Treat Your Fruit Trees and Shrubs with Dormant Oils

Another garden task that can be performed during the winter is spraying some of your trees and shrubs with dormant oils. There are many species that can benefit from this practice, but they are notably associated with the care of fruit trees and shrubs. Spraying them now will help your future crop production be optimal.


What Are Dormant Oils?

These products are created from petroleum and are designed to suffocate the insects that may have taken shelter in your plants for the winter. The oils form a layer on the pests that prevents them from breathing properly and hastening their demise. On some insects, the dormant oils will also actually start to eat away at their exoskeleton and inner body.

Some of these products will also help control fungal diseases that may be present in the plant. There are several different kinds available for purchase at your local garden center or nursery. The associates should be able to assist you in choosing the best option for you if you are not sure which one is necessary.

When Do You Use Dormant Oils?

As you may have figured out from the name, these products should be applied during winter when the trees and shrubs are dormant. Choose a time in the season when the temperatures are at least a bit above freezing to do your treatments. Follow the directions on the label and wear necessary safety gear like goggles and gloves.

Some insects can be very persistent, so watch for them in spring and summer to see if any survived. There are oils that can be applied in summer to help get rid of these stubborn pests.

What kinds of fruit trees and shrubs do you have in your garden? Have you used dormant oils before?

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Prune Trees and Shrubs During This Winter

While most gardening tasks do not start until the growing season begins, you can get your new year off to a good start when you prune trees and shrubs this winter. This will help them be ready for when the temperatures warm up and your landscape springs to life.

You can prune many trees and shrubs during winter

Why Prune Trees and Shrubs in Winter?

When you prune away parts of a plant properly, it can stimulate new growth to occur. If you did this process in the summer, it might be stressed due to lack of water and higher temperatures. You can do some in fall, but it needs to be earlier in the season if you do. If the tree or shrub produces new growth right before a frost, it might become damaged and hurt the plant.

If you prune them during the winter while the plants are dormant, they will naturally wait until they wake up in spring to start producing new growth. It is also often easier to see where to prune since the leaves have fallen away and the structure of the branches is revealed.

Check with us, your extension service or your local garden center to see when your various plants may need pruning and how much. Do not prune your evergreens until the end of winter or at the start of spring unless necessary, as in the case of a branch that is broken and dangerous. These species do not fully go dormant and may start sprouting in warm weather. In general, evergreens do not need much pruning period.

You will also want to wait to prune trees like maples and birches. These have high levels of sap developing early in the year and the wounds can bleed a lot if pruned too early.

Know How Much to Prune Trees and Shrubs in Your Garden

Trees, shrubs and perennials vary in how much you need or should prune them each year. Some do not need yearly pruning and can possibly even be harmed by the practice. Some like fruit trees need specific cuts to help them maintain a certain shape that is best for production and growth.  Others (some shrubs and perennials like ornamental grasses) will happily tolerate being cut right down to the ground each year and will bounce back once the temperatures rise.

As a general rule, it is fine (and necessary) to remove any parts that have become dead, diseased or damaged as they will affect the structure and health of the plant. You may need to sterilize your pruners after each plant if diseases are present.

What will you be pruning this year?

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Spend a Snowy Afternoon Planning Your Garden

Planning your landscape out before planning can help ensure your garden's success

This time of year is when I like to daydream and think about the coming gardening season. It is lovely to take a day and work on planning your garden out properly so that you can make the right choices for new plants and keep your landscape beautiful.

Three Basic Steps for Planning Your Garden

  1. Start by Drawing Out Your Current Garden on Paper. This step will help you visualize what can be done. Measure out your garden and draw your plan to scale to make sure that all of your new plants and other features will fit in properly.
  2. See What Improvements Can Be Made. Are there spots that are looking empty, perhaps where plants may have died in the previous season? Do you need to move plants around? Would you like to add any new hardscape features like a pathway or patio? If you use tracing paper, you can overlay it over your design to get an idea of what different possibilities could look like.
  3. Use Garden Catalogs and the Internet to Consider Plant Choices. If you have identified that you might want to add some new plants, take a trip around the Internet or thumb through some garden catalogs. Know what your USDA zone, sun availability and soil pH levels are so that you can make good choices. Design based on the mature size, not the smaller versions that are cheaper to buy. Consider the plants around it so they don’t receive too little or too much sun.

While there is much more to the art of garden design, you will have a greater chance of creating a beautiful landscape if you start out with these three steps. Call us if you would like help in this process.

Have you planned your garden on paper before? Did it help?

