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Vertical Gardening for Small Spaces

It’s easy to maximize even the tiniest garden space when you look up – and up, and up, and up. Whether you have a balcony, deck, small terrace, raised beds or container garden, vertical gardening is a great way to increase your cultivated ground and enjoy a more abundant harvest no matter how small your garden may be.

Options for Vertical Gardening

What types of vertical gardening techniques you can use will vary depending on the space you have and what you hope to grow, but it is always possible to take your garden up a level or two. Great options for vertical gardening include…

  • Elevated Containers
    Containers don’t have to be at ground level to be useful gardening space. Adding window boxes above a flower bed, for example, will give you more space to grow your favorite flowers, herbs or other plants. Some boxes can also be mounted on railings, adding extra growing space to a deck or balcony. Different sizes of pots and containers can be nested together to create a gardening tower perfect for trailing plants.
  • Hanging Containers
    Think from the top down when you opt for hanging pots or sleeve garden systems as part of your vertical gardening approach. Pots can be hung from hooks along a wall or fence, or may hang from an overhanging roof or the arch of an arbor, and each one is another opportunity to add more plants to your growing space.
  • Trellises
    Train different plants to take advantage of vertical space by providing trellises for them to use as they grow. Many vines and climbing plants will naturally make their way up different supports, whether the trellis is wood, plastic, wire or string. A-frame and teepee-style trellises can provide even more support for heavier plants that require extra help.
  • Green Walls
    A full green wall is a great way to verticalize your growing space, and can even be done indoors if desired. Small pots or creative containers such as rain boots, garden shoes, mason jars, small tin pails or plastic bottles can be attached to a fence or wall, or a pallet can be designed as a vertical gardening space to be hung on a wall to maximize every inch.
  • Arbors
    Arbors and archways can add to your gardening space as well as make a welcoming accent to the area. The sides of an arbor can be used as a trellis, and hooks can be added on the sides and top of an arbor for more hanging pots. Some arbors even have built-in containers for more convenient gardening.
  • Shelf Systems
    Larger than basic containers or planting pots, shelf gardening systems truly make the most of every bit of space by adding extra tiers to the gardening area. These broad gardening shelves are useful for a wide range of plants and seedlings, and are great to add to any smaller garden in need of extra space.
  • Cinderblock Walls
    A cinderblock divider or wall can easily become a fun vertical planter when the blocks are oriented to provide small spaces to use as different pots. Trailing plants are ideal for this type of space as they will drape down and cover the other exposed blocks, and the blocks themselves add visual and textural interest to small spaces.

Plants That Love Vertical Spaces

Any plants that can thrive in containers will do well in vertical gardening arrangements. Popular choices include…

  • Basil
  • Butternut squash
  • Chili peppers
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Cucumbers
  • Garlic
  • Hops
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Lettuces
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Peas
  • Pole beans
  • Pumpkins
  • Radishes
  • Sage
  • Scallions
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatillos
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon

In addition to these delicious edibles, a vertical garden can also be filled in with colorful flowers, ferns, succulents and ivy. These extra plants can help beautify your small space and fill in gaps so every inch of gardening space is richly used.

Make the Most of Your Vertical Garden

To make sure your vertical garden thrives, it is vital to water it properly, as vertical gardens will dry out more quickly than a traditional garden. A watering wand can help water hanging containers or higher vertical spots more easily, and grouping plants with similar watering needs together can make this task easier. Good fertilizer is also essential to be sure plants get enough nutrition to grow properly, but choose the type of fertilizer carefully to support your plants – leafy greens and foliage plants, for example, need a different fertilizer composition than flowers, fruits or vegetables. Use pot feet, casters or wheeled stands whenever possible so you can rotate plants to get even sun exposure or to move vertical gardening arrangements into more suitable locations as seasons change. To help support taller plants, different stakes, cages and other supports can be useful and will help increase your gardening space even further.

Once you start thinking “up” instead of “out” for your garden, you’ll be surprised at just how much gardening space you really have, and how many different plants you can enjoy at all different levels.

Wild About Window Boxes

Window boxes can be an amazing addition to your home landscape, and they’re much more flexible and versatile than many gardeners realize. Take advantage of this great space and you’ll soon be wild about window boxes!

Choosing a Window Box

There are many types of window boxes available, from classic rectangles to wire frames with coir or sphagnum moss inserts. Wood and plastic boxes are also available, and they can be half-circles, have rounded ends on a longer box or may even be smaller boxes with pointed bottoms, a cone shape, suitable for just one or two favorite plants. While most window boxes are designed to be mounted beneath a window, they can also be positioned on a fence, deck railing or even a sunny patch of wall to add more beauty and growing space.

When choosing the best window box for your home, coordinate with the architecture of your house for a smooth, elegant look. Ideally, the box should be the same length as the window or just slightly shorter, but not so short that it looks out of place or unbalanced.

Window boxes come in a variety of popular or neutral colors, and some boxes can be painted to match your house’s window trim or siding exactly. When mounting the box, be sure it is securely supported so it will not tip or fall. Larger, heavier boxes may need additional brackets underneath to support the weight of a full box, taking into account not just the weight of the box itself, but also of the soil, water and mature plants.

Plants for Window Boxes

Any plants that are comfortable in small or medium-sized containers can thrive in window boxes. You may want to opt for flowers for a colorful accent to your home, or choose herbs, berries or even lettuce for a kitchen window box that will be easy to harvest. Small ornamental grasses and spreading ferns or spider plants are ideal choices for a green window box.

No matter what plants you choose, be sure they are suitable for the climate of the window box. Consider the amount of sun the box receives and when it may be shadowed throughout the day. Also note that window boxes against walls or fences, as opposed to boxes on railings, will receive more heat if the wall is dark in color. If the wall is white, it will reflect more light onto the plants.  Take not of overhanging roofs that will prevent rain from reaching your window box. Supplemental water will be a necessity in this case.

You can use just one type of plant in a window box for a bold statement, or you may prefer a mixed container that combines textures, shapes and color for a more dramatic look. Consider mounding plants that will easily be seen above the edge of the box, or trailing varieties that will gracefully drape over the box and soften any harsh edges. Symmetry and balance can be important in window boxes, so be sure to envision how the plants will look when mature so the entire arrangement will complement your home and other nearby landscaping.

Best Window Box Care

Just like any container, window boxes require unique care to allow plants to reach their full potential. Fortunately, if you mount a window box outside a window that can be opened, it’s easy to open the window for watering, weeding and pruning as needed. Use a rich potting soil that will provide abundant nutrition for the plants, and fertilize as needed for the type of plants you’re growing. A nitrogen-rich fertilizer is best for leafy plants and dramatic foliage, while a fertilizer that is heavier in potassium will encourage brighter blooms and more flowering.

Because window boxes are containers, they will need more frequent watering, even daily or twice a day depending on the climate and how thirsty the plants may be. To make watering less of a chore, consider using automatic waterers such as watering bulb that will keep your window box properly hydrated. When you water by hand, a small watering can with a thin spout is best, as you’ll be able to get water directly to the soil without wasting precious water on plant foliage where it will do no good and has the potential to burn delicate foliage in a sunny situation.

When tending window boxes, use small, hand-sized tools that won’t disrupt other plants in the crowded space. Thinning or pruning the plants regularly will help encourage new growth to keep the plants lush and the box full. If you’ve planted an edible window box with herbs or veggies, harvesting when the plants are ready will provide richer flavors and spur new growth to lengthen the growing season and increase the plants’ yield.

