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.

The word is that a gardener’s work is never done’ that being said after all your hard labor through the growing season in September take a break. Sit, inhale the garden fragrances and allow Mother Nature to anchor and relax you.

As you contemplate your landscape, think on the past season, what worked for you and what you will never try again. Leave the weeds for a while, they are not going anywhere, take these moments to enjoy the peace, and joy that your garden brings you.

In September, gardening chores are not overwhelming unlike spring when there is much to get done in our short New England season. The warm autumn sunshine is pleasantly warm on the face and the breeze cool.

In the early morning I sit on my patio near the herb garden, looking at my sage, making a note to cut some and take it indoors for drying. I will use some sage for cooking and some, I will gather into small bunches tied with string to hang in my closets which helps to repel moths. Insects do not like fragrance. You can do the same with small bunches of lavender and also put them in drawers to keep the moths from devouring your woolens.

Now in the less hectic pace of fall, is an opportunity to re-think your gardens. The garden’s pre-winter grooming will wait for a few weeks.

You may feel that you want a professional design, having thrown good money after bad and nothing still looks right. If that is so then contact someone that you trust to work with you to create a plan in the fall and winter, which can be phased in beginning next spring. Engage someone who will listen to your needs, and stay within your budget.

Rain through August has been in short supply – hopefully we will have a good amount this fall to give our plants’ roots a boost before going into winter. The weeds continue to grow but I have been able to keep a handle on them with the use of Bradfield Organics corn gluten based weed pre-emergent, which can be purchased at any good garden center.

As I walk around the border on the south side of the farmhouse, I see that my Franklinia tree is about to bloom. This lovely small tree has saucer shaped white blossoms and yellow center and I derive such a pleasure having a tree that blooms in my garden in the fall.

However, mint has taken over that border beneath the tree.

Years ago I wish I had noticed that my friend Roz, who was kindly lending a hand to set up the garden many years ago instead of planting mint in a container she planted mint in the garden. By the time I got around to noticing the error, it was too late. For all of you who are not aware – mint is extremely invasive and should only be planted in containers where its wayward habits can be restricted.

PEONIES – September is the month to plant and transplant Peonies. Do not plant them deeply or they will not bloom. Just have enough soil to hold them up so that the ‘pink eyes’ on the roots are barely covered. Planting them with composted manure around the plant. Cut down the Peony foliage in November following the first hard frost.

In a few weeks bright touches of autumn color will appear on the maples in the wetlands behind my stream. Fall’s brilliant autumn finery is the last hurrah, before winter sets in. Climbing up the milk shed near the barn the buds on the autumn clematis are beginning to unfurl and in the herb garden autumn crocus, asters, sedum will take their curtain calls.

So that your soil remains vital and healthy add a nice layer of composted manure to all the borders either now or in October with a two -inch layer of fine bark mulch for winter protection around to all newly planted and transplanted perennials and shrubs.

I do not cut down my spent perennials but leave them up, as their ripened seed heads are a delicious treat for the birds in when food becomes scarce. I also enjoy the softer subtle colors of gray, brown and yellow of spent perennials and grasses blending naturally with the muted winter landscape.

Fall is a great time to be planting even until late October. The benefits of fall planting of some trees, shrubs and perennials into mid October gives them a head start with root development over those planted in the spring. This is especially so if we have a late spring as we did this year and you are not able to plant until late April. The cooler temperatures and still warm soil in early fall in New England, directs the plant to put their energy into producing strong roots.

However, if you are adding any evergreens they must be planted in September. The reason being that evergreens are shallow rooted and need time to establish before the ground freezes. Root growth will continue in fall as long as soil temperature is above 40 degrees, which is about the second week of November here.

Plant the evergreens with peat and composted manure around the plants and water until the ground freezes in November. Evergreens lose water quickly when exposed to cold winter wind. Add a layer of fine bark mulch on top of the peat and manure around the base of the evergreens and keep the mulch about six inches away from the trunks so that rodents do not take up residence and gnaw on the bark. Keep watering all newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials until the ground freezes.

The bitter blasts of winter wind have caused damage to many broadleaf evergreens. However, by keeping the soil healthy and moist with composted manure and mulch will keep the root system strong and the plant will bounce back in the spring with less damage. The cold wind can be damaging to the evergreens as it draws moisture from the foliage. Small evergreens can be protected loosely covered with burlap.

The following trees are not good candidates for fall planting:

Birches, Larches, Gingko, Oaks, Magnolia, in fact all flowering fruit and flowering trees as well as the Eastern Red Cedar. These trees have fleshy root systems and their feeder roots are not large when young and take time to establish, therefore are susceptible to frost heave.

Also some perennials that do not like to be planted in fall are Artemisia, Lambs Ears, Foxglove, Penstemon, Anemone, Campanula, Kniphofia, Lupines, Scabiosa, Ferns and Grasses.

This fall plant garlic – garlic is the antibiotic of the garden.

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.