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Season’s Greetings and a Happy New Year

May you have Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year

Winter at the Grey Gardens in NY

We want to send you our Season’s Greetings, Happy Holidays and wishes for a Happy New Year as 2015 comes to a close. We are very grateful for our customers and that we have the opportunity to help beautify your landscape during the growing season.

This time of year is often a period of reflection as many different holidays are celebrated and we head into a new calendar year. Now is a great time to think about how your garden looked over the past year and possible changes that you might want to make.

Gardens Make a Difference in the World Around You

One of the reasons I decided to major in Horticulture in college years ago was because I looked forward to the opportunity to make the world at least a little more beautiful. Think of how your garden makes you feel. Hopefully you feel satisfied with how your landscape looks and that it brings you peace.

There is always the possibility that you are ready for changes in your yard because it is not where you want to be. If that is the case, never fear. Take some time to do some searches online, read magazines and books, and think about what you could do to make your own landscape a better place. We would be happy to consult with you in this process to help make sure you get the right plants and features for your situation.

Make 2016 your best year yet!

Are you planning on making changes to your garden? What will you do?

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Cutting Back Perennials in Your Garden

Cutting back perennials can be done in different seasons, depending on the plant

Plants can be quite resilient. For many trees, shrubs and perennials, they can bounce back even after you prune away parts. In some cases, you can even cut them close to the ground and they will happily start growing again. In fact, they may need this step for proper health and growth.  Cutting back perennials in your garden can help them succeed when done at the proper time. How far down you go down the stem depends on which species you are working with. Check online to see the proper procedures for your specific plant before you start trimming.

When Should You Be Cutting Back Perennials?

Some people choose to trim back their perennials in the fall. They do not want to see clusters of dead foliage in the garden. Pests and diseases can also hide away in these parts and survive through the winter. Check out this detailed list of perennials to cut back in the fall to see if your plants are on the list. On the other hand, depending on the plant, some foliage can provide winter interest along with food and shelter for wildlife and birds.

You can also do some cutting back of other perennials once the plant has gone dormant in winter. This helps maintain the health of the plant since it is not actively growing. Otherwise, plants may start sending out new growth in response to cutting that would be damaged when cold spells set in.

Finally, some perennials like ornamental grasses can be pruned back during early spring. This will help them have a nice clean start to the growing season.

When do you like to start cutting back perennials in your landscape?

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Try a Live Holiday Tree This Year

A live holiday tree can be a wonderful addition to your home decor.Have you ever wished that your cut holiday tree would last longer? That your artificial tree had that delicious evergreen smell? There is a third possibility that has been growing over the years. Consider choosing a live holiday this year when you begin decorating for the season.

Why Use a Live Holiday Tree?

There are several advantages to choosing a live holiday tree over one that is cut or artificial. It is ecologically friendly in more than one way since a growing tree helps use up carbon dioxide and creates oxygen Using a tree that is not dead or fake helps keep more out of the landfills.

They are also aesthetically pleasing. Since it is still uncut, it will be much more vibrant than a cut tree that has been around for some time.

There is less of a fire hazard also since it has needles that are still green and alive. Do make sure you are watering them as needed to keep the foliage healthy.

Finally, you can have fun and choose less traditional options like Norfolk Island pine trees and palm trees.

Is There a Downside to A Live Holiday Tree?

For starters, you will need to have some muscles or a moving dolly to cart this type of tree around. After all, there is a large heavy ball of soil surrounding the roots in the container.

You also have to be careful with how long you keep one of these trees inside. They are normally dormant during this time of year, so extended periods inside where the temperatures are warmer can make it wake up and start producing growth. Once you take it back outside, the tree can go into shock and the new shoots may be damaged. Always use the practice of hardening off, where you reintroduce them to the outdoors over a period of time, with longer sessions each day, so that it can adapt.

Finally, you need to have a plan for what will happen to this tree once you are ready to remove it. There are companies that allow you to rent live holiday trees and will pick them up at the end of their time period. You could contact a local park or other garden and see if they would be interested in planting it. Otherwise, have a planting hole ready to go so you can easily add it to your landscape. If you wait until it is time to place it in the ground, the temperatures may have dropped and frozen the soil, making your task much more difficult.

Have you have a live holiday tree? What kind did you get?

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Do One Final Garden Cleanup This Month

Raking up leaves is part of your final garden cleanup

Temperatures are dropping and snowstorms are rolling through. Before you go into hibernation mode for the winter, do one final garden cleanup to end the growing season.

On a day when the snow and ice have cleared away for a moment, take a walk around your garden. If there are places where leaves have fallen, rake them up and add them to a compost pile. If you leave them where they are, it can damage the lawn by encouraging mold and other diseases to attack your grass when it is covered by snow and ice. This will also help enrich your garden next year since you can add back nutrients with the resulting compost.

