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bare-root-trees…Bare root that is. You knowledgeable shoppers know that getting a good bargain means you skip the pretty packaging and grab the good deal when it appears. It’s exactly the same with bare root season. We’ve mentioned in previous blogs that buying the bare root version of plants is an excellent way to save money, but there’s more to it than just stretching your dollars.

Kip Litehiser

Kip Litehiser

For instance, there’s the outstanding variety of plants available in bare root form. According to Kip Litehiser, our edibles expert, bare root season is when you’ll find the best selection of your favorite edibles like cane berries, grapes and blueberries. “It’s also a superb time to start working your soil,” he says. “The soil is starting to warm up, even at night, so you can get your bare root edibles into the ground, so they can take off. And we’re all itching to get our hands in the dirt.”

Ryan Sanders

Ryan Sanders

We’ve also just heeled in the rows and rows of ornamental trees (above) and shrubs we’re offering in 2013. When I talked with our Landscape Design expert, Ryan Sanders, to get his top pick for this coming season, he said, “I like the dappled willows. They are a year-round visual interest with variegated leaves that are creamy white to soft pink in season. In the fall and winter the branches are a brilliant red; a very eye-catching ornamental specimen.” He also suggested the flowering plum and cherry trees because of their early, beautiful spring blossoms.

Dappled Willow

Dappled Willow

Another great reason to buy bare root is that the plants have a larger root mass, which means they are ready to spread out and establish themselves in the soil right away. This translates into healthier, happier, more productive plants. Ryan had a couple of other bare root tips, like picking up a transplant fertilizer. Working the fertilizer into the soil before planting helps reduce transplant shock and gives your plant a good initial food source. Staking your newly-planted bare root trees until they are firmly rooted in the soil will also increase success.

Mary Archambault

Mary Archambault

I’ll give you one more reason. My favorite, in fact: it’s so much easier to transport and handle the bare root plants. Without the extra soil and pot, even I can lift them into the car and work them into the soil at home by myself. Mary Archambault, one of our Certified Professional Horticulturists on staff, told me she was able to transport three bare root fruit trees in her little Saab recently.
One drawback to the bare root season is the limited window of opportunity. These babies are going to start waking up soon and when they do we have to send them back to our production team and start potting them up. bare-root-blueberriesThat means now is the time to grab that great deal. Come check out the selection and talk with our knowledgeable staff members like Mary, Kip and Ryan!

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A festive holiday welcome from The Plant Farm

A festive holiday welcome from The Plant Farm

Heedless of the wind and weather, it’s time to deck the halls with boughs of holly.  Okay, I promise not to serenade you with any more carols, especially since I’m mixing up the lyrics, but I do want to share with you that the holidays are in full swing at The Plant Farm.   We’re always thrilled about our holiday selection, but this year we have an abundance of plants and products.  We have fantastic ideas for your holiday decorating, beautiful and festively wrapped host/hostess gifts and tons of potential presents for your green-thumbed loved ones.

Are you getting your home ready yet?  The holidays really start to take shape when I get my tree and the last few seasons that means a living Christmas tree.  With a living Christmas tree, you have the beauty and fragrance of a live tree gracing your home and after the ornaments are packed away, you have a lasting, living memory when it takes up residence in your backyard.  A living tree also means you can find a unique tree silhouette.  A friend used a Cloud Pine and being a traditionalist where Christmas trees are concerned, I was skeptical, but once decorated it was lovely and very festive.

Holiday whimsy abounds

Holiday whimsy

If you want to be quirky and traditional at the same time, you could go with one of the adorable Dr. Seuss Christmas trees we brought in from T&L Nursery this year.  They have trained Goldcrest Wilma and Lawson Ellwood Cypresses into a distinctly Grinchy posture, wrapped them in bright red ribbon and adorned the tip with a single ornament.  This is just the right touch of Christmas whimsy.  I don’t know if my gardening skills are up to it, but I’m thinking about trying it with a larger Cypress next year…

Need an idea for a lovely host/hostess gift this season?  Beautiful winter-blooming plants such as Hellebores, Cyclamen and Camellias are bright and cheerful, and they’ll keep blooming through winter.  This year, the Cyclamen and Hellebores have holiday wrapping and cute little Santa or presents tucked inside. Hellebores or Christmas Roses, as they are sometimes called, are deer-resistant winter blooming perennials.  They have delicate, almost Victorian-looking blooms that are lovely in holiday displays and make them a great centerpiece for a holiday table.  The wrapped Cyclamen is going to make a charming and budget-friendly gift for my daughter’s teacher this season.

