Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Newspaper Article

Interesting article up in the Waterloo Record today:

The humble barrel has served humanity for centuries with little need for innovation. Vessel for Niagara Falls daredevils, garment for Denver Broncos fans, material for downtown Waterloo sculpture -- the cooper's creation has performed its duty admirably.

As a landscaping object, however, the traditional barrel leaves much to be desired.
Read Full Article

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Gourd Birdhouses

Looking for a simple and attractive birdhouse for your yard? Why not try one made out of a gourd?

For this you need:
  • a dried gourd (you can plant gourds in your garden in the spring, and dry one of those out, or you can purchase already dried gourds.
  • a drill
  • a small spoon or stick
  • cord or wire
First step is to clean your dried gourd. Was it with warm, soapy water, and let it completely dry.

Drill a hole in the gourd that is 1-2 inches in diameter. The hole should be placed about just a big above the halfway point on the gourd, as most birds like to hop down into the gourd. Clean out the inside of the gourd (using a stick or a small spoon).

Drill a couple of really small holes in the bottom of the gourd. This will help with drainage, and will keep the inside of the gourd dry.

Drill two small holes in the top of the gourd that you can thread your cord or wire through. This will be used to hang the gourd.

Put two layers of varnish on your gourd, to help it last longer. Wait at least 24 hours between each layer of shellac so that it dries completely.

Your birdhouse is now ready to hang!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Saving Water Never Felt So Good!

There are two reasons why rain barrels make sense:

(1) Global shortage in drinking water- Global warming is turning fertile land into arid deserts, and
(2) Environmental reasons- Man-made creations are altering ground-water run-off patterns, which is damaging the environment.

Prior to urbanization, rainfall soaked into vegetation and slowly flowed underground. This natural filtration process removed sediments and pollutants that can clog streams, reduce oxygen in the water, and poison aquatic ecosystems.

Unfortunately, in urban communities, paved surfaces such as driveways, sidewalks, and streets prevent stormwater runoff from naturally soaking into the ground. Instead, the downspouts of houses are usually directed into sewers, which is discharged untreated into bodies of water. Sediments, debris, and harmful wastes from this stormwater can cloud the water, and damage local eco-systems. Excess nutrients can cause algae blooms; these algae blooms suffocate fish and other aquatic wildlife by stealing their oxygen.

One way you can eliminate harmful stormwater run-off is to invest in a rain barrel. Rain barrels prevent stormwater from entering directly into the water table, thus helping the environment. And rain barrels can look nice! The Agua rain barrel, depicted in the image above, is very elegantly designed, with smooth clay-like contours. It's made in Canada (Cambridge, Ontario) and is designed to withstand a Canadian winter. Call 519-624-2554 to inquire.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pond Filtration – How much do you need of what kind?

Figuring out what kind of pond filter you need can sometimes be a little overwhelming. There are so many different filters that claim to do so many different things, so how do you know which one is right for what you need?

Filters can be broken down into three main categories – mechanical filtration, biological filtration and UV clarification. Mechanical filtration easily removes any large particles in your water, while biological filtration breaks down organic material that may be in your water. UV Clarification sterilizes algae, and causes small particles to clump together which makes it easier for a mechanical filter to remove the particles. The best filters that you can get have all three types of this filtration in them.

Pumps can also be classified by how they are used and installed. For example, a pre-filter is usually something that is attached to a pump, and filters the water so that it doesn’t clog the pump. They do not remove waste from the water, and usually are only mechanical filtration.

The submersible filter is a pump that can sit in the water of your pond. If you decide to use this type of pump, you need to remember to keep it somewhere accessible for you so you can clean it occasionally.

An in-line filter is one that is pressurized. This filter is typically installed outside of your pond, near the pump out-take. This filter should not be installed inside your pond, especially if there is a UV light included in it. Because this filter is pressurized, it can be used to feed water to a watercourse or directly back into your pond.

External filters are typically the largest ones you can get. Again, this is not something that is installed inside your pond. If your pond is larger than 1000 gallons, this is what is usually recommended. What’s really great about this kind of filter is that it is probably the easiest type to clean, as it’s the easiest to get to.

So what kind of filter is best for your pond?

If you have a small pond, you would probably be okay with just a pre-filter or a submersible filter. As soon as you start adding plants, fish or more volume, however, you’re going to want a larger filter, preferably with all three types of filtration (mechanical filtration, biological filtration and UV clarification).

