Thursday, December 28, 2017

Phosphorous-Free Recipes for Gardeners

Fertilizer is hardly a hot topic for winter, but stay with me: This month’s tip bodes well for pre-planning your spring store needs.

It’s been a few years since several U.S. states passed laws to reduce and eliminate phosphorous content in lawn fertilizers. The grassroots efforts by many of you in your stores to explain the new reasoning have actually spawned some interest among consumers wanting organic and phosphorous-free fertilizers for their plants and flowers, too.

Very few brand-name products are currently available to fulfill this request. However, you can offer a solution that I had used many years before.

Healthy Plants Are Happy Plants

As a former hobbyist and former consulting rosarian for the American Rose Society back in the 1980s, I learned quickly about the importance of good soil, sticking to a spray schedule to prevent diseases and adding plant nutrition regularly via organic fertilizers and supplements. Roses are heavy feeders during their growing season and need a steady diet of foods to maximize bloom production, basal breaks and re-bloom performance.
At the time, studies from both universities and independent trial gardens had shown the connection between the frequency of food uptake and overall plant health. A healthy and happy plant in the fall stands a much better chance of surviving the harshest winter, even in Northern climates, and re-emerging strong in spring. Plants that were installed correctly and fed modestly also showed improved disease resistance.

The Magic Tonic

Back then just as today, no miracle tonic exists to make your plants and flowers grow to their best. With bone meal or super phosphorous being used only at the time of planting, I did what many gardeners chose to do: craft their own “special sauce” for monthly applications during the growing season. It was the balanced diet that made flowers larger, more colorful and longer-lasting in the garden. Some rose hobbyists also used a monthly application of nitrate of soda during the growing season to develop longer stems and promote leaf growth for competition-worthy roses.

The base ingredient for any top dressing recipe included the addition of humus, well-rotted manure (or dehydrated cow manure), alfalfa meal, greensand, worm castings or compost, if available. The supplements included dried blood, kelp meal, fish meal and even bat guano. These products didn’t have a phosphorous analysis but were important for trace elements, minors and slow, continuous feeding. It had to be organic and natural. These items are still available today from manufacturers. In fact, Coast of Maine has recently added many new organic products suited for high-quality plant foods or supplements.    

The Recipe Card

Garden experts, good secondary signage and point-of-purchase (POP) materials are, unfortunately, a distant memory in most garden centers today. But where there’s a will, there’s a way: You can still offer product recommendations to maximize blooming power on your store signage. Consider it the “cliff notes” for gardening.

Nobody has the time or inclination to read labels anymore, to know what products can or can’t do. It’s 100 percent up to us to teach gardening/landscaping/groundskeeping newcomers and show them how to be successful. It might start with your own store’s plantings, but it certainly ends when your retail customer stares at 20-30 fertilizer selections on a gondola run and can’t even identify the plant they have in their cart that needs feeding!
Teamwork Sells Product

As I visit stores across the country, I often ask owners and department managers what’s important to them and their customers. Some of these associates are amazing specialists who love to garden themselves, but they may be challenged to pinpoint what makes them successful – which makes it even tougher to share those insights with customers.

If every team member in charge of their plant department would pick two or three fertilizer items that are must-haves for the success of their customers, and it was shared with every staff member including part-timers, you would certainly increase your sales AND customer success figures. In many cases, we’re only talking about 15-20 items, but this small exercise can make a huge impact.

This Month's Featured Products

Alfalfa Meal - 2.2-0.4-2.3
No 81600019

Buy Now

Blood Meal 12-0-0
No 80030180

Buy Now

7.5 lb Greensand
No 80030034

Buy Now

4 lb Bag Kelp Meal
No 80120005

Buy Now

4 lb Worm Castings
No 81350021

Buy Now

Coop Poop
No 81350006

Buy Now

Nitrate of Soda 16-0-0
No 80070079

Buy Now

Printable version

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Wise Choices for Indoor Remedies

As winter weather ramps up and outdoor flowers hit their natural decline in many regions, many consumers will look to bring plants or foliage indoors and try to sustain their growth. Indoor color can be a challenge, though Christmas cacti, African violets, orchids and miniature roses are several common and reliable options.

Unfortunately, even indoor plants can face trouble from pests and diseases. This month, we’ve got some tips for you to consider as you plan your product mix for indoor-plant remedies, and as you guide your customers in choosing the right solutions for their plants.

