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Different Types of Mulch and Why It's Good for Your Garden

Garden Mulch: The Benefits and Different Types of Garden Mulch

Garden mulch can enhance the look of your garden and help keep your garden healthy. Placing mulch in your garden can also save you time by decreasing the need for watering, applying herbicides and pulling weeds. A healthy vegetable and fruit garden always begins with healthy soil. Healthy soil can be accomplished through mulching.

Mulch Benefits:

* Helps moderate the soil temperature.
* Enhances the growth of fruit and vegetables planted.
* Retains moisture during dry weather, which reduces the need for watering.
* Reduces weed growth.
* Natural mulches can improve the structure of the soil. As mulch decays, the material becomes topsoil, while adding nutrients into the soil.
* Enhances the beauty of the exterior of your home by adding color and uniformity.
* Can prevent trees and shrubs from getting damaged by lawn equipment.

Types of Mulch
There are two categories of mulch: living and non-living. Living mulch is made from natural matter, such as bark, wood chips, leaves, pine needles, or grass clippings. Non-living mulch includes gravel, pebbles, black plastic and landscape fabrics.

Living Mulch
Living mulch, also known as organic mulch, is most beneficial to your garden. Unlike non-living mulch, living mulch helps improve the garden soil by adding organic matter as it decomposes. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, "Mulch may also encourage the growth of worms and other beneficial soil organisms that can help improve soil structure and the availability of nutrients for plants." Living mulch costs less than non-living mulch. Many local Park and Recreation Departments give away woodchips and bark at no charge. Living mulch decomposes over time and needs to be replaced after several years.

Non-Living Mulch
While non-living mulch (also known as inorganic mulch or man-made mulch) doesn't benefit your garden as much as living mulch, it is easier to maintain. The various types of non-living mulch do not attract pests and do not decompose. Non-living mulch is an especially good weed barrier.

Common Types of Living Mulch

Wood Chips or Shavings
Wood chips are one of the most commonly used types of mulch. It is best to choose older, decomposed wood mulch. Wood mulch that has not properly aged can contain toxins that are harmful to young plants. Some disadvantages include the quick decomposition of wood shavings and the possible attraction of termites.

Bark is another popular type of living mulch. It is one of the most attractive mulch materials. Common types of bark mulch include pine, cedar and cypress. Bark mulch is available as nuggets, shredded, or in chunks. The nuggets provide the best level of weed prevention. High quality cedar mulch is one of the most expensive types of mulch.

Pine Needles
Pine needles are one of the less expensive types of mulch. They are long lasting and attractive. Pine needles allow water to get to the soil easily.

Common Types of Non-Living Mulch

Stone, Gravel, Pebbles and Crushed Stone
One of the best benefits of stone mulch is that it is long lasting. Colored stones can add additional color to your landscape. A 1-inch layer of small rocks will provide good weed control. Be aware that light shades of stone will reflect heat back up towards plants, which may be harmful.

Landscape Fabric
Landscape fabric is also known as geotextile. The fabric is better than plastic because it allows air and moisture to penetrate into the soil. It is considered the best non-living mulch for long-term use. Landscape fabric is very effective at controlling weeds. Some grass may grow through the tiny holes in the fabric.

Recycled Rubber
Recycled rubber is used for many outdoor products, from patio tiles to mulch. Recycled rubber is often used in playgrounds as it provides a soft alternative to wood chips. Recycled rubber has many of the same benefits as living mulch, including helping to retain moisture, moderating soil temperature and adding beauty to your landscape. It is available in many colors and won't fade.


10 Eco-Friendly Gardening Tips

Taking care of your lawn and garden is just as important as taking care of your roof in terms of resale. An attractive landscape can increase the value of your home and add curb appeal. Maintaining your lawn and garden properly can save money and time. Eco-friendly, or "green," landscaping habits can help the environment and decrease the amount of hazardous chemicals around your home. Did you know that the average suburban lawn uses six times the hazardous chemicals per acre as conventional farming does? Learn how to avoid chemical use below.

Tip 1: Water Efficiently
Water during strategically planned times only. The best time to water is between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. Watering in the afternoon is inefficient since water is lost due to evaporation and wind. The second-best time to water is between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Running an irrigation system excessively can waste a lot of water. Just one hour can use up to 250 gallons of water.

Tip 2: Install an Irrigation System
Consider the installation of a sprinkler or irrigation system for your lawn. Irrigation systems work well at targeting only the specific areas of your lawn that need to be watered, thus cutting back on unnecessary watering of uplanted areas. Irrigation systems are available with a timer option, which helps homeowners avoid overwatering by turning off the system at predetermined times. Make sure to check the weather forecast and turn off the timer when rain is predicted.

Tip 3: Go Organic
Say goodbye to chemical fertilizers and pesticides. There are many top-quality organic and natural weed killers. Additionally, organic compost can be used.

