A Gardener’s To-Do List For October

A Gardener’s To-Do List For October

A Gardener’s To-Do List For October

A Gardener’s To-Do List For October: October is harvest season: Apples, carrots, tomatoes and a whole host of other – equally important – fruit & veg ripens around now, so those of us with a vegetable garden will be rushed off our feet for the next few weeks!

Not that people without a vegetable plot have an easy time this month. With winter frosts fast approaching, October is your last real chance to divide up overgrown perennials, harvest seed heads and prepare your garden for the cold months ahead.

As such, you’ll probably spend a considerable amount of time clearing, pruning, planting and potting; regardless of your garden’s size or contents.

October is also a great time to sit back and take stock of your space. With the trees bare and borders empty, it’s much easier to get a real look at your garden’s structure, composition, and layout, which is why we often find ourselves using the last weeks of fall to make note of any changes we’d like to implement next spring.

This could be small things – like a new color scheme – or larger tasks, like repositioning a border or replanting a neglected space down at the end of your plot. Ultimately, the important thing is to take a step back and think about what you’d like to do differently next year.

It’s not all clean-up and reflection though: There’s also plenty to plant in October, and a few miscellaneous tasks – like repainting garden furniture – that are often neglected in the pre-winter rush.

To help you make the most of this busy month, we’ve pulled together a list of essential gardening tasks, as follows:

1. Divide perennials

Perennial plants like hostas, daylilies or yarrow have a habit of taking over borders, particularly if they’ve been allowed to grow unchecked for a couple of years.

You can’t divide these plants in the middle of summer, because they’re spending too much energy on new growth to recover properly. Fall is a different matter entirely though: At this time of year, delicate perennials concentrate spare resource in the frost-proof roots, and focus on building a strong safety net that will support them until spring.

This means that you can safely dig up (and divide) crowded perennials in October. To do this, pick a plant and lift it from the soil with a trowel or garden fork, taking care not to damage too much of the plant’s root network.

Once you’ve lifted your perennial from the soil, you can then tease the roots apart, forming two separate plants. Some perennials (including hostas) tend to develop quite thick root networks so you may need to use a bit of force, but many will just break apart in your hands, which makes it nice and easy to divide them.

Try to aim for equal division (i.e. splitting the plant in half) as this maximizes the chances of survival.

Once you’ve broken your plant in two, you can replant one half, and then find a suitable spot for the rest. Take care to cover newly-planted perennials with a little leaf mulch too, just to make sure they’re well-protected against early frosts.

2. Harvest seed heads

Alliums, poppies and a number of different wildflowers all disperse their seeds in October. If you want to enjoy these flowers again next year, now is the perfect time to get out there, and gather their seed heads.

These seed heads (literally, the part of the plant that’s covered in seeds) can be teased away from the stem and stored in a brown paper bag. If you keep this bag warm and dry until next year, you’ll be able to plant the seeds in spring, and then watch a new generation of flowers spring up from the ground.

Take care when gathering seed heads though: Some have a tendency to explode if their over-handled, and it’s important to be as gentle as you can with any ripe seeds.

3. Harvest vegetables

As mentioned before, October is harvest season, and those of us with a vegetable plot are likely to be inundated with fresh vegetables. Particular highlights include late-fruiting apples, root vegetables like carrots, broccoli, sprouts, and collard greens.

Beans need to be harvested in October too – particularly green, broad or runner varieties – as frost will ruin their flavor.

The same is also true of beets, cabbages, lettuces and that old seasonal favorite: The pumpkin, which will be at its ripest in the middle of October.

4. Dig out the last of the summer annuals

Speaking of removing things before they decline, there’s a good chance that most of your summer annuals are dead by now. There is a slight environmental benefit to leaving some of the wilted stalks sitting in your borders; they provide a habitat for small creatures and a unique biome for insect life, but they are also unsightly, and October’s the perfect time to swing around, and dig most of them up.

This will leave your borders bare for leaf mulch, or provide you with space to plant some late blooming alternatives. The chrysanthemum is a great example, but you could also plant out

5. Bring potted plants indoors

Temperatures start to drop rapidly as we move into fall, particularly here in Michigan. Plants in borders have a bit of added protection against frost and snow, but plants in pots are very vulnerable to sudden cold snaps.

As such, it is highly recommended that you bring citrus plants, olive trees or potted, outdoor plants indoors at this time of year. For best results, leave them by a window or door to make sure that they get enough sunlight, and water them occasionally throughout the winter.

Do take care to ensure that they are well drained though. There’s much less chance of water evaporating when plants are kept indoors, and it is easy to accidentally waterlog plants that normally live outside.

6. Paint outdoor furniture

Last but not least, October is the perfect time to repaint worn garden furniture. Regular weatherproofing extends the lifespan of all wooden furniture, and it’s important to get a fresh coat down every year – particularly if you can’t store tables and chairs indoors over winter.

You need to get this paint on before the cold weather sets in though; frost, damp and rain will stop varnish drying properly, and increase the risk of your furniture warping.

