Ask The Gardener

9910 State Route 269
Bellevue, OH 44811

(419) 483-5957
(419) 483-6574

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I'm going away for a few days in a heat wave and want my raised vegetable beds to stay at least a little moist after I soak them before I leave.

Use bark mulch this will do the trick.

I want to add mulch to my landscaping beds which has trees , shrubs and perennials. Would bark mulch be a good mulch for this or is it too acidic.

Bark mulch would be fine, unless it has a high content of pine needles for some odd reason.

Why should I deadhead my flowers?

Deadheading is the gardening term used for the removal of faded or dead flowers from plants. Deadheading is generally done in order to maintain both a plant’s appearance and to improve its overall performance. Most annuals and many perennials will continue to bloom throughout the growing season if they are regularly deadheaded.

This is a common question with our customers and would like to share this with all of you. What is the proper way to deadhead and why?

Deadheading is an important task to keep up with in the garden throughout the growing season. Most flowers lose their attraction as they fade, spoiling the overall appearance of a garden or individual plants. As flowers shed their petals and begin to form seedheads, energy is focused into the development of the seeds, rather than the flowers. Regular deadheading, however, keeps this energy on the flowers, resulting in healthier plants and continued bloom. Snapping or cutting dead flower heads can enhance the flowering performance of many perennials.
If you’re like most gardeners, deadheading may feel like a tedious, never-ending garden chore, but the new blooms spawned from this task can make the extra effort well worth it. The second bloom will also be longer lasting.
Deadheading is very simple. As plants fade out of bloom, pinch or cut off the flower stem below the spent flower and just above the first set of full, healthy leaves. Repeat with all the dead flowers on the plant. Sometimes it may be easier to deadhead plants by shearing them back entirely. Shear away the top few inches of the plant, enough to remove the spent blossoms. Always check plants carefully to be ensure that no flower buds are hiding amid the faded blooms before you shear of the top of the plant. If you happen to find any new buds, cut the stem just above these branches.
Get in the habit of deadheading early and often. If you spend at least a short time in the garden each day, your deadheading task will be much easier. Start early, around late spring, while there are only a few plants with faded flowers. Repeat the process every couple of days and the chore of deadheading will lessen each time. However, if you choose to wait until later in the
season, like early fall, the dreaded task of deadheading will be rightfully overwhelming.
Some of the more commonly grown garden plants that reward this effort with a second bloom:
Bleeding Heart
Phlox
Delphinium
Lupine
Sage
Salvia
Veronica
Shasta Daisy
Yarrow
Coneflower

How often should I be watering my annual hanging baskets?

It depends on where you have them hanging, what size pots are used, the type of soil in them, what type of plant and how hot it is where you live. Potted plants need more fertilizer than plants in the ground, but dilute the fertilizer down more than the strength you would normally use and feed more frequently. This is so you don't burn the plants from too much fertilizer. Miracle Grow is a good maintenance fertilizer.

What do I do with my tulips after blooming?

 
1. You can remove the flowers bulb and all and discard them. This is done by most avid gardeners who are constantly improving their garden design and the look and feel of their garden. It also guarantees fresh bulbs (because they plant new bulbs every year) in their garden and they can be sure of fresh strong flowers.

2. You can also choose to let the bulbs stay in the ground and have them bloom again next year. In this case you must allow the bulb to charge up its energy for the winter and to bloom again next year. This means that the leaves must stay on until they die down. The leaves will keep loading the bulb with sunlight and nutrients. After the leaves are dead you can cut them back and just leave the bulbs until next year when many will bloom again. High quality bulbs should come back for about 3 years, but they do get weaker year after year.

What’s the Difference Between Plant Food & Fertilizer

Plants and soil need nutritious food. Feeding fertilizer that contains all 13 essential mineral nutrients to soil and plants will improve growth. Nutritious vegetables and fruit are created from soil that is nutrient-rich. Synthetic fertilizer feeds limited nutrients to soil and plants and can cause topsoil erosion and environmental pollution. Natural plant food does not disrupt the biological activity of soil.
 
Fertilizer In common usage, "fertilizer" and "plant food" are synonymous. "By legal definition the term fertilizer refers to a soil amendment that guarantees the minimum percentages of nutrients," according to the Colorado State University Extension website. Nutrients identified on an N-P-K fertilizer label are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Organic fertilizer often contains the micronutrients boron, copper, iron, chlorine, manganese, molybdenum and zinc.
 
Plant Food Food for plants is the available nutrients in the soil. Fertilizer is a substance applied to the soil to create plant food. When fertilizer contains high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium without other essential micronutrients, plants receive inadequate nutrition. Plants need all 13 nutrients to grow well and provide balanced human nutrition.
 
Synthetic Fertilizer Synthetic or chemical fertilizer is created from liquid ammonia. It is inexpensive to produce and has revolutionized American agriculture. Between 1950 and 1975, total farm product output increased by more than 50 percent and farm labor hours decreased by 60 percent. Mechanization, genetic improvement and increased use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers created this change. Environmental science now identifies atmospheric nitrogen overload from synthetic fertilizer as a primary cause of global pollution, according to a report by the World Resources Institute.
 
Natural Fertilizer Natural fertilizer as plant food is made from material derived from all natural sources. Cottonseed meal, feather meal, bone and blood meal, seaweed, fish waste and poultry manure are common ingredients in organic fertilizer. Natural fertilizer requires soil microorganisms to be effective. "Microorganism activity is generally dependent on soil temperatures above 50 degrees F in the presence of sufficient moisture
 
Compost Compost is easy to make in the backyard garden using a commercial compost bin or a simple pile. Compost contains all of the essential 13 nutrients needed for plant growth, in addition to oxygen and water. Grass clippings, yard trimmings, kitchen waste, shredded newspaper and dry leaves are layered in the compost bin, watered regularly and left to decay. Mature compost for use as plant food is created in 30 days to three months.

What Is Mulch and Which Mulch Should I Use Where?

Mulch is any type of material that is spread or laid over the surface of the soil as a covering. It is used to retain moisture in the soil, suppress weeds, keep the soil cool and make the garden bed look more attractive. Organic mulches also help improve the soil’s fertility, as they decompose.
 
Organic Mulch Types
Wood Bark, Shredded or Chipped
Compost
Composted Manure
Grass Clippings
Newspaper
Shredded Leaves
Straw
 
Organic mulch will decompose and have to be replaced, however in the process it will also improve your soil’s fertility and, of course, its organic content. Generally the dryer and woodier the mulch, the slower it will decompose and the less nutrients it will give to the soil. It pays to know the origin of manure, compost and straw, since these materials can contain viable weed seeds. The last thing you want is to spread a mulch that is going to start sprouting.

How soon should I plant my bulbs after I buy them?

Ideally, you should plant six weeks or so prior to hard ground frosts in your area to allow ample time for fall root development. Sometimes you will buy bulbs before you are ready to plant in order to get the best selection. While it's always best to plant your bulbs as soon after you receive them as possible, when you have to wait, be sure to store the bulbs in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Even if planted late, bulbs will spring into action and try to start root growth. They are pre-programmed to grow and will do their best no matter how late you plant them.