Winter Gardening - What Can You Do This Winter?

People automatically think that just because winter is about to set in, that they can just let the season pass without giving their garden a second thought. Wrong, there's a lot to do over the winter months if you're a truly dedicated green thumb and take pride in your garden looking the best it can all year round.
The first thing you must realise is that just because the frost and cold weather are taking an effect on the garden, there's still a vast amount of seedlings, buds and other things hidden away waiting for the warmer months to return. Due to this lack of visual display from the garden, people take this at face value and think "there's nothing to do"; well, here's some things to keep you occupied this winter:
Get Planning
You have 3 months, maybe even more based on the UK weather trends over the last few years; this gives you a lot of time to put some serious thought into your garden for the upcoming year. Due to the winter weather stripping your garden back to its rawest state, you essentially have a 'cleansed pallet' to work from. You won't be influenced by any of last year's garden design and you can really appreciate your garden in its most basic form - it's the perfect time to rethink the layout - so get your pen and paper out.
First things first, you want to set out the framework of the garden; you can't jump in headfirst without having some sort of outline or structure, otherwise you'll just be making it harder on yourself. This 'skeleton' should incorporate all the different areas of the garden, house boundaries, the patio, pathways, lawn edges and so on. Remember to take into account any extras; this includes thing such as trees, hedges and other structural elements as well as pergolas, sheds and other types of frames.
Don't forget that outdoors is all about scaling and dramatic sizes when compared to the indoors. For example if you have steps leading down to your garden, don't go for steps the same size as your staircase indoors; make them prominent and meaningful, wider and deeper. This is the same for everything in the garden, entrance points should be larger than the equivalent doorway inside the house - it's all about up-scaling.
Tip: Don't go over the top trying to make structural elements fancy. Winding pathways and complicated lawn edging isn't needed; keep things simple, strong and bold - the foliage will soften the overall look of the garden, don't worry.
Research, Research, Research
If you don't plan on making any big changes to the design of your garden (or if you've already done it), then there's still some things you can do.
Winter is the ideal time to get your knowledge hat on and read up on some of the latest plant/gardening magazines and catalogues for a bit of inspiration ready for spring. Read through everything, there are always some small tips or pieces of wisdom you can pick up from them. On top of that the catalogues should offer you a look into a variety of plant and colour arrangements that you can tweak to suit your garden.
Tip: Although you might see a nice looking combination which you'd like to employ in your garden; try and add your own little mark to things (such as garden furniture ) as it will feel considerably more rewarding when finished.
Getting ready for winter is almost as crucial as planting in the springtime. Browse an extensive selection of gardening tools and equipment.
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How to Stop Cats From Pooping in Your Yard

Most cats that don't use kitty litter trays will develop the habit of doing their business in gardens -- where they can cover their business up afterwards. However not all cats do this or sometimes they use a dirt area but the dirt is just too hard/rocky and they aren't able to cover up afterwards. After a while this can become very annoying, frustrating and smelly -- particularly when it's not your cat that's messing in your yard.
Now I know some people will say they have to do it somewhere, just put up with it, but it can be a problem after a while, particularly when it's right where you walk or beneath the kitchen window.
This article outlines a few suggestions for how to stop cats leaving their business in your yard. Remember, all cats are different and all situations are different, so what works for one household may not work for another. I suggest trying whichever method seems easiest for you and if that doesn't work, just keep working through the list until you find something that does.
1. If it's your own cat, ensure it has access to a kitty litter tray that is cleaned regularly, preferably daily.
2. If you know who owns the cat, speak with them politely and ask if they can ensure their cat has access to a clean kitty litter tray.
3. Where possible, try planting shrubs or placing pot plants or some other item in the area the cat is using as its toilet (e.g. I have an area where I keep my rubbish bins. Every week, on the night the bins go out, the neighbor's cat leaves a 'present' there for me. I now keep some large pot plants in that area and when the bins are out awaiting collection, I spread the plants out to cover the area that would have been left as a bare dirt patch. It only takes an extra minute or so each week.)
4. Fertilise the area with blood meal fertiliser, fresh manure (although this smell could be worse than the cat poop!) or a liquid fertiliser.
5. Fairly heavily sprinkle cinnamon, citrus peel or fresh coffee grounds on the area. You may need to repeat this process every couple of days and after rain.
6. Spray the area with some citrus essential oil -- lemon or orange.
7. Spread a few garlic cloves around the area.
8. Spray the area with vinegar or red wine vinegar.
9. Place a few pine cones around the area.
10. If possible, consider covering the area with some mulch (e.g. wood chips), gravel or rocks.
11. Use a commercial cat repellent available from many pet stores or vets. (e.g. 'Shake-Away Domestic Cat Repellent Urine Powder)
12. Depending on the area, you could also try placing some chicken wire there or pieces of aluminium foil. Hold the foil in place with a few rocks. This may not be ideal long term, but hopefully after a short time the cat will get the idea and find a more suitable place.
13. In some drought-ridden areas (such as where I live) the use of sprinklers is banned. However if this is an option for you, a motion sensor sprinkler works well.
14. You can also try keeping the area damp as cats generally prefer to use dry soil.
15. Keep a spray bottle of water handy and if you see the cat in the area, give it a quick squirt with water. Don't drench the cat -- just a quick one-second squirt is usually enough to deter it. Again, it will eventually get the idea that this is not an area for it to do its business.
16. If you have a sandpit in your yard make sure you keep this covered when not in use as the sand is ideal for cats -- they may see it as a giant litter box.
WARNING: Many people have recommended a heavy sprinkling of chilli powder, pepper or cayenne pepper on the area. While this may well keep the cat away, it actually gets up their nose and in their eyes (via their paws) and burns them. This is extremely cruel and has been known to cause terrible injuries as the cats try to stop the stinging. Please DON'T USE this method!
Similarly, other forms of insect repellents (e.g. mothballs), poisons and laxatives are very cruel and may cause the cat a lot of pain before slowly killing it.
Remember, the cat is only doing what comes naturally. It just needs a little guidance and education and training.

How To Garden Without A Garden?

