Time for One More Fertilization Before Winter!

As we get closer to winter, it’s a good time to think about fertilizing your plants and lawns one last time before the cold sets in. While it appears that plants go dormant or die in the winter, there’s actually a lot of activity going on under the soil. The roots are in growth mode and giving plants one last infusion of nutrients will help them build a stronger root system and thus help them better thrive next season.

Plants need a whopping nineteen elements to grow, with the primary three being nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. To ensure that your plants have ample access to all of the necessary nutrients, it’s best to regularly apply plant food. Fertilizers are labeled with three numbers, which designate the ratio of those nutrients. The first number represents the amount of nitrogen, which promotes foliage or grass blade growth. The second number is the amount of phosphorus, which helps root growth. The final numbers is the amount of potassium, which helps cell functioning and also helps plants absorb trace elements.2014-09-14 17.48.13

For late fall lawn fertilization, it’s best to use a formula that’s higher in phosphorus to stimulate root growth before winter sets in. This will help your lawn be more winter-hardy and green up more quickly in the spring.

Perennials will benefit from a fertilizer with high phosphorus as well, and fertilizing them will help them be stronger plants and produce more flowers next spring. Trees and shrubs will also appreciate fertilization before the cold sets in because over the cold months, their roots are taking in nutrients from the soil and applying them to health-promoting functions, like root development and disease resistance. The roots will store any extra nutrients so that they are readily available for new growth in the springtime.

Read the directions on fertilizers and follow them to make sure they are applied properly for maximum effect.

Come by and see us and we can help you figure out which fertilizers will work best to ensure that your plants build their strength up over the winter and come back strong in the spring!

The Incredible, Edible Pansy!

Yellow PansiesNow is a great time to clean up your planted pots that may be looking a little bedraggled coming off the summer heat. Pansies are a great option to spruce things up, because they will grow and bloom all winter and into spring. Many pansies are bright and bi-colored, making them an eye-catching addition to any garden or pot. Once spring rolls back around, pansies that were planted in fall are usually more robust, having been able to establish strong roots. This plant doesn’t like extreme heat or humidity, which is why they enjoy our fall and spring weather.

Pansies are compact and low growing, so they are ideal for edging, borders or container plantings. They grow into clumps as opposed to spreading along the ground, and most varieties will reach a height of 4 – 8 inches. This flower is a great match with spring bulbs. A popular method for mixing pansies with spring-blooming bulbs is to plant bulbs in a garden bed, and then plant pansies right over the bulbs. In the spring, the bulbs will bloom and, as their flowers wilt, the pansies will be beginning their spring bloom. This is an excellent technique to maximize your garden bed color in the spring. Tulips or daffodils are a couple options that look great with pansies. Some cool-season annuals that complement pansies well are snapdragon, calendula, and nemesia. Purple Pansy

Pansies are fairly easy to grow and will flourish under most conditions as long as they have good soil and at least partial sun. They like steady moisture so don’t let them dry out too much. One of the top reasons pansies fail is not getting enough water, so keep an eye on them and water if you notice they have dried out. Pansies respond well to deadheading, so keep plucking the wilting flowers off of ‘em. Ensure the plant has adequate nutrition by amending the soil with soil conditioner and Bio-Tone starter fertilizer.

A fun fact about the pansy flower: it’s edible! It has a mild, almost minty flavor and tends to be used a lot for decorations and as a garnish. (If you decide to sample some pansies, make sure no pesticides have been used on the plant.)
Drop by and see us, we have a fantastic supply of pansies right now that will do a great job of giving your garden or containers a fun pop of color!

Plant Fall Bulbs for Spring Blooms

Planting flower bulbs in fall is a fast and easy way to have beautiful flowers pop up in the spring. Just imagine: a little work now means that you’ll wake up one spring morning to a flower-filled garden! Bulbs are a favorite of both beginner and experienced gardeners because they are easy to plant and most require very little maintenance. Here are a few quick tips for planting bulbs:2014-09-20 13.27.40

  • Read the label and keep it with the bulbs up until the moment you plant. It’s the only way you can keep track of what you have so that when you start designing your spring garden, you can keep track of which plants and colors you are putting where.
  • Don’t plant bulbs in an area where water collects because they don’t like to sit in extremely wet places and they can rot under those conditions.
  • Make sure they get enough sun—bulbs like full sunshine.
  • Plant bulbs with the pointy end up and if you can’t discern the pointy end, check to see if there are any flattened or shriveled roots on one end, which would be the end that needs to point downwards.
  • Mix compost in the hole with the bulbs because like any plant, they enjoy well-drained and nutrient-rich soil.
  • Water bulbs well after you plant them to encourage them to send their roots out into the soil and start growing.

