Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tulip Bulbs Unplanted

Tulip bulbs left unplanted are always a question for a lot of people. What can I do with them? Well, I have joined the club this year because I waited too long to plant a bag of Darwin hybrids. If the soil is not frozen you can plant them right now. I am hoping there will be one more day for this but don't count on it.
I am going to force my tulip bulbs. Which means I am going to plant them in pots, cover them with potting soil, water them and let them sleep in a cold room for 12 weeks. Then I will bring them out of hibernation and let them grow. this will put them into bloom in early April, which isn't too bad. they will look lovely as indoor potted plants.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Late Blight Tomato Solutions

The New York Times had an article recently that noted that commercial tomato growers in the Northeast face massive economic losses this year because of the damage caused by late blight, the disease that caused the Irish potato famine. It seems the best solution to this problem is to grow tomato plants that are resistant to late blight. It turns out that there are some newer varieties that appear to resist late blight. Next year try to grow from seed the following varieties: Legend, Ferline, Juliet, Santa and Fantasio. Starting your own tomato seeds indoors is easy and fun to do, especially if you have kids. Otherwise, try to interest your local growers to start some plants for you.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Support Capital District Community Gardens

Any Klein of the Capital District Community Gardens wants all of you to support her Veggie Mobile:

Capital District Community Gardens’ Veggie Mobile has been selected as one of ten finalists in a worldwide competition called “Designing for Better Health” sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Ashoka’s Changemakers.

Internet ballots will decide the three highest vote-getters by May 28th and winners will receive a $5,000 cash award and international recognition for their project. This is a tremendous opportunity for our organization, our mobile market – The Veggie Mobile, and for New York’s Capital Region!

Now we need your help. Please use this link to vote for our program and share this link with your personal networks (email, facebook, myspace, blogs, etc.). If everyone we know gets in touch with everyone they know we will win this award.

Every vote will make a difference - thanks for helping to spread the word! Please vote by May 28th.

More info on Capital District Community Gardens and The Veggie Mobile

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Community Garden Awards

Two Coves Community Garden in Queens, NY wins NATURE HILLS NURSERY GREEN AMERICA AWARD

Three community gardening projects from across the United States have been honored with 2009 Nature Hills Nursery Green America Awards. Honored with the Grand Prize Award of $2,500 in plants was Bridging The Gap, a nonprofit environmental organization in the Kansas City area that is beautifying a vacant lot in the Ivanhoe Neighborhood. The lot has already been cleared of litter and debris, and volunteers are ready to begin creating the garden which will serve as a green space for the neighborhood complete with play areas for children and rest areas for adults.

Chosen for the First Place Award of $1,500 in plants was Two Coves Community Garden in Astoria (Queens), New York. Two Coves Community Garden is a newly established oasis in western Queens that provides fresh produce to residents of a neighborhood that has been described as “a food desert.” Honored with the Second Place Award of $1,000 in plants was Homewood Heights Community Garden in Austin, Texas. Homewood Heights is a one-year-old community garden that has sprouted from a reclaimed urban lot that was used for many years as a dump for construction debris.

Winners of the 2009 Nature Hills Nursery Green America Awards were chosen from over 200 applications submitted by community groups, nonprofit organizations, and gardening programs from across the USA. Nature Hills Nursery, an Omaha-based website-only retailer that sells trees, shrubs, perennials and other plants, created the Nature Hills Nursery Green America Awards as a way to give back to the communities and people who have contributed to the success of the company. For more information, visit

