FEATURED QUOTE :
"Spring is a true re-constructionist."
Feed Your Garden Soil--not just your plants.
Your garden's soil condition is the single most
important part of gardening success. Without the proper
soil conditions, gardening can become a chore, and your
plants will not respond and grow the way you want them
to grow. Some of the insect and disease problems your
plants struggle with during the summer may be prevented
just by making sure your soil is in good condition before
you plant them.
First, remember garden soil is not dirt. Dirt is the
stuff you wash out of your clothes after working in the
yard. Garden soil is a complex mixture of minerals, air,
water, organic matter, microbes, and other critters. Soil is
full of life and deserves your attention. With good soil,
gardening will be more fun. The soil will be easier to plant
in, cultivate, and it will be easier to grow your plants.
Perfect soil is hard to come by in most home gardens
and it may take a little extra effort to achieve. The
best way to improve your garden soil is by adding organic
materials every year. The best time to apply
organic materials is in the fall, not in the spring. However,
most gardeners forget to add organic materials in the fall,
so it is important to add them in the spring. Mix as much
well-rotted manure, Bumper Crop, Ferti Mulch, Soil Pep,
or other organic materials (within reason) as you can
afford. Do not add fresh materials or your plants will
actually suffer. You will be amazed how much better your
soil is this year than it was last year. Many garden soils
may take four, six, or even ten years to completely
change, but you will notice an improvement each year.
Improve Clay Soil Conditions
Many garden soils lack the necessary physical
structure to hold, or to allow movement of air and water
for plants to grow, especially clay soil. Most clay soil
needs additives that will hold water (like peat moss) but
that will allow water to drain (like sand). However,
adding peat moss and sand to clay soil may just add to
the problem. Clay and sand mixed together may produce
"bricks" instead of better soil. If you want to add sand to
clay soil, you must add "a lot of sand" to improve the soil.
Peat moss mixed with clay may produce a soil that stays
too wet, too long. This may cause worse problems for your plants than not adding any mulch at all.
The best way to fix a clay soil problem is to add lots
of "old coarse" organic materials such as Bumper Crop,
Black Forest Compost, manure, compost, or Soil Pep.
Perlite is also an excellent coarse, inorganic additive that
can help correct clay soil problems. Do not add peat
moss or plain sand to clay soil.
Another additive that is available to help improve
clay soil is Utelite Clay Soil Conditioner. Utelite is a
porous rock chip which acts as a permanent reservoir for
both air and water. Utelite increases the water holding
capacity of the soil and it also helps improve drainage
within the soil. It does not decompose, so it does not have
to be added every year. For best results, add as much
Utelite to the soil as you can reasonably afford. You can
mix 10% to 25% to 50% Utelite with good results. Add
Utelite every year until the soil texture is the way you like
it. One cubic yard should cover 450 to 650 square feet
about 1/2" thick. We have Utelite available by the bag and
by the truckload.
Gypsum is a soil conditioner that helps to improve
clay soil. However, gypsum changes the chemical structure
of the soil, not the physical structure. Gypsum actually
helps to improve all soils, not just clay soils. Gypsum
improves the soil by adding calcium and sulfur, which
allows the soil particles to release other nutrients that are in
the soil. Plants can then absorb and utilize the nutrients that
were not previously available for the roots to use, even
though they were in the soil. Water can then help remove
unwanted nutrients the gypsum has released. For more
information about improving garden soil please ask for a
copy of our "Garden Soil and Mulch" handout.
Soil pH is the measurement of how acidic or alkaline
the soil is. The pH scale runs from 0 to 14. Numbers from
0 to 7 are acid, and from 7 to 14 are alkaline; 7 is considered
For gardeners, soil pH is the number that really
counts. Soil pH affects nutrient availability and microbial
activity. Most plants grow best at a slightly acid to neutral
pH (6.5 to 7) although certain plants have adapted to
extreme pH environments in both directions. In our area,
most soils have a high pH. The further west you live, the
closer to the lake, the higher the pH your soil will be.
Some areas have very alkaline soil conditions.
