How to Keep Carved Pumpkins Fresh?

Halloween only comes once a year, but the excitement and anticipation that precedes it (known as “Halloween Season”) lasts months—from the start of September when pumpkin spiced everything begins hitting the shelves to Halloween’s Eve (and, for those of us who get serious post-Halloween depression, weeks after that). When Halloween anticipation strikes, quintessential Halloween activities like pumpkin carving just can’t wait. Last year, my family carved their pumpkins on the first week of October. In Southwest Virginia, that means those pumpkins had three weeks of sitting in eighty degree heat before the fated holiday arrived. At the time, we didn’t know of any surefire ways to preserve carved pumpkins, so, by the end of October, our works of art were basically mush. Since then, I’ve looked up a few tricks to ensure that, this year, our pumpkins still look fabulous in time for Halloween. Though, I have to admit, all those mounds of slimy pumpkin goop certainly scared the neighborhood kids.

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Why Build a Company Garden?

Employee happiness is integral to building a great business. Studies show that happy employees are more productive and, on average, produce higher quality work. Accordingly, influential companies have orchestrated a number of initiatives designed solely to increase employee happiness—from happy hour at the office to conferences at Disney World. Today’s employees want to see that the time and labor they put into their jobs comes with benefits that improve their quality of life, especially as employee wages stagnate and the amount of time they spend at work increases.  Being able to have a cocktail in the afternoon, wear jeans on the job, or enjoy a complimentary gym membership can somewhat mollify the modern woes of employment (though a raise would certainly be better than a gin and tonic).

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Winterizing Your Garden

It’s not yet time to brace for impending frost and snowfall, but gardening is all about looking forward. While we enjoy what’s left of sunny, warm days and summer’s late greenery, we can also plan for what’s ahead. In Southwest Virginia, winter tends to sneak into focus, and it is not unusual for first frost to come sandwiched in-between unseasonable heat waves. Thus, it may be hard to pick an exactly right time to winterize your garden (or your irrigation system, for that matter). But, whenever you chose to make the leap, here are some tried and true tips to remember.

Winter Garden

Photo by Amanda Slater

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How Warm Weather Effects Fall Plants

It may technically be autumn, but fall weather has yet to come. For now, southerners are still sweltering in a heat wave that feels indistinguishable from the ones we experienced this past summer. Late season warmth can be frustrating to fans of fall. When Sunday football plays on every television and plastic pumpkins line the aisles of supermarkets, ninety degree days feel somewhat out of place. This frustration is only compounded by the stubbornness of native plants, almost all of which have yet to develop their bright and beautiful fall colors. Trees and shrubs are even more sensitive to weather changes than people are. When fall weather stays hot, plants respond accordingly. Here’s how the effect breaks down:

Fall Colors

Fall colors in Staunton, VA.

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Straw Bale Gardening

There’s no shortage of straw bales in Southwest Virginia, which is good news for fans of organic gardening. Though not used as frequently as compost or fertilizer, straw bales can help rectify problems associated with nutrient-poor soil. With a little conditioning, straw bales work as organic raised beds that help feed and fortify plants with minimal effort on the part of the gardener. Plus, straw bale plant beds fit perfectly into fall garden designs—just add a couple of pumpkins and some hot apple cider!

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The Dish on Deer Resistant Plants

When our horticulturist Mark creates landscaping design plans, he always takes environmental factors into account. During the planning process, he examines soil conditions, common weather patterns, existing flora, and the insects and critters that frequent the area in order to create a holistic, fully integrated design plan. Frequently, his clients voice concerns about the level of deer activity around their property. Deer, as all homeowners know, can be a constant source of frustration when it comes to lawns and landscapes. Their appetite is voracious, and they’re agile enough to get into just about anything. For properties plagued by deer, Mark has a go-to list of deer resistant plants that make beautiful landscapes hardier in the wake of deer season. Here’s the dish on some of his favorites:

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September Gardening Tips

September is a month of transitions. Summer transitions into fall and the days grow ever-shorter and a bit chillier. Accordingly, plants prepare for the winter ahead. Your garden needs special care as summer ends to ensure the next season will be a good one. Follow these tips and begin Autumn with fresh feet:

September Garden

Photo by David Ohmer.

