Saturday, 2 November 2013

Colorful Plants for Shade

Shady areas of the garden needn't be dull as there are lots of attractive plants that will thrive in low light conditions.

Osmunda regalis, Royal fern
  • Latin name: Osmunda regalis
  • Common name: Royal fern
  • Type of plant: Fern
  • Hardiness: Hardy
  • Flower colour: N/A
  • Leaf colour: Bright green
  • Height and spread:     2m x 1m (6.6ft x 3.3ft)

This handsome deciduous fern has bright green fronds. In summer, rust-brown fertile fronds appear, which look a bit like flowers. Needs moist soil. 

Vinca, Periwinkle
  • Latin name: Vinca
  • Common name: Periwinkle
  • Type of plant: Ground cover
  • Hardiness: Hardy
  • Flower colour: Purple-blue
  • Leaf colour: Dark green
  • Height and spread:     30cm x 1m (1ft x 3.3ft)

These evergreens make useful ground cover in shady spots. They are vigorous growers so cut them back hard each spring to keep them under control. 

  • Latin name: Mahonia
  • Common name: Mahonia
  • Type of plant: Shrub
  • Hardiness: Hardy
  • Flower colour: Bright yellow
  • Leaf colour: Dark green
  • Height and spread:     1m x 1.5m (3.3ft x 4.9ft)

These evergreen shrubs have attractive spiky leaves which are loved by flowers arrangers. In winter, they bear scented, yellow flowers which are followed by bluish fruits. 

Camellia, Camellia 
  • Latin name: Camellia
  • Common name: Camellia
  • Type of plant: Shrub
  • Hardiness: Frost-hardy
  • Flower colour: White to pink or red
  • Leaf colour: Dark green
  • Height and spread: 5m x 4m(17ft x 13.1ft)

Well known for their colourful flowers which brighten the garden in spring. They need acid soil to thrive. Can be grown in containers of ericaceous compost. 

Helleborus foetidus, Stinking hellebore

  • Latin name: Helleborus foetidus
  • Common name: Stinking hellebore
  • Type of plant: Hardy perennial
  • Hardiness: Hardy
  • Flower colour: Green
  • Leaf colour: Deep green
  • Height and spread:     30cm x 30cm (1ft x 1ft)

Easy to grow, even in dry shade this tough evergreen perennial bears green flowers in winter. Cut out stems 


If Van Gogh were Farmer

If Van Gogh were Farmer

The Forest on an Abandoned Ship

The Forest on an Abandoned Ship

There is an island in the Maroni River that was formed by a British ship that ran aground!

The British ship Edith Cavell now looks more like a forest than a boat. The British ship was first launched in 1898.

The steamer was on a trip to St. Laurent de Maron (present day French Guyana) when she ran aground in the Maroni River.

She broke in two and was unable to continue. The crew was forced to abandon her. Her life was not done though. From there, the Edith Cavell became overgrown with plants.

The ship was carrying some general cargo, some of which contained seeds. The seeds managed to germinate in the mud and water and, over a period of 36 or so years, the ship slowly began to sprout trees and formed the nameless island.

Today, she looks more like an island of foliage in the middle of the river than a ship.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Different Avocado Varieties

Different Avocado Varieties

This grape story could ring in a revolution

The Hindu

This grape story could ring in a revolution
Chinthala Venkat Reddy at his grape garden in Ranga Reddy district. Photo: K. Srinivas Reddy

If you have sun-dried soil, you could usher in a revolution. A grape farmer’s innovation in Ranga Reddy promises a bumper crop, sans fertiliser, pesticide and all

Can dried soil replace fertilisers and pesticides?

If the results of a novel Soil Management (SM) technique — developed by a farmer from Ranga Reddy district — are any indication, the crop yield would go up at least by half, drastically reducing the farm input cost component, even while preserving the soil eco system.

Agricultural scientists have been visiting a grape garden on the city outskirts, where the SM technique is employed by a Chinthala Venkat Reddy, a progressive farmer, leading to a phenomenal increase in yield.


The grapes harvested in this garden are the sweetest and the best in quality in terms of crispiness of the fruit and berry size, vouchsafe scientists of the Dr. YSR Horticultural University and the Krishi Vignan Kendra of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR).

