Category Archives: Garden

Chase Away the Winter Blues… with Green

5 Cheery Ideas for Decorating with House Plants

Springtime is often associated with lush, green, living things  – but winter? Not so much. If the snow and ice leaves you longing for a taste of spring, indoor plants are a great way to bring some of that fresh outdoor feeling inside. And plants are not only aesthetic. Many common species (Pothos, Ivy, Chinese Evergreen and Ficus, to name a few), have also been found to filter out common volatile organic compounds (VOCs).*

Inspired to invite more plants into your home? Here are five ideas to get you started.

ferns in bedroom
photo: Houzz

1. Grace a room with ferns

Ferns come in many shapes and sizes, and their rich, leafy fronds can really help bring a space to life. Ferns are also pretty low maintenance: just keep them damp (they love to be misted) and in indirect light. When choosing a fern, remember that anything you see hanging can easily be relocated to a standing pot, if you prefer.

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 11.22.55 AM2. Bring plants to the table

A colorful house plant is a lovely stand-in for a dining room table centerpiece.  Plants will last much longer than fresh-cut flowers, and a species like this red Anthurium is simply perfect for Valentine’s Day!

succulents
photo: Architect Lines

3. Create a live display

Make a striking  decorative statement with a selection of smaller house plants, mixing together both the plant types and the pots they are in.  This arrangement of mini succulents would be great for a windowsill, since these they enjoy direct light and actually prefer to dry out between waterings.

dracaena
photo: Real Simple

4. Combine and conquer

For an instant wow-factor, you can re-pot several smaller plants into one larger planter.  Dracaena is an excellent species to use with this approach; look for dense plants with glossy foliage.

bathroom-plants5. Take advantage of steam heat

The humidity in your bathroom might not be great for your electronics, but many of your plants love it. Chinese Evergreens, for example, are a hearty house plant that need some warmth to thrive – so you’ll be doing your plants a favor every time to turn on the shower to heat things up.

*Source: Mother Nature Network 

Pine Management

holiday treeTips for the wear and care of your holiday tree

A prime location is chosen. Furniture gets rearranged. Outlets and extension cords get sussed out.  It’s that time of year again: time for the Christmas tree!

Despite being stuffed with turkey, Thanksgiving weekend has actually become the most common time to put up the tree. But this weekend is really prime time: the selection is great, and there’s not too much time between now and the 25th for it dry up into a tree meant for Charlie Brown.

nauset middle school teacher
Help your community: Buy a tree at Snow’s! $5 from every purchase goes to benefit Nauset Regional Middle School programs.

If you’re ready to get out and get trimming, Snow’s has just received a large inventory of gorgeous, grown-in-the-USA evergreens from North Carolina. A member of our friendly staff will give your tree a fresh cut and make sure it securely tied to your vehicle before you go home. And to help you keep your tree looking great all season long, here are a few tips from our Garden Center:

1. Take the Fresh Test

Of course you never have to worry about this at Snow’s, but you must start with a fresh tree if you hope to keep it fresh at home.  Stay away from trees with a lot of browning needles — or needles that fall off the branches easily. These trees are past their prime.

2. Location, Location, Location.

Like us, trees need a special sense of place, too. Safety first: you should keep the tree away from open flames or heat sources, which may dry it out prematurely. Other than that, a room corner is nice — out of the direct path of traffic and less likely to get bumped. If your ideal spot is in front of a picture window, make sure to pull the shades during the day to keep the tree out of direct sunlight.

watering the tree
Heighten Your Hydration!
In addition to lots of water, add Prolong® preservative to keep your tree greener, fresher and safer throughout the season.

3. Wise Watering

The most important part of keeping a live Christmas tree healthy is making sure it gets enough water from the start. The first day your tree spends in its new home (yours!) it will downright guzzle: expect it to absorb up to a full gallon of water in 24 hours. It’s imperative that the water doesn’t dry up during this period. If it does – and it only takes once – the base of the trunk will develop a natural seal that prevents it from drinking in more water. After the initial watering, you should check the water level twice a day for the first week, then daily from then on.

 

And when it’s all over, remember to keep your evergreen “green.”

Once your tree has fulfilled its job as holiday spirit maker inside your home, make sure to dispose of it in an environmentally-friendly fashion. Fortunately, most transfer stations on Cape Cod accept Christmas trees to be ground up for compost.

Finally, if all this fresh tree talk is irrelevant because your family puts up an artificial tree, you may be surprised to learn that “fake” can actually be considered “green” as well. There’s a lot of debate on this subject, but since an artificial tree represents a live tree that isn’t cut down, it can be an eco-friendly option if it’s used year after year.  Snow’s has an assortment of artificial trees (with lights!) from 2’ to 7’ tall, in a variety of shapes to compliment your array of holiday ornaments.

