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Gary Garner



Garden news, thoughts, tips, musings, rumors, gossip and occasional good advice
from Gary Garner, the Guru of Grass.

November Lawn and Garden Tips

NOVEMBER 17' - A few lawn and garden tips!


The year is fast coming to a close.  Only a few weeks left in the year.  With the weather and holiday shopping there is not much going on outside. There are some things that could be done at this time if you feel so motivated.


Now would be a good time to prune evergreen shrubs such as hollies and boxwood.  You do NOT want to prune azaleas or anything that blooms in the spring.  They have already set bloom for the spring and pruning now would cut off spring blooms.


Now is also a good time to edge and apply mulch to your shrub and flower beds.  A good crisp edge and a fresh layer of mulch will do wonders for your yard over the winter.


Obviously, leaves will have to be dealt with during this time.  Leaves left in the beds will help overwinter all types of disease and insects.  Take it from an old grounds maintenance guy, it is far easier to get up leaves once a week than it is to let them accumulate and try to get them up all at one time.  If you run over them with the lawn mower and chop them up fine they are beneficial to the lawn.  Just make sure that you put down enough lime to compensate for the acidity they add to the lawn.


There is still time to plant bulb.  Spring blooming bulbs should be planted 4 to 8 inches deep.  You do not have to worry about how carefully you put them in the hole with tops up and such.  Dig a hole, drop them in, they know which way up is.


Our soils tend to be acidic, so a good application of lime is in order.  Without a ph test it's hard to say how much lime you need.  20 to 30 lbs of lime per 1000 sq ft should maintain the ph at its present level.  If you have not limed in several years you may need 10 times that amount to raise the ph to the proper level.  Fescue lawns need a ph of 7 to 7.5 to be at their best.


If you have not fertilized this fall, then an application of fertilizer would be in order.  Fertilizer applied in the fall goes to the roots of grass and shrubs and helps them to grow over the winter, thus building a strong plant. Spring applied fertilizer goes to top growth and may weaken the plant.


Just a few tips for now.  Be sure and watch our garden tips on Facebook.

April - Almost Tomato Planting Time



It is that time of the year.  People are ready to plant tomatoes.  And nothing you can say or do will keep them from planting. So I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some tomato terminology and what the terms mean.



Plants that are grown by genetically crossing two plants.  Seeds from these cannot be saved.  They will not produce true in the next generation.  You will end up with low yield and fruit that is not very good.  Hybrids are generally more disease and crack resistant.  They are bred for specific qualities.  Many times taste is sacraficed in order to get a firmer fruit or a longer keeper for example.



Those have a higher sugar content and seem less acid than regular tomatoes. Actually, they have the same amount of acid.  Some people like them better.



These are tomatoes the way nature made them.  You can save the seeds and they will produce the same plant next season.  They are less disease resistant and tend to crack and not keep as well as newer introductions.



This refers to the growth habit of the plant. They grow to a specific height and then stop growing.  The fruit ripens all at once and they are good for canning, freezing and drying.



This also refers to the plants growth habit.  The plants genes tell it to keep growing.  Normally these need to be staked or caged and they continue to bear fruit all summer and until frost.



Simply lists the number of days from the time the seed germinates until the fruit matures or starts to ripen.



These are seeds that are grown under the USDAs NOPL (National Organic Program) standards.



This is just some of the more important terminology used in talking about tomatoes. It is probably not that important to the average homeowner planting 5 or 6 plants.  I receive two catalogs each with hundreds of tomato seed listed and yet there are many differences between the two listings.  Just an example of how many kinds of seed are available Brandywine is a popular heirloom.  There are some 15 to 20 different Brandywines available.


In the next few days I am going to write about what makes an heirloom an heirloom, also about the difference in growing in the ground versus growing in containers.



March Weather - Cool and Wet

MARCH WEATHER - So much for an early spring...

Well March weather has done it to us again. A mild winter, actually warm and pretty February, now March has shot us a curve.  Just when we were in the mood to plant a wet and cool March showed up.  At least we did not get the snow.  Not all that many years ago we had snow on the ground the entire month of March.  We had 3 pretty good snows and the month was miserable...


As an old country boy my guess is the next few weeks will be on the cool and wet side.  People are chomping at the bit to get outside and work in the yard and garden.  While it might be fun to be out there no time is being lost.  It would be nice to plant a few cold crop vegetables but there is still plenty of time.


You can plant early if you want but not much is going to happen until soil temperatures warm up.  Even lawn seed does not do much in the way of germination until the actual ground temperature gets to about 65 degrees.  Not the air temp but the soil temp.


All we can really do is wait it out.  When Mother Nature gets ready the sun will come out, the soil will warm up and gardens will be prolific.


