« Back to all News

Archive for 2015

Which type of onion should I plant?

October 13th, 2015


Thinking about growing onions but not sure which variety to choose?

There are three types of onions grown for bulbs. They are short-day, intermediate-day, and long-day onions.

The type gives us an idea on the amount of daylight needed for the onion to start producing its bulb.

Short-day varieties start producing their bulbs when they receive between 10 and 12 hours of daylight. Intermediate-day varieties need between 12 and 14 hours of daylight. And long-day varieties need between 14 and 16 hours of daylight to start growing their bulbs.

So how does one figure out the amount of daylight they receive?

We’ll make it simple!

We know our days are either getting longer or shorter, depending on what part of the year we are in. In the northern hemisphere the days start getting longer around the 21st of December. Each day thereafter receives more daylight until around June 21, which is the longest day of the year. Because the northern hemisphere is tilting towards the sun during the winter months, the furthest northern states actually receive more daylight than southern states.

Best states for growing short day onions

Because the states to the south receive the fewest hours of daylight during the growing season, they should plant short-day varieties. If they try growing a long-day instead, it would never produce a bulb because it won’t receive the necessary hours of daylight to “switch on” its bulb production.

Best states for growing long day onions

Because they receive the most daylight during the growing season, northern states should plant long-day varieties. If they try growing a short-day variety, it would receive too much daylight before its leaf growth had finished, resulting in a very small bulb.

Best states for growing intermediate day onions

The states in between should grow the intermediate-day varieties. Depending on which mid-states, some short- or long-day varieties might grow well, too.

For complete onion growing instructions, read; How to Grow the Most Flavorful Onions

How To Grow Cucumbers

September 21st, 2015

Growing cucumbers from a trellis nettingCucumbers are a low-maintenance, high-yielding, low-calorie, nutrient-rich and scrumptious vegetable. Widely popular with home gardeners, cucumbers are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, with an assortment of selections adaptable to any gardeners space limitations.

Cucumbers When to Plant

Cucumbers are a warm-weather crop that, once established, should produce well into the fall. When putting out transplants, wait one to two weeks after your last frost date; seeds can be sown directly into the garden on your last spring frost date. You can find your average last frost date here.

Cucumbers Where and What Variety to Grow

To successfully grow cucumbers, you should choose a spot that gets at least 8 hours of sunlight daily and is easily accessible for watering. Once you’ve found the ideal location, space and personal preference will be the next factors to take into consideration. There are lots of cucumber varieties on the market:

  • Dwarf Cucumber Plants such as our Bush Crop Cucumber Plant, are the perfect cucumbers for container gardens or for very small garden areas. This is also a popular choice for schoolyard gardens. Their growth is more upright than vining, and they do not require a lot of space.
  • Semi-Dwarf Cucumber Plants such as our Fanfare Cucumber Plant, are also adaptable to container growing and will only take up a bit more space in your garden than a dwarf variety. They grow a little taller than vigorous varieties, but with vines about half the length.
  • Vigorous Cucumber Plants sometimes referred to as vining cucumber plants, will require the most room in the garden. Some vigorous varieties grow on vines reaching up to 6 feet (or sometimes longer) in length. The fruits are most often 8 to 12 inches long and will grow best upon trellises. Our most popular vigorous variety is the Garden Sweet Burpless Cucumber Plant.

Cucumbers How to Fertilize and Water

Cucumbers will grow best with adequate nutrition. Cucumber plants should be fertilized, preferably with an organic fertilizer, when first transplanted, again about a week after blooming, and then every 3 to 4 weeks afterwards. Use a low nitrogen fertilizer in order to avoid leggy, leafy, beautiful, but potentially fruitless vines.

Cucumbers also require consistent watering; inconsistent or negligent watering can result in bitter fruit. Water thoroughly two to three times a week, depending upon the climatic conditions in your area. Container plantings should be monitored closely and never allowed to completely dry out. Bear in mind that watering around the roots, as opposed to on the leaves, will provide the most efficient hydration to your vegetable plants and will help to prevent foliar diseases, mildew and leaf scorch.

Harvesting cucumbers from the gardenCucumbers When to Harvest

When choosing a variety, be sure to know the estimated number of days to maturity. Remember, this is just a guideline; Mother Nature may have her own agenda. Climatic conditions, soil health, moisture and disease can greatly affect your cucumber harvest in terms of time and yield. And, since cucumbers produce throughout the entire season, it is virtually impossible to gauge the number of days any specific cucumber has been on the vine.

Cucumbers at their peak will more easily separate from the vine when you harvest. If you really have to aggressively tug or cut the vine, you may want to wait a day or two. Its a good idea to wear gloves when picking cukes, as their skins and stems are covered with prickly spines that can usually be removed easily by simply wiping with a glove or cloth. Make sure the skins are smooth before serving!

