Mighty Mint: All About This Old-Fashioned Favorite

Mint, or mentha, is grown practically everywhere in the world; therefore, it makes appearances in almost every cuisine. This versatile culinary herb is delicious both dried and fresh.

So, why do people hate growing mint? Bring up the topic of mint with many a 2019-8-7 13.36.57.658gardener, and you’ll be greeted with a resounding, “Don’t plant mint! It will take over your yard!” With thoughtful preparation and placement, however, mint can be a wonderful and containable addition to your culinary garden.

Perennial or Annual?

Mint is a hardy perennial that is one of the first to arrive each spring. It also retains its potency of flavor over the years.

How to Plant Mint

  • Where: Mint performs its best in full sun if the soil is kept moist, but it also thrives in partial shade. Mint is considered an invasive plant, since it sends out “runners” and spreads vigorously. Don’t let that fact deter you from enjoying fresh mint in your garden. Opt to grow mint in containers or, if you want to plant mint in the ground, submerge it in a large container and leave about two inches of the rim exposed above the soil to prevent spreading.mint_PNG24
  • When: Plant mint at any time. Mint is sturdy and resilient. Don’t waste your time starting mint from seed.

How to Cultivate Mint

  • Soil: Mint thrives in moist, rich soil. To keep the soil moist, cover the soil with a little mulch.
  • Sun: Mint can grow in sun or part shade. If you are planting mint indoors, where it also performs well, make sure you place your container near a sunny window.
  • Water: Regular watering is really the only maintenance mint needs. Always keep the soil moist.

How to Harvest Mint

Mint is another herb that is easy to harvest, and can be harvested at any time. In fact, regular harvesting is encouraged, in order to prevent legginess. You may opt to harvest most of the plant at once, clipping away up to 2/3 of the length of the stems, or you may clip away only what you need.

Use these tips and you’ll be feeling MINTY-FRESH! 

How to Use Bat Guano

Bat guano, or dung, has a long history of use as a soil enricher. It is obtained from only fruit and insect-feeding species of bats. Bat guano makes an excellent fertilizer; it’s fast-acting, has little odor, and can be worked into the soil prior to planting or during active growth.bat-guano-400x266

What Do They Use Bat Guano For?
There are several uses for bat guano. It can be used as a soil conditioner, enriching the soil and improving drainage and texture, and a suitable fertilizer for plants and lawns, making them healthy and green. It can be used as a natural fungicide and controls nematodes in the soil as well. In addition, bat guano makes an acceptable compost activator, speeding up the decomposition process. With so many uses, why would you not use bat guano?!

How to Use Bat Guano as a Fertilizer
As a fertilizer, bat guano can be used as top dressing or worked into the soil and can be use fresh or dried. Typically, this fertilizer is applied in smaller quantities than other types of manure.

Bat guano provides a high concentration of nutrients to plants and the surrounding soil. According to the NPK of bat guano, its concentration ingredients are 10-3-1. This NPK fertilizer analysis translates to 10 percent nitrogen (N), 3 percent phosphorus (P), and 1 percent potassium or potash (K). The higher nitrogen levels are responsible for fast, green growth. Phosphorus aids with root and flower development while potassium provides for the plant’s overall health.

Note: You may also find bat guano with higher phosphorus ratios, such as 3-10-1. Why? Some types are processed this way. It’s also believed that the diet of some bat species may have an effect. For example, those feeding strictly on insects produce higher nitrogen content, whereas fruit-eating bats result in a high phosphorus guano.

How to Rid yourself of Snails!

We all know the joy of plants can come at a price, whether it be a plant disease, fungus, or pest. We love growing and caring for our vegetables, shrubs and indoor houseplants, but one snail can ruin a plant in a very short span of time. If you’re not sure if you have a snail problem, or how to fix it, you’re in the right place.snAil

With snails, most of the damage happens at night, when they emerge to feed. They prefer clipping tender, young shoots, but may chew irregular holes through leaves and flowers or feed on soft fruits and the bark of young plants. As they move around, snails leave a slimy trail that dries to a silvery film by morning.

Control of snails is a major problem in all habitats. There are many things that can be done to reduce the potential of a problem occurring. Eliminate (as much as you can), items that are sitting on the ground (as they are possible resting places for these slimy pests) such as boards, boxes, stones, debris, weeds, plants in pots that have runners on the ground or any other items that provide shelter. Reducing hiding places decreases snail survival.121.png

A few options are available to kill the snails. You can treat for snails organically with Diatomaceous Earth or you can also rid yourself of snails chemically. Using a dust or solution that contains spinosad + iron phosphate can lure snails from their hiding spots. Bonide Slug & Bug bugandslugKiller contains both of these chemicals AND prevents those disgusting slime trails! Just spread the pellets around your garden, landscape, or in your indoor plants and start to enjoy your greenery again!

“Which fertilizer should I use for annuals?”

