Guest Post: How to Improve Your Garden During the Summer

Getting your garden into the perfect state may seem a daunting task but with hard work and commitment it can be achieved. With summer now upon us, this is the ideal time to be digging up weeds, planting seeds and bringing your garden to life.

Garden Vegetables

Follow these tips to get started.

Flowers and Vegetables

Nothing shows you look after your garden more than decorative flowers and plants. During the summer, you get the best chance to blossom beautiful flowers such as the Goblin Blanket Flower or Red Valerian. There is simply no excuse to not beautify your garden today.

Foliage plants are arguably easier to maintain and bring a solid colourful base to your garden. This helps you get an even look, where you can equally distribute ornamental plants alongside the ‘filler’ content. But as much as you would like an attractive garden filled with flowers, it’s vital to leave enough space to grow vegetables.

In order to produce the best crops in your garden, you must plan in advance exactly what you are going to plant. The ideal warm-season vegetables include beans (lima beans specifically), tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini, carrots and more. These require long periods of sunlight so make sure they are exposed to natural sources of heat.

It’s also important to plant after the last spring frost date as frost can severely damage any growth. By maintaining a warm temperature and warmer soil, in a few months’ time you should see great results, ensuring your vegetables are ripe for picking.

Enhancing Furniture and Adornments

The right type of furniture and decorations are necessary to accentuate a healthy and well-looked-after garden. When the sun comes out, make sure you make the most of it by having the right type of garden furniture for you.

Hosting an outdoor party or spending the day in the garden can be a more relaxing affair when you have the right fixtures for you and your guests. By investing in a garden dining table, you can mix and match style with practicality and choose what suits you best. At an open party, it’s best to have a few picnic benches as well as parasols to complete the look.

You can also add extra features such as a sofa combination and even foldable stools.  Storage options are equally important and to avoid cluttering your garden when guests arrive, invest in a storage bench where unused items can go inside and be hidden from sight.

It’s not just furniture you should look at, as having surrounding decorations can really give your garden a lively expression.  Introduce simple things such as decorative lighting, water fountains, box fire-pits or even add a bit of extra elegance by adding one of the garden arches available from Wickes.

Installing an arch will not only bring an interesting feature into your garden, it’s also useful for greeting incoming guests. Furthermore, with the ability to plant colourful flowers such as clematis or jasmine, you can be sure it will leave a lasting effect. The refreshing scent from the latter provides an extra kick to your garden too.

Garden Arch

Protection & Preservation

Many summer gardens are partially destroyed due to a lack of care and effort once the work is complete. Once you begin creating a garden, you’ll need to keep track of vegetable growth and any hindrances that may affect your plants. With many pests that are difficult to get rid of, you will have to be on guard at all times in order to safeguard your garden.

Avoid pesticides as most contain harsh toxins which can leave chemical residue on vegetables. There is a safer alternative in homemade pesticides which include oil spray, a mixture of water and cooking oil; shampoo spray and red pepper spray. These natural resources will keep bugs at bay as well as preserve your vegetable and plants purity.

These tips should bring out the green fingers in you and ultimately help you have an enjoyable summer outside with your family and friends. By following these simple steps, your garden can go from being a seldom used outlet to a family favourite room.

Author: Hiten Patel

Photos: Woodley Wonderworks, Jill Clardy 


Sustainable Food: Food Myths Busted

Sustainable Food: Food Myths Busted (via Green Building Elements)

Sustainable Foods Under AttackBig Agribusiness loves to throw around dire predictions of impending world hunger. According to their press releases, if not for their genetically modified organisms, petrochemical fertilizers, and their long list of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, society would…


Thinking Green Beyond the Inside of Your House

When people think about green buildings, what generally comes to mind is solar panels, geothermal energy, improved insulation, green roofs, high-performance windows, rain-water recuperation, and so forth. However, the milieu in which the building is rooted also ought to be considered. Although we often forget it, being green also includes what lies beyond the walls! Landscaping, for instance, plays a major role in energy consumption. Trees, plants and the way you take care of them can have a significant impact on GHG emissions, and consequently, on your energy bills.

urban trees 1 shutterstock_138404561

The soothing role of trees

Although this is universally true, trees generally are very good for the mood for people who live in big urban areas and don’t have easy access to non-urban environments. Not only are trees majestic and beautiful, they provide some shade on warm summer days, limit noise pollution, and allow birds to nest and to tweet by your window. Some even produce tasty, edible fruits a few steps away from your front door. Trees have a direct and significant impact on the mental and physical state of the people who live in the city. Yet, their presence around one’s house also has an impact on the overall energy-efficiency of the building.

