Author Archives: Secluded Acres

Birds and the Backyard

Birds are amazing animals. Baby birds emerge from eggs by cutting their way out of the shells. Most are born blind and without feathers, but by the time they’re a month old, they are covered with thousands of soft, colorful feathers. They eat with sharp bills, yet they have no teeth. Perhaps the most amazing thing about birds is that they can fly! Birds can be fun to watch so consider inviting them to live in your own backyard by providing cover, food, and water.

Cover  All birds need places to build their nest and provide protection. The best backyard habitats for birds have plenty of greenery such as trees, shrubs, and flowers. In addition to bird houses, trees, shrubs and flowers are perfect places for birds to build their nests and raise their babies. Birds will use the greenery to hide from predators. They may take cover in the plants to keep warm and dry from rain and snow.

Feed  While providing shelter, many trees, shrubs, and small plants also supply backyard birds with a smorgasbord of food such as insects, berries, fruits, and nuts. Feeders are easy to make out of plastic soda bottles and milk jugs (They make great seed scoops too when you cut out the bottom!). Many unique feeders are available for purchase from local garden centers. If you give the birds several kinds of feeders, placed in different locations, you’ll have more backyard visitors. So consider hanging feeders, tree-trunk feeders, ground feeders, table-top feeders, and/or staked feeders. There are also different feeds to offer. Many bird eat only insects which they will find within the yard’s greenery. Others enjoy seed, suet and fruit.

Water  Birds, like people, need water for drinking and bathing. Clean healthy feathers are crucial for flying. To care for their feathers, birds must bathe often. After bathing, they clean their wet feathers by combing them with their bills. You can give the birds the water they need by setting up a birdbath. Any kind of birdbath is good for birds, but if you provide one with moving or dripping water, the birds will like it even more. Try to place the birdbath by greenery so that the birds will feel comfortable drinking and bathing. The water should be changed or refreshed regularly and the pan should be scrubbed clean once a week. Wondering what to do about water in the winter? Consider warming the water in your birdbath or pond with a heater. On very cold days, a heater will keep the water from freezing over. Visit your local garden center for a beautiful selection of birdbaths and fountains. And remember, in the fall, they are stocked with heaters too.

One of the wonderful things about inviting birds to your backyard is that so many different kinds of birds will come. And the kinds of birds will change with the seasons. So hang a house among the greenery, fill a feeder, and keep the water flowing! You may just see masses of cardinals, chickadees, finches, hummingbirds, jays, robins, sparrows and more move through! Happy backyard bird watching!

Moles, Voles, Trails and Holes!

Just when your lawn and gardens are looking like golf courses and doing spectacular- flowers blooming, veggies growing, grasses pluming…along come the yearly voles and moles.  They are the nemesis of our hard work and dedication.  What do we do?  First, determine vole or mole.  They are different.  They are both @$%^@#! but are different in appetite.

Moles – About 7” long, long tail, long noses and webbed front feet, which are ideal for digging tunnels.  Moles are insect eaters, like grubs, worms and other pesky things underground.  Typically they are not seen as they remain underground.  Any trails you may see from moles are “excuse me” trails, just passing through looking for food.  However, if they do come a little closer to the surface and with their appetite, they can ruin a lawn fairly quickly.

Mole Remedies:

  1. Killing them is the most effective for long term control. Traps and various poison baits are readily available.
  1. The humane method is to bait a type of Havahart trap and release somewhere where they won’t cause trouble.
  1. And last but not least….Deterent. Because moles feed on grubs and worms, etc., ridding your yard of grubs with a grub killer or Milky Spore, will help a little, but worms and other tasty critters remain.  A castor oil based mixture applied to the lawn is a popular choice to repel, but once the scent is gone, they could be back to known territory.  There are commercial mixtures available or you can create your own castor oil solution to spray.

 p.s. Killing the grubs can help save your lawn.  Grubs love grass roots.

 

Voles – About 5” long and similar to mice, with shorter tails. Voles have eyes and ears that you can see. They feast on plants, grass and annual/perennial-flower roots.  Seeds and bulbs are a favorite snack for them.  Veggie plants too.  Voles can make quick work of a plant or roots in a hurry.  Unlike moles, voles multiply rapidly, so immediate intervention is key.

