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5 Tips for Spring Garden Success

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Warmer days are on their way, finally, which means it’s time to start thinking about cleaning up your yard and getting ready for the coming spring gardening season.

If you’re serious about having a great garden and want to top last year’s, getting things ready early in the season will help put you on the right path to having the best garden in the neighborhood.

Planning Is Key

Before you start flinging soil like there’s no tomorrow, set out your vision for the season. What do you want to plant, and where should you plant it? Do you want to start growing more vegetables? Write it all down so you don’t forget your goals as the summer passes.

Tool Time

Prepping for spring gardening gives you the perfect excuse to hang out in the shop and get all your tools ready for the season. Use boiled linseed oil to treat and protect wood handles, and use a wire brush to clean any rust from the metal parts. Clean any tools that have moving parts by using turpentine and then denatured alcohol to get rid of the turpentine residue. Finally, use a file to sharpen any blades, and grease or oil any moving parts to keep them working their best.

Bring in the Cleanup Crew

Spring is the time to set the right conditions so your garden can take off as soon as the weather warms up. One of the most important things you can do for your garden now is tidy up any debris left over from the winter. Clear any leaves or other debris from your perennial gardens, because that can choke out your flowers before they get a chance to bloom. Also, get rid of any branches or stems on shrubs and plants that may have been damaged over the winter. Leaving these on can make it harder for your plants to get started.

It’s also a good idea to lay down mulch on your perennial beds in the spring. A layer of aged pine, hardwood, or hemlock mulch will help keep a consistent soil temperature, regulate moisture, ward off weeds, and add nutrients to your soil as the mulch decomposes.

It’s best to prune most trees when they’re still in the dormant phase, before they start to sprout leaves or flowers. You can do this in winter, but at the very latest it should be part of your spring gardening routine. Pruning your trees regularly is important because it will help them produce more flowers and fruits while also helping ward off pests and diseases.

Prep Your Soil

Winter weeds probably will be poking their heads up in your garden soil already, so pull them as soon as possible and move them far away. If you leave them too long, they will flower, produce seeds, and multiply.

After you’ve waded through the weeds, add some fertilizer and mix it into the soil.

Get Planting

If you have a vegetable garden, it’s time to get those beds in shape and put your spring crops in. Foods such as spinach, leeks, onions, and parsley can be planted as soon as the frosts are over, which is usually by April in northern climates.

Putting some time in up front can make things a lot easier down the road and set you up for a successful gardening season. So spend some time following these spring gardening tips, and you’ll see the results all year long

The Best Vegetables to Plant in Early Spring

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The Best Vegetables to Plant in Early Spring

Start Them Early, but Enjoy Them for Weeks

The first vine-ripened tomato may still be a few months away, but there’s plenty to keep you busy in the vegetable garden. Take advantage of the cool, wet weather of spring to put in multiple crops of peas and lettuce. It’s also a great time to get your perennial vegetables, like asparagus and rhubarb, started.

 

    • Rows of growing Asparagus

      Photo: © Marie Iannotti

      There are many perennial vegetables – vegetables you can plant once and harvest for many years to come – but we only seem to grow a handful of them in our gardens. It’s true you have to devote space to them, sometimes for decades, but it’s worth it. Asparagus plants get more productive every year, and a mature harvest can last for months. Looking forward to the first tender, pencil-sized spears of asparagus poking through in the garden is a rite of spring. If you thought you didn’t likeMORE asparagus, you haven’t tried it freshly picked.

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      Rows of growing lettuce

      Carol Sharp Corbis/ Documentary/ Getty Images

      The cool, wet weather of Spring is the perfect time to grow lettuce, and there are hundreds of varieties to choose from. Lettuce may take a little protection to get it going in the early spring, but, oh, it never tastes better than when it’s grown in the crisp spring air. You will get the earliest and longest harvest from the cut-and-come-again varieties. Lettuce may require a little frost protection in spring, but it won’t bolt, and you will probably have time for 2-3 succession plantings.

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      A vast pile of snow peas

      Emmanuelle Grimaud / Getty Images

      There’s a tradition of planting the first peas on St. Patrick’s Day. Many of us don’t always get to take part in that tradition because of the snow covering our vegetable gardens. However, even in years when you can manage to get out there early, the peas planted later in April will quickly catch up to the peas planted in March. Peas don’t like freezing temperature, but they dislike heat worse. So don’t miss the window of opportunity. Get out there and plant a crop of your favorites, whetherMORE its shelling peas, snow peas or sugar snap peas.

