How Does YOUR Landscape Grow?

How Does YOUR Garden Grow?

They say no two fingerprints are alike. You could say the same about plants because of the external factors that can influence their growth and ultimately their overall look.

Soil compaction is a common occurrence in residential yards. This can affect not only your plants root system, but also its overall vigor.  Tree roots will tend to surface more often in compacted lawns. Water doesn’t drain as well and will have a negative impact on your plants.

Sidewalks or concrete is another external factors affecting plants. You will see this most notably with tree roots bubbling up by the sidewalk or grass that dies along cement due to excessive heat and lack of moisture.

Shade can affect plant growth and is often overlooked due to maturing landscapes. Plants aren’t stagnant and are living things, therefore, they are constantly growing and changing. This means a yard full of sun 10 years ago might be partial or full shade now. This lack of sun for sun-loving plants can cause them to decline. Landscapes need rejuvenated every now and then to keep up with the ever changing aspect of plants.

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Nebraska Nursery & Color Gardens

Planting Seeds for the Future

Planting Seeds For The Future

Do you ever wonder why when we get older, we can lose our sense of awe and wonder of the natural world around us? Is there a way we can keep that excitement alive in the next generation? I think part of the answer lies with our own actions as parents.

I have found through experience of being a parent with young kids and from my own childhood that kids are like sponges. That “soak up” everything they experience around them. You can see this in the way they emulate what they have heard or seen. This is a very fast way of learning, by learning from others. And with that said, the next generation will either learn to love being outside with nature or not partly by the environment we provide for them. The more often we can get them outside playing in the dirt, participating with a vegetable garden, helping plant a tree, etc., might make them more likely to enjoy doing activities outside as an adult.

Having a love for nature and our environment around us is engrained in us as human beings. Yet, that love can be lost when we get older due to our busy lives and our unwillingness to slow down and “smell the roses”. Let’s keep that awe and inspiration of all things living with our next generation so that they can be good stewards of the earth that has been entrusted to us.

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Nebraska Nursery & Color Gardens

Edible Landscaping


If you have heard the term ‘edible landscaping’ and have wondered what that means, I am sure you are in good company. It doesn’t mean we are turning to the landscape for more sources of fiber in our diet (although according to the professionals, most of us could probably use more fiber in our diet ;).

Edible landscaping is a term used when certain plants can be used for beauty and consumption. There are a number of plants that can do double duty for your landscape. Some of the most common include chokeberry, serviceberry, and blueberry. People also will use sunflowers, chives, okra, kale, and others for their ornamental qualities as well as being edible. Herbs such as oregano and thyme can be used for groundcovers. Just be sure to have them contained because certain herbs, like mint, can be invasive. You can also use strawberries for ground cover in areas where there won’t be foot traffic.

Before you start taste testing your plants make sure you know what you are eating. If in doubt, leave it alone, let the wildlife enjoy the food, and you can enjoy the beauty if provides!

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Nebraska Nursery & Color Gardens


The Benefits Of Compost

There are a lot of things we can do right for our plants. One of the best “multi-taskers” for our plants is compost. Here a few ways your landscape can benefit from compost.


Compost can be made from most organic material (excluding meats, oils, citrus, and dairy) and that is one of the reasons it is so nutritious for your plants. Grass clippings, leaves, vegetable garden scraps, and such can all be used to make compost. Turn the pile once a week or so until it smells earthy and looks like black dirt and you’re done.

Soil Aeration

Vertical composting, which is digging out 2” vertical holes 12” to 18” deep and filling with compost, allows air, water, and nutrients to reach roots. It helps in situations where the soil is compacted and there is plant decline.

Water Retention

Compost has the ability to retain water better than some soils and therefore will help with seed germination on an overseeded or new planted lawn or vegetable garden. It will also provide nutrients for the new seedlings.

With all of the benefits of compost, look to supplement your yard or garden this year for a more lush, green landscape.

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Nebraska Nursery & Color Gardens

Planting Trees & Shrubs

Dig It!

Planting a tree or shrub is more than just digging a hole and putting it in the ground. Make sure you take the proper steps to assist your plant’s health in the future.

First, make sure the site conditions fit the growing requirements for your plant. Plants grow in different climate zones – Lincoln, NE is zone 5. Also, are you planting in sun or shade? An area that floods or well drained soil? What is the quality of the soil? These are things to consider long before purchasing a plant or digging your first shovel full.

