Category Archives: News and Tips

Veggies That Prefer Cool Weather

Many of the most common kinds have edible leaves or roots, like lettuce, carrots and onions.

With spring around the corner, a gardener can get a bit anxious to start planting. But not all vegetables are as eager to get into the cool ground and start growing. Luckily, there are cool season crops that tend to thrive in the chill of an early spring, and again, in late summer, early fall.

Many of the most common kinds have edible leaves or roots, like lettuce, carrots and onions. Others produce edible seeds, like peas and certain types of beans. And still other cool weather thrivers are artichokes, broccoli and cauliflower. Most of these can even endure short periods of frost. In fact with a cool-weather vegetable like kale, frost on the leaves can make them even sweeter.

To get a head-start on maturity with many cool season plants, start with young, vigorous plants. Most root vegetables (such as carrots and radishes), however, will need to be grown from seed.

These cool-weather plants also grow well in containers, which can make it easier for gardeners, especially if the early-spring ground is still a bit difficult to tend. In fact, plants like lettuce and carrots and peas are excellent vegetables for first-time growers or gardeners with limited space.

Specific Vegetable Varieties to Choose

More specifically, horticulturists tend to break down cool weather vegetables into types, or categories. One such description is “hardy” or “semi-hardy” vegetables. Hardy vegetables can tolerate harder frosts and temperatures in the low 20’s. Semi-hardy vegetables will tolerate light frosts and temperatures in the high 20’s and low 30’s. Here’s a partial list of plants within each category:

Hardy vegetables: broccoli*, Brussels sprouts*, cabbage*, collards*, English peas*, kale*, kohlrabi*, leeks*, mustard greens*, radishes*, spinach*, turnips

Semi-hardy vegetables: beets, carrots, cauliflower*, celery*, Chinese cabbage*, endive, Irish potatoes, lettuce*, radicchio, rutabaga*, Swiss chard*

Early Spring, a Perfect Planting Time

Yes, it can get cold in early spring–a little frost, a few snowflakes. But that doesn’t have to lessen an early harvest. In fact, the cooler temperatures in the spring have fewer pests around to bother gardeners or damage plants.

Whether a novice grower or an experienced gardener, cool crop growing is an enjoyable and bountiful way to extend the season. And that means more meals on your table with fresh, delicious vegetables from your garden.

Article Courtesy of Miracle-Gro

Houseplant of the Month: Fiddle Leaf Fig

The fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) is a popular indoor specimen plant featuring very large, heavily veined, violin-shaped leaves that grow upright. These plants are native to tropical parts of Africa, where they thrive in very warm and wet conditions. This makes them somewhat challenging for the home grower, who is likely to have trouble duplicating these steamy conditions. However, they are relatively tough plants that can withstand a less-than-perfect environment for a fairly long time.

Fiddle-leaf figs are perfect as focal points of a room if you can situate them in a floor-standing container where the plant is allowed to grow to at least 6 feet. (Most indoor specimens reach around 10 feet tall.) They’re fairly fast growers and can be potted at any point in the year if you’re like most gardeners acquiring a nursery plant to keep indoors.

Botanical Name Ficus lyrata
Common Name Fiddle-leaf fig, banjo fig
Plant Type Broadleaf evergreen
Mature Size 50 feet tall (outdoors), 10 feet tall (indoors)
Sun Exposure Part shade
Soil Type Loamy, medium moisture, well-draining

Fiddle-Leaf Fig Care
Fiddle-leaf figs are not especially demanding plants as long as you can get their growing conditions right. When grown as a houseplant, be prepared to rotate your fiddle-leaf fig every few days so a different part faces the light source. That way, it will grow evenly, rather than lean toward the light.

Also, every week or two dust the leaves with a damp cloth. Not only does this make the leaves appear shinier and more appealing, but it also allows more sunlight to hit the leaves for photosynthesis. Moreover, you can trim off any damaged or dead leaves as they arise, as they no longer benefit the plant. And if you wish, you can prune off the top of the main stem for a bushier growth habit.

Light
Fiddle-leaf figs require bright, filtered light to grow and look their best. Direct sunlight can burn the leaves, especially exposure to hot afternoon sun. And plants that are kept in very low light conditions will fail to grow rapidly.

