgrown grass does not look lush and gorgeous, bringing the overall look of your front yard or garden down, instead of accentuating the whole picture.

More importantly, an ill-maintained grass patch would lead to under nourished grass. Why? Because nutrients will fail to reach its roots easily and at the same time, sunshine can be blocked by the blades of over growing grasses. It basically makes the whole patch weaker, unhealthy, and very much susceptible to plant diseases.

When this happens, the grass can die, and it would mean another expense to have it revived, or worse replace it with new patches.

Weeds can also take over the lawn when the grass is left to grow on its own without regular maintenance and cutting.

Moreover, it can damage your lawn mower or grass cutter because too long a grass blade can jam up the mower’s blades.

What can be done to maintain a healthy grass patch?

At the end of the day, it all boils down to time management. Caring for one’s lawn requires an investment of time and money. It is not a walk in the park at all. Some choose to invest on gardening tools and equipment that will help lessen the time that they spent maintaining their garden and at the same time lessen the effort that they have to exert.

Not all homeowners though may have the enough budget to finance power gardening tools that will make life easier. Some hire a lawn mowing service, which is of course a perfect scenario, but not everyone may have a room in their budget for that.

So does this mean that an ordinary homeowner should slave for hours in the lawn or the garden? Not Really. One just has to dedicate a specific time every week to mow the lawn or cut the grass so that it will not overgrow, be unhealthy, and maintain its lush and vibrancy.

What are the basic tools available to help in cutting and maintaining grass?

Fortunately, the world of grass maintenance have also been modernized that a homeowner can invest on gadgets and equipment that can make his life easier. Here are some:

  1. Grass Cutter – Every home with a garden or lawn must have a grass cutter. Yes it is old school but it does its job well especially for areas that cannot be reached easily by a lawn mower.
  2. Lawn Mower – Lawn mowers have evolved so much such that, mowing one’s front yard will not require too much time and effort. Basic lawn mowers can be push propelled and could either be rotary or cylinder type. Some leave the trimmed grass on the ground, while other versions have a grass catch which saves up so much time because one no longer has to rake and bag the trimmed grass. It can go from mowing to dumping which is very convenient. Some lawn mowers are still manual or push propelled, while others are fuel-propelled. Either way, it helps a lot in maintaining a healthy looking lawn.
  3. Grass String Trimmer – For those who are taking their landscaped area seriously, one can purchase a string trimmer. This one can cut grass in the corners or very narrow surfaces that a mower cannot reach. It can also be great for overgrown grasses since too long a grass blade can jam up mowers.
  4. Edging Shears – Meticulous homeowners with carefully-manicured lawns use edging shears to clean up the edges of the growing grass. This makes the whole lawn or grass area neater and better looking.
  5. Rake and Besom – This helps in removing cut or trimmed grass from the grass area such that the whole turf would look clean and lush after mowing. It would also ensure that the grass can breath and receive all the nutrients from the water, soil and sunshine that it needs to grow healthily.

Now that you already know the basic tools for turf maintenance, then here are some ways to keep grass healthy and growing lushly.

Tips in Maintaining Grass:

  1. Trim regularly. As mentioned earlier in this article, the rule of thumb is to mow the lawn at least once a week to ensure that the grass will not overgrow, and to prevent weeds from growing. During the summer months when grass growth slows down, regular mowing can be done every 10-14 days, but do not go two weeks without cutting.
  2. Mow Carefully. Always observe the right trimming height for the grasses no matter how quickly it grows. It will be better to mow more often, than have unhealthy looking grass that would die and dry up in time.
  3. Regularly water the grass. Ensure that the grass gets adequate nutrients and hydration from regularly watering them. If you do not have the time to manually water the grass or the lawn, have a sprinkler that can be programmed to water the whole lawn at least once a day, or twice during the summer months.
  4. Invest in fertilizers. Yes it may stink, but fertilizers allow grass to grow healthily. It will speed up the growth and adaptation of newly planted grass, and it can ensure the whole turf’s great health.
  5. Get Rid Of Bugs And Pests. Yes, bugs and pests can pester the life of your otherwise healthy patch of landscape. Control their growth by using pest control and bug sprays before they take the life out of your turf.
  6. Get rid of the growing weeds. Do not allow weeds to take over your lawn. Do this by regularly maintaining your garden or lawn through mowing and grass cutting. Take out visible weeds to if you can and you have the time. Otherwise, treat the whole turf with a weed killing solution if need be.

Conclusion

To ensure that the grass will grow healthily, and the lawn will look carefully maintained, dedicate time to regularly trim and mow your grass. Ensure that you only trim one-third of the grass blade’s height for it to continue growing healthily. Invest as well in tools and gardening equipment that will make your weekly lawn maintenance routine a breeze, and something that you can really enjoy doing. Ensure hydration, use fertilizers, and weed and pest control if need be. Lastly, always remember that great things need time and effort. Going home to a lush and vibrant lawn is one of those things.

Apr 21

Best Solo Backpack Weed and Garden Sprayer Reviews

By chadchaffin | Gardening

A Backpack Sprayer is an essential gardening tool meant to ensure that herbicides and other gardening formulas reach the plants, flowers, and trees in the garden without requiring too much effort from the gardener. Apart from making the gardener’s life easier, it also helps ensure safety while working in the garden by not exposing him too much on herbicides, fertilizers, and other chemicals or gardening solutions that may endanger his health.

There are manual and battery operated garden pumps, and both have corresponding advantages and disadvantages. Piston, diaphragm, and battery operated, and gas powered pumps abound the market today, aiming to ensure a better gardening experience for any enthusiast.

This guide aims to help you choose the most appropriate backpack sprayer for you considering your needs and preferences. We will be discussing the various benefits of using a backpack sprayer, who stands to take advantage of these benefits, the factors one has to consider in purchasing a backpack sprayer, plus our comparison table on the high-rated backpack sprayers in the market today.

Who will benefit from a backpack sprayer?

