Tips for the Garden – August 2020

     Our summer continues with a lot of unknowns and questions still left unanswered. But the garden will welcome your every visit. Enjoy the opening of every new flower and every new bird or butterfly to visit.

Your main tasks for this month begin with the letter W. Weeding and watering. Both tasks are pretty 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. When using herbicides be sure to read and follow all label directions thoroughly. They are written for your protection. 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, August is usually an extremely low moisture month, so 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. When the weather is dry, 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 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. The possibilities are still quite many, so carry that garden adventure out a little further into the fall. You won’t be disappointed!


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

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Tips for the Garden – July 2020

Well summer has come with a vengeance of heat and humidity. This IS Missouri, right? This summer is seeing the opening of outdoor playgrounds, stores, facilities and so much more. Now is the time to gather and celebrate each other and enjoy nature! But please still do it at a safe distance.

We have all experienced a NEW spring never seen before with this COVID virus. We have learned from it, became more appreciative of our surroundings, and of family and friends. Now let us get back to keeping our little pieces of sanctuary (and sanity) in tack and enjoyable.

It’s not too late to plant shrubs, perennials and annual flowers, but you will need to give them a little TLC for the summer.Japanese_Beetles (1)

If Japanese beetles are attacking your plants, you have several options; from trapping (the safest) to spraying them. Japanese beetle traps are readily available and do a fantastic job of eradicating the problem naturally.

Hot, dry weather is ideal for spider mite development. Damage may be present even before the webs are noticed. With spider mite damage, leaves may be speckled above and yellowed below. Evergreen needles appear dull gray-green to yellow to brown. Spray with permethrin to control this critter.
IrrigationDrip-Sprinkle-W      Water conservation is of the utmost importance during our dry summer months. Water where it counts, at the roots, not the leaves. Drip irrigation systems in landscape beds do wonders for water conservation and are easy for the homeowner to install. Trees and shrubs would also benefit from a deep root watering this time of year. You can use a deep root feeder (without the fertilizer) for this purpose. Water plants around the drip line for best success. Doing this every 2-3 weeks is beneficial. When you mow your grass, cut it less frequently and at a higher level. Longer grass blades shade the soil and conserve moisture. Plant drought tolerant, native plants where possible.
Native plants are becoming a true staple in the landscape.Garden_Porch_Hanging_Baskets_PW

Check your plant containers daily for water. Hanging baskets will need a drink at least once a day, sometimes even twice a day, depending on the weather. Provide water in the garden for birds during dry weather and they will repay you with wonderful antics and bird song. Enjoy nature and your gardens this summer. You will not regret it.

See you in the Garden,
Sandi Hillermann McDonald

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Tips for the Garden – June 2020

            I, for one, cannot believe it is the first of June already. This year is really flying by. This is the month for picnics, vacations, family reunions, and for just enjoying the outdoors in general. I truly hope we can get back to these ‘old’ traditions as our new norm.

            If you are new to planting or gardening this year, please stay in touch when you have questions so we can help you through your new experiences.

            The hot days of summer are stressful to every living creature, including your plants.  Not only does mulch hold in moisture, it also keeps the soil cooler, so your plants will be less heat-stressed.


            One of the most common questions that we receive at this time of year is, “How much do I water my ______?” I will explain some basic guidelines here:

            Vegetables and Bedding Plants planted in the ground: established plants need at least one inch of water per week. Check the soil around the plants, when it is dry one inch down, it’s time to water.

            Container Gardens and Hanging Baskets: check your containers every day for water. Either test the soil by touch or lift the pot to check its weight. Most baskets and many containers will need to be watered once a day, depending on the weather. I suggest you fertilize once a week.

            Perennials: newly planted perennials need daily watering until established, at least  two weeks, depending on weather. After they show signs of new growth, apply a one inch per week rule.

            Trees and Shrubs should be watered every 4-5 days for the entire first year after planting unless rainfall is abundant. Place the end of your hose next to the base of the plant and let the water trickle very slowly for about two hours. This will allow the root zone to become thoroughly saturated.


            Established Lawns: your lawn should be watered when the grass blades don’t bounce back after being walked on. One inch of water per week should keep your lawn green and healthy.

            Newly Seeded or Sodded Lawns: for better germination, I suggest you mulch grass seed with straw as soon as it is planted. Once seed has germinated or sod has been laid, they must not be allowed to dry out. Water daily with a sprinkler until there is good growth. Once established, go back to the one inch per week rule.

            So, continue to enjoy your outdoor spaces and make relationships with your plants! They can give you so much in return!

