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Musings About Family, Travel And Gardening With Allen Martinson.

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The Red Throats are Coming!


THE SPRING RUSH at the garden centers is on! We are accustomed to the early spring gardeners who just cant wait to come in to start getting their plan together. We thought it was kind of wild the way people reacted to the pandemic. Garden centers were deemed essential and now I see what a great thing that was not only for us keeping our staff employed but people really needed an outdoor area that they could safely spend time outside their homes. I can think of more than one occasion that a customer was in tears while they thanked us for being there for them during these anxious and confusing times. We saw a lot of new faces during that year, people and their pets who had never stepped foot in a garden center were making regular trips to the nursery. We loved having people coming and admitting that they were first time gardeners and they needed help to get started. That is music to our ears because it gives us an opportunity to educate them about how to correctly and hopefully successfully begin a new way of life in their garden spaces.


Some of the new gardeners were interested in growing their own veggies, especially when it looked like the grocery stores might not be able to keep up with the demand and people just didn’t want to go into the stores and buy produce that has been handled so much. Most of the vegetable gardeners wanted to start growing in raised beds, I saw a lot of great ideas that people had come up with to create boxes that would produce their bounty. The mix that I go home with when we are filling another box or creating new beds for landscaping is the recipe that I give people. Every scoop of grit mix that I take home will have one bag of mushroom compost, one bag of Sun Grow potting soil and one bag of cow manure. The grit mix is just like it sounds, its gritty, barky and sandy. That part of the mix is not one that I would not plant directly into, its for breaking up our clay soil so oxygen and water can pass through easily which is the key to healthy roots. The grit mix doesn’t have much nutrition to offer but its just as important to allow water to keep going away from the roots. The mushroom compost and the cow manure have the nutrients that those healthy roots need to get the plants going.


THE SUN GROW potting soil is one that we started using back in 1990 at the greenhouses where we grow our bedding plants. We loved that soil so much that we thought every one should know about this soil. We like the fact that we grow our bedding plants in that soil then the customer plants those bedding plants into some more of the same soil. It’s a recipe for success when planting up their pots or the ground. The Sun Grow adds the finishing touch to the mix by adding perlite, peat moss and other organic matter which gives the soil mix the perfect water holding capacity.


We noticed with some of the new gardeners that there seems to be some confusion about mulches. It’s very common for homeowners to have a lawn maintenance company come regularly to take care of cutting grass, keep the edges clean and blow away the cuttings when they are finished. These maintenance guys usually will refresh their clients plant beds with pine straw twice a year which makes a place look great. Pine straw is a great mulch, relatively inexpensive and can be applied quickly. Since most homeowners have this service it looks like pine straw is the only mulch used around here. I think many of the new gardeners equate pine straw as being the definition of mulch. The definition of mulch in plant beds is anything that when used correctly will keep moisture in and weeds out. Mulch is also the finishing touch to your beds and can really change the whole look of your house. I like pine bark mulch, it has a very clean, neat look that has a way of making the plants look great. There are all kinds of wood mulches such as Cyprus, pine nuggets and hardwood. Some of the wood mulches have been dyed black, brown and even red gives the mulch more time before it begins to age or turn grey.


ONE THING I noticed about the new gardeners and seasoned gardeners is that when they begin to come into the nursery people are attracted to the flowers that are in bloom at the moment all around town and in the nursery. In the early weeks, like right now, pansies are still looking great around town so people want pansies. We have to explain to people that will soon end when the higher temperatures get here is when those plants will have to be replaced with something that will take the heat.


If you truly want a profusion of blooms throughout the season you should get some of the tempting plants that are blooming right now but I think that half of the plants that you purchase should be green plants that wont bloom until much later in the season. These are the plants that are often overlooked at the garden centers. Believe me when I say I also cant pass up those rich and loud petunia colors early in the season, if you’ve driven past my nursery you know how I feel about petunias. I will back that up with something more heat tolerant for when the petunias poop out in the summer. That’s the time that those nondescript, green perennials come in handy to keep that color going all the way through the fall or at least until its time to replace them with pansies. Those colorful, heat tolerant perennials will come back year after year if that’s what you want, in my case I treat that planting in front of the nursery like my miniature Epcot, I keep it fresh at all costs.


It’s a great idea to add some later blooming plants so your place can look great year round. Its also a great idea to do a little homework before you come in to make big purchases like that because it can be overwhelming when you enter the bedding plant area and you can easily get knocked off track from your original plan which is fun but frustrating when you get home and cant remember what in the heck you are going to do with one of your great, new finds that we’ve tempted you with.


Many of the new gardeners were young couples with children who wanted to attract hummingbirds. They are so much fun to watch and there is so much available information about the hummers that to try even a little bit to begin building up the population is to be successful. It’s time now to get your feeders cleaned up and to begin filling the feeders as the earlier arrivals are not far away. I think the best way to attract the birds to your yard is to have some of the right plants growing for them to take notice. Some of those plants are Coral Honey Suckle, Cypress vine, Bee Balm, Red Buckeye and Butterfly Bush. You will want to keep pesticide use to a minimum in those areas that you are trying to attract them to because the pesticides are dangerous to them and the pesticides are also depleting the bugs that are part of the hummingbirds natural diet.


THERE ARE LOTS of new green thumbs in town and we are seeing new faces every day so this year should be another good year for making more green thumbs. Customers often come to say that they kill everything they try to grow. I believe that there are no black thumbs, everybody can garden. Green thumbs aren’t born they are made , I believe the key ingredient is perseverance. We hope to send people home with great plants and enough information that they will be successful in their trials and tribulations in the garden world. us garden center folks would way rather that a person asks the questions about those things that they are confused about. The customers budding green thumbs are our success. We believe that once a person has had some good luck in their garden it becomes a way of life to them which is our biggest goal. We want you to keep coming back to garden during the good times and the bad times.


Once thing I do know is that we almost have Easter behind us which seems to be every ones magic planting date. Its time for us to have our plans in place in order to have the best gardening year ever. Try local garden centers this year to see how much more fulfilling it can be to get information while purchasing your new pets, We want to see your green thumbs!

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