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Bargain Shopping for Your Gardens
August 31, 2009

Tomorrow (Tuesday) we can mark another month off the calender.

Turn the page to September.

Can you hardly believe it?

Especially in the Great Lakes region where summer was almost non existent.

We did sneak in a couple of short trips or vacations, however.

The vegetables and annual gardens have suffered from the lack of heat this year.

Plants are smaller and production is down quite a bit.

Still, I am able to can some tomatoes and I have the dehydrator going as well.

Yes, canning and dehydrating is my job.

If you want to call it a job, I get a kick out of doing this every year.

It is like rewarding myself.

Fruits of my labors if you will and I've always enjoyed doing these things.

This time of year is always bitter sweet for me.

I get to enjoy veggies and hopefully the bloomers do well, but it also marks the beginning of the end, so to speak.

Growing and gardening wise I mean.

You see, I get more joy out of planting seeds and plants and watching them grow than o the produce they provide.

There is the joy and the challenge of watching your babies grow big and strong.

This past week did give us the chance to visit Lake Michigan a couple more times, and maybe our last for swimming.

Tuesday was one of those days where you allow yourself to get beat up by the big waves and have fun doing it.

I felt it the following day, but had fun.

Monday I was enjoying a nice swim when I spotted eight Piping plovers flying around and having fun.

I've never seen eight of these little birds before.

These 7 to 8 inch long shore birds are endangered in the Great Lakes and efforts are taken to protect nest sights in the spring.

Piping plovers nest on the sandy beaches and shores where many of their habitats have been destroyed and over run by humans and our toys.

The DNR will ask for volunteer nest sight sitters to keep predators and would be human activity away till the young can fledge.

Efforts are being made to protect habitats throughout the Upper Midwest and the Atlantic and Gulf coast as well.

For me to see a small flock, meant they were getting ready for migration as well.

Yes, the first part of the week was a joy for us.

Like much of the summer, the weather turned south and turned hard.

We received some well needed rain, but several days in the 60's sure made it feel like late September or early October.

The first of the month means it is time to deep clean the feeders again.

I choose the first of the month, as it is easy to remember for these tasks.

Well, no more dead Mourning doves in my yard this past week.

I was kind of hoping for something, just to get to the bottom of the issue.

Many of our birds like swallows have started the long trip south.

Birds that feed almost exclusively on insects need to get a jump before the weather turns cold and insects die and go dormant.

Seed eaters like Goldfinches are fewer this time of year at the feeders, but they do feed on bobbing sunflower heads and other flowering seed heads.

Juvenile finches fill the air right now with their feed me, feed me cry.

I love it, don't you?

The first of September, I also boost my hummingbird feeders from 4 parts water to 1 part sugar to 3 parts water to one part sugar.

I do this to help the Ruby-throated hummingbirds gain weight before the long migration.

Besides, much of nature's offerings are higher than 25% sugar in the plant nectar.

Yes, they must go from 1/10 of an ounce to 2/10 of an ounce before they take off.

For Ruby to double their weight for migration, they can use the boost.

Now I know that 4 parts to 1 is suggested, but it isn't written in stone and my hummers seem to appreciate the higher octane.

Especially when nature throws them a curve.

You may want to read

Feeding Hummingbirds and Migration South

This time of year also means 'Back to School' and specials :-)

Young readers like my friend Alex enjoy school.

My friend Harv can't wait for 'Back To School' ads to fade away, but like many of us, Harv enjoys a good bargain or sale.

But specials or sales aren't just on school stuff.

This time of year you can find all sorts of goodies for the yard and gardens too.

Most bargains are easy to find.

Some bargains however, require a bit of know how on your part.

I know I write on this subject every year and some of you can teach me a trick or two, but some things are worth repeating.

Not to mention readers come and go all the time.

So let's get back to school on how to shop for bargains and what to look for.

I'm parsimonious, most of my plants are deals and bargains if I didn't get them free.

Let's go.

Garden sales may continue for the next couple of months, maybe longer.

Chemicals and fertilizers are viable as long as they haven't gotten wet and liquids may need to avoid freezing to prevent altering chemical composits.

These are the easy sales and bargains.

The real deals may be found in the live plants.

It isn't simply in the price, it is in the plant and under the surface.

A bargain isn't a deal if the plant already had a death sentence.

Armed with some of these clues can aid you when looking for bargains.

