Planting on Slopes
Gardening on inclines is a challenge. Wrestling a mower on a slope can feel like a wrestling match, and watering isn’t effective. Take the challenge out of tending to a slope by planting a garden that thrives on hillsides and steep inclines.
What To Plant
It’s not a good idea to use just one type of plant. Uniformity tends to highlight flaws, such as dead plants or weeds. A mixture of plant types – trees, shrubs, perennials and ground covers – is eye-catching and also helps diffuse the impact of rain on the slope.
For low height, plant a mix of ground covers that flower at different times of the year. Allow plants to compete for garden area as they grow and you’ll end up with flourishing plants that are best suited to the growing conditions.
Plants That Work
Some of the best for a slope are ground covers that tend to root along the length of their stems, forming a mat. Also, clumping plants, which produce several stems from one root. Deep-rooted plants, such as prairie plants, hold on even the steepest slope. Ornamental grasses, ground cover roses and shrubs (including shrub roses with a sprawling growth habit) work well on hillsides. Native plants are nearly always an excellent choice.
Drifts of wildflowers provide multi-season interest and are easy to maintain. For wildflowers to naturalize and create a self-sowing garden, you’ll need to mow or cut stems down after plants go to seed (after a hard freeze in cold regions). For the first couple of years weeding is vital. Wildflowers work best when a slope isn’t so steep as to prevent easy access.
Check with your local extension office to see if any varieties of buffalo grass will survive in your region. Also, types of fine-leaf fescue that can be grown without mowing.
Avoid turf on slopes less than 10 feet wide and steeper than a 25 percent grade. An even bigger challenge than mowing is watering. You can end up wasting a lot of water.
Many plants recommended for slopes have tenacious growing habits and can become invasive. Check your choice with your local extension office or garden center before planting.
Crown Vetch, Japanese Barberry, Scotch Broom and Virginia Creeper can be a problem due to their invasive potential. Plants such as English Ivy, Liriope, Vinca and Ajuga work very well on slopes but can invade nearby lawns. Contain them with barrier edging and snip stray Ivy and Vinca stems.
Avoid planting shallow rooted trees on a slope.
Before planting steep slopes ensure you’re not creating a potential erosion problem that could endanger your home.
California lilac (Ceanothus spp.)
Catmint (Nepeta spp.)
Creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis)
Forsythia (Forsythia – try “Arnold Dwarf” for small spaces)
Little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium)
Prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis)
Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium)
Rockrose (Cistus spp.)_
Rockspray cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
Shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa)
Snowberry (Symphoricarpos spp.)
Star jasmine (Trachelospermum spp.)
Astilbe (Astilbe spp.)
Common periwinkle (Vinca minor)
Japanese pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis)
Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis; leaves turn yellow in summer; plant with a partner that looks good in summer)
Siberian carpet cypress (Microbiota decussata)
It is easier than you think. It’s all about timing and technique and timing is usually more important than technique.
Early spring is when deciduous plants start to make leaves. First we see new leaves, then immediately the plants go into a very active period of growing and most plants put on the majority of their new growth in the first six to eight weeks of the growing season. Often putting on from six to ten inches of new growth.
New growth is very soft and pliable. It bends easily and the new stems are so soft that they could easily crushed between your fingers. As the growing season progresses the growth starts to harden off and progressively gets harder as the season goes on. By fall the plants quit growing as giving all the branches a chance to harden off. The new growth has to harden off so it’s strong enough to go through the harsh winter conditions.
By fall the stems are quite hard and rigid, they can’t be easily bent without breaking them. Any cutting taken early in the growing season is a softwood cutting. Cuttings taken later in the growing season, and even into the winter, are hardwood cuttings.
Softwood cuttings root much faster than hardwood ones. However, softwood cuttings are more frail and can fail easily where as hardwood cuttings are tough as nails. If you can keep your softwood cuttings healthy, they will root rather quickly.
