Garden Tips

Norfolk Island Pine Plant Features

An easy-care houseplant, Norfolk Island pine is a festive holiday plant you can enjoy all year long! During the holidays, its needled branches look right at home decorated as a Christmas tree. After the holidays pass, remove the decorations and enjoy its classic look (and air-purifying powers) anywhere in your home.

Though it’s called Norfolk Island pine, it’s not a pine at all. Rather, this stately tree is a tropical plant native to the South Pacific. Indoors, it’s relatively slow-growing, but over the course of several years, this adorable little plant can grow to 6 feet tall or more.

Small, young Norfolk Island pines are perfect for decorating mantles, tabletops, and desks. As this long-lived houseplant grows, it’s becomes better situated as a floor plant and can be used to fill bright corners, flank furniture (such as entertainment centers), or stand alone as a stunning focal point.

If you want to encourage faster growth from your Norfolk Island pine, move it outdoors to a shaded or partly shaded spot during the summer. Because it’s a tropical tree, wait until all danger of frost has passed before moving it out, and bring it back in before the first frost in fall.

Norfolk Island Pine Growing Instructions

Grow Norfolk Island pine in a medium to bright spot in your home. The less light it gets, the slower it will grow. But avoid very low-light situations. If it doesn’t get enough light (natural or artificial), your Norfolk Island pine will be weak, spindly, and unattractive.

Water it enough to keep the soil moist, but not wet. The roots will rot if they stand in water. If the plant stays too dry, the tips of its branches will turn brown and crispy. Fertilize Norfolk Island pine once or twice during spring and summer to keep it growing well. You can fertilize more often if you want your plant to grow faster! 
Note: After the holidays, take your Norfolk Island pine’s pot out of the festive foil pot cover (if it has one). Pot covers trap excess moisture around the roots and can cause your plant to suffer rot if it stays too moist.

If you wish to prune your Norfolk Island pine, you can do so at any time of the year.

Like most houseplants, Norfolk Island pine benefits from being repotted every couple of years.

Thanks to – http://www.costafarms.com/plants/norfolk-island-pine

 

Christmas Cacti are easy to grow. When they bloom, they produce colorful tubular flowers in pink or lilac colors. They bloom a long time indoors and they are low-maintenance houseplants, which makes them popular. We’ll bet someone in your family has a Christmas Cactus!

Despite their name, Christmas cacti are not desert cacti. Their natural habit is one of an epiphyte living in tree branches in the rain forest of Brazil! In other words, they prefer a humid climate, not a dry one, so it’s important to water these cacti. (See more details below.)

Also, note that there are several types of holiday cacti: Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. They bloom closest to the holiday of their name. Christmas cacti have flattened leaves with rounded teeth on the margins as opposed to the Thanksgiving cactus that has pointed teeth. Easter cacti have pointed teeth with fibrous hairs in the leaf joints.

To confuse matters further, most of the Christmas cactus sold are actually Thanksgiving cactus. If you find your Christmas cactus blooming near Thanksgiving, guess what?

PLANTING

  • Christmas cacti grow in most container soils. Make sure the soil drains well and your pots have drainage holes.
  • Plants should be kept in bright, indirect light.
  • A daytime temperature of 70 degrees F and an evening temperature of 60 to 65 degrees F is preferred.
  • In the summer, Christmas cacti can be placed in a shady spot in the garden or in an unheated porch until temperatures get below 50 degrees.
 
  • As soon as the top inch of soil in the container feels dry to the touch, soak the soil until water runs through the pot’s drainage holes; discard water in the tray so the plant doesn’t sit in water. It’s especially important to water well during flowers.
  • From spring through early fall, feed every 2 weeks with a complete houseplant fertilizer. During the fall and winter feed the cactus monthly
  • Once flowers fade, continue to grow the plant as a houseplant.
  • Prune plants in June to encourage branching and more flowers. Simply cut off a few sections of each stem. Of you wish, root the cut-off pieces in moist vermiculite to make more plants.
  • If your cactus is not blooming, it may due to amount of daylight or temperature. Flowers will only form when the temperature is between a cool 50 to 55 degrees F.
  • Nights need to be at least 14 hours long and daylight periods are between 8 to 10 hours for 6 weeks—for six weeks. If you have strong indoor lighting, you may need to cover your cacti at night.
  • If the cacti sheds its buds in a winter, it will bloom the following year.

