Welcome to the May issue of Garden Ramblings. This month I have included three articles by guest authors on widely different topics.
Our first guest is Stacy Pessoney whose subject is azaleas. With their huge variety of color and size you will always be able to find a plant to suit your yard. Here are some tips on how to make the best of these plants.
If you have ever thought that you would like to have a pergola but were not sure where to begin, our next guest has the answer. "Making Your Own Beatiful Pergolas" by Juliet Sadler is a comprehensive how-to article telling you all you need to know on building a pergola.
Finally Sean Roocroft unveils the mysteries of green algae in garden ponds. His article explains what causes the build up of algae and various different ways in which the problem can be tackled and kept under control.
As usual there is a Special Offers section with all the bargains that I've managed to find this month.
The video this month is "Azalea Morning 2009" which makes a good introduction to the article by Stacy Pessoney. Just to warn you, the video runs for ten minutes so you may not want to watch all the way to the end.
Nothing pops from your garden like a solid coat of flowers. When the azalea bush blooms, this is exactly what it produces. It is known for blooming all at once, creating a burst of color that is rich, has a wonderful fragrance and is famous for its beauty and numerous blooms.
Most azaleas are spring bloomers, but some varieties will bloom in spring and again in the fall. Blooms will last a couple of months each time, depending on the weather, so using azaleas in your landscaping will produce a lot of color for a good part of the year. If your azaleas will be part of a continuous display and you would like for them to stay green all year, you can try to purchase the evergreen variety as opposed to the deciduous type. Most North American azaleas are deciduous and drop their leaves in the fall. But, with over 10,000 registered hybrids, you are sure to find a color and style that will look most beautiful in the space that you have available.
Azaleas generally grow well in warmer climates, although some will thrive in colder areas. Some will do well in direct sun, but most prefer shady areas. Evergreen and Japanese varieties, in general, need a lot of shade to do well. Planting azaleas under the shade of a tree is preferable. This is because certain trees will turn the soil slightly acidic, which is necessary to grow azaleas. Oak trees, pine trees and holly are best. You can bring a soil sample to your local nursery to have the acidity checked. A pH of 5.5-6 is best.
You can make your soil more acidic by tilling in pine needles, oak leaves, coffee grounds or ammonium sulfate (agricultural sulfur). These things can take time to turn the soil, so you will want to check your soil acidity often to get it right.
Plant your azaleas in deep soil. Rock beds and hard clay can cause water to pool up under the roots of the azalea plant, causing it to slowly drown and die. The soil needs to drain well. Soak the soil completely every now and then with your water hose to make sure that the bottom roots have wet soil, but be careful not to water too often. Mulch can help you keep moisture in the soil without over-doing it.
You can fertilize azaleas in the late winter or early spring, but it is not a good idea to fertilize at other times of year. This is because fertilizer can force the plant into blooming at the wrong time and the new growth will make the plant susceptible to freezing during the winter months. More mature azaleas do not need any fertilizing. Prune your azaleas soon after they are done blooming to avoid removing the new blooms’ shoots.
Once your azaleas are established, you will enjoy blankets of color in your yard. You can choose azaleas with different bloom times to keep the colors coming from spring to fall. Azaleas require little maintenance and can make gardening a joy. Just keep your garden hose reel close by for frequent watering, especially if the weather is very hot or dry.
About the Author:
Stacy Pessoney is an award winning author and writer of web content for many different web sites. She is well versed in many different areas, including gardening, hose reel, lawn care and landscaping.
Pergolas can be a great feature in a garden; they are also practical and decorative. They provide support for climbing plants, give the garden structure and help break up its flat canvas. They are ideally suited for linking different parts of the garden, providing secluded areas and creating summer shade. Their open aspect makes them particularly suitable for adding interest to smaller gardens, where more solid shapes, such as walls or fences, would make the limited space feel cluttered.
