Category Archives: Gardening

Giant Fleeceflower and Yellow Wax Candle

When a garden needs a big, bold shrub, call on giant fleeceflower (Persicaria polymorpha) with its large white sprays of flowers and dark green, deeply veined foliage. This massive herbaceous shrub is also known as Polygonum polymorphum, but whatever you call it, this is one specimen that will make a statement in the landscape. The showy flowers and seed heads attract both birds and butterflies, but will not appeal to deer. The dark green coarse foliage is an excellent backdrop for more delicate medium size plants, and the nodding flowers give movement to a garden space.

Giant fleeceflower grows well in clay soil, is hardy in zones 1 through 11, and thrives in full sun; however, mature plants will tolerate a little shade and some drought. The flowers look like astilbe, only on a much larger scale, nodding in the breeze atop 6 foot stems; they have no fragrance. The shrub will spread from 6 to 10 feet in a clumping habit, and reach 4 to 7 feet in height. Be aware that this is a fast-growing species, so make provisions to keep it corralled where you want it to stay by sinking metal or plastic boundaries in the soil as far out as you are willing to let the plant spread. Bloom time is June and the flowers continue through summer. At the end of the season, the flowers turn reddish-brown just like astilbe. This provides a nice textural addition to the fall garden landscape.

Persicaria grows from rhizomes or stolons and, therefore, can be invasive if not controlled; it dies back in the winter. The plant prefers moist soil, but will still grow in dry conditions, though not as profusely. Propagation is by division in spring or fall, or by seed started in a cold frame in early spring. Japanese beetles, slugs, snails, and aphids are fond of this shrub and will need control.

TOXICITY NOTE: All parts of the plant can cause skin irritation in sensitive people. If ingested, all plant parts will cause stomach upset.

SHADY CHARACTER

Yellow wax bells (Kirengeshoma palmata) is another little used perennial for shady situations. This lovely plant is native to Japan and Korea in the mountains; it does well in zones 5 to 8, with hardiness to -20F. It must have shade to grow, and is a wonderful addition to woodland gardens and shady beds and borders.

Kirengeshoma is a late blooming perennial, coming into flower in late August and early September, a nice addition to a garden that may already be fading. Though slow-growing, the plant can grow quite tall – 3 to 6 feet, and the clumps spread up to 3 feet. Glossy maple-leaf shaped leaves reach 4 to 8 inches long and provide a beautiful background for the drooping yellow waxy blossoms that are shaped like badminton shuttlecocks.

Plant in rich, moist soil that is acidic, and shelter the plants from wind. Water regularly and do not allow the soil to dry out. When new growth begins in spring, propagate by division. Be careful not to damage any of the new shoots. Slugs and snails will feast on the tender new growth of yellow wax bells, but deer will not.

Photos from Wikimedia Commons (GDCL) on Wikipedia.

The image of the butterfly

It represents the beauty of nature, the oncoming of spring, metamorphosis and a change for the better. They can also bring forth the memories of endless, lazy summer days of childhood. Invite these colorful and ethereal spirits of the air into your garden by providing them an environment that is suitable for them.

The fist thing to consider is the location of a butterfly garden. Most butterflies like sunny areas that are edged by wood or stream which is protected from heavy winds. In the mornings they like to sun themselves on flat rocks, spreading out their wings to warm their bodies with the suns rays.

The second most important thing to know is that of course butterflies are insects, as well as their larval form the caterpillar. If you ever hope to establish a friendly place for butterflies to flourish chemical pesticide use is out of the question. Whether it be insecticides or herbicides, they both can harm caterpillars and butterflies and shouldn’t be used in a garden built for them. Try to use organic means if a pest problem should arise and even then only spray the plants affected. Even organic sprays can be harmful.

Thirdly, we must consider the whole life cycle of the butterfly. The garden should not only provide flowers for nectar but host plants for the caterpillars. You should also learn to recognize the larval form of your favorite butterflies so you allow them to feed. An alternative is to create a small garden of host plants close to the butterfly garden but out of the way. That way you won’t necessarily have to look at all those chewed up plants but you will have fat, happy caterpillars.

