Order Your Garden Catalogs Now

 

I wish prices were still this low. 5 cents for a packet of seeds?

I wish prices were still this low. 5 cents for a packet of seeds?

As winter approaches, your garden may start to seem a bit dreary. One way that you can help beat these winter blahs is to pore over garden catalogs. You can do this electronically, but I prefer having an actual paper version to look at whenever I fancy.

If you order in fall, the latest and greatest edition will show up in the middle of winter. Companies are eager to show off their newest cultivars. These are cultivated varieties, which are the different kinds of plants found within a species that are not different enough to have their own species. Cultivated means that a company has nurtured and developed it. Honeycrisp is an apple cultivar, for example.

These garden catalogs can also help you work smarter with your landscaping company. You can cut out pictures and descriptions (do remember to include the names, especially the scientific species when possible) to help them know what you are looking to have done. Do keep in mind, though, that not every plant is suitable for your situation and you may have to pass on some species. Your professional landscaper should be able to help you know if your favorites will grow in your yard.

Here are three of my favorite garden catalogs:

Park Seed was my catalog of choice growing up, along with Burpee. I loved leafing through the pages and trying to see how far I could stretch my meager savings. These companies have been around for a long time and offer a wide variety of plants.

If you are thinking of planting a vegetable garden as part of your landscape, you simply MUST get the Baker Creek catalog. They offer heirloom varieties that you will usually not be able to get locally. The pictures are simply gorg!eous to boot

What are your favorite garden catalogs to order every year?

When Should You Cut Down Perennials?

Path lined by blue fescues

Blue fescue will add pops of color all winter long if you wait until spring to cut down this perennial grass.

The growing season is winding down and you may wonder when to cut down your perennials for best success. These plants last more than one season and may have become untidy. For many, fall is a great time, with the caveat that you need to consider how it will affect the look of your garden overall.

The Basics of Cutting Down Perennials

These types of plants may be trimmed either in spring or in fall. Many people like to do it in fall as part of putting their garden to rest for the season. This can be beneficial for the plant if it has faced problems like leaf diseases or insect damage.

When you do decide to cut them down, leave about three inches of stem instead of cutting it down to the ground so that you do not damage the plant.

Don’t Destroy Your Winter Interest

I grew up in Southern California where plants are perpetually growing and the landscape is always full of vibrant colors. As I discovered later when I moved to a colder region, things can get pretty dull during the winter when not much (if anything) is growing and your yard is covered in snow.

If you do decide to cut down your perennials in fall, you will have to wait until spring’s new growth generates excitement in your garden. Many perennials can add winter interest to your garden with parts like colorful stems, foliage and fruits. The latter can also serve as food for wildlife and birds. Unless 

As Cornell University mentions, perennials like “European ginger, bishop’s hat, ferns, Lenten rose, ornamental grasses, and upright sedums (such as ‘Autumn Joy’)” should be cut back in the spring instead of the fall.

Do you cut down your perennials in the fall? Do you have any that provide winter interest?

Image by jinxmcc under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives License

Color Planning for Your Garden in the Fall

Cotoneasters have great fall foliiage and fruit

            Fall color on a cotoneaster

Fall is a great time to do some color planning for your garden. You can look at other people’s yards and see ideas for plants that are blooming and changing foliage color at this time. If you decide that you want to add some new trees and shrubs for fall interest next year, many can be planted successfully at this time; in fact, for many, this is the ideal time instead of spring. This is also the time to start considering what spring flowering bulbs you will want to plant soon, which we will cover in a subsequent post.

Three Types of Trees That Provide Fall Colors

Maples are likely the first trees that come to mind when we think of autumn foliage. The palm shaped leaves come in a wide assortment of shades like red, orange, yellow, purple and brown. Depending on the species you choose (some produce better than others), you can also tap them in late winter to make maple syrup.

Oak trees also put on a good show with their leaves in hues of red, yellow, brown and orange. The acorns can also be used to make fall decorations for your house.

