5 Ways to Improve Clay Soil in the Garden

5 Ways to Improve Clay Soil in the  Garden

BY JAMIE MCINTOSH Photo: Luis Diaz Devesa/Getty Images When you see standing water in your garden in the spring, but the same area transforms into a web of cracks in the summer, you have clay soil. There are several ways to improve clay soil in the flower garden, but as they say, when you have lemons, make lemonade: you should also plant flowers that are tolerant of heavy soils. Do You Have Clay Soil? Clay soil is made of fine particles that cause it to stick together, preventing normal drainage processes that keep plant roots healthy. If a gardener squeezes moist clay soil into a ball, the soil will retain that shape. Gardeners who regularly fight chicory, sorrel, and buttercup weeds are probably dealing with the clay soil that attracts these weeds. Amend the Soil Some gardeners make the mistake of adding sand to clay soil, thinking that adding matter from the opposite soil type will moderate the problem. However, sand and clay make a soil more akin to concrete than the rich loam all gardeners desire. The best soil conditioner for clay is organic matter, and lots of it. Gardeners should add organic compost, leaf mold, and green manures from cover crops to improve soil structure and tilth. Garden centers commonly sell gypsum as a soil amendment for clay conditions. However, unlike organic matter, gypsum does nothing to improve the fertility of soil. Furthermore, according to the Puyallup Research and Extension Center at Washington State University, gypsum negatively affects the mycorrhizae that enhance root health and development. Try Double Digging Double digging is highly laborious, but it can be an effective way to remedy extremely heavy soils in small areas. The double digging method involves digging a 2-foot deep trench in the garden, filling it with a compost and soil mixture, and then returning the native soil to the trench and mixing it together. The toil involved in this project makes double digging a four-letter word for many gardeners. If you go this route, plant flowers that won’t take your efforts for granted, like roses. Install Raised Beds Creating raised beds is an easy way to subvert many soil problems, whether sandy or clay-based. Gardeners can choose the type of raised beds they want, exploring lasagna gardening options, raised garden bed kits made of composite or wood, or even hay bale gardening for the back of the flower border. Raised beds have the added bonus of warming up quickly in the spring, for earlier planting. Prevent Soil Compaction Clay soil is naturally dense and tends to waterlog easily, and these characteristics become exaggerated in the spring. Gardeners must take care not to walk on clay soil or work it with a tiller when it’s cold and waterlogged, or it will become nearly impervious to water and oxygen. Work...

Read More

Growing Lavender.

Growing Lavender.

The Total Guide To Growing, Harvesting & Using Lavender Lavender is a beautiful perennial evergreen plant that hails from southern Europe and the mountain regions located on the western border of the Mediterranean and also North and East Africa, Arabia, India and the Canary Island. Today, this highly versatile plant is grown all over the world for both personal as well as commercial use. Historical Use Lavender is an old plant that stretches across lands and cultures. The early Egyptians used shrouds soaked in lavender to embalm their mummies. Lavender would keep insects away and help to preserve the mummies in their pyramids. Ancient Greeks remedied all sorts of conditions such as muscle aches, insomnia and even insanity with lavender. Romans used lavender in purifying baths. It was the Romans who gave lavender its name, which is derived from the Latin word “Lavare,” which means “to wash.” They also employed lavender as a perfume and an insect repellant. When the plague hit Medieval Europe, people fastened a small sprig of lavender to their wrists to keep the Black Death at bay. Historically, lavender was also used to wash clothes, as an antiseptic during World War I and also to treat burns. Modern Uses of Lavender Lavender is packed with therapeutic value and is widely used in various forms for a number of conditions. Because of its stimulating effect, lavender is often used to elevate mood, reduce mental trauma and revive a tired nervous system. In addition, lavender also has sedative properties that make it a relaxing tonic for both the mind and the body. If you suffer from stress, tension headaches and migraines, lavender may bring you relief. This popular herb also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce joint and muscular pain The antiseptic properties in lavender help ease chapped and irritated skin, wounds, bites and sores along with conditions such as dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis. Lavender’s potency does not stop here, it is also good for the digestive system and can ease such things as nausea, vomiting, indigestion, colic and gas. In aromatherapy, lavender can help coughs, colds, bronchitis, asthma, sore throats, laryngitis and even pneumonia. Lavender Species Over twenty different species of lavender exist along with numerous cultivars and hybrids. Each of the lavender types vary somewhat in habit, color and fragrance. There are three lavender types that stand out for home and commercial use including true lavender, spike lavender and lavandin. English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia, officinalis, vera) True lavender is also known as common lavender or English lavender and is the type of lavender historically found in formal English gardens. This plant has narrow leaves, short, crooked stems and barrel-shaped flowers. Common lavender is best known...

