Q: What zone are we in?
A: As the seasons are getting wormier in the Philadelphia area, According to the USDA hardiness zone chart we are now in zone 7B.
Q: Can I grow vegetables in the shade?
A: Most of the your summer vegetables need full sun to produce fruit. You can grow leafy or stem vegetables in 3 to 6 hours of sun a day. My grandmother use to say, if you are growing a vegetable for root or fruit then you need full sun but if you want to eat the leaf then sit in the shade and enjoy. So lettuce and spinach prefer some shade during hot summer days.
Q: What is wrong with my tomato plant? It is dying, yellowing, wilting etc. . .
A: Most of the time home gardeners over water their plants. Once plants are fairly well established it encourages better root growth to limit the watering. During the hottest parts of the summer we water our tomatoes 3–4 times a week. Water in the morning or late evening and try to not get the leaves wet. A long slow drink is a better way to water than frequent short watering.
Q: Is it too early/late to plant tomatoes?
A: You should plant after the last frost date, usually in May. July is probably too late because it will be too hot to get a healthy start–that’s why we don’t have a lot of veggie starts in July. Philly has three growing seasons for veggies, a cool spring, a hot summer and a cool fall. Try some cold tolerant chinese cabbage as well as lettuce and peas in the spring, put in some eggplant and peppers with your summer tomatoes and in August plant your fall crop of broccoli, kale, cabbage and brussel sprouts.
Q: What is eating my leafy greens?
A: Catch the bug in the act and we can help you out, early morning is a good time to see what’s nibbling your greens and other veggies. Look on the leaves, under them and on the stems.
Q: What is the difference between an annual and a perennial?
A: Perennials will last for many years with proper care. Annual plants complete their growing season within a year. Many annuals are perennials in warmer climates. Try this memory aid: Perennial has an R like “forever” and a perennial will last almost forever if properly maintained.
Q: Can I plant perennials in August?
A: Mostly, as long as you’re going to be around to take care of it! If you can commit to watering it deeply 2-3 times a week, you can plant a perennial in August.
Q: I bought this amazing and long-lasting perennial, now how do I plant the thing?
A: 5 easy steps, followed by a cool beverage should do the trick. With a little help, these amazing and dynamic plants will grow year after year. Keep in mind that the planting process can be stressful for your plant, so try to pick a cloudy spring day early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
1. After you have chosen the perfect spot for your new plants the first step is to prepare the soil. Turn in some manure or garden compost to about 1 – 1½’ deep. Don’t forget to give your plants a dose of water while they are still in their pots to prevent drying out of the roots.
2. Your second step is to dig the hole. Generally, plant perennials at the same depth as they were in their containers with the hole wide enough to accommodate their root system. Now is a good time to quickly pinch back any flowers and flower buds that have formed on the plant and perhaps a little of the foliage to compensate for any root damage.
3. The third step is to loosen up the root ball. Nursery plants are often pot-bound – with their roots tightly pressed against the sides of the container and growing around in circles. The roots need to be pulled apart so they can grow outward into the surrounding soil. Sometimes they are wound so tightly that you have to use a pruning shears or a knife to make cuts into the root-ball. Many people are afraid that by doing this they will hurt their plant, but this step is actually helpful in the long run and can help you work out some aggression!
4. For the fourth step place your plant into the hole and add back the amended soil around your plant, filling up the hole and firming down the soil as you go.
5. The fifth and probably most important step is to water thoroughly and deeply. This helps to settle the soil around the roots and remove air pockets. Avoid frequent, shallow watering, but don’t let the soil dry out for the first week or two while the roots are getting established. Adding some mulch around the base of the plant, avoiding the crown and other stems, can help retain moisture.
Q: When will my perennial reach full size?
A: Some plants grow faster than others, but a simple rule for perennials is three years to optimum size. The first year they sleep, second year they creep, third year they leap.
Q: When can I put my houseplants outside in the spring?
A: Move them out in June. Put them in shade at first then move them into sunnier locations once they have been out for a couple of weeks. Bring them back in by September 15th to be on the safe side.
Q: Can you help me pick out plants for my window boxes?
A: Sure, just be sure to include a thriller, a spiller and a filler. That’s something tall, something bushy and something that will cascade out of the box. Colors can be all the same or variations of one color, complimentary colors (for example, orange and blue or yellow and purple) or you can go with every color mixed together (you know who you are!). We can point you in the right direction, give you a once over before you leave or you can leave us the planters and we’ll fill them for you for an additional cost for labor and soil. Check out our Services page.
