Mammals and Reptiles in a Wildlife Garden

When deciding to make a wildlife garden, you need to be prepared to play host to a wide diversity of creatures, large and small. Some of these creatures may not be ones you particularly like, but to maintain the garden and it’s food chain then you will have to be prepared to tolerate all who enter your garden. Two types of creatures that feature highly in a wildlife garden are mammals and reptiles.

Wildlife such as mice, rats, moles, squirrels, rabbits and foxes belong to the mammal family. This means they are warm blooded creatures that usually have fur on their skin, they give birth to live young and feed their young with milk. On the other hand, a reptile is a cold-blooded, usually egg-laying vertebrate with a skeleton and a body covered with scales and or plates. Reptiles include such species as snakes, lizards and slow worms.

How much wildlife you encourage into your garden will largely depend on the size of it. Any species of wildlife will only visit the garden if it has the correct shelter and food for it’s needs. If your wildlife garden provides them with their needs, the chances are they will not only become regular visitors but will opt for making it their permanent home. Some mammals and reptiles will only be night-time visitors or just passing through. For this reason they may not be seeking a home, but they will require food.

The food chain in a wildlife garden is a very delicate balance of nature. Small mammals such as mice eat insects and spiders. Hedgehogs eat worms, slugs and small animals, while bats eat flying insects. Larger mammals such as foxes eat birds, small animals and insects as do snakes. Rats will eat almost anything they can find, which makes them great cleaners.

If wishing to encourage mammals and reptiles into your wildlife garden, you need to design it with this in mind. It needs to be built and planted as a mammal and reptile refuge, the most vital part of this being some kind of water feature. A pond is ideal with a bog garden along-side it for those creatures that need water but do not live in it constantly.

Lots of ground cover is essential for wildlife to shelter and feed in. Compost heaps will encourage much wildlife as will areas that are left alone to grow wild, particularly with native plants and weeds. Rotting logs are home to many insects such as beetles and woodlice as well log piles which become homes to mammals such as hedgehogs and mice. A wildlife garden planted with as many shrubs, bushes, trees and long grass is ideal for encouraging all sorts of creatures.

Once having built your wildlife garden, you need to be patient as wildlife will not appear overnight. Small creatures need to establish themselves in the garden before larger creatures arrive to feed on them. This could take up to a year or two.

Providing Food For Mammals and Reptiles

Most mammals and reptiles eat plant and animal matter. For this reason it is best to include plants they can eat directly as well as ones that attract creatures that they in turn eat. An example of this is the planting of sunflowers. The seeds are eaten by some insects, birds and small mammals such as mice. These in turn are eaten by larger animals such as bats, rats, rabbits and badgers.

Supplementary Feeding

It is very easy to get carried away with feeding the wildlife in your garden as an act of kindness. However, the whole ethos of a wildlife garden is to establish a near natural environment as possible for the animals. This means building an area that should be as self sufficient as possible to sustain the wildlife you attract.

If however, circumstances such as bad weather or your garden has not established itself fully yet, then some form of supplementary feeding may be necessary. This should be done with some restraint and with only high quality feed as natural to their own habit as possible. Feeding the animals incorrectly no matter how good intentioned can have adverse and very damaging consequences. For example, feeding birds nuts and seeds that have been imported from another country may attract one variety over another, disturbing the balance to the wildlife garden.

You need to be aware that if you put out bread for birds or scraps for foxes you might be doing more harm than good. If an animal comes to depend on handouts it could alter it’s natural behaviour, even delay or halt it’s hibernation or learn to store supplies for the winter. This may be alright while you constantly care for it, but what happens if you are away or forget?

The best advice is to restrict supplementary feeding to household food that would otherwise go to waste, such as bread, cake, fruit and so on. Vegetable peelings and scraps can go on the compost heap, indirectly providing supplementary food for slugs, worms, beetles and bugs that live in or around it.

Natural Food For Mammals and Reptiles

The best way to make sure there is plenty of food in your wildlife garden is by making sure it is stuffed with super-food providing plants. It needs to be a breeding ground for beetles, bugs, worms, slugs, and other small creatures that mammals and reptiles will naturally feed on. Once having established this you will in time attract a wide variety of mammals and reptiles.

How to keep your Orchids happy?

Orchids are flowering plants that add a vibrant and aesthetic appeal to your home. You really need to keep these plants blossoming forever. Don’t you? So, how to keep your orchids happy? Here are some of the tips that will help you:

Orchids need a suitable temperature for their growth. The temperature requirement varies based on the type of orchid. For instance, Cymbidium and Odontocidium can flourish at 11 degrees Celsius during cold weather, whereas Phalaenopsis loves temperature around 15 degrees Celsius during winter season. Too much heat or too much cold is going to have a bad impact on the development of your orchids. Ensure that you control the temperature within your home. Typically, day temperature between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and night temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit is encouraging for effective growth of Orchids. If you need your Orchids to bloom regularly then ensure that the temperature is controlled meticulously.