Friday, September 12, 2008

There's More To Gazing Globes Than Meets the Eye

One garden decor fad that has hit gardens across North America is the gazing globe (or gazing ball): a colorful, mirrored sphere that typically sits on an iron stand. But there's more to a gazing globe than meets the eye. I installed one in my backyard and found that they make for great conversation pieces because there's an entire story behind them.

In the 13th century, kings and royalty would use gazing globes in their backyards to repel evil spirits. Many believed that these orbs would also repel witches, so they would adorn them near entrances in hopes they would scare witches away. has several variations of gorgeous, glimmering, and decorative gazing globes for sale.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Compost Tea

I’ve had a lot of people asking me lately what the benefit of compost tea is, and how to make it.

So, what’s so great about compost tea, anyway? Well, it’s a very easy way to add nutrients to your garden. It can be used either by spraying it on the leaves of your plants, or watering your plants with it. Personally, I like using it for my houseplants and container garden where I don’t get to use my compost as mulch.

There are a lot of tea brewers out there, and other instruments that claim to help make your tea brewing easier, but you really don’t need these. It’s a very simple process to make effective compost tea.

What you need:
  • Burlap bag

  • Large Bucket

  • 1 part compost

  • 5 parts water
Place your compost into the burlap bag, and let it soak in the bucket of water for a few days – I wouldn’t recommend longer than 5 days. By five days, you’ve already got all of the good nutrients into the water. At this point in time, your compost tea is ready to use! Just put your compost tea in a watering can, or a spray bottle, and go at your plants. Keep in mind that compost tea does not keep for a long time – if you don’t use it up almost immediately, it can become anaerobic.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Algae in Your Pond?

Those of us who have water gardens know that algae can be quite the problem. Green water is not what we want to see when we head out to our pond to check up on our plants or our fish.

Algae are simple organisms that feeds off of sunlight, producing oxygen and food that is good for plants and fish. However, when there is too much algae we start to get a problem – most commonly known as an algae bloom – in the form of bright green water.

While this is a completely natural occurrence, it can have dangerous consequences if it is left unchecked. The oxygen that algae produces during the day can quickly be used up by the algae itself over night if there is a lot of algae. I’m sure you can imagine how this might be a problem for your plants and fish.

But what causes these algae blooms?

There can be a number of things that cause this. Firstly – too many nutrients in the water, such as phosphorus, nitrogen and carbon. Fish waste, dead plants, fertilizers and decaying fish food all product the nutrients when they are decomposing.

Secondly – too much sunlight makes for overactive algae.

Thirdly – not enough oxygen in the water.

And how can you prevent it?

You can prevent the decomposition of too many nutrients by skimming the top of your pond every so often to remove any dead plants and leaves. You can also reduce the number of fish that you have in your pond, and therefore creating less fish waste in your pond.

Add more plants to your pond. This will help by providing more competition for the oxygen that the algae produces, as well as providing more shade to your pond – remember, algae needs sunlight! If you can add other items that would block sunlight, that’s a great idea too. There are products that you can add to your pond’s water that claim they actually do this, but I am not completely sure how these work as I haven’t really ever tried that method – but I may in the future as it sounds really easy!

In order to create more oxygen in your ponds, you can also increase the amount of oxygen in your pond. You can do this by adding a small fountain or waterfall in your pond. Not only will this help eliminate algae, but it will also help your fish be healthier. If you don’t want to add a small fountain or waterfall, there are pond pumps that have been created specifically to oxygenate your water.

While there are things you can add to your water to eliminate algaecide, it’s not always a permanent solution. You can, however, find this usually at your local garden center. If you want to go with something a little bit more organic, usually barley extract or barley straw works just as well as a man-made algaecide.

You also have the option to add a filter with a UV clarifier in it. Keep in mind, if you choose this option, that the filter must have a UV clarifier, otherwise you won’t eliminate the algae. The UV light that the clarifier produces causes the algae to clump together, and then allows it to be caught in your filter.

Any of these solutions should help to keep your pond clear and algae-free, so you can enjoy it more fully.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How to Stop Rabbits from Eating your Garden

The past couple of years, we have had a problem with rabbits in our neighbourhood. It started off small, just a rabbit here or there, but now... well, you know what rabbits are like. And we've discovered that they are all quite fond of our hosta garden. I've been looking into ways to get rid of them, and we'll definitely be trying them in the next couple of weeks. We definitely want to keep away from installing a fence if possible – a lot of people recommend this for vegetable gardens, but we wouldn’t be able to enjoy our hosta garden quite as much if it was fenced in.