Read More

Healthy Planet 365

Healthy Planet 365

Stay healthy 365 days with remedies around the globe. Make This Homemade Garden Insect Spray To Keep The Bugs At Bay Gardeners know all too well that certain bugs just won’t leave the plants alone even when the commonly available pest sprays are applied. That just goes to show that DIY projects (or do-it-yourself projects) always work the best for gardeners! Importantly, this homemade pesticide will not harm your “garden pets” that is your hard grown plants. It’s extremely easy to make it, and, at the same time, it is super effective to get rid of bothersome garden insects. If you are preparing to create a glorious garden area this spring season, this spray will be of great help for you every single step of the way! This home-brewed recipe was adapted from Keeper of the Home by Jami from An Oregon Cottage. Jami’s results (above) tell the story for themselves. This is definitely a recipe that you don’t want to misplace! It is just perfect for all the gardeners with a mint patch. If yours has become enormous, you’ll find quite functional uses for the surplus of mint sprigs. Garlic as a natural pesticide Garlic makes an excellent economical, non-toxic pesticide for the garden. It has natural fungicidal and pesticidal properties that work effectively to control pests. For maximum efficacy in pest control, avoid using any chemical fertilizers. Artificial fertilizers diminish the capacity of the vital ingredients in garlic to fight pests. Aphids, ants, termites, white flies, beetles, borers, caterpillars, slugs and army worms are some of the pests that can be suitably controlled by using garlic. TIP: Our expert gardening advisor adds, “Healthy soil will draw beneficial insects and work along with garlic to repel the bad insects. Keep your soil healthy by using plenty of organic matter, allowing adequate drainage and keeping the garden weed free.”   10 Amazing Ways To Use & How to Use Hydrogen Peroxide In The Garden Mint as a natural pesticide One of the most popular of all herbs, mint — spearmint and peppermint — is known by its square stems, aromatic leaves and refreshing flavor. Mint grows from underground runners and thrives on abundant water. It’s not fussy about soil or light, but ample water is mandatory for success. Although mint may be grown from seed, it is a good idea to buy small plants of your choice to be sure of getting the variety you want. No matter which variety you choose for planting around your veggies, you will reap benefits from its pest repelling ability. Red cayenne pepper as a natural pesticide Natural insecticides can be non-toxic to humans and pets and safe for the environment. One such natural insect deterrent is certainly the red cayenne pepper. While bewildering numbers of organic...

Read More

Healthy Soil and How to Make It

Healthy Soil and How to Make It

A Crash Course in Soil Maintenance BY COLLEEN VANDERLINDEN Southern Stock/Stockbyte/Getty Images Whether you are growing flowers, herbs, vegetables, a lawn, or a shrub border, healthy soil is an absolute must. Your plants will be less prone to pest and disease issues, they’ll grow better, and they’ll look better. With a bit of know-how, some work, and some patience, you can have healthy soil, no matter what kind of soil you are starting with. Characteristics of Healthy Garden Soil If good soil could be achieved merely by buying a bag of fertilizer from the garden center, most Americans would be boasting perfect soil. While fertility is obviously an aspect of good garden soil, there is so much more involved. Good soil has: Good TextureYou often hear gardeners talk about their soil’s “crumb.” This refers to the texture of the soil. Good soil is crumbly, like cookie crumbs scattered over the top of an ice cream sundae. That crumbly texture takes work, and we’ll talk more about that in a minute. Plenty of Organic MatterOrganic matter is just dead plant and animal tissue, which decomposes and enriches your soil as humus. Humus is wonderful because it helps improve your soil’s texture by binding some of the smaller particles together, which increases your soil’s aeration. It also improves your soil’s ability to both absorb and drain moisture. Finally, organic matter helps provide nutrients to your plants. Microorganisms help break down the organic matter into its basic elements, which enables plants to absorb it and use it.  Healthy PH Soil pH is the measurement of the acidity of your soil. This affects the minerals contained in garden soil and their availability to your plants. In general, the closer to neutral your soil is, the better your plants will be able to take up these minerals. Of course, some plants prefer a more acidic soil, but for most flowers, herbs, and vegetables, a more neutral pH is optimal. Three Main Types of Soil The next thing to consider is the structure of the soil. There are three main types of soil: Clay soil: Clay has tiny particles that stick together, forming large clumps. While clay soil tends to be of higher fertility than other soil types, it is not optimal to garden in because its texture makes it very difficult for plant roots to work their way into it. Improving clay soil takes some work, but it will make life much easier for your plants. Sandy soil: Sandy soil is definitely easier to work than clay soil — but it has the opposite problems: it often drains too quickly and is less able to retain nutrients. Loam: This is ideal garden soil. Crumbly, full of organic matter, retains moisture yet still drains...