Vole Remedies:

  1. Spring type mouse traps work well, with some peanut butter or slivered apple slices. Place them at the entrance and exit holes, if you can locate them or along the active tunnels.
  1. As with moles, a humane method is to trap with baited Havahart traps and relocate, far, far away.
  1. Have a cat? Perfect vole hunter.
  1. A variety of poison baits are available to rid the critters. They are typically applied into the entrance and exit holes and covered with a little dirt and tamped down.
  1. There is a selection of repellents like Liquid Fence, Plantskyyd and hot-pepper liquid concoctions that can be effective at keeping voles from tunneling into the beds and eating your plants. However, after a rain, you have to reapply.

 

Then you have the tried and tested home remedies that have been around for years!  None with science to confirm, but you never know.  A lot of these apply to both voles and moles, or not.

  • Flooding the tunnels
  • Mothballs
  • Course crushed sea shells into the holes or tunnels
  • Sonic tubes. The thought is that the vibrations in the ground from the sonic waves will deter voles.  However, the effectiveness will be minimal in sandy soil due to lesser obstructions in the ground for the waves to bounce around.
  • Grandpop’s old work socks! (Not quite sure)
  • There are others, but they require fire and gasses…….NOT recommended.

TIP:  If you plan to construct/install raised flower or vegetable beds, line the bottom with 1/4” steel mesh prior to filling with soil.  The mesh is available in rolls at your local home improvement store.  It comes in rolls and is pretty easy to work with.  This will help greatly.

Should you find the need to repair your lawn from vole or mole damage, Secluded Acres has all your seed, fertilizer and soil needs.

Good Luck!  We all need it.

Submitted by Rick, vexed by voles and maddened by moles

Water, Weed, Feed…Repeat!

As spring shifts into summer, the days grow longer and temperatures rise. The beach beckons and the boardwalk bustles. But your garden does not have to suffer through summer. Follow these simple tips to keep your flowers blooming and plants producing well into fall.

Be Water Wise! Since our summers tend to be hot and dry, it’s important to water regularly.  Containers and hanging baskets with small soil bases and good drainage will not hold water for long, so it is necessary to water daily (sometimes twice a day!). Although established perennials, shrubs, and trees manage with less water, new plantings will need to be watered through the first (and sometimes second) growing seasons. Rather than watering quickly every day, take time to water more deeply a few times through the week. Short waterings, regardless of frequency, result in shallow surface roots that are always searching for the next splash of water to come along. Instead, longer waterings push the roots deeper into the soil, stretching after the water as it soaks down. Most importantly, remember your plants are living things and need water to survive, just like you and me.

Watch the Weeds! Get out and pull the weeds every so often to keep the pesky plants from strangling and overgrowing your desirable plants.

Got Fertilizer? When planting, you may begin with a potting mix or garden soil that includes a fertilizer.  Although most soil packages note their product feeds for three months or more, it is helpful to add even more slow-release granules through the growing season.  Espoma, a local (Millville, NJ!) organic fertilizer company, offers many slow-release, non-burning plant foods such as Plant-Tone, Flower-Tone, Garden-Tone and Tomato-Tone to name a few.  These fertilizers can be applied one to two times per month throughout the growing season (always read the label for specifics!) You can also boost blooms and promote green growth by using a liquid fertilizer, such as Miracle-Gro, every 1-2 weeks. The liquid fertilizer will be absorbed quickly by the roots and begin moving through the plant to replenish nutrients.  It is best to apply at the base of your plants, in the morning, before the high heat and humidity of the day sets in.  Finally, after watering with a liquid fertilizer, remember to rinse off with fresh, clean water to avoid burning of leaves and flowers.

Time for a Haircut! At some points in the summer, you’ll find some perennials and many annuals, particularly trailing plants such as Million Bells and Petunias, look as though they are fizzling in the heat (Let’s face it, even we feel that way some days!). To keep these annuals looking their best, it’s time to begin regular “haircuts.” Although you may be afraid to take scissors or shears to your annuals for fear of cutting off the flourishing flowers, trimming back long-hanging stems encourages new green growth and more beautiful blooms. Go ahead and give it a try. Start by making small snips and you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

If you grow into the habit of following these simple steps, your flowers should survive through summer and flourish well into fall! Just remember, water, weed, feed…repeat! And, work in a haircut every so often!

Bee Pollinator Friendly!

Pollinator Week 2016

Did you know? It’s Pollinator Week!

In recent years, there have been an alarming number of reports on the struggling statuses of bees and butterflies. But with a little guidance, we can try to do our part in helping rebuild the pollinator populations!