Not spring. Nothing roots well in the spring because the plants are growing fast and that growth is frail. The time to start taking softwood cuttings is six weeks from the time they start making leaves. So in zones 4, 5, or 6 a good target date would be mid-June. In zones 7 or 8 you might start as early as mid-May. If you are in a really warm zone like 9 or 10, even earlier. You can take cuttings the other times but those early and mid-summer cuttings root easily.
So in zones 4, 5, or 6 a good target date would be mid-June. In zones 7 or 8 you might start as early as mid-May.
If you are in a really warm zone like 9 or 10, even earlier. You can take cuttings the other times but those early and mid-summer cuttings root easily. cuttings root much faster than hardwood ones. However, softwood cuttings are more frail and can fail easily where as hardwood cuttings are tough as nails. If you can keep your softwood cuttings healthy, they will root rather quickly.
You can also conduct root cutting in the fall, but the wood is harder and they are going to root much slower. If you warm their bottoms using plant propagation, or seed starting, heating mats that are designed for the purpose of starting seeds or rooting cuttings, they’ll root much easier.
Take about 5” from the end of a branch on any part of the rose. If the branch has a flower bud at the tip, prune it off. The act of clipping the cutting from the plant creates enough of a wound to make the cutting feel as though it needs to make roots to stay alive but you can also wound the cutting on one side by scraping about ½” of the bark or outer tissue off with a knife on one side at the very bottom. Make a lot more cuttings than you need. More cuttings dramatically increases your chances of getting a few successful rooted cuttings.
Make a lot more cuttings than you need. More cuttings dramatically increases your chances of getting a few successful rooted cuttings. you remove a cutting from a plant you must take measures to keep the cutting healthy as it no longer has a root system. Since the plant is healthy but has no roots it goes to work to correct that. The first thing it does is builds some callous over the wounded part of the cutting. Then it makes new roots.
Once your cutting is made, stick it in a rooting medium, water the medium well to make certain there are no air pockets around the base of the cutting, cover it with plastic, or a plastic water bottle or mason jar. This creates a mini greenhouse in which it can nurture. Put cuttings in the shade so the direct sun won’t get to them.
Make sure the rooting medium is moist at all times but not soaking wet. A rooting medium that does not drain well will cause the bottom of the cutting to rot and the cutting will fail. It should be loose enough so that you don’t have to be concerned about over watering. Water all you want when you water, but don’t water too often.
As you see to the right, the containers do not need to be very large. All that’s needed is just a few square inches.
Sand is great because it stays just moist enough, but doesn’t stay so wet that it will actually rot the cuttings. But if it’s too much trouble to find sand use light and fluffy potting mix perhaps with Perlite added
Promoting Root Growth
Buy a good rooting solution and follow the directions on the package. During the summer months mix a weaker solution, in the fall a little stronger and in the winter mix at the maximum rate for hardwood cuttings.
Keep it warm but not hot, and in a fairly humid, but not wet, environment. The rooting medium should be damp, but not soaking wet. Keep the sun off the cutting while the rooting process is taking place. Cuttings are usually happiest in shade, maybe just a smidgen of sunshine to keep them fed via photosynthesis. In the fall the cutting wood is harder and sun isn’t as damaging as it as it is during summer months when the cutting wood is soft, pliable, and more vulnerable.
The Top 10 Common Indoor Green Plants For Clean Air
House plants do more than simply make your home look better. These plants can help make your home healthier and better for you to live in by improving the air quality. Research done by NASA has proven the benefits of certain house plants, and you need to consider getting these plants for your home.
Dracaena is a long striped plant that can easily thrive in your home. This is due to the fact that it only needs small amounts of sun and moderate watering. However, this plant is able to offer a range of benefits that you need for your home.
The plant is able to eliminate trichloroethylene which comes from varnish and solvents. These chemicals are also found in printing inks and adhesives. When this is present in your home it can cause headaches, dizziness, vomiting, and drowsiness which could lead to a coma with long-term exposure.
