Japanese Beetle Control

Japanese Beetle Control

Japanese beetles are this generation’s destroyer of the landscape. These little metallic militants appear in swarms in July and last for months. They are feeding on their favorite plants and when those are decimated, they move on to the next.  They love roses, fruit trees, vegetables and especially linden trees. Reducing the Japanese beetle population requires a different strategy than the traditional preventative control for white grubs.  Protecting our favorite roses and fruit trees will involve treatments for adult beetles as well as the grub stage. 

What is the Best Way to Control Japanese Beetles?

Traditional preventative grub control had been easy.  Before the Japanese beetle invasion, we never worried about the adult stage masked chafer. They don’t feed on plants the same as a Japanese beetle or reproduce in multiple hatchings. Effective Japanese beetle control will now require multiple phases:

Best Preventative for Trees and Shrubs

Preventative treatment for adult beetles on shrubs and trees* begins in early May with a soil drench application of Dominion Tree & Shrub Insecticide. A direct soil application of Dominion Tree & Shrub around trees and shrubs should be applied before Mother’s Day to provide systemic control with up to twelve-month residual. The insecticide is absorbed into the plant, killing any insect that eats the leaves or bark. This product not recommended for use around linden trees.

* Be Safe! Always read the label before using any pesticide. Follow all label instructions. 

Best Curative for Trees and Shrubs

Swarms of adult Japanese beetles are more of a challenge to control.  The best method is to spray them with Cyonara, Bifenthrin or Malathion. These products are compatible with most fruit and vegetable crops as well as landscape plants. If you discover just a few beetles, they can easily be picked off and dropped into a bucket of soapy water.

Best Preventative for Lawns

As the Japanese Beetles move through their life cycle they will start to lay eggs in the grass. To prevent grub damage, start treating the yard with Long Lasting Grub Control in early summer before the lawn goes into heat stress. This is a preventative treatment, and is designed to be applied before a potential grub problem develops. It is normally applied in late June to early July and kills the baby grubs as they hatch. Long Lasting Grub Control will stay active in the lawn for about ninety days.

See Related: Why Milky Spore is Not Recommended

Best Curative for Lawns

The Hail Mary is applying Quick Kill Grub Control in the middle of September as Long Lasting Grub Control has faded. Quick Kill is the only effective contact-kill for white grubs. It is very fast acting with a short active life. It’s important to water heavily after application to help penetrate any thatch in the yard. If the problem recurs, you can apply a second or third dose of Quick Kill Grub Control.

Why Are Japanese Beetles So Bad?

Japanese beetles reproduce at very high rates, unlike their cousin the masked chafer (the “June bug”) that lives only a few weeks. The adult Japanese beetle lives for months to eat, mate, and lay eggs recurrently. Once the eggs start to hatch into grubs, continuous waves of ravenous white grubs begin feeding on the roots of your grass.

Why do Japanese Beetles Swarm?

Plant odors attract both sexes to potential food sites. Japanese beetle feeding produces odors which act as pheromones to attract other Japanese beetles to the area to feed and mate. Pheromones are chemical odors used by insects to communicate. 

Where Did Japanese Beetles Come From?

Originally from Asia, Japanese beetles were brought over to the United States in 1917 into New Jersey. Currently the insect can be found in all states east of the Mississippi River, except Florida and Louisiana.

Japanese Beetle Life Cycle

What About Japanese Beetle Traps?

Japanese beetle traps do work in that they capture adult beetles. However, placement is critical. DO NOT place the traps near any plant material you do NOT want the beetles feeding on. Although the trap is quite effective in attracting the beetle, only about 70 percent of the beetles end up in the trap. In addition, pheromone traps attract more beetles to your property than would have visited your property naturally. Research has shown that putting the traps in the perimeter of the property well away from valuable plantings or vulnerable crops may be the best use of the traps. Traps work better if you also get your neighbors to set out traps. Use a community-wide approach of 25 to 50 traps per square mile.


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Fertilize for Healthy Trees and Shrubs

Fertilize for Healthy Trees and Shrubs

Why You Should Be Fertilizing Trees and Shrubs

Fertilizing trees and shrubs is a necessity, and that includes fruit trees. One of the most significant benefits of fertilizing trees is in the preventative maintenance they provide. Landscape shrubs and trees require sufficient energy stores to remain healthy to survive insect and environmental stress. Trees and shrubs are a valuable part of your property, and it is essential to protect your investment. Established trees and shrubs can be easily fed by homeowners using fertilizer spikes or a deep-root feeder. For best results, feed your trees twice each year, once in early spring and mid-fall.

Fertilizer Tree Spikes

The easiest method for feeding established trees is with fertilizer spikes. The spikes are compressed cylinders of slow-release fertilizers. Gradually dissolving, tree spikes release nutrients evenly throughout the season. These compressed spikes can be driven into the ground using a mallet or hammer. In a dry season, using an auger attachment for a drill makes installation more convenient. Once the quantity of tree spikes needed has been determined, drive the spikes into the soil, spacing them evenly near the tree’s drip line. The drip line is the imaginary ring on the ground directly below the outer circumference of the tree’s branches.

How to Measure a Tree for Fertilizing

How much fertilizer to for trees?

Measure your tree trunks diameter 18 inches up from the ground to get the most accurate measurement. Bring your tree measurements to the Grass Pad, and our Green Team can help you determine how many spikes or tablets are required for your landscape. Fertilizer formulas are available for evergreen, shade, ornamental and fruit trees. Also, there are formulas fortified with iron for plants needing iron supplements such as azaleas, rhododendron, or chlorotic pin oaks.

How to Use Tree Fertilizer Spikes

Fertilizer spikes are combinations of slow release fertilizers compressed to form a spike. Spikes can be driven into the ground using a mallet or hammer. A bulb auger and electric drill make installation much easier. Tree spikes should be dispersed evenly along the outer drip line of the tree. For small trees and shrubs requiring only one or two spikes, break spikes in half to allow for a more uniform distribution pattern.

