Gardening for All Four Seasons

Landscape Design

When we think of our gardens, we think of colorful flowers blooming in the spring, growing at a prolific rate in the summer, gradually fading in the fall, and then in the winter, we nostalgically wait to see some pop of color again. But, with a little planning and perhaps some professional help, you can have a garden that showcases delightful swaths of color all year round.

Planting the Foundation

If flowers are the stars of gardens, trees and shrubs are the best supporting actors; they provide the structure necessary for the stars to shine. Trees and shrubs provide the shade necessary for your garden to thrive.

Trees like maple and red oak will provide beautiful foliage in the fall, and dogwood and the eastern redbud bloom in early spring, bringing your garden necessary color soon after winter. Evergreens do what they say they will do…they stay green all throughout the winter, reminding us that not everything is gray, brown, and white.

Shrubbery such as holly bushes will provide a nice pop of red color throughout the winter and provide perfect clippings for holiday décor. Most holly bushes need both a male and female bush planted near each other to be able to produce berries, so keep that in mind when purchasing this shrubbery; only the female will have berries.

Hellebore is a beautiful flowering shrub that is very cold tolerant and does not need to be deadheaded or pruned back when fall comes, and their flowers are some of the first to arrive in spring. During the winter months, don’t be alarmed if you see the shrubs lying flat! They are not dead; they are just trying to gather warmth from the ground. As the temperatures rise, so will they.

Hydrangeas, azaleas, rhododendrons, and lilacs are popular shrubs in New England, and produce an abundance of blooms throughout the spring and summer. Lilacs are especially popular in New England, as they were traditionally planted near kitchen windows or doors to help with odor control. The oldest living lilacs in North America are here in New Hampshire, at the Governor Wentworth House in Portsmouth; they are thought to have been planted in 1750!

Creating a Colorful Palette

The next thing to think about in your garden plan is adding interest. Planting borders of mixed perennials are a great way to add long-lasting and stress-free color and interest to your landscaping. Plant once and forget about it, mostly, but it’s best to divide perennials every couple of years to stimulate blooming and growth. You’ll want to aim for a good mix of colors, textures, heights, bloom times, and blooming durations.

Irises, daffodils, tulips, and crocuses bloom quickly in the spring, giving us first glimpses of color. These are great for getting your garden started.

Allium will provide color and height along with visual interest in summer, as will poppies. Lavender keeps its purple color for a long time once it blooms. Sunflowers will add height and color in the summer to the fall, and zinnias are perfect for a wondrous splash of color closer to the ground. Perennials like mums and asters will provide color until frost and will come back year-after-year to provide color when the rest of the garden is dying off.

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center - everything you need to know about mulch - landscape with mulch gardenAdding Layers

Ornamental grasses are perfect for filling in between the flower layer and the tree/shrubbery layers. These colorful grasses will add depth to your design, and visual interest to your four-season garden.

Grasses to consider include:

  • White sage: These fragrant, silvery white leaves will go well in any garden and are deer and rabbit resistant.
  • Elijah blue fescue: These stunning dwarf grasses add a delightful visual interest and a great bit of color to any garden.
  • Purple fountain grass: This grass is noted for their calming movements as much as their burgundy plumage.
  • Little Bluestem: This popular border grass is noted for growing straight up, and for its beautiful bronze color in the fall.

Ferns, hostas, and other foliage are a great addition to gardens as well. Hostas come in a variety of patterns, leaf sizes, and leaf shapes. There are many varieties of ferns, and each can bring something special to your garden:

  • Ostrich Fern is big and showy and can grow up to six feet tall.
  • American Royal Fern grows well next to hostas and will grow to about five feet in a shady garden.
  • Himalayan Maidenhair Fern is a great groundcover and is evergreen.

With a little forward planning, and some carefully chosen plants, your garden can be a showcase to be proud of throughout the year.

At Stephens Landscaping, we have the knowledge and the experience to help you make the most out of your four-season garden.  Contact us to discuss your ideas or give us a call at 603.707.0630 to discuss your fall planting project, and be sure to visit our Garden Center for all of your planting and holiday decorating needs. We’ve got new plants coming in weekly, all available for delivery.

Outwit Those Pesky Pests


Now that summer is well underway, your garden is probably looking pretty good by now. Your tomatoes are turning red, your cucumbers are beginning to proliferate, and your zucchini are almost big enough to harvest. You can see all the hard work you’ve put into your garden beginning to pay off. But so can the pests, who see a feast developing before them. How do you keep these nuisances away?

