Fall is For Planting

Many folks are surprised to learn that autumn runs a close second to spring as an ideal planting time, but it’s true: cool temperatures, reliable rainfall, and short, bright days help plants make a quick and easy transition to your landscape. Despite the cold weather lurking around the corner, the entire first half of autumn (and then some) provides ample opportunity for plants to grow roots and get off to a good start in their new home. Before you run off to the garden center, though, there are a few things you should know to ensure success with fall planting:

– You can plant up to 6 weeks before your ground freezes. Once the ground is frozen, root growth will cease almost entirely until spring, and that six week window gives the plant time to get established enough to withstand cold and snow. The date that your ground actually freezes varies from year to year, of course, and some areas won’t have frozen ground at all. If you’re unsure, mid-November is a safe planting deadline for nearly everyone.

– Get everything in the ground before the ground freezes. If you still have plants in their nursery pots, get them in the ground before winter, no matter how late it has gotten. The plants will be much happier and better protected in the ground than in their thin plastic pots, so even if it’s getting quite late in the season, just plant them where you can. You can always move them come spring if you change your mind.

– Provide supplemental water when needed. Autumn weather can be quite cool and rainy, but that doesn’t mean that new plantings should be ignored, particularly if weather has been dry and/or windy. Water all plants thoroughly after planting, and continue to water them as needed until the ground freezes.

– Mulch. Just as you pile on blankets and quilts when the temperatures dip, mulch acts as insulation for plants. Mulch also creates the ideal environment for vigorous root growth, which helps new plantings get off to a good start. While even established plants benefit from a nice layer of mulch, newly planted specimens especially appreciate the protection it offers from the challenges of winter.

– Know what to expect. You won’t see much top growth emerge on fall-planted shrubs, but this is actually a good thing: any new growth that the plant produces now will be too soft to survive the impending cold anyway. Autumn planting is all about giving the plant a chance to put on root growth, which continues until temperatures average about 48°F/9°C. Plantings will be raring to go come spring thanks to the roots they create in fall.

There are also a few things to avoid:

– Avoid planting evergreens in mid-late fall. Because they keep their foliage all winter, they are more susceptible to drying out when the soil is frozen and the winds are blowing. Having several months (rather than several weeks) to develop a sizeable root system better prepares them to face these challenges. This is especially important for broadleaf evergreens like holly, rhododendron, and boxwood, as their large leaves are far more likely to get windburned and drought-stressed than conifers with needle or scale-like foliage.

– Avoid planting varieties that typically get winter damage in your climate. Certain plants get a bit of winter damage every year, no matter what – butterfly bush, caryopteris, and big-leaf hydrangea are some common examples. If you’ve got a shrub in your yard that you prune each spring to remove dead, winter-damaged stems, similar varieties would be better planted in spring than fall.

– Avoid planting anything that’s pushing it in terms of hardiness. Hardiness zones are a guideline, not an absolute, and lots of gardeners happily experiment with them. If you’d like to try something that’s perhaps not entirely hardy in your area, it’s far better to plant it in spring so it gets the whole season to grow roots instead of just a few weeks. The more roots it has, the better-equipped it is to survive winter.

Bonus tip: All of these guidelines apply to transplanting as well as new plantings, so if you’ve been considering moving something that’s already a part of your landscape, fall is a great time to do it.

https://www.provenwinners.com/learn/planting/why-plant-fall

Perennial of the Month: Aster

Asters are daisy-like perennials with starry-shaped flower heads. They bring delightful color to the garden in late summer and autumn when many of your other summer blooms may be fading.

There are many species and varieties of asters, so the plant’s height can range from 8 inches to 8 feet, depending on the type. 

The plant can be used in many places, such as in borders, rock gardens, or wildflower gardens. Asters also attract bees and butterflies, providing the pollinators with an important late-season supply of nectar.

PLANTING

CHOOSING AND PREPARING A PLANTING SITE

  • Asters prefer climates with cool, moist summers—especially cool night temperatures. In warmer climates, plant asters in areas that avoid the hot mid-day sun.
  • Select a site with full to partial sun.
  • Soil should be moist but well-drained, and loamy.
  • Mix compost into the soil prior to planting. (Learn more about soil amendments and preparing soil for planting.)

