Gardening and Lawn Care

They’re Coming! Take Steps Now to Battle the Bugs

They’re Coming! Take Steps Now to Battle the BugsMany bugs are dormant over the Winter months. Once Spring arrives, they are back in full force. While you are working on Spring yard projects, remember to practice some preventative pest control. Head pests off at the pass before they can invade your home and garden.

Boost Pest Control Effectiveness

Taking steps now will keep you bug-free in the Summer months ahead. Whether you choose chemical or natural pest control, you can take steps to boost their effectiveness around your home. Here are a few suggestions on where to begin.

7 Proactive Steps for Battling Bugs

  1. Remove standing water and fix leaks – Don’t give mosquitos a place to breed. If you have a water fountain, treat it with drop-in mosquito pellets. Keep your pump working because moving water does not allow them to lay eggs.
  2. Clean gutters – Avoid letting leaves block downspouts by cleaning them twice a year.
  3. Remove yard debris – Fallen piles of leaves and tree branches are prime hiding places for mosquitos and other pests. They also spread mold and fungus throughout your garden.
  4. Seal your home – Look for cracks in your foundation, around windows and exterior pipes. Bugs can use these to enter the home. Replace old door seals as well.
  5. Deny access to food – Hang bird feeders away from the house, keep pet food in airtight containers and make sure garbage cans have properly fitting lids.
  6. Fence your garden – Install a wire fence around your vegetable garden.
  7. Cover large openings – Use wire mesh or hardwire cloth to cover openings like attic fans and roof vents. This will keep squirrels out. Check chimney caps to see if they need to be replaced.

Leaks and Moisture Encourage Pest Problems

Pests are attracted to moisture. By eliminating leaks or other moisture issues you can solve the majority your insect problems. Start by inspecting your crawlspace and foundation for moisture seepage. Seal any cracks with caulk or compound cement. If you have a drainage problem around your foundation, consider re-grading the landscaping to drain water away. Channel downspouts in a new direction.

Be Careful Using Insecticides Around Pets and Children

Treating around the perimeter of your home with insecticide is one way to stop bugs from entering your home. Though many products claim to be safe for humans and pets, use caution when applying. Keep children and pets inside while spraying and then for a couple hours afterward to allow the chemicals to dry.

Go Natural with Your Pest Protection

If you are worried about harmful toxins in chemical pesticides, try some natural alternatives. Insecticide soaps are made from organic products and are quite effective. If you want to avoid spraying chemicals of any sort, here are a few ideas:

  • Plant Lavender or Rosemary near your patio or deck to ward off mosquitos.
  • Sprinkle Cinnamon in a child’s sandbox to keep ants out.
  • Mix white vinegar and water to spray on spiders and their webs.
  • Carry dryer sheets in your pocket to keep mosquitos and gnats away.
  • Sprinkle citrus peels around plants infested with mites or spiders.
  • Grapefruit rinds attract slugs; once they take hold you can throw them in trash.
  • Crushed Basil in your cabinets will deter cockroaches.
  • Use Ladybugs to get rid of aphids on your roses.

Welcome Natural Insect Predators to Your Garden

If you want to up the ante, invite natural predators like swallows, finches or even bats to share your garden. Install a bat house in a tree away from your home. Bats sleep during the day and hunt for insects at night. You will probably never see them, although you may notice a decrease in the number of mosquito bites you endure.

Don’t Let Insects Ruin Your Day

Be proactive in fighting pests this year. A few changes around the house can make all the difference. Take the time to treat for bugs now and keep them in check. Enjoy this Summer pest-free. This is your home, show those bugs who’s boss.

Expert Advice

From sprayer tanks and insect foggers to ladders and bobcats, our expert staff is ready to help you protect your home from pests. Looking for a natural way to battle bugs? Our blog, Keeping Critters at Bay Part 3 – No Poison Pest Control, has plenty of helpful, non-toxic suggestions for preventing bugs. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Get Those Trimmers Out! Get Your Yard Back in Shape!

Get Those Trimmers Out! Get Your Yard Back in Shape!Now that Spring is here, many of you are diligently working time to reclaim your yard. Getting out those trimmers to cut back early flowering trees, shrubs and ornamental grasses will go a long way to improving the look of your garden.

To Prune or Not to Prune

Pruning isn’t just done in the fall. Some plants benefit from having their dead foliage left attached over the winter. This protects their tender roots. Still, pruning stresses plants. Wait until they have flowered and gone dormant before attempting it. Pruning a plant while it is actively growing invites pests, diseases and fungus to enter through the wound.

Plants to Trim Back Now:

  • Woody perennials – Plants like Artemisia, Buddleia and Lavender bloom on new growth. Pruning now encourages them to send out new foliage.
  • Evergreens – Some species don’t go dormant but do turn brown. Trim off these wilted leaves and apply some fertilizer.
  • Flowering trees – Most early blooming trees set their buds last fall so you are safe to prune now. Avoid taking more than a third off the branches.
  • Roses – Prune after flowering. Even species like repeat bloomers can benefit from tidying up. Remove dead or weak growth.

Ornamental Grasses – Adding Interest All Year Long

Ornamental grasses add beauty to the landscape year-round. If you left yours up over the winter (the birds thank you for that!), now may be the time to cut it back. It depends on the type of grass you have. Cutting your grasses back exposes the crown or base to sunlight and rain.

Two types of grasses:

  • Cool season – Varieties like Fescue, Ribbon grass, Feather grass and Tufted Hair-grass produce new shoots in the early Spring and flower by early Summer. Cut the dead growth back before new sprouts get too high. Avoid damaging the crown or base. This can kill the plant.
  • Warm season – Species like Japanese Blood grass, Maiden grass, Fountain grass and Pampas grass produce new growth in late Spring/early Summer and flower in late Fall. Since these grasses send up new stalks later, you have more time to cut them back. Rake out dead foliage from the base to allow the sun to penetrate.

Prepare for Battle When Cutting Ornamental Grasses

Cutting ornamental grasses can be a bit of a challenge, as these plants like to fight back. Many species have sharp-edged leaves, so be sure to wear heavy gloves, long sleeves and protective eyewear when tackling them. Bind the stalks with rope in a couple of places to make for easier clean-up. With a hedge trimmer, cut the grass back by a third. Now is also the time to divide your plantings. Use a sharp-edged shovel to portion off root sections to transplant.

Give Your Garden a Little TLC

Pruning and freshening up your landscape will get your garden back in shape. Take the opportunity to inspect your plants and determine the ones that need a little extra TLC or fertilizer. Spring clean-up is a daunting job. Never fear, soon your hard work will pay off and the garden you missed all winter long will be a reality.

Expert Advice

Not sure what tool to use for a tough gardening job? Whether it is hedge trimmers and weed eaters or tree pruners and wheelbarrows, our expert staff is ready to recommend the best tool for the job. If you still need help organizing your gardening to-do list, Tackle Spring Clean Up in Your Yard With this Handy Checklist gives helpful tips. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Give Your Yard a Greener Lawn

Give Your Yard a Greener LawnDo you love to mow grass? Do you take the appearance of weeds as a personal insult? Then you are suffering from Lawn Addictive Disorder (LAD). As a part of an ever-growing (but silent) community of lawn obsessed homeowners, you are chomping at the bit to fire up your lawn mower. We are here to help you manage these impulses and get ready for your favorite pastime. Forget baseball season, it’s mowing season!

Don’t Stress Over Your Grass

If you are a lifelong LAD sufferer, you spend a great deal of time stressing over the condition of your lawn. Grass doesn’t have to be a source of anxiety. If managed correctly, you will be cutting patterns across your lush sod soon enough.

Prepare for Mowing Season

  • Let the soil dry out – If your area receives a lot of rain and snow, let the soil dry completely before working it to avoid further compaction.
  • Test the soil – This helps determine the best fertilizer to add to soil. For more on the different supplements available, Get a Head Start on Spring Gardening with Fertilizer gives helpful suggestions.
  • Find the right time – Avoid rushing out to mow your grass right away. Allow it to grow to at least two inches before cutting it back by a third of the desired height.
  • Use a mulching mower – Adding grass clipping back to your lawn provides it with 25% of the nitrogen it needs. Don’t leave large clumps of clippings in your yard. It will kill the grass underneath and invite pests.
  • Sharpen mower blade – A dull blade will stress the grass and encourage disease.

Give Your Grass What It Needs – Nitrogen

Nitrogen helps grass build strong roots and lush leaves. Apply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer in early Spring to encourage growth and then again later to help sustain it through the Summer heat. Water at least one or two days following an application to make sure it gets to the roots.

Practice Good Lawn Maintenance

If obtaining a beautiful-looking lawn is keeping you up at nights, stop stressing. Practice good lawn management and you, too, can have a gorgeous green yard. Here are a few things you should do yearly to keep your turf true to form:

  • Remove thatch – This layer of dead grass and weeds can choke the root system. Rent a dethatching machine to remove it and rake up the debris. If your grass shows signs of disease, don’t add the clippings to your compost pile to avoid spreading them.
  • Aerate or plug Aeration machines pull plugs of grass and soil up allowing air, moisture and fertilizer to get to the roots. This helps soil that has been compacted during Winter.
  • Evaluate your soil – What your grass is planted in matters. Enhance your soil’s health by feeding it a layer of compost after you aerate. Work the organic matter into the plug holes with the back of a rake or stiff broom.
  • Water regularly – Allow your grass to dry out (almost wilt) between each watering. It will encourage the roots to grow deeper and tolerate drought better. Give grass at least one inch of water weekly.

The Best Weed Control is a Healthy Lawn

Face it, weeds happen. The best defense is keeping your grass healthy. A strong root system crowds out weeds. This is the best time to tackle weed issues, before they take over. Different weeds require different products. Ask your garden center for advice. Some herbicides like Round-up will kill everything (grass, flowers, even pets) so be careful when using.

Tackle Those Pesky Weeds

  • Spot treatments – Apply herbicide to broadleaf weeds. Spray dead spots with a fungicide early before it spreads. Thatching will help prevent this.
  • Dial sprayer – When the weed problem is widespread, add a dial sprayer to your hose to administer the herbicide over a wide area. Protect flowers and shrubs with plastic when you apply.
  • Broadcast spreader – Prevent crabgrass by applying a granular weed killer early in the Spring.
  • Dig them out – Sometimes the old ways are best! Use a garden knife to dig dandelions and creeping buttercups up by the roots. 

Obsess Less and Enjoy Your Lawn More

Living with your lawn obsession is possible, if you practice good grass maintenance. Make it your objective to enjoy your yard, not stress over it. Set your sights on loftier goals like cutting the pattern of your favorite baseball team into your front lawn. Your homeowner’s association will love it!

Expert Advice

From rakes and Honda mowers to dethatchers and aerator/pluggers, our expert staff is ready to help you with your lawn obsession. Do you need to re-seed your grass but are not sure how? Our blog, 3 Options for How to Replant Grass in Your Yard, has helpful DIY tips on the best method for you. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Springtime Fertilizer for a Hungry Lawn and Garden

Springtime Fertilizer for a Hungry Lawn and GardenIs your garden calling you? If so, it is probably saying “Feed me, feed me”. In Spring, when everything is coming back to life, feed your lawn and garden. Finding the right time is the tricky part. Apply fertilizers after the last frost but not too early. Spring rains cause nutrients to leech away into the soil before your plants can see any benefit. Wait until you see the green popping through!

Why Fertilize?

If you have supplemented your soil with compost and organic matter over the Fall, you are ahead of the game. If not, no worries. Test your soil’s Ph level to determine what nutrients are needed. Don’t guess, it is easy to over-fertilize when using commercial chemical products.

When Do I Fertilize?

Are you giving your garden a good start or are you trying to increase the number of blooms and fruit you produce? Giving your garden what it needs depends on what stage of growth it is in. Established plants need less attention.

The two approaches to fertilizing:

  • Long-term – To replenish nutrients to the soil throughout the year.
  • Short-term – To feed plants now to promote growth.

Give Your Lawn a Nitrogen Rich Supplement

If you are wanting your grass to put on a show for you this summer, make sure the soil is rich in nitrogen. Winter weather can compact your soil and strangle your grass. Aeration allows for better drainage, improved oxygen levels and easier absorption of fertilizers. If you are laying new sod, give the soil a good dose of organic matter first.

Fertilizers Can Be a Mixed Bag

Choosing the right fertilizer is a chore all by itself. There are so many to pick from at the garden center. A good rule of thumb – organic fertilizers won’t contaminate the ground water and are less likely to cause damage if overused.

Types of Fertilizers

  • Compost – Use an aged mix to avoid plant burn. Work it into the top six inches of soil.
  • Manure – Avoid using fresh manure. It gives off heat and ammonia as it breaks down that can harm tender plants.
  • Chemical fertilizers – Use the right NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium) blend depending on your needs. Add before planting to allow it to dissipate into the soil and not burn the roots.
  • Organic fertilizers – Consider trying bio-stimulants like liquid seaweed or kelp that you can spray directly on plants or soil and use monthly.

Show Your Garden Some Love

Supplement your garden’s soil before planting with bone, blood or fish meal. These are good options beyond the usual compost and manure. Vegetables will also need a slow-release fertilizer throughout the growing season. Start adding it after your plants have established and re-apply it every few weeks. You can also plant green fertilizers like clover, which will deter weeds and enrich the soil when it dies back.

Your Garden Will Thank You

Help your garden and lawn get off to a great start with fertilizer. Like you, it is ready for Winter to be behind it. Feed your lawn and plants the nutrients they need to grow strong and healthy. Now, when you hear garden calling, it is probably saying thank you!

Expert Advice

From shovels and wheelbarrows to aerator/pluggers and Honda tillers, our expert staff is ready to help get your Spring yard projects started. Want more tips on growing the perfect lawn? Our blog, Planning for a Green Spring – Feed Your Lawn, will get you off to a great start. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Gardening Season is Here! Time to Play in the Dirt

spring gardening checklistIf you are chomping at the bit to get outside and play in the dirt, your chance is almost here. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, our last Spring frost should be around April 18. After that, you should be good to go to get plants in the ground. Getting your Spring garden and yard checklist done means rolling up your sleeves and cleaning out those flower beds. Get busy, you have a lot to do!

Find Your Hardiness Zone

If you need reminding which hardiness zone you live in, you are not alone. Our state seems to be laid out like a jigsaw puzzle. Still, they say we are looking at 182 days of great gardening weather ahead, so bring it on!

Here are the hardiness zones for Indiana:

  • Zone 5B – Northern Indiana
  • Zone 6A – Central Indiana (and pockets of N. Indiana) including Indianapolis
  • Zone 6B – Southern Indiana

Top 10 Tasks for Your Spring Gardening Checklist

Get your Spring gardening checklist in order. Tackling some of the list now will give you more time to focus on planting new varieties once the last frost has passed. 

  1. Remove dead plants – If you didn’t do this during the Fall/early Winter, do it now.
  2. Test the soil – Harsh winters can deplete nutrients. Testing will let you know how to amend it before planting.
  3. Weeding and composting – Pull early weeds now before they take hold. Amend your soil with compost, manure or new top soil.
  4. Prune perennials – Many die back to the ground in the Winter. If you have dead growth stalks, don’t cut them until you see green at the base.
  5. Cut back ornamental grasses – Get rid of old growth.
  6. Roses – Inspect them for diseases and remove dead limbs.
  7. Trees and shrubs – Prune spring flowering plants after they have lost their blooms.
  8. Evergreens – Fertilize them with specially formulated food.
  9. Divide and transplant – Separate perennials to prevent overcrowding. Start a new bed or share the extra plants with friends.
  10. Mulching and edging – Give seedlings an opportunity to peek through before covering them up. Let the soil warm up and dry out slightly before adding mulch to avoid encouraging mildew. Edge your beds to keep grass at bay.

Outdoor To-do List Includes Repairs and Cleaning

Spring gardening projects are not limited to planting and mulching. Inspect your landscape for any basic repairs that are needed like dead tree removal or broken branches. Retaining walls may need shoring up or replacing. Bird feeders and chicken coops need cleaning. If you don’t have a compost bin, now is a great time to build one.

If you are as excited about the warm weather as we are, you won’t mind having a list of things to do. Are you ready to play in the dirt?

Expert Advice

Need a few more outdoor projects? This handy list, 11 Lawn and Gardening Tips for Spring, will round out your DIY to-do list. From Honda tillers and trimmers to edgers and wheelbarrows, we have what you need to tackle all of your Springtime gardening checklist. Let our expert staff help you find the right equipment for your DIY projects. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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How to Reap the Rewards of Backyard Farming

backyard farmingFamilies question where their food comes from and why it costs so much. To stay on budget, many turn to backyard farming, which helps stretch their dollars. Urban agriculture is a booming business and many first-time farmers are taking the challenge. If you have been considering starting a garden or raising some chickens or bees, we’re here to help.

5 Things to Know Before You Start Backyard Farming

  1. Know Local Laws – Communities may restrict the size and placement of gardens and what animals you can raise.
  2. Start Small – If you are new to growing vegetables or herbs, consider planting containers first. The next year, if you want more, do plots or raised beds.
  3. Talk to Your Neighbors – You may love chickens but your next-door neighbor may not appreciate your rooster’s wake up call. Consider sharing a portion of your yield.
  4. Do Your Homework – Raising chickens, bees or goats takes routine care. Research online to determine which breed to buy and how to build their shelters.
  5. Join a Co-op – Find a community garden club or organization to join. You’ll gain helpful information while making new friends.

Invite Some Chickens to Your Home to Roost

Many people think raising chickens is a complicated undertaking but far from it. If you love fresh eggs and how cute these feathery critters are, start building a roost. Designs range from the simplest wood and wire structures to elaborate two-story creations. It is entirely up to you.

When raising chickens, keep in mind:

  • Choosing the Right Breed –Do you want chickens for the eggs, to eat or both? There are many different breeds. Your climate makes a difference, too. Hearty breeds like Silkies that have lots of fur-like feathers are best suited for colder climates. Some breeds are aggressive so select ones that are compatible.
  • Daily Care Requirements – Chickens eat bugs, worms and seeds but they still need a balanced diet of high protein chicken feed. Fresh water is a must.
  • Protecting Your Flock – Build an attached wire enclosed run onto your coop for your birds to exercise. Never allow them to roam unsupervised. Even in urban areas, there are still plenty of predators (cats, coyotes and hawks) that can injure or kill your chickens.
  • Interacting with the Birds – Chickens are social animals and need interaction. They consider you part of their flock so get to know them.
  • Life Span of Chickens – Hens live from eight to 10 years and their egg production drops off after three to five years. Decide whether you want to keep them as pets, or (you know) ask them to dinner.

The Buzz About Bees

Despite their stinging reputation, bees can peacefully co-exist with animals like chickens. The birds instinctually don’t go near the entrance to the hive and bees appreciate having the chickens eat the pests that can destroy their hives.

Benefits of Adding Bees to Your Backyard Farm

  • Nutrition – One hive can produce 40 plus pounds of honey depending on the climate.
  • Pollination – Having bees in your garden boosts the volume of flowers and vegetables you produce.
  • Ecosystem – By increasing small local colonies of beehives, you help support the overall bee population. Our world depends on bees to pollinate food sources and keep them growing.
  • Commerce – Not only will you have ample honey to sell, you can harvest the beeswax to make candles.

Goats Get the Job Done

Another animal to consider is the goat. Turn these four-legged lawn mowers loose and no weed is safe. Corporate America is even on-board! Google uses them for “landscape management” at their headquarters in Mountain View, CA. Besides the lawn service, you will have an ample supply of goat’s milk for cheese or bath soap plus all the cuteness you can stand. Just check to see if your community allows them before falling in love.

Reap the Rewards of Backyard Farming

There are so many benefits to be gained from backyard farming. Providing healthier food for your family, improving the environment and experiencing the joy of tending to some amazing creatures are just a few. Take the challenge to become more self-sufficient and live a greener lifestyle. You’ll be happy you did.

Expert Advice

Ready to tackle this year’s vegetable garden? Our blog, Yard/Garden To-Do’s Part 2: Planting a Vegetable Garden, will help you decide what you need to get started. Whether it’s tillers and wheelbarrows or nail guns and circular saws, our helpful staff can help you choose the right tools for your next DIY gardening project. Don’t hesitate to contact us or stop by our store if you have questions about pricing or how to’s — we’re open seven days a week.

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Light ‘Em Up! – Your Outdoor Space Needs a New Grill

Light ‘Em Up! – Your Outdoor Space Needs a New GrillAdmit it. Like a runner on the starting blocks, you are waiting for grilling season to start! While some folks grill year-round, the majority of us hate standing out in the cold, waiting for steaks to finish. If you are considering kicking your outdoor kitchen up a notch or just buying a new cooker, now is the time to start planning.

