Posts Tagged With: spring garden

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

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.

Categories: Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Yard & Garden To-Dos Part 2: Planting A Vegetable Garden

Spring To-Do: Plant a Veggie GardenDo you know the projected date of the last frost in our area? It’s essential for determining when the spring growing season begins and will also help with creating a veggie-herb-and-flower planning schedule. Most of Indiana is in Zone 5 or 6 – and according to reliable sources (the U.S. Department of Agriculture), expect the last frost to occur between March 30 and April 30. Admittedly, it’s a large window, as it can vary from year to year. First things first: start with cool season planting.

Planting Cold Tolerant Vegetables and Fruits

On average, vegetables and fruits need between seven to eight hours of full sun on a daily basis, in order to thrive. Cool season vegetables and fruits on the other hand need only about six hours of full sun, so they can even be planted in partial shade. Although they are considered cold tolerant, they still need to be protected from any severe temperature drops. If it’s forecast, cover new crops with newspaper, old sheets or frost blankets, especially overnight, making sure to remove the cover during daylight hours.

Good to Know Basics

  1. When the soil crumbles in your hand rather than balling up, plant seedlings directly in the garden. A fabulous soil recipe is 50% existing garden soil, 25% aged manure and 25% compost or humus.
  2. Here’s a great list of cool-season veggies and fruits for our area:
  • English peas
  • Lettuce, Arugula
  • Spinach, Swiss chard, Collards, Kale
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Turnips, Parsnips
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Kohlrabi
  • Radish
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Asparagus
  • Rhubarb
  • Strawberries, Raspberries
  1. Remove dead or weak limbs from grape vines
  2. Apply a pre-bloom orchard spray to fruit trees
  3. If the grass has started to green, it’s a good time to plant potatoes. If you’re stuck for space, consider using potato grow bags or outdoor containers, too
  4. Use spindly sticks for quick and easy pea supports now, when plants are young
  5. Thin carrots seedlings for good-size carrot vegetables

Meanwhile, start preparing these vegetables, fruits and herbs indoors:

  • Eggplants seeds
  • Basil seeds
  • Celery and Celeriac seeds
  • Courgette, Marrow, Squash and Pumpkin seeds
  • Cucumber and Gherkin seeds
  • Melon seeds
  • Rosemary, Sage, Thyme and Lemon Balm seeds
  • Sweet pepper seeds
  • Tomato seeds and seedlings
  • Sweet corn seeds or seedlings
  • Beans

It will seem like in no time, all of these seeds sowed indoors can be brought outside for some sun!

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your gardening projects. From fertilizer 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. Right now, check out our helpful blog, 5 Ideas to Make Your Herb Garden Grow, for more information.

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

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