Humidity plays an important role in the development of Orchids. You need to maintain 50 -70% humidity to promote healthy growth of your orchids. Here is how you can make your orchids glow: Keep your orchid pot in a shallow container containing water and small round pebbles. This will ensure that the plant gets the much needed moisture to support its growth. Clean the water and pebbles at regular time intervals to maintain non-toxic water in the container.

Orchids need a good amount of air circulation to stimulate their growth. If you have a proper channel for ventilation in your home then this will really help your orchids to bloom consistently. Hot climates are not conducive for healthy development. Keep your orchids away from the direct heat or sun. Preferably, you can keep them shielded using blinds and shutters. If the temperature is too high then you would need to move your orchids further away from the source of heat. Use your table fan effectively to regulate the temperature.

There is a wide variety of orchid food available in the market. You need to select the right type of nourishment for your orchid. If you want your orchids to be happy then proper usage of fertilisers is a must. You need to provide your orchids the right blend of potassium, nitrogen and phosphorous. The amount and frequency of fertiliser usage is dependent on different factors like type of orchid, health of the plant and the outside climate. Failing to provide suitable fertilisers to your orchids will limit its growth. If your orchids are cultivated in bark then they would need more nitrogen compared to other elements. So choose fertilisers that have more nitrogen content. A word of caution is to avoid using excessive fertilisers as it might impact on the flowering of your plant and only produce more leaves.

Orchids generally don’t need a lot of water. You must sprinkle water on the soil and the frequency should be between 5 and 12 days. The requirement of water is seasonal and rain water is most suitable for orchids. During summer, orchids need more amount of water compared to winter. For producing the best results, water your orchids once a week during the summer and once every 2 weeks during winter. Watering your orchids at the start of the day is highly beneficial in improving their quality.

Every orchid plant has some obvious repotting needs. Potting is generally associated with different mediums. Coconut husk, perlite glass and bark are the most common mediums for cultivating orchid plants. If your orchid plant is potted in the bark medium then it is a must to be repotted every 18 months to ensure that the plant grows properly and provides high quality flowers.

Reblooming of orchids depends on various factors. If you have orchid varieties like Phalaenopsis then they will need minor changes in temperature to foster flowering. If you have Dendrobium then it might need change of fertilisers to stimulate blossoming.

The most common pests for your orchids are snails. They prohibit proper growth by damaging the roots and stems of your orchid plant. You will need to use suitable pesticides to minimize this threat and keep your orchids cheerful.

You also need to take proper care of your orchid flowers. Gently pull the flowers from their spike when they start turning brown. Cutting the spikes at regular time intervals ensures strong growth of your orchid plant.

All these steps will help to keep your Orchids really happy.

Making a Vegetable Container Garden

Growing vegetables in containers for many people is an ideal solution if they don’t have a garden or yard space. Most vegetables can easily be grown in containers as long as they are big enough and deep enough for your chosen vegetable. This makes growing vegetables possible for those who live in apartments or only have a small patio area.

Growing vegetables in containers is also very convenient for those with mobility problems as they can be raised to an accessible height and require much less maintenance than a vegetable bed. Another advantage is that you can control the growing conditions of your vegetables much more easily, providing adequate water and good nutrients with the right compost.

Making a vegetable container garden is very simple. Even if you only have a window box, tub or small pot, you can grow a good range of salad vegetables, herbs or tomatoes.

Types of Container

Clay and Terracotta

If you are going for looks, clay and terracota are very attractive, but they do tend to dry out more quickly than plastic and will require more regular watering. If choosing this type of container, it should be lined with plastic before planting to reduce moisture loss. They should also be of a frost proof type unless you can protect them over winter. Standing them on ‘feet’ is also a good idea to prevent water-logging.

Plastic Containers

These are much lighter and hence easier to move if necessary, especially when full of compost. They also dry out less quickly, are hardy and not affected by frost.

Metal Containers

These have a smart, modern look which may not be for everyone. They are frost-proof and come in a range of weights to suit you. And like plastic will not dry out easily. On the other hand one of the main disadvantages to metal containers is that they are prone to heating up as well as conducting the cold quickly.

Wooden Planters

These can look very attractive, but have a limited life-span due to rotting. They can be lined with plastic inside with drainage holes to help slow this down, but inevitably they will need to be replaced after a few years.

