Most expert gardeners will agree, that a top notch garden starts from the bottom up! Improving your gardens soil is the single most important factor in producing healthy, robot plants and increasing yields. Organically rich, loose soil, encourages a stronger root system, and improves drainage which in return, will help your plants to better utilize nutrients and water, while improving air movement. These are all vital ingredients for a healthy plant!

 One of the easiest ways to create and modify an ideal soil environment for your garden (and landscape beds), is to create raised beds. Raised beds will also make maintenance much easier in terms of watering and maintaining your beds. When planting in raised beds, you will be able to establish more plants in a smaller area opposed to planting in rows, in the ground. Raised beds will help reduce weeds and produce higher yields in a much smaller space!
The pH of your gardens soil is also important. Most vegetables and garden plants will perform well at a soil pH between 6.2 and 6.8. Most herbs will grow best in a soil pH of around 7.0. You can get a general idea of your soils pH by purchasing a do it yourself pH testing kit, or, take a soil sample to your local extension service. Proper soil drainage is one of the greatest causes of root rot and other root related diseases. The ideal soil will allow for some moisture retention, without staying saturated for long periods of time during heavy rains. To improve the quality of your garden soil, making your own compost is certainly an option. If limited time and convenience is a factor, you can purchase compost and composted manures from your local garden centers.

Planting mature plants will give your garden a head start to producing higher yields for the summer. Look for cultivars of plants that have some resistance to diseases. For tomato plants, look for varieties that are resistant to Fusarium wilt (F1&F2), Verticulum Wilt (VW), and root knot nematodes (RN). Some of the common leaf spot diseases such as Septoria leaf spots, can be minimized by simply removing the leaves with black spots before they infect others on the plant. One of the most damaging diseases to tomato plants in recent years is the tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV). This disease is spread from an insect called a thrip. In recent years, a few newer tomato plant varieties have been developed which have some resistance to this disease. Keep in mind that even if a plant claims to be resistant, it doesn’t mean that it is immune to s specific disease, only that it is less susceptible.

Take the time to start your garden on the right path this year- from the bottom up, and enjoy an amazing garden that will produce lots of edibles and wholesome fun!
Dick and Connie Hahn owners of the Freedom Lawns franchise in Wilmington, North Carolina were awarded the 2018 Golden Franchise Award during the company’s 2018 Annual Owners Meeting. Freedom Lawns of New Hanover exemplified a high level of dedication throughout the year along with great customer service and a great deal of integrity. Congratulations Dick and Connie on a job well done! We wish for you another successful year in 2019.
  Most of us think of the camellia as a winter blooming plant. The Sasanqua variety will bloom in late fall or early winter, and the Japonica blooms in mid-winter through early spring.

We know we can rely on our camellia to offer some much needed color to our landscape during a time of year when most other flowering shrubs have either entered dormancy or just stopped producing flowers for the year.

Well how would you like a camellia that will produce flowers from April – October and sporadically year-round? Camellia breeders have crossed a Camellia variety (Camellia Changii ) with certain species of azaleas. The new variety has a single red flower that may be more heat tolerant than traditional camellia. This variety is now available in some garden centers. 
The success of a new ornamental landscape plant to thrive and survive during the fist year after planting is often the result of proper or improper planting techniques.
Many plants that are purchased at the garden center or nursery have had quite a bit of stress put upon them. Field grown plants may have had a significant amount of their root system severed while digging them out for market. These plants are then taken from a familiar environment, and put into a totally different setting that may include a change in soil pH, soil structure, moisture, temperature change and other conditions.

First and foremost, get to know your plants likes and dislikes including shade, sun, soil type, moisture and fertilization requirements. The old saying “right plant in the right place” is extremely important to remember. Additionally, if you are planting a new landscape or redesigning an existing one, it is helpful to keep plants that have the same irrigation, fertilization, and other requirements in the same location. This will make the ongoing maintenance process just a little easier.
The time of year that you plant certain plant material is also very important. For example, palms and other more tropical plants such as Oleanders are best installed in the early spring after the last frost. This will offer the entire summer/growing season to establish and thrive. Most trees and shrubs can be planted in the fall or winter after they go into dormancy. Late fall and winter is also an excellent time of year to transplant
The old adage- “it is better to plant a $5.00 tree in a $10.00 hole then a $10.00 tree in a $5.00 whole is profound and very true!" If you have made an investment in a tree, shrub, flower, or any plant, you should take the time to insure that it is planted properly.
For maximum success with your new plants, you should dig the hole 1-1.5 feet wider then the root ball or the bare root system. The hole should be between 6 and 12 inches deeper then the root ball and 1-2 ft deeper if you are planting bare roots. The addition of organic mater such good nutrient reaches topsoil and some composted manure in combination with your native soil, will enhance drainage while providing a healthier environment for establishment.
A few of the more common planting problems we see, are plants that were placed too deep in the ground and/or the soil around the new plant is not packed down well around the root system. If the soil is not tamped down during installation, the roots may hit air pockets. This will result in the plant not being able to utilize water and nutrients from the soil and inevitably the decline of the plant.
Be sure that container grown or ball and burlap plants are placed 1”-2” above the soil grade, as the plant will settle. The watering schedule required during the first few weeks of establishment, will greatly depend upon the time of year, current weather conditions, soil condition and of course the plant type. During the dormant season, very little watering will be needed, if you are planting in the spring or summer, daily watering depending upon rainfall, may be needed.
Soon the sun will be shinning, birds will be chirping, flowers will be blooming, and as a result we will want our homes to exemplify the wonderful scenery outside. Here are a few simple and cheap ways you can shake off the winter blues in your home and lighten up the mood.

