The Garden Expert's Blog

Tips, techniques, articles & advise.

Plant West Michigan, watch West Michigan grow, it's your backyard!

For more information on a wide variety of garden topics, you can log onto www.migarden.msu.edu or contact MSU’s toll-free garden hotline at:
1-888-678-3464 with any of your questions.

How to Keep Hanging Baskets Blooming Beautifully

How to Keep Hanging Baskets Blooming Beautifully

Keep your flowers looking lovely with these tips
Author: Craig Koetsier   |  Published: May 30, 2013

Now that summer is here and your flowers are planted, make sure that everything stays beautiful by giving your hanging baskets and container gardens the best care. Follow these tips for great-looking color all summer long. 

Don't Guess: Soil Test!

Don't Guess: Soil Test!

How to keep your garden healthy by testing the soil
Author: Rebecca Finneran   |  Published: May 17, 2013

Plant scientists know that lawn and garden plants require 18 nutrients for healthy, productive growth. Your lawn and garden “soil environment” is a reservoir that houses these nutrients, providing the platform for plant roots to acquire them. Understanding each individual plant’s needs and the type of soil you have is the first step in properly managing soil fertility.

Fun with Fairy Gardening

Fun with Fairy Gardening

Gardening the whole family can enjoy!
Author: Heidi Grasman   |  Published: April 23, 2013

Fairy gardening is the newest trend in gardening, and it’s hot for good reason: it’s fun!

High Fashion for the Garden

High Fashion for the Garden

Hort Couture: Only at Koetsier's
Author: Craig Koetsier   |  Published: April 12, 2013

One of the objectives that we have, as a West Michigan independent garden center, is to bring you plants that you can’t find locally anywhere else. 

Butterfly Gardening by Design

Butterfly Gardening by Design

Welcome winged wonders to your garden!
Author: Rod Grasman   |  Published: March 30, 2013

One of our favorite reasons to garden is getting to see birds and butterflies visiting. There’s just something special about standing among a bunch of blooming plants and seeing a big swallowtail or fritillary flitting around. And while a few birds and butterflies might cruise through your yard or garden while in the area, you’re guaranteed to see them if you plant the perennials and flowers that provide them with food. That’s right: the way to a butterfly’s heart is through its stomach! Hummingbirds are much the same. Why hang a hummingbird feeder that you have to continuously clean and fill when you can plant perennials, shrubs, and annual flowers that will accomplish the same thing without the continuous work?

Make Your Garden Gorgeous with a Visit to Koetsiers

Make Your Garden Gorgeous with a Visit to Koetsiers

Where the whole family has fun!
Author: Craig Koetsier   |  Published: March 11, 2013

Koetsier’s Greenhouse, situated in southeast Grand Rapids, is a third generation family owned and operated greenhouse and garden center, and your home for container garden goodies and garden decorations.

We Invite you to Garden Crossings!

We Invite you to Garden Crossings!

Let Us Help You Plan, Plant & Enjoy!
Author: Rod Grasman   |  Published: February 27, 2013

When you walk into our West Michigan garden center in Zeeland, MI, halfway between Grand Rapids and Holland, you become part of the family. My wife Heidi and I started Garden Crossings in 2002 and we’ve been growing ever since. We'd love for you to come visit!

Holey Mollusks, Batman!

Holey Mollusks, Batman!

Slugs are making Tracks on My Garden Favorites.
Author: Rebecca Finneran   |  Published: June 28, 2012

Early June marks the season for leaves on your favorite garden plants to start looking a bit like Swiss cheese!   With spring rains and humid weather, the soft tissue of perennials and annuals are victims of a sneaky garden pest known as the slug.

The Last Word on Watering

The Last Word on Watering

Insure Bountiful Blooms - WATER!
Author: Rebecca Finneran   |  Published: June 28, 2012

Watering perennials during droughty weather helps plants along but are you really making a difference? Many parts of the state haven’t seen significant rain in weeks.  As the soil moisture ‘bank” is depleted, some plants won’t benefit from light irrigation or rainall.   Caring for perennial plants during this period of time will insure bountiful blooms for next year.  

