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Endless Summer® Hydrangeas

Do you love the look of large, stunning hydrangeas? Do they evoke wistful images of summer and floral nostalgia? Don’t you wish they would last longer in the landscape? Unfortunately, many hydrangeas have relatively short bloom cycles, but there are amazing cultivars you can investigate that provide longer lasting blooms without losing any of their beauty or richness as the season progresses.

Endless Blooms, Color and Summer Luxury

Endless Summer® The Original and Endless Summer® and Blushing Bride® are the first mophead (large, ball-shaped flower) hydrangeas that bloom on both old and new growth, providing you with beautiful flowers and gorgeous color all season long. Young plants produce blooms that are 4-6 inches wide, while mature plants can have blooms as large as 8-10 inches wide, making these massive hydrangeas real show stoppers in your landscape or garden. Flower color for Endless Summer® The Original ranges from shades of blue through shades of pink, depending upon the pH level of your soil. Pink blossoms are the result of alkaline soils (pH 6-7), while more acidic soils (pH 5-5.8) will cause the plant to produce blue flowers. Adding Master Nursery Hydra Blue or other acidifying agents to the soil can help produce the lovely blue colors if your soil is initially alkaline, or you can adjust bloom color throughout the season for a vibrantly changing show. Endless Summer® Blushing Bride, as its name implies, initially offers pure white blossoms that mature to a sweet, pink blush or pale blue tinge, again depending on the soil pH.

Large, deep green leaves provide a lovely background for these spectacular flowers, which are excellent for cutting for fresh arrangements and for drying. Endless Summer® hydrangeas mature at 3-5 feet in height and width and are perfect used as standalone specimens, planted in borders or as hedges, massed under deep-rooted trees or even set in large containers. These plants perform best in partial shade with moist soil. Another big plus for Endless Summer® hydrangeas is the fact that they are cold hardy to Zone 4, giving northern gardeners a beautiful plant that will bloom well year after year.

Perfect for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, weddings and house warming celebrations, potted Endless Summer® hydrangeas make beautiful gifts that will provide years of beauty and enjoyment. If you already have these stunning blooms in your yard, consider cutting a few for a bouquet and share the joy with friends, neighbors, family members, coworkers and acquaintances, and the interest in these amazing hydrangeas will continue to spread until the world is blooming all summer long.

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Acid-Loving Plants

Soil pH is a critical factor for gardening success. Some plants thrive in neutral soil while other plants prefer soil on the acidic side. The difference lies in the plant’s ability to use nutrients present in the soil. For plants that prefer an acidic soil a critical nutrient is iron. Iron is most easily available in soil with a pH of around 5.5. Without iron, acid-loving plants will turn yellow and suffer stunted growth.

What is pH?

pH stands for “potential hydrogen ions” and is the measure of acidity or alkalinity. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. pH less than 7 indicates acidity, pH greater than 7 indicates alkalinity and 7 is neutral. Soil pH directly affects nutrient availability. Plants grown in soil with pH above or below their optimum range will be less vigorous, more susceptible to disease, less able to fight off insects and may even be weakened to the point of death.

How pH Affects Plants

Nutrients necessary for healthy plants are divided into three categories: primary nutrients, secondary nutrients and micronutrients. Primary nutrients are (N) nitrogen, (P) phosphorus and (K) potassium. These nutrients requited in the largest amounts for plant growth and health and are represented in numbers found on every fertilizer container (for example, 20-20-20). (Ca) Calcium, (Mg) magnesium and (S) sulfur are secondary nutrients that are also required by plants. These are required in lesser amounts than N-P-K but are also essential for good plant growth. (Zn) zinc and (Mn) manganese are examples of micronutrients. Micronutrients are required by plants in very small amounts. Most secondary and micronutrient deficiencies are easily corrected by keeping the soil at the optimum pH value.

Because pH directly affects nutrient availability, acid-loving plants develop iron chlorosis when grown in soils that are too alkaline. Iron chlorosis is often misdiagnosed as a nitrogen deficiency because both present with a yellowing leaf. Chlorosis of young leaves is the first symptom of iron deficiency, while a magnesium deficiency results in yellowing of older leaves first. Nitrogen-deficient plants will not only have yellow leaves but also weak stems, underdeveloped leaves and reduced root development.