Speaking of charming, the custom container-gardens at The Plant Farm are a fantastic way to spruce up your front door and could also make a wonderful gift.   We can help with the perfect Custom Planter for you.  We have everything you need to pull together your vision or we have a variety of unique, already planted container-gardens.

Already assembled gift packs make shopping easy!

Already assembled gift packs make shopping easy!

If you’re looking for gift ideas for your gardening friends and loved-ones, this year The Plant Farm elves have outdone themselves.  They’ve created several ready-to-go combos and kits that will make completing your shopping list easy-peasy, and the names alone will delight them.  What gardener wouldn’t love to receive a gift kit called Berry Pancakes? It contains a combination of berry plants, protective netting and soil amendments for successful growing.  Know someone who’s going to make a “get-healthy-this-year” New Year’s resolution?  Then the Growing Salad kit would be perfect.  It’s a seed starting kit filled with all the veggie seeds you need for delicious salads all spring and summer.

Not all the gift packs we’ve created this year have an edible theme, but if edible sounds appealing to you, then the season for Bare Root Fruit Trees is just around the corner.  A fruit tree is a gift that continues to provide delicious treasures season after season.  Right now, you’ll save 10% off the regular price by pre-ordering and we will provide you with an attractive certificate detailing what your loved-one will receive.  I gave a 5-way Apple Combo tree to my husband last year and it was a huge hit.

Mason Bee starter kits make a wonderful gift.

Mason Bee starter kits…a wonderful gift.

Or maybe the recipient of your holiday giving already has fruit trees and you want to get them something to ensure crop success each season.   I was thinking a Mason Bee Guide & Starter Kit would be great follow-up gift for my husband, the aspiring orchardist.  Mason bees are excellent little pollinators and they are very easy to raise.  They are able to pollinate an estimated 97% of the flowers they visit each spring, which make them an excellent gift for those with established fruit trees or as a complement to a gift of Bare Root Fruit Trees.

Another excellent gift idea for gardeners with established landscapes is a Winter Pruning Service certificate.  Pruning is an essential part of promoting plant growth and increasing blooms.  It also keeps your plants attractive and healthy.  The Plant Farm now offers Pruning Services at $40 an hour and when you purchase the service as a gift we’ll provide you with a charming certificate.

Gift Certificates are the perfect solution when you can't find the perfect gift...

Gift Certificates are a perfect solution when you can’t find the perfect gift.

In addition to the pruning service, we now also offer Landscape Design services.  Have a special someone who is considering a yard or landscape makeover in the coming year.  One hour of Landscape Design is valued at $50.  A combination of design services and a gift certificate for the plants they’ll pick later on would be an awesome gift…

Okay, so there are so many more holiday gift ideas The Plant Farm has to offer, but I promised to keep the word count down.  There are many, many more you’ll find when you visit.  But if you’re still having trouble finding that perfect gift, there is a perfect solution – a Plant Farm gift certificate. Now through Christmas gift certificates are on sale [link to page].  Slip a gift certificate into their stocking and let your gardener choose the perfect item.

The Plant Farm is privileged to be rapidly approaching our 30th year of offering quality plants and gardening products to the greater Smokey Point area.  From everyone at The Plant Farm at Smokey Point, we wish you the warmest, happiest of holidays and a hale and hearty new year!

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Back in April, I wrote about the very best time of year to start a new lawn and now that time of year has arrived.  October 1st-15th is that very best time of year to start a new lawn.  This lawn-starting sweet spot is the convergence of sun-warmed soil, cooling air temperatures and plentiful precipitation.   

