Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Wondering when to prune evergreens? Or the best time to transplant peonies? Look below at our list of frequently asked questions, you may see your answer.

Vegetables & Herbs

Tomatoes, like peppers, and some flowers and herbs should be started indoors. Seeds need to be growing 6-10 weeks, depending on the variety, before transplanting into the garden. This time gives the seedlings a chance to establish indoors before you move them outside. Seed packages will have specific information, so follow the dates on the individual packages. As an alternative, you can purchase tomato and pepper plants at the garden center, where you will find a multitude of varieties.

In April, when you are able to get into the ground.  As the name suggests, cool crop veggies love the cooler temperatures but be sure to wait to plant the others until the soil warms up in May.

Yes. This is best done while the plants are small.  You can either stake the tomatoes or place tomato cages around them.  Both of these items can be found here at Sargent’s. (Hint: A good way to tie a tomato to the stake is by using pieces of old pantyhose.)

Mulching tomatoes is an excellent way to prevent fungus problems.  Be careful to water the ground around your tomato plants, not the plants. This also prevents fungal problems.

This is a symptom of Blossom End Rot, which is common on tomatoes. It is usually caused by a deficiency in calcium but also by excessive amounts of nitrogen. In order to reduce or prevent Blossom End Rot, maintain a consistent supply of moisture to the tomato plants and use a low nitrogen fertilizer. Calcium fertilizers are also available to increase the amount of calcium to the tomatoes.


The most common, the European Pine Sawfly, often appears in Minnesota and Wisconsin in mid-May. In spring, eggs hatch to produce larvae resembling caterpillars with black heads and greenish bodies and creamy stripes down the back and sides. Upon hatching, larvae move from branch to branch, rapidly devouring the previous season’s growth. Fortunately, they will not disturb new growth so most pines are not entirely defoliated and, though affected plants will look sparse and sickly for the rest of the season, they will push new growth in time and can usually survive an infestation.

Before the trees leaf out, you should apply dormant oil. It kills any over-wintering eggs and larvae in the tree. Once the tree’s blossoms fall off you may apply fruit tree spray. You will want to be sure to wait until the bees are done pollinating, so they are not harmed. This spray contains an insecticide to keep bugs away and a fungicide to keep spots at bay. Applications need to be repeated every 10 to 14 days until harvest time.

Lawn Care

Scott Moon recommends the kneeling test. Kneel down on the area of your lawn in question. If your knees are damp when you get up, it is too early. Spring and/or fall are both good times of the year to work aeration and dethatching.

Yes!  The first type is Milorganite (6-2-0) and is available at Sargent’s on 2nd.  This product has been around for many years.  It can be used to fertilize your yard as well as your flower gardens.  It is also a great deer repellant.  Another product we carry is a weed preventer and fertilizer made from corn gluten (9-0-0).  This product, to be effective, needs to be applied at least 2 times per year.  The last product is Ringer Lawn Restore (10-2-6).  This works by breaking down the thatch in your lawn and then returns the nutrients back to the soil.


Mulch has many benefits, including helping to keep moisture in the soil, reducing weeds, and it adds increased attractiveness to the garden. Mulch comes in many different shapes and colors. Ask more at the garden center, we’d be happy to answer any questions you may have on mulch and show you examples.


Ginkgo, linden, swamp white oak, red maple, disease resistant elm, Japanese tree lilac and upright crabapple trees are all excellent choices.

For best results with your new woody plants we recommend that you follow our planting and care instructions posted here.

Tree and Shrub Planting/Care Instructions

Although some varieties like ‘Annabelle’ can be cut back to the ground, most do not need to be cut back.  Whatever variety you have, you will want to wait until mid to late May and then prune out any dieback.  Pink and blue varieties can be rather late to bud out, so wait until you see buds form or even leaves pop.  This may take a while longer than normal due to the cooler temperatures.

Full shade is zero to two hours of sunlight.  Part shade is two to four.  Part sun is four to six hours. Full sun is six hours or more of sunlight.  Don’t underestimate the power of dappled sunlight.  It can enable you to use more sun-loving plants than expected.  When in doubt, please don’t hesitate to ask.

First off, the best way to determine if a plant needs water is to stick your finger into the soil two to three inches. If it feels moist, you should not need to water, but if it feels dry, water the plant. Hanging baskets should be watered daily and fertilized weekly with a water soluble fertilizer like Miracle Grow.

