By Cindy Cloninger
Like many of you, Autumn is one of my favorite times of year. I love the cool beautiful mornings and the absolutely perfect days. Living in the Wasatch mountains we are treated to colorful sunsets to awe and inspire. Autumn is the time of year where we gather with all those we love to enjoy good company, good food, and relish in all the joy that life brings.
But before you head indoors and get that turkey ready for the 50 people you care about most, take these easy steps and set your garden up for success in my next favorite season, spring.
There are 3 areas of focus you should keep in mind when preparing your garden for winter. First, cut back and clean up. Second, preparing and protecting against the harsh freezing winter temperatures. And the third is to think ahead to planning for early next spring.
Splitting the tasks in half, you can easily accomplish these steps in 2 days: a morning & afternoon each. So let’s get started
1 - Cutting back plants and trees & cleaning up your garden
Perennials and ornamental grasses should be cut back to the ground. Waiting until spring means new shoots will already be growing. Take advantage of these last few beautiful days to divide any perennials that have gotten too big. Early blooming daisies, phlox, poppies, and cora bells, as well as hostas and peonies will benefit from being thinned out.
This is the perfect time to start a compost pile if you don’t have one already. Add to it all of the spent plants in your vegetable garden and clippings from shrubs and leaves that have fallen.
Shrubs and Trees
Fall is a good time to prune trees and shrubs as foliage has already dropped. Pruning may be done in the fall or the spring. However, a word of caution, some studies show heavy November pruning negatively affects the trees ability to become winter hardy. So it may be best to lightly prune, fruit trees especially, and wait until early spring for more heavy pruning.
A quick pruning guide is to maintain a natural shape with shrubs, avoiding boxy or round shapes (unless that is what you are wanting). For fruit trees, you want to trim any down facing branches and create and open bowl shape, so that the branches have room and can support the weight of a plentiful harvest. For all other trees, remove any crossing, damaged, or dead branches, cutting back any overly long branches and shape in a more vertical direction.
2- Protecting your garden plants and soil against the freezing winter
You might think that worrying about watering has past. But Utah is one of the driest states in the nation, receiving an annual rainfall of just 13 inches. Because it can be most dry during the fall, your evergreens will suffer without regular water until the ground freezes. Local landscape architect, Laurie Van Zandt has the solution.
If the root ball is dry going into winter, evergreen trees and shrubs will struggle. To avoid this, after irrigation has been turned off, deep water pines, spruce, and fir every two weeks or so until the ground has frozen unless there is significant rainfall.
Newly planted trees and shrubs are especially vulnerable. It is a good idea to incorporate some compost, dry leaves, and wool pellets into your soil. Who wouldn’t want a nice covering of wool to cozy up to in the cold, freezing nights? While holding necessary water and creating space for roots, wool pellets give a slow release fertilizer that will help your plants in the spring. Say goodbye to slugs and snails with these microscopic razor barbed wool fibers. Adding a 2 inch layer of compost (we recommend Terra Zest) at season's end creates an additional barrier to weeds while contributing to the overall softening of your soil.
I probably don’t have to tell you how cold it gets during the long winter months. So bring in potted plants that will have the additional struggle to stay warm. If you have planted warmer climate perennial bulbs and tubers, now is the time to dig those up, cover them in sawdust or wood chips (making sure they are pest free) and store them in the garage. Wrap sensitive plants in burlap for extra protection.
Additionally, you can add wood chips, mulch, and potting soil to pots and at the base of plants. Spreading wood & bark mulches are inexpensive, help temperature, and look good. Over time, mulches made from organic materials break down and increase your soil's structure and fertility. We suggest adding a 2-3 inch layer thinning it out around the base of trees.
With inconsistent snowfall and temperatures ranges during winter, snow will pile up and then melt, successively. This adds to the deterioration of the soil and can leave roots exposed. This is known as ‘frost heaving’. Regularly check on and add evergreen boughs, pine needles, and pest free straw as covering for roots. This will ensure consistently cold soil temperatures even during a winter thaw.
As you're enjoying a holiday feast with loved ones indoors, your garden may be the object of feasting for hungry animals through the winter months. Deer, elk, moose, rabbits, and voles are common winter month munchers. Wrap trees and shrubs in hardware cloth, wrapping around, but not touching the trunk. The ideal height should be at least 4 feet and several inches into the ground to cover larger and ground animals.
