Tag Archives: garden

New Plant Hardiness Zone Map Reveals Warming Trend

 

 

The USDA released their new version of the Plant Hardness Zone Map in January 2012. The new map is generally one 5- degree Fahrenheit half-zone warmer than the previous released map back in 1990. This mostly is a result of using temperature data from a longer and more recent time period. More specifically, it uses data measured at weather stations during a 30-year period from 1976-2005. The 1990 map used data from a 13-year period of 1974-1986.
Another change with the new map is the addition of an interactive “find your zone by ZIP code” function. Click here to see the new USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

GreenScaping Part 5: Practice Natural Lawn Care

Just  a recap in the Series of GreenScaping: The Easy Way to a Greener, Healthier Yard

 

Mow higher, mow regularly and leave the clippings

Mow more frequently and mow higher when your grass is growing actively.  A good rule of thumb is to never cut more than one-third the height of the grass.  This minimizes the amount of grass clippings and helps to reduce thatch buildup.  The grass clippings will be recycled into fertilizer.

Use “natural organic” or “slow release” fertilizers

These fertilizers reduce nutrient run-off and leaching.  Use fertilizers sparingly by keeping it in your yard and off the street and pavement.

Water deeply , but infrequently, to moisten the whole root zone

Let your soil dry between watering to prevent lawn disease and save water.  Lawns only need about one inch of water a week in the summer, including rain, to stay green.

Overseeding can improve the quality of your lawn

A few great steps to consider:

  • Core aerate in the fall to improve root development and water penetration
  • Follow by overseeding thin areas of your lawn with grass seed blends recommended for your area
  • “Top Dress” by raking in a quarter- to half- inch of compost to cover the seed and improve the soil
  • Repeat these steps annually as needed to improve poor lawns

That completes the series “GreenScaping: The Easy Way to a Greener, Healthier Yard”.  Read the entire article here.

GreenScaping Part 4: Adopt a Holistic Approach to Pest Management

Just  a recap in the Series of GreenScaping: The Easy Way to a Greener, Healthier Yard

 

Continuous pest problems in your yard are often a sign that your yard is lacking a requirement needed to keep itself healthy.  While pesticides used for pest, weeds and bug killers can be effective means of control, correcting the underlying problem is the best remedy.  A holistic or integrated pest management approach is the most effective way to manage pests.

Start with Prevention

  • Maintain healthy soil with the use of compost and mulch
  • Select pest-resistant plants and place in their desired location (sun, shade and soil conditions, etc.)
  • Diversify your plant selection so if there is a pest infestation, your entire garden won’t be compromised.
  • Mow higher.  It’s recommended to mow as high as 2 – 3 inches.  This promotes deep root growth and thicker leaf surface, which helps to choke out weeds.
  • Remove and destroy diseased plants immediately.
  • Pull weeds before they go to seed.
  • Remove dead plants so pests have less hiding places.

Identify the Problem before Acting

It’s hard to effectively manage a problem without knowing the cause.  So identify the bug, disease, weed, etc. and determine the best action from there.  Remember many bugs are beneficial!  Monitor your area for pests but don’t spray immediately.  Nature may be able to control it for you.

Using an integrated approach may solve the problem if a weed or pest problem develops.  Try some of the following suggestions:

  • Instead of pesticide, use some “elbow grease” by pulling out dandelions with long-handled weed pullers.
  • Mulching, as stressed many times throughout this series, reduces weeds in your garden beds.
  • Crop rotation techniques help to minimize plant’s susceptibility to pests and diseases.

 

GreenScaping Part 3: Practice Smart Watering

Just  a recap in the Series of GreenScaping: The Easy Way to a Greener, Healthier Yard

 

Water Deeply, But Infrequently

Most plants do best when their roots are allowed to dry out between watering.  Learn the signs of when its time to water.  For example, your lawn is in need of watering when footprints remain after you walk across it.  Vegetables and other annuals will show signs of wilting, but other established perennials will only need watering if they remain wilted after the evening cool-off.  Trees and shrubs, once established, won’t need watering unless for extreme cases of drought.

Make Every Drop Count

Having a healthy and beautiful lawn and plants doesn’t have to jack up your water bill.  Consider some of these water saving activities:

  • Help retain moisture and reduce evaporation in your soil by adding compost and by mulching.
  • Select low-water-use plants.  Once established, they thrive exclusively on rainfall.
  • Soaker hoses and drip irrigation on beds are huge water savers.  They save as much as 50 percent compared to sprinklers.
  • Incorporate a water timer.  This will assure the correct amount of water and the appropriate time of day for watering.
  • Water in the early morning.  Watering mid-day actually allows for evaporation and evening watering allows for mold and other plant diseases.
  • Water lawns separately from other plantings.  Ensure the sprinklers are properly aimed and aren’t watering the pavement.