Butterflies also need a source of minerals. Butterflies are often observed drinking from mud puddles. This behavior is actually termed puddling . They are actually getting essential minerals out of the mud. You can create an area for your butterflies to puddle with a simple tin pie plant filled with moistened sand. Mix ½ to ¾ cups of salt mixed with a gallon the sand, then keep it moist.

While the common idea is that butterflies get most of their sustenance from flower nectar there are other sources of food that they enjoy. Many like rotting fruit, sap from various trees and even manure! Rotting fruits such as bananas and watermelon can be placed in the garden, but be warned that they might also attract wasps.

Butterflies also appreciate some shelter for those days that are not so nice. Protect your butterflies from rain and wind by including shrubs or tall grasses in the garden plan. You can also create a shelter that maybe used for hibernation during the winter. Build a log pile with alternating perpendicular logs so there are spaces in between for the butterflies. They particularly like logs that have chunks of bark pealing away. The ideal size is 5 feet tall by 6 feet wide. Place this in the shade near host plants.

Creating a butterfly garden can be fun, educational, rewarding and result in a beautiful, colorful and dynamic garden. There is also the added bonus that you will be creating an environment for many other beneficial animals and insects in the garden such as garter spiders, toads, birds, gardener snakes (don’t be afraid they eat snails!) beneficial wasps, lady bugs, ground beetles, fireflies (whose larvae attack slugs!), lacewings, hover flies (important pollinators), praying mantis and so many more. In a pesticide free environment like this you may find that any insect problems you may have encountered in the past may not be so prevalent. Get yourself a butterfly guide book and an couple of insect guide books and hunt for butterflies and beneficial insect in the garden. It’s great fun for kids and adults!

This is a beautiful little cherry

This is a beautiful little cherry tree with semi-double blossom that starts as pink buds opening to white flowers with pink eyes. The flowers come out before the leaves but don’t open up all at the same time so they remain effective for a 10 to 20 day period in late April to early May.

This cherry is the result of a cross between Prunus subhirtella and Prunus x yedoensis then backcrossed to Prunus subhirtella, both are native to Japan. Prunus subhirtella, commonly known as Higan Cherry, is a long lived cherry and the most cold, heat and stress tolerant of all the cherries. It’s also a fast grower. They have been known to grow in brick hard clay, which of course we have a lot of in Rochester.

As for ‘Hally Jolivette’ other parent, Prunus x yedoensis, it has been described as one of the most beautiful and graceful of the cherries. These can be found flowering in early spring in the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. and there’s even a Cherry Festival in Macon, Georgia to celebrate these trees planted along the streets. With parents like these ‘Hally Jolivette’ stands out in the landscape as a profuse bloomer, a fast grower (almost 3 feet a year!!) and adaptable to harsher environments such as hot summers, cold winters and dry clay.

You can expect these trees to reach a height of 20 feet with a rounded head and a dense branching habit. They would prefer to be planted in full sun but can tolerate light shade.

Gardening and landscaping at homes where there is clay soil can be a challenge

 There are two easy ways to have a healthy, beautiful and successful landscape. Number one is to consider raised beds, especially for foundation planting, perennial beds and vegetable gardens. By creating raised beds that are just one to one and a half feet above the natural grade of the land you will lift your plants roots out of that standing wet in the spring. Go at least two feet for large shrubs. This will expand the types and varieties of perennials, annuals and shrubs that you will be able to use in the landscape to beautify your home with. Otherwise the second way is to simply plant material that can tolerate the wet clay soil and to prepare the beds properly before planting anything. It’s hard to amend soils and improve their drainage and condition after you have already installed your landscape, doing it before hand will save you time and labor later. The absolute number one best thing you can do for clay soils before planting is to simply amend it with organic matter such as compost. Gypsum can also be added to help with texture and drainage. This will work for small trees, shrub borders, annual beds and perennial gardens. For large trees it’s best just to stick with those that don’t mind living in the clay since because the root system spread out to great distances and you should plant them with at least 75% native soil backfill. The following is a list of plants and trees that do well in moist, clay soils and can tolerate that slow draining wet in the spring.

