Gardening Tips

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.


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.

43 Responses to Gardening Tips

  1. admin says:

    Barbara, buy some organic Neem oil, it works on the red lily beetles. Maureen

  2. barbara says:

    My lilies have red beetles on them. What do I do?

  3. sharon says:

    My climbing Rose bush seems to have all little holes in the green leaves. It had looked so healthy at the beginning of the season. Seems to have buds but nothing flowering yet. Please advise – looking for my flowers to bring me joy this year as that’s all I have at this point – tough year. Please help if you can………Thanks, Sharon

  4. admin says:

    Don, Mountain Laurel are shallow rooted and if they were planted any deeper than they came in the pot or burlap covering they will not do well. If you feel they were planted too deep, dig them up and replant with enough soil so they do not fall over and add manure and peat to the planting mix and mix with a brown fine bark mulch and keep watered through the season. Do not worry about the black spot, that should take care of itself. Maureen

  5. don says:

    we have mountain laurel that were planted last year. in mostly shade and this year neither plant looks good. they have black spots on the leaves and the leaves are dried out. what can we do to save these plants? thank you

  6. admin says:

    Cindy, on this website click on ‘what to use in the garden’ and look for soap shield to use on the mountain laurel. Maureen

  7. admin says:

    Cindy, the harsh winter wind of the last few years has caused leaf damage to the mountain laurel, they should respond to the spring weather with some manure and peat (they like acidity) around them and some fine bark mulch to protect their shallow roots. Let me know later in the season how they respond. Maureen

  8. Cindy says:

    My parents have several approx. 15 year old mountain laurels that they love. Each year lately they look terrible with brown spots all over the leaves. Could this be some type of fungus, and do you have any reccommendations? Thank you.

  9. admin says:

    Barbara, do not cut back the hydrangea now, at the end of April plant it in the garden, no deeper than it has been planted in the pot. Add manure to the planting mix and keep it watered while the roots establish. For future care, on the home page of the website type in the search box ‘hydrangeas’ and an article amongst others will come up as to their care. Good luck Maureen

  10. Barbara says:

    Could you please tell me if now is a good time to cut back my hydrangea that has been in the house for the winter. and if so how far do I cut it back??? Thanks so much.

  11. admin says:

    Deb, you obviously have a deep problem with crab grass. Check the website ‘what to use in the garden’ for the organic crab grass killer and apply it each month through the season until it eliminates the problem. Good luck Maureen

  12. Deb says:

    I have a question bout crabgrass. I don’t remember if it was something of yours that I read or heard about good drainage but sandy soil. My husband puts down crab grass killer every year and we still get crab grass come late July and August in one corner of the back yard. I told my husband you said we need more top soil. Can you please give me some tips so I can give them to my husband, my father-in-law has the same problem. My husband takes great pride in his lawn but he can’t stop the crab grass.

  13. admin says:

    Theresa, on the website on the home page, click on ‘what to use in the garden’ and that will direct you to the Gardens Alive site for organic fertilizer and grass seed. Maureen

  14. Theresa says:

    Can you please tell me which organic fertilizer I can use on my lawn to make it green and the name of any good grass seed to plant in shade and semi-shade areas.
    Thank you for your good advice.

  15. admin says:

    Barbara, transplant the hydrangea at the end of April. Do not plant it any deeper in the new location than it is in the ground now. When you dig it up, keep the roots covered with its original soil and plant immediately, air getting to the roots can damage the plant. Add manure to the top soil mix and water frequently so that the roots will re-establish. Maureen

  16. admin says:

    Lynda, prune the lilacs immediately after blooming about one third, this must be done then so that you do not prune off next season’s buds. In November prune out the suckers at ground level at the base of the trunk. In April add some manure and lime around the base. Maureen

  17. admin says:

    Lorraine, prune the ninebark shrubs after they have flowered and prune by about one third. Good luck Maureen

  18. Lorraine says:

    I have two diablio ninebarks shrubs (3 yrs old) planted close to my foundation. They are getting tall and very bushy even though I prune them. Am I pruning too much? When is the best time to prune and how much can I take off? Thank you Maureen

  19. Lynda says:

    I have two lilac bushes/trees. One in full sun light, the other more shaded. The first two years they looked great, but now i’m not getting alot of blossoms. I was told not to prune, is is correct?

  20. Barbara says:

    When is the best time to transplant a hydrangea plant?

  21. Peggy Petrovits says:

    I have an asparagus bed. Is it time to manure.? May I continue with the manure for ALL of the garden and shrubs and plants.? Thank you for your most need advise.

