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.
JUNE TIPS 2016
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.
The fullness of bloom came late this year, with cool weather and rain.
What we need now is sun for the garden to flourish whether for flora, foliage or our vegetable gardens. The heady fragrance of dwarf lilacs, the wild roses just beginning to open and my lush peonies in the field on the west side of the farmhouse are beginning to waft their fragrance throughout the garden. I know it’s the result of composted manure that I have added three times each season. May was a cool rainy month and now in June with the soil warming to sixty degrees, the manure bacteria working with the millions of soil organisms will produce nutrients for the plants.
I know that heat and humidity is on the horizon and between the high temperatures and drying winds, the soil will dry quickly which causes plants to shrivel and burn. An excellent counter measure to this situation is a good layer of the composted manure and a light layer of fine bark mulch retains moisture in soil and retards weeds. These two measures build the humus component and draw life-giving carbon from the atmosphere. Grow the soil and it will grow the plants. Add manure again in July when the garden is working hard and needs replenishment and again in October to continue to build the humus layer, soil structure, which in turn protects and nourishes plant roots through winter.
I wrote about the humus component and carbon in my April tips but wanted to emphasize its importance by emphasizing its importance yet again:
All living things including humans are all carbon-based creatures.
Humus brings carbon from the air into the soil.
Humus acts like a sponge and holds 90% of its weight in water. Because of its negative charge, plant nutrients stick to humus bringing nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus and other important elements to the plant, 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 to root in this environment with better access to nutrients, water and oxygen. Humus also helps to filter toxic chemicals from soil, much like carbon-based water filtration systems filter toxins from your water.
Precious soils around the world are being depleted of carbon, decimated by selfish misguided practices in industrial agriculture and poisonous chemicals. Scientists are telling us that this steady carbon depletion will inevitably lead to ecological collapse within two decades. Deprived of carbon and critical soil microbes, soils become sterile, devoid of a healthy life sustaining microbial ecosystem.
In your own garden you need to sequester carbon, support life, feed the pollinators and manage water. All life on earth is carbon-based and the millions of soil microbes or organisms must have carbon to flourish. Carbon will be taken from the atmosphere and put into your organic soil where over time the decomposed manure breaks down to the smallest particles and is made available to plants. When all this good stuff is used up the remaining material is Humus – the soil’s favorite food.
Humus, consisting of mainly carbon compounds is extremely stable and can remain in the soil for hundreds even thousands of years. You just need to make sure it remains so by adding the composted manure and the brown fine bark mulch each season to continue to build the humus.
Scientists tell us that carbon only binds in a healthy organic soil, which means
That all poisons herbicides and pesticides must be discarded. You know that for many years I have been and will continue to broadcast and lecture throughout New England on this fact – so that our soils, our plants, animals, ground water and our own lives and all living entities can be saved.
Now to weeds, our nemesis, not only does fine bark mulch help retard weeds, but an excellent weed retardant by Bradfield Organics may be purchased from the garden center. This product is an organic corn gluten based weed pre-emergent so that when you clear a patch of weeds; sprinkle the product on the soil to keep weeds away for a few weeks. When you weed it is best to remove them by hand; if you use an implement, a tool will break up the weeds, scattering hungry pieces that results in many more weeds.
If you are still seeding or reseeding lawns do not use the Bradfield corn gluten weed pre-emergent, as it will prevent the seeds from germinating.
In the vegetable gardens in our nursery in England we used composted manure as mulch, as unlike other mulches, manure will not crust or cap, therefore water and air can penetrate to the roots of the plants where it is needed. I suggest you use composted manure as mulch on the vegetable garden and manure brown fine bark mulch in all other areas.
Buds and blooms are beginning to open on the peonies as well as armies of ants. It is fascinating to witness the symbiotic partnership between ants and peonies. A question I am often asked is “Maureen, should I worry about ants on my peonies?” The answer is “ a lot of ants on the peonies just demonstrates that you have healthy plants with big buds producing a lot of nectar which attract the ants”. When you see ants “let them live”; more often than not their presence indicates that you have aphids present and the ants feed off aphids.