Recycled Containers.

Almost any container will do as long as it has adequate space for the vegetables to grow and drainage, you are only limited by your imagination. Old sinks, buckets, kettles, wooden crates etc, depending on the look you want to create. You can also buy ready prepared grow bags from the garden center, and vegetables can be planted straight into them.

Key Requirements For Growing Vegetables in Containers

Firstly the size has to be appropriate for what you are going to grow. Root vegetables such as carrots, need deep pots, while beetroot grows near the top of the soil and only needs a shallow pot, which are also suitable for salad vegetables. Tomatoes need large containers for their roots and tall vegetables will need heavy pots with a stable base.

Drainage

Good drainage is very important, so make sure there are enough drainage holes in the base of your container, drill extra if necessary. Cover the base with crocks or stones to help with the drainage and raise the pots on feet to prevent water-logging. A light, free draining compost should be added with some grit.

Watering

Potting compost needs to be moist, but not water-logged at all times. Once compost has dried out it is very difficult to re-hydrate it properly. You should not rely on the rain to water your containers, as it may not penetrate through the foliage. Water-retaining gel can be added to make this job easier. Also mulching the surface of the pot with gravel or decorative bark helps to minimize evaporation.

Potting Compost

This can be either, water-retentive peat or bark based potting compost or a soil or loam-based medium for your vegetables. Most types of good quality commercial compost are also suitable.

Feeding

Your container will only have a limited amount of nutrients and will need to be fed regularly with a controlled release fertilizer or general all purpose feed.

Position

Planting vegetables in containers means that you can move them around to the best possible position. Putting them on wheels can make this easier. Avoid windy areas and areas that can get too hot as well as too shaded as they will require a fair amount of sun.

Making a vegetable container garden can not only be very convenient it can also be a lot of fun. You can grow a vast selection of vegetables in containers to eat fresh straight from the plant or to store for later. It can also be a great way to get children started in gardening.

How to make compost in simple stepsHow to make compost

Compost is a soil enriching substance which is derived by decaying garden and kitchen waste. If you want to improve the fertility of your garden soil then using compost is actually the best way. Since it is derived from the garden and kitchen waste so it is free from any kind of harmful pesticides and chemicals that can potentially damage your plants. Farmers world over know the benefits of using compost for their plants and you can also use the same methods to enhance soil quality and improve plant life.

Making compost is a very easy task if you know what you need to do actually. The task becomes even easier when you know what exactly to use and what are the steps and precautions that you need to take.

Step 1

You need to have the best materials in order to create good quality compost. Now, compost is made up from waste matter mostly so you can use kitchen waste like vegetable peels, fruit peels, waste vegetables, salad scraps, grass cuttings, weeds all that are plant related and are tender. However, you should restrain from using cooked food and oily matter to it. Do not add any meat or dairy foods that can smell while composting. The main aim of adding this green waste matter is that it will provide lots of nitrogen for the compost.

Compost is prepared by the action of microbes and they convert the nitrogen in them to complex nitrates which is highly beneficial for the plants. These nitrates will then be broken back into nitrogen by the plants for their growth and development. It would be better if you add some manure from animals as the manure acts as something that kick starts the process of decomposition. Remember to take the manure only from herbivorous animals only. Do not add human or any carnivorous animal’s feces to it. You also need to add some brown material to it. The brown material can be identified as dry leaves, twigs, wood shavings, wood scrapings, waste wood powder, cardboard egg cases, egg shells, waste paper, used paper napkins etc. These kinds of materials add carbon to the compost matter. These substances are also hard and occupy larger surface area that traps oxygen which is much needed in the process.

Step 2

Now you can begin the composting process. You can use a composting bin or a compost pit. It is not necessary that you should use a compost pit because a bin would suffice. You can take a simple plastic bin and punch some holes through it for aeration. Remember that oxygen is very important for the process and good supply of it will make sure that it is ready for use quickly. Mix well all the material you have got and put in and cover it with a lid. It would best if you keep it in a place that is neither too sunny nor too cold. Proper heat hastens the process. After you leave this mixture for a few days, you will see that it heats up a bit, indicating that the process has begun. You need to add a little bit of water if the mixture appears too dry. But be cautious as a soggy mixture will smell awful. Also, it will cool down the heat and prevent further decomposition.

Step 3

You now need to keep turning the pile. This action mixes the already prepared compost with the rest of the mixture and helps it to decay evenly. The small plants and weeds in it are the fastest to decay and the brown matter which comprises of dry leaves and woody matter will decompose slowly. When you mix the decaying matter regularly, you mix more oxygen to it. The elevated levels of oxygen help the microbes to breed and to decay the matter fully. The process in turn heats up the mixture and kills all harmful bacteria and other microbes present in it. The heat also burns out the weeds and makes them available for decay.