Personal note: I’ve been gardening in clay ever since I could hold a nasturtium seed and poke it into the ground myself. In general I find that it can take about two years more for perennials, shrubs and trees to really start going when planted in clay. Also, my garden is at least two weeks later then those around us since we are lower lying and collect a lot of puddles all spring and have part shade so the ground doesn’t warm up as quickly. Here I’m mostly talking about my ground level perennial border in shade, my raised beds in full sun warm up quicker and don’t hold puddles. My gardening style has often been trial and error with the clay, though over the years I have found truth in the list below which has been gleaned from several text.

Here’s some more planting ideas that have worked for me: Privet hedge, Quince, Lilac, White Fringe Tree, Peony, Wisteria, Trumpet Vine, Vinca, Crocosmia, Ageratum ‘Blue Horizon’, Dragon Wing Begonia, Impatiens, Biennial Sweet William, Coreopsis ‘Moonbeam’ and ‘Rosea’, Spurge, Mockorange, Perennial Hibiscus, Thrift, Heliopsis, Thyme.

Here is a sad list of those that have languished for about one to two years then refused to come up anymore or I moved them out of the wet clay out of compassion for the poor things: Oriental Poppy, Liriope, Yarrow, Hyacinth, Astrantia, Chrysanthemum, Variegated upright Sedum.

Here are some of my faithful plants that return every spring and are sooooo happy I actually have to beat them back and give portions away to anyone who will take them: Black-Eyed Susan, Daylily, Purple Obedient Plant, Lily-of-Valley, Ajuga, Ferns, Snowdrops, Anaphalis (Dry clay spot), Goose-neck Loosestrife, Siberian Iris.

Holiday Plant Care

Christmas Cactus:

  • Provide medium to high light.
  • Water when the top inch of the soil has become dry.
  • Do not over water.
  • When new growth appears to the spring fertilize every 3 weeks.
  • Your plant will naturally set bud and bloom as the days become shorter in the fall but they do need night temperatures of 55°F.

Amaryllis:

  • Provide bright light.
  • Water when soil becomes fairly dry.
  • Rotate plant everyday to keep the flower stalk straight.
  • To extend the flowers bloom time, remove the pollen bearing stamens with tweezers and keep apples and bananas or other fading flowers away from the plant.
  • When flowers have faded cut the stalk off an inch from the bulb.
  • When the leaves start to yellow remove them, your bulb has gone dormant and needs a rest. The pot can be placed in an out off the way area now but has to be kept slightly moist. When you see a new flower bud poking up, several months later, begin fertilizing and return your plant to a sunny window to enjoy the blooms again.

Norfolk Pine:

  • Provide bright light. Rotate a quarter turn each week.
  • Fertilize when your plant is actively growing during the summer. Do not fertilize in the winter.
  • Water thoroughly when the top inch of the soil begins to feel dry. Do not let plants dry out, do not let them sit in water.
  • These plants prefer an atmosphere of 50% humidity or more.

Cyclamen:

  • Provide bright indirect light.
  • Keep soil moist but not sodden.
  • Keep in a cool area no higher then 68°F during the day and about 55°F at night to prolong the bloom time.
  • Remove spent flowers and yellowing leaves with a gentle tug.

Potted Christmas Trees – Alberta & Colorado Spruce:

  • When you bring your tree home leave it outside.
  • Bring the tree into the garage one week before bringing into the house.
  • Leave the tree in the house for no longer then a week.
  • Return tree to the garage for one more week.
  • Plant your tree outside in a predug hole, the soil will be hard to dig after it is frozen, with some compost on hand as well as Holly Tone fertilizer. Be sure to mulch around your tree keeping mulch three inches away from the trunk.

Planting bulbs in fall will bring beautiful color in the spring.

In fall, the selection of bulbs available to chase away the winter doldrums next spring is almost overwhelming. There are bulbs to create a formal garden, a splash of color for wooded areas or unexpected miniature flowers dancing across the lawn. For a dramatic flower show that keeps on blooming, it is important to plant according to the color, height and flowering time of your bulbs.