3- Planning for Spring
During fall and winter, our thoughts turn to preparing the indoors for cool temperatures and the richness of family gatherings and holidays. But, we should also be thinking of next spring. Wait...next spring?!?! Yep, you heard right, next spring. If we want the gorgeous garden and flowerbeds in spring and summer we need to prepare our soil for winter right now.
Before the ground freezes in autumn, plant those early flowering bulbs. Tulips, crocus’, allium, hyacinths, and the deer resistant daffodils are a beautiful sight flowering in garden beds in early spring. Pansies and violets may also be planted in late fall, they will overwinter and bloom as soon as the snow melts. With so many new varieties now available you can have a wonder of color come spring.
Add a layer of organic matter to your garden soil that will break down over the winter months and provide that micronutrient rich planting environment for your favorite vegetables. A 2 inch layer of organic matter mixed in will soften the soil adding to the overall soil health.
Lastly, in putting our garden to bed and preparing for spring, we have our garden tools and structures. Drain hoses and store flat. Sharpen any tools and disinfect tools and pots. With all the foliage gone, now is a good time to look at the landscape architecture and design of your space. Rock walls, water features, and other pieces can add dimension and shape your entire garden. Reflect on the consistency of blooms and growth throughout the growing season and plan to fill in the holes and gaps.
Keep watching for our upcoming series and perfect planning guide for your flower beds and vegetable garden.
Now that you’ve soaked up those precious rays of Vitamin D, your garden is looking great, and even better it is ready for winter. Go enjoy evenings that are filled with crisp, cool air, and football games. Soak up skies that are awe inspiring with sunsets in oranges, reds, and purples. And treasure watching the landscape change from autumn hues to winter whites with your loved ones and a cup of cocoa.
Virtual Assistant, blog manager, email & social media marketing assistant, web development. I enjoy hiking, fresh fruits & veggies, planting flowers, cooking great meals. But I love being a wife and mother the most. When I'm not doing all of those, I love to read and try new things. No matter the forecast, live like it's spring.
UTAH STORIES DID THIS GREAT ARTCLE TELLING OUR STORY......
In an emerald-green valley in Croydon, Utah, tucked away in Morgan County like a well-kept secret, lies Albert Wilde’s farm. Albert produces a unique product, one that is growing in popularity with gardeners and farmers as it becomes more available and more familiar--sheep pellets. No, not that kind of sheep pellets. Albert’s pellets are made of wool.
Albert is revolutionizing the fertilizer industry by taking a worthless byproduct and turning it into something that has real value. “Most of the wool we produce is good wool,” Albert states, “but black wool [the term for dirty wool] is no good. People don’t want it.” Whereas good wool is used to make clothing, black wool gets thrown away and wasted. But Albert is changing that.
There is nothing quite like a fresh slice of tomato from your own garden. Tomato varieties in stores are usually chosen for how well they ship and shelf life. Varieties grown at home have bold and satisfying flavors. There are at least 10,000 varieties of tomatoes. Over 60 million tons of tomatoes are produced each year, making it the world’s most popular fruit and one you should definitely grow at home.
One of the easiest ways you can add tomatoes to your harvest no matter your local is to grow them in a container.
Here are 6 tips for growing tomatoes in a container.
From the Ground Up
1. Select the right container:
Use a big container, 1 plant in a 5 gallon bucket is ideal. Use a container with an 18in - 24in diameter to ensure space for full grown seedlings. You may also want to consider a self watering container.
Make sure you have adequate drainage and fill your container with a nutrient rich compost. We like Terra Zest, a premium blend of manure, sawdust, and hydroscopic fiber (wool). Terra Zest is free from chemicals and will help maintain the moisture in your soil and release a slow fertilizer to your tomatoes.
3. Plant Deep
When planting tomatoes, you want the roots to grow deeply shooting out from the main stalk. For this reason plant your tomato starts deeply, cover two-thirds of the tomato stem, removing all leaves below the soil line.
Moving on up - Water & Sunshine
4. Water the key to success
Plants take up and use water more efficiently in the morning. water the soil, not the plants as wet leaves can encourage blight and fungus. The goal is to have the soil moist, not wet. This requires daily watering, sometimes twice daily on hot summer days. Going too long in between watering and then overwatering can cause cracks in your tomatoes. Be sure to move them to a drier location if you getting a lot of rain. You can also use a self watering container to make things easier.
5. Sunshine that makes a difference
Tomatoes should get a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight but 8 hours is better.
