Fa la la la! It’s the most wonderful time of the year–and our favorite part of the season! It’s time to head out with your family and wander amongst all the beautiful types of trees, looking for just the right one. As you’re searching, do the fresh test! Run your fingers along the needles, grab the branches and bounce the tree a little. If many needles fall off, the tree was cut long ago and has not gotten enough water, so find another! Also, the hunt for the perfect tree will go much smoother if you already know the type of tree you want.
Picking out a perfect tree isn’t all about looks—the tree’s scent, strength of branches, and needle retention all matter, too. So before you head to the tree farm or lot to select yours, lets compare the two most popular Christmas trees.
Balsam Fir – 3/4″ to 1 and 1/2″ short, flat, long lasting needles that are rounded at the tip; nice, dark green color with silvery cast and fragrant. These needles are 3/4 – 1 and 1/2 in. in length and last a very long time. This is the traditional Christmas tree that most Americans grew up with. This tree has a dark-green appearance and retains its pleasing fragrance throughout the Christmas season.
Fraser Fir – The Fraser fir may be the perfect holiday tree. Its attractive 1-inch needles are silvery-green and soft to the touch. Because there is space between the branches, the Fraser is easier to decorate than some trees. The firm branches hold heavier ornaments. The trees grow to almost perfect shapes, and as long as the cut tree is kept properly watered, the Frasier fir has excellent needle retention.
Everyone has their favorite. We hope you have fun selecting this year’s perfect tree!
Many folks are surprised to learn that autumn runs a close second to spring as an ideal planting time, but it’s true: cool temperatures, reliable rainfall, and short, bright days help plants make a quick and easy transition to your landscape. Despite the cold weather lurking around the corner, the entire first half of autumn (and then some) provides ample opportunity for plants to grow roots and get off to a good start in their new home. Before you run off to the garden center, though, there are a few things you should know to ensure success with fall planting:
– You can plant up to 6 weeks before your ground freezes. Once the ground is frozen, root growth will cease almost entirely until spring, and that six week window gives the plant time to get established enough to withstand cold and snow. The date that your ground actually freezes varies from year to year, of course, and some areas won’t have frozen ground at all. If you’re unsure, mid-November is a safe planting deadline for nearly everyone.
– Get everything in the ground before the ground freezes. If you still have plants in their nursery pots, get them in the ground before winter, no matter how late it has gotten. The plants will be much happier and better protected in the ground than in their thin plastic pots, so even if it’s getting quite late in the season, just plant them where you can. You can always move them come spring if you change your mind.
– Provide supplemental water when needed. Autumn weather can be quite cool and rainy, but that doesn’t mean that new plantings should be ignored, particularly if weather has been dry and/or windy. Water all plants thoroughly after planting, and continue to water them as needed until the ground freezes.
– Mulch. Just as you pile on blankets and quilts when the temperatures dip, mulch acts as insulation for plants. Mulch also creates the ideal environment for vigorous root growth, which helps new plantings get off to a good start. While even established plants benefit from a nice layer of mulch, newly planted specimens especially appreciate the protection it offers from the challenges of winter.
– Know what to expect. You won’t see much top growth emerge on fall-planted shrubs, but this is actually a good thing: any new growth that the plant produces now will be too soft to survive the impending cold anyway. Autumn planting is all about giving the plant a chance to put on root growth, which continues until temperatures average about 48°F/9°C. Plantings will be raring to go come spring thanks to the roots they create in fall.
There are also a few things to avoid:
– Avoid planting evergreens in mid-late fall. Because they keep their foliage all winter, they are more susceptible to drying out when the soil is frozen and the winds are blowing. Having several months (rather than several weeks) to develop a sizeable root system better prepares them to face these challenges. This is especially important for broadleaf evergreens like holly, rhododendron, and boxwood, as their large leaves are far more likely to get windburned and drought-stressed than conifers with needle or scale-like foliage.
