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CRYSTAL GARDENS

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Blog Posts

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR GARDEN SOIL

 

It is the hope of every gardener to get his or her garden soil as close to the ideal soil as possible. However for many, this may seem well impossible particularly where time and money are constraints. The good news is that whatever small improvements you do; the results will certainly be noti…

Read more

MUST HAVE SHRUBS FOR YOUR GARDEN

Whether large or small no garden should be without shrubs. And never mind the space you have, balcony, porch or  rooftop-shrubs will serve you right. Even if you are not colour crazy, surely a little bloom can raise your moods.

Shrubs look good all the year round, giving you uniformity, colour, co…

Read more

TIME TO GROW YOUR OWN SALAD

If  you garden, the tinge of disappointment when a friend treats you to a ‘salad’ consisting of a few wilted lettuce leaves, some sliced tomatoes and pale cucumber- thrown in for good measure- cannot be gainsaid. For someone who eats their vegetables straight from the ground, it requires great effor…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AIR PLANTS

Air plants are the exotic beauties we all like to have up close.


 Bromeliads, orchids, tillandsias and staghorn ferns form the coterie of plants generally referred to as air plants because they are epiphytes.
 Epiphytes are plants that grow on top of other plants or on some host for support. …

Read more

10 Trees Fit For Your Small Garden

You may have a postage stamp sized garden or the balcony may be your only outdoor space. Whatever the situation space should not be a reason to deny yourself the beauty of a tree garlanding your surroundings.  

For small gardens, small or slow growing trees should be the first consideration. Tree…

Read more

CARING FOR YOUR CHRISMAS PLANT(Poinsettia)

You may have received poinsettia as a Christmas gift before. Or bought them yourself in the spirit of the season. Trouble is the plant never seemed to last. Most likely the flower bracts remained but the leaves dropped leaving you with flowers atop a naked stem

Finding himself in political tr…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND CARE FOR RUBBER TREES INDOORS

The Ficus tree family is huge and varied. Commonly referred to as rubber trees, the diversity in species makes them appear completely different trees for many people. Indeed it is hard to believe that the rubber tree you grow in a pot indoors is related to the sacred giant Mugumo tree, revered by th…

Read more

PESTS IN THE GARDEN

 

Gardening can be fun and tricky at the same time. One day everything  is rolling along just fine. Then you wake up in the morning and find troubles galore; an outbreak of pests devouring your prized plants, and disease almost killing your plants.

If you have plants, a variety of troubles are …

Read more

WHAT TO CONSIDER IN LANDSCAPING YOUR GARDEN

 

An empty garden is like the proverbial blank page; anything is possible. And that is the problem!

For  first time gardeners and homeowners, the enthusiasm  of planting a garden can be dampened by the  challenge of  what to have  or plant and where, the expenses involved  and time needed for…

Read more

SECRETS TO A FLAVOURFUL HARVEST

 

You spend the entire  season tending to the needs of your  of your vegetable 

crops-feeding, weeding, watering and fighting off pests-then comes  your moment of truth: Has the  fruit of your labour reached its peak of ripeness? And will it have that toothsome delicious taste the consumer yea…

Read more

View older posts »

Blog Posts

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR GARDEN SOIL

 

It is the hope of every gardener to get his or her garden soil as close to the ideal soil as possible. However for many, this may seem well impossible particularly where time and money are constraints. The good news is that whatever small improvements you do; the results will certainly be noti…

Read more

MUST HAVE SHRUBS FOR YOUR GARDEN

Whether large or small no garden should be without shrubs. And never mind the space you have, balcony, porch or  rooftop-shrubs will serve you right. Even if you are not colour crazy, surely a little bloom can raise your moods.

Shrubs look good all the year round, giving you uniformity, colour, co…

Read more

TIME TO GROW YOUR OWN SALAD

If  you garden, the tinge of disappointment when a friend treats you to a ‘salad’ consisting of a few wilted lettuce leaves, some sliced tomatoes and pale cucumber- thrown in for good measure- cannot be gainsaid. For someone who eats their vegetables straight from the ground, it requires great effor…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AIR PLANTS

Air plants are the exotic beauties we all like to have up close.


 Bromeliads, orchids, tillandsias and staghorn ferns form the coterie of plants generally referred to as air plants because they are epiphytes.
 Epiphytes are plants that grow on top of other plants or on some host for support. …

Read more

10 Trees Fit For Your Small Garden

You may have a postage stamp sized garden or the balcony may be your only outdoor space. Whatever the situation space should not be a reason to deny yourself the beauty of a tree garlanding your surroundings.  

For small gardens, small or slow growing trees should be the first consideration. Tree…

Read more

CARING FOR YOUR CHRISMAS PLANT(Poinsettia)

You may have received poinsettia as a Christmas gift before. Or bought them yourself in the spirit of the season. Trouble is the plant never seemed to last. Most likely the flower bracts remained but the leaves dropped leaving you with flowers atop a naked stem

Finding himself in political tr…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND CARE FOR RUBBER TREES INDOORS

The Ficus tree family is huge and varied. Commonly referred to as rubber trees, the diversity in species makes them appear completely different trees for many people. Indeed it is hard to believe that the rubber tree you grow in a pot indoors is related to the sacred giant Mugumo tree, revered by th…

Read more

PESTS IN THE GARDEN

 

Gardening can be fun and tricky at the same time. One day everything  is rolling along just fine. Then you wake up in the morning and find troubles galore; an outbreak of pests devouring your prized plants, and disease almost killing your plants.

If you have plants, a variety of troubles are …

Read more

WHAT TO CONSIDER IN LANDSCAPING YOUR GARDEN

 

An empty garden is like the proverbial blank page; anything is possible. And that is the problem!

For  first time gardeners and homeowners, the enthusiasm  of planting a garden can be dampened by the  challenge of  what to have  or plant and where, the expenses involved  and time needed for…

Read more

SECRETS TO A FLAVOURFUL HARVEST

 

You spend the entire  season tending to the needs of your  of your vegetable 

crops-feeding, weeding, watering and fighting off pests-then comes  your moment of truth: Has the  fruit of your labour reached its peak of ripeness? And will it have that toothsome delicious taste the consumer yea…

Read more

View older posts »

Blog Posts

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR GARDEN SOIL

 

It is the hope of every gardener to get his or her garden soil as close to the ideal soil as possible. However for many, this may seem well impossible particularly where time and money are constraints. The good news is that whatever small improvements you do; the results will certainly be noti…

Read more

MUST HAVE SHRUBS FOR YOUR GARDEN

Whether large or small no garden should be without shrubs. And never mind the space you have, balcony, porch or  rooftop-shrubs will serve you right. Even if you are not colour crazy, surely a little bloom can raise your moods.

Shrubs look good all the year round, giving you uniformity, colour, co…

Read more

TIME TO GROW YOUR OWN SALAD

If  you garden, the tinge of disappointment when a friend treats you to a ‘salad’ consisting of a few wilted lettuce leaves, some sliced tomatoes and pale cucumber- thrown in for good measure- cannot be gainsaid. For someone who eats their vegetables straight from the ground, it requires great effor…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AIR PLANTS

Air plants are the exotic beauties we all like to have up close.


 Bromeliads, orchids, tillandsias and staghorn ferns form the coterie of plants generally referred to as air plants because they are epiphytes.
 Epiphytes are plants that grow on top of other plants or on some host for support. …

Read more

10 Trees Fit For Your Small Garden

You may have a postage stamp sized garden or the balcony may be your only outdoor space. Whatever the situation space should not be a reason to deny yourself the beauty of a tree garlanding your surroundings.  

For small gardens, small or slow growing trees should be the first consideration. Tree…

Read more

CARING FOR YOUR CHRISMAS PLANT(Poinsettia)

You may have received poinsettia as a Christmas gift before. Or bought them yourself in the spirit of the season. Trouble is the plant never seemed to last. Most likely the flower bracts remained but the leaves dropped leaving you with flowers atop a naked stem

Finding himself in political tr…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND CARE FOR RUBBER TREES INDOORS

The Ficus tree family is huge and varied. Commonly referred to as rubber trees, the diversity in species makes them appear completely different trees for many people. Indeed it is hard to believe that the rubber tree you grow in a pot indoors is related to the sacred giant Mugumo tree, revered by th…

Read more

PESTS IN THE GARDEN

 

Gardening can be fun and tricky at the same time. One day everything  is rolling along just fine. Then you wake up in the morning and find troubles galore; an outbreak of pests devouring your prized plants, and disease almost killing your plants.

If you have plants, a variety of troubles are …

Read more

WHAT TO CONSIDER IN LANDSCAPING YOUR GARDEN

 

An empty garden is like the proverbial blank page; anything is possible. And that is the problem!

For  first time gardeners and homeowners, the enthusiasm  of planting a garden can be dampened by the  challenge of  what to have  or plant and where, the expenses involved  and time needed for…

Read more

SECRETS TO A FLAVOURFUL HARVEST

 

You spend the entire  season tending to the needs of your  of your vegetable 

crops-feeding, weeding, watering and fighting off pests-then comes  your moment of truth: Has the  fruit of your labour reached its peak of ripeness? And will it have that toothsome delicious taste the consumer yea…

Read more

View older posts »

Blog Posts

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR GARDEN SOIL

 

It is the hope of every gardener to get his or her garden soil as close to the ideal soil as possible. However for many, this may seem well impossible particularly where time and money are constraints. The good news is that whatever small improvements you do; the results will certainly be noti…

Read more

MUST HAVE SHRUBS FOR YOUR GARDEN

Whether large or small no garden should be without shrubs. And never mind the space you have, balcony, porch or  rooftop-shrubs will serve you right. Even if you are not colour crazy, surely a little bloom can raise your moods.

Shrubs look good all the year round, giving you uniformity, colour, co…

Read more

TIME TO GROW YOUR OWN SALAD

If  you garden, the tinge of disappointment when a friend treats you to a ‘salad’ consisting of a few wilted lettuce leaves, some sliced tomatoes and pale cucumber- thrown in for good measure- cannot be gainsaid. For someone who eats their vegetables straight from the ground, it requires great effor…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AIR PLANTS

Air plants are the exotic beauties we all like to have up close.


 Bromeliads, orchids, tillandsias and staghorn ferns form the coterie of plants generally referred to as air plants because they are epiphytes.
 Epiphytes are plants that grow on top of other plants or on some host for support. …

Read more

10 Trees Fit For Your Small Garden

You may have a postage stamp sized garden or the balcony may be your only outdoor space. Whatever the situation space should not be a reason to deny yourself the beauty of a tree garlanding your surroundings.  

For small gardens, small or slow growing trees should be the first consideration. Tree…

Read more

CARING FOR YOUR CHRISMAS PLANT(Poinsettia)

You may have received poinsettia as a Christmas gift before. Or bought them yourself in the spirit of the season. Trouble is the plant never seemed to last. Most likely the flower bracts remained but the leaves dropped leaving you with flowers atop a naked stem

Finding himself in political tr…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND CARE FOR RUBBER TREES INDOORS

The Ficus tree family is huge and varied. Commonly referred to as rubber trees, the diversity in species makes them appear completely different trees for many people. Indeed it is hard to believe that the rubber tree you grow in a pot indoors is related to the sacred giant Mugumo tree, revered by th…

Read more

PESTS IN THE GARDEN

 

Gardening can be fun and tricky at the same time. One day everything  is rolling along just fine. Then you wake up in the morning and find troubles galore; an outbreak of pests devouring your prized plants, and disease almost killing your plants.

If you have plants, a variety of troubles are …

Read more

WHAT TO CONSIDER IN LANDSCAPING YOUR GARDEN

 

An empty garden is like the proverbial blank page; anything is possible. And that is the problem!

