Friday, June 09, 2006

Growing Vegetables in Containers - The Compact Solution

By Judy Williams

Container vegetable gardens are a great alternative for those that don't have access to backyards. There can be a range of reasons to grow your vegetables in containers...easy access to the kitchen, safer environments for children and the handicapped or just lack of a yard to use for gardening.

Vegetable gardens in containers can also be extremely attractive and serve the dual purpose of style and function around your patio.

The no dig vegetable garden can be just as successful in containers provided similar guidelines are followed.

Drainage is vital so ensure your containers have appropriate drainage holes to allow water to escape. If they don't, the plants will literally 'drown' and will be susceptible to diseases. They also need a sunny space. The advantage with vegetables grown in containers is that you can move the containers around to follow the sun if no one spot in your patio or garden is suitable.

Vegetables grown in containers will need some additional attention. Their root system is restricted to the pot so make sure you keep them well watered. Containers are far more likely to dry out in hot conditions which will kill your plants or have them 'fruit' poorly.

It is also very important that a mulch is put on top of the container. This will slow evaporation and keep the surface temperature of the soil cooler. Plants like tomatoes have small, fiberous roots which will dry and die in hot soil.

Container vegetables may need some additional fertilising due to the extra watering. Nutrients will be washed away quicker in a container than in the ground. A diluted water soluble fertiliser is the best option to use regularly with vegetables.

There have been many varieties of vegetables that have been bred to grow in containers. They are generally referred to a 'dwarf' varieties for obvious reasons. A list of suggested varieties and container sizes may help with your selection. Check with your seed supplier on the varieties they recommend.

Having said that, there are many vegetable varieties that will do very well in containers. Tomatoes, lettuce, beets, carrots, cabbage, peas, beans, capsicums and peppers are all good choices. Cucumbers, cauliflower and broccoli will also do well as will virtually all herbs.

Crops like potatoes, corn, pumpkins and vine fruits generally need more room than a container can provide. But the size of your containers and the varieties available to you will dictate what you grow. As with most gardening, trial and error is your best education.

Judy Williams ( splits her time between being a media executive and an earth mother goddess. No Dig Vegetable Gardens represents a clean, green way to grow your own food. The site covers all aspects of growing, cooking and preserving your harvest. Image by chubbyislander

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

How To Conquer Caterpillars

By James Kilkelly

Butterflies, especially the colourfully marked types are very pretty to watch as the undulate through the summer breezes but there are certain varieties that can cause losses in your vegetable garden.

The cabbage white butterfly

The main culprit is the cabbage white butterfly which is mostly attracted to a chemical emitted from the leaves of brassicas. The brassica group covers such vegetables as cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower. The butterfly lands on these plants and in itself is harmless but the eggs it deposits are the problem, or what eventually emerges from these eggs. Emerging quite soon after are the dreaded caterpillars which are hairy and about 3 to 4 cm long.


Caterpillars are the larvae or the young of the butterfly; this is the main feeding and growth stage of the butterflies’ life cycle. As most vegetable growers know caterpillars are very hungry and a small handful can turn a head of cabbage into a skeleton within a day or two. Infested leaves are quite toxic to animals and humans even if washed thoroughly.

Control methods

So how can you battle against the caterpillars, well there are various chemical and organic methods. The chemical methods are available in all good garden centres in the form of sprays, dusts and bug guns with names too numerous to mention. With cabbage, broccoli etc being food crops that you may grow at home organically to avoid chemicals you should try to tackle the menace organically. Cover your plants with sheer netting whilst the butterflies are around, if they cannot touch the plants then they cannot lay their eggs on them. Ensure the netting allows sufficient sunlight through to enable growth.

Companion plants

Try planting tomatoes and celery as companion plants close by as their scents tend to cancel out the scent emitted by brassicas therefore deterring cabbage white butterflies. Finally if all else fails try sending your cat or cats on holiday during the summer, you’ll be surprised how many songbirds start to visit your garden. Songbirds just love caterpillars.

James Kilkelly runs a professional garden design service in Galway, Ireland. He has a regular gardening column in a Irish regional newspaper. Visit his website at He also regularly posts to a gardening forum at Source: Article Dashboard Image by: maggie_p_au

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Using Plants To Make Us Happier

By Justin Brown

If we fill our time taking care of plants we can get rid of stress, it is a scientifically proved thing. Taking care of our green friends (the ones with leaves not Aliens!) we will discover new hidden sides of our personality and will get to know better how to love and care for others, firstly because a plant that we won’t care for will die for sure.