Peonies need plenty of water for good bloom. In early spring I give a light application of composted manure to both Hydrangeas and Peonies. Do not plant or transplant peonies until September and when you do plant or transplant, make sure that the pink eyes on the roots of the plant are only just covered with soil – just enough so they are secure and do not topple over. After the first hard frost in November cut the Peony stalks to about six inches from the ground.
Hydrangeas – are a wetland plant and require an adequate amount of water especially during hot and dry weather. An application of composted manure and a small amount of peat produces an even deeper blue on the blue variety of Hydrangeas Macrophylla. The acidity in the peat produces this result.
Make sure Hydrangeas have plenty of space to grow as they get very large and do not like to be transplanted – the space between will also ensure good ventilation to prevent powdery mildew.
Pruning – if feel you must prune hydrangeas. Prune some of the oldest woody stems and some of the weakest stems immediately after flowering in August.
Hydrangeas set their buds for next year in September pruning later than the end of August and you will lose bloom for next year and maybe even longer.
Last year due to the wet, cold and long spring we were not blessed with enough strong warm sun and therefore the bloom on the Hydrangeas was poor. Hopefully we will have a long spell of sunny weather interspersed with rain and good bloom. By applying some more manure in July will prove to be a tonic and push them to bloom more readily.
A useful creature in the war on insects is the lowly toad. In my garden I have a toad house, which I placed in a shady, quiet spot. There is no reason to buy commercial toad houses. Unearth an old clay pot in the garage or shed, that is cracked, making sure that the crack is about 4 inches wide for the doorway to this ‘toad house’ so that the toad can enter. Also put a small saucer as a floor under the pot with some rocks, and keep the rocks damp, then your friendly bad bug eater will set up residence and eat about two hundred bad bugs each week. .
Did you know that garlic is the anti-biotic of the garden I just love garlic to use in my recipes and it is an important anti-fungal element to protect your plants I suggest you plant plenty of it next fall if you do not already have some in the garden?
Plant garlic with strawberries, tomatoes and raspberries to avoid fungal diseases.
Plant garlic with mildew-prone plants such as summer phlox and bee balm.
Plant garlic under fruit trees to avoid scab and root disease.
Plant garlic next to ponds or standing water to control mosquito larvae, or pour garlic water into the water to keep away adult mosquitoes.
Where you notice marauders that either insects or animals have been munching make a garlic spray to apply on the plants:
Garlic spray recipe
4 large crushed garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
1 squirt of mild dish detergent
Put all ingredients in 2 cups of hot water in the blender and blend then leave overnight
Then put in a gallon sprayer with cold water and spray in the early morning or in the evening when it is cooler and there is no wind.
To deter squirrels and chipmunks try a hot pepper spray using either 4 hot chilies or one cup of cayenne pepper in 2 cups of hot water, leave overnight then put in a gallon sprayer with cold water and spray the problem areas in the early morning or evening. This pepper spray works well on squirrels, chipmunks, deer as well as dogs and cats that may be leaving their deposits in the garden.
MULCH: Use only the brown natural fine bark mulch not the red dyed stuff and certainly not the cocoa mulch which has been found to be POISONOUS AND HAS CAUSED DEATH IN A NUMBER OF DOGS AND CATS WHICH ARE ATTRACTED TO THE CHOCOLATE SMELL, THE SYMPTOMS ARE SEIZURES AND DEATH WITHIN HOURS.
When you mulch, do not put the mulch any closer than four inches from the trunks of trees and shrubs, any closer encourages rodents to nest and gnaw on the wood. The garden can be mulched to a depth of three inches.
June is the month for Roses and personally I find that David Austin roses are the most trouble free, these repeat bloomers, have beautiful colors and wonderful fragrances.
Some of my favorite David Austin roses are:
A Shropshire Lad, (Shropshire is my home county in England), this rose is a soft peachy pink with a fruity fragrance.
Abraham Darby with blooms in apricot to yellow, coupled with a rich fruity fragrance and spice.
Fair Bianca, a pure white, with a strong scent that is overlaid with an unusual heliotrope note.