Tips for Planting a Pollinator Friendly Garden

  • Pick a sunny spot. Did you know insects are cold-blooded? Therefore, they need to warm up their bodies to fly well.
  • Cluster nectar plants in large groups so they can be seen from greater distances.
  • Plant a variety of native plants that bloom at different times so the adults have a steady supply of nectar and pollen.
  • Include food sources, also called host plants, in your garden so butterflies have a place to lay their eggs and the caterpillars have leaves to eat. (Butterfly Weed will draw Monarchs!)
  • Some Pollinators like bright colors such as red, yellow, orange, pink, and purple.
  • Avoid using heavy chemicals in your garden and on your lawn. These products can kill pollinators and other beneficial insects in both their larval and adult phases.

A short list of Perennials for Pollinators

Plant Name Nectar Source Host Plant Bloom Time Exposure
Agastache- Hyssop Yes No July-September Full Sun/Part Shade
Beardtongue Yes No May-July Full Sun/Part Shade
Bee Balm Yes No May-July Full Sun/Part Shade
Black Eyed Susan Yes No July-September Full Sun/Part Shade
Cardinal Flower Yes No July-September Full Sun/Part Shade
Chelone- Turtlehead Yes Yes August-September Full Sun/Part Shade
Coneflower Yes Yes July-October Full Sun/Part Shade
Garden Phlox Yes No July-September Full Sun/Part Shade
Goldenrod Yes No August-October Full Sun
Joe Pye Weed Yes No August-September Full Sun/Part Shade
Milkweed Yes Yes June-August Full Sun/Part Shade
Threadlead Coreopsis Yes No June-July Full Sun

So if you’d like to help rebuild the pollinator populations, keep these tips and perennials in mind when planting. With a little planning and patience, soon bees will be buzzing and butterflies fluttering around your garden.

May!

greenhouseMay is a busy month around here!  The seeds we sowed and plugs we planted in our greenhouses in March and April have grown through spring and are ready to be moved outside. Although we’ve been eager to plant for weeks now, the forecast should finally be free from frosts and freezes. After a long wait, Mother’s Day weekend signals the safe start for spring planting in South Jersey.

We’ve stocked our perennials, shrubs and trees from nurseries in neighboring Cumberland County (and will continue to receive even more as they come into season.)

While our hanging baskets and combination planters are filling in, the bedding flats are budded and blooming, bursting with color.

Our vegetable plants and herbs are ready for transplanting too.

The tropical plants have arrived and we hope they’ve brought the warm weather with them!

Pond plants are in: potted water lilies and marginals along with floating hyacinths and lettuce. We have fish too: Comets and Koi.

For the lawn and garden, we also have new figures and fountains to showcase. From bird baths shaped like sandcastles and sunflowers to sea captain and sailfish statues. (This winter, we had an opportunity to tour the Massarelli warehouse and showroom in nearby Hammonton, NJ, where all of their concrete pieces are hand-made!)

Out back, our soil, stone, and mulch bins are filled so we’re ready to load, whether pick-up or delivery.

Whatever your spring needs may be, we’re here to help. Shop small business and visit your local garden centers.  This time of year, we’re in full bloom and buzzing like bees! It is spring after all!  Now, if only the sun would come out to shine!

A Look at Your Lawn

jonathan-green-logoWe’ve always used Jonathan Green’s products on our lawn with great success. In fact, the trusted grass seeds, fertilizers, and controls have their own places on our store shelves year after year. Yet recently, Jonathan Green has developed a revolutionary approach to lawn care. This unique program called The New American Lawn emphasizes the importance of feeding your lawn AND your soil!

Now as you’re reading, you may be wondering “Why change after all these years?” We realize it may be hard to take on a new way of thinking and make a change in habit but stick with us and read on to learn the benefits!

While traditional fertilizer programs feed for a short time and treat the symptoms of poor turf (weeds and disease) rather than the real problem (poor soil), The New American Lawn focuses on feeding the top of your lawn and nourishing the soil below! Jonathan Green parallels feeding the lawn every few months to being on a “sugar” diet, offering a short jolt of energy without yielding sustained health. Although such a shock may carry you and your lawn through for a period of time, it’s not a healthy approach. Lawns thrive over a balance between the soil’s biology and chemistry; therefore, The New American Lawn program meets the nutritional needs of turf by supplying the proper amount of lawn food AND soil food!

According to Jonathan Green, “Love Your Lawn-Love Your Soil and MAG-I-CAL are the two soil-reviving fertilizers that make The New American Lawn truly different from every lawn program on the market.” Love Your Lawn-Love Your Soil loosens hard, compacted soil for deeper root growth and spurs soil microbes to breakdown nutrients. This unique fertilizer restores soil life while increasing root mass and drought resistance. MAG-I-CAL has ten-times the soil de-acidifying power of Lime. This pelletized calcium fertilizer quickly adjusts soil pH to maximize nutrients from other lawn fertilizers and reduce the growth of weeds in the future.

