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GARDENING: Compost tips

4 Steps to Successful Composting

1. Compost organic material only. Do not include animal products, dairy products, or man-made materials (like plastic or Styrofoam) in your composting heap. Leaves, hay, straw, wood chips, sawdust, grass clippings, shrub clippings, coffee grounds, tea bags, pine needles, eggshells, paper, cardboard (non-laminated), garden weeds, and fruit and vegetable scraps all make excellent composting material. Do not include milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, bones, meat, animal carcasses, or hair in your composting pile. Alternate dry (brown) material with wet (green) material in six inch layers for the best results.

2. Smaller is better. Small composting material breaks down much more quickly than large material. Chop up your yard waste, put veggie scraps in the food processor, and run small branches through a wood chipper before composting. Whenever possible, reduce your compost to small particles to reduce your decomposition time.

3. Even heating cooks better compost. In order to evenly heat your compost pile, you need to turn the pile with a pitchfork (or a handle if using a closed-barrel type composting bin) every 10-14 days. Mix it up well and add straw to help achieve the best composting mix. This also adds air to the mixture- a vital part of producing good compost.  Water your pile well for best results. Cover your compost pile with straw to help raise the internal temperature of the compost pile and induce faster breakdown of the natural materials. Just remove the straw to turn the heap or water your compost.

4. Add worms. Worms are like natural gold-mines in the world of compost. Worm droppings, called castings. Are rich in material suitable for fertilizing garden plants. In fact, some greenhouse gardeners use worm boxes to produce worm castings for use directly in the greenhouse. The more worms you add, the better your compost will be. You can purchase red worms from a garden supply store, or you can dig your own the old-fashioned way in the backyard. A worm bin is a great composting tool too.

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GARDENING: Soil Tips

Managing your soil drainage can mean the difference between a bountiful crop of healthy, vibrant plants and average or sickly vegetation. Soil drainage management requires the proper mix of water, aeration, and nutrients.

The natural drainage tendencies of any garden soil can be tested by digging a hole the size of a gallon jug. Fill the hole with water and check back at intervals to see how much water remains after one, two and four hours. Ideally, complete drainage should occur within two to four hours. This is the guideline to strive for after altering your garden soil for better drainage.

Treating Sandy Garden Soil

Soil that drains too quickly contains a higher concentration of sand. The addition of organic materials, such as compost, will help slow the drainage rate and allow the soil to retain nutrients longer. Plants that grow well in fast-draining, sandy soils are onions, carrots, apples, tomatoes and salad greens. Sandy soil will need more frequent watering and fertilizing. It’s also a good idea to put a 3″ layer of mulch around your plants to help retain water and minimize weeds.

Treating Clay Garden Soil

Slow-draining soil contains a large amount of clay that traps water. This type of soil holds nutrients well, but does not allow for adequate drainage and aeration. Sand, coir, peat, and vermiculite can all be added to clay garden soils to fix drainage and aeration problems. Plants that are well suited for clay soils are roses, squash, parsley, and dogwoods.

Altering Garden Soil Texture

A good combination to strive for when altering your garden soil texture is 25% clay, 25% organic material, and 50% sand. This provides a nice loamy textured soil with adequate drainage, aeration, and nutrients for optimal plant growth.

Landscaping for Optimal Drainage

Landscaping can help promote proper drainage in garden soil. Grading the soil to provide a gentle slope encourages excess water to drain through the soil without washing soil and nutrients from the plant’s root systems. If your topsoil is washing away after a heavy rain, landscaping timbers can be utilized to raise the garden bed and add adequate soil support. If your garden is developing puddles of standing water after a rainfall, grading the soil into a gentle slope can help your plants retain the proper amount of moisture.

Timing Your Tilling

Tilling in the spring is a common garden practice. The smell of freshly turned earth in the spring is a tradition and source of great joy for many gardeners. If your garden requires treatment for improved drainage, plowing in the fall may be the answer to your problems.

Why Plow in the Fall?

Fall plowing exposes the deeper soil to the repeated freezing and thawing that takes place during winter and spring. This process breaks up heavy clays, kills off excessive bacteria and pests, and leaves the garden soil porous and in better draining condition than the previous growing season.