Move That Idea Off the Back Burner

If you want to build an outdoor kitchen or redesign your deck area for better dining, work up your plans now. Decide what you want to do, how much professional help you might need, and your total budget. Once you decide, keep an eye out for pre-Spring sales.

Some things to consider for your outdoor cooking plans:

  • What type of grill or cooker to buy?
  • What fuel source (gas, charcoal, electric) do you want?
  • Do you need add-ons like burners (warming or cooking) or deep fryers?
  • What material do you want? Ceramic, steel, cast iron?
  • Does it need to be stationary or portable?

Choose a Grill for Every Cooking Style

  • Direct Heat – This is the typical charcoal or gas grill. The heat/flame is directed at the food, cooking it. It is prone to flare ups from grease dripping on flames.
  • Indirect Heat – Same concept as the direct heat grill but a ceramic device is placed between the heat source and food to prevent charring.
  • Ceramic – These insulated cookers (like Big Green Egg or Primo brands) are 400% more efficient at using charcoal, heat evenly and are safer than standard grills. They are also much more expensive compared to standard gas/charcoal grills.
  • Flat Top Griddle – A solid metal surface like most commercial kitchens allows you to cook a variety of foods. The downside? It does not grill the food.
  • Infrared Grills – Heats evenly with high temperatures. Cooking is not affected by wind or rain.
  • Electric – Portable units are quick and easy to use but should not be left outside.
  • Smokers – Primarily pellet fueled, they are good for low, slow cooking. Some do come with a wider range of cooking temperatures.

Find a Clean Source of Fuel

Before you buy another bag of the traditional charcoal, check out some eco-friendly fuel sources for your grill. Cheap charcoal emits cancer-causing toxins when burned that wind up on your food. Like you do with food, read the labels. Here is a rundown of some different materials to burn in your grill:

  • Natural Lump Charcoal – Contents should be hardwood material and any binders (to make the briquettes) should be free of glues and toxic chemicals.
  • Coconut Shell Charcoal – Chemical free, they use recycled waste shells as the main source. Burns just like traditional briquettes.
  • Propane and Natural Gas – A cleaner, more economical option but grilling purists say the taste is not the same.
  • Electricity – Unless you have ready access to an outdoor outlet, you will be running extension cords. Most are portable table-top grills that can be used indoors and outdoors.
  • Flame Disk – A disk made of ethanol biofuels that lights quickly. The ash produced can be recycled.

Design Around Your Family

If your family loves eating outdoors, create an area where you can relax. Consider hiring an outdoor design consultant to help with your plans. They can advise on the right materials and layout to use on your DIY project. Include modern conveniences like refrigerators and ice makers to make dining outside even easier.

Grilling Season is Almost Here!

Warm weather is fast approaching so get ready for grilling season! Whether your specialty is steaks and burgers or smoked turkeys, there are some incredible grill options available to you. You may have a hard time choosing, but no one says you have to buy just one!

Expert Advice

Need to re-design your outdoor dining area to accommodate a new grill? Our blog, Boost Outdoor Entertaining Potential with New Design Elements, has some great ideas on how to add pizzazz to your patio. Whether you need nail guns, ladders or pressure washers, our helpful staff can help you choose the right tools for your next home project. Don’t hesitate to contact us or stop by our store if you have questions about pricing or how to’s — we’re open seven days a week.

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Expert Tips: Size Doesn’t Matter with Gardening

Expert Tips: Size Doesn’t Matter with GardeningIf you live in an apartment or condo and are envious of your homeowner friends’ large gardens, it’s time to accept the gardening challenge. Whether you want to plant flowers or grow vegetables, no area is too small for Mother Nature to take hold. Don’t let your lack of outdoor space keep you from enjoying the popular hobby of gardening.

Bountiful Benefits Grow from Gardens

Gardening offers lots of benefits. Not only is it a great way to grow your own food and enjoy the outdoors, it is a gentle form of exercise. Many find weeding and watering their plants a way to relax and clear the mind. Even with limited space, you can create your own quiet retreat while making your garden grow.

Here are a few tips on getting started:

  • Find the best location – You need at least 3-4 hours of direct sunlight.
  • Know your zone – Where you live affects when you start planting.
  • Get approval – Some apartment complexes and condo HOAs may have restrictions.
  • Start small – You’ll be tempted to overindulge but start with a few plants first.
  • Prepare your beds or containers properly – Good soil starts things off right.
  • Space them out – Give your plants room to grow.
  • Study growing habits – Native plants are the easiest to grow.
  • Don’t overwater or over-fertilize – Not all plants need the same care.
  • Beware of invasive plants – If the ad says fast growing, beware. Do your research.
  • Not all bugs are bad – Don’t overuse insecticides. Bees and ladybugs are beneficial.
  • Weed, weed, weed – Make it a habit. They sap nutrients from your plants.

Look for Planting Potential

Your imagination is the only limitation you face when gardening in a small space. Try thinking outside of the planter to create your own special oasis. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Containers – Don’t limit yourself to flower pots. Anything that holds soil can be a planter including boots, buckets, tin cans, a child’s wagon or even a hat.
  • Window boxes – There are some that do not have to be permanently mounted. Ones that attach to deck railings can blow over in windy conditions.
  • Standing planters – If bending over is a problem for you, consider raised garden beds. They are easy to construct out of pressure treated lumber.
  • Vertical gardens – An old wooden pallet or window shutter attached to a wall provides lots of planting potential.

As Urban Living Expands So Will the Need for Gardening

Many experts have predicted that by the year 2030 nearly 50% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. Adapting where our food sources originate and how we view our role in producing it is an issue facing our world today. Your little veggie garden isn’t as insignificant as you thought.

Veggies for Everyone!

If you have your heart set on planting a vegetable garden, start small. Ask your local garden shop which plants work well in containers. There are many tomato, lettuce, onion, kale and herb varieties that do well in compact spaces. If you share a balcony with a neighbor and you want to grow vines of beans, ask if they’d mind and then offer to share the harvest.

Reap the Benefits of Gardening

Gardening isn’t limited to those with large expanses of land. Growing flowers and vegetables in small plots or containers can be just as rewarding. Add some greenery to your life by starting a garden today. Join your local garden club or volunteer to work in a community garden. Let Mother Nature show you how to reap the benefits of planting a garden.

Expert Advice

From shovels and rakes to tillers and wheelbarrows, our expert staff is always on hand to assist gardeners with their next DIY project. If you are interested in growing herbs, check out our previous blog, A Message to the Beginner of Herb Gardening, to learn great tips on selecting and planting the right varieties in your garden. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Photo Credit: HGTV.com
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Outdoor Winter Preparations – Don’t Let Old Man Winter Catch You Napping

Outdoor Winter Preparations – Don’t Let Old Man Winter Catch You NappingIt seems like Fall is getting shorter and shorter every year, so take advantage of the weather while you can and get a few items checked off your Winter prep list. Making sure your home and yard are properly prepared for cold temperatures will give you peace of mind later.

Goodbye Garden

It’s sad when we say goodbye to our gardens but prudent preparations now will make things a lot easier come Spring. Winter can wreak havoc on your outdoor space so store items now that can be affected by freezing temperatures. Here are a few things to add to your to-do list:

  • Trim trees and shrubs
  • Aerate your grass
  • Till garden beds
  • Compost leaves
  • Clean soil out of flower pots and store them
  • Dig up bulbs, place in dry place
  • Divide your perennials
  • Winterize garden power tools
  • Store clean rakes, hoes, trimmers

Think Compost Bin This Year

Make this year the one where you start a compost bin. They are easy to build and you will reap lots of rewards from the black gold it generates. If you want to learn more about composting, check out our blog, 10 Good Sense Tips for Building a Compost Bin, and find out how it can help your garden and the environment.

Prepare Outside Your Home for Dropping Temperatures

Cold weather likes to remind us of the little things we forget to address before the needle drops – like water spigots and hot tubs. List all the small stuff outside that needs to be readied before Old Man Winter arrives – and get ‘re done. We’ve listed a few items to get you started.

  • Pressure wash and store lawn furniture
  • Cover outside water faucets
  • Inspect and clean your gutters
  • Winterize outdoor sprinkler systems, pools and hot tubs
  • Cover or remove window A/C units
  • Put up storm doors and windows
  • Have HVAC system serviced
  • Drain and store garden hoses
  • Inspect driveway for crack and seal
  • Remove wind chimes, yard art and flags that can be damaged in storms
  • Winterize hot tub

Start Winterizing Your Garden and Home Now

Avoid the problems cold temperatures bring by preparing for harsh Winter weather now. A list of DIY projects to do this Fall is an easy way to make sure things get accomplished. By winterizing your garden and the outside of your home, you are protecting them and saving yourself from costly repairs. It’s a win-win for a DIYer like you.

Expert Advice

From rakes and ladders to pressure washers and tillers, our expert staff is always on hand to help you get ready for the cold weather. Not sure what else you need to do to close out your garden?

Our blog, Fall Checklist Pt. 1: Garden Clean Up – Winterization, has tips on making sure your perennials survive until Spring. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: DIY Projects, Fall Checklist, Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's, Restore and Renovate | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Go Green – Plant a Living Privacy Fence

how and why to plant a privacy hedgeWe’ve all experienced it. The horrible view from our kitchen window staring straight at a neighbor’s hot tub. While they may be nice people, do you really want to intrude on their private time? Go green! Plant your privacy fence rather than building one. We’ve got a few suggestions to help you make it happen.

Hedges Add Interest and Privacy

If you want more privacy or to add interest to your landscape, a privacy hedge is the ticket. A living fence does much more than just shelter you from prying eyes.

A Privacy Hedge:

  • blocks noise coming from the street and neighborhood.
  • acts as a natural windbreak.
  • can be a snow fence, reducing snow build up around your house.
  • turns your garden into a secluded retreat.

Location Dictates Plants to Use

Starting a privacy hedge will take patience. While there are fast growing varieties of trees, shrubs and vines, none will reach the height or thickness you desire quickly. The location of your fence dictates the size and type of trees and shrubs to use.

Avoid Excessive Maintenance

An important consideration is how much time you want to devote to maintaining your hedge. In formal gardens boxwoods and other shrubs need to be regularly groomed to maintain their precise shapes. If this is not for you then select plants that give you the natural shapes you desire.

How to Plant a Privacy Hedge

  • Select the type of tree or shrub that works best for the location – Do you want it to provide a screen all year long (go with an evergreen)? Or do you want it to flower and give you privacy during certain times of the year?
  • Decide on the height – Set up a ladder to help visualize the approximate height of the plants needed. If you want a 6-foot tall fence, then planting a tree that grows 10-15 feet is only going mean more maintenance.
  • Determine the width – If you have limited space, select trees and shrubs that can be planted closer together. Some species need more room for roots to spread in order to thrive.
  • Density – If you want a thick hedge, plant several staggered rows, which will allow them to fill in.
  • Map it out – Don’t eyeball your planting. Mark off a row with paint or wooden stakes and string to keep your hedge straight.
  • Train your plants – Trim the tops and sides a few times a year after they establish. Keep the shape wider at the bottom than the top to allow sunlight to reach lower leaves.

Fast Growing Plants Can Often Be Invasive

There are many popular plants to use in making a privacy hedge. Most will take one or two seasons to fully establish. Be careful when selecting fast growing plants like bamboo and Japanese Barberry. Some varieties are considered invasive and may not be approved for use in your community.

Best Trees and Shrubs for Hedges 

  • Arborvitae
  • Boxwood
  • Flowering Quince
  • Sawara False Cypress
  • Japanese Euonymus
  • Holly
  • Juniper
  • Privet
  • Oleander
  • Variegated False Holly
  • Korean Lilac
  • Hybrid Yew
  • Canadian Hemlock
  • Rose of Sharon

Vines Good Option for Privacy Screens

Use wire fences or screens that serve as supports for vines like Ivy, Clematis or Hops. Privacy hedges can also be used to hide compost bins or those large green power boxes.

Skip the Bland Privacy Fence and Go Green!

A living privacy hedge is a great way to add color and texture to your garden while providing the privacy you crave. Before you get out the post hole digger and invest in a bland white fence, think about the eco-friendlier option. Soon the sight of your Speedo clad neighbor stepping into his hot tub will be a distant memory.

Expert Advice

From wheelbarrows and shovels to trimmers and tillers, our expert staff is always on hand to help with your next DIY home project. Looking for other Fall gardening projects? Our blog, Landscaping Ideas to Create a Fabulous Fall Yard, has some great suggestions for ways to spruce things up around your home. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Protect Your Trees: Learn How & When to Prune

How and When to Prune Your TreesTrees add beauty, interest and much needed shade to your yard. Replacing trees is a big investment, which is why properly pruning and maintaining them is essential. Not sure what kind of trees you have?

Who You Gonna Call? An Arborist, Of Course

An arborist is professionally trained in identifying the species and determining the health of individual trees, in the name of safety -for the trees and for your family. They can diagnose diseases, insect problems and soil health. Consult an arborist to find out what trees are best for your landscape and where to plant them. Many are certified by the International Society of Arboriculture.

5 Reasons to Prune a Tree

  1. To remove dead or diseased branches
  2. To thin the crown, permit new growth and promote better air circulation
  3. To reduce tree height
  4. To remove obstructing lower branches
  5. To shape a tree for aesthetic purposes

There’s a Right Time to Prune Your Trees

Prune your trees during their dormant season (late fall, early winter) to minimize sap loss and stress to the tree. This will reduce the risk of fungus infection and insect infestation.

Helpful Tips on Pruning

  • Know what kind of trees you have – some flowering trees like to issue buds on old growth in the winter and then bloom in early spring. If you prune one of these trees in the winter, you may not have any blossoms come spring.
  • Avoid pruning a newly planted tree – give it time to establish.
  • Prune when the leaves have fallen – it makes it easier to see what needs to be cut.
  • Never cut more than 25% off of your tree at one time.
  • Don’t trim branches near electrical lines – call a professional or the power company.
  • Never cut the top off a tree – this can cause the tree to die. Thin branches out instead. If it is too tall, consider removing the tree completely.

Tree Surgery is … Surgery

Always use clean, sharp tools for pruning; you wouldn’t want anyone cutting on you with a dull blade, right? When removing diseased branches, wipe your cutters with disinfecting wipes between each cut. This will keep disease from spreading as you cut other branches. You can also use a solution of 1-part bleach to 9-parts water and dip the cutters in as you work.

Handy Tools for Pruning

  • Anvil hand pruners – for small branches up to a ½-inch in diameter.
  • Long-handled loppers – for medium sized branches up to 2.5 inches in diameter.
  • Pruning saw – for larger branches, use a pole extender to reach the higher branches.

Where to Cut and Why

If you would like a detailed how-to on pruning techniques, read our blog, Getting Ready for Fall Part 1: Tree Trimming a Seasonal Sport or visit the Arbor Day Foundation’s webpage for more information.

Let a Professional Handle the Tough Stuff

There are times when every DIY’er needs to step back and let a professional take over. If the limbs you want to cut down require the use of a chain saw and a ladder, then maybe this is one of those times. There’s no shame in playing it safe! 

Take Care of Your Trees

Trees are the crowning glory of any yard, so take care of them. At the end of a long day of pruning, sit down in the shade of your trees, relax and remember the words of John Muir (father of our National Parks): Allow nature’s peace to flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.

Congratulations! Another job well done. Now, go hug a tree!

Expert Advice

From tree pruners and chain saws to wood chippers and wheelbarrows our expert staff is always on hand to help with your next DIY gardening project. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Runyon Rental – Your Place for Great Honda Power Equipment

eu2000i_lo_tailgate_lr_02-1With fall quickly approaching and forecasters predicting a cold, snowy winter, we thought now might be a good time to remind everyone of the great Honda Power Equipment we have available to rent or purchase. Runyon Rental is proud to be an authorized Honda dealer and service center.

Runyon Has the Honda Power Equipment You Need:

Ranked #1 by Consumers Year After Year – Honda Mowers Rule

Nothing beats a Honda mower for quality and reliability. Durable and fuel efficient, the twin blade design of Honda mowers offer a superior cut and produce finer clippings, which make better mulch. Smaller clippings mean less bagging and who doesn’t love that!

The Honda Self-Propelled Lawn Mower Has Features You Need:

  • Hydrostatic cruise control keeps a constant speed while mowing
  • Roto-stop blade stop system halts the blades without having to cut power to the engine
  • 4-in-1 Versamow system allows you to mulch, bag, discharge and chop leaves without additional tools or attachments.
  • Starts easily and quickly
  • Has a 21 inch cutting width, 7 mow height adjustments and a 2.5-bushel bag capacity.
  • A 5-year warranty

End of the Season Gardens Need Honda Tillers

Now that our gardens are beginning to wind down, it’s time to think about getting the soil ready for next year. With a Honda tiller you can make easy work of tilling up your plants and adding in mulch and compost to leave your soil properly set for the cold temperatures.

Tackle the Toughest Garden Projects

Made from quality materials, these tillers churn even the toughest dirt into rich loamy soil. They are easy to start and with intuitive controls, easy to use. The powerful 4 stroke engine does the work in one pass. Ergonomically designed, Honda tillers won’t wear you out while you tackle the toughest garden projects.

Honda’s Got You Covered with VersAttach

Tired of never having the right tool to use on your yard? Try Honda’s VersAttach System, which offers two powerhead options and six different attachments – edger, line trimmer, blower, hedge trimmer, pruner and cultivator for the ultimate in versatility.

Keep the Lights On with a Honda Generator

Whether it is a powerful thunderstorm or a strong Winter snow storm, being left in the dark is no fun. Be ready with a Honda generator. There is a perfect sized unit for whatever your power needs are.

Some of the features of a Honda generator are:

  • Super quiet – perfect for using next to your RV or camp site, too.
  • Compact & lightweight – less than 29 lbs.
  • Fuel efficient – can run up to 8.1 hrs. on 1 gallon of gas.
  • Inverter – supplies a stable source of power for computers and sensitive appliances.
  • 3 Year warranty
  • Oil Alert – shuts the engine off when oil is low.
  • Can be paralleled – multiple generators can be tethered to supply additional power.

Take on the White Stuff with a Honda Snow Blower

Preparing for Winter weather means getting ready to clear snow off your driveway and walkways. Nothing takes on the white stuff better than a Honda snow blower. The self-propelled auger drive can throw snow up to 33 ft. while clearing a path 20 inches wide. Get your blower just the way you want it – track driven or wheeled, electric start or recoil. With Honda’s reliability, this workhorse will be around for years to come.

Let Us Service Your Honda Equipment

Already own Honda equipment? Then bring your mower or snow blower in to be serviced by our certified Honda technicians. When you are ready, let us winterize your garden gear for you.

Expert Advice

From mowers and tillers to generators and snow blowers, our expert staff is always on hand to help with your equipment needs. Not sure what equipment you need for your Fall DIY to-do list? Check out the other popular pieces of equipment we offer in our blog, Top 10 Most Popular Runyon Equipment Rentals for Fall. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Team Up with a Landscape Professional for Amazing Results

Sometimes getting your landscape exactly how you want it takes a team effort. Asking for help is not going against the DIYer’s code, it just makes sense. When in doubt on how to deal with a problem area of your yard or how to execute a specific design, call in a landscaping professional to help get you back on track.

Do You Call a Landscape Designer or Landscape Architect?

Say you want to create a backyard Zen garden, who would you call? A landscape designer has a horticulture background and can blend the right plants and materials together for your dream garden. A professionally trained landscape architect can also design your oasis but they know how to alter the lay of the land to appropriately deal with issues like bad drainage problems and soil erosion.

The Benefits of Working with a Landscape Designer or Architect

  • Ideas – They may see options you haven’t considered.
  • Wealth of knowledge – They know the best types of plants, hardscapes or water features that will work well for your landscape.
  • Resources –They have the business contacts and inside knowledge on the different materials and companies you may want to use.

The scope of work you want to undertake will determine which of these professionals you use. (Architects tend to work on larger scale projects.) Decide on your budget and how far you want to take your partnership. Whether you want a design plan or someone to handle the bigger tasks, let these professionals supplement your landscaping needs in whatever way you desire.

Tips for a Productive Landscape Consultation

Your consultation appointment is a meet and greet when the designer or architect assesses the landscape. It is handy to have a site or plat map of your property – a map drawn to scale, that shows the land divisions in your neighborhood – so you can clearly define the area to be renovated.

