Posted on Leave a comment

Easy Vegetables To Grow for New or Seasoned Gardeners

Whether you’re new to vegetable gardening or have been at it for years, having some easy to grow vegetables in your garden plots allows you to maximize your yield without adding extra work to your schedule. In strange times like these, growing your own food is a great way to support your family by avoiding grocery store trips, while also giving you some garden therapy to help you relax. Growing some easy veggies ensures you a successful harvest, even if you’re busy entertaining kids, working from home, or just feeling overwhelmed. A tiny bit of effort now will pay dividends this spring and summer!

Here are 5 vegetables that are super easy to grow in Iowa and require very little maintenance or attention. Plant them, water them, and soon you’ll be harvesting your own homegrown produce aisle!

Beans

Green beans, purple beans, pole beans, and yellow beans are all super easy to grow. Beans are pretty resilient and self-reliant. If you choose a climbing type, make sure they have something to climb like a lattice, poles, chicken wire, or a fence. Beans are also a great way to get kids involved because the seeds are large enough for little hands to space out properly in furrows. Beans also grow pretty fast, so you’ll be eating them fresh in no time. 

Carrots

Carrots are another easy grower that pretty much take care of themselves. Because carrot seeds are tiny, it may be challenging to space them well. Once they are about 4 inches tall, it’s a good idea to thin out the seedlings a bit. Look for the tiniest seedlings and pull them out. Give each seedling a little more space, aiming for an area about the width of your thumb in between seedlings.

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes are delicious, and like beans, they don’t require much maintenance. Because they are considered determinate tomatoes, also called bush varieties, cherry tomatoes don’t need any pruning. They will do better with support of some kind, like a tomato cage, but otherwise, you can simply make sure they’re watered and fertilized regularly. Before too long, you’ll have some delicious baby tomatoes for salads or snacking on straight off the vine.

Lettuce

Lettuce is super easy to grow, and this one you can even do indoors near a south-facing window. There are many different varieties of lettuce available, from red leaf to romaine. Kale, spinach, and arugula are also very easy to grow. If you plant a new crop of seed every two weeks, you’ll have fresh lettuce for sandwiches and salads all year long, even through the winter. 

Cucumbers

Cucumbers are also quite easy to grow. There are many varieties available for eating fresh or pickling. Cucumbers do tend to spread, so make sure they’ve got lots of space in the garden bed. Giving them a structure to climb, like a lattice or wire hoops, will make it easier to pick them later and keep them off the soil where they may start to rot. It’s a good idea to wear gloves and long sleeves when you’re harvesting cucumbers, as they have rather prickly stems and leaves.

The most important thing to remember when growing these veggies in Iowa is to keep an eye on the soil moisture. Tomatoes especially tend to be thirsty plants, so make sure they’re getting watered regularly if it’s not raining much. During Iowa’s hot mid-summer days, you’ll need to water more or less every day unless it rains. That’s another activity kids are usually more than happy to help with, so get the whole family involved in your gardening efforts!


Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.


If you’re feeling inspired, why not try adding a few herbs to your easy-grow garden as well? Herbs like chives, parsley, mint, and oregano are just as simple to grow as the veggies above. Whatever you need to get started growing, from containers to soil to seeds to plants, we can help you out. With curbside pickup or delivery, just call ahead and tell us what you need, and we’ll get it ready to load straight into your vehicle.   

Posted on Leave a comment

Garden Therapy: Reduce Stress and Improve Your Wellbeing

A little garden therapy can help reduce stress, improve mental health, boost our mood, release endorphins and engage our creativity. In these challenging times, it’s even more important to look after our mental health. Gardening can also help give us more of a sense of stability and security since we can take an active role in growing some of our own food. 

While the Ted Lare garden center is not currently open for browsing, we still want to support you to try some “garden therapy” for yourself. We’ve adapted our operations to still allow you to safely shop for the things you need for your garden—from plants, to tools, to soil.

 

Curbside Pickup

We’re implementing a curbside pickup option for orders. Currently, you can view a variety of items we have available on our Facebook or Instagram. Keep your eyes on our social media, as we’ll be posting daily videos of the exciting items we have in-store.

Local Delivery

We’re offering free local delivery for all purchases of $50 or more in the Des Moines metro area and surrounding suburbs.

