Author Archives: GCSDev

What a Knock Out!

Think you don’t have the time to take on all the upkeep, maintenance and care beautiful roses require? We have a fabulous solution and it’s a knock out, a Knock Out® rose that is. This shrub rose is the single greatest sensation to hit the plant market in years! Knock Out® roses are valued for their continued and profuse blooming with very little care. Not only are Knock Out® roses gorgeous and easy to care for but they are also drought tolerant, self-cleaning, and disease and pest resistant. Knock Out® roses are like no other rose on the market.

Site Selection

Planting your Knock Out® in the right location will help it flourish its very best.

  • Knock Out® roses grow to about 5’ tall x 5’ wide. Give them enough space to grow to full maturity without overcrowding that can dampen their brilliance.
  • Choose a planting location in full sun and with good air circulation to ensure the brightest blooms and best health.
  • Planting soil should be amended with compost and drain well. Prepping the soil before planting will ensure proper nutrition for your rose.
  • Soil pH should be slightly acidic, 6.0-6.5, but this plant will also thrive in slightly alkaline soils, with a pH as high as 7.5.


Give your Knock Out® the best advantages as it gets established by planting it properly.

  • Dig a hole twice as wide as the pot but no deeper than the containerized root ball.
  • Remove your Knock Out® rose from the container, massaging the container slightly to loosen the root ball and exerting gentle pressure on the stems, not the foliage.
  • Gently tease the root from the root ball to loosen roots so they will settle in to new soil more comfortably.
  • Place the plant in the hole, making sure that it is planted no deeper that it was in the container.
  • Backfill with amended soil and lightly press down around the plant to remove any large air spaces.
  • Mulch around your Knock Out® to keep weeds down and conserve soil moisture.
  • Water regularly until the plant is established.


Knock Out® roses require much less extensive care than many other rose varieties, but some TLC will help keep your roses healthy and vibrant.

  • Once a year, apply about 2 inches of compost around the base of your Knock Out® rose. This helps replenish the soil’s nutrition for good growth and bright blooms.
  • Mulch yearly with 2-3 inches of mulch to conserve soil moisture and prevent weeds.
  • Fertilize your Knock Out® rose three times a year: early spring, early summer and fall. Fertilize with a slow-release product recommended for roses, and follow application instructions carefully.
  • At the same time that you fertilize, also broadcast one cup of Epsom salts, a source of magnesium, on the soil around the base of the plant.


All roses require some minor pruning to help shape the bushes and encourage better blooming. To keep your Knock Out® as a true eye-catcher…

  • Correctively prune Knock Out® roses any time of the year with hand pruners. Make your cuts about ¼ of an inch above a leaf. Use sharp, clean tools to avoid transmitting pests or diseases from other plants.
  • In early spring, each year, heavy pruning is recommended. Cut back the main stems to ⅓ of their height. Make your cuts ¼ of an inch above an outward-facing bud for the best growth and shape.

Knock Out® Choices

Which Knock Out® is right for your yard? Any of these varieties is sure to be a hit!

  • Knock Out®: The original. Cherry red, single flowers.
  • Double Knock Out®: Twice as much fun with cherry red, double flowers.
  • Pink Knock Out®: Bright pink, single flowers.
  • Pink Double Knock Out®: Double duty with bright pink, double flowers
  • Rainbow Knock Out®: Single flowers in coral-pink with yellow centers.
  • Blushing Knock Out®: Gentle beauty with pale pink, single flowers.
  • Sunny Knock Out®: A splash of brightness with fragrant yellow, single flowers.

Choosing Evening Plants for Fragrance, Color and More

Plants don’t have to be hidden away at night, and there are many different plants that can be dramatic in the evening or well after dark. While the most obvious way to enhance the darkness is to use flowers that are light or white in color, you can also add plants with fragrant flowers or foliage. And, typically, evening bloomers often have a strong fragrance to attract night flying moth pollinators. Popular plants that thrive in evening gardens include…

Annuals and Tropicals

  • Allysum (Lobularia maritime): This fragrant, sweet-smelling annual grows easily to form a mat of small, white, light pink or purple flowers and grows 2-6″. Plant or sow seeds in full sun.
  • Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens): Look for the white-flowered form for the best evening visibility. It is not as showy as the popular dark violet version, but it’s more fragrant and will be more visible in darker lighting.
  • Licorice Plant (Helichrysum petiolare): Small, round, woolly leaves in silvery grey drape well in hanging baskets and can be very showy at night.
  • Jasmine (Jasmine officinale): This white-flowered jasmine is a vigorous twining shrub producing very fragrant flowers, attracting moths and glowing under moonlight.
  • Moonflower (lpomoea alba): Easy to grow, this annual has large, white, pink or purple fragrant blooms that open in early evening and last all night. Heart-shaped leaves make this a great vine to cover a trellis or fence. This fast-grower loves full sun.
  • Stock (Matthiola incana): Many kinds bear fragrant flowers that can add a delicious sensory experience to an evening garden.
  • Tobacco Flower (Nicotiana sylvestris): Long, tubular white flowers are intensely fragrant and dramatically visible even in near-darkness.


  • Hosta (Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’): The bright, glossy chartreuse/gold large leaves (10″ across) of this hosta form a mound of brightness in the moonlight.
  • Lamium (Lamium maculatum selections): An excellent ground cover for shade, this plant has leaves of silvery white and green with white, pink or purple blooms.
  • Lavender (Lavandula): Fragrant English lavender (L. angustifolia), French lavender (L. dentata), ‘Provence’ and similar types (L. x intermedia) are the best bets for evening beauty.
  • Evening Primrose (Oenothera fruticosa): Night-flying insects are attracted to the delicate fragrance of this pretty flower. Remaining closed during the day, its petals uncurl at dusk. These drought-tolerant plants are ideal in full sun.
  • Pinks (Dianthus): Many hybrids have lost their delightful clove scent, but others are reliably fragrant. These include cheddar pinks (D. gratianopolitanus); cottage pinks (D. plumarius) and maiden pinks (D. deltoides).
  • Verbena (Verbena bonariensis): Tall, erect stems with clusters of small, purple flowers attract moths at night as well as bees and butterflies during the day. Grow in a sunny spot in moist, well-drained soil.


  • Lilies: Madonna lily (L. candidum), ‘Stargazer’, ‘Casablanca’ and other Oriental hybrids are extremely fragrant and beautiful, even in darker conditions.
  • Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa): This bulb, treated as an annual, produces exotic, sweet-smelling white flowers.


  • Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii ‘White Profusion’): This luminous plant has fragrant flowers that make it irresistible to moths. Also try the deep purple ‘Black Knight’ for a dramatic contrast. Plant in a sunny, well-drained location.
  • Daphne (Daphne burkwoodii): ‘Carol Mackie’ has variegated foliage with star-shaped, richly fragrant, pale pink flowers that can glow in moonlight.
  • Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica): Either evergreen or deciduous varieties can be a suitable choice for evening interest.
  • Mock Orange (Philadelphus): Most kinds are fragrant, especially sweet mock orange (P. coronarius).
  • Roses (Rosa): Many old roses are fragrant, including the damasks, Bourbons, hybrid perpetuals, Chinas and rugosas, as are many David Austin shrub roses. Choose varieties with white or pale blooms for more evening or nighttime glamour.
  • Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia): This handsome, well-foliaged shrub has a summertime display of fragrant, pinkish-white flower spikes lasting for up to six weeks. It is well-suited for use near water and a good bee plant.
  • Viburnum (Viburnum species): Three selections are especially fragrant and ideal for evening flair: ‘Burkwood Viburnum’ – An upright 8-10′, multi-stemmed shrub that produces a white flower. ‘Korenspice Viburnum’ – With a mature height of 5′ to 8′, the Korenspice has pink to reddish buds that open to fragrant, white flowers. ‘Mohawk Viburnum’ – A cross between Burkwood and Korenspice, the Mohawk displays dark red buds which open to white with red blotched reverse flowers. The flowers have a strong clove fragrance to them.


  • Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla): With an oh-so-lemony delightful fragrance, lemon verbena has fragrant, narrow leaves and small white flowers. Leaves are strongest in scent and flavor while the shrub is in bloom, but can be harvested at any time. Plant in a moist sunny location. Unlike many herbs, lemon verbena retains its scent for years when dried.
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). Rosemary’s fragrant flavor is spicy, warm and pungent, reminiscent of pine, balsam and ocean air. There are so many uses for rosemary that no garden should be without this herb. Along a path, rosemary releases its fresh, clean scent when brushed against at any time of day or night. Rosemary can take the heat, and does well against a brick or stone wall or in a pot on a sunny patio or terrace.
  • Scented Geraniums (Pelargonium): Of the many varieties, those with scents of rose, lemon and peppermint are the most fragrant.
  • Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans): This 3′ evergreen shrub has bright scarlet flowers in late summer and fall.

Adding plants specifically for evening enjoyment can enhance your garden for many hours, and with so many nighttime beauties to choose from, no garden should be without some after-dark drama.

Growing Zucchini

Zucchini is one of the most popular vegetables choices for growing in the home garden. Not only is zucchini easy to grow, it is also tasty and nutritious, as well as versatile in a number of recipes. All summer squash, including zucchini, are rich in beta-carotene, folic acid, vitamins C and E and numerous healthful minerals. Zucchini can be eaten fresh, baked into bread, roasted, grilled, added to salads and so much more. So, grow zucchini, eat up and get healthy – we’ll supply the tips you need for successful growing and a bountiful harvest.


Sow zucchini seeds or seedlings about 2 weeks after the last frost date in full sun and well-drained, nutritious garden soil. It is best to plant zucchini in hills, three plants in each, to ensure warm soil and good drainage. Hills should be about 8 inches high and 12 inches in diameter. Set hills at least three feet apart, as these plants are dense and require plenty of room for good air circulation.


Zucchini plants will thrive in regular garden soil. If your soil is poor then you may wish to fertilize or amend the soil with compost. Keep zucchini plants evenly watered throughout the season. Mulch the garden bed with salt hay to keep it free of weeds and to retain soil moisture. If growing zucchini horizontally, mulch will keep the fruit clean by preventing it from coming into contact with the soil.


Zucchini is a vine and may be grown vertically, with assistance, on vegetable netting or a fence, trellis or lattice. Plants and fruit are heavy, so be certain to secure the vine carefully as it grows and watch for any signs of breakage that could damage maturing vegetables.


Zucchini is best and has the best flavor if it is harvested when young and tender, about 6 inches long. Use pruning shears or a garden knife to cut zucchini from the vine. Never pull the fruit off, which can damage the vine as well as the vegetable.


A number of pests will like zucchini just as much as you do, but there are steps you can take to keep your zucchini patch pest-free.

  • Cucumber Beetle: These insects will skeletonize the zucchini leaves, resulting in lower yields and smaller vegetables. Plant resistant varieties and hand pick the beetles.
  • Squash Bugs: Yellow spotting on zucchini leaves that turn brown identifies squash bug damage. Eventually the leaves then turn black and crispy. Control this pest when plants are young. Look for eggs on the underside of zucchini leaves and crush them.
  • Squash Vine Borer: This pest first presents itself with wilting leaves. Upon inspection you will see orange ‘sawdust’ at the base of the plant. Use floating row covers if planting early or hold off on planting zucchini until after July 4th when the insect egg laying is completed.
  • Blossom End Rot: This disease appears as a dark, leathery patch on the blossom end of the zucchini. It is caused by either uneven soil moisture or a soil calcium deficiency. Do not allow soil to dry out between watering, and add calcium to the soil with dolomitic lime or gypsum to ensure proper nutrition.


Try these delicious treats to make the most of your zucchini harvest!

Grilled Zucchini


  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1/4 cup Italian-style salad dressing


  • Slice zucchini into 1/4 inch thick slices (peel first if desired). Toss in a bowl with Italian dressing.
  • Place on a hot grill about 4 to 5 minutes or until nice grill marks appear and the zucchini is slightly limp. Serve and enjoy.

Zucchini Bread


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups peeled, grated zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 325°F.
  • Grease and flour two 8 × 4 inch bread pans.
  • Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda and cinnamon together in a bowl.
  • Beat eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar together in a large bowl.
  • Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture and beat well.
  • Stir in zucchini and nuts (if desired) until well combined.
  • Pour batter into prepared pans.
  • Bake for 40-60 minutes or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes.

Remove bread from pan, and cool completely.

Naturescaping With Regional Perennial Wildflowers

There’s no need to sacrifice beauty when designing or redesigning your yard or garden to be more nature-friendly. Naturescaping is an approach to garden and landscape design that will help save time, money and energy while providing an attractive and healthy habitat for wildlife and people. Readily available native wildflowers can add remarkable beauty to your environment, and since they are adapted to our climate and soils, they require little, if any, supplemental watering, fertilizing or care and are less susceptible to pests and disease. Native plants also attract a variety of native birds, butterflies, moths and bees essential for pollination. As an added bonus, native wildflowers are often less expensive to purchase, and you may even be able to get some varieties free by sharing with neighbors, botanical gardens, wildlife centers or extension services that are encouraging more native planting.

Choosing Native Flowers

There are many beautiful native flowers to choose from, but they won’t all thrive in every yard. When selecting, be certain to match the plant’s moisture requirements and exposure preferences to your site, taking into consideration growth patterns, available space and mature sizes. Also consider choosing flowers with different bloom times so your yard puts on a native show all season long, and tier different plant heights to create layers of natural color and beauty. Then plant, sit back, relax and enjoy!

Of the Variegated Variety: Variegated Shrubs for the Landscape

Variegated shrubs can brighten up a dull or shady border and add interest in the garden when flowers are scarce but more drama is desired. But which variegated shrubs are best for your landscape, without creating too much patterning or distractions?

How to Plant Variegated Shrubs

While a variegated shrub with its eye-catching foliage can be a lovely addition to the yard, too many of these unusual plants can overwhelm your landscape. Avoid planting variegated shrubs next to each other or too close together where different foliage patterns can clash. Instead, plant them among plain foliage plants where the leaf coloring will be highlighted and therefore better appreciated. At the same time, avoid creating distinct stripes, polka dots or other predictable patterns in the yard, and instead opt for more organic, flowing lines that will add elegance to the natural variegation of the foliage.

Top Variegated Shrubs

There are many beautiful variegated shrubs you can choose from, and it is best to investigate tried-and-true options at your local nursery or note what showy shrubs you like best at a local park or botanical garden. To get you started, consider these amazing and popular variations…

  • Carol Mackie Daphne (Daphne x burkwodii ‘Carol Mackie’) – Semi-evergreen. Yellow leaf margins that mature to creamy-white. Part shade.
  • Dappled Willow (Salix integra ‘Hakuro-nishiki’) – Deciduous. Emerging pink foliage matures to variegated creamy-white and green. Sun to part shade.
  • Emerald-N-Gold Euonymous (Euonymous fortune ‘Emerald n Gold’) – Evergreen. Rounded, olive-green leaves with bright yellow margins turn pinkish-burgundy in the winter. Sun to part shade.
  • Gold Dust Aucuba (Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’) – Evergreen. Large, glossy, green foliage splattered with yellow. Part shade.
  • Variegated Boxwood (Buxus semperivrens ‘Elegantissima’) – Evergreen. Small, medium-green leaves with creamy white to gold margins. Sun to part shade.
  • Variegated English Holly (Ilex aquifolium ‘Argenteo Mariginata’) – Evergreen. Dark, shiny green leaves with creamy-white margins. Sun to part shade.
  • Variegated Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Variegata’) – Deciduous. Large leaves with bright-white, uneven margins. Dappled sun with afternoon shade.
  • Variegated Japanese Kerria (Kerria japonica ‘Variegata’) – Deciduous. White-edged narrow green leaves. Part shade to shade.
  • Variegated Japanese Pieris (Pieris japonica ‘Variegata’) – Evergreen. Deep green leaves with a wide, white margin. Part shade.
  • Variegated Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’) – Deciduous. Leaves mottled and edged with white. Sun to part shade.
  • Variegated Wegelia (Wegelia florida ‘Variegata’) – Deciduous. Medium-green leaves broadly edged in creamy-white maturing to lime-green. Sun to part shade.
  • Variegated Yellow Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Silver and Gold’) – Deciduous. Creamy-white wavy margins. Sun to part shade.
  • Variegated Winter Daphne (Daphne odora ‘Aureo-marginata’) – Semi-evergreen. Gold-edged green leaves. Part shade.