We’ve got the perfect time of year and now we need the perfect method for starting your lawn.  Seeding is the most common, least expensive method and it also provides the highest rate of success.  With this method, there is a little more upfront work to get your lawn started, but you will have a stronger root system that will take up water and nutrients more efficiently.  A lawn that gets enough water and food is a healthier, more robust lawn.

For the healthiest lawn and fewer maintenance problems down the road, invest in the best certified-quality seed you can find.  Most of the Pacific Northwest region falls into USDA climate zones 8 and 9, with zone 7 starting in the Cascade foothills.  Follow this link to USDA’s website to see your specific area: http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov.  For our zones, the top choices are fine fescues, like red fescue (Festuca rubra), along with certain bluegrasses and ryegrasses.

If you are planning to seed in a new lawn or need some guidance, please stop into The Plant Farm for our Installing or Renovating a Lawn guide.  You can also ask for Gary or call to make an appointment with me.  We can talk you through the steps for starting a new lawn and we can show you our seed and soil amendment selection.  If you come in soon, we can get you set up to take full advantage of this ideal lawn-starting time frame.

Putting your lawn to bed for the winter

Your lawn will soon be ready for a deep sleep this winter, but there are many things to be done before your lawn hits winter dormancy.  First, I recommend you lower the blade-height on your mower for a close trim the last few times you mow this fall.  New growth is susceptible to winter diseases that you won’t want to deal with in the spring.  Also, tender new growth will be vulnerable to freezes and can potentially kill off grass roots.  

Take the time to walk your lawn and clean-up as you go.  Leaves, toys or garden tools left sitting on the lawn will smother the area beneath leaving you with patches to repair come spring.  Besides you’ll need to have your lawn clear to deal with thatch because thatch will get worse during winter months.  Lawns accumulate a layer of organic matter like knotted grass, roots and clippings called thatch.  Thatch keeps water and fertilizer from getting down into the roots and this chokes the grass.  You can go at the thatch with a rake, a regular yard rake or a rake specially designed to deal with thatch, but most experts recommend aerating.

Aerating is the process of punching holes, several inches deep, into your lawn to allow water, oxygen, fertilizers and other nutrients to penetrate the soil and access your grass roots.  Using an aerating tool with hollow cylinders that will push into the ground and force out plugs of soil means your lawn’s roots will have room to increase.   This is especially valuable if your lawn soil is more clay as that soil is harder for roots to penetrate.  

Time to fatten your lawn up…

Just like a bear needs to fatten up for its winter hibernation, so do our lawns need to be feed before winter-dormancy.  Your lawn’s roots will take up the nutrients and be ready to grow as soon as it wakes up in spring. Fatten up your lawn with a fertilizer, which contains nitrogen to support grass shoot growth and phosphate, which promotes strong root growth.  Dr. Earth Super Natural Lawn Fertilizer is a great organic choice, with naturally derived phosphates, that is people and pet safe. 

Lawns love sweet soil, something that isn’t easy in our Pacific Northwest environment.  The days on end of rain washes nutrients out of our soil and leaves us with higher soil acidity.  The high acid levels encourage weeds and moss, your lawns natural enemy.   Adding lime to your lawn will raise the pH level of your soil.  Lime also enhances your fertilizer results and because you need to keep lime moist, the fall rain will help to move it into your soil.   

 Word to the wise though: be sure to wait a few weeks between your lime and fertilizer applications.  They are both necessary for your lawn, but lime and fertilizer will work against each other if you put them down at the same time  

To learn more about fall lawn care, come into The Plant Farm and ask for Ryan or Gary.   For other October garden and landscape tips, you should check out our What To Do In The Garden page or follow us on Facebook.

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We’re days away from the official start of fall and that means the holidays are close behind.  It also means we’ll be receiving more visitors, so it’s time to get our front doorstep and walkways spruced up.  Cleaning up or changing out your spring and summer containers, is an excellent way to mark the changing of the seasons.

Fall Container by Lora Keddie

Attractive containers have a mix of plants with different heights, shapes and textures.  In container gardening they’re known as the thriller, filler and spiller.  The thriller is a bold, vertical plant that is tall in relation to the other plants in the container.  The filler is the plant with medium height in the pot and the spiller plant cascades over the edge of the container.