  1. Give a brief overview of your landscaping plans – You will meet again to go over details. Focus on the desired look and feel you want in your garden.
  2. Tell them your budget – They will be able to tell you if your budget is feasible. You may need to do the work in stages as you can afford it.
  3. Discuss what you want from them – Do you just want a design plan or do you intend for them to build elements? Define your role and where you want to use your DIY skills.
  4. Find out how do they charge for services – This could be hourly or a lump sum quote. The standard request is to pay the cost of permits and some materials upfront. You should get an itemized quote within a reasonable time after your consultation.
  5. Ask for references and to see a portfolio – Most professionals will have a list available and their website should have photos of finished work. Ask them if you can contact their other clients.
  6. Discuss whether they are licensed and bonded – If they are doing some of the work then they should have insurance to cover their employees.

Why Go Through a Major Landscaping Project Alone?

A landscape designer or architect can resolve issues you have in your yard or help you formulate a game plan for that total makeover. Seek out the expertise you need and you may find it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Here’s looking at you, DIYer.

Expert Advice

From bobcats and backhoes to wheelbarrows and shovels our expert staff is always on hand to help with your next DIY landscaping project. Does your landscaping design include a retaining wall? You’ll find lots of helpful tips in our blog, Summer Garden Update #1: Building a Retaining Wall. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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8 Ways to Kick Your Backyard Up a Notch

create your perfect backyard entertaining areaWith summer in full swing, you want to entertain outdoors in a backyard that is something special. We’ve put together a list of what we think makes for a perfect outdoor entertaining area, including links to some of our past articles – see if you can’t find your next DIY project!

Big or Small, Utilize It

Whether your backyard is big or small really doesn’t matter, it’s how you utilize your space that counts. Your first task is to determine how you’ll use the entertainment area and what kind of budget you have to work with. Do you want to use your entertainment space:

  • for the kid’s pool parties?
  • for grilling with friends?
  • for relaxing with your family?
  • all of the above? 

Create Entertainment Zones

Just like rooms in your house, divide your yard up into zones – dining, entertainment, and conversation areas. See where they best fit in your landscape and tie them together into a cohesive design. Your backyard may just need tweaking in order to have it just the way you want it.

8 Elements for a Perfect Outdoor Entertaining Area

  • Water – This could be in the form of an in ground pool or maybe a backyard pond but a water feature will boost the value of your home and provide plenty of enjoyable days outside with friends and family.
  • Covered dining area – Consider installing an awning or roof to protect your mealtime from bad weather. It would extend the usability of your backyard. A covering like a pergola or fabric curtains will give the space a romantic feeling.
  • Grill – Whether it is charcoal or gas, summertime is grilling time so incorporate one into your entertainment area. Remember to give yourself storage space nearby to stash all your grilling accoutrement. Treat it like an outdoor kitchen, add a small refrigerator.
  • Deck – It moves you out of the house and into the yard. Your deck can be where your grill is located and where your dining area is. You can have different levels of a deck to include space for dining and conversation.
  • Outdoor lighting and sound system – Trying to dine by the light of an outdoor flood light can kill the mood in a hurry. Consider lights for your deck, grilling area and walkways. Add speakers to your space so everyone can enjoy the music or the big game.
  • Poolside Bar – If pool parties are your thing then having a convenient snack area close to the pool is a perfect way to extend the outdoor fun and keep wet feet out of your house.
  • Lawn and garden – Having a section of lush grass for kids to play on or a beautifully scented garden to stroll through extends your entertaining possibilities into the far reaches of your yard. Scatter conversation areas throughout your garden by adding benches and lawn furniture.
  • Outdoor fire pit – Summer always goes by so fast and installing an outdoor fire pit or fireplace can help extend your outdoor entertaining season into the fall.

Personalize Your Space with Decorations

Use decorative design elements like colorful cushions, pillows, planters and garden art to help tie your entertainment zones together. Come up with an outdoor theme that reflects you and your family’s interests – favorite sports teams, places, travel dreams or heritage, for instance.

Create the Perfect Entertainment Area for You!

Your backyard is a blank canvas for you to create the perfect entertainment area. Hopefully we have given you some ideas on how to kick your space up a notch. So get busy! Summer is calling and that grill isn’t going to light itself.

Expert Advice

From circular saws and nail guns to orbital sanders and drills our expert staff is always on hand to help with your next DIY backyard project. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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9 Tips for Building a Backyard Pond

how to make a backyard pondBackyard ponds filled with exotic fish and tranquil waterfalls are a beautiful addition to any landscape. In our previous blog, How to Build a Backyard Pond in 10 Simple Steps, we outline how to begin building a pond. Before you starting digging though, we have some tips to make this DIY project a success.

Pond Kits Give You Everything You’ll Need

The popularity of water gardening and fish ponds has grown so the supplies and the equipment you need are easy to find. Not sure what you will need? Pond kits come with all the required parts – pump, pipes and liner – and are readily available.

Bigger Ponds Are Better

If you use your own design, go bigger! The more fish and plants you have, the healthier the pond, so larger ponds actually require less maintenance. Keeping the water clean is key. Making sure you have the right size pump for your pond is important. Too small and the pump will be overworked and break down.

Pond Maintenance is a Must

A pond is very much like a swimming pool when it comes to maintenance. You will need to clean the filter frequently and remove any debris. Knowing how to service your own equipment will keep your costs down.

9 Tips for Building a Backyard Pond:

  • Buy a good liner – A good butyl rubber liner can last up to 20 years. Use carpet padding or landscape fabric underneath it for protection.
  • Avoid sharp rocks – Use smooth stones to line the pond to avoid tearing the liner. You need flat ones to line the edge.
  • Build a pond shelf – This is a partially submerged ledge where you can place plants.
  • Include rock overhangs – Give your fish places to hide and escape the hot sun.
  • Have a GFCI outlet – Plug the pump into a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlet. It needs to be at least five feet away from any outdoor water.
  • Bury your electrical wires – Use PVC pipe to bury them safely in the ground and avoid having someone trip over them or an animal chew through them.
  • Consider your yard’s rain runoff – Locate the pond where it will not fill up with runoff water from your yard or a neighbor’s. Factor in an overflow stream or waterfall where the pond water can go if it does flood.
  • Add an eduction jet and skimmer – The eduction jet creates underwater currents to avoid stagnation and the skimmer will help clean of fallen leaves and debris.
  • Include a bead filter and UV Water clarifier – A bead filter traps sand and debris and a clarifier keeps algae blooms from occurring.

Landscape With A Purpose

Landscaping in and around the pond is your next big step. Select plants that will help keep the water clean and algae free. When installing your plants, use aquatic potting soil. Regular potting soil contains nutrients that will encourage algae growth. Mulch the plants with pea gravel. Start the plants on the pond ledge to acclimate them to the water. Once you have them in the right spot, then submerge them. Plants that add to your waterscape include:

  • Water moss
  • Hornwort
  • Curled pondweed
  • Lotus
  • Canna – Use in the pond or outside
  • Pitcher plant
  • Taro or Elephant’s Ear – Use in the pond or outside
  • Papyrus
  • Water Lily

Protect Your Fish

Feed your fish at least once a day during warm weather. Cut back to two or three times a week during colder weather. If you have a small pond, make sure it does not freeze solid during winter. Decaying plants release gases that get trapped under the ice and kill the fish. Install a floating deicer to keep the surface open.

Your Hard Work Pays Off

When you look back on the hard work that goes into this DIY protect and how great it turns out, you’ll be convinced that a backyard pond is a great investment for your home and a wonderfully relaxing place for your family to unwind.

Expert Advice

From backhoes and trenchers to wheelbarrows and shovels our expert staff is always on hand to help with your next DIY landscaping project. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Hummingbird Feeders Liven Up Your Garden

bird feeders liven up a gardenYour garden is not just a random combination of plants and flowers, but an environment for the wildlife that lives there. One of the most entertaining creatures to watch is the Hummingbird as it flits, flies and hovers in search of nectar. Adding a feeder (or two) will attract these tiny birds, providing hours of delight for you and your family.

Fascinating Facts About Hummingbirds

  • According to The Hummingbird Society, 34 of the 342 known Hummingbird species are at risk of extinction.
  • They can hover and fly backwards.
  • They lap up their food with a long thin tongue.
  • Bugs are their primary food source and sugar (that comes from natural or manmade nectar) is the fuel that energizes them.
  • They are voracious eaters, starting to feed as early as 45 minutes before sunrise and continue throughout the day.
  • They are attracted to the color red, although they have no need for red food (forget food dyes!)
  • Leaving a feeder out all year will not entice them to stay. Some birds migrate up to 3,000 miles annually. Bring your feeder in when you haven’t seen a Hummer in three to four weeks.
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are territorial so place feeders in different locations so other varieties such as Rufous, Black-chinned and Calliope will feed.

Flowers First, Feeder Next

Placing your feeder near flowering plants is the best way to attract Hummingbirds. Some of their favorite garden plants are Azaleas, Butterfly Bush, Cardinal Flower and Coral-bells; Flowering Crabtree, Fuchsias, Honeysuckle, Impatiens, Lantana and Weigela. Don’t worry if you don’t see birds while your garden is in bloom, they are too distracted by your gorgeous flowers and will return to the feeder soon.

Hummingbirds Like It Clean

As long as they are kept clean, Hummingbirds have no preference on plastic, glass or homemade feeders. Look for one with feeding ports above the liquid (dripless), that have perches and are easy to clean. Start small until you attract a steady number of birds, then add more feeders.

Fresh Food is Good

Hummingbirds actively avoid a spoiled food source, so changing your feeder every four to five days is essential. Spoiled liquid will look cloudy and may have black mold spots floating in it. Throw away old nectar rather than topping it off.

The Best Nectar Recipe

Because Hummers get their nutrients primarily from flower nectar and insects, skip buying supplemented commercial nectar. Also, avoid using honey, Jell-O, raw (turbinado) or brown sugar, fruit or red dye. Here’s the best nectar recipe:

  • Mix 1-part sugar to 4-parts water
  • Boil for 1-2 minutes
  • Cool and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks

Prevent Feeder Mold

Use a mild detergent, bottle brush and hot water to clean your feeder before changing the food. Once a month, use a mixture of ¼ cup of bleach to a gallon of water to prevent mold. Full strength vinegar instead of bleach is also a good option, just rinse well.

Bees and Wasps Can Ruin Your Feeder

When Hummingbirds feed they often spill nectar onto surrounding surfaces, which attracts bees and wasps. To discourage them, wipe the feeder ports or dilute the sugar mixture in the nectar recipe. Moving the food source to a new location can help, too – the birds will follow it, but the bees won’t.

Sticky Situation for Ants

Nectar also attracts ants, which is why many feeders come with an ant barrier or water moat. Still, ants can be determined creatures, so try applying a very sticky goo called Tanglefoot to the bottom of the moat tray. Flip the tray upside down on the feeder to keep it out of contact with the birds.

Become a Dedicated Hummingbird Caretaker Today

These delicate aerial acrobats bring zip to your garden and are fun to watch. Become a dedicated caretaker of a Hummingbird feeder today and help save these beautiful creatures for another generation to enjoy.

Expert Advice

Our companion blog, How to Attract Birds and Butterflies for a Livelier Yard, is filled with helpful tips on how to bring more wildlife into your garden. From ladders and drills to shovels and wheel barrows, our expert staff is always on hand to help with your next gardening DIY project. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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DIY Pergola – Just What Your Patio has been Missing

outdoor backyard pergolaWant to add some architectural interest to your deck or yard? Add a pergola. Often called an arbor or trellis, these canopy-like structures will provide shade to an otherwise fully exposed area, among other advantages. Building one is an easy DIY project that requires an extra set of hands. Ready to raise the roof on your new pergola?

A Structure with a Purpose

What is the function of your pergola? Is it to provide a quiet secluded oasis for you in the garden or to act as a privacy screen for your outdoor dining area? Will it be free-standing or attached to the house? These are some of the considerations that will affect your design.

5 Things to Consider When Designing Your Pergola

  1. Style of your home – Whether French country or contemporary, Tuscan villa or mid-century modern, keeping your pergola design in the same style as your home gives you cohesive curb appeal.
  2. Ambiance – What kind of experience are you trying to create? Romantic, rustic, relaxing?
  3. Play up your property’s best features – Use the view you’ll see from under your canopy (river, stream, skyline, garden, etc.) to locate the pergola accordingly.
  4. Privacy – Adding additional lattice screens will offer seclusion.
  5. Think outside the box – Pergolas are often square or rectangle, although they can be round, octagonal or multi-leveled. Get creative.

Protect Your Pergola from the Elements

A pergola, like a deck, will need to be protected from the elements. Decide on the amount of maintenance you want to do on a yearly basis when selecting your materials. If you want to add lights or a ceiling fan, be sure to account for the added weight your structure will have to support. Electrical wiring will also need to be installed and hidden from view.

Materials to Use for a Pergola

  • Pressure treated wood – The least expensive option and can last a long time with weatherproofing.
  • Cedar – Can be costly but its naturally beauty is hard to beat.
  • Brick – Build the support pillars with brick and attach beams across the top for a sturdy structure.
  • Natural stones – Creates a rustic feel, especially when including a fireplace.
  • Wrought iron – Classic arched metal offers superior support for large plant coverings like roses or material such as canvas.

A Solid Foundation is Key

Whether you are adding a pergola canopy to a concrete patio or building a stand-alone structure, make sure your foundation isn’t going to shift. Use 6×6 posts to give you solid support. Always use stainless steel nuts, bolts and brackets that won’t corrode and give way.

To Build a Free-standing Pergola:

  1. Bury the support poles – Dig down at least 24-48 inches.
  2. Pack the dirt – Tamp it down firmly or pour concrete to stabilize the supports. Check posts to see if they are plumb.
  3. Cut pillars to same height.
  4. Place crossbeams on top – You’ll need help from those two extra hands for this stage.
  5. Cut lap joints – These interlocking notches connect posts and crossbeams. (Use stainless steel brackets if you prefer).
  6. Add optional lattice panels – Put these down the sides of the structure for privacy.
  7. Stain or paint – Protecting the wood will help it last longer.

Time to Decorate

After your pergola is built, decorate with climbing plants that may look delicate at first, but they can become heavy over time. Clematis, Passion flower, Wisteria, grape vines and of course, climbing roses are all good choices. Other decorations include a canvas ribbon awning or flowing outdoor curtains, which add sun protection and a bit of color, too.

Wow Factor

A pergola can add drama to a blah patio or create a quiet retreat in your garden. It is simple to build and will give your landscape the added “wow” factor it may have been missing. Beware, pergolas are like peanuts, you can’t stop at just one. Happy building!

Expert Advice

From jigsaws and hammer drills to post hole diggers and chop saws, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your next DIY building project. Want more ideas on how to spice up your patio or deck? Learn how to Boost Outdoor Entertaining Potential with New Design Elements in our recent blog. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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A Message to the Beginner of Herb Gardening

Lavender Farm in Sequim, Washington, USADear, Runyon Equipment Rental: Well, well, well! I am not a gardener! My husband has had a vegetable garden for years and does the flower garden for us. I want to try my hand with an herb garden. I stumbled across your website and liked what I saw. I have rosemary in the front of my house and mint on the side. You gave some great ideas on the fragrances and colors. Any suggestion that you can give to get this beginner started would be great! Thank you! – Darlene, Hatfield, PA

Dear, Darlene: First of all, since you are a beginner, I recommend you purchase herbs at Lowe’s and keep your receipt! If the plant dies, you are able to receive a new one as long as you bring in your receipt with the dead plant. This policy was a lifesaver when I first began growing my own herbs. Bonnie plants come in a pot that you can plant in the ground. I think they are the best to buy, but I always cut the plant out of the pot prior to planting.

Some do’s and don’ts:

  • Avoid planting mint or lemongrass in the ground since these plants are known to be invasive and will literally overtake your garden. Plant these in containers!
  • Sage is lovely and grows into a beautiful bush, after about 10 years, though it starts to get leggy. Oregano is another perennial that tends to grow large and will need to be trimmed. I have mine in my English Garden surrounding the bird bath.
  • I love lavender too. I love to cook and make my own herbes de provence which is great on pork and chicken. There are many varieties of lavender, which is in the mint family. If you are using for culinary, buy lavandula augustifolia. Use the purple flower for cooking. I plant rosemary and thyme around lavender since they contrast so nicely.
  • Chives, which are a cross between garlic and onion in taste, add beautiful contrast because of their long green stems. They flower pinkish purple on top. Make sure the stem is not used when adding this herb to food. The texture is tough, and it would be like chewing on a stick. Chives also tend to be spreaders, so I have mine cornered with the patio and paver blocks.

All the above come back year after year and grow with great scent and with vibrant color. All herbs need a lot of sunlight, so  ensure these are planted in areas that receive sufficient sun. I always plant around Mother’s Day, which is right around the corner! Some words of advice – make your hole twice the size of your pot, remove the plant from the pot gently, and rub around the bottom and the sides so the roots are loosened, and then plant in such a position that their little heads poke out of the ground. I use top soil to fill in the hole surrounding the plant.

herbsThe next herbs are annuals. Unfortunately, they wither away at the end of the summer into fall. I always buy dill, basil, and Italian parsley. For eating basil, you will want to pinch off the tops so they won’t flower and make the leaf bitter.  In the summer, you have to pinch daily.

When picking them, grab from the top since it encourages growth. Pick after the dew has dried. I use juice size glasses, filled with water and put them in the fridge in separate glasses. They last about a week or two as readily available ingredients to flavor your cooking.

When drying herbs for winter’s use, I grab my colander and cut what I want, rinse from the hose and rubber band the stems together and hang upside down.  It takes about a week for them to dry out, remove the leaves from the stem over wax paper and dryingherbsthrow into the coffee mill.  I use little box tins from Michael’s and give as gifts too.

Plant citronella and lavender near your patio or seating areas since they are a known mosquito repellent. Herbs are super easy to grow – just water in the morning with a watering can or pump and be sure to water the dirt, not the plant. Feel the dirt, and if it’s not moist – the plant needs water. You’ll want pots that have a hole in the bottom and water until a small stream comes through. When your herbs are in the ground, again, just water the dirt.

Hopefully, you will have a wonderful herb garden that makes you happy like mine does for me. The food tastes so much better with fresh herbs!

From aerators and lawn mowers to wheelbarrows and tillers , our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your next outdoor DIY project. Looking for additional information on gardening? Check out our infographic on growing vegetables for more helpful tips. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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We’ve Got the 4-1-1 on the War Against Weeds

dandelionsStop Weeds Before They Start

It’s springtime and those pesky weeds have been lying dormant all winter just waiting to burst forth. Never fear, we have the 4-1-1 on how to cut them off at the start; saving you time and money. Effective weed control is easier than you think.

Weed Worries Got You Down?

Weeds are sneaky little buggers. They sleep all winter long and pop their heads above ground at the first sign of warm weather. Weed seeds are in virtually everything from potting soil to grass seed. In fact, the more you disturb the soil the more seeds you are exposing to moisture and sunlight needed for germination. So what are you to do?

Efficiently controlling weed growth is possible when you follow these 8 simple rules:

  • Minimize disturbing the soil – When maintaining your garden avoid digging or hoeing below the top 1-2 inches of dirt to limit the amount of seeds exposed. When planting be sure to cover the freshly turned soil with thick layer of mulch.
  • Mulch – Keep the seeds in the dark! Cover areas around plants with at least 2 inches of mulch. Organic mulches contain weed eating crickets and beetles that devour seeds.
  • Make weeding easy – The old saying “pull when wet, hoe when dry” still applies. Pulling weeds in the early morning when the ground is damp will make the job go faster.
  • Deadhead – This practice isn’t just for flowering plants. By pulling the tops off weeds you are eliminating the seed pods that could drop and germinate.
  • Limit gaps between plantings – Too much space encourages weeds to grow. Consider mass plantings or tightly spaced beds to leave no room for weeds to appear.
  • Keep your tools sharp – Dull hoes can spread weed seeds instead of eliminating them. You want to slice through the weed’s root to kill it.
  • Water plants, not weeds – Burying your soaker hose beneath mulch can reduce seed germination by 50 -70 percent because your plant is building strong roots and crowding out the weeds.
  • Maintain a healthy soil – Fresh infusions of organic matter or compost into the soil will help keep it healthy and keep seeds from sprouting.

Weeds are Everywhere!

Isn’t it amazing just how invasive weeds can be? These annoying sprouts are everywhere. They even find their way up through the cracks in driveways, walks and patios. Yes, you can walk around repeatedly spraying them with a toxic weed killer or try one of these simple methods:

  • Self-leveling sealant – Fill cracks in concrete with this expanding filler to block weeds. Sealing cracks will extend the life of your surface.weeds.jpg
  • White vinegar, salt and dish soap – Combine these with water and spray it on weeds shooting up through cracks. It will cause them to wilt.
  • Salt – Spread left-over rock salt on weeds and watch them dry up. Avoid runoff into your grass and garden because salt will totally kill vegetation.
  • Polymeric sand – Used to fill between bricks and pavers, you can also use this to fill concrete cracks. It has a cement-like quality once wet so work it into the cracks and sweep excess away.
  • Burn weeds away – Use a propane powered weed scorcher or handheld blow torch to run the flame over the weeds to shrivel them up. You are not setting them on fire but depriving them of moisture. Be careful in drought stricken areas.

