6 Cool Weather Growing Tips

As evenings become cooler and crisper and the daylight gets shorter and shorter, it’s a signal that frost is not too far away. The change in temperature and season can leave gardeners longing for the warm summer air, instead of prepping for winter.

There’s still plenty of gardening to be done this time of year. Get the most out of your fall harvest and set your garden up for spring success by jumping on these garden tasks now.

6 Tips for Fall Gardening

Plant Trees

It’s no secret that the best time to plant a tree or shrub is in the fall. Before you plant, evaluate the landscape to assess the amount of sunlight, ground vegetation, proximity to permanent structures, and hazards, such as overhead wires or underground pipes. Choose a site where the tree will be able to grow to its mature height. Then, dig a hole twice as wide and the same depth as the root ball. Place the tree in the hole at the same depth it was growing before and fill half the hole with compost or Espoma’s All Purpose Garden Soil. Mix in an organic fertilizer such as Bio-tone Starter Plus with the soil. Backfill the hole, give it a nice drink of water and watch your tree grow.

Get Bulbs in the Ground

Spring-blooming bulbs can generally be planted any time before the soil begins to freeze. Give bulbs their best shot by planting a few weeks before the ground is frozen to help them establish roots. Be sure to add in a scoop of Bulb-tone to each planting hole.

Improve the Soil

While fall is for planting, it’s also the perfect time for prepping for next season. Healthy soil is the backbone of every successful garden. Test soil now for pH and nutrient levels and amend accordingly. Dig 4” deep with a stainless steel trowel and either use a DIY soil test or send your soil sample to the county extension office.

To adjust the PH level of your soil, use Espoma’s Organic Garden Lime to raise the pH of very acidic soil. Poke holes in the soil’s surface and scatter on the lime. Rake lightly into the top inch of soil. Or, apply Espoma’s Soil Acidifier to lower the pH of extremely alkaline soil.

 Create Compost

All of those colorful leaves that are falling make for perfect additions to your compost pile. If you don’t have a compost pile already, start one! The best compost contains about 25 times more carbon-rich materials than nitrogen-rich materials. Think of these as brown and green materials. Brown materials include paper, straw or dried leaves. Green materials include garden and food scraps. Add Espoma’s Compost Starter to help speed the composting process, for rich, fertile compost.

 Top with Mulch

Add a thick blanket of mulch to reduce evaporation and control weeds.

Choose organic mulch that will improve the soil as it decomposes. Lay 2 – 3” of mulch around established plants.

When mulching trees, the mulch should extend away from the plant to just beyond the drip line covering a bit of the roots. Keep 2 – 3” away from the stems of woody plants and 6 – 12” away from buildings to avoid pests.

Prep and harvest fall crops

If it looks like frost will arrive earlier than expected, protect your crops and extend your growing season by covering with a sheet, blanket or tarp. Use stakes to keep the cover from touching the plants.

 

Looking for an indoor project? Check out this low-light succulent planter from Garden Answer.

Top Trees for Fantastic Fall Color

The changing color of leaves is one of the best performances of fall. Trees all over are shedding their summer greens and bringing in their vibrant reds, oranges and yellows. With it comes the magic of fall, the lower temperatures and cool-weather festivities for everyone to share.

Fall is the perfect time to get trees in the ground, so what are you waiting for? Add some fall color to your garden to keep the vibrancy radiating throughout the season. There are hundreds of trees that produce amazing fall color, but these five are known for their incredible transformations.

5 Fantastic Fall Trees

Red Maple

This fall classic brings the right amount of fall color to any landscape in every season. Throughout the year, this tree has a touch of red on it. During the fall, it opens with vibrant reds and wonderful yellows. Red maples are a fall favorite, which everyone seems to enjoy. Plant in zones 3-9 and watch this tree grow.

Japanese Maple

The variety you choose will determine the variety of colors. Some Japanese maples stay red year-round, while others transition with each season. With those varieties you could see green in the summer, intense reds in the spring and yellows and orange in the fall. Plant in zones 6-8 for your trees to thrive.

Sugar Maple

Finishing off the maples strong, the leaves of this fall standout can form a complete color wheel throughout the seasons. The foliage will change various shades of green in the summer, then to shades of yellows and oranges, to eventually land on bright red in the fall. Watching this tree complete the cycle is well worth planting it in the yard. Plant anywhere in zones 2-10 and enjoy this tree every season.