Soil drainage management is an ongoing process for gardeners. Proper soil drainage is one of the most important maintenance tasks of any gardener. Try these drainage tips to give your plants the moisture they long for. The perfect soil may be elusive, but the process of improving soil drainage benefits both the vegetation and the gardener.

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GARDENING: Heating & Cooling

Heating:

Heating your greenhouse in the cooler months can really take a bite out of your utility budget. Upgrading to green energy-conscious fixtures is always a great way to reduce your energy bills in the greenhouse but adding and updating equipment fixtures and controls can be costly. What greenhouse heating options are available to the frugal greenhouse gardener?

  1. Stored energy. Storing energy for later consumption is far from a new idea. But putting this concept to work in the greenhouse is a great way to save money on your utility costs. Many greenhouse gardeners fill 55-gallon drums with water and place them in an area of the greenhouse where the sun will warm the water throughout the day. The drums then release the stored heat throughout the cooler nighttime hours, effectively heating most greenhouses in milder climates for little to no additional cost.
  2. Solar heating. Adding solar panels may at first seem to fall into the category of “too expensive to save money”. However, many U.S. states are now offering tax incentives for installing solar panels in a home or business to help reduce energy consumption and costs. Check to see if your state is offering incentives and you may end up getting your solar panels for next to nothing or at least a fraction of the original retail cost.
  3. Automatic temperature control. Installing a thermostat in the greenhouse can help you better regulate your heating costs by allowing you to keep a constant pre-set temperature in the greenhouse throughout cooler days and nights. This temperature can be set at just a few degrees above the lowest temperature your crops will tolerate, and still be enough to get you through until the warmer months.
  4. Get creative. Getting creative with ways to heat your greenhouse for less can mean running your home’s hot water pipes through the greenhouse to help with heating costs, cutting down sunlight blocking trees and shrubbery, or installing insulated panels or shade cloths to help hold in heat accumulated during the day.

When it comes to greenhouse heating options for the frugal greenhouse gardener, every little bit helps. Look into ways to store energy from the sun, discounts on solar panels and energy efficient heaters, automated temperature control devices, and other creative ways to help save money when heating your greenhouse this winter.

Winter Greenhouse Heating Tips

  • Keep a log of all maintenance on the heating system, including dates of the first use for the season and all repairs
  • Place greenhouse fans so they help circulate heat from the greenhouse ceiling to the floor during winter months.]
  • Install an alarm system to alert you of smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide build up in the greenhouse. Greenhouse heaters can give off toxic fumes or catch fire if they malfunction
  • Most plants will continue to thrive at a minimal temperature of 44 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Clean all greenhouse glass (if you have glass covering) to allow for maximum sunlight penetration during winter months
  • Always keep a backup heating plan in place in case of heater failure. This can be extremely useful should your heater go bad on a weekend or over the holidays when calling a repairman will be costly or impossible.
  • Purchase a weather station with an ice alert to notify you if the temperature falls below freezing. It also is a convenient way to monitor the temperature of your greenhouse from the comfort of your home.
  • Seal off any unused portions of the greenhouse during winter months to reduce heating costs.
  • Using a thermostat to control your greenhouse heating will save you time and money by maintaining a constant minimal temperature in the greenhouse and avoid accidental freezing periods.
  • Setting your greenhouse heater’s thermostat to the lowest temperature possible to avoid freezing will help you cut heating costs. You may have to bundle up to work in the greenhouse with this method, but you can always bring a long a space heater if you become too uncomfortable.
  • Placing all your plants on greenhouse shelves will help you keep plants warm and away from the frozen earth.
  • Heat rises, so unless your ventilation system adequately moves air from the roof to the floor, you may experience cold spots and warmer areas. Spot checking temperatures can help you determine if you have a problem before your plants suffer.

Heating your greenhouse during winter months requires more effort than opening a few vents to allow summer heat to escape, but the beauty that winter gardening yields makes that effort worthwhile.

Cooling:

Most people who own a greenhouse and plan on using it in the summer or live in a hot climate will need some type of cooling system.  Depending on what you plan to grow you will find that a greenhouse cooling system will probably be necessary to achieve optimal growing conditions.

