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Simple Tips for Designing and Planting Spring Flowering Bulbs

Bulbs are the gateway to the garden. Plant them now and forget about them. By the time spring rolls around, the garden will be full of buds ready to blossom. And, with cooler temperatures, fall is the best season for planting. Whether you’re beginning a garden for the first time or tending an old one, planting flower bulbs has never been easier. Bulbs are a fantastic way to start or maintain a garden because they spring back up each year without any effort. But the key is to plant them correctly now. Don’t worry! The hardest part is deciding which flowers and a color scheme to use.

bulb-tonePlanting Bulbs

Planting the bulbs is simple. Follow the steps below to create a flawless garden.

  1. Dig a hole 3-4 times deeper than the bulb height.
  2. Set bulbs firmly in place, following spacing guidelines.
  3. Sprinkle in a fertilizer made for bulbs such as Espoma’s Bulb Tone
  4. Cover with soil.
  5. Water thoroughly.

Design ideas

Remember when planting bulbs, plant more than you think you need and avoid the temptation to plant in single rows.

  • For the most natural look, group them in a pyramid, rectangle or circular shape.
  • For a camouflaged look, plant low bulbs in front of high. As the high ones die back, the low will cover the dying foliage.
  • For a layered look, plant small bulbs in the same hole as large bulbs.
  • For an entire spring of color, stagger bloom time by planting early, mid and late-season varieties together.

Flower bulbs are a low-maintenance way to expand or start a garden and create a stunning look year-after-year. You’ll be amazed at the beautiful array of color that pops up in the spring.

Buy spring flower bulbs now to prepare for the upcoming fall-planting season.

SEEDING YOUR LAWN

a message from uncle mike

When you think lawn care, spring may be the first thing that comes to mind, but the fact is now is the time to reinvigorate your lawn with new seed. I know there’s a lot of contradicting information out there about when exactly to seed- and it gets confusing about who to listen to or when to do what. Do I use a fertilizer, and if so what type? Can I do it organically? When is it too late to seed? All of these are good questions, so I wrote a check list for you to simplify the process.

 

SOIL PREP

Now’s the best time to prep your soil. Loosen your soil on the top inch or so and get the grade you want. It’s also a great time to add more top-soil or compost if needed. The better your soil is, the healthier your lawn will be.


jgreen-lyllys

top-soilSo, how much soil do you need? Well that depends on your conditions. Keep in mind here that your turf success is really just a result of your soil quality. The stronger your root system is in deep, healthy soil- the better your new seed will perform. I put down up to 10 inches of compost and loam when I redid my back yard and it shows in times of summer drought. This summer, my lawn stayed green while others dried out. It is deeply rooted and healthy enough to withstand stressful conditions. Use a quality top soil or compost to amend your existing conditions. If your soil is of good quality, just till and loosen the top couple inches and rake out a good grade.

One other great product that I always recommend is Jonathan Green’s Love Your Lawn, Love Your Soil. It’s a cool organic product that stimulates microbes in the soil and helps to loosen heavy, hard packed soils, to release trapped nutrients. It’s a good preparation amendment so your soil can better stimulate root growth for your new seeding.

SOIL TEST

If there’s ever a time to test your soil- it’s now. Even if you are only testing the pH. You can get an extensive test through our own lawn-care service, Safe Lawns, or the UMass Extension (for a fee).

Graphic1.cdrThe soil test will tell you your lawns pH, nutrients and soil structure. I find the most important right now is to test pH levels. You see, if your soil has a low pH– your fertilizers won’t work as well. The best way to explain this is if your soil is too acidic you can’t derive the iron and magnesium naturally occurring in your soil so your lawn will never get to that dark green color everyone wants. To adjust your pH into the desired neutral area, add Jonathan Green’s Mag-i-cal or lime.