Either test your soil yourself, or have a soil test by
USU to determine what steps you need to take to correct
your soil condition. To lower the pH of an alkaline soil, use
sulfur or gypsum. You will need to apply sulfur or gypsum
regularly and in fairly large quantities to correct the pH.
You do need a soil test to determine how much sulfur or
gypsum you need to buy.
To raise the pH of an acid soil, add gypsum or lime.
We have an excellent handout, "Garden Soils," that goes
into more details about the soil pH. Please stop by for a
free copy of this handout.
You can attract butterflies for much of the year by
growing a succession of flowers and herbs that bloom
from spring through fall. Butterflies have a few
simple needs: sunlight, nectar sources, host plants on
which to lay eggs, water, basking areas and roosting
areas. Food has to be available for the adult butterflies,
which sip nectar, and for their caterpillar offspring,
which eat specific plants.
Like all creatures, butterflies require moisture. They
also need the minerals and nutrients they get from
mud and muddy water. Butterflies are most active in
morning and afternoon before it gets hot. Since their
enemies, such as birds, are active during the same
time, butterflies need the shelter of shrubby plants
where they can take refuge. Gardeners must be
aware that improper application of chemicals can
upset the delicate balance of nature in the garden
and wipe out the butterfly habitat in an instant.
You don't have to forego modern products, but you
must go easy. Read the label. Don't apply above the
recommended rate. Be aware of the side effects of
whatever you are using. Also, keep your head. If
leaf-eating insects are nibbling on your plants ask
yourself if it really matters. Can the plant spare a
Remember, butterflies come from caterpillars - and
caterpillars eat leaves. If you kill all the leaf-eating
caterpillars, where will the butterflies come from?
Unless you are entering your plants in a contest, it
probably doesn't matter if something has nibbled
some of the leaves.
For more information please read our butterfly
Thatch is the organic layer between the soil line and
the green blades of grass. Thatch naturally occurs in
your lawn due to dead grass and grass clippings. A
small layer of thatch is beneficial. An extreme thatch
buildup is detrimental and can cause several different
problems, including a breeding ground for insects
and an excellent harbor for lawn diseases. Too much
thatch can also repel water and stop your lawn from
growing normally. Measure the layer of thatch in
your lawn. If the layer is less than 1/4" thick, your
lawn is healthy. If the layer is 1/4" to 1/2" thick, you
need to watch your lawn closely. If the thatch layer is
more than 1/2" thick, you need to remove some of
Traditionally, power-raking the lawn has been the
way to remove excess thatch. However, the Natural
Guard Company has packaged an organic product
called Lawn & Garden Soil Activator, which helps
remove thatch naturally. This product contains humic
acid, which not only helps remove excessive thatch
naturally but also provides many microorganisms
that help the lawn to grow better and help to improve
the soil structure. Humic acid is an important part of
the soil structure that you can apply any time of the
year: spring, summer, or fall. Humic acid can also be
used in flower and vegetable gardens to help improve
the health of the soil. Please stop by and ask
for a copy of the fact sheet about this product.
If you do decide to power rake your lawn, be sure to
freshen up your lawn by overseeding with new
varieties of grass seed. We recommend Necrotic
Ringspot-Resistant Varieties such as perennial rye
grass, or a mixture of the newer varieties of Kentucky
Bluegrass. Overseeding your lawn is a good
idea if your lawn is more than 10 to 15 years old.
The new grass varieties will help improve the overall
appearance of your lawn, and improve its disease
For more info see our Soil Activator and Thatch
Humic Acid comes from the highly compressed and
biodegraded remains of ancient plants and animals.
Over millions of years, plant and animal remains
were converted into complex organic molecules and
minerals. When this material is applied to soils, it
helps the soil to promote better plant growth and
productivity - naturally. Humic acid helps chelate and
improve the effects of many fertilizers. Humic acid
also helps the soil retain the nutrients, which provides
a "timed released" fertilizer, making plants
healthier. Healthy plants are often less susceptible to
insect and disease problems, a beneficial side effect.