Read More

Understanding and Improving Clay Soil

Understanding and Improving Clay Soil

Knysna is reknown for its poor soil, it is either heavy clay or sandy soil which is a huge challenge for gardeners.  This article was published on an American site, the information provided can be very useful for local conditions. A Gardener’s Guide BY COLLEEN VANDERLINDEN Ezra Bailey / Getty Images Clay soil is prevalent many parts of the United States, and it can be a real pain if you happen to decide that you want to plant a flower or vegetable garden. While many trees and shrubs grow well in clay, the roots of the majority of annuals, perennials, and vegetables just aren’t strong enough to make their way through. And if spring flower bulbs are your dream, forget it. Bulbs tend to rot over the winter in clay soils. With a bit of background about clay and a strategy for improving your soil structure, you’ll be able to grow flowers and vegetables to your heart’s content. What is Clay Soil? Clay soil is defined as soil that is composed of mostly clay particles. Soil that consists of over 50% clay particles is referred to as “heavy clay.” To determine whether you have clay soil or not, you can do a simple soil test. Most likely, you probably already know if you have clay soil. If your soil sticks to shoes and garden tools like glue, forms big clods that aren’t easy to separate, and crusts over and cracks in dry weather, you have clay. Positives of Clay Soil Even clay soil has some good qualities. Clay, because of its density, retains moisture well. It also tends to be more nutrient-rich than other soil types. The reason for this is that the particles that make up clay soil are negatively charged. They attract and pick up positively charged particles, such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Negatives of Clay Soil In addition to the drawbacks mentioned above, clay also has the following negative qualities: Slow draining Slow to warm in the spring Compacts easily, making it difficult for plant roots to grow Tendency to heave in winter Tendency to be alkaline Improving Clay Soil Improving your clay soil will take a bit of work, but the good news is that the work you do will instantly improve the structure of your soil and make it easier to work with. Most of the work is done up front, with some annual chores to continue improving your soil. It is best to improve an entire planting area all at once. I often see advice about just improving individual planting holes as you go along, but I don’t recommend this practice. When you dig a planting hole in clay soil, then plop in a plant and nicely...

Read More

Control Ants in the Flower Garden

Control Ants in the Flower Garden

Kill or Repel these Pests Without Chemicals or Pesticides BY JAMIE MCINTOSH   bob van den berg photography/Moment Open/Getty Images Although horticulturalists don’t categorize ants as a garden pest, most people consider the ant an unwelcome tenant in the flower garden. Ants are aggressive, especially the notorious fire ant of the South, which seems to expand its territory northward year by year. Some ants maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with aphids. Ants can also ruin an otherwise perfect spring bouquet of peonies. It’s unreasonable to try to exterminate ants completely in a flower garden, but you can control them without resorting to harmful chemicals. Create Homemade Ant Repellent Ants are very sensitive to odors, as any picnicker can tell you. Just as they are attracted to sweets, certain smells repel them. Experiment with cotton balls soaked in ant-repelling essential oils. Ants detest mint, camphor, tansy, and clove oil. You can also grow your own ant repellent in the vegetable garden. Place hot peppers in a blender with a bit of water to create a dense mash, which you can spread in problem areas. An Easy Way to Kill Ant Colonies The same pesticides that kill ants are also toxic to many insects that gardeners want around the flowerbed, like Monarch butterfly caterpillars and ladybugs. However, baits laden with insecticide are more likely to target just the ants. You can mix a cup of borax with a cup of honey or jelly and place it near an area of ant activity. Ants will feed and carry this toxic mixture back to their queen, which will result in the death of the colony. You must be patient to see the results of this method, for the borax is a slow-acting poison, which gives the ants time to distribute the toxin to others. If this homemade solution is too messy, you can purchase ready-made boric acid ant bait. Keep Ants off Flowers Ants are attracted to sweet foods, and this includes many fruits and some nectar-rich flowers. Peonies, in particular, seem to attract ants just as buds turn to blossoms. Although ants rarely inflict damage to flowers or fruits, no gardener wants to mar the joy of harvest with a handful of swarming ants. You can use sticky traps to prevent ants from ascending the plant of concern. Buy a commercial sticky product, such as Tanglefoot, or make your own sticky traps from adhesive paper strips wrapped around the base of the plants. There are two ways to deal with ants on peonies. Cut the flowers when they have fully opened, as ants are attracted to the sucrose that collects on buds. If you cut the flowers in bud, refrigerate them immediately. Within 24 hours, the ants will become very sluggish, making it easy to...

Read More