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Pollinators: What’s the Buzz?

pollinatorsPollinators are responsible for one out of three bites of food we eat! Pollinators—butterflies, bees, and moths—also help repopulate plants and add diversity to the environment, making an ecosystem more resilient. Unfortunately, pollinators are in decline. Gardeners are crucial to helping reverse this trend. The simple action of sowing seeds is powerful. It can create habitats that protect and feed pollinators, strengthening their population.

The Four “P”s of Pollinator-Friendly Gardening

1. Plant flowers: Provide food for pollinators by sowing flowers, especially native varieties.
2. Plant diversity: Plant a diversity of bloom times, colors, and heights. By staggering bloom times, you provide a reason for pollinators to call your garden home throughout the growing season. Some pollinators are very small and need very small, open flowers in order to access the pollen or nectar. Sow a diversity of flower shapes and sizes, usually simpler (single vs. double petal) varieties of flowers work for more species.
3. Provide water: In your water feature, create small islands with stones where pollinators can land and climb in and out of the water.
4. Pass on pesticides: Look for organic ways to block pests, disrupt their life cycle, and invite their predators. Integrated pest management (IPM) techniques utilize simple solutions, such as using a fabric row cover to block pests. Sowing varieties like alyssum and allowing dill to flower both attract beneficial and predatory insects.

pollinator-friendly-seedsOur friends at Botanical Interests® seeds have created a pollinator-friendly custom-blend flower seed mix, and 100% of the profits go directly to the Pollinator Partnership, whose mission is to promote the health of pollinators, critical to food and ecosystems, through conservation, education, and research. At this great price, pick up a few packs! (Sku 700608, $1.00)

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Side Walk Sale – Rockridge Store

Time to clean the cupboards! We’ll be cleaning house and lining the sidewalks at our Rockridge store with hundreds of bargains! We have lots of merchandise that is in good shape but perhaps a bit shopworn—ripped packaging or maybe a little scratched or dusty. And we need to empty the warehouse to make room for new and exciting summer merchandise. Everything in our sidewalk sale will be marked down 25% to 75%, so you’ll be sure to find some exceptional deals.


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Meet the Author: Pam Peirce

Meet the Author: Pam Peirce
Saturday, March 12, 11:00 am–1:00 pm
956 Cole Street


Pam Peirce grew up in Indiana and moved to San Francisco after she finished college with a bachelor’s degree in botany. She enjoyed California culture as well as the mild winters that allow a year-round garden. While studying the climate of the Bay Area and the plants that can be grown here, she gardened first in borrowed backyards and in containers on porches and windowsills, but she soon found a gardening home in a community garden.
During 1980–1983 she participated in the founding of the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners (SLUG), an organization that supported both community and home gardeners citywide. She served on its board until 1999. Pam also taught horticulture at City College of San Francisco for 30 years.
The first edition of her book Golden Gate Gardening was published in 1993. Now in its third edition, Golden Gate Gardening (Sku 799650, $29.99) is much improved and expanded from the first and second editions. It now includes, in addition to two coastal planting calendars, two planting calendars for varieties of inland microclimates. It is useful for those gardening from Humboldt County south to San Luis Obispo as well as for those in mild-winter inland climates. Pam will be on hand at our Cole Street store on Saturday, March 12, to sign copies of her book and answer questions. Take advantage of her expertise right in our own backyard!

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The Inexpensive, Reliable Plant SitterAcr1976270950852021232

DRiWATER is a patented product that consists of 98% purifed water and 2% food-grade ingredients. It is bound in the form of a gel-like solid that provides consistent subsurface irrigation for plants. Organic and completely nontoxic, DRiWATER helps you maintain beautiful and well-hydrated plants without wasting water. An especially good solution if you’ll be vacationing this month, DRiWATER can keep your plants watered without you needing to ask a neighbor or friend to care for your garden or houseplants while you’re away. (Sku 707020, $2.99)

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Felicia’s Favorites: Seed Starter Pellets and Brick Plus

soilstarterPolk Street’s Felicia has a green thumb and loves to garden. One of her tips for getting your seeds to sprout sooner is to use Wonder Soil®, a light-weight soiless growing medium made from premium coco coir. With guaranteed low salts, it promotes a stronger root system, faster germination, and enhanced plant growth. Available in various sizes and formulas for different gardening applications, the Seed Starter pellets and Brick Plus expand up to seven times their volume when water is added. The inclusion of water-saving polymers allows a savings of up to 50% water, too, for up to four years.