Home gardeners with a lawn, and a sizeable garden (as opposed to pocket gardens), mini orchard, hobby farmers, as well as those who operate a small business related to farming, gardening, pest control, and home cleaning treatments.
As you can see, backpack sprayers are not just solely meant for gardening, it can also be used for other activities such as home disinfection, cleaning, pest and mildew control and the like.

The Advantages of Using a Backpack Sprayer

Backpack sprayers carry a ton of benefits for a gardening enthusiast, hobby farmers, and other individuals who choose to utilize such a gardening tool. Here is a list of the advantages of using a Backpack Sprayer:

  1. Backpack sprayers allow home gardeners and hobby farming enthusiasts to spray a bigger lawn, farm or garden area without having to go back and forth to refill tanks.
  2. Backpack sprayers somehow help in minimizing the user’s exposure to harmful liquid and powdered gardening mixtures and chemicals found in fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and the like. It can also hold even more harmful chemicals like bleaching and disinfecting solutions which can be targeted properly.
  3. Backpack sprayers make spraying more targeted on flowers, shrubs, trees and other garden plants, helping the garden or small farm owner save on expenses.
  4. Backpack Sprayers have multiple uses and are very versatile when it comes to the applications where it can be utilized. Apart from gardening and hobby farming, it can be used in deep cleaning a home or a small commercial space, it can likewise be used in home treatments for pests, as well as mold and mildew.
  5. Some modern backpack sprayers are designed to be ergonomic, lessening the strain of carrying and repeated spraying motion on the gardener as he works in an area.

Factors to consider when buying a backpack sprayer

There are a lot of types and brands of backpack sprayers in the market, such that it can be quite challenging to narrow down choices and pin point which one to purchase. For the inexperienced when it comes to back pack spraying, it will be helpful to know what features to look out for before making a purchase decision.

Here are the factors to consider when choosing a backpack sprayer:

  1. Main Objective. This is the foremost factor to consider when picking the right backpack sprayer to suit your needs. You must know your objective when buying a backpack sprayer. It is important that you know why you are buying, what applications you will be using it for.
  2. Type of Chemical to be used. There are quite a number of chemicals that are used in backpack sprayers and some could be corrosive. While the usual Piston-Style pump can be greatly pressurized, it is not meant for abrasive solutions and harmful chemicals found in some herbicides as these can contribute to its corrosion. Powdered formula likewise cannot be used on Piston-type pumps.
  3. Type of plant to spray on. When one needs very targeted applications, then Piston-type pumps can be very useful. Targeted applications ensure that the chemicals and liquid gardening or farming formulas are absorbed by the plant. Moreover, it helps in efficiently dispersing chemicals. At the same breath, wide spraying such as those in weeds, may be great for diaphragm type sprayers.
  4. The area where the backpack sprayer will be used. The bigger the area, the bigger the capacity of sprayer one will need. A bigger-capacity backpack sprayer will be more convenient for the user since he will not have to go back and forth refilling his tank with liquid or powdered spray formulations just so to cover the whole lawn, garden, farm or mini orchard. The caveat here though is If one gets the biggest tank available, the tank’s weight can strain the body in the long run.
  5. The Budget. People have unique budget considerations when it comes to purchasing any product. The good news is that there is a good sprayer for every price point. Of course it will depend on where the sprayer is manufactured, the materials used and the durability. A good trick in finding the best sprayer for one’s budget is to determine the amount you are willing to pay for, and then find the sprayers in that price range.
  6. Preference for Manual or Battery Powered Pump. Of course manual pumps are cheaper but repetitive movements may cause strain after sometime. Battery powered pumps are very convenient to use but depending on the battery capacity of the pump it can be quite disruptive when the battery runs out prior to completing the spraying activity. It is important then to make sure that the battery capacity can last the same time it will be used.
  7. Weight and Capacity of the tank. Back Pack Sprayers are usually sold in two, four and six gallon volume capacity. If you have a small garden then a two gallon back pack sprayer tank can be a good choice. The maximum capacity tank of six gallons meanwhile can help ensure that you will not be refilling every now and then, but then carrying a back pack that heavy can strain one’s back and be achy to the whole body. Moreover, it may constrain the user to use more spray liquid than what is really needed.  
  8. Length of time a backpack sprayer will be used per session. This will determine the capacity, and battery power requirements of the back pack sprayer about to be purchased.
  9. Ease of Use. One has to try on the backpack sprayer or at least check out web videos of reputable reviewers on how to use the backpack sprayer and how easy it is to put on and operate.
  10. Comfortability. Ergonomic design is a huge plus when it comes to choosing the right back pack sprayer. Imagine having something on your body the whole day? Of course it would be best to choose one that will not strain your back, neck, and hand muscles. Thankfully, there are a lot of Backpack sprayer manufacturers that have considered this feature.
  11. Special Features. It would be best if the Backpack Sprayer of your choice comes with added or special features that will increase usage convenience. Some have extra nozzles that have varied use, some come with extra parts or extended sprayer hose.

1. Field King Professional 190328

Field King Professional 190328 No Leak Pump Backpack Sprayer for Killing Weeds in Lawns and Gardens

Via Amazon.com

Field King Professional 190328 is one of the most recommended backpack garden sprayer in the market today. With the many features and design that has the comfort and convenience of the user in mind, the Field King Professional is definitely one of the best finds in the market.

It boasts of a no-leak system that keeps chemicals away from your skin and at the same time keeps your clothing dry. It is made of very durable parts, and those that require regular replacement, can be fixed within minutes without using any tool or equipment. It is ergonomic too ensuring an even weight distribution, relieving the wearer of back aches after the procedure.

It can spray gardening solutions up to 150 PSI, which is very useful for hard-to-reach plants, and plant parts.

2. Stanley 61804 Professional Backpack Poly 4-Gallon Sprayer

Stanley 61804 Professional Backpack Poly 4-Gallon Sprayer

Via Amazon.com

This professional backpack sprayer comes with a poly-wand that has poly tips that are adjustable. It comes with multiple nozzles that have adjustable tips. The large pump enables the Stanley Professional Backpack Garden Spray to pressurize in less time even without too much pumping.