Tip 4: Make Your Own Compost
Make your own compost to use in your garden. Compost can be used as a fertilizer, serving as an excellent alternative to chemical-based fertilizers. Making your own compost involves mixing browns (such as dead leaves, branches or twigs, greens (such as grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps and coffee grounds) and water in a compost bin.

Tip 5: Mulch
Garden mulch can enhance the look of your garden and help keep it healthy. Spreading mulch in your garden can also save time by decreasing the need for watering, applying herbicides and pulling weeds.

Tip 6: Drought-Tolerant Plants
The technique of using drought-tolerant plants, known as xeriscaping will significantly help reduce water usage in your garden.

Tip 7: Native Plants
Planting native plants will cut down on the need for water and fertilizer. For example, if you live in Arizona, don't plant high water plants such as bluegrass or clover.

Tip 8: Make Your Own Planters
Making your own planters is a great way to reuse empty containers. Rinse out plastic containers (cottage cheese, yogurt and dessert whip containers are just the right size), fill them with dirt, add a plant and you have a great new planter. Not only is this eco-friendly, it's also inexpensive.

Tip 9: Harvest Rainwater
Harvesting rainwater means collecting and storing rainwater to be used for your lawn or garden. This is a simple way to conserve water and help your garden bloom.

Tip 10: Hang Birdfeeders and Nesting Boxes
Birdfeeders and nesting boxes attract birds to your garden. Birds are a great benefit to gardens as they eat unwanted pests, such as snails and slugs. Instead of using pesticide against these little bugs, simply invite the birds in and they'll take care of the pests naturally.


Spring Lawn Care Tips

Start the spring off right with good lawn care and your lawn will thank you by growing green and beautiful during the spring and summer seasons. Spring lawn care is important in that it is the time when you can catch, diagnose, and fix any grass problems such as crabgrass. The good news is that spring lawn care can be completed in 5 simple steps. Make sure you follow these steps each year when spring rolls out and your lawn will start looking better and better each year!

1. Clean up the Lawn
Cleaning the lawn of any debris is the first step in spring lawn care. This step includes raking any leftover leaves, branches, twigs, etc. This will really help to ensure a problem free first cutting.

2. Distribute Remaining Snow
If any piles of snow have accumulated and not melted then you will need to get the shovel out and break he snow pile apart. Simply spread the snow around the lawn in areas where there is lots of sun. This is an important step as the snow pile could cause the grass underneath to develop and grow slower than the rest of the grass.

3. First Fertilizing
Find a good fertilizer for early spring application. It will have the right mix of fertilizer compounds for your lawn. Keep in mind to fertilize light as over fertilizing in spring can harm the roots of the grass and cause you more problems than you need.

4. Crabgrass- Remove it before it grows!
Early spring is the best time for crabgrass treatment. If your grass had crabgrass growth last spring or summer than you will need to treat it this spring. The way to treat for crabgrass is with herbicide and it must be applied two weeks before crabgrass germinates in your area. If you are unsure about when this occurs then you may want to consider asking a professional landscaper for some helpful advice.

5. Over Seeding
Over seeding is the process of placing a significant amount of grass seeds on patchy or worn down areas or grass. This process helps to strengthen and quicken the grass growth and to help it look better. If you used an herbicide for crabgrass then you must wait at least a month before over seeding.


Water Fountains Come in Many Varieties

Over the years I've noticed that truly great landscapes almost all share one thing in common, water fountains. Large or small, natural or man made, these features go a long way in creating a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere in the garden, or wherever you want to introduce the sight and sound of running water. Besides the sensual pleasures they provide, they also give a cool refuge to birds and other small animals. Understanding how fountains work, and taking a brief look at some of the design options available, is a useful exercise.

At first glance, water fountains seem sort of mysterious as to how they work. How does the water keep flowing over and over without stopping? I suppose that's part of the allure. It is a pretty simple process. The water is in a reservoir that provides a place for the pump to be. The pump moves the water along inside a tube that is routed to the top of the fountain, or wherever the water is meant to start it's journey back to the reservoir, where it is then re-circulated over and over. Usually the tube cannot be seen because it is either built into the fountain, or is hidden under or behind rocks, plants, and other items. Once the basics are understood, it is easy to see how water fountains can be made as basic or as deluxe as needed.

One of my sisters bought a small bamboo trickler fountain last year for her small sitting garden. It looked great until the dog got a hold of it. It just couldn't hold up under that sort of abuse. Not all water fountains are created equal, and for Mother's Day this year she got a new, larger, and more suitable design to replace it. It's a more traditional molded, multilayered design that the dog is going to have a lot tougher time ruining (though I suspect she will try). Dogs and destruction aside, the point is that anyone considering getting a fountain for outdoor use should really give some thought to not only the size and placement of the fountain, but also to the elements and other impacts that it will have to endure.