What Causes Soil Acidity

Soil pH is influenced by the kind of parent material from which the soil was formed. Rainfall also affects pH. As water passes through soil it leaches basic nutrients such as calcium and magnesium from the soil, which are replaced with acidic elements such as aluminum and iron. For this reason, soils formed under high rainfall conditions are more acidic than those formed under dry conditions. Caused by pollution, acid rain also has an influence in soil pH. The application of fertilizers containing ammonium or urea speed up the rate at which acidity develops in the soil. The decomposition of organic matter will also add to soil acidity.

Testing and Adjusting Soil pH

Before planting any plant it is best to know the optimum pH range that plant will thrive in and the pH of the soil in which you will be planting. “The right plant in the right place” is always the best policy. Purchase a pH test kit or meter. These are available at most garden centers, or you may also send a soil sample to your county extension service. This will give you a more in-depth soil analysis along with the pH. To correct soil pH it is imperative that you know the soil pH before you attempt to change it.

Adding shredded pine needles, composted oak leaves or peat moss will assist in lowering soil pH over time. A quicker fix is the addition of two materials commonly used for this purpose: aluminum sulfate or garden sulfur. Aluminum sulfate will change the soil pH instantly because the aluminum produces the acidity as soon as it dissolves in the soil. Garden sulfur requires some time for the conversion to sulfuric acid with the aid of soil bacteria. The conversion rate is based on the fineness of the sulfur, the amount of soil moisture, soil temperature and the presence of bacteria. Based on these factors, the conversion rate of sulfur may be very slow and could take several months for a full effect. Acidifiers should be worked into the soil after application to be effective. Do not apply to leaf surface or burn may result. Read and abide by manufacturer instructions when applying.

Keep in mind that it takes time to alter soil pH and your soil will tend to revert to its old pH over time, necessitating repeated treatment. Attempting to change soil pH too quickly may shock and kill a plant. A good rule of thumb is to adjust no more than one point per season. It is also important to note that fertilizers recommended for acid-loving plants do not assist in adjusting the soil pH, but are instead formulated to work well in already acidic soil.

Acid-Loving Trees and Shrubs

Want to add gorgeous plants to your landscape without worrying about acidic soil? These plants thrive in soils with low pH, or come in for an expert consultation on your soil’s pH and what plants will do best in your garden, flowerbeds and landscape.

  • Azalea
  • Bayberry
  • Blueberry
  • Camelia
  • Cranberry
  • Dogwood
  • Fir
  • Fothergilla
  • Gardenia
  • Heath
  • Heather
  • Hemlock
  • Holly
  • Hydrangea
  • Itea
  • Leucothoe
  • Magnolia
  • Mountain Ash
  • Mountain Laurel
  • Oak
  • Pieris
  • Pine
  • Raspberry
  • Rhododendron
  • Spruce
  • White Cedar
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Mowing. Do It Right

If you have a lawn then you need to mow. If you need to mow then you may as well do it right, or else you risk weak, thin turf that is more susceptible to weeds, insect infestations and diseases. Fortunately, it’s easy to mow your lawn the right way!

