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
AND THE WINNER IS… 2017 PERENNIAL OF THE YEAR
The Perfect Perennial for Lakes Region Gardens
Asclepias tuberosa – butterfly weed
With all the ”buzz” about bees and butterflies, BUTTERFLY WEED is an excellent plant choice for the 2017 Perennial of the Year. Known for its ability to support insects and birds and serve as the primary caterpillar food for the beloved North American native Monarch butterfly, it puts out 3 months of tangerine/orange blooms on perfect little upright shrubs 24” tall and wide.
Hummingbirds, bees, beneficial insects, and other butterflies also love the flowers, which are laden with pollen and nectar. They grow best in full sun, are deer resistant, and tolerant of wet or dry soils. They are hardy to zones 3-9, and native throughout almost all of the Eastern states.
Since Asclepias tuberosa is a native prairie plant, butterfly weed is quite comfortable in meadow gardens, native plantings and wildlife sanctuaries but is finding its way into more formal to semi-formal urban gardens. Plant it in large masses, for an unrivaled display of eye-popping orange. Butterfly weed pairs well with summer blooming Phlox, Hemerocallis, Liatris, Echinacea, Salvia, and most of June/July sun-loving perennials.
The Perennial Plant of the Year showcases a perennial that is a standout among its competitors. Perennials chosen are suitable for a wide range of growing climates, require low maintenance, have multiple-season interest, and are relatively pest/disease-free. If you are looking for an excellent perennial for your next landscape project or something reliable for your gardens, make sure to check out the Perennial Plant of the Year™ archive list. At Miracle Farms we often chose plants on the list of past Perennial of the Year winners to be reliable bloomers year after year.
Here is the list we often choose from:
Previous PPA Perennial Plant of the Year winners:
- 2016 Anemone × hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’ (windflower)
- 2015 Geranium ‘Biokova’ (dwarf cranesbill, hardy geranium)
- 2014 Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’ (tall switch grass)
- 2013 Polygonatum odoratum variegatum (Solomon’s seal)
- 2012 Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ (Siberian bugloss)
- 2011 Amsonia hubrichtii (blue star)
- 2010 Baptisia australis (blue false indigo)
- 2009 Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ (Japanese forest grass)
- 2008 Geranium ‘Rozanne’ (cranesbill, hardy geranium)
- 2007 Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’ (catmint)
- 2006 Dianthus ‘Feuerhexe’ (aka ‘Firewitch’) (cheddar pink)
- 2005 Helleborus x hybridus (hellebore, Lenten rose)
- 2004 Athyrium niponicum pictum (Japanese painted fern)
- 2003 Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’ (shasta daisy)
- 2002 Phlox paniculata ‘David’ (garden phlox)
- 2001 Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ (feather reed grass)
- 2000 Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ (pincushion flower)
- 1999 Rudbeckia fulgida sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ (black-eyed Susan)
- 1998 Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ (purple coneflower)
- 1997 Salvia x sylvestris ‘Mainacht’ (aka ‘May Night’ ) (wood sage)
- 1996 Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (beardtongue)
- 1995 Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian sage)
- 1994 Astilbe ‘Sprite’ (dwarf astilbe)
- 1993 Veronica ‘Sunny Border Blue’ (speedwell)
- 1992 Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’ (threadleaf coreopsis)
- 1991 Heuchera micrantha diversifolia ‘Palace Purple’ (coral bells)
- 1990 Phlox stolonifera (creeping phlox)
Spring Flowering Tulips
Bulbs that flower in spring must be planted in Fall. There is no getting around this requirement.
No matter how large or small your garden, almost everyone can find room for a few spring bulbs. Trust me…you’ll be delighted that you did after a cold, grey winter. There are many different bulbs to choose from, but if this is your first foray into bulbs keep it simple. Daffodils deliver!
You will get more flowers for a longer time with less care than any other bulbs you can plant. They’ll thrive just about anywhere, and they come back year after year in ever greater numbers. Over time, even a small planting of 20 bulbs will gradually become a swath of color with a hundred or more blooms. Daffodils do well in flowerbeds but will do well planted just about anywhere in your landscape. In fact, you may find that you would rather put bulbs anywhere BUT in your flowerbeds. Next year’s flower forms during the three or four weeks after flowering. During this time the plant needs its leaves to generate the nutrients to form a new flower. It’s important to leave the foliage alone until it yellows and begins to wither. At that point, you can cut the foliage or gently tug on it to pull it away from the bulb. Most people don’t want this yellowy foliage hanging around taking up valuable planting space in beds so go on ahead and plant them groups of daffodils under a tree, in a field, or against a stone wall for a natural look. Although mostly found in shades of yellow, there are beautiful shades of cream, peach and orange available as well.
Tulips are spring color powerhouses that come in every imaginable color and size. You need to plant a lot of them to make a beautiful display. Think dozens, not handfuls. Tulips almost always put on the best show during the first year, but many varieties tend to taper off in following years. If you don’t want to repeat your planting every year look for perennial tulip species that are fairly reliable year after year. Otherwise, yank them out after they bloom and start planning your color pallet for next year. Tulip bulbs prefer cool, moist springs and hot, dry summers, which is not what they usually get in the Lakes Region of NH. There are perennial tulips species that return reliably year after year, but they come with a higher price tag. Stick with those if you don’t want to recreate your display every year.
