Posts

Five Things To Do Now For a Great Yard

Fall is truly one of the best times to get outside and to accomplish yard work. Summer’s heat has come and gone and your landscape is ready to be worked. Get your lawn in tip-top shape with this simple checklist.

Cross off these tasks from Hick’s Nurseries before winter to ensure your lawn and garden jump back into shape come spring.

Prep Your Lawn for Winter

Start with a soil test.

Test soil now for pH and nutrient levels so you have time to amend before spring. Grab a stainless steel trowel and dig 4” deep. Use either use a DIY soil test or send your soil sample to the county extension office.

fallen-leaves-65544_1920

Compost

Rake or collect leaves in a mower with bagging attachment from the lawn and add to compost. Leaves add great nutrients to compost.

Dethatch Lawns

Thatch is the layer of dead grass, roots and debris that accumulates between the soil surface and the grass. Over time, a thick mat forms that hinders water and air from reaching the soil. It can encourage pests and diseases. Use a thatching rake to break up small areas. For larger lawns, use a power dethatcher.

Reseed Bare Spots.

Fall is the best time to reseed tired and stressed lawns. With a broadcast spreader, apply a seed that best suits your region and weather.

grass-498628_1920

Prepare with Care.

Get your lawn ready for the cooler weather ahead by fortifying it with nutrients. An organic winterizer promotes growth, helps lawns recover from drought and increases winter hardiness. Follow instructions here.

Your lawn is ready for winter and will surely bounce back in spring. Now it’s time to start planning your garden for next year.

About Hicks Nurseries

Hicks Nurseries is Long Island’s largest and oldest garden center. Family owned and operated since 1853, the nursery offers an exceptional selection of indoor and outdoor plants, casual furniture, garden accents, silk flower arrangements, pond and birding supplies as well as complete landscape design services. The Long Island, NY garden center is located at 100 Jericho Turnpike in Westbury; 516-334-0066. Visit our web site at www.HicksNurseries.com.

   

The Dirt on Improving Your Soil

Sunflowers bigger than the sun. Cherry tomatoes tastier than cherries. Yes! Your flowers and veggies can be that good. All they need is healthy soil.

Boost your entire garden by starting from the ground up: the soil.

Soil, as you may have thought, is not dirt. Healthy soil is a collection of creatures, minerals and living material that holds water and nutrients like a sponge, making them readily available for plants. To continue to grow big, juicy fruits and vegetables, you need to make sure you’re feeding your soil.

Think of your soil as a bank, you need to continue to make deposits so you can make withdrawals when you need to. If you continue to draw all of the nutrients out of it until it’s dry and clay-like, you’ll be disappointed in your harvests.

healthy garden

Different Types of Soil

Soil can be clay-like, sandy or loamy. Ideally, you have loamy soil that is well-draining and full of organic matter.

  • Clay soil holds little water and air and is typically “heavy.” The particles are small and packed tightly, making drainage very slow.
  • Sandy soil has large, loose particles. Although it contains lots of air, it doesn’t retain moisture well because it drains so quickly, allowing nutrients to leach through the soil.
  • The ideal soil, loamy, is just the right mixture of clay, silt and sand. It holds nutrients and drains well, making it ideal for growing most fruits and vegetables.

To find out what kind of soil you have, thoroughly wet a patch of soil then let it dry for a day. Clay soil will remain in a tight ball and feel slippery. Soil that is gritty and crumbles is sandy. And slightly crumbly soil that stays in a ball is loamy.

good garden soil

The Golden Ticket to a Greener Garden: Compost

In organic gardening, compost is as good as gold! Scout’s honor.

1. Go for the Gold. There’s no such thing as too much compost. Compost adds nutrients, improves soil structure and helps retain water. Compost should make up 25 percent of each planting bed or container.

2. DIY the Good Stuff. Skip the bagged compost and make compost for free by recycling food scraps. Use a compost tumbler, and turn once a week.

3. Fashion It Faster. Jumpstart your compost by adding our Organic Composter Starter, which speeds up decomposition. Then turn on the turbo by shredding scraps first.

4. Split the Spoils. Fill your compost with an even split of brown and green. Green goods, such as food and garden scraps, add nitrogen while brown items, such as paper and leaves, complement with carbon.

garden-786105_960_720

Build Even Better Soil

Start with the composting tips above. Then take your soil to the next level.

