Garden Solutions – August 2019

            Here are a few health benefits of enjoying the great outdoors. Activities like carting mulch around in a wheelbarrow, digging in the soil, plus all that bending and lifting involved in planting really does burn calories. Studies show that depending on the activity, gardening can burn between 250 and 500 calories per hour. For many people gardening is a creative outlet, for others it is the change of scenery from the daily grind that makes a difference. Still others find that the satisfaction of reaping the rewards (those tasty fruits and vegetables, and beautiful flowers) of your efforts is what helps to reduce stress levels.

We have been blessed with great moisture this year, even going into summer.  But water is important for Wildlife in your yard, as well as all new and established plantings.  So, keep a close eye on these things.

Here are additional tips for August:

  • Keep deadheading spent annual and perennial flowers for continued bloom.
  • Feed garden mums and asters for the last time.
  • Monitor plants for spider mite activity. To check for spider mites, hold a white piece of paper under a suspected branch. Tap on the branch and then run your hand across the paper. If you get red streaks, you have spider mites!
  • Prune to shape hedges for the last time this season.
  • Once bagworms reach full size, insecticides are ineffective. Pruning off and burning or discarding of large bags provides better control.
  • Watch for fall webworm activity.
  • Cultivate Strawberries and apply weed preventer immediately, after fertilizing to help with fall germinating weeds such as henbit or chickweed.
  • Pinch the growing tips of gourds once the adequate fruit set amount is achieved. This directs energy into the ripening fruits, rather than vine production.
  • Broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower transplants should be set out for the fall garden. Also, sow seeds of lettuce, radish, beans, beets, spinach and turnips now. (Spinach may germinate better if the seeds are refrigerated.)Time to go… See you in the Garden!!

Sandi Hillermann McDonald


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Garden Solutions – July 2019

Butterfly_Monarch_Caterpillar_Flowers_w  Tip for the month of July—Sit Back and Relax!! For many of us, the 4th of July date marks the beginning of the entertainment season. We plan, we phone, we shop, we decorate, we mow, we clean, we check supplies, we shop again, we cook, we carry lawn chairs and coolers outside, and we fret about the weather. When the guests arrive it, all starts over. Pouring, serving, clearing, fetching, and recycling can fill hours, if we let them. So, part of the planning needs to include ways to have some time for you to sit back and enjoy your party, too. Making your event a potluck will eliminate much of the shopping and cooking. Have everyone bring their own beverages. And finally, don’t mow. Your lawn will do better with foot traffic if it is left a little bit longer. Now that we have talked about having parties and enjoying your yard and garden, let’s get down to other tasks at hand for July.

>July Tips for the Garden 2008

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. If you have Japanese beetles, you have several options for controlling them, from handpicking (not my favorite) to trapping (the safest) or 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. Sweet corn is ripe when the silks turn brown. Blossom-end rot occurs on tomato and peppers when soil moisture is uneven and the calcium level in the soil is not right. Adding lime to the garden soil will help these issues next year.

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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 do wonders for water conservation and are easy 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). Water them around the drip line of the tree for best success. Water frequently enough to prevent wilting. 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.

Check your plant containers daily for dryness. Put your finger at least one inch down in the soil, if it is dry, water thoroughly. 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 won’t regret it.


See you in the Garden,

Sandi Hillermann McDonald

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Garden Solutions June 2019

     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. There can be so many things to discuss. This month I will begin with a reminder that June is National Perennial Gardening Month. Perennials include POLLINATOR plants to help save our butterflies, bees and birds.

Past and present Perennials of the Year are usually great choices for anyone’s garden, as they are tried and true varieties. Check the Perennial Plant Association website at for perennial plants of the year since 1991.       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 outdoors, enjoying our gardens. If all of you have kept up with your tasks, then this month should be easy. However, if you are like me, June will be a month you can get caught up.

Here are garden tips for June:

– Watch for the outbreak of bagworms.

– Investigate the importance of Pollinators, and consider how you can help.

– Water turf as needed to prevent drought stress and watch for fungus problems.

– Mow lawns frequently enough to remove no more than one-third the total height per mowing.

– 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!

– 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.

– Gray squirrels begin a second breeding.

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 time for many things. 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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Gardening Solutions – May 2019

OutdoorLivingGardenWs9x6Times are changing and everyone is busier than ever; with kids to coach, meetings to attend and work to do. So “coming” home at the end of a day can be even more important to us than ever. Enjoy daylight savings time and extend your living quarters to your yard and garden. Think of your outdoor spaces as an extension of your home. And in doing so, consider the floor, walls, and ceiling per se. Outdoor fire pits, grill and bar centers, rugs, clocks, décor and more are available to add a cozy room effect to outdoor living spaces. Adding resting areas 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. Then invite friends over and have a cook out. 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. Hardscapes can enhance your outdoor rooms by adding a “floor” to your area of enjoyment.