Solutions for The Great Indoors

One of the most ignored declarations on chemical product labels is whether or not the product is listed for indoor use. The majority of chemicals found in stores are for outdoor use only. The outdoor-only restriction may be rooted in one or more causes: The active ingredient(s) may be especially toxic to pets or children, may be a severe eye or skin irritant, or may give off pungent fumes that will linger long after the application is made.
Thankfully, multiple manufacturers and brands offer excellent products and solutions for indoor plants. The Safer brand from Woodstream includes several products with active ingredients that are well-known for being safe and effective for indoor use when applied as directed. The most popular product in the Safer line is their insecticidal soap for indoor insect control.

Be sure to clearly differentiate between indoor and outdoor products in your chemistry aisle. Remind customers to read product labels carefully, making sure the product is also applicable for the plant that they’re treating. Some plants are sensitive to certain chemistry as well: You may not only kill the pest, but the entire plant! These declarations are always listed on the label.

Remember: Chemical products are formulated to get the job done while using the least amount of active ingredient necessary. As a rule, encourage your customers to always follow label directions. It can’t be overstated. If their desired use is listed on the label, a consumer is able to use or treat as directed. Never make a recommendation for an application or use that’s not listed on the label. If you or your customer have further questions, many manufacturers offer product support via phone or website, both of which are usually listed on the label.

Fast and Furious Win the Race

When faced with pest or disease issue, many homeowners hesitate. They may be unsure of what the problem is and/or unsure of how to treat it. However, as you know, time is of the essence in these situations. Some plant problems, if left unchecked for too long, can quickly lead a plant down the path of no return! This is especially true when red spider mite, scale or even powdery mildew is first observed. 

Some pest and disease issues can be enabled by where the plant is located within the home. Spider mites are a perfect example: These insects thrive in the dry, warm climates that are common in winter. Engage your customers in conversation to learn more about their plant symptoms, and listen carefully for contextual clues. In the case of spider mites, increasing humidity levels and positioning plants away from heater vents may provide quick and easy relief.

Over the course of your discussion, determine if the issue may be a conditional threat to other plants nearby. If so, you may need to advise your customer to examine all surrounding plants for similar symptoms. They’ll want to quarantine infected or infested plants to a remote area temporarily until the issue(s) are under control.

Spider mites are among the toughest insects to treat indoors. Old-time remedies like Kelthane or Vendex (which were true miticides) have been replaced by various compounds of lightweight spray oils in ready-to-use bottles, which coat and suffocate the spider mites along with their eggs. Being contact sprays, they need to “hit” the target to be effective. Many times, plants will need a follow-up application to contain and control mite populations.
For customers who seek an all-natural solution for spider mites, another technique is to cover soil and pot with plastic and remove to a sink or tub. Spray the undersides of leaves with a direct stream of water from a spray nozzle and then spray over the top. Once the plant is reasonably dry, return it to its original location after it’s been wiped down and vacuumed to remove debris, insects and dead leaves.

An Ounce of Prevention

Healthy plants are low-maintenance plants. Even with a natural slowing of plant growth during the winter months, plants continue to need water and nutrition, albeit in smaller amounts. Remind your customers to maintain a watering and feeding schedule throughout the winter, as it’s a first line of defense against many of the most common plant ailments.
Speaking of nutrition, more is not better when it comes to fertilizing plants indoors. Many gardening experts recommend low-dose volumes of nutrients, spaced a month or two apart in feedings. Suitable plant foods can come in several different forms including plant spikes, time-release fertilizers and water soluble-fertilizers that are mixed and applied using a watering can or spray-mister bottle. Depending on your store’s capacity, you may choose to stock a broad range of products or just a few.

December is the month when poinsettias find their way into people’s homes. They may also contain insect issues that aren’t noticeable right away. Encourage your customers to carefully inspect leaf surfaces, both tops and undersides, for insects including webbing near leaf stems. After the holidays, if in doubt, throw it out.

Teach your customers to get into the habit of watering with clean tap water that’s been allowed to stand in an open container overnight. This practice brings the water up to room temperature and allows any inherent chemical gases like chlorine to evaporate. Distilled water is another option consumers may consider. 

The holidays are always a busy time in caring for family and friends. Consumers would be wise to make time for weekly rounds to tend to their indoor plants, too. The reward is some green or color inside while it’s dull and gray outside.