1. Take the Test. Before planting, test your soil to see exactly what organic amendments it needs.

2. Curb the Chemicals. Step away from the chemical fertilizers – for the sake of your garden and pets! Opt for organic fertilizers that improve soil as they break down.

3. Make It with Mulch. Now, protect your golden soil with magic mulch. Mulch helps moderate soil temperature, prevents soil compaction and stops weeds, too.

Hands down, the best gift you can give your garden is golden soil. All your plants will be bigger, stronger and dare we say, happier!

A To-Do List You’ll Love: January Gardening

Ah, a whole year of gardening is ahead of us. January is the best time to pause, reflect and prepare for a year of incredible gardening.

OK, tired of reflecting? Here are a few winter gardening tips to keep you busy this January!

Things to Do in the Garden in January:

Ward off those winter blues with a hearty helping of green, gardening thoughts.  potting soil, garden design, winter gardening tips,

  1. Dream Big. Plan or rework your garden design. Pin inspiration, flip through gardening magazines and daydream ways to make your garden even better. Illustrate your garden plan to visualize the entire space.potting soil, garden design, winter gardening tips,
  2. Plan Small. Make a list of organic edible and flower seeds to grow. Get the most of seed starting by growing unique varieties, heirlooms and expensive grocery store plants. See what seeds to start indoors and when to plant them. winter bird feeding, attract birds to garden, garden for pollinators
  3. Listen to the Songbirds. Nothing livens up a dreary, wintry day like a flock of fluttering birds. Fill bird feeders with tasty seeds this winter. potting soil, garden design, winter gardening tips,
  4. Take a Look. Walk around your home and garden with a notebook. Imagine how you could reduce water usage, recycle more, compost or conserve energy. Each week in January, try one idea to see what works! Start by recycling your Christmas tree.

    potting soil, garden design, winter gardening tips,

    Gather your trusty garden tools, and give them a good scrub. Rinse off the dirt, sharpen the blades and rub vegetable oil on the metal.

  5. Clean It Up. Gather your trusty garden tools, and give them a good scrub. Rinse off the dirt, sharpen the blades and rub vegetable oil on the metal. potting soil, garden design, winter gardening tips,
  6. Taste Summer Flavors. Get your green thumb back in the potting soil. Start an indoor herb garden to harvest a garden-fresh taste on the coldest winter days. See what herbs do best indoors here.

Here’s to a home filled with fresh herbs, the sweet song of birds and a stack of gardening magazines. January’s looking quite charming after all!

Step-by-Step: Prep the Garden for Winter

Did you feel that? Jack Frost has flown in for the season. We’ve already felt the first nip of cold weather, which means your garden has, too.

For many, the first frost date arrives in late October or early November.

Help your garden weather the cold this season. Prepare the lawn and garden beds now for an easy, fruitful spring.

Gardening for winter consists mostly of outdoor cleanup, followed by an indoor revival. Cleanup first, though!

winter lawn

Clip, Drip and Equip the Garden before Winter

  • Discard the Deceased. Compost spent annuals and vegetable plants.
  • Protect Perennials. Water perennials (rose bushes included!) once more. Then, after the ground freezes, cut perennials back to 3”, and remove any dead or diseased cane on roses. Finally, mulch.
  • Create a Clean Slate.Remove weeds from garden beds and then create superb soil. Take the soil test and add organic amendments as needed. After a hard freeze, mulch beds.

winter-lawn-care

So Long to the Lawn

winter garden tips

Ta-Ta for Now Trees

  • Leave the Leaves. Turn those golden leaves into garden gold by composting them!
  • Bolster the Bark. Feed trees with an organic tree fertilizer, such as Espoma’s Tree-tone for winter sustenance.
  • Stare at the Bare. After the leaves have fallen, examine your tree for weak spots and problems to prevent damage from fallen tree limbs during snow storms.

Your garden’s been put to bed for the winter and will surely sleep soundly. Now, let’s focus on those incredible indoor plants to keep you gardening all winter long.

Score More from Your Organic Fall Garden Crops

Organic gardening in the fall always feels like such a treat. Even though the leaves may be changing, your veggie garden is still going strong! While the seasons are transitioning, you’re making the most of every moment — going to football games, bundling up in cozy sweaters, and munching on homegrown produce.

Help your organic garden to produce more veggies than ever this fall with these four tips.

1. Feed to Succeed. Feed your veggies once a month for a bigger, bountiful harvest. This is especially important if you had other crops planted in the same spot earlier. Those crops depleted the garden soil of its nutrients. Luckily, an organic plant fertilizer replenishes the nutrients to keep your produce growing strong.

