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November 03 2014


The Best Tools for Gardening

Whether you have acres of garden or just a few pots, you will need the best gardening tools for the job. Hardware shops and garden centres usually carry a wide range of gardening tools from the fairly cheap to the very expensive. Apart from considering your budget, the amount of use your tools will get should be a consideration when choosing.

A greenhouse is a must for the avid gardener. A greenhouse will allow you to propagate seeds, cultivate cuttings and allow you to grow in winter if your insulation and heating is adequate.

If you have a lawn you will need a lawn mower. Obviously size and type is dictated by the size of your lawn; you won't need a sit-on mower for a few square metres of lawn. Whatever size your lawn, you will need a lawn rake or an electric scarifier to remove any dead grass which is stopping the new grass from growing. Long-handled shears are useful for keeping the edges neat or you could use an electric strimmer or an edge cutting tool (half moon shape with a sharp blade).

Secateurs are a must, even if you have a veranda garden. Many plants will grow in pots, particularly if they have speciality dwarf varieties and most will benefit from occasional pruning. You will also need secateurs for removing dead flower heads. You should look for a type which has a tension control and control for the distance of the blades from each other. This is useful for different sized plant stems and also for different sized human hands.

For container gardening and small weeding jobs a hand fork is essential with a trowel for planting smaller plants. You may want to buy a bespoke weeding tool as well. These are about 20cm long and thin with a slightly curved blade for making sure that the whole weed root is removed.

For larger beds, a full sized fork and spade will be needed for turning the earth and digging holes for shrubs. These tools will have to do some hard work so buy the sturdiest you can find. A rake is also useful for smoothing over soil ready for planting flower or vegetable seeds and a hoe for weeding.

If you have hedges or trees, obviously good shears or an electric hedge trimmer will be needed as well as a pruning saw. Pruners with a long extendable handle are useful for pruning trees which are out of normal reach.

In the end you should buy the best tools for gardening that you can afford and which suit the job you need them to do.

Sulfur for the Garden

As one who's run a landscaping business, I like to experiment with different types of fertilizer and soil amendments, and garden sulfur is something I've become very happy with. But like all fertilizers and soil amendments, garden sulfur will only work well in certain circumstances. Instead of garden sulfur, you may need garden iron, or garden phosphorus, or any number of things. Whatever the soil is deficient in, that's what you need to replenish. Also think about using sulfer in your greenhouse but be careful around heaters.

Because your average person can't really diagnose what's missing, and because often the soil needs a range of amendments, fertilizers are usually multipurpose, replenishing the soil with many different elements and nutrients. That's not a bad practice, and we often use multipurpose fertilizer in gardens and lawns. But to get the best results, it's good to know what your plants need. Below is explained not only the benefits of garden sulfur, but also to know what to look for to see if you should be using it in your garden.

Garden sulfur is very helpful in balancing the soil's pH level wherever it's absorbed. Depending on what kinds of plants you have, whether acid loving plants or alkaline loving, garden sulfur might be just the right thing for you. Garden sulfur will raise the acid level of the soil it's spread over so you can see why you would need to be careful. If you're not sure whether or not your plants are acid loving, there are a few things you can do to test before you go out and spread garden sulfur over everything. A few acid loving plants are azaleas, pine trees, rose bushes, hydrangeas, blueberries, and evergreens. One very easy common test is to spread some used coffee grounds onto the soil around the roots of your plants that you think might be acid loving. This too will raise the acidity and pH of your soil. Even if you're not a coffee drinker yourself, you can usually go to your local Starbucks to get grounds. Many locations even have old coffee grounds in bags out on display for people to take for free, but even if they don't you can always just ask them for a bag.

Once you have your old coffee grounds, spread a little all around the roots of your plants, and water it into the soil. Then watch carefully to see whether or not your plants do better or worse. If they do better, then you should think about picking up a bag of garden sulfur to do the real amendments and to bring the pH of the soil into optimum levels. It's not all that expensive and it has other healthy nutrients in it also. That being established, I know a few gardeners who advocate permanent use of coffee grounds as a fertilizer to the soil of their acid loving plants. Coffee grounds contain a wide variety of other soil nutrients such as Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium as well as Sulfur. In general, it's rich and plentiful in nutrients. Just be careful with it. Like I said earlier, it WILL lower the pH of your soil, making it more acidic. So don't just go putting it everywhere.