For  first time gardeners and homeowners, the enthusiasm  of planting a garden can be dampened by the  challenge of  what to have  or plant and where, the expenses involved  and time needed for…

Read more

SECRETS TO A FLAVOURFUL HARVEST

 

You spend the entire  season tending to the needs of your  of your vegetable 

crops-feeding, weeding, watering and fighting off pests-then comes  your moment of truth: Has the  fruit of your labour reached its peak of ripeness? And will it have that toothsome delicious taste the consumer yea…

Read more

View older posts »

Blog Posts

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR GARDEN SOIL

 

It is the hope of every gardener to get his or her garden soil as close to the ideal soil as possible. However for many, this may seem well impossible particularly where time and money are constraints. The good news is that whatever small improvements you do; the results will certainly be noti…

Read more

MUST HAVE SHRUBS FOR YOUR GARDEN

Whether large or small no garden should be without shrubs. And never mind the space you have, balcony, porch or  rooftop-shrubs will serve you right. Even if you are not colour crazy, surely a little bloom can raise your moods.

Shrubs look good all the year round, giving you uniformity, colour, co…

Read more

TIME TO GROW YOUR OWN SALAD

If  you garden, the tinge of disappointment when a friend treats you to a ‘salad’ consisting of a few wilted lettuce leaves, some sliced tomatoes and pale cucumber- thrown in for good measure- cannot be gainsaid. For someone who eats their vegetables straight from the ground, it requires great effor…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AIR PLANTS

Air plants are the exotic beauties we all like to have up close.


 Bromeliads, orchids, tillandsias and staghorn ferns form the coterie of plants generally referred to as air plants because they are epiphytes.
 Epiphytes are plants that grow on top of other plants or on some host for support. …

Read more

10 Trees Fit For Your Small Garden

You may have a postage stamp sized garden or the balcony may be your only outdoor space. Whatever the situation space should not be a reason to deny yourself the beauty of a tree garlanding your surroundings.  

For small gardens, small or slow growing trees should be the first consideration. Tree…

Read more

CARING FOR YOUR CHRISMAS PLANT(Poinsettia)

You may have received poinsettia as a Christmas gift before. Or bought them yourself in the spirit of the season. Trouble is the plant never seemed to last. Most likely the flower bracts remained but the leaves dropped leaving you with flowers atop a naked stem

Finding himself in political tr…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND CARE FOR RUBBER TREES INDOORS

The Ficus tree family is huge and varied. Commonly referred to as rubber trees, the diversity in species makes them appear completely different trees for many people. Indeed it is hard to believe that the rubber tree you grow in a pot indoors is related to the sacred giant Mugumo tree, revered by th…

Read more

PESTS IN THE GARDEN

 

Gardening can be fun and tricky at the same time. One day everything  is rolling along just fine. Then you wake up in the morning and find troubles galore; an outbreak of pests devouring your prized plants, and disease almost killing your plants.

If you have plants, a variety of troubles are …

Read more

WHAT TO CONSIDER IN LANDSCAPING YOUR GARDEN

 

An empty garden is like the proverbial blank page; anything is possible. And that is the problem!

For  first time gardeners and homeowners, the enthusiasm  of planting a garden can be dampened by the  challenge of  what to have  or plant and where, the expenses involved  and time needed for…

Read more

SECRETS TO A FLAVOURFUL HARVEST

 

You spend the entire  season tending to the needs of your  of your vegetable 

crops-feeding, weeding, watering and fighting off pests-then comes  your moment of truth: Has the  fruit of your labour reached its peak of ripeness? And will it have that toothsome delicious taste the consumer yea…

Read more

View older posts »

Blog Posts

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR GARDEN SOIL

 

It is the hope of every gardener to get his or her garden soil as close to the ideal soil as possible. However for many, this may seem well impossible particularly where time and money are constraints. The good news is that whatever small improvements you do; the results will certainly be noti…

Read more

MUST HAVE SHRUBS FOR YOUR GARDEN

Whether large or small no garden should be without shrubs. And never mind the space you have, balcony, porch or  rooftop-shrubs will serve you right. Even if you are not colour crazy, surely a little bloom can raise your moods.

Shrubs look good all the year round, giving you uniformity, colour, co…

Read more

TIME TO GROW YOUR OWN SALAD

If  you garden, the tinge of disappointment when a friend treats you to a ‘salad’ consisting of a few wilted lettuce leaves, some sliced tomatoes and pale cucumber- thrown in for good measure- cannot be gainsaid. For someone who eats their vegetables straight from the ground, it requires great effor…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AIR PLANTS

Air plants are the exotic beauties we all like to have up close.


 Bromeliads, orchids, tillandsias and staghorn ferns form the coterie of plants generally referred to as air plants because they are epiphytes.
 Epiphytes are plants that grow on top of other plants or on some host for support. …

Read more

10 Trees Fit For Your Small Garden

You may have a postage stamp sized garden or the balcony may be your only outdoor space. Whatever the situation space should not be a reason to deny yourself the beauty of a tree garlanding your surroundings.  

For small gardens, small or slow growing trees should be the first consideration. Tree…

Read more

CARING FOR YOUR CHRISMAS PLANT(Poinsettia)

You may have received poinsettia as a Christmas gift before. Or bought them yourself in the spirit of the season. Trouble is the plant never seemed to last. Most likely the flower bracts remained but the leaves dropped leaving you with flowers atop a naked stem

Finding himself in political tr…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND CARE FOR RUBBER TREES INDOORS

The Ficus tree family is huge and varied. Commonly referred to as rubber trees, the diversity in species makes them appear completely different trees for many people. Indeed it is hard to believe that the rubber tree you grow in a pot indoors is related to the sacred giant Mugumo tree, revered by th…

Read more

PESTS IN THE GARDEN

 

Gardening can be fun and tricky at the same time. One day everything  is rolling along just fine. Then you wake up in the morning and find troubles galore; an outbreak of pests devouring your prized plants, and disease almost killing your plants.

If you have plants, a variety of troubles are …

Read more

WHAT TO CONSIDER IN LANDSCAPING YOUR GARDEN

 

An empty garden is like the proverbial blank page; anything is possible. And that is the problem!

For  first time gardeners and homeowners, the enthusiasm  of planting a garden can be dampened by the  challenge of  what to have  or plant and where, the expenses involved  and time needed for…

Read more

SECRETS TO A FLAVOURFUL HARVEST

 

You spend the entire  season tending to the needs of your  of your vegetable 

crops-feeding, weeding, watering and fighting off pests-then comes  your moment of truth: Has the  fruit of your labour reached its peak of ripeness? And will it have that toothsome delicious taste the consumer yea…

Read more

View older posts »

Blog Posts

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR GARDEN SOIL

 

It is the hope of every gardener to get his or her garden soil as close to the ideal soil as possible. However for many, this may seem well impossible particularly where time and money are constraints. The good news is that whatever small improvements you do; the results will certainly be noti…

Read more

MUST HAVE SHRUBS FOR YOUR GARDEN

Whether large or small no garden should be without shrubs. And never mind the space you have, balcony, porch or  rooftop-shrubs will serve you right. Even if you are not colour crazy, surely a little bloom can raise your moods.

Shrubs look good all the year round, giving you uniformity, colour, co…

Read more

TIME TO GROW YOUR OWN SALAD

If  you garden, the tinge of disappointment when a friend treats you to a ‘salad’ consisting of a few wilted lettuce leaves, some sliced tomatoes and pale cucumber- thrown in for good measure- cannot be gainsaid. For someone who eats their vegetables straight from the ground, it requires great effor…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AIR PLANTS

Air plants are the exotic beauties we all like to have up close.


 Bromeliads, orchids, tillandsias and staghorn ferns form the coterie of plants generally referred to as air plants because they are epiphytes.
 Epiphytes are plants that grow on top of other plants or on some host for support. …

Read more

10 Trees Fit For Your Small Garden

You may have a postage stamp sized garden or the balcony may be your only outdoor space. Whatever the situation space should not be a reason to deny yourself the beauty of a tree garlanding your surroundings.  

For small gardens, small or slow growing trees should be the first consideration. Tree…

Read more

CARING FOR YOUR CHRISMAS PLANT(Poinsettia)

You may have received poinsettia as a Christmas gift before. Or bought them yourself in the spirit of the season. Trouble is the plant never seemed to last. Most likely the flower bracts remained but the leaves dropped leaving you with flowers atop a naked stem

Finding himself in political tr…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND CARE FOR RUBBER TREES INDOORS

The Ficus tree family is huge and varied. Commonly referred to as rubber trees, the diversity in species makes them appear completely different trees for many people. Indeed it is hard to believe that the rubber tree you grow in a pot indoors is related to the sacred giant Mugumo tree, revered by th…

Read more

PESTS IN THE GARDEN

 

Gardening can be fun and tricky at the same time. One day everything  is rolling along just fine. Then you wake up in the morning and find troubles galore; an outbreak of pests devouring your prized plants, and disease almost killing your plants.

If you have plants, a variety of troubles are …

Read more

WHAT TO CONSIDER IN LANDSCAPING YOUR GARDEN

 

An empty garden is like the proverbial blank page; anything is possible. And that is the problem!

For  first time gardeners and homeowners, the enthusiasm  of planting a garden can be dampened by the  challenge of  what to have  or plant and where, the expenses involved  and time needed for…

Read more

SECRETS TO A FLAVOURFUL HARVEST

 

You spend the entire  season tending to the needs of your  of your vegetable 

crops-feeding, weeding, watering and fighting off pests-then comes  your moment of truth: Has the  fruit of your labour reached its peak of ripeness? And will it have that toothsome delicious taste the consumer yea…

Read more

View older posts »

Blog Posts

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR GARDEN SOIL

 

It is the hope of every gardener to get his or her garden soil as close to the ideal soil as possible. However for many, this may seem well impossible particularly where time and money are constraints. The good news is that whatever small improvements you do; the results will certainly be noti…

Read more

MUST HAVE SHRUBS FOR YOUR GARDEN

Whether large or small no garden should be without shrubs. And never mind the space you have, balcony, porch or  rooftop-shrubs will serve you right. Even if you are not colour crazy, surely a little bloom can raise your moods.

Shrubs look good all the year round, giving you uniformity, colour, co…

Read more

TIME TO GROW YOUR OWN SALAD

If  you garden, the tinge of disappointment when a friend treats you to a ‘salad’ consisting of a few wilted lettuce leaves, some sliced tomatoes and pale cucumber- thrown in for good measure- cannot be gainsaid. For someone who eats their vegetables straight from the ground, it requires great effor…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AIR PLANTS

Air plants are the exotic beauties we all like to have up close.


 Bromeliads, orchids, tillandsias and staghorn ferns form the coterie of plants generally referred to as air plants because they are epiphytes.
 Epiphytes are plants that grow on top of other plants or on some host for support. …

Read more

10 Trees Fit For Your Small Garden

You may have a postage stamp sized garden or the balcony may be your only outdoor space. Whatever the situation space should not be a reason to deny yourself the beauty of a tree garlanding your surroundings.  

For small gardens, small or slow growing trees should be the first consideration. Tree…

Read more

CARING FOR YOUR CHRISMAS PLANT(Poinsettia)

You may have received poinsettia as a Christmas gift before. Or bought them yourself in the spirit of the season. Trouble is the plant never seemed to last. Most likely the flower bracts remained but the leaves dropped leaving you with flowers atop a naked stem

Finding himself in political tr…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND CARE FOR RUBBER TREES INDOORS

The Ficus tree family is huge and varied. Commonly referred to as rubber trees, the diversity in species makes them appear completely different trees for many people. Indeed it is hard to believe that the rubber tree you grow in a pot indoors is related to the sacred giant Mugumo tree, revered by th…

Read more

PESTS IN THE GARDEN

 

Gardening can be fun and tricky at the same time. One day everything  is rolling along just fine. Then you wake up in the morning and find troubles galore; an outbreak of pests devouring your prized plants, and disease almost killing your plants.

If you have plants, a variety of troubles are …

Read more

WHAT TO CONSIDER IN LANDSCAPING YOUR GARDEN

 

An empty garden is like the proverbial blank page; anything is possible. And that is the problem!