If adding gorgeous, welcoming fall containers to your doorstep is on your list, right now is a great time to get started.  There is a lot of exciting fall color plant material on sale and you still have time to come in with your bucks for Dollar Days at The Plant Farm and get a double dip on savings.

We’re also offering FREE potting soil September 22nd-23rd when you purchase any container or pottery with plants. All containers are currently 30% off.  That’s a very exciting deal and here are a few plant ideas to inspire you…

Fall Pansies add a touch of whimsy

Fall standards like Cabbage and Kale have started arriving along with the Mums and Asters.  We’ve got a great selection of Pansies and Violas in gorgeous fall colors to add a touch of whimsy to your containers.  All these fall standards work well as filler or mid-level plants.

Heuchera is charming choice for fall containers because of the wide range of rich, earthy colors and the full leaves which are often variegated.  Coleus, too has striking, rich colors and gives an exotic look to your container.  Coleus is an annual, but it loves the weather we’re having right now.

Bold and bright Wilma Goldcrest Cypress

For thriller plants, especially large doorstep containers, the vibrant color of a Wilma Goldcrest Lemon Cypress tree is a great hardy choice and they have a wonderful lemony scent.  Nandinas, which take on fiery hues in the fall, would make a dramatic focal plant.

Grasses can play any role in your container

Grasses come in so many shapes, textures, colors and sizes they are almost an essential choice for container gardening.  Tall grasses have a firework aspect and make a dramatic thriller in any size container.   Many grasses also have a weeping habit and make great spiller plants.

If you want more ideas I highly recommend attending our Free Fall Container Gardening seminar this coming Sunday, September 23rd with Rachel Zeutenhorst.  Rachel is a Certified Professional Horticulturist with 20 years in the industry and was awarded the People’s Choice Award for her container display at the 2009 Northwest Flower and Garden Show.  It’s free and seating is limited so click here to register.

If you can’t make the class, stop into The Plant Farm anytime our staff is always ready to show you awesome plants and give you planting tips.  Like us on Facebook and share the results of your gardening with our Garden Club Members!

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Mason Bees

by Guest Blogger and Bee Expert, Dave Hunter

This summer we’ve been helping gardeners learn about SUMMER gentle native bees, in addition to the spring mason bees.

Many gardeners don’t realize that when we say “mason bees” we’re saying “Cat” or “Dog”.  There are over 130+ “cavity nesting” bees across North America.

A common summer hole-nesting bee is the leafcutter.  Similar to the spring blue orchard, each female is a queen and performs all of the chores from gathering pollen/nectar, laying eggs, and separating these eggs with a nesting material.  The spring mason bee uses mud.  Since there is little mud in the summer, the different species adapt to what is available!

Leafcutter Bee

In the case of the leafcutter, (maybe not so surprisingly), she uses neatly cut leaf sections for her nesting material.  In this photo by Roberta Gibson, the bee is nearly complete cutting her near-perfect circle from a milkweed leaf.

This nifty bee is a generalist, meaning she pretty much pollinates anything.  By having her nesting in your garden, she will pollinate all your peas, squash, cantaloupes, etc. The leafcutter bee is heavily used in pollinating alfalfa and similar crops.  Millions of these bees are actively pollinating this month throughout the U.S.

Leafcutter cocoons

Caring for the bee is easy.  They nest in tubes/reeds/wood trays through July and August and overwinter in a larva state.  They should be harvested in January from the nesting material and refrigerated until June.  Their “cocoons” look like little leaf pellets!

We want your spring mason bees healthy!
If you can’t hold your mason bee cocoons in your hand, you will wind up losing mason bees due to pest build up.  Come attend a hands-on harvesting class next month, September 16, 2012 at the Plant Farm.  I’ll teach you what pests to look for and help you clean your cocoons.  Don’t come empty handed!  Bring your tubes, reeds, or wood trays. I look forward to seeing you all there and answering any of your spring or summer Mason Bee questions.

Dave Hunter, of Crown Bees, is a bee expert, and our friend!  His seminars are always full of great information, and well-attended.  Be sure to sign-up for his September 16th class by going to the Events page of The Plant Farm website.