When the site conditions are figured out, then it’s time to plant. Planting depth is a very important thing to remember. Don’t plant any deeper than how it’s planted in the container. Trees and plants will decline over time and may eventually die if planted to deep. Generally speaking, you want the crown of the plant (where the trunk or branches connect to the roots) to be planted at, or above the soil grade level. Burying the crown of the plant may cause the tree or shrub to decline over time.

If planting a container tree or shrub, you can score, or cut, a few roots to open up and feather out the root ball. This helps with minimizing girdling roots and future growth of roots. Also, if you are amending the soil around the root ball with compost or other amendments, make sure half of it is native soil to help the plant acclimate to its new environment.

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Nebraska Nursery & Color Gardens

Landscape Mulch

Different Types of Mulch

When it comes to the beauty of your landscape, plants take center stage. But just like a good paint color on the walls of your home, mulch can make your plants stand out, or “pop”, or it can be the star of the show by itself. Today I am going to focus on two kinds of mulch: shredded wood and rock.

Shredded wood mulch is probably the most popular mulch you will see around your neighborhood due to versatility and cost. It comes in many colors including natural, light brown, dark brown, black, and red. In my opinion, a dark brown mulch behind the greenery of plants looks clean and sharp to the eye. Shredded wood mulch has the added benefit of decomposing into compost to provide nutrients for your plants.

Rock mulch is another popular option and is a good choice for homeowner’s looking for the varied colors and kinds out there. River rock is the most popular partly due to its versatility of matching different colors and styles of houses. Rock mulch also is a great option for those who don’t want to refresh their mulch like you have to with wood mulch.

Next time you work in your landscape, consider these two options to meet your needs and expectations of your landscape.

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Nebraska Nursery & Color Gardens

Insulating Your Landscape

This winter was truly amazing. The ground hadn’t froze prior to the unprecedented snow and record breaking low temps. Now, here we are in March with 60° weather and sunshine! Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take the 60°’s over the -20°’s any day, but what does this mean for the landscape plants, trees & shrubs?

When we talk about snow, we don’t usually think of mulch at the same time. Different seasons mean different projects. In the plant world, however, mulch and snow can perform the same job. They can both insulate your plants.

Cold winters with no snow cover can be hard on plants. Plants will continue transpiration (loss of moisture through the leaves/needles) throughout the winter months. If the environment is dry with low humidity, it can lead to desiccation and dieback or even death of plants. In Lincoln, we typically see desiccation over the winter on our evergreens, as the needles will start to turn brown in mid-late winter. Dieback occurs when the tips of the branches don’t receive enough or store enough water, leading to the tips of the branches dying back to a certain point on the stem. It can be difficult to tell if perennial flowers die over the winter, since they naturally die-back to the ground after the first hard freeze.

Another way the cold winters attack our landscapes, is through the natural freeze-thaw cycles. When the temperature warms during the day, then freezes at night, this can be especially hard on plants. We will notice this in the late fall and early spring seasons in Lincoln. The freeze-thaw cycle is really tough on plants and shrubs planted on the south side of a brick house. The brick will add to the heat of the day, confusing the plant into budding out with new leaves. Then at night, the freezing temperatures will set the plant growth back. When this happens frequently, it can be too much for the plant and it eventually dies. This happened last spring as we had a week worth of warm temps, my butterflybush were budding & then we had a few of 17° nights and they never recovered.

This year, we were fortunate enough to have snow (ok, a lot of snow) when we were hitting the truly brutal cold temps. The snow, acting like mulch, insulates the roots from the cold or fluctuating temps. Snow also has the added benefit of re-hydrating the soil. So the next time you see snow covering your plants, be thankful for the free insulation and watering that nature is providing us!

Nebraska Nursery & Color Gardens

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Watering Established Landscapes

Since various growing conditions can exist around your home, e.g. sun or shade, damp or dry, sloped or flat land, the best indicators to determine if your plants need water are your fingers!  If a deciduous (leafy) plant is over-watered or under-watered, you can see the signs on the plant.  You may see wilting leaves, fall color, sagging or drooping branches, leaves dropping from the inside or outside of the plant, or the leaves are crispy the soil may be too wet or too dry.  Wouldn’t it be nice if they had a signal and turned orange when they need more water and blue when they don’t?

