The Storm is Coming!

When the weather Channel tells you there’s a hurricane coming the adrenaline pumps. For those of us who live down south we have automatic steps laid out in our hurricane plan and we begin to prepare. We work, keeping an eye on the news, watching the hurricane’s path to see where spaghetti models will show the path. Will we fall in the cone of error?

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As you prepare your family at home for safety, many wonder what to do about their potted plants. Here are a few tips we take every year to protect our potted plants when there’s a hurricane threat.
We watched the weather will determine the timing of our actions. The hurricane five days out may take a completely different path by the third day and it’s important to know where you stand.

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Once we make the decision that action must be taken, the first thing we do is decide what pots are too big to move. Those pots that are too big to move to a safe location, we lay on their side, if it’s at all possible, braced with bags of sand. If they cannot be moved because of weight or size, we make sure the plants are thoroughly watered to help keep them in place.

For those containers you can move, we move them inside a garage or safe location. But what if you have no room in your garage or no safe location? Then we determined, based on knowing your site, where the most protected areas are on your property. Often this is in the corner of the building protected from the direct wind. We then move the smallest pots first putting them up against the house tightly. Next, around the small pots, we put the next size containers until we’ve established all the containers are where they belong. Then, just like with the large plants we water them thoroughly. This is also important in case you can’t get to them at once after the storm to water— because regardless of what the storm weather- it will be hot afterwards and those plants will need water.
Make sure all plant debris is removed from the site. If you can’t get it off your site put it in one location and stack it tightly. All lawn decorations, wind chimes, etcetera need to be taken down and put in a secure location.
There’s not much more you can do for the outside plants at this point.
After the storm has passed, you need to assess the damage and make the proper pruning decisions that will encourage new growth and a healthy plant.
But the most important thing to remember when preparing your plants for a hurricane is safety first. Plants are things and can be replaced. The safety of you and your loved ones should be the most important think you think about.
Stay safe & God’s blessings.

Marine landscape at sunset

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We’re in the hot days of summer; you can feel it as the sweat trickles down your neck to the waistline of your pants. When you watch the news and you see highs in the 90s and heat indexes above 100. You know you’re just beginning to deal with the summertime heat.

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So you take precautions. You use sunblock.  drink plenty of fluids, stay in the shade (or if you’re lucky in the air-conditioning), and move a little slower. But you know what? You are not the only one that feels the heat. Your plants do too.

Did you know the plants will naturally take precautions to help them make it through the heat? They slow down their growth rate, using less water and food in the process, by simply maintaining the existing plant surface. They may even reduce the size of their leaves, by curling up during the heat of the day, to reduce the amount of surface for the evaporation. It can look like the plant is starting to wilt, but if you feel the soil you may find plant is still wet. What the plant is doing, is trying to protect itself from the heat. Beneath the surface of the soil, the plant is trying to conserve water as well. It will be searching for deeper water rather than surface water, which will evaporate quickly.

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There are a few things that you can do to protect your plants, just as you protect yourself. If they’re in pots, try moving them to the shade, where they can avoid the hot afternoon sunlight. When you’re watering–water less frequently, but more thoroughly, causing the roots to go deeper and not be as prone to surface trying. Hold back on the fertilization during the heat; there’s no reason to encourage plants to put out new growth when they’re trying to conserve what they already have. New growth is tender, and more prone to be sunburnt, as well. And above all else, be consistent with your watering. Water in the morning or early evening, not during the heat of the day when the water drops can actually magnify the sunlight and burn the plant. Be sure to water thoroughly, until the water comes up bottom of the pot if that is possible.

When he heat lets up, it will be time to fertilize the plants. Go ahead and trim to shape at this time, and watch them take off and grow. The first signs will show when the evening started to cool down. It won’t be long before you will noticed an increase creased in new growth and flower production.

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Until then, grab a glass of ice-tea and head for that shady spot by the pool. Summer isn’t over yet.

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Life Span

There is a lifespan for everything, and you can see signs of when things are reaching the end of their lifespan.

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From the grocery supplies we buy, to the clothes we wear, things will only last so long. Food and drink clearly label what their lifespan is by an expiration date. Our clothing fades, a clear sign it is near the end of its life span. Even people have a lifespan, and although we don’t see an expiration date stamped on our forehead, there are clear signs as we age and near the end of our time.

 

So why should your landscaping be any different? I’ve worked in the industry of landscaping in Florida for many years (decades if I’m honest!) and my experiences show me the average lifespan of a properly maintained landscape is 15 maybe 20 years. Of course, this can fluctuate based on the plant material used. Just like our human bodies if they’re not taking care of the plants will show deterioration faster and not live their long full expected lifespan.

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Does this mean if your landscape is getting ready to reach maturity and starting to decline you should start with a clean slate? NO! There are features in your landscape which will last for years 40, 50, even 100 years. What was once a small 2-foot little Oak tree, is now a 20 foot tree with beautiful spanning branches providing shade to your property. Your palm trees are mature and graceful, with slight bends from the wind and long lustful fronds.

