The English Lady Manure Tea and The English Lady Seaweed Tea are available for purchase. These organic elixirs come in one gallon containers and create sixteen gallons of nutrient rich plant food. It is more powerful than fertilizers and completely non-toxic to the environment.
Now is the time to contact a landscape designer to arrange your consultation.
April Tips 2016
Those April showers that come our way
They bring the flowers that bloom in May
And when it’s raining, lets not forget,
It isn’t raining rain at all, its raining violets
Popular ballad sang during World War II by Dame Vera Lynn in England.
To create and maintain a healthy organic garden, please discard any pesticides and herbicides that you may have used in the past. They have the same effect as second hand smoke on you, your children and pets. Scientific research has shown that these chemicals are responsible for many diseases including cancer.
My mission through my Garden Earth lecture, which I give to hundreds of people throughout New England, is to encourage all of you to garden organically. Reconnecting people’s hearts, hands and minds with the nourishing energy of Mother Nature’s Life giving gardens. In this lecture I tell you how to create and maintain a beautiful organic garden. Organic farming and gardening has been my family’s philosophy on tending the earth for over four hundred years. Please check my lecture schedule
In Mid May when the soil has reached a temperature of sixty degrees apply composted manure on all maintained borders. If you apply the manure before the soil temperature reaches sixty degrees, the millions of soil organisms below the surface cannot work with the manure to produce nutrients for the plants. When you buy garden supplies, pop a soil thermometer into the package.
Composted manure, in bags may be purchased from the garden center. If you have a pickup truck you may be able to get it from a local farm. On that visit ask the farmer for manure from the bottom of the pile. You may want to get the manure from the farm now and put it in a corner of your garden covered with a tarp. Heat from the sun will kill the weed seed in the manure.
As the ground warms up in May, mulch with fine brown hardwood mulch. You are building the humus component in your garden with manure and mulch. The humus component draws carbon from the air into the soil. All living creatures and elements require carbon to survive. Add more composted manure in July over the mulch and again in October and apply more mulch to continue to build the humus component. This process each season will give you the richest growing environment for the healthiest disease free plants.
You may be asking ‘Maureen, what does humus actually do besides bringing carbon from the air into the soil’. To answer – humus acts like a sponge and can hold 90% of its weight in water.
Because of its negative charge, plants nutrients stick to humus bringing nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus and other important elements, preventing these nutrients from washing away, acting like nature’s slow release fertilizer.
Humus improves soil structure making it loose and friable, which helps plants root in this environment with better access to nutrients, water and oxygen.
Humus also helps filter toxic chemicals from the soil, much like carbon-based water filtration systems filter toxins from your water.
In the vegetable garden, I suggest you mulch with composted manure. Composted manure does not ‘cap’, which means that it does not form a crust like other mulches, consequently air and water can get through to the roots of the plants where it is needed.
We were fortunate to have a mild winter here in New England and I catching spring’s fragrance in the air. Throughout the garden the Daffodils, crocus and forsythia are in bloom, buds appearing on shrubs and soon the purple blossom of the PJM rhododendron will burst open.
Around the corner on the West side, the Iris is showing foliage and buds will soon bloom on the flowering Almond. I picked up branches from the grass that had been broken and blown during the winter and made a note to prune my butterfly bushes and lavender.
Near the barn wall the buds on my Carlesii viburnum will open in another few weeks and their perfume will fill the air. I filled the bird feeders and heard my feathered friends telling the others ‘lunch is served’.
I consider April a month of awakening activity, when gardeners experience new energy and enthusiasm, just itching to get their hands in the soil. I am beginning to see the faint flush of red on the maples soon and our old nemesis; weeds are already rearing their heads. As soon as you see them, I suggest you get busy and pull them up by hand before they get ahead of you.
Did you know that all our cultivated plants began as weeds and at some point humans decided which ones they wanted in our gardens. Some that were not chosen have turned out to be beneficial weeds, like nettles, which are food for butterflies and attract bees, clover takes nitrogen from the air and fixes it in the soil and oil from jewelweed soothes poison ivy rash. With that thought in mind, Comfrey which is not a weed and for centuries has been cultivated as a medicinal plant soothes the rash from poison ivy when added to bath water or used as a tea.
Young Dandelion foliage is nutritious and tasty in salads. Soon they will appear in my field on the west side and my mouth is watering in anticipation. The roots of Dandelions grow deep in the soil and bring up beneficial nutrients for your plants and grass.
Dandelion, sheep sorrel, chickweed, purslane and watercress are just some of the weeds that contain many vitamins and are great in salads
These beneficial weeds encourage songbirds and other wildlife to linger in the garden; the weed seeds are an important food source for them.
In the garden, after problem weeds have been pulled, apply an organic corn gluten based weed pre-emergent by Bradfield Organics. This product will keep weeds at bay for quite a few weeks. However, do not use this product on newly seeded lawns, as it will prevent grass seed germinating.
I checked on my David Austin roses today and tomorrow will prune any stems that were broken in the winter and in mid April prune the roses that have been in the ground for more than one year, by two to three feet depending on the type of rose. Do not prune roses that were newly planted last season. Remove the old mulch from around the base.
I prefer David Austin roses, which are trouble free, repeat bloomers, fragrant and have beautiful colors. Plant bare root roses at the end of April and container roses in mid May.
