Category Archives: News and Tips

April’s Featured Houseplant: Calathea

The Calathea plant is a popular plant used for indoor office decoration purposes. It is often used in homes and businesses as well. It is a type of plant that prefers indirect lighting, which means makes it perfect for indoor usage and office buildings. Calathea plants are popular for indoor purposes because they are generally easy to care for and they look great, offering bright green plants to liven up indoor spaces. 

The genus Calathea includes some of the most beautiful and striking tropical foliage plants in the world. Calathea species generally have boldly marked, upright, oblong leaves in a dazzling array of colors held on long, upright stalks. Because of the plant’s bold markings, it goes by nicknames such as zebra plant, peacock plant, and rattlesnake plant, that reflect that. 

Grow calathea in medium to low light. This beautiful tropical doesn’t like much sun on its leaves, so shield it from direct light to prevent sunburn. Water calathea enough to keep it moist, but not wet or saturated. This isn’t a drought-tolerant houseplant, but it is relatively forgiving if you forget to water it from time to time. Extended periods of dryness can result in brown leaf tips or edges. 

Got Spring Fever? Visit the flower gardens at Keukenhof in Holland!

Have a bad case of Spring fever? Let’s go to Holland! Ok, maybe we all can’t hop on a plane, but we can take a video visit to Keukenhof where you will experience the gorgeous views of blooming Dutch tulips and other flowers for which Holland is famous. Keukenhof is the most famous and largest flower park in the world and lies not far from Amsterdam.

7 million flower bulbs

 


 

Tulips from Holland are world famous. If you want to see the Dutch tulip fields in bloom, you should visit Holland in April and May. This is the same period in which the biggest flower park in the world, Keukenhof, opens its doors.

Keukenhof is a park where more than 7 million flower bulbs are planted every year. Gardens and four pavilions show a fantastic collection of: tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, orchids, roses, carnations, irises, lilies and many other flowers. You will be overwhelmed by a spectacle of colors and perfumes.

March Houseplant of the Month – Pothos

Whether you are new to houseplants, or have a tendency towards killing anything you bring home, have we got a plant for you. Pothos, or Epipremnum aureum, is a lovely plant that is probably the easiest houseplant to grow. You have probably seen them in dorm rooms, offices, or even tropical locations like steamy bathrooms. Speaking of tropical, you might have even seen a few whose trailing vines have grown to 10, 20 or even 30 feet long. They are not a terribly finicky plant as they tolerate low light and lax watering habits. They are perfect for those of us who are too busy, or consider ourselves non-plant people.  It is a great plant for those looking to find fulfillment caring for houseplants.

Pothos plants do well in ordinary, well-draining potting soil. They tolerate low natural light (even growing under fluorescent lights), or shady spots in a warm-weather garden. Ideal is bright, indirect light. You should let the plant dry out between waterings as too much water will rot the roots.

Due to their trailing habits, Pothos are a great way to get trendy by growing yours in a cool macrame hanger. Want another reason to pick up this popular plant? They are an air purifier removing harmful chemicals. So if you are looking for a starter plant, or just a plant that’s as easy to care for as it is easy on the eyes, bring one or two home today!

What Are the Effects of Rock Salt on Lawn Grass?

Rock salt is commonly used as a deicing agent, helping prevent winter accidents on roads, driveways and sidewalks. Road crews often add rock salt as a preventative measure when wintry weather is predicted. The same qualities that help the salt break through the ice make it deadly for your lawn. In addition to harming your existing lawn, rock salt can keep grass from growing for years.

Moisture

Salt removes the moisture from the soil, keeping it from getting to your lawn’s roots. The plants become dehydrated and die. If the salt touches a growing grass blade, it takes the moisture out of the blade as well, leaving it brown and withered. Touching dormant grass blades doesn’t do much damage, but the damage to the soil can keep dormant grass from getting the water it needs to grow in warmer weather.

Toxicity

Salt tends to separate into its basic ions when dissolved in water. The sodium ions block grass roots from getting necessary nutrients such as calcium, potassium and magnesium. The chloride ions are absorbed by the roots instead, growing to toxic levels. When the grass contains too much chloride, it can’t produce chlorophyll effectively and will starve when it can’t turn the sun’s light into energy.