We hear this question daily.  All plants – annuals, shrubs, perennials and trees need proper nutrients to grow, stay healthy and look good.  But there are so many fertilizer choices it is easy to be discouraged and end up choosing the easy route – a slow-release fertilizer.  Apply it once and be done with fertilizing for the season.fertilized vs unfertilized plants

Sounds easy, right?  While great for many plants (shrubs) it is not the best for your annuals and hanging baskets.  They need more than a slow-release fertilizer can give them.  They are best fed with a water-soluble fertilizer.

Water soluble fertilizers are fertilizers that can be dissolved in water and makes it is easy to control the precise amount of nutrients available to your plants.  Soluble fertilizers usually have N-P-K numbers listed on their label.  bloom plusThe N is for nitrogen, the P is for phosphorus and the K is for potassium or potash.

Of the 16 (12 of which are contained in water soluble fertilizers) known elements necessary for plant life, N-P-K, are the three that are of the most importance and always listed on water soluble fertilizers, in that order.

  • Nitrogen is the most important of the nutrients and is essential to the production of chlorophyll and is responsible for leaf growth, as well as, overall size of the plant.
  • Phosphorus is necessary for photosynthesis and provides for energy transfer within the plant and is associated with the fruiting or flowering stages of growth.
  • Potassium, or potash, increases chlorophyll levels, helps plants make better use of light and air and increases growth by cell division.

all purposeThe ultimate goal of fertilizing is to supply your plant with the right amount of liquid feednutrients.  Applying a water soluble fertilizer to the annuals and perennials both in the ground and in containers every 7 to 14 days can make a remarkable difference.

Ultimately, your plants will only be as great as the care they receive, and while understanding the best fertilizer for the job may take a little bit of work, the rewards of healthier, longer-lasting plants is the pay off.

Powdery Mildew: What is it and how to get rid of it!

I’ve received numerous questions these past 2 weeks asking what is the powdery substance on my plants and what can I do about it.  You will find it frequently on Crape Myrtles, Indian hawthorn, and roses – but no plant is immune.powdery mildew 2  It is the most common and easily recognized plant disease and is both treatable and, more importantly, preventable by using a fungicide – preferably one that is systemic.  The disease is caused by a fungus and is called Powdery Mildew.

Recognizing Powdery Mildew:  It looks like powdery splotches of white or gray on the leaves and stems of plants.  There are different types of the fungi but they all look the same.

What causes it:  The fungi is everywhere – it overwinters in leaves on the ground and begins producing spores in the spring which are carried by wind and insects to your plant.  High humidity seems to play a part in its growth.

What it does:  Although unattractive it isn’t usually fatal to the plant.  It will stress a plant and infected leaves will gradually turn brown and papery and often fall off prematurely.   If buds are infected they may not open.

powdery mildewThe Good News:  Powdery mildew is host specific – meaning if it is on one type of plant it won’t transfer to another type of plant.  For example:  the powdery mildew on a rose bush will not spread to any other plant except another rose bush.

Treatment:  Use of a systemic fungicide has been successful in treatment in the early stages of the disease and even more importantly in prevention of the disease.  Fertilome Liquid Systemic Fungicide II with propiconazole is recommended for use on powdery mildew.

Other Hints: 

  • Choose plant species that have resistance to powdery mildews. Some examples are the powdery mildew-resistant crape myrtles – most Indian names varieties are in this group.
  • Don’t let years of leaf debris build up in your beds.
  • Pruning or removing infected leaves or stems can help reduce the amount of the fungus.
  • Poor airflow to plants seems to contribute to the problem also, so avoid overcrowding of plants in your landscape.

Moisture Meters: How to Utilize this ‘Secret Weapon’

Ever ask yourself – “Why did that plant die”? or “Why does that plant look so bad?”  Believe it or not, the most frequent cause is either over or under watering a plant.moisture meter   It’s hard to know how much to water a plant if you don’t know how wet or dry the soil is.  Sticking your finger into the dirt is one way of determining the moisture content, but I have a much cleaner, faster and accurate method to share with you…..

It’s a moisture meter.  These simple, inexpensive, measuring devices consist of a metal probe on one end and a small meter on the other.  When you insert the probe into the soil it immediately measures the moisture content and registers it on the dial readout.   It is easy to read and tells you if the soil is dry, moist or wet.

How it works.  Insert the probe about 4 – 6 inches into the soil in the root zone of the plant and read the results on the dial.  Move the probe to another area on the same plant in order to gain a true picture of the soil moisture.  To measure a newly planted shrub insert the probe close to the base of the plant – usually within 3-5 inches of the stem.  An established plant that has been either potted or planted for some time will have a larger root system so you can measure further out from the main stem to get an accurate reading.  Read the scale to find what your moisture level is and then water accordingly.  Only one moisture meter is necessary to check all of your plants – don’t leave it in the plant or outside in the rain or direct sunlight.

Not all plants are alike.  If you are unsure as to how much water a particular plant needs you can find the answer quickly by searching the internet for information on the plant – or call one of us at The Home and Garden Center and we can help you.

