Posts Tagged With: spring gardening

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 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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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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Yard & Gardening To-Dos Part 1: Fertilize and Aerate

Gardening To-Dos: Fertilizing & Aerating

Now that DIY gardeners can actually see their gardens, flower beds and lawns, it’s time to prepare the soil and ground for the growing season.

Feed Me with Fertilizer!

After long winter months languishing under the snow and ice, your garden and lawn are crying, “Feed me!” Fertilizer can help you calm those grumbling yard features because it feeds them with a potent nutrient mix, which allows them to feel calm and satiated. While they’re recovering, fertilizer can also stimulate root development and ensure plants and grass green-up quickly in the spring sunshine and rain. In the garden, fertilizer, compost and manure will strengthen the soil, helping with that hardy harvest you’ve been dreaming about all winter long.

Other benefits of fertilizing your garden, trees, flower beds and lawn include:

  • Because many fertilizers are made with earth-friendly organics, no harm is done to the water table or the environment
  • Controls crabgrass
  • Keeps weedy grasses from infiltrating the lawn
  • Protects against broadleaf weeds early in their growth cycle
  • Slow-release, stabilized nitrogen feeds and grows roots
  • Amends phosphorus-deficient soils in lawn, gardens and flower beds
  • Encourages root strength
  • Lawn, trees and plants experience steady growth throughout the growing season
  • No need to plant new grass seed for weeks
  • Many fertilizers are safe for pets and children

Let Me Breathe Fresh Air!

Aerating your lawn does wonders for the soil, allowing the grass to breathe and grow even stronger. It contains and even gets rid of lawn thatch that can strangle new growth, preventing oxygen from reaching the grass roots. Aerating will also improve soil drainage, and provides much-needed oxygen to worms, herbs and shrubs, too.

The process of aeration is much easier when done with the use of an aerator/plugger machine, which combs large areas of lawn and landscape effectively. Before you start the job, consider these helpful tips:

  • Determine whether aerator uses a spike or a core model
    • Spike aerators use wedge-shaped spikes to dig holes in the earth
    • Core aerators use tines that pluck out plugs from the soil
  • Water the lawn a day before to make sure the soil is wet enough, so a plug can be pulled
  • Do not aerate during periods of drought or high temperatures
  • Locate sprinkler heads so that they are not damaged; pitch rocks and stones from the area
  • Begin at the longest side of the lawn and make overlapping runs side-to-side
  • Make a second pass at a 30- to 40-degree angle
  • Apply fertilizer immediately after aerating
  • Water all aerated areas of the lawn or landscape after applying fertilizer

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your lawn and garden projects. From fertilizer and aerator/pluggers 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 handy infographic, Your Guide to Lawn Aeration: The Basics for more information.

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[Infographic] Your Guide to Lawn Aeration: The Basics

Spring, between March and May, is the perfect time to consider aerating your lawn. If your yard suffers from poor drainage, poor subsoil, or brown, worn grass, then it is definitely a good idea to consider renting an aerator for a day and giving your lawn fresh new life again. For steps on how to aerate, check out this blog post, and for other helpful tips, read What Everyone Ought to Know About Lawn Aeration. Hopefully this infographic gives you a good overview of the 101 basics involved in lawn aeration. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have other questions or would like advice on which aerator to use. We have a variety for rent here. Happy plugging away!

Lawn Aeration Basics Infographic

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Your Spring Gardening Checklist (Part 1)

Till Your Garden for SpringPreparing the soil in your garden for planting helps assure a bountiful harvest. Before spring planting and transplanting begins, the soil should be prepared. First, remove old mulch and leftover plants tops, such as those of asparagus or rhubarb from all garden beds. Before any new growth appears on berry plants, remove old canes that look weak, diseased, damaged or bore fruit. Till the soil using a tiller machine.

Tips for Tilling:

  • Adjust the machine to match ground conditions by testing the soil. Depending upon whether the ground is hard or loose, set the tiller accordingly and work a test area, then evaluate the result. Reset the depth bar, tine configuration, throttle or gear selection as necessary and continue tilling.
  • Some tillers are designed to propel itself forward only; some are designed to till when moving both forward and backward. Determine which kind of tiller you’re working with. A forward-only model will need to be hauled backward to re-work the soil.
  • Allow the tiller to “bite” into the soil and work its way forward. After the initial groundbreaking, work the tiller back and forth to cultivate the soil.
  • Adjust the depth bar so the tiller is tilted slightly backwards.
  • For hard, compacted soil or to dig deeper, lower the depth bar. Raise the depth bar when working in softer conditions.
  • To cultivate soft soil or shallow soil, slow the engine speed, which will slow down the tines so the tiller can take smaller “bites” of soil for better performance.
  • To cultivate hard soil, run the tiller at full throttle so the tines can take bigger “bites” of soil.
  • After tilling, use a shove and rake to amend the soil with compost and peat moss, followed by “side dressing” with nitrogen, manure and fertilizer. Remember to test the soil for type of fertilizer and pH recommendations.
  • Fertilize woody plants before new growth begins but after soil temperatures have reached 40 degrees.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with gardening projects. Learn more by reading our blog, Tackle Spring Clean-Up in Your Yard with This Handy Checklist. From tillers 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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Your Spring Gardening To-Do List (Part 2)

Spring Gardening To-Dos Part 2

Ready to move forward with your gardening for 2015? There’s still a lot of planning to do, both indoors and out.