It is a good thing to be able to control the temperatures in your greenhouse.  If the temperatures vary too much and do not fall within the guidelines below you may experience slower growth and other problems.

  • When growing tropical plants or plants grown for their fruit like tomatoes or citrus, you will want to establish higher greenhouse temperatures. Keep the greenhouse between 60-85 degrees.
  • If you want to grow green leafy vegetables, you will need a greenhouse ventilation system that keeps the greenhouse at 45-70 degrees.  This temperature range is also appropriate for over wintering plants, maintaining shrubs or growing cool weather vegetables.
  • It is next to impossible to keep every spot in the greenhouse at the same temperature.  You will find that there will be hot or cold spots in every greenhouse.  You can still use these areas if you realize where they are and use them to your growing advantage.

Greenhouse cooling can be achieved by using fans, shade cloth, doors, windows or vents, but to truly cool your greenhouse in the summer, you may need an evaporation cooler.  Check with an online greenhouse site and they will be able to help you choose a greenhouse cooling system.

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GARDENING: All about watering

Lugging a full watering can around several times a day may be tolerable if you are only growing a few plants, but most greenhouse gardeners find that a quality garden hose and nozzle is essential.

For those greenhouse gardeners who prefer a more high-tech approach to watering, an automated sprinkler system, drip hoses, or hydroponic feeding gear may be the answer. These types of systems often require far less energy on the part of the gardener, freeing you to spend more time performing other greenhouse gardening tasks- or perhaps even more time to enjoy the fruits of your greenhouse labor.

Drip System – A drip watering system usually sets down in the pot or soil and has a slow, steady drip that keeps plants moist without over watering the soil. Drip systems are usually made from hoses or bottles with tiny holes. The holes in hoses cause a high surface ratio and only allow small amounts of water through. If you don’t have the means to buy a drip system, you can always make one out of a gallon jug or a 2-liter bottle. By cutting a few holes in the cap of the bottle and a few around the sides of the bottom, you can make your own drip system that will keep your plants well watered even if you forget about them from time to time.

Misting System – These systems are good to use for plants that only need a small amount of water, such as cacti because their root systems make the most of any water applied. In addition, these can help to cool your greenhouse and add humidity in dry climates. A greenhouse misting system may utilize a pump which is designed for continuous or intermittent watering. A continuous greenhouse misting system will do exactly as the name implies while the intermittent system is designed to sprinkle water for a specific amount of time and then will rest for a specified time before it begins again. A greenhouse misting system will provide your greenhouse plants with the humidity and coolness needed on a hot and dry summer day.

Running Water – Running water systems are probably the easiest to fabricate and can be made using PVC pipe, just like any other irrigation system. A great idea for the running water systems is to use barrels to collect rainwater. This is a great way to water your plants by conserving water and cutting down on the costs of upkeep. When designing your running water system with rain barrels, be sure to put in a good working valve so that you can retain all of the water you catch from the rain.

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GARDENING: 8 tips for Vegetable Gardening

Your greenhouse lets you enjoy vegetable gardening more of the year. These vegetable gardening tips can help make this year’s crop of vegetables your best ever!

  1. Plant your crops in one to two week intervals for longing harvesting times. Try planting one row of peas every week for four weeks for better crop results. This provides smaller yields over a longer period of time and avoids harvesting too much of one vegetable at one time. It also makes canning and freezing easier during hot summer months. This technique works well for crops that have a short fruit bearing season such as peas, sweet corn, beans, and melon.
  2. Plant your crop rows in a north/south direction to help crops grow more evenly. This provides equal amounts of sunlight to every plant.
    • Sweet corn achieves better pollination when planted in smaller blocks rather than in rows. The result will be bigger, better tasting sweet corn.
  3. To avoid over watering while vegetable gardening, place a large can or pot in the center of the garden. Allow the sprinkler to continue until the pot accumulates about three-quarters to one inch of water.
    • Always water your vegetable garden in the early morning or after the sun sets to avoid scorching your plants.
    • Be sure to rotate your crops from year to year to avoid depleting the nutrients in your vegetable garden soil
    • Tomatoes require lots of water. If you experience a dry spell, even for a few days, this lack of water will significantly affect your tomatoes. Be sure you water these plants vigorously. A tomato fruit is over 95% water!
  4. For fruit vegetable gardening, you must periodically check the pH of the garden soil. Most garden vegetables thrive in soil with a pH of between 5.5 and 6.5
  5. Watch your vegetable garden carefully and remove plants as they finish producing fruit for the season. This frees up room in the greenhouse or backyard for autumn vegetable gardening.
  6. When selecting crop placement or planting different crops in the same container, avoid planting broccoli with tomatoes, beans with onions, or potatoes with tomatoes or squash.
  7. Cutting off heads of cabbage during harvesting leaves the roots intact for growing more cabbage if you divide the stump into four equal parts with a few more cuts of a sharp blade.
  8. For natural bug control, try boiling a garlic clove for 10 minutes in water and place the boiled clove in a shallow depression in the soil of the container that is plagued with pests.
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GARDENING: Seed starting information and tips

