How to Prune Tomatoes

When growing tomatoes, the ultimate goal is to help the plant yield as much ripe fruit as possible. If you’re growing indeterminate or “vining” varieties (Big Boy, Beef Master, most heirlooms), pruning your plants to remove unwanted shoots and leaves ensures that all the nutrients are going to the tomatoes. If you’re growing a determinate variety (Biltmore, Heinz, Patio), too much pruning is counterproductive. See Step 1 to learn when and how to prune a tomato plant. [Read more…]

Succulent Project

Not many plants are as tolerant of their growing conditions like succulents are. Here’s how to make an easy table top design that is beautiful on its own, or works as a part of a larger project such as a fairy garden.

Create a Pollinator Garden

What you can do?

Tips for Creating a Pollinator Friendly Garden Habitat

By planting a pollinator-friendly garden you are making a difference for honey bees, bumble bees, other bees and pollinators that bring us 1 in every 3 bites of food.
Establishing habitat can be challenging but there are certain things you can do to make it easier and more successful. You are probably aware of many of the points listed below; use what is helpful to your site and disregard what is not. [Read more…]

Starting Seeds Indoors

seedlings-300x225The arrival of March means that winter is finally coming to an end and Spring is just around the corner! However, temperatures may still be quite cold during the days and nights, and frost and snow still pose a threat to budding outdoor plants. While it’s not quite an ideal time to start planting your spring garden outside just yet, there are plenty of steps you can take to plan and get your plants off to a great start indoors while you await warmer, longer days that will promote beautiful blossoms outdoors. Starting fruit, vegetable, herb, and flower seeds indoors is easier than you think, and with a little knowledge and effort you can be well on your way to a beautiful Spring garden by the time it warms up outside! [Read more…]

Attracting Birds To Your Backyard

cardinal-snowybranches-MFOverview of the Four Requirements for Attracting Backyard Birds

Wild birds require four things to be attracted to a backyard: food, water, shelter and nesting sites. If you make each of these four things available, you will be amazed at how many different species of birds become regular backyard guests.

Food

A good food source is the most important thing you need to attract birds. Food sources can be naturally occurring or supplemental sources such as feeders. Offering several different foods will attract a greater variety of birds. Popular foods to attract birds include:

• Seeds
• Nectar
• Fruits
• Insects
• Scraps
• Nuts
• Suet

Not all foods will attract the same birds. For the best results, learn which birds are present in your local area and choose foods to attract them to your yard. Once your yard is a popular feeding site, more unusual species will become curious and you can offer them treats as well.

Water

Water is critical to birds’ survival and adding water to your backyard will quickly attract birds. Types of water features that are attractive to birds are:

• Bird baths
• Misters
• Ponds
• Waterfalls
• Streams

Moving or flowing water will attract the most birds because it is more visible and they can hear it from a great distance. Water should be kept fresh and clean, but no chemicals should be used to purify water because they can be harmful to birds.
Birds also need water in the winter. A heated bird bath will provide drinkable water that birds do not have to use body heat to melt first. Heaters can be added to regular bird baths or special heated baths can be used.

Shelter

Birds will not stay in a location where they do not feel safe, and adding backyard features that can offer them shelter will help attract them to your yard and keep them there once they have found it. Common bird shelters include:

• Trees
• Shrubs
• Scrub brush piles
• Overgrown grassy areas

Provide shelter at different levels for birds that prefer both high and low shelters. More dense plant growth is popular with small and medium bird species, while larger birds prefer perches where they can scan nearby areas for predators and other dangers. Shelter near feeders is especially popular since birds can quickly retreat if they feel threatened while feeding.
Many plants can also serve as food sources for birds, so choosing plantings wisely can not only provide shelter but will also entice birds with a natural food source.

Nesting Sites

For permanent guests, it is necessary to provide nesting sites for backyard birds. Many birds prefer to nest in natural locations, but manmade sites can also be attractive and may be easier for birders to enjoy. Nesting sites can include:

• Trees and shrubs for natural nesting sites
• Simple nesting boxes
• Functional or decorative birdhouses
• A brush pile for ground nesters

Different birds build different types of nests, from twig piles to dangling cups. For the best results, learn what types of nests your regular backyard birds prefer and offer nesting sites that are suitable for their needs.

By providing food, water, shelter and nesting sites, you can attract birds to your yard and invite them to take up residence.