Decorating a Window Box

While the plants in your box may be decoration enough, a window box can also be a great space to add extra decorative flair to your home. The box itself can be wrapped with a ribbon to add more color or coordinate with the current holiday. Decorative plant stakes or small garden flags provide bright accents that can be switched out with different seasons and holidays. You might even create a small fairy garden in a window box, with a quirky gnome or other whimsical figure peeking out from the fun foliage. In winter, pine boughs can be layered in the box for ongoing greenery along with colored or natural branches, and a small strand of lights can even be strung along the box for a glittering twinkle. If you prefer to light your box up year-round, you might even carefully place a solar plant stake or two in the box to highlight the arrangement.

Window boxes are far more than just small planting containers – they can be beautiful accents to your home, an extension to your growing space and even a spot for fun whimsy in your yard. You can make them into whatever you like – don’t be afraid to go wild!

Communal Supplies for a Community Garden

A community garden can be a great way to bring neighbors, family members and friends together to expand gardening efforts and increase harvests while simultaneously sharing the workload and expense necessary to keep a garden thriving and productive. Instead of simply grouping individual plots together that each participant must work in isolation, however, the most successful community gardens foster work-sharing, partnership efforts to help all community members enjoy an amazing garden. Furthermore, a community garden is ideal for schools, hospitals, senior centers and other community facilities. To make the most of all the effort for such a garden, however, communal supplies are essential.

What Are Communal Supplies?

No matter what type of garden your community creates, which crops may be planted or which people make up the gardening group, everyone will need to use some of the same tools to nurture their individual plots. Just as the point of a community garden is to share some of the garden work as well as an appropriate piece of land, it is sensible to share some basic garden tools. For instance, if there are 20 people contributing to the garden, there is no need to have 20 spades, rakes or buckets when those simple supplies can easily be shared. This will allow members of the gardening group to invest in higher quality tools or more specialized items to use in the garden, rather than everyone buying their own individual tools.

An exception to shared supplies is for items that may be personalized to the user. Hand tools, for example, are often very personal for each gardener. The weight of the tool, ergonomic grips or left-handed designs are all factors for choosing a hand tool, and anyone who participates in a community garden may want to keep their own set of hand tools available, while still sharing in the larger, more basic tools the garden has on hand.

Communal Supplies Your Community Garden Needs

There are many different tools a community garden can have available for everyone to share. Popular tools that should be in every community garden shed include…

  • Spades and shovels
  • Rakes
  • Hoses long enough to service the whole garden
  • Buckets of different sizes
  • Push broom
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Watering cans
  • Hoes
  • Cultivator
  • Rototiller
  • Spading fork
  • All seed starting supplies

In addition to these basic tools, the common area of a community garden should have a compost area or compost bins for everyone to contribute to, and therefore everyone can use the rich compost that is produced to nurture the entire garden. A bulletin board can be helpful for leaving community notices, reminders or announcements, and a bench or picnic table makes an ideal space for prepping seedlings or cleaning tools. Community gardeners can also work out opportunities to share seedlings, thereby trying more and different plants that can be used throughout the garden even if one individual gardener might only want to try one or two new plants.

One communal tool that ought to be employed in a community garden is a bee house. Positioning one or more bee houses around the garden will encourage these pollinators to visit the garden, which will benefit everyone who participates in the community effort.

All community tools should be clearly labeled with the garden’s name, so they can be easily identified and returned if anyone mistakenly takes them home in their gardening enthusiasm.

Storing Community Garden Supplies

A shed is a great place to store communal supplies for a community garden, but if a shed isn’t available, a small covered patio with lockers or storage benches can serve just as neatly. Another option is a small fenced in area where tools can be stored for everyone to use. The shed or storage area can easily be locked, and keys could be checked out from a supervisor or a key could be given to each of the garden’s participants. If space is available, individual lockers could be made available for garden participants to conveniently store their own individual tools as well.

To keep the garden a true community effort, a suggestion box ought to be available for members to suggest new crops or plants, request new tools or otherwise have a stake in how the garden operates. Fun and creative options for a suggestion box include a mailbox, bird house or similar structure that complements the garden in a fun and useful way. Regular community meetings are also very beneficial and may be planned around a dinner using food from the garden.

As a community garden grows, so too will the different tools it has available for everyone to use. By offering communal tools and supplies for the garden’s overall use, it encourages even more people to join in the effort and truly helps a community – and its garden – grow.

Rock Gardens

Rock gardens can be amazing options for challenging spaces in your landscape, whether your yard has poor soil, narrow sections, steep terraces, deep shade or other concerns. You can even design a rock garden anywhere just to enjoy their elegant lines, varied texture and easy care. But how do you put in a rock garden?

What Is a Rock Garden?

A rock garden is much more than just a pile of rocks, but of course rocks are the key component of this type of landscaping. Using different colors, shapes and textures from gravel and river rocks to flagstones, pavers and boulders will add dimension and variety to any rock garden. These unique gardens also often include rock-loving plants, a water feature or a design to mimic dry water, unexpected blooms and interesting accessories. Sizes can also vary, from simple containers or corner accents to a full landscaping bed or even an entire yard. While rocks may be a key feature of a rock garden, this type of garden can truly be anything you like!

Designing a Rock Garden

Rock gardens can be very flexible and you can create any type of rock garden you envision, but following some basic steps will give your garden a cohesive, amazing design you will love for years.

  1. Choose the Location
    In many cases, your yard will choose the location for your rock garden based on where you may have difficulty growing other plants or flowers, or where sunlight levels aren’t ideal for vigorous plants. Don’t be afraid to choose any location you’d like to see interesting rocks, however, including planning a rock garden around a pergola, gazebo or meditation space such as a favorite bench or simple pond.
  2. Lay Out the Garden Shape
    When planning a rock garden, use a hose, planter stakes or flexible edging to outline the garden space. This will help you visualize where to put the primary rocks and plants, and you can easily adjust your outline to find the perfect shape for your rock garden. You can consider natural curves and flowing lines, or you might prefer a more geometric shape for a visual pop in your landscape.
  3. Clear the Garden Space
    If the area for your new rock garden isn’t already bare, you will need to clear out existing plants and grass to make way for your new design. Opt for sharp tools designed for cutting sod and digging up root systems to be sure you are able to clear plants effectively. Putting down a layer of weed barrier fabric is a good idea to keep growth from recurring so your rock garden remains crisp and clean, reducing the need to weed.
  4. Install Rocks
    Take your time installing different rocks in your garden, starting with the largest boulders or heavier rocks and carefully positioning them just where you want to see them, checking from different angles to be sure they offer the most pleasing view. You can even create patterns with rocks, such as using different rock shapes or colors to create a spiral or labyrinth, initials or fun features such as flowers, waves or complete scenes. Think vertically as well, stacking rocks to create a cairn or arch, or opt for fun mimicry such as using different rock sizes and colors to create a dry “creek” bed in your rock garden.
  5. Add Plants
    Plants will be part of your rock garden, add them after you’ve designed the rocky spaces, and filling around these rocks with soil. Most plants can be part of a rock garden, however, drought tolerant plant that grow in well-drained, low-fertility soil are the best choices. Flowering bulbs, evergreens and ornamental grasses are popular choices, and you might include mounds of graceful groundcovers or even interesting mosses – depending on the amount of sun you receive. Keeping the chosen plants ultimate size in mind when planning is also essential to a well-designed rock garden. Make sure that the plants with stay in scale with the size garden you have created. Always when selecting plants, consider the light level of your garden as well as the soil quality and moisture levels to be sure the plants will thrive alongside your rocks.
  6. Fill Bare Spaces
    Because rocks don’t grow, they won’t gradually get larger to fill in bare spaces in a rock garden. Instead, you can fill in those spaces yourself with additional gravel or pretty pebbles, mulch or smaller ground covers. Leave enough room for any plants in the garden to grow to their mature size, but feel free to fill in the extra spaces with additional color and texture.
  7. Accessorize Your Garden
    Adding accessories, accents and decorations to your rock garden is a lot of fun, and helps add more color and character to the design. Consider a colorful gazing ball, bird bath, meditation bench, statue, fountain or other interesting element. Containers of flowers can be beautiful additions, or you might want to position solar stakes or other landscape lighting that will show off the drama of your rock garden after the sun goes down.

