toadflax-frostWinterizing the Yard

Here in the north country, we face the inevitable in November and December every single year ‐ cooling temperatures and possible snowfall.  As the temperature drops, you may be tempted to spend more time indoors curled up next to a cozy fire.  If you have a lawn, garden or landscape bed, however, there are a few things you should do first to help your plants make it through the winter and be ready for spring when it comes.

  • Rake up and dispose of thick layers of leaves on your lawn

A few leaves on your lawn won’t hurt, and may even help the grass if they’re broken into small pieces and decompose over the winter.  A thick carpet of leaves, however, can become compacted over time and can suffocate the grass below. This will cause the health of your lawn to deteriorate.  Instead, rake or blow large amounts of leaves from the lawn. If you need help, Toadflax Lawn Maintenance is only a phone call away.

  • Use leaves from your lawn as mulch

Although large amounts of leaves are best kept off the lawn during the winter, they can be of use in other areas of your yard.  Put raked leaves into the compost pile and let them decompose with other yard waste over the winter.  Or, spread them evenly throughout your flower beds, providing a winter blanket for your gardens and adding valuable organic material back into the soil as they decompose.

  • Watch for browning needles on conifers

As temperatures approach freezing and below, it’s normal for some conifers to show browning of the needles, especially towards the interior of the plant.  This can be unsightly and it is okay to remove the dead areas with pruners.  Or, if you just leave them alone and let nature take its course, the dead areas will fall to the ground on their own and you can dispose of them then.

  • Remove dead plants & trim perennials

As the weather turns colder, most annuals begin to die.  Removing the unsightly plants from your garden not only improves the look of the garden but it will also make your spring cleanup job easier.  Perennials in the same area may look dead too.  This is because their top growth dies back, but it does not mean that the entire plant is dead.  Go ahead and remove the dead growth and place mulch around the root ball to help protect it from the extreme winter temperatures.  Don’t cover the center of the plant, however, as this could cause it to rot and die.

  • Take care of potted plants

Many people enjoy the looks of potted perennials or tropical plants throughout the growing season.  These need to be prepared for winter, however, or they won’t survive the colder temperatures.  Perennials can be left in their pots outside, but place them in a sunny area and cover the pots with mulch to provide similar insulation to what they would have if they were planted in the ground.  Tropical plants, however, will not survive in this climate if they are left outdoors during the winter.  They can remain in their existing pots but should be brought indoors and placed in an area where they have plenty of light.  They will still need to be watered throughout the winter, but not as frequently, and they won’t need to be fertilized again until spring.

  • Plant more perennials

As long as the ground isn’t frozen, it’s usually safe to plant perennials, trees and shrubs in the fall.  Planting them early in the fall versus later, however, will give them more time to become acclimated to their new surroundings and establish roots before the winter weather hits.

  • Keep turning the compost pile

If you’ve made your own compost pile from yard waste and/ or household food scraps, it’s just as important to maintain it throughout the winter as it is to do so in the spring and summer.  The internal temperature of the pile will be cooler during the winter months, however, and result in slower decomposition of the organic material in the pile.  You can help raise the internal temperature by continuing to turn the pile and also covering it with a thick layer of fall leaves.  The leaves will add more nutrients to the organic matter as they decompose and will also insulate the pile.

  • Plant a cover crop

If you are like many gardeners, you plant your vegetable garden in the same place each year and just till up the ground each spring before planting time.   Even with crop rotation, however, your garden soil can become depleted of essential nutrients over time.   To combat this, add nutrient‐rich soils and fertilizers each year when you prepare your garden, or plant a cover crop in the fall. Cover crops can add vital nutrients and replenish what has been removed from the soil.

  • Take care of gardening tools and equipment

Remove any water from sprinklers, hoses, and irrigation systems.  Otherwise, water left in them will freeze and may cause them to crack or burst.

  • Evaluate your gardening efforts

Once your outdoor spaces have been prepared for winter, it’s a great time to start thinking about what you want to do next year.  Start by evaluating what worked best this year and what could be improved to provide even better results next season.  Winter is the perfect time to look through gardening books or talk to our gardening professionals here at Toadflax Nursery to get new ideas and inspiration, either for your existing gardens or new ones.

