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This may be a little late but still useful as there’s still time to sow seeds. Every year I encounter a big problem when I sow seeds: the birds eat my seedlings. It’s annoying as planting seeds is the hardest part of gardening, it takes the longest time. The only way that works for me is the physical barrier of some sorts. I tried sticking sticks into the ground around the seedlings before but the bigger birds would push these away. This year I’m using three types of protection: the shading net, the bird netting, and bottles. Yes, plastic bottles.  How do you protect your garden from birds?







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Hello my fellow gardeners,
Today  I’d like to briefly talk to you about soil and how do we create the perfect soil mix. This is one of the questions I receive most often. I grew up in Russia, as some of you may know already. We lived in a part of Russia where soil is called “chernozem”. It is a kind of soil with black color and contains high percentage of humus. It is very fertile and is sometimes called black gold. I grew up thinking that all soils around the world are black and when I took up gardening I had no idea that things can be otherwise. You can imagine my surprise when I found out that there are many different types of soils around the world. Turns out not only the color of soils differ but the composition too. I won’t go into details about soil composition and types of soils in this post, will leave it for later.. Soils can be of three major types: sand, clay and silt. Different combination of these make the soils around the world. In this part of the world we have sand. Like pure sand mostly. This is a tricky soil to work with but it has its advantages too. Our soil here has almost nil nutrients,  is too alkaline (high pH, will discuss it some time later) in most parts, is often salty which prevents water absorption, dries out too fast and doesn’t hold whatever nutrients we add to it. It’s main advantage is that it’s easy to work with.
You may wonder why I don’t use potting soil from the market. Well, there are many many choices. Some appear and then disappear. Some contain things I don’t want in my garden, like chemical fertilizers. Some are not very suited for our climate. Some are simply incomplete to serve as a good potting mix. That’s why reading labels is important. I still use some of these soils from the market, but I add things to it to create that perfect mix. If you saw my video about how to make a potting soil mix, you’d know that to create a perfect soil mix we need to consider the basic elements that make for good soil. These are:


  • water and nutrient retention
  • air and good drainage
  • anchorage
  • fertility (not mentioned in the video but it’s important)


I have made that video a while ago and have since changed the proportions by the way. So after trial and error, research and observation I have come up with a basic formula for potting soil. This basic soil mix works great almost anywhere, not only in our part of the world. This recipe can be altered to suit different purposes and plants’ needs. You can use this mix to build your raised beds, mix with present sand/soil in your yard (don’t add extra sand then), in pots and containers, and even for starting your seeds (make sure you use new compost, that is preferably sterile, for that). So to create the potting soil that would contain the needed elements mentioned above, you need the following in EQUAL PARTS (by volume)*:

  • Compost
  • Coco Peat and/or Peat Moss
  • Perlite and/or vermiculite (if you have find it)
  • Sand (optional) 

*you will need to add something for fertility to the above mix.        

Compost
Compost is decomposed organic matter. Compost is a great addition to any kind of soils. It adds a good amount of nutrients, holds on to nutrients, yet provides good drainage. Compost improves soil structure, and is great for any types of soils. Compost is not very readily available here so I use potting soil as well, since it usually is just organic matter of some sorts which compost actually is. I follow the square foot gardening methods in my garden, so I follow their recommendations and use at least 5 different compost/potting soil sources to create my soil. It is done because most compost brands are a byproduct of some industry, so to create diversity different sources are used.  Please read the labels to see the composition.Manures are also considered compost so you can use that too (note, no more than 5 kg per square meter total manures, as this is the recommended use; also if you add manure it’s preferred you wait a couple of weeks before you plant anything).

Coco Peat / Peat Moss
Neither of these carry much nutrients but they’re important to add. Peat’s water absorbing quality helps with water absorption and nutrient retention. Peat moss also helps bring the pH of the soil down a bit, which essential as our soils are alkaline, or on other words  have high pH. Most plants prefer pH of aroun 6-7. I prefer to use coco peat because it is more sustainable and renewal source unlike peat moss. But I still add peat moss, but not as much as coco peat. Make sure to mix it well, and it’s eaier if you wet it first.

Perlite/Vermiculite
These two are great for creating good drainage, water and nutrient retention. They’re intert and won’t affect soil pH. Vermiculite is more expensive and a little hard to find, but it holds more moisture than perlite. Since there are different grades of both, make sure you get the agricultural grade. Perlite comes in two grades for garden use: fine and coarse. Use coarse type for pot cuz it’s lighter, and use fine type for gound mix as it’s heavier yet retains more moisture. Wear a mask while working with any of these as they’re dusty.

