05December 14, 2017

The roughly 6 inches of snow came as somewhat of a surprise. On the other hand, it is December and December usually means snow at some point in the month. Raise your hand if you didn’t get all the leaves raked up before the snow. My hand is in the air.

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14October 11, 2017

Many of the vegetable plants and many of the annual flowers that you planted in the spring are beginning to fade away. If you look closely you may find that some of the plants will be infected with some type of fungus disease. Leaves will have black or brown spots that may expand into leaves turning completely brown or black. Leaves may be completely covered with a white powdery film. Once the fungus attacks, the leaves eventually die. As the leaves die, the fungus disease forms spores. The spores are like eggs. Spores sit on the soil, waiting for spring. Come the spring, when new plants go into the ground, rain or watering of the plants by you, allows the spores to splash up on the leaves and the spores begin a new generation of the fungus disease.
One way to minimize the spread of the fungus diseases from year to year is to clean up all of the dead plants and leaves and dispose of the diseased plants and any leaves that may have fallen on the ground. If you don’t clean up your garden, be it a 20 foot by 40 foot plot of land or a large planter, you are allowing fungus diseases to over winter and start the mess all over again. People often ask me if they can compost this type of dead plant material into their compost pile. My feeling is that most compost piles don’t heat up enough to destroy the spores. My thought is that if you can dispose of these plants with the municipal pick up of leaves, you are getting much of the cause of next years’ fungus diseases out of your yard.
Once you get the planting bed cleaned up, you should add some lime to the soil and then plant a cover crop of winter rye seed onto the surface of the planting bed. The winter rye will sprout and form a grassy mat that will hold the soil in place over the winter. Come the spring the winter rye is tilled into the soil, adding valuable organic matter to the soil.

Over the last 2 weeks, many people have come into the store with leaves from their maple trees. The leaves have these raised black spots that look like globs of tar. The name of this plant disease is tar spot. Tar spot usually begins in the spring when the leaves are emerging during prolonged periods of rain. It is the constantly wet leaves that get the tar spot going on your trees. Tar spot usually doesn’t kill a tree and it is not very often that it shows up year after year. I have seen rainy springs where the tar spot is so bad that by July every maple leaf has fallen off the trees. Come the following spring, normal conditions appear and the tar spot doesn’t show up at all. Since you never know from year to year what the early spring will bring us is a giant unknown, it is best to rake up the infected maple leaves and dispose of the leaves.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

15October 4, 2017

Every spring, a few customers will come into the garden center looking for either tulip or daffodil bulbs. They have seen the nice display of blooms in someone’s yard and they would like to do the same thing. You can see the look of disappointment on their face when you tell them it is too late to plant these bulbs. They usually ask when is the right time to plant these bulbs. When I tell them that the bulbs should be planted in the fall, they seem even more perplexed. Since now is the time to plant what is collectively called spring flowering bulbs, let’s have a talk about planting bulbs now.

Tulips, daffodil, crocus, grape hyacinth, alliums and many more of the spring flowering bulbs are planted in the fall. The bulbs go into the ground now. The bulbs put their roots out into the soil before the ground freezes. The bulbs need to be exposed to cold soil temperatures for about 16 weeks. In the spring as the soil warms up, the warming soil temperatures cause the bulbs to put up leafy growth and ultimately put out flower buds and soon after the buds open into the spring flowers that most gardeners really admire.

One of the misconceptions around planting bulbs is that it is a lot of work. The majority of the spring flowering bulbs that you buy are grown in the Netherlands. The industry has adopted an ad campaign with the slogan “ Dig, Drop, Done.” In many cases, it truly is that easy. Unless you have soil that contains a lot of clay, you just need to dig a hole to an appropriate depth, add some bulb fertilizer to the soil, place the bulbs in the bottom of the hole, cover the bulbs with soil and give the bulbs some water. Dig, Drop, Done.
You will need to know that the bulbs need to be planted at a particular depth in the soil. As an easy rule of thumb, the larger the bulb, the deeper it is planted in the soil. For example, tulip and daffodil bulbs are usually planted 6 inches deep in the soil. Crocus and most of the other smaller bulbs are planted 4 inches deep in the soil. Don’t worry about remembering the proper depth for planting. The recommended depth is right on the package. Another thing you need to know is that when the bulbs are harvested in the Netherlands, the bulbs are graded by size. Sort of the small, medium, large, extra large similar to what you see when you buy eggs in the supermarket. You want to buy the largest size you can find for each variety of bulb. The reason is that the larger sizes have a lot more stored energy to give you a beautiful flower display. The smaller flowering bulbs will obviously be smaller but you should ask if the bulbs you are buying are top size bulbs. Your independently owned local garden centers will have the top size bulbs available. They may be a bit more money than what you would find in a box store. But the reason you are planting bulbs is because you want flowers in the spring. Smaller graded bulbs may or may not flower properly.

