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Easiest Beautiful Flowers You Can Grow

sunflowersBeginner gardeners can enjoy a colorful and fragrant outdoor space right from the get-go with this list of 18 beautiful flowers that are easy to grow, survive anything and need next-to-no care!

# Sunflowers

Few flowers embody the very essence of summer quite like the spectacular sunflower!

Growing to between 6 and 16 feet tall, depending on the variety, the annual sunflower is a surprisingly undemanding plant. Simply sow the seeds in a sunny, sheltered spot – providing supports for the stems to prevent breakage.

The hardy sunflower does well in most soil types (except soil that is water-logged) and most varieties are tolerant to heat and drought.

Sunflowers attract bees and birds and will provide you with a bounty of seeds that are high in many essential nutrients like Vitamins E and B1, magnesium and selenium.

# Lavender

Lavender is a hardy plant that doesn’t require a whole lot of care once established – just one of the many reasons to grow this calming purple flower in your garden. Keep in mind that lavender thrives in sunshine and dry soil, meaning under watering or drought isn’t an issue.

There are several varieties of lavender so make sure you choose one that’s right for your climate.

# Fuchsias

These beautiful and easy to grow plants bring a burst of color to the garden. With so many cultivars to choose from, you’ll have no problem finding one that suits your climate – even those experiencing minus temperatures can grow the ‘Molonae’ fuchsia!

To keep a healthy looking plant, grow it in a shady location and prune back weak and dead growth every so often to encourage new blooms.

# Pansies

Pansies are garden favorites precisely because they are so easy to nurture – and come highly recommended for beginner gardeners.

To make their care even easier, purchase these bright and beautiful flowers as bedding plants and transplant them directly into the ground. From then on out, they only require a minimum amount of attention to thrive.

The pansy likes rich, well-drained soil, and full sun or partial shade. Deadheading the withered flowers is a must to encourage greater growth.

# Nigella

Also known as Love-in-a-Mist because of its tangle of fern-like foliage around the flower, the nigella requires minimal maintenance, although it is a short lived plant. However, it self-sows freely so you can enjoy continuous blooms once the seeds have scattered adequately.

Because it adapts to a variety of soil conditions, it’s relatively easy to grow almost anywhere. Once established, it isn’t usually bothered by pests. For best results, sow your nigella seeds directly in the ground, in full sun to partial shade.

# Lupines

Available in a variety of colors, and growing up to four feet tall, lupines are an attractive way to add color and texture to any garden bed.

Growing lupines is simple! Plant seeds or cuttings in a sunny area with average but well-drained soil. They do best in an area which hasn’t been amended by the application of compost or fertilizers.

These beautiful plants – a type of legume – produce seeds which will re-produce more flowers in subsequent years if not removed from the growing lupine.

# Calendula

One of the easiest annual flowers to grow from seed, calendula or pot marigold, is a bright and beautiful addition to any garden. You can also use your calendula plant to make a healing and soothing cream.

It adapts well to a wide range of growing conditions – thriving in USDA Zones 2 to 8 as a summer season plant and as an all-round bloomer in hotter zones.

Calendula tolerates any type of soil, although it must drain well and this self-seeding plant prefers full sun to partial shade.

# Ornamental Alliums

An unusual yet beautiful bloom, it’s difficult to believe that the ornamental allium is related to humble onions andgarlic.

These easy-to-grow bulbs come in a broad palette of colors, heights and bloom times. Ornamental alliums are hardy and undemanding – although they should be grown in a sunlit area. They aren’t fussy about soil type, as long as it is well-drained; they don’t requirement much space and, best of all, they are relatively resistant to deer, voles, chipmunks and rabbits!

Some of the most beautiful varieties of ornamental alliums are the ‘Everlasting’ and the ‘Schubert’ – both of which resemble exploding fireworks.

# Dianthus

With over 300 varieties of dianthus – including Sweet William, pinks, and carnations – you’re sure to find one you love. One of the best flowers for a fragrant garden, many types of dianthus boast a sweet and spicy smell similar to cinnamon or clove.

You can source hardy annual, biennial or perennial dianthus varieties. They should be planted in full sun, with well-drained soil. Easily grown from seed, the dianthus responds well to midwinter sowing and the seedlings never suffer from shock, no matter how roughly handled!

# Hardy Geranium

With approximately 500 species of geraniums worldwide – thriving on every continent – there is a hardy geranium for every climate type.

The hardy geranium is resistant to pests and disease, although they require well-drained, fertile and moist soil. They prefer morning and afternoon sun, and can handle partial shade well.

Because they are so successful as a weed-suppressing ground cover due to the large quantities of flowers they produce, a mid-season cut back is a good idea.

Hardy geraniums are easy to grow from seed and even easier to cultivate from bare roots!

# Cosmos

These tall, frilly annuals – which blossom in an array of colors – are one of the easiest flowers to grow from seed.

Cosmos look beautiful in borders or containers and they attract all manner of pollinators to the garden. What’s more, they make for stunning floral arrangements.

They prefer moist, well-drained soil that isn’t too rich, although they can grow in pretty poor soils too! Heat and drought tolerant, the cosmos can grow anywhere between 18 and 60 inches tall depending on the variety.

When growing from seed, it can take seven weeks until the flowers first appear, after which they will continue to bloom until the next frost.

# Nasturtium

The quick growing and colorful nasturtiums can be sowed directly into the ground. Soaked seeds will germinate quickly, and do well in even poor soil.

The only thing this low maintenance plant will ask of you is regular hydration – let the soil dry between waterings, although the plant shouldn’t be parched.

Nasturtiums look lovely in containers and window boxes, but they also make great ground cover in borders and beds.

Best of all, the entire plant is edible! Similar to watercress, the flowers have a peppery flavor, while the leaves can be used in salads and the seeds can be pickled like capers.

# Sweet Pea

The beautifully scented sweet pea makes a wonderful addition to any garden, particularly as it requires so little care once established.

Seed germination can be a little tricky, but soaking the seeds before planting will see them quickly sprout. Of course, an even easier option is to purchase your sweet peas as plug plants.

Sweet peas like cool, but not cold, temperatures with their heads in the sun and their roots in cool, moist and alkaline soil.

The cut flowers look simply beautiful when displayed in the kitchen or living room.

# Bachelor’s Button

A hardy, intensely blue wildflower, the Bachelor’s Button is low maintenance and thrives in poor, dry soil.

Sow this drought tolerant annual in early spring, after the last frost. It usually reseeds itself coming back year after year. Plant it in a position where it’s sure to receive morning sunlight, but partial shade during hot afternoons.

Bachelor’s Button doesn’t require too much in the way of watering – it becomes weak and floppy in soggy soil, and can also suffer stem rot and mildew. For a longer blooming season, pinch off wilted heads.

# Californian Poppy

Californian poppies are beautiful bright annuals in reds, oranges and yellows, which thrive in poor, dry or sandy soil and full sun.

They deal well with droughts, so watering will never be an issue. In fact, all you need to do with this incredibly low maintenance plant is to scatter the seeds directly on the soil and watch them thrive!

Californian poppies are also self-seeding so you can enjoy an effortless burst of color year after year, although you may want to deadhead a certain portion of the flowers to maximize blooming.