8 Simple Steps for a Well-Mowed Lawn

  1. Put Your Mower to Bed in Fall
    Service your lawn mower in the fall, after your last cut, so that you start the next mowing season right. For a gas mower, this means change the oil, drain the gas, replace the spark plug, change the air filter and lubricate the throttle cord. Maintenance is similar for electric and battery-powered mowers – be sure all the moving parts are properly lubricated, batteries are operating efficiently and cords are in good condition without snags, rips or bare wires. All types of mowers should have their blades sharpened in fall so they are ready for swift spring cuts.
  2. Know How High to Cut Your Spring Grass
    Before your first cut of the spring season, fill your tank with gas (or fully charge batteries) and adjust your wheel height. Cool-season grasses should generally be cut at a height of 3 to 3 ½ inches. Never remove more than 1/3 of the plant. This longer height will require that you mow more frequently but it will ensure a stronger root system, help maintain soil moisture and will greatly reduce weed competition.
  3. Only Mow When Dry
    Mowing a wet lawn is a sure way to spread disease and tear grass blades for a ragged look, plus wet clippings will clog blades and make mowers less efficient. The best time of day to mow is in the evening. Early in the morning, after the dew has dried is the second best time. Mowing in the heat of the day will cause your turf grass to go into shock.
  4. Clear the Lawn
    Before you start your mower, clear all objects from the lawn. This includes toys, lawn furniture, trash, fallen branches, stones and anything that would cause you to stop and restart the mower. Keep your eye out for anything that is a hazard, including items that may get jammed in the mower or thrown by the mower.
  5. Keep the Clippings
    Grass clippings are loaded with nitrogen, just what your lawn needs to stay healthy. Leaving the clippings on the lawn can reduce your fertilizer use by as much as 25 percent or more. Spread them out so that they don’t become anaerobic. Using a mulching mower will ensure the clippings are finely chopped and will decay more quickly, releasing their nutrition back into the lawn.
  6. Stay Sharp
    Always keep your mower blades sharp. You may need to resharpen your blades during the growing season. Unsharpened blades rip and tear at the grass. This creates an environment conducive to the spread of turf disease. Dull blades will also cut unevenly, creating a ragged look even on a newly mowed lawn.
  7. Change Directions
    Change directions each time you mow. Mowing causes the grass to lie over. Alternating your direction each time you mow will correct this problem and help strengthen your turf. You might even use multiple directions, including diagonal rows, and rotate through the pattern with each successive mowing.
  8. Clean Up Afterwards
    Dirt and debris are the main causes of lawn mower engine failure. Always take a few moments after mowing for some preventative maintenance. Grab an old rag and wipe down your mower including air vent grates, blades and wheels to be sure your mower is ready to go each time you need it.

With the proper care, preparation and techniques, you can mow your lawn the right way every time, and you’ll be amazed at the different proper mowing can make to the healthy and vigorousness of your turf.

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Protecting Our Pollinators

Every garden requires pollinators, and bees are among the finest. Without them there would be limited flowers and far fewer fruits and vegetables. Did you know that about 30 percent of the food we eat depends on the pollination of bees, including onions, cashews, coffee, carrots, chocolate and vanilla? If we don’t protect these prolific pollinators, our landscapes, gardens and diets will be irrevocably changed.

About Bees

Although there are many bees that are great pollinators, like carpenter, mining, sweat and cellophane bees, some of the most well known and easily identified bees are the honeybee and bumblebee. Both of these bees live in social colonies and are cavity nesters. Because these bees are active all summer long, they require a constant supply of floral nectar close to their hive and they thrive in flower gardens, orchards and other areas with abundant blooms.

Unfortunately, both these types of bees – along with many others – are disappearing rapidly, and two key threats are to blame.

  • Habitat Loss: As more natural habitat is lost to development, there are fewer nesting locations and inadequate food supplies for bees. While meadows developed into resorts and parks disappearing for strip malls are obvious examples of development, other less visible developments that can hurt bees include widespread use of flower cultivars that do not produce adequate nectar, eliminating critical bee food sources.
  • Pesticide Drift: Widespread, abundant spraying of pesticides to protect crops, lawns and parks can inadvertently hurt bees. Stronger pesticides can kill bees directly, while less potent toxins can contaminate nectar and will gradually build up to fatal levels in bees’ systems. Even if pesticides are not sprayed in areas where bees are abundant, high level spraying can easily be spread by wind patterns into critical bee habitats.

Inviting Bees to Your Garden

Fortunately, it is easy to bring more bees to your garden and encourage healthy bee populations. To support local bees…

  • Planting a variety of flowers that will bloom throughout the entire summer to provide ongoing food supplies.
  • Opt for native flower varieties that will be more easily recognized and used by bees, instead of introduced flowers that are less familiar.
  • Eliminate chemical use in your yard, as much as possible, including on your lawn, garden and trees, especially while plants are in flower.
  • Provide bees a safe place for shelter and to lay their eggs. A wood pile is suitable, or you can invest in a specialized bee house.
  • Make sure that there is an available water source for your bees. A bird bath or any simple water basin works just fine.