Here are some of the things we're thinking about trying:
  1. Garlic bulbs or concentrated garlic oil around the garden.

  2. Old items of clothing – shoes, shirts, etc – in the garden. If an item smells too much like humans, then the rabbits will tend to avoid the area. (This may not work in areas like ours where the rabbits don’t seem afraid of us at all.) Cut hair also works – you can get this from a hairdresser.

  3. Urine or dried blood from a rabbit's natural predator – coyotes, foxes, wolves, etc – sprinkled around the garden bed. You can usually buy this at a garden centre. Probably not the best way to do get rid of rabbits in a vegetable garden; make sure to wash anything that you eat first! This may also make your garden smell.

  4. Flakes of soap. You can either buy these, or grate your own soap, but make sure that the soap is pure, with a neutral pH level and it doesn't contain anything that may damage your plants. Reapply soap flakes after heavy rain.

  5. Moth balls and moth flakes apparently keep rabbits away, but be careful not to place them around vegetable gardens, or where any children or pets may get to them. You might also want to avoid putting them near an open window, as they may make your home smell.

  6. If you can spend the time doing so, create a raised bed garden. Even just a slight difference of about one and a half feet will prevent the rabbits from eating your plants.

  7. Place things in your garden that rabbits might mistake for other animals – a hose will look like a snake, for example.

  8. Use empty pop bottles in your garden, either as mobiles or half buried in your garden. The wind blowing over the opening of the bottle, or the bottles banging together will scare the rabbits away.

  9. Some home remedies that people have been using are listed below. Please note that using hot sauce or cayenne peppers may scar the leaves on your plant initially, but should grow back. These mixtures should be applied to your plants for a few days in a row – after this point, the rabbits should have learned not to go near your plants – after that, only apply when the rabbits starts coming back.

    • 1 Tbsp hot pepper sauce or hot Tabasco sauce mixed with warm water

    • 1 clove garlic, 1 Tbsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp dish soap, 1 quart warm water all pureed together

  10. Rabbits really like clover, so if you plant some of that the rabbits will be more likely to eat that than your plants.
As I said above, we want to avoid installing a fence, but if you think the fence would work best for you, it's a good idea to dig a trench around your garden that you’re going to install the fence in. Remember, rabbits are diggers, and they can squeeze under fences that have even the smallest space in them. If the fence is about two feet above ground, it should be tall enough that the rabbits won't be able to jump over.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Terra Composter Revealed has released images of the Terra composter that they are going to be carrying next year. Compared to other composters, I think it looks like a nice, stylish change from the big black one I’ve currently got in my backyard. That said, I'm going to have to wait to see the price before I decide whether or not to purchase it.

What I really like about this, as I said above, is that it LOOKS nice. A lot nicer than what I currently have hidden in the back corner of my yard. I bought one of the rain barrels that carries (the smaller one), and this looks like it's made of the same plastic. If it is, then I know that it's not going to be too heavy, and that it will stand up to a lot of abuse that I may put it through.

The back door is apparently designed in a way to make it hard for rodents to get into, which is definitely a plus for it. I've had problems with raccoons in the past, so anything that will detract from the raccoons getting into my composter is appealing to me.

I've never bothered to make compost tea before – I know, it's supposed to be great for container gardening, and for house plants, but it just always seemed like much too much work for me to bother. It looks like this new composter, however, has an area to collect compost tea, and a spout to drain it from the composter. I can definitely see how this would benefit someone who is as lazy as I can get. ;)

The one part I’m not sure whether I like about this composter is that it looks like it would be a little difficult to turn the compost, as it looks a lot thinner than it is tall. It might be hard to get all of the compost mixed together properly.

What do you think about this compost bin? Is there anything in particular that you like or dislike about it?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Lexmark, one of the larger suppliers of printer ink cartridges is doing a good job of taking their used cartridges and recycling them. They've been using their cartridges to create eLumber - a material that can be used in landscaping projects where you would normally use regular lumber. This material is water-resistant, insect-resistant and is very durable. While the product is originally black, it can apparantely be formed and painted to realistically look like rocks or wood.

eLumber should be emerging in the consumer market later in 2008. It will cost more than real wood, but it would probably be worth that extra cost.