FLOWERS: Use what you have around you and refresh your home with an arrangement of flowers! Even if you aren’t the flower type succulents are a great way to add a little color as well.

 ACCENTS: Placing your favorite plates or tea cups on a white tablecloth can in of itself be art of its own. Adding candles that reflect the color of nature outside can also bring a spring like feel to your home.

REARRANGE: Use what you already have at home to reinvent a new space. This could be rearranging furniture and removing things that might not serve a purpose anymore such as area rugs that might clutter the room. Remove trinkets or knickknacks and put those blankets you used for winter away. Replace the knickknacks with fresh cut leaves and spring foliage. 
Beautiful, green, lush flora and fauna can do wonders for adding a feeling of warmth and comfort to your home. Some folks are intimidated with the thought of having to take care of a houseplant. Taking care of these house plants, however, just requires a little understanding of the plant and some common sense.

Selecting a house plant is similar to buying banana's in the grocery store! Look for a plant that has healthy looking foliage, no bruises. Avoid plants with yellow or chlorotic looking leaves, brown lesions or water soaked looking leaves. Watch for foliage that has been damaged mechanically in shipping or storage.

If you are purchasing house plants during a time of year when we have extreme temperature swings, (hot in summer, cold in winter), be sure that you do not expose your plants to these elements while transporting the plant to its new home. Some plants are very sensitive to excessive high or low temperatures. Be sure not to leave house plants in your vehicle for too long of a period as considerable damage may occur.

Just like you and I, your house plants will enjoy some nice weather and fresh air during the warmer days of the year. Keep in mind that plants must adapt gradually to a change in climate and environment. For example, tropical plants that have been indoors all winter may not be accustom to our intense summer sun. It would be wise to gradually increase the amount of sunlight each day. Contrary to that, if you decide to bring plants indoors for winter, you will want to bring them in a few hours each day until they have adjusted to their new environment. If your plants have been outdoors all summer, you may want to de-bug them with insecticidal soap or horticulture oil before moving them into your home! Some plants are truly creatures of habit and may be a little finicky if you move them to a new location. Be sure to make the transition to a new area of your home a slow process.

Ideal lighting is one of the most essential factors for house plant growth. The intensity, duration and the quality of the light will influence the health, beauty, and flower production of your plant. House plants are generally classified and labeled according to their light requirements. Consider the direction that the window or door will face when positioning your plant. A southern exposure will have the most intense sun, east and western exposures receive about 50% less, and northern exposures will receive only about 10% of a southern exposure. The length of daylight hours will also influence many house plants. For example, Christmas cactus and poinsettia will generally flower when we have shorter daylight periods as they are photosensitive type plants. Study your plant to find out what type of light will enable it to perform its peak!
Improper watering is probably the primary cause of a houseplant that looks peaked and eventually dies. Some people have difficulty determining when and how much to water their plants. The best gauge for determining the amount of available moisture in the soil, is to simply feel the soil with your index finger several inches below the soil surface every 4-5 days. If the soil feels moist, your plant has enough H 2 0 until you check it again a few days later. If the soil is dry, it is always best to pour the water until it starts to come out the bottom of the pot. (Be sure you have a drip pan underneath) . In most cases , it is better to error on the slightly dry side then to over water most plants.
Most houseplants will perform well in average household temperatures ranging from around 70-76 degrees. Cooler nighttime temperatures from
60-68 degrees will prompt flowering house plants to bloom, and enhance the quality and longevity of the blooming period. If possible always try to keep the nighttime temperature around 8-12 degrees cooler at night.
In general, most house plants will benefit from a complete fertilizer to improve health, vigor, and beauty. Fertilize more frequently (every 4-6 weeks) during the months when your plants growth habits are accelerating- from March- September with a complete, balanced fertilizer designed for houseplants. Check the label to make sure that the fertilizer has at least 20-30 percent slow release or water insoluble qualities. Some plants such as citrus, orchids, and palms would perform better if you fertilize them with a plant food that is specially designed for that plant!

