Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cordyline Plants


The cordyline plant is a showy specimen, known for its tropical or dessert appearance and variety of bright colors, of foliage rather than flowers. Much like a palm, the long leaves have spiky tips. This evergreen can be used both indoors and out.
One of the best for a garden in colder climes is cordyline australis. Oddly, it is not from Australia but New Zealand, although the plant is widely grown in Australia and all over the world.
Other varieties of the cordyline plant can be grown indoors in any region, and are a widely known house plant, especially the cordyline fruitcosa or Ti plant.
The Cordyline australis includes the cabbage tree, red star, red sensation, New Zealand cabbage palm, and dracaena australis.  It is often sold under the name dracaena, but that plant is actually from Africa and thrives predominately in warm climates.
The stiff looking cordyline australis is similar in appearance to a Yucca tree.  The fronds may be bronzy red, bronze and pink combination, green with pink middle, and purplish red. Small fragrant flowers bloom in late spring.
Although it can be 30 feet tall and 12 feet wide at full maturity, it makes a  good outdoor container plant if it is kept in a smallish pot to control size, and repotted every year. It is recommended for zones 5, 8 to 11, 14-24, and sections of Hawaii [1]  Cordilyne australis can take temperatures to 15-20 degrees.
Care and Feeding
Give the plant full sun and light to moderate watering.
Feed 0-0-50 potassium sulfate.  This helps to enhance color and overall development
Pest problems and solutions:  Mealy bugs, snails, fungus gnats, mites, thrips and scales are the most frequent problems for the cordyline, and occasionally white flies.  They come from contaminated soil or from adjacent weeds or other growth in which they reside.  If possible, prevention is the best approach, making sure the soil is free of pests, and treating the adjacent areas, preferable with eco-friendly alternatives. Here are some suggestions for specific problems.
  1. For snails, start with natural remedies such as a aluminum pie plates filled with beer—I believe they prefer Papist Blue Ribbon—placed around the plat, removing by hand, or use of a liquid snail killer squirted in a line around the periphery of the plant.
  2. For scale - pest oil.  Apply the oil to a cloth and wipe foliage, especially lower leaves
  3. For fungus- cut off affected area, spray with Yates rose gun
  4. For mealy bugs living in the base of the plant, spray base with a safer less toxic product such as Ortho’s green alternatives, Bullseye or Orange Guard. Spray additional to soak into soil. Picking off bugs is another earth friendly and effective alternative.  Try digging into surrounding soil without upsetting the roots, then removing the bug-infested soil and replacing with new potting mix.
The cordyline plant varieties are numerous, the australis being an easy one to begin with.  You can experiment with outdoor containers that need warmer temperatures, moving them indoors in winter if your region gets a preponderance of days below 45 degrees.  There are cordyline plant enthusiasts online that can provide specific information about requirements for each variety of the plant.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Date Palm Tree ( Phoenix Dactylifera)


The Date palm (scientific name Phoenix dactylifera), also known as the Medjool palm is a tall, beautiful and majestic tree that is known for its edible sweet fruits, the dates. The tree belongs to the Arecaceae family and the genus Phoenix. The Date palm produces true real dates. It is the second most known and most useful palm tree in the world after the Coconut palm tree.
The Phoenix Dactylifera is one of the world’s oldest trees. It has been grown for thousands of years in hot, dry, desert regions throughout the world. It is an important multi­purpose tree in the Middle East, Asia and North Africa. The Date palm tree is a holy symbol. It was historically mentioned in the Bible, the Koran and other religious books. Many cultures are based on this tree. It has been called “the tree of life”.  The real Date palm can provide all life necessities: food, medicine, shelter, fuel, building materials and  materials for weaving and basket making. It is a symbol of fertility and hospitality in many countries.
The date fruit is one of the most important sources of nutrition for people in the Middle East. It is considered to be a delicacy. The date is a good source of sugar, potassium, protein, fat and minerals. People in this area have eaten dates since ancient times.
Only a female tree can form dates. Usually it starts producing fruits after 5-8 years. Unripe fruits are green in color, when fully ripe they are reddish-brown. It takes about 7 months for dates to ripen. The delicious fruits are harvested from September to early December.
They may be eaten fresh or dried. The fruits can be stored for several years. The dates are also may be used as secondary products to make wine, syrup, vinegar, cakes and ice-cream.
The Date palms are also very popular as ornamental trees around the world. They thrive in desert, tropical and subtropical areas with heat and full sun. They can grow to a height of 80-100 feet and can live for more than 200 years. They have a beautiful thick canopy of bluish-green pinnate leaves.