For  first time gardeners and homeowners, the enthusiasm  of planting a garden can be dampened by the  challenge of  what to have  or plant and where, the expenses involved  and time needed for…

Read more

SECRETS TO A FLAVOURFUL HARVEST

 

You spend the entire  season tending to the needs of your  of your vegetable 

crops-feeding, weeding, watering and fighting off pests-then comes  your moment of truth: Has the  fruit of your labour reached its peak of ripeness? And will it have that toothsome delicious taste the consumer yea…

Read more

View older posts »

GARDEN FLOORS

 

A garden, like a house has floors, walls and ceilings. Garden floors, which by far occupy the largest area of any given garden, include  lawns, paths, paving and walk ways which suffer heavy and foot and motor traffic, and the lawn and ground covers, which form living garden floors.

The layout, extent and choice of the material for garden floors are influenced by ones’ lifestyle, the size of the garden, the mood /style you wish to create and the maintenance requirements.

Naturally, spacious gardens will have room for free flowing curving paths that espouse an informal theme in a addition to a sizeable lawn. On the other hand, squeezed nature of small gardens calls for a formal look modeled on geometric lines. Indeed it is not uncommon to find gardens that are entirely hard and concreted with no provision for a lawn or ground covers.

Thus one is at liberty to go for a garden floor style that fits his lifestyle.

Lawn

Arguably the most popular floor style to be found in gardens. It offers opportunity for numerous outdoor living options. Grass adds a distinct appeal to a garden. A lawn, especially when designed with paths running through, almost always seems to invite a tour a round the garden. The only draw back is the routine maintenance activities of lawn mowing, watering, feeding and pest control that can seem very involving. Besides, one has to know which type of grass thrives in his environment.

A newly done lawn at the British Council

 

Groundcovers

 A popular option in most gardens. They can be massed in place of a lawn. The beauty with ground covers is that as opposed to lawns that need regular mowing, groundcovers, especially the hardy ones like succulents require less maintenance.

 

Drive ways & parking

Besides offering accessibility, hard surfaces can also be points of ornamentation.  This can be achieved through the way they are designed or plant accessories that adorn them.  One technique is to soften the hard surfaces through planting of shrubbery or hedges. In other cases, grass is planted in between the paving materials.  Because these surfaces hold heavy loads, it is natural that they be made from more resilient materials.  As such most will be done from   hard or medium quarry stone, concrete, bricks and carbro paving.

 

Walk way

Again, a very good option to add flair to the garden. Paths can be done with a variety of materials; stone, mazeras, ballast, saw dust among others.  To the novice, laying paths may seem such a big deal, in reality it isn’t. Actually, the beauty of paths is that since they don’t carry heavy traffic, they can be installed without professional help. Thus mazeras, bricks or stone can be simply laid down in a well marked out path, adjusted to fit proportionally, backfilled with soil or mortar.

Whatever style of garden floor or the materials one uses, the aim is to have a floor that is both functional and aesthetic.

                                    

how to grow a potted garden

Sprawling gardens are fast becoming a rarity. With acute shortage of urban space, apartments are increasingly becoming the norm.  This calls for innovative approaches to gardening. One such approach is the container garden. If you aspire to have a garden, and are space challenged, you need not worry.  By use of pots and other containers, you can still realize your desire for a lovely garden setting.

Container gardening can be fun if you are creative and develop a passion for it.

Containers-virtually anything a plant can grow in – come in various forms; pots, baskets, urns, planters, jars and glasses. The choice of material is equally wide and exciting, to suit everyone’s taste: beautiful ceramic, plain or ornate plastic, sturdy concrete, light and easy asbestos, terracotta-a form favourite, wire baskets and for a mellow look-wooden. And since containers are movable, they can easily be tugged along when moving house or interchanged to give a new look.

Most plants lend themselves well to container growing but be careful about those you select for indoors as only a few thrive there.

What are the requirements for successful container gardening?

Potting Soil

Potting soils are the medium in which plants grow and draw most of their sustenance. A good potting soil must be rich, light and have good drainage for moisture and nutrient retention. Potting soils are therefore blended to supply adequate physical and chemical structures for plant growth. Plain garden soils contain disease causing pathogens and must therefore be treated with soil fumigant or sterilized by heating. Ideal potting soil includes compost, top soil, peat fir bark and vermiculite. A selection of these is mixed as per the plant’s requirement. Premixed soils are readily available at garden centres.  To ensure proper drainage, drill holes at the base of the container for water outflow.

Water

A tricky area with potted plants is watering. Too often the plants are either overwatered or under watered. Too much water causes root rot eventually killing the plants while too little water causes the plant to dry up. For best results, let your soils dry to a depth of 3cm before watering. Once plant start losing their vigour and turgidity, it’s time to water. Newly potted plants should be watered twice a week until they rare established while for mature plants, a once a week watering is sufficient. A tell-tale sign that you are overwatering is the presence of green moss and algae covering the soil.

Some plants like Africa Violets (Saintpaullia) detest water on their leaves and are best watered by standing the pots in a basin filled with water-they will draw water through the drainage walls

Location

Where you place your potted plants depends on the effect you want to create with the choice of indoor plants as they rarely flower indoors. An exception is the Peace lily (Spathiphylum) which can bloom indoors and tolerates low light conditions.  Ficus and Yucca on the other hand, need high to medium light conditions. Schefflera, with its attractive shiny foliage, falls in this latter category.

Use plants with different leaf textures to create interest and form on the patio or balcony. To create depts., use pots with fine textures leaves in front of bigger pots with large leafed plants

Feeding

This is the supply of nutrients which may not be available in the potting mixture. Foliar feeds (Liquid fertilizers) are highly recommended. Apply them once a month alternating them with bone meal. For fruiting and flowering plants, apply potassium for a prolonged flowering season and enlarged sweet fruits.

Repotting

Sooner or later your plant will outgrow its pot. This calls for repotting which involves moving it to a bigger pot. You can know your plant needs repotting due to slowed growth and frequent need for watering. To repot, soak the new pot in water and simultaneously water the plant. Soaking lets the clay pot absorb water cushioning it against sudden fluctuations in temperature that cause it to crack. To remove the plant, turn the pot upside down with your left hand over the soil surface and gently shake it out.

Remove coiled roots and transfer the plant to the new pot, taking care not to damage it. Fill around the root ball with potting soil to just one inch below the pot rim. Firm down the new soil, then add water. Keep newly potted plants in shade for a week before returning to its normal position.

 

 

ADD CLASS TO YOUR GARDEN WITH ORCHIDS

 

In the world of flowers Orchids are the undisputed champions. Most varieties are beautiful and long lasting fragrant and very long lasting, qualities that usually mean that they are very expensive. A single leopard orchid in bloom for instance can for about Ksh 2,000 ($20).

What are Orchids?

Most orchids species are rhizomatous epiphytes (Have rhizomes and grow on other trees) from the tropical rainforests. Often they have fleshy, aerial roots fully or partially attached to the host trees. These roots attract moisture from the atmosphere. Most Orchids you see in your flower shop are complex hybrids.

While most orchids are epiphytic, we also have terrestrial orchids (on land growing) which are native to the temperate regions. They have underground rhizomes and tubers.

 

Epiphytic Orchids occur in two groups, Sympodial and Monopodial epiphytes. Sympodial epiphytes are mainly from the rainforest at sea level or low altitude and arise from horizontal rhizomes. Each season growing buds on the rhizomes produce pseudo bulbs-erect swollen stems that store water and food and bear leaves and flowers.

 Monopodial epiphytes are native to dense, rainforest at higher altitudes. Instead of pseudo bulbs they have extended stems that produce new growth from the shoot tips and growing points.

The Orchid family   is then largest in the plant family in nature and orchids take amazingly different shapes, forms and growth habits. Some orchids produce blossoms as tiny as a mosquito while others are as large as a plate. The plant takes its name from the Greek word Orchis which means testes. Orchids were so named because of the resemblance of their root bulbs to testicles.

Are orchids difficult to grow?

Contrary to popular perception, not all orchids are difficult to grow. If you can grow house plants, you can rear orchids. Some orchids are demanding, especially those that require exceedingly warm temperatures. These would inevitably require a green house in which heat conditions are regulated.

But generally, for the homeowner interested in orchids, keenness and attention to detail {light and temperature) are all that is needed. If you go for the two common types, which are the least demanding: Cymbidiums and Phaleanopsis . They are almost similar growing conditions with the former requiring 70 degrees Celsius. They thrive indoors as potted plants or if placed outside, under shade.

Like any other plant, an orchid must have the growing conditions it needs although some are very sturdy and resilient.

Best results

Getting the soil mixture right is crucial for trouble free orchids. As they require free draining.  medium, they can be grown in pumice, bark, a mixture of both or either with charcoal. Pumice will absorb water five times its weight. It also aids in aeration and drainage; bark retains moisture and nutrients when wet, yet allows complete flow of air to the roots; charcoal is useful for absorbing any dissolved soils and keeps the soil neutral or slightly alkaline.

Rather than congest a pot at planting, the initial bulb should be placed at the very end of the container leaving plenty of space for the new pseudo bulbs to develop as the plant grows. For feeding, use ordinary plant feed at half the strength recommended on the label.

When using liquid fertilizers, dissolved salts may be in the soil mixture. To tackle this, break from using fertilizer   and instead use plain water.

Plant care

Orchids are not only exceptional but also long lasting. As the flower spikes develop, it’s necessary to support them with a cane, as they are unable to bear   the weight of blooms. Cymbidium blooms will last for eight weeks while   Phaleanopsis blooms last three months and are perennial. Cut two nodes below the top of the two spent blooms to encourage further flowering.  Occasionally, you may need to place the orchids outdoors to encourage flower development. Slowly acclimatize b the plants to outdoor to conditions to avoid scotching.

Orchid Cultivation

 You can increase your Orchid stock by division removal of back bulbs or from stem cuttings.  For division get a plant that has overfilled its pot and split the rhizome. For backbulbs detach from the rhizome and pot up singly in a 6 cm container, the cut. surface against the rim.

To grow from stem, use 7 cm long stems with at least one   dormant bud. Store on moist moss in direct light until rooted.

 

 

CLIMBING BEAUTIES

 

Got a small garden?

The smaller the garden the more important the vertical surfaces around it. Vertical surfaces consisting of wall, pillars, poles and tree surfaces offer as much growing space as the ground area, sometimes even more. Climbers, also referred to as creepers or vines, provide the quickest and most efficient way of attaining vertical coverage

A tree could take five years or more to reach maturity, but most creepers will cover a wall in two years, or even less if you use fast growing climbers.

Where to grow the climbers rests squarely on the design problem you wish to address or the effect you wish to create. Generally most people grow creepers to soften hard surfaces and introduce a touch of greenery to an otherwise bare surface. This is mostly applicable to the perimeter or house wall where the rough and rugged finish needs tempering.

Screens in form of trellises or fences   meant to demarcate sections in the garden or screen out unsightly views rarely achieve their purpose unless backed by creepers. Their foliage creates a barrier while the flowers serve to detract from the plainness.

For decoration, climbers come in handy. A profusion of foliage and flowers clambering up pillars or around your window bars will not only give your house a graceful look, but also bring colour to your doorstep. Some like Jasmine have the added advantage of emitting delightful scents. In putting up sheds, carports and pergolas one needs to set up the framework as creeper foliage provides shading.

You can also raise climbers that provide fruits like passion or grape vines.

Choosing a climber

In selecting a climber, knowledge of how it anchors itself against a surface is vital. While some climbers are clingers, others will need to be supported up a wall or pillar surface. Some  clinging  climbers like honey suckle use the  growing tips of stems  to grip, while  clematis, grapevines and sweet peas use tendrils growing like side shoots an. Ivies and  ficus have aerial roots for cling.

Clinging roses use their thorny stems for hugging surface although they may occasionally need tying up. These clinging types are appropriate for high walls, as they will propel themselves.