Earwigs

Earwigs

Bane of Summer Garden Plants
Author: Rebecca Finneran   |  Published: June 28, 2012

During moist weather earwigs and other pests gain momentum in the ideal conditions provided by moist, organic debris such as mulch around your home.   Just looking at an ear wig may creep out the faint of heart with their slender brown bodies and menacing looking pincers at the end of the abdomen.

Giant Hogweed

Giant Hogweed

Horror Flick for the Summer Landscape
Author: Rebecca Finneran   |  Published: June 21, 2012

Giant hogweed may look like a beautiful architectural addition to the landscape, but this dramatic perennial plant also has a sinister side. As its Latin name implies,Heracleum mantegazzianum looks a little like Hercules when it reaches its full height of 6 to 12 feet in Michigan. It can cause a painful skin reaction, including burning blisters, red blotches and purple or black scars. Residents who think they have spotted the deadly beauty can send a digital photo to Michigan State University Diagnostic Service for identification.

Carpenter Bees

Carpenter Bees

Destructive Home Invader
Author: Rebecca Finneran   |  Published: May 17, 2012

Carpenter Bees  Xylocopa and Ceratinaspecies (Hymenoptera: Xylocopidae)  may look like the humble bumble bee but their burrowing habit to protect young offspring can create havoc with a wood structure like your home.  According to MSU Extension Entomologist Howard Russell “The most common carpenter bee in Michigan resembles many of the closely related, large yellow and black bumblebees we have here.”  He says that the top of the abdomen of a carpenter bee is bare and shiny whereas the abdomen of bumblebees is covered with black and yellow hairs.

Making the Most of your Soil Test-pH

Making the Most of your Soil Test-pH

Measure of its Acidity or Alkalinity
Author: Rebecca Finneran   |  Published: May 9, 2012

A garden soil’s pH is a measure of its acidity or alkalinity. This is important to know when growing plants because pH influences the chemical and biological reactions that occur in the soil, including the availability and uptake of essential plant nutrients.  Plants have different nutrient needs. Some species such as rhododendron or blueberry,  perform best with a more acidic pH level;  others, such as lawn grasses, prefer a more neutral or alkaline pH.

Fertilizing Established Perennials

Fertilizing Established Perennials

Feed 'em and Weep
Author: Rebecca Finneran   |  Published: May 9, 2012

Perennials generally do not have a high fertilizer requirement and in fact, some will react negatively to routine fertilization.  An over-fertilized perennial will reward the gardener with excess growth that flops over and becomes leggy.  Over fertilization can also affect bloom performance, producing ample foliage at the expense of blooms.

Fertilizing Newly Planted Perennials

Fertilizing Newly Planted Perennials

Use Well Rotted Compost
Author: Rebecca Finneran   |  Published: May 9, 2012

Proper preparation of planting beds using well rotted compost, commercial organic matter or leaf mold will ensure good success when establishing a new planting.  Preparing soil by loosening compaction and working three to four inches of organic matter into the top twelve inches of soil will provide your plants lasting nutrients for several seasons.  If your soil test indicates you need added nutrient, you can incorporate it at the time you prepare the bed.

What's Growin On

What's Growin On

Weird Winter Weather Pushes Spring Displays
Author: Rebecca Finneran   |  Published: March 16, 2012

For the better part of winter, gardeners have been noticing that their early blooming bulbs are pushing up, buds on clematis and maple are swelling and the feeling of spring is in the air.  With many species responding to the warm winter by awaking early, one can only wonder whether or not Ol’ Man Winter will play a cruel trick on us by showing up late in March.   The question will be, how will the plants respond to significant temperature dips if they are yet in our forecast?”  The answer probably lies not in my crystal ball but in the genetics of the plant.

Repot Orchids

Repot Orchids

for Encore Bloom Performance
Author: Rebecca Finneran   |  Published: March 8, 2012

Gardeners who have succumbed to the allure and fascination of Phalaenopsis orchids may be wondering what on earth to do with their plant once it has finished blooming.  In their native habitat, orchids hang loosely in the crotches of tree limbs on moist organic matter that has collected over time.  The only fertilization they receive comes from the organic matter they exist in and natural rainfall.  You may be thinking, “What more do they need than that cramped little pot of bark and moss?”