Duration

Soil naturally contains small levels of salt, especially if it’s fertilized regularly. A few wayward chunks of rock salt won’t harm your lawn. Large amounts can stay in the soil for years, though, accumulating every year until the salt creates an environment toxic to your grass. Salt stays there until it’s leached away by rainwater, which means you won’t be able to plant new grass until the salt is gone. You can speed this process by watering the damaged area thoroughly. Give it deep soakings daily as soon as the weather is warm enough to help drain the salt below the lawn’s root level.

Options

You can’t control what your local government uses to keep roads ice-free on those occasions when icy conditions are expected, but you can help protect the areas of your lawn near the road by installing temporary snow or silt fencing. It blocks much of the salt, keeping it off your lawn. You can also cover your grass with plastic sheeting, held down with rocks or landscape staples. For your driveway or sidewalks, try an alternative ice-melt product. Garden centers often carry some that are labeled as safe for landscape use, or you can try sand or kitty litter to give you traction over small, slippery areas.

Most Birds Say “We Love Sunflower Seeds”

The seed that attracts the widest variety of birds, and so the mainstay for most backyard bird feeders, is sunflower. Other varieties of seed can help attract different types of birds to round out your backyard visitors. In general, mixtures that contain red millet, oats, and other “fillers” are not attractive to most birds and can lead to a lot of waste as the birds sort through the mix.

Sunflower

There are two kinds of sunflower—black oil and striped. The black oil seeds (“oilers”) have very thin shells, easy for virtually all seed-eating birds to crack open, and the kernels within have a high fat content, extremely valuable for most winter birds. Striped sunflower seeds have a thicker shell, much harder for House Sparrows and blackbirds to crack open. So if you’re inundated with species you’d rather not subsidize at your black oil sunflower, before you do anything else, try switching to striped sunflower.

People living in apartments or who have trouble raking up seed shells under their feeders often offer shelled sunflower. Many birds love this, as of course do squirrels, and it’s expensive. Without the protection of the shell, sunflower hearts and chips quickly spoil, and can harbor dangerous bacteria, so it’s important to offer no more than can be eaten in a day or two.

Sunflower is very attractive to squirrels, a problem for people who don’t wish to subsidize them. Some kinds of squirrel baffles, and some specialized feeders, are fairly good at excluding them. Sunflower in the shell can be offered in a wide variety of feeders, including trays, tube feeders, hoppers, and acrylic window feeders. Sunflower hearts and chips shouldn’t be offered in tube feeders where moisture can collect.

For more information – https://www.allaboutbirds.org/types-of-bird-seed-a-quick-guide/

February Featured Houseplant: Aloe Vera

Aloe (Aloe spp.), an easy-care succulent, has distinctive elongated leaves that fan out in a vase shape from a central base. Try smaller varieties such as Aloe vera on a sunny kitchen window. Aloes work nicely in dish gardens and in rooms with Southwestern decor. Keep the spiky leaves away from high-traffic areas. 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.
 
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). 
•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.

ALOE VERA GEL

To make use of the aloe vera plant’s soothing properties, remove a mature leaf from the plant and cut it lengthwise. Squeeze the gel out of the leaf and apply it to your burn, or simply lay the opened leaf gel-side–down on top of the affected area. 

Do not ingest the gel, as it can cause nausea and other unpleasant symptoms.

It’s Time To Plan Your Spring Veggie Garden

What should I plant? How much should I plant? And where should I plant it? If you’re new to gardening—and even if you’re not—starting your garden can, at times, feel overwhelming. The good news? You don’t have to be a master gardener to create a garden plan that yields a healthy harvest. Here are a few tips to help you kick-start your home garden.

Give It Some Thought

As it does with most endeavors, it pays to think through your garden project before you order your seeds or shop for plants in the Spring. Which vegetable varieties really pique your interest? How much land can you commit to a garden? (Be sure to allow adequate space between rows!) How much time do you have to devote to weeding, mulching, watering, and other garden maintenance? Which plant hardiness zone do you call home, and which plants thrive in that region over the course of the year? Answering these questions will help you develop a garden plan that suits your land and lifestyle.