Sago Palm Tree ( Cycas Revoluta)


The Cycas revoluta, commonly known as the Sago Palm is one of the oldest species of plants that exist. They appeared on the earth during the Paleozoic Era from 350 to 250 million years ago, before the flowering plants appeared. They were dominant plants in the Mesozoic Era and coexisted with dinosaurs. For this reason these plants are sometimes referred to as “living fossils”,  and the Mesozoic Era is referred to as the “Age of Cycads”.
Today the oldest types of plants are becoming increasingly endangered in the wild. However, they continue to exist on this planet.
The Sago palm is actually a cycad not really a palm tree. This ancient plant is a member of the Cycadaceae family. Because of its palm-like appearance people call it a palm tree.
The magnificent plant has a rough trunk and a crown of large pinnate, fern-like leaves. Most plants reach four to six feet in height. Some species can reach up to 20 feet in height.
The unique characteristic of the Cycas is its reproductive structures. The Sago palm is dioecious; it is either a male or female. Male sago palms  have a cone-shaped reproductive structure, and female sago palms have a globe-shaped structure.
The oldest survivors of our planet is extremely poisonous for humans and animals if digested. Sago palms can cause liver damage, especially if the nut portion is consumed. The palms are very attractive and palatable for pets, but they are deadly and can kill them within several hours of digestion. Please, keep these plants away from your pets  and children.
The Cycas revoluta is easy to care for. It is hardy to 15 degrees and can withstand short freeze. It is a very slow growing plant but very long-lived. The Sago palm tree is one of the longest living plants in the natural habitat. Typical life span ranges between hundreds to thousands of years.
This ancient group of plants are great for decorating. Today they are very popular landscaping components in tropical and subtropical regions. The “living fossils” are used widely for landscaping design and in horticulture.

Pygmy Palm ( Phoenix Roebelenii)


Phoenix Roebelenii (Pygmy Palm) is one of the most commonly used types of palm trees. It is a dwarf of Phoenix family. This type is related to the standart date trees, but they don’t produce real dates.
Gracefully in appearance, they are planted as ornamentals and create exotic and tropical atmosphere for any landscapes. The compact trees look very nice by poolsides, patios, shopping mallscapes, office entrances and entry ways.
Also the Pygmy Palm could be a perfect indoor container plant. They are very  adaptable plants for container growing. They remove all indoor air pollutants especially xylene.
These species can be planted in groups of three or more or as a singe specimen. When they grow in clumps, the trunks curve gracefully away from the center of the clump. In nature, they are usually single-trunked, in cultivation muliples are produced often.
Phoenix Roebelenii is native to Southeast Asia, where it grows in clearings or along riverbanks. Then they were imported in tropical regions around the world and other regions as an exotic indoor plant.
They produce small yellow inflorescence  and insignificant not-eatable, reddish-black, fleshy dates.
They are very graceful and miniature trees though they are very cold hardy, drought and salt water tolerant. They can survive the full force of hurricanes with no damage. Also they are tolerant of sun or shade and very long lived. The trees can adapt to the most soils. The trees can tolerate standing water, clay, loam or sandy soils that low in nutrients.
Their dwarf nature makes them grow very slow. Because of their small scale, easy to care and hardiness they are extremely popular.

Growing your own mint plant


If you often drink mint tea or use mint in your recipes, consider growing your own mint plants instead of always buying a plant or tea bag at the supermarket. There's really nothing difficult to it. Below I wrote a "mint growing"-guide explaining all the steps you need to follow.
The growing process itself advances quite quickly and it is a joy to watch your own mint plants grow in such a short time. However, it takes some time before you have a mint plant that is large enough to set tea with. Therefore it is good idea to grow several plants at a time and don't take leaves for your mint tea before your plants have grown large enough. Otherwise, you will quickly run out of mint leaves.
Here are the steps you need to follow in order to grow your own mint plant:
  1. Buy yourself a mint plant
    This may seem weird, but the best thing to start from is an already grown mint plant; this will be the mother plant for your home grown mint plants. You can buy one at your local grocery or supermarket. Take some time to pick a mint plant that has absolutelyno bugs or other little insects on it. This is very important, because these will ruin all your new plants.
    It would be a bad idea to try growing mint plants from seeds. I've read that this is very difficult and unless you are really dedicated I would not recommend trying it.
  2. Plant your mother plant in a larger pot
    Mint plants need a lot of light and water (click for a bigger picture)Where I live, mint plants are sold in tiny plastic pots. Mint however needs enough space to grow, so we are going to give our mother plant a new home. Choose a pot that is large enough. You can even take a really big pot that has enough room for your own mint plants that are soon to come. You will probably have to add some soil here.
    There are pots with and without a hole at the bottom. I prefer those with a hole: this allows the excess of water to flow away. In this case, make sure you put the pot on a small plate. Water that has flown away will be absorbed again when the plant needs it.
  3. Care for your mother plant: give it enough light and water
    Put the plant next to a window or in the garden. Mint can bare lots of sunlight, however some shadow will do too. In fact, mint is a plant that is very mild in the conditions it requires.
    Supply your mother mint plant with enough water: unlike other plants, mint needs a lot of water. You do not need to water it the whole day long; I do it only once a day or twice if necessary. Just make sure the soil is always humid.
    A dead mint plant probably hasn't received enough water or sunlight. You can recover such a plant by putting it in the sun and by adding enough water. Be gentle however: a dead mint plant cannot absorb as much water as a grown one.
  4. Cut off a sprig and put it in a glass of water
    The sprig you choose doesn't need to have a lot of leaves. Almost every sprig will do. When cutting a sprig, cut about a centimeter above a junction. This way new branches will grow just below that place.
    Put the sprig in a glass full of water. Do this for a few sprigs so you'll end up with more than one plant. You can put more than one sprig in the same glass.
  5. Wait, wait, wait
    Now it's time to wait for the roots to grow. After about a week, small white roots may appear under water. Wait longer, so the roots have a decent length.
    In the meantime continue treating the mother plant well by giving it enough water. Also add water to your glass when you need to.
  6. Plant your new plant in a pot
    Be sure to put your mint plant in a pot that is large enough! (click for a bigger picture)When the roots are long enough, take the sprig out of the water and plant it in another pot. I always take a new pot for each plant, but you can combine several plants into one large pot. You may have to curl up the roots to fit it in the pot.
    Treat this plant well (enough water and light) and finally you'll end up with a large plant. You can then take sprigs from this plant to grow other plants.
  7. Drink tea
    When taking sprigs to put in your tea, try taking sprigs with big leaves so smaller leaves get more light. Taking away sprigs from time to time will encourage the plant to keep growing.
  8. Don't forget to repot your plant each year
    This is something I forgot this summer. Because the roots continue to grow every day, they run out of place. You should take the plant out of its pot, divide the soil in four pieces and put each piece in a separate pot.
    If you don't, your plant won't get those big leaves anymore and eventually will die.