Uncle’s Tip: Do not use fertilizer spikes on newly installed trees or shrubs. Spikes contain fertilizers in amounts not recommended for new trees or shrubs. For newly planted trees, use Uncle’s Root Accelerator for the first 12 months. 

Tree Fertilizer Spikes
How to Use Tree Fertilizer Spikes
Drill Holes for Tree Fertilizer Spikes
How to Install Tree Fertilizer Spikes with an Auger

What Is a Root Feeder? 

Root feeders can also be used for fertilizing established trees. A root feeder connects to your garden hose. Tablets of pre-measured fertilizer are inserted into the handle. An attached soil probe is pushed into the ground at equal intervals near the tree’s outer drip edge. As the water moves through the cup assembly, the tablets dissolve, and fertilizer is injected deep into the ground, nearer the root zone. These deep-root can also be used for watering trees during drought periods.

See Related: Correcting Iron Chlorosis

How to Use a Root Feeder

Granule tree foods are also available. Uncle’s Tree Food is formulated to feed both ornamental and shade trees. Green Love, with high iron content, is specifically suitable for trees such as oak that thrive with iron in their diet. Spread granulated tree food over the feeder root zone using a push or hand spreader or use an auger to drill holes and fill.

Uncle's Root Accelerator

How to Fertilize Newly Planted Trees and Shrubs

If you are planting new landscapes, wait to use fertilizer spikes or root feeders until the plant has been established for at least one year. New plantings require a unique fertilizer formulation to accelerate root development. Uncle’s Root Accelerator is intended for new plantings and is recommended for all trees and shrubs at installation. Applied once per month for the first year, Root Accelerator will ensure transplanting success. Uncle’s Root Accelerator is a liquid concentrated plant starter fertilizer mixed with water then poured around the tree’s base or shrub. The liquid is immediately available to the plant, encouraging healthy root growth.

See Related: Fertilizing New Trees and Shrubs


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Guide to Successful Tree and Shrub Planting

Guide to Successful Tree and Shrub Planting

How to Plant Trees and Bushes

Start by finding the appropriate area for the tree or bush, paying attention to sun and water requirements. The key to success with any plant starts in the roots.  Strong, healthy roots need good drainage, aeration and lots of organic matter to grow and thrive.

How to Dig a Hole for  a Tree

Step 1 – Dig the Hole Twice as Wide as the Pot

Dig the hole for the plant twice as wide as the container and not quite as deep as the container or root ball. When you remove the plant from the pot, the top of the soil on the root ball should be slightly above the grade of the surrounding earth. In heavy clay soil, we recommend that 25% of the root ball be above grade. Keep the soil nearby – you’ll need it to refill the hole. Remove the plant from the container and place into the new hole.

Step 2 – Remove the Plant from Its Container

Remove any twine, rope, straps, burlap or wire basket from around the root ball, being careful not to damage the bark. Using your hands gently loosen the roots from the root ball, and cut off any circling or matted roots. This allows the roots to start growing outward and downward into the soil. Plants become “root bound” in the pot, which means they are tightly twisted around each other. Loosening the roots is an essential step for plant growth. Make sure the root flare is visible above the existing grade (see image at top of page).

How to Plant a Tree
How to Amend the Soil for a Tree

Step 3 – Backfill the Hole with Soil and Max Mix

Backfill the hole with a mixture of 50% native soil (the soil you dug out of the hole) and 50% Uncle’s Max Mix premium landscapers mix. Max Mix serves as a nutrient-rich growing medium, and blending it with the native soil gives the plant a transition zone where it can adjust to the native soil. Remove any air pockets while backfilling by tamping down with your foot periodically, or by watering the hole incrementally as you fill it. The plant’s roots will not be able to grow through any air pockets that exist in the soil, so it is vital to remove them. Very little backfill should be on top of the root ball.

Step 4 – Cover the Plant Area with Mulch

Next, cover the newly planted tree or bush with mulch, ensuring that the mulch stays at least 3-4 inches from the trunk of the plant. Mulching keeps the sun and wind from drying out the top of the root ball and also helps prevent weeds and grass from growing on top of the root ball.

See Related: Types of Mulch

How to Mulch a New Tree
How to Amend the Soil for a Tree

Step 5 – Stake the Tree 

To give the new tree support, stake the tree to protect it from the prevailing winds, which in our part of the world come from the south. Drive the stakes into firm, undisturbed soil. Run the support wire through a protective tube or strap so that it doesn’t damage the tree. The tree should be tethered to the stakes with adequate tension to allow some free movement in all directions, while preventing it from falling over in heavy winds.. Remove all stakes, wires and straps after the first full growing season.

Step  6 – Water and Feed the Plant!

The final step is to fertilize and water the plant immediately after planting. Use Uncle’s Root Accelerator as a fertilizer for all newly planted plants. This fertilizer is designed to feed the root system of the plant, rather than promote top growth. The plant needs to develop a strong root system during the first year so that it can feed itself in the future.

How to Fertilize a New Tree

Watering will be essential for the success of the plant. We recommend the 3-2-1 approach to watering. Water deeply 3 times per week the first week, 2 times the second week and once a week thereafter. For example, if the root ball was in a five gallon container, watering deeply means putting at least five gallons of water on the plant each watering. Come in and ask our experts for more information about watering your new plants.

Uncle’s Max Mix Soil Amendment

Grass Pad’s Max Mix professional landscape mix is the premium horticultural grade planting media and soil amendment.  Uncle’s combination of processed pine bark fines, naturally composted organic material, lime, gypsum and sphagnum peat make for a mix that does it all! This specially blended mixture has been meticulously designed to have the ideal balance of pH, organic matter, and moisture retention while providing the necessary drainage your landscape requires.

