Caring for Your Fresh Christmas Tree

Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the
eyes of children, they
are all 30 feet tall.
~Larry Wilde

Nothing says Christmas like the spicy scent of a fresh-cut Christmas tree — a real tree. Keeping your tree fresh through the holiday season can be tricky though! Here are a few tips from the pros on how to make that forest freshness last.

BRINGING THE TREE HOME
When purchasing your fresh Christmas tree, be sure to bring a blanket or tarp to cover the tree if you are tying it to the top of your car. This will protect your tree from drying out on the way home. Be certain your vehicle can safely transport the tree you purchase to your home. Bring rope or bungee cords to secure the load adequately. 

GIVE IT A FRESH CUT
Begin by cutting 1-2″ off the trunk of your tree, and immediately place it in water. Why? When trees are cut, pitch oozes out and seals the pores. By sawing a bit off the base, you’ll open up the pores, and the tree will be able to absorb water. Then add tree preservative to the water.

WATER, WATER, WATER!
The best way to keep your Christmas tree fresh is to keep it hydrated. It’s the single most important thing you can do for your tree. A Christmas tree may “drink” a gallon or more of water each day, so check the reservoir often! Making sure your tree has enough to drink each day will prevent needles from drying, boughs from drooping, and will help to keep the tree fragrant.

Never let the water level go below the tree’s base! A seal of dried sap can form over the cut stump in just four-to-six hours if the water drops below the base of the tree. If the reservoir goes dry — even once — the tree cut will seal and may not take up water again.

LOCATION IS KEY
A Christmas tree may look beautiful next to a fireplace, but heat sources will only serve to dry out your tree. Place your tree away from fireplaces, wood stoves, heating vents, and direct sunlight. The lights on the tree produce drying heat as well. Always turn the tree lights off when leaving home or going to sleep for the night.

KEEP IT COOL
Lower the temperature in the room with your tree. It’s another way to slow down the drying process. The lower the temperature of the room, the better the tree will do.

WHEN IN DOUBT,
DO WHAT THE PROS DO
!
Professionals use products like Wilt Stop to prolong the freshness of Christmas greenery. It’s a natural, non-toxic product derived from the resin of pine trees. It has the unique ability to form a soft, clear flexible film on plants, and it’s what the pros count on to extend the life of fresh-cut Christmas trees. It’s a great way to prevent moisture from escaping and drying the branches out!

AFTER CHRISTMAS
The end of Christmas doesn’t have to be the end of life for your Christmas tree! Fresh-cut trees are useful in the garden in a number of ways.

You can use the pine needles for mulch. Pine needles are full of nutrients that enhance the pH of your soil and can prevent soil compaction in the winter.

Put your leftover Christmas tree outside, and decorate it with strings of popcorn and cranberries to feed the birds. Add pine cones which have been spread with peanut butter and rolled in bird seed. The birds will love you!

Use branches as extra insulation. Cut off the branches of your tree and lay them on your garden bed, the boughs will protect your plants from winter freezes and spring thaws. By laying them on your garden you’re giving your plants an even, steady temperature through the coldest months of the year.

A fresh-cut Christmas tree can be an easy and enjoyable part of your holiday celebrations. With just a little know-how, attention, and maintenance, your tree can provide that forest-fresh scent throughout the holiday season.

Caring for Holiday Bloomers

Poinsettias

It’s just not the holiday season without these bright, festive classic plants! You can’t go wrong with rich red poinsettias, but they’re available in everything from a snowy white to candy pink — even speckled and marbled varieties! They’re easy to care for, and with a few tricks, they’ll last through the holiday season and beyond.

Poinsettias prefer a bright area away from cold drafts, fireplaces, radiators, or heat vents. Keep them from direct sun. Never expose the plant to cold temperatures for more than a few minutes; a chilled or frozen plant will begin to drop leaves very quickly. Never allow the soil of you poinsettias to dry out completely, but be sure they are not constantly wet or sitting in water inside the foil wrap. Water the plant thoroughly only when the soil surface is dry to the touch. Remember to discard excess water from the saucer.

Be careful of locations where the hot afternoon sun may shine directly on the colorful bracts and cause the color to fade. Temperatures ideally should not exceed 70° during the day, or fall below 65° at night. To prolong the bright color of the bracts, temperatures should not exceed 72 degrees Fahrenheit during the day or 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night.

Amaryllis

These statuesque bloomers are a Christmas tradition for many! Their large, colorful blooms bring life to the darkest days of winter. They offer a variety of brilliant festive colors, and are extremely easy to grow.

Amaryllis bulbs will bloom 7-10 weeks after planting. Choose a pot about 2″ wider than the bulb and one that is heavy enough to keep from tipping. Fill the pot part way with potting mix. Set the bulb so that the top 1/3 of the bulb will be above the top of the soil when you fill the pot to 1″ below the top edge of the pot. Give the plant about 4 hours of bright light a day. Plant every 2 weeks for a spectacular color show all winter.

Once the blooms have faded, the plants are not dead! You can rebloom the same bulb the following year. Just cut back the flower stalks to 1-2″ above the bulb, and allow the leaves to continue growing into spring and summer, watering and rotating regularly. Around mid-August, allow the bulb to go dry and allow the foliage to naturally die back. The bulb can then be stored in a cool, dark spot for 8-12 weeks of dormancy. Once the dormancy period is met, the bulb can be repotted in fresh soil, watered, and set in a sunny spot to bring life to another holiday season.

Cyclamen

These are wonderful plants for brightening your home during the holidays. The pink, red, white or maroon flowers will continue for weeks. They prefer a cool, dry and bright place.   Choose a plant with plenty of unopened buds to get the most flowers this season. 

With proper care, cyclamen will bloom indoors for several months and can be kept through the summer to provide another display of blossoms next winter. This plant does best in a cool room and in bright light, but away from direct sunlight.  A north or east-facing windowsill is ideal. General Care:  Remove faded flowers and old leaves.  After the plant has stopped blooming, reduce watering and stop feeding.  Place the pot in a cool spot and keep it dry until July.  Then repot the cyclamen tuber in fresh compost, burying the tuber to half its depth.  Place the pot in a cool, well-lit spot and water to keep the soil moist.

Christmas Cactus

Holiday cacti make a great addition to your holiday décor. Their intensely colored blooms droop gracefully at the end of bright green branches. They’re available in an array of different colors, and can continue to bloom long after the holidays are over.

They prefer cooler rooms. Keep the soil on the dry side in November. Only water when the soil feels dry about an inch below the surface. To ensure flowers for Christmas, keep your plant in a room with bright daylight hours and no light after sunset.  Flower buds should set and the plants will be in flower by late December.

Fragrant Herbs

To bring fragrance into your home during the holidays don’t forget herbs! Rosemary, lavender and thyme along with many other herbs will add a delightful aroma to the home. Use the wonderful scent of fresh greens and pine trees to add to the traditional holiday atmosphere.

Don’t wait until spring to enjoy fresh flowers. Keep the bloom going, and add color and life to your winter season with these popular indoor plants.

Nurturing Houseplants in Winter

Now that our doors and windows are closed for the winter, houseplants provide a welcome splash of life and color in our indoor landscape.

