Repair Bare Spots in Your Lawn

Causes of Bare Spots in the Lawn

Bare spots in your lawn can be the result of heavy foot traffic (causing soil compaction), drought, disease, chemical burn and weed or insect infestation. Before beginning repairs, you need to determine the source of your problem. This will help you prevent it from continuing.

If heavy foot traffic is the cause, look for a way to keep traffic off of that area. This may include installing stepping stones, a gravel pathway or a barrier that would reroute traffic and protect that area of your lawn.

If insects or disease are the cause, determine the specific cause. Most treatments will need to be applied and allowed to work before you can grow new grass. The treatment product instructions will tell you how long to wait before sowing new seed.

Grass Planting Options and Methods

Once you have addressed the cause of the bare spots, it’s time to repair the damage. In most areas, the best solution is to replant the bare spot with new grass. There are several options:

  • You can apply grass seed and fertilizer separately. Spread straw as a mulch after planting the grass seed to help keep it moist and safe from birds.
  • Lawn patch products combine grass seed, fertilizer and mulch blends in one bag.
  • Seed germination blankets made from wood fiber keep seeds and soil in place for erosion control.
  • Where available, sod is an option. Since it is alive, keep it moist until you’re able to install it. Make sure the sod makes good contact with the prepared soil bed.

Late spring is the best time to plant and repair bare spots in warm season grasses. Early fall is the best time to repair bare spots in cool season grasses.

Repairing Bare Spots

1. Dig up the area to a 6-in. depth, breaking up the clumps. (If the problem was caused by a spilled chemical such as gasoline or an herbicide, remove several inches of surface soil.)

2. Mix in topsoil to improve soil quality and help new sod or grass seed get off to a good start.

3. Rake and tamp to firm and level the surface to the surrounding lawn.

4. Apply the lawn product (whichever method you chose from the list above).

5. Water the area well.

Once you have made the repairs, follow these steps. While you may not be able to prevent bare spots completely, you can keep your lawn as healthy and green as possible.

  • Using a fine spray from a hose, keep the soil moist, but not drenched. Preventing the soil from drying out allows the roots from the grass seed to enter the soil.
  • Once the grass is established and growing well, fertilize it with a general lawn fertilizer and begin mowing the patch with the rest of the lawn.
  • Monitor the area closely during the first year.

Garden Ponds and Garden Waterfalls

One of the home improvement projects a homeowner rarely has to be sold on is improving their backyard. Most homeowners realize that with the right landscaping and patio their backyard can be an additional living space. In fact, during summer evenings and spring and fall afternoons, your backyard may very well be preferable to spending your leisure time cooped up inside your home. One of the most common mistakes homeowners make when looking into improving their backyard is to convince themselves certain installations are out of their price range without even getting quotes. Small and moderately designed garden ponds and waterfalls, for example, are rarely as expensive as many homeowners imagine. Garden Pond Liners The biggest decision you’ll most likely need to make is what material your pond liner will be. More permanent garden pond liners include concrete and fiberglass. More flexible pond liners are generally made from a variety of different plastic products. Permanent garden ponds aren’t strictly permanent, but if they’re well-built, a fiberglass liner should last 50 years or more, while concrete may last even longer in the absence of extreme freeze/thaw cycles. Concrete has the slight disadvantage of possibly leaking toxins that can affect the quality of your pond water. Fiberglass is much easier to install and maintain but lacks the naturalistic quality of other pond liners. Plastic pond liners can actually be rigid or flexible, but rigid plastic liners are difficult to work with and are susceptible to damage from ice and other weathering elements. Rigid plastic liners usually work best for homeowners who live in a warm climate and are operating on a strict budget. Flexible pond liners can be any number of materials such as butyl rubber and PVC, among others. These different pond liners may vary slightly in cost and performance, but they generally last 10-20 years, and their flexibility makes them great for customized garden ponds. Garden Pond Design and Installation Along with choosing a pond liner, you’ll also need to start thinking about your pond design. Obviously shape, size, and location are the big elements of pond design. Depending on what plants and/or fish you plan on putting in your pond, you’ll probably want to look for a place that gets a decent amount of shade. Besides being conducive to a healthy pond, shade from the sun will also increase the life of most pond liners. Size and shape are usually a function of the size of your yard and the size of your budget. Creating a more organic shape may be more important than an impressively sized pond. Plus, you may want to save enough money in your budget to install stone edging or otherwise spruce up the surrounds of your garden pond.

Garden Waterfalls Of course, a garden waterfall is one of the best and most popular ideas for your pond surrounds. Garden waterfalls, like the ponds they typically run into, come in all shapes and sizes. The benefits of a waterfall are two-fold: the relaxing sound of running water and the beautiful look of falling water. With these two qualities in mind, you’ll want to find a design that’s right for your backyard. One common mistake is to go overboard on the size of the waterfall. You don’t want a waterfall that’s going to overpower your pond or your backyard. Installing a garden waterfall may or may not be a DIY project, depending on your relative skill and time availability, but the total cost of installing a waterfall for your pond is generally less than most homeowners imagine.