Use Max Mix to improve soil conditions when planting trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, bare root stock, bulbs, and vegetables.  Max Mix also makes an excellent potting soil for all your outdoor pots, planters, and baskets.  Uncle’s Max Mix blend is designed for use in raised vegetable gardens, rose beds, or wherever your existing soil is just not worth using. The uses are endless!

Uncle’s Root Accelerator

For newly installed trees and shrubs use Uncle’s Root Accelerator containing a special starter fertilizer formula. Uncle’s Root Accelerator is specifically formulated for new plantings and is recommended for all trees and shrubs that have been installed for less than 12 months. Promoting rapid root growth, Uncle’s Root Accelerator, applied once per month for the first year will improve your transplanting results. Uncle’s Root Accelerator concentrate is mixed with water and poured at the base of the tree or shrub.


Pot Size/Caliber Gallons of Water Root Accelerator
#1 1 3 oz.
#2 2 6 oz.
#3/5 5 15 oz.
#7 7 21 oz.
#10 10 30 oz.
#15/1.5″ 10 30 oz.
#25/2″+ 10 30 oz.


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Ornamental Grass

Ornamental Grass

Ornamental Grass in Landscapes

Ornamental Grass Idiot Proof Landscaping

These days, foliage color and texture has become of greater importance in the landscape, container gardens, or in planters.  We find ourselves ending up with the same handful of annuals, deciduous shrubs, evergreens, and perennials.  We often overlook a plant family who can give us both color and texture; this plant family would be ornamental grasses.

Ornamental grasses hold a focal area in the landscape. Wanted for their foliage appearance; flower shoots (plume), texture, and winter interest.  Foliage color among grasses can vary immensely, ranging from leaf colors of green, white, yellow, purple, orange and red tones to stripes, bands and numerous variegation combinations. Growth habits include mounding, spreading and uprights with heights ranging from 6 inches to 12 feet.

Common uses for ornamental grasses in the landscape are changes in texture and height, softening up vertical edges, and camouflage for your utility boxes and water meters.  The texture of the grasses is typically used to contrast broadleaf plants and to soften up the landscape.  Grasses are free flowing and help us break the uniformity of highly manicured landscaping, providing a more natural appeal.  Grasses can be both eye catching as well as pleasing to the eye.

Plumes come up on stalks during the late part of the summer to the first part of the fall.  The plumes, feather like in appearance, can range in color from white to cream, black, pink or even a purplish tinge to them.  Plumes can vary in size and shape adding even more to a plant that already looks good and brings the total package to any landscape.

Ornamental Grass in Landscapes
Ornamental Grass in Landscapes

Hardy in most conditions ornamental grasses do well in sun, part sun, and some varieties even in the shade.  They also do well in moist and even wet conditions making them great additions to rain gardens and bioswales There is practically no place in the landscape an ornamental grass could not fit.

Creating idiot proof winter interest or indoor décor. As the grasses go dormant in the fall, leave the plumes uncut. The results will be a beautiful outdoor feature to enjoy during the late fall and winter.  Offering protection from harsh winter conditions, the upright grass blades, are spectacular when snow covered. In addition can, provide shelter for wildlife.  For some inside décor, bundle the plumes up, cut them off at ground level and place them in a nice decorative pot inside your home as a show piece.


Considered low maintenance, ornamental grasses, will need to be cut back each year. Very forgiving, ornamental grasses can be cutback at any time from late December to early spring. Taller ornamental grasses must be cutback to allow new growth to rise from the center of the grass clump. Left uncut during spring growth cycle, the center stalks well be weak and underperforming from a lack of sunlight.

Rejuvenate your landscape adding low maintenance ornamental grasses that will reward you with color, texture, and the benefit of year long interest. Grass Pad nurseries stock the largest selection of hardy and decorative annual varieties of ornamental grasses. Bring your catalogs and compare. Buy local and save money at Grass Pad.


Ornamental Grass in Landscapes

Best Ornamental Grass for Landscapes

Uncle’s Elite Eight Ornamental Grasses



Dwarf Hameln Grass

Slender green leaves and tan, wooly, caterpillar-like blooms from mid-summer through autumn. Drought tolerant. Foliage height is 2′ with blooms 3′.

Dwarf Hameln Fountain Grass at the Grass Pad

Maiden Grass

A tall, graceful, and clumping ornamental grass with slender, weeping, and silvery green leaves that turn golden bronze in fall. White, fan-shaped plumes in fall extend above the foliage. Foliage height is 5′ with blooms 7′.

Porcupine Grass 

Green leaves with yellow colored horizontal bands make the ornamental grass stand out. Fast growing 6′-7′ tall. Silvery white plumes rise 2′ above the foliage in fall.

Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass

Beautiful cool season grass with an upright growth habit. Flowers in late spring starting as bright pink to red and fading to buff. Thrives in poor soils. Foliage height 2.5′ to 3.5′ with blooms to 6′.

Shenandoah Switch Grass

Bright red foliage deepens to burgundy by fall. Blooms begin in color, up by early June. A good substitute for Japanese Blood Grass. Foliage height is 2′ to 3′ with 4′ blooms.

Japanese Silver Grass

A creamy-white variegated grass, Reddish-brown feathery seed heads turn to white plumes and contribute to the striking appearance of this grass. Matures at 6′ to 8′ tall and 4′ to 5′ wide. An excellent alternative to Pampas Grass.

Hardy Pampas Grass

Hardy Pampas Grass is a winter-hardy variety of Pampas Grass. Saccharum ravennae ‘Erianthus’ grows to about 5-8 feet and then sends up airy, white plumes that can reach up to 10 feet tall. One of the most popular ornamental grasses, superb as an architectural specimen or broad accent. The foliage has a clumping habit; plant in groups to create a screen or windbreak.

