Beautiful Baskets – Flowers All Summer and Watering Tips

Blooms galore where the baskets soaked up sun.

Scraggly foliage and no blooms…SHADY! I forgot to rotate my baskets!

Hanging baskets add instant beauty and charm to a porch or landscape.  Summer is a great time to enjoy baskets!

Basket selection and proper care will give you long-lasting blooms.

Tips:

  •  Choose flowers that thrive in your sun/shade environment.
    • Not sure?  We’re happy to offer suggestions!
  • Rotate baskets weekly so that both sides see the sun.
  • Fertilize baskets weekly.
    • We recommend a fertilizer that mixes with water like Miracle Gro (not a sponsored post).
  • Water baskets DAILY.
    • Keeping up with watering is the number one way to keep baskets looking great (and alive!)
    • Windmill Heights now offers custom automatic hanging basket / planter watering systems installed from $149.00.  If you’re interested in more information or for a quote, please contact Paul at: windmillheightsgardencenter@gmail.com
    • Paul installed a system for me (Cori) as a Mother’s Day gift and I LOVE IT.  The system is on a timer!

Planter water line

The watering system is barely noticeable!

Basket water line

  • Flowers for sun:
    • Vinca, Petunias, Millionbells, Purslane/Portulaca (drought-resistant succulents!), Geraniums, Thumbergia (Black-Eyed Susan Vine)
  • Flowers for part sun and shade:
    • Ferns, Impatiens, Wandering Jew, Bridal Veil

 


Bug Wars – How Windmill Heights Is Going Insecticide Free

Looking to start a pollinator garden?  Shop the Heights!

Photo Credit: Kim Jefferson

You can shop with confidence knowing that once plants arrive at Windmill Heights, they have not been sprayed with insecticides.  Starting in 2016, we’ve been using beneficial insects to battle the pest species…and we’re happy to report: it’s working!

The success of the program (known as integrated pest management) has kept us insecticide free this spring!  This not only limits human exposure to insecticides, but we see populations of native beneficial insects like praying mantises making a comeback.  Another side benefit: we get to host a honey bee hive in partnership with Felicia Chavez from “La BeeDa Loca”!

How does it work?

Every week shipments of our tiniest employees arrive in the mail and are released at the time best suited to their life cycles / habits.  Some insects even like being released with Christmas lights aglow!  From mites that control thrips larvae to aphid-eating ladybugs, these little guys clean their plates / our plants.

An Entomologist based in Kentucky prescribes the insects we need, then a hatchery ships them to us directly.  Regulations allow the sale of native and exotic beneficial insects, but exotic species can only be sold where they won’t survive the winter.  This prevents a species from becoming invasive / too much of a good thing.

We’ve enjoyed learning about our insect ecosystem and thought you’d enjoy reading about what’s bugging us too!


Why Not Victory Garden?

Ask a family member about life on the Home Front during World War II and you will hear about Victory Gardens.  Country folk and city slickers

joined forces to plant an estimated 20 million food-producing backyard gardens in the United States.  Home garden production matched commercial production ton-per-ton and freed food for shipment to troops overseas.  In England, a similar “Dig for Victory” campaign urged citizens to grow food wherever possible.  According to Wessel’s Living History Farm in York, Nebraska, backyard food production was such a part of the economy that in 1946 when some families phased out their Victory Gardens, there were food shortages in grocery stores.  Victory Gardens met needs at home and provided home-front families with the comforting ability to contribute to the war effort. What a blessing!

Why not plant a Victory Garden in 2016!?  Contributing to your family’s food supply, reducing the grocery bill, and spending time outdoors will be SO enjoyable!  Whether you start with a planter on a sunny porch or decide to till up a patch of ground; here are some tips:

  1.  Be realistic.  Plan a garden you’ll have time to manage.
  2.  Only plant vegetables you enjoy eating.
  3.  If you plan on growing a lot of one thing, choose produce that’s easy to store or preserve (tomatoes do great in the freezer chopped or as sauce).
  4.  Try a raised bed or planter (you can even make them out of pallets…for free!)
  5.  Remember what your plants need especially when container gardening.
    1. Some crops need lots of room for roots (tomatoes loved the pallet raised bed with lots of soil volume).
    2. Some crops only need a shallow bed of soil (this saves money if you’re purchasing soil/compost).
    3. Make sure the area receives enough sun.
  6.  Add compost to your soil.
  7. Don’t plant too early (friends, this is hard!)
    1. Cold Season Crops: wait until the nightly low temperature is consistently above 28* – 30*F.
    2. Warm Season Crops: generally wait until after the danger of ANY frost.