Delaying harvest until a cucumber starts to turn yellow can result in bitter fruit. Though your cucumber variety may generally produce 8- to 10-inch fruits, there are always exceptions, so don’t go by size, but rather by appearance. Pick cukes just as soon as they ripen to encourage the plants to keep producing fruit. Store them in the fridge for one to two weeks, or prepare vinegar-based cucumber salads that will keep for up to a week when refrigerated. Canned pickles keep for weeks or months. The skin contains valuable dietary fiber and nutrients, plus it adds a lot of crunch, so leave the skin intact when eating raw or using in recipes for the most dietary benefits.

Cucumbers Companion Plants

All plants do not grow well together. For instance, cucumbers should be planted well away from tomatoes, sage and other aromatic herbs, such as lavender, mint or lemon grass.

On the other hand, vegetables such as radishes, beets and dill are good choices for planting in close proximity to your cucumber plants. Not only do they benefit your cucumbers when it comes to utilizing and providing needed nutrients, many of them will also help deter the most common cucumber pests, such as aphids, cucumber beetles, spider mites and pickle worms. Dill, for instance, will attract lacewings, which in turn will decimate an aphid population in short order. Lacewings will also eat the eggs of the cucumber beetle.

Growing cucumbers with marigold flowersMany flowers, such as nasturtiums and marigolds, are an effective form of pest control, naturally reducing the need to utilize chemical pesticides in your vegetable garden while adding an attractive border or colorful accent. Experts recommend planting the most pungent marigold varieties, such as French or Mexican marigolds.

The healthiest and most pest-free gardens will grow in a naturally beneficial environment. To learn more, you can read our article on Natural Pest Control.

Got photos? We’d love to see them!

Why Are My Pepper Plant Leaves Turning Yellow?

September 15th, 2015

Pepper plant leaves that are diseasedI bought habanero plants at a local greenhouse and planted them around Memorial Day. They are not looking good. Their leaves are yellow with small holes throughout. There are brown spots around the edges of the leaves and many leaves are falling off. Recently I have been watering them more often because they appear to be burnt up. I’m not sure what to do or what is wrong. Any suggestions?  Jessica

Answer: Jessica, I am sorry you are experiencing problems with your peppers.

Yellowing leaves on peppers usually denotes a lack of nutrients, such as iron, calcium, sulphur, etc. It can also mean you have an excess of nitrogen, something that can happen with too much watering. It’s hard to tell since under-watering and over-watering generally present similar symptoms. Over-watering will be displayed by lower leaves being the first to turn yellow while the veins are either green or dark brown. Chlorinated water can also cause yellowing of the leaves.

The holes could be caused by small sucking insects, usually flea beetles or white fly on peppers. You can use an insecticidal soap or Neem Oil on your vegetables at the first sign of infestation. The beetles will only attack the leaves but a large infestation that defoliates the leaves will weaken the plant. If it’s white fly, you will be able to see the little white flies on the underneath side of the leaves. Many insects overwinter in brush surrounding your garden, so it’s best to keep your garden area clear of debris.

Other diseases, like bacterial leaf spot, can cause both the yellowing and brown spots on the leaves. There is no cure for this but it can be treated with a fungicide that is labeled for Leaf Spot, it’s best to apply the treatment at the first sign of the disease. The copper will not kill the fungus but it controls the spores from spreading.

Southern blight could also be a culprit. You will see a sudden wilting of the foliage, yellowing of the leaves, then browning of the stems. There can also be a white fungus mat that will appear around the base of the plant. With any fungal disease, be sure to completely destroy any affected plant matter, and throughly clean any tools that have been in contact with the affected plants with a bleach solution. If you have a fungal infestation, do not plant any other members of the food nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or eggplants) in the same area the following year, as the fungus can remain in the soil and affect these plants the following year.

You can find lots of images on the Internet to help you determine which problem is affecting your plants and the best treatment to proceed with.

The unusual weather has presented many new growing challenges for gardeners. Peppers and most garden plants do best in loose, well-draining soil with thorough watering. Controlling fungus problems means not overwatering, allowing the soil around the plants to dry before watering again, and watering at the soil level without splashing water on the leaves. Allowing water to stand on leaves or in the surrounding area can introduce fungus to your plants. Remove and discard the yellow leaves and do not let them stay on the soil below the plant. Mulch around the plant with straw or other loose material to help keep the soil evenly moist, but do not use something like hardwood mulch, that can dry and become hard, causing the water to run off and not down to the plant.

Apply a good balanced vegetable fertilizer at recommended times to ensure new growth and bloom development.

Good luck with your plants and have a wonderful harvest.


