Author Archives: rogers

The Great Squirrel Battle for the Bulbs

Autumn is the catalog time of year, when gardeners devour and drool over the spring-blooming bulb catalogs, eagerly fantasizing about next year’s flowerbeds. We picture drifts of crocus and gaily swaying tulips, lush daffodils and glorious hyacinths. Snowdrops, irises, daylilies… Ah, the garden will be great this next spring.

Then we remember last spring – hours of labor and dozens of bulbs meticulously planted, but only one or two emerged to flaunt their blooms. What happened?

Squirrels and Bulbs

Squirrels like flower bulbs just as much as gardeners, but unfortunately not for their beauty. From the looks of the remains – chewed remnants, dug up holes, battered foliage – those bulbs became expensive squirrel food. Fortunately, if you want to plant daffodils, alliums, scilla, hyacinths, squills or fritillaria, your bulbs should be safe. Generally, squirrels don’t eat these. But how can you protect the bulbs that make the tastiest squirrel treats?

Keeping Squirrels Out of the Flowerbeds

Go ahead and order your bulbs. While you’re waiting for delivery, decide which of the three basic methods you will use to prevent the squirrel attacks. A small investment of time and materials will protect your bulbs.

  1. Mesh Barriers
    Wire mesh is the best protection to keep squirrels away from bulbs. Dig the hole for several bulbs, make a “cage” using mesh around the bulbs and fill in the soil. If the squirrels dig, the mesh will prevent them from eating the bulbs. You may also plant the bulbs as usual and place a layer of mesh on the soil. You’ll have to secure it to keep it in place then cover with mulch. Be sure the mesh layer is wide enough so squirrels cannot easily dig around the sides to reach the bulbs.
  1. Repellants
    Garden centers sell many different squirrel repellants, and deer repellants also repel squirrels. Some gardeners swear to the effective use of red pepper flakes mixed in the soil around, and over, the bulbs. Many squirrels don’t like spicy tastes, but pepper flakes may need to be replaced after heavy spring rains to be the most effective.
  1. Sharp Gravel
    Adding sharp gravel to the soil around and over the bulbs also deters squirrels from digging. Not only do they not like the feel of the gravel on their sensitive paws, but the gravel – which is heavier than dirt or mulch – is more difficult to move, so the bulbs stay safer.

There is another option to keep squirrels away from bulbs without completely discouraging their visits. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em – because squirrels look for the easiest food sources, a squirrel feeding station stocked with corn and peanuts may be just the thing to keep the squirrels from looking for your buried treasures!

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Winter Pond Prep Checklist

Your pond can be an attractive and valuable focal point of your landscaping, but it can also be a delicate one. As winter approaches, certain steps should be taken to ensure plant and fish survival so your pond will still be at its best next spring.

  1. Clean Out Debris
    Use a netted scooper, a rake, your hands and, if possible, a pond vacuum to clean out pond debris. Rotting vegetation produces gas under winter ice that can be fatal to fish, frogs or other aquatic wildlife. This is also a good time to reduce any mud coverage over the pond’s bottom.
  2. Trim Pond Plants
    Trim and move hardy pond plants to the deep end of the pond (minimum 18” depth) to prevent them from freezing. Cut their vegetative growth back to about one inch above the soil line. Extra foliage will be more delicate and could rot over the winter. Especially be sure to trim any foliage that is already broken, wilting or damaged.
  3. Remove Tropical Plants
    Tropical plants or any delicate vegetation should be removed from the pond and placed in a basement or garage where they will not freeze. Keep plants moist throughout the fall and winter months until it is time to return them to the pond.
  4. Disassemble Summer Equipment
    Remove and clean the pond pump and waterfall or fountain feature (if applicable). Store them inside for the winter. See your maintenance guidelines for proper storage recommendations to keep the equipment in peak condition.
  5. Clean Pond Filter
    Thoroughly clean the pond filter and inspect it for any damage. If necessary, repair or replace the filter.
  6. Change Fish Diet
    Feed fish with spring/autumn food mixtures to provide good nutrition for their slowing metabolism. Stop feeding them completely when temperatures drop consistently below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid overfeeding, which would contribute to excess debris and decay in the pond over the winter.
  7. Set Up a Pond De-Icer
    If needed, set up your pond de-icerfor winter use. Test the equipment to be sure it is functioning properly and make any repairs or adjustments as needed.
  8. Cover the Pond
    Cover your pond with netting, screening or a shade cloth to minimize debris that will fall into the water throughout the winter. Secure the perimeter with sod staples or rocks to prevent the covering from blowing away. This will make spring cleanup and restarting your pond much easier.
  9. Relax until spring!
    Your pond will be ready for warmer temperatures when you are.