PLANTING ASTERS

  • While asters can be grown from seed, germination can be uneven. You can start the seeds indoors during the winter by sowing seeds in pots or flats and keeping them in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 weeks to simulate winter dormancy. Sow seeds one inch deep. After 4 to 6 weeks, put the seeds in a sunny spot in your home. Plant outside after the danger of frost has passed. (See local frost dates.)
  • The best time to plant young asters is in mid- to late spring. Fully-grown, potted asters may be planted as soon as they become available in your area.
  • Space asters 1 to 3 feet apart, depending on the type and how large it’s expected to get.
  • Give plants plenty of water at the time of planting.
  • Add mulch after planting to keep soil cool and prevent weeds.

CARE

HOW TO GROW ASTERS

  • Add a thin layer of compost (or a portion of balanced fertilizer) with a 2–inch layer of mulch around the plants every spring to encourage vigorous growth.
  • If you receive less than 1 inch of rain a week, remember to water your plants regularly during the summer. However, many asters are moisture-sensitive; if your plants have too much moisture or too little moisture, they will often lose their lower foliage or not flower well. Keep an eye out for any stressed plants and try a different watering method if your plants are losing flowers.
  • Stake the tall varieties in order to keep them from falling over.
  • Pinch back asters once or twice in the early summer to promote bushier growth and more blooms. Don’t worry, they can take it!
  • Cut asters back in winter after the foliage has died, or leave them through the winter to add some off-season interest to your garden.
    • Note: Aster flowers that are allowed to mature fully may reseed themselves, but resulting asters may not bloom true.
  • Divide every 2 to 3 years in the spring to maintain your plant’s vigor and flower quality.

There are many species and varieties of asters, so the plant’s height can range from 8 inches to 8 feet, depending on the type. You can find an aster for almost any garden at our garden center in autumn!

The plant can be used in many places, such as in borders, rock gardens, or wildflower gardens. Asters also attract bees and butterflies, providing the pollinators with an important late-season supply of nectar.

RECOMMENDED VARIETIES

The most common asters available in North America are the New England aster(Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) and the New York aster (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii). Both of these plants are native to North America and are great flowers for pollinators. We recommend planting a native species of aster over a non-native species when possible.

NORTH AMERICAN ASTERS

  • New England asters (S. novae-angliae): Varieties have a range of flower colors, from magenta to deep purple. They typically grow larger than New York asters, though some varieties are on the smaller side.
  • New York asters (S. novi-belgii): There are many, many varieties of New York asters available. Their flowers range from bright pink to bluish-purple and may be double, semi-double, or single.
  • Blue wood aster (S. cordifolium): Bushy with small, blue-to-white flowers.
  • Heath aster (S. ericoides): A low-growing ground cover (similar to creeping phlox) with small, white flowers.
  • Smooth aster (S. laeve): A tall, upright aster with small, lavender flowers.

EUROPEAN/EURASIAN ASTERS

  • Frikart’s aster (Aster x frikartii) ‘Mönch’: Hailing from Switzerland, this mid-sized aster has large, lilac-blue flowers.
  • Rhone aster (A. sedifolius) ‘Nanus’: This aster is known for its small, star-shaped, lilac-blue flowers and compact growth.

Why gardening during a pandemic is so comforting

We wanted to pass along this article which we thought to be very inspiring. Get out there and garden!


My friend passed along some vegetable seeds and my first burst of excitement has turned into dread.

With the struggle to slow COVID-19 leaving most households quarantined and food-obsessed (sourdough-starter sharing the least of it), I have these suddenly hot items in my hands. But now what do I do with them?

I have a lilac bush that’s still pathetic five years after planting. It’s a couple feet from the site of a sapling I pulled up, frustrated it never took root — so how am I going to transform my kale, pea, tomato and cucumber seeds into bumper crops?

I’ll wager other people have questions too, even if they don’t have a lackluster planting career and self-doubt like me.

The 50th anniversary of Earth Day this year coincided with the coronavirus outbreak and, relatedly, rising consumer demand for fruit and vegetable seeds.

Longtime gardeners have noticed more novices this year picking their brains on tips and troubleshooting.

For example, in Solon, Iowa, Paul Deaton, a gardener of three decades, has heard from people who want to know how to protect their plants from rabbits and deer, or how to plant and raise new crops.

In McComb, Miss., Gay Austin, president of National Garden Clubs, an organization comprised of 5,000 clubs across the country, has heard it too. One woman asked Austin how to cultivate the herb garden at the house she just purchased.