Note – Planting depth of roses – plant only as deep as they come in their container, fill the hole about half full of soil then add water and wait a few minutes to ensure the roses have good drainage.
When buds appear in early June add more composted manure and the brown fine bark mulch about four inches away from the base of the plant. You may apply an organic systemic rose food or composted manure at this time and once monthly until mid August and then stop feeding the roses to allow them to go into a slow dormancy.
David Austin roses I enjoy are as follows:
Evelyn – apricot
Gertrude Jekyll – pink
William Shakespeare – dark pink with a strong damask rose fragrance – reminds me of my Grandmother’s favorite rose ‘Crimson Glory’.
Heritage – pale pink
Fair Bianca – white
All David Austin roses are repeat bloomers, beautiful colors and fragrances.
To give the roots of newly planted roses a boost, add our Seaweed tea, which has a root growth hormone with many nutrients ensuring strong, healthy growth.
Be careful clearing winter debris from around rhododendrons, mountain laurel and azaleas, these evergreens are shallow rooted exposing roots to the air can damage them. If winter has eroded soil around any roots, cover them with soil and peat and gently resettle them into the ground. In late April a layer of fine bark mulch, but do not mulch up to the trunk as this encourages rodents to nest and gnaw on the wood. In May when the soil temperature has reached 60 degrees add composted manure over the mulch.
Conditions in April are the most favorable for new plant-root development. In April evergreen shrubs may be transplanted and new evergreens planted. Give the roots a work out before planting to release them and open them up so the roots will reach into the surrounding soil for nutrients and water.
In the planting hole add peat. At the end of May, apply
Our Seaweed tea and soak the soil with our seaweed tea to quickly establish strong roots. Check the website for all information on The English Lady Manure tea and Seaweed tea.
In early May plant Gladioli corms at two-week intervals. By following this method, you will get a succession of bloom. Plant the corms eight inches below the soil surface with composted manure; the extra depth helps prevent the heavy blooms of the gladioli from toppling over.
The Red Lily beetle will soon be rearing its ugly head; the solution to this problem is organic Neem oil. Add the Neem oil as soon as the foliage reaches four inches in height; this will eliminate the beetle larvae.
Soil solarization – is an effective way to control many soil borne problems, especially tomato blight that results in fruit rot. This blight has been epidemic in New England in the last few years.
In early April cover the soil with clear plastic 4 mils thick where you will be planting your tomatoes. Dig a trench several inches deep around the bed, and press the plastic into close contact with the soil overlapping into the trench. Keep the edges in place by filling the trench with soil that was removed. Leave the plastic in place for two months, during this time the heat from the sun will suffocate nematodes, weed seeds and many disease organisms including the tomato blight.
This process has proved invaluable for gardeners and farmers for years and the beneficial effects last through several seasons.
Apply an organic grub control on the grass in April and again in May to eliminate grubs thereby offering less food for the mole population.
The soil is the most important component of the growing business, compost, composted manure and peat for evergreens; amend the soil to rebuild its structure. The ratio is one part compost to three parts manure. Grow the soil and it will grow your plants.
Good soil structure helps with drainage issues, retains moisture and prevents compaction, particularly important with clay soil. Compost and composted manure breaks down in water, an ideal scenario, encouraging the millions of soil animals beneath the surface to produce nutrients for roots of the plants.
On the Shore in a light sandy soil, humus in the form of compost and manure binds the sand particles together.
In clay soil, compost and manure and mulch helps to break up the clumps and build the humus component.
Never add sand to clay soil, otherwise the sand and clay together create a cement like substance that resists root growth and impedes the flow of air and water.
When I moved into my farmhouse on the shore seventeen years ago, the soil in my garden was, as you can imagine, sandy – good for drainage but without nutrients. I began adding a quite a few inches of manure and mulch three times a season to all planted borders.
Within a couple of years the soil was black gold.
When working with composted manure in the garden, gloves should be worn as bacteria is present in this animal bi-product. The bacteria are great for the plants and the soil but not good for your health. When Daffodil foliage is about six inches tall add composted manure around the plants and again when the foliage has gone yellow, add the manure, which will fortify the bulbs for next season.
As well as the amendments of organic aged manure, peat and/or compost you can incorporate an organic root development enhancer like our seaweed tea by soaking the top four inches of the soil around the base of all trees, shrubs and perennials. Organic soil enhancers like our manure and seaweed tea when applied throughout the season to the soil, dissolve in water and are most quickly absorbed by plants and are especially useful for container planting.
Foliage feeding with the Manure tea in the late afternoon when the pores of the plants are open is a quick acting tonic, supplying nutrients to all plants, including vegetables. Roses in particular like the tea foliar feed especially in the heat and humidity of mid summer, helping to prevent black spot and many insect infestations.
When the Daffodil bloom has past do not cut the leaves of any of your spring flowering bulbs, the leaves send down energy into the bulbs to store for next season’s nutrition.
April is the time to tackle a new lawn or patch seed, use only good quality seed and organic fertilizers.
The soil is still damp and wet and we can still get a late frost, I can hear you groan, me too! Keep an eye on the weather forecast.
Monarch butterflies are in danger of extinction from poisonous chemicals. You can help save them by planting Asclepias, known commonly as Milkweed, the lifeblood of Monarch butterflies. You may obtain free seeds from www.LiveMonarchButterflygarden.net.