Whichever variegated shrub you prefer, be sure you choose a variety that will thrive in your yard. Pay close attention to soil quality, watering and sunlight needs, or else the foliage coloration may be far less brilliant than expected. Take steps to minimize pests or wildlife that may nibble on leaves, and carefully nurture the shrubs until they are well-established. By choosing a variegated shrub thoughtfully and providing it the proper care, you can easily add dramatic, multi-colored foliage to your landscape.

Eliminate Water Garden Algae

During the summer months you can eliminate algae easily, effectively, naturally and attractively with the simple addition of appropriate pond plants to your water garden. Three factors contribute to excess algae growth: sunlight, nutrients and low oxygen. While it may be impossible to eliminate every speck of algae – it is still part of your aquatic ecosystem, after all – when you work to control those factors, you also control and minimize algae without adversely affecting your water garden.

Limit Sunlight

Algae needs abundant sunlight to reproduce, and sunlight also raises the water temperature which helps algae grow even more quickly. In shady, cooler ponds and water gardens, however, much less algae is able to grow. You can easily reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the water surface in your garden by 40-60 percent by adding floaters that will cover the surface and provide shade. Top water garden floaters include water hyacinths and water lettuce, both of which successfully reduce excessive algae growth. For the best results, cover 50 percent or more of the water’s surface area with floating plants.

Reduce Nutrients

Because algae can grow so rapidly, it requires abundant nutrients to reproduce. If you remove those nutrients, there will be less nourishment available to sustain algae growth. Submerged plants, such as water lilies and lotus, compete with algae for limited available nutrients, essentially starving the algae to death, while at the same time adding their own beauty to your backyard pond or water garden. If fish are part of your container garden or pond, be sure you are not overfeeding them, since excess, uneaten food quickly decays into vital nutrients algae can use as well. Similarly, prune and clean out any decaying plant foliage so it does not become the nutrients algae needs.

Increase Oxygen

Algae thrives in stagnant water, and abundant oxygen is toxic to these simple growths. Oxygenating plants like anacharis, coontail and hornwort should be included in your plant choices to increase the oxygen in your water garden and make it less suitable for algae. More oxygen will also be healthier for any fish, frogs or toads that might call your water garden home, and many other water garden plants will also thrive with better oxygen in the water.

Stop in and see our collection of water garden plants and supplies. Our staff can assist you in making some choices for your water garden to help reduce algae growth and keep your water garden or pond clear and sparkling.

Simple Water Features for Small Spaces

A simple water feature can make a large impact even in small spaces. The addition of a container water garden will transform, beautify and diversify your existing garden into an oasis that brings relief during the dog days of summer and beyond. Sit back, relax and enjoy the melodious sound of dancing water from your garden pond, and it will provide soothing, background music to your summer retreat. Bring wildlife into the garden by incorporating fish, frogs and snails into your mini aquascape. A simple water feature may be placed in the garden, on a deck, patio or porch or even added to a rooftop garden for a tremendous impact in a tiny space.

Choosing a Container

Container water gardens can be created from practically anything that has the capability of holding water or supporting a liner. Ceramic sinks or tubs, half-barrels, buckets, pottery or planters and troughs can all be used to create beautiful ponds. Remember, these features will look their best when the shape and materials are similar in style to that of your home and surrounding gardens.

Lining Your Container

If you have chosen a whiskey barrel or other similar wood container, follow these simple instructions to incorporate a liner to waterproof the container.

  1. Center your flexible liner over the whiskey barrel or other container. Push down in the center so excess material is evenly spaced over the outside lip. Begin folding the liner over itself at 4 to 6 inch increments, working your way around the container and minimizing any bulges. Fasten each fold with a half inch staple placed about a half inch from the top of the container.
  2. Trim the liner so it is even with the lip of the barrel or container.
  3. Fill your container with water, and then arrange your aquatic plants and pump/filter system.

Rigid pond liners are also available to insert into half whiskey barrels for ease of waterproofing these containers, but double check sizes to be sure you choose the right fit.

With such a wide assortment available, pots and planters make great garden ponds when properly prepared.

  1. Plug the drainage hole with a small piece of pond liner spread with caulk.
  2. Seal any minor cracks with caulk.
  3. Paint the inside of the container with a water garden sealant.

Properly lined, your container will hold water easily without slow leaks that can traumatize plants and destroy your water garden.

Picking Plants

The use of aquatic plants will help you avoid the need for algaecides by reducing pond algae in two ways. First, aquatic plants remove excess phosphorus and nitrogen from the water. Second, plants shade the water from sunlight, thereby inhibiting algae growth. For a healthy balance, cover half of your pond surface with floating plants for shading. Submerged plants should be planted at a rate of one bunch, 6-10 plants, for every 5 square feet of surface area. Marginal or bog plants will complete the ecological balancing act.

  • Floaters: Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes), Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), Frogbit (Hydrocharis morsus-ranae) and Miniature Water Lilies (Nymphae spp.). These plants provide habitat and will shade the pond water surface to reduce the production of algae.
  • Submerged Oxygenators: Anacharis (Elodea Canadensis), Water Buttercup (Ranunculus aquatilis) and Fanwort (Cambomba caroliniana) are great choices that help maintain water clarity by consuming excess nutrients that contribute to the production of algae. These plants can reproduce rapidly, but they are easily controlled in the small pond by simply removing surplus growth.
  • Marginal Plants: Sweet Flag (Acorus spp.), Dwarf Cattail (Typha minima), Dwarf Papyrus (Cyperus profiler), Iris (Iris pseudacorus) and Camelion plant (Houttuynia cordata). Placed at a pond’s edge, these marginal aquatic plants add color, height and variation to the water garden. They also provide cover, habitat and oxygen.

Be careful not overwhelm your container water garden with too many plants or it will be difficult to maintain a natural balance.

Fish and Other Pond Life

Different types of wildlife will love to be a part of even a small water garden.

  • Fish: Fish create additional interest to a water garden by adding sparkle and movement. Good choices for a small water garden are: Goldfish, Red Comets, Calico Fantails and Shubunkins. Do not overstock your water feature. As a rule of thumb, each inch of fish should have 6 square inches to one square foot of water.
  • Snails: Slow and steady, snails can help keep your water garden clean and healthy. Japanese Trapdoor Snails eat algae stuck to the sides of the pond and will consume excess fish food.
  • Tadpoles and Frogs: Tadpoles will morph into amusing frogs. Tadpoles eat algae and add motion and interest to the pond, especially for children. Frogs will lend sound to the garden and aid in insect control.

Water Garden Container Care

Several common problems can occur even in small water gardens, but they are easily controlled and you can keep your water garden looking beautiful.

  • Algae: Despite all your planning, it is perfectly natural for your pond to turn green at first. Once the plants get to work, the green will fade. If you find that you require a little extra help in algae control, try Microbe-Lift or Barley Straw pellets, both are natural algae controls. Adding an extra snail or other algae-eater to the pond can also help control the color naturally.
  • Mosquitoes: Mosquitoes may be managed in several ways. Adding water movement to the pond with a pump and small fountain will keep the insects from breeding or settling on the water. Adding BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) to the water in the form of Mosquito Dunks will also discourage the insects. Incorporate small fish into your pond garden, they eat mosquito larvae. Other mosquito predators include: dragonflies, bats, tadpoles and frogs, all of which can be a part of your backyard ecosystem.