Let the Rain Soak In

Utilize your rain.  If not used, the rain flows from roofs, pavement and compacted soil.  It eventually will cause flooding downstream, which in turn, causes erosion and pollution after picking up pollutants along the way.

  • Direct downspouts to your yard, or into rain barrels or rain gardens.
  • The use of compost and mulch can help retain this rain and help prevent erosion.
  • Use open pavers or gravel instead of pavement to allow rain to seep into the soil.

 

GreenScaping Part 2: Plant Right for Your Site

A few days ago, I introduced the series Greenscaping and discussed step 1 of 5, which was titled, “Building and Maintaining Healthy Soil”.  Greenscaping, in essence, is a set of landscaping practices that can improve the health and appearance of your lawn and garden while protecting and preserving natural resources.  Today brings step 2 in this series.

Step 2: Plant Right for Your Site

Know your yard so you’ll know what plants can go where.  What spots are sunny, shady?  What is the pH of your soil? What type of soil do you have (e.g. sandy, clay)?  All of these questions will help determine what plants can go where.  Also, determine the location of plants, play areas, privacy, etc.

Choose the Right Plant for the Right Place

Based on the questions you answered above, select plants that do well in those conditions.   Choosing native plants is equally as important because they have evolved with this environment over many years.  Always envision the mature height and width of any plant before placement, especially near your house, driveway and power lines.

Choose Plants That Resist Pests

Some plants are more pest- and disease-resistant than others.  Always research your potential plants before planting.  This can save you time and money on pest control.

Give Plants a Good Start

Incorporate one to three inch layer of compost into your planting beds before planting.  Follow instructions on proper planting instructions.  A good layer of mulch atop your newly plantings, along with consistent water the first few years will help to build the deep roots that are desired.

Make Space for Wildlife

Invite birds, butterflies and other wildlife into your yard, protect streams and fish and make a more attractive yard.  Some ideas include:

  • Plant native plants.  Consider varieties with berries, fruits and flowers.
  • Plant in layers (e.g. ground cover, shrubs and trees) to mimic the forest.
  • Don’t plant invasive plant species.  Check with your local Cooperative Extension Office for a list of invasive “noxious weeds”.
  • Use pesticides only when necessary to minimize harm to birds, beneficial insects and fish.  Always follow the label directions when using.
  • Provide a bird bath or similar water source.  Make sure to change the water frequently to avoid a mosquito breeding ground.
  • Leave wild “buffer” areas of native plants along ravines, streams and fencelines.

Learn more about attracting butterflies and hummingbirds.

GreenScaping Part 1: Building and Maintaining Healthy Soil

GreenScaping, as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, is landscaping practices that promote the health and appearance of your lawn and garden while protecting and preserving natural resources.  A great article by the EPA titled, “GreenScaping: The Easy Way to a Greener, Healthier Yard”, will be summarized here and will encompass five posts due to the length of the article.

By practicing these activities, you can:

  • Save money by eliminating unnecessary water and chemical usage
  • Save time by landscaping with plants that require less care
  • Protect the environment by conserving water and by using chemicals responsibly so they don’t contaminate our waterways and drinking water sources.

How can this all be possible?  Working with nature in five steps, the first post of this series will focus on:

Step 1: Build and Maintain Healthy Soil

In nature, soil recycles dead plants into nutrients used for new plant growth.  This circle of life helps to maintain the approximately 4 billion organisms found in a teaspoon of healthy soil!  These beneficial organisms help create a loose soil structure which allows for proper air and water circulation, as well as, aide in proper plant root growth.  Other good deeds include: the storing of water until plants need it and protecting plants from pests and diseases.

Soil Test

A good starting point towards achieving healthy soil is a soil test.  A soil test will give you a good baseline on determining the amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and lime your soil contains or possibly needs.  Contact your local Cooperative Extension office for more details.

Compost

Compost is a critical part of healthy soil.  It helps to feed the beneficial soil life so that it can, in turn, feed and protect the plants.  It also retains nutrients and water for sandy soils and helps to loosens clay soils.  Every spring and fall is an ideal time to add between a quarter to half-inch of compost to your existing lawns or beds.

Mulch

Mulch is a layer of organic material, such as leaves, aged wood chips, or grass clippings.  Mulch helps to stabilize the soil temperature, prevents weeds, and retains moisture.  Spring and fall is an ideal time to assure mulch levels are adequate (no more than 3 inches).

Slow-Release or Organic Fertilizer

If needed, look for fertilizers that contain “natural organic” or “slow-release” ingredients.  These will fertilize plants slowly and evenly and allow for strong root systems.  “Slow-release” types will help to reduce nutrient run-off into the ground and surface waters.

Remember, healthy plants grow in healthy soil!