Spruce Up the Look of Your Outdoor Property by Getting Garden Water Features

A beautifully and well-designed outdoor area can spruce up the whole look of a property. Be it a big, small, residential or corporate property, it makes the whole place look pleasurable and relaxed. Garden is that place of the property where people like to get together and spend some quality and quiet time with their friends and relatives. Peaceful sound of water flow, fragrance of beautifully blossomed flowers can contributes in maintaining the ambience of the house. But even with these, the look of your garden might seem incomplete which you can balance by getting intricately designed water features.

Finely structured, these water features comes in distinctive style and adds aesthetic value to your premises. In various cultures across the world, garden designing can be witnessed. This adds some natural beauty and eliminates abrasive noises and other disturbing sounds that keeps occurring the environment around. Therefore once incorporated, garden water feature brings calmness and tranquillity and also transforms the garden into a different space altogether. While getting a feature installed in your garden or any kind of property, there are number of things that need to be considered. There are number of styles of garden fountains and features that are available from which you can choose from. Landscapers and professional designers take up these features for all kind of outdoor projects. Established companies like Geoffs Garden Ornaments offers water features and outdoor ornaments such as stone garden arches, stone benches, in-ground fountains and number of other things.

Placing a visually appealing water feature in the garden uplifts the mood of the people living around and also enhances the appeal of the whole property to a large extent. People passionate in making a drastic change in their properties look takes up the designing of their house. Backyard waterfall and features like that gives dramatic change and affects the decor of the yard as well. There are some features available as well that comes with mechanical programming that works in beautiful styles and appearance. These are easy to get and can be installed without much issues. In order to construct an ultimate ambience for outdoor of your property, installing garden water features can be a very good option. Cascade of waterfall and serenity that eventually experiences while living in such surrounding can be extremely pleasant. Continue reading this article to know more about different kind of style and features.

How to grow your favourite flowering houseplants

There was a time when houses large and small belonging to garden fanciers sported a succession of home-grown indoor plants all year round. From the smallest succulent to the mightiest tree fern, an older generation of gardeners always made time and space for plants that did well in the house. This is much less likely to be the case nowadays. The sad truth is that many of us appear to have dismissed the idea that it is possible to grow plants for the house easily and well. As with alpines, there seems to be a belief that specimen houseplants are old hat and difficult to grow. I also think that gardeners have lost their skills – and with it their nerve: we worry that we are more likely to kill a cymbidium orchid, say, than be able to guide it through successive years of abundant flowering.

Gardening habits and trends have changed over the decades: since evergreens such as ficus, monstera and dieffenbachia rampaged through the homes and offices of the Seventies and Eighties, old-fashioned flowering houseplants have been left reeling. The low maintenance aspect of these dreary plants played a big hand in lowering our expectations – and the advent of widespread central heating didn’t help either. Rooms became too hot for flowering plants, while the evergreens flourished. As time went by we picked up the habit of buying plants only when in flower and disposing of them quickly – potted azaleas, ‘Paper White’ narcissi, poinsettias at Christmas and other forms of cheery bedding such as polyanthus, cyclamen and pot mums. That market has grown and long may it remain. But if we are bold we can keep such plants – and many others like them – flowering well each year without too much effort. My feeling is that it is often the knowledge of what to do in the off-season that holds us back. This, along with the belief that we need a greenhouse. But in many cases there is no need for this, merely a little space outside in the shade during the season when the plants are not flowering, where they can be kept until the following year. This is true of the jasmines and the woody plants such as the azaleas and the delicately scented rhododendrons – ‘Fragrantissimum’ and ‘Lady Alice Fitzwilliam’.

If you need a frost-free spot, many a determined gardener has turned a light window sill, porch, spare bedroom, under-used dining room, glass lean-to or conservatory into the ideal location for indoor plants. Bulbs are a good example. Why not grow a big tub of freesias or tuberoses that come back year after year? Freesias give excellent value because they come back strongly with very little needed in the way of attention. Corms planted in spring will flower in summer and afterwards can remain in their pots for several years before they begin to weaken. All they need are twigs to support the leaves and flowers, a cool frost-free place to spend the winter and a top-dressing of compost before they shoot again in the spring. Hardy climbing Jasminum officinale is a plant that suits a cool, indoor room well and is possibly the finest of all scented indoor plants. The joy, apart from the magnificent scent, is that it can be pruned to any size, as can its close relation J. grandiflorum, which has red on the underside of the flowers but is equally strong smelling.

The key to shaping a jasmine, and to keeping it for a long time, is to cut the flowering stems hard back after flowering. In alternate years, prune the roots back fearlessly by a third and repot with fresh compost. Both species need a cool winter to set flower buds so, after they have flowered, remove them to a cold room or even outdoors. They are frost hardy but are vulnerable in pots. Some of the other old favourites, such as tall growing cane-stemmed begonias, are back in fashion and are surprisingly easy to grow.  Cane-stem begonias, the group that includes the angel wing begonia, make magnificent plants that can last for years. They do need warmth but, given the right conditions, they will continue flowering all year round. Be careful not to overwater and keep them out of direct sunlight. They will need support and regular feeding. They also propagate very easily from stem cuttings nudged into a very light mix of moist sand or perlite.