BARGAINS – this is a good time to pick up end of season plant bargains. Most nurseries and garden centers reduce their prices to sell off plants so they do not have to winter them over. However, keep your eyes open for the following problem plants:

POTBOUND PLANTS – check the bottom of the pot to see if the roots are growing through the holes. If not, gently tap the plant out of the container to see if it has a network of overlapping roots that encompass the root ball. It is possible to salvage a root bound plant, which is suffering from water and nutrient deficiencies over the summer, but it will be slow to root. Before you plant this one in your garden, cut the encircling roots – the roots will now be shorter but will take root easier.

DISEASED PLANTS – plants that have been in containers all summer and have been fed high nitrogen fertilizers are easy targets for pests and diseases. Check for spots on the foliage, wilted or curling leaves, discolored roots. As well as visible signs of pest damage and infestation such as webbing or sticky residue on foliage. Not only would these plants do poorly in the garden but could infect your other plants and the soil. Soil born diseases are the most difficult to deal with.

BADLY SHAPED PLANTS – Badly shaped plants are the Charlie Brown Christmas trees of the plant world, the unwanted orphans that have been passed over year after year; these are the runts of the litter! Do not set yourself up for disappointment looking at an ugly tree or shrub just to save a few dollars.

MISLABLED PLANTS – At the end of the season many plant tags have been lost or mixed up, which means you are likely to get a perennial with flowers that are not the color you expected. Or you may buy a deciduous tree or shrub when you were looking for an evergreen variety. Stick to the plants that are part of large displays of identically labeled plants or with labels so firmly attached that look like they have been there for a while.

With any and all above-mentioned plants – always add composted manure around the plant and do not plant any deeper than it is in its pot or burlap wrapping. Always wear gloves when working with manure; there is bacteria in the manure – great for the soil but not healthy for you.

NEW LAWN OR PATCH SEEDING – September is an excellent time to plant new grass, the young grass plants will have the advantage over weeds. Do not buy cheap seed, you reap what you sow!

Gently de-thatch the areas that you wish to overseed or patch. Do not use the large thatching machines, which can damage existing grass. Add some composted manure to the area, broadcast the seed and cover the newly seeded grass area with salt hay (free from weed seed). Do not allow the soil surface to dry out, keep it moist. Do not saturate the area or the seed will wash away.

When the grass appears, stay off it, do not mow and leave the salt hay to rot. Next spring, a healthy lawn will emerge and if there are a few bare patches you can fill them in, in April.

I hope your spring bulb orders are in by now. Be adventurous this year and go for masses of a single color for the greatest impact. No matter how small your planting area – it is the intensity that counts, with two or three dozen red Tulips or a hundred Daffodils planted on your woodland edge.

Buying daffodils in large numbers is less expensive, the bulbs are usually smaller -this is not a problem as daffodil bulbs grow in size each year. Even though many say the spacing between these larger bulbs should be six inches, there is no reason they cannot touch.

Put some composted manure or bulb food in the hole and make sure you plant the Daffodils eight inches below the frost line, with the pointed end up. Wear gloves when you plant bulbs as they have a skin irritant, which may cause a rash.

If you cannot plant your bulbs immediately when you receive them, keep them in a cool, dry place. The best time to plant spring bulbs in the Northeast is the end of October to the middle of November.

Lily of the Valley can be transplanted this month but wear gloves because there is toxicity in this plant.

Dig up your gladioli corms, Calla bulbs, Elephant ear bulbs and Dahlia tubers when the foliage turns yellow. Lay them in the sun to “cure” and store them in a cool, dry dark place. When you dig the Dahlia tubers, do not pull them, pulling can break the tubers.

In early September take your houseplants indoors after their summer sojourn and wash the foliage gently and repot with new potting soil into a clean container. Repot those plants that have outgrown their pots to a clean container that is only one size larger.

Fall and early winter is a great time to do stonework – dry laid paths, walls and patios. As well as repairing fences, arbors and pergolas and build decks. Painting wooden outdoor furniture with eco conscious paint before putting them undercover for winter. In October I will tell you more about how to go about stonework.

September is a gardener’s paradise; the air is cooler, the soil easy to work and you will not overheat with the effort. Stay awhile in your garden; enjoy the comforting fragrance of fall.

If you have any gardening questions feel free to email me at

I’ll see you next time in your garden.


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 month of August is aptly named the Dog Days of summer, when the garden like human beings move at a slower pace and are apt to languish. The Dog days of summer comes from an ancient Roman legend, and tells us that the largest star, the Dog Star ‘Sirius’ appears to add its heat to the sun. In this month the legend said, that we should gather our canine friends and keep them in the cool.

Here in the Northeast, we have been fortunate to have a lovely summer, not too hot, at least so far and low humidity. However we need rain in the next months to nourish our gardens through the winter. A well- established garden needs one inch of water a week so be sparing with irrigation particularly the grass. Do not water the lawn until the green glow begins to fade, it will soon bounce back.

