Everything Your Moultonborough Garden Needs Before Winter

Garden Center

Songbirds flying south, trees dropping leaves, insects preparing for hibernation—all around us, the ecosystem is getting ready for winter. Likewise, it’s time to prep our garden and lawns for the months ahead. Here’s a guide to give your landscapes enriching fall care, whether you plan to leave for the off-season or live in New Hampshire year-round. 

Cut Back and Remove Diseased Plant Matter 

When it comes to a fall clean-up, the primary task on most gardeners’ minds is to cut back any dead leaves or flower stalks on their perennials. It’s essential to do this for plants infected with aphids, powdery mildew, slugs, or any other pests. Cleaning up diseased material now prevents the spread next spring. Be careful to keep any diseased material out of your compost bin!

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-cutting back perennials

Cut Back or Leave Other Perennials

If your perennials are disease-free, you have the option to cut them back or leave them. The sole purpose for cutting them back is to have a cleaner appearance in the garden over winter and save you time during the spring clean-up. Like plants in the forest, your landscape plants will do perfectly well if you leave them. In fact, your garden stands to benefit, as dead plant matter provides important habitat for overwintering insects, like solitary native bees, daddy long legs, and butterfly caterpillars.

The only exceptions are peonies, lilies, hostas, and irises, which can be susceptible to fungus if you leave the dead stalks. Remember to cut these back, but feel free to leave the others. 

Note: the following perennials should never be cut back in New Hampshire: heuchera, heucherella, tiarella, grasses, lavender, Russian sage, hibiscus, ajuga, lamium, lambs ear, sedum, roses, perennial geraniums, ferns, brunnera, bergenia, and most hydrangeas.

Leave Seed Heads for Birds and Winter Interest 

Another benefit of leaving some perennials standing is for winter interest in the garden. Any perennials with strong flower stalks to withstand snow and interesting seed heads are good candidates, including hydrangeas, globe thistle, ligularia, blazing star, sea holly, black-eyed Susan’s, and ornamental grass. The seed heads also provide food for resident birds when other food is scarce. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-ladybug in garden

Leave the Leaves in Your Garden 

Autumn leaves are a gift of nutrients and mulch for your garden. They hold moisture in the soil during the dry spells of winter, nourish the soil as they break down, and provide essential nesting sites for countless beneficial insects, including ladybugs, lacewings, and cocooning moths and butterflies. Keep some leaves in your garden, and you’ll retain these insects, which become natural pest controllers next year, pollinators for your vegetables, food for the birds, and beautiful creatures of their own.   

Note: to reap the most benefits from leaves, remember to wait until the insects emerge from hibernation next year before you start your spring clean-up. If you have an excess amount of leaves on your lawn in the fall, rake them up and use them as the all-important “browns,” or carbon component, in your compost pile.

Spread Compost on Your Soil 

Whether you’re growing vegetables, perennials, fruit trees, or shrubs, all gardens benefit from compost in the fall. It replaces the nutrients your plants use during the growing season and mixes into the soil over winter, making your beds ready for planting next spring. For avid gardeners or anyone who wants to grow exceptionally tasty and nutritious food, it’s also a good time to take a soil test and add any minerals you find missing. Caring for soil in the fall with compost and amendments leads to healthier plants, which are more resilient against pests.   

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-mulching leaves in grass

The Essentials of Fall Lawn Care in New Hampshire

  • Mow and Mulch Leaves: too many leaves left on your grass can suffocate it over the winter. It’s best to shred some with the mower, leaving them behind as nutrients for your lawn, and transfer the rest to your garden or compost pile. 
  • Aerate, if Necessary: aeration helps loosen compacted lawns and bring airflow to the roots. It’s only necessary if your lawn is hard and compacted. 
  • Feed Your Lawn: just like your garden, you can improve the soil and health of your lawn by raking in a light layer of compost. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-sharpening pruning shears

Other Important Tasks for Fall Lawn and Garden Care 

  • Note Perennials to Divide in the Spring: it’s too late to divide perennials now, but you can look for any plants that are crowded or have dieback in the center, make a note, and plan to divide them in the spring.  
  • Water Evergreens: giving them water in the fall helps them retain moisture throughout the winter and prevent winter burn.
  • Final Tool Care: after all your garden and lawn care is complete, clean any tools, sharpen them, and oil them for protection against rust over the winter. 

For supplies or other questions on garden and lawn care for winter, visit Stephens Landscaping Garden Center in Moultonborough, New Hampshire, and follow us on Facebook or Instagram for more updates! 

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.

Spring is Almost Here!

Landscape Maintenance

Spring is the time of renewal, and that means for your landscapes and gardens, too! While the official start of spring begins in March, the actual start of spring feels like it begins a little later here in New England. We still have bits of snow and ice hanging around in spots, but signs of spring are certainly beginning to pop up everywhere. This transitional period is the perfect time to start preparing your green spaces and gardens for the upcoming spring and summer seasons. Here are a few tips to get started.

Walk Around and Take it In

Before you do anything else, walk around your property and see what needs to be done. Winter can be rough on a landscape, and a lot of damage can be hidden under piles of snow. You may discover holes in lawns from burrowing animals, damage from ice on walkways, broken tree branches and flattened shrubbery, and dead spots of lawn.