Year Round Container Gardens

Container gardens offer so much versatility.  They are re-usable, inexpensive and properly planted, can provide color from march to november!  The trick is to replant the container with each new season.

holiday container gardensLet’s start from november and work our way through the year.  There is a chill in the air, you’ve finished raking the leaves and you discover some tulips, daffodils or grape hyacinths  you’ve neglected to plant.  Take your container (we’ll use a 14″ pot as an example here) and remove any and all plant material.  Top off the pot with a potting soil mix.  Dibble down 4-6″ into the soil and plant your pot.  Your taller daffodils would be your uprights, your tulips would be your mid-sized and your grape hyacinths would in this case be labeled your trailing types.

Come springtime you’ll have a cheery pot full of spring flowers.  Add a few pansies to extend the flowering and you are all set till May!

When the season warms up enough in May to set out your annual bedding plants, either remove the spent bulbs, or plant over them.  Just mix and match according to your color or plant preferences.  Come mid-September, remove the annual plants, and again, following the recipe for success, replant with fall mums, ornamental kales, fall pansies or experiment with late season perennials.

Finally, to dress the house up for the holidays, take spent flowers out, cut back perennials, and replace with fresh greens.  Boughs of fresh pine, hemlock and fir look great when contrasted with holly, variegated eunomous or even twigs of white birch branches.

Once you get a feel for the growth habit of most plants you can mix and match plants to achieve great looks all throughout the year.  This model works just as well on a whiskey barrel as it does on our 14″ planter.  Have fun creating your pot full of color all year long!

Caring For Mums in Containers

chrysanthemum flowersMums are as ubiquitous as pumpkins in the fall. You can find them everywhere and anywhere from nurseries to supermarkets to gas stations. However, once you get them home they are incredibly easy to kill. They dry out in a nanosecond and need to be watered at least once a day. After the repeated stress of drying out, they often just up and die.

Here are five tips to keep your mums from croaking. [Read more…]

Keeping Young Trees and Shrubs Healthy

Hydrangea-limelight_100_1028MRIt’s hot out there for newly planted trees and shrubs. These plants may be struggling to survive the heat and drought because their root systems haven’t had a chance to get established in the native soil yet. That’s why it’s important to pamper spring-planted trees and shrubs during the first year after planting. Most trees fail after the first year of planting because they were stressed and never recovered from transplant shock. Here are some ways to take the shock out of tree planting.

  • Keep them watered. Young trees need moist soil to survive the first summer. If you have sandy soil, the roots will dry out quickly and the leaves may shrivel and drop. If you have clay soil, the dry ground will rack, exposing roots and causing them to dry out. You should water your trees a few times a week and deeply. Add 5 to 10 gallons of water per tree each time.

 

  • Use a gator. If you don’t want to be a slave to tree watering all summer, try this product. Tree gators are plastic-sleeved devices that wrap around trees. Fill them with water and they slowly release the water over time, keeping the soil around the rootball moist.

 

  • Mulch them. Keep the soil around the tree or shrub mulched with an organic mulch. This will help keep the soil moist, plus prevent weeds from growing. Be generous with your mulch ring size. Spread it outside the drip line of the plant. The feeder roots will be more likely to penetrate the native soil if there is no competition from other plants and the soil stays moist. Add a 2- to 3-inch-thick layer of mulch around each tree and don’t pile it up next to the trunk or the tree may suffer from crown rot.
  • Stake or no stake? Staking usually isn’t recommended for newly planted trees. The gentle swaying from the wind helps the new roots get established. However, if you have a windy location, you may want to stake the tree for just the first year so it doesn’t blow over.

Planting Dahlias

kthread-dahlia-flower-220627-o-300x201If your perennial flower garden gets a little drab and boring come late summer and fall, think about planting dahlias. Gardeners are always trying to find colorful flowers to keep the show going into autumn, and dahlias are the perfect star to fit the bill. Dahlias just need a little more thought and attention compared to other perennial flowers.

Dahlias offer a wide range of flower types. There are flowers shaped like pom-poms, anemones, cactus, orchids, and water lilies. The flowers come with single or double petals and in almost any color of the rainbow from white to purple. Some varieties produce flowers the size of a dinner plate, while others have small flowers on dwarf plants. [Read more…]

Plant a Butterfly Garden

2198_monarch_1508921Medium-300x300It’s that time of year when butterflies gracefully spread their wings and float through the warm summer air. There is something magical about these winged beauties, and creating a garden to attract them is relatively easy.

One of the main requirements is a sunny location—an area that receives four to six hours of direct sun every day. Butterflies also need a source of shallow water; a mud puddle or a saucer with wet sand or mud will do the trick. If you can provide some shelter from strong winds and a few stones where they can sun themselves, that’s even better. Also, if you want to provide a haven for butterflies, don’t use pesticides. It’s true that these pollinators are attracted to particular plants, and that the larvae of different species prefer different types of food, but you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy butterflies in your garden. Instead, you can attract them by simply planting a variety of plants, including annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs. [Read more…]