What Type of Lawn Mower Engines Are Best?

If you're looking for a new mower, you may notice that while there are a lot of different brands of mowers, lawn mower engines are typically made by one of a few companies. Most of the bigger brands of lawnmowers use engines from one of these companies. Let's look at some of the most common ones.


Honda engines are used in many brands of lawnmower, particularly in riding mowers. Honda has been making small engines for a long time and they are typically quite reliable and efficient. Honda engines are serviced by almost all lawn mower dealers, which is one of their biggest advantages. You can get service almost anywhere for these engines.


Tecumseh engines are also quite popular. They're typically used in push-behind mowers, rather than riding mowers, and they're sized accordingly. Tecumseh engines are also widely supported, but of the three they probably have the smallest network of repair centers. That's not to say it's hard to get service, however. While it might be a smaller network, it's still very large.

Briggs & Stratton

Briggs & Stratton are another popular engine choice for push-behind mowers, and they're probably the most widely used engine in that style of lawnmower. They have also been making small engines for a long time, and have a lot of experience and expertise in the market.

It might seem strange that the engines aren't actually made by the same manufacturer as the lawnmower itself, but when it comes right down to it, it works in your favor. Even if you buy a lesser-known brand of mower, if it uses one of these brands of engines you're going to be able to find repair centers for it almost anywhere.

And those repair centers and dealers can easily get parts since the engines use standard components. If you have a mower with an off-brand engine, you can run into trouble finding parts and service for it, especially once it's a few years old.

And if the company who made it ever goes out of business, you'll be pretty much on your own.

4 Major Types of Lawn Mowers

For the most uniform cut, make sure to mow the lawn with the preferred type of mower in dry conditions. Try to avoid mowing the grass in damp conditions as the blades won't cut so cleanly and clippings with mass in large clumps. Here are the four major types of lawn mower:

Reel or Manual

A reel or manual lawn mower is pollution-free, quiet, and perfect for the small-sized lawn. They include a variety of standard features to make mowing the lawn easier, such as handle-length settings, blade-height adjustment, and pneumatic tires. These old-fashioned reel mowers are lightweight to make them easy to push up or down the small lawn. Provided the blades are kept sharp, this type of mower will offer a superior cutting performance that is similar to any of the high-end models.

Walk-Behind (Power)

An electric or gas-powered rotary mower is perfect for the lawns that are sized in the region of 3,500 square feet. Battery-operated mowers are also available; they have the potential to mow up to 2/3 of an acre per single charge of the power unit. Many of the latest power mowers include a mulching feature to cut the clippings into miniature pieces, which than return to the lawn and act as a mulch material.


A modern electric or gas-powered riding mower comes with a variety of convenient features, include a zero turning radius, joystick steering, and cruise control. Most of these large mowers have the capacity to tow a cart, which is desirable for fertilizing, mulching, or similar lawn applications. A high-performance model has enough engine power and strength to accept snow-removal, tilling, and aeration attachments. Some of the largest mowing decks are in the region of 42 to 48-inches in width.

Robot or Self-Directed

The robot or self-directed electric mower operates within garden limits that are defined by buried cables to offer a physical or electronic border. Once programmed with the path to follow, the robot mower can automatically cut the lawn without needing any further input from the gardener. Many of these mowers have a docking or recharging station to charge the batteries when low. Beside the electric or battery-powered units, these mowers can also come with solar-powered operation.

When selecting the right mower to match the size of lawn, it can help to consider the wide-ranging safety and attachment features. Also, make sure the mowing blade is easily accessible and movable for servicing and maintenance.


The Answer to Controlling Indoor Allergies

At least one out of five Americans suffer from allergies. There is a multitude of causes as well as a multitude of reactions. Some causes of outdoor allergies include grasses, ragweed, pollen, trees, mold and mildew. These allergies we cannot control short of staying indoors and using medication. The medications are costly and may have some side effects.

