Creative Resolutions for Your Garden in 2023

Garden Center

A new year brings new beginnings to our garden too. It’s an opportunity to reflect on what went well and how we can make improvements in 2023. If you’re looking for new directions, here are ten resolutions to reduce your workload, enhance your design, and make your garden more eco-friendly!  

Grow More Native Plants 

As longtime residents of New Hampshire, native plants often require less maintenance than garden cultivars, and are more resilient to environmental stressors, like drought and pests. They’re also beneficial to native birds and wildlife, and provide gifts of tea, herbs, and food to us too. Plus, they express the unique beauty of our natural landscapes!

SL Garden Center-Moultonborough-Creative Resolutions for Your Garden in 2023-bee on flowerIncrease Your Pollinator Habitat 

Anytime you attract a greater diversity of insects to your garden you’ll increase its resilience, boost natural pest control, and help reverse the trend of pollinator decline in our larger ecosystems. Pollinators are especially important to enhance the yields of your fruit, berries, nuts, and vegetables. Growing more native species, having blooms in each season, and providing overwintering habitats are a few of the many ways to attract beneficial insects.  

Have Blossoms in Every Season 

Spring is not the only time for flowers. In fact, the most beautiful gardens have blooming plants throughout the whole growing season. The nectar is also essential to feed bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and more from spring to fall. So, flip through your memories of last season, see where you have gaps between blooms, and research plants to fill in the intervals. 

SL Garden Center-Moultonborough-Creative Resolutions for Your Garden in 2023-planting a treePlant in Empty Spaces 

Take a look at the empty places in your landscape and see if you can make them blossom with new flowers, vegetables, shrubs, or trees. Any vacant spot is an opportunity to enjoy more color, scent, vegetables, and nourishment for the birds and bees. More life in your garden feels more inspiring and looks more beautiful too.  

Take Advantage of Groundcovers 

What is it about professional gardens that seem to be overflowing with life? A common trend is the use of groundcovers. Nestled in between perennials, these low-lying plants provide a carpet of flowers that often blossom for many months. By covering the ground, they also hold in moisture and prevent the growth of weeds. Check out creeping phlox, creeping thyme, lamium, or sedum!

SL Garden Center-Moultonborough-Creative Resolutions for Your Garden in 2023-companion plantingUse Companion Planting 

Far from a new trend, companion planting is a gardening technique that humans have been using for thousands of years. It takes advantage of beneficial relationships between plants to boost natural pest control, enhance yields, and cycle nutrients. Planting marigolds near vegetables to ward off pests is one of many examples. Research ideal combinations for your favorite garden plants and take advantage of them this year!   

Start a Compost Pile 

Composting is another long-standing garden trend that’s not going away anytime soon. It’s arguably an essential part of reusing plant material and replenishing nutrients in your soil. Compost doesn’t have to be stinky either. In fact, a healthy compost pile should have a rich, earthy smell. The key is to have the correct proportions of nitrogen and carbon, and to turn it often.  

SL Garden Center-Moultonborough-Creative Resolutions for Your Garden in 2023-water runoff from houseBetter Water Management 

Save yourself the effort and reduce your footprint with better water management. Setting up timers, using drip irrigation lines, mulching your gardens, and watering in the morning rather than midday can all help conserve water. On the other hand, planting rain gardens and ensuring proper sloping helps manage excess water on your landscape. 

Grow Plants in the Right Places 

Every plant has its preferred home, whether in shade or sun, or dry or wet spots. Often, many plants still grow even if their conditions are not ideal, but they’ll be more work to water, more prone to pests, and won’t look their best. You can let your plants reduce your workload by ensuring they are in the right spot. Research any plants that were suffering last year and transplant them this season, if necessary. 

SL Garden Center-Moultonborough-Creative Resolutions for Your Garden in 2023-bird watchingStart a Phenology Practice 

The key to eco-friendly gardening is to take advantage of the natural features in your landscape and mesh your garden with the larger ecosystem around you. Both of these practices hinge on knowing your land in a deep way—that’s where phenology comes in. It’s the practice of observing the activities of wildlife, insects, plants, and weather throughout the seasons. Just by observing and recording what’s going on around you, you’ll get ideas of how to improve your garden and integrate it into the ecosystem. Plus, phenology is an enjoyable practice on its own!  

For more ideas on new gardening directions in 2023, feel free to visit our garden center in Moultonborough, New Hampshire, and follow us on Facebook or Instagram for updates and featured products! 

