Thursday, November 26, 2015

Late Fall Gardening Chores


                                                                 

By now you may have lost your gardening momentum as the days become shorter and not to mention colder. As your yard begins to bare of colour, and your trees have gone into dormancy, winter is showing signs of setting in and it may be time to retire your garden tools for a bit…even if it is only a few weeks. Come on now…you surely do deserve at least a two week break!

I do have a little bit of a suggestion for you in case you are already getting bored. Let's just say, your tools and gardening supplies will thank you and not to mention, your plants, next season.

Many gardeners tend to get tired at the end of the season and just put the tools and pots away as quickly as possible, I’m speaking from my own experience, I’m guilty!  Even if you do only retire your tools for a short time, there does come a time when they are in need of some maintenance and now is the best time to do this. When gardening, especially during the height of the season, we can be pretty hard on our tools.  We especially want to preserve our favorites so they will be in good condition to use from year to year.  Maintaining your garden tools properly will extend the life of them as well as save you money down the road. Once the busy spring comes, there will be nothing more satisfying then to grab a clean, sharp tool as you enthusiastically enter the garden for yet another season. Tools that are in good working order are not only beneficial for the plants, but they are good for you and makes your job more accurate and enjoyable.
                                                            



This process really doesn’t have to take long or even get complicated. Grab yourself a coffee or hot chocolate, put on some good tunes and clean, clean, clean! Start by laying down a tarp in an open, well lit area to allow your tools to stay clean and dry on. Remove any "caked" on soil with a firm scrub brush outdoors first and then wash with warm soapy water. This will get the tools clean and ready for assessing for any damages as well as any sharpening that may need to be done. Once the tools have completely dried you can give them the “once, or twice over” for damages.  For example: cracks in handles or nicks in the metal of blades.  After you have doctored up your tools and they appear to be in good working order they are ready for sharpening.
                                                                                 
                  

                                           
                                                              
Sharpening can and should be done at this time. Some tools like shovels, axes, hoes and trowels are best sharpened with a hand file.  If an edging is really dull, a grinding stone may be more beneficial. 
                                                          

 If you don’t have these sharpening tools on hand, they are very inexpensive to purchase from any hardware store or you can even invest in taking them to a sharpening professional.  The most useful and basic tool for sharpening is an 8" mill file. 
                                                      

When sharpening this way, work by drawing the teeth in ONE direction over the dull edge. Sharpening edges can range from 10-45 degrees.  Tools that need finer edges like handheld pruners,
                                                         

should be sharpened to between 10-25 degrees. It is also recommended at this time to apply oil to the blades to prevent rust as well as lubricate hinges.  When using oil, use a petroleum-oil-free alternative such as organic vegetable oil.  This type of oil is natural and safe to apply to tools especially when digging in soil and around your plants. It is usually on hand in any household and works well. When your tools are properly serviced, it is one last garden task that I’m sure you will be happy with. When putting away your tools, you may also want to take the time to organize your tool shed or storage area.  Hang your tools safely by the handles.  This will prevent damage to any newly sharpened edges as well as being able to reach your tools with ease and safety.
                                                        


Now that you have your tools and equipment tucked away and in order you might as well keep going! You may be wondering what I’m referring to? 

                                                         


The containers/pots that your plants were kept in during the growing season is what I’m talking about. It is so beneficial to do this easy process before storing, especially since you are in the “cleaning mode”!
Why bother cleaning your pots?  This is definitely a great question, besides isn’t dirt dirty? I know it seems like a very tedious job but your plants will be much healthier as a result and it only takes minutes to do it. During the growing season soil builds up salt and it gets deposited on the insides and bottoms of any type of planters. 

This residue may cause damage to the plants and their roots as it continues to build up over time. Cleaning your pots will also ensure the durability of them as well as removal of remnants of diseases that may have occurred during the growing season. Simply remove any dirt that is caked on, you can use a stiff scrub brush that you used for cleaning tools.  Once you get them clean, use a sterile mix to kill off any remaining disease organisms that may still be on the surface. Mix up a solution that is 10% bleach, one part bleach to 9 parts water.  Fill a container large enough so you can dip your pots in it to soak for up to 10 minutes.
                                                        

Thoroughly rinse off bleach and allow them to air dry.  Once the pots are clean and dry they can be neatly stored on a shelf waiting to get planted next season. 

                                                              


If you are anything like me, you will feel such a sense of accomplishment.  When the busy and exciting gardening season rolls around again, you’ll be so glad you took the time to do this as it becomes part of your late fall ritual.

                                                
For additional gardening information, please visit our Veseys website or contact us toll free 1-800-363-7333.
                                                          
                                                         


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Over Wintering Tender Plants

                                                                    

Oddly enough, here on PEI we still have some tender plants such as Annuals and Tropicals that are still blooming in November.  Of course many of these plants are in a sheltered location, however that still counts doesn’t it...? This is definitely something that can be celebrated as we deserve to have an extended fall here in the East this year after what mother nature dumped on us last year! Remember this...
                                                                


If you have always wanted to try to over winter your plants that could still be actively growing outdoors, its not too late to bring them inside to try to over winter them.  This can be done so easily and you don’t even need a greenhouse to do it. Aside from checking for moisture from time to time for a light watering, there really isn’t much work involved.

