Choosing Plants for Your Garden

ChoosingPlantsFlickrtracie7779

Spring is right around the corner and you may have already started planning for new landscape improvements. It’s tempting to run down to your local garden center and buy any plant that catches your eye, but you must resist that urge and do your homework. Choosing plants for your garden requires attention to the conditions present in your yard.

USDA Zones

The USDA produces a map that divides locations into hardiness zones based on the average minimum low temperature each year, with 1 being the coldest and 13 the warmest. For example, Yonkers, NY is rated as USDA Zone 7a.

Each plant has a general range of zones where is it most likely to be successful. While this is not an absolute guarantee (microclimates and other factors can affect its chances in your own garden), choosing a plant that is meant for your zone helps its possibility of survival.

Plant Life Span

Think about how much work you want to do in your garden and whether you want it to change yearly.  Annuals grow for one season, then die. Biennials last two growing seasons before the end. Perennials, trees and shrubs usually live for many years. Some people like cheery annuals like pansies that brighten up your garden, but need to be replanted yearly. Perennials last longer, but may need pruning to spruce them up.

Size

When you are shopping, make sure you look at the tags to see what the expected size will be at maturity. It is easy enough to forget and buy a plant that looks like it will work in your space based on the container size at the garden center, but turns out to spread farther than desirable over the years. You don’t want to have an imbalance where front plants tower over rear ones (thus hiding them) or end up with your plants becoming crowded from improper spacing

Planting Site Conditions

Plants do not all have the same preferences and needs. Look at the tag and see the sunlight requirements. Ask a garden center associate if your site has special needs. For example, clay soil, places that tend to be wet or acidity all require specific species that are able to tolerate those conditions.

Ensure Fruit Pollination

If you are trying to grow fruit in your yard, make sure you have enough plants available for cross-pollination. Some species are able to fertilize themselves, but many need a different cultivar (cultivated variety – think Golden Delicious and Fuji for applies) nearby. If you only have one plant, you may not get any fruit at all.

Choosing plants for your garden carefully will help you get the best possible look for your landscape and make it easier for them to grow properly. If you would like assistance in planning out your garden this year, don’t hesitate to call.

Image by tracie7779 under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Planning for Landscape Improvements

A landscape plan can help you improve your garden successfully

Is your garden ready for an update? When you are planning for landscape improvements, take the time to research your options and carefully consider any new plants or other garden features that you want to add. This can help you optimize costs, pick the best options and avoid problems in the future

Think About Your Needs

Why do you want to make changes to your landscape? How much do you want to spend? Perhaps you now have kids and would like to add a playground. You may want a garden that attracts hummingbirds, or one that provides fruits and vegetables. Write down a list of possible additions for your garden. Look at the costs for different options.

Create a Landscape Plan

Sketch out at least a basic layout of your yard. Note where there are currently plants, concrete, and any other features. If you are adding plants, research some different possibilities to make sure they will grow in your garden. Use the mature size when calculating where you can place them.

Need a Helping Hand?

If you are not sure about the best options for your garden, you may want to call in a professional for assistance. They can help you lay out a plan for your landscape improvements and even install it for you.

Image by Landscape Design Advisor via Flickr Creative Commons

Early- Spring Essentials: Get a Jump on the Season Ahead!

Welcome back! We’ve had a tough winter these past few months with all of the snowstorms, but birds are starting to chirp each morning… what does this mean? Spring is almost here! As temperatures rise and the snow melts away, it is time to prepare for the season ahead! The harsh weather has taken quite a toll on our plants, lawn and trees and its important to keep these simple spring essentials in mind as the season approaches!

Pruning: Many structural problems in ornamentals can be corrected right away before images-134plants begin to leaf out, with corrective pruning. Any winter-damaged wood can be pruned away. Very heavy wood can be removed, improving air circulation and plant shape. Overlapping and rubbing branches should be dealt with in order to eliminate this area as a possible site for insects and disease to invade the plants.

Clean Up: Leaves and debris should be blown or raked and removed from lawn areas, as well as shrub and flower beds.

Mulching: A spring application of mulch will help to prevent weeds, conserve moisture in the soil and keep soil temperatures cooler as the weather heats up. By including pre-Unknown-14emergent under the mulch it will help to control weeds throughout the season. Mulching should be a uniform thickness on the planting beds, and be sure to avoid piling mulch especially deep, or “coning” around the trunks of trees.

By just arranging for these three things, you’ll have made a great start to a better looking property!

Force Bulbs Indoors for an Early Taste of Spring!

Who says you have to wait until spring for the colorful beauty of bulbs? Forcing bulbs to bloom indoors is a fun and easy way to brighten up your home’s interior over the colder months ahead.

Bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and crocuses can all be brought into bloom earlier than normal. Since time spans from planting to blooming will differ from bulb to bulb, it’s important not to mix varieties in the same container. Also, only top-quality, good- sized bulbs should be used.