Yucca spp.


The yucca plant is a popular indoor and outdoor plant. One problem in caring for yucca plants that indoor owners have that outdoor owners generally do not is that indoor plants can grow too tall. They need to be trimmed back. Pruning a yucca may look harsh, but it is an excellent way to not only keep your yucca plant manageable but propagate the plant.

Yucca plants – care and pruning

With yucca plants, care and pruning are easy. When your yucca plant becomes too tall for the space it is in, gently remove it from the pot. Determine where the halfway mark is on the trunk or a point where you wish to be pruning a yucca that is above the halfway point. Using a saw or a sharp pair of loppers, cut the trunk in half.
Repot the bottom, rooted end of the trunk. Water well and then you are done with your pruning. While the plants are recovering, continue caring for the yucca plants as you normally would. In a short time, the plant will produce new leaves. It will recover to look as good as it did before, except that it will be much shorter and more appropriately sized.

Propagating a yucca plant

If you wish to produce more yucca plants, take the top half from pruning the yucca and use a marker on the trunk to indicate where the leaves are. After you have marked the trunk, cut off the leafy top. Plant the trunk in potting soil, making sure to have the end that previously had the leaves pointing up. Check the mark on the trunk if you have forgotten which end is which.
In a few weeks, the trunk will have rooted itself and a few weeks following this, the trunk will start producing new leaves. Continue caring for the yucca plants as they grow.

Best time for pruning a yucca

Like most plants, the best time for pruning a yucca is right before it goes into its growth period. This will be in early spring. While early spring is the ideal time, a yucca can be pruned anytime. Just make sure the yucca plant gets plenty of light while it is recovering.

Pruning Yucca Flower Stalks

Though not exactly pruning, many people wonder about cutting off the yucca’s flower stalk after the blooms have faded. The flower stalk can be pruned off at any time, even before it is done blooming. Simply cut the stalk off with a sharp pair of pruning shears or cutter at about 3″-4″ above where the stalk emerges from the main stem.
Like all things about yucca plants, care and pruning is very easy. It may seem drastic, but I assure you that your yucca plant considers this to be a very normal thing.





Chorisia speciosa

Description
Silk floss tree is an awkwardly branched 30-60 ft (9.1-18.3 m) tree with pale green leaves palmately divided into 5-7 pointed leaflets. The young trees start out growing fast, straight, and narrow, then slowly develop broadly spreading umbrella canopies as they age. The bulbous green trunk is covered with big blunt warty triangular spines and turns gray as the tree gets older. Silk floss trees typically drop their leaves just before they put on their spectacular autumn display of five-petaled flowers. The petals vary from pale pink to rose to purple or burgundy at the tips and grade into ivory with brownish spots or blotches at the base. The flowers are followed by pear shaped capsules filled with many seeds embedded in silky white floss. Chorisia taxonomy has not been refined and the flowers of this "species" are extremely variable, so there is a good chance that several different species and/or hybrids thereof are lumped under the name C. speciosa.



Location
Silk floss tree is native to Brazil and Argentina, but it is cultivated in many tropical areas.
Culture
Mulch the root zone. This tree does not do well in competition with lawn grasses.
Light: Full sun.
Moisture: Silk floss tree requires well-drained soil. It blooms best when it is watered regularly most of the time, but kept a bit on the dry side in late summer.
Propagation:
 This tree rarely sets seed in cultivation outside the tropics and is reputedly difficult to propagate. Some success can be obtained by rooting semi-ripe tip cuttings taken during a period of rapid shoot growth in a closed container with bottom heat.

Usage
Silk floss tree is cultivated as a flowering specimen tree. The seedpod silk has been used to stuff cushions.
Features
This is a great exotic looking tree for quickly creating tropical effects. It can grow 3-5 ft (0.9-1.5 m) per year when young and never fails to attract comments with its spiny green trunk and beautiful flowers that cover a bare tree.