Betcha that in less than 30 days you will hear someone complaining about how hot it is and wondering if it will ever turn cool again.  All the years I was in grounds maintenance and the garden center business within 48 hours of a weather change someone was wishing it would change back. No one is ever satisfied with the weather.


Got a topic or problem or topic you would like to see discussed.  Send me a note at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and I will try to answer or cover it.

Gary's Blog

March 14, 2017 - A Quick Rant

I don’t know how many of you use Facebook.  I wonder why anybody does and yet I have to admit that I waste a lot of time on the site.  I don’t know of a better place to gain insight on just how shallow most of our thinking really is.

Rarely do you see any posts that have any depth to them.  What you ate and where you ate it does not interst anyone but you. I can't get to excited about your pet or the latest lost dog story.  I can look out the window and get up to date weather information.  At this minute the sun is shining and the wind is blowing.

Politics deserves a paragraph of its own.  No friends are made but a lot are lost on the site over politics.  Posts usually refer to some far out website or posting by a radical leftist or rightist that is writing their opinion with little or no fact.  False news is rampant.  I could log in now and find three articles in a matter of a few minutes that say Trump is being impeached, the Clintons and Obamas are headed either for sainthood or the nearest jail. Take your choice.

I probably will not make any friends with this rant.  Just wanted to get it off my chest.  I have to quit now anyway I need to check in to the latest news on Facebook.


January 14, 2017

Super cold today.  Five inches of snow on the ground.  Little or no melting going on.  No newspaper.  TV is still on, heat is working, food in the fridge, life is good.

How people handle the weather always interests me.  When the forecasters begin to talk about bad weather, snow and cold, for this weekend people begin to stock up.  Early in the week they were calling for only a dusting here.  Most of the bad weather was supposed to go south and east of us.  And, most of it did.

Made no difference. A couple that normally bought a half gallon of milk, a dozen eggs and a loaf of bread and it all lasted two weeks, went to the store and bought two gallons of milk, two or three dozen eggs and a couple of loaves of bread to be snowed in for two days.  Why?

Most of the Churches in the area were closed or running on a limited schedule because the roads were too bad to get out.  However, Cracker Barrel and any other restaurant offering breakfast was full.  Why weren’t they home eating all that food they bought at Kroger on Friday?  People were out driving on the roads taking pictures of the roads and posting them on Facebook to warn you they were not safe.  If they were safe for them why not the rest of us?  Just asking?  I notice they were not safe for the newspaper man to make deliveries.

Just observations I'm making not expecting to get any answers.  Ask anybody if they know how to drive in ice and snow. It's the other fellow that doesn't know how.  I have news for you, it's not the person that doesn't know how to drive in bad weather that scares me, it’s the person that thinks he knows how because, “he has been doing it all his life.” Knowing how takes all the fun out of it.

More musings to come.

December, 2016 - So The Deal Was Done, A Look Back on 2016

Time for reflection. 2016 brought many changes to our family. As most of you are aware by now we sold the store on June 30 of this year. Much of the community was surprised by the sale and probably no one was more surprised than myself and Nelson. We had not really considered selling the store. It was a family business, Gary 3 was finishing college in December and coming back to work in the business, I was getting ready to step aside and let him and Nelson take over the business. We even spent a good bit of money on remodeling the store over the winter.

Things change, however, in early March a young man asked if we would consider selling the store. It was not the first time we had been approached about selling and truthfully we didn’t give it much thought. He came back in a few days and at that we said we would think it over. The third time he came back we decided he was dead serious.

Nelson and I sat down and took a long look at what it would mean for the family. An easy way out for me and a comfortable retirement if that was what I choose. The buyer wanted Nelson to stay but he would only have to work about half the hours. When we had it an 80 hour week was routine. Gary 3 was going to be most hurt. It meant he would have to job hunt in totally different areas.

Without going into all the details everything seemed to fit. The offer was fair and all the details seemed to fall into place. it all just worked and everyone both buyer and seller thought it was a good deal all the way around.


Six months later we still think all things considered it was best for everyone. Nelson is still there and business is being done as always. There have been some minor changes and I am sure some more will be made. But most of them will be improvements not anything to drive shoppers away.

I am out of the business but not really retired. Keep your eyes open I may turn up somewhere. Bagging groceries, I did that many years ago, greeting at Wal Mart or doing some consulting on my own. Maybe I can get paid for all the questions I have answered over the years for nothing. Just as long as I don’t have to go play golf the world is good.

Gary 3 has completed college with a degree in Business Administration and is in the job market. If you know of anything let us know.

With all that said it has made for an exciting 2016 in all our lives. In summary it has been a good year but a busy one.

Now from all of us a heartfelt thanks to our customers and friends. The Forest community has been good to us.



