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Garden Design

7 Reasons to Save Garden Seeds

7 Reasons to Save Garden Seeds
You can save money, grow better vegetables, be more self-sustaining and eco-friendly when you save seeds from your own garden. Saving garden seeds is nothing new, but it’s a new concept to many novice gardens that I advise. Big box garden supply centers and even the local dollar stores have made purchasing new seeds each year easy enough, but there’s still good reason to save garden seeds, 7 reasons as a matter-of-fact.

Save Money
Buy once, plant for decades. One seed purchase could potentially be an investment that will last for centuries if you also raise future gardeners in your blood line. The seed price of an expensive plant variety is easily justified when you consider how much money you will be saving by saving the seeds at the end of each growing season and re-planting them in succeeding years.

No Seed Shortage
When you save your own garden seeds, you’re not at the mercy of the seed industry which may decide to discontinue your favorite tomato or squash variety. You won’t have to worry about a pest infestation at holding sites that could limit the amount of specific seeds available from the seed industry either. Save your own garden seeds and you’ll have what you want in the amount you need.

Plant Adaptation
When you save seeds from plants that have been grown in your region, in your own garden, you know the plant has already adapted to your region. The seed industry chooses to sell seeds that are adapted to growing in most all regions, not specifically yours. That’s understandable from the money-making standpoint of a business, but for a home gardener like myself, I want seeds and plants that will grow best in my southern climate.

Quality Control
When you save your own garden seeds, you can select them off the best producing plants in your garden. The seed industry harvests seeds from inferior plants as well as premium plants and mixes them together for a hit-or-miss garden for home-growers.

Crop Traits
By saving your own seeds, you can select the seeds only from the plants that offered something special; the biggest squash, sweetest tomatoes, hottest pepper or odd-shaped eggplant and use those seeds from unique plants to influence crop traits in future gardens.

Heirlooms
Unlike modern hybrids varieties, heirloom varieties are not bred for their high yield and long shelf life, but rather for their flavor. Explore growing heirloom vegetable varieties and save seeds to keep modern gardening connected to the gardening times of our ancestors.

Have Fun
Saving garden seeds is a fun way to introduce young children to the joys of gardening. Grow, harvest and dry flower and vegetable seeds with kids this season, then plant the seeds next growing season with those kids so they can observe the circle of life and have fun doing so.
Next Article: Time to Plan Your Spring Garden

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Garden Design

How to Plant and Grow Eggplant

How to Plant and Grow Eggplant
If you can grow peppers, you can grow eggplants. That’s how easy they are grow. If garden space permits, try growing a few of many different varieties of eggplants; small and oval, large and oblong, white, orange or green fruit color, or just stick with the delicious and versatile purplish-black variety most of us are familiar with. I always recommend that my clients try growing one plant in their garden, and then they’ll be hooked on the ease and beauty of homegrown eggplants.

When to Plant
Eggplants love warm weather and produce their best in zones that offer them a long and warm growing season. If you’re starting plants from seeds, start the seeds 6 weeks before the last predicted frost date and keep seedlings in a location that has a constant temperature of above 75 degrees.

If you are starting with plants, wait until the soil is warm and outdoor air temperature is above 75 degrees before planting in the garden.

Prepare Soil
Choose a sunny location where no ‘nightshade’ vegetables have been grown in past two years. Nightshade plants are eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes and peppers, and by moving their planting location each year you’ll reduce the risk of certain types of pest infestation. Then take a soil sample to your local county extension office or garden supply center for a soil test. Eggplants need a pH level of between 5.5 and 6.5 to best production. Work in about 2 inches of compost into the soil along with a slow-release balanced fertilize.

How to Plant
Set plants out 18-24 inches apart in prepared soil. The tender young plants are highly susceptible to flea beetles and other garden pests and will need covered in some way to protect them until they reach about 12 inches tall. An easy covering method is to cut the bottoms off of plastic gallon milk jugs or 2 liter soda bottles and place one over each plant to create a mini greenhouse. Leave lids intact and unscrew for ventilation on hot days. Remove and discard covering when plants reach 12 inches.

Eggplants can also be grown in containers and placed up off the ground to protect them from being infested with flea beetles.

