Monthly Archives: March 2015

Deciding on a Specialty Garden

Thinking you would love a garden this spring and summer, but don’t have the first clue about what kind of garden and what you would need to do to start it?  There are a variety of types of gardens depending upon your space, climate and needs. Gardens are such a great hobby in that they are a mood booster, provide physical activity and are cost-effective!  Let’s look at several types of garden that may fit your environment.

Things to Consider –

  • Space and Function – Before you decide on what type of garden you would like, consider how much space you have and why you want a garden. Gardens can be cultivated in many different spaces including: in pots on a porch or patio, on a roof deck, in raised planters, in a greenhouse or in your backyard (no matter the size). Gardens can have many different uses as well. Some are made simply for beauty and relaxation, while others are planted primarily to provide food, to build communities, or for environmental benefits.

 

  • Hardiness Zone – Once you have contemplated the space and use for your garden you will want to evaluate the “hardiness zone” of your future garden.  This refers to geographically defined areas in which certain types of plants are capable of growing. These areas are defined by climatic conditions, including a plant’s ability to withstand the minimum temperatures of the zone. Find your zone using  the Department of Agriculture online mapping tool.

Now that you have a definite view the function, size and hardiness of your garden you can decide on the type of garden you may want.  Read on to see the many varieties you have to choose from. . . .

  • Wildflower gardens – Wildflowers can be grown in sun or shade depending on the plants and climate. These gardens can include prairie gardens as well, filled with a variety of native grasses.
  • Shade gardens – A shade garden can fill dark, vacant areas with bright, beautiful plants. In fact, many plants not only tolerate shade but also thrive in it.
  • Butterfly gardens – Plant flowers that butterflies will love. For a list of flowers butterflies love read more.
  • Water gardens – If you enjoy aquatic plants and fish, a water garden might be your style. Learn about backyard ponds and aquascaping.
  • Container gardening – You can enjoy plants around your home even if you don’t have a lot of space. Growing plants in containers can be fun and easy.
  • Fruits, Vegetables & Herbs – You can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables by growing them in your own yard–even if you live in an urban area.

Controlling Animals from Damaging Your Garden

As nature lovers, we savor the season when we can grow and eat our own veggies.  Raising beautiful and tasty vegetables is a labor of love for most gardeners. Unfortunately, humans are not the only animals who enjoy fresh food right from the yard!  Watch out there are groundhogs, rabbits, gophers chipmunks and a whole host of other critters who are just dying to get their claws on your hard work.  Let’s look at some ways your can make your garden less attractive to these animals before they reap the rewards of your garden and you are left with an empty garden.

  • Do your homework – Even before planting your garden, do a little research about what critters frequent your area.  Ask neighbors who plant gardens if there are any specific worries they have. Once you know this you will be able to plan appropriately.
  • Minimize the attractiveness of the Garden – Eliminate nesting areas, weedy areas, put up garden fencing and fill any holes or access points to the garden.   Exclusion is certainly the most effective, long-term solution. A fence can be permanent or can be strictly a temporary, seasonal solution that’s put up and taken down as needed. Mesh fencing can be cut to size and stapled or tied to fence posts. In addition, cover composting and trash barrel areas that could attract some animals.
  • Contact a Lawn Company – A professional company like Pro-Tech can assist you in eradicating critters from your yard.  Pest control can come in many forms from trapping to repellents. Scent repellents, such as garlic clips, castor oil and predator urine can be effective temporary solutions but they need to be monitored and reapplied to remain effective. Each state has trapping rules and regulations about trapping animals so consult before taking any action.  In addition, ultrasonic repellers, motion-activated water sprayers, noise makers, and visual scare devices such as reflective tape and faux predators are possibilities dependent upon the animal intruder.

Starting Your Garden Indoors

After the winter we have had this year, doesn’t it sound like a brilliant idea to get a jump start on gardening by establishing your veggie seedlings indoors?  Starting a garden indoors can have many benefits including:  a huge mood booster when it seems like winter will never end, a  money saver by starting seedlings on your own instead of buying them in the spring, and a head start for those precious plants to get going on their growing season.  If you are getting tired of winter and need to fast forward to the growing season, here are our tips for getting started indoors.

When do I start my seedlings?

Generally, the time to start your seeds is about 8 weeks before the last expected spring frost date in your area, planting the seedlings outdoors about 2 weeks after that date. Another way to figure is to plan on setting out sturdy seedlings in the garden when night temperatures stay in the mid-50 degree range both day and night. The Farmers Almanac has a great guide to help you pinpoint when you should start your seedlings.

Buying Seed

Seeds are available from many sources, ranging from your local building supply store to garden centers and mail order catalogs. Their prices can vary greatly. A great idea is to team up with a neighbor for starting seeds, since a packet often yields much more than you will need.