This Month's Featured Products

No 80100005

Buy Now

JRM Soil Moist Spikes
No 80040008

Buy Now

Dramm Compact Shear Assorted
No 80170062

Buy Now

Novelty 1 Gallon Watering Can Red
No 80250622

Buy Now

Novelty Gallon Watering Can Sky Blue
No 80250115

Buy Now

Flexon 5/8" x 25' Coil Hose
No 80560075

Buy Now

Jacks Classic 8oz 12-36-14 African Violet Special Fertilizer
No 80060001

Buy Now

Summit Year Round Spray Oil For Houseplant Insects RTU Quart
No 80530023

Buy Now

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Five Tips to Bring More Buzz to Your Store

We live in a fast-paced world where innovation happens daily. In many cases, these improvements come in the form of time-savers – products that enable us to finish faster and/or do more. Being a gardener myself for more than 40 years, I’ve seen great changes to help us solve lawn and garden problems safely, quickly and effectively. With today’s buzzwords in mind, let’s look at some product innovations that could pique consumer interest and drive sales in your stores:


This is among the most common terms you’ll see in our industry. Gardening has long been associated with hard, difficult and time-consuming work. Ready-to-use (RTU) sprayer bottles or ready-to-spray (RTS) hose-end products dominate sales in the chemical aisle. Thirty-five years ago, Ortho was the leading label in this category; concentrates accounted for more than 80% of consumer sales. Sprayers and mixing chemicals were the norm for any gardener until innovation brought us more RTU and RTS options.

Today, the numbers have flipped with less concentrates (and spray tanks) being purchased. New technology offers battery-powered sprayers, one-pull sprayers and even more choices for hose-end sprayer chemistry. It’s never been easier to use garden chemicals safely and effectively.

Look at the ratio of concentrates to RTU (and RTS) in your product mix to ensure the desired options needed for your customers. (Big rural property: big bottle or concentrate with applicable sprayer. Small urban property: small-bottle concentrate, RTS, or RTU type.)

Advanced Packaging

Packaging represents one of the most obvious areas of innovation, especially advances in packaging materials. Take a close look at what you buy from your manufacturers. Mylar replaced soft plastics years ago and many items like grass seed, potting soil and fertilizers use this material, along with convenient resealable tops. Even wild bird seed manufacturers have embraced heavier, more durable bags to prevent chewing insects or ingredients from breaking through.

UV protection comes in many forms, including fade-resistant inks and coatings. Labels used by many manufacturers today are constructed of vinyl to resist deterioration from bright sunlight and humidity. Crystal-clear acrylics are another example: You’ll see them in products like wild bird feeder tubes, which won’t cloud up over time.
Once upon a time, garden products sold-through so quickly, we didn’t concern ourselves with lasting carryover of inventory. Times have changed drastically with the advent of box stores.

Designed for Women

Women are the target market for most manufacturers of lawn and garden products. This focus manifests as a combination of great packaging with bright and colorful graphics – often featuring kids and pets in the background. If you have older and outdated packaging in your store, you might just be chasing away potential buyers! As for the products themselves, comfort-driven and compact designs, and lightweight materials are common.

Even though we sell a lot of dirt, be mindful that today’s consumer is conscious of dirty environments. Take care to maintain the cleanest, tidiest selling areas possible at the shelf and on the floor. Women are our best customers!

Instant Results

Gone are the nuclear remedies in our chemical arsenal like DDT, Diazinon, Dursban, Kelthane, methoxychlor, Lindane, Benomyl and Vendex. They’ve been replaced by pyrethrins, Permethrin, neem oil, mint oil and various bacillus compounds for insect and disease control – active ingredients perceived as softer and/or more natural. The organics and all-naturals craze shows no signs of slowing.

If you’ve been putting off a review of your chemistry options, make it a point to evaluate your inventory yearly to make adjustments. Plan ahead now for next year’s shelf space by selling discontinued or newly restricted product offerings in order to make way for newer chemistry.

New and Improved

It seems overly simple, but it’s true: “New” and “improved” are still very effective in stirring interest and excitement among consumers. Have you considered how you’ll present your newest products to your customers for the remainder of this year and into the next?

These products should be featured on endcaps or standalone flex tables, or even by cross-selling with your plants at the point of decision. All that’s needed is your sign or placard stating one simple word, “new.” Just that little bit of awareness can bring you greater sales and profits.

This Month's Featured Products

Espoma Organic Potting Mix
No 80030001

Buy Now

Premier Cactus Mix
No 80310035

Buy Now

Bonide Quart Eight Yard & Garden Insect Spray
No 80100167

Buy Now

Jacks EXACT MIX Hose End Sprayer
No 80060044

Buy Now

Jonathan Green Sun & Shade Grass Seed
No 81430048

Buy Now

Lebanon Lyric Finch (Yellow)
No 80350151

Buy Now

Wonder Grip Nicely Nimble Assorted Colors
No 80090271

Buy Now

Luster Leaf Moisture Meter
No 80140007

Buy Now

Corona Floral Scissors
No 81380193

Buy Now

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Through The Looking Glass

A unique facet of indoor gardening is trending upward, offering consumers a novel way to enjoy plants year-round. Terrariums are hardly a new concept, but they’ve received a thorough makeover with regard to retail appeal and suitable plant selections.

