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Winter Gardener’s Calendar

A perfect time to plan! Curl up with your gardening books and the gardening magazines and catalogs you’ve received in the mail. Get out the gardening journal and start dreaming…

General Landscape

  • Clean up when you get a break in the weather. Remove fallen branches and downed evergreen clumps. Rake leaves to prevent stains on concrete and dead patches on lawn. If freezing weather is still in the forecast, leave the mulch in place.
  • If your Christmas tree is still around, set it where the dropping needles will provide mulch, use the branches as additional insulation for perennials, or get together with neighbors to rent a chipper and create wood chips for larger mulch.

Houseplants

  • Perk up tired houseplants by removing dead and dying leaves. Wash under a soft shower in the sink or tub.
  • Spider mites love living in warm dry winter homes. Check for mites by looking for tiny speckles on leaves.
  • Transplant if roots are growing through the drainage holes or over the pot edge. Pick up some new larger trend-setting colored pots to perk up your décor. Or, if you don’t want to move into a larger pot, untangle the roots and cut back by 1/3, scour the pots and replant with new soil.
  • Remember to turn your plants each week as they begin to grow towards the weaker window light.
  • Plant a terrarium or miniature garden. If you can’t play in the dirt outside, bring the fun indoors!
  • Pick up Valentine flowers. We have a fragrant and beautiful assortment of red, pink or white flowers. Come in and choose from cyclamen, miniature roses, orchids, and other colorful flowers that are the perfect “I love you!”

Vegetables:

  • Plant short-term cover crop such as Fava beans when soil becomes workable.
  • February: Start vegetable and herb seeds indoors:
Broccoli
Cabbage
Celery
Chard
Eggplant
Kale
Kohlrabi
Leeks
Lettuce
Onions, bulb
Peppers
Radicchio
Scallion
Spinach
Tomatoes
Turnip

General:

If you just need a breath of aromatic fresh garden air, stop by and smell ours! The humidity is perfect and will instantly transport you to spring. While here, check out the latest trends in gardening colors, containers, new plant varieties and tools. Of course, we also have a wide selection of books to provide ideas. If you have any questions or need suggestions, we’re here to help. We’d love to see you!

Early Spring Gardener’s Calendar

* Plan your summer vegetable and herb garden. We offer a wide selection of seeds that include all of your favorite annuals, perennials, vegetables and other novelties as well as many hard-to-find selections. Inventory your pots and flats and discard unusable ones. Make a list of the supplies you will need. Have your garden soil tested for nutrient content. We offer a variety of do-it-yourself soil test kits.

* Prune woody plants while dormant, including fruit trees, summer – and fall – blooming shrubs and vines. Limit pruning of spring-blooming trees and shrubs to the removal of sucker growth and rubbing or broken branches. Spray trees and shrubs with year-round horticultural oil to reduce insect population.

* Sharpen, clean and oil tools and lawn mowers. Begin heavy annual pruning of shrub roses as new leaves appear.

* Plant pansies, English daisies and primrose as soon as the earth is workable. Plant strawberry plants. Sow cool-season vegetables and herbs in the garden.

* Start spring cleanup and begin major lawn work. Remove debris, dethatch your lawn or aerate compacted areas to improve water penetration.

* Spray needles and limbs of Arborvitae, Cryptomeria, false cypress, fir, hemlock, Juniper, pine, yew and spruce (except blue spruce) for spider mites with year-round horticultural oil.

* Apply fertilizer to perennials and roses with. Feed berry bushes, grapevines, rhubarb and asparagus a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer before new growth begins. Fertilize trees and shrubs.

*Apply crabgrass preventer with fertilizer to feed the lawn and control crabgrass. Do not use on newly seeded lawns.

* Continue spring cleanup. Cultivate to remove winter weeds and debris from the planting beds. Apply corn gluten or a pre-emergent herbicide with fertilizer specified for gardens and scratch it in to prevent future weeds. Do not use in gardens where you will be direct seeding.

* Reseed bare spots in established lawns. Keep the area moist until seedlings appear, then mow when the new grass is 3? high.

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

* Dig and divide crowded early spring bulbs after they finish blooming. Enrich the soil with bone meal.

* Plant and transplant trees and shrubs, including roses, ground covers, and perennials.

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

* Place gro-thru sets over peonies, grasses or any other perennials in need of support.

Cold-Tolerant Flowering Plants

Cold doesn’t have to kill your dreams for beautiful flowerbeds overflowing with vibrant color and stupendous blooms. While the deepest freezes of winter will put a stop to any flowering plant, there are beautiful plants that can chill out without damage or difficulty. The trick is recognizing which of these cold-tolerant flowering plants will work best in your climate and garden, and we’re here to help with that.

