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Tools & Techniques

Title Summary Date ID Author(s)
Backyard Composting

Composting is a degradation process brought about by bacteria and fungus organisms. Large amounts of organic kitchen, garden, lawn, and/or farm refuse can be reduced in a relatively short time to a pile of black, crumbly humus which makes an ideal soil conditioner. Compost added regularly to soil will inevitably benefit the soil. The soil's structure will improve, since humus contains substances which cause aggregation (sticking together) of soil particles. In a clay soil this means that the microscopic individual particles will be clumped together and more air spaces will be opened up between clumps. Without these air spaces the clay particles stick tightly to each other, forming a nearly impenetrable barrier to water and gases. 

Feb 27, 2013 HORT-49P
Calibrating Your Lawn Spreader

There are two basic types of fertilizer spreaders for use on the home lawn: the drop and the broadcast.

The drop type spreader (shown at left) "drops" a set rate of fertilizer. This type is best suited for a limited space in order to avoid wide dispersal on sidewalks and driveways. The amount of fertilizer that is spread depends on the opening setting, the type of fertilizer used, and the speed at which the spreader is pushed.

May 1, 2009 430-017
Fertilizing the Vegetable Garden

The amount of fertilizer to apply to a garden depends on the natural fertility of the soil, the amount of organic matter present, the type of fertilizer used, and the crop being grown. The best way to determine fertilizer needs is to have the soil tested. Soil testing is available through your local Extension agent, through private labs, and with soil test kits which can be purchased from garden shops and catalogs.

May 1, 2009 426-323
Gardening & Your Health, Carpal Tunnel

Gardening with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) can be very difficult, especially when a long day of shoveling, raking, or weed pulling leaves you with a painful or "tingling" hand or wrist. These aches and pains are often caused in part by improper techniques or tools used in gardening.

May 1, 2009 426-060
Gardening and Your Health: Arthritis
For individuals suffering from arthritis, gardening can be a great exercise and stress reducer when done correctly. In fact, gardening is an excellent activity for maintaining joint flexibility, range of motion, and quality of life.

Arthritis is a disease that causes inflamed joints. The two main types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is characterized by a degeneration of joint tissue, which can lead to pain and stiffness in the joints. The cartilage that protects the ends of bones wears away. It is most commonly seen in fingers, hips, knees, feet, and the spine but can affect any joint, and is characterized by stiffness, pain, and a loss of mobility.

May 1, 2009 426-062
Gardening and Your Health: Plant Allergies

Allergic reactions are caused by an overactive immune system response to a foreign substance such as pollen, dust, or molds. When this reaction affects the eyes or nose, it results in allergic rhinitis. Typical symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose, and itchy watery eyes. When an inflammation affects the bronchial tubes, it results in asthma. Typical symptoms include wheezing and shortness of breath.

May 1, 2009 426-067
Gardening and Your Health: Protecting Your Hands and Feet
The skin on hands and feet is like most ornamental plants. Neither likes the extremes of being dried out or kept too wet. Treat skin as tenderly as the most sensitive plants and safeguard your horticultural health.
May 1, 2009 426-061
Gardening and Your Health: Protecting Your Knees and Back

Many gardening tasks require knee strength and stability, whether kneeling, sitting, standing, or walking. The best way to protect knees from the stress and strain is to condition them with strengthening exercises and stretching.

The muscles that protect the knees are the quadriceps (front of thighs) and the hamstrings (back of the thighs). To ease strain on the knees, practice strengthening exercises regularly, and stretch before starting gardening activities. Your doctor should recommend specific exercises and stretches that are appropriate for you.

May 1, 2009 426-065
Gardening and Your Health: Summer Heat
Obviously hot weather has adverse effects on plants, but what about the adverse effects on gardeners? Is human heat stress not of equal or greater importance?

To understand how to reduce or minimize heat stress or heat-related illnesses, one must first understand what causes heat stress and when it is most likely to occur. Heat stress occurs when the body is unable to get rid of excess body heat by its normal exhaust methods - either from sweat evaporation, or from increased blood circulation to the skin surface where body heat can escape through radiation.

May 1, 2009 426-064
Gardening and Your Health: Sunburn & Skin Cancer
Most people have suffered from at least one bad sunburn. The beginning of a sunburn is shown by hot, pink skin. Later comes swelling, burning pain, and possibly blistering. As the burn leaves, peeling inevitably appears. Peeling means that the skin is thickening up to protect itself from further sun damage. If burned skin continues to get exposed to sun, damage can't be repaired. Even if damage is not visible, skin cells mutate with each sun exposure. Over a lifetime these mutations may add up to cancer, a problem seen on gardeners who work unprotected in the sun. A severe sunburn is one of the biggest risk factors in getting a melanoma skin cancer.
May 1, 2009 426-063
Gardening and Your Health: Ticks

During early spring and summer, as the weather warms up and the garden springs back to life from its winter dormancy, many gardeners -- and ticks -- eagerly return to their outdoor activities. Gardeners should be aware of the risks and know how to protect themselves from becoming hosts to disease-carrying ticks.

May 1, 2009 426-066
Home Hydroponics

Hydroponics is often defined as "the cultivation of plants in water." Research has since determined that many different aggregates or media will support plant growth; therefore, the definition of hydroponics has been broadened to read "the cultivation of plants without soil."

