What Is A Green Roof: Ideas For Creating Green Roof Gardens

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Densely populated, large cities can cause what is known as an urban heat  effect. Tall mirrored buildings reflect light and heat, while also restricting airflow. Black asphalt on roads and roofs absorb sunlight and heat. Pollution, fuel emissions and other byproducts of civilization add to the buildup of heat that can surround a city. Essentially, a large metropolis can become a much warmer climate than rural areas around it. Green roofs have become a popular solution for reducing this urban heat island effect. Read on to learn more about how to grow a green roof garden.

What is a Green Roof?

Green roofs, also called vegetative roofs or rooftop gardens, have existed for centuries as an effective way to keep a home warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Sod roofs have been popular since ancient times in places like Iceland and Scandinavia.

These days, green roofs are still valued for effectively reducing heat and cooling costs, but also because they can reduce water runoff in areas with high amounts of precipitation, improve air quality in polluted urban settings, create habits for wildlife, increase usable space in the landscape, and help reduce the urban heat island effect.

Green roof garden designs are usually one of two types: intensive or extensive.

  • Intensive green roofs are rooftop gardens where trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants are grown. Rooftop gardens are oftentimes public spaces, usually have specialized irrigation systems and may incorporate courtyards, paths and seating areas.
  • Extensive roof gardens are more like the ancient sod roofs. They are created with shallower soil media and usually filled with herbaceous plants. Extensive green roofs can be done on a very small scale, such as a birdhouse or dog house roof, but they can also be made large enough to cover a home or building’s roof. If you’d like to try creating green roof gardens, you may want to try it out first on a small structure.

Creating Green Roof Gardens

Before starting a DIY green roof garden project, you should hire a structural engineer to make sure the roof can support the weight of a green roof. Also, make sure to get any building permits required by your city or township. Green roofs can be created on flat roofs or a sloped roof; however, it is recommended that you hire a professional to install a green roof if the pitch is more than 30 degrees.

Green roof kits can be ordered online. These are generally a system of planting trays that can be attached as needed and ordered in custom sizes. You can also make your own planting box frames with 2 x 6s and 2 x 4s. Green roofs cost approximately $15-50 per square foot. This can seem expensive at first, but in the long run green roofs save you money on heating and cooling costs. In some cases, grants for green roof projects may be available through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Taking accurate measurements is the first step in creating an extensive green roof. This will help you know what to order if you are ordering a green roof kit. If you plan to build a green roof yourself, measurements will help you know how much pond liner, wood, draining media (gravel), weed barrier and soil media you will need.

Green roofs are a system of layers:

  • The first layer consists of two layers of pond liner or rubber roofing.
  • The next layer is a drainage layer, such as gravel.
  • Weed barrier is then placed over the gravel layer and a moisture blanket is laid over the weed barrier.
  • More drainage can be added with a layer of wood chips or the final layer of soil medium can be laid. It is suggested that you use a lightweight soilless growing media to keep the overall weight down.

In extensive green roofs, xeriscaping plants are often used. Plants need to have shallow roots and be able to tolerate times of drought and high precipitation, as well as intense heat, high winds, and possible pollution. Good plants for extensive green roofs are:

  • Succulents
  • Grasses
  • Wildflowers
  • Herbs
  • Mosses
  • Epiphytes

5 Golden Rules of Garden Planning

It’s never too late to plan a garden, even if you’ve missed the early spring sowing dates. The first secret to a super-productive garden is a well-planned garden. This avoids common issues that affect the health and productivity of your plants.

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Plan For Success:

Using the Garden Planner, you can easily identify the best growing position for each plant’s needs by simply moving them around until you get the perfect layout.

Is your garden as productive as it could be? Plan for success! Using the Garden Planner, you can easily identify the best growing position for each plant’s needs by moving them around until you get the perfect layout.

In this short video we explain the 5 golden rules of garden planning to help you to avoid many of the pitfalls and grow your most productive garden yet

Rule 1: Provide the right growing environment

Full sun is essential for most veggies. For shady areas, choose crops such as leafy salads and greens.

Ensure you soil is fertile, moisture retentive yet well-drained by regularly mulching with or digging in compost.

Rule 2: Grow what you like!

Concentrate on the fruits and vegetables you love to eat. By growing your own you can choose varieties that promise exceptional taste and quality.

