Vande Hey Design Center

Monday, August 11, 2014

Weeds: Can't Live With Them

What is a weed?  My plant taxonomy professor made us commit to memory that a weed is "an aggressive invader of a disturbed area."  This is very true but probably not what came to mind as you started reading.  For the sake of this article, let's call weeds "and plant out of place."

So, what is the best way to control these rogue plants in our gardens or landscape?  Plan A is to never let them get out of control in the first place.  The easiest time to control any weed is when it is small.  The key is to eliminate the weed before it becomes deeply rooted in the soil, which can be done in a number of ways.  Small weeds can easily be controlled by hand pulling, hoeing, or chemical application of herbicides.  The best example of such an herbicide is Round-Up.  A weekly inspection and weeding of the landscape will effectively control weeds with the least amount of effort.

If your property is large or your weeds are already out of control, consider yourself beyond Plan A.  Let's discuss Plan B. Plan B will depend entirely on on the weed we are discussing.  Weeds that develop a strong central root (like dandelion) or root along their stems (like Creeping Charlie) have the nasty ability to regenerate themselves from even the smallest portion of the root or stem left behind from pulling.  This means that herbicide applications are your Plan B.  Remember that most over the counter herbicides will also kill your desired plants.  Pre-mixed spray bottles with directional or foaming nozzles, sponges, or even paint brushes can be used to apply the chemical to only the leaves of the offending plant.  This will effectively kill the weed and leave your landscape plants untouched.  Some weeds, even when large, can still be controlled by hand weeding.  Purslane, Plantain, and even crabgrass can be effectively removed by hand pulling even when large.  A slow, even, and upward pressure applied at the base of the plant is the most effective.  If the soil is dry and clay-based, try watering the area the night before to make removal easier.

Once your beds are weed-free, consider and organic mulch to limit future weed growth.  Organic mulches are convenient and an aesthetically pleasing way to control weeds.  A deep layer (2" for perennials and up to 4" for trees and shrubs) will help eliminate most weeds.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How to plant



Over the past 20 years, I’ve seen many dead and dying plants.  What I’ve seen as the main cause for these losses is quite simple; improper planting.  The first step in successfully completing any DIY design is proper planting.  Here’s what to do.

The weighty decision: The first step is to determine if indeed you can handle the plants you desire to install.  Materials such as annuals, perennials, and potted shrubs are usually easy to handle and plant.  Larger balled and burlapped trees and shrubs can be another story.  The determining factor on these is often the weight of the plants involved.  Nursery standards dictate that 4” caliper trees require a root mass that will weight in excess of 1,300 pounds, a 2.5” caliper tree will weigh 440 pounds, and a 1.5” caliper tree will weigh 330 pounds.  A weight decision indeed.

Digging the hole: The key is to not plant too deeply.  The depth of the hole should be equal to or slightly less than the depth of the plant’s root ball.  The root ball should sit directly on undisturbed soil.  The width of the hole should be a minimum of 6” or wider on all sides for potted material and a minimum of 12”or wider on all sides for balled and burlapped materials.  Make sure that the entire hole is dug to a consistent depth and width.

Planting: For all potted materials, carefully remove the plant from its pot.  If the roots are tightly wound and circling the bottom of the pot, carefully pull the dense root mass apart to guarantee that new roots will readily move outward into the new planting beds.  For balled and burlapped materials, place the plant into the hole with the burlap and twine intact.  Once set into the hole, cur and remove the twine and roll back the burlap to expose the top ½ of the root ball.  The burlap can remain in the bottom of the hole, as it is biodegradable.

Completing the planting: Now is the time to amend the soil that will be used to back fill the planting pit.  We recommend mixing the existing soil with plant starter.  Plant starter is a mushroom compost that adds organic material and nutrients to the native soil.  Next, fill the hole half way with the soil/plant starter mixture and water thoroughly.  Then complete the planting, watering thoroughly once again.  Once completed, the top of the plant’s root ball should be exactly at your site’s existing grade or 1-2 inches above that grade, depending on your soil type and drainage.  Use any remaining soil to create a dyke around the planting area to guarantee that water will pool over the roots and soak deeply into the newly planted root ball.  Finally, mulch with your favorite organic mulch to a depth of 2-3 inches.

Follow up care: It is almost impossible to over-water newly installed plants.  Initially and in hot weather, you may need to deeply water on a daily basis.  After the first week and for the next few following weeks, slowly wean the plan until the plant is receiving one deep and thorough watering per week.  Weekly waterings should continue for the entire first growing season as rainfall dictates.  Do not fertilize newly-planted materials.  Instead, we recommend the use of root stimulator.  Root stimulation is mild transplant solution designed to start the plant off on the right foot.

Finally, sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor.  Watch for signs of impending problems such as falling or wilted of discolored leaves.  If any of these symptoms arise, contact your sales representative for help.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Pruning for Dummies

Proper pruning of your trees and shrubs isn't necessarily complicated, but it often strikes fear into the hearts of many first time owners of a new landscape.  Here are a few "rules of thumb" to help you during your learning curve associated with a new landscape.
- Try limiting pruning the first year or two.  This keeps the maximum amount of foliage on the plant, producing the maximum amount of nutrients as the shrub works to adapt to its new home.
- Spring blooming plants are best prunes immediately after they flower.  This spring pruning will not only remove and spent blossoms but it will also keep your shrub in shape for the summer ahead.  Remember that spring blooming plants set their blower buds in later summer or fall.  Pruning too late in the year will actually remove the flower buds for the following spring.  Examples of spring bloomers are forsythia, lilac, rose tree of China, bridal wreath, and mockorange.
- Summer blooming plants are best pruned when the plant is dormant.  This includes late fall and early spring.  Examples of summer bloomers would be potentilla, spirea, and Annabelle hydrangea.  Remember that summer blooming plants set their buds in the early spring.  Pruning once the growth has started each spring will remove the flower buds for the summer ahead.
- Trees that bleed readily in the spring and best pruned during the summer.  This allows abundant time for pruning wounds to heal.  Examples of trees susceptible to bleeding are maple, birch, and elm.
- Finally, put away your pruning tools for the months of September and October.  The result of pruning is often new growth.  New growth at this time of year can be damaged by the onset of cold weather.  Why tempt fate?

