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The Fall Veggie Garden

Did you know fall is the perfect time get a delicious veggie garden going? In fact, cooler temperatures make this a great time to plant these crops -- many are even tastier and sweeter harvested after a light frost. If you've never grown fall veggies before, we recommend a crop of leaf lettuce, kale, swiss chard and spinach. These easy to grow plants are great for small spaces like a pallet garden and can often be harvested over many weeks.

The secret to having a great fall veggie garden is getting the timing right and that means thinking a little differently because you have to plan backward if starting with seed. To do this, start with your area's average first fall frost date, which for Hampton Roads is October 15. Then look at the number of days to harvest for each vegetable you wish to plant. You should be able to find that number on the seed packet. Use that number to count back from the first frost date. Then add two weeks; many plants grow more slowly as days shorten in fall.

If you want to start with established plants rather than seeds, we also offer many fall veggies in packs. These plants are ready to plant now for a delicious fall harvest with very little effort. Here’s a few of our favorite veggies to plant now:

  • BROCOLLI
  • CAULIFLOWER
  • BRUSSEL SPROUTS
  • LEAF, HEAD & HEIRLOOM LETTUCES
  • ARUGULA
  • SPINACH

Learn more about what to plant now by checking out our planting guide. PLANTING GUIDE >>

Join us tomorrow, September 21st and learn how to transform an ordinary wooden pallet into a garden full of fall veggies! FALL VEGGIE PALLET WORKSHOP >>

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Veg Out!

The end of summer doesn’t mean the end of vegetable gardening. Cooler weather makes gardening more enjoyable and there are less insects to bug you. Actually, frost tends to improve the flavor of many cool weather crops. And, an added benefit is that many of these plants are visually pleasing in your yard, giving your landscape a boost in appearance.

To get started, we’ve compiled a few easy steps for fall veggie garden success.

  1. Prepare the Soil.
    Start from the bottom up to really have success. We suggest turning over the soil as one of the most important steps. This process aerates and mixes soil components.
  2. Fertilize with Compost.
    When fertilizing a vegetable garden, organic fertilizers are recommended. They consist of natural, organic material such as forest products, vegetable waste and animal manure. It can be purchased in bags, bulk, or made at home. McDonald Compost (sold in bag or bulk) will do the trick!
  3. Plant Your Garden.
    Dig the hole a bit larger than the plant’s root ball, place the plant in it, and firm the soil around the roots to the level of the surrounding soil. Water to eliminate air pockets and provide moisture to the root system.
  4. Water & Weed Regularly.
    Be sure your veggie garden receives water and you remove the weeds so that the weeds are not competing with the nutrients your plants need to perform their best.

Fall veggie gardening is easier than you think. Convinced yet? If so, we compiled this veggie planting guide to find out what to plant and when. Learn what to plant now by checking out our planting guide. PLANTING GUIDE >>

Join us this Saturday, September 21st and learn how to transform an ordinary wooden pallet into a garden full of fall veggies! FALL VEGGIE PALLET WORKSHOP >>

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Groundcovers. We've got you covered.

Having trouble getting a lawn established under trees or in hard to grow areas? We've got you covered! Groundcovers are a great solution. They are perfect for covering large areas to add space for recreation as well as providing beauty. These dependable, low-growing plants spread to cover large areas. Groundcovers come in all shades of green and some produce flowers in different seasons. And, some even perform other duties like preventing erosion. Here's are a few of our top picks:

GROUNDCOVERS FOR SHADE:

Ajuga reptens - a beautiful choice for any shady area. This evergreen is a moderate spreader with beautiful burgundy foliage. In the spring it produces small erect purple flowers.

Pachysandra terminalis - a fast growing evergreen groundcover, also for shady areas that produces tiny white flowers in the spring.

Pachysandra procumbens - a moderate to fast growing and a true representation of a groundcover, as it attains a height of around 6 inches and spreads in a carpet-like manner. For many people, this strong little groundcover is evergreen once it is established.

GROUNDCOVERS FOR SUN:

Hens-and-Chicks - makes a great groundcover in tight spaces, such as between paving stones. These succulents are also a beautiful textured focal point in a sunny garden. They're easy to grow, and are virtually maintenance free.

Sedum Angelina – is a moderate growing groundcover with fleshy green/yellow leaves in the spring and summer and fiery orange/red foliage in the fall and winter... a year-round beauty!

Mondo Grass - available in many varieties from shades of green, to variegated and even black. This easy to grow plant thrives in full to part sun. It is great as a border for sidewalks and driveways.

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Crotons for Sensational Fall Containers

ZANZIBAR CROTON

Think fall containers can only consist of mums, pansies and violas? Think again! We love the unexpected drama and the explosion of color a croton provides. For a croton, subtlety is not a virtue. The extravagant parade of colors exhibit fall’s signature hues. Reds, yellows, and oranges give this easy-to-grow plant a showy, bold leaf. Whether grown indoors or out, crotons perform best in bright light. They will do fine in partial shade, but sunlight really brings out their truest colors. Their upright structure gives strong architectural elements and pairs well with other fall favorites. Perfect alone or use in a container.

One croton we are particularly crazy for this fall is Zanzibar. This unique variety features long, narrow cascading leaves, that almost look like hair. Displaying all shades of green yellow, red and orange this beauty screams fall. If grown in full sun, it will usually feature a fiery red color, but the colors soften in more shade.