Story found via

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Backyard Water Features

The sound of trickling water can have a calming sensation, and it’s always a bonus feature in any backyard garden. There are many different ways you can incorporate water into your backyard garden, and each option can be customized to make it as original as your garden is.

1. Ponds

Probably one of the most common water features. A pond gives you so many options – whether you want to have just a pond, several ponds connected to each other, a bog, or a waterfall or stream feeding into the pond. You can go for something very small, or a large pond, depending on how much room you have to work with – but remember, you want the size of your pond to complement the size of your yard. If you make it too large, it could just make your yard look claustrophobic, whereas something too small may get lost in a larger yard.

2. Fountains.

Another one of the more common water features is having a fountain in your yard. Whether it’s a small one to just provide the sound of running water, or a large one that becomes the centerpiece to your yard, there are so many designs to choose from that you’ll be sure to find one that perfectly suits the personality of your garden.

3. Pondless Waterfalls.

If you don’t have the room in your garden for a pond, but would still like a visible waterfall, this would be the ideal situation. Pondless waterfalls are made by creating a large hole in the ground; lining it and the waterfall you’ve made with liner and placing a pump in it (keep in mind that the pump should be in some sort of protective casing to keep it from getting damaged). Fill the hole with stones. Then, when the water comes down the waterfall into the stones, it looks like it’s just disappearing into the ground instead of a hole where it’s then pumped back up to the top of the waterfall.

4. Urban Ponds.

Living in an apartment or a home without a backyard where you can create your own water feature? Try an urban pond. Whether in a large wooden barrel (lined with liner) or in a preformed urban pond tub, these are perfect additions to any balcony or deck where you can’t normally install a water feature. By adding some plants or fish, you’ve quickly transformed your small area into a bright, colourful conversation piece!

5. Rain Chains

Rain chains are attached to your eavestrough instead of a downspout. Not only does this have a practical use by keeping water away from your house, but it is also very attractive. You can either make your own simple one, or purchase a decorative one.

Friday, July 18, 2008

10 Ways to help the environment with your garden

  1. Use Solar Lighting. Solar lights are wonderful because they don’t have any emissions, and so don’t contribute at all to global warming. They also use solar lighting – a renewable resource!

  2. Keep all power tools properly maintained in order to keep them running efficiently. Inspecting and cleaning your power tools regularly will help them to run the best that they can for the longest period of time.

  3. When planning your garden, be sure to include trees and shrubs. When placed correctly, these can reduce the heating and cooling costs for your house. Plant deciduous trees in areas that will shade your windows in the summer, but will let in sunlight during the winter, and plant trees and shrubs to help block wind.

  4. Save Water. I recently posted a list of 15 ways to conserve water in your yard and garden.

  5. Compost. You can compost food scraps, and garden waste that would otherwise go to landfills. This not only reduces your garbage, but it also will give you material to help your garden grow healthier.

  6. Grow your own vegetables. This will help to reduces carbon from fertilizers, and transportation.

  7. Use a push mower. As push mowers are completely manually powered, using one of these will eliminate the gas or electricity you use when mowing your lawn.

  8. Think about an alternative lawn. Grass is one of the least water efficient plants you can include in your yard. Lawns have to be watered much more often than other plants, and you have to use a lawn mower frequently to keep up the appearance of a well-kept yard. Think about clover, ornamental grasses, creeping thymes or moss.

  9. Prevent Runoff and Erosion. Runoff can carry harmful chemicals, pesticides and excessive amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen into waterways, and erosion removes the top soil and can clog waterways with it. Prevent this from happening by using plants that cover the entire ground surface.

  10. Eliminate the harmful chemicals you use in your lawn/garden. Any chemicals you use to get rid of weeds, eliminate pests or help plants grow can have adverse reactions to other plants or animals that come into contact with it. Getting rid of weeds using vinegar, hot water or just pulling up the weeds will work better in the long run than chemicals; There are many organic pesticides that you can either buy or make at home; to help plants grow, try using compost or compost tea.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

GreyWater, what is it? What can you do?

In general terms greywater refers to wash water. Wash water being water used for washing dishes, washing your clothes, and shower water. What doesn't qualify as greywater is toilet waster water and food waste water derived from garbage grinders.