SEED

Now you want to add the seed. Make sure you pick a seed that’s good for your sun requirements and make sure you have a good quality seed.

jgreen-dense-shade jgreen-full-sunYour grass seed is more important than most people think. Cheap grass seed is just that, cheap and we can’t in good faith carry it. You see, varieties of grass seed get old and are replaced as better seeds become available. This makes the older seed cheaper than the newer, better performing ones. Another way to get cheap seed is to add annual blue grass to the mix. Annual blue grass is an inexpensive filler, but it doesn’t come back the next year making it a turf that comes up well initially, but then your lawn comes in very thin next spring. Cheap grass seed is like a cheap beer only that headache you get is going to last for years.
It’s also important to pick the right seed for your sun requirements. You don’t want to take a full sun blend and put it in the heavy shade areas. Use the right seed for the right sun. Jonathan Greens dense shade will do great under those trees down to about 3 hours of sun. Don’t forget grass seed does need about 3 hrs of sun to grow or it will just slowly fade away. Sometimes shrubs and perennials do better for those heavy shade areas.

 

 

Fertilizer

Yes fertilizer. It makes a huge difference and it seems like everyone wants to either skip this step or add it later. Whether organic or synthetic, add fertilizer when you seed.

jgreen-new-seedingFertilizers are meant to release phosphorus into the soil at time of germination and then add nitrogen in a slow release fashion thereafter to continue feeding. Don’t mix seed and fertilizer. It doesn’t matter which one goes first or second but add one and then put the other down and water.
 

WATER

The rest is up to you! Be sure to keep your new seed evenly moist in the beginning because if you let grass seed dry out too much, it may prolong the germination or even worse– kill the seed during germination. This first week is very important, after that you can back down to a deep water every 2- 4 days depending on the weather forecast.

Why seed now?

I know there’s a lot of contradiction on when is the best time to seed, the fact is you can seed anytime you want to or when you may have to. Spring and fall are often seen as a good times because they typically have lots of natural rainfall and cooler temps, but as long as you can keep the seed moist– you can seed whenever you want.

Just remember a few things when seeding. Any crabgrass preventers or other herbicides may prevent the grass seed from germinating in early spring. Sometimes seeding too late results in an inability to get the seed to germinate, also called dormant seeding. This is when you throw seed down without expecting it to germinate until spring. Most people have pretty good results doing it this way and you get germination first thing in the spring. However, we often put our seed promotions together for early fall or even late summer because you can take advantage of warm soil temps coming out of summer and there’s still plenty of time to get good germination and even a mowing or two to harden off the grass for winter.

FALL IS FOR PLANTING

.. Maybe Even the best time for planting…

It happens every year, people from towns near and far make their spring pilgrimage to Mahoney’s. They come filled with anticipation of new perennials, lush lawns, and flowering shrubs. Simply put, it’s spring, and they want to plant something. No question of course, that spring is a great time to plant, but what many people don’t realize is that fall is not only an equally good time to plant, in many ways it’s better.

To understand why, it’s good to remember that plants do not think like people. While we lament the end of summer, plants – especially newly planted plants – find the cooler days far less stressful. We may dig in our closets for a sweater, but for plants the soil feels warm, which boosts root growth. And while fall rains seem gloomy to us, plants much prefer it to the hot dry summer. And this is true for a whole host of plants: trees, shrubs, perennials, roses, ornamental grasses and even your lawn. Practically anything planted now will have extra time to establish, so when it’s time to grow and flower next year, it will give you a great show at your house, not at the garden center.

HOW LATE INTO THE FALL CAN YOU PLANT?

Fact is, if the ground isn’t frozen and you can still dig the hole, you can still plant. Planting in September and October however allows that much more time for plants to become established, so sooner is better.

There are other reasons fall is a great time for planting. Unlike a lot of garden centers that wind down for the year, Mahoney’s brings in lots of fresh new plants every fall, especially shrubs. Check out our new shipments arriving daily. Planting them now will allow you to enjoy the foliage throughout all seasons, including color changes this fall.