Harvest Time
Eggplants are ready to be harvested when they reach their recommended mature size and when flesh is soft enough to press thumb into, but firm enough for the flesh to bounce right back into shape. Under-ripe fruits are too hard to make a thumbprint and over-ripe fruits are too soft to bounce back into shape.

Use a sharp knife or hand-held pruning shears to cut the stem away from the main stalk, leaving the eggplant cap intact.
Next article: How to Plant a Vegetable Garden

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Garden Design

Spring Gardening: Top 10 Apps to Show You How to Garden

 Spring is in the air. You may have a green thumb, or your thumb may be the color furthest from green. Either way, gardening is a great way to brighten up your yard. Whether you are looking to fill your yard with blooming flowers or to spruce up your salads this summer with fresh veggies and berries, here are 10 great apps that contain an array of gardening tips, advice, and tricks that will help you have a garden that is the envy of your neighborhood.
10. How to Garden: Become a Gardener – Full of instructional videos, tips, and interesting information for the beginning and experienced gardener. This app is a nice place to start to get an overview on good gardening technique before you jump into specialized gardening like growing your own vegetables or growing organic.
9. Start a Garden – This is a nice app for the beginning gardener. The app offers tips and advice on when to plant and how to keep your plants healthy. Features ways to share your progress and chat with other gardeners. Offers information for vegetable gardening, flowers, and herbs.
8. The Dirt on Organic Gardening – Based on the magazine of the same name, this app provides access to urban and suburban organic gardening to help you fill your dinner plate with fresh organic veggies from your yard. The app is free, but you’ll need to pay by the issue or subscribe for monthly delivery to see new issues.
7. Bugs in the Garden – Ever wonder what that little white bug on your plant’s leaves is and if it is harmful? This app is your guide to identifying those bugs and understanding if they are helpful or hurtful to your plants.
6. When to Plant – For more experienced gardeners, this app is a great resource on when to start planting based on the current seasonal weather patterns and forecast. Provides calculations on the best planting date by crop.
5. Garden Compass Plant/Disease Identifier – This app allows you to take a photo of any plant, pest, or disease in your garden and submit the photo for review to a team of garden experts that will identify the problem and offer solutions. A nice resource for the beginning gardener.
4. Garden Guide – This is a handy reference to over 7,000 different plants, describing the care requirements, watering needs, soil conditions, and other important information.
3. New Sunset Western Garden Book – A garden’s bible for those of you living in the Western United States. This great book is now also available as an app, featuring how-to videos, slideshows, and all the great content that is contained in the book.
2. Good Organic Gardening – Another app that allows electronic access to a gardening magazine, requiring subscriptions or individual purchases to access new content. However, this app does provide access to fresh and new ideas for organic gardening to keep you informed and active in your garden.
1. Organic Gardening Planting Planner – This free app provides you with information and advice on when to plant your garden based on weather and frost conditions for your region and the type of plants you are planning to grow. Easy to use and a nice reference for determining when to start your garden in the spring.
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Garden Design

10 Essential (and Totally FREE!) Gardening Apps for Android, Apple and Chrome Devices

Do you have a garden? Do you have a computer? How about a smartphone? If you can answer yes to the first question and yes to at least one of the next two questions, then you should already know that technology and gardening are just as inextricably intertwined these days as food and technology, dating and technology and even car repair and technology. Get ready to learn what you favorite gardening apps for phones and computers are about to be.
Garden Buddy for Google ChromeBook
This gardening app is perfect for anyone who ever wondered if your soil and climate region is suitable for growing a really cool plant. The Garden Buddy will analyze information like average temperature and rainfall to determine if your planting zone really is a place where you could have success growing Swiss chard. As if that weren’t enough, Garden Buddy adds a little bonus: it will offer up some affordable options for purchasing seeds.
A Gardener’s Handbook for Android
New to gardening and you want some really useful advice on, well, so many things! This gardening app features some quality photos to go along with elegantly written prose formatted perfectly for reading on your Android smartphone. Right there in your hand is the wealth of information contained in A Gardener’s Handbook that ranges from how to organically rid your garden of pests to how to make a little money selling your vegetables to how to transform your simple garden into a landscaping dream.
Garden Compass Plant/Disease Identifier for iPad and iPhone
Ever wonder what a particular plant is on those occasions when you don’t happen to be holding onto your great big book of plant identification? Point the iPhone’s camera at any plant, snap a picture of it and it gets sent to the horticultural experts behind the Garden Compass app. Not only will every plant be identified, but if the plant in question is yours and suffering from mysterious disease, you will be informed in a timely manner on what steps to take to make it healthy again.
SFG Planner for Google Chromebook
The value of some gardening apps are not immediately apparent by their name. If you have no idea what SFG stands for, you might well not see the value of this app for Google Chromebook. Square footage gardening is all about maximizing the limited square footage you have at your disposal. If you are under a deadline not for time, but space, then here’s a very easy to use, but quite useful gardening app.

