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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 used 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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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. Leaves are full of nutrients and can make an excellent mulch or compost, especially if they are ground up by a shredder or a mulching lawn mower. Relocating leaves to your garden beds can reduce compaction while attracting beneficial insects (worms in particular love a good leaf-layer). If freezing weather is still in the forecast, mulch is a great insulator to protect the roots of trees, bulbs, and perennials.
  • Utilize your Christmas tree by collecting the dropping needles! Evergreen needles and branches can act 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 flowering houseplants. 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.  If you have any questions or need suggestions, we’re here to help. We’d love to see you!

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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Healthy Soil, Healthy Plants

The key to successful gardening is healthy soil. This basic principle of organic gardening applies to all plants, whether it is anchor trees in your landscape, flowers adoring a bed or a garden full of vegetables. Quite simply, when you feed the soil the proper nutrients, you let the soil feed the plants. But how do you feed your soil? First, you need to understand some basic principles about soil and why it is so important, then you can take steps to improve it.

Soil Texture

To start, you should determine the soil texture by moistening the soil and rubbing it between your thumb and fingers to determine its feel. Sands are gritty and will barely hold together, clay can be squeezed into a firm, dense shape and silt will act in a way to allow particles to cling together. Sandy soils tend to dry out quickly because they contain high amounts of soil air. Clay soils, on the other hand have a tendency to pack together, shutting out air and water and minimizing evaporation. The best garden soil, loam, has moderate amounts of sand, silt and clay that balance together to provide good amounts of water and air.

If your soil is mostly clay, you will need to add sand or other aerating materials to help loosen the soil. For sandy soils, humus should be added to help retain moisture and nutrients.

Soil Structure

Next, you must evaluate the soil structure. Soil structure is affected by soil pH, the amount of humus and the combination of minerals in the soil. Ideal soils allow particles to clump together with air spaces between them for water drainage as well as oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide release from plant roots. The best way to improve soil structure is to add high amounts of organic matter like humus, cotton burr compost, dehydrated manure, composted manure, mushroom compost, alfalfa meal, peat moss or worm castings. These materials should be mixed in with your soil and allowed to decay further, both for seasonal maintenance and whenever you are planting new items in your garden or landscape.

Soil Nutrition

A soil sample is needed to measure the pH and amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the soil as well as other nutrients. This will help determine exactly what the soil needs to provide the best nutrition to your plants. Rick’s offers one free pH test, each one after is $1 each. Our full NPK test is $15. Our staff will help you read the results and determine what to add to your soil and how much. Generally, a pH of 6.0-7.0 is acceptable for most plants and landscaping. If your pH is lower than this, your soil is too acidic and requires lime to be added. If your soil is low in organic matter, it will often have a higher pH level. Colorado soils typically have a higher alkaline pH and benefit greatly from the addition of compost. All plants require a proper balance of nutrients – nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Soils lacking any one of these elements will not produce healthy plants.

When dealing with poor or improperly balanced soils, obtaining healthy, ideal soil may take 2-5 years of dedicated work. Amending the soil with organic matter is the most beneficial things you can do for your garden. Taking advantage of free materials such as used coffee grounds, spent grains, fallen leaves, and many other readily available organic substances can cut down on costs and make use of what would otherwise go to waste. The best thing you can do to supplement your soil program in the meantime is to use various organic fertilizers to meet your plants’ needs. This will continue to help improve the soil structure as well as create biological activity that is also a vital part to developing productive soil.

Want to know what to add to your soil to nourish your landscape? This handy chart can help!

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Pruning Fundamentals

Pruning is essential to keep your trees and shrubs in good shape, but it can be intimidating if you’ve never pruned before. Once you learn the fundamentals, however, you’ll realize it isn’t as hard as it may seem.

Tree Pruning

The first thing to look for when pruning a tree is broken, diseased or dead branches, all of which should be removed to preserve the overall health of the tree. The next thing to be concerned with are suckers and water sprouts. Suckers can be either bottom suckers coming from the root system or growths originating from the trunk. In either case, they reduce water and nutrient flow to the main portion of the tree and should be removed. Another problem growth is called a water sprout, which is very noticeable because it grows straight up from a branch. Water sprouts also rob water and nutrients from the tree.

After all of these problems have been corrected, a second look at the tree should let you know what other limbs should be removed. Removing large limbs is perhaps the most difficult part of tree pruning. It requires two cuts in which one cut removes the weight of the limb and prevents tearing of the bark. The second cut is made closer to the trunk and removes the remaining stub, but should be no closer than the branch collar. Smaller limbs may also be removed to help preserve the desired shape and size of the tree if needed.

Pruning Deciduous Shrubs

Many deciduous shrubs can really benefit from annual pruning. Pruning not only controls the size of these shrubs, but it can also increase flower production and encourage colorful bark.

Let’s begin with a few of the more common shrubs, such as lilac, forsythia and weigela. These shrubs are most commonly known for their flowers, so we should prune them accordingly. By removing a portion of their oldest stems entirely we can encourage younger growth, which will give us more flowers. Plants such as red and yellow twig dogwood have colorful stems which can be enhanced by removing the older gray stems. Another group of plants that benefit from pruning are the spireas and potentillas. These plants are treated a little differently in that they are cut down to about 4 or 6 inches in the fall or early spring. By pruning them this way, we increase their flowering and yet remove all of their twigginess that would look unsightly throughout the winter and early spring.

There are many other trees and shrubs that require more detailed pruning recommendations and careful guidelines. Please email us your questions or stop by the store, we always have people available to answer your questions whether they involve specific plant recommendations or which pruner is the right one for you and the pruning job you need to do.

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Fall Lawn Care

Fall is the best time of the year to overseed your existing lawn or establish a new lawn. If your lawn is a bit thin, has bare patches or needs good care, now is the time to take care of it so it can become thoroughly established before warm temperatures arrive in spring.

Overseeding A Weak Lawn

A weak lawn may have thin or scraggly patches, seem overrun with weeds or have bare patches that are difficult to keep green and lush. Overseeding can help eliminate these problem areas and create a more consistent, luxurious lawn.

  1. Spray broadleaf weeds with a selective herbicide and wait 2 weeks for the weeds to disappear. Some herbicides will require a longer waiting period to ensure they do not interfere with germination. Several treatments may be necessary if the yard is thick with weeds.
  2. Take a soil sample of your lawn to determine the pH. A garden extension service can help determine pH levels, or home test kits are available. Rick’s provides one free pH test, each one thereafter costs only $1. We also provide a full NPK test for $15.
  3. Mow shorter than normal and rake clean to remove unnecessary debris that may keep seeds from reaching the soil.
  4. Core aerate if you have compacted soil or heavy thatch. Remove the cores and dispose of them properly to keep the soil light and airy for seeding.
  5. Apply starter fertilizer and lime if determined to be needed by the pH test, or choose a grass type that will thrive in your soil’s conditions.
  6. Dethatch your lawn if thatch is thicker than ½ inch. This can be done with heavy raking or a special dethatching rake may be necessary in extreme cases.
  7. Overseed with the proper seed. If core aerating, lightly topdress with topsoil or humus.
  8. If needed, cover the freshly seeded area with netting or hay to discourage birds or other wildlife from consuming the seed before it grows.
  9. Water daily until grass has germinated, then soak once a week to encourage deep root growth.
  10. Fertilize in late fall with fall fertilizer.

