Garden Tools That Save You Time

Having a beautiful garden is the dream of many a homeowner. No doubt, you have had those dreams as well. Even if you think that you do not have a green thumb, you can make small improvements in your garden by following some practical advice. You can start by reading these suggestions:

To maximize your enjoyment out of your garden plant a variety of plants. The same old will get full and boring and you may out of boredom end up neglecting your garden. By planting a variety you will ensure that you remain interested and as a bonus it will be far prettier.

If you live in an area with clay soil, coat your shovel or gardening trowel with flour or car wax before you start digging your garden. This will prevent soil from sticking to the blade of your shovel, making your work much easier. It also lengthens the life of your shovel by preventing rust.

If your flowers leaves are curling, this probably means they are not getting enough nutrients. The soil might not be rich enough, or some insects might be stealing the nutrients from your flowers. Look for eggs or bugs around the roots of your plants. Buy insecticide or additional nutrients for your plants.

When deciding to take up gardening, it is important to study and know your geographical area. Some vegetation simply can’t survive a northern winter. Contrarily, some plants can’t survive a Texas summer. As such, it is important to know where you are and what the plants that you intend on growing can handle.

It is important that you not forget to water your garden on a regular basis, especially when it is hot. If your plants do not get enough water, roots stay near the surface which can kill your plants or cause them to take even longer to grow. About an inch of water a week is sufficient.

Be sure to water a tomato patch no more than once every five to seven days. However, when you do water, be sure to give the ground a thorough soaking. Tomatoes do best if the soil is wet deeply, unlike many plants which prefer a light misting more often. Also, be sure to water the ground, not the plants.

If your tomato plants have long branches that are not flowering or producing fruit, go ahead and pinch them off. It won’t hurt the plant, but will actually help. Pruning back the branches that are not producing fruit, allows the plant to focus its energy and nutrients on producing larger and more flavorful fruit.

If you are going to be doing a lot of work in your garden very close to the ground, such as weeding or planting, use a garden stool or pad to protect your knees. This will make it easier to get back up again and move once you finish, and will also reduce bruising on your knees.

Brighten up your winter garden with trees that have interesting bark. A winter garden can tend to look bare and drab, especially if you live in a very cold climate. Three good choices are a paperbark maple, silver birch or scarlet willow. This will make a quite noticeable difference to the look of your garden.

Go green and try to conserve as much water as possible in your garden. One way to do this is to take the water from steaming or boiling vegetables and water your plants with it. The enriched water also has the benefit of acting as a fertilizer and will give your plants a boost.

If your gardening boots and gloves are beginning to develop an odor, try using orange slices! Simply place a orange slice in the boot or glove and leave it there overnight. Oranges are ideal for eliminating the unpleasant smells often picked up in a garden. If you don’t have an orange, other citrus fruits like lemons or limes, will work as well.

To make a garden complete do not forget points of interest. Section off and divide a large yard into several different areas by using points of interest such as benches, water features, and yard art. It will enhance an already wholesome atmosphere and making it the outdoor room of your home.

When you have an abundance of seeds from your garden, a helpful way to store them away without drying them out is to use old, nylon stockings as a storage bag. After you add the seeds to the stocking, simply tie a knot at the top and hang the stockings in a warm, dark place to store until spring.

So, now that picture of a dream garden is not so far away. It is within your reach to have a lovely garden. Even if you need more help than perhaps others with a green thumb, no doubt you have found a tip or two that will come in handy! Apply the practical advice given in this article to see your garden grow!

Shopper’s Diary: Canyon Culture—and Cacti—at Hollyflora in LA

Hollyflora Market & Courtyard in LA makes you feel as if you’ve walked into a perfectly curated artist’s loft; unique ceramics sit alongside art books you want to look through, and handmade chairs perfect for lounging are draped with the most beautiful textiles.

The boutique, recently opened by Hollyflora co-owners Holly Vesecky and Rebecca Uchtman, sells their artist friends’ work, along with seasonal flower bundles and arrangements, and accessories you might need for a dinner party. If you’re lucky, you might catch glimpses of Holly and Becky creating designs for one of their events, since their floral workspace is just behind the shop. 

Photography by Sophia Moreno-Bunge for Gardenista, except where noted. 

