Friday, January 14, 2011

Backyard Pond Designs

Some more good info.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Common Vegetable Garden Pests

Bugs and insects are a huge pain for many vegetable gardeners. Most bugs aren't particularly destructive, they're just annoying. But if you find a garden pest devouring your harvest, you're not going to be too happy.

Among the ugliest garden pests is the tomato hornworm. It is a fat, white and green worm with a big horn that resembles a stinger. You can pull it off the plant while wearing gloves, and kill it by dunking it in soapy water. You could also spray it with stomach poison insecticide, Bacillus thuringiensis or neem oil.

Thrips overrun numerous plants and create uneven white markings on the plant's leaves. To get rid of them, use a hose to wash off the bugs and then spray on some contact poison.

You know when snails and slugs have been there because they leave behind a slimy trail and eat the leaves on the plants. You can buy bait to attract and kill them, but you can achieve the same thing with a shallow dish of beer; they'll be drawn to it and drown.

Those plump white worms that you see in the ground are most likely grubs. Grubs will cause your plants to droop, and may stunt their growth. They can be held in check by adding milky spore to the soil. Grubs eventually grow into beetles, which you can rid of with stomach poison insecticide.

Cutworms tend to attack a plant's stem at the base. Putting a paper collar around the plants is really the only way to keep them away.

Corn earworms will infiltrate a cob of corn while it's still on the stalk and consume the kernels. Likewise, a tomato fruitworm consumes the insides of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Choose an insecticide targeted to the elimination of earworms.

You'll find borers in thick stemmed vine plants like squash and pumpkin. The only way to eliminate them is to cut them out of the plant. You might end up having to pull up the plant and destroying it if you find a borer near the base of the plant. You can usually get rid of them with insecticide.

Beetles are bothersome pests that enjoy munching on leaves. You have to get rid of them because they can do a tremendous amount of damage to your garden. You can either spray them with insecticide or just pick them off the plants.

Aphids are a common sight in any vegetable garden. Usually you'll spot them as a group of small bugs in a variety of colors. To eliminate aphids, use neem oil or insecticidal soap.

Orchids Warm and Cold

Of all the flowers on earth, orchids are particularly fascinating. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but they often bring a bit of wonder and mystery with them. Although widespread in distribution, many of them can only be found in isolated, nearly inaccessible places--volcanic mountainsides, dense jungles, deep swamps, etc.

Beginning quite seriously in the 19th century, orchid enthusiasts have devoted years and whole lifetimes to discovering as well as cultivating new types of these flowering wonders. Although most orchids are obtained these days from nurseries that specialize in cultivating these plants, many of them being developed through hybridization, it is advantageous to know a little of their natural history.

Orchids are herbacious plants of which tens of thousands of species are known, with more still being discovered.  They exhibit a startling range of color and form, which has contributed greatly to public interest. Master gardeners often delight in growing a wide range of orchids to demonstrate their mastery of the arts of cultivation.

Orchids grow everywhere in the earth except for the desert and polar regions. About 85% of species occur in tropical or subtropical regions, but this leaves a huge number that may be found in much cooler zones. In some parts of the Himalayas orchids constitute the most abundantly represented family of plants in terms of sheer number of species.

By far the greatest number of orchids occur in three large tropical belts:

  • Tropical Africa (including islands to the east in the Indian Ocean). These largely belong to the genera (families) Angnecum, Bulbophyllum and Disa. Orchids from this region are not so widely cultivated as ones coming from other tropical lands, but Africa nonetheless has many interesting species.
  • Tropical Asia. This region, which covers Indonesia and other islands, along with mainland Southeast Asia, is particularly rich in orchid genera. Typical of the region are the large genera Dendrobium, Eria and Bulbophyllum and many smaller ones as well.
  • Tropical America. The region is made up of Mexico, the Central American nations, and the tropical part of South America. Isolated from the rest of the world for millennia, this region contains an unusually high number of indigenous orchid genera, many of which contain hundreds of individual species. Among the large indigenous genera are Epidendrum, Pleurothallis and Oncidium; many smaller genera found here also contribute more than their share to orchids that have found favor among cultivators the world over.

In the temperate zones of the southern hemisphere may also be found many orchds, though not in so abundant number as in the tropics. In southern Africa the Disa and Calanthe genera furnish a few species judged valuable to cultivation. Australia has a number of genera in common with the tropical Asia. Southern South America boasts a number of temperate orchids, but by the estimation of orchid devotees, they are greatly overshadowed by those
from the vaster tropical-zone part of the continent.

in the norhern hemisphere's temperate areas, we should take note of the United States, particularly the New England/norhteastern region, as well as Canada. There we find about 20 native genera, whose member species grow mostly in swamps and moist grounds. The most familiar of these are the Cypripediuins or Lady Slippers.