Another charmer is the palm-leaved begonia, B. luxurians. More spreading than upright, the most important thing is to have both these types in wide pots, as they tend to become top heavy. Old-fashioned gloxinias (now renamed Sinningia) are a cinch to grow and cinerarias make excellent pot plants from a packet of seeds sown in spring. A shallow tub with an arrangement of four or five two-litre pots of these annual daisies makes an excellent display through autumn. Of all the houseplants we are likely to encounter it is perhaps the orchid, either moth or cymbidium, that takes the most looking after. Jim Durrant of McBean’s Orchids near Lewes, East Sussex, where the oldest orchid is 117 years old and still flowering, advises his clients of three essentials for success with cymbidiums. The first is to use rainwater for watering. The second is to water sparingly. (McBean’s offer a repotting service and Jim sees more cases of drowning than any other complaint.) His third tip is to avoid strong sunlight.

As a rough guide, water the plant once a week during the flowering season, September to May, when it is indoors and once a fortnight when it is outside during the summer. Feeding is also important but only in the flowering season: every third of the four waterings per month. All garden centres stock orchid feed. “Plants don’t commit suicide,” Jim says, “it is what we do to them that creates the problems. Cymbidiums are cool temperature plants and do not like excessive heat, but they do like light. Direct sunlight can be very damaging. The best place for a cymbidium in the house is a north-facing window.” Lack of availability is the final reason for the drop in popularity of indoor plants. Nurseries such as the excellent Hill House, near Staverton in Devon, which specialises in tender exotics such as justicia, abutilons and many varieties of begonia, are few and far between. We should search them out. Clivia, tibouchina, citrus and many other plants on offer at such nurseries are well within our capacity to grow and the pleasure gleaned from looking after houseplants is immense.

Flowering houseplants to put on your list

Clivias (Clivia miniata)

Guaranteed to flower year-on-year. They tend to perform in autumn and must then be removed to a cool spot in order to set flower buds for the following year. Cut off stem at the base after flowering. Then ease off watering and lower the temperature for winter. Bring back into growth and feed from late spring through the summer.

African violet (Saintpaulia)

Related to gloxinias, too much heat and water will kill them. They flower all year but like a period of dormancy in winter. Give them a cool spot, ease back on the watering and repot plants before bringing back into growth. Avoid watering the leaves.

The Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)

Keep it damp in organic, fibrous compost, away from direct sunlight and not too hot.

Aspidistra elatior

If you hark back to the Victorian era when evergreens filled every corner then the aspidistras fit the bill on account of their tolerance of low light and dry conditions. ‘Snow Peaks’ is a popular variety with white  dappled leaves.

Ivy (Hedera helix)

Ivy does not like it too hot and is tolerant of shade. Keep damp and give it a frame to climb over.

Aeonium arboreum ‘Schwarzkopf’

This succulent that you see growing everywhere on the Isles of Scilly functions brilliantly as a houseplant in a gritty compost. Impossible to kill but don’t overwater. Any temperature.

Recommended suppliers

  • Staverton Bridge Nursery
  • McBean’s Orchids
  • Hill House Nursery

    Hot tips for handy houseplants

    • Buy dormant tubers in spring.
    • Place these in shallow seed trays half-filled with fibrous potting compost. Bury them to half way and keep moist at 50-60F. Water only to keep moist.
    • After a couple of weeks, as they begin to shoot, pot them up into two-litre pots of John Innes No 3, again buried to halfway up the tuber.
    • Water sparingly but increase as they grow and while they flower. Feed fortnightly with Maxicrop Organic Flower fertiliser.
    • Once flowers are finished the foliage will die back. Stop watering. Cut the remains of the flower and foliage away from the tuber.
    • Remove the tuber from compost. Cut off old roots (the gloxy is now dormant) and store part-dried tuber in a box of dry compost, half buried for the winter in a frost-free place, dark or light.

Till and Cultivate Your Garden

Cultivators and Tillers

Both cultivators and tillers dig into the ground. Choosing one over the other depends on the size and type of planting area you need to prepare. Cultivators work well in existing planting areas for weeding, loosening the soil and working in amendments. Tillers are more powerful machines that are better for larger areas. Some tillers are designed for breaking new ground to create new planting beds.

For more information on choosing the right machine for your planting project, see our Cultivator and Tiller Buying Guide.

Tilling for Best Results

Good soil allows roots to quickly develop and spread, which in turn increases the water and nutrient intake necessary for healthy and productive plants. A tiller or cultivator makes quick work of what could be a strenuous task if done by hand.

Fall Tilling

Improving the soil is best done in the fall. Tilling in soil amendments at that time allows them to settle in and break down over the winter. When spring arrives, the garden is ready for a new crop.

Tilling a New Garden

You can successfully till the soil for a new garden once it warms up in the spring as long as it’s somewhat dry. Soil needs to reach a temperature of about 60°F before you work it. If a handful of soil crumbles when you squeeze it, it should be dry enough.