Garden Insects Guide for Android
Anyone who has ever more than two days of gardening knows that insects (or pests, if you prefer) are the name of the game. Ah, but if you do prefer pests to insects, then you absolutely need the Garden Insects Guide apps. Because you will learn not only how to organically deal with pests, but how to attract insects that can actually be beneficial to your garden.
Food Gardening Guide for Android
Mother Earth News, who is behind the above gardening app, also puts their extensive knowledge muscle into the Food Gardening Guide. A true guide to gardening for food, you simply should not try growing vegetables and fruit or anything else you plan to eat without this gardening app that is a true favorite for many.
Garden Manager: Plant Alarm
Not all of anyone’s favorite gardening apps are going to become everybody’s favorite gardening app. Unless the app is so essential to gardening that there’s no way anyone could possibly find fault with it. Garden Manage: Plant Alarm is a fantastically useful app because it can remind you when your plants need watering, fertilizing, pest control and any of a number of other necessities for which you can set an alarm.
Grow Organic Herbs for Android
Herb gardening is not quite the same thing as raising orchids in a greenhouse or roses on a bush. Gardening apps with advice for growing herbs abound, but you’d better be careful because a lot of them don’t seem to have been designed by someone who has the slightest clue what they are talking about. Those gardening apps are hard to avoid trying out, but once you download Grow Organic Herbs to your Android device you will never have to worry about wasting time again. Great advice on everything you need to know about growing herbs from composting to harvesting to exactly how to use them for the greatest advantage in the kitchen.
Hydro Nerds for Android
Aside from having the single greatest name of any gardening apps known to man, this one deserves to become a favorite for anybody who is the least bit serious about plants. It may sound like an app that is a gardening game, but it is, in fact, only for those most serious-minded of gardeners who want access to expert advice on hydroponic gardening. And if you don’t know what hydroponic gardening is, this is also a useful app for expanding your body of knowledge.

The Secrets for a Lush Garden for Android
Yeah, okay, it’s a book. Which may not seem like much of a gardening app in a world overrun with more interactive and technosexier gardening apps. But what you really want from a gardening app is useful information that you can hold in the palm of your hand while out in the garden, and at the store picking out new plants. You know what I mean. The Secrets for a Lush Garden contains almost everything you really need to know to transform your plain old garden into a beautifully landscaped showpiece.
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Garden Design

Top 10 Low-Cost or Free Garden Apps for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch

Typing on your mobile device can turn your thumbs green! Gardening apps grow abundantly. I am an enthusiastic novice-gardener; I love flowers, but rarely know what I’m doing. These gardening apps offer tips, support, and references to help me grow with my flowers!
Garden Compass Plant / Disease Identifier – FREE
Top 10 Low-Cost or Free Garden Apps for iPhone, iPad, and iPod TouchGarden Compass allows you to take a photo for botanical identification or remedy. This app helps users recognize surprise-sprouts, concerning weeds/ivies, or–in my case–wildflowers to add to the garden.

Garden Time Planner – FREE
This app is created by garden-seed celebrity company, Burpee! It has a thorough plant database with photos, and gardening how-to video resources. The local weather sync means you don’t have to switch apps!

GardenMinder – FREE
This app is great for hyper-scheduled gardeners like me. With all my other commitments, the automatic, weekly reminders for each garden help keep plants growing well.
Gardening: The Ultimate Guide – FREE
The tools are not exceptionally impressive, but the resources are phenomenal. The Ultimate Guide offers step-by-step start-up tips, the successful gardener profile, and–my favorite–rookie gardener mistakes. It’s like hindsight for garden-blunders!

