Category Archives: Organic Gardening

Backyard Design Trends

backyard design

Are you ready to update or upgrade your backyard design? Here are four backyard design ideas that are trending right now.

Low Maintenance Landscape

A sustainable backyard design, complete with drought-tolerant, native plants and minimal (if any) grass can be useful and attractive. While low-maintenance landscapes are by no means new, they’re becoming increasingly popular – both for economic and environmental concerns. In this case, less really is more!

Durable Outdoor Surfaces

Hardscape elements, such as stacked stone retaining walls, meandering paver pathways, and traditional outdoor kitchens are a must-have for outdoor living spaces. Custom built fire pits are perfect for family gatherings; kids and adults alike will enjoy roasting marshmallows in their own backyard.

Add Ambience with Lighting

If you want to enjoy your outdoor living spaces into the evening hours, consider installing LED and other low-voltage lighting fixtures (e.g., path lights, spot/flood lights, deck/step lighting, string lights, lanterns, and tiki torches). Lights that are connected to motion sensors will also enhance the security of your home.

Sustainable Gardening

Imagine serving your family fresh fruits and vegetables sourced from your own backyard. A great way to do this is with edible landscaping. Edible landscaping is the perfect solution for small spaces as fruits, vegetables, and ornamental plants can be planted in raised garden boxes as well as containers in varying shapes and sizes.

Professional Backyard Design Services

Elite Landscaping and Sprinkler Repair has the tools to make your backyard design beautiful throughout the year. We have the expertise to complete all the landscape and poolscape (we now offer pool remodeling!) projects on your to-do list. For more information about our services, or to request a free estimate, visit us online at www.elitesprinkler.com or give us a call today at (602) 390-4645.

Vegetable Gardening Tips for Beginners

vegetable gardening

So you want to start a vegetable garden? That’s great! Growing your own vegetables is fun and oh so rewarding. Just imagine harvesting fresh grown vegetables from your own backyard. Delish. All you need to get started is some soil and a few plants (you can also start from seed). To start your season off to a great start you’ll also need to know what it takes to ensure your plants are healthy and vigorous. Here’s the basics:

  1. Decide What to Plant

It’s important to consider your family size, eating requirements, and tastes when you think about what to plant. You’ll also want to keep in mind that certain vegetables, such as tomatoes and peppers, continue to produce throughout the season. Other vegetables, such as carrots and corn, on the other hand produce only once. Don’t plant more than you and your family can possibly eat.

  1. Determine Space Needed

Once you know what you want to plant, you’ll need to determine how much space you need, and what location of your yard receives the most sun. Keep in mind that most vegetables require at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight. Limited on space? Container gardening requires just a few feet of sunny space and healthy soil. To learn more about container gardening, please click here.

  1. Prepare Your Soil

Success starts with the soil! Most vegetables do best moist, well-drained soil that is rich in organic manner, such as compost or peat moss. There are a wide variety of high-quality soils available including organic, pesticide free, and manure. This will enable the development of a strong root system that is less prone to diseases. You may want to consider a location close to your home for easy accessibility.

  1. Provide Plenty of Water

Because most vegetables aren’t very drought tolerant, you’ll need to provide them with water, but not too much water. One inch of water per week including rainfall is sufficient for most vegetables. The most efficient way to water your plants is to use soaker hoses or drip lines. These deliver the right amount of water and allows time for roots to absorb the water before it adds more – so no risk of overwatering.

  1. Build Your Own Compost Bin

The value of compost cannot be overestimated. Building your own compost bin allows you to recycle, reuse, and repurpose thousands of organic waste every year. It also affords you the opportunity to save money on natural fertilizer because you’re self-sufficient. Fresh compost also improves the texture of the soil. For DIY compost bin inspiration and ideas, be sure to visit Pinterest.

