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4 Tips to Plan a Bountiful Garden



(Family Features) Whether you’re a novice just learning to cultivate a magical display or an avid gardener with years of experience, early planning can help bring this year’s garden to life.

These simple tips can help you start planning, and before you know it, you can start putting your plans into action.

Assess your environment. Determine what factors may aid or hinder your garden’s success. What do you know about the soil? Lighting? Exposure to threats such as hungry or curious wildlife? Uncovering potential roadblocks early can help you identify potential solutions or alternatives that may help you bypass issues altogether.

Create a mental image. Look through seed catalogs, magazines and books, and browse the internet for inspiration. Vibrant colors and textures are the hallmarks of a beautiful spring garden, but spend time learning exactly what appeals to you most. Take notes, particularly as you identify new species you may want to introduce. You’ll need to do additional research to ensure their growing requirements are consistent with your environment.

Put it to paper. Transferring your vision to paper can help you plan appropriately and ensure you’re not overfilling or leaving unsightly gaps in your garden. Understanding where each plant will go and how much each needs to flourish before you turn a spade of soil can help make planting a breeze. Remember it is easier to change your mind with a pen and paper in hand than with fragile vegetation.

Create a calendar. Timing is critical to maximizing the time you are able to enjoy your garden. Understand the growing season for each plant and map it all out on a calendar so you can stagger when new varieties emerge and keep your garden active and thriving. Be sure to give yourself some wiggle room for unforeseen circumstances, such as weather, that may prevent you from planting exactly as you’ve planned.

For more tips to safely begin planting, visit eLivingtoday.com.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Family Features

Consumer Corner

Gone Viral: ‘Miniclover’ is a top trending grass alternative for yards across America



(Joan Casanova) If you’re looking to renovate your yard, there’s a sustainable, drought-tolerant alternative to high-maintenance, water-guzzling grass that also reduces your environmental footprint.

“Clover lawns” went viral on social media last fall and became the most searched home improvement trend on Google in 2023. If you search #cloverlawns on Tik Tok , viewed more than 150 million times, you’ll be bombarded with photos and videos of fluffy, lush, green, gorgeous lawns grown with Miniclover seeds.

“‘Miniclover’ (Trifolium repens) is about 1/3-1/2 the size of white Dutch clover, only grows 4-6 inches and produces a thick, carpet-like look that blends well with turf,” said Troy Hake, president and owner of Outsidepride.com, offering drought-tolerant grasses, clovers, wildflower seeds and more. “It’s less expensive than grass seed and a natural solution for self-sustaining, low-maintenance lawns that look beautiful and help eliminate the need for fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and weekly mowing. We sold out of it for the past two years, even with a two-fold increase in production. You can’t go wrong with it.”

Wondering why grass gets a bad rap? The truth is climate change is looming and has further altered the natural pattern of droughts, making them more frequent, longer and more severe. Grass lawns, however, are not sustainable; they’re the most maintenance-intense part of yards, requiring regular fertilization, mowing and heavy irrigation to look good. Nationwide, landscape irrigation is estimated at almost 1/3 of all residential water use, totaling nearly 9 billion gallons per day. Plus, gas-powered lawn and gardening equipment release more than 30 million tons of carbon emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Emissions Inventory.

In some regions, there’s continuous, strict regulations on watering lawns or bans on the use of drinking water for irrigating grass. As concerns about climate change and water scarcity intensify, some homeowners are looking for landscaping solutions that minimize water usage and reduce environmental impact. A standout in this regard, Miniclover requires significantly less water than traditional grass to thrive. It’s drought-tolerant and has longer, deeper roots than grass, reaching into the soil for needed moisture, requiring minimal watering, staying greener longer and showing more resiliency during periods of drought or water restrictions.

It takes nitrogen from the air, “fixing” it in the soil and eliminating the need for fertilizer or nitrogen plant food because it does the work for you, keeping grass green and growing while adding natural nitrogen to surrounding soil.

Some homeowners are already tearing up grass and completely replacing it with Miniclover; others are overseeding existing grass, reaping the many benefits of clover while maintaining a lawn-like look without committing to a complete lawn replacement. Both options are more sustainable and environmentally friendly than grass lawns.

With hectic lifestyles the norm, many homeowners want landscaping solutions that require minimal upkeep. While grass lawns require constant mowing, watering and fertilizing, perhaps it’s time to grow something other than traditional turf. Miniclover’s slow growth habits mean less time behind the mower while its dense growth pattern, evenly dispersed via stolons (stems that grow horizontally along the ground), crowds out weeds and controls erosion.

No need for herbicides; they’ll kill it. Grubs won’t eat it and bugs won’t lay eggs in it. It stands up to compacted soil, plus it’s immune to “dog patches.” It fills in bare spots fast and tolerates wet conditions. Mow as little as you like – the more it’s cut, the smaller the leaf size – or simply let it grow close to the ground, like grass . It blooms only once in summer with small, delicate flowers, which provide bees with nectar or, if preferred, mowing prevents blooming. It withstands foot traffic, making it ideal for pathways and play areas and its tolerance for shade makes it suitable for areas with limited sunlight.

For homeowners looking to reclaim weekends and minimize time and effort spent on lawn care, Miniclover seems like a dream. It lives up to its hype, offering the winning combination of environmental sustainability, very low maintenance, drought tolerance, aesthetic appeal and cost efficiency that benefits not only homeowners’ properties, but planet Earth as well.

