Although we still should expect some cold starts before Easter, people are itching to get outside and are turning to their winter-ravaged lawn and asking:

When should I seed my lawn?
The soil temperature needs to be about 50 degrees in order for grass seed to germinate. We recommend seeding in spring when the soil temp reaches 50 degrees. The key to germination is water, water, water.

Don’t forget to check out our Watering and Planting Guides

Should I Fertilize?
Yes! There is a fertilizer for every seed, every plant, and for every time of the year. We don’t love fertilizer just because of our jobs, we love fertilizer because it helps your plants and the environment. Regular fertilization ensures your Veggie gardens will give a much greater yield; annuals will push out more bloom; trees will establish deeper root systems, and shrubs will be less prone to disease.

What about the deer in my neighborhood ?
When a deer is hungry there is almost nothing you can do to stop them. We offer a well-rounded selection of repellants as well as choosing plants that are known to be deer resistant. A quick rule of thumb includes anything fuzzy, fragrant or sharp. Look to our deer-resistant tree and shrub list as well as shop our deer-resistant perennial bench.

Is it Dead?
“Survey Says….:”…by far the most asked question at the garden center recently. Our advice to all…don’t panic! With the up and down weather temperatures typical of early spring it is often too soon to tell. Please resist the temptation to prune your plants to the ground since this may cause your plants to not flower this year and next.

It’s June, and your gloriously green, spring lawn, may not be looking quite as vibrant right now. So let’s do something about it! It’s time to give your lawn a little boost. As the weather turns hot, the cool-season grasses in our lawns start to suffer and could use a little of your help to look and feel better. When working on your lawn, just a few things to keep in mind:

• Small patch seeding only! Don’t take on big seeding projects this time of the year. If you do, you’ll have to water so much you won’t have time to enjoy your super green lawn. Only do small, manageable, bare patches of seeding.

• Keep the lawn mowed as high as you can tolerate. Never let that mower dip below 3 inches. The higher the lawn is, the less chance of burnout in the summer heat.

• You are either all in or all out. Meaning if you’re going to water in the summer months, commit to it. No piddly amounts of water will do. If you are only going to give your lawn shot glasses full of water, then do not bother at all. Just let it go dormant and take a little summer rest.

If at least a month has passed, since your last lawn fertilization, it’s time to get out there and do it again. Here’s the good news, there are many choices to fit your lawn’s needs.

• If your lawn is just looking a little tired, not quite as green, and not overrun with weeds, you could stick to fertilizer. Not just any ordinary fertilizer, but one that contains iron. Iron is great when applied in the month of June. It adds strength, vigor, and deep green color to our lawns, making them look better through the hot summer months ahead. Grab yourself a bag of Summer Revitalizer by Espoma or Milorganite.

• If you recently fertilized your lawn within the last four weeks but you still want that nice green color that iron gives you, then you can apply Fast Acting Iron by Earth Sciences. Talk about green!

• If your lawn is crying out for the nice green color iron adds to it, but still has quite a few weeds popping up, then the perfect combination would be one of the above fertilizers with a bottle of liquid weed control. You can choose a synthetic, such as Bonide’s Weed Beater Ultra plus Crabgrass and Broadleaf Weed Killer, or a natural, such as Weed Beater Fe. You’ll get a wider range of weed control with this synthetic choice but it is nice to know that a natural choice exists.

• Don’t forget the grub control this month. The new, hungry batch of grubs have not hatched yet but they will be soon and you want to be prepared. It is time to put down Grub Ex. Be sure to water it in or put it down before a rainfall to be most effective. If natural is the way for you, then you can put down Milky Spore to help keep those damaging critters at bay.

• If inevitably, each summer, your lawn is plagued with the summertime disease, now is the time to be proactive and put Bonide‘s Infuse Fungicide down. Be sure to water in and you may even consider a second application in 10 days.

Summer is on its way and this is the time we will want to enjoy our lawns the most. Give them a June boost now for the best summer lawn ahead! Happy Gardening!

The season for seeding is upon us!

If you’re ready to get to overseeding or spot seeding your lawn, the first thing you need to do is your yard clean-up. Use your heavy-duty rake and really go to town raking up the sticks, old weeds, and dead grass.

