Category Archives: Garden Blog

Growing flowering plants from seed: Easier than you think!

Do you envision your garden to be a lush haven with an abundance of healthy plants and colorful flowers, with a constant show of hardy perennials and cheery annuals? Or do you see your dream garden filled with an abundance of vegetables and herbs, including some of the popular heirloom varieties of tomatoes, peppers or eggplant? Whatever your dreams and plans for your outdoor space, you can get started with a simple, fun and inexpensive method – grow your own

Starting plants from seeds simply requires a little forethought and planning. You need to lay out a timetable, working back from the last expected frost date in your area. The individual seed packets you choose will give detailed instructions, including how many weeks ahead of the last frost to plant, planting depth, how long the seeds take to germinate and when the new shoots will be hardy enough to be planted outdoors.

Your local garden center or nursery is sure to carry a broad selection of seeds from reputable companies, as well as everything else you need to get going.

You will need:

  1. Planting containers or trays with individual “cells” or cups to hold the planting medium and seeds, with something to cover them once planted. Some come with covers, or you can just use sheets of plastic.
  1. Planting medium. Use a soiless planting mix. It should be sterilized, have good water retention and be lightweight enough for tender sprouts to push their way through the surface, all characteristics not found in average garden soil.
  1. Seeds. Obtain the best seeds possible. The choices today are limitless and each year more and more organic and heirloom seeds are available.
  1. Labels to identify the seeds in each tray. Strips of plastic written with permanent markers work well.
  1. Water. The planting medium needs to stay moist – don’t overwater or allowing seeds to dry out. This is probably the most critical aspect of the germination process but can be learned easily with a little practice.
  1. Light. Natural or artificial light is vital, but you needn’t have to rig up expensive grow lights. A bright south-facing window is perfect.
  1. Warmth. Most seeds need a constant temperature of 65-70º F to properly germinate. 

Be sure to follow the directions on the packet carefully, for each type of seed. Check on them each day to control moisture, light and temperature. Before long, you will experience the thrill of spotting the first signs of germination – tiny sprouts rising through the planting medium!

Once the seeds have germinated and the plants have started to leaf out, you can harden them off by taking them outdoors for a few hours each day. After four or five days getting acclimated in this manner, they can be planted in their rightful place and begin beautifying your garden! And you will have gained a new and rewarding skill. But watch out – pouring over those enticing seed catalogues can be addictive!

How to Make Your Own Terrarium

Terrariums are a beautiful addition to desks, dining room tables, and other well-lit spots. Check out our easy step-by-step instructions to learn how to plant a terrarium.

Perk Up Your Indoor Space

Add a little green to your indoor space with an eye-catching terrarium! Not only are they a great oxygen booster, terrariums are easy to create and can be made in a variety of sizes. Change up the container to fit into any décor.

10 Tasks to Keep Your Garden Growing this Winter

Winter is certainly the time to dream, plan and prepare for next year’s garden, but there are a number of tasks you can do out in the garden to keep it growing well through the winter months. Let’s take a look at ten ways to maintain your green thumb through the coldest time of year.

1. Dream, scheme and plan for next season.
Winter is the time of year when we reflect on how our gardens grew and hunt for ideas on what to do differently next year. Look through the garden photos and notes you’ve taken, then make a list of plants that need to be moved, divided or replaced. Search for solutions about how to improve your soil, how to combat the Japanese beetles that turned your roses into swiss cheese, and any other issues that have popped up in the garden. Make a list of the new plants you’d like to try. Once spring hits you’ll want to get out into the garden, so take care of these things now.

2. Pre-order seeds, bulbs and plants for spring.
Plant catalogs for gardeners are what the Toys “R” Us catalog is to children. Grab your highlighter and start marking your must-haves for next spring, or go online to pre-order plants, seeds and bulbs. Organize your new orders and the seed packets you have left over from last year so you’ll know exactly what you have to add to the garden in spring.

3. Design a new garden bed, path or feature.
You don’t have to be an artist to roughly sketch out a new feature you’d like to add to your garden next season. But if drawing isn’t your thing, try gathering pictures from Pinterest or Houzz that illustrate what you want to accomplish. Maybe you’d like to add a raised bed or portable garden near your patio, or grow a mailbox garden. Now is the time to start looking for a landscape contractor who can help you accomplish these goals. Get on their list now or risk being at the back of the line come spring.

4. Organize your shed or garage.

If it’s not too cold where you live, winter can be a great time to haul all of your gardening supplies out and organize them. Clean out the dirt you’ve brought in with your shovels all season and take down all the spiderwebs. Evaluate each item before moving it back in; make a “keep” and “donate or sell” pile and stick to it. Add more shelving and hooks for tools if it will help to keep you more organized.

5. Sharpen and oil your tools.
While you have all your tools hauled out of storage, take the time to sharpen and oil your pruners, hedge shears, loppers, shovels, mower blades, and anything else that might require maintenance. Use steel wool to remove the rust from the blades and hinges, and oil them well to prevent future rust from developing. When it’s time to head back out into the garden in spring, you’ll be happy to have nice, sharp tools to work with.

6. Check stored bulbs and tubers for mold and moisture.
If you are storing any dormant bulbs or tubers like canna lilies, elephant ears, or tuberous begonias, open the container once per month to make sure no mold has developed and they are staying adequately moist. Discard any moldy roots immediately so they don’t affect the others, and mist any desiccated roots with water before returning them to storage.