10 Simple Tips for How to Garden in Small Spaces

If you live in an urban area, don’t want the maintenance of a big garden, or simply don’t have the space for very many plants, your green thumb might need a little help growing the garden of your dreams in the space that you have. With the right design and the proper planning, however, you can do a lot with small space gardening. Here are some helpful tips to get you growing:

1. Decide what to grow

Choose appropriate plants for where you are going to plant them. Some plants must be planted side by side, while others, such as climbing vines, can be planted vertically, giving you color and texture and saving space at the same time.

2. Decide where to grow

If you live in a city apartment, you may only be able to grow plants on your porch or balcony, but if you have a small yard, you may be able to plant directly in the ground. Growing can be successful in either place but location does affect what varieties of plants you can grow.

3. Watering considerations

All plants need water so determine where you will get it from before you plant. Ideally, choose a growing place that is close to an outside water source or not too far from your door if you have to water with a watering can.

4. Decide how to grow

Some plants take a long time to produce either flowers or fruit, while others take less. Decide ahead of time whether you want to plant something that will grow and produce all season, or whether you want to rotate crops. This is true for both flowers and vegetables.

5. Planting budget

Determine how much you want to spend and then find the best price. Sales around holidays such as Memorial Day, Father’s Day, or July 4th are great for saving you a little money.

6. Time and maintenance

If you’re short on time as well as space, choose plants that require less for daily maintenance, are drought and disease tolerant, and can be planted in pots where weeding will be less of a concern.

7. Function or beauty

Before shopping, decide whether you want plants that provide function, beauty, or both. For example, some lilies are beautiful to look at but can also be put on top of salads so you get two-for-one in the same space.

8. Plan for sunshine or shade

Pay close attention to how much sun your chosen garden spot gets every day and at what time of day it gets it. This will help you choose whether you need to buy full-sun plants or ones that are shade tolerant.

9. Use existing structures

Look at how you can add to or enhance existing landscape features. Planting vines that grow up a wall or annuals around an existing lawn statue can provide more color and texture without taking up a lot of space.

10. Have fun

Gardening should be enjoyable so have fun with it! Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time- evaluate what works and what doesn’t and soon you’ll be gardening like a pro!

Now, it’s time to get to work! Following these simple tips will get you growing in the right direction but if you still need a little help, give us a call or stop in to the garden center.    

Survival of the Fittest Garden

So, you’ve made it through an upstate winter and hopefully, your garden area did too. With the snow and ice and rain that we get during the winter months, many people look forward to as a way to put it all past them. But for some, their gardens aren’t as successful as what they could be because they lack a bit of knowledge when it comes to summer gardening tips. We have put together some of the most important tidbits of information that will help transform your “just ok” garden into a flourishing success this summer.

Preparation for your garden this summer is the key. Summer weather varies from region to region, so knowing what temperatures and time frames you have to work with will help, as well as what varieties of plants or vegetables will do well is also important. Then comes time to plot your space and prepare it. Putting in a little extra effort before you plant will make a big difference. Ready for 12 specific tips? Keep reading.
  • Pay attention and care for your budding plants. Many folks overlook their budding plants and focus only on those which have bloomed or blossomed. Ignoring your buds can often lead to sudden loss of potential flowers and dried up buds, especially those in containers. Mulch and water deeply once or twice weekly during hot, dry weather to limit this common and irritating problem.
  • Potted plants, especially terracotta pots, need to stay cool. You can help them by lightly mulching them and moving them out of the hot, western sunshine. Standing potted plants actually, should not sit in water saucers because those can promote mosquitoes and root rot. A better option is to set them in sand saucers and to keep the sand moist. Have you ever tried to water potted plants or hanging baskets but just couldn’t get them back? Instead of pouring water and more water, try soaking them in a bucket of water for half an hour and then drain. Good tip!
  • The time you water is essential in avoiding mildew with your plants. Always remember to water early in the day! However, if that isn’t possible, just be sure to leave enough time in the day for the water to dry out before the sun sets for the night. This reduces the risk of mildew and other fungi attacking leaves, and there’s less chance you’ll get caught by the evening shift of mosquitoes or sandflies.
  • Add nutrients to your water and you’ll feed your plants and correct mineral deficiencies. There are so many combinations to use.
  • Avoid cutting your lawn down too low. Keep it long and lush this summer. Brown, bare, weed-infested lawns are symptoms of scalping, which means cutting lawns too low. It’s a misconception that cutting lawns low reduces the cutting frequency. Longer grass wears better and is stronger, and it will also serve as protection from weeds getting through.
  • Keep the water flowing! Check your equipment like hoses and irrigation systems for leaks or clogs. Water is essential for good summer gardening.
  • Put in some extra work when the temperatures are cooler. There are always days during the summer that feel like a gift – the temp drops a bit. Those are the best days to do some manual labor and you’ll thank yourself after. Mow in the cool parts of the day too.
  • Protect your new plantings. Newly planted vegetable or flower seedlings may need a bit of sun hardening. One good tip is to shelter them with 50 per cent shade cloth, old net curtains, dead palm fronds, or leafy branches for a week or two. This helps them establish without harm.
  • Plan out shade with a purpose. Some plants need more than others. Plan, plan, plan!
  • Boost trace elements. For example, magnesium promotes growth and the production of energy in plants. It can also help initiate flower budding. Add 1 heaped tsp of Epsom salts to 4.5L of water. Either spray the foliage or water it in at the roots. It’ll take some time but you can always read your garden’s needs.
  • Pay attention to pests! Termites, earthworms and many others can ruin your garden instantly. Always watch for signs of pest species and keep garden tools with wooden handles, hardwood stakes and other timber temptations off the ground.
  • Use your time wisely. You won’t be able to place everything you want in your garden (likely) and if you try, you may not have enough time or energy to properly take care of it. Be realistic and do your best with what you do plant. Gardening is a great hobby and you’ll enjoy the benefits. We hope these tips can get your summer gardening off to a great start!