The final compost can be prepared in a matter of two or three months. This also depends on the ratio in which you used the green and the brown material for composting. The final compost thus prepared should have an even consistency, should not be very wet and soggy or totally dry. It has a pleasant earthly smell too.

Looking After Chickens

Looking after chickens, particularly backyard chickens can be very rewarding and fairly inexpensive once you have bought the basics such as the chicken sheds or chicken coups. To be able to collect your own eggs from your own free range chickens is a great feeling. Even if you only want to keep chickens as pets there are a few basic steps to successfully looking after chickens that become routine and easily mastered.

The first step to looking after chickens is the shelter that you need to provide for your chickens. This can be in the form of a chicken shed, chicken barn or chicken cages. However, the commonly used type of chicken housing is the chicken coop. No matter which type of housing you choose, the care of it is just the same.

A chicken coop provides your chickens with a safe place to live that protects them from the elements and predators such as foxes. It also provides them with a place to lay eggs and roost at night, and it helps you to keep track of where they are. Chicken coops come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and it’s important to understand and provide the correct coop features that compliment the natural behaviour of chickens. Your chickens need the basics- 4 walls and a roof. They need a doorway to get in and out, and the coop should be relatively draft free. The materials and design choices for your coop are endless.

Chickens love to scratch in the dirt, dig through weeds, dig up bugs, take dirt baths in the dust, relax in the sun or shade, and be able to run about. It’s therefore important for your chickens to have access to the outside. Be sure to provide them with an outside fenced area or fully enclosed run that is attached to their coop. Shelter from the sun over part of the enclosure is also important.

Chickens are birds and hence love to roost. This means they like having something to perch on that is up off the ground. Most coop designs incorporate a roosting bar or something similar to fulfill this need. Providing roosts both inside and outside allows them to have more choices depending on the weather.

One major requirement is a lay box, and it can be as simple or as extravagant as you like. A simple wooden box built inside the coop and lined with some straw is perfectly fine. The box just needs to fit the bird comfortably on three sides, provide a roof, and have a low enough lip so that the bird can step over it easily.

Once having set up your coop, care of it is vital for the health of the chickens. Chickens are prone to a wide variety of diseases, chicken lice and parasites. Cleanliness of the coop will help to ward off some of these problems. Care can vary for the type of coop that you have to another. You want to keep a clean coop to stop parasites and rodents from being attracted to your coop. Your cleaning can vary from how many hens, size of coop, etc. Weekly maintenance, inspection and change of floor, bedding and nesting boxes is necessary and twice a year do a deep clean and disinfect the entire coop from top to bottom. Pine shavings or course sand make good floor covering. Sprinkle lime on the floor to help neutralize odors before laying the wood shavings.

It is not only very important to keep your coop clean, but well ventilated too. Ammonia fumes can build up and cause respiratory problems in your chickens. Ventilation also removes humidity and keeps the coop nice and cool in the summer and prevents frostbitten chickens in the winter.

When it comes to feeding your chickens they are relatively simple to feed, but there are a few vital nutrients your chickens will need if you want them for good egg production. The best food for egg laying chickens is an organic chicken feed. You can buy pellet or mash. Feed should contain nutrients, omega 3 oils, carbohydrates, protein and vitamins and minerals that your chickens need. Chickens will eat about 4 ounces of pellets a day.

They also require grit (small rocks): Chickens hold grit in their gizzards. A gizzard is an organ that grinds up feed making it easier to digest. Use more grit in the winter when rocks are harder to find. If you find that shells are thin and soft add oyster shells for calcium. Giving oyster shell to egg laying hens gives them extra calcium to help produce strong egg shells.

Chickens also like scraps. This can be anything from fruits, veggies and bread. But make sure these treats do not contain any salt.

If rearing free range hens let them out and let them run around the yard and let them look for their own food. Chickens love to scratch around for their own bugs and plant material. If keeping chickens as pets, you will find that this is the time they become very friendly towards you, especially if you feed them from your hand.

One of the most important duties in looking after chickens is to provide them with plenty of fresh water everyday and sanitize the water containers once a week. If you use bleach make sure you rinse well. This should be provided inside and outside the coop.

As already stated, chickens are prone to a wide variety of diseases, parasites, lice and fleas. It is therefore important that you inspect your chickens daily for any signs or symptoms of pests or illness as it can spread very fast in a flock. You may need to give treatments if necessary. If your chickens are looking stressed find a cool dark place for them to go to and recover.