Friday, May 01, 2009

Tree Planting Tips

Planting your tree too deeply is the number one reason why your tree will die in anywhere from two to five years. Often times the label on the tree will tell you to plant the tree at the same depth as it was in the container. Well, there are a lot of trees that don't come in a container. They come wrapped in a burlap bag. My radio partner Fred Breglia, the arborist at the Landis Arboretum in Esperance, NY made this point so many times on WAMC/Northeast Public Radio, that I think I can say it in my sleep. Here is how to successfully plant that expensive tree you just bought at the nursery:
1. Dig a hole that is approximately the same size as the root ball of your tree. Maybe just a little bit wider, but no deeper.
2. Remove all the wire mesh and burlap surrounding the tree.
3. Look for the spot on your tree where the roots begin to flair out from the trunk. Remove any dirt that gets in your way. You must see that flair.
4. Place the tree in the whole so that the spot where the roots flair out is an inch or two above soil level. The tree is likely to settle deeper into the hole over time, so plant it an inch or two above soil level to compensate for settling.
5. Fill the hole with dirt making sure you can still see the place where the roots flair out from the trunk.
6. Water the tree at soil level at least once or twice a month for the first year or two.
Fred says he has seen many, many trees die because they were planted too deeply, but he has never seen a tree die because it was planted too shallowly. I used this technique on all my trees and shrubs that I planted last year and they all survived a fairly severe winter. Thanks, Fred.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Composted Leaves for Vegetable Garden

Question: Sandy in Berlin, NY asks:
Last fall I put a thick layer of leaf mulch on my vegetable and
annual flower garden. The leaves came mostly from our maple trees and they were run through the lawn mower blades then through a leaf blower/sucker blades, so the resulting mulch was quite well chopped up. My question is, do I have to remove it now, as in rake it off, or
should I simply move it away to plant the vegetables or should I work it into the soil? My husband thinks that if I work it into the soil then the roots of plants won't have a sturdy enough matrix to grow upright and will fall over. What do you think?

Maple leaves as finely ground and partially composted as you describe will make an excellent addition to the organic content of your garden. This is especially true in a vegetable or annual flower garden where tilling is often an annual task. I would suggest tilling them in with a power tiller if possible to a depth of four to six inches. As these leaves continue to decompose, they will add organic matter to your garden which will attract beneficial microorganisms, help retain moisture and air and improve your soil. Maple leaves tend to be a little acidic, so later in the summer, you might want to get a soil pH test done to make sure your soil is in the 6.5 to 7.0 pH vicinity.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Garden FAQ: Wild and Backyard Raspberries

We are planning to plant backyard red & black raspberries and some wild black raspberries which grow around our rural home. Will the plants mix up from cross pollination and will wild berries planted in same areas diminish the domestic varieties fruit size or flavor.

Wild raspberries and should be kept 300 to 600 feet away from your new backyard red and black raspberries. Not because they might cross pollinate, but because wild berries can be a source of Verticillium or other virus diseases. It would be better to not plant the raspberry plants in the same area where tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant have been grown for the same reason. Raspberries are self-fertile, but studies have shown that cross-pollination with other backyard raspberries does increase fruit yield.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dutchman's Breeches Wildflower in Bloom

Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) is a dainty but rugged wildflower that blooms in March and April from Maine to Missouri. Here it is in bloom in my Delmar, NY garden in Patriot's Day, 2009. I've lived here for six years and I've never seen it in bloom before. My neighbor did cut down a couple tree branches last year. Maybe that gave it just the right amount of sunlight to get blooming. Dutchman's Breeches grows four to eight inches tall, likes dappled sunlight in woodlands with fertile and moist but not wet soil. I am going to transplant a couple of these to a more visible part of my garden. It is legal for me to do this because the plants are on my property. But it is illegal in New York to dig up and transplant native wildflowers on property not your own. Dicentra cucullaria is related to D. spectabilis, better known as perennial bleeding heart. Both of them are wonderful perennial plants for the woodland garden.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Perennial Herbs

Chives, thyme, oregano, sage, lavender, parsley, tarragon and other perennial herbs can be planted this weekend here in eastern New York, Western New England and the Hudson Valley. It is still too cold to plant basil dill, cilantro and other tender annuals. Buy these as potted plants at your favorite lawn and garden center of farmer's market. Plant them in well-drained ordinary soil in full sun. These plants don't like too much in the way of fertilizer so just add some compost or mulch around them as the season progresses. Water them at least once a week. You can start harvesting after three weeks.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Garden Events Calendar in Our Region

Project Budbreak is an interesting way for you as gardeners to get involved with learning about the effects of climate change on native plants in our area. It is a project of the Sustainable Initiatives Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station Cornell University.

Phantom Gardener in Rhinebeck, NY is offering free workshops this spring on shrubs, starting a garden journal, bloom sequence, deer resistant perennials and more.