The technique developed by Mr. Venkat Reddy is rather simple. The sub-soil from a paddy field is scooped up using hydraulic earth movers and dried in open air during summer. This dried soil is sprinkled at the stem of the plant periodically.

“Each plant needs specific nutrients. For example, the soil nutrients needed by paddy and grape are different. When you scoop soil from a paddy field, the soil will have plenty of nutrients needed by grape plant. When the plant gets the nutrients it needs, it grows healthily without fertiliser support”, he explains.

Phenomenal yield

With this technique, Mr. Venkat Reddy (Phone: 986-688-3336) has been able to get a yield of 30-32 tonnes of grape per acre, while his counterparts in other gardens, who make use of pesticides, fertilisers and organic manure, get a yield between 20 and 25 tonnes.

“Going by the healthy plants in the garden and the grape fruits yet to be harvested, the yield could touch 40 tonnes per acre this year. It’s nothing short of a miracle,” exclaims G. Satyanarayana, Joint Secretary of ICAR’s Krishi Vignan Kendra, Gaddipalli, Nalgonda.

Dr. Satyanarayana, who has been visiting the farm, says the technique is a boon for the farming community as it is not an experiment done in a one-acre farm. There has been consistency in grape yield over the years.

Impressed by innovation and consistent high-yields at lowest cost, the centre is getting ready to do a systematic analysis of the SM technique by agricultural scientists under the Rashtriya Krishi Vignan Yojana (RKVY) Scheme, informs. B. Srinivas Rao, Principal Scientist at the Grape Research Station in Rajendranagar, Hyderabad.

Mr. Venkat Reddy claims to have tried out the technique in growing paddy and wheat too, yielding good results in the process. Encouraged by the consistency, he has also applied for a national patent for the technique. The claim has been published by the Indian Patent Office in June 2012.

How to Make Tulips Stand Up Straight in a Vase

How to Make Tulips Stand Up Straight in a Vase

To keep tulips standing straight and tall, first cut the stem tips with a sharp knife  While still wrapped, place immediately in water, allowing them to draw water for five to six hours. Then remove wrap, arrange flowers and enjoy!

Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Basics of Herbs

The Basics of Herbs

Thrips Management in the Home Garden

Diane G. Alston, Entomologist
Daniel Drost, Vegetable Specialist

Thrips Management in the Home Garden

Thrips will infest onions, garlic, and other vegetables in the home garden, but small-sized plots are generally not at risk for significant yield loss. 

Thrips in the home garden are best managed with cultural practices and natural biological control. 

The following are generally adequate to keep thrips from noticeably reducing onion growth and bulb size in the home garden: 

  • add compost to enhance organic matter and soil tilth; use mulches;
  • plant onions and garlic in small plots surrounded by a diversity of other plants, including garden crops, herbs, and cultivated and wild flowers;
  • apply a stiff spray of water from a hose to wash thrips from plants when they are observed;
  • and avoid using broad-spectrum, toxic insecticides to preserve natural enemies that keep onion thrips populations low.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Poor Amazon farming community scores land victory

Poor Amazon farming community scores land victory

After more than a century of struggle, poor Brazilian farming families along the Tapajos river, a tributary of the Amazon, have won rights to their land, reports Sue Branford from Para state.

Their victory is being hailed as a remarkable recognition by the authorities of the rights of a traditional community over the interests of powerful economic groups.

The move is surprising because it runs counter to the government's plan to build a series of hydroelectric dams on the river, which would flood the land now granted to the families.

The decision creates a real dilemma for the government.

If it is to press ahead with the dams, it will now have to relocate these families to a comparable location, which it cannot do without expelling other communities and creating further conflicts.

Unexpected decision

Luiz Bacelar Guerreiro Junior, who is the superintendent for Brazil's National Institute of Colonisation and Agrarian Reform (Incra) in the area, is the man behind the unexpected decision to give the settlement in Montanha-Mangabal the green light.

"I am very proud to be ending a struggle like this one, giving rights to those who deserve them," said Mr Bacelar.

He has given the 550-sq-km area the status of an Agro-Extractive Settlement Project (PAE), which recognises the rights of families to continue occupying the land the way it has been occupied by their ancestors. The land cannot be sold.

When asked if he had faced opposition from powerful economic interests, Mr Bacelar replied: "I didn't listen. I did what had to be done and that's it."