A rock garden is a fun chance to be creative in your landscape, and it can be a great way to show off your personality in unique and interesting ways. Rock on!

Late Spring Gardener’s Calendar

Turn over your vegetable garden and add humus, mushroom compost or manure to enrich the soil.  Apply Bonide Fruit Tree Spray as buds swell and again at petal drop to all fruit trees.

Fertilize perennials with Dr. Earth Rose & Flower Fertilizer.

Continue spring cleanup.  Completely remove winter mulch.  Cultivate to remove winter weeds and debris from the planting beds, then edge.  Prepare your annual beds, and mulch landscape beds with shredded mulch, bark chips or gravel.   Apply Preen or Corn Gluten and scratch it in to prevent future weeds, or try the new Preen Mulch Plus which combines mulch and Preen and prevents weeds for up to 6 months.

Plant and transplant trees and shrubs, including roses, ground covers, and perennials (including hardy lilies and lily-of-the-valley).

Seed or sod new lawns.  Reseed bare spots in established lawns.  Keep the area moist until seedlings appear, then mow when the new grass is 3” high.

Put down a second application of Team or Tupersan (newly seeded lawns) for pre-emergent goosegrass control and control of crabgrass the rest of the year.

Transplant cool-season seedlings into the garden.  When the soil temperature reaches 60 degrees, sow warm- and cool-season vegetable and herb seeds.

Dig and divide crowded spring bulbs after they have finished blooming. Enrich the soil with compost, manure or Espoma Bulb-Tone.

Prune forsythia and other spring-flowering trees and shrubs after the flowers fall.

Place gro-thru sets and link stakes over or around peonies, grasses or any other perennials in need of support.

Check arborvitae, cedar, juniper spruce and pine for bagworms.  Hand-pick bags from the host and spray with Ortho Systemic Insecticide.

Begin summer rose care program of deadheading, spraying and watering.

Fertilize roses with Bayer All In One Rose and Flower Care or Dr Earth Rose and Flower Fertilizer, azaleas with Espoma Holly-Tone or Dr Earth Azalea/Camelia Fertilizer, and fruit trees with Dr Earth Tomato and Vegetable Fertilizer.

Deadhead bulbs, but leave foliage to mature and yellow before removing.  This will help nourish the bulb for next year’s flowering. Fertilize with Dr Earth Bulb Fertilizer.

Prune new growth on needled evergreens.

Dig and divide early blooming perennials after flowering.

Apply Encap Fast Acting Iron Plus or Bonide Liquid Iron Plus to azaleas, hollies, junipers, laurel, pines, rhododendron and spruce to provide iron for chlorophyll production by foliage.

Fertilize container plants and window boxes weekly with a Master Nursery Bud and Bloom Plant Food, or use Dynamite All Purpose Plant Food for season-long feeding, to promote healthy, vigorous plants all summer.

Pay close attention to the watering needs of these plants as well as hanging baskets, because they tend to dry out quickly on hot summer days.

Check plants for spider mite damage and treat with Bayer 3 in 1 Insect, Disease and Mite Control then alternate every 7-10 days with Bonide All-Season Oil Spray.

Let Me Out! Moving Houseplants Outside for the Season

Are your house plants looking a little peaked after a long winter of being cooped-up inside? Getting out for some fresh air during the warm months is healthy for all living things, including your potted plants. It is important to move plants safely and thoughtfully, however, or else you risk shock and damage that can destroy your carefully cultivated houseplants. With the right steps, you can move your houseplants to outdoor accommodations for the spring and summer while still protecting them from unfavorable conditions, pests and wildlife.

Tips for Moving Houseplants Outdoors

When you are ready to move your houseplants outside…

  • Wait until there is no longer any danger of freezing or frost before setting houseplants outside.
  • Before you place plants outdoors, acclimate them to the spring temperatures. Set them outside for short periods of time and bring them inside at night.
  • Over a period of two weeks, lengthen the plants’ outdoor exposure time gradually. Continue to bring plants inside at night if temperatures are not consistently above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Do not place plants directly in the sun or else the leaves may burn.
  • Set plants on pot feet or a suitable plant stand to prevent sow bugs.
  • Arrange plants in groups for increased humidity, being careful to promote good air circulation within the foliage.
  • Check soil often for moisture levels, as warmer days and breezes may dry pots out more quickly.
  • Empty saucers of excess water to prevent root rot and minimize standing water that will attract biting insects.
  • While away on vacation, use a self-regulating plant watering system.
  • Mulch the surface of the soil to retain moisture and keep weed seeds from invading the soil.
  • Keep squirrels from digging in pots by placing a layer of crushed oyster shells or chicken wire on top of the soil.
  • Use a slow-release fertilizer to save you time and energy on frequent fertilizing. Or, use a water soluble fertilizer every other week. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions so as not to burn tender plant roots.
  • Groom plants by clipping off damaged stems, yellow leaves and spent flowers. This will also improve air circulation and sunlight reach.
  • Trellis or stake plants that get too tall to prevent them from flopping over.

As they enjoy their time outdoors, you’ll see healthier, more robust houseplants with plentiful new growth and vigor. Why not give all your plants a great spring and summer getaway by moving them outdoors?

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Try Delosperma

“Ice plants” refer to several types of plants, usually succulents with fleshy thick leaves in cool green-blue colors. However, after an introduction to Delosperma, you’ll know it as the real deal. As a group of tough groundcovers, these blooming succulents flourish in full sun in well draining soils with little water, once they are established. Plus, they’re amazingly colorful!

About Delosperma

Native to Africa, with fleshy, clustered green leaves, Delosperma species and varieties solve many common groundcover, erosion and container garden needs. From only ½” tall and a few inches wide to 4 inches tall and spreading to 2 feet wide, Delospermas begin blooming with daisy-like flowers in early spring and often continue blooming through the summer. Depending on the variety, these perennial succulents punch up the garden with bright fuchsia, red, bronze, yellow, white, lavender or orange flowers, and several variegated or two-toned blooms are available as well.