Hollyflora Market | Gardenista

Above: The market is housed in an old hangar building; the high ceilings and big windows give it a very airy feel. Plants of all sorts, perfect for the dry LA weather, can be found all over the space.

Hollyflora Market | Gardenista

Above: When designing and curating for the shop, Holly and Becky take into consideration time and place—they are inspired by ’70s psychedelia and Canyon culture. 

Hollyflora Market | Gardenista

Above: Ceramics made specially for Hollyflora.

Hollyflora Market | Gardenista  

Above: These delicate beeswax candles are made by hand in the studio; other locally made scented candles and lotions are sold, as well. 

Hollyflora | Gardenista

Above: Art books for inspiration. Over the years, Hollyflora has collaborated with LACMA and the Hammer Museum. 

Hollyflora Market | Gardenista

Above: Linens by Heather Taylor are among the many special finds. 

Hollyflora | Gardenista

Above: Antique Indian hot pots, perfect for a dinner party. Or pine cones. 

Hollyfloral Market | Gardenista

Above: A Dada-inspired vase made by Holly’s artist husband, Josh Beckman.

Hollyfloral Market | Gardenista

Above: Comfortable handmade chairs—and the coolest geometric side tables. 

Hollyflora Market | Gardenista

Above: An exotic arrangement made with nerine lilies, ligustrum berries, and proteas. Photograph by Jeana Sohn for LA in Bloom

Hollyfloral Market | Gardenista

Above: Intricately handmade plant hangers. Photograph by Jeana Sohn for LA in Bloom.

Hollyflora Market | Gardenista

Above: The market and workspace give way to an open-air courtyard in the back where Holly and Becky have planted unusual plants they can cut from to make arrangements. They’ll also use the space for workshops, gatherings, and parties. 

Hollyflora Market | Gardenista

Above: Can’t go without the classic California citrus. Holly’s mother has an orchard in Ojai, a source of inspiration and special materials she and Becky use in their work. 

Hollyflora Market | Gardenista

Above: A shady area reserved for the begonias, abutilons, and the most wild bleeding heart vine I’ve come across (look this up immediately.)

Hollyflora Market | Gardenista

Above: Begonias (L) and abutilons.

Hollyflora Market | Gardenista

Above: A potting table covered in succulents. 


Above: Hollyflora Market & Courtyard is located at 5046 W. Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90019. Hours are from 9 am to 5 pm from Tuesday through Friday, and by appointment.

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Live Chemical Free By Growing It Yourself

Growing your own organic garden can be a great way to get some clean, healthy produce into your house, while also providing yourself with a relaxing, stress-relieving hobby. If this sounds great, but you aren’t sure where to start, don’t worry. Read on to find out how to make your own home garden!

When designing a garden area of your yard, a good place to start is with a tree or hedge as the anchor or structural foundation to your garden. Plant grasses and perennials around the taller centerpiece plant to add texture, color and flow. In time, these plants will fill out as they grow and look splendid against the taller trees or shrubs in the background.

Use foliar feeding to help shocked or struggling plants recover. Plants can consume nutrients through their leaves quicker than through their roots. If they are having trouble getting nutrients through their roots, spray their leaves with liquid food. Be careful not to overfeed them this way. They may need to feed only twice a month.

Are you wondering if you need to water your lawn? One good way to tell is to simply walk across it. If you can see your footprints, you have a thirsty yard. Every week, your lawn should be receiving up to one inch of water. If you live in an area where it doesn’t rain frequently, make sure to give your lawn the “footprint test” whenever you’re not sure if it’s had enough to drink.

Plant your garden in stages. Put in a new vegetable every week, or plant vegetables with different maturation speeds when you do your planting. This helps prevent you from having a large harvest all at once, and will better allow you to enjoy the fruits (and vegetables!) of your labors.

After a long day of gardening, clean those dirty hands with a breakfast treat. Create a mixture of oatmeal and water. Make it thick! Use the mixture as an abrasive to get the dirt out of your skin and from under your fingernails. Follow it up with your normal soap and water wash to get any lingering dirt off.

Find out if the plants you have in your garden have special fertilizer needs. Some plants like slow-release fertilizers, while others prefer nitrogen-rich foods. Most like to be fertilized during the high point of their growing season. A little education will go a long way to improving your garden.

