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Prepping Perennials for Spring

We suggest cleaning up your perennials in the fall or late winter to prepare them for their debut in spring.  Doing so prior to new growth appearing will ensure the plants look and perform their best.

Many perennials die back after the first hard freeze and seem to just disappear. (Day lilies, Canas, etc.)  Other varieties that are more woody based may only partially die back and if not pruned become rangy and unattractive as new growth appears. (Lantana, Salvia Greggii) 

Ornamental grass needs trimming yearly before the growing season begins.  Liriope and some vining ground covers will also require trimming.

How to trim:

  • The softer, tender perennials that died down after the first freeze shouldn’t require trimming, just a clean up of the area. 
  • Those woody based perennials should be cut back to 6-10 inches high.  They will grow fuller and become more compact plants without all of the old woody growth. 
  • Cut back your liriope and mondo grass to 2-3 inches tall.  You can use your lawn mower set on a high setting or a weed eater to make the job easier.  Make sure to do this early – late trimming will cause ragged tips on the new foliage.
  • The toughest job is trimming ornamental grasses and this is covered in a separate article

This is also the best time to divide summer and fall blooming perennials.  Dig the clumps and use a sharp knife to cut them into sections for replanting in the garden at the same depth they were growing. 

Late winter is also a good time to move perennials to a new location.  If a plant is in the wrong spot due to needing more or less sun/shade or requires better draining soil or grows to large for the area, then move it. 

As the perennials begin to grow in spring, give them some fertilizer.  This will boost their growth and increase blooms.

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6 Mistakes Homeowners Make

That Landscapers HATE to Fix

Overplanting

While more MAY be better in some cases, it’s not better to have more in your landscape. Not spacing out your plants and over-filling them may offer instant gratification for the first year your new plants are in the ground, but in two years, your plants will begin to die because they’re fighting for space and nutrients. This common mistake is a HUGE WASTE of time and money.

HINT: Fill in empty spots with annual flowers until your shrubs mature!

Not Knowing Your Landscape’s Needs

You’ll want to have an idea of what your yard requires and then choose plants that fit those requirements. How much direct sunlight does your yard get daily? Is your soil clay-based, sandy, or rocky? Are there any water restrictions? Are there drainage issues? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you make the best choices for your landscape. There is NO REASON not to research and learn more about the plants you are putting in your landscape. Planting shade plants in sun, or sun plants in shade is an inexcusable snafu in any landscape.

Starting Without A Plan

Don’t go to a Garden Center with a “my heart will guide me” mentality. This will lead to over purchasing and a major loss of money. You’ll also run into issues during your landscape install that could’ve been solved by planning ahead.

Not Paying Attention To The Style Of Your House

Your landscape should complement your home and increase your curb appeal! Different landscape styles work better aesthetically, so always use the look and structure of your house when deciding on garden bed shapes (i.e. A farmhouse-style home won’t work with a formal landscape). Unsure where to start?

HINT: Use a garden hose to help aid in the process of figuring out the shape of each bed; lay out the hose on the ground and use it as your guide, it’s soft and can follow the curves of your house, leading to perfect garden bed shapes.

Planting Too Close To Your Home

When planting, you must bear in mind that bushes, trees and plants WILL get bigger! Where you plant them is SO important – typically, leaving a minimum of 1-3 feet between your plants and your house. Ignoring how large a tree or bush will get can lead to walkway, sidewalk and foundation damage – or, even worse, it can rot your siding, allowing moisture and bugs to creep into your home. Not cool.

Relying On Pinterest To Do Your Landscape

It is SO EASY to get excited and jump into a project when you scroll through Pinterest. HOWEVER, you need to keep in mind the time, resources, and money that go into the ‘simple’ photos you see online. While it can be helpful for ideas, you have to get real about where you and your yard are located zone-wise and how much the project will cost overall.

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How To Plant In Red Clay Soil

So many people in the South have red clay soil.

This stuff is mushy and disgusting when it is wet; but when it is dry, it takes on a form almost like concrete. Worst of all? It’s completely nutrient deficient.

Red clay soon becomes waterlogged during rainy weather. When soil stays wet, the water can cut off the air supply to roots, as well as to microorganisms in soil that are important to your plant’s well being. Root rot, suffocation, and many other diseases can occur.