Begin planting summer annuals to add color and spice to the landscape, and don’t just stop with the flowerbeds. Container gardening continues to be a trendy thing. The many choices, styles, shapes, and colors of containers make great accent pieces for inside or out. Learn to mix annuals and perennials for great combinations. Try hostas with impatiensbegonias 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. And you can rearrange them as often as you wish. No room for a vegetable garden? Try one in a container. You can enjoy fresh tomatoes easily this way.OutdoorLivingBenchContainers-PWs6x4    There are many safe options to treat pests in the yard and garden. 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. Check out the chemical-free options available to you today. Then sit back and watch your kids and pets enjoy the beautiful outdoors.

Other May tips include:
– Plant hardy water lilies now.
– Begin fertilizing annuals now and continue at regular intervals all season long.
– Keep bluegrass lawns cut at 3” high, fescue lawns at 3.5” high and zoysia at 2” high.
– Apply post-emergence broadleaf weed controls to the lawn now if needed.
– Begin planting sweet corn, tomato plants, peppers and sweet potatoes as the soil
warms up.
– Keep asparagus harvested for continued spear production.
– Remove rhubarb seed stalks as they appear.
– Birds eat many insects so attract them to your garden by providing good nesting habitats.
– Herbs planted in average soils need no extra fertilizer. Too much may reduce flavor and
pungency at harvest.
– Watch for fireflies on warm nights. Both adults and larvae are important predators.

Until next month,…Enjoy connecting with nature and….see you in the garden….
Sandi Hillermann McDonald

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Garden Solutions – April 2019

April is the “opener” of spring. Grass greens up, trees leaf out, shrubs begin to bloom,
perennials come back, and the birds sing. This is truly my favorite time of year. The seasons move so fast, this is one that you need to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n and enjoy every day.

One of the movements across the country remains “Protecting the Pollinators”. The decline of most pollinators is still a strong concern. We need to make ourselves aware to save ALL pollinators. We can help with this by being aware of our surroundings and eliminating the use of insecticide products. If you have an insect issue, talk to us about methods of controlling pests without harming pollinators. Our food supply depends on it.

I have made a short list of some of the common, timely items that need attention as we begin this season of Spring!

– When Crabapples are in bloom, hardy annuals can be planted.
– Transplant trees, shrubs and perennials early in the month for best success.
– Spots and bare patches in the lawn can still be over seeded if you did not apply a Crabgrass Preventer. During spring there are more issues to be aware of when seeding a lawn rather than in the fall.
– Liquid weed control should be applied this month to control dandelions, other broadleaf weeds. New grass from seed MUST have grown enough to be mowed 3 times to make it strong enough to withstand weed chemicals.
– Start cucumber, squash, cantaloupe and watermelon seeds indoors this month.
– Termites begin swarming. Termites can be distinguished from ants by their thick waists and straight antennae. Ants have slender waists and elbowed antennae.
– Mole young are born in chambers deep underground.
– Hang out hummingbird feeders the first of this month. Use a solution of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Change the solution frequently to keep it from fermenting.
– The last week of April is a good time to try an early sowing of warm season crops such as green beans, sweet corn, etc. Transplants of tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and sweet potatoes can also start being planted outdoors.
– Container gardening is good choice for flower and vegetable gardening if space is in short supply. It can be done by anyone, anywhere, check it out!!
– “Natural Gardening” is here to stay………..keep your family safe and check out what
organic/natural options are available to you when gardening this year. There are many.

Well, time is running short…see you in the garden
Sandi Hillermann McDonald

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Garden Solutions – March 2019

Cream colored pansy with purple accents            WOW what a winter we had this year! 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 warm sun on our faces is also a very great feeling. We “spring forward” with Daylight Savings Time on Sunday, March 10 this year. That is exciting.

The grass will be greening up and mowing time is just around the corner. Mow lawns now to remove old growth and the last of winter’s leaves before new growth begins. Thin spots and bare patches in the lawn can be over seeded now if you don’t intend to use a crabgrass preventer 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 your lawn, now is the time to apply Fertilome Crabgrass Plus Lawn Food. We have long summer seasons here, and actually 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 this month. 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 now.

Once flowerbeds have been cleaned up, re-mulching can be done. Be sure not to mulch on the crowns of plants. Top dress or dry feed beds with a granular fertilizer, such as Osmocote, and apply a pre-emergent to help keep weed seeds from germinating. 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.

            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. Pat’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, “See you in the garden!!”
Sandi Hillermann McDonald



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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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