Besides enhancing the capacity to hold and exchange
mineral nutrients with plant roots, humic acid also
promotes greater absorption and utilization of nutrients
applied to foliage. Humic acid is totally organic
and high in carbon. Humic acid can buffer chemicals
or fertilizers, preventing phytotoxicity and "burn."
Good soil fertility is not the result of just adding
chemical nutrients and organic materials to the soil.
Instead, good soil fertility is the result of the correct
combination of nutrients, organic matter, microbial
activity, and "critters" living in the soil. Soil scientists
report that good soil is alive, truly and literally
alive. What's more, they contend that no amount of
"plant food" will give the equivalent results of a
fertile soil, without giving attention to the humusforming
and plant-supporting microbes. In essence,
many experts are saying that "the plant eats what
the microbes give it."
The Humic Acid in Natural Guard's Garden Soil and
Lawn Activator can help restore your soil to a living
system of energetic biological activity and help
maintain your soil's natural cycle. Use this product in
addition to your normal fertilizer, not in place of it.
For more info about humate read Soil Activator.
Coconut Fiber is just what its name implies, shredded
coconut husks. The coconut plantations have found a
solution to their biggest problem, how to get rid of
the unwanted coconut shells. They grind the shells
into fibers, compress them into bales, and then
package them for a variety of uses including soil
conditioners. Coconut fibers have a unique ability to
absorb a large amount of water quickly and then
slowly release the water over a long period of time.
Coconut fiber is quite fibrous and takes several
years to decompose; maintaining a spongy texture
during this time.
Coconut fiber has many uses in the garden. It can be
used in hanging baskets and in containers on the
patio. It can be mixed into the garden soil to help
loosen clay soil and to help maintain water in sandy
soil. Coconut fiber can be used for almost any planting
situation in the yard.
Coconut fiber is a little more expensive than peat
moss but it lasts much longer in the soil, making it an
excellent substitute for peat moss. Coconut fiber is
one way to help maintain a consistent moisture level
in your soil.
Suppose you could plant tiny sponges in the soil to
absorb water and then release it slowly as your
plants need it. Sound Impossible? Soil Moist®
crystals are a mineral that looks like salt crystals
when they are dry. When they absorb water they act
like a sponge, and look like pieces of gelatin. They
slowly release their water as the soil around them
dries out. Soil Moist is an excellent way to help keep
containers moist. Soil Moist can also help to retain
water in flower and vegetable gardens, and, if you
are ambitious, you can aerate your lawn and put a
few Soil Moist crystals down each of the holes to
help keep your lawn moist; don't just broadcast the
crystals on the top of your grass or you will be sorry.
Your lawn will have a slippery gelatin covering that
will not be pleasant to walk through.
Since Soil Moist crystals are a mineral, they do not
break down very quickly and will remain useful for
several years. These same types of crystals are used
in diapers and other products to absorb water
What can I do with a stump from an old tree in our
Cut the stump as close to the ground as possible.
Drill holes in it with an electric drill and push the bit
in as deep as it will go. You can use any size or type
of bit: the bigger the better. Or, if you don't want to
drill, make cuts into the stump's surface with an axe
or saw; rough up the stump. After preparing the
stump, you can speed up the decomposition in one of
1. Mix soil with compost made from tree leaves.
Leaf compost usually contains microscopic wooddigesting
organisms that don't normally live in
regular garden soil. Add a cup or two of blood meal.
The blood meal (nitrogen), feeds the micro-organisms
and will also help break down the stump. Cover
the entire stump with the soil mix, working it into the
holes. Depending on the hardness of the wood and
the size of the stump, it should rot away in a year or
two, or three, or four!
2. Dissolve Hi-Yield Stump Remover in a bucket of
hot water. Fill the holes with the stump remover. This
stump remover chemically burns the stump and
provides nitrogen to feed micro-organisms. The
micro-organisms are able to enter the wood and
decompose the stump more quickly. Depending on
the hardness of the wood and the size of the stump, it
should rot away in a year or two, or three, or four!
The only quick way to get rid of a stump is to physically
dig it out and remove it. However, if the stump
is in a good spot, you might want to use it as a garden
feature. Hollow stumps make good rustic planters.