Magnolia Tree


Magnificent flowering plants featuring blossoms in white, pink, red, purple, or yellow. Magnolia trees are diverse in leaf shape and plant form, and they include both evergreen and deciduous sorts. They aren’t usually munched by deer.
The following text classifies magnolias by general type; the chart lists species, hybrids, and selections alphabetically. New magnolias seem to appear almost hourly, but most garden centers carry only a few. To track down a prized selection, you’ll probably need to hunt through mail-order catalogs.
Magnolia Tree Types
Whether evergreen or deciduous, most magnolias have large, striking blossoms composed of petal-like segments. A few are grown for use as foliage plants.
Evergreen magnolias. To many people, the word “magnolia” is synonymous with our native Magnolia grandiflora, the classic Southern magnolia with large, glossy leaves and huge, fragrant white blossoms―the state flower of Mississippi and Louisiana. Few trees can match it for year-round beauty. It does, however, have its drawbacks. Unnamed seedlings often take 10 years after planting before they come into bloom. Dense shade and shallow roots make it impossible to grow grass beneath the canopy, and the roots often crack and lift pavement if the tree is planted between sidewalk and curb. Leaves drop 365 days a year. And since the tree grows as wide as 40 ft., it takes up a lot of garden space.
Sweet bay (M. virginiana), a smaller tree, is easier to fit into most gardens. Though mostly deciduous in the Upper and Middle South, it’s evergreen in the Lower and Coastal South and more cold hardy than
M. grandiflora.
Deciduous magnolias with saucer flowers. This group includes the popular saucer magnolia (M. x soulangeana) and its myriad selections, often called tulip trees because of the shape and bright color of their flowers. They prefer fertile, acid, well-drained soil. They do not tolerate heavy wind or salt spray. Early-flowering selections are prone to frost damage. Related to these, but less tolerant of winter cold and summer heat, are the spectacular magnolias from western China and the Himalayas―Sargent magnolia (M. sargentiana) and Sprenger magnolia (M. sprengeri). Though their early flowers may fall victim to late freezes, one spring season with good blooms will quickly make you forget the disappointments of years past.
Deciduous magnolias with star flowers. This group includes Kobus magnolia (M. kobus), Loebner magnolia(M. x loebneri), and star magnolia (M. stellata). All are cold-hardy, heat-tolerant, adaptable plants. Late frosts sometimes damage their early blooms.
Other magnolias. Less widely planted―but deserving of greater attention―is a group of large-leafed native magnolias generally grown as bold accents or shade trees. Cucumber tree (M. acuminata) and its smaller sibling, yellow cucumber tree (M. a. subcordata), are the source of the yellow blossom color of many new hybrids. Bigleaf magnolia (M. macrophylla), umbrella magnolia (M. tripetala), Fraser magnolia (M. fraseri), and Ashe magnolia (M. ashei) are medium-size trees with huge leaves and large flowers that appear after the leaves unfurl.
In its own category is Oyama magnolia (M. sieboldii), native to western China. It bears drooping, cup-shaped, fragrant blooms after leaves emerge.
Magnolia Tree Culture
For any magnolia, pick planting site carefully. Virtually all types are hard to move once established, and many grow quite large. The best soil for magnolias is fairly rich, well drained, and neutral to slightly acid; if necessary, add generous amounts of organic matter when planting. Southern magnolia (M. grandiflora) is good for planting at the beach, though not on dunes. Sweet bay (M. virginiana) tolerates wet soil. The species and selections listed in the chart are adapted to a wide range of growing conditions and are easy for most gardeners to grow.
Magnolias never look their best when crowded, and they may be severely damaged by digging around their roots. Larger deciduous sorts are most attractive standing alone against a background that will display their flowers at bloom time and show off their strongly patterned, usually gray limbs and big, fuzzy flower buds in winter. Small deciduous magnolias show up well in large flower or shrub borders and make choice ornaments in Asian-style gardens. Most magnolias are excellent lawn trees; try to provide a good-size grass-free area around the trunk, and don’t plant under the tree.
Balled-and-burlapped plants are available in late winter and early spring; container plants are sold all year. Do not set plants lower than their original soil level. Stake single-trunked or very heavy plants to prevent them from being rocked by wind, which will tear the thick, fleshy, sensitive roots. To avoid damaging the roots, set stakes in planting hole before placing tree. Prevent soil compaction around root zone by keeping foot traffic to a minimum. Prune only when absolutely necessary. Magnolias seldom have serious pest or disease problems





Monday, June 27, 2011

How to Grow Pansy or Pansies


Pansies are one of the earliest flowering plants, blooming right alongside your spring bulbs. These members of the violet family herald in the new garden season with a wide variety of bright, brilliant colors. They include almost all colors of the rainbow including black, and many bi-colors. There are so many combinations of these profuse bloomers that we don't' think any two are alike!
Pansies are popular, easy, and fun to grow. Fill an area or entire bed with Pansies for a striking spring effect! They also are great in windowsills and containers.

Propagation:
Pansy are grown from seeds. Pansy plants like full to partial sun. Pansies can be directly seeded into your flower garden or seeded indoors for transplanting later. For spring blooms, you need to start your Pansies in pots and containers indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost.
Sow  Pansy seeds early in the season and cover lightly with 1/8" soil. Water thoroughly once. They germinate slowly.
Note: We highly recommend a heated germination mat, to increase  the speed of germination, and for a higher germination rate.
Transplant Pansy into your garden after the last frost date for your area. Space them 6" apart. They will tolerate a little crowding. If you are creating a flower bed, you may want to create a pattern or color scheme prior to planting. Or, use mixed varieties.