That gets me back to my seed-driven dread. Why should I bother when another planting failure now would be an extra point of aggravation during a frightening time?

For me at least, I think of the trimmed-down grocery shopping lists I could have if I didn’t need to buy as many fruits and vegetables. Instead of staring at a screen, it’s also a way I could distract myself during long weekend hours that are suddenly wide open.

“It’s a wonderful time to be a home gardener, because you’re home,” Austin noted.

I’m immediately aware others may regard gardening as much more than a hobby.

From her Bella Vista, Ark., offices, Look hears from customers all over the country who see empty grocery shelves or long food bank lines and are concerned. “The world as they’ve always known it no longer exists.”

Gardening makes these customers more self-reliant and lets them “gain more control over their food source,” Look said.

‘Plants are non-judgmental’

Seeds offer their grower a simple deal: plant and tend to me correctly, and I’ll grow for you. Usually, less is more.

It’s a bargain that rookies can uphold too, according to Rutgers University professor Joel Flagler.

“Let’s remember plants are non-judgmental. Plants are ready to respond to anybody, starting today,” said Flagler, who’s also the school’s agricultural extension agent for Bergen County, a suburban county near me. As an agricultural extension agent, Flagler helps homeowners, garden stores, farmers, nurseries, landscapers and others with their garden and agricultural efforts.

Start easy, he explained.

Rather than creating a whole garden, rookie gardeners can begin by putting seeds in pretty much any container, so long as it has drainage at the bottom. If you want to grow a larger plant, like a tomato, or put a couple of plants or flowers together, Flagler said it would be good to start with a bigger container. (That could be something with that’s between one and three feet in diameter, he said. And, again, don’t forget the drainage at the bottom.) Add sun, water and a “positive attitude” and you’re on your way.

I’m going to add a healthy dose of internet research to my planting efforts. So much for my minimal screen time.

I have tomato, cucumber, kale and pea seeds. But tomato and cucumber are plants for the hotter months, which, Flagler said, can be planted in late May and picked in late July. Kale and peas are “cool season” plants, he noted.

Kale’s outer leaves can bloom and be ready for eating in a few weeks, he said. Peas could take closer to 60 days. I figure I’ll start with those.

Flagler teaches horticultural therapy at Rutgers, a discipline using plants and gardening to improve the mental and physical health of people with special needs.

He understands the allure of gardening for everyone at a time like this.


‘There are certain, very stabilizing forces in gardening that can ground us when we are feeling shaky, uncertain, terrified really. It’s these predictable outcomes, predictable rhythms of the garden that are very comforting right now.’

— Rutgers University professor Joel Flagler


I understand how any activity giving a sense of control can seem especially attractive right now.

Actually, gardening isn’t some power trip, Flagler noted. “It’s that positive control, a feeling of ‘Hey, I did this, I did something good here.’”

That also seems like a good way to feel right now, even if only for moment.

So this past weekend, I bought potting soil and small, cardboard mini-pots to start planting.

I discarded my dread, dropped the kale and pea seeds in the pots, poured water and hoped for a second chance.

Credit to MarketWatch for this article.

Perennial of the Month: Hardy Hibiscus

The hardy perennial hibiscus, also called rose mallow or swamp rose, adds the beauty of a tropical hibiscus to the garden, but can withstand cold winter temperatures that kill the actual tropical varieties. Here’s how to grow hardy hibiscus in your garden!

Perennial hibiscus have big, disc-shaped, hollyhock-like flowers that can be 6 to 12 inches across. The perennial hibiscus species found in gardens are the result of hybridizing native hibiscus species, including Hibiscus moscheutos and H. coccineus.

The larger, more shrub-like hardy hibiscus species, H. syriacus (aka Rose of Sharon), has similar planting and care to the smaller species highlighted in this article. It produces an abundance of smaller flowers and grows into a much larger shrub that doesn’t die back to the ground in winter.

How to Grow Hardy Hibiscus Plants

Plant taxonomy classifies the hardy hibiscus plants as Hibiscus moscheutos. They also go by such common names as rose mallows and swamp mallows. The hardy hibiscus is a cold hardy plant despite bearing large blooms that call to mind the tropics. The hues of the most common cultivars are white, bicolored, or various shades of red or pink, but other colors are now available.

