Better Gardener

BHG Guest Blogger

Oh My Deer!

Written on October 29, 2013 at 2:36 pm , by

The following is a guest blog post from Scott Jamieson, Vice President with Bartlett Tree Experts.

Deer, they are so cute—who doesn’t want to see a deer? One in the landscape can be a fantastic sight, at first. In many places in the country deer have overpopulated their natural habitat and have moved into the urban and suburban landscape. Many communities that have never seen a deer are being overrun by the doe-eyed creatures.

An adult deer eats about six pounds of plant material each day which adds up to about a ton of plant material each year for every adult deer. When they are feeding in the forest that is not a problem but it is when they find the delectable food of our landscapes it becomes a serious issue.  Landscapes that have been nurtured for years can be stripped clean in one winter if hungry deer find their way to the previously undiscovered gourmet dining spot. Our landscapes can contain plants that deer absolutely love and once they find a spot to dine, they will be back for more.

Keeping deer out of your landscape is also a health concern. Besides denuding the landscape, deer harbor ticks that can carry Lyme disease, babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. A single deer tick can introduce 450,000 tick larvae a year into its territory.

Deer are most effectively managed by keeping them out of the landscape physically. This typically involves putting a fence around the entire property or certainly the areas you want to protect. A deer fence must be tall enough to keep leaping deer out—at least 7 feet tall. You can also install products such as the Shrub Coat on smaller plantings that will keep deer from feasting on the plants while also protecting the plants from cold temperatures.

Many property owners spray deer repellents on valuable plants.  No repellent is foolproof but several have proved to be quite effective in reducing deer damage if used regularly and with the correct timing.

Click here for a list of deer-resistant plants from Bartlett Tree Experts you should consider for your landscape. Know, however, that under extreme populations deer will eat just about anything and you may find that a plant deer have never touched becomes their filet mignon the next year.

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Scott Jamieson is Vice President with Bartlett Tree Experts. He leads Bartlett’s national recruiting and corporate partnerships efforts and also heads the Bartlett Inventory Solutions team in providing innovative and technologically advanced tree management plans to clients across the country. Prior to joining Bartlett in 2008, Scott was President and CEO of a national tree care firm.

 

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BHG Guest Blogger

Chasing the Winter Blues with Lively Greens!

Written on October 16, 2013 at 5:00 am , by

The following is a guest blog post from Katie McCoy Dubow.

The winter blues affects us all differently, but surrounding yourself with fresh, colorful plants all winter is sure to be the cure for what ails you.

With color, texture, drama and a touch of whimsy, indoor plants instantly liven up any room with their individual personalities and will help you beat the winter blues this year. Whether it’s a terrarium full of succulents or the bold colors of an amaryllis, there is an indoor garden that will fit your style, mood and taste.

Besides what they give back in aesthetics, one of the greatest things indoor plants do is provide much needed humidity in the winter months and freshen the air year round.

Here are four, easy indoor garden styles to brighten up your home this winter:

Craft a mini garden with maximum impact.
Terrariums are a popular garden style because they require little maintenance to flourish, yet have an endlessly elegant look.  The key to success is choosing the right plants. A great variety to start with is Golden Club Moss because it thrives in a low light, high moisture environment. Other great starter plants include water-retaining, light-loving succulents and cacti. They’re virtually indestructible and come in many colors, shapes and varieties.

Learn how to make your own terrarium.

Create inner peace.
Creating this indoor garden will help calm and relax your mind. Every aspect of a Zen garden — its nature, construction and upkeep — is designed for contemplation and reflection. Rocks and sand make up the basic elements, but beyond that it’s up to you. NativeCast’s dish containers work perfectly as a base for your Zen garden because of their size and shape.  Have fun with it and think of it as an ever changing work of art.

Photo credit: NativeCast

Even more Japanese garden inspiration.

Make your room come alive.
Greenery is growing in surprising places. Just look up and around. Now you can get your nature fix inside with your very own living walls or vertical gardens. If you have the time and resources, or want a visually dramatic look for a room, living walls are the ticket.

Garden expert at Costa Farms, Justin Hancock, says that living green walls are a great way to maximize the benefits of houseplants by purifying the air and beautifying spaces. Try hanging one in the kitchen planted with herbs for fresh kitchen flavors all year long.

With more and more companies selling these kits and supplies, it’s easy to re-create these gardens over a weekend.
 

Make your own living wall.

Pop a color that will last all winter.
Growing bulbs indoors in the winter lets you enjoy the colors and fragrance of spring even though it’s still months away.  But now’s the time to get started.

First, choose your bulbs. Amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus from Longfield Gardens are perfect for indoor gardening because they don’t require any chill time. I like to plant bulbs every week in the winter, so I can have blooming flowers all winter long.  Paperwhites will bloom in four to six weeks, amaryllis in six to eight.