The other creature in danger of extinction from poisonous chemicals is the Bee. Bees are essential to our ecosystem – their pollination allows seed production that not only allows plants to produce but also feeds everything from small birds to mammals. Bees pollinate 70% of the world’s food.
You can help – plant a wide diversity of plants that bloom from spring through fall as different pollinators are active at different times of the season.
Plant single petal ring flowers – double bloom inhibits the bees’ ability to get the pollen and nectar.
Bees love flowers in white, yellow, blue and purple.
Plant Echinacea, Daisies, butterfly bush, sunflowers, penstemon, zinnias, summer phlox, fennel, borage, and oregano.
Wild bees like plants in the mint family – nepeta, salvia, lavender, monkshood, monarda, columbine, scabia, gaillardia and yarrow.
Leave an unmowed area around edge of property with wild flowers.
Have a brush pile with dry grasses, reeds, and dead wood as nesting areas for bees.
Do not panic if you are not able to get the April tasks done until May, your garden will wait for you and the constancy that is Mother Nature will continue to keep your patch of earth flourishing.
Enjoy the pleasure of being outdoors now, inhaling the warm fragrance of awakening soil and experience the connection with growing things. Do not overdo it; warm up the body before any garden labor and stay well hydrated with lots of water.
We are inexorably entwined with the earth and know that even the smallest gesture of a garden has positive rewards and the effects not only on you but our planet. I’ll see you next time in your garden.
MARCH TIPS 2016
‘Those March winds shall blow and we shall have snow and what will the Robin do then poor thing? He’ll hide in the barn and keep himself warm and hide his head under his wing’.
March can be rather unpredictable. It is a month of ‘wait and see’ as we are brimming with anticipation of being once again in the garden. This morning I walked outside, the was sun shining and as I breathed in I caught the earthy rich fragrance of the soil beginning to awaken.
All of us are itching to get out into the garden and it will be earlier than last year as this winter was mild therefore frost did not penetrate deep into the ground. That being said, the soil will dry out and warm up quicker and so be workable without damaging soil structure and friable root systems. Patience is what is needed now but planning can go ahead.
Trees – check the trees in the garden to evaluate what work need to be done. What pruning is required – late winter is the time to prune evergreens before the new growth appears.
Are there broken or dead limbs? What branches require cabling?
A medium shade area can be changed to a dappled change area, allowing more sunlight by thinning out the upper tree branches or tree canopy.
Perhaps you want a tree removed to transform a shade area to a sunny spot with a larger choice of plants available to you.
I always hesitate to remove a healthy tree but sometimes a tree has been planted too close to the house, the roots have undermined the foundation and the shading over the roof has caused mold and mildew.
If you need any of the above work to be done, please contact a licensed arborist. March is a good time to make the call as the labor cost is less with no leaves on the trees, the arborist can quickly ascertain where to cut and the work moves faster.
There is an art to tree work knowing how, when and why to cut. Tree work needs to be carried out by a professional so that it is aesthetically pleasing, the arborist also takes into consideration the health of the trees and avoids the dangers associated with tree work such as falls and large branches or trees falling on you.
In mid April, carefully begin to clear away the winter debris, treading carefully on the soil to avoid damaging soil structure and friable root systems. When you have carefully cleared away the debris, a nice clean edge to the borders with a sharp spade makes a great difference.
This was one of the first lessons I was taught at our family nursery in England and my great grandfather was a strict taskmaster standing over me for quite a few days until I got it right.
You may be thinking of locating a new planting bed or expanding an existing one; here are some tips:
Think in terms of where you spend your leisure time indoors and out.
From indoors are you able to view and enjoy the new border?
Is it an area where there won’t be drainage problems, erosion concerns or water pooling?
Is it convenient to tend and enjoy where you can place a bench or chair?
Will you be able to water it with relative ease?
For an informal garden I prefer a curved bed – a curved line having grace and fluidity. I lay out a garden hose in the shape and size of bed required, adjust the hose until it looks as you want it without sharp kinks – just gentle curves. The best tool to use to cut out a new bed is a sharpened lawn edger, the blade is a half circle 9 inches wide and 4.5 inches deep with a flat top – this tool creates a deep edge that will last.
Face the bed, and thrust the edger down to its full depth and push the cut soil into the bed. Continue along and then remove the hose and surplus clumps of soil and grass.
In early May when the soil warms up to sixty degrees, a layer of composted manure can be added. I suggest you invest in a soil thermometer. It is important to wait until the soil reaches that temperature otherwise the nutrients benefits of the manure working with the soil organisms are not activated.
MANURE – you know how I feel how I love that wonderful natural product. Manure is not a fertilizer – it builds soil structure, aids in drainage and encourages the millions of soil animals below the surface to come alive, work with the manure to produce nutrients that are natural fertilizers, essential nourishment for an ideal planting environment. Soil with this organic amendment works in partnership with the roots of the plants.
Types of manure: Poultry manure – I know the odor can be a bit objectionable that is why in some areas, burying poultry manure is encouraged. However, for our purpose, allow it to age for two months and then add it to the garden – poultry manure contains about 2% nitrogen, one of the highest levels of all manures.