There are many of us who would love to try out our gardening skills but we don't have access to a garden. Never fear, because there are other options we may wish to consider.
If you live in an apartment building, how about window boxes? If your building has a courtyard area, contact the person in charge and see if you might be able to plan and take care of a portion of the courtyard. You may want to scout the surroundings first and see what is available. If you have a plan in mind before you talk to someone about creating a garden space or a beautifully crafted flower display, then you may have a better chance of success.
If you share a house or flat with other renters, you may want to see what yard space is available for your use. Many times owners will jump at the chance to have the occupants take care of the yard work, as that saves time and money for them. If space allows, you may be able to grow some food as well as a variety of eye-catching flowers and foliage.
Rocks, bricks and pebbles can be used to contain and highlight small spaces used for planting. These look good left in their natural colors or you can try adding contrast by painting them in coordinating colors to show off your gardening space. Be creative here; you are only limited by your own imagination.
Small spaces can also be conducive to hanging baskets. Look for places where a hanging basket could be very appealing visually and yet not in the way of walking spaces.
When planning the variety of plants you would like to plant, make sure you do your research as to what grows well in your climate, when the flowering times or harvest times are, and how much water and tending they will require. If you have acquired special permission to use apartment-owned space, make sure that you keep your spot tended, well-kept and looking magnificent. This will create the biggest impression. Remember, this is likely a very public place which will be seen by many people. It is the perfect way to show off your gardening skills.
Don't forget about using your indoor living space as well. There are many plants, ferns, flowers and even herbs which grow well indoors, in full natural light from a window. If you have a balcony, they can be set outside on nice days. Keep in mind that pots dry out quickly so don't set them out in the hot sun without checking their water level periodically.
Even without your own garden, there are ways to be a gardener and hone your gardening skills by growing plants, vegetables, flowers and foliage for all to enjoy.
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Tips On Growing Herbal Plants That Offer Medicinal Properties

The continuing interest of the medical experts and researches in the herbal plants is rendering some great results. A number of compounds known to offer health benefits have been isolated from many popular herbs. This is the reason that the practice of growing the natural herbs at homes catching up with people. Needless to say, growing them at a home garden is as simple as purchasing them from an herbal store.
The benefits of herbs like aloe vera, clove, rosemary, parsley, mint, chamomile, fennel and many others are innumerable. Most importantly, the medicinal properties of these plants are counted as more effective and safer alternatives to the laboratory prepared chemicals. The following sections discuss the tips to grow them at home, along with some of their most popular medicinal qualities.
* Growing Herbs at Home
* To start with, the first step is to choose the area (herbal plants nursery) where the herbal plants should be grown. It is important to take note of few important things like:
* How much sunlight does the area receives
* Does the area have proper arrangements for drainage
* Is the enough space available to maintain spacing between every two plants
Some homeowners prefer to grow herbs indoors and it is a good idea to use vessels and containers for this purpose. The plants can be placed on the window sills to expose them to sufficient sunlight. While growing them outdoors, make sure that they do not sit for longer in standing water. Another important consideration is the type of soil that must be used. Average garden soil is good for growing herbs in the garden, while indoor growing demands soil less potting mix.
The home owners should also decide whether they wish to use seeds or small herbal plants to start with. Using seeds may take more time to achieve the results, but it arranges for an enriched experience. The use of fertilizers should be done carefully to avoid those with excessive nitrogen content. Moreover, the fertilizers must be supplied once a month and should be used sparingly. Other practices like irrigation and trimming must be done according to the expert instructions.
Benefits of Herbal Plants:
Different parts of herbal plants can be used to make medicines and food preparations that can achieve many health and treatment goals. The herbs like chamomile can address a number of issues related to nervous and digestive systems. California poppy is a popular remedy for the treatment of insomnia. The patients suffering from low blood pressure and poor blood circulations can attain relief with rosemary.
A number of herbs are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Many of them can take care of body pains and aches. The cosmetic manufacturers around the world make use of these natural products to fight skin problems. Skin aging, infections as well as insect bites can be cured with the use of many herbal plants that can be easily grown at homes.
Herbs for spasms, respiratory disorders, menstrual issues, diabetes and many such issues have gained popularity. All these benefits are fast extending their reach to the people living in various regions.

10 Biggest Mistakes Gardeners Make

1. They cut their grass too close.
Lawns composed of cool-season grasses need to be three inches tall after being mowed to permit the plants to grow the deep vigorous roots that can challenge weeds. Warm-season grasses do thrive at around two inches after cutting. Too often, gardeners THINK a short cut will mean more time between mowings, but it really means the opposite. Scalped lawns grow as rapidly as they can to try and compensate for your vicious attack. Grass allowed to achieve a decent height will always look much greener, have fewer weeds, and grow at the slowest possible rate.
2. They water incorrectly.
Your plants MUST be allowed to dry out between waterings. Plants that are watered daily might die from root rot. In a normal season in the upper half of the nation, a long, deep soaking once every week that you don't get an inch of rain is exactly what your lawn and garden needs and wants.
In a very hot spell or further South, you should water deeply twice a week. Always water in the early morning; never in the night, never in the hottest period of the day, never for short sessions of time, and at the base of the plants if you can make that happen.
3. They prune because they just want to.
NEVER prune a plant because "you just think you ought to or "it's a nice day for it"; both are a sure thing to result in a horticulturally horrible outcome and you might find yourself sleeping in the garage.
Simple rules: Prune nothing in the Fall! Find a new hobby if you have to, but keep your hands off those pruners. Prune big, non-flowering trees in the dead of winter. Prune Early spring blooming trees and shrubs immediately after they flower. For other plants, go to Google or Bing, and if you still can't find the answer, leave it alone.
4. They spray pesticides without thinking.
One reader recently asked for help with an insect problem, he explained he had dusted the plants with the insecticide Sevin every couple of days for the past several months without any effect-at least on the insects.
Another reader reported that Sevin had not helped her diseased roses! Maybe that's because it's an insecticide and not a fungicide! Why had she used it?: "It was the only thing in the house".
But my favorite was the woman who sprayed Atrazaine on her Japanese beetles, and the plants now looked dead. What could she do to avoid this next year, she wondered? Try not spraying your plants with an herbicide, was my best guess. When in doubt, don't spray.
5. They use wood mulch.
Never use bark to mulch your plants; it can drain food out of their soil, prevent water from reaching their roots and rot the bark or stems if the mulch actually touches the plant. You can safely use wood mulches to keep weeds down in your garden paths; that's it. People ask what about "landscape mulch"? Wood and bark mulches breed a fungus that irrevocably stains homes and cars.
6. They forget soil pH
pH is a measure of your soil's acidity or alkalinity. A pH of 7 is neutral. Most plants, however, thrive at a slightly acidic pH of 6 to 6.5. Some of our most popular plants-azaleas, rhododendrons and blueberries-require a VERY low pH to thrive.
Very few plants like an alkaline pH. That's why you should never lime your lawn 'because you heard you should'; have the pH tested and then apply lime only if it's needed. Give plants the soil pH they prefer and many garden problems will simply disappear.
7. They feed their plants instead of their soil.
It's easy to spray Miracle-Gro or spread Osmocote. And weeds, pests and disease just love it when you weaken your poor plants with those concentrated chemicals. It's the same as with us: Good food = good health. Trashy fast food = a litany of problems.
Two inches of compost applied annually is all the food plants in the Northern half of the country require. Another two inches is needed later in the season down South, where plants grow for a much longer period of time.
8. They confuse compost with manure.
Manure is not compost. "Compost" is made from yard waste that has been shredded and piled up until it has turned into a rich, black material that feeds your plants, prevents disease and improves the very structure of your soil. Aged manure can be an effective fertilizer-but only FOR SOME PLANTS, and it will not prevent disease. Do not use horse or poultry manure on flowering plants and never use any kind of raw manure. Protect your health!
9. They with no real purpose to fear insects and spiders.
Native bees are harmless to you and essential pollinators in your garden. Literally all spiders are harmless to you and fabulous predators of pest insects. The insect you, with no real purpose, sprayed could be a baby ladybug or other garden friend. Destroy all the life in your garden and...well-you'll destroy all the life in your garden.
10. They use pesticides INSIDE their home; It's True!
It is scary to spray chemical pesticides in your garden; those nerve toxins and hormonal disruptors are much more likely to kill to you than they are to garden pests.
But spraying poisons INSIDE your home, where you're breathing those life-shortening fumes every minute, is beyond nuts! Every indoor pest can be safely controlled without poisons.
Learn How To Grow Organic Food With Less Than 8 Hours Work A Year:here

