2018, August 2018, What to do in the garden

Time to Harvest Garlic

garlic

 

If you grow garlic, then by now the leaves have probably turned brown and you are wondering if it is time to dig them up.  At this point, the leaves aren’t providing any food for the bulbs, so growth has stopped and the answer is “yes”. Gently dig up the bulbs and set them somewhere that isn’t in full sun, where the air  can circulate around them, and leave them there for two to three weeks, being careful to make sure that they don’t get wet (i.e. bring them in if there is a threat of rain, or better still, find a good spot inside.).

Once they are dry, rub off the soil and either braid the stems and hang them somewhere out of direct sunlight or cut off the stems and put them in a well ventilated area until fall, when they can be broken up and the individual cloves planted for next year. And, since you won’t need all of them next year, you are free to use them in cooking! There are some delicious recipes that use garlic online – click here for some yummy ones from Eating Well.

If you don’t grow garlic, but would like to give it a try, small bulbs, called setts, are available from a number of sources. I have had a lot of luck with Territorial Seed Company, although there are lots of sources out there.

Happy harvesting!

2018, August 2018, What to do in the garden

Staying ahead of Japanese beetles

japanese beetle

Japanese beetles can be a challenge at this time of year, eating every rose in sight and making an unsightly mess. Staying ahead of them – or even just keeping up with them -can be a lot of work.

There are gadgets out there that some swear by, like the pheromone-emitting bags that lure the beetles into their trap and kill them. I have no direct experience with these, but have always wondered if attracting Japanese beetles into your own yard is a good idea. Assuming the traps aren’t 100% effective, isn’t there a chance that you could end up with more beetles than you would have had without the trap? (Or is the trick to convince your neighbors to get it…) Anyway, if it works for you, great. No need to argue with success!

jap beetles

Other methods of getting rid of them are a little less palatable to the squeamish, but do work if you have the time and the patience. These consist of squishing them by hand (yeah, I know…) or knocking them off the leaves into a container of dish soap and water, where they drown.

There are additional things that you can do to help. Keep your plants healthy so that they are able to withstand an attack better. You can also try planting plants that they don’t tend to like in amongst your roses, such as Nepeta, and Chives, Garlic. And as a last result, contact someone with a pesticide license to come and deal with the grubs.

An integrated approach is probably best, as it is with most things. Good luck!

 

beetle grubs
Japanese beetle grubs

 

 

2018, July 2018, What to do in the garden

There are always flowers…

Henri Matisse said, “There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” At this time of year, it’s easy to get so caught up in our lives that we forget to stop and look at the garden and what it has to offer, so this week I thought I’d post some flower pictures from around the virtual garden. I encourage you to stop and spend a few minutes enjoying your own garden, or that of a friend – the summer goes by so quickly…

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2018, July 2018, What to do in the garden

When do I water?

water me! 2

The dog days of summer are upon us and it’s time to check in with our chlorophylled friends to see how they are doing. If there hasn’t been any rain of significance, our plants would probably love some help, since in the heat, the moisture in their leaves evaporates and  the roots can’t take in water to replace it if the soil is dry.

Sometimes it seems like there has been a lot of rain, but when you actually check, only the very surface of the soil has any moisture to it. This won’t do the plants any good. Even if the top inch of soil is wet they will need additional water, because if their roots can only get water at the surface, that’s where they will develop, and the result will be a plant that is unstable and can’t fend for itself when the surface is dry but there is adequate ground water. Ideally, plants need about an inch of water a week, which equates to a deep watering.

“How on earth do I know if there has been an inch of water?” you ask. That’s a good question, especially since knowing how much watering to do is part learned, and part instinct. I usually recommend that people get a rain gauge, a container that collects the rain and is marked in inches so you can see how much has fallen. (For an example, click here) They are inexpensive, and take most of the guesswork out of rainfall amounts. You can also dig down between  the plants and see how the soil feels 6 or more inches below the surface, but a rain gauge is much easier!

Plants will often survive a drought, but they won’t thrive. So making sure that they have adequate moisture is an important way to protect your investment and to make sure that you garden continues to look its best. And if the plants are new, water is absolutely critical to their continued existence because they haven’t developed a deep root system yet.

Leonardo da Vinci got it right when he said, “Water is the driving force in Nature.” Happy watering!

 

watering 2
Have fun with it!
watering
It’s preferable to water the soil rather than the plant, but you can’t fault this young gardener’s earnest attitude!