Prairie Blues Bluestem

A selection of Bluestem with gray-blue foliage turning to an orange-red fall color. Produces purplish-bronze fall flowers that age to silvery white. Has an upright growth habit and matures at 3 to 4 feet tall and 1.5’ to 2’ wide.

Annual Purple Fountain Grass

Not Hardy in Mid-West but this one deserves an honorable mention. Working in landscapes as an annual or in containers this is a great plant. Narrow, gracefully arching, burgundy-purple leaves. Foliage height is 3′ with blooms to 4′.

Pruning Ornamental Grasses

Prune anytime after the leaves turn brown, as long as you cut them back before they start growing again in spring. Avoid cutting fresh new growth tips.  

Uncle’s Tip: Start by wrapping a piece of twine around the outside of the grass and tie the foliage into a tight bunch. This way, the grass will stay bundled as you prune and not explode into pieces everywhere. After your grass is tied up, use handheld or powered hedging shears to cut the dead grass leaves. If you’re using powered hedging shears, it’s helpful to have a friend hold up the grass, so it doesn’t fall on you as you cut. Just be careful not to trim anyone’s fingers!


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Living Fences Make Good Neighbors

Living Fences Make Good Neighbors

Best Evergreens for Living Fences

Planting a living fence can be a low maintenance way to privacy from an annoying neighbor or disturbing traffic noise. Green fences, especially when they are evergreen, can provide a year-round buffer from wind and noise, create shade, and add beauty. Planting an evergreen living fence will allow families to enjoy their yards year-round without feeling like their family activities are on display.

There are many choices when searching for the ideal trees to use for screening. It’s best to begin your quest by measuring your area to determine how much or how little room you have available. Choose plants that fit the space at maturity to avoid maintenance and overcrowding. It’s essential to learn the growth habit, along with height and width at maturity to match the best plants for your conditions. Here are a few of Uncle’s Idiot Proof Plants for living fences.

See Related: Skinny Trees for Skinny Spaces

Green Giant Arborvitae

Green Giant Arborvitae is Uncle’s favorite backyard screen. It’s considered one of the best evergreen trees for privacy. This western red cedar is fast-growing and can provide privacy quickly. Cold hardy to our region, the Green Giant can survive harsh conditions and tolerant of pests and disease. The uniform, natural cone shape requires very little pruning. Height: 30’-40’ Width: 5’-8’ Spacing: 10’-12’

Green Giant Arborvitae

Emerald Green Arborvitae

Emerald Green Arborvitae is another of Uncle’s favorites. Half the size of its cousin, the Green Giant, Emerald Green, is ideal for small yards or narrow corridors. Emerald Green is low maintenance reaching a mature height of 12 to 15 feet. Slower in growth rate than its cousin, the Emerald Green average growth rate of six to nine inches makes it an excellent choice for small spaces. Height: 12’-15’ Width: 3’-4’ Spacing: 4’-5’

Sky Pencil Holly

Sky Pencil Holly, a broadleaf evergreen, will make a space-saving privacy fence. Sky Pencil has a narrow width of only two feet. Unlike traditional holly, the Sky Pencil’s foliage is soft to the touch. This variety of holly thrives in well-drained soil or large containers, making them ideal for patio privacy. Height: 8’-10’ Width: 2’ Spacing: 4’

Sky Pencil Holly
Hetzi Columnar Juniper

Upright Juniper

Upright junipers work very well as a screen. Hardy varieties include the Caenarti, Hetzi, Spartan, and Taylor Juniper. The Caenarti, also known as red cedar, has the best drought resistance. They reach a mature height of twenty to thirty feet and width of up to fifteen feet, making Caenarti ideal for larger open areas. Hetzi and Spartan junipers make excellent windbreaks reaching fifteen to twenty feet with a width of only four to six feet.

Evergreen and Semi-Evergreen Viburnum

Evergreen and semi-evergreen viburnum are impressive for privacy hedges. Burkwood Viburnum, with stunning clusters of pinkish-white spring flowers and red berries in fall, is well-suited for use as a hedge screen growing up to twelve feet tall and five feet wide Leatherleaf Viburnum is an outstanding choice for a fast-growing evergreen viburnum reaching ten feet tall and eight feet wide.

Burkwoodi Viburnum Living Fence
Fineline Fern Leaf Buckthorn

Fine Line® Fern Leaf Buckthorn

Although not an evergreen, Fine Line® Fern Leaf Buckthorn,Proven Winners introduction gets an honorable mention from Uncle. The lacy fern-like foliage combined with a narrow columnar habit makes this an excellent plant for adding texture and shape to the garden. Foliage turns yellow in fall. Ideal as a narrow hedge, accent specimen, and to frame doors and pathways. Height: 5’-7’ Width: 2’-4’ Spacing: 2’-3’

Planting Living Fences

The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The next best is today. Fall is the right time to plant, and we have truckloads of Idiot Proof trees and bushes arriving daily at all Grass Pad locations. Get off your duff and bring your measurements to the Grass Pad. Our experienced nursery staff can help you find the right tree for your conditions.

See Related: How to Plant Trees and Shrubs


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Flowering Lilacs for Spring Beauty

Flowering Lilacs for Spring Beauty

Where to Use Lilacs in the Landscape

Fragrant lilacs, valued for their appearance, are the most popular of spring-flowering shrubs. The vigorous growth habit of the lilacs makes it ideal for tall screen plantings, hedges, borders, and in mass plantings for their tremendous display of flowers. Lilacs will perform best in areas full to part sun. Place them near patio sitting areas, windows, and doorways just for the smell of it!

Best Lilacs for the Midwest

Few shrubs can rival lilacs for bloom even under challenging conditions.  They are used as accent or specimen plants at the corners or along with houses and buildings. Most famous of the lilacs is the Dwarf Korean lilac, which rarely grows larger than 5 feet.  This plant makes an attractive small hedge with its fragrant, purple-lilac flowers. Dwarf Korean lilac grafted on standards is ideal for focal points in the garden, leaving room under the canopy to use low mounding shrubs. Equally as hardy is the Crimson Doll™ lilac introduction from Garden Debut®. Ruby-red buds open in spring to fragrant reddish-pink flowers. Growing 3 to 5 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide, Crimson Doll™ will occasionally rebloom in summer.

