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Get Started Composting

Fall is an excellent time to start a compost pile with all of the leaves falling, and if you develop compost now, you will have a rich source of organic material for your garden and flowerbeds in spring. Getting started with compost is fairly simple if you keep in mind the following…

  • Size Matters
    Smaller particles break down faster than larger chunks. Shredding or mulching garden wastes will help speed up the process and develop usable compost faster. Chop up larger pieces of household materials before adding them to your compost pile to speed up their decomposition.
  • Take a Turn for the Better
    Turning helps aerate the pile and shifts outer parts closer to the center where they can heat and decompose more effectively. A well-mixed pile will also have better consistency and more evenly distributed nutrients. Use a pitchfork, spade or rake to gently turn your pile periodically, such as once every 1-2 weeks or whenever you add a large amount of new material to the pile.
  • Know What to Compost
    Materials that can be composted are sod, grass clippings, leaves, hay, straw, manure, chopped corncobs, corn stalks, sawdust, shredded newspaper, wood ashes, hedge clippings and many kinds of plant refuse from the garden. Some household waste, such as coffee grounds, banana peels, eggshells and vegetable peelings are also ideal for a compost pile and will reduce the trash you accumulate.
  • Avoid Unwanted Materials
    Materials to avoid composting are large amounts of weeds, grease, fat, meat scraps and bones, cheese, coal ashes, diseased plants, cut weeds and charcoal. These materials do not decompose readily and can create poor quality compost. For example, meat, grease or dairy products in your compost will begin to smell strongly, which could attract rats, raccoons or other unwanted visitors. Diseased plants or weeds can survive in a compost pile, contaminating your garden when you add the compost to the soil in spring.
  • Cover as Needed
    Covering your compost pile with a tarp or large piece of carpet can help preserve the heat and moisture essential to promote appropriate decomposition. The cover can also keep the pile from freezing or getting too wet in winter conditions, and it can easily be removed to add new material or turn the pile as needed.

Before you toss out your next bag of trash, check for compost material and start your pile today! Your garden will thank you tomorrow.

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Problems With Your Compost Pile? Fix Them!

A compost pile should be part of every gardener’s yard, since it adds so many benefits for recycling and providing organic material in the garden. There are times, however, when it can be tricky to keep a compost pile in peak condition and breaking down material most efficiently. If you encounter any of these common problems, you can easily correct them and keep your compost pile at its best.

  • Pile is Too Dry
    Without adequate moisture, beneficial microorganisms cease to function and decomposition stops, turning a compost pile into a clumpy mess that does not decay into usable organic material. Keep the pile moist at all times, but not overly wet. A dampness like a squeezed sponge is ideal. It may be necessary to use a hose to water your pile occasionally, or a tarp or piece of plastic over the top of the pile can help keep moisture in the pile instead of evaporating.
  • Foul Odor
    A stinky compost pile is no gardener’s friend, and over-watering the pile will compact the material. When air space is decreased, the pile becomes anaerobic, resulting in an unpleasant odor. Turn the pile frequently to increase aeration and add larger pieces of dry, porous, carbon-rich material such as wood chips or straw to absorb excess water and improve air circulation.
  • Pile is Cool
    Check all the items required for a hot, quickly-decomposing pile: carbon, nitrogen, air and water. Correct any deficiencies. Another issue may be that a pile that is too small will have difficulty insulating itself. Increase the size of your compost pile by adding more material so it can generate sufficient heat from decomposition to keep itself warm.
  • Pests in the Pile
    While insects and worms are welcome helpers in a compost pile, a poor pile may also be attracting mice, rats, squirrels, raccoons and other wildlife. This usually means that the wrong material was used for composting. Never add meat, fish, bones, dairy products or oily food to the compost pile, all of which can have strong odors that will attract unwanted wildlife. Similarly, no human, cat or dog manure should be added to the pile. Avoid adding weed plants or diseased plants as well, since those weed seeds or disease spores could be transmitted to your garden or landscape when the compost is spread.
  • Poor C/N Ratio
    When planning the optimum conditions for compost decomposition, the standard recommendation is 3-to-1; three parts carbon to one part nitrogen. Carbon-based material is brown and nitrogen-based material is usually, but not always, green. Chopping or shredding additions to the compost pile will speed up the decomposition and help keep the pile balanced.

    The best materials to add to your compost pile include…

    Brown Material (Carbon-Based)
    – Dried, dead Leaves
    – Shredded paper, including newspaper
    – Wood ash
    – Sawdust
    – Eggshells
    – Chipped brush and wood chips
    – Straw and twigs

    Green Material (Nitrogen)
    – Grass clippings and sod scraps
    – Vegetable and fruit peels, scraps and rinds
    – Disease and insect-free plant material, such as clippings and prunings
    – Horse, cow, chicken and rabbit manure (herbivores)
    – Coffee grounds and used coffee filters
    – Used tea bags
    – Used potting soil

No matter what issues your compost pile may be having, problems are easy to correct and you can quickly adjust your pile to be productive and efficient. Before you know it, you’ll have plenty of rich, nutritious compost to nurture your garden and landscape all year long.

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Tulips: Spring Starts Now!

Members of the lily family, tulips are native to central and western Asia. In the 16th century, they were introduced to the Netherlands where most tulip bulbs are grown today. With over 100 species and nearly 3,000 varieties, tulips have been divided into 14 groups, including Darwin hybrids, Triumph, Lily-flowering, Double early, Rembrandt, Scheepers’ Hybrids (or French) and Parrot variations. Their classification is based on form and habit. A 15th group includes species tulips with the smallest plants growing to just 3 inches.

Tips for Planting Tulips

Tulips are an easy care addition to any landscape, and they are easier to plant than many gardeners realize.

