Green Fingers I Wish

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Cold weather tips to avoid damage in your garden

Nothing typifies the autumn and winter as much as a hard frost, creating a sparkling white coating on all your garden plants. Although beautiful to look at, frost can be a major problem for gardeners, damaging plant growth and killing tender plants.

Cold weather and particularly frost, causes the water in plant cells to freeze, damaging the cell wall. Frost-damaged plants are easy to spot, their growth becomes limp, blackened and distorted. Evergreen plants often turn brown and the leaves of tender plants take on a translucent appearance. Frost problems are often made worse where plants face the morning sun, as this causes them to defrost quickly, rupturing their cell walls.

Hardy plants and tough evergreens can also be damaged by prolonged spells of severe cold when soil becomes frozen. Roots are unable to take up water and plants die from lack of moisture. Periods of cold, frosty weather during April and May can also kill blossom and damage fruit.
Minimising damage

Prevention is far better than cure, so try to minimise the damaging effects of cold on your plants:

* Avoid golden or variegated plant varieties that are often more tender.
* Choose plants that are reliably hardy in the area where you live.
* Avoid high-nitrogen fertilisers as they encourage plants to make lots of sappy leafy growth that is particularly susceptible to damage, especially early and late in the year.
* Make sure tender specimens are planted in a sheltered spot, under large trees and shrubs or against walls, give them some heat and protection during the winter.
* Ensure that plants with tender flower buds or shoots are not planted in east-facing sites.
* Leave the old growth of tender plants unpruned over the winter months. This will help to protect the central crown of the plant and take the brunt of any frost damage. If plants are cut back hard in autumn new growth could be damaged by frost.
* Cold air and frost always descend to the lowest point in a garden so avoid planting tender plants in obvious frost pockets.

Protecting plants

The ever-increasing number of tender plants on offer may not withstand sustained cold without some form of protection. How you protect your plants from the effects of cold depends on the type of plants and the situation they are growing in.

* Protecting plants with strawPlants that are trained against walls or tender plants growing in the open ground can be protected with simple, fleece-covered frames. Alternatively, sandwich a layer of bracken leaves or straw between two large sections of chicken wire and use this to cover plants during frosty evenings. Tender bulbs, corms and tender, herbaceous plants (that die back) should be covered with a thick mulch of manure, straw or old leaves to prevent the soil from freezing. In the spring, new shoots can be protected with a loose layer of straw or a bell-cloche.
* Evergreen plants will benefit from a thick layer of mulch around their bases to keep the soil frost-free. This will allow them to take up moisture during periods of cold weather and stop them from becoming dehydrated.
* Tender plants should be grown in pots so that they can be moved inside during bad weather. Take cuttings of those that cannot be grown in pots and overwinter these in a warm greenhouse, ready for planting in spring.
* Protect the crowns of tree ferns and insulate their trunks by wrapping them in layers of fleece or hessian stuffed with straw. Cordylines and palms should be treated similarly, by tying their leaves into bunches, to protect their crowns.
* Protect low-growing plants from wet weather by covering them with a sheet of glass or a cloche and surrounding them with a layer of gravel or grit, to ensure swift drainage.
* Pots in the greenhouseChoose outdoor outdoor containers that are frost-proof to prevent them cracking. Lift pots and containers into a shed or greenhouse for protection. Those that can't be moved should be placed on 'pot feet' to prevent waterlogging. Using a light, free-draining compost with added perlite will also help with this. Insulate them with a layer of bubble wrap or hessian to prevent them freezing and cracking and ensure plant rootballs stay healthy.

Damaged plants

If your plants do get frosted this doesn't necessarily mean the end for them, many plants will recover given time. However there are ways of minimising the damage:

* Protect them from the morning sun, which can damage growth if the plant defrosts too quickly. If you can't move the plants, try covering them with a layer of black plastic to block out the sun.
* Cut back frosted growth in spring to a healthy, new bud, to prevent further die back and encourage plants to produce fresh, new shoots.
* Feed damaged plants with a balanced fertiliser (one with equal amounts of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium) to encourage strong, healthy growth.
* Dig up small, tender plants and take them into the greenhouse. Many will quickly produce new growth and recover, provided they are not subjected to prolonged periods of heavy frost, wet or cold.
* Newly-planted specimens will often lift themselves proud of the soil surface if there is a hard frost straight after planting. Check them regularly and re-firm the ground around them to ensure their roots are always in contact with the soil.