A more adventurous gardener can turn up the heat with Delosperma ‘Fire Spinner.’ It quickly grows to an attractive weed-thwarting 2 inches high and 15 inches wide mat in two seasons. The variety name perfectly describes the flowers. It’s a kaleidoscope of hot colors on unbelievable 1½” wide fiery flowers. Radiating from a clear white center, petals with deep magenta color in the middle transition to hot orange, finishing with bronze on the outer tips. These arresting flowers sit atop shiny, apple-green needle-like succulent leaves making an astonishing garden statement from late spring through fall. What an unexpected showstopper!

What Delosperma Demands

Most gardeners are all too used to the finicky habits of their favorite plants, from precise soil pH levels to a specified amount of sunlight to a unique cocktail of soil fertilization and amendments for the best growth. Not so with Delosperma – all these plants ask (it’s more of a demand, really) is good drainage. With that, they’re fairly self sufficient – easy to care for and requiring very little maintenance.

Birds, bees and butterflies love Delosperma just as much as gardeners, but deer don’t, making these plants ideal for areas where deer are a bit too friendly in the garden. They work well as borders or to soften the edges of buildings, walkways and driveways, and they’re right at home in well-drained terraces, rock gardens and xeriscaping.

Whether you live in a naturally drought-prone area or just want to conserve water without sacrificing color and beauty, give Delosperma a try and you won’t be disappointed!

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Growing Exotic Citrus

Citrus trees grown in fancy terra cotta pots, light-weight decorative containers or wooden planters can be used to adorn your garden, no matter how small it is. Use a potted citrus as a centerpiece for an herb garden, place several in a series on your steps or decorate your deck with these grand-looking accent plants. Dark, glossy green leaves look beautiful all season long while colorful, healthy fruit dangles enticingly from the branches. Although citrus plants are not winter hardy in the north, they may be moved indoors during this time. For added pleasure, citrus offers weeks of fragrant flowers in the spring.

Top Citrus Picks

There are several varieties of exotic citrus trees that can be stunning in the landscape. The most popular options include…

  • Calamondin Orange – This cross between a mandarin and kumquat produces miniature oranges that are somewhat tart but make excellent marmalade.
  • Ponderosa Lemons – Producing fruits that weigh up to a whopping 5 pounds each, Ponderosa Lemons have a thick ring with very little juice.
  • Variegated Pink Lemons – This lemon has variegated foliage and produces a yellowish-pink fruit.
  • Meyer Lemon – Although not a true lemon (it is said to be a cross between a lemon and either an orange or mandarin), the Meyer Lemon is one of the sweetest lemons.
  • Key Lime – Also known as Mexican Lime, this selection is highly prized for making Key Lime Pie. The plant is very thorny and produces small aromatic fruits.
  • Goliath Pummels – The largest of all citrus fruits, pummels taste similar to grapefruit.
  • Blood Orange – Having an unusual red flesh, these oranges are prized by gourmet cooks for their slight berry-like flavor.
  • Flame Red Seedless Grapefruit – This grapefruit variety produces medium-sized pinkish-colored fruits.
  • Cocktail Trees – These are a grafted tree that usually contains 4 to 5 different types of citrus on the same plant, great for your own fruit salad in minimal space.

Citrus Care

Place citrus plants in a sunny location where they will receive a minimum of 6 hours of sun to ensure the best possible fruit. Water regularly and feed with a fertilizer listed specifically for citrus plants every two weeks. During the summer months, citrus plants will produce a lot of new growth. In the early fall, before bringing plants indoors, prune citrus plants back about 1/8 of their existing size. This will help to minimize the shock that plants often experience when being moved. Use a humidity tray indoors or mist daily. Avoid placing your plant in a drafty area or by a heating vent. Provide a minimum of 6-8 hours of daily sun or very bright light in the winter months. It may be necessary to supplement with an artificial light source at this time of the year to keep the plant at its best.

It may seem unusual to have strange citrus trees in your yard or even right inside your home, but with a little care, you’ll be amazed at how much fun these plants can be to grow, and their sweet fruit is a wonderful reward for your efforts.

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Perennial Power

Perennials may not be the best showstoppers in a garden full of annuals, but they make great foundation plantings to serve as a reliable backdrop or trusty fillers among other plants. There’s no reason you can’t select perennials that are just as beautiful as your favorite annuals, however, it’s just a matter of choosing the flowers that pack the most punch and using them appropriately.

Best Perennials to Choose

When choosing a perennial to fill an empty space in your garden, make sure to get the most bang from your buck by selecting one, or several, long-blooming perennials. These flowers will be worthwhile additions to your landscape for their ongoing staying power, giving you a reliable backdrop and structure to build from.

  • Achillea (Yarrow)
  • Alcea (Hollyhock)
  • Anemone (Wind Flower)
  • Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed)
  • Campanula (clips series)
  • Clematis ‘Jackmani’
  • Coreopsis (Tickseed)
  • Corydalis lutea (Yellow Bleeding Heart)
  • Delosperma (Ice Plant)
  • Dicentra exima (Bleeding Heart)
  • Doronicum
  • Echinacea (Coneflower)
  • Gallardia (Blanket Flower)
  • Gaura (Wand Flower)
  • Geranium ‘Johnson Blue’
  • Helenium (Helen’s Flower)
  • Heliopsis (Sunflower)
  • Hemerocallis ‘Stella D’Oro’ (Daylily)
  • Hemerocallis ‘Happy Returns’ (Daylily)
  • Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)
  • Lavender
  • Liatris spicata (Gayfeather)
  • Ligularia (Ragwort)
  • Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower)
  • Lythrum (Loosestrife)
  • Malva (Mallow)
  • Monarda (Bee Balm)
  • Nepeta (Catnip or Catmint)
  • Oneothra ‘Siskiyou’ (Evening Primrose)
  • Perovskia (Russian Sage)
  • Rudbeckia (Coneflower)
  • Salvia (most verticillata)
  • Scabiosa (Pincushion Flower)
  • Shasta Daisy ‘Becky’ or ‘Snow Queen’
  • Stokesia (Stoke’s Aster)
  • Veronica (Speedwell)

Using Your Blooming Perennials

To make your perennials truly pop, it’s important to position them in your landscape where they will show to their best advantage. Popular options include…

  • Filling in between showstopping annuals with perennials that will grow and bloom to cover fading blooms after the annuals are finished.
  • Adding blooming perennials in front of a hedge, fence or privacy screen for extra coverage with a dash of color.
  • Using perennial flowers as a backdrop for lower annual plantings along a house foundation or in other flowerbeds.
  • Creating a naturalized lawn or meadow-like area full of different perennials for a low-maintenance option that still stuns.
  • Planting perennials in hard-to-tend areas, such as alongside a water feature, in tight corners or on terraces so they can be gorgeous with less maintenance.

With so many options for lovely perennials that can be used in many different ways in the landscape, there’s no excuse not to enjoy these easy-care flowers for many years!

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Heavenly Hosta

Hostas are amazing plants, truly glorious with heavenly foliage that is stunning as a specimen or in mass plantings. The thin spikes of purple or white, trumpet shaped flowers appear for several weeks in the summer and are an added benefit to this divine perennial. But how much do you know about hostas, and which can you add to your landscape?

Phenomenal Foliage

Hostas are praised by many for their magnificent variety of leaf sizes, colors and textures. These angels will grace your garden with heart-shaped, lance-shaped, oval or nearly round leaves, and leaf sizes vary as well. Smooth, quilted or puckered textures, with either a matte or glossy sheen, add to the glory and hostas’ radiant glow.