 

Options for Ordering

Ordering On the Phone: We want to make it as easy and safe as possible for you to get what you need for your garden. To that end, we have arranged a dedicated cell phone and concierge service so you can shop from the comfort of your home. You can text us, FaceTime us, or phone us, and we’ll walk through what you need. We’ll then put your order together, get it set up for curbside pickup or delivery, and give you the total for your order and then we’ll take payment over the phone.  Once your order is ready to go, we’ll give you a call to let you know it’s ready for pickup, or to schedule delivery. 

Online Ordering: We are in the process of uploading all of our products to our website for online shopping. We’re adding more items every day, so keep checking back. If you don’t see the product you’re looking for, give our concierge a call at 515-205-6985.

Gift Cards: If you’re not sure what you quite yet, or if you’re looking for a great gift idea, consider a Ted Lare gift card! We’re currently offering our gift cards on a 20% off sale. Whether you want to purchase later in the season, stop by once we open to the public again, or give a gift to cheer up a friend, gift cards are a great option for everyone. You can purchase them online via our website, or you can call our concierge to get set up.  

Garden Therapy: Sensory Gardens

Sensory Gardening is a great way to engage all five senses to help you be mindful and present. A sensory garden generally includes plants that can trigger each sense: touch, sight, sound, smell, and taste. Sensory gardens can also fit spaces of any size. Whether you have a corner of the yard to work with or a single pot on the porch, you can create a sensory garden.

Herbs can often do double duty, stimulating your senses of taste and smell, as can easy-to-grow vegetables like tomatoes and peppers. 

Plants with larger leaves that rustle together in the wind add a gentle, soothing sound. Water, whether in a large water feature or a small tabletop fountain, also creates calming white noise to help you stay in the moment. 

Brightly-colored flowers, like pansies, add that hit of brilliant color for an energizing visual effect. In the gardening world, there’s no shortage of options for creating a visually beautiful design! For the best effect, choose the colors and shapes that you feel most drawn to. If it makes you feel happy, it’s good for you!

Plants with interesting textures beg to be touched. Try wooly thyme, dusty miller, lambs ear, or chenille plant, which all have wonderful soft and fuzzy flowers or foliage. 

Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.


We’re committed to keeping our community of Des Moines safe, and encouraging positive mental health care during this time. Give us a call if we can help you get set up for some garden therapy. By supporting each other, we can make it through!

Posted on Leave a comment

Top 5 Hardy Magnolia Trees for Iowa

Magnolia trees are not something that many people associate with Iowa. Most commonly, magnolia is associated with the Deep South, where they grow abundantly and perfume the air with their large, fragrant, tulip-like flowers. 

While it’s true that we can’t grow all the varieties that thrive in the warmer climates of the South, there are actually many hardy varieties that will grow and thrive right here in the heartland. There are easily 40-50 different cultivars that are suited to our local climate here in central Iowa. The range of flower colors available is actually quite broad, too, from white to yellow to a whole spectrum of pinks. 

Magnolias are an absolute show-stopper when they’re in full bloom in the spring. Often, the trees will be covered entirely in blossoms without a single leaf in sight, filling the air with their unique citrusy scent. 

There are so many varieties of magnolia available that there’s one for almost every setting, climate, and desired bloom time. There are very tall and very short varieties and some that bloom as early as March or as late as June, in so many different colors. While most of them enjoy lots of sunlight, there are even a few magnolias that will do well in a shady spot. 

Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

Hardy Magnolias For Iowa

One of the common historical problems with magnolia in the midwest has been that they’d often get hit with a late spring frost during critical blooming periods, and their blossoms would not be hardy enough to withstand the freezing temperatures. Luckily, there’s been lots of research and development put into magnolia breeding. Over time, many later-blooming varieties have been bred to avoid those late spring frosts we often get. 

Here are our top five hardy magnolia trees for your Iowa yard or garden.

Royal Star Magnolia is a fairly compact magnolia that can be pruned as a shrub or tree. It can grow up to a height of 20′ tall and up to 15′ wide. It features large-yet-dainty 6″ bright white double blooms that open to release their sweet fragrance in March. Royal Star performs best in a full to part sun location. This cultivar is a brilliant addition to moonlight or white-themed gardens. 

Ann Magnolia is another compact variety, maxing out at 15′ tall and 12′ wide. It features gorgeous blossoms, with petals that are dark reddish-pink on the outside and pale pink to white on the inside. They open in April and get to be 4-6″ across. Ann magnolia likes full to part sun.