Seeding A New Lawn

If you have no existing lawn or the entire ground is overrun with nothing but weeds, it may be best to start from scratch and create the lawn of your dreams.

  1. Kill existing vegetation with nonselective herbicide. If you want to preserve nearby trees or shrubs, take steps to protect that vegetation from the treatment.
  2. Take a soil sample of your lawn to determine the pH. A testing kit can provide a good pH estimate, or a gardening center or garden extension service can provide a more precise evaluation. Rick’s provides one free pH test, each one thereafter costs only $1. We also provide a full NPK test for $15.
  3. Prepare soil by breaking up the surface with a rake or spade using a crisscross pattern. All large lumps should be broken up, and any large rocks should be removed.
  4. Broadcast starter fertilizer, lime and gypsum as determined by the pH test. This will provide a nutrition boost for fresh seeds.
  5. Spread topsoil or humus to a ½ inch depth for appropriate planting.
  6. Rototill to a depth of 4 inches and grade smooth. This will mix all the top layers together for uniform soil and nutrition, ensuring even turf growth.
  7. Sow proper seed and mulch lightly with salt hay to control erosion and conserve moisture.
  8. Water daily until grass has germinated, then soak once a week to encourage deeper root growth to resist droughts and repel weeds.
  9. Fertilize in late fall with fall fertilizer to provide nutrition throughout the season.

Which Seed?

Not every lawn will thrive with the same type of grass seed. Allow our staff to help you select the seed that best suits your needs, soil type and planting conditions. Apply at the recommended rate and incorporate into the top ¼” of soil. Do not bury the seed or it may not germinate evenly.

No matter what the condition of your lawn, fall is the best time to take steps to help it rejuvenate so you have an amazing lawn to enjoy in spring.

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Problems With Your Compost Pile? Fix Them!

A compost pile should be part of every gardener’s yard, since it adds so many benefits for recycling and providing organic material in the garden. There are times, however, when it can be tricky to keep a compost pile in peak condition and breaking down material most efficiently. If you encounter any of these common problems, you can easily correct them and keep your compost pile at its best.

  • Pile is Too Dry
    Without adequate moisture, beneficial microorganisms cease to function and decomposition stops, turning a compost pile into a clumpy mess that does not decay into usable organic material. Keep the pile moist at all times, but not overly wet. A dampness like a squeezed sponge is ideal. It may be necessary to use a hose to water your pile occasionally, or a tarp or piece of plastic over the top of the pile can help keep moisture in the pile instead of evaporating.
  • Foul Odor
    A stinky compost pile is no gardener’s friend, and over-watering the pile will compact the material. When air space is decreased, the pile becomes anaerobic, resulting in an unpleasant odor. Turn the pile frequently to increase aeration and add larger pieces of dry, porous, carbon-rich material such as wood chips or straw to absorb excess water and improve air circulation.
  • Pile is Cool
    Check all the items required for a hot, quickly-decomposing pile: carbon, nitrogen, air and water. Correct any deficiencies. Another issue may be that a pile that is too small will have difficulty insulating itself. Increase the size of your compost pile by adding more material so it can generate sufficient heat from decomposition to keep itself warm.
  • Pests in the Pile
    While insects and worms are welcome helpers in a compost pile, a poor pile may also be attracting mice, rats, squirrels, raccoons and other wildlife. This usually means that the wrong material was used for composting. Never add meat, fish, bones, dairy products or oily food to the compost pile, all of which can have strong odors that will attract unwanted wildlife. Similarly, no human, cat or dog manure should be added to the pile. Avoid adding weed plants or diseased plants as well, since those weed seeds or disease spores could be transmitted to your garden or landscape when the compost is spread.
  • Poor C/N Ratio
    When planning the optimum conditions for compost decomposition, the standard recommendation is 3-to-1; three parts carbon to one part nitrogen. Carbon-based material is brown and nitrogen-based material is usually, but not always, green. Chopping or shredding additions to the compost pile will speed up the decomposition and help keep the pile balanced.The best materials to add to your compost pile include…

    Brown Material (Carbon-Based)
    – Dried, dead Leaves
    – Shredded paper, including newspaper
    – Wood ash
    – Sawdust
    – Eggshells
    – Chipped brush and wood chips
    – Straw and twigs

    Green Material (Nitrogen)
    – Grass clippings and sod scraps
    – Vegetable and fruit peels, scraps and rinds
    – Disease and insect-free plant material, such as clippings and prunings
    – Horse, cow, chicken and rabbit manure (herbivores)
    – Coffee grounds and used coffee filters
    – Used tea bags
    – Used potting soil

No matter what issues your compost pile may be having, problems are easy to correct and you can quickly adjust your pile to be productive and efficient. Before you know it, you’ll have plenty of rich, nutritious compost to nurture your garden and landscape all year long.

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Over-Wintering Container Plants Outdoors

All containerized plants that are considered hardy in your zone can spend the winter outdoors, but you do need to take a little special care to keep them safe and comfortable as temperatures drop. Despite their hardiness, winter is still a challenging season, but it is possible to keep your container plants healthy until the days grow longer and warmer again.

Options to Overwinter Your Container Plants

  • In the late summer or fall, removed the plant from its container and plant it in the ground while the soil is still warm. Another method is to bury the pot, with the plant in it, in the garden and remove the pot following spring. Both of these methods will help insulate the root system, preventing it from freezing solid and killing the root system.
  • Place containerized plants in an unheated garage but along a heated wall. This is an excellent method for very large pots or porous pots that tend to break apart from the constant cycle of freezing and thawing, and so would not be very hardy if buried. For extra root protection and insulation, wrap the pots in plastic bubble wrap or wrap an old comforter or quilt around the pots.
  • Group pots together along the sunny side of your house or shed. If this area is windy, create a windscreen with stakes and burlap. Place bales of straw or hay around the perimeter of the grouping up against the pots to further protect plants from cold winds. Fill in areas between pots with mulch, shredded leaves, grass clippings or hay for insulation. Lay evergreen branches or place a layer of mulch on top of the pots for additional protection.
  • Use a cold frame covered with plastic or Reemay fabric to help control temperatures and reduce light as well, helping plants stay dormant in winter. It will still be necessary to use mulch, shredded leaves or hay around and in-between pots for insulation. Rodent control, such as Havahart traps, may be necessary when using this method.

Watering Container Plants in Winter

Make sure that plants go into the winter with moist soil so that there is water available to plant roots. Check soil moisture occasionally, never allowing it to dry completely. It is also a very good idea to spray needled and broadleaf evergreens with an anti-desiccant. This acts as a protective coating for plant foliage and stems as it helps them retain moisture.

With just a little care and forethought, you can easily prepare containers for winter without risking the plants and arrangements you have so carefully cultivated.