6. Select the best variety
Pick the best variety type
Vanessa Myers of Western Garden Centers offers these great tips when considering tomato varieties.
General types of tomatoes include:
Finally, they will be labeled as either hybrid or heirloom. If a plant is hybrid, it is the result of crossing other varieties. They are not likely to retain their desired characteristics if you try to save the seeds for the next year, and they may even be sterile. In contrast, you can collect seeds from heirlooms because they do generally keep the same genetics in their seeds.
Try Terra Zest Today!
Did you know that plants can absorb nutrients 10 times more efficiently through their leaf surfaces than through their roots? There’s a great way to utilize this aspect in nature and reap the benefits. Compost Tea.
Spraying foliage with Super Compost Tea can produce remarkable yields.
We all know that adding compost to flower beds, lawns, and gardens are beneficial. The organic matter improves soil quality and gives plant much needed nutrients. However, it is the billions of living organisms that are found in the forms of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes and other micro and macro soil organisms that do the work of unlocking the minerals and nutrients that are needed.
Components that make up Compost Tea
Compost tea is a liquid derived from high quality compost. Beneficial fungi, protozoa, bacteria, and nematodes along with other micro and macro organisms are extracted from the compost by a process of brewing a small amount of compost and water. They are then added to more water, the high oxygen content in water causes the reproduction of these organisms to explode. This results in a larger culture containing liquid of the original compost microorganisms.
To make a good compost tea, you have to start with quality ingredients at every level.
Benefits of Compost Tea
Wild Valley Farms Super Compost tea has beneficial bacteria and fungi suspended in a water form that makes them quickly available to your plants. This can be applied through spraying the plant itself or drenching the soil around it.
By adding compost tea to your plants and soil, the benefits of quality compost go much further.
How to Use
For best results, spray plants especially after transplanting, and during blooming time and just after fruit sets.
Wild Valley Farms Super Compost Tea comes in 32 oz concentrate bottles or 300 gallon bulk tanks.
We’ve all seen it. Hard, dense, compacted soil. Not only is this difficult if not nearly impossible to dig in, it can create a host of other problems for growing plants in your garden. Ideally, water will absorb through your soil to a depth of about 6 inches. This doesn’t happen in hardened soils, water will take the path of least resistance and you’ll end up with run off, puddles, and a water depth of only a couple of inches. This makes for thirsty plants and muddy messes.
What we want is rich, dark, nutrient rich soil that has organic matter, aeration, and porosity. Soil like this allows for deep root growth and ideal environment for your plants. So how do you get from one to the other?
The Solution: Organic Matter!
Organic matter consists of the decaying remains of plants and animals. Examples of these include: leaves, manure, bark, grass clipping, and compost. Some of these organic materials will work better and faster at softening your soil, the best is a good compost. Adding compost will soften your soil and improve soil structure, compost also adds nutrients to your soil that your plants need. Compost does a good job of binding clay particles together (better than gypsum). This results in improved drainage and aeration as well as softer and lighter soil. It also increases the soil's fertility while creating a friendly environment for beneficial soil microbes and earthworms.
Compost is considered a soil conditioner, rather than a fertilizer, but it can retain and make existing nutrients more readily available to plants.
Another solution to soften your soil and create oxygen space in your soil is by adding wool pellets. Wool Pellets not only provide water holding in your soil, but they create oxygen space for root expansion that will help your plants be hardy and strong. Wool Pellets are able to hold 20X their weight in water helping to reduce the times you water. By holding water they can wick away extra water, protecting your plants from over watering. Wool pellets expand with water helping to increase porosity in the soil for optimal root growth.
Our signature Soft Soil is the perfect blend of the highest quality top soil and our premium organic and all natural Terra Zest. Terra Zest is a special blend of manure, sawdust. Soft Soil is great for raised bed gardens or for adding 2-3 inches of nice soft soil to flower beds, garden plots, or lawns. Soft Soil really is the soil of your dreams!
Why miss an opportunity to increase your soil's fertility and nutrients for growing? Soil that has Terra Zest and wool pellets regularly added to it becomes rich, dark, and wonderfully crumbly and often requires less fertilizer.
Don't expect overnight results. Because plants, microbes, and earthworms break down organic matter, you'll need to add more next year. But eventually, you'll have that rich, soft soil you've always dreamed about.