Growing successful houseplants is really not as difficult as many folks think. Study your plant, and learn to understand what it likes and does not like. Once you figure out what environment and maintenance makes your plants happy, you will have house plants that will bring you pleasure for years to come! 
This is one of the most asked questions we hear from folks after heavy rains on compacted soils of poor drainage! This bluish green jelly looking goo is an algae that forms under certain environmental conditions. During warmer, dry periods this slimy algae will turn into a blackish crusty substance. When the wet conditions return, so too will the slime! Although a real eyesore when growing on lawns, Nostoc Algae has some beneficial properties. These algae’s have been used in the past as both a food source and a medicine and have recently been evaluated for pharmaceutical properties such as antibacterial, cholesterol regulators, and even as a cure for some cancers! 

But all these niceties won’t help you get rid of this gooey mess in your lawn! Unfortunately, Nostoc Algae can be very difficult to control. The most productive way to reduce the growth is to tweak the environment in which it is growing. This includes, reduction of water if possible, reducing compaction through core aeration, building up the area with lots of sand to improve drainage, and a light raking. Most chemical fungicides are ineffective. 
3 tbs light brown sugar
2 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 3- 4 pound boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of fat
2 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tbs tomato paste
6 potato buns
1 tsp crushed red pepper
salt and pepper

6 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar

  1. Combine 1 tablespoon brown sugar, the paprika, crushed red pepper, mustard powder, cumin, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Rub the spice mixture all over the pork.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet; add the pork and cook, turning, until browned on all sides, 5 minutes. Remove the pork and transfer to a plate; whisk 3/4 cup water into the drippings in the skillet. Transfer the liquid to a 5-to-6-quart slow cooker.
  3. Add the vinegar, tomato paste, the remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 2 cups water to the slow cooker and whisk to combine. Add the pork, cover and cook on low, 8 hours.
  4. Remove the pork and transfer to a cutting board. Strain the liquid into a saucepan, bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Season with salt. Roughly chop the pork and mix in a bowl with 1 cup of the reduced cooking liquid, and salt and vinegar to taste. Serve on buns with barbecue sauce and coleslaw.
Robot Vacuums have come a long way since the time they first came out. Since then they now have stronger suction, better edge-cleaning capabilities, and improved programming. After doing extensive research on the best robotic vacuums for the common American household we found that the iRobot Roomba 980 had the overall best rating.

Although the Roomba came out with the best rating it still might not be the best vacuum for your household. According to Consumer Reports, the iRobot Roomba 980 is excellent for both surface carpet cleaning and hardwood floor cleaning. The Roomba, however, does not have a remote control but you can schedule its cleaning times from an app and review its cleaning pattern after it’s finished. 

Price wise the Ecovacs Deebot M88 takes the cake. For under $300 you can have a vacuum that has an excellent rating on cleaning both hardwood floors and carpet. Deebot can be scheduled to clean at any time and comes with a remote.

The Eufy 30C is a very quiet vacuum and can be purchased for a little over $200 If you have an all hardwood floor home this is the vacuum for you as it earns an excellent rating for hardwood flooring. Eufy 30C is compatible with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa and can be programmed to start and stop. Before purchasing one of these think about your flooring (some are better on carpet, others on bare floors), the layout of your home and the type of debris your home produces like pet hair or kid spills.
Flowering plants are nature's aphrodisiac for alluring birds, butterflies and other wildlife into our gardens. As human beings, we tend to be drawn to the beauty and tranquility of colors and shapes of flowering plants. In nature, birds and butterflies are also drawn to the fragrance, nectar and texture of certain flowers. For example, tubular type flowers such bougainvilleas, Mandavillia, Fuchsias, and Brugmansia (angel trumpets), are very appealing to hummingbirds and butterflies. The tubular florets hold the sweet nectar at just the right angle for birds and butterflies to enjoy the flavor of some delicious nectar. Some flowers that are in the process or have gone to seed in late summer or fall, will also be a hearty entree for a hungry feathered friend. Butterflies and wild birds will be attracted to sweet smelling flowers with flat heads that provide a good landing area and perch, such as lantana, petunias, and daisies.

The growth habit and height of some plants will attract birds that tend to hang out in the same general type areas. For example, the seeds of tall sunflowers in the fall are a convenient food source for birds that are perched in tall trees. Although some birds may be attracted more to one color then another, most birds are more interested in the tasty seeds that may develop on the plant later in the growing season. Planting flowers that produce seed and creating an enjoyable environment for birds such as a bird bath or other water feature, will encourage bird activity into your landscapes. To make your landscape more inviting for birds, you might want to introduce some variety of flowers such as Purple Coneflowers, Coreopsis, Snapdragons, Viburnum, Larkspur and Zinnias.