  1. Choose only top-sized bulbs without any bruises or obvious damage. Bigger bulbs generally indicate better quality and bigger flowers.
  2. Plant bulbs as soon as purchased or store in a cool, dry location.
  3. Choose a sunny (or part sun) location with well-drained, rich soil.
  4. Plant 2” deeper than recommended to promote re-blooming each year.
  5. Apply bone meal 3 times a year – in fall when you plant, in spring as bulbs emerge from the ground and after flowering has finished. This will provide food for the foliage and bulb growth for next year’s flowers.
  6. Protect tulip bulbs from pest damage by laying wire mesh on top of your bed just beneath the soil. Sprinkling VoleBlok in the holes when planting can also be helpful.
  7. Mulch and water the bed thoroughly after planting.
  8. Plant before the ground freezes.
  9. Deadhead flowers after they have faded, but leave the foliage to die back naturally. Do not cut off the leaves until they have turned brown, or else they will not develop large enough bulbs for a good show the next year.

Tulip Timesaving Tip

Don’t have much time to plant a large, luxurious tulip bed? Plant 100 tulips in just 1 hour!

  1. Choose a part to full sun location and dig a hole 6’ x 6’ to a depth of 6-8”, placing the displaced soil on plywood or cardboard.
  2. Place 100 tulips, pointed end up, evenly over the area.
  3. Gently slide the soil from the plywood or cardboard onto the tulip bulbs. Tamp the soil lightly, sprinkle the bed with bone meal and water well. In spring, the entire area will bloom!

Tried & True Tulip Selections

Some tulips can be finicky, and while some tulips will disappear from your garden after a year or two, these selections promise trouble-free blooms for years!

  • ‘Daydream’ – Darwin tulip, changing colors while in bloom to vibrant apricot-orange, blooms mid-April into May, Ht: 22”. Fragrant.
  • ‘Lilac Wonder’ – Species tulip, large rose-lilac flowers with yellow bases and anthers, blooms May, Ht: 7”. Prefers full sun.
  • T. praestans ‘Fusilier’ – Multi-flowering species tulip, orange-scarlet flowers, blooms April, Ht: 8-12”.
  • T. clusiana var. chrysantha – Species tulip, good naturalizing tetraploid, deep yellow flushed with rose toward the edges, blooms April, Ht: 8”.
  • ‘Pink Impression’ – Darwin tulip, huge flower with strong, clear pink flowers, blooms mid-April to May, Ht: 22”.
  • ‘Menton’ – Scheepers’ hybrid, blooms are shades of apricot, rose, pink and peach, late-blooming, Ht: 26”.
  • ‘Mrs. John T. Scheepers’ – Huge Scheepers’ hybrid, golden-yellow tetraploid is a three-time award winner, late-blooming, Ht: 26”.
  • ‘Persian Pearl’ – Species tulip, deep magenta-rose with buttercup yellow star on the inside, blooms April, Ht: 6”.
  • ‘Maureen’ – Scheepers’ offspring, large, oval-shaped flowers of glistening white, blooms late-May, Ht: 28”. Four-time award winner!
  • ‘La Courtine’ – A Scheepers hybrid, yellow flowers are oval-shaped, flamed with red from the bottom up, late-blooming, Ht: 26”.

With so many to choose from, it’s always time for tulips!

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Fall in Love with Fall Pansies

Ideal for fall gardens, pansies offer a colorful display for almost six months – in the fall when they are planted, in the winter during a stretch of sunny days and again in spring! Winter pansies may be planted anytime starting in mid-September and continuing through October. Multiple plantings spaced a week or two apart can also ensure even more blooms to enjoy throughout otherwise drab months.

Planting Pansies

As with any plant, pansies perform better if the soil that you place them in is well prepared. Choose a planting location that is well-drained and work in 4-6 inches of rich organic matter, such as garden compost, peat moss or Bumper Crop. Plant pansies at about the same level, or slightly higher, than they were growing in their market packs or containers, taking care not to plant too deep or the plants may wilt and rot and the roots could smother. After planting, mulch and water the bed thoroughly. Remember to check the plants often during the first three weeks after planting or until new growth begins, to ensure adequate moisture necessary for healthy growth. Because these plants require very little care, no other maintenance is usually necessary for them to reach their full potential.

Where to Plant Pansies

These versatile blooms can be used in many different parts of your garden or landscape. Add a graceful drift of single-colored pansies or a mass of mixed colors to brighten a border, under a tree or along a fence, pathway, deck or wall. Try tucking single plants in garden beds around perennials and shrubs that have finished blooming to brighten up an otherwise dreary section of the landscape and to help mask older, spent growth. Pansies also do well in containers placed on a deck or patio or next to the entrance of your home to greet your guests with welcoming color. Try pansies in a hanging basket and you can even move them indoors to enjoy when the weather is too poor for outdoor gardening. A small container of fall pansies can also be a great gift for winter holidays, birthdays or just to brighten the day of anyone who could use a touch of color in their life.

With so much color to enjoy in so many ways, fall and winter pansies should be a staple of any garden and will bring great gardening joy to the landscape even during colder, dreary months.

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Freshen Up for Fall

Transform summer garden pots, planters and window boxes into magical displays this fall. The addition of mums, winter pansies and ornamental cabbage and kale are always excellent choices but you can really spice things up with the inclusion of a few of these colorful, cold-hardy selections. Which ones will look best for your autumn landscape?

  • Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’
    This graceful, fan-shaped acorus variety is ideal for adding height to plantings. It keeps its color and shape into the winter for visual interest as other plants lose their vibrancy.
  • Acorus gramineus ‘Variegatus’
    This is the white-variegated version of ‘Ogon’. Its white-green striping is the perfect complement to mixed planting in silver, pink, purple or blue, and its lightness adds freshness to the arrangement.
  • Ajuga reptans ‘Burgundy Glow’
    This ajuga has a trailing habit and pretty, variegated leaves. Its blue flowers are scattered in fall and summer but this plant blooms profusely in springtime.
  • Ajuga reptans ‘Mahogany’
    The rich mahogany color of the shiny, short-stemmed leaves turns darker and more lustrous in the winter, ideal in a frosted or snowy landscape. Pretty bright blue flowers punctuate this creeper, mostly in the spring.
  • Ceratostigma plumbaginoides ‘Leadwort’
    The prolific flowers of this plumbago are an intense gentian-blue and the foliage turns bright red in low temperatures, adding visual heat to the landscape even on cold days.
  • Euphorbia amydaloides ‘Purpurea’
    This pretty perennial is exceptionally frost resistant. ‘Purpurea’ features upright branches with leaves that form a rosette pattern and turn from reddish to purple in the cold.
  • Helichrysum thianschanicum ‘Icicles’
    Here’s an easy, fast-growing helichrysum variety with striking, velvety-silver leaves and a compact growth habit.
  • Lamiastru galeobdolon ‘Herman’s Pride’
    ‘Herman’s Pride’ has serrated, shiny silver leaves with green venation and yellow flowers in the spring. The plant trails as it grows, making it perfect as an accent in hanging baskets, taller containers and window boxes.
  • Lavendula lantata ‘Silver Leaf Lavender’
    This lavender variety has silvery-white leaves that are velvet-like to the touch and hold their color throughout the winter. Dark purple-blue flowers appear by the second year and contrast beautifully with the foliage.
  • Lysimachia nummularia ‘Goldilocks’
    Proven to do equally well in both sun and shade, ‘Goldilocks’ exhibits wonderful versatility. The golden foliage creeps and hangs in lush profusion of round, shiny leaves.
  • Salvia officinalis ‘Icterina’
    This sage has a glowing, golden-yellow variegated leaf. ‘Icterina’ maintains its shape and holds its color long into the winter.
  • Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’
    The eggplant-colored leaves of this sage warm up any planting. Try it as a culinary herb as well and enjoy the subtle taste.
  • Salvia officinalis ‘Tricolor’
    ‘Tricolor’ offers a unique combination of purple leaves with white borders that turn pink when temperatures drop.

No matter which of these plants you opt for, you’ll enjoy the rich colors and variation they bring to your autumn plantings.

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Audition Some Autumn Bloomers

Extend the beauty of your garden with vivid autumn-blooming perennials. When you think of fall-blooming plants, don’t stop at mums – there are many perennials that can add color to your yard at this time of year.

Top Autumn Bloomers

While there are different autumn-blooming perennials for different growing zones and climate conditions, some of the most popular and widespread options include…

  • Fall Daisies
    For fall daisies (besides daisy mums!) grow Boltonia or Nippon Daisy. Boltonia is a tall (3-4′) grower, suitable as a background plant. White or pink daisies are borne in profusion atop fine grey-green foliage. The Nippon Daisy (Chrysanthemum nipponicum) is covered with large crisp white daisies in October. Both love lots of sun and make excellent cut flowers.
  • Autumn Sedums
    Bold-foliaged sedums provide texture as well as color in a sunny place. Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is the most well known. It has coppery-pink flower heads. Sedums ‘Brilliant’ and ‘Stardust’, with soft pink and white flowers respectively, are also attractive. For a totally different color combination plant sedum ‘Vera Jameson’. It has gray-purple foliage with rose pink blooms and looks stunning when planted with Blue Fescue, Artemesia Silver Mound and other silver-foliaged plants. As an added bonus, all the sedums are attractive to butterflies.
  • Autumn Asters
    Asters are another fall bloomer that butterflies love. These perennials like sun and moist, well-drained soil. There are many colorful aster varieties in shades of pink, purple, blue and white. Some favorites include tall-growing aster ‘Alma Potschke’ with bright pink flowers, blue-flowered aster ‘Professor Kippenburg’ and low-growing aster ‘Purple Dome’ with its deep purple blooms.
  • Autumn Goldenrod
    Sunny yellow goldenrod (Solidago) is another bright addition to the fall garden. Wrongly blamed as the cause of fall allergy problems, goldenrod has rightly taken its place in the fall garden. It looks particularly effective combined with blue flowering plumbago, purple asters and ornamental grasses.

Fall Bloomers for Shade Gardens

Even shade gardeners can enjoy late blooming perennials. Tall growing Japanese Anemones are a stately addition to the perennial garden. Bloom colors range from pure white to various shades of pink, and flowers can be single, semi-double or double blooms. Anemones grow well in light to moderate shade and spread quickly to form large clumps, filling in space vacated by spent summer plants. Turtlehead (Chelone) is another fast spreader for shade. Rose pink flowers cover the tops of the plant from early September to October. For a deeply shaded location, try Toad Lily (Tricyrtis), which has clusters of beautiful cream flowers, spotted with maroon along its upright stems. For light shade, plant Blue Cardinal Flower (Lobelia siphilitica), whose intense blue spikes can be admired from mid-August until frost.

No matter what type of garden you have, the end of summer does not need to mean the end of colorful blooms. Instead, just opt for amazing fall bloomers and enjoy brilliant color even longer!

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FALL GARDENER’S CALENDAR

SEPTEMBER

Spray Bonide All-Season Spray on hemlocks to control woolly adelgid.

Spruce up the landscape by planting Fall Pansies, Flowering Cabbage & Kale,  Garden Mums,  Fall-Blooming Perennials as well as Trees and Shrubs.

Test your lawn pH to determine if you need to apply lime this season.  A 5o lb. bag of Lime will raise the pH about a half a point per 1000 square feet of turf.

Pick up your Spring Flowering Bulbs like tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinths, snowdrops and more!  An Auger for the drill will also help make planting easier.

Plant cool-season salad greens (arugula, corn salad, lettuce, radishes and spinach) in cold frames.

Apply Superphosphate now to coax stubborn plants into bloom next year.

Aerate, re-seed and apply Fall Lawn Food to the lawn.  Keep grass seed damp; water every day if necessary.  You will also want to check for grubs.  Increased activities of skunks, raccoons and moles as well as brown patches that peel back easily are an indication of grub activity.  Apply granular Sevin to control the grubs as well as chinch bugs and sod webworm.

Treat houseplants with Systemic Granules and Concern Insect Killing Soap now to get rid of any insects before bringing them into the house prior to the first frost.

Clean out garden ponds and pools.  Cover with Pond Netting before the leaves start falling.

OCTOBER

Plant bulbs.  Fertilize with Espoma Bulb-Tone and water in well.