If you have a small yard, you may want to consider layering the bulbs to give you a mass display of flowers in a small area. Spring flowering bulbs always look better if you plant a multiple number of bulbs in a cluster. On the larger size bulbs, you would cluster together 5 bulbs. On smaller size bulbs you would cluster together 10 bulbs. Once the bulbs bloom in the spring, you will see the “ Wow “ of planting in clusters. If you have a small area for bulbs, you will dig a hole that is at least 12 inches across and 6 inches deep. At the 6-inch depth, you will add some bulb fertilizer and mix it into the soil. You will add 5 or more tulip or daffodil bulbs at the bottom of the hole. Cover those bulbs with 2 inches of soil and lightly press the soil down. Next add crocus, hyacinth or grape hyacinth in clusters of 7 to 10 bulbs. Cover the bulbs with the remainder of the soil and press into place. Add some water and you are done. If you have squirrels in your neighborhood, you may want to sprinkle some animal repellent on top of the soil to prevent the squirrels from digging up the bulbs. Come the spring, the bulbs you have planted will come into bloom at the appropriate time for each variety. You will have a mini bulb garden with loads of flowers in a small area. Of course, you can plant single groups of particular bulbs if you have room for clusters of say just tulips or just daffodils. It is fast and easy work to plant your spring flowering bulbs.

At this point in time, we are in for a streak of nice weather. Take some time to “ Dig, Drop Done” with some spring flowering bulbs. Come the spring, you will love to see those beautiful flowers, in bloom, in your garden.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

16September 27, 2017

I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting hot and humid weather in late September. I have a feeling that our plants weren’t expecting it either. Time to get the hose out and water the plants.

A customer came into the store the other day and she was commenting that her hardy mums never seem to come back the following year. She also said that the mum flowers that were open didn’t last too long and that once those flowers went by, the plant was just green leaves. I asked her a few questions about how she cared for the hardy mum and then came up with the solution that should make the hardy mums truly hardy.

If you want the hardy mums to come back next year, you need to get them out of the pots and into the ground. Hardy mums are perennial. Just like any other perennial they need to have time to develop a root system in the ground before winter sets in. The mistake people make is that they set the mums in the pots on the steps or somewhere else in the yard and the mums remain there until the plant looks a bit sad. The plant winds up in the ground in early November. This doesn’t give the plant time to get its roots out into the soil. With dead or half dead leaves, the plant can’t make the food it needs to help in the development of the roots system that will help the plant to survive. If you want those hardy mums to come back next year, you need to get them out of the pots as soon as you buy them and get the plants into the ground.

The second part of the question concerns the lack of flowers later into the season. There are some early blooming mums that are almost done flowering by now. When you buy your hardy mums, look into the center of the plants and see if you find tiny flower buds. If you see these unopened buds, then you will have flowers coming along for a longer period of time. As is the case with most things in life, there is a catch. You have to keep the mums watered and you have to fertilize the plants. Hardy mums need consistently moist soil to keep the leaves, flowers and buds going strong. The leaves and the buds also need fertilizer to keep them growing. If you keep up with fertilizing your mums every 7 to 10 days, the small buds will mature into full size flowers. The fertilizer will also help the plant leaves to look their best. With the heat that we had this week, you will have to water the plants each day or even twice a day if the pots are in a sunny and or windy area.

Hardy mums can be a beautiful fall flower that blooms for a long period of time if you take proper care of the plants. If you don’t keep up with adequate water and regular applications of fertilizer, they are going to be a disappointment to you.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

21August 24, 2017


The end of August is near and that means that you have some chores to do. Let’s get started on the Honey Do list.

If you have the tall bearded iris in your garden, you will notice that the rhizomes are about half way above the surface of the ground.

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33July 20, 2017

People often ask me how I come up with ideas for this weekly column. I tell people that when you get 6 people who come into the store with the same question concerning a problem in the garden, then I know it must be a widespread problem for many people. With that being said, this is what many people want to know this week.

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34July 13, 2017

Someone asked me last week if I had seen any Japanese beetles. So far, I have not seen any of these beetles. It could just mean that they are late in emerging from the soil. I would guess that, like last year, some people will be inundated with the beetles and some people will have few if any of the Japanese beetles.

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36June 29, 2017

So, how does your garden grow? I have had a chance to talk to a lot of customers this week and, in the process, to get some feedback on how their gardens are doing at this point in time. It would appear that some people are having good luck with their plants growing and other are having to deal with plants that are not growing too well.

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39June 8, 2017

The extended cool and rainy weather looks to be followed by a heat wave early next week. This roller coaster weather will have some ramifications for our plants. Let’s try to figure out what can happen and see if there is anything you should be doing to protect your plants.

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