Wires, hooks, nails and netting along which the climbers will be guided need to be installed before the planting is done so that the young plants are not treaded upon.

Protective measures

When using pillars or poles, growing climbers need not present difficulties. Never tie them unprotected, as this will cause chaffing whenever there is a strong wind. Similarly, use of a hard metal strips is discouraged as they can cut into the plant stem. Instead, tie a leather strap or soft clothing around the pole and attach the climber to it with a loose note.

Some climbers grow very fast and will colonize a given area in no time. For a small garden, this could be a nightmare and your options could be limited either planting  in a container to limit root growth  and consequrently its upward growth or regular pruning so that it lies flat along the surface.

Watch out for ivy and ficus as the two are known to pull out mortar from the wall, hence weakening the structure.

To get the best out of your climbers, particularly the flowering and fruiting type, ensure that you regularly fertilize them with potassium rich fertilizer

SHRUBS IN YOUR GARDEN

 

Shrubs are prized for the diversity of their ornamental features. These include architectural habits, attractive foliage, fragrant and showy flowers and striking fruits. Add on the decorative stems   and their year round presence and the gardener has an infinite choice of plant material. Whether deciduous or evergreen, shrubs are prized as essential elements in most garden designs.

Hibiscus yellow-at its prime

What are Shrubs?

Shrubs are woody-stemmed plants normally free branching from the base. A shrub has many stems arising from near ground level. This differs from trees which usually has a single stem. On average Shrubs will rarely grow to more than 5-6 metres high. Indeed mant shrubs  attain an even smaller stature.

A few shrubs like the Lilac can be considered as trees as they grow on a single stem and at maturity attain great height. Some subshrubs-those woody only at the base-like Fuchsia are, in the tropics cultivated as herbaceous perennials to fill borders.

How to Use Shrubs in a garden?

Shrubs offer a long time framework for the garden due to their structural forms and woody stems. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from clump forming, to mat and prostrate.

Flowers

Shrubs are cultivated for their flower features.  Their flowers range from small flowers of the Fuchsia to large displays of Bougainvillea Hawaii that can stir up a garden.  These flowers occur in virtually all colours. While some shrubs bloom only for a few weeks, others like Hibiscus and Bougaivillea flower over several months. Others may be  remontant- regularly flowering twice a year.

Foliage

Shrubs are also cultivated for their colorful foliage, mostly occurring in the shades of green, yellow, red grey, silver and purple. Some shrubs with colourful foliage include; Acalypha. Mussaenda and Croton.

Border

To apply Shrubs in your garden, you can use them in a shrub border or in a mixed border. A shrub border entails a dedicated planting of an assortment of shrubs. This call for planting shrubs that will come into flowering at different times of the year keeping the garden in flower all through. A mixed border will on the other hand be where the shrubs are grown among perennials and annuals, occasionally standing out as specimen plants or seeking associations of colour and foliage. Whatever choice of planting you go for, be sure to first establish a theme. Do you want to display your favourite plants at a corner? Or do you want a display of purely arresting foliage? Be aware of the eventual size of the plant at maturity so as to space accordingly when planting.

Container

In a pot, shrubs also thrive very well. If you have a small space or roof terrace, many shrubs lend themselves well to growing in containers. You can group containers in different arrangements for variety or use a single shrub in a pot as a focal point.

 Cultivation

Given the right growing conditions, shrubs can thrive for many years. Though not too choosy about the type of soil, many however do prefer well drained fertile soils.

For planting ensure the planting hole is 2-3 times the width and deep enough for the roots to be buried to their original depth. As you backfill the hole, add generous amounts of manure to the soil and firm in. In clay soils plant the shrub a little higher than the surrounding soil so that water will run off; in a sandy soil leave a little depression around the plant so that moisture is retained. Water and mulch well with dry grass or bark chips. Support shrubs from strong winds by staking.

Shrubs are propagated from seeds, cuttings, layering division or grafting. Hybrids will only grow from vegetative propagation as they do not come from true seed.

TREES IN YOUR GARDEN

The Cape chesnut tree (Calodendrum capense) in its glory

No garden worth its salt can be without a tree. Indeed, it’s unimaginable to have a garden lacking a single tree even if it’s the tiny of the tinniest gardens.

Trees are the largest and most prominent of all garden plants. As such they establish the long term frame work of the garden. Besides by their shapes and colours, they influence the selection of other plants. What are trees?

Trees are long lived woody plants, either deciduous or evergreen usually growing on a single stem (Although a few like birches do grow two or three stems.

Influence in the garden

A tree’s shape and size can influence the style of a garden. Tall narrow trees like the Italian cypress and Polyantha can give a formal appeal while those open and spreading types like Nandi flame   give an informal look. Weeping trees present a graceful look while conical trees are strong and sculptural.

How to choose a garden tree?

First know the size of a tree at maturity. That struggling seedling may erupt into giant tree creating havoc within your small landscape. A bombax tree would overwhelm a small garden but look perfectly normal in a larger garden. Besides some trees cast dense shade causing  problems for other plant growing nearly. Consider too the root system. Trees like Ficus will unravel parking yards due the action of their roots.

Ornamental features

Many trees are highly ornamental. Tree leaves are usually decorative, and vary in shape, size and texture. The Aleurites molucca  has dramatic bronze foliage  turning yellow  as the seasons change. Leaf textures can be smooth or glossy, wooly or hairy and they add further interest to a garden.

Trees can also be cultivated solely for their flowers. The Nandi flame can be very arresting when in bloom. Tree barks can also be a point of ornament. For instance the Eucalyptus pauciflora and Bracleania huillensis have fascinating textures.

Garden uses of trees

Trees are mostly grown as specimen plants to be viewed from all angles within a lawn or under-planted with a ground cover. Ensure that your specimen tree display several features at different times during the year. You can also grow trees in a large shrub border as focal point. When changing levels in a garden or entry points, a single tree can be used to mark the transition. If your property is exposed to strong winds, trees come in handy as wind breakers. In addition, trees also serve as hedges or barriers to screen out eyesores, to act as sound barriers, to frame a view or to line a drive way. Equally important trees in your garden serve as home for wildlife.

Cultivation

When grown in the right in the right soil, they can thrive or decades. Some trees have lived for centuries. Ideally all trees should be planted away from pipes, drains, walls, cables and buildings.

When planting on a slope, place your trees halfway. This area is normally warmer and less windy.

 Planting hole for a tree should be 2-3 times the size of the root ball and one and half times deep. If you need to stake the tree, this is the time to drive the stake in the ground off-center so the tree and stake are support from the same base. Place the tree and backfill with soil properly mixed with organic matter, firm the soil and water well. A layer of mulch around the hole will help keep moisture. Attach the tree to the stake and be sure to use a stem guard. Water trees regularly until fully established. Keep weeds 3 feet away from the tree trunk to avoid food competition.

In propagating trees, you can use either seeds, cuttings, air and root layering or grafting. Pure species must certainly come from seeds while hybrids and cultivars rarely come true from seeds and are usually reproduced mostly through cuttings.   

 

 

 

HOW TO DROUGHT PROOF YOUR GARDEN

The new Year   period is always a trying period for homeowners   and their gardens.  Not only has the garden suffered bouts of neglect in the preceding holiday season but the dry season soon sets in with a vengeance. This period is regularly manifested   by stooping trees and shrubs and dusty indoor plants. The lawn will have scattered patches and a resurgence of weeds. However, when caught between such extremes and you have the water bills to think of a few gardening techniques can come in handy to tide you through the tough dry patch.

We offer a few suggestions on how to drought proof your garden so that issues of plant care don dampen your new year cheer

Prioritize

Certainly not everything in the garden is worth fighting for. There are plants you may have always wanted to get rid off, some may be diseased or scraggly, while others may simply have fallen out of favour with your tastes. There is no point wasting your energies and water on such and they may have to be sacrificed. Instead focus on the more valuable and irreplaceable shrubs and trees.

Pots

Your potted plants can stay long without watering if you use water wise containers and regularly feed then with compost. Glazed terracotta or plastic pots have higher water retention capacities. Even if your pot is not glazed wrapping with plastic sheeting will give that same desired effect of moisture insulation. For smaller pots place them inside large ones. Similarly burying larger pots into the ground up to the brim.  and covering with compost will save water 

If you have been regularly feeding your pots with compost, they will have a higher threshold for drought-stress as compost conserves water. Heavily feed your plants with organic compost and water thoroughly. Since it is organic   it cannot scorch plants but will be released gradually, holding water for a long period.

Mulching                                                                 -                                                                                      

Be sure to mulch around your shrubs and trees in the garden. Use of shredded bark, grass clippings or straw as mulch will keep moisture loss at a minimum and suppress weeds which rob water and nutrients from plants.

Watering basin  

Where you have young trees and shrubs like roses that have not yet established themselves and still require regular watering, build water basins around such plants to help hold water. Building basins will ensure water uptake is sufficient as water slowly soaks in. This slow and deep watering limits waste due to run-off and encourages plants to develop deep roots system that can withstand drought.

Lawn

If the lawn needs mowing during this dry period, you are better off raising your cutting level. Cutting level exposes the grass roots and consequently dehydrates them.  Cutting at a level of 3-5 inches will help shade the roots and therefore reduce water demand. Check to confirm that your irrigation system is working fine. Inspect your pipes for any leakages and sprinklers for any leakages. Reduced pressure could be due to any of this in the system. These wastes water while giving a false sense of security that the garden is well watered. Where pumps arte involved the waste is double; both for water and power for which you will nevertheless be billed.

A properly functioning irrigation system will give you breathing space as water usage is optimum as you await the wet season.

Whatever your case and however difficult the January-March season may be, the consolation is that no season is permanent as we soon glide into the rejuvenating season of the long rains.                                                                                                                               

 

HOW TO SELECT THE BEST CHRIStMAS TREE

 

Folks, the Christmas season is here! And so is the festive mood. So now, we hang our garden tools in the tool shed and throw our feet up the foot stool!

One of the highlights of the Christmas season is the Christmas tree. Depending on how well you are prepared, selecting a Christmas tree can be a delightful experience or a headache. During this time, most people have a congested diary which includes; visits, holidays, makeovers and shopping, the Christmas tree is among the very last items on the to do list. Inevitably, last minute buying costs money.

 

The Christmas tree is rich in legends, all attributed to the treasured value of trees in ancient cultures. At the arrival of Winter early Egyptians brought green date palms into their homes to symbolize life’s triumph over death. For the Romans Winter was a time to honour Satarnus, the god of agriculture. During this festival referred to as Satarnalia they decorated their houses with greens and lights and exchange gifts. In the middle ages the Germans and Scandinavians placed ever green trees in their homes  to show hope in the upcoming Spring.

However, the Christmas tree can be traced to Martin Luther. Around 1530 he was struck by the beauty of small evergreens whose branches dusted with snow shimmered in the moonlight. At home he set up a little evergreen tree indoors and decorated it with candles attempting to simulate the reflections of star lit heaven, the heaven that looked down over Bethlehem on the first Christmas eve.

Today the Christmas tree is a universal practice.

Choice of trees

There are four types of trees:

  • Artificial
  • Precut and Cut
  • Live (Bagged)

Artificial trees

While   the artificial trees have their distinct advantages, they hardly jell with the spirit of Christmas which symbolizes renewal and eternity.

Precut trees

They offer the convenience and are easier to carry and set up. The downward is that they are not fresh and many having been cut weeks before Christmas. The variety is limited, majority of them being from the cypress and pine family 

Cut trees

Cutting down your own tree means your tree will be fresh. It will retain needles/leaves longer. Besides you will be choosing a healthy and well cared for tree that should add some evergreen scent into your home. The only challenge is that you have to cut and ferry the tree to your house, a not so inviting task.

Live potted (Bagged) trees

Live trees that are in pots or bags remain all-time favourite Chrismas trees. They are available all year round which means you can acquire them much earlier, for less money long before Chrismas rush hour. They offer the freshest tree choice and can be re-used for several years. You can later plant them in the garden.