Stop and Smell the Roses for a Change

Weeds are a fact of life but they don’t have to ruin your gardening experience. By taking these simple steps you will cut your weeding workload down to a manageable level and finally have more time to actually stop and smell the roses. pinkroses.jpg

Expert Advice

From wheelbarrows and shovels to weed eaters and bark blowers, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your next DIY landscape project. Learn how to improve your garden and flowers with organic compost in our previous blog “10 Good Sense Tips for Building a Compost Bin”. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

 

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Easy Ideas to Use Stepping Stones in the Garden

Amazing-garden-designAre you excited about Spring? We sure are! Like you, we can’t wait to start working on our gardens. Time to get a game plan together and decide which DIY project to start on first.

Why not create a captivating garden path using stepping stones? Simply trail them throughout your landscape and lead visitors on a magical tour.

Secret Gardens, Hidden Treasures

Garden paths are used to draw interest to out-of-the-way sections of a landscape or to highlight features like ponds, trellises, or gazebos. The style of your home and grounds should dictate the location type of path to create – formal or informal.

Keep a few things in mind when installing a new path:

  • Use – Heavy foot traffic will need sturdy materials like stone that won’t break easily.
  • Cost – Come up with a budget and then shop for materials. A lengthy path will require a lot of materials.
  • Shape – Consider curving paths as well as straight-lined walkways, which can reveal your garden as you walk.
  • Mix it up – Combine materials (pavers/concrete or stones/mulch) to add interest. Create contrasting borders or patterns.
  • Sun or Shade – Dark stones absorb heat, which could make them too hot for bare feet. Smooth stones often remain slippery if in damp areas. Lighter colors and textures are neutral and may be your best option.
  • Hard work – Moving pavers, gravel, or stones around is exhausting so recruit volunteers to help or spread the job out of time.

Choosing Materials

Once you’ve decided where you want your path, pick your materials. For formal paths, many choose brick pavers or flagstone. Informal trails will give you more options, from gravel and stepping stones to turf, decomposed granite, or mulch. With budget in mind, make your selection and set your creativity free.

Peaceful Retreat for Guests

Give visitors a secluded niche along your path where they can relax and unwind. Install a decorative garden fence, gazebo, or bench, creating a peaceful retreat. Fragrant flowers planted along the path will add to their enjoyment. Don’t forget to hang some twinkling lights for those moonlit strolls.

Stepping Stones in the Garden

A great way to create a meandering trail through your flower beds is with stepping stones. An informal design works with a wide variety of materials. No matter what type of stones you choose or filler you opt for, the process is generally the same:

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  • Boundaries – Determine the width and length of your path and mark it off.
  • Clear– Remove all grass and debris. Put down landscape material.
  • Level – Put down a layer of sand and level it out.
  • Position – Decide if you want the stones in a random placement or a checkerboard pattern.
  • Press – Stones should be pushed into the sand and leveled.
  • Fill – Add gravel, mulch, or planting soil to grow ground covers like Scotch moss.

Discover the Wonders of Nature

Your wonderful landscape reflects all your hard work and love of gardening. Help others enjoy the fruits of your labor by tying it all together with a relaxing stepping stone path. Lead them on a relaxing journey around your property to discover the wonders Nature has to offer. You’ll surely have a number of repeat guests.

Expert Advice

From wheelbarrows and shovels to saws and drills, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your next DIY landscape project. Now that you have your garden path planned out, are you ready for Spring planting? Our blog, Get Started on Your Spring Gardening To-do List, may have the ideas you need. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Winterizing Checklist for Garden Tools & Equipment

Winterizing Garden ToolsIf you’ve been working hard to get all your lawn equipment stored away for winter, have you been checking all those DIY to-do’s off the list, too? Just in case you’ve overlooked a step or something else, let’s review what’s recommended you do.

When Winterizing Lawn Equipment:

  • Remove fuel – Gas breaks down after 30 days and will clog fuel lines if you leave gas in your lawn mower, weed eater, leaf blower or any other gardening equipment.
  • Use a fuel stabilizer – If you’re not going to remove the gas, then add a fuel stabilizer. It will keep the gas usable for up to 12 months.
  • Change the oil – Removing old oil and replacing it will keep the engine components lubricated and corrosion free.
  • Do an overall inspection – Make sure that spark plugs, seals and filters are clean and ready for use next spring.
  • Clean – Don’t store your lawn mower with grass clippings still in the undercarriage. Use a pressure washer to remove debris and then wipe the metal down with oil or lubricating product.
  • Store properly – Keep your equipment inside out of the elements, if possible. If not, then make sure to cover them with a heavy-duty tarp to keep them dry and rust free.

Service Equipment Now

Winter is a good time to have your equipment serviced by a professional. Why wait for spring when there is likely a long line of people waiting to get their lawn mower blades sharpened? Replace any part that may be starting to crack or dry out. A professional will help you keep your equipment in top shape for next summer.

Garden Hand Tools Need TLC, Too

We often forget about our small garden hand tools. These need to be winterized as well. Clean and treat them with an oil or lubricant to keep them from rusting. If your tools are already showing signs of rust, create an abrasive paste from table salt and lemon juice to remove the corrosion. Rinse the paste off thoroughly and dry. Coat tools with oil before storing.

Keep Sharp Tools Sharp

Sharpening your tools is easy. All you need is a small file or whetstone. Run the file along the edge of blades at a 45-degree angle to remove any nicks or rough spots, so they will be ready for the next growing season. Remember, sharp tools need to be properly stored away from curious hands.

Disinfect Pruners Before Storing

Because you use your pruners to remove diseased growth from plants, they may be harboring bacteria. Wiping the blades down with alcohol or similar disinfectant will help avoid cross contaminating other plants come springtime. Do this before treating them with oil before storing.

Improve Storage Space

Now that it’s time to get your lawn equipment taken care of, we also see a DIY garage organizational project on your horizon. Install some peg boards along garage walls to hang your weed eater, blower and garden tools. Unused space in the rafters is great to store lawn furniture. With storage space at a premium (especially in a garage), think outside the box – literally. You’ll be surprised how storage-efficient your garage can be.

Expert Advice

From pressure washers to lubricating products like Lube-a-Boom Clear Spray, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right tools and equipment for your home projects. For more helpful tips on how to get ready for the cold weather, check our blog post – Winterize and Maintain Your Outdoor Power Equipment. We also service a wide variety of Honda Power Equipment including mowers and tillers. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Fall Yard Clean-Up: Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental Grasses Fall Clean-UpOrnamental grasses add texture, form and movement to any garden design. Easy to grow, these versatile plants can be found everywhere from flower beds to borders. With just a little maintenance you can keep them adding interest to you garden for years to come.

3 Types of Ornamental Grasses

  1. Cool Season Grasses – Varieties like Fescue, Purple Moor and Blue Oak like the cooler temps of spring and fall. They go dormant during the summer heat. Plant them in the early spring.
  2. Warm Season Grasses – These plants prosper in summer and early fall. Hardy Pampas and Fountain Grasses can grow all the way until the first snow. Plant these in the late spring or early summer.
  3. Evergreen Grasses – These “grasses” actually have many grass-like traits. Sedges and Rushes are in this class. Because these varieties are never dormant, your best bet is to plant them in the spring to allow for stronger root development.

Which Grass Do You Have?

Ornamental grasses are either clumping or running (rhizome forming). Clumping grasses keep to themselves in nice mounds but do need to be divided to stay healthy. Running or rhizome grasses send out growth below the soil surface. They, too benefit from dividing. Some varieties can be very aggressive and will take over a flower bed if left unchecked.

Ornamental Grasses Add Interest to Winter Gardens

Depending on how neat you like your winter garden, ornamental grasses can offer interest to your yard, so consider leaving the foliage. Birds are attracted to the seeds, and frost can turn stalks into icy sculptures. The dead foliage helps to insulate the crown of the plant. Cut the plant back to about 4-6” in the early spring to encourage and speed up new growth. Avoid drastically cutting back the plants to avoid wounding them.

Watch Out for Sharp-Edged Leaves

Still wanting to trim your grasses back in the fall and winter? Be warned – maintaining ornamental grasses can be both easy and treacherous. Many species have very sharp foliage, so we recommend wearing a pair of sturdy leather gloves when attempting to cut them back. If the grass mound is large and established, then bundle the stalks together before cutting them. You will need a hedge trimmer or even a chain saw depending on the size of the plant. Deposit the handy dandy bundle of debris in your compost pile.

Divide and Conquer Your Ornamental Grass

When your grass has outgrown its current home, then it is time to divide your plant. Prepare yourself, this can be a workout depending on the size of your plant. The best time to do this is when you’ve just cut the stalks back. It will allow access to the crown. Here are some tips for successfully dividing your grass:

  • Lift and separate – For large clumps take a small ax or a sharp shovel and partition the crown of the plant into sections. You may need a crow bar to pry apart the pieces you have cut. Leave roots on each of the pieces, but plant them before roots dry out.
  • Shape it up – If you just want to rein in a mound from getting too large, trim around the outside of the plant. You can insert a sharp spade or shovel along the edges and separate sections of the grass away from the parent plant. Be sure to cover up the exposed edges with fresh dirt and mulch.
  • When the center dies – Older plants tend to die off in the center. One method is to break up the entire mound and re-plant some of the divided sections back in the original spot. Another is to “core out” the center of the plant and allow the surrounding healthy growth to fill in the bald spot.

A Little TLC Goes a Long Way

Ornamental grasses can break up the monotony in any garden. Just remember when tackling your fall yard cleanup, a little TLC can go a long way in helping your plants stay healthy and ready to put on a show next spring. 

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your lawn and garden projects. From hedgers and chain saws to shovels and wheelbarrows, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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[Part 3] Planning for a Green Spring: Feed Your Lawn

Feed Your Lawn in FallDo you know the condition of your grass? Looking out over the yard at all your hard work, it is easy to miss what’s right under your nose (or should we say feet). The long hot summer was likely brutal on your lawn. A good feeding of fertilizer will give you a head start on greener, healthier grass come spring.

Examine Grass & Soil

Before you apply fertilizer to your lawn, it is always good to take a closer look at your grass and soil. (By closer we really mean dig out a small section of your grass and look at the root system.) How deep are the roots? Is there a layer of dead organic matter (thatch) thicker than a half inch below the surface? Is the soil hard and compacted? All of these conditions can be solved by following a simple fall lawn checklist to improve your grass.

  • Keep Mowing – Your grass is still growing and storing nutrients, so don’t put the lawn mower away yet. Adjust the height on the mower to cut the grass shorter. This allows more sun to reach the crown of the grass. Be careful not to trim off more than a third of the blade, which could expose the roots to disease and pests.
  • Keep Watering – Grass is gathering nutrients and moisture to channel into root growth. Cutting back on watering now will cause the roots to remain shallow. A good deep watering of an inch every few days will work.
  • Aerate – Aerating machines extract plugs of soil from you lawn, allowing water and organic material to get to where it is needed. It will improve compacted soil and bring beneficial microbes to the surface. They love to munch on thatch! Our article on aerating has more helpful tips to get you started.
  • Dethatching – If aerating doesn’t completely eliminate the thatch, then rent a dethatching machine, which will pull it up from the soil. Rake up the thatch debris and deposit it into your compost pile. For more information, check out our article on dethatching.
  • Fertilize – After aerating, spread a layer of compost and fertilizer over your lawn. In the past, many advised applying a fertilizer high in phosphorous. Today that practice is discouraged and fertilizer companies are working to eliminate chemical phosphates due to the harmful effects on our environment. Opt for organic phosphorous sources like fish or cattle bone meal, animal manure or bat guano to help give your grass strong roots.

Test the Soil

Many lawn problems begin with the condition of the soil. Have your soil (the soil sample you dug up from your grass) professionally tested for PH levels. A healthy lawn will have a PH level between 6.0-7.0. Weeds thrive in acidic soil. A thin layer of lime applied to your lawn should take care of them.

Good Top Soil – Good Gardening

Go back to where you dug up your soil sample. Can you see how deep the good top soil is?

A 4-inch layer of top soil will give you a good lawn, while an 8-inch layer of top soil will provide you with a great lawn. Good gardening begins with good top soil. Compost and other organic matter worked into your grass with a rake will improve the dirt beneath.

Organic vs Synthetic Fertilizers

Know the difference between organic and synthetic fertilizers. Organic fertilizers are less concentrated, but remain in the soil longer. They release nutrients over time. Synthetic fertilizers are more concentrated and get into the plant faster. They are water-soluble and have a tendency to leach out of the soil quickly. While synthetics get the job done fast, they can burn the plant and get into the groundwater.

Fertilizer Boost for Health

Help your grass store up the moisture and nutrients it needs to make it through winter. Giving it a boost with fertilizer now will help establish a strong root system and crowd out those pesky weeds. Investing a little time now will pay off big come spring next year. 

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your lawn and landscape projects. From aerators and dethatchers to rakes, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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[Part 2] Planning for a Green Spring: Leaf Management

Planning for a Green Spring - Leaf ManagementAutumn brings to mind crisp clear evenings, warm apple cider, beautifully colored trees … and raking all those leaves, the quintessential fall to-do. We’ve got some creative solutions for your leaf management that will help green up your landscape for the spring.

“Leaf” Them Alone?

Closing your eyes and wishing the wind will blow them away will not work. If left on your grass, leaves will literally smother your turf. Diseases will take root. Realize that dead leaves are actually manna from heaven for your lawn. Eighty to ninety percent of a plant’s nutrients are stored in the leaves. When they decay, the nutrients return to the soil. Ah, that got you thinking! 

Landfill Lament

Every year, more and more, yard waste ends up in American landfills, and that includes leaf matter. The fortunate fact is, this can be alleviated with leaf management. Its goal is to repurpose leaves in a way that benefit your lawn, flower beds or vegetable garden. Learn The Secret to Easily Attaining a Healthy, Leafless Lawn in our recent article.

Ways to Manage Leaves

  • Blow them – If you are totally allergic to raking leaves, then try blowing them into your flower beds and around trees. You can also blow them onto a tarp to make them easier to bag or even better – add to your compost pile.
  • Vacuum them – Consider renting a vacuum machine with a shredding feature. You can use a bag attachment and easily distribute the shredded leaves around your yard. Vacuum machines are fairly quiet, too.
  • Mow them – Instead of bagging leaves and putting them to the curb, mow over them with a mulching mower. The mulched leaves can be left on your lawn to absorb back into the soil. You should see roughly 50% of the grass through the mulched pieces of leaves.
  • Mulch them – Add a bag attachment to your mulching mower and presto, you have mulch that you can spread throughout your landscape. Apply a 3-6” layer around trees and shrubs and a 2-3” layer in annual and perennial beds.
  • Compost them – You can also add your leaves to your compost bin. Mulched leaves will decompose faster than whole leaves.
  • Till them – Blow all your leaves into your vegetable garden area and then till the leaves into your soil. For heavy clay soils, till a 6-8” layer of leaves into the dirt to improve aeration and drainage.
  • Eat them – Not you, but a rent-a-goat. Yes, there is such a thing. A goat herder will bring their herd to your yard and turn those little eating machines loose. Soon, no leaves. You won’t wake the neighbors up with these guys. Win-win.

Time That Saves Money

Why go and buy bags of compost when you have plenty falling from your trees every fall day? It only takes a little creative leaf management to recycle them into usable nutrients for your lawn and gardens. Think of how green and healthy your lawn and plants will be thanks to all your fall leaves. Now go ask your neighbor for his bagged leaves. We have mulch to make!

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your fall clean-up and winter preparation projects. From blowers and leaf vacuums to mulching mowers and tillers, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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[Part 1] Planning for a Green Spring: Let Your Grass Breathe

Planning for a Green Spring - Let Your Lawn Breathe

Your grass is stressed out! When you’re a little frazzled and stressed out, the phrase “just breathe” comes to mind. A calming, deep breath does wonders for making things feel so much better. That same principle can work for your tender grass. After a long, hot summer and plenty of foot traffic, it needs a good dose of oxygen to prepare it for next spring. Aeration is just the solution.

Aerating literally breathes life back into your lawn, which soothes it in so many ways:

  • Delivers oxygen to the roots and soil
  • Breaks up compacted soil
  • Allows water and fertilizer to penetrate soil
  • Helps to break up thatch
  • Helps to prevent pests by encouraging good root growth

Does your lawn need aeration?

Not all lawns need aeration especially if you have seeded or re-sod in the last year. Do a visual inspection of your grass and look for brown, thinning patches. You can also dig up a square sample of grass. If the roots are less than two inches deep then you need to aerate. The more matted the root system the better your lawn can fight off weeds and pests.

Where to start?

First, get a soil sample done on your lawn. It’s inexpensive and will tell you some of the underlying problems troubling your soil. Next rent a good, core plugging aerator. These aerators work better because they extract the soil plugs from your lawn, leaving behind a small hole.

Prepare your lawn first

Before you begin the aerating process, deeply water your grass one or two days prior. Apply at least one inch of water, which will help the aerator penetrate the soil deeply. The core plugs will also pull up easier.

When do I need to aerate?

The time for aerating really depends on the type of grass you have. For cool season grasses like fescue, bluegrass and rye, August through October is when you should aerate. Warm season grasses like Bermuda, Zoysia and St. Augustine should be done April through June. Depending on the type of grass you are growing, you may want to consider slice seeding your lawn to help the existing grass become denser. You can learn more by reading our article about slice seeding.

Aerating is easy

A residential aerator is as easy to use as your lawn mower. You simply push it over your grass and the cores are extracted. Be sure to run the aerator in two different directions to guarantee that you’ve covered the lawn sufficiently.

Be sure to supplement the soil

After you have finished aerating, you can leave the core plugs on your grass to decompose, or you can rake them up and add them to your compost pile. Spread compost over your grass and fill in the holes made by the aerator. Our article on aerating and fertilizing your lawn will teach you more.

Breathe a little life into your lawn

Aeration is an easy way to help your grass improve its overall health. Giving the root system a good old shot of O2 will set you on the course for a greener lawn come spring. Next time you take a deep cleansing breath, remember your grass. After the long hot summer we’ve had, everyone deserves to relax and breathe a little easier.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From aerators and slice seeders to grass seed, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Winterize & Store Your Lawn Mower in 8 Simple Steps

How to Winterize Your Lawn MowerProperly maintained yard equipment can extend the life of your tools. Winterizing your lawn mower takes only minutes and will pay off tenfold come spring. Next year, at the first sign of warmer weather, you will be ready to venture out and tackle that unruly lawn.

8 Easy Steps to Winterize & Store a Lawn Mower

  • Empty the gas tank – Unused gas can become stale and gum up the carburetor. If you prefer to leave gas in the tank, you should fill it up completely to avoid moisture accumulation and add a fuel stabilizer. This will prevent the gas from degrading. Be sure to run the mower long enough to let the stabilizer get into the carburetor.
  • Disconnect the spark plug – This will allow you to work underneath the lawn mower safely. When you remove the plug, pour an ounce of motor oil into the cylinders and crank the engine a few times. This will help lubricate the engine. Another helpful tip: spark plugs should be replaced after every 100 hours of operation.
  • Remove the blade – By removing the blade from underneath, you are able to clean out any remaining grass or mud, as well as have easier access for changing the oil.
  • Sharpen the blade – Lawn professionals recommend that you sharpen your blade monthly during mowing season to avoid damaging the grass with a dull edge. Learn more by reading our blog on how to sharpen your mower blade.
  • Drain and change the oil – Routine oil changes will help extend the life of your motor. You can dispose of the old oil by taking it to a service station or to a repair center.
  • Clean the undercarriage – This will help prevent rust and clear any blockages from the chute. After cleaning, spray it with a silicone spray like Lube-a-Boom Clear to help prevent future build-ups.
  • Change the air filter – A dirty air filter keeps the engine from burning gas efficiently. Follow the instructions in your owner’s manual on how to clean or replace your filter.
  • Charge the battery – If you have a battery-powered starter on your mower then you will want to charge it periodically over the winter. This will help the battery retain a full charge come spring.

Find the Perfect Spot for Your Mower

Store your lawn mower in a dry, well-vented area (especially if you are leaving gas in the tank). Keep it away from heaters or furnaces. Consider removing the newly sharpened blade and storing it separately to avoid injuries. Finally, if you are going to charge your battery over the winter, either remove it for easier access or store the mower near an outlet.

