Sunday, March 31, 2013

Soil Testing

It's no secret that Colorado gardener's have some tough soil to deal with!  But don't let that slow you down, because our hardgoods experts give us several ways to test and amend your soil, to make a blissful home for your plants!
Soil pH is one of the most important factors influencing your gardening success, because it affects the availability of nutrients to plants, as well as the microbial activity in your soil.  No matter the quality of the fertilizer or supplement you apply, the plant can’t use it if the pH is too high.  Soil pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a soil. On the pH scale, 7.0 is neutral, above 7 is alkaline, below 7 is acidic. Bleach for example is very alkaline. Lemon juice is very acidic. Most plants prefer a pH of between 6 and 7. Our soils are typically 7 or greater.

There are several ways to check your soil pH. Home test kits are a quick and relatively easy way to get a reading on pH. Soil test meters are an economical way to test pH. A meters lets you test your soil in multiple locations (yes, it can vary greatly across the garden), quickly and easily. Meters come either with a digital or an analog readout. You don’t have to mix anything and you can do the test as often as you like in a short period of time.  There are also kits which utilize a capsule system to accomplish the test. You combine soil, water and a test capsule in the test tube provided, and then compare the color with the included chart to get the answer. You can buy test kits specifically for pH, or kits that include pH plus Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K).

Home test kits are easy and handy, but to get a more complete understanding of your soil, we recommend you get a soil test analysis from the laboratory at Colorado State University. You can get a mailer and test instructions in the Hardgoods section of the store. The mailer is free, but you do pay a fee to CSU for the test (around $30). You will receive  a comprehensive analysis of your soil.

Here’s another quick test  for you to determine the makeup of your soil. You need a mason jar, some dish soap and water. Put a cup of the soil you want to sample in the mason jar. Add 1-2 cups of water and ½ tsp of dish soap. Shake well and let it sit undisturbed for 24 hours. You’ll see that the soil has settled into layers. The first layer will be sand. The second layer will be silt and the third layer clay. Organic material will float to the top. Calculate the percentages by volume to see what your soil structure is made up of. For example, If you have equal parts sand and silt with a smaller layer of clay and some organic material floating on top, your soil would be 40% sand, 40% silt, 20% clay. Most of the time, you’re going to see a small amount of sand and silt and a large percentage of clay.

When you’re testing, bring the results in to the store. Depending on the outcome of your tests, we’ll be glad to make recommendations for products to help correct the problems you have. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013


 Of course you can always come in to The Flower Bin for plants, gifts, tools and fertilizers, but did you know we carry critters?  That's right, we carry Natural Pest Controls by Orcon.  A lot of people don't like to use chemicals in their yards and gardens and choose to take a more natural path.  You can do this by using live, natural pest controls instead!  In our hardgoods department we have a whole section of critters.  Learn about them, and what they can offer you:

A lot of people in Colorado release ladybugs to take care of a number of problems.  One of the things that they do best is eat those nasty aphids!  They take care of a lot of small insects such as aphids and mites.  We carry the live ladybugs here at The 'Bin by keeping them in the refrigerator so that they stay dormant.  Here are some tips for how to release them in your yard.  To start with you want to keep them in your fridge (not freezer) until you are ready to release them.  First, you want to prepare the area where you are going to put them.  You want to water down the plants in the area so that the ladybugs have plenty of water. You also want to release them in the evening, and also release them at the base of a plant or tree.  For best results release about half of the bag, and put the remainder back in the fridge.  Release the rest of them in a week or two.  We also have ladybug houses to make the perfect habitat for the bugs.  In addition to this we carry something called ladybug attractant.  This does a number of things including: keeping the ladybugs you release around, attracting other ladybugs to the area and attracting other beneficial insects to the area such as lacewings.

Praying Mantis!!
Praying Mantis are used to get rid of a number of large insects including flies, grasshoppers and moths.  They  are sold in a cocoon  which makes it even more fun, because you can often watch them hatch!  Once you put the cocoon in a sunny and warm area it will take several weeks for them to hatch.  Once it does hatch, dozens of Praying Mantis will come crawling out.  These little guys mature pretty quickly and grow to a size that is perfect for praying on large insects.  These are very graceful, cool creatures to find walking about your garden.

Masonary Bees!!
We sell bees!  The bees come in a small straw that sits in the refrigerator to keep the bees in their dormant state.  There are six bees to a package.  What are they for?  Pollinating!  Pollinators in Colorado, and all over the country are at risk.  Their loss of habitat, mixed with heavy pesticide use means that there are less and less of these beneficial insects every year.  By releasing these bees you are helping yourself, your neighbors and the greater food supply.  As an added plus, these type of bees don't have stingers...so you don't have to worry about them being pesky.  We also sell a pretty neat bee house to both keep your bees around and attract others.

Nematodes are microscopic worm-like critters.  They are for indoor or outdoor gardeners and they live in your soil.  They are perfect for eating the gnat larvae that may be lurking below the surface of the soil in either your houseplants or your outdoor gardens.  As with the other beneficial critters we keep these guys in the fridge to make sure they stay fresh and dormant until they get released into your soil at home.