These products promote exceptional gardening success for both the novice and professional.

(Seed Starter: Sku 745006, $11.99; Brick Plus: Sku 745009, $9.99)

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Save the Monarch Butterfly

We all recognize the iconic monarch butterfly with its majestic orange and black wings. Unfortunately, there has been a 90% drop in the population of the monarch butterfly in the United States over the past 20 years, but there is something gardeners can do to make a big difference in their decline.

Butterflies are more than just beautiful; they are beneficial to the environment and your garden. Butterflies pollinate plants that produce about one-third of the food that we eat. They flutter from plant to plant drinking nectar, and as they move, they take pollen with them. The pollen is deposited on other plants, helping with the continuation and growth of many plant species. The presence of butterflies also signals a healthy environment.

Because they are very sensitive to pesticides, imonarch-18140_1280f you keep an organic garden, chances are that butterflies and other beneficial insects such as ladybugs and bees, which eat plant-damaging insects like aphids, will be present as well. That’s good for the overall life and health of your garden!

Unfortunately, the butterfly we all know and love is losing its habitat, specifically milkweed, to modern farming methods and population development. The monarchs are the only North American butterflies that make a 3,000-mile migration to Mexico and California for the winter, taking six to eight generations to complete the journey. The fragmentation of milkweed in their migratory path is significant because milkweed is the only host plant where Monarchs lay their eggs, and the sole food source for their larvae. With fewer host plants, their population is suffering.

Their population decline is so significant that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing to determine whether the butterfly should be classified as “threatened” under the Federal Endangered Species Act. As home gardeners, we can help to replenish the butterfly habitat by sowing milkweed/butterfly flower from our friends at Botanical Interests, whose goal is a butterfly flower in every garden! Our stores offer three assorted butterfly flower seed collections. (Skus 700717, 701105, 701283, $1.99–$3.99)

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November Garden Tasks

November Garden Tasks:

During the late fall and holiday seasons, we turn our focus to the indoors of our homes, but don’t forget about the many tasks you can still undertake outdoors in the garden. Caring for your garden in the colder months of the year allows you to enjoy your garden year-round.

– Remember that plants don’t need as much fertilizer or water during the winter season, so both can be reduced now. This also hardens your plants to weather the cold months ahead.

– This is a great time to plant new perennials in your garden. Throughout the winter these newbies will really put effort in the root system, and show off your planning and patience in the spring. Look around your neighborhood for plants that you remember admiring last spring, since these will be especially likely to do well in your area. If you don’t know what a plant is, ask your neighbor! Or, snap a photo to bring into our garden centers and we can try to help identify it.

– Continue to plant Spring bulbs that you purchased in the Fall. Get them in the ground now and they will reward your efforts in Spring with beautiful blooms.

– Plant primroses, cyclamen, calendulas and pansies, cabbage, kale, broccoli, onion sets and root vegetables. Set out seeds of arugula, bok choy, fava beans, lettuce, radish and spinach.

– With the holidays just around the corner, keep in mind that some holiday plants should be kept out of reach of children and pets. The most common plant that falls in this category is Poinsettia because they are poisonous. A good resource for pet safe indoor plants is the website. Once you have chosen the indoor plant that is safe for your favorite pet you can stop by any of our Cole Hardware stores and we can usually locate and have in the stock the plant within a week, depending on availability from our vendors.

– During winter storms dead or cracked branches could fall down, doing damage to your home or to neighbors’. Check your property and enlist the help of an arborist if needed to minimize these potential hazards. For newer trees and shrubs, help them stand strong through blustery weather by staking them. Use a lodge pole and keep it in place until roots are able to develop and anchor. (Sku 700509, $8.49)

– If you don’t already have them growing in your garden, consider buying rosemary, sage, marjoram, and thyme plants to have homegrown herbs on hand for your upcoming holiday meals.  For an indoor herb garden, place herbs in a south-facing windowsill.