PESTS/DISEASES

If your Christmas Cacti is exposed to any type of stress, the plant will drop its blossoms.  This could be related to amount of light, or a sudden change in temperature, as discussed in above plant care section. Also, ensure that your soil doesn’t get too dry.

The plant may be susceptible to mealy bugs and, if over-watered, root rot. If you have problems, cut out infected areas and repot in clean soil.

WIT & WISDOM

  • When the buds of a Christmas cactus look as if they’re about to open, make sure you water the plant regularly and keep it cool.
  • Late spring is the best time to propagate cuttings because most cacti emerge from their winter rest and initiate new growth.

Thanks to the Farmer’s Almanac – 

Tips for storing your dahlias

Dahlias tubers can be enjoyed for years with proper handling in the fall. Follow these easy tips from National Garden Bureau member American Meadows on how to dig and store your dahlias tubers.

Native to Mexico, dahlias won’t survive the freezing temperatures that many North American gardens experience. Digging and storing dahlias for the winter is extremely easy and simple if you follow these tips.


When to dig up your dahlias…

If you live in an area where the ground freezes, you’ll want to dig your dahlia tubers up before there’s a hard frost.

A good indication of when to dig your tubers up is when the plant starts to turn brown and die back.

What’s the difference between a frost and a freeze?

A frost (ice crystals forming on surfaces) generally happens when the air temperature is between 36-32 degrees F.

A freeze happens when air temperature dips below 32 degrees F. A hard freeze is usually between 28-25 degrees F, and a killing freeze is 24 degrees F and below.

Digging the dahlia tubers up is extremely easy:

Cut foliage back, so that only a couple of inches remain above ground.

Take your preferred digging shovel and dig around the tubers, being careful not to accidentally sever the roots. Many gardeners use a pitchfork to prevent this from happening.

Once you’ve dug the tuber up, shake the dirt off and set it aside.

Repeat until you’ve dug all of your tubers up.

Rising dahlia tubers off

After you’ve dug all of the tubers up, gently wash the dirt off in a tub of water, or with a garden hose.

Make sure not to puncture the skin of your tubers, as this could cause them to rot over the winter months in storage.

Examining and trimming dahlia tubers

After you’ve rinsed the tubers off, it’s time to examine each clump to make sure that there are no rotten parts. If there are, cut these bits off.

If the tubers have several eyes, you can divide them at this step in the process as well. Use a sharp knife to divide tubers, making sure each piece has at least one eye

Beginner Tips…
The eyes of dahlias are the set of cells
 that produce the next season’s plants and blooms. They almost look like pimples! If you can’t identify them in the fall, wait until the spring to divide your tubers as they may be more visible by then.

Drying Dahlia Tubers Before Storing For Winter

The key to successfully storing dahlia tubers for the winter is making sure they stay dry, have good air circulation, and are in a cool, dark spot.

You can store the tubers in a variety of containers – milk crates, plastic bins, paper bags, and cardboard boxes all do the trick. Just make sure there is space left between each tuber and there is some air circulation.

Place the tubers in a cool, dark space that won’t freeze. For many, this could be an unheated basement, attic, closet, or utility room.

Re-Planting Dahlias In Spring

Once spring arrives, ground temperatures have warmed and there is no more chance of frost in your area, you can bring your beloved tubers out of storage and re-plant them in your garden to enjoy again and continue to enjoy your dahlias for years to come.

Special thanks to the National Garden Bureau for helpful gardening tips.

 

Is your lawn looking weak and thin? Overseeding can help you get back to the thick, lush, green lawn you’ve always wanted. By spreading grass seed over your existing lawn, you can thicken up the thin areas, and your lawn will start to look terrific again. (This is different from reseeding, which is when you start over and plant a completely new lawn.)