Adding to the plant’s misery, when clay soil finally does dry out, roots struggle to spread through the hard soil. How can a poor plant survive?

Don’t give up! While you need good drainage for plants to survive, having red clay soil and nice plants in your landscape isn’t impossible! With a little prep and TLC, you can grow beautiful shrubs, just by enhancing the texture and drainage of your soil. Below is a drawing, courtesy of Encore® Azaleas of how to prep and plant shrubs in clay soil!


EA-220_FS_How_to_Plant_Red_Clay_8.5x11in_2018_ (1)
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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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How to fertilize palms the RIGHT way!

windmill-palm-1Elements your palms need to stay healthy

Applied in correct combination; magnesium, iron, and manganese will keep fronds from yellowing or curling. How much and when depends on where you live.

Here in East Texas, a bag of 8-8-8 is sufficient in keeping your palms healthy and happy!

Steps to establishing a new palm:

  1. Water plays huge role in establishing a new palm. Water every day for 45 days until the risk of transplant shock has passed.
  2. Apply the fertilizer away from the base of the palm, staying around 18″ away from the base. Banding fertilizer around the base of the palm tree is considered a poor practice because it can damage the roots.
  3. Wait about 4 to 6 weeks after planting to fertilize.

Fertilizing palms DO’s:

  • Thoroughly read the directions on the fertilizer bag.
  • Water BEFORE AND AFTER fertilizing, especially when using a quick release material. Under-fertilize rather than over-fertilize.
  • Under-fertilized plants just don’t grow as fast; over-fertilize them and they may die. Pick a fertilizer with an approximate NPK ratio (like an 8-8-8).
  • sago-palmAn ideal palm fertilizer has the right mix of microelements, magnesium and calcium.
  • Fertilize your palm trees three times a year: spring, summer, and fall.
  • You can also augment with organic fertilizers such as blood meal, bone meal, fish emulsion, and worm castings.
  • Fertilize completely around the plant, distributing the granules over the entire root distribution area (approximately the size covered by the mid-day shadow of the plant).
  • Work fertilizer into the soil if possible.
  • Rake the garden of debris, apply their fertilizer, and finish with a top dressing.
  • Soil test for salt content, especially in container plants. Inexpensive pronged meters easily tell you when you have problems.
  • Keep turf well away from your palm trees. This will make it easier to fertilize your palms and will help keep diseases away from your palm.

 Fertilizing palms DON’Ts:

  • DON’T fertilize on dry soil, as it can lead to plant burn and death.
  • DON’T over-fertilize as this can lead to plant injury.
  • DON’T Throw granular fertilizer down the crown of the plant.
  • DON’T Throw all the fertilizer in one pile at the base of the plant. Scatter it.
  • DON’T Throw the fertilizer against the trunk of the plant in a big pile as this can lead to necrosis or scaring of the trunk.
  • DON’T Use the cheapest, highest concentration quick release fertilizers such as ammonium nitrate 30:0:0 (lawn fertilizer), as this can lead to plant burn or injury.
  • DON’T Put fertilizer directly in contact with the roots when repotting a container plant, especially if using a quick release fertilizer.
  • DON’T Put manure into the hole when planting a palm. Too often the generated heat and solute concentration are damaging to the palms roots.
  • DON’T allow rain to fall on your stored bags of fertilizer as this may solidify the granules or leach out the fertilizer. Protect the bags with a tarp.
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The Word on Worm Castings: How do they work? What can they be used for?

Worm castings are the richest natural fertilizer known to humans. That’s right: as little as a tablespoon of pure worm castings provides enough organic plant nutrients to feed a 6″ potted plant for more than two months. 

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Worm castings stimulate plant growth more than any other natural product on the market. Unlike animal manure and artificial fertilizers it is absorbed easily and immediately by plants.

What Can Worm Castings Be Used For?

Worm Castings can be used as an ingredient of potting soil (as plant nutrients) for plants in and around the house. It can also be used as a planting additive for trees, vegetables, shrubs and flowers and because Worm Castings will never burn plants, you can use as much of it as you like.