Step-by-step instructions on adding an organic plant fertilizer here!

2. Pick of the Pack. The more you pick, the more produce you get! Once your crops start ripening, go out and pick every day.

Here’s when to harvest your organic veggies:

  • Lettuce and spinach: Cut outer leaves when young and tender.
  • Kale: Pick when the leaves are as big as your hand.
  • Carrots: Pick when the top of the carrot is 1”
  • Broccoli: Cut broccoli when its head is 4-7”
  • Cauliflower: Cut when its head is between 2-3”

3. A Fresh Feast. Plan your weekly dinners around what’s in harvest in the garden. This is the last hurrah for homegrown meals from the garden, so make the most of it. Of course, save some for winter,

4. Discover the Cover. If the chance of frost arrives earlier than expected, protect your crops. Water and then cover with a sheet, blanket or tarp. Use stakes to keep the cover from touching the plants.

Crunch! How amazing is it that you’re still harvesting veggies from your organic garden in autumn?!

Celebrate National Indoor Plant Week

Indoor plants are the superheroes of the plant world. They have the power to aid in concentration, increase productivity and even boost well-being.

To honor these green heroes, the third week of September is recognized as National Indoor Plant Week. So let’s celebrate!

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks indoor air pollution as one of the top threats to public health. We spend as much as 90 percent of our lives indoors — so it’s time to add some greenery.

Houseplants are surprisingly easy to take care of with these six tips.

1. Bring them indoors. Many people place their houseplants outside in the summer, but when temperatures start to drop below 50º at night, it’s time to bring them in! Check houseplants for pests before moving them. Help houseplants to adjust by bringing them in at night and returning them outdoors during the day. Over the course of two weeks, gradually increase the amount of time plants spend indoors.

houseplant2. New space. Repot houseplants if they’re in need of some additional space. Select a pot that is at least 2” larger than your current container and transfer. Use Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix to fill the rest of the container.

houseplants

3. Pick the right spot. A houseplant lets you know the spot is right by maintaining healthy leaves. If there’s enough light for you to read by, there’s probably enough for a low-light houseplant. Avoid placing plants near heat or air conditioning ducts, on TVs, or between the curtains and a chilly window.

houseplants

4. Give them a drink. If the soil is dry about an inch below the surface, add water. But don’t overwater! It’s the number one cause of houseplant death. Collect excess water in a tray or saucer and never allow plants to sit in water.

houseplant

5. Stay Comfortable. Houseplants are happiest when temperatures are between 70 and 80ºF during the day and 10-15º cooler at night.

potting soil

6. Feed houseplants. Fertilize houseplants with an organic fertilizer such as Gro-tone during active periods of growth. This is usually during the spring and summer.

With these tips, your houseplants will be looking their best in no time! Tell us about your favorite houseplant in the comments!

One, Two, Three – What Soil Tests Numbers Really Mean

With just a tiny bit of water, a handful of seeds and some sunshine, your garden makes its own magic.

Well, almost! Your plants get all their food from the soil, too. After a busy summer, it’s time for your soil’s checkup, so your soil can keep growing its best.

Perform a soil test to see what your soil needs. And, we’ll help you understand what those numbers mean!

Scoop, Snoop and Score Soil.

Your soil’s health is a mystery waiting to be solved. All you need to do is grab a handful of soil and examine it. Send it off to your local extension service. Or, get down and dirty, and DIY it. Here’s how to perform a soil test.

Soil tests measure the nutrients available to plants along with their pH level. Garden soil should be between 6.0-7.0 pH, while the ideal pH for grass is 6.5-7.0.

  1. Low pH? Power the Sour. You’ve got sour, also called acidic, soil with a pH level under 7. Before remedying, remember some plants like this! Raise soil pH levels by adding Espoma’s Organic Lightening Lime.
  2. High pH? Treat the Sweet. Soil with a pH level over 7 is known as sweet, or alkaline, soil. To fix, add Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier.

Conclusion Confusion. Understanding Soil Test Numbers

Looking at your soil test, your head may start spinning. What do all those numbers mean? Stick with us, your teacher at Espoma’s Garden School, to learn!