Photo credit: Longfield Gardens

Here are my top 12 favorite ways to decorate with amaryllis.

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Katie McCoy Dubow is creative officer at Garden Media, a PR firm specializing in the horticulture industry.

 

 

 

 

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Katie Ketelsen

3 Knock-Your-Spring-Socks-Off Bulb Combinations

Written on October 7, 2013 at 10:29 am , by

If you’re looking for first-of-the-spring blooms, you have to plant bulbs. And you have to get them in the ground this fall! I understand how overwhelming it might be to decide which bulbs to pair together — there are so many options! I get it. Hopefully, I can help by sharing three of my favorite bulb combinations.

Fresh-Makers

When I see white and purple together in the garden, it seems so fresh, so crisp, and so refreshing, especially after a long winter. It’s probably my ultimate bulb-combo recommendation. There are several different varieties of daffodils and tulips, see which ones suit might your fancy in our plant encyclopedia: Daffodils,  Tulips.

Looking for more ways to pair white and purple? Get design ideas here.

Ground-Huggers

I’ve always thought the idea of planting bulbs in your lawn for a blanket of spring blooms was clever. Someday I’ll implement this technique with fragrant grape hyacinth and crocus. It really isn’t that hard. See how here.  Also, find out which grape hyacinths are our favorites and learn more about growing crocus.

Do you have bulbs planted in your lawn? I’d love to hear what varieties — and any tips you’ve learned.

Bold Partners

Sometimes you have the desire to make a statement, turn heads in the neighborhood, and that requires a bold combo. Crown imperial and parrot tulips top my list for a crowd-pleaser. Not only are they unique bloomers, their color really pops in the garden. Learn more about crown imperial and hybrid tulips from our plant encyclopedia.

 

Do you have a favorite bulb combination? Share with us!


Shawna Coronado

3 Ways To Frost Proof Your Garden

Written on September 17, 2013 at 6:10 am , by

Fall Raised Bed Frost Cover Greenhouse Shawna Coronado

Fall is almost upon us, so it is time to start planning for how you are going to extend those garden crops for as long as possible through the frost season (see the before picture on the right). Helping your vegetables survive through fall means a longer growing season and money saved in the bank. There are two types of frosts to be aware of. Advective Frosts are plant killers; very coldFall Raised Bed Shawna Coronado temperatures that drop below plant hardiness levels. Radiation Frosts are survivable for your plants if they are covered and generally represent the frosts most likely to occur in early fall.

Below are three super-easy ways to help save your crops from a radiation type of frost. Advective frosts are tough to fight and you might need more powerful protection tools. All the below concepts involve covering the crop and trapping the heat of the soil beneath the covering. These coverings work as long as they do not get wet. A wet cover makes the temperatures surrounding the plant cooler.

1. Blanket and Sheet Covers

These are the simplest to use. Simply toss a lightweight blanket or sheet over the area of garden you are trying to protect. I have been known to use all the blankets in my house and ask my neighbors for theirs, but have had regular success in saving the garden for many weeks if there is only a one or two night frost situation; the covers help the plants survive those two nights in order to enjoy the Indian Summer later in the fall. Be sure to remove the blanket in the morning so the plants receive sunlight and warmth during the day.

2. Floating Row Crop Covers

Floating covers keep frost and insects off the plants, but allow daylight to provide enough light for growth. Depending on the plant, you can leave the row cover up all day without a problem. Do not forget to water the plants that are beneath the floating row covers.

3. Plastic and Garden Covers

Plastic covers work, particularly if you have a supportive frame to cover the planting bed. If you like, you can add lights at night to increase warmth within the protective frame. In the top photo you see the miniature greenhouse garden cover I have placed over my raised beds from Greenland Gardener. The garden cover is easy to assemble – it took me less than 15 minutes to put this together and place it properly. Unfold, assemble support pole, place in position, tighten Velcro (see photo below), tie the poles together at the top, place over beds, and DONE!

Fall Raised Bed Frost Cover Greenland Gardener Greenhouse

Fall Raised Bed Frost Cover Greenhouse Velcro

According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them. They worked well and I am happy about that.


Whitney Curtis

Essential Garden Tools for Beginners

Written on August 15, 2013 at 5:30 am , by

If you’ve ever wandered into your local garden center and been overwhelmed with the selection of tools and gadgets, you are not alone! With an abundance of options, it can be overwhelming to start your collection of garden tools. I think there are just a few essentials you need to grab as you get started, and the rest will come with time and experimentation!

Garden trowel - A basic garden trowel for planting and digging, this one will be your constant companion in the garden!