– Avoid planting varieties that typically get winter damage in your climate. Certain plants get a bit of winter damage every year, no matter what – butterfly bush, caryopteris, and big-leaf hydrangea are some common examples. If you’ve got a shrub in your yard that you prune each spring to remove dead, winter-damaged stems, similar varieties would be better planted in spring than fall.
– Avoid planting anything that’s pushing it in terms of hardiness. Hardiness zones are a guideline, not an absolute, and lots of gardeners happily experiment with them. If you’d like to try something that’s perhaps not entirely hardy in your area, it’s far better to plant it in spring so it gets the whole season to grow roots instead of just a few weeks. The more roots it has, the better-equipped it is to survive winter.
Bonus tip: All of these guidelines apply to transplanting as well as new plantings, so if you’ve been considering moving something that’s already a part of your landscape, fall is a great time to do it.
One last thing before you grab that shovel – take a look at our planting tutorial to ensure you’re planting like the pros. Enjoy the season!
It’s officially Autumn!
Fall is a glorious time of year. The countryside is virtually exploding with oranges, reds, golds and yellows. This is a great time of the year to enjoy the out-of-doors. It is also a great time for fall gardens as autumn mums and perennials finish the season with a flourish.
Most spring planted annuals get a bit ragged about now, having survived through the heat, dry conditions and pests of the summer. This is a good time to freshen up your gardens by introducing some proven winners to your fall landscape. Coincidentally, you’ll probably be around to enjoy your fall garden more than you mid-summer plantings. The weather is more temperate, vacations are over with and kids are back in school.
With that it mind here are a few suggestions that are sure to please. Most of these plants will have strong seasonal interest well into December-and ornamental grasses are great all throughout the winter!
Fall Favorites: Ornamental Grasses-Grasses are a terrific way to add drama to your landscape. Their texture is a perfect foil to Rudbeckias, Sedum or hardy Chrysanthemums. They are extremely easy to grow, durable and can be used in a variety of landscape situations. They are also very attractive when used in containers. Ornamental grasses can range in height from under one foot (Festuca cinerea ‘Elijah Blue’) to well over six feet (Miscanthus sinesis ‘Silver Grass’). Many varieties of the Pennisetum family are gaining in popularity, including alopecuroides, with its enormous tassels through fall and winter and a dwarf fountain grass called ‘Hamelin’. Most varieties send out dramatic spikes of feathery plumes during late summer and early fall. These seed heads add interest to an otherwise stark winter landscape.
Ornamental Kale-Flowering kale and cabbages are fast becoming one of the more popular additions to the fall border. And for good reason…ornamental kale offers dramatic colors and shapes not commonly available in the fall. Brilliant pinks, purples and creamy whites add intrigue whether planted in the landscape or used in containers to accent mums and grasses.
Their fabulous colors are not flowers, but rather rosettes of central leaves. Flowering Kales have fringed or serrated leaves that actually gain in color intensity as the weather turns colder. They literally bloom into the winter months! Their vibrant displays will last until the winter temps reach the teens.
Fall Pansies (Violas)-This is a great way to extend your color into November and beyond. While most mums have gone by, these guys, with proper maintenance, will flower their heads off. Plant them in drifts, in pots or even tuck a few in to spruce up a tired hanging basket. These cheery faces do especially well with the warm ground temps and cool nights of autumn. They usually will flower through the first couple of hard frosts. Hardier varieties even winter over and provide unexpected delights the following spring. Imagine their deep purples set off against the brilliant pinks of ornamental kales. The nice thing about it is it will look great whether planted in the landscape or potted up for the front door!
Well, those are but a few of many great ways to liven up your fall landscapes. Sedum, hardy perennial Hibiscus and Asters are other opportunities. Stop by with any questions. We are always here to help. Fall is a beautiful time, and after all, Fall is for Planting!
