Archive for May, 2012

Planting tips for the Urban Gardner

Légumes

Légumes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Growing fresh vegetables is an American tradition gaining a new popularity. Fresh grown vegetables taste better, help to promote healthier a diet, and reduce grocery costs. Gardening may also be a means of reducing stress and help to ease the impact on our environment. To have a highly functioning and well-designed garden you can’t just put some plants in the ground. It may require some planning and a little work, but the results of your efforts may be better than expected. There are some simple steps that can increase a garden’s efficiency, the yield, and reduce unexpected problems.

First determine the amount of garden space available for use, and then evaluate your family’s vegetable choices. This will help in selecting the variety and quantity of vegetables to grow. Determine how many people will be eating the vegetables, and the type they eat the most. Input from each member will initiate interest and help establish which vegetables are favorites and which are not. If you get your children involved in the routine upkeep and charting growth progress, your garden can also serve as an educational tool. This will teach a child where vegetables come from and how they grow. The more familiar children become with vegetables, they will be more likely to eat them.

Optimum utilization of space can make a good gardener a great one. Smaller gardens are capable of growing fewer vegetables, but they’re not as restricted as you may think. If space is limited, the challenge is to get the most yields from that small space. Take some time to learn which vegetable plants can be used in small spaces and produce bigger yields. Some fruits and vegetables such as zucchini and squash take up more room than others and may produce less. According to the University of Illinois Extension Web site, “for small gardens, plant vegetables with a high yield per plant space such as bush snap beans, bush lima beans, leafy greens, tomatoes, bell peppers, and broccoli.”

Larger gardens are not limited as smaller spaces; they have more options in terms of variety and yield. Plants that require extra room while they grow can be included. Things like watermelon, cucumbers, and cantaloupe grow on vines that tend to spread out as they get larger. If you have a large area to designate for a garden, keep in mind the more time and maintenance may be required. Also, make sure the amount the vegetables from that larger garden doesn’t surpass your family’s produce needs, or you’ll be giving vegetables to friends and neighbors. Giving away more than you need is better than wasting vegetables. This may not be a concern if you plan to do some canning.

Preparation of soil prior to planting can make a world of difference in the overall health of plants and amount of vegetables produced. If the quality or type of soil isn’t the best for the plants you want to grow, you don’t have to abandon a gardening project. It may require some work, but you can change soil to improve the quality and create a better growing environment. Soil issues can range from something simple like adding specific fertilizer before planting, to changing the soil’s composition entirely.  For example, adding organic material like compost or peat moss to soil that contains a lot of clay or sand will improve the overall condition. Check to see what resources are available in your area. Some counties in the United States offer agriculture or extension services that analyze soil and give recommendations at little or no charge. Another very useful information source is the internet. Several farm bureaus, universities and government agencies now have websites that provide a wealth of horticulture information.

Choosing the right fertilizer may require some research. Not all plants are the same, and fertilizers are different for that reason. This is why a multipurpose fertilizer used for house plants may not be the best for a garden. The contents of fertilizers vary to address specific plant needs. Three main ingredients of most fertilizers are nitrogen for green-leafy foliage, phosphorus for root-structure, and potassium to help roots and seeds to resist disease. Most fertilizers will include a series of three numbers on the label or packaging. The first number represents levels of nitrogen, the second represents phosphorus, and the third number represents levels of potassium.

Before planting vegetables, review steps in the planning and preparation phase. This includes designating the right garden size and resolving soil issues. Try not to waver from the amount of plants to include and the variety of vegetables you choose during the planning phase. Plants that require the same type of fertilizer should be planted in the same areas of the garden.

After you complete the planting, you’ll need to determine how much and how often to water your garden. This will depend on the region where you live and the type of soil in your garden. Water behaves differently in different environments. In dry climates, soil may not retain moisture because the water evaporates faster. This will require using more water and watering gardens more often, or adding a moisture retaining ingredient to the soil. It’s important to check for moisture about four or five inches below the surface to make sure the soil hasn’t dried out. Inspect plant leaves to make sure aren’t wilted and from becoming too dry.

In humid climates, water evaporates at a slower rate. This may help soil retain moisture longer, and the garden may not need to be watered as often. Closely monitor how long soil stays moist to identify watering needs. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Web site recommends one deep watering is better than watering several times lightly.

Pulling weeds from your garden should be done on a regular basis and never neglected for long periods of time. The more you pull weeds the better because weeds will not increase in size. The bigger weeds get the more damage they can do to your vegetable plants. The roots of weeds can disturb the environment for vegetable plants and deplete nutrients from the soil. Think of pulling weeds as your quiet time to unwind and enjoy the serenity your garden provides.

Your choice to plant a garden has more benefits than just fresh vegetables. You may not realize the far reaching effects your garden has. AcrossAmericathere are many others just like you with gardens. Even though your efforts seem to be on a small scale, when combined with others they make a big difference. The vegetables you’ve grown weren’t transported from somewhere else. This helped to reduce transporting and consumption of fossil fuels.America’s dependency on foreign oil was also reduced. We can all breathe a little easier because there were less carbon emissions, and the plants in your garden produce oxygen. You and many other Americans will enjoy those fresh vegetables, but all ofAmericawill enjoy the benefits from those gardens.

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What can you learn from a Neighborhood Watch?

A neighborhood watch sign attached to a door.

A neighborhood watch sign attached to a door. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At your local Neighborhood Watch Program, Renters, Homeowners, Merchants, Business Owners, and Apartment Complex Managers can learn some good tips to help reduce the chances of crimes occurring. Police Officers from your city or county will explain how preventative measures can make a difference.

Do not leave your apartment doors open unless you’re right by the door. It only takes seconds for someone to sneak in and steal something. Do not leave window shades open when you are gone. This will stop criminals from seeing items you have, and also, with shades closed, they don’t know if your home or not. 

Merchants beware of the outside perimeter of your establishment and do not hesitate to call police. When there are people loitering and drinking alcohol, this has the potential to become an even worse situation.

Use a timer for lights and TV, or leave your TV on when you are gone. The noise from your TV will deter someone from attempting to break in.

Make sure you know your neighbors name and if possible have their phone number. This way, neighbors can alert each other when they see suspicious activity or strange people around each other’s unit. Or if your unit is burglarized while you’re away, police can get a hold of you through your neighbor.

Always leave your porch light on, and when you’re gone, always leave an inside light on. Potential criminals don’t like is a well light area.

Keep all gates locked and be aware of people you see walking around. Trespassers are less likely to do something illegal if they know they can be identified.

For those who do not subscribe to an alarm company, get stickers from alarm companies and put them on you windows.

Do not leave items in visible site in your car. Get a club or unhook the battery post if you’re going to leave your car for any great length of time.

 

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