The term often used when describing toilet waste water is "blackwater" their is a clear distinction between grey and blackwater. Blackwater contains very high levels of nitrogen and various pathogens which are difficult to filter and are very harmful if mixed with drinking water.

Diagram below illustrates a scenario for recycling greywater:

For further greywater information, and a full greywater planning guide visit:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Safety in the Garden

As the summer draws closer, we tend to spend more time in our garden – not just working out there, but also relaxing and enjoying the fruits of our efforts. While we think of our home and our garden as a safe place for us, this is usually where most accidents happen. Here are some simple things that you can do to keep your garden a safe place to enjoy, both for yourself and for any young ones who may be running around.

  • If you use any products in your garden or on your lawn that contains chemicals, keep these products locked up at all times, so that any children cannot get at them, and always use these products only as the directions say.

  • Always wear protective footwear, gloves and eye protection when working in the garden. Wear kneepads if you’re going to be doing any kneeling.

  • Keep tools out of children’s reach; put all tools away as soon as you are finished using them, and learn how to use them properly. Always check your tools before using them to make sure they are not broken; when cleaning them, make sure they are unplugged.

  • Check your lawn and garden for anything that may cut or trip you – loose rocks, nails, slaps of stone, etc. Also, don’t work in the garden in wet or icy weather – this can not only be dangerous on your own, but it can be even more so if you’re using power tools.

  • When working on a ladder, only work with what you can reach comfortably that is directly in front of you. Instead of reaching, re-position the ladder. When positioning your ladder, make sure that it is on an even surface, and that it has rubber feet to prevent slippage.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cool Gardening Projects and Accessories

Just wanted to point out a couple of really cool things that I've discovered or read about recently online.

First, is the Hepper Roost Bird House. I love the design of this bird house - modern and eye catching, and looks like it would go great in any modern chic yard. (Can be found at Design Public.)

Secondly is the DIY Terrarium that can be found at the decor8 blog. This is definitely something I am going to be creating for myself at some point in the near future.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Creepy Letter at the Bottom of the Pond


Recently, a friend of ours, Simon, moved to Over, just North of Cambridge, UK. He was moving to a lovely property, with a nice garden and a pond.

Simon wasn’t so keen on the pond though. It’s not very child friendly, and with two young ones running around the garden, he thought it would be safer to get rid of it.

A few buckets and hours of sweating later, Simon lifted the pond lining to discover a laminated piece of paper sitting at the bottom of the gaping hole that once was the previous owner’s pond.

So you want to install a backyard pond? You're going to need a pond pump!

A pond pump is a paramount component of any water feature, because without a pond pump, your water will be stagnant and mosquitos will thrive. If you choose the wrong pond pump, you may not have sufficient water circulation for your needs. Therefore, it is worth taking the time to choose the proper pond pump to suit your needs.

Prior to purchasing a pond pump for your water garden, there are several trade-offs that you need to take into consideration:

1. Functionality
2. Cost
3. Durability

The most important thing to keep in mind when buying your pond pump is that it must suit the needs of your water feature. It is recommended that the pumping capacity of the pond pump (in gallons per hour, or GPH) be at least half the volume of your pond, in gallons. Stagnant water attracts mosquitoes. Therefore , an adequately sized pump is critical to ensure that your pond water gets circulated at least once every two hours. If you have fish or a waterfall, your GPH requirements will obviously need to be increased. Consult the pump specifications of each pond pump (available on reputable pond websites) to ensure that these requirements are met.

You must also select an appropriate type of pond pump for your application. Do you have a large waterfall? Then you should look into a waterfall pump. Do you need a pump to circulate water through a fountain? Then consider a submersible pond pump. Are you raising fish? Then consider a fish pond pump.

Whatever you do, do not purchase the cheapest pump in the market. Ensure that any pump that you do purchase is energy-efficient. Note that magnetic-driven pond pumps are not only the most energy-efficient pumps, but also operate the quietest. Magnetic-driven pumps are also more durable than other pumps (E.g. direct-drive pumps), and should last for at least 2 years. Any pond pump that you do purchase, if it’s a reliable product, should also come with at least a 2-year warranty.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Outside Water Conservation

With more emphasis being put on becoming more environmentally friendly these days, water conservation is a subject on everyone’s mind. It doesn’t have to be difficult – in fact there are many simple things you can do around your home to help with saving water, especially outside in the summer. We’ve put together a list of the top 15 things that you can do outside to save water this year.