One of the most visually appealing plants is the Peace Lily with its unique white flowers. This plant also has the highest transpiration rate of all the plants on this list. However, it is important that these plants can be toxic so keep it out of reach of pets and children.
The Peace Lily is able to remove trichloroethylene, alcohols, acetone, and benzene from the air. Short-term exposure to benzene has been linked to increased heart rates, headaches, and irritation of the eyes. Long-term exposure to this chemical can result in unconsciousness.
The Snake Plant
The Snake Plant is unique in the fact that it is one of the few plants that turn carbon dioxide into oxygen during the night. While this is a good thing for your home, it is not the only benefit that the Snake Plant is able to offer. These plants are best placed in the bedroom and a carpeted living room.
The reason for this is the fact that the plant is able to prevent formaldehyde leaks from the wood furniture and carpets. The plant will remove this chemical from the air which will ensure that your lungs are healthy. The placement in the bedroom will also help you have a better night’s sleep.
The Golden Pothos
If you have trouble keeping plants alive, then you will love the Golden Pothos. This plant is quite hard to kill and the vines will grow fairly quickly. This makes it a great hanging plant or one that is placed on an elevated surface. This is considered to be one of the best starter plants for people who have never had to look after indoor plants before.
Like the Snake Plant, the Golden Pothos is able to remove formaldehyde from the air. This plant will also double up as an effective carbon monoxide remover. This is important because carbon monoxide can be deadly if not taken care of.
The Dragon Tree
The Dragon Tree is one of the plants that are very popular in office spaces and homes because of the attractive look. You can pot a number of these plants together and train them to grow into a braid for additional appeal. This plant also has amazing purifying powers. However, you will need to be careful with this plant if you have cats and dogs because it can be toxic to them if they eat it.
The Dragon Tree is able to pull xylene from the air. This is a chemical which is released by cigarettes, car exhausts, and paints. Short-term exposure to this chemical can cause irritation in the throat, heart problems, kidney damage, and confusion.
The Spider Plant
If you want to have a spider plant, you will need to place it where it will get natural light, but will not be directly exposed to the sun. A moist environment is required by this plant and it will grow at impressive speeds. It is recommended that you water the plant twice a week to ensure that it thrives.
The Spider Plant is best placed in the kitchen and by the fireplace. This is due to the fact that the plan will eliminate carbon monoxide from the air. The plant will also help in the removal of xylene from the air.
English Ivy is a great pot plant because it will spread easily and is attractive to look at. English Ivy is also very versatile when it comes to the growing conditions and will not require much maintenance. This plant is recommended for households where there are smokers.
This is due to the fact that the ivy is able to eliminate carcinogens from the air which is caused by second-hand smoke. This air purification is good for the lungs and for any children in the house. English Ivy is also able to remove trichloroethylene from the air and benzene.
The Boston Fern
A lush plant that is known to be a natural air humidifier is the Boston Fern. It is important to note that this plant can grow as large as 5 feet. This means that you will only need to have a single plant in your home to see a difference in your air quality.
The Boston Fern is able to eliminate formaldehyde from the air as well as work as a humidifier. The plant will also be able to eliminate xylene from the air. A problem that you might have with this plant is that it can be high-maintenance if you live in certain areas. You might have to water or mist the plant each day to get the benefits that you want to your air quality.
If you have small areas of your home which could house a plant, the Bamboo Palm is the best solution. This plant will easily grow in shaded areas and should not have any direct sunlight. The plant is also resistant to insect infestations so you do not have to worry too much about it.
The Bamboo Palm is able to remove trichloroethylene and benzene from the air. It will also act as a humidifier which is ideal for dry climates. As the palm is relatively small in size, you will be able to place it in any room of your home.
The Lady Palm
The Lady Palm is one of the plants that require more attention to ensure that it thrives. You will need to water the plant a lot during the spring and summer months. However, the plant will make up for this with a heavy resistance to insects and the ability to grow thickly without much effort.