Note the blooming period for each bulb variety. Plant shorter, early blooming bulbs among taller, late season flowers. The late bloomers will camouflage the withered foliage after the shorter flowers have faded.

Plant bulbs in groups of 12 or more for best impact.

Plant scattered clusters of early flowering bulbs like crocus or snowdrops throughout your lawn.

Experiment. Pick a flower on a whim and try a small planting. For example, a mix of ‘Apricot Beauty’ tulips with low-growing cobalt blue grape hyacinths. If it does well for you, add more next year.

We carry only top-sized bulbs from Holland. You can choose from hundreds of varieties of tulips and carcissus including Kaufmanniana and Fosteriana tulips for naturalizing and in rock gardens. Also, don’t forget crocus, hyacinths and specialty bulbs like allium and fritillaria.

     For Cutting: Anenome coronaria, Dutch Iris, Fritillaria, Grape Hyacinth, Narcissus, Scilla, Tulip

     For Fragrance: Double Daffodils, Freesia, Hyacinth

     To Repel Garden Pests:  Alliums, Fritillaria, Grape Hyacinth, Narciussus, Scilla

     For Poor Soil: Tulip Dasystemon Tarda

Planting Tips:

  • You will get better results if you plant when there is a month of 40+ degree soil temperature (mid September to mid October in our area). This allows the bulbs to set strong roots that will give you better blooms.
  • Fertilize bulbs when you plant them using compost, bulb food, dried blood, or bone meal. Cover the planting area with 2-3 inches of compost.
  • With some bulbs it’s difficult to tell the top from the bottom. The skin is loose at the top and attached at the bottom. If you can’t tell, just plant them sideways!
  • To deter moles, voles, and squirrels, ring the planting area witha mixture of soil and gravel or put small chicken wire between the bulbs and the soil surface. A hot pepper based spray will also be affective in deterring animals.
  • Plant bulbs 2-3 times deeper for naturalizing varieties.

The Garden Factory

The Garden Factory is proud to operate expansive greenhouses on our property on Buffalo Road, where we are able to grow annuals, perennials and vegetables for our customers. One of the greatest advantages of this, from a consumer’s perspective, is having information available about the origin and growth of the plants you purchase.
Lately in garden news, there has been concern regarding Neonicotinoids, a specific type of pesticide that has proven to be detrimental to honeybees. (http://www.wired.com/2014/06/garden-center-neonicotinoids/) Reports have shown that many plants found at “big box” stores contain these pesticides. The Garden Factory is proud to have been 99.9% chemical free in our greenhouses for 5 years now – that is to say, Neonicotinoids will not be found in our plants.
The first step in having a chemical free greenhouse is cleanliness, and ensuring a weed-free workspace. Then, you must start with chemical free seeds and plugs. The Garden Factory grows our vegetables from seed, purchased from Ball Seed Corp, who confirms that their vegetable seeds are organic or non-treated.  For the annuals we grow, we purchase plugs from Van Vugt Greenhouses in New Jersey, which are 100% biologically grown. Started plants are dipped in Nematode and root shield to ensure cleanliness, and planted into soil treated with a Trichoderma root shield. The Trichoderma lives in the surface of the roots, fighting fungal disease there. This rids us of the need to use chemical fungicides.
The fun and interesting part of Integrated Pest Management is that, as growers, we create an ecosystem within our greenhouses. We utilize beneficial bugs from Biobest Sustainable Crop Management to control thrips and aphids – two damaging pests. Our ecosystem includes bees, butterflies, spiders and other insects.
You may have noticed the past few years that some of your plants come with a paper sachet hooked on to the stem. These sachets contain Amblyseius cucumeris, a predatory mite. These mites prey on the larval stage of thrips. At the volume we produce plants at The Garden Factory, we use about 50,000 sachets annually. Sachets are one way to introduce beneficial bugs into the greenhouse environment, and another is to grow banker plants.
Banker plants support the growth of a prey species (not a pest) that disperse into the greenhouse in search of pests. The prey species does not feed on the banker, or host plant. To rid our greenhouse of adult thrips, we utilize banker plants to support the growth of Orius insidiosus, a flying beetle that feeds on adult thrips and other soft bodied plant-eating pests. These guys can kill 100-200 thrips a day! To host the Orius beetle, we grow Purple Flash peppers in hanging baskets. Because of the high pollen count of these plants, they are very attractive to this particular flying beetle.
Another way we utilize banker plants is to control aphids. Oats are grown in hanging baskets, covered with hairnets, and we introduce cereal aphids onto the plant. Cereal aphids (Rhopalosiphum padi) are a grass pest that don’t attack most bedding and ornamental plants – which is why we can host them in the oats without worry they will attack the plants we are growing for our customers. Aphidius colemani, a parasitic wasp, is introduced into the banker plant once there are enough cereal aphids to support them. The wasps sting the aphids, laying their eggs inside. Once there are enough parasitic wasps present, the hairnet is removed from the banker plant, allowing the wasps to travel throughout the greenhouse and feed on pest aphids.
We are excited to be able to provide chemical free, locally grown plants and are happy to answer any questions our customers may have. Please contact us by phone, email, or a facebook post if you’d like any further information.