Aspen trees have foliage that turns yellow in autumn. Since these are often found in higher elevations where evergreens live, the pop of color is especially lovely. This can work for your garden too as a focal point.

Three Types of Shrubs That Provide Fall Colors

Cotoneasters are sturdy shrubs that will brighten up your landscape with their scarlet foliage and fruit. Two to look for are the rockspray cotoneaster and the willowleaf cotoneaster.

An underused shrub is the redvein enkianthus, which provides several seasons of color. In the spring it produces gorgeous clusters of white flowers with pink veins. In fall, the foliage becomes orange, red or yellow.

Serviceberries have white flowers that turn into edible fruits. In autumn, the leaves will turn to orange and red.

What are your favorite ways to add color in the fall?

Image by Roberto Verzo under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

Fall Lawn Fertilization

FertilizerBostonLibraryMany people think that spring is the optimal time to fertilize your lawn. It makes sense, right? The plants are just waking up and need a burst of nutrients to get them off to a good start. However, what you really need to focus on is fall lawn fertilization to keep your grass at its best. Choosing this time means that your grass roots will grow and strengthen themselves, improving the overall system. Fertilizing in spring (especially if that is the only time that you do it) is not as good since it encourages blade growth more, resulting in more mowing and potential problems.

The first step you should perform before any fertilization is to do a soil test. You would run into trouble if your soil already happened to have had good (or a bit overabundant) levels of the main nutrients (N-nitrogen, P-Phosphorus, K-Potassium) and you added more unknowingly. This also helps you check the levels of other nutrients and make sure that you get the correct blend. Here in NY, you can contact the Cornell Nutrient Analysis Laboratory or the local Extension Service for testing.

Once you know that you should indeed add a round of fertilization, wait for the right window. If you maintain your lawn frequently, Cornell University advises that you should do a round of fertilization at a rate of one pound for every 1000 square feet in your yard around Labor Day and another in November before Thanksgiving. If your yard is a bit more low key, only the November feeding is necessary.

Know your first freeze dates and watch the weather. If you try to fertilize when it is warm in late fall, a cold snap that is likely around the corner will negate your efforts and even raise the potential of damage from freezing temperatures.

 

Image by Boston Public Library via a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

Are You Ready to Overseed Your Lawn?

Reseeding a lawn

Newly germinated grass seed in an existing lawn

Over time, bare spots may start appearing in your lawn. These can be due to insects, diseases, summer stress or thick thatch. Once you have successfully treated the underlying problem, you can work on repairing your grass. If the damage is not extensive, an inexpensive way to do this is to sow new seeds over the existing lawn.

The perfect time to do this is coming up, as your new grass plants will do best if planted at the end of August or beginning of September. The worst of summer (heat, drought, weeds) is over and fall rainstorms will help keep your seedlings watered. You do not want to perform this task later than this, though, as you run the risk of frosts harming the new plants.

Mowing

The first step is mowing your lawn. The University of Nebraska Extension Service mentions that it should be about 1.5″ high at this time. This will allow the seeds to be able to hit the ground. It also means that more sunlight and water will reach your seedlings.

Thatch

Next, you need to determine if you have a problem with thatch. If it is not too thick, you can simply run a rake over the lawn to help loosen up the soil a bit. Otherwise, you will need to remove the thatch layer so your new grass will not have problems growing. UNES suggests either using a power rake, a sod cutter or a core aerator.

Seeding

Once the thatch is gone, you can start seeding. Call Cornell University’s Extension Service to see what varieties they are currently recommending for our area. As Healthy Lawns, Clean Water advises, “Overseeding rates should be 4-6 lbs for perennial ryegrass, 6-8 lbs for tall fescue, 2-4 lbs for fine fescue and1-2 lbs for Kentucky bluegrass per 1,000 square feet.” Run a rake over the lawn again to help get the seeds into the top layer of the ground.