If you’d like to chat about winter-proofing your garden or ask questions about any of the advice given here, please drop us a message using the contact form on our site. We’re passionate about all things garden-related, and we’re always happy to offer friendly advice to people in and around Michigan.

5 Proven Benefits of Having Floral Arrangements in Your Office or Home

5 Benefits of Floral Arrangements

5 Proven Benefits of Having Floral Arrangements in Your Office or Home

We’ve been arranging flowers since the dawn of time. In fact, archeological evidence shows that the ancient Egyptians decorated tombs and churches with delicate floral bouquets; and written history shows that pretty much every culture on earth has taken part in the practice of flower arranging at some point in time.
For many years, we just assumed that humanity’s obsession with floral arrangements was a direct consequence of natures beauty: Flowers are bright, vibrant and delicate, so it seemed reasonable to assume that we’d be drawn to them for purely aesthetic reasons.
Recent science points to a deeper link though. Research carried out by Rutgers University and a handful of other, equally well-renowned research institutions suggests that flowers actually elicit a direct response from our brains: Triggering cascades of happy chemicals and keeping stress at bay.
If you were looking for an excuse to fill your home or office with floral arrangements, we’ve listed 5 proven benefits below:
1. Flowers boost your mood
A 10-month study conducted by Dr. Haviland-Jones of Rutgers University has shown that viewing flowers instantly elevates your mood.
During the study in question, participants were given flowers at random intervals and then asked to report their levels of satisfaction or well-being. Almost everyone involved in the study said that they felt happier after receiving flowers, and a substantial amount also reported feelings of elation, excitement, and gratitude.
To Dr. Haviland-Jones, this suggests that seeing flowers could trigger the release of dopamine and other feel-good chemicals in our brain, and the effects are so profound that scientists are now exploring the use of flowers as a genuine treatment for depression and anxiety
2. Floral arrangements promote peaceful relaxation
There’s a reason that chamomile and lavender essential oils are used to promote relaxation: Many of the natural scents produced by flowers have a calming effect on the body, and breathing in the smell of a floral arrangement has been shown to trigger the release of feel-good chemicals that can help you to unwind.
A research paper published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology also showed that just viewing a bunch of 30 unscented roses could help to reduce your heart rate.
The exact mechanism that delivers this effect isn’t fully understood, but researchers think that being able to reconnect with nature and observe something detached from the stresses of our busy modern lives is enough to promote relaxation in its own right, and we’d be hard-pressed to argue!
3. Flowers aid memory and recall
Tests conducted by the  University of Lübeck show that the scents produced by certain flowers could also aid in memory formation.
In fact, people exposed to the scent of roses were shown to have a higher-than-average chance of recalling information that they were given moments before being exposed to the scent, and scientists are now exploring opportunities to use floral scents as long-term memory boosters.
This doesn’t mean that filling your office with flowers will stop you from forgetting your keys, but it does mean that consistent exposure to some flowers could help your brain to build strong neural pathways, and develop more memories.
4. Floral arrangements encourage socialization 
A study published in Evolutionary Psychology showed that giving people a flower while traveling with them in an elevator encouraged positive social interactions and a greater chance of bonding behavior.
These findings were tested by replicating the study with promotional pens and other gifts, but no other item was found to be as effective as a flower, suggesting that nature’s blooms hold a special ability to encourage socialization.
Whether this is because we find them comforting, uplifting or relaxing isn’t really known yet, but you can still take advantage of their natural powers by placing flower arrangements in rooms to encourage social behavior.
5. Flowers encourage creative thinking
An eight-month study conducted by Texas A&M University showed that employees performed better in a variety of creativity tests if they viewed flowers before starting. Again, this could be linked to the naturally-uplifting nature of flowers or some deep-seated chemical response, but the point is that if you want to encourage creativity in the office or home, a bunch of fresh flowers may be an effective solution.
These results were tested using a variety of different flowers too, so it’s up to you how you decorate!
If you have any questions about the studies that we’ve cited here, or you want to know more about decorating with flowers, we’d be more than happy to help you out. We have years of experience with flower arrangements, and we’d be well-placed to help you create a stunning visual centerpiece for the office or home.
We’d also be more than happy to discuss the benefits of flowers with you – just drop us a message using the contact form on our site, and a member of our team will be in touch.

A Gardener’s To-Do List For September

A Gardener’s To-Do List

A Gardener’s To-Do List

Gardener’s To-do list: It’s not quite harvesting time, but September is still a great month for those of us with veggie gardens. Potatoes, marrows, and onions all come into their own at this time of year, and it’s also the perfect time to pick apples – particularly if you’re growing McIntosh, Honeycrisp or Empire varieties.

It’s not all about the fruit and veg though: September is also the best possible time to start planting out your borders with hardy, spring-blooming bulbs like snowdrops, tulips or daffodils.

There is lots to be done to the lawn too, and there’s even a little bit of planting for those of us who are feeling adventurous and want to see some fresh color come October/November.

