In the last week, we have had some serious snow melt. Do you realize how long it’s been since we’ve seen…ground? It’s actually kind of weird. I saw my little solar walkway lights for the first time in forever last night, and I thought, what’s THAT?
With the snow line receding, and as the possibility of walking around your yard becomes a reality, it’s time to start accessing the winter damage. While the snow was a protective blanket for our plants in regards to the record breaking low temps, it was also heavy for some things. I’ve walked only a small area so far. My poor ‘Miss Kim’ lilac bent in some places until she broke, I guess she won’t have a big showing this year. Other small shrubs with broken or cracked branches have also been noted for some helpful pruning as soon as the rest of the snow and ice are melted.
We’ll keep you in the know about winter clean up as the season progresses, OH, and you might need those pruners and lopers NICE and sharp to make your spring chores easier. (BTW, the tool and knife sharpening people will be at BCG the first weekend in May.)
So how about you and your yard and garden? Winter damage? Concerns? Log on to our facebook page and let us hear it #wintercleanup, post pics too.
Authors note: At the time of this post, the temperature has finally caught up to the calendar and the snow is melting! But if you’ve worried at all about how your plants fared through this winter, read on!
Every time I venture south of our zone 6 climate in winter, when asked where I’m from, I’ll inevitably hear “you get a lot of snow up there”. And while true in this particular year, historically, our winters are anything but consistent with snow covering the ground. As a gardener, I cringe as some days have been below zero followed by a thaw the next day. Why? Because it’s not good for the plants!
Believe it or not, a steady supply of snow is a very good thing for the winter survival of plants, especially when we reach the status of record breaking cold temps. When plants are labeled hardy for our zone (zone 6a – 6b in Connecticut, excluding part of Litchfield County), that means they can survive temperatures as low as -10 degrees. Think of snow like a big, soft, insulating blanket, keeping everything below it at a consistent temperature of around 32 degrees, even when the air above is in the single digits. Let’s be thankful for that layer of protecting snow as we broke 100 year old records with some areas reaching -22 degrees!
So when the snow melts, the grass turns green, and the trees begin to leaf out while perennials break the ground – you can thank old man winter of 2015 for his consistency.
Watering 101. Believe it or not, if it were an actual course, it should be one that everyone should take that gardens, or ever plan to garden or grow anything. But being capable of watering plants seems like a pretty basic life skill, doesn’t it? Anyone can turn on a hose and spray down the landscape. But does everyone’s landscape flourish, grow, and bloom into an oasis of blooming plants, blooming all season long?
If a plant is thirsty, water it. If you want a green lawn, water it. Simple as that. But what if your flower, vegetable garden, and lawn look they are just barely surviving their way through the season even though you water faithfully and daily? Why, oh, why doesn’t your garden look like the beauties gracing the pages of Better Homes and Gardens?
With just a few tips, you can maximize your watering efforts, and make every drop count toward the lush, blooming paradise you want. It’s all in the ‘when’ and ‘how’ when it comes to watering.
When to Water
Watering is best done early in the day and ideally before the sun shines its rays on the leaves of the plants. But what if you don’t want to get up that early? Well. Early day sun is not as intense as midday sun, so don’t let sleeping in stop you from watering.
But what if you really sleep in? And you have a job. Or a life for that matter. And watering in the morning is simply an impossible feat that cannot be squeezed in in the morning. Well, then you have to water in the evening (although this may promote disease and unwanted critters). While this is not the MOST preferable, it would be the other choice.
BUT what if you walk out your door at 12:30 in the afternoon in the middle of August in 90 degree weather and your cucumbers are flattened to the ground because you forgot to water the day before? What then? Then you water no matter the time of day. Maybe they’ll come back. Maybe they won’t. But at least you tried.
The best bet, is to get on a watering schedule. Check the forecast. If it’s a sunny summer day, water. If it’s overcast and showers are expected, hold off.