You can remove sod before tilling or work it into the soil. Working the sod in during the fall will provide nitrogen to the soil. However, tilling sod under in the spring may only cause the grass to resurface as the temperature warms.

Caution

Make sure that the selected garden area doesn’t have underground utility lines that you can damage with a cultivator or tiller. Before digging, cultivating or tilling a new garden, call 811 to be connected with the local utility companies. They’ll mark your utility lines for you.

Evaluating and Amending the Soil

Good soil must have nutrients and must allow water to reach plant roots. Good soil also allows excess water to drain away. Using a cultivator or tiller is a great way to work needed amendments into the soil.

Inspect the soil and feel it with your hands to determine whether water can permeate it. If the soil is excessively damp or has high clay content, consider adding sand or gypsum. These amendments will help break it up and allow moisture and nutrients to move through the soil.

Organic material such as compost can improve most soil. However, some soil conditions require extra attention. If the soil is extremely wet or thin, consider constructing a raised garden bed instead.

Test the soil to check the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and the pH level. Make the necessary adjustments based on the type of plants you plan to grow.

For more information on soil tests, see Test and Improve Soil.

Tilling a Garden

For best results when tilling, wait a day or so after it rains so the dirt is semidry. A little moisture will make the soil easier to till. Soil that is too wet will clump and eventually dry into hard clods that will be difficult to break up.

Read the cultivator or tiller manufacturer’s instructions carefully to become familiar with the controls and for information on use, maintenance and safety. Wear eye protection, sturdy work shoes or boots and any other safety gear and clothing specified by the manufacturer. Instructions for cultivating and tilling may vary by the machine and the type of work you’re doing. Here are some general steps for tilling a garden.

Plant a Rose Garden

Rose gardening has given many people the impression that roses are difficult to grow and maintain. Growing roses can be challenging, but you don’t have to leave it to the experts. Here is a brief tutorial on rose basics for beginners.

Rose Planting Types

Roses are available in three types for planting:

  • Bare-root roses are dormant, sold during winter and early spring. Plant them as soon as the ground warms enough to be workable.
  • Prepackaged roses are bare-root plants packaged in a bag or box with a moisture retaining medium such as sawdust around the roots.
  • Container-grown roses are grown in containers at the nursery. They’re budding or already blooming and are available in spring.

Rose Growing Types

Roses are defined by their growing type.

  • One type is budded, meaning that one variety of rose is grafted onto the roots of a sturdier variety. The grafting is visible at the bud union. Grafted roses combine the best qualities of strong rootstock with the foliage and blooms of the grafted variety.
  • Roses are also grown on their own roots. Own-root plants are grown from cuttings so the entire plant is of the same variety.

If a grafted rose is heavily pruned or cold-damaged, the rose that grows back may be of the rootstock’s variety, not the grafted one you purchased. Under the same circumstances, the own-root rose will grow back true to its variety.

Rose Grading

Bareroot roses are graded according to the quality of their growth. Grades also designate the future size and productivity of the rose. Grades are established by the American Association of Nurserymen and should be noted on the plant tag. The three grades are:

  • #1 is the best of a variety. Three or more healthy canes and a strong root system are essential.
  • #1.5 roses have two or more thin canes and usually take longer to develop.
  • #2 roses have one or two small, thin canes and may require extra care to establish.

For the best of the best, look for The All-American Rose Selection (AARS) designation. These roses are judged to be the superior in disease resistance, flower production, color and fragrance.  With all of the varieties available, you’re sure to find a variety to fit your taste and garden style.

Planting Roses

When planting roses, whether bare-root or container-grown, the procedure is the same as for other shrubs. Remember a few key factors that especially affect roses:

  • Remember that the bud union should be about one inch below soil level when planted.
  • In warm areas, the graft can be slightly above soil level.
  • Prior to planting, cut off any dead leaves as well as decayed or thin shoots. Also prune damaged or extremely long roots.
  • Soak bareroot roses in tepid water overnight before planting.
  • Always water soil well when planting.
  • If you’re able to plant within ten days of getting the rose, leave it in its package in an unheated (but frost-proof) room. Keep it moist until you’re ready to plant. If planting after ten days, heel-in the plants until you are able to plant properly.
  • Make sure the hole is large enough to accommodate root growth.
  • Roses appreciate organic matter mixed into the soil when planting.

Shop Garden Soil

Fertilizer, Water and Mulch for Roses

Fertilizing Roses
Roses are heavy feeders and need several applications of fertilizer during the growing season. Use a fertilizer formulated especially for roses and follow the instructions on the package. In general, begin feeding when new growth starts in the spring and discontinue feeding in early fall. Feeding too late will stimulate new growth that is susceptible to winter injury. Do not exceed the recommended application rate. Water thoroughly after each feeding.    


Watering Roses

Roses need a lot of water. Remember how deep you planted the rose? Water needs to reach that level to get to the roots and keep the plant healthy and blooming. Water thoroughly at least twice a week if there is no rainfall. Set a watering schedule and adjust as dictated by the weather.