Q: How do I keep my hanging basket looking colorful and lush?
A: Hanging baskets living in sunny locations can dry out very quickly, so one day of missed watering could be disastrous for your plants. The best way to check if your baskets are dry is by lifting them up. If they are extremely light, water them at once. Stick your finger into the soil. If it feels dry one inch below the soil surface, then the plants are very thirsty. Remember to water long enough so that water runs out the drainage holes.
Another way to keep your hanging baskets in tip-top shape is by adding a top dressing of slow-release fertilizer. We recommend organic fertilizers, such as worm castings or compost. You may also use a liquid fertilizer. Keep in mind that frequent watering flushes nutrients from the soil rather quickly and fertilizing will help replenish that which is lost.
It is important to deadhead all the old faded flowers after they have bloomed. Most hanging baskets are comprised of annuals that are grown to be constantly dazzling bloomers, but they need a little help from you to keep up the show all summer long. Removing these old blooms will promote additional flowers to form while improving the overall appearance of the basket. Some plants benefit from being cut back in mid summer. Don’t be afraid to trim back your Verbena and Petunia; when you do it helps to promote further branching and flower formation.
Remember also that a hanging basket full of plants and wet soil is extremely heavy, so always use a strong and secure bracket to hang your basket.
Q: What is deadheading?
A: Deadheading is when you remove the spent or dead flowers from blooming plants. It keeps plants looking neat and healthy and encourages your plants to keep producing new flowers.
Q: Do you have any advice for windy spots like roof decks and balconies?
A: Wind can wreck havoc on plants by drying them out. Succulents and grasses cactus will do best. Give your other plants some shelter from the wind if you can.
Q: What do I do with my container plants in the winter?
A: You can bring a plant in for the winter. If that is not practical, winterize it by potting it up into a planter at least 3–6” wider and deeper than the root ball. This will help maintain a frozen root ball that is less likely to shift from freeze and thaw air pockets in the soil that can dry it out and kill it.
Q: When do I plant bulbs?
A: Spring blooming bulbs should be purchased and planted in the fall.
Q: Can you grow citrus in Philly.
A: Yes, citrus can live and thrive in the city if you have a place to bring it inside for the winter. Download our How to Grow Citrus in Philadelphia
Q: Can I grow a tree in a container?
A: You can grow a tree in a container, you just have to pick the right tree for the right size pot and replant the tree in a larger pot every two years. A good rule of thumb is to pick a container that is at least 6″ larger than the tree you intend to grow in it. Patio or Dwarf varieties work best in containers. Citrus or patio peach are great for containers. Large street trees will not work such as a Chestnut or Sweetgum.
Q: What is the difference between Deciduous and Evergreen trees?
A: Deciduous trees start to loose their leaves in the fall every year some produce amazing color throughout the season. Evergreens may seem not to loose these leaves, but do shed their leaves or needles at some point during the year. Don’t worry they never lose all of them.
Q: What kind of soil should I use?
A: Here are some tips for soil and mixes
Growing veggies from seeds:
3 parts: 300 Mix/Seed Starting Mix as a base
1 part: Organic Compost or Worm Castings to add structure & nutrients
1 part: Vermiculite or Coir (Shredded Coconut Husk Mulch) to hold moisture
Growing flowers/perennials in containers:
2 parts: 500 Mix, a great base mix for containers & window boxes
1 part: Leaf Compost, gives the garden a boost of nutrients
Growing veggies in containers:
2 parts: 300 Mix as a base
1 part: A mix of Organic Compost and/or Worm Castings to add body and nutrients, and Perlite and/or Vermiculite to help hold moisture.
Growing in really big containers:
2 parts: Top Soil and/or 500 Mix as a base
1 part: A mix of Organic Compost and/or Worm Castings to add body and nutrients, and Perlite and/or Vermiculite to aid water retention and drainage.
Growing in raised beds:
2 parts: Good, light Top Soil
1 part: Mixture of Organic Compost and/or Worm Castings to add body and nutrients, great for drainage.
Improving soil in an established garden:
Natural Humus, Dehydrated Cow Manure, Mushroom Compost, Leaf Compost