When all’s said and done, September’s a month for preparing; a time to focus on laying the groundwork for future beauty. But it’s also a great time to get out there and get stuck in your garden, and it’s certainly one of the more rewarding months for those of us that like to tackle big projects

1. Harvesting Veggies

As mentioned above, September is the perfect time to pull up any onions that you’ve been growing. It’s also the perfect time to pick tomatoes, runner beans, and rhubarb. All of these vegetables have grown as big as they’re going to get, and harvesting them now means that you’ll be able to enjoy them at their ripest.

September’s also the best time to pull up any potatoes. They should be flowering by now and leaving them in any longer increases the risk of slug damage.

2. Replacing ragged annuals

On the subject of harvesting, you may have noticed that a fair few of your annuals are looking a little ragged now that the best months of summer have passed. This is the perfect time to pluck them out of your borders and neaten up in preparation for the cooler weather.

Don’t worry about things looking bare either; there are plenty of things to plant in their stead. Chrysanthemums, Goldenrod, and Japanese Anemone are all great examples of flowers that thrive in fall weather, and they’re all quite forgiving too.

Plant a few different varieties and you’ll be guaranteed a spectacular show that should last right through to November, even here in Michigan!

3. Planting Spring-blooming bulbs

Many flower bulbs can be planted in September. This includes popular choices like Tulips, and some of our personal favorites, like snowdrops and daffodils.

The bulbs will lie dormant in the winter months and then burst into life come early spring – providing a little bit of color long before most perennials are ready to start flowering.

If you plant a few different types of spring-blooming bulb, you can even create a staggered effect; ensuring a cascade of semi-permanent color that’ll last from March through to June, when your regular favorites are coming into their own.

It’s good to get your bulbs in the ground nice and early too – after all, there’s nothing worse than waiting until the first frosts have set in, and finding that you’ve got to dig through half-frozen soil to get them planted.

4. Feeding your lawn

It might sound counterintuitive, but September’s also the perfect time to apply some lawn feed. Liberal use of a specially-formulated, fall fertilizer will help to repair a lot of the damage done over the summer months and winterize your grass; giving the roots a bit of a boost so that they’re capable of withstanding the vagaries of a real Michigan winter.

If there’s a lot of thatch down, you may also consider scarification, although this is a bit more risky, as it damages the grass and there might not be quite enough good weather left to guarantee a full recovery.

5. Cover your pond

This one’s fairly self-explanatory: Most ponds don’t fare well if they’re left uncovered all winter. They’re a magnet for falling leaves and some species of cold-resistant algae tend to flourish in the gloomy months of mid-winter. As such, we’d always recommend covering your pond in September and leaving it covered until you’re ready to enjoy it again in March/April.

6. Plant the last of your cold-season vegetables

Finally, September’s the last chance that you have to sow any cold-season vegetables – Most of which you’ll be able to harvest in late November/early December.

It might seem counterintuitive to plant vegetables at this time of year, but trust us, spinach, broad beans, carrots and even some strains of asparagus will thrive in the early months of fall, and getting them in the ground now means that you’ll have a steady supply of home-grown produce all year round.

September’s a great time to plant any garlic bulbs too. They’ll lie dormant over winter, and start growing again come spring.

If you have any questions about fall-friendly flowers, or you want to know more about any of the tips listed here, do please get in touch! We’re always happy to offer help to anyone that shares our passion for gardening, and we’d love to hear from you. Just drop us a message via the contact form on our site and one of our team members will get in touch.

The Evolution of the Floral industry

 

Florist vs Order Taker

Floral Industry

There was a time when your local flower shop was the only way for you to send flowers down the street or across the world. So many things have changed with that process and that is what we would like to talk about today.

Are you used to speaking with a knowledgeable person when contacting a flower shop? If so, you are probably in touch with your local florist, or one you have established a trusted relationship with. This will not be the case if you are ordering from what the floral industry calls, an ‘order taker. To explain this further, let’s talk about the differences.

The difference between a local flower shop with an online presence and an order taker can be quite telling. When searching for a shop on Google for example, and you enter the name of your town and flowers, the entries listed first will have a description as such, “Send Fresh Flowers from Local Kalamazoo florist today! Free delivery by Top Ranked Local Florist in Kalamazoo! There are several, Ava’s, Flowershopping.com, Sympathy Store, just to name a few. None of these are a flower shop, and if they do have a location, it is simply to have a place for employees to man the phones and computers. The prices charged on these sites have a standard value that a primary wire service provider has set, not taking into account the difference in areas that may have to price differently due to the cost of doing business; rising gas prices, insurance, etc.

When you choose an online-only flower shop, they will offer the moon! Coupons, special offers, enter a special code are a few of the things they will entice you with. They also have a way of deceiving you into thinking they are local. You may or may not have your order sent directly from their warehouse in a box through a delivery company. If you order an item that can’t be sent in this manner, they will contact a florist in the area for delivery after charging a processing fee before sending to a local florist.  When we receive an order like this, the amount given will be less than what we are able to fill the order with, which requires us to send a message requesting more money to cover the order. Often, a response back will be ‘Please fill to value’ which does not leave enough money to fill the order to the specifications that the customer is expecting, making what is sent a disappointment to the customer and recipient.  So we reject the order and they will send to another florist in hopes that they will fill their order.