Rule 3: Make the most of the space you have

Choose vegetables that are hard to find in the grocery store, or expensive to buy.

Many types and varieties of fruits and vegetables are well-suited to growing in containers. Miniature varieties of vegetables, naturally compact salads and dwarf fruit trees can all be grown in pots.

You can use our Garden Planner to maximize the use of garden space. The Planner will show you exactly how many of each vegetable or fruit you can grow within the space available to you, without overcrowding them.

Rule 4: Make gardening easy

Opt for varieties that are suited to your growing conditions and the time and resources you have available. Pest and disease resistance is worth seeking out.

Place your vegetable garden or containers close to the house to make it easier to tend and harvest. Install water barrels to collect rainwater from greenhouse or shed roofs. Paths between beds should be wide enough for a wheelbarrow, while beds should be of the right proportions for easy maintenance and crop rotation.

Rule 5: Timing is of the essence

Sow quick-growing crops at one- or two-week intervals to spread harvests out and ensure that your garden is achieving its full potential. Harvest prolific croppers such as pole beans little and often to encourage more produce to follow.

Indoor plants @ 1

Aloe Vera

An Aloe Vera Plant is a drought resistant succulent plant that can be grown indoors or outdoors. Medicine Plant is the nickname given to an Aloe Vera Plant because the sap from its leaves soothes minor skin irritations and burns. This makes an Aloe Vera Plant a great plant for a sunny kitchen.  An Aloe Vera Plant has long, narrow, plump leaves with little spikes along the edges, so be very careful when handling it. An Aloe Vera Plant can be used as either a table plant or, when larger, a floor plant.

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Gardening with Containers

CONTAINER GARDENING

Container gardening is a method of growing fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers in pots, hanging baskets, planters, and other containers. Container gardens are a great way for gardeners who don’t have lots of space to grow their own food!

GETTING STARTED

To create a container garden, you will need:

  1. Containers
  2. Potting soil
  3. Seeds and/or plant starts
  4. Water and a watering can or hose.
  5. A natural fertilizer (compost tea or fish emulsion)

Step 1: Survey for Sun and Shade

Look around your home for the best place to put your container garden. Which areas get the most sun? Which areas are shaded? Put your containers in the spot with the most sun! Vegetable plants need lots of sunshine to grow and produce food.  For example:

  • Tomatoes, peppers & eggplant need full sun. Leafy greens & root vegetables can live with a little shade.
  • Patios, balconies, porches, and windowsills can all be good places for your garden.
  • If you have a fence or railing, you can use it like a trellis for peas or beans.

Step 2: Find Your Containers.

For most vegetable plants, you will need five-gallon containers, or larger. The containers must have holes in the bottom so that water can drain out. Otherwise the soil can become waterlogged and plant roots won’t be able to get the air they need to survive!

Step 3: Pick out Your Soil

Soil in a container garden needs to be good at holding water and nutrients. Potting soil is usually made with this in mind. Do not use soil from the ground, because it will not hold water or nutrients very well. You can buy potting soil at any garden store, but make sure the soil package says that it can be used in a vegetable garden. We recommend using organic potting soil, because it holds nutrients better and does not have chemicals.

Step 4: Selecting the Right Plants

Choose varieties of plants that are well-suited for growing in containersPlants in containers will have less space and less soil than they would if they were planted in the ground. For example: Smaller (dwarf) plant varieties grow better in containers than larger varieties (i.e. cherry tomatoes grow better in a container than large slicing tomatoes).

Step 5: Water Often!

Plants growing in containers need a lot more watering than plants growing in a backyard garden. This is because water drains out through the holes in bottom. You can put a tray underneath your containers to catch the water that drains out. The plant will then absorb the water later.

  • During the summer, you will probably need to water your containers every day, especially if they are in full sun.
  • Water in the early morning or evening. When the sun is less strong, the plants will be able to absorb more water, and you will lose less water to evaporation.

Step 6: Make the Most Out of a Small Space

  • Grow Vertically! Use trellises, stakes, or a nearby fence to help your plants grow UP instead of across. This works with VINING PLANTS like squash, peas, beans, and tomatoes!
  • Companion Planting: Instead of planting one type of vegetable in each container, mix and match different vegetables! Most vegetables have other plants that they grow well with. These are called ‘companion plants’.