If at any time you need to pick up and handle your chicken don’t chase your chickens or pick them up by the tail or wings. Get close to them by gaining their trust and confidence. Talk to them and give them treats. Gently pick them up and support under your arm. And finally, watch for predators: Keep an eye out for neighborhood pest. This can be anything from cats, dogs, foxes, and racoons.

Looking after and taking care of chickens is a very rewarding task. Many of the daily jobs become routine and if keeping chickens as back yard pets you have the added bonus of an ample supply of fresh free range eggs every day.

Making A Town Wildlife Garden

Just because you live in a town and only have a small garden or yard, does not mean you cannot enjoy the pleasures of a wildlife garden. Even if living in a flat or apartment, a small balcony can be packed with flowering plants to provide a haven for many different types of birds and insects such as bees and butterflies.

A town wildlife garden, particularly if small, may not attract large wildlife but it will certainly attract smaller creatures such as mice, moles, toads, frogs, a variety of birds as well as numerous different types of insects.

To maximize your garden’s potential for attracting wildlife, you need to fill every available space with plants and structures such as nesting boxes, arches or log piles. The more berry and seed-bearing plants you can plant the better. This will encourage wildlife into the garden for food and shelter. Small piles of debris make good homes for many insects.

Water Feature

Water is essential for wildlife, but you may feel you don’t have enough space for a pond in your garden or do not want to maintain this. However, even the smallest water feature will provide a home for water loving creatures as well as providing vital water supplies for them.

A water feature in your wildlife garden will increase the diversity of the creatures you attract. It can be as simple as a sunken barrel filled with water. By filling a bucket with water you will still see how quickly it is used by many creatures. After just a couple of weeks it will be alive with minute insects and larvae as well as larger creatures coming to drink from it such as foxes.

Plants For Food

A wildlife garden is primarily about creating a balance of nature for creatures large and small to shelter in and to feed. The more shelter and food you can provide, the more creatures you will attract and the more diverse.

A first step to planting a wildlife garden to provide food and shelter is to start by planting trees, shrubs, plants etc which will provide birds with food in the winter. Aim at planting a good range of berry and seed bearing plants. Chose ones that you know grow well in your area or are indigenous to your locality. This will help to attract native species to your wildlife garden.

Having done this you will start to build up a food chain cycle in your wildlife garden. The birds will come in to feed from the berries and seeds letting pips fall to the ground, mice and other small mammals will arrive to feed on the debris and in turn, insects and worms will feed on the waste and so on. Your food chain has been created with just a little careful thought and planning.

Hints and Tips For a Town Wildlife Garden

No matter how small you garden is, with a little thought there is always somewhere to establish a small and thriving wildlife area.

* Reduce the size of lawn areas to create larger borders for plants and shrubs that will attract wildlife.

* If you have trees in your garden, leave some space behind them where you can keep a compost heap or log pile. This area can also be left to grow wild, but still in a contained area.

* Wildlife creatures like good cover to move from one area to another. So lots of ground cover is a good idea. By leaving small untidy areas, creatures can live safely without being disturbed.

* Even the smallest of water feature or pond will support a myriad of wildlife such as frogs, toads, newts and water insects. It is also used a a watering hole for larger creatures such as foxes and birds.

* Provide an area of debris such as fallen fruit, hedge clippings in a small corner for smaller creatures to habitat.

* By putting up a feeding table or hanging bird feeders as well as nesting boxes, you can encourage bird life into your wildlife garden.

* If you only have a balcony, grow plants in tubs and pots that will encourage insects. You can also leave a bowl of water out for any birds that you attract.

Therefore, even if you live in a town and only have a small area of garden or yard, with a little imagination, thought and planning there is bound to be some way to make a wildlife garden, no matter how small.

Introduction To Container Gardening

In recent years there has been something of a container garden revolution. There has been a dramatic increase in not only the types and varieties of plants you can buy, but the expansion in the variety of containers available. Gardening has gained in popularity not only as a hobby, but for self sufficiency as well. And yes you can grow vegetables and herbs perfectly well in a container.

Container gardening is not only a very satisfying hobby to bring colour and interest to your garden, it also has the bonus of being able to cater for any size of space, large or small. Containers are ideal for people who live in apartments, those with mobility problems or for those who only have a paved garden area or yard. Window boxes on an apartment can transform the look of your property.

One of container gardening’s best assets is it’s versatility. By growing plants in containers, you can provide permanent color around your garden all year round if you plan your planting carefully. They can also be used to provide temporary interest where plants can be substituted once they are past their peak.

