What To Consider When Hiring A Gardener

gardener

Whether you have two brown thumbs, or you just don’t have the time or inclination to do all the landscaping, planting and gardening that your property requires, hiring a gardener can relieve you of this burden. When you’re getting ready to hire a gardener, there are many factors to take into consideration. Spending a little time before interviewing candidates will help ensure that your needs and expectations are met or even exceeded.

Assessing Your Needs

Some landscaping tasks are best left to professionals who know the requirements of different plant types. Make a checklist of what you want to have done on a routine basis and what needs to be done less frequently or even just seasonally. While the lawn might need mowing weekly, the beds may need weeded monthly and mulched just in the spring and before winter. Ask prospective gardeners about their level of experience in each type of task that you want to have performed. Decide if you need one or several gardeners or if you want your gardener to have specialized expertise such as caring for your prized roses or the plants around your water fixture.

Interviewing Candidates and Obtaining References

Take the time to interview a few potential candidates, making sure to determine what services each gardener offers. Ask to see photos or a website with some of their previous work, including a listing of plants the gardener has worked with. Ask for a list of past customers and their contact information.

Evaluating Qualifications and Insurance

Make sure the gardener carries worker’s compensation insurance in case of accidents while on your property. If the gardener is a specialist, check that he or she has a valid pest control maintenance license, a landscaping contracting license, specialty registrations with botanical organizations and permission from your homeowner’s association. If a gardener is a licensed landscaping contractor, his or her license number will be displayed on his or her business card and on service vehicle. Determine whether the gardener has received awards and qualifications to demonstrate competency in horticulture (LANTRA awards, City & Guilds or NTCP, RHS or the Institute of Gardening). Establish a work contract with the gardener. It should include the services which are to be performed, frequency of work, method of payment, guarantees for service and other related clauses. Consider running a background check to be sure that the gardener you are hiring does not have a criminal record, active warrants, or unresolved complaints from past customers.

Finding Your Gardener or Gardening Team

Larger gardening projects, like taking care for gardens of entire home communities will require teams and for these types of projects it’s much more important to know how to pick the right individuals to do the job. Word of mouth is key in finding a quality gardener. Take a walk through your neighborhood. If you see a beautifully cared for yard, ask who the gardener is. Also ask around to family, coworkers, friends, and acquaintances with beautiful gardens. Contact your local garden care or botanical center or even the park naturalist for your city. This is great if you need a gardener with specific knowledge your lawn area needs or you need a team with good records of customer service. Searching online through websites such as Gardener for Hire, Service Magic, Service team, or gardeners plus your city name will help you find local gardening experts. If you need a specific service, Google the work that needs to be done and finding the appropriate professional group in your area. For example, if you need rose bush care, search for that plus your city name.

Going with Your Gut

Hire someone you trust, who you consider hard-working, and with whom you can communicate well. This might not be the lowest priced person, but like with many other services, you get what you pay for when you hire a gardener. Your gardener will be at you house even when you are not around, so he or she has to be trustworthy, comfortable around your pets, and responsible to secure the house when he or she leaves. Be sure to hire someone who is able to speak up when a garden plan you have is not workable, not someone who blindly follows your rules. It is better to follow the expertise of a skilled and experienced gardener rather than your heart’s desire for a plant or a landscaping plan that just isn’t feasible.

Alissa Young is in charge of a large number of gardens over at Meadowbrook Pointe and has a lot of experience picking the right gardeners to do the job. Visit our site’s gallery to see some of the work made by gardeners that we picked for our community.

The Holistic Benefits Of Indoor Plants

cacti1

Indoor plants can brighten up any room whether it is a hospital, restaurant or home. They can also naturally purify the air as well as offering fantastic health properties.  Here are several ways that indoor plants, in various environments, can benefit your well being:

Purifies the air and prevents indoor pollution

Several studies have revealed that environmental chemicals present in the air such as volatile organic carbons (VOC’s) are linked to cancer, liver, kidney and central nervous system damage.

These harmful gases in the air are caused by products such as grocery bags, paper towels, printing inks, carpets and furniture, all of which can be found at home, the office or a restaurant. Indoor plants can get rid of these toxins as they can stabilise and purify the air.

Prevents illness and improves the healing process

When you are stuck in a hospital with an illness, you hope that your body can make a speedy recovery so you can enjoy life again. Your body’s defence system is down when you are ill meaning that you are an easy target for germs and allergens.

A University of Agriculture study in Norway revealed that indoor plants can lessen tiredness, sore-throats and cold-related illnesses by around 30% as they increase humidity levels and restrict dust in a room.

Indoor plants can also help calm your nerves as its living presence can soothe your mind. People can feel happier and more optimistic as a result of these plants. Studies have demonstrated that patients in a hospital recover quicker if their window has a garden view.