A mass bulb planting may sound like a lot of work, but it’s fairly simple. Find an area you want for your bulbs and dig a trench approximately 6”–8” deep. Planting depth is important. A general rule is to measure the height of the bulb itself and then plant it three to four times deeper than that. For a tulip bulb 2 inches high, you need to dig a hole that’s at least six to eight inches deep. Pour the bulbs in, roughly 15-25 per square foot of trench, arrange them randomly with the point facing up. Cover the bulbs with the excavated soil, press it firmly and rake over the area.
Today you can buy bulbs almost everywhere–including the grocery store and big-box chain stores. The price may be right, but most of these bulbs are undersized. And when it comes to bulbs, the bigger the bulb you plant, the bigger the bloom next spring. A bigger bulb also increases the likelihood that your bulbs will flower for more than one year. For best results, bulbs should be kept in cold storage with controlled humidity until being shipped to you. We recommend purchasing bulbs from a direct importer/catalog or local garden center.
You should get your bulbs into the ground in Lakes Region gardens in early to mid-fall (don’t wait for a finger-freezing day in late October). Tulip bulbs need at least 14 weeks of temperatures below 48 degrees. Bulbs should be planted when the soil has cooled to about 55 degrees and need the cool soil to make roots before the onset of winter. You have about 8 weeks to plant after the first frost. As long as the ground is not frozen, you can still plant bulbs.
Composting helps to ensure a healthy lawn
Why Compost Your Lakes Region Lawn?
The soil in your lawn contains living microorganisms including bacteria, algae, fungi, and protozoa. Without getting too technical lets just say that a healthy soil has lots of biological life and these organisms need organic matter (compost) to survive and thrive. This living-soil-life helps with soil health, decomposition of organic matter, replenishing of nutrients, humus formation, promotion of root growth, nutrient uptake, and herbicide and pesticide breakdown.
Your earthworm population will increase as your organic matter increases, which will help increase nutrient levels, water levels and penetration and aeration as they move through the soil.
Compost adds organic matter into your garden soil that increases the population of soil microorganisms, which in turn help control plant diseases.
The addition of compost may also provide greater drought resistance and more efficient water utilization. Therefore, the frequency and intensity of irrigation may be reduced.
When To Compost Your Lakes Region Lawn
After aerating (or even if you don’t aerate), topdress the turf surface with a 1/4″ layer of compost. The compost will settle into the soil, adding nutrition and structure that will serve the grass roots well the following season.
Then spreading an inch of compost on the newly aerated lawn will provide a perfect fall feeding, dramatically improve the organic matter content of your soil, and provide a perfect seed bed for the final step of filling in bare spots with fresh seed. And it’s easy — just have a big load of compost delivered, shovel it into wheelbarrow loads, dump them out on the lawn and then use a rake to spread it all around as evenly as possible… or call Miracle Farms if you need a hand with fall lawn services.
Next, spread new seed to fill in bare spots. Just sow the seed by hand or in a spreader and gently rake it into that wonderful compost. Don’t put down straw or other nonsense — it limits the germination and looks awful going forward.
Gently water the lawn for half an hour morning and night until the seed sprouts, which will be quick in this perfect weather. After it sprouts, cut back to morning only, and if our weather pattern shifts and we begin to get more reliable rain, you won’t need to water at all.
Will compost eliminate the need for commercial fertilizers? Not necessarily which is not a straight answer, but there really isn’t one. Depending on what nutrients your soil is lacking (or has an abundance of) certain organic fertilizer will be necessary. In addition to providing nutrients (both micro and macro), compost helps make fertilizer more effective in the soil.
We love our new fire pit area and anticipate enjoying many evenings using it with family and friends.
Chris and his crew did such a great job and they did indeed deliver more than we expected. We look forward to working on another project with you soon – hopefully next summer!
In order to maintain a healthy lawn, your soil requires water, air, and nutrients. Lawns become compacted with normal use including foot traffic and lawn mowing. All lawns need aerating at some point, but depending on the conditions and use of your lawn, your soil may require aerating more or less often than typical.
Lawn aeration is the process of mechanically removing 2”-4” soil plugs and small portions of thatch from the lawn. Lawn aeration relieves soil compaction and improves the ability of roots to grow deeper into the soil and expand. Aeration is generally recognized as the best way to improve air and gas exchange, along with water and fertilizer intake. Lawns that receive this care will be healthier, easier to maintain and have fewer pest problems than lawns that are neglected. It is preferable to aerate your lawn in the fall when new root development is more prevalent.
You should be able to see the ‘thatch’ layer, as it should be about 1/2″ thick or so just underneath the grass and above the dirt. “Thatch” refers to the non-decomposed layer of organic material between the soil surface and the living grasses. When thatch build up becomes too thick, the turf’s roots cannot receive proper airflow, nutrients or water. This leads to thin, patchy, and yellowing grass. This is when aeration becomes necessary.
Some homeowners have trouble determining if unhealthy grass is due to soil compaction, thatch buildup, or another issue, such as poor fertilization. Let Miracle Farms help you to determine the best plan to get your lawn in tip-top condition. Don’t have time to aerate your lawn, or have a large property that needs aeration? Our lawn care experts would be happy to provide the help you need!