 

What to look for

Trees always seem smaller in the greater outdoors than when we get them into the house. So before you even leave the home measure your the space your tree will occupy  both height and width. This will help save money. The bigger the tree the more it costs.

Go for freshly cut trees when buying pre-cut trees. Fresh trees will look green and healthy. Check for freshness by running your hand along the branches to see if the needles come off or stay on. A gentle bouncing of  the tree on the ground will also serve the same purpose. In addition if the base of the tree is sticky with some resin, this is an indication that the tree was recently  cut and should hold well through the holidays.

Most people look out for the perfect conical shaped trees but in reality, a fuller and bigger tree is better. However, if you have many ornaments you wish to hang onto a tree, a tree with shorter branches might be a better fit. Trees with long branch  like pines tend to snap even with  small weights.

Tree types

What tree should one go for? Many evergreens can be use as Chrismas trees and some nurseries specifically shape trees for this purpose. The common Chrismas trees include varieties   of Cypress Pines,Cedars  Araucarias and Ficus.

In setting up the tree, choose a location away from heat sources like heat vents, wood stoves, and fire places. Heated rooms dry out trees rapidly. For cut trees   get container that can hold the tree trunk and enough water. Dont trim the sides off as this is where the tree take up its water. Check the tree daily and water as needed.

What do you do with a tree once Christmas season is Over

Branches can be cut into smaller pieces and spread as mulch over flowerbeds, while the tree trunks can be carved into candle sticks. Live trees can be turned into garden ornaments by hanging bird seeds, popcorn strips, stale bread or dried fruit that attracts and feed birds

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR GARDEN SOIL

 

It is the hope of every gardener to get his or her garden soil as close to the ideal soil as possible. However for many, this may seem well impossible particularly where time and money are constraints. The good news is that whatever small improvements you do; the results will certainly be noticed. Take the case of a bag of compost for one who has a lawn and a few shrubs.  While a bag may not be enough for the entire garden, if applied to the shrubs only, a noticeable improvement will be seen!

One way in which garden soil is improved is by use of soil dressings. These are solid or liquid materials added to the soil in order to enhance its physical quality, or improve the plants grown therein, or achieve the both   simultaneously.

Soil is one of  nature’s wonders and among one of her most complex products. It is a matter that is constantly undergoing change. Growing plant roots draw nutrients from the soil while rain leaches out nutrients into the deeper layers. As such at some point nutrients will become deficient in the soil. When this happens, it is time to dress your soil so as to add desired factors to the soil.

Soil dressing is as ancient as gardening itself. However no single dressing will provide the desired results with regard to soil improvement. It is therefore vital to use the three basic soil dressings groups namely;

Humus

One way to improve your soil is by improving its texture. To achieve this you need to add organic materials to the soil. These materials attract bacteria which help in their breakdown and eventual decomposition. As the bacteria break down the green matter and burrow it into the soil, they help improve its structure by creating air spaces and mixing the soil with decayed matter. It is known however that the plant food content in humus is slow acting, not adequately balanced and largely insufficient for plants. It is only animal manure generously applied that does supply adequate plant food. Therefore humus works best when used together with fertilizers.

Various types of humus makers are used in the garden. The ‘raw’  humus includes  non decomposed  organic material that contains  starch and sugar. Examples of these include straw, grass clippings and dug in weeds. ‘Matured’ humus  includes decomposed organic material like garden compost, peat, manure, and Hop manure.

It is important to note that soil without humus is nothing more than finely ground rock.

Fertilizers

These are materials that contain, in concentrated form, one or more plant foods. Their addition to the soil is to feed the plants with major elements like Nitrogen, Potassium and  Phosphorous or minor elements like  calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, and sulphur. Since fertilizers are added in small quantities, they can hardly influence soil texture or raise bacterial activity in the soil like humus does. Fertilizers therefore work best in combination with humus.

Lime (Calcium carbonate)

Lime is applied to soil to remove acidity (sourness) and improve crumb structure. Lime adds calcium to the soil which lowers  the soil pH.  PH(potential hydrogen) refers to  the levels of hydrogen ions available in the root zone. When they bind together with other nutrients in the soil, they can render certain nutrients unavailable to the plants.

A much higher pH may hinder certain elements from being taken up by plant roots. Indeed few garden plants thrive under acidic soil. In addition acidic soils are hostile to earthworks and beneficial bacteria –the ones that break down organic matter and help improve soil structure. The common types of liming materials are dolomitic lime, agricultural limestone, wood ashes, and gypsum and hydrate lime.

How Dressings Are Used in the Garden

Now that you have your soil dressing material, how do you apply it?

Base dressing

This is dressing applied to the soil before or at the time of planting. It is used to provide a consistent but gradual supply of plant food or humus to the soil for the months to come. Humus, manure and slow release fertilizers are used as base dressing. 

Top Dressing

Top dressing involves applying extra nutrients to the soil surface so that they are taken up by plants that are already established. Naturally, it is fertilizers that are quick release or fast acting are used here. For lawn, top dressing includes application of a mixture of sand, top soil and compost upon the loan. The lawn benefits from this by the evening out of irregular surfaces and faster uptake of nutrients by the grass. The velvety green lawns you see around are products of sustained top dressing

Mulching

This is organic material placed around the plant. It smoothers the weeds and keeps the soils moist by retaining   moisture. It also adds to soil fertility. As the mulch decomposes, it fertilizes the soil.  You will not need to dig and water often during the warm seasons if you place mulch around your trees and shrubs.

MUST HAVE SHRUBS FOR YOUR GARDEN

Whether large or small no garden should be without shrubs. And never mind the space you have, balcony, porch or  rooftop-shrubs will serve you right. Even if you are not colour crazy, surely a little bloom can raise your moods.

Shrubs look good all the year round, giving you uniformity, colour, contrast and  longevity because they are perennial. Besides they create a sense of vitality and flow in your garden.

What are shrubs?

Shrubs are woody plants that ordinarily start branching from the base. Shrubs differ from trees in that while the later usually are single stemmed; a shrub has several stems arising from or near the ground level. On average, most shrubs will not grow more than 5 m in height.

What to consider when choosing shrubs?

Conditions at your place

Does your place receive ample sun or is it dappled shade? In urban areas what may appear sunny, in the morning soon turns into a shaded garden in the evening, thanks to adjacent apartments at the back. If you know the amount of sunlight your garden receives you can then select appropriate plants that will fit. Some shrubs require full sun; others can flourish in semi shade. In general plants with variegated foliage survive semi shade conditions .


Colour-

Start with your favourite colour.  Shrub colour can be due to the flowers they give or the colouration of the foliage. Since you already know the light conditions at your site, look for plants that give your favourite  colour but suitable for your grounds.  This colour could be in form of attractive, striking foliage or flowers.

Growth Habits

Some shrubs like Hibiscus if left unattended will grow into big bushes.  A majority of the shrubs and Cultivars on the other hand attain smaller stature. Meanwhile most will lend themselves to being potted.

 

Management

Do you have time to attend to your plants? Roses need round the clock pruning, deadheading, spraying and feeding. Others like Croton not so much.

Some Shrubs worth having-;

1 .Hibiscus

 Who has not encountered the glory of hibiscus?

Hibiscus are hardy shrubs  that occur on stream sides, moist woodlands and dry  rocky sites in  subtropical, tropical and warm temperate regions. Their range of colour is diverse; red, yellow pink, white, purple and blue. Their flowers are showy and long lasting - the reason for their enduring popularity. Funnel shaped, the flowers can be solitary or clustered. 

Where to plant: Grow your hibiscus in a mixed border in a sunny place or dedicated shrub border or pot. You can also insert them within the lawn or use them as a hedge

With over 200 species, the choice can be difficult to make.  The most popular though is Hibiscus rosa-sinensis (Hawaiian hibiscus, Rose of china, Chinese hibiscus). It is evergreen, bushy with glossy dark green leaves and gives  5 petaled  bright crimson  white, yellow or orange  solitary flowers.

Hibiscus can be prone to aphids, mealy bugs and white flies but these are rarely a serious issue.

 

2. Codiaeum (Croton)

Commonly known as Croton.  Crotons are euphorbias   occurring only in   6 species that are found in Malaysia and E. pacific. Their attractive often variegated leaves are deeply lobed and leathery. Crotons actually produce tiny star shaped yellow flowers, but these are overshadowed by their showy brightly coloured leaves.

Growing tips: Grows well in humus rich soil either in full sun or partial shade.  If your croton is dropping leaves, it’s probably due to draughts and fluctuating temperatures. Scale insects and red spider mites can be a problem.

Where to Grow: Use the as specimen plants in the lawn, as hedges, or in pots.

 

3.  Roses

The ever ubiquitous rose is a flower for the ages. Some rose varieties have been in cultivation for centuries. Roses are found on the four continents of Europe, Asia, North America                                                 and North Africa. Roses have attractive flowers that come in a range of colours.

Where to grow: You can grow roses as standards, in a shrub or mixed border or simply go rose crazy and have a dedicated rose bed.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Better still use your roses as climbers to garland your pergola, pillars, tree or walls. Whatever you apply your roses to, there is an added benefit; cut flowers for your vases. Indeed apart from their remarkable flower colours, roses are cherished as cut flowers garlanding offices, ballrooms, occasions and as symbols of compliments.

4. Sanchezia nobilis

A nice bushy shrub with glossy dark leaves with yellow, ivory or white banded midribs and main veins. It bears yellow flowers with red bracts. It originates from Peru and Ecuador.

Sanchezia brightens up a dull shade area owing to its dramatically contrasting leaf colour.

Where to Plant: The best spot is a place with dappled shade or full sun with midday shade. Use it in a border with other foliage plants.  

5. Acalypha

Another arresting marvel of a beauty. Though acalyphas give flowers, it is their leaf colours that are the prize. Acalpha’s alternate   leaves are simple and toothed, oval to ovate. The flowers are tiny and petal-less. They are borne in terminal or auxiliary catkin –like racemes and  are mostly small and less prominent. In some species though they can be large and brightly coloured.

Growing tips. Grow in full sun or partial shade. The soil should humus rich moist but well drained.

Where to Plant. Grow acalypha as a hedge, as specimen plants or in a border with other foliage plants.

6. Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea has small flowers surrounded by 3 colourful petal- like bracts. More often it is the colour of the bracts that you will notice from afar.  It consists of 14 species of evergreen trees, shrubs and thorny climbers from South America. However there are   many cultivars of bougainvillea as plant breeders keep developing new varieties.

 

 

Growing tips

  Bougainvillea’s popularity hinges on its hardiness. It literally thrives on neglect, and in the tropics you have to keep cutting it back. Grow in full sun in well drained soil. Root from semi ripe cuttings.

Where to Plant.  Bougainvillea is useful as a hedge, Standards, pot plant or as a specimen plant. Popular as driveway plantings.

7. Euphorbia leucocephala(Snow mountain/snow Flake)

You may actually think this plant is perpetually in flower but it is the white bracts that give this illusion as they enclose  greenish-white flowers not so visible from a distance. With white bracts and white flowers, is it any wonder that its name leucocephala means white head.

 

Growing tips. It prefers full sun and well drained soils. The more light they get the denser and more beautiful they become. No major diseases or pests of note.

Where to plant. It is ideal as a rear plant in a mixed border or a stand alone specimen plant providing contrast and consistent colour.

Note that the milk sap can be skin irritant so wear gloves while pruning.

 

8. Breynia Disticha (Ice Cream Bush)

Breynia  are grown for their small, simple, flattened and  delightful oval foliage that grow on wiry red-tinged stem. Evolving leaf colours start off as mottled pink, fading to white before turning light green. The species also has green-white variety. The flowers are insiginificant.

Growing tips . Requires full sun and well composted soil. In the semi shade or dappled shade. Frost tender so Nyahururu and Kinangop may not be suitable.

