Soils and Mulches for Landscaping Perfection

What could be more important than soil? Every plant needs good soil. But what exactly is good soil? Here, you’ll learn about that, and also about mulches and soil amendments, all of which have immediate and lasting benefits.

Good soils contain plenty of nutrients to keep plants growing, but a good soil isn’t too rich, because that could burn the plant’s roots. Depending on the situation, you may need soil with a lot of drainage or the other way around. A good soil also doesn’t compact too much, because compacted soil is harder for roots to grow through.

You can always make good soil yourself through composting and other good practices, but if you’re not experienced with that, it will take a lot of time and guesswork. So, if you don’t have the resources to make your own, you can find a lot of high-quality soils, amendments, and mulches available to improve your soil.

One type of soil you’ll find on the market is potting soil. This type of soil is specialized to work effectively in containers or pots. It is formulated to enhance root development and provide efficient drainage without becoming compacted. Potting soil is good for planting in containers or pots, but not the best for plants that are put right into the ground.

On to soil amendments and mulches. While these are both additives to raw soil, amendments are mixed into the soil, while mulches are spread on top, similarly to how cinnamon might be mixed into a bread’s dough while jam is spread on the top. Both of these improve our figurative bread in different ways, and the same goes for soil, mulches and amendments.

Many raw soils aren’t very good for planting without some help. For instance, clay soils are very compact, and sandy soils lose water quickly. Amendments can solve both of these problems.

Mulching helps to retain water and keep down weed growth. Any weed seeds that would be germinating when you put the mulch down will fail to, with the mulch blocking their sunlight. New seeds will happily germinate on the mulch, but these can easily be tugged out and tossed away.

Don’t expect your plants to like your raw soil. Especially when plants are getting established, they need good soil. So look for a soil amendment that fits your situation and mix it in. Add some fertilizer depending on the plant. Then add some mulch to keep the weeds down and the ground hydrated. And watch your plant thrive!

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Tips for a Dog-Friendly Garden

Barking Up The Right Tree?

Gardens can be a very nice thing to have around, and if you’re survival-minded, they can help produce food that you don’t have to buy, too. But, gardens and dogs don’t always get along on the best of terms. At Steve Myers & Sons Nursery, we want to make sure everything goes just as planned, so we’ve got some tips to help you make your garden as dog-friendly as possible.

Plants And Why To Like Them (Or Not)

When it comes to dogs, some plants are just fine, and others… not. Let’s go over which plants you can plant just fine in a dog-friendly garden, and which ones might give your dog a stomachache, or worse. The following plants are just fine for your dog to be around: hens and chicks; crape myrtles; ferns; daylilies; rose of Sharon; creeping phlox; roses; sunflowers; strawberries; and torch lilies.

The following plants are not good for your dog, so avoid planting them in areas your dog can get to: aconite, buttercups, chrysanthemums, crocus, daffodils (they look nice, but they aren’t so nice to your dog), daphne, delphinium, foxglove, hyacinth, hydrangea, normal lilies, tomatoes, tulips, wisterias, and yew. Mind you, that’s not all the plants that could harm your dog, so always do your research before you plant anything. If you think your dog might be able to get somewhere that already has such a plant (perhaps you just got a new dog and didn’t have dogs in mind when you originally planted your garden?), using a raised bed or a fence too high for your dog to jump over may work to stop your dog from hurting themselves.

It Doesn’t Just Kill Weeds

Be wary when applying chemicals to your garden. It may be nice to be free of weeds with the chemical solution, but there’s a risk: while dogs eating grass is quite ordinary and should normally give no cause to worry, chemically treated grass is another matter entirely. If you notice anything strange about your dog’s behavior, try to get them to a vet as soon as you can. It may turn out to be nothing much to worry about, but your dog getting sick is always something to be on alert for.

That’s it for this article. We hope you and your dog have a safer time with these tips in mind.

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Grow a Native Plant Garden

Native plant gardens are becoming more and more popular. Here, we’ll tell you why.

Steve Myers and Son Nursery LogoBut first, let’s start with the difference between a native plant garden and a standard garden. A native plant garden is one composed of plants endemic to the area the garden is located in. These plants adapted and became integrated into the local ecosystem.

Now we’ll talk about the primary reason people have against native plant gardens. Some claim that native plant gardens are unattractive or boring. This is simply not the case. With a good variety of natives, you can have a native plant garden that blooms year-round in vibrant colors.