Although hardy hibiscus plants seem woody in summer and function as sub-shrubs in the landscape, their stems do die back to the ground in winter, making them herbaceous perennials, technically.

Some of the most popular hardy hibiscus cultivars reach about four feet in height, with a spread slightly less than that, but the bloom size can be up to 10 inches.

Even cultivars with smaller blooms still produce impressive, saucer-size flowers. While each bloom lives only a day or two, they are quickly replaced by newcomers.

The species plant is indigenous to eastern North America. H. moscheutos cultivars can be grown in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 to 9.

Light

For your hardy hibiscus plant to bloom to its greatest potential, it needs about six hours a day of full sun. However, if you live in a hot and dry zone you should provide your hardy hibiscus occasional relief from the bright afternoon sun. Shade from other leafy plants placed nearby should help. Indoor hibiscus plants should be situated near a sunny (southwest facing) window and if that still doesn’t provide enough light, you can augment with artificial lighting.

Soil

The species plant is a wetland plant, and hardy hibiscus flowers can be treated as plants for wet soils. So if your landscaping situation is a soggy area where most plants do not grow well, H. moscheutos might be the answer. This makes them useful around water features.

Water

If you are not planting hardy hibiscus plants in a wet spot, make sure they are adequately watered—but don’t overdo it. A small plant with fewer leaves needs less water than a large leafy plant. In warm weather, you need to water your hibiscus plant daily but in the winter you should water it only when the soil is dry to the touch.

Temperature and Humidity

Hibiscus flower best in the 60 to 90 F range. Bring plants indoors before temperatures dip to 32 F, but be mindful that low humidity can dry them out. Mist the leaves daily or place each pot on a tray with a layer of gravel underneath. Add water up to the top of the gravel and as it evaporates, the humidity will rise around the plants. A humidifier may also help.

Fertilizer

Growing hibiscus plants need plenty of nutrients. Use either slow-release or water-soluble fertilizer but make sure the nutrients are balanced. For example, use a 20-20-20 or 10-10-10 fertilizer. You can use a diluted liquid fertilizer once a week, or a slow-release fertilizer four times a year: early spring; after the first round of blooming; mid-summer; and early winter.

Potting and Repotting

Repot in late winter and use houseplant potting soil or a soilless mixture. Your hibiscus can wait two to three years to be moved into a larger pot. Just remember to use one with good drainage.

Perennial of the Month: Hosta

Hosta are hardy perennials that are especially perfect for a shady garden. Reliable and very easy to grow, hosta are long-lived—and may even outlive the gardener!
 
What’s neat about hosta is that there are so many sizes, heights, textures, and colors. Plus, they work in many kinds of gardens (patio, border, container, rock).Though mainly known for their attractive foliage, the plants also produce lovely flowers during the summer in fragrant pink, lavender, or white. Hummingbirds love the flowers. Note: Slugs, snails, deer, and rabbits like hosta almost as much as people do. Keep this in mind if you have deer regularly wandering into your garden.

HOW TO CARE FOR HOSTAS

  • Apply a well-balanced, slow-release fertilizer after planting or when growth emerges in the spring. 
  • Keep the soil moist but not wet.
  • Place mulch around the plants to help retain moisture. 
  • Remove flower stalks after bloom to encourage new growth.
  • Clean up around the plants and remove brown leaves in the fall to help control diseases and slugs.
  • Transplanting and dividing is best done in early spring when the leaves just begin to emerge.

TRANSPLANTING OR DIVIDING HOSTAS

Hostas do not usually need dividing for their health. If they have less space, they’ll simply grow less quickly. However, if you wish to divide a hosta for a neater appearance, it’s best to do so in early spring once the ‘eyes’ or growing tips start to emerge from the ground.  This is also a good time to move or transplant a hosta to a new site.

Leave as much of the root attached as possible to each crown or plant. Plant the new hostas at the same soil level as they were previously. Water well until established.

PESTS/DISEASES

  • Slugs and snails:  If you see irregular holes along the leaf’s edges or entire leaves chewed off at the stem nocturnal slugs may be the culprit. Look for shiny slime trails on the leaves or on the ground around the plants.
  • Deer: It’s true. Deer love hosta. To discourage deer, use fencing or motion-sensitive sprinklers. Speak to your local garden center about odor-based sprays and deer repellents; the deer will taste the distasteful repellent first. 
  • Rabbits: If you see clean-cut chew marks on young hosta stems and leaves you may have rabbits in your garden. Look for dropped leaves and rabbit droppings on the ground and around the plants.

