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Gardening Tips

  • 3 Organic Plant Fertilizers You Already Have in Your Kitchen

    Using Coffee to Fuel Your Garden:

    Using coffee as fertilizerMany of us enjoy that daily cup (or two!) of coffee. If you frequent a local coffee shop, you might remember seeing bags of used grounds left out for gardeners. If you make yours at home, you should know that you have an on-hand organic fertilizer to use in your garden.

    Coffee grounds are all-natural organic material that can bring friendly microbes to your garden’s soil.  As the microbes snack on the coffee grounds, they gradually produce nitrogen and other nutrients for the plants. Some commercially available nitrogen additives can be too concentrated, and the quick change in soil composition can shock your plants.  When possible, it is better to use naturally sourced, slowly accumulating nitrogen.   Continue reading

  • The Advantages of Planting Bare Root Plants

    Have you ever been shocked to find that the tree or shrub you ordered showed up to your door completely naked?  Don’t be!  This is what we call a bare root plant, and they come with a number of advantages over their potted and balled-and-bur-lapped (B&B) counterparts.

    Autumn Blaze Maple TT1.5

     

    The most obvious advantage?  Bare root plants cost less!  They are cost saving to the merchants, who pass these savings on to you.  Because their packaging is lightweight and stackable, shipping them is a breeze.  Potted and B&B plants must be handled carefully, because their heavy, soil-laden roots can make messes or even cause damage.  Bare root plants don’t have this problem.  Furthermore, the lighter packaging means less fuel is needed to transport bare root plants.  That’s not only cost-saving, but eco-friendly, too!

     

    Speaking of eco-friendliness, bare root plants have other environmental advantages.  When plants are shipped with soil, microbes can hitchhike along.  These can include insect eggs and other pests that can cause shock damage to your yard.  The mix of microbes in the plant’s soil might not integrate well into the mix in your yard’s soil, which could delay your new plant’s integration into the landscape.  

    Continue reading

  • Fruit Tree Pollination: Does Your Fruit Tree Need a Friend?

    Many fruit trees require a pollinator, but what does that mean exactly?  

    Although there are fruit trees out there that are self fruitful (like some cherry tree varieties for example), others will require a recommended pollinator in order to produce fruit (like apple trees).

    Basically, fruit is produced when the female parts of a flower are exposed to pollen, which is what we mean when we say "pollination."  Pollen is produced by the male parts of the flower.  Some flowers, called “perfect flowers,” contain both female parts and pollen-producing male parts.  Plants with perfect flowers can sometimes pollinate themselves, but some have biological blocks in place that prevent self-pollination.  Other plants have flowers that are either male or female.  These require pollen-producing male flowers to be accessible to the female flowers.  Sometimes, male and female flowers grow on the same tree.  In some species, though, male flowers grow on male trees and female flowers grow on female trees.

    stamen_pollen_Karwath2005 Pollen-producing stamen, © 2005 Karwath

    In order for pollination to take place, the flowers have to be compatible, which usually means that they have to be the same species, since every species’s pollen is unique. If you want to pollinate an apple tree, you’ll need apple pollen. Furthermore, you will want your pollen-producing flowers to bloom at the same time as your fruit-producing flowers.  If the flowers bloom at different times, the pollen from one might not be around when the other is ready to receive it.

    If you are interested in growing fruit, you will want to find out if your tree’s species can self-pollinate.  If not, you will want to find another tree that is compatible.

     

    bee_pollen_GuerinNicolas2007 © 2007 Guerin Nicolas

     

    In some cases, just having a source of pollen is not enough. Sometimes you need a pollinator, or an agent that moves the pollen from one flower to another.  For some plants, this can be as simple as wind.  Other plants need birds, insects, or other animals to move their pollen.  It depends on the natural shape of the flowers.  In almost all cases, you can move the pollen yourself, but this can be tedious.  It’s best to make your tree available to its natural pollinators and let the wind and wildlife do it for you.

    For more resources on pollination and compatibility, check with an arborist or your local county extension agency.  If you have a local university with a horticulture department, that is another good resource.  When researching online, keep in mind that .edu websites are the most reliable sources for up-to-date, accurate information.

  • Fruit Tree Fertilization

    fertile_soil Fertile soil

    You want the best fruit your fruit tree can give, right? Good fruit comes from fertile soil, so the key is to  maintain soil health.  Sometimes, this means adding fertilizer, but know how to prevent over-fertilizing. Fertilizer in excess can be more damaging than no fertilizer at all.

    The most practical way of checking soil fertility is by investigating the annual growth of the tree.  If you inspect the branches and follow the branch from the tip to the previous year’s growth, you can measure how much the fruiting tree grew in a season. New growth is flexible and green, while last year's growth is darker (often brown) and more rigid.  A mature, fruit-producing tree should have 6-8 inches of vegetative growth each year.  Immature fruit trees grow more quickly, but don’t produce fruit.  

    young_growth_wikipedia_davidals2009 Green, flexible new growth stems

    Soil is “fertile” if it has the right balance of nutrients to support healthy growth.  These nutrients include nitrogen, potassium, and phosphates.  You can find pre-mixed fertilizers at your garden store that include all of these.  For fruit trees, you want a fertilizer packed with phosphates to promote healthy fruit and flower development.

    A common mistake with home gardeners is to use too much nitrogen, or the wrong type of nitrogen compound.  Nitrogen additives affect the pH of the soil.   If your soil pH is above 7.0, that means it’s “basic,” and you should use an ammonium-based fertilizer for nitrogen.  If you find that your soil pH is below 7.0, that means it’s “acidic” and you should use a nitrate solution for nitrogen.  To learn more about pH and how to test your soil, ask a local horticulturist or agriculture extension agency.