Step 7: Fertilizing and Soil Care

Well-fed plants are happy plants! Plants in a container garden need to be fertilized oftenbecause nutrients in the soil wash out of the container’s holes every time you water. We recommend that you fertilize your containers at least once a month! This will make a big difference in the amount of food that your garden produces.

Fish emulsion and compost tea are good organic (non-chemical) fertilizers. They are safe for food, people and pets to be around:

  • Fish emulsion is a nutrient-rich natural fertilizer. You can buy it at any garden supply store. You will need to dilute it with water, then pour it on the soil around your plants. The bottle will tell you the proper mixture. It is actually made from fish parts—so it can be a little stinky!
  • Compost tea: Compost tea is a natural liquid fertilizer made from finished compost and water. Put a few cups of finished compost in a bucket of water and let it sit for 5-10 days, or until the water turns the color of weak coffee. Use the finished mixture to water your containers!
  • Worm composting is also great way to make your own fertilizer! Check out our blog in upcoming weeks for more information on worm composting.

Step 8: Preparing for Winter

You can use the same containers and soil for many years.

  • Every winter, cover the soil with a layer of mulch to protect it from weeds and rain. Fallen leaves make a great mulch!
  • Put the containers under cover if possible, to protect them from the rain.
  • Add fresh compost to the containers in the spring.

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Tips to Grow Hard-to-Propagate Plants!

Growing Hard-To-Propagate Plants

Some plants thrive extremely easily whether grown through cuttings or otherwise. However, many are difficult to propagate no matter how much you pamper them. Out of such plants only a small percentage shows rooting. Well, there are a few extra steps one may follow to improve and accelerate their rooting rate. Follow them and let the plant rooting rate elevate dramatically:

  • Sufficient Lighting: It goes without saying that most plants need at least 8 hours of sunlight per day. So arrange a site where they can receive sufficient sunlight in order to thrive. If you are growing hydroponically, make sure to keep those grow lights on continuously to let your plants take roots. This is because optimal light is required for the formation of carbohydrates which in turn help to create roots.
  • Choose an Appropriate Cloning or Rooting Gel: If you are cloning your plants, it is necessary to select a subtle rooting or cloning gel for rapid root development. This will make your stems grow fast by providing them the necessary hormones required for faster rooting. The gel will not only let a large percentage of cuttings grow but will also prevent them from transplant shock. Recommended is to use Olivia’s Cloning Gel for 100% success rate.
  • Monitor Temperature Carefully: It is necessary to choose a suitable growing site that will provide an optimal temperature to your plants. If you have fragile cuttings, make sure to maintain an appropriate temperature for your grow room too. Although the exact ideal temperature depends upon the plants you are growing, grow room’s temperature should not exceed 75 Degrees Fahrenheit.
  • ‘Wound’ Those Stems: If you have stem cuttings, scrape off the outer section of their bottom with a razor blade or knife. This is called wounding and it will help exposing the inner section more, which in turn will encourage root formation. Moreover, applying cloning gel directly to the innermost part will prove to be more effective.

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Weed Control

Weed Control

So where did all the weeds come from?

The answer is, they were always there.

Weed seeds can remain dormant in soil for years, until the proper environment is created for them to thrive. Preparation of the soil is the common culprit for your weed infestation. Tilling under the soil, while creating a nice seed bed, also brings dormant, buried weed seeds to the surface. Adding top soil to the area will bring its own weed seeds as well. Even processed loam will not be weed free.

Controlling Weeds With A Thick, Healthy Lawn

Weeds growing in a lawn disrupt the visual uniformity by their leaf width or shape, growth habit, or color differences between weeds and desirable turf-grass species. It is important to note, however, that weeds are symptomatic of a weakened turf, not the cause of it. Understanding this fact helps to explain the major reason for weed encroachment into a turf area.  Thin turf, bare spots and poor growth are the reasons that allow weeds to invade desirable turf areas. These problems stem from several considerations that have never been recognized or dealt with properly. Among these are:

1.  Improper turf-grass species selection.
2.  Improper lawn soil management such as pH adjustment and soil compaction.
3.  Improper turf management practices such as an inadequate fertilizer program designed to encourage healthy turf-grass growth by using both organic and synthetic sources of nitrogen.
4.  Finally, physical damage caused by improper mowing height or even excessive wear patterns caused by foot or equipment activity, which probably could be altered.