Soil
Any quality indoor plant potting mix should be suitable for a fiddle-leaf fig. Ensure that the soil drains well.

Water
Fiddle-leaf figs like a moderate amount of moisture in the soil. If the plant doesn’t get enough water, its leaves will wilt and lose their bright green color. And if it gets too much water, the plant might drop its leaves and suffer from root rot, which ultimately can kill it. During the growing season (spring to fall), water your fiddle-leaf fig when the top inch of soil feels dry. And over the winter months, water slightly less.

Furthermore, these plants are sensitive to high salt levels in the soil. So it’s ideal to flush the soil until water comes out the bottom of the pot at least monthly. This helps to prevent salt build-up.

Temperature and Humidity
Fiddle-leaf figs don’t like extreme temperature fluctuations. A room that’s between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit is typically fine, though you must position the plant away from drafty areas, as well as air-conditioning and heating vents. These can cause sudden temperature shifts.

Aim for a humidity level between 30% and 65%. If you need to supplement humidity, mist your plant with clean water in a spray bottle daily. Or you can place it on a tray of pebbles filled with water, as long as the bottom of the pot isn’t touching the water. Plus, fiddle-leaf figs can benefit from being in a room with a humidifier.

Houseplant of the Month: Hoya

Hoya have been popular house plants for decades and with good reason. They are extremely long-lived, have a classic, deep green, vining foliage and produce fragrant, light pink and red star-shaped flowers. Because of their thick waxy, foliage they are often called wax plants or sometimes porcelain flower referring to the unique texture of the flowers.

These tropical vining plants have a few requirements in order to thrive but nothing too hard. Give them bright, indirect light, humidity and a light touch when it comes to watering. Use a potting mix that allows for good air circulation around the roots. Read on for the best recipe for success.

Light

Select a place that gets bright, indirect light. Don’t let their waxy foliage fool you. They are not succulents and can’t take harsh afternoon light. They will grow in lower light situations but it’s unlikely they will bloom. 

Soil and Repotting

Potting soil with good air circulation is very important for Hoya. To create a perfect blend mix equal parts of Espoma’s organic Cactus MixOrchid Mix, and Perlite. Hoya like to be pot-bound or crowded in their pots. They will only need to be repotted every two or three years.

Water

Water regularly with room-temperature water, spring through summer. Let the top layer of soil dry between watering. In the fall and winter growth naturally slows down and they won’t use as much water. Water sparingly during fall and winter, give them just enough that the soil doesn’t dry out completely. Too much water can cause flowers to drop.

Humidity 

Hoya are tropical plants that thrive in humid conditions. Use a humidifier to bring the humidity levels up, especially in winter when indoor air tends to be dry. A saucer with gravel and water also provides humidity as the water evaporates. Misting with room-temperature water also helps but avoid spraying the flowers.

Temperature

Keep the room temperature warm year-round, try not to let it drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also best to keep plants from touching cold windows and away from heating and cooling vents.

Pruning

Prune in spring before vigorous growth begins. The stems with no leaves are called spurs and shouldn’t be removed. Flowers are produced on the same spurs year after year. Hoya are vining plants that will happily cascade from a shelf or window sill. Conversely, they are often trained onto trellises that are either vertical or circular, giving the impression of a more robust plant.

Thanks to Espoma.com for care tips

Photo courtesy of Costa Farms

Give the Gift of Gardening

…and you never have to worry about getting the wrong size!

Selecting gifts for family, friends, and neighbors can offer a challenge to even the most organized amongst us. Making a gift special requires effort; either in remembering the correct size, or a favorite color, a type of music or even a favored flower. A good gift is something that shares your passion with a friend, or contributes to their interests through your gift.

The most cherished gifts are those that reflect the effort you’ve put into the selection. It is in this process of gifting that we truly give of ourselves. As gardeners, we often share from our garden-whether it is a surplus of tomatoes, fresh blooms, or even a special recipe.

These gifts from the garden are special. They include all the elements that show you care: time, creativity, beauty and expertise. As this holiday season approaches, consider giving the gift of gardening. It is a present that is appropriate to any age, level of friendship or interest.

Which of your gardening friends wouldn’t appreciate a new tool, seed collection, gardening book, wind chime or bird bath? And who among the others on you list would you not share your favored moments from the garden or nature? So let this be the season to share your passion with a poinsettia, bulb collection or pottery.