Choosing colorful perennials for your garden will make a bold statement and will give you much satisfaction throughout the season. Some perennials with interesting foliage are the lungwort, Japanese painted fern, and the hosta. These plants are very attractive and thrive for many months. There are many varieties of perennials to choose from, just go online and search for perennial plants that remain beautiful for many months out of the year.

Try planting a ‘one-color’ garden bed. While this takes quite a bit of work, due to the limitations of the color palette, it can create a very striking visual. The emphasis is placed more on shape and structure, and it is especially helpful in a small garden, as it makes the area appear much larger. Remember that ‘one-color’ doesn’t mean a single shade. Use all shades in the color palette. For example a blue garden can feature flowers in shades of blue, purple and mauve.

It is important to wear gardening gloves when you are working in your garden. Gardening gloves will give your hands protection from possible cuts, scratches and even splinters. It is important to remember that you may not know what is in the ground that could be potentially dangerous to your hands.

One of the best ways to be successful at organic gardening is to plan early. The best laid out plans for an organic garden, always make for the most successful garden. Plan what you will plant early on and be sure to have back-up vegetables ready to plant when short-lived plants, like lettuce and spinach, are done for the year.

It is possible to grow an organic garden all year if you have a sufficient light source for an indoor garden. Plants need plenty of light in order to grow properly and there are bulbs that can be purchased to provide indoor gardens with the appropriate amount of light to have them thrive and produce a fruitful bounty.

You will need to rotate the plants on a regular basis when you have an indoor organic garden. Plants need to get light from all directions in order to grow properly. If they are not rotated, plants will bend toward a light source, which can actually cause them to produce less fruits and vegetables, than they would have if they had been rotated.

Start your home organic garden today, and soon you’ll have plenty of delicious fresh produce, and the satisfaction of knowing that it came from plants you grew with your own hands. Don’t hesitate, use the information you’ve learned now to start building your own organic garden in your home!

DIY Poinsettia: A Common Christmas Plant Goes Luxe

Ubiquitous at this time of year, poinsettias are often dismissed as too common, or worse, too tacky. (The fact that their pots come swathed in garish foils doesn’t help.) This holiday season, I set out to see if I could reimagine this common Christmas plant—and turned it into a cut flower in an exotic holiday bouquet.

Read on for materials and step-by-step instructions:

Photography by Justine Hand for Gardenista.

Poinsettia bouquet with rop hips, white poinsettia, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

Above: Already better: simply replanting the poinsettia from plastic into an earthy Italian pot makes it looks more warm and natural. And by removing some of the excess leaves, you can also see the more dramatic form of the plant. Each bloom looks like a firework.

Native to Mexico and Central America, poinsettia’s (Euphorbia pulcherrima) commonly come in red, pink and white. For my bouquet, I chose a white poinsettia plant from my local grocery store.


  • White poinsettia plant
  • Branches of berries or rose hips
  • Evergreen boughs (I used leucothe)
  • A footed vase or bowl
  • Floral foam (available at most craft stores)
  • Candle
  • Sturdy scissors or shears


Poinsettia bouquet with rop hips, rose hips, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

Above: To emphasize the newly discovered wild warmth of my cream colored poinsettia, I chose an unruly spray of persimmon rose hips. These are quite common. I have them in my yard.

Poinsettia bouquet with rop hips, leucothoe, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

Above: Found at Winston Flowers (my favorite local florist), the lush, variegated foliage and crimson buds of Leucothe seemed the perfect complement for my Christmas arrangement. Note: if you can’t find leucothe (you know, that shrub with the clusters of small, white, bell flowers that bloom in spring), then any similarly expressive green will do.

Poinsettia bouquet with rop hips, non-floral supplies, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

Above: Besides flora, for this bouquet you will need: a pedestal bowl, wet floral foam (available at most craft stores), a candle, and sturdy scissors or shears.

Step 1:

Poinsettia bouquet with rop hips, constructing the base, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

Above: When working with foaming in a shallow bowl, you want to distribute the weight of your specimens evenly on all sides. Otherwise the foam may float and your bouquet will tip.

Cut your foam, if necessary, and place it in the bowl with water. Gently turn the foam over to make sure it’s completely saturated.