  1. Deter Garden Pests

Every gardener, whether novice or expert, wants to deter insects and other hungry animals from invading their garden and damaging their vegetables. If you’ve chosen to go all organic, you can luckily deter them, without resorting to harsh chemicals. Going the natural way is also less expensive than purchasing and applying pesticides. The easiest way to prevent pests from damaging your gardening is to discourage them from coming in the first place by pulling out weak plants, building healthy soil, applying organic compost, and keeping your plants properly watered. You want a healthy garden.

Starting a Garden From Seed?

garden

Behold, fellow gardeners, for spring has finally dawned. With the sun’s warm embrace at your back, freshly cultivated soil at your feet, and April showers on the horizon – the time has come to plant your seedlings. That is, of course, if you reside in warmer parts of the state.

There’s nothing quite like growing vegetables and herbs with your own two hands. Just think about feeding your family delicious fresh vegetables! Planning and planting your favorites edibles and flowers is simple and easy. And, when you grow them from seed, it promises to be cheaper.

Determining When & What to Plant

In Arizona, most any type of flowers and edibles can be successfully grown, as long as the appropriate variation (the choices are almost limitless) are planted at the proper time. The University of Arizona’s Master Gardner Manual is a good resource to use.

Before purchasing seeds, it’s important to determine the amount of space you have, and the amount of sun your garden receives. If you plan on doing container or raised gardening, due to limited space, you will need to refrain from using seeds specifically designated as “in-ground only.”

It’s a good idea to spend some time reviewing catalogues, master gardener manuals and speaking with local nurseries, as well as landscapers to get a good idea about which plants will work best given your specific wants and your environments’ requirements.

How to Plant & What You’ll Need

Seeds need four things to germinate and grow: sunshine, water and some fertilizer – if you’re goal is to go all organic you will want to refrain from using any fertilizer. A high quality all organic planting soil will suffice, you can buy these at virtually any gardening store for under $10.

  • Planting

It’s possible to start your seeds in your yard or planter and water every day rather than first germinating them. Just make sure they get plenty of sunshine and water each and every day in order to see good results. They should be moist but not overwatered as this could kill your plants.

  • Germinating

However, if you want to germinate your seeds, more power to you. Using starting soil, wet the mix until it’s damp, and spoon in your starting planters. Place two seeds on each planter. Cover the planters with plastic wrap; thus creating a greenhouse effect.

Consult seed packet for lighting and/or heating requirements – they’ll need one or the other. If the seeds only require heat, I’ve found placing the starting planters on top of my refrigerator to be highly beneficial, not to mention free.

  • Transplanting

You’ll need to transplant your seedlings as soon as they’ve outgrown their starter planters. If you’ve chosen to do container or raised gardening, move them there, but if you’ve chosen to plant them in the ground you’ll want to ensure you’ve done the prep work first which includes cultivating the soil.

During this step, it’s important to carefully thin the seedlings so that there’s only one per every pot or few inches. Be careful not to touch the seedlings at their stems as they are still very young and therefore very delicate. Push the seedling into the soil; but be careful not to push them too far down.

Harvesting Your Edibles

Your seeds have been tended to all season long – now it’s time for the easy part; enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor. But how do you know when that tomato is ripe for the picking? Here’s a guide that will help you determine the proper harvesting time…so enjoy.

Edible Landscaping with a Twist

edible landscaping
[Source: pixabay.com]
Money does grow on trees – fruit and nut trees that is!

It’s easier to grow your own food at home than you think. Without a lot of effort, and without having to sacrifice the aesthetic value of an ornamental landscape, you can grow delicious and nutritious culinary in your own backyard (on apartment patios and rooftops too).

Edible landscaping integrates food production, aesthetic and monetary value, and environmental benefits to virtually any yard or planted area (even desert landscaping). With an edible landscape there’s no more need to separate your edibles from your ornamentals; hence the twist we mentioned above.