To Cover or Not to Cover – Your Choice

Covering your mower is a matter of personal preference. Putting a tarp over it will keep it clean, but it can also attract some unwanted guests. Sprinkle a few moth balls around the outside of the motor to ward off any rodents that might want to build a nest inside.

A Little TLC Goes a Long Way

With a little TLC in the fall, you and your favorite lawn companion can rest easy over the cold months. Caring for your lawn mower now will allow you to hit the grass running come spring. Once again man and mower will be ready to tackle the green monster that is your lawn. Long live the mower!

Expert Advice

From pressure washers to jacks, our expert staff is always on hand to help you with winterizing your lawn and garden equipment. We service a wide variety of Honda Power Equipment including mowers and tillers. For more helpful tips on how to get ready for the cold weather, check out this post: Winterize and Maintain Your Outdoor Power Equipment. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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[DIY How-To] Repurpose Your Dead Trees Into Mulch & Firewood

how to repurpose dead and fallen tree limbs

Are your trees healthy? Even though fall is typically not the season to prune your trees, which encourages growth or flowering next spring (this is usually done after the coldest winter weather has passed), it is a perfect time to assess the health of the trees on your property. Removing dead limbs won’t encourage growth, and will help eliminate potential problems brought on by inclement weather. It will also provide you with ample mulch and firewood for the long cold months ahead.

Remove Tree Limbs

  • to get rid of diseased parts and save the tree
  • to avoid personal injury or property damage
  • to cut back overgrowth

Start at the Top

Look for tree hazards by scanning the tree from top to bottom. Use binoculars if needed and check how vigorously the tree is growing. Compare its growth to others around it. Vigor is reflected in the amount of leaf cover, leaf size, color and condition. If the tree seems to be thinning or experiencing stunted growth, then it may not be flourishing as robustly as it should.

How Does the Trunk Look?

Continue your examination down the trunk of the tree. Look for forked trunks, which indicate potential weaknesses. Signs of decay may also be evident. These present themselves as cavities, cankers or conks (fruiting bodies of fungi) on the trunk itself.

Getting to the Bottom

Finally, check root zone of the tree. Look for mushrooms and other fungi that might be growing around the base of the tree. This is a sign the tree roots may be decaying. Construction and trenching are often causes of root damage, so protect your trees when work is done near them.

Make Your Cut Count

Pruning dead limbs is necessary to keep you and your property safe and it needs to be done properly. Make clean cuts with sharpened tools. Look for the “collar” or swollen tree flesh that develops where the dead limb joins the healthy section of tree. This is the tree’s natural defense system. Make your cut using a pruner or a chain saw just outside the collar, leaving as little stub as possible. Do not remove the collar because it is needed to fight any remaining disease.

Making Mulch and Firewood

Once you have examined your trees and removed the dead limbs, recycle the debris into mulch or firewood. Using a wood chipper, you can make easy work of breaking it all down. The size of the tree limbs determines the size of the chipper you will need. You can mix grass clippings in with your grind or even run the mixture through the chipper twice to get a finer mix. For larger tree limbs or stumps use a log splitter to cut the debris down to a usable size for the fireplace.

“Snag” a Place for Wildlife to Live

Food for thought – if a dead or dying tree does not pose a hazard to people or property – why not leave it as part of your landscape? “Snags” or wildlife trees are excellent habitats for a variety of species of animals. Birds and small mammals use snags for nests or storage areas. Woodpeckers feed off the insects in them and hawks use them as perches for hunting. Snags can also be created from living trees. An arborist would be able to help you select a good candidate for a snag in your yard. Snags provide hours of wildlife watching.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with all of your landscape projects. Check out some of our blog posts on how to remove a dead tree for more information on tree cutting, as well as a list of tools you might want to use in getting rid of tree limbs and trunks. If you have any other questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Clean Up Your Garden for Colder Months

clean up your garden in preparation for the colder months

While it may still feel like summer, fall is quickly approaching. Organizing your autumn garden to-do list now will help you plan for all the things you want to accomplish before Old Man Winter shows his frosty face. Focus on clean-up and cover-up when coming up with your projects.

Here are some suggestions for things to do:

  • Remove spent blooms and foliage – This will help prevent diseases and pests from overwintering in your garden. If you detect that a problem has already developed be sure to remove the affected debris from the area.
  • Dig up bulbs and tender plants – If they cannot survive the cold temperatures, dig them up and move them indoors. Let your bulbs dry out on newspaper for a couple of days before putting them in paper bags to store in a cool, dry area.
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch – Your summer mulch has started to decompose. Add a fresh layer of mulch to your beds now to keep weeds at bay. Replenish with another layer before harsh weather sets in to give you a thick protective covering for plants and soil.
  • Rake up fallen leaves – Mulch the leaves with your lawn mower and spread them onto your beds or add the leaves to your compost pile.
  • Continue watering trees and shrubs – Keep giving them deep soakings until right before the first frost. They need to build up moisture for the long winter months.
  • Cut back perennials – Remove the dead portion of the plants to eliminate pests and mulch. Divide plants that have outgrown their spot in the garden.
  • Till up beds – If your plants are all done for the season, remove the plant debris and till up your beds. When your vegetable garden has finished producing, till the plants into the soil.
  • Add compost to beds – While tilling up your flower beds and garden, work some compost into the soil to help next spring.
  • Maintain compost pile – Make sure your bins are ready to withstand the winter weather and that your pile has been amended so it will continue to decompose. Cover the compost pile to keep it from getting too much rain and developing mold.
  • Cover future flower beds – If you have an area you want to plant in the spring, till it up now, add organic materials and cover it with either a thick layer of mulch or plastic to discourage emergent growth.
  • Hold off on trimming trees – Wait until your trees are dormant before you cut them back to avoid having any new growth appear before the first frost.

Clean Garden Tools

While you are in the cleaning mood, don’t forget to clean your gardening tools before you store them for the winter. After washing them with soap and water, you may want to wipe them lightly with vegetable oil or WD40 to help keep them from corroding. Nothing beats a shiny new spade to work with in the spring!

Be Ready for Old Man Winter

You’ll always be able to find a DIY project to do, which is why organizing your fall garden projects makes sense. It will help cut down on the workload in the spring. Be ready for Old Man Winter this year. Your garden will thank you for it.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your fall clean-up and maintenance projects. From rakes and shovels to wheel barrows and mulch, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week. Check out our blog, Fall Checklist Part1- Garden Clean-up and Winterization for more helpful tips on getting ready for that lovely season we call winter.

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Get a Head Start on Spring Gardening with Fertilizer

fertilize your garden this fallThe kids are headed back to school, the summer flowers are fading and – here’s the big news  it’s no longer taboo to fertilize your plants in the fall. Now that we know more about the year-round development cycle of plants, giving them a boost in the fall with fertilizer may be just what they need to survive the harsh winter.

Fertilize to protect plants from the elements

Once it was thought that fertilizing in late summer and fall would cause a plant to develop new growth that would be damaged in the first cold snap. Scientists now believe that in the fall plants store food and nutrients in their root systems to help them survive until spring. Fall fertilizing can help strengthen a plant.

A soil test shows what’s missing

Not all plants will need an extra boost of nutrients in the fall. Do a soil test to see what nutrients and minerals may be missing from the area you would like to treat. Many testing facilities will analyze the soil and give you their recommendations for the type of fertilizer to use.

More is not always better

A common mistake with fertilizing is to assume that every plant will benefit from a dose. If the soil is healthy, then the plant may not need extra nutrients. Soil testing also helps to determine if an area has been over-planted. Remember – more is not better. Just replenish what is missing from your soil. Too much fertilizer can kill your plants or grass.

It’s all in the numbers

All fertilizers have a three-numbered code or NPK code on the bag. This corresponds to the amount of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K) in the fertilizer.

  • Nitrogen promotes foliage growth
  • Phosphorous stimulates root growth
  • Potassium is important for proper cell function and overall plant health

The right mix will work wonders

In September apply a 20-8-8 mix fertilizer to your grass to help it recover from the summer heat and drought. Apply a 13-25-12 mix at the end of October to encourage root growth. For perennials, a high phosphate/low nitrogen mix will strengthen the plants and produce more blooms in the spring. Adding a phosphate mix when you plant bulbs this fall will help roots establish.

There’s a lot going on

Scientists have discovered that a garden is a year round living organism. Even though plants are dying above ground in the fall, there is a lot of activity going on beneath the soil surface. Roots continue to grow, storing nutrients from the soil. These nutrients help a plant fight off disease and strengthen the roots. When the temperatures drop to around 40 degrees, plants also release amino acids and sugars that help them withstand freezing.

2 Types of Fertilizers

Organic Fertilizers:

  • Made from natural plant and animal sources, such as manure, wood, fish and bone meal and seaweed
  • Not water soluble
  • Usually in granular form and take time to release nutrients into soil
  • Remain in the soil for an extended period
  • Stimulate beneficial microbes, which help break down the organic material and release soluble nutrients
  • Help improve the quality and structure of the soil
  • Best if applied in the fall so nutrients are released to soil over the winter months, making them available for plants in spring

Synthetic Fertilizers:

  • Manufactured chemical compounds
  • Water soluble
  • Make nutrients immediately available to plants
  • Can “burn” foliage and damage plants if too much is applied
  • Leach out of the soil quickly
  • Can contaminate ground water, streams and ponds due to runoff
  • Do not improve soil quality
  • Best when applied in the spring when ground is cold and microbes are inactive

Keep your plants happy – fertilize!

Good soil preparation, mulching and adding fertilizer where needed will keep your plants happy, healthy and thriving. Your garden feeds your body and your soul. Return the favor. Your plants will love you for it. 

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your lawn and garden projects. From a rake and a shovel to a wheel barrow and mulch, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Groundcovers – Make Sweet Spots in Your Yard

GroundcoverDo you have an area in your yard where grass will not grow? Or a slope that seems to be eroding with every rainfall? If so, then a groundcover may be the solution. These low-lying plants can grow where grass and other more delicate plants cannot.

Low Growing, Spreads Easy

The definition of a groundcover is a low growing plant (less than 24 inches) that spreads easily by producing rhizomes or stolons. These plants form dense vegetation, which chokes out weeds and makes them virtually maintenance free.

Why are groundcovers so useful in your yard?

  • They help prevent soil erosion. Root systems mat together and hold soil in place.
  • They help prevent weeds. Their matted roots and dense growth patterns keep weeds from taking hold.
  • They define a space. They also provide a transition between lawn and flower beds.
  • They soften hardscapes. Walkways, steps and driveways look less severe.
  • They fill awkward spaces. They are great to place between pavers or rocks.
  • They grow where grass will not. Many groundcover plants can survive in poor soil conditions and shady areas.
  • They are drought tolerant. They need less water than traditional grasses.
  • They mostly withstand foot traffic. Groundcovers such as moss, thyme and turfgrass don’t mind a little walking.

5 Types of Commonly Used Groundcover Plants

  • Vines – woody plants with slender spreading stems
  • Herbaceous – non-woody plants
  • Shrubs – low-growing varieties
  • Moss – the larger, coarser types
  • Ornamental Grasses

Pick Your Spot – Make Your Selection

Determine the area you want to plant groundcover. Is it shady or in full sun? Does the ground drain well or stay moist? This will help you decide what types of plants to select. Herbaceous plants will lose their leaves in the winter so if you are trying to cover a bare area then go with evergreen plants.

Creeper, Carpeter or Clumper

Ground covering plants can be creepers (vines and fast spreading plants), carpeters (like moss or turfgrass) or clumpers like Hostas. If you are trying to fill in a large area quickly, then maybe a creeper type is what you need. For variety, try mixing together all three types. Just determine each plant’s maximum growth range and space them out accordingly.

Stagger Your Plants

As with all plantings, starting with good healthy soil is important. Prepare the bed by adding compost or organic material. Arrange the plants you’ve selected in a staggered or diamond pattern to allow them to fill in faster. Space out your plants. Give creepers more room to spread out than the clumping types. Remember that a fast spreading creeper may become invasive if not kept in check. Just keep an eye on them.

Mulch for Protection

After planting be sure to cover with a thick layer of mulch to keep the weeds under control until the groundcover can fill in. The mulch will also provide protection during the winter months. Groundcover plants will take a couple of growing seasons to establish and completely fill in the area.

Most Popular Groundcovers

  • Ajuga
  • Bishop’s Weed (good for slopes)
  • Brass Buttons (evergreen)
  • Creeping Speedwell
  • Dead Nettle
  • Hakone Grass
  • Hen & Chicks
  • Irish Moss
  • Juniper
  • Lamb’s Ear (evergreen)
  • Lamium
  • Lily-of-the-Valley
  • Mondo Grass (evergreen)
  • Periwinkle
  • Scotch Moss
  • Sedum
  • Spurge
  • Sweet Woodruff (loves shade)
  • Thyme

Let Your Imagination Run Wild

Groundcovers are an easy solution to most landscape challenges. They can also be used to create some very interesting focal points in your yard. Mother Nature has provided you with every texture and color you can think up for your garden palette. Let your imagination run wild.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From tillers and shovels to wheel barrows and mulch, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Getting Ready for Fall Part 3: Pampering the Grass

Prep Your Garden for Fall - Dethatching, Overseeding and AeratingHas your lawn had its share of foot traffic this summer? With outdoor activities in full swing, it’s a sure bet your grass is a little stressed. It may be a toss-up as to which of you is more excited about the kids going back to school – you or your lawn! A little lawn pampering may be just the ticket. It will love you for it (and you will love how it looks next year).

Adjust Your Mower Height

Once the summer heat is gone, lower your lawn mower to a regular height of about two inches. Cutting your grass shorter will help prevent matting under leaves and snow. Avoid cutting it too short though, otherwise weeds can take over if the grass thins out too much.

Continue Watering Schedule

Don’t slack on watering just yet. Until temperatures really begin to cool, continue to water your lawn as you have been. A general rule is to give your lawn about an inch to an inch and half of water a week. This will vary depending on where you live, the condition of your soil and the type of grass you have.

Check for Thatch

Check your lawn for thatch – a thick layer of dead organic matter mixed with living plant parts that builds up at the surface of your grass. Over-fertilizing and watering too frequently can cause thatch and lead to disease and insect problems. A dethatcher has powerful blades that pull the thatch to the surface. After using the dethatcher, rake up the thatch debris and compost it.

Pesky Weeds Be Gone

Fall is also a great time to attack those pesky weeds like dandelions, clover and other broadleaf weeds. Applying an herbicide spray that contains glyphosate, 2 4-D or MCPP is best. The weeds take these chemicals down into their root system, effectively stopping their chances of returning in the spring. The herbicide needs to be applied when temperatures are more moderate and the soil is moist.

Fall Lawn To-do List

Now that you have thatched your lawn and treated for weeds, improve the condition of your soil and grass using these to-do’s.

  1. Aerate the soil. This reduces thatch, improves drainage and loosens the soil. Using a plug type aerator is best since there is less chance of compacting the soil.
  2. Apply a top dressing. This is a mixture of loam, sand and peat, which will help amend the soil. Put a thin layer over the grass and plug holes. Avoid smothering the grass.
  3. Work the top dressing into plugs. Use a stiff brush to push the mixture into the plugs.
  4. Repair dead patches in grass. Reseed any thin spots. Use a mulch product that is embedded with seeds and fertilizer to help fill in these areas. Keep spots moist to allow seeds to germinate.

I See Dead Patches

If your grass has too many dead patches, try over seeding the entire lawn. Many over-seed warm season grasses with ryegrass to help thicken up thin or patchy yards. Cisco seeds has a variety of different types of seeds available. One is sure to do the trick for your lawn.

Quick Fix with Sod

Sometimes starting from scratch is the best option. Sod is the quickest way to bring your yard back to life. Now that summer heat is on its way out, it is the perfect time to install a new lawn of cool season grass. Keep the new sod moist for a quick start. It will have plenty of time over the winter months to build a strong root system.

Fertilize Cool Season Grasses

Finish up your yard work by fertilizing your grass. For cool season grasses like bluegrass, fescue and ryegrass, a late summer feeding in September and then again in October/November will help them green up earlier and look better in the spring. Don’t fertilize warm season grasses in the fall because they are dormant. Only fertilize them if they have been over-seeded with ryegrass. You fertilize these types of grasses in the spring.

Mulch those Leaves

Be sure to remove any fallen leaves from your yard before they can mat down and smother the grass. Using a mulching mower will help with this. Also, don’t forget to drain your irrigation lines before the first frost. Shut off the water to the system and then drain each zone separately to make sure there is nothing left to freeze.

A little lawn pampering may be just the thing to improve your stressed out grass. Your hard work will pay off when your grass comes back greener and healthier next spring. Now, if we can just figure out a way to keep the kids and dog off your beautiful green lawn…

Want more information on fall lawn preparations? Check out our blogs, What Everyone Ought to Know About Lawn Aeration, Aerating/Plugging and Slice Seeding and Essential Fall Tools for Your Lawn & Garden.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From detachers and aerators to mulching mowers and over-seeders, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Getting Ready for Fall Part 2: Time to Till It Up!

Prep Your Garden for Fall - TillingThe school year is just beginning, summer flowers are dying off and vegetable gardens are winding down. Signs that summer is drawing to a close are everywhere. With fall on our minds, what needs to be done in our yards and gardens before temperatures cool down?

Start Improving on Next Year

The first thing you should do is assess your yard and garden. Take stock of all the plants that didn’t succeed this summer and why. Check out your lawn and determine if you need to re-seed or plant new sod. Think of ways to improve things for next year, such as:

  • Identify plants that are overgrown. They may need to be divided.
  • Check for diseases on your plants. Treat or remove them so they do not infect plants around them.
  • Replace summer annuals. Add fall color with plants like Chrysanthemums.
  • Dig up bulbs. Unearth bulbs that may not be able to survive the winter in your zone and store them.
  • Fertilize turf grass. Add a slow release, all-natural fertilizer to your turf grass.

Soil Preparation is Key

Preparing your garden for next year is easy. The more work you put in now, the easier your task will be in the spring. The key to a successful garden is soil preparation, and fall is the perfect time to do this, since the ground is still warm.

  1. Clean up dead plants and remove debris – Make sure you remove weeds so they are not tilled back into the soil where they can spread their seeds.
  2. Work compost into the soil – Tilling the compost into the soil helps distribute the nutrients throughout. It will also oxygenate the soil and help keep diseases at bay.
  3. Protect the soil – If you aren’t going to plant in this area until next year, cover the ground with straw to protect it from harsh winter weather.
  4. Mulch – If you are planting fall flowers or if you just want to protect your evergreens, then mulch. Mulch will help keep plant roots protected and the soil healthy.

Fall Tilling is Easier

Because the ground is warmer in the fall, it is much easier to till deep enough to provide a good medium for root growth in the spring. Tilling is a great way to get your soil ready for next year.

  • It opens up the soil allowing oxygen to reach the deeper layers of the ground.
  • It relieves compaction – plant roots have to work too hard to get through packed soil.
  • It allows for amendments to be distributed through the soil.
  • It improves drainage.

Give Soil Time to Develop

By tilling compost into your soil in the fall, you are giving it all winter and spring to become biologically active. Organic amendments take time to interact with the earth and render their benefits to plants. It can take weeks or months for amended soil to work at peak levels, which is why fall tilling is so much better than waiting until spring. The soil has time to develop.

Rough it Up

If you are not planting in your garden until spring, rough till your soil in each direction and leave it. The ground will flatten out before spring when you can go back and fine till it. Some of the amendments you can add to your soil now are bone meal (for nitrogen) and rock phosphate (for phosphorous). Add a complete organic fertilizer in pellet or granular form when you till. This is an easy way to add nutrients and will cut down on the amount of compost you need in the spring.

Leave Something for Pests

For your vegetable gardens, consider letting some of the plants linger. Plants like spent cabbage, kale, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, broccoli and radishes act as pest magnets. In the spring, these plants release a cyanide compound when decomposing that can kill nuisance pests like wireworms. Just till the decaying plants into the soil before planting next spring. Instant compost!

A Gardener’s Work is Never Done

Fall is when you should think about ways to enjoy your garden during the cooler weather. If you enjoy bird watching then leave a few flowering plant stalks in your beds to attract birds. The birds will feast on the seeds and use the stalk as a perch. Remember, garden life is year round and a gardener’s work is never done.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From tillers and shovels to wheel barrows and mulch, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Getting Ready for Fall Part 1: Tree Trimming – A Seasonal Sport

Prepare for Fall - Tree Trimming

Lying in your lawn chair, you look up and realize, “Man, my trees need a little shaping up.” Before you end your relaxation and start cutting away at your trees, take a deep breath. As with all things, timing is important. We have the how, when and whys of tree trimming to help you plan for the months ahead.

Why trim a tree?