Then begin layering your longer pieces (rose hips and leucothe) on each side. First ,measure the specimen to determine the right length. Then give the stem a fresh diagonal cut, leaving about 1.5 inches excess to stick into the foam. Note that you don’t want too much stem in the foam as these will get in the way of the opposite branches and can cause the foam to break apart. Continue to add plants, alternating from one side to the other until your get the desired base. 

Poinsettia bouquet with rop hips, base, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

Above: My base, constructed.

Step 2:

Poinsettia bouquet with rop hips, poinsettia sap, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

Above: After the poinsettia is cut, a milky sap will bleed from the stem and cause the flower to die quickly. To prolong the life of a cut poinsettia flower, it is necessary to sear the stem before you place it in water. 

Poinsettia bouquet with rop hips, searing a poinsettia, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

Above: After cutting the stem to the desired length, sear it by holding the end over a flame, turning it around to scorch all sides, for about five seconds. 

Poinsettia bouquet with rop hips, seared poinsettia stem, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

Above: A seared poinsettia stem will prevent the sap from bleeding, and still will allow the plant to draw water. Note that it is not necessary to sear where you removed leaves. Only the main stem needs to be cauterized.

Step 3:

Poinsettia bouquet, adding flowers ; Gardenista

Above: Place four or five seared poinsettia flowers toward the center of the arrangement in front and in back.

Poinsettia bouquet with rose hips, finished arrangement 2, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

Above: An explosion of holiday cheer. In a silver pedestal bowl, my poinsettia bouquet is both wild and formal.

Poinsettia bouquet with rose hips, finished arrangement detail, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

Above: A long lasting arrangement; after being seared, cut poinsettia flowers will last more than a week.

Poinsettia bouquet with rose hips, finished arrangement, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

Above: My bouquet graces the corner of my dining room. Next year I may try pink poinsettias with purple privet berries. Or, if I’m feeling really adventurous, I might even attempt something with the red poinsettias (perhaps pairing them with  white gooseberries and black pearl amaryllis).

Explore more outside-the-box ways to arrange this common holiday flower in Christmas Miracle: 5 Poinsettias That Aren’t Tacky. And then there’s always the poinsettia cocktail, served at during A Woodland Holiday Party.

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Considering Tulips: Arne Maynard’s Obsession with the Dutch Masters

One look at Allt-y-Bella in Monmouthshire, the home of garden designer Arne Maynard, and it is clear that here is someone with a bit of a thing about details. The pleaching, the topiary, the orangey color of the ancient house; it’s all culturally and visually spot on. 

While the choice of tulips available can be impossibly confusing for most of us, it is well to take a leaf from Arne Maynard’s book. The paintings of the Dutch Masters are roughly contemporary with his house and certainly fit in with the aesthetic. So, he grows them by the door, trials them in the cutting garden and invites The Garden Gate Flower Company to share their flower arranging knowledge.

Photography by Britt Willoughby Dyer.

Arne Maynard Flower School, photo Britt Willoughby Dyer. Gardenista

Above: Becca Stuart and Marion Parish of The Garden Gate Flower Company have a particular interest in flowers in art and they set up this arrangement as an example for the students at Arne Maynard’s HQ in Wales. It includes white and green ‘Super Parrot’; all-white ‘White Parrot’, Narcissus ‘Bell Song’. The flaming orange tulip at the back is ‘Professor Roentgen’.

When we talk about the flower paintings of the Dutch Masters, we are normally referring to the female masters. Maria van Oosterwyck and Rachel Ruysch were wildly successful painters in the second half of the 17th century, with the crowned heads of Europe among their clients (Ruysch also had 10 children). Both artists have been of inspiration to organic flower farmers-and-decorators Becca and Maz.

Arne Maynard Flower School, photo Britt Willoughby Dyer. Gardenista

Above: The Garden Gate Flower Company frequently supplies flower arrangements to Arne Maynard and it did not take long to discover a mutual passion for a certain type of tulip. A series of workshops between the two parties was soon set up: the arranging expertise of Becca and Maz against the small-windowed interiors of Maynard’s Welsh farmhouse Allt-y-Bella, which began life in the fifteenth century, with a Renaissance-influenced tower added toward the end of the reign of Elizabeth I.