Some plants are best when they reach maturity. Have you ever seen a bougainvillea grown over the arch of a house’s entry and is now rich with flowers with the thick stump proclaiming its age? Some plants aren’t even attractive until they start to mature, instead they seem weak, but as they grow their shape becomes clear and their value to your landscape is immeasurable.

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So, what do you do with the remaining landscape material showing decline because of age? These are the plants you remove- it might be a struggle because of 20 years’ worth of roots and debris to get around, but once removed, you’re left with a clean palette and key pieces anchoring your landscape together. Now you can create the landscape you want. You can change the whole appearance of your landscape, or you can simply re-landscape with the same type material and enjoy them for another 15 to 20 years.

The choice is up to you, but remember any mistakes which were made the first time around, and be sure not to repeat them for the second time.

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Create a new landscape design for yourself and then sit back and enjoy for the next lifespan of your plants.

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The Joy of a Tree

The wisest people tell you to save and invest in your future, and this is great advise. But, there is another way to invest in your future as well.

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Plant a tree!

And, if you live in a hot climate, I would suggest you plant one that is going to give you plenty of shade in the years to come. That  tree may look small in your yard or landscape now, but with proper care and food, it will grow into a substantial part of your landscape, that will give you years of benefits.

There’s nothing more rewarding on a hot summer’s day than to sit under a shade tree and feel the difference in temperature compared to standing under the sun’s hot rays. And the relieve from the glare of the sunlight on your eyes makes you sigh. Children seem to instinctively know to play in the shade. They build tree houses to serve as a clubhouse, swing on tires hanging from the largest low branch, or just lay on a blanket to play with their toys or read a book. Some trees, like a Weeping Willow can become anything from an old fort to an enchanted kingdom. All it takes is an imaginative child and there will be hours of entertainment for a summer’s day.

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As an adult, I love to pull around a lounge chair and sit to read under an old shade tree. And, without a doubt, there is something romantic and old-fashioned about having a picnic on a blanket spread out under the tree’s shade. Can you picture it? A checkered blanket, a wicker basket overflowing with food and an open bottle of wine.

But the properly chosen shade tree can also be a practical choice. It can improve your property value and appearance of the other items on the land. Placed in the right location, pruned and fertilized to encourage optimum growth, your investment is sure to pay off. As the tree matures, it can even have an positive effect on your air conditioning bills.

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45604279 – female red squirrel standing on tree branch with flowers

There is one other benefit that I personally enjoy: the tree can become a home for many birds and other wildlife. It provides food and shelter for these animals. There is nothing more enjoyable than sitting out in your backyard under the shade tree, listening to the birds song or watching the squirrels chase each other. You can’t help but to feel a sense of peace.

So make your investment: pick a tree for shade, flower  & fragrance or even for privacy.

Now, sit back & watch it your investment grow a little more each year.

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The Garden Catalog

Where you one of those kids that grabbed the Toys-R-Us Christmas catalog and ran off to dream about what to ask Santa?

Are you a catalog Junkie now?

 I know I am. nothing gives me pleasure like sitting down and it comfy chair with a cup of coffee and a stack of catalogs to go through. Nothing except a stack of gardening catalogs.

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 I’m amazed at how many new ways there are to promote gardening. From new types plants, to new types of tools with everything in between, the promotional ads are everywhere.

 There seems to be a gardening section in almost every catalog. From lawn ornaments, lawn furniture, outdoor lighting or tools and plants, the catalogs have a bit of everything. There’s such an array: you’re sure to find at least one or two things to mark on your wish list.

Personally, I love getting the catalogs with all of the new hybrid plants. Seeing your old favorites plants in a new light is exciting. The science behind developing these hybrids is fascinating, and the results can be surprising.

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And then there’s the tools. I wish I had the imagination to come up with such tools! Tools I can’t live without; from gloves attached with finger shovels, to contraptions that help you carry things across the lawn. If there’s a need, there’s an invention. Even if there isn’t a need at this time, somebody will make a tool, creating a need for it.

 I think it’s exciting when it industry as old as time comes up with new items and new ideas. It says much about our quest for the perfect garden. And the desire for the easiest way to achieve those results without breaking your back. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the old tool from the new one. The changes maybe as small as a different angle of a blade, of a new material used in manufacturing.

Have you ever noticed that you have a favorite tool? No matter what new product comes on the market, you hold fast to your favorite. Perhaps someone special it gave to you? Or it might be because you’re hesitant about trying something new. Or maybe you’re simply set in your ways and content with the tools you have. After all, if they work, do you need to change them?

It doesn’t matter if you’re content with your old favorites, or not willing to try new things, because we all seem to be tempted to find out about the newest and the best out on the market. I’d be willing to be that the gardener in you will pick up a magazine and flip the pages out of curiosity, when no one else is looking.