The Plant Doctor – $2.99
Helpful even for indoor gardeners, this is a simple yes/no check-list to identify plant illnesses. Simply check-off symptoms, and The Plant Doctor offers remedies!
Garden Tracker – $2.99
Customize a digital garden bed, and track crop stats including time since watered, and time until harvest. This app also includes pest-identification with organic remedies–great for moms wanting to avoid unnecessary chemicals!
Vegetable Planting Calendar – FREE
This is not for expert gardeners! Novices will love it! This app covers very basic plants and gardening tips. It also includes an easy-to-follow icon system for appropriate planting seasons.
Garden Pro – $0.99
This app has sun, water, soil, and bloom information for over 7,000 plants, and the option to add your own! The best feature is perhaps the organizational options, allowing sorting by type, watering-cycle, and more.

Garden Master – $1.99
Garden Master’s customizable reminder tool integrates with your personal mobile calendar. It’s an easy-to-use system with one caution: Once synced, reminders are nearly impossible to remove.
Gardening Toolkit – $1.99
This app has many tools! The Toolkit can sync to your zip code to determine what flowers, vegetables, fruits, or herbs are most likely to thrive in your area! One of the best features is the links to relevant, online content. More articles about gardening apps
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Garden Design

10 Gardening Apps With Reviews

Mix old-time gardening techniques with today’s savvy technology. Yes, your smart device is good for more than just streaming videos. Take it out to the garden with you and get higher yields or track rainfall. You may even find natural remedies lurking beneath your feet!

Here are 10 gardening apps that may work for you:
Plantifier
Plantifier is a gardening app that allows you to upload a photo of an unknown plant and then have it identified by a garden savvy community. It’s a free download. This is great during those times you ask yourself, “Are those seeds I planted sprouting or is this a weed?” The downside to this app is that feedback is not instantaneous. It can take some time as it relies on others’ willingness to help a newbie. The good news is that, so far, the community there has been really good about nurturing the tender seeds of knowledge sharing.

NatureGate ver 2
NatureGate ver 2 is a flowering plant identifier along the same thread as Plantifier, only this time, instead of a panel of experts, it asks you questions about the plant and then makes suggestions or a positive identification from a database of 702 plants. The upside to this app is that it’s instant and doesn’t rely on others to help you. The downside to the app is that it misidentifies plants or offers wrong suggestions almost as often as it’s correct. Use caution!

Mother Earth News
The app from Mother Earth News helps you with tips from how to can vegetables or jams to how to treat colds using natural remedies that might just be found in your own garden. Have problems with a weed? Look it up, and there’s likely a good use for it in the Mother Earth News app. For example, is Creeping Charlie taking over your garden? Pick it and rinse it. Use the leaves to brew a tea that will clear your lungs of congestion.

Guide to Organic Gardening
Also available from Mother Earth News is the Guide to Organic Gardening app. It’s a good reference from how to make compost tea to what soil amendments will improve your yields.The app is free and includes more than 20 articles.

Vegetable Garden Calculator
Vegetable Garden Calculator is an iPhone app that will help you decide how much of each plant you need to feed your family. So, you may ask yourself, how many broccoli plants do I need to feed four people? The answer: about 12, assuming you eat broccoli somewhat sporadically like most folks. If you’re worried about overdoing it again this year with the tomatoes, consult this app as a planning tool. The upside: It’s handy when planting and can be accurate. The downside: It doesn’t specifically take into account how much your family really consumes of any one vegetable.

Vegetable Planting Calculator
Vegetable Planting Calculator also for iPhone, is an app that’s supposed to help you know when to plant certain vegetables and whether or not they’re heat and frost tolerant. It’s a nice idea, but the app failed to score high reviews. If you still want to check it out though, you scroll through a list of vegetables and click on the one you wish to plant to find the supposed date it should be planted.

IntoGardens

IntoGardens is part magazine, part app for the iPad that offers something for everyone, from advice on growing flowers and vegetables to videos and photos with interactive captions. Visit their website to watch a video walk-through of the app’s features and get a feel for it here. As of March 2014 though, each new episode costs $4.99.

Landscapers Companion

Landscapers Companion is another informational reference tool for plants, trees and shrubs. The full version ($10) has over 26,000 searchable plants and includes useful information such as sun exposure, watering requirements, growth rate, USDA zone exposure, bloom times and more. It also allows you to add your own pictures and notes. The free version doesn’t have much to offer, but it will give you an idea how the app functions and works with a limited database to draw from.