Whether or not you are new to gardening, prioritize the crops that excite (or perhaps intrigue) you. And if you had a garden last year, make sure to rotate your crops this year, moving the location of each plant family to increase soil fertility and crop yield. Consider saving seeds from your garden, too. With just a few extra considerations, you can also plan to save seeds from your garden.

Choose A Good Location

Most vegetables grow best when they get at least six hours of sun a day, so be sure to plant your garden in a sunlight-rich location. If that sunny spot is close to a convenient water source for irrigation, that’s even better. Sowing your seeds or planting your transplants near a water source will make it easier to keep your soil at the optimal moisture level..

Start Small

Bigger doesn’t always mean better when it comes to basic garden planning. If you’re new to gardening, or if you have limited time to devote to your garden, commit to a plot size that won’t overwhelm you and concentrate on a selection of vegetables you like to eat that are also easy to grow. Radishes, lettuce, spinach, and carrots are just a few of the crops that don’t take a lot of time or experience to produce a harvest.

Pay Attention To Your Soil

There’s no way to overemphasize the importance of good soil: your garden will grow best in nutrient-rich, well-drained, weeded, and loosened (non-compacted) soil. Before you plant each spring, take the time to enrich your soil with quality compost or other organic matter if you want to boost your soil’s fertility and your garden’s production. Mulch (like leaves, straw, and hay) also adds valuable nutrients to the soil and will cut down significantly on your need to weed.

Grow What You Love

What’s the point of growing vegetables you don’t like to eat? Let your palate dictate your choices when choosing your crops, but try to stay open to planting at least a couple new vegetables each year to keep your home garden a bit more exciting. The last thing you want is to have your garden feel like a chore rather than a source of inspiration and relaxation.

Keep Your Tools Simple

Truth is, you don’t need to invest a lot in tools for weeding and breaking up soil or otherwise preparing your soil for seeds or transplants.

How to Care for Garden Tools

Properly caring for your tools will ensure that you enjoy gardening with them for many seasons to come.

5 can-do tool-care tips

  1. Easiest of all, maybe: Simply rinse soil off digging tools after each use, by making a pit stop at the garden hose. Dry thoroughly. A stiff brush hanging by the tap would make for even more thorough cleaning.
  2. It’s often recommended to place a bucket of sand moistened with linseed oil inside the garage, and quickly dip tools into the abrasive, lubricating mix a few times after using them.
  3. Linseed oil is likewise good for wood handles. Hang a rag near the sand bucket to give a quick wipe to wooden tool handles, too. Allow the rag to dry in the open between uses, and when disposing, dry thoroughly first or soak with water before placing in a closed metal can.
  4. Most important of all: Get the tools indoors, and hang them up! Don’t lean them against the garage wall, touching the floor—even if it’s paved. Again, moisture is the enemy here.
  5. Good-quality pruning shears should last a long time—unless you let sap and other residues build up on the blades. As if they were the silverware after supper, wash them. Yes! A quick stop at the sink, with soap and a nail brush or scrubby pad, is ideal. Dry well, and replenish lubrication on the pivot point only. A drop or two of a penetrating product such as 3-in-One oil is better than a lightweight spray lube, which evaporates quicker. Use mineral spirits to remove residues, but preferably prevent them in the future with the quick-wash routine. Invest in a sharpening device meant for shears–a whetstone, or a carbide sharpener, such as you might use for knives or scissors–to complete the care regimen, giving the blades an occasional pass.

Planting a Live Christmas Tree

Family traditions are a big part of the holiday season. Many families have created landscapes that are planted with evergreens from Christmas past. Memories grow on with Spruce, Fir and Pines that were once a part of the holiday festivities. Properly planned, a live tree can be decorated, enjoyed and eventually planted in the space of three to four weeks surrounding Christmas day.