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Deterring Deer

Deer may be beautiful and elegant, but they aren’t always welcome in the garden. Even just a few visiting deer can tear up a landscape, eat an entire crop, destroy a carefully cultivated bed and cause other havoc, such as creating a traffic hazard, damaging bird feeders or leaving behind unwanted “gifts” on sidewalks and pathways. But how can you keep deer out of your yard and away from your garden and landscape?

Popular Deer Deterrent Techniques

People try all sorts of home-grown methods to keep deer from destroying their landscape and gardens. Some of the more common tactics include…

  • 8 ft. fencing, including wire or electric fences
  • Big, loud dogs on guard in the yard
  • Deer repellents such as commercial chemicals
  • Predator urine or other anti-deer scents
  • Motion detectors connected to lights or sprinklers

All of these methods work but are limited in their effectiveness. Fencing is costly and unsightly. Repellents and urine wash away. Sprinklers or lighted areas can be easily avoided. So what can you do to keep deer away permanently?

Deer are creatures of habit and they are easily scared. Anything you can do to mix up their habits or make them think there is danger nearby might be enough to make them go elsewhere in search of food. But deer aren’t foolish and if they realize the danger isn’t real, they will return. Therefore, you must rotate any scare tactics you try and reapply repellents frequently. This can be a lot of work to keep your garden safe, but you can make your garden do the work for you.

Plants Deer Won’t Like

While deer in large herds with insufficient food will eat almost any garden vegetation, particularly in harsh winters, you can opt for plants that aren’t popular with deer to minimize deer damage. At the same time, avoid planting favorite deer plants, such as azaleas, rhododendrons, yews, roses, Japanese maples, winged euonymous, hemlocks and arborvitae, as well as any edible garden produce.

So what can you plant in your landscape to discourage deer? There are many attractive plants deer will avoid, including…

Trees

  • Chinese Paper Birch
  • Colorado Blue Spruce
  • Dragon Lady Holly
  • Douglas Fir
  • Japanese Cedar
  • San Jose Holly
  • Serviceberry
  • Scotch Pine

Shrubs & Climbers

  • Barberry
  • Bearberry
  • Blueberry Elder
  • Boxwood
  • Caryopteris
  • Common Buckhorn
  • Creeping Wintergreen
  • European Privet
  • Japanese Andromeda
  • Japanese Plum Yew
  • Leucothoe
  • Rose of Sharon
  • Russian Olive

Try using these less deer-friendly plants to create a dense border around your yard and garden area, and deer will be less inclined to work their way toward the tastier plants. When combined with other deterrent techniques, it is possible to have a stunning landscape without being stunned by deer damage.

 

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Bird Feeding Basics

Winter is the perfect time to think about attracting bird visitors to your yard. Bird watching is a great hobby that can be enjoyed by both younger and older members of the family and getting started is both easy and inexpensive.

Bird Feeders

The type of bird feeders you select will depend on where you want to observe your feathered friends, as well as the kinds of foods you are offering and the types of birds you want to attract.

Hanging feeders, suitable for smaller birds, can be hung from a tree, pole or hook. Platform feeders can be mounted on a pole/post, deck railing or fence, or even just set on the ground. There are also window feeders that can be mounted directly to a window for enjoyment close at hand plus suet feeders or cages which hold suet cakes – a must for attracting insect-eating woodpeckers and nuthatches.

Feeders should be located in a sheltered place where they are not exposed to strong winds or vulnerable to attack from predators such as hawks and cats. Try grouping several different feeders together to attract the maximum number of different birds. All feeders should be kept clean and in good repair.