Re-blooming Lilacs Bring Color Spring to Fall

New re-blooming varieties have been popular in the last few years. Bloomerang Dark Purple lilacs bloom twice. Dark Purple is bigger than the original Bloomerang and has more massive and rounded bloom clusters. They bloom in spring-like most lilacs, then re-blooming in mid-summer through fall. 

Common and French Hybrid Lilacs

Old fashion purple and white lilacs along with the elegant colors of the French hybrid lilacs bring a majestic pallet of colors and height to any garden or structure.

Hardy in cold climates, a lilac requires full sun to flower well.  Lilacs are easily grown and do well in either acid or alkaline soil but respond with improved growth to applications of lime every three or four years where soils are acid. Lilacs are known to have good deer resistance.

When to Prune Spring Flowering Lilacs

Prune a lilac right after it flowers in the spring.  Pruning consists of removing old flower clusters and thinning out the oldest branches at ground level to encourage new growth from the base of the plant.  The most vigorous new shoots should be left to take the place of the older stems, which will eventually be pruned away.

Renovating an Overgrown Lilac

Renew an older overgrown lilac by cutting the whole plant down to within six inches of the ground.  It’s a drastic means of rejuvenation.  But don’t worry, the plant will survive.  The best way to treat old plants is to prune out one-third of the older stems each year for three consecutive years.  In this way, the plant can maintain a reasonable height in the landscape and still flower from the remaining wood.  By the time of the last pruning, replacement wood should be durable enough to support the plant and promote flowering


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Grass Pad Flower Market and Garden Center

Grass Pad Flower Market and Garden Center

This is Uncle Nature’s favorite time of year!  Taxes are done, robins are singing and it’s time to paint up the landscape.  A flat of annual flowers costs less than a gallon of paint and will give you bright colors all summer long.

Seasonal flowers arrive daily during the peak spring season. Grass Pad Flower and Garden Centers continually re-stock the freshest and highest quality flowering annuals, hanging basket, combination planters, garden vegetables and perennials. We take pride in maintaining our plants, keeping them healthy to ensure you go home with the best plants. We care about our customers and the quality of our fresh flowers. If you are a beginning gardener and need suggestions, we have plenty of helpful staff available in our nurseries. At the Grass Pad, we have the reputation for having the most knowledgeable staff with the best customer service in the Midwest. If you are the experienced gardener or landscaper, bring us your wish list or give us a call for availability.

Note: Grass Pad Flower and Garden Center inventory will change day to day based on the season, weather and market conditions. Each spring season, Grass Pad Flower and Garden Centers fill our tables and racks with thousands of flats of annual and perennial flowers available for retail and wholesale purchases.

When picking out flowers for your garden or your containers, all the selection can be a little overwhelming! Below is a quick guide of the best way to create planters, and what types of flowers you can find at all Grass Pad locations.

Planting in Pots and Planters

Pots and planters are a great way to decorate the porch and patio in spring. They provide design solutions to problem areas and enhance a garden setting. Containers can emphasize entrances to homes, the garden and can be used to screen unsightly views or soften the edge of a bordering lawn.

Uncle says to use three easy steps will create a basic framework for any pot, basket, or container – the Thriller, the Filler, and the Spiller.

The Thriller: Use plants that make a big impact with height and structure to your container. Dracaena spikes, Zonal Geraniums, tropical cordyline, or Blue Arrow Juncus add thrill. Purple fountain grass or Angelonia work well. Perennials such as liatris or coneflower can be used.

The Filler: Use flowering or foliage plants to fill out the body of your container. Choose complimentary colors of pastels or bold colors. Select plants that will grow at similar rates so one plant does not overrun another. Try Sun Patiens, Sun Coleus, or New Guinea Impatiens, to name just a few.

The Spiller: Trailing varieties that spill and cascade over the side of your container soften the edges of your planter and add the finishing touch. For foliage try ivies, licorice plant or vinca vine. Add color with bacopa, trailing verbena, trailing calilbrachoa, scaevola or torenia.

Annual Flowers for the Garden or Containers

Annual flowers are flowers that are planted every year, and generally have the brightest and most vibrant colors. Some annual flowers you might be familiar with include pansies, snapdragons, petunias, geraniums and many more. Annuals are perfect for:

  • Creating color and interest in pots, planters, and garden beds
  • Finishing off landscape borders and boundaries with a punch of color
  • Using as a companion to your vegetable garden
  • Supplementing a flower cutting garden

Perennials for the Landscape or Container Gardening

Perennials are plants that come back year after year if properly cared for, and so only need to be planted once if you’re planting them straight into the ground. If you’re using them for planters or pots, you can transplant the perennials to your garden in the fall to enjoy again next year.  Perennials are perfect for:

  • Creating season-long color
  • Attracting pollinators to your yard and landscape
  • Creating a season-long cutting garden

Like annuals, perennials can be planted in both containers and in the landscape. However, if you plant perennials in containers, you’ll have to take special care of them to ensure they survive the winter. Common and popular examples of perennials include daisies, coneflower, catmint, salvia and many more.

Plants for the Sun and Plants for the Shade

One of the first questions we’ll ask you when you come shopping for flowers at the Grass Pad is, “Sun or shade?”  Most plants prefer one or the other, and choosing the plants based on the sun exposure is a sure way to get the best-looking garden on the block. Here are a few examples of flowers that work well in each location:

Uncle’s Tip: The closer together, the better they look! Annuals planted too far apart take all season to grow together in the bed.  Plants 4” to 6” apart fill in quickly and will make you a hero.