That being said, your vegetable garden does require more water. If you have plenty of composted manure in the vegetable garden and mulch it helps to retain moisture and keep down the weeds. Personally, I mulch my vegetable garden with composted manure, which nourishes the soil and also does not cap (crust) like other mulches. Grass clippings as mulch, does indeed add nitrogen but the clippings become slimy and invite disease.

I use soaker hoses in my gardens attached to a spigot off the house on a timer. With soaker hose irrigation the moisture goes directly to the roots of the plants where it is needed. Water the garden in the early morning or around seven in the evening.

Do not plant, transplant or divide any plants until mid September. Mid summer heat is stressful enough without adding to it by asking them to send out new roots.

Each morning I stroll around the corner onto the south side of my farmhouse and am greeted by the deep purple bloom of the Butterfly bush. Further along that border I can enjoy the bloom on the hydrangeas. Hydrangeas are a wetland plant and therefore require more water than some of your other plants in the border? They also benefit from manure and mulch about a foot from the base of the plant. Also if you have the hydrangea macrophylla with the blue flowers, the blue will be more intense if you also add some peat around the base.

In New England we have a short growing season and in the borders around the farmhouse I planted a mixed border with small trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses and perennials of differing bloom time, bright foliage and interesting tree bark. A lovely display of texture and color especially as bloom begins to wane in late summer. Outside my study window, the Serviceberry tree anchors the corner of the house with the evergreen andromeda and ornamental grasses nestling alongside; a lovely subtle backdrop to the perennials. Next to the small pond, the smoke bush is showing it pink bloom and the beautiful peach bark of the coral bark maple welcomes one to the front door.

My preference is mixed borders for year round interest. A mixed border combines perennials, evergreen and deciduous shrubs, small ornamental trees which either bloom in some part of the spring or have interesting bark and often both. A mixed border with year round interest is how, my son Ian, a wonderful designer who learnt this craft from yours truly designs a garden. The leisure area around the patio or deck at the rear of the home is a cacophony of color and fragrance while at the front there grows a garden that looks welcoming and new, year round.

Plantings that looked good last year and which have been in the ground for three years or more will be oversized and this year you found they have not bloomed so well. These plants are in need of division, so on a cooler day in September, divide early flowering perennials and transplant them; planted no deeper than they were in the ground originally with composted manure and a fine bark mulch about a foot from the base of the plant. Make sure you keep the transplants watered. When planting or transplanting make sure each plant has space, at least two feet apart depending on the growth habit of the plant.

Give your entire borders and the vegetable another round of composted manure in October. The soil needs constant rebuilding and replenishing. The fall application of manure will work with the soil microbes to strengthen roots through the winter and produce an excellent growing environment for the beginning of spring.

I also want to tell you about a most important element – that is the humus component in the soil.

In 1937 Franklin D Roosevelt said ‘the nation that destroys its soil destroys itself’. America has not heeded that warning. Precious soils in this country and around the world are being destroyed by dangerous practices in industrialized agriculture and poisonous chemicals, which completely disrupts our eco system and is poisoning humans and all living things.

At least in your own garden you can build and retain a rich growing environment. We are all carbon-based creatures as is all life on earth, which means that not only humans but also our soil microbes need carbon to flourish.

Do not till the soil as tilling breaks up soil structure. Add composted manure three times in a season if possible, beginning in late April. Add wood chips in the form of brown fine bark mulch or wood chips that you produce in your garden from aged wood chips with a combo of leaves, twigs and branches. This method begins to build the humus component in the soil. Also wood chips act as earthworm magnets. Earthworms and their castings add valuable minerals and their tunnels also aerate soil.

The following are some important benefits of humus:

Humus acts like a big sponge and can hold 90% of its weight in water.

Because of its negative charge – plant nutrients stick to humus for nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus and others, which prevents these from washing away and therefore, act as nature’s slow release fertilizer.

Humus improves soil structure making it loose and friable, which helps plant roots get better access to nutrients, water and oxygen.

Humus also helps’ filter’ toxic chemicals from the soil, mulch like carbon-based water filtration systems filter toxins from your water.

Finally, we cannot control industrialized agricultural practices but we can hurt their bottom line by not buying their chemical poisons. You can make a difference in your own garden to the health of your plants and to your own health, your family, pets, environment and all creatures that inhabit your domain.

Now back to work, keep up the deadheading so that your garden remains fresh and perky. Cut back the spent annuals for a new flush of bloom. When Coreopsis, Spirea and Salvia has finished blooming, shear off the dead bloom and a new flush will appear; doing this a few times in a season produces repeat flowering.

Stop feeding roses in the middle of August; roses require at least nine weeks to go into a slow dormancy, before the arrival of the first frost. If you do not have time to water the containers in the garden before you go out in the morning, empty your ice trays into the containers until you can add water in the cooler temp of the evening.

As previously mentioned watering in the morning is preferable; nighttime watering can encourage powdery mildew especially on summer phlox, Monarda and Hydrangeas. If you see this problem spray with my remedy of one gallon of water in a spray container adding one tablespoon of baking soda, a squirt of mild dish soap and a teaspoon of vegetable oil. Spray in the early morning when there is no wind and the humidity if lower.