How to Choose Herbs for a Herb Garden Container

Herbs and herb garden containers make great gifts for the holidays, birthdays and even wedding gifts. If you are interested in knowing how to choose herbs for a herb garden container for yourself or as a gift, here are the top choices. But first, consider the reasons friends and family enjoy herb gardening, other than the obvious which is to grow your own herbs for your soup and salad recipes. Choose right, and fresh growing herbs fill the room with a welcome fragrance. It's like having sweet air without buying a container of Glade plug-in room deodorizer. A benefit many people overlook is the farmer feeling. Putting your hands in soil and growing a garden is rewarding. No one really disagrees with the fact that it feels good to grow something. Read on for some spicy tips.
Most agree that herbs for cooking food is the all-purpose practical reason to decide on your own herb garden. It's true that when cooking in the kitchen, a supply of spices is generally close at hand. For some, the weather isn't good for year-around herb gardening outdoors. If you enjoy fresh herbs and growing your own fresh herb garden indoors in pots or jars, here is what I found out with only a little research.
A common herb that's good for indoor herb gardening is basil. It's used for extra flavor in tomato juices and pastes. Chives make a great addition to a spice garden and go well in salads, egg dishes and sauces. Two herbs that a huge number of gardeners choose for their herb garden are sage and thyme. Both of these herb gardening favorites thrive. Use them for flavoring soups, chicken, turkey and pork including sausages.
For picky chefs who have a bit more of a gourmet recipe up their sleeve, the herbs in their herb gardening containers might include borage (for salads), chervil (added to egg recipes), sweet marjoram (adds flavor to lamb entrees, fish, salad bowls and soup de jour). Sesame (can be a great flavor to add when baking crackers, bread and even cookies). Another easy-grow herb is dill (add it in certain meats when cooking a meal for Sunday dinner).
For those who might not be interested in cooking, consider growing a herb garden for the fragrance. Mint is easy to grow and smells wonderful. Mint is also practical. Use mint for cooking. Try adding mint to lemonade and other fruity drinks for a big WOW from friends and family.
Lavender is probably the most recognized scent. It's popular in sachets, because of its unique perfume aroma. Put dried lavender in a cellophane baggie, punch a couple of small holes and put your homemade sachet in a linen closet or dresser drawer. The one with light purple blooms smell delightful. If you sew, make sachet envelopes with a silky ribbon for a gift.
It's therapeutic to get your hands in the earth's rich soil. Most people enjoy digging and fussing with potting soil. I won't go into all the psychological reasons the therapists claim about getting back to mother nature. But I know from my own experience, it is a joy even for a few minutes. Personally, I like to see how long I can keep my plants alive. (I do not have a green thumb.) Surprise. Surprise. My herbs live quite a long time. Hooray for me.
Planting and potting herbs have a side benefit. Many herbs are simply beautiful to look at. They make a wonderful decoration for my home and are a conversation starter when guests visit.
No doubt you want to check the box, YES, for the mint leaves and lavender, but basil is also a keeper. Choose the Dark Opal variety: These are beautiful when used as a decoration, because they have light pink flowers and dark red leaves. Nice.
If you are interested in herb gardening or giving a kit as a gift to someone who might find growing herbs fun, add a note. Explain that you can dry grown herbs to preserve them for later use. Here's how.
First, trim off the top of leafy herbs. Then, carefully wash and hang up so the water to evaporates. Tie stems into a bunch, put inside a paper bag to dry completely. After two or three weeks, remove them from the bag, crumble and crush the leaves, place in a glass pie dish or on a cookie sheet and dry them even more in the oven. That's it! Store the dried herbs in a glass jar. Use anytime for cooking or to make sachets.
Herb gardening is fun. You get fresh herbs with more flavor than store-bought spices for your recipes. Home grown is less costly and saves on your grocery bill. [Have you noticed the price of spices lately?] Herbs smell great and fill your home with fragrance, which by the way, also reduces that grocery bill if you typically buy room deodorizers. Finally, getting your hands into the soil feels great. You beautify your home.
When you learn how to choose herbs for a herb garden container, you can be a successful gardener in more ways than one.
for more information HERE

Preserving Beneficial Insects In Your Yard and Garden

Not all insects are destructive, and if you are not careful around your yard, or in your garden, you may kill off the insects that are especially important to the ecosystem that your gardens depend on. These insects are the predators that control the pests that destroy your crops. Be observant when you are outside in your yard or garden, and watch which insects are the enemy or your friend.
Organic gardening is the most effective, and natural method of controlling insects that cause harm to the crops you are growing, along with being environmentally friendly. Companion planting and having a healthy organic soil structure will greatly benefit any garden. Pests are normally crop specific, meaning that they will only harm a specific crop.
Companion planting is nothing new to the gardening world, especially with organic vegetable gardening. It is a technique that involves the planting of two or more plants in close proximity to each other for beneficial purposes of some type. The benefit can be for a variety of reasons, attracting predators of common pests, repelling pests, higher crop yields, and vigorous plant growth being the most common. It is all about diversity, there is no scientific reasons that back the folklore of companion planting, but it is know that diversity will reduce problems in the garden.
Organic gardening all starts with the soil. Composting, mulching and top-dressing the soil your crops are growing in is the best way to develop strong healthy plants. A plant that is healthy by itself can defend itself against many of the pests and diseases that attack them. A good healthy organic garden soil is also a natural habitat that will harbor many beneficial predators and microorganisms to protect the crops you are growing naturally.
Preserving the beneficial insects that call your yard and garden home is very important. When you see an insect in your garden, try to identify it so you will know if it is an enemy or a pest. Harming the beneficial insect population in your yard and garden will only increase the destruction that occurs from the insects that are the pests. It is very important not to destroy every insect that you see in your garden Even beneficial insects can cause some damage to crops, it is the severity of the damage that is of concern. Diversity is what keeps everything in balance naturally in your yard and garden, just as nature does in the wild.
A environment friendly and healthy way of gardening. Organic Gardening is away of gardening in harmony with nature. Growing a healthy and productive crop in a way that is healthier for both you and the environment

Repel Cats From Your Garden - Seven Organic Ideas

Want to keep cats off your garden? Of course, the easiest way is to lay a wire net across the ground, supported by bricks. Cats won't step on it. But if you have no netting, one of the best organic gardening ideas is to toss prickly stems like bramble or rose clippings around the plants.