For more drought-tolerant options, visit Outsidepride.com.

Photos courtesy of Outsidepride.com


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home gardening

Birdfeeder Battleground: Winning the war against squirrels

Bird lovers can deter squirrels from feeders by using spicy seed mixtures that birds enjoy but squirrels find distasteful, or establishing separate feeding stations.



(Joan Casanova) For bird lovers, the sight of a bushy tail hanging off the side of a feeder means one thing: war. Love them or loathe them, most birders agree they don’t want squirrels in birdfeeders where they can devour seed meant for birds.

Squirrels have to eat, too, and no one wants to harm the persistent critters. However, that doesn’t mean you have to put up with squirrels scarfing down seed set out for birds, damaging feeders and bumping up your blood pressure. It’s possible to discourage squirrels – and even outsmart them – with the right seed mix and some nature-friendly squirrel-control tactics.

Because squirrels love birdseed as much as birds do, both groups routinely battle for rights to the birdfeeder. It’s not an equal fight – most squirrels are bigger than the average bird, so chances are they’re going to devour the seed.

Squirrels are one of the biggest problems for people who feed birds. They can eat large amounts of seed, destroy birdfeeders and chase birds away. When squirrels claim your feeder as their territory, it’s hard to get rid of them.

While they can be relentless in their perpetual pursuit of birdseed and don’t like to share, you don’t want to hurt them, just set them on the straight and narrow. One of the most effective tactics to keep squirrels out of birdfeeders is taste aversion – serving seed that birds find delicious, but squirrels consider downright distasteful. Simply put, if the seed you serve tastes terrible to squirrels, they’ll seek sustenance elsewhere.

Put pesky squirrels on notice your birdfeeders are meant to be bird-exclusive by stocking  them with products infused with fiery hot habanero chili peppers, like Cole’s “Hot Meats” that appeals to birds with top-quality sunflower meats and spicy taste but turns squirrels away with hot chili-pepper oil. Or offer “Blazing Hot Blend,” which combines the same habanero chili oil formula with preferred seeds to attract a maximum variety of songbirds. Birds find the spicy taste delectable but squirrels detest it.

Studies show mammals, including squirrels, have receptors on the tongue and mouth that react to chili peppers by sending heat signals to the brain. Although there’s no actual harm, the sensation makes it seem like the mouth is on fire. Birds lack receptors that make chewing chili peppers such an eyewatering experience for mammals and they love the spicy flavor.

Another easy option is Cole’s “Flaming Squirrel Seed Sauce,” a nutritional birdseed “hot sauce” that contains all-natural, 100% food grade ingredients with a hot and spicy flavor. It’s a safe, effective and humane way to feed birds and thwart squirrels. Remember, your feathered friends can’t taste the heat, but squirrels sure can. Add this chili pepper formula to any birdseed to reduce squirrel visits at the birdfeeder.

If you have a soft spot for those fluffy-tailed felons as amusing additions to your backyard, try diversion feeding, an effective tactic to lure squirrels away from the birdfeeder by providing them with their own food source. Set up a squirrel feeding station away from birdfeeders and make it easy for squirrels to access their own platform feeder filled with favored temptations. This can satisfy squirrels and allow for a “birds only” oasis at the birdfeeder.

Try “Critter Munchies,” a blend of whole yellow corn, striped sunflower, peanuts in the shell, black oil sunflower and raw peanuts.

If you’re among the bird lovers who have tried countless devices and gimmicks over the years to thwart seed-stealing squirrels, using taste aversion and diversion feeding tactics can help you win the age-old war at your backyard birdfeeders. For more information, visit coleswildbird.com.

Photos courtesy of Cole’s Wild Bird Products

Cole’s Wild Bird Seed

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home gardening

7 Budget-Friendly Gardening Hacks



(Family Features) Gardening can be a simple way to beautify your yard, relieve stress and save money on your grocery bill, but like any hobby, you can get carried away buying necessary equipment.

Fun, frugal and environmentally friendly, these tricks can help you create a cost-effective garden:

  1. Use a yardstick and permanent marker to mark inches and feet on the handle of your rake, shovel or hoe. The next time you plant, simply lay the marked handle along the row to create perfectly spaced holes for seeds.
  2. Line the bottom of a clay pot with a coffee filter to keep soil from leaking out the bottom.
  3. Use empty plastic water bottles or clear milk jugs to fill the bottom of large pots. They reduce the weight of the pot and require less soil to fill.
  4. To test your seeds to see if they’re still viable for this planting season, place a wet paper towel inside a zip-top bag, drop in 3-4 seeds and wait a week to see if anything grows.
  5. One way to help prevent weeds is lining your garden with a layer of newspaper. Just top two or three sheets of newsprint with a layer of pine needles, grass clippings or dried leaves for an eco-friendly and inexpensive weed barrier.
  6. Keep gardening twine handy. Nail a funnel to your potting bench with the spout pointing downward, feed the twine through and your string will never go missing. For a more portable solution, place a ball of twine inside a canning jar, make a hole in the lid and feed the end of the twine through the hole. Now, you can take twine anywhere, tangle-free.
  7. There is no need to buy expensive potting systems for starting seedlings. Place several cardboard toilet paper rolls inside a clean plastic clamshell, like those used for premade salads. Fill each cardboard tube with potting soil and plant. Once your seedlings grow too tall for the clamshell, simply tear off the top lid.

Find more ideas for creating a garden without spending a bundle at eLivingtoday.com.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Family Features

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