Sassafras

Known for making root beer from its roots, sassafras is more than just sweet. Sassafras will exceed your expectations for fall colors with its gorgeous display of purples, reds, oranges and yellows. Better yet, you will enjoy the sweet scents that emit from the limbs year-round. Plant this hardy tree in zones 4-9 and welcome fall to the yard.

Black Gum Tree

One branch of this tree can contain many shades of fall color, which makes it a contender for our fall favorites. You will find shades of orange, yellow, purple, bright red and scarlet foliage decorating this tree. The variety that will provide the best fall coloring is ‘Autumn Cascades’. It is a weeping variety, which makes it all the better for that perfect fall look. Plant in zones 4-9 and watch your tree grow to 30 to 50 feet high.

Make sure you keep the fall colors vibrant and full with Espoma’s Tree-Tone.

Bring the Outside In – Best Indoor Plants

Having a beautiful garden is what we all dream about, but in the cases we don’t have the space or we want to have more greenery inside, indoor plants come to the rescue.

Some indoor plants come with the added benefit of not only giving color to a blank space, but also cleaning the air you breathe every day. Some plants are better for an office space while others are great as a centerpiece.

Not sure what plants will work for your space or how to care of them so you can enjoy them for a long time? We have you covered! We’ve rounded up the best indoor plants to introduce to your office or home this week and offer some tips on how to keep them happy and healthy. Be sure to monitor the light and water requirements and feed regularly with Espoma’s Indoor! liquid plant food for superior results.

7 Best Indoor Plants

  1. Ficus

Arguably the most popular indoor plant for homes and offices, the ficus’ simplicity in looks makes it well known and well liked. They are great for purifying the air — making the air better and cleaner to breathe. Ficus trees love indirect light, so place plants in a naturally bright room where it will thrive. Keep your ficus away from any drafts as they prefer more heat. This plant is perfect for the home or office; it is both beautiful and sophisticated.

  1. Peace Lily

The peace lily is a hardy, forgiving plant that will let you know when it needs water. It has a telltale droop to signal it’s thirsty. It will pop back up as soon as it gets the water it desires. Peace Lilies prefer bright indirect light, but will be happy with medium light, as well. Place it somewhere light comes through for a few hours of the day.

  1. African Violets

With a little bit of learning, you can introduce brilliant, cheerful blooms to your home easily. They don’t need a lot of room, so any small pot or a group of them in a bigger pot works well. African violets need bright to medium indirect light. Place them 3 feet from a west or south facing window and turn them regularly to ensure proper growth. Feed regularly with Espoma’s Violet! liquid plant food for plenty of blooms. Bring this plant to the table during dinner or hosting a party to make a beautiful and colorful centerpiece.

  1. Golden Pothos

Due to its attractiveness and simplicity to grow, golden pothos is one of the most common houseplants. Golden pothos’ trailing vines love to fall over the sides of the container, making it fun to decorate with. Those who have a “black thumb,” welcome this plant into their homes. It needs low light and minimal watering, so placing it in a bathroom would be perfect.

  1. Rubber Plant

This indoor plant may seem intimidating, being able to grow 10 feet tall, but they are simple to care for. Rubber plants love being the focal point for any home. Place your plant somewhere with bright, indirect light and water with room temperature water. These are great in sunny spots when protected by a sheer curtain.

  1. Kalanchoe

Add a pop of color with this beautiful flowering plant. While it has a reputation for being a disposable plant, with a little care they may rebloom next season. It is easy to propagate a new plant quickly from the cuttings. Place your kalanchoe in a place with bright light, such as a windowsill.houseplant care, potting soil, indoor plants

  1. English Ivy

This gorgeous plant will take over wherever it is stationed. You can train it to grow around an item to make it into a decorative sculpture or allow it to spread freely. English Ivy needs bright indirect sunlight and steady moisture. This would look great on a desk or mantel where the sun hits.

 

Keep the foliage on your houseplants’ foliage looking great with Espoma’s new leaf polish Shine!

Best Plants that Produce Fall Fruit

It’s easy to help your garden thrive when there is something beautiful to look at. Spring and summer seasons make this easy to do with their gorgeous floral blooms. Did you know that Autumn can have equally as attractive plants?

Even the simplest shrubs and trees make great additions to fall gardens, bonus points if there’s fall fruit involved. We’ve rounded up the top trees and shrubs that will provide year-round enjoyment and fresh fall fruit.