How to Grow Pansies:
Pansies prefer cool to warm climates, and wilt a bit in mid-summer heat.  In warmer areas, we recommend partial shade. Pansy plants tolerate a variety of soils. Add a general purpose fertilizer when planting them, then once a month after that.
Once your Pansies are established, they should grow well, even if left unattended. Soil should be moist, but not wet. Water them during dry periods, once or twice per week. Keep them well weeded.
Remove spent blooms to promote additional blooms and extend the blooming period. This will also keep the appearance neat and beautiful. Also see deadheading blooms.
Pansy are hardy annuals. They will often survive the first frost if it is light. They will not survive a hard frost or freeze.

Insect and Disease:
Pansies seldom have problems with insects and disease. If insect or disease problems occur, treat early with organic or chemical insect repellents and fungicide.



lawn mowers


A lawn mower is a machine that uses a revolving blade or blades to cut a lawn at an even length.
A lawn mower is a machine that uses a revolving blade or blades to cut a lawn at an even length.

Lawn mowers employing a blade that rotates about a vertical axis are known as rotary mowers, while those employing a blade assembly that rotates about a horizontal axis are known as cylinder or reel mowers.
Many different designs have been made, each suited to a particular purpose. The smallest types, pushed by a human, are suitable for small residential lawns and gardens, while larger, self-contained, ride-on mowers are suitable for large lawns, and the largest, multi-gang mowers pulled behind a tractor, are designed for large expanses of grass such as golf courses and municipal

Cylinder mowers
The first lawn mower was invented by Edwin Budding in 1827 in Thrupp, just outside Stroud, in Gloucestershire. Budding's mower was designed primarily to cut the lawn on sports grounds and expensive gardens, as a superior alternative to the scythe, and was patented in 1830. It took ten more years and further innovations to create a machine that could be worked by animals, and sixty years before a steam-powered lawn mower was built. In an agreement between John Ferrabee and Edwin Budding dated May 18, 1830, Ferrabee paid the costs of development, obtained letters of patent and acquired rights to manufacture, sell and license other manufacturers in the production of lawn mowers.

Thomas Green produced the first chain-driven mower in 1859. Manufacture of lawn mowers began in the 1860s. By 1862, Farrabee's company was making eight models in various roller sizes. He manufactured over 5000 machines until production ceased in 1863. In 1870, Elwood McGuire of Richmond, Indiana designed a human-pushed lawn mower, which was very lightweight and a commercial success. John Burr, an African American, patented an improved rotary-blade lawn mower in 1899, with the wheel placement altered for better performance. Amariah Hills went on to found the Archimedean Lawn Mower Co. in 1871. Around 1900, one of the best known English machines was the Ransomes' Automaton, available in chain- or gear-driven models. JP Engineering of Leicester, founded after World War I, produced a range of very popular chain driven mowers. About this time, an operator could ride behind animals that pulled the large machines. These were the first riding mowers.
The rise in popularity of lawn sports helped prompt the spread of the invention. Lawn mowers became a more efficient alternative to the scytheand domesticated grazing animals. James Sumner of Lancashire patented the first steam-powered lawn mower in 1893. His machine burned petrol and/or paraffin (kerosene) as fuel. After numerous advances, the machines were sold by the Stott Fertilizer and Insecticide Company ofManchester and, later, Sumner took over sales. The company they controlled was called the Leyland Steam Motor Company. Numerous manufacturers entered the field with petrol (gasoline)-driven mowers after the turn of the century. The first grass boxes were flat trays but took their present shape in the 1860s. The roller-drive lawn mower has changed very little since around 1930. Gang mowers, those with multiple sets of blades, were built in the United States in 1919 by a Mister Worthington. His company was taken over by the Jacobsen Corporation, but his name is still cast on the frames of their gang units.


Rotary mowers

Rotary mowers were not developed until engines were small enough and powerful enough to run the blades at a high speed. Many people experimented with rotary blades in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and Power Specialties Ltd. introduced a gasoline-powered rotary mower. One company that produced rotary mowers commercially was the Victa company, starting in 1952: these mowers were lighter and easier to use than the mowers that came before.

