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Friday, March 27, 2020

How to get a perfect lawn in a few easy steps

A lesson in building a backyard retaining wall

Mulching mistakes to avoid

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B2 | Friday, March 27, 2020

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New Britain Herald – The Bristol Press

Friday, March 27, 2020 | B3

HOME & GARDEN

Train plants for the tracery of branches

branches in all sorts of designs, but they won’t be thoroughly clothed Espalier is a way of training and in the requisite flowers and then pruning plants so their branches fruits. lie in an orderly and ornamental two-dimensional form. The beauEspaliers that work here ty comes from the tracery of the branches. Espalier is a way to creNo need to abandon espalier ate a living border in a garden, or on this side of the Atlantic: One decorate a fence or wall. fruit plant that works very well as Hang fruit on those branch- an espalier everywhere is red cures and you have a plant offering rant. Red currant espaliers have the superb flavor as well as beauty. The additional advantage of only needreason for that good flavor is that ing pruning two times per year. In the espalier form allows leaves and contrast, pear or apple espaliers fruits to bathe in light and air. require monthly or more frequent Espaliers have a long tradition pruning sessions. in northern Europe, and have A real plus for red currant espalmostly been applied to apples and iers is their fruits. They’re beautiful! pears. Here in North America, The bright red fruits, dangling our climates and day lengths are from the branches like translucent, quite different, and so attempts red jewels, add much to the show. at espalier here often fall short of The espalier technique I will expectations. Sure, you can bend describe can also be applied to By LEE REICH

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A red currant espalier in New Paltz, N.Y. Red currant plants are especially easy to train.

white currants and gooseberries. My red currant espaliers decorate the fence enclosing my vegetable garden. Each currant plant is trained to the shape of a T, with a single trunk capped by two fruiting arms that grow in opposite directions along the fence, which provides support. How plants tick Knowing a little about what makes plants tick helps in growing an espalier, and makes doing so all the more interesting. “Apical dominance” is the ten-

dency for the uppermost shoots on any plant to grow strongest. Plant hormones, produced in the growing tips of upright stems and at the high points of arching stems, suppress growth of shoots lower down. By merely changing the orientation of a stem you can influence how strongly various parts of that stem grows. The plant also has a say in this, and may turn a growing stem upwards in an attempt to gain apical dominance over other stems. Also keep in mind that horizontally oriented stems are weaker growing, more fruitful, and develop more side branches than vertically

AP

oriented stems. Practical application Use these concepts in training and maintaining any espalier. To initially develop a strong trunk on my red currant, I chose the strongest shoot on my plant, removed all others, and then tied that retained shoot to the fence to keep it upright and vigorous. Once this trunk-to-be grew just above the top of the 3-foot-high fence, I cut its top back to the 3-foot height, releasing the remainSee GETTING, Page B6

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B4 | Friday, March 27, 2020

HOME & GARDEN

New Britain Herald – The Bristol Press

‘Re-Wilding’ your lawn takes work By DEAN FOSDICK ASSOCIATED PRESS

“Re-wilding” is the trend toward diversifying traditional lawns by putting in native plants that flower and fruit, boosting wildlife populations. It returns more control of the home landscape to nature. But such conservation landscaping involves more than simply quitting pruning or letting properties go to seed. “More often than not, that would result in a yard dominated by European turf grasses and invasive species,” said Dan Jaffe, horticulturist and propagator for the Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary in Wales, Massachusetts. “With good planning and establishment of a well-built landscape, it will mature into a space that can be easily cultivated with lazier gardening,’’ Jaffe said. “When it comes right down to it, naturalistic landscapes can be very low-maintenance.” Find plants that are suited to your growing conditions and also to your goals for the site, Jaffe said.

“The great thing about working with native plants is that these are plants that will grow in any conditions you can think of,” he said. “There is no need to bring in problem plants when there are so many other options.” Weigh the risks against the rewards. Blackberries and thistles, for example, are popular with pollinators but painful to handle and difficult to contain. “Instead, work with wild strawberries or flowering raspberries (no thorns on those) or bee balm or meadowsweet, or one of the hundreds of other options,” Jaffe said. Re-wilding also means relaxing maintenance standards. Don’t rush to clean up the garden at the end of the growing season. Seeds are food to wildlife, and lifeless hollow stems are shelter. “Birds who eat seeds appreciate it when you don’t deadhead flowers,” said Theresa Badurek, a horticulture agent with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “Less frequent mowing allows pollinators to visit flow-

An assortment of foxgloves growing near Langley, Wash.

AP


New Britain Herald – The Bristol Press

HOME & GARDEN

Friday, March 27, 2020 | B5

JAMES RYBCZYK

INSTANT RESPONSE PLUMBING, HEATING & AIR CONDITIONING, INC.

