10 Ways to Conquer Your Fear of Gardening

You might not believe it, but you were born with a green thumb. It may have gone untended for a while, but it's there waiting for you to nudge it awake. Put away your theory of being a plant killer, that anything dies under your care. Forget those nagging thoughts of where your garden will live or when you'll find the time, it's there somewhere. It doesn't have to cost a fortune and you'll get more than you give. So, here are 10 tips for conquering your fear of gardening:

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Gardening Tips for Renters

Want to bring more green to your house or apartment? Using a few easy, inexpensive techniques, <a href="http://www.thehorticult.com/">The Horticult</a> shows how you can garden like you own the place -- without risking your security deposit. You don't have to own your home to create a garden that reflects your personal style. Grow your favorite plants and create an inspired landscape -- or patio, interior, or balcony -- using these fun, low-commitment methods. (Although you might want to check with your landlord about the larger projects!) And if you move, you can take it all with you. These 10 tips for renters will give your garden a new lease on life.

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Summer Checklist

Summer is a gardener¿s busiest season. If you¿re short on time or not sure what to do, follow this easy summer gardening checklist to keep your lawn and garden in great shape all season long.

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Drought-Tolerant Grasses

Drought! The word itself strikes fear into the hearts of gardeners everywhere. Scarce water resources, especially in hard hit areas such as California and Texas, are making it almost impossible to maintain traditional style lawns. That's why many people are replacing their lawns with groundcovers and native plants. But for those who want a lush green lawn, here are some less-thirsty options.

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How to Improve Garden Soil

Many homeowners inherit bad garden soil ¿ but you don¿t have to live with it! Learn how to get the best garden soil possible through amendments, composting, and more.

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Top Shade Perennials

Shade plants are perfect for those tough spots in your yard. Learn about the best shade-loving perennials, including flowering shade perennials, partial shade perennials, and full-shade perennials.

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Landscape Ideas

Landscape ideas provide inspiration, and studies show that upgrading your landscape will add value to your home. Here are some great landscape ideas to improve your home's outward appeal.

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The Best Mulches

The best mulch can make all the difference in your yard. With so many types of mulch available, it can be difficult to choose. From cocoa mulch to pine needle mulch, we cover the mulch basics to help you select which one will work best in your landscape.

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    • Why Mulch

      Spreading mulch over your garden soil is the best way to save time and energy in your yard. Mulch helps the soil hold moisture so you don't have to water as often. It also suppresses weeds. And over time, mulches made from organic materials break down and increase your soil's structure and fertility.

    • Shredded Bark

      Shredded bark is one of the most common and least expensive types of mulch. It comes from a variety of sources, including cedar trees. Shredded bark is one of the best mulch types to use on slopes and it breaks down relatively slowly. Some shredded-bark products are byproducts from other industries; they're considered environmentally friendly. Check the mulch packaging for more information.

      Mulch tip: Shredded bark can take up some nitrogen from the soil as it decomposes. If you have poor soil, adding some organic fertilizer to the soil can help keep your plants healthy.

    • Leaves

      Save money by shredding fallen leaves in your yard and using them to as mulch to cover the soil. Fallen leaves break down quickly (often in less than a year), but should be shredded before use to prevent them from matting down. Fallen leaves are commonly used as mulch in winter.

    • Grass Clippings

      Another type of mulch you can make for free, grass clippings break down fast but add nitrogen to the soil as they do. It's best to use grass clippings in thin layers or to let the grass dry before spreading it as a mulch -- otherwise it starts to stink and rot as it decomposes.

      Here's a hint: Avoid using grass clippings if your lawn is chemically treated, especially if you use it in vegetable gardens. The chemicals may harm your desirable garden plants.

    • Straw

      Straw mulch has a beautiful golden color that looks great in the garden. It's also a bit slower to break down than leaves or grass clippings.

      Mulch tip: Make sure the straw is free of weed seeds, otherwise it can cause more weeds than it prevents. (Oat straw is often particularly weedy.)

    • How to Pick the Right Mulch

      Take the mystery out of mulch and learn how to select the right one for your landscape.

    • Compost

      Compost looks like soil, except it's darker, so it really sets off plants well. This mulch material breaks down quickly but adds to your soil structure the fastest. Plus, it's inexpensive; you can create your own rich compost for free. Many municipalities give away compost, as well.

    • Pine Needle Mulch

      Pine needles add a delicate, fine texture to plantings. They hold in place well, making them useful on slopes, and they're relatively slow to break down. If you continuously use pine needles as mulch, they may increase the acidity of your soil. This makes them ideal for use with acid-loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, blueberries, and some types of conifers.

    • Pine Bark Nuggets

      Pine bark nuggets are slower to break down than shredded bark, but they don't stay in place as well. They're not a good mulch choice for slopes or other areas where they may be washed away by heavy rain. Pine bark nuggets are available in a variety of sizes; the bigger the nugget, the longer it lasts.

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      Wood Chips

      You can often get wood chips for free from local tree trimmers, though the trimmers will usually ask you to haul the chips yourself. Wood chips, especially when they're freshly made, can take up a fair amount of nitrogen from the soil. They can be acidic and lower your soil's pH, as well.

      Mulch tip: If you get wood chips from a local source, check if the tree had poison ivy on it. Working with wood chips that contain poison ivy can cause skin irritation. Also: Wood chips from walnut trees may contain natural chemicals that inhibit the growth of many garden plants.

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      Cocoa Hull Mulch

      Cocoa hull mulch is one of the most beautiful types of mulch, thanks to its fine texture and rich color. And many gardeners appreciate its delightful chocolate fragrance. Cocoa hull mulch is one of the most expensive mulch types, though. It decomposes slowly, and unlike most mulch types, it doesn't fade with time. It's a great mulch for small-leafed plants such as herbs where the shells are easy to work around. In areas with hot, humid weather, mold may grow on its surface. Cocoa hull mulch is poisonous to dogs and cats if they eat it.

      Here's a hint: Because cocoa hulls are light, they can blow away unless you spray them down well with water after you first spread them.

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      Gravel or River Rock

      Because they're inorganic materials, gravel and river rock don't break down in the landscape, so they don't need to be reapplied every year. However, it also means they don't improve your soil over time.

      Here's a hint: It can be very difficult to remove gravel or river rock mulch if you ever change your mind. They can make it more difficult to plant in or divide perennials.

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