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Healthy Soil: Winter Cover Crops

It’s fall and our annual and vegetable gardens are winding down for the season. Now is the time to invest a little extra time and effort to prepare your soil for next year. Whether your garden is large or small, all annual planting beds will benefit from the addition of a winter cover crop.

Benefits of Cover Crops

A cover crop is a fast-growing, low-maintenance crop that can be used to protect your garden and landscaping beds in fall and winter. Depending on the crop you choose, it can provide many benefits to your garden, including…

  • Stabilizing soil and preventing erosion
  • Adding organic matter back into the soil to nurture later crops
  • Adding nutrients to the soil that have been used by previous crops
  • Suppressing disease that can wither new crops even before they start
  • Repressing weeds that will take over a garden
  • Improving soil structure with aeration and better drainage
  • Encouraging beneficial insects that will help later crops

Recommended Cover Crops

Different cover crops work best in different areas, and the climate, soil type and growing season will help determine which cover crops will work best for your gardening needs. The most popular recommended cover crops for our area are oats, rye and wheat.

  • Oats
    Sow 6-8 weeks before the first hard frost. Planted early, oats will provide a quick covering with the added benefit of providing an early planting time for next spring’s crops. Oats are not winter hardy, but they will grow in the fall and die in the winter, leaving behind nutritious mulch that will easily decompose when incorporated into the soil in the spring. This is a great cover crop choice for low- or no-till gardens. Sow at 2 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. for the best coverage.
  • Winter Rye
    Sow 2-4 weeks before the first hard frost. This is a good choice for gardeners who have late season crops and don’t want to cut off that last harvest. If hardened off before frost arrives, winter rye will continue to grow over the winter. Rye is a vigorous grower and can be difficult to turn in the spring, so bear that in mind depending on what crops you will be planting in spring. Sow at 3-4 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. for appropriate coverage.
  • Winter Wheat
    Sow 2-4 weeks before the first hard frost. Wheat will cover quickly but is not as aggressive as winter rye. Winter wheat is also leafier, making it easier than winter rye to turn into the soil in the spring. Sow at 3 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. to provide good coverage.

Cornell University provides a tool to assist you in choosing the correct cover crop for your situation. (http://covercrops.cals.cornell.edu/decision-tool.php)

Planting Cover Crops

Before planting a cover crop, clean out garden beds, removing all roots and plant material. Compost all plant matter that is not diseased. Broadcast seed evenly and cover with soil. Water thoroughly when planting and when necessary during dry periods. In the spring, till or fork oats into the planting bed and you are ready to plant. For winter rye and wheat, mow or chop tops 4 weeks before planting leaving cut cover crop on top to dry. Till or fork dried wheat and rye into the bed before planting.

With the appropriate cover crop, you can protect your garden’s most valuable asset – the soil – and be sure it is ready for spring planting.

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Low Light Houseplants

Plants brighten up any room, help clean the air and bring a bit of nature inside, but indoor spaces rarely have the same levels of bright, natural light many plants enjoy in their native habitats. Without adequate light, a plant’s foliage may be dull or turn yellow or brown, growth will be slow and flowers may fail to bloom. Choosing low light houseplants is an ideal solution for any indoor space, and there are many beautiful plants that can thrive in a dim environment.

20 Best Houseplants for Low Light

There are many reasons to opt for low light houseplants. Some rooms, such as bedrooms and bathrooms, generally have lower than average light levels. Some homeowners use window shades, blinds or curtains for temperature control, which reduces the light available for indoor plants. Even bright rooms may have dim corners or shadowed spaces where light isn’t as intense. The exposure of any window also affects the sunlight it brings indoors, with north and west windows generally having lower light than south and east windows. Changing seasons also changes how much sunlight comes through any window, with less light available to indoor plants in fall and winter. Fortunately, there are many outstanding houseplants that can grow well in lower light conditions. While the best plants for your home will also vary based on humidity conditions and the care you can provide, houseplants that don’t mind lower light include:

  • Begonia (Begonia)
  • Bromeliads (Aechmea)
  • Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra)
  • Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)
  • Corn Plant (Dracaena fragrans)
  • Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia)
  • Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum)
  • Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena)
  • Maindenhair Fern (Adiantum)
  • Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)
  • Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii)
  • Peperomia (Peperomia)
  • Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)
  • Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
  • Prayer Plant (Calathea)
  • Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica)
  • Snake Plant (Sansevieria)
  • Spider Plant (Chlorophytum)
  • Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum)
  • ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)

These are just a few of the most widespread, popular indoor plants that can do well with lower light levels. Check at your local nursery or garden center for additional varieties that are adapted to your region’s climate, especially during the winter months when houseplants are much more widely available.

Caring for Low Light Houseplants

It is important to note that whatever type of houseplant you choose, a designation as “low light” does not mean the plant can thrive in darkness. All plants need some light, but low light plants can still thrive in indirect or filtered light rather than several hours of bright sunlight each day. To give your low light plant the very best indoor habitat, you will also need…

  • A proper pot or other container.
    The pot will need to be the right size for the plant and its anticipated growth, without being too big or too small. Adequate drainage is also essential to prevent root rot and other care difficulties.
  • Suitable soil or potting mix.
    Garden soil has too many contaminants to be good for houseplants, but choose a soil with good nutrition for the type of plant it will nurture. Add coir, peat or other potting material if necessary to adjust the soil composition.
  • Proper watering.
    Inadequate water or overwatering can both be deadly for houseplants. Know what water your plant needs and adjust the watering schedule based on the plant’s size and seasonal needs throughout the year. Watering gauges or automatic watering tools can help you be sure you aren’t drowning or drying out your houseplants.
  • Regular feeding.
    Because houseplants rely on the same soil and can’t stretch their roots out to seek extra nutrition, regular fertilizing is essential. Choose the proper fertilizer for the plant type and feed gently rather than risk burning delicate roots with overfeeding. Slow-release fertilizers formulated for indoor plants are one of the best options.
  • Increased humidity.
    Indoor air is often much drier than the air outside, and houseplants can dry out more quickly without the proper humidity. Adding a humidifier in a room with houseplants, grouping plants together, misting regularly and providing a humidity tray are all ways to help.
  • Occasional dusting.
    With no regular breezes to blow away debris, houseplants can become dull and dingy without being dusted, and dust can clog their pores. Use a soft, clean cloth to gently wipe the foliage, or give plants an occasional shower to rinse away unwanted dust.

Every home can be made brighter with houseplants, even in darker rooms where there wouldn’t seem to be enough light. By choosing the right low light houseplants and caring for them appropriately, even a shadowy corner of your home can be a restful bit of nature.

Starting Up With Succulents

Succulents are charming plants and can be a great addition to your household jungle. Learning more about these popular plants can help you give them the best growing environment so they are sure to thrive and show off their unique foliage, amazing colors and fascinating structures.

What Are Succulents?