Recognising rights

It is a development which Felipe Fritz Braga has welcomed.

Mr Braga is a prosecutor in the Federal Public Ministry, an independent branch of the government which defends the rights of disadvantaged groups within Brazilian society.

"The recognition of Montanha-Mangabal by the Brazilian state is an unmistakeable act of true and effective agrarian reform," he said.

"It is the first time the federal government recognises the antiquity of the occupation of this land by these communities and treats them as people having fundamental rights, especially rights to the land."

Conservation success

The Montanha-Mangabal hamlets were formed in the second half of the 19th Century, when hundreds of poor farmers from the north-east of Brazil migrated to the region to tap rubber.

After the collapse of the rubber boom early in the 20th Century, many were trapped in the region, without means of earning a living or the money to pay for the 2,000-km (1,200-mile) trip home.

Stranded far away from home, some of the men, most of whom were single, kidnapped women from neighbouring indigenous groups and settled down with them.

Seventy-five-year-old Dona Raimunda Araujo, remembers her family talking about the way her grandfather "stole" her grandmother, a Munduruku Indian.

She says the women brought to the rubber-tapper communities centuries' worth of indigenous knowledge about the ecology of the Amazon forest.

This helps to explain why, even though they fell small areas to plant crops, the communities have some of the best-conserved forest in the region.


But in recent years the families have struggled to retain possession of their land.

The first threat came in the 1970s, at a time when it was widely believed that forests had to be empty of people to be conserved.

It was at this time that the federal government expelled the families from their homes to set up the National Park of Amazonia.

But they soon regrouped, settling higher up the river.

In 2006, it seemed as if the families' right to the land was finally to be assured.

They went through the long and difficult process of becoming a "Resex" (extraction reserve), a type of reserve created by the Brazilian state to protect traditional forest dwellers.

It would have given the families very strong rights over their land, stronger than they have with the PAE, but it had to be signed off by the then-President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

To the families' dismay, he refused to sign the necessary decree.

The president's reluctance was widely attributed at the time to the fact that the government was planning a series of hydroelectric dams along the Tapajos river.

Part of the energy was to go to mining companies, as vast mineral wealth, particularly gold, had been discovered in the region.

This is why indigenous and land right activists are hailing Mr Bacelar's decision as bringing at least a partial victory to a community that has struggled against the odds for many years.

Yet their struggle may not yet be over. It is still unclear how the pro-dam lobby and mining companies will react to Incra's defiant act.

Additional reporting by Natalia Guerrero.

Hanging Pet Bottle Planter

Hanging Pet Bottle Planter

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Tips on growing strawberries in the home garden

By Roy Lee Carter
Gulf County Extension Director 
Tips on growing strawberries in the home garden

Strawberries can be grown in home gardens throughout the state.  Temperatures between 50 to 80° F (10 and 27°C) and day lengths 14 hours or fewer are required for the development of flowers and fruit on most strawberry varieties.  

In the U.S. these conditions occur only for a short period in late summer or fall, and again briefly in spring.  In our area, however, this combination of day length and temperature exists for much of the fall, winter and spring.  Single-crown (stem) strawberry plants are planted in Florida during the fall, from late September to early November.  Flowering and fruit production generally beings in November and continues into April or May.  Fruit production over this period is not constant, but occurs in two or three cycles, and can be interrupted by freezing weather.  Because the highest quality fruit are produced on relatively young plants with not more than four or five branched crowns, plants are usually tilled under at the end of the fruiting season, and new plants are planted the following fall.

Currently, we suggest three varieties for the Florida home garden:  Camarosa, Sweet Charlie, and Festival, all three varieties produce attractive, flavorful berries suitable for eating fresh or for freezing.  Camarosa has been the most productive variety in North Florida, while Festival has been the most productive variety in Central Florida.  These varieties are capable of producing 1 to 2 pints of fruit per plant over the season.  Strawberries grow best in a location receiving at least 8 hours of direct sunlight per day.  If a full sun location is not available, try to choose a spot that is sunny during the morning and early afternoon.  The soil should be well drained and slightly acidic (pH 5.5 to 6.5).

IFAS specialist recommends planting strawberries on raised bed which are two feet wide and spaced two feet apart.  The beds should be mounded so they’re six inches high along the edges and about eight inches high in the middle. 