This four-gallon capacity backpack sprayer provides comfortable wear as well given the comfortable shoulder straps. It promises a fatigue-free use even for an extend time in view of its ergonomic carrying straps for a strain-free spraying and operation. Its pump for the sprayer can be transferred to either side to accommodate left or right handed use.

Moreover it is easy to use at it comes with a continuous spray feature, and multiple nozzle tips. It also comes with a strainer that allows the spray solution to remain free from other chemicals and particles.

And because it manufactured by a brand known for heavy-duty products, this backpack sprayer promises to be your heavy duty partner in spraying your lawn , garden, mini orchard, or hobby farm.

3. Chapin 63985 4-Gallon Wide Mouth 20v Battery Backpack Sprayer

Chapin 63985 4-Gallon Wide Mouth 20v Battery Backpack Sprayer, Powered by Black & Decker

The Chapin 63895 is one of the most convenient backpack sprayers to use in the market today. Apart from it being motorized, it can reach a bigger area thanks to its longer length of horizontal spray stream. The same features allows maximum spraying coverage minus the extra work. Continuous spraying can last for almost two hours.

This four gallon tank is also very easy to fill and clean up because unlike other backpack sprayers, it comes with a wide mouth. It has three nozzles that can be used in various applications.

It is also very comfortable to use because of the cushion grips that it has, plus deluxe padded shoulders that will not cause body aches and pains in spite of longer use.

4. Solo 425 4-Gallon Professional Piston Backpack Sprayer

Solo 425 4-Gallon Professional Piston Backpack Sprayer

This garden backpack sprayer is one of the higher rated sprayers in the market today given its efficiency and convenience when it comes to spraying the garden or the lawn. This great-performing piston pump can reach up to 90 psi, allowing effective spraying and better coverage. The four nozzles that it comes with allows for multi-use.

The Solo 425 is also a professional grade pump that is meant for heavy-duty use. The Viton seals, properly positioned in key areas within the pump ensure that the pump is highly durable and can be used for a longer period of time.

This four-gallon backpack sprayer also comes with outstanding ergonomic features that is further complemented by interchangeable left and right hand operation.

BRAND

Field King Professional

Stanley 61804 Professional Backpack

Chapin 63985 Powered by Black & Decker

Solo 425 4-Gallon Professional Piston Backpack Sprayer

Specifications

Four Gallon Capacity, Diaphragm Type and Manual Pump.

Four Gallon Capacity. Piston Type, Manual Pump.

Four Gallon Capacity, Motorized, 20-Volt Lithium Battery Operated Pump.

Four Gallon, Piston Type Manual Pump

Gardening Features

It comes with an internal agitator system that ensures that even powdered solutions remain mixed in. It is also high-pressure given the internal pressure chamber system, allowing for better spraying power. Comes with four spray nozzles that allows the user to use the sprayer in many ways, and has a longer extended sprayer.

It comes with a strainer that allows the spray solution to remain free from debris and other particles. It comes with multiple tips for its multi-purpose nozzles. Moreover it comes with a large pump that quickly pressurizes the solution.

It comes with a maximum 35-foot maximum spray stream that allows less effort for the user to reach farther areas. It comes with three nozzles that allow for multiple applications. Has a removable filter to ensure that the debris will not mix up with the spray solution.

Can greatly handle even the harshest gardening and lawn chemical solutions. It is one of the most recommended pumps in the market because it is able to generate a higher pressure, allowing the sprayer to have a more extended reach. Its nylon-reinforced hose is extra-long, allowing for a longer reach, that will minimize needed movements to cover the rest of the working area. Comes with four types of nozzles that make it a highly useful backpack sprayer.

Safety Features

It ensures no-leaks saving your skin from exposure to harmful chemicals, thanks to its internal pump and one way valve. It also comes with an automatic shut-off mechanism.

It just has the standard safety features of any backpack garden sprayer.

It is light lessening muscle strain, and body aches. It just has the regular safety features of standard sprayers.

The ergonomic features of this backpack sprayer is a major safety feature of this backpack sprayer. Apart from that it has the standard safety features of regular backpack garden and lawn sprayers.

Comfort Features

It is ergonomically-designed, lightweight, and very convenient to use. The padded straps, back pads, and waist-belt help ensure comfort during use. It weighs 13.15 lbs. and has a trigger that is easy to use protecting the user from strain from repetitive movements.

It is one of the lightest pumps in the market today, at just 10.4 pounds. It is ergonomic and is designed with shoulder straps that are comfortable enough in the shoulders. The pump can also be transferred from one side to another to accommodate left or right handed preference.

Even if it is a motorized pump, it is amazingly light at just 11.82 lbs. You would not have to pump as well because it is motorized or battery operated. It also comes with a comfortable grip for spraying that is cushioned. It also has plush deluxe shoulder pads for carrying ease. The cushioned spray handle also paves the way for better comfort.

While it is the one of the heaviest backpack sprayers in the market today, the Solo 425 made it up to its users by coming up with comfort features enough to minimize the strain that users may experience with the backpack sprayer. It also comes with an interchanging handle to accommodate a left or right handed operation. The straps are also padded to ensure maximum comfort while working.

Convenience Features

It is so convenient to use in view of its four-gallon capacity, extended wand, four extra nozzles, spray holder, and transferrable pump handle to accommodate right hand or left hand preference.

It stands on its own, such that when one needs to lay it on the ground to attend to something, the solution will not leak. The package comes with an extra bronze nozzle. It has a continuous spray mechanism allowing for better spraying and coverage.

It can spray continuously for almost two hours which is equivalent to fifty gallons worth of spray liquid. This frees the user from manual pumping which can cause strain. It comes with a wide-six inch mouth that allows for easy filling of spray solutions.

