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 lsombke@beautifuleasygardens.com

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.