Water fountains come in many shapes and sizes and there's nothing like a large one to really get your attention. One of my favorite designs is the pondless variety. These usually have water running down, over, under, and around rocks and other natural items, all ending up in a reservoir that is covered in rocks (for the large outdoor types), or with marbles or small decorative glass or rocks (for the indoor table top varieties). Another design that is very popular is the classic fountains that look like bird baths. These often have water spouts and are quite dramatic and pleasing. They can make a nice center piece to that special corner of the garden, or can make a stunning entry way focal point.

Everyone loves water fountains. Don't let the mystery of how they work keep you from getting, and enjoying, your very own. Consider where you want to locate it, how it will be used, what stresses it may have to endure, then go for it. You will love having one in your life.


Champion Generators have Hit the Market like a Hurricane!

Have you ever noticed that some companies hit their market like a hurricane? One day, no one has ever heard of them, and the next they are setting the standard. So it was with Champion generators. Champion Power Equipment has only been around since 2003, but have taken their various markets by storm. They specialize in all aspects of their business, from product design to manufacturing them in their company owned factory in China, to full customer support for everything they manufacture. Their product lines include portable generators, transfer pumps, winches, and power washers. But it is Champion generators that have really impressed me lately.

Their generators are known for their dependability, affordability, and their durability. Champion pride themselves in their commitment to their customers. They do this by offering the best customer service and warranties in the business. Almost all callers through their customer service line reports a positive experience. Plus, if you call their technical support line, you will get an English speaking technician who really knows his stuff. They also offer a full 2 year warranty on all of their generators. This is one of the best warranties in the market. They can do this because they control the entire manufacturing process, including making their own engines. It is easier to offer a great warranty when you make everything, and are not relying upon another's components.

Champion can boast that they have never had to recall any of their generators. This is quite impressive in such a competitive market. This says a lot about the company. Primarily, that they won't rush a product to market, but that they make sure their new models are fully ready before release.

There are two new Champion generators hitting the market in 2010 that I really like. The first is a wireless remote electric start. We live in a cold winter climate, that often has a lot of snow. My father-in-law likes to show off his new truck by pushing a button and starting it from the kitchen! I have to admit, it sure beats running outside 10 - 15 minutes before you leave just to start the car! So, it makes sense to use the same technology on a generator. When your power goes out, it is often dark, or cold, or in the middle of a storm. If you can push a button and have instant back up power, you will really be happy! These Champion generators have a built in auto-choke and auto-power flow to help the engine start up, while protecting your appliances.

The second nice generator that is new this year is an inverter generator that is super quiet. These generators are stackable, and being parallel, you can easily chain them together to increase your power. Plus, when the electrical load is decreased, the generator automatically idles lower, which saves on fuel.

Winter and storm season will be upon you before your know it, don't get left out in the cold! Plan now, and a great place to start is by checking out Champion generators.


A Backup Generator: Something to Consider

A backup generator gives peace of mind and comfort in case of a power outage. Many people with a dependence on medical equipment are especially served by these amazing machines. Of course, there are other uses for these that many find helpful. Let's take a closer look at these and see if we can learn a little something about them.

As mentioned, there are many uses for these units that are pretty handy. One of the most obvious uses is for people who RV. Having a backup generator on hand means that many of the electric comforts of home can be enjoyed while out on the road. Camping doesn't have to be only about bugs biting you, roots and rocks in your back, and lame food. If you have the ability to fire up your favorite tv, dvd player, electric stove, radio, air conditioner, and a host of other creature comforts, you can really do it in style. Plus, who cares if the noise is bothersome to the other campers, right? Uh, no, that's not right. The nice thing is that the modern generators are not near as obnoxious as their earlier predecessors. Yeah, they still make noise, but not as much as they used to. They are an engine after all.

One of the downsides to having and using a backup generator is that many require the use of gasoline fuel. This means having a dangerous and smelly fuel around that really needs to be tended to. Safety is king, and that certainly applies anytime you are using a machine that has to have gas to operate. But, if you get a good quality storage container for the gas, and use your head about how it is stored, there should be no problems at all. Just top off the backup generator and put the gas away. That way, you don't have to worry about dangerous chemicals, and you can just go on to enjoying whatever it is that the generator allows you to do.

A backup generator goes beyond just making noise, powering up all your gadgets and doo-dads. In fact, they actually do play a critical role for many businesses. Consider, for example, my friend's woodworking shop. He uses power tools (no big surprise there) for nearly every phase of his work. When the power goes out he can't just stop working. Bills still have to be paid, and customers still want they projects tended to and completed. Having a way to keep powering the tools when there's no juice coming down the line is critical. If the electricity gets interrupted he just gets the backup generator out, fires it up, plugs in and keeps on working.

Larger institutional uses exist as well. In fact, there are many models of these generators that are designed specifically for whole business, or home, backup. They are hardwired into the system and can be configured to kick on as backup the moment power goes down.

All in all, having a backup generator around is a pretty smart idea. They are not only for the rich and famous, as they are quite affordable, come in many different sizes, and are easy to use.


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