Types of lawn mowers

By rotation

Cylinder (UK) or Reel (US) mowers


The cylinder mower carries a fixed, horizontal cutting blade at the desired height of cut. Over this is a fast-spinning reel of blades which force the grass past the cutting bar. Each blade in the blade cylinder forms a helix around the reel axis, and the set of spinning blades describes a cylinder.
Of all the mowers, a properly adjusted cylinder mower makes the cleanest cut of the grass, and this allows the grass to heal more quickly. The cutting action is often likened to that of scissors; however, it is not necessary for the blades of the spinning cylinder to contact the horizontal cutting bar. If the gap between the blades is less than the thickness of the grass, a clean cut can still be made.
There are many variants of the cylinder mower. Push mowers (illustrated) have no motor and are used on small lawns. As the mower is pushed along, the wheels drive gears which rapidly spin the reel. Typical cutting widths are 12 to 20 inches (510 mm).
The basic push mower mechanism is also used in gangs towed behind a tractor. The individual mowers are arranged in a vee behind the tractor with each mower's track slightly overlapping that of the mower in front of it. Gang mowers are used over large areas of turf such as sports fields or parks.
A gasoline engine or electric motor can be added to a reel mower to power the reel, the wheels, or both. A typical arrangement for residential lawns has the motor spinning the reel while the operator pushes the mower along. The electric models can be corded or cordless. Some variants have only 3 blades in a reel spinning at great speed, and these models can cut grass which has grown too long for ordinary push mowers. One type of reel mower, now largely obsolete, was a powered version of the traditional side wheel push mower and was used on residential lawns. An internal combustion engine sat atop the reel housing and drove the wheels, usually though a belt. The wheels in turn drove the reel, as in the push mower.
Greens (roller) mowers are used for the precision cutting of golf greens. The reel is followed by a large roller which smooths the freshly cut lawn and minimizes wheel marks. Due to the weight, the engine also propels the mower. Much smaller and lighter variants of the roller mower are sometimes used for small patches of ornamental lawns around flower beds, and these have no engine.
Riding reel mowers are also produced. Typically, the cutting reels are ahead of the vehicle's main wheels, so that the grass can be cut before the wheels push the grass over onto the ground. The reels are often hydraulically powered.

Rotary mowers

A rotary mower rotates about a vertical axis.
By energy source

Gasoline (petrol)

Most rotary push mowers are powered by internal combustion engines. Such engines can be either two-stroke or four-stroke cycle engines, running on gasoline (petrol) or other liquid fuels. Internal combustion engines used with lawn mowers normally have only one cylinder. Power generally ranges from two to seven horsepower (1.5 to 6.75 kW). The engines are usually carbureted and require a manual pull crank to start them, although electric starting is offered on some models. Some mowers have a throttle control on the handlebar with which the operator can adjust the engine speed. Other mowers have a fixed, pre-set engine speed. Gasoline mowers have the advantages over electric mowers of greater power and distance range. However, they create substantial pollution and their engines require periodic maintenance such as cleaning or replacement of the spark plug and air filter.

Electric

Electric mowers are further subdivided into corded and cordless electric models. Both are relatively quiet, typically producing less than 75 decibels, while a gasoline lawn mower can be as loud as 95 decibels or more.This kind of mower can also be safer to operate as they come equipped with a dead man's switch to immediately stop the motor when it is not being operated.
Corded electric
Corded electric mowers are limited in range by their trailing power cord, which may limit their use with lawns extending outward more than 100-150 feet from the nearest available power outlet. There is the additional hazard with these machines of accidentally mowing over the power cable, which stops the mower and may put users at risk of receiving a dangerous electric shock. Installing a residual-current device (GFCI) on the outlet may reduce the shock risk. On the United States market as of summer 2008, a corded electric mower from a respectable manufacturer costs about the same as an entry-level internal-combustion mower ($150–200), with significantly higher reliability, significantly lower cost of ownership, and a significantly reduced carbon footprint.
Cordless electric
Cordless electric mowers are powered by a variable number (typically 1-4) of 12 volt rechargeable batteries. Typically more batteries mean more run time and/or power. Batteries can be in the interior of the lawn mower or on the outside. If on the outside the drained batteries can be replaced with recharged batteries. Cordless mowers have the maneuverability of a gasoline powered mower and the environmental friendliness of a corded electric but are more expensive and come in fewer models (particularly self-propelling) than either.

