Tips and stuff

Making Organic Gardening Fertilizer at Home

Often, there is a lot of confusion about what exactly an organic gardening fertilizer is. An organic fertilizer is a substance or mixture of substances that is derived from organic material and is used to help promote healthy and strong plant growth. These are natural products that don't contain any artificial chemicals. Generally, organic fertilizers deliver nutrients to a plant in a roundabout way. Chemical fertilizers deliver nutrients to a plant in a form that they can metabolize almost instantly. Organic fertilizers, on the other hand, need to be broken down by bacteria in the soil to convert them into nutrients that a plant can use. At first glance, chemical fertilizers may seem better since the plant gets fertilized immediately, but it is easy to overdo using chemical fertilizers. In contrast, it is almost impossible to fertilize too much with organic fertilizers. Also, organic fertilizers are dissolving slow. They also leach away slower with heavy watering. A microorganism and mineral balance inside the soil will be achieved after a period of using organic fertilizers.
There are several ways to make organic fertilizers at home. Here are a few of the most popular varieties of homemade, organic gardening fertilizer:

1. Compost
Composting is a great way to get rid of your organic trash and to help your organic garden reach its maximum potential. To make compost, you'll need a large bin, several feet wide and long. You can construct your own compost bin or buy one from a local hardware store. Choose a shaded place far away from the house as possible( to avoid the smell).The three components of any compost project are green materials, such as grass clippings or branches, brown materials, derived from dead leaves and water. You can also throw in scraps of vegetables and biodegradable paper products into your compost bin. To get the process started, add a few shovels full of dirt to the mix and a few live earth worms. This will introduce bacteria into the compost bin which will get the process started. Use a shovel to mix the material inside the compost bin once a week and don't let it dry. In about two months, the compost will be ready for use as fertilizer. To tell if it is ready for use, check to see if any of the original matter is discernible. The compost should also be dark brown in color.

2. Fertilizer Mix
You can make a great, all purpose, organic gardening fertilizer by combining seed meal, lime, and trace minerals together in the correct proportion. Seed meal is the leftovers from the manufacture of vegetable oils. Lime is a mineral that changes the pH of the soil, made from crushed rocks like limestone, gypsum, and dolomite. Another important mineral to add to the fertilizer is phosphate, which can be found in bone meal or guano. Combine all of the ingredients in the following proportions:
1 part seed meal
1/4 part bone meal
3/4 part lime (an equal mixture of dolomite and gypsum)
All of these components can be found in a garden supply center or on the internet.

3. Manure Fertilizer
Manure can provide many nutrients to plants. A quick fertilizer can be made from manure by mixing one part of manure to two parts of water. This mixture can be sprayed onto plays or poured onto the soil around the plants. Because manure can contain dangerous bacteria, it is important to wash the vegetables, fruits, or herbs that are sprayed with this mixture thoroughly before eating.

If you grow your own fruits and vegetables, consider making your own organic gardening fertilizer at home. It's quick, easy, inexpensive, and good for the environment. What more can you ask for?

Making a Dry Garden
A dry garden is one that receives little or no irrigation, using plants that are adapted to dry climates. 
Water is a precious natural resource which is likely to become scarcer as changes in the climate bring even hotter and drier summers to some parts of the world.  Crete is also on a  desertification procedure. Water resources are less and is getting more expensive every year. Creating a dry garden is a wise choice for saving water (and money) while keeping with the Mediterranean environment and looks great throughout the year.
 Dry garden plants
Trees, shrubs (including many climbers), sub-shrubs (including many aromatic plants), bulbs, winter or spring-flowering annuals, some herbaceous perennials and of course cactus- succulents.  There are many thousands of plants native to the various Mediterranean-climate regions of the world which are adapted to dry summer conditions, and other regions with pronounced dry seasons offer many more.
Apart from bulbs and spring-flowering annuals, which finish flowering and disappear below ground (bulbs) or set and die (annuals) as the summer heat begins, Mediterranean plants withstand dry summers because their growing period is in autumn, winter and spring, when they can rely on natural rainfall.  In summer they suspend growth.  Many have leathery, glossy, downy or silvery-gray leaves, which help them to reduce water loss from the leaves.  Their variety of foliage and structure makes many Mediterranean plants interesting even when they are not in flower.
Once established, many dry-climate plants will indeed need no summer water at all.  Others will benefit from deep watering at appropriately spaced intervals. However, during their first summer or two, before they have become established (developed a good root system and become accustomed to their new soil and location), newly planted plants will need frequent watering and gradually increase watering times and  increase time in-between watering days.
A lot of water given infrequently is very much better than a little water given often.  The reason is that frequent application of small amounts of water encourages plants to develop their roots near the surface of the soil, whereas widely spaced application of large quantity of water allows the water to penetrate deep into the soil and encourages the plants to put down deep root, thus enabling them to withstand drought better.  One good way to give deep watering is to make a large watering basin, about 20cm (8in) deep, around the plant when you plant it (or around a group of smaller plants).  You then fill this basin to the brim and allow the water to seep gradually deep into the soil.
Plant in autumn: your new plants can get the benefit of the winter rains during their first growing season.
Choose small plants:  become established better and faster
Drainage:  Dry-climate plants need well-drained soils. 
Prevent surface evaporation:  cover soil with a layer of mulch. 