Accepting a plant we are assuming a new responsibility, we are adopting a breathing being. This way, we learn just what it means to pay attention to those around you.

We have to concentrate over needs that are exterior to our ego. We become aware of the needs of another being: we know how much water the plant needs, how much light it gets, the intervals it needs to receive water again, and slowly we will transfer these cares and abilities in our social relations. We become more and more aware of others. Visual contact with a beautiful plant makes us realize our own beauty.

Studies show more and more that taking care of plants can be the most efficient method to improve our physical and emotional general condition. They have a serene effect, they can reduce stress and relax muscles and therefore improve the mood people taking care of them are in.

Different studies have demonstrated that the existence of plants reduce mental exhaustion. When we are overwhelmed with work, we just have to look up for a couple of minutes to a plant and we’ll instantly feel more relaxed. In conclusion, plants fascinate and attract people, they break boredom and monotony generated by forced attention. The oxygen generated by plants creates a feeling of mental agility.

Some big plants placed in the right spot will help us insolate ourselves from annoying surrounding noises. The technique is the same as the one of hanging paintings in an empty room to minimize the echo effects. The thick leaves will absorb a part of the noises, including the sound of the phone, printer, coffee maker or any other noise, making these sounds a little bit friendlier.

To discover some great gardening tips visit for information such as container gardening. Source: Article Dashboard
Image by:

Monday, June 05, 2006

What Is Compost And Why Does My Garden Need It?

By Anthony Tripodi

Some people think compost is a just a bunch of manure. Others think it's what happens to your body when you die and get buried, "My uncle Joe died last year and his body has been de-compostin' ever since." Compost is defined in the dictionary as "a mixture of decaying organic matter, as from leaves and manure, used to improve soil structure and provide nutrients." That's a great definition but it really doesn't tell the whole story. It should say, "Compost is the greatest thing ever!!!" Well the dictionary probably won't ever say that but I will.

Compost is created when yard & food waste decomposes. Micro organisms & invertebrates (also known as little buggers) feed on the waste, live their brief lives, reproduce, die and then they become waste too. This repeating cycle is how the soil gets it's nutrients replenished. Like Mufasa said, "We all have our place in the circle of life." When it comes to compost, it 's just a very small circle.

Compost will happen on it's own without any help from man. Look down at the ground in a dense forest. The leaves fall from the trees and decompose. This creates a rich soil that in turn feeds the trees. Compost just happens naturally and has been since the dawn of time. But man has figured out how to speed up the process. By mixing the right ratio of greens (grass clippings, coffee grinds, food waste, etc) with the right ratio of browns (leaves, hay, shredded newspapers, etc) and keeping the pile moist and well aerated you will create compost much quicker than nature.

Are you still asking what's the big deal about compost? Add some of this stuff to your garden bed and you'll know. Your plants will grow bigger and healthier. Sure you could add fertilizers and get the same results, for now. You see synthetic fertilizers eventually break down and after a few years will leave the soil salty. At some you won't be able to grow anything without lots of that fertilizer (they planned it that way to sell you more). It's like raising a crack baby at that point. Well maybe not that bad but you get the idea.

Adding compost to the soil is creating healthy soil. You're doing what nature is already trying to do but your just doing it faster and more efficiently.

Compost is not only great for your plants but it's great for your soil and even for the environment. They say that in the United States that 30% of all garbage is lawn and garden waste. Instead of putting those leaves and grass clippings out at the curb they could be composted. That would not only cut down on the space needed in land fills but it would make everyone's gardens grow bigger, healthier and less dependent on synthetic fertilizers.

I've described the benefits of compost and hopefully you're ready to build or buy a compost bin and get started. Remember that nature is going to decompose your yard waste at it's own pace anyway. Why not lend a hand and speed up the process.

About the Author: Anthony Tripodi is the webmaster of - The Compost Guide. Source: Image by: Daxiang Stef

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Hydroponics – Growing Plants Without Soil

By Barney Garcia

Derived from the Greek “water working”, hydroponics simply means growing plants in either a bath or flow of highly oxygenated, nutrient rich water. The strange part is hydroponics does not need soil to grow. During hydroponics water is enriched with nutrients salts, creating a hydroponics nutrient solution that remains perfectly balanced. The advantage of hydroponics is it does not harm the environment as does waste from fertilized soils.

Requirements for hydroponics

Hydroponics systems cannot be applicable in poor growing conditions such as improper temperature, inadequate light, or pests’ problems.