In preparing the beds you begin with fertilization.  For a ten-by-ten foot strawberry patch, broadcast about two-and-a-half pounds of 8-8-8 fertilizer and till it into the soil.  Then from the beds and apply another two-and-a-half pounds of fertilizer this time in a narrow band about six inches deep down the middle of the beds.  If you’re just starting to grow strawberries you should also include a complete mixture of minor elements in the first season fertilizer application.

When the bed is properly formed, fertilized and moistened, cover with a sheet of landscaping mesh fabric which will block weeds and allow water to penetrate.  The, cut slits in the fabric where the plants will be inserted.  Plants should be set in double rows, one row on each side of the bed about six inches from the edge.  Plants should be spaced 12 inches apart in the row.  Be sure that no plants are set directly over the fertilizer band down the middle of the bed because this can lead to salt burn.

Be sure to use certified, disease-free plants.  Keep them moist before planting and plant in moist soil.  Spread the roots in a fan shape, set the plant at the correct depth in the soil, and pack the soil firmly around the roots.

For more information on growing strawberries contact the Gulf County Extension Service @ 639-3200 or visit our website:  or www.  and see Circular HS 1154

Stop Consuming, Start Producing

$30 Billion is wasted each year on landscaping. Foodscaping can be extremely beautiful.

$30 Billion is wasted each year on landscaping. Foodscaping can be extremely beautiful.

Monday, 28 October 2013

10 Houseplants That Clean Indoor Air

Aloe Vera - Not only can it be used for burns on the skin, it is also known to remove formaldahyde from the air.

Areca Palm - General air purifier, especially as it grows larger. It's known for being one of the better performers in purifying the air.

Baby Rubber Plant - These houseplants clean the air by emitting high oxygen content, and purifies indoor air by removing chemicals, such as formaldahyde or other toxins.

Bamboo Palm - According to NASA, it removes formaldahyde and is also said to act as a natural humidifier.

Boston Fern - Said to act as a natural air humidifier, removes formaldahyde and is a general air purifier. Said to be among the best in air purifying houseplants.

Chinese Evergreen - Emits high oxygen content, and purifies indoor air by removing chemicals, such as formaldahyde, benzene or other toxins.

Mass Cane - Known for removing formaldahyde and known generally as one of the houseplants that clean the air.

Pygmy Date Palm - Said to remove formaldehyde and xylene (a chemical found in plastics and solvents) from the air.

Ficus alii - Said to be a great overall air purifier. 

Gerbera Daisy - NASA says this plant is fantastic at removing benzene, a known cancer-causing chemical. It also absorbs carbon dioxide and gives off oxygen overnight, which is said to improve your sleep!

Aloe Vera Plant Growing & Usage Tips

Aloe Vera Plant Growing & Usage Tips

When Buying:

  • This plant usually grows slowly inside a house–purchase a large, more mature one if possible. If a young one is your only option, you can still use it for first aid treatments but know it will take a few years to get large.
  • Young aloe is potent enough to use for first aid treatments, but the more mature one offers a stronger potency, strength does increase with age.

General Care:

  • It can be grown indoors or outdoors, but will turn brown in harsh sunlight so choose a location in indirect light.
  • Will freeze, make sure to protect it during frost dangers. Not suitable for wintering over in cold weather zones.
  • Will thrive outside better than inside, but definitely makes a good indoor houseplant.
  • Use well-drained sandy potting soil, a good quality commercial mix with extra perlite, granite grit, or coarse sand are added is recommended. Cacti and succulent mixes may also be used. Source: Wikipedia.


  • This is a succulent, don’t overwater.
  • Allow the soil to become fairly dry before watering. Lightly water during winter months since the drying out will be slower.
  • If potting, make sure there is a drainage hole so the water can drain easily.


  • When it is rootbound, it will be top heavy and will send out more new shoots or pups, repot.
  • Remove new shoots when they are 3 to 4 inches high and replant in their own pots. If you don’t, they will suck life from the mother plant. Signs of this happening: The mother will get bright green and spread its leaves horizontally rather than vertically.
  • Water the pups well when repotting then don’t water again for about 3 weeks, forcing the new roots to get strong and seek water. They may turn grey or brown initially, this is normal. These make great gifts so give freely!