To deter critters from munching on your vegetables, put an old sneaker or a piece of carpet that your dog had lain on for a while, amongst the vegetable plants – the doggy and human odors will deter animals from feasting on the vegetables.

Pest control –

Slugs – bury an expired plain yogurt in the ground, up to rim, this attracts slugs, in they tumble and the rest is history.

Another trick for Slugs – dry dog food – take out an amount for that evening, add water to make it mushy like mud pies, put the mushy piles where slugs congregate, then go outside an hour later, armed with a garbage bag and you will discover the slugs are so full of food, they cannot slink away, they have had their ‘last supper’. Scoop them up with a shovel, into the garbage bag and throw it away.

Place a rock or a log in the garden to attract the ground beetle under which they can hide. This nocturnal beetle eats cabbage maggots, cutworms, and snail and slug eggs. They also climb trees to capture armyworms and tent caterpillars.

Repel with smell – plant marigolds, mints (only in containers, as this plant is extremely invasive) basil. Basil planted near or among tomato plants repels tomato hornworms. Lavender, nepeta, honeysuckle, cosmos, roses and summer phlox and other plants with fragrance send insects packing ‘Repel with smell’.

Nasturtiums deter white fly and squash beetles, and the flowers and foliage are great to eat in salads, nasturtium flowers are delicious, a slight peppery taste on top of ice cream.

Attract lacewings by planting marigolds and sunflowers – lacewings eat aphids and whitefly.

Place a few slices of cucumber in an aluminum pie plate. The chemicals in the pie plate react with the cucumber to give off a scent, undetectable by humans but the scent drives garden pests crazy and makes them flee.

Vacuum the varmints! – Use a hand held rechargeable vacuum, like a dust buster, to suck up whitefly, Japanese beetles, Colorado potato beetles and cucumber beetles

Hold the vacuum in one hand and move lightly over the top of the plants. Support foliage with other hand to lessen damage to tender leaves and shoots. Limit vacuuming to upper leaves of plants to avoid sucking up fragile beneficial wasps. The vacuumed insects will be stunned but not killed. Open vacuum away from the plant afterwards and dump the pests into soapy water.

Place your orders for Peonies now so they can be delivered in time for September planting. Plant, transplant or divide Peonies only in September. Plant the Peonies so that the ‘pink eyes’ on the roots are barely covered with soil and of course add composted manure around the base of the plant. In November prune the Peonies down to about six inches from the ground and add mulch around the base.

Begin compiling your list of spring bulbs, so that you can have the best choice. Enjoy your day and I’ll see you next time in your garden.


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.

WATERING is so important in the summer heat, particularly if you planted trees, shrubs, particularly evergreens in spring which take time to establish a strong root system and require extra moisture. Plants in New England need at least an inch of water per week. A regular hose loses 40% of moisture to evaporation.

Soaker hoses in your borders are the best method of watering attached to a house spigot with a timer. By using this method of irrigation, moisture goes directly to the roots of plants where it is needed and not on the foliage, which causes disease such as black spot and powdery mildew.

A hose is necessary for a deep thorough watering when a plant first goes into the ground and for containers as well as for cleaning up messy areas. Soaker hoses attached to a timer can be used not only in the borders of the garden but also in the vegetable garden, as vegetables, especially annual vegetables require a lot of water. However, if, as I point out, you added composted manure to the containers and copious amounts to the vegetable garden the manure will not only retain a good amount of moisture but by using the composted manure as mulch also help to retard weeds.

As mentioned in the June tips with the addition of composted manure to your soil in spring, early summer and early fall together with a fine bark mulch you are building the carbon compound or humus component in the soil. We are carbon-based creatures, as is every living thing, this includes the lifeblood of the garden, the soil. As we build the humus component by adding composted manure and fine bark mulch we produce the healthiest possible growing environment and the strongest disease resistant plants.

This humus component remains in the soil for hundreds of years continuously extracting carbon from the atmosphere into the soil. It is necessary however, to continue to build and sustain the humus component throughout the season.

Back to watering – water the lawn only when the green glow begins to fade. An established lawn will bounce back after dry hot spells.

Roses with the addition of composted manure and mulch about two feet away from the base of the plant require a deep watering at least once a week. In July and August add another few inches of composted manure around the roses; which works with the soil microbes below the soil surface to provide nutrition for the roses, which is all you need for the health and bloom of the plant. However, do not add composted manure around the roses after mid August, as roses need to go into a slow dormancy through late summer and into fall.

If you are a first time rose grower or adding to your rose collection, David Austin English roses are my personal preference. These roses are more trouble free than many other roses. David Austin roses are also repeat bloomers, with beautiful colors and with the added bonus of lovely fragrances.