This pump is very convenient to use as it is high pressured, allowing the user to spray plants on a wider area without having to exert a lot of effort. Its opening is extra bigger than standard manual pumps to ease refilling. This particular opening has a filter that ensures that the gardening solution will not be tainted with debris. The downside though is that it is the heaviest in the market as it weighs 14 lbs.

Durability

It is a professional-grade backpack sprayer that can be used whole day minus any inconvenience. Since it ias made with top notch quality Viton Seals, it can withstand any type of chemical, even those that are known to be corrosive. It is made of Metal and Polyethylene.

Like most backpack sprayers in the market it is made of Polyethylene and Metal. It comes with a bonus brass nozzle that is heavy duty. As a product manufactured by a brand well-known for its durability, the Stanley Backpack Sprayer is expected to be durable.

Better sustains wear and tear given its metal and polyethylene construction. Its lithium battery is manufactured by Black and Decker—a leader in power tools and equipment.

It is made of metal, nylon and High-density Polyethylene, ensuring long service and maximum durability. This pro-level pump is made with high-quality materials that are meant to stand the harshness of even the most corrosive spray solutions. It is UV Resistant as well effectively holding various gardening and farming spray solutions, plus cleansing formulas when needed for that purpose.

Pricing and Warranty

It is one of the higher-priced backpack garden sprayers in the market today. It comes though with a one-year warranty.

It is a mid-priced pump that comes with a lifetime limited warranty. Since it is a product with a high brand recall, good customer service is a hallmark feature.

It is the most expensive among the four pumps in this article and mainly because it is the only motorized pump that we reviewed. Compared however with similar motorized pumps, this pump is moderately-priced.

This backpack sprayer comes with a limited one year warranty. As for the pricing, this particular backpack pump is moderately priced, as it is more expensive compared to similar manual pumps in the market.

Conclusion and Recommendation:

All the pumps in this review have received stellar feedback from their respective satisfied customers. However after this evaluation, we have decided to share with you what we find to be the Best Over-all Backpack Pump and Best Value-for-money Backpack Pump, considering the factors that we have mentioned earlier.

Our Best over-all backpack pump is Chapin 63985 Powered by Black & Decker given its power, durability, and over all comfort and convenience features. As for the Best Value for Money Backpack Pump, we give this title to Field King. Apart from the great garden spraying features, it is a professional grade heavy duty backpack sprayer that is very safe to use. The no-leak mechanism ensures that the spray solution does not only gets wasted. It makes sure that your skin will not be exposed to harmful chemicals while working on the garden and the lawn.

Apr 13

Best Spiked Lawn Aerator Shoes and Sandals Reviews for Gardening

By chadchaffin | Gardening

For any property owner, going home to a lush, green lawn will always be a welcoming and refreshing sight. We all know though that a well-manicured lawn requires maintenance, which can either be a lot of work for the homeowner, or a lot of expense when outsourced to someone else.

So when your lawn seems to be not as lush as it is before, then it definitely is high time to act on it before it will require a more drastic like professional treatment, or worse, a new bed of grass.

Aerating the lawn is one way to make lawn grass healthier and greener. It basically means getting air, water and nutrients flowing back to the grass roots, once the soil has been too compact or there are other issues that prevent the grass from individually absorbing the nutrients from the water and the lawn fertilizer.

There are a couple of ways to aerate a lawn, and one of these ways is by using Lawn Aerator Shoes. This guide aims to help you decide on which particular brand to purchase given your specific needs for your lawn, and your personal considerations as well.

We will be discussing the ways to aerate a lawn, and why lawn aerator shoes is quickly becoming a favorite option of home owners. We will also be dishing out some tips in buying lawn aerator shoes as well as the factors to consider when making a purchase decision.

To further guide you in buying a pair, we would also be providing recommendations on the best lawn aerator shoes based on certain specifications.

Most Recommended Lawn Aerator Shoes

Below is a summary of the top Lawn Aerator Shoe brands in the market and how they fare in comparison with each other, and in terms of important factors to consider when purchasing this type of garden tool.

We no longer included a cost comparison of the brands since they are priced in almost the same cost bracket.

We will be including in this table comparison, the following brands:

  1. GoPPa Lawn aerator shoes
  2. Acre Gear Already Assembled Lawn Aerator Shoes
  3. Punchau Lawn Aerator Shoes w/Metal Buckles and 3 Straps
  4. Ansbro Lawn Aerator Shoes

Ways to Aerate a Lawn

There are five ways to aerate a lawn, and it usually depends on the size of the lawn, and the preference and availability of the homeowner on which way he will go for.

  • Hand Aerator is probably one of the most common tool to aerate a lawn, and it is affordable too. It looks like a mini version of a rake, and can effectively loosen the soil in an otherwise compacted ground. And while this method is almost perfect for homeowners who are tending a small garden, it could be quite taxing especially when it has to be done on a regular basis. It is manual labor to say the least.
  • Rolling or Spike Aerators. This could be the most effective and quickest way to aerate a lawn, but it definitely comes with a price. A rolling aerator is best for big lawns and grassy areas that would need regular aerating to maintain its lushness. It works like a lawn mower, only instead of grass cutters, it has a roller with spikes that poke holes into the ground so that water, and fertilizer nutrients can be absorbed by the grass.
  • Plug Aerators. Is one of the most efficient ways to aerate a lawn – thanks to the hollow tines that ensure water and fertilizer gets into the roots of the grass. And while it is very effective, it does not work on all types of surfaces. For instance during the summer, or when the lawn got too hard and compact due to heavy foot traffic, the plug aerator can get damaged as the tines will not be able to penetrate the soil. In fact the hollow tines of this tool can get bent when used in too hard a lawn area.
  • Aerator Shoes. For the multi-tasker, aerator shoes proves to be the best solution to a lawn that is already losing its luster or life. It is so easy to use, in fact, one can aerate a lawn while tending to other garden chores by wearing aerator shoes underneath one’s gardening footwear. And while it is not advisable to use it on a slope, lawn aerator shoes is fast becoming the first option of homeowners and gardening enthusiasts because of the convenience that it brings. In short, it gets the job done without the fuss!