Fresh, vibrant, and green, those innocent looking houseplants contribute much more than just a touch of color though. They play a significant role in keeping stale, recirculated air clean. Plants create fresh oxygen, filter dangerous toxins out of the air, and add a bit of fresh air to any room they live in. For the most part, houseplants are pretty easy to care for, but the winter season can present some special challenges for them. Here are a few quick tips to make your indoor garden a successful one.

BUMP UP THE AVAILABLE LIGHT
Adequate light is one of the most important environmental factors in successfully growing plants indoors. Too little light may make your plant leggy with spindly new growth. Let your plants receive as much light as possible during the darker winter days. As the angle of the sun changes and the days get shorter, you may want to rearrange your plants to ensure they’re getting sufficient light in the winter months.

If you don’t have a sunny windowsill to house your indoor garden, grow lights can be especially useful. The proper lighting can supplement sunlight, or replace it entirely in the winter! Echter’s carries everything from full-spectrum bulbs to fluorescent grow tubes that fit in standard fixtures. Add some digital timers, and getting enough hours of light for your houseplants becomes effortless!

CHOOSE PLANT LOCATIONS CAREFULLY
Place your plants well away from winter’s chill. Don’t put them near entry doors where they will be exposed to cold drafts. Make sure the leaves of your plants living in window areas don’t actually touch the window. Minimize exposing plants to temperature extremes by placing them well away from your heating system’s air vents and also away from your fireplace.

DECREASE WATER & FOOD
Remember that indoor plants need less water & fertilizer during the short days of winter. Shorter days mean less growth, so you’ll want to water only when your plants require it.

Overwatering is the number one killer of houseplants! Frequent watering forces air from the soil and opens the door for root-killing bacteria and fungus to move in. Surface soil can dry out more quickly during winter months, but that’s not a good indicator that the plant needs water. Push your finger into the soil to determine if it is dry an inch or two below the surface—that’s when it’s time to bring out the watering can. Avoid shocking your plants’ roots by using room-temperature water in the winter. Use fertilizer at half strength every other time you water until about mid-March.

INCREASE THE HUMIDITY
Houseplants will benefit from added humidity. Humidifiers are great, but you can also use a simple-to-make pebble tray. Take an oversized saucer, add pebbles, and fill halfway with water. Then place your plant on the pebbles. As the water evaporates, add more, but don’t let the plant sit in water. 

KEEP A SHARP EYE
OUT FOR PESTS
Dry air in our winter-warm homes can create a favorable environment for pests. Keep a close eye on your plants’ leaves for signs of problems. Periodically check your plants with a magnifying glass.

Thoroughly check the undersides of leaves, stems, and branch axils. Look for common plant pests such as spider mites, mealybugs, whiteflies, & fungus gnats. Spotting problems and responding to them early can keep populations from exploding.

Just as winter is a season of rest for the outdoor garden (and the gardener!), consider it an off season for your houseplants, and give them a season of rest too. Give them the essentials, but leave things like repotting and propagation until spring when your plants begin growing actively again. Next spring, after a long winter’s nap, your plants will be ready to get growing again!

Putting the Garden to Bed

In October, when the temperatures finally begin to cool, it’s a welcome sign that soon both gardens and gardeners will be able to settle in for a well-earned winter’s rest.

Those cozy evenings by the fireside will be here before we know it, but this month, there’s still plenty to be done to get the garden ready for its dormant period, and also to prepare for next year’s busy growing season!

BEGIN BY CLEANING UP THE BEDS
Start the winterizing process with a good cleanup! A proper cleanup this fall will improve overall plant health for the following year. Begin by removing any weeds. They’re sending their energy into their roots just like all the other plants at this time of year. You’ll want to get them out, so they don’t spread seed or dig deeper roots over the winter.

You’ll also want to clean up dropped fruit under fruit trees. Fruits and vegetables left out all winter will only rot, attract animals, and set seed. Remove all vegetable plants that are finished producing for the season. Dispose of plants which had insects or disease. You don’t want to put those in the compost pile. The same goes for weeds. Pull out all dead plant material. This helps keep your garden healthy through the winter and helps protect against pests.

CUTTING BACK & PRUNING
Many perennials and ornamental grasses add seasonal interest to the garden with attractive seed heads and plumes. Choose what you would like to remain intact and tidy up others by cutting tall stems back to the base foliage.

Cutting old and diseased foliage in the fall can help perennials jump right into new growth come spring. However, do not prune early-flowering shrubs such as lilac, forsythia, certain varieties of hydrangea, or rhododendron. These have already set next spring’s flower buds. Pruning now would remove next spring’s blooms! Spring bloomers like these can get a haircut right after they finish flowering next year.

AMEND THE SOIL — Autumn is a great time to amend your soil by working in organic matter. The addition of compost now will improve the soil next spring. Rototilling, or turning the soil over, will reduce insect and disease problems next year. Be sure to do this while the soil is dry.

ADD MULCH — Renewing all mulches in the autumn will yield several benefits. It helps maintain a consistent soil temperature, retains moisture, and prevents exposure of roots — which is a common cause of winter damage. Apply mulch around perennial plants — especially those that have been recently planted — as well as around trees and shrubs.

PREPARE FOR THOSE EARLY FROSTS — Keep an eye on those weather apps for nighttime temps dipping to or below freezing, and keep the frost blankets handy. A little protection for the first frost or two ensures your plants will continue to thrive in the warm autumn days that invariably follow a frost. If you run out of frost blankets, be sure to cover with a similar breathable material. Plastic is not recommended for frost protection because condensation beneath the plastic may lead to ice formation, which can damage the foliage.

TO HARVEST, OR NOT TO HARVEST — THAT IS THE QUESTION!

Though you may be able to extend the season by using floating row covers and frost blankets for the first autumn frost or two, generally it’s time to pull the warm-season veggie plants and put any harvests on the table for dinner. Here is a brief list of what to protect and when to call it a season:

Beans will not tolerate frost. Harvest and put them on the dinner menu.

Corn is frost sensitive and also should be harvested rather than covered.

Harvest all unprotected tomatoes and peppers. Unripened tomatoes can be placed in a paper bag or between sheets of newspaper to continue ripening indoors. Be sure to check on them often throughout their ripening process.

Cucumbers and summer squash should be harvested and thoroughly wiped dry before storing. Thin-skinned cucumbers do not store well and those should be eaten within a few days.

WHAT NOT TO
HARVEST … YET
Not all crops need to be hurriedly harvested before an autumn frost. Some cool-season vegetables are actually improved by the cold!

– Root crops like carrots and beets can remain in the ground until there’s a danger of the soil freezing. The soil acts as their protection from frost.
Celery and late cabbage can be harvested after you notice the frost has slowed their growth.
– Don’t harvest winter squash or pumpkins yet! Wait until their vines are frost-killed and their skins are hard to the thumbnail.
Kale and collards can be left in the garden until long after the first fall frost. Continue to harvest as needed until the foliage finally succumbs to the cold weather.
Potatoes should be harvested after the vines die down, so the potato skin has a chance to mature. This makes them less susceptible to bruises, cuts, and moisture loss during storage.
Lettuces and salad greens can be covered with frost cloth.
Onions should be harvested only after the frost has stopped their growth.

