When you plant your garden in spring, there is very little faith involved, since the results are fairly immediate…you plant your flowers and vegetables, water, and they grow, right off the bat. But when you plant flowering bulbs you’re planting a promise, because all of your efforts go unrealized for about six months.
When most people think about the vegetable garden, they immediately think of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, etc. The love the heat and humidity of summer, but fade around September. That’s when you want to start thinking about cool-weather vegetables, including lettuces, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and other vegetables that thrive as the temperatures start to drop.
When May rolls around and you have spring fever, we’ll have a fantastic selection of locally-grown, neonicotinoid-free vegetables and herbs at the ready to fill your gardens. But there is something very satisfying that comes from growing your own plants from seed. And not only is it easy, but it is a great way to forget about the dreariness of winter while you concentrate on nurturing life!
So when do you plant? The short answer is about six to eight weeks before the last frost date. In Maryland that would be Mothers Day. Well, technically. That is being super-safe. In the Annapolis area, we can pretty much plant most everything by late April. So that means that you will want to sow around mid-February. But check the seed packet to make sure. An important note, though, is that if you are planting cool-weather vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, peas, cabbage, etc., those should be started NOW, since they are transplanted outside in early to mid-March. Lettuce, spinach, and arugula should be direct sown into the garden or outdoor container in late February. They don’t like to be started inside, generally.
Now for the supplies…and we carry them all! All you really need is growing trays and growing medium and, if you’re feeling fancy, a grow light. We carry several kinds of trays, from frills-free to domed top to peat pellets. Fill the trays with your growing medium. We highly recommend Espoma® Organic Seed Starter Premium Potting Mix because it is light, airy, and retains moisture beautifully. Fill the containers up to the top with the soil medium and then soak it with warm water. It will settle some, but you want it about a quarter of an inch from the top of the cell to give enough of a lip to prevent the seeds from washing out of the container during watering. Label each tray carefully. It’s easy to lose track of what you planted and seedlings look remarkably similar.
Follow the sowing instructions from each seed packet, but you will always want to sow three or four seeds per container. Once they all come up and get their second set of leaves, you can thin them out with scissors…never by pulling them up, which could damage the one remaining plant…leaving one plant per chamber. At this point, you should cover your pots with the plastic lid or plastic wrap to keep the seeds in a warm, humid place. Light isn’t important until they sprout. Once they do, take off the cover and either move the seedlings to a bright spot in the house or invest in a grow light. The advantage of a grow light is that you can give them twelve to sixteen hours of light per day, which makes them grow faster and stronger. We carry a variety of grow lights and heated mats to help the germination process along. If the seedlings get leggy, meaning they are tall and spindly, they are not getting enough light.
Check them daily for moisture. Water should be at room temperature and, if possible, water from the bottom of the tray, letting the moisture wick up, rather than watering from overhead. You might want to invest in a few small fans to blow a constant breeze over your seedlings, which will help to prevent fungus and will strengthen the stems. If you don’t have a fan, just lightly pass your hands through the seedlings a few times per day, allowing them to bend and then pop back up. This is also the time to use a liquid fertilizer on a weekly basis. As you water every day, it is easy for the nutrients to leach out of the soil, and they need to be replaced. As they grow, the plants will start to crowd each other, so you will most likely have to repot them to larger pots and space them apart. Every time you do this, you essentially double the space you need to grow. Bear this in mind before you plant your seedlings, or you might find yourself crowded out of the house because they will take up so much space!
About one week before transplanting your seedlings to the garden or into outside containers, you’ll have to harden off your plants, which are used to being indoors and would wilt if suddenly planted outside. Take them outdoors for an hour or so each day, ideally on a protected porch, and limit the direct sun for the first few days. Gradually increase the amount of time outdoors. You’ve worked hard to grow these little babies, so you don’t want to rush them outside and burn in the sun.
