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A New Idea For Spring – An Ornaveggie Garden

Wondering what an ornaveggie garden is? It’s a single garden with both ornamentals and vegetables planted in it. Who said you have to plant only ornamental plants in beautifully designed and tended flower beds that are closest to the house? And that your vegetable garden had to be relegated to a plain rectangular plot in the far corner of the backyard? Nobody!

You can design your landscape any way you want but so many landscapes are merely an extension of their neighbors’ landscape. If you want to be adventurous this spring, integrate your edible plants in with your ornamentals. You may want to do a little research or work with one of our landscape designers this winter. It’s important to integrate plants in such a way as to keep compatible plant together. For example, combining corn and pansies in the same bed probably wouldn’t be too attractive but corn among sunflowers or tall ornamental grass would be fine.

Ornamental plants aren’t the only plants that flower. Vegetables do, too. Most may not be as showy as the ornamentals but they flower just the same. The big difference is that the seeds that result from vegetables are tasty for humans rather than only to wildlife.

Besides being a head turner, you won’t have to walk so far to harvest. You need a tomato or pepper for tonight’s dinner? Just step outside the front door and pick the bright red tomato or shiny green pepper. How about integrating fragrant herbs in a container with flowers that either live on your deck, patio or back stoop.

When laying out your ornaveggie garden, decide on whether you want to start your garden from seed or buy plants in six packs at your local garden center. If you wan to start your vegetables from seed and buy your flowers in six packs or containers, I suggest you invest in a seed starter kit and start your seeds indoors during the late winter or early spring. Your goal is for both ornamentals and vegetables to grow together. To do that, they have be approximately the same size when you plant them outdoors.

Raised beds are becoming increasingly popular. They make ideal environments for your ornaveggie garden. However, you might want to concentrate the flowers in the center of the raised bed and the vegetable plants toward the edges. Conventional wisdom would dictate that you do just the opposite – bury the veggies in the center and surround them with attractive flowers. If you do that, you’ll have to reach into the center to harvest your crops, and you can damage the flower plants or miss some veggies. If you plant the veggies on the outside, harvesting will be easier and more complete. Visually, it’ll look like colorful flowers sitting on a bed of green foliage. And, the color of the year for 2022 is green! The only downside might come when you have to deadhead the flowers but a pair of loppers will ease the job.

When buying, building or having your raised beds built, make them look like pieces of outdoor furniture, rather than just a plywood box. Make them so they blend in with the landscape. If you make them almost waist high with a wide, flat top, you can work either standing up or sitting on the top piece. Finish them with either paint or a clear coat of preservative.

A garden is for tending not for toiling. The ideas presented here will let you do that while enjoying a garden that’s unique to you rather than just an extension of your neighbor’s landscape.


Add “Rooms” To Your Backyard

We Americans do most of our outdoor living in our backyards. Yet most backyards aren’t divided into specialized activity areas like the indoor space is. Until now, that is. People are now starting to dedicate sections of their backyards to specific activities.

Entertaining has been the one activity with dedicated space. We usually find the grill, table and chairs on the patio or deck. Some are very basic while others are an extension of indoor entertaining space, complete with television.

Another area can be dedicated to children’s activities. It’s best to design this area to be flexible. Kids’ interests change as they grow, so making modifications easy will save both time and money when the time comes for the kids’ area to be updated.

You’ll want playground equipment for young children. A playground set, a sandbox and a safe space for them to drive electric vehicles. As they grow into their tween, teen and young adult years, they’ll probably prefer sports equipment. A basketball hoop, a soccer goal, a baseball or softball pitch back or, possibly, a lacrosse net.

You’ll need different surfaces for the various activities. The safest surface for the playground set is rubber mulch or specially designed rubber mats. Rubber mats could also be installed under a sandbox. Grass will be best for some athletic areas, such as soccer, baseball, softball or lacrosse but a basketball court requires a hard surface. To keep this area flexible, consider artificial turf where grass is recommended.

Many families opt for a pool that will become the family recreational area. If that’s likely to happen soon, take that area into account when designing your backyard rooms. Then you won’t have to “steal” a little bit from the existing areas in order to retrofit the space with a pool.

A Secret Garden would be a nice rest area for the adults. This could be a small area where you could get away from the hustle and bustle of family life to read, think or meditate. It could be completely enclosed by high shrubs, except for the entrance. Inside, a comfortable chair, a small table and a container of seasonal annuals would make a fitting décor.

Your Secret Garden may be a good place to meditate. But if you prefer to walk as you meditate, consider a labyrinth, if you have the space. The space set aside for a future swimming pool could be made into a temporary labyrinth until it’s time for the pool to occupy that space.