For a deeper dive into methods of storing vegetables for the winter, the Colorado State University Extension provides this handy fact sheet.

TO RAKE, OR NOT TO RAKE? Rake! Although some fallen leaves can be mulched back into the soil with your lawn mower, most turf grasses will not tolerate a thick mat of leaves over the winter. Soggy mats of leaves on turf can lead to disease problems. You can add dry leaves to the compost pile, or shred & dig directly into your vegetable beds to improve the soil over the winter.

Aerate your lawn to loosen compacted soil, and apply Green Thumb Winterizer in mid-October. Your lawn will be nice and green in the spring. For the final mowing of the season, leave your grass at a height of 2½”.

Bindweed, dandelion, and other perennial weeds will be moving food reserves down to their roots now. This is a great time to use Weed Free Zone to kill these invasive weeds, roots and all.

Before you drain your sprinkler system for the year, give your lawn a good watering. Continue to hand water as long as temperatures remain above freezing.

Put a trip to Echter’s on your autumn to-do list! We’ll help you tackle putting your garden to bed. Then you can feel free to settle back and enjoy the season knowing that your garden is well-prepared for a long winter’s nap!

Extending the Harvest

With the summer harvest season in full swing, the last thing you may be thinking about is planting more vegetables. But why give up popping out the back door to harvest fresh veggies just because summer is drawing to a close? Smart gardeners know that late summer is the ideal time to plant another round of crisp, fresh, cool-season veggies to extend the harvest just a little longer.

Late summer is prime time for sowing seeds! The soil is still warm from summer temperatures, so seeds germinate more easily. By the time seedlings are up and growing, the air temperatures will have begun to cool as autumn weather settles in. Warm soil & cool air —you couldn’t ask for better growing conditions!

Autumn gardening offers a few advantages over spring & summer as well. Spring planting problems (like bolting because of heat and pesky garden pests) aren’t an issue in the autumn. Even though frost is a necessary consideration, some vegetables are even sweeter after a light frost. So if you’re thinking of squeezing in a little more gardening before the season truly ends, grab your favorite cool-season veggie seeds and a calendar, and get sowing!

Successfully extending the vegetable season depends on a little careful planning. Begin by learning the average date of the first autumn frost in your area. Once you know this, consult the seed packet to find the days to maturity for each particular crop. For the peas in the seed packet to the left, it will be 62-75 days from sowing seed to mature peas. Armed with this information, count backwards on the calendar to find the date you should sow the seed. Simple!

TIP: You may want to pad your planting estimates with an extra couple of weeks. As the days grow shorter, there will be less sunlight for growing, and daytime temperatures will also be cooler. What may have grown quickly in the warming soil and lengthening days of spring, may take just a little longer in the autumn.

As you remove fading summer vegetable crops from your garden, it’s easy to plug in a frost-tolerant, cool-season crop in its place. Begin by adding a soil amendment to replenish essential micro-organisms, provide nutrients, and improve the overall condition of the soil. It takes healthy soil to grow healthy plants!

Lastly, be prepared for those early autumn frosts! Though there are a number of frost-tolerant crops that will laugh at a light frost, sometimes Mother Nature does something unexpected! It’s wise to be ready to give your plants an extra bit of help if necessary. Make sure to keep frost cloths & blankets, fleece tunnels & jackets, etc. at hand and ready to go on short notice. Keep a close eye on weather forecasts and forecasted overnight low temps. Protect your plants, and they’ll be able to keep right on growing in the Indian Summer that inevitably follows a first frost event.

Now … what to plant and when? With an average frost date of mid-October for our Zone 5 Colorado gardens, try planting these popular cool-weather loving crops in late August to early September. They are reliable favorites.

Go ahead and enjoy another round of leafy greens like spinach, chard, watercress, kale, and lettuces. Peas are another favorite for the autumn garden.

Root vegetables like carrots, beets, turnips, and radishes are popular choices that also do well in cool-season Colorado gardens.

Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kohlrabi will enjoy sunny days and cool nights in the autumn garden. They can all tolerate a light frost.

Autumn gardening can be rewarding and fun as long as you’re knowledgeable and prepared. Why not get just one more vegetable harvest in before winter arrives? Those late-season veggies will taste mighty good in soups & stews come January!

Harvesting Summer’s Sweet Rewards!

Knowing when and how to harvest is an especially important part of growing your own food. Why? Because it affects the quality, flavor, and nutritional value of your homegrown produce! But how do you know when something is fully ripe, and what’s the best way to harvest? Scroll through, and check out our tips on how to harvest popular crops in Colorado.

Let’s start with the jewels of the garden — tomatoes! For the best taste and the highest nutritional value, you’ll want to leave your tomatoes on the vine until they’re fully colored, then gently twist and pull from the vine. The trick is in what “fully colored” looks like. Gone are the days when you could wait for a tomato to be a rich, vibrant red before confidently plucking it from the vine.

Nowadays tomato varieties comprise a rainbow of colors — yellows, oranges, greens, stripes, and even sprinkles! It’s particularly important to know what your ripe tomato should look like. If in doubt, a ripe tomato will give slightly to the touch. It it’s not ripe, it will still feel quite hard. Another tell-tale sign is how resistant the tomato is to being picked. If it hangs onto the vine for dear life when you try to pluck it, it’s not ready yet! If you’re growing heirloom varieties, you should pick them just shy of full color because they generally ripen before their color deepens.

When to Harvest Root Vegetables?

Beets … Most beet varieties are ready to pull about two months from planting. For baby beets, you’ll want to harvest earlier, when the roots are 1½” across. Letting beets stay in the ground too long will yield tough, woody roots!

Carrots … Carrots may be harvest young (at about ½” diameter) for baby roots, or allowed to grow to full size for storage. Not sure if they’re ready to harvest? Pull a few carrots for a quick taste test. If they’re crisp and sweet, they ready to eat. (TIP: loosen the surrounding soil before attempting to pull up a carrot. Carrots are notorious for breaking off when they’re pulled.)

Potatoes … After the potato plants have flowered, you may dig some of the potatoes to enjoy as “new” or “baby” potatoes. If you want to harvest full-sized potatoes, allow the tops to die back in the autumn, then dig up the tubers.

Check These Heavy Producers Daily!

Cucumbers … Harvest when they’re firm and smooth. Check on them often! If they’re left on the vine & become too large, they can become bitter and pithy. Use your garden shears or pruners to neatly clip these from the vine. This will prevent possible damage to the vine caused by twisting or pulling. Cut the stem approximately ¼” above the cucumber.

Green Beans … Pick them when the pod has filled out, but before you can see the seeds bulging. Simply grasp the bean pod firmly up near the top where it connects to the vine, then use your thumb to gently pinch it loose.

Zucchini … There are two things to remember about harvesting zucchini — pick young and pick often! These can quickly become too large. Zucchini is at its most tender and flavor when it’s about 5″-7″ long and you can easily poke your fingernail through the skin. Use a sharp knife (or your pruners) to cut from the vine. (TIP: you can also harvest those delicious yellow flowers! Enjoy them raw in salads.)