If you are familiar with aloe, agave, jade or snake plants, you already know some of the most popular succulents. But what makes these plants different from other houseplants? Succulents store moisture in their thick, fleshy leaves and can go long periods without regular watering, making them ideal for anyone with a busy schedule. These plants are also great choices for growing in arid or drought-prone areas, xeriscaping zones and rock gardens, and they are especially quaint in all sorts of containers. They are slow growers and very forgiving of occasional neglect, which makes them perfect for anyone whose green thumb might not be quite so green when it comes to houseplants. Yet with a tremendous variety of succulents available, even the most experienced houseplant gardener can find a new succulent to enjoy and appreciate.

Choosing Succulents

There are many beautiful succulents available, with sizes ranging from tiny, delicate plants perfect for a miniature scene or fairy garden to much larger, stately plants that make excellent statement pieces. When choosing succulents, look for a variety of colors, textures and shapes to experiment with, and consider mixing and matching smaller plants for more visual interest in one arrangement. Take care, however, that the plants you choose for the same arrangement have similar care requirements and needs so they can grow comfortably together. If you’re choosing larger plants, a single succulent can be amazing on its own as it reaches its full potential.

Caring for Succulents

Succulents are relatively easy-care plants, but they do have specific needs. By meeting those needs, you are sure to give all your succulents excellent care.

POTS

A pot for succulents must have excellent drainage with one or more drainage holes. These plants do not like wet feet, and unfinished terra cotta pots are perfect, as the porous pots breathe and help keep soil from retaining too much moisture. Shallow or otherwise small pots are fine for succulents, as these slow-growers don’t mind being a bit cramped.

SOIL

Fast-draining soil is a must for succulents, and there are specialized soil blends formulated precisely for succulents. Adding coarse, sharp sand or a handful or two of perlite will help improve any soil’s drainage and make it even more suitable for succulents.

FERTILIZER

These plants need only mild feeding, and a well-balanced, general fertilizer diluted to half strength will offer them the nutrition they require. Succulents should be fed monthly from spring through fall when they are actively growing, but do not need to be fed when their growth has slowed in winter.

SUNLIGHT

Succulents love bright sunlight, and will have their best color and keep their compact, geometric shapes when they get, on average, 6 hours of sunlight each day. South or west-facing windows will offer the best sunlight, and rotating pots every few days can help ensure straight, even growth. For larger succulent containers, use wheeled stands or coasters so they can be rotated easily

TEMPERATURE

These plants do well in typical household temperatures, but do like slightly cooler temperatures when their growth slows in winter. At that time, moving them to a cooler room can help ease their stress and keep their seasonal pattern intact.

WATER

While succulents thrive in arid climates, they do need proper watering to stay plump and fresh. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings, but when you do water succulents, water them thoroughly. Do not let the plants stand in water; empty saucers immediately. For larger potted succulents, pot feet, to lift the plants off the ground, will assist in drainage. Avoid pouring water directly on the fleshy leaves. Instead, water the soil using an indoor watering can.

OUR 10 FAVORITE, EASY-TO-GROW SUCCULENTS

  1. Aloe (Aloe vera) Aloe extract is frequently used in producing moisturizers and cosmetics and as a home remedy for treating burns.
  2. Echeveria (Echeveria species) Commonly known as ‘Hens and Chicks’, Echeveria come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes.
  3. String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) This unusual succulent has a unique leaf that is the shape, size and color of a small pea. It is typically grown in a hanging basket to suit its creeping habit.
  4. Paddle Plant (Kalanchoe tetraphylla) Large, rounded, think, paddle-shaped leaves give this succulent its unique look. The leaves take on a reddish tint in the winter.
  5. Jade Plant (Crassula ovata) Long-lived and very easy to grow, the Jade plant takes on the look of a bonsai tree as it grows and is considered a symbol of good luck.
  6. Zebra Plant (Zebra haworthia) This succulent has a similar growth habit to an Aloe but is dark green with white stripes, small and very slow growing. The Zebra Plant is a great addition to a succulent terrarium.
  7. Burro’s Tail (Sedum morganianum) This is another succulent that is usually planted in a hanging basket. The unique Burro’s Tail sports small, thick, fleshy leaves whorled on drooping stems.
  8. Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) The Snake Plant thrives on neglect and can take less sun than most other succulents.
  9. Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi) This holiday blooming favorite is another succulent that, due to its trailing habit, may be planted in a hanging basket. This plant is fantastic for holiday gift giving.
  10. Panda Plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa) This darling succulent, sometimes called ‘Pussy Ears’ is a favorite of children as it has grayish-blue, velvety, succulent leaves.

The Value of Updating an Existing Landscape

Landscaping has a tremendous impact on the value, curb appeal and aesthetic beauty of your home. If your landscaping feels outdated, old or worn, however, it is not necessary to rip out all the plants and start from scratch. Updating an existing landscape can be a faster, easier and more cost-efficient approach to give your property a fresh appearance.

When to Update Your Landscape

Even without starting from a blank slate, updating your landscape can be an overwhelming project. There are times when updating is a good value, however, and can actually create savings or bring you significant profits.

  • The Overgrown Landscape
    Shaggy, overgrown landscaping may be causing problems you aren’t aware of, such as damaging underground water or septic pipes, gas lines or electrical cables. Elevated lines could also be damaged by falling branches. An overgrown landscape will block views and could scratch your home’s siding, cause roof damage or stain or crack concrete in the sidewalk, driveway or patio areas. All of these problems can lead to very costly repairs.
  • The For Sale Landscape
    If you plan on selling your home, the landscaping is one of the first things potential buyers will notice. Poorly maintained landscaping gives a bad first impression that could discourage buyers, while an updated landscape adds significant value and may increase the sales price. A complicated landscape might put off buyers who aren’t interested in outdoor maintenance, but a simple, fresh landscape can welcome new owners to your home.
  • The Unused Landscape
    A lush lawn and ornamental plantings may be pretty, but they don’t necessarily add value to your home. Updating your landscape to include gardening space and edibles such as fruit trees, berry bushes and fresh herbs, however, can dramatically cut grocery bills. Similarly, a wide swath of lawn does no good to your quality of life if you don’t enjoy it, but adding a recreation area, entertaining space or other outdoor living areas can be a fantastic value.
  • The High Maintenance Landscape
    Complicated gardens, plants that require extensive care and lawns that need generous fertilizing and watering can be a significant financial drain on homeowners. Updating your landscape to minimize lawn surfaces or opt for lower-care options can be a beautiful way to modernize your property and lower the time and money needed to keep it looking its best.

By updating your landscape, you can save both time and money, and you’ll find yourself enjoying your new landscape much more than any outdated design.

