Edibles in Your Landscape

Edibles in Disguise!
Vegetables and herbs want to grow where it’s sunny. But often, the sunniest spot is the front yard–a place where most of us wouldn’t want to install what is, basically, a working farm. But kitchen gardens can be both pretty and productive. Ivette Soler (www.sunset.com) recommends these herbs that will blend beautifully in your front yard garden:
Basil (Ocimum basilicum): This annual and attractive culinary herb is used in many cuisines. Each variety has a slightly different flavor, so you have an excuse to grow several. Purple-leafed varieties like ‘Red Rubin’ are particularly decorative.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare): A perennial edible with licorice-flavored seeds and young leaves. Wispy and tall, the plant’s fronds sway in the wind, adding movement to the garden.
Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus): Grow this “superstar of front-yard food,” as Ivette describes it, even if you don’t like eating its big flower buds. Its architectural structure, downy leaves, and softball-size purple flowers are all highly ornamental.
Sage (Salvia officinalis): The mounding shape and gray leaves of this perennial Mediterranean herb make it a great front-row ornamental.Plant sage and succulents together for maximum impact.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): A small aromatic evergreen shrub of the mint family, with narrow leaves and bluish-purple flowers. Lavender has been widely used in perfumery and medicine since ancient times. Many varieties to choose from and all aromatic.
Get creative with your front yard space and include herbs and even some vegetables!

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Azaleas: Fertilization and Care AFTER Blooming!

Azaleas-Fertilization and Care after Blooming

After azaleas and rhododendron plants have had time to settle in where you’ve planted them-the next step in caring for these bushes is fertilizing. But even then, be careful not to over-fertilize. Stay away from the mentality that says, “If some fertilizing is good, then more must be better.” There are standard fertilizers to use on azalea and rhododendrons bushes — mixes that can be purchased at nurseries and major hardware chains. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer’s label. Except perhaps for one instruction — the amount of fertilizer to apply. Cut that in half. It is usually better to be conservative about applying fertilizer.

A good time to fertilize azaleas and rhododendrons is right after they have finished blooming.

Ally #1 in Azalea, Rhododendron Care: Mulch

Mulching is an essential part of proper care for azalea bushes and rhododendrons. The roots of these shallow-rooted plants need the protection that mulch affords against extremes of heat and cold — and against drying out. Remember, the fact that these plants like a well-drained soil doesn’t mean they like to be dry. Azaleas and rhododendrons are not desert plants; they like water. They just don’t like to be sitting in it for long periods of time, which would cause their roots to rot.

The best mulches for azaleas and rhododendrons are acidic mulches, such as pine straw (although, as I report in the following article, some experts now dispute some aspects of the concept “acidic mulches”). For information on other acidic mulch choices, please consult Choosing the Proper Mulch. Since mulch eventually does break down and become a component of the underlying soil, you might as well go with an acidic mulch. There’s no sense in fighting the acid-loving tendencies of azalea and rhododendron plants.

Pruning Azaleas, Rhododendrons

Pruning azaleas and rhododendrons should be undertaken immediately after they finish blooming (usually June or July). Pruning the bushes later than that risks interfering with the development of next year’s buds. Begin by pruning off dead or injured branches, which could cause disease and insect problems in the future. Then prune back tall, gangly limbs shooting out of the top of the bush. This will promote a more attractive, compact shape.

A proper regimen of pruning azaleas and rhododendrons, in conjunction with the other care tips offered above, will help these flowering shrubs provide your landscape with eye-opening hedges or specimen plants for years to come.
(Courtesy of About.com)


