How To Plant Bare-root Strawberry Plants

October 14th, 2009

This short video shows how easy it is to plant bare-root strawberry plants, which are shipped each spring. After they are planted, remember to keep the soil moist around the strawberry plants for the next two weeks.

How to protect rose bushes during the winter

October 13th, 2009

knockout_roseI have new double knockout rose bushes. Please recommend a cover for our long winter where temperatures go as low as minus 20 F.  Thanks, Armande

Answer: For Zone 4 here are some general suggestions. First you want to make sure you have cleaned away any leaves or old mulch that might be left, eliminating over-wintering of any fungal spores. In Zone 4 it is suggested that after mid-October you spray the plants with a fungicide/dormant spray. After the first hard frost trim back the canes to a few feet.  You can also tie the canes together to keep the wind from blowing and breaking them. Then using mulch or wood chips mixed with soil, compost mound up about 10 inches over the graft or crown of the plant. You can continue adding mulch to a depth of 15-18 inches. Once the ground is completely frozen and mice are not a threat, you can continue to protect them by creating a fence around them and fill with straw, hay or strawy manure to a depth of 3 feet. Start the reverse process around April, removing the last layer, and add water. 

Rose cones can also be used but they are more expensive if you have a number of plants. For these you would want to wait until there have been several hard frosts and the roses are completely dormant. You will need to cut the canes back and tie together so they will fit completely under the cones. Mound your soil or mulch over the base of each rose. Punch 4-6 holes around the top to allow ventilation.  If the heat builds up inside, the rose might break dormancy too early. Before putting the cone over the rose, add some dry mulching material, such as leaves or straw. Make sure to weigh down the cones with a brick or heavy rock and mound some mulch or soil over the base of the cones. Remove the cones after the threat of hard frost is over in the spring. 

Knock-out roses are pretty hardy so either method should be fine; however, speaking from experience I find trying to wrangle roses into rose cones a bit of a pain, quite literally, so I prefer the fencing and mounding method for winter protection.

Best of luck with them.


Growing in containers in London

October 12th, 2009

rosemaryI am new to growing vegtables and herbs and I am looking for advice for the growing season.  I have a south-facing balcony and I am interested in what are the best fruit, vegtables or herbs to grow in a South-East UK climate. I am particularly interested in growing peppers and tomatoes but what else is there to grow from containers? What should I bring in for next year and when are they best planted? Thanks, David

Answer: Well, David, you’re pretty fortunate with the majority of the UK being Zone 8, a pretty temperate climate. I started out growing veggies on a balcony and while a bit of a challenge, I had pretty good luck.  Most herbs and vegetables should grow easily. If you’re just starting into gardening, stick with the basics. Almost anything can be grown in containers but if you want to try a zucchini or squash, look for some of the bush varieties since they will consume significantly less space on your balcony. There are also some smaller bush-like varieties of tomatoes.  For herbs, again you should be able to grow almost any in containers well, and in your climate Rosemary will even do well, and I really am jealous. Small plastic trash containers make good containers but remember to drill a hole in the bottom to allow for drainage. Look for “soilless”  potting mix as all that potting soil could get really heavy and I suppose you should also consider who is below you when the water runs off from the pots.

Good luck and happy gardening.


Crab apple tree problem

October 9th, 2009

crab_appleWhat should I get for a crab apple tree that bloomed in the spring but then dropped all the leaves in the summer and did not make fruit for the first time? It is an old tree. Thank you, Cindy

Answers: You do not mention what part of the country your crab apple tree is located in and what the weather conditions have been. Diagnosis is going to be difficult but here are some things to watch and check. There are only a few diseases and pests that bother crab apples, but if you had an overly wet spring your tree might have gotten attacked by Apple Scab, a fungal disease. It attacks emerging leaves in the early spring and then moves to the fruit. You would have seen dark olive green spots on leaves in May or June, turning black as the leaves matured. This can cause premature defoliation. Control will come in the spring when you apply fungicides as the leaves begin to emerge. I suggest you search the web for images of apple scab to determine this for certain and then for suggested fungicides if you feel it may have been affected. Fruit may have been damaged early and fallen, or weather conditions may have been such that flowers were not actively pollinated, causing fruit to not develop or to be insignificant. 

The Midwest had some very dry spells, causing many of the trees, including crab apples, to drop a significant amount of leaves as a means of self-preservation. If you have been experiencing such dry spells this could be the reason for the leaf drop, and possibly the lack of fruit if the dry spell was early in the season.

Also consider any environmental conditions that may have happened in the previous winter or summer that might have weakened the tree. Trees are often slow to react to stressors, so whatever has affected it might have happened a season or two earlier. Also if you have sprayed any herbicide around it in a more concentrated amount, it might have caused some stress to the tree.