Divide daylilies and spring-blooming perennials, including iris and peonies. Don’t be tempted to prune your spring flowering shrubs like forsythia, azaleas, camellia, holly, lilac, rhododendron, spirea or viburnum or you will destroy next year’s buds.

Rake leaves from the lawn and lower the mower blade.  Check your compost pile.  Now is a good time to add Concern Bio Activator to help break down brown leaves and lawn clippings.

Dig up summer-flowering bulbs, such as dahlias, cannas, tuberous begonias, caladiums and gladiolus after the frost kills the top growth.  Treat them with Bulb Dust, pack them in Peat Moss, and store them in a ventilated area for winter.

Fertilize your trees with Jobes Tree Spikes after the leaves fall. Fertilize azaleas, rhododendron, and evergreens with Holly-Tone and other shrubs with Plant-Tone.  Spray hemlock again with Bonide All-Season Spray Oil.

Set up bird feeders.  Clean out birdbaths, refill and purchase heaters for the winter.

Clean up and destroy diseased rose leaves and debris surrounding shrubs and perennials.  Mound 10-12 inches of dirt around roses to protect from winter damage.  After the ground freezes, cover roses with mulch or straw.

Remove annuals, roots and all, and add to your compost pile, but do not add any diseased material to it.

Cut back perennials unless they feature ornamental seed heads and Fertilize with 5-10-5.  Prune long raspberry and rose canes back to a height of three feet.  Clean up your beds and gardens to avoid harboring insects and diseases over the winter.

Pot hardy spring bulbs (anemone, crocus, daffodil, hyacinth, ranunculus and tulip) and place in a cold frame or cool garage (40 degrees) or sink into the ground and mulch.  Keep evenly moist.

Update garden records, noting successes and failures, gaps in planting, future planting and landscape changes.

Water all landscape plants well and mulch before the winter cold sets in.

Spray evergreens, azaleas, rhododendron, boxwood and rose canes with Wilt Pruf for protection against wind and cold weather.

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Japanese Beetle Reduction Methods

Japanese beetles can be a scourge of the garden and landscape, but what can you do to keep these pests at bay?

About Japanese Beetles

Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) spend their early lives as underground grubs eating turf grass roots. They prefer well-watered, healthy perennial ryegrass and hard fescues in full sun. Emerging as adult beetles in mid-June through July, they begin feeding on over 200 varieties of plants, including shade and fruit trees, shrubs and ornamentals. They also mate and the females lay 50-70 eggs in the soil.

The eggs hatch in the fall and white C-shaped grubs begin eating roots. Autumn is the best time to check your lawn to see if the grubs are present. Dig several one-foot squares 6″ deep in your lawn, turning over the turf and looking for these distinctive grubs. If you find them, taking action immediately can help control the infestation.

Reducing Japanese Beetle Populations

Non-chemical preventative treatments include spraying beneficial nematodes such as Heterorhabditis or Steinernema onto moist lawns and soil in September. Nematodes, naturally occurring soil organisms, are parasitic to soil grubs and many insect larvae, including Japanese beetles. Spray in the evening and ensure the soil is moist to at least 6″ deep. One product, Lawn Guardian, contains two types of nematodes; one lives deeper in the ground to give a “double whammy” to the feeding grubs.

Natural predators include ground beetles, ants and Tiphia, a parasitoid. Applying Bacillus popilliae Dutky to the soil causes “Milky Spore Disease” to the grub. Chemicals to control the grubs include trichlorfon, imidacloprid, halofenozide or thiamethoxam, so look for pesticides that include these compounds to help eliminate Japanese beetles. Neem oil can also be helpful to control these pests. As always, read and follow the directions carefully when using any type of chemical pesticide.

In the garden, row covers can help minimize Japanese beetle populations during the growing season, but this can also reduce crop productivity as fewer flowers are pollinated. Still, if an area is heavily infested with Japanese beetles, a smaller crop may be a better alternative than accidentally nurturing these pests. If only a few beetles are present, hand-picking them off plants and killing and disposing of the insects – toss them in a bucket of soapy water – can keep the populations manageable.

For the latest information and updates on Japanese beetles, as well as more control tips, contact your favorite garden center or County Agent.

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Fall Horticultural Oil Application

Autumn is an excellent time to apply horticultural oil. The oil smothers many soft-bodied insects and hard-shelled scales that are impenetrable to many insecticides, and can therefore help control some of the most stubborn insect populations. But is it right for your plants?

About Horticultural Oil

Horticultural oil, or hort oil, is typically derived from petroleum, and is a type of ecologically-friendly mineral oil. Some cottonseed and soybean oils can also be effective horticultural oils. Emulsifying agents are typically added to these oils so they can be mixed with water and used as a spray, which helps distribute them evenly over plant foliage to be most effective.

Pests That Don’t Like Horticultural Oils

Different types of horticultural oils can be effective against many unwanted garden pests, including…

  • Spider mites
  • Aphids
  • Whiteflies
  • Mealy bugs
  • Psyllids
  • Lace bugs
  • Caterpillars

In addition to smothering the larvae or insects directly, the heavy oil also makes it difficult for many insects to crawl therefore starving them to death and preventing them from spreading diseases from plant to plant. Additionally, the oil repels many insects looking for winter homes. The oils also act as fungicide against powdery mildew, rust and leaf spot on some plants.

Applying Horticultural Oils

Application of horticultural oils is easy, requiring only a simple hose-attached sprayer. Because oil and water do not mix, frequent agitation by shaking is required even if the oils are mixed with other agents to be more sprayable. These products are most effective if applied when plants are dormant, since oil-based products can burn and harm actively growing foliage, buds, flowers and fruit. Some lighter weight, summer-formulated oils are available, but they should be used only sparingly and only if absolutely necessary. Autumn and winter are the best seasons to apply horticultural oils when insects are a problem, though autumn applications can occasionally cause problems with plants dying back and other winter damage. Because the oils can evaporate and dissipate quickly, they should only be used when insects are present, otherwise they will be ineffective. In freezing weather the oil coverage will be inconsistent, so cool but not bitterly cold temperatures are best.