Uncle’s Favorite Shade Annuals:

Alyssum, Green Leaf Begonia, Coleus, Impatiens, Lobelia, Pansy and Violas.

Uncle’s Favorite Sun Annuals:

Bronze Leaf Begonia, Celosia, Dianthus, Dusty Miller, Salvia, Marigold, Petunia, Torenia, and Vinca.


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Flower Pots for Sale at the Grass Pad

Flower Pots for Sale at the Grass Pad

Plant Pots at the Grass Pad

Whether you need a small pot for a window sill, or want to have a large container garden on your patio, the Grass Pad has what you need! Not only do we have many different sizes of pottery, our pottery comes from a variety of locations, from Vietnam to Germany. Each pot has its pros and cons – some are durable and more expensive, others are cost effective but not as weather tolerant. We’ve broken them out below by country of origin and provided some details so you can find the perfect pot for your needs!

Vietnamese Pottery – Uncle’s Pick

Vietnamese pottery is the highest quality pottery that we sell at the Grass Pad. The clay the pots are made from is very strong and winter proof, making them a great choice if you don’t want to lug big pots around before the cold months. Vietnamese pots come in very large sizes, making them excellent statement pieces. Generally not mass-produced, the pottery you’re buying has a one of a kind look and there will be more variation in color even within the same set. As the pottery is made from dense clay, some of the pots can be heavy. If you’re looking for high quality pots, unique designs and the ability to leave them outside during the winter, look no further than Vietnamese pottery.

Malaysian Pottery

Moderate sizes, styles and colors are a hallmark of the Malaysian pottery.  These pieces generally have more of a uniform appearance and less of a hand made look.   They are great for expanding your collection especially for smaller plants you want to bring inside.  

Chinese Pottery

Chinese Pottery offers a lot of variety both in size and glaze colors.   Flashy colors with “drip” glazes are available in this category.  You can select from everything from large statement pieces to window-sill size containers.  While some of the clay may be able to handle winters outside, we feel our customers are safer protecting their investment by enjoying these planters indoors during the winter months.

German Pottery 

The planters we see from Germany are fun, ultra bright colors.  This is achieved with an epoxy coating that is  especially durable  when protected  freezing.  These great colors make it a great welcome sign on porches and decks.  Matching saucers are available when you are ready to bring these indoors.

Container Gardening Examples at the Grass Pad
Container Gardening in Pots at the Grass Pad

Pot Feet and Saucers

Plants don’t like to have wet feet and neither do pots. Pot feet are designed to lift pots off the ground or deck to allow better drainage. They also allow for air flow beneath the planter so your deck can dry out and won’t get the “ring”. Not having standing water beneath the pot, preventing a mosquito hatchery from forming.

How to Winter Planters Outside

Planters left outside can get a helping hand from their human friends by ensuring good drainage.  Avoiding water build-up inside the pot that can expand when freezing is a must.  When initially planting the container, Grass Pad recommends the bottom 1/3 of the planter be drainage material.  The easiest to use is lava rock for its light weight and air space.  Water has a place to go.


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Spring Blooming Azaleas and Rhododendron

Spring Blooming Azaleas and Rhododendron

Each April, spectators around the globe would watch the most famous major championship in professional golf. We would stare in amazement at the pristine greens and manicured fairways of the iconic American golf course located in Augusta Georgia. On Sunday, the accolades would go to the champion along with his green jacket, but the real winner of the tournament was always Mother Nature and her green thumb. Mother Nature with her azaleas, rhododendron, and dogwood lining the course in full spring splendor. Every green and fairway beautifully carved from the Georgian hill country designed to add color and texture to a stunning backdrop. If you’ve never witnessed the glory of hole 13, Azalea, it’s worth watching just for its beauty and elegance. The 13th hole has an estimated 1,600 azalea bushes.

Where Can I Plant Azaleas?

Looking to add flower color and an oriental flavor to your shady spot? Azaleas and Rhododendron are just the thing. Often underappreciated, azaleas will make your backyard a masterpiece in brilliant colors. Spring flowering, azaleas are shade-loving evergreen shrubs that will do well in many mid-west landscapes. Best as foundation plantings on the north or east sides of the home or under any shade canopy.

What Are the Best Mid-West Performing Azaleas?

Best performing azaleas varieties for the mid-west include the Herbert, Karen, and Hot-Shot. These compact evergreen azaleas will reach a mature height of 3-4 feet under ideal conditions. The Yedonese or Poukhanense Compact Korean azaleas with its purple flowers and evergreen leaf can reach five feet tall.

When Do Azaleas and Rhododendron Bloom?

Most azaleas bloom for a few weeks in early spring. Many new re-blooming varieties of azaleas have been popular in the last few years. Proven Winners latest Bloom-A-Thon Double Pink, Lavender, and Red azaleas are establishing themselves as one of the most outstanding re-bloomers. Blooming in spring, with sporadic summer flowers and then a massive re-blooming in early fall.

What Are the Best Performing Rhododendrons?

Best performing rhododendron varieties include the PJM Elite, Lee’s Dark Purple, Nova Zembla and Roseum Elegans. The PJM rhododendron is a smaller leafed variety that shows a purple flower in the spring and deep mahogany-purple leaf color through the winter months. The PJM has smaller blossoms, lower growth profile and is extremely winter hardy. The intials PJM stand for Peter J. Mezitt who was a pioneer in cross breeding rhododendron cultivars.

Caring for Azaleas and Rhododendron

Just like Uncle, azaleas and rhododendrons are acid lovers. Azaleas and rhododendron prefer well-drained soil. When planting, amend your soil with Max Mix, a blended natural compost to improve drainage and acidity in the soil. In areas, with poor drainage, a raised bed may be needed. Mulch with pine bark mulch, a naturally acidic mulch. Fertilize with Uncle’s Green Love, organic fertilizer, to give them the iron they need. Keep a soil test kit handy to check your soil’s acidity, and with a little extra effort up front, you can bring color and class to your shady spot.