 

Rain is Here to Stay

Landscape Design

Fall and winter in New England produce a lot of rain and snow. All that water will make its way down our roofs, through our gutters and drainpipes, across our lawns and driveways, out to the street, into our municipal water supplies, and out into streams, lakes, and oceans. With that water unfortunately comes pollution, however unintended.

As homeowners, is there anything we can do to mitigate the damage unclean stormwater can do to our local environment? As a matter of fact, there’s an easy and beautiful way to both clean the water and add beauty to your landscaping—install a rain garden!

Rain gardens can be a lovely and cost-effective way of “going with the flow”, pardon the pun. A rain garden can add a focal point while also serving to reduce and clean stormwater runoff from your property and possibly alleviating possible future water problems, like water in your basement, if installed correctly.

What is a Rain Garden?

A rain garden is a dip or indent in the ground that where plants are sown; this garden area is specifically designed to collect, treat, and filter stormwater runoff. Because these gardens are sunk lower than the lawn, the dirty runoff water collects there instead of running directly into the street, and is absorbed slowly into the dirt, and/or filtered by your plants.

Where Should I Put My Garden?

A rain garden should be at least ten feet away from your house, to keep it away from your house’s foundation, and at least fifty feet away from any septic system or well. If you are unsure about the quality of your soil, a good test is to dig a hole about twelve inches deep and pour water into it; if the water disappears within twenty-four hours, the soil is the perfect quality to host a rain garden.

Rain Garden Planting Areas & Plant Suggestions

When considering plants for your rain garden, remember you’ll have three areas to consider:

  • The edge: This is the top of the rain garden, where there is a mound of dirt. This is the highest point. You’ll need to select plants that prefer drier conditions here. Some plant ideas include:
    • White Turtlehead: They prefer dry soil and pollinators love them
    • Hairy Beardtongue: These delicate blooms attract hummingbirds and butterflies
    • Butterfly Milkweed: These tiny and lovely orange flowers are long blooming
  • The slope: As its name implies, this is the part that goes downward from the top of the edge to the bottom, and out from the middle to the edge. Choose plants that can handle both moisture and dry conditions.
    • Wild Bergamot: This striking flower adds color and attracts pollinators
    • Bottlebrush Grass: This wispy tall grass is perfect for providing texture and visual interest
    • Blue False Indigo: This perennial bush will add deep blue flowers to your garden
  • The base: The bottom is the most wet part of the rain garden, and plants here need to be able to survive the wettest conditions.
    • Astilbe: Choose pink, red, purple, or white moisture-loving perennials
    • Swamp Rose Mallow: Large, showy blooms make a great centerpiece for your garden
    • Winterberry: The bright red berries will add welcome color to your garden throughout the winter months

For more helpful information on rain gardens, we recommend clicking here!

 

One Last Consideration

While rain gardens are relatively easy to install, an improperly installed one can cause problems with drainage—the thing they were designed to help alleviate. We’ve helped many homeowners add rain gardens to their properties, and we’d love to help you add this functional beauty spot to your own. Please call us at 603.707.0630 or email us to get started.

Fall into Planting for Spring

Planting

When winter gives way and spring is on the horizon, many of our thoughts turn to our gardens, lawns, and planning what to plant in the coming year. But, from a landscaping perspective, fall is a much better time to plant anything but annuals or plants too delicate to survive our cold winters.

It may seem strange to plant when the usual growing season is winding down, but by planting in the fall, you’re giving your plants a better chance of survival. Then in the spring when your plants start to grow, you’ll be ahead of the game and your landscaping will look great in a shorter period of time.

Why plant in the fall?

When plants grow in the summer, many factors—hot temperatures, varying humidity levels, drought, or occasional periods of heavy rain—tend to add stress to plants. In the fall, the soil is still warm enough to nourish growing plants, and the more moderate temperatures and increased rain will give your plantings a healthy, stress-free start.

The cooler air temperatures in the fall mean that the plants will not waste a lot of their energy growing upward. Instead, they will focus their energy downward, establishing strong root systems before going dormant in cold weather. When spring arrives, your plants will already have a strong foundation from which to grow, making them hardier for the growing season, and giving them a better chance for survival.

As you’ve watched over your lawn and gardens through the summer, you’ve undoubtedly lost some plants or found some trouble spots. Autumn is a great time to work on those problem areas.