Fall is also the unofficial “hide your neighbor” season. Why, we’re not sure, but a lot of people plant hedges in the fall. We’ll have fresh arborvitae, boxwood and other hedging evergreens as well as privet, hydrangeas, ninebark, spirea, weigela and many more deciduous shrubs. (Social note: for neighbors that need immediate hiding, we carry large and fast growing hedge shrubs. The ‘Green Giant’ arborvitae is especially popular)

Also very popular in the fall are miniature evergreens for urns, containers and window boxes. They add a festive touch for the holidays, and with a little protective care they will survive in a container through the winter. If you want to be greeted with tulips, daffodils and other flowers next spring, you have to plant the bulbs in fall.

Perennials especially benefit from the extra time in the ground before next spring. We bring in a lot of fresh perennials in the fall – especially the fall blooming varieties. We also have a wide selection of ornamental grasses – great for landscapes or containers.

Speaking of grasses, fall is the very best time to pay attention to your lawn. Not only do most lawns need a serious pick-me-up after the summer heat and dry spells, the warm fall soil encourages quick germination and cool air temperatures reduce stress.

Celebrate Earth Day!

earthday-1While Earth day is April 22, everyday is Earth Day at Mahoney’s. Our commitment to finding you the best products to beautify and sustain our earth has been our passion for over 50 years. From organic lawn-care programs to locally-grown plants, tasty edibles, natives and so much more, here are a few tips and ideas to celebrate earth day right at home.

1. Grow your Own

What’s better than picking fresh veggies and herbs from the garden? Grown locally in our Woburn greenhouses, our house brand of Uncle Mike’s herbs and veggies are grown specifically for the best performance in our Boston area climate. We’ve selected the best varieties for top-performance. Non-GMO and grown with Integrated Pest Management (the good bugs eat the bad bugs) so you can feel good about growing organically at home.

2. Clean the Air

Airborne toxins such as formaldehyde, TCE and benzene are present in every home and office. That’s because these compounds are found in many products that we use everyday: paints, varnishes, plastics, rubber, insulation and particleboard. These all contribute to the quality of the air you breath. Houseplants like bamboo palm, ficus trees, and Chinese evergreens fight air pollution by absorbing these harmful contaminants. NASA researchers discovered that certain houseplants can reduce indoor pollutants by 87 percent in 24 hours! So, why not add several plants to your home and office? You’ll love the look and breathe easier too.

3. Feed organically

From lawn-care to plant care, we’ve been sourcing fertilizers and soil amendments before “organic” was even a thing. We pride ourselves in stocking the most contemporary chemistry out there in our lawn and garden products. From seaweed-based Neptune’s Harvest fertilizers to organic 4-step lawn programs, lobster compost soil amendments and chicken manure- our buyers are always focused on bringing you the best in organic garden care.

4. Plant a tree

Trees help purify the air, give wildlife a home, and could save big on energy costs. Large deciduous trees planted on the east and west sides of your home create shade from the hot sun and reduce summer air conditioning costs.

5. Bee Friendly

Plant pollinator friendly annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs to create a haven for pollination in your yard. Flat or shallow blossoms such as daisies, sunflowers, alyssum, zinnias, asters, petunias, echinacea, butterfly bush and verbena will attract the largest variety of pollinators because the nectar is easily accessible. Bumblebees are also attracted to flowers with hidden nectar spurs such as larkspur, monkshood, monarda, columbine, and snapdragons.

6. Go Native

By planting native trees, shrubs, and perennials you are restoring part of the natural ecology that is a haven to wildlife and pollinators. Aside from regular watering during their first season, most native plants require little maintenance.

7. Don’t forget to Mulch!

Usually we mulch our gardens each year because it polishes up the appearance of your yard. Did you know? Mulching helps conserve water resources. Mulch insulates the soil, maintaining soil moisture and preventing rapid evaporation from the hot sun so your plants are healthier and you water more efficiently.

 

 

FRESHEN UP WITH GREEN & GLASS

Nothing can make you feel like it’s a fresh new year more than cleaning out the holiday clutter from your home. We use this time to introduce beautiful foliage and flowering plants that remind us of Spring throughout our interior spaces. Visit our greenhouses to find ferns, succulents and an array of tropical houseplants to get you through the doldrums of winter.  We love incorporating these plants into glass vessels and pottery that enhance your interior decor and give you a personal sense of well-being.

