Category Archives: Gardening Basics


Not only does mulch add a decorative finish to your flower beds, it also helps keep soil cool and moist and thus reduces the need for watering. By using a pre-emergent herbicide with mulch, weed seeds can be discouraged from germinating and growing. And, I’m sure we can all agree, weeding is a chore nobody likes to do!  So, which mulch should you use?
Pine Bark and Chips – Pine mulches should be used around plant that require and acidic soil such as azalea, rhododendron, mountain laurel and holly.
Shredded hardwood – This is by far the most popular mulch. It has a dark color and knits together well so that it does not wash away.
Shredded Cedar – This long-lasting hard wood mulch has a pleasant fragrance. Cedar mulch also knits together well and is thought to repel insects.


  • 1 cubic yard of mulch will cover 150 square feet of area to a depth of 2 inches. We recommend 2 inches as the dept for optimum plant vigor and growth.
  • There are 27 cubic feet in 1 cubic yard.
  • Compost is an excellent soil amendment but should not be used as a top dressing.
  • When applied correctly, mulches reduce the growth of weed, prevent soil moisture evaporation, maintain consistent soil temperatures, improve soil structure and increase soil nutrients as they decay and keep the garden looking neat and tidy.




The key to successful gardening is “healthy soil.”  This basic principle of organic gardening applies to all plants.  Quite simply, when you feed the soil the proper nutrients, you let the soil feed the plants.  So how do you “feed” the soil?  First, you need to understand some elementary information about your soil and why it is so important, and then you can take steps to improve it.

To start, you should determine the soil texture by moistening the soil and rubbing it between your thumb and fingers to determine it’s “feel.”  Sands are gritty and will barely hold together; clay can be squeezed into a firm shape; and silt will act in a way to allow particles to cling together.  Sandy soils tend to dry out quickly because they contain high amounts of soil air.  Oppositely, clay soils have a tendency to pack together, shutting out air and water.  The best garden soil, “loam,” has moderate amounts of sand, silt and clay.  Generally, soil in our area tends to be clayey.  This condition can be improved by adding a soil conditioner like Gypsum. For sandy soils, humus should be added to help retain moisture and nutrients.

Next, you must evaluate the soil structure.  Soil structure is affected by soil pH, the amount of humus and the combination of minerals in the soil.  Ideal soils allow soil particles to clump together with air spaces between them for water drainage as well as oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide release from plant roots.  The best way to improve soil structure is to add high amounts of organic matter like humus, dehydrated manure, composted manure, mushroom compost, alfalfa meal, peat moss, or worm castings.

You will also need to take a soil sample, to measure the pH and amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the soil as well as other nutrients. This will help determine exactly what the soil needs.  Our staff will help you read the results and determine what to add to your soil and how much.  Generally, a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 is acceptable.  If your pH is lower than this, your soil is too acidic and requires lime to be added.  If your soil is low in organic matter, it will often have a high pH level. All plants require a proper balance of nutrients – nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).  Soils lacking any one of these elements will not produce healthy plants.  Refer to the Organic Fertilizer Chart for suggested amendments.

When dealing with poor or improperly balanced soils, obtaining “healthy” soil may take two to five years to acquire.  The best thing you can do to supplement your soil program is to use various organic fertilizers to meet your plants’ needs and regularly add organic matter.  This will continue to help the soil structure as well as create biological activity that is also a vital part to developing productive soil.

Key Words

Soil Texture – The proportional amount of sand, silt and clay in the soil.

Soil Structure – The arrangement of soil particles in the soil.

Soil pH – The measurement of acidity or alkalinity of the soil.

Organic Matter – Various forms of living and dead plant and animal matter.




Halleluiah, it’s tomato-planting time again! If you’ve grown tomatoes in the past, you most likely have your favorites. If not, just ask! You’ll find some pretty strong opinions regarding tomato choices.

One of the many features you will need to consider when choosing what type of tomato to grow is plant habit. The two main habit classifications are “determinate” and “indeterminate” and are based on fruit use, available growing space and length of growing season. Both habit classifications include fruit selections in a wide variety of color, size, shape and taste.


Tomatoes from a determinate plant are produced earlier in the growing season, on terminal ends of a compact bush. This type of tomato generally reaches 3 to 4 feet in height and is easily supported with a tomato cage or may even be self-supporting. Due to its compact habit, it may even be grown in containers. Because all the fruit ripens at the same time, determinate tomatoes are an excellent choice if you plan to can your fruit or make sauce. Determinate classification includes popular varieties like:

“Celebrity” – an eating tomato
“Roma” – a paste tomato
“Patio” – a dwarf selection
“Baby Cakes” – a cherry tomato
“Carolina Gold” – extra large, yellow fruit


Indeterminate tomato plants will fruit along the entire length of the stem over a longer period of time, in fact continually, until frost.  Smaller amounts of fruit ripening regularly throughout the growing season makes an indeterminate tomato plant and excellent choice if you can not cook or consume a large quantity of this perishable fruit all at one time. Indeterminate tomato plants are vines, requiring proper pruning and support, to reach their ultimate height of 8 feet or more. Indeterminate classification includes popular varieties like:

“Amish Paste” – heirloom, paste tomato
“Beefmaster” – extra large sandwich tomato
“Better Boy” – juicy but firm, compact vine with shorter internodes
“Black Krim” – deep color, rich flavor
“Chocolate Cherry” – cherry, chocolate red in color


Spring Lawn Renovation


If you are planning to seed a new lawn or overseed an existing lawn, it is best to seed as early as possible. It is important to get seed germinated and growing before trees begin to leaf out. This is especially true in shaded areas. Keep the area moist at all times until the roots become established, then you can gradually decrease the frequency of watering. The new grass can be mowed when it reaches a height of about three inches.

Rejuvenating a Weak Lawn:

Your lawn cannot live without air, water and nutrients. When a thick layer of thatch builds up, water and fertilizer may run off instead of penetrating the soil. Aerating and dethatching can help rejuvenate a lawn by restoring passageways to the soil. Late spring is an excellent time to dethatch cool-season grasses. Thatching rakes can be used.

Test your soil to determine the pH. We recommend a small handful of soil taken from a depth of 3 inches. At a pH of 6.8 to 7.0, nutrients are most readily available to turf grasses, and beneficial microorganisms are more active to decompose thatch.

Fertilize with Seed Starter Fertilizer and top dress with peat humus or cover with salt hay or Penn Mulch.

Crabgrass Control:

On established lawns that you are not overseeding, apply a fertilizer with crabgrass control in early to mid April. Straight Team products can be applied with separate fertilizers like Espoma Organic 18-8-6. Reapply Team in early to mid June for the second germination of crabgrass. Remember, crabgrass seeds start to germinate when the soil temperature reaches 50 to 58 degrees. Use corn gluten as an organic alternative for crab control on an established lawn.

On newly seeded lawns and those seeded in late fall or during the winter months, use a starter fertilizer with crabgrass control. You will need to reapply in four weeks because Tupersan is not as effective as Team. Apply a Team product in early to mid June.

Maintaining your lawn at a higher level, 4 inches, throughout the growing season will allow you to control crabgrass without the use of chemicals. Taller grass will shade out the crabgrass seed preventing it from germinating.

Insect Controls:

An early season application of Merit will provide effective white grub control for the growing season. This preventative method tends to give better results than applying insecticides when you notice damage as it then may be too late.