Remember, a gift card is always a great idea and can be used all year-round!

Keep that holiday greenery fresh!

The holiday season is fast approaching and soon it will be time to deck the halls with decorative greenery and boughs of holly. To make sure all your garland, swags, trees and kissing balls look their best make sure to use an anti-dessicant such as Wilt-Pruf® to keep your greens from drying out.

This is also a helpful tip for prolong the life of greens, holly, berries and boxwood used in outdoor window boxes or winter planters. An application of Wilt-Pruf can help extend the life of your festive display.

You can use Wilt Pruf® to protect and extend the life of Christmas trees and wreathes by reducing moisture loss. Moisture loss is the primary cause of the needle loss and browning that is so common. For wreathes, holly and other seasonal greenery many commercial producers dip the object in Wilt Pruf® and let if drip dry over a catch tray. For the homeowner, spraying is just as effective.


This is a simple process:

  1. For a long lasting Christmas Tree begin by selecting one that has been cut recently and is still fresh.
  2. Apply Wilt Pruf® to all foliage outdoors in daylight, Wilt Pruf® needs exposure to ultra violet light to dry properly.
  3. Let dry before bringing indoors
  4. 1 Quart RTU will treat the typical 5′ – 6′ Christmas Tree, you can also mix the concentrate at 5:1 dilution and apply with any pressurized sprayer.

Wilf-Pruf® is also a good way to protect evergreen shrubs from Winter winds and chills. It provides a protective layer that helps to lock moisture in preventing burning and helps to keep plants from drying out.

 

Thankful

While the coronavirus pandemic can be deeply stressful, it also gives us the opportunity to take note of the things we typically take for granted and what we are thankful for. While we’re going through this unusual time, We have found it helpful to focus on what we have, not what we are missing.

Family – We have all had the opportunity to spend quality time with family. We should all be grateful for our loved ones and a time of forced perspective, to consider what really matters to us

First Responders – Gratitude for the heroes of healthcare who put their own safety at risk to care for total strangers simply because it is what they do.

Neighbors – Let’s be thankful for supporting each other through our communities, whether that is sharing a meal with those in need, a ride to the polls or a member of your local pod.

Gardening – Having to stay home during Covid many have gone outdoors to garden. You’ve found a connection with nature that has both fed your family and your soul. New to gardening? Let this be the start of a life-long hobby!

You, our customers – Most of all we are thankful for you, our customers, who have supported us through a very difficult time. We appreciate your patience, encouragement and kind thoughts during a most challenging time.

Keep calm and carry on. We will get through this. Life will return to normal. It may be a new kind of normal, but this will all be a memory one day. Crisis brings out the best in people. Crisis reminds us why it is important to celebrate every day and share our love with family, neighbors, and friends. Crisis reminds us of how lucky we are and how important it is to take care of ourselves, our communities, and our planet.

Designing With Trees

Fall is for Planting!

Trees are a fundamental element of any landscape plan. The proper position, selection, and placement can set the stage for the entire home landscape design. Trees are the most permanent plants we grow. Most will live for 50 years or more. Because they are such a long-lasting addition to the landscape, special care should be taken when selecting and planting trees in the landscape.

Function of Trees
Shade-Trees are most often planted to provide shade. When considering placement, keep in mind that you will want to provide protection from the afternoon sun. therefore situate your shade tree planting near the southwest corner of the house. Trees are the ultimate air conditioners. They will shade as well as cool the air passing through the branches through transpiration.

Framing-In addition to providing shade, trees also serve other functions. They can frame the house on the property. Select trees that will fit in proportion to the house. You can achieve dramatic effects by understanding your options. A large, two story house framed with smaller trees appears larger. Using low flat trees can lend an appearance of spaciousness. These trees are usually planted on an angle diagonal from the front corners of the house. This gives the lot an appearance of depth more than when trees are planted directly out to the sides. Juxtapose different varieties in odd numbers that are planted at irregular depths.

