Answers To Garden Questions You Were Afraid To Ask
Should I worry about poisonous plants with kids and pets?
There aren't a great number of plants that are poisonous. Monkshood and Digitalis are poisonous perennials. For a complete list of poisonous plants please refer to http://www.perennials.com/results.html?searchtype=advanced&findplant=&zone=All+Zones&misc3=any&height=any&misc2=any&atpoisonous=1&submit=+++Search+++
Common Yew often used along foundations for evergreen planting have red berries that are poisonous. It's not likely that your pet will eat them, but you shouldn't allow your children to ingest them.
What is part sun? Partial sun and partial shade are essentially the same things. This is an area that receives 4-6 hours of direct sunlight a day. More than 6 hours is considered full sun while less than 4 are considered shade.
Is it safe to plant as soon as the weather warms up? You can plant coo-season annuals such as pansies and cool season-vegetables such as lettuce when there is still a threat of frost. Hold off on tomatoes and warm season annuals until later. Wait until there is definitively no threat of frost in the future forecast. Most potted, hardy plants can be planted any time the ground is workable. Tender plants, even those that have been hardened off, may be damaged by frost. It's ok to place a light sheet or other frost protection over them.
What does it mean to 'amend' my soil? You'll often hear us talk about amending the soil. This just simply means adding organic matter to the soil. That can be done in a number of ways. Compost from kitchen or yard scraps, Composted Cow Manure, organic fertilizers or natural additives that are sold at garden centers. Peat Moss is an all natural organic addition to any garden.
What is dead-heading? Dead-heading means removing flower blossoms that have passed. A plant's objective is to reproduce and a vast majority of flowers reproduce by seed. After blossoms die off and dry, seed heads start to form and are taken either by wind or pollinators. If you remove the blossoms once they have passed, before they go to seed, it encourages the plant to produce more flowers. You will extend your bloom time by dead-heading your plants.
Do I have to prune my shrubs? You don't HAVE to prune your shrubs. Shrubs survive in the wild with no pruning at all. Keep in mind that it is important to remove unhealthy branches and that shrubs such as red twig dogwoods benefit from pruning out older branches every few years. Other shrubs like panicle hydrangea can be kept from getting too large if regularly pruned. Although you don't HAVE to prune your shrubs, your shrubs will be healthier and prettier if nicely maintained.
Do pots really need holes in them? Yes, it's important for your pots to have some drainage otherwise, roots can become waterlogged and possibly lead to disease or rot.
What do the numbers on fertilizer bags mean? Those numbers represent the amount Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium in a fertilizer. Nitrogen is essential for growth as it is a main component in photosynthesis. Phosphorus is good for roots and shoots. It moves slowly through the soil and is essential in promoting healthy roots and shoots. Phosphorus is also what helps to promote blooms. Potassium or potash is good for the overall health of the plant. It helps to stabilize the metabolic process and fight off disease.
What's the difference between water-soluble fertilizer and slow release fertilizer? Water-soluble fertilizers are taken up quickly by the plant while slow release fertilizers help to build the soil and sustain the longevity of the plant. It's kind of like the difference between a snack and a meal. For better health and longevity of your landscape, we recommend slow release fertilizers. Water soluble fertilizers, unless organic, are better suited for pots and containers.
Why don't my hydrangeas bloom? This is a complicated topic that requires a much longer post, but in short, it's due to the species of hydrangea you've planted. Some hydrangeas only bloom on old wood, so if you've pruned them, you've essentially pruned off the future blossoms. Bigleaf hydrangeas benefit from winter protection such as a light burlap wrap. Every 3 years, you can cut 1/3 of the plant back to the ground. What you cut back will not bloom the following year, but year 2 will produce a great number of blossoms.
What's the proper planting method for perennials and shrubs? Plant roots grow laterally more than downward. The proper way to plant is to dig a hole that is 1.5 times as deep as the pot and twice as wide. You want to fill the hole with a mixture of native soil and organic material. Place the pot in the ground so the soil of the pot is level with the soil of the ground. This will require a little back-filling of the hole before you plant it. Then you simply fill in around the plant with your native soil and organic material mix. This gives the plant a nice easy start without having to work hard to establish it's root system by pushing through hard soil.
How often should I fertilize my garden? A lot of that depends on the plants you have. Roses are heavy feeders so they'll require more fertilizer than say Echinacea which is a pretty hardy, care-free plant. Personally, I fertilize my garden in the spring with an organic, granular fertilizer, then I feed it every month with an organic fish or seaweed emulsion. This helps promote healthy microorganisms in the soil.