Butterflies Magnolia is considered one of the finest yellow magnolias. It is a medium-sized tree reaching up to 30′ tall to 15′ wide. The blooms of Butterflies magnolia are a beautiful canary yellow with a rich lemony fragrance. They open in April and are about 4-6″ across. Butterflies magnolia likes sunlight, but it can also tolerate a fair bit of shade compared to other varieties. 

Umbrella Magnolia is a medium-sized tree growing up to 20′ tall and 15′ wide. It features very large, creamy-white flowers with huge tropical-looking leaves. It is not as fragrant as other varieties, but its blossoms are exceptionally showy. Its 6-10″ blooms burst to life in May or June. Umbrella magnolia will do well in the shade; it’s native to North America and grows commonly in the understory of the Appalachian Mountains.  

Black Tulip Magnolia is a smaller tree reaching 15′ tall and 12′ wide. It features the darkest magnolia flowers of the bunch, with deep burgundy-red blooms that open in April. Black Tulip magnolia will do best in a full sun location.

There’s nothing like the drama of a magnolia tree in bloom to celebrate the season of spring. If you’d like to consider adding a beautiful magnolia to your yard, stop by our garden center today. We can help you select the perfect variety for your yard. 

Posted on Leave a comment

How to Make a Driftwood Succulent Planter

Succulents are some of the decade’s most popular houseplants. Since these adorable plants are typically small enough to group into fun arrangements, more and more people are getting crafty to find new and unique ways to display their succulents. One of our favorite looks is the driftwood succulent planter. Whether you’ve collected some driftwood from Iowa‘s lakes and rivers or brought some home from a trip to the coast, these planters are a great way to use driftwood as part of your home decor.

The dry and weathered wood is a perfect match for succulents. It’s very similar to the dry, natural surroundings that wild succulents thrive in. With a few supplies and a handsome chunk of driftwood, you can make your own DIY driftwood succulent planter

Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A large piece of driftwood (choose one that has gaps or grooves about ¼” in deep, or that is large enough that you can drill a hole in it to hold some soil)
  • Succulent or cactus soil 
  • Sphagnum moss
  • E6000 or floral glue
  • Assortment of succulents
  • Optional: A drill and a Forstner or spade drill bit, or a Dremel with a cutting bit

 

How to Create a Driftwood Succulent Planter

  1. Clean up your driftwood. If it’s dirty, rinse off any dirt or sand. If you’re worried about bugs in your driftwood, you can bake it in the oven at 250º for 2 hours. If you line a baking tray with parchment paper, it makes cleanup a lot easier when you’ve finished baking the wood. 
  2. Once your driftwood is at room temperature again, decide how you want to position it. Usually, its most stable resting position is best if you’re going to use it as a centerpiece or mantel ornament. If you want to hang it, you can choose whatever angle you like best. 
  3. If your driftwood does not have any gaps or holes deeper than ¼”, you may need to make the gaps deeper and wider or drill holes with a spade or Forstner drill bit. Don’t drill all the way through, however. The holes for soil only need to be about ¼-½” deep. 
  4. Once you’ve decided where you’re going to place your succulents, glue a thin layer of sphagnum moss into the bottom of those spots. This will help to keep the soil in, so it doesn’t wash away as soon as you water your plants.
  5. Then, fill your gaps or holes with a little bit of cactus potting soil. You don’t need much, but enough to give the succulents somewhere to develop a few roots.
  6. Clean off excess dirt on your succulents.

  1. Decide on your plant placement, but don’t put them in just yet.
  2. Once you’ve decided where you want your plants, glue some more sphagnum moss around the edges of those areas.
  3. Place one or two tiny dabs of glue on the underside of a couple of the leaves of your succulents, and press it into its new location, so the glue sticks to the sphagnum moss. 
  4. Continue gluing in each of your succulents. Remember not to cover the base in glue completely, or the plant won’t be able to put out any roots and will die fairly quickly.
  5. Once all your gaps are full of succulents, let your finished driftwood planter set overnight. 
  6. The next day, water your succulents with just a little bit of water—you may need a syringe or eye-dropper to get the water in the right place. Remember, succulents don’t need much water.