Note – if you have not heard of heliotrope and enjoyed its fragrance, which is yummy. Heliotrope is a lovely small bushy flower – usually pale lilac in color and can only be grown south of here – the fragrance is almost identical to that of the butterfly bush.
Often I have seen heliotrope plants for purchase here and used as any annual in containers or hanging baskets. It can also be wintered over with some luck in a greenhouse. In containers it is lovely combined with red geraniums and trailing verbena. Plant in rich soil with composted manure in full sun, do not over water or leaves turn black
Continuing the rose list
Heritage, a soft clear pink and my favorite with overtones of fruit, honey and carnation on a myrrh background.
Evelyn, which has giant apricot flowers in a saucer shape, the fragrance is a luscious fruity tone, reminding me of fresh peaches and apricots.
Make sure you have additional composted manure in the planting hole and around the base of the roses and mulch about six inches away from the plant; this will keep the roots moist and cool. It is not necessary if you have composted manure around the roses to feed the roses with an organic rose food. However, if you feel you must, do so monthly until mid August, and then stop feeding to allow the roses to go into a slow dormancy.
Japanese beetles are very attracted to roses. I find the English Lady Manure tea sprayed on the foliage keeps away black spot, Japanese beetles and fungal diseases. If you used an organic grub control on the lawn in April – this product will kill the white Japanese beetle larvae and if not then you may do the following:
Pick up the Japanese beetles off your plants in the morning when they are dozy and drop them in soapy water. Or put a drop cloth under the plants and shake the plants so the drowsy beetles fall to into the drop cloth and can be tipped into a garbage bag and thrown away.
A tip for keeping cut roses fresh: cut the roses in the morning, just above a five-leaf cluster and place stems in a container of lukewarm water. Inside the house cut the stems again under luke warm running water, forming a one and a half inch angular cut, and then place in a vase filled with luke warm water. Do not remove the thorns on cut roses, I have found that by removing the thorns, this reduces their indoor life by as much as three days.
Summer phlox is particularly afflicted by mildew. I recommend the white ones of the species, Phlox Miss Lingard or Phlox David; these are the most mildew resistant.
Monarda, commonly known as Bee balm, is also affected by mildew. Be careful when introducing Monarda into the garden; this plant, like Purple Loosestrife and Evening Primrose are extremely invasive and can take over your entire border.
POWDERY MILDEW SPRAY – spray with our Manure tea or make a blend of the following inexpensive Baking Soda mixture:
1 tablespoon Baking soda
½ teaspoon liquid dish soap
1-tablespoon vegetable oil
In one gallon of water – in a sprayer
Water plants before spraying including foliage
Spray top and underside of foliage in early morning or late afternoon when there is no wind.
Do not store unused mixture as it will intensify and can burn plants.
Wisteria: regular pruning through late spring and summer is the main factor to help this arrogant vine to flower. Prune the new growth every two weeks cutting into the plant at least nine inches on each stem. If the plant still does not bloom then in early spring using a sharp spade cut down into the roots – a root pruning will often shock many plants especially Wisteria into bloom. Also like all plants in the garden apply four inches of composted manure.
Clematis wilt: if you have this problem it will be noticeable early because the shoots wilt and die. Unfortunately this disease, which is soil born, is impossible to cure, therefore you cannot plant another clematis of that species in that area.
You can however, plant the Viticella clematis selection, which are vigorous, free flowering blooms and are not susceptible to wilt. Some good choices in this variety are Blue Belle, Etoile Violette, both are purple and Huldine, which is a white. Roses and Clematis make a great combination grown together as they enjoy the same growing environment with their heads in the sun and feet in the shade and plenty of composted manure and mulch to keep the roots cool.
CONTAINER GARDENS: If you have room for one pot you have room for a number; placed close together in different shapes and sizes, creates your own miniature cottage garden. As well as regular pots, the most unexpected objects make really interesting containers.
Check in your basement, shed or barn, as I did, two years ago when I found an old wooden wheelbarrow, with a wheel missing, which I painted with eco-conscious paint in a periwinkle blue, a bit of whimsy.