Ideas to Update Your Landscape for the Most Value

Depending on your reasons for updating your landscape, its existing condition and the budget and timeline you have for the project, there are many options that will add good value to your property. Popular choices include…

  • Fast Updates
    For an updated look right away, add new mulch around trees and in flowerbeds to create a pop of color, suppress weeds and give the area a unified look. Other easy options include pruning shrubs, weeding and adding containers to an entryway or colorful flowers to existing beds.
  • Widening Pathways
    Wider pathways give your home a more welcoming, open feel that is ideal for entertaining. Existing paths can be expanded with pavers, bricks, gravel or mulch to make them broader, and it is also a good time to be sure they are level and easy to navigate.
  • Deepening Beds
    Deep flowerbeds create a luxurious buffer around your home and provide space for additional plantings, such as a row of colorful annuals along the front edge of the bed. When deepening beds, you can also easily change their shape for a fresh, new look.
  • Protecting Privacy
    Landscaping that protects privacy is always desirable, and tall ornamental grasses, a green wall, large containers or fencing can create a more private space for you to enjoy. Consider enclosing a patio, blocking unwanted views or otherwise sheltering your space for greater privacy.
  • Casting Shade
    Plants or structures that shade your home or outdoor spaces can help control temperature to make the area more comfortable and save on heating and cooling bills. Planting trees or installing awnings, pergolas or other shade structures are the most popular options.
  • Lighting Up
    The right lighting can give your landscape a whole new look, with more security as well. Add lights to pathways, specimen plants, architectural features or outdoor living areas to update your landscape and create a brighter, safer, more enjoyable space.
  • New Niches
    Creating a cozy niche in your landscape is a great way to encourage you to enjoy being outdoors. A comfortable hammock, swing or bench can lead to more time outdoors, a fire pit welcomes gatherings, or a meditation feature such as a fountain can be a peaceful addition.
  • Outdoor Rooms
    For more formal entertaining, a complete outdoor room can add tremendous value to your property. An outdoor kitchen, grill or bar is a great choice, or you might opt for an entertainment area complete with a television, fire pit and extra seating.
  • Trees
    Trees are ideal long-term investments that add wonderful value to your property. A small tree may not seem significant, but over the years it will grow into a luxurious specimen that provides shade and distinction, as well as fruit, nuts or other benefits, depending on the tree.
  • Sod
    If it’s your lawn that needs updating, consider new sod for instant results. Replacing sod will even out your lawn, remove weeds, repair bare or thin patches and provide luxurious footing all in one step.

No how you choose to update your existing landscape, our experts can help you find just the right options to refresh your property for your needs and budget. Contact us today and see how we can bring new life to your old landscape!

Bring on the Bulbs for Better Home Value

Many homeowners, whether they just purchased their home or have owned it for years, are interested in increasing the value of their property. A better value leads to greater home equity, a higher resale price and the personal pride of owning a lovely home. Good landscaping can lead to a better home value, and there’s no easier way to improve landscaping than with beautiful bulbs.

How Landscaping Adds Value to Your Home

A well-groomed, thoughtfully planned and attractively maintained landscape is a great asset to your home. Your home’s exterior, including its landscaping, is the first impression visitors see, and good landscaping creates an attractive, welcoming atmosphere. Colorful landscaping can help attract notice to your property, while larger plantings provide shade and help with temperature control. Borders can conceal fences or unsightly foundations, and flowerbeds soften the edges of the house structure to provide an appealing sense of nature. Unlike interior home improvements that come and go with the latest design trends, good landscaping is a constant asset to your property and your home value.

Why Bulbs Are Best

Bulbs are some of the best options to improve your home’s landscaping and increase your home value. While bulbs won’t grow to provide shade to your yard and don’t yield tasty treats in a garden, they have many benefits that add solid value and enjoyment to any yard.

  • Bulbs Are Familiar
    Unlike exotic tropical plants or little-known cultivars of tree and shrubs, many bulbs are instantly recognizable. That familiarity is comfortable and reassuring, and adds a sense of peace to your landscaping. Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocuses and lilies are some of the most popular and tried-and-true bulbs that can enhance your landscaping.
  • Bulbs Are Versatile
    While many plants can serve only one distinct purpose, bulbs can serve many purposes. Taller varieties can provide an effective screen for privacy or create stunning borders. Dense bulb patches can “paint” your landscape with flowing color, or bulbs can be layered in pots or containers for instant beauty. Bulb flowerbeds can be positioned along your home’s foundation, around trees or lining walkways, driveways or sidewalks. Bulbs can be strategically positioned to fill in thinner areas in your yard or landscaped beds as well.
  • Bulbs Are Beautiful In Different Seasons
    While a spring-blooming annual or a brilliant fall foliage tree may look stunning for one season, many bulbs offer beauty for far longer. Not only are their flowers showstopping beauties, but many bulbs have thick, graceful foliage that is delightful long after blooms may have faded. Furthermore, you can mix-and-match bulbs to keep a bed blooming from early spring to late fall without difficulty.
  • Bulbs Are Perennials
    Annual flowers are gorgeous but need to be replaced every year, a process that can be very time-consuming and labor-intensive. Bulbs, on the other hand, are perennials that will keep coming back year after year with very little extra care. With just basic maintenance – watering and the occasional removal of dead foliage – bulbs will grow back more lush and vibrant each year, continuing to add value to your home.
  • Bulbs Are Easy
    There’s no denying that bulbs are easy to grow and require very little maintenance to look their best. Bulbs can tolerate a wide range of soil types, pH levels and sunlight levels, and they often thrive even when neglected. This makes them an easy addition to any landscape, bringing their proven value to your yard quickly.

Improving Your Landscaping With Bulbs

It’s easy to improve your home’s value by adding bulbs. Simply choose the types and colors of bulbs you want, and you’re just three steps away from a beautiful landscape and a more appealing home.

  1. Dig – Dig the appropriate hole to plant your bulbs, paying attention to the recommended depth for the bulb type. You can dig individual holes for each bulb, or plant an entire bed at once.
  2. Drop – Drop the bulbs in the holes. You can position them in graceful, cultivated rows, or choose a more organic, natural look. Cover the bulbs firmly with soil and a layer of mulch if desired.
  3. Done! You only need to keep a simple eye on moisture levels and the occasional critter that may enjoy a bulb snack, and you’re done with bulb care and maintenance. Before long, both your bulbs and your home value will be blooming!

With so many benefits from landscaping and the ease of bulbs to create a stunning look, why not add to your home’s value today? Get digging – you’ll be done before you know it!

Summer Gardener’s Calendar

Continue planting trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, vegetables and herbs. The weather is beginning to get hotter with little relief, so new plants will benefit from some extra water and shade. Consider adding some exotic color to your deck or patio with tropical blooming plants. We have a great selection of color this summer.

It’s time for your houseplant’s summer vacation! Take outside to a shady place. Direct sunlight will sunburn plants that are used to indoor light. Re-pot if necessary, fertilize and check for pests and diseases. They’ll thrive in their outdoor location all summer. Be sure to bring them back inside in early fall.

Water plants and lawns deeply during periods of dry weather. Annuals, perennials, vegetables, trees and shrubs should be watered with a slow trickling or soaker hose. Pay extra attention to plants in containers and hanging baskets – check them regularly. Remember that clay pots dry out faster than plastic.

Apply a 2-3″ layer of mulch on your garden beds in preparation for summer. Mulch conserves valuable moisture in the soil, helps keep weeds down, maintains even soil temperatures, and gives an attractive finishing touch to your beds and borders. Humate and humic acid will also greatly improve your soils’ moisture retention while adding nutrients and microbial content.

