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.

Deer‐Resistant Perennials and Useful Tips for Planting in the Northeast

You take pride in your landscaping and we take pride in ensuring you, our valued  customers, have a positive experience in creating beautiful areas on your property.

We also know that in this area, we experience issues with deer feeding on our plants and flowers. We have compiled a list of deer‐resistant perennials, as well as some useful tips and options for keeping deer away. A deer‐resistant perennial is defined as a perennial plant or flower that deer may overlook and not eat in favor of a more preferred plant. Some deer‐resistant perennials are:

Broom (Genista tinctoria ) ‐ 3′ tall and wide, zones 3‐8, full sun. Conical‐shaped panicles up to 3″ long of golden yellow flowers adorn this deciduous shrub from spring to early summer. Adapts to poor soil.

Siberian Iris (Iris siberica) ‐ 28″ tall, zones 4‐9, full sun. Beautiful, grassy foliage makes a good contrast in any garden. Drought resistant but also does well in moist soil. Once established, there’s no weeding these expanding clumps.

Juniper (Juniperus sp.) ‐ Grows to a height of 3 to 10 feet with an equal spread. Form can be variable from low and spreading to an erect shrub. Cones are berry‐like. Leaves are evergreen needles but can turn light brown during the winter. Tolerant of a wide variety of soils. Grows best with full sun. Zones 2‐6. Native.

Peony (Paeonia sp.) ‐ 30‐36″ tall, zones 3‐8, full sun to part shade. Variety of colors, bloom times range from spring to early summer. Stunning cut flower. Avoid planting your peony too deeply and be patient with it as it can take a few years to settle in before it begins to flower ‐ the blooms are well worth the wait!

Oriental Poppy (Papaver Orientale) ‐ 30″ tall, zones 3‐7, full sun. Make your neighbors jealous with this superbly beautiful flower. Deeply cupped satiny petals, each with a pure black center, are borne above toothed, hairy foliage. Oriental poppies love to be planted in the fall for bloom the following spring. They love rich soil, feeding, and regular watering.

Potentilla (Potentilla cinquefoil) ‐ 2‐3′ tall, 5′ wide, zones 3‐7, full sun. White, pink, or yellow flowers throughout the summer. Blue‐green foliage, spreading habit. The name comes from the Greek word “potens,” meaning powerful, from reputed medicinal qualities. Enjoy the summer‐long flowering qualities of these selections and your deer will leave the taste testing to the drug companies. These tough, deciduous shrubs thrive in almost any soil.

Spiraea (Spirea sp.) ‐ Grows 2 feet high with 3 to 4 feet spread. Early bloomer with luxurious shows of white flowers. Yellow‐red new growth makes this spirea attractive all season. Best in full sun, tolerates shade, but will flower less. Moist soil. Zones 4 –8.

Ornamental Chives (Allium sp.) ‐ 6‐12” tall, zones 4‐9, full sun. Globe‐shaped flowers fascinate folks with their gravity‐defying structure. Even though many Alliums are all under a foot tall, they will catch your eye, accenting shrubs or borders. Foliage has enough onion smell to keep those deer at bay.

Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) ‐ Typically grows from 5 to 6 feet high but can reach 10 feet. Spreads easily and forms colonies. Foliage is semi evergreen, aromatic. Will grow well in dry, infertile, sandy, acidic soils. Grows best in full sun but will tolerate partial shade. Zones 2‐6. Native.

Other options include deer fencing, noisemakers, and deer repellents. Fencing seems to be the surest option, but selecting deer‐resistant perennials is highly recommended. Visit the Garden Center and our staff will help you pick the right perennial for the right place.

Fall Garden ChoresFall Gardening Chores Made Easy

We made it through the dog days of summer, and now the leaves are changing, and the temperature is dropping. Crisp days and cool nights are upon us, which means it is time to put your gardens to bed and finish up your fall gardening chores before the snow flies!

How to begin fall cleanup

The first thing to do is to take a quick look around your beds and start with a good clean-out. Leave ornamental and wildlife-friendly plants standing. Next, take out any unhealthy plants and destroy the debris to minimize next year’s issues with squash bugs, cabbage worms, and other pests and diseases. Now is also a good time to trim any dead or broken limbs. Doing it now, will save time later.  A hard freeze or heavy snow can break more branches and cause more damage during winter. Gather up and dispose of any dead leaves. Once crumbly after aging in a heap, they make great mulch, or can be turned into beds to add organic matter.

Fall lawn care tips

Take another look around and think about the lawn. It’s best to do heavy raking now as opposed to in the spring. If you notice spots of grass that are bare, throw down some seed and cover it with a half, or three-quarter-inch layer of compost. This will help to prevent weeds later and protect the seed. Now about those weeds, clean them up now! Getting rid of weeds now, means less seeds which translates into fewer weeds when the weather warms up again. This will make your spring weeding faster, and way more manageable.