Want to bring bees to your yard and help them feel at home? Start with this list of native plants bees love, and ask our experts for more tips about keeping your lawn and garden bee-friendly!

Native Plants That Attract Bees

  • Apple (Malus)
  • Aster (Aster)
  • Blackberry & Raspberry (Rubis)
  • Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
  • Blueberries (Vaccinium)
  • Currant (Ribes)
  • Elder (Sambucus)
  • Goldenrod (Solidago)
  • Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum)
  • Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium)
  • Lupine (Lupinus)
  • Penstemon (Penstemon)
  • Purple Coneflower (Echinacea)
  • Redbud (Cercis)
  • Rhododendron (Rhododendron)
  • Sage (Salvia)
  • Stonecrop (Sedum)
  • Sunflower (Helianthus)
  • Willow (Salix)

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Spring Lawn Renovation

Spring is the ideal time to spruce up your lawn. After a long winter, you can easily see where any bald, bare or thin patches exist, as well as where weeds or fungus may be taking over the lawn. Fortunately, there are easy ways to set your lawn to rights!

Seeding

If you are planning to seed a new lawn or overseed an existing lawn, it is best to seed as early as possible. It is important to get seed germinated and growing before trees begin to leaf out, when the trees will be usurping more of the soil’s moisture and nutrition and new leaves will block sunlight from the grass seed. This is especially true in more heavily shaded areas. Keep the area moist at all times until the roots of grass seed become established, then you can gradually decrease the frequency of watering. The new grass can be mowed when it reaches a height of about three inches.

Rejuvenating a Weak Lawn

Your lawn cannot live without air, water and nutrients, but decaying material matted down between grass blades can smother even the healthiest-looking lawn. This decaying material is called thatch, and when a thick layer of thatch builds up, water and fertilizer may run off instead of penetrating the soil. Aerating and dethatching can help rejuvenate a lawn by restoring passageways to the soil. Late spring is an excellent time to dethatch cool-season grasses. Thatching rakes can be used, or you can use a metal rake to remove thatch by hand.

Adusting pH 

The pH of your soil has a direct impact on the health of your lawn. Test your soil to determine the pH (simple kits are available to do this). We recommend a small handful of soil taken from a depth of 3 inches to get the most accurate reading. At a pH of 6.8-7.0 nutrients are most readily available to turf grasses, and beneficial microorganisms are more active to decompose thatch and keep the soil structure healthy. If your pH is too low or too high, consider amending the soil as needed to help bring it to a more desirable level.

Crabgrass Control

On established lawns that you are not overseeding, apply a fertilizer with crabgrass control in early to mid-April. Straight Team products can be applied with separate fertilizers like Espoma Organic 18-8-6 or similar fertilizers. Reapply Team in early to mid-June for the second germination of crabgrass. Remember, crabgrass seeds start to germinate when the soil temperature reaches 50-58 degrees. Use corn gluten as an organic alternative for crabgrass control on an established lawn.

On newly seeded lawns and those seeded in late fall or during the winter months, use a starter fertilizer with crabgrass control. You will need to reapply in four weeks or however the manufacturer’s instructions indicate. Proper applications will keep your new lawn crabgrass-free.

Maintaining your lawn at a higher level, 4 inches, throughout the growing season will allow you to control crabgrass without the use of chemicals. Taller grass will shade out the crabgrass seed preventing it from germinating.

Insect Controls

An early season application of Merit or a similar insecticide will provide effective white grub control for the growing season. This preventative method tends to give better results than applying insecticides when you notice damage as it then may be too late. If you have routinely had problems with other insects, opt for products specifically targeted for those pests to ensure effective control.

A lot goes into having a lush, healthy lawn, but if you take the appropriate steps to rejuvenate your lawn in spring, you’ll be rewarded with thick, healthy, resilient turf to enjoy from early spring until snow flies again.