# Marigold

Marigolds enjoy their popularity precisely because they are so very easy to grow. Their wide range of colors also helps matters of course – you’ll find them in white, yellow, orange, red and mixed colors.

From miniatures to giant varieties, there is a myriad of marigold varieties so you can select the color and size that is perfect for your flower or container garden.

Marigolds grow quickly from seed. Sow them directly after the last frost in full sunlight (or up to a maximum of 20% shade). They are tolerant of dry, sandy soil, but don’t like to be overly damp.

Pinching young plants encourages a fuller shape.

# Morning Glory

For a hardy, quick growing vine that requires little care, choose the morning glory! These annuals are self-seeding so you can enjoy them for years to come with minimal effort on your part.

Perfect for covering walls and trellis, these beautiful purple, red, pink or blue flowers flourish in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. Direct sow the morning glory after the last frost date (soaking the seeds overnight first).

# Dahlias

Growing the beautiful dahlia is a piece of cake! These colorful spiky flowers – grown from small tubers planted in the spring – generally bloom from mid-summer to the first frost.

Dahlias thrive is most climates although they don’t do so well in extremely hot and humid regions. They like sunny positions, particularly morning sun, growing more blooms with 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Rich, well-drained soil with a slightly acidic pH will see your stunning dahlias flourish.

Know the Fastest Growing Veggies You Can Harvest

sunflower-shootsJust because vegetable gardening is usually an exercise in patience doesn’t mean you can’t grow fast food. For all the keen and restless gardeners out there who can’t stand the long wait for fresh produce, we’ve gathered up some of the fastest growing foods for you to enjoy on the quick.

# Sunflower Shoots – 12 Days

The product of extremely immature sunflowers, sunflower shoots (or sunflower greens or sunflower sprouts) may be tiny but they sure pack a wallop in terms of nutrition! Harvest by cutting the stems once they have two leaves, but before they show their “true leaves” because sunflower shoots become bitter as they age.

# Garden Cress – 14 Days

Ready to harvest in as little as two weeks, garden cress can be planted in early spring – as soon as the soil can be worked. Also a garden space-saver, a small (1 or 2 feet square) patch of cress will supply you will an abundance of this tangy herb.

# Radishes – 21 Days

A cool season crop, spring radishes grow best in 50⁰F to 65⁰F weather. Once sown, you’ll see leafy green shoots above the soil in just three or four days. Keep planting seeds every week or two for a constant harvest through spring and autumn.

# Green Onions – 21 Days

Also called scallions, green onions are quick-growing plants that can be cut back to their base again and again throughout the season. Once their green shoots reach a height of 6 inches, they are ready for the first round of harvesting.

# Tatsoi – 25 Days

A low-growing mustard green, tatsoi (pronounced “taht-SOY”) is a wonderful addition to salads and soups. Baby tatsoi leaves can be harvested when they reach 4 inches in length, or you can wait the full 40 days for tatsoi to mature to full size.

# Lettuce – 30 Days

Another cool-weather vegetable that prefers temperatures between 60⁰F and 70⁰F, lettuce seeds should be sown in early spring and late summer. Of the five types of lettuce – loose-leaf, cos, crisphead, butterhead, and stem – leaf lettuce varieties like green leaf and red leaf are among the easiest to cultivate and are more tolerant of hot weather. Planting new seeds every 14 days will provide a continuous harvest.

# Spinach – 30 Days

Able to survive in temperatures as low as 15⁰F, spinach is a cold hardy vegetable that can be planted as soon as the ground thaws. Pluck outer spinach leaves from the plant as it grows or re-sow seeds every two weeks for successive harvests. Don’t wait too long to gather spinach because its leaves will become bitter once the plant reaches maturity.

# Arugula – 30 Days

Since arugula seeds germinate well in cooler soil, they can be planted as soon as the garden bed can be worked after the spring thaw. Sow seeds every two to three weeks for continuous harvesting.

# Kale – 30 Days

A “cut-and-come-again” plant, kale’s young and tender leaves can be culled continually throughout the growing season once the plant is about 2 inches tall. Avoid picking the central bud, since this keeps kale growing and productive.

# Bok Choy – 30 to 45 Days

Bok choy – also known as pak choy and Chinese cabbage – is a cool weather vegetable that is best planted in spring and fall. Baby leaves can be harvested in a month, or you may wait a couple more weeks for full-sized bok choy heads.

# Turnips – 30 to 55 Days

Ready to harvest in less than two months when grown for its large bulbs, gardeners can also choose to pluck turnips from the soil early for a sampling of tender, sweet, mild-tasting roots. When turnip greens reach a diameter of about 2 inches, they can be topped as well and added to fresh salads.

# Beets – 35 to 60 Days

With edible bits above and below the soil, red beet cultivars produce nutritious greens that are ready to be picked about a month after sowing. Beet leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, but only snip off a leaf or two from each plant so as not to impede root production. When beet shoulders begin to protrude from the soil, after another month, it’s time to pull the plant from the ground.

# Zucchini – 40 to 50 Days

A true bumper crop, a single zucchini plant will produce between 6 to 10 pounds of fruit each season. Once zucchini begins to flower, fruits will be ready to harvest in about 4 to 8 days. For fast results, plant “Eight Ball”, “Seneca”, “Gold Rush”, or “Spacemiser” varieties.

# Bush Beans – 40 to 55 Days

A good choice for the beginner gardener, bush beans are low maintenance and easy to grow. Unlike pole bean varieties, they do not require the support of a stake or trellis, and will spread up to two feet. Plant new seeds every two weeks for staggered harvests.

# Broccoli Rabe – 40 to 60 Days

A distant cousin to broccoli proper, rapini – or broccoli rabe – is actually closer to the turnip and mustard families. With leafy shoots surrounding a cluster of green buds on thick stems, all parts of broccoli rabe are edible and can be eaten raw in salads, sautéed with garlic and oil, or boiled in soups. Plant “Quarantina” or “Sessantina” varieties for a quicker harvest.

# Swiss Chard – 45 Days

A member of the beet family, Swiss chard can be harvested throughout the season by cutting off the outer leaves when they are about 3 inches long and are still young and tender. In addition to using the fresh leaves in salads, you can cut Swiss chard stems from the leaf and cook them like you would asparagus.

# Baby Carrots – 50 Days

Pint-sized varieties like “Little Finger” and “Thumbelina” are faster growing than other carrot cultivars, and because of their short stature, they can be easily grown in a container garden.

# Cucumber – 50 Days

Since cucumbers become bitter with age, it’s best to pick them while they are immature, and well before they begin to yellow. Faster growing varieties include fresh slicing types like “Bush Crop”, “Straight 8”, and “Sweet Success” as well as pickling cultivars such as “Bush Pickle”, “Carolina”, and “Calypso”. Be sure to harvest cucumbers frequently as leaving the fruit on the vine (or bush) will exhaust the plant and slow the production of new cukes.

Mistakes In The Vegetable Garden

vegetable-gardenMany of us set out to grow vegetables with visions of gathering ruby red tomatoes and plump capsicums by the basketful and the choicest cucumbers and crunchy carrots going straight from the garden into the salad bowl. Growing food is a worthy goal by any measure, but disappointments are all too common. Check out whether your vegetable garden is failing because of these common mistakes.