Upon ordering from a local floral shop, whether it is through our website or over the phone, you may establish an idea of what you would like to send, what flowers or plants may be available or in season, and price. They will help guide you while you make your decision. After deciding on that, there is a card message to compose, getting the recipients to address and phone number, followed up by customer information. (sequence of entry may or may not be in the aforementioned order).  The flower shop will then process your order for delivery on the day requested or if your order is for out of town delivery, they will then contact a floral shop in that area.  No extra fees for taking your order.

Most flower shops and their imposters subscribe to a wire service, Teleflora or FTD, to use as the directory of floral shops across the country, with information of pricing, delivery charges,  and the ability to correspond with each other when needed. Not only are monthly dues incurred for this but charges for each order, correspondence, and the wire service take 20% of the amount along with the sending florist getting a cut of 7% of each order, leaving the delivering florist with 27% less than the actual order is for.

While we send orders to other “real” florists for our clients, the only fee charged is a minimal amount for the transaction & care of finding a qualified florist and sending your order. If you choose to order from one of the “order takers”, take the time call them directly to ask them what flowers are in the arrangement you have requested and you will hear them reading from a script.

So….don’t forget, for quality, care, and knowledgeable help, Call your local florist.

Repel Bugs Naturally with These 5 Plants

5 Plants that repel bugs naturally

Plants that Naturally Repel Bugs

Slugs, aphids, emerald ash borers, mosquitos, tomato worms – There’s no shortage of garden pests here in Michigan. Some of the most common critters can be a real menace too. You need only find one or two of your hostas looking all torn up and forlorn – with their perforated, scraggly leaves drooping down into the dirt – before you start developing a real dislike for the common garden slug.

Similarly, while we’re sure that mosquitoes are an essential part of the food chain, we’d still prefer it if they didn’t flock to our gardens every time the sun starts to drop below the skyline!

Fortunately, there are safe (and cruelty-free) ways of keeping bugs and animals out of your garden. In fact, there’s a whole host of different herbs, flowers and bedding plants that are known to repel common garden pests, and a little strategic planting can help to ensure that your garden stays unblemished year-round.

Some of these plants are actually more effective than other, traditional, methods too. They keep pests at bay using astringent chemicals and natural toxins, and we’ve found that they tend to yield much better results than things like the eggshell trick, or citronella candles – which have proven ineffective in several scientific studies.

So, if you’re trying to keep bugs or animals out of your garden, this is the guide for you! Drawing on years of combined expertise, we’ve put together a full list of all the best natural deterrents, including favorites like yarrow, and some staples like ageratum.

1. Marigolds

French marigolds are a good, multi-purpose insect repellent. Their scent is known to discourage whiteflies and a number of other, airborne insects.  several studies have shown that nematodes of many different types will try to avoid them. Some people do also report that French marigolds make for a good mosquito repellent but there is less evidence to support this.

Mexican marigolds are a different story entirely. They’re less effective at killing nematodes, but they are disliked by the vast majority of flying insects, so scattering them about the garden is probably a good first line of defense. There are also some rumors that Mexican marigolds can deter rabbits and other rodents, but we’re not sure we’d be confident relying on these (admittedly pretty) flowers for that.

Do take care when planting marigolds too – they’re a great way to repel airborne insects, but they do attract another pest: The dreaded slug. As such, we’d always recommend that you keep your marigolds away from any veggies that you want to keep slug-free, or companion plant with another natural slug repellent.

2. Rosemary

Speaking of slug repellents, rosemary is a fantastic plant that’s well-suited to repelling these ugly intruders. It’s thought that the tar-like substance that coat the plant’s trichomes are irritating to slugs, snails, and other land-borne insects, and planting a few bushes can help to clear up a border or bed quite quickly.

Rosemary does also produce a fragrant, woody scent that’s known to repel any flying insects with a sensitive nose (including mosquitoes, flies, moths and most beetles). The plant is native to the Mediterranean though, so it is quite challenging to grow it here in Michigan. Make sure it’s planted in well-draining, sandy soil, and make sure it’s in a spot that gets plenty of sun.

3. Nasturtiums

You’ll have probably heard about nasturtiums before – they’re widely regarded as the go-to plant for companion planting, and with good reason too. They’re known to release a potent insecticide-chemical that wards off whiteflies, squash bugs, aphids and the overwhelming majority of beetles.

It’s also a favorite of some species of bee, so you’ll be doing your bit for nature’s pollinators too! Most people plant nasturtiums around their vegetable beds, but they can also be planted in mixed borders for great results too.

4. Yarrow

Yarrow is one of our favorite insect repellents. Its natural oils are known to repel mosquitos and other, flying insects. In fact, tinctures made from yarrow are supposed to be stronger than DEET and dotting some plants in amongst your other flowers is a sure-fire way to drop the insect population overnight.

