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Dare to Go Bare…

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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The Berries and The Bees

BareRoot Berries 001It’s time for the talk. That’s right, we need to talk about the berries and the bees because February is the month to pick up your bare-root berries and your mason bee cocoons. You know, a bowl full of fresh berries is a true summer delicacy, but growing that luscious summer fruit starts right now.

Mmmmm... fresh, healthy, delicious Blueberries!

Mmmmm… fresh, healthy, delicious Blueberries!

Have you decided what sort of berries you’d like? The Plant Farm has a huge variety of bare-root berry plants tucked into sawdust beds waiting for you to bring them home and plant them in your garden. Ripe, flavorful Raspberries; dark and juicy Blackberries; tart, fat Gooseberries; crisp, festive Cranberries or even succulent grapes… okay, they’re not berries, but they are succulent and we definitely have bare-root grape vines. And then there’s my favorite: Blueberries. Where’s the bowl and cream, am I right?

Blueberries are delicious and they are also very nutritious. They are a low glycemic impact food, which is great if you’re watching your sugar (or if you’re going to drown them in cream). They are an excellent source of the essential dietary mineral manganese as well as vitamin C, vitamin K, dietary fiber and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals have the potential to affect diseases such as cancer, stroke or metabolic syndrome. Did I sell you on the Blueberries? The Plant Farm has over 16 varieties of Blueberries to choose from. I encourage you to check out our Blueberry information sheet.

bee-in-handTalking about Blueberries reminds me that we need to talk about the bees, too. Mason Bees that is. You probably know that Mason Bees are a great pollinating partner for your Fruit Trees, but did you know that they will also pollinate your Blueberry shrubs? Mason Bees are great little pollinators because they don’t discriminate as to where they gather pollen and because, ironically, they aren’t very efficient in gathering their pollen. It’s gathered dry on their hair, which means it’s more easily scattered to each flower they visit. Mason bees are easy to raise and interestingly they don’t usually sting because they are solitary bees with no hive or queen to protect.

Mason Bee expert Dave Hunter

Mason Bee expert Dave Hunter

If you’d like to know more, Dave Hunter is giving a fascinating seminar this Sunday at The Plant Farm, where he’ll discuss the threat to traditional bee populations and what you can do to help. When you come in for the seminar, you can pick up your bare-root berries!

Add another dimension to your garden with the Twilight Zone rose, new this year and available now at The Plant Farm.

Add another dimension to your garden with the Twilight Zone rose, new this year and available now at The Plant Farm.

“I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.” A quote by Emma Goldman that grabbed my attention when I came across it while reviewing the roses being introduced on The Plant Farm’s 2013 Rose List. I was also drawn to French poet and novelist Jean Richepin’s quote, “One may live without bread, not without roses.” A wonderful rose quote, though I must admit that I’m awfully fond of bread, too. Still, it’s easy to understand why roses inspire such a passionate devotion and are prized above all other possessions.

Cinnamon Dolce

Cinnamon Dolce

The Plant Farm’s 2013 Rose List is now available and I know you’ll be excited to see the new roses being offered. Two roses being introduced this year that you will find particularly attractive are Twilight Zone and Cinnamon Dolce. Submitted for your approval, the Twilight Zone rose. It’s a gorgeous deep purple Grandiflora variety with blooms that are stuffed with rich, velvety petals. Cinnamon Dolce, a Hybrid Tea rose, will charm you with its highly fragrant blooms, which are brick red with deep pink speckles. Cinnamon Dolce has an excellent resistance to rust and mildew, which makes it perfect for our Pacific Northwest climate.

Fighting Temeraire

Fighting Temeraire

Also new this year and exclusive to The Plant Farm, as a member of David Austen Roses, are Fighting Temeraire and Queen Anne. The Fighting Temeraire is a painting by English artist J. M. W. Turner and the Fighting Temeraire rose color echoes the peachy glow of the sky in the painting. The blooms are large and full, and have a wonderful lemony scent. Queen Anne is a full, hardy deciduous shrub rose. The blooms are delicate pink, plentiful and they have a classic old rose look. Surely, these two beauties helped earn David Austen Roses their 16th Gold Medal at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London.

Queen Anne

Queen Anne

So many rose varieties and colors to tempt rose lovers this year and we’ve got the roses offered in Bare Root right now. I know I’ve talked about purchasing plants Bare Root in previous blog entries and roses are a perfect example of how buying Bare Root can save you time and money. Bare Root roses will cost you up to 40% less than potted roses. They are easier to transport because they weigh less and you don’t have the bulk of the pot and soil. In addition, they establish much more quickly because their roots are intact and they don’t experience the shock of going from container soil to your garden soil.