# Starting out without a plan

Many of us start the vegetable garden on a sudden impulse. Triggers may be an article on GMO foods or the dangers of pesticide laden food. Tasting homegrown fare at a friend’s house or a single tomato plant that sprouted among your flowers and produced plenty of tomatoes with absolutely no attention from you may inspire you to start a veggie patch. But starting a garden without proper planning and preparation is like building a house without a blueprint.

Vegetable gardening is quite demanding. Know your limits as to the time, effort, inputs, and space you can dedicate to it. If you start too big you may find it hard to manage. If you grow veggies that you don’t really care for, you may soon lose interest in them altogether. Skipping the preparatory steps like reading up on the cultural needs of different crops,  testing the soil and amending it, starting seeds early, installing cold protection, windbreaks etc., can lead to almost certain failure.

# Selecting unsuitable varieties

If you go ‘catalog shopping’ for vegetable seeds, it may be one big mistake you’re committing. Even veteran gardeners fall for the beautiful pictures and too- good-to-be-true descriptions of new hybrids and heirloom varieties offered in plant catalogs. While there’s every chance that they could be exaggerating the positives, even the most legit claims can be of no use to you if the variety or cultivar turns out to be unsuitable for your climate and growing conditions. Exotic ornamentals may be fun to grow, but exotic vegetables are not really worth your time and effort.

There’s no harm in experimenting with a few new varieties that seem to be promising, as long as they are suitable for your USDA Zone. But stick to your local sources for the bulk of your vegetable seeds and starts. Established nurseries and garden centers in your area almost always carry the varieties that grow well there, but the same cannot be guaranteed about Home Depot, Lowe’s, and such chain stores. Garden fairs and sales put up by local farms are a great way to explore the possibilities and meet up with fellow gardeners who can give you invaluable inputs.

# Choosing the wrong spot

You can probably find ornamentals that fit any given spot, be it in the sun or shade. But vegetables are more demanding; you must offer them prime areas in your garden.

Plenty of sun is a must. Most fruiting vegetables need a minimum of 6-8 hours of sunlight to do well. Root vegetables may manage with 4-6 hours of full sun and partial shade for the remaining period. If your garden gets only filtered light for most part of the day, leafy vegetables are your best bet.

The vegetable garden should be located as far away as possible from trees. Apart from the shade they cast, their strong roots will compete for water and nutrients. Rotting leaves can make the soil too acidic too. If the ground is filled with roots, rocks and compacted soil that impede root run, grow vegetables in raised beds with loamy soil and good quality compost. Vegetables don’t do well in highly exposed areas like the slope of a hill where constant wind can trouble the plants, unless you provide wind screens for protection.

# Not preparing the soil

Soil preparation is extremely important because your plants are going to get their nutrients from the soil. Most vegetables don’t do well in extremely acidic or alkaline soils. They struggle in poor soils too. The pH of the soil and mineral content should be tested and amended suitably. Sandy soils will not provide sufficient nutrients and clayey soil is prone to compaction and does not allow good root run and drainage. Both can be normalized to a great extent by adding plenty of organic matter.

Ample moisture in the soil is necessary for a successful vegetable garden, but the soil should have good drainage. You can always provide extra water, but you’d be hard-pressed to find vegetables that put up with wet feet, the rare exceptions being taro, arrowhead, and watercress. If you have clayey soil that holds on to too much water, use raised beds, straw bales or containers. In low-lying areas, increase drainage by digging ditches or making a dry stream bed to redirect the water.

# Planting at the wrong time

Spring is the main planting season for most vegetable crops, but the exact timing depends on their cold hardiness. Some can go into the soil as soon as it thaws, but heat-loving vegetables like tomatoes may fail to take off if planted before it is warm enough. Some vegetables like lettuce should be started indoors well in advance because they will become bitter or perish if it gets too warm.

You can find general guidelines based on USDA Zones and first and last frost dates, but they are nothing more than guidelines. It is best to follow the planting schedule for your area, usually available from garden centers.

# Underwatering and overwatering

Vegetables need a good supply of water; it is essential for the transport of nutrients, manufacture of food through photosynthesis and its distribution to all parts of the plant. Frequent wilting will make the plants weak; it will not only affect yield, but make the plants susceptible to diseases. Different crops need different amounts of water, so this should be taken into consideration while planning the beds.

While underwatering can result in poor yield, overwatering can kill plants with root rot, especially if the soil has poor drainage. In well-draining soils it can flush out soil nutrients. Excess moisture in the soil can create high humidity in the air and invite fungal diseases too. Deep watering at longer intervals is better than frequent shallow watering. It promotes deep root run and toughens the plants.

Allowing weeds to thrive

Weeds steal the water and nutrients meant for your veggies. They have such vigorous root systems and fast growth rates that they can crowd out your plants in no time. Do thorough weeding before planting and continue to wage a war on them.

Stay clear of herbicides, though. The main benefit of growing your own vegetables is that you get to eat toxin-free food. Thick mulching around the plants helps control them. Drip irrigation also helps.

What You Should Know About Trends This Year

Everything You Need To Know About Kids Fashion

At this day and age, kids fashion has been given equal significance with its more adult counterpart. When it comes to a keen awareness of the things around them, children are more capable than we think. Kids fashion has taken off consistently throughout the last few years since both the parents and their kids are patronizing the industry.

As kids keep up with the new thing through social media and magazines, mom and dad no longer have a say on what they should and shouldn’t wear. From girls dresses to the latest shoe craze, children just can’t get enough of everything related to fashion. Kids have their moms and dads beat when it comes to their fashion knowledge. Fashionable kids can be spotted everywhere, whether you walk down the street or hang out the mall.

Most parents who are also fashionably inclined would rather be caught dead than let their kids go out of the house in outdated clothes and accessories. Over the years, it is clear that a lot has changed. Being very fashionable is a trait that can be passed down from parent to child, especially in today’s times.
Practical and Helpful Tips: Sales

When they have a particular brand name in mind, parents just open their laptops and search for great kids clothes online. Whether intentional or subconsciously, children are already taught to like cool baby clothes or classy girls party dresses from a very young age.
Why No One Talks About Clothing Anymore

The great thing about fashion is that whether children get support from dad or mom or not, they still evolve into individuals who have their own style. At a very young age, kids are already very observant when it comes to their surroundings, which is why they are able to keep up with a lot of trends. Whenever your child sees some of their friends rocking the latest in fashion trends, they are immediately inclined to keep up. This is where you come in since they would most likely want you to buy these things for them.

Fashionable people have become more adventurous with their style in this day and age. If you noticed, bigger and bolder prints and brighter colors are what make up today’s new fashion trends. Given the meticulousness of children with regard to fashion nowadays, every item of clothing must go perfectly well with everything else.

Wanting to dress like their favorite characters is just a manifestation of a child’s deep sense of belonging. It’s normal for a kid to want to be just as awesome as their idols, which is why their styles are significantly influenced by these characters. It goes without saying that children are significantly influenced by the cartoons they wear and the characters they idolize.

Strategies to Boost Garden Yields

There is nothing so rewarding as having a plethora of fresh garden vegetables to enjoy. Knowing where your food comes from gives one great peace and satisfaction.