Happy trimming!

 

To go, or not to go: the question of organic

It’s all around us: living a greener lifestyle is no longer a contemplation of some special group. “Green” is a catch-all phrase, though, and it can mean many different things: from organic and sustainable food choices to recycling, and of course, to the green right around us: our yards and gardens.

At Snow’s, our customers come to us this time of year for the products and advice they need to get their outdoor spaces ready for the season. And with so much attention to organic these days, there is a definite need to educate our customers on the finer points of both organic and manmade lawn and garden products.

Before getting into the details of organic or not, it should be noted that organic products are far better for Cape Cod’s fragile ecosystem, especially our waters, ponds and estuaries, so if it’s a viable choice for you, organic garden products should definitely be considered. In general, organic fertilizers supply natural, essential nutrients which can ultimately promote a healthier soil over a period of time. With those two things being said, you might ask why organic isn’t always the obvious choice.  Well, while slow and steady may win the race, most inorganic fertilizers will work much more quickly, and depending on your situation, you may need to get results faster than Mother Nature would allow. Plants that have a very short season simply may not get the opportunity to thrive with an organic option.

Organic fertilizers are made up of natural ingredients. For example, if you look at the back of a bag of Espoma brand Garden-Tone® you will see poultry manure, bone meal and hydrolyzed feather meal among the ingredients listed. In most cases, these all-natural ingredients mean you can’t over fertilize.

On the flip side, manmade fertilizers are at least in part comprised of synthetic materials, and you do have to watch how much you use because too much could burn the roots of your plants. Synthetic in this case means chemical, but it’s often not as bad as it seems. As Snow’s garden expert David Christopher says, “While you certainly wouldn’t want a small child putting handfuls of chemically-treated soil in their mouth, there are many brands that are non-toxic. Look for the ones that say “pet friendly” right on the bag.”

Both manmade and organic fertilizers have something in common, too. Soil and plants need macro nutrients like potassium and nitrogen, and these will be present in any fertilizer you buy.

So, other than the issue of time (how fast you need your fertilizer to start working), what else should you think about if you’re considering organic? There are a few other key differences.  After factoring in the actual time it takes to “kick in,” research tells us that organic fertilizers do more to improve soil health if you’re looking at it in years, not just one season. So if you are working toward a fertilizing program that is more effective over the long term, organic may be the way to go.

Another seemingly trivial – yet realistic – point to make is how a fertilizer smells. You may not expect roses, but remember that ingredient on the back of the Garden-Tone® bag…manure? Plants love this nutrient-packed organic gem, but as you can imagine, it doesn’t smell very nice. There’s a trade off with manmade products, too – you very well might rather the “farm fresh” smell of manure to the smell of chemicals that some inorganic fertilizers give off.

And there is a cost consideration. As with most organic products, they tend to be a little more expensive. But you get what you pay for. Think about organic eggs or chicken in the supermarket: for many of us it’s a premium worth paying.  David says that when comparing costs, you should also take into consideration the fact that most natural fertilizers last longer, therefore need to be reapplied less often and require fewer trips to the garden center cash register.

If you want to explore organic fertilizers for pretty much any plant, soil, tree or vegetable, Snow’s carries the extensive Espoma line in sizes ranging from 4 to 40 pounds. Espoma is one of the pioneers in natural gardening solutions. These products contain mycorrhizae fungia  beneficial bacteria found naturally in the soil that enhances root development.

Snow’s also carries “Chickity Doo Doo” products: As the name indicates, these fertilizers are made with poultry litter (a chickens’ classy way of saying “manure”) and can used across the board for lawns, trees, vegetables and more.

Speaking of which, those early veggies are starting to come in? Lettuces, broccoli, parsley, some little tomatoes and herbs… and more is on the way, arriving every two weeks. For those that want to plant an organic vegetable garden in raised beds or boxes, the Espoma products work great, and Miracle Gro also has it’s own line of organic potting soil, too.

We invite you to come in and explore all the options…summer’s waiting!

The Grass is Always Greener

Getting your yard and lawn ready for the season

As we Cape Codders know, spring doesn’t always feel warm and sunny. But even if it’s unseasonably chilly, your lawn is still expecting you to give it some loving care.

Cleaning up & getting ready

The first step is a good raking of your property. Even though you probably don’t have many leaves, raking is an important step because it helps clear away the dead grasses, stems, leaves and roots that will get in the way of bringing your healthy lawn back. Raking will also give you a chance to see if there are any problem areas that need attention before you start the task of fertilizing.

So even if it’s still somewhat cold out, it’s safe to start raking as soon as you’re sure the snow is gone for the season. And while you’re raking away, this is also the time to clean up the planting beds so they are ready for mulch in the near future.