Benefits of Using Lawn Aerator Shoes or Sandals

There are many benefits in using lawn aerator shoes or sandals. Here are some:

  1. Allows Multi-Tasking. Lawn Aerator shoes help busy homeowners aerate their lawn while doing other garden chores. All they have to do is to wear it, and presto! They are already aerating their lawn through the spikes of the aerator shoes.
  2. It is affordable. A home garden owner no longer needs to hire professional services which can be costly, nor purchase a gardening tool that can be quite pricey. Lawn Aerator Shoes are affordable, durable, and easy to maintain. And as long as it is used properly, and cared for by bits owner, it can last for years.
  3. It is space-saving. Lawn Aerator Shoes are the aerator of choice of property owners with smaller homes and garden. This means that having a huge aerator like a spike or rolling aerator may eat up too much space on mini garden. Lawn Aerator Shoes are the opposite of that because it is compact and easy to store. It is also very easy to pack away especially during months when a homeowner does not need to aerate his lawn.

Factors to Consider when buying lawn aerator shoes

There are a couple of notable brands of aerator shoes in the market today, such that a prospective buyer can easily get confused as to what qualities to look out for when it comes to selecting a good lawn aerator shoes.

Here are some of the factors to consider when buying lawn aerator shoes:

  1. Purpose of Aerating. How big is the area you are supposed to aerate and how regularly do you intend to use it. Once you have considered these factors, then decide on the comfort, convenience, and durability the shoes can provide.
  2. Effectiveness. How effective is the lawn aerator shoes, and are the tines string enough to aerate the lawn and ensure that water and nutrients gets to the roots of the grass? Some tines do bend even on the first use especially when the ground is too dry or has not been moist enough for aerating. Make sure to get a pair that comes with strong, heavy-duty tines that will serve its purpose.
  3. Shoe Size. Some aerator shoes may have a one-size-fits-all type of sizing, and some do have size specifications. People with smaller feet, or women in general, may be better off choosing lawn aerator shoes that have relative sizing options.
  4. Durability. Find out about the material used in manufacturing the lawn aerator shoes, and make sure that it is weather-proof and durable enough to sustain the wear and tear of regular use.
  5. Strapping. Check out the material used in strapping the lawn aerator shoes to your gardening footwear, and if it can function using your gardening footwear of choice. This is because some straps may not be adjustable enough to fit into the gardening footwear, such that it comes off easily, causing the wearer too much of a hassle.
  6. Extra Tines. Some brands do come with extra tines so that if ever some gets bent or does fall off, one can easily replace it so that the shoes can still work efficiently.
  7. Cost. Of course, a person should buy only what he can afford. Lawn aerator shoes are affordable, but its costliness may be subjective depending on a person’s budget. Take advantage of online deals and discounts.
  8. Warranty and Customer Service. Does the product come with a warranty? What if the tines get bent, or simply the straps will not work well with your gardening footwear? Can the manufacturer offer up some options? What are their provisions for returns and request for refunds? These questions are very important should you encounter any issues with you pair of lawn aerator shoes.

General Tips when Buying and Using Lawn Aerator Shoes

  1. Make sure to get the right aerator shoes. Check out the sizing and adjustability of the shoes you are buying. Ensure that the straps fit well and that the contraption is comfortable enough for you to stand in while working and walking around your garden.
  2. Surface compatibility check is important. Take into consideration the topography of your lawn or garden, as well as your lawn size before buying. Aerator Shoes may not function well on slopes.
  3. Consider Ease of Assembly. Some aerator shoes may require assembly, and it will always be a smart idea to choose one that is easy to assemble and use.
  4. Double check the quality. The materials used in manufacturing the lawn aerator shoes should be of top quality. For instance, the straps should be durable yet weather resistant. Same goes with the buckles, which ideally should be made of metal. More importantly, the spikes should be durable enough to withstand the wearer’s weight and at the same time be strong enough to create holes in the lawn that will be the access point of water and nutrients towards the grass.
  5. Add-ons are important. Apart from extra spikes, a wrench that is included in the shoe set could come in handy.

GoPPa Lawn aerator shoes

Acre Gear Already Assembled Lawn Aerator Shoes

Punchau Lawn Aerator Shoes

Ansbro Lawn Aerator Shoes

EFFECTIVENESS

It effectively holds the feet tight for a more efficient and comfortable aeration. The tines are tightly held too in the foot contraption making it even more durable in forking the lawn, and ensuring that water gets into the grass.

This product has very durable tines held by spring lock washers that prevents it from getting pulled out or bent. At the same time great foot contraption that fits tightly to the wearer’s regular shoe, making it even more effective even on extra compact soil.

Quick and Convenient to Use as it easily straps on to the sandals, fit well on any chosen gardening footwear

It is heavy duty and very efficient such that the twenty six tines that are held by twenty six washers easily penetrates the soil for easier and better aeration.

MATERIALS USED

The sturdy straps are effectively held by rust-proof metal buckles that help this garden tool become even more heavy-duty and weather proof.

It is made of sturdy straps, zinc-alloy buckles that prevent breakage, and two-inch sharp steel

Has metal buckles, and durable sole that latches on any ordinary shoe

It is made of six nylon shoe laces or straps, plus heavy duty zinc alloy buckles that quickly and tightly holds a regular shoe unto this gardening contraption.

DURABILITY OF THE TINES

The tines are made of durable two-inch spikes that can effectively penetrate even on compact soil.

The 13 tines in each sandal are extra heavy-duty sharp steel spikes. These are two inch long to provide for maximum lawn aeration.

The tines are made of two-inch metal spikes that fork into the ground to help water and nutrients get through the grass roots.

The tines are made of two-inch metal nails that effectively penetrates the lawn. There are a total of 26 tines per pair of lawn aerator shoes.

COMFORT AND FIT

This particular lawn aerator shoes comes with four straps that effectively clips on any ordinary shoe, or gardening footwear on to the aerating shoe contraption. This ensures less accidents, and better comfort for the wearer.