Sand
You can add sand to your mixture, or use the sand already present in the soil (if your building garden soil). If you’re making the mix for container plants make sure you use sweet sand from the nursery, as it doesn’t contain salt unlike most garden sand. If you’re mixing the soil into your garden soil make sure you water it well for a few days, especially after summer.

Fertilizer 
The mix above is a basic soil mix suitable for container and the ground. You want to add nutrition in a form of slow release organic fertilizer. It will feed your plants over the season and is a great alternative to hemical fertilizers. If you added manures to your mix you can still add a fertilizer separately, just don’t use as much. I personally use Sustane. I like the fact that’s it’s certified organic, is easy to use and my plants love it. I will talk about fertilizing in more details in another post.

HOW TO MIX:
I suggest you wear a mask cuz some materials mentioned can be dusty. Like I mentioned earlier I use equal parts of mentioned above materials. I wet coco peat and peat moss before I use it otherwise it’s impossible to mix well. You can leave it to absorb the water. Then measure everything by volume and mix. For small quantities you can mix in a wheelbarrow. I usually use a spare as my measuring tool.. If you’re mixing big quantities add materials onto a thick, heavy duty material, and add in layers then mix. Don’t add all of the materials at once at it can be very difficult to mix well.

This is a basic recipe for basic soil mix. There are other soil amendments and conditioners we can add, and InshaAllah I will talk about them in upcoming posts.

For info on where to get the basic gardening supplies in UAE please visit this page:

I have covered the basics of soil mix in this post. If you have anymore questions please comment below.

I’d like to ask you for a favor. If you like this post consider sharing it with your friends on your social media accounts. Let’s spread some garden love.
Happy Gardening
Yana
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Hello my fellow gardeners. Old and new, experienced and  beginners, and everyone in between. I have missed writing this blog over the summer. I started this blog 4 years ago and I can’t believe it’s actually really been 4 years already.  MashaAllah. Time flies. But here I am: still writing, still gardening, still committed and still learning. Alhamdellah. I am thankful to God for all the blessings upon me. I am thankful to still be here. Thankful to have the land to garden. Thankful to be able to spread my knowledge and experience. Thankful to be able to try and experiment and write about it.
A lot of things have happened this year. I won’t go into details as this is not my purpose. There were times when my knowledge of gardening and my experience was taken advantage of. There were times when my work was stolen. But I am not here to point fingers. These things don’t bring me down, they only make me stronger. And smarter. I know better now and  it was a lesson I hope I have learned well. But I have also met wonderful people, some of whom became friends. I believe there’s more good than bad afteall. I am here to spread my knowledge, to help others whenever and however I can, and to bring people closer to nature. Gardening has many benefits, so many that I in fact plant to write a post about it InshaAllah.
I have so many new plans for this blog. With God’s help and hard work,  I hope to accomplish these plans and goals that I have in mind. I am planning to introduce a lot of things like the gardening calendar (fist entry is today by the way), DIY’s and How To’s, features of other gardeners’ gardens and many more InshaAllah. I have everything planned out and have written some notes already. If you have ideas you’d like to add please let me know and/or if you’d like me to feature your garden please drop me a line.
I am posting this month’s calendar a little late and I apologize for that. Procrastination is a bad habit of mine and I am working on getting rid of it. I really am, trying. I kept saying I’ll write the post tomorrow and didn’t notice that it was a middle of the month already. This is not crucial though, as many of us have just come back from the holidays and it’s still too hot to really garden anyways. I will keep it short and simple despite how excited I really am. This time of the year brings new hope, new dreams and new beginnings into my life. In anticipation of green views, scents and harvests my mind starts working in turbo mode. I make many, many plans and this makes me feel so good, even though I know that not everything I plan for I achieve. I have come to terms with it and just enjoy everything I do as I do it. My gardens are never the same every year, as I try new things, change things, add things. Nonetheless, there are certain things I do in a specific order (more or less) and I will be posting these into the gardening calnedar post every month InshaAllah.
Without further ado, let’s get to the things we should (or at least try to) be doing this months:

Things to do in your garden in September:
1. Remove old debris from last season, if you haven’t done so already.
2. Clean out your pots, tools and throw away/take to recycling damaged stuff that is beyond repair or use. Tidy up your garden, as it’s easier and more inspiring to work in a clean and organized environment.
3. Make a plan (ideally, it should have been done in summer). Decide what you’d like to grow this season. Include a few things you haven’t tried before. Try Asian Veggies, they grow fast and grow well here, and taste great too. Draw you garden plan. Watch out for our downloadable garden graph paper download soon Inshallah. Will keep you posted if you subscribe to my blog.
4. If you haven’t already, buy seeds and other gardening things you need. Check this page for more info on where to get your gardening supplies in Dubai: Gardening Notions
5. Buy soil, soil amendments and organic fertilizers that you’d be using (use the link above for where to get your stuff). I only use organic and only suggest organic too, but the choice is yours. For more details about what gardening amendments I use in my garden and how I was building my soil visit this posts: post 1, post 2, video (I now use equal parts of what I mention in the video).
6. Prepare the soil in your garden beds and containers. To see how I prepare my soil watch the videos on my channel, and read the posts above. If you prepare your soil now, it will have time to settle for your October planting. My Little Garden In Dubai YouTube Channel.
7. Start the seeds of veggies that take time to mature but that still can’t be planted directly in the soil yet. These include things like veggies from cabbage family. For more info on how to start the seeds in this part of the world, check my post: How to start your seeds (transplants) and succeed.
8. Towards the end of the month, or once it starts cooling down and it’s under 30c degrees for a few nights in a row, plant a few plants directly in the soil.  You’d probably want to shade them at first. Heat loving plants could be planted, but watch out for heat spells. I personally don’t plant much as the weather is unpredictable. One that is most suited to plant directly now is cucumber. Other plants you can try: okra, eggplant, mulukhia, kangkong. Some suggest to try peppers but for me they never succeed so I usually start them as transplants or wait till it’s cooler. I suggest you check my Useful Downloads Page for planting calendars you can follow (there’s other useful downloads there as well).
9. Check my 12 Steps to a Succeful Garden in Dubai post. It’s one of my most popular posts and it summarizes what you need to do to succeed at edible, and not only, gardening in UAE.

These are the things I believe you should be doing in your garden this month. This is just a guide and you can adapt it to suit your needs. If you believe I should add something please let me know in the comments or by contact me through a contact form. Do subscribe to my blog so you can receive notification once a new post is out. Also visit my social media accounts:
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Happy Gardening
Yana
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Hello,
I was contacted by a plant shop recently, Dibba Garden Center, about their online shop. They are located in Dibba but will also deliver your order to Dubai, Sharjah and Northern Emirates. They have a variety of plants, such as indoors and outdoors, as well as cacti in addition to fruits and veggies (availability is seasonal). As readers of my blog you guys get a special DISCOUNT of 20%. Just use  coupon  LITTLEGARDEN

Happy Gardening
Yana
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Hello, fellow gardeners. Whether you're new to gardening or have some experience, or even someone in between, the question of "what I should do in my garden now that the weather is getting hotter" would cross your mind every year around this time if you garden in Dubai or any other place on earth that has extremely hot weather. A lot of vegetables you grew in winter would be done by now, or nearing to be done. You probably have a lot of annual plants that are dead and dry. You also probably have a lot of plants that you are afraid to lose during the summer (every year I lose some trees in summer). You also probably already miss your lush green garden and are probably having plans for the fall. I know I do all the things above and I have created a little guide for you in order to help you prepare your garden for summer and fall.

1. Assess your garden for dead plants. Pull the dead plants and put them in the compost pile. I only pull plants with thick stems. I cut the plants with thin stems at the base leaving the roots to rot in the ground providing the soil bacteria with food.

plants in this bed are done


2. Provide shade for sensitive plants. Do you have newly planted plants in your garden? If the answer is yes then you need to provide them with shade. If you have sensitive to heat plants, such as bananas, then you also need to provide them with shade. I use shade cloth and hoops to provide some shade for my plants from the blazing summer sun. If you have plants in pots that receive little shade then move them to a location with more shade (it's fine to have very little sun in summer, it's too hot to handle direct sun for most plants). If you have space in your garden then you could buy a 3x3 tent from a hypermarket and arrange your plants there (I suggest you secure the tent in case there's wind, mine is secured with screws to the ground). I also have shade cloth around my tent.
I am not fond of planting new plants (except annual flowers) in my garden in late spring or summer. They don't get enough of cold weather to survive transplanting and usually don't adapt to the hot weather well. I prefer to plant between late fall and early spring.

my new bananas (I need to work on this still)