How to Grow American Pillar Arborvitae Plants

August 13th, 2015

Growing arborvitae treesHere are some easy tips on how to grow American Pillar Arborvitae plants: These evergreen shrubs do best in deeply worked, fertile, well-draining soil. Till 10 in. deep; add 1 part peat moss or compost to 4 parts soil (increases drainage). The planting hole should be twice as wide as the root ball. It is best to plant shrubs in the fall after they become dormant (around early November) or in the spring before new growth (about late March).

Pronunciation: are-burr-VEE-tie or are-burr-VY-tee

Description: These fast-growing (3-4 ft. a year) evergreen shrubs with their tall, narrow shape make a great natural privacy screen. They can grow 25-30 ft. tall and 3-4 ft. wide. They are long-lived, have strong root systems, and can stand up to wind and ice. The dark green branches are very dense. American Pillar Arborvitae shrubs can be transplanted, even at a height of 12 ft.

Propagation: By semi-hardwood cuttings or by seed

Origin: Native to North America

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3a-8b

Companion Plants: Place American Pillar Arborvitae shrubs 2 ft. apart to create a natural screen for privacy or to block out noise or visual pollution.

Fertilizer: Like most broadleaf evergreen shrubs, Arborvitae prefers a slightly acid soil, with a pH from 5.5 to 6.0. It is best to have soil tested before planting. If there is less than 5% organic matter in the soil, amend soil by adding peat moss or compost. Newly planted shrubs need a water-soluble starter fertilizer to boost root growth. Check with your nurseryman for product specifics.

Sun/Light Needs: Full sun is best, but will grow in part sun to some shade.

Maintenance: Very low. 2-4 in. of mulch will hold moisture in soil.

Display/Uses: Adds privacy to yard or garden; screens out unwanted views; blocks noise. American Pillar Arborvitae can be grown as a hedge that needs only minimal pruning.

Wildlife Value: Deer resistant

Diseases/Problems: These shrubs are hardy, and mostly disease and insect-proof.


I Would Like To Plant Wildflowers In My Meadow

July 17th, 2015

Prairie Grass Growing In A MeadowHi, I have a meadow behind my house with really long prairie grass. I am in the process of killing the grass to make way for a wildflower meadow. My wife wants me to buy live plants so we get blooms right away.  I will supplement with seeds. I live in Wisconsin. I am hoping for a variety of colors and sizesideally taller flowers. What would you suggest? What is the most aggressive growing plant that you sell (not seed) that will have a high yield?  I have a large area to cover so I will need to buy a lot. Thanks in advance for your help.

Answer: First thing to consider is your Hardiness Zone, to make sure your choices will survive. Since you didn't mention where in Wisconsin you live, it could be anywhere from Zone 5a to 3b. You will also need to understand the soil situation in the area you want to convert. Does it stay consistently moist or dry, is it rocky or a clay mixture? This is known as the ecoregion and the success of your plantings will depend on knowing more about it.

Wildflower meadows will consist of both annual and perennial varieties but will also include native grasses that help to anchor the plantings. In addition, you will want to choose as many natives as possible to ensure they can survive the winters and have sufficient summers for flowering and seeding. The function of a wildflower meadow is to help feed your native bird and insect populations; the survival of many species of these populations is dependent on these types of plants. There are many cultivars of native species that are still beneficial to wildlife. Your local native plant society or your local extension office should be able to help.

Many annual flowering plants will grow and flower the same year from seed. It is their specific goal in life, so don't discount starting from seed. Planting of plugs will help to get perennials growing faster, for sure, but most perennials want at least a year or two in the ground before they really start to put on a show.

So, for seeds, you might want to consider one of our wildflower mixes. There are several varieties, and most of these are a combination of annuals and perennials. In some Zones there will be more that act as annuals, with some of the annuals reseeding themselves. Look through the listing of the mixes and compare the plants to our available annuals and perennials to purchase potted versions of the plants. Some definite perennials to consider are achillea (yarrow), amsonia, aquilegia, asclepias, baptisia, echinacea (coneflower), coreopsis, eupatorium, gallardia, lobilia, salvia, monarda, lupine, penstemon, phlox, nepeta, rudbeckia, and veronica.

For your annual options, look at the salvias and verbena. Most prairie or meadow-type annuals are best started from seed, so you will find most of those in the seed section. Check out ammi, calendula, centaurea, cosmos, gypsophila, larkspur, nicotiana, physostegia, poppy, salvia, sunflower, and veronica.

Don't be afraid to add in some native grasses, specifically the different cultivars of switch grasses: Pannicum virgatum. We carry several and they offer fabulous fall color and winter interest.