Happy Planning and Dreaming!

When you’re ready to plant, stop by and see us!  Ask questions and enjoy shopping our selection of melons, cucumbers, peppers, herbs, squash, greens, and more than 30 varieties of tomatoes.  We look forward to seeing you at Windmill Heights.

planter2

Cut 3 pallets in half. Staple landscape fabric  to the inside.  Screw the 6 halves together in a rectangle. Brace with a 2x4 across the middle. *You may need to dig out a bit of level ground if your yard is hilly like ours.

Cut 3 pallets in half.
Staple landscape fabric to the inside. Screw the 6 halves together in a rectangle.
Brace with a 2×4 across the middle.
*You may need to dig out a bit of level ground if your yard is hilly like ours.


Spring Open House! May 19 – 21

Come visit us May 19th to 21st from 9AM to 7PM for tours of our facilities, refreshments, games for the kids, and an opportunity to ask our master gardener and his staff for gardening advice.

A few lucky visitors may find themselves going home with free plants, and every evening between 7pm and 8pm we will be hosting a gardening workshop.

  • May 19th – Container Gradening
  • May 20th – Vegetable Gardening for Beginners
  • May 21st – Question Answer Session with a Master Gardener

Come in and make yourself at home among our flowers!


Spring really is here!

No, really.  Spring is here.  Yes, we do realize that the mercury keeps dropping down below that freezing point, but that’s not how we measure the arrival of Spring here at Windmill Heights!  We know Spring is here because are plants are growing faster each and every day.

That might seem like an odd way to know that Spring has arrived, but it’s true!  You have probably noticed that the days are slowly getting longer, and the plants have noticed too. During the darker months they grow slowly, and some plants are almost entirely dormant. However, as the sun spends more and more time in the sky, the plants begin to wake up from their winter naps and start to grow quickly!  We really notice the effect of this in our greenhouses. Sure, it’s warm in there all winter long, but plant growth is still much slower during the darker months of the year.

If you’re interested in learning more about how light affects plant growth, we recommend this article for more in depth information.


The Weather’s Been Pretty Frightful

It’s been pretty nasty and cold out there this winter, but spring is in the air here at Windmill Heights. We’re getting ready to open for the spring season in just a month!

Again this year, we will have our usual selection of flowers, tropical plants, perennials, proven winner flowers, hanging baskets, herbs, vegetable plants, trees, and shrub along with some special, hand-picked new plants that we’re growing just for the delight of our customers.

If you’re thinking about starting a vegetable garden this coming growing season, we are you best source in Culpeper. We have 36 types of tomatoes (including 14 heirloom types), 17 types of peppers, and just about every other vegetable you could ever want. Many of these plants will be available for less than a dollar each.  We also have over 18 types of herbs, including a few that are hard-to-find.

Don’t forget!  We open for the spring season on March 1. Our spring hours will be Monday – Saturday from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm, and we’re closed every Sunday.

 


Make your plants (almost) Invincible: The fine art of “Hardening Off”

What exactly is “Hardening Off”? I thought plants were supposed to be green and juicy? But when a green and juicy (and also very wimpy) plant meets frigid March winds, bad things happen.