Here are five of the quickest and inexpensive ways that you can boost your garden yield beyond your greatest expectations. Three of them have to do with improving your soil which is incredibly important to any garden.

Just as a house is not sturdy without a good foundation, a garden is not as healthy without a nutrient-rich soilbase. Most plants can’t survive for long in unhealthy soil, so making this a top priority when gardening is a must.

The secrets of healthy soil are not complicated, nor do they have to be expensive. Putting your focus and energy on building up soil loaded with biodiversity will help ensure that you have the best garden yield ever.

You will be amazed at what putting a little time into your soil can mean for the health, vitality and production of your garden plants.

# Add Compost

Starting a compost pile at home is not difficult and can give you a great place to discard of your kitchen and yard scraps.

Adding compost to your soil has a number of benefits including :

  • Compost helps sandy soil retain water and nutrients.
  • Compost helps soil that contains a lot of clay drain and also allows air to penetrate the soil. In addition, compost also allows roots to spread in clay soil.
  • Compost allows soil to hold nutrients and make them accessible to plants.
  • Compost makes soil easier to work with.
  • The bacteria in compost helps break down organics into nutrients that are available to plants.
  • Soil that is enriched with compost contains lots of beneficial insects, worms, and other organisms that keep the soil aerated.
  • Compost may keep diseases and harmful pests at bay.

# Add Mulch

Adding mulch to your garden provides a number of benefits that can help protect plants and create vigor and big yields. Mulching your garden is one of the most beneficial things you can do. Although you can buy prepacked mulch, you can also use a number of decomposing organic materials including wood chips, pine needles, straw, cocoa, bean shells, recycled tires, pebbles, rock etc.. Be sure to take advantage of what you have available to use as mulch. You can save a lot of money doing this.

Adding mulch to your garden will help in these ways :

  • Weed control – fewer weeds mean healthier plants
  • Retains moisture – this is especially important if you live in a dry and hot climate
  • Deters pests – particular types of mulch deter insects due to the pungent natural aromas. Be careful, however, some type of mulch can also draw insects to your garden. Be sure to do your research before mulching. Be careful, however, when using mulch. Do not put a whole lot of mulch up close to the stems of plants – this can cause a problem.
  • Putting mulch down in your garden can encourage earthworms to multiply. Earthworms are great for improving soil structure and nutrient availability to plants.

# Plant Cover Crops

Whether you plant a row garden or use raised beds, a cover crop will do wonders for next season’s crops. Cover crops help to build up fertility and improve soil structure.  Excellent cover crops include clover, alfalfa, peas and beans. These crops convert nitrogen from the air into forms that plants can use. The best way to plant a cover crop is to use a mixture of grasses and clovers.

# Consider Raised Beds

One of the nicest things about raised beds is how quickly you can build up a highly fertile soil base. Raised beds typically yield four to five times more than the same space planted in rows. This is because of loose, and highly fertile soil. It is by far the most effective way to grow a healthy and vibrant garden. There are many ways to create raised beds. Once you create a raised bed, it requires minimal upkeep.

# Extend the Season on Both Ends

Another way you can have a high yield garden is to start growing things early and also extend beyond the season. With a little planning and the right tools, you can still be harvesting your garden while your friends are cleaning up. Some of the tools you can use to start early start include cold frames, cloches, and tunnels. At the other end of the season, use row covers to protect your plants from cold temperatures. You can also consider making or investing in a greenhouse where you can adjust the temperature and monitor the air quality, sunlight etc..

Grow A Giant Basil Bush

The best way to ensure that a plant grows to its maximum potential is to give it want it needs. In the case of basil, it is a lot of warmth, plenty of bright sunlight and ample moisture. If you provide these, your basil seedlings will grow fast to become large plants, providing you with plenty of leaves for your pesto.

If you keep your basil in the tiny pot it came in, you are not going to have a large, luxurious plant, even if you provide water and fertilizers regularly. The roots need space to stretch out, so transplant it into a larger pot or plant it out in the garden.

If you are growing your plants from seeds, start them indoors early so that they will be ready to go outside when warm weather arrives. Use warm grow lights or heating mats to keep your basil seedlings warm. A constant temperature of 70F is ideal.

Almost all varieties of basil are very tender, so they shouldn’t go outside until all danger of frost has passed. As a general rule, basil should follow tomato plants. In fact, both these warm-season plants have similar cultural requirements. If you have a long growing season, you can sow basil seeds directly in a well-cultivated spot or raised bed at the same time as you transplant your tomato seedlings. By the time the basil seedlings come up, it will be warm enough for them.

Basil likes some amount of moisture in the soil all the time, but it doesn’t like wet feet. Rich growing medium keeps it happy, but good drainage should be ensured. Work the soil well to ensure good air circulation. Amend the garden soil with compost, leaf mold, and other organic matter. Soil compaction retards growth, so ‘friable’ soil is what you should aim for. Add some high nitrogen fertilizer which helps leafy growth. For organic culture, vermicompost is excellent. Repeat feeding every two weeks with compost tea.

# Pinching the tip for good branching

Most gardening advice regarding basil supports keeping the plant compact and bushy. But large plants provide more leaves. As you know very well, even a small quantity of pesto requires quite a large amount of leaves.

If you want a large basil plant, refrain from pinching the tip when the plant is 6 inches tall as most gardeners advise. Allow the plant to grow fast and furious until it is between 12-15 inches tall. Pinch not just the apical bud and the first pair of leaves as you would normally do. Remove around 2 inches of the stem tip. This promotes branching from lower nodes.

The side branches can be allowed to grow and fill out before their tips are pinched. They should be ready within 3 weeks. Continue to pinch off the tips of all branches and use them for making pesto and sauces.

# Keeping the plant young and growing

Frequent harvesting is important to keep your basil plant in a constant state of youthfulness. When it starts to produce new growth tipped with flower buds, pinch them off immediately. Flowering changes the flavor of the herb, so you always want to avoid this.

All annuals have to wind up their life cycle sooner or later, but not before their basic purpose in life–procreation–is achieved. If they feel that their survival is under threat, they accelerate their life cycle, shifting their focus from vegetative growth to reproductive phase. In other words, they start producing flowers, which would eventually make seeds.

When plants start their reproductive phase prematurely, it is called bolting. Summer heat, drought, and changes in day length are all triggers for bolting. In the case of some herbaceous annuals like spinach, celery, lettuce, and cilantro, once the plants start to bolt, there’s nothing much you can do about it. But basil is different. That’s because basil is not truly an annual.

Most types of basil can be grown as a perennial in warm climates, although the plants tend to look scraggly after flowering and the flavor may change. But, if you give it a good pruning and plenty of water, the vegetative growth starts again. Basils are easily grown from seeds, so gardeners usually grow them as annuals even in tropical areas. In temperate climates, this is the only way to grow them except in heated greenhouses.

When your basil plant starts flowering prematurely, give it plenty of water and move it to a slightly cooler, partially shady spot. If it is growing in the ground, create some shade around the plant and keep a larger area around the plant moist. This helps raise the humidity and provide a more favorable microclimate for continuing the vegetative phase. A thorough pruning sometimes helps rejuvenate a listless plant.

Growing Beautiful Orchids?, Here Its Tips

Complex, delicate, incredibly diverse, and stunningly beautiful, orchids are oft considered to be the crowning achievement for the home grower – the epitome of mastery over the plant kingdom.