I realize that these are a lot of ideas to consider all at once, but they’re presented so you can pick and choose those that’ll be best for your family, and so you won’t be surprised when the backyard needs to be modified to accommodate the needs of your growing family.

Winter is a good time to begin thinking about how to divide your backyard so it will serve the needs for your family now and well into the future. For help from the initial formulation of your plans to committing your desires to paper and right trough installation, our landscape professionals are here to serve you.

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Consider Curb Appeal First

Most families live in their back yards so that’s where they concentrate their landscape efforts. Consequently, the front yard often consists of a rather boring mix of lawn and foundation plantings. That could be changing, according to the 2022 Garden Trends Report by the Green Media Group.

The report notes that there’s renewed interest in curb appeal. Homeowners are making the approaches and entrances more welcoming to visitors. Perhaps the months of few visitors during the pandemic has made people so eager to share their space with friends and family that they’re showing their appreciation as soon as someone pulls into their driveway.

Some sources are suggesting paving driveways with material other than blacktop – specifically concrete or pavers. The same sources suggest planting the borders with perennials. In our upstate New York climate, though, they would have to be very hardy perennials to withstand snow being piled on them. It would also be a good idea to install curbing between the pavement and plant border to keep your shovel, snowblower or plow from damaging the plants.

If you don’t have any trees in the front yard, consider a shade tree. Select a deciduous tree rather than a conifer. The crowns of deciduous trees are above the line of sight from the street. The foliage on most conifers extends all the way to the ground, obscuring your ability to see the street. Under overhead wires, the only tree to plant is an ornamental that grows no more than 20 feet tall.

Obscuring line of sight presents two concerns. The first is security. Blocking the view gives potential burglars cover to do their illegal activities, and it could be disastrous for your family. The other concern is that you would be blocking the view of your house and yard, reducing the curb appeal that you’re striving for.

Front porches also are trends. People are going back to the tradition of sitting on the front porch. Those with porches are rejuvenating them and many without our building them. Be sure plant material is part of your plan. Place containerized plants on the porch, attach hanging baskets of annuals from the porch and/or install window boxes to the porch rail.

The same plants as suggested for a porch can be part of the curb appeal even if you don’t have, or want, a porch. Two large containers, one on either side of the front door, would be your first opportunity to welcome guests. Baskets can be hung from the eaves and window boxes can be installed under the front windows. Remember, though, that you’ll have to water these plants more often than those in-ground.

How about giving your front door, shutters and any woodwork a fresh coat of paint to complete your front yard makeover? Some people are even installing curtains on their front porches for privacy and shade.

If your home’s curb appeal needs some attention and you’re not a do-it-yourselfer, we have landscape designers who can help you with the planning and landscape installation professionals who can help you with the planting and hardscape construction.

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How To Make Your Landscape Trendy In 2022

As the holidays come to a close for 2021, it’s time to look forward to Spring 2022, and one place you can spice up your life is to make your landscape more trendy. One good resource for finding out what looks as though it’s trending this spring is the annual Garden Trends Report (GTR), published by the Green Media Group. This post is an overview of the 2022 report and, in upcoming posts, I’ll detail how you can implement some of the trends in your landscape.

As it has in the past few years, the first third of this report deals with social issues. Namely, how the pandemic and quarantine has influenced how we view our homes, and how that has changed since we are able to get out more and do more things. I’ll move beyond that and share ways in which Americans are going to enjoy their landscapes in the future.

Starting at the entrance, people are creating zones, both inside and out, and appointing them with plants and hard goods that are appropriate for the use to which that zone of the property has been designated. Start with the front yard’s curb appeal and move to the backyard where you can divide the area into zones for entertaining, playing, a secret or meditation garden or any other space that will make your backyard your special place.

Many people took a new interest in their landscapes during the pandemic. And this trend doesn’t seem to be diminishing as we emerge from quarantine and isolation. It’s estimated that 18.3 million Americans took up gardening for the first time. Their interest is across the board, but many are welcoming birds, pollinators and all sorts of wildlife to their properties. To this, I caution: be careful what you wish for. Butterflies and birds are fun to watch. It doesn’t take much to satisfy their basic needs and they seldom leave any damage behind. Mammals, especially deer, aren’t so considerate. They may look nice in your backyard until they begin dining on your plants. If you really want mammals to visit, consider planting their favorite plants in a far corner where the damage won’t detract as much from the landscape. Then, hope they get the message.

