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Snake Plant (Mother-in-Law's Tongue)
Peace Lily
Aloe Vera

Go Green for a Better Night’s Sleep

Most of us at one time or another have struggled to get to sleep and there’s nothing more frustrating than tossing and turning all night before being awoken by the sound of your alarm clock – only minutes after you finally managed to doze off! These sleepless nights can take their toll on your energy, productivity, mood and overall quality of life. Poor air quality from pollution and odors and molds can impact our breathing, making a good night’s sleep seem impossible. The good news is there are a variety of plants that can filter the air while you sleep – in fact, NASA did a whole study on it!

Plants tend to create a calming, purifying effect and filling your home with beautiful plants can pave the way to a better night’s sleep. So if counting sheep doesn’t solve your lack of sleep troubles, try adding a few of these plants to your space:

Lavender – produces one of the most popular forms of essential oils and is known for its sleep inducing properties. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the smell of lavender may help slow your heart rate and lower blood pressure, helping you to relax and get to sleep. This low maintenance plant loves bright light, so try placing a pot on a sunny windowsill. In the summer, place it outside on a porch or any place that gets full sun.

Rosemary – like lavender, rosemary has healing and relaxing qualities. Applied externally, it can ease muscle pain and tension making it easier to sleep at night. Rosemary is another one of those herbs that contains powerful antioxidants that protect against stress and toxins and improves overall air quality. Rosemary prefers a sunny window. Excess water will damage the roots and cause the plant to die, so let the soil dry, then water thoroughly. Move outdoors in the spring to refresh.

Snake Plant (Mother-in-Law’s Tongue) – we all need oxygen in order to survive but getting increased levels at night leads to a better night's sleep. Most plants release oxygen during the day and rest at night, but the snake plant releases oxygen all the time — even when you sleep. This plant has also been proven to be effective in treating headaches, eye irritation and respiratory problems. Snake plants can live in just about any type of light, just be sure to water it once every few weeks.

Peace Lily - this everyday houseplant is a natural air purifier and removes harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, airborne mold and other types of allergens and releases purified oxygen into the air. And, keeping your air clean provides for a better night’s sleep. The peace lily also helps add humidity back to rooms that are too dry, typically around 5 to 10%. This is good news for those who suffer from dry skin or a dry mouth. Peace Lilies don’t require a significant amount of sun, which works well in rooms with little direct sunlight. Water it once a week, but if you keep the plant near a window or keep the heat on in the winter, consider watering it twice a week.

Aloe Vera - listed as one of NASA’s top air-improving plants, aloe vera works much like the snake plant by emitting oxygen at night. Increased oxygen supply is believed to help with insomnia and improve overall quality of sleep. Aloe is a superb indoor plant and is easy to care for. Keep it on a bedroom window, as it requires direct sunlight. Unlike other houseplants, the aloe keeps water in its leaves, not the soil until it needs it so, be sure not to over water.

The Five W's of Watering
Butterfly Radius Sprinkler
Watering Wand
Neverkink Hose
Frog & Terracotta Plant Nanny's
Color Storm Stake Sprinkler
Watering Bag

The Five W’s of Watering

by McDonald Garden Center's Garden Guru, Mike Westphal

When the temperature rises and our rains are less frequent, it is important to know the 5 W’s of watering (Who, What, Where, When & Why). Efficiency and effectiveness are the two most important things. You want to get your watering done as quickly as you can, so you can enjoy your lawn and garden. You also want your watering to be effective, so your plants get the most out of what you give them.

Who – you of course, but we want to help, so check out the last section on HOW to water, and you’ll be equipped to tackle any watering project.

What - specific plants and lawns need more water during the warmer months of the year the Hampton Roads area. Fescue lawns may require supplemental watering during the summer as well as your broadleaf evergreens and conifers that may be used to a slightly cooler climate. Most importantly are those you have planted this past spring and summer. Plants take root much quicker than we think, but it will take a full year before a plant can be fully sufficient to acquire water on its own. Keep these plants in mind when it gets hot and hasn’t rained in a while.

Where – the roots, of course. Very few plants actually take moisture through their leaves and this practice can actually cause fungus and disease. The safest bet is to always water the soil surrounding the plant from the drip line in. The drip line is determined by the width of the plant. The branches or leaves that are the furthest away from the center of the plant. Below the drip line is where the smallest roots most likely are and usually are the ones that want the water the most. But understanding how deep roots can go will also help determine how long you water for; keep reading for more tips on this.