Benefits of Worm Castings

  1. Removal of toxins & bacteria
    • The humus in the worm castings extracts toxins and harmful fungi and bacteria from the soil. Worm Castings therefore have the ability to fight off plant diseases.
  2. Assists with nutrient absorption
    • The worm castings have the ability to fix heavy metals in organic waste. This prevents plants from absorbing more of these chemical compounds than they need. These compounds can then be released later when the plants need them.
  3. Works as a barrier in undesirable soil pH levels
    • Worm Castings act as a barrier to help plants grow in soil where the pH levels are too high or too low. They prevent extreme pH levels from making it impossible for plants to absorb nutrients from the soil.
  4. Stimulates plant growth
    • The humic acid in Worm Castings stimulate plant growth, even in very low concentrations. The humic acid is in an ionically distributed state in which it can easily be absorbed by the plant, over and above any normal mineral nutrients. Humic acid also stimulates the development of micro flora populations in the soil.
  5. Increases water retention
    • Worm Castings increase the ability of soil to retain water. The worm castings form aggregates, which are mineral clusters that combine in such a way that they can withstand water erosion and compaction, and also increase water retention.
  6. Reduces carbon and increases nitrogen in soil
    • Worm Castings reduce the acid-forming carbon in the soil, and increase the nitrogen levels in a state that the plant can easily use. Organic plant wastes usually have a carbon-nitrogen ratio of more than 20 to 1. Because of this ratio, the nitrogen is unavailable to plants, and the soil around the organic waste becomes acidic.

How to use Worm Castings:

For Germinationwiggle magic_01

Use 20 to 30% Worm Castings with sand as an excellent germination mixture. It will also ensure continuous and lush growth for about three months, without you having to add any other plant food.

As a Soil Conditioner

If you hoe a layer of barren soil, add a layer of Worm Castings and give it some water, you will be surprised at the growth of your first season’s plants.

As a Fertilizer

Sprinkle Worm Castings around the base of plants or lightly dig it in, and then add water. They can also be sprinkled on a large scale with a spreader. Remember: you cannot use too much Worm Castings, they cannot damage your plants.

As a Liquid Fertilizer

Worm Castings can easily be mixed with water. Use 1 cup Worm Castings for every gallon of water and wait 1 week. This liquid mixture can be used as an excellent fertilizer or leaf foliate spray. It also helps to control insects. Many people prefer this method of application.

We have known for hundreds of years that earthworms are the best way to improve plant growth and to increase plant yield, such as fruit.

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Getting Ready for Spring!

Here are some things you can do now to help your lawn and garden look it’s best this coming Spring!highyieldnewmain_1000
1. Get Your Tools Ready
The right tool for the job can make the difference between a job taking an hour, or taking all day.
The tools you need will depend on what you are wanting to accomplish in your garden but here are some of the basics:

*Large and/or small clippers for trimming large branches and
​      pruning small plants
*Gardening gloves
*Shovel (and wheelbarrow if needed for moving larger objects
and soil)
*Hand trowel for smaller holes, and for loosening and spreading
soil
*Large rake and/or hand rake, both are needed to clear your
garden loosen soil and clean plant beds
*Knee pads so you can garden, for longer, more comfortably

2. Prepare your soil
You might not be able to plant that veggie garden, or those gerber daisies you’re looking forward to, but you can prepare for them! Soil can make the difference between a thriving garden and a struggling one.

3. Clear Your Lawn and Garden
Better to do this now than pushing it off till spring. Rake your lawn and garden clear of the debris and dead plants from winter and add it to your compost.

4. Prep Your Perennials
If you didn’t already do so in the fall, prune the perennials that need it. If you have questions of whether it needs trimming, email us a picture at email@thgc.net.

5. Weed
Weed while topsoil is still damp, not because it’s easier, but to get to the weeds before they seed other parts of your lawn. Do not add weeds to your compost though, because then you’ll just be re-feeding the weeds back into your garden! Also, make sure to put out a pre-emergent! This will kill the weeds before they even sprout!

6. Mulch Mulch Mulch
Mulch is like a multivitamin for your garden. You can live without it, but everything blossoms better and has more vitality with mulch. It not only conserves water, but cools plant roots, feeds the soil over time and helps smother weeds.

7. Finishing Edge
An often overlooked step, edging your garden is like a trim between haircuts. It just makes things look much more polished and put together. A good edge, especially on borders and between flower beds and lawn, is that finishing touch that will elevate your garden’s look and appeal.

Now that everything’s ready, all that’s left to do is just wait for that moment when you can plunge your hands back into the soil!

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