Dec 01

The Perfect Fresh Cut Christmas Tree

Scotch pine, Douglas fir and Fraser fir are among the most popular selections for fresh cut trees. Scotch pine has stiff branches with good needle retention. The Douglas fir has soft needles that radiate in all directions from the branch. When crushed, its needles give off a sweet fragrance. Fraser fir is considered to be the Cadillac of trees. It has stiff branches and soft, short needles that are very fragrant. If you’ve never had a Fraser Fir, it’s definitely worth considering.

How to Select a Clean, Fresh Tree

A cut Christmas tree will last the entire holiday season without becoming too dry or dropping a lot of needles, provided it is fresh and given proper care.

tree_lot1 tree_lot2

When selecting a cut tree from a retail tree lot, more care is needed to ensure that the tree selected is fresh. The best way to determine the freshness of a cut Christmas tree is by how firmly the needles are attached to the branches.

tree_needles1 tree_needles2

You can check by lightly grasping a branch of the tree and gently pull the branch and needles through your hand. If the tree is fresh, very few needles will come off.

Other methods of checking the freshness of a Christmas tree include needle flexibility, tree color, aroma, and a look to see how dry the bottom of the trunk looks.

Caring for the Tree Before it Goes in the House

If the tree is to be stored more than a couple of days, I suggest placing it in water until you are ready to take it inside your home and decorate.

cut_tree_trunk bag tree

Give your tree a fresh cut, an inch or more is adequate. Generally a cut will be good for about 6-8 hours. Anything longer than that, the tree should have another fresh cut. Sap will usually seal the bottom of the trunk and will more than likely prohibit or disrupt water intake.

Once inside, refrain from placing your tree near sources of heat such as a fireplace, an open heat duct, or a radiator, or in front of a window that receives the direct sun. Consider using a tree disposal bag and place the bag around the base of the tree before it is put in the stand.

christmas_tree_stand1 christmas_tree_stand2

The most important thing you can do is make sure your tree stand is large enough and strong enough to hold your tree. If you’re in doubt, then it probably isn’t. In addition, make sure your tree stand can hold an adequate amount of water.

Water is important because it prevents the needles from drying out. Your tree should take in a fair amount of water, especially during the first week, and it’s important that the water level in the stand never goes below the cut end of the trunk. If that happens a seal of dried sap will form, then you’re out of luck!

When you string lights on your tree, use only approved lighting that carry the UL (United Laboratories) stamp of approval. Carefully inspect electrical lights and extension cords before decorating your tree. Remember, before going to bed or leaving the home, turn the tree lights off.



Nov 18

Giving Thanks


We can attribute the Thanksgiving Holiday to the early colonists sharing an autumn harvest feast with the Wampanoag Indians. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, during the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.
If you’re an avid cook looking to prepare that perfect Thanksgiving turkey, you may consider purchasing a fresh turkey from a local farm.

                                                                       From this………. To this Mmm!

In Northern Kentucky, Tewes Poultry farm located in Erlanger is a favorite place for locals to go and pick up their Thanksgiving turkey. You can visit their website for more information and directions
Nothing says welcome to my home more than a beautifully decorated wreath or swag on the front door. Seasonal decorations create a special warmth that make your guests feel welcomed and invited when they visit your home.

15135484_10157827579040531_2118651729_nA fresh floral arrangement for the dining room table adds an inviting and appealing touch as well.


Our lives are stressful enough with work and our busy schedules do not allow us the opportunity to enjoy things like we should. That’s why decorating with seasonal floral arrangements make us feel good and helps relax us from the hectic life styles we live.


If you are interested in creating an arrangement yourself, your local florist is a great source for quality flowers. Most florists will sell flowers and greenery by the bunch. If you’re too busy and do not have the time, ask your local florist to arrange something for you during the holidays. Remember, getting ready for the holiday is half the fun.