Freeze Tolerant Annuals

These are annuals that can withstand freezing temperatures and hard frosts for short periods with little or no injury. The best options include…

  • Marguerite Daisy (Argyranthemum frutescens)
  • Swan River Daisy (Brachycomb iberidifolia)
  • Million Bells (Calibrachoa x hybrida)
  • Dracaena Spike (Cordyline australis)
  • Dusty Miller (Scenecio cineraria)
  • Gazania (Gazania rigens)
  • Nemesia (Nemesia fruticans)
  • Cape Daisy (Osteospermum spp.)
  • Petunia (Petunia x hybrida)
  • Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odoratus)
  • Verbena (Verbena x hybrida)

Semi-Hardy Annuals

These are annuals that are perennials in warmer zones and can actually overwinter in cooler areas during mild winters of if they are located in a warm, sunny, protected spot. These are very frost and freeze tolerant annuals…

  • Annual Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus)
  • Annual Pinks (Dianthus chinensis)
  • Pansy (Viola x wittrockiana)
  • Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’)
  • Mealycup Sage (Salvia farinacea)
  • Variegated Vinca Vine (Vinca major ‘Variegata’)

Perennials

Perennials are plants with roots that survive through the winter months, sending out new growth each spring. Appearing in your garden year after year, they become old and treasured friends. Perennials come in many sizes, shapes and colors with various bloom times and periods. It is best to plan your garden by the bloom time of the plant along with its cultural needs (sun/shade and drought-tolerant/water-lovers, etc.) to be sure you have a good, healthy balance of plants that will keep your garden and landscaping lush for months. Because these plants have evolved to survive the winter’s cold, they are all cold-tolerant to at least some measure. Popular favorites include…

  • Dicentra ‘Luxuriant’ – No garden is complete without a patch of Bleeding Hearts. This fringed variety is longer blooming than the old-fashioned selections. Rose-pink flowers are borne gracefully above soft green foliage with a slight blue cast that looks fresh all summer. 18-24” tall. Plant in part shade.
  • Bergenia – Spikes of delicate pink blooms soften the bold evergreen foliage of this early blooming perennial in March or April.
  • Armeria (Sea Pink) – Another evergreen perennial, this bloomer sends out masses of papery pink or white flowers above grass-like clumps of foliage.
  • Basket of Gold (Aurinia) – Charming yellow flowers float above dense mats of attractive gray foliage on this old-fashioned favorite. Plant in full sun. Excellent for a rock garden.
  • Candytuft (Iberis) – Flat-topped clusters of white flowers cover this evergreen perennial in early spring. Excellent as an edging in a border or to use in a rock garden.
  • Columbine (Aquilegia) – Beloved by hummingbirds and butterflies, columbine is also a great cut flower. Available in many color shades and bi-color combinations, columbine is perfect in any border or landscape situation.
  • Coralbell (Heuchera) – Tiny bell flowers on 1-2’ slender stems bloom from spring into summer. Shades of foliage vary from green to pink to deep burgundy. Plant in sun or shade.

Not sure which plants are best for the cold in your yard? Stop in and see our landscaping experts today for help choosing just which blooms will heat up even on cold days!

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The Great Squirrel Battle for the Bulbs

Autumn is the catalog time of year, when gardeners devour and drool over the spring-blooming bulb catalogs, eagerly fantasizing about next year’s flowerbeds. We picture drifts of crocus and gaily swaying tulips, lush daffodils and glorious hyacinths. Snowdrops, irises, daylilies… Ah, the garden will be great this next spring.

Then we remember last spring – hours of labor and dozens of bulbs meticulously planted, but only one or two emerged to flaunt their blooms. What happened?

Squirrels and Bulbs

Squirrels like flower bulbs just as much as gardeners, but unfortunately not for their beauty. From the looks of the remains – chewed remnants, dug up holes, battered foliage – those bulbs became expensive squirrel food. Fortunately, if you want to plant daffodils, alliums, scilla, hyacinths, squills or fritillaria, your bulbs should be safe. Generally, squirrels don’t eat these. But how can you protect the bulbs that make the tastiest squirrel treats?

Keeping Squirrels Out of the Flowerbeds

Go ahead and order your bulbs. While you’re waiting for delivery, decide which of the three basic methods you will use to prevent the squirrel attacks. A small investment of time and materials will protect your bulbs.