A good night’s sleep can also help you feel refreshed and re-energised the next day. Indoor plants such as Gerbera daisies is known for producing large volumes of oxygen at night so that you can benefit from this type of air while you sleep.

Enables a better work ethic

As well as decreasing the possibility of fatigue, indoor plants in a workplace can stimulate creativity and productivity in employees. Everyone dreads that period of the afternoon, just after lunch, when your brain refuses to function and you lose your enthusiasm for your job.

Indoor plants can make your energy and enthusiasm last throughout the day as they can help employees constantly feel positive about their work and passions. Other research in a piece of rehabilitation literature demonstrated that if employees are no more than 45 feet away from an indoor plant, their attitude towards work will be more positive.

Can improve the profits in a restaurant or similar environment

When we are closer to greenery, we feel more comfortable in our environment. We are also less stressed when plants are around us and will be happy to continue being in that environment.

Restaurants can take advantage of this as they use indoor plants to keep people happier for longer periods of time. This means that they will be happy to order more food and might even opt for all three courses of a meal.

Indoor plants are great for any type of environment whether it is your home, workplace or a restaurant. Various plants have many useful properties and so when investing in indoor plants; you would need to think about how you can use them in a room. Do you notice the benefits of plants in your workplace?

Starting Out With A Windowsill Herb Garden

Windowsill Herb Garden

There are many options when it comes to gardening at home and when you have a small area to cultivate your plants. A gardener who also happens to love cooking will surely enjoy the possibilities of having a windowsill herb garden in the kitchen.

If you’ve been inspired by the Barefoot Contessa a.k.a. Ms. Ina Garten who sometimes showcase a few of her lush vegetable and herb gardens, then maybe it’s time to get a few herbs of your own. There’s no reason not to plant herbs even if your space is quite limited. A windowsill can be a perfect place for any plant you wish to cultivate. But you’d have to pick the smaller varieties to maximize the amount of sunlight that the plants will need in order to thrive.

Among the most common and quite popular herbs that people plant in small containers are tarragon, basil, Italian oregano, mint, chives, dill, rosemary, and thyme. It is also best to place your potted herbs near your kitchen so you can just snip a few stems or leaves whenever you need them in your cooking.

Windowsill Herb Garden_2
photo credit: eskay8 via photopin cc

If your kitchen window does not get enough sunlight, you can place your herbs in hanging baskets just outside of your kitchen or somewhere nearby. Know that various herbs have different needs as well. Be mindful of the amount of water and sunlight that each herb needs daily. This is one of the reasons why it is better to keep only a few planted herbs or just the ones you regularly need because it is sometimes a challenge to keep up with their varying needs.

Use well-draining soil for your herbs and water them accordingly. Fertilizing is also important, but it’s best to use organic fertilizers such as compost and other natural varieties.

photo credit: Rachel Ford James via photopin cc
photo credit: Rachel Ford James via photopin cc

If you truly love herbs and would like to cultivate a few of them at home, it’s ideal to start with very few plants and see how it goes. Add a few more new plants or seedlings once your first batch of herbs has survived the first few weeks. Be observant and check the conditions of your herbs. You’ll need to adjust watering and amount of sunlight if they show signs of slight wilting, yellowing of leaves, and others.

Lastly, it is best to do some research on the web to help you understand the needs of each herb or plant. While blogs can provide information, it is still important to consult the experts in cultivating various types of plants such as herbs.

photo credit: saragoldsmith via photopin cc
photo credit: saragoldsmith via photopin cc

References and helpful sites:

http://www.wvu.edu/~agexten/hortcult/herbs/ne208hrb.htm

http://urbanext.illinois.edu/herbs/list.cfm

 

The Best Methods To Dealing With Garden Weeds

spring-weeds
spring weeds

With warmer temperatures and dozens of beautifully colored plants blooming across the landscape, it’s apparent that spring time is now officially here. Many people are using this as a time to get outdoors and to do some landscaping or simply work in their garden. Unfortunately, however, spring time may also bring along the growth of pesky weeds that can easily consume a garden if they aren’t dealt with. If you can’t seem to get weeds under control, keep reading for some simple and effective ways to remove them from your garden.

Uprooting

Ideally, the best method for removing garden weeds is to uproot them. Depending on what type of weed it is, this may or may not be a viable option. Certain weeds such as knapweed and chickweed have shallow roots that can be easily pulled out. Simply dig down around the weed as you gently pull upwards until the entire weed and root system come up. It’s essential that you remove the entire root system to prevent the weed from coming back; otherwise, you’ll find yourself back in the same position a week or so down the road.

If the roots are too deep, try waiting until the day after a good rain before attempting to uproot the weed. The additional moisture on the soil will soften up the ground, allowing you to dig deeper and pull up the weed more easily. The only downside is that you are probably going to get dirty digging around in moist soil right after a storm.

