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Tools of the Trade: Our Favorite Gardening Tools

Great gardens start with great tools, and now is the perfect time to stock up on spring tools like rakes and pruners. The right tools make creating and maintaining your yard easier and faster and you really only need a handful of tools to handle the most common lawn and garden maintenance. Be sure to check out our complete line of economical Terra Verde Tools in stores and now 30% off through March 31. Here are a few must-have garden tools to help you be successful and efficient in maintaining your garden:

Pruners - pruners are ideal for removing small dead and unwanted branches from trees and shrubs. All pruners have two blades: one very sharp and is known as the cutting blade. The other is not sharp and is called the anvil blade or hook.

Bypass Loppers - a must-have for anyone with a landscape full of trees and shrubs. The long handle give you an extended reach to prune higher branches and provides you leverage, so you can prune branches up to 2" in diameter, depending on the lopper. The long blades make it easier to do those larger cuts and are perfect for cutting branches, vines and for pruning and shaping.

Hand Trowel - one of the most important tools in the gardener shed whether you’re digging up weeds or planting new plants. Ideal for planting small plants like herbs and vegetables, making container gardens and digging out weeds. Also good for mixing soil with compost, fertilizer and other additives.

Blades of Glory: Secrets of a Lush Lawn

Whether spring has sprung or is just starting to peek through the winter cold, now’s the time to get your lawn spring ready. Before you break out your trusty garden tools and seed packets, there are a few chores you need to tackle to get your lawn off on the right foot.

The two most important things you can do for your established lawn in early Spring to apply:

Pre-emergent - a pre-emergent will prevent weeds and unwanted grasses that can germinate when the weather gets warm.

Post-emergent - a post emergent will rid your lawn of cool season weeds that are actively growing and getting ready to lay seed.
These two essential things can easily be accomplished with McDonald Garden Center’s Early Spring Lawn Care Kit. Each kit contains two 12 lb bags Hi-Yield Turf & Ornamental Weed & Grass Stopper Containing Dimension and one 8 oz bottle of Ferti-lome Weed Free Zone.

Hi-Yield Weed & Grass Stopper - can be used on Fescue lawns, as well as warm season lawns such as Bermuda, St. Augustine, Zoysia and Centipede. It will provide weed and unwanted grass control for up to four months. An added benefit of this product is that it can be applied to your beds as well.

Ferti-lome Weed Free Zone - will provide quick control for cool season weeds such as henbit, chickweed and clover that are present in lawns this time of the year. Unlike most weed control products, it works during the cool weather, and may be applied to all lawn types.

If you are planning to start a new lawn this spring, or just want advice on watering, mowing, or fertilizing, stop by and chat with one of our lawn care experts!

Plant of the Week: Kalanchoe

Big beauty, low maintenance. This colorful little succulent plant is easy to grow and almost as easy to bloom. Kalanchoe grows 8 to 12 inches tall with clusters of small, upright flowers in a rainbow of colors, including red, orange, yellow, gold, purple and white. It has thick, rich green, succulent leaves that retain water to sustain the plant with little water.

Most often grown in pots as a brightly-colored houseplant, Kalanchoe can also be used as a landscape plant provided you live in the right climate. However, their needs vary slightly depending on weather they are planted indoors or outdoors.

Indoors, Kalanchoe requires bright light and should be potted in a well-draining soil, watering only when the soil feels dry to the touch. This succulent plant can withstand periods of dry soil, however, soggy soil can lead to root-rot. Maintain flower color by providing bright, indirect sunlight daily for at least four hours. A sunny windowsill or a bright sunroom are the perfect spots for this plant. Remove dead leaves and spent blossoms when needed. The blooming period usually lasts four to eight weeks.

Kalanchoe planted outside also needs well drained soil, so in wet areas you will not have much success. The same is true if you live in a cold climate, since they do not tolerate the cold. Ideal temperatures are a low of 65 degrees at night and a high of 85 degrees during the day. Kalanchoe grows best in a sunny spot that receives some shade from the harsh afternoon sun.

With just basic care, you can enjoy this low maintenance-big on beauty plant that will brighten your home both inside and out!

Check out more of our favorite plants! OUR PLANTS OF THE WEEK >>

Plant Pruning Season

by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener & gardening writer living in Hampton Roads, VA

Oh, happy days – Spring is only 20 days away!

Which means it’s time to assess and prep – and prune -- your plants for another season of beauty.

If the word “prune” strikes fear in your heart, take comfort in the fact that pruning promotes good health in plants – but only when pruning is done at the right time and in the right way.

“Crape murder” is probably the most recognizable form of bad pruning, especially in landscaped areas at shopping centers and other commercial sites. In reality, crape myrtles need minor pruning, removing only crossing, rubbing and diseased branches to create a plant that gets good sunlight and air circulation. Crape murder is often used to control the size of a large plant put in a small space – another bad landscaping practice.

In my yard, pruning is practical and easy.

For shrub roses like Knock Outs, I use a pair of sharp shears to cut the plants back to about 8 to 12 inches above ground – no need to do interior pruning. Shrub roses can also be pruned during the growing season but keep it to a minimum.

My wax myrtle privacy hedge is also cut back – top and sides.

Camellias are pruned immediately after they finish flowering – remove interior branches so air and light penetrate the plant to help reduce disease and pest problems.