Hopefully these general rules will make your more comfortable with the process of pruning your landscape plants.  Look for future articles providing specific information on how to revitalize your existing plantings through pruning.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Each spring though fall we see a steady steam of chewed or infected leaves, stems, and branches making their way into our garden center for diagnosis.  Sometimes the diagnosis is easy and sometimes we may never figure out the problem.  In every case, our client is looking for some chemical or treatment to cure their ailing plant.  Sometimes the problem can be treated but more often than not, there is nothing we can do.  Why not?  In almost every case, early detection is the key.  Many fungal problems have no cure once the infection has started or once the caterpillar has defoliated the plant.  At that point, it is too late to treat the problem.

So, what should you do?  I'd recommend that, on a weekly basis or more often if you choose, take a casual stroll through your landscape. Look for the subtle changes in your plants that might foretell a problem in the works.  Look for misshapen or discolored leaves.  Look for leaves that have have unexpectedly fallen to the ground and check them for signs of trouble.  Look for partially eaten or chewed leaves or any creatures taking up residence on the leaves, petioles, or stems.  Look for bumps, growths, or lesions not present earlier.  Once you've detected a problem in its early stage, collect a substantial sample of the plant and come in for help.  With early detection, you may be able to nip the trouble in the bud because it spreads to the entire plant.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

With Winter Burn. Patience is Still a Virtue

It's mid-June and many of our winter burned evergreens are on the mend.  New growth is beginning to hide the damage and a simple brush of your hand goes a long way in removing the remaining brown foliage.  Despite these encouraging signs, it could be one or two growing seasons before the plants look the way they did last fall.  The good news is there is hope.  Make sure the evergreens stay well watered and fed through the summer and you'll have done all you can do for now.

So what about those Evergreens that, despite some new growth, are mostly brown and still look awful?  I'm afraid the answer is mostly more patience.  The cool weather has many plants just putting on their spring growth and with time, they will see new growth as well.  However, in this case, there might be some steps you can take beside waiting.  As stated earlier, keep the plants well watered and fed with a mild fertilizer such as Milorganite or Miracid.  Consider pruning back the brown branches until you find new growth or the stems become green and supple.  Once we've given the plants a few more weeks and cleaned out the truly dead material, you will have a decision to make.  Do you give the plant one more a season to grow back or do you move ahead with a replacement?  Horticulturally, these plants will come back, but aesthetically it may be time to go.  Ultimately, the choice is yours.

Whether your plants are once again flourishing or still looking sad, it if safe to say our landscape will continue to show the scars of the past winter for many years to come.

Monday, June 9, 2014

It's never too late!

All too often I hear people tell me that you simply cannot plant after Memorial Day.  Once the calendar hits June 1st, all planting must stop until the fall.  This may have been true once but not anymore.

In the past, many trees and shrubs were only available bare root, a condition when the plants were literally sold with no soil or pot to contain them.  Bare root plants came packed in moist peat moss or saw dust and needed to be planted before the leaves developed.  Even when stored in cold storage, most bare root plants needed to find a permanent home before Memorial Day.  This is probably where the advice to plant prior to Memorial Day came from.

Today, most items are sold either potted or balled and burlapped which means we can plant and improve the appearance of our homes and landscapes from April to frost.  So what is my advice to you now that June is busting out all over?  Relax, plant, and enjoy your home and garden all summer long.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Rose Care

"How do I prune my roses?" is a very common question and one that often puts terror in the eyes of the new rose grower.  Yet the pruning of roses, especially the lower maintenance shrub roses, is quite simple and easy to master.

Seasonal pruning of roses begins in the spring as our snow melts and leaves begin to appear once again on our plants.  The first step is the remove any materials broken or killed by the winter.  Begin by simply removing any broken branches.  Now attempt to remove any stem or portion of stem that has not survived the winter.  Winter-damaged growth will be black in comparison to the green growth of surviving tissue.  Simply remove the blackened stems down to the remaining green growth.  Once this is done, step back and look at what remains.  Your second goal of spring pruning is to create a symmetrical look to the plants.  Reduce the size of the largest stems down to the height of the smallest stems.  Now make one final cut on each stem to encourage strong, healthy growth.  This cut should be made about 1/8th of an inch above a bud or developing stem that faces outward.  With this, your spring pruning is complete.

As the season progresses, your rose will grow and flower throughout the year.  As the flowers fade and the petals eventually fall, it becomes time to change to deadheading mode.  Deadheading is the technical term for removing the spent blossoms.  Once the flowers have faded, prune back the flowering stem to just above a leaf comprised of 5 healthy leaflets.  By doing so, you will promote a strong, new shoot to grow in its place that will eventually develop buds and flowers in about 3-4 weeks.

Fall pruning is even easier...there is none!  As we reach the early fall, stop all pruning on your roses, even the deadheading.  This will encourage the plant to think winter and prepare for the long months ahead.  Next spring simple repeat the process and your roses will be the shapeliest in the neighborhood.