“Arne’s house was perfect for setting up still life ‘vanitas’ and flower arrangements,” says Maz. The photographer Britt and her colleague Kristy Ramage went “foraging” for dead butterflies in the curtains, using birds’ nests, old books and skulls for the full effect.

Arne Maynard Flower School, photo Britt Willoughby Dyer. Gardenista

Above : The paintings of the Dutch mistresses tended to be vertical, with flowers pointing up as well as down, hiding the vase. Shown here: a student’s arrangement (as are all of the following).

Skulls and books were often employed in the low-country ‘vanitas’ paintings of the seventeenth century, to symbolize the fleeting nature of life. They were also connected with the Bible, butterflies referring to the Resurrection.  

Arne Maynard Flower School, photo Britt Willoughby Dyer. Gardenista

Above: Becca and Maz brought in ranunculus to mimic the shape and colors of roses. “The Dutch Masters painted over the course of the seasons,” says Maz. “They juxtaposed flowers which would not normally be seen together in a vase.” 

Arne Maynard Flower School, photo Britt Willoughby Dyer. Gardenista

Above: Flowers with an eye are essential components of Dutch Master still lifes, after tulips. As well as ranunculus, Becca and Maz grew anemones in blue and pink, which hold their own against the strong presence of tulips. Also fritillaries: “their smokey, tonal patterning blends together the contrasting colors in a subtle but important way,” says Maz.

Arne’s collection of plaster leaves in the background are made by Peter Horne; a selection is available at Pentreath and Hall.

Arne Maynard Flower School, photo Britt Willoughby Dyer. Gardenista

Above: An overblown tulip ‘Belle Epoque’ with Clematis montana and twigs of hornbeam.

“We try to use wild bits in creating a loose, asymmetric style of arrangement,” says Maz. “We brought over clematis and honeysuckle foliage to create twisty shapes. Blossom of damson and blackthorn came from the hedges around Allt-y-Bella, to form a basic framework from which to build up the arrangement.”

Arne Maynard Flower School, photo Britt Willoughby Dyer. Gardenista

Above: Blossom and decay. Or, to quote the preacher in Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” 

Arne Maynard Flower School, photo Britt Willoughby Dyer. Gardenista

Above: Parrot tulips, low-level lighting: this much we know. What was surprising about the actual paintings in trying to recreated them? “The freedom of expression; the lack of formality, the way they valued the character of a flower in its own right,” says Maz. “As it starts to drop its petals and fade, it is shown to be just as beautiful as a flower that we think of as ‘at its best.'”

Allt-y-Bella by Britt Willoughby Dyer. Gardenista

Above: Arne Maynard’s rural HQ is in South Wales, a far cry from the central London office. Allt-y-Bella offers bed-and-breakfast as well as outdoor theater in summer and an all-year cornucopia of workshops and longer courses.

The Garden Gate Flower Company will be returning to Allt-y-Bella for two consecutive festive wreath and table center workshops on December 1-2.

A new book by Arne Maynard, The Gardens of Arne Maynard, (Merrell) is published September 10, 2015. It is the first book to focus solely on his work.

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Gardening 101: The Best Tips For A Thriving Garden

You know the health benefits of growing your own organic garden, that is why you put the time and effort into it. Use the great information provided in this article to build upon your own current knowledge and hopefully, learn something new to maximize the benefits both for you and everyone you know.

When digging holes for your plants, don’t be a neat freak. Don’t dig holes that are perfect, with sides that are as smooth as can be. You are actually making it more difficult for the root system of the new plant to take hold in the soil. For best results, keep your holes a little messy.

If you want your garden to be successful, focus on your soil. In order to protect your plants from unwanted pests, it is essential to have healthy soil. It will nourish your vegetation and help them grow into strong plants that are able to fight off disease and damage from bugs.

You can dry herbs by putting them in your car. You can neatly arrange them on a sheet of newspaper in a single layer. Then close the doors and windows and let it air dry. The warmth in the car will dry the herbs quickly. The herbs themselves will create a very nice aroma.

If you are not a fan of wearing gloves when gardening but still hate dirty fingernails, try scraping your fingernails in a bar of soap prior to beginning. The soap will keep soil from entering underneath your nails, plus the soap will help keep your nails from cracking or breaking.