  1. Mesh Barriers
    Wire mesh is the best protection to keep squirrels away from bulbs. Dig the hole for several bulbs, make a “cage” using mesh around the bulbs and fill in the soil. If the squirrels dig, the mesh will prevent them from eating the bulbs. You may also plant the bulbs as usual and place a layer of mesh on the soil. You’ll have to secure it to keep it in place then cover with mulch. Be sure the mesh layer is wide enough so squirrels cannot easily dig around the sides to reach the bulbs.
  1. Repellants
    Garden centers sell many different squirrel repellants, and deer repellants also repel squirrels. Some gardeners swear to the effective use of red pepper flakes mixed in the soil around, and over, the bulbs. Many squirrels don’t like spicy tastes, but pepper flakes may need to be replaced after heavy spring rains to be the most effective.
  1. Sharp Gravel
    Adding sharp gravel to the soil around and over the bulbs also deters squirrels from digging. Not only do they not like the feel of the gravel on their sensitive paws, but the gravel – which is heavier than dirt or mulch – is more difficult to move, so the bulbs stay safer.

There is another option to keep squirrels away from bulbs without completely discouraging their visits. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em – because squirrels look for the easiest food sources, a squirrel feeding station stocked with corn and peanuts may be just the thing to keep the squirrels from looking for your buried treasures!

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Winter Pond Prep Checklist

Your pond can be an attractive and valuable focal point of your landscaping, but it can also be a delicate one. As winter approaches, certain steps should be taken to ensure plant and fish survival so your pond will still be at its best next spring.

  1. Clean Out Debris
    Use a netted scooper, a rake, your hands and, if possible, a pond vacuum to clean out pond debris. Rotting vegetation produces gas under winter ice that can be fatal to fish, frogs or other aquatic wildlife. This is also a good time to reduce any mud coverage over the pond’s bottom.
  2. Trim Pond Plants
    Trim and move hardy pond plants to the deep end of the pond (minimum 18” depth) to prevent them from freezing. Cut their vegetative growth back to about one inch above the soil line. Extra foliage will be more delicate and could rot over the winter. Especially be sure to trim any foliage that is already broken, wilting or damaged.
  3. Remove Tropical Plants
    Tropical plants or any delicate vegetation should be removed from the pond and placed in a basement or garage where they will not freeze. Keep plants moist throughout the fall and winter months until it is time to return them to the pond.
  4. Disassemble Summer Equipment
    Remove and clean the pond pump and waterfall or fountain feature (if applicable). Store them inside for the winter. See your maintenance guidelines for proper storage recommendations to keep the equipment in peak condition.
  5. Clean Pond Filter
    Thoroughly clean the pond filter and inspect it for any damage. If necessary, repair or replace the filter.
  6. Change Fish Diet
    Feed fish with spring/autumn food mixtures to provide good nutrition for their slowing metabolism. Stop feeding them completely when temperatures drop consistently below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid overfeeding, which would contribute to excess debris and decay in the pond over the winter.
  7. Set Up Pond Heater
    If needed, set up your pond heater for winter use. Test the equipment to be sure it is functioning properly and make any repairs or adjustments as needed.
  8. Cover the Pond
    Cover your pond with netting, screening or a shade cloth to minimize debris that will fall into the water throughout the winter. Secure the perimeter with sod staples or rocks to prevent the covering from blowing away. This will make spring cleanup and restarting your pond much easier.
  9. Relax until spring!
    Your pond will be ready for warmer temperatures when you are.

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Get Started Composting

Fall is an excellent time to start a compost pile with all of the leaves falling, and if you develop compost now, you will have a rich source of organic material for your garden and flowerbeds in spring. Getting started with compost is fairly simple if you keep in mind the following…

  • Size Matters
    Smaller particles break down faster than larger chunks. Shredding or mulching garden wastes will help speed up the process and develop usable compost faster. Chop up larger pieces of household materials before adding them to your compost pile to speed up their decomposition.
  • Take a Turn for the Better
    Turning helps aerate the pile and shifts outer parts closer to the center where they can heat and decompose more effectively. A well-mixed pile will also have better consistency and more evenly distributed nutrients. Use a pitchfork, spade or rake to gently turn your pile periodically, such as once every 1-2 weeks or whenever you add a large amount of new material to the pile.
  • Know What to Compost
    Materials that can be composted are sod, grass clippings, leaves, hay, straw, manure, chopped corncobs, corn stalks, sawdust, shredded newspaper, wood ashes, hedge clippings and many kinds of plant refuse from the garden. Some household waste, such as coffee grounds, banana peels, eggshells and vegetable peelings are also ideal for a compost pile and will reduce the trash you accumulate.
  • Avoid Unwanted Materials
    Materials to avoid composting are large amounts of weeds, grease, fat, meat scraps and bones, cheese, coal ashes, diseased plants, cut weeds and charcoal. These materials do not decompose readily and can create poor quality compost. For example, meat, grease or dairy products in your compost will begin to smell strongly, which could attract rats, raccoons or other unwanted visitors. Diseased plants or weeds can survive in a compost pile, contaminating your garden when you add the compost to the soil in spring.
  • Cover as Needed
    Covering your compost pile with a tarp or large piece of carpet can help preserve the heat and moisture essential to promote appropriate decomposition. The cover can also keep the pile from freezing or getting too wet in winter conditions, and it can easily be removed to add new material or turn the pile as needed.

