Thursday, April 29, 2010

DIY: Container Gardening

Nebraska's frost-free date is right around the corner. Do you have May 10 circled on your calendar? Tobias and I can't wait to get started on our container garden.

Container gardening is the perfect solution for people with limited planting space or mobility issues. Container gardens can add a wonderful splash of color to an outdoor living space, make an entryway more inviting and provide fresh herbs for the kitchen.

Are you ready to get started?

Consider the size of the plants in relation to the size of your pot. It is important to leave a little bit of growing room. Most annuals will come with a tag that will have the mature height and width of the plant. This information is very helpful when planning your design. Different heights and textures will add interest and depth to your pots. Tobias prefers the large foliage plants, while I tend to go for the flowers, but a nice combination of both foliage and flowers makes for a design appealing to the eye.

Water and fertilizer are the keys to healthy, continuously blooming containers. When a plant is blooming, it is using an incredible amount of energy and nutrients to produce those flowers. However, when a plant doesn’t get enough moisture it goes into survival mode, which usually means dropping its blooms to conserve energy. Fertilizing your plants will provide them with the nutrients they need to keep flowering. There are many different fertilizers on the market and most people have a favorite. I have had great success with organic fertilizers. I look for organic fertilizers made specifically to increase blooms. It is important to read and follow the directions on the package. I like to find a fertilizer that can be applied weekly. I then alternate fertilizer and root starter once per week. Root starter can be found in the fertilizer section. With this schedule, you are supporting both top and root growth for a healthy, vigorous plant.

Removing spent blossoms (sometimes known as dead-heading) will also help your annuals keep flowering. When a blossom is done flowering, the plant actually uses a considerable amount of energy to get rid of the flower. By removing the spent flowers, the plant can use the energy to grow and to put on new blooms. This is more important for some annuals than for others. Geraniums will benefit from dead-heading more than a plant with small flowers like Lobelia.

Tobias and I hope you enjoy container gardening as much as we do. You can get more information on container gardening AND see a picture of Tobias and one of his pals in the May newsletter, so go to our website and check it out. Better yet, if you don’t already receive our newsletter, you can subscribe right from our website's home page.

We’d love to see pictures of your projects. Feel free to send them to us at Until the next time, happy gardening!
Rachael and Tobias (Meow!)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

DIY: Starting Flowers and Vegetables from Seeds

Hello! I'm Rachael and I've recently joined CM's Custom Lawn & Landscape's landscape division. I am responsible for landscape bed maintenance and, with the help of my cat, Tobias, am writing some do-it-yourself features for our newsletter and blog. If you don't receive our monthly newsletter electronically yet, please go to our website and sign up.

Have you ever started plants from seeds? This is not only a fun and rewarding project, but it is also a great learning experience for kids and can help cut the cost of this season’s flower and vegetable gardens. Here are a few tips from Tobias and me for easy, successful seed growing.

Gathering supplies.
The traditional seed tray filled with potting soil will work just fine for growing seeds, but there are a few products on the market that you may want to consider. One option is peat pellets, sold under several different brand names. It is a pellet made of peat moss that measures about 1”x ½” in size. When you add water, they expand to about 4”x2”. Tobias finds this part absolutely fascinating to watch. They are usually sold along with a tray and a lid to keep the moisture in. I like these because they eliminate the need for potting soil, which can be messy when using indoors.
Another handy product is the peat pot. These are small pots, about 2”-3” in size. You fill these small pots with potting soil and sew the seeds the same way you would in a seed tray. When the time comes for transplanting, simply make a few cuts in the side of the pot and place in the ground. The pots will begin to decompose rather quickly once they are in the soil, giving the roots plenty of room to grow. While Tobias prefers digging the plants by paw out of the traditional seed trays, I like the peat pots because I don’t have to worry about disturbing the root system of the young plant during transplanting.
These products will slightly raise the cost of growing plants from seed, but they make the process a little easier. In addition to these products, there are many others available in the garden centers of just about every hardware store in the area.

Dampening the soil.
Seeds should always be sewn in damp soil. I find the easiest way to achieve the correct moisture level is to use a zip top plastic bag. I start with my potting soil in the bag and slowly add water while mixing it until it is fairly damp, but not dripping.

The right location.
If possible, find a warm spot to keep the seed tray. During germination, warm temperatures are more important than the amount of available light. After germination (when the first leaves come above soil level) sunlight is important, but direct sunlight should be avoided.
We hope you enjoy your seed-starting project. If you have any questions about this or other gardening issues, don’t hesitate to call us or send an email to Rachael at

Happy planting!
Rachael and Tobias