OrganicGardening
OrganicGardening magazine has an app that’s really the best when you honestly want to get down to the nuts and bolts of how to do things. It’s a great resource, but it will set you back $12.

Gardenate

Gardenate is what I use to take notes on the progress of my garden. For example an entry under “Cucumbers” might read: “Why did I plant so many cucumbers? It’s July 20, and I have 60 cucumbers on the counter. I’ve only eaten 3 this week.” But, then I find my jumbo pickles recipe under my notes in the same app and all is well again! Besides being a garden journal, you can use Gardenate to track certain crops and their progress in the app. There’s a wealth of built-in information that’s uber useful.

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Garden Design

Top 10 Must-Have Gardening Apps

 No one can deny that a thing of beauty is a pleasure forever. Singing birds and dancing flowers not only inspired Wordsworth to immortalize them in Echoing Green, but also excited him to utter that fields are my study, nature is my book. Flowers not only attract the butterflies but mesmerize the hearts of every onlooker. Nothing pleases me more than sitting in my garden and looking at the waving floral beauty. Whenever I am in my office or at any public place, I never feel lost as gardening apps remain ever with me. Gardening apps are not only a source of visual pleasure for hobbyists, but also a wide range of information for professionals. Here are some of the gardening apps which have impressed me.
IGarden USA
This is a gardening helper. NanoSoft, LLC boast of its versatile capabilities and usefulness in gardening. It covers comprehensive information on flowers, vegetables and herbs which can be grown successfully in various climatic zones of the United States. I am really impressed by its new feature, IGarden USA Cloud, for sharing information. I downloaded IGarden USA from the Apple Store for $4.99.
Backyard Gardening Tips
My office fellow, Robert, is also very interested in gardening. He told me about this application and I found it quite helpful in maintaining and renovating my backyard garden. Backyard Gardening Tips is free.
Urban and Air Plants
Air plants and urban varieties are becoming very popular and giving new trends to plant lovers. For their information, www.ecoterrazs.com has done a very good service by producing an application known as Organic Gardening.
The Gardeners Calendar
This application is very helpful for those who are interested in growing vegetables. It covers seasonal vegetables and provides a lot of information about weather and parasitic effects on various vegetables. If you are a vegetable lover, then go to The Garden Calendar to have this applet for less than $2.
Gardening Manager
It is a gardening guide which has a lot of information about vegetable plantations at home or field level. Several techniques of successful vegetable plantations are discussed in it. If you are a vegetable grower, you do need Gardening Manager.
Garden Diary
For scientific and artful manipulation of your garden, Garden Diary can help you in keeping the record of all gardening work. My neighbor, Andrew, loves this app and says that he feels very assured as Garden Diary rings the bell to remind him of every garden related activity.
Beginner’s Gardening Guide
It is a wonderful gardening applet for beginners, having useful information about many gardening websites. There are several videos which for teaching the gardener how to look after various types of plants. Here, you can download beginner’s Gardening Guide. It is free.
Audio Book – Gardening
It is the most downloaded gardening applet. It provides you with gardening tips and other important information, recorded by experienced botanists and plant growers. Audio Book – Gardening is also free to download.
Expert Gardening Solutions
This gardening applet helps in planning and management of gardening area. Rus Lawson recommends and appreciates it possession. I also got preliminary garden planning information through Expert Gardening Solutions.
Gardening Daily
It is a very good source of gardening news and updates. It tells new stories and presents video tips on comprehensive plantation topics. I think every person interested in gardening must have it. It is worth every penny and can be downloaded by clicking on Gardening Daily.

Miscellaneous Garden Applets
I have also used many other garden applets. Every applet has its own advantages. Garden Tools, Garden and Landscaping, Indoor Gardening Tips, Plant Picks for Small Gardens and Palace Gardens are some of those which have turned my home into a paradise. All these garden apps can be downloaded by clicking on I am a real gardener. More gardening apps
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Garden Design

Tips for Planting Peppers

A Compelete Gardening Guide for Planting the Best Peppers

New varieties of peppers are introduced each year, each featuring a different mature color and unique flavor. Peppers make the perfect addition to any garden and are fairly easy to care for as long as you know what it takes to keep them thriving. There’s nothing better than having the choice of any pepper you could possibly imagine, in your backyard. Being able to go outside and cut a few of these ripe babies fresh off the stem is convenient and will make any dish that much better. Pepper gardens are ideal for anyone who loves fresh fruits and vegetables, salads, or making homemade salsa from jalapenos or other peppers of your choice. This quick guide will help you learn what it takes to maintain your own pepper garden. Pretty soon, your friends will be calling you Peter Piper because you’ll have the best peppers in town.
 Planting
Do:
    Tips for Planting Peppers