When gardening, be sure to use proper posture. Don’t lift with your back, and try to bend at the knees instead of at the waist. Keep your back straight when bending over. This allows you to use stronger and more flexible muscle groups to lift, and also protects your spine.

Recycle your old pantyhose for garden use! Pantyhose make exceptional garden ties as they are very malleable, very strong and yet extremely soft, so they won’t saw into the plants you are tying up. Best of all, since you are recycling, this solution is another great way to save money.

Did you know that a tablespoon of powdered milk sprinkled around your rose bushes early in the season can help to prevent fungus growth on your beautiful flowers later in the spring? If you prefer to use a spray, you might try diluting some skim milk and spraying the plant leaves. The lower fat content in skim milk reduces the chance that it will turn rancid.

To avoid injuring yourself while gardening, be sure to do some warm-up stretches before starting your project. Most people may not think of gardening as exercise, but injuries like pulled muscles frequently occur in the garden. You should also be sure to move around and not stay in one position for a long period of time.

If you are gardening in containers, be sure each container has a drainage system to prevent water from pooling. Lining the bottom of a container with small rocks or pebbles can also help with water drainage for container gardening. Allowing water to sit for extended periods can rot the root system of your plants.

If you don’t have the space to grow a garden in the ground you can still enjoy the benefits of gardening by using containers. Almost any plant can be grown in a container and many plants now are specifically designed for container growing. With a large container you could have a mini-garden right on your porch.

You should check your gardening tools on a regular basis to make sure that they are still in good condition. Sheers, pruners and lawn mower blades all become dull after many uses. You can easily sharpen the blades yourself or have a professional sharpen them. By sharpening the blades you will not have to replace the tools altogether.

Once your seeds start sprouting, they do not need as much warmth as they needed before. Move your plants further away from your heat source as they grow. You should also remove plastic films that you had on your containers to keep the humidity and warmth out. Unless you closely monitor your seedlings, you may not move them in time.

Your plants need to be fed properly as soon as they start sprouting leaves. If you did not use compost in your soil, you have to fertilize your plants. You can mix water with a liquid fish or sea weed solution and spray it on your plants, or add this mix to the water in which your trays and pots are bathing.

To summarize, you already know why it is great to have an organic garden, now it is time to further your expertise in the field. Ideally, you learned something new in this area and will be able to grow a much better garden. There is nothing better than being able to enjoy produce that you grew yourself.

Quick Digs: Overwintering Salvias in Containers Outdoors

In chilly climates, such as USDA Cold Hardiness Zones with winter temperatures lower than those of Zone 8, it is difficult for potted plants to survive outdoors when the mercury dips. Soil in containers freezes harder and thaws more rapidly than the ground. So plants in containers are subjected to bigger changes in conditions on a winter patio or entryway. This is the third article in our current Quick Digs series on preparation for winter in the Salvia garden. This article discusses bottom-line rules for improving chances of survival when overwintering sages in containers and suggests a variety of ideas for overwintering outdoors.
Flowers by the Sea

Looking For More Information On Organic Gardening? Consider These Ideas!

A popular hobby amongst many people is gardening, as it has several rewards. Not only do you spend time outdoors, but you can watch things that you planted grow. Also, you can eat home-grown vegetables and save money. Read this article for some tips on how to start your own garden.

Be sure to weed your garden. Weeds and gardens do not mix; they will destroy your garden. White vinegar can be used as a natural herbicide. The acidity of the vinegar is harmful to most plants. Use a spray bottle full of white vinegar and you won’t have to use your hands.

Get your soil professionally tested. The small upfront cost of soil testing will pay for itself many times over. By knowing exactly what type of soil you have as well as what nutrients are present will give you important information for a successful garden. Once you are aware of deficiencies, you can take steps to amend the soil and get your garden off to a good start.

Get your kids and grand kids involved with gardening by letting them help you in the garden, and by taking them to nurseries and arboretums. Children generally love being outdoors and will soak up any knowledge you are willing to share about sunlight, water, and soil quality. Gardening is a great way for children to learn about nature and for them to bond with you.

Don’t try to remove low lying weeds by hand. Instead get a small shovel and flip them over so their leaves are under the dirt. You will kill the weed and the leaves will rot creating a fresh mulch like material for you to use. It is green and nourishing for the other plants.