Harvest this summer favorite after the silks become brown and dry. The ear should be completely filled out, and the end should be rounded instead of pointed.

Peppers, Peppers, Peppers

Bell Peppers … These grow in a range of colors including green, red, dark purple, yellow, and orange. In general, they’re ready to harvest when they are the full color of the variety planted. You can harvest bell peppers when they’re green. If you allow them to stay on the vine to ripen further, green peppers may turn red, then orange, then yellow! Purple varieties will turn from green to a dark purple to nearly black. Bells can be eaten at any stage during this ripening process, however the longer you leave them on the plant, the sweeter they become and the higher the Vitamin C content will be. To harvest, use a sharp knife or scissors to cleanly cut peppers from the plant to ensure the least damage to both pepper and plant.

Chile Peppers … Both mild and hot peppers can be harvested when they reach full size and are fully colored. They can also be harvested as soon as they reach a usable size. Chiles can be eaten at just about any stage of development. Mild peppers commonly get sweeter as they mature, while hot peppers get hotter the longer they’re left on the plant. To harvest: cut peppers from the plant with pruners. Leave a short stub of stem attached to the fruit. Do NOT pull peppers from the plant by hand — this can result in broken branches.

With eggplant, slightly immature & smaller fruits are tastier and will contain less seeds. Eggplants should be firm and shiny when fully ripe. Cut with a knife or pruners rather than trying
to pull from the plant.

Winter squash … such as acorn, spaghetti, buttercup, butternut, and Hubbard are ready to harvest when you cannot puncture the skin with your thumbnail and the stems are dry and begin to shrivel. Use pruners to cut cleanly from the vine.

Harvest pumpkins when they’re fully colored and the skin is hard enough to resist a fingernail puncture. They should sound hollow when thumped. Use a sharp knife or pruners to cut the pumpkin from the vine. Leave about 2″ of stem, and handle carefully. Any nicks or bruises will accelerate decay.

After the Harvest
Look for signs of trouble, such as yellowing leaves, rotting fruit, or unwanted pests. Be sure to put any plants that have disease or insect infestations into the trash — not the compost pile!

Healthy plant foliage can go into the compost pile after removing any seed heads. Remove any weeds from the vegetable garden, then improve the soil with compost, or plant a cover crop in the bed to overwinter.

Remember to Share the Harvest
If you find yourself with an overabundance of anything (we’re lookin’ at you, zucchini!) always remember to share the harvest with friends, family, and neighbors. If their cupboards are full, donations of fresh, homegrown vegetables are welcomed at your local food bank! After all, the summer harvest should be a season of plenty for everyone.

5 Smart Ways to Deer-Proof Your Garden

Each summer we get questions from exasperated gardeners asking, “What can I plant that the deer won’t eat?” It’s a complicated subject, since what works for one gardener might not work for another. However, there are a few smart garden strategies that you can try that may make your garden less attractive to deer.

Your first line of defense is always to make smart plant choices. Be aware of plants deer favor, and make sure you’re not stocking your garden with a buffet of their favorites! Armed with a little information, you may be able to plant your solution to the deer problem and discourage them naturally.

Deer tend to like plants that are smooth, tender, and flavorful. Plants such as arborvitae, tulips, hosta, daylilies, and roses are favorites. What they do not like are plants that are highly aromatic, prickly, thorny, fuzzy, or plants that contain a milky sap like milkweed. They also naturally avoid plants that are toxic such as foxglove, daffodils and poppies.

So, what types of plants are deer resistant? Some good shrub choices are: Holly, Barberry, Spirea, Boxwood, and Lilac. For the herb and vegetable garden try: onions, garlic, sage, tarragon, lavender, mint, and rosemary. Deer-resistant flowering plants include: Peony, Marigolds, Forget-me-not, Bee Balm, and Iris. Ornamental grasses in general are not a favorite of deer, but within that category try planting Blue Fescue, Golden Hakone grass, or a Black Mondo grass

As for that elusive deer-proof plant — there is no single plant that is guaranteed to be completely “deer proof!” As Dr. James Klett, Professor of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Colorado State University states, “Deer — if they’re hungry enough — are going to eat anything. If there is a completely deer-resistant plant out there, I don’t know what it is.”

If you think in terms of which plants deer do and don’t prefer, you can begin to plan your garden with a bit more foresight and strategy. Since deer tend to be skittish about coming in close to a living area & would rather remain near the safety of the forest, try planting your deer-favorite plants (like tulips and roses) close to the house. Also, planting less-preferred plants in a protective ring around those that are more desirable can be an effective strategy.

Try planting confusing combinations of plants. “I was sure there were daylilies in there somewhere”, Bambi complains, “but all I could smell was garlic!

Another deer-repelling strategy you can try is to “foul the fringes” — that is, line the perimeter of your property with unpalatable plants. Strategically placed hedges or thorny shrubs can serve as a natural way to redirect the deer and discourage lingering to feed on more attractive plants nearer to your home. Clever!

Deer don’t go past anything they can’t see through or over. You can make that work in your favor. Use solid hedges of pungent junipers or form trellises with fragrant morning glories. If deer can’t see what’s inside, they’re less likely to take that leap of faith onto your property.

Try working with their favorite plants combined with their desire to stay near the safety of their forest home. Plant things they DO like well away from your garden. A feast of their favorite flowers (delphinium, phlox, hosta and pansy) may have them nibbling, then heading safely back into the forest. It can be your sacrificial garden. The idea is to leave them thinking, “Why brave the garden close to the house, when the good stuff is planted all the way out here?

Keep in mind that deer are like people, and what deters one won’t always deter another, but trying several of these strategies can help. With a little careful planning, and a few tricks here and there, it may be possible for your garden to coexist peacefully with these beautiful creatures!

Garden Smart with Xeric & Native Plants

Colorado gardeners are portrayed with a wide range of descriptive terms: enthusiastic, resilient, tenacious, optimistic and persistent come to mind. We learn by experience, and all of us — novice or veteran gardener, have enjoyed success and have also been disappointed with failure. What we all share is our sense of place and region, with all of its gardening advantages and challenges. Our sunny skies and dry climate provide the perfect palette for plants native to the region as well as those from other areas of the world that thrive in similar conditions.

What are Xeric plants? Xeric is a term that applies to plants that grow well with minimal irrigation once they are established. They are eagerly sought by the gardener who is looking for plants that demand less water and adapt to the soils of the region. The xeriscape gardening concept uses seven basic design and planting fundamentals.

Why Choose Native & Xeric Plants for Your Home Landscape?
There are plenty of good reasons to fill your garden with water-wise native plants. It makes sense to use plants that are naturally adapted to Colorado’s unique climate, soils, and environment. When they’re correctly sited, native species require less water & fertilizer, and they’re more pest & disease resistant.

By choosing native plants, you’ll be working with nature, instead of trying to work with plants that aren’t suited to our local conditions. Another great reason to choose native plants is to restore habitat and biodiversity in our rapidly-growing urban areas. Gardens with native plants provide food, shelter, and other important resources for our wildlife — including our native pollinators!