 

Next in the series:  GreenScaping Part 2: Plant Right for Your Site

March Garden Calendar

 

As I’ve stated many times, The Department of Horticulture at Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service has tons of a great publications.  The particular one that I want to share a portion of with you today is Spring Garden Calendar (HO-91-W).  This article outlines some monthly Spring activities that will help make our indoor and outdoor plants and lawns to be more ready for summer.  It is time to start preparing for Spring!

Indoor Plants & Activities

  • Apply fertilizer to houseplants according to the label directions.   As the days grow brighter and longer, the new foliage growths will require a high-nitrogen fertilizer; while blooming plants will require a higher amount of phosphorus.
  • Remove spent leaves and flowers regularly to improve appearance and encourage blooming.
  • Start seeds of cool season plants for transplanting outdoors later in spring.  Check your local zone requirements.

Woody Landscape Plants & Fruit Trees

  • Prune trees and shrubs while plants are still dormant.  The spring bloomers should be pruned after the flower fades.
  • Fertilize woody plants before new growth begins and after the soil temperatures have reached 40°F.  Two pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet should be broadcast over the entire root area.
  • Remove winter coverings from roses as soon as new growth begins.  Keep mulch close for protection from late freezes.  Prune and fertilize as needed.
  • Apply superior oil spray to control scale insects and mites on landscape plants and fruit trees when tips of leaves start to protrude from buds.
  • Remove tree wrap from trunks to prevent scalding due to overheating of the bark.

Lawn

  • Rake to remove leaves, twigs and other debris.
  • Mow lawn as needed.  The first mowing should be slightly lower than normal to encourage green-up.

Flowers

  • Prepare garden soil for planting.  Do not work the soil while it is wet.  Soil should crumble when squeezed in your hand when it is ready to work.  If it forms a solid ball when squeezed, it’s still too wet.
  • Fertilize soil as needed.   If you’ve had a recent soil test, that will help you determine your fertilization and pH needs.
  • Start seeds of warm season vegetables and flowers indoors.
  • Watch for blooms of early spring bulbs such as daffodils, squill, crocus, dwarf iris and snowdrops.
  • Remove old asparagus and rhubarb tops, and then side dress with nitrogen or manure.

More great articles can be viewed on Purdue University’s Extension website.

February Garden Calendar

The Department of Horticulture at Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service has tons of a great publications.  The particular one that I want to share a portion of with you today is Winter Garden Calendar (HO-90-W).  This article outlines some monthly winter activities that will help make our indoor and outdoor plants and lawns to be more ready for summer.  If you’re winter involves snow and ice like my winter does, you might think there isn’t any horticultural activities to work on currently.  But not true!

Indoor Plants and Activities

  • Maintain water levels on cut-flower vases, as well as, houseplants.
  • Repot houseplants as they outgrow their current pots.
  • Early blooms of spring-flowering bulbs can be forced into blooming early indoors.  Keep the plant in a bright, cool location or longer lasting blooms.  These forced-bloomed plants make poor garden flowers and it is recommended to discard them after the blooms fade.

Lawns, Woody Ornamentals, Landscape Plants and Tree Fruits

  • Check mulches, rodent shields and other winter plant protections to make sure they are still in place.
  • Prune landscape plants, except early spring bloomers, which should be pruned after flowers fade.
  • Birches, maples, dogwoods, and other heavy sap bleeders can be pruned in early summer to avoid the sap flow, although bleeding is not harmful to the tree.
  • Prune fruit trees to control plant size and remove dead, damaged, or weak limbs.

Flowers, Vegetables and Small Fruits

  • Prepare or repair lawn and garden tools for the upcoming season.
  • Start seeds indoors for cool-season vegetables so they will be ready for transplanting to the garden early in the season.  Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage seeds should be started five to seven weeks prior to transplanting.
  • Test leftover garden seed for germination.  Place 10 seeds between moist paper toweling or cover with a thin layer of soil.  Keep seeds warm and moist.  If less than 6 seeds germinate, then fresh seed should be purchased.

More great articles can be viewed on Purdue University Extension’s website.

Becoming a Master Gardener

Do you enjoy gardening and other horticultural-related topics?  If so, you might enjoy becoming a Master Gardener.

The Master Gardener Certification program is performed throughout the United States.  The certification program involves horticultural training, as well as, a volunteer portion to help educate others in the local community in a variety of ways.

The American Horticultural Society has conveniently referenced each state’s Master Gardener program to help assist you with your location.

National Garden Bureau Showcases New Varieties for 2011

The NGB, National Garden Bureau, (www.ngb.org) features images and descriptions for more than 100 different new annuals, perennials and vegetables for 2011.  Each year representatives of the professional horticulture industry choose crops based on popularity, ease of growth, adaptability and versatility.

This site is a wealth of information.  It’s sure to get you excited for spring planting!