Posts Tagged With: garden maintenance

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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Yard & Garden To-Dos Part 3: Protecting Plants from Pests

Protect Your Garden From PestsOkay … you’ve got your garden crops, flowers and trees planted. They seem to be thriving – you’ve already been harvesting peas and lettuces, you have sunny-looking flowers that greet you every morning on your way out the door, and the trees are shooting up, well, like new trees are supposed to. You’re determined to keep it this way, too. It’s time to protect your plants from pests.

Getting Comfortable with Pesticides

For some folks, just hearing the word, “pesticide” conjures chemically-induced killing fests of anything that attacks plants, causing them to whither and even die – such as insects, slugs, snails, rodents, weeds and disease. Not to mention, the environment. Can you say, DDT?

However, not all pesticides are toxic man-made chemicals. They can be natural and organically sourced, too. There are three types of pesticides to look for:

Systemic Pesticides – enter the plant through its root system and infiltrate every part of the plant. Systemic pesticides are not recommended for food crops.

Contact Pesticides – must come into contact with the pest to be effective, i.e. smother and kill the pest. Products such as insecticidal soap and horticultural oils must be sprayed directly to the affected area when the pest is present, rather than spraying in advance of an attack.

Residual Pesticides – cling to the surface of plant parts and stay viable for a certain amount of time afterward. Most pesticides are categorized as residual, meaning the offending pest that’s currently ruining your plants will die – and so will the little buggers that show up tomorrow. The length of time a residual pesticide stays active depends on the temperature, rainfall and sunlight.

Whether organic or chemical, if you’re constantly using pesticides to treat your garden –every week or two – something else is going with your garden, beyond pest attack:

  • Are your plants constantly moist?
  • Do they get enough sun?
  • Is the mulch propagating disease, unlike compost, which is oftentimes disease-preventing?
  • Can you blast the pest right off the plant with water or air?
  • Are you using harsh chemical fertilizers to feed the plants?

Bring your plant protection back to basics – consistent cleaning, limited prevention and switching to compost can help.

Organic Pesticides

All the rage now, organic pesticides have actually been used long before chemical pesticides were invented – ever since farmers have been farming, in fact. Here’s a list of inexpensive, all-natural, organic methods for protecting your plants from pests:

  • Neem – used by Native Americans, neem is a bitter tree leaf that comes in oil and juice form. The juice is considered the most powerful natural pesticide on Earth.
  • Salt Spray – great for spider mites infestations, this mixture is most potent with the use of Himalayan Crystal Salt in warm water, sprayed on infected areas.
  • Mineral Oil – dehydrates insects and their eggs.
  • Citrus Oil and Cayenne Pepper Mix – ants really dislike these two bug-busters.
  • Soap, Orange Citrus Oil and Water – effective against slugs, ants and cockroaches.
  • Eucalyptus Oil – zaps wasps, yellow jackets and other pests that fly.
  • Onion and Garlic Spray – stays potent against pests for at least a week, if stored in the ‘fridge. We hear it helps with vampires, too.
  • Chrysanthemum Flower Tea – pyrethrum is the chemical component that makes this such a killer. It infects an insect’s nervous system rendering it immobile. Can be stored for up to two months.
  • Tobacco Spray – commonly used getting rid of caterpillars and aphids. Do not use on tomato, pepper, eggplant or other plants in the solanaceous family … or humans, we’ve been told.
  • Chili pepper and Diatomaceous Earth – to rid the soil of ants and slugs.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From insect and lawn sprayers to landscaping tools, 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 Early Fall Gardening Clean-Up To-Do’s

Early Fall Gardening Checklist

September is the perfect time to start thinking winterization in terms of your garden. As it’s the very beginning of fall, the place to begin is preservation of your perennials and cleaning up dead plants that won’t make it to springtime. We’ve been so blessed with warm weather the past few days, continuing on to the end of the month, so use it to your advantage. Put on your gardening gloves and get to work!

Step 1. Flowerbed Clean-Up

Think fall clean-up for your flowerbeds. For instance, day lilies look beautiful while they bloom, but by the end of the season they look pretty rough. So clean up the weeds around your flowers and remove annual flowers that have died and won’t grow back next year.