In July, you may be seeing water spots or streaks in the foliage of your iris and that means you have iris borer infestations. Iris borer is difficult to treat, however, in July, the best application is to dig up damaged plants and discard affected rhizomes. In the fall, remove all iris foliage. Applying an insecticide in the spring has the best effectiveness.  For more detailed information on iris borer go to:  http://www.extension.umn.edu/yardandgarden/ygbriefs/e122irisborer.html

Most likely nothing. In the fall, evergreens will lose their needles at varying rates. The lifespan on evergreen foliage (the needles) ranges from 2 or 3 years for the white pine to 5 to 7 years for the spruce. This is a natural process, like autumn’s falling leaves. Similarly, you will be unlikely to notice it except for a few weeks during the fall. On a side note, be sure not to prune off all the new growth on your evergreens each season or you’ll be left with little to no “green” in your evergreen! If you’re still in doubt about your tree’s needle loss, bring in a sealed sample or a picture of the problem. We’ll be happy to help diagnose it.

This problem is commonly called winter burn.  Apply Miracid every two weeks through the end of June to the entire shrub.  The Miracid should drip into the root zone when applied, which also helps the plant recover.  If your evergreen turned mostly brown, you may need to replace it but do give it time.  Winter burn is common and is often covered by new growth.  Don’t give up hope and be patient.



The best time of year to prune evergreens is in late June to early July when spruce and pine have pushed out most of their growth for the year. Junipers and arborvitae continue to grow throughout the season. Prune them once or twice throughout the summer. Do not prune evergreens in fall or winter. The wounds will not have time to seal before going into winter.

As soon as your lilac is finished blooming, it may be pruned. There is only about a three week window to prune after the plant has stopped blooming.  To do so after this period risks damaging the lilac.

Winterizing Your Yard

Newly planted and tender perennials should be mulched six to eight inches with marsh hay, straw, or other material when the ground is frozen. By mulching, the ground is going to continuously remain frozen. Freezing and thawing of the ground can be detrimental to the shallow rooted perennials.

Marsh hay is a product available in late summer-fall. It is grown on a wet marsh and baled. Marsh hay does not contain weed seeds in it, making it a great mulch for wintering over plants.

This fall you will want to wrap your tree with Tree Wrap. Tree Wrap is a paperous material that will help prevent your tree from frost cracks. Start at ground level and overlap going to the top branches of the tree.

Great Questions

Install a rain barrel at your downspout to catch runoff and then use this water for your garden and container plants. Also, try watering early in the morning to avoid losing moisture to evaporation and to promote deep root growth. Mulching beds with a generous layer of shredded bark roughly three inches deep also helps plants retain moisture.

While damage to the foundation can be caused by tree roots, it is not a direct result of the strength of the roots. Roots absorb water in the soil causing an imbalance in pressure around the foundation. If the soil in that area is not very dense and compacted, this displacement, along with the eventual size of the roots at maturity, can cause the soil to be altered, resulting in strain on the foundation. Poured foundation pads are a different matter, however. Tree roots of significant girth that are growing under concrete can actually lift and crack it. Most often, though, it is the interaction of the root, water and pressure that causes the damage.

Yes, it will help your plants flourish, but different types of plants require different types of fertilizer. When planting a tree or shrub, fertilize with Root Stimulator to get the roots growing, then follow-up during the first summer with an application of slow release Tree and Shrub Food. In subsequent years, continue to fertilize with slow release Tree and Shrub Food in both the spring and mid-summer. When planting annuals and perennials, fertilize with Osmocote slow release granules. To give annuals a quick boost, feed them water soluble Miracle Grow.  Vegetables benefit from Osmocote slow release fertilizer too.

Yes, this will not disrupt their migration. Their migration is triggered by the shortening of the days. By mid-October, all hummingbirds that are able to make the journey south will have left the area.

According to a recent press release from the U of MN, this invasive, destructive Asian insect has been found in Wisconsin. What does that mean to Minnesotans? In a word, vigilance.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture advises:

1. DO NOT transport ash firewood or other materials that might be infected with EAB.

2. Become familiar with the signs of EAB and inspect your ash trees.

3. Reduce your investment in ash by planting a variety of trees when landscaping.

Please do your part to protect our urban forests and forestlands. Minnesota has one of the highest ash forestland volumes in the nation! To learn more about the EAB and its signs, check out the MN Department of Agriculture’s site on EAB.

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