Horse manure is about .5% nitrogen, if you obtain from a stable, which has sawdust on its floors – it should be pretty weed free.
Cow manure, is .25 % nitrogen and is the most available manure. If you get horse and cow manure from the farm ask the farmer to give you manure from the bottom of the pile so that it is well decomposed.
I know the complaint with manures from the farms is weed seed. The best method to kill weed seed in the manure is to add it to the compost pile, where the heat will kill the weed seed. Or obtain the farm manure as soon as possible and lay it out in the sun covered in a tarp, which will suffocate the weed seeds and then a week before using it – remove the tarp and allow the sun to further decompose it.
If you do not have a compost pile, maybe it could go on your list for this season. All of the vegetable waste from the kitchen plus grass clippings, and wood pruning can be added to the pile. The high temperature in the compost kills the weed seed and cooks all those other necessary ingredients. For how to compost go onto this website and in the search box type in my article called “Manure like a fine wine”. The ratio for your garden is 1 part compost to 3 parts manure – but if you do not have compost – plenty of manure will do the trick. DO NOT apply fresh manure to the garden, as it will burn the plants. If you do not have a source of manures from a farm, purchase composted manure in bags from the garden center.
To produce the best-planting environment, resulting in a soil that is ‘black gold’ apply 3 inches of composted manure to all planted areas in May, July and October.
MULCH – later in May, fine bark mulch can be added. Do not use buckwheat mulch as it flies everywhere, or cocoa mulch, which is poisonous to dogs and cats and please do not use the chemically colored red mulch.
Mulch keeps moisture in the soil and helps retard weeds as does Bradfield organics, a corn gluten based weed pre emergent.
MANURE TEA AND SEAWEED TEAS – on this website check all the information for these teas which are a four hundred year old recipe. The teas are excellent for soaking seeds overnight before planting in March. The Seaweed tea has a root growth hormone and many trace elements, which encourages the seeds to root and germinate fast. Check the February Gardening tips on the website on seed planting information. The optimum time for seeding is February 20th to March 20th. The Manure Tea and Seaweed teas have multiple uses through the season and are documented on the website.
ON A CLOUDY DAY – Gradually remove protective covering from shrubs and small trees. In exposed garden areas, where wind is a problem, leave the covering on until mid April. Cold wind is more damaging and drying to plants than extreme cold and frost.
FROST HEAVE: If some perennials, trees and shrubs have heaved out of the ground, cover the roots with fresh topsoil or mulch until mid May when they can be settled back in place.
Butterfly bush to two feet from the ground and apply composted manure around the base in late March.
Prune Forsythia after it has bloomed, pruning out sparse flowering old wood.
Prune roses when the forsythia blooms. If the roses have only been in the ground for one year, do not prune, wait until October.
Do not remove the protective mulch from around the base of the roses, wait until early May, and then apply a dressing of manure and mulch.
Roses and Clematis are delightful combinations that I enjoy. The rose and the clematis planted together have the same growing needs, ‘feet in the shade and heads in the sun’. Each month add some more manure around the base of both. During the season spray the foliage with our Manure tea to prevent disease. Discontinue feeding roses and clematis in mid August, thus enabling them to go into a slow dormancy.
PRUNING – that you can do. This month, hedges can be sheared for shape, so that any stubby ends will be concealed by new spring growth.
Prune Spirea down to six inches from the ground.
In April, prune Lavender to three inches.
In late March, prune Sweet Pepper Bush (Clethra), cutting out the oldest branches.
Lilac – Prune back all old branches to various lengths before leaf growth begins, from two to five feet, keeping a good shape of the bush in mind. Sprinkle lime around the base and add manure.
BACKSCRATCH: When the lawn has dried out, rake lightly and remove excess debris such as leaves and dead twigs. Raking gently will also raise the mat up so the lawn can breathe again. Aerating machines are useful to develop a healthy lawn. Puncture holes with the aerator and pull out plugs of soil every four to six inches; following this treatment, root development takes off and thatch is reduced. Do not use the large thatching machines, which damage the grass.
GRASS Fertilizer: Apply an organic fertilizer and organic grub control before the grass begins to grow. Our Manure tea will rebuild the soil in the lawns.
In April reseed bare or sparse spots after loosening the soil, liming and fertilizing, then cover the seed with salt hay to keep the seed warm and to prevent wind from blowing the seed away. Water the seed for the first three weeks. Do not blast the area with water, which will scatter the seeds.
MOLES: to keep down the mole population in your garden; apply organic grub control once a month from March for three months; less grubs, less food for the moles. Apply organic Pre-emergent crabgrass killers in March and April.
VOLES – spread castor oil around the base of plants and keep mulch away from the base of the plants so that voles cannot hide there and gnaw on plants and roots.
DEADHEAD: the crocuses when they start to look a mess; do not cut off the leaves; the leaves make food for the bulbs for next season’s bloom.
DAFFODILS: When the green shoots emerge; spread composted manure around the plants.
CUT DAFFODILS FOR INDOORS: the stems release a sap like “goop” that harms other flowers. Before adding Daffodils to an arrangement, cut the stems at an angle, and leave them in a vase half filled with lukewarm water for a couple of hours. Discard that water and add the Daffodils to the other flowers. If you recut the stems you will need to repeat the process.