The popularity of container gardening may have grown in recent years, but it’s value has been recognised for centuries in garden landscapes around the world. It is an practice that is as old as gardening itself. In China flowering plants were grown in ornate vases. In Ancient Greece, Egypt, and Rome before the Christian era, shrub filled clay pots were a large feature of the gardens.

Even in Western Europe, grand gardens of Britain and France have long had their impressive stone urns. These would be full of flowers and shrubs. A long held tradition of the Swiss and Austrian chalet style houses is to fill troughs with vibrant colored Geraniums. No Mediterranean landscape would look the same without its flower-bedecked terracotta pots.

Despite the concept of container gardening having been around for centuries ,gardeners in Britain, America and many other countries did not exploit the advantages of it until fairly recently. It is now one of the fastest growing areas of gardening heavily promoted in garden centers, DIY stores, magazines, books and a variety of gardening television programmes.

Although container gardening is a very manageable form of gardening that almost anyone can do, it should not be regarded as an ‘easy’ way to garden as opposed to open gardening, as there are many aspects of container gardening that need to be researched before you start.

For instance you must choose your container. The choice of containers is vast, but the wrong choice will ensure your plants will either not look right or may not survive in their new home. Once having decided on what you want to grow you must choose the correct growing medium for your plants. Some plants prefer an acidic soil, some prefer different mixtures of growing mediums to be successful. You then need to decide on the position of your container. Remember that if your container is large and heavy it needs to be in a permanent place before you plant your display. The position you put your container in will also be determined by the types of plants you want to put in it. Some plants prefer full sun, while others need shade or partial shade. Others may need a sheltered spot away from draughts and winds. This is where your research is needed to make sure all the elements of your desired container are compatible with one another.

As well as these considerations at the planning stage, there is a need for extra care for growing your chosen plants. The amount of soil or compost available to the roots of the plants in a container is limited, so the watering and feeding requirements are greater than in an open garden. Watering frequently in warm summer months is essential either with a watering can or hose. This is another consideration when deciding where to place your container. You don’t want to be carrying cans of water to the bottom of the garden once or twice a day.

Your containers will need feeding regularly every 2-4 weeks. And plants that are to be permanent in their containers such as small trees or shrubs, will need to be planted in pots that are well insulated from cold, severe winter conditions as well as frost. If poorly protected not only can the container be damaged and crack but the soil ball may freeze solid and kill your plants.

Container gardening can add beauty to both your home and garden and be very rewarding. Doing a little bit of homework before you start will ensure you have the right plants for the right container in the right position.

Types of orchids to create a beautiful home display:

You have always wanted to have a beautiful display of orchids around your home and you are probably wondering which is the best way to do it. To start with, there are different types of orchids with different growth requirements so you need to know the exact orchid display you want. But growing orchids is tougher than you may actually be thinking. They grow on trees and rocks in the wild, unlike other houseplants.

Types of orchids:

Phalaenopsis or Moth orchids

These are the most common orchids. Phalaenopsis are also the cheapest, longest -blooming and the easiest orchids to care for. One bloom spike of these orchids can have a great look within just four months.

The flowers can have different shades of colours including purple, red, pink, white and green. Light is very vital for moth orchids as it facilitates production of flowers and ensures healthy growth. But don’t provide direct sun.

Water the orchids on a weekly basis and while doing so, ensure that the water “whooshes” through the medium being used for potting since they won’t grow well when the roots are soggy. Feed them with an orchid fertilizer on a monthly basis so as to promote blooms that are larger.

Moth orchids grow best in a temperature range of 60F to 80F .They are suited for beginners since they do well in indoor conditions.

Oncidium orchids

These offer many colorful small flowers often in clusters of about 50. Oncidium orchids are sometimes referred to as dancing lady orchids. They often have shades of white, pink, red, purple and yellow, along with markings that are contrasting and flamboyant.

Medium or bright light is best for them and each plant type has different water requirements from the others. Thin-rooted or thin leaved plants need more and frequent watering than those with large fleshly leaves or roots. Water the orchids thoroughly and before you water again, ensure that the medium is at least halfway dry .Most species of plants that don’t have active growth often have rest periods during winter and thus should be watered less.

Feed them with orchid fertilizer each month in spring and summer. Oncidium orchids grow best in a temperature range of 50F to 75F. They are quite easy to grow and some of them have fragrance.

Cymbidium Orchids

Also referred to as boat orchids, cymbidium orchids have long-lasting flowers, which are waxy, in early spring or winter. They are some of the popular plants grown indoors and usually flower best when provided with bright light. You can actually bring them to a shady spot in the outdoors in summer.