Congrats, your succulent planter is complete! When you water it in the future, you may want to set it in the sink or on a tray to make sure you catch any drips. If any of the plants die, simply pull them off and glue a new one in its place. If you’d like to hang your succulent planter, you can loop some strong twine, double-looped fishing line, or rope around the ends and hang it however you please. 

Ready to make your own DIY driftwood succulent planter? Come on down to our garden center; we’ve got everything you need to get started, including a large selection of fun and unique succulents!

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Forsythia: A Cloud of Yellow Spring Delight

Forsythia is a classic shrub that has been around in North America for a long time. They fell out of fashion for a while, but they’re back in style for 2020! Forsythia is fairly easy to care for, as long as you give it a full sun location. They also make great foundational or screening plants, with some varieties reaching heights up to 6′ tall and wide. Besides being reliable and easy to grow, they feature some of the earliest spring color of the year—and these shrubs sure know how to put on a show! 

Before the leaves come out in the spring, the long willowy branches of forsythia burst with flowers from top to bottom, similar to Magnolia trees. The flowers are quite small, but their color and abundance are astonishing. Forsythia blossoms are the brightest yellows you’ll see. They practically glow when they’re in full bloom, and can be seen from a long way away. Forsythia branches also make a gorgeous cut flower arrangement if they’re cut and brought indoors just before they bloom. 

But, there is one common challenge and frustration that we hear from some people who have forsythia shrubs, which is that their forsythia never blooms. This is because forsythia is a bit of an odd plant. 

Technically, most forsythias are winter-hardy to zone 3, so theoretically, they should grow just fine here in Iowa. But the trick is that not all forsythia flower buds are winter-hardy to the same zone as the plant itself. Since the buds for the next year set right after it flowers, they are susceptible to winter damage. For example, Forsythia ‘Lynwood Gold’ is listed as hardy to zone 5, so it should be able to withstand temperatures down to -15º or -20º F, but the flower buds sustain severe damage in weather colder than -7º. This means, upon the arrival of spring, the shrub is left with lots of branches and leaves but will struggle to bloom. 

However, don’t lose hope on these stunning golden-yellow shrubs! Lots of work has gone into breeding forsythia varieties that have hardier buds. So, if you want that nearly fluorescent cloud of spring color in your yard, it all comes down to picking the right cultivars.

Here are a few of our favorite varieties of forsythia that should bloom heartily here in Iowa. 

Forsythia Northern Sun reaches heights up to 8′ tall. Its golden-yellow blossoms are hardy to temperatures of -20ºF. 

Forsythia Northern Gold gets up to 8′ tall as well. Its blooms are a slightly richer gold color than Northern Sun. Its flowers are also hardy to -20ºF. 

Forsythia New Hampshire Gold is slightly smaller, reaching up to 5′ tall. Its flowers are a deep yellow, and it’s hardy down to -20ºF as well. 

Meadowlark Forsythia is also a bigger variety, reaching up to 8′ tall. It’s even tougher than the rest, with buds that are winter-hardy down to -35ºF. Meadowlark is an excellent choice if you live on the prairie where the winter weather can get especially extreme.

Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

Forsythia is a beautiful addition to any garden. If you’re looking for a forsythia hardy enough to bloom in Iowa, visit our garden center! We’ll make sure you find a variety that will erupt with cheerful yellow blooms year after year.

Posted on Leave a comment

The 7 Best Blooming Houseplants to Brighten Any Room

We’ve still got a while to wait for spring here in Iowa, but you don’t need to wait until then to enjoy some mood-lifting flowering plants! These flowering houseplants all add color and life to any room—just what you need to get you through the home stretch of winter. Here are seven of our favorite blooming houseplants.

Anthuriums: These beauties have bright white, pink, or red flowers that look like cartoon hearts. They flower periodically throughout the year, and each bloom lasts for months at a time! When not in flower, the triangle-shaped foliage has a glossy appearance that adds timeless flair to any space. Anthuriums range in height from between 1-2′ tall and wide, but even the smaller plants can produce their beautiful, signature blooms. They like to be near a window that offers bright, filtered light. Allow your anthurium to dry out a bit between waterings.

Holiday Cacti: Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, and Easter cactus make up the trio of Holiday cacti. These plants are all similar-yet-distinct varieties of the Schlumbergera family. Each plant develops flowers when the night length reaches a certain point, which causes them to bloom near their respective holidays. The flowers are either tubular or shaped like daisies, depending on which type you get. Holiday cacti range in color from white, red, pink, orange, and yellow. Allow these to dry out considerably between waterings.

