Garden Solutions – February 2019

            February continues with dreary weather, but the anticipation of spring is closer every day.  Our daylight hours are getting a little longer, which holds the promise that spring will be here soon.  There are a few things to remind ourselves of, in preparation for this fabulous time of year.

            Seed sowing time is upon us!  Now is the time of year to start seeds indoors for slow growing annuals such as Ageratum, Petunias, Geraniums, Impatiens, Salvia and Coleus. Check out the great selections of seed varieties available. We may now also move into our gardens outside, if the weather permits, to start the seeds of Peas, Lettuce, Spinach and Radish. What a great feeling to work in the fresh air again!

Keep an eye out for Chickweed and Henbit in your lawn.  These two early weeds have already emerged and will be thick this year.  Spot treat these areas with Fertilome Weed-Out weed killer to keep it from going to seed.

Amaryllis Blooms            Amaryllis and Paperwhite bulbs can still be forced indoors this winter.  Make sure you keep the top 1/3 of the bulb out of the container, place into a sunny window, water and enjoy.  Houseplants will be coming out of their winter dormancy soon, so now is the time to consider repotting and trimming root bound plants.  This works best before vigorous growth occurs.  When transplanting, choose a container that is about 2” larger in diameter than the old pot your plant is in today.  This will make for an easier transition period for your plants.  Add a slow release fertilizer, such as Osmocote, at this time. We have a great selection of new and fun plant varieties.

Service and repair your lawn and garden equipment if you haven’t already done so.  Sharpen and oil your hand tools, if this wasn’t done last December when you put your gardens to rest.  A bucket of sand and a quart of motor oil work great for cleaning and oiling our tools.  Pour the motor oil into the sand and insert your tool blades. This will help keep them clean and keep them from rusting.  Have your lawn mower tuned up and the blades sharpened this month also.

Deep root feed all trees and shrubs once the soil thaws.  This gets the plants off to a great start for spring.  The fertilizer has a chance to flow up with the sap and directly to the new growth giving way for great green foliage and flowers.

Dormant spray all fruits, berry plants and roses with a dormant oil spray when the temperature is above 40*.  This will help protect the plants from any over wintering fungus spores and insect eggs.

It is time to go, so we will “See you in the garden!”
Sandi Hillermann McDonald

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Garden Solutions – January 2019

By Sandi Hillermann McDonald

            HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! We truly welcome 2019! If you can tolerate the cold weather, there are several things that you can do this month in your landscape that will lighten the load for the rest of the season. The main item is pruning or thinning of our woody ornamentals. Deciduous trees such as maples, oaks, ash, etc., can be pruned at this time. Interior, broken, or crossing branches should be removed now while you can see exactly what you are removing.

Now, I want to mention “bird feeding.” It’s hard to say who benefits more from backyard bird feeders, the birds or the people who feed them. Hang different types of feeders at different heights and near enough to your house so you can watch the birds at relatively close range.

            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.

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.

            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


Posted in bird feeding, birdbath heaters, birdbaths, birdfeeders, birds, Garden Solutions Articles, Garden Tips, Gardening Tips, Lawn and Garden, plant care, plants, Pruning trees and shrubs, tree and shrub care, trees, wild birds | Leave a comment

Garden Solutions – December 2018

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!

Winter officially arrives this month. Trimming or pruning of some of your trees and shrubs can be done now. Resist the urge to cut back everything. Most perennials benefit from adding a layer of mulch or dead leaves. Keep your ornamental grasses up until mid-March.

Plants get “chapped lips” too. Cold, dry winter winds and bright winter sun make our skin chapped and unhealthy. Those winds have a devastatingly similar effect on your plants too. No wonder your evergreens don’t look so great come spring. This drying effect is called desiccation. To fight desiccation, choose the right plants for windy, dry areas. Make sure to water your evergreens well through early December, before the ground freezes. Mulch your plants for winter to retain soil moisture as well as soil temperature. Use an anti-desiccant like Wilt Stop by Bonide. These products coat leaves and needles to slow down the loss of moisture.