Deciduous shade trees are pruned for shape only and I try to do this when the trees are young and as they grow.

The dead foliage on groundcovers like liriope are best pruned by March when new growth begins to peek through the soil.

Some species like azaleas, need to wait until finish flowering or you cut off this year’s flower buds.

You can find many helpful gardening, including pruning, publications through Virginia Cooperative Extension at Your plants will thank you for taking the extra effort to learn how to prune them properly.

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Sow, Now’s the Time

Starting plants from seed is one of the most exciting and rewarding gardening activities. Growing seed is not complicated, it just requires a little thought and care. For best results, it is important to use fresh seed and follow the instructions on each seed packet which include specific planting tips, light source requirements and watering specifications. So grab a selection of your favorite seeds from annuals, to perennials to herbs & veggies -- and start from seed!

What you'll need:

  • Your choice of fresh seed packets
  • Clean pots or seed trays with drainage holes (egg cartons & Styrofoam cups work too but be sure to create a drainage hole). We recommend using seed starting supplies from Jiffy.
  • Seed starting mix. We recommend Black Gold Seed Starter Potting Mix.
  • Plastic spoon and or pencil - to make a hole for seed.
  • Jiffy seed starter greenhouse. This will allow the soil to heat up faster and help germinate the seed.
  • Plant labels and/or markers.
  • Light source such as a bright window or a grow light
  • Water

Sowing the Seed:

  • Read seed package for special instructions.
  • Start the seeds about 8-weeks before the last expected frost date. In Hampton Roads, that is about April 15.
  • Label containers with seed type.
  • Fill pots or trays with seed starter mix to about 1 cm below the rim of container.
  • Plant seed. For small seed, sprinkle on top of starting mix and for large seed push into mix until just covered (soil depth depends on seed type).
  • Cover seeds with a thin layer of starting mix - approx. ¼ inch deep (do not cover very fine seed).
  • Water

Finishing Touches:

  • Place pots or trays inside your seed starting greenhouse or use a large, loose plastic bag or cover with cling wrap to keep seeds warm and moist until germination.
  • Place in a warm, well lit area -- out of direct sunlight as it warms up.
  • If potting soil begins to dry out, remove cover and water gently.

Transplanting Seedlings:

  • When seedlings are 2-3 inches tall, transplant to a larger container for continued growth.
  • To transplant, fill the new container with pre-moistened mix and gently press the mix around the transplanted seedling and water to settle soil.
  • Plant seedlings in garden when the weather has warmed into the 50 degree range at night. Remember to acclimate the seedlings to outdoor life by slowly exposing them to sunlight in order to minimize stress on the plant.
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Winter is for Planning & Plotting

by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener & gardening writer living in York County, Virginia

February can be one of the most important gardening months of the year – the time to sit by the window with pad and pencil in hand, planning what you want to do when spring weather breaks. Your garden is a living, breathing and important part of life at your home. When something dies, it’s the perfect opportunity to try something new and different. When something outgrows its space, resist the urge to hack at it, and instead find a smaller species to replace it. When something flourishes, congratulate yourself and enjoy the fruits of your labor. In other words, your garden is an evolving work of art – and a soothing place to seek solace from the stresses of daily life.

As you plan the seasons in, changes and additions in your garden this year, don’t plan to do everything at one time or it becomes overwhelming and tedious. Instead, pick a part of the yard that needs rejuvenation the most. Maybe it’s the front yard where your curb appeal is weak. Maybe it’s a perennial garden where overgrown plants need to be divided and relocated or shared with friends. Maybe it’s a sunny spot where you can plant a homegrown vegetable garden. Prioritize your projects and plot out a schedule that allows you to move seamlessly from one completed project to the next. Jot down notes about sun, shade and soil conditions in those areas. Use your computer or tablet to research plants that will thrive there, and sketch out a rough drawing of the size and design you want in a garden. Soon you will have the makings of new and improved gardens that will be done in no-time flat. Spring days are just around the corner – start dreaming up your garden plan today.

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Living Valentines: Blooming Gifts from the Heart

Valentine's Day sneaks up on us every year, but no worries - we've got a whole host of blooming possibilities for that someone special. So bring a little spring into your home this winter with these amazing bloomers. This year, give a gift from the heart with these and many other living Valentines now at your local garden center!

Orchids - There is a special grace to the long, arching stem of an orchid. These elegant flowers will brighten tables and windowsills in your home for months at a time. Colors range from whites, pinks, lavenders and yellows in both solid colors or stripes and spots.

Daffodils - Who doesn’t like spring, especially in February? Jump start your spring with these petite daffodils sure to bring a sunny smile to any recipients face.

Cyclamen - These colorful cool weather bloomers boast butterfly-like flowers with dark green, heart-shaped foliage.

Kalanchoe - Big beauty, low maintenance. This colorful little succulent is easy to grow and almost as easy to bloom. Kalanchoe grows 8 to 12 inches tall with clusters of small, upright flowers in a rainbow of colors, including red, orange, yellow, gold, purple and white. It has thick, rich green, succulent leaves that retain water to sustain the plant with little water.

Bromeliads - These stunning plants are related to the pineapple family and are available in bright tropical colors. The unique foliage will add drama to any space during winter and beyond. Once warmer weather arrives, move outside and enjoy all summer long.

Check out more of our favorite plants! OUR PLANTS OF THE WEEK >>

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