Category Archives: Summer

IS IT POSSIBLE TO KEEP YOUR GARDEN FREE FROM WEEDS?

Hmm. That’s a tall order. Weeds common to your garden are naturally suited to the sun, soil, and water conditions of this area. That’s why it’s so hard to get rid of weeds after they’ve taken root.

But if you prevent weed seeds from germinating, your garden can be weed-free. Here are some tips to keep weeds from growing in the first place.

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Keep Coleus Looking its Best All Summer?

Coleus is probably one of the easiest plants to grow and propagate. In fact, the plants root so easily that you can even start cuttings in a glass of water. They can also be propagated by seed indoors about 8-10 weeks prior to the last expected spring frost.

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WHAT THE HECK IS A BUG HOTEL? (A Tutorial)

Nature does a lot to help our fruits and vegetables along, especially by providing a bunch of beneficial insects to pollinate our crops and prey on pests. It’s impossible to say just how valuable these creepy crawlies are in keeping the cycle of garden life going, but we are very indebted to them!

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WHO KNEW? EPSOM SALTS FOR YOUR GARDEN?

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Most people have heard of Epsom salts and they typically associate it with baths, as this natural salt from Epsom, England is probably best known as a way to help relieve your body’s aches and pains. Or perhaps you’ve even been one of the unfortunate ones who’ve had to use Epsom salts as a laxative. But did you know that Epsom salt can also be an effective gardening tool? Really?

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ARE THERE REALLY BATS IN NASSAU COUNTY?

(AND WHY SHOULD I CARE?)

Common to Long Island from March through Halloween are the little brown bats and the big brown bats (only a half inch distinguishes the two). Numbers on mosquito munching vary, but 600 mosquitoes an hour was average, in addition to other nighttime insects. ”They’re in the air a lot, that’s why they eat so much, for energy,” said Ritchie Lettis, a bat fancier and co-owner of Wild Bird Center, a store in Stony Brook. Bats’ fluttery, seemingly erratic flight pattern is actually a clever adaptation allowing them to match an insect’s flight. These tiny nocturnal mammals can catch a bug in the outstretched skin of their wings, lift their legs to their mouth, shove the bug in and continuing flying. Now THAT’s a bug zapper.

Surprisingly, a bat house is just an empty rectangular wooden box with an opening at the bottom. The bats roost inside (yes, hanging upside down), squeezing in tight with others for warmth. Giordano’s carries a small model that when mounted, could house  a dozen bats.

BAT HOUSE

Then there is the matter of placement. Bat houses should be mounted facing south, 12 to 15 feet above the ground on a pole or under the eaves of a house. The latter is out of the question for most people who would prefer  to admire nature from afar: Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom or Animal Planet programming. While bats in one’s backyard may reflect a balanced ecosystem, if bats got into most houses, the residents would probably (and justifiably) run screaming into the night appearing to have bats in their belfry.

So then there is tree mounting. Unlike birds that can fly off their perches, bats have weak legs and upon leaving the house drop a few feet before flying, requiring unobstructed swooping room below.

The dropping and swooping may sound problematic, but since this activity takes place at night, you can sleep well knowing your personal bug zappers are working on your behalf to rid your yard of those pesky mosquitos.

Thanks to Paul Licata for the above information as published in the NY Times.

What is Companion Planting?

Companion gardening is the planting together of plants that have similar growing needs,  to maximize the production of both plants. It is still an experimental field with more research needed, but there are some things we do know and can pass along.

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Tips for Container Gardening

Why Container Gardening?

Perhaps you live in an apartment, have limited space in your yard, or just don’t want to have a full-scale garden. By growing in containers, you can have fresh vegetables and herbs just steps from your kitchen, and they can enhance your patio, deck, or balcony.

Kale container

Containers can also be moved to take advantage of the sun’s changing location during the season. You can use several large pots in which you can plant a salad garden, herbs and flowers..

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Thinking of Starting A Compost Pile?

What is Compost?

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Composting is nature’s process of recycling decomposed organic materials into a rich soil known as compost. Anything that was once living will decompose, such as yard waste, plant trimmings, leaves, grass clippings, soil with microbes and wet kitchen scraps (but not fat and meat). Basically, backyard composting is an acceleration of the same process nature uses. By composting your organic waste you are returning nutrients back into the soil in order for the cycle of life to continue. Finished compost looks like soil–dark brown, crumbly and smells like a forest floor.

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To Mulch or Not to Mulch? And When?

What is Mulch and Why is it Important?

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Mulch can be anything that covers the soil. It ‘s purpose is to retain moisture and prevent weeds, and help maintain soil temperature. It can be applied at different times of the year depending on the purpose. Towards the beginning of the growing season mulches serve initially to warm the soil by helping it retain heat which is lost during the night. This allows early seeding and transplanting of certain crops, and encourages faster growth. As the season progresses, mulch stabilizes the soil temperature and moisture,  and prevents the growing of weeds .

While mulch forms a layer between the soil and the atmosphere which prevents sunlight from reaching the soil surface, it can also prevent water from reaching the soil by absorbing or blocking water from light rains. This is why it is often applied in late spring/early summer when soil temperatures have risen sufficiently, but soil moisture content is still relatively high.

Best Type of Mulch is Organic

In addition to being inexpensive, organic mulches decay over time and do wonders for your garden, since they return useful nutrients to the soil and can increase your yield of crops in addition to the other benefits mentioned above.

Commonly available organic mulches include:

Leaves

  • Leaves from deciduous trees, which drop their foliage in the autumn/fall. They tend to be dry and blow around in the wind, so are best chopped or shredded before application. As they decompose they adhere to each other but also allow water and moisture to seep down to the soil surface.

Grass clippings

  • Grass clippings, from mowed lawns are sometimes collected and used elsewhere as mulch. Grass clippings are dense and tend to mat down, so are best mixed with tree leaves or rough compost to provide aeration and to facilitate their decomposition without smelly putrefaction. Rotting fresh grass clippings can damage plants; Fresh green grass clippings are relatively high in nitrate content, and when used as a mulch, much of the nitrate is returned to the soil.

Peat moss

  • Peat moss, or sphagnum peat, is long lasting and packaged, making it convenient and popular.  It can also lower the pH of the soil surface, making it useful as a mulch under acid-loving plants.
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Wood chips

  • Wood chips are a byproduct of the pruning of trees by arborists, utilities and parks; they are used to dispose of bulky waste. Tree branches and large stems are rather coarse after chipping and tend to be used as a mulch at least three inches thick. The chips are used to conserve soil moisture, moderate soil temperature and suppress weed growth.

Other Facts About Mulch:

  • There is no better mulch than compost . Compost is not acidic and it doesn’t harm plants (it’s plant FOOD!).  Compost is also pretty.
  • You should not run ANY material right up to your home. Everyone in America has subterranean termites in their landscape. Subterraneans prefer to travel under cover. Mulching right up to the side of your home with anything—even stone—provides the protection and moisture they require to find their way RIGHT to your framing. Always leave at least a six-inch area clear around your home.
  • Never touch a plant with any mulch. Mulches are for preventing weeds and retaining soil moisture—they are not blankies; they do not keep plants warm or comfort them. Just the opposite, in fact: ANY mulch that’s piled up against a plant stem or tree trunk provides cover and traps moisture, inviting pests, disease and rot to destroy that poor plant. Always leave a few inches wide open around the trunk or stem.

Giordano’s carries whatever your garden needs in terms of mulch and compost. Come in and ask our staff about which is best for your garden.