Author Archives: Kelsey Savage

Kelsey Savage

About Kelsey Savage

Kelsey Savage writes about home and garden care in between doing her crafty best to update her small New York space. She has worked for Martha Stewart Living and Country Living. Check her out on Google +!

How and When to Plant Garlic

How and When to Plant Garlic


Now is the perfect time to get garlic into the ground. The cloves get a head start on the growing season so that by late summer, you’ll have a nice supply of the health-boosting bulbs. While you can try planting the leftover cloves from last night’s spaghetti, most of the garlic distributed for food has been sprayed with an inhibitor to prevent sprouting. Instead, shop for one of the hundreds of varieties from a respected source online, or visit your local nursery.
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5 Plants to Divide in Fall

October is a great month to look over your property and determine which perennials are in need of dividing.

Splitting up perennials encourages growth in your current plants. Not only that, splitting also enables you to fill out your plot with plants that have already proven their worth in the garden.

During the fall season, focus on spring and summer blooming perennials that have gone dormant and whose roots have had plenty of time to get established. Fall bloomers, such as chrysanthemums and sedum, should wait until spring.

It’s time to divide when the current plants are overflowing their area or infringing your other plants. Here are five plants that will thank you if you split them up.

Dividing Plants in Fall - Astilbes


Astilbes. These speedy growers are easy to separate after a deep watering. Use a sharp knife to pry through the root system. Astilbes should be kept in clumps, not as individuals. When re-planting, mix in a few inches of compost to dress the soil.

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5 Fall Plants to Plant Right Now

Now that the temperature has dropped, it’s the time to replace those fading summer blooms with plants that thrive in cooler weather. Kristin Schleiter, Director of Outdoor Gardens at the New York Botanical Garden shares her top five fall plants. Get them into your garden now!

Fall Plants - Pansies

Pansies / Southern Living

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3 Essential Fall Lawn Maintenance Tasks

As you start putting your lawn to bed, you must take care of three fall lawn maintenance tasks now to secure healthy grass growth next spring.

Fall Lawn Maintenance - Overseeding


1. Fertilize
This is the most important time of year to fertilize for cool-season grasses. This last application of slow-release organic fertilizer will provide the grass with the strength it needs to make it through winter. Lay down about 1-4 pounds per 1,000 square feet of grass that gets full sun (shaded areas of your lawn don’t need quite as much). Getting your soil tested first will help you determine any nutrient deficiencies you may then correct by adapting your dosage of fertilizer. (Warm-season grasses need fertilizer in the spring.)


Fall Lawn Maintenance - Aeration


2. Aerate and Overseed
In order for cool-season grasses to establish new lawn and build up existing areas, now is the time to plant. The cooler weather helps eliminate the competition from germinating weed seeds, so the grass is able to gain a stronger foothold. Start by aerating your landscape to allow for freer nutrient and water circulation, and to help prevent thatching, then proceed with the overseeding.


Fall Lawn Maintenance - Weeding


3. Eliminate Weeds
Take down those dandelions! As broadleaf perennial weeds like dandelion and clover prepare for winter, they pull nutrients (and herbicide applications) from the soil into their roots. Treat problem spots with an herbicide or try an organic alternative, such as a vinegar-based or other acidic product.

In addition to these three tasks, continue your regular lawn care routine. Yes, the weather has cooled and your grass is no longer suffering in the same way it did over the summer. But the landscape still needs a good drink weekly to keep it moist in the drier air of fall and winter. Keep mowing as well, but with a higher setting on your mower—about 2 inches—so you are cutting the blades a little shorter than usual. Do so until you’ve noticed growth has stopped and the lawn has reached dormancy. Finally, as the trees begin to release their leaves, keep your lawn as debris-free as possible by raking often.

For more on lawn care, consider:

5 Ways to a Greener Lawn
Bob Vila Radio: Lawn Care Hell
Lawn Care Tips from Pennington Seed

How To: Dry Hydrangeas

How to Dry Hydrangea


The end of the summer is just days away but instead of celebrating the season, the last bright blooms are starting to look like a symbol of summer’s end. If dried now though, hydrangeas—one of summer’s most decadent ensigns—can decorate your home throughout winter. There are a few ways to do it, all simple.

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How To: Combat Garden Pests (Part 2)

Most people react to deer, groundhogs, and rabbits with a smile acknowledging their adorableness. But gardeners know better. Mammals might be cuter than insect, but their appetite can far more negatively impact your garden. Prevention is all about measuring the degree of damage and acting accordingly.