 

2018, July 2018, What to do in the garden

A Timely Reminder

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Montauk Daisy, or Nipponanthemum nipponicum, is a wonderful plant that flowers in October and November, when most everything else has started to wind down for the season. It has large, daisy-like flowers on dark green, waxy foliage and can be three feet tall by three feet wide. If you have the space, I recommend giving it a try. If you have one already, then you know that it can get quite leggy …

Because of that, this blog post is a reminder that legginess can be avoided if Montauk Daisies are pruned at this time of year. Do it this weekend, if you can. Don’t wait much longer, or it won’t have time to recover and produce flowers in the fall. Cut each stem back by about half, and then watch as it thickens up and forms a more civilized clump which will look a lot better come October. You’ll be glad you took the time to do it.

2018, June 2018, What to do in the garden

Time to weed

As I wrote the title of this week’s blog entry, I wondered if I should change it to something more “marketable”, like “It’s Game Time”, or “Why Gardeners Drink” – some sort of click-bait. No one really wants to be told to weed when the summer is almost in full swing and there are so many other fun things to do outside.

As for me, I rather like weeding, actually. It’s pretty mindless and the garden always looks better afterwards. I know I’m not alone in these thoughts, but I also know I’m not in the majority. So my advice is this: weed NOW before things get out of control. Grass growing out of mat-forming plants like Phlox can be eradicated now, whereas in a few weeks it will have taken over and set seed. Weeds like crab grass are controllable now, but in a month or so it will have grown so much that it will form a mat that will smother the plants that you want to keep. Check out this picture. There are perennials in there, but the grass has overtaken them to the point where they will likely die.

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Sometimes the reason that we put off weeding is that we don’t really know which plants are weeds and which are not. That’s a valid excuse, if you ask me. But there is help out there. One of my favorite books is a book called Good Weed, Bad Weed by Nancy Gift. (available at Amazon) It has lots of pictures of weeds in their various stages of development and goes into how damaging they can be in the garden. It’s an excellent tool.

Other times the reason we don’t weed is because we are overwhelmed. This is understandable, but it’s only going to get worse, so I suggest this strategy: two or three times a week, do a power hour in the garden. Set yourself an hour – and ONLY an hour, this is important- and focus on weeding and weeding only. Don’t deadhead the daisies, or transplant that Daylily that you have been meaning to move, just weed. you will be amazed by how much you can do.

There is hope! Good luck, and happy weeding. It’s Game Time!

2018, May 2018, What to do in the garden

Planting Perennials

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Memorial Day Weekend is a great time to plant perennials since, for most of us in the Northeast, the threat of a frost is over. It’s time to go to the garden center and spend a little money. Or a lot of money! Regardless of the amount spent, we all want to protect that investment, and one of the ways to do that is to make sure the plants are planted correctly. The small amount of extra time that it takes to plant a perennial correctly pays off generously in the long-term health of the plant. And it’s very simple, once you know how.

 

Basically, what you are doing is creating an ideal environment for a new plant to grow in. This means making it easy for it to put out root growth, and giving it enough water deep down so that the roots to grow down, not up. Because if you have a good root system, the plant is much more likely to thrive. Here’s how:

 

1)     Dig a hole about twice as wide as the plant, and maybe 1.5 times its depth. The reason for this is that the soil that you put back in will be looser and it will be easier for the plant to grow roots into. Save the soil that you took out. Once upon a time, it was thought that putting back fresh, enriched soil was the thing to do, but studies have found that it makes such a pleasant place for the plants’ roots to be that they don’t venture into the adjacent soil, causing the it to be less stable. So the soil that you took out should go back in again, except for exceptional circumstances.

 

2)     Take the plant out of its pot and inspect the root system. If the roots look like they are densely packed, or are circling the bottom or sides of the pot, then they need to be loosened up. Scratch all the way around the root area, allowing the roots to spring free from the shape of the pot. If they are really stubborn, use your garden clippers or even a knife to slice them.

planting perennials 1

3)     Backfill some of the removed soil into the hole, and check to make sure that the soil level around the plant is the right height. Place the plant in the hole, and backfill around it until it is about halfway up the sides of the root ball. Water deeply. This ensures that there is plenty of water available at the bottom of the plant, and gets rid of any air pockets that may be lurking in the soil.

planting perennials 2

4)     Backfill the rest of the way. If you can, make a shallow ring around the plant with a little bit of soil so that water gets trapped there and can sink in. Water deeply again.

planting perennials 3

And there you have it! Your plants’ roots will have an ideal place in which to grow and be well watered. Mulching will help retain water loss, so that’s a good idea as well. Just keep the mulch away from the place where the plant meets the soil, or moisture could settle in and the plants could rot.

 

So now, you know. Happy planting!