Europe also has many native orchids, but undoubtedly the most famous and showy is the Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera). The Bee Orchid grows on dry or semi-dry turf, often in open areas within woodlands. Bee Orchids are common near the Mediterranean coast of Europe, and grows (albeit less abundantly) as far north as Germany and the UK.

Orchids differ greatly from one another as far as ease of cultivating, but most of them are not the difficult plants that common wisdom would have it. The most up-to-date guide to today's orchid cultivation, without a doubt, is Orchid Care Expert by Nigel Howard, which can be downloaded online. Howard's wonderful guide will furnish a thorough education on the subject. Also, check out the Orchid Secrets web site, which has an ever-growing library of articles on all aspects of orchid cultivation.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

People Have Been Nuts over Orchids for A Long Time

Orchid culture is so widespread in our time that it is diffcult to picture a world without these wonderful flowers. However, not very long ago, the people of the so-called civilized world were totally ignorant of the vast majority of species of orchids.

Europeans of course knew about their native orchid types, such as the extravagant Bee Orchid. But familiarity with of the thousands of wonderful tropical orchids had to await the results of explorations into the jungles and mountains of South America and the East Indies. Even then, specimens were slow to make it back to countries such as England, Germany or France.

Perhaps the first living orchid to be transported from the tropics to England was an Epidendrum cochleatum, one of the more showy of its family. It flowered in London in the year 1787. Another species from the same family was brought to England in 1778. It took a decade for its caretakers to bring forth flowers from it.

Admiral William Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty fame had a small part in laying the ground for the orchid craze. In the early 1790s he brought 15 species of epiphytal orchids to England from the West Indies. These were put on display at the famous Kew Gardens in London. For many years the West Indies, along with India, were the central sources of tropical orchids in Europe. In 1793, though, a species of Oncidium was taken to England from Panama, followed a few years later by orchids from Uruguay.

By 1818, Brazil in partcular was contributing to what was becoming a steady stream of orchids back to England and other countries of Europe. By 1830 the Royal Horticultural Society had sent representatives traveling throughout Brazil seeking out for unusual species.

The orchid exchange soon turned into a serious moneymaking endeavor, with businessmen in Brazil making deals with their London counterparts to ship plants to England to be resold there. William Harrison, a merchant living in Rio de Janeiro in the 1830s and 1840s, sent many wonderful orchids to his brother Richard in Liverpool. Richard's house soon became a magnet for orchid enthusiasts who journeyed there to see the latest arrivals.

Introducing orchids to Europe was one thing, but cultivating them successfully proved quite another. For more than half a century England was known as the grave of tropical orchids. The plants that survived did so in spite of rather than because of the treatment they received. Growers continuing experimenting and making mistakes until, by about 1850, they had mostly figured out the art of orchid cultivation. That's when the orchid craze really exploded, because now the knowledge was available by which even non-botanists could grow these stunning plants.

Knowledge of successfully growing orchids has increased during the intervening years and now we know so much more than did those Victorian devotees. We also have, of course, better technology to assist us in the greenhouse and garden.

The most complete guide to expert orchid cultivation, hands down, is Orchid Care Expert by Nigel Howard, which can be downloaded online. Howard's well-written guide constitutes a thorough education all to itself. And, it's appropriate for beginners as well as more expeienced orchid cultivators. Also, check out the Orchid Secrets web site, which has an ever-growing library of articles on many topics of orchid cultivation.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Allow Your Orchids Some Rest this Winter

Orchids require "rest" time every year. The exact time for this depends on the species, but for most orchids it should start some time in the fall and continue through most of the winter. You should care for your plants differently at this time than you would during their exuberant growth periods (spring and summer usually). This is a necessary part of growing orchids successfully.

A good general practice is to provide your orchids rest from November through the middle of February. You can accomplish this by restricting your watering and by lowering the temperature in your orchid room.

For tropical species, keep the temperature at about 60 or 65. For species originating in colder locales, you can lower the temperature to around 45 degrees.

During this time, provide your plants just enough water to keep them from shriveling. Most of the moisture should be supplied by misting or by taking steps to keep the air humid. Occasionally, though, you should poke down into the soil and examine the stem, roots and rooting medium of your plants. If these are beginning to dry out you should water them directly.

A few species will continue to grow during the winter months. These will demand somewhat more water than those that truly go dormant. If you see new shoots emerging, though, try to avoid wetting them or they else they could rot.

Some orchids are deciduous. This means they will lose their leaves after they have finished their growing for the year. You must give these as much sun and light during their resting time as you can. This will allow their pseuduobulbs to ripen, which in turn causes them to grow stronger and flower more freely.