Fertilizing

Spring is also the time to replace some of the nutrients that were depleted from your lawn during its winter slumber. The way to do this is through fertilization; simply put, feeding your lawn will make it healthier.

The well-known lawn care company Scott’s recommends a schedule of slow-release products that will allow your grass to “bulk up” over time.  For our climate here in coastal New England, the basic recommended plan is to wait until the soil temperatures reach about 60 degrees – and then start with one of their TurfBuilder® products that have a crabgrass preventer in the mix.

Next, a “Weed & Feed” product will help get your lawn ready to take on the summer heat, both by thickening the blades on top, and building deep roots underneath. For problem areas like bare spots or really aggressive weeds, use turf builder products that contain a dose of easy-to-apply grass seeds, or a weed killer, respectively.

To customize a plan according to your own needs, check out the handy lawn care widget on the Scott’s website. A wide selection of Scott’s lawn products- including spreaders and other tools - are available in both Snow’s Orleans and Harwich stores.

Mulching

After you’ve cleaned things up and given your lawn a kick start, you can begin to make it look pretty. Mulch is a popular choice for filling in beds and defining areas of your yard for a few reasons. It does a very good job of keeping weeds at bay, and mulch also helps keep the soil temperate and moist.

Mulch can technically be any organic material, so if you compost, you can use it as your mulch – or at least part of it. If you’re buying mulch, there are lots of choices. Wood chips and bark are among the most common because they look good, they last, and they often smell nice, too (especially cedar, cypress and pine mulches). Snow’s has a great selection of Jolly Gardener brand and other excellent quality mulches, in sizes you can manage easily.

If you’re laying down the mulch yourself, you may want to invest in a mulch fork. A shovel works, but the tines of the fork allow you to get more in one load when moving it around.  Be careful not to get the mulch on your newly prepared lawn, it doesn’t play nice with grass and will kill it if it’s on there too long.

One of the things to be careful about when mulching is not to lay it on too thick. Heavy mulch can actually cause harm to plants and potential new growth by creating a suffocating layer that can’t decompose.  About an inch or so of new mulch is recommended in most cases; a yard of mulch will cover about 300 square feet at this height.  Also, if you are planting, mulch is really just intended to fill in the bare spots in your beds, so less is more.

 

So, treat your lawn to a little seasonal facelift!  Once you’re armed with the right information and the right tools, you’re ready to create a yard of which you will be proud.  And if you have questions, please ask! If you’re on the Cape, you can speak with a friendly staff member in either in one of our stores. If you want to ask a question online, just leave a comment to this post, and we’ll do our very best to provide you with timely and useful feedback.

 

Canning Preserves the Past

It’s the middle of August here on Cape Cod. I know that it is without looking at a calendar because bags and bags of co-worker’s garden produce is being left in the breakroom with little signs that say “Please help yourself”! Cucumbers, basil, peppers, tomatoes and a couple of baseball bat sized zucchini with their own little note that says “see what happens when you go away for a week”.

We can only hope when we plant in the Spring that our efforts will be fruitful, knowingly planting more than we need ourselves, just in case it’s a bad year for tomatoes or cukes. It seems like there is some weather or disease related problem every year come harvest time, resulting in my fellow gardeners and I commiserating about how the soggy weather or the drought is affecting our little plots of home grown gold. But not this year. In my own little 10 by 5 foot plot, there isn’t one wilted squash plant or fungus to be seen. No sneaky black spot rotting the big ripe tomatoes just before they’re ready to be picked. And the cucumbers…they seem to grow overnight from prickly, thumb sized babies to ten inch beauties.
Back in the 70’s when I was what my son would refer to as a “hippie”, ( ok, so he’s seen photos of me with granny glasses and a fringed vest) I picked wild raspberries and put up jam and grew tomatoes and canned my own sauce. I remembered the satisfaction I felt when I would see all my efforts lined up in the pantry with the little personalized labels I had designed. When money was scarce in those early days, I always had a colorful jar of homemade goodness to serve at dinner or to press into the appreciative hands of a friend.

So, I decided to try something I hadn’t done in years.  I decided to can some pickles. Nothing tastes like homemade pickles from home grown cucumbers. I repeat….nothing! If your only pickle experience has been with someone named Vlasic or Heinz, you have a real treat in store.
I’ve made refrigerator pickles before, but I had so many cucumbers I knew I didn’t want to clutter up the fridge with all the jars.  It’s been a while since I did any canning or preserving, so I needed a little refresher course. I found it here at the Ball Canning website. With 125 years of canning and preserving under their belts, you can’t go wrong with their help.  And, those familiar glass jars are still made in America!
I still have my old enamalware  canning pot but I found everything else I needed in Snow’s housewares department.  You can get some of it in our online store too ( and  free shipping even on those heavy cases of jars!)