HOW TO START SEEDS INDOORS

Few gardening pursuits are as rewarding as growing your flowers and vegetables from seed. For centuries, New England gardeners and farmers alike have embarked on their labor of love early on the season. The goal: to sow their seeds indoors while patiently awaiting the arrival of warm weather.

Our friends at Botanical Interests Seeds have helped us provide some indoor seed starting basics. We love the Botanical Interests seed collection. You’ll find hundreds of Non-GMO and USDA certified organic varieties.

 

Carefully tending to your plants from the beginning invokes a sense of wonder in gardeners of all ages. This is especially true in New England, as our growing season is short. Other than cool-season crops, you’ll want to wait until after the “Average Last Frost Date” to sow outside. The Farmer’s Almanac lists that as May 4th in Boston, but this is just an average, and it varies by town. Starting from seed allows you to get a jump-start on varieties that you may otherwise have to wait until May to find in the garden center. Different seed varieties require different numbers of days to sprout and grow. All Botanical Interests seed packets are labeled with their germination time. Use this information to help you find the perfect time to sow, relative to the last frost.

The other advantage of starting from seed is finding a selection that you may not otherwise find in started plants. Depending on which Mahoney’s you visit, you’ll find up to 500 seed varieties to choose from – this is especially exciting if you are looking for heirloom and hard-to-find vegetable varieties!

Perhaps the most compelling reason is that seed starting provides a wonderful sense of accomplishment – especially for kids. It connects you to nature, and makes you appreciate, and control where your food really comes from. We say it’s hard to explain – you just have to experience it!

GETTING STARTED

We should mention that many plants should be started from seed outdoors. Radishes, spinaches and carrots, for example, grow so fast that it is much easier to sow directly outdoors. There are other veggies such as salad greens that are fussy about being transplanted so planting directly into the garden produces better results. That said, let’s dig into seed starting indoors.

CHOOSE YOUR CONTAINER

Most people buy our seed-starting flats because they maximize plants per square inch, but no one says you have to go that route; you can use anything from cut-down milk cartons to elegant glazed pottery. As long as the container is not too shallow, and you have proper drainage, the plants don’t really care. Go with what you like to look at. We carry many biodegradable fiber pots and seed trays, perfect for growing! Note: If you do reuse a container, make sure to clean and sanitize first.

LIGHTEN UP

Seeds need light – lots of it! When starting your seeds indoors, place in a south-facing sunny window. If you don’t think you’ll have enough sun, stop in and talk to us for tips on artificial lighting! There are ways to use your own lighting at home to help your seedlings along!

PLANTING MIXES

If you search online you’ll find a lot of conflicting information about what’s the “best” planting soil to use. We sell several – from our organic professional potting mix to an organic seed starting media by Espoma. They’ll all work great – just remember that regular outdoor garden soil is definitely not OK. Seeds need the right amount of moisture, warmth and air to germinate. Regular garden soil is too dense and will drown the seeds and eliminate much-needed oxygen and create an environment ripe for pests and disease.

name your plants

When they’re very young a lot of seedlings look pretty much the same, so do yourself a favor and label the plants as soon as you get started. While you are at it, mark down when you first planted the seeds. Trust us, you’ll find this really helpful.

keep it cozy

Seeds need warmth – most will germinate at temperatures around 75ºF, but eggplants, peppers, and other warm-season plants like it even warmer. Again it’s good to read package instructions carefully. Once the seeds germinate, room temperatures of 70º–75º will keep most seedlings happy.

a word about water

Water the containers as needed to keep them evenly moist but not sopping wet. Misting using a spray bottle, or bottom watering (adding water to the drainage tray) are great ways to keep planting mix moist without disturbing seeds and young seedlings. Covering your containers with a clear lid or clear plastic wrap also helps increase humidity during germination. After your seedlings emerge, remove the cover.

count down

Once your seedlings have grown enough to transplant to their ultimate spot (either in the ground or in a container) it’s time to prepare your babies to withstand outdoor conditions. It called “Hardening off.” Start by placing your seedlings outdoors in a protected, shady area. Over the next 7 to 10 days, move them more and more into direct sun (for sun-loving varieties). But remember your seedling are still very “tender” – be sure to bring them in at night if temperatures drop below 45°F. Then congratulations – you’re ready to plant.