Of course, always follow the instructions for proper application rates, plant sensitivity and ideal weather conditions to ensure the most effective treatment. Because these oils are still pesticides, protective gear such as gloves and goggles should also be worn to avoid accidental irritation or more severe contamination.

Using hort oils can be a great way to control insects on your plants, but only if the oils are used appropriately. Come in for a consultation to see if these products can help end your insect problems.

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Repotting Houseplants

Fall is an excellent time to repot many houseplants. Potted plants that have been growing outdoors during the summer have probably grown quite vigorously due to the high light levels and greater humidity. If the top growth of the plant has increased in size by 20 percent or more, it probably should be transplanted into a larger container so the roots can stretch and settle comfortably.

Before You Repot

Before repotting, check the plant and the soil carefully for insects.  Add systemic granules to the soil and spray the leaves with an insecticidal soap to remove any unwanted pests. If an insect infestation is particularly bad, it may be necessary to remove most of the plant’s soil and replace it with fresh potting soil. Avoid using soil from the garden, however, which will harbor insect larvae and eggs as well as weed seeds and other material you do not want in your houseplants.

Acclimating Plants

Bring your plants indoors well before any danger of frost for proper acclimation to the indoor environment. The change in light levels and humidity could shock more delicate plants, and they may wilt temporarily or drop leaves before they adjust to the new conditions. If possible, bring them in just a few minutes at a time for several days, gradually increasing their indoor time to several hours before keeping them indoors all the time. Flowering tropicals will also benefit from cutting back some of their foliage to avoid shock before being brought indoors.

To help houseplants overcome the transition from outdoors to indoors, position them in a bright, sunny area and consider adjusting indoor temperature and humidity controls to more closely mimic outdoor conditions. Make adjustments slowly and gradually, and the plants will adjust.

Time to Repot

Once your houseplants are adjusted to their indoor fall and winter environment, they can be safely repotted without adding to their stress. Repot the plants early in the day, and move them to a slightly larger pot. Avoid jumping several pot sizes, which could lead to excessive root growth while the foliage is neglected. Be sure to fertilize and water the plants appropriately to provide them proper nourishment as they settle into new pots. Do not expect luxuriant foliage growth right away, however, as it will take some time for the plants to begin growing again, especially in fall and winter when most houseplants are entering a dormant, slow growth period.

By repotting your houseplants in fall, you can help healthy, vigorously growing plants adjust to a new environment and continue their growth with ease in a new, larger, more comfortable pot.

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Fall Lawn Care

Fall is the best time of the year to overseed your existing lawn or establish a new lawn. If your lawn is a bit thin, has bare patches or needs good care, now is the time to take care of it so it can become thoroughly established before warm temperatures arrive in spring.

Overseeding A Weak Lawn

A weak lawn may have thin or scraggly patches, seem overrun with weeds or have bare patches that are difficult to keep green and lush. Overseeding can help eliminate these problem areas and create a more consistent, luxurious lawn.

  1. Spray broadleaf weeds with a selective herbicide and wait 2 weeks for the weeds to disappear. Several treatments may be necessary if the yard is thick with weeds.
  2. Take a soil sample of your lawn to determine the pH. A garden extension service can help determine pH levels, or home test kits are available.
  3. Mow shorter than normal and rake clean to remove unnecessary debris that may keep seeds from reaching the soil.
  4. Core aerate if you have compacted soil or heavy thatch. Remove the cores and dispose of them properly to keep the soil light and airy for seeding.
  5. Apply starter fertilizer and lime if determined to be needed by the pH test, or choose a grass type that will thrive in your soil’s conditions.
  6. Dethatch your lawn if thatch is thicker than ½ inch. This can be done with heavy raking or a special dethatching rake may be necessary in extreme cases.
  7. Overseed with the proper seed. If core aerating, lightly topdress with topsoil or humus.
  8. If needed, cover the freshly seeded area with netting or hay to discourage birds or other wildlife from consuming the seed before it grows.
  9. Water daily until grass has germinated, then soak once a week to encourage deep root growth.
  10. Fertilize in late fall with fall fertilizer.

Seeding A New Lawn

If you have no existing lawn or the entire ground is overrun with nothing but weeds, it may be best to start from scratch and create the lawn of your dreams.

  1. Kill existing vegetation with nonselective herbicide. If you want to preserve nearby trees or shrubs, take steps to protect that vegetation from the treatment.
  2. Take a soil sample of your lawn to determine the pH. A testing kit can provide a good pH estimate, or a gardening center or garden extension service can provide a more precise evaluation.
  3. Prepare soil by breaking up the surface with a rake or spade using a crisscross pattern. All large lumps should be broken up, and any large rocks should be removed.
  4. Broadcast starter fertilizer, lime and gypsum as determined by the pH test. This will provide a nutrition boost for fresh seeds.
  5. Spread topsoil or humus to a ½ inch depth for appropriate planting.
  6. Rototill to a depth of 4 inches and grade smooth. This will mix all the top layers together for uniform soil and nutrition, ensuring even turf growth.
  7. Sow proper seed and mulch lightly with salt hay to control erosion and conserve moisture.
  8. Water daily until grass has germinated, then soak once a week to encourage deeper root growth to resist droughts and repel weeds.
  9. Fertilize in late fall with fall fertilizer to provide nutrition throughout the season.

Which Seed?

Not every lawn will thrive with the same type of grass seed. Allow our staff to help you select the seed that best suits your needs, soil type and planting conditions. Apply at the recommended rate and incorporate into the top ¼” of soil. Do not bury the seed or it may not germinate evenly.

No matter what the condition of your lawn, fall is the best time to take steps to help it rejuvenate so you have an amazing lawn to enjoy in spring.

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The Fall Vegetable Garden

Fresh vegetables don’t have to end as the days grow shorter – fall is a great time to plant an autumn garden to extend the growing season. Many vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower are of a higher quality when grown in the fall, while others, like kale, develop better flavor after a frost. Spinach, chard, kale, collards, mustard and rapeseed all grow rapidly and flourish at the end of the season, ideal for autumn gardening. Loose-leaf lettuces do well, too.