When to Overseed

In the North, the best time to overseed your lawn is in the fall, when the soil is still warm but the air is cooler, and there are fewer weeds for new grass to compete against. Since your trees are starting to shed their leaves, there’s plenty of sunlight. However, if you are unable to overseed the lawn in the fall, your next best time is the spring. If you live in the South, the best time for overseeding is late spring through mid-summer, since warm-season grasses need warmer soil temperatures to germinate.

 

Why Overseed?

Over time, grass gets old and needs to be replaced. Worn-out lawns invite weeds. Overseeding is a fast, inexpensive way to help bring your lawn back to its lush, green self without tearing everything out and starting over.

1. Mow Low

Before overseeding your thin lawn, cut your grass shorter than normal and bag the clippings. After mowing, rake the lawn to help loosen the top layer of soil and remove any dead grass and debris. This will give the grass seed easy access to the soil so it can root more easily after germinating.

2. Choose a Grass Seed

Which type of grass seed you choose depends on your existing grass type. If your lawn consists of cool-season grasses, choose a product specially designed to thicken thin lawns. If your lawn has a warm-season grass or you are unsure of the best grass for your area, the people at the garden center can help you choose the right seed for your lawn. If you don’t know what type of grass you have, consult our staff for help.

3. Improve the Soil

If you’re using grass seed to overseed your lawn it’s a good idea to rake in a thin, 0.25-inch layer of enriched soil over your lawn to help the seed settle in. Don’t put so much down that you kill your existing grass; less than a quarter of an inch is plenty. 

4. Spread the Seed

You’ve cut the lawn short, raked it, and removed any debris. Now comes the easiest part of the overseeding process: Just fill up your spreader, adjust the setting according to the label directions, and apply. Don’t have a spreader yet? A rotary spreader is an excellent choice for small lawns—it’s simple to use and spreads product quite smoothly. For larger lawns, a drop spreader might be the best spreader for your yard.

5. Feed and Water

To give your new grass seedlings the essential nutrients they need for fast growth, apply a starter (or for late season seeding use a Fall fertilizer) after you’ve spread the grass seed. Afterward, no matter which product you used to overseed, be sure to keep the soil consistently moist by lightly watering once or twice a day until the seedlings have reached the height of the rest of your lawn. 

Thanks to Scotts for these lawn care tips.

Every gardener knows it. Fall is for planting. From the cooler weather and heaps of rain to fewer pests, diseases and weeds, fall has distinct planting benefits.

Throughout the fall we will identify some of the best plants and activities to do in fall. Stay tuned for our expert tips, guest blog posts and giveaway’s.

But in the meantime, learn why planting in fall can make spring gardening much, much easier.

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6 Reasons Why Fall is the Best Time to Garden

1. Work is Easier on Plants… And You

The cooler air temperatures are easier on both plants and gardeners. Neither of you need to suffer through the intense summer heat. Yet, in fall, the soil is still warm enough for roots to thrive. They will grow and get established until the ground freezes.

2. There is More Time in Fall

There are more good days for planting in fall than in spring, when bad weather can make being outside impossible. Plus, you have more free time as a gardener than during the spring rush.

Note: The window for fall planting ends six weeks before your average hard frost, usually September or October.

3. Mother Nature Does the Watering for You

In many regions of the country, fall showers happen often. You might not ever have to water new plantings, which means less maintenance for you. However, due to the cooler temperatures, it’s a cinch to water plants if it doesn’t rain at least 1” per week.

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4. Easier Weed Control

In the fall, weed seeds are dormant, i.e., they don’t grow. So any weeds that do grow up in your flowers are easily removed when they first appear as sprouts in spring.

5. Bye-Bye Pests and Diseases

Pests and diseases are less prevalent in the fall. Most of the bugs are either dead or preparing to hibernate in fall. Plus, the humidity that promotes many diseases fades away.

6. Fall Planting Results in Earlier Blooms

Like fall-seeded lawns, fall-planted wildflower seed has a chance to “settle” into your site during the winter, and is ready to burst into growth in early spring. This is why fall-planted wildflower seed is up and in bloom about two weeks earlier than spring-planted seed.

While all of these make compelling reasons to garden in the fall, the season also means bargain time at garden centers. Check back often for the best deals.

Thanks to Espoma for sharing this gardening tip!

In general, plant foods fall into one of two categories: (1) Synthetic Fertilizers and (2) Natural Organic Fertilizers. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages.