  • Choose a site with full sun, but consider planting taller plants nearby to provide shade on extremely warm days. Peppers are tropical plants that thrive in the sun, however temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit can scorch your plants, causing the leaves to wilt and fruit to fall off or drop.
  • Make sure the soil drains well. Standing water encourages root rot and will kill your plant.
  • Leave plenty of space between plants. Try to aim for spacing transplants 1 1/2 feet apart in rows at least 2 feet apart. Keep in mind that most hot-pepper cultivars need less room than sweet ones.
  • Use stakes or other gardening tools to support the plants. This is especially important if you start your plant out in a pot or container, as the fruit starts to bloom and weigh the plant down, it becomes common for the plant to tip over on a windy day.
  • Water during dry spells to encourage deep root development and to keep your plants from drying out or becoming scorched. Lack of water will produce bitter tasting peppers. Yuck!
  • Pull any weeds. This will help reduce damage to the roots.
  • Pick any weevils or other pests off your leaves. If pests become a problem consider a natural pest deterrent. Many recipes for these can be found online and made at home using common household ingredients.
Don’t:
  • Plant where tomatoes or eggplants grew previously. Peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants are all members of the nightshade family and are subject to similar disease.
  • Forget to water.
  • Buy Transplants from a garden center. This is of course, completely optional (I bought transplants from Lowes and they did just great last summer) but you will have more choices and better chances of your plant producing more peppers if you plant from seedlings instead. If you do decide to forego seeds and buy a plant from your local garden center, look for one that has strong stems and dark green leaves. Try to avoid any plant that is wilted, brown, or has holes in the leaves. Also try to avoid plants that already have tiny fruits on them, they won’t produce as well.
Seedlings When it comes to pepper plants, roots are very touchy. The best way to start your pepper garden from seedlings is to plant them indoors in peat pots about 2 months before the last frost date. When sowing seedlings, aim for 3 or 4 seeds a pot. It is crucial to maintain soil temperature and moisture during this period. Soil temperature should be kept at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Always remember to water your seedlings. You want the seedlings to be moist, but not wet. This is extremely important. Keeping your seedlings in sunlight for at least 5 hours a day is also key to growing a healthy, strong, pepper plant. If you are planting your seedlings indoors and do not have a window available, keeping them under a light for at least 12 hours a day should suffice. Once your seedlings grow and are about 3 inches tall, it will be time to thin them. This can be done by leaving the strongest plant in each pot and cutting the others off at soil level. Once your plant is 4 to 6 inches tall it is ready to be transplanted and can be moved outside to your garden.
Transplanting To Garden
When it comes times to transfer your plants to your garden, simply follow the above tips (see planting section). Keep in mind that peppers are very susceptible to transplant “shock”, which can interrupt growth. To avoid shocking your pepper plants, make sure that the soil temperature is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit before transplanting. A good rule of thumb to ensure this temperature and avoid shock is to plant 2 to 3 weeks after the first frost. Planting outside on a cloudy day or during the evening is also ideal, as it will reduce the chances of sun scorch. Providing temporary shade for your plant is also never a bad idea if you just can’t help but plant on a sunny day.
Maintaining Growth & Health
As mentioned before, pepper plants are especially susceptible to root rot, however evenly moist soil is essential to good growth and health. This can be the trickiest part about caring for your pepper plants because you don’t want to water your plants too much and kill them, but it can also be easy to under-water your plants. Since pepper plants thrive in sunny areas, under-watering can be a death trap as well because sun scorch is a very common problem. In order to avoid these types of issues, you can invest in a thick mulch. The good news? Mulch is fairly inexpensive and most places like Lowes carry it and will even have great sales during the summertime, where you can purchase a decent size bag for $2. Other materials that will work are straw or grass clippings. All 3 of these items will help lock in moisture and keep soil temperatures warmer.
Harvesting
Most sweet pepper varieties will become even sweeter as they mature. Watch for change in color to determine when they are ready to harvest. Peppers generally will change from green to bright red, yellow, orange, or sometimes even brown or purple. Mature hot peppers, offer an even greater variety of color and feature the best and spiciest flavor when fully grown. A good rule of thumb is to watch for how dark the pepper gets. The darker the pepper, the hotter and tastier it will be. Earlier in the season it is important to harvest peppers before they ripen. This will help encourage the plant to keep bearing; a mature fruit can signal a plant to stop production. Once you have harvested your fruit a few times early on in the season, your plant should continue bearing fruit and as the season progresses you should have an abundance of mature fruit as long as you follow these tips and tricks. My pepper plant was still bearing fruit in October or November. 2013 was a great year for peppers. I had homemade salsa many times thanks to my jalapeno plant, and many salads with banana peppers, fresh from the garden.
When harvesting your peppers, never pull or pluck your peppers from the plant. Instead cut them. This can be done with pruning sheers. When a frost is predicted, pick all fruit or pull plants up by the roots and hang them in a cool, dry place indoors. This will allow for the fruit to ripen fully.
Preservation
Peppers can be preserved by freezing (without blanching). Hot peppers can be dried.  Done with peppers lets move on to Growing Perfect Tomatoes!
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Garden Design