Insulation

Trees are considered to be the biggest living species on earth. Mature ones often grow much higher than any one- or two-story houses and  play the role of an umbrella in the summer, limiting the surface over which sun rays hit the house. They also provide an additional shielding layer in the winter, protecting the walls against the cold winds. This insulating capacity makes any urban house much more comfortable year round: hot air does not get into the house as much in the summer, and cool air does not reach the walls as much in the winter. The inside temperature therefore is much more stable.

Although all of this may seem obvious, it ought to be noted that the insulation capacity of trees is everything but trivial. Some studies demonstrate that having trees around the home in urban settings can reduce energy consumption significantly. In the winter, heating needs can be decreased by 15% while in the summer the cost of air conditioning can be reduced by as much as 50%! Not only do these savings potentially represent an inviting amount of money at the end of the year, they also indicate that the overall carbon footprint of any house with trees around it can be significantly smaller than its treeless and plantless equivalent.

Herbs and flowers

Although their green impact can seem more tenuous than that of mature trees, plants and herbs are far from being useless around the house. Indeed, having nearby some of the herbs you often use in your recipes (such as basil, cilantro, parsley, chives, thyme, rosemary, etc.) can add a tiny bit of autonomy to your household in the sense that you produce more of what you actually need to sustain your living needs. Not having to go to the supermarket to buy those herbs when they are missing in the fridge does not only rhymes with money savings: it also means less waste in terms of wrapping. Think about those little plastic bags and packages that you actually pay for every time you buy just a few tiny branches of fresh rosemary!

How you take care of the lawn also matters. Indeed, opting for an electric lawn mower, especially if the energy grid you are connected to produces renewable forms of energy, can yield substantial energy savings at the same time as it limits GHG emissions. The same can be said of any other instrument that can be used around the house such as grass trimmers and handheld blowers. In summary, thinking green beyond the inside of your house can result in a significant, positive impact on your living space’s overall energy-efficiency.

About the author: Alexandre Duval is a freelance blogger who writes about travel destinations in Quebec, Canada and elsewhere in the world for ViaRail promoting their travel Montreal packages. He has lived in three countries and travelled in more than fifteen. He is currently completing his master’s degree in Montreal.

Photo: The ninth Yeouido Spring Flower Festival from Shutterstock

More Food and Greener Farming with Specialised Transporters for Plants

Proteins called membrane transporters will be key to sustainable food production

To grow more food more sustainably we need to make plants better at recruiting nutrients and water from soil to seed, according to 12 leading plant scientists writing in Nature.

Pattern of field with vegetables growing on volcanic earth

Pattern of field with vegetables growing on volcanic earth

Essential to this are proteins called membrane transporters. Transporters also effectively carry high-energy molecules to where they are needed, help plants resist pathogens and make plants more tolerant to adverse conditions. One challenge is to make crops do these things simultaneously.

“Just as our mobile phones will need more advanced technology to carry more information, plants will need better or new transporters to do the extra work we’re going to require of them,” said corresponding co-author Professor Dale Sanders, director of the John Innes Centre.

“We want plants to load up with more of what they need from the soil, making the most of what it offers.”

“Or where the soil harbours salt or toxins, we want the plant to offload them or exclude them from essential cells where they could do harm.”

Transporters can carry important molecules from outside to inside cells or vice versa. Recent advances in understanding how plants control these processes will help scientists create new tools to hand over to breeders.

Of the present global population of seven billion people, almost one billion are undernourished and lack sufficient protein, fats and carbohydrates in their diets. At the same time, we are close to the sustainable limit of 15% of Earth’s surface that can be exploited for food production.

“We need to make the crops growing on existing agricultural land work harder,” said Professor Sanders.

“Agro-chemicals are the current solution, but we can make plants better at finding and carrying their own chemical elements.”

A long-term goal at the John Innes Centre is to engineer cereals able to acquire their own nitrogen with the help of symbiotic bacteria. In the shorter term, nitrate transporters can be recruited in crops to make better use of applied fertilisers. Plants currently use only 30 to 50% of nitrogen applied in fertiliser and the rest contributes to water pollution and producing the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide.