There are also indoor causes of allergies. Some of which are the allergens from the outdoors that we transport into our homes and offices on our clothing. Other indoor causes of allergies are cats and dogs, mold, mildew, dust mites and chemicals from cleaning products. The difference between outdoor allergens and indoor allergens is that indoor allergens can be controlled, eliminated or at least kept to a minimum.

There are simple steps that can be taken to help control or eliminate indoor allergens. Consider cleaning your home with a steam vapor cleaner. The steam vapor cleaning process was developed in Italy for disinfecting as well as cleaning. It absolutely hits the nail on the head for those of us who are seeking a "green" cleaning method that is effective, environmentally friendly and able to improve the quality of your indoor environment and living space.

Steam vapor cleaners go far beyond cleaning carpets and rugs to cleaning other areas of your home or office that traditional chemical based cleaners cannot go. Dust mites are a typical cause of indoor allergens. They are found in bedding and are inhaled while we sleep. A steam vapor cleaner can easily eliminate the dust mites from mattresses, pillows, couches, chairs and futons with a slow simple sweep. You would severely damage, even destroy, these items if you tried to clean them with chemical based cleaners. In addition, mildew build up found in bathrooms is gone in seconds by applying steam vapor followed by mild wiping.

You can even sanitize everything in a baby's nursery. Kill germs on toy surfaces, even stuffed animals! Bedbugs, fleas, eggs and larvae are also killed by short-term exposure to the high temperatures produced by steam vapor cleaners. Although chemical based cleaners can kill bedbugs and fleas if used properly they have no effect on the eggs. Also, when you use a steam vapor cleaner there are no poisons left behind to harm children, pets, or contaminate your indoor environment. After cleaning these surfaces with a steam vapor cleaner just vacuum thoroughly with a HEPA equipped vacuum to remove any particulate matter.

All of this and more is easily attainable by simply using a water only sanitation process. No chemicals are involved, no mess and no on going costs for chemical based cleaners. What better way to help protect the health of your family, friends, patients or customers then by cleaning with a steam vapor cleaner?

What Is the Best Dry Steam Vapor Cleaner Review

The very best Dry Steam Vapor Cleaning products utilize a profound technology that has revolutionized the way to provide the cleanest possible home and office environments - TANCS!

First, it would be intelligent to take a step back and reiterate the nature of a Dry Steam Vapor Cleaner. This cleaning product - in it's best and most popular form - typically resembles a small beach ball with an attached hose. Inside the body of the Vapor Cleaner resides a boiler (the best boilers are stainless steel) which will heat water to a bit over 3000F. At this temperature, an intense, dry steam is formed.

This steam is then dispersed in a controlled fashion through the hose and out through whatever particular accessory is mounted to the end of the hose (or, wands mounted on the end of the hose). This method of cleaning - developed in Europe in the 1980's - allows for cleaning virtually any surface using the awesome power of steam - without chemicals!

This has three immediate benefits. The first is that oneself can clean windows, rugs, floor, walls, upholstery, etc. in a living room, or, the toilet, the sink, the shower, the tile, etc. in the bathroom, and the stove, the counter, the floor, the dishwasher, etc. in the kitchen. Almost any kind of surface can be cleaned using this process.

The second benefit is that the process of cleaning is highly effective. The power of dry steam (called €dry€ because the water content in a first-quality dry steam vapor cleaner is only about 5%) to clean and disinfect is terrific. The activity of the heat in the steam lifts soils very quickly with a minimum of effort from almost any surface. While the particular nozzle being used for any particular task has to, of necessity, be moved across the surface, it is not typically used in a forceful, scrubbing action - the heat does the cleaning.

The last benefit is that this cleaning process is accomplished without chemicals. Chemicals invariably contain toxins. Toxins are detrimental to human health and, by eliminating the toxins from the cleaning process, one is able to clean €chemical-free€ - a huge advantage in the cleaning process. TANCS is the only technology world-wide that ensures that the cleaning process results in disinfection of the surface being cleaned - without chemicals!