Other organic gardening tips to repel cats are to post sticks steeped in garlic paste, chili oil or chamomile essence around your beds. You could also grow French marigolds (Tagetes patula) which have a strong odour. Or lay cordons of garam masala, curry powder or other species. Cats hate strange fierce scents.

Alternatively, you could take some hot chili pepper seeds and steep them in olive oil for several months. Soak cardboard strips in this fierce cat repellent and put it about your seedbed or most precious plants.

You can even mix this strong-smelling oil 1:5 with water plus a little washing up liquid and apply it directly to your plants. Not only will this deter many insect pests but cats will also keep clear.

The simplest cat repellent is citronella oil, available at health food stores. You need just 100 drops of citronella to a pint of water. Scatter it daily around your garden till the cats learn to keep off. A quick substitute is fresh lemon or grapefruit peel.

An idea that's hardly organic - but it works - is to sink small plastic bottles about the plot with a few teaspoonfuls of ammonia in them. It's harmless to cats because they won't come within ten paces of that strong smell.

You can make a more elegant cat repellent that lasts for several weeks from a screw-top plastic bottle. Take off the cap. Fill the bottle with old nylon socks, or glass wool, or any absorbent substance that's inert and won't rot. Pull out a piece of this so it emerges from the bottle as a wick. Fill the bottle with any of the strong-smelling fluids suggested here. The bottle will protect its strong smelling contents from the weather and a few of these little bio-repellents, buried or hung about your garden, will repel even Tom and Jerry.

Repel cats this way - if you dare

Organic gardeners have reported good results by setting out plastic sealed tubs, perforated at the sides, containing dog faeces. This idea is not for fastidious gardeners but cats will scat! Of course, you wouldn't use the dung of a meat-eating animal directly on the soil, even around a flower bed. It poisons the soil and can lead to serious illnesses, not least among children.

A proven cat repellent is the urine of tigers, lions or any 'large cat'. It banishes all warm-blooded pests. If you're lucky enough to live near a zoo, you need only ask.

Cats can be a nuisance if you have a bird nesting box. Simply grow some thorny thing like roses or brambles around the post or tree.

Another natural gardening idea is to obtain a large metal drum that once held cooking oil or food products. Slice it into a sheet and wrap this shiny, slippery metal around the tree or post as a collar. Cats can't climb that; nor will squirrels or small boys.

All these repellents are harmless to cats, dogs and beneficial insects. Just keep inquisitive children away from the ammonia bottles!

Gardeners Tips for Keeping Garden Tools in Excellent Condition

With Easter behind us the gardening season is now really well upon us. The whine of lawn mowers on the Sunday morning now becomes an everyday sound as well as the smell of freshly cut grass adorns the gardens of a number of streets up and down the UK.
Gardeners up and down the UK will now be thinking about working on their gardens in readiness for the spring and summer months a time when most of us love to spend time in a garden enjoying, what will hopefully be a very wonderful English summer season.
There is a saying that an English Gardener is as good as his tools and no truer word has ever been stated in Jest. A Gardener can't work his magic without looking after his tools and keeping them in good working order.
So here are some tricks for you on how to look after your garden equipment:-
1. Take a look at the plugs and wires on the garden tools are all in decent order and working properly
2. If your garden tools are harmed get them fixed professionally do not try to fix power tools by yourself
3. Spray a soft coat of oil or WD 40 to any movable pieces to avoid them from rusting
4. Be certain your moving parts on any power tools are oiled properly and in the case of power tools start the motors in advance of use to make sure they're appropriately oiled.
5. Store your Power Tools correctly when you have finished using them. If you are storing your tools in the garage contemplate wall storage to keep your garden tools off the ground and safely out of harms way
6. Make sure you thoroughly clean them very well before storing them, eliminate grass cuttings and such from the blades to maintain them clean for the next time you are going to need them
7. In the case of your lawnmower apply some WD 40 or grease to the height adjusters to make certain they don't seize up
8. Check for any cracks in the plastic or ruined pieces on your gardening tools so that you can have them fixed just before you next use them. Waiting till next time may cause frustration if they break whilst you are using them
9. If you are using hedge cutters and such tools make sure they are not only cleaned but the blades sharpened to ensure they are ready for use next time
10. If your tools have wooden handles keep in mind applying some oil for example linseed oil to keep the wood looking good and this will stop the wood from drying out and cracking or splintering
The key to maintaining the life of your tools is how you care for them. Care for them well and store them properly and safely in the garage and your garden tools will last you for a long time.
Enjoy the Garden
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Author: Simon Foster

How to KeepYour Cat Out of Your Garden?

Keeping cats out of your garden is an age old, common problem for most gardeners, especially with the UK cat population exceeding 7.2 million in 2008 last year.
The following tips explain some popular methods on how to keep cats out of your garden. When cats enter your garden, they will often urinate and/or leave a special surprise for you - freshly squeezed poop.
After covering the mess by scratching away at your quality soil, they lay down to rest, suffocating your now squashed bedding plants. The problem of cats in your garden is not limited to gardening. Leaving cat crap scattered across your lawn or urinating in your healthy soil, also poses a health risk, especially for children.
Odour Neutralising Cat Scent 
As with dogs, cats mark their territory. By removing any feces or urine smells, you are taking one step towards making the garden less welcoming to the problematic cat(s).
Masking Odours 
After removing cat feces and disinfecting any areas the cat has urinated, you can add some proven scents such as chili powder, orange or lemon citrus peel and/or instant coffee which cats are not fond of. Alternatively, citrus scented cat repellent pellets can be purchased from most good garden centres or pet shops.
Other scents disliked by cats are toilet cistern blocks crumbled and scattered, Jayes disinfectant, garlic, moth balls, Olbas oil (eucalyptus oil), cayenne pepper, pine cones and mustard.
Plants Cats Don't Like 
There are a number of plants cats are known to dislike. These include geraniums, marigolds, petunias, lavender and coleus canina which will emit a foul smell if the cat was to brush up against it.
Electronic Cat Deterrent Devices 
There are a number of devices on the market aimed at keeping cats out of your garden including ultrasonic sounders that emit a high frequency sound, inaudible to the human ear but ear piercing for cats and dogs.
A popular product is the CATWatch Ultrasonic manufactured in the UK, endorsed by the RSPB and recommended by a good few gardeners. The CATWatch Ultrasonic cat deterrent normally retails at around £55 which doesn't include a required 9v PP3 battery or mains adapter, all available separately.
Most of these devices are activated by infra-red, the same technology used in outdoor lighting and some intruder alarms. When a cat or dog approaches the vicinity of the device, the sound will activate for a set period.
Controversy Surrounding "Silent Roar" Lion Poo 
I could have included this method above under "Masking Odours" but wanted to describe this product in greater detail. Silent Roar is, from what I understand, effectively lion poo pellets. There is mixed public opinion of this product with some good and bad experiences with its use. In the EU, Silent Roar is not able to be sold as a cat repellent chemical due to the inconsistency of the products make up. No two lion poos are the same. However, a quick search on Google clearly shows that it is now being sold as cat repellent so this may no longer be the case.
In 2000, the BBC conducted some cat repellent product tests on its consumer complaints programme - Watchdog. BBC Watchdog found Silent Roar as their most effective cat deterrent from their extensive testing of various products on the market at that time.
Silent Roar is normally sold in 500g packs of pellets for £8.99. In wet weather, more pellets need to be applied after each rainfall.
Physical Deterrents 
As cats are quite agile and can jump great heights, a simple fence will not suffice. Use one or two lines of string tied tight above the fence. Cats will be unable to grip the top of the fence and get over in to your garden.
Cut bamboo canes into 12 inch (1ft) lengths with a hacksaw and stick them halfway into the ground with 6 inches sticking out. Keep them close enough together so cats will not be able to sit or lay down.
Scare Aways 
Try placing realistic looking toy snakes in your grass or cut a short length of hose and bend to look like a snake. Both cats and birds can be scared off with snakes.
Spray With Water 
Sometimes a quick blast of water with a super soaker type water pistol or a garden sprayer (make sure its cleaned out and doesn't contain any chemicals) normally used to insecticide or fertiliser. Do not use a garden hose as this could be seen as cruelty.
Express Your Concerns With The Cats Owner 
If your cat problem is bad enough, you should maybe consider discussing it with the cats owner if known. Maybe suggest they start using an indoor cat litter tray if they don't already.
If the owner objects to using an indoor litter tray, you could ask them to dig a pit in their garden, 2 or 3ft in diameter filled with peat for the cat to use as a toilet. The advantage of this is there will be no hygiene concerns as with indoor litter trays and far less maintenance. The cats owner will just need to dig the pit over every few weeks.