      A closeup of growing rhubarb

      Photo: © Marie Iannotti

      Rhubarb is a vegetable we prepare like a fruit, and it is the first sweet “fruit” of the season. Rhubarb is another perennial gem of the vegetable garden. It really is a shame rhubarb is so underused in cooking, because it’s very easy to grow. Once you get your bed established, you can look forward to a rhubarb harvest every spring. One word of warning: the rhubarb crown quickly turns into a very dense brick that is hard to divide. If you need to move your rhubarb or want to divide theMORE plant, do it while the plant is young before it has time to develop strong roots.

  • A vast pile of spinach

    Tracy Packer Photography / Getty Images

    Spinach must be grown in cool weather, or it will quickly bolt to seed. There are varieties that claim to be bolt-resistant, but sooner or later, (usually sooner), they all go to seed. Luckily it also grows extremely quickly – which means you don’t have to wait long to enjoy it, but you’ll also have to keep planting new spinach, to extend the harvest. Getting spinach to grow is easy. Keeping your spinach growing takes some extra care, but it’s worth it. Fresh spinach is crisper, tangier andMORE more tender than any you’ll find in a cellophane bag. And it can grow in the shade of crops that will be taking off just as your spinach fades.

Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Yard and Garden

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Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Yard and Garden

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The snow and ice have melted, but this winter’s wild storms have left yards across the country in need of a major spring-cleaning. Here are some ideas for how to begin, inspired by the hyper-organized folks at Uncluttered:

  1. Remove the debris. If the winter’s seemingly incessant wind, rain, and snow have done a number on your trees, start your clean-up efforts by collecting the fallen branches and scattered sticks. If your town doesn’t pick up lawn debris on a regular basis, find out if any spring collection days have been planned or if there’s a nearby drop-off location you can deliver it to. You also can rent a wood-chipper from many garden or hardware stores and turn your debris into mulch.
  2. Rake dead leaves and twigs. Last year’s leaves will make great compost, but not if they keep the grass from absorbing sunlight. Thoroughly rake the yard and garden beds and, if you don’t plan to compost, investigate whether your town will be making special arrangements to collect bagged leaves.
  3. Prune and trim. Prune back weatherworn bushes and hedges as well as any perennials that look overgrown. Trim damaged tree limbs and branches that you can reach, and make arrangements for a professional tree-trimmer to take care of the rest.
  4. Map out landscaping and garden plans. If you’re going to make any changes to your current landscaping, make a sketch of your lawn indicating what sort of trees, shrubs, or plants you’d like to add. Even for DIY types, it’s always a good idea to consult with a gardener or landscaper at the nursery before making any final decisions or purchases.
  5. Start planting. Check the planting dates on your new purchases. Any plants, trees or shrubbery hearty enough to survive early spring’s still-cool nights can be put in the ground now.

Source: Unclutterer.com

Tips for Opening Your Swimming Pool This Spring

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Time to open the swimming pool!

Spring is here and the swimming pool season is about to kick off.

Maybe you just bought a home with a swimming pool, or you just installed a pool last summer and this is your first swimming pool opening, and maybe your going to attempt your own opening this year after watching the pool guy do it for years, and just maybe your a veteran and just want to pickup some new tips. Whatever your station opening a pool for the Summer is easy, just follow this guide and you will be swimming in no time.

Tip #1 If you are wondering when the best time to open your pool, opening the pool early is best, if you wait too long you will risk the chance of opening up to a huge mess. Always try to open the pool either before the first hot day or shortly after. Hot days heat up the stagnate water under your pool cover and that will create algae.

Tip #2 Every backyard with a swimming pool or a hot tub needs to have a few basic essentials in the backyard shed.

  1. Submersible pump is needed to drain water from the pool, hot tub, off the pool cover etc… great addition to your toys/equipment
  2. Shop-vac is great for not only sucking up wet and dry debris, but also is needed to blowing out lines in the winter.
  3. Pressure washer, garden hose, & deluxe spray gun these all go into one heading but basically have a good system for cleaning stuff off. Better to pay a little more and have a good hose and spray gun, and a pressure washer will help you keep your whole house clean.
  4. Sponges & rags are great for cleaning up around the pool, patio, and hot tub.