Fresh, cut flowers sales skyrocketed last year and don’t appear to be subsiding this year. You can conveniently enjoy cut flowers in your home for at least three seasons of the year by planting a cutting garden this spring. When discussing bringing fresh flowers inside, it should be noted that the tremendous interest in houseplants in 2019 was sustained in 2020 and continues into 2021, and there’s no reason to believe it will slow down in 2022.

One in five of the world’s plants are at risk of extinction. Of those, 4,400 are in the United States. The trends report outlines ways that landscape and related professionals can help their customers save plants from extinction. It also has information on ways we can help with biodiversity, increase use of native plants and serve the needs of rare plant collectors. If you’re interested in any of these areas, we’d like to hear from you.

Last but not least, remember the color of the year for 2022 is…GREEN.

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Time To Schedule Tree Pruning

By this time in December, your three-season outdoor paradise is, undoubtedly, secured for the winter. This means you’re spending most of your time indoors where it’s warm. But what about your trees? 

This is the ideal time to schedule tree care. That includes pruning, cabling & bracing and other work on the above ground portion of deciduous trees. Why now? Here’s why:

• Deciduous trees are dormant. Making pruning cuts now is far less traumatic than making the same cuts when sap is flowing and the tree is foliated. Then the leaves are actively making food through photosynthesis.

• Our arborists can see the tree’s skeletal structure. With the leaves gone, our arborists can stand back and inspect the tree’s structure and determine which branches need to be removed for health and aesthetic reasons. When in leaf, the leaves cover up problems and may present a different shape.

• Pruning cuts provide pests and pathogens with easy access to the interior of trees but many insects and disease organisms are dormant for the winter. Pruning now will give the wounds plenty of time to callous over before the insects and disease organisms become active again. 

• Frozen ground lets us better position equipment. A tree in the middle of your front or back yard may be difficult to reach with our bucket trucks. In spring, summer and fall, we’d have to physically climb such trees. In winter, though, when the ground’s frozen, we can often maneuver closer to the tree and prune it faster and safer.

• Faster, easier clean up saves money because less debris falls by the wayside as we drag it across a snow-covered lawn. (Less friction)

You may feel sorry for arborists having to work outdoors in harsh winter conditions. They dress for the weather and take extra precautions on slippery surfaces. They’re used to it and trained to avoid hazards. However, there are some days that the weather is just so bad that even we can’t work. Scheduling now better assures you of a time that’s most convenient for you, and gives both of us plenty of options should we have to postpone. 

As always, I urge you not to attempt to prune your own trees. It’s dangerous in the best weather and even worse in inclement weather. If the tree’s a flowering tree, you may unwittingly remove flower buds. Most spring flowering trees and shrubs bloom on old wood, which means this spring’s flower buds are already on the branches. To the untrained eye, they’re indistinguishable from the new leaf buds. However, our arborists are trained to identify both types of buds. 

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How To Protect Your Trees From Deer

As the depth of winter approaches, I get asked how to deer proof trees. The answer is that you can’t completely deer proof a tree. A hungry deer will eat any plant when snow makes it impossible for them to reach their favorite food sources. However, you can make it more difficult for them to reach your trees.

The best advice may come from your neighbors. Different remedies work in different areas. What works in my neighborhood may not work in yours. So, start by asking your neighbors what they use to discourage deer and how effective is it.

Perhaps the best deterrent is to plant deer resistant plants. The most complete list of such plants that I’ve found is on Warren County Cornell Cooperative Extension’s website (warren.cce.cornell.edu) under the Gardening & Landscaping section. It lists plants that are rarely, occasionally and frequently damaged by deer.

Boxwood is one of the plants in the rarely damaged category. One of my customers has a beautiful weeping Japanese red maple in the center of a triangular planting bed. It’s surrounded by boxwood on all sides and has never been damaged by deer. (I hope I didn’t just jinx him.)

Some people have had success with wrapping their trees and shrubs in deer fencing, hardware cloth or burlap. It needs to be installed at least eight feet tall. Ten or twelve feet would be even better. Other people have been successful installing netting over small trees and shrubs.

There are also repellents, which can be purchased or made using household items, and deer resistant plants like herbs. Deer love tulip bulbs but not daffodils. There’s also the old method of stuffing socks or panty hose legs with human hair and suspending them over the plants you want to protect. Strategically placed motion activated lights may also work.

Deer are the wildlife that draw the most attention as they browse on our valuable trees and shrubs in winter but sneaky rodents may actually kill your plants. Mice and voles like to burrow down in snow or mulch piled against the trunk and chew on the bark. Rabbits do it right out in the open. If they chew all the way around the trunk or stem, they will sever the tree’s vascular system, causing it to die. 