  1. When to N. The “N” on your soil test stands for nitrogen, which helps leaf growth. To raise nitrogen levels, add an organic fertilizer with a higher nitrogen level. Or, use blood meal or fish meal. To lower nitrogen levels, choose a fertilizer with less nitrogen.
  2. Be the P. “P” represents phosphorus, which helps plants flower and grow fruit. Need more phosphorous? Use an organic fertilizer with a higher percentage of P. Or, add bone meal. To lower phosphorous numbers, cut back on the P on the fertilizer bag.
  3. Way of the K. “K” stands for potassium, which helps plants resist diseases and grow healthy roots. If you have too much K, use an organic fertilizer with less potassium. Likewise, if you need more, opt for an organic fertilizer with a higher number K. Or, add sulfate of potash or greensand.

Strong, healthy soil gives way to stronger, bigger and better plants. Talk about a productive day in the garden!

Don’t Stall! Start Veggie Seeds for Fall

Today’s garden is bursting full of fresh fruits and veggies! There is nothing better than picking and eating a tomato, bean or pepper fresh off the plant.

Yet – we aren’t always so lucky. With fall around the corner, we are already thinking about how to prolong that never-ending supply of delicious, homegrown produce.

Now is the time to start cool-season seeds indoors.

Reap What You Sow: Starting Cool-Season Seeds Indoors for Fall

organic gardening

  1. Get the Goodies. For fall crops, pick the hardiest and most frost tolerant seeds, so they can survive the first frost. Some of our favorites include broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, beets, carrots and spinach.
  2. Time to Prime. Find your first fall frost date. Look at the number of days to harvest on each seed packet. Use that number to count back from the first frost date, so the seeds have time to mature. Play it safe and add two weeks since plants can grow slower during short fall days.
  3. Awaken the Seeds. Fill seed starting trays within ¼” of the top with a high-quality organic seed starter, like Espoma’s Organic Seed Starter. Read each seed packet to learn how deep and far apart to plant seeds. Cover with soil, press down, label and lightly water.
  4. Store and Cover. Lightly cover the tray with plastic wrap. Keep in a sunny spot near a south-facing window.
  5. Smart Watering. Keep seeds moist by placing the tray in a pan of shallow water until the water seeps up from the bottom. Refill when empty.
  6. Break Out Sprouts. When leaves start to poke from the soil, remove plastic wrap. Feed with an organic fertilizer, like Espoma’s Plant-tone.
  7. A Home Away from Home. Two weeks before planting outside, begin hardening off seeds. Move outside for a few hours a day, increasing time outdoors daily. Also, reduce watering without letting the soil dry out.
  8. All Grown Up! Gently remove plants from see starting tray, and plant in a prepared bed. Mix-in organic starter plant food to help them adjust and grow strong, such as Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus.

Crunch! You’ll be munching on homegrown produce well into fall. How amazing (and tasty!) is that?

Feed Tomato and Pepper Plants Now

By now you’ve planted your organic tomatoes and peppers! These homegrown veggies should be starting to flower — which means fruit isn’t far behind.

Now, it’s time to sprinkle a little magic.

The trick is to feed veggies monthly with an organic fertilizer. Tomatoes and peppers have big appetites, so they need plenty of organic food. Since plants get all their nutrients from the soil, their all-you-can-eat buffet runs out quick. Feed them right, and they’ll burst full of fresh produce.

how to grow tomatoes

Create a Balanced Diet:

  1. Go Organic. Since you’re eating this food and feeding it to your friends and family, you’ll want to ensure it’s the cleanest and healthiest possible. Choose an organic fertilizer.
  2. Take it slow. Chose a slow-release fertilizer. Artificial, rapid growth results in tall, lanky plants. Slow-release, organic fertilizers actually improve the soil as they break down.
  3. Plants need vitamins, too. Find a balanced food with calcium to help prevent blossom rot. Espoma Tomato-tone has 8% calcium! Be careful that you do not use too much nitrogen which will result in a lush, green plant with very little fruit.
  4. More Magic. Tomato-tone also includes Bio-tone®, a blend containing more than 3 million beneficial microbes. Sounds cool, right?

Don’t take it from us — Veggie Gardener had this to say:

“Bio-tone works magic with this fertilizer. These beneficial microbes do the dirty work of creating big and healthy plants which in turn grow large, plump, and juicy tomatoes. Beneficial microbes support good root growth by helping the roots absorb nutrients from the soil. Well producing tomatoes, or any plant for that matter, starts with a healthy and strong root system. Since I started using Tomato-tone, my tomato plants have grown faster, stronger, and produced more tomatoes.”