The leaf margins can be either smooth or wavy and range in color from light to dark green. Foliage colors also include chartreuse, gray and blue, depending on the cultivar. Variegated hostas with cream, white or yellow margins will radiate in a dark area of your garden.

Where to Plant Hostas

While most hostas are shade worshippers, some types will tolerate sun, depending on the overall climate and moisture levels. Hostas remain attractive from spring until frost and can withstand a wide range of growing conditions.

As choice groundcovers or single specimens in the landscape, hostas are certainly divine. Some hostas are quite unusual and rare and may increase in value each year, especially as the plants thrive and can be divided and transplanted with ease.

Best Hosta Care

Little maintenance is required to care for hostas. Cut off old flower stalks after flowers have faded. Divide plants occasionally to increase their quantity. Keep an eye out for pests, especially slugs and snails that munch on the foliage.

Types of Hostas

With so many selections and varieties, you can find a hosta the will fit into almost any garden situation. The most popular options include…

  • Dwarf & Small Hostas: In addition to being planted in secret little pockets throughout your garden or next to paths, dwarf and small hostas can be used in difficult places. Plant them among tree roots, on a slope or terrace or in rocky places containing little soil.
  • Edger Hostas: These hostas are 12” or less in height and have more horizontal growth. They are able to control weeds as they leave no light, when well established, or room for weeds to grow.
  • Groundcover Hostas: This group of hostas grows to 18” or less in height. They do a great job in areas difficult to weed or maintain. If you are in need of a hosta for use as a groundcover, keep in mind it works great to plant spring-flowering bulbs among them. The hosta comes up after the show of flowers and covers the fading foliage of the bulbs.
  • Background Hostas: Selections from this group grow to 24” or taller at maturity. They can be used to increase privacy where you sit and relax or to provide definition to your property line as a unique hedge.
  • Specimen Hostas: Specimens may be any size. Choose a site close to where the plant will be viewed so that every detail (texture, color pattern, buds, flowers and fragrance) may be enjoyed.

Not sure which hosta is right for you? Come in today and let our landscape and garden experts help you choose the right heavenly hosta to add a bit of the divine to your yard!

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Rose – Queen of the Garden

We all love roses. It may be the luxurious fragrances, rich colors or the elegant flower forms that attract us. It may be the memories that roses evoke. Whatever the reason, roses are one of the world’s most popular flowers. With so many different types of roses available, ranging from the diminutive miniatures to the towering climbers, there is no excuse to exclude this “Queen of Flowers” from your garden.

Rose Types

There are many types of roses to cultivate, and it can be difficult to choose. If you’re just getting started with roses, consider some of these popular favorites…

  • Hybrid Tea Roses: These blooms are a favorite of rose gardeners who enjoy long-stemmed, large flowers. Hybrid tea flowers have many petals and plants grow upright and tall, about 3-7 feet. These roses are appropriate in either a formal garden or informal planting.
  • Floribunda Roses: These roses have smaller flowers than hybrid teas with the flowers arranged in clusters. This rose bush is useful as a hedge for a border or privacy screen, and is equally stunning in mass plantings.
  • Grandiflora Roses: These beauties were developed by crossing hybrid teas with floribundas. This rose grows to around 10 feet tall so it should be used in the back of the border where its beauty won’t shroud other plants. The flowers of the Grandiflora are hybrid tea form and can be single stemmed or borne in clusters depending on the cultivar.
  • Climbing Roses: These roses make an outstanding vertical display when trained on arbors, walls, fences, trellises and pergolas and can grow from 8-15 feet tall. Flowers may be borne large and single or small and arranged in clusters.
  • Miniature Roses: These delicate nymphs are dwarf in every way – flowers, leaves and height. This rose may be mass planted as a ground cover, used as border or grown in containers on decks, patios and porches.
  • Shrub Roses: These flowers are renowned for their bushy habit and superior disease resistance making them an excellent choice for mass planting. The shrub rose flower may be either single or double. Some types have very showy rose hips.
  • Old Roses: These luscious heirlooms are making a come-back! Although bloom times and color choices are limited, old roses are much more fragrant, vigorous and disease resistant than modern roses. To obtain all the qualities of an old rose combined with a long bloom time of a modern rose, look for the David Austin varieties.

Not sure which rose is just right for your landscape or garden? Our rose experts will be glad to help you choose the perfect rose no matter what thoughts or emotions you want your garden to evoke. Stop in today to see the latest types of roses and the most popular cultivars for this year’s gardening.

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Amsonia hubrichtii

Amsonia hubrichtii, commonly known as Arkansas blue star, Arkansas amsonia or threadleaf bluestar, grows 36 inches tall and 36 inches wide in a mounded form. This hardy perennial grows in hardiness zones 4-9 and is a versatile North American native ideal for many landscaping uses in all types of yards and gardens.

Amazing Seasonal Interest

Unlike many plants that truly shine only for one season, Amsonia hubrichtii offers a variety of features throughout the seasons. From late spring to early summer, 2-3-inch wide clusters of small, light blue, star-shaped flowers are borne above the delicately soft, ferny or lacey foliage. The alternate-arranged, narrow leaves are a marvelous bright green in spring and summer, but turn a bright yellow-golden color which is second to none among herbaceous perennials in fall. In winter, the foliage can hold its shape and support snowfall, creating a beautiful mounding effect in the winter landscape.

Caring for Amsonia hubrichtii

These plants thrive in full sun to partial shade and perform best in average, moist, well-drained soil with a neutral (7.0) pH. Full sun will promote the best autumn color, but spring and summer blooms will be more prominent in a part-shade location. In a full shade location or when planted in too-rich soil, however, the plant may tend to open up and flop over, losing its full mounding traits. Though initially slow to grow and less lush and attractive when young, once established, it can tolerate drier conditions. Having no known severe insect or disease problems, other than minor occurrences of Mycosphaerella leaf spot and rust, this is a very easy to care for perennial.

After the flowers have faded, cutting back the foliage to 6-8 inches will help keep the mounds full and compact. Late season growth will fill in the plant in plenty of time for its showstopping autumn color. When the plants are large, they can be divided for transplanting to add even more specimens to the landscape.

In the Landscape

Amsonia is a real asset in borders, native gardens, cottage gardens or open woodland areas. Because of this plant’s versatility, it is also ideal in rock gardens or even rain gardens in well-drained soil. It is best when planted in masses and very attractive when mixed with ornamental grasses and other plants that have attractive seed heads. It tolerates deer and attracts butterflies, making it wildlife-friendly as well.

The outstanding ornamental qualities, ease of maintenance and many uses make Amsonia an invaluable perennial selection for any gardener.

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Viburnums

Viburnums are one of the most outstanding groups of shrubs for use in landscape planting. Varying in height from 2-30 feet, viburnums can be found to suit most any planting location. Their varied growth habits, excellent foliage, striking and fragrant flowers, showy fruit and interesting winter appearance make them an excellent choice for most gardeners.

Which Viburnum to Choose

Effective in many situations, the smaller shrub forms, such as Viburnum carlesi ‘Compacta’ and V. opulus ‘Compactum’, are excellent for planting close to houses or in tighter spaces, such as narrow flowerbeds or in side yards. The larger forms, such as V. lantana and V. prunifolium, make good specimen and screen plantings to be a centerpiece in the garden or provide privacy. Which one will work best in your landscape will also depend on the available space you have, your soil type and the sunlight needs of individual plants.