Some of my favorite David Austin roses are:

A Shropshire Lad (my home country in England) a peachy pink

Abraham Darby, shades of apricot and yellow

Evelyn (my favorite) with giant apricot colored flowers

Fair Bianca a pure white rose

Heritage a soft blush pink

Carding Mill begins as a peachy orange double flower, becoming an apricot-pink

A lovely combination is climbing roses and clematis planted together as both enjoy the same planting environment, their heads in the sun and their feet (roots) cool, with manure and mulch. This combination looks great climbing together over a fence, wall or arbor.

As I said above stop feeding not only roses but also the combination of climbing roses and clematis in mid August so both can go into a preferred slow dormancy.

Spraying the foliage of the roses in early morning or late afternoon with our Manure tea helps to deter black spot, Japanese beetles and other pests as well as giving extra nutrients ‘liquid gold ‘ for strong plants and vibrant blooms. Check our Manure tea and Seaweed tea which has a root growth hormone on this website and see what this ‘liquid gold’ can do for your garden. Also find out how to purchase the teas.

When mulching, do not apply the artificially colored red mulch; use only fine brown bark mulch. Do not mulch right up to the base of the plants, as this invites rodents to nest and gnaw on the stems or trunks of the plants.

I want to emphasize the importance of soil and soil health, which has been severely neglected and abused with poisonous chemicals worldwide. Soil is the most important element of plant growth; it is not an inert medium that merely holds the plants erect, it is a living organism that needs to be replenished with nutrients. As previously mentioned apply a few inches of the composted manure three times each season, in spring, early summer and early fall.

Composted manure, which is not a fertilizer; it build soils structure and its bacteria partners with the millions of microbes below the surface to produce nutrients for the roots of the plants. I implore you to discard all chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides – you read the statistics every day about the dangers of Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta and Bayer to name but a few of those companies that are engaged in biological warfare.

HYDRANGEAS: Plant Hydrangeas in a sunny area if you live near the coast and in part sun away from the coast. Plant them in organically rich soil with composted manure and add extra composted manure around the base now in July. If you have the blue Hydrangea add some peat or aged oak bark around the base now; the acidity in the peat and oak bark encourages the intense color. Hydrangeas are a wetland plant and require plenty of water throughout the summer. We had a late spring and even with all the spring rain the foliage and bloom of the hydrangeas and later spells of strong sun,

has been slower to emerge. Watch out for powdery mildew and spray with an organic sulfur solution called Safer that you can buy from the garden center.

Or if you are so inclined here is the recipe for a natural remedy for powdery mildew you can mix yourself:

Two tablespoons baking soda, one tablespoon of vegetable oil, a squirt of dish soap with a gallon of water in a sprayer.

The rule of 160 applies when spraying our teas, the garlic spray and cayenne pepper spray found on our June tips, in fact any organic spray when the temperature and the humidity are below 80 degrees and below 80% humidity and little no wind.

HANDS: Gardener’s hands are their tools of the trade so it’s important to look after them. My hands remain healthy by indulging in a hot cream treatment once a week in the evening–

Recipe: Mix together Calendula cream with honey and essential oil of lavender heated in the microwave, apply generously and put on white cotton gloves for sleep. When I awake my hands are soft and smooth as a baby’s bottom. Also when working in soil that contains manure or spreading manure, wear garden gloves. Manure is an organic product that contains bacteria, the bacteria is the best product for building soil structure and working with the soil microbes to produce nutrients for the roots of the plants; the bacteria is great for the soil but like most bacteria not good for you. The gloves I prefer are the leather farmer’s gloves that are washable.

FLAVORED OILS – Many herbs are at their peak right now and are ideal for using in flavored oils. The oil I use is olive oil. I harvest basil, parsley, sage, tarragon and oregano in a morning, rinse them well, pat them dry with a paper towel and then make the recipe

Chose which one of the herbs and add to two cups of oil.

For thyme and lavender, I use only the flowers with one cup of oil to a handful of blossoms. Puree this mixture in a blender and store in a wide mouthed jar for three days (covered of course) shake at least three times a day for the first two days and on the third day let the mixture settle to the bottom, then strain the mixture through a paper coffee filter into a clean jar. You will now have a tinted but clear mixture.

Refrigerate the oil and use within two to three weeks. I have tried these tasty combinations: lavender, lemon, garlic, shallots and basil with olive oil as the base – these are my favorites and are great brushed on vegetables and meats for grilling. The lavender oil is great with desserts. Rosemary, lemon oil taste excellent on salads.

MOLES: I know I have given you a few mole remedies in the past; but I know I have not given you the exlax method for a while and I can attest to the fact that I have used this method as have many garden colleagues for years and it worked – put exlax into the mole holes, the moles and voles eat it then die of dehydration.

In early April next year, apply organic grub control, which means less grubs for the moles to feed on, and without their supply of grubs, the moles will go elsewhere for food. Also the white grubs of Japanese beetles can be diminished.

Japanese beetles love our plants and the following is one way to deal with them naturally. In the early morning the Japanese beetles are drowsy and can be captured. Lay a drop cloth under the plant or plants where you see them and gently shake the plant; the beetles will drop onto the cloth, which you gather up and drop them in a garbage bag and discard.