If you have spring- or summer-flowering bulbs with dead leaves, you can now safely remove them to tidy up their appearance. Until they turn brown, foliage should be left even after it has stopped flowering to allow the bulb to store up food for the following year. This will also help the plant stay healthier since dead foliage can become hosts for diseases and pests that like to overwinter.

You can also do some pruning on many species of deciduous trees and shrubs once they have gone dormant for the winter. It is especially helpful that they have lost their leaves as this fact makes it easier to see problems and correct them. Do not prune evergreens as they do not fully go dormant.

Have you done a final garden cleanup yet? What other tasks do you include?

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Winterize Lawn Equipment Before Storing It for the Year

Winterize your lawn equipment when you put it away in storage

Now that most of your landscape chores are finished for the year, it is time to winterize lawn equipment that you have before putting it away until your garden bounces back to life in spring. This will help them last for many years and be more efficient.

Clean and Maintain Your Lawn Mower and Other Power Equipment

Gasoline will start to go bad if it is not used within a few weeks, so you want to make sure that you either remove all of the gasoline from your power equipment or add a fuel stabilizer. Remove and replace the spark plug and oil. Check the filters to see if they need to be changed at this time. If you are not sure whether it is time, you can usually find the manual online if you do not have it handy.

Carefully take the blades off your mower and edger and sharpen them. Replace the string on your weed eater. Take a moment and thoroughly clean off all grass clippings and other debris to help ward off rust.

Clean and Sharpen All Tools

Your hand pruners and other garden tools can also use some care as you put them to rest for the year. Clean off any substances on the blades like plant clippings or sap. Look over all surfaces and make sure there are no broken parts in need of repair. Use a sharpening stone to hone the edges. Oil the metal parts to ward off rust.

Do you do any additional steps when you winterize lawn equipment at the end of the year?

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Preparing for Snow Removal

There are several kinds of snow removal

With winter less than a month away, the time for snow removal is upon us. Taking it away quickly and efficiently can help keep your family safe from falls and make your landscape look tidier. There are several different common ways that you can remove snow from your landscape. 

Choose Your Snow Removal Method


When I was in college, I was on the landscaping crew. During the winter we would get called in around 3:30 am after a night of snowfall so we could clear the sidewalks before students arrived. We mostly used shovels to push away the snow. 

This can be a cheap and effective method indeed. You do want to get a good quality shovel, as it would be frustrating for it to break while you are trying to work. This also takes exertion, of course, which can be great if you are looking for some exercise. Do be careful, though; wear good gripping shoes, lift with bent knees as needed, check with a doctor if you have existing health concerns or are older, and take breaks. The National Safety Council mentions these and other tips in their Snow Shoveling safety sheet.


Another popular method for clearing sidewalks and other areas is through the use of chemicals, many of which are salts. These react with the snow and lower the melting temperature, effectively removing it as the snow and ice melt away and the water dissipates. These can be harsh on the roads, cars, plants and other objects found in the area, so consider that point when deciding.


If you have a large yard, a snowblower may be quite helpful. These pick up the snow and blow it away from the area you are trying to clear. It does not really work on parts that have turned to ice, so you will still You will also need to perform maintenance at least yearly to make sure the engine and other parts stay in good working condition and the machines are not inexpensive. Always follow proper safety protocols!

How do you do snow removal in your landscape?

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Winter Protection for Shrubs Should Be Placed in Fall

Prep your shrubs during fall to help the, survive during the winter.

With only a little over a month left before winter officially sets in, plants are slowing down their growth and heading into dormancy. This process helps protect them from the ravages of snow and freezing temperatures, but you can help them survive better. Now is the time to do tasks like adding winter protection for shrubs.

What Can You Do for Winter Protection for Shrubs?

One problem that you can run into in your garden is sun scald. This occurs when temperatures warm up enough during the day to promote growth in the cambium area of the bark. When the weather dips down again as night falls, these sections of newer growth may become damaged. You can help the shrub avoid this problem by protecting the bark through the use of products like tree wrap. You do want to make sure that they are not dark in color as you want to have the light be deflected instead of absorbed.

Another common way to protect your shrubs, especially if they are evergreens, is to wrap them with burlap or place sheets of that fabric on poles around the plant to create a screen. This will help shield the plant from problems like temperature fluctuations, salt spray (from deicing products), wind burn and ice or snow. Gently bring the branches together as possible towards the middle and wrap the burlap around it. Remove it promptly in the spring when the temperatures start to warm up.

How do you protect your shrubs in the winter?

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