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Monday, December 19, 2011

Got Compost: Perennials Hibernate, Too!

Got Compost: Perennials Hibernate, Too!: Of all the seasons, winter has always been the toughest on our garden plants, since the elements become too harsh for tender plants to survi...

Perennials Hibernate, Too!

Of all the seasons, winter has always been the toughest on our garden plants, since the elements become too harsh for tender plants to survive. When warmer temps plummet into near freezing numbers we find it’s best to prepare our landscape for the season ahead. Among our entire landscape, our perennial flower beds need the most attention.
As we know, perennial flowers are those that bloom year after year, making them a vital component of any landscape. Since perennials retreat underground during winter months, now is the perfect time to prepare the soil around them (carefully.) Putting our perennial flower beds to sleep is pretty much like hibernation for these plants. They lie dormant all winter, gathering nutrition and moisture from amended soil. Warmer spring soil allows them to burst forth, stronger and healthier than ever after a long winter’s nap.
Here is a step-by-step guide to putting your perennial flower beds to sleep:
Cut back all the flowers to the ground. Flowers, stems, leaves, cut everything you see down to ground level. Remember that these types of plants are tubers and bulbs. That’s why they stay alive even if everything visible is cut back; the heart of the plant is alive underground. We like to mark each plant/bulb with Popsicle sticks or (upside down) plastic spoons. This way, we won’t plant on top of existing bulbs in the spring.
Remove the mulch and weed your flower bed. Once you’re done cutting everything, it is time to get busy weeding. First, scrape off all the mulch on the flower bed then pull out all the weeds. Make sure you weed thoroughly, pulling out the roots of the weeds to make sure they don’t come back.
Aerate your flower beds. This doesn’t mean that you have to dig holes in the flower bed. You simply have to stick a pitchfork or small garden spade into the ground and wiggle it a bit. This will loosen your soil, making it easier for the nutrients to reach the roots. Just be careful, you wouldn’t want to hit any existing tubers or bulbs.
Now, spread a thick layer of compost evenly over the entire flower bed. Compost is very important because it adds vital nutrients and oxygen to soil, increasing soil organic matter and water holding capacity. Compost also serves as your flower bed’s protection against the harsh elements that winter may bring. When you spread your compost, make sure that you spread a very thick layer (3”- 4”) over the entire flower bed.
Depending on your location, the layer of compost may be all the protection your soil and bulbs require. If you choose, you may place mulch on your flower bed for some added protection. Once the compost has been spread, just add a fresh new layer of mulch. This will protect your perennials throughout the winter, allowing them to sleep comfortably during the cooler weather.

Follow these simple steps and come spring, you'll begin to see signs of color. Before long your perennials will be back, stronger and more beautiful than the year before!
STA Certified Harvest Blend Compost adds all the nutrients soil needs to increase SOM to the necessary 5% level. For a Harvest Blend Compost dealer near you, click. Or call Jim @ 805.925-2771. Harvest Blend Compost builds healthy soil – Naturally!
Visit the USCC's Strive for 5% Facebook page to learn more about the value SOM plays in creating healthy soil.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Got Compost: Plant a Tree - Insulate Your Home

Got Compost: Plant a Tree - Insulate Your Home: We don't need to be tree-hugging environmentalists to realize the impact trees and other plants have on our immediate surroundings. If you’...

Plant a Tree - Insulate Your Home

We don't need to be tree-hugging environmentalists to realize the impact trees and other plants have on our immediate surroundings. If you’ve ever hiked through a forest on a windy day you’ve discovered the quiet stillness trees provide. The further in you go, the less wind there is and the quieter everything becomes.
In the natural world trees call the shots; they set the conditions for other plants to grow. They provide shade and keep temperatures down in summer and shelter delicate species from the blasting winds of winter. Homeowners can just as easily use trees and shrubs to protect property from harsh weather.
Keeping a home warm with Trees and Plants
Our recent cooler temperatures have us thinking about various ways to conserve heat and protect our homes from cool winds.
During winter months, most areas of the country experience the usual cold breeze or wind. Once you know which direction it’s coming from, you can set up wind breaks with trees and shrubs. Evergreen species are more effective for this kind of role. Of course deciduous trees and shrubs, those that lose their leaves in winter, offer less protection.
Wish we could list all the trees that would offer your landscape the best protection, but local climate conditions and soils vary so much it’s best to visit your local landscape supply center and ask an expert. Or check out established trees and shrubs growing in your community for an idea of what will work in your neighborhood.
Once you have chosen your species, all you need do is find the most strategic places to locate them. You will be amazed at how much less electricity a well sheltered home uses for both heating and cooling.
Keeping a Home Cool with Plants and Trees
If you’re careful in your planting, shade trees and shrubs can reduce indoor temperatures by as much as 20 degrees Fahrenheit, according to some studies. Protecting South facing walls from the full impact of the sun at midday is the most important consideration. If your attic is well insulated, shading the roof is not as important...but every little bit helps.
Strategically placed large tress can achieve shading but of course you need to be sure the roots are not too close to the home or they can damage foundations and/or plumbing. Leafy shrubs can offer similar protection to walls, at least and many species can be safely planted close by. For one story homes, shrubs might be all you need. And fast growing shrubs can offer protection very quickly.
House plants are surprising good at cooling interiors. It is the constant evaporation of water from leaves that gives the cooling effect.
Amend soil with compost to give your trees a healthy start:
You should have dirt/soil from the hole dug for your new tree. Before re-filling the hole with this soil, make sure to amend it with compost. The added organic matter increases soil structure, oxygen and water retention for a healthy foundation. Harvest Blend Compost builds healthy soil and plants. For more info, click here
To better help the homeowner, the US Composting Council has recently unveiled its Consumer Compost Use Program - to clearly identify the types of uses for which a compost product may be used. These uses are:

Remember Trees Need Pruning and Maintenance
Bringing a bit of nature into your yard is one of the joys of home life but trees and shrubs need some care. You’ll need to make time to clear leaves and prune routinely. Enjoy your beautiful trees (and your reduced heating/cooling bills!)
  • Trees & Shrubs
  • Flower & Vegetable Gardens
  • Lawn
Look for these icons when purchasing compost products to insure a quality product and a successful project.
“We now have an easy way for the homeowner to identify quality compost products that can be applied to their specific gardening needs.” Frank Franciosi, USCC President.