How to get rid of WEEDS!

Weeds – We all hate them, but we all have them.  I am going to share with you an easy way to kill weeds in your flower beds – it will work using either an organic or a chemical weed spray.   If done correctly there will be no more crawling around in your bed pulling weeds, no more aching backs or ruined manicures.

What you will need:  Your weed killer of choice mixed up in a sprayer, a large piece of cardboard and a helper.  You will be spraying weeds in your flower bed, but don’t panic…..done correctly it will not harm your plants or shrubs – and here’s why.

The Secret:  The poison is absorbed through the foliage of the weed – it travels down through the plant into the roots and kills it from the root up.  Think of the spray as a bullet.  If a bullet hits you – you die.  If the bullet zings past you – you are unharmed.  This works on the same principle.

The Fun Part:  So step into your flower bed and use the cardboard as a barrier between you and your “good” plants.  You can spray all around your bed by shielding your shrubs with the cardboard – this is where the helper comes into play.  They can maneuver the cardboard around your plants while you spray the weeds.  It doesn’t take very long to accomplish spraying even large beds.

This method is very effective on both nut grass and Bermuda grass along with other weeds.  Over a period of time the number of weeds that reappear will decrease.  If you combine spraying with broadcasting a pre-emergent weed killer throughout your flower bed quarterly you will eventually be almost weed free.

Tips and Hints: 

  • When mixing your poison add a spreader sticker to your sprayer. This helps the poison stick to the weed and not drip off onto the ground so more poison is absorbed into the weed and it is killed faster.
  • Choose a non-windy time to spray to help prevent overspray from floating through the air to good plants.
  • If you do happen to spray a good plant by accident wash it off with the water hose. The plant could be cosmetically damaged but the root ball of the plant will not be effected.
  • Do not weed eat prior to spraying since the foliage is what absorbs the poison.

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.

How to Install a Disappearing Fountain (It’s Easier Than You Think!)

Disappearing Fountains – they offer relaxing sounds, a pleasant view for the eyes, and are a unique feature for any landscape. While they may look difficult to create, they are actually easier to put together than you think!

It is called a disappearing fountain because the water disappears into the rocks below, which disguises a basin below that holds the water and the pump. It’s a simple project to install, although it will take some time and some heavy lifting. It’s a great workout if your back can handle it. If you want the glory but not the grunt work, have someone dig out disappearing-water-fountain-2-disappearing-container-water-fountainthe hole for you—then you can set up the fountain! Get someone to help with the rocks if they are too heavy, or work on them in stages.

To install your disappearing fountain, you only need a few materials and a can-do attitude!

How to Install a Disappearing Fountain

Materials (all available at THGC)

  • Piece of Pottery of your choosing
  • Basin (which comes with a grate as well – size of your choosing)
  • Pump (you’ll need the appropriate GPH depending on pottery size)
  • Fountain Container Kit (if the items are purchased at THGC we will install this for you!)
  • Stones or Landscape Glass (to cover basin)

Preparing to Install a Disappearing Fountain

  • Measure the space for the basin. For example, if your basin is 45” x 45” x 14” deep, you’ll make the hole 48”x 48” x 15 inches deep.
  • Dig the hole for the basin. If the space is under mature trees, be mindful of the roots. Place the hole as far away from the tree as you can, and even then, be careful with the roots.
  • Tamp down the soil where the basin will go. You’ll want the hole to be level in all directions.

Install the Disappearing Fountain

Now you are ready to add the basin to the hole and backfill the areas around it with soil to hold it in place.

pondlesspottery001Now is the time to install the Fountain Container Kit. If you purchase your materials from THGC we will do this step for you!
Take your desired piece of pottery for the fountain and drill a hole into the bottom to install your container kit tubing – you’ll then install fountain kit as per the instructions. Again, if the materials are purchased at THGC we will do this step for you.

  • Place the pump inside the basin and Attach the pump kit to the fountain pump as per the manufacturer’s directions.

Testing and Adjusting the Fountain

  • Test the fountain by filling the basin with water so that the pump is totally submerged.
  • Plug the pump into an electrical outlet. Ensure the outlet is reachable without an extension cord, if not install an outlet closer to the fountain or have an electrician do it for you.
  • Adjust the flow valves for each hose so that the water is flowing up the piece of pottery in a pleasing manner.