When – watering at a specific time of day will insure that your plants get what they need when they need it. Plants require moisture during the day as they loose moisture through a process called transpiration. This process cools the plant down and therefore it is more important then ever during the hotter months of the year. The best time to water is in the morning, so the plant can use it throughout the heat of the day. When night comes and the temps get cooler, transpiration is slowed and plants require less water. Also, dampness and darkness cause fungus, so watering in the morning is always the best time to water.

Why – very little water is actually used to make plants grow; a majority of the water is used in transpiration. But without water, plants will wilt and leaves will turn yellow and new leaves will be hard to form. And when roots get really dry, they can no longer take up the moisture needed and then die. Water is also the only way nutrients and minerals used to make plants grow get through the system of a plant. Watering is crucial in helping the plant grow and mature.

Who – you
When – in the morning
What – plants that need it
Where – the roots
Why – to insure plant survival

How – our motto is water more, less often. Going out and giving your plants a little water every day will not encourage root development. Give your plants a good watering and then allow the plant to dry out some before watering again. During this drying out phase, the plant will search for water, which will develop a larger and deeper root system over time and allow you to enjoy your plants and lawn more.

Hoses and watering cans are used to transport water from its source to the plant. I recommend you have both, they are essential garden tools. Soaker hoses and drip hoses are also a great way of watering, especially newly planted plants, or areas that dry out more frequently or seem to require more water then other plants (tip for soaker hoses, let them run longer then you think, since water is slowly coming out it can take longer to get adequate water to the plant’s roots.)

Sprayers and wands are attached to the end of a hose that aid in watering. Sprayers are great for many different uses in the yard and around the home. Most sprayers come with the option of being able to cycle through different stream configurations to give you lots of choices. We have a new sprayer called the Butterfly Radius Sprayer and Sprinkler. So not only can you use it to water plants, but you can flip it upside down and it is turns into a lawn sprinkler. Watering wands are a necessity here at the garden center; you will see one attached to every one of our hoses that we use to water our plants. Basically it is a long solid aluminum pipe that attaches to the end of the hose and delivers the water where you want it in a nice, gentle shower. These are great for containers, hanging baskets, and plants in the ground. No more bending over and wands deliver water right to the roots. We carry both of these products in our stores year-round.

Sprinklers are usually designed for lawns - not trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials. Sprinklers only get the top 1-2 inches of soil moist, and most plants want a much deeper watering then this, so we recommend sprinklers for lawns. Oscillating sprinklers usually cover the largest areas and mimic true rainfall when the water comes down. Impulse sprinklers are the easiest to use, as they can cover shapes and sizes of yards.

Oasis Watering Bags or Tree Gators are an easy way to water large trees over a longer period of time. The water slowly drips directly down to the root system and can be refilled when empty.

Plant Nanny’s and watering picks are a great way to water container plants or indoor plants when away on vacation or any time. The clay spike will allow water to pass through its pores when the soil around it dries out. Once it becomes moist, it closes back up again.

These products are available at our stores year-round and will aid you in getting water to your plants in an efficient and effective way.

Consider a fresh coat of paint
Evaluate the walks and driveway
Consider the view from the street
Improve the entry with proper pruning

Welcome Home, Creating Curb Appeal

by McDonald Garden Center Owner, Eddie Anderson

The greeting message provided by your home is one of the important considerations when developing the street view. The architect developed the style and function of the house. The builder is often the one who lays out the walk and driveway system to the home. In Elizabeth Lake Estates, the city maintains the sidewalks in front of most homes. The layout of the lawn, trees and shrubs ties it all together. These are the basic factors that work together to compose the entry system to your home.

When maintaining existing plantings or preparing the home for sale, take a few minutes to evaluate the greeting message you are sending. A general rule of thumb is that every 20-25 years the foundation planting needs renovation work. Shrubs become woody and hard to care for, the shade patterns have changed or plants have just out-grown the site. Styles may have changed or your taste may be different than it was a few years ago. The exterior areas of your home will typically account for about 10% of the total value of the real estate and can increase from there depending upon paving, plantings, walls and fences, structures and art.