Check the pond weekly. You need to be observant to animal activity and any abnormal growths or marks. Inspect plants and fish for health, insects or disease. Clean up any dead or yellowing foliage. Replace evaporated water as necessary. If your water contains chlorine or other chemicals, be sure they are removed before adding this water to your pond. Chlorine is toxic to fish and beneficial bacteria. Chlorine will dissipate after a few days if it is exposed to air, but do not add fish or plants until after this is accomplished.

With just a little thoughtful planning, the right plants and proper care, you can have a small water garden to brighten up a small space in your yard.

Vegetable Gardening Tidbits

Are you ready to make the most of your vegetable garden? Try these tips and tidbits for everything from easier weeding to stopping pests to enjoying a hearty harvest!

  • Reducing Weeds
    Minimize weeds in your garden by covering the soil between planting rows with mulch. Several sheets of moistened newspaper topped with hay or straw works very well, especially if you move your planting areas around a bit from year to year. You can even use carpet scraps placed upside-down. Landscape fabric topped with wood chips or gravel is a good choice if the walkways are permanent. Try to avoid the habit of tilling to remove weeds because this process brings up weed seeds from deeper in the soil and exposes them to the light they need to grow.
  • Increase Tomato and Pepper Production
    Fruiting of your tomatoes and peppers may be improved by applying Epsom salts, which contain sulfur and magnesium. Apply one tablespoon of granules around each transplant, or spray a solution of one tablespoon Epsom salts per gallon of water at transplanting, first flowering and fruit set. You can find Epsom salts at drug and grocery stores.
  • Supporting Tomato Plants
    Set your tomato supports in place before plants get too large. Smaller determinate (bushy) varieties can be supported with small cages, but larger indeterminate (vining) varieties need large cages or tall stakes. Secure cages with stakes so they don’t fall over as plants grow larger and heavier.
  • Growing Larger Tomatoes
    Indeterminate tomato plants, such as ‘Better Boy’, will produce many suckers. A sucker is a new shoot that starts where a branch connects with the main trunk. Removing suckers will decrease the number of fruits produced, but the remaining tomatoes will be larger and will ripen sooner.
  • Ending Blossom End Rot
    To minimize blossom end rot, keep soil evenly moist, apply a layer of mulch to conserve moisture, don’t over-fertilize (especially avoid high-nitrogen fertilizer) and avoid damaging plant roots while cultivating. Blossom end rot shows up as dark sunken spots on the blossom or non-stem end of tomatoes, peppers and squash. It’s caused by a calcium imbalance in the plant. The soil may have adequate calcium, but the plant isn’t able to take up enough to supply the rapidly developing fruit.
  • Stop Slugs and Snails
    Slugs and snails may be deterred with coffee grounds, diatomaceous earth and even sharp gravel. Spread any of these materials in a ring around individual plants. Wrap pots with copper tape to keep slugs from crawling up. Inspect foliage and pick off any insects that have already passed the barriers.
  • Keep Cucumber Beetles at Bay
    Young cucumber, melon and squash plants are easy prey for cucumber beetles. As the seedlings grow, these yellow-striped or spotted beetles emerge to feed on their foliage. The beetles also spread bacterial wilt disease. To control cucumber beetles use a portable vacuum cleaner to suck up them up in early evening, spray beneficial nematodes on the soil or try planting broccoli, calendula, catnip, nasturtium, radish, rue or tansy, which naturally repel these insects. If you want to try marigolds to repel them use the more pungent varieties like African, French or Mexican marigolds. The more common marigolds may actually attract these pests.
  • Plan for Late Summer Harvests
    It’s not too late to sow lettuce, beets, carrots, radishes and other short-season crops for a late summer harvest. Shade lettuce, if possible, during late afternoon to keep young plants cooler, or grow them next to larger plants that provide some shade. You’ll need to water more often on these hot days than you did in spring and early summer, but you can easily extend their growing season for later harvesting.
  • Grow More Tomatoes, Zucchini and Beans
    Harvest tomatoes, zucchini, beans and other fruiting crops frequently to encourage continued production. Don’t allow any fruits that you won’t be harvesting to remain on your plants, because when mature seeds are produced it’s a signal for the plant to slow down fruit production. Instead, consider sharing, selling, preserving or trading extra produce so you can continue to harvest and extend the growing season.
  • When to Harvest Herbs
    Herbs are best harvested just as they are beginning to flower. That’s when they have the highest concentration of essential oils and flavor in their leaves. Harvest entire branches back to within a few inches of the main stem to encourage new, bushy growth.
  • Harvesting and Storing Onions
    Begin harvesting onions when about half to three-quarters of the leaves have died back. Then gently dig or pull the onions and store them in a dry, shady place with good ventilation, such as an outdoor shed or barn, for 10-14 days. After the onions have cured, put them in slatted crates or mesh bags and store them indoors in an area with low humidity and temperatures between 33-45 degrees F.
  • Enjoying Green Tomatoes
    When daytime temperatures no longer rise above 65 degrees F in late summer and early fall, it’s time to pick the green tomatoes. Wrap them individually in newspaper and let them ripen indoors, or try some fried or in other recipes that call for under-ripe tomatoes.

Gardening With Children

By gardening with your children or grandchildren, you can give them an awareness and appreciation of nature and the world around them that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Even very young children enjoy helping with simple garden chores such as weeding, spreading mulch and harvesting. Older children love to have their own special garden to look after. This could be as small as several containers on the deck or as big as your whole yard, depending on their (and your) time, willingness and patience. To start out, you might give them a section of your garden to plant and look after.

First, be sure to teach your budding gardener the value of improving the soil with organic material before they begin planting. Explain how organic material improves the texture of the soil and adds some food for the plants as well.

Since improving the soil will make them more successful, they’ll be willing to garden again next spring. There are special kid-friendly tools available, just right for small hands to manipulate and since children love getting dirty, you’ll not be short of volunteers when the digging begins!

Next, help your child select a combination of plants that will make their garden interesting and exciting throughout the year. You can do this by considering all five senses:

  • Sight
    Many colorful blooming plants as well as plants with unusual flowers, oddly-shaped leaves or crazy seeds will appeal to a child’s imagination. Consider smiling pansy faces and nodding columbines in the spring and snapdragons to snap and silver coins from the money plant (Lunaria biennis) in summer. In the fall, blue balloon flowers (Platycodon grandiflora) and the bright orange seed cases of Chinese lantern (Physalis franchettii) are fun options.
  • Touch
    Stroke the silky-soft, silver leaves of lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina) – now you’ll know how it got its name. Or, feel the papery flowers of thrift (Armeria maritima) or strawflowers, the ferny foliage of yarrow or the succulent foliage of sedum. Even thorny plants such as raspberries or roses can engage a child’s sense of touch – carefully of course!
  • Taste
    Growing vegetables is always fun and rewarding for children. If you have the space, it’s always exciting to grow pumpkins for Halloween or weird and wonderful gourds. Other easy to grow vegetables include radishes, carrots, peas, lettuce and cherry tomatoes. And don’t forget fruits like strawberries, rhubarb and watermelon. At harvest time let your child host a ‘salad party’ to share their bounty with family and friends.
  • Smell
    There are many scented flowers to choose from, including perennial peonies and lilies, as well as annual sweet alyssum and heliotrope. Let kids select herbs with fragrant foliage too. Mint is always popular but be sure to allow room for it to spread. Choose varieties with interesting names like chocolate, apple or grapefruit to capture a young gardener’s imagination. Use the pineapple-flavored leaves of pineapple sage in iced tea and watch the hummingbirds gather around this herb’s bright red flowers!
  • Sound
    The whirring of hummingbird wings, the song of a bird, the rustling of foliage or flowers in a breeze – these are all sounds that you and your child can share in a garden. Take time out from your gardening chores every now and then to listen.

So, bring in your child let them walk through with you and take a look at everything. You can make suggestions and give guidance on their choices. If you have any questions please be sure and ask one of our associates for assistance. Now go home and get started on that most special garden of all, a child’s garden.