Are you excited to get into The Plant Farm and pick out your 2013 roses? Good, because we’re excited to introduce them to you. On that note, I will leave you with this quote from Richard Brinsley Sheridan “Won’t you come into the garden? I would like my roses to see you.”

tulips and sunSpring anticipation is such a delicious agony.  Daydreams about warmer temperatures and the sun feeding the garden, the occasional hint of spring flowers have you marking the days off on the calendar.  Your heart is beating out a chant: “How soon can I start? How soon can I dig in? How soon can I start?”  Big events like the Northwest Flower & Garden Show have you making lists and it’s so hard to wait.  I have to tell you, The Plant Farm isn’t going to make it any easier on you.  We have way too many excellent new plants and products this year.

Dark Night RoseNew for 2013!

Dark Night Rose – New for 2013!

In the coming weeks, we’ll take a more in-depth look at colorful new annuals, exciting new container and basket combinations, and share garden ideas from local gardening masters and our own staff experts. Stories like The Berries & the Bees and Herbs: Beyond Spice will delight you and give you food for thought; pun intended. This coming week, we’ll focus our spotlight on the gorgeous new roses we’ve added to The Plant Farm’s Rose List. I can’t wait to tell you about the new roses!

Plant Bare Root and Save!

Plant Bare Root and Save!

Oh, and if you’re a savvy shopper, you will want to know that in about two weeks we’ll bring in a huge selection of Bare Root ornamental trees and shrubs. We offer them bare root for a couple of weeks and then they go to our production crew to be potted up. Buying bare root is an excellent way to save money and it’s much easier to get the plant in the ground.

Ryan Sanders, TPF's Landscape Design Expert

Ryan Sanders, TPF’s Landscape Design Expert

You may have to wait for spring to arrive, but right now, you can do more than daydream at The Plant Farm.  You can come check out the plants arriving every day, sit down with our Landscape Design expert, Ryan Sanders, or hire the Pruning Services crew to get your trees and shrubs into tip top shape.

seed-startingIt’s time to banish the winter blues, so who out there is hoping Mr. Groundhog won’t see his shadow so that spring will come early? I know at The Plant Farm we sure are! Daily shipments of inspiring new plants and tools arrive at our receiving dock. Seeing the new product come in has us excited to plan our gardens and get some seeds sprouting!

TPF's Edibles Expert Kip Litehiser

TPF’s Edibles Expert Kip Litehiser

This year, we wish you abundance and a thriving new garden. To that end, I had a chat with our edibles expert, Kip Litehiser, about what factors are necessary for a successful garden and how he prepares for a new garden season.

Right about now, Kip is planning what he’ll grow this year and he’s purchasing his seeds so he can get his seedlings going. Kip likes to break his seed starting into two phases; early starts, which he does indoors, and later in the spring, seeds that will be sown directly into the ground.

Plant lettuce early and you'll harvest more often.

Plant lettuce early and you’ll harvest more often.

“February is the time for early starts like your tough-to-grow-in-the-ground plants; parsley and hearty herbs, artichokes and onions,” he says. It’s also a good time to start plants you’ll want to harvest early and often, like lettuce and beans.

Soil temperature is a key component in raising crops and our Pacific Northwest climate can be challenging in that regard. “Warm soil is key. It’s almost more important than sunshine. Sunshine is obviously important, but you can have sunshine and still have cold ground soil,” Kip says. That’s why Kip prefers to use

The soil in raised beds warms more quickly.

The soil in raised beds warms more quickly.

raised beds for his garden. The soil is up off the ground and takes on the sun’s warmth more quickly.

Plants that need a longer growing season than our Pacific Northwest climate affords need to be started indoors. This allows the plants to become more established and hardy. They will be stronger when they are transplanted into the garden soil in mid-to-late March. The Plant Farm has your back on this one. We’re once again offering a Seed Starting Success Kit designed to make starting your garden from seeds easy and efficient. Like last year, the kit includes an excellent seed starting soil and Dr. Earth Starter, an organic fertilizer. This year we’ve added a couple of cool
The secret to success is our Seed Starting Success Kit

The secret to success is our Seed Starting Success Kit

new tools: A Lusterleaf Rapidclip Seed Sower, for more accurate seed dispersal, and a Planters Pride Self Watering Grow System with Coir pots. Coir is a biodegradable, coconut husk fiber that allows you to transplant your seed start into the ground, pot and all, protecting the root system when transplanting.We know how intimidating or frustrating starting seeds can be. For personal attention to your questions and concerns, come into The Plant Farm and look up our Edibles expert, Kip. He’ll be thrilled to share his knowledge so you’ll have a successful seed starting process this year.

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!

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.