Of course the indoor tropical plants that you put outside during the summer months have already made it indoors, but like I say…you may be surprised what you find still thriving as you take a walk around your gardens.  Today, November 18, I noticed right outside the Vesey’s Garden Gate store there is a cluster of geraniums still in bloom as shown in the picture above.

Some gardeners, like my dear sweet nanny, Beryl Wood who is 95 years young, keeps hers going all winter and then sets them outdoors once risk of frost has passed.  Of course she still plants new Geraniums in the spring as well because she just can’t resist the beauty of the new varieties. I know what your thinking…its all fine and dandy if you have the time and space, but all it takes is either a sunny window or a cool dark location in your basement. There are a few types of plants that go dormant (not actively growing) during the winter months and will do well in any cold room, unheated garage (that doesn’t freeze) or as mentioned a cool basement. As you can see from the picture below what types of plants that I have been able to successfully over winter in my cold room the past few years. Grouping plants together as well as misting foliage lightly will provide an added benefit to these plants. This gives them natural humidity resulting in the exact amount of moisture needed during their transition. 
                                                    


If you do decide to try this its a good idea to take the time to inspect the plants for insects or diseases before setting them in their temporary winter location. Certain types of plants will also benefit from being trimmed back as this will help them reach dormancy in a natural way. If you do find some pests, common ones are white flies and mealy bugs as shown in the pictures below.


                                                           

                                                         
                                    

You can use a dab of rubbing alcohol diluted with an equal part of water on any infestation. A spray of horticultural oil or insecticidal soap would work as well if you have it on hand.  I have even had success with giving the plants a steam bath. Watch the bugs scatter from the pot as they don’t link the steam/heat combination and the plant also benefits from the humidity!
    Winter care is so easy, just water if soil feels dry as if you were treating the over wintering plants that need sun like a houseplant. For winter plants that enjoy the sunlight you can water when the upper two inches becomes dry. If they are over watered it will risk them to have problems such as root rot. Overwatering is the biggest reason why houseplants die. For the over wintering dormant plants they would only need a sparingly amount of water every couple weeks and no fertilizer is needed on any of these plants during the winter months. Good air circulation is also essential when storing any plants during this process. As the daylight starts to lengthen and temperatures start to warm, you can slowly start to water more as well as introduce a low application of fertilizer.
    Do not get discouraged if plants drop some leaves.  This will sometimes happen as plants adjust to a new location, just a minor setback. If you find your plants are struggling a bit you can try moving them to where there is more light or provide them with a proper plant grow light.
    Its always good to have a little "heads up" with tips for individual plants that may have different requirements. Plants like Hibiscus and Mandevilla do not go dormant, instead they are considered “semi-dormant” plants. Leave these types of plants with their old foliage. If they were cut back they would put on new growth which would exhaust the plant creating spindly shoots and risk of insects and diseases.  My Mandevilla seems quite happy in the dark as it put out a new bloom on its own!

                                                          

    Tropical plants that grow from bulbs or tubers such as elephant ear, caladium, sweet potato vine, canna, dahlias and begonias should get nipped by frost before they are brought in.  This sends a clear message to the plant to go into dormancy, but don't worry if haven't done this.  For these types of bulbs you can do one of two things. You can leave the plants right in their existing pots and keep the soil at a very minimal amount of moisture then store in a cool, dark location.

                                                           

 You may also choose to cut the stems and foliage back, dig them up and surround them with peat moss or sawdust. This drying material will ensure that there is the right amount of moisture around them as well as preventing them from drying out. You can surround the plants in this storing medium in newspapers or in a cardboard box. This will allow for good ventilation during dormancy unlike a plastic bag or container would. Check these bulbs from time to time to be sure they don’t dry out and lightly mist the peat moss/sawdust if they appear dry.


So as you can clearly see how simple it is to save some of your plants that you grew so attached to from either spending the time growing them from seed or finding one of your all time favourite plants. I can attribute my garden success stems from my family.  I couldn't resist attaching this photo below since I had referenced my 95 year old nanny earlier in this post. I need to explain this picture of her below...She and my Aunt love going for tours of the countryside.  The country roads led them to the trial gardens at Veseys.  When they drove up to the field to find me, my nanny was so interested in the weeding I was doing that she said, and I quote her, "I just need to get out and pull a few weeds." So awesome to see that gardening brings out the youthful side in everyone!
                                                     

Keep cozy as gardens are now put to bed!