Other Notable Types

Hover mowers are powered rotary push lawn mowers that use a turbine above the spinning blades to drive air downwards, thereby creating an air cushion that lifts the mower above the ground. The operator can then easily move the mower as it floats over the grass. Hover mowers are necessarily light in order to achieve the air cushion and typically have plastic bodies with an electric motor. The most significant downside, however, is the cumbersome usability in rough terrain or on the edges of lawns, as the lifting air-cushion is destroyed by wide gaps between the chassis and the ground.
A robotic mower is contained by a border wire around the lawn that defines the area to be mowed. The robot uses this wire to locate the boundary of the area to be trimmed and in some cases to locate a recharging dock. Robotic mowers are capable of maintaining up to 5 acres (20,000 m2) of grass. Robotic lawn mowers are increasingly sophisticated, are usually self-docking and contain rain sensors, nearly eliminating human interaction for mowing grass. Multiple robotic mowers can be used to mow an even larger area.
Riding mowers (U.S.) or ride-on mowers (U.K.) are a popular alternative for large lawns. The operator is provided with a seat and controls on the mower and literally 'rides' on the machine. Most use the horizontal rotating blade system, though usually with multiple blades.
A common form of ride-on mower is the lawn tractor. These are usually designed to resemble a small agricultural tractor, with the cutting deck mounted amidships between the front and rear axles.
The drives for these mowers are in several categories. The most common transmission for tractors is a manual transmission. The second most common transmission type is a form of continuously variable transmission called the hydrostatic transmission. These transmissions take several forms, from pumps driving separate motors, which may incorporate a gear reduction, to fully integrated units containing a pump, motor and gear reduction. Hydrostatic transmissions are more expensive than mechanical transmissions but they are easier to use and can transmit greater torque to the wheels as compared to a typical mechanical transmission. The least common drive type, and the most expensive, is electric.
There have been a number of attempts to replace hydrostatic transmissions with a lower cost alternative, but these attempts, which include variable belt types (e.g., MTD's Auto Drive) and toroidal, have various performance or perception problems that has caused their market life to be short or their market penetration to be limited.
Riding lawnmowers can often mount other devices such as rototillers/rotavators, snowplows, snowblowers, yard vacuums, occasionally even front buckets or fork-lift tines.
The deck of a rotary mower is typically made of steel. Lighter steel is used on less expensive models, and heavier steel on more expensive models for durability. Other deck materials include aluminum, which does not rust and is a staple of higher priced mowers, and hard composite plastic, which does not rust and is lighter and less expensive than aluminum. Electric mowers typically have a plastic deck.
Riding mowers typically have an opening in the side or rear of the housing where the cut grass is expelled. Some have a grass catcher attachment at the opening to bag the grass clippings. Special mulching blades are available for rotary mowers. The blade is designed to keep the clippings circulating underneath the mower until the clippings are chopped quite small. Other designs have twin blades to mulch the clippings to small pieces. This function has the advantages of forgoing the additional work collecting and disposing grass clippings while reducing lawn waste in such a way that also creates convenient compost for the lawn, forgoing the expense of fertilizer.
Mower manufacturers market their mowers as side discharge, 2-in-1, meaning bagging and mulching or side discharging and mulching, and 3-in-1, meaning bagging, mulching, and side discharge. Most 2-in-1 bagging and mulching mowers require a separate attachment to discharge grass onto the lawn. Some side discharge mower manufacturers also sell separate "mulching plates" that will cover the opening on the side discharge mower and, in combination with the proper blades, will convert the mower to a mulching mower. These conversions are impractical when compared with 2- or 3-in-1 mowers which can be converted in the field in seconds. There are two types of bagging mowers. A rear bag mower features an opening on the back of the mower through which the grass is expelled into the bag. Hi-vac mowers have a tunnel that extends from the side discharge to the bag. Hi-vac is also the type of grass collection used on riding lawn mowers and lawn tractors and is considered more efficient. Mulching and bagging mowers are not well suited to long grass or thick weeds.
Rotary mowers with internal combustion engines come in three price ranges. Low priced mowers use older technology, smaller motors, and lighter steel decks. These mowers are targeted at the residential market and typically price is the most important selling point. These mowers are sold through large discount and home improvement stores, range between $100–400 on the US market, and have a typical service life of 7–10 years. Higher priced mowers are also primarily targeted at residential customers. These mowers have more features and often have heavier steel, composite plastic or aluminum decks. Most of these mowers are sold through independent dealers who also service the equipment and cost between $200 and $1000. These mowers will last as long as twenty years given regular maintenance. Commercial grade mowers are the most expensive rotary mowers. They are "targeted" at grounds maintenance companies and other professionals, but are commonly sold to home owners as well. These mowers feature the latest technology and include features such as disk drive, oil filters, and very heavy steel and, more often, aluminum decks. These mowers are sold through independent dealers who service the product and, with regular maintenance, they have a service life far beyond twenty years. A commercial grade mower typically costs from $4,000 to as much as $90,000.
Professional grass-cutting equipment (used by large establishments such as universities, sports stadiums and local authorities) usually take the form of much larger, dedicated, ride-on platforms or attachments that can be mounted on, or behind, a standard tractor unit (a "gang-mower"). Either type may use rotating-blade or cylindrical-blade type cutters, although high-quality mowed surfaces demand the latter. Wide-area mowers (WAMs) are commercial grade mowers which have decks extended to either side, many to 12 feet (3.7 m). These extensions can be lowered for large area mowing or raised to decrease the mower's width and allow for easy transport on city roads or trailers.

Topdressing the lawn


Topdressing the lawn is the process of adding a fine layer of ‘home mixed quality soil’ to the lawn surface. Top dressing benefits the lawn as it builds up the quality of the soil over a period of time, - sandy soils will be able to retain moisture better and so the lawn will be more resistant to drought, clay soils will drain better thus improving root development. Another benefit of top dressing the lawn is that it will help to even out any lumps and bumps that are present on an uneven lawn, filling in any small hollows that may develop. Top dressing also stimulates the grass to produce new shoots and so results in denser grass cover which helps combat the onset of weed and moss infestation.
Top dressing is carried out routinely by professional greenkeepers to ensure a top quality finish. If you want a really top quality lawn that can meet professional standards then you should top dress your lawn annually.

What topdressing mixture should I use?

First you need to make your topdressing by combining a mixture of loam, sand and peat. The proportions of these 3 ingredients will vary depending on your type of soil but for a loamy soil type then the following is a good guide: 3 parts sand to 3 parts loam to 1 part peat. The top dressing ingredients should be reasonably dry before you start mixing them to ensure that they are mixed as well as can be expected.
Try and use a good peat rather than garden compost as garden compost can contain weed seeds that will germinate in the lawn. Your sand should be lime free and so sea sand is not suitable.
For heavy clay soils you can increase the amount of sand and reduce the amount of loam.
For sandy soils you can reduce the amount of sand.
The topdressing mixture should be very fine so that it can penetrate the grass surface and reach the existing soil. Because of this you may want to run your mixture through a soil sieve (1/4” holes) before applying the topdressing.