Tip #3 if you found that you were losing pressure at the end of the pool season the year before it might be a good idea to check the filter media and see if it needs replacing. This is something you can do weeks or days in advance of your pool opening and will save you time on the day you do open your pool.

When your ready to open the swimming pool the first step is to use the submersible pump and remove the water from the top of the winter pool cover. Its best not to try and remove the winter cover before the water is removed because you risk the chance of having the debris on top of the winter cover falling into the pool. Unfortunately I have learned this from experience, and I would add to be patient and let all the water possible be drained from the top of the winter pool cover before attempting to remove the cover.

Tip #4 start filling your pool while you are draining the water off the top of your winter cover. If you live in a rural community and use well water use a carbon pre filter on your hose when filling your pool. Locate and replace all fittings, plugs, and drain covers from your filter, pumps, and heaters but do not turn anything on yet. Remove all plugs, gizmos, foam etc. from pipes and skimmer and replace jets, skimmer and any other accessories. This saves time and you will be able to start your equipment sooner.

The next thing you must do is to remove the debris from the top of the winter cover. You can start this process with your leaf net when you are removing the water from the top of the cover. Try to remove as much debris as possible because the more that is on the winter cover when you remove the cover the more chance of debris getting into your pool when you remove the winter cover.

Once you have removed the debris it is time to take the winter cover off. I start by removing the water bags from one end of the pool and slowly roll the cover towards the end removing water bags on either side as I move down the pool. The same technique can be used for all covers and at the end you should have caught all remaining debris that should be easily lifted away from the pool with the winter cover.

Once your water is up to level which is about 2/3 up the skimmer, you can do a final check of all the connections and plugs, put your filter in the waste selection, roll out your backwash hose, open up your air relief at the top of your filter, fill your pump basket with water to get your prime, and start your system. Once all the air is released you will see water spraying out the top of your filter, close the valve and turn off your system. Change your filter setting to filter and turn the system back on.  I add a concentrated algaecide at this point making sure to broadcast it around the perimeter of the swimming pool. After 24 hours of circulation test your pool water for PH and Chlorine and adjust accordingly. The chemical levels should be PH 7.2 – 7.6 ppm and chlorine 1.5 – 2.0 ppm.

Take your swimming pool cover  and water bags out to the driveway remove all debris and wash them, let them dry out fold and store for the fall. Replace all your steps, ladders, and diving boards and tighten them down. Power wash the deck, and clean the scum line of your pool. And your done.

Tip #5 If you have a hot tub open it at the same time, or if it was running all winter this is a great time to change the water and clean or replace your hot tub filters. Use a carbon pre filter on your hose when filling your hot tub. Also clean and and remove debris from your hot tub cover, and replace it if it weighs more then 100 lbs. or is deteriorated beyond use.

Enjoy the swimming season!

Content provided by Backyard Blast By The Cover Guy

Our Easter Egg Hunt and Easter Bunny visit was a great success!!

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What a great time we had this past weekend at our Easter Egg hunt and Easter Bunny Visit! Stop on by this week for some great savings as well as checking out our new spring plant arrivals!

Don’t forget our Mulch Madness sale is still going on!

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Mulching Tips For Spring

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Mulching is a must for every yard. A properly applied layer of mulch provides a wealth of benefits to a landscape by suppressing weeds, enriching the soil, preventing moisture loss, regulating soil temperature, and more. Read on to learn five mulching tips that can help improve the health of your plants and soil.

1) Weed First

Mulch smothers weeds from growing by blocking their access to sunlight. Already existing weeds, however, can still grow without sun, so pull all weeds by the root in the area before applying mulch.

2) Winter Warning

Lawns often experience frost heaving in the winter. This is the process of the soil freezing and then thawing out, which causes a gradual expanding and contracting motion. This means that the soil swells and pushes out plants, exposing the roots to freezing temperatures. Mulching with evergreen boughs, chopped leaves, or straw can help keep your soil stay frozen until the final thaw at the beginning of spring.

3) The Rule of Trees

While gardens require the entire plant bed to be mulched, trees have different needs. An individual tree on your lawn should have a circle of mulch surrounding it. Start with a circle that measures 2′ in diameter and continue to add mulch as the tree grows, gradually increasing the size of the mulch circle. Make sure that the mulch does not touch the base of the tree trunk, though, as this traps moisture and invites disease and pests. The same goes for flower stems.