The Master Gardeners of Putnam County (call 845-278-6738) announce their Spring Gardening School, a One-Day University on all things gardening April 18. All are invited to join this annual event, which includes classes and a presentation with digital images by Duncan Brine., principal landscape designer of Horticultural Design, Inc. The New York Times, Horticulture Magazine, Hudson Valley Magazine, and other publications have featured Brine’s work. His speech, “Structuring Nature: Whole Property Landscape Design,” focuses on his six-acre garden in Pawling, NY.

Join Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County’s Master Gardeners in their award winning Xeriscape Garden at the SUNY Ulster Campus in Stone Ridge on Thursday, May 14, to learn the nitty-gritty of dividing perennials and ornamental grasses. The workshop will be from 9:00am to 12:00pm. There is a fee of $5 to participate. You will gain hands-on experience on when to divide, what to do and what not to do when it comes to dividing plants. Participants will work in small groups guided by Master Gardeners and leave with some prize divisions from the Xeriscape Garden. Please bring pots or bags to put your divisions into, gardening gloves and tools such as pitch forks, spades and trowels are also recommended to bring along. For more information call Dona Crawford, Master Gardener Coordinator at 845-340-3990.

The Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge, MA has classes upcoming on composting, raising chickens and taking garden tours.

If you have any garden announcements to make, send them along to me at

Friday, April 10, 2009

Wildflower Hepatica in Bloom

Wildflowers in a native garden are one of my favorite plantscapes of all time. Hepatica acutiloba, Liverleaf, is the first to bloom in my garden and one of the most delicate. These dainty but rugged little plants are native to the Northeast and are often seen in deciduous woods. They like dry shade and fertile soil and are cold hardy in zones 5 thru 8. Your local better garden center might have these plants for sale, or they can order it for you from Behn's Best Perennials in Chatham, NY. Heronswood is a good source for them if you prefer to buy online.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Gourmet Vegetable, Herb and Heirloom Flower Seeds

One of my favorite seed catalogues for gourmet lettuces and salad mixes, European and Asian varieties, herbs and heirloom flowers is Renee's Garden. Renee Shepherd has been a pioneer and leading light in the gourmet gardening movement for more than 20 years. She has a colorful and inviting online catalogue and I've seen her seeds offered in numerous garden centers, too. She has an extensive collection of fragrant sweet peas, ornamental sunflowers, baby butterhead lettuces, Asian baby leaf mesclun salad mixes, Thai and Italian basil, hot peppers, European tomatoes that are full of flavor and so much more. Now is the time to order your seeds if you haven't already.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Spring Heath Blooming on April Fool's Day

Our Spring Heath, Erica carnea, 'Pink Spangles,' came into full bloom on April Fool's Day this year in my wife's rock garden. This low-growing evergreen shrub will continue to bloom for another month in its full-sun to part-shade location. Many people think heath and heather will not grow as far north as Albany, NY, but here is proof it does well as long as it has acidic and very well-drained soil. A south-facing rock garden is the perfect site. We bought this gem at Rock Spray Nursery on Cape Cod a couple years ago and it took this long to settle in and get growing. We also bought several plants of heather, Callunia vulgaris, from Rock Spray and I will post their photos to my blog as they come into bloom over the season. You can buy heath and heather at many different places, but, I would encourgae you to go to Truro this summer and ask David and Alissa to put together a collection that is right for you. For more information on these wonderful plants, visit the UConn Plant Datebase.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The New Terrarium by Tovah Martin

The New Terrarium by Tovah Martin (Clarkson Potter March 2009) is a beautifully-photographed and well-written book that has opened my eyes to the possibilities of growing delicate gardens indoors under glass. I've never been one to grow a lot of plants indoors, although a lot of my friends have over the years. To me, indoor house plants have always been just a lot of waxy green leaves cascading all over the place. And terrariums seemed a throwback to the hippy 1960's and 70's.