           

The New American Lawn program also suggest using Black Beauty grass seed. Jonathan Green’s Black Beauty mixes germinate quickly within 10-14 days, develop roots that grow deeper than other seeds for increased drought tolerance, and produce dark green, lush lawns.

To learn more about the science behind the program, visit www.jonathangreen.com.  And next time you take a look at your yard, remember healthy soil is the base of every great lawn. So slide over traditional four-step program and make room for the new kids on the block!

Much to Be Said about Mulch!

After a long, cold winter, a fresh bed of mulch is a sure sign of spring!

Reasons to Mulch

– adds color and texture while completing the overall-appeal of your garden

– keeps soil from flushing away in heavy rain and watering

– helps retain moisture

-stifles weeds and holds them back a little longer

-keeps soil cooler in summer and warmer in winter

Types of Mulch

While one mulch is not necessarily better than another, there are several choices and each comes with its pros and cons. Most mulches are made of natural matter such as bark and wood chips. These mulches break down over time; therefore, should be replaced each year (or two, if stretched). Colored mulches, such as red and black, are made by adding dye to natural mulches.

Mulch is sold in bags or bulk. We stock red and black Hardwood as well as Root Mulch in bulk. It is purchased by the yard and available for pick-up or delivery. We offer a larger selection in bags: red, black, and natural Hardwood; red, black, and natural Cedar, Pine Bark mulch and nuggets, Root Mulch and Playground Mulch. We carry bags of Red and Brown Rubber Mulch too!

Tips for Mulching

March is for Mulch. The end of March is a great time to rake up remaining leaves and re-mulch your flower beds. It will spruce up the space and help warm the soil for early plantings.

Weed out Waste. Always weed before applying new mulch.

-Scruff up the Surface. Rake over the surface to loosen the top layer of soil.

-Fertilize First. Before laying down a fresh layer of mulch, take time to fertilize Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Dogwoods, Hollies and more. Espoma, a local company from Millville/Vineland, NJ, produces several easy-to-apply granular fertilizers, including Holly-Tone which is specifically formulated for evergreens and acid-loving plants.

-How much mulch? More is not always better when it comes to mulch. Laying it on too thick may smother young plants so strive for a depth of 2-3 inches. Do not mound around stems or trunks; instead, keep mulch 2-3 inches away from the base of plants and 6-12 inches away from structures to prevent pests from coming too close. And remember, when mulching around trees and large shrubs, the mulch ring should reach just beyond the drip-line so that it covers most of its root system.  Finally, to figure out how much mulch you’ll need, roughly measure the length and width of your beds to find the area of space and we can help you from there!

Fabulous Finds We LOVE

Popular Favorites of 2015 along with new plants for 2016

Of the Annuals We Grow

While Calibrachoa, more commonly known as Million Bells have been one of our go-to favorites for years, we are excited to grow a few new colors this year! But first, we have to look back and share one of our favorites from the last two years that’s sure to make your list too, just in case you haven’t seen it yet- We love it that much! Drum roll please…from Proven Winners…Lemon Slice™ Calibrachoa. The striking combination of bright yellow and white will draw all eyes to your planters, hanging baskets and flower beds. In addition to Lemon Slice and many other colors, we are also growing Holy Moly!™ (below) and Evening Star™ this year. Holy Moly’s color combination is as fun and funky as its name, with dark pink splattered over a yellow base. It will have you saying “Holy Moly, I love this flower!” over and over again.Holy Moly

Each year, do you look and hope for the ever-so-hard to find blue flower to accent window boxes and pots? And like most, do you lose your beautiful, bright blue Lobelia to the heat of our summers? Have no fear, there is a fabulous find for you! Although it’s not brand-new this year, we are excited to grow Proven Winners’ Blue My Mind™ Evolvulus. Commonly known as a Dwarf-Morning Glory, Blue My Mind with do just! This low-growing annual’s deep sky blue flower against its silvery green foliage will blow your mind, as will it’s summer performance. In fact, once its roots are established, the hotter the better for this drought, heat and humidity-loving variety.Evolvulus

Of Herbs and Vegetables- Good Eats!

While Rue is often used in Ethiopian cuisine, this herb’s aromatic leaves also help repel insects.