Potting scoop - Make it easy on yourself and don’t try to use a trowel as a scoop! I’ve done it many times and I end up with spilled dirt everywhere. Plus, there’s a fun story behind this particular scoop – Shawna had a hand in its creation!

Hand hoes – Two types of hand hoes that are both great for breaking up tough soil, one with sharp teeth for and one that’s skinny for tight spaces.

Bulb planter – When you plant your bulbs this fall, you’ll be glad to have an easy bulb planter around. Just stick it in the ground and pull it out for the exact right hole size!

Hand fork – Great for weeding and loosening the soil. I’ve been known to dig with mine when I’m too lazy to grab a trowel!

Images from Garden Tool Co.


Shawna Coronado

Top 5 Secret and Natural Soil Additives For A Healthy Garden

Written on July 23, 2013 at 6:05 am , by

Shawna Coronado front lawn vegetable garden

Eleven years ago I was a “traditional gardener”, meaning I used the traditionally advertised products on the market that were filled with chemicals to treat my garden. This led to over-fertilizing and using chemical pesticides regularly. Bottom line: I wantonly abandoned the idea of doing healthy things for my garden in favor of what the media told me I should do. At that time I would consider my garden an average garden even with all of my chemical efforts. Then one season a friend of mine suggested I grow in an environmentally healthy fashion and stop listening to the hype. I thoroughly researched the importance of how to go chemical free and gradually converted my entire property over to about 98.9% organic and natural. An amazing and surprising thing happened in response to that changeover – my garden grew more beautiful, astounding, and lush than it had ever been when I used all those chemical solutions.

The secret for using less chemicals and pesticides in your garden is this: good soil grows healthy plant roots. With healthy plant roots you have strong plants that can survive tough conditions. Over the last ten years I have discovered what type of amendments work best in gardens nationwide and in my own garden. I have my favorite list of five all natural products and organic matter that really work well in my front lawn vegetable garden (seen in the photo above) and in gardens all across the country.

5 Amazing Soil Additives

Rotted Manure

Without a doubt, rotted manure is an important organic amendment for your soil because of its nutrient rich content which is the basis for building a strong structure of carbon compounds within the soil. Be sure that the manure is well rotted or it will burn your plants. You can get it in bagged form at your local garden center or find a farmer nearby. Be advised that manure from a farmer sometimes contains grass and weed seed. I add a generous amount of well rotted manure to the garden soil before I plant a garden, then again annually as a top dressing around plants.

Worm castings

Worm castings is worm poop – that’s right – worm poop. Like rotted manure, worm castings create a strong soil structure and add beneficial biology to the root zone of your plants. Worm castings help hold moisture so you water less. Mix ¼ cup of worm castings into the soil planting hole for each plant. I use Organic Mechanics worm castings which are OMRI and Organic certified (below you see a mix of rotted manure and worm castings added to my spring front lawn vegetable garden).

Spring rotted manure application on Shawna Coronado front lawn vegetable garden

Actino-Iron

Soil Amendment Actino-Iron 2Actino-Iron is an all natural OMRI certified granular soil additive that combines the Actinovate organic fungicide with organic iron and humates. Actino-Iron is a product that is already used in many of the soil mixes you find professionally in the market because it helps control root diseases and keep your plants greener. I have used it for three years in a row and found it works very well to strengthen the root systems of my plants. Last year I had a drought and the plants stayed green and healthier because Actino-Iron builds a relationship between the root zone and soil microbes, strengthening the roots by growing more root hairs. I had a couple tablespoons in the root zone of each plant (see photo below).

Soil amendment Actino-Iron

Pure Elements SoilSuccess

Soil Amendment Pure Elements SoilSuccessPure Elements has several gypsum based products that are great soil amendments for all types of growing such as grass renewal, perennial beds, annual flower gardens, and vegetable gardening. My favorite is Pure Elements SoilSuccess Renew + Transform because it adds humates to the soil and helps reduce tomato bottom end rot. This is a good product to increase soil microbial activity and improve germination, shoot, and root growth in all your garden beds, particularly your vegetable beds. My plants are crazy huge this season and I applied about one pound of SoilSuccess per 100 feet of garden.

Homemade Compost

#1 rule of healthy organic gardening – make your own compost. Below is a photo of my overly stuffed composter doing its happy work in my garden. While there are many ways to make your own compost, the fact that it is absolutely free for you to build makes it one of the best ideas ever. Using grass clippings, kitchen scraps, dry leaves, and all types of natural things from your home like coffee grounds, you can create “black gold” for your garden beds. Compost has amazing nutrients in it which helps your garden soil be the perfect place for microbes to interact with root hairs. In other words, by adding compost, you are building stronger roots. I add compost to the soil in new gardens and also use it as a top dressing to smother weeds around healthy plants.

Shawna Coronado Soil Amendment Compost Bin

According the FTC, you need to know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them.