Now that many of you are committed to organic gardening without chemicals the earthworm population is once again on the increase; earthworms are a great boon to the garden soil as their castings add many minerals and nutrients.

SUMMER PHLOX – I just love my summer phlox and keep the mildew problems down with the natural Baking soda mix I mentioned above. Although I have found that white Phlox Miss Lingard or Phlox David are more resistant to mildew. Monarda commonly known, as Bee Balm and Hydrangeas are also prone to exhibit signs of powdery mildew and the same treatment is in order. For a second bloom to be produced on the Summer Phlox, prune off ten to twenty inches from the flower stems just after the flowers have gone by and within a few weeks you will see new growth.

Deadhead all annuals and perennials for a second bloom and clean up all spend blossoms. KEEP YOUR GARDEN CLEAN – a healthy garden is a clean garden.

When Coreopsis and Spirea have bloomed, shear off dead flowers and they too will rebloom.

Make sure you have composted manure and fine bark mulch added to the soil in your containers and keep them watered as they dry out quicker than garden soil. Our Manure tea is a great tonic for containers and will keep the plants healthy and blooming a long time. In hot weather they will need to be watered daily. If you do not have time in a morning before you leave for work or errands, empty your ice cube trays on the containers, slow release watering until you can get to them later. Enjoy your day and I’ll see you next time in your garden.


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 for the next four months 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 through the open windows.   I cannot remember witnessing such abundant growth; I know it’s a result of snow cover and manure that I have added three times each season.   May was an extremely dry month but hopefully with the rain of the first few days of June and the composted manure working with the millions of soil animals to build soil structure is producing the nutrients for the plants.

However, I know that heat and humidity is on the horizon and between the high temperatures and drying winds, the soil will dry quickly and the plants can shrivel and burn. An excellent counter measure to this situation is a good layer of the composted manure. The manure not only builds structure with its bacteria working with the millions of soil microorganisms to make nutrients for the roots of the plants. Added bonuses to composted manure is helping the soil to retain moisture and retarding weeds. Grow the soil and it will grow the plants.

Weeds are our nemesis but there is an excellent weed retardant that you can purchase 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. Try to remove the weeds by hand; if you use an implement, the tool will break up the weeds, scattering hungry pieces that result in even 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.

For many years, in our nursery in England my family and I in my own garden prefer to use composted manure as mulch, as unlike other mulches, manure will not crust or cap, so that 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 brown fine bark mulch in all other areas. The combination of composted manure and the mulch go towards producing the carbon compound or humus in the soil.

Did you know and you would not know by looking but there are more soil organisms living in a handful of organic soil than the total number of all the people on this earth. Mind blowing and we need to save the soil. Where? In our own organic garden.   I say this as 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.

We cannot ignore carbon’s importance. 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 need 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 made available to plants. When all this good stuff is used up the remaining material is Humus – the soil’s favorite food – Humus.

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 and of course that means you must discard all poisons herbicides and pesticides. You know I have been and will continue to broadcast this fact – so that our soils, our plants, animals, ground water and our own lives and all living entities can be saved.

Through my window I can see hundreds of buds and already some blooms 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 like Hydrangeas 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.

On the subject of Hydrangeas, 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 to encourage the deep blue color on the blue variety of hydrangeas is beneficial. Make sure they have plenty of space to grow as they get very large and do not like to be transplanted – the space between will ensure good ventilation to prevent powdery mildew.

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 a few inches of manure 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: mulch your gardens with a brown 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.


I know I gave you some of my favorite D.A roses in my May show but here are a few more:


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.


A side note as to what is heliotrope and what is the fragrance –

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.

Quite often the heliotrope plant can be purchased 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 combined with red geraniums and trailing verbena offers a lovely display.

Plant in rich soil with composted manure in full sun, do not over water or leaves turn black


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 so the roses can 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 beetles fall to into the drop cloth and you can tip them into a garbage bag and throw them 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 reduces their indoor life by as much as three days.


If you plant mint; plant it only in containers, as mint too will spread throughout your borders.

Summer phlox is particularly afflicted by mildew. I recommend Phlox Miss Lingard or Phlox David, white ones of the species; 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 and obey this rule

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, 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 of heads in the sun and feet in the shade with 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, among four others.


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 others from the garden. Tuck in some annuals as needed.

If you plant mint; plant it only in containers, as mint too will spread throughout 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 and 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.





“The darling buds of May” is such an apt phrase for one of the most enchanting months and I can only hope that spring is finally here.

In your garden, you have probably by now removed most of the winter debris, pruned broken branches, re-edged borders and most important applied that spring layer of composted manure. Of course our nemesis, the weeds are appearing everywhere. I would suggest that as soon as you see them, pull them up by hand. As I say by hand, as uses a tool breaks up the weeds; the result being hundreds more weeds from the broken pieces. I suggest you follow on the weeding with the organic corn gluten based weed pre-emergent by Bradfield Organics.