See you in the Garden,
Sandi Hillermann McDonald

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Tips for the Garden – May 2020


            During this spring season it may be more important than ever to grow your own food. It can be a fun and satisfying activity that can nourish your body and your soul. Most seasoned vegetable gardeners look forward to their time spent in their garden, because the rewards are so great! And the therapy it provides is even better!!

Most edible plants prefer 6 or more hours of sun, although leaf veggies (like lettuce) can grow with less sunlight. Consider container gardens if you have a bright deck or patio. Edibles can also be incorporated into your flowerbeds and ornamental plantings as well. Be sure the area has good circulation or airflow.

The key ingredient to a vegetable garden is the soil foundation. Amend the topsoil with compost or well-rotted manure.

            Base your crop selection on what your family likes to eat. Plant your tall crops (like corn and climbers) on the north side of the garden to prevent them from shading the other shorter plants. Plant medium sized plants (like peppers, tomatoes….) towards the center. Short crops, like carrots, radishes, and lettuce, should be planted on the south end. Try to orient your garden from north to south for best sun coverage.

Here is a sample plant list for a healthy family of four: 10 tomato plants, 4 cucumber plants, 12 broccoli plants, 8 cauliflower plants, 20 lettuce plants, 6 pepper plants, 10 spinach plants, 2 zucchini or squash plants, and essential herbs

Other essentials……Compost, shovel, hard rake and tiller, Fertilizer—natural/organic or commercial, Tomato cages, stakes

I truly hope you enjoy the spring and summer season and try your hand at growing fresh produce for your family.

See you next month,
Sandi Hillermann McDonald

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Tips for the Garden – April 2020

            Vegetable gardening is making a comeback, and this new fascination is like the Victory Garden rage of yesteryear. Not just because of COVID-19, another 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 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, nor is it recommended for the birds. 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 2020

Spring is almost here!!!!!!  What a wonderful feeling to be able to spend more time outside enjoying what Mother Nature is unfolding before our eyes. The lengthening of days is a welcome site and the warming sun on our faces is also a very great feeling.

          Mowing time is around the corner.  Thin spots and bare patches in the lawn can be over seeded now if you don’t intend to use a crabgrass pre- venter on your lawn. Last summer’s heat and drought may make this a necessity this spring, if you missed the opportunity last fall.

If you don’t over seed, now is the time to apply Fertilome Crabgrass + Lawn Food. We have long summer seasons here and recommend that you make two applications of this product (4-6 weeks apart) to keep your yards crabgrass free this summer.

Begin spring cleanup of perennial beds now. Cut perennials to 3” above the ground. Remove damaged foliage and old flower stalks. Ornamental grasses and hardy hibiscus can be pruned back to 6” above the ground as well.

Once flower beds have been cleaned up, re-mulching can be done. Be sure not to mulch on the crowns of plants. Dry feed beds with a granular fertilizer, such as Osmocote, and apply a pre-emergent if you do not plan to plant any flower seeds. Pre-emergent products will put down a barrier over your flower beds that keep weed seeds from germinating, making weeding an easier job this summer. Divide summer and fall blooming perennials now, along with ornamental grasses if you so desire.

          Plant/sow peas, lettuce, radish, kohlrabi, collards, turnips, potatoes, spinach, onion sets, beets, carrots, and parsley outside this month. Set out broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower and pansy transplants now. This month is also great for setting out strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, grapes and fruit trees.

Start seeds indoors this month for tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. And houseplants can still be repotted. Continue to check houseplants for over wintering insect populations.

Purple Martins on birdhouse          Nesting boxes for bluebirds can be set up as well as Purple Martin houses. Bluebird boxes are best at about 5’ off the ground on a fence post in the open with the entry hole facing away from prevailing winds. Purple Martins return to our zone 6 region between St. Patrick’s Day and the end of the month. So, now is the time to clean out those houses and be prepared.

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 2020

February is National Bird Feeding Month… this year the Audubon Society will be 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 planting in the house would be. 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 flowers 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 2020


It is hard to say who benefits more from backyard bird feeders – the birds or the people who feed them. Some of life’s more enjoyable moments include the songs and antics of the birds outside our windows. Watching them is so captivating that it can alter an entire day’s plans, turning a twenty-minute breakfast into a three-hour brunch. Activity at your feeders probably can hold your attention all day with its ever-changing pattern of form and color, from fluffed-up chickadees to sleek cardinals.  But yet I hear, where have all the birds gone?  I don’t have as many as I used to.

Until recent years the brightest spot on the winter landscape, with the most activity, is the bird feeder in the backyard. No matter what size yard or garden you have, you can create your own bird haven. All you need are food, water, and shelter. Shrubs and evergreens are good, not only to offer cover during harsh northern winters, but also to protect birds from their natural enemies. I encourage you to look at your landscape and see what you can do to encourage wild bird habitat.

