When do you cut back your perennials for winter?
When they are ugly, brown, and not beneficial to you or wildlife.
Marie Kondo it! "Does it bring you joy?"
When should you "leaf them be"?
When they're beneficial. Seed pods feed birds and other wild animals, plus they add texture to your landscape. Many perennials get great fall color. Some perennials show bronze, copper, and a variety of other colors that are gorgeous.
What about ornamental grasses?
Most people like to leave their grasses until early spring. They provide some structure to an otherwise limited winter landscape. When ice forms on the grasses, that's lovely too. I usually cut mine back in March.
You're not on a time crunch!
Cut it all of the way down to the ground! If you don't, in spring you will see beautiful new green shoots coming up surrounded by brown dried up stalks. You can cut the stalks off then, or do it now if you just want to see the green growth coming up.
If it's ugly and in the front of your house so everyone can see, usually that's when you would cut it down earlier, as soon as it starts to look ugly to you.
So in summary, basically you just need to remember Denni's famous line is, "If it offends thee, cut it off."
I remember this every time I go to the hairdresser too.
Yours in Planting,
Caring for houseplants in winter you will need to consider a few things. Most, though not all, houseplants come from tropical climates, meaning warm and humid. These aren't the typical conditions in a home in winter, but that doesn't mean you can't have houseplants. You just need to consider a few things first.
Direct light, bright light, and low light are very different. No houseplant survives without any light. Although we do carry some very realistic looking artificial succulents that would be great for zero light scenarios! Most houseplants like bright, indirect light, but we have some great lower light options as well.
Though it seems like it would be straight forward, this is the #1 reason a plant will die. Over-watering is just as big a concern as under-watering! That means you should learn if your houseplants like it on the dry side, wet, or as needed. Succulents like it dry whereas ferns like to be watered more often. Usually less light and cooler temps in winter mean your plants won't dry out as fast. Consider this in the winter months! Most plants I simply stick my finger in the soil and if there is moisture, I let it dry out a bit and give it a deep watering. Watering should never be by schedule!!
Your houseplants like consistency. They don't like to be moved to new locations very much, or a change in temperature. Often they have to adjust for a period in a new location and you might see some leaf loss. One thing to consider is never putting a plant near a drafty door/window or near a heating or cooling source.
Prevent hitchhikers when bringing your plants inside for the winter. Use a natural pest solution like Bonide's Systemic Insect Control before bringing them in. Spider mites and mealybugs thrive in dry environments like your home in winter. Fungus gnats like warm, wet soil (think radiators and over-watering in winter). Check for these and treat immediately.
How many houseplants are too many houseplants? Asking for a friend...
Yours in Planting,
Now that your spring vegetables are past their time, it's time to make room in your gardens for upcoming fall vegetables.
The 8 most popular cool weather veggies:
1. kale - Peppery kale chips baked in the oven are going to be your new favorite snack.
2. lettuce - You can grow mixed lettuce varieties all in one pot for the ultimate salad at home.
3. broccoli - Homemade mac & cheese with broccoli is the best comfort food!
4. spinach - Add to stir fry, soups, sauteed veg mixes for more Iron in your diet.
5. swiss chard - Colors so gorgeous in your garden, you might not want to harvest them.
6. cauliflower - Turn these into a healthy mashed "potatoes" alternative.
7. brussel sprouts - Brown these in a pan with sesame oil, garlic, and fresh herbs
8. cabbage - Winter is coming, and adding cabbage to a hearty stew is heavenly in cold weather.
When to plant?
Usually late August in this area. Some veggies like kale taste sweeter after a couple of frosts.
Its starches are converted to sugar with cold temps.
How to prepare:
Pull out old plants that are past their prime.
Plain old topsoil won't do the job. You want nutrient rich organic matter. If you haven't amended your soil yet this year mix 1/2 Bumper Crop Compost with 1/2 of your existing soil or with topsoil. You will also want to add some Organic Bio Tone root starter at the time of planting to help your plants get established. A root starter will give you the best chance at the most bountiful crop.
Did you know that you can, and probably should, mulch your vegetable gardens with an all-natural mulch? A non-dyed hardwood or root mulch is a great option. Bark mulch may be too acidic.
A thick (4 inch) layer of mulch helps to suppress weeds and retain moisture, plus it looks so nice!
Yours in Planting,
As you probably know by now Spotted Lanterfly is an ongoing problem in our area. It is killing our plants, including our precious grapes (Nooo, don't take our wine!!!) So what have we learned in the past couple of years of dealing with this issue?
Penn State Extension is working diligently with research and development on the issue. In August Penn State released some research about some fungi that are able to kill the Lanternfly naturally.
Why take advantage of naturally occurring solutions? Because we don't have to rely on harsh chemicals that can have adverse effects on bees. This is important to us at County Line as we are committed to the environment. It will take some time before the research turns into a marketable product, so we can't get too excited just yet.
What can you do now?
In early spring you will see grey egg masses on trees, other natural surfaces or unnatural surfaces such as vehicles. That is why it's so important to check your vehicle before leaving a quarantined area such as ours. With those egg masses, you should scrape them off with an old credit card or something of the like, submerge in alcohol or vinegar, or just tie them up inside a bag and trash it.