Have you seen the Rapunzel Cherry Tomato? This fruit grows in the most unique way! As its name suggests, Rapunzel grows as a long strand bearing numerous fruit along its hanging vines.Rapunzel Tomato

Of Locally-Grown Perennials and Shrubs

Rosie Posie Agastache is a long-blooming, low-maintenance, hummingbird-attracting perennial.

Asclepias Tuberosa, also known as Butterfly Weed, is a slow growing, native butterfly magnet with orange flower clusters in mid/late summer. Hello Yellow is a newer variety that bears golden yellow flowers.Hello Yellow Butterfly Weed

Although most folks asked for the crimson-red Dynamite Crape Myrtle in 2015 (more than pink and purple varieties), this summer look for Double Feature. Growing 10-12’ tall, this sterile Crape Myrtle bears cherry-red/magenta over maroon foliage in August.

We sure are looking forward to these exciting, new plants! We hope you are too!

Gardening Begins in January

Gardening begins in January

Although we’re closed for the winter season and it’s too cold to even think about working in the yard, January is a great time to dream of grand plans for your lawn and garden. Since taking on your entire outdoor living area may be intimidating, consider focusing on a specific space- whether it’s your lawn, flower beds, patio, or pond. Maybe you’ll pick a spot that’s been overlooked and overgrown.

If your lawn is looking less than lush, check out Jonathan Green’s New American Lawn guide. This simple plan focuses on feeding the lawn as well as the soil with the acronym USA: Use Black Beauty genetically superior grass seed mixtures. Stimulate soil biology and relieve soil compaction with Love Your Lawn- Love Your Soil. Adjust soil pH upwards rapidly with Mag-I-Cal. So this winter visit Jonathan Green’s website (It’s packed with great resources!), read up on the importance of healthy soil along with great turf grass and consider this new approach for a beautiful lawn.

If it’s your flower beds you’d like to focus on, what are your goals? As you pick and plant assorted annuals year after year, do you wish you had a plan to plant perennials instead? This winter set out to research various perennials. Consider color, size, texture, and bloom times. It may be overwhelming if you wait until spring, so take time this January to develop a plan for planting hardy perennials to enjoy for years to come.

Or if you’re like me and love the bright, long-lasting colors annuals offer but tend to plant the same flowers each year, start dreaming about ways to change your garden habits! Winter is a great time look for new varieties and color combinations. We’ll help! Check back in February to read about some of the Fabulous Finds We LOVE for 2016!

Whether you hope to improve your lawn or garden this year, start to dream big and make a plan. After all, gardening begins in January! Tis the season to begin planning the projects you’d like to dig your hands into this spring.

Sights and Sounds of the Holiday Season

Sights and Sounds of the Holiday Season

With Christmas just 20 days away, anticipation and excitement for the holiday often become wrapped in ribbons of stress and long to-do lists. In between decorating, baking, and shopping this December, I hope you’ll find time to enjoy the holiday season with your family and friends. Just remember you don’t have to go to the mall or a big city to experience the sights and sounds of Christmas.

Every year, my family works together to transform our garden center into a holiday wonderland, so this year, plan a visit to Secluded Acres Farm and Garden Center in Rio Grande.

Growing up, I remember a special Saturday afternoon every December when Santa came to visit with families, friends and visitors gathered together at the garden center. And we’re continuing the tradition this Saturday, December 5th from 1-3 pm.

Santa will arrive in bright red fire truck with lights flashing and sirens sounding. After greeting everyone, he’ll sit and spend time with the children. They’ll have a chance to share their Christmas wishes and talk with him, while families look on, taking the precious opportunity to snap lots of pictures. As each child bounces from Santa’s lap, he’ll send them off with a candy cane in hand.

During Santa’s visit, there will also be train rides for the children and hot apple cider to keep warm, as familiar Christmas songs fill the air and our garden trains run inside and outside.

If you can’t make it to see Santa this Saturday, visit another day to see our model trains carry Christmas cheer around the tracks. As little girls, my sister and I always helped my Pop-Pop and Uncle Tom put out the Christmas train. This year, the red and green set is running around a holiday display in our store. While the Christmas train chugs along the floor, a diesel freight train runs back and forth along the ceiling. These days, my cousin Ryan has become Pop’s assistant conductor. Together, Pop and Ryan will be running the trains around the garden Thursdays thru Sundays until Christmas from 11 am to 5pm.

So before you’re tangled up in holiday stress, we invite you to join us this Saturday at 1 pm for Santa’s visit or Thursdays-Sundays from 11am-5pm to see our garden trains.

As you prepare for the holiday, may you take time to enjoy the season with a glimmer of child-like wonder.