Background-By planting trees as a backdrop to the house you will effectively soften the roof lines and make the house standout on the property. Consider the heights of the selected trees so that the tops of the trees will be seen above the roof line at maturity. Maples, such as Acer Rubrum “October Glory”, plus A Rubrum “Red Sunset”, as well as Sugar Maples and Oaks are good choices for background plantings.
Accent-Small trees with attractive flowers, berries, leaves or bark are often used to provide distinctive touches to the landscape design. These trees, often referred to as specimen trees, should be used sparingly. However, they are often used to direct the eye towards areas of interest, such as the front entrance, around a pool or patio, or at the end of a walkway or path. Just about any landscape will benefit from the proper use of an accent tree. A few excellent examples of an accent tree would be Magnolia Stellata “Royal Star”, Cornus Kousa and Stewartia Pseudocamellia.

Attributes of Trees
Size:Trees for use in the landscape are usually classified as small, medium, or large. An example of a small tree might be a Malus, or Crabapple. These small trees add interest with flower, fruit and foliage, but will rarely reach a height of more than 25 feet. A medium tree, such as a Cornus Kousa, or Korean Dogwood, will mature at a height of around 35 to 40 feet. Large trees like the Quercus “Rubra” or Red Oak, will grow to heights in excess of 75 feet.

Shape:The shape of the tree will certainly impact the landscape design. Careful selection will blend with the property, structures, and existing plantings.

Texture:Trees offer so much in personality through leaves, branches, stems and twigs. Fine textured trees are open and airy, like the layered effect that can be exhibited by Dogwoods. This effect creates a feeling of space. Large, fine textured trees give the impression of depth to small areas. Conversely, coarse textures give the feeling of closeness and are appropriate as screens or noise barriers.
Trees are essential elements to any complete landscape design. To insure success, remember to position your tree where it will serve the greatest benefit, select the most appropriate tree for the location, and give them proper care and maintenance for the generations to follow.

Featured Plant: Montauk Daisy

Delicate white Montauk daisies (Nipponanthemum nipponicum) grow a profusion of 2-inch flowers in late summer. The daisies grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9, and they sometimes remain green through the winter in the warmer climates. These low-maintenance plants attract butterflies, making them a suitable choice for butterfly gardens, beds and borders.

Montauk is native to the coastal regions of Japan and has been naturalized in the United States in Long Island, New York and New Jersey. Unlike other daisy species such as Leucanthemum vulgare (Oxeye daisy), this species is the only one previously associated with Chrysanthemum family.

Montauk Daisy Care

Size & Growth

These perennials may grow up to 1.5’ – 3’ feet tall, sprouting shrubby foliage with alternate leaves. 

Each leaf is toothed, has a slightly leathery texture, and oblong-shaped. 

They grow quite well under the right conditions, putting on a great floral show come bloom time.

Flowering and Fragrance

In late summer or early fall, Montauk daisies put on a showy display of beautiful white flowers until the hard freeze arrives. 

These bloomers with daisy-like white flowers have 2” – 3” inches wide flower heads with white rays and green centers.

Light & Temperature

These plants are hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9. 

They are acclimated to coastal climes, doing well in warm but not excessively hot temperatures. 

As for humidity, the plant can tolerate different levels.

Full sun is the optimal light conditions for Montauk daisies but partial shade in very hot and overly sunny regions is preferable.

Watering and Feeding

Weekly watering is more than enough for N. nipponicum but they are drought-tolerant and survive without frequent watering every 7 to 10 days.

If the soil has sufficient organic matter, fertilizers aren’t necessary. 

If your soil is poor in nutrients, add a balanced, 10-10-10 NPK ratio fertilizer in early spring. 

Don’t overfeed the plants as the plant may flop.

Soil & Transplanting

Montauk daisies are drought-tolerant and can succeed in dry, well-drained soils. 

They thrive in most average soils with medium moisture. 

If the soil doesn’t drain well, improve it by adding sand or small pebbles.

Be careful with using heavy soils with poor drainage as Nippon daisies don’t tolerate sogginess around the roots.

Transplant root divisions in spring or mid to late-summer, moving them to a new position in full sun, planted in dry soil.

Grooming and Maintenance

Growth on these daisies can become leggy and woody if it doesn’t die back during winter. It’s important to cut back the foliage in late fall.

In spring to early summer, when the plant is in its active growing season, to encourage better growth pinch plants back to half their size.

Cease pinching the stems once the flowering season begins.

Deadheading spent daisy flowers can stimulate the plant for additional blooming.