Therefore, it becomes apparent that a healthy growing lawn turf is your first and best line of defense against weed encroachment.

Types of weeds:

Lawn weeds can be divided into two basic groups, broad leaf weeds and grassy weeds.
Weeds that complete their life-cycle in one growing season (annuals) or two or more years, (perennials), are both commonly found in lawns.

Now that we’ve learned weed seeds are unavoidable, how can we treat them?

Timirgence herbicides: Pre-emergence herbicides are applied to the turf-grass site prior to weed seed germination and form a barrier at, or right below, the soil surface. These products prevent cell division during seed germination as the emerging seedling comes into contact with the herbicide.

Green-Up Lawn Food with Crabgrass Preventer:


This product can be applied in the spring for both pre and post emergent crabgrass controlup until the plant’s three leaf stage. This product provides season-long crabgrass control, plus it controls 30+ other grassy and broadleaf weeds. This product can be applied as early as mid March, and as late as the beginning of June, and still provide effective control. However, it is important to keep in mind that weather changes each year, and spring breaks at different times depending upon your location.

Crabgrass and Weed Preventer :


Use this product when you do not want to fertilize. It provides the same control as Jonathan Green Crabgrass Preventer plus Green-Up Fertilizer, (see above). You may want to make an organic fertilizer application with Black Beauty Organic Lawn Fertilizer or Natural Beauty Lawn Fertilizer just prior to applying Jonathan Green Crabgrass and Weed Preventer. Do not seed for 3 months after applying these products.

*Hints:

  • Crabgrass does not grow in shade. In order to reduce your use of control product apply only to sunny area of the lawn.
  • An application of Jonathan Green Love Your Lawn-Love Your Soil at the time you apply either of these control products will make them more effective in controlling weeds and promotes healthy lawn growth.
  • If Annual Bluegrass, Poa annua, has been a problem in the lawn, either of these products applied around Labor Day will provide control of this lawn weed. Annual Bluegrass is a winter annual. It germinates in the fall, survives the winter months and becomes aggressive in the early spring into the beginning of the summer months.

Organic Weed Preventer plus Fertilizer:


Organic pre-emergent control of many grassy and broadleaf weeds including crabgrass and dandelions.
Must be applied early in the spring as a pre-emergent, before crabgrass or broadleaf weeds germinate.
Contains Corn Gluten, feeds the lawn for 8 weeks.
Safe to apply where children and pets play.
Typically substantial control of weeds is achieved after successive applications over several seasons. By applying this product spring and fall over a two to three year period you can eliminate about 90% of all weeds.

Post-emergent lawn weed control

Post-emergent broadleaf herbicides are applied directly to actively growing weeds in the lawn. They are effective in controlling a great variety of weeds such as dandelions, plantains, chickweeds, ground ivy and many more. The key to successful broadleaf lawn weed control is that the granular control product must adhere to the surface of the weed leaf in order to be absorbed and provide control. Therefore the weed leaf should be damp prior to application for maximum control. Apply the control product to early morning dew or a lightly sprinkled lawn. Do not apply broadleaf weed controls when the temperature is above 85°F. Do not mow for two days prior or after application. Do not water or expect rain for two days after application.

Green-Up Weed & Feed Lawn Food:


This product controls over 250 broad leaf weeds including dandelion, chickweed, plantain and clover.
3 way action controls more weeds.
Provides slow-release fertilizer to promote healthy grass growth.

Lawn Weed Control:


If you have already fertilized, apply to control over 200 broadleaf weeds including dandelion, plantain, clover and chickweed.
This product does not contain fertilizer.
Directions: Apply to damp turf only  where broadleaf weeds are present. This limited action will give very good control. DO NOT SEED FOR 4 WEEKS AFTER APPLYING THESE PRODUCTS.

Finally, since light is required for optimum germination of weed seeds such as crabgrass and goose-grass, cultural practices that favor turf-grass will increase turf density which will prevent light from reaching the soil surface. 

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How to Grow Pomegranates From Seeds

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Pomegranates (Punica granatum) are small but versatile trees with slender branches that reach 6 to 15 feet tall. Dwarf varieties of pomegranate excel as container plants, but pomegranates grown from seed may not retain the dwarf characteristics of the parent plants. Unlike vegetative propagation, growing pomegranates from seed does not preserve the characteristics of the parent plant. Seeds taken from a hybrid variety of pomegranate exhibit traits from the parent plants at random. This can result in plants with a different growth habit or fruit with noticeably different size or taste. Seeded pomegranates planted outdoors root easily, but cleaning them improves their germination rate.