If you plan to buy one of these live trees, decide in time to take the proper steps to insure a successful transplant. First, select the spot where the tree will be planted and dig the hole early in December before the ground freezes. Dig a hole that is suitable in size to the root that you are planning on planting. Remember, measure twice and cut once! You might want to store your backfill in a wheelbarrow that is sheltered in the garage until you need it. This will insure that the soil in workable and not reduced to a frozen mound of un-movable earth. Next, fill in the hole with leaves and cover it with a tarp until you plan to plant.

Plan on keeping your tree indoors no more than 7-10 days. This way it will only need to put up with dry warm air for a short time. Keep the root ball moist at all times. Many use wooden barrels, plastic or galvanized tubs in order to water properly and yet protect the floor.

After Christmas, plan on acclimating your tree to the outdoors for about two-three days. This can be done in a screened porch or garage. Afterwards, carry your tree to its prepared site. Remove the tarp, scoop out the leaves and place the root ball in the hole. Add the soil from your stored wheelbarrow to fill the hole completely-firm it well with your feet. Give the tree several buckets of water at this time. Mulch the tree in well with the leaves or other compost or bark mulch.

Poinsettia Care

Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) remain one of the most popular holiday flowers. Hybridizers have expanded the range of colors from the familiar red to pastel yellow and vibrant bi-colors. One of the most common questions after Christmas is “How can I care for my poinsettia so that it will bloom again next Christmas?”. While this can be done, it’s a very fussy, exacting process and since the plants are not that expensive, you might just choose to start fresh next year.

For those of you who are undaunted, the process for saving your poinsettia and getting it to rebloom begins with the care you give it the first season.

When You First Bring Your Poinsettia Home

Light – Place it near a sunny window. South, east or west facing windows are preferable to a north facing window. Poinsettias are tropicals and will appreciate as much direct sunlight as you can provide.

Heat – To keep the poinsettia in bloom as long as possible, maintain a temperature of 65 – 75 degrees F. during the day. Dropping the temperature to about 60 degrees F. at night will not hurt the plant. However, cold drafts or allowing the leaves to touch a cold window ca injure the leaves and cause premature leaf drop. If you’ve ever see a gangly poinsettia in bloom, with only a couple of sad looking leaves hanging on, it was probably exposed to temperatures that were too cool or extreme shifts in temperature.

Water – Water the plant whenever the surface feels dry to the touch. Water until it drains out the bottom, but don’t let the plant sit in water. Wilting is another common cause of leaf drop. A wilted plant can be revived and salvaged, but it will take another season to improve its appearance.

Humidity – Lack of humidity during dry seasons, in particular winter, is an ongoing houseplant problem. If your home tends to be dry and your poinsettia is in direct light, you will find yourself watering frequently, possibly every day.

Birds in the Garden: Creating a Haven for Colorful Birds in Your Yard

Birds bring many benefits to our lives. They fill our gardens with song, bring a spark of color and interest to our winter landscapes, and also eat many garden pests. Attracting birds to your landscape is fun. Their needs are easy to meet and just about everyone can achieve success by providing them with three basics things: shelter, water, and food.

If you have evergreen trees or shrubs, or maybe a tall canopy of shade trees, then you have the element of shelter. Birds need protection during feeding and bathing from cats and other predators. Try to position feeders and birdbaths close enough to natural shelter so that birds can perch safely between trips to the feeder, but yet far enough away so that they don’t make an easy target for the neighbor’s cat.

Water can be the most alluring aspect of your landscape. The sound of splashing water is relaxing and will also attract colorful birds. Birdbaths and small fountains are great accents for your yard and will provide your new guests with one of their most basic requirements. A shallow water source is all they need.

Consider placing your bird feeder adjacent to your water source. Once you have attracted birds to your yard, you don’t want to play hide-and-seek with the food source. Feeders can be hung from tree limbs, mounted on a freestanding pole, or even hung from the shepherd’s hook that held a hanging basket in spring. To stock your feeders, use birdseed mixes high in sunflower seed to attract the greatest variety of birds. Cardinals love black oil and striped sunflower as well as safflower seed. Suet cakes are great for woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches.

Another helpful tip is to scatter some seed on the ground around your feeder. This will attract mourning doves and other ground feeders. It’s easy to create a safe haven for birds in your yard. The enjoyment they bring will last a lifetime. Put out your feeder today!