If you don’t already have a preferred florist, consider any of the following. HJ Benken (513) 891-1040, Jackson Florist & Garden Center (859) 331-0222, Ft. Thomas Florist (859) 441-8049, McCabes Floral & Greenhouses (812) 537-4525 and Robbens Florist & Garden Center (513) 251-2737. We are members of the Cincinnati Flower Growers Association. The Cincinnati flower grower’s Association is an association of growers, retailers, suppliers and educators, dedicated to the promotion of flowers and the well being of those around us. You will always get beautiful arrangements, quality flowers and exceptional service from your local florist.

Oct 22

Time to Clean up the Garden

You can already sense daylight hours getting shorter and nightfall quickly creeping upon us. As a matter of fact, we aren’t far away from setting the clocks back which takes place November 6th.screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-6-22-17-am

It’s time to tidy up our gardens while the weather is still cooperative. For example, our vegetable and herb gardens do not look near as good as they did earlier. Therefore, it’s a good time to get rid of the mess and start putting things away. Removing leaf debris from under plants, such as perennials, trees and shrubs will help prevent diseases from spreading throughout your garden next spring.

Do your best to remove all the fallen leaves from your lawn and landscape beds. If leaves remain on the lawn and stay wet throughout the winter months you can expect to see some damage.

Leaves will smother out parts of the lawn, as a result leaving you repairing your lawn in the spring when you would rather be doing something else. If you don’t have a leaf shredder, which are very nice by the way, you can use a lawnmower and bag your leaves.screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-6-22-29-am

If you have the room, now might be a good time to try composting. In the landscape beds, I found the leaf blower converted into vacuum mode to be the most effective. It does an excellent job shredding leaves.




We sometimes take our perennials for granted, I think if we gave them a little more attention they would reward us even more. One of the most important things we overlook is dividing our perennials. You may see the need for division when you notice a perennial plant no longer looking good. Maybe it hasn’t been flowering prolifically, the leaves are getting smaller or the center is opening up. Dividing perennial plants is a great way to rejuvenate tired plants.


When replanting, prune off about half of the foliage. Plant the crown at the same level it was growing in the ground on the original plant. While some perennials prefer being divided in the spring, there are some perennials that prefer division in the fall. Typically home gardeners have the greatest success in the fall. Whenever you choose to divide your perennials, be sure to save a few to give to your neighbors.


It’s still a great time to plant trees and shrubs. The cooler temperatures signal plants to stop growing new shoots and leaves above ground, but not below. Trees and shrubs continue to develop their root systems, making fall an ideal time to plant. The cooler weather during the fall reduces the risk of transplant shock, or dieback, giving plants the opportunity to acclimate themselves to their new home and set out new feeder roots before winter arrives.

If you like fall color, now is the perfect time to visit your local garden center and nursery. You get the opportunity to see what color the tree or shrub you are interested in is turning. Below are a few trees and shrubs worth having that will reward you will beautiful fall color!

screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-6-23-27-am screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-6-23-55-am screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-6-25-32-am screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-6-25-24-am screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-6-24-15-am screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-6-24-08-am


Oct 13

Aerating the Lawn

     It’s not often we put a lot of thought into the condition of our lawn’s soil. Healthy soil is a key component to having a beautiful lawn. Poor soil conditions are usually an open invitation to lawn issues such as limited growth, weed problems, insect damage and diseases.

Before winter sets in, there are a couple more things we can do to create a healthier and more beautiful lawn. One of those is aerating the lawn. If you haven’t already done so, October early November is an excellent time to aerate.


Aerating is an easy project and the process is rather simple. The aerating machine pulls 2 – 3 inch long plugs from the ground and lays them up on top of the lawn as you work through the yard. I’m often asked should all the plugs be raked up and the answer is no. The plugs are healthful in such a way that when they break down, beneficial bacteria works its way back into the soil which in turn help reduce thatch.

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-3-32-54-pm     Aerating the lawn will help loosen compacted soil, especially in areas where there is heavy foot traffic. The holes will then allow water, oxygen and most importantly, nutrients work their way back into the soil.