On to why you should grow native plant gardens. First of all, native plants are good for the local ecosystem, protecting and nourishing bees, butterflies, birds, and other local wildlife that integrate these plants into their lives.

Native plants are better for the area, and also easier to care for. Adapted to the local conditions, native plants don’t need special care like fertilizers, pesticides, or frequent watering, and may even be harmed by the use of these. So, native plants are both easier on the environment and less work on your part to grow!

A look at some of the plants native to U.S. regions:
Northeast: Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia), New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.), wild ginger (Asarum canadense), Northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum)

Southeast: Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), pasture rose (Rosa carolina), oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia), beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens)

Midwest: Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), beardtongue (Penstemon spp.), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), spicebush (Lindera benzoin), cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Texas: Ashe juniper (Juniperus ashei), yaupon (Ilex vomitoria), dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor), Texas sage (Leucophyllum frutescens), Texas sotol (Dasylirion texanum), century plant (Agave americana)

Rocky Mountains: Plains prickly pear (Opuntia polyacantha), soapweed yucca (Yucca glauca), Rocky Mountain columbine (Aquilegia caerulea), Colorado four o’clock (Mirabilis multiflora), threadleaf giant hyssop (Agastache ruprestis), Rocky Mountain penstemon (Penstemon strictus)

Southwest: Autumn sage (Salvia greggii), Parry’s agave (Agave parryi), blue Palo Verde (Parkinsonia florida), golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii), red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora), prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp.)

California: California fuchsia (Epilobium canum), California lilac (Ceanothus spp.), California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), coastal prickly pear (Opuntia littoralis), Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri), hillside gooseberry (Ribes californicum)

Pacific Northwest: Red flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum), Camas lily (Camassia spp.), Pacific bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa), Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium), vine maple (Acer circinatum), Western sword fern (Polystichum munitum)

When planting a native garden, make sure to research plants and ensure they are native to your specific locale. Also choose plants based on your goals. Are you looking for an easy, low investment and low maintenance native garden? Or do you want to attract certain wildlife?

In either of those cases and more, Steve Myers and Son Nursery can provide! We specialize in ornamental trees and shrubs. Take a look and see if you find any native plants you like in our stock.

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Best Shrubs For Small Areas In Your Landscape

It’s sometimes said that if you take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves. While that may or may not be true from a landscaping perspective, if you have a bunch of small spaces and are feeling uncertain what to put there, Steve Myers & Sons Nursery would be happy to offer some recommendations. Let’s jump right in.

Steve Myers and Son Nursery LogoDownsized In Size Only

The term “shrub” may not sound like much. However, shrubs make a great fit for small outdoor areas that it’s tricky to put anything else in; furthermore, a good few of them have quite the impact despite their small size. Many small shrubs make good company with the standard retinue of annuals, perennials, trees, and anything else you’d like to put in. A good deal of them are flowering shrubs and will add color and scent to your landscape that you otherwise might not have. Furthermore, they can and do attract pollinators (which helps to keep the ecosystem healthy), may attract wildlife (whether this a good thing depends on the wildlife nearby), and also provide structure to your landscape layout -though, being a landscaper, you probably already have a plan thought out. You can also use shrubs to define boundaries and create outdoor “rooms” after a fashion.

Sun And Shade

Most shrubs need full or at least partial sun to do very well. Depending on the shrub, it may be content to sit in the sun for most of the day, or it may not be able to handle the scorching afternoon sun very well, in which case you should give it morning sun and afternoon shade. Either way, the right amount of light, water, and soil nutrients are crucial to getting your shrubs to look their best. Some may not flower if in the wrong conditions.

“Stars” Of The Show

So, with all the basics taken care of. What shrubs will do your landscape good in the best way possible? Let’s look over a few.

Hydrangeas: Hydrangeas make great landscape sprucer-uppers, despite not being spruces. Furthermore, some hydrangeas bloom almost endlessly for most if not all of the year, making them a great landscape fixture. Dwarf shrubs (for the really small spaces) can be absolutely stunning if employed correctly.

Daphne: You may have heard that daphne is finicky. It is, but certain varieties are considerably less so. If you happen upon any you like, talk to us about its required conditions and we’ll see how we can help.

Rhododendron: It may seem odd that rhododendrons would make the list. Most of them are too tall for small spaces, but there are a few that only reach about three feet tall in total, which works quite well.

Bamboo: In warmer places, some varieties of bamboo may fit the bill. Beware planting them too freely – in some places they might be considered invasive and do considerably more damage than help!