Fall watering

If you are experiencing a dry fall, be sure to water trees now through the hard frost, so that they enter dormancy well-hydrated. Evergreens (needled ones and broadleaf types like rhododendron, too) are particularly vulnerable to desiccation and winter burn.

Look for ways to improve your gardens

Thoughtfully take apart the vegetable garden as crops fade, with an eye to improved future performance. Think about tilling less, about cover crops, and about generally boosting soil health. Make sure to protect or store weather-vulnerable pots and the tender plants in them. At a minimum, move pots under cover, where they will dry off to minimize the thaw effects of weather. Finally, look back at the season and see what worked well, and what can you change for next year. Maybe you need to expand your garden and reduce the number of trees and shrubs? Which plants did well, and which one might you trade out for something else next year? Enjoy your last tomato plant while watching old man winter make his way in. Spring will be here before you know it, so relax and enjoy this season of change.  

Beautiful Blooming Bulbs

Flowering BulbsThere’s nothing more exciting after a long winter than seeing little shoots of green popping up through the ground and new flowers showing their faces soon after. In order to have spring blooms, however, there’s some planning ahead that is required. Here are some of our favorite tips for choosing and planting bulbs that will make your spring yard a blooming paradise:

Choose quality bulbs

Beautiful blooms start with high quality bulbs. Be sure to check them for firmness and freshness (you want them firm and full, not mushy and moldy). In general, the larger the bulb the larger the bloom. Purchasing bulbs locally from the garden center will allow you to personally inspect them before you buy.

Pick the right planting area

Like any plant, bulbs require proper conditions in order to survive and thrive. Most prefer full sun and soil that drains well, both of which will help prevent bulb rot, but be sure to ask us if you are unsure of the ideal planting area for the bulbs you have chosen.

Plant at the proper time

What time of year you plant the bulbs is determined by when you want to see blooms. For early spring flowers, bulbs should be planted in the fall when the soil is cooler. For summer blooms, plant bulbs in the spring after the last frost date.

Plant at the right depth and position

One of the most common concerns regarding bulb planting is how deep and in which direction to plant them. In general, they should be planted in a hole that is two or three times the height of the bulb. Not every bulb is exactly the same, however, so be sure to read instructions carefully or ask us for help. If the bulb has a pointed end, plant it with that end up; otherwise, look for roots and they should be planted down.

Soil, water, and mulch

To ensure that your bulbs get the nutrients they need, add compost to the soil and make sure that the soil drains well. Furthermore, bulbs require watering, just like any other plant- just make sure they don’t stay too wet. Adding several inches of mulch on top of the planting area will help keep weeds at bay and won’t prevent the bulbs from poking through.

Best Perennial Ground Covers for Zone 5a

Best Perennial Ground CoverFew gardening areas are as daunting as U.S. Department of Agriculture Zone 5a, with its winter lows reaching -20 to -15 degrees Fahrenheit and short growing season. Even Zone 4 has specific needs and techniques for successful gardening. When looking for the best perennials for these zones, you typically want to look for plants that can handle low temperatures and extreme weather.

Virginia Creeper

Hardy in zones 3-9, this great plant has five-leaflet leaves, and displays a bright scarlet-red fall color. It attaches itself to any vertical support and climbs quickly, but on flat surfaces makes a dense ground cover that discourages weeds. It grows in sun or shade, and puts out greenish-white flowers in midsummer that are followed by ornamental but poisonous blue berries.

Snow-in-Summer

This ground cover grows 6-12 inches tall, and looks like a carpet of grayish-green foliage covered with white flowers in midsummer. It thrives in zones 3-7 in full sun and can tolerate both dry and moist soil.

Stonecrops

This beautiful little plant grows well in zones 4-9, forming a 1-2 inch mat of foliage in sun or light-shade, and has golden yellow flowers in spring.

Common bearberry

It’s a hardy, prostrate shrub with intricate branching that often forms mats up to 3 feet wide, by runners. Fragrant, white bell-shaped flowers tinged with pink are borne in May and followed later in the season by red berries. The common bearberry’s stunning red stems are studded with small, glossy, evergreen leaves.

Northern maidenhair fern

Northern maidenhair fern’s curved fronds have wiry black stems that wave in the wind. This plant spreads slowly (by branching rhizomes) and eventually forms large colonies. Its delicate texture looks most beautiful when paired with broad-leaved plants.

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the valley’s bell-shaped, sweetly scented flowers bloom in early spring. It likes partial to full shade and is perfect for a woodland garden. It may not be the best choice for your beds and borders because it tends to spread, but it is a perfect ground cover if you have a large shady spot under some trees.