USDA Hardiness Zones
The record warm temperatures that we are currently having in Moultonborough and the Lakes Region in general, may have you thinking about your garden instead of more traditional winter activities that should be happening now. Have you spent some time browsing through plant catalogs or garden design websites? Well, before you type in your credit card number and hit the “purchase” button on your keyboard hoping that the gorgeous blooms in those pictures will pop up in your garden this year, be sure you have read all of the fine print associated with the plant of your dreams. Most important of all of the information is the hardiness zone for each plant. What is our “zone” here in Moultonborough, NH and why does it matter when it comes to your garden?
The US Department of Agriculture produces a map for gardeners based on the average of low temperature readings taken from weather stations throughout the United States. The idea is to give the garden industry a way to communicate the cold hardiness of landscape plants. On the tags found on most plants, trees and shrubs, you will often see “hardy to zone ___”.
This is a great clue as to whether or not the plant is likely to survive in our area. In Moultonborough and most of the Lakes Region of New Hampshire we are somewhere between a zone 4 and 5. Your zone will have the USDA number and either an ‘a’ or a ‘b’ attached, with ‘a’ meaning that you are on the colder end of the zone and ‘b’ indicating that you are in slightly milder territory. The more protected and sunny a spot is, the more likely it is that a zone 5 plant will survive. And conversely, in a more exposed area it would be a safer bet to stick to zone 4 materials.
Winter is always slow to let go here in the Northeast. It may even still be snowing in April in some corners of the Lakes Region, but a good start to the gardening season involves getting your flowers early and acclimating them to spring’s uncertain temperatures so they are ready to explode into color as soon as possible. The last frost date varies from April 15 to May 15, but the number of nights below freezing will become fewer and fewer as April proceeds. Gardeners are often notorious for “pushing the zone” and trying a plant that isn’t necessarily hardy for their zone. Sometimes you get lucky and find the perfect spot where an unlikely plant just thrives! When our green thumbs start to itch early in the season we often start with container plants so that if Mother Nature sends a late season frost, we can easily move our plantings under cover. If you just can’t control yourself and dare to put them in the ground, just be aware that you may need to cover them if very cold temperatures are predicted.
Here is a list of some of the annuals we often start with that will generally tolerate spring’s cold and still flower all summer!
- Supertunia® Picasso in Pink® Petunia
- Superbena® Sparkling Ruby Verbena
- Superbells® Frostfire Calibrachoa
- Snow Princess® Lobularia
- Butterfly and Vanilla Butterfly® Argyranthemum
- Surefire® Red & Rose Begonia
- Diamond Frost® Euphorbia
- Señorita Blanca® Cleome
- Flirtation® Pink Diascia
- Illusion® series Ipomoea
Some of us received beautiful hanging baskets as long ago as Mother’s Day. Keeping them fresh and flowering throughout our very changeable growing season here in the Lakes Region can be a challenge. As the heat and dryness of summer bears down on us, hanging baskets can start to decline. But with these basic techniques your baskets can look great all season long.
1. Water, water, water
Baskets can dry out quickly, and should be checked twice daily and watered every day; be sure to wet the moss sides as well. If you are seriously dedicated, once a week, take the basket down and soak it in a tub of water for 20 minutes to hydrate the entire root ball.
Remove spent flowers, or deadheading, on a weekly basis, prevents plants from going to seed. This will encourage more flower production. Part of the beauty of the mixed basket is its prolonged and varied display.
3. Check for pests
During your weekly deadheading, keep a watchful eye out for aphids, whiteflies and other unfortunate pests. If you see any, try a quick spray of insecticidal soap to keep them from becoming problematic.
Not every plant in the basket will be at its peak all season. Cutting plants back after a flush of bloom will tidy them up and prepare them for a fresh crop of flowers. Meanwhile, other varieties will begin putting on a show. If the entire basket seems to be “flat lining”, go ahead and give the whole thing a trim. If you fertilize it heavily, in a couple of weeks it should be full of buds again.
Daily watering means nutrients can be leached out of the soil before the plants can absorb them. We like to use a water-soluble fertilizer such as Miracle Grow once a week to keep plants thriving.
midsummer hanging baskets
During stretches of extreme heat, give your baskets a break and move them to a cooler, shaded spot to de-stress for a couple of days; likewise when heading on vacation. Your baskets will appreciate it.
arbor for wedding
For several years now we have been asked by clients to send our garden services crew to “freshen up” their properties for parties or other events. A crew generally goes in just before a wedding, graduation party or summer barbecue and mows the lawn, edges beds, touches up mulch where needed, and rakes beaches.
whiskey barrel accent
We often add annuals for a pop of color in the landscape. Many clients have rented colorful containers to accent areas of the yard or to enhance an area for picture taking. Give Miracle Farms a call when you’re planning your next backyard event no matter how large or small.