Or you may come across a large chipped ceramic jar like the old two foot tall ceramic vinegar container, from my basement, replete with a hole where the vinegar tap was inserted, ideal for drainage, and which will look great on my painted periwinkle blue bench next to the red milk shed and barn. Periwinkle blue was my color for certain structures in the garden that year and I think this year the color will be lemon yellow.
Plant the containers with a variety of ornamental grasses, large leafed plants like Cannas and Elephant Ears and perennials; remove perennials when they have finished blooming, plant them in the garden and add some annuals or other perennials from the garden.
If you plant mint, plant it only in containers, as mint will overtake your borders.
LAWN CARE: Keep an eye out for moles and if you see evidence put exlax down the holes. Exlax is made of Senna, an organic herb and the moles eat the exlax, get dehydrated and the rest is history.
When spraying with Manure tea or any other organic spray always observe the rule of “160” which means if the temperature is 80 degrees and the humidity is 80 then its too hot to spray, I find that early morning is the best time.
I know there is always much work to be accomplished in the garden but make time to sit and relax to enjoy the fruits of your labor. It’s so important to take the time to recharge, to have balance in your life and what better place to do this than in the garden. Keep your garden clean – a clean garden is a healthy garden. Enjoy being outdoors in June and I’ll see you next time in your garden. Listen to me and call in with your gardening questions on Thursday June 16 from 8 to 8.30 am on WRCH Lite 100.5 FM. I would love to hear from you and if you cannot get through you can always email me with your questions at TheEnglishLady@TheEnglishLady.com . If you would like me to give my organic gardening lecture to your group, please email me at the above link.
MAY TIPS 2016
“The darling buds of May” is such an apt phrase for one of the most enchanting months, bloom on bulbs and trees and the fresh foliage on trees winking in the sun.
By now, you have probably removed most of the winter debris, pruned broken branches and re-edged borders. Do not however, apply that spring layer of composted manure as the soil needs to warm up to 60degrees for the soil organisms to accept the bacteria of the manure to produce nutrients for the roots of the plants. When shopping for garden supplies, pick up a soil thermometer to check soil temperature and I am sure the right temperature will be reached in about two to three weeks.
I am seeing our old nemesis, weeds springing up everywhere. Pull them up by hand and try to get weeds complete with roots. I say by hand, as using a tool breaks up the weeds, the result being hundreds more weeds from the broken pieces. Follow on the weeding with the organic corn gluten based weed pre-emergent by Bradfield Organics; this product will keep weeds away for quite a few weeks.
When the soil warms to sixty degrees apply composted manure around daffodils and other spring bulbs so that soil organisms will produce nutrients to feed the bulbs for next year’s bloom. Also do not cut down the Daffodil foliage as the nutrition from the foliage goes into the bulb for bloom next spring.
In a few weeks apply composted manure on all maintained areas of the garden now, then again in July and when putting the garden to bed in October. Then apply a light layer of fine bark mulch. The manure and mulch will begin to build the humus component.
I wrote about the carbon component in my April tips but wanted to emphasize its importance by stating it again.
All living things including us are all carbon-based creatures. Humus brings carbon from the air into the soil.
Humus acts like a sponge and holds 90% of its weight in water. Because of its negative charge, plant nutrients stick to humus bringing nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus and other important elements to the plant, 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 to root in this environment with better access to nutrients, water and oxygen. Humus also helps to filter toxic chemicals from soil, much like carbon-based water filtration systems filter toxins from your water.
Forsythia is in bloom but if the bloom on your shrub is not as prolific as in previous years, after blooming, prune out the old sparse wood.
A favorite native tree the Serviceberry tree, its white panicle blooms like fairy dust. The bloom soon to be followed by bright green leaves and within weeks the red fruit, a great addition for the menu of our feathered friends. Gather some fruit if you can before the birds get to it and make it into a delicious jelly for your morning toast.
Throughout my town, the Magnolias, Cherries and Eastern Redbud are tumbling over one another and already the Dogwoods are making an appearance. After the recent rains many of these trees are blooming at the same time or within a few weeks of one another. Unfortunately their bloom will soon be over but we can look forward to rhododendrons, azaleas and mountain laurel into June.