How to Keep Deer Out of the Garden


First steps: Turn first to natural deer deterents if the garden damage and the deer numbers are low. Failing that, rotate the use of human hair (try collecting from your local barber shop), soap (cut one bar into sections), and mothballs. Hang any of the three in open mesh bags near crops about three feet off the ground.

Final steps: If the number of deer snacking in your garden is just too high, an electric fence is the most effective choice. It can be done with fairly minimal cost, using a single wire attached to fiberglass posts with a high voltage charger. Even just temporarily electrifying a fence will make a big difference.



How to Keep Rabbits Out of the Garden


First steps: Clean your garden of any debris (excess brush, large stones, and so on) that might encourage rabbits to hide. If they don’t feel safe, the rabbits won’t take the chance. Trapping and releasing a few miles away from your garden can also be an effective deterrent. Bait the traps with fruit; I recommend apples.

Final steps: An effective fence needs to be buried at least 10 inches into the ground and sloped outward. Otherwise the rabbit can, and will, dig underneath. Creating fencing for individual plants and trees will keep anything particularly precious in your garden safe.



How to Keep Groundhogs Out of the Garden


First steps: Treating your garden with coyote urine, Tabasco sauce, or scattering about human hair can interfere with groundhog munching if you have a limited infestation.

Final steps: Laying chicken wire on the ground, then affixing another sheet perpendicular to the first that’s held up with wooden posts will create a fence that prevents the groundhog from digging underneath.

For more specific information, contact your local extension office. And don’t miss How To: Combat Garden Pests (Part 1)

Bob Vila Radio: Integrated Pest Management
Natural Fertilizers and Non-Toxic Pesticides (VIDEO)
Quick Tip: Design a “Green” Garden

How To: Combat Garden Pests (Part 1)

It’s the time of year when garden pests like aphids become especially irritating. Fortunately for gardeners, there are numerous natural methods of combating these destructive critters.

How to Deal with Aphids


It’s the time of year when garden pests become especially irritating. Your ripening harvest might be snacked on by aphids, cabbage-loving caterpillars, cinch bugs, various beetles, tomato hornworms… the list goes on. Of course, you have to accept some loss to those creepy crawlers, but there are plenty of natural methods at your fingertips to keep the harvest largely for yourself.

Battle by hand. Yup, sometimes you just need to get your hands dirty. Many pests are easily removed with a pinch of the fingers. If you can’t kill with a pinch, bigger pests like tomato hornworms can be dumped in soapy water. Use the garden hose to blast away harmful insects. Make sure you are getting the undersides of the leaf.

Bring in the big guns. Natural predators like ladybugs and lacewings are valuable for feeding on parasites such as aphids, whiteflies, beetle larvae, small caterpillars and other harmful insects. Attract them by planting pollen and nectar flowers such as sunflowers and goldenrod, or you can purchase them for release in your garden.

Spot-treat. Soft-bodied insects are most susceptible to insecticidal soaps, which can be diluted to about two teaspoons per pint and used to thoroughly coat the plant. Oils also work to kill insects and like soaps, insecticidal oils can be sprayed on as well. For best results, apply oil at the same time as watering, ideally when the temperature is less than 90 degrees. Remember that these options need to be re-applied often for maximum effectiveness.

Avoid over-fertilizing. Many pests like aphids are attracted to plants with high nitrogen levels and an abundance of new growth, so stick to slow-releasing organic fertilizers (fish fertilizer is recommended).

A good time to consider pest control strategies is during your garden planning stage. Before you beginning plant your garden next year, bear in mind the following:

Choose plants that are native to your region. Plants that are likely to thrive will be less susceptible to disease and better able to withstand limited pest damage. Also, consider mixing in companion plants such as garlic or marigolds, known to repel many harmful insects.

Maintain healthy soil for insect-resistant plants. Have your soil tested for nutrient deficiencies at the end of this growing season to prepare for the next. Make sure you vigorously turn over the garden soil to destroy any pupae residing there.

For more specific information, contact your local extension agent.

For more on gardening, consider:

10 Hydrangea Show-Stoppers
Bob Vila Radio: Natural Pesticides
Roses: 11 Sensational Varieties

Boxwoods: Maintaining Structure in Your Garden


Photo courtesy: Lou Penning Landscape

Boxwood hedges might look formal, but they are a workhorse in the garden. The evergreens can define areas and be the frame of the garden while maintaining their glossy green leaves throughout the year.