  • To promote plant health – cut dead or diseased branches keeps it from spreading
  • To maintain a plant’s shape for landscaping purposes – like hedges or topiaries
  • To improve a plant’s appearance – control the plant’s size, shape and thickness
  • To protect people or property – remove branches that fall and injure people or property
  • To improve security around a property – remove unwanted growth blocking the view of entries or windows

Keep Your Trees Healthy and Looking Great

A little year-round maintenance (light shaping) is fine to keep your trees healthy and looking great. If you want to really prune a tree back, be sure to do it at the appropriate time during their yearly growth cycle. This way, you can encourage the plant to grow fuller and produce more flowers and fruit. An arborist can help you make the right decision on which branches to cut and which to save.

Trimming Promotes New Growth in Spring

So when is the best time to trim a tree? Winter months are when the tree is dormant. Pruning during this time will promote a generous burst of new growth come spring. Just wait until the coldest weather has passed and you should be fine.

Corrective Pruning

If you want to do some corrective pruning to a tree then do this in the summer months. By cutting a tree limb back during the summer part of their growth cycle, you are helping to slow the development of new branches. This is the time to take out low lying limbs so they will not readily return.

Fall – Enjoy Football Instead

Wait until after the fall to do any tree trimming. Because fungi spread their spores profusely during the fall, cutting a tree limb in the fall will make them susceptible to these diseases. Trees also heal slower during these months. Enjoy some football and wait.

Save Major Pruning for Winter

Winter is the time when you should do the most drastic trimming if needed. It is when you should cut branches that overhang your home or fence. The best rules of thumb are the 1/4 and 1/3 rules:

  • Never remove more than 1/4 of the tree’s crown in a season
  • Don’t prune more than 1/3 of the way up from the bottom on deciduous trees

Trimming Flowering Trees

For flowering trees, if they bloom in the spring then you should prune them after they finish blooming. If they bloom mid to late summer then trim them back in the winter or early spring. This will help you avoid trimming off any buds that the tree is forming for next year.

Use Sharp Tools

Some good tips for pruning any time of the year is to always use sharp tools. They will make cleaner cuts on the trees and will help the tree heal faster. If you have high branches use a pole pruner instead of trying to climb on a ladder. It is too easy to tip over when sawing a limb. Chain saws can help you take down many of your branches, but for large overhead branches play it safe and call in a professional. Check out our blog, How to Cut down a Tree, for more helpful suggestions on using chain saws.

Stress-Free Tree Trimming

As summer winds down, don’t stress over trimming back your trees. Make small adjustments here and there and save any major trim work for the winter months. Enjoy the dog days of summer and the wonderful shade your trees provide.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From tree pruners and nippers to chain saws and wood chippers, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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How to Build a Backyard Pond in 10 Simple Steps

how-to build a backyard pondOne sure way to add a beautiful focal point to any landscape is to introduce a water feature. What about building a backyard pond? It will not only add diversity, it attracts beneficial wildlife. Adding a small pond with trickling water is an easy weekend project, plus you and your family will enjoy it for years to come.

Keep it Close

To get the maximum enjoyment from your pond, keep it close to your home. You want to see and hear it from your windows or patio area. Because you need electricity for the pump, keep the pond within close proximity to an outdoor outlet. Most pumps come with a 24-foot power cord; any further than that and you will need to extend your power lines.

Not Too Much Sunlight, Please

Ponds need sunlight to support beneficial wildlife and they prefer partial daily exposure. Too much sun can warm the water too much and allow algae to thrive. Avoid positioning your pond near large trees. Roots can damage your lining in their quest for moisture. Besides, fishing leaves out of your pond all the time is no fun.

Habitat for Fish?

Do you want a fish pond? You and your family may enjoy taking care of fish. However, they will need to be fed daily and the pond filter will need to be cleaned or changed regularly. It’s a decision to make before committing to be “fish parents.” If you commit, build in water depth to the pond, which is more critical than circumference. You need to dig a minimum of 18 inches for goldfish and three feet for koi in order for them to survive the winter.

The Soothing Sounds of a Waterfall

Consider adding a waterfall to your pond. Keeping the water moving and aerated helps keep algae in check and prevents mosquitoes from laying eggs. Flowing water also attracts birds and other interesting wildlife. Plus you benefit from the soothing sounds yourself.

Time to Start Digging

Now that you’ve decided where and how large of a pond you want, it’s time to call 811 to have someone come out and determine where underground gas and electrical lines might be. Once you’re clear of that, it’s time to start digging.

  • Mark the outline – form the shape you want with twine or landscape paint.
  • Excavate the area – if you are going for a lovely large water feature you may want to consider using a Bobcat or an excavator to make your digging easier.
  • Terrace the pond
  • Create a 3-inch wide area around the outside of your outline for the stone border.
  • Create a 1-foot wide shelf around the inside of the outline for aquatic plants. It should be about 8 inches deep from the edge of the pond.
  • Dig the bed of the pond a minimum of 18 inches deep, sloping slightly in creating the walls.

4) Dig a trench back to the power supply – this should be close to the deepest part of the pond since that is where the pump will go.

5)   Add an overflow trench at one end of pond – It should be about 6 inches wide and 1 inch deep to help channel overflow caused by heavy rains away from your pond.

6)   Prepare the Base – Add a 1 inch layer of sand followed by a 1/2” layer of newspapers around the entire base of the pond and terrace areas. The newspaper will help protect the liner from punctures.

7)   Line the Pond – Use a polypropylene flexible liner that can withstand UV rays, freezing temps, and is rated “fish friendly”. Cut the liner about 4 feet wider and longer than the pond dimensions. Center the liner in the pond and press it down, pushing tightly into the crevices.

8)   Fill the Pond – Begin adding water to the pond using a garden hose. While the pond is filling up pull the liner tightly to help remove creases. Get someone to help with this so that the extra liner you’ve left over the pond edge will not shift.

9)   Install the pump – Thread the power cord through a PVC pipe and place it in the trench leading back to exterior outlet and backfill. Place the pump in the deepest section of the pond while holding onto the other end of the hose.

10) Create a Rock Border – To hide the liner edge place rocks around the perimeter. The rocks need to interlock so they will not be loose and cause a safety hazard. Create easy access for wildlife by extending some of the rocks into the shallow water.

Jump Start Your Pond’s Ecosystem

Landscaping inside and around your pond is important for completely the look of your water feature. It helps to attract wildlife like birds and butterflies, and looks pretty to the human eye, too. To jump start your pond’s ecosystem add a bucket of water from a nearby natural water source. It will introduce millions of organisms and help keep your pond’s health in balance with nature.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your landscaping projects. From Bobcats and excavators to shovels and wheel barrows, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Another Fresh Garden Idea – Gardening for the Smell of It

Fragrant Flowers in Your BackyardAre you always looking for ways to make your garden interesting? Are you a little bored just coordinating colors and textures to make it visually appealing? Time to take your garden to a new level. Add aroma-filled “perfume” plants into the mix and you’ll soon find your family spending a lot more time outdoors.

Pick-A-Scent for a Pick-Me-Up

Gardens are not only soothing to the eye, they can be a delight to your sense of smell as well. Start by designing your landscape with aroma in mind. Notice the places that could use a little “scent” pick-me-up.

Here are some of the ways you can enjoy the fragrance of “perfume” plants around your house:

  • Position them around gathering places like patios or pool areas
  • Cover a pergola or walled courtyard with plants like Wisteria, Honeysuckle or Jasmine
  • Line a driveway or walkway with plants like Lavender, Pelargonium and Alyssum
  • Plant beside gates or entryways to the yard or house
  • Add hanging baskets to porches
  • Add window boxes with colorful, scented flowers
  • Plant trees like Plumeria or Magnolia so that the fragrance will reach a second story window
  • Plant scented herbs like Thyme and Mint between pavers to give you a burst of aroma when you step on them.

Spread the Fragrance Around

Planning is the key to successfully distributing “perfume” plants throughout your garden. Avoid creating a flower bed in one area for all your new scented plants because they will overpower each other. You will wind up with something akin to the perfume counter at Macy’s with all of the plants competing for your attention. Determine the fragrance level (strong to subtle) and the times the plants are the most aromatic (day or night) before planting them.

A Scented Garden – Spring to Fall

Your goal is to have a scented garden from spring to fall and during both daylight and evening hours. Once you’ve selected where you want the plants, determine which “perfume” plants you want. Even though a particular plant is most fragrant at night it may need plenty of sun during the day to prosper, so placement is important. Consider using a mix of flowering plants, shrubs, herbs and trees to enhance the perfume of your garden.

“Perfume” Plants to Consider:

  • Basil
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Dianthus
  • Gardenia
  • Garden Phlox
  • Honeysuckle
  • Hydrangea
  • Jasmine
  • Lavender
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Lilac
  • Lily-of-the-Valley
  • Mint
  • Mock Orange
  • Moonflower – (night time scents)
  • Nicotiana – (night time scents)
  • Oriental Lily (Start Gazer Lily)
  • Peony
  • Plumeria – (small tree)
  • Rosemary
  • Roses
  • Scented Geraniums
  • Southern Magnolia – (tree)
  • Spirea
  • Thyme
  • Viburnum
  • Wisteria

Be Adventurous

Select some of the new hybrid “perfume” plants that are available at your local nursery. Maybe what your garden needs is a little “Pink Zazzle” Gomphrena (Globe Amaranth), “Vermillionaire” Cuphea or “Bounce” Impatiens, which bring some heavenly fragrance to your abode. These hybrids are typically easy to grow and hardy until the first frost.

Stagger Your Scent Makers

When it’s time to plant your scent makers, break up the soil and add organic matter or compost to help enrich it. Remember to stagger them throughout the area to create the most enjoyment. Add a generous covering of mulch to help the new plants retain moisture and get them off to a good start.

Stop and Smell the Roses

Scientists say that the sense of smell is one of our most powerful senses. Humans associate memories and emotions with particular fragrances. Just a whiff of a particular aroma can send your mouth watering or your heart soaring. So next time you take a moonlight stroll in the garden, take a deep breath and remember what you’re feeling at that moment. There’s a safe bet that when you encounter that fragrance again, you’ll think back to that nighttime walk. Maybe that’s why they tell you to stop and smell the roses.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your garden projects. From small tillers and wheel barrows to shovels and mulch, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Fresh Garden Idea – Planting New Varieties of Tomatoes & Peppers

Grow New Tomato and Pepper VarietiesYour garden is ready for gardening. Now, what do you do? Grow veggies for the table, of course. Raising your own vegetables is an economic way to bring your family around to a healthier way of eating. Imagine the pride you will feel when your first crop of tomatoes and peppers come in. We’re here to help you get started.

So Many to Choose From – Where Do I Start?

When you first look at the over 700 different varieties of tomatoes available you may feel like throwing in the towel. Don’t panic – make your selection based on your growing zone and for the type you want to eat. Here are a few things to keep in mind when looking for the right variety to plant:

  1. Disease Resistance – Tomatoes are prone to numerous issues, so read the labels on the plants or seeds before buying.
  2. Growth Habit – This means how much space the plant will need to grow. There are two types of plants: Bush (determinant) and Vine (indeterminate).
  3. Time to Mature – If you have a short growing season, then you need a variety that will ripen quickly. Look for the number of days the variety takes to mature.
  4. Fruit Characteristics – Choose a variety that will best suit your needs – do you want slicing tomatoes? Do you plan to can or preserve them?

Bush Tomatoes – Great for Container Gardens

Determinate or bush tomatoes grow two to three feet in height. When they set fruit, they allow it to flourish before sending out more growth. They have a short growth cycle. These varieties work great for container gardens, but if you do plant them in a raised bed or regular garden make sure to mulch with plastic or straw mulch to keep the plants off the ground.

Vine Tomatoes – There’s No Stopping Them

Vine tomatoes are indeterminate varieties. They need lots of room to grow and spread out. Be prepared to support them with cages or ladders because these plants will continue to grow until the first frost. Some of the better known varieties, like Cherry and Beefsteak tomatoes, fall in this category.

Here are some of the varieties of tomatoes that grow well in our zone:

  • Brandywine (I)
  • German Queen (I)
  • Cherokee Purple (I)
  • Roma (I)
  • Marzano (I)
  • Silvery Fir Tree (D)
  • Siberian (D)
  • Rocket (D)

Watch Out for Diseases

Tomatoes suffer from a myriad of diseases. When buying a plant, taake note of whether the plant is resistant to some of the most common ones. This will be noted with a letter on the label. Here are some of the most common diseases for tomatoes:

  • Verticillium Wilt (V on label)
  • Fusarium Wilt (F)
  • Nematodes (N)
  • Tobacco Mosaic Virus (T)
  • Alternaria (A)
  • Gray Leaf Spot (ST)

Peppers – They Have Needs Too

Though peppers are often planted with tomatoes in a garden they have very different needs. Tomatoes can be planted after the last frost, but peppers prefer completely warmed soil, so it is best to wait a while before setting them out. Use black plastic mulch around peppers to help keep the soil warm overnight and to prevent heavy rains from damaging tender seedlings. Peppers have shallow root systems and mulch helps protect them.

Pick A Lotta Peppers

Like tomatoes, peppers come in all shapes, sizes and colors. They can be sharp flavored like green bell peppers or sweet like Pimentos. You can also find spicy peppers in different heat intensities, but be careful to check their maturity time. Hot peppers need a fairly long time to mature to develop that kick we love so much.

Some of the pepper varieties that are popular in our zone are:

  • Melrose (sweet)
  • Gypsy (sweet)
  • Jimmy Nordello (sweet)
  • Super Chili (hot)
  • Banana peppers (hot)

A Little Farmer in All of Us

Vegetable gardening is a very rewarding endeavor. Not only will you have a plethora of fresh produce for your dinner table, but you can put up an abundant supply in your freezer for those long winter months. Tomatoes and peppers are just the beginning. Soon you will be ready to tackle asparagus and corn in your garden. After all, there’s a little farmer in all of us.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your garden projects. From small tillers and wheel barrows to shovels and mulch, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Summer Garden Update #2 – Garden Boxes Add Pizzazz to Planting

Add Pizzazz to Your Garden with A DIY PlanterIf you want to change it up a little in your garden this season, why not try adding some garden boxes? These easy-to-build containers are perfect for adding a splash of color to a boring corner of the yard or growing some delicious vegetables for your table. They can make your gardening chores easier, too. Who doesn’t love that idea?

Big on Benefits

The benefits of garden boxes are vast. They are ideal for small spaces and great if your soil is rocky or of poor quality. They also take less effort to maintain because plants placed close together tend to shade and cool the ground around them. This means less watering, less weeding and less mulching. Vegetable gardens planted in raised beds tend to produce higher yields due to better drainage and deep rooting.

Boxes vs. Planters

There is a difference between garden boxes (beds) and garden planters. Generally garden boxes are raised boxes that are open on the bottom to allow plants contact with the soil in your yard. Garden planters are also raised boxes but they are closed on the bottom with either slats or landscaping fabric to keep the dirt inside contained. Whichever you choose to go with, there will be some basic construction involved. Here is what you will need for a rectangular garden box:

  • (4) 2×6 cut to 8 feet
  • (4) 2×6 cut to 4 feet
  • (1) bundle of 18-24” wooden stakes
  • Galvanized nails or screws
  • A level, a small sledge hammer and a drill

Make Your Bed – Then Plant in it

What kind of material do you use to build your garden bed? Generally they are made from lumber. However, look around your yard for materials you may be able to repurpose, such as:

  • Untreated lumber like pine or cedar
  • Concrete blocks – the pH level in your soil may be affected by concrete, but you can correct with fertilizer
  • Bricks
  • Recycled wooden pallets

Avoid pressure treated lumber, which can contain chemicals that leach into the soil. Pass on repurposing railroad ties, too – these are treated with creosote, which is toxic.

A Bed with Easy Access

Select a level section of your yard to place the bed. Make sure the area has adequate sunlight, access to a water source and is free of tree roots. The width of your box should be no wider than four feet to allow for easy access to the bed without having to step into it. The length is not as important. Most beds are usually 4×8 feet or 4×12 feet in size. The depth of the box needs to be no less than six inches, with 12 inches being ideal.

Keep it Level

Construct the frame of your bed by attaching the sides and ends together with galvanized nails or screws. Once you have the frame constructed, drive stakes in the ground inside the corners at one end of your box. Leave about four to six inches of the stakes above ground. Attach the frame to the stakes. Don’t worry about whether the frame is sitting completely on the ground or not. The important thing to remember is to keep the box level when attaching it to the stakes.

Almost Finished

Once you have leveled one end of the box, go to the opposite end and repeat the process. When your box is level, drive a couple of stakes into the ground along the inside of each side. Attach your frame to the stakes. Finish up by adding the sides for the second layer and securing them to the stakes.

Prepare the Soil

Now that your garden box is complete, prepare the bed. You need to break up the ground inside the box. One tip is to remove the top layer of soil (about the depth of your shovel blade) and till up the soil beneath. Add back the soil you have removed and mix it in. Add compost and additional top soil to build up the bed.

Making Your Gardening Easy

When your soil is ready, it is time to add your plants. Whether you are planting flowers or vegetables, an overall planting design will help. Place your tallest plants in the center with trellises and work your way outward. Garden boxes make gardening easy. So think inside the box for a change. You’ll be glad you did.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From circular saws and small tillers to wheel barrows and shovels, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week. Check out our first garden update here.

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Summer Garden Update #1 – Build a Retaining Wall

How to Build a Retaining WallIf you want to correct a sloping lawn or add some interest to your landscape, then a retaining wall may be just the ticket. By using concrete blocks with interlocking flanges, this DIY project is something you can tackle in a weekend and enjoy for years to come.

Designing Your Wall for Your Lifestyle

Determine where you want the wall to go and mark the area with stakes and twine. For a free form, less structured shape, use landscaping paint to define the outline of the wall. Here’s a chance to show your creative side – after checking your local building codes of course. Any wall higher than four feet may require a structural engineer to help with it. Also, be sure to check with homeowner’s associations or other neighborhood governing organizations for restrictions before starting construction.

What You Will Need

In addition to concrete blocks, you will need a list of materials. Many are heavy, so you may want to arrange a delivery. No use wearing yourself out before you lay the first brick!

  • Paver base material – usually a mixture of gravel and crushed limestone
  • Sand
  • Gravel
  • Level – preferably 2 feet or longer
  • Rubber mallet
  • Construction adhesive
  • Perforated drain pipe
  • Hand or gas powered tamper
  • Landscape rake
  • Shovel

A Good Foundation Makes all the Difference

A firm foundation sets up how secure the wall will be as you build it up. Checking to see that the blocks are level and that you have adequate drainage during the building process is vital. These two steps will help stabilize the wall and keep it from cracking or bowing outward.

Time to Get Dirty

Now that you have all of your materials, let’s roll up those sleeves and get to work.

  • ExcavateDig a trench twice the width of the blocks and deep enough to bury the first level of blocks halfway.
  • Ensure a level base – Add paver base to the trench and spread it evenly.
  • Compact the base – With a tamper compact the base material.
  • Level the base – Use a board to help level the base material. Check with the torpedo level.
  • Lay the base blocks – Remove the interlocking flange from the blocks on the bottom row. Check to see if blocks are level and use mallet to help adjust blocks.
  • Fill in around base – Add soil around the front of the blocks and tamp down to provide support.
  • Provide proper drainage – Place a perforated drain pipe at the bottom of the wall, cover with landscaping fabric, and fill around with gravel.
  • Continue stacking blocks – Stagger the joints on each row by starting alternate rows with a half block.
  • Backfill as you go – Fill behind each level of blocks with gravel and tamp down.
  • Add capstones if desired – Even though it is not structurally necessary, it will give the wall a finished look. Use construction adhesive when placing capstones.

Talk About Curb Appeal

Now that your wall is completed you can add creative touches that will help reflect your personal style. Add a splash of color by staining the blocks or add plants to the top of the wall that will soon cascade over the edge. The sky is the limit. Building a retaining wall is hard work but it provides rewards for many years down the road. You’ve just added a lot of sweat equity to your landscape and upped your home’s curb appeal, all in one weekend. Now where’s that lawn chair?!

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From masonry saws and tampers to trenchers and shovels, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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No Excuses! Start Composting

You read and research a lot of material on how to start composting and still you are hesitant. “It’s too hard; it costs too much; is it worth it?” are a few of the same excuses you told yourself at the start of your last DIY project. You successfully tackled those challenges and with our help you will master the art of composting as well. Time to get started!

The Importance of a DIY Compost BinWhy Should We Compost?