You’ve weeded, planted your annuals and bulbs, trimmed and pruned your roses, and laid a layer of mulch only to see it fade gray to nearly white in the first season. Why is it that some mulches can fade so fast? And is there a way to ensure you are purchasing mulch that will last longer than the first few months after purchase?
Benefits of Mulch
Spreading mulch over your garden soil is the best way to save time and energy in your yard. Mulch helps regulate soil temperature in addition to helping the soil hold moisture so you don't have to water as often. It also suppresses weeds. And over time, mulches made from organic materials break down and increase your soil's structure and fertility.
Our premium colored mulch is an environmentally safe product that conserves water and suppresses weeds all while protecting your plants from extreme temperatures.
How Mulch is Made?
Colored mulch is made through a multi-step, technical process.
Step 1: Recycled and wood waste are passed through grinders at a processing facility, creating smaller wood fibers, or bare mulch. Most of the wood at Wild Valley Farms has been recycled three or four times before we recycle it into beautiful colored mulch.
Wood is placed in the kiln for drying. The timber of living trees and freshly felled logs contains a large amount of water.
A wood drying kiln is an enclosed space where air speed, temperature and humidity are controlled. The benefit of kiln drying the timber is that it is dried in a controlled environment, has rigorous testing, and is extremely quick giving a higher quality end product. Kiln drying offers several benefits with respect to preventing lumber degrade ensuring long lasting and slow decomposition. It’s lighter texture and weight helps prevent soil compaction. Moreover, kiln dried lumber is stronger (over 2x) and stiffer (nearly 2x) than green lumber so it will stand up to weather exposure. Bugs and insects are also killed during the drying process making for a pest and pathogen free product.
The mulch enters a coloring system, whereby ultra-concentrated, environmentally safe colorant is mixed with water and applied to the wood fibers
The colorant completely encapsulates the wood, ensuring maximum adherence and UV protection
Natural Organic woods will fade quickly. Weather extremes and sunlight exposure play a part in the discoloration.
Starting with the cleanest and the finest quality wood product ensures the best outcome. Wild Valley Farms premium colored mulch is produced using the cleanest and the finest quality wood chips available. By combining kiln and air dried hardwood and softwood lumbers, and using only the highest quality colorants, we are able to produce a consistent, long lasting, weed and bug free product that is safe for use around your home and garden as well as children and pets.
Types and Colors of Wood Mulch
There are several options available in type and colors of mulch on the market. Most are tailored to give homeowners and business’ the flexibility to tailor the landscaping to individual preference. There is much debate and opinion that varies wildly regarding such.
Wood mulch is most often categorized by type of wood, size of chips, and coloring.
Common hardwoods and barks used are: Aspen, pine, cedar, cypress, and fur.
Chips & Nuggets
How Much to Use & When to Apply
Wood & bark mulches are inexpensive, help soil moisture and temperature and look good. They break down over time adding more organic matter to your soil improving the soil structure overall. Mulch needs to be reapplied yearly to maintain the optimal depth of 2 to 3 inches. Keep in mind that this depth needs to be reduced around the base of trees and must not cover the root base to prevent rot. It is best to add a layer of mulch in the fall to protect plants in the harsh winter and spruce up look of lawn in fading summer. Spread mulch in early spring to prevent weed growth and enrich the look of your landscape.
Wild Valley Farms premium colored mulch is produced using the cleanest and the finest quality wood chips available. By combining kiln and air dried hardwood and softwood lumbers, and using only the highest quality colorants, we are able to produce a consistent, long lasting, weed and bug free product that is safe for use around your home and garden as well as children and pets. Wild Valley Farms Mulches will last longer saving you time and money while maintaining the look you want.
A habit of adding compost to your soil has many benefits, but understanding how it works and what makes up the best type of compost can be confusing. Here’s a breakdown of the some of the benefits of using compost, what composts are made up from, and the different types available.
What is Compost?
Composting is decomposed organic material derived from 2 main components: "Greens” & “Browns”. It is made up from the layering, mixing- to provide oxygen for microorganisms to breath and break down the materials, and heating over time to kill seeds and pathogens of these two component categories.
Benefits of Using Compost
Studies show that using compost improves color, helps tomatoes and other plants stand up to common diseases. While considered a soil conditioner rather than a fertilizer, compost helps feed soil with a slow release of beneficial nutrients over time. It is best to add compost to soil each year to improve the overall soil structure. Compost also helps soil to retain moisture. Our Terra Zest is mixed with wool for an added benefit. Try adding wool pellets in with your soil for the added benefits of water retention, porosity, more nutrients and slug & snail control.