The American Boxwood can reach up to twenty feet high, although very slowly, but normally a boxwood hovers around five feet tall. Japanese Boxwoods grow more compactly and stay about three feet high—perfect for edging and for growing in containers. Both require well-draining soil in a semi-shaded location.

Now, however, is not the season to incorporate boxwoods into the garden; do that in the fall or spring. Now is the time to care for the ones that are already settled in.


Shaping boxwoods. Photo courtesy: Home Guides, SF Gate

Boxwoods don’t have be flat-topped hedges. Their slow-growth pattern allows you to create shapes through shearing and pruning. To maintain a compact, healthy boxwood, you need to remove the flush of new growth for the first couple seasons after planting—this encourages branch development. Use loppers for the thicker growth and hand-pruners for close-up trimming. Remember that when shaping, less is more. Take a step back after every snip to make sure you are following the design you set out to accomplish.


Pruning boxwoods. Photo courtesy: Commercial Appeal

Pruning isn’t just about maintaining a boxwood’s shape. New growth often causes boxwoods to become too dense for their own good; the interior struggles to get enough sunlight to survive and the poor air circulation encourages fungal infections. When pruning, remove any diseased, dead, or dying branches and don’t neglect the inner branches. Finish up by making small adjustments here and there to retain the proper shape.

If you are interested in doubling your boxwood, the summer months are the perfect time to establish a cutting. To do so, take a six-inch-long cutting and plant in a container of sandy soil. Keep it moist and provide it with indirect sunlight. In the fall, after a solid root system has developed, transplant into the garden.


Photo courtesy: Katy Elliott

For more on gardening, consider:

10 Hydrangea Show-Stoppers
Roses: 11 Sensational Varieties to Consider
Ground Covers: 7 Popular Ground Covers to Enhance Any Yard

Summer Stars: Hydrangeas


White Flower Farm's Hydrangea macrophylia "Endless Summer"

Native to Japan where hydrangeas are beloved not just for their full, lush blooms, but also for the tea made from their leaves, hydrangeas have been cultivated in Western gardens since the 1730s. Those ubiquitous but unfailingly gorgeous pompom flowers seen in gardens across the United States are often bigleaf hydrangeas, or Hydrangea macrophylla, the most popular of the 23 species available. This species is further divided into hortensia, featuring balls of flowers, versus lacecaps, which have flattop flowers. Either way, find the perfect spot for these shade-loving shrubs and get some hydrangeas into your garden now before it’s too late.

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How To: Care for Garden Tools

There's more to gardening than tending to weeds and plants. It also requires proper tool maintenance and care.

How to Maintain Garden Tools


A quality garden starts with quality care—and that doesn’t just mean keeping up with your weeding. Maintaining your garden tools will ensure that any chore you complete gets done with the highest potential for accuracy and precision. Not only do tools need to be sharp, they also need to be clean and sterile, so they don’t accidentally spread disease or viruses across your garden beds. And of course, stored in a dry location, not just left in the grass for tomorrow’s chores! Here’s how to keep your tools in good shape for any gardening issue that comes up.

Start by washing the dirt off your tools with a garden hose by scrubbing with a wire brush. Dip the tools in a diluted solution of any household bleach. Turpentine can be used for any items that might be covered in sap and vinegar can be used to soak items coasted in rust. Give wooden handles a light rubbing with linseed oil. Not only does a thorough cleaning mean sterile tools, it also ensures your tools will last longer. Just think of it as protecting your investment.

How to Maintain Garden Tools - Sharpening


Hoes, shears, scissors, knives, loppers, prunes, and shovels all need an occasional sharpening. Wipe the blades down with WD-40 or another lubricant. Most blades can be filed with a 10” flat mill file, purchased at most hardware stores. File at a 20 to 45 degree angle for most tools; it’s usually easiest to follow the original bevel. For items that need a finer edge (pruners or shears), use a whetstone to finish the edge.

Storing Tools
Even when you know you’ll be using your tools the next day, don’t leave them out in the elements. After cleaning them, return used items to the shed, where they will be kept dry and are likely to remain rust-free. A great way to store small spades and trowels is by keeping them in a pot filled with sand that’s been soaked with motor oil. This helps keep the metal well-conditioned. Your larger tools will do best hanging in a dry, ventilated shed. A pegboard will keep everything organized and easy to access. Keep the tools you frequently use within arm’s reach, and place less-utilized items as you wish.

Want more How To? Browse all projects in 30 Days of Easy Summer DIY