Will Backyard Chickens Ruin Your Garden?

Chicken in gardenChickens are making a comeback in residential settings as many families learn how fulfilling it can be to become more self-sufficient. Whether you’re interested in owning chickens for eggs, meat or both, you may be wondering if they will end up ruining your garden. The answer to this concern is a little complicated, since chicken scratching aerates and improves the soil, but it can also dig up seeds and plants.  Here are a few things you can do to prevent your backyard chickens from harming your garden space:

Put Cages Around Your Plants 

It isn’t very difficult to put wire cages around your plants, and doing so will keep your chickens from pecking the leaves or scratching up your plants. It is especially important to put cages around newly planted seeds and seedlings to keep them from being dug up.

Separate the Garden Into Multiple Areas

To give your chickens a clear space where they can roam, consider separating your garden into multiple areas with posts and chicken wire. Then, when you are ready to let the chickens out to roam for the day, they will have a separate area where they can scratch and peck as much as they want without affecting your garden. Housing your chickens in a coop is also a great way to keep them contained and out of your garden.

Supervise Your Chickens 

If you don’t like the idea of separating your garden space from your chicken run areas, you can always supervise your chickens while they roam. Let them explore the garden area and aerate the soil while keeping them out of mischief. If you choose supervised roaming, do so in the evening when the chickens are likely to explore for a short period of time then return to their coop to roost.

It can be very rewarding to own chickens, and they create a fun learning opportunity for kids as well. It is possible to enjoy all of the benefits of backyard chickens without dealing with the annoyance of ruined crops if you utilize one or more of the above tips.

5 Celebrities With a Passion for Gardening

Hollywood Blv Road SignFor many people, gardening is much more than a hobby—it’s a passion. If you are an avid gardener, you may be surprised to discover that many famous people share your desire to create the perfect garden space. Here are five notable celebrities who put just as much fervor into gardening as they put into acting.

Jake Gyllenhaal 

Jake Gyllenhaal doesn’t just garden for enjoyment, but for a good cause as well. In 2011, he participated in a program designed to teach children how to improve their health by growing and eating their own food. The program, referred to as the Edible Schoolyard, Project, gave Gyllenhaal the chance to showcase and share his love of gardening with others.

Julia Roberts

In addition to winning the hearts of thousands through her work in film, Julia Roberts also wins the hearts of gardeners by proudly feeding her family nutrient-rich foods straight from her organic garden. She also educates her children on healthy eating and regularly rejuvenates her soil with compost from kitchen leftovers.

Oprah Winfrey

It seems there is nothing Oprah Winfrey can’t do, including organic gardening on a massive scale. Each week, her impressive garden in Maui produces more than a hundred pounds of fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs. While she enjoys as much of her garden’s yield as she can, she also shares her harvest with the community and helps to improve the health of the islanders.

Martha Stewart

Any celebrity gardener list would be incomplete without mentioning Martha Stewart. She has built a successful empire on her love of cooking and gardening, and gardeners everywhere love her helpful garden improvement tips.

Prince Charles 

When it comes to being completely passionate about gardening, no one can outdo Prince Charles. He lovingly saves and restores old estate gardens and adamantly raises awareness of the benefits of an organic lifestyle.

If you want to improve your gardening techniques, take a lesson from these passionate celebrities. They prove by example that an organic lifestyle is a worthy goal for everyone, no matter their status.

3 Tips for Designing the Perfect Garden

Gardener working in gardenFew things in life are more fulfilling than growing your own garden, but it can be an intimidating process to get started. If you have no idea how to create the ideal home garden, give these three easy tips a try. Before long, your efforts will be rewarded with a beautiful, productive garden that will become the envy of your neighborhood.

Research Your Climate

Before you begin selecting plants for your garden, you should first research your climate and find out what plants grow well in your area. Depending on how cold or hot your climate gets, some plants may be well suited for it while others will not be able to survive the growing conditions. The easiest way to find plants that grow well in your area is to purchase from your local greenhouse. However, if you do choose to purchase online, check the hardiness rating of each plant you buy to ensure that it is compatible with your climate.

Plot Out the Details 

It can be tempting to visit your local greenhouse and go crazy buying all of the flowers, trees, shrubs and garden plants that you like. However, doing so can be a recipe for disaster, especially if you have limited space. It’s ok to visit a greenhouse and jot down the details of the plants you like, but don’t purchase anything until you have analyzed your property and plotted out where you want plants to be placed. Keep in mind that shade-loving plants need shady areas to grow, while sun-loving plants should be placed in the sunniest parts of your property.

Go for Year-Round Color

The most impressive gardens are those that showcase beautiful colors all year round. When planning your garden, make sure you purchase plants that bloom at different times of the year, then disperse them throughout your garden. Doing this will give your garden eye-catching color during all seasons.

If you have always thought the ideal garden is too hard to achieve, think again. With just a little forethought and effort, you can create the perfect garden for your property.

City Gardening for Beginners

Roof TerraceLiving in the country vs. city, you can easily find a home with enough yard to grow your favorite veggies. It’s not so easy when you live in the city, however, where space is not easily found. There is still one option for city-dwellers who long for tomatoes fresh from the vine. Start a container garden in the biggest area available to you, the roof.

Benefits of Gardening

Roof gardens offer many benefits, besides the availability of fresh veggies. Since you control every step in the cultivation process, you can ensure your plants are truly organic. You can save on groceries during the growing season and perhaps best of all, you can enjoy “getting back to nature” in a small way.