It’s also the perfect time to add shrubs and trees specifically for winter interest, and add a bit of color to our usually stark and colorless landscape. Trees like basswood/linden and spruce trees prefer to be planted in the fall and do really well in cold weather. A hawthorn tree will produce beautiful white flowers in the spring, and by planting a maple tree, you’ll get beautiful colors on the leaves next autumn. The Japanese maple, a garden favorite, does best when planted in the fall. Really, most any tree or shrub that will grow in our New England environment can be planted in the fall, and these trees prefer to have the extra time to root themselves deeply before the summer growing season.

As for personal comfort level, planting in the fall is a bit more pleasant as the cooler temperatures make it easier to work outside on your property without the bright sun and high humidity of summer months. An added bonus to working in the garden in the fall is that fewer weeds will grow, and there will be fewer insects and pests to deal with.

Planning for Spring Beauty

There are a great variety of things you can plant now to give you early pops of color in your spring yard. Plants like tulips and hyacinths need cold temperatures before they will bloom; crocuses, winter heath, and snowdrops will bloom through the snow. Lilly of the valley and bleeding hearts will add early color to your garden, as will peonies, pansies, and violets. If deer are a problem, consider planting things that deer do not like to nibble on, like grape hyacinths, daffodils, or anything from the allium family.

If you’d like to add a bit of greenery to your landscape, select a cold-season turf to help the bare or brown spots in your lawn, or add trees and shrubs to your property for added interest.

Plan to get all plantings in the ground about six weeks before the usual date of first frost, and mulch your plants before the nights get too cool, which will protect your plants even further. And all your landscaping needs a good fertilizing this time of year to get it ready for winter, so be sure to add a little extra to your new plants for some TLC.

Extending the Season

If you are not quite ready for the growing season to be over, there are some plants you can plant in the fall that will be ready to harvest until the winter, and even through the cold months. (Just make sure to plant them six weeks before the first frost.) Some cold tolerant plants that can be grown in our zone include:

  • Lettuce (it can grow after a little snow or frost)
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Cilantro
  • Turnips
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Kale (will grow all through the winter)

Let us help you prepare your landscaping for fall and the growing seasons beyond. Give us a call at 603.707.0630 or email and we’ll work with you to come up with a plan to get ready for spring and beyond.

Water and Your Landscaping

Landscape Maintenance

In this month’s blog, we’ll discuss how to deal with the water conditions of your property: having not enough and having too much.

Dealing with Drought

If it hasn’t rained for a while, look for signs that your landscaping is experiencing water stress—plants with stunted growth or brown or yellow leaves, trees dropping leaves and have some dead branches, plants in the garden may not have flowers or start to seed early, and your lawn may start to show footprints or can’t “bounce back” after you walk on it or may even begin to show brown spots in some areas.

If a drought is coming, there are steps you can take immediately to minimize the damage:

  • Add mulch to garden areas and bare spots. Mulch keeps areas cool and traps moisture.
  • Don’t add any new plants; instead, focus your watering efforts to your existing landscape.
  • Don’t fertilize your plants or lawn. If you must fertilize, cut the amount of fertilization by half. Your lawn and plants are trying to survive, not grow. Fertilization is not needed at this time.
  • Pruning is not necessary, but remove dead branches and leaves, stalks, etc.
  • If plants look like they are going to die, remove them. Try not to waste water on something that will not make it through the drought.
  • Pull weeds. Eliminating weeds will cut down on unnecessary water usage, and your landscaping will look better.

When mowing your lawn, don’t mow too short. Keeping the blades long will shade the soil, reduce evaporation, and minimize any heat damage that may happen during the drought. Consider leaving the clippings on the lawn to help protect it and return nutrients to the soil.

If the drought is really bad and it looks like it will continue, consider letting your lawn go dormant; most grass is drought resistant and will recover when a steady supply of rain returns.

If you have ornamental plants around your yard, consider how long is left in the season. If it’s an annual, is it worth keeping them alive? If the season is almost over, it might be easier to let them die. If you’ve planted shrubs and trees in the past one or two years, they are more susceptible to being lost. Focus your watering efforts on new plantings, those plantings that are expensive to replace, or anything that you’ve planted that has sentimental value.

How to Water During a Drought

Once a drought is firmly established, soil will begin to harden and get impacted. Add water slowly so it gets absorbed instead of running off. A good way to make sure water gets absorbed well is to use soaker hoses. After running for an hour check that water has penetrated down about an inch; if not, run the water longer.

It’s best to water on a schedule, and to water in the early morning. This will stop the water from evaporating and allow time to soak in the soil. Do not water at night; wet grass overnight can cause fungus to grow.