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1. Plan the structure.
The structure of your container planting, that is. When you’re selecting plants in 4″ or 6″ pots, you need to think about their eventual height, shape and growth habit. Most plants are either upright, broad or trailing. The most successful container combinations usually include at least one of each form. Start with a tall, upright plant, such as Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) or a fancy-leaved, dwarf canna lily. Add one or two broad, mid-height plants such as heliotrope, coleus, African daisies (osteospermum) or dwarf dahlias. Then select one or two trailing forms, such as ivy geranium, sweet potato vine, bacopa or licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare).
Of course another sure-fire way to create a strong, architectural statement is to place just one bold plant in the container. Candidates for this effect would include a thick, upright clump of bamboo or the perfect symmetry of New Zealand flax (phormium). Consider flanking an entryway with a pair of dwarf Alberta spruce or false cypress. A clump of ornamental grass, such as feather reed grass, makes a bold statement. Or you could focus all the attention on a trailing form; envision a tall, celadon-green urn filled with nothing but a burgundy-colored sweet potato vine.
2. Consider the growing conditions.
If you fill a window box with shade-loving impatiens and then put it in a sunny, west-facing location, those impatiens will struggle to survive. You will also fail if you try to grow sun-loving ivy geraniums on a shady porch. Think about where the pot will be located and then select plants that will like living there. Plant labels usually list sun/shade requirements (you’ll also find a few recommendations at the end of this article).
It’s also important to combine plants with similar moisture requirements. Desert-loving portulaca won’t be happy growing in the same pot with moisture-loving hibiscus. Soil preference is also important. A pot filled with rosemary, bay and thyme should contain a sandy, sharply drained soil mix that mimics the Mediterranean conditions these plants prefer. Fuchsia, on the other hand, wants a humusy, moisture-retentive soil that’s similar to what’s found in a wet tropical rainforest. Plant labels (or a well-informed sales associate) can provide this information.
3. Contrast textures.
Foliage is just as important as color in creating a successful container planting. Once you’ve gathered a group of candidates, think about the size of the leaves and their surface texture. Leaf textures range from waxy (ivy geraniums) to shiny (croton), to prickly (asparagus fern) or velvety (dusty miller). Contrasting foliage really grabs the eye.
For an exciting texture combination, imagine a hair-like tuft of the lemon yellow grass known as ogon (Acorus gramineus), with the spiky lime-green succulent Angelina (Sedum repestre), the waxy burgundy leaves of Sedum ‘Garnet Brocade’, and the lacy flowers of Coral Flying Colors diascia.
4. Be bold with color.
A well-composed container planting can be as visually stimulating as a great painting. Generate energy and excitement by combining complimentary colors such as purple and orange or yellow and blue. Or paint a more visually soothing composition by limiting yourself to related colors such as blues and pinks or reds and yellows. You can also create a stunning, very sophisticated look using nothing but greens, whites and silvers. When selecting flower and foliage colors, you may also want to think about the color of your house, the color of your deck or patio pavers, and the color in adjacent beds and borders. That said, pots and planters present a great opportunity to experiment with dramatic color combinations that you’d probably never dare to use in your permanent landscape.
And don’t forget!
The Designer’s Rule
Planters look best when you combine plants with three different habits:
Vertical, such as phormium, canna, calla pennisetum or upright fuchsia (Fuchsia triphylla ‘Gartenmeister Bonstedt’)
Horizontal or weaving, such as heliotrope, osteospermum, petunia, coleus or impatiens
Cascading, such as nemesia, helichrysum, ipomea or callibrachoa.
(Courtesy of Kathy LaLiberte)

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Tom’s Summertime Watering Tips

It’s here. Whether or not  we were really ready for it, the heat is ON. It is Oklahoma after all.  A little planning and execution of  the following watering tips will help keep your yard healthy and protect your investment in your lawn over the next few months.

You can tell if your lawn is becoming dehydrated BEFORE it is too late.  Early signs of a dehydrated lawn include the grass turning a bluish-green color, curling grass blades and footprints that remain visible. Don’t wait until the grass is turning brown. Then it is likely too late to salvage. There are effective ways to water and my recommendations are listed below.

-A good estimate of how much to water your lawn is about an inch of water per week (more may be necessary in long droughts and triple digit days).

-Mornings are the best time to water. It is less susceptible to evaporation and wind.

-Also, watering your lawn just a little bit can cause grassy weeds to develop. 

-Sprinklers are a fairly affordable way to water your lawn, but you  may need to combine portable sprinklers and stationary sprinklers. Depending on the reach of the portable sprinkler, you may want to supplement with stationary ones in order to cover any areas regularly missed.

-Knowing which sprinkler type to buy is helpful. Oscillating sprinklers are good for a larger, rectangular area and revolving sprinklers, which shoot jets of water in a circular motion, are good for smaller areas. Rotary sprinklers are designed to water circular-shaped areas on medium to large lawns.

-Keep sprinklers away from sidewalks and driveways. This will help prevent run off and waste.

-An ideal situation to minimize time and maximize efforts is to invest in an irrigation system. These can be pre-set to water during specific times and dates. They are invaluable during the summer months when many of us take vacations or may be gone for days at a time. They also help to conserve water. City and county water restrictions are usually a result of too many folks watering at once and quite a bit of it is wasted by poorly planned sprinkler systems or ones that are forgotten and left on much longer than is necessary.