Caring properly for orchids during their rest is not that difficult. Preventing problems, though, necessitates a good bit more information than can be covered here. The most up-to-date guide to modern orchid care, it is widely acknowedged, is Orchid Care Expert by Nigel Howard, which can be downloaded online. Mr. Howard's guide is a full course in itself, great for neophytes as well as those more experienced. Also, visit the Orchid Secrets web site, which has an ever-growing database of postings on many facets of orchid cultivation.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Orchid Suggestion: Start with Local Types

It is common "knowledge" that the orchid is a tropical/subtropical plant. But in fact, orchids can be found in just about every part of the globe outside of the deserts and the polar regions.

About 85% of orchid species will inded be found in the tropics and subtropics, but that leaves a large proportion to the more temperate zones. Among other things, this means that you will not be out of luck if you live in a cool area and want to grow orchids, but do not have a hothouse or other heated area in which do so so.

There are tens of thousands of orchid species. You could be amazed to know that there might be orchids growing in your own neighborhood, even if your home is in one of our more northerly climes. Take the fairly common Lady Slipper.

Lady Slippers (also written Lady's Slippers and Ladyslippers) is a name given to a large subfamily of orchids, the Cypripedioidea, with many species that grow in cool climates across North America and Europe. If you live in the New England states of the U.S., or the Appalachian mountain region, or even in Canada, you might find Lady Slippers of one variety or another growing in the woods near your home.

One species of Lady Slipper is the state flower of Minnesota. Another is the official state wildflower of New Hampshire. The Canadian province of Prince Edward Island has a Lady Slipper as its official flower.

If you're considering growing orchids, especially in an outdoor garden, you would do well to consider a native species. It will already be adapted to your specific climate, and--if you live in a place that sees low temps in the winter--you might not even have to bring it inside when cold weather arrives.

In North America, one of the most striking native orchids is the Yellow Lady Slipper. It is also among the easiest orchids to grow in a garden. On the other hand, the Pink Lady Slipper is extremely difficult to grow.For the beginning orchid grower, the Yellow Lady Slipper would be the better choice.

Nurseries that specialize in orchid plants tend to run out of stock from time to time. Nevertheless, Lady Slippers are generally some of the easiest orchids to acquire. They are furthermore less expensive, generally, than orchid plants that come from far away. They are a great orchid for getting your thumb green, so to speak, before you take on the challenge of rarer or more "foreign" species.

All of the rules governing successful orchid cultivation apply to the Lady Slippers and related plants. You need accurate information before you begin attempting to grow these or other orchids, and  the best, most thorough guide to modern orchid growing, without a doubt, is Orchid Care Expert by Nigel Howard, which can be downloaded online. Howard's guide constitutes a thorough education all to itself. And, you will find it suitable for neophytes as well as more seasoned orchid cultivators. Also, be sure to visit the Orchid Secrets web site, which has a growing database of articles on many aspects of orchid cultivation.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bean Plant Growth

If you are planning a garden, knowing the full cycle of the bean plant growth can enable you to maximize it’s growing season and increase the amount of crop you get. Beans, snap peas and soy beans are a healthy addition to a persons daily dietary needs. High in protein, the bean is one of the base ingredients in a vegetarian’s diet, as well as an excellent side dish for those with a preference for meat.

When growing beans the beginning growth stages are important and you will need to only use good, healthy seeds for planting in your garden. Choosing a high quality seed will help to ensure a better chance of the plant taking root and growing to yield a larger amount of healthier vegetables. While these seeds may be slightly more expensive, the overall increase of bean plant growth is worth the investment, especially if you intend on having a larger garden.

To maximize bean plant growth, planting should be done when the temperature drops no lower than 61 degrees F or 16 degrees C. If the temperature drops below this level, your plants will not germinate, and may die.

Once your seeds are planted, the time it takes for the plant to reach the seedling stage can range from three to approximately forty days, with the average being eleven days. A seedling is a very young plant that has just begun to break the surface of the soil. This phase of the bean plant growth cycle is vital, as a healthy seedling will mature into a robust plant. If your seedlings are dehydrated or over watered, as well as planted too early, your crops will suffer and the amount of beans gathered later in the cycle will be diminished.

After planting, it will take approximately fifty days from the point of the seedling stage cycle for the plant to begin producing pods that are ready to harvest. This means that there is realistically only one growth cycle for beans in a year. The season in which you plant your seeds should be no earlier than March, because they need enough time to complete the growth cycle before the colder months arrive and frost sets in. Frost can cause serious damage to bean plants and should be avoided in order for the plants survival. Greenhouses are sometimes used in colder climates for help in ensuring the growing stages of the bean plant are successful.

The bean plant is an annual plant, which means that it can renew itself for at least three growing seasons. Bean plants can be overtaken easily by weeds, so it is suggested to use a strong mulching material in the garden and clearing a six-inch swath to sow the seeds. The soil should be thoroughly cultivated and seeds should be sown about 1 1/2 inches deep into the soil.