It’s actually yarrows insect-attracting effects that make us such a huge fan of Yarrow though. This delicate little plant is a favorite of ladybugs and its nectar attracts predatory wasps that’ll quickly wipe out unwanted insect populations.

5. Ageratum

Often dismissed as a ‘filler’ plant, ageratum is actually a great choice if you’re looking to keep bugs out of the garden. It secretes a chemical called coumarin, which is the primary ingredient in most mosquito repellent, and it’s particularly good at forcing flying insects out of the garden. It also produces another chemical that interferes with an endocrine release in insects and renders them sterile

Oh, and the icing on the cake? It’s toxic to grazing animals, and most herbivores will actively avoid it. The only slight downside is that it can spread like a weed, so make sure you keep it in check!

With this list of insect-repelling plants, you should be able to head out, and pest-proof your borders and beds. Companion planting can be tricky though, so if you have any questions about the advice given here – or you want to learn more about using these plants to bolster your garden’s natural insect defenses – just send us a message using the contact form on our site.

Guide to Preserving your Garden Flowers

Guide to Preserving Your Garden Flowers

Garden Flowers

There are few things to rival the pure, unbridled joy of cutting flowers from your own garden, and arranging them in a beautiful vase. They’re beautiful in their own right, and they’ll act as a reminder of summer’s vibrancy as the nights shorten, and fall draws in. A nice vase of cut flowers will also form a lively focal point on the mantelpiece, table or countertop of your choice – making them an ideal way to brighten up dreary rooms.

Unfortunately, cut flowers can’t feed themselves, which means that they can be quite short-lived. Untreated, they’ll wilt in a matter of days, and you’ll be left with a ragged bunch of greying greenery that’ll do little to lift the space they’re sitting in. They’ll also start to smell after a little while too, which is never pleasant.

To help you make the most of this summer’s blooms, we’ve put together this guide, which aims to provide a series of top tips to help you preserve cut flowers. Read on to find out what to keep them in, how to cut them, and how to keep them happy once they’ve been sitting out for a couple of days:

1. Rest your flowers before you arrange them

Yep, you read that right! Flowers, like any plant, get stressed by the messy business of cutting. If you take fresh-cut flowers and start manhandling them into an attractive arrangement, you’ll exacerbate the release of stress chemicals and speed up the process of decay.

Instead, we’d strongly recommend putting the flowers in a bucket of room-temperature water, and storing them somewhere cool for 12 hours. This will give them time to perk up a bit, and ensure that they’re strong enough to handle the arrangement process.

2. Keep them well fed

You wouldn’t think of trying to keep cut flowers without water, so why is food a different matter entirely? The leaves, stem, and petals of your flowers still need a ready supply of nutrients to keep their shape and color, so make sure you immerse them in a vase that contains a small amount of flower food.

If your feeling thrifty, you can also make your own – just add about 5 tbsp of malt vinegar and some sugar to your water, and stir well before immersing your stems. The sugar will feed the flowers, and the vinegar will keep pesky bacteria under control – removing problems with mold, or unexpected drooping.

Some recipes for homemade flower food also call for aspirin or lemonade but we haven’t found any real benefit to adding either of these ingredients. We’ve also yet to see any real benefit to adding a coin to the water, and it’s worth pointing out that bleach will quickly rob your flowers of their color.

3. Change the water every day

This tip isn’t revolutionary, but it is the key to keeping cut flowers looking fresh. As mentioned above, the so-called ‘natural’ wilting of flowers is actually mainly a reaction to bacterial growth and making sure that you switch out the water each and every day helps to stop these pesky little critters from multiplying quite as fast. You won’t be able to stave off the inevitable forever, but you will be able to slow it down some, and you should notice a significant difference if you’ve previously left your flowers sitting in the same old water for days on end.

If you can, we would also recommend using distilled or filtered water whenever possible. Your flowers don’t really need the minerals found in natural water anymore, and the filtration process does help to minimize the bacterial load.

4. Sear the stems whenever you cut

Every time you change the water, you ought to cut a little more of the stem down, just to make sure that your keeping things nice and fresh. To make doubly-sure that your flowers don’t start dropping, you can also use this opportunity to dip the ends in boiling water for a few seconds. This seals in all of the juices that keep things looking nice and firm, and lends a little extra life to tired blooms.

5. Remove dropping blooms as quickly as possible

When flowers droop, they actually set off a cascade of chemical processes that culminate in the release of ethylene gas, a natural substance that is designed to send a ‘ripening’ signal to nearby flowers of the same species. In nature, this process is essential, but indoors, it makes the whole vase wilt that little bit faster.

To prevent this from happening, make sure you pull out any flowers that are starting to wilt.

6. Score rose stems

This last tip is specific to roses, or plants with woody stems that aren’t amenable to storage in a vase. To help improve the uptake of water or food, you should cut as normal, then make a vertical incision about 5 centimeters up the length of the stem. You can also ‘bash’ the ends to a pulp, but this does tend to look messier, and it’ll make the water in your vase cloudy too.