The recipe below is from the Ball website. Following the recipe is a really great video they put out that shows you the step by step method for water bath canning. The video is about canning tomatoes but the method is the same for most produce.
I may have retired the granny glasses and hung up the fringed vest long ago, but some traditions are worth the effort. There is something very satisfying in these fast paced days in enjoying “slow food”….. growing your food from seed to harvest to preserving and finally to sharing. I’m torn  about whether the great results are because of the freshness of the produce or if it’s the care and love that goes into each jar. Either way, canning your harvest is an easy way to reconnect with the past and provides your family with healthy, home grown goodness.

Bread & Butter Pickles
Makes 2 Quarts
You will need:

3 1/2 lbs pickling cucumbers (about 14 small to medium)
2 1/2 cups vinegar (5% acidity)
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup Ball® Bread & Butter Pickle Mix – Flex Batch
2 Ball® Quart (32 oz) Fresh Preserving jars with lids and bands
Directions:

1. PREPARE canner, jars, and lids according to manufacturer’s instructions.
2. CUT ends off cucumbers. Cut into 1/2 inch slices.
3. COMBINE vinegar, sugar, and Ball® Bread & Butter Pickle Mix in a medium saucepan. Heat to a boil.
4. PACK slices into jars. Ladle hot pickling liquid over slices leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rims. Center lids on jars. Apply bands and adjust to fingertip tight.
5. PROCESS in boiling water canner for 15 minutes. For best flavor, allow pickles to stand for 4-6 weeks.

 

Coming up Roses!

A Cape Cod Rose Ccovered cottage

When you  picture quintessential Cape Cod, visions of sand dunes, gentle bay breezes and  rose covered arbors come to mind. Ever since honeymooning on Nantucket in 1980, I’ve been in love with the look of rose covered cottages. After we moved here into our very own Cape Cod cottage , I didn’t waste any time  in planting all kinds of roses. Red, pink, yellow, rambling, climbing, bushes. I tried them all. But I couldn’t duplicate  the abundant cascades of color that I remembered from Nantucket. I would buy a healthy plant about to burst forth with  blooms, only to have it drop all its leaves within a few weeks. Or, I’d have a fast growing climber with healthy, bushy growth…of leaves, that is, not many blooms. Between the  diseases I couldn’t control, the wrong varieties I planted, and my less than knowledgeable pruning practices, my rose covered yard never quite fit the picture in my head. I figured that growing a successful rose garden was a skill that would remain elusive to me. Maybe that was the appeal of roses….the mystery of growing perfect blooms, known only to those who  know the secrets. I was convinced that I’d always suffer from rose arbor envy as I rode along Route 6A admiring other’s successes. Continue reading Coming up Roses!

Grow your own

I spent  a couple of days last week cleaning up the gardens from all the mess left behind by the winter storms ( and all the leaves I neglected to remove in the fall). Now comes the fun part…deciding what to plant! I have a small vegetable garden. It’s a 6×10 raised bed and I usually buy small plants from our Garden Center to plant in late May. Last year I grew some fantastic tomatoes that were started from seed by the garden experts in Snow’s own greenhouse. I do like the instant gratification of using transplants, but I thought I might try growing some plants myself from seed again. I say again, because I’ve been this route before but  haven’t had much success with  growing healthy plants from seed.

Continue reading Grow your own

Signs of Spring!

A sure sign of Spring....the first crocus emerges!

Spring is in the air. We all know what that means. Birds happily chirping after their long flight back north, and crocuses popping up through the last snows of winter.
The official first day of spring is  March 20th. The exact date, which is either March 20th or 21st, is dependant on the vernal equinox, which is when the sun sits directly above the equator. The word “equinox” comes from the Latin language, meaning equal nights. Some people believe that on equinox day, you can balance an egg on its end.
Some say that there is no Spring on Cape Cod, that the gray skies and cold, blustery months continue straight into the warmer weather in May. But if you take a look around, you’ll soon see some sure signs of Spring:

Continue reading Signs of Spring!

Feathered Friends

I was surprised to see a robin at my suet feeder this morning. First, because I thought they went south for the winter and it’s still January, and I thought robins were only ground feeders. So I asked one of the bird experts in our Garden Center. She told me that most robins stick around on Cape Cod feeding on winter berries and fruits. She said that they aren’t seed eaters but would love us to put out berries and other soft fruit such as apples or cherries. I put up bird feeders in winter with black oil sunflower seed. This leaves a lot of non-seed eating birds out in the cold. So, I was glad to hear that there is a way to keep my robins happy in the winter too! I once saw a flock of Bluebirds at my suet feeder in February!
The most common winter birds you’ll see include:
Continue reading Feathered Friends