The Lady Palm is also very versatile and effective when it comes to the filtration of many indoor air pollutants. One of the pollutants that this plant can take care of that others cannot is ammonia. Short-term exposure to ammonia will cause eye irritation, a sore throat, and coughing.
Having plants in your home can help you in a number of ways and purifying your air is one of them. NASA carried out a study into various plants that will improve the quality of your air and you need to consider getting some of the plants that they recommend. These plants will remove harmful chemicals from the air and will ensure that your family is healthy when they are at home. Of course, you will need to consider the growing environment in your home and the amount of time that you can spend on the plants before you choose the ones that you want.
Neonics Are Hurting Bees and Other Living Things
By now, we have all heard about the dire die-off hitting many species of bees. Although some of this problem can be traced to mites, virus and fungal diseases and the loss of foraging habitat, much focus has been on NEONICOTINOIDs (“neonics”). These chemical pesticides began to be used in the 1990s on agricultural crops and on nursery plant materials (shrubs, trees, flowers, etc.). Since 1999, they have become the most used pesticides in the world.
Previous research suspecting toxicity has been confirmed: neonics pose both acute and chronic risk to aquatic life and birds and are highly toxic to bees. Because they are water-soluble, they can move through the environment to nearby plants and water bodies if applied as a drench, and they can drift to surrounding areas if sprayed. They can also persist for months and even years and can accumulate from one season to the next. Their action is systemic, so they reach into all parts of the plants including the pollen and nectar of flowering plants.
For the past few years, much attention has been focused on this issue in the US. A study in 2014 showed that 51% of pollinator (flowering) plants sold at Home Depot, Lowe’s and Walmart contained problematic levels of neonics. So, instead of helping the bees, butterflies and humming birds by bringing home pollinator/nectar plants, gardeners were unknowingly serving up toxic chemicals! The EU released a comprehensive assessment in March 2018 and is suspending the use of most of these neonics on agricultural and organic food crops. Canada has already instituted bans. Our EPA is dragging its feet: a January 2017 review with primary input from the chemical industry concluded neonics pose “no significant risk” and the EPA seems ready to reregister their use for another 15 years.
Due to pressure from Xerces, Friends of the Earth, other organizations and consumers, some progress is being made: Home Depot will phase out plants containing neonics this year, Lowe’s will phase them out by Spring 2019, and BJs did so in 2014. Maryland and Connecticut have banned retail sales of these pesticides, as has Dover, NH, Ogunquit, Maine and many other cities.
Backyard gardeners can help in several ways:
Avoid use of all pesticides around your home. Instead, seek out non-chemical alternatives
Ask your nursery if potted plants—especially species that support pollinators—have been treated with neonicotinoids. Do not buy. When possible, purchase organic plants.
Ask your local nursery to stop selling neonicotinoid products. Avoid products that include: imidacloprid (i.e. Merit), clothianidin, thiamethoxan, and acetamiprid.
Request that landscape and gardening companies not use pesticides on your property and ask them to plant organic plants.
Increase the pollinator habitat in your yard, including plants, water, and nesting areas.
If purchasing seeds for planting, make sure the seeds have not been coated with neonics.
Read up on the topic and actively advocate for regulations to limit/prohibit the use of these chemicals. Support research on organic alternatives.
Resources for more information:
Pollinator Plants for the Northeast—with pictures and growing information.
Attracting Native Pollinators---a wonderful resource book.
How can neonics kill bees? Report.
Beyond Pesticides Best newsletter for current regulatory information and action.
By: Maria Bartlett
Environmental Awareness Committee
Andover Garden CLub
How To Conserve Water And Still Have An Amazing Yard
Part of being a homeowner means you get to take care of your yard. Whether you’re really into landscaping or just want to keep your home’s value up, it’s something you have to take care of through maintenance and watering.
It’s the last part that’s becoming a problem. More communities are facing drought restrictions that last a while. How can you conserve water and still have an amazing yard? There are several ways, such as picking the right plants and using drip irrigation. But you first need to understand why conserving water is so vital right now.