A garden of succulent plants

Succulent plants are those specimens that are able to inhabit arid regions and store moisture within their cells. Their foliage, root system and even flowers - to some extent - minimize their consumption of moisture.
From a practical viewpoint these plants make sense especially in Crete’s climate. However there are so many other factors that need to be considered before a plant takes its place in the garden. Most succulent ‘lovers’- gardeners prefer to keep them separated creating a xeriscape garden inside there garden. But due to their diversity in color, shape, form, texture, size and blooms, succulents can be used in many garden types mixed with other plants.

Apart from the apparent water-saving resources the advantages of succulents are far deeper. Consider these;

  • They can grow in containers as well as they can in garden soil.
  • The number of varieties: groundcovers, perennials, larger tree types etc. offer gardeners a wealth of diversity
  • Color contrasts. Succulent plants can exhibit all three in each specimen and be wildly different than any other plant.
Planting succulent plants
The first step would be to prepare the soil to be a well-drained sandy loam. If your soil is currently a clay variety then adding some turf to break this up and mixing it with some river sand will improve its appeal to succulents. You won't need to add any compost to the soil and fertilizers should be kept to a minimum. If you plan to grow your succulents in containers instead of directly in the soil then make sure your potting mix is free-draining.
Check sun requirements before planting. Most succulent plants are sun-lovers while some do survive in partial shade but very few will exist in full-shade.

Living artwork

Mixing colors, shapes and textures amazing succulent frames can be made that can be placed vertically anywhere you want as long as the plants get the light and water they need to stay healthy.

List of common succulent plants
  • Crassula
  • Sedum
  • Agave
  • Portulaca
  • Kalanchoe
  • Dudleya
  • Cotyledon
  • Senecio
  • Aeonium
Obviously this is only a few of the myriad of species available but unfortunately you can find few in the local nurseries. If you are interested in having a succulent frame on your wall, or a specific kind of succulent you can not find, please contact.

Organic Pest Control

Pest control is a challenge in any garden. Using chemical pesticides is the fastest way to get rid of the pests but the problems still reappear and the garden or the cultivation come to depend more on pesticides which prove to be less effective and more costly.

using a range of methods, with planning and coordination not to poison nature and not kill the organisms that will assist, pest control is possible. Complete pest eradication should not be the goal. 
Soil Pests

Cultivate the soil around slug prone plants like, potatoes, lettuce and seedlings. This exposes the soil pests to predators such as birds, frogs, hedgehogs, etc. Cultivate the soil around the roots in the flower and vegetable beds. Whenever you're in the garden get into the habit of removing any pest that you see as you do with weeds. If slugs and snails are a problem make a few trips down the garden after sun down or use a beer trap.
Mulch management

Layers of soft moist organic debris provide cover and food for slugs and other pests but you have to balance advantages and disadvantages. Mulch as a ground cover provides fertilizer to your plants year through and it is a good way to control weeds. Here in Rethymno it is recommended to decrease the thickness of the mulch during the dry months to no more than five centimeters and increase it during the rain months.
Vegetables-Grow resistant varieties
Local varieties are supposed to be more resistant to pests and more adapted to Crete’s climate.
Planting companion crops that discourage or divert pests. Also try mixing more than one variety in the same row. The differences may only be due to timing of growth but it's better than giving disease a clear run at the whole crop.

Biological Pest Control

Don't forget to encourage your garden's natural pest predators. Grow plants that attract birds. If possible have a pond for frogs, nesting sites for small insect eating birds. 

 Your solution
There is no single one-size fits all solution for organic pest control. Effective organic pest control requires a thorough understanding of pest life cycles and interactions. By practicing you will find what is best for your garden and don’t be discouraged by an acceptable level of pest damage.