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Archives for March 15, 2017

8 top tips for your gardening business in spring 2017

With warm temperatures and lots of rain predicted for this spring, how can you give your gardening business a boost?

  • What the Spring budget 2017 means for small businesses
  • A small business guide to liquidity management
  • Is VAT registration right for my business?
  • Do I need public liability insurance?

Spring prompts many people to think about getting their gardens into shape, which makes the next few months a good time for your gardening business to blossom.

But unsettled weather could make things a little tricky. Forecasters are predicting that we still have a few cold snaps to come this spring, followed by higher-than-average temperatures and rainfall during late April and May.

We’ve got some ideas for how you can make your gardening business a success this season.

1. Check in with previous clients

If some of your clients haven’t used your services over the winter, now’s the time to check in and see if their gardens need some attention again. A friendly email or phone call should do the trick, ideally with some personalised suggestions for what you could do with their garden this year.

2. Refresh your website

Now is also a good time to spring-clean your business website and social media platforms, making sure that all your details are up-to-date and that your website includes a full list of your services. If you have a blog, consider writing an article with some spring 2017 gardening tips, including what you’ll be planting this year.

3. Offer a spring tidy-up service

One good way of attracting new clients and reconnecting with previous clients could be to offer a well-priced tidy-up service for gardens that need some attention after winter. Your spring package could include basics like mowing, trimming and weeding, getting gardens neat and prepped for planting.

4. Go to spring shows

Spring brings a whole bunch of gardening events around the country, including plant fairs and shows. Events like these can be a great chance to chat to other people in the industry and to meet potential clients. Remember to take plenty of business cards and flyers.

At some events, you may be able to apply for a stall so that you can sell your homegrown products or run a workshop, which could be good ways of promoting your gardening business.

But remember, it’s likely that you’ll need stallholder insurance if you’re going to trade at events.

5. Don’t get caught out

Although warm, wet weather is predicted for late spring, forecasters reckon we could still experience some frosts and even snow during late March and early April, especially in the north of the UK, so don’t plant anything tender too early.

6. Make sure you’re protected

With a busy few months ahead, gardeners will be visiting more clients and getting their hands dirty with more work.

Sorting out public liability insurance – which can cover you if you injure a member of the public or cause damage to their property – should be high on the priority list before the work picks up. It’s also worth keeping in mind that you’ll legally need to cover any employees – even if they’re only temporary – with employers’ liability insurance.

7. Find the right kit in the sales

As it looks like we’re likely to experience all kinds of weather over the next few months, make sure you’re properly kitted out. Look out for spring sales, as you may be able to get a good discount on clothes for wet and wintry weather. Good boots, micro fleeces, and waterproof jackets and trousers should see you through bad weather.

8. Get the new tax year off to a good start

The 2016-17 tax year ends on 5 April and the 2017-18 tax year begins the next day, so spring is also the perfect time to get into good tax habits. If your business accounts have been a bit chaotic in the past, make 2017-18 the year of excellent record-keeping. Now could be a good time to get an accountant, open a business bank account, or start using a business accounting app, for example.

What are your plans for your gardening business this year? Tell us in the comments.

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815: Tips to get your garden started

It’s time, gardeners. You have patiently outlasted another winter with dreams of another glorious spring, a season so delectable that even picking up sticks and debris from the yard is a thrill on that first warm day.

But wait — it’s mid-March. There’s a lot more you can be doing to ensure that your gardens will be at their best this summer. Here are some tips from folks who understand northern Illinois gardening — Sam Burbach, University Extension program coordinator for Winnebago County; Robb Firch, president and CEO of Meridian Nursery; and master gardener Michelle Cox of the Landscape Connection nursery and Stem floral shop.

Sam Burbach

If you didn’t test your soil in the fall, do it now. You can pick up a kit at no cost from any county Extension office, including the one in Rockford at 1040 N. Second St. It comes with instructions. You will have to include a check for $18 when you send in your samples to be tested. Then, adjust your soil accordingly for whatever you will be planting.

Get indoor seedlings started. That will give them about 60 days to grow healthy little roots before you put them outside in early- to mid-May so they can go to work producing food and flowers. If you’ve never started plants indoors before, tomatoes and lettuce are good ones to start on.

Get ready to plant cool season plants outside. Included are broccoli, cabbage, peas, radish and spinach. They’ll grow better in April and May than in the heat of summer.

Carefully prune trees and shrubs but don’t lop off the branches that will flower in a month or so.

Clean out your ornamental grass patches now, before the new season’s growth begins.

Check out the University of Illinois Extension’s website — — for more advice on vegetable and flower gardens, and info on upcoming gardening programs.

The Master Gardeners Help Line starts in April. Call 815-986-4357 with questions from 9 a.m. to noon Monday and Wednesday.

Robb Firch

It seems like there’s a new variety of petunia every year. This year, look for Pink Sky, a bright pink flower that looks like specks of paint have been dropped onto the petals. “This one will be real hot,” predicts Firch.

If you’re looking for bushes, check out the Sunjoy Gold Pillar barberry. It produces extremely bright golden foliage, is easy to grow and said to be less than appetizing to deer. In fall, the leaves turn reddish-orange.

Blue Jean Baby is a Russian sage, shorter than the plant you are familiar with and with a purple color that is brighter than the usual faded sage hue. It starts blooming in mid-summer and goes on and on. If you’re interested in Blue Jean Baby, get one early, Firch suggests. Its producer, Walter Gardens, is limiting the number it ships to each nursery. He ordered 500 for Meridian Nursery, 7219 Cunningham Road, Rockford, but only was allotted 50.

Spread compost over the top of your garden and flower beds now. Let it soak in until planting time.

Michelle Cox

By the end of March, you can put some flowers outdoors. Try pansies in containers for splashes of vivid color. A bonus? Pansies are edible. Brighten up your next salad.

If the ground is thawed and perennials are poking through, it’s a good time to divide them. Cox suggests having fellow gardeners over for a trading party — if you end up with extra day lilies, irises, hostas or other perennials, trade them with a friend who has extras of his/her own. You’ll both get new plants and it won’t cost you a dime.

If you’re starting seeds indoors, don’t forget about herbs. Some, like cilantro, can go outdoors with cool season veggies.

Plan. Now’s the time to make sketches of your beds and think about the kind of color, textures and heights you want. The result will be a more professional look than if you just buy what looks pretty and throw it together hodge-podge when it’s warm out.

If you have houseplants you take outside for the summer, now is the time to repot them so they have fresh soil and room for their roots in the growing months ahead.

Hostas remain popular, and the Landscape Connection, 4472 S. Mulford Road, Rockford, will be offering some new varieties, including plants in the increasingly-sought area of mini-hostas.

Check out the Georgia Peach, a relatively new type of coral bell. Its peach-colored leaves can measure 8 inches across and appear to be dusted with silver. The plant produces dainty white flowers in summer but it’s planted for the foliage.

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Spring garden tips: When to use lawn products

Is it time to work outside? That depends on what’s going on in the garden — not in the garden center, according to Sharon Yiesla, plant knowledge specialist at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle.

“Home centers and hardware stores begin to stock lawn and garden care products in February, and many homeowners assume that means it’s time to use them,” Yiesla said.


For example, crabgrass preventer herbicide products are on sale in late winter, long before it’s time to apply them. “If you’re going to use these herbicides to kill weed seeds in the lawn, you should wait until the seeds are close to sprouting, in mid- to late April,” she said. “An easy way to remember is to wait until the redbud is in bloom.”