Instead of a typical landscape, which only incorporates lush green lawns and ornamental plants, edible landscaping adds in decorative rows of herbs, red plump tomatoes and striking paprika peppers. Instead of the fleeting colors of spring flowers, you can grow edibles that are decorative year-round.

An edible landscaping offers the opportunity to enjoy home-grown, organic, pesticide free produce; thus allowing you to successfully reduce your monthly grocery bill. However, that’s not the only benefit you’ll receive by taking the time to plant edibles, as many benefits are to be had – as you’ll see below.

The Many Benefits of Edible Landscaping

Benefit #1: Reduce Your Footprint on the Environment

Backyard, or patio, gardening helps the environment in more ways than one. If you choose to go the organic route, you’ll reduce some of the burden placed on earth, as you’re limiting air and water pollution but not using any pesticides. Fossil fuels may also be reduced as more people begin growing their own food.

Benefit #2: Improve Your Family’s Health

Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables is one of the most important things you can do for both yourself and your loved ones. When they’re right outside your backdoor, you won’t be able to resist them (trust me), and their vitamin levels will be at their highest when they’re freshly cultivated.

Benefit #3: Reduce Your Monthly Grocery Bill

Your monthly grocery bill is bound to shrink as you properly grow and cultivate your edible landscaping. With a backyard full of scrumptious and nutritious produce, you can stock your pantry and fridge in no time at all. The options for caning fresh produce are limitless. Check out this link for more information.

Start Eating Healthier Today

While it may seem overwhelming to some, vegetables and fruits that are grown from your own backyard is actually quite simple. With just a few square feet of the great outdoors, a water source and a little time, you too can have an edible landscaping full of your favorite vegetables and fruits.

Container Gardening Tips for Beginners

Container Gardening is EasyAs prices for a wide range of food items, from eggs and dairy to fruit and vegetables, leave consumers in a state of sticker shock – especially for those still struggling just to meet end’s meet – we’re seeing a growing number of people across the nation taking food matters into their own hands!

Even those without acres of land are learning how to plant and grow fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs from the comfort of their own homes with minimal effort.  It’s called “container gardening”!  Best of all – anyone with a few feet of sunny space, soil and some spare containers can grow virtually anything their heart desires!

If you’re up to the challenge – which truth be told really isn’t much of one – growing your own food through container gardening can be oh so rewarding.  And, let’s not forget, that it’s basically cost (and toxin) free!!!  Just follow this insider’s guide to container gardening and in no-time at all, you’ll be a pro.

Your Container Gardening Shopping List

Containers:  In all honesty; there is no “right” container that you can use for container gardening; therefore it makes sense to buy whichever best fits within your budget.  This is about saving money – not spending it.

You can truly use anything at all.  During my research for this blog, I’ve seen basically all types of materials being used for container gardening, from recyclable shopping bags and purses to laundry baskets and plastic ice cream containers.

The one thing, however, that does warrant attention is the size of the container.  Shallow crops, such as herbs, require small containers (less than 10” will suffice) whereas bigger crops, such as tomatoes, require larger containers (typically 5 gallon buckets work best).

No matter which type of container fits your aesthetic style and budget, it’s important that they offer adequate drainage.  If you choose a container without drainage holes, you can add two inches of clean gravel along the bottom to aid in the drainage.

Soil:  For the best results, you should choose to use a “soil less” blend that will retain the proper amount of water and resist compaction, such as can found with container mixes.

If you would like to opt for organic container gardening then you should obviously choose to use organic container mixes.

Most container gardening experts mix this with a good amount of fertilizer and compost.  Using this mixture, fill your containers 2 to 3 inches below the brim to allow for adequate watering.

Space: Determining what you can grow, and how much of it, is solely dependent on how much sunny floor space you have.  Most vegetables, unless their tolerant to the shade (such as lettuce), require a minimum of five hours of direct sunlight per day.

