Monthly Archives: June 2016

Making a Prayer Garden

Prayer is something that is very close to your heart. It is something very precious and sacred. Prayer can mean different things to different people. For the one dedicated to what he does, work could be prayer. Dancing for him/herself could mean praying for a dancer, composing music could mean praying for a musician, while simply being close to nature, being one with the force that drives the world, being in the vicinity and the company of the classical five elements could be equivalent to praying for some individuals. For those of you who belong to the last category, a praying garden would be a wonderful way to pray. Find out here how to make your own prayer garden.

How to Make a Prayer Garden

First and foremost, you have to plan it out on paper; and believe me, you don’t have to be an architect to be able to do this! Get an idea of how much space you have in which to create your prayer garden. Praying is something that is very personal – you may not like being disturbed while praying. Likewise you may not want just anybody to walk in upon your praying premise. If that is the case, divide your garden up into a place the entire family can share and a section that will serve as your praying room. If everybody in your family likes to pray, then you may want to design the garden in such a way as to give each one his/her privacy and space to pray. If you like to pray together, or if there is a part of your prayer that you do together as one family – for example reciting a particular hymn or psalm together – you can instead have one common place where everybody can assemble and pray together. The importance of prayer is irreplaceable in the lives of those who pray; so before you actually go about setting up your prayer garden, make sure you know what you want out of it. The above mentioned pointers can be a good place to start planning.
Prayer Garden Plan

~ Seating Arrangement ~
The seating arrangement is probably the single most important point to be considered while designing your own prayer garden. Do you stand and pray? Do you like to sit cross-legged? Do you like to kneel down? Do you like sitting on the ground, the grass or a mat? Depending on this, you can choose from a patio to be built in the middle or in a corner of the garden, you can have a cobbled walk-way through the garden, you can have a lawn, or you have a clear patch of ground, devoid of grass. If it is going to be a patio, you can choose to have a bamboo patio, a wooden patio, or a stone patio. The insides of the patio can be decorated in various ways to create the mood to help you pray.

If you do not want your guests and other people who visit you to enter your praying area, you can segregate it from the rest of the garden. You can build a tall bamboo fence to seclude your praying area from the rest of the garden. You can have a tall hedge as well. If you don’t want to have a bare fence, you can grow a shrub over it. Alternatively you can simply build a wall. A five-feet tall wall could give you the privacy you need without the arrangement seeming too drastic or rude. You could even place potted plants on the wall.

~ Classical Five Elements ~
Each one of us can identify with at least one of the classical five elements very closely – I identify with water; I am at complete peace in the vicinity of a water body, especially a moving one. The sound of flowing water sounds like music to me. My father on the other hand, loves the wind. He finds heaven on this hill that is close to our place. He climbs right up to the top of the hill every single day for just a few moments of the wind blowing in his face. You can also discover your element. If you already know your element, being close to it while praying can bring you real peace and calm and leave you with a deep-seated feeling of happiness and satisfaction.

If you like to pray at sunrise, you can arrange for your praying garden to be set up in such a way that the soft morning sunlight enter directly into your patio, or through the leaves of trees bordering your garden. If you like the wind, you can set up a rock-bench in the middle of the garden, away from the plants or trees that may block the wind. If water is your element, there are many ways in which you can include it in your garden. You can build a waterfall. You can have a fountain. If you want something more natural, you could have a small rock pool in your garden. The pool can be designed to hold small colorful fish. Alternatively, you can build a shallow rock pool and have round stones fill up the bottom – it looks truly beautiful. If you want to be still closer to water, you can have a small bridge built over the pool and can sit on the bridge and pray. Or if you opt for a shallow pool, you can simple walk through the water to a central table on which you can sit and pray, surrounded by water on all sides.

~ Flora ~
The last thing I would like to discuss are the plants in your garden. You have to be calm, relaxed and absolutely at ease when you pray. Having fragrant flower plants in your prayer garden can be a nice way to calm your senses and relax before you actually begin praying. You can place potted exotic plants in the patio, or you can surround your sitting area with fragrant flowers. Another option could be to burn some incense sticks.
Praying is not an activity – it is an experience, a journey. Praying lets you connect with life, connect with yourself. Hope these ideas will help you build the perfect little prayer garden you have always wanted.

Steps to Protect Your Garden

Did you Know…
… that the growth and nutrient requirement of plants decreases naturally during summer, and all they need is a bit of TLC to carry them through the harsh conditions.
Gardens provide a cool, breezy space perfect for relaxation and a bit of me-time. Unfortunately, extreme weather conditions and record-breaking temperatures – a common occurrence these days, have the potential to wreak havoc on your garden.

