Category Archives: Maintenance

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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The Secret to Perfect Poinsettias

What Makes Our Poinsettias Special?

Giordano’s Gift and Garden sells “Ecke” poinsettias. These are specially hybridized by our growers to be adaptable to winter home environments.

In other words, most homes have low light in the wintertime, and also low humidity. Our poinsettias are adaptable to low light, and tolerant of low humidity. On the other hand, most “supermarket” poinsettias have been grown in greenhouses that have high humidity, and tend to suffer when you get them home.

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English Ivy – a Blessing or a Curse?


Last winter you may have been surprised to see a lot of local trees covered with green leaves. Except they weren’t on the branches, they were all along the trunk of the tree and headed for the sky. While the sight of green might cheer you in the winter time, what you are seeing is English Ivy, which is an invasive menace. It was introduced during colonial times, and is now seen throughout North America.

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WHO KNEW? EPSOM SALTS FOR YOUR GARDEN?

epsom salts

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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Caring for Your Lawn – Naturally Part III (Watering)

WATERING AND SOIL pH

lawn watering

As counter intuitive as it may seem, you should water your lawn LESS often for better results. Really? The answer is yes, BUT: when you do water, water DEEPLY. Making sure you water sufficiently helps to develop grass roots that go farther down into the soil. Grass watered frequently but shallowly develops shallow roots and the many horizontal ‘runners’ that make up a mat of thatch. Thatch is a loose, intermingled tangle of organic matter that will prevent air and water from reaching grass roots. The result is a lawn that doesn’t look its best and is not benefiting from the watering you are doing.

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So, how do you know if your lawn is getting enough water? Watering so that your grass receives at least 1 to 1 and 1/2 inches of water a week is important. Take a tuna fish can, or empty cat food can, and place it within the zone of the sprinkler and run the sprinkler until the can is full. Check the time it took, and use that as the basis for watering in the future.  If the soil has become quite dry, it may work better to give the grass only 1/2 inch, wait for about 90 minutes, then give it another 1/2 inch.

When to Water?

Avoid watering from 11AM to 3PM, the hottest part of the day. It is best to water between 6 and 10AM. There is less wind, less hot sun, and your lawn has a full day to dry. While you want the roots to be wet, it is important for the grass blades to dry off after watering. For this reason, watering at night invites mildew and fungus. If you cannot water in the morning, doing it between 4 and 7PM is your next best choice.

What About Soil pH?

The pH of the soil (the level of acidity vs. alkalinity) is also important to your lawn’s health. The ideal pH for grass is 6.5 to 7. Since most soil on Long Island is lower than that, we recommend spreading lime to bring the number up. While rare for most lawns, if the pH is too high, soil sulfur should be added. A higher number than 7.0 is more favorable to weeds.

When Should I Apply Lime?

Lime is ideally applied twice a year, once in the middle of the growing season, and again in the fall.

Caring for Your Lawn – Naturally- Part II (Mowing)

PROMOTING LUSH AND GREEN TURF

The way to a lush lawn begins with an understanding of how lawns grow, and the needs of grass plants in terms of mowing, watering, and fertilizing. Misunderstandings and mistakes are common.  Let’s start with what you may or may not mow about mowing.

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PROPER TIMING FOR PRUNING FLOWERING PLANTS

Suggested Pruning Time for Common Flowering Trees, Shrubs, & Vines

Spring-Flowering Plants:

Plants that bloom in early spring usually produce their flower buds the year before. The buds over-winter on the previous year’s growth and open in spring.
Prune after flowering:

Alternate-leaf Butterfly-bush (Buddleia alternifolia)
Azalea (Rhododendron species)
Beautybush (Kolkwitzia amabilis)
Bigleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)
Bradford Pear (Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’)
Bridalwreath Spirea (Spiraea prunifolia)
Clematis (Clematis species)
Climbing roses
Crabapple (Malus species)
Deutzia (Deutzia species)
Dogwood (Cornus species)
Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum)
Flowering Almond (Prunus species)
Flowering Cherry (Prunus serrulata)
Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles species)
Forsythia (Forsythia species)
Indian Hawthorn (Raphiolepsis umbellata)
Japanese Kerria (Kerria japonica)
Japanese Pieris (Pieris japonica)
Mockorange (Philadelphus species)
Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)
Pyracantha (Pyracantha species)
Redbud (Cercis species)
Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana)
Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata)
Thunberg Spirea (Spiraea thunbergii)
Weigela (Weigela florida)
White Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus)
Winter Daphne (Daphne odora)
Wisteria (Wisteria species)
Witchhazel (Hamamelis species)

Prune Summer Flowering Shrubs In Late Winter or Early Spring.
Many summer flowering shrubs bloom on the current year’s growth.  Pruning them back in later winter encourages them to produce lots of new growth that summer and will result in more flowers.  Don’t be afraid to cut fast growing plants, such as buddleia or caryopteris, down to as little as 10-12” tall.  The exception to this rule is Hydrangeas.

