Tips for the Garden – October 2021

            This month in “Tips for the Garden,” I am going to focus on trees and pumpkins. Quite a different combination, but both need attention this time of year.

The Many Benefits of Planting Trees

Most often, we plant trees to provide shade and add beauty to our landscape. These are great benefits. Consider all the benefits listed below and remember fall is the perfect time to plant trees for an increased success rate next spring.

  • Plant as living memorials, to remind us of loved ones, or to commemorate events in our lives.
  • Even though you may own the trees on your property, your neighborhood may benefit from them as well. Through careful planning, trees can be an asset to your entire community.
  • Tree lined streets have a traffic calming effect, traffic moves more slowly and safely.
  • Trees can be placed to screen unwanted views or noise from highways.
  • Trees improve our air quality by filtering harmful dust and pollutants.
  • Trees give off oxygen that we need to breathe.
  • Trees reduce the amount of storm water runoff, which reduces erosion and pollution in our waterways and may reduce the effects of flooding.
  • Many species of wildlife depend on trees for habitat. Trees provide food, protection, and homes for many birds and mammals.
  • Tree can reduce your cooling costs by shading the south and west sides of your home. If deciduous trees are used, they will allow the sun to pass through and warm your home in the winter.
  • Evergreen trees on the north side of your home and shrubs around the foundation of your home can act as a windbreak to reduce the cooling effects of winter winds.
  • The value of a well landscaped home can be as much as 10% higher than a similar home with no or little landscaping.

            Now let’s change the focus. This is the month for HALLOWEEN!!! What a great and fun time to decorate and enjoy the season with the children of the neighborhood. Here are “Tips for Selecting and Preserving Your Pumpkin.”

Selecting a Pumpkin

When selecting a pumpkin for a jack-o-lantern, choose one that does not have any bruises. Check for discoloration and soft spots.

Pumpkins that are flatter on the bottom and do not roll well work the best. Look for pumpkins with a sturdy stem.  Do not lift or carry the pumpkin by the stem, this can damage it and make it age faster. Check the bottom of the pumpkin to see if the base is damaged.

Preserving and Firming Up a Pumpkin

Ways to help keep your pumpkin fresher and firmer. If you place a pumpkin in cold water, it will absorb the water and become very firm. Cut open the top of the pumpkin and clean out all the seeds.  If you have fine detail work to do, you may want to let your pumpkin soak overnight. You can add a small amount of unscented Clorox bleach in the water to prevent premature mold and bacteria growth.

Once you have carved your pumpkin, you can add a thin amount of petroleum jelly on the exposed cut edges. This will help seal moisture of the pumpkin. If the pumpkin dries out, it will shrivel. You can try to revive it by soaking it in a bath of cold water for one to eight hours. Longer is better. Overnight will not hurt.

You can prepare your pumpkins ahead of time and keep them fresh for a future party or gathering. Soak them first. Wrap them in plastic wrap to hold in the moisture and store them in the refrigerator (not the freezer). They will stay fresh this way for a very long time.

Once you remove a wet pumpkin for display, you should immediately dry it off. This prevents mold from having a chance to grow.

Now, enjoy all that the month of October has to offer and I will…

See you in the garden.
Sandi Hillermann McDonald


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Tips for the Garden – September 2021

It’s fall already! Where did the summer go? I am sure you have heard the phrase “Fall is for Planting,” but do you know why we say this? Fall plantings have a wonderful success rate. Given the temperate nature of our fall climate with mild temperatures and generally adequate rainfall, the conditions are excellent for establishing new plantings successfully. The result is plants that grow faster and bigger, and they bloom better. The plant’s root systems get a second growing season before they must manage our (normally) hot, dry summers. Plant roots continue to develop long after the leaves drop off in the fall. Roots will continue to grow until freezing of the ground stops them.

Now is also the time to add color into the fall landscape with winter hardy pansies and violas,  garden mums, and unique varieties of ornamental cabbage and kale. Transform the entrance to your home into a welcoming, colorful fall display with cabbage and kale, cornstalks, ornamental grasses, an assortment of pumpkins and squash, and maybe a scarecrow set on a hay bale.

