Sunday, 19 February 2017

Repelling Bugs the Natural Way : 10 Herbs for Planting in Your Garden

Do bugs and insects get on your nerves and play havoc with your plants? Rather than reaching for an insecticide or a bug repellent, plant these herbs as natural fixes in your garden or yard, or in containers so that you can move them wherever you need them.

1. Mint

Mint repels effectively fleas, ants, moths, aphids, beetles, and mice; it can help you keep your pets healthy, too. Once you plant mint, it will automatically grow every season. Apart from repelling bugs, mint leaves can be used for preparing tea, cooking Moroccan-inspired dishes, and making mint juleps or mojitos.

2. Basil

Basil helps in keeping away flies and mosquitoes. By planting basil, you can rest assured that you won’t have annoying bugs around you when you hang out in the garden. You can also use basil as a topping with some fresh cheese.

3. Bay leaves

You can drive away roaches with bay leaves. Moreover, you can use the dried bay leaves in stock for stews and soups, or find use for them in an herb wreath.

4. Catnip

A mixture of rosemary and catnip oil can act as an amazing mosquito repellant. You can also mix in some lemon balm for boosting potency.

5. Dill

Dill is more than just an ingredient for preparing pickles; it can scare off squash bugs, aphids, and spider mites. You can also use it on salmon while grilling or baking, or in dips.

6. Lavender

Lavender not only adds to the beauty and nice fragrance of a yard, but also helps to repel fleas, moths, and flies. You can dry it and utilize it as well in little bags made of cloth as sachets inside your drawers.

7. Rosemary

Rosemary is a hardy herb, and once it’s planted, it will grow all year round in milder climates. You can use it to keep off carrot flies, cabbage loopers, slugs, Mexican bean beetle and snails. Apart from this, you can use the hardy stalks on the grill as skewers, in meat dishes (especially lamb) for flavor, and even put some on hot coals for a sweet-smelling grill.

8. Thyme

Get rid of cabbage maggot, cabbage looper, corn earworm, tomato hornworm and whiteflies with this herb. Use it in seafood or poultry dishes when you wish to take them in an Italian or Greek direction. Thyme is also a great idea when creating Provencal dishes such as ratatouille.

9. Garlic

When you grow garlic, you can ward off a host of different pests including carrot flies, aphids, rabbits, codling moths, root maggots, snails, Mexican bean beetle, cabbage loopers and peach tree borers. Utilize fresh garlic to add flavor and depth to just about any dish: sauces, soup stocks, crushed fresh for marinades and bruschetta.

10. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm can be added to make a natural mosquito repellent. Apart from this, you can brew tea with this ingredient to relieve stress.

So, why use harmful chemical repellants when natural herbs can do all the tricks for you? If you need exciting ideas of growing these herbs, it is best to get in touch with a landscaping expert for advice.

Monday, 23 January 2017

10 Easy Steps for You to Clean Rain Gutter

It can be a tedious chore for you to clean out your rain gutters, but it is important and necessary that you keep them free of debris. Your entire house, walls and foundation may suffer serious water damage and flooding because of dirty and clogged downspouts and gutters.

Here are 10 easy steps for you to keep clean the rain gutters:

1. Wear protective equipment

There can be invisible hazards or harmful bacteria lurking in the gutters. Therefore, make sure you protect yourself by wearing safety goggles, thick gloves, and a dust mask.

2. Begin near a downspout

Make use of a stepladder for safety and place yourself by the downspout. Use a garbage bag or a bucket to collect debris.

3. Remove debris

Using a plastic scoop or a trowel, shove debris into the refuse container, working your hands down the gutter.

4. Flush with the help of a hose

There can be dry and sandy coating of materials, or exceptionally sticky gunk still left behind; in such a case, flush your gutter by using a pressurized hose.

If you are unable to clear out everything, scrub the hard spots with a stiff brush and flush the gutter again. If water backs up, it could be due to clogging.

5. Detach the pipe

When you clean the downspout, detach the pipe running underground to prevent the pushing of the clog even further down.

6. Get rid of the clog

Begin by loosening the blockage by running a hose up the downspout. If this technique does not work, call a plumber to get rid of the clog.

7.Reattach the pipe

Make sure you prevent leaks by reattaching the pipe securely.

8. Rinse the downspout

For cleaning, run water out of the downspout from the top of the gutter. This way you can make sure that the clog is removed.