Installing a Pond and Pond Liner

Follow the formula below to determine the size of pond liner you will need.

Length = Length of Pond + Depth (x2) + 3
Width = Width of Pond + Depth (x2) + 3

Example, for a pond that is 12ft long, 10ft wide and 3ft deep:
12 + 6 + 3 = 21ft
10 + 6 + 3 = 19ft
You would need a liner that is 21ft by 19ft.

The first step for installing your pond is to lay out the shape and dig it out. The best way to lay out your pond shape is with a garden hose, which is heavy enough to not blow away, yet flexible enough to create nice smooth curves. You can also use chalk or spray paint to mark the edge.
Begin digging out your pond from the center, using a wheel barrow to haul away the dirt to your waterfall area or another area you have planned to use the dirt. A good pond depth is 2-4ft. Be sure to check building codes in your area – some require a fence around bodies of water that are a certain depth. When measuring your depth, account for an extra two inches of sand that will be added. This sand will help protect the Liner from any sticks or rocks that could puncture it. Leave a plant shelf at least 12” wide and 18” deep around the edge of the pond. Do not attempt to have 90 degree angles along the edges, instead dig the sides at a 60-70 degree angle. Remove the sod around the edge of the pond – about 12-15” wide and 2-3” deep. This area will be where you can add stone, coping, boulders and landscaping to decorate the border of your pond.
Remember to periodically check that everything is level while digging!
Once you have dug out the shape of your pond, go in and remove as many sticks, stones and other sharp objects as possible. Then add in the two inches of sand to protect your liner and provide a cushion under the pond. Lay your liner over the hole you have dug, with the excess liner distributed equally on all sides. Secure the edges of the liner with rocks/bricks and begin filling with water, making adjustments as you go to remove as many folds and pleats as possible (some fold and/or pleats are inevitable). As the liner becomes taut, readjust the bricks to allow the liner to sink down and fill with water. Remember, it is not necessary to try to manually contour the liner to the pond, as the water will do that for you as it fills.
Once the pond is full, you may trim the excess liner, bury it or hide it with coping stone. Please contact our Water Gardening department if you have further questions, at 247-6236.

Tips for Water Clarity

Wondering how to get rid of the green water in your pond? Try a natural way to reduce the algae, with plants and water aeration. Filters with UV light are the best solution for homeowners to keep the pond in balance and free of algae, and a UV clarifier controls algae right from the start. The addition of bacteria can also help balance the pond.

How to Choose the Correct Pond Pump

Knowing the number of gallons in your pond is necessary to determine the size of a pump and filter you need, as well as the number of fish and plants your pond can sustain. Use the following formulas to determine the number of gallons in your pond:

Rectangular Pond:
Gallons = Length x Width x Depth x 7.5
Circular Pond:
Gallons = Radius x Radius x 3.14 x Depth x 7.5

A pump’s filtration efficiency is measured in Gallons Per Hour (GPH), which is rated at one foot. A pump will turn water once every two hours. For example, a pump rated at 500 GPH will filter 1,000 gallons of water efficiently.
Because they lose efficiency the higher they have to pump water, pumps have a maximum head height (maximum height they will pump to). When measuring the pumping height, use the surface of the water to start your measurement.