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How To Succeed At Seed-Starting

It’s easy to buy seedlings, but there are many reasons why you may wish to start your own plants. By starting your own seeds, you have a much greater selection of flowers, vegetables and herbs to choose from. For example, old favorites like hollyhocks and less common varieties of herbs and perennials as well as heirloom vegetables might not be available as plants, or stocks may be limited. Plants with fine seeds should also be started indoors because they can easily wash away in the rain and they may have a difficult time competing with weeds. Starting your own seeds can also help you extend the growing season so you can enjoy a longer, more productive harvest. So why not get started today?

Containers for Starting Seeds

Traditionally, seeds are started in flats or peat pots. There are various sizes of plastic trays, cedar flats, peat pots and the popular Jiffy-7, a flat, peat-moss wafer, available. When moistened, the Jiffy-7 expands to form a small, self-contained pot of soil into which a seed is sown directly. This is an excellent choice when sowing seed of plants that do not like their roots disturbed during transplanting. You might also use eggshells or folded newspaper pots to start your seeds.

Seed-Friendly Soil

It is best to use a light, soilless mix when starting seeds. These mixes are sterile, meaning young seeds do not have any weed seeds to compete with, and there are no harmful bacteria, insects or other pests in the soil right away. Good seed mixes also contain adequate nutrients to carry seedlings through until transplanting. Do not use garden soil, as seeds will not germinate well in the heavy soil, and a fungus disease called damping off is common.

Temperatures for Seeds

Most seeds require warm soil in order to germinate. You will need to heat the soil of the seedling flats with a heat mat, heat tray or heating cable. Seed trays can also be placed on top the refrigerator or hot water heater. Do not put seed-starting trays on a windowsill; nighttime temperatures are too cool to allow for good germination. Seeds need consistent warm temperatures of 75 degrees or warmer for optimum germination.

Seed Watering Needs

Seeds need to be kept constantly moist in order to germinate. Moisten the soil thoroughly before planting. Water when the surface is dry with a misting nozzle or plastic spray bottle until the soil is saturated. The medium should be constantly moist, but not soggy. It is important not to overwater, which could drown the seeds and tender seedlings, but also not to permit the flat to dry out.

Sowing Seeds

Seeds should be sown 2-10 weeks before the last spring frost date. Your seed packet will provide this information as sowing dates can vary for different plant varieties or even cultivars of the same plants. Fill your containers almost to the top with moist growing mix. Tamp it down gently and smooth it out. Gently press the seeds into the mix or simply set them on the surface of the soil and place milled sphagnum moss over the top to prevent damping off. Cover the container loosely with plastic wrap or a clear dome, which will help preserve moisture and warmth. Be sure to label your containers with plastic or wood plant stakes and write the plant name and the date sowed. Set trays in a warm spot and check daily to keep evenly moist.

Seedling Care

Once seedlings have grown a half-inch or so, you should water less frequently. Let the soil dry slightly between watering, which will help the seedlings stretch and develop a strong root system. Seedlings will also need light and the best method is to use the traditional fluorescent fixtures or the new energy-saving LEDs. Suspend lights just an inch or two away from the plants. Lights must be on at least 14-16 hours a day. As your seedlings grow, raise the lights accordingly so they do not bump into the lighting fixture. If your seedlings do not get enough light, they will become weak and spindly. Fertilize seedlings weekly with half-strength, balanced, organic fertilizer. A fish and seaweed blend works well. Thin seedlings if they become overcrowded, choosing the healthiest, strongest seedlings to save.

Hardening Off and Planting Out

When the weather is warm, move your seed trays outside gradually over a 5-7 day period. Start by putting them out just for a few hours during the late morning to mid-afternoon, and then gradually increase until they are left out all day and night. Keep them in a lightly shaded, protected spot during the day to prevent sunburn. After a week or two of this transition, gently transplant seedlings into the garden. Try not to handle the root ball too much, as they are quite fragile. Water thoroughly after transplanting and again every day for about a week. Newly set out plants will look sparse at first, but they will grow and fill in quickly, leading to bumper crops and a lush, delicious harvest!

Gardener With Seedling Tray

Seedling Box Tray in Greenhouse

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Growing in Flower Pouches

How many of us sit on our decks or patios, stare at a bare fence and think, “there must be something I can do with that.”