Also it’s a good idea to put manure around your blooming daffodils so that the soil microbes below the surface can produce the nutrients to feed the bulbs for next year’s bloom. Apply composted manure on all maintained areas of the garden now, then again in July and when putting the garden to bed in October. Forsythia is in full bloom and 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. Following this cold wet spring 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) is showing pink buds, the fragrant white flowers of this shrub are a lovely to inhale. 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 bring much needed color to borders and rock gardens.

Around your pruned roses pull back the old mulch and 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. The manure and mulch works together with the soil microbes to produce humus, which is the carbon component in the soil. These layers also 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 or alkaline soil, thus the lime. By this time you 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 (perhaps 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 will need a water source close by as vegetables require lots of water, particularly the annual fruiting vegetables like tomatoes, which are hydroponics (mostly water). Rotate the crops which means 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 and in the search box enter ‘vegetable gardens’; this will show three articles I wrote on 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 The teas will be ready to purchase by the end of May – all information on how and where it will be available will be 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 also require plenty of water during the season. Hydrangeas are a wetland plant. 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 in June and no later. When a Hydrangea has been in the ground for 5years or more you can prune out 1/3rd of the old wood and the weakest of the young shoots immediately after flowering.

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, remove the withered flower clusters, do the same on the mountain laurel in late June and rhododendrons to ensure good blossoms next year.

This month apply composted manure, a light application of peat and then 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, around Mother’s Day, put 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.

If you staked trees, 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.

Watch out for a dry spell that often occurs in May, and make sure you water all newly planted deciduous trees, shrubs and evergreens.

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; they are heavy feeders (they like the same conditions as Clematis, which look great mixed with roses). Add manure and compost to the planting mix and mulch two feet away from the base of the plant in mid May. 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 this website 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 I’ll see you next time in your garden.








April tips 2015

‘Those April showers that come our way

They bring the flowers that bloom in May

And when it’s raining, let’s not forget,

It isn’t raining rain at all, it’s raining violets’

~A 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 on this website.

In Mid to late April Manure all the borders with composted manure, which can be purchased in bags from the garden center, or aged manure from the bottom of the pile at a farm. Then as the ground warms up in May, mulch with fine brown hardwood mulch.

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.

Well finally, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed when I say that spring is here. I just put on my coat and stepped outside, lifting my face to the sun. In front of the kitchen window the Daffodils are peaking above ground.

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 observing one of my butterfly bushes and lavender, put them on the agenda for pruning within the week.

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’. Ian and I stirred The English Lady Manure tea and Seaweed tea, and those potent brews will be ready to be purchased in May and can be found on this website.

I consideher April a month of awakening activity, when gardeners experience new energy and enthusiasm, just itching to get their hands in the soil. I am only just beginning to see the faint flush of red on the maples soon, our old nemesis, and weeds will begin to rear 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, 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. Some 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. I remove the old mulch from around the base and add more composted manure and mulch.

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 only as deep as they come in their container

Add manure to the planting mix and fill the hole about half full of soil then add water and wait a few minutes to ensure the roses have good drainage.

Do not fertilize at this time. 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 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, peat and add compost manure 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.

Conditions in April are the most favorable for new plant-root development. In April evergreen shrubs may be transplanted and new evergreens planted. In the planting hole add composted manure and peat. At the end of May, when the new batch of Seaweed tea is available for purchase, soak the soil with our seaweed tea to quickly establish strong root. 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 late April 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 soon; 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. Composted manure, at least three inches on the soil in April, July and October will ensure a rich growing environment.

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 and in heavy soil such as clay the more compost and manure helps to break up the clumps. Grow the soil and it will grow the plants.

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 to all planted borders in April, July and October and within a few months I could see the color deepening and becoming richer. 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 (aka leaf) feedings with the Manure tea in the late afternoon when the pores of the plants are open are 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.

The Daffodils will soon be in bloom and when the 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.

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.


“Those March winds will blow\

And we will have snow

And what will the Robin do then, poor thing?

He’ll hide in the barn, to keep himself warm

And hide his head under his wing”.

March is a very unpredictable month and I know you are really itching to get out in the garden, but it pays to be cautious. Do not work the soil around your plants as its too cold and wet and can damage friable root systems. A clean edge with a sharp spade makes the borders look neat and is a first step to you getting back in shape after winter’s hibernation.

In late March APPLY A TOP DRESSING OF MANURE: Manure builds soil structure, aids in drainage and encourages dormant nutrients to come alive for a good planting environment. Poultry manure contains about 2% nitrogen, one of the highest levels of all manures; the drawback to this manure is that the odor is rather objectionable. Horse manure is about .5% nitrogen and cow manure, is .25 % nitrogen. If you get horse and cow manure from the farm ask the farmer to give you manure from the bottom of the pile; the oldest stuff, as fresh manure will burn the plants. Or buy bags of manure from the garden center.