You can check the branches to make sure sap is still flowing to them by carefully scratching the bark with your fingernail or a small knife.  You should see green in the layer just below the bark. If the branches are still green then the tree is still actively transporting vital nutrients to its outer limits, but at a reduced rate. It is currently setting bud for next spring.

Fertilizer should not be applied to the tree in the fall but in the early spring as the tree starts to move the sap up the tree. This time will vary for each zone so check online for the best time for your region. You will want to apply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer at that time.  This is one where the first number in the sequence is highest, such as 25-10-10.

For the moment there is not a lot you can do except make sure all the leaves are cleared away.  If it was apple scab you don’t want the fungus wintering over and recurring even worse next season, and make sure it has sufficient water through the fall season. Then wait to see what happens next spring. Hopefully it was just an environmental condition and will be beautiful again.

Best of luck,


Vacation All-Natural Anti-drought Treatment

October 6th, 2009

vacationImagine leaving for your long-awaited vacation with no worries.  Your work is caught up, your home is secured, your plants are cared for without a plant-sitter.  Yes, it's possible.

Houseplants and landscape plants that are accustomed to TLC when you're home can now be left unattended in your absence.  There is a product called Vacation All-Natural Anti-drought Treatment that takes all the worry out of watering while you're awaywhether it's a once-a-year vacation or regular business trips. Vacation gives plant lovers peace of mind.

Vacation All-Natural Anti-drought Treatment works this way:  it sends your plants into a state of temporary hibernation.  Your plants will be able to go up to two weeks without watering, because they're dormant until they receive water again.  Once you water them or they receive rain or irrigation, the effects of Vacation wear off and your plants return to their normal behavior.

You simply mix Vacation with water and apply the solution to the soil of your indoor and outdoor plants.  Then, they can go up to two weeks without another drop of water.   For all your plants, once you return home and give them a good drink, they wake up and slowly return to their normal moisture requirements.

Vacation is all-natural, biodegradable, and safe for use around children and pets.  The dormancy effects gradually wear off as plants once again receive watering.  Nothing could be easier to use, and it's way more cost-effective than hiring someone to water your plants as you travel.  If you're like many people, it's a comfort to know no one is in your home while you're away.   And it most certainly beats having to move your plants to someone else's home to be cared for.

Indoor plants have varying water needs, depending on the season, the amount of sunlight, and the moisture level in the air.  With Vacation Anti-drought Treatment, those fluctuations don't matter.  You'll find your plants exactly the same way you left them when you return.  If plants are in bloom, the flowers should be intact for that two-week period, as well.

Vacation is available in 8-ounce bottles and a little goes a long way, since it's mixed with water before application.  It's safe to use outdoors around wildlife.  Vacation Anti-drought Treatment can even be used on lawns.  Basically any plant that requires regular watering can benefit from this amazing and practical product.  Should it rain while you're gone, the effects of Vacation wear off and your lawn returns to normal moisture needs.  Consider Vacation for your cut Christmas trees, too.  It eliminates the need for adding water to the reservoir daily for up to three weeks!  Vacation Anti-Drought Treatment is one product that no plant lover should be without.

Guide for Fall Tree Care

October 2nd, 2009

fall_tree_careFall Tree Care

People tend to think of trees as a part of the landscapeas self-sufficient as brooks and almost as permanent as boulders. Yet trees can be quite vulnerable, especially when young. Extension educator David J. Robson likens trees to children and argues that in order for them to get off to a good start, they need the right kind of care, not just for the first few months but for the first few years. Make an investment in your trees, he writes, and hopefully they’ll be around in your old age.

So what do our trees need in order to live long, healthy, and productive lives? Not very much, it turns out: mostly just sufficient water and periodic application of fertilizer. Of course, certain trees will need to be pruned or trimmed, and newly planted trees might need to be staked. But that’s about it, unless a tree becomes diseased. But that’s all the more reason to give your trees good preventive care to keep them as healthy as possible.

Water Deeply and Weekly

Some people water their trees for the first couple months after they’ve been planted and then assume they’ll be fine after that. Actually, trees need to be watered for at least the first couple of years. The amount of water has to be right also: enough to penetrate to the roots, but not so much that the root systems become soggy or even rotten. If your area gets a substantial rainfall once a week, that should be sufficient, but if not, water your trees deeply on weeks when it has been dry. Also, try to get out and give your trees a last fall watering before that first freeze occurs, especially if they are conifers.