Seeds: Some of the best places for buying seeds, especially organic seeds, can be found listed on many gardening forums.  I particularly like Native Seed Search as it sell as large variety of seeds that are all well adapted to Arizona’s climate.

If you’d rather not order online, you can choose to head down to your local nursery, hardware store, or feed barn.

Your Container Gardening To-Do List

Maintain Your Crop: Using the aforementioned container mixture should keep your crops growing to perfection.  You can also opt to use container mixes that contain time-released fertilizer – although they tend to be a few bucks more.

Bonus:  Save leftover coffee grounds from your morning addiction if you’re looking for a cheap alternative for fertilizer.  Starbucks provides free coffee grounds for gardeners.

Harvest Your Crop: Within just a few short months; sometimes sooner (depending on what you planted); you should see juicy ripe tomatoes and other edible crops to store in your fridge.  Just remember to only harvest what you’ll actually use in order to avoid wasted food.Garlic Growing in a Container

Container Gardening Resources

 

How to Create Your Own Organic Garden

chili peppersMany people (myself included) have wanted to venture into the organic world for quite some time; however; we often become quickly overwhelmed when we notice just how expensive it can be.  Luckily, now with growing season finally underway, we can create a delicious produce garden that is free from pesticides and toxic chemicals while still having fun.

Don’t know where to start?  It is actually quite easy to do yourself as it takes very little effort.  In order to avoid becoming overwhelmed early on it is best to remember that you can start small.  For most beginning organic gardeners it is often recommend to start by using just one or two plants.  For those wanting a large organic garden it is possible to hire someone to plant and maintain it.

While an organic garden does require a bit for effort than a traditional garden, it is definitely a worthwhile venture for those attempting to foster a more holistic, environmental friendly lifestyle.  An organic garden requires the use of absolutely no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. But, how do I ward off pests, and bolster my plants health without these?  Read on for specific tips and ideas.

Tips for Creating the Perfect Organic Garden

Tip #1 – Preparing the Soil

In order to achieve the best results with your new organic garden, you’ll want to make sure you thoroughly prepare the soil, in order to properly condition it.  Some of the best ways to ensure good healthy soil is to get it tested and to ensure it has plenty of organic matter.  You can do this by mixing in compost, leaf, grass clippings and manure.

Tip #2 – Choosing the Right Plants

It really pays when choosing the right plants, or seedlings, to make sure you’ll actually eat what you’re planning on planting.  Otherwise you’re taking up valuable space for something you might never put on your plate.  When selecting plants it is additionally important to ensure that they will thrive in Arizona by checking the USDA’s Hardiness Zones.

Make sure to only purchase plants that have been raised without chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  You can typically find these at your local farmer’s market and nurseries that carry organic friendly plants.  Some plants such as sunflowers, coriander, dill, sweet peas, squash and cucumbers do better if they are grown from seeds.

Tip #3 – Plant Crops in Wide Beds

For the best results when harvesting plants, such as vegetables and flowers, you should group them tightly together in a wide bed that you know won’t be trampled on.  Raised beds work great!  This tip reduces the amount of weeding and watering you’ll need to provide your organic garden with.  In addition, this helps to maintain the proper amount of nutrients and compost, as well as promote air circulation.

Tip #4 – Water in the Morning

Tip #5 – Weeding & Mulching

Tip #6 – Protect Plants from Insect Infestations

One of the best ways to protect your plants from insect infestations naturally is to foster a healthy amount of natural predators such as frogs, lizards and birds.  Ladybugs work to!  You can also use nets and row covers, but plan on needing to change them often, due to our harsh summer temperatures.  Organic solutions include horticultural oils, insecticidal soaps and hot pepper sprays.

Tip #7 – Harvesting the Fruits of Your Labor

Salsa Lover’s Organic Garden Recipe IdeaTomatoes

Plant the following to make awesome organic salsa from scratch:

  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Jalapeno Peppers
  • Cilantro
  • Onions
  • Tomatillos