– Clean up litter from fruit trees and roses and put in your green waste bin. This will help avoid the spread of disease that can infect your plants in Spring. Follow the clean up with a dormant spray. Spray as soon as leaves start to fall for the first time. You can spray a second time in December and a third time in February. We have Monterey brand ‘Liqui-Cop’ copper fungicide (sku 7117112, $12.99) Safer Garden Fungicide (Sku 74806, $9.99)

– Check drains around the house, and remove leaves and debris from areas that could become clogged in the winter rain. As the rain begins, also watch for areas around your yard that pool and could become inundated with water. Modify the landscape or drainage as needed.

– Mulch all bare ground with bark or compost to help prevent erosion, smother winter weeds from germinating, and add nutrients to the soil as it decomposes.



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September Garden Tasks

In the Bay Area, we often enjoy our most pleasant weather this month—an ideal time to work in and enjoy your garden. Think ahead also for the spring months and what blooming plants you can work into your growing areas for some holiday color. Consider permanent landscaping: trees, shrubs, and native plants do especially well when planted in our warm autumn soils and allowed to take in the winter rains.

  • Mums: These hardy flowers will give your garden some fall flair if planted now. Our Cole Street, Mission Street, and Polk Street locations will all have mums arriving in September.
  • Evergreen hedges: A final trim will assure a neat overall look for winter.
  • Dahlias: Delightful dahlias are best suited for a sunny spot with well-drained, fertile soil. If your soil is claylike and heavy, work in up to four inches of manure or compost a couple of weeks before you plant. Fertilize with a balanced 5-10-5 mix monthly as plants start to grow. Do not use a high-nitrogen mix of fertilizer, those with a higher first number, as you will sacrifice flowers for leaves. A general garden fertilizer will work.
  • Spring bulbs: Buy and plant daffodils, lilies, and hyacinths in September or early October. Tulips do better when planted at the end of October. Our garden centers will have an assortment of Dutch bulbs arriving in our garden centers this month, including alliums, grape hyacinths, iris, anemones, and crocus.
  • Garden seeds: Gather seeds from perennials and annuals. Place them in brown paper bags to dry out for a few days; then catalog and store them in envelopes.
  • Water trees: Keep all trees, especially citrus, well watered. As citrus is mostly water, those planted in containers need watering almost daily. Citrus plants will get their last feeding this month. We recommend Citrus Tone®. (Sku 7208671, $9.49)
  • Garden tools: Keep your tools in good shape by cleaning with soapy water after each use. Mineral oil will remove any sticky sap. After cleaning, lightly oil them before storing in a protected place.
  • Winter vegetables: Unless it is still very hot, plant winter vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, leeks, radishes, snap beans, and spinach.
  • For the birds: Birds eat a lot of garden pests that would otherwise feast in the garden. Consider a bird bath or bird feeder to attract them.
  • Fertilizers and pesticides: These should never be applied during the heat of the day, even if they are nontoxic.

See you in the garden!

Black Gold® Earthworm Castings

This enriching soil amendment is great for use as a top-dressing or can be added to water to make a rich “casting tea.” The use of earthworm castings in many of the Black Gold® potting soils and amendments sets their products apart. Since 1983, Black Gold brand garden amendments, potting mixes, and fertilizers have been available at fine garden centers and have gained a loyal customer following. All Black Gold products are professionally formulated to ensure gardening success

The brand of choice for the gardening enthusiast, Black Gold also boasts a broad line of natural and organic gardening products that are listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) and approved for organic gardening.  The 8-quart bag of earthworm castings is the newest offering in our assortment of Black Gold products. (Sku 7326440, $6.99)


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April Gardening Tasks

The year started off with a record dry spell unfortunately, so watering wisely will be crucial this spring and summer. If we’re lucky, we’ll have a few April showers to give the ground a good soaking as we head into our dry season. Enjoy the longer daylight hours in your garden this month to realize a beautiful summer bounty.

Watering: Water during morning or evening only. Doing so reduces the amount of water lost to evaporation. Watering early in the day is preferable because wet foliage from evening watering makes plants susceptible to fungal diseases. Use a nozzle hose faucet, a water timer and the proper sprinkler and only water what needs to be watered by controlling the coverage area.