SYNTHETIC PLANT FOODS

Synthetic Fertilizers are materials that are manufactured chemically as opposed to found ready made in nature. In general, synthetic fertilizers fall into one of two categories: (1) Water soluble and (2) Controlled release fertilizers.

Water Soluble Plant Fertilizers. Water soluble plant foods completely dissolve in water and release their nutrients immediately thereafter. They are ideal when you need a quick solution to a problem and for nursery growers who have a drip irrigation system. The trade-off for rapid response is that the feeding is generally short lived, lasting approximately a few weeks. Frequent applications are required as well as mixing with water. Leaching can also be a problem, especially in sandy soils or under high moisture conditions. And burn (dehydration) potential is higher due to solubility and high salt index. Examples of water solubles include: urea, ammonium sulfate and ammonium phosphate.

Controlled Release Fertilizers contain a plant nutrient in a form that delays its availability for plant uptake significantly longer than a water soluble fertilizer. The delay occurs by one of two mechanisms: (1) Coating a water soluble source such as urea with molten sulfur, wax, or plastic. The thicker the coating, the slower the release. Examples include sulfur coated or polymer coated urea. (2) Chemically combining materials to form insoluble polymers, which release nutrients more slowly as the length and number of polymers increases. Ureaform is an example of this. While both types give plants a long lasting feeding, neither contains all of the advantages that you will find with natural organics.

NATURAL ORGANIC FERTILIZERS

Although no universal definition exists for the term “natural organic”, our guiding definition is any material derived from plant, animal or mineral origin that contains one or more essential nutrients for plant growth. While it is true that all fertilizers ultimately feed nutrients to plants in the chemical form, it is the process by which they are delivered that makes natural organic plant foods superior to others.

“Feed the soil that feeds the plants”. Plant growth is dependent on the health and vitality of the soil surrounding it. The process by which natural organic fertilizer  deliver their nutrients enhances the fertility and structure of the soil. Natural organic fertilizers are digested by soil microorganisms, which then release the nutrients in a form available to plants. This process produces humus, a spongy material that improves soil structure. When you improve soil structure, the soil is better able to hold the proper balance of water, air and nutrients until they are required by plants. Plants respond by developing larger root systems. Larger roots support more vigorous top growth and make plants less susceptible to drought. And by stimulating a healthy population of beneficial microorganisms in the soil, plants become more resistant to insects and diseases.

Slow, steady feeding, as the plants require it. The nutrients in natural organic fertilizers are not in a readily available form for plants to use until they are digested by beneficial microorganisms in the soil. This process is slow and largely dependent upon three factors: the microbial population in the soil, moisture, and soil temperature. A healthy population of microbes in the soil is necessary for the digestion process. Moisture is required to sustain microbial life as well as to keep nutrients flowing into the plants root zone. And soil temperature is critical because as it rises, plants require nutrients more rapidly. Fortunately, microbial activity mimics these requirements and also increases as soil temperature rises, so that plants can be fed the needed nutrients, as they require them.

The safest choice for your plants and the environment. Unlike synthetic plant foods, natural organic fertilizers have an extremely low salt index , which means there is little to no risk of burning (dehydrating) plants in periods of extreme drought or when over-applying. Natural organic plant foods are generally very resistant to leaching out of the soil, so their nutrients stay in the root zone until the plants need them. And since most natural organic ingredients are byproducts from commercial farms and meat processing plants, the utilization of them for feeding plants is really a system of recycling much like composting.

Soil and plants receive much more than just the primary nutrients. With natural organic fertilizers, they receive organic matter containing millions of beneficial microbes (bacteria, fungi and protozoa) that help improve soil structure for better moisture retention, nutrient retention, aeration and drainage. They receive secondary and trace nutrients as well as vitamins, minerals, and plant growth hormones that promote plant growth and improve resistance to insects, diseases and climate extremes.

Examples of natural organic ingredients include: bone meal, blood meal, kelp meal and greensand. It is for all of the above reasons that we have always used natural organics as the primary source of nutrition in our Tone line of products. It has established the Espoma Tones as the finest, safest, and most reliable plant foods available.