Bargains and Newcomers

08/27/2011 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener Garden Tools & Supplies, Tips

It’s no secret the local economy is in a slump, but for garden centers it’s not entirely bad news. Part of the fallout from the financial situation is that the increase in food prices has caused a surge of interest in vegetable gardens. As a garden center owner I’ve never seen anything like the past two seasons where sales have more than doubled for any plants that are edible! This goes for fruiting trees, grapes, berries, herbs, and all vegetables.

Another result of this economic downturn is the effect on the foreclosure and short sale real estate markets. Mountain homes that sat idle for years while banks decided to lower prices are affordable again so we are seeing people from all over the country snap up our local realty deals. In addition to folks from California we now have new homeowners from Idaho, Illinois, Ohio, even from Maine who are trying to figure out mountain gardening.

The tree and shrubs from the foreclosed and short sale homes have been neglected so long that they need serious TLC. Garden centers love this because many homeowners don’t want to wait five years for a tree to grow so they buy the more expensive sizes. This year saw a noticeable increase in purchases of trees and shrubs. Sales have been very good.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

For those of you new to mountain gardening, Labor Day is the official start of our fall planting season. This is the season when garden centers move out their end-of-summer inventory to make room for incoming fall and winter plants. (New shipments of aspens, maples, evergreens, spruces, pines, and fall-colored shrubs have just begun coming to retailers.) This creates a great opportunity for gardeners looking for bargain prices on spring and summer landscape plants.

Watch local garden centers for end-of-season sales. ‘Monster Monsoon’, ‘Fall Sale’, ‘Sizzling Summer’, ‘Fall Planting Event’, however the sales are billed, you should take advantage of garden bargains right now. The best savings of the year are to be found over the next few weekends. By the second weekend in September sale inventory is pretty much gone, so it makes for a tight window-of-sale time.

These sales are essential to clear out the passing season’s plants to make room for shipments of new fall stock, so expect 30% to as much as 70% off of regular retail prices. (At my place, I even have given away plants to good homes!) Keep a watchful eye on your favorite garden center and scoop up the deals as early as possible. Savvy gardeners know to take advantage of these between season sales, so the quantities go fast.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

We have two more months left of our mountain growing season, so whether past season’s plants or fall arrivals, new plantings have plenty of time to develop extensive root systems. Well-developed roots are essential for plants to survive winter weather, and fall plantings yield better results than spring plantings do because plants embark on their demanding spring growth with well-established root systems. Fall planting, especially with plants purchased at a fraction of their original prices, is a no-brainer for cost-conscious, success driven gardeners!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Garden Alert – Watch your petunias this week! Bud worms, inch-long caterpillars, are eating petunia blossoms. If flowers have holes eaten in the petals or the plant has stopped blooming all together, it’s time to act. So many customers have been in this week about this problem that I had to check my own flowers and, sure enough, worms were out there chompin’ away!

A completely organic solution to this nuisance is ‘Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew’. This liquid deterrent is sprayed over the entire plant, the caterpillars digest the solution, become ill, and die within two days. The treatment is very safe for use around birds, pets, and humans. As with any bug control, follow the directions.

After treating with Captain Jack, I fertilized my damaged flowers with ‘Rooting & Blooming Food’ and already have new buds forming. The plants should be as-good-as-new by our outdoor party on Labor Day.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

Plant of the Week is the Red Carpet Rose. An incredibly prolific bloomer with virtually no care, this ground cover rose is a vivid spot of mountain color from spring until winter. Low, dense foliage is covered with 2” carmine red velvety flowers with bright yellow centers. Leaves are tinged red at first, then fade to a dark green with burgundy edges. Simply spectacular. Virtually disease- and bug-proof, this hardy plant blooms easily with little to no care or pruning. All for under $30! It’s a great landscape shrub for first time rose gardeners or those who are new to mountain gardening.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

Garden Class – Today’s garden class is “Growing Super Hardy, Super Showy Shrubs”. Learn a few of local gardeners’ best-kept secrets and you’ll be on your way to a landscape that boasts style and beauty. On Sept. 3 our class topic is “Vibrant Green Lawns to Life”. September is the ideal month to start and revitalize lawns. Learn all the tips and tricks to a successful lush lawn. Classes are free, meeting at 9:30 every Saturday morning in the garden center’s back greenhouse.
Until next week, I’ll see you at the garden center.

Throughout the week Ken Lain is at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd, Prescott, and can be contacted through his web site at See Ken’s personal gardens via Facebook at