Grass Seed Coverage

New Lawns
5 lb. bag covers up to 1,000 sq. ft.
20 lb. bag covers up to 4,000 sq. ft.
50 lb. bag covers up to 10,000 sq. ft.

  • Remove any debris such as branches, rocks, etc.
  • There should be no clumps in the top soil
  • Level the area so water will not pool or collect
  • Spread grass seed with spreader on recommended spreader setting
  • Fertilize after seeding with a starter fertilizer and keep seed moist
  • Do not use weed killers before or after planting grass seed

Over Seeding
2 ½ lb. bag covers up to 1,000 sq. ft.
3 lb. bag covers up to 1,200 sq. ft.
7 lb. bag covers up to 2,800 sq. ft.
12 lb. bag covers up to 4,800 sq. ft.
20 lb. bag covers up to 8,000 sq. ft.
40 lb. bag covers up to 16,000 sq. ft.
50 lb. bag covers up to 20,000 sq. ft.

  • Mow lawn as short as possible
  • Loosen the soil in bare spots
  • Remove debris and dead grass
  • Level out areas where excess water collects and fill with new top soil
  • After seeding, fertilize with a starter fertilizer and water. Keep soil moist until seed germinates.

Spring and fall are the best times plant grass seed. Grass seed germinates best when temperatures are between 60° and 80° F.

Small Areas:
Spread by hand or with a Scotts® handheld spreader

Large Areas:
Apply using a Scotts® drop or broadcast push spreader.

Scotts® Spreader Settings:
Broadcast/Rotary Spreader Models-Turf Builder Edgeguard Mini, Basic, Standard, Deluxe Edgeguard®, Edgeguard® DLX, LawnPro, & SpeedyGreen
Overseeding – 7 ½
New Lawn & Bare Spots-13

Scotts® Drop Spreaders
Accugreen Model
Overseeding -10
New Lawn & Bare Spots – 13

Scotts® Hand-Held Spreaders
Handygreen II, Easy Hand-Held
Overseeding -5
New Lawn & Bare Spots-5 (Go over lawn twice)

Scotts Easygreen®
Overseeding-30
New Lawn & Bare Spots -32

A Guide To The Optium pH For Crop Growth

So, what does this mean?
The level of acidity or alkalinity of the soil is measured by pH (potential Hydrogen ions). It is a measure of the amount of lime (calcium) in your soil, and the type of soil that you have.  Soil in moist climates tends to be acidic and those in dry climates tend to have alkaline.  A soil with a pH lower than 7.0 is an acid soil and one with a pH higher than 7.0 is alkaline.  The soil must be adjusted to suit the plant which will occupy that area if it is not already within the plants requirement range.

Testing your soil pH
We sell several different types of soil pH testing kits, these kits range from inexpensively to moderately priced.  They consist of a test tube, some testing solution and a color chart.  You put a sample of your soil in the tube, add a few drops of the test solution, shake it up and leave it for an hour or so to settle.  The solution in the tube changes color according to the pH of your soil.  Compare the color of your sample with the color chart that came with the kit.  Matching colors will tell you the pH of your sample.  The better kits will also come with advisory booklets about how to interpret your result.

Adjusting your soil pH
Once you have determined the pH you can amend the soil, if needed to accommodate the plants in your garden using materials commonly available here.

If you need to raise the soil pH to make it more alkaline
It is easier to make the soil more alkaline than it is to make them more acidic. Because different soil types react different ways to the application of lime you will have to add more lime to clay soils and peat soils than you will in sandy soils to achieve the same result.
To raise your pH by 1.0 point and make your soil more alkaline:
-Add 4 ounces of hydrated lime per square yard in sandy soils
-Add 8 ounces of hydrated lime per square yard in loamy soils
-Add 12 ounces of hydrated lime per square yard in clay soils
-Add 25 ounces of hydrated lime per square yard in peat soils
If your soil is over-acidic, you may consider gradually adjusting the soil over a year time period and testing it periodically.  You can try adding such components as hardwood ash, bone meal, crushed marble or crushed oyster shells as this will also help to raise the soil pH.