Step 1

Cut a pomegranate in half and remove the individual arils from the fruit. Pick the individual arils out of the fruit and place them on a paper towel. Fold the paper towel over the seeds and rub the paper towel against the seeds between your hands to break and absorb the aril coatings. Rinse the seeds with water and clean off any juice still clinging to them.

Step 2

Loosen the soil around the planting site using a hoe. Spread a 4-inch layer of compost over the area and thoroughly mix it into the upper 8 to 10 inches of the soil. Choose a planting site that gets full sun. Pomegranates grow best in loamy soil, but they can also grow in clay-rich or sandy soil.

Step 3

Plant each pomegranate seed 1/2 to 1 inch into the soil and cover it with soil. Space the seeds at least 15 feet apart if you plan to grow full-sized trees for their fruit. Plant seeds that will form a hedge no closer than 6 feet apart.

 

Step 4

Insert your finger into the soil around your seeds two to three times per week and water the soil if it is dry to the touch to a depth of several inches. Water the soil around each seed enough to dampen the soil without saturating it. Pomegranate seeds typically germinate within 45 to 60 days of planting.

Step 5

Check the moisture content of the soil twice a week and water the pomegranate seedlings weekly with enough water to thoroughly wet the soil to a depth of at least 8 inches without saturating the soil. Water the soil around the trees evenly to promote root growth.

Step 6

Spread 1 cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer evenly over the soil around the base of each tree in late fall and again in early spring. Apply the fertilizer on a day you plan to water your tree, before you water, to ensure the fertilizer is properly watered into the soil. Use 2 cups of 10-10-10 fertilizer per application once the tree begins producing fruit.

 
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16 Way to Use Companion Planting to Control Pests Naturally

Organic pest control! Great ideas on how to use companion planting to control pests naturally in the garden!

Companion planting is a way of planting in which you inter-plant different varieties of plants to enhance growth or aid in pest control. Companion planting is based on years of  experience passed down through the generations and some scientific studies

Over all, companion planting is simply about plants helping each other- to grow better, to fend off pest and to taste better. Some plants do better when planted with a certain type of neighbor, and some should not be placed in close proximity to each other. How can companion planting help you fight your garden pests? Here’s a list of 16 ways to get the most out of your companion planting pest control.

16 Ways to Use Companion Planting to Control Pests

1. If your beans are struggling with Mexican Bean Larvae, try mixing in some marigold plants in your rows. Marigolds can help with a number of pests including cabbage worms and aphids. Sprinkle them throughout your garden!

2. Interplant celery with your cauliflower to help repel the white cabbage butterfly.

 3. Planting cucumber with your corn is mutually beneficial. The cucumber plants will help keep the racoons off of your corn, while the corn will help reduce wilt in your cucumbers.

4. Plant radishes in your cucumber hills- just a couple- and leave them there all season. This will help protect your cucumbers against cucumber beetles. This also works with squash and melons that are attacked by the striped cucumber beetle.

5. Growing beans among your eggplant will help repel the Colorado potato beetle.

6. Mix parsley into your carrot rows to help repel the carrot fly.

companion planting nasturtium with squash

7. Grow nasturtiums with your squash to help keep that dreaded squash bug away.

8. Put tomato plants in your asparagus bed after the early spears have be harvested to keep the asparagus beetles away. Plant the tomatoes on the side of the bed, leaving the asparagus intact- don’t cut it!

9. Garlic planted with your tomatoes can help with red spider mites.

10. Grow your basil alongside your tomato rows for insect control as well as flavor enhancement.

11. Oregano can be planted with broccoli to help repel the cabbage butterfly.

12. Sage is also helpful to all brassicas by protecting them from the white cabbage butterfly. It is also helpful to carrots since it protects them from the carrot fly.

13. Thyme deters the cabbage worm, so it is good placed in your rows of cabbage, broccoli, kale, and other brassicas.

14. Wormwood is a repellent for a number of pests such as moths, flea beetles and cabbage moth butterfly. But it is best as a border plant since most plants do not like growing near it. On another note, wormwood is also great for natural pest control in your livestock. We feed it to our non-pregnant goats and our chickens for a natural way to fight intestinal worms.