The best way to combat hungry rodents is to wrap the trunk with hardware cloth. Hardware cloth is flexible screening that can be found at hardware stores and home centers. To be safe, wrap the trunk all the way up to the first branch. Some barrier directions say to offset the hardware cloth out from the trunk with wooden or PVC frames. Plastic pipe or tree wrap can also be used but it’s important to remove any wrap in each spring so the tree can grow.

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Give You & Your Landscape A Holiday Gift That Lasts

It’s that time of year again. Plant Health Care and Lawn Care renewal time. Contracts for 2022 are in the mail to current customers. I urge you to read them and respond as soon as they arrive. If your valuable landscape isn’t currently protected by this service, one of our consultants would be happy to inventory your property and make a proposal.

The renewal contract has an incentive to return it early. Returning it with payment for the full year before the date on the contract can save you a significant amount of money. The saving is often more than that money will earn in a bank account.

Why do we offer this incentive? Because it results in savings for us allowing us to share those savings with you. For example, knowing how many customers need each product allows us to more accurately determine how much to buy and get our orders in early. That’s especially important in this time of supply chain difficulties. It also reduces accounting costs for you and for us. You don’t have to write and mail a check after each visit, and we don’t have to process it. Offering this discount is our way of saying Thank You.

You’ll still receive a form in a plastic bag hung on your front door. The form will contain information on the services performed and the care you need to take to assure that any treatments will be effective. The payment section will include the cost for that visit but the balance due will be zero.

When you trust the health of your valuable lawn and landscape plants to us, you can be sure that the work will be done by one of the 12 New York State Certified Pesticide Applicators on our staff. To obtain this mandatory state license, a person is required to successfully complete a rigorous examination. To maintain their license, they have to take continuing education throughout the year. The chances are good that the professional visiting your home will also be one of the nine people who have earned the voluntary Certified Nursery & Landscape Professional and/or one of the nine who have earned the voluntary Certified Arborist credential.

Thank you for your continued confidence in our lawn and Plant Health Care professionals. We look forward to providing the same great service in 2022.

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Your Anti Desiccant Reminder

Protect your evergreens to prevent dieback.

Anti desiccant is the best winter protection you can provide for your evergreen trees and shrubs. Besides keeping them from drying out from winter winds, this wax like material also lets you enjoy your plant’s beauty and color against the season’s white background. Best of all, it’s economical and easy to apply.

There’s a good biological reason for applying anti desiccant to your evergreens. In winter, both conifers and broadleaf evergreens slow down their life functions. It could be compared to animals like bears hibernating. Unlike deciduous plants, evergreens don’t go completely dormant. 

Evergreens’ leaves or needles continue to manufacture food through the energy trapping process of photosynthesis. That process requires water, which is normally absorbed by the roots and transported to the leaves by the plant’s xylem. Water, also a byproduct of the process, is given off through the leaves. This is called transpiration.

When the ground is frozen, the roots can’t absorb water, so the plant reabsorbs transpired water and recycles it during photosynthesis. This is fine until the wind blows. Wind picks up transpired water and carries it away before it can be reabsorbed. When this occurs, photosynthesis shuts down and the affected leaves, needles and branches die. 

Desiccated leaves and branches turn brown. Rarely does the whole plant die. It just has ugly brown patches, and the only remedy is to cut out the deadwood. This affects the aesthetics of an otherwise graceful, beautiful evergreen.

Before anti desiccant was introduced, wrapping the plant in burlap was the only protection available. Instead of islands of green punctuating the sea of snow, drab brown stood out like shrouded statues. There’s still a need for burlap wraps but only for plants affected by salty road spray, young trees and shrubs that are still getting established, or tender plants that may be near the limit of their hardiness zone.

Garden centers and home stores sell anti desiccant in spray bottles. The most familiar brand is Wilt Pruf, and it’s in easily recognized green bottles. Buying one or two of these bottles to apply to a couple of evergreen shrubs is a good DIY project. Buy any more and your hand will let you know how hard it is to squeeze those spray triggers. 

For properties with many or large evergreens like towering conifer trees, it’s more economical and efficient for one of our Plant Health Care professionals to apply anti desiccant. We buy it in bulk, which is considerably less than buying those consumer-size containers at retail, and you don’t have to worry about properly disposing of the empty containers. Our PHC pros apply anti desiccant with backpack sprayers that have enough pressure to reach the tops of tall trees.There’s a relatively short window of opportunity to apply anti desiccant. The temperature needs to be consistently near 40ºF but not down to freezing. If it’s too warm, it melts, too cold and it coagulates. If we get sustained warm spells during the winter, additional applications may be necessary. Nothing needs to be done in spring. The anti desiccant just melts when the weather warms up.