October 16, 2016

Crazy world!  I can't figure out how we got here or where we are going.  And, I am not certain anyone else has a better handle on it than me.  The closer we get to election day, it seems the closer we get to insanity.  Loons running for office and the rest of us voting for them.  What a Country!

The Democrats started with 2 loons and finally narrowed it down to one.  How the other got eliminated is open to debate.  Really does not make a lot of difference in the end.  As easily as Big D disposed of them, Hillary would have chewed them up and spit them out long before now.  If Donald could get rid of them that easily I'm not certain I would want them for my leader.

Third party.  I see nothing offered in a third party that makes them attractive for my vote.  I think it may well be time for a third party but it will take years to build one.  You don't build from the top down.  A third party would have to be started by being elected to a local or state office, the national and Presidential election would come last.

With that said I see nothing to do in the election, 3 weeks from this writing, but to vote for what I consider the lesser of two evils.  I don't like that choice but I can't find a better one.

Let me know what you think.  I'm old and tough.  I think Ican take it.  You are not likely to change my thinking but I would like to hear from you.


September 9, 2016

Just sitting here thinking how much the world has changed in my lifetime and especially in the last few years.  I won’t even try to comment on politics and the world situation.  I will say that within the world the good guys seem to be fewer and fewer and the bad guys seem to be everywhere.  With that said I will just bloviate for a few paragraphs on my area of expertise.

I have been in retail the majority of my life.  I grew up on a flue cured tobacco farm in south side Virginia but went to work in chain grocery store.  I was just barely 17 at the time.  I have been in and out of retail ever since.  My, how it has changed over the years.

One of the things I liked most about retail was the interaction with the customers.  You could joke with the and they would joke with you.  Example: a lady comes by my checkout stand in the store and says Gary I have lost 5 pounds.  My answer, turn around I think I have found it.  She thought it was funny.  Today even with your good customers that would probably not be acceptable.

In general, most people today have what I call the box store syndrome.  They don’t care about or won’t participate in any small talk.  They want to get in and get out.  They come in with their phone stuck in their ear, grab what they want and are ready to leave.  Yet they don’t mind standing in line to check out 10 to 15 minutes.  The box stores have conditioned them to this.

The biggest change has come in the area of trust.  Time was a customer would call and ask if you had a product and if you said yes they would ask for you to hold it until they could get to the store.  It was a done deal and you knew they were coming.  No more, today even people you know will ask you to hold something and they never show up.

A promise from a vendor today is almost worthless.  You need a product and call your supplier and he tells you it will be on the truck Friday.  It may be a month before you get it and by then it is too late to sell it.  My Christmas order that was supposed to be delivered in early November is finally delivered in late February and the vendor can’t understand why I refuse to accept it.

In general, the public does not want the Mom and Pop service of the past and that is okay.  There are still customers that enjoy small talk and a friendly hello.  However, they get to be fewer and fewer all the time.


Anyone that agrees or disagrees let me know at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it I am not too old to enjoy a good argument (HAHA).


August 26, 2016

As we head into Fall there are lots of tasks outside that should be completed before cold weather sets in for good. Hard to think about cold weather with the temperature outside hovering at or above 90 degrees, but it is coming.

If you have intentions of either renovating or reseeding your yard this Fall now is the time to get it done.  The sooner it is done the better chance you have of success.  The grass should germinate and start growing in time to mow it 2 or 3 times before mowing season is over.  When new seed start to grow the grass should be cut as soon as it reaches a height of 4 to 5 inches.

All flower and shrub beds should be thoroughly cleaned of debris before cold weather and kept clean over the Winter.  Debris in the beds are an ideal place for insects and disease spores to overwinter.

If you are not over-seeding but you still want your lawn to be the envy of the neighborhood next Spring then I recommend you follow my 3 Step Lawn Fertilization Program.  It is simple, easy to follow and it works.  Here are the 3 steps:

Step 1 - Apply 16--8 SCU in early Fall.  A 40 lb bag should cover about 5000 sq. ft.  Early Fall being as soon after September 1 as possible but at least by the end of the month.

Stet 2 - Apply 28-4-8 approximately 6 to 8 weeks later.  A 50 lb bag should cover approximately 5000 sq. ft.

Step 3 - Apply 46-0-0 approximately 6 to 8 weeks later.  A 50 lb bag should cover approximately 7500 sq. ft.

Remember, there is nothing magic about these amounts or dates.  I suggest what I think is best but I have been bothered by weather or laziness and really didn't see the difference.  I have always thought of yard work kind of like horse shoes, close counts.

Fall is a good time to apply lime.  Lime works its way into the soil at the rate of about 1 inch per year and Fall rains speed up the process a little.  I will not try to get into determining that process today.  I will save that for a later date.

As soon as leaves start to fall they should be removed from the lawn.  The longer they lay there the harder they are to remove.  If they pile up and lay to long they will kill the grass underneath.