    A suggested rate of fertilizer to use for each fruit tree is one pound of fertilizer for every inch in trunk diameter. BUT be sure to read the directions on the fertilizer packaging.  Some fertilizers are packaged more concentrated than others.  Fertilization should be done directly before bloom. For most trees, this is around March.  Be sure to know the flowering time of each specific tree, though.  If you purchase your tree from Nature Hills, you can figure this out with a quick look at the product page.

    fruit_on_tree Healthy fruit on an apple tree

    Don't let all this talk of numbers and pH and nutrients scare you out of buying a fruit tree. Fertilization is much simpler than it sounds.

     

    The keys:

    1. Don’t over do it!

    2. Phosphates are your friends!

    3. Pay attention to pH!

    4. Read the directions!

  • Top 5 Winter Interest Plants

    Winter is the ever-returning friend and foe of gardeners.  You may rue the arrival of Jack Frost every year, driving you inside and sapping all the color from your garden.  But did you know that there are a number of plants that can keep your garden pretty all through the cold season?

    Looking to liven up your white-washed winter landscape?  Dust the dreariness with one of these winter interest plants:

     

    dogarctic1#5 Arctic Fire Dogwood

    During the summer, Arctic Fire Dogwood is your everyday deciduous shrub. Round and green and merry, it is a cute little puffball.

    When winter comes, its leaves fall away, exposing its fiery red-orange branches.  They spray upward from the snow like fire, boldly defying the cold.

     

    Continue reading

  • The Top 6 Best Trees For Wildlife

    6 Terrific Trees for Wildlife

     

    Deer in the forest
    1. Quaking Aspen

    2. American Holly

    3. Eastern Red Cedar

    4. Hackberry

    5. Shumard Oak

    6. American Persimmon

    If you’re anything like me, watching a graceful deer stroll across my yard brings a special sense of awe and tranquility to my home. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of welcoming some of nature’s most spectacular creatures to share a part of my life, and having the right trees can be essential to issuing that invitation directly to them.

    One of my favorite choices for wildlife-friendly trees is the Quaking Aspen. Not only is this tree lovely (with its white bark and gently dancing leaves), but it’s also a versatile gift for wildlife. Deer, Elk and Moose enjoy its shade, and love to nibble its leaves and twigs for the nutritional boost it gives them throughout the year. Many animals venture into the Aspen’s stately presence to enjoy its protective shade, and Ruffed Grouse particularly enjoy it for the nesting opportunities it presents. Continue reading

  • How do I choose shrubs for the landscape?

    How do I choose shrubs for the landscape?"How do I choose shrubs for the landscape?" This is a great question that we get asked all the time here at Nature Hills. People want to have a beautiful yard and want to make sure that they're spending their money on the right thing. We get it. In the end, the plants you pick are a personal choice of course. Some people love roses and their yard wouldn't be complete without them. Other people hate the upkeep and scent. Some people want one of everything they see in the garden center. Some people only want three types of plants in their whole landscape for a 'clean' look. To each his own.

    Here are a few suggestions, though, to get you pointed in the right direction:

     

    1) For year-round interest or an ornamental and creative attraction, combine deciduous and evergreen species,  shrubs that bloom at different seasons, or add flowering perennial shrubs to a typically green border.
    Continue reading

  • Planting Asters to Attract Butterflies

    Butterflies And AstersIn the fall, gardens are full of both asters and butterflies.  There are lots of the white cabbage-type butterflies that have been around since early spring, monarchs preparing for their long journey south, yellow sulphurs doing their swirling dance in the air and scads of tiny brownish-orange butterflies whose names I don't even know.  About once a day a red admiral or two pops through, flying quickly and never stopping anywhere very long.

    The butterflies land on the few flowerheads left on the butterfly bushes, then move on to the hundreds of small, daisy-like blossoms adorning the various asters.  The colorful flyers seem especially partial to the taller aster varieties...maybe because those statuesque plants are closer to the sky?  The lower growing asters, like those of the Woods series (Woods Blue, Woods Pink, etc.), also see their fair share of butterflies, skippers and pollinating insects.
    Continue reading

  • Pussy Willow Growth Rate

    Pussy Willow GrowthPussy Willow Growth

    Soon pussy willows, with their soft, touchable gray catkins, will be returning to the grocery stores and florists' shops. In my cold winter climate, those catkins won't show up outside for many, many weeks, but they are growing somewhere and merchandisers will be stocking up shortly to give us all a taste of spring.

    Whenever I see them, I wish once again for my own pussy willow bush. Having such a plant would not only provide me with armfuls of pussy willows for my own house, but give me the satisfaction of not having to pay for them.
    Continue reading

  • Creating A Patio Garden Is A Fun And Rewarding Project

    Creating A Patio Garden

    Creating A Patio Garden Is A Fun And Rewarding ProjectCreating a patio garden can transform your patio into a celebration of the senses with beauty, fragrance, texture and color.  From unique dwarf trees like a Meyer Lemon, bushes in tree form, to colorful shrubs, seasonal perennials, even evergreens to create some privacy.  You are only limited by your space & your imagination.

    Here are some top tips from our Nursery Manager at Nature Hills Nursery.

    Utilize trees in pots.

    Small trees in big pots are great for patios that lack much ground for planting. A Windmill Palm, Juniper or Arborvitae evergreen will help block unattractive views and even create more privacy. Many Tree Forms offer a unique & compelling display with color & fragrances.  Knockout Rose Trees will bring you months of colorful blooms.  The Lilac Tree Forms offer color and amazing fragrance. Continue reading

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9910 N. 48th Street, Suite 200 Omaha, NE 68152

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