This sandals come with an extra strap, such that the wearer can comfortably fit the sandals unto his chosen regular footwear.

This lawn aerator shoes has three instead of the usual two straps to ensure comfort and great fit as you aerate your lawn

This product fits well on any regular shoe given the straps, and just the right-size buckles that firmly and tightly attaches the lawn aerating sandals on a regular pair of shoes.

EASE OF ASSEMBLY

This product arrives at your doorstep pre-assembled saving more than 40 minutes of your time in assembling the product. You can literally use it right away, upon getting it out from the box.

No assembly required. It is pre-assembled as it gets shipped into the home. The only time one has to assemble something is when he needs to attach an extra strap.

Easy to assemble and wear on regular footwear

This product requires a quick five-minute assembly that is fully guided by a detailed instructions flyer.

SIZING

It is a one-size fits all foot contraption

One size fits most

One-Size Fits All

It is a one-size fits all product that has the following specific dimensions: 11-3/4" x 5-1/2".

EXTRA FEATURES

It comes with two extra nails, a small wrench, and a recyclable box for stowing away after aeration.

This particular brand comes with two extra straps, two extra spikes, two extra nuts to secure the two extra tines, two additional spring-loaded washers for the extra spikes, an all- purpose wrench, a user’s manual plus step-by-step usage instructions.

It has three instead of the usual two straps, and these heavy-duty straps are held by a metal buckles that are definitely not flimsy

Comes with extra nails, an extra screw nut and washer just in case some gets lost.

WARRANTY & RETURNS

So far this product has the best warranty features as they come with a 100% Risk Free Satisfaction Guarantee clause. The manufacturers are so confident with their product that they will replace or issue refunds if the buyer will not be happy with his purchased lawn aerator shoes.

The customer should get in touch directly with the product seller to obtain information on warranty, refunds, and returns.

Buyer has to directly get in touch with the product manufacturer for warranty and returns

This product comes with a 30-day worry-free guarantee and great after-sales assistance.

Conclusion:

When looking for the best lawn aerator shoes, one must consider all the features, materials, and ease of use factors that come with each pair of this gardening tool.

Among the four lawn aerator shoes reviewed in this guide, The Goppa Lawn Aerator Shoes comes with the best features, great price point, good convenience features such as pre-assembly, and great warranty and after sales feature.

The heavy duty materials used in this gardening tool makes it an affordable and convenient way to aerate a lawn, as compared to renting out expensive gardening equipment just to ensure that water, fertilizer and nutrients get into the grass roots.

What is also great about it is that no matter the size of the feet, one can comfortably use this lawn aerator because of the straps and buckles that are perfectly designed to ensure an optimal fit and tight wear – critical for effective lawn aeration.

Dec 30

Beekeeping 101 Beekeeping made easy for beginners

By chadchaffin | Beekeeping , Small Holding

Beekeeping is taking flight. Honeybees are estimated to pollinate 30 percent of the food we eat, making bees a vital part of the food chain. According to the U.S. Department of agriculture (USDA), the S.S. Boasted 2.62 million colonies producing honey in 2012, up five percent from 2011. Beekeeping—or apiculture—may seem intimidating due to the fear of being stung. But the odds of dying from a lightning strike are greater than those of dying from a bee sting. The benefits of apiculture, which include improving pollination for local agriculture and a number of products from the hive, far outweigh the potential of a bee sting.

To bee or not to be

Getting started in apiculture requires extensive research and exploring resources, which can range from books to local classes. Many states have a beekeeping association with county chapters that offer bee schools. While books offer a great deal of insight into bees and apiculture, hands-on experience provides a confidence boost for first-time beekeepers. “These classes are a great way to get started, as they cover everything from basic honeybee biology to the diseases and pests that plague them,” says Inge Kautzmann, vice president of the Person County Beekeeping Association in North Carolina. Many bee suppliers offer starter kits that include a single hive body, protective gear and tools.

The bees and “supers,” or the hive box that holds honeycomb frames, help complete the setup at an average cost of $300. For new beekeepers, Kautzmann recommends maintaining two hives, which will enable keepers to pull resources such as brood, pollen and honey from one hive to help boost the other should something happen to it.

Anatomy of a hive

Beekeepers have a number of hive architectures to consider. One of the most common designs is the Langstroth hive, which encourages the bees to build honeycombs on removable frames. The frames are designed to prevent bees from attaching honeycombs in between frames or to the walls of the hive. The Langstroth hive contains a bottom board on which the hive rests. This is most commonly made of wood and can either be solid or have a screen that would allow debris to fall through.

The outer cover helps protect the hive from the elements, and with an entrance reducer, beekeepers can partially close the hive entrances to prevent intruders such as mice and other insects from entering the hive. The hive body—or “brood chamber”—is a box that holds the comb frames, normally either eight or 10 frames. This can also be called a “super” or “deep super.” The wooden frames contain a beeswax foundation imprinted with hexagonal shapes that are commonly known as the honeycomb shape. Says Kautzmann, “The foundation provides a starting point for the bees when they build their wax combs.” Some of the frames in the hive are kept exclusively for storing honey, a function that’s enabled by beeswax’s ability to support 20 times its own weight.

Bee Sociology

Honeybee colonies are complex social environments. Bees live in large, well-organized social groups designed to keep the hive buzzing along. Each bee has a defined role that is dictated as soon as it completes metamorphosis into an adult. The honeybee colony consists of a single queen bee, several hundred drones, and thousands of worker bees that must work together and contribute to the success of the hive. The queen bee is the only sexually mature female bee in the hive. As such, she lays nearly 1,500 eggs a day during peak production, which runs from spring to early summer. Over her two- to three-year life-time, she can lay as many as a million eggs.

