The key to successful gardening is “healthy soil.” This basic principle of organic gardening applies to all plants. Quite simply, when you feed the soil the proper nutrients, you let the soil feed the plants. So how do you “feed” the soil? First, you need to understand some elementary information about your soil and why it is so important, and then you can take steps to improve it.
To start, you should determine the soil texture by moistening the soil and rubbingit between your thumb and fingers to determine it’s “feel.” Sands are gritty and will barely hold together; clay can be squeezed into a firm shape; and silt will act in a way to allow particles to cling together. Sandy soils tend to dry out quickly because they contain high amounts of soil air. Oppositely, clay soils have a tendency to pack together, shutting out air and water. The best garden soil, “loam,” has moderate amounts of sand, silt and clay. Generally, soil in our area tends to be clayey. This condition can be improved by adding a soil conditioner, gypsum or slate particles. For sandy soils, humus should be added to help retain moisture and nutrients.
Next, you must evaluate the soil structure. Soil structure is affected by soil pH, the amount of humus and the combination of minerals in the soil. Ideal soils allow soil particles to clump together with air spaces between them for water drainage as well as oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide release from plant roots. The best way to improve soil structure is to add high amounts of organic matter like humus, dehydrated manure, composted manure, mushroom compost, alfalfa meal, peat moss, or worm castings.
You will also need to take a soil sample, to measure the pH and amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the soil as well as other nutrients. This will help determine exactly what the soil needs. Your local Master Nursery Garden Center will help you read the results and determine what to add to your soil and how much. Generally, a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 is acceptable. If your pH is lower than this, your soil is too acidic and requires lime to be added. If your soil is low in organic matter, it will often have a high pH level. All plants require a proper balance of nutrients – nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Soils lacking any one of these elements will not produce healthy plants. Refer to the Organic Fertilizer Chart for suggested amendments.
When dealing with poor or improperly balanced soils, obtaining “healthy” soil may take two to five years to acquire. The best thing you can do to supplement your soil program is to use various organic fertilizers to meet your plants’ needs and regularly add organic matter; we suggest Bumper Crop Soil Amendments, and Fertilizers. Black Forest, Gardener’s Gold, Pay Dirt and Pay Dirt Plus are all excellent choices as soil amenders that will continue to help the soil structure as well as create biological activity that is also a vital part of developing productive soil.
Soil Texture – The proportional amount of sand, silt and clay in the soil.
Soil Structure – The arrangement of soil particles in the soil.
Soil pH – The measurement of acidity or alkalinity of the soil.
Organic Matter – Various forms of living and dead plant and animal matter.
Biennial Plant Information: What Does Biennial Mean
One way to categorize plants is by the length of the plant’s life cycle. The three terms annual, biennial and perennial are most commonly used to classify plants due to their life cycle and bloom time. Annual and perennial is fairly self explanatory, but what does biennial mean? Read on to find out.
What Does Biennial Mean?
So what are biennial plants? The term biennial is in reference to the plant’s longevity. Annual plants live just one growing season, performing their entire life cycle, from seed to flower, in this short period of time. Only the dormant seed is left to cross over into the next growing season.
Perennial plants live three years or more. Usually, the top foliage dies back to the ground each winter and then regrows the successive spring from the existing root system.
Basically, biennials in the garden are flowering plants that have a two-year biological cycle. Biennial plant growth begins with seeds that produce the root structure, stems and leaves (as well as food storage organs) during the first growing season. A short stem and low basal rosette of leaves form and remains through the winter months.
During the biennial’s second season, biennial plant growth completes with the formation of flowers, fruit and seeds. The stem of the biennial will elongate or “bolt.” Following this second season, many biennials reseed and then the plant usually dies.
Biennial Plant Information
Some biennials require vernalization or cold treatment before they will bloom. Flowering may also be brought about by the application of gibberellins plant hormones, but is rarely done in commercial settings.
When vernalization occurs, a biennial plant may complete its entire life cycle, from germination to seed production, in one short growing season; three or four months instead of two years. This most commonly affects some vegetable or flower seedlings that were exposed to cold temperatures before they were planted in the garden.
Other than cold temperatures, extremes such as drought can shorten the biennial’s life cycle and compress two seasons into a year. Some regions may then, typically, treat biennials as annuals. What may be grown as a biennial in Portland, Oregon, for example, with a fairly temperate climate, would likely be treated as an annual in Portland, Maine, which has far more severe temperature extremes.
Biennials in the Garden
There are many fewer biennials than perennial or annual plants, with most of them being types of vegetables. Keep in mind that those biennials, whose purpose is for flowers, fruits or seeds, need to be grown for two years. Climatic conditions in your area which are unseasonably cold, with lengthy periods of frost or cold snaps, affect whether the plant will be a biennial or an annual, or even if a perennial appears to be a biennial.
Examples of biennials include:
Strictly vegetarian, an average adult deer can eat between 4 and 6 pounds of food per day. Not only are they big eaters, they aren’t the slightest bit picky. Deer eat over 500 different varieties of plants, but, if they’re really hungry, they’ll eat just about anything in the garden or landscape.
Short of a fence, the next best thing is to take advantage of two weaknesses of deer – they’re creatures of habit and they are easily scared. Anything you can do to mix up their habits or make them think there is danger nearby might be enough to make them go elsewhere in search of food. But, deer aren’t foolish. If they realize the danger isn’t real, they will return, therefore, you must rotate any repellents or scare tactics you try.
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Plants Deer Won’t Like
Deer in large herds with insufficient food will eat almost any garden vegetation, particularly in harsh winters. You can minimize deer damage by choosing plants that are the least favored and avoiding those that are the most liked so plan your garden accordingly. Among their favorites are azaleas, rhododendrons, yews, roses, Japanese maples, winged euonymous, hemlocks and arborvitae. The following is a list of plants rarely damaged by deer.
Chinese Paper Birch
Colorado Blue Spruce
Dragon Lady Holly
San Jose Holly
SHRUBS & CLIMBERS
Japanese Plum Yew
Rose of Sharon
ANNUALS & PERENNIALS
Basket of Gold
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Daniel’s Lawn & Garden Center is one of the area’s leading Garden, Landscape, Hot Tub and Pool supply companies. Owner Stu Strauss has been operating the Harleysville, PA location since 1987. When Stu purchased the garden center, his vision was to offer an array of services and products that help beautify outdoor spaces. Today, Daniel’s offers premium plants, shrubs and trees, soil, mulch and stone as well as hot tubs, pool supplies and other outdoor living equipment. We also provide FREE estimates and have delivery and installation options for most products.