Your next step will be to decide how much time and effort you want to put into your over-seeding or spot seeding project so you can prep your supplies.

A more in-depth process includes aerating your lawn – a process that pulls dirt plugs out of the soil to alleviate compaction and helps water and oxygen flow through. You can rent an aerator if you don’t own one, or even use a hoe or aerating spike shoes if you’re just doing a small section of lawn.

You may opt not to aerate, but with or without that step you can use a product called Gypsum to continue to alleviate compaction – which is the kiss of death for any lawn. Gypsum is an all-natural, under-used product that helps improve soil conditions.

Another optional step is to put down topsoil. Your existing soil may be good enough, but if you decide to put down a thin layer of topsoil, I recommend a topsoil-to-compost 2 to 1 ratio to add much-needed nutrients that topsoil alone does not have. We offer topsoil in bags for spot seeding or bulk for over-seeding.

Once your topsoil is down, it’s time to choose your seed. It’s important to pick the right seed, which is based on how many hours of sunlight your lawn gets. We have custom-made, small-batch, locally sourced Van Wilgen’s grass seed available that is suited to fit all Connecticut environments. Options range from SeashoreMix seed for those whose lawns get salt spray to seed for deep Under Tree Shade mix.

Lay your seed down in a dense, single layer and at the same time put down a starter fertilizer. Both synthetic and organic starter fertilizer options are available.

Next, put down a cover, such as the weed-free straw we carry called Mainely Mulch or the GreenView product Seeding Success. This will hold the seed in place, hold the moisture in, stop the birds from eating it and help warm up the soil temperatures for quicker germination.

The most important part of the process is regular watering. All of your work will have been for nothing if you do not keep the seed damp daily – no puddles. As a general rule, you’ll want to water for a half-hour a day for 30 days, preferably before lunch. It may be necessary to water twice a day if the weather is particularly hot.

Now is the time to get this project underway. The soil still has a bit of warming up to do, but it’s best to get your over-seeding done before the summer sun comes blazing in and you’ll be on your way to the lawn you’ve spent your winter dreaming of!

The winter months may seem bleak, but contrary to popular belief, two types of little critters that love to wreck your lawn and garden, don’t go completely dormant in the winter. That means during a warm winter like the one we’ve had, moles and voles remained fairly active and are already causing trouble under the soil.

Voles will eat the roots of plants, so they are a critter that should definitely cause concern. In your perennial garden, under your rose bushes and even Japanese Maple Trees, if you were to pull up these plants you may find they now have no roots at all.

Moles eat insects, so they’ll leave your plants alone, but they can make a real mess of your lawn with their tunnels.

The sooner you put thought into controlling these creatures, the better off you’ll be.

I recommend putting down an all-natural repellent – such as I Must Garden All Natural Mole and Vole Repellent or Vole Scram – on your lawn to drive away moles and in your gardens to keep voles at bay. Because these are all-natural products, there is no reason to worry about it harming your plants, or pets, for that matter. These products basically coat the food sources for these critters with a smell and a taste that discourages them from making your yard their home.

The best way to use these products is to apply them once per month throughout the season as a preventative measure. If you already know you have an active problem, it’s best to start with a curative approach and make your first three applications weekly.

You’ll know you have an active mole problem if you see mounded tunnels in your yard or find yourself sinking into your lawn as you walk on it. When it comes to voles, holes near the roots of your plants are a good indicator. When it’s time to prune back your rose bushes and do yard clean up and you find some plants come up with no roots, that’s another sure sign.

Even if you’ve never seen an indication of moles or voles in your yard, it doesn’t hurt to take preventative measures to be sure they never move into your property.

For people who have a severe problem and are looking to take a more aggressive route and eliminate moles and voles rather than just drive them away, we do offer natural and synthetic bait options.

If you’re looking to protect a special plant or two that you often find loses its roots to hungry critters, one final alternative is to use a Gopher Shield, a stainless steel mesh bag that you place your plants roots in before it’s planted.

With varying sizes up to 15 gallons, it’s a great solution to a known problem.

With the right tools and perhaps a little creativity, you’ll be prepared to control those critters before they cramp your lawn and garden style.

Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help.