Select the site for your pergola carefully. Take time to view the site from every angle before deciding the pergola's final position. Pergolas make an excellent feature, especially for joining two different parts of the garden, for example, the vegetable plot and the lawn.
Start by clearing all vegetation in the location of the pergola, or, if being sited on a patio, remove the paving where the uprights are to be positioned. Make sure the site is level. Measure out the area of ground where the pergola is to be situated. Many garden centres and DIY stores offer pergolas in kit form, which makes the construction much simpler for those who believe the task too daunting. It is always advisable to consult a professional when undertaking a major building project.
However, here is a guide for constructing a small pergola.
Identify where the posts are to be positioned. Mark the exact positions of the posts. Ensure these are arranged so that they are square with one another.
Clamps, Drill, Plumb line, Post and pipe level, Saw, Screwdriver, Set square, Spade, Spirit level, Stepladders, Tape measure
Power tools such as screwdrivers and saws can be used to reduce the workload with some of the repetitive tasks. It is also possible to hire them. Always follow the manufacturer's safety instructions.
Ballast and cement, Bolts to support the frame, Stainless steel screws - countersunk, Wooden posts - 85mm x 85mm x 3m (3.3in x 3.3in x 9.8ft), Wooden cross members - 33mm x 33mm x 1.8m (1.3in x 1.3in x 5.9ft), Wooden beams - 45mm x 95mm x 3m (1.7in x 3.7in x 9.8ft)
All sizes and quantities are dependent on the design
Constructing a basic pergola The basic principle of constructing a pergola is to make a timber-frame that consists of horizontal beams attached to vertical posts.
As a general rule, a pergola should be supported by posts every 6ft (1.8m). This distance should be reduced if the pergola is to support heavy loads.
Dig out the holes with a spade for all posts, these should measure 1ft x 1ft (30cm x 30cm) x 2ft (60cm) deep. Prop the post upright and then do the same for a neighbouring hole. Place a cross member on top of these two posts then place a spirit level on top to check the posts are level. Infill or backfill the holes as necessary until the posts are level. Repeat this operation with the remaining uprights until all are level. Whilst working on the uprights, nail lengths of scrap batten on to each post so that they stand unassisted.
Mix a fairly stiff mixture of concrete, using just sufficient water to bind the ingredients together. Ask a friend to steady the post as the concrete is placed into the hole, compacting the mixture with a piece of wood around the post, taking care not to move the post from its position.
Recheck that the post is level using a plumb line or spirit level placed on the upright. Repeat these procedures with the remaining posts. Leave the pillars propped in position by the spare batten for two days to allow the concrete to harden fully. If the pillars have been positioned in the correct place the building of the framework should be straightforward. The cross posts should be joined to the upright posts with halving joints cut out at the end of each cross member. Bolt these into position and continue for the remaining cross members.
Four hands are better than two, so ask a friend to assist you to fasten the beams across the top of the pergola, attaching these by mortise joints screwed on to an upright at either end. Paint the pergola with a coloured stain if required and coat with clear water repellent.
Do you suffer from green pond water, caused by algae blooms? If so then I am willing to bet that you do not have a UV sterilizer or UV clarifier installed in your pond? You do! OK then have you changed the UV bulbs recently?
Without a shadow of a doubt a UV light is essential for all garden ponds where there is metabolic activity taking place. Pond algae blooms are caused by microscopic algae cells (up to 4 microns in diameter) that feed on Nitrates in the pond water. They are particularly prevalent in warm weather conditions, when there is plenty of sunlight.
A small amount of green pond algae is beneficial to aquatic pond life such as Koi and goldfish; they use it as a food source and as a camouflage from herons, king fishers and other predatory birds. Algae blooms also act as a sun shade on hot summer days.
Unfortunately pond algae multiplies at a phenomenal rate and if left untreated will eventually ruin the look of your pond and will start to interfere with the pond pH and levels of oxygen in the pond. Remember that oxygen is vital to the effective oxidization of ammonia into nitrites and then into nitrates by the nitrifying bacteria colonies, housed in your pond biofilter.