Start with a Clean Slate

Once you’ve seen what needs to be done to get your green spaces and gardens ready, the best place to start is with a good cleaning. Now’s the time to remove broken branches, leftover leaves, and the stuff that the wind picks up stuff from driveways, roads, and nearby properties.

Raking your lawn is the best way to clean up any dead leaves that fell during the winter or remain from the last fall clean up. Raking will also remove the bits of grass that did not survive the winter as well as the myriad of twigs and small branches that fell during the snow and ice storms we had this season.

Clean around your plant beds and in your garden area. It’s important to get these areas ready for planting, so once the threat of frost has passed, these areas will be ready to go.

Tidy up the Trees

Early spring is the best time to lightly prune your trees and shrubbery. Heavy winter snows and ice storms are damaging to trees and shrubs, so a light pruning helps to keep them in good shape.

By pruning early, you’re also giving your trees and shrubs a healthy start on new growth. It’s best to prune before any new growth starts, because in later spring and summer, the plant’s energy will be focused on flowering and growth. Shaping the plant will also be easier when there are no leaves to get in the way of your view.

Lawn Care

Your lawn may look a little sparse and brownish this time of year. If you have bare spots on your lawn, once the weather gets a bit warmer and your lawn gets a bit greener, it’s a good idea to have your lawn spot-seeded and fertilized. You can pull out any weeds you see, before they’ve really had a chance to start growing and before you’ve fertilized your lawn.

Don’t mow the lawn just yet, though, even though you may see a bit of winter growth. The lawn has been through a lot over the winter months, and you don’t want to cut it too short while it’s growing in the early spring or you may damage its root system. Wait until it’s well-established and warmer outside before eayou begin mowing.

If you didn’t aerate your lawn in the fall, you can do it in the spring before the real growing season starts. You should also fill in the holes in your lawn at this time, if you’ve found any.

Get the Whole Area Ready

Don’t forget about your hardscapes. Sweep up the patios and verandas, uncover or bring out the furniture, and clean out the planters.

Inspect your irrigation system. If it’s warm enough, turn it on to make sure that it works properly and that there are no leaks. If you find problems, call your irrigation company before they get busy for the season.

Plan Ahead

During the long winter, and especially while tending to your property during this late winter/early spring prep, you’ve most likely thought of some ideas on what you’d like to do with your property this year. Now’s the time collect all those ideas into a plan. Decide to plant a vegetable garden or find a new spot for your existing one to see if it’ll do better. Select new annuals or perennials to bring more color to your outdoor spaces.

Visit our Garden Center in Moultonborough to see what you may want to plant, or if there’s anything new to try out. Of course, you’ll want to wait until the chance of the last frost has passed before planting anything, but now’s the time to plan what you want to plant, and where. We’ve got an experienced and creative team on hand, so be sure to ask for help or see what they are doing for new ideas.

 

Deer-Resistant Plants for the Lakes Region

Landscape Maintenance

There aren’t any completely deer-proof plants. Deer eat almost anything when food is scarce, or their population is high. Like humans, deer have food preferences, even when they have many options to choose from. Depending on deer pressure, here is a selection of plants that we have found to be more and less susceptible to deer browse.

HIGHLY SUSCEPTIBLE TO DEER BROWSE

Deer love to graze on many types of groundcovers, especially the tender new growth in the spring. If you have deer on your property, we recommend avoiding the following plants as they are more prone to deer browsing and can be severely damaged:

  • Hosta
  • Arborvitae
  • Petunias
  • Euonymus
  • Some Rhododendrons
  • Evergreen Azaleas

Deer seem to prefer plants which have been fertilized over those which have not.

LESS SUSCEPTIBLE TO DEER BROWSE

Deer tend to avoid fragrant plants with strong scents or highly aromatic flowers, and plants which have leathery, fuzzy, hairy, or prickly foliage. In our experience, the following plants are rarely damaged by deer:

  • Spiraea
  • Potentilla
  • Nepeta (Catmint)
  • Achillea (Yarrow)
  • Salvia
  • Pachysandra
  • Perennial Grasses & Ferns
  • Daffodils
  • Leucothoe
  • Pieris (Andromeda)
  • Iris
  • Lambs Ear
  • Dusty Miller
  • Lavender
  • Allium (Ornamental Onion)
  • River Birch

GARDENING WITH DEER-RESISTANT PLANTS

While gardening can be challenging in areas with high deer pressure, there are a wide variety of plants with beautiful flowers and fragrant foliage that are less susceptible to deer browse also attract bees and butterflies.

Deer are especially hungry in the spring, so consider filling your spring garden with deer-resistant plants or aromatic perennial herbs. Even resistant plants are more vulnerable in the first few weeks after planting; to eliminate temptation consider a strong-smelling deer repellant or plan for additional fencing or barriers for protection.

If you’re experiencing problems with unwanted deer on your property or are looking to plan ahead before it becomes a problem, we recommend talking with our experienced staff. We’ll help you select the right plants for your landscape, plan for additional protection such as the use of fencing or recommend deer repellant products which are available at our Garden Center.