Everyone loves to watch the antics of hummingbirds and there is nothing more enjoyable than creating a natural habitat to lure those hummers into your garden for some enjoyable (and inexpensive) entertainment! Hummingbirds are creatures of habit so you must train them early on to visit your garden in the early spring well before most of the flowers are in bloom. One way to attract some happy hummers early, is to tie bright red or orange ribbons in several areas of your yard and get the hummingbird feeders out in late February or March. Hummingbirds have virtually no sense of smell, however, they are attracted to bright colors and nectar producing plants. There are many perennial flowers that will not only perk up your garden year after year, but are also sure to lure the little hummers into your garden. A few of these plants include Foxgloves, Four O’clock, Buddleia (Butterfly bushes), Cardinal Flower, Canna Lilies, Honey Suckle, Lantana, Salvia ( red ), Trumpet Vine, and Perennial Hibiscus. There are also some annual flowers that you may want to introduce into your landscape. You can either plant them in containers or strategically place the pots in areas of your garden that are in a great location for viewing, or just plant them the ground. Annuals such as Shrimp plants, Fuchsia, Petunia, and Impatiens will encourage hummingbirds to hang out with you throughout the summer months. Many of these same flowers that attract hummingbirds will also be a magnet for butterflies.    
By Mark A. Tamn

One of my gardening passions includes the experimentation with different plant species and particularly, some of the newer plant varieties that are developed each year. When you go to your favorite garden center this spring, you will find some new and exciting flowering plant varieties to choose from. Most of the newly developed plants will provide great color and interest, as well as other fine qualities such as improved resistance to insects and disease, drought tolerance and even a longer blooming period.
Here are a few newer flowering plant varieties that will add great color, birds, and butterflies into your garden oasis. A new variety of Buddleia (butterfly bush) called Flutterby will produce brilliant peach colored blooms from early summer through frost. This new variety of butterfly bush will require full sun and would be a great choice for attracting hummers and of course, a variety of butterflies.
Would you like a brilliant red miniature rose that is cold tolerant and offers superior resistance to black spot disease? Try the new “Boogie Woogie" variety. Boogie Woogie is an ideal little plant for those sunny garden areas and is an excellent choice as a border plant. This plant is also a wonderful container selection for a sunny patio or porch area. Are you into roses but just don’t like dealing with those nasty thorns? Check out a new and unique variety called “Kew Gardens” rose. This medium size plant produces clusters of small, white flowers with a light-yellow center that actually resembles a hydrangea as much as a rose! This David Austin variety will reach about 5 feet at maturity, making it a great background or specimen rose for your garden.
Not into roses? Try a new Heuchera (Coral Bell) variety called “Cherry Cola" this great little border perennial flower with reddish brown foliage and cherry red flowers will entice hummingbirds into your garden year after year. Are you looking for a shade lowing plant that will flower in late winter? Try the new Hellebores variety called “Cinnamon Snow." Unlike other Hellebores verities, the pink and white flowers will produce longer blooming, outward facing flowers that will turn to burgundy with age. The Hellebores are ideal for perking up those boring shaded areas of your garden!
Everyone loves Coneflowers (Echinacea) and a new variety called “Snowcone" with its bright white petals is sure to brighten up boring areas of your landscape. Another very colorful variety of coneflower that should be released this year is called “Secret Desire “. The large multi color flower of pink and orange is sure to attract attention. Coneflowers will attract many species of butterflies, and are also very popular with the gold finch, Cardinals, and Blue jays!

Why not add a little motion and excitement to your landscape this year summer? Try some new, colorful flowering plants and “let the show begin!”
Bird seed mix
1 box gelatin
2 cups boiling water
Mixing bowl and spoon,
Cookie cutters
Tray covered in foil

  1. Before starting these DIY bird feeders I'd recommend getting all your supplies ready.
  2. Pour 2 cups boiling water into a bowl (adults only). Then pour an envelope of gelatin into the boiling water and stir until all the gelatin is dissolved. If you are letting kids help with this step you will need to supervise them very closely.
  3. Add a small amount of bird seed at a time and stir it slowly. Make sure all of the seeds are covered in the gelatin as this is what will help the bird feeders stick together.
  4. Place cookie cutters on top of tray with foil and using a spoon fill the cookie cutters with the homemade bird food mixture.
  5. Push a cut up straw through the mixture to create a whole for hanging when the feeders are dry.
  6. Place the tray full of feeders into the refrigerator for a few hours and then take them out and leave them overnight.
  7. Take your time pushing the feeders out of their molds.
  8. String a ribbon through the holes and tie a knot at the top of the ribbon. Now you are ready to hang your feeders!

Tell us why you like Freedom Lawns! If your submission is selected you will receive a $50.00 Freedom Lawns Visa gift card!
You will have 2 chances to win! That’s right- we will draw 2 winners for a $50.00 Visa Card and announce their names in our Summer edition of The Green Pages this summer.