Don’t forget spring flowering bulbs. Now is the time to get the best selection of varieties and colors and you have until the middle of December to get them planted

September is perfect lawn renovation month. Now is the time to consider renovation and aeration. Aeration helps control thatch, improves the soil structure, helps create growth pockets for new roots, and opens the way for water and fertilizer to get to the roots of your lawn.

Once aeration is accomplished, it is a perfect time to over seed your lawn. Fescue blends take our summer heat and drought conditions better than Bluegrass seed mixes. Fescue lawn mixes tolerate heat, drought and traffic from kids and pets.  After seeding, top dress with a starter type fertilizer, and you are ready to enjoy a beautiful green lawn for fall and spring!

The fall of the year is perfect timing for tree planting. You should give some thought to choosing varieties for that special spot.  Plant a tree this fall. You will help the environment, lower your electric bills, and enhance your property value.

Here are a few other quick tips for this month. Begin to adapt your houseplants for winter indoors. Check for pests and treat if necessary. Houseplants should be brought indoors at least one month before the heat is normally turned on. Sow fall vegetable crops through mid September. Harvest herbs now to freeze or dry for winter.

Enjoy the cool, crisp air of Fall.  Get outside, plant and decorate!
Sandi Hillermann McDonald





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Tips for the Garden – August 2021

August…. besides vacations, other activities that will pull you away from your list of gardening duties are fairs, festivals, family outings, and back to school preparations.  It really is a good thing that August is a slow month for working in your landscape.

Your main tasks for this month begin with the letter W.  Weeding and watering.  Both tasks are self-explanatory.  If you let weeds get ahead of you and they go to seed, you are going to have hundreds more to deal with this fall and next spring.  Generally, it is best to pull weeds that are growing in and immediately around your desirable plants, and spray those that are “in the open”.

As far as watering goes, during drought conditions, slow deep watering at the base of desirable trees and shrubs on a weekly basis is very important. Try to eliminate drought stress on your plants.  So please take care of your desirable plants with slow soaking waterings.  If you have questions, do not hesitate to give us a call.

Mowing the lawn is another task that continues in August.  Due to the usually hot and dry conditions that are the norm in August, you may be able to space your mowings further apart.  It is also beneficial to let the grass grow longer to help shade the roots.

If you are thinking about a new addition to your landscape this fall, now is the time to talk to your favorite landscape designer.  Your designer can discuss your needs with you, design the changes or new additions, and get you on the schedule for a fall installation.

If you tried your hand at seasonal vegetable or square foot gardening this spring, here are a few ways you can enjoy a fall garden.  Carry Tomatoes, Peppers and Basil over in your fall garden.  Direct sow Beets, Radishes, Peas, and Spinach now where other spring crops such as Broccoli and Cauliflower have come and gone for this year.  It is best to replant nursery starts of Broccoli and Cauliflower, and not sow them from seed this time of year.  So take the time to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

See you next month…. in the garden
Sandi Hillermann McDonald

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Tips for the Garden – July 2021

            Even though the weather outside isn’t as enticing or enjoyable as it is in the spring of the year, it can still be enjoyed and there are still things that need to be done…

            The most important item to consider this time of year, naturally, is water….provide water in the garden, not only for the perennials, annuals, trees and shrubs, but also for the wildlife such as for birds, rabbits, squirrels, and the such.  And this can be done in several different ways.  One would be a simple drip irrigation system to take care of your plant life.  These systems can be installed with tools as simple as a scissors or knife.  Timers are also available to take even the guess work out of the project for you, and it continues to work even when you are on vacation.  This will be extremely important this summer season.

Now don’t forget the wildlife as well.  Birds continue to give us enjoyment with new fledglings arriving as well as their daily antics.  Water can be supplied in the form of birdbaths, water fountains, or water garden displays.  Moving water is a bigger draw for this wildlife activity than still water, and it is safer, too.  With moving water, you do not need to worry about mosquitoes.

Now that I have spent time expressing my concern and importance for water during the summer months, let me give you some other tips for the garden…

*Apply the “Permethrin” chemical to guard off grubs, fleas, ticks, etc. in the yard.