Here are 10 tips that will help you decide what if any changes are needed to insure a warm welcome to your home:

  1. Evaluate the trees. Are they over growing their location? Is the canopy raised high enough to create good air flow? Are the branches framing the view or blocking the view? Would removing one or more trees help to strengthen the remaining trees and shrubs?
  2. Evaluate the walks and driveway. Are they clean? Over time mold and algae can make a nice entry look old and tired. “Wet and Forget” or “Spray and Walk Away” can help clean up the concrete or pavers. (Works on the roof as well). Power washing and a sealer afterwards will add life to the cleaning. Are the walks wide enough? Generally walks are 48 inches wide. That is great for single file but may seem a little close when greeting a family coming for a visit. Narrow walks may reduce the value for a couple of prospective buyers walking to the front door. A row of pavers set on either side of the walk can be an inexpensive solution. Insure that shrubs are not encroaching on the people space you have created. If plant growth is more than a foot tall I like to have at least 12 inches from the edge of the walk clear of foliage and branches. This includes the driveway and the sidewalk in front of the home. It is no fun to get out of your car and be greeted with a slap in the face from a wet branch. We pride ourselves in having a walkable neighborhood. Be sure your sidewalk is open and easy to navigate.
  3. Improve the entry with proper pruning. In preparing this article I discovered that over time I have allowed a branch to grow into the view of my entry system. It is easy to miss the changes that are occurring as plants grow. Those changes can turn a charming entry into an uncomfortable or even claustrophobic experience. Spring growth is slowing down now and it is a good time to prune Hear encroaching shrubs. The internet has made it possible for us to learn how to solve many of the home care issues. If you are uncertain about the proper pruning of your plants you can easily watch a You Tube video on the subject. Many grounds maintenance companies have skill at doing the work for you. Be sure you check for certification, training time and experience level. Look at their work and check references. It is one thing to mow and blow and a whole different world to bring to life the vision of the design, recognize disease, identify the weeds and properly prune the wide variety of plants in the garden.
  4. Safety first. The city will take care of the cracks and heaving of the side walk in front of your home. It is up to you to insure safe passage for family and guests. More on this in later articles.
  5. Evaluate the View. From the street is your eye guided to the front entrance? Do the plantings frame and support the entrance? Color can draw the eye in a sea of green plants. In-ground plantings may be a nice addition. Often a color coordinated ceramic planter can help bring the eye in the direction you would like. A nice fresh, well maintained planting in the pot can send a cheery greeting and the message that we take extra care.
  6. Evaluate night time entry. Do you stand at the door trying to find the door knob or the place to insert your key in the lock? Today time clocks, photo cells and motion detectors can make it much easier to light the entry at appropriate times. Low voltage LED lighting has become a great inexpensive way to solve the problem. You can use the easy-to-install runway approach with using photo cells or consider the more up scale use of moon lighting, wall washes or focal point high lighting.
  7. Evaluate the plant selections. Mature size, shape, texture, flowering, microclimate, fragrance and ease of care are some of the considerations when choosing the plants for your entry. More on this at another time.
  8. Screen unsightly views. It is always important to find ways to screen unattractive aspects of a home. Can you find a convenient home for the trash cans that neighbors and visitors do not see. Utilities can often be screened with shrubs or a small fence. A shade canopy from a tree or building can help the air conditioner run more efficiently. Ladders, wheel barrows and other maintenance equipment need a home out of sight as well. In Hampton Roads hiding boats and trailer storage is often a challenge. Folks living on the water expose both the front and back of their home to neighbors, friends and boat visitors as well.
  9. Consider a fresh coat of paint. Color trends are constantly changing. It is easy to add a fresh new look with paint. Matching the new color theme with complimentary accessories can bring your home in tune with the times. Salt treated lumber has added years of service to decks, steps and fences. Over time the lumber takes on a very old and weathered look of yesterday. A fresh coat of paint can make that look more like a part of your home.
  10. Hire a consultant. Not confident in your own taste and skill? There are a number of talented professionals that can help. Architects, landscape architects, landscape designers, painting contractors, realtors and home staging specialists to name a few. Magazines like Architecture, Coastal Living, Better Homes and Gardens, and Southern Living all offer exciting ideas to help freshen you home. Prefer the internet? Try, or