  • Our landfills are running out of room. Twenty-five percent of the garbage in the U.S. is yard trimmings and food scraps. That is nearly 60 million tons of organic materials that we could be turning back into nutrients for our soil.
  • It saves money. Instead of spending funds on manmade compost and fertilizers, making your own is just common sense…and cost-effective, too.
  • It helps you create a healthier, thriving garden by suppressing diseases and pests.
  • It reduces greenhouse gases. Landfills break down anaerobically (without oxygen) which produces methane gas. These emissions are far more toxic than CO2 gases.
  • It reduces the chemicals entering our rivers and lakes as water runs off from the land.
  • It eliminates the toxic elements that are created in landfills that seep into our ground water.

Composting is Easy

If you can expend the energy to gather yard waste in the first place, then you are halfway to composting. Simply deposit the waste into a compost bin or pile and there you have it. There are plenty of DIY compost bin designs on the internet for you to build. If you’d rather keep it simple – start with a compost pile. Find a semi-shady spot in your yard where the pile will get some sun but won’t dry out. The pile needs to be able to get enough rain to keep it damp but not completely wet. Keep your pile away from the base of trees so that the tree roots will not be affected by the decomposition process of the pile.

For more information on composting check out our previous blogs, Go Green: Create a Compost Collection Pile and 10 Good-Sense Tips for Building a Compost Bin.

Invite the Bacteria and Bugs In

Compost is good for your yard and the environment. Bacteria, bugs, worms and fungi will soon be enjoying the fruits of your labor and helping to break down the waste into usable humus or nutrients for your lawn or garden. Using compost in your garden helps plants to grow stronger and produce higher yields. It will also help suppress diseases and pests.

No Odor? No Problems

Still concerned that an open compost pile will give off noxious smells and attract pests? Only compost done wrong stinks. Too much water or not enough air flow through a pile can often be the culprits. Turning your pile regularly with a pitch fork helps break up the clumps of material that may be too wet.

Bury the Food Scraps

Noticing flies buzzing around your pile? They are after the food waste. Always bury your food scraps under a layer of grass clippings or other vegetation. This will also help keep rats and other rodents from being a problem. You can sprinkle lime or calcium over the pile to neutralize odors and help speed up the decomposition.

Start Your Compost Pile Off Right

Layering the materials in your compost pile is the best way to start it out on the right foot. Start with a layer of organic material (leaves and grass clippings) followed by animal manures, fertilizers and starters. Finish up with a layer of top soil. Keep layering until you get a good base for your compost pile. You do not need to layer materials after this. Just sit back and let the magic happen.

Composting – Good All the Way Around

Think of composting as organized garbage removal. Besides being good for the environment and your wallet, it is completely beneficial to the health of your yard and garden. So quit making excuses and get busy composting. You’ll be happy you did.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your composting projects. From wheel barrows and shovels to rakes and other landscaping tools, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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How-To: A DIY Rain Barrel Catches Water & Saves Money

The Benefits of a DIY Rain BarrelWe’ve been having crazy weather lately. Some areas have been getting record rainfall while others haven’t seen a drop in days. One sure way to take advantage of all the rainfall and help you out during the dry days of summer is to install a rain barrel. Check out our blog, Build a Rain Barrel for Your Garden in 5 Easy Steps, for more detailed instructions but here are the highlights:

  • Get a 55 or 80 gallon plastic container
  • Place a couple of concrete blocks beneath the barrel and make sure it is level
  • Drill three holes in the container – one a quarter of the way up from the bottom for the main spigot, one at the very bottom as a drain, and one a quarter of the way from the top for an overflow valve.
  • Install spigots on all three with watertight sealant.
  • Drill a large opening in the lid to direct the downspout into barrel
  • Detach a section of the downspout from house and replace it with flexible downspout tubing. Secure with screws.

Think of the Money You’ll Save

Lawn and garden watering makes up close to 40% of total household water use during the hot summer months. By installing a rain barrel you can save up to 1,300 gallons of water. Rainwater is water that is free of chlorine, lime and calcium and is ideal for watering potted plants and gardens, washing cars, and even washing Fido. Think of the money you can save if you didn’t have to turn on the tap outside.

Keeping Rainwater Where It Needs to Go – In the Garden

Rainwater runoff is a big problem in urban and suburban areas, polluting our waterways with fertilizers, pesticides and other contaminants. Rain barrels play a part in cutting down on the runoff problem. By installing a rain barrel you can redirect water away from your foundation and at the same time cut down on your water bill. Rainwater helps to stabilize the PH levels in the soil, therefore cutting down on the need for fertilizers.

Things To Keep In Mind When Installing A Rain Barrel

  • Make sure wherever you decide to place the rain barrel that the ground is level to avoid it tipping over once it is full.
  • If you treat your roof for pests, unhook the rain barrel for a couple weeks to avoid contaminating your barrel.
  • Use round barrels rather than square containers because corners can crack from water pressure.
  • Make sure your garden hose fits the spigots. Garden hoses do not follow standard plumbing pipe thread sizes so you may need an adapter.
  • If you live in a cold climate, you will need to disconnect the rain barrel, drain it and store it over the winter. Don’t forget to re-attach the old downspout.
  • You may be eligible for a rebate on your rain barrel from your local water company so check their website for information.

Rain Barrels – Smart Investment, Big Payoff

Constructing a rain barrel is an easy do-it-yourself project as long as you follow a few guidelines. You may find that you use your rain barrel so often that you want to add several more. Think of all the outdoor projects you can accomplish without ever having to turn on your outdoor faucet! A rain barrel is a smart investment that pays off in big ways.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From ladders and wheel barrows to shovels, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Keeping Critters at Bay Part 3: No Poison Pest Control

No Poison Pest ControlDiscovering that hordes of insects have made your garden their next buffet lunch can cause anyone to reach for the most toxic chemical repellant out there, just to get rid of ’em – fast. Before you decide to race off to your local garden center though, take a minute and look into using a non-chemical approach for controlling critters. Keeping poison out of your yard will help keep pests away from you and the ones you love.

Go Au Naturale

Non-chemical pest control methods have advantages over standard chemical pest control. They are generally effective for longer periods of time versus chemicals. Not to mention, they cost less. Pests do not build up immunity to non-chemical treatments the way they do manmade chemicals. Natural pest control has fewer restrictions since they are safe for humans and the environment. There are two basic categories of non-chemical pest control – biological and manual treatments.

Biological Pest Controls

  • Beneficial Predators
  • Purple Martins and other birds that eat insects
  • Bats
  • Lady Bugs
  • Spiders
  • Centipedes
  • Dragonflies
  • Parasitoids – These are miniature wasps that lay their eggs inside the pest. When the young are born they kill the host insect.
  • Microscopic Pathogens – These are fungi, bacteria and viruses like milky spore disease, which attacks Japanese Beetles. Many of these can be found commercially.
  • Biochemical pesticides – These include pheromones that lure insects into traps and juvenile hormones, which interfere with the insect’s normal growth and reproductive functions.

Manual Methods of Pest Control

  • Spading and hoeing to cut up weeds and eliminate insect breeding sites
  • Hand picking weeds
  • Setting traps for rats, mice and other critters so they can be re-released elsewhere
  • Mulching to reduce weed growth

Good Bugs vs. Bad Bugs

Not every bug has to die. There are actually some insects out there that are beneficial for your garden. If you use chemical pesticides you run the risk of killing off the good bugs as well as the bad. Here are a few friendly critters that you may want to welcome into your garden.

  • Brachonids, Chalcids and Ichneumon – Leaf eating caterpillars
  • Lady Bugs – Aphids, mites, white flies and scale
  • Lacewings – Aphids
  • Hover flies – Aphids
  • Praying Mantas – Most insects
  • Nematodes – Cutworms and Beetles

A Sprinkle a Day Keeps Bugs Away

If you are just overrun with pests and need something to stem the tide, there are plenty of non-toxic remedies you can buy or make yourself. One of the best is called Diatomaceous earth (food grade). It is a chalky power made from the fossilized remains of Diatoms, which is a type of hard shelled algae. This multi-purposed talc prevents everything from earwigs, slugs and other soft bodied pests to fleas, ants and cockroaches. Just sprinkle it around the edge of your garden or lawn (anywhere the insects will crawl through it) and the pests will pick up the dust and die. Warning: You can even use it to treat Fido for fleas!

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that homeowners actually use about three times the amount of chemical pesticides in their yards and gardens than farmers. That’s a scary statistic when you consider that the water runoff from homes in your neighborhood may wind up in your drinking water. What is the best way to rid your garden or lawn of pests? The best defense is a good offense. Start with a healthy garden or lawn.

  • Pull out weak plants – They may be infected or can attract pests.
  • Build up healthy organic soil – Top dressing your soil with compost or natural fertilizer will help develop strong plants.
  • Use seaweed mulch or spray – Seaweed contains trace elements of iron, zinc and sulfur, which will enhance growth. It also repels some insects.
  • Get rid of debris – Minimize insect habitat.
  • Interplant and rotate crops – Insects usually like certain plants. Planting in different areas of your yard each season will keep pests from coming back and spreading.
  • Keep foliage dry – Water early so foliage can dry. Wet plants encourage fungi growth and insect damage.
  • Disinfect – If you’ve been working with infected plants, clean tools before moving to another area of garden.

Learn more about different types of pesticides (organic pesticides do exist), in our blog post

Protecting Plants from Pests.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From landscaping tools to mulch, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Keeping Critters at Bay Part 2: Solutions for Moles & Raccoons

Rid Yard of Moles & RaccoonsWhile admiring your recently groomed landscape, you notice a raised dirt trail snaking its way through the yard. No mole is going to destroy your lush sea of green grass or ruin your veggies. But before you go into combat mode and start acting like Bill Murray in Caddyshack, take a breath. There might be a simpler (more natural) way to battle moles and other pests without having to resort to land mines.

Know Thine Enemy

Bill Murray’s plan for troublesome rodents works fine – especially for laughs. Why not learn a little bit about the pesky mole, first? They are insectivores and from the same family as bats. Their main diet consists of insects, grubs and larvae like earthworms. They are around 4-8 inches in length with paddle-like front feet and have little to no vision. What moles are best at is digging. They can tunnel up to 100 ft per day. Only one other mole skill may rival this – they eat day and night.

Traps Aren’t the Only Way

How do you battle this underground critter? Experts say that traps work the best at eliminating moles, raccoons and other pests, but we’d prefer to go a more humane route first. Home remedies have had spotty success, but they are worth a try. Many of these measures need to be taken before you plant your gardens. However, if your yard consistently has moles and other pests then you may find them helpful.

  • Trench around your garden – Dig a trench around your garden to force moles and other burrowing pests to tunnel in a new direction. Keep in mind though, this isn’t practical for a large garden or lawn and the labor is intense.
  • Line your garden bed with wire – Dig down deep enough to place a layer of wire mesh in the bottom and along the sides of your garden area. This will force the pests to seek easier food sources.
  • Eliminate grubs – Getting rid of one of the mole’s favorite foods will cause them to seek elsewhere. The only problem is that earthworms are still available in your garden and you need them to keep your soil healthy.
  • Sprinkle kitty litter – By spreading kitty litter into the mole holes the smell will deter the moles from returning to the tunnel. Unfortunately they will dig alternate ones.

Plants that Chase Pests Away

A natural way to eliminate a wide variety of pests including moles, raccoons and even the heinous mosquito is to practice companion gardening. For years farmers have been planting “companion” plants in their vegetable gardens to create a vegetative barrier that deters insects and pests. Companion plants are ones that pests have a natural aversion to like marigolds, daffodils and Crown Imperial (Fritillarias). Adding these plants around your lawn or garden may help deter moles, raccoons and squirrels from eating away at your veggies or flowers.

Here is a short list of plants and the pest/s they repel:

  • Calendula (pot marigold) – raccoons and dogs (not a true marigold, so moles will not be repelled)
  • Castor beans – moles (poisonous, so keep away from small children and pets)
  • Crown Imperial – rabbits, mice, moles, voles and ground squirrels
  • Daffodils – moles and deer
  • Garlic – aphids, Japanese beetles and rabbits
  • Lavender – moths, fleas and mosquitoes
  • Mexican Marigolds – insects, rabbits and moles
  • Mole Plant – moles and ground squirrels (poisonous, so keep away from small children and pets)
  • Oregano – pests in general

Put Down the Dynamite

Keeping critters at bay doesn’t have to be a war of wills. There are natural solutions you can try before you turn to setting traps or using chemicals. Surrounding your garden or lawn with plants that naturally repel pests looks great and won’t poison your soil. It’s a win-win. Besides, if you do go all “Caddyshack” and dynamite the mole holes, you will eventually have to fill them back in. So leave the explosives alone.

If you are determined to go with a chemical deterrent, then check out our blog post Protecting Plants from Pests, for the lowdown on safely using pesticides to ward off unwanted visitors to your lawn or garden.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From trenchers to wheel barrows and shovels, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Keeping Critters at Bay: Solutions for Mosquitoes (Part 1)

Enjoy Your Yard This Summer Sans MosquitoesNothing will shut a backyard cookout down faster than mosquitoes. No one likes the bites or the itching, so what can you do? Years ago you may remember the bug man driving through your neighborhood trailing a chemical fog of DEET insecticide, a potent nerve toxin that renders an insect paralyzed. Once praised for its ability to eradicate the pesky mosquito, DEET has proven to do more harm than good. Still, with the threat of Malaria and West Nile virus looming in all that buzz, a solution is needed.

The Natural Way to Battle Mosquitoes

Today many choose to go a more natural route in the war against the mosquito. Totally wiping them out is a wonderful dream, although not realistic. There are things you can do to put a dent in the mosquito population in your yard. Here are a few tips:

  • Eliminate standing water – Walk around your yard and turn over anything that holds even the smallest amount of water. The female mosquito lays her eggs in as little as two tablespoons of water. They hatch in a mere seven days.
  • Check for low spots in your yard – Look for areas that may need to be re-graded or have a French drain installed to prevent standing water or marshy ground.
  • Trim the shrubs and bushes around your house – Overgrowth is where mosquitoes love to hide during the heat of the day. Eliminating the brush and weeds will give them nowhere to lurk.
  • Treat water features and fish ponds – Add mosquito dunks made of BT (Bacillus thuringiensis), a bacterium that’s harmless to wildlife, pets and people, to any permanent water source. It keeps the mosquito larvae from hatching.
  • Aerate ornamental ponds – Keep the water moving in these features to prevent female mosquitoes from laying eggs.
  • Tie your tarps tightly – Water can gather in the folds of the tarps you are using to cover things like firewood, gas grills and boats. Pull the tarps tightly around these items to keep water out. The same goes for market umbrellas – close tightly when not in use, being careful to brush free of spider webs or trapped insects upon re-opening.
  • Toss any unnecessary items – You may have been saving that tire for a kid’s swing, but leaving it sitting to collect water only allows mosquitoes to breed inside. Toss it!
  • Treat your yard – You can purchase spray insecticides as well as granules that can be applied to the yard. These will not hurt pets or small children and can last up to three weeks.
  • Keep your gutters clean – These are the most overlooked culprits around your house. Clean them out and make sure downspouts are clog free.
  • Inspect your screens and doors – You should have 18″ x 14″ mesh wire in your screens and doors to keep bugs out. Make repairs to any holes or loose fittings you detect.

Mosquitoes Driving You Batty?

If you do have to be outside during peak mosquito times – mid to late afternoon – wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Shoes, socks and even gloves will help keep you bite-free. Burning citronella candles has proven to be effective in keeping the pests away. If you want a totally natural deterrent, then place a bat house in your yard. Bats are said to eat up to 600 mosquitoes an hour.

The Smell of Success

Add a few plants like Citronella Grass, a low maintenance plant that grows best in a container, to help your yard ward off mosquitoes naturally. Make sure to buy Cybopogon nardus or Citronella winterianus, which are the true varieties that ward off mosquitoes.

Plants like Lavender and Lemon Grass give off a scent that the insects hate when their leaves are crushed. Press a few leaves in your hand and rub the scent on your skin to ward off the pesky predators. Try locating some of these plants near your patio and doorway to help set up a “scent barrier” for your home.

  • Chrysanthemums
  • Marigolds
  • Mexican Marigolds
  • Lavender
  • Lemon Balm
  • Lemon Grass
  • Lemon scented Geraniums
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Eucalyptus
  • Anise
  • Basil
  • Coriander
  • Clove
  • Garlic
  • Rosemary
  • Peppermint
  • Tea Tree

Cat Nip is also effective, planted away from flowers beds – since your cat may decide to roll around in it. 

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From pressure washers for cleaning gutters to insect and lawn sprayers, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Go Wild with Your Garden – How to Attract Birds & Butterflies for a Livelier Yard

Build A DIY BirdhouseYou have been diligently whipping your yard into shape this gardening season, yet something is still missing. Then you realize you need to add a little wildlife to your landscape.

When gardeners start designing, they sometimes forget to add plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Adding a few birdhouses to your landscape will provide hours of entertainment as you watch all the wildlife interact.

Building a Better Birdhouse

Building a birdhouse is fairly simple; however, you can’t just put one up and expect your new tenants to move in immediately. You first need to decide what species of birds you wish to attract. Many bird varieties have preferences when it comes to the type birdhouse they will occupy, so do your homework first. Here are a few basic rules to follow for building a birdhouse.

  • Location, location, location – Select a suitable nesting location based on the type of birds you are trying to attract. Some like their houses to be in an open area while others prefer to have the protection of trees limbs or shrubs.
  • It’s all about design – Different species like different type houses. Some will nest in apartment style houses (Purple Martins) while others want to be alone, away from other birds (House Wrens) in smaller houses.
  • The right opening – The “front door” to the bird house is important. One size does not work for all birds. Different species like small openings (Chickadees) while others like different shaped openings (owls like oval front doors).
  • Height matters – Birds like Purple Martins like their houses built high (15-20 ft) on poles and House Wrens like houses 6-8 ft high hanging from tree limbs.
  • The more the merrier – Make several houses from different designs and place them in different locations in your yard. You will be able to see which design and location works.

Natural Selection

The best material to use for a birdhouse is untreated wood. Make sure your birdhouse design has thick walls that provide adequate insulation. Cut ventilation slits at the top of the house and holes in the floor for drainage. Extend the roof out in the front and slant downward to keep rain out. Adding a baffle will help to keep raccoons, snakes, cats and other predators from getting into the house.

Butterflies & Hummingbirds, Oh My!

Now that you have taken care of the birds, it’s time to attract more butterflies and hummingbirds to your yard with nectar- and pollen-rich plants. Wildflowers and old fashioned varieties of flowers are great for this. Adding a water feature like a fountain or bird bath not only attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, it helps them beat the heat, too.

Keep in mind that a yard where dogs or cats roam about, or one with very little tree or shrub shelter, may cut down on how many butterflies and hummingbirds you attract. Try one or more of these plants to attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your yard.

Butterflies Love:

  • Butterfly Bush
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Daylily
  • Fennel
  • Lavender
  • Liatris
  • Marigold
  • Phlox
  • Russian Sage

Hummingbirds Love:

  • Bee Balm
  • Canna
  • Crape Myrtles
  • Foxglove
  • Fuchsia
  • Verbena
  • Zinnia

Many of these plants do double duty and appeal to both butterflies and hummingbirds. Select a variety that have different flowering seasons, extending the freshness of their food supply.

Hummingbird Feeders

Designed specifically for hummingbirds, commercial feeders use the color red to attract them. Gardeners add food – usually a mixture of ¼ cup sugar in a cup of water – to mimic natural flower nectar. Hummingbird feeders come in two types, bottle or saucer. The most important things to consider when choosing a hummingbird feeder is the size and how easy it is to take apart and clean. Bacteria and mold grow in sugar water, which also ferments, so change it often (daily in very hot weather).

Bottle hummingbird feeders can be glass or plastic, often with red plastic flowers and bee guards on the feeding ports. Choose one with red bee guards, because yellow ones can actually attract bees. Saucer hummingbird feeders are usually plastic and have feeding ports in the top, making them fairly bee-and wasp-proof. If the feeders have large enough perches, Orioles, Downy Woodpeckers, Cape May Warblers, and other bird species may visit them. Hummingbirds tend to be territorial when it comes to feeding sites, so you may see a little action at the hummingbird water hole, so to speak.

All in all, planning ahead to attract wildlife such as birds, butterflies and hummingbirds to your yard will provide months of entertainment as you watch your garden come to life.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From circular saws and post hole diggers to wheel barrows and shovels, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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How to Tackle Your Lawn in Less Than an Hour

How to Tackle Your Lawn in an Hour or LessHaving a lush, green lawn is every homeowner’s dream. It’s a badge of honor the whole neighborhood can see and it means something because it is not at all easy to achieve. The weekends already pass by too quickly and the thought of spending your entire weekend doing yard work can be infuriating. Don’t give up your sanity or your weekends to have an enviable yard. This one hour plan will change your views on yard maintenance and have your neighbors asking for your secrets.