What is TANCS?: TANCS is an acronym for Thermal Nano Crystal Sanitation. This is a worldwide exclusive on a proprietary water treatment component.. This device results in a product that is the ultimate microbe killer. Using this process, nano crystals are formed within tap water. When this water is superheated these crystals accelerate and operate like nano cluster bombs.

HOW DOES TANCS WORK?: TANCS destroys micro-organisms by disruption of the cell membrane. Due to the activity of the nano crystals, the cell membranes are destroyed on contact.

HOW EFFECTIVE IS IT?: Nelson Labs of Utah certified that a 7-second exposure to TANCS steam vapor produces a 5 - 7 log reduction in microbes and was consistently achieved on all microbes tested. This is thousands of times better than any direct-applied water disinfecting process using chemicals. Chemical disinfection requires dwell times of several minutes. This means that, to kill microbes, the chemical has to be thoroughly applied - generally in the absence of any soil load (meaning, the surface has to be completely free of all soils first) - and allowed to soak without drying for up to ten minutes. In addition, most sanitizers and disinfectants stipulate that they are not effective on non-porous surfaces (read, countertops). Simply stated, most chemical usages for disinfection in the field (i.e., your house or office) can be ineffective. TANCS, on the other hand, not only disinfects immediately, it works thousands of times better.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DISINFECTION & SANTIZING: Sanitizing is defined as killing microbes; but, only a percentage of them. Disinfection is almost a complete kill process - everything ceases wiggling
HOW IS TANCS USED?: TANCS is available only as a component part of a LadyBugXL Dry Steam Vapor Cleaner.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THAT LADYBUG THING? A Dry Steam Vapor Cleaner uses a simple, wonderful cleaning process whereby the awesome power of steam is safely utilized to enable fast, effective cleaning of almost any surface - without chemicals. This includes walls, windows, mirrors, grout, floors of any type including wood, ceramic & tile, rugs, upholstery, pillows, mattresses, stoves, refrigerators, toilets, showers & tubs, patio, deck, etc. The process cleans instantly with a minimum of effort, and, with the proper temperature, sanitizes. In the case of the LadyBugXL or LadyBug Tekno models with TANCS, it will disinfect.

EUROPEAN VAPOR CLEANERS: The wide-spread use of Steam Vapor Cleaners has been common in Europe for almost three decades. All the best equipment is made in Europe - they have the technology and the track-record. There has recently been a surge of low-priced models available from manufacturers in the United States; however, typically, they have no quality. It is the old but true (albeit ungrammatical) adage that you get what you pay for.

3000 F TEMPERATURE: A good Steam Vapor Cleaner, at a minimum, has to do one thing very well. It has to produce a steam that is above a certain temperature - approximately about 3000 F; otherwise, by the time the steam travels the distance required from the unit to the end of the particular accessory being used, it is little more than a warm/hot mist. Not only will this not adequately clean the surface, it simply won't sanitize - the temperature is much too low.

The sanitizing capability is one of the key abilities of a good-quality Steam Vapor Cleaner. Such a unit, at the proper temperatures, will sanitize a surface being cleaned - dust mites, mold, bacteria, fleas, etc. will be destroyed without the use of harsh or environmentally damaging chemicals! As well, a good Steam Vapor Cleaner removes the €drudge€ from household or office cleaning chores - the steam does the work! It is amazing how easy it is to clean with one of these units.

ACCESSORIES: A good Steam Vapor Cleaner also provides for a complete set of accessories for any conceivable cleaning task. The uses to which a Steam Vapor Cleaner can be put, then, are almost endless - the proverbial 1001 tasks become much easier and faster with a Steam Vapor Cleaner. The accessories enable cleaning and sanitizing in one, simple operation. Windows, floors (ceramic and hardwood), carpets & rugs, upholstery, drapes, mini-blinds, kitchen countertops, sinks and appliances (degrease and remove baked-on deposits on the stove or in the oven without caustic oven degreasers or the damaging, high heat of self-clean ovens), showers, tubs, toilets, nurseries, pet areas, etc. - all can be cleaned, deodorized and sanitized with a minimum of effort.