Pollinators

Bees, hummingbirds and butterflies pollinate a third or more of the food we eat. You can help simply by choosing seeds that create habitats that protect and feed pollinators. And while you’re thinking of this, plant a diversity of colors, bloom times, and heights – it will provide a better environment, and it will be prettier for you, too.

a final thought

Before you start, take a minute to appreciate the seed. They come in all sizes – some as fine as powder – but each is a remarkable living thing with a protective outer coat, an embryo, stored nutrients, and a genetic blueprint for its development. When you stop to think, it’s really quite miraculous that a tiny seed will grow into a big, beautiful plant, in just one season!

Winter Birding: The Importance of Food

 

In Massachusetts, winter is a difficult time for birds. Days are often windy and cold; nights are long and even colder. Lush vegetation has withered or been consumed, and most insects have died or become dormant. During these extremely cold days, finding food can be especially difficult. They cannot forage as easily for food when snow accumulates or temperatures drop to freezing. Some birds remain in the same location year-round and benefit greatly from the extra food sources offered by backyard feeders. These birds require high calorie and oil rich foods to survive our winter.

During spring and summer, most songbirds eat insects and spiders, which are highly nutritious, abundant, and, for the most part, easily captured. During fall and winter, nonmigratory songbirds shift their diets to fruits and seeds to survive. This is the time of year when bird feeding enthusiasts roll out the welcome mat and set the table. The question is, what to serve to attract a diversity of birds? The answer is to provide a variety of food types.

In Massachusetts, we can expect to see the friendly Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, the spectacularly colored Northern Cardinal, all manner of Finch, Sparrows, Woodpeckers and Jays; for a comprehensive list, check out Mass Audubon’s website!

 

Which seed types should I provide?

Black-oil sunflower seeds attract the greatest number of species. These seeds have a high meat-to-shell ratio, they are nutritious and high in fat which is especially important in the winter months. Their small size and thin shells make them easy for small birds to handle and crack. Several studies, including the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Seed Preference Test, show that this high-energy food is the favorite of most birds that visit feeders. Striped sunflower seeds are popular with larger-beaked birds. These striped seeds are larger and have a thicker seed coat than black-oil sunflower.

Peanuts, and tree nuts like almonds, cashews, pecans and pistachios are enjoyed by Jays, Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Carolina Wrens and Titmice. If you don’t want squirrels “going nuts” for these foods, try using a squirrel-resistant feeder.

Millet is a small round seed. It comes in white and red varieties; most birds prefer white proso millet over red. Nyjer®, or thistle seed, is a delicacy for small Finches such as Goldfinches, Siskins, and Redpolls. Offering the small-sized, premium-priced Nyjer seeds in special Nyjer feeders will provide more value for your money. These feeders come in either a sock form with a small mesh fabric, or a tube feeder with tiny ports that prevent the seeds from spilling out. Finches will pull the seeds individually through the mesh or ports to enjoy them.

Birds’ feeding habits vary based on weather patterns and season. The best thing to do is experiment with seed and your backyard feeders. Take notes and photos for a personal sense of well-being and a great activity to do with kids!

lyric-cardinal_detail lyric-supreme

We love Lyric Bird Seed because of their superior ingredients that ensure our New England birds have their essential nutrients to thrive- especially in the winter months. A superior seed means you will attract the widest variety of birds around! All birding products are available in our Winchester, Falmouth, Tewksbury and Wayland stores. (Wayland is closed for the winter season and will re-open in March)