Comprised of the largest group of flowering plants, to date the Orchidaceae family includes over 30,000 different native species and 200,000 hybrids. With the exception of Antarctica, they are found on every single continent on the planet, thriving everywhere between the Arctic Circle and Patagonia for at least 100 million years.

Orchids are able to survive equally well in tropics or tundra because of their unique ability to adapt to their environment. With flowers that have evolved to attract pollinators and defend against predators, some species of orchids have blooms that resemble animals – like the bee orchid (Ophrys apifera), monkey orchid (Dracula simia), flying duck orchid (Caleana major), white egret orchid (Pecteilis radiata), and the dove orchid (Peristeria elata). Relying solely on pollinators to accomplish fertilization, the down side to being so highly specialized means that if the pollinator goes extinct, so does the species of orchid.

While orchids do have a reputation for being extraordinarily difficult to cultivate (and indeed, some species are near impossible to grow), there are many varieties that positively flourish in a home environment.

Easy Orchid Species for the Beginner

# Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis)

Spanning more than 60 species, the genus Phalaenopsis has been a favorite among home cultivators since the 1850s due to its hardy, non-fussy nature. With long-lasting flowers that stay in bloom for two months or more, moth orchids are available in a broad spectrum of shapes and colors, the most common varieties featuring blossoms in shades of white, pink, or purple. Given its name because its expansive petals look like a moth in flight, moth orchids are monopodial, single stemmed plants with alternating elliptical leaves. Most are shade-loving epiphytes, growing on rocks or trees in their native tropical habitats.

Light Requirements – Moth orchids like the bright, indirect light of an east-facing window. They may also be placed at a window facing south or west but should be screened with sheer curtains or shade cloth. Moth orchids given too much light will look weak, sun burned, and yellowed; too little light and moth orchids will not rebloom.

Temperature Ranges – Since the moth orchid is a tropical plant, it is accustomed to warm, uniform temperatures. It’s best to keep them around 80⁰F during the day and 65⁰F at night.

Growing Medium – Phalaenopsis are air plants that typically grow on the branches of trees, drawing moisture from the bark after rainfall and morning dew. For home growers, the ideal growing medium are organic materials that won’t absorb much moisture, such as fir bark, sphagnum peat, tree fern, coconut husk chips, charcoal, sphagnum moss, perlite, or a combination of these mediums.

Watering – Moth orchids should be kept moist but not wet. Do not allow the orchids to completely dry out between waterings. When the potting mix is dry to the touch, water these orchids thoroughly, allowing water to freely drain from the pot to prevent the roots from becoming waterlogged.

Fertilizer – Regularly feeding your moth orchid is essential since the recommended growing media contain very little nutrients. Use a 30-10-10 fertilizer diluted at half-strength once a month, and during the blossoming season, fertilize more often. Also, be sure to feed with an all-purpose plant food every three months so the orchids will receive trace elements and micronutrients.

Flowering – Generally, moth orchids bloom between late summer to spring, and so a 10⁰F drop in temperature may encourage them to flower. Once the flowers fade, snip just above the second node beneath the flowers.

Repotting – When moth orchid’s roots begin to emerge outside of the pot, or become root bound, or the potting mix has deteriorated, it’s time to repot your plant. Carefully remove the plant from the pot, gently untangling the root ball from the growing medium. The roots should be white and firm; if roots are brown, shrivelled, or hollow, cut them back with sterile scissors. Transfer the plant to a container slightly larger than the one used previously and cover with a fresh potting mix. Don’t bury the upper roots completely, as they benefit from growing in air.

# Slipper Orchids (Paphiopedilum)

Prized for their unusual flowers, there are more than 50 varying species of Paphiopedilum but they all share in common a slipper-like pouch which serves to trap insects and facilitate pollination. Found throughout Southeast Asia, slipper orchids come in many different sizes and colors and may be single flowered, sequential flowered, or multi-flowered. With blossoms that endure for three months or more, when out of bloom these plants make a lovely addition to the home because many varieties have attractive mottled foliage.

Light Requirements – As terrestrial plants that grow on the forest floor, slipper orchids do well in filtered sunshine. During summer, place these lovelies in a spot with indirect light. In winter, when days are shorter, give them full, unshaded light.

Temperature Ranges – There are both warm and cool growing species of slipper orchid. The mottled-leaf types hail from temperate zones and so need a daytime temperature of 68⁰F to 86⁰F and a nighttime temperature of 65⁰F. Solid green leaf varieties come from higher altitudes and require 50⁰F to 77⁰F during the day and 50⁰F to 55⁰F at night.

Growing Medium – Use medium grade bark with slipper orchids. You can also optionally add in some moss, peat, perlite, worm castings, and coconut husks.

Watering – With no pseudobulbs that hold water, Paphiopedilum needs frequent watering and should be kept moist – but not soggy – at all times. Depending on the pot size and the growing medium, slipper orchids should be watered every three to ten days.

Fertilizer – Use a NPK balanced fertilizer, such as 20-20-20, at ¼ strength each time you water. Once a month, flush with clean water to remove accumulated salts.

Flowering – The slipper orchid’s flowering season begins in mid-autumn. Flowers will not rebloom on the same stem so once the blossoms fade, cut the stalk back to the base of the plant.

# Cattleya

With huge blooms that come in every color of the rainbow except true blue, Cattleya (pronounced KAT-lee-ah) is found throughout Central and South America. The Cattleya orchid’s most prominent feature is a frilly trumpet-like column which extends from its center. Named after horticulturist William Cattley, who was the first to bring one to flower in 1824, Cattleya was once dubbed the “queen of the orchids” due to its enduring popularity. Nowadays that noble title belongs to Grammatophyllum speciosum, believed to be the largest orchid in the world.

Light Requirements – These plants prefer bright light in the mornings and shaded sun by midday.

Temperature Ranges – Although Cattleyas can tolerate a lot of light, keeping their leaves cool is necessary for mimicking their high-altitude, but tropical, natural environment. Good air movement and high humidity can help prevent them from overheating while they bask in the sunshine. In summer, temperature should be in the 65⁰F to 85⁰F range during the day, 60⁰F to 65⁰F at night; in winter, daytime temperature between 60⁰F to 70⁰F and a nighttime minimum of 55⁰F.

Growing Medium – Cattelya are epiphytic and may be grown in chopped fir bark, coconut husk chips, gravel, lava rock, tree fern fiber, and sphagnum moss.

Watering – Over- and under watering Cattleya can spell a quick demise so it’s important to only water when the growing medium is dry. Place the pot in your sink and slowly flush with water until it is thoroughly wetted, allowing it to freely drain.

Fertilizer – Used a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, on Cattleya at half strength every other time you water during the summer and once a month during winter.

Flowering – Blooming in the spring and fall, Cattleya flowers can last for up to a month. Once the flowers drop and the stem begins to yellow, cut the stem back to just above the leaf.

# Cymbidium

Featuring a gorgeous spray of 15 or more flowers on each spike when in bloom, Cymbidium are native to the cooler mountainous regions of Asia and Australia. These orchids are available in hues of white, green, yellow, brown, pink, red, and orange. Their name is derived from the Latin word cymba, which means boat, because of the hollowed curve of the floral lip.