AP

White clover growing on a lawn near Langley, Wash.

ers before you mow. Less raking leaves provides habitat for beneficial insects.” No area is too small. “Every space we can provide for nature to blossom is valuable,” Badurek said. “Re-wilding containers can be helpful, especially if you need to add more flowers to the garden.” Talk with your neighbors and check local ordinances before going ahead. Your project can be a positive influence on others, but let them know “the early stages of the work can look like a mess,” Jaffe said. “Converting a lawn into a meadow will look great in

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three years and fantastic in six, but the first year can be tough going. “Without an explanation, neighbors could very well interpret your work as simple laziness instead of habitat construction,” he said. Herbicides should be a last resort only, Jaffe said. “Chemicals are a tool in the toolbox, and there are some situations where invasive species have taken such a foothold that the use of herbicides can mean the difference between a project being accomplished or failing,” he said.

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B6 | Friday, March 27, 2020

HOME & GARDEN

New Britain Herald – The Bristol Press

How to get a perfect lawn in a few easy steps

With everyone spending a lot more time at home lately, you might find yourself with a unique opportunity to get a kickstart on your lawn maintenance. The competition for the nicest yard will probably be fierce in your neighborhood, so why not get a jumpstart? Next week’s forecast looks like the perfect time, so here are my six foolproof steps to gorgeous grass come summer. Get started by performing a soil test. Grass can be finicky and the pH level of your soil will help you to better understand how to treat it all season long. Experts suggest that the pH level should be between 6.0 and 7.0 and your reading will help you to figure out what nutrients your lawn needs. A soil test is always a smart first step so you don’t go out and buy fertilizer and seed that isn’t the right match. A soil test can be done by a professional landscaper

or you can purchase a test kit at any hardware store. Next, it’s time for clean-up. Start by removing any winter debris such as sticks, leaves, stones. Then give your yard a good rake, even if it’s free of debris. This is called dethatching because it picks out the thatch, or dead matter, that collects on the bottom of the grass blades, closest to the ground. During the winter, thatch is good because it acts as a layer of warmth and protectant. But as the temperature rises, it can block new grass from coming up. Once the lawn has been dethatched, it’s time for aeration. An aerator is a bit like a push lawn mower but instead of cutting the grass, it pokes holes in the ground. Aeration is important because all grass needs sun, air, and water to grow. By aerating the lawn, it allows for better air and water flow and lets nutrients get to the roots of the grass more easily. Most people skip

Getting the best results Continued from Page B3

ing buds from the suppressing effect of apical dominance. I selected two shoots that started to grow from the upper portion of the trunk to become fruiting arms, training them along the fence in opposite directions and removing all others. To keep these developing arms growing vigorously, I left their ends free to turn upwards as I tied portions closest to the trunk to a horizontal position. As the shoots lengthened, I kept tying down the older portions. Maintenance pruning and fruiting began even as arms were developing. The arms, because of their horizontal

orientation, exhibit little apical dominance, so side branches develop freely. Two simple cuts keep the form neat while encouraging abundant fruit production. First, just before the berries start reddening, I cut each side branch back to about 5 inches long. I perform the second cut in winter, cutting those side branches back again, this time to about an inch. The only problem I have with my red currant espaliers, which hang onto their beautiful berries for weeks, is picking the fruits. To do so would ruin the plants’ appearance, so I don’t. I have some other plants, growing as bushes, for the fruit harvest.

Submitted by Bob O’Donnell

A little work now can pay off with a great looking lawn for the whole season.

this step but I think it’s essential. I like to treat my lawn with a pre-emergent to help contain weeds. As I mentioned before, grass can be very temperamental, but weeds are strong and will grow in pretty much any condition. If left untreated, they will pop up all over your lawn and compete with grass for sunlight and water. Plus, they multiply and spread very easily. Depending on your soil test and the kind of law you have, a pre-emergent will help to keep those weeds at bay which will help your lawn to flourish.

Once your weeds have been treated, it’s time to reseed any bare spots. Thinning is normal with mature lawns, so you may want to reseed the entire lawn or larger portions of it. The type of seed you use will depend on your lawn and your soil, so make sure you consult with the expert at your local hardware store before you buy your grass seed. A spreader makes this job quick and easy but the key is to keep the ground moist to allow the seeds to germinate. Finally, it’s time for fertilizer.

You’ve worked this hard so make sure to give your grass the best possible chance to survive and thrive. Again, fertilizer is not a one size fits all product and what’s right for your lawn depends on a number of factors. The key is to make sure the fertilizer you select has the nutrients your lawn needs to grow lush and beautiful. With all these tips comes one warning. While you might be tempted to get the mower out, it’s better to start slowly and let the grass grow a bit longer in the early season. If you follow the steps above and give the lawn a good clean-up before mowing, you’ll have longer, thicker, healthier grass all season long. Happy grass growing! Bob O’Donnell is the owner of O’Donnell Bros. Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions for Bob to info@odonnellbros.com with the subject line “Ask the Pro.” All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O’Donnell Bros. Inc. at (860) 5895155 or visit www.odonnellbros.com.

STONEHEDGE GARDEN CENTER AND COVID-19 MOVING FORWARD – FOR NOW WE WILL REMAIN OPEN FOR BUSINESS – At Stonehedge Garden Center, we would like you to know we are committed to keeping both our customers and employees safe. In addition to our safe distance practices, we are offering our customers a curbside pick up or delivery with a call ahead (860-667-1158) and pay option, for most items in our garden center. For pick up orders, please give us a call when you arrive at our pick up area and we will happily bring those items out to your car. Please take care, lets all stay healthy in this trying time.