Flowers and Foliage

Viburnum flowers, primarily white in color, are borne in clusters, ranging from a rounded snowball shape to a flat form. Large, white snowball clusters of florets are found on V. carlcephalum and V. macrocephalum. Half-round flower forms are borne on such types as V. carlesi and V. burkwoodi. Most of the others have a flat cluster of florets such as V. plicatum ‘Tomentosum,’ V. dilatatum and others.

Viburnum foliage can be extraordinary with types that include a velvety smooth leaf surface, bold rough-veined textures and glossy leathery character, all of which add more textural interest to the landscape. In addition, some forms have attractive fall leaf color such as the purplish red of V. dentatum and V. dilatatum, as well as the brilliant red of V. opulus.

Brilliant Berries

In the fall and winter there is also ornamental value with berries. Many viburnums produce lovely fruits in shades of red, pink, yellow and blue-black which not only add to fall and winter interest, but can also be attractive to birds and other backyard wildlife.

Viburnum Care

With so many many pleasing aesthetic features of these plants, how easy are they to care for? Easier than you may think! Viburnums are very hardy, resistant to serious pests, thrive in a variety of soil and environmental conditions and require little pruning. They will grow in either sun or shade; however, flowering and fruiting will be more profuse in a sunny location.

With so much to choose from and so many advantages to these shrubs, there’s sure to be one to suit all your landscaping needs. Stop in to consult with our landscaping experts today, and we can help you choose the perfect viburnum to complement your landscape.

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Vegetable Garden Weed Control

You may want to grow many different things in your vegetable garden, but weeds probably aren’t on your favorite edibles list. Weeding can be an enormous time-drain and is one of the the least liked gardening chores. What’s wonderful is that we have so many weed control methods to choose from; there’s a solution for every type of gardener and their schedule.

Safe Control Methods in Edible Gardens

When it comes to vegetable gardening, many gardeners are very particular about what goes into their soil and onto their plants, as it will eventually end up on their plates and in their bodies. Here are some indisputable safe and effective ways to control weeds, without chemicals, in your veggie or any other garden for that matter.

  • Apply corn gluten meal to prevent weed seeds from germinating (don’t use if direct seeding your garden as all seeds will be affected).
  • Plan your garden to crowd edible plants together, effectively crowding out weeds because there isn’t space left for them to grow.
  • Manually pull weeds when the soil is wet and roots are looser. This can be done after a natural rainfall or after supplemental watering.
  • Hoe when the soil is dry to break apart weeds and damage their roots. Pick up larger weeds after hoeing so they cannot reestablish themselves.
  • Mulch with salt hay which contains no weed seeds. The hay will shield weed seeds from the sunlight and moisture they need for germinating.
  • Lay biodegradable and compostable mulch film down to create a firm barrier to keep weeds out or to prevent existing weed seeds from germinating.
  • Attract seed-loving birds such as finches and sparrows, which will happily eat hundreds of weed seeds each day for natural control.
  • Consider raised beds or container gardening to more effectively control weeds and make any remaining weeding easier.
  • Use fire (with all appropriate safety precautions) to burn out unwanted weeds, especially in pathway areas or along garden borders.
  • Treat exposed weeds with boiling water – the hotter the better – to cook and kill them. Several treatments may be needed for the best effects.

Weeds can be some of our worst enemies in the garden, and it is impossible to eliminate every single weed all the time. By using multiple methods and keeping on top of the task, however, it is possible to minimize weeds and make this chore less onerous, without resorting to harsh chemicals.

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Top 10 Fool Proof Houseplants

Do you have a “black thumb”? Do you love houseplants but just can’t seem to keep them alive no matter what their species or condition? Are you worried about getting new plants because being in your home is a death sentence for anything green? Worry no more! This list of foolproof houseplants will help you select and grow houseplants with confidence. Although all plants look and grow better with optimum care, these plants are some of the toughest you can find and will tolerate more abuse and neglect than most others.

  1. Cast Iron Plant / Bar Room Plant (Aspidistra elatior)
  2. Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema hybrids)
  3. Cordyline (Cordyline fruitcosa)
  4. Dracaena (Dracaena spp.)
  5. Jade Plant / Friendship Tree / Money Plant (Crassula ovate)
  6. Mother-In-Law’s Tongue / Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
  7. Peace lily (Spathiphyllum cochlearispathum)
  8. Philodendron (Philodendron spp.)
  9. Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
  10. Spider Plant / Airplane Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Good Care Basics

While these tough plants can withstand some neglect, it isn’t as hard as you may think to provide them with proper care. No matter what type of houseplant you choose, some good rules of thumb that can help keep them happy include…

  • Position plants in a brightly lit room, but out of direct sunlight that can cause burns on the foliage. If the plant is stretching toward the window – turning to face the light – it can use more sunlight.
  • Use good quality potting soil appropriate to pot plants, and fertilize them regularly to provide adequate nourishment. Reduce fertilizing during the winter months when growth naturally slows.
  • Water plants regularly, but allow the top 2-3 inches of soil to go dry between waterings. The pot should have drainage holes, and never let a houseplant sit in a saucer of water – that can lead to root rot.
  • Group pots together to increase the humidity around the houseplants and reduce the yellow tips of leaves (a sign of dryness in the air). Use a wet pebble tray or mist plants to raise humidity as well.
  • Dust plants 1-2 times per month to keep their leaves bright and pores clear for better gas exchange. Be gentle, however, and do not use waxing sprays or other dusting chemicals on houseplants.

It can be a great joy to have houseplants thriving in your home. No matter how many plants you may have killed in the past, you’ll soon be a successful houseplant gardener when you choose plants that don’t mind kind-hearted abuse!

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Shade Gardening: A Natural Opportunity

Although developing a garden for a shady area may require a little extra planning, some more thought and a bit more effort than sunny spaces, there are many opportunities to grow remarkable, unusual plants in the shade garden. Shade-loving plants are often noted for their foliage and can be combined to produce appealing contrasts in form, texture and color. From the glossy, dark greens of camellias and rhododendrons to the soft, silvery lamiums and the bold-textured, brownish-purple leaves of bergenia, the diversity of foliage available is positively breathtaking!

Defining Shade

The term “shade” encompasses many light conditions. Shade can range from dense darkness to the light-dappled shade under a birch tree. Most plants require at least a few hours of direct light each day (light shade) to look their best, especially if they feature bright colors in foliage or blooms. Some plants, however, do best in an abundance of filtered light (medium shade), especially if the shade is provided in the afternoon to cut the strongest rays of the sun. In the meantime, a few plants can thrive in the darkness of a forest (dense shade), without ever being exposed to bright, direct sunlight.

Other factors you will need to consider when planting your shade garden are the amount of moisture your shady spot receives and the soil conditions. The soil under large trees is usually dry because of the “umbrella” affect created. Other locations may have soggy soil that will only allow bog-type plants to grow. The soil’s drainage, pH and texture will all have to be taken into account to create the best shade-loving garden.