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We are all threads woven together into the fabric of our community.  The way we live, shop, play and even garden has an effect on that community and we all want that effect to be supportive and thriving.  Going green is an excellent way to have a positive impact.  Whether your goal is to practice stewardship of the earth, help the local economy or save some green in your wallet, we’ve come up with 12 simple ways you can go green this gardening season.

#1 Recycle Your Pots at The Plant Farm
Instead of sending your pots to the landfill, bring them into The Plant Farm. We have two green recycle bins located inside our store where you can recycle your pots.  We will sort through your pots and make sure that each type of pot is either recycled or reused.

#2 Re-Use Your Plant Farm Carry Out Box
Every time you shop with us and bring back your Plant Farm carry out box, we will give you 10 cents off your current purchase for every box reused.  Don’t forget to keep your box in your trunk for the next time you shop at The Plant Farm.

#3 Save a Tree – Go Paperless
Using E-Coupons or QR Codes (QR stands for Quick Response) means a lot less paper waste in order to get your Plant Farm discount.  Instead of printing the coupon from the email, show us the coupon on your smartphone when you check out.  For customers who don’t have a smartphone, we’ll provide a stock number on the email coupon. When you’re ready to check out, tell us the stock number on the coupon and we’ll give you your discount.

#4 Raise Your Own Orchard Mason Bees
Orchard Mason Bees are native to our region and pollinate in the early spring when our weather is wet and cool, while honeybees need warmer, less rainy weather.  Raising your own bees will mean increased fruit, nut and berry production for your home garden.  Join us for one of our seasonal Mason Bee Seminars or come in for our help sheet on caring for these wonderful garden buddies.

#5 Plant Native Plants
Native plants are already adapted to our Pacific Northwest environment. Their nutrient and watering needs are based on our soils and weather patterns, which saves you money on your water bill and means you don’t have to spend money on soil amendments to change the pH of your soil. This also means they have fewer disease issues and you spend less time and money doctoring your plants.  They are the no fuss, foolproof plants.  For more information on the benefits of native plants, visit our website at www.theplantfarm.com.

#6 Grow Your Own Veggie & Herb Garden
Growing your own veggies and herbs means you will have confidence in the food on your table.  You know your crops are organic and no unknown chemicals or fertilizers applied, and your soil is providing high quality edibles.  Eating crops straight from your backyard means higher nutrients obtained.  Better soil equals better plants, which equals better nutrition for you!

#7 Use Organic & Cultural Practices
Unlike conventional fertilizers and pest controls, organics are neither harmful to people and pets nor toxic to earthworms and beneficial microbes. Organic fertilizers and pest controls work naturally within your garden to enrich your soil and control unwanted pests without destroying microbes and beneficial insects. In conjunction with using organic products, we recommend you incorporate cultural practices such as applying compost, spacing, drip irrigation or soaker hose, pruning and general landscape cleaning. Top-dressing compost in your landscape improves your soil and healthy soil means healthy plants. The practice of spacing prevents disease by increasing air circulation and limits your need to doctor your plants.

#8 Reduce Waste by Composting
Composting has become an attractive way to manage yard waste and recycle natural materials. Some people are surprised to find many of the items that go into our everyday garbage can be composted or recycled.  The vital ingredients for premium compost are brown (carbon) materials such as leaves, straw and paper and green (nitrogen) materials such as grass clippings and food waste.  The easiest alternative to a compost pile is a compost bin. Our website has great tips on composting or just come in and see us, we’ll give you all the information to get you started.

#9 Mulch to Improve Your Soil
Mulch is a great, natural way to improve your soil from the top to bottom layer.  Utilize your compost made from your own kitchen scraps and other compostables, to improve soil microbial activity and diversity, soil fertility, aeration, texture and, if that isn’t enough, it helps maintain moisture content.  A layer in your flowerbeds will also aid in weed suppression and removal.

#10 Conserve Water with Efficient Systems
Water conservation can be accomplished with drip irrigation or a soaker hose. Whether you currently use a sprinkler or hand water, more than 50% of the water is lost to evaporation and therefore won’t reach the plant. Drip irrigation or a soaker hose will provide 90% or greater of the water to the soil with only a loss of 10% or less to evaporation. The benefits to using either of these systems includes consistent and deep watering, weed suppression, disease control and a lower water bill.   Consistent and deep watering provides better growth, fruit and blooms.