The most effective way to control pond algae is to use a UV sterilizer, also known as a UV clarifier, UV light or simply a UV. Some people prefer to use pond algaecide products but if I were you I would not; they interfere with the water quality, may cause fish fatalities if overdosed and may interfere with nitrifying bacteria.
A UV Pond Sterilizer Is Affected By Temperature
The power of blue ultraviolet light that is generated at a particular wavelength is a miracle for pond keepers. UV light occurs naturally in nature and is one of the reasons we get sunburned on holiday.
The effectiveness of a UV sterilizer is affected by temperature to a large extent. At 40 C (104 F) it works at maximum efficiency. A drop in temperature to 20 C (68 F) results in a drop in efficiency to only 50%. If the unit is placed inside the pond then it will work at what ever the water temperature is.
The way manufacturers get around the drop in efficiency is to use a quartz sleeve, which insulates the lamp against cold water temperatures, ensuring maximum efficiency is maintained. Ultraviolet light transmits easily through quartz, but not glass. For this reason quartz sleeves are used instead of glass in the manufacture of UV clarifiers. Beware that not all manufacturers use a quartz sleeve; some use plastic sleeves. Look at the production specification and if it does not have a quartz sleeve, move on!
How Does A UV Sterilizer Work In A Fish Pond?
Pond water is pumped through a quartz tube, preventing cold pond water from coming into contact with the ultraviolet light source. Remember that UV effectiveness is affected by temperature and works optimally at 40C. As the water flows through the sleeve it is bombarded by ultra violet rays, either directly or via highly reflective metal surfaces.
The ultra violet light kills the microscopic algae by destroying the cell walls, causing what is known as flocculation to occur (the dead algae clump together forming a much large mass). This mass is now too big to pass through the mechanical filtration systems employed by your pond filter and is trapped and removed from the pond water.
Other Methods Used To Control Pond Algae
* Pond Algaecides are not in my opinion a good idea for the following reasons: they need to be administered in precise doses; too much can harm nitrifying bacteria colonies and the health of pond fish. They only work for a short period of time. In the long term they will prove to be more costly than buying a UV clarifier in the first place.
* Veggie filters consist of pond plants that are deliberately starved of nutrients. The aquatic plants get their food source from the nitrates in the pond water. They compete with algae for these nutrients and as a result help to keep the pond algae under control. They do not guarantee algae free ponds however.
The only guaranteed way of controlling green pond algae is to use a UV sterilizer. Many modern pond filters incorporate a UV into their design. This means that you have the money saving advantage of biological pond filtration and UV clarification from a single piece of pond keeping equipment. Another advantage of a combined UV pond filter is that the filter and UV have been designed to work together. You do not have to worry about incompatibility issues.
By: Sean Roocroft
Want to save money and choose the right pond keeping equipment the first time around? Want to learn the secrets of successful garden pond keeping? Go to www.garden-pond-filters.com to learn everything you need to know NOW! Why not take advantage of my pond calculators to make conversion between imperial and metric measurements quick, simple and accurate.
Yet another month when I have little to report. It's hardly surprising really when all keen gardeners are raring to go and need little inducement to go out and buy plants and garden supplies. Bargains are few and far between and it is back to the basic offers of free shipping and $$$ off when you spend $$$.
As you see from the banner Gardener's Supply Company are offering 10% off on orders of $50 or more. Also take a look for the Outlet section at the bottom of the menu on the lefthand side of the page. There are still a few reductions in the gardening and landscaping sections.
Dutch Gardens are the one bright spot. In their Spring Clearance Sale you can save up to 59% on select spring-planted bulbs and perennials. Click this link for the sale - the banner is just for free shipping.
This month Nature Hills Nursery are offering a 15% discount on a selection all their Lilac and Rose bushes.
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