Self-watering plant containers are an excellent way to conserve water while keeping your plants healthy.
Container gardening makes it possible to garden in small spaces or in those areas with poor soil quality. One of the biggest problems with container gardening is the need for frequent watering. This is especially true for unglazed ceramic pots, which allow a large amount of water to evaporate, and for gardeners in areas with a lot of hot, dry weather.
Self-watering plant containers feature a water reservoir below the plant medium (soil), separated by a perforated platform. The platform keeps the soil out of the water, but it allows roots access to the water supply. Being relatively sealed under the soil, water evaporation is significantly reduced, while providing your plants with all the water they need.
I found a great set of instructions for making your own self-watering plant container out of discarded 5-gallon buckets from the Maryland Extension.
Give it a try and let us know how well it works for you!
CA's drought is wrecking havoc on farms and mature trees, but grey water can be used to reduce the impact on your yard. According to UCDavis, "Greywater is untreated waste water which has not come into contact with toilet waste." This includes water collected from the shower, bath, washing machine, or sink.
You should check with your local authorities to learn about specific restrictions on the use of grey water in your area. Grey water should never be considered potable (safe to drink). Personally, I avoid using it on food crops, but it does wonders on ornamentals, lawn, and flowers without wasting fresh drinking water.
I discovered a new bug while pulling weeds under one of my apricot trees this morning.
It is 1/4" long, somewhat flattened, and it has a distinct light green triangle on its back. After a little research, I learned that it is called a Lygus bug.
There is far more to plant roots than meets the eye.
It took plants 50 million years to develop roots as we know them today. Everyone knows that roots provide anchorage and access to water and minerals in the soil. But they do far more than that!
The first structure to emerge from a sprouting seed is called the radicle. The radicle becomes the primary root. If the primary root continues to grow and develop, it will have a taproot system. Carrots are a common example of a taproot. If several smaller roots develop, the plant will have a fibrous root system. In either case, good soil health and structure are critical to plant health.
When removing plants from your yard or garden, it is best, whenever possible, to cut the plant at ground level and leave the roots in the ground. As the roots decompose, they will feed the local soil microorganisms, which will migrate, over time, to help another plant thrive.
Keyhole gardening is a method developed for areas experiencing severe drought and limited resources, specifically Africa. However, the concept is just as useful in other parts of the world.
Keyhole gardens are a variation on raised bed gardening. They are a round area with a notch in one side that provides access to a composting tower in the middle. Keyhole gardens conserve water and provide plants with easy access to nutrients.
Check out this video about a heart-warming solution to starvation around the globe and in your own backyard!
Invasive plants are those non-native plants that infest an ecosystem. Unlike normal weeds, which have evolved within a specific ecosystem, invasive plants generally do not have any natural enemies, so they grow out of control. They use up water and nutrients, pushing out local flora and fauna. Some, such as Scotch broom, can be poisonous to your pets.
Invasive plants are often introduced to your yard on purpose, by buying and planting something just because it "looks nice”. According to the UC Davis IPM (Integrated Pest Management) page: a 10,000 acre infestation of giant reed (Arundo donax) on the Santa Ana River in Orange County is estimated to use 57,000 acre feet more water per year than native vegetation. One group, PlantRight, has developed a list of invasive plants that should be avoided. Another group, Calflora, offers extensive lists (with photos) of plants that are invasives and plants that are under consideration as invasives.
Taking the time to plant species that are native to your area reduces water waste and prevents the disruption of the natural lifecycle of countless plants and animals.
Imported cabbageworms are an insidious garden pest.
Cannageworms start out as tiny yellow or white, rocket-shaped eggs that are laid singly on the undersides of leaves. Then, slightly fuzzy green caterpillars emerge and start feeding, and feed they do!
According to the UC IMP (Integrated Pest Management) page: biological controls include natural enemies such as the pupal parasite Pteromalus puparum; the larval parasites Apanteles glomeratus, Microplitis plutella, and several tachinid flies; and egg parasites in the Trichogramma genus. Biological control and sprays of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and the Entrust formulation of spinosad are organically acceptable management tools.
In addition to regularly monitoring plants for the presence of cabbageworms, I have trained my dog to chase cabbage butterflies out of my yard.
Yesterday, I curb-scored 8 very nice tomato cages. While they come in a variety of sizes and shapes, the most common type are concentric circles held at different heights, usually with three legs.
(This one's for you, Sabrina!)
Sheet-mulching is one of the easiest ways to reduce weeds in your yard or to get rid of a water-hungry lawn and replace it with something more drought-tolerant. (Solarization is a more extreme method that can rid an area of many fungal diseases, as well as weeds.)
To sheet-mulch an area, trim any current plant growth to the lowest possible height, water the area (to provide for soil microbes) and then cover the area with cardboard. Be sure you don't used waxed cardboard used to ship produce. Once the cardboard is in place, cover it with tree trimmings, which can be gotten for free from most tree trimming companies. The cardboard blocks the sunlight to the weeds, preventing further growth. To add a drought-tolerant plant to the area, simply push the mulch aside, cut a hole in the cardboard, and plant as you normally would.
I hope this information inspires you to grow more of your own food. You can ask your garden questions on my Home page.