1. Get a rain barrel. Saving rain water reduces the amount of water you would otherwise get from your hose. This is especially beneficial during those dry drought periods you may get during the summer.

2. Water your garden either first thing in the morning, or during the evening. Watering your garden or lawn during the hottest part of the day will only result in most of the water evaporating, and won’t do your lawn and garden any good.

3. Get your car washed at a car wash that uses recycled water, or use a product like the California Car Duster. The Car Duster removes dust from your car, helping it maintain a clear appearance without the necessity of rinsing it with water!

4. Don’t spray your driveway, sidewalk, deck or porch with either your sprinkler or hose. If your driveway is dirty, or covered in leaves, sweep the mess up with a broom or blow it off with a leaf blower. If you are watering your lawn or garden, position your sprinkler so it doesn’t water your driveway, street or sidewalk.

5. Most neighbourhoods have watering schedules, where you can only use water outside on certain days during the summer. Find out what these days are, and observe them.

6. When mowing your lawn, set the blade to the highest possible height. Longer grass will grow deeper roots, and will help shade the soil enough to prevent water evaporation. Keep the blades on your mower sharp to prevent tearing of grass, which has a tendency to look unhealthy. Lastly, don’t use a bag on your lawn mower to collect grass clippings – let the clippings fall onto your lawn. These clippings will help fertilize your lawn and keep moisture in the soil.

7. Use a water-efficient sprinkler. Some sprinklers, such as the Rainforest brand of sprinklers, will save up to 30% less water when using them compared to a typical sprinkler, but splitting the water drops into a mist that helps to improve the quality of watering you give your lawn or garden.

8. Make your garden larger. Grass needs more water than most other plants. Why not try adding a paved area to your yard, or a mulch bed around your trees to help reduce grassed areas?

9. Check for leaks on a regular basis – this includes around all faucets, connectors, hoses, sprinkling systems, and around your swimming pool.

10. Plan your garden properly – group plants that have similar watering needs together. Also, try to do your planting in either the spring or the fall, when these plants are going to need the least amount of water.

11. Weed your garden regularly. By weeding regularly, you will remove other plants that are competing with your own plants for water, which will in turn mean that you need to water your garden less.

12. Choose any water features that you install in your garden carefully. While everyone loves the sound of trickling water, if the water is running too fast, there is the chance that you will lose a lot of it while it bounces out of the water feature or evaporates.

13. Don’t over-water your lawn. Usually lawns only need to be watered once every 3-5 days. When you are using a sprinkler, don’t forget that it’s on. Use a timer to remind you to shut if off, if you need to.

14. Use mulch in your garden instead of soil. Much helps with the absorption of water, and prevents it from evaporating as quickly as may otherwise happen.

15. When watering plants, make sure you are watering the base of the plant, where the water can quickly get to your roots. By watering the leaves of the plant, your plant is less likely to get the water that it needs, and it will more easily evaporate.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

My Herb Garden

Living in an apartment, I didn’t have the space for an all-out garden – I didn’t even have a balcony where I can make a container garden. I did, however, have a LOT of counter space in my kitchen, especially behind my sink, where I had a good foot of space between my sink and my window. I took good advantage of this counter space over the first few years living in that appartment, but my favourite use of it, because of the amount of sunlight I got, was for my little herb garden.

I will admit that this was my first foray into real gardening – other than the occasional potted plant, I hadn’t really had any real desire to take care of plants before. But herb gardens, as I see it, are extremely multi-purpose. Not only did they add a bit of life and colour to my stark white kitchen, but I can use the plants for cooking as well, and as cooking is one of my favourite things to do, that was the main attraction to starting an herb garden.

I have discovered that herb gardening is extremely easy to do. My plants require very little maintenance - really only to be watered when the soil gets dry. How much I water my herb garden varies depending on the time of the year – last summer I found I had to water them once every couple of days, but during the winter I only had to water them about once a week. I use fertilizer in the water every once in a while, and this helps the plants to grow better, but other than watering and fertilizer, I don’t really have to do much to maintain my herb garden.