PERENNIALS – when they are about four inches above soil level, towards the end of April or beginning of May, apply composted manure on the borders to encourage their growth.
DIVIDING PLANTS – At the end of April or beginning of May, again depending on the weather – divide late blooming perennials that have become too large or did not flower well last season, which happens to many perennials after about four years.
Discard the older, inner parts of the clumps and plant the new outside portions. Do not plant the new divisions any deeper than they were originally in the ground.
When dividing Irises – when you replant, barely cover the root system so they do not fall over – if Irises are planted too deep they will not bloom.
Pansies: pick the flowers regularly to encourage more bloom.
Now is the time to plant the following seeds indoors; plant seeds of gaillardia, salvia, marigold, zinnia, petunia, snapdragon, stock and verbena. Before planting these seeds, soak seeds in our Manure tea and plant them in sphagnum moss or Coir, coir is the outer shell or fiber of the Coconut, either of these two mediums prevents a disease called “damping off”, which can cause seeds to rot before germination.
Cover pots and seed trays with plastic wrap creating a mini-greenhouse, providing moisture the seeds need to germinate.
NOTE: Remove the plastic once the seeds have germinated, the soil needs to drain and air circulation is needed around the stems.
If you are going away on business, or vacation reapply the plastic wrap
Over the pots and trays and prop some sticks or skewers in the corners. While you are away the seedlings will stay moist, make sure the seedlings do not come in contact with the plastic.
START tuberous begonias, and caladiums indoors.
DORMANT SPRING SPRAYING of fruit trees, flowering cherry, crabapple, hawthorn, mountain ash and lilac can be done before the leaf buds open.
Call in a professional company and request that they use organic products; you do not want chemical pollutants in the garden.
HOUSEPLANTS: see February tips on repotting and care of houseplants.
GERANIUMS: The plants that you brought indoors at the end of last season, when the new side shoots appear, cut them back if you have not already done so and repot them in clean pots about and inch and a half larger with fresh potting soil.
Well I think that’s given you plenty to think about to keep you busy for a while. I’ll see you next time in your garden.
FEBRUARY TIPS 2016
I was saying to a friend, only about two weeks ago what a good winter we are having, rather mild to say the least and little snow. And I hear we are in early February and the next two weeks look good – I hear it’s the El Nino effect.
Each morning for a blossom boost I go online and get my photo fix from the lovely landscapes that Ian and I have designed and installed over the years. There the harmonious flow of garden borders beckons, flourishing with foliage, bloom, color and fragrance. Stay connected to our website; it’s a great tonic for heart, mind and spirit.
Spring will be here in about fifty days and with it moderating temperatures – such anticipation abides in all gardeners. Lots to look forward to and I ask that through the season and always to garden organically. You can see what the results of pollution do Mother Nature, with poisonous pesticides and herbicides. Evidenced clearly by the changes in weather that is ‘climate change’ – directly caused by humans us, and starkly obvious by the weather of recent years. Last year being the hottest year on record for our planet, the horrific weather including in this country drought, fire in the west, numerous tornadoes, floods and blizzards.
As gardeners you can do an important part to counteract these changes by using solely organics and at least in your own garden begin to heal the planet. It begins by what you put into the soil for the growth of the plants, as I said, free from herbicides and pesticides – by adding liberal doses of my favorite stuff –aged manure. Manure either from the farm or in bags from the garden center.
This week I spoke with my friend Ann, who lives in Cheshire, in England, which is next door to my home county of Shropshire. Ann is an avid gardener and she told me that her daffodils are well above the soil and a week ago she started her seeds in the greenhouse. She soaked the seeds overnight in seaweed tea. My ancestors have known the root building properties of seaweed tea for centuries. Recently scientists have ‘discovered’ what farmers and gardeners have known for centuries that seaweed has a naturally occurring root growth hormone and is a bio-stimulant with more than sixty different types of nutrients. Now that the seeds are germinating she is also watering them with the seaweed tea.
February 20th to March 20th is the time for serious indoor seed planting here. Check the website for all the information on our seaweed and manure teas, which is available for purchase now. Check out which garden centers are stocking organic seeds, or go online for them – one company that I use is “Botanical Interests”. Don’t go overboard and buy too many packs of seeds; there are about 500 seeds in each packet. If you do purchase too many – have a seed sharing party with gardening friends.
Equipment to have on hand – cheap envelopes, fresh sterilized potting soil mix, and sphagnum moss. Also seed trays, or egg cartons also cardboard milk containers that are cut down work well. All containers must be scrupulously clean. Sphagnum moss works well as a planting medium; the moss can prevent a soil born fungus that causes “damping off” which causes seeds to rot before germination. I together with gardening friends and colleagues have used this method for years and have lost no seeds to “damping off”.
For tiny seeds use the moss as the planting mix and for larger seeds have a topsoil base and a layer of moss on top of the soil. I mix fine seeds with sand before I sow; this method helps to loosen them up. Soak the seeds overnight before planting in our Seaweed or Manure tea and just before planting spray them with warm water, never cold as cold water can delay germination. When they have germinated, water with Manure or Seaweed tea – one cup to the tea to a gallon of water.
The best method of watering seedlings is from the bottom. But, if you feel you must top water, just mist with a fine sprayer, otherwise you will drown the delicate seeds, washing them out of the planting mix. Use sterilized soil when seeding but do not save any left over soil, add it to houseplants or put it in the garden.