Lastly, always read up about what a plant might do ten years from when you get it. Some may start out small and then get surprisingly large (even a “dwarf” tree could stand as tall as a two-story building, given the right conditions). Others may start compact but expand horizontally more than expected.

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Most Profitable Trees for a Garden Center

So you’re a garden center trying to decide what trees would be the best investment. You’ve made it to the right place! Here, we’ll detail what the most profitable trees are, as well as some of their features and why they are so profitable.

Fast-Growth Shade Trees. Many homeowners and landscapers want trees that can produce shade within a year or two, and are willing to pay a large sum for these. Fast-growth shade trees are sold in ten to fifteen gallon pots, and have well-developed root systems to encourage rapid growth once planted. Red maple and American elm trees are some of the better species for this type of tree.

Dogwood Trees. Landscapers love these trees for their spring blooms and fall foliage. The Kousa variety is one of the best ones, as it produces a crop of sweet red berries, is disease resistant, and is not liked by deer.

Thornless Locust. Locust trees are widely used in restoration and erosion control projects. Thornless and fast-growing locust varieties, such as the Shademaster and Sunburst varieties, are popular for landscaping projects. Locust trees are also another example of fast-growth shade trees, growing to a full height of 25 to 30 feet in around six years.

Fruit and Nut Trees. Trees that produce homegrown food that can be eaten or sold are often sought after by homeowners with larger amounts of land, and can be one of the more profitable trees for homeowners to grow. Some of these trees also have valuable wood that is most often used for high-quality furniture. Apple trees, especially heritage apple trees, are a popular fruit tree, and black walnut and hybrid chestnut trees make for good nut trees.

Bonsai Trees. Landscapers and homeowners with not much land love these tiny trees. Even people without a yard to speak of can enjoy a bonsai tree’s presence indoors. Both starter plants that are ready to train and pre-trained bonsai trees can be highly profitable, though pre-trained do sell for more than just starters.

Willow Trees. These trees are easy to grow and prolific, and have a very versatile wood which can be used for basket weaving or fiber arts. Willow shoots can be grown in a variety of colors as well, and the tree is used in restoration and conservation projects too. Due to this tree’s sheer versatility, it is quite popular among landscapers and homeowners looking for an easily grown, pleasant looking prolific tree.

Japanese Maple. Very popular amongst landscapers for its leaves, which come in red or green colors and broad or cut leaf shapes. Larger Japanese maples can sell for quite the sum. These trees do not grow to be very big, so a lot of them can be kept in surprisingly small areas.

Christmas Trees. Sure, there are artificial trees, but ever since 2007, those have been losing ground to real trees. Christmas trees don’t even need to be very big to sell — ceilings are only so high. Greens and wreaths can be an even more profitable side investment from Christmas trees.

If you’re looking to purchase trees or shrubs wholesale for your garden center, Steve Myers & Son Nursery is a good choice. We specialize in B&B trees and shrubs, including shade trees, flowering trees, evergreens and shrubs. Contact us to discuss business.

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Tips on Plant Selection for Landscapers: Create A Cold-hardy Landscape

At Steve Myers & Sons Nursery, we know you aren’t here to twiddle your thumbs. As such, we’ve put together a collection of tips for wintertime landscaping, specifically the plants. Let’s jump right in. Our first tip: use indigenous plants – those native to a particular area – appropriate to your home or landscaping area, whichever applies. Since they’re already suited to a given spot, they need considerably less maintenance. Before committing to any decisions, however, you should first carefully analyze the area you’ll be working in and go from there.

Don’t Handwave It

With smaller plants, if you end up making a mistake, it won’t cause you too much trouble down the road – we hope. That’s not so with trees; putting one of those in the wrong spot can give you a serious headache later on, so always be careful with your tree placement. Also consider that, as a rule of thumb, trees are slow growers. By the time they get to maturity you yourself may not even be alive anymore. You aren’t just picking for you; you’re picking for whoever it is will next live in the area in question, and quite possibly one or two generations beyond that.

Leafless But Not Hopeless

Deciduous trees lose their leaves in winter (unless you live in a hot climate, and even then they might). That isn’t always a bad thing: while leaves and flowers are often relied upon to create color and beauty, the bark of a tree is no less beautiful, in its own way. To take advantage of a tree’s winter look, select trees that have visually distinctive bark, which will come to the front during winter. Such trees may end up being smaller than the towering oaks many people might expect to see in a landscape; that can be good or bad, depending on your tastes and the tastes of whoever it is you’re working for (if anyone). Dogwoods and birches can make good winter picks, assuming they can handle the climate you’re looking at.

