Archives for August 2016

How to ‘Winterize’ Birds

With fall approaching, it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll care for your feathered friends throughout the coming cold season. Even though there is plentiful food all around now, birds will soon have a harder time finding food for themselves! Feeding and housing them now will not only keep them happy and flocking to your yard all winter long, but will also be beneficial in the spring and summer when they’ll need to feed their babies and will already be comfortable in your yard, knowing that you’re a good provider. fall bird

High fat foods such as sunflower seeds are ideal for giving birds the energy they need to survive the cold nights. Birds don’t mind shelling their own seeds but you can buy already shelled seeds if you don’t like the mess. Suet cakes are readily available and inexpensive. Suet provides much needed fat and nutrition for your birds during the winter when seeds and berries are hard to find. Birds will flock to your yard for this treat! Right now The Family Tree is offering great deals on suet, so stock up now!

Birds such as bluebirds and wrens build their nests in bird houses.  To attract birds to your birdhouses, place them in a relatively sheltered area from predators and provide a food and water source nearby. Even in the winter, birds need fresh water.  Instead of draining your bird feeders and fountains, add a de-icer or water wiggler to keep the water from freezing.

Squirrels  – GRRR.  This is a hard one!  Many people like to watch the antics of squirrels but you also want your bird food to feed the birds.  There are a number of squirrel proof bird feeders and baffles made by Droll Yankee and Audubon. Some bird feed by Cole’s has hot pepper added, which seems to winter_birdwork pretty well; birds don’t mind it and squirrels don’t like it! You may also consider feeding squirrels in an area farther away from your feeders and houses.  They will get used to feasting in that area and hopefully will leave your bird feeders alone.

Once the cold weather passes, your birds will gladly set up house in or around your yard.  In the spring and summer they will be looking for grubs, beetles, mosquitoes and more undesirable pests to feed their families. This is quite an added benefit for your lawn and garden!

Don’t miss our Tuesdays at the Tree seminar on September 6 at 10am! Ornithologist Chip Utsey will share how to keep birds flocking to your yard year round, as well as tips and advice on giving them the nutrition and shelter they need.

Want Fresh Veggies this Fall? Plant a Cool Season Garden!

If you planted a vegetable garden this spring, you’ve most likely been enjoying the tasty fruits of your labors these past few months! fall-harvest-basketHave you ever considered planting a fall garden? Just because the weather will soon start to cool down doesn’t mean your crop of delicious homegrown veggies has to cease! In fact, fall is the ideal time to plant nutrition packed broccoli, luscious kale, flavor-enhancing leeks, crisp radishes, and so much more. There is a wide variety of fall vegetable seeds as well as starter plants.  Starter plants are generally easier to grow but typically there is a wider selection of seeds.  These veggies require cool soil to germinate and flourish, so here are 4 steps to help you plan your planting times so that you can enjoy delicious veggies all autumn long.

  1. Determine the average first fall frost date and mark it on your calendar.
  2. Look on your seed packet for ‘Days to Maturity’ and from your average first frost date, count backwards the number of days to maturity, which will bring you to the ideal planting date. It’s usually a good idea to add an extra week or two to that time to take into account the shorter days, which may slow growth.
  3. Once you’ve determined the ideal planting date, it’s time to decide which seeds can be sown directly into the ground and which will need to be started indoors. Soil can still be hot in the summer when you’re planting and certain cool season crops, like lettuce or spinach, will not germinate in soils over 80 degrees; crops like these will need to be started indoors and then transplanted. However, root crops such as radishes can be sown directly into your garden.
  4.  Because vegetable plants need lots of nutrients to produce delicious results, you should add fertilizer or compost to the soil before you plant. This is especially important if you had a summer garden; the soil needs to be replenished for your cool season garden to flourish!

fall saladThe Family Tree has just stocked cool season seeds and starter plants, so hurry in soon for the best selection for your garden! Our knowledgeable associates are always happy to help you find the perfect seeds for your needs.

6 Great Benefits of Houseplants!

Did you know? Houseplants can benefit your overall health and wellness in addition to making your home look beautiful and inviting! This season, The Family Tree has received a range of gorg20140811_144609-1eous houseplants of every shape, color and style. We’ve got hundreds for bright light and low light, large areas and small. If you are looking for a pre-potted plant, terrarium, miniature garden, or something totally different, we have everything you want and more. Here, we highlight six great benefits of having houseplants in your home!