Queens lay both fertilized and unfertilized eggs. The unfertilized eggs become male drones, and the fertilized eggs become female worker bees. “Queen bees and worker bees are genetically identical,” says Kautzmann. “What makes a bee become the queen is the diet of royal jelly she’s fed as a larva.” Worker bees are the most abundant in the hive, and as the name implies, they perform a number of tasks within the colony, including cleaning the hive, feeding the brood, building beeswax combs and handling incoming nectar. They also forage for nectar, pollen, water and plant sap (propolis) as they mature. A worker bee’s lifespan is only about six weeks during the peak season and about six months in the late fall and winter.

Drones are normally only present in a hive during the late spring and summer. Their main function is to fertilize the queen bee during her mating flight, enabling her to lay eggs that will eventually become worker bees.

Sweet rewards

Beehives produce a number of products that are beneficial to humans. The most common and well-known output is honey. Honey’s color and flavor vary depending on the vegetation from which the pollen and nectar is collected. Heat and moisture also affect a honey’s quality, as both can lower the grade and shelf life of the end product. “Honey for consumption is available in four basic types: extracted or liquid honey, cut-comb honey, chunk honey and creamed honey,” explains Kaufman. Most beekeepers produce extracted honey, which is the honey commonly found in grocery stores and farmer’s markets.

Bees tend to produce more extracted honey than honey in the comb, and by extracting the honey, beekeepers can reuse the combs multiple times. Extracted honey can be gathered by cutting the combs from the hive and either using gravity or specialized centrifugal equipment to spin the honey from the cells. Cutcomb honey involves cutting the combs out of the frames and letting those sections drain overnight. Producing chunk honey requires cutting the comb to fit a jar or other storage container and letting it drain.

The beekeeper then fills the open spaces in the container with liquid honey. Creamed honey is honey that is finely crystalized until it reaches a consistency similar to that of butter. In addition to sweetening food and drinks, honey has a number of medicinal benefits. “Honey has been used for thousands of years to treat conditions such as insomnia, ulcers and constipation,” explains Kautzmann. “Used externally, it had antiseptic qualities that make it ideal for healing simple cuts, scrapes and burns, as well as diabetic ulcers.”

Products from the hive

But honey isn’t the only beneficial byproduct of apiculture. Honeybees also produce beeswax, which is used in a number of products including soap, lotions and candles. The cosmetic industry is the number one consumer of beeswax, followed by candle-making. Bees must consume 18.5 pounds of honey to create 2.2 pounds of beeswax. is also a vital ingredient for beekeepers to create the wax foundations for their beehives. Lesser-known products from beehives include the “brood.” Brood is the collective term for all stages of honeybee development from egg to pupae. “While not popular in the U.S., brood is a high-protein food source in other countries, particularly Asia and Africa,” says Kautzmann. “In fact, honeybee pupae are 18.2 percent protein, compare to beef at 17.9 per-cent.” Royal jelly, the primary food source for queen bees, is well-known throughout the world to treat skin conditions. The substance helps decrease free radicals, making it an ideal anti-aging product according to some experts. For the queen bee, royal jelly helps accelerate maturation and ensure a longer lifecycle. Propolis, a resinous mixture collected from tree buds, sap flows and other botanical sources, is among the byproducts of beekeeping. Honey-bees use propolis to seal and protect the hive, as well as prevent the spread of bacteria and fungi in the hive.

The antibacterial and antifungal properties are also good for humans, and the substance has been proven to effectively treat wounds, gingivitis, sore throats and acne among other ailments. Propolis is also used in wood varnish. Surprisingly, bee venom is a beneficial byproduct of beekeeping. Bees use venom as a means of defense and a way to communicate, particularly when the hive is threatened. Medically, bee venom therapy has been used to treat joint pain associated with arthritis, as well as Multiple Sclerosis, Lyme disease and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Fight pesticides

With a number of pesticides targeting other insects endangering honeybee populations, engaging in apiculture can help ensure that bees and their beneficial byproducts continue to sweeten our lives.

Dec 28

How to grow garlic from bulb

By chadchaffin | Gardening , Herbs and Flowers

A member of the allium family of onions and shallots, though sometimes referred to as a herb, garlic is not difficult to grow and quite easy to maintain. It can be grown directly into the  ground or in containers, so is quite a  versatile plant which can be accommodated in whatever space you have available.

Planting

Garlic for planting is bought as a bulb, usually two or three to a pack. The bulbs need to be split into cloves first and planted with the flat bottom part of the clove downwards. Garlic likes a fertile, well-drained soil, so apply plenty of well-rotted manure and organic matter in autumn for spring planting, and in early summer for autumn planting.
If you have recently harvested a crop on the same patch which was well manured, garlic could be used as a follow on. If your soil is acidic, add lime to increase the alkalinity of the soil (up to about 6.5 pH).
Cloves should be planted 5cm (2in) deep, 7.5cm-10cm (3in-4in) apart and 20cm (8in) between rows. Alternatively, you can grow them in 40cm (16in) pots. Some growers prefer to start their garlic cloves off in modular cells to get them off to a good start and then plant them out a few weeks later or even overwinter them for planting out in spring.

Looking after your plants

Garlic requires very little maintenance other than watering if the weather turns dry and regular weeding. Even though cold is good where garlic is concerned, if the weather turns very cold, say below -5°C (23°F), a little mulching around the plants will help protect them, or cover with fleece or a cloche until the weather warms up a little.

Harvesting

Garlic is ready for lifting when the leaves begin to turn yellow and start to bend over. Leave the bulbs in too long and the cloves will start to split, though if you lift them too early they will have had insufficient time in the ground to dry out and will not store so well so monitor closely come harvest time.

Use a fork to loosen the soil around the roots before lifting and then spread the bulbs out on trays to dry for a few days, or under cover if it’s wet. If you keep the stalks on you can plait or string them and then hang them up to dry in a cool, frost-free shed.

Varieties to try

Hardneck types produce large cloves that don’t store as well as softneck types which produce more cloves too. Hardneck varieties often produce scapes (flower stalks) which should be cut off – though they are edible and can be used to flavour savoury dishes. Elephant garlic, which belongs to the leek family and is therefore not a true garlic, produces mild-flavoured, very large, whole bulbs which don’t divide into cloves.