3. Apply, or reapply if you already have it, mulch around your plants. The weather is getting hotter and hotter and the plants get stressed. Mulching your plants will help to keep the roots of your plants cool and prevent moisture loss, which is a big problem in summer. Cool roots help your plants cope better with the heat just like the roots that have enough water (but don't overwater as this can be bad too).
I use hay for my mulch but you can use anything that is available at hand. You can use many things as mulch such as shredded newspapers, dry leaves, dry plant materials, straw etc. The reason I like hay is that it breaks down very fast providing nutrients in the process.

this Pakistani Mulberry tree needs more mulch

hay


4. If you need to fertilize your plants then do it ASAP, as the hotter it gets the less advisable it is to fertilize. Fertilize away from the stem and preferably use less than usual (unless it's natie palnts or plants that handle heat well). I only use organic fertilizers such as manures, Sustane (the only certified organic fertilizer I have found in Dubai so far), compost and fish waste (whatever is left after I clean the fish along with the water I used to clean it, if you keep fish in aquarium then the aquarium water is a great way to add nutrition to your garden and conserve water at the same time).

5. This step and then next step (6) can be combined if you wish to. Keep your soil alive during the summer (I am talking about garden beds that probably won't be planted). Soil is alive, it is a living thing. Ther are many organisms in the soil that have a mutually beneficial relationship with the soil and the plants. I won't go into details here but in short, you want to keep your soil alive by keeping it moist and by having enough matter for the organisms below to feed on. If your soil goes totally dry and there's no organic matter to break down some organism will start dying off and eventually, your soil will die. You also want to prevent soil erosion which can happen with unplanted soil that is exposed to elements (in summer we still get winds). How can you keep your soil alive and prevent erosion in our hot summers? Keep it covered, by adding mulch or growing green manure or cover crops (I haven't done this yet so I can't comment much) and keep it moist. I didn't try growing cover crops yet and don't know what will do well in our summers. The other option is mulch. Water your beds, add mulch ( look at point 3 above) and water some more. Water it once a week to keep it moist. I think by covering the mulch with cardboard sheets and removing them for watering every week is a good way to prevent even more moisture loss. If you go this route don't forget to secure it so it doesn't get blown away (you could use interlock tiles). If you're going to be traveling ask someone to water for you. If this is not an option then create a thicker layer of mulch and cover with more cardboard.

6. Prepare your beds for next planting season. This step is a part of step 5 above. Whether you're creating new beds, or are working on your existing beds, a little planning will go a long way. You can enrich your beds now and by the planting time your soil should be very well prepared for new crops. Add layers of  hay, newspapers, organic matter (like your dead plants, leaves etc), kitchen scraps, compost, manures and finish off with shredded newspapers and hay. Water well and cover with cardboard. It's based on guerilla gardening, also called sheet gardening. Some people swear by this.

7. Put away unused pots and tools. If you have unused pots it's a good idea to put them away somewhere cool, or at least in the shade. The sun can cause some damage on some pots, especially unused plastic ones. Also, keep your tools in the shade for the same reasons. Every year after summer I have a few pots that break down from being under the sun all summer long.

8. Plan for your fall garden. Don't wait till August as it you could get overwhelmed. Decide what you are going to grow this fall. What varieties are you going to try?. Draw a plan. Write a plan. I once read somewhere that dreams become goals only when they're on paper, while they're still in your head they're just dreams. So if you dream about lush productive garden start setting goals now. Plan what you're going to buy (like maybe you need pots, or maybe you're adding new beds and need to buy more coco peat). Get your seeds. If you have some extra seeds you could use our facebook group for seeds exchange and acquire new seeds practically for free (if you haven't joined yet you can do it here). Prepare everything you need during summer so that when it's time plant you're all set.

my garden last season

9. Start a compost bin (if you haven't already). Save all your kitchen scraps and dead plant material from your garden and throw it in the compost bin. Try to mix dry materials (dead plants, dry leaves, shredded newspapers, and cardboard) with green (like kitchen scraps, fresh leaves, grass clippings etc.) materials. Keep your compost moist, don't let it get dry, but don't let it get too wet either. Turn it every few days. Come August and your compost should be ready.

my compost bin

 dead plant material ready to go into my compost bin

10. Learn new things about gardening. Read books, magazines, blogs (like my blog), learn from your mistakes (assess what worked and what didn't for you this past season). Ask questions (here on my blog or on another gardening forum). Take notes in the process.

I hope this little guide is going to helpful to you in any way. Ask me any questions below in the comments.

Happy Gardening
Yana
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