Here are a few tips on winter houseplant care. Flowering plants need at least half a day of direct sunlight. The ideal temperatures for foliage plants are 68-70 degrees during the day and slightly lower at night. Remember, windowsill locations are much colder during the winter and plants may need to be moved to prevent them from getting chilled. The amount of water and fertilizers the houseplants need declines during winter.

Use caution when spreading salt or calcium on ice or snow packed walks or driveways. Salt can damage lawns and plantings, calcium is much safer to use. Be sure to designate areas to for piling snow from plowing in advance to prevent damage to trees, shrubs and lawns.

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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Garden Solutions – November 2018

            It is hard to believe we at the end of another summer and fall season. Below is a list of things you can do on warm fall days to prepare for winter.  Dig into these tasks listed below and enjoy the outdoors as much as you can!

  • An important step is to make sure all plants are well watered throughout November to insure adequate winter food reserves. That final soaking before the last frost is essential. Soak evergreens and new plantings again in midwinter during a warm spell if moisture is not abundant.
  • Mulching is an important step to keep soil temperatures from fluctuating so much.
  • Protect the trunks of transplanted or young trees to minimize frost cracks. White plastic roll covers and paper wrap are good choices.
  • Till up the vegetable garden to expose many insect pests to winter cold and reduce their numbers in next year’s garden.
  • Apply Winterizer fertilizer to the lawn to strengthen plant stems and roots and early spring green up.
  • Plant tulips and other spring bulbs now through December.
  • Dig and store tender bulbs planted this spring such as Dahlias, caladiums, and elephant ears.

  • Start paperwhite and amaryllis bulbs indoors now thru December.
  • Take steps to prevent garden ponds from freezing using a floating garden heater in the pond.
  • Set up bird feeders. Birds also appreciate a source of unfrozen drinking water.
  • When feeding the birds, set up tube feeders that are good for songbirds, platform feeders that are good for cardinals and larger birds, and suet that is a great source of fat and energy for woodpeckers.
  • Winter houseplant care: reduce fertilizer until spring, shorter days mean slower growth, slower growth means less frequent watering.
  • Leave ornamental grasses standing tall for winter interest in the garden and for feeding the birds. Cut them down to 2-4” in early spring.

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

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Garden Solutions – October 2018

I am going to focus on trees and pumpkins for this month’s article. Quite a different combination, but both need attention this time of year.

There are Many Benefits of Planting Trees. Consider all the benefits listed below, and remember fall is the perfect time to plant trees for an increased success rate next spring.

  • Trees are perfect for planting as living memorials, or to commemorate significant events in our lives.
  • Tree lined streets have a traffic calming effect, moving more slowly and safely.
  • Trees can be placed to screen unwanted views or noise from busy highways.
  • Trees improve our air quality by filtering ozone, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide from the air we breathe.
  • Trees give off oxygen that we need to breathe.
  • Trees reduce erosion and pollution in our waterways and may reduce the effects of flooding.
  • Trees provide food, protection, and homes for many birds and mammals.
  • Trees can reduce cooling costs in the summer by shading the south and west sides of your home.
  • Evergreen trees on the north side of your home can act as a windbreak for winter warmth.
  • The value of a well landscaped home with trees and shrubs can be as much as 10% higher than a similar home with no landscaping.

Now let’s change the focus to HALLOWEEN!!! What a great time to decorate and enjoy the season. Here are “Tips for Selecting and Preserving Your Pumpkin.”
When selecting a pumpkin choose one that does not have any bruises. Check for discoloration and soft spots. The size will not matter, however, to most children and some adults, bigger is better. Look for pumpkins with a sturdy stem. Check the bottom of the pumpkin to see if the base is damaged. If the pumpkin feels heavy and sloshes, put it back
If you place a pumpkin in a washtub of cold water, it will absorb the water and become very firm. Cut open the top of the pumpkin and clean out the seeds. If you have fine detail work to do, you may want to let your pumpkin soak overnight. This will firm up the pumpkin flesh and allow you to do intricate carving. You can add a small amount of bleach in the water to prevent mold and bacteria growth.
Once you have carved your pumpkin add a thin amount of petroleum jelly on the exposed cut edges. This will help seal moisture. If the pumpkin dries out you can try to revive it by soaking it in a bath of cold water for one to eight hours.
You can prepare your pumpkins ahead of time and keep them fresh for a future party or gathering. Wrap them in plastic wrap to hold and store them in the refrigerator.  They will stay fresh  for a very long time.
Once you remove a wet pumpkin for display, 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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Garden Solutions – September 2018

