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Title: Digging Into Gardening: Essential Tips for Starting Out Whether you’re growing your own food, or just want a lush landscape to call your own, gardening is one of the most rewarding pastimes you can get into. Anyone can be a great gardener, but knowing where to start and what to do can be overwhelming. Here are some tips that will help you create magic in your backyard: Start slow and small If you’ve never cared for plants before, consider getting a pot plant to learn the basics and build your confidence. Pothos, philodendron and peace lillies are all attractive, and relatively low maintenance options. Indoor herb gardens are a great way to start your dream of urban farming. Basil, parsley, chives, cilantro and spring onions all grow easily in containers on countertops. Having house plants will help you get into good watering routines and learn ‘how plants grow’ without some of the challenges that can come with outdoor gardens. Make good plant choices The internet is full of pictures you can use for inspiration to help you decide the style of garden you want to create. You’ll see the types of plants you like and be able to look up how to care for them. While you are getting started, it’s better to go for low maintenance options. Things to look out for include species of plants that have forgiving light and temperature needs or plants that are native to your area. Most people love to talk about their gardens so don’t be shy to ask someone for tips if you spot something you love in your neighborhood. Don’t overwater Most of the easy-care plants are fairly forgiving and giving them too much water can sometimes do more damage. There’s a really easy “finger” trick you can use for indoor and outdoor plants to test if it’s time to water them or not. Put your finger in the soil near the base of the plant, up to about your first knuckle. If the soil feels dry, it’s time to water. If the soil feels damp or dirt sticks to your finger, you can leave it another day or two. Gardening doesn’t have to be difficult so try not to overthink it or doubt your abilities. There can be a bit of trial and error involved but you’ll soon learn that’s half the fun of growing plants! Title: The Dirt on Soil: How to Help Your Plants Thrive Not all soil and potting mixes are created equal and it is often the quality and suitability of what you put your plants in that will determine how well they grow. Soil is actually its own ecosystem and a lot happens underground in a healthy garden bed. Worms, insects and other organisms all play a part and a lot of the soil improvement work you do is actually going to help them thrive, which in turn keeps your plants happy. Fertilizer and other nutrients are great for your plants, but if you want to really make them lush and healthy, these simple soil tips will help. Dense, compacted soil is great for lawns but plants prefer things to be a little looser. Raised garden beds are a great way to keep the soil easy to turn over and manage, particularly if you don’t have the means to work with the existing soil easily. You can build them to have great drainage and layer in organic matter like soil, compost, and even things like cardboard and your own worms to get it started. If you’re buying soil to mix with your existing dirt or fill a garden bed, it can pay to extend the budget to afford a premium soil mix as it has been formulated to have the right levels of minerals and nutrients your plants need. Organic matter is the best way to improve soil quality. Make sure that adding compost, manure or a good quality natural mulch is on your to-do list - this should be done annually at a minimum. As organic matter breaks down, it will release nutrients into the soil. Ground cover doesn’t just look good, it also helps keep weeds at bay and can prevent soil erosion. There are even some edible varieties you can choose from, but there are also almost limitless options to suit every garden style. Sometimes your dirt can be too high or low in pH levels. There are a number of ways you can increase or neutralize acidity - lime, sulphur and wood ash can all play a part but it’s important to know what’s out of balance first. You can buy soil testing kits from most garden supply stores that not only check your levels but also give you all the information you need to fix any problems you diagnose. Title: Fabulous Flowers: Why Gardeners Love These Blooms Flowering plants are a popular addition to gardens. Not only do they add a pop of color to contrast against all the green, but some will also even fill the yard with a beautiful scent and many can be used to make arrangements in the home. Some flowers bloom year-round, others are a seasonal treat. If you’re looking for inspiration for some floral plants to add to your garden, why not consider these beauties: Roses A classic but for good reason. Roses have been a favorite of gardeners for years. Most grow on a shrubby bush, but there are some climbing varieties that you can support with a trellis. The rose bush has a reputation for being a little finicky to grow but the reward of beautiful flowers and the most delicate scent make them worth the effort. Lilies Another classic that is as well known for its beautiful fragrance as it is for its blooms. The vibrant yellow and orange varieties bring brightness to the garden, and the more traditional white varieties don’t disappoint either. Lilies are versatile as they make great features in modern and traditional-style garden beds. Daisies As whimsical in a garden bed, as they are growing wild, daisies are cute flowers that tend to bring people joy. They’re affordable, grow well from seedlings, and their ability to grow as wildflowers make them easy