Cover It Up

If you’d like to protect your garden, a simple solution is to use a plant cover. Plant covers come in a variety of styles and shapes and will protect your gardens from pests and weather. Which you choose depends on what you want to protect, and what you want to protect it from:

  • Chicken wire protectors: These frame “houses” are built to protect multiple plants at once. They are easily lifted and used to protect berry bushes and plants like kale, lettuce, etc. from bunnies, deer, gophers, and other creatures that might want a nibble.
  • Row covers: These hoops are covered with some kind of fabric to protect plantings from insects and birds and can also be used with heavier material to protect plants from cold weather later in the year, if you wish to extend your growing season.
    • Thin fabric will allow for better light penetration, while heavier material will maintain a better temperature inside the hoops and protect your plants from cold weather; you can swap the material as the season progresses.
    • Insect mesh is a wonderful screen-like material that will keep insects from being able to munch on your veggies and stalks.
  • Shade cloth: This light-blocking, woven cloth is perfect to use in parts of your garden at this time of year. Many plants, like basil, lettuce, and even tomatoes will benefit from this cloth, which will provide shade so your plants don’t burn in the hot July sun. It’s strange to think of the sun as a “pest”, but sometimes your garden needs a break.

Consider a Natural Approach

If covers aren’t your thing, you might want to consider a more holistic approach to deterring pests in your garden. Options include companion gardening, organic and natural solutions, and even raiding your pantry!

Aphids and Slugs

These little creatures are the bane of every gardener’s existence. They are everywhere and eat everything. If you have a problem with aphids and slugs in your garden, you might want to try food grade diatomaceous earth, or DE for short. This off white, odor-free powder can be used in your garden on plants that show signs of damage (it will kill all insects with exoskeletons, even the good ones, so use only when needed. And since it’s a fine powder, it’s a good idea to wear a mask while applying, and reapply the DE after it rains.)

An old farmer’s tale for killing slugs involved burying an open can of beer three quarters of the way and letting the slugs crawl in and drown; there’s some validity to that, as slugs are attracted to the yeast in beer, but it seems a bit passive and inefficient. If you try it, let us know how it works!

Looper worms

These little inchworm-looking worms love to eat cole crops like cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, peas, and tomatoes. If you find them in your garden, you can get rid of them by mixing three teaspoons of cayenne pepper into one quart of water in a spray bottle. Apply to the leaves, stems, and the ground around each of your affected plants.

SL Garden Center-Moultonborough-Creative Resolutions for Your Garden in 2023-companion planting

Companion Planting

One tried and true method of keeping pests out of your garden is to plant companion plants, that is, planting plants near each other to benefit one plant or both. Common companion plantings include:

  • Planting petunias near potatoes and beans to keep potato beetles away.
  • Tansy, once an immensely popular New England flower, helps to keep aphids and ants at bay. Plant tansy near cucumbers and squash.
  • Catnip planted near zucchini and cucumbers will eliminate cucumber beetles and will make your garden a popular cat hangout!
  • Marigolds are a great addition to any garden and are great companion plants to any vegetable, most especially tomatoes. They repel the nematodes that attack tomato plant roots.
  • Chrysanthemums will keep out a variety of bugs and are a natural repellant of Japanese beetles and ticks.
  • Nasturtiums are a must in a garden, as aphids love them. Aphids will flock to nasturtiums and leave the other plants alone.
  • Zinnias are wonderful to plant in a vegetable garden, as they are favorites of ladybugs. Ladybugs love to eat pests like cabbage flies and aphids.
  • If you have fruit trees, it’s a good idea to plant alliums like onions or garlic around the base of it. This may prevent borers from drilling into the base of the tree, thereby destroying it.
  • Basil and tomatoes just don’t go together in a caprese salad. When planting next to each other in a garden, the basil will protect the tomato plant from whiteflies, aphids, and tomato hookworm. Basil will also help the flavor profile of tomatoes, and the tomato leaves help provide a great growing environment for basil by providing shade and moisture for its tender leaves. True companions for sure!

We’ve helped many gardeners keep their gardens healthy and thriving, and we’d love to help you with yours. Come visit us at our Garden Center, give us a call at at 603.707.0630 or email us and we’ll be happy to help you with garden issues or questions you may have.

Getting Your Gardens Started


Now that spring is in full swing and summer officially arrives at the end of the month, the time has come to get outside and plant our vegetable gardens. Here in New England, it’s customary to wait until after Memorial Day to plant anything outside, as it’s possible to get a killing frost until the end of May or the beginning of June. A frost is still remotely possible in very early June, but since your plants are so small at that point, it’s easy to cover them up for protection if needed.

Time to Transplant

If you have decided to plant a vegetable garden, chances are you planted seeds about eight to twelve weeks ago, and your seedlings are doing well indoors and are about five to six inches tall by now. Or maybe you decided to purchase a variety of seedlings from a professional garden center or greenhouse to give your garden an easier start. If you haven’t yet, stop by our Garden Center to see our wide selection of vegetable and herb starters, seeds, and supplies. However you choose to begin your garden, early June is the perfect time to transfer those seedlings outside and plant them in your prepared garden space.