To prepare your bed, immediately pull out whatever plants have finished producing. Spade or till the soil to a depth of 6-8 inches, rake the area lightly and work in a light application of composted manure or 5-10-5 fertilizer to provide adequate nutrition for rapid-growing fall veggies.

Broadcast a mixture of seeds like mustard, kale and rapeseed, or combine seeds of several types of lettuce like curly leaf, red leaf and oak leaf to allow you to harvest your salad already mixed. It works best to plant greens in blocks or wide rows, because they’re easier to harvest and you’ll have fewer weeds. If you plant blocks each time a new space opens up, you’ll have staggered plantings that can produce over a long time.

Some autumn vegetable varieties will tolerate cold better than others. Read seed packets before you purchase them to determine what will be best in your area, but don’t be put off by such notations as chard’s taking 60 days to mature. The greens are good when they’re younger, too.

Water seeds after sowing and keep the ground evenly moist until the seedlings are up and growing. Seedlings may also need to be sheltered from extreme heat. Protect them by shading them from the sun with Reemay fabric until they are established.

Although insects tend to be less bothersome in late fall, some vegetables in the cabbage family, including mustard, kale and collards, may attract cabbageworms. Apply Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) sprays for an organic method of control. As the plants begin to fill out, thin them enough to allow air to circulate and dry off moisture. This helps prevent insect problems too.

Harvest your fall vegetables as soon as the plants reach edible size. Even after the first frosts, you’ll be able to keep harvesting to enjoy the yield of your extended-season garden.

Top Fall Vegetables

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Swiss Chard
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Lettuce, Head
  • Lettuce, Leaf
  • Mustard
  • Rape
  • Spinach
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King of the Cold: Ornamental Cabbage & Kale

Looking to add interest to the fall and winter landscape? This year, plant ornamental cabbage and kale for bold textures and vibrant colors.

About Ornamental Cabbage & Kale

Unlike most other annuals and perennials, these two hardy plants improve in appearance after a frost or two, which bring out more intense and brilliant colors in their foliage – perfect as an autumn accent or centerpiece plant. Identified by a number of names including floral kale, decorative kale, ornamental-leaved kale, flowering kale and flowering cabbage, ornamental cabbage and kale are classified as Brassica oleracca (Acephala group). Offering unlimited use in the landscape, these plants have large rosettes of gray-green foliage richly variegated with cream, white, pink, rose, red and purple. Kale leaves are frilly edged and sometimes deeply lobed.

While typical ornamental kale and cabbage varieties are easy to find, you can also try more unusual options, including dwarf varieties as well as upright, taller hybrids that can even be used in cut arrangements.

Using These Attractive Plants

Popular in borders, grouped in planting drifts, or planted in containers for the deck or patio, ornamental cabbage and kale typically grows to 12-18” high and wide, depending on the cultivar. Plant these specimens at least 12” apart in an area with full sun that has moist, well-drained soil. Organically rich soil with proper compost or fertilization is best to provide adequate nutrition for these lush plants. Although they are able to withstand light frosts and snowfalls, ornamental cabbage and kale will typically not survive hard freezes and are best treated as showy annuals.

The best foliage color will occur if ornamental cabbage and kale is planted in early fall as temperatures are cooling, or you can sow seeds 6-10 weeks before the first anticipated frost date – just be sure the seeds have sun exposure in order to germinate properly. These plants are usually attractive in the garden until Thanksgiving or slightly later, or in mild climates they may even last until spring temperatures begin to rise. Hint – when the plants smell like cooked cabbage, it is time to pull them out!

While these plants are superficially similar to the familiar cabbage and kale vegetables popular in salads and other edible uses, it is important to note that ornamental varieties are cultivated for color and shape rather than taste. Keep them out of the kitchen and in the garden instead, and you won’t be sorry!

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Plant a Tree This Fall

There are so many reasons to add a new tree to your landscape this fall that it’s hard to find a reason not to.

Just think about it, trees will…

  • Beautify the Environment
    Trees add texture and color to the landscape. They soften the harsh lines of buildings and driveways, while their foliage and blooms add seasonal color changes and variety.
  • Stabilize Soil
    Tree roots prevent soil from blowing or washing away, minimizing erosion and providing protection for the surrounding landscape.
  • Provide Wildlife Habitat
    Trees provide shelter and food for birds and numerous small animals, including squirrels, raccoons, insects and more.
  • Make Food
    Many trees provide fruits, nuts, seeds, sap and berries for human consumption. Wildlife will also rely on the food provided by trees.
  • Create Oxygen
    Through photosynthesis, trees take in carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and other poisons from our air and release pure oxygen for us to breathe. One tree can produce enough oxygen for 10 humans for one year!
  • Filter the Air
    Trees act as giant filters trapping dust and pollution particles with their leaves and bark until the rain washes the particles away.
  • Cool the Air
    Air will remain several degrees cooler in the shade of a tree canopy. This is accomplished by not only by blocking the sun’s rays but also through transpiration. Tree leave transpire, or release moisture, which cools the surrounding air. A large tree can release as much as 400 gallons of moisture from its leaves daily.
  • Reduce Utility Bills
    Deciduous trees planted on the south and southwest sides of a home will shade the structure during hot summer months and reduce air conditioning or other cooling needs. In the winter, with the leaves fallen, the sun is able to warm the structure, reducing heating bills.
  • Reduce Noise Pollution
    Strategically planted, trees can dramatically reduce the volume of unwanted noise from loud neighbors, nearby businesses or car traffic.
  • Hide undesirable views
    Purposefully sited, trees can camouflage unattractive views and create privacy, providing a natural sanctuary in your yard.

In our area, fall is just about the best time of year to purchase and plant a tree. The soil is warm, air temperature is cool and morning and evening dew increase available moisture to nurture a new tree. Stop in and see our extensive collection, and we can assist you in choosing the tree that is perfect for your landscape and lifestyle needs.

