Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's Pansy Planting Time!

I've been surprised to learn how many customers at Strange's don't know how important it is to use a specialized Pansy food when planting these winter wonders. Sure, Miracle Gro and Osmocote are great fertilizers for annuals, shrubs and perennials; however, Fertilome's Premium Pansy Food has the stamina to stand up to those freezing temperatures that prevent other plant food products from releasing nutrients. This 7-22-8 blend allows for a slow release of natural chemicals in small doses as opposed to the high nitrogen, phosphorus and potash mixed in with Miracle Gro that can sometimes burn Pansies or force them to grow too quickly and wilt after this initial burst of color. Fertilome Premium Pansy Food can also be used to fertilize bedding plants, perennials, hibiscus, bulbs, bougainvillea, crape myrtle and blooming shrubs. Stop in today to pick up a bag and give your Pansies what they need to survive this winter!

Written by Ginny Gregory.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Do Your Cole Crops Look Like This?!

This time of year is prime season for cole crops! For many varieties we recommend harvesting after the first hard frost, which tends to affect the taste and texture of leafy greens for the better. However, a very common and malicious pest also travels to your crop beds to munch on the tender shoots before we even have a chance to enjoy them in our own tummies! Even one lonely caterpillar can wreak havoc upon an entire garden, favoring cabbage, kale and collard greens much to the dismay of our green thumbs.

Thankfully the solution to this issue is simple to find and easy to use in the bacterial disease that quickly and effectively turns those wormie bugs into instant fertilizer. As a naturally occurring chemical in soil around the world, Bacillus thurigiensis is safe to spray on any vegetable crops and can be rinsed off of your future side orders with a heavy scrub from the kitchen faucet. This compound can be found in Safer Brand Caterpillar Killer available in an 8 ounce concentrate that should be mixed by the teaspoon into your gallon size sprayer. Caterpillars stop feeding shortly after eating foliage sprayed with Caterpillar Killer and die within a few days. Caterpillar Killer does not harm honey bees or beneficial anthropods and does not harm earthworms. It is the safest and most effective treatment, but be sure to apply at the first signs of damage as these creepy crawlies can quickly decimate your cole crops!

Written by Ginny Gregory.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Gazing Balls: More Than Meets The Eye

These colorful globes add more than just a pretty face to your potege garden. Since the 1700's, gazing balls have been superstitiously used to ward off evil spirits, witches and negative energy. Available in steel or glass, the color choices are endless. Decorative globes are most commonly placed on stands designed to accent the unique properties of these multifaceted design elements. However, with an artistic eye they can strategically compliment a mossy nook or koi pond. Made from 100% recycled glass, the gazing balls we carry at Strange's can beautifully be illuminated from within by a coiled strand of lights. By reflecting all of the surrounding wildlife in miniature, these garden ornaments prove that good things do come in small packages. While providing delicate ambiance, they also were commonly used for surveillance in the 18th and 19th centuries to detect unexpected visitors on the front garden walk. Friendship Balls also serve as intriguing conversation pieces; sculpted from blown glass, these delicate spheres glide across the surface of your koi pond as they reflect shafts of sunshine across your patio. Whether you're adding a bit of color to your front walk or warding off witches, these colorful globes add just a perfectly bright touch.

Written by Ginny Gregory.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Winter Prep Leads to Spring Success!

Those of us who are dedicated to lawn maintenance often make the unfortunate mistake of assuming that the onset of winter weather gives us permission to neglect our newly established seed. However, by taking the proper precautions early we can prevent tedious weeding and root damage in the spring. A simple granular winterizer containing high compounds of nitrogen and potash can provide the proper nutrients to encourage root growth and foliage stamina in shrubs and evergreens as well as simple grass seed. Fertilome Winterizer is available in a 20 pound bag that covers at least 2,000 square feet, the size of your average neighborhood lawn. This product is especially formulated to help put your lawns, trees, shrubs, ornamentals and evergreens in proper condition to withstand the hazards of a cold winter, because it encourages the hardening of late growth and helps build root systems, as growth continues through the fall and winter. It is very important to fertilize your trees; well-fed trees not only grow faster and develop better shade, but also are not normally damaged as extensively by Tree Borers and other insects in comparison to those that are left neglected and unfertilized. Fertilome Winterizer can also be used for the fall feeding of roses, azaleas, camellias and gardenias. When used as directed, Fertilome Winterizer aids in increasing winter hardiness, helps build better root systems, aids hardening of late fall growth, and promotes sturdiness in plants weakening by too rapid growth. It is an excellent product to give your lawn and garden the boost it needs to make it through those frigid January nights that seem right around the corner.