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Cold Snaps Are a Part of Spring

Cold Snaps Are a Part of Spring

How To Protect Plants Against Cold Spring Weather

It’s the same thing every spring, a few warm days in March has everyone in the mood to get out of their winter doldrums. Our customers are happy to get out of the house and get into the yard. Clean out the garden bed, prune the shrubs, mow the lawn and rake leaves.

Then like a kick in your shorts, a late freeze comes along. Now everyone is stressed about all those pansies they just planted or the daffodils in bloom. An early spring freeze is nothing new for our region. Just one of those reminders, it’s not spring ‘til Mother Nature says it’s spring. Here are some things that can help ease your stress.

Established Wood Shrubs and Perennial Care

Don’t lose sleep over established woody shrubs or perennials. Some things you just can’t control.  Mother Nature always has a way of looking after her own. Established plants will have stored energy to grow a second generation of leaves.

Should I Cover My Flowers?

Covering your flowering plants with a cloth or blanket can give an extra 4 to 5 degree difference. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is a big difference. If you choose to cover your plants, make sure the entire plant is covered and DO NOT USE PLASTIC. Be careful not to overweight any limbs and branches. If you are not careful, more damage can be done from covering them, than the freezing temperature.

Why not plastic?

Never use plastic of any kind, including black plastic garbage bags, to cover plants, as plastic conducts cold to the leaves and will increase the likelihood of damage to the plant. Old sheets, blankets, drop cloths and special frost protection blankets work best.

What About my Perennials?

Hardy and well-established perennials such as daffodils, tulips, daylily, and iris can usually handle overnight dips nearing the mid 20°s with minimal damage. However, sustained cold temperatures, especially nearer the teens, can cause injury. Most of the time, this would result in cellular wall damage. If the plant was mature and well established; the plant will typically produce new shoots and grow out of it. They may be a little sluggish to perform at first, but a monthly application of Root Accelerator should help them reestablish.

Peony and hosta have tender new foliage, and it may be best to push mulch up around the sides and base of the plant to give support and cover them with a frost blanket or cloth sheet (NEVER USE PLASTIC).  Another trick my Mother used was to set clay garden pots and 5-gallon buckets upside down over the plant. Be careful not to let the plants touch the sides of a plastic container.

What About My Annuals & Vegetables?

If you have pansies in the garden or in a container, chances are they look amazing. Cold weather snaps of short duration should not have any affect on the pansies. Annuals that are more sensitive to the cold and should have protection or brought inside are zinnia, vinca, and sweet potato vine. Cold hardy vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and most lettuce should be fine in cool conditions slightly above freezing temperatures. Tomatoes and peppers are more sensitive to cold snaps and may need protection.

Expect the Worst, Hope for the Best

The real damage won’t be realized for several days.  If signs of damaged tissue appear, fertilizer will be needed to replace expended food storage. The supply of stored energy is limited and will take time and supplemental nutrients to replace.

Fertilize Flower Beds and New Trees

This will help them begin the process of replenishing depleted energy reserves. In two weeks remove dead and black tips that show no sign of new growth. A positive side is we have plenty of time for new growth to return. The loss of fruit may be a good thing for certain crabapples and Sweet Gum trees.


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Bare Root Gardening

Bare Root Gardening

Bare Root Plant Stock

Landscape plants of all kinds, including flowering shrubs, English garden Hosta, bleeding heart, lily of the valley, and dozens more start out their lives in the nursery as bare root plant stock. These unattractive plants, roots, and bulbs are then potted and grown until they become the beautiful full-grown plants sold in landscape nurseries and garden centers. Like the ugly duckling at birth, they transform into a white swan.

Save Money Planting Bare Root

Planting this nursery root-stock now can save fifty to eighty per-cent over mature plants purchased later in May. Likewise, plant material purchased locally is more substantial and of a higher grade than dried out catalog starters obtained by the internet. If you find a picture you like in an online garden catalog, save it to your phone and bring it to the Grass Pad. We probably have it and can tell you if it will do well in your area.

Spring Flowering Bulbs and Tubers

Lily of the valley, bleeding hearts, and astilbe all do well in mixed shade and start from the root stock. Tropical caladiums bulbs and elephant ears also prefer a sheltered spot and will multiply in warm moist soil. The beautiful Belladonna or Naked Lady may be purchased now as a bulb at significant cost savings. A rainbow of flowering plants: daylilies, gladiolas, and dahlias may be planted now and will bloom this year.

Bare Root Hosta

Bare Root Daylily

Bare Root Dicentra

Idiot Proof Bare Root Hosta

English garden hosta lilies are as close to “Idiot Proof” as a plant can get. These tufted leafy plants are grown for both their distinctive foliage and seasonal flowers. Their foliage will vary from deep green to bright yellow, as well as dozens of various combinations in between and vary between 2 inches to 4 feet tall . Their leaves may be large, small, radial, or oval.

For our climate, Hostas grow best in the shade, although some cultivars will tolerate partial sun, such as the yellow-foliaged varieties. All hostas bloom in the summer with spikes of lavender-to-white, lily-like flowers which can be quite showy. Hostas prefer well-drained soils and once established are drought tolerant, but prefer regular moisture for best appearance and size.

How to Plant Bare Root Hostas

Before planting the hostas, place the roots in water which has been spiked with Uncle’s Root Accelerator. The bare roots should soak for 30 minutes in the solution. This will make the roots more pliable and give an added boost to growth. When making a new hosta bed, cultivate to a depth of 10 inches. Apply six inches of organic matter like Max Mix or Sphagnum Peat Moss and till the ammendments into the bed. Dig the planting hole and form a small cone in the bottom of the hole and spread the roots over it. Make sure the crown is at soil level (do not bury the crown) and add the amended soil. Water the plants well after planting. 