The next stage we'll see starting around May will be the young nymph stage. They will crawl up the trees. One treatment would be Fertilome's Fruit Tree Spray concentrate with Neem Py or the ready-to-spray Fertilome Triple Action Plus with Neem. We use these products for a ton of issues you might encounter in plants. This is an environmentally safer product when used properly.
Another method would be a sticky tape that can wrapped around the tree to catch the Lanterflies as they crawl over the surface. We use Dalen Protective Tree Wrap and Treekote Tree BandingGum. It's important to note that you should create a safety chicken wire cage to protect other wildlife from becoming attached if you're using this technique.
At the end of the summer into fall we'll see the adult Lanterflies. They are not great fliers, but they are fast! If you see one, squish it! Perhaps it can help with stress release? Make it a game. See who can get the most! There's even an app called Squishr where you can compete against other people!
Think you've got what it takes to get a top score??
Systemic methods are a last resort as these chemicals will kill all bugs that feed on the tree, good or bad. If you go this route, we recommend only in the fall when the trees are done flowering and attracting pollinators quite as much. But be warned that some systemics claim to last 12 months, so some may still be a problem in spring.
Houseplants continue to grow in popularity. More people want to merge the outdoors with their inside sanctuary. The most popular houseplants have big, showy leaves, unique leaf shapes, and colorful, variegated patterns. Here are a few of what we expect to be our biggest sellers this season:
All of you plant moms and plant dads, which one of these beauties would you take home? Me, i'll take 1 (or maybe 3) of each! I'm working on creating my own "urban jungle".
What's that, you ask? Basically a space in your home that's overrun with houseplants. Sound familiar? You may have your own urban jungle and don't even know it! Does that make us the monkeys?
If you're like me and itching to get into the garden whenever possible, here are some beautiful early bloomers to look out for.
I hope you're taking some time to enjoy your yard this spring. Clayton made this arrangement using all different varieties of Hellebores from his yard. He used a shallow dish/plate to float his flowers in. This is his favorite way to display Hellebores.
I know that I'm only skimming the surface with these early blooming options. There are tons of great blooms to look for right now. Will you create an arrangement from your garden like Clayton did?
The most natural way to do it!
Everything that happens underground is most important. Everything above ground will follow if you take care of the soil first.
So what steps can you take now?
1. Add amendments to the soil.
Bumper Crop is our favorite product for adding nutrients. A blend of lobster shells, manure compost, worm castings, kelp, peat and aged bark. Inoculated with endo and ecto mycorrhizal fungi to improve root function. Everything your plants need in one bag!
2. Mulch your beds.
Mulch will protect the soil from frying in the hot sun. It will also protect the earthworms which we need to aerate the soil. A good mulch like our Super Duper Mulch, mixed in-house with compost, will eventually break down and become humus. Therefore, it will contribute more organic matter to the soil. Some mulches do a better job of this than others. We suggest our Super Duper Mulch for this humus-y bonus.
This year, with such mild weather, even some of my weeds have stayed green. Finally, they have a purpose!
Bulbs are already showing their noses above ground. The aardvark, or whatever Phil is, says we are having early spring. And I am thinking about my gardens already. So....I guess we will be dumped on with a huge snowfall any day now.
Did that sound cynical? It sounds like someone who has been fooled too many times! But the poet in me is still thinking about looking for buds on plants anyway. Here are some of my favorite harbingers.
You can find many more options on our PLANT FINDER and even make and print your wishlist to bring in when we re-open in March!
I love these trees because they are one of the first plants in my garden to produce beautiful and fragrant late winter flowers. They are understated and underused, and that's a shame. Here are a few of my favorite varieties that I think you will love too:
One of my favorite trees ever! Of course, I say that about a lot of trees, but I do mean it. Their big, romantic flowers look like they are straight out of a fairy tale. Who needs magic when we get spring blooms?! They are one and the same in my opinion.
Don't forget to check out our Plant Finder for more great ideas and in depth details on each plant!
What is your favorite spring bloomer?
You've planned out what veggies to plant this spring, and now you need to know how to get started.
Seeds or plants?
That depends on the plant. Because our area in the suburbs of Philadelphia doesn't really warm up until May, we don't have a long enough growing season to sow some plants' seeds directly in the ground. Some plants need several months to mature. One option would be to start them from seed in your home. This is a good idea if you have the room and bright light. Many people like this approach if they plan to plant a lot of veggies and want to save some money. You will still need peat pots or other small containers to plant in, lightweight seed soil, and maybe a grow lamp if you don't get enough light in your home.
Luckily for you, we sell vegetable plants that were already started in a local greenhouse. And it's not as expensive to start from plants as you might think! Most of our veggies are 5 for $15! That's a good size garden plot! Plus, it's perfect for those of us that procrastinate...
Want some instant gratification? Try some cool weather veggies that are ready to harvest right when they arrive to our greenhouse in April! Lettuce, kale, spinach, and other leafy greens, including salad mixes grown all together in one pot!
All other vegetables should be planted after the last frost.
Marietta has been writing about garden related subjects for 9 years.