Left over soil from the previous year, can develop disease, which will ruin future seedling crops. If you are growing seedlings on a windowsill, place them on a south or west-facing sill; seedlings do not need heat to thrive, they need light.
Houseplants in winter require extra care – houseplants lift your spirits in winter especially the blooming variety and green foliage plants clean the air in a stuffy winter home. Keep the plants away from draughts and direct heat. If possible have humidifiers and air purifiers in the rooms, which will benefit not only the plants but also your own health. Place pebble trays under the plants and keep the pebbles moist for additional humidity.
Spray houseplants every few days with lukewarm water and once every couple of weeks, put the plants in a sink or bathtub and allow water to run freely over the plant to remove dust from the leaves and clean salt residue from the soil. The exception to the spray or soak rule is African violets; violets do not like wet leaves.
Aphids and white fly thrive indoors in winter and an organic sulphur solution called Safer works well to clean the soil of the insect eggs and from the foliage. Perhaps you are fortunate like myself to have ladybugs in your home in winter; if so, allow these pretty useful creatures to roam freely; the ladybug menu is aphids and white flies.
The best time to repot houseplants is from April through June but if a plant has become root bound with no visible soil, then they may be repotted now. Water the plant to loosen the roots from the soil, turn it sideways on a newspaper and gently slide it from the pot. Cut away any dead roots and repot in fresh potting soil in a clean pot that is only two inches larger than the original. With the plant firmly in place and the soil one inch from the rim, water it either with an application of organic fertilizer or our Manure tea or Seaweed teas; this lessens the shock of repotting.
A few suggestions of trouble free foliage plants for the home are: Rubber plants, Spider plants, Ivy, Philodendron, Monstera and Spaphyllum. If you have a sunny window Aloes, Succulents and Cacti do great.
Blooming plants sitting side by side with foliage plants, enjoying one another’s company, give an impression of a miniature garden. A few suggestions of bloomers are Cyclamen, African Violets, Kalanchoe, Primulas and Paper white narcissus. To prevent pets from chewing on the plants, add some cayenne pepper to the water when watering.
Power tools – check any power tools that require maintenance or repair. Now is the time to get them into the repair shop, because as soon as the weather breaks the shop gets busy and you may not get your lawn mower back until August.
Check all tools and implements in the garage or shed. If you did not clean them off at the end of last season, plunge the shovels and spades into a bucket of sand; sand is an abrasive and will clean off any left over soil and manure residue. Oil the wooden handles of tools with Linseed oil or some inexpensive vegetable oil; oil feeds the wood and keeps the handles splinter free. At the same time, check your hoses and fittings; they may have sprung leaks since last year.
Make a shopping list of new tools that are needed – there are lots of sales at this time of year. However, I caution that you buy only quality tools and hoses; the old adage always applies “you get what you pay for”. Also check that there is enough twine, bamboo rods, and wire ties or nails, bags of manure and peat on hand.
In March when soil and manure are available purchase bags of composted manure from the garden center or if you have a farm close by that will sell you aged manure, take a pick up truck and get a load. If you are going that route ask the farmer for manure from the bottom of the pile – aged stuff. Manure needs to be at least six months old, as fresh manure will burn your plants.
Check the paintwork on your wooden fences, arbors, decks and any other outdoor wooden structures. Then purchase, paint supplies so that on a dry day in March when you are able to paint, everything will be on hand.
Don’t forget to put paintbrushes on your list – I have a feeling you forgot to clean your old ones last season, which means they are ‘stiff as a poker, that being said, remember sand paper, brush cleaner and whenever possible buy eco conscious paint. If you are painting benches and garden seats on a dry day, put them under cover before sundown.
White walls in the greenhouse reflect light so any areas that need retouching; paint with white paint. It’s a great feeling to see how much lighter and brighter the greenhouse is after a touch of paint and the glass cleaned. However meticulously clean and tidy your greenhouse, unfortunately in winter, white fly, greenfly and scale insects find their way to be warm therefore you will need to
Spray with an organic spray. I mix an organic spray of orange peels in white vinegar and allow it to sit for two weeks before spraying – this works well and is very economical.
Walking around a garden that looks good and feels good in mid-winter is a real pick me up. Patterns emerge created by paths, walls and hedges. As you walk, enjoy the shapes of shrubs, the shadows of evergreens and the strong silhouettes of tree trunks, their shape and bark without foliage.
Keep the bird feeders full; I love to watch the birds in their quick flights across the garden to alight on the feeders, and their sudden bursts of song when the sun peaks through. It’s fun to watch the “pecking” order as the blue jays lead the pack, the bullies I call them, followed by finches, house sparrows and among the brown, the brilliant red of the cardinal. Sometimes a bird appears that I do not recognize and out comes my Peterson bird book and binoculars.
If you notice squirrels swarming the bird feeders, add some cayenne pepper to the birdseed, don’t worry the heat does not affect birds. Away from the feeders, sprinkle birdseed on the ground without the pepper so the squirrels can also have a meal.
Winter has its own distinctive fragrance, the fog, in the morning when the air is very heavy, thick and damp – a damp even more bone chilling than rain. But what I love best is the smell of the soil, rich and brown, well manured or covered with wood mulch, shredded leaves or salt hay. Winter’s smells are a potpourri, one moment fresh like the east wind, next dense and sweet.