Light Requirements – Cymbidium likes it bright but cool, so keeping this plant happy requires a balance between light and temperature. In northern areas, you may place Cymbidium in full sun; in southern regions, give it filtered light.

Temperature Ranges – While Cymbidium can tolerate some heat during the day, in order to flower it will need chillier evening temperatures. During the day, 75⁰F to 85⁰F is fine as long as it cools to 50⁰F to 60⁰F at night.

Growing Medium – A good mix for Cymbidium is two parts medium-grade fir bark, two parts peat moss, and one part sand or perlite.

Watering – During the growth season of spring and summer, water these plants well. In winter, they require much less watering and should be kept barely moist during their dormant period.

Fertilizer – Use a high nitrogen fertilizer (like 30-10-10) at full strength every week or two in spring and summer, switching to a high phosphorous fertilizer (like 10-30-20) in late summer to induce flowering. In winter, use a NPK balanced fertilizer and feed once per month.

Flowering – When Cymbidium has finished flowering, cut the spikes off at the base of the plant.

 # Dendrobium

Meaning “life in a tree” in Greek, Dendrobium are the largest and most diverse class of orchids, numbering some 1,200 species and counting. Found in swamps, deserts, mountains, and tropics, these exotic beauties have cane-like stems, and, depending on the species, may bloom a single flower or as many as 100 per stem.Dendrobium has been divided into two groups: the nobile type which drops its leaves in winter and the Phalaenopsis type which is evergreen and resembles the moth orchid. Because it is a little easier to cultivate, we will focus on caring for Dendrobium-Phalaenopsis.

Light Requirements Den-Phal needs abundant indirect light. Try placing this plant in an east-facing window or a slightly shaded south-facing window.

Temperature Ranges – The ideal daytime range is 65⁰F to 75⁰F and 55⁰F to 60⁰F at night.

Growing Medium Den-Phals like to sit snugly in pots that are barely large enough to contain their roots, so keep this in mind when it’s time to repot. Use a medium-grade fir bark with add-ins like lava rock, charcoal, or perlite.

Watering – With needs similar to Cattleya orchids, Den-Phal should be almost dry before it’s watered. Using tepid water, place the plant in the sink and gently flush with water for about a minute and allow the pot to drain completely.

Fertilizer – Use a NPK balanced fertilizer each week at ¼ strength.

Flowering – Lasting up to three months, Den-Phal orchids typically have five to 20 flowers on each cane when in bloom. When the flowers fade, cut the blossom stem where it meets the cane.

Orchid Care Tips

While orchids may need a little extra TLC than the common houseplant, if you can successfully grow roses or vegetables in your garden, you can most definitely succeed at growing orchids on a windowsill. Be warned, though, cultivating orchids can be quite addictive and you may find yourself collecting an array of these enchanting plants!

Here are some more general care tips:

  • Many types of orchids love high humidity. In lieu of a humidifier, you can make a humidity tray by placing a saucer filled with gravel or pebbles and water beneath the pot. The water will evaporate and raise the ambient humidity level.
  • Try to water your orchids in the morning to ensure the plant has time to dry before nightfall. Avoid getting the leaves and foliage wet when you water.
  • Plan to repot your orchid every year or two.
  • If your orchid doesn’t rebloom, it’s probably not getting enough light. Generally, when the leaves are light to medium green, the orchid is receiving a good amount of sun.
  • During the warmer months, orchids can take the heat as long as you provide them with good air circulation and ventilation.

Worst Plants to Grow

In the effort to ensure your summer of gardening is as carefree as possible, we’ve curated a list of decorative plants that really aren’t worth all the trouble. If you don’t want to worry about plant toxicity, garden bullies, or demanding divas, then you definitely want to stay away from these lovely, yet time-consuming, cultivars:

# Beautiful & Deadly

Since plants have no claws or teeth to protect themselves from predators, many have evolved with toxic compounds to defend against insects, animals, and humans. Though fatality by plant is exceedingly rare, you may wish to keep these poisonous species far away from kids and pets.

— Poet’s Narcissus (Narcissus poeticus)

Part of the daffodil family, poet’s narcissus offers a gorgeous display of pure white petals surrounded by a funnel-shaped yellow center that is rimmed with a delicate ridge of red.

Named after the Greek hero Narcissus, whose love of his own beauty brought about his demise, all parts of the poet’s narcissus are toxic, especially the bulbs which can be easily mistaken for onions. Containing lycorine, eating this plant can cause vomiting, stomach cramps, and in extreme cases, convulsions and cardiac arrhythmias. It is also highly fragrant and keeping a large quantity of poet’s narcissus in an enclosed space is powerful enough to bring about headaches and nausea.

— Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale)

A fall flowering plant, autumn crocus offers showy blooms in hues of pink, purple, white, and blue. But beware, these lovely autumn flowers contain the alkaloid colchicines. Though this chemical has been used medicinally to treat gout, atrial fibrillation, and pericarditis, the plant is toxic if eaten, inhaled, or absorbed through the eyes. With symptoms that are similar to arsenic poisoning, acute exposure is usually felt within two to 24 hours and includes fever, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and possibly multiple system organ failure when left untreated.

— Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

Featuring tall spikes with a multitude of bell-shaped purple-pink flowers, each bloom of the foxglove plant has an intriguing smattering of black and white spots on its interior cup. While it certainly is a fascinating visual piece for the garden, all parts of this plant contain cardiac glycoside, a digitoxin that affects the heart. If eaten, it causes low pulse rate, nausea, vomiting, and heart contractions that will eventually lead to cardiac arrest.

— Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)

Sweetly scented, lily of the valley has leafy shoots with a delicate cluster of downward-facing white flowers. This dainty little number is not only extremely toxic, but could easily be classed as an aggressive grower too. To date, 38 different cardiac glycosides have been identified in lily of the valley and consuming even small amounts can cause abdominal pain, reduced heart rate, skin rashes, and blurred vision. Lily of the valley also produces small red berries, which are poisonous too, and could be especially tempting to children.

# Aggressive Growers

These plants are the veritable bullies of the garden, quickly subduing and crowding out your more bashful botanicals. If you decide to plant these types of blooms regardless of their aggressive nature, be prepared to snip and pull quite often to keep them under control.

— English Ivy (Hedera helix)

Considered an invasive species in many parts of the United States, English ivy has even been outright banned in the state of Oregon. While its clinging vines make for an excellent ground cover or building façade green, using it anywhere else in the backyard can be problematic at the least. Very difficult to control once it’s established, it spreads so densely that it can choke out other plants and create an “ivy desert” effect, while its penchant for climbing can cause young trees to topple over from its creeping weight.

— Mint (Mentha spp.)

Despite their culinary uses and air freshening aroma, many varieties of mint – including peppermint, spearmint, and catmint – are prolific growers. Utilizing their twofold spreading technique, mint plants are able to conquer far and wide via underground rhizomes and horizontal runners. They can quickly take over new terrain so it’s best to grow them in containers and to harvest their leaves frequently to keep them at bay.