Before you toss out your next bag of trash, check for compost material and start your pile today! Your garden will thank you tomorrow.

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Bringing Your Tropical Plants Indoors for the Winter

As the summer comes to an end and autumn approaches, the days get shorter and cooler temperatures signal the time to ready your plants for winter. How can you protect your treasured tropicals from winter damage?

Overwintering Tropical Plants

Don’t wait until frost warnings or freezes occur to bring tropical plants inside, especially since these plants are more susceptible to dropping temperatures. Try to have all of your plants acclimated to the new indoor environment by the end of October. Avoid the temptation to move your tropicals back outside if it suddenly gets warm, because they will have to re-acclimate when you bring them back inside again. With a little extra care even exotic hibiscus can be over-wintered inside the house.

First, it’s a good idea to prune approximately one-eighth to one-fourth off the total height of the plant’s foliage. This helps reduce the shock that the plant receives with the change of conditions when bringing them indoors. Check the plants for signs of insects and treat them with insecticidal soap or pyrethrin spray as well as a systemic insecticide that will provide protection for up to six weeks.

Position indoor tropical plants in a very bright location that receives no less than 6 hours of light per day. If the winter is very cloudy, supplement your plants with an artificial light source. Be sure the room is warm, but avoid putting the plants too close to a heating vent, which can dry them out drastically.

Because they are tropical plants, they will need good humidity which can be achieved by using a humidity tray. Use a saucer that is at least 3-4 inches larger than the pot and fill it with an inch of stones. Pour water over the stones until they are half covered, then place the pot on top of the stones. The humidity immediately around the plant will be increased, but avoid setting the pot directly in any water, which can lead to fungus and rotting. Grouping several plants close together can also help them preserve humidity for more luxuriant growth.

Fertilizing should be continued throughout the winter, but at a rate of once per week. You will find the plant will not utilize as much water in the winter because its growth has slowed. Generally, plants should be watered every 4-7 days depending on location, pot size, soil type and plant type.

If you have any questions about winter care of your plants, our staff will be glad to help you keep your tropicals in good condition all winter long.

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Japanese Beetle Reduction Methods

Japanese beetles can be a scourge of the garden and landscape, but what can you do to keep these pests at bay?

About Japanese Beetles

Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) spend their early lives as underground grubs eating turf grass roots. They prefer well-watered, healthy perennial ryegrass and hard fescues in full sun. Emerging as adult beetles in mid-June through July, they begin feeding on over 200 varieties of plants, including shade and fruit trees, shrubs and ornamentals. They also mate and the females lay 50-70 eggs in the soil.

The eggs hatch in the fall and white C-shaped grubs begin eating roots. Autumn is the best time to check your lawn to see if the grubs are present. Dig several one-foot squares 6″ deep in your lawn, turning over the turf and looking for these distinctive grubs. If you find them, taking action immediately can help control the infestation.

Reducing Japanese Beetle Populations

Non-chemical preventative treatments include spraying beneficial nematodes such as Heterorhabditis or Steinernema onto moist lawns and soil in September. Nematodes, naturally occurring soil organisms, are parasitic to soil grubs and many insect larvae, including Japanese beetles. Spray in the evening and ensure the soil is moist to at least 6″ deep. One product, Lawn Guardian, contains two types of nematodes; one lives deeper in the ground to give a “double whammy” to the feeding grubs.

Natural predators include ground beetles, ants and Tiphia, a parasitoid. Applying Bacillus popilliae Dutky to the soil causes “Milky Spore Disease” to the grub. Chemicals to control the grubs include trichlorfon, imidacloprid, halofenozide or thiamethoxam, so look for pesticides that include these compounds to help eliminate Japanese beetles. Neem oil can also be helpful to control these pests. As always, read and follow the directions carefully when using any type of chemical pesticide.