Dracaena marginata is a very popular houseplant that typically grows to 6’ tall or more over time unless pruned shorter. It features perhaps the narrowest leaves of the various species of dracaena sold in commerce. Slender gray upright stems are topped by tufts of arching, glossy, sword-shaped leaves (to 2’ long and 1/2” wide). Leaves are deep green with narrow reddish edges. Lower leaves fall off with age leaving distinctive diamond-shaped leaf scars on the stems. In its native habitat of Madagascar, this species grows as a shrub or small tree to 20’ tall. This plant is also sometimes called Spanish dagger or red-stemmed dracaena or Madagascar dragon tree. ‘Tricolor’ is a popular cultivar which adds a thin yellow stripe to each leaf.
Tolerates a wide range of indoor temperatures. For best results, place in bright indirect light locations protected from direct sun and drafts. Tolerates low light, but foliage loses best color in too much shade. Pot may be placed on a bed of wet pebbles to increase humidity. Use a loamy, peaty, well-drained potting soil. Keep soils uniformly moist during the growing season, but reduce watering from fall to late winter. Plants of different heights may be placed in the same container. Tall plants may be trimmed by removing the crown and rooting it.
Common Name: dragontree
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Zone: 10 to 12
Sun: Part shade
Leaf: Colorful, Evergreen
Part of the allure of gardening is the anticipation. There is nothing more intoxicating than the thought of spring jonquils while enduring the heat of the summer. Properly planted, a gardener can create a blooming wonder that stretches from March till the end of June! Bulbs rarely need dividing so you can enjoy years of carefree color. Fall bulb planting is perhaps the most enjoyable gardening. Here are some points to remember when planning out a bloom pattern with spring flowering bulbs.
Drifts or vase?: Strange question-Are you planting your front foundation or naturalizing a semi-wild spot on the border of your property? For naturalizing an area use daffodils, tulips, scillas, crocus, or muscari to create a drift. A drift is usually viewed from a distance and therefore you should use more bulbs for impact. Plant in multiples of 25,50, 100 or 200. Scatter bulbs casually without regard for a formal pattern to achieve a look created by nature itself. These bulbs are inexpensive and are a great value in that they will spread and naturalize an area within a couple of years! A vase style is great for a more traditional planting as might be needed in the front of the house. Plant your tulips, daffodils & hyacinths in multiples of 3,5,7 and 9’s. Combining bulbs can create the effect of a flower arrangement effect-just as you might find in…A vase! Within your drift or vase you can create a planting that can provide lively color for weeks and months! If you are after a more formal look, then perhaps a border is what you have in mind. A formal border can be any geometric shape-square, rectangle, triangle or circle. To achieve a deep, full border of color, plant and space bulbs according to type. Generally, the proper planting depth is three times the bulb’s height from tip to base. Space bulbs equal to depth planted. Avoid planting bulbs any deeper than 8 inches in our area. This can stunt flower production. Finally, use a fertilizer high in phosphorous to encourage root development, either scratch it in as a top-dressing or put in the prepared bed. Water in well. The bulbs need this period to root in well. Planting can occur well into November or until the ground is too frozen to work. Once the ground is frozen, apply a mulch to keep shallow bulbs from heaving during thaws. You’ll have plenty of blooms to enjoy all spring!
As your lawn endures the trials of Job this summer-drought, pestilence and disease-you must hold to the hope that there is a lush, green turf on the other side of this summer. Has your spring turf been reduced to an arid, brown toasty color? If not, you might want to submit your water bills for federal disaster relief. Dry, scorching heat-an absence of consistent rainfall-this is the perfect scenario for crabgrass to flourish and bluegrass to perish. What’s needed, of course, is a good, deep penetrating rain. At the time this newsletter was going to press we are down about 8+ inches in the rainfall table.