But Tovah's new book infuses this genre with grace and charm. As she says, "You might have been all 'brown thumbs' when it came to houseplants, but this is different. With the aid of glass, terrariums are a much more forgiving venue than a windowsill." She is right. Instead of having a room full of scraggly houseplants, a terrarium gives the gardener an opportunity to focus in on one small, contained garden space. It has a whole Japanese Zen appeal to me. The terrarium might be the ideal indoor plant garden to have at your work, office or school room.

The New Terrarium gets you started with some of the basics of design, shows all the different vessels that can be used including cloches, cold frames, aquariums, apothecary jars and more, which plants will do well including begonias, ferns, mosses, orchids and more and how to take care of this miniature greenhouse garden. The photos by Kindra Clineff are superb.

Tovah Martin ( was a guest on my Northeast Public Radio program and she is known as the queen of indoor plants. She has long been associated with Logee's Tropical Plants ( in Danielson, CT and no one knows more about indoor plants than Tovah. This is a great new book, well worth having.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Organic Vegetable Garden at the White House

An organic vegetable, herb and small fruits garden will soon be producing food on the grounds of the White House. First Lady Michelle Obama, a group of school children and staff broke ground today. According to The New York Times the Obamas’ garden will have 55 varieties of vegetables — from a wish list of the kitchen staff — grown from organic seedlings started at the Executive Mansion’s greenhouses including cilantro, tomatillos and hot peppers. Lettuces will include red romaine, green oak leaf, butterhead, red leaf and galactic. There will be spinach, chard, collards and black kale. For desserts, there will be a patch of berries. And herbs will include some more unusual varieties, like anise hyssop and Thai basil. A White House carpenter, Charlie Brandts, who is a beekeeper, will tend two hives for honey.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My Woodland Garden St. Patrick's Day 2009

Here is a view of the woodland garden behind my house that I have been working to create over the past five years. The Pieris japonica and the Rhododendron maximum (rose bay) were already here, although they are much larger now than at first. I installed the arbor and planted the Buxus (boxwood) and the other large R. maximum I transplanted last fall from another part of the yard. All seem to be in good shape after the rather long and harsh winter of 2008-09. There are also some wonderful azaleas and some other great shrubs out there as well as perennials that like a part shade woodland environment. As the season progresses, I will post more photos so we can all see how well things are growing in my woodland garden.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Raspberries in the Garden

This spring, I am going to plant a row of Heritage red raspberries in my backyard garden. My wife was looking at garden catalogues the other day and mentioned how great it would be to eat fresh, juicy raspberries in summer. So, why not? I ordered six Heritage raspberry plants from (I found a special they were offering in my Sunday magazine.) is another reliable source charging $3.75 per cane plus shipping. Each plant should produce a quart of berries each year. Bare root stock should arrive in a few weeks and I will plant them in a sunny location about three feet apart. Heritage berries don't require any trellising and they are easy to take care of as long as they are planted in a well-drained area. Heritage raspberries were introduced by Cornell in 1969 and they advise growing Heritage for a single late August early September. In early spring before new growth begins, cut the old canes as low to the ground as possible to encourage buds to break from below the soil surface. Remove and discard the canes. Sounds good to me!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Garden Calendar and Events

Here's a list of some of the great garden activities taking place this spring in the Hudson Valley, Berkshires and the greater Albany area. If you have an announcement you would like for me to post to my blog, send me an email at

Sunday, March 15, 2009, 10 am Successful Landscaping with Native Plants. The Phantom Gardener (845) 876-8606

Monday, March 16, 2009. 6th Annual Natural Landscape Design Conference Investing in Ecology: Native Gardens and Natural Processes. Co-Sponsored by The Native Plant Center and New Directions in the American Landscape. 8:30 – 4:00 p.m. at Westchester Community College

Saturday, April 11, 10:00am-1:00pm094GAR139C The Deer Resistant Landscape.

Saturday, March 21. Maple Fest: Celebrating the Wonderful World of Maple Syrup.
Time: 0:00 a.m.­3:00 p.m. Cost: Free. Experience a taste of the sweet world of maple sugaring as part of the New York Maple weekend at the Agroforestry Resource Center.

