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Helpful Tips for Watering Your Garden

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About 75% of all plant-related problems are due to watering with over-watering being the biggest culprit, but with a few simple tips and the right tools, your plants can thrive even during the hottest and driest months of the summer. 

When watering annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs, it’s important to get the roots completely wet when first planting. After that, watering depends greatly on the amount of rainfall. You can easily determine if your plants need to be watered again by sticking your finger into the soil. If the first couple inches of soil are dry, it is time to water again. Typically, trees, shrubs and most perennials can withstand a little bit of a dry spell. Annuals however are much more sensitive and can die very easily from a lack of water. All plants are the most vulnerable during the first few weeks after planting before roots are fully established. This is the most crucial time to ensure your plants get enough water. It’s a good idea to check your gardens once a day, especially during dry spells. A good rule of thumb is for your plants to get a good soak every 3-4 days either from rain or watering. This will help ensure your plants are getting water regularly, but aren’t being over-watered. Excessive watering can lead to disease and death of the plant.

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When watering plants, overhead sprinkling isn’t the most effective method. A lot of water evaporates before it wets the roots and wetting the leaves can cause fungus and disease. Try to focus your spray at the ground and the base of the plant rather than spraying the top of the plant.

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If you are planting a new bed and mulching, plant your plants a couple inches above the ground level, then water the plants before you mulch to give them a good soak, then soak one more time after applying the mulch. This maximizes the amount of moisture your plants will receive because it won’t all be soaked up by the fresh mulch, and by planting them a few inches above the ground, you are also minimizing the amount of mulch on top of the root ball.

A watering wand, multiple-spray setting nozzle, tree gators, soaker hoses, and timers are all great tools to help you water your plants easily and effectively. A watering wand is good for hard to reach plants like window boxes or hanging baskets. A standard multiple-spray setting nozzle is good for general watering of all plants and the various settings can help you control water flow.

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Tree gators and soaker hoses are also great tools for trees, shrubs or garden beds. Tree gators are large bags that can be installed around trees. Once the bags are attached to a tree, you fill them with water using your hose and then the water slowly drains from the bag over the course of 2-3 hours, giving the tree a nice, gradual soaking to maximize water absorption. Soaker hoses are hoses that can be laid around your planting beds to water your plants. By placing your soaker hoses on a timer, all you need to do is turn on the hose and walk away. The hose will automatically turn off after the amount of time you set on your timer. Watering with a soaker hose is about as easy as it gets!

All of these tools are available for purchase at Bedner’s and a greenhouse associate would be happy to help you determine which tools are best suited for your specific watering needs.

Watch our Watering Tips Video below.

Container Garden Tips

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Container gardening is a great way to add color or interest to areas like a deck, porch, patio or your front door. There are many way to go about planting your container garden, but there are a few general tips you can use to help make it beautiful and professional-looking.

container-types1. Select a container. There are a variety of shapes, sizes and colors for containers. Some are large and meant to sit on the ground, others are smaller and better suited for table tops. Then there are containers meant to hang over deck rails and or window boxes. You may also choose to go a non-traditional route when selecting your container, like using an old vintage crate or milk can. Regardless of what container you decide to use, just make sure that it has drainage holes on the bottom.

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2. Choose a potting mix. At Bedner’s we recommend ProMix. It is a very good mix with beneficial fungus, 9 months of fertilizer and water crystals to help contain water.

3. Determine your sun exposure. Once you decide where your container will be placed, it is important to determine what kind of sunlight the container will receive so that you can select appropriate plants that will thrive in that type of sun condition. A spot with morning sun only would be a part-sun plant and 5-6 hours of afternoon sun would be a full sun plant. Plants with no direct sun would be shade plants.  If you ever have questions about what plants would be best suited for different sunlight situations, a Bedners gardening employee can assist you.

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4. Select your plants. Thriller, fillers and spillers are often a general rule of thumb used in selecting plants for a container. Thrillers are plants that add height to a container like grasses. Fillers are plants that will spread horizontally across the container and help fill in any empty spaces in the pot. These are often flowering plants like geraniums. Spillers are plants that will creep or vine down the outside of your container like sweet potato vines or creeping jenny.

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Another way to create a beautiful container is to mix textures. Choosing plants with varying colors and textures like waxy leaves, pointy, leaves, velvety leaves, broad leaves, tiny leaves, etc. can help add visual interest to your container.

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Adding perennials and herbs can also be used in containers. Once you’re done with your container in the late summer, you can plant the perennials in your yard. Herbs in containers can be used in cooking, add fragrance to an outdoor space, or aid in repelling pests like bugs or deer.

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5. Water your plants. Watering is an essential part of ensuring a container garden’s success. Containers often dry out quicker than the soil in your yard. This is why it is important to select a quality potting mix that can help hold moisture in the soil longer. As a general rule of thumb, if the first couple inches of soil in your container are dry, it is time to water again. Your container will likely need more water during periods of extreme sun and heat. Always make sure you water your container in the early morning or late evening when sun exposure is limited. This will help maximize the amount of water your plants can absorb.

Watch our Container Gadening Tips video below.

The importance of having the right soil

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Many people don’t realize that healthy soil is an essential part of ensuring your plants thrive. Whether its annuals during the summer or perennials that you want to enjoy for years to come, soil quality is key to ensuring a plant’s success. 

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Healthy soil is comprised of a bunch of different organisms such as earth worms, insect larvae, beetles, fungai and bacteria.

A common situation we see with customers is that they recently bought a new home and want to make a significant investment in new plants, but are unsure of what condition their soil is in. We recommend any customer who is unsure of the fertility of their soil to get a soil test kit from Penn State.