There certainly is!

“Plant” your fence with flower pouches. Not just for fences, these flower pouches efficiently provide color and/or small veggies for tiny balconies, deck railings or other small areas. Better yet, they’re inexpensive, colorful and easy to plant.

About Flower Pouches

Available in different sizes, shapes and colors, flower pouches are small, heavy plastic bags with holes that are filled with soil and planted. After planting, they hang from hooks on fences, walls, decks, trees… Almost anywhere. Smaller versions may even be snuggled inside baskets or other containers that hang on the fence and conceal the bag.

Planting in Pouches

Many types of flowers, herbs and vegetables can be planted in pouches with great success. Smaller annuals, strawberries or vegetables are perfect for pouches. Petunias, marigolds, alyssum, lettuce and cucumbers grow famously. Plant early cool season flowers in early spring and replace with them with heat-loving annuals in the summer when they peter out.

It’s easy to plant a flower pouch, especially when inserting smaller plants, seedlings or starts. Use a lightweight soil-less potting mixture. You may either completely fill the bag with the soil and then poke the roots of the plant into the holes or you can fill to the first set of holes, plant the starts, fill to the next level, and so on. Unless you are planting very small starts, most people find the “fill to the next level and plant” system works the best so delicate roots are not damaged. Many gardeners skip planting the lowest slots to provide more root space. Others skip the top slots in order to plant on top of the pouch, but you may experiment, of course.

Tip: when planting the starts through the slots, use a dibble stick or dowel to create a downward sloping hole for the roots. This slant stabilizes the plant sooner as its roots grow and expand.

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Lilacs

One of the most popular deciduous flowering shrubs, and certainly one of the most nostalgic, lilacs herald the arrival of spring. When we reminisce about this old-fashioned favorite we recall large panicles of sweetly scented, pale purple blossoms. Today, however, lilacs are available in an incredible variety of sizes, growth habits, flowering times, bloom sizes, shapes, colors and fragrances.

About Lilacs

Lilacs belong to the genus Syringa that consists of approximately 20 different species and about 1,000 different varieties. Most species are native to Asia, but Syringa vulgaris, the common lilac, is an Eastern European native. Some of the finest cultivars of this species were bred in France in the early twentieth century, hence the term “French Hybrid.” Lilacs were cultivated in America’s first botanical gardens and grown by both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. They remain a steadfast favorite to this day in public gardens as well as backyards, and many municipalities even host lilac festivals to celebrate these blooms each spring.

Proper Lilac Care

If cared for properly, a lilac bush has the potential to survive for hundreds of years. Planting your lilac in pH neutral, well-drained soil that is high in organic matter will help ensure the longevity of your shrub. Providing at least 6 hours of direct sun each day and deadheading immediately after flowering will guarantee an abundance of lovely scented blooms. Give lilacs adequate growing space so that they may grow to their full potential. Spacing these plants too closely will cause them to grow tall and spindly and only flower at the top; instead, be sure they have plenty of room to grow out as well as up and you’ll be rewarded with copious blooms all over the shrub. Fertilize with a high phosphorus fertilizer in the early spring to ensure the best growth and most luxuriant blooms.

When your lilac reaches a height or shape that is no longer to your liking, you may remove up to 1/3 of the thickest stems. Cut them back to the ground. You may also shorten any unusually tall stems by cutting them back to a strong branch. Open up the crowded base of the shrub by removing a portion of the youngest stems. Remember; prune lilacs immediately after flowering before plants start to form next year’s flower buds.

Beyond the Classics

Syringa vulgaris provides the spring garden with perfumed blooms for up to two weeks. To extend the bloom season for up to 6 weeks, plant an assortment of the uncommon species along with the common lilac. Some excellent choices are hyacinthiflora (which blooms before vulgaris), paired with palibin, prestonia and reticulate (which bloom consecutively after vulgaris).

Want to branch out into even more lilac cultivation in your yard? See the chart below, or come in today to see the latest lilacs to love.