One of the great joys of early spring is entering the warm greenhouse each morning and studying each pot carefully, searching for new signs of life as seedlings start to emerge. Every new set of leaves or flower buds is cause for excitement in those early stages.

Starting your own plants from seed has so many advantages

  • Reduce your grocery bills
  • Grow special varieties of produce that you can’t find in the grocery store or your area
  • Maximize your food’s nutrition by eating fresh picked and local
  • Save money and start flowers to fill your flower beds with color
  • Enjoy the best tasting food possible
  • Share with your family and friends
  • And so much more!

If you’ve never started plants from seeds, it’s easier than you may think. The Q&A below tells you how. Even if you’re a veteran seed starter, we hope it will give you a few tips to make the job simpler.

Root Riot Seed Cubes
Root Riot Seed Cubes

FAQ about seed starting:

When should I plant my seeds?

If you’re going to keep your plants in the greenhouse, you can start the seeds anytime. If you plan to move your seedlings to your in-ground garden, count backwards from your last frost date  to determine your best planting time. This produce chart provides germination and crop times, which will also help you plan.

What are my best sources for seeds?
There are many reputable online seed companies, and of course you can get seeds from feed and garden supply stores as well. Just make sure you plant seeds for the current year. You can try to use leftover seeds from previous years, but more of the seeds will germinate if you start with new ones.

What containers are best?
You can plant seeds in recycled egg cartons, as well as commercial flats or cells. If you use existing pots, disinfect them with distilled white vinegar for a safer alternative to bleach. Whatever you plant in, the container should be about 2-3 inches deep and have drainage holes in the bottom.

What kind of soil should I use?

Your best bet is a soil-less growth medium. There are many available specifically for seed starting. Don’t use anything dense or compact, because the roots won’t be able to poke through heavy soil.Never use soil right out of the garden, which may contain fungal spores, weed seeds, and pests. Whatever you use, be sure to moisten the medium before planting the seeds.

How deeply should I plant?

The required depth will vary by plant. Some thrive in shallow soil, while others need deeper planting for best emergence. Follow the instructions provided on the seed packets.

How do I care for the newly planted seeds?  

At first, your seeds will need heat and moisture. Cover them with a transparent moisture dome or plastic cover. Put them near a heat source, or use a heat mat specifically designed for seed-starting.

Most seeds are nice and cozy when it’s about 70° F. Don’t let the soil dry out, though. Watch your plantings thoroughly, and at the first sign of sprouting, take the cover off and move them to a sunny spot or under a grow light.

To keep them hydrated, it’s best to mist your seedlings or water them from the bottom. Traditional top watering may result in excess moisture or fungal attacks on leaves and stems.

How can I speed up germination of my seeds?
Soil warming mats work very well for speeding up germination, keeping
temperatures steady, and generating stronger seedlings that are less susceptible to transplant shock.

Do I need to fertilize the soil?
Not at first. Seeds have a food supply stored inside to sustain them until they become seedlings. Once the seed has grown into a seedling, you can add a fertilizer to the growth medium if you like.

How quickly will my seeds sprout?
Many seeds sprout within 5-7 days; some can take up to 14 days. When they do sprout, remove the moisture covers, recheck the instructions for each plant’s temperature and light needs, and ensure the right conditions within that part of your greenhouse.