*Keep an eye out for powdery mildew and red spider mites this month in the garden.  Treat with Liquid Copper or Neem Oil, both organics.

*Remember to deep root water established trees and shrubs, as well, during drought conditions.

*Dig potatoes when the tops die and plant fall crops by the 15th.

*Sweet corn is ripe when the silks turn brown.

*For the fall garden, sow seeds of carrots, beets, turnips, winter radish, collards, kale, sweet corm and summer squash as earlier crops are harvested at the end of the month.  Also set out transplants of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower for the fall garden.

For additional information about garden tips for summer, check out our website at, or stop by Hillermann’s.

Time to go… See you in the Garden…
Sandi Hillermann McDonald

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Tips for the Garden – June 2021

            Although I’ve never been accused of being short on words, there is often this blank in my mind about where to start the article. This month I will begin with a reminder that June is National Perennial Gardening Month. Perennials make perfect additions to gardens (as well as native plants) for pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and birds!

Here are 9 quick tips to Fabulous Perennials:

  1. Begin by preparing the soil.
  2. Choose plants carefully, sun vs. shade, etc.
  3. Purchase plants that can establish in one season.
  4. Space perennials to give them room to grow.
  5. Fertilize
  6. Mulch
  7. Control weeds
  8. Control insects
  9. Additionally, clean up the beds each season. Enjoy!!


Well, June is also the month of graduations, weddings, vacations, Father’s Day, and the beginning of summer. This is the month that we all begin to spend more of our free time out of doors, enjoying our gardens and the fruits of our labor from the last 3 months. If all of you have kept up with your tasks, then this month should be easy.

Here are garden tips for June:

  • Watch for the outbreak of bagworms on garden plants, especially junipers.
  • Deadhead bulbs and spring perennials as blossoms fade.
  • Repeat plantings of corn and beans to extend the harvest season.
  • Spray roses with a fungicide to prevent black spot disease and fertilize monthly.
  • Continue enjoying the antics of the wildlife in your yard and gardens by continuing to supply food and water sources for them.
  • Change hummingbird nectar at least weekly to prevent fungus from growing. You can make your own nectar using 1 part sugar to 4 parts water—no food coloring please!
  • Move houseplants outside for the summer. Place plants in areas with dappled shade and some protection from hot summer winds.
  • Orioles (if you were lucky enough to keep them around) begin building a gray woven nest; this takes about a week.
  • Watch for birds carrying food to their young.

Are you late getting planting started in your garden this year? YOU ARE NOT ALONE! As busy as we were this May, and as wet as the weather was, many people have commented that they haven’t even begun their planting. That’s okay—you still have plenty of time. Plant selections should still be pretty strong. Fully enjoy your garden; it is the only true place to connect you to Mother Nature.

See you in the Garden…
Sandi Hillermann McDonald




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Tips for the Garden – May 2021

Isn’t daylight savings time a wonderful thing!!!!!  Enjoy the fruits of your labor and spend time outdoors.  Extend your living quarters to your yard and garden.  It is easy to do…hang a hammock in a tree, set a bistro set in the perennial garden, or put benches in your Hosta beds.  Now invite friends over and have a cookout.  Let the nature in your yard tickle your senses with the sounds of birds, smells of flowers, sound of running water, and splashes of color.

And while you are enjoying your yard, and I hope that you are, here are some items to put onto your gardening checklist.  Begin planting summer annuals to add color and spice to the landscape.  And don’t just stop with the flower beds.  Container gardening is becoming a trendy

thing.  The many choices, styles, shapes and colors of containers make great accent pieces for inside or out.  Let your imagination soar and express yourself.  Use imaginative containers you pick up at flea markets and auction yards.  Learn to mix annuals and perennials for great combinations.  Try hostas with begonias and impatiens….or hydrangeas with groundcovers.  These containers can make great accent pieces on the front porch, the back deck, in a flower bed, around the pool or at the end of the driveway.  Containers aren’t just plain anymore!!!!

Take your houseplants outdoors once the evening temperatures will remain above 50`.  Gradually move sun loving plants (hibiscus, gardenias, mandevillas, etc.) to sunny locations, as they have not had full sun in your home and will need to be acclimated to those conditions.