Starting Seedlings-

  • Start seeds in small, individual containers.
  • Plastic sheets of small containers, called “cell flats,” fit into standard solid trays. Small individual plastic pots are also suitable.
  • All seed starting containers must have drainage holes at the bottom.
  • Many gardeners use clear plastic domes that fit over trays of plants. These domes allow light in, but help keep moisture from escaping. They can also help retain heat provided to the root zone.
  • Label your containers now! There’s nothing more frustrating than forgetting what you planted.
  • Fill clean containers with seedling mix.Ordinary garden soil is not a good choice, as it often contains weed seeds and fungus organisms and it compacts far too easily.
  • Plant your seeds according to your seed packet. Most seeds can simply be gently pressed into the mixture; you can use the eraser end of a pencil to push in seeds.
  • Put the containers in a warm place where they’ll get bottom heat, such as on top of the water heater or refrigerator.
  • Water as necessary with a very gentle spray of water. If container should get too dry, you’ll need to set it in a pan of water so it can soak up water again from below.
  • If you are starting heat-loving plants (tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, peppers, squashes, or melons), set the containers on a water heater or use a heating mat to keep the soil between 75°F/24°C and 90°F/32°C. (Most cool-season vegetables will germinate at room temperature.)
  • When the seeds germinate, move the pots into an area with bright light and temperatures between 60°F/16°C and 75°F/24°C.
  • When the temps outside get to about 50 degrees both day and night you can start acclimating your plants to the climate outdoors before eventually transferring them to your outdoor garden.

Spring Lawn Readiness

Winter is just beginning to loosen its grip on the Northeast.  Now is the time to start thinking about ensuring a lush green garden and lawn.  After all, a healthy summer lawn starts with spring time maintenance. Winter can do a real number on our precious grass.  Winter can alter soil pH, compact the soil, and create conditions friendly to weeds and disease. Read on to find out some steps you can take this spring to have a successful lawn this summer!

  • Clean up – Spring is a sensitive time for your yard – the soil is spongy, the plants are tender, and the weather is unpredictable. Wait until the soil dries out a bit before you start raking.  Once the weather has become mild without too much rain, remove leaves and fallen debris, and gently rake to fluff up and separate the grass shoots. If there were areas of the yard where the snow piles lasted longer check for mold and dead grass. Determine and note if there are areas that are lacking grass or where the soil is overly compacted.
  • Repair – Now that the thatch and debris has been raked up gently, it is time to repair areas that were damaged over the winter.  Soil compaction is a common problem each spring.  If the soil is compacted too densely nutrients and water will not be able to reach the roots.  If you find this is a problem, which it usually is in the spring, then you should consider aeration. Another common problem is finding bare patches where the grass has become too thin or has died.  Reseeding can dramatically improve the appearance of your grass in bare or brown spots.  Before you go about reseeding, you may want to contact Pro-Tech to find out the cause of the problem.  Was the soil lacking nutrients, was the Ph balance off, did you choose the wrong kind of grass last year?
  • Fertilizing and Herbicides – Once the grass has begun to grow, fertilizing  and applying herbicides will become an important part of your spring ritual.  Again, applying either of these at the wrong time or in the wrong amounts could spell disaster for your yard.  Contact Pro-Tech to help you take each step in getting to your goal of a lush, green, beautiful lawn this summer.  With the right information and the best professionals on your side summer in your yard can be amazing this year!

Vegetable Garden Planning

As we slowly begin to see the light at the end of the snowy tunnel we call winter here in the Northeast, it is time to start thinking about something more pleasant than shovels and snow totals.  It is time to start planning ahead for your veggie garden!   Now is the time to start planning (whether on paper or just in your mind) some of the key parts of your garden before you find yourself in the middle of planting season.  Just what are some things to consider when planning a veggie garden and how can you prepare now so that you have a successful garden come summer?

  • Site Location – This should be your first consideration.  If this is your first veggie garden, consider a sunny spot in your yard with good drainage and soil that is not rocky or sand filled.  If this is not your first time planting, ask yourself if last years location was fertile and decide if a new location is better. Be sure you have a water source near your garden in the case of drought.
  • What to plant – Think about the vegetables that you and your family enjoy the most.  Keep in mind that vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and squash keep providing throughout the season — so you may not need many plants to serve your needs. Other vegetables, such as carrots, radishes, and corn, produce only once. You may need to plant more of these. This could be a fun family activity to choose the veggies you will plant and care for all season.
  • Size of garden – Now that you have an idea of what you will plant, you need to decide on how large a space you need, Most beginners find a 10 x10 garden, that is well-weeded and maintained is more than enough.  Some gardeners start in containers that can be moved into direct sunlight when needed.
  • Prepare the soil – Fertile, well prepared soil is necessary for a successful garden. The exact type of soil is not so important as that it be well drained, well supplied with organic matter, reasonably free of stones, and moisture retentive. Turning the soil completely, and  fertilizing can help.

Now comes the fun part- planting and watching your veggies grow!  Check back in the coming months for tips on how to keep your garden growing throughout the season.