CONTINUOUS FILL/USE: It is cautioned that the consumer purchase a unit that offers a continuous-fill feature. If this is not available, the user has to halt cleaning in the middle of the task, carefully bleed off the pressure from the chamber, refill and then wait an average of fifteen minutes for the unit to reheat the water. This is an annoyance and a great inconvenience. A continuous-fill unit, on the other hand, €beeps€ the user to alert them to add water to the non-pressurized water reservoir, and the cleaning process can continue with absolutely no downtime. This is a major advantage found only on the better systems.

Looking Towards Spring

Ok, the title "winter gardening" might be a tad bit misleading. I am not suggesting that you actually garden during the winter but you should be using this time to plan your upcoming garden. As you look out at your yard and garden area during the cold months of winter, let your thoughts run wild and you will be amazed at what images you can conjure up. You might even want to try some of your new found ideas this spring!

1. Pour through garden catalogs, flip the pages and fold down the corner anytime you find something you like. Go back to it often until you decide what new plants and flowers you would like to try this spring.

2. Purchase some gardening books or magazines to get new ideas. Look at what other people are trying in their gardens and see if their ideas inspire you to try something new.

3. Look out your windows and try to visualize how you would like your yard and garden to look like. Study the sun....notice the shady spots.

4. Make a list of what is important to you, in other words, what do you want from your yard and garden? Do you want to create a patio area for entertaining, a vegetable garden so you grow all of your own vegetables, a quiet area for relaxing, or maybe an area that will attract wildlife. Anything is possible but it is important to recognize what you want before you actually start any gardening project. Ultimately, knowing what you want will save time and money!

5. Take lots of notes and draw any ideas you might come up with.(even those ideas that wake you up in the middle of the night!)

6. Of course, visit online nurseries to see what they have to offer. Many sites offer suggestions and interesting gardening articles as well.

Before you know it spring will be here, you will have a shovel in your hand, and you will have a plan! 
Happy Gardening!
Tags: gardening

Gardening During Hard Times or Emergencies

Do you ever worry about always having to rely on getting seeds and fertilizer from the store? What would you do in a survival situation, if you could not go to a store to purchase these things?

Let's compare it to your food supply. What would you do about your store-purchased food? Many wise people buy more than they need of food items that store well, and create a "year's supply" of the essentials in their basement or other cool, dry place. This is the biblical answer. As you may remember, Joseph in Egypt saved grain for 7 years and then fed the whole Egyptian nation, as well as his own family and others, during the next 7 years of famine.

The same approach will work even better for gardening - with both seeds and fertilizers. For about $25 you can buy the triple-sealed Garden In A Can from Mountain Valley Seeds, with enough non-hybrid seeds to grow a 1/2-acre garden! If these are stored in a cool dry place they will remain viable for a very long time. The website is http://www.mvseeds.com, and I highly recommend you get a can, or the smaller Garden in a Pouch for about $12.

And if natural mineral fertilizers are kept dry, they will store indefinitely while still maintaining their potency. Therefore I suggest you also buy and store enough Pre-Plant Mix and Weekly Feed to grow at least one year's garden.

A rule of thumb for how much fertilizer you would need to store, in order to have your year's supply, is 6# of Pre-Plant and 12# of Weekly Feed per 30' soil-bed. Even though you will only feed some crops 4 or 5 times, remember that if you are really living out of your garden, you will be growing two or three crops, and doing it from March or April, right up until frost in October. Therefore, see the following chart for suggestions on how much to store, depending on the size of your garden.


20' X 30' (4 soil-beds) 25# 50#

40' X 65' (16 soil-beds) 100# 200#

50' X 100' (30 soil-beds) 200# 400#

Now, what can you do if the emergency goes beyond a year, and you've used up all your fertilizer? First off, don't expect the same quantity of production as you obtained with balanced mineral nutrients, but you can grow a healthy garden using manure tea. Here's how.

Get a large burlap bag and a 55-gallon barrel. Find cow or horse manure (chicken or turkey is twice as hot, so less will be needed), and fill the bag 2/3's full. Place the bag in the barrel and fill it with water. Let the manure soak or "steep" for 24 hours, then use the "tea" to water your vegetable plants. Replace the bag of manure in the barrel and let steep for 48 hours. Again, water with the tea, then dump the spent manure out and till into an unused portion of the garden. It has very little nutrient value, but can improve your soil tilth. Remember to plant a little further apart when doing this, because plants will be competing for less available nutrition. And every watering should be with the manure tea for your plants to thrive. You should expect to grow a smaller garden, and spend some time finding manure and hand-watering.