Remove All That Snow

First, if you haven’t already been getting this done throughout the winter, go outside and rid your trees and plants of heavy snow and ice. Limbs that are bending under this kind of weight are more likely to break, damaging the plant and ruining your landscape. Use a broom or brush with a long handle to knock away the white stuff.

While you’re at it, take a look at the condition of your roof, too. Is it weighed down with snow, or full of icicles? Use a shovel to break off hanging ice and push as much of the snow off as you can. If it’s a couple of feet or more, you may need to get up on the roof to clean it off. Use safety precautions for this dangerous job, such as sturdy ladders or scaffolding. Powdery snow may be cleaned off using a hand-held leaf blower.

Other outdoor to-do’s for your yard include:

  • Pruning trees and shrubs that do not bloom in early spring. This includes fruit trees, birches, maples and dogwoods. Leave the spring bloomers until they’re finished flowering.
  • Preparing cleaned vegetable and herb beds by spreading organic fertilizer. If you see evidence of over-wintering disease, use a fungicide, too.
  • If it warms up a little, to say 45 degrees, plant artichokes, asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries. 

Take it Indoors

  • Now’s the time to inspect the flower bulbs and roots stored indoors in winter for damage or rot. Remove any shriveled sections or areas full of moisture.
  • If you have any leftover seed, test to see if you can use it this year. Cover 10 seeds with a little soil or place them between moist sheets of paper towel. If most of the seeds germinate, you can plant them for this year’s harvest. If not, buy fresh seed.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with gardening projects. From landscaping and pruning equipment to hedge and weed trimmers, 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. Read Part 1 of our Spring Garden To-Do List here.

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Get Started On Your Spring Gardening To-Do List (Part 1)

This time of year, gardeners are doing as many spring gardening to-do’s indoors as they are outdoors – perhaps even more. Because winter weather and extreme cold temps continue to grip so much of the United States – Indiana included – we’re fine with that! If you are working outside, however, make sure you’re bundled up tight, taking care to protect your back and joints when lifting heavy snow and staying hydrated.

Get’r Done Outdoors

What could you be doing now, in the cold and snow? Start with these tasks:

  • Survey the landscape and make sure ice melt and salt is not covering tender plants. Brush it off with a broom or hand brush.
  • Repair or build a trellis for roses and other vining plants or clean up existing raised flower beds of debris, if you haven’t already taken care of this last fall.
  • Plant or transplant dormant deciduous plants such as stone fruit trees, hardy perennials, berry shrubs and shade trees. To help with digging holes in still-frozen ground, try renting an earth drill, which uses an auger and machine power to break through hard-to-move soil. These tools also help enormously if you’re building a fence.
  • If you see spring-flowering bulbs start to break ground, surround them with a little mulch and fertilize.

Make Garden Plans Indoors

US Plant Hardiness Zone MapTo start planning this year’s garden, it may be helpful to become familiar with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map. The interactive map was updated about three years ago and puts Central Indiana in Zone 6a (-10 to -5 degrees F). Most of Northern Indiana is in Zone 5b (-15 to -10 degrees F), and most of Southern Indiana is in Zone 6b (0 to -5 degrees F). Plug your ZIP code or GPS coordinates into the interactive map to get detailed information about the average weather where you garden.

The U.S. government, Oregon State University, meteorologists, horticulturists and experts in agriculture analyzed weather data from 1976 to 2005 to make adjustments to zones all over the country. The zone map helps gardeners make appropriate choices when buying trees, shrubs, flowering plants, vegetables and herbs that will thrive in their particular area. Specific information helps gardeners take into consideration microclimates.

Knowing which sections of your yard are warmer than others is also helpful.

Here are a few to-do tasks you can get done indoors:

  • Sketch garden maps for flower beds, vegetable and herb patches, placement of new trees and shrubs.
  • Decide the number and kind of plants needed to fill spaces.
  • Buy bare root roses, order seeds and other plants for best selection.
  • Sharpen blades and service lawn and garden equipment before the spring rush.
  • Prepare pots and trays for seed sowing and transplanting.
  • If you already have seeds, start growing cool-season vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage, and flowers including impatiens, begonia and geranium.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with gardening projects. From landscaping equipment to earth drills, 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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