Hopefully, these tips will help keep your flowers looking nice and fresh, but if you have any questions, or want to debate the finer points of homemade flower food, we’d always be more than happy to hear from you! We love exchanging knowledge with gardeners, and we’re really passionate about helping people to get the most out of their flowers, so just drop us a message using the contact form on our site!

August To Do List for Gardens and Flowers

August Gardeners To Do List

August To-Do List for Gardens and Flowers

Here in Michigan, we’re often blessed with a slight temperature drop in August. This can make it tempting to sit back and enjoy the sun, instead of throwing yourself into all of the frantic preservation work that you’ll see suggested in blogs dedicated to gardening in warmer, more temperate climates.

Sitting back now would be a mistake though. With fall fast approaching, August is the perfect time to start prepping your garden for the off-season. There’s also a lot that can be done to maximize the lifespan of your annuals this month, which is of vital importance if you want to stop everything from looking dead and bare come September!

To help you keep your garden in tip-top shape this August, we’ve put together the following list of important tasks:

1. Deadheading and Pruning

Taking the time to go around, and deadhead all of your annuals can really help to eke out one more round of flowers. The practice of deadheading actually stops your plants from pumping too much energy into the development of new seeds, and most plants will then use their reserves to push out a new set of petals – keeping your garden looking fresh and vibrant for a little while longer.

August is also a good time to deadhead perennials. If you can stop plants like Dianthus, Yarrow or Garden Phlox from seeding, you’ll leave them with bigger energy reserves, and improve their chances of fighting off any surprise cold snaps come fall.

To deadhead, just pinch (or snip) off the stem roughly halfway between dead flowers and the next set of healthy leaves. For bigger plants, like rose bushes, it can be helpful to be a bit more extreme, but make sure you leave enough foliage for the plant to sustain itself in the darker months of the year.

2. Taking cuttings and seeds

August is also the perfect time to gather seeds or cuttings for any of the annuals that you’d like to see again next year. Most plants are just starting to develop seed heads around now, and it’s very little trouble to go round and gather them up in preparation for the spring.

If you want to gather seeds from a plant, refrain from deadheading, and wait for it to develop its seeds. Once you’ve seen the seeds appear – whether they’re embedded in fruit, exploding pods or   – it’s time to gather them up and extract them for storage.

If your gathering seeds from something like a sweet pea, a berry bush or an okra plant, you should carefully extract the seed from the fruit using cold water and a fine sieve. If your gathering from a plant with an exploding seed head, you can just wrap the whole thing in a plastic bag and then wait for it to explode so that you can gather the seeds easily.

And once you actually have the seeds, it’s simply a matter of putting them somewhere warm and dry until it’s time to plant them.

3. Adding fertilizer

Chances are that quick-growing summer plants have sapped most of the nutrients from your soil, which makes August the perfect time to re-balance. To achieve this, simply add a good amount of a well-balanced fertilizer to your soil. Compost is another good option, particularly if you’ve been making your own. Just spread thinly and allow your plants to enjoy the nutrient boost.

You can also add an organic mulch to the soil around now. This will help to protect against early frost, and you will also find that the soil is slowly nourished by the decomposing mulch too – effectively killing two birds with one stone.  

If you’re growing veg, August is also a great time to feed fruiting plants – like eggplants, peppers or marrows – with a high-potash fertilizer to encourage the development of healthy new veg.

4. Scarifying the lawn

Over the long, hot months of summer, a thick layer of thatch will have been developing between your lawn and the soil. This layer of thatch is made up of all the dead, dry grass stems, and it can stop valuable nutrients from penetrating the soil – making a good round of scarification absolutely essential.

To scarify (or rake) up the thatch, wait until the very end of August, then take a gardening rake and drag it across the lawn, taking care to push down deep and drag out all of that decomposing turf. You can also use a powered scarifier if you have a very large lawn.

Chances are that you’ll be left with something that looks a little bedraggled, but once you’ve gathered up the loose debris and sewn some more grass seed, you’ll have paved the way to a fresher, healthier lawn come the following spring.

5. Dividing and transplanting perennials

Finally, August is a great time to divide and transplant any perennials. The plant will have plenty of reserves at this time of year, and they’ll have plenty of time to recover before the cold months of winter roll in. Harvesting now means that you’ll be well placed to take your offcuts to trade-ins and flower shows too.

For best results, tease out the whole plant with a garden fork and gently divide, then re-pot the transplant as soon as possible to ensure its survival.

If you have any questions about transplants, deadheading or scarification, we’d be more than happy to help. We’re passionate about helping people to get the most out of their gardens, and we have a lot of in-house expertise so just drop us any queries via the contact form on www.kalamazooflorist.com!

The best indoor plants for building an office garden

The Best Plants for an Office

Indoor Plants

There’s nothing worse than drab, dreary office spaces – they sap your drive and leave you feeling miserable, particularly when the sun’s blazing down outside, and you know that you could be out in the fresh air, enjoying our short-lived Michigan summer.

Luckily there’s a foolproof antidote: You just have to bring the greenery indoors. Numerous studies have shown that building yourself a little ‘office garden’ on your desk can  help to boost your mood and enhance your productivity (which is a great argument if your boss asks about your new project!)

