News and Tips

Do you envision your garden to be a lush haven with an abundance of healthy plants and colorful flowers, with a constant show of hardy perennials and cheery annuals? Or do you see your dream garden filled with an abundance of vegetables and herbs, including some of the popular heirloom varieties of tomatoes, peppers or eggplant? Whatever your dreams and plans for your outdoor space, you can get started with a simple, fun and inexpensive method – grow your own

Starting plants from seeds simply requires a little forethought and planning. You need to lay out a timetable, working back from the last expected frost date in your area. The individual seed packets you choose will give detailed instructions, including how many weeks ahead of the last frost to plant, planting depth, how long the seeds take to germinate and when the new shoots will be hardy enough to be planted outdoors.

Your local garden center or nursery is sure to carry a broad selection of seeds from reputable companies, as well as everything else you need to get going.

You will need:

  1. Planting containers or trays with individual “cells” or cups to hold the planting medium and seeds, with something to cover them once planted. Some come with covers, or you can just use sheets of plastic.
  1. Planting medium. Use a soiless planting mix. It should be sterilized, have good water retention and be lightweight enough for tender sprouts to push their way through the surface, all characteristics not found in average garden soil.
  1. Seeds. Obtain the best seeds possible. The choices today are limitless and each year more and more organic and heirloom seeds are available.
  1. Labels to identify the seeds in each tray. Strips of plastic written with permanent markers work well.
  1. Water. The planting medium needs to stay moist – don’t overwater or allowing seeds to dry out. This is probably the most critical aspect of the germination process but can be learned easily with a little practice.
  1. Light. Natural or artificial light is vital, but you needn’t have to rig up expensive grow lights. A bright south-facing window is perfect.
  1. Warmth. Most seeds need a constant temperature of 65-70º F to properly germinate. 

Be sure to follow the directions on the packet carefully, for each type of seed. Check on them each day to control moisture, light and temperature. Before long, you will experience the thrill of spotting the first signs of germination – tiny sprouts rising through the planting medium!

Once the seeds have germinated and the plants have started to leaf out, you can harden them off by taking them outdoors for a few hours each day. After four or five days getting acclimated in this manner, they can be planted in their rightful place and begin beautifying your garden! And you will have gained a new and rewarding skill. But watch out – pouring over those enticing seed catalogues can be addictive!

Overview of the Four Requirements for Attracting Backyard Birds

Wild birds require four things to be attracted to a backyard: food, water, shelter and nesting sites. If you make each of these four things available, you will be amazed at how many different species of birds become regular backyard guests.

Food

A good food source is the most important thing you need to attract birds. Food sources can be naturally occurring or supplemental sources such as feeders. Offering several different foods will attract a greater variety of birds.

Popular foods to attract birds include:

  • Seeds
  • Nectar
  • Fruits
  • Insects
  • Scraps
  • Nuts
  • Suet

Not all foods will attract the same birds. For the best results, learn which birds are present in your local area and choose foods to attract them to your yard. Once your yard is a popular feeding site, more unusual species will become curious and you can offer them treats as well.

Water

Water is critical to birds’ survival and adding water to your backyard will quickly attract birds. Types of water features that are attractive to birds are:

  • Bird baths
  • Misters
  • Ponds
  • Waterfalls
  • Streams

Moving or flowing water will attract the most birds because it is more visible and they can hear it from a great distance. Water should be kept fresh and clean, but no chemicals should be used to purify water because they can be harmful to birds.

Birds also need water in the winter. A heated bird bath will provide drinkable water that birds do not have to use body heat to melt first. Heaters can be added to regular bird baths or special heated baths can be used.

Shelter

Birds will not stay in a location where they do not feel safe, and adding backyard features that can offer them shelter will help attract them to your yard and keep them there once they have found it. Common bird shelters include:

  • Trees
  • Shrubs
  • Scrub brush piles
  • Overgrown grassy areas

Provide shelter at different levels for birds that prefer both high and low shelters. More dense plant growth is popular with small and medium bird species, while larger birds prefer perches where they can scan nearby areas for predators and other dangers. Shelter near feeders is especially popular since birds can quickly retreat if they feel threatened while feeding.

Many plants can also serve as food sources for birds, so choosing plantings wisely can not only provide shelter but will also entice birds with a natural food source.

Nesting Sites

For permanent guests, it is necessary to provide nesting sites for backyard birds. Many birds prefer to nest in natural locations, but manmade sites can also be attractive and may be easier for birders to enjoy. Nesting sites can include:

  • Trees and shrubs for natural nesting sites
  • Simple nesting boxes
  • Functional or decorative birdhouses
  • A brush pile for ground nesters

Different birds build different types of nests, from twig piles to dangling cups. For the best results, learn what types of nests your regular backyard birds prefer and offer nesting sites that are suitable for their needs.