Hoya: Many know about the colorful leaf designs these wonderful plants have, but what many people don’t know is that, in the right light, hoyas can produce very unique flowers! They have little florets that resemble shooting stars, while others form a cluster shaped like a spear. Some are sweetly fragrant, while others are just eye-candy. The color palettes range from reddish-purple to pink and white. Many hoyas flower when they reach a certain age and can flower at any time of the year. Most hoyas like their soil on the dry side with moderate to full sunlight.

Bromeliads: These plants offer some of the brightest blooms you’ll see indoors! The colors range from vivid yellow, pink, red, and orange. Their large conical flowers last for a couple of months and add some tropical attitude to your indoor spaces. Both the blooms and the leaves of bromeliads have great ornamental appeal, and some bromeliad varieties have gorgeous variegated foliage. Bromeliads enjoy moderate to full sunlight, and it’s important to let them dry down before rewatering.

Crown-of-Thorns: This plant may look a bit scary at first glance, but their bark is worse than their bite. The thorns of these plants are for show only and are completely safe for your fingers! What’s awesome about this plant are their little clusters of cheerful flowers, an intriguing contrast next to the tough-looking, spiky stems. Bloom colors come in reddish-pink or yellow, and the blooms last for quite some time. This plant may look like a desert plant, but we have found they prefer to be watered deeply and allowed to dry out. To get the best show of blooms, keep them in full sunlight.

African Violets: These vintage favorites have come a long way! African violets flower in almost any color of the rainbow, including purple, blue, red, white, and pink. You can also find African violets with single or double blooms. Some African Violets have beautiful variegated leaves, while more traditional-looking varieties have solid green foliage. They require lots of light to flower, but once flowering has started, they can bloom for months under the right conditions. Try not to allow any water to touch the leaves since it can cause unattractive blemishes. Pour water directly into the soil or water from the bottom, then allow the plant to dry out. 

Orchids: A popular favorite that comes in many colors, bloom shapes, and styles. The most common colors are white, pink, black, yellow, and red. You might spot a blue one here and there, but this color can only be achieved by dying the white orchids. Some orchids have delightful scents, like vanilla or chocolate! They usually bloom annually in winter or spring. Some people may be intimidated when it comes to growing these graceful houseplants, but they aren’t nearly as tricky to grow as they seem. Planting in an orchid bark mix is a must, and make sure to use an orchid container or clay pots since these blooming beauties are used to having lots of air circulation around their roots.

Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

At this time of year, it’s so nice to come home to colorful flowers and lush green foliage. Find your new favorite houseplant today at our garden center in Cumming, IA! We carry a great selection of houseplants to suit your style and brighten your day.

Posted on Leave a comment

The Best Backyard Plants to Provide Food for Birds in Iowa

Setting up a feeding station and water source for birds in our gardens goes a long way toward helping them flourish. However, there’s even more you can do that requires even less long-term effort. Planting a variety of plants that produce seeds and berries for Iowa birds is a great way to support the local ecosystem. There’s a wide variety of plants that produce berries and seeds that birds love to eat. These types of plants support avian populations all throughout the year.

So what are the best bird-friendly garden plants in Iowa? Generally speaking, the best plants to support bird populations are native plants. Different birds like different types of plants, so its important to grow a mix of native trees, shrubs, and grasses. Birds also prefer sheltered food sources, so plants for birds should be planted where they’ll be a bit protected from the wind by other plants or structures in your yard.

Landscaping for Backyard Birds

Wide-open patches of trimmed grass have no value for birds, so consider giving up some of your lawn to grow more shrubs and garden beds. The best thing about landscaping for birds is that the best plants for them are plants that are native to Iowa. Native plants are, by definition, adapted to our climate and require very little maintenance, and next to no watering once established. Growing a dense shelterbelt, or a few large evergreens, that protect your yard from prevailing winds gives birds a place to rest and take shelter in storms and bad weather. Planting should include a wide variety of heights and shelter for different types of birds.

Here are some of the best bird-friendly plants for our backyards in Iowa.

Pagoda Dogwood produces a navy-blue berry. This tree is popular with woodpeckers, nuthatches, orioles, mockingbirds, sparrows, warblers, vireos, and thrushes.