Established trees should be watered to a depth of six to eight inches around the perimeter of the thickest part of the root zone; newly planted trees need this kind of deep watering throughout the entire root zone. Either way, it amounts to a lot of water, especially considering that established trees have root zones that extend 1 1/2 to 3 times beyond the tree’s canopy.

One way to conserve water is to drive a few watering stakes around the perimeter of the canopy. These will deliver water directly to the tree roots without any being lost to run-off or evaporation. Watering stakes also improve soil aeration and enable fertilizer to penetrate deeply, making for stronger, healthier roots. You’ll find that you’ll be able to water less often for shorter amounts of time.

Fertilize Around the Root Zone

Fall is an excellent time to fertilize your trees. Professional arborists devise a fertilizer application schedule based on how quickly a tree is going, but it’s safe to say that your trees will probably need fertilizing in the fall, unless they are located in a forest where leaves and other organic matter are decomposing around them, or on a lawn that is being fertilized two or three times a year. In the former case, Mother Nature will provide the fertilizer, in that latter case, your trees will soak up enough lawn fertilizer to nourish them.

The procedure for fertilizing a tree is pretty straightforward: you just need a 3/4 inch piece of rebar at least two feet long, a heavy hammer, and a cup. Place the bar down at a point along the drip line of the tree and hammer it to a depth of about 18 inches. Pull it out, and continue making holes every three feet around the entire perimeter of the tree. After you’ve done that, move three feet inward and do the same thing; then move six feet outward and repeat the procedure once again. Finally pour about six ounces of fertilizer into each hole.

tree_toneThe tree fertilizer we recommend is the tried-and-true Tree Tone, made by Espoma, a company that has been producing organic fertilizers for eighty years. Espoma also makes fertilizer especially formulated for specific types of trees: both their Citrus Tone and Palm Tone are excellent.

Mulch To Keep Weeds Down

Mulching should be part of your fertilizing efforts: spread a doughnut of mulch six inches from each tree trunk extending out a couple of feet. Besides enriching the soil, mulch will keep weeds to a minimum and discourage the growth of fungi and other sources of disease.

The easiest source of mulch for tree owners are the fallen leaves themselves. Rake them up, or use a lawn sweeper,  and then run your lawnmower through the pile to shred them. You can also put them in a garbage pail and use a week whacker to break them up. Then mix them with grass clippings, shredded bark, wood chips, pine needles, or other compost. Put down a few layers of newspaper (no color print) and then apply the mulch on top. Repeat this procedure in the spring and summer.

Mulch_MatIf you want to avoid this step and opt for a more manicured look, try a mulch mat. Made from recycled rubber, these mats surround the tree trunk and resemble hardwood mulch. Like organic mulch, they impede weed growth and yet allow water and nutrients to pass through. Yet they will not be damaged by lawn mowers or trimmers. In fact, you can mow right over them. The only care they need is to be rotated a quarter turn once or twice a year.

Some people have environmental concerns over the use of ground coverings such as synthetic turf, but mulch mats will not shed any tiny pellets or other matter than could mix with your soil and contaminate it. They are all of one piece, and are so durable that they hold up for ten years or more. In any case, I have used them on my own trees, and would never want to do without them.

Protect Your Young Trees from Animals and Machines

If there’s a chance your young trees or shrubs might get damaged by animals or machinery, surround them with some protective material. Nowadays, lightweight products such as tree guards and Gardeneer® Tree Guard Protective Wrap are available that have replaced the wire mesh and hardwire cloth of the past. Wrapping the trunk with a commercial tree wrap such as Clark’s Tree Wrap will prevent sunscald. Put the wrap on in the fall and remove it in the spring after the last frost. Wraps should only be used on young trees.

Give Your Back A Rest

deluxe_sweeperFinally, we’d like to tell you more about the leaf sweeper we mentioned in passing earlier, because it’s such a unique and interesting new product. For generations, the rake has been the tool of choice for tree owners in the fall, and there’s certainly something to be said for getting the exercise. But raking can become a burden to elders, as well as to new parents and busy career folks and anyone who just doesn’t have the time to get out there and do it.

A leaf sweeper takes the hassle out of raking: you just push it over your lawn and it collects the leaves automatically into a bag. When the bag is full, you dump it, and then continue pushing it around your lawn, just like an old-fashioned push lawnmower, but easier. The only sounds you’ll hear will be the crunching of the leaves and the movement of the mechanical parts. It also works on driveways, sidewalks, and parking lots.