It’s a delightful feeling to be able to begin your own seeds and grow your plants right on through to harvest—one of the main reasons people garden in greenhouses. In fact, to many of us, the process itself is almost as satisfying as enjoying the bounty of flowers, herbs, and produce that results!

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GARDENING: Organic Growing information and tips

Read about some tips for easy organic growing.
  1. Grow in organic soil – If you’re growing in-ground, it’s always best to have your soil tested first, to find out what amendments are needed. (County extension agents can also advise you on soil needs for specific plants in your area). Purchasing sterile organic growing media for container garden plants is easy, just be sure that it contains the texture and minerals that are needed for the produce you plant to grow.
  2. Plant organic seeds and seedlings – The best way to grow organic is to start organic. Obtain seeds from a trusted source. If you are not able to find seeds, then plant seeds that have not been treated with fungicides.
  3. Grow companion plants – Plants can be compatible growing mates for different reasons: some plants act as a trap crops, luring in insects and thereby protecting the plants around them; some plants drive away bad bugs (marigolds are a good example); while other plants attract beneficial insects (carrots, dill and parsley attract praying mantises and ladybugs). Also, when quick-growing vegetables are planted next to long-season veggies, their growing and harvest schedule are varied which can help to avoid competition for nutrients and water; and shallow root plants and deep root plants can be can be planted next to each other because they won’t compete for soil minerals and other resources.
  4. Compost – Composting is a great way to recycle vegetable scraps and provide natural fertilizer for your plants. Using red worms (vermicomposting) is a great way to get prime compost quickly. These “Red Wrigglers” can compost half their weight each day! Check out our Worm Factory 360 to learn more.
  5. Avoid Chemicals – Rather than use chemical additives or man-made pesticides on your plants, use 100% natural compounds. Compost makes a great soil amendment and fertilizer.
  6. Pest Control – Using insecticidal soap and Neem oil or planting companion plants that seem distasteful or using sticky cards can catch bad bugs.
  7. Attract beneficial insects – Obtaining good bugs and placing them in your garden can help protect your produce. As mentioned above, some plants also attract good bugs, such as flowering herbs (dill, rosemary and lavender) and flowers like achillea and buddleia.
  8. Prevent weeds – Weeds are not only nuisances, but also bridges of disease. They can rob water and nutrients from your plants, so taking care of them is very effective at preventing unwanted plants. You can do this by hand-weeding, using biodegradable mulches and other non-toxic methods.
  9. Keep disease at bay – There are many ways to ensure that you’ll have very few, if any, disease issues with your plants. Some include practicing crop rotation, to avoid planting in potentially disease soil. Another is to plant resistant varieties whenever possible. Pest prevention and control are also key, and easily accomplished without toxins. Sending in beneficial insects and using organic deterrents are two other effective solutions.
  10. Remove debris and spent plants – Keeping the greenhouse clear of plant debris is very important for maintaining a healthy environment for all your plants.
  11. Harvestinghere are some detailed harvest tips for your vegetables so you are able to pick them at just the right time for the best flavors, textures, and colors.
  12. Store produce properly – You’ve put time, effort and care into growing your organic plants, and now you can extend the life of the produce. For tips on storing all varieties of vegetables check out this article about good storage practices
The more organic your food, the healthier both you and the land are. It doesn’t take much to ensure that your plants benefit from safer methods of maintenance that result in delicious, 100% natural produce in no time.

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GARDENING: Types of plants

Types of Plants

There are several different styles of plants an individual can choose from.  A person could even designate different corners of the dwelling for various styles of climate-controlled plants.  A person could grow fruits like oranges, apples, cherries and strawberries.  A banana or two may even be possible.  Vegetables could be plentiful for a family all year-round.  These could include radishes, avocados, zucchini and broccoli.  Various plants can keep the fruits and vegetables company as well.  A person could choose from a tropical climate plant, rain forest or even small trees can grow in different regions.  An individual can accomplish anything that they choose when they learn the basics.  This is a simple process that can be achieved with a little knowledge and determination.