How To Control Garden Weeds Through Cultivation

When I first started gardening it was an attempt to spruce up the garden of the house we had just bought. I started pottering around in the hope of turning it into a presentable space which the family could use. I was new to gardening and open to suggestions and tips coming in from our new neighbors. A neighbor invited me to see her garden. This lady was an old hand and took pride in being an organic gardener. I was impressed with the lovely garden she maintained and all she told me about organic gardening. I soon became obsessed with the idea of starting my own organic garden. This happened many years ago and my love affair with organic gardening continues.
I earnestly took up organic gardening with the help of my neighbor and learned new things from books on the subject. Today my garden is completely organic; I fight pests and weeds through organic methods and completely avoid use of herbicides and pesticides.
Everyone who owns a garden knows how difficult it is to deal with weeds. I struggled for years trying to rid my garden of crab grass. I tried all the organic tricks mentioned in books but nothing seemed to work on the stubborn weeds. I laid down mulch as the books suggested in the hope of stifling the weed; but found to my dismay that it was resilient and impossible to drive away. When all my efforts failed I was tempted to use chemical sprays to fight the weed but resorted to pulling it out from the roots instead.
Fortunately I chanced upon an article on weeds that recommended a method I call dust mulching. The article impressed me as the author seemed an authority on the subject. I decided to try dust mulching in my garden to contain the weeds and was pleased to see the procedure work. I share with you the method.
Since crab grass and other weeds thrive in firm soil which provides moisture and supports growth I recommend soil around the plants and in between rows be loosely packed and allowed to dry. This technique is not as easy as it sounds. It requires a great deal of meticulousness and resoluteness on your part. You will need to ensure the soil always remains dry and does not compress after the garden has been watered or after a downpour. You will need to rake the soil along the rows and around the plants each time the soil gets watered. Though the effort involved is tremendous, the result is fruitful.
I use a steel rake that resembles a comb with closely placed tines. These are available in varying sizes and you can pick two in different sizes to accomplish dust mulching. I have two rakes; the large one is a little over a foot in width and the smaller of the two is around 8". The bigger rake is ideal for raking soil in between rows and I use the smaller one to loosen soil around plants. You need to loosen just the top soil to keep your garden weed free.
I am glad I tried controlling weeds through consistent cultivation, which is a completely organic method. I have found this method to be the most effective in keeping crab grass and other weeds from growing in my garden.
David Ross II is a kindhearted individual who loves the outdoors; she spends most of her time lately working in her yard and tending to her garden if she isn't writing for Vulcan Termite and Pest Control Birmingham is a family owned business in Alabama specializing in getting rid of those unwanted house guests.

How To Choose Garden Plants

Many factors come into play when choosing plants for a garden. Planting may be the answer to a specific landscaping need, such as screening an unsightly view, filling a shady corner, or preventing erosion on a slope, or you may plant simply for the sensory pleasures a garden provides. The choice of garden plants will depend on the garden's size, climate, and specific characteristics. Each plant must be suitable for the garden's conditions, whether sunny or shady and damp or dry, and soil type. Plants also must satisfy personal taste. Here are some tips for choosing the right plants to enhance any garden space.
1. Start with a plan.
The first step in planning a garden is to put pencil to paper. Draw an outline of the area to be planted, drawing it to scale. Add any landscape features, such as walls or fences, and any existing plantings or trees.
Mark the position of the existing plants and use a circle to show the amount of spread, allowing for future spread. Designating the spread of an existing tree's canopy tells you how much sun the garden will receive. This is important because plants vary greatly in the amount of sun or shade they can tolerate. Also note any variations in soil conditions, like a boggy area, which you will need to know in selecting plants based on moisture tolerance.
As you identify the plants you would like to add, mark them on the outline, again showing planting position and spread. Start with the largest plantings first, and work down in scale from trees to shrubs to ground cover and perennials to annuals and bulbs. Use a garden catalog for information about height, spread, and planting distances as well as sun and moisture tolerance. This plan will help you decide how many plants can be added to the space without overcrowding, and will become a guide when shopping for your garden plants.
2. Consider the plant's function.
Plants can serve many functions in a garden. They can act as a canopy to provide shade, a screen for privacy, or a divider to mark a space. Plants also can function as carpets, accents, or fillers. Determine the functions to be served within your garden plan and select plant varieties that will achieve those purposes.
3. Vary plants for visual interest.
A plant's shape, texture, and color play a critical role in any garden design. While the color of a plant's flower may be its most obvious feature, remember that a flower often is a fleeting thing in a garden. Thus, consider the color and texture of the leaves as well as the blooms. By using plants with different shapes, textures, and colors, you will add visual interest and definition to the landscape.
4. Choose plants for year-round interest.
For year-round interest in the garden, choose plants that bloom in different seasons. For winter interest, include some evergreen plants, deciduous trees with strong silhouettes or peeling bark, or ornamental grasses that give structure to the garden.
5. Choose plants that suit your lifestyle.
Finally, the plants you choose must suit your lifestyle. If you don't have a lot of time to spend in the garden, choose low maintenance varieties. If you have children or pets, choose plants that are not poisonous if ingested.
Poppy Lynch has been helping beginner gardeners for over 15 years. For simple, easy-to-follow gardening tips, Poppy suggests signing up for the Woolly Green Weekly, a great source of gardening chat, products, offers and competitions. Woolly Green is a new website, for people who like to garden as a bit of an antidote to their otherwise busy lives.
I am waiting for your opinion on the subject.