9. Install or clean strainers

If you have strainers, it would be better to clean them to prevent future clogging. In case you don’t have any strainers already installed, do so now to stop large fragments from blocking your pipe.

10. Follow a regular maintenance schedule

Clean the gutters at regular intervals, and check the flow of water. If you observe still water, or if it is not draining properly, it could be because the slope is off. The gutter must drop one-fourth an inch every ten feet.

If there are no missing parts or visible damage, detach hangers and work section by section; rectify the slope to proper draining and reattach. Make sure that you look for leaks with every storm. Gutters may also form rust. If you observe leaks or paint chipping through the metal, substitute the defective section with a new one.

It is important to take seriously regular gutter cleaning. The longer you ignore it, the more likely you are to make matters worse.

You can call your landscaping expert for getting the gutters fixed, if things are beyond your control. That would protect your precious landscape and plantings, and prevent hundreds of dollars of harm to the foundation of your house.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Harvesting Rainwater for your Gardens and Yards

We have all heard about the prolonged drought in California. While some places experience low stream flows, others suffer seasonal dryness.

Even if you live in a state that is safe from elevated drought levels, your city or state may require you to restrict use of water as a precautionary measure. One major method of preservation of natural resources is rainwater harvesting.

Benefits rainwater harvesting

There is no wealth to match the bounty of the rain god. After an inch of rainfall, you gain almost 900 gallons of water from your barn or house if the structure is 30 x 50 feet.

Rainwater is healthier as it has no trace of any of the chemicals that you normally find in tap water. You can collect it very easily and use it to water your indoor plants, and garden, and do anything else that is beyond the essential needs.

One of the simplest ways to harvest rainwater is to install a water diverter on the current downspout of the gutters, and keep there a container for water storage beneath the downspout. You can easily do this for your house.

Different ways of rainwater harvesting

Surface runoff harvesting

Local authorities can construct a well-planned network to save every drop of runoff water and utilize it for recharging aquifers for the entire city.

Rooftop harvesting

This is a system of saving rainwater from where it falls first on a city: the roof is the catchment area here. The water thus collected can either be stored in a tank or sent to an artificial recharge system. The method is a lot less expensive and extremely effective; if implemented properly it helps augmenting the ground water level.

Rainwater collected from the rooftop should be directed down via water pipes or drains to the harvesting/storage system. The pipes must be UV-resistant. Water from roofs can also be channelized through down take or gutter pipes. The mouth of every drain on the terrace should have wire mesh to filter floating material.

First flush is an instrument that serves to get rid of the water collected during the first shower. It is necessary to do this in order to avoid any form of contamination of rechargeable/storable water due to possible atmospheric contaminants.

This helps as well to clean silt and other forms of dirty material deposited on the roof over a period. Provisions for a first flush rain separator must be made at the mouth of every drainpipe.

Harvesting through percolation tanks

Percolation tanks are surface water bodies created artificially, immersing a land area with acceptable permeability; this provision enables sufficient percolation for recharging the ground water. Such tanks are created in big campuses where plenty of land is available and the geography is suitable.

Most of us take water for granted and overuse it without any thought of a terrible water crisis that is slowly building up. A day might come sooner than later when life on earth may face a serious threat in the form of unprecedented water scarcity.

Rainwater harvesting is one of the most cost-effective and necessary steps to ward of this situation, and try to maintain water availability at normal levels.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Killing Weeds in your Garden : 11 Natural Ways

Weeds are inevitable nuisance almost in every garden. They play havoc with your plants starving them of the nutrients and water that you supply. Weed killing chemicals are harsh and expensive; there are, however, eleven natural ways listed below through which you can effectively get rid of the weeds – saving thus your time and money!

1. Starve them of sunlight

Plants require sunlight to produce their own food and this process is known as photosynthesis. You can get rid of weeds in just a matter of a few days by covering them with newspapers and literally starving them of the essential sunlight.

2. Use boiling water

Boiling water tends to kill weeds by burning them. Use the water leftover from cooking to get rid of all the garden weeds.

3. Use alcohol

Spraying weeds with 4 cups of water mixed with 5 tablespoons of alcohol will poison to death the weeds. However, take care not to spray the mixture on other plants.

4. Salt

The same salt used on sidewalks and driveways during the winters can also help kill weeds. However, carry out the exercise with caution since it will annihilate as well anything else around exposed. Sprinkle carefully salt into gaps that have no other plant in them.