Following are the requirements for hydroponics plants to survive:
  • Water – you have to provide adequate amount of water. If the aggregate amount of water is not enough to keep the roots sufficiently moist, then the plants may dry and die. Make sure that water contains adequate [neither excess nor less] amount of alkalinity, sodium or salt contents for survival of hydroponics.
  • Oxygen – plants will require good amount of oxygen for respiration to carry out their work of nutrients and water uptake. The best way to supply oxygen is to bubble the air through the water solution.
  • Temperature – hydroponics grow well within limited temperature range. Either too high or too low temperature results in reduced productions and abnormal developments of the plants.
  • Light - plants like vegetables and fruits grown through hydroponics need at least 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight each day to produce well. However as an alternative to sunlight, you can apply incandescent light or high-pressure sodium lamps to produce the same effects.
  • Mineral nutrients – green plants must absorb certain minerals through their roots to survive. The essential elements needed in large quantities include potassium, calcium, nitrogen, magnesium, phosphorus and sulfur.
Hydroponics may also be called “controlled environmental agriculture” as it helps to control the environmental systems like water, light, CO2, oxygen, pH and nutrients.

Hydroponics growing technique

Hydroponics has a completely different growing technique method as compared to normal gardening methods.

Following are the brief ways you can grow hydroponics:
  • Nutrient film technique – the nutrient is fed into grow tubes where the roots draw it up. While a thin film of nutrient allows the roots to have constant contact with nutrients and the air layer above, the excess nutrient is drawn back into the reservoir.
  • Aeroponics or deep water culture – in this system the roots are misted within a chamber. A pump pushes the water with nutrient solution through sprayers, keeping the roots wet while providing a maximum amount of oxygen.
  • Drip-irrigation – this is also known as micro-irrigation where a controlled amount of solution is continuously drip-fed over the medium and root system. There is another tube that gets connected to the lower part of the garden system to recover the solution.
  • Home hobbyists system – these systems include deep water and aeroponics systems, which are more famous with housewives and children.
Grow hydroponics in your home, restaurant or office to give a completely different and fresh touch to the surrounding ambience.

Author Barney Garcia is a proud contributing author and enjoys writing about many different topics. Please visit his web sites and Article Source: Image by dcJohn

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Grow Your Own Organic Vegetable Garden

By Davis Green

Organic systems recognize that our health is directly connected to the health of the food we eat and, ultimately, the health of the soil.

Here are some of the main features of organic growing:
  • Organic growing severely restricts the use of artificial chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Instead, organic growers rely on developing a healthy, fertile soil and growing a mixture of crops.
  • Genetically modified (GM) crops and ingredients are not allowed under organic standards.
Going organic may mean that you have to make a trade-off between glossy, same same supermarket looks with better tasting crops that aren’t perfect in shape or size, but many gardeners think this is a price worth paying. You'll be able to grow different crops that are always relatively expensive to buy in supermarkets and at farmers markets and, growing your own vegetables is both fun and rewarding.

Among the many things an organic vegetable garden may offer towards a satisfying experience are fresh air, exercise, sunshine, knowledge, supplemental income, mental therapy, and fresh food, rich in vitamins and minerals, harvested at the best stage of maturity.

You can easily make compost from garden and kitchen waste, although this is a bit more time consuming, you will also make cost savings, because you do not need to buy costly chemical fertilizers and pesticides with organic gardening.

Where animal manures are available, they are probably the best source of fertilizer and organic matter for the organic gardener. Use manure which has been aged for at least 30 days if possible, or composted. I am often out in the road if any horses have gone past gathering the manure for the garden. Its looks a bit odd to the teenagers on the street but the dung is worth it!

If you have space for a few pots, or a small space in the garden or even an allotment, it is a wise decision to grow your own organic vegetable garden. To better care for your health, grow your own organic vegetables -and a few pots is all you need at a minimum.

If you have a surplus you can sell these and you will be contributing to the ‘go local’ food movement which is flourishing – over 15% of people buy organic food locally and this number continues to rise as the number of farmer’s markets, box schemes, cafes and restaurants serving organic food increase. GuideMeGreen helps you to find locally produced foods which are fresher, healthier and more economical. It cuts down on transport costs and ‘food miles’ where an average shopping basket can include fruit and vegetables transported from all over the world. Even in the UK or USA food is transported from the farm, to the packing centre, then to distribution centre before arriving at the supermarket to be bought which is then transported by car home!

David Oglaza is the founder of the Green and Ethical business GuideMeGreen This growing green resource lists 100s of Organic, Fairtrade, Eco and Ethical companies. Source: Article Dashboard Image by: carabou