Follow some of these tips to prevent further spring damage and weed control:
  • Keep an eye out for cool weather weeds such as chickweed, clover, oxalis, wild geranium, and wild onion. A weed left to produce seeds in the fall will return hundred-fold next spring.
  • Rake leaves, lest the leaves smother your grass over the winter. Consider composting them for use in the spring.
  • Besides raking leaves up, you want to rake deep into the soil to remove thatch. You do not want thatch to grow into the soil because during the fall when the grass seems to stop growing, the roots actually grow deeper to prepare for the winter.
  • After the lawn has stopped growing, and before the snow flies, give your lawn one more cutting to prevent snowmold from developing.

Written by Ginny Gregory.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Winterizing Perennial Beds

A couple of good, hard frosts makes a big difference in the garden. Some perennials immediately begin to go dormant, while others seem to want to hang on into late fall. To those new gardeners out there, we encourage you to consider leaving most perennials alone in the fall if you are unsure of what winter interest they might provide. Winter interest is entirely subjective, and only you can decide what is attractive to your eye, or what looks tired and messy. Here are a few tips and ideas:

  • fall-blooming ornamental grasses usually remain gorgeous well into the winter. It seems a real shame to cut them back to the ground before late winter or early spring. Some gardeners are now waiting even beyond THAT, and enjoying the effect of wheat-colored grass clumps contrasting with spring-flowering bulbs!

  • seed-heads of certain perennials provide food for finches and other birds, and they look great against a blanket of snow. Most late-flowering daisy-type perennials are on this list (like Rudbeckia and Purple Coneflower), but others with nice seed-heads and sturdy stems include: Achillea, Agastache, Aster, Astilbe, Baptisia, Buddleia, Chelone, Cimicifuga, Eryngium, Eupatorium, taller Sedum, and a few others.

  • there is a common theory that the dead tops of perennials help to trap the snow, which is the very best insulation against cold temperatures. In regions with erratic snowcover and mid-winter thaws, the tiny bit of extra snow that is actually trapped may in fact be of little benefit.

  • many perennials have very little winter interest. Cutting these types back in the fall effectively "clears the clutter" and makes the ones you leave look even better. Consider cutting these down in late fall: Alchemilla, Anemone, Campanula, Centaurea, Coreopsis, Delphinium, Dicentra, Euphorbia, Geranium, Hemerocallis, Hosta, Lychnis, Monarda, Nepeta, Oenothera, Phlox (tall types), Trollius, Veronica.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Give Your Garbage Disposal A Break!

Although composting meat or dairy products is a definite no-no, I plan on giving my garbage disposal a break this fall. I'm taking measures to learn the best materials for natural and organic compost. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides a wealth of information on their website to get me started. Composting is the biological decomposition of organic matter into a product beneficial for plant growth and soil conditioning. Organic matter added to the soil as a compost, improves plant growth and vigor, soil structure, drainage, holds plant nutrients and releases nitrogen for plant and soil micro-organisms. University studies have proven that composting organic matter into a soil conditioner can be enhanced by using Hi-Yield Compost Maker to speed up the composting process and insure that the finished compost will provide the proper nutrients to plants and improve soil tilth. Compost Activator and Energizer is also a product proven beneficial for jump starting the compost pile. Manufactured by Gardener's Supply Company, this twin pack comes with a 5 lb. bag of energizer (a high-nitrogen blend of vegetable protein, including peanut meal, and natural nitrate of soda) and a 3 lb. bag of activator (a nutrient-rich blend of alfalfa, cocoa meal, kelp, fish meal, and yeast). With these products at my disposal I will no longer be feeding egg shells and coffee grounds to that drain in my sink; instead I'll be brewing my own organic soil conditioner and keeping chemical fertilizers out of my backyard!

Written by Ginny Gregory.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Care for Autumn Perennial Beds

If colour in your garden seems to have languished after September rolls around, consider putting in some late-blooming perennials to spruce things up. Garden Mums are very popular for fall display, but many other perennials can provide much-needed colour at this time of year. Here are a few to consider: Rudbeckia, Echinacea, Russian Sage, Bugbane, Fall Asters, Toad Lilies and Autumn Monkshood.

Early Fall is a good time to do these jobs:

  • Edge your perennial beds.

  • Continue dead-heading any daisy-flowered perennials, especially ones like Echinacea, Rudbeckia and False Sunflower (Heliopsis). These will continue flowering for weeks if you prevent the flowers from forming seeds.

  • Remove any perennial weeds that have invaded the garden. A non-selective herbicide is a good way to remove the spreading types, applied carefully while the weather is still warm and the weeds are actively growing.