Thanks to research carried out by NASA, we also know that a few carefully-chosen plants can boost the air quality in your office space too – scrubbing out damaging pollutants from nearby roads and mopping up the unwanted contaminants that build up in poorly-vented indoor spaces so that you can breathe fresher healthier air.

And if you’re worried that you won’t have time to look after an indoor garden, you’ll be pleased to know that most indoor plants are much hardier than their outdoor cousins. It’s rare for them to need watering more than once or twice a week and you don’t really have to worry about things like soil quality or pest control.

There are plenty of different ways to display them too – you could pick a set of matching ceramic planters, some chic aluminum pots, or a geometric glass terrarium with a black or gold frame if you’re looking for a real showstopper.  

To help you get started on the ultimate office garden, we’ve pulled together a list of our four favorite indoor plants, plus some top tips on planting and maintenance to ensure that your new friends can really thrive.

1. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Unlike its much-abhorred namesake, the spider plant is a surprisingly pretty little houseplant with long, dangling fronds and delicate little flowers that bloom intermittently. The spider plant thrives in indirect sunlight, which makes it a perfect choice for your desk, and it’s known to filter formaldehyde from the atmosphere which makes it a great antidote to the harsh chemicals used to clean most office spaces

If you do decide to keep a spider plant, remember that they really don’t need much maintenance at all. Just make sure that the soil is kept moist (but not wet) and feed them once or twice a year.

2. Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)

Boston ferns are beautiful; their long, spindly fronds have a habit of cascading in the most picturesque ways, and their deep, vibrant coloring always livens up a room. They are easy to keep too; they don’t need direct sunlight, and they don’t mind too much if you forget to water them.

They do quite like humidity though, so if you’re planning on opting for a Boston fern, do try and spritz its leaves with water once or twice a week!

3. Snake Plant (Sansevieria)

Snake plant a succulent, which means that it’s really, really hard to kill. Its leaves have a thick, waxy coating that helps to lock in moisture, and it’s more than capable of surviving in low light conditions, which makes it a perfect match for small cubicles or desks that aren’t directly in view of a window.

The only thing to watch for here is over-watering – believe it or not, snake plants only need to be watered once every two to three weeks, and even then you should only really be wetting the top of the soil. Anything more and you run the risk of drowning your plant, and that won’t do much to boost office morale!

4. Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema commutatum)

One of NASA’s top picks, Chinese evergreen is known to act as a filter for benzene and other, unpleasant airborne chemicals, which makes it a great way to make sure that you’re breathing clean air while you are at work. Chinese Evergreen is also blessed with some of the most vivid and enticing colorings that we’ve ever seen; green leaves shot through with red or silver veins that are sure to turn heads.

Fortunately, Chinese evergreen is nice and easy to look after too – Like the Boston fern, it needs to be spritzed with water once or twice a week and watered properly at least once a week, but it doesn’t need anything else to flourish.

Hopefully, this list has helped to get your creative juices flowing, but if you do have any questions about starting an office garden, or want to know more about keeping healthy indoor plants, we’re always happy to chat!

We can be reached via the contact form right here on our site, or you can drop by in person so that we can talk face to face. We’re always really keen to spread knowledge and awareness about the benefits of bringing nature inside and we can’t wait to hear from you!

Wildflower Planting in July

Planting Wildflowers in July

Wildflower Planting in July

Wildflowers are incredibly underrated. Their vivid colors, delicate foliage, and a profusion of different scents make them an ideal choice for borders or beds, but they’re often passed up for ornamental cultivars.

And that’s a real shame because wildflowers are an important part of our natural ecosystem. Their nectar attracts pollinating bees and butterflies; their leaves shelter ground-dwelling insects and they provide a much-needed foraging ground for birds and small mammals.

Once established, they’re also a huge help for the soil: Putting down quick roots to protect against erosion, and locking in valuable nutrients that can help to sustain growth for years to come.

Best of all though, wildflowers are hardy. They thrive in low nutrient soils and they require very little in the way of upkeep, which makes them a great choice for gardeners without much free time.

If you’re struggling to fill out a flower bed or looking for a low-maintenance way of adding a splash of color to a relatively plain lawn, a scattering of native wildflowers may well be the perfect solution.

You’ll also be helping to preserve the biodiversity of our ecosystem, and that is a really important thing to focus on because, here in Michigan, our wildflowers are slowly dying out as a result of increased urban development and many of the native species are currently endangered.  

Wildflowers are very easy to plant too. You can grow them from seed, and you can start right now – in the middle of July – without too much effort or energy. Just make sure that you pick varieties that are native to the area, as our low light levels and sub-par temperatures do make it hard to establish some of the flowers that come from warmer parts of the country.  

Species native to Michigan include Trillium, beach pea, purple coneflower and dwarf lake iris. There are also some really beautiful varieties of evening primrose that you can plant out in July, and enjoy come spring/summer 2019.