Sterilize the pruning shears before you pruning daisies.

Besides these grooming requirements, the plant is deer-resistant and low-maintenance.

Fall is For Planting

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.

https://www.provenwinners.com/learn/planting/why-plant-fall

Perennial of the Month: Aster

Asters are daisy-like perennials with starry-shaped flower heads. They bring delightful color to the garden in late summer and autumn when many of your other summer blooms may be fading.

There are many species and varieties of asters, so the plant’s height can range from 8 inches to 8 feet, depending on the type. 

The plant can be used in many places, such as in borders, rock gardens, or wildflower gardens. Asters also attract bees and butterflies, providing the pollinators with an important late-season supply of nectar.

PLANTING

CHOOSING AND PREPARING A PLANTING SITE

  • Asters prefer climates with cool, moist summers—especially cool night temperatures. In warmer climates, plant asters in areas that avoid the hot mid-day sun.
  • Select a site with full to partial sun.
  • Soil should be moist but well-drained, and loamy.
  • Mix compost into the soil prior to planting. (Learn more about soil amendments and preparing soil for planting.)

PLANTING ASTERS

  • While asters can be grown from seed, germination can be uneven. You can start the seeds indoors during the winter by sowing seeds in pots or flats and keeping them in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 weeks to simulate winter dormancy. Sow seeds one inch deep. After 4 to 6 weeks, put the seeds in a sunny spot in your home. Plant outside after the danger of frost has passed. (See local frost dates.)
  • The best time to plant young asters is in mid- to late spring. Fully-grown, potted asters may be planted as soon as they become available in your area.
  • Space asters 1 to 3 feet apart, depending on the type and how large it’s expected to get.
  • Give plants plenty of water at the time of planting.
  • Add mulch after planting to keep soil cool and prevent weeds.

CARE

HOW TO GROW ASTERS

  • Add a thin layer of compost (or a portion of balanced fertilizer) with a 2–inch layer of mulch around the plants every spring to encourage vigorous growth.
  • If you receive less than 1 inch of rain a week, remember to water your plants regularly during the summer. However, many asters are moisture-sensitive; if your plants have too much moisture or too little moisture, they will often lose their lower foliage or not flower well. Keep an eye out for any stressed plants and try a different watering method if your plants are losing flowers.
  • Stake the tall varieties in order to keep them from falling over.
  • Pinch back asters once or twice in the early summer to promote bushier growth and more blooms. Don’t worry, they can take it!
  • Cut asters back in winter after the foliage has died, or leave them through the winter to add some off-season interest to your garden.
    • Note: Aster flowers that are allowed to mature fully may reseed themselves, but resulting asters may not bloom true.
  • Divide every 2 to 3 years in the spring to maintain your plant’s vigor and flower quality.

There are many species and varieties of asters, so the plant’s height can range from 8 inches to 8 feet, depending on the type. You can find an aster for almost any garden at our garden center in autumn!

The plant can be used in many places, such as in borders, rock gardens, or wildflower gardens. Asters also attract bees and butterflies, providing the pollinators with an important late-season supply of nectar.

RECOMMENDED VARIETIES

The most common asters available in North America are the New England aster(Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) and the New York aster (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii). Both of these plants are native to North America and are great flowers for pollinators. We recommend planting a native species of aster over a non-native species when possible.

NORTH AMERICAN ASTERS

  • New England asters (S. novae-angliae): Varieties have a range of flower colors, from magenta to deep purple. They typically grow larger than New York asters, though some varieties are on the smaller side.
  • New York asters (S. novi-belgii): There are many, many varieties of New York asters available. Their flowers range from bright pink to bluish-purple and may be double, semi-double, or single.
  • Blue wood aster (S. cordifolium): Bushy with small, blue-to-white flowers.
  • Heath aster (S. ericoides): A low-growing ground cover (similar to creeping phlox) with small, white flowers.
  • Smooth aster (S. laeve): A tall, upright aster with small, lavender flowers.

EUROPEAN/EURASIAN ASTERS

  • Frikart’s aster (Aster x frikartii) ‘Mönch’: Hailing from Switzerland, this mid-sized aster has large, lilac-blue flowers.
  • Rhone aster (A. sedifolius) ‘Nanus’: This aster is known for its small, star-shaped, lilac-blue flowers and compact growth.