Idiot Proof Planting Kit

An “Idiot Proof,” bare root planting kit, includes Max Mix Grass Pad’s professional landscape mix or sphagnum peat. These should be worked into the soil to a depth of six to eight inches. Follow this with Uncle’s Root Accelerator once at planting and again at thirty-day intervals. Also, organic Zoom, poultry manure compost, is an excellent nutrient source for new annuals and established perennials.

At midsummer, potted nursery plants will cost as much as twenty dollars. The Grass Pad has a terrific selection of bare root plants that can be quickly established and represent a real value.

See Related: What is Uncle’s Root Accelerator?


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Guide to Repairing Soil Compaction and Fix Pet Spots

Guide to Repairing Soil Compaction and Fix Pet Spots

What is Lawn Cal?

Lawn Cal is an amendment that improves clay soils. Uncle’s Lawn Cal is an agricultural grade pelletized gypsum, an excellent source of calcium and sulfur for lawn or garden. Calcium is essential for healthy soil and vigorous plant growth. Used as a soil amendment, Lawn Cal reduces compaction by improving water and air penetration, which in turn counteracts the effects of salt and other excessive elements in the soil. Lawn Cal is an inexpensive granular treatment that can be applied with a home or professional rotary spreader. Lawn Cal can be used at any time of year when the ground is not frozen.

Benefits of Using Lawn Cal

  • Loosens compacted soils improving soil porosity
  • Aids fertilizers to penetrate the ground and be more available to the plant
  • Calcium is essential for nutrient absorption through plant roots
  • Stimulates microorganism growth
  • Improves water and oxygen penetration into and through the soil
  • Enhances the value of the organic matter in the soil
  • Amends waterlogged soil and lessens water puddling.
  • Assists in moving harmful salts through the soil, such as animal urine and ice melter

Lawn Cal Helps Compacted Soils

There can be multiple reasons why soil is compacted. Heavy machinery during construction, heavy foot traffic, and dog runs are just a few. These conditions can be made worse with heavy clay soils. Applying lawn calcium to a compacted yard works to break down the bulk density of the soil, relieving compaction will provide a better growing environment for your grass.

See Related: Building Better Soil with Soil Builder

How to Reduce Salt Damage in Plants

When salt is applied to roads, sidewalks, and driveways during icy winter months, the effects can be long-lasting to the surrounding soil and plants. Large amounts of salt in the soil is harmful to both landscape and grass plants. Adding calcium, contained in Lawn Cal, will facilitate damaging salts to leach through the soil quickly while preventing salt uptake into the plant. Left untreated and allowed to be absorbed, toxic ice melting salts will interfere with the plant’s metabolism causing lethal and permanent damage. Also, this newly available calcium will promote the root uptake of beneficial nutrients.

See Related: Salt Free Alternative – Primera Sports Field Conditioner for Traction

How to Prevent Pet Urine Spots in the Yard

Pet and animal urine can leave behind unsightly dead spots in your lawn, usually found in areas where the dog or pets frequently urinate. To prevent pee spots from appearing in your yard, apply Lawn Cal at a rate of 40 lbs per 1,000 sq. ft. over the entire pet area in early spring and fall. Supplementing beneficial calcium into the soil will assist in the leaching of the high concentrations of harmful elements contained in pet urine, facilitating their movement through the soil structure, away from grass roots, allowing the grass to stay green and healthy. Lawn Cal is a naturally occurring compound safe around kids and pets.

Uncle’s Tip: Water those pet areas frequently to assist in moving the harmful elements through the soil. Fertilize lawn evenly if excessive greening in spots is considered the problem.

How to Repair Dog Urine Spots in the Yard

The first step in repairing pet urine spots in the yard is to apply Lawn Cal to the entire area and then water it in with a minimum of ½ inch of water. To repair pee spots in your yard, apply Lawn Cal at a rate of 40 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. The calcium contained in Lawn Cal will assist in leaching the damaging soil contaminates from the pet spots. Repair the bare spot by raking and removing any loose debris. Apply a thin layer of Primera Sports Field Conditioner over the bare area. Apply your preferred grass seed at the heavier bare soil rate. Cover the grass seed with an additional thin layer of Primera Sports Field Conditioner, then water, water, water.

Routine Repair for Dog Runs

Soil compaction makes it difficult for the grass to grow in the areas where Spot runs along your deck and fence. Compaction leaves little or no oxygen available to the roots. Reduce compaction with an application of Lawn Cal every spring and core aerating your lawn every fall. Pass over the lawn at least 2-3 times focusing on the heavy traffic areas.

Primera Sports Field Conditioner should be applied after aerating the dog run and all compacted areas. Rake or sweep the chips into the core holes. The entire lawn will benefit as well, especially if you have poor drainage.

Sports Turf Perennial Rye for Heavy Traffic

Overseeding those areas with high traffic tolerant sports turf perennial rye grass such as Stadium Special, frequently throughout the season, will give support to your existing lawn and blend well with bluegrass or fescue. Stay ahead of the game and overseed with Macho Mix fescue or Estate Mix bluegrass each contain some perennial sports turf rye for traffic tolerance and quick germination.

Fertilize High Traffic Areas Regularly

Golf Course Starter or Renovator should be applied every four weeks in spring & fall growing season. Water your lawn regularly during the dry summer months. Watering in the morning is recommended to avoid turf fungus. A deep watering applied infrequently is best. Average watering should be one inch per week. Hot summers with excessive heat, may require up to two inches per week.

Are These Product Pet Friendly?

It is impossible to eliminate all risks inherently associated with any lawn products either organic or inorganic. There are hazards and cautions for sugar and table salt as well. We do recommend watering each product with at least ½ inch of water and letting the lawn dry before allowing pets access to be on the side of caution. And as always we recommend reading the entire label prior to any application and following all label recommendations. We’ve been doing this for 60 years and haven’t lost anyone yet.


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