20140821_082705-11. Removal of Airborne Contaminants: We breathe the same air again and again, potentially inhaling harmful substances that are trapped inside. Indoor plants can help to remove pollutants including airborne compounds that cause headaches, nausea, and more.

2. Upping Your Happiness Levels: House plants can contribute to a feeling of well-being, making you calmer and more optimistic. Studies have shown that patients who face a garden view or have flowers in their hospital rooms often recover more quickly than those who do not.

3. Improved Mental Health: It has been proven that caring for a living thing, be it a pet or a plant, can help when you’re depressed and lonely. Having something completely reliant on you for love and sustenance will give you a new purpose in life! Try gifting a pretty fern or bright African violet to someone who could use cheering up.

4.  Improved Sleep: Who doesn’t want a good nights sleep every night? All plants give off oxygen as a result of photosynthesis, which studies show can help improve sleep. Place a houseplant or two (or three!) in your bedroom and you will be reaping the benefits in no time!20140814_092829-1

5.  Allergy Prevention: Exposing children to allergens early in life can help them build a tolerance and immunity to the allergen; nature’s form of a custom allergy shot! Plants are included on that list, so make sure you have at least a few houseplants around.

6. Reduced Sick Time: Indoor plants have been shown to reduce cold-related illnesses by more than 30%! This is due to their effect of increasing humidity levels and decreasing dust. What better reason to get a houseplant as we head into cold season?

Be sure to stop by The Family Tree to browse our wide selection of houseplants, which are all on sale this week! Our associates are happy to help with recommendations and tips on how to care for every plant we offer!

How Do I Take Care of My Bonsai Plant?

Chinese_BanyanHave you ever wondered how they get those little trees to grow in unusual shapes in small containers? It is definitely an art form and labor of love to produce some of the stunning tree forms that we stock at the Family Tree Garden Center. It takes years to prune and bend a tree to achieve the desired shape. Lucky for us, someone else does this part and we get to enjoy the end result! It can be relatively easy to care for a bonsai plant, but you need to give a little thought when choosing the right plant to take home. Here are some tips.

Indoor or Outdoor

Bonsai plants are usually trees, shrubs, or tropical plants. Therefore, bonsai trees or shrubs would prefer to live outside just like a normal tree or shrub. Tropical plants such as Ficus, Jade Plant or Schefflera can be grown indoors. So start off with the right choice of plant as it will save the plant being unhappy in the wrong environment.

Watering

bonsai azaleaBonsai containers are usually very small so regular watering is essential. Just how much water depends on whether your bonsai is outside or inside, type of plant, and your outdoor/indoor climate. Bonsai plants are usually watered more often than normal houseplants or trees and shrubs that live outdoors. A good rule of thumb is to poke your finger into the soil medium to see if it is moist. If it is, then the plant doesn’t need water. If your bonsai plant is outdoors, you may be watering it every day. If it is indoors, it may be every other day or every few days. You will get to know your plant’s requirements. Be careful not to wash any soil away when you are watering and also try not to dislodge any granular fertilizer.

Fertilizing

A balanced fertilizer (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium numbers all similar e.g. 10-10-10) can be used. The fertilizer can be a granular, slow release fertilizer, or it can be a liquid fertilizer. How often will depend on whether the plant is indoors or outdoors and type of fertilizer used. Follow the directions on the fertilizer package. Liquid fertilizers may be easier to use as then you don’t have to worry about knocking off your granular fertilizer pellets every time you water. Look for fertilizers that also include some micronutrients.

Light Requirements

Again, if you know what plant you have, you will be able to give it the right light. If it is a tree or shrub, then give it the same conditions you would give a normal tree or shrub. For example, if you have a Red Maple (Acer) this prefers full sun and the bonsai version would also prefer full sun. For the tropical bonsai plants that are used indoors, most would prefer bright light, so place the plant by a window, but without direct sunlight hitting it.

Pruning

acer-bonsai-pallTo keep your bonsai plant in shape it will need some pruning, otherwise it will try to grow into a regular sized tree or shrub. Pruning will probably need to be carried out a couple of times during the growing season. Every few years it is also advisable to do some root pruning. Over time, the roots will slowly fill up the container. A good clue that this is occurring is when you water your plant. If the water runs straight out the bottom of the container and no water seems to be retained by the plant, then there is not much soil volume left in the container. Time to snip off some of the roots and add some more potting soil.

Have fun and enjoy these wonderful works of art!