The Final Design Work (all optional, but GREAT ideas!)

  • Place lights around the fountain so that the water can shimmer at night as well as the spotlight the surrounding plants. I would also recommend LED lights inside the top holes of the fountain to remove some of the shadows.
  • Place 2”-6” river rocks, landscaping glass, etc. around the base of the fountain to cover the basin.
  • You can add large landscaping rocks into place creating a natural structure and add more river stones if desired.
  • Add plants to the garden beds around the fountain, to make it look like it has been there forever!

We have everything you need and MORE to create the Disappearing Fountain of your dreams at The Home & Garden Center! Come see us today to get started!

smooth-vase-fountain

 

 

Going “Bananas” for the Banana Tree Plant

Banana trees are one of the common trees that come to mind when dreaming of the tropics, but did you know that it is not really a tree? It is the world’s largest herb.transparent-banana-9

The trunk is composed of the main fruiting stem enrobed by leaves. Still, due to its size, it is commonly thought of as a tree.

How to Grow a Banana Tree

You may plant a single banana plant but you will end up with several – so choose a spot that will accommodate several plants.  There are different varieties available, the main difference being their height and leaf color.

The question we get the MOST is “Can my tree produce bananas?” Sadly, our growing season is not long enough to produce ripened bananas.  They will set fruit and it is most interesting to watch them change from the flower stage to bunches of small bananas.

  • Light

Banana plants prefer full sun.

  • Soil

The soil should be well-drained, deep, and organically amended. Slightly acidic soil (5.5 to 6.5 pH) is preferred.

  • Water

Since banana trees are tropical and hail from rain forests, they need a lot of water and plenty of moisture in the air. They do best when planted in groups rather than as single specimens. Being close together helps them retain moisture in the leaves. Provide 1 or 2 inches of water weekly or MORE (especially during the heat of July and August) and check frequently to make certain the soil stays evenly moist. Make sure they are not over-watered, so you do not develop root rot. The soil should always be moist but not soggy, if possible.

  • Temperature and Humidity

Bananas thrive in warm, humid conditions. When temperatures drop, growth slows down, and very cold temperatures cause plants to die back.  It is best to cut the plant down to ground level and cover with mulch for the winter.  Only in the extremist winters have we lost hardy banana plants due to prolonged below freezing temperatures.

  • Fertilizer

Banana plants should also be fertilized very well. Use a balanced fertilizer once a month. Spread the fertilizer evenly around the plant in a circle extending 4 to 8 feet from the trunk. Do not allow the fertilizer to come in contact with the trunk. Feed container plants on the same monthly schedule using about half the rate for outside plants.

What’s Mulch Got To Do With It?

Want to save $$ and water your flower beds less – maybe even 50% less?

Proper use of “nature’s moisturizer” – that’s what some call it, can make that big of a difference.  I’m talking about mulch – and that’s only one of the advantages of its use.mulch before and after

What is mulch?  It is any type of material that is spread over the surface of the soil.  Shredded wood, pine straw, shredded leaves, pecan hulls, gravel to name a few.

  • It is used to retain the moisture in the soil and to cut down on evaporation when spread at 3” deep.
  • Shielding plants’ roots from temperature extremes is also another benefit. Mulch provides protection from heat in the summer and cold in the winter.
  • By blocking out light to the soil it also discourages the growth of weeds.
  • It can add color and texture to the space between plants, giving a flower bed a finished look.

mulch 2The most asked question is, “How much mulch do I need for my bed?”

  1. Find the total square footage of the area: length X width = square footage.
  2. One cubic foot will cover 4 sq. ft. 3” deep.
  3. Ex: your bed measures 10 x 5 = 50 sq. ft.  50 divided by 4 = 12.5 cubic feet to cover the bed 3” deep.
  4. (Or you can call us and we can calculate it for you)

A word of caution, don’t mound mulch up on the trunk of trees or plants.  This will keep the trunks too moist and the plant will develop problems.

Shredded bark mulch can be purchased in bags or more economically by bulk loads.

Your mulch will decompose over time, so check to make sure you have good even coverage at the proper depth.  You can add an additional inch to thin existing mulch and gain another year of protection.

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).