How to Water
Don’t stop reading now. Your water wand is not magical. You can’t just wave it over the plants with one motion and done. That’s called shallow water and doesn’t promote good healthy root system. Deep regular watering is really the way to go. That does take some time, but plants are an investment you want to last the whole season, right? A perfect example would be a flowering hanging basket: water until the excess drains out the bottom, and if it happens immediately, then you need to do it several times because it was probably so dry that the water is running around the sides instead of saturating the roots. First year trees, shrubs, and perennials need special watering attention. During droughts pay attention to the look of the leaves on your plants and try to water them prior to severe wilting as to not stress the plant and compromise their health.
Soaker hoses are a great way to limit how long you have to stand there watering. Just turn them on and go about your business for a while. Sometimes, just laying down a hose on trickle can accomplish the same results. Nevertheless, let the water flow for a while and it will cut down on how often you have to do it.
Remember how much you loved those plants when you purchased them? Continue the love with regular watering during the dog days of summer so you can enjoy them for years to come!
The garden is a lot like a Broadway play. The lead role is given to annual plants. They bloom non- stop from the start of warm weather season, to the end. Showy. That’s their role and they do it well.
The supporting role is given to perennial plants. Their bloom time is specific, and they take turns having the spotlight on them. They are dependable, breaking the ground every spring, waiting for their moment to shine. ‘Filling in’ the garden, giving an established look, and providing changeable bloomers, are what these supporting actresses do best.
We wait with anticipation for our favorites to take center stage. How much longer until the lavender plants show their spikes? Eagerly we watch for the first formed buds on the echinacea. Perennial plants provide interest, surprise, and conversation in the garden.
How is the ‘stage’ in your garden? Is there always something in bloom? Our talented staff will help make it easy for you to keep a perennial garden blooming. Whatever is in flowering season, gets center stage on our end caps, and some even have a special offer (Dianthus B2G1 free through June 4, 2014). Keep an eye on facebook to see What’s Blooming Now to keep your garden blooming all season!
See you in the greenhouse!
There are two ways to do things…there’s the right way, and then there’s my way. The right way is to have the proper tools and necessary objects ready for the task at hand. Then, there’s my way. A little…how shall we say? Macgyver-ish? Using duct tape and a paper clip, the job gets done using what’s on hand. The end results are always good, but the process could go smoother with a little more planning.
The perfect example would be the following, (unfortunately), true scenario… it’s a beautiful spring morning, the birds are chirping, the sun is shining, all is right with the world. Without hesitation, my head starts the lineup for the day. Get the garden tilled, herbs planted, prune the rose bushes, patch the bare spots in the lawn…and the list goes on.
So I’m off! Grab a pair of gardening gloves – oh, but wait! They were left in the garden shed all winter, and what if something’s living in them?! Forget the gloves. Ok, let’s till the veggie garden. First, these leaves need to be raked up. But, where did I put that rake? Oh yeah, I broke it in January using it to get the snow off the roof. No matter, the roses can easily be pruned…as my dull pruners gnaw through the canes. By this time, I’ve wasted half a day chasing my tail!
With just a little preparation and thought, YOU can have a much smoother gardening experience.
Here is a spring checklist to help get you started in the right direction:
Hoses – check to see if rubber rings need to be replaced. Nothing worse than water running down your arm on chilly mornings. Do you have enough hose to reach your gardens? Is the wand or nozzle in working condition?
Soaker Hoses – what plants will need the most water? Lay soaker hoses out BEFORE you plant, or BEFORE the plants get too tall. This will save a world of frustration in the long run. Trust me.
Pruners & Loppers – where are they? When was the last time they were sharpened? Don’t double your time by gnawing your plants instead of pruning.
Tomato Cages– Install them when you plant the tomatoes! Don’t wait until you have to wrestle them over the plants.
Bird Netting – Who did you plant those strawberries and blueberries for? Bird Netting to the rescue. Not only that, but it also helps keep cats out of newly planted areas until the plants are big enough to survive their tromps through the garden.