The Carlesii viburnum (also known as Korean Spice) showed pink buds, and now the fragrant white flowers of this shrub are intoxicating to the senses.
Covering the barn wall and up to the barn roof is my climbing hydrangea – bright green leaves emerging with hundreds of buds indicating that this beautiful climber will be laden with blossoms in summer.
Tulips, creeping phlox, forget-me-nots, primroses and candytuft are bringing much needed color to borders and rock gardens.
You can still prune your roses at least for another week and around the roses pull back the old mulch and in two weeks apply manure about six inches from the trunk of the plant. In another week reapply a layer of the brown natural mulch on top of the composted manure. As well as building the humus component, these layers keep the roots cool, keep weeds at bay and help retain moisture.
Do not mulch right up against the base of any plants as this encourages rodents to nest and gnaw on the plants.
Beware of fungi that look like weird mushrooms in your mulch; this is a sign of Artillery fungus and can adhere to the walls of your home and cause problems. If you notice this fungus, you will need to remove all the mulch and get it off your property.
Apply lime and manure around the lilacs, they like sweeter alkaline soil, thus the lime. By this time you may have already applied lime to the grass, which also enjoys sweeter soil and organic grub control to kill the Japanese beetle larvae and offer less food for moles.
If you are making an organic vegetable garden this year; a garden measuring 16 x 24 can feed a family of four for a year, but keep the size within your needs and capability. Don’t work the soil if it is too wet or too dry.
Double digging is the best way to go; it takes time and effort but its well worth it – dig down about one foot and remove the top soil, put to one side, then dig down and loosen the next six inches of soil and add about three inches of composted manure then put back the top soil and add another three to four inches of manure.
Do not rototill, as this will badly compromise the soil structure. The gently loosened, aerated fertile soil will give excellent yield of fruits and vegetables in the garden.
I prefer 6 x 4ft beds rather than rows; beds produce a larger yield of crops. In addition beds make for ease of weeding and harvesting by having narrow compacted soil or grass paths (having removed lawn from the area) in-between the beds.
The vegetable garden should be situated on the south or southwest side of the property for maximum sun exposure.
Make sure you remove as many weeds as possible, by hand before you even begin digging.
You need a water source close by as vegetables require lots of water, particularly the annual fruiting vegetables like tomatoes, which are hydroponics which means (mos
Rotate the crops, by that I mean, do not plant the same vegetables in the same place as the previous year. By doing this break up the soil born disease cycle.
In the loosened soil, plant the vegetables plants so that they are touching, this method forms a natural canopy to shade out weeds and help retain moisture.
I prefer to mulch the vegetable garden with composted manure, the manure, as mulch, does not cap. Capping is when mulch forms a crust, which does not allow water or air to penetrate the soil.
Fence in the vegetable garden with a tall fence to keep animals out. At the base of the fence install eight inches of fine mesh chicken wire above ground and eight inches below ground to keep out the digging and burrowing animals.
For more information on vegetable gardens check the website www.theenglishlady.com and in the search box enter ‘vegetable gardens’; this will show three articles I wrote on the care of vegetable gardening through the season.
Organic insect control – Insects do not like fragrance so plant fragrant plants like marigolds, nasturtium, lavender, nepeta and honeysuckle and roses to name a few.
Encourage lacewings, which feed on aphids by planting marigolds and sunflowers,
Attract ground beetles by laying a log or a rock on the earth, under which the beetles may hide. These important insects are nocturnal and eat slug and snail eggs, cabbage maggots, cutworms and even climb trees to feed on armyworms and tent caterpillars.
Foliar spray all the vegetables through the summer with our manure and seaweed tea – find out more about this 400 year old family on our website www.TheEnglishLady.com. The teas are ready to purchase – all information is on the website.
Grass is now a vibrant shade of green.
When mowing keep the blades of grass at about three inches; the taller blades attracts sunlight, to promote a healthier lawn. The taller blades also shade weeds and help retain moisture in the grass.
When mowing leave grass clippings on the lawn, the clippings are a natural source of nitrogen and if you have clover, that is an added benefit as clover takes nitrogen from the air and fixes it in the soil, additional nitrogen for plant growth.