Step 2. Pull Out Your Veggies

Next, step over to your vegetable garden and survey the situation. An easy rule of thumb: let the garden grow on until the vegetables and tomatoes stop growing. At that point it’s time to pull everything out and till for next year. A small tiller will do the trick!

Step 3. Take Care of Your Ornamental Grasses

Although some people leave ornamental grasses out for winter interest, honestly leaving them just makes a mess. And ultimately, keeping the grasses makes it harder to clean up in the spring. That said, it’s best to rope them off and cut each patch of grass at the base.

We’d love to help you with your entire fall gardening and lawn care checklist, so let us know what you need! We rent everything from aerators to chippers to stump cutters. Take a look at the next batch of early fall to-do’s here and get to it. Happy gardening!

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Keep Your Garden Happy with These End-of-Summer To-Dos

10 End-of-Summer Gardening To-DosAs the end of summer draws near, seasonal changes require do-it-yourselfers to adjust their gardening to-dos, to keep up with their harvests, maintain their full, lush flower beds and simply enjoy their favorite growing time of the year! As with any circle of life, the care of plants shifts slightly to keep them happy and healthy. With that in mind, consider the following end-of-summer to-dos this August:

  • Water deeply and well, rather than shallow and often. Light daily sprinkles of water draw a plant’s roots closer to the surface, making them more vulnerable to disease. This is especially true of tomato plants. Watering early in the day allows plants to absorb moisture before the hot sun dries the soil and ensures that the foliage dries before nightfall, which protects them from fungus. Check water needs of hanging baskets once or twice daily.
  • Change the water in bird baths or water features more regularly, so the stagnate water does not become a breeding ground for mosquito larvae and other insects.
  • Prune summer blooming shrubs for shape, after they have finished flowering.
  • Plant new evergreen trees and shrubs, so they can have several months to grow new roots, watering every week until the ground is frozen.
  • Now is also the time to plant late flowering plants and shrubs such as Rose of Sharon, Hydrangea, Butterfly Bush and shrub roses, as well as ornamental grasses such as Japanese Maiden Grass, Fountain Grass or Switch Grasses.
  • Go easy with fertilizing roses now — studies have shown that keeping your roses a little “hungry” helps them over-winter better.
  • Continue to deadhead flowers on annuals and perennials so they continue to bloom longer into the season. Apply fertilizer to annuals once every two weeks for continued flower production. If perennials need to be rejuvenated, cut them back, give them some fertilizer and enough water, and watch them re-bloom. However, let some of the flowers go to seed now, to reseed for next year.
  • Cut back and divide rhizomes by lifting the entire clump with a rake or spade and discarding the oldest, bloomed-out middle sections, then replant.
  • Sprinkle spring-flowering perennial seeds such as forget-me-nots around your garden for an attractive under planting for bulbs such as tulips in the spring.
  • Make note of blank spots in your garden, then buy late summer bloomers and plant them to add color, making sure they get the water they’ll need during the hot, dry weather to become well-established.
  • Plant fall and winter vegetables, including green onions, carrots, beets, lettuce, spinach, radishes and winter cauliflower. Toss overgrown or rotting produce on the compost heap, and remove infected plant matter to prevent attracting diseases and pests.
  • Harvest herbs and dry them in a cool, airy and shady place, or freeze.
  • Prune and fertilize Halloween pumpkins for big results. Start by taking off all but one or two pumpkins from the vine.
  • Mow your lawn more often to defend against weeds. Grass also goes dormant this time of the season, so water brown lawn regularly and deeply.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you plan your next gardening project. From landscaping tools to fertilizers tree spades, 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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Keep Gardens Thriving with 3 Simple Maintenance Tips

One of the pleasures of summer living is enjoying a homegrown bowl of salad greens and vegetables harvested from your garden. Not only are these meals super fresh and bursting with flavor, harvesting your garden is one of the ways to keep it healthy. In addition to watering, weeding, mulching and composting, home gardeners need to tend to their patches of produce and petals all season long. Below are three more ideas to keep your gardens thriving.

3 summer garden maintenance tips1. Replant Leafy Vegetables

As the summer heats up, cool-season salad vegetables such as lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard grow stalky and bitter as they go to seed. Pull them out, pitch them unto the compost pile, and replant the area with quick-growing, warm-season veggies and herbs like loose leaf and oak leaf lettuce, red romaine, beans, summer squash, basil or rosemary.