Plant summer bulbs now and fertilize with bone meal or bulb food.  Pinch garden mums now till July 4th to insure proper fall blooming.  Treat slugs in your garden with organic diatomaceous earth. This is a powder product, 100% safe and is good for the treatment of slugs, ants, fleas and ticks outside, as well as roaches and ants indoors.  This organic product is very safe to use and good to have on hand.

Other insects to watch for this month are pine sawflies, aphids, scale crawlers, cucumber beetles, and grubs, to name a few.  Permethrin is the product on the market today.  Permethrin will work a large variety of insects on plants, in the soil and in the home.  It comes in many formulations and strengths.  See a professional for questions of use of this product.

Keep helping the wild birds in your piece of heaven on earth and help the pollinators as well.  Plant more natives and use organic products when needed.


Until next month…see you in the garden….

Sandi Hillermann McDonald




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Tips for the Garden – April 2021

Vegetable gardening is making a comeback and a contributor to this fascination is the fact that more and more people are concerned with what they put on the family table. When you grow it yourself, you control what goes in the soil and on the plants, and you get to pick a much broader selection of vegetable varieties. They taste a whole lot better when they’re home grown.

If you’re thinking of growing a vegetable garden this year, you are not alone. Start small and expand as your interest and time permit. No summertime garden is complete without tomatoes. Also, bush cucumbers will fit in small gardens, and so will the bush summer squash varieties. They can be planted in nontraditional garden areas like flowerbeds or as a small addition to the landscape. You can interplant lettuce plants with your impatiens and harvest them long before the impatiens covers the area. You’ll get some salad greens and kill two birds with one stone. Taking care of the impatiens ensures the lettuce is never neglected. In short, a vegetable garden can find its way into every area of your home’s landscape – whether it’s confined to its own area, combined into the annual or perennial gardens that you already have, or planted in containers on your deck or patio – it will provide the ultimate in fresh vegetable taste, and the safest vegetables you can produce for your family table.

Hang out your hummingbird feeders the first of this month. Use a solution of 1-part sugar to 4 parts water for the nectar. Change the solution frequently to keep it from fermenting. Food coloring is NOT needed or recommended. And keep your bird feeders full as nature’s harvest from last fall is long gone for the birds.  Birds are beginning to reproduce now, and food is very important.  Mother Nature must regrow and reproduce before they can feed the birds. I it is up to us!!  So please do your part.

Asparagus and rhubarb harvest can begin!! Keep your hoe sharp. Start cucumber, squash, and cantaloupe and watermelon seeds indoors this month. The last week of April is a good time to try an early sowing of warm season crops in the garden such as green beans, sweet corn, etc. You can begin to plant transplants of tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and sweet potatoes outdoors now. This can continue through the month of May. This is truly the year of the garden. So, reap your own harvest and enjoy the scrumptious flavors of your own produce. Remember, that Natural Gardening will keep your family safe, so check out what organic options are available to you! There are many.

Enjoy!  See you in the garden…
Sandi Hillermann McDonald

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Tips for the Garden – March 2021

            March welcomes ‘Spring’, and it will be met with open arms this year!! This is the month to open the gardens and get things in shape for the new growing season, which means there is plenty that can be done. To name a few; mowing time is upon us; have you sharpened those mower blades?  

To keep that lawn looking fantastic, it is time to add Fertilizer with Crabgrass Prevention. If you feel you need to over-seed the lawn, check with the professionals on proper steps for spring treatments.

           Clean up those perennial beds and cut down all Liriope and Ornamental Grasses to about 3-5” above the ground. Once this has been done, it is time to re-mulch your shrub and flower beds. Top-dress these areas with a slow-release fertilizer as well, such as Osmocote. Top dressing beds with organic compost is beneficial as well.

           Nesting boxes for Bluebirds and Purple Martin houses should be put out early this month. Purple Martins return to our area between St. Patrick’s Day and the end of the month. So now is the time to be prepared. Bluebirds generally stay around all year, but new babies will be coming along soon.  Sign up for our weekly, educational newsletter at to learn about tips and articles of these great birds.