Carve out the center of the stump and fill the
cavity with soil. Plant it with some of your favorite
annual flowers. The soil inside the stump will also
help the stump decay faster.
Or, instead of cutting it down to the ground, turn the
stump into a garden pedestal. A stump makes a great
base for a sundial, birdbath or other garden ornament.
Depending on the height and girth, you could
even use it as a garden bench.
True or False? Any pesticide that is organic is
completely safe to use. An old garden myth is that
all organic insecticides are toxic to insects and
harmless to human beings. Nothing could be further
from the truth. Pyrethrum and rotenone, although low
in toxicity to mammals, are still toxic to humans if
swallowed or inhaled. They are both highly toxic to
fish. Both Malathion and Sevin (chemical pesticides)
are much safer to use than Nicotine (organic pesticide).
Some of the organic insecticides that are beneficial if
used properly are pyrethrum, rotenone, and
deltamethryn. Other non-toxic organic insecticides
are Hot Pepper Wax (this product also repels many
rodents and animals), Insecticidal Soap, Neem Oil,
Dormant Oil, Diatomaceous Earth, Boric Acid, and
BT (bacillus thuringiensis). These insecticides will
not control all insect problems but they can help
control some of them.
Other organic methods to control pests are: Fly
Paper, Indoor Fly Traps, Hornet & Wasp Traps,
Snail Traps, Pantry Pest Traps, Roach Traps, and
Be Careful, all insecticides (chemical or organic) are
poisons and many organic insecticides will kill animals
and people just as quickly as the other types of
chemicals. Be sure to wear gloves, use proper eye
protection, and wear a mask or respirator when
needed. Don't use a dust mask in place of a respirator.
The paper dust mask will absorb chemicals and
you will still breathe them, sometimes at even a
stronger concentration than without a mask.
After applying your pesticides, always wash your
hands, face, and change your clothes. You never
know when a pesticide has accidentally found a home
in the clothing you have on.
Long valued for their profuse sprays of flowers from
spring to early summer, coral bells (heucheras) are
now also being valued for their bold, showy foliage.
This genus of perennials has received a lot of attention
from horticultural breeding programs in the last
decade, and the result is an introduction of wonderful
variations in foliage colors, leaf shapes, and flower
While most original coral bell selections produced
light green early spring foliage which then matured
to a darker green later in summer, newer varieties
are now available in amber, bronze, burgundy, purple
and ruby tones. Even the newest green-leafed varieties
now come dressed up with silver veins, mottling
or streaks. Many new cultivars also come with
exquisite ruffled foliage.
Using coral bells in the landscape provides a contrast
to other plants, making your garden more interesting.
Adding bronze, red, or purple foliage to the
landscape brings out a new dimension of color. When
these vibrant colors are placed next to green plants,
your eye is drawn to the entire landscape--creating
interest and depth. Most coral bells form evergreen
mounds less than a foot high and across; the flowers
appear 1-2' above the foliage.
Even the flower colors have benefited from breeding
programs and now come in shades of bright pink,
coral, red, cream, and white. The flowers provide an
extra benefit to the garden by attracting hummingbirds,
butterflies and beneficial insects to the garden.
The spent flowers are easy to remove; you need only
tug gently from the base of the stem to remove them.
While coral bells prefer partly shaded locations,
these hardy plants can also tolerate full sun in milder
summer regions of the U.S. They perform best in
moist (but not wet) soils and need only a modest
amount of feeding during the growing season. Don't
neglect them completely though, because the nutrients
in plant foods help bring out a deeper, darker
more intense color in the foliage.
Plant them in borders or in clusters of three or more,
so that their sprays of blooms will have an even more
dramatic effect in the garden. Coral bells also make
great container plants because they don't have an
aggressive root system. Coral bells are just what you
need to add some flair to your garden.
Stop by the nursery soon to see our great selection
of coral bells.
William Cowper once wrote the now famous words,
"Variety is the spice of life." This couldn't be truer
in the garden. Nothing spices up a garden like plants
with variegated foliage. Use too many and they'll
make you dizzy. But placed in the background or
strategically planted in the midst of the garden,
variegated foliage can bring out the best in all of
Variegated plants come in a myriad of shapes and
shades. From bold to subtle, there's something for
every gardener's personal tastes. Nothing steals the
show like a variegated tree. It can be the centerpiece
to build your entire garden around.