Twine – One can NEVER have enough twine. Have several balls of twine on hand and keep them in different locations so it’s there when you need it. It’s a good idea to keep scissors tucked right inside the ball of twine too.
Plant Labels – You might remember which tomato is Brandwine, and which is Beefsteak….that would make you better than me! Labels save the guessing. A nice little basket of plant labels and a marker makes one feel prepared.
Soil Amendments – New plantings? Coast of Maine Compost in every hole. Blueberries or Holly Bushes? Holly Tone. Tomato plants? Every plant gets a handful of Neptune’s Harvest Crabshell to prevent blossom end rot. Whatever you have planted in your gardens, know what they like and keep it on hand.
Hopefully you can benefit from this little bit of garden wisdom, sprinkled from a gardener who is learning every day, just like I hope you are. Plan ahead, and don’t get caught with your ‘plants’ down, spring is here my friends – Let’s Get Growing!
See you in the greenhouse!
Time to think container gardening. Nothing new there, right? Plants, pot, color, done. Yeah, so I thought too. But my mind changed last spring. I had the pleasure to attend the Country Living Fair in Rhinebeck, N.Y., it was an outdoor festival of extraordinary events. Chic vendors; handmade, antique, trendy, classic, you name it. Best of all? A great line up of seminars.
It rained. Did I say it rained? It poured. It deluged. It tidal waved. Ok, maybe not that bad. It was still enjoyable to attend, but the dry tents of seminars were really looked forward to! A seminar on container gardening? What could a seasoned gardener possibly glean that wasn’t already known about planting in containers? It was a dry tent, so I went. Well, let’s just say, my love affair with containers was renewed during this seminar aptly named ‘Courageous Containers’. The speaker sure had me thinking outside of the proverbial pot. Seeing him in action, placing and replacing plants, using different textures, using houseplants with annuals and perennials, using water plants in antique urns….it was inspiring. Not only inspiring, I was reminded that container gardening, is FUN!
The key to how and why the speaker’s containers came together in a fabulous way, was due to the fact that everything he needed was right there. A huge selection of plants, a big table of soil, and the container. No guesswork. If it didn’t work, he pulled it out and tried something else. During our B.Y.O.C. event (see below for details), bring in YOUR container and we’ll help you fill it up in a fun way. There are so many awesome plants to choose from, and it’s so much easier to visualize your end results with your container on hand.
Here is a list of Do’s to consider while planning your 2014 container gardens:
Do know where you intend to put your container. Shade? Sun? Choosing plants is so much easier if you know the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and your house faces which direction? Know how the sun travels over your home and property.
Do have fun with color. Do you want to compliment the colors of your home? Are you a monochromatic type of person? Or do you like contrasting colors?
Do choose upright and cascading plants. Different heights make your container more interesting.
Do go for instant gratification. Our seasons are so short. Why wait for your container to ‘fill in’ and look awesome by September?
Do plan on replacing your plants when they get tired. I’ve seen many container gardens that the commitment the owner had to finishing the season with them, was admirable, but alas, not so pretty. Container plants really perform, and sometimes need to be replaced mid season.
Do feed your containers. High performers need food to keep going!
Do water your containers. If it’s a sunny day, you should probably water it. Water first thing in the morning, and water the soil, not the blooms.
Do consider vegetables. Vegetable plants are beautiful. Try mixing in a few with your flowering plants.
Do consider the moon. Will your container be somewhere it will be seen at night? Silver foliage and white flowering plants really pop in the moonlight.
Do look for unique things to plant in. Pinterest is a great resource for ideas. From birdbaths, to ashtrays, to old boots, if it holds soil it’s a planter.
Container gardening. Let’s go beyond the ‘spike, geranium, vinca vine’ combo. Have FUN with those containers this year, and let us help YOU think outside the pot!