2. Protect Berries and Fruit

Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are not only nature’s candy for people, but critters love them as well. As your plants bear fruit, covering them with bird netting or synthetic fabric row covers will protect from a raccoon’s midnight raid or a bird’s early morning breakfast. Another possible deterrent from birds stealing your harvest is stringing Mylar flash tape over and around your garden.

3. Secure Climbing Plants

Climbing roses, clematis, even string beans and hops produce new growth faster in the summer and will benefit from the help of an arbor, trellis or garden stake. Secure plants loosely with any soft or flexible material such as hook-and-loop plant ties or garden tape, allowing for expansion. Avoid using twist ties with wire centers, which can rust and cut into plants over time.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you plan your next gardening project. From landscaping tools to garden tillers, 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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How to Properly Maintain Your Garden by Weeding, Mulching & Watering

Maintain Your Garden This Summer in 3 Simple Steps

Summer is the perfect time to maintain and enjoy your garden. That said, there are three key components to summertime garden maintenance: weeding, mulching and watering. Pruning and increasing shade when necessary can also improve the lives of your flowers and plants. Disturbed soil loses its moisture rapidly and makes it hard for gardens to recover, so keeping up with your outdoor oasis is crucial.

Step One. Eliminate Pesky Weeds

The idea is to smother weeds before they germinate, and to do so by keeping the soil moist, thus making it easier to pull weeds up. Another preventative measure is to remove weeds before they go to seed and spread through your garden. The key indication being that they are still small at this point, not too big, only 2-3 weeks old. Using a trowel or hoe to scrape below the surface will cut and uproot these tiny weeds. This is an example of cultivation as a weed elimination method.

Another type of weeding is just that, weeding in the literal sense…pulling weeds out by hand. Having really moist soil allows for this because they pop right up if they’re small enough and not deeply rooted.

Step Two. Mulch Every Square Inch

Mulching is also a method for preventing weed growth — depriving them of light and air, essentially smothering them. Mulching conserves moisture and allows your plants to maintain a constant temperature range. Not surprisingly, mulch reduces evaporation from the soil up to 70%.

In addition to this, mulch improves soil structure, increases water retention, soil nutrients and worm activity. Mulch is essential if you want to maintain your garden through periods of low rainfall. And even better, mulching eventually destroys most if not all weeds.

There are a variety of materials you can use for mulch, including:

  • straw
  • compost
  • shredded bark
  • grass clippings
  • other organic material

*Quick Tip: compost, straw or bark mulch are ideal for garden beds. Whereas stones or wood chips are better for paths and non-growing areas because they reduce soil splash, dust, etc.

Step Three. Water With Purpose

First things first, before watering, push aside the mulch and put your finger into the soil. If it’s moist, then there is no need to water. If it is dry, then you know it’s about that time. There are two types of watering systems you can implement: fixed or portable.

1. Fixed: built into your garden. i.e. drip irrigation. This includes soaker hoses, which literally leak throughout the area. Fixed systems are at soil level, so water goes directly to the roots. For a soaker hose specifically, lay it through your garden where plants are small (for easy access) and then cover with loose mulch.

2. Portable: a cheaper alternative that can be moved exactly where needed i.e. watering and sprinkling cans, hand-held hoses and sprinkler systems. When choosing a water hose, consider a few qualities:

  • 4 ply construction for superior resistance
  • Large diameter (5/8″)  for faster delivery
  • Brass couplings, which reduce leaks

A few things to keep in mind when watering…

1. With existing plants, water less frequently and then not at all.

2. Observe for signs of stress i.e. wilting and leaf fall to determine if your watering schedule is effective or not.

3. Less frequent deep watering equips deep-rooted plants to withstand hot, dry days (i.e. drought resistance).

4. Set your sprinkler in one part of garden while hand watering in another to save time.

5. Water where crop plants are and drip plant in beds and out of paths.

Additional Resources

Good luck getting your garden in shape this summer. The sooner you finish weeding, mulching and perfecting your water schedule, the more you can enjoy it. Check out this Guide to Good Garden Watering for more insight. If you’re thinking of creating a new garden, or you don’t have one, take this quiz to find your perfect garden plan. Oh, and if this proves a pretty harsh summer where you are, read this article about how to protect your garden. Please reach out if you have any questions. Happy gardening!

Categories: Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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