Not sure where to start for finding plants for a shade garden? Top shade-loving perennials and their requirements include…

Perennials for Dry Shade:

  • Convallaria majalis (Lily of the Valley)**
  • Dicentra ‘Luxuriant’ (Bleeding Heart)*
  • Epimedium perralchicum, pinnatum, pubigerum (Bishop’s Hat)*
  • Geranium maculatum, endressii, nodosum (Cranesbill)*
  • Helleborus foetidus*
  • Lamium maculaturm (Deadnettle)*
  • Polygonatum multiflorum (Soloman’s Seal)*

Perennials for Cool, Moist Soils in Shade:

  • Adiantum pedatum (Maidenhair Fern)**
  • Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’ (Japanese Painted Fern)**
  • Cyrtomium (Japanese Holly Fern)**
  • Dryopteris erythrosora (Autumn Fern)**
  • Dryopteris marginalis (Marginal Shield Fern)**
  • Epimedium grandiflorum, warleyense*
  • Helleborus viridus, orientalis (Lenten Rose)*
  • Mertensia virginica (Virginia Bluebell)**
  • Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas Fern)**
  • Polystichum setiferum ‘Divisilobum’ (Soft-Shield Fern)**
  • Tiarella cordifolia (Foam Flower)*
  • Tricyrtis formosana (Toad Lily)*
  • Trillium sessile, grandiflorum**
  • Trollius europaeus*

Perennial Groundcovers in Shade:

  • Acanthus mollis (Bear’s Breech)*
  • Aegopodium podagraria ‘Variegatum’ (Goutweed)*
  • Asarum europaeum (European Wild Ginger)*
  • Galium odoratum (Sweet Woodruff)*
  • Lamiastrum galeobdolon ‘Florentinum’ (Variegated Archangel)*
  • Lamium maculatum ‘Beacon Silver’ (Dead Nettle)*
  • Luzula sylvatica ‘Marginata’*
  • Tiarella cordifolia (Foam Flower)*
  • Vinca minor*
  • Waldsteinia ternata (Barren Strawberry)*

Climbers for Shady Walls & Fences:

  • Akebia quinata, trifoliata
  • Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’
  • Euonymus fortunei ‘Coloradus’
  • Hedera helix (English Ivy)
  • Humulus lupulus (Golden Hops)
  • Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’ (Japanese Honeysuckle)
  • Parthenosis henryana, quinquefolia, tricuspidata

*Does best in light shade
**Does best in medium to dense shade

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Yellowjackets: Good Guys or Bad?

When you hear “yellowjacket,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? A buzzing, stinging insect ruining your outdoor meal or a treasured pollinator of many plants? A yellowjacket is both!

About Yellowjackets

The most commonly found yellowjacket is the Eastern yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons). The Eastern yellowjacket is a wasp that is 1/2 to 5/8 inch long and is black and yellow striped. The body is curved under and is wider than the head. Yellowjackets do not have any “hairs” such as are found on honeybees and bumblebees.

Yellowjackets are generally ground nesters, however, in some situations, especially in urban areas, they will make their nest above ground such as in hollow walls and attics.

During the spring and summer, the colony population increases from the fertilized solitary queen, who survived the winter, to several thousand. Adult yellowjackets feed protein to the young wasps and larvae while they subsist on sugars. Foraging for food, the wasps cross-pollinate plants while seeking small insects and nectar. Yellowjackets provide a valuable service to humans by consuming numerous insects that eat ornamental and cultivated plants.

On the other hand, yellowjackets are drawn to cookouts, picnic areas and garbage cans. Their sting, unfortunately, is especially painful. Unlike honeybees, which only sting once, wasps can sting numerous times. Some people react severely to the venom and may have problems breathing or other dangerous reactions.

To Minimize Yellowjacket Interactions

Despite their good characteristics, many people prefer to keep yellowjackets away from picnics, play areas and yards. To reduce the possibility of inviting yellowjackets to your outdoor party…

  • Don’t leave moist pet food outside during the summer. Bird seed is fine, but not suet.
  • Keep garbage cans washed. Securely cover all garbage cans and recycling containers. Rinse beer, wine, soft drink and ice cream containers before disposing of them.
  • Keep garbage cans away from entertainment areas, play areas and pathways.
  • If eating outdoors, cover all serving plates and drinking glasses/bottles to prevent yellowjackets from getting into food or drink. When yellowjackets are in the area, be sure to check your food and drink before consuming.
  • Yellowjackets feed on aphids and scale on trees and shrubs. Therefore, spray for these pests in July and August, if needed, to remove that food source.
  • Repair dripping hoses and faucets as the puddles can attract wasps.
  • Wasps enjoy rotting fruit. Harvest tree and cane fruits when ripe. Carefully pick up all fallen fruit (gloves are a good idea!) and dispose of it in a covered container.
  • Wasps create a flight-path from the nest to food sources. Avoid this area. If this is not possible, consider removing the nest.

Yellowjacket Traps

To help make your outdoor gatherings more pleasant and safer, yellowjacket traps can be effective. Hang these around the perimeter of your yard if you plan to eat outside, but never hang traps near the food area, as you will only increase the attraction to that area. Some traps are disposable and have the benefit of reducing the sting possibility. Others are “reusable” and must be emptied and refilled with bait. These increase the probability of being stung but can be more affordable in the long term.

Eliminating Yellowjacket Nests

When absolutely necessary, the elimination of a yellowjacket nest should not be undertaken lightly. If it’s early in the season and the nest is visible, a forceful water blast will break it apart. To reduce the chances of being stung, do this during the day while the workers are not home. Wasps return to the colony as dusk. Sometimes the workers will begin rebuilding in the same place. Pesticide sprays can kill wasps, and after the nest is destroyed, spraying the area can discourage rebuilding. If it’s later in the season, the aerial nest may be too large to eliminate safely.

Underground nests are a much bigger challenge to destroy. Because the entrance may be at an angle to the nest, flooding seldom works. Never try to burn a yellowjacket ground nest by pouring kerosene or other flammable liquid into the entrance and lighting it. In addition to many stings, more serious injuries may occur. This also pollutes the soil and a fire can quickly get out of control. If the flight pattern to the entrance creates a serious hardship or is close to a building, it is best to consult with an expert for safe nest elimination.

If the yellowjackets have built their colonies within your house walls or attic, it may also be necessary to contact a professional. Note: if yellowjackets are nesting in your home, do not plug the entrance/exit hole or they may chew the rest of the way into your house! Our experts can offer a professional referral for local wasp removal services or search “Pest Control” for your city on the Internet or in the yellow pages.

Yellowjackets do have their uses, but if you have no use for these stinging insects, there are many ways to eliminate them safely. Using several techniques will be most effective and will minimize the risk of being troubled by wasps again.

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Watering Tomato Plants

Proper watering plays a significant role in producing a healthy tomato plant with tasty, meaty, juicy fruit. So, what’s the secret, and how can you be sure you are watering your tomatoes the right way?

Watering Location

Always water tomatoes at the root zone; never overhead water your tomato plant. Watering directly at the soil level will strengthen the plant’s root system and ensure the maximum amount of moisture reaches the roots. When you overhead water, much of the water will not make it to the roots as it evaporates before reaching the soil. Water droplets on plant leaves act as a magnifying glass and can burn tender plant tissue, damaging foliage that is essential to keep the plant healthy. Water dripping from leaf to leaf can also spread disease, infecting an entire crop. To be sure tomatoes are not being watered inappropriately, keep plants out of reach of lawn sprinkler systems or other inadvertent watering.