Symptoms Of Poor Care:

Leaves lie flat instead of upright: usually because of insufficient light.
Leaves are thin and curled: it’s not being watered enough and is using up its own liquid.
Leaves are brown: too much direct sunlight.
Very slow growth: High alkaline soil or water; too damp for too long; not enough light; too much fertilizer.

Removing Leaves:

  • Harvest leaves as you need, the wound is quickly sealed and healed. The leaf will not grow back, choose those closest to the ground as they are the most mature and most potent.
  • Using For First Aid Treatments

How To Cut A Leaf:

  • Cut away with a sharp knife.
  • Trim the thorny edges from the severed leaf, then slice across its width. The inner transparent, gooey gel is ready to be applied directly to the afflicted area. Use generously, it will be absorbed by the skin within several minutes.
  • After the gel from the first layer of ruptured cells has run dry, scratch the surface with a clean knife to rupture more cells, releasing more juice. This can be continued until there is nothing but green skin left.

How Long Will A Cut Leaf Last:

  • Wrap partially used leaves in foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate, it will last for days.

To Consume:

  • The colorless pulp is tasteless, but first rinse off the bitter yellow sap. Peel the green skin from the pulp, then rinse off the sap with cool water.

Source – More complete notes & tips can be found in the booklet:
The Ancient Egyptian Medicine Plant Aloe Vera Hand Book
Author: Max B. Skousen
Aloe Vera Research Institute (1982)

Sunday, 27 October 2013

How Infectious Diseases Are Spread In Livestock

How Infectious Diseases Are Spread In Livestock

Some common ways infectious diseases are introduced into and spread within herds or flocks are:

01. Introduction of diseased animals.

2. Introduction of healthy animals that have recovered from disease but are still carriers or can still transmit the disease to other animals.

03. Contact with inanimate objects that are contaminated with disease organisms (trucks and trailers, feeders, waterers, etc.).

04. Contact with carcasses of dead animals that have not been disposed of properly.

05. Impure water, such as surface drainage water.

06. Rodents and free-flying birds.

07. Mosquitoes. Insects-fowl pox and encephalitis are commonly transmitted by mosquitoes.

08. Shoes and clothing of persons who move from farm to farm.

09. Contaminated feed and feed bags.

10. Contaminated premises through soil, old litter, or bedding.

11. Airborne organisms, which do not spread far through the air, but this source of infection can be a strong factor in heavily populated livestock areas.

US gardening industry to see large gains following the recession

US gardening industry to see large gains following the recession

By Mike King

As the economy continues to slowly recover, the US gardening industry has started to once again see large gains following the recession, with some categories returning to their pre-recession sizes.

When the recession took hold in 2008, the industry suffered, facing drastic drops in revenue. A rising number of home foreclosures, escalating unemployment and little spending cash diminished downstream demand.

However, as other areas of the economy, such as housing, fully rebound, the home and garden industry has seen remarkable growth as consumers finally purchase pricier items they had been holding off on.

Weather conditions play an essential role in the cultivation and proliferation of garden products. Cool and moist weather is a bane of any gardener, as it helps promote the growth of troublesome weeds, grass, and insects.

However, hot, dry conditions or even stormy or humid weather is definitely no better. Such kind of climate tends to either slow down the growth process or severely restrict any kind of outdoor activity.

Outdoor power equipment, such as land mowers, occupies a huge market share in the US, while their market share in Japan is very insignificant. This is mainly due to the fact that US gardens are large and allow the use of huge equipment, while at the same time Japanese gardens are smaller in size.

Speciality retailers were particularly affected by the recession, as many of them sell their products at a premium price that consumers could no longer afford. Garden centres lost the majority of their share during and for some time after the recession.

In 2012, however, these channels appear to be slowing down migration and are poised to start regaining lost ground as consumers appear willing to pay for the specialized selection and expert advice these channels offer.

In the coming years, declining unemployment rate will lead to higher disposable incomes, spurring demand for home improvement projects and purchases.

Nevertheless, budget-minded and time-pressed consumers will continue shopping at lower-priced, one-stop-shop retailers like the Home Depot and Walmart, sapping revenue away from nursery and garden stores.

Vertical Gardening in Cinder Blocks

Vertical Gardening in Cinder Blocks