Summer especially brings a need for vigilance. Even though you may see fewer flowers during the summer, cooler weather will bring more, so keep up the watering schedule. To discourage black spot and mildew, water in the morning and avoid wetting the leaves. 


Mulching Roses

A three- to four-inch layer of organic mulch will control weeds, retain soil moisture and help maintain a constant soil temperature. As organic mulch breaks down, it improves soil structure and adds nutrients.

Shop Mulch

Pruning Roses

Proper pruning increases blooms and promotes healthy plants. In general, prune when growth just begins; from midwinter to mid-spring depending on where you live. Your signal is when the uppermost buds begin to swell, but leaves are yet to appear. Each variety has specific recommendations, so check yours before cutting.

  • First remove all dead wood, cutting back to healthy wood.
  • Reduce the number of canes. The number of canes to leave and their recommended lengths differ by variety.
  • During the growing season, prune only to remove diseased foliage or canes.
  • Deadhead faded flowers.
  • Destroy any diseased foliage to control disease spread.
  • Use curved by-pass pruners for the cleanest cut. Keep your pruner blades sharp.

Shop Pruning Tools

Other Tips for Rose Care

  • Buy good, healthy plants.
  • Roses need full sun for optimal growth and blooming. Select an area that receives a minimum of six hours of sunlight a day.
  • Plant in an area with good air circulation to decrease disease susceptibility.
  • Avoid overcrowding.
  • Prepare the soil with organic material before planting.
  • Provide good drainage. Soil should be loose (not compacted).
  • Feed plants for proper plant development.
  • Clean up dead branches and leaves from the rose garden.
  • Inspect plants regularly for any problems.
  • Treat problems immediately.
  • Treat both the top and bottom of the leaves when applying sprays or dusts to leaves.
  • Find a concise rose grower’s guide to use as reference.

Create a Container Garden

88

Planting in Containers

Planting in containers has several advantages. Containers allow you to:

  • Use your landscape space more efficiently. Containers can be spaced closer than plants in the ground, allowing you to create a lot of impact with less space and expense. Containers may be grouped for intensified fragrance.
  • Have a portable garden. Use them indoors or out. Move them to the patio for your garden party. Move them for protection from extreme weather. Plants can also be rotated so you can showcase what’s in bloom. Rotate them to the background as blooms fade.
  • Control the soil quality. Your plants have quality soil to thrive in. Use containers in areas with poor soil or poor drainage. Eliminate competition from other plants and reduce accessibility to many pests.
  • Increase access to the gardener. Containers can be worked in with less stooping and bending.
  • Spray and fertilize more efficiently.
  • Isolate for treatment of pest or disease.

Types of Containers

Theoretically at least, anything that holds soil can be used as a container. The category covers everything from plain, decorative, terrariums, from the rustic charm of an old shoe to the formality of bonsai. We will stick to the basics:

  • Clay or terra cotta is porous and dries out more quickly than other materials. The porosity also helps prevent the soil from getting too saturated. Plants in clay pots may need watering more frequently. Clay pots can be waterproofed if you wish.
  • Wood containers include window boxes, barrels, buckets or baskets. Moisture can be a problem. Seal the wood or simply put other containers inside of the wooden one.
  • Plastic containers range from the nursery pots that you purchase plants in to highly decorative versions.
  • Concrete planters offer a formal statement to the garden.
  • Ceramic and metal are primarily used for indoor houseplants. Both offer many decorative options.
  • Hanging baskets can be made from many of the materials above, including wire. Hanging baskets tend to dry our very quickly, so keep an eye on them. Make sure they are hanging from a secure hook.
  • Self-watering containers are designed to wick water and water-soluble fertilizer up from a reservoir built into the bottom of the container.

Choosing Containers

When choosing containers, consider the following tips:

  • Good drainage is essential. Check for the drainage hole(s) before you fill it up with soil. Make sure the drainage holes are unobstructed. Cover the drainage hole with a piece of window screen or a piece of a broken clay pot to allow excess water to drain without losing soil. You may want to add 1″ of gravel to the bottom of large containers to add stability. Any pot with a drainage hole in the bottom needs a saucer underneath.
  • If you plan on keeping the container outside during the winter, buy concrete or tough plastic instead of terra-cotta. Terra-cotta will crumble with alternate freezing and thawing.
  • Choose containers that match the plant’s form and color. For outdoor use, look for planters to match your landscape.
  • Dark colors will get hotter in summer (especially black plastic).
  • Make sure the container is big enough to allow root growth. Check the plant tag to get an idea of the plant’s mature size before planting. If in doubt, get a larger pot. A pot should also be heavy enough to resist wind.
  • A stand with wheels is a good idea for larger pots.