If you need to lower the soil pH to make it more acidic
If your soil needs to be more acidic, sulfur may be used to lower the pH if it is available.  To reduce the soil pH by 1.0 point, mix in 1.2 oz. of ground rock sulfur per square yard if the soil is sandy, or 3.6 oz. per square yard for all other soils.  The sulfur should be thoroughly mixed into the soil before planting.  Sawdust, composted leaves, wood chips, cottonseed meal, leaf mold and especially peat moss will lower the soil pH.

Remember to always read and follow manufacturers label instructions when using chemicals. 
-Use appropriate protection such as dust mask and gloves.
-The best way to adjust pH is gradually over several seasons.
-Lime should be applied only when tests show it to be necessary.
-If the soil is excessively alkaline, you may find that you are better off to build a raised bed using fresh, screened topsoil.
-If you are still not sure what to do, please feel free to call us or ask someone at our Customer Service Desk.So, what does this mean?
The level of acidity or alkalinity of the soil is measured by pH (potential Hydrogen ions). It is a measure of the amount of lime (calcium) in your soil, and the type of soil that you have.  Soil in moist climates tends to be acidic and those in dry climates tend to have alkaline.  A soil with a pH lower than 7.0 is an acid soil and one with a pH higher than 7.0 is alkaline.  The soil must be adjusted to suit the plant which will occupy that area if it is not already within the plants requirement range.

Testing your soil pH
We sell several different types of soil pH testing kits, these kits range from inexpensively to moderately priced.  They consist of a test tube, some testing solution and a color chart.  You put a sample of your soil in the tube, add a few drops of the test solution, shake it up and leave it for an hour or so to settle.  The solution in the tube changes color according to the pH of your soil.  Compare the color of your sample with the color chart that came with the kit.  Matching colors will tell you the pH of your sample.  The better kits will also come with advisory booklets about how to interpret your result.

Adjusting your soil pH
Once you have determined the pH you can amend the soil, if needed to accommodate the plants in your garden using materials commonly available here.

If you need to raise the soil pH to make it more alkaline
It is easier to make the soil more alkaline than it is to make them more acidic. Because different soil types react different ways to the application of lime you will have to add more lime to clay soils and peat soils than you will in sandy soils to achieve the same result.
To raise your pH by 1.0 point and make your soil more alkaline:
-Add 4 ounces of hydrated lime per square yard in sandy soils
-Add 8 ounces of hydrated lime per square yard in loamy soils
-Add 12 ounces of hydrated lime per square yard in clay soils
-Add 25 ounces of hydrated lime per square yard in peat soils
If your soil is over-acidic, you may consider gradually adjusting the soil over a year time period and testing it periodically.  You can try adding such components as hardwood ash, bone meal, crushed marble or crushed oyster shells as this will also help to raise the soil pH.

If you need to lower the soil pH to make it more acidic
If your soil needs to be more acidic, sulfur may be used to lower the pH if it is available.  To reduce the soil pH by 1.0 point, mix in 1.2 oz. of ground rock sulfur per square yard if the soil is sandy, or 3.6 oz. per square yard for all other soils.  The sulfur should be thoroughly mixed into the soil before planting.  Sawdust, composted leaves, wood chips, cottonseed meal, leaf mold and especially peat moss will lower the soil pH.

Remember to always read and follow manufacturers label instructions when using chemicals. 
-Use appropriate protection such as dust mask and gloves.
-The best way to adjust pH is gradually over several seasons.
-Lime should be applied only when tests show it to be necessary.
-If the soil is excessively alkaline, you may find that you are better off to build a raised bed using fresh, screened topsoil.
-If you are still not sure what to do, please feel free to call us or ask someone at our Customer Service Desk.