Vande Hey Design Center

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Living Christmas Tree

Each year many people choose to bring a living tree into the home for Christmas.  Smaller potted and even some balled and burlapped evergreens make great candidates for a living Christmas tree.  Living Christmas trees should only stay in the home for 2-3 weeks and prefer cool room temperatures.  Lighting the tree with cool LED lights instead of warmer incandescent bulbs is a big help.  Treating the tree with an anti-desiccant spray such as Wilt-Stop will also slow down moisture loss.  Water the tree every day as it can never be allowed to dry out.  Once the decorations are removed, plan on planting the tree immediately.  This means that you need to plan ahead and prepare a planting hole now to receive the tree in January.

Choose a proper location in your yard to be the final home for your Christmas tree.  Take into consideration the ultimate size of the tree as well as its soil and light requirements.  Dig the hole before the ground freezes.  The size of the hole should be as deep as the root ball and 2-3 times as wide.  Amend the soil with leaf compost and store the soil in a location where it will not freeze and will be easy to access in January.  Now fill the hole with straw to slow down the frost.  At planting time, remove the straw from the hole and install the tree using the saved, unfrozen soil.  Water the plant heavily and much around the tree using the same straw that once filled the hole.  Plan on watering the tree again in the early spring once the soil has thawed.  What a great holiday tradition to begin the next year and to remember for many years to come as the trees grow and flourish.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Leaf them alone

Right now we all have an abundance of leaves collecting on our lawns and in our landscapes.  In time we begin to see large piles of leaves collecting along our curbs but is this the best way to utilize the annual leaf drop?

There are alternatives besides raking to the curb.
- Instead of raking, considering leaving the fallen leaves on your lawn to be chopped up by the lawn mower.  A modest amount of leaves shredded by the mower can provide a natural, organic boost to the lawn.  Just make sure the layer of chopped leaves is not so thick as to bury the lawn or create a mat of leaves on top of the grass.
- Shredded leaves from your mower or shredder make a great organic winter mulch for your perennials.  A thin layer spread over the perennials once the ground has begun to freeze is a great way to protect sensitive plants or shallow rooted perennials such as coral bell and Shasta daisy.
- Consider working in a layer of shredded leaves to the vegetable garden or annual flower garden providing an organic boost in the spring.

The annual drop of leaves from our deciduous trees is nature's way of returning to the soil what it used during the summer.  We can help in the task by using this bounty of organic materials ourselves in our own yards or encouraging our cities to compost the leaves we rake to the curb.

Monday, October 13, 2014


Recently a starting quarterback for a local green and gold football team implored his fans to relax.  Well I want to implore you to relax when it comes to preparing your yard and landscape for winter.  We all want to make short work of our remaining outdoor chores but in many cases it’s still just too early.

Let’s discuss a few examples:
•    Your lawn:  No you cannot put the lawn mower away just because it’s October.  You need to keep mowing and it will benefit your lawn to do so until it stops growing.  In some years that’s the end of October but in others it could be the end of November.  Remember, relax and let Mother Nature dictate the pace.
•    Winter mulches:  These mulches which are designed to help your perennials or tender plants shouldn’t be applied until the ground has cooled or even begun to lightly freeze.  Applying too early may trick your plants into making the wrong assumption that the cold weather is still weeks away.  Remember, relax and let Mother Nature dictate the pace.
•    Cannas, dahlias and other summer flowering bulbs should not be dug until the foliage has died down and been hit by a hard freeze.  Digging too early will only make them harder to overwinter inside our homes.  Remember, relax and let Mother Nature dictate the pace.
•    Delay any pruning of woody plants from now until they are fully dormant.  Of course you could also just decide to hold off on any pruning until March or April.  Fall pruning can leave wounds that simply will not heal at this time and this increases the chance for disease or winter damage.  Remember, relax and let Mother Nature dictate the pace.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Think Spring!

Don’t be confused by the title.  This really is a new entry for October!  Now is the time to think of spring and the beautiful displays of hyacinth, tulip, and daffodil that will fill your yard.

Here are a few tips to remember as you plan:

- If planned properly, spring blooming bulbs can add color from April to June.
- All spring blooming bulbs require well-drained soils.  If this is not the case in your yard, now is the time to work in plenty of compost, peat moss, and pulverized topsoil before you plant.
- Bulbs look their best in masses.  I like to recommend no less than 25 tulips or daffodils be used and no less than 50 of the smaller bulbs like crocus be used for the biggest "Wow!"
- Spring blooming bulbs do best in full sun.  However, that doesn’t mean that bulbs cannot be planted under some trees.  Remember that the early bloomers would be at their best long before the tree leafs out.
- When planting bulbs the proper depth is 2.5 – 3 times the diameter of the bulb.

We’d love to see pictures of your bulb displays next spring.  Peak bloom time is only 6 months away so get your camera ready.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

It's out of control...

People often tell me that they previously had a wonderful garden but due to something in their lives, it "simply got out of control."  They desperately want to find a way to bring the old landscape back.  Sometimes this is easily done and sometimes it is simply not possible.  In either case, all you need is a plant.  Attack, be patient, and be ready for some hard work.

Last year portions of my yard got out of control following a prolonged illness.  Aggressive weeds like Creeping Charlie and nightshade took over large areas once planted with perennials, small fruits, and flowers while shrubs became much too tall.  This year my health has improved and my goal was to once again gain control of these areas.  It's been almost 4 months since our growing season started and the battle is almost won.  So, how was it accomplished?

Attack: From early spring on, this area of my year received special attention.  I walked it daily looking for the weeds that once dominated.  By spraying or pulling something every day, the weeds were not allowed to go to seed or to grow so large that they force out more desirable plants.  As new weeds germinate, they were quickly removed with the hope that no other seeds remained.  I had pruned back many plants to once again allow the sunlight in where it had become shade.  With the return of space, sun, and water, I've been able to replant lost plants and bit by bit the look I once had is returning.

Be Patient: It had taken 4 months of diligent work to clear the area of weeds and to reshape the trees and shrubs.  One weekend of work wasn't going to do it, nor was a week or a month.  In fact, the job of regaining control continues today as every day seems to grow another crop of those persistent weeds.  I wouldn't be surprised if I'm still pulling weeds as the snow falls.

Hard Work: I think you've alreay figured this section out.

If you feel your yard is out of control, now is the time to develop your plan for the rest of the year.  Start the attack today and make it a daily habit.  Be patient, as it will take time.  Continue to work hard to make it all happen.  In time you will be back in control and enjoying the fruits of your labors.

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.