Soaker Hose: Consider a small investment in a soaker hose that allows moisture to seep through its walls. It can be woven through a garden, providing water directly onto the soil, soaking the roots. This also prevents soil erosion and puddling and uses up to 70% less water. Our garden centers stock a variety of soaker hoses, such as the Soaker Pro Hose, ideal for trees and shrubs. (Sku 7300627, $16.99)

Mulch: Place mulch or bark around trees, shrubs and plants. Mulch slows evaporation, reducing plants’ water needs. Mulch or bark can add some curb appeal to the landscaping in the front of your home too. (Mulch: Sku 75958, $6.99; Bark: Sku 7094212, $7.99)

Roses: Start a preventative program of spraying your roses to prevent diseases like powdery mildew and rust. Use a rose defense spray, such as Earth-tone®3n1 Disease Control, as an organic alternative to chemical pesticides. Spray every 10-14 days. (Sku 7272156, $8.99)

Annuals and Perennials: Plant warm season annuals including marigolds, zinnias, lobelia, and border dahlias. Shasta daisies, dianthus, delphiniums, and other perennials can be planted now.

Vegetables: When planning your summer vegetable garden, remember that leafy vegetables need at least six hours of sunlight to develop fully. Fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, and eggplant require 10 hours of sunlight.

Snails and slugs: Continue to watch out for snails and slugs and use Sluggo® Plus to rid your garden of these pests. (Sku 7214661, $14.99)

Raised garden: Create a garden space practically anywhere with a cedar raised garden kit. The 4-foot by 4-foot raised garden kit assembles quickly by simply sliding the boards into each corner post. Made of natural North American cedar, the kit secures easily with screws (included) and is expandable and stackable with additional kits. Available at our Cole Street, Mission Street, and Polk Street locations. (Sku 7305907, HOT DEAL $29.99 Regular price $40.99)

Black Gold®: This rich, loamy mix of natural and organic potting soil is a premium choice for all-purpose gardening applications. It is ideal for flowers, vegetables and hanging baskets. The 100% organic base consists of screened earthworm castings, Canadian sphagnum peat moss, compost, and forest humus. Perlite and/or pumice are added to ensure optimum aeration. Available in assorted sizes. (4 quarts: Sku 700233, $4.49; 8 quarts: Sku 7312309, $7.99; 16 quarts: Sku 7264948, $8.99; 1.5 cubic feet: Sku  7265002, $14.99)

See you in the garden!

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January Garden Tasks

January is a good time to plan what you will grow in the upcoming months. Browse through seed catalogs and magazines, read books, take notes, and make drawings. Be adventurous this year and try planting something new.

Live Christmas trees should be outside now. Keep them in their pots or plant them in the ground, but remember, they get big! Water well.

Deciduous fruit trees and roses should be pruned before the end of January. Dennis’s tradition to prune his roses on January 1 started with his father and he carries it on today. Rejuvenating your roses is a nice task to ring in the new year.

* Semi-dwarf citrus trees, including Meyer lemons, Bearss limes, and kumquats, are available at our garden centers this month. Plant them in a welldrained spot in your garden—an area that doesn’t have standing water after rain or irrigation. Give them as much sun as available; planting by a warm wall is also beneficial. As an alternative to planting in the ground, consider planting in a half wine barrel, and you will enjoy the citrus for many years. You can then also move the plant more easily.

Repot your indoor plants. We have a selection of beautiful pots at our nurseries. Just ask us if you need advice on selecting a pot, soil recommendations, or repotting help. NASA studies have shown that houseplants can reduce certain types of interior air pollution. Just 15 houseplants can provide better air quality in an 1,800-square-foot home.

 * Keep your bird feeders stocked with seed or suet depending on the type of birds inhabiting your environs. Some birds may have come to rely on your generosity during the winter months. Remember to discard stale or moldy seed from your feeders or storage. Seed can be kept in airtight bags to maintain freshness.

Spray your deciduous fruit trees and roses before they leaf out. Use a dormant oil spray to kill overwintering insect eggs, mites, soft-bodied insects, and some scales.

Plant onion and garlic sets along with bare-root asparagus, rhubarb, and artichokes.

Stop by our Cole Street garden center for all your gardening needs. The advice is free from the Garden Guys, Dennis and Bill. E-mail them with any questions: or




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