Many garden centers and box stores have had some garden supplies and plants on sale for some time now.

Nothing like making room for winter gear when the thermometer still reads in the 80's and 90's for some of you.

Some garden centers and nurseries hold off on clearance pricing and rightfully so.

You see, for these locations, gardens and plants are their livelihood and they need to make profits and they typically care for their product much better than stores that push them in and out as fast as possible.

Even catalogs are having some sales.

Now I know I don't have to tell most of you (indeed many of you could tell me a thing or two I'm sure), but with so many new readers lately, Some things have to be repeated from time to time.

No matter..............

A bargain can be found.

It's not a bargain however, if they flower, shrub or tree dies on you before it ever has a chance.

Bargain plants may not look this good, but you can still find a deal.

If you know what to look for and what questions to ask, you can find some healthy plants.

You can also find some not so healthy plants that you just know you can nurse back to health.

What I like are the sick corners and bargain bins with mystery plants.

Don't you?

You know, plants that are marked way down because they look real bad.

Plants marked way down because the tag is missing (mystery plants).

Yes, you may know it is a columbine, phlox, day lily, etc. , but do you know what color it is or how tall it gets?

Sometimes the mysteries are cool and other times it may be a bust.

Sick plants may live or it may die, but for 25 cents or a dollar, it may be worth it for you.

I know it is for me.

Sometimes, you can even get prices reduced more if it is toward the end of season or down to the last couple of plants.

You may even get a reduced price if it is a healthy, full priced plant, but is the last one or two of that variety or species that is left.

Even garden centers want to clean up odds and ends.

You never know until you ask.

Here is something from my past experience as a shopper and someone that worked a garden center/nursery.

This technique works best at a location you typically shop and the workers know you.


And be friendly.

Many garden centers want to unload a straggler or two and you may want a bargain.

A win, win for all involved.

If you try this at location where they may not know you, you may be out of luck.

Some workers see you as a bottom feeder or a leach and wont budge.

Others may see you as a welcome sight and deal.

It may depend on the mood someone is in or your approach.

NEVER go in demanding.

Ask with a smile.

Always say please and thank you.

Learn the art of negotiating

Always be friendly and smile.

Sometimes real bargains can be had on bulk sales at the bargain table.

Can you buy 10 plants for a better deal etc.

I digress.

Bargains aren't bargains however, if the plant is beyond help.

You know, sick and dieing.

Here are some things to look for.

After they are done blooming, some perennials go through a die back or look really bad. If you know this, it is in your favor.

Example: Poppies can go through an almost complete die back and start fresh. In the mean time, they look awful and you just might get them for a song.

Some plants are cut back to just a green mound and others may show spent stalks and little else.

Start out by looking at the top of the plant.

Leaves with fungus or insect damage, I can live with.

Foliage can be cut back or treated.

You may even want to place certain plants in a contained area for now if possible.

Now go down to the surface.

How does the crown look?

Is it healthy looking or does it appear to be suffering from crown rot or other disease?

Pull the plant out of the pot.

You may have to squeeze the pot and gently pull.

If the plant come right out with little or no root system, put it back, this plant is more than likely a goner.

Now, you may know that a certain plant may re-root with proper care (some will).

Work the price down.

Most garden centers will allow you to pull plants and may even do it for you.

Just be sure to put the plants back in the pot proper when you are finished.

You are looking for a healthy root system and soil that smells like soil.

Healthy roots are whitish in color.

Plants in poor health will have brown or blackish colored roots and often the soil falls from the root system, exposing a dieing crown.

Soil should have an earthy smell, not like rotting seaweed.

In most cases, no matter what the top looks like, you can tell about the plants health by the root system.

If the clerk doesn't know this, work the price.

For trees and shrubs:

Look at the root system as well.

Pull the plant from the pot and look for healthy roots.

New and healthy feeder roots will also show a pink to white look.

Even when the foliage is changing colors and dropping this time of year.

Are there to many roots growing around the pot?

These roots, if not taken care of will cause girdling and eventually choke off and kill a otherwise healthy looking specimen.

Do you want to or do you have someone to take care of this issue and plant the tree for you.

Some garden centers will do this for a fee.

Is the tree or shrub planted above or below the crown line?

Always look for a tree that is planted above the crown (where the tree begins to flare) and do the same when you plant it.

Most shrubs can be planted below the crown as they branch off anyway.

