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Bargain Plant Shopping
August 27, 2012

Akita (Keet) enjoying a good snooze.

Back by popular demand.


The past two weeks were a nice break for me.

Timely rains, and very comfortable temperatures during the day and great for sleeping at night.

We still have a few weeks of official summer left.

If the weather cooperates, that means a few weeks of fun in the sun.

The beach and swimming.

Playing in the flowers and whatever else I can think of.

Face it, Here in the north country, a 90 degree day doesn't feel as uncomfortable in late August as it does in July, when the sun is directly over head.

Yes, humidity becomes more of a factor, but it is still summer after all, and I'm not ready to mail it in just yet.

Pictures are from around here this past week.

The heron and deer were taken from the deck.

A couple of images are window shots and a couple I was blessed enough to snap with no obstructions.

I kind of like the hummer and the window feeder and the heron with its bill opened wide.

We did manage Lake Michigan (Holland State Park) this past week.

A birthday party Friday for a grandson that turned 5 and granddaughter that turned 2 this past week.

Birth dates are a day apart.

Hummingbird activity is the best it has been all season long.

Hummers at the feeders, in the flowers, at the same time with few squabbles so far.

(I need to carry my camera more often.)

House sparrows are the dominate bird at feeders right now :-(

There are a few Common grackles that continue to be a pest.

A sprinkling of Black-capped chickadees, Mourning doves, Northern cardinals and House finches.

Dabble in a White-breasted nuthatch, Tufted-titmouse and a Blue jay or two.

Of course, American goldfinches are every where right now (including fledglings).

Not to forget the Mallard ducks, if that counts.

Yes, not a wide selection this time of year for me.

Within the next few days, I will pump up my sugar water to a healthy 3 parts water to 1 part sugar.

I do this (and encourage you to do so as well) to help the little guys pack on some weight.

Hummers must double in size before migration begins if they hope to be successful.

A Ruby-Throated Hummingbird must go from 1/10 of and ounce to 2/10 of an ounce (double weight).

Anything less and the bird is already in danger before it ever heads south.

By increasing the octane to my sugar water, I help the birds gain weight so they can make it to your yards that are south of me.

My friends north of me, no worries here.

Your hummers will have a good feeding station when they stop by.

Next Weekend is a holiday weekend.

Labor Day Weekend.

Because of this, next week's newsletter will come to you on Tuesday, September 4Th.

There, now you can enjoy your holiday too.

For the experienced gardener, there are hidden treasures in many a beat up or sickly looking plant.

This holds true for the novice gardener as well, once you know what to look for.

Not only will you hunt the bargain bins, but look for plants and trees in the regular section that looks a bit tattered on top.

Bargain shopping.


Your annuals should be looking mighty fine, as they continue to grow and bloom.

Perennial gardens are looking good, though you may notice some die back from early bloomers.

Just when you think it is time to really sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor, it is time to go plant shopping.

Say What?

I know, Labor Day is around the corner.

There's back to school shopping.

And enjoying life.

It doesn't seem right, does it?

However, now is the time to start thinking about next year's gardens.

'Big Box Stores' and many garden centers have been marking things down for a few weeks now, to make room for other things or to reduce inventory.

For box stores, it is in and out and plant selection may already be poor at best.

Often However, this includes some Huge Discounts.

Garden centers and nurseries are slow to mark down most of the time.

And why not, it is their business, not a quick sale, but you can still find some "GREAT" deals at garden centers.

I should know, I used to be one of those guys marking things down and stocking the 'Bargain Bin'.

Okay, lets go shopping and let an expert assist you in what to look for.

You may need to read this a second time to get the jest of everything.

Happy Hunting.

Your at Wal-Mart, Meijer, Lowe's or some other box store.

You see a sign that reads perennials 50% off or this table only 75% off etc.

For the novice gardener, you may think "okay, there must be something wrong for them to offer it that cheap".

On further inspection, you may see browning leaves, or a plant that looks pretty beat up.

You walk away thinking you just saved yourself some cash.

Think Again.

The experienced gardener will say....

"Alright, I've been waiting for this. What goodies can I find today?"

What a deal you say to yourself and start grabbing this plant and that plant.

How can I go wrong if all I pay is $2.00 for a plant.

Better yet, look in bargain corners for some real deals.

25 cents a pot, let's take a closer look.

Above the potted soil, the plant shows just a little sign of life.

Pull the plant gently from the pot and the roots are strong, white, and growing.

Into my cart they go.

Sometimes you have to make room for new plants, and there isn't a gardener out there that I know of that isn't for ever rearranging, thinning, relocating or discarding plants.

If the plant doesn't make it, I'm good with that.

A vast majority of the time, your bargains thrive (when you know how to shop for them).