To minimize damage, many experts recommend planting native plants to begin with – plants that have evolved over thousands of years and are well adapted to the local conditions. But, a heat wave can damage the native plants as well and besides, we all love a bit of variety.

Another thing we must do is to recognizing the signs of heat damage and provide that particular plant some extra care or move it in the shade. A heat-damaged or dehydrated (usually both go hand-in-hand) plant will reveal itself by displaying droopy, yellow leaves throughout the sun-exposed area; whereas the shaded leaves will have a healthy green coloration. The yellowing generally occurs around the edges and veins and might progress into brown, brittle leaves. Ultimately leading to a permanently damaged plant, unless immediate action is taken.

While you cannot undo the damage once done, you can definitely ensure that the garden stays happy and green, using these simple yet effective steps, before and during a heat wave.

Keep the Grass Taller

It is a good idea to keep the grass longer during the summer months. This has three advantages – two that are good for the garden, and one that is good for you. First, the longer leaf blades will help the soil retain moisture by shielding it from the sun. Two, it will keep the garden cooler, reducing the impact of the blazing sun. And three, it

will cut your mowing time.

Keep the grass approximately ½-inch longer than you usually do. It is best to mow in the morning or evening, so that the lower, shielded leaves get time to get accustomed to the elements. Also, make sure that the blade of the mower is sharp, as a dull blade might damage the leaf tips.

Prune Less

Pruning might stimulate new growth, which is fine and dandy during spring, but the tender shoots and leaves become much more vulnerable to the elements. Limit it to only the dead, infested or decaying parts. A dead branch or a bunch of brown, rotting leaves are perfect candidates for pruning. Use a disinfected blade, as a new cut is an ideal entry point for bugs and pests. You may keep a few dead leaves near the roots, but do make sure they are rot-free. If you have an overgrown shrub or tree, prune it long before the high temperatures set in. The best time to prune a tree is during late winter, just before spring sets in.

Construct a Sun-Screen

The most important step to protect your garden would be to create a barrier between the hot sun and the plants. While most established, native plants may not need the shade, potted plants and newly established trees will need some protection. The shading will also reduce water loss through their leaves, as plants, like us, ‘perspire’ to stay cool. This also means the plant will need much less water to stay hydrated, an important consideration if you are

facing a drought.

You can use anything to construct the barrier, as long as it stays put and is not a fire hazard, especially if forest fires are an issue in your area. Use a bed-sheet, a beach umbrella, a fancy awning, old curtains or even the good old tarp suspended on bamboo poles about 10 feet high. Although, a store-bought canopy will offer better protection as it thicker, more resistant to damage and custom-made to shield the plants.

Move Tender Plants to The Shade

Once the canopy is set, move the delicate plants to the shade. You can also utilize the shade of tall trees or plants, or the house itself. Make sure you group the plant in a cozy manner, meaning they should be huddled closely, but have enough space to grow and breathe. Placing the plants closely will further lower the temperature around them and increase the humidity. Try to place the most delicate ones in the center, with the tougher ones around the edges.

Get Rid of Weeds

Weeds steal all the precious moisture and nutrients from your plants. Plus, they are hardy and manage to thrive even through the worst of conditions. Even worse, they attract pests, diseases and infections making your plants even more susceptible.

Pull out any weeds as soon as you notice them. The younger the weed, the easier it is to get rid of. In case of a well-established weed, cut off the top, leaves and all, with only the stump remaining. You might have to do this several times till its root taps get exhausted. Summer is also the time when you can compost the weeds, as the heat in the compost bin will destroy the seeds naturally.
Mulch

Mulch helps the soil retain moisture by reducing evaporation of water. This means the plant will require much less water to thrive. It also suppresses the growth of most weeds and provides the plants or shrubs with nutrients. Mulch is an efficient organic and fully natural substitute for both, herbicides and fertilizers.

Add a thick layer (2-inch thick for finer mulch and 4-inch of the chunkier mulch) to all plant beds. Do leave a gap of a few inches around the base of the plant. Do not use a weed mat or plastic sheet as an underlay. Put the mulch deeper, over a newspaper about 16 sheet thick, to prevent weed growth. Also, do remember to weed before you mulch. Preferably, use light, reflective mulch like straw or saw dust during the summer months.
Avoid Watering at Noon

Water in the morning, before the heat sets in, ideally before 10 AM. This will make sure the plants stay hydrated during the sweltering heat and will also help in keeping the temperatures down. The next best option is late afternoon, after the worst of the heat is over, but before evening. This will ensure that the leaves stay dry during the night, which happens to be the preferred time for a fungus to take roots. Also, try to not get the leaves wet if you are watering after 5 PM.

