How to Discover the Joys of Growing Gorgeous Succulents

Most people say gardening is a great way of relaxing the mind and relieving stress. But if you’re considering gardening and have no experience, it can easily have the opposite result. Many people take on gardening and feel worse than when they began because they’re unable to care for their garden. But choosing easy to grow plants can make the learning process much easier. So, here are some ways to discover the joys of growing gorgeous succulents.

The Best Plants for Inexperienced Gardeners

What makes gardening difficult is that people first think of the most beautiful, colorful gardens in their memory. And then they hope to replicate those even if they’ve never worked in a garden before. One thing to keep in mind is these gardens with variety require tending to plants and flowers with different needs. Some require lots of water, others are easily overwatered. Some plants crave sunlight, while others can get dried out by it. On the other hand, you care for succulents almost exactly the same regardless of how they look or their color. If you are new to gardening, forget about planting seeds, and instead buy a few succulents. You can purchase them in small plastic pots ready for a permanent garden. Since you are skipping the seed stage, create variety ahead of time. Your garden will be colorful and diverse from day one.

Easy to Care for, Too

Succulents are resilient beings that have evolved for survival. This means there is no need to worry if you forget to water them. Unlike other plants that grab all their moisture from the soil using their roots, succulents store moisture in their leaves. Weekly watering is all that is necessary with succulents. And in the rainy season, you can let Mother Nature care for them.

Great for Small Spaces

You don’t need a massive desert oasis to grow succulents. Another great characteristic of succulents is their ability to adapt. Give them a little water and natural sunlight, and succulents can thrive in almost any environment. You can set aside an area of your yard for succulents without sacrificing outdoor play space for your kids or pets. If you live in a townhome with only a small patio, try planter boxes. And if you live in an apartment or condo in a big city, buy an indoor vase and set your succulents close to windows that get sunlight. Gardening can be a relaxing pastime, but your garden must fit your lifestyle. If you’re just starting out or are concerned of how much time and space you can give your garden, succulents may be the right option for you.  

8 of the Best Ways to Get Your Yard and Garden in Great Shape

The dreary winter months can seem to drag on, especially for gardeners. But the gray skies and rain of spring don’t have to keep you from working on your yard and garden. No matter if you start early or late, here are eight great ways to get out there and get your yard and garden ready for the upcoming warm and sunny weather.
  1. Ready Tools and Structures

Inspect your tools for rust or breakage. Treat wooden handles. Sharpen the blades of pruners and other cutting tools. Repair old plant supports and coverings and build any new ones you might need.
  1. Make a Plan

Decide what to plant this year and where. Remember that crop rotation and companion planting can increase your yield. Plan the size and location of any new beds.
  1. Gather Supplies

Take inventory of all your gardening supplies. Replace any tools, structures, seeds, mulch, and fertilizer that need it.
  1. Prune and Transplant

Many trees and shrubs need pruning and transplanting while they are dormant in the winter and early spring. When buying new trees and shrubs, be sure to choose those that will complement what’s already in your yard and garden.
  1. Seed Indoors

Planting from seed is inexpensive and often productive, not to mention exciting and educational for kids. Seed flowers and vegetables in a warm, sheltered place to get a head start on the growing season. You can move them out to your yard and garden once they grow a few inches and are sturdy.
  1. Clean up Debris

In areas with milder winters, spring is a great time to clean up your yard and garden. Pull out any large stems and other debris from the previous season. Then all you have to do when the weather warms is stick your plants in the ground.
  1. Dig New Beds and Plots

If you’re planning to expand your garden, get to digging as soon as the weather allows. That way you’ll have time to further prepare the soil before planting time. Make sure to consider the big picture design-wise when you dig new areas in your yard and garden.
  1. Test and Amend the Soil

Since some amendments are harmful to plants until a certain amount of time has passed. So, test your soil now for any nutrients that might be lacking. This will give you time to add what your plants need before you’re ready to put them in the ground. Each of these steps will go a long way in getting your yard and garden ready for the summer months. Just take one at a time, and before you know it, you’ll have a beautiful outdoor space to relax and enjoy by yourself, or with friends and family.

3 Big Reasons to Get Hooked on Gardening From Seeds

Gardening from seeds can be immensely rewarding. The variety of seeds is immense and they are inexpensive, too. And seeing a sprout emerge from a tiny seed is exciting for most gardeners. So, here are three things to keep in mind if you plan to try gardening from seeds.
  1. Gardening from Seeds is Not as Hard as You May Think

Flower lovers have almost nothing to lose here, as there are copious, colorful flowers you can easily start from seeds. Marigolds, morning glories, and sunflowers are among the easiest seeds to start, according to Better Homes & Gardens. All three will sprout in about a week and you can plant them directly into the garden instead of sprouting them indoors. Sprouting your seeds indoors is a great way to get ahead of the growing season. Also, it can spruce up your living space. Learning how to start seeds indoors is easy. It just takes a little soil, some seeds, and something to plant those seeds in. Repurpose items like old milk cartons, egg crates, and many other things to use as planters. In fact, you don’t have to spend much to get some seeds sprouting.
  1. You Might Just Feed Yourself