As far as what I grew, oregano, rosemary and thyme were always my favourites, and although I had thought about expanding my herb garden to include basil, I never really ended up doing so. I bought some of the herbs from nurseries to plant, and I’ve also grown some of my own from seeds – obviously, buying herbs from nurseries is a lot easier than attempting to grown your own from seeds. You don’t have to wait for the seeds to germinate, and you can start enjoying the plant almost immediately. As far as planting seeds goes, I’ve had mixed results. Half the time it works wonderfully – my oregano grew from seeds I planted, and it is extremely gratifying to know that I grew it all on my own. On the other hand, a couple other times I’ve tried to grow thyme from seeds, and for some reason that never worked well for me. I could never keep them alive, in the odd chance that they actually DID germinate, which was very frustrating. I’m not sure if I’m doing something wrong, or what, but I ended up buying some already-grown thyme at a garden centre and just planting that instead of attempting the seeds for a fourth time. If I had decide to expand my garden to include basil as well, I think I would definitely be buying a plant from a nursery or garden center.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Great new pictures of my rain barrel!

Pictures of my Cascata Rain Water Collection and Storage System

Here's what the Cascata rain barrel looks like in my backyard! Who says rain barrels have to look ugly???

Backyard Pond Maintenance Tips

With a minimal amount of effort, you could keep your backyard pond in pristine condition. To follow are a few tips for how to properly maintain your pond.

1. Monitor water quality

One problem which many pond owners have is algae-buildup. Other than using chemicals, there are two main ways to control algae: (1) UV Clarification, and (2) through natural means.

A UV clarifier helps to kill algae by running the pond water through a UV light. UV Clarifications start at $100, and can be purchased from garden centers, pond stores, hardware stores, or online.

A second, and more cost-effective, option that is available to pond owners, is to invest in barley straw extract. Barley straw has received considerable attention as an algaecide based on research done in England. Results have shown that barley straw prohibits the growth of many types of algae. Barley straw extract can be purchased from garden centers.

2. Monitor water levels

Throughout the course of the summer, evaporation will lower your water levels on a weekly basis. Keep an eye on this, and make sure that you don’t end up with a dry pond (this is very bad for your pump!)

3. Proper pump maintenance

Once every couple of weeks, take your pump out of the pond and clean it (and any filters that come with it) to ensure that there is no debris building up that may cause it to jam. Remember, a pond without a pump is just a cesspool of water (i.e. breeding grounds for mosquitoes). It is crucial to keep your pump running throughout the entire existence of your pond. If a pond fails, replace it immediately. It is actually advisable to have a spare pump on hand, in the event of failure, since the average pump will only last for 2 years.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Boxtops for Education/Labels for Education Program

My name is Brenda Badmone, and I am the Boxtops for Education/Labels for Education Coordinator at Diven Elementary School in Elmira, NY. I would like to thank you for your generous donation, of a metal wind spinner, to our school to be used in our raffle. Diven Elementary School, in Elmira, is holding a Blacktop Carnival on the 14th of June, and this year, the Boxtops for Education Program has been invited to be a part of the Carnival. We have decided to hold a raffle, selling the tickets for 5 boxtops each. In searching for donations for this raffle, I found these beautiful wind spinners, one of which is a dolphin which is the mascot of our school. Thank you for generously donating this windspinner for our raffle.

Please know that our Teachers, Students, Parents, Staff, and I thank you for your efforts to help our cause.

Websites for the BTFE/LFE programs:

Thank you again,
Brenda Badmone BTFE/LFE Coordinator
Diven Elementary School
Elmira, NY

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Backyard dreams, create a man made paradise

With the steady increase of gas prices, lack of vacation time, extended travel delays, and pushy travel agents, dream vacations are becoming a thing of the past. Gone are the days of packing up and going on a family oriented road trip, or promptly flying to a secluded island. Many families
and homeowners are looking at ways to turn their own properties into mini paradises, where your travel time is spent on foot from your living room to backyard. With so many DIY television shows, and garden websites available, there seems to be an endless supply of quality resources to derive inspiration from. These resources are giving homeowners the confidence to go ahead and take on a project such as a backyard makeover, or front yard landscape re-build, and both the visual and emotional results are staggering.

Imagine having your very own backyard paradise, walking out of your doorway and being able to truly relax in the comfort of your own home. Quiet often the dream yards you see on television, can be achieved at a fraction of the cost that a couple of extended vacations would, with the added bonus that your backyard addition or upgrade is available to you 365 days a year.