Where to plant Use in a border or help light up a shaded area.

Breynias are originally from Pacific islands, Asia and Australia.

 

9. Eranthemum(Pseuderanthemum)

 Forget about the leggy, foliage scarce eranthemums you see in nurseries and gardens. If you care   for this plant well, you will have thick showy shrub.

 They are cultivated for their beautiful tubular flowers. The leaves are prominently veined.

Where to plant : Grow in fertile, moist but well drained soil in full sun or shaded border.

Eranthemum  is occurs naturally  in forest and scrub  in  tropical Asia.

 

10. Brunfelsia pauciflora

Commonly known as Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow due to its evergreen nature. It has leathery, glossy deep green leaves. The wavy-margined flowers open purple and age almost to white.

It's scent is heavenly and gets more pronounced at night.

Growing tips: It grows well in full sun in a well-drained soil

Where to plant: It serves well as hedge, border planting or a specimen plant within the lawn.

11. Gardenia grandiflora (.syn G.jasminoides, G.augusta)common gardenia

Gardenia has fragrant and showy flowers. It is a medium to large shrub with lance, elliptic or ovate shaped, glossy deep green leaves. The flowers are strongly fragrant, going from white to ivory.

Growing tip: Requires full sun

Where to plant: Good for border or as specimen plants. Gardenias also form good hedges.

12.  Viburnum

Many variants of viburnum exist. Viburnum are grown for their foliage, fruits and flowers. The flowers may be fragrant-white or cream, pink or pink-flushed.

Growing tip: Grow in full sun or partial shade in well-drained soil. Viburnums tolerate hard pruning.

Where to plant: Viburnums are ideal for shrub border or woodland garden. Against the wall, many thrive well.

13.Ixora

Ixora are grown for their large vibrantly coloured, scented –four petalled salverform flowers. They occur naturally in tropical woodlands and mountains up to 3000m as evergreen shrubs.

Growing tips: They grow best in warm, humid climates. Keep them in shade in hot places and shelter from strong winds.

Where to plant: Grow in a shrub border or as free standing specimens.

 

14.Cestrum elagans

Locally known as “Queen of the Night”. It is a loved shrub due their tubular or funnel shaped flowers and the strong scent emitted at night. They also give red or purple berries ideal as food for wildlife.

Where to plant:  Grow in a sheltered border or against a sunny wall.

Cestrums are from Mexico, Central and South America.

 

TIME TO GROW YOUR OWN SALAD

If  you garden, the tinge of disappointment when a friend treats you to a ‘salad’ consisting of a few wilted lettuce leaves, some sliced tomatoes and pale cucumber- thrown in for good measure- cannot be gainsaid. For someone who eats their vegetables straight from the ground, it requires great effort to nibble at the cucumber and nod in ‘agreement’ as they narrate their love for salad.

The salads of today are varied from those of past years. While the old favourites like lettuce and tomatoes remain, people and their taste buds have become   more adventurous. Salad today includes a variety of delectable dishes.

 

Of course you may go for the  ready to use  salad packs from the supermarkets for convenience, but that is hardly reassuring, especially given you are eating them uncooked, and packed by someone else-in the era of Covid-19. However it is more rewarding when you eat the fruit of your labour. And they taste even better as you manage their growing conditions.

For a serious gardener, space can never be an issue. From containers, planters, baskets and multi-story gardens, a willing gardener will find a nook or cranny for a few seeds. You don’t even need a dedicated vegetable garden; you can mix vegetables with flowers. They will indeed add interest and texture (through the leaves) to the flowerbeds. If you are lucky to have a few square metres, the needs of your family can be met through this patch. And whichever way you raise your salad vegetables, it helps to be creative and experimental; use patterns, leaf textures and forms.

Its about time you grew your own salad!

Traditional favourites

Lettuce

An indispensable  salad crop. They form the base of green salads. Known to be rich in vitamin A and C although   nutritional value varies with variety. They also occur in several colours ranging from purple, green, deep green and variegated.

 Grow in cool moist place and well drained fertile soils. They require ample water in warm regions. They can be sown directly or transplanted from seed beds. You need to harvest your lettuce just before they go into flower, otherwise they will bolt, elongating the head lettuce, reduce the leaf sizes(which is what they are grown for) and cause  a bitter flavour

Radishes

Probably the easiest salad crop to grow, cultivated for its succulent taproot.  You can start using from as early as three weeks after planting.

Spring onions

Instead of onions, opt for the spring onion. You will use them for long as thinned out ones can be used in the salad. If you want to add some pizzazz to your otherwise ordinary salads, grow ‘Radish Easter Egg II’ which produces red, purple and white colours.

Tomatoes

Your tomato is actually a fruit. In many parts of Europe tomato was grown as an ornamental plant as it was thought to be poisonous. They are laden with Vitamin C . The juicy fruits are eaten raw as salads. Tomatoes are hot season crops that are not only delicious but high in anti toxicants too. Grow in rich, well composted soil that drains well. Mostly you will need to stake them to have the fruits and stem above ground.

 

Carrot

Their fern-like foliage adds interest to any flower bed. But be sure to grow them in deep, loamy to sandy soil. Ample water is necessary. Although many people are familiar with the orange coloured roots, there exists the yellow, white and purple varieties. Archeological digs have unearthed prehistoric seeds implying that the plant was used medicinally before cultivation for its edible root. The bright-orange colour in carrots signifies high carotene content. Use your carrots  for salads and as relishes.

A different kind of Salads

Flowers

Add colour and interest to your salad by using edible flowers. Pansies, violas calendula  and dianthus  petals  are commonly eaten flowers. Be sure to nibble on small quantities as eating in plenty can be harmful.

Peas

Freshly picked peas are highly nutritious. Besides they return nitrogen into the soil. Prepare the soil very well. And ensure the soil is well drained. Interlinked stakes give the crop room to climb up and have more pods

Oriental flavours

Have you eaten salads from the east? Well if not, there is always a first time.

Tender Green

This is a Japanese green with oblong-shaped leaves that are thick, smooth and glossy. It is eaten raw or cooked. It is popular in Asian countries  where its tender leaves  and flowering stems  are used as salads. Grow Tender green in full sun or light shade. A pot will do but the soil must be kept moist as well as well draining. Incorporate lots of compost to beef up the nitrogen in the soil. Harvesting is done at 40 days after planting. Plant in sequence so as to have a steady harvest. The salad is delicious when mixed with other greens.

Pak Choi “Shanghai’’

This is a leaf vegetable also referred to as snow cabbage.  It is commonly used in Chinese cuisine as a salad or stir-fry. It is type of cabbage but does not form heads. Leaf and stalk textures are crisp and it has a mild cabbage-spinach like flavor. Pak Choi is served in salads while still very young. It is high in Vitamin C, folic acid, beta carotene and other essential elements. It matures in 35 days giving you an early harvest.

Chinese Kale ‘’Green Lance”

Commonly known as Chinese broccoli. The stems are sweet and juicy. The top leaves and flower buds too have an excellent flavor. It is a fast grower and gives multiple harvests. Harvest the plant when flower buds appear. Discard lower leaves using only the top leaves. Green Lance is a natural, non gmo crop.

Chinese cabbage ‘’China Express’’

This is a key vegetable in oriental cooking. It is highly adaptable to various  growing conditions with high disease resistance. It has soft and soft leaf textures that renders it good for salads, soups and stir fries.

Whatever you  your taste, salads do add variety to  your cooking experience

HOW TO GROW AIR PLANTS

Air plants are the exotic beauties we all like to have up close.


 Bromeliads, orchids, tillandsias and staghorn ferns form the coterie of plants generally referred to as air plants because they are epiphytes.
 Epiphytes are plants that grow on top of other plants or on some host for support. They don’t need soil as a growing medium. Epiphytes have special roots that absorb moisture from the atmosphere while others harvest water and food through their leaves. Growing epiphytes is easy and while we are accustomed to seeing the up there, air plants are also grown in pots, and indoors too. The main consideration is that the roots should dry out-in between watering. The advantage with air plants is that you don’t need a garden to grow the. A support like a tree branch or a pole will suffice.


How to Grow Air plants
Let’s say you want to grow your air plants on a tree stump, a trunk of a living tree or a pole you have firmed on your balcony. First get the plant out of the container. In some nurseries they will be grown on driftwood which you take with you.  Whatever the case, take the plant from the container or support taking care not to damage the roots. Soak your support post, tree trunk or stump.  Then position the air plant onto the support placing some moss or coco peat  beneath it. The moss will give the plant some food before it begins surviving on its own. Hold the plant in position by tying it to the support with strips of stings around the root area. Soon the roots will attach themselves.
 An organic string should eventually disintegrate. In the hot season water your plants twice a week with a mist spray from a hose pipe or spray bottle. Feed them with foliar once a month.


Your favourite air plants
 

              Spanish moss(T.usneoides)                                       T.streptocarpa                                          Aechemia                                                      Staghorn fern                                             Orchid        

Tillandsias
 The old man’s beard (Tillandisia usneoides, Spanish moss) as well as other types with grey pointed leaves are actually bromeliads. They occur naturally in the scrub and woodland areas of South USA, The West Indies, Central and South America.  
T. Usneoides is a pendent(hanging) perennial with branching, toothless wiry stems roughly 3mm thick  with cylindrical, dense, grey-scaly green leaves .  It can have single, tubular, fragrant greenish-yellow or pale blue flowers. It grows to 8 m tall. Tie the Usneoides to a tree with a wire, low enough so you can mist it everyday. If not tied, strong  wind can blow it away as these are just delicate grey moss.
Other tillandsias are rosette shaped and rootless with pointed waxy grey leaves covered in tiny scales. These scales enable them to capture water and nutrients from the atmosphere. Tillandsias do well in the in moist partial shade. They are vulnerable to aphids while flowering.


Staghorn ferns (Platycerium bifurcatun)
A very popular plant from which many cultivars have been derived.  P. bifurcatum is the most common staghorn in East Africa.  They are grown mainly for their attractive, elegant foliage. 
Each plant bears both sterile and fertile fronds. The fertile fronds are spreading, hanging or erect. They are wedge shaped at the base, usually green-grey and leathery. When old they are shed off. The sterile fronds have flat basal leaves deep green and turn brown with age. They cover the base of the plant.
Staghorn grows to 90 cm high and can get as wide as 80cm. Spores are formed in large patches on the underside of fertile fronds and new runners will form on undersides of established nests.
To plant your fern on a tree, make a nest or mound of moss or peat on the tree trunk or support object. Tie the fern onto the trunk with a string. They require bright light but indirect sunlight. Drench the root ball at every watering, which should be twice week. Avoid splashing the leaves as this could cause blackspot. Once the established feed with weak foliar solution and only water once week-roots need to dry out between watering.
New runners can be cut off the mother plant and planted as above.
Staghorn ferns are found growing in tropical and temperate rainforests of Africa, Asia, Australia in South America.

 

Orchids
Most orchids are epiphytes. They have fleshy, aerial roots which fully or partially attach to the host tree.  The tropics give us orchids of spectacular and colourful display. You can use thick tree bark to hoist your orchid up a tree. Or make an orchid tree by anchoring them on several branches. Some hanging orchids like Stanhopea can be grown in hanging baskets.  Most outdoor orchid requires partial shade

 


Bromeliads
Bromeliads are mainly rainforests plants. A few are found in mountainous regions, semi deserts areas, marshes and seashores. Some are terrestrial. Most bromeliads can be grown as epiphytes if you cover their roots with moss. Insert your plants between tree branches or along tree trunks. Bromeliads have their leaves formed in a rosette (cup-like) manner that collects water. From this water they get their food. Oddly some bromeliads have small insignificant flowers but colourful variegated leaves while others have insignificant leaves with showy brightly coloured   flowers. Bromeliads flower once they are mature, and this can be a long time coming. After flowering, the rosettes begin to die but the plant starts forming offsets which can be propagated.
To have success with bromeliads, simulate the conditions of their natural habitat.  With the right conditions, bromeliads are almost carefree. Most epiphytes require partial shade as bright light may fade their foliage. Rainforest epiphytes need high humidity and watering is not necessary. Light misting is advisable only in hot weather. You don’t have to feed them but do fill the rosette cup with water for the plant to stay alive.