TIP: To extend the life of your croton and use in Thanksgiving decorating, take it indoors when outdoor temperatures are consistently below 50 degrees. They’ll add and easy and natural flair to any Thanksgiving table!

Local Seed for Local Lawns

Did you know that the most successful time to seed your lawn is now? Basically 2 weeks before or 2 weeks after Labor Day offers the perfect time for your new seeds to build and establish roots. Why you ask?

The hot, hot temperatures of summer are past and fall brings cooler temperatures making it easier to keep the seeds moist during germination and watering is less of a problem. The young plants have better growing conditions without the extreme heat. The soil is still warm and there is still lots of sunshine to establish a strong root system. Also in fall, most of the weeds that compete with grass are dead and diseases are under control for the rest of the year. Weed and disease chemicals cannot be sprayed on new grass without injuring or killing it.

The new grass will have the fall and spring seasons to mature before facing all the stress of summer: heat, traffic. And, by starting now, your lawn will be in tip top shape for next spring.

A great lawn can only be grown from great grass seeds so, look no further than McDonald Premium Grass Seed. This seed mixture is the perfect blend for Hampton Roads’ lawns and well suited to this area.The improved grass seed varieties used in our seed mixture are more drought tolerant, disease and insect resistant and naturally darker green in color than any other turf grasses, which have previously been available. This seed has been tested and is a recommend seed blend by Virginia Tech. TIP: Be sure to keep up with mowing, as the grass is growing at a rapid pace this time of year. Mow often enough to avoid cutting more than 1/3 of the grass blade in one mowing. Continue to mow your lawn at the highest setting recommended for your lawn.

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Out of the Ordinary

CHINESE LANTERN, Physalis Alkekengi

An out of the ordinary plant you'll love! This popular ornamental plant is largely grown for its vivid orange-red lantern shaped fruits which are perfect for fall decorating. Chinese Lantern is an herbaceous perennial that offers white flowers and green leaves. The lantern-shaped pods that encase fruit from the plant emerge from the white flowers that appear in summer. These lanterns can be dried or used fresh in arrangements as they hold their shape and color. Simply snip a few off of the plant and use in Thanksgiving and Halloween décor. We suggest keeping the plant it in a container and then once you have enjoyed indoors for the winter you can plant it outdoors. It can be planted in either full sun or partial shade. It is best to plant them on the sunniest side of your home but in an area that isn’t exposed to full sun for more than 8 hours a day.

A Labor of Love...

10 THINGS TO DO IN THE SEPTEMBER GARDEN

The arrival of autumn doesn't mean that the gardening season is over. It's actually just the beginning of a variety of tasks that need to be done outdoors before winter sets it. And despite summer drawing to a close, September is a busy month for gardeners. Here are a few tips on things you should do in September to keep your fall garden in tip-top shape.

  1. Seed Your Lawn. Surprisingly enough, September is the best time to seed your lawn, and laying a good foundation is the first step to ensuring a lush lawn. Remember to fertilize the soil just before or after seeding as it will make it stronger and greener once the grass grows.
  2. Plant Trees & Shrubs. Did you know fall is the best time for planting? Cooler temperatures help reduce root stress resulting in strong and healthier plants.
  3. Plant Spring-Flowering Bulbs. Spring color starts in fall. Yep, fall is when you plant spring-blooming bulbs like daffodils, tulips, hyacinth and more. With just a little planning, you can time your bulb blooms for continuous color from early spring to summer. Select from crocuses, tulips, daffodils and hyacinth for constant color in your garden March through June. A general rule of thumb is to plant the bulbs to the depth of three times their height.
  4. Keep Growing Veggies. Summer may be winding down, but it doesn't mean you can't still have fresh veggies. In fact, fall is the best time to grow veggies. We recommend growing lettuce, Swiss chard, arugula, cabbage and spinach for scrumptious veggies all season long!
  5. Learn How to Build a Fire Pit. Visit our Virginia Beach location for a complimentary “How to Make a Fire Pit’ demonstration and learn first-hand how you can construct and install your very own stone fire pit. Get details here. >>
  6. Divide Perennials. Transplant and divide perennials in early fall to encourage heartiness, limit spreading and propagate more plants. Once divided, plant them as soon as possible. Transplants do best if they have a few weeks to develop roots before the ground freezes.
  7. Keep Watering. Remember the basics when watering ~ water early in the morning; water soil not leaves; and water deeply and occasionally rather than shallow and often. Be mindful of newly planted or recently transplanted trees and shrubs that need special attention and must be well watered to help them become established and survive the winter.
  8. Make a Scarecrow. Looking for a fun family outing this fall? Stop by and build your very own life-size scarecrow at any McDonald Garden Center on September 28 & 29, from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. All proceeds from the $25 registration fee benefit the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters (CHKD). Get details here. >>
  9. Mulch. This is one of the easiest and most beneficial practices you can do in the garden. Mulching helps to control weeds, prevent soil erosion, provide insulation in winter and conserve moisture. Mulching also adds texture, color and contrast to your landscape.
  10. Control Weeds. Before cold weather sets in, weed your lawn. It’s better to get rid of the weeds now rather than later when it’s cold and wet. If you decided to use weed killer, wait three weeks before you seed your lawn. If you seed first, then wait for the new seed to germinate, otherwise you could damage the tender leaves.