Why Water Conservation Matters
Are things at the point where you really have to start changing the landscape around your home? That depends a little on where you live, but the overall answer is yes.
You know that you need clean water to drink, but so do the plants and animals that people depend on. Without enough water for irrigation, the food supply will dwindle. And as the population of the world grows, livestrong.com shows there’s more demand for water for all purposes.
But saving water is about more than just food. The more water you use for your yard, the more you pay for it. As communities use more and more water, you also spend more energy needed to pump the water from deeper and deeper in the ground. This starts to dry out more land, again putting crops and animals in jeopardy.
Things are bad, and they’re getting worse.
Then what can you do to help? Thankfully, you can still have an attractive outside while conserving water. First, you need to know a few terms.
Home Advisor has an excellent glossary of landscaping terms you need to know. For example, xeriscaping is designing a landscape perfect for drought-stricken areas. In other words, xeriscapes use less water while still looking great. Knowing these terms can help you work on a landscape on your own or with professionals.
Another key term you need to know is drip irrigation. Traditional watering sprays water over the grass and plants, allowing it to soak into the ground and support the plants. However, a lot of water is lost to evaporation or wasted on driveways.
With drip irrigation, you run pipes under the ground that slowly release water — it literally drips out. This gives your landscape the needed water while conserving it so you can save water (and money) while keeping your lawn green.
Other Landscaping Tips
Even with drip irrigation, there are additional ways to conserve water while maintaining your yard. HouseLogic explains that you should pick plants native to your area whenever possible because they’ve already adapted to your local climate. That means less water is needed to keep them green. You also want to pick plants that don’t grow as big. Again, this saves water. Other tips include:
● Use plenty of mulch to reduce evaporation and control weeds that steal moisture from your yard.
● Make paths out of porous materials so rain can soak deeper into the ground.
● For grass, pick Bermuda or buffalo varieties since these use less water. Also, mow less often so the grass’ roots have more shade.
● Water in the early morning so less water is lost due to heat, especially in summer.
Save Water & Your Lawn
Drought restrictions aren’t just annoying — they’re a sign that something bad is happening to the water supply. You need to do something, not just to help the planet, but to help your yard and wallet. Start by knowing some landscaping terms, especially drip irrigation. Then pick the right plants, set up the right landscaping, and enjoy saving water and your lawn.
Why Care About the Bee Crisis and How You Can Help
You may have noticed that there has been an increase in talk about bees in recent years. Statements are being made about how there is a very real and credible threat to their existence, with scientists, conservators, and agriculture experts in agreement. Multiple species are experiencing record decreases in population throughout the world, and the situation is bad enough that the European Union formally issued a ban on the usage of insecticides harmful to bees in 2013. Colony collapse disorder, which is a phenomenon that is basically wiping out entire hives with no clear cause, has slowed down since it began ten years ago but the rates are still alarmingly high.
As horrible as the situation is, many people do not understand why this is an issue that humans should care about. A significant portion of the environment and everything in it is tied to bees, and that includes people. Bees are pollinators who play a crucial role in agriculture and food production; fruits and vegetables, as well as honey and wax products, are major parts of our way of life. Around one-third of our food supply is dependent on pollinators like bees. So, if it’s on your plate and it came from a plant, you likely have bees to thank for it. Animals also get much of their food from plants that are pollinated by bees, so bees are indirectly responsible for your non-vegetable meals as well.
It’s not just food sources that depend on bees either. Plants that are not consumed also need pollination for things like reproduction and genetic diversity, which helps them exist. They also help create the beautiful landscapes that are found throughout nature. Do you like greenery and flowers? Ever enjoy the sight of a rose, lily, or a peony in full bloom? Bees, yet again. There is just so much that would not exist the way it does without their involvement and that is why it is so important to care that they are in grave danger.