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I’ll say good bye for now, the mail carrier just delivered the newest magazine! Time to grab a glass of lemonade and find a shady spot in the garden…

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Love ’em or Hate ’em!

I think everybody will agree that the right tools for the job make the job go smoother.

There’s nothing worse than fighting with something when the right tool can make the job go so much faster and more efficiently. Getting the overall results you want with a lot less stress is the biggest advantage to find the perfect tool for the chore.

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The Gardener is no exception and there’s a huge array of tools at our disposal to make our job easier and give us something to discuss. The newest tool on the market is just one commercial away. Most of us are eager to try them out and voice our opinion  whether they’re good or bad. We may fall back on our old favorites time and time again, but we do love to try the newest market trend.

 I believe it’s safe to say the most essential tool to a gardener is whatever means you use to get water to your newly planted plants. The most common methods would involve either a water bucket or a hose. Now, there’s not too much you can do to a water bucket to change it, other than make it a pretty color or change a bit of the design. But the overall working mechanics of a water bucket doesn’t change.

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The garden hose is another story. It can either be your best friend, or your worst enemy. There are   many styles with great promises of being the perfect product on the market. You could spend an hour trying to figure out exactly which one you want. You can also spend a fortune on a garden hose. But, if you take it home, turn it on and it kinks up, then it wasn’t worth the time or money you paid. There’s nothing worse than getting part way to the plant you need  to be water and having the garden hose kink.

If you do have a problem, the best thing to do is to follow the hose back to the hose bib and figure out why the hose isn’t working properly. If the water is coming out at a trickle rather than full force, decide if the problem is at the water source or has the hose wrapped itself into a knot?

 A two-minute job has suddenly turned into a 10-minute fiasco, all because of the wrong tool. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve tried many styles, and I still haven’t found the perfect one. But I have learned a few lessons about how to use a hose, and here are a couple of tips that I can give you.

 1. If you can keep the water on while you’re winding up the hose you won’t get the Kinks. The exceptions  are the new expandable and retractable hoses. Unfortunately, if they hold too much pressure inside for long, they will burst.   You can agree,  that’s just as bad, because once they burst they are no good.

2. Another quick tip; if you’re near a pool and you can let your hose go across the water rather than across the decking, you’ll find it’s much lighter to move around. Often, kinks and twist in the hose will work themselves out when they’re in the water. I don’t know why, but it works to your advantage. Once your hose is all wrapped back up, release the pressure and let  the water out of it. This will help keep your hose from bursting as it builds up pressure in the heat of the day.  I think the best advice I can give you is to buy reinforced hose for your gardening work. I understand that it might be heavier than the retractable ones, but it will last the longest.  If your hose isn’t working properly, then take it to an area where you can expand it to the full length, and check for problems along the way. Once the job is done and the plants are watered, its time to step back and admire your work.

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 Use your tools to your advantage, not to your discouragement.

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What kind of garden will you grow?

Here is a question for you to consider…

are you a gardener for practicality or for beauty?

Because whichever one you decide you’re going to plant involves different plant choices and maintenance practices. Your chances for a successful garden could hinge on the answer you decide proceed with.

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For the gardener who is concerned most with Visual Appeal, then your gardening starts with picking plants that appeal to you the most. Then you will combine them and the environment  you’ve chosen for them to grow to their fullest potential. Maintenance practices will also be different. Your primary goal is to achieve lush foliage and showy flowers. This will require more precise pruning and dead-heading. Your fertilizing will need to be more specific for blooming plants

For a basic Green Landscape the goal will be to maintain your plants in a healthy condition where they can be pruned and fertilized regularly. Attention to detail isn’t as required in this situation.

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For the Sustainable Garden, or one that gives back, you may find more research is needed. It’s not as simple as going to the garden center and picking plants. You need to about know the plants  you’re picking. Do they need full sun? What insects are they prone to? When and how do you apply proper harvest methods? It’s extremely important with a sustainable garden to know what type of pesticides and fertilizers you are using. You want to be as organic as possible, using products that have little to no residual effect. Don’t forget, at some point you will want to harvest these products for eating.

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Many people have a limited space for gardening and will combine all three types of gardens into one area and is perfectly doable. You need to be focused on details, because in a mixed garden, one little problem quickly grow in to a major problem that can devastate your fruit or flower harvest.

Take a few minutes before you go to the garden center and draw out on a piece of paper how much space you’re giving your garden. Then decide how much of that space you want to give up for each type of plants. Walk out and look at the area  you will plant. Be sure you have easy access for getting your plants and materials back to the garden. Then check the soil; do you need to add to it? Is a little peat moss needed, or is simply turning over the soil and loosening it up enough?

Being properly prepared before you go select your plant material will save you many steps down the road.

By planning ahead, you will enjoy your garden to the fullest.

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