Selection of Spring BulbsWhen it comes to designing your spring garden, plant bulbs in clusters for the greatest impact, it gives a concentration of color that is impossible to miss! For a natural-looking drift effect, toss a handful of bulbs in the air and plant them wherever they land. Another fun technique to try is to do a “double-decker” effect where you plant small bulbs in a layer on top of larger bulbs. As long as they all flower at the same time, this will create a beautiful mixing of two flowers. You could also use this method with bulbs that will bloom at different times to ensure that you keep color in the garden bed as long as possible.

If you are interested in learning about planting bulbs this fall, don’t miss our class: Fall Bulbs for Spring Blooms on Thursday, September 25th, from 6pm – 7pm. Our experts will help you learn fall bulb planting so that you have a masterpiece garden come spring!

Fall is the Perfect Time to Plant Trees and Shrubs

As we begin to transition from summer to fall, now is prime time to plant trees and shrubs. If planted now, trees and shrubs will put all their trees and shrubsenergy into root growth.  Roots will grow throughout the winter months to store nutrients for next season. Trees and shrubs need less water during winter, because shorter and cooler days decrease the rate of photosynthesis. Trees planted in the fall are better able to withstand the heat and drought of the next summer. Soil is warmer now than it was in the spring, and it will remain warm even after air temperatures start dropping.

Pick a good location for your tree or shrub that will provide it with the appropriate amount of sun or shade and meet its moisture requirements. Dig a hole that is twice as wide as the root ball and no deeper (the top of the root ball should be above soil level). The root ball will lower a bit as the soil settles, and you don’t want it to end up too low in the ground. If planted too deeply in the ground, the plant can suffocate because not enough air will reach the root system. Break apart and loosen the roots if they are pot bound, so that they can more easily spread out once in the ground.

Once your hole is dug, use the shovel a few times in the bottom to loosen the soil and make it a little easier for the roots to expand outward. Amend the soil with composted cow manure, soil conditioner and organic fertilizer. Organic fertilizer is good to use in the fall because it contains a healthy dose of good bacteria and micro-nutrients, so it isn’t going to drive a lot of foliage growth, but will help the root system immensely. The mixture should end up being composed of a third of the existing soil, a third cow manure and a third soil conditioner. In addition to that mixture, we suggest using Espoma Bio-Tone. This is a starter fertilizer that contains myccorhizae (a type of fungi that roots rely on to help them gather nutrients) and other beneficial micro-nutrients that will help the plant establish a bigger and healthier root ball.

 

Spread a couple inches of mulch over the area to protect the roots and water well. Trees and shrubs have high water needs as they attempt to establish a strong root system.

Any tree or shrub that has been grown in a container or has burlap around its root ball can be planted in the fall. Do you have more questions? Stop in and see one of our friendly staff members who would be glad to assist you with your fall planting needs!

Planting a Cool Season Vegetable Garden

We’re heading into the homestretch of summer, which can only mean one thing: it’s time to plant cool season vegetables! Here in North Carolina, spring temperatures can climb quickly, which makes vegetables such as lettuce or spinach develop a bitter flavor. Those veggies, along with others such as broccoli, cauliflower and carrots, generate the best flavor when they mature during cooler weather. Planting these crops now means you’ll have a harvest of produce that will carry you well into the fall and winter.

ThFall veggies to plant - beautiful red leavesere are a number of cold-hardy crops that prefer the cooler temps and higher moisture levels that come at this time of year. Late planted vegetables usually have less competition from weeds and there are fewer pests around to bother them. Some of these plants can grow very quickly from seeds and be ready to eat in a little over a month. Arugula, mustard, spinach, turnips and radishes all germinate from seeds and are ready to harvest in about 40 days.