Spring is the busiest time in your garden, and it can be easy to miss some important tasks that you’ll kick yourself for later. But good news! This spring checklist is customized for you—gardening in the New England climate—and it’s what we follow to keep our own gardens in tip-top shape to enjoy for months to come.
Stop by Van Wilgen’s for plants and supplies and we’re happy to answer your spring gardening questions.

Dads love their lawns. Lots of moms do too but today we are going to focus on the dads. Often while the family is off shopping for flowers in the greenhouse, the dads hang out in the lawn care corner with all the cool lawn stuff and lots of questions about how to get the best lawn on the block. Well, dads, we’re here to help! Here are some tips on how to have one of the best summer lawns on the block:

stacey tips art 1Just because you can’t see it, does not mean it is not important. pH is probably the most significant soil factor in growing grass, flowers, and veggies. Do you know your soil pH? If you do, your yard will be very proud of you. If you do not, you need to come down to Van Wilgen’s Garden Center, get one of our many soil testing kits, head down to the Connecticut Agricultural Station in New Haven. They can test your Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and pH balance there.

What is pH? Why is it so important? Think of soil pH as a chemical balance in the soil. If it is out of whack, nothing grows as well as it should. In general, Connecticut soil leans toward the low end of the pH scale, making our soil acidic or “sour”. The more sour our soil is, the more your plants struggle. Who likes a sour-puss anyway?

Once you determine your soil pH, we can help. If you measure a 7.0, you are in luck because your soil is neutral and you need not do a thing! Below 7.0? Here is what you need to do…apply Lime! Fall is almost here and is one of the best times to apply lime. It has all winter to work its’ magic.

Van Wilgen’s offers Fast Acting Lime by Encap and Soil Doctor’s Pelletized Lime. Both are great

solutions but I prefer the slower-acting Lime by Soil Doctor for the Fall. It takes its sweet time,

breaking down under the snow, and is more available in the Spring.

Think of your lawn and garden as having a bad sweet tooth. It needs sweeter soil to thrive. If your soil is sour, raise it up with a Lime application. You will have a happier lawn next Spring and I know that will make you smile.

Come see us at Van Wilgen’s Garden Center. We would love to help!

stacey tips art 1

You sure the heck can! Dormant seeding is not a common practice but I say, give it a whirl. The spring outcome can be very rewarding and the fall effort is very minimal.

The key to dormant seeding is to put seeds down late enough so they do not begin to germinate too quickly. Be sure that the last leaves have fallen and have been cleaned up. Thanksgiving week is always a good benchmark holiday for winter garden activities. This would be a good time to begin your dormant seeding project. I use the word project lightly because the work is not so difficult as the word project suggests.

The second key is to mow the lawn short. Yes, down to 2 inches. Some people call this scalping but nothing about that word sounds healthy to me. A short lawn ensures that the seed will get down to the soil.

Key #3 is to be sure that there is good seed to soil contact. This is important for any type of seeding you do. Seeds that hover above the soil have nowhere to put its’ roots. Yes, this does require a little manual labor. This is a good thing. The cool, fresh air is great for our lungs. Get out there and rake that lawn to expose as much of the soil as you can. Some people even wait until the ground freezes a bit. The frost cracks are perfect for grass

Key #4 is to water the seed. Here is the very good news…you may only have to water it 1 time! After seeding, water the area until it is thoroughly damp. No puddles. If we get some very dry days, you may need to give the seed one more quick watering. How easy is that?!

Key #5 is to enjoy the winter break with a hot cup of coffee or whichever beverage suits your fancy. Snow provides a good cover for seed.

Key #6 is to be patient and wait for spring. If winter conditions agree with the grass seed, you will see little green sprouts emerging as soon as the soil temperatures warm up. Don’t be discouraged if it is a little thin. It is better than nothing and you can always throw down a little more seed.

Make this your last task of the fall season or the first one of your winter season. However, you view it, go for it! It is a quick, easy project, that could yield great rewards.

p.s. You still have time to do regular seeding this year before your dormant seeding time approaches. Perennial Rye will give you the quickest results. Take advantage of every minute. There is so much we can get done before winter arrives. You will feel so good about yourself!

Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help!