Choosing Plants

Choose plants such as corn, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers, which will help you save room; use a trellis to support their upward growth if needed. Herbs, lettuce, beets and radishes can all be grown in window boxes or small pots. Don’t plant too early; frost will kill tender young plants.

Soil and Fertilizers

If you have a source of soil in your area, you can improve it with fertilizer. Otherwise, garden soil is readily available and inexpensive. While you’re at the garden store, ask for advice on amending your soil.

Compost makes a great fertilizer and it doesn’t cost anything. Use banana peels, egg shells, apple cores and more to start your own compost pile and mix it in with the soil you use for planting.

Pest Control

For pest control without pesticides, look for organic fertilizers or make your own by combining nettles with compost in a bucket with water and let them soak into a mulch, then apply to plants.

Container gardening in the city is a great way for you to enjoy fresh produce gained through your own efforts. If you are lucky enough to have a balcony, you can start there, knowing that you won’t have to share those with your neighbors.

How to Properly Clean Your Garden Tools

Various gardening toolsTools are an investment in your work and hobbies. If you’re a mechanic, tools are your livelihood. If you’re a gardener, tools may or may not be your livelihood, but they’re still pretty important. Either way, it’s in your best interest to keep tools in good working condition.

Remove Soil and Potential Problems

Clean your tools after every use so you’ll be sure not to spread things like plant diseases, insect eggs or weed spores around the garden. Preventing rust is another great reason to clean tools after use. Wet soil promotes rust, which can dull and even erode sharp edges.

Any tool that’s been used in the soil should be pressure-washed. To remove clay mixtures, you’ll need a stiff brush and a little elbow grease. After a wash, always dry tools with a cotton cloth before storing them.

Cleaning Sap

Use a thick cloth to remove any sap on pruning shears, hedge clippers and any other tool that you used on trees and other plants with gum-like substances. If you use tools on a pitch-producing plant, try using paint thinner on the cloth to help remove the substance. Dry your tools to remove all traces of paint thinner. 

Oiling Prevents Rust

Take care of steel tools by oiling them after cleaning and drying. The oil prevents rust from forming by blocking oxygen out. If you’ve got motor oil, you’ve got what you need. To thin the oil and make it easier to work with, mix two parts of 30W oil (non-detergent only) to one part lamp oil or kerosene. Use a cloth to apply a thin layer. Don’t worry about the oil mixing with the soil; it’s a very small amount and oil is organic-based so it breaks down quickly.

You have invested a lot in your garden and gardening tools; time as well as money. Show your tools the same love you show your plants and they’ll keep producing, too.

How to Sharpen Your Garden Tools with a Dremel

Polishing MetalHave you ever tried to cut steak with a dull knife? You have to keep sawing away and pushing down pretty hard to get through it. Your fingers might smart a little by the time you’re done eating. It’s kind of like that with gardening tools, too. You can keep sawing or chopping away at that bush until your arms are sore, or you can make it a little easier by sharpening your hedge clippers or pruning shears first.

Small and Powerful

One of the best sharpening tools for this type of work is a handheld Dremel, a rotary tool that comes with several different attachments. It makes sharpening tools an easy enough task to tackle at home. It also gives you the ability to sharpen the edges of smaller tools, such as pruning shears, without taking them apart.

Safety First

First make sure you have safety goggles or glasses on to protect your eyes, as you would with any grinding tool. Put the tool that you want to sharpen either in a vise or secure it to a workbench. Select a grinding stone (there are several types that usually come with the tool itself). If you don’t have one, pick one up at your area hardware store. Slide the stone into the front, or shaft, of the drill and tighten.

Don’t Overdo It

Turn the power on and grind at a low setting to prevent overheating. Lower the drill against the edge of the tool and gently move it along the edge and back until you’re satisfied with the sharpness. A lighter touch is needed for this task; don’t apply too much pressure.

It’s no question that sharper tools will help you make quick work of many gardening tasks, including pruning roses, trimming shrubs and even digging holes. The best part? You won’t have to wait for―or pay for―someone else to do it

6 Tools Every Gardener Should Own

garden toolsWhat better way to get in touch with nature than through gardening. Whether you are an experienced gardener, hobbyist or just someone who likes to get your hands dirty, here are the six most important tools for you to have. 

  1. Trowel

This is the tool that will see the most use in any size of garden. Use it to transplant vegetables that you’ve grown from seeds into your garden soil. It’s just the right size for potting flowers, removing larger weeds and digging around corners.

  1. Shovel

When you need to dig bigger and deeper holes, reach for the trowel’s big brother. You need a sturdy shovel for jobs such as planting shrubs and trees.

  1. Hoe 

Save your knees! Cut through bigger weed patches with a long-handled hoe that you can use to move soil around, too. Make sure to get one that can stand up to repeated chopping. For veggie gardens, opt for a wider blade. For a flower garden, you need an easier touch, so try one with a thinner blade.

  1. Fork

Use a garden fork to help break up roots and soil clumps. It’s also handy to move rocks out of the way and for turning compost.

  1. Soil rake

A good metal rake will help keep your garden tidy when you use it to remove large areas of leaves and weeds that you’ve just pulled. Flip a rake over and use it to move gravel and even out soil.

  1. Pruners

Use handheld pruners for a variety of needs, from cutting roses to trimming shrubs and even small tree limbs. They’re very portable and fit right in your back pocket.

Invest in strong, durable tools, preferably those made of stainless steel. Clean them when they need it and store them away properly to protect blades from dulling. Take care of them and they will be usable for a long, long time.