Some centers will still offer a guarantee at the sale price for trees and shrubs.

Look for healthy foliage and bark.

This can be a chore, as plants are packed in tight where air can't circulate.

Not to mention night irrigation which is a big no for you.

Both promote fungus on nursery stock.

Canker will cause indentations and a smelly dark colored sap will eventually begin to ooze.

This tree will eventually die without treatment, but there is no cure, just yearly chemicals to keep it alive.

To much bark damage (scrapes, animal chewing etc.) can eventually kill off a tree or shrub.

Diseases can enter the wounds.

To much 'Cambium' (living material under the bark) damage will weaken a trunk or branch.

Do your homework and look for plants that are disease resistant.

This is where planting native can help big time.

Have your area prepared before you plant and keep them watered until the ground freezes or snow falls.

Even if the top has died back or the plant has lost its foliage, the roots are still alive and continue to grow and store energy.

This especially holds true for evergreens.

Where the ground freezes, put down a generous layer of mulch.

This not only holds in moisture, but helps prevent ground upheaval from freeze and thaws.

Some experts recommend to hold off on plant foods this time of year.

Still others suggest a light feeding of slow release food helps the root system, yet doesn't fool the plant into a growth spurt.

I suppose much depends on where you live and what you have had success with in the past.

I have been successful following both programs.

So much depends on the plant species and health, when it is planted, and so on.

One thing all expert agree on is to keep plants watered for the first year or until, they are established.

Even if the plant tag says drought resistant.

The plant isn't resistant until it is well established and deep, timely watering takes care of that.

One last thing to add.

Bargains are bargains if you have the proper place to plant them.

No matter how good of a bargain you just brought home, it will suffer if you plant it in the wrong location.

Shade plants need shade.

Sun plants need sun.

Some plants require little water while still others have some heavy water needs.

What about soil?

Acid, alkaline, clay, sand etc.

All of these needs must be looked into for a healthy plant.

Sure, you can amend your soil or individually water a spaceman, but who wants to go through that all the time.

Gardens are meant to be enjoyed and if you are Gardening For Wildlife, you will have like needs with like needs already.

A quick reminder for all:

Labor day is next week Monday for the United States and Canada,

So we can all enjoy Monday, Gardening For Wildlife will be published on Tuesday, September 8.

Thank You.

Well, it's time to fly for now.

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

True happiness is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.

Helen Keller (1880-1968)

I do enjoy Helen Keller's words.

Don't you?

A person stricken deaf and blind at a very young age, yet she found reasons to live.

She discovered a positive attitude and look at life.

Some of you have a handicap or you are like me and have a special needs loved one that depends on you totally.

Karen and I could've cursed God and gotten very angry, but through the grace of God, we found peace.

Sure our lives were forever changed that fateful night.

Yolanda's life was changed.

Through it all, we found an inner strength.

We know there is someone worse off.

We understand that others suffer loss.

We also are very thankful that we still have a child.


Though our lives have been altered and plans have been adjusted, Yolanda brings us joy and she spreads happiness where ever she goes.

Self gratification was put on hold, surrendered, given up.

Peace and happiness is now in the worthy cause of helping our girl.

We will never know what might have been for us.

We will never know what might have been for Yolanda.

Does this mean we don't have our moments?

By no means.

Only through love and faith have we continued our journey.

We do know that we are blessed to have her and this gives us happiness.

You may think that a better job, new house, or bigger boat will bring happiness.

And it may for a season.

But what then?

Still another house or boat?

When we serve others or a noble cause, we feel true gratification and happiness.

Volunteering at church.

Giving time to the needy.

Writing a newsletter.

Offering your experience to those that need it.

Going home with a smile knowing you did something nice and having that warm fuzzy in your tummy.

Going home knowing you have a home, a family and are better off than others.

Knowing you are blessed after all.

Helen Keller lived 88 years, more than 86 of those years she was blind and deaf.

Still, with help................................

She had a brain (a very good one at that).

She lived a full life as a world renowned author and lecturer.

Spending much of her time helping others and worthwhile causes.

Imagine what we can do when we apply our selves?

Imagine the life long happiness and gratification waiting for you when you help others.

It is one of God's universal laws <>.

You see...............

You do have something to smile about.

Even something as simple as sharing a smile can help others and you help yourself too.

Well my friend, that does it for this week.

Until next time.

"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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