The terrarium has long been an indoor favorite since it was accidentally discovered by Nathanial Bagshaw Ward in 1842. He grew a fern from a spore enclosed in a glass case and was rewarded by having the vessel gain popularity as the “Wardian Case.” Today, of course, it’s known and sold as the terrarium.

The First Green Displays

My first experience of seeing a “living” display was in the Reptile House at the Philadelphia Zoo. Having the birthplace of America’s zoos (March 1859) nearby meant that it was a convenient day trip for elementary classes to see animals up close. What I didn’t realize was that I was seeing an ecosystem at work: Growing and sustaining plants indoors was a necessity in keeping zoo animals alive and well in long-term captivity.

These enclosed exhibits were actually large-scale terrariums. Zoo staff carefully plotted their use of natural (and artificial) lighting to ensure photosynthesis, ventilation for air movement, and suitable planting media to create these natural and living habitats.

Today’s Terrarium

Whether a consumer chooses a classic terrarium or not, many additional choices are available to create interesting and special indoor gardens. Consumers may choose from jars, bowls, glass urns, blown-glass spheres and many more designs. A true terrarium, however, is one that is enclosed, preferably with a lid that will allow venting.

Succulents have surged in popularity, known as foolproof, long-lasting plants with minimal maintenance requirements. Taking it a step further, consider the more than 650 types of air plants or Tillandsias that need no soil to thrive. These are fabulous candidates for today’s terrarium!

The rise of miniature gardening has increased interest and availability in ferns, which love enclosed terrariums. It’s easy to see the selling opportunities, even for those of you who don’t have a working greenhouse at your store location.

Build It, and They Will Buy

We’ve all heard the marketing mantra that “packaging sells,” correct? Just about everyone has pretty packaging these days. But, the success of your selling department will rely on providing planted examples showing different dimensions, plants and vessel types for the customer to buy or recreate. You’ll also need helpful staff or easy-to-follow print instructions to direct customers on which types of plants work well together: ferns and foliage, or succulents and cacti.

Plant choices will influence the customer’s watering needs and methods. Supply your display with low-volume watering cans with narrow spouts and misting sprayers. Distilled water (or filtered water that’s been allowed to stand overnight) may be recommended to minimize tap-water chemicals that can affect plant health.

Include some additional materials like horticultural charcoal, small pebble stone, Spanish moss and sphagnum moss. The use of charcoal is important for removing toxins and odors that may accumulate inside the terrarium over time. Hoffman makes a wonderful horticultural-grade charcoal that’s very popular in the market.

Opening the terrarium occasionally allows moisture to evaporate and air to circulate around the plants. If a disease like powdery mildew occurs on plants inside a customer’s vessel, you’ll need to offer specific chemistry that’s labelled for indoor use and for these specific plants. One disease-control recommendation is the Complete Disease Control 32 oz. RTU from Monterey Chemical. It’s a bacillus formula that prevents and even cures most disease problems on a wide listing of plant species. You’ll also want to advise your customers to vent their terrariums for a longer time frame to slow down disease pressure.

Mother Earth

Finally, you will need to provide the right soil options for the specific plant materials being sold. Most retailers sell four-quart bagged materials that are labelled for cacti and succulents or typical professional potting soils recommended for indoors. There are many options to consider stocking, especially those from Premier Horticulture, Sun Gro, and Espoma.

Don’t recommend potting soils with added fertilizers, as you can always add nutrition, but can’t always take it off. Small plants in miniature vessels need minimal feedings, so consumers may only need to apply a food once every four to six weeks. Reduced-nitrogen fertilizers are best suited for indoor plants; Nature’s Source, Bonide and Schultz offer quality products in this category. 

This Month's Featured Products

Syndicate DIY Terrarium Kit
No 81510047

Buy Now

Syndicate 6.75"x6" Cement Glass Terrarium
No 81510019

Buy Now

Premier Cactus Mix 8 Quart
No 80310035

Buy Now

Black Gold 8 Qt African Violet
No 80320002

Buy Now

Espoma 4 Qt Organic Cactus Mix
No 80030028

Buy Now

Espoma 4 Qt Organic Potting Mix
No 80030029

Buy Now

Espoma 8 Qt Organic Potting Mix
No 80030040

Buy Now

Espoma 16 Qt Organic Potting Mix
No 80030001

Buy Now

Hoffman 24 Oz Charcoal Soil Conditioner
No 80070035

Buy Now

Hoffman 2 Qt Marble Maze River Gravel
No 80070089

Buy Now

Mosser 3 Oz 100 Cu In Spanish Moss
No 80130013

Buy Now

Mosser 250 Cu In Spanish Moss
No 80130011

Buy Now

Mosser 432 Cu In Long Fibered Sphagnum Moss
No 80130014

Buy Now