Making your Choice

Vegetables that do well in our climate and that should be planted in early summer include:

  • Peppers: all varieties of bell peppers do well, as do spicier peppers like jalapeños, habanero, and cayenne peppers.
  • Tomatoes: it’s a good idea to plant a variety of tomatoes that will ripen throughout the season. Choose tomatoes that will give you an early harvest, some that will produce fruit mid-summer, and some that will hold out until late fall.
  • Brussels Sprouts: Plant these about a foot apart and fertilize them once a month. They should be ready to harvest by fall.
  • Eggplants: While we’re used to seeing dark purple eggplants, they actually come in a variety of colors, like pink, green, purple/white striped, or even black. Make sure to stake your plants, as the stalks will get weighed down as the eggplants grow.
  • Cucumbers: Since these are prolific producers, it’s best to stagger your plantings by a couple of weeks, to extend the production cycle long into the fall. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself picking a lot of cucumbers each and every week!
  • Cantaloupes and Watermelons: By selecting the right breeds for our cooler days and short growing season, you can grow sweet melons that will be ready to harvest by September.
  • Lettuce: A quick grower (you’ll be harvesting leaves in about a month), be sure to select lettuce that’s heat tolerant for our hottest days, and harvest in the early morning or in the cool of the evening.

Starting from Seed

If you didn’t start your seedlings weeks ago, and you haven’t bought propagated plants from a nursery, fear not! There are vegetables you can grow directly from seeds planted in your own garden in June that will have enough time to grow and give you a good summer and fall yield. These vegetables include:

  • Beans (both bush and pole beans).
  • Squash, including Winter Squash, Summer Squash, and Zucchini.
  • Chard.
  • Potatoes, including Sweet Potatoes.

These vegetables, when planted directly from seeds in your outdoor garden in June, will grow steadily throughout the summer, and give you a nice fall harvest.

  • Corn.
  • Green Beans.
  • Okra.
  • Parsnips.
  • Pumpkins.
  • Tomatillos.

Seasoning your Veggies

Of course, by growing all those great vegetables, you’ll want to grow herbs to accompany your fresh veggies in recipes and in your canning efforts. Great herbs to grow in your garden include:

  • Basil: An easy plant to grow, you’ll get a great harvest. Be sure to remove the flowers when they pop up.
  • Oregano: This is a perennial. Keep it trimmed or it can be invasive.
  • Sage: This soft-leaved plant will repel bugs.
  • Thyme: You’ll be able harvest thyme all summer, but bugs love it as much as you do; it’s best to protect your plants with netting.
  • Rosemary: A prolific producer, you’ll be able to harvest all summer. Plant rosemary next to beans, cabbage, and peppers for a larger harvest. Keep it well watered, as it dies in drought conditions. And watch out for beetles, who love it; it’s best to protect your plants with netting.
  • Lavender: A colorful scented favorite, this plant loves heat. Bugs won’t bother it. It’s a perennial but will die in cold weather.
  • Chamomile: With pretty flowers reminiscent of daisies, this has been used to make tea for ages. It’s a perennial but will die in cold weather. Bugs love it, too, so it’s best to protect your plants with netting.
  • Dill: Don’t allow dill to flower; pinch them off when you see the flowers forming. As a perennial, it’ll come up every year.
  • Cilantro: A staple of Mexican cuisine, cilantro likes to grow in big clumps, so do not thin it out. It’s an annual, so if you like it, you’ll have to plant it every year.

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-raised garden bed

Perfect Pairing: Benefits of Planting Edible Gardens Near Your Outdoor Kitchen

Planting a vegetable or herb garden near an outdoor kitchen offers numerous benefits that can enhance your culinary experiences and overall enjoyment of your outdoor living spaces. First and foremost, having fresh produce readily available allows you to incorporate the flavors of just-picked herbs and vegetables into your meals. The convenience of harvesting fresh ingredients adds a delightful element to cooking, promoting a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle. Additionally, the proximity of a garden allows you to experiment with a wider variety of herbs and vegetables, including unique or rare varieties that may not be easily accessible in stores. This opens up a world of culinary possibilities and encourages creativity in your cooking. Tending to a garden can be a therapeutic and enjoyable activity, providing an opportunity to connect with nature and reduce stress. Ultimately, a vegetable or herb garden near your outdoor kitchen offers the satisfaction of self-sufficiency, the joy of flavorful and nutritious meals, and the pleasure of cultivating your own little patch of edible paradise.

The growing season in New England is short, so we need to make the most of it. With the right planning and the right vegetables, we can extend the season and have a great and bountiful summer. Happy planting!

We’ve helped homeowners prepare space for their gardens, including clearing, rototilling, fertilizing, installing irrigation systems, and mulching. We also love working with people to design and build outdoor kitchens, so if you’ve been dreaming of adding one to your property, let us help you make it a reality! Please call us at 603.707.0630 or email us to get started.

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.