Watering

Check often to make sure that the soil does not dry out as the seeds are germinating and while the seedlings are young. Use light syringe cycles as needed, but do not overwater. Following these steps will rejuvenate your lawn and keep your yard looking great.

Do you overseed your lawn every year?

Image by Wonderlane under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

How Is Your Turf Looking?

Unfortunately there are some weeds throughout this lawn.

Unfortunately there are some weeds           throughout this lawn.

Have the hot summer temperatures taken a toll on your turf? Now is the time to be extra watchful for two problems that can crop up and harm your lawn right when it is naturally stressed.

Brown Grass?

Many lawns are made up of cool season grasses. These will green up before warm season grasses, but can struggle when things start getting hot and dry and may go dormant. You can help prevent this with syringe cycles on the warmest days. Water early in the morning so that the most moisture can travel down to the roots. The grass should perk up again as long as it is getting regular water.

Brown grass can also be a sign of insect problems like grubs. When you are assessing a lawn where some has turned brown, see if other symptoms are present. With grubs, for example, the grass can be peeled back easily since the roots have been cut.

Weeds?

In sports, they say that the best defense is a good offence. The same is true for your lawn; the best way to keep weeds at bay is to make sure that your grass is hearty and healthy. Water it regularly and don’t mow it too short. Plan on adding weed and feed in the fall when they are most vulnerable. This will help set a good stage for the following years. If there are just a few weeds, remove them by hand.

Monitoring these two situations in summer helps you keep your lawn going strong. Call us if you need help getting rid of weeds or brown spots.

Image by anneh632 under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Help Your Trees, Shrubs and Other Plants Recover From Summer

Stressed out plants

These plants have begun to wilt.

Summer can be a rough time for your landscape. The combination of heat, longer days and lack of rain can make it hard for your plants to grow and maintain themselves properly. They may start to droop and die. How can you help your plants recover from summer?

The first step is to recognize that your plants are indeed having problems. Signs of summer stress from drought and heat include:

  • Wilting
  • Yellowing
  • Scorched leaves that are brown and dry
  • Leaf loss (defoliation)
  • Slower growth
  • Insects or diseases (stressed trees are less able to fend off these problems)

Do keep in mind that these can also be signs of other problems like nutrient deficiencies, insects, pests and other problems. Scout around your garden to make sure you are not missing any clues.

Try to Prevent Problems Before They Start

One of the best ways to help your plants have the best growth is to choose ones that are well suited to the conditions in your landscape. Native plants originally come from a region and can handle the weather better. Drought tolerant plants in general will adjust to lower water levels.

Watering the Right Way

When you water, ensure that it is actually reaching the plant. Do not water during the hottest parts of the day unless you see plants that are wilting. If you do water them, do so from the base so less is lost to evaporation. Consider installing drip irrigation since emitters are placed right by the plants. As a rule, water for longer periods so the moisture goes down farther into the soil and the roots will follow. It may take some time for plants to recover if they have been stressed for a while.

Should You Fertilize?

You might think it would be a good idea to add some fertilizer to give the plants a boost. This can be detrimental, though. The uptake of the nutrients will stress the system and make it harder for the plant to repair itself as needed. For some plants, you can add some fertilizer in the fall. However, other plants may be harmed if they put out new growth just before a frost.

Have you seen signs of stress in your garden? Did they recover right away?

Image by graibeard under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Do You Have Yellow Nutsedge in Your Lawn?

Yellow nutsedge in a lawn

 

If you notice tall plants with yellow tops popping up in your lawn, you may have an invasion of yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus). At first glance it looks like it might be part of the Poaceae (grass) family, but it is really in the Cyperaceae (sedge) family.

While in essence a weed is a plant growing where you do not want it (i.e. useful plants like blackberries grow rampantly in the Pacific Northwest), there are some plants that are regarded as harmful by all and truly earn the label of weed. Yellow nutsedge certainly falls under this category. It can grow faster and taller than your grass will, becoming a competitor for water and nutrients in the soil. It is also not as dark as your grass, so will stand out and destroy the uniform look of your lawn. The tubers they produce can last for years and can resprout several times.