So, what do you do when you see the plant looks a bit off?  First, start by digging around under the canopy (branches, leavest, etc…) of the plant.  When you dig down about 4-5″, stick  your fingers in the dirt and see if the soil is wet or dry.  Plants that are staying too wet and signaled you, will most likely have pretty foul smelling dirt when you are digging. The soil will be soggy, and really, just icky over-all.  The smell and ickiness is coming from the roots rotting due to lack of oxygen.  The root rot then shuts off water & nutrient flow to the branches (remember the signs look the same – too wet and too dry = not enough water is getting to the branches and leaves).  When you find the soil is too wet, pull back your mulch from under the plant.  Turn irrigation heads away from the plant and let it dry out for a couple days and re-check the soil.

If the soil 4-5″ deep under the plant’s canopy is dry, powdery and crumbly AND your plant shows the stress signs, it means we don’t have enough moisture in the ground and it’s time to water.  Water slowly and at different points around the base of the plant under the canopy, either in the morning (best) or in the evening as it’s cooling down.  Re-check for moisture in a couple days.

If you are unsure if the soil is too wet or too dry, you can leave the pant alone until the next morning.  If the plant perks back up overnight, it could have just been too hot and wilted.  If the plant is still wilted in the morning and the soil is not excessively wet, you should give it a good, slow soak and re-check it in a couple days.

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Nebraska Nursery & Color Gardens


Tree Purchasing

We sell many different sizes of trees and they come in varying methods of containment.  The main types of trees you could purchase are bare root, root-washing, container, grow bag, balled and burlap and spaded.  Today we’ll walk you through the different types and what they could mean for the future of your tree.

Bare root – This term refers to a tree that has no soil on it’s roots when you go to plant.  The major advantage to planting bare root trees is that you have direct root-to-soil contact.  This is important for the root acclimation to its final home.  The direct contact makes caring for the tree easier, as the soil type is the same throughout the roots.  You can see the root flare easily and plant at the proper depth, which is crucial to the future of your tree.  The drawback of planting bare root is the limited season.  Typically you can only plant in the spring and fall.

Root washing – A new method, called root-washing, is currently being explored in the landscape world.  This method is a variation of bare root planting, where the nursery washes the soil off while the tree is leafed out and in an active growing state.  This could be a huge break through in our industry because we know the value and impact of root-to-soil contact, but we feel limited on the seasonality of the installation.

Container – Container planting is really popular now because of the ease of transportation.  You can plant container trees as long as the ground isn’t froze, so the planting season can be around 9 months!  The containers can cause roots to circle and girdle the tree, which is a huge detriment to container planting.  Make sure when you buy a container tree, you remove the tree from the pot and look at the roots.  If there are larger, major roots, that are circling, you’ll need to do some corrective pruning to the roots or you may opt to purchase a different tree.  Container trees will have a soil or soil-less mix around the roots.  This is typically a lighter soil (dries out faster) than your existing landscape soil.  Because of this, initial watering is a little tricky, as your root ball may be dry, but the surrounding dirt is damp.

Grow Bags – The grow bags are gaining popularity due to the ease of transport, like the containers, with minimal root circling.  Yes root circling may still occur, so be sure to check how long the tree has been in the bag.  Root bags are great for the tree roots, as they build a strong fibrous root system critical for the uptake of water and nutrients.  Like containers trees, the tree may have different soil around the roots than your existing landscape, making initial watering tricky.

Balled & Burlap – Trees that are balled and burlap are first dug from the field and set outside the hole and wrapped in burlap and surrounded with either twine or a wire basket.  The trees are dug during the dormant season (evergreens can be harvested in late summer/early fall) and then can be planted throughout the year.  Balled and burlap trees are a way to plant larger trees during the growing season.  Like containers and grow bags, the tree may have different soil around the roots than your existing landscape.

Spading – Tree spading is discussed thoroughly in our blog post

Let us know if you’d like to discuss another topic!

Nebraska Nursery & Color Gardens

Unique Landscapes, Home Grown Roots


Canker in the Landscape

Cankers can be caused by fungal or bacterial bodies.  It can cause distortion, discoloration and cracking in the branch or trunk and can be fatal to the landscape plants.  Most cankers are difficult to control with chemicals and some can be pruned out the plant.  It is important to sanitize your pruners between EVERY cut so you reduce the risk of spreading the canker to the next branch.  We’ve found dogwoods to be one of the most susceptible shrubs to be attacked by canker.  Plants that are weakened by drought, winter damage or other outside factors can make a tree more likely to develop canker.  Some healthy plants are able to fight off canker and are not affected.

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Nebraska Nursery & Color Gardens

Unique Landscapes, Home Grown Roots