Warm, humid weather encourages the development of fungal diseases such as Black Spot and Powdery Mildew on plants. Water plants in the early morning and avoid overhead watering if possible. Clean up any fallen leaves and follow a regular fungicide spray program. We recommend most copper fungicides for good control of fungus diseases.

Prune evergreens such as pines, cypress, hollies, euonymus and boxwood, to shape as needed. Remove faded flowers of annuals regularly, to encourage more flowers. Annuals will also benefit from regular applications of a water-soluble fertilizer right through summer. We are fertilizing our hanging baskets every other week here at Rick’s.

Attract hummingbirds and butterflies to your landscape by planting Butterfly Bush, Bee Balm (Mondarda), Hardy Hibiscus, Lobelia, Scabiosa and Coreopsis.

The N-P-K of Fertilizer

Once upon a time, Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary grew her garden with silver bells and cockleshells, but nowadays, most gardeners use some other forms of fertilizer that are better formulated than nursery rhymes. But what important components make up a fertilizer, and why are those components important for your plants?

Understanding Fertilizer

Simply put, a fertilizer has nutrients to make a plant grow better. Years ago, farmers used composted manure, ashes and urine. Today, most of us buy our fertilizer, but a trip to the store can be confusing. What do those numbers on the fertilizer bag mean? Should I buy liquid or granular? Which is better, slow or quick release? Let’s investigate…

Without getting too technical, the three numbers show the percentage of available nitrogen (N), phosphate (P) and potassium (K) in a fertilizer blend. By law, it always goes in that order. If you see a fertilizer with 20-5-10, it means the fertilizer contains 20 percent available nitrogen, 5 percent phosphate and 10 percent potassium. Other nutrients and filler make up the difference and are often chosen for specific types of plants, such as roses or flowers, vegetables, trees, etc.

What does that mean to your plants?

  • Nitrogen promotes chlorophyll, producing greener, more quickly growing plants. If your plants aren’t as green as they should be, use a fertilizer with nitrogen. Most lawn fertilizers have a relatively high nitrogen content and cause mowing to be more frequent as lawns “green up” and grass blades grow more quickly.
  • Phosphate improves root growth, flowering ability and bloom size. Use a fertilizer with a larger middle number (phosphate percentage) to encourage root growth during transplanting or to encourage blooms. This is especially important when initially planting so root systems become strongly established.
  • Potassium enables the photosynthesis process and improves plant resistance to cold spells, drought and insect attacks. Many people use a potassium fertilizer when the seasons change to help plants resist the stresses of those transitions.

Liquid or Granular? Fast or Slow?

Fertilizers come in liquid and granular forms. Generally speaking, liquids are highly concentrated and need to be mixed with water before being fed to plants, but they are absorbed more quickly and are easy to apply more evenly. Granular formulas have small beads or grains that must be spread around and watered into the soil, and it can be difficult to spread an even layer over large areas unless a spreader is used. Granular forms need time to dissolve or decompose before they can be absorbed, but they last longer in the soil and can nourish plants for weeks or months.

Similarly, fertilizers come in fast or quick release forms as well as slow release forms. Both can work well in any garden, depending on your fertilizing needs, plant nutritional requirements and condition of your soil.

Read the label carefully for specific instructions and uses. It may seem boring, but reading that label will prevent bad results, as overuse or misuse of fertilizer can kill your plants, upset the balance of your soil and even cause environmental contamination – not the results you planned. Once you know more about fertilizer and how to use it correctly, however, you’ll enjoy the results this extra treat can give to your garden.

Determinate Versus Indeterminate Tomatoes

It’s tomato-planting time again! If you’ve grown tomatoes in the past, you most likely have your favorites. If not, just ask! You’ll find some pretty strong opinions regarding tomato choices, and every gardener has their own top choices, must haves and great picks for tomatoes.

Choosing Tomatoes

Along with soil type, climate, moisture and other typical gardening considerations, one of the features you will need to take into account when choosing what type of tomato to grow is plant habit. The two main habit classifications are “determinate” and “indeterminate” and are based on fruit use, available growing space and length of growing season. Both habit classifications include fruit selections in a wide variety of colors, sizes, shapes and tastes.

Determinate Tomatoes

Tomatoes from a determinate plant are produced earlier in the growing season, on terminal ends of a compact bush. This type of tomato generally reaches 3-4 feet in height and is easily supported with a tomato cage or may even be self-supporting. Due to its compact habit, it may even be grown in containers, ideal for gardeners with less available space. Because all the fruit ripens at the same time, determinate tomatoes are an excellent choice if you plan to can your fruit or make sauce, as you won’t need to worry about collecting enough fruit to work with. Determinate classification includes popular tomato varieties such as:

  • “Celebrity” – an eating tomato
  • “Roma” – a paste tomato
  • “Patio” – a dwarf selection
  • “Baby Cakes” – a cherry tomato
  • “Carolina Gold” – extra large, yellow fruit

Indeterminate Tomatoes

Indeterminate tomato plants will fruit along the entire length of the stem over a longer period of time, in fact continually, until frost. Smaller amounts of fruit ripening regularly throughout the growing season makes an indeterminate tomato plant an excellent choice if you cannot cook or consume a large quantity of this perishable fruit all at one time. Indeterminate tomato plants are vines, requiring proper pruning and support, to reach their ultimate height of 8 feet or more. Indeterminate classification includes popular varieties like:

  • “Amish Paste” – heirloom, paste tomato
  • “Beefmaster” – extra large sandwich tomato
  • “Better Boy” – juicy but firm, compact vine with shorter internodes
  • “Black Krim” – deep color, rich flavor
  • “Chocolate Cherry” – cherry, chocolate red in color

By understanding the differences between these basic tomato classifications, it will be easy for you to choose the tastiest tomato to suit your gardening needs and harvest preferences. Many gardeners choose more than one of each type of tomato, ensuring there is always a bountiful supply to use, to share and to enjoy!

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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 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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Naturescaping With Regional Perennial Wildflowers

There’s no need to sacrifice beauty when designing or redesigning your yard or garden to be more nature-friendly. Naturescaping is an approach to garden and landscape design that will help save time, money and energy while providing an attractive and healthy habitat for wildlife and people. Readily available native wildflowers can add remarkable beauty to your environment, and since they are adapted to our climate and soils, they require little, if any, supplemental watering, fertilizing or care and are less susceptible to pests and disease. Native plants also attract a variety of native birds, butterflies, moths and bees essential for pollination. As an added bonus, native wildflowers are often less expensive to purchase, and you may even be able to get some varieties free by sharing with neighbors, botanical gardens, wildlife centers or extension services that are encouraging more native planting.

Choosing Native Flowers

There are many beautiful native flowers to choose from, but they won’t all thrive in every yard. When selecting, be certain to match the plant’s moisture requirements and exposure preferences to your site, taking into consideration growth patterns, available space and mature sizes. Also consider choosing flowers with different bloom times so your yard puts on a native show all season long, and tier different plant heights to create layers of natural color and beauty. Then plant, sit back, relax and enjoy!

What is “pH?” Why Is It Important?