 

10 Trees Fit For Your Small Garden

You may have a postage stamp sized garden or the balcony may be your only outdoor space. Whatever the situation space should not be a reason to deny yourself the beauty of a tree garlanding your surroundings.  

For small gardens, small or slow growing trees should be the first consideration. Trees eventually grow into their normal sizes at maturity and the straggly seedling you buy may soon be a giant tree tomorrow. And there is no greater nuisance than having a large tree in a small garden. The roots, branches and leaves soon become a powder keg-damaging the roof, blocking the gutter, cracking the pavement, blocking pipes and so forth. Luckily small and medium size trees exist to fit any garden.
 
Site your tree in an open place. Don’t place it adjacent to the house, over water pipes or under power lines. If you do, it won’t have room to stretch its limbs or roots. Dig a hole 2-4 times wide than the root ball and 1 and half times as deep. Add organic matter to the base. Nail the stake off centre. Plant the tree, backfilling with soil and organic matter. Always ensure the level at which the soil was in the planting bag is the same level at planting. If you plant shallowly you risk exposing the roots and your tree will be constantly required watering. If you plant too deep, the buried part of the stem may start rotting under the soil. Firm up the tree and stake if necessary. Water regularly until established.
It is recommended that you plant a tree one half of the maximum tree height away from the house. For tree growing to 5metres plant it at least 2.5 meters a way from the house. This is because tree roots can often grow beyond a tress canopy.
 
 If you have a small garden, here are the trees you should go for;-
 
1. Thika palm (Felicias decipens) (Japanese fern tree)
An all time Kenyan favourite that dots the Nairobi landscape. Loved for its lush green and striking foliage. Its compact shape ensures that it is self limiting and ideal for a small space. The leaves appear fern-like giving it its local name Thika palm. Flowers, white with a pink tint are not a major feature as they are hidden in the dense foliage.  And many homeowners get surprised when told the tree does have flowers!
Planted in a row, Thika palm works as a windbreaks, screens and noise mufflers. A single specimen provides good shade in a lawn. It is slow growing and will rarely reach 10m in urban gardens. Thika palm is propagated from seeds. It occurs naturally in small parts of East African highlands, Sri lanka and Southern India.
               Thika palm                                                                Theveita                                                                  Cape Chestnut
 
2. Theveita Peruviana
Theveita occurs in 8 species of evergreen shrubs and trees from Northern and Southern America and the West Indies. The most common Theveita locally is the peruviana.
The tree has showy funnel shaped flowers with five overlapping petals. The seeds of Theveita are highly toxic. You can raise seedlings from cuttings or seeds. Theveita is trouble free once planted.
 
3. Mimosa  tree (Acacia podalyriiforia),Queensland Silver wattle
 An erect loosely branched evergreen hairy tree growing to 3-5 metres tall. Grown for its attractive grey-like foliage. The rich yellow flower heads are spherical and fragrant. Grow from seeds after soaking in warm water until swollen. It can an also be propagated from semi-ripe cuttings.
Mimosa tree is from the Acacia family found in Kenya, Southern Africa, Polynesia and Australia.
 
4. Cape Chestnut
The Cape chestnut is a magnificent sight to behold when in flower. In full flower the entire canopy turns pink. So enthralled with its beauty was Carl Peter Thunberg  that he shot severally at the branches until a bloom dropped into his hands, famously naming the tree as Calodendrum, “beautiful tree.” It is from the Cape in South Africa.
Cape chestnut is a good ornamental tree used as a specimen plant for its large and string flowers or for shade in the garden. When crushed and boiled the seeds give oils useful for soap making. The bark has medicinal value and is used as a component of skin ointments. Traditionally hunters used to carry the seeds in the belief it would bring them skill and good luck. It is propagated by seeds or cuttings. When grown in cold regions, it does not flower profusely. While in the forest it can grow to 20m, in open cultivation the tree rarely grows beyond 7 m high.
 
5. Tecoma stans-Tecomaria, Yellow bells, Trumpet bush
 This small tree has funnel-shaped bright yellow flowers that draw attention. It can be   an open tree or shrub with several slim trunks. The tecoma is ideal because it can be grown in a container on a balcony as long as it receives full sun. Rarely grows beyond 3 metres. 
Water tecoma freely during early growth.  Sow seeds or make cutting from semi hard branches. 
 
6. Bottle brush (Callistemon)
Bottle brush is endemic to Australia but has been naturalized around the world.  It is dense and multi-trunked with low branching pendulous growth. It is drought tolerant and therefore suitable for the dry areas.
Bottle brush trees are grown for their colourful terminal or auxiliary bottle –brush like   spikes of tiny flowers that can be pink, red, purple, white, green or yellow. Locally though the white, pink and red flower trees are the most common. 
Grow in full sun in well drained neutral to acidic moderately fertile soil.  It is propagated from seeds and semi ripe cuttings.
 
                                                                                                   Tecoma                           Bottle brush                                                      Mimosa
7. Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica)
So common place that it is hard to imagine this fruit tree is a native of Himalayas and East Asia.  It is grown commercially for its juicy orange-yellow fruit.  It has scented flowers and glossy green leaves.   
row in full sun to 8 m high.
 
8. Bauhinia variegata  (Orchid tree)
This is a spreading tree with rounded rich green leaves with heart shaped bases. It bears light magenta –purple-blue flowers for which the tree is mostly grown. Bauhinia may require restrictive pruning
 
9. Ficus Benjamina 
Long derided as a troublesome tree in parking and pavements, Ficus has been unfairly treated. If you are pressed for space, this tree comes in handy because it is can be customized to fit your space by limiting its growth through shaping. You can turn it into square, spherical or circular forms therefore adding interest to the garden. In addition restrictive pruning can also render it harmless in a small space. Its variant, Ficus Variegata has white splashed leaves that make for a perfect postcard picture!
More importantly Ficus in a pot will snugly fit onto your balcony space or porch. 
 
          Loquat                                                   Bauhinia                                                   Ficus                                                   Italian cypress  in the background
 
10.   Italian Cypress(Cupresses semperiverens ‘stricta”)
Even for the smallest gardens, the Italian cypress will fit. Slow growing, the tree can take the thinnest of spaces taking less than 1 meter wide. If you so wish you can limit its upper growth by chopping off the top at the desired height. Several trees lined together give off a Mediterranean appeal due to its conical or columnar shape. Again agood candidate for the pot!

CARING FOR YOUR CHRISMAS PLANT(Poinsettia)

You may have received poinsettia as a Christmas gift before. Or bought them yourself in the spirit of the season. Trouble is the plant never seemed to last. Most likely the flower bracts remained but the leaves dropped leaving you with flowers atop a naked stem

Finding himself in political trouble, the US Ambassador to Mexico Joel Roberts Poinsett packed his bags and returned home to South Carolina in 1928. Among his luggage were cuttings of a beautiful Mexican wildflower that interested him, and which eventually took his name, the poinsettia. But the Poinsettia   Robert brought from Mexico is a far cry from the Poinsettias of today.  For the last Century and a half Poinsettias were short lived. Keeping Christmas plants alive between Christmas and New Year required all the skills a gardener could muster.

Luckily a mutation was discovered in 1963 that kept its leaves for long. Further plant breeding resulted into the Poinsettias we have today.  What is remarkable about these plants are not the flowers, but rather the colourful bracts (leaves) which enclose   small yellow flowers. The red leaves are as a result of photoperiodism, whereby a plant responds to light quantity or lack thereof by turning from green to red or other hues.

Care for poinsettias.

Christmas plants should be kept away from drafts.  They need sun for half the day with temperatures ranging about 21 degrees during the day and 16 degrees at night.  When watering, avoid drowning the plant. Rather let it dry out between watering. This is not the time to feed it too.

If your plant has drops leaves, it possible warm dry conditions are behind it. Keep it in a cool place and monitor your watering.

Like other plants understanding their original climate helps in telling us how to care for them.  In their natural environments, poinsettias begin forming buds at the time when nights are getting longer before blooming in December.  We can mimic this environment indoors by giving them sunlight for shorter periods (9-10hours) and more hours of darkness from the last week of September. Some people will cover them at 5.00 o’clock every evening and uncover them at 7 the next morning.  Others simply keep them in the closet. What you need to know is that once you indulge in this practice, be sure to keep it that way every day till end of October. If light ever gets into their dark time, they will not form buds! However if you observe this routine, you can get your plants out at the beginning of November and treat them like other plants.

Once the flowering is over and bracts have faded, you don’t have to throws them out. Prune and repot them. Place them in a protected sunny place and feed them as await the cycle again in September. Even though the plants  may last for several seasons,they eventually run out of their prime. It is time to plant them out in the garden and make them part of the garden plants.

 

 

HOW TO GROW AND CARE FOR RUBBER TREES INDOORS

The Ficus tree family is huge and varied. Commonly referred to as rubber trees, the diversity in species makes them appear completely different trees for many people. Indeed it is hard to believe that the rubber tree you grow in a pot indoors is related to the sacred giant Mugumo tree, revered by the Agikuyu of Central Kenya.
The variation in appearance is mostly due to the different ecological regions in which individual tree species have grown and adapted. For instance the rubber tree was found growing in the jungles  of Burma  and Assam in the early years of the nineteenth century  while the Mugumo is a tree native to Central Africa. 

    

For years, the rubber tree was harvested for its latex-bearing sap, mostly used for erasers before attention shifted to  a more productive tree in the Hevea  genus. The most popular Ficus tree is the Ficus elastica decora, a mutation of the original Ficus elastica that was found in Java, Indonesia.  Decora   has large leaves maroon leaves that open from a red sheath.


Why are Ficus tree so  popular?
Rubber trees are popular for both indoor and outdoor gardens because they tolerate either shade or sun.   Their glossy leathery large leaves occurring in various colours of dark green, deep maroon or marked with yellow, cream or white create fascinating beauty. You can keep them at the size you want by feeding them sparingly, overfeeding results into very large trees. They thrive in humid conditions although they will tolerate the dry conditions normally found in homes. Their light requirements are also favourable. Bright light is ideal but they are adaptable to low light too.
The only thing rubber trees are fussy about is the water. The soil has to be kept barely moist. If they get to much water or too little, the leaves turn yellow and drop off. Many people tend to overwater their indoor plants, and for rubber trees you can guard against this by growing it in a small pot that won’t hold too much water that will drown it.
Indoors,  rubber trees prefer  warm temperatures. When placed in cold environments they go into semi dormant stage-they are alive but hardly growing.

Outdoors rubber trees can be left on their own once they take hold.
 

What makes for a straggly rubber tree with leaves forlornly clustered at the top?
You bought a top foot rubber tree yes, but it has been growing. When a rubber tree gets sizeable, any problem with water or light combined with the tree's growth pattern will result into a plant with a bare stem. At these stage its time to rejuvenate the plant or get new offspring.


Propagation of rubber trees
First you can simply cut the plant back at the height you’d like to have new growth begin. You will see white sap oozing out but this is normal. Water the remaining part sparing to avoid dampening the soil. Soon new growth will emerge below the point of pruning. Gradually increase the water supply. Your tree should bounce back much neater, bushy and all glossy.
However you can go the easy way by air-layering if you do not wish to have a bare stem. Select some nice branches that are firm with nice leaves. Makes incisions (cuts), tying coco peat and moss around the cuts in a plastic sheet. Your branch will start developing roots at this spot. You can then cut it off and plant in a new pot.
Rubber trees also lend themselves well to stem and tip cuttings although these methods are slow. Cut the stem or tip and simply insert it into the soil.