American Basswood tree, or Linden, is popular with a wide variety of birds. It’s popular with insects, which are a primary food source for many birds. It also produces a small nut-like fruit that birds like. Woodpeckers and Baltimore orioles like to nest in these trees.

Black Raspberry is popular not only as a food source for birds but also as a source of nesting material for native bees. 

Blue Grama is a perennial grass that grows in bunches. It is popular with birds that eat seeds, like nuthatches, finches, sparrows, chickadees, and cardinals.

Goldenrod is popular with a variety of insects and is also a favorite of insectivorous birds like warblers, woodpeckers, swallows, and wrens.

Chokecherry is another shrub that grows food for not just birds, but other small critters as well. 

Buttonbush is a pretty shrub that produces a small button-like berry. The blossoms and berries attract a variety of birds and pollinators.

Common sunflowers are an excellent easy-to-grow source of food for birds. In the fall, you can leave sunflowers standing as they are for the birds, or you can cut them down and prop up the seed heads near the shrubs and trees where birds like to hang out.

Little Bluestem is a beautiful ornamental grass that produces white seed-heads that birds love. 

Prairie Dropseed grass is another attractive ornamental grass that grows seed heads that attract birds.

Juniper berries are also popular with many different types of birds. The pale-blue berries contrast beautifully with the brilliant green foliage. 

Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

Planting your yard with trees, shrubs, and plants that are popular with birds is an excellent way to increase the biodiversity in your backyard. A garden full of native plants and shrubs supports the wildlife in our region and offers essential support for declining bird populations across the continent. Ready to make your yard and garden into a bird haven? Stop by our garden center today to discover more trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers that your backyard birds will love!

Posted on Leave a comment

How To Start Your Garden from Seeds: 2020 Iowa Seed Starting Guide

It’s still pretty chilly outside here in the Midwest, and we’re feeing a little antsy about getting back into the garden. It’s not quite time to start planting yet, but it is the perfect time to start thinking about planning your summer vegetable garden. While we have a pretty long growing season here in Des Moines at about 175 days, some things need a little longer to mature. We can get a jump on the season by starting some of our seeds indoors this spring.

Here’s our guide to starting seeds in Iowa.

What You Need to Start Seeds Indoors

Starting seeds indoors is fairly simple, but it’ll go a lot better if you have a few specific items that make the planting process easier. Here are the items you’ll need to get the best results possible when starting seeds indoors.

  • Starter soil mix
  • Starter containers
  • Plastic plant trays (with clear covers)
  • Grow lights (minimum of one 2′ light per tray of seeds, but two is even better!)
  • High-quality seeds
  • Labels
  • Seedling starter heating mat

Why Use a Grow Light?

We consider grow lights a seed starting essential because even in the brightest window, most seedlings will grow tall, leggy, and weak without supplemental grow lights. Many grow lights these days are LEDs, so they use hardly any energy, and the bulbs won’t burn out for years and years to come.

Grow lights need to be very close to the trays when plants are just sprouting, no more than 4 inches above the soil. This is to ensure the plants get enough light and don’t get too tall and spindly. As your seedlings grow, you can move the lights up, always keeping them around 3-4 inches from the tops of the plants. To make sure seedlings get enough light, keep grow lights on for 12-14 hours per day.

Using Heating Mats

Seedling starter heating mats are nice to have, but they’re not necessarily essential. You’ll have the most success with seed germination if you keep the soil temperature between 70-75°F. A heat mat makes it easy to maintain this temperature for your seedlings if the temperature in your house tends to fluctuate. 

Labels are essential, believe us! If you don’t put labels on your seedlings, the chances are that you’ll forget what you planted in each tray after a week or two. We have a few different options for planting labels that you can write the names on, or if you’ve got popsicle sticks left over from a child’s school project, you could use them.

When To Start Different Vegetables and Herbs

Many seed packets include information about when to plant the seeds indoors. Usually, they mention the number of weeks before the last frost date. Our last frost in Iowa is generally around the middle of April, so count backward from April 15 to determine when you should start planting each of your seeds indoors. 

January
January is a little too early for starting most seeds. There are a few woody herbs that are slow growers, like oreganolavenderrosemarythyme, and sage, that you can start in January if you like. 

February
Towards the end of February, you should be planting seeds for bell pepperscabbageceleryeggplantleeksonions, and tomatoes.