How Does Your Garden Grow? There's an App for That!

There’s almost nothing negative that can come out of the practice of gardening. In the small scale attempt to nurture plant life, we may fail to grow something. Fortunately, there’s an app for that. After running across 50 or so apps around the internet and in the major app stores, I’ve got a list of the best the net has to offer, both in terms of tools for gardeners and sources of knowledge for those just starting out. Unless noted, the apps below are available from the Google Play store free of charge.
#10 Gardener – A garden organizer app, allows the user to input each plant and schedule their harvest time. Has a very nice backup feature to keep the data together. Very simple interface that makes it easy to use, especially for a beginner.
#9 Vegetable Gardening 101 – VG 101 provides a free book on growing a garden for the purpose of supplying your own vegetables. There are ads scrolled at the top of the app but they’re not pesky. Chapters one & two are introductory, there is a great section in chapter 3 on when to plant and harvest the most common vegetables and the book goes on to describe the basics mechanics of starting and maintaining your garden.
#8 A Gardener’s Handbook, Volume 1 – A great app from Blue Tiger, this is another chapter based gardening book, but goes beyond vegetable gardening to wild flowers and landscaping. “The Genesis of Soil” chapter is particularly helpful to read before starting out.
#7 Food Gardening Guide – Very nice highly animated gardening tool. Consists of a general reader on techniques that is split by type of exercise in the top row, with a guide to growing each crop in the bottoms row. The focus is on vegetables and there is an RSS feed available with additional green living topics. Registration is an option for the user, with regular email blasts on gardening related topics.
#6 Organic Gardening – At a price of $1.37, Organic Gardening is a complete book in app form that’s very well organized in eight chapters on the ins and outs of organic practices at home. It feels summarized but is extremely comprehensive.
#5 Hortchat – A horticulturist’s chat room! This is a great app to have even if you’ve already got gardening managers running. Here you can post on your problems to other users, with the whole thing moderated by professional horticulturalists.
#4 Gardening Manual – Similar to the other calendar based apps, this one also provides helpful tips as you add you plantings. The calendar piece piggybacks on the phone’s internal calendar app and allows the users to set their alarms in the same way you would set your wake-up alarms.
#3 Garden Manager – A calendar based garden application, the functionality is that of a combined alarm and social network system. Users are encouraged to take pictures of their flowers over time. Each planting should be added as a separate set of plantings. Each time you add a planting you can set up
your alarms for watering, fertilizing, harvesting, etc.
#2 Gardener’s Lunar Calendar – Makes the point that planting and harvesting can be more powerful when synchronized with the lunar cycle. Each time you open it you will see the lunar calendar with the correct type of plant to set and harvest based on the light and gravity of the moon. Great for getting ideas about your upcoming plantings.
#1 Gardener’s Calendar – At a cost of $1.61 this is a great vegetable grower’s guide. No advertisements and a lot of information on planting techniques and crops as well as timing. Organization is along the lines of the sliding list typical to Android phones. With additional recommendations on when to sow and harvest this is a one stop shop of gardening knowledge. Only wish is that the calendar section were bigger.
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Garden Design

Top 10 Best Gardening Apps for 2014

Winter is finally showing signs of coming to an end, and if you are an avid gardener like me, you know that it’s almost time to set aside the seed catalogs that we’ve drooled over all winter and get ready to dig and plant! The following is my list of the top 10 best gardening apps for 2014. The apps are not in any particular order, and most are free or low cost and are available in the iTunes store. With these apps, all of us gardeners, from novice to expert level, can plan and create our most brilliant and bountiful gardens yet! So, let’s dust off those shovels, rakes, and hoes, it’s time to play in the dirt!