I've been in the gardening business longer than I care to remember.

Hopefully I've learned a thing or two and hope to share with you that have less experience.

When bargain shopping, expect some die back, or the plants looked rather healthy for this time of year.

Do the roots looked good?

Healthy, White, and Growing.

Does the soil mix smell like dirt, or does it have that rotting smell?

You want good smelling soil.

Is the crown healthy looking?

Even if a plant has all but completely died back, look to see if the crown looks in good shape.

Educating yourself on a plant's habits comes into play.

Often a healthy plant may look like it is on deaths door.

An example might be this:

Oriental poppies die back after bloom but will show new growth later this year. (Try selling a plant that looks like it is dying.)

Lupines are rather rough looking as well.

Many plants put so much effort into blooming that afterwards they look terrible for the rest of the season.

Monarda can look like 10 miles of bad road after blooming, but under the ground new roots and runners are growing for next year.

Penstemon, Stokosia and a host of perennials look like a bunch of beat up nothing after they bloom.

Is it a healthy plant or something the store is trying to get a fast buck for?

The best way to tell if a plant is healthy is to check below the surface.

To go under ground, you must take the pot and squeeze it all around.

Now, gently tip the pot over and remove the plant dirt and all from the pot.

Do you see some white or light colored roots growing around or do roots look black and shrinking?

Does the soil smell like soil or does it have a rotten smell.

What about the base or the crown of the plant? The crown is where growth emerges, if a crown is snapped or rotting, leave it alone.

Even if a plant is dying back for the year, there should be signs of a healthy crown. A crown that shows some green and swollen, full of life.

Plants like Monarda should show life throughout the pot as runners and roots are growing and pushing out from within.

A weak or sick plant may show signs of decay within the roots and the soil may have a nasty oder.

Poke around some more and you may find some newer white root growth and a healthy crown this is good.

You may also find a weak or rotting crown.

A bad crown means a bad plant, leave this one alone.

Dead and dying foliage.....................

This could be a normal cycle of the plant.

It could be the plant is going dormant or dying from lack of water.

It could be the plant has a disease or fungus.

Check out the root stock and the crown (I've seen healthy looking plants above, that end up dead within a few weeks because of dampening off roots issues).

Now check for any lesions, spots or other tell tale sign of a sickness.

The plant may have a clean bill of health.

It may have a simple fungus that is treat-able or something that may spread throughout (rarely the case).

Now you must decide if it is worth trying to save or the risk involved.

Most plant fungus are air borne and proper location, air circulation and watering habits all play a roll in a healthy plant.

I must tell you, I do take sick plants home and plant them in a quarantined area, because I enjoy the challenge.

I get a kick out of getting things to grow and live that might otherwise die.

I get a bigger kick out of planting things from seed and watching them grow.

If you have the what for to take on a sick plant. than by all means do so.


Here is a fun part of all of this.

Finding a sales clerk or someone to talk to.

"You know, this plant is really beat up."

"This plant has a disease."

"Look, the foliage is turning brown."

"What can you do for me on this plant?"

"If I buy all of these, what can you do for me?"

Sure, I would hear them all, and I even assist customers when it comes to bargain shopping.

Most garden centers don't mind if you take a plant out of the pot, as long as you return it to the same pot.

I have to keep an eye open at times, there are some people that try to switch pots and ID tags.

However, if I think a plant is going to a good home and it is a plant that can be marked down, I have no problem doing so.

A customer is happy, a plant has a new home and I felt like I did a good deed for the day.

What I am saying is don't be afraid to ask for a bigger discount, often you will get it, if you aren't too pushy.

You may have better luck at Box Stores when you point out these plants.

Most of the time, big stores want to unload the garden plants so they are willing to deal.

Garden centers want to work inventory down, but not to the point where there isn't anything.

Plants are their business.

Know body likes a pushy, know it all.

When you get your bargains home, lightly feed them with a low nitrogen food, to promote strong root growth (and few new leaves if the plant is still growing).

Foliage brings food to the roots and roots feed the foliage.

Dig the hole twice as wide and deep.

Amend if needed and do a back fill.

Fluff up or rough up the roots so they grow out, not around the potted clump.

Plant your plants where they will get some care and plant like needs with like needs (water, sun, shade etc.)

Ground water your plants when possible.

Just because a plant tag says drought tolerant, doesn't mean no water, all new plantings require water the first year.

Clip off any dead or sick foliage.

Do you need to use a fungicide, than do so to arrest the fungal growth.

If this sounds a bit confusing to you, feel free to ask me to explain it.

Well, its time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your thought for the week.

"Let everyone sweep in front of his own door and the whole world will be clean."

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Jesus has this to say.

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

Matthew 7:3-5 (NIV)

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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