 

Planting

In a plastic or clay pot, plant your bulbs in a mixture of three parts garden loam, two parts peat moss and one part sand, leaving about 1’ of space at the top of the pot. The pointed ends of the bulbs should remain exposed. As a rule of thumb, sex tulips, sex daffodils, three hyacinths or 15 crocuses will fit a 6’ pot.  Water the bulbs immediately after planting, and be sure that the soil stays moist afterward.

Cold Treatment

Once planted, your bulbs will need to be kept in a cool (35 to 48 degrees F), dark location for a minimum of 12 weeks (an unheated cellar works well). Remember to keep soil moist, since developing roots can dry out and die quickly.

Forcing

As soon as the shoots reach 3’ or 4’ in height, move your pots into bright, indirect light for three or four days. Then, move the pots into direct sunlight until the flowers bloom, at which point they should be moved back to indirect light. You can extend blooming periods by keeping the roots moist and moving the pots to a cool spot at night.

 

For a continuous supply of flowers, try plating your bulbs at weekly intervals, bringing just a few pots at a time out of cold treatment. Enjoy!

Irrigation Systems Save Time, Money, Aggravation…and Plants!

Each tree, shrub, vine, flower and grass plant on your property needs adequate water to survive. When rainfall is scarce, keeping everything sufficiently watered can be a challenge.  We’ve all been there…dragging hoses around, trying to put the right amounts of water in the right places, and just simply finding the time to do it all can mean that some plants don’t get what they need.

Without enough water, your plants will suffer, and so will your landscape investment. The solution for more busy homeowners these days is to install an automatic irrigation system.

Today’s irrigation systems are affordable and efficient. Custom-designed for each property, these systems use underground circuits and valves to take water right where it’s needed.

Sprinkler head choices vary. Drip heads deliver water slowly and precisely to the bases of plants. Pop-up heads spray larger areas evenly. Various configurations are available depending on your specific needs.

Other benefits of an irrigation system include:

  • Controllers that automatically turn the various circuits on and off, even when you’re not home.
  • Timers that limit watering to the cooler parts of the day when less water will be lost due to evaporation or wind drift.
  • Independent station programming to provide certain portions of your landscape with more or less water than others depending on each plant’s specific needs.
  • Rain shit-off devices and soil moisture sensors to override irrigation when it’s not necessary.

An automatic irrigation system will help to keep your lawn and landscape lush and green while reducing water waste. It will mean less hassle for you, and less time spent on your watering chores!

Outdoor Fireplaces Are a Hot Item

One of the biggest trends in landscape improvements is the outdoor fireplace, which makes it possible to enjoy your outdoor living space all year-round. If you’ve been thinking about adding a fireplace to your landscape, you have some decisions to make. For example:

  • Do you want gas-burning or wood-burning? Wood-burning fireplaces provide a more authentic look and feel with crackling sounds and the smell of smoke. Gas-burning fireplaces don’t create any smoke and are easily turned on and off.
  • Do you want to include a grill for barbecuing? What about storage space for wood or shelves to hold other items?
  • What construction materials do you want to use? Brick, stone, concrete… a combination of all three? How about adding small rocks or tiles for unique finishing touch?
  • Where will your fireplace be located? You’ll want to keep it as far away as possible from your home, plants and any other structures that could burn. Also, be sure that there is at least 3’ of clearance between seating areas and the fireplaces (for both safety and comfort).

Carefully planned and professionally installed, an outdoor fireplace is sure to become a popular “hot spot” on your property. Enjoy!

Grass Clippings Are Too Valuable to Toss Out

It can be tempting to bag and dispose of grass clippings, especially if it’s been a long time since your lawn was last mowed. After all, clumps of cut grass sitting on your lawn are unattractive, and they can smother the grass underneath if they aren’t removed.

Mowing more often, on the other hand, creates a free source of nutrients that can and should be left behind to decompose in your lawn. The trick is to follow the “1/3 Rule,” mowing often enough so that no more than 1/3 of the grass blade is removed with each cutting. It’s also important to mow only when the grass is dry, and to use a sharp mower blade.

The clippings left behind will fall down between the blades left standing, returning valuable nutrients to the soil as they decompose. This practice is known as “grasscycling,” and it can provide your lawn with up to 15% of the nutrients it needs for healthy growth. 

Not only is grasscycling a great way to improve your lawn’s fertility, but it helps to reduce the amount of yard waste sent to landfills as well.  Grasscycling is becoming much more common, and that’s a good thing considering that one lawn can generate roughly 300 pounds of clippings per 1,000 square fee each year. Imagine what would happen to our landfills if nobody bothered to grasscycle!

Grasscycling also cuts down on the time it takes to mow, since bagging and disposal of clippings are eliminated. In the long run, this beneficial practice leads to a healthier, greener lawn that requires less fertilizer and effort to maintain.