           Several years ago, there was a national call to ‘save the bees!’. The last two years it has remained bees, and the Monarch butterfly was added to the list. This year you will be reading quite a lot from the National Audubon society as well as other environmental groups that we should now be worried about the huge decline in our native bird numbers. Birds are very important to our ecological and environmental health. They too, are great pollinators, and help keep insects at bay.

So, I ask you, to look around your neighborhoods and parks. Close your eyes and listen. Maybe not as melodious as it used to be? The ultimate bird songs so familiar as we were growing up, not as prevalent. Now is the time to act and plan to enhance your gardens and landscapes with beneficial plants such as native species that will feed our feathered friends. Let’s continue to increase the pollination process we need for good environmental health.

Birds at winter birdfeeder            Start this winter by offering food, water and shelter to our feathered friends. It is so easy to do, and we can help. Next spring add natives to the landscapes or containers, and we will be well on our way of enhancing our little piece of heaven here on earth.


Happy New Year dear friends…

See you in the garden…
Sandi Hillermann McDonald


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Tips for the Garden – December 2019

The month of December brings the holiday season and warm thoughts of family, friends and community. I would like to say “Thank You” and wish you and yours a “Blessed Holiday Season” with all the best in the New Year!

Fall will turn into winter this month. It may not always be the most comfortable time to be planting anything in your landscape, but it is a great time for the plants. Trees and shrubs are completely dormant now, so the concept of transplant shock does not apply.

Trimming or pruning of some of your trees and shrubs can be done now. Basically, it breaks down like this, if the tree or shrub flowers before the 1st of June don’t touch it now. If it flowers after the 1st of June, you can safely cut it now. Resist the urge to cut back everything.

Here are a few tips on winter houseplant care. Flowering plants need at least half a day of direct sunlight. Cacti and many succulents require a sunny location, and crotons need direct sun to maintain the decorative color. The ideal temperatures for foliage plants are 68-70 degrees during the day and slightly lower at night. The amount of water the houseplants need declines during winter, so increase the amount of time between watering.  Reduce fertilizing as well.

Some of the plants in your landscape can help you decorate for the Christmas season as you prune them for next year. Holly and Boxwood can be trimmed now with some of the cuttings used to accent wreaths or live indoor plants. Some of the growth of evergreens such as White Pine, Norway Spruce, and even some of the seed heads of ornamental grasses can be used to make a harvest wreath or basket for your front door or porch. Talk about recycling! After Christmas, you can take them to your compost bin for future fertilizer!

Continue to feed our fine feathered friends and place heated birdbaths with fresh water out for them.

Again, I wish you and your family a very Blessed Christmas season. Let’s get to work on planning that beautiful garden scene for next year!

See you in the Garden……
Sandi Hillermann Mcdonald


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Tips for the Garden – November 2019

Attracting Birds to your Neighborhood

There are a number of ways to attract birds to your garden, from planting native plants to providing safe stopover areas for them to eat, drink and nest.

Provide water year-round – A simple birdbath is a great start. Change water every 2-3 days in summer and use a heater in the winter. Place the water container about 10 feet from dense shrubs or other cover that predators may use.

Then, install Natives Plants– Select a variety of native plants to offer year-round food in the form of seeds, berries, nuts, and nectar. Try to recreate the plant ecosystem native to your area. Evergreen trees and shrubs provide excellent cover through all seasons, check our for an amazing lists of local natives great for pollination and food sources.

Eliminate insecticides in your yard – Insects are the primary source of food for many bird species and are an important source of protein and fats for growing juvenile birds.

Keep dead trees – Dead trees provide cavity-dwelling places for birds to raise young and as a source to collect insects for food. Many species will also seek shelter from bad weather inside these hollowed out trees.

Put out nesting boxes – Make sure the boxes have ventilation holes at the top and drainage holes below. Do not use a box with a perch, as house sparrows are known to sit on a nesting box perch and peck at other birds using the nesting box. Be sure to monitor the boxes for invasive animal species known to harm or out-compete native species.

Build a brush pile in a corner of your yard – Start with larger logs and top with smaller branches. Some birds will hunt, roost or even nest in brush piles.

Put out birdfeeders–Bird feeders are great sources of supplemental food during times of food scarcity, and also enhance bird viewing opportunities.  Wintertime is beneficial for this as the natural source of pods and seeds become scarce.

Remove invasive plants from your wildlife habitat – Many invasive plants out-compete the native species favored by birds, insects and other wildlife. Check with your local U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative Extension System office for information on plant species to avoid.

I hope you enjoy these tips for enjoying more wildlife in your yards!

Enjoy every minute!
Sandi Hillermann McDonald


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