To ensure success of late harvests, make sure seedlings have enough time to create well-established root systems before the first frost hits. It’s best to plant cool season vegetables in raised beds or mounded rows, and seeds should be planted deeper because the moisture level of the soil is lower and the surface temp is higher. The planting depth may be as much as twice as deep as for spring planting of the same crop. Give your plants a layer of manure or compost that is several inches thick to help the plants establish strong roots, provide adequate drainage, and supply the necessary nutrients for proper plant growth. Sprinkle fertilizer over top of your plantings for extra nutrients and continue to fertilize them regularly in the early growth stages.

Most vegetables need about an inch of water per week. For cool season veggies, it is best to do a single watering that seeps deep into the ground, rather than several applications that soak more shallowly. Young seedlings, germinating seeds, and transplants may require some light watering between the weekly soak.

Most cool weather vegetables can tolerate a light frost, but if a harsh frost hits, you will want to cover your beds with burlap, tarp or a blanket to protect plants.

Below are some suggestions of cool season vegetables to plant:

  • AsparagusSalad greens to plant for fall harvest
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Collards
  • Cucumbers
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Spinach
  • Turnips

If you’re thinking about starting a cool season vegetable garden, stop in and see us! Our friendly staff is on-hand seven days a week and can help you with all of your gardening needs.

Tips for Creating a Pollinator-Friendly Garden

Did you know that a high number of pollinators equates to a very healthy ecosystem? The more pollinators, the more biodiversity of plants there is. In fact, some plants are entirely dependent on the help of pollinators to pollinate and reproduce. The term pollinator describes an animal that moves pollen between parts of a flower and includes butterflies, bees, birds, bats, and other insects and mammals. It’s certainly worthwhile to create a garden which is pollinator-friendly. Not only will you get to see increased wildlife activity, but you will also be doing a favor for the environment.

A bumble bee dangles from a flowerPollinators are attracted to flowers by their color or scent, and flowers bloom at different times of the day depending on what type of pollinators they want to attract. Flowers that bloom during the day are generally bright colors and trying to attract bees, butterflies, or other insects. Flowers that bloom at night are usually sweet smelling with a pale color to attract moths and bats.

To create a garden for pollinators, try to have plants that bloom at various times of the year, so that there is always something for them to snack on. Different types of pollinators have different habits and need pollen or nectar at different times of the year. Plant in clumps as opposed to a single plant, and consider using species native to your area. Native plants are more likely to survive and thrive, plus, they are best suited to nourish your local pollinator population. Old-fashioned flower varieties are best for pollinators. Avoid using modern hybrids because many have been bred to have double-flowers, and don’t have the pollen or nectar that pollinating species are looking for. Gardens with a wide variety of plants are most attractive to pollinating species.

Other garden features can make your garden more livable for pollinators. Just like any living being, they need food, shelter, and water. A butterfly house is a good way to invite butterflies into your garden. If you decide to install a butterfly house, consider growing plants which their larvae can eat (and be prepared to see some munched-on leaves). Plants such as milkweeds, dogwoods, and verbena are all excellent choices. Having a shallow dish of water helps pollinators, especially those in the midst of a long migration. Keep in mind: butterflies cannot drink open water and, instead, must drink from wet soil or sand.

It’s important to carefully consider the use of pesticides when planting for pollinators. The chemicals can be harmful to them if ingested or if they land on a plant surface that has been sprayed. Fast-acting, short-residual options are best if you must use pesticides, and try to find the least toxic pesticides possible. Also, spray at night, when pollinators like bees are least likely to be active. Your safest bet is to steer clear of these chemicals altogether.

In summary, here are our tips for starting a pollinator-friendly garden:

  • Plant a variety of flowers that bloom at different times of the year
  • Stick to old-fashioned plants
  • Plant in clumps
  • Use native speciesTwo bees exploring a coneflower
  • Add elements which provide water and shelter
  • Avoid pesticides when possible

Here are some suggestions for pollinator-friendly plants:

  • Honeysuckle
  • Bee balm
  • Coneflower
  • Sunflowers
  • Zinnia
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Geranium
  • Shasta daisy
  • Milkweed
  • Spider wort
  • Catmint
  • Anise hyssop
  • Passion flower
  • Hydrangea
  • Azalea
  • Mountain mint
  • Goldenrod
  • Joe-Pye weed
  • Butterfly bush
  • Salvia
  • Dogwood
  • Violet