I’m sure you’ve given them as gifts, and received them as gifts too. Those fantabulous spring jewels that have a brief but spectacular showing…they line the shelves almost everywhere at Easter time, perfuming the air with the unmistakable scent that screams spring. In the greenhouse, I’ve had the pleasure of watching people enter, and then watching their face soften as the wafting bouquet reaches them. –Smile-
With Easter come and gone, soon those beautiful blooms will be too. Then what?
Here are some common questions we get this time of year:
Can I plant my potted bulbs outside right now? Yes. And, no. Our weather has been a little unpredictable lately, yes? If you buy potted bulbs that are budded or tightly budded, then go for it! If they’ve been forced in a greenhouse and are fully open…and then we get another snow storm (kidding). Well, let’s just say, you’ll have longer enjoyment of your flowers if you let them finish blooming indoors.
Will they come back next year? You bet! Just keep on reading for proper care.
What do I do when the flowers are done? Some people will treat their potted bulbs just like they would a bouquet, and dispose of them when they’re done blooming. But why not plant those bulbs in the garden to enjoy year after year. Plant outside as soon as they’re done blooming.
Can I cut the greens back when the flowers are done blooming? Not if you want big beautiful blooms again next spring! The bulbs get their energy from the greens, and they should be allowed to die back naturally. It’s kind of an insurance policy for future blooms. This goes for bulbs that are already in the garden too.
Can I treat my bulbs as a houseplant and have them bloom again next spring, as is? One of the perks of living in zone 6 – spring bulbs! We have them because of winter. Because it gets cold, we get flowers. Bulbs need a cooling period, and yes, it is possible to mimic winter, but honestly, I think it’s just easier to plant them outdoors!
Hope all this helps! Enjoy these blooming beauties in your home, and then expand your garden by planting them after.
I’ve got a confession to make…are you ready? Wait for it…
I’m bad at fertilizing my plants.
There I said it.
It’s not that I don’t know I should fertilize my plants, because I do. It’s just that I get so wrapped up with other garden chores this time of year, and it just slips my mind. My head is planning and plotting; big ideas of constant succession of bloom in the perennial border, endless color in my window boxes, and apples the size of softballs. Envisioning my little piece of paradise, and making it my reality, would become ever so much easier if I would stop thinking above the soil line.
That’s right. Focus on the soil instead of the end results (ohhh, vases full of oriental lilies, peonies, and dahilias!) The bottom line? Soil becomes depleted of valuable food for plants as time goes by. It’s up to us to replenish nutrients by amending the soil. Amending the soil means; putting back what should be there, and then some! Amended soil = better success from your investment in plants!
Now, this is not to say that I NEVER fertilize. I just remember it a little later in the season, when things might not be going according to –ahem- plan.
There are MANY different fertilizers available, organic and conventional. Here are some of my favorites used in my personal garden:
Organic Plant Magic
It’s a little bag, but man! I’m still using the same bag I bought last year! Organic Plant Magic is an all purpose organic fertilizer formulated to provide every macro, micro and trace element that plants really do need to grow their best. It also helps to improve you soil with beneficial bacteria. Think of it like a probiotic for your soil, which in turn makes happy, healthy plants! Oh, and you can apply it with a watering can and also in a sprayer, for foliar feed.
Chickity Doo Doo
The name pretty much says what it is. And most people know, if you want a beautiful garden, chicky doo is the thing that will doo it. Fortunately, we live in a great time that you don’t necessarily have to go out and get your own flock for chicky doo. It comes in a bag, and is a great fertilizer to get going now with.
Black Gold Garden Compost Blend
Making your OWN garden compost is definitely something you should give a try if you haven’t already. However, one never seems to have enough compost. Love, love, love this Black Gold brand compost. It’s made from peat moss and aged compost and helps improve soil moisture retention, aeration and drainage. Keep a bag on hand and everytime you plant something new this year, add some of this compost to give your plant a good start. Top dressing as the season goes is a good idea too.
Fertilize! I’m on it! How about you? Nurture your investment by picking up some fertilizer this weekend, and LET’S GET GROWING!
There is something so very magical about a butterfly release….check out these great photos of our event!