Funny Gardening Stories

You might not think it, but gardening can be an exciting adventure. No, it's true. Really, it is. I can tell you the funniest stories about things that have happened to me in my garden. From creatures big to small, something funny happens every year!
I love the taste of fresh food picked straight from the garden. And so do the creatures in my garden. Sometimes I think all my effort is only for them. I remember once when my little apple tree finally grew an apple. "Tomorrow," I thought to myself. "Tomorrow I will pick the first and only apple that has grown on my apple tree and then I will eat it." Only I never got to pick my apple. A squirrel got to it first. Which I might not have minded so much, except that he only took two or three bites, decided he didn't like the apple and threw it away. I was almost tempted to eat the apple anyways, but I wasn't quite sure if that would be a good idea.
Another time, when I was a little girl, my dad had this pretty little crab apple tree. One autumn, the tree was full of crab apples and my dad promised that we would pick the crab apples when they were ready in a couple of days. The next day I went out to the garden to look at this wonderful crab apple tree. Much to my dismay, one of the branches had been broken off and all the crab apples on the branch were gone! During the night a bear had come along and eaten all of the crab apples. No crab apple jelly for me. But at least the bear didn't go hungry!
Years ago, there was this beaver that would come up from the stream and onto our yard, just to eat the dandelions growing in the grass. He didn't want to move no matter what we were doing or how close we came to him. I have several pictures of the beaver eating the dandelions. He never even seemed to notice that I was standing right next to him in order to get a picture close up. Another time I was cutting the grass with a riding lawn mower and he didn't move at all, even when I came close to him. I finally had to leave that patch of lawn and cut it the next day. I sure do miss that beaver!
I hope you found my stories entertaining.

Gardening Care - How to Prevent Gardening Insects and Health Conditions

A healthful herb garden is composed of plants which have been free of garden bugs and diseases. You can easily accomplish lots of things to maintain the plant life stay in fit. A way you can do is to get the right collection of vegetables. Some plants are more susceptible to illness as compared with others. By following growing and also seeding treatments effectively, you may diminish the likelihood of the vegetation to get not well. Providing the suitable environment can also be crucial. An excessive amount of water and heat could perhaps provoke unexpected garden conditions. Here are some ideas you can adhere to which keeps the outdoor and indoor plants live healthy and well balanced.
Guidelines for Healthy Crops
  • Soil.
Healthier plants and flowers commences with healthy and balanced dirt. Rots are caused by inert the roots of plants. Humidity as well as the dried up garden soil are among the reasons for gardening unwanted insects and health problems. Despite the fact that normal water is useful for your plants, keep in mind that exactly like anything, too much of things isn't good.
  • Correct Pick.
Obtaining the right plant life inside of your backyard is very important. There are plenty of kinds of cultivars to choose from. There are cultivars in which fight back many different sicknesses. A good example of such type of cultivar is Large Beef Tomato. Various illnesses which the plant can defend against are usually gray leaf spots and tobacco mosaic virus. Other sorts of cultivars mainly stand against one kind of infection. This sort is very important if you find an individual condition near you which can be common amongst these outdoor and indoor plants. Speak to a specialist that can help you recognise the sickness which is popular in the area. You will also find cultivars which can be tolerant regarding illnesses. This indicates any of these plants can acquire an illness on the other hand wouldn't be seriously suffering from this.
  • Spacing
Any time you're growing, it's very helpful to keep an adequate amount of area approximately between vegetables or flowers so they really have room for their unique roots, branches also stems to improve. Using a congested plant garden bed really make toxic contamination and transmit of disorders surprisingly easy. Also, you would not really want your outdoor and indoor plants grow to be rivaling each other with regards to their very important needs. If you put your own these plants not far from each other, not all of your flowers or vegetables are going to be getting sufficient natural light, waters and nutrients. Correct spacing enables the air flow around the plants and flowers far better resulting to a lower rate of particular fungus establishment as well as other illness disorders.
  • Go along with elimination programs.
For people with crops that are vulnerable to health issues, make certain to give it adequate defensive procedures. Prevent backyard garden pesky pests together with disease simply by appropriate elimination. Wilt-proofing is known as an item made out of pine essential oil. It will help leaves from to become dry throughout cold weather which causes decrease number of cases of fungus infection formation.
To prevent infestation, you can attempt conducting all of the following:
  • Get a great mix of flowers, herbal along with veggies. By doing this, perhaps you can get multicolored flora bed that may help confuse bugs. Also, the different smells will offer pests difficulty to find out their best foods. Have got sweet basil, garlic herb and also lemon tree geraniums into your grow crops bed.
  • Don't assume all insects can be harmful with regards to your vegetables or flowers. As you are taking care of plants and flowers, it's always nice to get the correct type of insects within your garden. Ladybugs, spiders as well as lacewings victimize unwanted pests.
Gardening care will not merely end by working with providing water together with supplying enough sun light to your flowers and plants. A certain amount of common garden insects are necessary depending on your specific garden, be sure that you also go along with certain procedures in order to avoid garden insects as well as health problems from moving into your plants.
Gardening care could be a daunting task for some one, especially for those who own traditional garden - unlike soil-less AeroGarden gardening method. But once you know the way, gardening is more fun and enjoyable than any other hobbies ever. Have a nice gardening:)

How to Avoid Gardening Back Pain

Now that we are in the new year and thoughts turn to spring, we'll soon start to think about getting cracking in the garden, often neglected through the cold months and now looking a little bedraggled. Not far down the line will be the recurrence of our lower back pain, followed by the thoughts that "I've overdone it", and the search for back pain relief or natural back pain treatments.
In order to help avoid the misery of low backache, it's probably wise to take a few simple precautions. Maybe the best back pain treatment is prevention, and some of the following tips may help:
Warm up: Make sure you do some simple stretching exercises to limber up before getting busy or take a short walk simply to loosen up those joints ready for the task ahead.
Pace yourself: Don't try to everything all in one session. The key to avoiding back pain is to take regular breaks from digging or raking, and maybe vary your tasks to reduce the duration of repetitive movement. For example, follow 30 minutes of digging with say some pruning.
Digging: Make sure you dig in front of you, level and parallel with your hips, use your foot to push the shovel into the soil, and lean into it from above so you are pushing down rather than out in front of you. Try to bend from the knees when lifting the soil, rather than your back. Make sure you take plenty of breaks to avoid lumbar pain.
Raking: Try to maintain a straight back and pull your rake towards your body rather than to one side to reduce twisting forces on your back. Again, don't attempt to do this over extended periods, take a break every so often.
Decking treatments: Bending down to apply brush on treatments is guaranteed to cause low back pain. Invest in a proper decking roller with an extended handle (much quicker), or use a kneeling pad and try to brush in front of you working backwards rather than to one side.
Planting: Again use a kneeling pad and avoid bending down if you want avoid back problems. Don't continually do this, stand up, take a break, and do some back stretches. If you are potting then try to do this on a work top or surface at a comfortable height and be aware that wet compost is heavy so try to ensure that you don't have to move full pots or containers very far.
Lifting: Again you may cause back pain if you are moving heavy weights such as a full pot or container over a distance. Be sure to use a wheel barrow, another good investment is a porters trolley (brilliant if you are laying paving stones or moving bags of compost or sand)
Refreshment: Make sure you take on plenty of fluids, especially if it gets warm (not the alcoholic type!).
The golden rule: If you want to avoid gardening back pain.... then don't overdo it!
David Pegg from Manchester UK is a director with Lumbacurve International, manufacturers of back pain relief products..
LumbaCurve provides exercises and drug free natural cures for back pain to help give relief for sufferers of lumbar pain.