Cold Weather Plants

Radishes Raphanus sativus
French Breakfast Radishes”Petit Dejeuner” radish-dejFrench variety that can either grow long or round. They have distinctive white bands at the bottom followed by deep red to the leafy green tops.
Rainbow Radishes‘Easter Egg II’ radish-easterThese little beauties come in a variety of colors ranging from white, shades of pink, cherry red, deep burgundy, and violet. Exactly round they all have brilliant white centers no matter the outside coloring.
PlantingFebruary – May    (spring harvest), August – October (fall harvest)
Did You Know?Radishes will be spicier in hot weather as opposed to being harvested in cooler temperatures.
ThinningThinning is really hard as I want everything to grow and succeed in my garden. But if you do not thin, your radishes will be thin and weak.After 3 weeks, take every 2-3 seedling out and leave on with 1” space between each.
BoltingIf radishes are not thinned properly, they will be weak, skinny and small.
FlowersThe flower heads are simple 4 petal flowers either in pink or white. Seed pods grow along the length of the extended stem. While still fleshy, you can eat these as well. Pods have the typical radish bite flavor, but are similar to miniature pea pods.
HarvestingTops of the radishes should peek from the ground. This variety is the size of marbles when mature. Can harvest in succession.
UsesRadishes are great eaten whole, used on sandwiches or sliced in salads. They can be used in bunches to create a wreath to hang on the door for a unique decoration.
StorageTips To keep fresh, store fruit in a cold bath of water in refrigerator for up to three weeks.
Swiss Chard Beta vulgaris
Rainbow Chard‘Bright Lights’chard-rainbowStalks come in a vivid range of yellow, pink, red, yellow and orange.  Large, dark green ribbed leaves.
Container Chard‘Easter Egg II’ chard-gold1Brilliant gold stems hold deep green and ribbed leaves. This particular variety is great either in the ground or in containers for small, urban gardens.
PlantingFebruary – September  Chard does well in containers and in the ground. Hard seed kernels are easy for little fingers to handle.
Did You Know? Chard heirloom varieties come from New Zealand.
Thinning Thinning to 8” apart to allow for ample growth. Bolting One main stem will shoot up a flower spike. To keep chard leaves tender, remove any flowering stem. Flowers Will spring up from a flowering stem. Cut the flower stalk off and use it in an arrangement.
HarvestingChard can be a perennial in the right conditions. If the winter is mild, it may grow back again the next spring.Continually harvesting will produce shorter, sweeter leaves and stems.
UsesChard is great in salads or steamed like spinach. It can be used in soups or lasagna.
Storage TipsTo extend life, cut stems and store in a glass of water with stems submerged.
Peas Pisum sativum
Edible Pod Bush Peas  ‘Sugar Sprint’ peas• A string-less pea variety that is great to grow on bamboo trellises, or iron tepees covered in netting to give the vines something to scramble up on. • Make sure to train the vines when small to grow upward. • Large seeds can be pushed directly in soil with a #2 pencil. Mark 1.5″ up the pencil to make sure they are consistently sown to the same depth.
PlantingFebruary – May (spring harvest), July – August (fall harvest) Soak seeds in water for at least one hour prior to planting. Grows to 24” – 30” tall.
Did You Know?Peas are nitrogen fixing so not only do they provide food, they supply nutrients for the soil as well.
ThinningThinning to 2” apart to allow for ample growth.
FlowersSimple, pure white pea flowers will cover the vines and be replaced with pea pods.
HarvestingGrab a bowl and pluck plump pea pods off the vines.
UsesSugar snap peas can be eaten right off the vine and may not make it to the dinner table.They are great in stir fry, salads, dips or served steamed with butter.
StorageTips Place in Ziploc bag in refrigerator or freezer to use later.

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GARDENING: Successful Greenhouse growing

Beginner’s Guide to Greenhouse Gardening

1. Gather your supplies. There are a few essential supplies that you will need to get started in your new greenhouse gardening hobby. You’ll need a greenhouse (of any size), a garden hose, plants or seeds, a good sterilizing agent (like bleach), potting soil, and planting pots (plastic or clay work best). A pair of gardening gloves, a hand trowel, and a fan may also be useful in the greenhouse, but are not essential. You can also opt to gather fertilizers (compost is the best), insecticides, gardening books, and gravel to help with any drainage issues you may encounter in the greenhouse.