Professor Sanders’ own research is on improving the accumulation of zinc in cereal grains. Around two billion people suffer from iron and zinc deficiencies worldwide. Enhanced nutrient content is a crucial goal in the context of the growing world population and the central roles of staple crops in human diets. More research on transporters will improve uptake from the soil to the plant, and then redistribution within the seed.

Corresponding co-author, Professor Julian Schroeder, from the University of California San Diego, identified transporter HKT1 that protects plants from saline soils. In research and field experiments by author Professor Rana Munns, from Australia’s CSIRO, grain yields in pasta wheat improved by 25% on saline soil.

The HKT1 membrane transporter is from one of the earliest domesticated wheat varieties. It keeps salt out of leaf cells that are essential for photosynthesis.

“Saline soils are causing increasing losses in agricultural yields globally,” said Schroeder.

“Research is showing that HKT1 transporters protect very different types of plant species, suggesting they could help produce more food in many locations.”

A major challenge will be to combine, or “pyramid”, such traits without diverting energy from yield. Insights into transporters are showing that they operate in specific parts of the plant or specific cell types. This means that traits bestowed by transporters may be particularly suitable for “pyramiding”. More research will be needed to check they are compatible.

Source: AAAS EurekAlert

Photo: Pattern of field with vegetables growing on volcanic earth from Shutterstock


More Food and Greener Farming with Specialised Transporters for Plants

Proteins called membrane transporters will be key to sustainable food production

To grow more food more sustainably we need to make plants better at recruiting nutrients and water from soil to seed, according to 12 leading plant scientists writing in Nature.

Pattern of field with vegetables growing on volcanic earth

Pattern of field with vegetables growing on volcanic earth

Essential to this are proteins called membrane transporters. Transporters also effectively carry high-energy molecules to where they are needed, help plants resist pathogens and make plants more tolerant to adverse conditions. One challenge is to make crops do these things simultaneously.

“Just as our mobile phones will need more advanced technology to carry more information, plants will need better or new transporters to do the extra work we’re going to require of them,” said corresponding co-author Professor Dale Sanders, director of the John Innes Centre.

“We want plants to load up with more of what they need from the soil, making the most of what it offers.”

“Or where the soil harbours salt or toxins, we want the plant to offload them or exclude them from essential cells where they could do harm.”

Transporters can carry important molecules from outside to inside cells or vice versa. Recent advances in understanding how plants control these processes will help scientists create new tools to hand over to breeders.

Of the present global population of seven billion people, almost one billion are undernourished and lack sufficient protein, fats and carbohydrates in their diets. At the same time, we are close to the sustainable limit of 15% of Earth’s surface that can be exploited for food production.

“We need to make the crops growing on existing agricultural land work harder,” said Professor Sanders.

“Agro-chemicals are the current solution, but we can make plants better at finding and carrying their own chemical elements.”

A long-term goal at the John Innes Centre is to engineer cereals able to acquire their own nitrogen with the help of symbiotic bacteria. In the shorter term, nitrate transporters can be recruited in crops to make better use of applied fertilisers. Plants currently use only 30 to 50% of nitrogen applied in fertiliser and the rest contributes to water pollution and producing the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide.

Professor Sanders’ own research is on improving the accumulation of zinc in cereal grains. Around two billion people suffer from iron and zinc deficiencies worldwide. Enhanced nutrient content is a crucial goal in the context of the growing world population and the central roles of staple crops in human diets. More research on transporters will improve uptake from the soil to the plant, and then redistribution within the seed.

Corresponding co-author, Professor Julian Schroeder, from the University of California San Diego, identified transporter HKT1 that protects plants from saline soils. In research and field experiments by author Professor Rana Munns, from Australia’s CSIRO, grain yields in pasta wheat improved by 25% on saline soil.

The HKT1 membrane transporter is from one of the earliest domesticated wheat varieties. It keeps salt out of leaf cells that are essential for photosynthesis.

“Saline soils are causing increasing losses in agricultural yields globally,” said Schroeder.

“Research is showing that HKT1 transporters protect very different types of plant species, suggesting they could help produce more food in many locations.”

A major challenge will be to combine, or “pyramid”, such traits without diverting energy from yield. Insights into transporters are showing that they operate in specific parts of the plant or specific cell types. This means that traits bestowed by transporters may be particularly suitable for “pyramiding”. More research will be needed to check they are compatible.

Source: AAAS EurekAlert

Photo: Pattern of field with vegetables growing on volcanic earth from Shutterstock