Bird Seeds

Just like us, birds have certain food preferences. Black oil sunflower seed is one of the most popular seeds, attracting a large variety of different birds. Some seeds such as Nyjer (thistle) are very specific – if you want to attract colorful goldfinches, then this one is for you. Mixes containing sunflower, thistle, cracked corn, millet and other seeds are also available, to tempt many bird visitors. Larger birds that feed on the ground, such as doves, quail and wild turkeys, will love cracked corn.

Natural Food Sources

If you are serious about attracting birds to your yard throughout the year, then think about planting trees, shrubs, perennials and even annuals that will provide natural foods at different times. Birds love berry-producers such as crabapples, hollies, hawthorns and viburnums. Perennial favorites for seed eaters include members of the black-eyed susan family (Rudbeckia), coneflowers (Echinacea), goldenrod (Solidago) and coreopsis. Seed heads of ornamental grasses are also highly sought after. Of the annuals, sunflower (of course!), marigolds and cosmos are popular. Just be sure to leave seed heads on the plants so birds can take advantage of them.

Don’t Forget Water!

Water for bathing and drinking is one of the basic requirements for all birds, even for species that won’t visit feeders. If you already have a bird bath, be sure to keep it filled with clear, fresh water. A bird bath heater will keep water available even during freezing weather. A mister, dripper or bubbler will move the water around and attract even more birds with sparkling splashes.

From feeders and seeds to plants and water sources, we have everything you need to get started attracting birds. Come on in today and you’ll be able to enjoy your feathered friends this fall and winter!

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Create a Beautiful Tree in 6 Easy Steps

Have you ever wondered how to create that beautiful Christmas tree, the kind featured in photo shoots and magazines? Whether you opt for a live potted tree, a fresh cut pine or an artificial tree you can reuse for several years, the steps to a stunning, artistic tree are the same, and you don’t have to be an interior designer to create a lovely Christmas tree. 

  1. Color
    Pick a theme color or color pair. This may be colors you simply like together, or you could mimic school colors, a favorite sports team or classic holiday pairings like burgundy and gold or blue and silver. Consider your tree theme and choose colors accordingly, such as blue and aqua for a tropical, undersea tree, or white and silver for a winter wonderland tree.
  2. Lights
    Use one strand of 70 to 100 lights for each foot of tree (7 strands for a 7-foot tree). This will be the approximate ratio on a pre-lit artificial tree, or you will need to add lights to a live tree. Spread the strands out evenly, and tuck wires into the tree so they are less visible. White lights or a single color are generally more elegant than multi-colored strands.
  3. Ribbon
    Plan on 40 to 60 yards of ribbon unless the tree is in a corner. The treetop will typically take 10-15 yards of this amount. You can also mix two ribbons for a nice effect, too. Wire-edged ribbon is easier to shape into graceful curves, and a broad ribbon will make a more dramatic impact, particularly on a larger tree. Drape the trailing edges of ribbon down the sides of the tree, either straight toward the ground or in a graceful spiral.
  4. Accents
    Add silk or dried flowers as your next step along with garland. Make sure flowers are placed at different depths within the tree so there is dimension. Holiday flowers such as poinsettias are most popular, but you can opt for different blooms to coordinate with your theme, such as roses for a Victorian tree or tropical flowers for a festive beach-themed tree.
  5. Balls
    Use 6-8 boxes of plain glass ball ornaments, either all the same color or 3-4 boxes each of two coordinating colors. Tuck some of these ornaments deeper within the tree to reflect more light and add depth to your decorating. A medium-size ornament is appropriate, or choose balls of different sizes but in the same plain color and basic shape.
  6. Ornaments
    Add themed ornaments last for that finishing touch and to give your tree some whimsy and pizzazz, but try not to go overboard with quirkiness. If you prefer a simpler, more elegant look, avoid overly themed ornaments but choose simple colored ornaments in different shapes that match your overall color plan, such as using drip, icicle, or star-shaped ornaments to complete the tree.

Voila! You have a Christmas tree that will bring beauty and elegance to your holiday decorating all season long.

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Spring Is Here!

We’re very excited to be opening on March 30th and we are looking forward to a great season! Check this blog regularly for the latest and greatest tips and tricks.