Berry Good

Berry-bearing plants that keep those berries in winter can add a welcome splash of color to the otherwise dull landscape. Hollies are a favorite for this kind of thing, and crab apples aren’t too uncommon either. If you’re ecologically minded, such plants also provide food for overwintering birds.

Everblue

Despite the name, evergreens aren’t always green, though most are. Since they keep their leaves (or needles, depending on the plant) all throughout the year, they’re important focus points for any winter landscape. If you’re feeling creative, try planting evergreens that aren’t green – blue spruces, for instance. If you’re planting a new bed, we recommend adding at least one evergreen for when winter rolls around.

Perennially Interesting

Perennials that have something to offer in every season are, unsurprisingly, good picks for a landscape. Some ornamental grasses fall into this category, as do hellebores (the latter even bloom in winter, a decidedly unusual trait for a flowering plant). Your local climate heavily influences the options in this regard; if you live in/are landscaping an area that doesn’t have much in the way of four-season perennials, it may be worth considering leaving around plants that have seedheads, such as the black-eyed Susan, until spring to provide some extra interest.

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Native Plants for Winter

The season is wrapping up, and your plants are starting to die, but you may not want your beautiful garden to end. The falling trees are experiencing great fall foliage. But, with winter coming up, we need to think ahead to what to prepare for next! There are some native plants that remain beautiful year-round to admire even in the most dead part of winter. Up next, you will hear about some of the very best plants for winter that are always great choices during the freezing months.

Aronia or (Chokeberry) is a dependable tree in landscaping. Native plants have blooms in Spring, berries in Summer, and bright Fall foliage. Dark purple berries are produced in Winter for beautiful winter accent colors and food for the bird types in the area.

Winterberries are a good example of winter growth. They love acidic soils and can be found growing in parts of northern Minnesota. Their bright red berries have an eye-catching color. They mainly grow in groups and can provide habitat and food for wildlife. These should not be consumed by humans or animals. Winterberries grow their very when planted in clusters and in the wild.

Hydrangea’s wild popularity is well known. These plants are very lovely in your landscaping. The flowers give so much more texture to your winter landscape after all the leaves have fallen, and can have a new purpose in your winter pots. They are very simple to keep up with and able to withstand the weather. Hydrangeas are great for landscape all year long.

Deciduous trees are often overlooked when thinking about winter plant attraction because they lose their leaves in the fall.

Amur Cherry’s bright shiny appearing bark and thin branches are very formal set in front of a snowy scene.

Coralberry & Snowberry trees are also one to consider. They have bright pink and white berry clusters on the branches. These are another lovely winter backdrop for peaceful areas. They are food for many native bird kinds, as well as acting as pollinators in the summer months. You will need to trim them back in the early Spring for control of growth.

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Featured Species: Sweet Gum

A sweet gum is a deciduous tree that ranges in height from around 50 to 100 feet and has a thin oval canopy with a spread of 40 to 60 feet. They are medium-sized, winter trees home to the eastern and south-central United States. You can see them placed from the south into Mexico and Central America. Their range in the United States is anywhere from New Jersey, south-eastern Connecticut, southeastern Pennsylvania, south to Florida, and east Texas.

They will typically grow in low lying country areas and valleys, and you most likely won’t find these in the Appalachian Mountains. Some species have been known to grow over 120 feet tall, but this is very uncommon. The negative side of growing a sweetgum tree is having to deal with the seed pods. You have probably heard little kids call them gumballs or stickerballs, and it is very rare to find a child with a sweetgum growing nearby that hasn’t had a rough experience with them. As you grow up you will realize how much of a pain they are. They can roll underfoot and cause you to fall, especially on paved places.

Even though sweetgum trees are mainly planted as sidewalk or street trees, their roots are not deep and can lift up on sidewalks and curbs. If you are looking to plant a sweetgum, keep it at least 10 feet from pavements and concrete to bypass harm. When gumballs fall they can be very hazardous on pavements which is yet another reason to keep them away from sidewalks and driveways. Sweetgums need a place in full sun or some shade. They grow in pretty much any soil, whether it be mostly sand or clay.

They have a lot of shallow roots, but they also have some deep roots that need moist, thick soil. Once the tree is planted, sweetgums are very low maintenance. It is not necessary that you fertilize them every year, but they like some general purpose fertilizer or compost every couple years. The trees are able to tolerate droughts and do not need to be watered once they are grown.

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