I would not prune at this time.  Wait until cooler weather gets here.  I like to leave pruning until after the first of the year.

These are just a few suggestions for now.  There are plenty of other things you can do but this will get you started.

And remember, like us on Facebook - Backyard Garden Guru (Formerly-Gary's Garden Center).  If you have a topic you would like to see addressed drop me a note at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  If I know something about it I will try to give you an answer.

Until next time, Gary


July 22, 2016

As many of you are aware, by now, the Garner Family sold Gary's Garden Center on June 30.  The Garden Center was sold to Chris Templeton.

Nelson and I believe that Chris will continue to offer the same level of service and quality products that we have tried to offer in the past.

We had not considered selling until approached by Chris in March.  We did not take his initial approach seriously.  When he came back the second time we realized he was serious.

So, Nelson and I began to think maybe we should look at the offer.  We have worked many years and some long hours. I am 81 and it's time for me to go.  Nelson is burned out on 80+ hour weeks.  We did not want to see G3 start in something he would have to put in the kind of hours we have worked. We thought maybe we should consider the whole picture.

After looking at all the pros and cons we sat down and began to talk seriously with Chris.  At that point everything seemed to fall into place.  So the deal was done on June 30 and Chris took possession of Gary's Garden Center.

Now, what's going to happen to the Garner Family?

Gary 1 (that's me) is going to be doing some writing, do a blog, maybe two, and other odds and ends.  I AM NOT GOING TO RETIRE!

Nelson (Gary 2) has agreed to continue to work at the Garden Center on a limited basis.

Gary 3 (little Gary) will go back to school and graduate in December.  He will now be available in the job market.

Continue to watch for my blog and more news on a regular basis.

I haven't decided what a regular basis is.  YET!

Gary Garner, Sr.



Young people don't know any better, so they think it's ok.  Middle aged people like some changes and don't like other changes.  Most old people, like me, just think the world is going to hell in a hand basket. What do you think?

Actually, as change goes, most of us like the changes that make life easier or make us more comfortable, we don't like the changes that endanger us or that constantly keep us in turmoil.  Particularly as we get older I think we like a more settled lifestyle.  Generally us old geezers don't welcome changes especially in moral values and life styles.

Enough about philosophy.  This is supposed to be a gardening blog.  If I started on my political opinions and what I think of today's world situations, the opening paragraph would take several hundred pages.

The gardening world is changing just as fast as the rest of the world and again not always for the better.  But, there are some neat things that are happening in the garden.  Plant breeding has come a long way in recent years.  Some of the new plant introductions are fascinating.  The fact that they can breed plants to be uniform in size and color or that plants can be grown with particular patterns in the foliage fascinates me.  Plant a hundred plants and they are all like mirror images.  I know it can be done but I don't know how.

Each year warm climate plants are developed that will withstand colder temps.  New colors are developed within particular varieties of plants.  Look at the many new hydrangea varieties that have  come on the market in the last few years.  New annuals appear on the market each years as do new vegetable varieties.

And yet is seems as we change or improve plants to make them better we give up something along the way.  Tomatoes are an example.  When we breed a tomato that keeps longer we seem to loose something in the taste.  Each change in the plant seems to effect the taste for better or worse.  A change in a flower may make it prettier but it also may make it more disease prone.

One last word, you hear so much about GMO modified seed and it seems to scare some people to death.  It's not something you need to worry about in your vegetable seed at present.  The regulations and cost of production has made GMO a non-factor in vegetable seed at the present time.

In any event, overall, I like the changes I have seen in the gardening world, I can't say the same for the world as a whole.  Stop in and chat with me when you have a chance.


I was staring into space recently and got to thinking how much this business has changed over the last few years.  In particular, how buying habits have changed over the last 20 years.

When we first started the store we were open during the week from 8 in the morning until 8 at night.  Most nights we were busy up to closing time and many nights we had a hard time closing at 8 pm.  The evenings became less and less busy as time passed until it got where we rarely saw a customer after 6 pm.  At that point we started to close at 6 pm.  Today we start to slow down about 4 pm.

When we first opened we were busy when we opened the doors at 8 am.  Today we usually begin to get busy about 9:30 - 10:00 in the morning.  Sales have increased but they are more concentrated through the middle of the day.

Even on Saturdays most of our sales are between 10 am and 4 pm.  A few years back when opened at 8 am the parking lot would be full in 10 minutes.  Today it doesn't get really busy until nearly 10 am and it begins to slow down about 4 pm.

In general people just seem to start out later in the morning.  I think they sleep later, go out for breakfast more and generally don't start the day's tasks until mid-morning.  That's okay we will take the business anytime.

It used to be the early bird got the worm, today it's the early worm gets caught by the bird.  Nobody wants to be early.


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