15. Alternate rows of bush beans and rows of potatoes for a mutual relationship. Potatoes protect the beans from the Mexican bean beetles while the beans help keep away the Colorado potato beetle.

16. Add calendula to your tomatoes and asparagus (see #8) to deter tomato hornworm and asparagus beetles.

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Maintain a Weedless Organic Garden The keys to a weedless organic garden are limited tilling, permanent beds and paths, organic mulch and drip irrigation

Weedless Garden

Weedless gardening! That’s an oxymoron, an impossibility, right? Well, my gardens may not be 100 percent weed-free, but they are 100 percent free of weed problems.

I’ve achieved this happy state in four ways: 1) never tilling or otherwise disturbing the soil, so dormant weed seeds stay asleep, away from light and air; 2) designating permanent areas for walking and for planting to avoid compaction and the need for tillage; 3) maintaining a thin mulch of weed-free organic material to snuff out any weed seeds that blow in or are dropped into the garden by birds; 4) using drip irrigation whenever watering is called for to avoid promoting weed growth in paths and between widely spaced plants. Those are the basics of keeping my garden free of weed problems. Over the years I’ve honed some details of this weedless gardening system, and I’d like to share them with you.

ORGANIC FERTILIZERS AND MULCHES

A particularly nice aspect of this weedless gardening system is how much it simplifies fertilization. I rarely use commercial fertilizer. It’s not that my plants don’t need food, it’s just that the slow and steady decomposition of the organic mulches fulfills most of my plants’ nutrient needs.

Where extra nitrogen might be needed, I use soybean meal, which supplements the diet of young trees, bushes and intensively grown vegetables. The soybean meal is inexpensive, readily available at farm and feed stores, and only needs to be applied once a year. The nitrogen in soybean meal applied anytime from late autumn to late winter will not leach out of the soil during the cold months, but begins to release as spring’s moisture and warmth awakens hungry plants. For plants that regularly need that extra nitrogen, I spread 1 to 2 pounds per 100 square feet. Other meals, such as cottonseed or alfalfa meal, can be used similarly, but generally cost a little more.

If your soil is naturally poor, you may want to apply other nutrients as fertilizers, such as phosphorus and potassium, until organic mulches decompose and build up a reserve of those nutrients in the soil. Bone meal, seaweed and wood ashes are all good sources of phosphorus and potassium.

Because most of my gardens’ fertility comes from organic mulches, I tailor which mulch I use to the particular plant’s needs. Generally, this involves nothing more than using nutrient-rich mulches for plants that are heavy feeders, and other mulches for light feeders. Two nutrient-rich mulches for my vegetables are compost and grass clippings; I make both right here at home.

 

If you’re not up to making your own weed-free compost, you often can buy good bulk compost locally. I often spread a thin layer of grass clipping on top of the compost in my vegetable beds. The thin layer of grass clippings helps smother any weed seedlings that survived composting, and keeps the compost moist to make the nutrients in it more readily available. Be careful about using neighbors’ grass clippings, however. I found this out the hard way 30 years ago, as I watched my potato vines wilt overnight after using what I later learned were clippings from a lawn that was treated with weed killer.

Wood chips or leaves (whole or shredded) are good mulches for plants that aren’t particularly heavy feeders, such as established trees and shrubs, most flowers (delphiniums and roses are notable exceptions), and just about everything else. I get wood chips from local arborists, and “harvest” bags of leaves from my neighbors, who call me when it’s time to pick them up — a supply I occasionally supplement with a truckload of leaves from a local landscaper.

COVER CROPS

Over the years, I’ve become increasingly interested in living mulches, also known as cover crops — plants specifically grown to protect and improve the soil. Like traditional mulches, cover crops smother weeds, enrich the soil with humus that increases nutrient availability, and add nitrogen to the soil in the case of leguminous cover crops.

Two big advantages of using cover crops as mulch are that the cover crop roots improve the soil as they grow and die, plus you only have to carry a small bag of seeds out to the garden, rather than hauling garden carts full of bulky materials.

DRIP IRRIGATION

Drip irrigation helps keep my garden weed-free, because it doesn’t water weeds along the paths or between rows the way regular sprinklers do. Slowly dripping water onto the crop’s root zone also conserves water. In fact, drip systems can reach 95 percent application efficiency, and save up to 75 percent of the water used by sprinkler systems.