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Birdscaping

As wildlife habitats are threatened by development, the creation of a bird-friendly environment that provides food, water and shelter is crucial to the existence of our wild bird population. Caring for our feathered-friends is an educational and enjoyable activity for the entire family that brings beauty and song to our lives.

Benefits of Wild Birds

Birds are great guests to have in your yard, garden or landscape, and they provide more benefits than many homeowners and gardeners realize. Wild birds can…

  • Control insects by feasting on both flying and crawling insects, as well as spiders, slugs, snails and other creepy-crawlies.
  • Pollinate plants by flitting from flower to flower as they seek out insects or eat seeds, taking pollen along between blooms.
  • Manage weeds as they consume copious amounts of weed seeds before the seeds ever have a chance to sprout.
  • Control rodents when raptors visit the yard in search of mice, rats, gophers, voles or other unwanted pests.

Attracting Backyard Birds

Fortunately, it is easy to attract a wide variety of backyard birds when you offer them what they need most – food, water and shelter.

Food for Birds

Wild birds rely on both natural and supplemental food supplies so it is important to consider both when birdscaping. Feeding the birds is most important in the winter when natural food is scarcer, but they will visit feeders at any time of year. Migratory birds require additional food in the spring and fall as they pass through the region and nesting birds will utilize feeders in the summer.

Tips:

  • Provide a variety of natural foods for birds by planting berry bushes, seed-bearing flowers, nectar-rich flowers and sunflowers. Leave windfall fruit on the ground for birds to nibble. Minimize pesticide use so birds can feast on insects as well.
  • Add supplemental feeders to your yard, such as birdseed feeders, suet feeders and nectar feeders. Clean feeders weekly to avoid mold that can be dangerous to birds, and be sure feeders are full when birds need them most.

Water

Improve your backyard bird habitat by adding water. Birds require a constant supply of clean water for drinking and bathing. This is especially important in late summer, when water is scarce, and in the winter, when it is frequently frozen.

Tips:

  • Place bird baths in a protected location safe from predators, and keep the baths filled at all times so a fresh supply of water is constantly available.
  • Scrub off algae as soon as it is appears and thoroughly was the bird bath each week to minimize feces contamination or other messes in the water.
  • Provide motion for greater attraction by using a bubbler, wiggler, dripper or fountain. Birds will see the sparkles of the moving water and will hear the splashes from great distances, so more birds will visit.
  • Use Mosquito Dunks to safely prevent mosquito larvae in warm weather. A clean bird bath with moving water will also harbor fewer insects.
  • Add an outdoor-safe submersible heater to the bath in winter to keep the water liquid instead of frozen, or consider using a fully heated bird bath during the coldest months.

Shelter

It is important to offer safe and comfortable shelter for your wild birds to nurture their young, protect them from predators and shield them from the elements. Planting evergreen trees and shrubs and providing bird houses, along with roosting boxes and pockets, are all beneficial additions to your birdscape.

Tips:

  • Choose both deciduous and evergreen landscaping trees and shrubs to offer birds different types of shelter in all seasons.
  • Minimize pruning to give birds denser, more secure shelter to take advantage of when they feel threatened.
  • Plant in layers and create thicket-like pockets or corridors in your landscape so birds can move around freely without feeling exposed.
  • Supplement the shelter in your yard with good quality bird houses, winter roost boxes or nesting pockets to give birds even more options to stay safe and secure.

When you meet birds’ needs for food, water and shelter, your birdscape will soon be home to a fun and friendly flock of backyard birds.

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Autumn: Why Plant Now?

Although many gardeners plant trees and shrubs in the spring, knowledgeable gardeners plant in the fall to take advantage of all this fabulous season has to offer. But why is fall planting better than spring planting?

  • Stress Reduction
    Transplanting causes stress as plants are removed from containers, balls or established locations and changed to new locations. Planting in the fall, when a plant is entering dormancy and is generally hardier and sturdier, reduces this stress so the plant can thrive.
  • Establishing Strong Roots
    Fall planting “establishes” trees and shrubs by encouraging root growth. Because the soil is still warm, the roots continue to develop until freezing, though the upper parts of the plant are already dormant. When transplanting in the spring, the developed roots are active and delicate tips or rootlets, as well as buds and new leaves, are more easily damaged.
  • Weather Resiliency
    Trees and shrubs planted in the fall are better able to withstand the rigors of the next summer’s heat and dry conditions because they have much longer to develop healthy roots systems and become thoroughly established. This is especially critical in dry climates or areas prone to drought or irregular rainfall.
  • Faster Maturity
    The “head-start” of fall planting results in a larger plant in less time, helping create a mature landscape without waiting for smaller plants to catch up. This can be especially critical when replacing dead or damaged plants in a mature landscape to avoid a gap or uneven look.
  • Water Conservation
    Planting in the fall saves watering time and promotes conservation by eliminating daily watering. Cooler temperatures with the addition of both morning and evening dew contribute greatly to soil moisture availability in fall without as much supplemental watering.
  • Color Confirmation
    Fall is the best time to see a plant’s autumnal color. Planting in the fall eliminates the surprise of the wrong color or unexpected shades that may not coordinate with nearby plants. By planting in autumn, you’ll know exactly what you’re purchasing and planting, and you will be able to match better with your existing landscape.
  • Saving Money
    Last but definitely not least, buying your beautiful trees and shrubs in autumn can save big money. We discount prices on trees and shrubs to create room for holiday season materials and pass the savings on to you. Selection may be more limited later in fall, however, so don’t wait too long to take advantage of great savings.

Autumn can be the ideal time to plant trees and shrubs, whether you are adding to your landscape, replacing plants or starting a whole new look. If you plant in autumn, you’ll be amazed at how lovely your landscape will look next spring.

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The Fall Vegetable Garden

Fall is a great time to plant an autumn garden to extend the growing season. Many vegetables, such as broccoli or cauliflower are of a higher quality when grown in the fall, while others, like kale, develop better flavor after a frost.  Spinach, chard, kale, collards, mustard, and rape all grow rapidly and flourish at the end of the season. Loose-leaf lettuces do well, too. It works best to plant greens in blocks or wide rows, because they’re easier to harvest and you have fewer weeds.