Where Can You Find Xerics & Natives?
It’s not hard to find xeric or native plants for your garden! Many plants that are native to our region are also xeric. These water-wise plants include favorites such as Blue Flax, Blanket Flower, Penstemon, Apache Plume, Kinnikinnick, Boulder Raspberry, Hackberry, Hawthorn and Serviceberry. The true natives — such as the Desert Four O’clock and Purple Poppy Mallow — also play very well with immigrants from abroad including Russian Sage, Ice Plant, Torch Lily and many more. These are just a few of the many interesting choices that will happily settle in and make themselves right at home in your garden.

At Echter’s, we carry a wide variety of drought-resistant and xeric plants that are especially suited for Colorado’s dry climate. Our knowledgeable staff will help you choose just the right plants for your landscape.

You’ll find that xeric and native plants are resilient, tenacious and persistent. They will inspire enthusiasm and optimism in your gardening adventures. So celebrate your sense of place, and welcome native and xeric plants to your garden where they will feel right at home!

Beat the Heat in the Summer Garden!

We’ve experienced some very warm weather this last week, and it looks like there is going to be more of it next week!  Some of your plants may be showing signs of heat stress. Leaves may wilt. Vegetables like lettuce and spinach may bolt (flower prematurely) or in the case of plants you want to blossom, like peppers or watermelon, they may drop blossoms, reducing yield. Here are a few tips to help your garden withstand the hottest part of the summer.

Watch Your Plants
Plants will often tell you when they are needing water. Lawns will turn a bluish green and show footprints that don’t rebound. Bean leaves will turn a darker green and begin to wilt. Most plants will perform better if you don’t allow them to wilt before watering, so check your garden every day and observe their needs.

Water When Necessary
It’s true that you need to water more often during hot weather, but first check the soil. The surface may look dry even though there is plenty of moisture in the root zone. Over-watering can be just as harmful as under-watering, so don’t over do it. Slow, deep watering will ensure that water soaks down to the roots. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems work well.  If using a hose that has been laying in the sun, be sure to let it run for a minute or two, until cool water comes out.

Mulch to Keep
Things Cool!
A couple of inches of organic mulch like compost, grass clippings, or bark mulch will help reduce moisture loss as well as cool the soil temperature. A side benefit is that it prevents most weeds from germinating, too!

Shade
Cover cool-weather veggies like lettuce and spinach with shade cloth. It won’t totally prevent bolting, but it might delay it a bit.  Also, raise your lawn mower blade up so that you have 3 inches of grass left standing after you mow.  This will provide shade for the roots of your lawn keeping them cool and much happier (which means a greener lawn).

Don’t Spray Chemicals
During Heat
Avoid spraying garden chemicals when temperatures are above 85 degrees. Weed killers can volatilize (evaporate and become air borne) and drift onto desirable plants. Insecticides can burn leaves of plants when temps are above 85. Spray early in the morning when temps are cooler and the air is still, or wait.

Summer is just getting started! With a little extra attention and a little extra know-how, your garden can come through this summer’s heat waves with flying colors, and keep right on blooming!

Green Thumb Tips-April

Flower Gardens

Watering plants that have been recently planted outdoors is tricky. The rule is to water them in thoroughly after they are planted. Then watch the area next to the edge of the original soil ball to see if it is getting dry. You want to encourage the roots to move out into the surrounding soil to get water without letting the original soil ball get too dry. Reduce the watering frequency with time, but water thoroughly each time you water. Don’t just wet the surface of the soil.

An easy way to harden plants that are going outdoors is to cover them with Plant & Seed Guard for a few days after you plant them. You can use wire supports if necessary to hold the fabric away from the plants. Attach it to the ground with wire staples. It’s re-usable.

Pot begonias and dahlias now and keep them indoors until later in May. This will give them a good head start and they will bloom earlier after putting them outside.

Plant gladioli, lilies, cannas, callas, ranunculus, crocosmia and other summer blooming bulbs toward the end of April. Plant pansies between the bulbs to give you early color.

Fertilize your spring-flowering bulbs after the blooms have gone with Gro Rich Rose & Perennial fertilizer. Wait until the leaves turn brown to remove them. The leaves help build strength in the bulbs for next year.

Place your plant supports into position early. If you wait until they really need support, it may be difficult as the plant will be too large. This is especially true for peonies.

When you hand water, use a nozzle with a shut-off or trigger nozzle that stops the flow of water when released so you don’t waste water.

Before transplanting, be sure that your plants are not dry.

Flowering annual starts which can be planted out in early April after “hardening them off” are alyssum, dusty miller, sweet peas, anchusa, larkspur, centaurea, pansies, dracaena, and snapdragons.

When is it safe to plant other flowers?

Pinch back your annuals to promote stronger, bushier plants and more flower production.

More on Planting and Caring for Annuals and Vegetables

Perennials & Roses & Vines

If you have a fence you’d like to hide there are several plants you can use besides shrubs. Vines like trumpet vine, silver lace vine, wisteria, honeysuckle vine, Virginia creeper and climbing roses which are perennials can be used. Annual vines like sweet peas, morning glories, Scarlet runner beans are just a few good fence covers. Remember other tall plants like sunflower or hollyhocks.

Group flowers and vegetables with the same water needs together to take advantage of their lower water requirements.

When planning your flower bed, whether it is planted in annuals or perennials, don’t overlook ornamental grasses for a beautiful contrasting texture.

Spring is the best time to divide perennials that bloom in mid or late summer such as asters and chrysanthemums. Wait until September to divide early spring-flowering perennials like bleeding hearts and peonies.

Plant wildflower seeds in April. Improve your soil before planting by raking in either peat moss or compost or a combination of the two.

Add some spice to predictable bulb and perennial beds by broadcasting seeds of annuals like larkspur, cosmos, poppies, bachelor buttons or other annuals among your established plants.

Trees & Shrubs

April is the best time to plant new trees and shrubs. Improve the soil first with compost and/or peat moss. Then apply MYKE Tree & Shrub Transplanter and water in with Root Stimulator, both of which reduce transplant shock and stimulate root growth.

When planting large trees, stake them for the first year. Use 2” wide staking straps around the tree. Do not use wire, twine or rope on the tree itself. Place the stakes 2-3 feet away from the tree, tie the strap to the stake and leave a little slack. Let the tree sway slightly to develop roots and caliper.

April is perfect time to take stock of the plants in your yard. Are there plants that have overgrown their spaces? Are some sickly and unattractive? Now is the time to pull them out and replace them with a new and vibrant plant. This is what garden renewal is about.

Cut back butterfly bushes, blue mist spireas, Russian sage and other late summer-blooming shrubs at this time.

If you didn’t get around to pruning your shrubs and trees in March, you can still do some pruning now, the earlier the better.

Start your fertilizing program for roses, trees and shrubs when the leaves appear on the branches.

Protect your ash trees from Emerald Ash Borers. Use Ferti-lome Tree and Shrub Systemic Insect Drench for easy-to-use systemic protection from insects all year long. Follow the label directions and just mix it with water in a watering can or bucket and pour the solution around the base of trees or shrubs.