Organic Gardening Planting Planner 2014
The last few years have seen an upsurge in avoiding the use of pesticides and GMO seeds, so there has been a revived interest in organic gardening methods. This free app is compatible with the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch and allows users to learn about a variety of plants and gardening methods, plan virtual gardens, learn the best sowing, planting and harvest times in their local area. The app’s smart calendar also makes it easy to create to-do-lists as well as make important notes in one’s garden journal.
Garden Time Planner
This free app works with the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and is great for the novice that needs help getting their first few gardens started. The app allows users to learn the best times to plant, transplant and harvest popular plants in their local area. The app provides links to helpful how-to gardening videos, as well as automatically creates a to-do list with reminders for common gardening tasks.
GardenMinder
This free app works best for planning raised bed gardens, and has a journal feature as well as allows users to set reminders. The app is compatible with the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.
Vegetable Garden Calculator
Are neighbors and co-workers hiding from you because you’ve passed along one to many zucchinis? Do you struggle with knowing how much is too much or too little to plant? This free app is for you then! Compatible with the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch this app takes away all of the guess work and allows you to easily calculate how many plants you need to grow just the right amount of most popular produce items.
Companion Planting
You know that carrots and peas go great together, both in the garden and on the plate, but what about all those other plants? Are some of them “frenemies?” Yes, believe it or not, there are some plants that are beneficial to one another when they are planted close by, and others are harmful to one another. This 99 cent app helps you to stop sabotaging your efforts and is compatible with the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
Garden Compass
Is it a weed? An edible plant? Is that bug helpful or harmful for my plants? What is that stuff growing on my zucchini vines? Even the most knowledgeable gardener eventually encounters a plant, growth or insect that they can’t identify. Now, you can get to the bottom of these mysteries with this free app that’s compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Look through the app’s database, or snap a picture and submit it to a team of horticultural experts who will solve the mystery for you. The app even provides links to plant and seed vendors.
Our Rose Garden
The appearance of most gardens can be instantly improved by the addition of one or more roses. Roses are also beneficial to numerous vegetables and make excellent planting companions for garlic and other bulbs. This free app is compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and provides everything you need to know about planting, pruning and even over-wintering roses as well as helpful information and videos about the many rose varieties, as well as how to protect them from disease and pests.
Tomato Match
Who doesn’t love a juicy, ripe tomato picked fresh off the vine? I think what I love the most about this incredibly versatile plant is the fact that it comes in so many varieties. There are the unique flavored, colorful heirloom tomato plants like Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Cherokee Purple, Old Yellow Candystripe and Pink Brandywine as well as newer hybrids that offer a more uniform tomato such as Early Girl, Sweet 100 and Sun Gold. With so many options it can be hard to decide which variety will work best for you given your taste and visual preference as well as needs and local growing conditions, but this free app for the iPad takes all of the painful deliberation out of the equation. This app helps you pick the best tomato and then provides links via Safari to seed vendors for your chosen variety.
Pickin Chicken
Yes, I know chickens are technically livestock, but many gardeners, even urban gardeners, are considering adding a few chickens to their garden. In addition to providing “free” eggs, chickens are a great way to get rid of many common garden pests naturally, and they also produce great, high nitrogen content fertilizer. While many locales have limits to the number of chickens one can own, keeping a couple of feathered pets is allowed in many areas, so make certain to check out your local zoning ordinances. This app is not free, but at just $2.99, it can help you to pick the best variety of chick for your garden space as well as provide helpful information about their care.

Gro Garden
I’ll round out my list with this $2.99 app that is a great way to get your young children involved in gardening through creative play! The app is compatible for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and teaches children about organic gardening, sustainability and how to plant seeds. More Awesome Gardening Apps