To prepare your bed, immediately pull out whatever plants have finished producing.  Spade or till the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches, rake the area lightly and work in a light application of composted manure, GardenTone or 5-10-5 fertilizer.

Broadcast a mixture of seeds like mustard, kale, and rape.  Or, combine seeds of several types of lettuce like curly leaf, red leaf, and oak leaf to allow you to harvest your salad already mixed. If you plant blocks each time a new space opens up, you’ll have staggered plantings that can produce over a long time. Some varieties will tolerate cold better than others. Read seed packets before you purchase them to determine what will be best, but don’t be put off by such notations as chard’s taking 60 days to maturity.  The greens are good when they’re younger, too.

Water in the seeds after sowing and keep the ground evenly moist until the seedlings are up and growing. Seedlings may also need to be sheltered from extreme heat. Protect them by shading them from the sun with Reemay until they are established.

Although insects tend to be less bothersome in late fall, some vegetables in the cabbage family, mustard, kale, and collards may attract cabbageworms. A spraying of Bt will take care of them. As the plants begin to fill out, thin them enough to allow air to circulate and dry off moisture. This helps prevent insect problems, too.

Harvest your fall vegetables as soon as the plants reach edible size.  And, prolong the fall vegetable season several weeks by covering plants with Reemay fabric. Even after the first frosts, you’ll be able to keep harvesting to enjoy the yield of your extended-season garden.

Bringing Your Tropicals Indoors For The Winter

Bring Birds to your Backyard

It’s amazing how many birds you can attract to your garden if you invite them with the right plants and shelter.  When you have birds, you not only have the enjoyment of watching and hearing them but you also have less insect pests in the garden!

Bring Birds with Berries

Be sure to bring birds to the backyard by planting as many of these berry-producing shrubs as possible:

Barberry (Berberis)
Bearberry (Arctostaphylos)
Beautiberry (Callicarpa)
Chokeberry (Aronica)
Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster)
Firethorn (Pyracantha)
Holly (Ilex)
Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia)
Privet (Ligustrum)
Rose (Rosa)
Crabapple (Malus)
Viburnum (Viburnum)

 

 

Seduce Them with Seeds

Birds love seeds, seduce them by filling your garden with their favorites:

Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
Columbine (Aquilegia)
Foxglove (Digitalis)
Globe Thistle (Echinops)
Goldenrod (Solidago)
Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa)
Tickseed (Coreopsis)

Finding a Spot for Your Feeders

To attract as many different types of birds as possible, use different feeders and scatter them throughout your garden.  Be sure to place them in a protected area away from strong winds.  Most birds will prefer a sunny location.  Birds have many predators…including your cat. Place your feeder within 5 to 10 feet of protective cover so birds can seek shelter if needed. Don’t forget to add a birdbath for drinking and bathing.

Audition Some Autumn Bloomers

Mums, Mums, Mums – Mums are perfect for brightening any corner of the yard … you can’t beat this traditional fall favorite!

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ – This late-blooming perennial has bold foliage and pink, changing to copper-colored flower heads.

Japanese Anemone – Tall growing Japanese anemones are a stately addition to the perennial garden. Bloom colors range from pure white to various shades of pink. Flowers can be single, semi-double or double. Anemones grow well in light to moderate shade and spread quickly to form large clumps.

Goldenrod (Solidago) – This perennial has sunny yellow flowers.  Wrongly blamed as the cause of fall allergy problems (now attributed to Ragweed), Goldenrod has rightly taken its place in the fall garden. It looks particularly effective combined with blue flowering Plumbago, purple Asters and ornamental grasses.

Asters – Another group of fall bloomers that butterflies love are the Asters. Asters like plenty of sun and moist but well drained soil. There are many colorful Aster varieties in shades of pink, purple, blue and white. Some favorites include tall-growing Aster ‘Alma Potschke’ with bright pink flowers, blue-flowered Aster ‘Professor Kippenburg’ and low-growing Aster ‘Purple Dome’ with its deep purple blooms.

Pansies – Pansies give us many months of color when other flowers have faded. Beds, borders, containers, and hanging baskets – dress them all for fall with cheerful Pansy faces. What’s more, Pansies can often be successfully overwintered to rebloom again in the Spring!

Ornamental Cabbage & Kale – Red, purple, pink or white leaf coloration of these plants intensifies as the weather gets colder. Try smooth-leaved cabbage or frilly kale for months of color in beds, borders and containers.

Fall Lawn Care

Falls is the best time of the year to overseed your existing lawn or establish a new lawn.

Overseeding A Weak Lawn

Spray broadleaf weeds with a selective herbicide and wait 2 weeks.

Take a soil sample of your lawn to determine the pH.

Mow shorter than normal and rake clean.

Core aerate if you have compacted soil or heavy thatch.

Apply starter fertilizer and lime or gypsum as determined by the pH test.

Use Ringer Lawn Restore if thatch is thicker than half an inch.

Overseed with the proper seed.  If core aerating, lightly topdress with topsoil or humus.

Water daily until grass has germinated, then soak once a week.

Fertilize in late fall with Greenview Wintergreen.

Seeding A New Lawn

Kill existing vegetation with Roundup.

Take a soil sample of your lawn to determine the pH.

Prepare soil by breaking up the surface with a rake or spade using a crisscross pattern.

Broadcast Starter Fertilizer, lime and gypsum as determined by the pH test.

Spread topsoil or humus to a ½ inch depth.

Rototill to a depth of 4 inches and grade smooth.

Sow proper seed and mulch lightly with Salt Hay or Penn Mulch to control erosion and conserve moisture.

Water daily until grass has germinated, then soak once a week.

Fertilize in late fall with Greenview Wintergreen.

Which Seed?

Let our staff help you select the seed that best suits your needs.  Apply at the recommended rate and incorporate into the top ¼” of soil.  Do not bury the seed.