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New Britain Herald – The Bristol Press

Friday, March 27, 2020 | B7

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B8 | Friday, March 27, 2020

HOME & GARDEN

New Britain Herald – The Bristol Press

Mulching mistakes to avoid

Landscape features vary significantly from house to house. Some homeowners may prefer water features on their properties, while others focus on flowers that would be the envy of a botanical garden. Regardless of those preferences, lawn and garden enthusiasts who want to make their properties as idyllic as possible may eventually look to mulch to help them accomplish that goal. Mulch helps soil retain moisture, which promotes strong, healthy flowers, plants, trees, and shrubs. And because soil beneath mulch retains more moisture than soil that’s not protected by mulch, homeowners won’t have to spend as much time watering mulched landscapes. That saves time and conserves water, which can be a big benefit in areas prone to drought and/or especially hot summers. Mulch also helps to suppress weed growth, which can ensure all that hard work needed to create an eye-catching garden won’t be compromised by the presence of unsightly, thirsty weeds. Mulching seems like a simple task, and it can be. But that does not mean homeowners cannot make mistakes when mulching.

The following are some common mulching mistakes to avoid as lawn and garden season hits full swing. Not enough mulch: Mulch is ineffective when spread too thin. The Virginia Cooperative Extension at Virginia Tech and Virginia State University recommends applying mulch no less than two inches in depth. Anything less than that will prove ineffective at preventing weed growth and helping the soil retain moisture, and that means you will need to water more often. Poorly located mulch: Mulch should not be placed too close to plant stems or tree trunks. When it is, tissue is so wet that it makes for a perfect environment for disease and insect infestation. Failing to mulch to the drip line: The drip line of a tree refers to the outermost circumference of the tree’s canopy from which water drips onto the ground. The VCE recommends mulching to the drip line of a plant or tree, which ensures the plant or tree will get the most out of the mulch. Mulching to the drip line also minimizes competition from the grass, leading to stronger plants and trees.

Failing to weed before mulching: Weeds should be removed prior to mulching. If they’re not, the mulch can provide

the same growing environment for weeds that you’re trying to create for your plants and trees. Mulching benefits a landscape

in myriad ways, especially when homeowners avoid some common mulching mistakes. — Metro News Service

A lesson in building a backyard retaining wall

Flat, even landscapes are often coveted in backyards. However, flat backyards are not always so easy to find. Fortunately, varied terrain does not mean that certain landscaping plans are entirely off limits, especially for homeowners willing to build retaining walls. Retaining walls help turn steep slopes in a yard into terraced focal points. They also can reduce soil erosion in hilly areas and can be used for aesthetic purposes, like raised planters, or to create more usable space within the yard. When an inground pool or pond is cut into a backyard hill, a retaining wall helps keep the remaining portion of that hill from collapsing into the cut-away area. When contemplating retaining wall projects, a lesson in physics and engineering may be needed. A sturdy and long-lasting retaining wall needs to be built in a way that

will take into consideration the force of the soil and the point at which the soil will begin to slide away, advises the experts at The Family Handyman. If these calculations seem beyond the scope of your ability, installation of a retaining wall is a job best left to a professional. If you are ready to forge ahead, these tips can get you started. However, it’s important to note the potential

benefits of working with others who have already built a retaining wall.  Safety first: Call to have underground utilities plotted and marked before beginning any excavation.  Map out your trench and begin to dig. The trench should have a level, compacted base as it will be the foundation for which the retaining wall materials, be they

blocks, bricks or wood, sit in. A crushed stone base will help anchor the courses and serve to promote drainage. The Family Handyman says to bury the first course of the retaining wall one-tenth the height of the wall to prevent soil behind it from pushing the bottom out.  Check for level. When placing blocks or timbers, make sure they are even with the first and periodically check for level as you go, advises the home improvement retailer Lowes¨.  Stagger and set back. The next row of blocks or material should be positioned so that the joints are staggered for blocks, bricks or wood. A masonry blade will be needed to cut the harder materials; a circular saw will cut timber. Also, work against gravity by setting the second course slightly back from the first to help push back against the soil that is trying so hard to

push forward. Repeat the process as each level is placed. Many retaining wall products are made with a lip to create this set back.  Go with the grade. For especially steep slopes, a gradual step-up design may be more secure and more appealing than a very tall retaining wall. Each level of a stepped design should be done like the first.  Backfill with stone for drainage. Using a layer of stone behind the retaining wall can help successfully direct water away so it will not increase the weight of the soil behind the wall and push against the retaining wall, advises The Home Depot. Retaining walls serve different purposes in a yard. Building such a wall requires planning and careful execution to ensure the job is done correctly. — Metro News Service

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Home & Garden 2020  

Special section to the New Britain Herald / The Bristol Press. Serving the communities of central Connecticut. Inside this section you will...

Home & Garden 2020  

Special section to the New Britain Herald / The Bristol Press. Serving the communities of central Connecticut. Inside this section you will...

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