No more guess work is necessary when watering either houseplants or shrubs in your flower beds.  Not all plants like the same amount of water – some like it on the dry side, while others require a consistently wet soil.  By using a moisture meter you can accurately measure individual plants and help maintain the correct water level for all plants.

Healthier plants perform to their fullest and providing the right amount of water at the right time is very important to their health.  Lack of water creates extra stress for the plant making it more susceptible to disease.   It can cause plants to wilt, with their leaves curling and dropping off.  Dry conditions or infrequent watering can result in plants losing their lustrous color, they fade to a duller shade of green.  On the opposite end of the scale too much water can drown a plant and cause its roots to starve for oxygen.

Other watering tips: Make sure to use mulch in your flower beds to help not only block weed growth but to help prevent evaporation of moisture from your soil.

Install drip irrigation that waters the root zone of each plant – it is very efficient and cost effective.

Water the soil not the leaves.  Water droplets can act like mini-magnifying glasses and burn your plant.

Don’t rely on rain to have watered your plants sufficiently, check anyhow. Sometimes a plant’s foliage and flowers can act like an umbrella and actually keep water from getting to your soil.

Don’t let your soil dry out completely between watering. Extremely dry soil won’t absorb water – it seems to repel water.  A good soaking is required to bring the soil back to the correct moisture content.

Building Curb Appeal

15 Seconds……………

That’s about how long you have to create a good impression when a buyer first views your home. The moment they pull up, even before the car door opens, they’ve formed an opinion and you had better be sure it’s a good one!

“Because today’s buyers have much more to choose from in the way of inventory, any home for sale must make a positive first impression,” according to the National Association of Realtors.®

But the good news is, you can shape your prospective buyer’s opinion by maximizing your home’s curb appeal – and it’s not going to cost you a fortune.  Here are some ideas of how you can quickly improve the appeal of your home so that it doesn’t stagnate on the market and fetches the best possible price.   These same ideas work for those of you who just purchased a new home and wish to improve upon your existing curb appeal.

  • Eliminate Weeds

Kill them, pull them, dig them – whatever method you choose is up to you, but      get them out of your flower beds, sidewalks, driveways, and paths.

  • Prune or Trim existing plants and trees

Overgrown beds hide the beauty of your home.  Trim back overgrown shrubs,       prune branches from trees, thin out overgrown areas in your flower beds.  If you      are unsure how to properly trim or prune your shrubs and trees look on the internet for advice.  Neaten up any overgrown beds.

  • Plant Rye Grass (if selling in the fall / winter)

Make your yard stand out by having a bright, cheery, green lawn all through the    fall and winter.  It is simple and inexpensive to over-seed your existing lawn with           rye grass.  Just make sure you have not applied a pre-emergent to your lawn – it will prevent the rye seed from germinating.

  • Apply Pre-Emergent

If you are not going to over-seed with rye grass then apply a pre-emergent on your lawn.  This will prevent any cool season weed seeds from germinating and growing into weeds.  Your lawn won’t be green, but it won’t have weeds either.

  • Freshen Mulch

Spread a thin coat of mulch in your existing flower beds and it will make the bed   look much cleaner and new.

  • Replace Dead Plants

            If you have dead plants in existing landscapes then replace them with healthy       plants.  Dead plants give the appearance of neglect and a potential buyer will     wonder what else hasn’t been tended to other than just the plants.

  • Create an instant garden

Container gardens add a welcoming feel and colorful appeal to any home exterior — quickly and affordably. You can buy ready-made containers or create    your own with your favorite plants.

A staggered, asymmetrical arrangement of 3 to 5 pots creates a dynamic setting or flank both sides of the door with single matching pots.  Choose bold colors to add the “wow” to the neutral color of most homes.  The current trend is to combine several different type of plants into your pots designs – small shrubs, ornamental grasses along with an area for seasonal color.  The best part is you can take them with you if you are selling your home.

  • Add Outdoor Fountain to cover road noise

If you happen to be on a busy street and road noise is an issue in your outdoor     seating area you can minimize it with the sounds of falling water from a water           feature.  Offered in a variety of sizes and styles (ornate, contemporary, earthy) let the burbling sounds of falling water take the place of the sound of cars rushing by. Place fountains on level ground in optimum hearing and sight vantage points.

  • Add Seasonal Annual Color to Existing Beds

            Colorful annuals planted in groupings can make a statement that is easily seen     from the road.  These pops of color brighten up the yard and can help draw            attention to them and away from another area of the yard that you might want to          de-emphasize.

  • Create a new planting bed

Add contrast and color to your home with a new planting bed. Prime spots are at the front corners of the yard, along driveways or walkways, and immediately in         front of the house. When creating a new bed, choose features that will frame your home rather than obscure it.  Take advantage of our  “Plant by Number” design program – we design it and you plant it.  Best of all it’s free.

  • Outdoor Lighting

Low-voltage landscape lighting makes a huge impact on your home’s curb            appeal while also providing safety and security. Fixtures can add accent lighting to trees or the house or can illuminate a walking path. If you aren’t able to use lights that require wiring, install solar fixtures (but understand that their light levels are not as bright or as reliable).