If the grass under your tree is turning brown, consider thinning out your tree. Grass needs plenty of sunshine, and chances are, your tree might be blocking out too much sunlight from the grass. If you trim back and thin out some branches your grass will get a little more sunshine.

Go green and try to conserve as much water as possible in your garden. One way to do this is to take the water from steaming or boiling vegetables and water your plants with it. The enriched water also has the benefit of acting as a fertilizer and will give your plants a boost.

Make sure you read the labels on any weedkillers or pesticides that you use in your garden. Follow the directions closely. Using too much of a chemical can be dangerous to your health and the health of your garden. Failing to read the label might also mean that you get the wrong chemical for the problem that you’re having, polluting the ground around your garden for no reason.

To bring birds to your garden, add plants that will naturally attract them. One of the best plants for attracting birds are sunflowers. Birds are naturally drawn to their height and scent. Birds also love small trees like Japanese maples and dogwood trees, as well as most kinds of shrubs or vines.

When you are transplanting a plant, do not pile the soil higher than the top of the root. A root crown that is always wet will eventually rot. Plant it in a way, where the water will drain away from the stem. If the water runs toward the plant, it will wash more soil onto the top of the root, causing root rot.

Keep your gardening tools organized. You do not want to trek out to your garden, only to realize you do not have everything you need with you and need to hunt your tools down. Keep small tools in a tool belt that you can grab and throw on easily or keep them in a 5-gallon bucket that you can carry out to your garden, quickly.

Wash off your garden harvest before taking it inside your home. Use a laundry basket or some other plastic basket with holes. You can spray down your fruits and vegetables easily with water inside the basket, and the water and dirt will run out. You could also save the water that runs out to water your plants with.

When you are organic gardening in a humid environment, water your plants in the early morning hours. This will help you prevent mildew. Watering in the morning also prohibits fungal growth that can occur in humid climates. You do not want mildew or fungal diseases to spread, it can lead to poor growth and unhealthy soil.

Whether you like planting flowers so your home looks more beautiful, or vegetables because you’d like to save money and eat healthier, gardening is fun for many people. You can enjoy your own produce without worrying about pesticides, and grow your favorite flowers as well. Remember these tips if you want to start a garden.

Shopper’s Diary: The Little Shop of Flowers in Tokyo

Hidden in a quiet Tokyo alley near the Meiji Shrine’s subway station, The Little Shop of Flowers feels a world away from the teeming crowds of the nearby Harajuku and Shibuya districts.

Florist Iki Yukari, whose background includes a stint in public relations for Band of Outsiders in Tokyo, sells handmade gifts in addition to floral arrangements.

Photography by Aya Brackett.

The Little Shop of Flowers Harajuku Tokyo ; Gardenista

Above: The Little Shop of Flowers is tucked away in a courtyard, next door to Eatrip restaurant.

The Little Shop of Flowers Harajuku Tokyo ; Gardenista

Above: Yukari also blogs at Letters from The Little Shop of Flowers.

The Little Shop of Flowers Harajuku Tokyo ; Gardenista

Above: Handmade gifts include ceramics, dried floral arrangements, and glassware made by local artisans.

The Little Shop of Flowers Harajuku Tokyo ; Gardenista

Above: Denim aprons designed by San Francisco-based designer Matt Dick of Small Trade Co. are for sale, along with locally made goods from Japanese artisans.  

The Little Shop of Flowers Harajuku Tokyo ; Gardenista

Above: Tip for successful floral arrangements: an off-balanced shape will look more pleasing (and natural) than a perfectly symmetrical bouquet.

The Little Shop of Flowers Harajuku Tokyo ; Gardenista

Above: Deep red dahlias, pink peonies, striped grasses, and nicotiana are favorite flowers.

The Little Shop of Flowers Harajuku Tokyo ; Gardenista

Above: Hung from the rafters in bunches, dried flowers are used to make permanent arrangements—wreaths, crowns, and posies.

The Little Shop of Flowers Harajuku Tokyo ; Gardenista

Above: The Little Flower Shop connects to Eatrip restaurant, owned by Yukari’s friend Yuri Nomura, who learned to cook in London before working at Chez Panisse in Berkeley.

The Little Shop of Flowers Harajuku Tokyo ; Gardenista

Above: The restaurant’s terrace is shaded by a billowing canopy, made of simple bolts of cloth.

