Posts Tagged With: garden projects

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.

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

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.

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

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