As with any wildflower planting, please check with your local county extension agents on what might be considered an invasive in your area. You don’t want any plants behaving like thugs and completely taking over your wildflower meadow.

This sounds like it will be a wonderful view once completed and established.

Happy planting,


Help Needed With Planning A Perennial Flower Garden

April 2nd, 2015

My spot for a flower gardenI live in Indiana and would like to add a lot of color using mainly perennials for the back corner and sides in this area, but I am happy to add some annual flowers.  I was also looking for some climbers or taller plants and grasses to go in the back, as well. I’m looking for this area to get bigger and brighter every year!

The picture was taken around 1:00 in the afternoon yesterday.  I was facing south when I took it. The semi-circle planter area on the left holds two large lilac bushes that did wonderfully last year! The fence in the back does reflect a small area of shade/shadow on the area.

I’m looking forward to your recommendations. Please let me know if you have any questions for me!

Myra M.



It's very hard to suggest plants since there are a few things you should consider before choosing. The basic question of any landscaper would be, what is your use for the space? Do you have children who need space or is this an adult area? Are there elements in the view from the house that you want to hide or distract your view from, such as the play equipment in the neighbor’s yard or perhaps some utility boxes? How much time do you have to devote to maintaining your landscape beds? Perennials, while not needing to be replanted each year, still require maintenance like pruning, watering and fertilizing. Do you have any water problems, such as soggy areas from water run-off from the house, or the oppositea place that is very well drained and stays dry? With the power lines, can you install trees, perhaps some low growing varieties?

Your six-foot fence is creating a micro-climate of shade, so the movement of the sun on those areas is particularly important. Full-sun plants will require a minimum of 6 hours of sun to perform well. Some plants are happy with morning sun and afternoon shade; others want it hot, hot, hot!  You’ll need to actually determine how much sun those specific areas get during the growing season, and then choose plants that have those light needs.

After you've determined all those aspects then you can start thinking about a focal point for the garden and various heights, textures and colors of plants. One way to get your plans flowing is to create a Pinterest board of ideas. Even if the plants are not hardy, it's pretty easy to match texture and color for your Zone 5 landscape garden. You can even go tropical if you want to deal with strictly annuals and wintering-over plants inside or replacing each year.

Look at the Google map view of your home and yard and think about the shapes of the areas you want to create. Nature never plants in straight lines, so get out your garden hose and figure out what you like and use some spray marking paint to draw it out. Make sure you don't create mowing obstacles when you line it out:  that's why the paint helps! When you create planting areas it's best to always enrich the soil with compost and organic matter first, before you’ve gotten all your plants in.

We have a huge selection of plants, so you can choose what fits best for your color palette and moisture and light conditions. Each plant description includes the conditions that suit it best, as well as the mature size and growth habit. If you want plants that will spread to fill in space, allow them generous room when you plant them. This is very important because many new gardeners tend to plant too close together and then wind up with an overcrowded area in a couple of years.  Choose from foliage you like and a floral color theme that fits your tastes.

Unless those lilacs are the dwarf variety, they will outgrow that small planter within a year or two. Lilacs will ultimately reach seven or eight feet in height and four or five feet across. Think of this when planting near a tall fence since planting too close will cause the plant to not be able to grow on the one side (no sun) and potentially become weak and decline! Bring your plants out far enough from the fence that they can reach their full width potential.

I hope this information has helped you feel confident in selecting plants you like and that will work in your growing conditions.

Happy spring and plant planning!


How To Keep My Petunias From Becoming Leggy

March 5th, 2015

Petunias growing in a patio containerHello. I love petunias and last summer I planted my patio planters strictly
with petunias. They looked gorgeous until the end of June, when the centers
of the plants (obviously the older part of the stems) became bare, resulting
in the tops of the planters looking bare and ugly. Is there a petunia variety that stays bushy, not leggy, and flowers continually? I’d like to know if there is.    Thank you, Susan M.

Answer: Most petunias need to be pinched back during the growing season and they need regular fertilization to keep them blooming all summer long. If you purchase them pre-planted in a basket, they have been pruned regularly to branch out and are constantly fed to be at the peak of blooming when you purchase them. If you have planted the basket yourself with individual plants, such as the ones we offer in our Annual Flowering Plants, trim off the top inch or so when planting. Be sure they are receiving a full 6 hours of sun to keep them blooming. Feed them once a month with a water-soluable fertilizer, and keep them evenly moist. As they start to become leggy, prune off about half of the stem, making sure you leave some of the leaves on the plant. This will rejuvenate them and encourage more growth and blooms. Some recommend doing this to a third of the plant on a weekly basis so it's constantly regrowing.  This should help to keep all the varieties flowering vigorously.

Happy Growing, Karen

Discount Coupons
Ask a Master Gardener