5. Baking soda

In case you have crevices that you do not wish to fill, but have weeds you wish to get rid of, you can make use of baking soda. Apply baking soda the same way. Sprinkle a tablespoon of the ingredient on wet weeds and make sure you cover the entire plant that you grow.

6. Vinegar

Mix vinegar and water in equal proportions and spray the mixture on weeds for a few days.

7. Dish soap

If the smell of vinegar makes you feel nauseous, make use of dish soap in the same way you would use vinegar.

8. Other plants

Plants tend to compete with one another for nutrients and water. By filling up any empty space with more plants, there will not be enough nutrients or space for the weeds to grow.

9. Corn meal gluten

This is a great technique to prevent weeds from growing but may not work in killing current weeds. Sprinkle corn meal throughout your garden; as it starts to break down, it becomes nitrogen and fertilizes the soil, and at the same time, it prevents the germination of weed seeds.

10. Burning

Another simple way of killing weeds is to burn them. It is dangerous to set weeds on fire especially when surrounded by dry grass; instead, you can use a weed scorcher available at garden stores. The burnt weeds will die for sure in a few days.

11. Weeding

One of the most effective and fastest ways of getting rid of weeds is to take them out by hand. Dampen the whole ground and start pulling them one at a time with all the roots. In case you need help, make use of a trowel for best results.

If weed growth in your garden is getting out of hand, do not postpone seeking expert help. Call up your landscaping expert to help you fix the issue.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Landscaping with Gravel: Great Ideas for you

Gravel is durable enough to cover terraces, paths, and driveways. It helps create a softer mood and a feel more organic than those of pavers or bricks do. Gravel works very well in every climate. In regions that are arid, it makes a great ground cover for garden areas that resist irrigation and planting.

3 Ways you can use gravel

To blur the boundaries

You can let your plants spill onto the gravel to soften the edges of the path. A perfect plant to use is 'Tom Thumb.' It spreads its delicate branches on the path. The branches turn red during fall.

To combine with larger stones

Mix rocks with gravel to add an interesting look. This technique may also solve the drainage problem. Gravel path, bordered on the right with maidenhair ferns and 'Libelle' hydrangea, and straddled with a bunch of flat, large stones creates a bridge over a runoff channel.

To add a rock border

When the adjacent planting beds and the gravel path are new, the transformation from plain soil to gravel can make a garden look unfinished. A good solution is to define the edges of the path with bigger stones. As plants begin to grow, they will automatically tumble on and hide the bigger stones.

Basics of gravel

Gravel comes in a range of different sizes from ⅛- to 1½-inch. They are available in two forms: natural river rocks (also called natural pebbles) or man made crushed rock with irregular edges.

Choosing the right kind

It is best to consult a landscaping expert or visit a local landscape supply yard for experiencing the feel and look of different kinds of gravel. Consider the ideas given below for choosing the right kind for your garden.

  • For areas that are high in traffic, such as patios and paths, use manmade crushed rock. The pieces bind together and create a more stable walking surface. One of the most popular sizes is ⅜ inch. It is all-purpose gravel, serving indeed any purpose you can imagine. To create a softer surface under feet, make use of finer natural pebbles.
  • For areas that are low in traffic, an attractive choice is river rock. Its smoother, larger pieces are less stable underfoot in comparison to crushed rock. However, they have a better presence.

Laying the groundwork

Several people suggest excavating six to eight inches for creating a gravel path and layering sand, crushed rock, and gravel; however, most landscaping designers do not recommend this method. This is because the smaller pieces start to make their way up, spoiling the look of the gravel. It is best to lay a two- to three-inch thick gravel layer right on the weed-free, bare soil that has been compacted with a roller or tamper.

Make sure to rare the gravel regularly and keep it tidy. This will ensure that the path remains beautiful all year long.  Several people may suggest several landscaping ideas, besides your own. You would do well to consult an experienced landscaping expert before you launch your project.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Great Ideas for Drought-tolerant Landscaping

There are so many ways you can ditch thirsty turf grass in favor of easy-care, beautiful gardens. Here are a few ideas for drought-tolerant landscaping you may find exciting.

A Zen retreat

Create tranquility in a yard that remains beautiful year round. Line the drive with asparagus ferns. Use dogwoods and Japanese maples to provide shade, softness, and color. The planting beds can be covered with tumbled glass in different shades of green and blue.

A birding paradise

Lay a sheet of decomposed granite. Plant pink-blooming Cistus, purple Ceanothus, and orange Leucospermum. Shrubs can offer privacy from the street, while shorter ground covers and perennial plants can make the space feel lusher. You can use toyon and ribes to provide berries for the birds.