The large Japanese beetle population will mean a heavier than normal population of grubs. Knowledge is of course your best defense. Here are a couple of suggestion for coaxing your sod through the trials of summer…
Feeding: Your lawn’s nitrogen needs are at their highest in late summer. Avoid fertilizing when temps are about 85 degrees. Supplement this late summer feed (high in nitrogen) with a fall fertilizer that will concentrate on developing the root system. This will build a turf more resistant to drought and pest damage. This might be your most beneficial feeding. You can supply a fall food right into November in most areas.
Pest Control: In late summer and early fall the grub cycle begins as the larvae pupate into the common white lawn grub. At this stage of their development, these grubs are the most vulnerable. Treat infested areas with either a liquid dose or a granular treatment.
Watering: A good rule of thumb is to water in the early morning hours. Try to provide at least 1 to 1.5 inches of water through rainfall or irrigation. A deep watering once a week is more beneficial than a series of shallow watering.
Seeding: To repair damage caused by drought, pests and disease, plan on a fall seeding program. Match the grass seed varieties to the conditions. For example, if you have a rocky, sandy soil that doesn’t hold moisture well, use a drought resistant lawn mixture featuring turf-type tall fescues (TTTF). Unlike ryegrass that spread by shallow rhizomes. TTTF have long individual tap roots. They are tough, durable and make a long wearing attractive turf. Heavy clay soils might do better with a bluegrass and ryegrass mixture. Fall is an optimum time for seeding. The warm weather speeds germination while the autumn night temps start to drop. Remember to keep the seed moist until established. That might require 2-3 mistings during our “Indian Summers”. The attention you pay to your lawn now will pay big dividends in the fall, the following spring and for years to come.
The aloe vera plant is an easy, attractive succulent that makes for a great indoor companion. Aloe vera plants are useful, too, as the juice from their leaves can be used to relieve pain from scrapes and burns when applied topically. Here’s how to grow and care for aloe vera plants in your home!
Aloe vera is a succulent plant species of the genus Aloe. The plant is stemless or very short-stemmed with thick, greenish, fleshy leaves that fan out from the plant’s central stem. The margin of the leaf is serrated with small teeth.
Before you buy an aloe, note that you’ll need a location that offers bright, indirect sunlight (or, artificial sunlight). However, the plant doesn’t appreciate sustained direct sunlight, as this tends to dry out the plant too much and turn its leaves yellow.
Keep the aloe vera plant in a pot near a kitchen window for periodic use but avoid having the sun’s rays hit it directly.
Please note: The gel from aloe vera leaves can be used topically, but should not be ingested by people or pets. It can cause unpleasant symptoms such as nausea or indigestion and may even be toxic in larger quantities.
• It’s important to chose the right type of planter. A pot made from terra-cotta or a similarly porous material is recommended, as it will allow the soil to dry thoroughly between waterings and will also be heavy enough to keep the plant from tipping over. A plastic or glazed pot may also be used, though these will hold more moisture.
• When choosing a container, be sure to pick one that has at least one drainage hole in the bottom. This is key, as the hole will allow excess water to drain out.
• Select a container that’s about as wide as it is deep. If your aloe plant has a stem, choose a container that is deep enough for you to plant the entire stem under the soil.
• Aloe vera plants are succulents, so use a well-draining potting mix, such as those made for cacti and succulents. Do not use soil. A good mix should contain perlite, lava rock, coarse sand, or all three. Aloe vera plants are hardy, but a lack of proper drainage can cause rot and wilting, which is easily the most common cause of death for this plant.
• A layer of gravel, clay balls, or any other “drainage” material in the bottom of the pot is not necessary. This only takes up space that the roots could otherwise be using. A drainage hole is drainage enough!
• (Optional) To encourage your aloe to put out new roots after planting, dust the stem of the plant with a rooting hormone powder. Rooting hormone can be found at a local garden center or hardware store, or online.
HOW TO CARE FOR AN ALOE VERA PLANT
• Place in bright, indirect sunlight or artificial light. A western or southern window is ideal. Aloe that are kept in low light often grow leggy.