Ok, you get it. Fertilizing tomatoes and peppers is like sprinkling them with magic dust that makes them grow bigger, better produce. Now get growing.

how to grow peppers

Tips for Feeding Tomatoes and Peppers:

  1. Measure out the fertilizer according to instructions on bag.
  2. Feed single plants with 3 tablespoons of Tomato-tone. For rows of plants, apply 1 cup on each side per 5 feet. Feed potted plants 1.5 teaspoons per 4” pot diameter. More details here.
  3. Sprinkle Tomato-tone starting approximately 6” from the base of the plant.
  4. After feeding, water well.
  5. Feed tomatoes and peppers every month during the growing season.

Feeding tomatoes and peppers takes just a couple of minutes and drastically increases your harvest.

To feed your family lots of organic, homegrown veggies this summer, you’ll need to first keep your veggies well-fed! Get ready for the biggest, yummiest tomatoes and peppers you’ve ever grown.

While you’re at it, take a selfie with your Tomato-tone! Tag us in the picture with @Espoma.

Guide to Growing Organic Tomatoes

If there’s one vegetable that needs to be in your organic garden, it’s tomatoes! Juicy, red tomatoes are the taste of summer.

In a salad, drizzled with olive oil, sliced with fresh mozzarella or even eaten like an apple, homegrown tomatoes make every summer meal taste better.

Like all homegrown food, they’re picked when they’re the juiciest and most flavorful. And since you care for tomatoes all season, you appreciate theorganic tomato care and work it takes to ethically raise them. You know without an inkling of doubt that these tomatoes are organic, packed with nutrients and 100% free of harmful pesticides.

Plus when growing your own tomatoes, you get to pick exactly the kind you want! There are over 10,000 different types of tomatoes, in nearly every size and color.

To pick the tomatoes best for you, decide if you’d like to snack on tomatoes throughout summer. These are known as Indeterminate. Or if you’d like your crop to ripen at once at the end of summer, select determinate.

Also, think about how you’d like to use your tomatoes. Will you use them in lots of fresh recipes or can and preserve and save them for winter? See our favorite tomatoes below to pick the one right for you!

Best Tomatoes to Eat All Summer (Indeterminate)

  • Best Tomatoes for Sandwiches: Brandywine– The original scrumptious beefsteak, and all other beefsteaks
  • Best Tomatoes for Early Harvest: Early Girl– Bright red in color and flavor
  • Best Tomatoes for Sun-Drying: Any Cherry tomatoes

Best Tomatoes for Canning and Sauces (Determinate)

  • Best Tomatoes for Sauces – Full-flavored Roma
  • Best Tomatoes for Canning –Viva Italia which are virtually seedless
  • Best Overall Tomatoes: Rutgers– Abundant, uniform tomatoes that are perfectly tasty

tomato successPick one (or a couple) tomato varieties and get planting! Follow along below or check out how not to be a couch tomato with these tips.

Since tomatoes love the sun, they need a spot that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight a day.

Then, boost your soil. Mix in 3” of homemade compost or organic peat moss into the top 6” of your soil.

While you’re at it, mix in 9 cups of Espoma’s Tomato-tone per 50 square feet. For single plants, use 3 tablespoons of Tomato-tone per plant.

An organic plant food like Tomato-tone provides tomatoes the nutrients they need to grow big and plump. Since this is a slow-release, organic fertilizer, Tomato-tone never forces rapid growth, which reduces tomato yield.

Now dig a hole larger than the tomatoes’ original container. Look at the plant tag to see how far apart each tomato plant should be.

Situate the plant in the hole so its lowest leaves are below the soil level. Go ahead and pinch those lower leaves off.

Then fill the hole with amended soil or Espoma’s Organic Garden Soil.

To set your tomatoes up for success, stake them now to increase air circulation and sunlight exposure.

You can support them with a tomato cage, trellis or container. Or hammer 6-8” stakes 1’ into the ground about 3-6” away from the plant. When tomatoes begin blooming, tie them to the stake.

Right now though, all they need is some water! For the next few days, water tomatoes generously. Then, give tomatoes about 2” of water around their base each week.

In addition to watering, feed your tomatoes an organic tomato food each month. Organically fertilizing tomatoes with Tomato-tone produces larger, plumper tomatoes all season.

In 3-5 weeks, add 2-3” of mulch to reduce water consumption.

It won’t be long now until you’re biting into the first, fresh tomato of the season!

Share this post if you LOVE growing tomatoes!