By providing food, water, shelter and nesting sites, you can attract birds to your yard and invite them to take up residence.

http://birding.about.com/od/attractingbirds/a/attractoverview.htm

Hoya have been popular house plants for decades and with good reason. They are extremely long-lived, have a classic, deep green, vining foliage and produce fragrant, light pink and red star-shaped flowers. Because of their thick waxy, foliage they are often called wax plants or sometimes porcelain flower referring to the unique texture of the flowers.

These tropical vining plants have a few requirements in order to thrive but nothing too hard. Give them bright, indirect light, humidity and a light touch when it comes to watering. Use a potting mix that allows for good air circulation around the roots. Read on for the best recipe for success.

Light

Select a place that gets bright, indirect light. Don’t let their waxy foliage fool you. They are not succulents and can’t take harsh afternoon light. They will grow in lower light situations but it’s unlikely they will bloom. 

Soil and Repotting

Potting soil with good air circulation is very important for Hoya. To create a perfect blend mix equal parts of Espoma’s organic Cactus MixOrchid Mix, and Perlite. Hoya like to be pot-bound or crowded in their pots. They will only need to be repotted every two or three years.

Water

Water regularly with room-temperature water, spring through summer. Let the top layer of soil dry between watering. In the fall and winter growth naturally slows down and they won’t use as much water. Water sparingly during fall and winter, give them just enough that the soil doesn’t dry out completely. Too much water can cause flowers to drop.

Humidity 

Hoya are tropical plants that thrive in humid conditions. Use a humidifier to bring the humidity levels up, especially in winter when indoor air tends to be dry. A saucer with gravel and water also provides humidity as the water evaporates. Misting with room-temperature water also helps but avoid spraying the flowers.

Temperature

Keep the room temperature warm year-round, try not to let it drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also best to keep plants from touching cold windows and away from heating and cooling vents.

Pruning

Prune in spring before vigorous growth begins. The stems with no leaves are called spurs and shouldn’t be removed. Flowers are produced on the same spurs year after year. Hoya are vining plants that will happily cascade from a shelf or window sill. Conversely, they are often trained onto trellises that are either vertical or circular, giving the impression of a more robust plant.

Thanks to Espoma.com for care tips

Photo courtesy of Costa Farms

Starting plants from seeds is a fun and easy way to stretch those gardening dollars. Whether you are interested in annuals, perennials, herbs or vegetables you’ll find a great selection of seeds to start prior to planting out this spring. Of course you can also sow seeds directly into your garden beds. When you consider that a typical seed pack will contain upwards of one hundred seeds there is no better ‘bang for the buck’.

To sow seeds indoors you will just need a seed starting mix, seed box and tray. Most seed starting kits come complete with these items and a plastic cover to complete your own mini ‘greenhouse’. You will just need to sow the seeds thinly and evenly throughout the seed packs – usually just two to three seeds per cell. Press the seeds into the surface of the soil and cover with a thin layer of fine peat or soil. Next water gently and cover with your plastic cover to retain humidity until the seeds have sprouted, the remove the cover and allow air to circulate. Most seeds will germinate in about two weeks, but you can speed up the process with bottom heat. You can thin out the seedlings as soon as they are large enough that the leaves touch. You will need to time the process back from a couple of weeks past the last scheduled frost date. You can ‘harden’ off your seedlings in a cool, but not cold garage or breezeway to acclimate the seedlings prior to planting.

You can follow this process for just about all seeds, with the exception of some of the larger vegetable varieties that are sensitive to transplant shock. It is a good idea to start larger plants directly into larger pots or ‘peat pots’ that will require the amount of transplanting. You should always follow the instructions on the seed package to determine specific care instructions as well as the time need for germination and development.

Of course you can also sow seeds directly into the garden soil. You would be amazed at how you can add dozens of new plants from a single package of seeds. Mixing and matching the varieties can help you create specific gardens such as those that attract butterflies, or if you are ‘naturalizing’ a portion of your home landscape. 

Some of the easiest plants to grow from seeds are annuals, especially those that ‘self-sow’, or grow from seeds they sow themselves. A few good examples are Alyssum, Calendula, Cosmos, Larkspurs, Nicotiana and even Impatiens! You just need to remember to leave some seed heads to fall onto ‘receptive ground’. Receptive ground is nothing more than friable soil that is raked out and free of weeds, stones and debris.

Nothing is more fun that starting seeds in the sometimes gloomy weeks and months prior to the spring. Of course you can always find expert advice from our staff. We are always here to help you with all of your gardening questions. 

Anthurium Care
Family: Araceae
Common Name: Flamingo Flower, Tail Flower, Painted Tongue Plant
Botanical Name: Anthurium andraeanum

Here’s a little secret: the beautiful heart-shaped “flowers” are not flowers! What makes these durable, easy-care houseplants so appealing are red, white, pink, or purple waxy leaves called spathes that flare from the base of the fleshy spike where the actual tiny flowers grow. These indoor plants are epiphytes, a type of air plant that comes from warm, tropical regions where they either grow on the surface of other plants or in rich organic humus. Therefore, as a houseplant, the Anthurium is extremely durable and requires little care. Simply repot with a peat moss or a coco coir-based soil mixture, provide bright, indirect sunlight, and allow the soil to partially dry out between waterings. For more robust, repeated “flowering,” allow the Anthurium to rest for six weeks with little water during the winter at approximately 60°F. If you notice that the “flower” is green rather than the color you were expecting, it may be a new sprout that was forced to bloom when it should have been resting. If a “flower” is fading, it is likely an older bloom that is ready to dry up and fall off (see below for care).