March
About the middle of March, you can start planting seeds for broccoliBrussels sproutscauliflowercollardscucumbers, and Swiss chard.

Towards the end of March, you can start planting seeds for cantaloupewatermelonlettucepumpkinssquashes, and sweet potatoes.

April
By mid-April, you should be able to start transplanting your seedlings outdoors, and direct seeding others into the garden.

Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

It might be too early to start sowing now, but it is a great time to do some research about any new vegetables and herbs you want to try this year. If you have trays and seedling containers you’re reusing this year, make sure to wash them up and rinse them with a water and bleach solution. If you already have grow lights, check to make sure the bulbs are all working. If you need to stock up or replace any equipment, visit our garden center in Des Moines! We can get you any seed starting supplies you need, as well as plenty of exciting seeds to inspire your planning. 

Posted on Leave a comment

The Best Colorful Trees and Shrubs for an Attractive Winter Garden

Sometimes it seems like winter in our gardens is very monotone: grey leafless trees and white snow, with a few evergreens here and there. But there are actually quite a variety of hardy trees and shrubs that can add pops of color, shape, and texture to give our gardens a beautiful aesthetic, all year long.

We’ve got plenty of ideas on how to make your garden just as beautiful in winter as it is in summer. Here are just a few of the best trees, shrubs, and grasses for winter interest in Iowa.

Trees

Trees are an excellent addition to your garden for many reasons, not just because they’re beautiful. Trees increase property values, reduce noise, clean our air, and help lower our utility costs by shading our homes. These trees offer all of these benefits while giving your landscape four-season color.

Colorado Blue Spruce features bright blue needles on gracefully drooping branches that look beautiful under the snow. It can be trained for upright growth or a spreading groundcover form. The steely blue color is striking in winter.

White Pine features long silky-smooth needles. It looks a little fuzzy from a distance, which makes it look very cozy under snow in the winter. It is a beautiful shade tree in a brilliant warm green.

Norway Spruce is a durable evergreen with a uniform cone shape. The needles mature to a rich deep green for the winter.

Trembling Aspen is a North American deciduous native. It features striking white bark, the beauty of which is revealed when it has lost its leaves. It’s brilliant white contrasts beautifully with rich blue winter skies or evergreen backdrops.

As River Birch matures, it develops richly colored peeling bark in shades of white, brown, and golden-yellow. The unique bark adds visual texture and color interest in winter.

Red Jewel Crabapple is a small ornamental crabapple. It’s spring blooms are beautiful, but it provides beautiful color all the way through the year with brilliant red fruit that hangs on all through the winter. The fruit is a spectacular pop of color, and the Cedar Waxwings arriving next spring will appreciate them as well.

Shrubs

Shrubs add texture, height variation, and depth to your yard, drawing the viewer’s eye through the landscape. They also provide shelter and safety for our important native Iowa birds and critters.

Japanese Garden Juniper is a spreading groundcover juniper. It features bluish-green foliage that turns a purplish-blue in winter.

Montgomery Blue Spruce is a mounded shrub that resembles a short, plump Christmas tree at maturity. Its silvery-blue foliage looks beautiful under snow in the winter.

Green Velvet Boxwood is a mounding broadleaf evergreen that can be pruned into any shape you like, from a clean and uniform hedge to a unique topiary shape. Its leaves maintain a brilliant green through winter, and a totally unique texture compared to other needle-type evergreens.

PJM Rhododendron is another broadleaf evergreen. The leaves turn a dark purple-red in the fall. The dark leaves really stand out against a backdrop of white snow.

Ivory Halo Dogwood forms a rounded mound and has four-season interest. It has showy variegated foliage during the growing season, creamy white flowers and berries in the spring, and eye-catching bright red branches in the winter.

Little Lime Hydrangea is a deciduous shrub, but the blossoms will dry on the stems and last all winter. The conical flower heads and branches fade to rich golden brown and add unique shapes to the garden.

Technically Forsythia is a spring-blooming shrub. But it’s so early in the year, sometimes the very first thing to bloom, that it can still feel like winter when its bright yellow flowers burst into bloom.

Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

Grasses

Shrubs add texture, height variation, and depth to your yard, drawing the viewer’s eye through the landscape. They also provide shelter and safety for our important native Iowa birds and critters.