You can use The English Lady Manure Tea and The English Lady Seaweed Tea, the recipe passed down through my family for hundreds of years. These teas are excellent for soaking seeds overnight before planting in March. To be eco conscious start tender annuals in old milk or juice cartons; make sure all containers are clean.

Seaweed from the shore is excellent as mulch or compost it; rinse it first to remove sea salt. Seaweed contains trace elements that plants need and also growth promoting hormones. If you spread it like manure apply 1-2 lb per 100 square feet of garden each spring.

ON A CLOUDY DAY – Remove protective covering gradually from shrubs and perennials. In exposed garden areas where wind is a problem, leave the covering on until mid to late April depending on the weather. Cold wind is more damaging and drying than extreme cold and frost.

FROST HEAVE: If some of the perennials, trees and shrubs planted last fall heaved out of the ground, cover the roots with fresh topsoil until mid May when they can be replanted.


Butterfly bush and the Smoke bush (Cotinus) to two feet from the ground in late March.

Prune Forsythia after it has bloomed, pruning out sparse flowering old wood.

Prune roses when the forsythia blooms. For their first full year in the ground do not prune roses. Do not remove the winter protective mulch from around the base of the roses yet, wait until early May, then apply a dressing of manure and mulch. Do not begin to feed an organic rose food until the end of May and discontinue feeding roses in mid August.

Hedges can be sheared for shape, so that any stubby ends will be concealed by the new spring growth.

Prune Spirea down to six inches from the ground.

Prune Lavender in April

Sweet Pepper Bush (Clethra) prune out oldest branches in late March

Lilac – before leaf growth begins, cut back all old branches to various lengths from two to five feet, keeping in mind a good shape of the shrub. Sprinkle lime around the base and add manure.

BACKSCRATCH: When the lawn is dry, rake it 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; after this treatment, root development takes off and thatch is reduced. Stay clear of those large thatching machines, they damage the grass.

GRASS Fertilizer: Apply an organic fertilizer before the grass begins to grow. Reseed bare or sparse spots reseed in April after loosening the soil, liming and fertilizing, 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 also scatter the seeds.

MOLES: to keep down the mole population in your garden; apply organic grub control once a month for four months; less grubs, less food for the moles. Apply organic pre-emergent crabgrass formulas in March and April.

DEADHEAD: the crocuses when they start to look a mess; do not cut off the leaves; the leaves make food for in the bulbs for next season’s bloom.

DAFFODILS: When the green shoots emerge, spread an organic bulb food around the plants and water in well. Do not let the fertilizer come in contact with the unfurling foliage.

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.

ORGANIC FERTILIZER FOR PERENNIALS: When perennials are about four inches above soil level, about the second or third week of April, depending on the weather, apply an organic fertilizer, but if you put down manure you will not need the fertilizer. Be careful working around any plants in the garden when the soil is still wet and cold as roots can be disturbed.

At the end of April DIVIDE late blooming perennials that have become too large or have not been flowering as profusely. 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 before and certainly not with Irises; just barely cover the root system so they do not fall over.

PLANT Pansies: pick the flowers regularly to encourage more bloom.

Before planting soak seeds in manure or seaweed tea and now sow SEEDS indoors of gaillardia, salvia, marigold and zinnia indoors, also seeds of petunia, snapdragon, stock and verbena in sphagnum moss to prevent damping off if these did not get sown in February. Cover pots and seed trays with plastic wrap creating a mini-greenhouse, which provides the 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, vacation etc. put the plastic covers back on the pots and trays and prop some sticks or skewers in the corners; they will stay moist, but be sure the plants do not come in contact with the plastic.

START tuberous begonias, and caladiums indoors.

DORMANT SPRAYING of fruit trees, flowering cherry, crabapple, hawthorn, mountain ash and lilac can be done before the leaf buds open. Spray with The English Lady Seaweed Tea to encourage fruiting and call in a professional company if you notice any disease on the trees. Ask the company is they use organic products; you do not want chemical pollutants in the garden.

HOUSEPLANTS: As a general rule I suggest repotting of house plants when they are growing vigorously in spring and summer. Water the plant, turn it sideways on a newspaper and gently slide it from the pot. Repot in fresh potting soil in a pot only two inches larger than the original. With the plant firmly in place, with the soil about one inch from the rim, water it and give a dilute application of organic fertilizer to lessen the shock of repotting.

Some trouble free foliage plants are: Rubber plant, Spider plant, Aloe, Succulents and Cacti (if you have a sunny window), Ivy, Philodendron, Monstera and Spaphyllum.

Some blooming plants for amongst the foliage ones – I keep my plants in groups touching one another; they enjoy and flourish in the closeness. Cyclamen, African Violets, Kalanchoe and Primula.

To keeps pets from damaging the houseplants, add some cayenne pepper to the water when watering.

GERANIUMS: When the new side shoots appear on those that you brought in at the end of last season and cut back in February, repot them in pots about and inch and a half larger.

Well I think that’s given you plenty to think about at the moment and to get started. Enjoy your garden indoors and out.

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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