for the most novice of gardeners to take care of. Whilst most think of the classic yellow center, white petal daisy there are actually almost limitless varieties available to give that cottage garden look. Daffodils Another cheerful choice, daffodils bring gardeners that extra element of surprise and satisfaction because they are grown underground from a bulb. Unlike a shrub or plant, it’s harder to see the growth progress in the early stages so you just need to wait for the surprise to burst through the soil. One bulb can last for years, guaranteeing a burst of joy and color to the garden every spring. Whether it’s visual impact, a sweet scent or a way to brighten up your home at the same time as your garden, incorporating flowers into garden beds will bring an extra level of joy and satisfaction to your gardening endeavors. Just remember most flowers will turn towards the sun so consider your positioning when you’re planting them to ensure maximum success. Title: Spreading like wildflowers: why this gardening trend is great for the earth We’ve had a love affair with wildflowers for a long time. The beautiful kaleidoscope of colors against rugged landscapes. The chaotic but calm way they grow and bloom wherever they are. In recent years, they’ve become popular in many of our gardens too and there’s more than aesthetics behind why we should all be planting more of them. Here are five reasons you should grow wildflowers in your backyard. 1. They’re essential for pollination The plight of the bees has been well-publicized in recent years and for good reason. We need bees for our food crops to survive so the more we can all do to encourage healthy neighborhood populations, the better. 2. They can keep other critters at bay The insects that wildflowers draw in have essential roles to play in a healthy ecosystem. They’ll help to ward off the pests that threaten to destroy harvests and your other plants without needing to use potentially harmful chemicals. 3. Many have medicinal benefits Plant therapy has been around for centuries and many of those age-old remedies use ingredients found in the local environment. You’ll need to do your research, not every wildflower is useful for herbal medicine, but a large percentage of them do have health benefits. 4. They’ll attract butterflies This not only boosts your local butterfly populations, including some of the more endangered species, but it also provides some magic and excitement for you to enjoy as well. Imagine being able to walk through your garden as butterflies flutter and dance around you. 5. Cleaner air We all know the important role that photosynthesis plays in the air we breathe. Plants are essential for filtering harmful gases like carbon monoxide from the air to give us the oxygen we need. Where possible, you should try and choose wildflowers that are native to the region you live in - or at least your country. While some international varieties of wildflowers can be spectacular to look at, introducing plant species can be detrimental to your local environment and ecosystem and you may unintentionally end up doing more harm to the local bee and butterfly populations. The trade-off is that native wildflowers thrive where you live, which means you’ll have a beautiful and easy-care field of flowers in your yard or garden beds. Title: Growing Up: Why Vertical Gardens Make Sense Vertical gardens have exploded in popularity in recent years. Not only do they create potentially more visual interest than traditional garden beds, but they also provide options for screening unsightly fences and walls, creating privacy and making the most of space. Apartment dwellers love them as the ultimate container garden, but they’re becoming popular in suburban backyards too. Here are some of the advantages of creating a vertical garden. 1. Vertical gardens are easy to maintain Unlike garden beds, vertical gardens aren’t as susceptible to weeds so other than watering, pruning and fertilizing, they don’t need a lot of special care. They’re also easy to access so if you love gardening but find it hard on your knees and back, a vertical garden may be just what you need. 2. Vertical gardens create instant impact Where a traditional garden bed might look a little sparse when you first put your plants in, vertical gardens tend to look more “finished” straight away, even if you’ve planted seedlings that need time to get really established. 3. Vertical gardens don’t need much space Gardening up with a vertical garden is great for people who live in high-density housing or don’t have big yards. Pots and planters can be attached to walls, fences or guardrails and there are also a number of freestanding options available to buy or DIY. 4. Bring the outdoors in Vertical gardens are also a fabulous way to add some greenery inside your home. They’re most popular as kitchen gardens for people who want to grow herbs but lack counter space, but all your favorite potted houseplants tend to work well as features in an indoor vertical garden. 5. Yield more crops If you’re growing vegetables in your yard, incorporating some kind of vertical garden - even if only a trellis or support for some of the vines and plants - is going to help you produce more food. Just remember that while you can grow anything with vertical gardening techniques, you’ll have to account for gravity, particularly for heavier vegetables like pumpkin. Vertical gardens do have some downsides. They can get expensive, particularly if you want to purchase specific planters or modular systems to house your vertical garden. You’re also a little limited by both plant choice and suitability but most of the cons of vertical gardens are easy enough to workaround.

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