Keep them from drying out by watering them each week. Fertilize them on a monthly basis using orchid fertilizer in summer and spring. Cymbidium orchids grow best in a temperature range of 50F to 70F and will flower best if given temperatures below 50F for several weeks.

They are highly valued for their long-lasting flower sprays which are mainly used for corsages or as cut flowers. There is a wide range of colors for the cymbidium orchids including red, yellowish-green, cream, green, white and brown.

Cattleya Orchids

These are among the most commonly grown orchids and are fantastic indoor plants. The culture of cattleya orchids is used as the basis to compare with other orchids .Blooms appear in a wide array of colors including yellow , white , red , orange and pink , and are often fragrant . Some selections of Cattleya orchids have attractive markings in some colors.

These orchids grow best in either medium or bright light. Water them weekly but the mature plants must be left to dry before being watered again. For the largest blooms, fertilize them in spring and summer with a fertilizer formulated for orchids.

Dendrobium Orchids

Dendrobium orchids offer long-lasting blooms and are thus often seen in bouquets at florists. They have a wide range of colors such as green, pink, purple and white. These orchids are air plants just like majority of the other cultivated orchids.

Dendrobium orchids do best in a temperature range of 50F to 70F. Fertilize them on a monthly basis with orchid fertilizer and water them every week. The most common dendrobium types bloom on new stems and their foliage is present throughout the year.

These are only a few of the many different varieties of orchid available to grow at home. This selection are thought of as the more easy to grow especially for a beginner. With a little knowledge and patience you can grow your own orchids to create a beautiful home display.

How To Make Free Compost For Your Vegetable Bed

Although you can readily buy good quality compost from your local garden nursery, many households actually throw away many of the components that go into making one of the best composts for vegetable growing. Making compost from plant remains, grass cuttings and kitchen waste, not only saves you money, but ensures that you know exactly what has gone into your compost. This is particularly important if you wish to grow organic vegetables.

There are many advantages to making your own compost for your vegetable bed. Not only will you save money but the need to dispose of your waste, helping to make a positive contribution to recycling and the environment. You will not need to transport heavy bags of compost from the store. Also the use of rotted plant refuse is a valuable source of organic matter for improving the fertility of the soil. It is a practical alternative to using animal manures, which may be difficult to source. It also has the advantage of having less odour than animal matter.

Making Your Free Compost

So how do you make free compost for your vegetable bed? The first thing to do is decide where to place your compost heap and how you are going to contain it. Depending on the size of your garden you should aim to have two bins side by side, preferably near to the kitchen. Each should be about 1- 1.5m square. The reason for having two bins is that one bin is allowed to let the waste rot, be turned and transferred to the other bin. This helps in the aeration process along with standing your bins on either wire mesh or woody prunings on a soil base. This will help ensure the air can get to the waste, accelerating the decaying process.

Compost bins can be commercially bought in all sorts of shapes, sizes, materials as well as in kit form. You can however make your own with strong treated timber, builder’s pallets,concrete blocks or even straw bales. It is best to have a removable front panel that slots in. This will allow the front to be raised as your compost heap grows and for easy access when turning and removing. You will also need a removable cover on top of your compost to prevent it becoming water logged. This should have some means of ventilation for air circulation.

Ingredients For Your Compost

Any matter of plant origin is suitable to be composted. This includes leaves which are nitrogen rich, garden prunings such as flower heads, general plant material and grass cuttings. Cleared plant and vegetable debris from borders will suitably rot down. Brassica leaves and stems can be added, but are best chopped up first. Pea and bean plants including their roots can be used as can unused root crops chopped up. Always make sure before you add any garden material that it is disease free first. Kitchen waste such as fruit and vegetable peelings and tea bags are excellent ingredients for composts.

It is important to have a good balance of materials in your compost to ensure good air circulation. It is not advisable to put in thick woody branches as they will not readily rot down. Also certain weeds such as ground elder which can transfer seeds in your compost and be spread all over your vegetable bed.

Also do not entirely fill your compost bin with grass cuttings as it will become slimy and not rot down properly due to lack of air circulation. It will also not contain enough nutrients to make good compost. Grass cuttings or any other material that has been treated with weed killer or pesticides should also not be added.

By mixing in a variety of materials such as semi- woody waste will also help prevent the heap becoming too compacted. During the summer months aim to add as much garden waste as possible as this is full of nitrogen, which encourages the decomposition process as well as increasing the nutrient value of your compost. During the winter months this can be aided by adding a 5cm layer of animal manure, including manure from chickens and rabbit waste. As an alternative add dried blood, (250g per sq m) or compost activator.