Saturday March 28, Water Features in Your Garden a lecture with British water gardening specialist Anthony Archer Wills at the Berkshire Botanical Garden, at the intersection of Routes 102 & 183 in Stockbridge, MA. Anthony Archer-Wills, born in Great Britain, has made his passion, water gardening, his profession for forty years. Join him for an informative talk from 10 to noon. Registration is required. The cost is $16 for Members $21 for non-members.
To register, call the Berkshire Botanical Garden at 413-298-3926.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Geraniums Indoors Looking Great

I have six pots of geraniums (Pelargonium) sitting in a south facing window that, today, with the sun shining on them, look really fantastic. After a way too long winter, these beautiful plants are making me feel like spring is on the way. All of these plants are from one pot given to me by my mother-in-law many years ago before she passed away. She started this plant from seed and it produces a lovely pink flower. Every year in the late summer I bring the pots indoors. I cut the stalks severely, let the cuttings suffer for a week or so, and then re-pot them. In winter they sit inside and endure the cold dark days of that chilly season. This year, just after Christmas, they started to look spindly and weak. So I cut them all back very severely, to the point where I feared I may have cut too much. But after a couple weeks they started showing new sprouts. Now they are looking bright green and bushy and they have a couple flowers starting to emerge. Around Mother's Day they will go back outside to their customary spots on the semi-shady front porch and on the mostly sunny back steps. I am looking forward to the joy they always bring.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Garden Speaker Available

How to Have a Beautiful Garden that is Easy to Maintain Without the Use of Chemicals is my number one topic when I give garden speeches. I have delivered remarks at the Philadephia, Boston, New York, Cincinnatti, Hartford, Albany and many other flower shows. I also give speeches to local garden clubs and garden groups. I've written Beautiful Easy Flowers Gardens, Beautiful Easy Herbs, Beautiful Easy Lawns and five other books on gardening, all with the environment in mind. I am the longtime co-host of award-winning The Natural Gardener on Northeast Public Radio. I have a few dates open for 2009. If you or your group would like me to come and give a speech, contact me at

Endless Summer Hydrangea Blooming Tips

Over the last two years, Bailey Nurseries, has heard some reports of inconsistent flower production, especially in cooler climates. Although a number of factors may contribute to the consistency or inconsistency of blooms, there is no simple answer to this matter. Here are some steps consumers in cooler northern climates can take to help ensure beautiful blooms.
Location Location, location, location! Yes, that old saying is true. In Northern climates, the location of your hydrangea in the garden will have the largest impact on bloom production. The farther north you are, the more sun your plants can tolerate. In zones 4-5a we recommend planting your Hydrangeas in a location that enables them to receive at least 6 hours of sun with some dappled shade in the afternoon.

Pruning Don’t treat your Endless Summer Hydrangeas like an Annabelle Hydrangea by cutting them back in the fall or early spring. By cutting to the ground or within a few inches of the ground, most if not all of the buds on old wood are being removed. In addition, the old blooms of Endless Summer add to the winter interest of your garden. Endless Summer Hydrangeas certainly do bloom on new wood, but it may take longer for flower buds to develop on the new growth of a young plant.

Winter cover Protection for plants in the first few years is important, as is protection from spring freezes. Since Hydrangea buds emerge early in spring, late freezes may damage bud development as well as any new growth. Keeping the crown of plants covered with mulch through May helps protect these buds and any soft new growth from late spring freezes. Feeding you plant Fertilization is also an important factor in flower production of Hydrangeas. A good quality, slow-release fertilizer applied once in spring or early summer should suffice for all but the most demanding locations. Look for an NPK ratio of 10-30-10. Container plants may need an additional application of liquid fertilizer during the growing season. Remember, if you over-feed your Hydrangeas, the effect is more dark green leaf production with fewer flower buds. In the North (zone 4) we recommend no fertilization after August 15th, as plants need to slow down and acclimate for winter.

Watering The amount you water is one more factor you can regulate to ensure beautiful blooms. Although Hydrangeas are named after “Hydra”, Greek for water, your hydrangeas will form large leaves, lots of green growth and few flower buds if over- watered. Over-watering may slow the formation of flowers considerably. It’s normal for plants to wilt for a short time in the heat of the day. You’re better off to water well and less often, than giving a little all the time.

For more info on Endless Summer Hydrangea visit the Web site