This relative of the papyrus plant is very difficult to completely remove from your lawn. It forms many tubers under the ground that can sprout after you have removed the original plant. It can also produce new plants through rhizomes. 

You will need to try and stay on top of the problem and remove any new plants as soon as you can after they sprout. This will help lessen the productions of tubers over time. It will also slowly starve the present tubers as they will use up energy each time they produce a new plant.

You can also improve soil drainage as much as possible since this plant does very well in wet conditions and has a harder time becoming established in drier circumstances.

Unfortunately, yellow nutsedge does not always respond well to herbicides, though they can help Only some of the chemicals that are deemed effective are available for consumers, so contact us and we can help you spray this weed at the proper time for best results.

Have you had a problem with yellow nutsedge in your lawn? How did you finally get rid of it?

Image by Dendroica cerulea under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

Treating Grubs in the Lawn

White grub in soil

There are several reasons why brown spots start to develop in your yard. One of the most common problems found is the grub. These baby beetles can wreak havoc if there are many of them, so it is important that you start treating the grubs in your lawn once you determine the problem is severe enough.

Grubs are the larval stage of scarab beetles. The adults lay their eggs in the soil. The grubs grow under the surface of your soil and chomp away at the grass roots. If they are present, you will be able to peel away the grass as if it were a carpet. Grubs curled up into a C-shape will be visible. Count how many are present to determine the extent of the problem. As the PennState College of Agricultural Sciences mentions, you should treat for grubs in the lawn if you have 5-10 or more grubs per square foot.

If you are willing to let your grass go dormant for a bit in the middle of summer, this may kill the beetle eggs and stop the infestation. However, many people do not want to have an unattractive brown yard, so treatment is required. Pesticides like imidacloprid are applied in the later months of summer to kill off the larvae. Other treatments like predatory nematodes and milky spore may also be effective in controlling the grub population.

If you think that you may have problems with grubs in your lawn, give us a call. We can assess the situation and rule out any other problems. We can also apply the proper treatments to help banish those pesky grubs.

Image by memotions under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

Three Common Lawn Fungus Problems

A fairy ring is present in this lawn

A fairy ring is present in this lawn

If you are trying to diagnose problems in your grass, a lawn fungus may be the culprit. Three possibilities are mushrooms, fairy rings and snow molds.

Mushrooms

The most common fungi you will notice in the lawn are the capped mushrooms that are familiar to us. They especially like moist locations. Many of them are not harmful to your lawn; in fact, they can be quite helpful since they break down organic matter which can enrich your soil.

They can be problematic, though, if you are aiming for a uniformly green lawn. You can remove the visible mushrooms, but this will not remove the parts underground (called mycelium) and they may appear again, sometimes years later. Take care that you do not water your lawn too much as this can encourage mushrooms and other fungi to take hold.

Fairy Rings

Sometimes you come across circles or half circles of taller grass in your lawn. There may also be mushrooms growing in that circular pattern, and the grass inside may be turning brown. This phenomenon is known as a fairy ring, so named because some believed they marked the dancing spots enjoyed by these mythical creatures.

As the UC Davis IPM Program notes, you can usually improve the look of your lawn by fertilizing and irrigating the grass outside the rings more. The reason that the rings grow taller is from nutrients released from the mycelium that forms in a mat under the surface. Try aerating your soil to make it easier for water to reach the roots of the grass.

You may find that you need to remove any dead grass that is present (along with the fungal mycelium mat as much as possible) and reseed or lay sod.

Snow Mold

As the snow melts away in spring, white or pink patches may appear in your lawn. These are snow molds that have grown during the winter when the soil was wet. One way to help control this problem is to not fertilize at the end of fall since, as Cornell University mentions, this causes new growth that could fall prey to snow molds. If you have had a problem with them frequently, a preventative fungicide may be helpful in curbing the population.