Devised in 1909, the pH scale measures the concentration of hydrogen ions in a solution. The scale ranges from 0-14. Pure water is “neutral” and has a pH of 7, midway between 0 and 14. If a solution has a low concentration of hydrogen ions, the rating will be a higher number and is considered basic or alkaline. Likewise, a high concentration of hydrogen ions rates a lower number and is considered acidic.

What pH Means to Your Garden

There are four important reasons to monitor your soil’s pH level:

  1. pH affects the availability of other nutrients in the soil. If the nutrients are not available because they are chemically bound to something else, plants can’t use that nutrient.
  2. A high or low pH level in the soil allows some plant diseases to multiply more quickly, infecting an entire landscape or garden.
  3. Most organisms living in the soil have pH preferences. For example, earthworms are not as plentiful in acidic soil.
  4. Most plants have specific pH requirements to flourish. Those specific requirements are what the plants need to absorb nutrients more efficiently and resist pests more effectively.

Where Soil pH Occurs

Acidic soil generally occurs in heavy rainfall areas, as the rain will pull acidic compounds from the air and allow them to leach into the soil. Alkaline soil, then, is more common where there is less rain. Colorado’s soils are generally alkaline due to a higher concentration of calcium carbonate in the soil. However, this is just a generalization and neighbors across the street from each other may have a large pH difference. Reasons could include the origin of topsoil brought in, the tillage done in the area and prior occupants’ gardening habits. Even simple changes like how drain spouts are positioned or a watering schedule can impact pH.

The pH Your Plants Need

Most plants will grow well in the neutral zone of 6.5-7.0. However, some plants grow best in specific soil pH conditions. Interestingly, hydrangeas grow well in both slightly acidic and slightly alkaline soils, but the flowers will be blue in acidic soil or pink in alkaline soil. The colors and flavors of fruits and vegetables may also vary somewhat depending on the soil’s pH, even if the plant will thrive in a wider range.

This chart illustrates how slight pH changes can dramatically impact which plants will thrive in certain soils…

Highly Acidic Conditions

(pH between 5 and 6)

Slightly Acidic Conditions

(pH between 6 and 6.5)

Slightly Alkaline Conditions

(pH between 7 and 7.5)

Rhododendrons Blueberries Arrowwood Viburnum
Azaleas Magnolias Box Elder
Camellias Ferns Locust
Pieris Firs Philadelphus
Astilbe Viburnum davidii Hellebores

As you see, pH can influence your gardening choices. Knowing the pH of your soil is the first step towards understanding your soil and improving your garden. By knowing the pH, you may choose the best plants for your site. You may also decide to amend your soil to increase or decrease the pH to grow a wider variety of plants.

We offer several inexpensive and easy-to-use pH test kits. We also offer amendment advice and can help you choose the best plants for your soil’s condition. Stop in for pH help today and we’ll help you make the most of the natural acidity or alkalinity of your soil, or else help you turn that soil into just the pH you desire!

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Bulbs: Increasing Your Yield

When you visit our garden center, you’ll find an incredible variety of autumn “bulbs.” Although they may look strange at this time of year, these “ugly ducklings” will become beautiful swans in your spring garden. It’s hard to imagine how these odd lumps can grow underground and become so gorgeous, but if you plant them now you will enjoy an incredible floral display next spring and summer.

How Bulbs Grow and Multiply

Did you know many bulbs will increase in quantity over time? Most gardeners simply divide their bulbs after a few years and move them to other parts of the garden or give extras away to friends. Dividing your yield is easy when you identify what type of bulb you are dealing with.

There are five distinct types of “bulbs” and although not all of these are available in the fall and some are not winter hardy, it is important to mention them to be able to understand their differences.

BULB TYPE

EXAMPLES

DESCRIPTION

HOW TO DIVIDE (after digging up)

Rhizome

Begonia, Calla, Canna, Ginger, Iris, Lily of the Valley, Tuberose

 

 

Grows horizontally from the pointed ends. As this bulb matures, it branches and develops other pointed growing ends. Roots grow from the bottom. Cut the rhizome into sections and ensure each piece has at least one pointed growing tip.
Tuber Anemone, Caladium, Cyclamen, Potato, Tuberous Begonia Buds and roots form anywhere on the surface. Tuber continues to enlarge with more eyes and roots. No basal plate or growing point. Cut the tuber into sections with at least one growing bud and root on each section
Tuberous Roots

Clivia, Dahlia, Daylily, Liatris, Sweet Potato

 

 

Actually a swollen root, new tuberous roots grow in a cluster from the base of the plant’s old stem or central crown. Divide the root cluster so each division includes roots and one or more growth buds from the stem base.
True Bulb Allium, Hyacinth, Lily, Daffodils, Snowdrops, Tulips Roundish shape with a pointed tip, covered with scales, and has flattened base plate where roots form. May have a papery outer skin. Forms little bulbs, “offsets” at base. Separate small offsets and plant individually.
Corm

Crocosmia, Crocus, Freesia, Gladiolus

 

Similar in shape to true bulb however there are no scales. Covered by a “tunic” of fibers. A corm decomposes each year; a new corm develops on top with smaller corms (cormels) on the sides or along the base plate. Separate new corms from smaller corms and plant individually.

Using Your Divided Bulbs

Once you’ve successfully divided your bulbs and bulb-like flowers, what do you do with your extra bulbs? There are many great options…

  • Transplant them into different parts of your yard to create a uniform, coordinated landscape with similar plants.
  • Give them away to neighbors, family members, friends, coworkers or anyone who would like to add new flowers to their yard.
  • Donate them to churches, schools, parks, senior centers or other places where extra flowers for landscaping will be appreciated.

As your bulbs continue to multiply, you will enjoy having more and more to choose from to create your ideal colorful, fantastic floral landscape.

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Autumn: Why Plant Now?

Although many gardeners plant trees and shrubs in the spring, knowledgeable gardeners plant in the fall to take advantage of all this fabulous season has to offer. But why is fall planting better than spring planting?

  • Stress Reduction
    Transplanting causes stress as plants are removed from containers, balls or established locations and changed to new locations. Planting in the fall, when a plant is entering dormancy and is generally hardier and sturdier, reduces this stress so the plant can thrive.
  • Establishing Strong Roots
    Fall planting “establishes” trees and shrubs by encouraging root growth. Because the soil is still warm, the roots continue to develop until freezing, though the upper parts of the plant are already dormant. When transplanting in the spring, the developed roots are active and delicate tips or rootlets, as well as buds and new leaves, are more easily damaged.
  • Weather Resiliency
    Trees and shrubs planted in the fall are better able to withstand the rigors of the next summer’s heat and dry conditions because they have much longer to develop healthy roots systems and become thoroughly established. This is especially critical in dry climates or areas prone to drought or irregular rainfall.
  • Faster Maturity
    The “head-start” of fall planting results in a larger plant in less time, helping create a mature landscape without waiting for smaller plants to catch up. This can be especially critical when replacing dead or damaged plants in a mature landscape to avoid a gap or uneven look.
  • Water Conservation
    Planting in the fall saves watering time and promotes conservation by eliminating daily watering. Cooler temperatures with the addition of both morning and evening dew contribute greatly to soil moisture availability in fall without as much supplemental watering.
  • Color Confirmation
    Fall is the best time to see a plant’s autumnal color. Planting in the fall eliminates the surprise of the wrong color or unexpected shades that may not coordinate with nearby plants. By planting in autumn, you’ll know exactly what you’re purchasing and planting, and you will be able to match better with your existing landscape.
  • Saving Money
    Last but definitely not least, buying your beautiful trees and shrubs in autumn can save big money. We discount prices on trees and shrubs to create room for holiday season materials and pass the savings on to you. Selection may be more limited later in fall, however, so don’t wait too long to take advantage of great savings.