Basic Container Gardening Elements

For a successful container garden project, pay attention to the basic elements:

  • Soil – Good soil is essential for all container-grown plants. Fill the container with quality potting soil up to an inch from the rim – any more soil will wash out when you water. Expect some settling of soil over time.
  • Water – More frequent watering is necessary for container plants. Water when the soil feels dry to the touch. Continue watering until liquid runs from the bottom of the container. In the hot days of summer, containers may require daily watering. If you are combining plant varieties in a container, make sure the moisture requirements are the same.
  • Food – Use diluted plant food. Because water drains out more quickly, so will the fertilizer. You may fertilize your container garden with either a slow-release fertilizer or a water-soluble, quick release fertilizer such as 20-20-20.
  • Light – Provide light requirements as dictated by the variety. If you are combining plant varieties in a container, make sure the light requirements are the same. Remember to turn the containers occasionally to maximize light exposure on all sides.
  • Planting – Space vegetable, herb, and flower transplants about 1/3 closer than in the garden. This guarantees a full container with a great appearance. A tree or shrub root ball should be only slightly smaller than the container. Repot as needed when growth dictates. It’s a good idea to repot every 3-4 years to replace soil which has experienced salt build-up.
  • Temperature – Container plants require extra care to prevent overheating or freezing. Either can cause drying out.
  • Grooming – Prune, deadhead and pinch back as needed. Check container plants often to keep them from getting leggy. Watch for disease and pests. Remove dead foliage and flowers to prevent fungal diseases. Because container plants are closer together, the opportunity for disease is greater.

Take a look at Container Gardening to get tips and plans for dressing up your outdoors with container plants.

Winterizing Your Container

In winter, container plants face several challenges. They may dry out or freeze. Freezing can harm both plants and containers. Most plants go into dormancy in colder months as well. The procedure varies by the severity of the winters. Annuals in containers can be discarded at the end of the season. In general, for plants that you want to keep over the winter:

  • Give the plants a final watering.
  • Cut back perennials.
  • Wrap the container in an insulating material. Burlap, old blankets, even bubble wrap can work. Containers can also be insulated with mulch or leaves, anything to protect the plant and container itself from damage.
  • Instead of the above, if you have space, move containers into a sheltered area such as a garage or basement.

Control Weeds in the Lawn and Garden

Recognizing Types of Weeds

By definition, a weed is any plant that is growing where you do not want it to grow. Flowers growing in the lawn or grass growing in the flower bed would be considered weeds. Botanically, there are three types of weeds:

  • Broadleaf (ex. dandelion)
  • Grassy (ex. crabgrass)
  • Grass-like (ex. wild onion)

Weed seeds exist in almost all lawns and gardens, and spread in a number of ways. They can be dispersed by wind, water, animals, soil amendments, poor quality grass seed and lawn and garden equipment. Many weed seeds remain dormant for years before they begin to grow, since they must reach the soil’s surface and receive the proper amount of sunlight and moisture before they germinate.

There are three main classifications of weeds:

Annuals normally grow, produce seeds and die within a single year. In warmer climates, some annuals may survive a second year. In general, annual weeds are the easiest to kill.

Biennials live for two years. Biennials devote the first year to vegetative development and the second year to flowering and seed development.

Perennials live from season to season and produce seeds each year.

Controlling Weeds by Promoting Desirable Plants

In the fight against weeds, the most important element is to promote the best environment possible for the growth of desirable vegetation. There are a variety of lawn and garden conditions that can discourage desirable plants, increasing the potential for weed development:

  • Incorrect watering
  • Improper fertilization
  • Soil compaction
  • Insect damage
  • Disease
  • Poor drainage
  • Improper sunlight
  • Excessive wear on a lawn

How to Remove Weeds By Hand

Removing unwanted plants by hand or with garden tools is the safest, most selective and environmentally friendly way to control weeds.

You can remove weeds at any time, but immediately following a good rain often makes it easier. Attack a weed as soon as it shows up. Pull the weed close to the base, lifting out as much root as possible.

For larger weeds with extensive roots, like thistles and dandelions, use a garden fork, spike or slim trowel. Keep the hole as small as possible. Place the end close to the weed’s base and plunge it deep into the ground. Loosen the surrounding soil. Grab the weed under its crown and pull out the entire root.

For best results in pest control (including weed control) with minimal chemical use, consider following an Integrated Pest Management schedule. For more information see Control Pests in the Garden without Chemicals.

Using Herbicides to Control Weeds

Manual weed removal may not be practical for large lawns and gardens or for areas overgrown with many weeds. In these cases, you may choose to use herbicides. When you apply them properly, herbicides are very effective at eliminating weeds. Herbicides are available in two main categories:

Systemic herbicides enter the plant through the roots and leaves and move throughout the inside of the plant.

Contact herbicides kill from the outside in. They attack the exposed parts of the plant, killing the weed by reducing its ability to feed itself through photosynthesis.

Within these two categories, herbicides may also be selective or nonselective:

Selective herbicides, when you apply them as directed by the manufacturer, kill only certain plants. A good example of a selective herbicide is a lawn weed killer designed specifically for the removal of broadleaf plants. These products will remove the weeds without killing the established lawn in which the weeds grow. Young, freshly sewn grass would still be susceptible to the herbicide however, since it would not have had an opportunity to fully establish itself.

Nonselective herbicides kill plants without discretion. They will kill all plants they come into contact with. You can use these products, for example, when preparing an area for planting or when attempting to establish a new lawn. Through their use, all living vegetation — including problem plants — can be removed from an area, giving the gardener a clean slate with which to work.