The other important timely thing we can do for our lawns this fall is fertilize. If you haven’t fertilized your lawn yet, don’t put it off. Get out to your local garden centers and nurseries and pick up Ferti-lome’s Lawn Food Plus Iron. Applying nitrogen late in the season promotes strong root development, enhances storage of energy reserves, and extends color retention in cool-season lawns. Most of the benefits from late fall nitrogen will be seen next spring and summer with earlier green-up, improved turf density and improved tolerance to diseases and weed reduction.

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-3-33-09-pm screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-3-33-17-pm
Take advantage of the fall season, especially if you want a greener and healthier lawn. You will definitely benefit the most by starting with the three step program now rather than in the spring.

Oct 05

Bringing Plants Indoors

If you haven’t already and since there is a potential for frost the next couple of days you may want to bring your plants in from outside. Since many of us have a collection of plants outside on our decks and patios, try wintering them over versus throwing them away. Although it may sound difficult to do, it’s really not. All you need to know is what to do, what to expect and, most importantly, how to prepare.

The type of plant you have will dictate how you approach looking after it. For example, tropical plants, such as the flowering hibiscus and mandevilla, can be brought inside and placed next to or near a window that provides as much light as possible. In addition, you will need to treat them totally different inside versus outside. You will reduce your watering habits considerably. Do not keep your plants too wet. Get into the habit of a good drink and allow the plant to dry thoroughly between watering. In addition, it’s not necessary to fertilize during the winter months. Your plants are somewhat going through a semi-dormant stage. Fertilizing will only spur long, lanky new growth which in turn attracts insects. You will also notice growing conditions inside are not as conducive for supporting new growth as they are outside.

tropical plant1  tropical plant2

Once inside, you can expect some leaf yellowing and dropping as they acclimate themselves to the change in light. You can prune back your flowering tropicals lightly and remove all blooms.

If there are space constraints, you may also place your blooming tropicals in the basement. Again, try to place them in an area that gets as much light as possible.

In addition to the blooming tropical plants, many homeowners can take the same approach with other tropical plants such as Ficus trees, Palms, Boston Ferns and most others that we treat as indoor plants.

tropical plant3 sm  tropical plant4

Before you bring any plant inside, the most important thing you can do is treat them for insects prior to bringing in for the winter. I recommend using systemic insecticides. Systemic controls will enter into a plant through its root system and will protect your plants for up to two months against insects such as aphids, mealy bug



Mealy Bug

Mealy Bug



White Fly

White Fly

Spider Mite

Spider Mite

Bonide makes an excellent systemic product designed for container plants. It will help protect against a majority of insect issues. You simply apply it to the soil, work it in and around the plant, then water.

Because Bonide’s systemic insecticide will not protect your plants against spider mites, I also recommend spraying your plants before bringing inside. You can use Ferti-lome’s Triple Action Plus or Bayer’s Insect, Disease and Mite Control.

houseplant insect control  triple_action_plus

In March, move your tropical plants back to a warm location and begin regular watering, keeping the soil moist but not wet.  Fertilize about every two weeks with a balanced fertilizer.  When day and night temperatures reach above 70 degrees move your tropical plants outside. Keep in mind, your plants must become acclimated to their outside environment. If it requires full sun, place it in the sun a few hours per day for a few days. This approach will keep your plants from getting leaf scorch.

Join us Saturday on In and Around the House as we’ll be discussing what you need to know about bringing your plants inside for the winter.


Sep 27

Planting Fall Bulbs


Autumn is here and it’s time to plant fall bulbs. I can’t think of a better way to usher in a new spring season than seeing crocuses, daffodils, tulips and other fall bulbs greeting us with beautiful color. They signal the end of winter and definitely make planting bulbs worth the wait.

planting_bulbs  tulips_daffodils

Planting bulbs doesn’t take a lot of effort and is one of the most rewarding things that homeowners who have a passion for gardening can do. Start by digging a hole, place the bulb or bulbs into position and cover them with soil. Your efforts this fall will definitely bring delayed spring gratification.

In our area, the months of October and November are ideal for planting fall bulbs. Plant your fall bulbs once the soil starts to cool and preferably before the first couple of hard frosts occur.