Vinegar Spray

Instead of using some harsh herbicide chemical in your garden, try spraying pure, 100% white vinegar on the weeds. The all-natural solution is highly acidic and will literally eat through the weeds, causing it to die off in 24-48 hours. Just fill up a plastic spray bottle with vinegar and go around spot treating any weeds you see poking through in your garden. Try to avoid spraying your healthy plants or the soil around them, as it will drastically lower their pH levels. Go back a day or two later to survey the results of your treatment.

Some people may still prefer the use of chemical weed treatment sprays. The problem with using them, however, is that you are poisoning the soil. Small amounts of weed treatment sprays probably won’t cause any serious damage, but prolonged use can make the soil inhabitable for any plants, and that’s something most gardeners don’t want to risk. Try using the vinegar spray at least to see how well it performs in your garden. Chances are you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

Cover Open and Exposed Areas

Once you’ve taken care of the weed problem in your garden, it’s important to cover up any open and exposed areas with mulch. Like most plants, weeds need an opening on the surface to spring up and thrive. By eliminating these exposed areas, you are essentially taking their ability to grow away; thus, leaving you with a healthy, weed-free garden.

 

 

Organic Pest Control: What Type Of Flowers Can Attract Beneficial Insects?

Why should your yard look unattractive and boring? With the wide variety of beautiful flowers and herbs, you can easily enhance the aesthetic appeal of your garden. You can even consider cultivating an organic garden- one that is free from pesticides and other chemicals. Organic gardening doesn’t have to be frustrating and hard. There are simple ways to help you cultivate flowers, herbs, pets, and vegetables without the use of harmful chemicals.

When it comes to cultivating a garden, your number one problem would be the presence of pests. Keep in mind that pesticides, even the organic kind, are not really safe, healthy, and effective against pests. The best way to control pests in your garden is by attracting beneficial insects and bugs, such as lady bugs, lacewings, flower flies, and ground beetles. This may seem counterintuitive; however, these good bugs are the natural predators of bad bugs. In addition, these beneficial insects are also good for your garden.

Flowers Can Attract Beneficial Insects

How To Attract Beneficial Insects To Your Garden?

Most beneficial insects feed on pollen and nectar at a certain stage of their life; thus, planting flowers that produces nectar and pollen is the best way to attract good insects and bugs to your DIY organic garden. Planting certain types of flowers will help encourage biodiversity and encourage the growth of beneficial garden insects which acts as Earth’s natural and organic pest control.

This is the ground-breaking method that relies heavily on the use of flowers and herbs known to attract insects that feed on damaging garden pests. Here are some of the most beautiful and valuable flowers and herbs you can cultivate in your garden.

Types Of Flowers And Herbs

Calendula: This flower is very important if you are trying to grow a vegetable garden. This flower reseeds easily and naturally spreads itself around your garden. This means that it doesn’t take a lot of effort to grow this plant. The flowers may range from dark orange to pale yellow, adding bright colors to your garden. In addition, the petals of this plant are edible. In fact, you can pull off the colorful petals and add them over to your salad. This flower can attract hoverflies, butterflies, and bees.

Cornflower: This plant is a gorgeous blue wildflower that produces a lot of nectar; thus, it can attract a host of beneficial insects, such as lacewings, hoverflies, ladybugs, beneficial wasps, and butterflies. This flower is very easy to grow since all you have to do is spread the seeds directly in the garden during the fall season or early spring.

Sunflower: Sunflowers are excellent addition to your organic garden. Not only do they add a refreshing and warm color to your garden, it is also an excellent beneficial insect attractor. These plants produce a lot of pollen and nectar, and the big flowers provide an excellent landing pad for various insects and bugs.

Sweet Alyssum: These lovely white flowers are very easy to cultivate and grow. Studies have confirmed that this plant is very attractive to flower flies which are the natural predators of aphids. It also attracts hoverflies as well as beneficial wasps.

Zinnias: Just like sunflowers, this plant offers an excellent landing pad for insects and bugs. It also provides plenty of nectar and pollen. Zinnias are very easy to grow. All you need to do is spread them in the ground and watch the flowers grow. This plant produces a lot of blooms, and you can cut back the flowers when their color starts to fade. This plant is excellent in attracting flower flies, beneficial wasps, ladybugs, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

Anise Hyssop: This is a summer-blooming flower that has fuzzy lavender flower spikes that can grow up to 2-3 feet high. It is rich in nectar; thus, it attracts butterflies, bees, and other pest-eating insects. Aside from its attractive appearance and its ability to attract insects, it is also edible. The licorice-flavored leaves of this plant are perfect for tea. It blooms from the first year it was planted.

Create Your Own DIY Garden

I’ve seen a couple of photos of DIY bird feeders and I know I have to make one for our backyard garden.