Finally, herbicides are either pre-emergent or post-emergent.

Pre-emergent herbicides are designed for application before the targeted weed germinates, and are an effective preventative method for controlling weeds. Crabgrass preventer is a good example. Pre-emergents establish a chemical barrier that will not kill established plants, but will prevent weeds from successfully growing. The protective barrier breaks down in six to eight weeks. Use of a pre-emergent, therefore, requires proper timing to be effective – apply them very early in the season. Be aware that pre-emergents can harm some desirable ornamental plants and turf grasses. As always, read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Post-emergent herbicides are designed to attack weeds that are already established and growing. All of the contact weed killers are post-emergents. Apply post-emergents later in the growing season, after weeds are established but before they have gone to seed.

The timing of pre- and post-emergent herbicide application is critical. Applying them too later or too early is basically a waste of time and the herbicide.

Tips for Controlling Weeds with Herbicides

Remember these key points when using herbicides for weed control:

  • Read all herbicide labels. Find out whether you’re applying a selective or non-selective herbicide. Since selective herbicides target a specific type of weed, you can apply them more liberally. Non-selective herbicides will kill any plant; so apply these carefully and only to plants you want to kill.
  • Mark your containers. Designate specific spray bottles and sprayers for herbicide use with a permanent marker and keep separate containers for watering.
  • Do not mow or prune before product application. More available leaf surface on the weed is better for absorbing the herbicide.
  • Focus on young, actively growing plants. Apply herbicides to younger plants to stop rampant growth before it starts. Older plants may require stronger chemicals or multiple applications.
  • Make sure the plants you want to keep are mature enough to withstand the effects of the chemical. Young desirable plants may not be able to fight off the effects of most herbicides.
  • You can treat large areas with a hose-end attachment. You can also apply granular herbicides with a broadcast or drop spreader.
  • After plants have germinated, spot treatment is the best choice to avoid chemical damage to desirable plants. Use a spray herbicide for spot weeding. Apply directly onto the weed to kill the entire plant. Repeat as necessary and do not apply to the lawn.
  • Avoid applying chemicals on windy days. The chemical may drift or run onto desirable plants and flowers, killing them as well.
  • Do not mow or prune for several days after herbicide application. This will give the plants time to absorb the chemical and limit your contact with it.
  • Do not discard weeds and clippings where the weeds can spread to other planting areas.

Weed Control with Herbicides and Safety

Herbicides can be effective in controlling weeds, but be careful to handle these powerful chemicals properly and safely. For safety and to see the maximum benefits of the product:

  • Closely follow the herbicide manufacturer’s instructions, including those for use, safety, clothing, protective gear, storage and disposal. Failure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations can increase the dangers associated with use of the chemicals and decrease their effectiveness.
  • Always wear gloves appropriate for the herbicide you’re using in addition to long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, rubber boots and any safety gear specified by the herbicide manufacturer when applying these chemicals. Wash out all clothing after use.
  • Be sure to use only the recommended amount of herbicide to prevent buildup in water tables that can harm the environment.
  • After application, keep children and pets off a treated area according to the product instructions.
  • Store chemicals in a cool, dry and dark place safely out of children’s reach.

Weed Control Schedule

Like lawn and garden care, weed control duties extend through different seasons.

Early spring – Inspect your lawn as spring approaches and then decide on the treatment. If you’re using herbicide, apply a pre-emergent shortly before annual weeds, such as crabgrass, begin to grow in the spring. A good rule is to apply the pre-emergent before the dogwoods begin to bloom. You may decide to use a pre-emergent combined with fertilizer as an early lawn treatment.

Late spring – In the middle of the growing season, determine which weeds have come back and repeat weed killer application or remove weeds selectively with herbicide or by hand.

Fall – If you’re using herbicide, treat your lawn one last time with a general weed killer after the final mowing. Remove large weeds by hand to ensure they will not survive over the winter.

What a Landscape Contractor can do for Your Home

While it may not seem like there’s any technical expertise that goes into landscaping, you’d be amazed at what these professionals can do for your home. From a comprehensive plan for your flowers, shrubs, and trees to stunning stone and brick features including landscaping walls, walkways, and steps; from an automated sprinkler system, pond, waterfall, or pool to a professional outdoor lighting plan that will illuminate your home’s best nighttime features, a landscape contractor is the person to call to change your home and your home life. But to get the best and most cost-effective results, you need to know a little bit about landscape design and your options for choosing a contractor. Landscape Contractors, Landscape Architects, and Design/Build Firms Landscape contractors can fit into a few different molds. A landscape architect, for example, is an individual that designs your landscape and has extensive knowledge of plant life, land surveying, lawn drainage, and a great eye for landscape design and aesthetics in general. Many professional landscaping companies have at least one landscape architect on staff, in addition to an army of landscape workers. These all-inclusive landscaping companies are also known as design/build firms. Meanwhile, you can also find more low-key landscapers who can help less mobile homeowners plant trees, shrubs, and flowers and/or move mulch, stones, brick to some basic landscaping features. Indeed, many lawn service companies will overlap their services with projects usually considered under the umbrella of landscape contractors. Professional Landscaping Services: Design, Installation, and Costs In terms of cost and scope of work, however, these two molds couldn’t be further apart. A lawn service company won’t “transform” your property, but they may charge only several hundred dollars, maybe a grand or two for larger properties. With a design/build firm, on the other hand, you may not even recognize your property by the time the project is done. If you go all out with an in-ground pool, elegant walkways, and a large patio, the price tag may approach $100,000. But before you get too far, be sure to discuss what works best for your home and lifestyle. The first thing a landscape contractor can do for you is simply avail you of the enormous landscaping options you have. Grass lawns are still the default landscaping choice, but alternatives are gaining momentum as high-maintenance, irrigation-intensive grass lawns are slowly beginning to lose favor. Clover, moss and ornamental grass are viable alternatives. Xeriscaping your entire lawn is also a good idea. Even ultra-realistic synthetic turf and decorative gravel are on the rise.