Shade Gardening With Perennials

Many gardeners with shady, low-light landscapes mistakenly believe they can’t enjoy beautiful gardens and flowerbeds because of the lack of sunlight. In reality, however, many stunning perennials thrive in shady spots and can bring elegance, color and beauty to what was formerly a drab corner of the yard. Some include stunning foliage, even variegated options or unusual shapes, while others have subtle yet beautiful blooms as well. Some even have dramatic stems and arching branches that can be lovely all year long.

Try some of these shade-loving perennials to brighten up your darker spots, whether they are beneath mature trees, tucked into hidden corners or just in less sunlit areas.

Perennials for Dry Shade…

  • Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
  • Bleeding Heart (Dicentra ‘Luxuriant’)*
  • Bishop’s Hat (Epimedium perralchicum, pinnatum, pubigerum)*
  • Cranesbill (Geranium maculatum, endressii, nodosum)*
  • Stinking Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus)*
  • Deadnettle (Lamium maculaturm)*
  • Soloman’s Seal (Polygonatum multiflorum)*

Perennials for Cool, Moist Soils in Shade…

  • Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum)**
  • Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’)**
  • Japanese Holly Fern (Cyrtomium)**
  • Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora)**
  • Marginal Shield Fern (Dryopteris marginalis)**
  • Epimedium grandiflorum, warleyense*
  • Lenten Rose (Helleborus viridus, orientalis)*
  • Virginia Bluebell (Mertensia virginica)**
  • Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)**
  • Soft-Shield Fern (Polystichum setiferum ‘Divisilobum’)**
  • Foam Flower (Tiarella cordifolia)*
  • Toad Lily (Tricyrtis formosana)*
  • Toadshade (Trillium sessile, grandiflorum)**
  • Globeflower (Trollius europaeus)*

Perennials Groundcovers in Shade…

  • Bear’s Breech (Acanthus mollis)*
  • Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria ‘Variegatum’)*
  • European Wild Ginger (Asarum europaeum)*
  • Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)*
  • Variegated Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon ‘Florentinum’)*
  • Dead Nettle (Lamium maculatum ‘Beacon Silver’)*
  • Variegated Wood Rush (Luzula sylvatica ‘Marginata’)*
  • Foam Flower (Tiarella cordifolia)*
  • Dwarf Periwinkle (Vinca minor)*
  • Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia ternata)*

Climbers for Shady Walls & Fences…

  • Akebia (Akebia quinata, trifoliata)
  • Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’
  • Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Coloradus’)
  • English Ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Golden Hops (Humulus lupulus)
  • Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’)
  • Virginia Creeper (Parthenosis henryana, quinquefolia, tricuspidata)

*light shade
**medium to dense shade

When choosing your shade-loving perennials, be sure to take into consideration the size of the space you’re hoping to fill, the soil quality, moisture levels and whatever sunlight the area does receive. Plant them gently and care for them thoughtfully until the plants are well established and they will thrive. Carefully selected shade perennials can do well if they are well-matched to their location, and you’ll love the beauty and ease they add to your yard.

Best Fruits for the Urban Garden

With the right plant picks, you can grow a bountiful feast of fruit in your urban garden. From your favorite fruit trees to succulent vines to bushes bursting with berry goodness, your urban garden can be  highly productive, supplying delicious fruit for your nourishment and enjoyment.

What Fruits Need

Fruit-bearing plants need well-drained, loamy soil, adequate water for appropriate juiciness, and abundant sunlight for rich, productive growth. It can be a challenge to meet those needs in an urban environment, but your space may offer more resources than you realize. Study how sunlight moves through your garden space, including how shaded and sun-drenched areas change over time so you can best plan which plants to position for the best growth. Choose good quality potting soil if you’re planting in window boxes, pots, or containers, or amend your natural soil with appropriate compost and add the correct fertilizer to nourish hungry plants. Be prepared to water your plants adequately, particularly if natural rainfall isn’t enough for the plants’ needs. Regardless of the size of your garden space, you can meet fruits’ needs for a delicious and abundant harvest.

Best Fruits for Urban Gardening

The best fruits for urban gardens are those that keep compact shapes and adapt well to smaller spaces. They are also flexible with their sunlight needs, though most fruits require at least some full sun for the best production. Fruits that are well-suited to urban spaces include…

  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Bush cherries
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • pears
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries

The exact fruits that will do well in your space will vary depending on your gardening zone and climate conditions. Pay particular attention to the number of chill hours fruits may need in order to produce, as this is critical to ensure a good harvest. Depending on the type of plant and its needs, you may even be able to move your gardening efforts indoors and cultivate some fruit plants without any outdoor gardening space at all!

Tips for Urban Garden Fruits

There are different ways to ensure your fruit plants, bushes, trees, and vines thrive in your unique space. To encourage the best growth and healthiest plants…

  • Choose plant cultivars that are self-pollinating and don’t require multiple plants in order to produce fruit.
  • Opt for berry cultivars that are everbearing or repeat-bearing to extend the harvest and get the most fruit from the fewest plants.
  • Provide adequate support with trellises, arbors, pergolas, or other structures that are sturdy enough to handle the mature plants’ size and the fruits’ weight.
  • Create layers of gardening space by using hanging pots and vertical structures that will give you even more room for planting.
  • Use plant stands on casters so you are able to move sun-loving plants around to take advantage of shifting light angles and maximize the plants’ productivity.
  • Choose dwarf or super-dwarf tree varieties that will not only thrive in smaller spaces but will also produce fruit when younger, so your first harvest is not delayed.
  • Dwarf fruit trees are perfect for espalier against a sunny wall.
  • Take steps to encourage bees and hummingbirds in your garden to aid pollination and keep your plants productive.
  • Use netting, reflectors, or other tactics to discourage birds that may raid your harvest even before the fruit has fully ripened.
  • Be alert for pests that may threaten your plants’ health and productivity, as they can find their way into any garden space – even indoors.

Growing fruit in the urban garden can be a tasty and enjoyable pastime, so long as you opt for fruits that will do best with the resources your space provides. By making the most of your space, you’ll easily have a fruitful harvest for all your favorite fresh fruits, homemade jams, preserves, sweet salads, baked goods, and other treats.

Raise ‘Em Right

Lousy soil? Not to worry! Try growing in a raised bed. Popular in colonial times, this style of gardening is making a tremendous resurgence and is ideal for many types of gardening ambitions.

Why Raised Beds

There are many benefits to gardening above the grade, including…

  • Better Soil Conditions
    Growing in raised beds is an excellent choice if you have poor soil. Once constructed, you may add the soil and amendments of your choice to provide the optimum conditions for root growth in exactly the space you will be planting. Because a raised bed is not stepped in and is carefully monitored, it is easy to maintain this peak condition.
  • Higher Yield
    Better soil equals better root growth which then leads higher yield of flowers, produce or herbs. Also, intensive planting in raised beds means more plants can be grown in a smaller area than with conventional row-cropping as no space is wasted between rows.
  • Maintenance
    If properly thought out, every area of the raised bed may be comfortably reached from the side allowing for less bending and reaching and easier maintenance for thinning, weeding and other garden tasks. A garden seat makes gardening in raised beds even easier by bringing the soil surface closer to your upper body. Intensive planting cuts down on weeds by shading the soil surface. Improved soil conditions (less compaction and controlled moisture) make weed removal easier.
  • Critter Control
    Pests are less of a problem in raised beds. A simple frame may be erected with plant stakes or bamboo. Cover the frame with garden netting to prevent birds and other critters from destroying your plants. The bottom of the bed may be lined with hardware cloth to prevent burrowing rodents from getting in. The smaller area of a raised bed is also easier to protect from unwanted insects.
  • Water Conservation
    A raised bed is advantageous for water conservation. Use an appropriate watering system to ensure that water gets only to where it is needed. Soaker hoses and drip-type irrigation systems disperse water in patterns well suited to raised beds. They also reduce disease by directing water to the soil instead of wetting the leaf surface with overhead irrigation.
  • Extended Growing Season
    Increased drainage speeds up soil warming and allows it to dry quicker after a spring rain for earlier planting. The addition of a portable cold frame will extend the growing season even further by also keeping the soil warm later in the fall. Not only does this allow for later harvesting, but it is possible to harvest crops from raised beds that simply wouldn’t have time to mature in a traditional garden.