— Bamboo (Bambusoideae)

An exotic addition to the backyard landscape, bamboo is among the fastest growing woods in the world. Producing more oxygen than the average tree, it can also be harvested and cured for a homegrown supply of strong and durable building materials. Bamboo’s main caveat, however, is its vigor for colonizing new lands – it can (and will) spread beyond your property line and into your neighbor’s yard. Unthwarted by commercial herbicides, bamboo can be very difficult to cull and may take years to get it under control.

 — Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)

With a common name like ‘creeping jenny’, it would be safe to assume that is plant likes to move! The rounded leaves along expansive, reaching stems make for an attractive ground cover and flower basket accent. Native to Europe, it is considered an invasive species in the US because of its propensity for crowding out native plants. Though it is easily pulled from the ground, creeping jenny is better suited for containers or as a lawn replacement.

 # Garden Divas

Commanding the utmost of attention and care, high-maintenance plants will throw a ton of attitude your way if you can’t keep up with their demands. Instead of wringing your hands over these prima donnas, perhaps it’s best to plant some laid back blooms.

— Roses (Rosa spp.)

Though exquisite to behold and superbly fragrant, all types of rose shrubs are finicky and need lots of pampering. For flawless blooms, you’ll have to ensure the soil is deep, loose, and enriched with compost, properly plan and space your plants so roses receive good air flow, twice weekly waterings and frequent feedings, regular pruning and deadheading (watch those thorns!), as well as the everlasting challenge of preventing black spots and protecting them from aphids, spider mites, and deer.

— Gardenias (Gardenia jasminoides)

Terribly temperamental, gardenias require a perfect harmony of watering, sunlight, humidity, feeding, pruning, and mulching in order to glimpse those showy white flowers come summer. Neglect just one or two of gardenia’s needs and the whole plant will suffer.

— Dahlias (Dahlias spp.)

Adding a touch of colorful cheer to the garden, dahlias vary from teeny half inch pom-poms to enormous 10-inch “dinner plates”. Aside from the usual routine of watering and feeding, dahlias are prone to powdery mildew, botrytis blight, viral diseases, and tuber rot. Gardeners will also need to exercise much vigilance when combatting aphids and thrips, often requiring pesticides to be applied every week to avoid infestations. Prolonging blooms means lots of deadheading and as dahlias grow and become massive they will need to be supported by stakes to prevent their succulent stems from snapping in half.

Harvest Dandelion Roots Tips

For a considerable length of time, dandelion has been grasped by botanists and regular living lovers to treat everything from liver issues to stomach related problems.

All aspects of this mending weed is consumable – from the blooms and leaves directly down to the oft overlooked roots. Be that as it may, it’s these profound roots that contain so a large portion of the plant’s medical advantages. Not just are they a rich wellspring of vitamins A, B, C and D, and in addition minerals, for example, iron, potassium and zinc; however the intense substances in these tubers additionally help in detoxification and liver incitement.

Continue perusing to find how to collect and utilize dandelion pulls for better wellbeing and essentialness.

# Harvesting Dandelion Roots

For medicinal purposes, dandelion roots are best harvested in fall – particularly after a heavy rain, which serves to loosen the soil around the roots. Dandelion roots grow deep – up to one foot in length. It’s these tough, long roots that are responsible for the plant’s high levels of nutrients – the dandelion can reach deeper into the rich soil than other plants can for nourishment. This is also why they are a little difficult to harvest but, by following the below steps, you’ll soon be reaping the benefits of dandelion root.

Harvesting in fall also means that the levels of the insoluble fiber inulin will be higher, while fructose (sugar) levels will be lower. On the other hand, if you require the roots for culinary purposes, spring roots (before the plants blossom) are best. At this time of the year, they will contain less fiber and are less bitter and chewy. Spring roots are also higher in taraxacin, the substance in dandelions which stimulates bile production and aids liver function.

Because dandelion is a potent detoxifier, you should gather dandelion away from busy roads and other polluted areas, ensuring the plants haven’t been treated with chemicals.

Now that you know when and where to harvest dandelions, let’s look at how to do it.

  1. Choose the largest and most vigorous plants, leaving smaller dandelions alone. Not only do these have small roots but they are excellent food for bees, beetles and birds.
  2. Using a garden fork, gently work through the moist soil, being careful not to break or damage the root – the medicinal properties lie within the precious sap, housed inside these tough tubers.
  3. Once you have released the entire root from the ground, gently shake it to remove excess soil and scrub it thoroughly until clean. It’s now ready to use immediately or preserve.

# Preserving Dandelion Roots

Dandelion roots can be used fresh from the ground for both culinary and medicinal purposes but if you want to store some of your harvest for future use, you’ll need to dehydrate it.

If you have a dehydrator, simply slice the cleaned roots into strips of equal size and dry them until brittle.

Alternatively, wrap each whole root with a long piece of string and hang in cool, dry location with good air flow for several days until completely brittle. Once dry, cut into small pieces.

Whichever method you choose, store your dried root in a glass jar for up to a year. If dried correctly, the outer flesh of the dandelion root should have a dark color while the inner flesh should be creamy white.

Simple and Easy Raised Beds

Gardening is much easier with raised beds. They make many traditional gardening chores like deep tilling, weeding and amending the soil redundant. If you have poor soil, if it is too acidic or clayey, if the ground is rocky or uneven, raised beds can come to your rescue.

You can fill the raised beds with good quality compost and soil so the plants get to live in the best of soil conditions. Filled-in beds ensure good soil aeration and drainage. Plants can have excellent root run and they will escape competition from tree roots in the ground.

pH of the soil can be easily adjusted to suit the plants you’re growing. Adjacent beds can have ericaceous plants growing in one and have sweet soil in the next. Troublesome creepy crawlies are less likely to find their way into your raised beds. It is easier to fix protective hoops and supportive structures. When you top dress the beds occasionally, the rains won’t carry it away. You can grow more food in less space because closer planting is possible. Also, crawling plants can hang over the sides of a bed, leaving the space inside for other crops.

Well, the benefits of raised bed gardening are numerous. But what is even more heartening is that it is quite easy to make raised beds. You can make simple structures using locally available materials. The whole family can pitch in and get it done in just an hour or two.

Here are some quick and easy DIY raised beds to get you started.

# Raised bed with sandbag for sides

To start with the easiest, this raised bed requires just sandbags. Ready-to-use sandbags could be available in many disaster management centers. Sand is usually available from many nurseries and building supply companies in case you want to make your own, but it might be illegal to collect sand from beaches. Garden soil does not work as an alternative.

To make a 4ft x 8ft raised bed, you may need 20 sandbags measuring 1ft x 3ft. A width of 4 ft is ideal for beds since you will be able to plant and harvest crops without stepping into bed. Walking on the bed results in soil compaction, which is something you want to avoid.

Mark the outline of a 4ft x 8ft rectangle on the ground. Place sandbags in a single file on all sides, making sure that the corners have a snug fit. Now, build a second layer and tamp it down.

Line the interior of the bed with cardboard or several layers of newspaper to make a barrier against weeds in the ground. Fill the bed with several layers using high-quality garden soil, grass clippings, crushed leaves, and compost.

# Raised beds with logs

If you have recently cut down some trees in the property or have old logs lying around, you can build a raised bed in no time. Sourcing straight logs of 1 ft diameter from a local lumberyard is not a bad idea either. Three 8 ft long logs would be sufficient if you have a chainsaw to cut one of them into two 4 ft long pieces for the shorter sides. You can easily get it done in lumberyards.