Seed starting problem

September 30th, 2009

spinach_samishI have planted carrots, radishes and spinach all from organic seeds from Lowe’s. They don’t seem to be growing after planting indoors or out. I purchased organic dirt with food already in the soil. What am I doing wrong or what do I need in my soil to help them grow? Rebecca

Answer: I am sorry your seeds didn’t take off but unfortunately you’ve provided way too little information to determine why they did not perform. Every seed has its own particular needs to establish germination. Just using a product labeled “organic” is not a guarantee of a healthy plant if the correct growing conditions are not met. I would suggest you research the needs for each item. 

For instance, spinach is a cool season crop that likes nice cool nights and warmish days with good even moisture, making it perfect to plant in most areas of the country right now. Why don’t you try some of our Bloomsdale or Samish Organic Spinach Seed. Follow the directions listed on the seed packet and you will have a nice crop of spinach in approximately 45 days.

Keep trying and best of luck!


Make Seed Germination Easy with Jiffy-7

September 29th, 2009

jiffy7Anyone who has ever attempted to germinate their own seedlings, indoors, for a head start on their garden has probably had a great number of failures, sometimes equal to or greater than their successes. Unfortunately, starting seeds outside in the garden can be just as unfulfilling. Weather conditions, especially in early spring, can greatly affect the number, if any, of seeds that will grow to healthy plants.

Seeds require specific conditions for optimal growth, and those conditions can be hard to meet when germinating seeds in egg cartons on your windowsill. Temperatures fluctuate, cloudy days occur, humidity is not constant, especially when the weather is still cold outside, and it is so easy to over water or under water. Basically, if you just miss one day of careful attention to those babieswell, you've been there.

Jiffy-7® products have taken much of the guess work out of seed germination. The Jiffy-7 products optimize growing conditions, resulting in a much higher, sometimes as high as 100%, germination rate. The heat mats or heated germination units provide a constant, thermostatically controlled temperature, so important to starting seeds on their growth cycle. The domed greenhouse-like lids insure that the humidity remains high and stable, something which is almost impossible to achieve without a greenhouse. Jiffy has thought of everything. Even the Jiffy-7 peat pellets, specifically designed to fit their trays, have been enhanced with the necessary minerals and vitamins necessary for seed germination. Jiffy-7 trays are re-usable and recyclable. They come with complete instructions so even the novice can succeed at this delicate task.

Make your life easier! We all get great pleasure from watching those seeds sprout and grow into healthy plants to be transplanted to our springtime gardens. Quit wasting money on seeds that never sprout and on growing medium that goes to waste. Jiffy-7 makes it easy to maintain the proper growing conditions!  Insure your success by investing in these Jiffy-7 products; you will find them invaluable in terms of your success and the productivity and beauty of your gardens.

What can be planted in 4-6 hours of sun?

September 29th, 2009

tomato_sunI live in Zone 8/9 and want garden vegetables that will tolerate 4 to 6 hours of direct sun. The garden is in between two houses facing north. Any ideas? Sam

Answer: Zone 8 and 9 can vary since you could be in Florida, Georgia or Texas; therefore you will need to include soil make-up as well, when considering what vegetables to plant. With your longer growing season you can grow most any vegetable plant but you may need to investigate soil additives after you determine the pH of your site with a soil test kit. Four to six hours of sun would be considered full sun, so any pepper, cauliflower, bean, tomato or melon will be perfectly happy and will produce an abundance of blooms. Cool season plants like lettuce, radish and spinach would be fine in the early season, Jan. – March or late season, Sept. – Oct. but will wilt away during the heat of the summer. Squash can also be planted as early as April. There are several online guides to the exact timing. 

Hope that helps. Karen

Can I Overwinter Fuchsia?

September 28th, 2009

darkeyesI have 3 Dark Eyes Fuchsia plants. One is fairly large, the other 2 quite small. I would like to keep them over the winter but it gets much too cold here. How can I keep them over the winter?

Answer: Fuchsias are pretty easy to overwinter but they do desire a period of rest, so they are not an attractive winter houseplant. Discontinue any feeding by September to allow them to begin their descent into dormancy.  I bring mine inside before the first frost.  When you bring them inside they will prefer a bright, cool location free from drafts. You will want to slowly reduce watering in October and November as the blooms and leaves fade. Once the leaves have dropped, trim the stems back to about six inches above the soil. You can store your resting plant anywhere, as long as the temperature does not drop below 40 degrees F.  Basements or garages will work. Check on it throughout the winter, making sure the soil does not become too dry, and during this dormancy period you do not want to fertilize it. Your plant should start to show some signs of new growth once the spring returns. When you see these signs you can place it in a cool location or return it to an outside shaded area, if all danger of frost has passed. Trim back the new growth to encourage more fullness. Once the growth has begun you can return to usual watering and fertilizing routines.