So what can YOU do to try to help bees in their time of need? Quite a bit actually, and right from the comfort of your home, too! As of late, the easiest thing that anyone can do is plant bee-friendly plants in their yards and gardens. These often include flowers and herbs that are native to your area, which are going to be more comfortable and tolerant of the climate—and therefore will be noticeably durable compared to non-native species. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has lists of plants that are pollinator-friendly by state or region. You can also talk to experts at your local plant nurseries for advice and tips.
If you don’t have a green thumb or the space to host plants, you can still help out. You can put “bee baths,” little plates or shallow dishes of water, outside for bees to get a drink and cool down. You can volunteer with or donate to conservancy groups like The Honeybee Conservancy, the Pollinator Partnership, the Xerces Society (mentioned above), or a local group in your area. Habitats like bee blocks or hotels, which you can purchase or build yourself, can be put out for bees to move in and set up a colony. Just make sure that you give them enough real estate around the habitat so they’re not bothered. You can also support your local beekeepers by buying locally grown produce and honey when you go grocery shopping—check your local farmers’ market for a variety of fresh options.
We may see them as pests at times, but in reality, bees are key to human survival. The time is now for us to show them our appreciation by helping them thrive again!
Fall Means Winterizing Your Garden and Lawn
Autumn is the time to get your lawn and garden ready for winter, as well as prep for next year’s bounty. That means there are a few small chores you need to do before it gets cold in your area.
First, assess your results. Take a walk around your yard and gardens to see what worked well and what didn’t. Did you try something new that worked? Did a vegetable produce less than you expected? Write all this down so you’ll know what to plant next spring. Note which plants have overgrown their space, as you may need to divide them.
Keep an eye out for bare spots in mulch that might need a bit of replenishment, and look at the plants and determine if there are any diseases or damage. Replace your summer annuals that have finished their cycle with new cool-weather annuals, such as asters, chrysanthemums, pansies and cyclamen. You can add compost and peat moss to replenish nutrients.
Be sure to mark your perennials. Put sticks in the ground where your perennials will come back so you don’t forget where they are. Now is a good time to fertilize them, too. Look for a fertilizer with a high potassium content, which will promote root growth, making your plants more hardy.
If you have house plants to bring in, do so before you turn on your furnace and remember to them to get rid of pests.
Transplant your fruit plants, such as strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb. They can deplete the soil of nutrients, so they need to be moved every three or four years.
This is when it’s time to plant your bulbs. Shop early for the best selection, then get them in the ground six to eight weeks before the first hard frost. In the spring, you’ll have beautiful tulips, daffodils and more blooming in your yard.
Rake leaves -- but not all of them. Leave some under trees and bushes, as they become much-needed compost. Make sure to get the leaves scattered in your perennial beds and lawn. If left behind, they can cause crown rot and attract fungi and insects.
Put your raked leaves in your compost pile so you can use it for your plants later. If you don’t have a compost pile, they’re really easy to start. It’s basically layers of dirt, leaves, food scraps and shredded newspaper to make the richest soil additive there is.
Keep mowing, and when it comes time to finish for the season, lower your mower blade to the lowest level for the last two cuts. This way, more sunlight will reach the crown of the grass. Fall is also the time to aerate the lawn. You can rent a gas-powered aerator, which will poke holes in the ground. This allows water, oxygen and fertilizer to reach the roots.
Your cool-season grasses are now recovering from the summer heat and drought and getting ready to enjoy their best climate. Fertilize your lawn with a slow-release all-natural fertilizer, ideally around November, when you’re finished mowing but the ground isn’t frozen. You might even want to put down a second application of pre-emergent herbicide. This will take care of weed seeds that fell during the summer months. In the spring, you’ll do an application to get rid of weed seeds that spent their winter in your lawn, making your lawn grow more lush and beautiful next year.
The fall may seem like the end of your garden’s peak beauty and growth, but it’s a time to extend its beauty and prepare for a more fruitful next year. It only takes a little work to be prepared for the winter dormancy and help ensure a beautiful sprin