After flowering is over, prune flowering shrubs by 25% – do this task immediately before new buds set for next year.
On a rainy day go shopping for any garden supplies you may need, so that when the weather is dry you can be outdoors doing what you love and not indoors shopping. Buy good hoses, cheap ones will bend and crack.
Peonies need plenty of water to produce flower buds. I have a thirty-foot long stand of Peonies in my field. The Peonies have been in the ground for over forty years and are a sight to behold when in bloom. I give them lots of loving care with a light dressing of aged manure, in April. In a few weeks I will pinch off the side buds while they are still small, leaving the terminal flower bud on each stalk, which will develop into a good-sized bloom.
Hydrangeas are a wetland plant and require plenty of water during the season. Also put plenty of manure and mulch around the base.
If you need to prune a Hydrangea, which as become too large then prune it immediately after flowering, by about 1/3 of the old wood and the weakest shoots. DO NOT WAIT, as Hydrangeas begin to develop bloom buds for next year in August and September. If you wait to prune you will not have bloom for next year.
My maternal grandmother’s favorite bloom, the Lily of the Valley soon will bloom tucked under the boxwood hedge on the north east side of the farmhouse near the front door. I love the delicate white flowers and fresh unique fragrance. When the lilacs have finished blooming, pinch off the withered flower clusters, do the same on the mountain laurel in late June and rhododendrons to ensure good blossoms next year.
In mid May apply composted manure, a light application of peat and fine bark mulch around the evergreens; rhododendrons, mountain laurel and azaleas; these plants are shallow rooted and the mulch will keep the roots protected, warm and moist.
Some annual seeds that may be planted outside in mid May are:
Calendula, Coreopsis, Marigold, Nasturtium, Nicotiana and Zinnia.
If you purchase annuals, on Mother’s Day weekend, place them in a sheltered spot on the south side of your home and plant them no earlier than Memorial weekend.
Tuberous-rooted begonias, caladiums, cannas and elephant ears can be moved from porch or cold frame to a part shade area as the weather becomes warmer and there is no sign of frost in the forecast.
If you staked trees, when they were planted last year, cut the stakes off at ground level do not pull them out of the roots as you could damage the root system.
Aphid tip: squish a few in your hand; dead aphids release a chemical that causes other aphids to drop off the plants.
Another ants and aphids tip – if you drink mint tea, any leftover sprinkle on the bugs, as they do not like the odor of mint. However, on the subject of mint, a word of caution – do not plant mint except in containers, as it is tremendously invasive and can take over your garden.
When planting annuals, perennials, vegetables, trees, shrubs or evergreen keep them watered but not drowned.
Houseplants can be moved outdoors for their summer sojourn at the end of May. However, do not put your African violets outdoors but move them to a porch that is covered and shaded, or keep them indoors in a window that does not receive direct rays from the sun.
Wait until the soil warms up at the end of May to set out Dahlia tubers.
Roses are not the troublesome creatures you have been led to believe. I like David Austin roses; these shrub roses are repeat bloomers with lovely fragrances. Roses need at least four hours of sun per day, good air circulation, and excellent drainage. During their growing period from the beginning of June to mid August; add a little extra composted manure each month; it may be applied over the mulch. Roses like the same growing conditions as Clematis and look great together, with feet in the shade and head in the sun. Before you top up the soil around the roses, add water and check if the soil drains, roses need good drainage. Deep watering is recommended at least once a week with our Manure tea, which is wonderful for foliar spraying on the roses during summer’s heat; this keeps the plant healthy and free from disease.
Plenty of stuff to keep you hopping folks and remember to keep your eye out for any pest trouble and when you spot it get on the ball immediately to avoid further problems. Throw away all herbicides and pesticides; these poisons have the same effect as second hand smoke. Come to one of my “Garden Earth” lectures; check the lecture schedule on www.TheEnglishLady.com to reconnect your hands, mind and heart to the loving nourishment of Mother Nature. In stressful times, the garden offers an anchor for peace and quiet enjoyment. Enjoy the warmth, the gentle breeze, the earth’s fragrance and bloom and please remember to breathe.
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.