#11 Collect Rainwater, Conserve Ground Water
Because the Pacific Northwest receives such an abundance of rain, we often forget that our gardens need water in dryer months like July and August. Oftentimes the drier season can extend into the fall, but using rain barrels to collect water while it’s raining is the best way to plan for the dry season. Collecting the rainwater will also conserve ground water, which is easy to deplete and hard to replenish. It can take up to 300 years to replenish ground water once it’s been removed.

#12 Buy Local to Support Your Local Economy
Buying local not only keeps dollars in our community, but it offers local jobs and provides savings for you. Here at The Plant Farm, 80% of the plants in our garden center are grown by us or are from local growers. In addition, locally grown plants have a shorter distance to travel, which means better quality and far less fuel consumption.  Given current fuel prices, this translates into greater savings for you.

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Creative Fences

You know that addition you’d love to build on to the back of the house? Consider it done – it’s your backyard. Walk out your backdoor and there’s an outdoor living room ready and waiting to steal you away from today’s fast-paced world. But maybe you’d like it to be a bit more private or less windy. We can help. Consider trading out those ordinary boxwoods and arborvitae or cover up that worn out, chain-link fence with these nontraditional plants for a creative living fence.

Espaliered Fruit Trees If it sounds more rewarding to fill up that fruit bowl in your kitchen with apples, cherries and pears from your own backyard than buying produce at the supermarket, then you might want to consider Espaliered Fruit Trees. Espalier is the French word for training a tree or shrub to grow  at against a wall, trellis or fence. These fruit trees are great for a number of reasons – they’re perfect for those of us with smaller gardens, they make it easier to harvest the fruit (no need for ladders or reaching) and since they produce stronger branches, they can last a lifetime.

Pyrancantha ‘Firethorn’ What many might consider the guard dog of the plant world; Firethorn’s thorny branches and twigs could be a great way to naturally and beautifully beef up the security at your home. With white flowers, dark green leaves and plenty of orange berries that attract nesting birds, this popular ornamental plant is loaded with color. Believe it or not, Firethorn berries can actually be made into a jelly. In its fully mature state, you can expect this pyracantha to reach nearly 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide.

Nandina ‘Gulf Stream’ Looking for a hardy shrub that requires no maintenance and has striking color no matter the season? Look no further than this dwarf plant. Perfect as a hedge, this evergreen has blue-green foliage in the warm summer months and boasts a brilliant red color in the fall. ‘Gulf Stream’ is a very symmetrical dwarf variety and can reach a height and width of 4 feet. As an added bonus, it displays small white flower stalks in the spring and summer.

Blueberries While anyone can say they’ve eaten a superfood, the same can’t be said for growing them. Turn your garden into a superfood factory by planting a few blueberry plants. Blueberries fight aging, heart disease, cancer and inflammations – and what’s even better is today’s varieties make growing blueberries easier than ever. To get blueberries in abundance, plant different blueberry varieties together for cross-pollination. And don’t forget to pick up a soil tester, because this pie-inspiring berry loves to be grown in acidic soil.

Lavender Potpourri, oils, colognes, lotions and soaps – we all know the summery, wonderfully aromatic qualities of lavender. However, tall-growing lavender varieties can also perform as an ideal alternative to your typical low growing hedge plants. While attracting butterflies and honeybees, lavender adds subtle movement to your garden or yard as it catches the wind, similar to wispy ornamental grasses. With lavender, create a water-wise hedge all-the-while introducing a calming fragrance and beautiful color to their green space.

Juniper ‘Moonglow’ Privacy can be tough to find – especially outside. To get a little more privacy out of your outdoor living space, add Moonglow to the top of your list. This gray juniper has a lot going for it, including a silvery glow under strong moon light. In addition to its proven use as a privacy screen, it also acts as a great windbreaker. This Western native is drought tolerant and doesn’t mind a haircut once in a while, so feel free to shear annually to shape for a tidier look.

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