Grasses add a completely different look and feel to our yards in winter. Their tall wispy fronds add structure and drama against a snowy backdrop. Their golden yellow color contrasts beautifully with evergreens and snow.

Karl Foerster Reed Grass grows in clumps and up to five feet tall and features a fine delicate texture. A row of delicate golden-tan clumps adds texture and definition in winter.

Purple Fountain Grass grows up to four feet tall and features thick bottle-brush seed heads, and rich reddish-purple color all winter long. The gracefully arching seed heads and foliage are beautiful against snow.

Northwind Switch Grass grows up to five feet tall and turns a brilliant coppery-bronze in winter. It’s rigid upright form, and brick red seed heads are strikingly beautiful.

If you’re finding your yard a little lackluster to look at this winter, come visit our garden center in the spring. Pick out some gorgeous new trees, shrubs, and grasses to fill your yard with vibrant color next year.

Please note: we are currently closed for the season. We will be open on the weekends of January 24-26, and February 7-9 and then we will officially reopen for the season on March 23, 2020. Stay informed – sign up for our newsletter. We can’t wait to see you next year!

Posted on Leave a comment

Beautiful Blooms for the Holidays

We’ve already talked about the classic Christmas plants like poinsettia and Christmas cactus, but they’re only a few of the many winter-blooming plants that can complement your festive decor. If you’re looking for something just a little bit different to add some bright color to your home, try one of these beautiful blooms for the holidays in Iowa.

Phalaenopsis Orchid

Orchids are an elegant and exotic bloomer. Phalaenopsis orchids, in particular, are quite easy to grow and are available in a variety of colors. The best part about orchids is that their blooms last for ages. You may still have the same blooms on your orchid well into January! Orchids can be prone to root rot, so err on the side of underwatering. Orchids like bright but indirect light, so they don’t need to be too near a window. If you’d like to try getting your orchid to rebloom later, it’s a good idea to re-pot it from time to time. They perform best in a chunky, fast-draining orchid-specific potting mix.

Bromeliads

Bromeliads are sensational houseplants. Their dramatic shapes and bright colors bring a tropical flair to any room. Their blooms also last an extremely long time, for several months usually. They also like indirect light and do prefer to be a bit drier, especially in winter. Water bromeliads when the soil is dry to about 2″ deep. When you do water your bromeliad, be sure to water into the center, where the leaves and flower stalk meet. Bromeliads also absorb water through their tank in the center. Unfortunately, bromeliads only bloom once in their life, so once the colorful central stalk starts to fade, you can cut it back. Hopefully, your bromeliad will then begin to develop “pup” plants, which you can transplant into new pots and enjoy all over again.

Azalea

Small azalea plants are another option that is commonly available around Christmas. They have large, cheerful, blousy-looking blooms. They like bright indirect light and prefer moist, but not wet soil. Azalea is best watered with a tray when the water starts to run through, stop watering. After an hour, dump any excess water sitting in the saucer. Some varieties of Azalea are hardy enough for our chilly zone 5 winters in Iowa, and you can plant them outdoors to grow into a lovely shrub. Just check the tag to make sure the variety you’ve picked out is appropriate for our climate.

Kalanchoe

Kalanchoe is another popular holiday houseplant. Similar to poinsettias, they’re often kept for the season and then composted once the blooms finish in January. As a succulent, kalanchoe need excellent drainage, they’ll do best in a succulent or cactus soil. The best way to water kalanchoe is to set it in the sink in an inch or two of water and let it soak until it stops, but don’t water until the soil is dry. They’ll suffer more from overwatering than underwatering. They love lots of sunshine, so a spot near a south window is perfect for them. They can be kept and successfully rebloomed again next year. Starting in September next year, they need 12-14 hours of complete darkness to initiate the blooming process in time for Christmas.

Winter Begonias

Winter begonias are profuse bloomers through the holiday season, with pretty blossoms and showy leaves with pink, red, silver, or white centers outlined with brilliant green. Begonias prefer filtered light, evenly moist soil, and humidity. Begonias propagate very easily, so you can quickly grow yourself many more begonias just from leaf cuttings. You can pinch back some leaves and blooms (when they finish blooming) to encourage a bushier growth habit.Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

If you are looking for a more unexpected holiday houseplant than the traditional choices, stop by our garden center. We can help you find a beautiful new houseplant that reflects your personal style and adds a cheerful hit of color to your home through the holiday season.