Although any plant waste will gradually decay and reduce to produce compost, the better it is managed the better the dividends it will pay. The aim is to make a compost that is dark in color of even consistency and is easy to handle. It should not be too wet but quite friable. Adding your own free compost to your vegetable bed with improve not only the soil, but the quality of your vegetables.

Incubating Chicken Eggs

Raising your own chickens can be enormously rewarding especially if you decide to hatch your own chicks. Keeping chickens has grown in popularity over recent years, partly due to people wanting more control over what they eat. Having your own backyard free range chickens can provide you with meat and eggs that you know are fresh and safe to eat.

Most people who keep their own chickens buy live baby chicks or young pullets. However, for some, breeding your own chickens and hatching them gives great satisfaction. Incubating chicken eggs requires a certain amount of poultry equipment and know-how, but is achievable with a little research. Incubating your own eggs does however require a certain amount of time and commitment for the whole period of incubation. So if you don’t think you have the time, it is not advisable to attempt.

Your first step is to choose the type of chicken egg incubator you will use. You can use force-air incubators or still-air incubators for incubating chicken eggs. Force-air incubators require less work compared to still-air incubators. They are capable of hatching more eggs at a single time. Of course there is the natural option of using your hens to incubate their own eggs. Natural incubation actually offers many benefits as the hen does most of the work for you and chickens incubated and hatched naturally tend to be more robust. However, there are also various disadvantages when you incubate your eggs naturally. Hens that incubate eggs do not lay eggs, so your productivity is decreased.

The first thing you need to do when incubating chicken eggs, is to choose the right egg to incubate. This will save you time and resources. Choose the eggs by their physical appearance. There is little point incubating chicken eggs that are damaged or deformed. The size of the eggs should be regular. If their size is smaller or bigger than the eggs your chickens usually lay, then there must be something wrong, so do not incubate.

The eggs you choose need to first be candled to check for fertility. This should be done after 5-6 days. Depending on the incubator you have chosen, it may be possible to candle the eggs in situ, positioning the candler over the air cell to illuminate the contents. This should reveal a red ‘dot’, about the size of a match head, with faint blood vessels surrounding it. If this cannot been seen, re-candle after 10 days, if you can still see nothing, the egg is not fertile and can be thrown away. Eggs should hatch in approximately 21 days, give or take a couple of days, after the hen has begun to “set” or incubate them. Before putting your eggs into an incubator, plug it in and make sure the temperature is steady at 99.5 degrees. Use a thermometer and a hydrometer (which measures humidity).

You should not wash or wipe the eggs, as this will cause their natural coating to be removed. This coating protects them from harmful organisms and cleaning them can damage the eggs. Before incubating chicken eggs, they should be stored in an area at 55 degrees Fahrenheit and with 75 percent humidity. You should turn the eggs daily, every eight hours for seven days, using markings on the eggs to distinguish the ends of the egg.

The incubator’s temperature needs to be maintained at 100 degrees Fahrenheit for force air incubators. For still air incubators, the temperature should be 102 degrees Fahrenheit. The humidity should be set to 58 to 60 percent until day 18 and 65 percent until day 21. This way, the eggs remain moist. Ventilation is also very important.

You should try to turn them four to six times a day. However, three times per day is sufficient enough to properly incubate the eggs.You cannot miss this job at weekends as this may result in deformed chickens or none at all. You must keep adequate moisture in the incubator at all times. A couple of small paper cups with water in them will do nicely for your moisture supply. Or, just follow the directions that came with the incubator.

You do not need to turn them after day 17. At this stage, the egg is already close to hatching; turning them can potentially damage the eggs and injure the chick. Forced-air incubators require less work because they have automatic turners. It is important to have clean hands before handling the incubating chicken eggs to avoid contamination.

Once the eggs have hatched, do not instantly remove the chicks from the incubator. The chicks can happily survive without food or water for up to 3 days, although 24-48 hours is the usual length of time they should remain in the incubator. They are sustained by the yolk of the egg being drawn through the navel into the stomach of the chick before it hatches. This provides enough nourishment for the transitional period from the time the bird hatches and can become independent enough to fed itself. Chicks will continue to grow and develop in the incubator, before they receive food. They will not gain any weight, but do gain in strength and become aware of their surroundings.

When the chicks are removed from the incubator food and water must be available at all times from day one which must not be allowed to run out. A chicken waterer is useful for this or a dish filled with marbles to prevent the chicks falling in and drowning. They should be fed a dry mash as solid grains are not suitable for small chicks. This can be bought from chicken feed suppliers.

Incubating chicken eggs can be an exciting and rewarding hobby. It does take some basic knowledge, but most of all it takes a sustained period of time when the eggs must be continually looked after for the chicks to be hatched successfully.