If you have an irrigation system, it’s best to use a timer. Some irrigation systems can connect to your home’s Wi-Fi to monitor weather conditions. These systems control when and how you water your property and respond to water, weather, and soil conditions to deliver the right amount of water at the right time.

Water, Water Everywhere

What if we’re having a rainy summer and we’re experiencing the opposite problem? If you have noted areas of your lawn or garden where water pools, there are things you can do to avoid erosion and have your plants or lawn die from too much water.

One thing you can do is aerate your lawn to assure water is penetrating the dirt’s surface. By doing so, you’ll direct water to the roots of your grass, which will make it stronger and more lush when the rain stops. And it’ll make the soil less compact, allowing it to drain easier.

Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clean, so the runoff doesn’t create erosion around the foundation of your home, garage, or other outdoor structures and buildings.

When planning your landscaping, be sure to properly grade your lawn, garden, and flower beds. And choose plants that love water—ask us if you’re unsure.

For existing landscapes, add soil and grade the surface away from your home. Consider adding terraces to your landscape to help water run down slopes. Prune your landscaping to allow sunlight to dry areas.

For areas that always seem wet or are susceptible to pooling, you might have to install a drain, or consider changing the layout to a hardscape. You can add a permanent water feature and incorporate that area, like a pond, water garden or even a meandering stream with a bridge to your yard.

At Stephens Landscaping, we have a lot of experience helping homeowners come up with a plan for drought and overwatering. Let us help you and your landscape; call us at 603.707.0630 or contact us today.

Making the Most of Mulch

Landscape Maintenance

Mulching has been favored by gardeners and landscapers alike for many years, as mulching adds a nice finishing touch to well-landscaped grounds and protects plants, trees, and shrubbery. Since mulch can affect the soil beneath the mulch, it must be applied properly to not damage the root system of your plants. We’ll discuss what to consider when adding mulch to your property so you can make sure your gardens, yard and landscaping look their best year-round.

What is mulch?

Mulch is the name used for a substance that’s put on top of soil to provide protection or add visual interest to an area. When you are deciding which mulch to use in your landscaping, remember, the best mulch is an organic material, that is, it’s a substance that already comes from nature. Common mulches are made of bark/wood chips, and moss. Mulch comes in a variety of colors, so you can choose one that best complements your property features and landscape design.

Why use mulch?

Mulch has been used to add an aesthetic, decorative touch to landscapes for decades. Mulching around plantings, shrubs and trees adds a dimension of shading under foliage as well as contrast under brightly colored flowers. But mulch serves much more than a decorative purpose.

Mulch can help deter weed growth among your plantings by not allowing sunlight to pass down to them. It will help the soil around your plantings retain moisture, which is always beneficial to their growth, especially in dry periods. Mulch traps water and slows evaporation from the surface of the soil, so plants stay hydrated longer, reducing the need for frequent watering. It can protect your plants during periods of heavy rain, as it will absorb water and protect the roots; mulch will also help minimize soil erosion around your plantings.

Mulch can also help protect your plant’s roots during periods of extreme heat, as it acts as an insulator. The use of mulch can reduce the occurrence of heat damage to both the base of your plants and the surrounding soil. It will also help your plants resist pest and plant disease; in fact, organic mulches provide earthworms and micro-organisms with food, which is great for your plants and your plant health.

During decomposition, organic mulches add beneficial nutrients back into the soil, enriching your soil for next year.

Apply mulch correctly

Once you’ve decided on the “what” (type and color) of the mulch you want to use on your property, you’ll want to focus on the “how” of spreading the mulch. Improperly spread mulch can not only be disruptive to the overall design of your yard, it can also be damaging to a garden or landscape. Mulch that’s applied too thickly can be damaging to a plant’s root system and may stop water from making its way down to the root of the plant, or not allow the area surrounding a plant to drain correctly after watering or a rainstorm.

Start your mulch application by cleaning out the areas where you want to apply mulch. Take out the weeds, sticks, leaves, etc. that have accumulated over the winter months, and water if necessary. Then start spreading the mulch; it’s best to lay down mulch in a depth of approximately 2 inches.

If you’re putting mulch down around plants, shrubbery, and trees, etc., make sure to keep the mulch around three inches away from the plant itself, to help with air circulation around the root of the plant. However, if you’re mulching a vegetable garden, you do want to mulch right up to the stalk of the plant, to help with water retention. Water the whole area after mulching.

At Stephens Landscaping, we have a lot of experience with using many kinds of mulch, and we’d love to discuss which kinds and colors of mulch are right for your landscape and garden. Call us at 603.707.0630 or reach out by email.