6 Trees and Shrubs with Fall Fruit

  1. Mountain Ash

This deciduous tree gets its name from the blue-green pinnate leaves and white flowers that bloom in the spring. Mountain ash truly dazzles in autumn, turning into a blazing purple and red. The white flowers transition to shiny pink berries that stands bright against its foliage. And despite the name, mountain-ash (Sorbus) are very different types of plants than ash and are not attacked by emerald ash borer. Hardy in Zones 4-7 and feed regularly with Tree-Tone for strong roots and trunk.

  1. Crabapple

Crabapple trees offer beautiful hues. Varieties can include colors of burgundy, purple, red, orange, green or yellow. As the crabapple transitions into autumn, the fruit really begins to show. It transitions well into the winter, when birds will happily take care of the fruit. Hardy in zones 4-7 and feed regularly with Tree-Tone for strong roots and trunk.

  1. Beauty Berry

While you might not think twice about this shrub in the spring or summer, it shines in autumn. Its tiny pink flowers transform into brilliant ruby-violet berries that stop people in their tracks. This autumn shrub will give your garden something to talk about. Hardy in zones 5-11. Use Plant-Tone for beautiful berries.

  1. Possumhaw

This tree may be small, but it certainly is mighty. Even after the foliage falls in the autumn, the bright red berries remain, making it look like a red flowering tree. The berries on this tree aren’t large, but they last through a cold winter – unless the birds get them first. The Possumhaw is tricky – it ‘prefers’ acid soils but can ‘tolerate’ alkaline. Hardy in zones 5-8 and feed regularly with Holly-Tone for strong roots and trunk.

  1. Teton Firethorn

Stunningly bright in the autumn and winter, this show stopping shrub is the perfect edition to your garden. Vibrant orange fruit pop out from behind the foliage. The fruit thickly covers top to bottom on this plant. This shrub is tall and typically used as a hedge. Hardy in zones 6-9 and feed regularly with Holly-tone for radiant blooms and fruit.

  1. Coralberry

This low-key shrub in the spring and summer saves it’s best for autumn and winter when the small yellow flowers transform into purple-red fruit clusters. They are shade tolerant and can last well into the winter. Hardy in zones 2-7 and feed regularly with Plant-Tone for gorgeous blooms and tasty berries.

Want to know how to fertilize trees and shrubs? Let Laura from Garden Answer show you how!

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Laura from Garden Answer demonstrates how to fertilize a tree using Espoma’s Tree-tone. The slow release formula provides a long lasting nutrient reservoir to feed the entire tree, leaves, trunk, and roots.

Your Guide to Fall Hydrangea Care

Caring for your hydrangea can make all the difference for next year’s blooms. Hydrangea’s are strong and can come back from almost anything when given enough time and proper care.

Read fall care tips below and then visit our total guide to growing hydrangeas here!

Just follow these fall tips for pruning and maintenance. It isn’t complicated.

 

Identify

It is important to identify your variety first because some hydrangea varieties do not like being pruned in the fall.

If your garden has hydrangeas, then you need to know that there are two types of hydrangeas. One type produces flower buds on old wood and the other produces flower buds on new wood. Stems are called old wood if they have been on the plant since the summer before. New wood are stems that develop in the current season.  Most varieties found in gardens are old wood bloomers including Mophead, Big Leaf, Lacecap, and Oakleaf hydrangeas. Double check your variety with your local garden center.

When to Prune

Hydrangeas can grow for years without being pruned, but if they get unruly, over take an area of the garden or lose their growing capabilities – it is time to trim. But when to prune them?

Prune fall blooming hydrangeas, or old wood bloomers, after they bloom in the summer. If you prune old wooded hydrangeas in fall, you are cutting off next seasons blooms.

Summer blooming hydrangeas, or those that bloom on new wood, are pruned in the fall, after they stop blooming.

Hydrangeas are colorful and vibrant in the early season, but are hard to preserve after being cut. They are easier to care for after they start drying on the bush.

How to Prune

Near the bottom of your plant, you will see thin, wispy, weak growth. Cut those down. They will take up energy that your plant could use for blooms.

Look for any dead stumps on your stems. They will not have grown any new wood or buds out of the original old wood. Cut the dead stumps down to their base to completely remove them. This will allow the new growth underneath to have a chance to succeed.

Dead and old blooms need to be removed to make room for new buds to come through. Cut the flower head off right above the first few leaves to encourage blooms for the next summer.