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It comes in a little bag with instructions on how to do the testing. We recommend you collect dirt samples from 13 different areas around your yard for an accurate test. Allow your samples to dry out on a newspaper and then mail back a cup-size sample to Penn State. Soil test kits are available at our Garden Center and also from the Penn State Extension Office. Penn State will mail you back a report about what amendments your soil needs. Bring your report to Bedner’s and we can help you understand your report.

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Many times people come to the garden center and they aren’t sure of what kind of soil to purchase for their new plants. When planting a potting garden, you should use potting soil. There are a few different types of potting soil. Some have polymer, a water holding crystal, to help hold water in the soil to reduce watering needs. Others have beneficial fungi to promote root growth. Many also have slow-release fertilizers that last anywhere from 3 to 9 months. How long the fertilizer lasts often depends on what you are planting in the pot. All of the potting soils at Bedner’s include some kind of fertilizer, but we recommend that in mid to late summer you use a water soluble fertilizer to help keep your plants healthy. 

Watch our full video about the importance of healthy soil below.

 

 

How to Properly Prune – Pruning Essentials


How to Prune Video

No matter what the pruning task, a tool exists that can make the job not only easier and quicker, but also help improve the life of your plant. Bedner’s suggests anyone with shrubbery and trees in their yard, to consider adding these essential pruning tools to their shed.

The Tools

Hand Pruner – used to make clean cuts that help to prevent disease and infestation.

Lopper – used to cut larger, thicker branches that are too big for your hand pruners.

Pruning Shears – Used to trim and look like a large pair of scissors.

Hand Saw – Used to cut through branches up to 3” thick.

Pole Saw – Used to cut branches and debris that are out of reach or too long in diameter for toppers or hand pruners.

Practical Uses

For many small pruning tasks, the hand pruner and pruning shears will become your best friend. Here are a few instances where these tools can come in handy.

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In the spring there may be many dead twigs coming from the crown of your perennials, like Hydrangeas. Use the hand pruner to cut them back below the live leaves. If you want the plant to get larger, trim just to the leaflet on the plant.

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For some shrubbery, like Viburnum, really low branches can be detrimental to the plant because they trap debris close to the root ball. You can use the hand pruners to remove these low branches and open up the base of the tree to allow for airflow.

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Some plants also get something called a water sprout. This is a long leading branch that has no major offshoots coming off it. Typically they detract from the attractiveness of the plant and can be easily removed with hand pruners without harming the plant.

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In the early summer, you may notice your boxwood bushes have lost their shape from last growing season with the growth of new branches and leaves. The pruning shears can be used to trim the bush back to your desired shape.

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The other tools recommended here are best for hard to reach and larger branches.

For example, when you have a larger bush or tree that needs to have branches removed, the lopper is a great tool. It makes it relatively easy to cut through thicker branches thanks to its longer handles and sharp blades. These same thick branches can also be easily cut with a handsaw if they are in tight spaces where your lopper can’t fit or with a pole saw if the branches are high up in a tree.

Preparing Your Garden for Planting

Gardening Preparation in the Spring

When the days are becoming a little longer and the cold weather is beginning to break it can mean only one thing: spring is approaching. Seasoned gardeners know that they must prepare their soil and plants well before the warm weather takes over, so here is a look at some gardening preparation tips and ideas that will ensure a great harvest no matter what you plan on growing this year.

Begin Plotting Your Land

Plotting the land will help you get an idea of exactly what supplies you will need, when it is time to put seeds in the ground, and an overall timeframe for the coming months. For most, this can be done with nothing more than a pen, paper, and a few minutes out near the garden. The more tech-savvy gardeners can use plotting apps or programs to help them accommodate for row distancing and the distribution of seeds.

Assessing Your Space

Once you have a general idea on how the space will be used it is time to take a thorough look at how your land has held up to the winter months. Even a well-maintained garden could have been dramatically altered by heavy rains or a late freeze, and some of the repairs or changes to the land may take at least a few weeks. One important step in this process is to make a list of absolute essentials such as supplies to repair fences, mulch, replacement tools, and replacement dividers if any have become rotten.

Weeding and Exterminating

You may have grand gardening ideas for the coming year, but you will be setting yourself up for failure if you skimp on the soil prep. If there are only a handful of weeds or rocks in your garden you can often remove them with nothing more than a spade or even your hands. If the plot of land has been taken over by a large amount of debris you may want to invest in a rototiller to turn the top of the soil over and then sift out the unwanted material. It is also a good idea to keep an eye out for any roots growing under the soil or runner grass that could be soaking up nutrients. Any living material that has been removed can be transported to the compost pile.

If you had any problems with diseases from the last growing season don’t put any of this live material into your compost pile. As you clear the land and any new seeds pop up, remove the seedlings and throw them away. Do not risk using any material that has come into contact with old diseases such as blight.

Finalize Your Irrigation System

Having an efficient irrigation system can mean the difference between a successful garden and a time sink. If the watering system you were using from the previous year worked well, all you need to do is take inventory of any hoses, spouts, or barrels that need to be replaced. If the irrigation system was ineffective in recent years, try a new approach or seek out some professional help. Soil that is perfectly watered and aerated will promote the growth of healthy plants while cutting down on water bills.

Pest Control

The final step before planting those seeds or sprouting the seedlings is to consider this year’s strategy on pest control. This is one time in which there is no single answer that will be right for every gardener. Consider some of the local pests that you have dealt with in recent years and then ask a specialist on the best control and prevention methods. Primarily, you want to limit their ability to acquire food, water, and shelter. Just as important as preventing unwanted pests is attracting beneficial insects such as ladybugs and assassin insects with pollen-rich plants such as dill and fennel.

With all of this prep work out of the way your garden should be just about ready for spring. You can once again enjoy the warm weather with a newly organized garden that is sure to produce a bountiful harvest in the coming months.

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