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The Neighborhood

Strain-Free Gardening
By Plow & Hearth
2/21/2013 2:41:00 PM

Growing your own flowers and vegetables can be one of the most all-around rewarding experiences of the warm-weather season. Planting your favorite colorful flowers and ornamental plants adds a personal touch to your outdoor spaces, and few things are healthier, tastier and more satisfying than putting homegrown fresh produce on the table.

Less fun, however, are the aches and soreness that can result from hours spent tilling, digging, hoeing and weeding. Hard work and strained muscles don’t have to be part of the garden experience, are some techniques and tools to help reduce or eliminate bending, pulling, lifting and dragging:

Quit Cultivating With Raised Beds

Growing your garden in raised beds can be the single biggest garden labor saver for the simple reason that the soil does not get packed down by walking on it or running equipment over it. Once you have put out the initial effort of filling a raised bed with a quality soil mix, chores like tilling, hoeing, cultivating and weeding are reduced or completely eliminated.

Planting. Because the soil stays soft and workable, you can easily make furrows for planting with your finger or a trowel. When it is time to replant, even mature plants pull out easily and the soil is ready for the next planting.
Weeding. Thinning and weeding becomes almost enjoyable when plants, roots and all, are easy to pull from the loose soil.
Watering and Feeding. Because the soil is contained and isolated by the raised bed, watering and feeding become more effective by staying with the plants and not spreading over a wide area.
Bending and Lifting. Using raised beds makes an amazing difference in the effort and strain on your back compared to gardening at ground level.

Tips For Choosing A Garden Bed. Choose sturdy steel corner brackets that make it easy to construct raised beds from your own lumber, and raised beds kits made from recycled plastic or cedar boards or a self-watering raised bed with built-in reservoir and soaker hoses.

Corner Brackets

Bring Gardening To Your Level With Raised Planters

Raised planters are built on legs three feet above the ground to give you complete control of the soil and allow you to garden without bending over at all. Raised garden planters can be placed anywhere in the yard or on the patio or the deck to make watering and caring for your plants even more convenient. And because the soil is isolated from the ground in a raised planter, many pest problems (like moles, rabbits and insects) are reduced or eliminated altogether.

36" Durable Wood Raised Bed Planter Square Foot Raised Bed Gardening Table

Garden Anywhere With Containers:

You don’t need a big backyard to enjoy fresh herbs, fruits and veggies – any balcony or patio will do. With the right container and light exposure, you can grow anything from tomatoes to potatoes in small spaces. Container gardens have all the advantages of a raised bed or planter, and can be placed or moved anywhere to maximize sun exposure and watering.

  • Self-Watering Containers. Regular freestanding containers dry out quickly and need to be watered often. Self-watering planters have a built in water reservoir that keeps the soil moist, eliminating the need to water daily. Self-watering containers are available with casters for mobility and trellises or cages for growing trailing plants or tomatoes. Attractive window boxes and patio planters are also available in self-watering designs.
  • Inverted Planters. Upside-down planters are ideal for growing tomatoes, peppers, strawberries and more in small spaces. Even a small, sunny balcony could be home to an abundant tomato crop when an inverted planter is used. Another advantage to upside down planters is that they completely eliminate the need for stakes. Staking upright tomato plants is essential to keep the delicate vines from snapping under the weight of the fruit, but inverted containers remove this danger entirely. Finally, as with all containers, inverted containers keep your plants free from fungus, cutworms and other pests.
  • Fabric Containers. In addition to be a simple, inexpensive, and easy-to-store option for container gardening, fabric pots promote healthy root growth.

Labor-Saving Solutions

No doubt about it…gardening may be fun, but it can be hard on your back, legs, knees and shoulders. There are tools, however, that help take the toil out of gardening, enabling just about anyone to spend more time puttering among the plants.

  • Portable kneelers/seats. Hours spent on your knees can make them stiff and painful. A padded kneeler or low seat lets you stay down among your plants while cushioning you’re your joints or taking stress off them altogether.
  • Rolling seats. Wheeled seats are especially helpful for taking the strain off your legs, knees and back by eliminating the need to keep getting up and down. Some can be obtained with attaching carts that help keep your tools handy, and all of them make it easy to get around in the garden.
  • Wheel barrows. Wheel barrows cut down on the number of trips you have to make when transporting loads, as well taking the strain off your back, shoulders and arms.
  • Ergonomic hand tools. Digging, weeding and planting are easier on your hands, arms and tendons with the right tools. Shock-absorbing, ergonomic tools help prevent cramps, carpal tunnel, strain and even blisters.

Worry-Free Watering/Feeding

A productive garden needs plenty of water, fertilizer and care, but you can provide what it needs without having to haul out the hose every day. Special tools designed to make watering easier along with accessories that allow you to go longer between waterings and feedings are available along with self-watering containers and beds that do the work for you.

  • Composters. There’s nothing like composting for making rich, organic soil that produces abundant plants. A traditional composting pile requires a lot of bending, digging and turning, but our Rotary Composter is set at a comfortable height and turns at the touch of the handle.
  • Mulch. Mulching around your plants cuts down not only on weeding, but on watering, too. Our American-made Perma Mulch products work just as well as organic mulch while eliminating the need to trim and re-mulch.
  • Watering tools. Apart from lowering your water bill, rain barrels store up to 50 gallons of water so it’s ready when you need it. Hose reels take the work out of coiling a heavy, muddy garden hose. Self-watering tools and other automatic watering systems mean you spend less time watering and more time enjoying your plants.

With the right tools and a little planning, you’ll spending more time just enjoying your garden instead of working in it – and you’ll feel less tired, too!

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The Olla: A Brief History

Olla (Spanish, pronounced “oh-ya”) jars have been around since ancient times. Made of unglazed ceramic, ollas traditionally have short, narrow necks with wider bodies, and are made in a variety of shapes. They have been used for thousands of years for cooking, storage, and plant irrigation.

When used to irrigate plants, an olla is buried neck-deep in the ground near a plant’s roots, with the opening of the olla extended above the soil so that it can be filled with water periodically. The porous walls of the unglazed pottery allow the water to seep through gradually, constantly and consistently hydrating the plants without overwatering them – and without wasting precious water to evaporation or runoff.

The use of ollas for irrigation was introduced to the American Southwest by Spanish conquistadors during Colonial times, becoming very common among Native American tribes and Hispanic settlers. Though the technique gave way to more modern methods of irrigation some time ago, its superior efficiency, coupled with its simplicity, has caused it to make a comeback. Though the technique has changed little since its introduction, today’s ollas are usually capped off, making them even more water-efficient.

Perfect for home gardens, Ollas are a super-easy, eco-friendly, less time-consuming way to water annuals, perennials, herbs, vegetables and plants of all kinds in dry, sandy soil, very hot or drought-prone areas, raised beds, and even pots, planters and hanging baskets. Fill the olla before you leave on a short vacation to enjoy worry-free watering – and a smaller water bill!

How it Works:

Water is pulled directly through the terra-cotta!

Read more about Ollas on our blog.

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