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There’s Still Time For Fall Fertilization

It’s not too late to apply fall fertilizer to your trees, shrubs and lawn, even though the calendar says November. This is actually the best time to fertilize deciduous trees and shrubs, and you can apply it until the ground freezes. 

The first thing to get out of the way is the notion that you feed the plant when you fertilize. The late plant physiologist, Dr. Alex Shigo, stressed that plants make their own food through the process of photosynthesis. However, nutrients from the soil are needed for that process to take place.

In a perfect world, your native soil would have sufficient amounts of the necessary nutrients there for the plants’ taking. The truth is, though, that developers often strip the nutrient-rich top soil, and may not replace it with soil of equal quality. Consequently, the nutrients need to be replenished periodically through the application of fertilizer. 

Although deciduous trees and shrubs may appear dead when they lose their leaves, they really are alive. They’re just dormant. Their roots continue to function by absorbing water and nutrients whenever the ground thaws. When spring arrives and the sap again begins to flow, and it’s very rich with sugar. There’s no better example of this in our area than the sugar maple. It’s during this period that the maple syrup producers tap the trees.

Fertilizing trees and shrubs now, when they’ve defoliated, or are in the process of defoliating, is the perfect time. If you apply it earlier, you run the risk of the plant generating a new flush of leaves at a time when they’re supposed to be going dormant. That defeats the purpose of defoliation, which is to protect the trees from the extra weight of snow and ice clinging to large surface area of the leaves. We’ve all seen the damage that can result from early season storms that arrive before the trees and shrubs defoliate.Lawns, too, can use some extra nourishment as they prepare for winter dormancy. That’s why fall fertilization is included in our lawn care programs. If you haven’t been on a lawn care program, you can still have our lawn care professionals apply fall fertilizer at this time. You can also have our Plant Health Care professionals fertilize your trees and shrub even if you weren’t on a PHC program. Hopefully these applications will illustrate the benefits of fall fertilization when your plants come back vigorously in the spring. Fall fertilization is to help sustain the plant during the winter and give it a head start in spring. It needs food stored in the roots to flower and foliate next spring. Spring fertilization provides the nutrients needed for top growth and overall vitality in the spring.

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Plant Cover Crop To Protect Bare Soil

Leaving bare soil in your landscape is not a good idea. Bare soil is subject to erosion from water run-off, it can starve beneficial organisms in the soil, and it creates a perfect spot for weeds to germinate. There’s still time for you to plant cover crops to protect those bare spots.

Hopefully, you’ve mulched the soil where plants are already growing – around trees, shrubs and perennials for example. But what about bare spots in the lawn, annual beds and vegetable gardens? 

For bare spots in the lawn, it’s best to seed them with a mixture that will blend with the existing lawn plus a healthy amount of annual rye. Annual rye germinates quickly and is very cold tolerant. It will also protect the other seeds in the mixture that take longer to germinate and are less cold hardy. The rye will grow for only a year and then die off, leaving the perennial grasses in the mixture to live on their own.

You have several cover crop options for large, bare areas like annual beds and veggie gardens. Take a lesson from the agriculture community. Farmers select cover crops for the dividend they’ll pay in terms of benefitting the soil. If the soil needs nitrogen, they’ll plant legumes like beans, peas or clover. Otherwise they are more apt to plant a grain, with rye being the most popular.

For the home gardener, crimson clover is a popular legume. Like all legumes, crimson clover has nitrogen-producing bacteria in its roots. When the plant dies, it leaves fixed nitrogen in the soil. Crimson clover produces an attractive red flower that makes your garden look nice while its roots are holding the soil in place and fixes nitrogen. 

When the nitrogen-fixing benefits of legumes aren’t needed, annual ryegrass is a good cover crop choice. It’s fast growing, not unattractive and compostable in spring. If you don’t mow the rye grass in the planting beds, you can just pull it up in spring and put it on the compost pile. During the winter, the grass roots feed beneficial microbes and any plants that died decomposed, returning nutrients to the soil. 

Mustard is another cover crop used by some gardeners. Its roots release chemicals into the soil that suppress weeds and soil borne pests. Good soil is, arguably, the most important factor in successful gardening. That’s why so much time and money is spent applying fertilizer and soil amendments. Planting cover crops to protect bare soil yields many of the same benefits during the season when the soil isn’t being used for other purposes.