Beautyberry (Callicarpa species)
Butterfly-bush (Buddleia davidii)
Camellia (Camellia species)
Chastetree (Vitex agnus-castus)
American Cranberrybush Viburnum (Viburnum trilobum)
Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia species)
Floribunda roses
Fragrant Tea Olive (Osmanthus fragrans)
Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)
Grandiflora roses
Glossy Abelia (Abelia x grandiflora)
Goldenraintree (Koelreuteria species)
Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii)
Japanese Spirea (Spiraea japonica)
Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin)
Nandina (Nandina domestica)
Rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)
Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)
Anthony Waterer Spirea (Spiraea x bumalda ‘Anthony Waterer’)
Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus)

 

Repairing Winter Damage In Your Garden

Winter Garden Damage – What Now?

Winter can offer obstacles for our gardens.  Cold, snow, ice, freeze/thaw cycles, wind, salt from treating roads and sidewalks are a few that spring to mind. Most of those obstacles can be readily overcome, but some are more challenging.

Cold, Snow, Freeze/Thaw Cycles – In Other Words, Normal Winter For Cold Winter Climates

These issues can by and large be mitigated by choosing plants that are cold hardy for our area and that are suited to the spot in your garden where they are being planted.

What does suited to the location mean?  It means if you have a place where the wind tends to come whistling through the garden, don’t plant something that is susceptible to wind damage.  Put that plant in a spot where it is protected from wind.  If a plant doesn’t like wet feet, don’t plant it in the low, wet spot in your garden.  Putting each plant in a spot where it can thrive leads to good plant health. And healthy plants are much better able to survive adverse winter conditions than unhealthy plants

Unusually Cold Temperatures

After the Cold has Passed

Annuals – if the foliage is brown and or mushy, remove it and compost or discard it.  Plan on replacing your plants in spring.

Herbaceous Perennials –Remove brown and mushy foliage.  However, do NOT assume that the plants are dead.  Even if you are used to the plants remaining green throughput the winter, they may not be dead.  Many perennials are “root hardy” which means that although the foliage and stems are dead, the plant will regrow from the root system.   In spring, be lazy and wait a bit.  Give the “dead” plants time to regrow from the roots before replacing them with new plant material.

Shrubs – Do nothing.  This is another great time to be a lazy gardener.  Resist the temptation to help and just wait for spring. See what new growth emerges and prune after you can see the true damage to your plants.  If there are obviously broken branches, you can remove them, but other than that – hands off. Pruning now could encourage new growth too early, which can harm the plant. Branches that may appear to be dead, may not be. Once spring gets here and the shrub leafs out with new growth, you will then know for sure which parts of the shrub are dead and can be safely removed.

Ice

Ice is pretty much the cruelest thing that can happen to your garden in winter.  The sheer weight can be devastating.  You are going to want to try and rush out and help your plants.  Resist that urge.  Do NOT try to help.  Take a deep breath and procrastinate. Do not knock ice off branches; channel your grade school days and keep your hands to yourself.  Allow the ice to naturally melt.  The branches beneath the ice will be brittle, trying to remove the ice is most likely going to lead to more damage to the plant, not help.

The rest can be pruned to shape, if needed or if you want to.  This may mean sacrificing blooms on spring blooming shrubs.  If you don’t mind a somewhat bedraggled shrub in your landscape, wait until after the spring blooming shrubs flower and then prune to shape.

Trees:  Remove downed branches or trees, if you can safely do so, or hire someone with experience to take care of this task.  For broken branches and additional pruning, it is best to hire a certified arborist to assess and service the plants.  Trees are a long term investment and much harm can be done by accident.  Let the professionals handle it.

Salt Damage

You may already recognize that salt really isn’t all that great for plants.  Salt applied by road crews or on sidewalks by homeowners can end up in nearby garden beds.  There are a couple of ways to deal with this issue.

If you can reasonably assume that salt will be applied regularly, consider choosing plants that can withstand a bit of salt (yes, we have circled back around to Right Plant, Right Place).   Internet searches will yield good results for plants lists.

If salt is unlikely to be an issue, then you may prefer not to limit your plant selection.  The best way to deal with an unusual application of salt to plants is water.  Once the temps warm up and snow cover melts, lightly spray off plants to wash off any salt that might be on foliage.  Then in early spring, water the affected areas heavily to wash the salts out of the main root zone of the plants.  You want to soak at least 6 inches of soil.  This will allow the majority of roots to reside in soil where the salt has been flushed out.

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