So you have your Middle Earth garden and it looks great. But how to make sure it stays that way? What about pests? Compost? Look no further, these gardening tips will help you out.

Thanks to Eloise and HobbitFriend! For even more gardening tips, check out http://www.organicgardentips.com


Wildlife Tips

Many of the garden designs in the Last Homely House can be easily adapted to encourage wild life. Whether you want more butterflies, birds or even frogs to visit your garden, simple steps can be taken to encourage this.

Birds are easily attracted by food. Leave out nuts (make sure they are not cooked, bird feed can be bought from most garden stores) or bread. Once the birds know that food can be found in your corner of Middle Earth, they will return expecting more. If you put a bird table in your garden you should be careful where you position it. If it is a freestanding feeder it should be placed about 8-10 feet away from trees and shrubbery so cats can’t ambush your feathered visitors. After doing any work in the garden, you should wash your hands, but even more so after cleaning bird feeders, as some diseases are bird-borne.
Another way to attract birds is running water. Whether it is the waterfall at Ithilien or a gentle Hobbit stream, birds will be attracted to bathe and drink. Ideally a birdbath should be suitably shallow as birds are wary of water deeper than 2 or 3 inches. If your potential birdbath is deeper than this, you can add large stones for the birds to stand on. Your birdbath’s sides should also be quite rough so birds don’t slip. Water is particularly important for birds during the winter when the ponds that would usually be a source of water freeze over. (If you live in a cold climate that is.) Birdbath heaters that are safe and economical are available at some wild bird centres, hardware stores, and garden centres.

Butterflies and insects can be easily attracted by certain types of plants. For example the flowers of the Buddleia bush attract butterflies. Other types of plants, known as butterfly “feeders” are used to lay eggs on. Queen-Anmne’s lace, dill weed, and fennel are three of these plants.
Insects are also attracted by water. Stagnant ponds attract the dreaded mosquito, so this is to be avoided. If you include a pond or stream in your Middle Earth garden, insects such as Dragonflies and Mayflies will be attracted.

Ponds also attract other wildlife. Frogs and newts might be attracted. If you have fish, more unwelcome visitors might also pay you a visit. Herons will eat fish and frogs and may tear your liner. If you have a problem with them, attach fishing line to skewers placed in a circle around the pond. The fishing line should form a circle about 15 cm above the ground and crisscross over the surface of the water. This will stop herons wading into your pond to fish.
You should also have a place where the sides of your pond are not as steep. This will allow any animals, which have fallen into the water to get out easily. It will also be a good place for animals to drink from your pond.


Fertilising Tips

In Middle Earth, there were no chemical fertilisers. To make your garden more authentic, why not go organic? It’s relatively easy to do and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re helping the environment too! Chemical fertilisers and pesticides can harm aquatic life if they are washed into a nearby water source and can contaminate the food chain.
One of the best ways of fertilising your garden organically is to use compost. Making your own compost is easy to do. Compost is what you get if you leave leaves, grass cuttings, vegetable and fruit scraps, woodchips, straw and small twigs to break down until they become soil like. You should try to avoid using grass cuttings that contain pesticides as this will mean the compost will also contain these pesticides and will be unsuitable for vegetables or anything else destined for the table. To speed up the process, turn the compost every two weeks and keep the pile damp. When adding new layers, wet them.
Be careful not to leave your compost standing in an exposed pile. It will begin to lose its nutrients into the ground. Cover your compost with a tarpaulin until you need it.


Pest and Weed Tips

Try to avoid using pesticide whenever possible. Not only will it save you money on cans of insect killer, it will also help the environment. You can easily pick off harmful insects such as caterpillars and squash them. If they would be too hard or are to numerous to pick off, try using a strong jet of water from your garden hose. If you want to prevent pests getting to your prize plants then try using barriers. Netting will stop birds from stealing your fruit (just be careful that there is no way for them to get trapped inside it. Put the net up as soon as the flowers begin to open.) 3” wide sheets of copper will stop slugs from getting to your plants. If you do have a problem with slugs however, then you can make organic slug traps from an empty tuna tin filled with beer. Bury it so the lip of the tin is level with the surface and the slugs will fall in and drown.
If you have big pest problems then you can use natural solutions. Ladybugs can control aphids, small worms, and other soft-bodied insects; Lacewings will control aphids, scales, spider mites, and other insects and eggs; Trichogramma Wasps will control moth and butterfly eggs and Bacillus thuringiensis will control larvae of moths, butterflies, mosquitoes, and other pests.

Weeds can also be given the organic treatment. Full strength household vinegar sprayed on them on a sunny day will kill them without harming the environment. Some weeds, however, might be good in your garden. Many attract birds, butterflies and insects.


Miscellaneous Tips

Some flowers, including sweet peas, iris, foxglove, amaryllis, lantana, lupines, clematis, dature, poinsettia, and oleander, are poisonous. These might not be suitable for a garden with small children. Before you buy a plant, make sure you know if it’s poisonous or not.

When you buy a plant, remember that it will grow. Don’t try and squeeze lots of plants that will grow large into a small area.

Red, orange, and yellow in your corner of Middle Earth will draw the eye and bring objects closer. To make a small garden feel larger, place warm colours in the front of the garden and cool colours in the back.

Wondering where to put your Ithilien pool or Hobbit stream? Don’t position it in the lowest spot in the garden and you’ll avoid drainage problems. Keep in mind also, that most water plants require full sun to do their best. Also, position it away from trees; otherwise you’ll be fishing out leaves when it comes to autumn.

Tall or heavy headed flowers, such as delphiniums and foxgloves, will need support or they will bend and break in the first spring storms.

Planting perennials? Try doing it on a day when it is likely to rain; this will insure your plants get off to a good start.

If you want to cut flowers for display in your house, do it early in the morning. Cut each stem at an angle then put the stem into a container of warm water as soon as possible.