            There is no better time of year than this abundant season to catch your bearings, reevaluate the year, enjoy the harvest and relax. It is also the best time to take a few moments to invest in your home. There are many simple tasks you can do now, that will save time in the spring when you are twice as busy.

The kids are back in school and off to college. That makes it a good time to get back to work in the yard and garden. Especially if you have put your outdoor living projects off this summer because of bonding, vacations and sports programs……or hot, dry weather.

Our yards definitely DID suffer this summer. Thank goodness, the hottest month of the year is now behind us. Well, there is no better time to renovate and reseed than during this month of September. In fact, the perfect window of opportunity for lawn growth is August 15 – October 15. Even though it may be hot and dry, it is the perfect time of year to aerate and over seed established yards.

           The process should be done as follows: Cut the lawn a little shorter than normal (2-3 inches). Then run over the yard with a core aerator (this machine pulls plugs out of the ground about the size of your little finger). This whole process works best after a good rain or a deep watering. The core aeration process helps with the soil aeration, lessens soil compaction and makes for better, stronger grass root systems. Now, run a renovator over the area. This machine slices the ground with many little teeth and will break down the dirt clods from the core aeration process and bring up any dead thatch in the area.

You are ready to sow your grass seed and add fertilizer.  For a 50% stand of grass or less, you will not need additional cover such as straw. If you are over seeding bare areas or new lawn areas, you will need to straw these areas to hold moisture for seed protection. For the specific grass seed type, shop for seed specific to your area of need: shade, sun, part-shade and sun, etc

Add a Winterizer fertilizer to the entire area in late October or November. This whole process will “promise” you a beautiful strong lawn for spring of next year. Water is, of course, essential for this growth if Mother Nature does not cooperate. New lawn installations are also best at this time of year as well.


            Fall in Missouri is the ideal time of year to plant all kinds of things from cool-season vegetables to turf grasses, and especially shrubs, evergreens or deciduous trees. Yet, when it comes to planting, many gardeners only think of the spring. Why is fall such an ideal time to plant? First, the warm soil in the fall helps encourage root growth. The roots continue to grow through our mild winters becoming well established by the spring. This makes fall plantings much better equipped to handle our heat and drought once summer finally arrives. Plus, our fall and spring rains help do the work in establishing your plants, so you don’t have to do as much. During this time, there is also fewer pests and disease problems to attack your plant while it is young.

Planting trees in the fall of the year is perfect timing to get better results. Choosing varieties for that special spot should be given some thought.  You will help the environment, lower your electric bills, and enhance your property value.

            Now turn your focus to Fall Decorations….and change the Curb Appeal of your yard by giving it a face-lift for fall. Change out those summer containers and flowerbeds with fall bedding plants that work long into the fall season, which in our case here in Missouri can be thru mid November. You should be able to find such plants as pansies, ornamental cabbage, kale, ornamental grasses, hardy garden mums and MUCH more. Don’t forget to add in straw, corn stalks, pumpkins and gourds to give it a complete look. Extend the look of your outdoor room and enjoy the extended season.

Fall bulbs are available now and should be considered for spring color in your garden! So start thinking ahead to next year and get in on the action now.

*For additional information about fall gardening and tips, check out the following website:

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


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Garden Solutions – August 2018

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 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, it has been an extremely tough moisture year, 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. Our water table is very low.  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.


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


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