7. Water any containerized plants you are overwintering outdoors under cover.

As with bulbs and tubers, it’s important to keep the roots of any plants you are overwintering in containers outdoors under cover adequately moist. If the soil isn’t frozen, water them lightly or add a layer of snow on top about once per month. Even though the plants are not actively growing, you don’t want their roots to become desiccated to the point where they can no longer absorb moisture and nutrients.

8. Reapply mulch or lay evergreen boughs over sensitive plants in the garden.
Newly planted perennials, young broadleaf evergreens like azaleas, or plants that are borderline hardy in your zonebenefit greatly from winter mulch. By insulating the plants’ roots and shielding their foliage from winter winds, you increase the likelihood they will survive the winter and won’t heave out of the ground during freeze/thaw cycles. Be sure to remove this winter mulch in early spring so the plants can start to grow again.

Photo courtesy of Curtis Adams.

9. Reapply animal repellents, if necessary.
Once the leafy green foliage and fall fruits are gone, deer, rabbits and other garden pests turn to woody plants and roots for food. After all, they need to eat in winter too. Pay close attention to the bark and base of young trees and low-branched shrubs, and evergreen plants of all kinds, inspecting for signs of damage. Reapply animal repellent to prevent further damage through the winter months.

10. Maintain heated water features and bird baths.
If you’ve installed a heater in your pond or bird bath to provide a fresh water source for birds over the winter, keep an eye on it to make sure it isn’t icing over. Heaters are notorious for going out in the coldest months, and you want to keep your prize koi fish safe and the birds hydrated. If ice does form across the pond, gently make a hole or pour hot water over an area to break it up so that oxygen can continue to flow.

Article courtesy Proven Winners®

Merry Wreaths

Sleigh bells jingling; children caroling; the warm, sweet scent of treats fresh from the oven: The winter holidays are a magical time filled with goodwill and the good company of family and friends. Such a special time of year deserves to be celebrated with special decorations. So this season, why not move beyond the old balsam wreath with the large red bow and create some holiday sparkle all your own? Just look around your yard and home and you’re sure to find the markings for the very merriest of wreaths.

Instead of selecting traditional greens such as balsam or white pine for the base of your wreath, consider something a little more exotic…perhaps incense cedar, with its flat, green leaves and mustard yellow fruits, or broadleaf evergreens, such as inkberry, holly, boxwood, even rhododendron. Seeded eucalyptus, which displays blush pink or silver gray berries above its faded green leaves, and magnolia, with its glossy green leaves that dry to a matte finish, are other unexpected choices.

If you are using evergreens such as cedar or vines such as ivy, attach these to a wire wreath frame using floral wire. For a wreath of cuttings, first attach the greens to florist’s picks, then insert them into a Styrofoam form. In either case, be sure the wreath frame you select is considerably smaller than the desired finish size of your wreath, as the wreath will expand in size as you add plant materials.

To form the base of the wreath, layer the greens on top of each other, facing them in one direction and attaching them as you go, until the frame is completely covered. Then begin adding your decorations by wiring them, attaching them with floral picks, or hot-gluing them to the greens. Gather sprigs of blue-leaved juniper with its blue berries and lay them atop an evergreen base for subtle contrast. Or scavenge your yard and garden for interesting vines, twigs, and seedpods. The dried brown cones of Echinacea, arranged in groups of three or five, add interesting shapes and textures to a wreath, and the colors of red rose hips or bittersweet, with is split orange capsule and red seeds, look striking set against a dark green background. Clusters of almonds, pecans, and walnuts will lend a woodsy note, while the airy flower heads of plumed or bottlebrush grasses will offer a spectacular contrast of forms. For a sizzling finish, try hot peppers in all colors, shapes, and sizes, and don’t forget to raid the herb garden for bluish green rosemary and silvery lavender.

As you contemplate next year’s garden, consider adding plants that can be harvested for next season’s wreaths. Include grasses, flowering shrubs, and broadleaf and other evergreens in your planting scheme, as well as plants that dry well or that offer architectural interest after the flowers have passed. This way you’ll enjoy your gardens while they are in blooms, as well as appreciate their beauty in wreaths after the flowers have faded. This holiday start a brand-new tradition and decorate your home with the bounty of your gardens.

December Garden Tips

Get Ready For Winter

  • Clean, oil and store tools for the winter.
  • Prepare snow-blower for winter use. Consider a tune-up and servicing.
  • Apply winter fertilizer on lawn after the last mowing. This can be done around the same time as your lime application.
  • Consolidate all your garden notes for the year-favorite varieties, successful new plants.

For The Holidays & After

  • This is a great time to make gifts from your garden. Wreaths, herb bouquets, herbal vinegars, pressed flowers are just a few ideas.
  • Keep that bird feeder well stocked for the winter. Your birds depend on you.
  • Have a happy holiday season!

For Your Flower Bed

  • Shred and compost freshly collected leaves. Alternate layers with the last of the grass clippings from your lawn.
  • Apply a final mulch to foundation beds, perennials and roses. Make sure ground is frozen. This additional mulch layer prevents heaving during periodic thaws in January and February.
  • Apply boughs from spent Christmas trees and wreaths as a mulch layer for perennial beds. Wait until ground freezes.

For Your Trees and Shrubs

  • Apply WiltPruf, an anti-dessicant, to protect broad-leaf evergreens as well as your holiday greens, wreaths, even your fresh cut Christmas tree. See our staff, or visit the WiltPruf website, for details and further instruction. Now is the time to apply it to your evergreens, including hollies. It acts as a “chap-stick” for your plants, protecting them from moisture loss due to drying winter winds.
  • Pre-dig hole if you’re planning on purchasing a live Christmas tree.