Don’t over or underwater and make sure they have plenty of light. That’s really all there is to it. It is a pretty forgiving process. We have everything you need to successfully grow your own seedlings…growing medium, trays, pots, fertilizer, grow lights, heated mats, etc. And don’t forget the seeds! We have a wide variety of annuals, perennials, herbs, and vegetables of every kind! Make this the year that you explore different and exotic varieties and experiment in the garden.
Respirators or face masks are an incredibly useful tool to use around the house, but there are several different kinds, which can make it a bit confusing. It really comes down to the task
you’re performing. The obvious projects where respirators are useful are painting, sanding,
refinishing furniture, cleaning up aggressively smelly messes, or using cleaners such as bleach or ammonia. There are also some jobs that you never thought to use a respirator, such as shredding leaves or mowing the lawn…those allergens can be sneaky! The point is, you need the right mask for the right job.
Flowering bulbs are fairly straightforward, so that even the most novice of gardeners can handle them. Dig a hole, drop the bulb in root-side down, and cover with soil. Then wait until spring. It doesn’t get any easier than that. But when it comes to potted bulbs, like amaryllis, people suddenly get nervous. Don’t be. Amaryllis are incredibly simple to grow and require little effort, but provide a big payoff.
Deep fried turkeys as Thanksgiving feasts have been rapidly growing in popularity for the past few years. It’s no mystery why, really. Deep-fried turkeys are succulent, tender, juicy, and boast a crispy skin that can’t be beat! Plus, a deep-fried turkey cooks much faster than those that are roasted. It goes without saying, though, that one should be very careful when cooking with hot oil.
Due to the constant rain last year, our lawns were in pretty good shape when fall rolled around. We got spoiled. But this summer was typical as far as Annapolis weather goes...it was brutally hot and devoid of much in the way of rain so your lawn should look pretty depressing about now. But the good news is that's how our lawns generally look in mid-September, so we know how to handle it. The work you put in now will pay off in spades come spring.
You know the old rule of thumb when it comes to corn gluten….as soon as you see the forsythias bloom in spring, apply it to your lawn to prevent the germination of weeds. But people often forget that corn gluten, besides being an effective, organic weed preventer, is also a great organic fertilizer, since it is high on nitrogen. So, essentially, corn gluten does double-duty when it comes to your lawn.
There are a few organic fertilizers out there, but very few organic weed preventers, so corn gluten is a boon to those who are uncomfortable using conventional weed control products. It is important to note that corn gluten will not kill existing weeds. There are only a few organic products that kill weeds, and there are no organic selective week solutions that leave the grass unharmed. But, if you are looking to stop weed seeds from germinating, corn gluten is a great option, although it does take three years to reach maximum effectiveness. Corn gluten will stop ALL seeds from germinating….including grass seed. So if you plan on seeding, seed FIRST, wait for about two to three weeks, and THEN lay down your corn gluten. Believe it or not, a lot of weeds, such as dandelions, plantain, and clover, get their start in fall, so that is an ideal time to lay down corn gluten.
What about fertilizing? Most people either under-fertilize or massively over-fertilize. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground there. Let’s start by pointing out that if you have a mulching mower and recycle your clippings back into the lawn, you are already putting nitrogen back into the ground. That means that you should have a lighter hand while fertilizing. Many of the four-step programs out there are too aggressive with the fertilization schedule, especially for our area, which is on the bay. So a spring fertilization/weed prevention application with corn gluten, followed by a lighter application in September, is all you need.
Have any questions about corn gluten or any other lawn and garden questions? Come on in to K&B True Value and ask our experts!
It all comes down to food. Hummingbirds have a famous metabolism that requires that they eat about every ten minutes, which requires them to visit about 2,000 flowers every day to seek out nectar, their preferred food. So that means you either have to provide nectar, outright, using specially-designed feeders, or you need to plant the flowers that are preferred by hummingbirds. Either way, you have to pay close attention to detail, as hummingbirds are notoriously finicky diners.