Container gardening is one of the most popular ways to add interest and color to any outdoor space. The only rule you need to follow when creating your container garden is to be creative and enjoy it! At Miracle Farms we generally follow the Thriller, Filler, Spiller method when planting containers. This concept utilizes three different types of plants to create well-rounded combinations. Here’s how it works.
thrillers, fillers, spillers
• Thrillers are plants with height that add drama and a vertical element to the combination
• Thrillers can either be flowering or foliage plants or ornamental grasses
• Thrillers are generally put either in the center or at the back of the container
• Place it in the center of the container if it will be viewed from all sides
• Place it in the back of the container if it will be viewed from only one side
• Some examples are: angelonia, argyranthemum, grasses
Once you’ve chosen your Thriller, next start choosing your Filler varieties
• Fillers tend to be more rounded or mounded plants and make the container look full
• Fillers are generally placed in front of, or around, the Thriller variety
• Fillers should be placed midway between the edge of the container and the Thriller variety
• If the Thriller is in the center of the container, the Fillers should surround the Thriller variety
• Some examples are euphorbia, calibrachoa, and petunias
• Lastly, you add the Spillers
• Spillers are trailing plants that hang over the edge of the planter
• Spillers are placed close to the edge of the container
• If the container is going to be viewed from all sides, Spillers should be placed on all sides
• If the container is going to be viewed from only one side, Spillers should be placed in the front of the container
• Some examples are bacopa, lobularia, and sweet potato vine
use potting soil rich in organic matter
Feel free to plant containers full. You don’t need to go by the space requirements listed on the plant label because it’s not making a permanent home in your garden. Especially here in New Hampshire where are growing season is rather short, who wants to wait for a container to fill out? However, you will need to make sure you have enough space for the root zones. Use a well-draining, mixed potting soil that’s rich in organic matter. You can fill the container part way with a substitute fill material (we use empty plastic containers) to save on the cost of soil and to make the container lighter and easier to move. Most annuals will do very well with about 12 – 16” of soil. Remember to fertilize once a week as frequent watering of containers results in leaching of nutrients.
If there is one perennial that you can count on, it has to be the daylily. We’re not talking about the plain old orange variety you see along New Hampshire roadsides throughout the summer. The hemerocalis comes in many colors and sizes and most bloom for several weeks adding beauty to your Lakes Region garden. They are well suited to fill in wherever needed in your garden or landscape. Plant small groups of daylilies in a landscape for a burst of mid-summer color. Shorter varieties make a great addition to a perennial border. In large group plantings they work well to suppress weed growth. They are low maintenance plants that are very tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions Here in the Lakes Region daylilies can be successfully planted between April and October where soil temperatures will allow for strong root development before winter. Daylilies will benefit from being divided every few years preferably in the spring while the plants are still small. To do this, you dig up the entire clump, hose a lot of the dirt off of the root ball and divide it into sections using a sharp knife. You will have plenty of new plants to replant around your garden or to share with friends. Daylilies are a powerhouse perennial that are practically trouble free and compliment most any garden or landscape.
A beautiful Daylily in Full bloom!
Daylily Grown in Lakes Region
A beautiful Daylily in Full bloom!
What’s on your dinner plate? How about a beautiful Dinner Plate Dahlia! This flamboyant flower grows and flowers best in a well-drained sunny site with warm weather. These bulbs love the warm soil; so don’t rush to put them in the ground until the soil has warmed. These beauties will flower mid-summer and grow to be a whopping 10-12” because of this, we recommend that they have a support system to keep the stalk from snapping or flopping. You can keep these plants happy and healthy by fertilizing them with an organic fertilizer that is made for flowers, we recommend Miracle Grow. If you are hungry for a big beautiful flower, we say you eat up the Dinner Plate Dahlia!! At this point in our Lakes Region summer, many beautiful colors and varieties are available in pots at your local garden center, but don’t let this beauty slip your mind, remember it for next year’s garden. #miraclefarms
Beautiful Dinner Plate Dahlia