The benefit of snow is that it acts as an insulator, protecting plants from the cold and frost, however, a heavy layer of snow can also cause leaves and branches to break, so it's important to know how to deal with it when it arrives:

* Shake excess snow from the branches of large trees, shrubs and hedges, to prevent them from becoming disfigured by the weight.
* Remove heavy deposits of snow from the roofs of greenhouses or cold frames to let in the light and prevent the structures from bending under the weight.
* Use lengths of string to support the branches of conifers and stop them being pulled out of shape. Branches that move away from the main plant won't spring back into place when the snow melts.
* Avoid walking on snow-covered grass as it will damage the turf beneath and leave unsightly marks on the lawn. It can also encourage the growth of fungal diseases which thrive in the cool damp conditions.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Composter Bin For Just £6

To encourage environmentally friendly behaviour, Yorkshire Water is offering its customers composters, with a capacity of 330 litres, at a bargain price of £6. This is a saving of over £40 based on the manufacturers suggested retail price; plus delivery's free too.

If you're not a Yorkshire Water customer; call 0845 658 8866 for the official options and also try Recycle now to check if you're eligible for any offers in your area.

What you need to do if you're a Yorkshire Water customer

Check out the trycomposting website for a compost bin.

How to get your composter

Simply click on "BUY NOW £6.00" and select your quantity. You can order a maximum of three per household and must register before paying via a credit or debit card. Standard delivery can take up to 28 days but at least it's free.

Ts & Cs

1. Remember; to grab this specific bargain you must be a Yorkshire Water customer. If you're not, call 0845 658 8866 to check if you're eligible for any offers in your area.

2. Composters are limited to three per household.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Cranberries are low, creeping shrubs up to 10 cm tall (often less), with slender, wiry stems, not thickly woody, and small leaves. They have dark pink flowers, with very distinct petals, leaving the style and stamens fully exposed and pointing forward. The berry is the fruit that is larger than the leaves of the plant; it is initially white, but turns a deep red when fully ripe. Its taste is acidic and is edible, with an taste that can overwhelm its sweetness.
The name cranberry probably derives from their being a favourite food of a bird, the Crane, though some sources claim the name comes from "'craneberry' because before the flower expands, its stem, calyx, and petals resembled the neck, head, and bill of a crane". Another name, used in northeastern Canada, is mossberry.

Cranberry beds are constructed in upland areas that have a shallow water table. The topsoil is scraped off to form dikes around the bed perimeter. Clean sand is hauled in to a depth of four to eight inches. The surface is laser leveled with a slight crown in the center to facilitate drainage. Beds are frequently drained with tile in addition to the perimeter ditch. In addition to making it possible to hold water, the dikes allow equipment to service the beds without driving on the vines.

Cranberry vines are propagated by mowing vines from an established bed. The vines are spread on the surface of the sand of the new bed and pushed into the sand with a blunt disk. The vines are watered frequently during the first few weeks until roots form and new shoots grow. Beds are given frequent light application of nitrogen fertilizer during the first year.

A common misconception about cranberry production is that the beds remain flooded throughout the year. During the growing season cranberry beds are not flooded, but are irrigated regularly to maintain soil moisture. Beds are flooded in the fall to facilitate harvest and again during the winter to protect against low temperatures. In cold climates like Wisconsin and Massachusetts the winter flood typically freezes into ice while in warmer climates the water remains liquid. When ice forms on the beds trucks can be driven onto the ice to spread a thin layer of sand that helps to control pests and to rejuvenate the vines. Sanding is done every three to five years.

Cranberries are harvested in the fall when the fruit takes on its distinctive deep red color. This is usually in late September and into October. To harvest cranberries the beds are flooded with six to eight inches of water. A harvester is driven through the beds to remove the fruit from the vines. For the past 50 years water reel type harvesters have been used. In 2005 a new type harvester was introduced that does less vine damage and takes less time. Harvested cranberries float in the water and can be corraled into a corner of the bed and conveyed or pumped from the bed. From the farm cranberries are taken to receiving stations where they are cleaned, sorted, and stored prior to packaging or processing.