Watch for distorted leaflets on honeylocust trees. Leafhoppers can damage this trees fine leaves. They can also damage lawns. A good insecticide can help eliminate these tiny pests.

If you don’t have room for two different fruit trees for cross pollination, try one of our 4-in-1 apple, pear or sweet cherry trees for a great crop of fruit. There are four different grafts on one tree.

Are you tired of raking up crabapples in the summer? Spray crabapple trees with Monterey Floral Growth Regulator at mid to full bloom. This will prevent the fruit from forming.

Check for borer holes in your shade, spruce and pine trees. Evidence of these borers will be small holes, possibly with evidence of sap and/or sawdust. Our plant doctors can recommend the proper treatment depending on the type of tree and borer.

Remove protective tree wrap from young trees around April 1. Check the trunk for any problems.

Remember the worms on the ash trees last year? Watch for them again this year and spray with Eight from Bonide.

Although annuals look beautiful planted around new trees, there is a danger of over-watering your trees while trying keep your flowers pretty.

There are several trees, shrubs, and flowers which will attract those all-important pollinators – the bees. Anyone with a fruit tree or a vegetable garden knows their importance. Stop by our Plant Doctor desk for a list of these plants. Remember to refrain from spraying insecticides while bees are present. Something to note: bumblebees are more effective pollinators than honeybees.

Deep-root waterers get water under the lawn which is useful for trees, shrubs and roses. Some of these tools also have a container for dissolving fertilizer pellets to feed your plants right at the roots.

Before transplanting, always make sure trees and shrubs are not dry to help avoid transplant stress.

Start treating your pine and spruce trees for insects like scale, tussock moth, Cooley spruce gall, pine tip moth, pitch mass borer, and ips beetle. Come in and we can recommend the appropriate preventive treatments.

Vegetable Gardens

It’s time to plant seeds of peas, turnips, carrots, beets, spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce, radishes. Plant garlic cloves, seed potatoes, dormant strawberry plants and onion sets.

Keep an N-sulate cover handy for unexpected frosts after your garden is planted. It will keep the frost off new seedlings as they emerge from the soil.

Mid-April is the time to set out broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Swiss chard, radicchio, and Brussels sprouts plants. Be sure to “harden them off” first.

Enjoy an earlier growing season by four weeks by setting out Season Starter plant protectors in April. You can set tomatoes and pepper plants inside them ten days after initial setup of your Season Starter. The setup period allows the soil beneath the solar shelters to warm to a temperature suitable for plant growth.

If you are having trouble growing plants in your gardens, have your soil tested. We can test your soil for nutrient deficiencies for a nominal fee. We can let you know what to do to improve your soil for more flowers and vegetables.

Vegetable gardens benefit from watering at ground level, instead of watering overhead. Watering with soaker hoses helps to prevent many diseases and insects.  

Remember to rotate your vegetable crop plantings each year. Plant each variety of vegetable in a different part of your garden than you did last year. This will minimize repeated problems with disease and insects.

Plant your fast growing crops in two-week intervals to prolong the availability of lettuce, spinach, peas, and radishes. When the weather gets too hot for these vegetables, plant some in the shade of taller plants, like pole beans and corn. This system is also good for gardeners with limited space.

By placing a floating row cover over your carrot, lettuce, and spinach seed, your seeds will germinate quicker, and the birds won’t make a meal of them. Floating row covers also eliminate cabbage loopers on cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.  Keep your cover handy in case there is a cold snap for any newly planted vegetables and flowers.

Use soaker hoses in your vegetable garden and flower beds. You can either lay the hose on top of the soil next to the plant or bury it to get water directly to the roots. Soaker hoses can also be used to water trees and shrubs.

Lawns

Early April is the best time to start fertilizing your lawn. By using a fertilizer with pre-emergent (weed and grass preventer), you will be able to eliminate a lot of annual grass and weed seeds by keeping them from germinating.

April is a good time to seed or overseed lawns. Use a good grass seed and apply New Lawn Starter fertilizer after the seed is sown. Keep the area moist even after germination. Do not apply a pre-emergent crabgrass control before or after seeding, as this will prevent grass seed germination.

Core aerate your lawn before fertilizing this month. Not only does this help the lawn’s vigor and health, it also reduces maintenance and water usage. Be sure your lawn is well watered a day or two before aeration.

Keep your mower blade sharp. Dull blades can invite lawn diseases to enter grass blades. Bring your rotary mower blades into Echter’s for sharpening. You can bring them in on or off the mower.

Use a rain gauge to measure the amount of water you are putting on your lawn. Apply 3/4” to 1” slowly enough to evenly soak the lawn without running off the area.

Inspect your irrigation system regularly. Be sure sprinkler heads are not plugged and are properly adjusted for the radius and the level of spray needed. As surrounding plants grow, you will need to modify your system. Especially check for leaks in the sprinkler lines.

Houseplants

On a nice warm day, take your houseplants outside and give them a shower, or use your bathroom shower. The plants will appreciate a good cleaning after being inside all winter.

Birds

It’s spring cleaning season even for birds. If you haven’t cleaned your bird houses this year, clean them out and then spray them with a bird feeder cleaner before the new birds arrive.

Continue feeding the birds at your feeders. Seed-producing plants are just beginning to grow and there are now more birds competing for the depleted wild seed supply. Give them a supply of water also.

Spring Bulb Planting 101

It just wouldn’t be spring without the bright, cheery blooms of tulips, daffodils, and crocus emerging from the ground to usher in the season! If you’ve never tried planting bulbs before, you’ll find it’s both fun and easy to create a beautiful spring display right in your own yard. Surprisingly, the time to plant them is in the autumn!

Why do you plant spring-flowering bulbs in the autumn? It’s because they require a long period of cool temperatures to spark the biochemical process that causes them to flower next spring. Because of that, it’s important to get them into the ground in the autumn before the ground freezes.

What is a bulb?
It’s really a self-contained flower factory! Each bulb has nearly everything the future flower needs to survive the winter and come to life in the spring. If you were to look inside the bulb, you would see a baby flower bud, leaves, roots, stem, and a food supply.


Plan Carefully for Color All Season Long!
With a little planning, you can have blooms starting before the snow melts and continuing into early summer. For an entire season of color, you’ll need to stagger bloom times. Check the packaging to see whether the bulbs are early, middle, or late spring bloomers. Begin by choosing some early bloomers like snowdrops and crocus. Then pick out some colorful tulips, hyacinths, & daffodils. These will provide mid-season color. Lastly, follow up with some of the late-season bloomers like Dutch iris and alliums. Mix or match your color scheme, it’s up to you!

Pay attention to the final height of each flower at maturity. Be sure to plant taller flowers at the back of a bed with shorter blooms in the front. This information is available on the bulb packaging as well. Armed with this information, all that’s left to do is plant them in the ground and wait for spring.

When to plant
You can plant spring flowering bulbs in the autumn after the temperatures cool down, but before the ground freezes. Visit your garden center early in the autumn for the best selection. If you can’t plant your spring bulbs right away, be sure to keep them in a cool, dry location (like a garage or basement) until you can get them in the ground. Warm storage conditions will signal the bulb to begin growing!