With so many benefits, why not get started with raised beds this year?

Amsonia hubrichtii

Amsonia hubrichtii, commonly known as Arkansas blue star, Arkansas amsonia or threadleaf bluestar, grows 36 inches tall and 36 inches wide in a mounded form. This hardy perennial grows in hardiness zones 4-9 and is a versatile North American native ideal for many landscaping uses in all types of yards and gardens.

Amazing Seasonal Interest

Unlike many plants that truly shine only for one season, Amsonia hubrichtii offers a variety of features throughout the seasons. From late spring to early summer, 2-3-inch wide clusters of small, light blue, star-shaped flowers are borne above the delicately soft, ferny or lacey foliage. The alternate-arranged, narrow leaves are a marvelous bright green in spring and summer, but turn a bright yellow-golden color which is second to none among herbaceous perennials in fall. In winter, the foliage can hold its shape and support snowfall, creating a beautiful mounding effect in the winter landscape.

Caring for Amsonia hubrichtii

These plants thrive in full sun to partial shade and perform best in average, moist, well-drained soil with a neutral (7.0) pH. Full sun will promote the best autumn color, but spring and summer blooms will be more prominent in a part-shade location. In a full shade location or when planted in too-rich soil, however, the plant may tend to open up and flop over, losing its full mounding traits. Though initially slow to grow and less lush and attractive when young, once established, it can tolerate drier conditions. Having no known severe insect or disease problems, other than minor occurrences of Mycosphaerella leaf spot and rust, this is a very easy to care for perennial.

After the flowers have faded, cutting back the foliage to 6-8 inches will help keep the mounds full and compact. Late season growth will fill in the plant in plenty of time for its showstopping autumn color. When the plants are large, they can be divided for transplanting to add even more specimens to the landscape.

In the Landscape

Amsonia is a real asset in borders, native gardens, cottage gardens or open woodland areas. Because of this plant’s versatility, it is also ideal in rock gardens or even rain gardens in well-drained soil. It is best when planted in masses and very attractive when mixed with ornamental grasses and other plants that have attractive seed heads. It tolerates deer and attracts butterflies, making it wildlife-friendly as well.

The outstanding ornamental qualities, ease of maintenance and many uses make Amsonia an invaluable perennial selection for any gardener.

Yellowjackets: Good Guys or Bad?

When you hear “yellowjacket,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? A buzzing, stinging insect ruining your outdoor meal or a treasured pollinator of many plants? A yellowjacket is both!

About Yellowjackets

The most commonly found yellowjacket is the Eastern yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons). The Eastern yellowjacket is a wasp that is 1/2 to 5/8 inch long and is black and yellow striped. The body is curved under and is wider than the head. Yellowjackets do not have any “hairs” such as are found on honeybees and bumblebees.

Yellowjackets are generally ground nesters, however, in some situations, especially in urban areas, they will make their nest above ground such as in hollow walls and attics.

During the spring and summer, the colony population increases from the fertilized solitary queen, who survived the winter, to several thousand. Adult yellowjackets feed protein to the young wasps and larvae while they subsist on sugars. Foraging for food, the wasps cross-pollinate plants while seeking small insects and nectar. Yellowjackets provide a valuable service to humans by consuming numerous insects that eat ornamental and cultivated plants.

On the other hand, yellowjackets are drawn to cookouts, picnic areas and garbage cans. Their sting, unfortunately, is especially painful. Unlike honeybees, which only sting once, wasps can sting numerous times. Some people react severely to the venom and may have problems breathing or other dangerous reactions.

To Minimize Yellowjacket Interactions

Despite their good characteristics, many people prefer to keep yellowjackets away from picnics, play areas and yards. To reduce the possibility of inviting yellowjackets to your outdoor party…

  • Don’t leave moist pet food outside during the summer. Bird seed is fine, but not suet.
  • Keep garbage cans washed. Securely cover all garbage cans and recycling containers. Rinse beer, wine, soft drink and ice cream containers before disposing of them.
  • Keep garbage cans away from entertainment areas, play areas and pathways.
  • If eating outdoors, cover all serving plates and drinking glasses/bottles to prevent yellowjackets from getting into food or drink. When yellowjackets are in the area, be sure to check your food and drink before consuming.
  • Yellowjackets feed on aphids and scale on trees and shrubs. Therefore, spray for these pests in July and August, if needed, to remove that food source.
  • Repair dripping hoses and faucets as the puddles can attract wasps.
  • Wasps enjoy rotting fruit. Harvest tree and cane fruits when ripe. Carefully pick up all fallen fruit (gloves are a good idea!) and dispose of it in a covered container.
  • Wasps create a flight-path from the nest to food sources. Avoid this area. If this is not possible, consider removing the nest.

Yellowjacket Traps

To help make your outdoor gatherings more pleasant and safer, yellowjacket traps can be effective. Hang these around the perimeter of your yard if you plan to eat outside, but never hang traps near the food area, as you will only increase the attraction to that area. Some traps are disposable and have the benefit of reducing the sting possibility. Others are “reusable” and must be emptied and refilled with bait. These increase the probability of being stung but can be more affordable in the long term.

Eliminating Yellowjacket Nests

When absolutely necessary, the elimination of a yellowjacket nest should not be undertaken lightly. If it’s early in the season and the nest is visible, a forceful water blast will break it apart. To reduce the chances of being stung, do this during the day while the workers are not home. Wasps return to the colony as dusk. Sometimes the workers will begin rebuilding in the same place. Pesticide sprays can kill wasps, and after the nest is destroyed, spraying the area can discourage rebuilding. If it’s later in the season, the aerial nest may be too large to eliminate safely.

Underground nests are a much bigger challenge to destroy. Because the entrance may be at an angle to the nest, flooding seldom works. Never try to burn a yellowjacket ground nest by pouring kerosene or other flammable liquid into the entrance and lighting it. In addition to many stings, more serious injuries may occur. This also pollutes the soil and a fire can quickly get out of control. If the flight pattern to the entrance creates a serious hardship or is close to a building, it is best to consult with an expert for safe nest elimination.

If the yellowjackets have built their colonies within your house walls or attic, it may also be necessary to contact a professional. Note: if yellowjackets are nesting in your home, do not plug the entrance/exit hole or they may chew the rest of the way into your house! You may search “Pest Control” for your city on the Internet to locate the professionals.

Yellowjackets do have their uses, but if you have no use for these stinging insects, there are many ways to eliminate them safely. Using several techniques will be most effective and will minimize the risk of being troubled by wasps again.

Rain Barrels

You’ve heard it said, “When it rains, it pours.” In gardening terms, this could easily refer to the amount of rain on the roof going through the gutters and downspouts, and then out to the storm drains and pouring away from your garden. With the unpredictability of rain and the cost of water, don’t you wish you could keep some of that rain and put it to better use? You can, by installing a rain barrel, or two, or three or more. Rain barrels don’t have to be expensive or an eyesore.

The Best Rain Barrels

By diverting the gutter downspout to the rain barrel, rainwater is collected during a storm and stored. A fine mesh screen across the top prevents rocks and debris from entering the barrel and mosquitoes from laying their eggs. It’s a good idea to use a small amount of algaecide to prevent algae from building up in the barrel as well. Some barrels even have a solid cover with an opening to fit the downspout into, and the darkness inside the barrel helps inhibit algae growth.

Most rain barrels have two spigots, one at the top and one by the bottom. Attaching a hose to the top spigot redirects excess water when the barrel is full. You may use this to connect to another rain barrel that stores the overflow from the first, or you may position the overflow hose to direct excess rain to a nearby flowerbed, tree, garden or other plantings that can benefit from a good soaking.

A hose attached to the bottom spigot allows the stored water to flow for use. Incidentally, the water pressure increases if the rain barrel is elevated even just a few inches, allowing gravity to assist getting every drop of precious water out of the barrel so it can be put to use.