About 95% of cranberries are processed into products such as juice, sauce, and sweetened dried cranberries. The remaining 5% is sold fresh to consumers. Cranberries destined to processing are usually frozen in bulk containers shortly after arriving at a receiving station. Cranberries for fresh market are stored in shallow bins or boxes with perforated bottoms to allow air movement and to prevent decay. Because harvest occurs in late fall cranberries for fresh market are frequently stored in thick walled barns without mechanical refrigeration. Temperatures are regulated by opening and closing vents in the barn as needed.

Cranberry juice, usually sweetened to reduce its natural severe tartness and make "cranberry juice "cocktail" or blended with other fruit juices, is a major use of cranberries.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Noni Juice

For noni juice drinkers here is some information about it.

This is the actual tree, or bush.

Its other names are Indian mulberry, nono, nonu, cheese fruit, Ba Ji Tian

Description: The noni plant is a small evergreen shrub or tree that grows from three to six metres. The noni plant has a straight trunk, large elliptical leaves, white tubular flowers and ovoid yellow fruits of up to 12 cm in diameter. The ripe noni fruit has a not so pleasant taste and odour.

Parts used: All parts of the noni plant can be used: roots, stems, bark, leaves, and flowers and of course the fruits.

Phytochemicals: Octoanoic acid, Scopoletin, Damnacanthal, Terpenoids, Anthraquinones, Caproic acid, Ursolic acid, Rutin

Medicinal properties: Noni has been reported to have a range of health benefits for colds, cancer, diabetes, asthma, hypertension, pain, skin infection, high blood pressure, mental depression, atherosclerosis and arthritis.
The noni contain the antibacterial compounds in the fruits (acubin, L-asperuloside and alizarin) and roots (anthrauinones). Noni conatins scopoletin which inhibits the growth of Escherichia coli, which is responsible for intestinal infections, and Heliobacter pylori, which causes ulcers.
Damnacanthal, which is found in the noni roots, inhibits the tyrosine kinase and gives noni antitumor activity.

Other facts: The medicinal properties of Noni were discovered, more than 2000 years ago, by the Polynesians, who imported the fruit from Southeast Asia. Today the noni fruits is eaten in many parts of the world, mainly in the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia and Australia. Those who recovered from illness after eating the noni fruit called it “the fruit of God”.
In 2003, noni juice was approved by the European Commission as a novel food and was allowed to be commercialized in the EU. A novel food is food or a food ingredient that was not used to a significant degree in the EU before May 15, 1997. Before any new food product can be introduced on the European market it must be rigorously assessed for safety.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Good Soil Care

Soil care for hot spots
Your average hot spot plant needs well-drained soil, which isn’t too rich.

Sandy, stony or gravelly conditions are ideal. If puddles don’t run away within an hour of rain, work in sand, gravel or coarse bark chippings to open up the soil texture and help water run away more quickly.
Poorly drained soil vs. well-drained soilSoil care for hot spots
On heavier soil it is better to make raised beds, filled with good topsoil mixed with up to 25 per cent sand or gravel. But even drought-tolerant plants appreciate some organic matter in the ground, especially at planting time when they often have a struggle to establish themselves.

Important tip:
Keep everything well watered after planting. Drought-tolerant plants can only withstand drought once their roots are well established.
Don’t use building sand as it contains too much lime. Ask for washed or lime-free, sharp (gritty), horticultural sand.
Crushed gravel is cheapest, but pea shingle and decorative stone chippings are also suitable. Avoid gravel that has been dredged from under the sea because it’s too salty.
Use the largest pieces of uncomposted bark. Unlike sand or gravel that last forever, bark slowly decomposes so you’ll need to work more into the ground after three to five years.
Organic matter
Compost and other organic matter decompose very quickly on dry soil, so you need to work it in in both spring and autumn. Bark is a good alternative as it lasts longer.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Praying Mantis - not always beneficial

The trouble with the Praying Mantis is that it not only eats the harmful insects in your garden, it also devours the good ones. Would you want them in YOUR garden? Well, perhaps only if you were infested with the wrong sorts of little creatures and drastic measures were called for.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Grasses to be turned in to fuel?

The native grasses growing in the area's barren farm fields may be heating homes in a few years - and providing local farmers with an unexpected cash crop, a local wildlife biologist says.

All that's needed are machines that turn the grass into fuel pellets, and a Lackawanna County organization is already working on that.