Mark 4ft x 8ft rectangle on the ground and place the two long logs 4 ft apart and parallel to each other. Place the shorter logs on the remaining two sides. Move the logs slightly towards one another to complete the bed. Wedge a few rocks in the space between the logs and the ground to keep the logs from shifting as you fill the beds. Alternatively, you can use 2 ft long sections of rebar to give strong support to the logs. Hammer them down close to the logs, 2-3 each to every side, until they are flush with the top of the logs.

# Raised beds with wooden planks

If shifting heavy logs is too much work, build the sides of the beds with wooden planks instead. You will need three 2 by 12 planks measuring 8 ft each; 2 for the long sides and the other one to be cut into two 4ft planks for the other two sides. Remember to use untreated wood only for your vegetable beds.

We are restricting the length of the beds to beds to 8ft and the height to 1 ft here because longer and taller beds would need additional crossbars for extra support. 12 inches of soil is deep enough for most vegetables because the majority of roots are distributed in the first 6 inches of soil. Only a few would venture into the remaining 6 inches. The bottom of the raised bed remains open as the cardboard and paper disintegrates, so any vigorous roots can find their way into deeper soil, if necessary.

You will need 2ft sections of rebar to support the wooden planks on the outside. Mark the 4×8 outline on the ground. Hammer down the rebar sections deep into the ground, 3 each on the long sides and 2 each on the short sides, until only 10 inches of them remain above the ground. Stand the planks on their edges and arrange them against the rebar stumps. You will have some overlap at the corners, so adjust the planks to make a snug fit. Hold the planks in place with rocks until you fill the bed.

 # Raised beds with concrete block edging

Concrete blocks make an interesting edging because they have 2 or more little pockets that you can use for growing herbs or ornamentals. 8” by 8” by 16” is a convenient size to use, and you will need 16 such blocks to make a single layer bed 8 inches tall.

After marking the outline, place two blocks end to end to form one of the shorter sides. It will be less than 3 ft long now. Place one block each at right angles at both ends to form the corners. Now, this side will measure 4 ft on the outside. Continue arranging the blocks along the longer side until you get to the last two blocks which will form the short side at the far end. The heavy concrete blocks should stay in place when filled in, but you can drive down a few rebar sections along the periphery for extra support.

If you use cured compost and soil to fill up the beds, you can start planting them immediately. A few weeks of curing helps if farmyard manure, fresh leaves, and grass clippings are used along with compost.

Strategies to Keep Plants Blooming For Longer

Flowers are meant to bring cheer and beauty to your surroundings with their jewel colors and enchanting fragrance. Cool season flowers put up a good show in spring, and then again in fall in some cases. Tender plants survive only for a summer. Use the following tricks to keep your garden in one continuous floral display from early spring to late fall.

1. Start with healthy seedlings

The early development of  has an impact on the performance of flowering plants. Spindly plants with weak or elongated stems often indicate light or water stress in their early days. They may fail to thrive even if you shower any amount of loving tender care later on. They may quickly run through their entire life cycle and start setting seed too early. As a matter of fact, making seeds is the one goal of flowering plants. Weaker ones get down to business faster without spending too much time and energy producing many flowers.

When you buy seedlings in flats, you should look for lush, bushy growth.  Such plants tend to be stronger and capable of handling adverse conditions later. If you’re starting seeds indoors, make sure they get sufficient water and light. Direct sown beds should be thinned, leaving only the healthiest seedlings.

2. Plant them in rich soil

Soil rich in organic matter provides plenty of nutrients to the growing plants. Plants tend to thrive in soil enriched with compost and manure. It promotes good root run and lush vegetative growth, which will ensure plentiful flowers and a longer flowering period.

There are a few exceptions, though. Some plants like lavender seem to prefer light soil poor in nutrients. Some plants flower prolifically when grown in poor soil and drought-prone areas, but the flower show could be all too short. That just goes to prove that it pays to know the ideal cultural conditions of every plant you intend to grow in the garden.

# Allow for a good amount of vegetative growth

A good sized plant with plenty of branches naturally produces more flowers. When you see flower buds in young seedlings, be ruthless in removing them promptly. Feed them some nitrogen-rich fertilizer like compost tea to promote vegetative growth first. Don’t allow them to sprint through their lifecycle in a hurry.

# Deadhead regularly

Deadheading or removing spent flowers is a popular and proven way to keep plants flowering for longer. If the flowers are allowed to remain on the plant beyond their prime, the plant may move onto the seed setting stage. Cutting flowers for vases and bouquets is a great way to enjoy your garden indoors as well as outdoors. It is even better than removing just faded flowers.

# Feed regularly

Flowering is an energy-intensive activity. Regular feeding is essential to meet the high demands on nutrients required for keeping the plants in bloom. One should ideally start with nitrogen-rich fertilizers to promote initial vegetative growth. This should be followed with a formula that is high in potassium and phosphorous, which helps root spread and flower production.

# Give extra water

Spring flowering usually tapers down as summer heat picks up, but you can keep the plants going a bit longer by giving them extra water. You will notice your plants wilting in the afternoon and then getting revived during the night. The repeated wilting shortens the lifespan of the plants, and they hurry onto the next phase, i.e. making seeds. That would practically put an end to the flower show.

Increasing soil moisture and spraying the plants with water, especially in the afternoon, raises humidity and cools down the atmosphere.

# Provide shade when necessary

Temperatures in the shade remain a few degrees lower than that of fully exposed areas. Providing shade can sometimes keep the plants blooming for a few weeks more. Shade screens can do it very efficiently, but they may mar the aesthetics of your garden.

A better alternative would be planting summer and fall flowering plants closer to the spring flowers. They will grow tall enough to provide some shade by the time it gets too warm for the spring plants. Similarly, summer-flowering plants can be protected from frosty, desiccating winds by cold-hardy plants around them.

# Mulch around the plants

Mulch acts as an insulator. It keeps the soil cooler by a few degrees when the temperature rises in spring, and helps retain soil warmth for a little longer in fall. Before spring flowering annuals and perennials starts showing heat stress, apply a thick layer of mulch around them. With extra watering and some amount of shade, you might be able to extend the flowering season for a few more weeks.

For summer flowers, warm soil beneath dark colored mulches may help them hold out a bit longer. Stone and rock mulches are especially good at absorbing the sun’s heat during the day and releasing them in the night. When you grow tropical perennials as annuals, a little bit of extra warmth can make a big difference.

# Give the plant a nice shearing

Most flowering bushes can be persuaded to have a second––or even a third––round of flowering if the climate remains favorable. Even flowering plants like Bee balm, Rudbeckia and Goldenrod that may not produce flowers a second time look better if they are pruned hard at the end of their flowering. The lush new growth can look just as attractive.

Cutting back the growth by one-third usually helps many flowering shrubs to grow a new set of stems tipped with flower buds. Some plants like Foxglove, Delphinium, Pincushion flower, and Salvia have a basal tuft of foliage from which tall flower spikes arise. All their flowering stalks should be removed before new ones can sprout from the base. Coreopsis, Columbine, Stoke’s aster, and Crane’s bill Geranium may put up new growth and offer another set of flowers if you trim them down almost to the ground.