May 1, 2009 426-084
Intensive Gardening Methods

The purpose of gardening intensively is to harvest the most produce possible from a given space. More traditional gardens consist of long, single rows of vegetables spaced widely apart. Much of the garden area is taken by the space between the rows. An intensive garden minimizes wasted space. The practice of intensive gardening is not just for those with limited garden space; rather, an intensive garden concentrates your work efforts to create an ideal plant environment, giving better yields.

May 1, 2009 426-335
Irrigating the Home Garden

Adequate soil moisture is essential for good crop growth. A healthy plant is 75 percent to 90 percent water. The plant needs that much water to carry out vital functions, including photosynthesis, support (rigidity), transpiration, and transportation of nutrients and sugars to various parts of the plant. During the first two weeks of growth, plants are becoming established and must have the proper amount of water to build their root systems. Too little water can stunt or even kill tender seedlings, while excessive moisture can prevent roots from moving out into the soil searching for water and nutrients. Without a sufficient root system, hot, dry weather can adversely affect vegetable plants as they mature. In areas prone to repeated drought, select drought-resistant varieties when buying seed or plants.

May 1, 2009 426-322
Mulches for the Home Vegetable Garden
Mulching is a practice adaptable to nearly all home gardens. To mulch is simply to cover the soil around plants with a protective material, organic or inorganic.

Using a mulch can help you and your garden in many ways. Mulches reduce weed growth by making conditions unfavorable for germination of weed seeds and by providing a physical barrier for emerging weeds. A good mulch layer can save many hours of laborious weeding. A thick layer of organic mulch material is especially effective in reducing the number of annual weeds in the garden, since they have difficulty penetrating such a layer. Some perennial weeds may also be suppressed in this way if they are small, but often dandelions or other taprooted weeds will eventually find their way through the mulch. These are easy to spot, and since the soil stays moist beneath the mulch, they are easy to pull. Rhizomatous grasses will often make their way through organic mulches as well, but often the rhizomes will be on or near the soil surface and will be easy to lift out. Black plastic and thick layers of newspaper are often better mulches for controlling perennial weeds.

May 1, 2009 426-326
Plant Propagation from Seed

Sexual propagation involves the union of the pollen (male) with the egg (female) to produce a seed. The seed is made up of three main parts: the outer seed coat, which protects the seed; a food reserve (e.g., the endosperm); and the embryo, which is the young plant itself. When a seed is mature and put in a favorable environment, it will germinate, or begin active growth. In the following section, seed germination and transplanting of seeds will be discussed.

May 1, 2009 426-001
Precision Farming Tools: Variable-Rate Application

There are a number of questions that must be answered before establishing a site-specific crop management (SSCM) program. Many of these questions are economic, some are agronomic and environmental, and others are technology-related. This publication is intended to discuss variable-rate devices that are available, while providing an understanding of which technologies might best fit a cropping system and production management strategy.

Aug 1, 2011 442-505
Propagation by Cuttings, Layering and Division

Asexual propagation is the best way to maintain some species, particularly an individual that best represents that species. Clones are groups of plants that are identical to their one parent and that can only be propagated asexually. The Bartlett pear (1770) and the Delicious apple (1870) are two examples of clones that have been asexually propagated for many years.

The major methods of asexual propagation are cuttings, layering, division, and budding/grafting. Cuttings involve rooting a severed piece of the parent plant; layering involves rooting a part of the parent and then severing it; and budding and grafting are joining two plant parts from different varieties.

May 1, 2009 426-002
Season Extenders

To get the most out of a garden, you can extend the growing season by sheltering plants from cold weather both in early spring and during the fall. Very ambitious gardeners harvest greens and other cool-weather crops all winter by providing the right conditions. There are many ways to lengthen the growing season, and your choice depends on the amount of time and money you want to invest.

May 1, 2009 426-381
Seed For The Garden

Choosing and purchasing vegetable seeds is one of the most enjoyable gardening pastimes. Thumbing through colorful catalogs and dreaming of the season¼s harvest is one way to make winter seem a little warmer. Seed purchased from a dependable seed company will provide a good start toward realizing that vision of bounty. Keep notes about the seeds you purchase - their germination qualities, vigor of plants, tendencies toward insects and disease, etc. From this information, you can determine whether one seed company is not meeting your needs, or whether the varieties you have chosen are unsuitable for your area or gardening style. For example, if powdery mildew is a big problem on squash family plants in your area, the next year, you may want to look for mildew-resistant varieties.

May 1, 2009 426-316
Soil Sample Information Sheet for Home Lawns, Gardens, Fruits, and Ornamentals Sep 9, 2013 452-125 (CSES-66NP)
Soil Sampling for the Home Gardener May 1, 2009 452-129
Tractor-Mounted Inclined Lifts Jan 8, 2013 BSE-60NP
Tractor-Mounted Lifts Jan 8, 2013 BSE-58NP
Tractor-Mounted Vertical Lifts Jan 8, 2013 BSE-59NP
Urban Water-Quality Management - Winterizing the Water Garden

Water gardens require maintenance throughout the year. Preparation for the winter months is especially important for the survival of both the aquatic plants and the wildlife in and around the pond. Some plants will not tolerate winter weather and must be removed from the pond while cold-hardy plants need only to be completely immersed in the pond. Debris such as leaves and dying plants must be removed, especially if there are fi sh in the pond. Fall is the time to take action. Prepare the pond for the winter months by managing the plants, cleaning the pond, and monitoring the water conditions. If treated properly, many aquatic plants and wildlife can survive in the water garden for years.

May 1, 2009 426-042