What are a the differences in compost?
The main difference in any compost is feedstock or the materials that you start with. You need "Greens" and "Browns" or Nitrogen and Carbon, there are many different sources of "Greens" or Nitrogen.
Common Nitrogen sources include:
With all compost the feedstock should be mixed at about 30:1 ratio, Carbon to Nitrogen then "cooked" and turned for about 6 months.
Why miss an opportunity to increase your soil's fertility and nutrients for growing? Soil that has compost regularly added to it becomes rich, dark, and wonderfully crumbly and often requires less fertilizer.
Wild Valley Farms premium organic and all natural TERRA ZEST is a special blend of manure, sawdust, and hydroscopic fiber (wool). We combine these products carefully to ensure your plants, lawn, trees or garden vegetables can get the full nutritional value needed for root development. Our premium Terra Zest will help your soil retain moisture and works as a slow release fertilizer that lasts all year long, unlike chemical fertilizers that only last for a few weeks, and our Terra Zest won’t burn your lawn or plants. It is safe for use around children or pets immediately after use. Screened through a 1/4 inch screen so no trash, big rocks, or other garbage.
We sell our premium Terra Zest and Golf Course blends by the cubic yard in bulk truck loads and in 1 & 2 yard tote bags. One cubic yard is about a pick up load and will cover about 162 sqft 2 inches deep.
Will this plant survive in my area? We've all asked this question before. Here is an explanation of US Plant Zones that can help. The Morgan area where we're located is a Zone 5, while most of Utah is a Zone 6.
Check out this interactive map to find out which Zone you live in. Just type in your zip code.
The terms ‘mulch’ and compost’ are often used interchangeably and there is some confusion about what each is and the differences between the two. Many are confused about when and where to use them. In this article we’ll cover these questions and give you a better understanding about when, where, and how to use compost and mulch in your garden and flowerbeds.
What is Mulch?
Mulch can be any matter, organic or inorganic, that you put down on top of your soil. Materials used for mulch include everything from crushed rock and plastic sheeting to wood chips, discarded newspapers, pine straw, grass clippings, leaves, and straw.
Uses & Benefits of Mulch
Cautions for Mulch
Most Mulch is made from ground up wood. It is important to note that green waste Mulch can introduce pathogens or disease. Green waste mulch or mulch made from chipped up trees should also be composted. Sometimes people will take chipped green wood from a tree taken down in their yard and use the chips as mulch this practice many times introduces pathogens to new trees or other plants.
At Wild Valley Farms, our products are kiln dried so the color last longer and no pathogens. Take a look a our mulch here.
What is Compost?
Uses & Benefits of Compost
Adding compost improves soil structure. Compost is considered a soil conditioner, rather than a fertilizer, but more importantly, it can retain and make existing nutrients more readily available to plants.
Our premium organic and all natural Terra Zest is a special blend of manure, sawdust, and hydroscopic fiber (wool). We combine these products carefully to ensure your plants, lawn, trees or garden vegetables can get the full nutritional value needed for root development. Our premium Terra Zest will help your soil retain moisture and works as a slow release fertilizer that lasts all year long, unlike chemical fertilizers that only last for a few weeks, and our Terra Zest won’t burn your lawn or plants. It is safe for use around children or pets immediately after use.
It is screened to remove any debris, then carefully tested to make a uniform product for you and your customers.
Compost can be blended in with existing soil prior to planting, added to containers and spread on top.
Cautions for Compost
Manures that aren't composted usually are high in salts which can burn your plants, manures can also introduce weeds into your gardens. Dried manure is not compost!
Manures with some bedding(sawdust or straw) material but that is not turned or doesn't have the right moisture will be full of pathogens(diseases) that can harm or kill plants.
Green waste mulch or mulch made from chipped up trees should also be composted. Sometimes people will take chipped green wood from a tree taken down in their yard and use the chips as mulch this practice many times introduces pathogens to new trees or other plants.
Landfill compost can be really cheap and it is usually composted well, however landfill compost can be really dangerous to add to your garden or yard. Because there is no control of what is in the feed stock materials. If someone takes their grass clipping from their yard and have used "Weed and Feed" in the last two year that broadleaf killer will still be there and can kill your garden plants. Landfill compost many times will have heavy metals and broadleaf killer residue which is why nurseries will not sell landfill compost.
Learn more about compost in our article Are There Differences in Compost and What are They?