Interested in planting some wildflowers to fill out your garden? Follow our step by step guide to get them established, and reap the benefits at the start of the next growing season:

Step 1: Pick your spot

First things first, you need to decide where you want to plant your flowers. Low light areas are best, as are borders/grassy areas with low nutrient soil. Wildflowers are often pushed out of the nutrient-rich soil by more aggressive grasses here in Michigan.

Step 2: Pick flowers that suit the soil

Once you’ve picked a spot, you’ll need to pick varieties of wildflower that suit the soil. Some wildflowers, like Trillium, absolutely love moist, acidic soil while options like the dwarf lake iris (our state flower) tend to prefer thin, sandy soil that’s well drained. For best results, do plenty of research and pick complementary flowers that enjoy the same conditions.

Step 3: Remove the topsoil

To get the actual planting process started, you’ll want to remove a thin layer of topsoil so that you lower the nutrient content, and remove any well-entrenched roots. About an inch is plenty, but make sure you rake the area over afterward.

Step 4: Sow your seeds

Once you’ve prepped your border or lawn, you can start adding your seeds. We’d mix up all of the different varieties you want to plant so that you get a nice, natural looking blend of flowers, and then scatter. You can use a spreader to do this if you’re trying to cover a lot of ground, but scattering by hand works just as well for small plots.

Step 5: Stay on top of weeds

As mentioned above, wildflowers are often crowded out by weeds and grasses, particularly if there’s an abundance of nutrients in the soil. Making sure that you pluck out any weeds before you seed is the key to making sure that your wildflowers get a bit of a head-start, but it is important to eke out any competition come the spring too – just to make sure that freshly-sprouted flowers don’t end up being starved.

Step 6: Enjoy you Wildflowers!

Come next spring, you should find that your border, bed or lawn is crowded out with beautiful wildflowers, and the attendant bees and butterflies that flock to plants native to the Michigan ecosystem.

If you have any questions about wildflower planting or want to talk to someone about planting out a meadow, we’d love to hear from you! We’re always happy to answer any questions and we thoroughly enjoy helping people to support our natural ecosystem so get in touch with Amanda, Landscape and Garden Expert at Vandersalms. 

A Gardener’s To-Do List for July

Garderning in July

Gardener’s to do list: July

With temperatures up above 80 degrees and the sun beating down from on-high, it is tempting to just sit back and enjoy the garden. July’s one of the few months when we can just kick our heels up here in Michigan, and there isn’t a better time of year to relax and enjoy a few hours of basking on the lawn.

A gardener’s work is never done though. Even now – at the height of summer – there’s plenty you can do to help your plants along. There’s lots of prep work for the fall too, particularly if you’re growing veg and want to make the most of our notoriously-short growing window.

Looking for inspiration? Worry not. We’ve put together a checklist that walks you through our list of top gardening jobs for July:

1. Feed your lawn

The growing season redirects a lot of your lawn’s spare energy; tempting grass to shoot up and start seeding. This leaves you with a beautiful, green space but it also means that your lawn has very little in the way of reserves come July/August. Sudden drought or a few days of unseasonably high temperature can quickly leave your grass looking parched, and there’s every chance that it could actually die in the event of a prolonged dry-spell.

Adding a generous helping of a good, fast-acting lawn fertilizer really helps to offset the chances of this happening: Feeding your lawn’s roots and providing the extra nutrients needed to endure a  This is also true of liquid fertilizer, which can be added to your watering can and poured over your lawn once every 6-8 days.

If you’re feeling really gung-ho, you could also look at aerating your lawn to improve the flow of oxygen and ensure that moisture can get down into dried out soil. Aeration is a fairly involved task though, and it’s not strictly necessary unless your trying for a competition-worthy lawn.

2. Dead-head early-flowering border plants and perennials

If you get in quick and dead-head early-flowering border plants, there’s every chance you’ll trick them into flowering again. This also works for perennials too, and July’s the perfect time to try it as you should just be approaching the part of the season where they’d normally start self-seeding.

3. Pick early-blooming veg

Zucchini, the first radishes and any leafy greens need to be harvested around now. Zucchini, in particular, as they’ll turn into marrows if they’re left alone for the summer.

July’s also a really good opportunity to go round and tend to veg like peppers and tomatoes: Nipping any stems growing below the veg itself, and removing any dead leaves to improve airflow and prevent disease. Although these veggies are still busy fruiting for you, they still appreciate a little care and maintenance.   

4. Add mulch to quick-drying beds & borders

If it’s unexpectedly warm, you can help to lock-in extra moisture with a thin layer of mulch. For best results, we tend to pack ours around the stems of any ailing plants to help prevent evaporation from around the root network.

5. Plant out the first of your Fall crops

We have a relatively short growing window here in Michigan, but careful planning and good use of the sun means that you can get another round of radishes, carrots and other fall veg into the ground before the sun vanishes for the winter. We’d start looking to plant any root veg around now, and remember to give those seeds plenty of water in the first two weeks!

If you’ve got any gardening questions, or need advice about any of the tasks listed here, remember to get in touch! We’re always more than happy to help with any enquiries and we’d love to hear your thoughts.