2. Decide what to grow. One of the biggest decisions you will make in getting your hobby started is deciding what to grow. Will you choose vegetables, fruit trees and bushes, flowering plants, decorative plants, or exotics? The choice is nearly limitless and is purely a matter of individual choice. Easy to grow crops like tomatoes, lettuce, and raspberries are a good choice for beginners. Flowers like begonias, petunias, bush roses, and daylilies are also a good choice for the beginning greenhouse gardener.

3. Prepare to plant. Before you start to plant your seeds or seedlings, you will need to make sure your pots, tools, and soil are sterilized sufficiently. A mixture of diluted bleach water, sprayed on tools and pots, then rinsed with water and allowed to air dry, should be sufficient. Potting soil purchased from a gardening supply store is already sterilized, and should be kept in the original bags and sealed after each use. If you plan to make your own potting soil, be sure to follow directions carefully when baking your soil to ensure that bacteria and pests are removed before use.

4. Plant it! Using your clean plants, fill a pot half way with potting soil. Remove your seedling from the plastic or peat pot gently by squeezing the sides all around before pulling the plant from the container. Gently remove excess dirt from the root ball and place the seedling upright in the new pot. With one hand holding the seedling in place, gently place potting soil around the plant until the roots are covered and the plant is stabilized enough to stand upright without your support. Water gently and thoroughly and move the pot into its new home in your greenhouse.

5. You’ll need to make sure your greenhouse panels are clean enough to allow sunlight in, and that the temperature in the greenhouse is regulated. Follow the planting suggestions provided with your seeds or seedlings to develop a set temperature (tropical plants do best between 60 and 85 degrees, most fruits and veggies like temps ranging from 45 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit) and watering schedule for your plants. It is best to water early in the morning or late in the evening when the sun is not at its strongest. Don’t overwater your plants! If the soil is moist to the touch, leave them alone. You can add fertilizer according to the manufacturer’s directions, or fresh compost every six to eight weeks if you desire.

To enhance your greenhouse gardening experience, be sure to get together with other greenhouse gardeners to glean tips and tricks in the greenhouse. You can also keep a gardening journal complete with snapshots of your progress to help you learn from your mistakes and triumphs in the greenhouse. Beginning greenhouse gardening is a worthwhile hobby, so be sure to enjoy your experience to the fullest and make your greenhouse your own by adding your own personal touches and preferences along the way.

Transplanting Greenhouse Plants

Moving plants form the greenhouse to your outdoor gardens isn’t particularly difficult, but it does take some know-how, an understanding of the growing seasons in your area, and some patience. The real question that bedevils many gardeners is, “When do I move the plants”?

The simple answer to this (for most plants) is “after the danger of frost has passed.” Unfortunately, nailing that down to a workable date is easier said than done. Here are some transplanting ideas to help you out:

When purchasing seeds, pay attention to the information on the back of the package. Generally speaking, you can look at the growing season map and tell when your area is considered safe for planting. Generally speaking, when it’s considered safe to plant from seed, you can transfer your seedlings from the greenhouse to the garden without too much concern for frost.

Many gardeners find it helpful to acclimate their plants slowly to life outside the greenhouse by leaving them in their pots or planters and setting them outside for an hour at a time during peak sunlight. If you do this, increase the time gradually until you are ready to transplant your seedlings to the outside garden permanently.

It is best to be prepared if for some reason, there is a ‘surprise’ late frost in your area after you have planted things outdoors. You can use frost blankets, sheets, newspaper or mulch to cover your plants and protect them temporarily. A mini greenhouse or cold frame can also be set over your garden area.

Hydroponics

The practice of growing plants without soil, is ideal for many greenhouse gardeners for a number of reasons.

Using a hydroponics method rather than growing your plants in soil uses less water, allows you to maintain greater control over pH, produces a significantly greater yield, frees you from having to deal with pests and soil borne diseases and, according to some studies, seems to produce vegetables with higher nutritional content.

Commercial greenhouses have used hydroponics for years, and with good reason. Simply put, hydroponics give better yields while using fewer natural resources.