The reason for avoiding watering the plants at mid-day is that the combination of water and heat can actually scald the plants instead of having a cooling effect. Plus, most of the water might evaporate before soaking in the soil and reaching the roots. For best results, water deep, meaning the moisture should reach at least 6 inches deep once you water the garden. Then, water again only after the top 2 inches are completely dry (usually, this means deep-watering every couple of days).

Do Not Disturb the Soil During a Heat Wave

Disturbing the soil at this time will only release the trapped water. You want this moisture to stay in the soil to hydrate your plant as well as to keep the temperatures down. So do not carry out any activity which might disturb the soil, such as digging, weeding, planting or transporting plants. The newly transported plants or young seedlings are much more susceptible and vulnerable. If you have weeds, just cut off their heads, instead of pulling them out, so as not to disturb the soil surrounding them.
In short, the best to protect your garden during a heat wave is to disturb it as little as possible, while ensuring that it is well-hydrated, cool and the plants have sufficient nutrients.

Characteristics of Different Types of Soil

The most important factor when beginning to cultivate your garden is to know your soils texture. Take a handful of moist soil and roll it between your palms until it forms a sausage shape. If it feels gritty and breaks apart immediately, the soil is predominately sand. If the soil feels smooth, and holds its shape for a short time before breaking apart, it is mostly silt. However, if it feels sticky and holds together, then it is clay.

Sandy Soil
Easy to cultivate and warm up quickly in spring. It drains well so the plants do not stand with their roots in water for too long. However, as it drains quickly, plants need to be regularly watered and fed if they are to thrive.

Silty Soil
This soil type is richer in nutrients than sandy soil. It is also heavier because it can retain moisture and has a tendency to become compacted. It does however tend to drain well and much easier to cultivate than clay.

Clay Soil
Weighty to lift and difficult to work. Drainage is usually bad; the soil is acid and clinging to the feet in wet weather. When preparing the beds for vegetables in clay soil, the organic fertilizer should be added at a rate of two bucketfuls to the sq. yd.

Loamy Soil
Contain sand, silt and clay, in such well-balanced proportions that none produces a dominating influence. These are amongst the most fertile soils. Almost any crop can be grown in them. They warm up quickly in spring and rarely dry out in summer.

 Chalk Soil
It fertility depends largely on the depth of soil overlaying the chalk bed formation. If the topsoil is thin the ground will be poor and hungry. It will be bone dry in summer and the plants will need far more watering and feeding than on any other soil. If however, it is fairly deep, good growing conditions are possible.Peaty Soil
It occurs in fen or boggy areas. Peat is composed of excessive quantities of humus and is associated with water-logging. The soil is usually very acid and contains few nutrients. It does have one advantage in that it warms up quickly in spring. It is excellent for plant growth if fertilizer is added.

Plants from Nurseries

Plants, one of nature’s most beautiful wonders, are also very fickle to handle. It takes a lot of experience and knowledge to make a plant reach its maximum aesthetic potential, and keeping it healthy while doing so is always a challenge. There is much more to tending for a plant than just watering and weeding; time, care, and work all need to be put into the care of a plant.
This is why there are numerous advantages to buying plants from a nursery. First of all, the people that are employed at nurseries have years of experience and knowledge when it comes to plants, and they know the ins and outs of horticulture. This knowledge shows in every healthy and beautiful plant they tend for. A plant bought at a nursery can always be expected to be at its best when you purchase it.

Growing from a seed takes a lot of time and work which in today’s society many people don’t have.Nurseries take care of this for you by growing your plant from a tiny seed into a healthy and mature plant. Not only does this take the work off your hands, but when you buy it you can immediately enjoy the beauty of the plant and not have to wait for it to germinate and grow.

On average plants from nurseries are twice as healthy as plants grown at home. This is because nurseriesuse top grade soil and feeders when they care for their plants. A lot of care goes into the tending of each individual plant in a nursery and the nutrients they absorb early on will make them much more disease resistant even after you take them home. It will live longer and look much more pleasing after being in the hands of skilled gardeners such as those that work at nurseries.

To sum it up, plants bought from a nursery save you a lot of hassle and pain, look better, and live longer than those grown from seed in garden plots at home. A plant from a nursery will be sure to catch your visitors eye next time they stop in.