So You Want to Be a Professional Gardener - Ten Things to Consider

Many of us have had that dream that you're outside under this big blue sky and all the sudden you realize if you flap your arms really really hard - that your feet start lifting up off the ground...and if you keep flapping, yes, CAN fly! Of course you wake up the next morning and realize it was just a dream, but still it seemed so real...maybe, just maybe it could really happen?
Dreams like that are great and for the lucky people in the world, dreams keep on coming their whole like. Some fulfilled, some not, but always making life exciting. Many people have career dreams that they fulfill. Some become wealthy executives, entrepreneurs, health professionals, teachers or professional athletes. But some of us have these secret little dreams, that we don't necessarily pursue or expect to happen, but just quietly pass through our mind every now and then like...."wouldn't it be cool to have a job working outside, under the blue sky, hearing the birds sing and butterflies flutter by as you work?" This was one of my now-and-then fantasies since the time I was a child. Didn't think it would ever come true, especially after I got into corporate America, had a great paying job, insurance and security. Or maybe not so much security. In 2005, three months after my little brother and dear friend passed away unexpectedly, I got "the call". Everyone in my department was being downsized. So much for security. The good news was that the downsizing came with a small severance package....just perhaps enough to get me through a couple semesters of that Horticulture program at the local community college I had daydreamed about for so many years.
The rest is history. With the angel on my shoulder telling me "Life is short, follow your dream" I signed up the very next day and started classes two months later and two years later had an Associate degree in Horticulture and a part time job at a beautiful 6-acre estate in one of the nicest parts of the metropolitan area. Has it been like my dream with the blue skies, birds and butterflies? Well, yes absolutely....but a WHOLE LOT MORE!!!! Here are some insights from a "New Pro Gardener" about what the profession is really like in Midwest America...
1. Weather extremes - heat and cold
I have never been a summer person, always hated to sweat. Office life was great - having to keep a sweater in my drawer even in the summer because the AC kept it so cool! Say goodbye to that when you work outside for a living. Putting up with extreme heat is part of the job. In some cases, managers will find jobs for you to do in the shade when it gets over 95 degrees but don't count on it. Surprisingly though, it is not as bad as I thought. When you are doing something you love, in a beautiful environment, you get used to the conditions.
Cold is not as much of a factor because of the fact that many gardening jobs are seasonal and so you are not working during the coldest months (which is an issue in itself) but there are many days in the working season when it is in the 20's and 30's so you must still be prepared! If you are dressed in layers and are moving around it is amazing how your body heat builds up and keeps you warm!
2. Weather pleasantries - spring and fall
When snow and ice melts and green shoots start poking up out of the ground, fresh scents start filling the air, it is an awesome time to be working outside! I have felt like one of the luckiest people alive on this earth when I have actually been earning a salary, working outside in the springtime. Same goes for fall. Days get shorter, brown tones with the autumn sunlight glistening, geese flying overhead - rich earthly smells. It makes the hardships of the previous summer heat all worth the toil!
3. Wind, weather fronts
When you are outside from 8am in the morning until 4pm in the afternoon, day after day, week after week, you notice a lot of things about the world we live in than you would otherwise never be aware of. It may sound obvious but there is nothing like feeling an oh-so-subtle touch of a breeze on your cheek that within an hour turns into a significant breeze, then into a constant wind that is blowing from gray clouds and dropping moisture onto your horizon. It sounds corny but this experience truly brings you in touch with the earth. This is one of the things I love so much about working outside!
When you are leaned over, looking down while you are gardening, planting, dividing, pruning or whatever it may be, concentrating on what you are doing, you become very aware of light intensity changes. It is a joy to sense such a light change while you are focused on a plant, then look up to see that since the last time you looked up, maybe an hour ago, the entire sky has changed. And the day has changed and in a way you have changed by this whole experience. It is great! This is one of the joys of being a professional gardener!
4. Joints & muscles - moving soil, rocks, mulch and more
There are a variety of settings where professional gardeners find employment. There are public places like zoos, parks, golf courses and botanical gardens. Then there are private estates. There are large landscape companies, small garden maintenance businesses or you can start your own sole proprietorship. But wherever you work, there will most likely be big and/or heavy things that need to be moved like mulch, soil (in) and clay (out), mulch, rock and gravel! Moving, digging and throwing these heavy things require strength and strong joints.
If you are lucky, you have lots of muscle and can handle the lifting, pushing, pulling and carrying. If you are VERY lucky you have one of the rare jobs where someone else does the heavy work and you either supervise or are privileged to just be able to specialize in pruning, trimming and tweaking. Let me repeat, these jobs are rare and even then, some people are prone to issues from repetitive motions of the wrist and arm.
These issues are mentioned not mentioned to discourage but for awareness. They can be overcome by building up strength slowly, taking breaks and utilizing good stretching and relaxation techniques.
5. Fresh air, sunshine, mental and physical health
Since I've been a professional gardener, I'm the healthiest and in the best shape I've ever been. I burn off lots of calories every day so can eat as much as I want without gaining weight, get lots of sunshine (vitamin D!) and breathe lots of fresh air! My muscles are very tone and I am the strongest I've ever been. Becoming comfortable with power tools and machinery has given me a confidence and empowerment in a way I never thought I would achieve back in the days when I used to cry from frustration every time I had to try to start something with a pull-string.
6. Being dirty, errands after work
I don't mind getting dirty and being dirty at work all day. But one thing that is frustrating is that when you do get very dirty at work, you don't really want to do things other people do on the way home from work like get your hair cut or go to the dentist. Those things need to be done on a day off or first thing in the morning (probably making you late for work). I don't especially like to stop at the grocery store when I've got dirt all over my clothes although sometimes if I bring a clean pair of shoes so I don't track mud, mulch or "whatever" into a store, it is not too bad. But get ready for people to look "down" at you and not treat you with as much respect as when you are dressed in "office wear". Not that it matters.... just an observation.
7. Working alone, working with people - pros & cons
There are lots of interesting people in this business. Just as in every walk of life, most of the people are grateful, pleasant, supportive and "nice" to other people. But then there are the few people that are bitter, rude, sarcastic and not so nice to other people. And there is everything in between.
Working in the professional gardening business lends itself to a variety of levels of co-worker interaction. If you choose working with others, you will most likely end up working with other women or men that love being outdoors like you do, and appreciate all the same aspects of nature that you do, that are pleasant to talk to and enjoying occasional chatting while you work. As in any business environment, becoming good "work friends" is a great way to enrich your work experience.
On the other hand, you may find yourself with a completely different situation, working closely with a boss that is irritable, doesn't like you, wants to be left alone and resents you being there even though he needs the help. Someone like this can make the life difficult for you, but if you love what you are doing you can ignore it, enjoy the work and use it as an opportunity to develop character.
If you prefer working alone it is very feasible to create our own little business doing landscape maintenance. There are not that many startup tools required but getting into that will be another article. Anyone seeking employment in this profession should consider all the options and try different situations to find one that best suits their personality.
8. Not just nipping rosebud - weeds, ditches, mulch, dirt
Many professional gardener jobs are coupled with property management. You may find that while working in an estate situation you do spend a good time planting, fertilizing, pruning, dividing and transplanting roses, shrubs, perennials, annuals and trees just like you thought you would. But along with those obvious tasks often come other responsibilities. You may also be power-washing, blowing driveways, moving snow, cleaning up branches and fallen trees after summer rain and ice storms, mowing, trimming and even digging drainage ditches. You may feed the birds and care for water lilies and goldfish. You may also be creating lovely garden paths - sound funs but sometimes requires moving large heavy fallen trees to edge them or hauling wheelbarrows full of extremely heavy gravel and/or stepping stones to line them with.
Last but not least, along with flowers, butterflies, birds and pretty leaves come thorns, poison ivy and bee stings. All can be dealt with but just remember - they are out there!! When you interview for a gardening position look around and ask a lot of questions!
9. Storm damage, water runoff damage, water main breaks
One day an expected summer storm because quite active around 3 in the afternoon. We came to a stopping place in our work and started to head to our cars to go home. This storm developed quickly and became very aggressive! Within minutes winds were howling, rain was in torrents and I could not see out the windshield of my car. Adding to my tension was the fact that there were lots of huge old oaks on this property, and they were all along the driveway that led off the property. In other words I was not sure if I should stay where I was (under a large, old oak) or try to leave (and drive along the path of other large old oaks) or move a few hundred feet in front of the house garage doors which was "somewhat" shielded from trees. The latter is the option I took. I sat there by myself feeling, hearing and seeing the force and power of nature around me. After about 20 minutes it began to let up and I felt brave enough to venture out of my car to check driveway conditions.
Good thing I had not tried to leave! There were several large branches down across the driveway but that was nothing. The worst damage was an entire tree had fallen directly across the entrance to the property, blocking anyone or anything from getting in or out! Needless to say I was not going to get home early that night! Luckily the property manager was still sitting in his truck down by our work garage. I called him to report what I was seeing and within minutes we were sawing and hauling tree parts. Two hours later we had cleared the path.
This was one of the most dramatic on-the-job weather events I've experienced. There have been others evolving around ice storms, storm water runoff, water main breaks and several wild animal and bird romps. What an adventure these unexpected events are when you're making a living as an outdoor gardener!
10. Cycles of life
If you are a true plant and nature lover, one of the coolest advantages of making your living taking care of outdoor plants is that you get to see plants cycle through all the seasons. From the first fresh green buds breaking through melting snow in spring to the last brown seedpods against the low afternoon autumn sun to the bright red holly berries of winter, you see it all. In the spring different plants come out of dormancy in different ways. Unfolding fern fronds are one of the most glorious signs of life, while witchhazel dancing, crocus popping, yellow fragrant sumac daintily peeping are close seconds. Spring turns to summer with flowers blooming in every color of the rainbow. Grasses plume and leaves dazzle us in the fall and in the winter still-green hellebores hide their balloon-like buds till the earliest signs of spring when they ease open and life starts all over again.
Being one with these cycles of life is a beautiful experience. Being close to the earth everyday is awesome. It makes all the hard times and sore muscles worth it. As the earth is reborn so are you as you walk the earth, close to the earth, as a professional gardener!
Sharon Ward, Owner, Hearts Garden Services, specializing in garden maintenance in St. Louis, Jefferson County and St. Francis County Missouri.