Red Wigglers!
Every gardener should know that worms are your friends!  They serve many purposes and are of course very self-sufficient.  We sell them here at The 'Bin in a tub of 200 Red Wigglers.  One of the things a lot of people use them for is composting.  They help break down that compost pile or compost bin faster.  Another vital thing they do for gardeners and homeowners alike is improve the quality and health of your lawn and garden.  Lawns need to be aerated and worms help to do this by loosening up the soil and allowing roots more space to grow.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to ask our hardgoods experts today!

Enjoy the critters!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Potatoes, Asparagus and More!

Potatoes, asparagus, onions, garlic, horseradish, rhubarb...it's all here at The Flower Bin!
Jeanette, the front end manager here at The 'Bin tells us the best way to plant potatoes and asparagus, and we also list the varieties that we carry this year.

Let's break down into quick and easy steps how to plant these garden favorites!

1.  The ground should be warm enough in around a week (end of March) to start planting your potatoes.

2.  Start by cutting the potato into pieces to prepare it for planting.  What you do is cut around every eye.   These are obvious as they are the only green part growing on the potato.  Cut a chunk around every eye.  Each of these will be an individual plant.  Make sure you leave about an inch of potato around the eye that you cut.  The eye needs that extra potato to feed off of until it starts rooting out.

3.  Dig a hole about a foot deep in the ground or in your container.

4.  Place the chunk with the eye on it face up at the bottom of the hole, and cover with just an inch or two of soil.  That eye will start growing upwards creating a stem.  Every time the eye grows an inch or so, cover it up with another inch or two of soil.  Keep doing this until you have reached ground level.  The roots of the potato form from this stem, and in turn give you the potatoes.  That is why you don't want to short yourself as far as depth of the hole you make.

5.  The potato plants produce large green foliage and have purple flowers.  If you want new, or young, potatoes you typically want to dig them up about 6-7 weeks after you have planted them.  If you want full grown potatoes you should wait until after the first frost of the fall.  Once it frosts and the foliage dies and turns brown, that's your signal to dig up those potatoes.

Jeanette's tip is to plant your potatoes in a deep container.  That way at the end of the season you can simply tip the pot over, and out roll your potatoes!

Here are the varieties that we have this year:
Yellow Fin (late season), Cal White (mid season), Rose Finn Apple (mid season), Red Pontiac (early season), Red Lasoda (late season), Norkota (early season), German Butterball (late season), Russian Banana (late season), Kennebec (early season), Kennebec White (mid season), Yukon Gold (early season), Russet Burbank (mid season), Red Norland (early season), All Blue (late season), Viking Purple (early season).


1. Dig a trench in the ground or container
2. Make a small mound of soil at the bottom of the trench.
3. Wrap the roots (they look like a ton of big fingers) around that mound at the bottom of the trench.
4. Bury the finger-like roots all of the way to the top of the crown, where all of those roots join together.
5. Water well!!
6. Don't forget that you can't harvest the first year that you plant asparagus.  Though it might be tempting, you can't harvest until the second season.

Here are the three great types that we have:
Purple Passion (this is the newest variety we carry)
Mary Washington
Jersey Giant

Questions?  Call, stop by, visit our website or message us on Facebook!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Spring is Exciting, But Don't Forget to Love Your Houseplants!

That's right, your house plants may need some extra care this time of year too.  If you haven't re-potted your plant in the last year or so consider doing it now.  Of course frequency of re-potting is determined by plant variety and growing conditions.  Our free Diagnostics Center can help you determine if your specific plant needs to be re-potted.
We are unloading new pots and pottery constantly.
Here Luis is stocking some nice chocolate colored planters.

Putting your houseplant in a larger pot helps in a variety of ways.  For starters, it obviously gives the plant's roots more room to grow.  Often houseplants become root bound, which means there is nowhere for the roots to keep going.  If the roots can't expand, your plant cannot grow larger.

We carry ceramic, terra-cotta, plastic and even bamboo pots!
The ones pictured above are some of our bamboo pots that are 100% recyclable
and come in lots of great colors.

Re-potting is also a chance to put your plant in really high quality potting soil, if you didn't do so the first time around.  Maybe you re-potted your plant a year ago, and didn't have the time to stop by the Bin for high quality soil, so you used soil from a large retail chain.  This can often cause unwanted side-effects such as too low or too high of water retention, not enough nutrients in the soil, and can even cause bug problems.  You want to make sure you do your research, because the soil your plant sits in is extremely important to it's health.

Is your plant a family heirloom hand-me-down?  Once a woman came in because her plant was in very poor health, and wanted to know what she could do to fix the plant that had been in her family for decades.  Upon taking the plant out to re-pot it we saw that there was in fact almost no soil left!  The plant was barely surviving because all of it's soil had eventually washed out of the bottom of the pot, and been replace by only partially decayed roots and stems.

Here are some of our new colored plastic pots.
On the far right you can also see some of our new
self-watering pots.
Maybe you just want to re-pot your houseplants to make your life a little bit more easy.  That's what self-watering pots are for!  You put water in the bottom of the pot, where there is a wick.  The wick slowly but surely sucks water up into the plant, keeping your plant moist.

So there are just a few of many reasons for you to re-pot your house plant.  If it needs to be done, but you don't want to make a mess of your house, bring it by and we will re-pot it for a small fee.  Or if you purchase both a plant and a pot we will re-pot it completely free of charge!

So good luck, have fun and call us or stop in if you have questions!