If manure just isn't available, save your kitchen scraps and human waste. Many countries do it all the time, so it's not the end of the world. And all clean, healthy plant residue should be saved and properly composted for re-use in the garden - again preferably as manure tea.

By the way, even 4 soil-beds, when properly worked and cared for, especially if combined with good seedling production, could produce a large amount of food. As an example, if only one crop was grown, you could produce 2,000# or more of tomatoes, or even cabbage - if you grew 3 crops. So is this approach cost effective? You do the math. Suppose you invest $50 in your year's supply of seeds and fertilizers. What will 2,000 pounds of vegetables be worth to your family during hard times? Think of Joseph in Egypt!

Aluminium And Wooden Greenhouses

An important addition to any British back garden, greenhouses are firmly established in the British way of life. It's probably the inclement weather that drives the british gardener 'inside'. If you are visiting this site then you are probably thinking about obtaining a new greenhouse. It is possible you don't know the type of greenhouse you need or even how to decide on the type of greenhouse. Greenhouse design was revolutionised with the arrival of aluminium frames and the scarcity of pine. This article takes a brief look at the differences between metal and wooden greenhouses.

Wooden Greenhouses

Wooden Greenhouses are the choice for the traditionalist and the expert gardener. They are commonly made from Canadian Western Red Cedar, which is renowned for it's exceptional long life outdoors as a result of it's effective rot resistance. Wooden greenhouses are the traditional style of greenhouse before the aluminium greenhouses and plastic greenhouses became more popular towards the end of the last century.

A timber greenhouse will obviously blend in naturally with your garden and will become an integral feature rather than something of an eyesore which you wish to hide away. Timber is also the choice of the expert gardener and it is generally agreed that it is the best material for a greenhouse. One of the main reasons is that the red cedar greenhouses are much better at maintaining a constant temperature than aluminium ones, which obviously leads to a healthier and more natural environment. An experienced gardener will know the benefit of having things to hand and a wooden frame will allow the gardener to easily fix hooks and shelves exactly where he wants them, so those all important greenhouse accessories are to hand. The wooden frame also makes it easier to fix an extra layer of insulation of plastic bubble sheeting, such severe weather conditions prevail.

The best time to add a protective coat to a timber frame is before winter sets in. Choose a good day in the late autumn and give the frame any attention it needs. Look for any wear and tear and treat it immediately. Most good timber frames come with a ten year guarantee, but don't wait for 10 years before checking.

Wooden greenhouses are slightly more expensive than aluminium and plastic ones, but do offer more to the experienced gardener. Aluminium and plastic greenhouses are a better choice for the beginner before upgrading to a timber greenhouse.

Aluminium Greenhouses 

A major advantage of aluminium greenhouses is that they are relatively cheap and maintenance free. They are the best choice of greenhouse if your priority is low maintenance. However, you should be aware of the advantages of other types of greenhouse. For example, with wooden greenhouses it is easy to fix extra shelves and hookes, inside and out. Aluminium is certainly easier to maintain than a wooden greenhouse, but care should be taken to keep all structural components as clean as possible to deter pests and disease.Aluminium greenhouses are certainly the most popular at the moment and part of the attractiveness is the flat pack packaging and (relatively easy) self assembly. This helps keep the cost down and aluminium is the value for money choice of greenhouse.

Before erecting an aluminium greenhouse, there are certain considerations. Firstly you should decide upon the location of the greenhouse. Somewhere easily accessible during bad weather would be good. Observe areas of your garden during sunny days to see which parts get the most sunlight. Some protection from wind would be good, but not at the expense of blocking out light. Also, be aware of any stray footballs from next door !

If you're after a value for money and low maintenance greenhouse then aluminium is a good choice. You may lose some of the aesthetic qualities of a wooden greenhouse, but you do benefit from modern technology and design.
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