Are you considering doing some vegetable gardening this year? Well, there is no better time than now to start those preparations. You can start seed in the house for plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Plant or sow seed for cool weather crops outside this month. Set out broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and pansy transplants now. This month is also good to set out fruiting plants. It is likely we will continue see an influx of home gardening this year. It can be done in containers on the patio, as square foot gardens, or large plot gardening. There is nothing better than a home-grown tomato!!

It is truly an exciting time of year to “wake up” the senses.  Trees are beginning to set buds, and wildlife is getting ready to multiply.  Enjoy every day, as everyday will continue to change.

           Now it is time to go, so we will “See you in the garden!”

Sandi Hillermann McDonald

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Tips for the Garden – February 2021

February is National Bird Feeding Month… this year the Audubon Society will continue making national awareness of the decline of birds in North America. This awareness of loss of nature began more than several years ago with bees, then butterflies, to pollinators and this year will focus on the loss of birds and their habitat. The next will be frogs. Our world is losing nature and it’s help for human survival at an alarming rate. I truly hope by now that these declines in nature have hit home with you and that you realize that now it is time to do something about it ourselves. You will hear much more about these environmental efforts throughout the year.

For winter care of birds one of the easiest things to provide is water. Providing shelter is another way to help. There is a shortage of nesting sites for cavity-nesting birds due to land development, and the use of pesticides. The use of birdhouses and nesting boxes has helped many species make a comeback. Landscaping that provides shelter can be a great help. Evergreen trees and shrubs provide a place out of the wind, snow, or rain. Birds gather in groups towards the inside and huddle together to create more warmth.

The final piece of the puzzle is providing food. Here in Missouri, winter is a difficult time for the bird species that have chosen to overwinter here. There is little to no vegetation, and most of the insects are dead or dormant. Most songbirds feed on insects and spiders during the spring and summer; however, the non-migratory species switch to fruit and seeds in the fall and winter. Black oil sunflower seeds are preferred by the largest number of bird species. Enjoy the birds this season with these simple tips.

It is also time to think about starting any garden and flower seeds in the house that you may want to grow this year. Our last frost date is around May 1st, so back up the weeks on the calendar for seed starting so you know when the best time for starting seeds in the house would be (seed packets will note the timing for this). Ample light is very important for this task.

Another cold weather job is cleaning up any containers or planters that you have stored away. While doing this, make a list of the flower plants that you are going to need for these containers in the spring.

Until next month,
Sandi Hillermann McDonald

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Tips for the Garden – January 2021

            HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! We truly welcome 2021!!  May the COVID pandemic become a thing of the past and just a bad memory. But this past year has taught us so much about ourselves and our communities. We do normal activities in a very different way now, such as going to church, grocery shopping, family gatherings, hangouts, and parties. I believe some of these new habits will stay around for a long time.

But when this pandemic started here in mid-March of last year, we did hunker down and stay home. That has brought a lot of families closer together and now enjoying bonding at home. We are doing more home gardening and there has been a lot of success with that. So now is a great time to gather the seed varieties you want to grow and plan out your garden process for this year. We are here to help if you need assistance.

            Birds appear to be homeless in winter, which makes people wonder where they go at night. In general, they choose to roost in the same kind of places as they build their nest during breeding season. Some birds will use the same roosting spot every night unless predators disturb them.

It’s hard to say who benefits more from backyard bird feeders, the birds or the people who feed them.  It is important to provide unfrozen water for the birds throughout winter. Put your birdbath in an open area, but near some trees or bushes to permit a quick escape if predators approach. Birds will visit regularly once they discover it is a safe and steady source of fresh water. Open water in freezing weather will attract as many or more birds, as a well-stocked feeder! Besides for drinking, birds use water to help keep them warmer in winter. By cleaning their feathers and grooming them with natural oils, our feathered friends are able to help insulate their bodies from cold. You can keep water thawed with a submersible heater placed directly in the water. Heated birdbaths are also available.


Visit the nursery often as the greenhouse is a great place to spend some time during dreary days of winter. In addition, new houseplants will be arriving weekly!

Time flies fast, so enjoy this winter, do an analysis on your landscape and prepare for spring projects… and we will “see you in the garden”.

Sandi Hillermann McDonald

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