There is nothing you can do about the heat, but by sticking to a good watering  and maintenance plan you can have a green and healthy yard this summer.

Feel free to send us your comments or questions. We’re happy to help and welcome your feedback.



March Madness-Moisture and Mulch

  • In case you”re wondering what those funny looking “bags” are around newly planted trees, they are called “tree bags”. Freshly planted trees require consistent watering and this is one of the best ways to ensure the rootball gets the water it needs during this critical transition period. Another way to protect newly planted trees is with mulch. Ideally, mulch should not be layered more then two inches deep. The purpose is to control evaporation and keep nutrients in the soil. Speaking of mulch…here are some tips before you begin mulching:
  • Spring is finally upon us and while that means warmer temperatures, it doesn”t necessarily mean you need to run out and purchase pounds of mulch. The ground in your yard needs time to warm up and  mulching too early will actually slow down the warming process.  Normally, mid to late spring is the best time to put down mulch.
  • Make sure the area(s) being mulched are free of weeds.
  • Water plants first, then apply mulch.
  • Mulch helps control weed growth. It can also keep other (desirable) plants from growing, so don’t overdo it.
  • To prevent stems and bark from rotting, pull mulch away from woody stems and tree trunks one to two inches.  Also, if mulch is touching the plants, pests such as mice and slugs get a hiding place and a free meal.
  • In general, the bigger the pieces or chunks, the deeper the layer needs to be.   Smaller-sized mulches will work their way into the soil more quickly.
  • Aesthetically speaking, consider the size and style of the area where you are placing the mulch.  For example, pine bark nuggets may be too large for a bed of annuals, but perfect for an area around trees or shrubs.
  • Pathways, slopes, and areas prone to flooding or high wind need special consideration.  Mulch will not be the best product to apply here. We suggest something heavier that will stay put.
  • You may very well need to re-apply mulch in the summer (to retain moisture) and in the winter (to prevent frost damage).
  • Questions or comments? We invite you to leave them here or feel free to post on our Facebook page!treebag

How much to use?

  • A one – two inch layer of fine mulch should be sufficient, while a coarser material should be three – four inches deep. Too much of either type can suffocate your plants.
  • Coverage will vary greatly based on what type of mulch you use and how deeply it is layered.
  • One cubic yard of mulch will roughly cover 100 sq. ft. at a 3 inch depth and 160 sq. ft. at a 2 inch depth.
  • 1 cubic yard of mulch = 27 cubic feet = (9) 3 cu. ft. bags or (13.5) 2 cu. ft. bags

Count Down to Spring! Time for Pre-Emergent Treatments!

The term “pre-emergent” essentially means “weed prevention.” It refers to a method for preventing weeds by killing weed seeds and seedlings before they can germinate.  To accomplish this, there are pre-emergent weed control products we use to kill weed seeds before, or as, they try to sprout.

Pre-emergents need to be applied to the soil at least a week prior to germination. Weeds will germinate when the soil is about 54 degrees for approximately four consecutive days assuming the soil has enough moisture. Due to the unusually warm weather, we have already started our pre-emergent services and typically we don’t start treating with a pre-emergent until mid-March.  If you’re concerned about that nasty crabgrass returning from last year, we suggest contacting Tom’s now in order to fend it off for the upcoming growing season.

We’ll even make it easy for you to get rid of those pesky weeds!  Just go to our Facebook page and hit the “like” tab for a chance to win a spray contract from Tom’s.  Three lucky winners will be announced- so the sooner you enter, the sooner you’ll have a chance to win. The contest officially begins March 1st (but feel free to “like” us anytime) and we’ll announce the winners in just a few short weeks. We’ll actually announce the winners on Facebook so check back often to see if you’ve won. www.facebook.com/tomsoutdoortulsa

The Tulsa Designer Showcase project is slowly taking shape. Now that we’ve cleared the many layers of debris, landscaping is slated to start this week.  Various plants and shrubs will be planted and irrigation installation will begin as well.  Lighting has been ordered and will be the finishing touch on this project.  The grotto, a very interesting space hidden away in this enormous yard, is almost completed. We can’t wait to see the end result and we hope you’ll mark your calendars to visit the Tandy home during the Tulsa Designer Showcase event. www.tulsadesignershowcase.com

As the warmer months are quickly approaching, I’ll be posting more often in order to provide timely recommendations, tips and suggestions for your landscaping and gardening projects.  In the meantime, if you have questions- please leave a note in the comment section or feel free to shoot an email to me or post your question on Facebook.


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