The grass pellet fuel is cheaper and cleaner than oil and wooden chips, said Scott Singer, of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Canadians and Europeans have been warming their homes for years by burning grass pellets, said Singer. But the pellets are not sold yet in the United States.

Planting more grasses like switch grass, big bluestem and Indian grass, which all can be made into pellets, will benefit farmers, wildlife and the environment, said Singer, who is based in the NRCS office on Sawmill Road.

Those grasses, native to this country, can grow in many types of soil, and they can survive both droughts and floods, the scientist said.

"They're very tolerant of extreme conditions," he said, adding that they use just half the amount of water and nutrients as plants used for making hay.

For flood-prone areas, farmers can plant native grasses such as Eastern gama grass and coastal panic grass, Singer said.

During winter, farmers can leave the grasses outside.

Snow and rain wash away the chlorine, potassium and silica that don't burn well, said Singer, adding that the grasses become better fuel.

After two years, the grasses reach their mature height of 8 feet. During spring, they'll be ready for harvest because the weather dries them.

That saves time for farmers, who can pack the grasses into bales right away. That's much faster than hay, which takes days to dry, said Singer.

One acre usually yields 2 1/2 to 3 tons of grasses, said Singer, adding that it can also range as high as 10 tons.

The grasses grow back on their own, so farmers don't need to plant seeds again, the scientist said.

Also farmers don't have to worry about erosion. The grass roots, which can reach 10 feet deep, hold the soil in place, said Singer.

Birds and other animals benefit, too, when farmers grow more acres of grasses, the biologist said. The vegetation gives cover to wildlife during most of the year.

During spring, new grasses will grow and replace the harvested ones.

Some area farmers already have the grasses growing in fields that the state and federal governments pay them to keep from farming or selling.

People have planted 7,961 acres of native grasses in the two counties since 1999 as part of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, according to federal statistics. That's the area of about 35 Bloomsburg Fairgrounds.

Landowners and renters get paid every year for maintaining parts of their land as wildlife habitats.

To stay in the program, participants must leave the grasses alone for 10 to 15 years.

Several years from now, some people can leave the program when their contracts expire.

Their acres of native grasses will be ready for harvest. Singer plans to tell them about the benefits of making grass pellets.

Grass pellets, like wooden ones, are burned in stoves.

Both types of fuel cost between $150 and $300 per ton, but prices for the wooden ones have been rising, said Singer.

Seventy-five to 100 pounds of grass pellets can heat a 2,000-square-foot home for more than a day, said Singer.

Two to 5 tons of grass pellets can heat that home for an entire year, he added.

For now, most stoves can burn wood but not corn or grass. That's because the latter produce a different type of ash that the stoves cannot handle.

However, American manufacturers are making more stoves that can burn grass, said Singer.

Stoves that can burn grass cost between $2,000 and $4,000, and furnaces and boilers cost between $5,000 and $10,000.

Singer plans to install a grass-burning boiler in his Millville home.

Source:- Mercury News

Friday, November 03, 2006

How to make your lady bugs stick around

Often people buy a bag of lady bugs, bring them home, and release them in the evening, only to get up the next morning and find nary a trace of the little fellows because they have all flown away. What can you do to make them want to stay? First, don’t use any lingering pesticides (such as malathion or kelthane) for 3 or 4 weeks before you release the lady bugs, or any other beneficials. Switch to insecticide soaps or plain water to knock those aphids off. Second, release your lady bugs at night, while it’s cool, immediately after giving your plants a generous sprinkle of water. (this is about the only time you should water in the evening!) The combination of moisture and the cool evening temperatures will convince your lady bugs to hang around, at least overnight. By morning they will be hungry, so they will look for breakfast before they leave. If there are enough aphids, thrips, or other appetizing ( to the lady bug) insects around, they just might stay. You can provide even more encouragement to settle down by spraying a commercial preparation of insect food, such as Wheast or Honeydew, on a few lower leaves of the aphid infested plants, or plant marigolds, yarrow, or angelica, which attract lady bugs.

Another trick is to release only a few lady bugs at a time, over a period of about a week, instead of emptying the entire bag all at once. Store the rest in the refrigerator (NOT in an airtight container!), but warn all the members of your family! And be sure to handle your lady bugs gently, or they will fly away.