When it comes to feeders, there are only a few varieties that are reliable because they must be the right shape and color to attract their customers. K&B True Value carries a variety of feeders by both Audubon and Perky-Pet, which use red and orange, the colors favored by hummingbirds, and receptacles that are flower-shaped. They can be hung from trees, eaves, posts, or even affixed to windows for a close-up view. We also carry high-calorie nectar for easy refill. It is important to clean the feeder frequently, around twice per week during the summer months and nectar can be sticky business. You’ll want several feeders in different shapes in different parts of the yard, so that one bird won’t bully the others and prevent them from feeding. One last thing...try not to hang the feeders in direct sunlight as that could cause the nectar to ferment , which would make for some clumsy flying.
Along with the feeders, you’ll want to plant perennial flowers that are on their favorite-food list. Again, red and orange are their favorite colors, and tube-shaped flowers are a real bonanza for them! We have brought in several native perennials that are hummingbird-friendly including:
Kniphofia (Red-Hot Poker)
Some of these perennials can even be planted in hanging baskets so that they can be moved around the yard, deck, or porch. Then, at the end of the season, they can be planted directly into the landscape to come back next year. Hummingbirds also require a certain amount of protein in the form of small insects, so avoid using pesticides in your yard.
Of all the outside décor that you could add to your yard to add visual interest, none is more beautiful than hummingbirds! And it doesn’t take much to create an oasis that will have them coming back year after year!
Many of them rely on the spent seed-heads of perennials or berries left over from fall, but it doesn’t take too long before those food sources begin to dwindle. And as the temperatures begin to drop in January and February, birds will need high-energy, high-protein foods to maintain their body temperatures. That means birds need food the most when it is least available in the wild. That’s where you come in!
Offer a feeding station that consists of a birdfeeder filled with one of our quality seed mixes. Choose a blend that is specially formulated to attract a variety of birds. Ingredients should include bird favorites like black oil sunflower, thistle and peanuts, which are attractive to a wide range of birds including cardinals, chickadees, finches, native sparrows and others. K&B True Value carries a variety of feeders specific to the type of seed blend and bird species that you are feeding. Common types include covered or open platforms for any size seed blend, cylinders or tubes for small seeds, and a hopper or "house" style to hold larger seeds like sunflower.
In addition to seed, consider offering suet as well. Birds use a lot of energy in the winter to stay warm and search for food, and suet is the high-energy snack that can help keep them going through the tough times. Rich in valuable calories because it's primarily made of fat, suet attracts woodpeckers, chickadees and many other species. We carry wire-cage feeders designed specifically for suet. The birds will cling to the wire and peck at the food through the gaps.
You’ll become a hub of the bird community once you acquire the reputation for fine dining. Make sure to stay on top of keeping the feeders filled, especially when it is particularly cold or snowy. And if you haven’t yet, join our K&B True Value Birding Club! Just buy ten bags of birdseed and get one bag free! You save and the birds eat. Win-win.
The last couple months of summer were blazingly hot this year. Coupled with the heavy rains in June and July, your vegetable garden probably struggled with higher incidences of fungus, mildew, and pests this year. So if your cukes and tomatoes didn’t do particularly well this season...join the club. But, the good news is that you have another few months of vegetable gardening left with cool-weather vegetables!
Want to see birds without ever having to leave home? Look no further than outside your own window. All you need to attract birds is the right type of bird feeder and food. And don't be concerned about creating a hardship for birds should you decide to take a hiatus from bird feeding. Backyard bird feeders account for a relatively small percent of a bird's overall food supply, which is why when traditional food is available (i.e., worms, insects, seeds, berries, etc), birds will often opt for that instead.
How is your vegetable garden looking right now? It should be at the peak of production at this point, overflowing with summer bounty. And this is where most people discover the gardener’s dilemma ... too much of a good thing. Sure, planting all those zucchini plants seemed like a brilliant idea back in May, but now? You have so many zucchini that you may have to sell your house. But don’t fret. We have a solution. Canning.
Remember when you could stroll down the lighting aisle when you needed a bulb and grab a couple of sixty-watts without even thinking about it? Those were the days! But times have changed. How many times over the past couple of years have you found yourself in that same aisle, scratching your head, puzzling over the myriad of confusing selections that are now available? It’s confusing. We know.