Ironically, most plants, even tropical plants, can withstand much colder temperatures than most people assume. The trick is all about how the plant experiences the cold. The term “Hardening Off” was coined by old gardening curmudgeons to explain the process of preparing a tender, wimpy plant for the cold hard realities of outdoor life. This article will explain in detail how to make your plants cold-tolerant. Here’s the real dirt on the subject:

  1. Never expose your plant to a temperature drop of more than 10 degrees F in one day. In other words, if your plant has been inside your house at 65 degrees for the last two weeks, then the coldest temperature your plant can handle is 55 degrees. Allow your plant to adjust to this new temperature for 2 days, then drop the temperature again. Repeat the process until your plant is used to the temperatures of the current outdoors.
  2. The wind is more damaging than the cold. Most plants grown inside houses or greenhouses have weak stems because they do not experience wind inside. Planting these tender plants outside on windy days, even when it is warm, often results in damage. To eliminate this risk, put your plants outside on warm, sunny days (only during the day). Bring the plants inside at night. The first day, the plants should be protected from almost all wind. The next day, allow the plants to experience gentle wind. Each day, expose the plants to increasing amounts of wind.
  3. Covering your plants with plastic gives 5 degrees of cold protection. Covering also give protection from the wind. Covering does not work miracles and you should still follow the first two points above.
  4. Know your plant. Some plants are more sensitive to cold than others. All plants have absolute limits: Potato plants will die at temperatures below 25, no matter how much you do to protect them or strengthen them. In general, perennials (live many years) and cold-weather annuals are able to tolerate more cold abuse than other plants. Good examples of cold-loving plants would be: Pansies, spinach, cabbage, kale, and snapdragons. Tropical plants and summer-blooming flowers are generally more sensitive and will need more delicate care.
  5. If there is a frost warning for your area, move your plants inside for the night or cover them. Frost occurs on clear (no clouds) nights when the temperature drops below 32 degrees. The cold causes the insides of the plant tissues to freeze. When water freezes, it expands. This expansion literally rips the plants apart on a microscopic level, which effectively kills them. Cover your plants with heavy fabric (blankets, sheets, plastic) if you have already planted them.
  6. Frost in spring is more damaging than frost in fall. Here in Virginia, we sometimes get blessed with a warm fall… And often the first frost is very light. Simply cover your plants with a sheet or plastic, and see which ones survive. You may be surprised to find that your tomatoes are still alive into November! Fall weather is a perfect example of the “Hardening Off” process: Warm days, gentle breezes, and night temperatures that are slowly dropping day by day.

Happy Gardening! If you have any questions, stop by our greenhouse to see us, or email us at contact@windmillheights.com


Kill Stinkbugs (we know you want to!)

Greetings fellow gardeners!

Welcome to our sparkling-new blog! After a long, dry, and blistering summer, fall is finally in the air! Here is what you should be doing, right now, to prepare your garden for spring:

  1. Kill stinkbugs! We take a bucket of soapy water and brush the stinkbugs into the water. They die quickly and stink only slightly. Stinkbugs always fall straight down when they are scared, so hold the bucket directly below them, the gently brush them off into their watery doom. A square pail seems to work best, since you can lay the flat edge against the side of the house easily. I killed over 300 in less than 30 minutes using this approach.
  2. Remove all the dead and dying plants and throw them away or burn them. This will help remove diseases and insect eggs from your garden. I don’t recommend composting tomatoes, beans, eggplant, peppers, or squash, because the diseases and insects are not killed during composting, and these particular vegetables are especially prone to diseases.
  3. Add compost to your garden. Till it into the soil or work it in with a shovel. More = better.
  4. Get your soil tested. A soil test costs about $15 and will tell you a wealth of information about how to improve your soil. If you don’t understand your soil test results, come visit us. Both Mason and Paul can explain what the test results mean.
  5. Plant things now. Fall is the best time for planting! Here are a few things that should be planted now: Garlic, trees, shrubs, spring-blooming bulbs (like daffodils and tulips) many perennials, and carrots.
  6. Don’t burn your leaves. Rake your leaves and save them! Add them to your compost pile, or spread them over your garden as mulch. If you have plants that don’t like the cold, like figs, some roses, and camellias, build a cage around the plant and then pack the cage full of leaves. The leaves will act as insulation and will protect the tender plants from winter chills.

Happy gardening! May the sun be warm upon your back as you prepare for winter and spring!