• Aloe vera do best in temperatures between 55 and 80°F (13 and 27°C). The temperatures of most homes and apartment are ideal. From May to September, you can bring your plant outdoors without any problems, but do bring it back inside in the evening if nights are cold.
• Water aloe vera plants deeply, but infrequently. To discourage rot, allow the soil to dry at least 1 to 2 inches deep between waterings. Don’t let your plant sit in water.
• Water about every 3 weeks and even more sparingly during the winter. Use your finger to test dryness before watering. If the potting mix stays wet, the plants’ roots can begin to rot.
• Fertilize sparingly (no more than once a month), and only in the spring and summer with a balanced houseplant formula mixed at ½ strength.
Now is a good time to start thinking about Fall garden containers. Check out this helpful video for some great ideas on plants from Proven Winners and unique containers.
St. John the Baptist, the New Testament healer, lends his name to St. John’s wort, which blooms during summer near the time of the feast of St. John. This short, yellow-flowering herb, botanically known as Hypericum, has been used since ancient times to treat all nerve-related problems, including depression, a disorder of the central nervous system. The species Hypericum perforatum is said to have the greatest amount of active ingredient for medicinal purposes, but many of the perennial species have at least some.
The aboveground portions of the plant contain the essential oils from which the medicinal qualities of St. John’s wort are derived. Ground-up flowers of St. John’s wort suspended in vegetable oil are used to relieve pain from neurological disorders like tennis elbow and sciatica. When made into a tea, St. John’s wort has been known to relieve symptoms of ulcers, gout, and arthritis. But St. John’s wort is best-known for its effectiveness in the battle against depression, and because there are no recorded side effects from using St. John’s wort, it is fast becoming an alternative to prescription antidepressants.
St. John’s wort is easy to grow and is well suited for a healing or wildflower garden. Its mid-green to blue-green foliage provides an attractive backdrop for the bright yellow flowers with their prominent yellow stamens. Choose a sunny spot in the garden with moist but well-drained soil, and expect your plants to reach two to three feet in height with a spread of at least two feet. With this sunny-yellow healer gracing the garden, you’ll find it hard to keep singing the Blues!
Not all insects are harmful to your garden; in fact, many are beneficial and are an important part of the ecosystem. Chemicals used to eliminate insects do not discriminate between the good bugs and the bad ones, so you can limit the damage done to beneficial insects and, at the same time, keep harmful chemicals out of the environment by practicing organic pest control.
Here are a few simple and effective ways to eliminate bugs and other pests naturally:
Handpicking: Insects can be handpicked from plants, and pests like potato bugs can easily be shaken from plants into a box. Use a butterfly net to capture white cabbageworm butterflies before they lay their eggs on your crucifers.
Traps: Slugs love to slurp beer from cans strategically placed in the garden, but don’t open the tops all the way lest the openings become two-way streets. Sticky traps hung in apple trees attract and trap apple maggot flies. Brush-on insect trap coating can be applied to small boards on stakes and used throughout the garden. Painting the boards a bright color will make them even more effective. Pheromone traps draw insects like Japanese beetles to their own hormonal scents and safely capture them in boxes away from prized roses and peonies.
Covers: Using lightweight floating covers on crops such as blueberries keeps those pesky birds, rabbits, and deer from eating you out of house and home. Of course, don’t install them until after pollination so that bees can do their job first.
Biological Pest Control: Releasing beneficial bugs into your garden to feed on bad bugs is a fine way of eliminating pests. Ladybugs love aphids, and certain wasps lay eggs on the eggs of other insects, such as cutworms and cornborers; when the wasp eggs hatch, they feed on the pest eggs. The bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is found in spray form and is used to control cabbageworms and their cousins.
Botanical Pest Control: Natural insecticides made from plants like the pyrethrum daisy (Tanacetum coccineum) are used very effectively and are a major force in the bad bug patrol. Pyrethrum, rotenone, and sabadilla are a few of these botanicals, which disperse quickly and do not leave residues.