Value of a Rain Barrel

Is it worth it? According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), a rainstorm measured at 1/10th of an inch, over a 20’x30′ roof, would more than fill a 32-gallon rain barrel if all the water is properly directed. Multiply this amount by your water charge per gallon and you’ll see it won’t take long to pay back the small investment made in a few barrels.

Furthermore, rainwater is often better for watering garden plots, containers, flowerbeds and new plantings, and is even better for many houseplants. Rainwater does not contain the same chemical treatments or compounds found in tap water, so collecting rainwater is a healthier alternative for keeping all your plants well hydrated.

Get out there and capture what Mother Nature is providing for us! Your plants and the environment will Thank You!

Growing and Containing Rampant Spreaders

What do you do when you fall in love with a plant but you know it spreads and could take over your entire garden? You don’t have to give up your hopes of nurturing this plant, you just have to learn how to contain it securely without destroying its beauty.

Favorite Spreaders

Many different plants may be desirable, but have the nasty hidden personality of spreading out of control. Common spreaders that are still garden favorites include…

  • Mint
  • Lamb’s ears
  • Lily-of-the-Valley
  • Beebalm
  • Loosestrifes

Any plant that is labeled as “fast growing” or “aggressive” can potentially take over a garden space and should be treated with caution if you want to keep it contained.

Literal Containing

Containing a known spreader could be as easy as planting it in its own container. Ceramic, metal or resin pots certainly put a punch of color in a corner, on a deck or by the front entrance. They’re also great for adding plant height and focal points in the garden, and they will ensure the plant stays put.

Perhaps a touch of whimsy would add pizzazz to your garden while controlling your marauder. Picture your potential runaway planted in a pot, “sitting” in a hole cut in the seat of a painted and weather-sealed wooden chair. This creates a colorful garden focal point, elevates your beauty and keeps it from spreading. Another quirky option is to use an old, rusty wheelbarrow as the container and position it near the garden or inside a flowerbed. It can be fun to get creative with container options, all of which will help you enjoy your favorite spreading plant without letting it get out of control.

Containing Plants in the Garden

If you want the potential invader in the ground, research the plant well before introducing it to your garden. Different plants require different control measures. Mowing to eliminate new growth controls some plants. Herbicide applications can have an effect on others, while some require hardscaping to control their roots and keep them in place. Some plants may not give in easily to any control methods.

For the Most Vigorous Runners

In cases where plants are nearly assured to take over without proper control methods, trench containment may be the best option.

  • Determine where you would like to plant, bearing in mind the needs of the plant for proper sunlight, moisture and soil condition.
  • Dig a trench 26-30 inches deep along the boundary of the planting area that you wish to contain.
  • Line this trench with a high-density polyethylene liner, leaving 2 inches of the liner above the soil line.
  • Overlap the end of the liner by at least 6-8 inches to that the plant root cannot escape through the opening.
  • Backfill the trench to secure the liner and hold it firmly in place. If desired, you may fill the trench with gravel or other inorganic material to create another level of containment protection.
  • Plant inside the growing area, taking care not to disturb the containment trench.
  • Periodically, check the edges of the trench liner to be sure the roots don’t try to climb over the barrier. If they are, be ruthless and cut them back.

Left to their own devices, vigorously spreading plants can quickly become a nightmare as they take over a garden or landscape. If you know how to contain these plants, however, your dreams of nurturing them in your yard can come true.

Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses can reduce your watering costs, lessen your mowing time and increase the interest level of your garden. No matter what your garden’s needs, there’s a grass to solve it. From short ground covers to tall bamboo, there’s something for every site.

About Ornamental Grasses

Generally defined as “a plant with narrow upright leaves growing from the base,” ornamental grasses come in different sizes, shapes, colors and with differing growing requirements. While they may be cut to the ground each year, they are not mowed regularly, and work well as borders, specimen plants or part of coordinated beds. When choosing an ornamental grass for your site, consider the following:

  • Size
    Some beautiful grasses are just inches tall. Others, such as bamboo, grow to 20 feet or even taller. A shorter grass is a perfect edge for a walkway or to border a flowerbed, while a taller grass provides screening or background height.
  • Deciduous or Evergreen
    The winter form of a grass can be very different from its summer form. Evergreen grasses do not die back in the winter, their form remains the same. Winter colors may change and provide interest. Deciduous grasses die back or lean over. Consider the plant’s use when choosing between deciduous and evergreen. If using a grass as a screen, deciduous may not be a good idea.
  • Running or Clumping
    Clumping grasses stay where they planted, and as they grow, the overall plant width increases. However, a running grass sends runners through the ground to grow another grass plant. Sometimes this can be up to 6 feet away. This is advantageous when using the grass as a groundcover or trying to fill in a larger area. Clumping grasses can be divided if they become too large for the site.
  • Color
    Ornamental grasses are available in many colors, including variegated shades with contrasting edges. Additionally, many grass colors change throughout the year. Blues, reds, greens, yellow and variegated shades work well in different situations. A gold or white-hued grass can brighten a dark corner, whereas a dark green grass may be a perfect backdrop for smaller colorful plants.
  • Growing Requirements
    Sun, water, wind and soil requirements vary among grasses. Some require full sun; others grow best in the shade. Some grasses are ideal in rain gardens or wet soils, while others thrive best in drought conditions. Some don’t mind a breezy location, while others need to be more protected. Some prefer a rich, organic soil, while others will look great even in poor soils. And, of course, there are grasses for every range in between.

Before going to the garden center to purchase an ornamental grass, make a list of your requirements. You may want a short grass to line a walkway in full sun with sandy soil. Alternatively, you may need a grass to fill a dry and shady corner. Perhaps you would like to watch a grass clump emerge in the spring, grow to 6′ tall, change colors through the summer and harvest dry seed heads for an autumn arrangement. Choosing the correct grass ensures the beauty of your garden for years to come.

Jump Start Your Pond

Are you ready to get your pond started up for another beautiful spring and summer? It can be a big job to rejuvenate such a large water feature so it remains balanced and healthy after a long, harsh winter, but with a few careful steps, your pond can be back in shape in no time.

When to Reopen Your Pond

It is important that you don’t try to get your pond started too early in the season. All risk of hard freezes should be long past, and even nightly frosts should be tapering off or already finished before you restart your pond. The exact time will vary based on your pond’s size, depth and location, as well as your ambient weather conditions and the pond’s overall ecology. For example, a smaller, shallower pond in a sunny area will be warmed up and ready to restart before a larger, deeper pond in a shady spot. It can be helpful to keep a journal or calendar from year to year to note when you reopened your pond and how successful your efforts were. In time, you’ll be able to adjust your calendar easily without risking the health and wellness of your pond, even if annual conditions change.

Easy Steps to Restart Your Pond

When you are ready to jump start your pond…

  • Remove the netting that was set in place last fall. If needed, clean and make repairs to the netting right away so it will be ready to use next fall. Store it safely where it will be easy to reach when needed again.
  • Remove excess sediment from the bottom of the pond with a vacuum or a net. It is not necessary to remove every bit of sediment, but most of the debris should be removed so the pump can function effectively.
  • Test last year’s pump and replace if necessary. Be sure to test any additional moving or electrical features, such as waterfalls, fountains or lighting around the pond so repairs can be made if needed.
  • If water level is low, add fresh water to desired height. Avoid overfilling the pond, however, which can disrupt the essential chemical and microbial balance that keeps the pond healthy.
  • Add de-chlorinator as necessary to remove heavy chemicals from the water that has been freshly added to the pond. As with any chemical treatments, be sure to test the water several times to be sure you reach the proper balance.
  • Place aquatic plants in the pond and begin fertilizing to meet their nutritional needs. These may be plants that you’ve overwintered in a safe location, or you may choose to add new or exotic plants in late spring.
  • Begin feeding fish when water temperature stays above 55 degrees. Keep feedings minimal at first as fish come out of dormancy, as excess food will only rot and lead to greater bacteria and algae growth in the water.

It is perfectly natural for your pond water to turn green at first, but with the proper plants it should balance itself out in no time. It may take a few days or even a couple of weeks for your pond to return to its healthy, active state, but if you’re restarted it properly, you shouldn’t have any major problems.


