(BPT) - The end of summer doesn’t have to mean the end of your gardening enjoyment, even if you don’t have the time or climate for a full plot of food plants. Herbs are perfect fall crops; they are prolific growers, can satisfy your desire for fresh, garden-grown greens and are one of the easiest ways to elevate your recipes from so-so to so good! Plus, they’re ready to harvest and growing your own will make a dent in your grocery bill.
The fall gardening experts at Bonnie Plants offer some gardening guidance for planting herbs this fall:
Multiple factors will influence your choice of herbs, including fall temperatures, where you live, and your taste in seasonings.
If you decide to plant outdoors, it’s important to know when to expect the first hard frost. You can find the estimated first frost date in your area by checking out Bonnie’s online frost map.
You’ll want to choose herbs that like cooler weather, such as parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, mint, chives, lavender and oregano. They’re all prolific producers and some, like mint and rosemary, are especially easy to grow. Availability of Bonnie’s fall varieties is limited to specific regions, so check your local garden retailers.
Pick a place
You may envision pots full of leafy, green herbs sitting on a sunny windowsill, while colorful autumn leaves, or even snow, fall outside. However, windowsills aren’t always a best bet for indoor herbs, especially if your windows are drafty or the herbs brush the cold glass.
Herbs need at least four to six hours of natural light per day to grow indoors, so choose a sunny spot near a window where they’ll be protected from drafts and cold. South- and southwest-facing windows will give you the most natural light throughout the day. Windows facing north won’t provide enough sunlight.
Picking the right pots
If you really love rosemary, you may be tempted to try to plant the largest pot appropriate for your kitchen, but stick with manageable-sized pots that will fit better indoors, allow you to keep your herbs more organized, and still produce plenty of yield. Be sure to choose pots that have good drainage and always use a premium potting mix.
Caring for container herbs
Any type of plant growing in a pot needs water, and herbs are no exception. You’ll need to keep a close eye on your herb plants’ watering needs. Remember, dry topsoil is not an indication plants need water. A quick and easy test is to stick your finger, or a pencil, into the soil right where the stem enters the soil. If the soil is moist at 1.5 to 2 inches deep, do not water. If dry, it’s time to water! Always water in the morning, at soil level and avoid watering the leaves, as bacteria can breed in cool, wet, damp and dark conditions, like night time.
Fertilize your food plants. Water is an obvious must, but irrigation can wash nutrients out of the soil. Plus, some potting mixes only have a short-term supply of fertilizer while others are slow-release. Read the label on your premium potting soil mix and follow the brand’s recommendations for fertilizing frequency. Timed-release granular fertilizer or a plant food you mix with water will help keep herbs nourished. Remember food plants are hungry!
Best bets on basil
Although basil is the most popular herb, it can sometimes struggle growing indoors. Start off growing it outdoors on a sunny deck. Be sure to continually pinch-off the prolific leaf growth, which encourages more growth and harvest, until the weather turns cool, then bring the pot indoors. Harvested leaves can be continually dried, although freezing does a better job of preserving the herb’s flavor.
Tip: Try using old ice-cube trays, inserting basil leaves in cells, filling with water and freezing. When weather gets cold, you can easily pop your “basil ice-cubes” in recipes throughout the cold weather season. Basil is also tasty in some drinks, like lemonade and tea.
While clipping sprigs when cooking is a great way to harness the freshness of any herb, you can also store them and they’ll maintain their flavor. Preserving by drying and freezing aren’t your only options; try adding herbs as seasoning to cooking oils.
Whether you’re an expert gardener or a first-time fall grower, autumn is the perfect time to fall in love with the freshness, flavor and ease of herb gardening. You’ve still got time to get growing!
(BPT) - If grubs overtake your lawn this spring, will you know how to get rid of them? Do you have the time and skill to effectively patch those ugly bare spots that developed over the winter? A lush lawn and beautiful landscape are on virtually every homeowner’s wish list, but a lack of time and knowledge commonly keep people from effectively caring for their own lawns.
Americans spend an average of just 20 minutes a day on lawn care, according to the American Time Use Survey. What’s more, many homeowners don’t know how to properly care for their lawn and landscape, a Harris Poll reveals. Conducted on behalf of the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), the survey found that while nearly seven in 10 Americans said their lawn could be better, nearly one in three didn’t know how often to water their lawns and nearly a third admitted to not knowing how to grow a healthy lawn.
“A healthy lawn isn’t just for cosmetic appeal,” says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for NALP. “Properly maintained lawns can not only elevate home value but also reduce exposure to weed-induced allergies and help purify the air in communities.”
Of the 94 percent of people with landscaping around their homes, 44 percent hired professionals to help over the past year. Working with lawn care professionals can help ensure your lawn remains healthy and attractive all year round.
NALP offers some advice for getting the most for your money when you work with a lawn care professional:
* Put some thought and research into the hiring process. Look for lawn care companies that are members of an industry association, and ask friends and neighbors for recommendations. When you’re interviewing companies, find out how long they’ve been in business and the experience level of staff. If you live in a state that requires lawn care professionals to be licensed, make sure the one you’re considering has a valid license. Ask for a written, detailed contract that specifies what work the company will be doing in your yard.
* Talk with your lawn care professional about your long-term vision for your yard so you can develop a master plan together. For example, if you envision large planting beds in front of your house or a shade garden in the backyard, they can help suggest how to progress in phases that will fit your budget.
* Be clear about your budget and expectations before hiring a lawn care professional. Will you want the company to aerate and seed the grass? Manage weeds and troubleshoot problem areas? Your lawn care professional can work with you to include specific tasks in a contract that sets expectations for both parties.
* Be open to your lawn care professional’s suggestion about types of grass seed for your landscape. Often, professionals prefer working with grasses and plants that are native to your region since they’re most likely to thrive in your landscape.
* Follow your lawn care professional’s guidance for watering and any other lawn care tasks that you’ll be handling yourself. Ideally, your DIY efforts should complement the work your professional is doing, rather than undermine it. For example, if your lawn care professional seeds your lawn to fill in some bare spots, follow his or her instructions for watering the seed to ensure the best possible results.
Seventy-five percent of Realtors have suggested home sellers do a standard lawn care program before putting their homes on the market, according to the 2016 Remodeling Impact Report by the National Association of Realtors and the NALP. What’s more, 14 percent say professional lawn care helped close a sale for them, and the project recovers 303 percent of its investment value at the time of sale, the report found. To find a lawn care professional near you, visit www.loveyourlandscape.org.
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