In the garden, row covers can help minimize Japanese beetle populations during the growing season, but this can also reduce crop productivity as fewer flowers are pollinated. Still, if an area is heavily infested with Japanese beetles, a smaller crop may be a better alternative than accidentally nurturing these pests. If only a few beetles are present, hand-picking them off plants and killing and disposing of the insects – toss them in a bucket of soapy water – can keep the populations manageable.

For the latest information and updates on Japanese beetles, as well as more control tips, contact your favorite garden center or County Agent.

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Repotting Houseplants

Fall is an excellent time to repot many houseplants. Potted plants that have been growing outdoors during the summer have probably grown quite vigorously due to the high light levels and greater humidity. If the top growth of the plant has increased in size by 20 percent or more, it probably should be transplanted into a larger container so the roots can stretch and settle comfortably.

Before You Repot

Before repotting, check the plant and the soil carefully for insects.  Add systemic granules to the soil and spray the leaves with an insecticidal soap to remove any unwanted pests. If an insect infestation is particularly bad, it may be necessary to remove most of the plant’s soil and replace it with fresh potting soil. Avoid using soil from the garden, however, which will harbor insect larvae and eggs as well as weed seeds and other material you do not want in your houseplants.

Acclimating Plants

Bring your plants indoors well before any danger of frost for proper acclimation to the indoor environment. The change in light levels and humidity could shock more delicate plants, and they may wilt temporarily or drop leaves before they adjust to the new conditions. If possible, bring them in just a few minutes at a time for several days, gradually increasing their indoor time to several hours before keeping them indoors all the time. Flowering tropicals will also benefit from cutting back some of their foliage to avoid shock before being brought indoors.

To help houseplants overcome the transition from outdoors to indoors, position them in a bright, sunny area and consider adjusting indoor temperature and humidity controls to more closely mimic outdoor conditions. Make adjustments slowly and gradually, and the plants will adjust.

Time to Repot

Once your houseplants are adjusted to their indoor fall and winter environment, they can be safely repotted without adding to their stress. Repot the plants early in the day, and move them to a slightly larger pot. Avoid jumping several pot sizes, which could lead to excessive root growth while the foliage is neglected. Be sure to fertilize and water the plants appropriately to provide them proper nourishment as they settle into new pots. Do not expect luxuriant foliage growth right away, however, as it will take some time for the plants to begin growing again, especially in fall and winter when most houseplants are entering a dormant, slow growth period.

By repotting your houseplants in fall, you can help healthy, vigorously growing plants adjust to a new environment and continue their growth with ease in a new, larger, more comfortable pot.

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King of the Cold: Ornamental Cabbage & Kale

Looking to add interest to the fall and winter landscape? This year, plant ornamental cabbage and kale for bold textures and vibrant colors.

About Ornamental Cabbage & Kale

Unlike most other annuals and perennials, these two hardy plants improve in appearance after a frost or two, which bring out more intense and brilliant colors in their foliage – perfect as an autumn accent or centerpiece plant. Identified by a number of names including floral kale, decorative kale, ornamental-leaved kale, flowering kale and flowering cabbage, ornamental cabbage and kale are classified as Brassica oleracca (Acephala group). Offering unlimited use in the landscape, these plants have large rosettes of gray-green foliage richly variegated with cream, white, pink, rose, red and purple. Kale leaves are frilly edged and sometimes deeply lobed.

While typical ornamental kale and cabbage varieties are easy to find, you can also try more unusual options, including dwarf varieties as well as upright, taller hybrids that can even be used in cut arrangements.

Using These Attractive Plants

Popular in borders, grouped in planting drifts, or planted in containers for the deck or patio, ornamental cabbage and kale typically grows to 12-18” high and wide, depending on the cultivar. Plant these specimens at least 12” apart in an area with full sun that has moist, well-drained soil. Organically rich soil with proper compost or fertilization is best to provide adequate nutrition for these lush plants. Although they are able to withstand light frosts and snowfalls, ornamental cabbage and kale will typically not survive hard freezes and are best treated as showy annuals.

The best foliage color will occur if ornamental cabbage and kale is planted in early fall as temperatures are cooling, or you can sow seeds 6-10 weeks before the first anticipated frost date – just be sure the seeds have sun exposure in order to germinate properly. These plants are usually attractive in the garden until Thanksgiving or slightly later, or in mild climates they may even last until spring temperatures begin to rise. Hint – when the plants smell like cooked cabbage, it is time to pull them out!

While these plants are superficially similar to the familiar cabbage and kale vegetables popular in salads and other edible uses, it is important to note that ornamental varieties are cultivated for color and shape rather than taste. Keep them out of the kitchen and in the garden instead, and you won’t be sorry!

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