Here are some simple hydroponics growing tips,

* Choose the right hydroponics system. There are a number of fantastic hydroponics systems to choose from when selecting a new hydroponics method. Some gardeners use gravel or some other substance to support plants while they grow, others allow the roots to grow bare. Some circulate the nutrients (generally with a pump) while others use a wet wick. Some systems recycle nutrients, others don’t. Which system is right for you will depend on how much space you have, what you are growing, your budget, and personal preference.

* Be realistic about your DIY capabilities. If you’re the kind of person who really likes rolling up your sleeves and taking on a project, you can build much of what you’ll need for hydroponics greenhouse gardening. If not, there are plenty of affordable hydroponics kits available that can help you get started. Kits come in several types and sizes, to accommodate everyone from the person who simply wants to grow some herbs indoors to those who want to run a sizeable greenhouse gardening operation.

* Make sure your hydroponics greenhouse garden gets plenty of sunlight. We may have come up with vast improvements in regards to what you grow your plants in, but we’ve never come up with a true replacement for sunlight. While incandescent bulbs or (better yet) HIR lighting can help your plants along, natural sunlight remains, by far, the best source of light for your plants, indoors or out. Set up your hydroponics greenhouse garden in a place where it will receive plenty of natural sunlight for best results.

* Grow your plants in tiers. As long as you’re using hanging hydroponics systems in your greenhouse garden, you can grow multiple tiers, saving space and ensuring yourself the best possible yields for the amount of space you have available.

Discover what so many greenhouse gardeners already have; there is no need to use organic soil, and using inorganic hydroponics systems actually saves you time and money in the long run while producing better yields. By putting these simple greenhouse hydroponics methods and gardening growing tips into practice, you can start seeing incredible results in a short time.

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Greenhouse Supplies

GREENHOUSE: Gift Ideas

Greenhouses

If you have a close relative or friend that is a keen gardener or is looking for a new hobby, greenhouse kits are a great option. Is there a little corner of the garden which they’ve been meaning to get around to working on for ages, where nothing ever seems to work out as planned? Clearing it to make space for a greenhouse could give them the gardening treat they’ve always dreamed of – and with so many different greenhouse types available today it’s easy to find the perfect fit, no matter the style of their garden.

  • Modern greenhouses: can be assembled quickly
  • Kits: with a friend you could assemble them overnight
  • GH: opportunities and pleasures which are otherwise out of reach in most climates, grow exotic flowers or to cultivate delicious fruit or herbs for the dinner table.
  • Utilitarian square-framed set-ups: popular in many small suburban gardens
  • Elegant domes: look splendid among a landscape of trees and bushes
  • Timber-framed structures: add a charming rural quality to your home and its surroundings

Gardening Gifts for Tight Budgets

  1. Seeds. You can put together an attractive basket of seed packets garnished with a few ribbons and silk flowers to give to your favorite greenhouse gardener. If your budget allows, you can add in a few greenhouse gardening tools, hand spades and rakes, gardening gloves or hand cleaner.
  2. Magazines. Greenhouse gardeners will always welcome a little know-how from fellow greenhouse gardening lovers. Some popular choices in greenhouse gardening tools:
    • Garden Greenhouse http://www.gardenandgreenhouse.net/
    • Mother Earth News http://www.motherearthnews.com/
    • Garden Design http://www.organicgardening.com/
  3. Wind Chimes. Wind chimes are a fun and inexpensive addition to any greenhouse. You can choose from small wind chimes to sets that are larger than a full-grown man. If you are crafty, you can eve make your own set of custom wind chimes from items scourged from the local junk yard, cleaned up and painted to match a custom design.
  4. Art. Many greenhouse gardeners appreciate the simple beauty found in nature, and purchasing a framed print of a photograph that captures nature’s glory at its finest is sure to be a treasured gift for any greenhouse gardening enthusiast.
  5. Dirt. If you tend to lean more toward the practical side when it comes to gift giving, a few bags of potting soil, fertilizer, or vermiculite will be much appreciated by your fellow practical greenhouse gardener.
  6. Decorated pots. If you’re looking to keep your holiday spending low, you can always try your hand at gardening and give anyone on your shopping list a decorated pot with an easy to grow plant flourishing inside.

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