Many variegated plants make excellent hedges.
Instead of hiding in the background, they provide a
great starting point to planning a garden. Consider
variegated English boxwood, silverberry, euonymus,
variegated English holly, variegated kohuhu, variegated
mock orange, dappled willow or weigela. Many
of these plants also look wonderful when planted
individually to bring out a corner or become a focal
point on a mound or garden island.
If a hedge is not your cup of tea but you still want to
hide some of your fence line, a variegated bower
vine or variegated potato vine will do an excellent
job. For bursts of color and interest throughout your
garden, consider variegated varieties of abelias,
daylilies, licorice plants, phlox, mock orange, sage,
stonecrop, weigela, New Zealand flax and ornamental
If your garden has shaded areas, don't worry. There
are many great selections for areas with less sunlight.
Many popular variegated plants prefer shade
or partial shade.
No matter what your garden setting is, variegated
plants not only look great but also add interest. We
have a large selection of plants with unique foliage
and variegated colors. Stop by soon and see the
beauty of these plants in person. You wont be able to
Bedding plants/annuals will beavailable to replace
any cool-season annuals that are just about done.
Zinnia, ageratum, coleus, dahlia, marigold, nicotiana,
phlox, petunia, and salvia are in season. Also, try
some taller annuals such as cosmos, cleome, sunflowers,
and foxgloves to add height and interest to
the garden beds.
There's still time to plant roses. They are full of buds
and blooms right now--and they are simply gorgeous.
If you are a beneficial insect lover, flat-topped
flowers like Shasta daisies, scabiosa, strawflowers,
and yarrow are perfect additions to your garden for
feeding them. Beneficial insects such as the almost
microscopic parasitic wasps, ladybugs, etc. keep
other insect pests away from your vegetable gardens
by eating aphids, scale, and other annoying intruders.
You can use beautiful flowers to tempt these
garden friends into your garden. Try putting some of
these flowers near to your rose garden for aphid
Time to plant dahlias, begonias--and get in the
gladiolus bulbs. Add some bone meal to the planting
The narcissus and daffodils are blooming, as well as
other spring blooming bulbs. As soon as the blooms
are spent, you can deadhead--but don't remove the
foliage! The bulb needs that green foliage to add
nutrients back to the bulb for next year's flowers.
Hide the clippers for a little while longer. Try an oldfashioned
technique of braiding the leaves. If you
must cut, leave at least half of the leaf length for the
bulb. It will thank you with next year's bloom!
Continue with fertilizing those areas of the garden
you haven't gotten to yet. Once your azaleas and
camellias have stopped blooming their hearts out,
they will thank you if you feed them. This is a good
time to prune back these two spring bloomers. Once
the flowering has ended and before the new growth
begins, prune and shape to your desired shape and
You may see some chlorosis on your acid-loving
plants like the azalea or camellia, and possibly on
your citrus. This yellowing of the leaves between the
veins is a sign of iron deficiency for the plant. Feed
with a good iron supplement.
Spring is the time we begin to
see powdery mildew on our rose foliage (and other
plants too). There are several different foliar fungicidal
sprays to that can help.
Aphids will be back. Remember that you can first
wash them off with water. Really, it does help. For
more severe infestations, ask us to recommend
something suitable for your particular plants.
Continue to replenish your mulch and maintain a 2-
4" blanket over your soil.
What You'll Need:
- 4 eight-ounce frozen tilapia fillets
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary (if not available, use rosemary spice)
- Olive oil
- Black pepper
- Aluminum foil
- Fresh lemon
Step by Step:
Yield: 4 servings
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- In separate foil pieces (one for each fillet) place fillet in center of foil.
- Drizzle with olive oil, black pepper and add a sprig of rosemary.
- Seal foil on both ends and top.
- Place fillets in the preheated oven for 55 minutes, or until done.
- Drizzle with lemon before serving. Enjoy!