If you find you have spent year after year throwing good money after bad it may be time to get a professional design, if that is so, don’t hesitate; if you want work to begin in the spring, a design takes time to complete. Visit the website and give Ian a call or call another person you know and trust.
The Connecticut Flower and Garden Show at the Convention from February 19 through February 21. I will be back on air on WRCH Lite100.5 FM on Thursday March 17th from 8.00 to 8.30 am. Call in with your gardening questions and if you are not able to get through email TheEnglishLady@TheEnglishLady.com I look forward to hearing from you. Have a great month and I’ll see you next time in your garden.
Happy New Year everyone and I hope everyone has a good 2016.
On December 21st on winter solstice we turned the corner and each day we move gradually from the dark into the light of a longer brighter day.
Later this week I will plant my Paper white Narcissus on pebbles in tall glass vases or you may use potting soil. To keep the pebbles moist I water with The English Lady Seaweed tea. The Seaweed has a root growth hormone, which promotes strong roots, and then when the blooms appear I will water with The English Lady Manure tea for extended bloom.
Our seaweed tea and our manure tea are great for your houseplants (no odor on the Manure tea). In September I brought my Rosemary plant indoors and have been watering with the teas and know that soon I will have purple bloom on the Rosemary – a great surprise as Rosemary does not bloom in this zone. I run a cold water humidifier for personal health and the health of my plants and also spray the Rosemary twice weekly with water. Check our website for information and how to order.
After planting the paper white narcissus I will place them in a dark cool room until the foliage is about four inches tall and when the buds appear I will move them from the dark to a cool room out of direct sunlight on the south side. The English Lady Seaweed Tea will create strong roots for indoor spring bulbs within 14 days!
When the buds are almost ready to open I will place them in a prominent area to be enjoyed. I can’t wait for the fragrance to permeate the house.
Just the thought of new bloom gets me out of the winter doldrums. But with the yoyo weather we are experiencing with El Nino definitely confirms global warming and the subsequent climate change. Those changes, combined with pollution in the air, water and the earth our planet is being damaged.
That being said, your contribution to saving this wonderful planet is to organically tend the soil with compost and manure. Your plants and vegetables will thrive, as will you. Allow your garden to anchor you by connecting your heart, body, mind and spirit to Mother Nature’s life giving bountiful gifts and her energy.
After the lovely mild fall and December, now in January I am expecting snow and frigid temperatures. I don’t know about you but I find it a bit hard for the body to adjust as well as my mood to these changes – yet again its New England.
Snow cover by the way, is beneficial for the garden, it blankets the soil to keep it warm and moist. An extra benefit is that snow protects the earth from winter winds, which is more harmful to plants than cold temperatures. The bitter drying winds draw much needed moisture from the plants and can cause the demise of some as well as plant breakage and soil erosion.
It’s useful to have a few bags of topsoil and mulch in the garage. With these items on hand, any roots can be covered when they become exposed by wind or frost heave. Roots exposed to the elements for any length of time can kill them therefore, quickly covering them with the soil and mulch prevents this from occurring. When spring arrives, the frost leaves and the earth warms up, then the plant can be resettled in place together with composted manure to which produces an excellent growing environment.
On a sunny day in January, take a walk round the garden, get some fresh air and work off a few of the holiday pounds, make some notes and decide what worked for you last year and what you will never try again.
I’m sure as you sit in your armchair you have already begun making lists of plants that you are thinking of buying as you browse through the catalogues that began arriving months ago. The catalogue photos are meant to tempt you with their lovely but unrealistic “doctored up” pictures of plants that you feel certain will make your garden sensational this year.
Make 2016 the year for realistic and organized change. Don’t get caught up in the fantasy of brightly colored, high maintenance garden pictures shown in the catalogues. Suit your garden to your lifestyle that will work within your time frame and physical abilities. If you follow that construct, at the end of the day you will have the time to sit, relax and smell the roses, without being overwhelmed.
It’s also important to keep your budget in mind, as you sit and plan for next season. Before you know it the weather will warm up and when the soil has dried out, winter debris can be cleared away. With a clear palette the soil waits for that lovely layer of manure and compost (the ratio being three parts manure to one part compost). Then if the weather tells you it is still not time plant, merely putting a clean edge on the borders makes such a difference to the look of any garden. April showers arrive and the sun is shining and you are ready for the fun stuff, the placing and planting!
For those of you who are vegetable gardeners, last year was not the best weather for fruits and vegetables, too much rain, not enough sunshine here in New England. Also thinking of last season how can I forget the invasion of the insects and moles, voles and other critters? Let’s keep our fingers that this season there will be the right balance of rain and sun – from our mouths to God’s ears!
If last season you became overwhelmed with too much gardening, here are some suggestions you might follow:
Send some of your borders back to grass.
Make some of the high maintenance perennial borders, into mixed shrub borders. To accomplish this, take out some of the high maintenance perennials and donate them to a worthy cause.
Plant evergreen shrubs, some green, some blue and some of the lovely evergreen gold variety, amongst the remaining perennials. To these, add small flowering deciduous trees and shrubs that will begin flowering in April and successively through June.