Visit your local garden center for the best selections of bulbs as early as you can, even if you aren’t ready to plant. If you wait too long, your favorites might be sold out. Select bulbs that are firm and store them in a cool area such as a garage until you are ready to plant.

bulb_bins_1  bulb_bins_2

When planting fall bulbs, select a site where the soil drains well, because bulbs will rot if soil conditions remain overly wet. You can use a bulb digger type of tool to plant individual bulbs, but I found it best to use a posthole digger to dig a wider hole or trench that can hold a number of bulbs. I think bulbs look best planted in drifts or mass plantings versus straight lines. Mass plantings of a single variety or color create a visual impact and make a dramatic statement.

tulips_daffodils purple_tulips

Large bulbs such as tulips and daffodils go down six to eight inches and small bulbs about three to five inches. When in doubt and there aren’t any instructions, the planting depth can be three times the bulb’s length. In addition, the bulb should be planted pointy side up.


Don’t forget to fertilize your existing and newly planted bulbs in your landscape. I recommend using Bulb Tone from Espoma or Hi-Yield’s Bone Meal.

bulb_tonebone meal_sm


Sep 23

Plant Garlic Now

We all know that fall means planting bulbs such as tulips and daffodils that will reward us with beautiful color come spring time. However, there is another bulb that I think a lot of us often overlook. It’s not known for its bloom but more for its pungent flavor. I’m talking about garlic and October is the ideal time to plant it in our area.

garlic1  garlic2

I really never thought much about growing garlic and that was partly due to how readily available it is at the local grocery stores. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I purchased fresh, locally grown garlic for the first time and I’ve been hooked ever since. Experiencing the taste of fresh garlic from the garden totally surpasses what you’re accustomed to getting at the store.

The history behind garlic is very interesting and its true origin is commonly argued by historians. The use of garlic goes back as far as the Egyptian days but for the most part it’s believed it originated in central Asia.

In addition to its culinary uses, garlic possesses many medicinal benefits. Garlic has been known to lower blood pressure, provide antiseptic protection, lower bad cholesterol and protect against heart disease, just to name a few.

There are only two basic types of garlic, softneck and hardneck. You can easily tell them apart. If the stem at the top of the bulb is soft and papery, it is a softneck. Most of the garlic you see today in the store is the softneck variety. The botanical name for softneck garlic is Allium sativum and it does not produce a flowering stalk. The softnecks tend to have longer shelf lives than the hardnecks. They also tend to have more, but smaller cloves per bulb, and are sometimes harder to peel than hardnecks. This variety is the one that you will see braided or sometimes made into a decorative wreath. Recommended varieties; “German Extra Hardy,” “California” and “Mother of Pearl.”


Hardneck, as the name implies, has a hard stalk almost as thick as a pencil and are the hardier of the two varieties. The botanical name for hardneck garlic is Allium sativum ophioscorodon. Hardneck garlic will produce scapes which should be removed so that all the energy is directed towards the development of the bulb and not the bloom. Hardneck varieties will grow one ring of cloves around the stem and are larger than softneck cloves making them easier to work with in my opinion. Recommended Varieties; “Music,” “Spanish Roja” and “Chesnok Red.”

garlic_3   garlic_4The bulb is not the only edible part when it comes to cooking with garlic. The scapes add a wonderful flavor and pizzazz to pasta, pesto and dips and can also be sautéed as a simple side dish.

The one thing you have to try is roasting garlic, the flavor is absolutely wonderful! Every garlic fanatic has to have a garlic roaster, they’re mostly available in terra cotta clay and occasionally you’ll see cast iron versions, as well.

When roasting, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Just trim the upper quarter inch or so off the bulb, exposing the cloves. Drizzle olive oil and place in the oven and roast until soft, about 45 minutes.

garlic_5   garlic_6

After removing from the oven, you will need to squeeze the pulp from the bulb. Grip the bottom of the bulb and squeeze with your thumb and fingers. The pulp will easily slide out and remove any remaining bits and skins. Be careful, the garlic is extremely hot. Some garlic roasters come with a rubber holder that keeps you from potentially burning your finger tips.