  • Elephant garlic‘: This aptly named variety of the leek family produces whole bulbs that dwarf garlic bulbs. Suitable for both spring and autumn planting.
  • Germidour’: A purple-streaked softneck variety with a mild flavour. Suitable for spring and autumn planting.

    Via thegardensmallholder.wordpress.com

  • Provence wight‘: This softneck variety produces large bulbs. Suitable for autumn planting.

    Via quickcrop.ie

  • Red duke‘: A hardneck variety which produces purple-tinged bulbs with a strong flavour. Good for autumn planting.

    Via mr-fothergills.co.uk

Watch out for

Garlic tends to be relatively problem free but can experience the same problems that also affect other members of the onion family.

  • Allium Leaf Miner: This is a relative newcomer, first appearing in the early years of the 21st century in the southern half of the UK, but spreading fast. The fly lays eggs on the plant and
    the maggots burrow into all parts of the plant. The resulting pupae are brown. Covering with fleece or fine insect netting will keep the flies out.
  • Leek Moth: The caterpillars of this moth feed on the leaves, causing serious damage to the plant and consequent rotting. Covering with fleece or fine insect netting will keep the moths out. Clear the debris away from around the plant too as adult moths are likely to overwinter there.
  • Onion White Rot: This can devastate a crop and is more likely in hot, dry summers with the leaves turning yellow and the base of the bulbs showing fluffy white fungus. Nothing much to be done here other than avoiding growing any of the onion family on the same patch for five years or more as this is a soil-borne disease.
  • Rust: This is an unsightly fungal disease which shows itself as orange-red-brown pustules on leaves (below). Unless seriously affected, the bulbs themselves tend to be unaffected.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the October 2015 print issue of Kitchen Garden.
Dec 23

7 easiest tea herbs to grow in your garden (#3 is my favorite)

By chadchaffin | Gardening , Herbs and Flowers

Succumbing to the promise of bagged herb tea often leaves me disappointed as the flavour never quite lives up to the scent – or, for that matter, to the blurb on the back of the pack. Homemade herb teas, on the other hand, are a different story. The flavour delivered by freshly picked leaves and flowers is richer and tastier than anything you can buy in the shops, while taste options range from chocolate mint to lemon and full-on liquorice, with many others in between.

As a group, the tea herbs are an easy-going bunch with a preference for a reasonable soil in a well-drained, sunny spot. They are pretty plants, too, pleasing to our eyes and to all manner of beneficial insects, making a tea garden a busy place, buzzing with life. There are dozens of plants to choose from and if you grow a selection of different flavours you can ring the changes, depending on your mood.

Leaves and flowers should be picked early on a fine day when the warmth of the sun has excited the essential oils that give the plants their characteristic scent and flavour. They are usually best enjoyed fresh from the plant; however it is worth drying some, quickly and out of direct sunlight, to keep for winter use.

Seeds can be harvested by cutting the mature flower spike, popping the flowerhead into a paper bag and hanging it upside down until it releases its cargo. Of course, what you grow depends on the flavours you prefer, but don’t be afraid to try something different. Who knows, you may discover a new favourite – and the really good news is, many of these plants look as good as they taste.

  1. Anise (Pimpinella anisum) and dill (Apium graveolens) are 2ft tall annuals with lacy umbels held aloft above ferny foliage. Both dill (yellow flowers) and anise (white  flowers) are grown for their seeds and leaves. Anise has a strong liquorice flavour while dill is fresh and bright.
  2. Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum, A. rugosa ‘Golden Jubilee’) is simply beautiful: a 4ft tall perennial with a good neat shape that adds a big splash of purple to the tea garden. Worth growing for the flowers alone, it  is for the leaves and stems that the plant is really prized.
  3. Mint (Mentha) is hard to beat for flavour. Apple mint (M. suaveolens) and pineapple mint (M. rotundifolia) add fruity overtones to summer cups, while chocolate mint (M. x piperata ‘Chocolate’) tastes like minty hot chocolate. It can be untidy, but the dark green leaves are pretty and the scent heavenly. Used to flavour sweets and cakes, peppermint (M. x piperata) is lovely alone or added to fruit teas. Like all mints, grow it in bottomless buckets to keep it contained.
  4. Bergamot and lemon bergamot (Monarda didyma, M. citriodora) are my favourite tea plants. At 3ft tall with a long flowering season, they are the stars of the border. Blooms come in shades of red, pink, white and purple, and the spicy leaves have been prized by Native Americans for millennia. They dry beautifully for use in winter cups.
  5. Catnip (Nepeta cataria) makes a deliciously scented, soothing bedtime drink. The plant grows to a rather straggly 2ft, and While it isn’t as pretty as the catmints that have been bred for the border, the scent and flavour are far superior. Pick individual leaves or cut whole stems to use fresh or dry.
  6. German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) grows to 2ft and is the archetypal herb tea, with a delicate grassy flavour that goes well with fruity hints. Pick the flowers for drying when the petals have turned back to expose the central cone.
  7. Violets (Viola odorata) have a scent and flavour reminiscent of parma violets. Use the leaves and flowers to make a springtime tonic, or combine with fruity flavours for a refreshing summer tea.
  8. Wild strawberries (Fragaria vesca) have tiny fruit that taste like strawberries and toffee. Use the leaves and fruit for a delicate strawberry-flavoured tea.

Others to try

To give height, grow climbers such as roses, blackberries or raspberries (a classic tea herb prized for its leaves). Or add some Eastern spice with a summer jasmine (Jasminum officinale). Also worth including in your mini tea plantation are varieties of lavender and pot marigolds (Calendula officinalis) with their bright and spicy petals. Tiny lemon thyme and 2ft tall lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) taste like lemon sherbet, while borage combines well with mint and fruity flavours. And don’t forget liquorice-flavoured fennel (Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’), an obvious back-of-the-border choice at 6ft tall.

Credited Elizabeth McCorquodale from Amateur Gardening