Labor Day is here. Let’s get out there and put a little bit of labor into our lawns. The summer heatwave has kept us sadly looking at our stressed-out lawns from the inside out. I know, it has been too darn hot to think about doing much in the yard, except for sitting under the shade of a tree with a cool drink in your hand. I myself have felt much less productive but I promise the cooler weather is on its way. Don’t delay.

September is the ideal month to care for and improve your lawn. You think you struggled in the heat and humidity!? Your poor lawn has taken a beating. It has nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. There is so much you can do to help your lawn right now. Take a break from the AC and get out there.

Of course, I am always going to push you to throw a little grass seed at your lawn. There is nothing better than filling in thin or bare spots or starting fresh with new grass seed. A thick lawn is the best defense against weeds and crabgrass. If you are just not up to seeding this fall, at least put down some fertilizer. Give your lawn a good organic fertilizer like Espoma’s Summer Revitalizer or Milorganite. I also love Greenview’s Lawn Food. Apply either of these in the Month of September. You will see a big improvement. Note: You are not off the hook after this application. A Fall application should follow sometime in October/November.

Back to seeding. September is a beyond-perfect month to seed. The nights are getting cooler but the soil temperatures are so warm for quick germination. You do not need to water as often and weed competition is not as big of a deal. You could start small and do some simple patch seeding or take it to the next level and over-seed your entire lawn. Whatever your fancy, I encourage you to do a little seeding.

If seeding is going to be your focus, let’s get going. Get your supplies: Van Wilgen’s Grass Seed, Starter Fertilizer, Chopped Straw, and do not put away those sprinklers. If you want to rent a core aerator and aerate your lawn before seeding, I will go to sleep with a big smile on my face. You should core aerate your lawn every two years. It is the best at relieving compaction, letting water and oxygen flow through, and giving you a healthy lawn. If used right before over-seeding, your results will be so much better.

Time to do a little labor on your lawn. Your lawn is calling you outside.

Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help!


*Espoma’s Organic Summer Revitalizer (the yellow bag)


Just as you need the energy to get through your day, your plants do too. And of course, when it comes to family-friendly gardening, organic fertilizer is the way to go!

What is Organic Fertilizer?

Organic fertilizers contain only ingredients from plant, animal, or mineral sources. Examples of these kinds of ingredients are bone meal, kelp meal, and greensand.

Why Use Organic Fertilizers?

While it is true that all fertilizers ultimately feed nutrients to plants in the same form, it is the process by which they are delivered that makes organic fertilizers superior to others.

Three ways to think about organic fertilizers:

1. Gardening always starts with the soil. Organic fertilizer “feeds the soil that feeds the plants”. The process by which organic fertilizers deliver their nutrients enhances the fertility and structure of the soil.

Organic fertilizers are digested by soil microorganisms, which then release the nutrients in a form available to plants. This process produces humus, a spongy material that improves soil structure. When you improve soil structure, the soil is better able to hold the proper balance of water, air, and nutrients until they are required by plants.

Plants respond by developing larger root systems. Larger roots support more vigorous top growth and make plants less susceptible to drought. And by stimulating a healthy population of beneficial microorganisms in the soil, plants become more resistant to insects and diseases.

2. Organic fertilizers will provide slow, steady feeding, as the plants require it. The release process is slow and largely dependent upon three factors: the microbial population in the soil, moisture, and soil temperature.

A healthy population of microbes in the soil is necessary for the digestion process. Moisture is required to sustain microbial life as well as to keep nutrients flowing into the plant’s root zone. And soil temperature is critical because as it rises, plants require nutrients more rapidly.

Fortunately, microbial activity mimics these requirements and increases as soil temperature rises, so that organic fertilizers feed the needed nutrients as the plants require them.

3. Most of the time, the gardener isn’t the only one in the garden. Organic fertilizers are the safest choice for your plants and the environment. Unlike synthetic plant foods, organic fertilizers have an extremely low salt index, which means there is little to no risk of burning (dehydrating) plants in periods of extreme drought or when over-applying.

Organic fertilizers are generally very resistant to leaching out of the soil, so their nutrients stay in the root zone until the plants need them. And since most organic ingredients are byproducts from commercial farms and meat processing plants, the utilization of them for feeding plants is really a system of recycling much like composting.

So, when the debate of whether you should fertilize your plants pops in your head remember: organic fertilizer is the right choice for you and your family. Check out our fertilizers here.