Stand back from the plant and observe its shape. You’ll want to prune the shrub into the shape you prefer, a sphere is the typical style but you could prune it into any shape you want!

Clean the Debris

Remove any debris that fell off from the base of the plant. You want to make sure your soil is free of any weeds, leaves and dead flowers.

Fertilize

If you’re growing blue hydrangeas, feed with Holly-tone to keep the soil acidic and the blooms bright. Otherwise, opt for Flower-tone.

For the best hydrangea care, feed 2-3 times throughout the growing season, which is from spring until fall.

Follow these few steps and your hydrangeas will be happy and vibrant for years to come.

Visit our total guide to growing hydrangeas here!

Check out our favorite timeless flowers for more ideas on what flowers will bring you joy for years to come.

Fall Foliage that adds Spark

Gardens full of life and color are the best gardens to have around. It is easy to bring colors to life during spring and summer when everything is blooming.

While summer is known for its vibrant colors, fall also brings bold colors to the garden.

Flaming fall foliage will bring spark life to your garden even when everything else seems to be dulling. Show off with foliage to bring life back into your garden.

Our Top Fall Flaming Foliage Picks:

Virginia Creeper – This creeping vine brings beautiful colors that can expand in every direction. The best variety for fall would be the “Red Wall” vine. With colors that range from dark green in the spring and summer to bright red and orange when autumn rolls around, this foliage will make your neighbors stop and stare.

 

Height: 20-25 ft
Width: 6-8 ft
Hardiness Zone: 3 to 9

Sun Requirement:  Part Shade to Shade

Itea – Dramatic is one way to describe the transformation of colors in this plant. Going from clusters of little white flowers to daring red-purple foliage is truly incredible. The “Henry’s Garnet Sweetspire” is the perfect fall variety to include in your garden. It has a surprise for every season.

Height: 3- 4 ft

Width: 4-6 ft

Hardiness Zone: 5 to 9

Sun Requirement: Full sun to part shade

Gro-low’ fragrant sumac – Described as a crazy quilt of yellows, reds and oranges, this sumac is exactly what your garden needs this fall. The small-leaved shrub makes it easier to manage, but still provides the same visual experience of a larger sumac. Its berries are edible and you can even brew them into a drink.

 

Height: 1.5- 2 ft

Width: 6-8 ft

Hardiness Zone: 3 to 9

Sun Requirements: Full sun to part shade

Red Switch Grass – This classic adds color to any part of your garden, but it is most often used as a border plant. The “Rotsrahlbusch” variety brings a beautiful blend of purple and red all year long. This variety is known for being slim but straight which makes it a perfect backdrop to some of those amazing blooming florals.

 

Height: 3-4 ft

Width: 3/8 in

Hardiness Zone: 3 to 9

Sun Requirements: Full sun

Coral Bells – This plant will go with anything you put around it! It is the perfect plant to add into an empty place in your garden. The Heuchera “Autumn Leaves” variety is one to look to for amazing reds, caramel and ruby colors. They can last for years, bringing vibrant colors. Coral Bells are great at attracting hummingbirds, too.

 

Height: 1- 1.5 ft

Width: 1-1.5 ft

Hardiness Zone: 4 to 8

Sun Requirements: Full sun to part shade

 

Remember to fertilize regularly with Espoma’s GROW! Liquid Fertilizer to keep the foliage looking vibrant and lush.

Nature Never Goes Out of Style – Transition into a Fall Cutting Garden

Seeing all of your hard work and tiny seedlings bloom into amazing plants full of color is the best part about gardening. It’s easy to bring the essence of the outdoors inside. All you need is a cutting garden.

Choose blooms that will make you happy, even if they don’t look particularly pleasing next to each other in the garden. This is your place to be creative and make amazing floral bouquets to brighten your indoor spaces.

Top Autumn Plants for Cutting Gardens

Autumn brings a change of color. This list shows off vibrant fall plants that will keep your bouquets fresh and on trend.

1. Goldenrod

This filler adds a bright pop of color to any arrangement. The mustard yellow flower can vary from short, packed blooms to long, spacious blooms. Goldenrods require minimal care and can grow almost anywhere.

2. Blue Mist Spirea

A reliable performer, blue mist spireas are the perfect addition to any fall cutting garden. Use individual stems or entire branches of this purple-blue flower. Blue mist spirea will grow about 2’ to 3’ tall and wide with 1” clusters of flowers.