How do I topdress the lawn?

The key to applying the top dressing is to make sure that you get an even spread of the top dressing over the area and to make sure that the top dressing does not remain ‘on top’ of the grass. The top dressing should penetrate down to soil level.
Before you begin you may find that on heavy / compacted soils aerating the lawn a few days before will help your top dressing application.
When your top dressing mixture has been evenly mixed you can start to apply it to the lawn by using a spade to deposit the mixture onto the lawn surface. A general guide is around 1.5-2 kg (3-4 lb) of top dressing mixture per square metre. This figure can be increased for lawns with a more uneven surface.
You then spread the top dressing over the required area using a flat surface such as the back side of a rake or a tool called a lute that is made especially for this purpose. You can make your own lute using a 5 foot long plank of wood. As well as spreading the top dressing over the desired area this action also works the top dressing down into the turfs soil surface. Make sure that the spreading action leaves no bumps on the surface and fills all the hollows in.
Do not leave top dressing lying on the surface of the lawn. If there is excess top dressing left on the grass surface after spreading then remove it

When should I topdress the lawn?

You should topdress the lawn in autumn. Lawns which are based on poor soil will benefit from top dressing the soil each year. Lawns based on good quality soil should not need top dressing every year although if you want a really top class lawn then you may wish to do so.
If you are scarifying the lawn in autumn (September is a good month for this) then you should do this BEFORE you top dress the lawn. Otherwise the thatch (layer of dead grass) will be mixed in with the top dressing and you will lose some top dressing and/or prevent the thatch from being effectively removed.

How to build a Cactus Garden


Cacti are some of nature's most beautiful and exotic plants. Most cacti are native to the desert and arid regions, but most species can grow anywhere with a little accommodation. A cactus garden can liven up your yard and give your home an original look.
PLANNING YOUR GARDEN:
The first step in making a cactus garden is, of course, to plan it out. Scout out a location in your yard for your garden. The optimal place for a cactus garden is on hill, because this allows the garden bed to easily drain. You can still make a cactus garden if your yard is flat, you will
just have to do more digging.
When you decide where you want your cactus garden, decide what size and shape you want. Use your imagination and be creative; you can have a circle, square, rectangle, semicircle, triangle, whatever you desire. Then mark the border of the garden onto the ground before you begin, this
will make the digging much easier.
DIGGING, THE DIRTY PART:
Now for the digging. If your garden is going to be on a hill, you have it pretty easy. You need to level out the ground where your garden is going to be, digging into the hill on the upper end of your garden. You will also need to dig a few inches of earth up over the entire base of the garden to remove all the grass and weeds that would harm the cacti. The area does not have to be perfectly level, you just don’t want any big bumps that will make your garden uneven or any foliage that will prevent proper drainage and cause your cacti to rot.
If you don’t have a suitable hill to place your cactus garden on, choose any spot and decide the shape and size of your garden. After marking the borders of the garden onto the ground, dig out 6"-12" of earth.
GATHERING THE MATERIALS FOR THE GARDEN:
Now that you have finished digging, you are ready to begin constructing your garden. First you will need to get outdoor tile blocks or stones to build a wall around your garden. Although the tile blocks come in a variety of styles and are very beautiful, they are also very expensive.
If you are willing to foot the expense, these tile blocks can be purchased at garden centers and home improvement stores. Rocks work just as well and also look beautiful and more natural and are much less expensive. I suggest using rocks, which you can buy or find yourself.
You will also need a strip of plastic equal to the length of the border of your garden. Any plastic will do (it will not be seen), such as an old tarp. The plastic is optional, but it eliminates weeds and it will save you a lot of time and backaches.
Cactus soil is also another necessity. You will need enough to fill your garden to the top of the wall. You will have to wait until after construction of your garden to see how much soil you will need. You can purchase cactus soil at your local gardening center or home improvement store. If you cannot find any cactus soil, you can make your own by
Thoroughly mixing two parts potting soil, two parts sand and one part gravel.
CONSTRUCTING YOUR GARDEN:
The first step in building your garden is to cover the edge of the grass with the strip of plastic. This will help prevent weeds from spreading into the garden bed. Next, stack your rocks or tile blocks along the edge of the garden. How high you decide to make the wall is up to you, but 12” works well. After building the wall, you should fill your garden with the cactus soil.
PLANTING YOUR CACTI:
Now comes the fun part, planting your cacti. Choose plants that will do well in your area. You should be able to get this information wherever you buy your cacti. If you live in an area where the temperatures fall below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, there is an easy way for you to still have a
cactus garden. Plant the cacti, pot and all, in the ground. Then when wintertime rolls around, you can simply lift your plants out of the ground and bring them inside to wait until spring.
When planting your cacti, be creative in your design. You can plant the cacti in a pattern or randomly, however you choose. After you have finishing planting your cacti, your garden is complete.
MAINTENANCE:
Your cacti garden will need very little maintenance. No watering or irrigation is needed, the rainfall will be enough. Feeding your cacti with 10-10-10 fertilizer once a year in the spring is the only thing you will need to do.