Thanks to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

 

Houseplant of the Month: Easter Lily

Did you know that Easter lilies are the fourth largest potted plant crop grown in the U.S.? With Easter approaching, no doubt many homes and churches will soon be graced with the fragrant and lovely white trumpet-shaped flowers, symbolic of spring, purity and the Lord’s Resurrection. But how can you enjoy your fragrant flower long after the holiday? We have some helpful tips.

Caring for Your Potted Easter Lilies

To keep your potted Easter lily as its best, it prefers a cool daytime temperature of 60° to 65° F. and nighttime temperatures 5 degrees cooler. To keep the flowers from wilting, avoid placing the potted plant in direct sunlight. Most plants will lean toward the sunlight. To keep the plant growing upright, turn the pot every two days.

Keep the plant moist, but not soggy. Most Easter lilies are sold commercially in pots covered with decorative foil jackets. No water should be left standing at the bottom of this covering or the life of the lily will be ruined. Remove the pot from the foil covering every time the plant is watered. Once the water has soaked into the soil, return the pot to the foil covering.

Also, to help your potted lily thrive, do not place the pot near a direct source of heat. Lilies thrive in a humid climate, more so than a dry one. To create natural humidity, fill a saucer with small pebbles and water and set beneath the potted lily.

How to Transfer Easter Lilies to the Garden

Your Easter lily plant can be introduced into your flower garden for annual enjoyment. Transplant it outdoors once all danger of frost has passed and when the flower stops blooming.

The plant needs to be in well-drained soil, just as it did when it was potted. To provide the needed drainage, add peat moss and perlite to rich organic soil.

Plant the lily bulbs, roots down, 3” inches beneath the surface of the soil and water. If planting more than one bulb, position them at least 12” inches apart. Cut back the stems once the plant appears dead. This will cause new growth to begin and possibly another bloom this summer. Next year, look for a June or July bloom.

Why We Garden

Gardeners tend to be optimistic. The simple act of planting a tree shows vision, creativity and yes, even hope. Sowing seeds is an act of faith, a fundamental belief in the natural world. One knows that with fertile soil, water and light, anything is possible. Gardens of contentment are borne in cities and in the country, in grand designs and in simple windowsills. The fact is, we garden because it makes us feel good.

Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect who was the creative force behind the design of New York’s Central Park observed that viewing a scene in nature “employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it, tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it; and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body, gives the effect of refreshing rest.”

This observation could be judged to be more true today than when Mr. Olmsted was quoted back in 1865. In a day and age when work has become more stressful than ever, where daily lives are played out in an environment with higher levels of noise, crime and intensity, it’s understandable that people feel a general fatigue. Even work here at the nursery takes on an almost frenetic pace during the spring season. Where do we turn for relief? A quiet greenhouse or sales yard in the early morning hours. Like you, we turn to the garden…we connect with nature. Whether it is for five minutes or hours spent transplanting seedlings, we emerge refreshed, rejuvenated and somehow inspired.

There is something to be said for stopping to take notice of the world around you. It may seem trite, but taking the time to stop and smell the roses can lead to better health, a sharper mind and reduced stress. While we are force fed advice on how we should reduce our fat intake, increase our non-impact aerobic workouts, and oh, yeah….spend more quality time with the children, we’d like to present an alternative available right in your own backyard.

The Warm-up-

Start by taking in the morning air. Pulling weeds can be your opening stretching exercise. Comb your landscape and lawn for any and all invaders. Take your time, enjoy whatever is sprouting. Your neighbors will think you are strange, but they’ll be amazed by your weed free (all-organic, by the way) garden.

20-minutes to a leaner, greener you!

In the time it takes to rake your yard, or mow your lawn you can achieve quite an enjoyable aerobic workout. The great part is, you feel better from the results you’ve achieved, and from the physical activity that goes into it-a natural high!

A lush, green lawn, an exquisite flower, the sight of a cardinal…these acts of nature that make us feel good. They lift the spirits and improve people’s general feeling of well being. A garden can be just the right medicine for what ails you.

Gardening is a great opportunity to connect with yourself, your natural environment, and your inner creativity and self-expression-and it’s an activity you can enjoy as a family. Tend your garden daily. Planting the seeds for tomorrow’s blooms could just improve your health at the same time!