One of main reasons that made me decide that it’s time to make one was when I saw a few Eurasian Tree Sparrows (locally known as Maya) in our backyard looking for scraps from underneath our African lovebird’s cage. On several instances, I caught glimpses of these brown-feathered fellas feeding on fallen bird seeds.

This is a truly simple and inexpensive backyard garden project that’s beneficial to local birds visiting your garden. It also makes it possible to add a bit of wildlife by having an inviting meal to welcome them.

Gardening How To – Designing A Garden

Here’s a good ‘gardening how to’ video that will surely help any newbie gardener in designing and keeping  his/her garden thriving.

Enjoy!

Gardening Tips For Small Areas

No place is too small if you do want a garden of your own. For large spaces, there’s no problem in designing a beautiful polished garden with all of your favorite plants and trees. But when space is a problem, you really have to make do with whatever space you have.

Gardening Tips For Small Areas

If you live in a small residential lot, container gardening is the best option you have. You cannot dig the ground for even a small tree because it can crowd the space and other plants may not receive ample sunlight. The key is to keep the container garden small enough to have a bit of space for sunlight and for you to move around while tending the plants.

Gardening Tips For Small Areas2

For really tight spaces like small apartment balconies, there’s no other way but to go vertical. Vertical gardening is popularized by a lot of urbanites who love to have small gardens on their apartment or condominium balconies. You can use a lot of alternative items to plant your herbs, ornamentals, and other small plant varieties.

Gardening Tips For Small Areas3 Gardening Tips For Small Areas4

PET bottles, fabric cabinet organizers, vertical planters, and small containers can be used as pots/planters. Use good soil and water your plants accordingly to help them thrive in tight areas. Provide proper fertilizer and remove weeds if needed.

The beauty of a garden, no matter how big or small it is, adds a pleasant ambiance to any living space. It’s worth a try to start small and just add a few more plants here and there if there’s still space.

Related article: Garden Pests: What They Are And How To Handle Them

Garden Pests: What They Are And How To Handle Them

When trying to maintain your lovely garden it can sometimes be hard due to critters coming in and shaking things up. Garden pests are an annoyance for all gardeners whether you’re a beginner or a professional. Knowing what to look for is the first step in fighting against them and finding a way to save both the animals and your foliage.

Cutworms

image credit: Neil Phillips via Flickr – CC BY 2.0
image credit: Neil Phillips via Flickr – CC BY 2.0

Despite its name the cutworm is actually a caterpillar, or moth larvae if you will. By day they hide in the soil and dirt but by night they feast on the first thing they can consume. They are notorious for attacking stems and seedlings making them quite the annoyance for plant growers. Winter is the best time to deal with these as they become more dormant. Simply rake the soil to expose the larvae and let the local birds do the rest of the work for you.

Chafer Grubs

image credit: Falko Zurell (Photographer), uploaded by Bkimmel via Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 3.0
image credit: Falko Zurell (Photographer), uploaded by Bkimmel via Wikimedia Commons – CC BY-SA 3.0

Also known as ‘white grubs’ these little creatures are one of the most destructive animals as they have a love of eating the roots of plants. They especially love spoiling potato crops. They stay in a grub like state for anywhere up to four years which means manual action is a must. Sadly the only ways to deal with them is to either move them by hand which can take a lot of time or to simply let them do their thing. They’re protected by law against pesticides so you have to work around it.

Slugs and Snails

slug

SNAIL | image credit: wondermar via PixaBay – CC0 Public Domain
SNAIL | image credit: wondermar via PixaBay – CC0 Public Domain

Slugs and snails are part of the mollusk family, and aren’t fussy about what they eat as long as it’s fresh. Given this, they are one of the guiltiest animals when it comes to garden disasters. The best way to tackle them is to get them drunk. They simply adore beer, so leaving out small cups buried in the ground in key problem areas will herd them into one place. You can then collect them and release them back into a local park or field.

Greenfly

greenfly
image credit: PollyDot via PixaBay – CC0 Public Domain

You will likely have already heard a few horror stories concerning these miniature beasts. Greenfly is part of the aphid family alongside blackfly and whitefly. They can be fussy about what plants they like, but the one’s they do have a fondness for have their sap sucked out which can be extremely damaging if you have large numbers of greenfly to deal with. Because of their aggressive eating of plants the best option is sadly to kill them with insecticides.

Wireworms

wireworms
image credit: Rasbak via Wikimedia Commons – CC BY-SA 3.0

These are the larvae of the click beetle and like chafer grubs, they can stay in their larvae state for up to four years. They tend to feed on decaying plant life but are known to nibble on fresh veggies as well. It can be hard to manage them once a flock has found your patch and a number of them are resistant to insecticides. The easiest solution is to cut up some potato as bait and wait for them to surface. You can then pick them out, stash them in a bowl and let their predators have a feast.