Planning Ahead: Maintaining Your Landscape Remembering the seasons is something else a landscape contractor is going to bring to your home landscaping. Homeowners tend to focus solely on what their landscape looks like in spring and summer. Late autumn and winter don’t have to be void of landscaping features. This can involve not only evergreen trees and shrubs but choosing trees with interesting branches that easily catch falling snow. When your landscaping project is done, your contractor will also be able to give professional advice and tips for the maintenance your specific landscape will need. Every tree, plant, grass, mulch, etc is different and requires different amounts and kinds of care. Your local climate can have just as much of an affect as the foliage and landscaping features themselves. A little local and expert knowledge can go a long way to keeping your landscaping looking beautiful and with manageable time and financial investments.

Thai Caladiums – Will they rock the Caladium world

For those of us who fancy Caladiums, and who are accustomed to the types we see in the big box stores, seeing a plant like the one pictured at right is sure to make one’s eyes pop out of their sockets! Having grown this plant firsthand, I can state with certainty that the picture doesn’t do the plant justice. The red color is incredibly intense and it is made even more so by the shiny leaf surface. This particular characteristic is amazingly unlike the Caladiums we all know and love. As a hybridizer myself, I’d love to know what parent(s) the Thai breeders used to come up with this plant and others like it. Until I saw this one, I had never seen a Caladium with a shiny leaf before.

Of course, not all of the new Thai Caladiums sport shiny leaves; as most of them have leaf textures that more closely approximate the kind of Caladium leaves that we are used to. However, one characteristic that these Thai plants do have in common, and which the regular Caladium plants do not have, is a thicker or heavier leaf substance. So far, most of the Thai varieties I have seen or grown have thicker leaves, and in some cases, much thicker leaves, than such familiar horticultural varieties as “White Christmas” or “Postman Joyner”.

What’s Going On?

As far as I have been able to determine, the origin of these new Caladiums is rooted in royalty. The Thai royal household, to be precise, had these plants bred for their exclusive enjoyment and not for the horticulture market at large. The story is that this breeding has been going on for a century or longer, with horticulture in the west completely unaware of it. Now that Thai Caladiums are out of the bag, as it were, we have a chance to see what a hundred years of secret royal breeding can produce.

The Thai Caladium breeders went in different directions than other Caladium breeders, apparently using some species or varieties that are unknown to Western horticulture.

One species being used that is familiar to collectors is Caladium rubicundrum, a larger purple-leaved plant whose leaves also have lighter pinkish-purple spots. I’ve grown this plant myself and was anxious to try breeding with it, but my specimen failed to produce any pollen. Knowing what I know about genetics, I figure that the Thai breeders found or developed a fertile selection of C. rubicundrum and thus were able to use it in their breeding programs. Infertile plants can be made fertile by doubling their chromosomes (increasing ploidy). Such plants often have thicker leaves and are generally shorter and stockier than normal or diploid types. Interestingly, many of the Thai Caladiums have those characteristics, lending credence to my hypothesis.

An example of what I believe is a hybrid involving C. rubicundrum is pictured at left.

Easy as Thai?

My experience growing these plants has shown me that they are not as easy or carefree to grow as the usual Caladiums I have grown in the past. These require a bit more attention, and do not produce the large corms you might expect. They seem to be a favorite with aphids, which will infest the new emerging leaves and cause them to become distorted. Thai Caladiums do not like cold temperatures and will go dormant (or die) quickly when exposed to temperatures in the 40s and 30s. I was surprised to see their leaves show cold burn when tropical Alocasia plants nearby were undamaged. As a breeder, I am convinced that many of these new Thai Caladiums are at least tetraploid, and may be of even higher ploidy than that. This explains to me why many are smaller, have thicker leaves, and grow slower than the Caladiums we have grown for years. Some of these plants may be genetically predisposed to growing year round, as opposed to the seasonal growth we see with varieties like “White Christmas”. You can get a good idea of the Thai Caladium varieties now available by visiting Asiatica Nursery.

All in all, I have found these plants to be very interesting and worth a try, As for their future with me, well, when I get the chance, I’ll try mixing these up genetically with the Western types and see what I can come up with!