Problems with Rubber Trees
Care for your rubber tree doesn’t involve much as long as you watch your watering. Regularly wash or wipe the leaves to remove dust and help your plant breadth.
Diseases are rarely a problem with rubber or Ficus trees. Root rot usually results from too much watering or a soil mix that doesn’t drain well. This also results in yellowing of leaves and leaf drop .Too little light, dry air or cold dafts can cause leaf loss. Occasionally you may encounter mealy bugs but these can be washed off with soap and water.
Be careful though about the sticky white sap. It irritates the skin and stomach if eaten. Keep pets away and children away from the sap.

 

PESTS IN THE GARDEN

 

Gardening can be fun and tricky at the same time. One day everything  is rolling along just fine. Then you wake up in the morning and find troubles galore; an outbreak of pests devouring your prized plants, and disease almost killing your plants.

If you have plants, a variety of troubles are going to occur in you garden. The weather may play apart; slugs will emerge when it is wet, fungi when it is cold, aphids when it gets dry and red spider mites when it is hot. The nature of the plant will also play a part; some hardy shrubs like Oleander may remain trouble –free their entire lives while your favourite rose may be host to an assortment of pests and diseases. So whether an  expert or newbie to gardening, both can expect problems. The only difference is that the expert knows what to look for and do, proactively attempts to prevent attacks and tackles them as soon as they are spotted.

Garden troubles are tackled in two ways, culturally and chemically. Both methods are actually a must-you can’t use one and avoid the other.

As we had previously discussed the cultural practices in Trouble in Paradise here we tackle approaches to fighting pests using chemicals.

Common Garden pests in Kenya

So the pests have struck, what to do you do?

First you need to have an idea of what pests it is or just how they look like.  If you familiarize with the pests, you are likely to know how to handle them in the long run. Below is a run-down  of common garden pests in  Kenyan gardens.

Aphids

These sap-sucking insects are also known as green flies. They can be black, brown, gray or light yellow. Aphids suck sap from under the leaves and excrete a sticky substance on which sooty mold can grow.They may cause leaf distortion. All plants with soft stems and soft leaves are at risk of aphid attack

Beetles

They create holes or pits in various parts of a plant depending on the species

 

Catepillars

Are larvae of moth and butterfly species that feed on leaves, flowers and or fruit leaving powdery excreta.

 

Cut worms

Caterpillars of moth species that gnaw at tap roots, stem bases and lower leaves. Eventually the plant wilts and dies. Kales seedlings are likely to suffer cutworms

 

 

Mealy bugs

Sap sucking insects. Oval shaped and are covered in sticky white wax that repels water. They exude sticky honeydew causing leaf drop. Coleus and geraniums are vulnerable

 Larvae of flies, moths, beetles, and saw flies that tunnel  into leaves  producing white or  brown  linear blotched or irregular discolouration.

 

 

Slugs

Soft bodied pests that feed on low growing or underground leaves . Slime trails may be seen.

 

 

Spider mites

Hardly visible to the naked eye. Their presence can be detected by the fine, silky webs they spin on the undersides of leaves and around leaf axils. They cause leaf mottling, stunted growth and leaf drop.

 

 

Whiteflies

These are tiny white moth-like creatures that suck sap and excrete sticky honeydew. Found on underside of leaves .Many foliage and flowering plants are susceptible

 

 

 

Control of Plant pests

Organic  control

 

It is generally agreed and proven by practice that liquid soap (not detergent though) mixed with water deters a wide range of insect pests. Spay directly and evenly including the undersides of leaves ensuring complete coverage of the plant. The solution works by dissolving the outer layer of insect’s soft body.

Neem oil is also a good organic option. It works by distorting the insect’s natural processes like feeding, hatching and reproduction. 

Remember that these remedies are contact; they need to come into contact with the insect so we cannot emphasize enough the need for proper coverage.

If you have time and the energy, you can also make your own concoction of peppermint, clove, rosemary and water.

Chemical control

In controlling pests using insecticides, it is always good to understand how the insecticide works.

Insect -contact insecticides

This is for sap sucking insects such as aphids. They work by hitting and killing the pests. So you need to spray during and not before the attack. 

Leaf Contact insecticides

For plant chewing insects like caterpillars. They coat the insects’ source of food. You don’t have to hit the insect, but obtain good coverage of the leaves. Spay at the first sign of attack.

Systemic insecticide

This is the more recommended option. They work against sap sucking pests and plant chewing insects. They are taken up by the plant into the sap stream. New growth after treatment is protected, hidden insects killed and beneficial insects spared.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT TO CONSIDER IN LANDSCAPING YOUR GARDEN

 

An empty garden is like the proverbial blank page; anything is possible. And that is the problem!

For  first time gardeners and homeowners, the enthusiasm  of planting a garden can be dampened by the  challenge of  what to have  or plant and where, the expenses involved  and time needed for upkeep. These however need not bog you down. With a little planning you can still end up with an idyllic garden that suits you just fine; utility wise, aesthetically and in its maintenance regime.

Whether you are starting out a fresh, renovating an old garden or just out to improve an existing one, it is vital to identify what you hope to achieve and whether your budget and time will be adequate for its installation and upkeep. You can hire professional help to lay out the garden for you, but knowing the basics will ensure you keep the tabs on the goings on and that the script they go by is entirely yours.

Why do you need the garden for?

Why do you need the garden for in the first place? The answer to this question will guide you in your planning. All of us have our preferences and these naturally will express themselves in the garden plan. If you are a plant collector who is taken in by the glory and drama of flower and foliage colour as plants bloom into and out of season you may want to experiment with different plantings. For such the garden will have extensive flower beds and borders leaving little room for lawns and hard landscaping (paving, parking and paths). On the other hand you may not be keen on flowers and as such your space will be dominated by trees, lawns and shrubs.

What do you need in the garden?

Of what use will the garden be to you? A garden is more than aesthetics. It is an extension of the house. How we design and decorate our houses is an expression of our personality. This equally applies to our gardens. If you enjoy the outdoors a lot then incorporation of outdoor facilities will take priority. These include outdoor furniture for alfresco dining and cozy sitting areas, walkways, pergolas, and water features for quiet contemplation.  A young family may need space for a children’s play areas where items like swings, sandboxes, and see saws can get them to safely expend their energy.

Similarly, if you are fond of culinary delights, the urge for a vegetable garden cannot be resisted necessitating allocation of space for it.

As long as it serves you right, whatever you decide to put in the garden is a matter of personal choice.

Existing Ground

You will be lucky if your site has the ideal landscape conditions; almost level ground, deep rich soil and ample water. Most sites have shortcomings in one form or another. Sometimes the slope will be too steep, or the soil is   too shallow or stony. Perhaps water shortage is a major issue or you have unsightly views. It is advisable that you strive to enhance the good features of your sight while working to minimize the worst aspects.

For instance a slope could be terraced to provide enough planting space or be planted with soil holding plants. Alternatively you may opt for retaining walls to enlarge your ground. For shallow soils raised beds can be used while for stony and water deficient areas your best bet would be to use succulents, cactuses, bougainvillea and lantanas. These are hardy plants. Ugly walls and fences can be softened by use of flowering creepers or screened out by tall trees and hedges.

Note that it is always easier and cheaper to incorporate nature that work against it.

Time and Money

Every garden requires maintenance and unless you are prepared to fold your sleeves and carry secateurs all weekends, it is better to go for a planting scheme that will not require intensive upkeep-the so called no fuss gardens. Here instead of having huge flowerbeds, plantings and big lawns, you can have most of the garden dominated with groundcovers, succulents hardly shrubs and paving. Paved surfaces will still give you outdoor living but at less upkeep cost. Similarly ground covers are cheaper to look after than a lawn.

If you have a gardener able to carry out most of the demanding (and sometimes specialized work), you can run riot and indulge your passion with varied and elaborate garden features like rock gardens, water features gazebos and vegetable gardens. Needless to say, everything boils down to money. How much are you ready to invest in your garden?

You may have once bought a small seedling   worth small change and concluded that plants are cheap. Now you need to fill an entire garden with shrubs in their tens the reality suddenly sinks in-buying plants is an expensive affair. And you haven’t started on other garden elements like car ports, fences, paving and lawns.

One way to you can bear the garden installation cost is to do the garden in phases.  The basic framework is laid, and then gradually you keep customizing your garden by adding items as you go along. You can also reduce the costs of your project by making propagations of your favorite plants well in advance.  I know of people who started off with a simple strelizia or cycad plant, but were patient enough to let them multiply. Later they broke them into single pieces and replanted. Besides in buying plants, the plant in the big bag, is not necessarily the best option. Eventually all plants grow anyway so why not buy the small cheap one and tend it yourself.

If you go this route, you will be surprised at how easy and economical installing your garden gets to be.

SECRETS TO A FLAVOURFUL HARVEST

 

You spend the entire  season tending to the needs of your  of your vegetable 

crops-feeding, weeding, watering and fighting off pests-then comes  your moment of truth: Has the  fruit of your labour reached its peak of ripeness? And will it have that toothsome delicious taste the consumer yearns for?

Whether you garden for your kitchen or the market, attaining the crops natural sweetness should every grower’s goal.

While fresh farm produce will be snapped up at the market, it is the sweet natural flavor that will see the consumers trooping to your garden and your family relishing your meals. Indeed in matters of vegetable production taste and freshness are two sides of the same time.

 

The best tasting plants are happy plants. These are plants raised under optimum conditions. To create optimal conditions for your plants you need to first of all amend your soil. Many diseases that affect plant flavor thrive in poorly drained soil. This can be addressed by incorporating organic matter like compost which enhances drainage. In addition nitrogen rich organic matter reduces bitterness in certain crops like potatoes by lowering levels of their bitter tasting glycoalkaloids .

Furthermore strive to manage moisture. Use either soaker hoses or drip irrigation which delivers water at the roots. This encourages plants to develop extensive root system that guards against drought stress.  Practice mulching where possible. Mulching stabilizes soil moisture, reduces watering needs, and improves the flavor of vegetables by encouraging earthworms. Earthworms, by their burrowing   actions help reduce plant stress by improving soil drainage and making essential soil nutrients more accessible to the plants.

Of course nothing affects flavor like disease. Here your best bet would be to control diseases with cultural practices. Start off with certified disease free seed, and look for disease resistant varieties. At planting space generously and during growth stake if need be so there is ample air circulation. Keep the foliage dry by using the above watering techniques to prevent powdery mildew developing on plant leaves or soil borne pathogens from splashing onto leaves. Many pathogens need a period of moisture on the leaves and fruit to infect. Watering in the morning after dew has dried completely allows wet leaves to dry off before diseases have a chance to establish. And maintain hawk-eyed vigilance in the garden –it will help you help and nip diseases in time.

Nutrients deficiency will leave your plants discolored and weak. On the other hand over -fertilizing   gives vigorous green soft -disease-friendly growth - especially for tomatoes and lettuce.  You don’t want your plants stressed but you also don’t want luxurious growth that will make them susceptible to   diseases. Stunted growth yellowing lower leaves and over all light green colour indicate nitrogen deficiency. Reddish purple or extremely dark green leaves signify phosphorus deficiency while weak stems and yellowing leaf tips, turning brown imply potassium deficiency/

One trick to use here is to interplant vegetables with high nutrient needs like corn with crops that add nitrogen to the soil, such as beans.

Try to moderate extreme temperatures by use of shade cloth. This is often used top preserve flavour in lettuce, greens and other cool season crops by keeping temperature and moisture at desired levels. For instance lettuce plants tart shifting their biochemistry to deal with hot, stressful conditions. These biochemical shifts can result in bitter compounds, less sugar and coarser leaves that follow plant stress.

Providing great growing conditions is only half the battle, you must also grow flavourful varieties. Find information about tasty varieties from fellow growers, garden centres , agro-vets  and extension officers. You can also try experimenting with two or three different varieties.

In a nutshell poor production practices put stress on plants. Such stress can trigger vegetables to produce high levels of certain compounds or different compounds than they normally produce under healthy conditions –which later flavor, for the worst.

 

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