Very popular ideas for landscape upgrades and additions are: zen-like gardens with a water feature focal point (garden fountains or waterfalls), garden ponds are very soothing and affordable, these ponds can be purchased preformed for easy installation, or in liner form, which you can customize to meet your own specifications.

Whatever the case may be it is steadily becoming apparent that these backyard additions add to your quality of life, and in some cases also increase your property value exponentially! Something to think about before planning your next vacation!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My Website Pick:

I was doing some research on plants and gardening, trying to get some ideas for the upcoming season, and I came across GardenVisit. I enjoy seeing what other people have done with their gardens to gain inspiration, this was easy to find here. gives you a list of landmark gardens in nearly every country! Because I wanted to stay local (that way I know I'm looking at flowers that will survive in this climate), I looked at Canadian gardens. In Ontario alone, 12 gardens were listed, including a map that shows their exact location! Now not only can I look at pictures to get ideas, but I can visit the gardens in person.

I then moved through the rest of the website to get an idea of what other information was available to me, I found a category called "Trip Planner". Just as I had pondered about going to visit these gardens, this website helped me to plan an entire garden viewing trip. Talk about an easy way to plan a vacation!

This website provides all the information needed to inspire an avid gardener. Any garden enthusiast will appreciate the number of professional gardens listed in such a large area. Gardener’s world wide that visit this website will be able to find a garden they can visit and get ideas and inspiration from!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Reducing Noise Pollution in Your Garden

Your backyard should offer a tranquil atmosphere. Unfortunately, for those of us that live in urban areas, this is not always possible. Noise is a nuisance that limits garden enjoying in the city, especially due to the sirens, traffic, lawnmowers, power trimmers, leaf blowers, and construction present in a busy residential area.

However, there are things you can do to limit your noise exposure. Solid walls and dense foliage can help break up and block out noise. Berms, mounds of dirt planted with shrubs and perennials, are not only good for deflecting noise, but also offer a certain degree of privacy.

If you want your neighbours to respect your peaceful tranquility, you should also try to limit the noise that you produce, that can potentially distract your neighbours. Try reverting back to the tools of earlier days: reel mowers, handsaws, hand shears, and garden rakes. Not only will this reduce your noise footprint, but it will also afford you some much-needed exercise! To reduce the noise caused by maintenance further, why not create a maintenance-friendly and energy-efficient garden? Replace the lawn with pavement or ground cover, and replace the hedge with a fence or plantings of dwarf shrubs.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Rail planters convert your patio into a garden paradise

A patio can be a relaxing environment for you, your family, and your friends. However, sometimes it can be difficult to decorate your patio, due to its limited space restrictions.

One great way to add an accent to your patio deck, is to grow plants around it. However, you can’t just grow plants in an open space. What you need is a rail planter.

Rail planters are specially designed to provide you with a growing surface on top of your rails. Many are designed to fit over both 4” and 6” railings.

For the complete effect, use the rail planters to surround your deck with vibrantly colored blooming bulbs, herbs, plants, and ornamental grass. Complete the effect with a series of cascading vines which lead up to the planters.

Stylish rain barrels that help save the environment

We all know that you should save water. And having a rain barrel in your backyard is a great way to save water. However, have you noticed that all the rain barrels that you get from the city are eyesores? City-issued rain barrels can cause irreparable damage to your property value!

What you’re looking for is a well-designed and nicely colored rain barrel that will enhance your backyard, instead of diminishing it. One rain barrel which I love is the Cascata rain barrel. Its smooth contours make for a stylish choice, and its earth-tone complexion renders it color-neutral; it’s able to blend into any backyard landscape. This rain barrel goes great with both brick and stucco, offering both style and elegance.

The Cascata holds 60 gallons of water- enough to water your garden and your lawn! It comes with a tap at its base, which allows you to fill watering buckets. And it also comes with fittings that allow you to hook several together in series, for those extra-large lawns. The Cascata also has a sister, the Agua, which is more compact, and holds 50 gallons of water. Both the Cascata and the Aqua are Made in Canada.

This spring, invest in rain barrels: invest in the environment, while increasing your property value!

Finally there is a general book on water storage. It is estimated that on the average water system, Oasis Design's book will pay for itself a hundred times over in errors avoided and maintenance savings.

My Ideal Garden: Landscape Design and Home Garden Ideas - Created by professional designers, My Ideal Garden is your online guide to pictures and advice that will help turn your landscape design idea or flower garden plan into reality.