Autumn can be the ideal time to plant trees and shrubs, whether you are adding to your landscape, replacing plants or starting a whole new look. If you plant in autumn, you’ll be amazed at how lovely your landscape will look next spring.

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The Fall Vegetable Garden

Fresh vegetables don’t have to end as the days grow shorter – fall is a great time to plant an autumn garden to extend the growing season. Many vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower are of a higher quality when grown in the fall, while others, like kale, develop better flavor after a frost. Spinach, chard, kale, collards, mustard and rapeseed all grow rapidly and flourish at the end of the season, ideal for autumn gardening. Loose-leaf lettuces do well, too.

To prepare your bed, immediately pull out whatever plants have finished producing. Spade or till the soil to a depth of 6-8 inches, rake the area lightly and work in a light application of composted manure or 5-10-5 fertilizer to provide adequate nutrition for rapid-growing fall veggies.

Broadcast a mixture of seeds like mustard, kale and rapeseed, or combine seeds of several types of lettuce like curly leaf, red leaf and oak leaf to allow you to harvest your salad already mixed. It works best to plant greens in blocks or wide rows, because they’re easier to harvest and you’ll have fewer weeds. If you plant blocks each time a new space opens up, you’ll have staggered plantings that can produce over a long time.

Some autumn vegetable varieties will tolerate cold better than others. Read seed packets before you purchase them to determine what will be best in your area, but don’t be put off by such notations as chard’s taking 60 days to mature. The greens are good when they’re younger, too.

Water seeds after sowing and keep the ground evenly moist until the seedlings are up and growing. Seedlings may also need to be sheltered from extreme heat. Protect them by shading them from the sun with Reemay fabric until they are established.

Although insects tend to be less bothersome in late fall, some vegetables in the cabbage family, including mustard, kale and collards, may attract cabbageworms. Apply Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) sprays for an organic method of control. As the plants begin to fill out, thin them enough to allow air to circulate and dry off moisture. This helps prevent insect problems too.

Harvest your fall vegetables as soon as the plants reach edible size. Even after the first frosts, you’ll be able to keep harvesting to enjoy the yield of your extended-season garden.

Top Fall Vegetables

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Swiss Chard
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Lettuce, Head
  • Lettuce, Leaf
  • Mustard
  • Rape
  • Spinach

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Battling the Bugs of Summer

In the summer months, insects can take their toll on your plants if you are not on the alert for problems. If the right product is used at the right time and under the right conditions, however, pesticides can be reduced to a minimum and your plants will be well-protected.

We recommend that pesticides be used as last resort, as they can cause harm if not used safely and responsibly. Thankfully there are many methods to preventing undesirable bugs on you plants without the necessity of pesticides. Check out Pollinators.org to see how you can best protect pollinators while getting rid of unwanted bugs in your garden.

Here are a few quick tips to protect pollinators if you decide to spray pesticides:

  • Avoid spraying just before dark, when pollinators are most active.
  • Guard against drift of pesticides from ground or aerial applications.
  • Follow label instructions carefully and research methods to rid you garden of the target pests.

 

Organic Products

Apply organic products early in the morning when bugs are eating. To stop insect damage, the spray must be applied to the insect itself or sometimes to where the bug is eating. The entire plant must often be sprayed to keep the pests from moving on to untreated areas. Organic controls include insecticidal soap, Bonide All Season Spray (horticultural oil), Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew, tobacco dust, bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), rotenone and pyrethrin sprays.

Contact Products

Inorganic in composition, these insecticides must be applied either to the insect or the leaf where the pest is feeding. Apply in the morning for best results, and as with the organic controls, soak the entire plant so the insects do not find a safer spot to nibble. Contact pesticides include Malathion and Sevin.

Systemic Products

Systemic insecticides circulate to all parts of the plant. Therefore, if you are only able to spray part of a shrub, the product will move to all leaves within 24 hours to control feeding insects for about two weeks. Systemics are best applied in the evenings when there is no chance of rain and sprinklers will not be used. The product will be absorbed only as long as the leaf stays wet. When the leaf dries by mid-morning, the product is then moved through the entire plant when the insects resume feeding. Systemic insecticides available to the homeowner include Bonide Systemic Insect Spray, Ortho Systemic Insecticide and Bayer Season-Long Tree & Shrub.

Not sure how to deal with your pests and unwanted insects? This handy chart can help!

Environmentally Friendly Controls for Common Garden Pests

Pest Type

Control Methods

Ants & Cockroaches Concern Home Pest Control, Diatomaceous Earth, Bonide Eight, Bioganic Spray & Dust, Garlic Barrier
Aphids Insecticidal Soap, Pyrethrin, Bonide All-Season Spray, Bonide Eight, Rotenone, Hot Pepper Wax, Neem Oil, Garlic Barrier
Predator: Ladybugs, Praying Mantis
Caterpillars (Tomato Hornworm, Cabbage Looper, etc.) Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew, Bt (Bacillus Thuringinensis), Dipel Dust, Bonide Eight, Neem Oil
Predator: Trichogramma, Praying Mantids
Fleas Diatomaceous Earth, Concern Home Pest Control, Bonide Eight
Predator: Beneficial Nematodes
Japanese Beetles Beetle Traps, Neem Oil, Schultz Expert Gardener, Pyrethrin, Bonide Eight
Predator: Praying Mantids, Beneficial Nematodes for grub stage control
Lacebugs Hot Pepper Wax, Insecticidal Soap
Mealy Bugs Insecticidal Soap, Pyrethrin, Bonide All-Season Spray, Pyrethrin, Bonide Eight
Predators: Crytpolnemus or green lacewing
Mites Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew, Insecticidal Soap, Bonide All-Season Spray, Pyrethrin, Hot Pepper Wax, Garlic Barrier, Neem Oil
Mosquitoes Pyrethrin, Mosquito Bits, Mosquito Dunks (pond control)
Scale Hot Pepper Wax, Bonide All-Season Spray, Insecticidal Soap, Bonide Eight
Predator: Green lacewing
Slugs Concern Slug Stop, Monterey Sluggo
Predator: Birds
Thrips Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew, Insecticidal Soap, Bonide All-Season Spray, Pyrethrin, Hot Pepper Wax, Garlic Barrier, Neem Oil
Whiteflies Insecticidal Soap, Pyrethrin, Repel M Sticky Tape, Safers or Tanglefoot Sticky Whitefly Trap, Bonide Eight, Garlic Barrier
Predators: lady bugs, encarsia formosa or lace wings

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