Beetle Mania

It’s hard to forget the years that we’ve been plagued with Japanese beetles. These ravenous creatures can destroy your lawn, garden and good nature in one season by eating away precious time and money invested in our landscapes. As they know no boundaries, Japanese beetle control methods are most effective if neighborhoods band together in their efforts. So, rally the troops!

Identification & Damage

Japanese beetles are a problem at two stages of their life cycle: larvae and adult. The larvae, called grubs, are actively feeding from August through October and again in April through May. It is during this time that the grubs are closest to the soil surface feasting on plant roots, especially grass roots. A heavy grub population will result in dead patches of turf that can be lifted like a carpet. Japanese beetle grubs are 1 & ½” long, C-shaped and white with a brown head. When gardening, you will almost always find some grubs in the soil. Small populations of grubs can be present in the soil without significant damage to the lawn. If you notice more than a dozen per square foot, however, this constitutes a problem that should be dealt with.

Adult Japanese beetles have a hard-shell body that is about ½ inch long. They are metallic-green and copper-colored. At this stage, beetles can decimate a plant in record time by skeletonizing the leaves – nibbling off all the foliage between the veins. Adult beetles start to emerge from the soil with a frenzy of feeding, mating and laying eggs. You will find adults feeding in groups in full sun, and they feed on over 300 different species of plants. These insects maintain this frantic level of activity through the first half of August. The females lay their eggs on the ground. When the eggs hatch they dig their way into the soil to feast on plant roots in preparation for winter. As soil temperatures decrease the larvae move deeper into the soil only to resurface and feed on plant roots again in spring.

Beetle Control Methods

There are several methods to control both Japanese beetle grubs and adults, some environmentally-friendly and some more harshly chemical. Always read pest control labels in their entirety even if they are listed as organic or environmentally-friendly. These labels are meant for the protection of you, your plants and the planet.

Environmentally-Friendly Adult Beetle Control

Effective options for controlling adult Japanese beetles with the least harm to plants and the landscape include…

  • Manual Removal – Pick off and destroy the feeding adults even if you see just a few. Japanese Beetles produce pheromones that will attract many more to your property, so it is best to pick them off and destroy them right away.
  • Use Non-Attractive Plants – If you have a shade garden you will not have a problem with Japanese Beetles. In sunny areas, choose plants that beetles don’t like (they actually do exist).
  • Trap – Pheromone traps lure adult beetles, sometimes hundreds a day, and trap them in a disposable bag. Replace the bag as necessary. Place trap at least 20 feet from the plantings that you are trying to protect to lure the beetles away.
  • Row Covers – Floating row covers of reemay fabric may be placed over plants to avoid beetle damage by keeping the beetles from accessing the plants.
  • Pyrethrins – These insecticides are naturally derived from the pyrethrum daisies. Pyrethrins attack the insect’s central nervous system, producing a rapid knockdown. The residual effect, however, is only 5 days, so several applications may be needed to control severe infestations.
  • Insecticidal Soap – This soap is a contact kill with no residual control, but can be useful for smaller infestations or few beetles.
  • Neem Oil – This oil is an organic control that repels Japanese beetles. Spray early in morning or on an overcast day. Because neem is an oil, you may burn plant leaves if spraying in full sun.

Chemical Adult Beetle Controls

When using any chemical controls, read the product label completely and follow application instructions meticulously. It is a good idea to use a spreader sticker so that the chemical will adhere to the plant for the greatest effect. Popular chemical options to control adult Japanese beetles include…

  • Sevin – This chemical is absorbed through the skin and will kill beetles on contact. It has a 7-10 day residual effect but must be reapplied after a rain. Consult label for recommended time that fruit and vegetables may be consumed after application.
  • Pyrethroides – Synthetic pyrethrin-like insecticides kill on contact and have an 8-10 day residual effect. Fruits and vegetables may be consumed in a shorter time period after application than Sevin.
  • Acephate – This systemic control works by poisoning the plant. The insect dies when the plant is ingested. Must not be used on edibles.
  • Malathion – This chemical must be ingested by the insect, however, this product may be used on edibles. Check label for number of days between last application and safe harvest.
  • Imidacloprid – Sold as a liquid form of Merit, this product is systemic and must be applied at least 20 days before anticipated adult Japanese beetle feeding. Only one application is needed per year. Use only on ornamentals.

Environmentally-Friendly Grub Control

For truly effective Japanese beetle control, it is also necessary to control the grubs. This can be done in a number of environmentally-friendly ways, such as…

  • Milky Spore – This biological control effects only Japanese Beetle grubs. Once this bacteria is established it can last in the soil for up to 20 years. It is completely harmless to people, pets, birds, fish and beneficial insects. Apply anytime the ground is not frozen.
  • Beneficial Nematodes – These microscopic worms kills grubs by feeding on, and reproducing in, the grub’s body. This is an excellent choice for a vegetable garden and should be applied after the soil is warm. Late summer/early fall application is best.

Chemical Grub Control

Chemical controls can also be effective at minimizing the harm from Japanese beetle grubs. Good options include…

  • Merit – The granular form of this chemical is a systemic, season-long grub control with a 4-month residual effect, though it must be ingested by the insect. It is applied 3-4 weeks before grubs are actively feeding, mid-May through mid-June. Must be watered-in within 24 hours of application.
  • Dylox – This compound is absorbed through the grub’s ‘skin’ and will kill within 24 hours of application. Use only in late summer through early fall while grubs are still close to the soil surface. Must be watered in. It is active for up to 7 days in the soil.
  • Sevin – In its granular form, Sevin is a contact kill and will not remain active in the soil longer than 7 days. This product is used most effectively from mid-August through mid-October. Must be watered in.

With so many options for effectively controlling these pernicious insects, there is no reason why you need to keep being bothered by Japanese beetles. Once you know more about these insects and their habits, you can easily keep them away.

Try Something New: Pomegranates

Want to grow an exotic fruit that is delicious, nutritious, beautiful and incredibly hip? You really should consider planting a pomegranate! It’s not as difficult as you may think.

Why Pomegranates are Popular

Pomegranate is a stunning superfood rich in antioxidants, folic acid and vitamins A, C and E. It has no cholesterol, and is also rich in fiber and potassium. Because of these nutritional advantages, pomegranate is showing up in a multitude of supermarket products like yogurts, juices, salad dressings, jellies and desserts. It can be added to sauces, fruit crisps, salsas, relishes, dips and more. You can even make a pomegranate martini! And, of course, it’s an extraordinary experience eating a fresh pomegranate. These are stunning, delicious fruits that are rarely seen in backyard gardens, but can make a great landscaping statement when properly grown.

Growing Pomegranates in the Landscape

Pomegranates grow as multi-stemmed, small trees or large shrubs. They reach 15 feet tall by up to 15 feet wide. In spring, vibrant, gorgeous orange-red flowers grace the branches of this plant. These beautiful blossoms develop into the luscious pomegranate fruit containing dozens of tart and tangy bright red seeds and pulp. The fruit ripens somewhat square in the early fall and has a leathery skin that can be yellow to red in color.

The cultivar ‘Wonderful’ is hardy to zone 7 and is easy to grow. Plant your tree in full sun. It will thrive in the summer heat and in most soils. Pomegranates are drought tolerant, however, the fruit is better and the seeds more plump with regular deep irrigation. Because this fruit tree is self-fertile, there is no need to plant a second one for pollination.

Enjoying Your Pomegranates

If you’ve never cut your own pomegranate, it can be frustrating to learn how to separate the juicy seeds from the husk and membrane. To access the seeds…

  1. Cut off the crown of the fruit.
  2. Score the leathery husk in quarters from stem to crown end.
  3. Set the scored fruit in a bowl of cool water and let soak for a few minutes.
  4. Hold the fruit under water and break scored sections apart with your fingers, separating the seeds from membrane. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl.
  5. Discard the skin and membrane.
  6. Drain the seeds on paper towels.
  7. Toss pomegranate seeds into your salad, mix them in your yogurt or smoothie or shake them into a martini and enjoy!