You can buy drip irrigation system installation kits at garden centers, hardware stores and home improvement stores. For larger systems, consider hiring a landscape professional. A basic drip irrigation system consists of five elements:

1. Feeder tubes. Often called “emitters” or “drip tape” because it’s sold flattened on a roll, these tubes are made from black polyethylene plastic, with holes spaced at regular intervals to dispense water at a relatively constant rate, even with changes in elevation and water pressure. For widely spaced plants, individual emitters can be plugged into mainline piping as needed.

2. Mainline piping. Also called a lateral line, this piping connects the water supply to feeder tubes.

3. Fittings. You’ll need a variety of fittings, such as valves, connectors and end caps, to connect irrigation lines, close them off, control the flow of water, and keep it from flowing back into the main water source.

4. Filters. Sand or screen filters pull impurities from the main water supply to keep feeder tubes from clogging.

5. Pressure regulators. Spring or valve regulators help reduce water pressure to the feeder tubes.

I use a drip irrigation system in parts of my garden that need regular watering, such as vegetables and young blueberry bushes.

In my vegetable garden, I run half-inch mainline piping perpendicular to the 3-foot wide beds. Then I plug in a quarter-inch barbed transfer fitting, and attach quarter-inch feeder tubing and run it down the length of the bed. The tubing comes with emitters at 6-inch intervals, each dripping a half gallon of water per hour. For wider beds, in drier climates, or locations with lighter soils, you might want to run two dripper lines down each bed.

Young blueberry bushes require at least 1 inch of water a week, since they have shallow root systems. To water them, I run half-inch mainline piping along the row of plants, then plug a quarter-inch barbed transfer fitting into the mainline piping at each bush. I attach a short length of quarter-inch solid tubing to the mainline, which is terminated by an emitter that drips a half gallon per hour at the roots of each bush. For more on drip irrigation systems, read .

EFFECTIVE WEEDING

Weeds constantly threaten to invade the edges of any garden. The most direct way to thwart interloping weeds is to just grab them by hand and pull them out. I also maintain a 6-inch-wide bare soil “Maginot line” of defense around parts of my garden with a Winged Weeder hoe, which has a sharp blade that lies parallel to the ground as you work with it. In a more formal part of the garden, I created a low-maintenance weed barrier with half cinder blocks laid flat right next to each other in a fitted, shallow depression, so I can run the wheel of my lawn mower along it.

If you have ever chopped the tops off dandelions with a hoe, you know that it’s only a short time before they sprout yet again from their robust roots. To eliminate the possibility of an encore, I pull out these weeds individually to be sure I get their tops along with their roots.

Removing one weed at a time would be too tedious where a colony of young weed seedlings has sprouted. When this happens, I recommend using a hoe to kill the small seedlings. I think the traditional garden hoe that most gardeners have hanging in their garage is far better at mixing concrete than killing weeds. A better choice is a collinear hoe, stirrup hoe or the Winged Weeder (see photo in the Image Gallery). With a Winged Weeder, a few simple strokes back and forth (like mopping a floor), just a hair beneath the soil’s surface, will do the job quickly while you barely break a sweat.

A SAFE,  NATURAL HERBICIDE

For larger areas, such as my brick terrace and beneath fruit trees, I resort to herbicide — not the toxic stuff that lines shelves of nurseries and hardware stores, but household strength (5 percent to 6 percent) vinegar. For maximum effectiveness, I spray vinegar on small plants because they have weaker root systems and fewer leaves to be “shaded” from the spray. Established weeds will resprout new leaves following a vinegar spray, but if you kill back the leaves several times, eventually the plant will starve to death.

You can increase the vinegar’s ability to spread and stick to leaves by adding 1 tablespoon of dish detergent and 2 tablespoons of canola oil per gallon of vinegar. The vinegar is most effective at temperatures above 70 degrees, and while it will burn just about any greenery, it’s most effective against grasses. Early in the season, once the weather warms, spray weekly, then progress to a biweekly or monthly schedule, depending on the weather and weed growth.

My final attack on weeds entails (dare I say it?) regular weeding. I’ll hoe or pull weeds here and there as I walk through the garden, and as I harvest and plant. Just think of your hoe as your walking stick. For all the negative connotations of weeding, I consider it part of any pleasant visit to the garden, probably because the few weeds I have are neither ominous nor demanding these days.

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