Add a Ben Franklin tree with its white cup like blooms and gold center that flowers in August through September.
Nestle one to three Blue Mist shrubs in the mixed border; this plant will delight with purple blooms and fragrant leaves into September.
On a fence or trellis fragrant, plant white autumn clematis.
Add a groundcover as an evergreen framework – my favorite is Myrtle with its glossy leaves and miniature blue flowers that emerge in April.
Introduce your children and grandchildren to the wonders of the garden and introduce them to the garden fairies. Through the years I asked children to draw a picture of the garden fairy and make a list of questions to ask the fairies that live in the wild patch. We all have a wild patch in the garden; in fact you are probably saying, “Maureen, my garden is one large ‘wild patch’. The children became so excited and enthused about their lists and pictures of the fairies. What you have done is transformed science into magic. It seems that these days we have forgotten about fairy tales, dreams and magic; it’s time to bring those wonderful energies back into our lives and into the lives of our children.
In spring and summer I would find my children or their friends checking the garden impatiently wanting to see their planting efforts come into bloom. In the vegetable garden they waited to see what was ready to eat from the produce they had planted. This introduction to the garden often inspires children to make gardens of their own as adults.
My son Ian is a great example of this as he has partnered with me through the years in the garden – and the old adage that ‘the student is better than the teacher’ has certainly proved to be correct. Ian is a designer ‘par excellence’. If you have the chance take a ride to the shore and visit the Old Saybrook Inn and Spa to admire the beautiful gardens Ian has designed and the crew under his direction, installed.
In the March tips when you have your design or redesign layout done, I’ll give you some suggestions of ornamental trees, shrubs and long blooming perennials. I suggest that you obtain these from local garden centers who carry tried and true plants that will flourish in your area.
If you feel however, that over the years you have been throwing good money after bad and despair, as your garden never looks right. Then get in touch with Ian to give you a consultation or a design. He will always keep your budget in mind whether you want to do your own work, or a design or a design and installation of the garden.
On the other hand when you are planning your garden for this coming season there are facts to keep in mind:
What are the plants requirements for sun, shade, soil, and water?
Will they survive in this zone, Zone 6?
What are the growth patterns of the plants? Do they grow fast or slow?
You do not want a fifty-foot tree up against the house with those tremendous roots that will play havoc with your house foundation. Or do you want that lovely but very large, Catawbiense Rhododendron, all ten feet of it, climbing through your dining room window in five years?
The above facts mean – do your research and always read the labels attached to the plants.
Check every aspect of the plant before you buy. That Lace leaf Japanese maple looks lovely in the photograph, but is it something you can enjoy, without its leaves in the winter? Personally I enjoy the shape and the bark of trees without foliage in winter.
For those of you just beginning a garden, let’s first dispense with the myth that gardening is a relaxing hobby. At the end of that first day of digging, lugging soil, manure and fertilizer, and planting everything at the proper depth; you will feel that you are going to keel over.
Then you remember that you still need to water the newly installed plants as you drag your tired body to switch on the hose. Thank goodness, the mulching can wait until tomorrow or next weekend, right? Right!
Watering by the way can be meditative. Imagine that the hose is your umbilical cord so that as you nourish the earth and the plants, the earth can nourish you.
By now the sun has gone down, and you trudge indoors muttering to yourself “what the heck did I get myself into”? To this comment I say, “You did not have to do the whole garden in one day”.
In gardening, there is always tomorrow, or next week, and even though the label says to plant it by the end of May or June, believe me folks, a few weeks later does not matter, the garden will wait for you.
You may be saying to yourself at this point “Maureen are you trying to put us off gardening”? No folks, but I would remiss, as someone who has gardening in my blood (as well as manure) for over four hundred years to tell you, however reluctantly, not only the pleasures, but some of the aches and pains.
The idea is not to bite off more than you can chew. For first time gardeners don’t scatter your energies all over the garden, tackle and complete one area at a time. That area should be priority until it is complete.
If you have a new home with no landscaping, some hardscape may be required. Hardscape is walls, walkways, patios, ponds, decks and so on. The sound and look of a water feature in the garden is delightful, it need not be elaborate, a fountain is fine – waters reflection is Mother Nature’s mirror. If you are not able to do this construction yourself, get in touch with Ian so that a plan can be done now, installed and ready by spring.
All of these endeavors means getting yourself in shape physically, so get off that couch, put away the catalogues and your plant lists, stretch, then wrap yourself up warm and take that walk.
As you walk, look at the trees in winter, the elegant shape of them, the lichen on the stonewalls, the moss tucked in cracks and crevices. Clear your mind and allow nature’s spirit to surround you. Take a look at a garden or two in your neighborhood which you have admired when they were in bloom, and see what they look like in winter.
I remember one of my professors when I studied at the Royal Botanic gardens at Kew saying, “in winter you can tell a really good landscape by its bones, without the flesh of the flora”. In spring, get in touch with those neighbors whose gardens you admired and ask them some of the secrets of their garden. They will be happy to talk with you not only of their successes but their failures – true gardeners are realists when they speak about their gardens.
Try to visit the Providence, Connecticut or Philadelphia flower shows; they are on in February and March. Always a good cure for the winter blues! Enjoy your daydreaming of the season to come and I’ll see you next time in your garden.