How to Save Your Garden Seeds

Most serious gardeners save seeds. It's easy, it's practical, and it will save you some money. Here are a few saving tips:
Packaged seeds should be saved in their original packages. Simply fold the top or use a little bit of tape to secure the seeds in the packet. If the outer packet included an inner foil packet, store any leftovers in the foil packet.
Some seeds are considerably more sensitive to moisture in the air... so, if the seed company took the time to wrap them in foil packets, you should, too.
The best place to store your packets is in a large jar or coffee can in the refrigerator. Keep them cool and dry, and most will last many seasons. Remember that seeds are food, and improper storage will invite all kinds of pests to your basement or pantry.
Home Harvested
You can harvest and save from open-pollinated cultivars; but, you can't save the seeds from hybrids. (Well, you can save from hybrids, but they won't produce the same hybrid plant from which they came... you'll usually get one of the parent varieties used to make the hybrid.)
Those harvested from open-pollinated varieties of flowers and vegetables can be harvested when the fruits or flowers are mature, or even beyond maturity. They should be relatively dry and free from as much plant "litter" as possible. You can rinse tomato and pepper seeds in a colander and dry them for a day or two on paper towels or cookie sheets. Those from beans and most flowers don't need much special treatment before packaging them.
Package in paper envelopes, being careful to label the envelopes to identify the contents as well as the year of harvest.
Flowers that readily self-seed as annuals, such as plume celosia, are ideal candidates for saving. Simply shake the dried flower heads in a large envelope or can and you'll collect hundreds, if not thousands, that can be used in your gardens or shared with friends.
As with commercially packaged seeds, home packaged should be stored in a cool, dry place that is free from insects or rodents. A coffee can in the refrigerator is ideal.
Checking Germination
You cannot determine if a seed will germinate by looking at it. There are two ways for home gardeners to check the germination. (Germination means that they'll sprout and grow; the germination percentage is simply the percentage that are viable.)
1. Simply place one or two seeds in each cell of a six pack starter cell pack, and see how many germinate. Or,
2. Place 10 to 20 seeds between two or more moist paper towels, and see how many germinate. The paper towel method is used by virtually all laboratories; but, care must be taken to keep the towels moist and warm. You can use a large plastic bag or cellophane to help keep the towels moist.
Check germination several weeks prior to the time that you'll need to start so that you can replace any cultivars that have very low or zero germination.
Breeding by Selection - Ultimate Seed Saving
Some people save seeds in the quest to isolate new cultivars. By saving from a flower or fruit that has a specific characteristic (a nearly white marigold or a particularly big pumpkin) you may be able to produce your own crop that reproduces flowers or vegetables with the desired trait. This is the breeding technique known as "selection." The first (nearly) white marigold was produced by a home gardener who saved seeds from the most pale yellow marigolds in her gardens over several generations... constantly striving for the palest yellow... that was nearly white.
Writer for Mantis and Mantis Owners.