Watering Speed

Slow watering is essential to properly distribute moisture to a tomato plant. Allow the water to drip slowly into the soil, giving the plant roots time to absorb the moisture. A drip system is best and will also help with water conservation. Avoid using a hand held hose, as it is easy to either underwater or overwater using this method. Water to a depth of 8 inches to ensure all roots have access to adequate moisture. You can also use a watering reservoir, such as a gallon jug with several small holes in its bottom, to slowly and carefully water the plants without flooding the root zone.

Watering Frequency

A regular watering schedule is essential for the healthiest, most productive tomato plants. Water consistently to produce larger fruits and to avoid split and cracked fruit and blossom end rot. Tomato plants should be watered 2-3 times a week in the height of summer or when natural rain is lacking. A deep soaking rain counts and supplemental watering should be adjusted whenever Mother Nature lends a hand with watering chores. The top inch or two of soil should dry out between watering to be sure the plant is not getting too much moisture.

Watering Adjustments

There are several times when it may be necessary to adjust where, when and how much you water your tomatoes. Changes in local rainfall – increasing spring or summer rains, a sudden storm, an unexpected drought – can require changes in supplemental watering to keep the moisture to your tomatoes consistent. As plants grow and more fruit appears, more water may be needed to meet the plant’s watering needs and keep it lush and healthy.

By understanding the basics of watering tomatoes, you can keep your plants well hydrated without risk of either overwatering or underwatering, both of which could be disastrous for your tomato crop.

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Clematis

Beautiful, showy clematis are not as difficult to grow as you might think. Learning when to prune your clematis and giving a little attention to their few requirements will reward you with a magnificent show of colorful blooms.

Planting Clematis

A beautiful clematis starts with proper planting. Clematis prefer to have their roots in the shade and their tops in the sun. Keep the roots cool with a well-drained rich soil with added compost, peat moss or composted manure and a good layer of mulch. Planting ground cover or other low growing perennials around the base of your clematis will also help to keep the soil cool and minimize weed growth. Organic amendments will help to retain moisture when added to the soil. Feed monthly with a liquid fertilizer or use a slow release fertilizer which can last for up to six months.

A Note About Bloom Rates

For the first few years, clematis may be slow to grow. Just keep in mind that it is establishing its root system, which is essential to a healthy, vibrant plant. In its first year, your clematis may produce very few flowers or even none at all. By the second year there will be more growth and a few flowers. By the third year you should see substantial growth and many lovely blooms.

Planting Clematis

For the best chance of success if you are new to gardening with clematis, buy plants in larger containers. While smaller starts will be less expensive to buy, they will take a little more work to establish and can be more delicate and prone to failure. If you purchase a pot of any size and are not planting it in the ground immediately, be sure not to allow the soil in the container to dry out or the plant may be overly stressed and vulnerable.

Keep the climbing habit of clematis in mind when selecting your planting site. Allow your plants to grow up into large shrubs and trees, or on a trellis against a sunny wall. Select varieties with growth that will not exceed your shrub or trellis; a 20-foot vine may overwhelm a smaller shrub or a weak trellis and will look overgrown and out of place.

Proper Pruning

Clematis are divided into three distinctive groups. Knowing what group your clematis falls under will guide you on when and how to prune.

These pruning suggestions are for established vines that have been in the ground for at least three years. Young vines should all be pruned to 12 inches the second spring and to 18 inches the third spring. This helps to develop more shoots, a fuller vine and a better root system.

  • Group 1
    This group includes certain species clematis and their cultivars which bloom early in the year. Some of the more familiar representatives of this group include the Montanas, varieties of C. alpina and C. macropetala. All of the Group 1 clematis bloom on growth made the previous year. They can be pruned to keep them within their allotted space or to remove dead and unsightly foliage. If they are pruned late in the season or before they flower, however, the cuts may remove potential flower buds and reduce that year’s flowering. To prevent this, prune Group 1 clematis right after flowering.
  • Group 2
    These are the large flowered hybrids. They are often divided again into two subgroups – 2a and 2b. All of the clematis in Group 2 bloom on ‘old wood’ (actually on short shoots from old wood) and should not be pruned except for deadwood pruning in early spring after the leaf buds open slightly.
  • Group 3
    These are the summer-blooming varieties such as the viticellas and Jackmanii types that bloom on new wood and the late bloomers such as Sweet Autumn Clematis (C. terniflora) and orientalis types. Clematis in Group 3 mainly flower on new wood produced in the current year and should be pruned back severely every year in late winter, when they are completely dormant, to about 12-14 inches. Leave at least two pairs of buds on each stem of the plant. Most clematis in this group are very fast growing and will reach their full height before blooming every summer.

Once you know how to properly care for clematis, you will find it to be a welcome addition to your landscape. If you aren’t sure just what your clematis needs to thrive, our expert staff will be glad to help be sure you and your plants have a great relationship!

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Woolly Adelgid

Woolly Adelgid is an aphid-like insect that is a serious pest of the Eastern Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis, and its cultivars. Adelgids need to be controlled as this insect spreads easily and rapidly and, if left untreated, can kill a mature hemlock in 4-10 years.

Recognizing Adelgids

Adelgids, formally called Hemlock Woolly Adelgids (Adelges tsugae) or HWA, present as a fuzzy, cottony white substance on the underside of hemlock needles. This is actually a waxy filament produced by the tiny, 1/16-inch insect as a covering and protection for itself and its eggs. These insects are native to Asia, and damage trees by sucking on the sap. As damage occurs, the needles of the tree become grayish rather than robustly dark green. When infected, trees may lose their needles and will not produce new growth on the damaged branches. Because infected trees are significantly weakened, they are subject to many other infections from diseases and pests, and ultimately die.

Controlling Adelgids

Exercising good horticultural practices is the best way to prevent Hemlock Woolly Adelgid infestations. Site your hemlock appropriately, in proper sunlight and a location where it can grow well without being cramped or crowded. Water and feed as required for optimum health, including adding extra fertilization or nutrition as required. A healthy tree will always withstand disease and insect problems better that one that is already stressed.

When Adelgids are present, apply insecticidal soap or horticultural oil in early April and again in June. Be certain to follow manufacturer instructions carefully and reach the underside of the needles where the Adelgids are located. When spraying in June, do so on a cooler, overcast day so as not to burn the Hemlock needles. If your Hemlock is too large to handle on your own, contact a trusted and licensed tree-care professional for treatment. Even after you have controlled an outbreak, annual spraying is recommended to be sure the pests do not reappear.

Other types of chemical treatments that can be used against these invasive pests include…

  • Foliage Sprays: These insecticides are sprayed over the entire tree to coat the foliage. They are stronger than soaps or oils and may be effective for 2-4 years. Higher toxicity can lead to other problems and contamination concerns, however, and applications should only be done by experienced professionals.
  • Soil Drenches: These are insecticides that are specially formulated to be absorbed by the tree’s roots and then will be consumed by the Adelgids as they sip on the tree’s sap. This can take longer to be effective, however, but it has long-lasting impact to control these insects. They should not be used where water sources may be inadvertently contaminated.

In some areas, predator beetles have been released to consume Adelgids, and while this is not yet effective on a widespread scale, there have been positive reports and limited success.

Hemlock Woolly Adelgids are a vicious, invasive pest, but with proper control techniques, their invasion can be stopped and the majestic hemlock forests renewed and restored.

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