Place the garlic in a ramekin, add olive oil and whisk into a creamy paste. Get creative by adding some of your favorite fresh or dried herbs. Forget the carbs; you can’t beat the subtle flavor of roasted garlic, especially when you spread it on your favorite bread.

plant_garlic_1   plant_garlic_2

Garlic is easy to grow, rewarding and well worth the wait. Plant cloves pointed side up, 3 inches deep, leave the paper on, space cloves about 6 inches apart. Plant in an area that receives full sun, make sure there is adequate drainage because garlic does not like wet feet. As with any new planting, always amend the soil with organic matter, compost or aged manures.

If you enjoy cooking with garlic then get planting! Check with your local garden centers and nurseries that sell fall bulbs, they should have garlic readily available.


Sep 16

Fall Containers

     In about another week, fall will officially be here. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready! Right now local garden centers and nurseries are overflowing with colorful plants needed to spruce up those tired window boxes, patio and deck planters. Now is the time to change them out and create a magical fall look!


Mums are coming into color; asters are looking great showing off their vibrant blue and pink blooms. Don’t forget about the pansies, their cheery blotched faces always add pizzazz to any garden or container planting. The cooler it gets the better they will look and they’ll provide color throughout the fall season. If you plant your pansies in the ground and the winter is normal unlike last year, they are capable of wintering over and giving you color next spring.

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-3-17-41-pm screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-3-17-32-pm

Create drama, spice up your containers and window boxes. They don’t have to be just mums. In addition to mums, tuck in other complimenting fall plants like ornamental grasses, colorful peppers, swiss chard, ornamental mustard plants, asters, cabbage and kale.


The sky is the limit when it comes to conjuring up unique designs for your containers. Believe me, there is nothing more inviting than seasonal containers. They just have a perfect way of saying welcome to your friends and family when visiting.

Join us Saturday on In and Around the House as we’ll be discussing ways to add beautiful fall color around your home and landscape. In addition, we’re going to give you tips on how to repair those troubled areas in your lawn and talk about the importance of fertilizing your lawn now with the Ferti-lome three step program.


Sep 09



You’re starting to see Chrysanthemums (mums) at your local garden centers throughout the tri-state. The Chrysanthemum has been around for quite sometime. The name Chrysanthemum is from the Greek chrysos which means gold and anthos which means flower.


The mum is the mainstay of the autumn garden. This time of year mums fill the color void in the garden as summer winds down. They’re great for borders, mass plantings, containers and anywhere you want and need color.

Still, the traditional fall colors like bronze, orange, yellow and red are the most popular. However, there are a lot of other colors available, as well. When buying mums, try to select plants that still have tightly closed buds that are showing only a small bit of color. Doing so will allow you to enjoy the blooms a lot longer.

There has been a lot of controversy regarding the hardiness of mums in recent years. Because garden mums are hardier than florist mums, they are often referred to and called hardy mums. Unfortunately, some mums are not as cold hardy as others. As a result they cannot be relied upon to make it through the winter months. Keep in mind Chrysanthemums possess a shallow root system and are affected by severe cold, repeated cycles of freezing and thawing, wet heavy clay soil and a lack of snow cover.

However, there are several things that can be done to increase the chances that your mums will survive the winter. Select varieties that are known to be hardy in your area. For example, some of the more popular and hardier varieties of mums are the Mammoth and Belgian mums. The Mammoth mums are introductions from the University of Minnesota and are cold hardy up to -30 degrees. They can become quite large over time, so be sure to leave plenty of room for them in the garden. You can expect to see them get up to 2 to 4 feet in height and the same applies for the width.


Avoid planting mums in areas subject to cold, dry north winds. If you are growing mums from earlier in the spring or the prior year, stop fertilizing by the end of July to discourage late season growth.

What I’m about to tell you next is very interesting. Don’t prune your mums back in the fall. Research has found that garden mums survive the winter better if the old foliage is left in tact (standing) through the winter. Don’t ask me why, but that has been my experience as well. You may be thinking why one would want to see old dead mum foliage throughout the winter months. It creates winter interest in the garden, especially after a snowfall.