The purchase of greenhouse-grown plants can add up quickly. Growing from seeds is the best way to garden economically, according to this Denver Post article on gardening from seeds. And if your intention is to grow some food, that’s a perfectly realistic expectation. While some fruits will benefit from being sprouted and then transplanted, many leafy greens grow best when you plant them directly into the soil. Planting seeds for food will inform you about what you’re eating in a way that buying store-bought food doesn’t. You can use organic seeds and soil, and you can control whether to douse them in pesticides or herbicides, or not. Gardening your own food from seeds can be immensely rewarding. Also, you’ll gain knowledge about the plant itself. It literally grows before your eyes. How much more informed can you get about where your food is coming from?
  1. Expect to Get Hooked

If there’s one potential drawback to gardening from seeds. You may find yourself with a new hobby that begins to border on an obsession. Many gardeners, like British author Charlotte Mendelson, say gardening from seeds is addictive. The reason is simple: seeds are readily available in nearly every supermarket or hardware store your likely to find yourself in. They come in affordable little packets that supply you with hundreds, if not thousands of potential life forms that you can grow and tend to. Soon, you’ll gain a sense of accomplishment from nurturing your sprouts. Beware though, because you may find yourself sprouting seeds all year round and reading entire books on gardening. You might cease to care about saving money, or growing food, and instead come to view gardening as a means to an end. It’s a meditative practice through which you connect with the natural world and gain insights into the deepest mysteries of life. Okay, maybe not. But you can absolutely expect to see something grow. For some, the prospect of picking and choosing the proper flora for their garden presents a conundrum; a paradox of choice that never gets resolved. For others, a trip to the local greenhouse and the purchase of an armful of already-grown plants will suffice. Perhaps it’s only the most patient planters who will go the hard route of starting from scratch. But these are the folks who arguably get the most satisfaction out of the hobby. This year consider getting your spring garden going with seeds.

Easy Tips to Make Your Hydrangeas That Beautiful Blue

The color of the blooms of the mophead-type hydrangea with the scientific name hydrangea macrophylla is somewhere between blue and violet with a flash of silver. Blue hydrangeas almost defy description. But when you see them, you know there is nothing like those blue flowers. So how do you make this kind of hydrangea change from pink to blue? The key is to change the acidity or pH level in the soil. The more alkaline your soil is the pinker the flowers. Conversely, a higher acidity level yields bluer blooms.

Make Your Hydrangeas That Beautiful Blue

But before you move on to testing and adjusting soil acidity to make your hydrangeas blue, make sure that you’ve taken these measures to encourage them to thrive:
  • Provide protection from the winter cold. Move your hydrangea bush to a sheltered location near the house or behind a windbreak of trees. If you can’t move the bush, place a cage around it and cover it with shredded leaves.
  • Prune correctly. Avoid pruning your hydrangea when the buds are forming in the spring. Fall or late winter are better times to prune when its stalks are dry and have finished blooming.
  • Fertilize at the right time. Apply an organic fertilizer like Rose-Tone as soon as the leaves of the hydrangea start to come out. And then apply it again when you see buds on the plant. If the bush blooms a second time, it’s a good time to follow with another application of fertilizer.
  • Water properly. Too much water produces leaves and no flowers. So, wait until the leaves look a little dry after the sun is off the bush. If the plant doesn’t rebound, it needs water. Try running a hose at the base to avoid encouraging fungus if the leaves get wet.

How to Test the pH of Your Soil

Here is a simple way to check if your soil is acidic enough to grow blue blooms on your hydrangeas:
  • Take a handful of the soil from near the plant’s roots and place it in a container.
  • Pour distilled white vinegar over the soil.
  • If the white vinegar solution fizzes, the pH level is high, and the soil is alkaline. You will definitely need to amend the soil. If it doesn’t fizz, the soil is neutral or acidic, and you may not need to amend it as much.

How to Amend the Soil

Although you could use coffee grounds and ground-up citrus peels to adjust your soil’s acidity, there is a lot of guesswork involved in this method. A more straightforward way to do this is to use aluminum sulfate, which you can purchase at your local garden center. The chemical composition of aluminum is responsible for creating those coveted blue hues. To use aluminum sulfate for encouraging your H. macrophylla to turn blue, follow these steps:
  • Dissolve one tablespoon of aluminum sulfate in a gallon of water.
  • Drench the plant’s root zone with the solution in early to mid-spring, but don’t overdo it. You may need to adjust the application depending on when the buds form in your growing zone.
  • Mulch your hydrangea with pine needles, pine bark and/or leaf litter.
  • Another thing to keep in mind is to avoid applying fertilizers that contain phosphorus. This element binds with aluminum and reduces the effectiveness of the solution you’ve just applied.
If you are willing to take the time and effort to give your hydrangeas the care they deserve, they might just reward you with those big, beautiful blue blooms. All it takes is a little time and know-how on your part.