Plant Trees and Shrubs

Now is the best time of year to plant new trees and shrubs! A healthy tree starts with good bed preparation, so be sure to get your beds started early and water plentifully after planting. September in the south tends to be dry as bone!

Plant Early Spring Flowers

Bulbs for flowers that bloom in early spring can be planted now. For late spring flowers or cool weather annuals, wait until after first frost when the days are consistently cool. It’s too warm still to prepare flowers like pansies and tulips.

Replenish Mulch

As we said, September is usually dry. Arid, hot days this late in the season can be stressful for plants. Reapply mulch to beds and around trees and shrubs. A fresh layer of mulch will help protect plant roots from heat and aid in moisture retention.

Tend Your Lawn

Until cold weather settles in to stay, continue mowing your lawn weekly to around 3 inches. Cutting too short could leave grass vulnerable to brown spot and other diseases. Likewise, continue spraying or pulling weeds and checking regularly for pests.

Deadhead and Prune

Deadhead annuals, perennials, and rose bushes, and continue to prune trees and shrubs. Remove all dead or dying growth and clear your lawn of clippings and waste.

Aerate and Seed Lawn

It’s aeration season! Aerate first and then seed and fertilize. Lawn aerators can be rented from hardware stores for cheap, or you can hire professionals (like the Roanoke Landscapes team) to aerate for you. After aeration and seeding is done, fertilize once a month throughout winter.

Bring House Plants Back Inside

If you took your house plants out last spring for some fresh air, now is the time to move them back indoors, where they’ll be safe from any surprise frosts or mercurial weather incidents. Before moving them inside, check under their leaves and flowers for signs of pest damage and remove any dead growth. Next spring, you can repot them.

Watch For Critters!

If anyone loves fall in the beautiful blue ridge more than we do, it’s the deer. You’ve probably already begun to notice these adorable but destructive critters roaming around your neighborhood in search of yummy fall vegetables and flowers. Stocking up on deer pellets or pepper paste will help keep your garden safe from the onslaught.

Hurricane-Proof Landscaping

Most Appalachians think little about the threat of hurricanes. Here, far inland in the mountains, a few days of residual rain and thunderstorms are the extent of our trouble with tropical storms. However, in southern coastal regions of the United States, hurricanes cause millions of dollars of damage every year. Torrential downpours bring devastating floods; roofs, trees, and power lines are easily felled by storm winds; and thousands of homes are destroyed by the siege. In these regions, the threat of storm damage influences the way almost everything is built and maintained. Even landscapers are tasked with creating landscapes that can hold their own against tempestuous weather. This is a difficult task, and, certainly, creating a landscape that is totally hurricane-proof is nearly impossible. But there are a number of tactics landscapers can employ to ensure that their landscapes are more durable and safe, even in the face of natural disaster.

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The Importance of Green Spaces

When it comes to building cities, how to get the most out of a relatively small amount of space is a constant challenge. Developers and urban planners are tasked with striking a balance between the needs of businesses, homeowners, and the city at large. But too much development can create problems. Urban planners have long known that successful cities provide residents and visitors not just with shops, homes, and services, but also with ample open space, now known as “green space.” Gardens, parks, and other lush, green attractions make humans happier, especially amidst the constant bustle of city-life. They provide refuge from rampant development and industry, and create space for leisure and relaxation. Green spaces also serve to remind urbanites about the importance of environmental preservation. If we lived in a world without grass, tress, flowers, and open, undeveloped space, our daily lives would be much bleaker. The aesthetic beauty of a green space—in addition to the psychological, emotional, and physical benefits it provides—make cities more livable, enjoyable, and cherished by their residents.

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Retaining Walls: An Expert Design Element

In a previous post, we detailed the practical benefits of having a retaining wall installed. These practical benefits—erosion control, creating more spacious yards, and flattening pesky hills—are enough to convince many homeowners that a retaining wall is worth the investment. However, retaining walls are more than just practical; they also create innovative aesthetic beauty by adding unique shapes and textures to otherwise flat and dull landscapes. As seen from the street, a landscape that includes varied shape and form is much more striking than a flat landscape. Retaining walls are a simple (but endlessly customizable) way to add interest.

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