Mulching is the best insurance for overwintering mums. It helps keep the soil uniformly cold after it has become frozen, thus eliminating the alternate freezing-thawing cycle and the resulting soil heaving. Apply 4 inches of mulch in late November or early December when the soil surface freezes.


Companion Plants for Chrysanthemums

Sedums pair well with rounded mums in shades of bronze, lavender, pink, and red. In addition, pansies, ornamental cabbage and kale also compliment mums in the landscape.


The daisy-like blooms of asters peak at the same time as those of chrysanthemums. Because aster blooms are usually smaller than those of mums, they add a finer texture to the mix.

mums7 mums8

Ornamental grasses come into their glory in autumn as mums display their beauty. Mixing ornamental grasses along with mums make for attractive plantings.

mums9 mums10


Aug 24

Time to Fertilize Your Lawn

     It’s hard to believe that September is knocking on our door. The school season has started. Yellow buses are busy picking up students like bees gathering pollen, where does the time go? It wasn’t long ago we were kicking off the Spring season and now we’re about to kick off the Fall season. When I think fall, I think about our lawns.

Labor Day weekend is right around the corner. The extended weekend gets us away from the daily grinds of work and allows us the opportunity to spend time with family. In addition, the Labor Day weekend reminds me it’s time to apply the first of the two fall feedings for our lawns. I cannot emphasize the importance of fertilizing our lawns in the fall.

I’ve been using Fertilome’s 3 step program for years, and have had great success and I wouldn’t consider using any other product. If you haven’t tried using any of Fertilome’s lawn products, I highly recommend you do. Fertilome’s Lawn Food plus Iron (Orange Bag) is all you need for the two fall feedings. Apply the first application around the Labor Day weekend or (anytime during the month of September), and the second application sometime mid November. The reason why I suggest Labor Day weekend, you will get the opportunity to see and enjoy the beautiful green color and results the Lawn Food plus Iron will give you.

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 3.42.07 PM Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 3.42.16 PM

You can find Fertilome’s Lawn Food plus Iron at independent garden centers such as Allison’s Landscaping, Burger Farm, Bard’s Nursery, Jackson Florist & Garden Center, Maddox Garden Center, McCabe’s Floral & Greenhouses, Robben Florist & Garden Center, and Schwab Nursery

Spreader Use and Settings

     I’m often asked about spreaders and what settings should be used when applying granular fertilizers. There are many spreaders available and they definitely make applying fertilizer a lot easier. You do not need an expensive top of the line spreader, nor do you want to by the cheapest either. Remember, you get what you pay for. Purchase a middle of the road (for a lack of a better term) spreader. Earthway makes an excellent rotary spreader; they have a great reputation and offer a warranty.

There are two types of spreaders available for granular fertilizers. They are the drop and rotary spreaders. Drop spreaders distribute the fertilizer directly below the hopper in a more defined pattern. The rotary spreaders throw the fertilizer material out beyond the spreader in several directions. The broadcast spreader is the most popular and preferred. For settings and rates visit

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 3.42.36 PM Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 3.42.26 PM
<Broadcast Spreader     Drop Spreader>






Timely Things to Do

     It’s still not too late to apply Dimension in your landscape beds to prevent weeds. If your lawn is in good shape and you’re not planning on reseeding this fall. Then apply it on your lawn as well so you can prevent annual weeds like Bittercress, Henbit, Purple Deadnettle and other weeds from germinating. The weed problems we experienced this spring germinated late last summer and fall.

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 3.42.43 PM

If you are going to reseed your lawn or do a total renovation, now is the time to put your plan into action. September is the optimal time to sow grass seed. First you must eliminate any weed issues prior to sowing seed. Be sure to carefully read the label on any and all herbicide products you choose to use. There is a waiting period after applying before sowing grass seed. For example, Fertilome’s Weed Free Zone suggests treated areas not to be reseeded until 14 days after application.

Older posts «