The Little Shop of Flowers Harajuku Tokyo ; Gardenista

Above: Yukari collaborates with Nomura to create the restaurant’s floral arrangements.

The Little Shop of Flowers Harajuku Tokyo ; Gardenista

Above: Friends and collaborators.

Eatrip Restaurant Tokyo Harajuku ; Gardenista

Above: The entrance to Eatrip restaurant is shaded and green.

For more of our favorite spots in Japan, see:

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Create A First Class Garden When You Use These Ideas

Gardening is not only a relaxing hobby, it is a way to ensure that the produce your family consumes is safe. With all the pesticides and bacterial outbreaks lately, growing your own vegetables and fruits is a more appetizing bet. Savory herbs and fragrant flowers can round out your garden.

If your flowers leaves are curling, this probably means they are not getting enough nutrients. The soil might not be rich enough, or some insects might be stealing the nutrients from your flowers. Look for eggs or bugs around the roots of your plants. Buy insecticide or additional nutrients for your plants.

Feed your plants. The way your plants are growing can tell you what nutrients are lacking and need replacing. Some plants take up a lot of nutrients early in the growing season and quickly need a new supply. Look for signs of deficiency such as yellowing leaves and stunted growth. Feed the plant with a general purpose fertilizer, unless it has specific requirements. Foliage plants, for instance, prefer a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen.

If you like to plant flowers that produce a lot of fragrance, consider planting them close to your house. One reason is that you can enjoy the scent whether you are inside or outside your house. Another reason is that the heat from the walls of your house can intensify the scent from your flowers, making them more fragrant.

Make sure your pot is the right size for your plant. If the pot is too small, the plant’s roots may not have enough room to grow. The roots will become “root bound”, stop growing, and begin to suffocate. The size of the root system can determine the size of your plant and yield.

It is a good idea to pre-soak your seeds in a dark environment overnight. Place some seeds in your smaller pots and add water almost to the brim. This lets water soak into the seeds, giving them an extra boost of hydration when they start growing. This way, the seeds will have a much better shot at survival once they are planted.

Create a record journal for your garden. Keep track of when you planted your seeds, when they germinated, how many grow to full size, the yield, etc. You will have more knowledge about your plants and a good idea of how successful your methods are. Use this information for your next grow cycles.

Sometimes you will need to re-pot your plants. One good way to check if your plants need re-potted is to turn them over and look at the bottom. If you see many roots, it is time to get it into a new pot. If you see few roots, you may not need to disturb the plant.

Start your garden by planting seed in small pots. When opening a garden, the most green method of beginning is from seed. Seeds eliminate the waste of plastic containers from nurseries which rarely get recycled. There are some nurseries, however, that send their plants out in organic potting materials.

Once you begin gathering produce from your garden, share it with your friends and family. It is extremely satisfying to give them a gift containing something that you made with your own hands. Seeing the pleased reactions of the recipients, also motivates you to continue working hard on your garden.

Wind up your water hose after each time that you water your garden. Winding up your hose will keep you from tripping over it, and help you find the watering end of the hose easily any time you need it. Winding the hose on a hose reel will also help your hose last longer.

When taking an organic path to control garden pests, try to build up the soil to allow healthy microbes to flourish. Earthworms are also very important to organic gardening and they should be encouraged to stay in the soil. When the soil is unhealthy, it is not as resistant to pests.

When you buy seeds for your garden, be sure to purchase seeds that are labeled “certified organic.” This ensures that your plants will be organic throughout their lifespan and that the seeds you are buying aren’t contaminated with chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Watch out for labels, such as “genetically engineered” or any mention of “natural” that does not include the phrase “certified organic.”

When watering plants use recycled water, but avoid re-using water from sources such as baths, washing machines, or dishwashing. These water sources may contain harmful chemicals that can be absorbed into your vegetables such as nitrates and phosphates. This water may even contain pathogens that could harm you or your plants.

Relax and enjoy the outdoors, while cultivating a delicious, beautiful and aromatic garden. You will love making a salad out of the vegetables you have nourished. You can also have fresh flowers everyday. Use herbs from your own garden to spice up all your favorite recipes. Plus, you won’t need to worry about any chemicals being used on your food.