Where Should I Plant Them?
There are several factors to consider. First, look for a sunny location. Bulbs prefer full sun to rejuvenate for future years, so look for a part of your garden where they’ll receive at least six hours of sun each day. Also, look for a location with good drainage. Bulbs do not like “wet feet,” so you won’t want to place them anywhere water tends to collect in your yard. Lastly, consider planting your earliest blooming bulbs in a location you’ll be able to enjoy from inside your home! They’ll be a welcome splash of color on those still-chilly early-spring days, and you won’t have to step outside to enjoy them.

How Deep Should Bulbs be Planted?
You’ll want to dig a hole that’s three to four times the height of the bulb being planted. This means most large bulbs like tulips & daffodils will be planted about six to eight inches deep, while smaller bulbs like crocus will be planted 3-4″ deep.

Preparing to Plant
Your Color Show
After digging a hole to the proper depth, be sure to remove any weeds, rocks or other debris. Bulbs prefer humus-rich soils, so it’s important to add soil amendments like compost or sphagnum peat moss when planting in order to improve both drainage and moisture retention. Add a handful of bulb food or bone meal at the bottom of the hole, then place the bulb into the hole with the pointed tip upwards, and the flatter root end down.

No Yard? No Problem!
You can successfully grow bulbs in containers! Hold your bulbs indoors until mid-October before planting. Then fill your container part way with Echter’s Outdoor Container mix. Then plant lasagna style, beginning with the largest bulbs at the lowest level. Then add more soil and place the next level of bulbs. Continue to the top of the pot, then add a final layer of soil.

Water thoroughly, and place your container in an unheated garage or shed for the winter. In March, bring it out, and place it in a nice sunny location again. Water as needed, and your spring bulbs will be blooming in just a few weeks!

Bulbs are among the easiest flowers to grow. They require so little of the gardener — just a sunny spot and a few inches of well-drained soil. Water them occasionally, and let them work their magic over the winter. You’ll find this is one autumn garden task that pays big rewards the following spring!

September Garden Tips

September days are here, with summer’s best of weather and autumn’s best of cheer.
~ Helen Hunt Jackson

In the Flower Garden

Pansies planted this month will stay in bloom until the ground freezes. Mulch them for winter protection and these hardy pansies will be back in flower when the warm days of spring return. They are great companions for spring-flowering bulbs.

Plant frost-hardy plants like garden mums, asters, flowering kale, flowering cabbage, and pansies as you remove tender annuals from beds and borders. Mums are a great value for the spectacular show of color they provide.

For fun try taking cuttings of your favorite geraniums before first frost. Dip these cuttings in a rooting hormone and place in good, lightweight soil. Water in well, but let soil go fairly dry between waterings. 

When digging up your cannas, dahlias, and gladioli, use a felt tipped pen to write on the bulbs what color each bulb is so that you will be able to identify which is which in the spring. Store these and other tender bulbs in moistened vermiculite or peat moss in a cool area and protect them from freezing over the winter.

Bulbs

The best selection of bulbs is now. Don’t forget bulb food or super phosphate when planting your tulips, daffodils, crocus and other spring-flowering bulbs. Plant colchicum and fall-blooming crocus now which will bloom for you this fall. 

The easiest way to plant bulbs at the proper depth is with a bulb planter or an auger which attaches to your electric drill. When planting bulbs the pointed end of the bulb is positioned upward.

Plant bulbs under groundcovers like thyme or veronica for a great combination of flowers and backdrop. This is a low maintenance technique for combining plants for a succession of color. 

Plant small, early-flowering bulbs where they can be seen from indoors, since they bloom when it is usually too cold to enjoy them outside. 

Perennials & Roses

September is an excellent time for planting perennials! The temperatures are cooling down and the soil is still warm, which allows rooting to take place. Plant your perennials at the same time you plant bulbs. You’ll be able to place perennial plants between your
bulb groupings for color from spring to fall. 

Divide peonies and daylilies at this time of year. Stop in for a care sheet for instructions for both of these beautiful perennials. Remove any foliage with fungal diseases such as powdery mildew and rust. Discard in the trash. Cleaning up now will help prevent a recurrence of the problem next year. 

September Lawn Care

Lawns grow best in spring and fall. They will benefit greatly from two more feedings. Fertilize your lawn with Green Thumb Lawn Fertilizer by mid September. Green Thumb Winterizer should be applied in mid October. Your lawn will be nice and green in the spring.

Bindweed, dandelion, and other perennial weeds will be moving food reserves down to their roots now. This is a great time to use Weed Free Zone to kill these invasive weeds, roots and all. 

Core aerate your lawn in mid to late September, so that winter moisture can soak in. 

September is an excellent time to seed your lawn. Cooler temperatures mean less stress on you and your lawn. 

Trees & Shrubs

September is a great time to plant trees, shrubs, and vines. The soil is still warm
and good for root development and to get the plant established. Water in well
and cover with mulch to retain moisture.

Be sure to pay extra attention to the watering needs
throughout the fall and winter months.

Don’t be alarmed if your pine trees begin dropping their older needles. It’s normal for the inner needles to yellow or brown and drop off in the fall. 

Avoid excessive pruning of trees and shrubs, because pruning encourages new growth to begin and you want the plants to harden off before going into
dormancy for the winter. 

If you had insect problems on your trees and shrubs, whether they be aphids or borers, an application of Ferti-lome Tree and Shrub Systemic Insect Drench, will greatly reduce their population. Apply this fall, and your plants
will be protected for a whole year. 

Watch for leaf color to change on the trees and shrubs around your neighborhoods. Then come into the nursery and select the plant of your choice and the color that you want. Genetically trees and shrubs may have different shades
of fall color, so this is a great time to pick your plants. 

Rake up fallen apples, crabapples, and other fruit from the ground
to prevent insects from overwintering. 

You can reduce the amount of bruising and damage to apples and other fruit by using a long-handled fruit picker to reach the highest branches of fruit trees. 

Vegetable Gardens

Harvest potatoes when the foliage browns. It is better to harvest potatoes when the soil is fairly dry, using a pitchfork or spading fork to gently loosen the soil around them. Let the tubers dry for a few hours in a warm place, but out of the direct sun.

Winter squash — such as acorn, spaghetti, buttercup, butternut, and Hubbard — are ready to harvest when you cannot puncture the skin with your thumbnail
and the stems are dry and begin to shrivel.

Gently turn pumpkins and gourds to prevent soft spots. Place three or four inches
of straw under your pumpkins to prevent damage to the bottoms.

Before first frost dig up herbs like chives, rosemary and parsley, place them in pots in a south-facing window for seasonings all winter.

When onion tops start to yellow, bend them over to divert the plant’s energy to the bulb. After the tops turn brown, lift the onions from the soil and let them dry in the sun. Once the skins are dry, cut the stems and store the onions in a cool, dry place.  

Make notes or a journal to keep records on which of your vegetables did best and were the most prolific and which vegetables did not perform well. Next year, focus on planting varieties which performed well for you.  

Spray or pull up all weeds before they go to seed. This will save a lot of time
and aggravation next spring.