Important! Anthurium are poisonous if ingested, so be very careful if you have pets and/or small children. The sap can also cause skin irritation.

Light
Flowering Anthurium needs bright, indirect light (direct sunlight will scorch the leaves and flowers!). Low light will slow growth and produce fewer, smaller “flowers.”

Water
Water thoroughly when the first inch of the soil becomes dry to the touch, stopping when water starts draining from the drainage holes. Avoid overwatering (Anthurium roots are susceptible to rot!). The more light and warmth that your Anthurium gets, the more water it will need, so check the soil for dryness every few days. These plants will provide signs of stress or thirst, so pay attention: thirsty plants will be light if you lift them and will have droopy or puckering leaves. You will not need to water as often in the winter when the plant is not actively growing.

Temperature
The Anthurium prefers very warm temperatures (70-90°F), but don’t worry – these plants are extremely adaptable and can flourish in typical household temperature ranges. However, be careful of temperature extremes: if your thermostat drops below 50°F, the Anthurium will stop growing; if your house gets too hot, your Anthuriums will wilt.

Humidity
Most Anthuriums thrive on humidity, but the flowering varieties can tolerate more dryness. If your humidity level is less than 50%, then consider using a humidifier to increase the level to at least 60%. Filling small trays with pebbles and water and grouping indoor plants together can slightly increase the humidity immediately surrounding your plants.

Fertilizer
During the growing season (spring and summer), feed your Anthurium once a month using a complete, ¼-strength liquid fertilizer. Note — too much fertilizer can do more harm than good. To encourage more blooms, use a fertilizer higher in phosphorus during the growing season.

Pro Tips
Use a fertilizer high in phosphorus to promote blooms in flowering varieties.
Use a soil that drains well to avoid root rot, but holds enough moisture for root absorption.
Don’t be alarmed when you see roots growing from the stems! These are simply aerial roots that would benefit from occasional misting. If you don’t like the look of these roots, you can cut them without hurting the plant.
As your Anthurium grows, place it in a bigger pot. Crowded roots will stunt the plant’s growth!
When the flowers fade and you want to remove them, cut at the base of the flower stem, closest to the base of the plant.

…and you never have to worry about getting the wrong size!

Selecting gifts for family, friends, and neighbors can offer a challenge to even the most organized amongst us. Making a gift special requires effort; either in remembering the correct size, or a favorite color, a type of music or even a favored flower. A good gift is something that shares your passion with a friend, or contributes to their interests through your gift.

The most cherished gifts are those that reflect the effort you’ve put into the selection. It is in this process of gifting that we truly give of ourselves. As gardeners, we often share from our garden-whether it is a surplus of tomatoes, fresh blooms, or even a special recipe.

These gifts from the garden are special. They include all the elements that show you care: time, creativity, beauty and expertise. As this holiday season approaches, consider giving the gift of gardening. It is a present that is appropriate to any age, level of friendship or interest.

Which of your gardening friends wouldn’t appreciate a new tool, seed collection, gardening book, wind chime or bird bath? And who among the others on you list would you not share your favored moments from the garden or nature? So let this be the season to share your passion with a poinsettia, bulb collection or pottery.

Remember, a gift card is always a great idea and can be used all year-round!

The holiday season is fast approaching and soon it will be time to deck the halls with decorative greenery and boughs of holly. To make sure all your garland, swags, trees and kissing balls look their best make sure to use an anti-dessicant such as Wilt-Pruf® to keep your greens from drying out.

This is also a helpful tip for prolong the life of greens, holly, berries and boxwood used in outdoor window boxes or winter planters. An application of Wilt-Pruf can help extend the life of your festive display.

You can use Wilt Pruf® to protect and extend the life of Christmas trees and wreathes by reducing moisture loss. Moisture loss is the primary cause of the needle loss and browning that is so common. For wreathes, holly and other seasonal greenery many commercial producers dip the object in Wilt Pruf® and let if drip dry over a catch tray. For the homeowner, spraying is just as effective.


This is a simple process:

  1. For a long lasting Christmas Tree begin by selecting one that has been cut recently and is still fresh.
  2. Apply Wilt Pruf® to all foliage outdoors in daylight, Wilt Pruf® needs exposure to ultra violet light to dry properly.
  3. Let dry before bringing indoors
  4. 1 Quart RTU will treat the typical 5′ – 6′ Christmas Tree, you can also mix the concentrate at 5:1 dilution and apply with any pressurized sprayer.

Wilf-Pruf® is also a good way to protect evergreen shrubs from Winter winds and chills. It provides a protective layer that helps to lock moisture in preventing burning and helps to keep plants from drying out.