  22. admin says:

    Hi Dennis, cut it back to a foot from the ground at the end of next March and put some manure around the base. Have a great holiday season and finish up all gardening tasks before the weather changes. Maureen

  23. admin says:

    Sharon, prune the climbing rose to keep it in check by about three feet now and then in April by as much again if needed. Put some manure and mulch around the base and do not cover it. Many trees, shrubs and others did not bloom well this season due to lack of sun and too much rain in June. Put my old faithful manure and mulch around the base and hopefully next season the sun will shine for us. Maureen

  24. Sharon says:

    What do I do for my climbing Roses for the winter? They are real tall. Should I cut back? Should I cover with something? Should I put mulch all around for the winter? Also Rose of Sharon bush did not blossom this year – what should I do for it for the winter? Thanks so much for any help you can provide!

  25. admin says:

    Terry, perhaps the tree you purchased was not one of the fernleaf maples. But I hope you enjoy the one you have. Horse manure is as good as cow manure, but needs to be aged at least four months before use, but only use horse manure from stables where straw or peat is used as bedding, as wood shavings may be a source of plant disease.
    Good luck Maureen

  26. terry says:

    Hi ,
    I was wondering if you could help.
    I bought a dwarf japanese red maple tree, and this year is has grown over 5 ft
    tall. It’s not red and its not getting wide and low to the ground like those beautiful
    ones I see in other peoples gardens.
    What should I do? Also is horse manure just as good as cow ?
    Thanks for your input.

  27. admin says:

    Barbara, on my website in the search box, type in Hydrangea and you will find an article I wrote about the care of Hydrangeas. Enjoy Maureen

  28. Barbara says:

    I have a pink hydrangea which had 3 blooms last year…but don’t see anything coming so far this year… It is July…others in the same garden are beginning to bloom…

    Thanks, Barbara

  29. admin says:

    Denise, the butterfly bush needs full, rich soil with plenty of manure and peat, as it likes acid, and the soil needs to drain well. If your bush is close to the house it could be getting a lime run off from the foundation of the house, so it would be best to move it, which you can still do now if the bush is not too large or the extra peat could counteract the lime effect. Good luck Maureen

  30. Denise says:

    Half of my butterfly bush is growing well but the other half has brown tipped foliage. This is happening to three out of the four butterfly bushes I have in a row. What could be happening? ( This occurred last summer as well) Thank you-

  31. admin says:

    Rose, If you work outside the home and do not have time to water your containers in the morning before you leave, you can empty your ice trays in the container which will give slow release watering to the plants until you can water them later in the day. Make sure that once a week you give the containers a dilute application of organic fertilizer. Good luck Maureen

  32. Rose says:

    I heard the end of a question on the radio but did not get it all something about ice cubes in your plant. Can you tell me what that means?


  33. admin says:

    Beverly, On the website go to “what to use in the garden” and click on the site and I feel you will find a remedy there or in the eco shoppe. Also all animals usually stay away from anything fragrant like lavender or honeysuckle. Good luck Maureen

  34. Beverly says:

    I have stray cats in my area. What can I use to deterred them from using
    both my flower and vegetable gardens as a toilet and spraying spot. A fence
    doesn’t work. Is there any type of flower they don’t like the smell? Anything
    thing organic that can be used? Thank you.

  35. Keith says:

    I am starting to discover gardening and have a question on Tiger Lilly plants. I have some that have just grown over the years. Is there a good time to dig them up and break them up, replanting them?


  36. Jillian says:

    I love lavender and have been trying to grow it for years potted indoors (I am in an apartment). They always die on me so quickly! I am finally moving to a house, and would love to plant (and keep alive) some lavender plants. What are your suggestions? I have visited other websites that gave “helpful hints” but they were confusing.

    Thank you,

  37. Joan M. says:

    How & when should hydrangers be pruned?

  38. The English Lady says:

    Cut it back now to about 18″ from the ground and add aged manure. Happy gardening. Maureen

  39. The English Lady says:

    Dear Marge, Root prune the vine by taking a spade and digging straight down into the root system about two feet from the main trunk; this should shock the plant into blooming, also add aged manure around the base. Maureen

  40. Betsy says:

    I am new to gardening. When and how should I cut back my Russian Sage

  41. Marge says:

    My trumpet flower vine (I sent this message and listed this vine as a hummingbird vine) refuses to flower. It fully covers our trellis but I would enjoy it more if it flowered. Please give me some suggestions. It is about 4 yrs. old.

  42. The English Lady says:

    Louisa, Cut the butterfly bush down to about two feet from the ground now and move it when the ground warms up in Mid May. You cannot make two plants out of one. Enjoy your garden. Maureen

  43. louisa w******* says:

    when can i move my butterfly bushes? and can i make 2 plants out one?

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