Desert front yard

Replace your lawn with grasses that are drought-tolerant; add young trees beside your front door.

A yard full of succulents

You can use a variety of succulents to add color and texture to your yard. Use different varieties of aloes, aeonium, Agave attenuata, Bulbine frutescens, and blue Senecio mandraliscae.

Low maintenance yard

Easy-care materials and plants tend to create a low-maintenance garden that does not require care. Use durable furnishings, no-fuss flooring, bulletproof plants, and other details to create an easy-to-care yard.

An eco-conscious landscape

Permeable paving helps rainwater to percolate into the soil easily. Paths should be covered with gravel, while patio should be made of decomposed granite.

Extend the season by adding butterfly weed, Mexican lobelia and coral fountain with California natives for summer color.

‘No mow’ grasses

Some grasses have the ability to live on rainfall alone and need to be mowed just once twice a year to keep clean and tidy.

‘All natural’ yard

Plant many natives to attract birds. Install a winding path bordered by beautiful wild lilacs, 'Bee's Bliss' salvia, and purple tree mallow. All these plants are low-water plants.

Best drought tolerant plants

1. Sunset Strain

This bloomer boasts of evergreen foliage and is around ten inches wide. It looks great in rock gardens.

2. Cape Blanco

Small blue-green leaves create tight rosettes on stems. This beauty from California makes a great cover for ground.

3. Lavandula multifida

It offers felty silver foliage that reaches three feet wide. Violet blooms sprout from spring to fall.

4. Libertia peregrinans

Stiff, thin orangey blades of this plant grow two feet tall. Clusters of white flowers sprout during summer and spring.

5. Angelina

Tiny chartreuse leaves bloom on stems that are approximately six inches tall. This succulent spreads freely and is a fluffy filler in-between other flora. It also makes a great groundcover.

6. Voodoo

Rounded, small burgundy leaves cover the quick-spreading, low-​growing succulent from the Caucasus. Red colored flowers sprout during summers.

There are so many ways to make a yard look beautiful while ensuring less water for its maintenance. Use these ideas without hesitation: you can surely create a drought-tolerant and yet a beautiful landscape.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Hiring a Landscaping Expert: 7 Questions you must ask

It can be stressful to design your outdoor space yourself; however, selecting a landscaping expert who would do that for you need not be so hard. Here are seven essential questions you need to ask before you embark on the project. You get convincing answers, and you are done with it.

1. What can we achieve with this vacant space?

This question should lead to the following: the landscaping expert visits first your site; examines its complexity; notes where the sun falls; studies soil quality, existing features and the boundaries; proposes an attractive design that satisfies your needs and dreams.

2. How do you go about a project proposal?

Different landscaping experts have different styles of work. Some experts click snapshots of the entire site, and take a day or two before coming up with a design on paper; some others propose a rough concept on the spot and initiate a discussion with you.

A few others interview you first, understand your ideas and requirements, inspect the site and then come up with a proposal. It is important that the style of work is impressive and convincing enough for you to make a choice.

3. What are the components of your project proposal?

You ask this question in order to get an idea of the project components such as the following: 

  • Initial discussion
  • Landscaping plan: includes two or three options to help arrive at the final plan
  • Planting options
  • Options of additional landscaping features
  • Construction assistance

4. What would be the duration and deadlines?

Time estimation of the project depends on its scope and size and your budget. You need to indicate a period by which you require the completion of the project. In consultation with the expert you should provide for unforeseen glitches and project delays due to supplies and weather. 

5. What will be the cost?

It is important to discuss costs before signing the contract. Different experts quote different charges.  Ask for an approximate cost for a thousand square foot patio plus, if you desire, installation of paving and high-end fountains. You can compare quotes in the context of the reputation, experience and quality of work of the expert to make a decision.

6. Is there any room to save costs?

There are numerous ways to save money. Discuss with the professional about the different options available to save costs in respect of materials, plants, containers, and so on. Make choices that would fit your budget.

7. How much maintenance will the yard need?

Many outdoor plants require little maintenance. Others require more attention, such as regular feeding or pruning to look their best. This may not be a problem if you keep a gardener, but it can be a hassle if you have to do the work yourself. Better to get an idea of yard maintenance cost, before you finalize your project.

Designing a yard probably is not your niche; you would do well to hire a landscape designing expert, who can offer a range of different cost saving options  to match your vision, tastes and needs.