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Aphids

One of the most common insects, and one of the most potentially plant-threatening, is the aphid. There are actually many types of aphids – more than 4,000 in all. Some feed on specific plants and others are not so choosy. They all attack the newer plant growth and suck sap from a plant’s internal circulation system, the phloem, in stems and leaves. This can decrease the plant’s growth rate, discolor or disfigure leaves, cause galls to form and transmit plant diseases. Strong aphid infestations can lower produce yields and eventually kill plants altogether.

Recognizing Aphids

Aphids – also called plant lice, blackflies and greenflies – are easy to recognize. They’re about one-eighth to one-third of an inch long, usually pale green but can be almost colorless, pink, black or brown. Their pear-shaped bodies have six legs, small tail-like structures and long, jointed antennae. Aphids are soft-bodied and are mainly found in dense groups on the underside of new plant growth, where they leave behind a sticky residue called honeydew. Ants are attracted to aphid honeydew, so a nearby ant infestation or very active ant colonies may also indicate that aphids are present. Aphids are most common in spring, and die off rapidly in the hot temperatures of summer.

Controlling Aphids

Fortunately, controlling aphids is fairly easy. Most full-spectrum chemical insecticides kill aphids. Other, less strenuous products include plant extracts, neem oil, plant oils and insecticidal soap water sprays. A regular spraying with strong blasts of water or hand picking will control many infestations, especially when just a few aphids have been noticed. Many gardeners release ladybugs (lady beetles) to eat the aphids or parasitic wasps to lay their eggs in the aphid, but because these natural predators will quickly spread out, large applications of hundreds of predators may be needed to effectively control an aphid infestation. Another option is to encourage insect-eating birds to visit the yard – chickadees, titmice and warblers all especially love aphids and can provide superior natural pest control. Even hummingbirds will happily munch on aphids.

It’s best to control aphids early. As their numbers increase, the drying leaves begin to roll over them, thus protecting the aphids from controls such as soaps, oil and water sprays, and making it harder to effectively eliminate these pests. If you think you have aphids or you’re not sure what you have, bring in a sample. We’ll take a look and suggest the best way to eliminate the problem and help you protect your plants.

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Nothing Says Welcome Like an Entry Garden

Now is the time to start planning your entry garden. This welcoming patch has the power to set a warm and friendly tone for those who pass through your garden on the way to your front door. It does take some planning to set the proper mood, however, and you need to consider architecture, setting, scale, boundaries and maintenance.

Architecture and Setting

First, it is critical that your garden style suits your architecture and setting to create a cohesive, uniform look. Try to match the hardscaping and plants to the style and feel of your house. A cottage or farmhouse would be accentuated by a friendly, loose informal garden with plants spilling onto the walkway and colors blending together at the edges of beds. A more formal and symmetrical building, however, should be paired with a more structured garden that includes well-groomed shrubbery, stately flowers and a well-defined path.

Plant Scale

Pay attention to the scale of the plants you choose. Plants that will grow too tall or broad can overwhelm the house or crowd the walkway. Plants that are too small can make the house feel too large and unwelcoming. Investigate the mature sizes of plants and be sure they are positioned appropriately within your entry garden so they will not crowd one another or block key features of your home, such as house numbers or security lighting.

Garden Boundaries

Consider setting boundaries for the garden using a fence, wall, hedge or gate. The boundary could encompass just the area around the front door, might include a flowerbed border or could frame the whole yard, but keep in mind the size and style of your home. A white picket fence around the entire yard is a quaint option for a cottage-esque home, but would look out of place with an elegant brick manor, which would be more suited to a wrought iron boundary or classic boxwood hedges.

Maintaining Your Entry Garden

Be realistic about the amount of time you have to maintain your entry garden. If you have limited time, choose native or easy to care for plants that will require little attention. Also consider using containers for some of the plants. They can be easily rearranged throughout the seasons to give a different look to the garden, and plants can be brought in over the winter months. Keep in mind essential tasks such as weeding, pruning and watering, and plan the garden to suit your abilities, time and budget so you can always keep it in perfect condition to welcome visitors.

With a little planning, you can create a welcoming entry garden to beautifully greet guests as they visit your home.

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