4) Depth Control

Generally speaking, the layer of mulch you apply should be about 2″ to 3″ thick. If your mulch is less than 2″ deep, it is less capable of retaining moisture. Any deeper than 3″ and the mulch will prevent plant roots from accessing sun, air, water, and other nutrients it needs. Too thick of a layer can also result in your plants taking root in the mulch instead of the soil.

5) Newsflash

Believe it or not, newspaper is an effective mulching material. It’s great for smothering weeds by blocking the sunlight. It then decomposes into the soil (don’t worry, it’s non-toxic). Just cover a layer of newspaper with a more attractive organic mulch, like wood chips or bark, and enjoy your weed-free garden.

Planting Bulbs In The Winter

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Plant bulbs are generally planted in the fall or spring, but in reality, they can be planted anytime so long as you can physically dig a hole. There are many types of bulb plants, including lilies, hyacinths, daffodils and tulips, just to name a few. While each plant is different, you can generally plant them in the same manner, but you should always adhere to the planting instructions that come with your specific bulbs.

Step 1

Plant your bulbs in early winter if possible. You cannot plant bulbs while the ground is frozen, so if it is, place your bulbs in a thick plastic bag called a poly bag, which is available at your local home and garden store. Then store them in a cool, dark and dry place like your garage. However, plant them as soon as possible when you can successfully dig some holes.

Step 2

Plan to plant bulbs about three to six inches apart, depending on the type of bulbs. For instance, tulips and daffodils spread and grow quickly and should be planted about six inches apart, but crocuses and snowdrops should be planted only three inches apart

Step 3

Plan to cluster your bulbs together. You can even mix varieties. Place smaller growing plants in front and larger ones in the back.

Step 4

Dig holes that are about five inches deep for small bulbs and eight inches deep for large bulbs. The diameter of the hole should be twice as large as the bulb.

Step 5

Put the bulbs in the ground with the pointed end facing up. This is the end from which the sprout will emerge.

Step 6

Mix some compost or peat moss in with the soil you just dug up. Use that new soil mix to cover the bulbs. Pat the soil down with your hands to avoid any air pockets.

Step 7

Mulch over the area. A couple inches of mulch will help keep your bulbs in the ground warm until spring when you may see the green sprouts begin to emerge and then bloom soon thereafter. If not, they should bloom the next season.

HEALTHY SOIL, HEALTHY PLANTS

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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.GardenersGold_PottingSoil

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.Paydirt

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.BlackForest_TreeandShrub

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.

Key Words
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 Plants

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Biennial Plant Information: What Does Biennial Meanperennial-garden

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:

PROTECTING OUR POLLINATORS

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Every garden requires pollinators, and bees are among the finest. Without them there would be limited flowers and far fewer fruits and vegetables. Did you know that about 30% of the food we eat depends on the pollination of bees?

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Although there are many bees that are great pollinators, like carpenter, mining, sweat and cellophane bees, some of the most well know and easily identified bees are the honey and bumble bee. Both of these bees live in social colonies and are cavity nesters. Because these bees are active all summer long, they require a constant supply of floral nectar close to their hive. Some of the biggest threats to the continued and healthy existence of these two bees are habitat loss, which causes inadequate nesting and scarce food supplies, and pesticide drift.bee_3

Bring more bees to your garden by planting a variety of native flowers that will bloom throughout the entire summer. Keep the bees in your garden by eliminating chemical use, especially while plants are in flower. Be kind to bees in your garden by providing a safe place for shelter and to lay their eggs. Make sure that there is an available water source for your bees. A birdbath works just fine.bee_2

NATIVE PLANTS THAT ATTRACT BEES

Apple Malus
Aster Aster
Blackberry & Raspberry Rubis
Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia
Blueberries Vaccinium
Currant Ribes
Elder Sambucus
Goldenrod Solidago
Highbush Cranberry Viburnum
Joe-pye weed Eupatorium
Lupine Lupinus
Penstemon Penstemon
Purple coneflower Echinacea
Redbud Cercis
Rhododendron Rhododendron
Sage Salvia
Stonecrop Sedum
Sunflower Helianthus
Willow Salix