First 15 Minutes: Master the Art of Watering

Get a jump start by beginning in the yard early. In the first 15 minutes, master the art of watering. If you water too much, your lawn will have deep, but few roots. Water too little and you will have too many shallow roots. Early morning waterings will have less evaporation and your water will go straight to the grass. You want to water deeply, though infrequently. You should use a rain gauge to determine exactly how much you need to water each week.

Mother Nature is your friend, so embrace the natural moisture that is provided by rainfall. Most grass types need about 1 inch of water each week. You can use sprinklers for between 5-15 minutes, depending how much your lawn needs to reach the 1in mark.

Next 30 Minutes: Make the Most of Mowing

For the next 30 minutes, make the most of mowing. Mowing the lawn is a notorious chore, but done correctly it can save you time and stress. Invest in an efficient lawn mower to cut your mowing time in half. Find a machine that works with you, instead of against you. Popular Mechanics compiled a list of the best choices – be sure to read the comments to discover real people’s opinions.

Have your blades sharpened at the beginning of every season so that you can get the most from your effort. [Runyon can sharpen your blades for a small fee, so bring in your mower and the service department will fit you in.] While you mow, try to take off just ⅓ of the grass’ height at a time. You want the plant to be able to continue photosynthesis. By not taking off too much, you keep enough plant tissue on the blade to do so.

Final 15 Minutes: Hand Weed Your Lawn

A lawn free of weeds is a true prize, and can feel far away. Most homeowner’s first response to the appearance of weeds is to seek out a chemical herbicide. This is often a big mistake. These weed killers can be dangerous to humans and pets and often weaken the grass you favor along with the weeds. The strongest combatant to weeds is a healthy, thick lawn. If your lawn grows strong, it can defeat pesky weeds in the war for space. A dense lawn blocks out the sun needed for their seeds to sprout.

For the final 15 minutes, hand weed your lawn and take note of the different types of weeds you see. These can be signals to other issues in your soil that can be corrected. Certain weeds grow only where the soil is damp, some only in over fertilized areas. Learning to identify the types of weeds that plague your garden can help you eliminate them and save more time.

In just an hour, you’ve made huge improvements to your yard. Follow this quick plan each week and your yard will be the talk of the neighborhood. Finally, you can stop worrying about your lawn and get back to enjoying your summer.

Guest Author: Jane Blanchard

Jane Blanchard is a writer at Modernize. For more tips and tricks, head to Modernize.com. And to purchase or rent lawn equipment in the Indianapolis area, visit Runyon Equipment Rental in-store or online.

*Photo Courtesy of rockymountaintrees.com
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10 Good-Sense Tips for Building a Compost Bin

How to Build a Compost BinAs you clean up your yard this summer, consider how you plan to dispose of all that yard waste. Maybe it’s time to start composting grass clippings and weeds. Building a compost bin can be as simple as looking around your yard for materials you can recycle and make into a container. Before we start construction though, let’s decide how best to set up our composting station.

  1. Define your composting needs – Do you want to get rid of yard waste or do you want to commit fully to recycling and add kitchen scraps into the mix?
  2. Check for local restrictions – In some areas you have to set compost bins a certain distance from lot lines. This is particularly true in urban areas.
  3. Consider the physical work required – Compost piles need to be “turned” to allow materials to aerate and to avoid clumping. You will need to shovel the compost material with a pitch fork or other heavy-duty tool, which means your upper body can get a good workout. If “turning” compost does not sound like fun, consider constructing a “tumbler”-style bin and crank your way to the perfect compost.
  4. Determine a location – Find a spot in your yard where the bin can benefit from an adequate mix of sun and shade. Full sun will dry out your pile and full shade won’t allow the pile to dry out enough. Avoid putting the bin close to trees so it doesn’t damage the roots when you stake it into ground.
  5. Place close to a water source – Watering your compost pile is the key to promoting good breakdown of materials. A compost pile should be kept moist like a damp sponge, but not soaking wet.
  6. Keep drainage in mind – Make sure the location for the bin is level and offers good drainage.
  7. Plan for good ventilation – Compost piles need adequate ventilation for the materials to decompose.
  8. Size always matters – Build a bin that is not less than 3 feet by 3 feet or greater than 5 feet by 5 feet. Too small and the compost may become compacted; too large and it will not get adequate air circulation.
  9. What’s that smell? – If you are adding kitchen waste like fruit and vegetable peels then your bin may attract pests. Burying the peels in the compost will deter critters from creeping into your compost pile. You can add calcium or lime to keep any unwanted smells down, too.
  10. What will the neighbors think? – Once you have decided where to build, consider how others might view your gardening project. Camouflaging the bin with lattice or high growing shrubs to block the view will help it blend into the landscape.

After considering these factors, you are ready to select the design of your compost bin. You can build a composter out of a number of different materials. If you are using wooden slats, be sure to keep a 1-½” space between the boards for good air flow. If you need to keep rodents out of your pile, incorporate chicken wire and a secure lid into your design. Avoid using plywood since the moisture in the compost pile will cause it to break apart. Building a compost bin can be as simple or a complex as you want to make it. All you need are the materials, some basic tools like a hammer and circular saw and your imagination.

Once you’ve completed your brand new compost bin, it’s time to start layering. Start off a compost pile by layering equal measures of brown waste, green waste and top soil. Water the pile once you’re done and wait for nature to take its course. After a week or so, “turn” your pile and work in new materials. You don’t have to continue layering once your compost pile has started.

Brown Waste vs. Green Waste vs. Other Waste

Here’s a quick look at what constitutes brown and green waste, and what other materials are suitable for a compost pile:

Brown Waste:

  • Dead leaves
  • Shredded paper
  • Coffee grounds and coffee filter
  • Cardboard
  • Woody hedge clippings and twigs
  • Sawdust
  • Hay or straw

Green Waste:

  • Fresh grass clippings
  • Flowers
  • Nettles
  • Vegetable and fruit peelings
  • Vegetable crop residue
  • Young weeds
  • Herbivore manure
  • Tea leaves

Other Waste:

  • Egg Shells
  • Hair (both human and pet hair)
  • 100% pure wool or cotton
  • Vacuum bag contents
  • Wood ash

Find out what NOT to compost and more information in our blog, Go Green: Create a Compost Collection Pile.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your composting projects. From circular saws to wheel barrows and shovels, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

*Photo Courtesy of House Logic
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Outdoor Refreshers – How to Install a Sprinkler System

How to Install a Permanent Sprinkler System

Dragging garden hoses around the yard and setting up sprinklers is one summertime chore no needs to sweat over. Keep the lawn, flowers, trees and shrubs looking their best by installing a dedicated sprinkler system in your yard.

Do Your Homework

If you’re an intermediate do-it-yourselfer, installing a sprinkler system yourself will take several days, yet the extra planning and set-up on the front end of the project will be worth it as the growing season progresses. Before heading to the hardware store, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you need a building permit to install a permanent sprinkler system?
  • Do I know where the underground utility lines are located in my yard? If not, what’s the number for your utility company?
  • Are any local watering restrictions or ordinances in effect?
  • Do your state/ local regulations require a licensed professional to help with part of the installation? Some require professional electricians and plumbers to handle the technical stuff.

Once your homework is done, focus on the details of your sprinkler project. First, set an overall budget that includes the use of professional service people to connect the timer box or tap into the main water line of the house. Also, if you are adding a system to an existing lawn, then factor in what it will cost to fix the damage that trenching may leave across the grass, such as additional sod, grass seed, fertilizer, etc.

Use a Sprinkler Template

Many sprinkler manufacturers can create a customized design for your landscape. They offer templates for you to map all of the features in your yard like shrubs and flower beds, areas of sun and shade, and hardscapes like retaining walls. From this, they will help you design a sprinkler plan with the correct number of zones and suggest the materials needed to install your system. This service may cost a nominal fee but it is worth it to have the details worked out so you don’t have to.

Turn on the Waterworks in 13 Steps (It’s Lucky, We Tell You!)

  1. Mark the location of all the trenches and sprinklers with stakes or plastic flags.
  2. With a gas powered trenching machine, dig trenches 4-12 inches deep according to your plan. The manufacturer will have taken into consideration the area you live and how deep the water lines need to be to keep them from freezing.
  3. Turn off water to house at meter.
  4. Cut into the main water line. This may be where you want to hire a professional plumber to make sure that the work is done properly and your water pressure is maintained. They can also install a backflow prevention device.
  5. Dig a trench from the main water line to the valve box location. At the end dig a hold about 18 inches deep and 2-3 feet long. Line hole with 2 inches of gravel and set the valve box into it. The box lid should be flush with the grass.
  6. Next glue together the manifold and attach the zone valves. Set manifold in box.
  7. Dig a shallow trench from valve box to the location you want for the timer. Lay the 24 volt underground wire in the trench and connect it to the wires leading from each valve.
  8. Place pipes in trenches leading from the valve box. Whenever a pipe branches off you will need to splice a tee fitting to the main pipe and attach a short length of flexible pipe.
  9. Using 90 degree PVC elbow joints join pipes in trenches to the valve box. Turn on the water and flush the pipes to eliminate dirt in line and avoid clogs. Turn water back off.
  10. Install pop up sprinkler heads to each of the flexible pipes.
  11. After mounting the timer box where you want it, attach the 24 volt wires from the zone valves to the timer. You may want to hire an electrician to run power to the timer box.
  12. Set timer and run tests on the system to see where sprinkler heads need to be adjusted. Check lines to make sure there are no leaks that can cost you money down the road.
  13. Fill in trenches with soil and repair the lawn with sod or seed.

Take Time for the Timer

You may want to save money doing the job yourself, but that’s no reason to skimp on the quality of the parts you use. Sprinkler heads take a beating from day to day use and getting mowed over. Putting money into quality sprinkler heads will cut down on you having to go back and forth to the hardware store. Also, research the features you want on your timer. You may want one that allows you to test the system without having to disrupt your programmed schedule. You may also want features like rain sensors or frost sensors so the system doesn’t run during those times.

Homework, folks, will help you avoid any headaches and get you the sprinklers you want. Now sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor and forget all about those stupid garden hoses – except, of course, if you like watering your prize roses by hand. Then by all means, find a great water hose at Runyon!

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From landscaping tools to a trencher, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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3 Options for How to Replant Grass in Your Yard

If looking out over your yard at the brown patches left by winter’s brutal temperatures isn’t enough to make you throw in the towel on growing a lush lawn in Indiana, then we may have some tips that can help.

At this time of year, DIY-gardeners have three options for replanting an existing lawn and giving it some love.

  • Over-seed
  • Plug it
  • Start over in the fall – the best time to replant grass in your yard

Although there’s no guarantee your lawn will improve if you engage one of the spring options instead of waiting until the fall, each one is worth a try. 

Climate Zones Determine Grass Growing

Climate Zone Map

In Indiana, climate zones 7 and 8 help determine what types of grass you should grow.

  • Cool weather grasses – the top third of the state falls into this category. These are grass types that grow better in areas that have cooler summers and winters. Some grass types in this category are Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Rye and both Tall and Fine Fescue. You primarily plant these type lawns in the early spring or the late summer/ early fall since they take time to germinate.
  • Warm weather grasses – the bottom third of the state falls into this category. These are grass types that grow better in areas with warmer summers and winters. Some of these are Bermuda grass and Zoysia. These grasses can be planted in the late spring as long as they have enough time to establish before the summer heat comes on.

1. Over-Seeding

If you want to over seed an existing lawn, be prepared to put in the time it will take to maintain it until the seed establishes. On an existing yard of Kentucky Bluegrass try seeding with a mixture of Bluegrass and Fine Fescue. The Fescue will establish faster and give the Bluegrass seed time to germinate. Here are a few basic steps to over-seed any type of lawn:

  1. Set your lawn mower at the lowest setting to remove most of the vegetation from the lawn. It will make it easier for the seeds to reach the ground.
  2. Rake the grass and top ¼-inch of soil underneath it and dispose of debris.
  3. Add fertilizer – apply per manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Broadcast seed over lawn in parallel lines – first in north/ south direction and then in an east/ west direction to avoid missing any areas.
  5. Use backside of rake to spread about ¼ inch of dirt over seed.
  6. Cover the ground with a thin layer of mulch made from wheat straw. You can rake straw away once grass starts to appear.
  7. Water lightly each day until grass is 2 inches tall.
  8. Best to wait to mow until grass has reached about 3 inches in height.

2. Lawn Plugging

If seeds are too slow for you then lawn plugging is the way to go. A “plug” is a 2 x 2 inch piece of sod that you can use to fill in bare spots on your lawn. You will need to till up the area you wish to plant, amend the soil with compost, and then create holes using a hand held grass plugger or an aerator/plugger. Place the plugs in a checkerboard pattern and fill the holes with lawn starter fertilizer. Insert the grass plugs and pack down the ground around them to eliminate air pockets. Give the entire area a thorough watering. Check out our blog, How to Plug Your Lawn in 3 Easy Steps, for additional details.

3. Great Grasses for Indiana

Whether you over-seed, plug or wait until the fall, here is some information on the different grasses that work well in our area. We have listed which are cool season grasses and which are warm season grasses. Depending on how you plan to proceed with improving your lawn one of these grass types may offer you a solution.

Kentucky Bluegrass – This is a cool season grass

  • Performs best in full sun
  • Slow to germinate
  • Winter hardy
  • New varieties are more disease resistant
  • Will need more fertilizer and water than other types

Fescue – This is a cool season grass

  • Drought, heat and shade tolerant
  • Requires less fertilizer
  • Grows deeper roots
  • Different varieties – Tall (broad leaf, clumping) and Fine (thin leaf,non-clumping)

Bermuda grass – This is a warm season grass

  • Best in full sun
  • Medium to fine texture
  • Drought resistant
  • Turns brown in winter when temperatures drop to point of frost
  • Can be aggressive and will take over flowerbeds
  • Need to keep in check with trimming or use of organic herbicides like vinegar

Zoysia – This is a warm season grass

  • Spreads and forms dense sod
  • Slow upward growth so needs less mowing
  • Low water consumption
  • Good for high traffic areas
  • Somewhat shade tolerant
  • Needs no pesticides or weed killers since it chokes out pests and weeds
  • Thrives in heat, goes dormant in cold weather

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From seeders and tillers to aerator pluggers and more, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week. To learn more about your lawn, check out our helpful how-to guide, How Well Do You Know Your Lawn?

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Garden To-Do’s Part 3: Planting Trees & Shrubs

Planting Trees and ShrubsWith the crazy weather we’ve been having, it’s hard to know when it is safe to plant trees and shrubs. A good rule of thumb to follow: if the ground is 60 degrees or warmer, then it’s safe to plant. Get busy deciding where and what you want to plant. We’ve put together some helpful tips, once you have made your final decisions.

  • Check the site – You need to make sure the tree or shrub will have room to grow over the years. Take the time to scout out the area now so you don’t have to move or lose a bigger plant later, if it grows into overhead power lines.
  • Inspect the soil – Determine the condition of the soil and if there is adequate drainage. While you’re doing that, check to see if the plant have enough light in this spot and will it be protected from the wind.
  • Call before you dig – It is better to be safe than sorry, so call your local utility company and find out where underground lines may be hidden.
  • Look at the root ball – That mass of roots circling the pot usually means the plant is pot bound. “Teasing” the roots or cutting the root ball will help them break free. It will keep the roots from “girdling” or strangling the tree or shrub later.
  • Soak the root ball – A good soak before putting the plant in the ground will help hydrate the roots and wash off any contaminants that might be hiding in the potting soil.
  • Set it free – Cut away any plastic or burlap holding the root ball together. Be sure to remove any wires or staples as well. Many of these materials will not disintegrate over time so don’t take the chance of restricting your plant’s growth.
  • Think wide not deep – Dig your hole twice as wide as the diameter of the root ball. You need to keep the top of the root ball above the surrounding ground.
  • Pack it down – Don’t leave loose dirt at the bottom of your hole. It will allow the tree/shrub to settle and can affect drainage around the tree/shrub.
  • Put it in the ground – Position the tree in the hole and then check to see if it is level from several different views. Fill the hole with native soil instead of amended soil to avoid shocking the plant.
  • Mulch – Put a 2-4″ thick layer of mulch around the base of the tree but avoid putting the mulch right up to the tree base. This can allow disease and pests to attack the roots.

Establish Trees & Shrubs with Life-Giving Water

Most gardeners do not realize that winter is actually a dry season for plants. Yes there is plenty of snow on the ground at the time but until it melts and the ground thaws the plants do not get the moisture they need. This is why if you decide to plant your trees or shrubs in the spring, you will need to make sure they get enough water to help them transition from the shock of planting. Give them a good soaking every couple of days but allow the top soil to dry out in between watering. It will help your plants become established and get them ready for the heat of summer. Don’t forget to give them extra water in the fall to prepare them for the “dry” winter.

Happy Planting

Selecting a native plant will give it a better shot at surviving the long winter months and continuing to grow year round. Take a look at some of the trees and shrubs that are native to our hardiness zone (6a). Here are a few we like:

Native Trees

  • Silver Maple
  • Paw Paw
  • Redbud
  • Sweet Gum
  • Leyland Cypress
  • American Hemlock

Native Shrubs

  • Sweet Shrub
  • Winterberry
  • American Cranberry
  • Bayberry

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From landscaping tools to augers and more, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week. For more Spring gardening tips, check out our infographic, 11 Lawn & Garden Tips for Spring and our blog, 5 Ideas to Spruce Up Your Garden with New Plants.

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Garden To-do’s Part 2: Planting Annuals

How To Plant Spring Annuals

Looking at your yard this spring, you are overcome with a desire to change things up. Where to start? You don’t have the budget to rip everything out and start again so do you live with what you have? Don’t fret, we have just the solution. Plant some annuals.

Set your artistic side free!

Sure, annuals are one-season flowers and plants but they can give you the creative freedom to experiment with your landscape. Introducing a touch of color here or a spot of texture there may be just the thing to take your garden in a whole new direction. Annuals come in every color, height and texture. They are an easy way to change things up without having to totally recreate your garden.

There are three types of annuals:

  • Hardy annuals – these plants will tolerate the first frost.
  • Half hardy annuals – these plants can withstand a mild frost but not sustained low temperatures.
  • Tender annuals – these flowers and plants will die off at the first sign of cooler weather.

The most convenient way to get annuals is from your local garden center. Buying annuals at a garden center will allow you to get a jump on designing your yard. These plants are already established and flowering. You just have to put them in the ground. If you’re looking for a wide selection of native or exotic plants, check out plant sales at local public botanical gardens, arboretums and specialty plant growers.

If you are determined to have hard-to-find annuals in your landscape then you can start them from seeds. Just be aware that this takes time and effort. We suggest you start slow and go with all approaches for your garden. Purchase annuals from your garden center, local specialty growers and more from seeds you grow yourself.

Here are a few of the annuals available to you:

  • Coleus
  • Impatiens
  • Heliotrope
  • Dianthus
  • Zinnia
  • Pansies
  • Foxglove
  • Dusty Miller
  • Petunias

Planting Annuals is Simple … and Satisfying

Start with soil that you have amended with compost or manure. Try to place the plants in the ground at the same depth they were growing in their starter pots. It will help avoid stressing the plant during transition to the garden. Spacing is a matter of preference. As your plants grow they will spread out and fill in but if you aren’t willing to wait for that to happen then go ahead and plant them closer together. Just know that you may have to remove some of them later in the season if overcrowded.

Caring for annuals is pretty low key. Here are a few things that will keep your plants thriving throughout the summer:

  • Water – Soak the ground thoroughly. Soaker hoses and drip systems are the best. Allow the soil to dry out in between watering.
  • Mulch – This will help retain moisture and keep weeds down.
  • Weed – When annuals are first put out it is vital to keep the weeds to a minimum. They compete for the nutrients in the soil and sap the strength from the new plants.
  • Cover – If a frost is forecast, protect new plants at night, removing the cover in the morning so plants can soak up the warm sunshine or rain.
  • Pinch – Remove the small developing leaves on the tips of the plant to help it grow fuller and to keep it from becoming too “leggy.”
  • Stake – Tie up tall plants to prevent them from falling over. Insert the stakes in the ground next to the plant but far enough away to avoid damaging roots.
  • Dead-Head – Remove blooms that have faded to help plants flower longer and more profusely. Annuals like Begonias that readily drop their spent flowers do not need to be dead-headed.

Now is the time to fire up those creative juices and get ready to paint your landscape with a rainbow of colorful annuals. Don’t worry about making a mistake because this is one gardening experiment that can’t fail. If your design doesn’t work this summer then you can change it up next year. You can even make it an “annual” thing! (pun intended).

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From landscaping tools to tillers and more, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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