  • Remove any annual weeds that are going to seed. Throw these in the garbage, not in the compost pile or next year there will be ten times as many.

  • Empty your compost bin. Early fall is a great time for this, since it makes room for all those leaves, dead plant tops, etc. that you will have on hand in another few weeks. If your compost is not quite ready, maybe there is some corner it can be stockpiled to finish rotting before spring.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Audobon Conservation and Rehabilitation Group to Visit Strange's!

On Saturday, Oct. 17th join us for a morning of birding!

Members from the Richmond Audubon Society will be visiting us and they're bringing along their feathered friends! Stop in at 10AM to learn what species of birds will visit your feeders and what other non-seed-eating birds are looking for in real estate. We will be providing you with a few handy tips and tricks to attract non-see-eating birds with feeders and bird baths. Don't miss this opportunity to learn from Kim Harrel of Phoenix and her local wildlife rehabilitation group --> she will be bringing a variety of predatory and native birds for show and tell! Learn about birds, their calls and their nesting habits. We will have wild birds here for you to see. Learn about bird seeds, feeders and baths. By working together we can all help preserve our natural wildlife and become involved in bird conservation!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Turn Your Fall Leaves into Rich Spring Fertilizer!

"I'm so tired of bagging leaves!" "When is leaf pick up this month?" "I can't park in front of my house because of this huge pile of leaves!"

Does this sound familiar to you? Our neighbors and friends chime in all through the fall season; we're all doing the best we can to properly dispose of these natural autumn colors as they cover the lawn. Well most of us do anyway... "Hey! Stop blowing those leaves into my yard!" "I don't even have any trees in my landscape, but my lawn must be a magnet for my neighbors' leaves!"

Save a little on the expense of conditioning your soil for spring planting and brew your own compost from those clippings! On Saturday, Oct. 10th at 11AM, our Virginia Certified Horticulturists will be ready and willing with excellent advice on compost starters and proper containers. We're also offering 20% off composting products all day! Stop by our Composting Seminar for some 101 skills, tips, and tricks to create your own personal concoction and effectively condition your soil for spring planting.

Written by Ginny Gregory.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Don't forget the Fall Folk Festival kicks off on Friday, Oct. 9th and runs through Sunday, Oct. 11th!

We will be joining the Children's Museum of Richmond to plant seeds with the kids
at the Genworth Financial Family Area.

Family fun at the festival also includes aspects of local farm life and agriculture, performances, green art activities, themed exhibits from the museum
and, of course, a petting zoo.

Mark your calendars for these family fun events and bring the kids along to join our Pea Pod Club.
We're giving you permission to get down and dirty together!

Join us on Saturday, Oct. 3rd for a fun filled morning with our Pea Pod Club.
We will be planting pansies in pumpkins
and making mud pies --> 9am-11am
We've invited some special guests with fuzzy faces too!
Fireweed Farm Alpacas will be visiting us
and these furry friends are ready for some hugs!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Attract Gold, Purple, and House Finches!

Nyjer is a new trademark name for the familiar small black seed that is the favorite food for American Goldfinches, Pine Siskins, and other colorful finches. Small birds love the abundant food value and high oil content of this seed. Nyjer Seed is produced from a cultivated crop of yellow flowers that grow four to seven inches high. You may have heard people incorrectly call it "thistle" seed but it should not be confused with the thistle weed that has pink to purple flowers. Nyjer Seed comes from a plant native to Africa. It is the only major wild bird food ingredient imported from overseas. Due to concern by the US Department of Agriculture that foreign weed seeds could be imported with the Nyjer Seed, all Nyjer imported since 1985 is heat treated to devitalize any weed seeds that might be present. That is why plants will not grow from these seeds. With over 150 thousand seeds per pound it provides an exceptional value and many visits by colorful birds to your feeder.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Overwatering? Dehydrated plants? Problem solved!

Overwatering is a common and detrimental mistake made by novice gardeners. Landscaping expert and entrepreneur, Ray Padula suggests that longer waterings at less frequent intervals allows water to penetrate more deeply, encouraging longer root growth, which creates healthier plants. Gardening experts world-wide agree that one inch of water every three to four days is adequate for most loam soil landscapes. With Ray Padula Time It! Deluxe electronic sprinkler timers, it's now possible to bring sophisticated automatic sprinkler controls to your hose end sprinklers. Designed for water conscious consumers, Time It! Deluxe allows you to set up to four automatic start times per day, includes manual and automatic operation, every day, 2 days, 3 days, or custom watering schedules, and run time intervals from 1 minute to 24 hours. With Time It! Deluxe you can fully water without wasting a drop! Stop in at our Strange's West Broad location to pick up yours today.