When Early Frosts Threaten…

Water deeply and thoroughly before cold weather – hydrated plants
will do better when an early frost occurs. If plants do show some signs of frost damage, wait a few days in order to give them time to recover
before pulling them up. 

Harvest fruits and vegetables prior to a hard freeze. 
Pick your green tomatoes — tomatoes will continue to ripen after being picked green. Place them in a single layer in a cardboard box, being sure they do not touch each other and cover with a newspaper. Place boxes in a dark, cool place, but don’t forget to check often as the tomatoes will ripen sporadically.  

Just as a blanket will keep you warm, it will also keep your plants warm!
Frost blankets will protect a late-season vegetable garden from cold damage
and ensure that it continues to produce after the weather has cleared.
Avoid using plastic coverings — plastic attracts the cold & may harm plants.

When temperatures drop into the low 30s, be sure to disconnect hoses from spigots.  Don’t forget to drain your hoses, birdbaths, and other water holding items
to prevent them from freezing or cracking.

Miscellaneous

Check your houseplants carefully for insects before you bring them back indoors. 

Plant amaryllis bulbs the end of this month for blooms at Christmas.

Continue to supply your hummingbird feeders for the fall migration show.

July & August Garden Tips

In the Flower Garden

Cut flowers for bouquets early in the morning and place the stems immediately into a bucket of water to keep them fresh until you are able to arrange them.

If your pansies were too nice to take out in June but are looking sad now, replace them with some heat-loving annuals like periwinkle, salvia, marigolds, celosia, gazania, geraniums, portulaca, or verbena for a great color show in summer. 

“Dead-head” (pinch off the spent blooms) on perennials, annuals and roses for longer flowering periods and more and larger blooms.

Continue fertilizing annuals and perennials as instructed on your favorite fertilizer. This will give you continued flowering all season long.

Check the water needs for hanging baskets and planters daily. The wind and sun dry them quickly. 

Pull the weeds out of your flower beds before they get large. They are competing with your plants for water. Don’t let them produce seed or you will have even more next season. 

Yarrow, strawflowers, celosia, and gomphrena can be cut for flowers and dried. Take pictures of your container combinations so you can repeat or modify the designs next year.

Roses & Perennials

Roses are heavy feeders, so continue to fertilize throughout the summer to produce an abundance of big, beautiful flowers. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer of your choice and water at the base of the plant.

August is the last time that roses should be fertilized. They should then begin to “harden off” for winter. Remove old, spent rose blooms after they fade, cutting the stem just above the uppermost 5-leaflet node on the stem. 

Prevent rose and perennial diseases like powdery mildew from taking hold by using a systemic fungicide before the problem appears. Once those diseases appear it is very difficult to control.  Bee balm, phlox, columbines and lilacs are some of the plants prone to powdery mildew. 

If your iris did not bloom well this year, they may need to be divided. This is the time to divide overcrowded irises. Dig up the whole clump, sort out the rhizomes which have leaves on them, and discard the old rhizomes. Replant the good rhizomes after improving the soil with compost and working a little super phosphate into the soil below the root zone.

Plant fall-blooming perennials like asters, mums, agastache and Autumn Joy sedum for color August through October. Look for empty spaces in your garden where you could plant some bulbs this fall between perennials to add more color to next spring’s show. Our fall bulbs usually arrive around Labor Day weekend.

In the Vegetable Garden

Avoid overhead watering when tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, corn and some other vegetables are in flower. They need pollination and the pollen can be washed away, resulting in fewer fruits.

Water your garden early in the morning while it is still cool. There is much less evaporation at this time than in the heat of the day. 

Vegetables will stay fresher if you harvest them from the garden early in the day. Clean them as quickly as possible and refrigerate (except tomatoes which should not be refrigerated for best flavor).

Fertilize your vegetable gardens to maximize your harvest, and fertilize strawberry beds with ammonium sulfate now for more berries next spring. 

Remove vegetable plants that have finished producing. If they are free of insects and disease, compost the plants; otherwise dispose of them so they don’t infect your other plants. 

Pinch off the flower buds of onions to direct energy to the developing bulb. Harvest corn when the husk is tight over the ear and the silks are dried to a dark brown.

Plant broccoli, carrots, turnips, lettuce and radishes now to enjoy a nice fall garden. Choose early varieties so that they will mature before freezing temperatures. 

Summer Lawn Care

Don’t expect cool season bluegrass to look as green in summer as it does in spring and fall. If a lawn goes somewhat dormant in summer, it will still green back as soon as the weather cools and more moisture is available.

Those impossible weeds like bindweed, dandelions and thistle in your lawn can be controlled with Ferti-lome’s Weed Free Zone.

Do you have dry spots in your lawn where water won’t penetrate? A lawn irrigator will put the water right at the roots and aerate those areas, so that water will percolate down. An application of Revive will also help water soak into the ground and penetrate deeper into the soil instead of running off of slopes. 

If your did not make the second application of fertilizer in June or July, our recommendation is Green Thumb Lawn Food for summertime feeding of your lawn. It’s best to avoid fast-release nitrogen fertilizer on your lawns in the heat of the summer.

Trees & Shrubs

Deep watering of trees, shrubs, roses, vines, and perennials is essential this time of year. Water thoroughly, but only when the plants require water.  Check soil 3-4″ deep to determine when these plants need to be watered.

Protect your trees and shrubs from grass trimmers. The best way to protect these is to eliminate the grass directly around the tree, encircle it with weed fabric, and then mulch with bark or rock.

Examine all trees, shrubs, roses, perennials and annuals for insects and diseases. This is the time of year these problems begin. There are controls for any of these situations.

Water Gardening

Is your pond turning green? Add more shade on the surface of the water with water hyacinths, water lettuce and water lilies. Use Algae Fix to get rid of green water and then treat with MicrobeLift TAC. These beneficial bacteria will compete with algae for resources and work to keep your pond crystal clear.

Houseplants

If you set your houseplants outside on your patio, be sure to examine them periodically for insects and treat them accordingly. Continue fertilizing your houseplants according to the directions on the fertilizer container.

If your plants have been in the same pot for two or more years, this is a good time to repot them into an attractive container which is at least two inches larger than the present pot.

Check the chemicals stored in your garage. If you have had them more than two years, they may be losing effectiveness.  Organic BT formulations may be ineffective after one year.

The most environmentally friendly way to get rid of chemicals is to use them up according to directions. You may still get control. If not, reapply with newer product. The logical choice is to buy only what you need this season. We can help you choose the safest effective products. 

Contact your local County Extension Service for information on disposing of your older or banned chemicals. Chemicals should NOT be thrown out with the trash.

Miscellaneous Summer Tips

Keep your hummingbird feeder filled and ready for the “hummers” fall migration.

Take your camera when visiting public gardens or even your friends’ gardens. If you want to have a beautiful flower or shrub you’ve seen, bring in a picture or a sample and we can help identify it for you!

Keep your compost moist and aerate the pile by turning it.  

If your yellow jacket trap is not working anymore, it may be time to replace the attractant.  

Echter’s Plant Doctors are available during store hours seven days a week to answer your gardening questions. For accurate diagnosis, it helps to bring in a sample.