3. Sunflower

Since sunflowers come in a variety of colors, keep autumn tones in mind. Seeds are easily germinated and will bloom within 60 days after germination. Pollen-free sunflowers are best for bouquets.

Where to Start:

1. Choose Your Site

Scope out an open, well-drained, sunny spot for your cutting plants. The size of the space depends on how many plants you want to grow. Don’t think you have space? Plant cutting flowers between your vegetables rows. Or add them to containers on your patio or balcony!

2. Plan Your Plants

Check plant tags to see if your site meets the requirements for sun exposure and growing conditions. Be sure to keep the layout of the garden in mind. Leave spaces between the rows to make cutting and collecting easier. Plants that are the same height work better together— for you and the plant.

3. Prepare the Ground

Make sure your soil is clear of any debris and weeds – you don’t want your flowers competing with anything else. Work in several scoops of Espoma’s Bio-Tone Starter Plus in to the soil, to give your plants a good head start.

4. Planting Your Garden

Planting with seeds or seedlings are both great options for this garden. They are planted an inch into loose soil. Fertilize regularly with Espoma’s Liquid Bloom! Plant Food for the best results. Make sure to water flowers at least weekly.

As your plants start to bloom, keep cutting. The more you cut the more flowers you will get! It’s as easy as that.

Looking for more inspiration? Learn how to plant this easy fall flower container with Laura from Garden Answer.

Prep Gardens for Frost

Winter can be hard on any garden, but many plants can be protected from a light frost and continue to grow until your first hard freeze. Now that your garden has transformed for fall, it’s time to shield it.

If the forecast calls for a cold front or frost, it can actually improve the flavor of many cool weather greens, such as spinach, collards, and kale.

While we can’t control the weather, we can protect plants now before they get into trouble.

Winter can be hard on any garden, but many plants can be protected from a light frost and continue to grow until your first hard freeze.

Protect Plants from a Frost:

1. Water your plants the night before a frost. Wet soil releases moisture in the air, which raises the temperature and keeps plants warmer throughout the night.

2. Cover plants with an old sheet, blanket, cardboard boxes or row covers. Row covers can add more than a month to the fall growing season. Use bricks, large stones or landscape pins to anchor covers to the ground. Remove covers as soon as the weather warms up.

Winter can be hard on any garden, but many plants can be protected from a light frost and continue to grow until your first hard freeze.

3. Cover individual plants with an inverted bucket or flower pot. Uncover as soon as the temperature rises above freezing.

4. If you haven’t brought all your container plants inside yet, now is the time to do so. Or, you can simply move large potted plants closer to the house or into direct sun.

If a freeze does do some damage to your garden, don’t fret! Sometimes only a few parts of a plant are injured, and it will continue to grow.

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.

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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.

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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.

   

Test And Amend

A soil test measures how acidic or alkaline your soil might be. If your soil has too much of either, plants won’t absorb the nutrients they need. Most plants grow best when the soil pH is in near-neutral, between 6.0 and 7.0, but there are exceptions. Blueberries and potatoes, for example, love acidic soil, so a pH above 7.0 will not make them happy.

With a soil test, the guess work is gone. You’ll know just what your soil needs. So, you’ll add the right amount of lime or sulfur, and you’ll select the best plant food, too.

While fall is for planting, it’s also about for prepping for next season. McDonald’s Garden Center has the scoop on how to on amend soil for healthier, bigger and better crops come spring!

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Test And Amend Soil’s pH:

1. To solve your soil mystery, grab a stainless steel trowel and get diggin’! Dig 6-8” deep if sampling garden soil, or 4” if testing your lawn’s soil.

2. Either DIY it with an easy to use, at-home soil test from your local garden center, or call in the professionals and send your soil sample to the County Extension Office.

3. Fix soil’s acidity and alkalinity in a way that’s good for the planet and your home. Go organic! Espoma soil amendments are 100% natural, safe to use around pets and children, and contain no fillers whatsoever.

4. Apply Espoma Organic Garden Lime to raise the pH of very acidic soil. Poke holes in the soil’s surface and scatter on the lime. Rake lightly into the top inch of soil.

5. Apply Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier to lower the pH of extremely alkaline soil.

6. Compost also helps push the pH of any soil neutral.

7. Wait until spring to test your soil for positive changes.

Want to turn pink hydrangeas blue? Learn how to amend your soil and work magic in the garden.