It’s Time for Mulch!

Toadflax-Mulched-Beds We know just like you do that landscaping can be hard work. There’s a lot that goes into making your yard and garden perfect. You do hours of prep work, you plan, you purchase flowers, plants, and bushes that will (hopefully) thrive in your hardiness zones or sunlight amounts and you take care of them over time. It culminates into a beautiful yard and prosperous garden that you’re proud of. But … don’t forget to mulch!

Why should you use mulch?

Mulch is great for a number of reasons; it is good for your plants and will also save you labor. All in all, it reduces evaporation, slows weed growth, improves soil quality, and makes your gardens look more attractive. Mulch helps to reduce water loss from the soil. It slows evaporation and improves water absorption when it rains, or you turn on the sprinkler. Plus, when you think of all it saves, it’s well worth the money you’ll spend, since mulch is pretty reasonable. It really isn’t just a bunch of wood chips!

What kinds of mulch are there?

There are many options to choose from, and each come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Your area, crops and landscaping needs should be discussed with your nursery professional, but here is some standard information we hope you find helpful: Multi Color Mulch Beds
  • Organic mulch is a great starting point because it decomposes and improves the soil around it. An aged-organic mulch (partially decomposed wood products) will improve the soil and encourage all-around plant growth.
  • Fresh organic mulch, composed of wood chips and bark, is good when you want to control weed growth or improve the appearance of the landscaping, but you don’t need soil improvement. We suggest using this around trees or shrubs. This type of mulch will typically last longer than an aged-organic mulch, which is another advantage of going fresh.
  • Stone mulch is good to use in areas to stabilize a garden or to prevent washout (hills). This type of mulch is also useful in improving the appearance of your garden area.
  • There are many colors of mulch to consider too! Dark brown, brown, reddish, gold-dyed and so many variations. Colorfastness varies by each, however, gold-dyed mulches will keep their color the longest.

Will the mulch work anywhere you put it?

Unfortunately, just like most gardening or landscaping situations, mulch may fail to do its job in certain places. If you put mulch in a very damp, low area, it will retain too much water and your plants won’t flourish. Sometimes they’ll encourage an overpopulation of slugs and other pests that’ll eat or harm certain plants. So, be mindful of where you put your mulch.

Will mulch stop weeds from growing?

Mulch won’t stop weeds from growing completely, but if you apply it at the appropriate depth, then it can help prevent many weed seeds already in the soil from germinating and growing. However, it won’t stop weeds that have already rooted. We recommend that you pull out any visible weeds before mulching. As with anything, a little maintenance will be required but much less than without mulch. Toadflax Tree Mulch

How much mulch is recommended?

We recommend about a 4-inch depth for normal areas or a 6-inch depth for wood and stems to prevent rot. You can also use our online landscaping calculator to see the total amount you’ll need to purchase. Whether you are an experienced gardener, or just starting to get your feet wet and your thumb green, mulch will be a great benefit to you. You’ll have less watering, weeding, fertilizing and general maintenance. We have many types, colors and recommendations for you. Come on in – it’s time to mulch!