Thursday, November 12, 2015

Easiest Bulbs for Winter Forcing


Once the fall and early winter hit, us gardeners can get a bit “antsy “ when we have nothing to plant or to maintain in our gardens. Why not bring the garden right into your own home if you haven’t already tried. Real flowers unfurling right in your own home is so rewarding and therapeutic, especially during the holiday season. If you haven’t already guessed what plant I’m referring to…it’s the ever-popular Amaryllis (Hippeastrum).  Many people love the cherished beauty of these large and exotic bulbs to either grow for themselves as a holiday/winter center piece or to give as gifts.

                                                      



Amaryllis are one of the easiest bulbs to force to bloom, anyone can grow them! When we refer to forcing bulbs  it simply means to bring a bulb out of its chill time and provide optimal growing temperatures so that it will eventually bloom.  The beauty of purchasing and growing the amaryllis bulb is that it has already had its necessary chill time and when planted it is tricked into thinking it is spring right in your own home.

Once you receive your bulb it is recommended to soak it in warm water for at least an hour prior to planting. This will encourage the bulb to sprout faster.  Rinse the bulb in clean warm water before planting.
                                                          



Many Amaryllis’ come with a pot but you may choose to use your own. Choose a pot that is 1-2” wider than the diameter of the bulb and about the same depth. It is also recommended to choose a pot that will provide good drainage to ensure that the roots don’t get too wet. Use a well drained soiless/potting mix to ensure your bulb performs its best. Heavy wet soils from outdoors and bagged topsoil is not recommended. Moisten the soil as shown in the picture below with warm water before filling the pot and planting.
                                        



Fill the pot about ½ way and place the bulb on top of the soil spreading out the roots. At this time you can be creative with your planting! If you have chosen a large enough pot, you can plant additional bulbs, which adds a greater impact for your display! Add additional soil around the bulbs to be sure they are securely anchored.  Apply water around the bulbs to see how much soil will settle and add additional amount if needed. Soil should only come up the bulb ¾ of the way being able to still see the top of the bulb as pictured below. Place the pot in a warm and sunny location providing room temperature and water sparingly. When growth starts, increase watering keeping the soil evenly moist. Room temperature is needed for the bulb to sprout.
                                                 


As the flower stalk starts to grow (usually within 2-8 weeks), you can begin to fertilize with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer every 10-14 days or as necessary. As the stalk elongates, rotate the pot to keep it straight. You will almost think you can see it grow! Four stunning flowers will generally open within 7-10 weeks once they have begun to sprout. Some bulbs are slower to start then others, so patience is required. I assure you though…they are worth the wait!
                                       



If your bulbs do not sprout within this time frame, gently check the bulb to be sure that it is still firm and lightly tug on it to make sure that the roots are starting to take hold and grow. If it hasn’t rooted, gently remove the bulb. You can try soaking the bulb in warm water, replanting, watering well and place in a warm, possibly different location once again. You could try using heat mats as an added increase of temperature just to get them started. Once they show signs of sprouting, remove the heat mats. Even though you feel that your home is warm enough, bulbs may not. They may be getting a bit of a draft if placed near a window without you even knowing.

The beauty of this beautiful plant is that you can do a succession planting all through the winter because it’s so easy to grow. Start forcing a bulb or two every two weeks from October onward and have colour all winter long.

The next question is…what do you do with the bulb when the flower fades?  Like most fall bulbs that are used for forcing in containers, as the flower fades and the stalk starts to naturally brown, you can trim back the flower stalk “leaving” only the leaves. Keep the soil that surrounds the bulb moist but not too damp and store in a cool and dry location.

Stay tuned for information in early spring with interesting instructions on how you can transplant these bulbs to grow outdoors and as well as storing indoors for a re-bloom next season. You can also check out our growing guide for additional information on how to grow Amaryllis bulbs as well as other easy bulbs for forcing indoors
                                                            

Friday, November 6, 2015

Too Prune Or Not...to Prune

The rule of thumb, in this case, is a green one... hopefully!
                                                 
    I always cringe when I hear people ask, and no disrespect intended, “Is it OK to chop my shrub right down to the ground?”, or my favorite one I once heard was, " I took my chain saw to my whole perennial/shrub garden and everything came up beautifully the following spring. Some even claim they "run over" their plants with their lawn mowers every fall. If these techniques are part of your pruning regime and they work for you, that's great! I'm just going to share with you what works for me and what I feel has become the best practice for pruning of most plants whether it be perennials, trees or shrubs.

     In my experience when talking with gardeners, pruning can sometimes be a bit threatening. Don't let it scare you, as it is a process that requires a little basic knowledge and the proper tools.
                                        

   As mentioned, there is a simple rule of thumb when it comes to pruning, and as long as you can follow this you will be a master at pruning during each season. Pruning should enhance the natural shape and performance of your shrub, and not disguise mistakes made in plant selection, placement or pruning at the incorrect time of year. 
                                                

    Upon selection of your trees or shrubs, be mindful of the size of the plant and where it is best located. Prune to remove dead or damaged wood or unwanted growth prior to planting, but not an actual full pruning unless it is the right time of year to do so. Making improvements of the shape, promoting flowering as well as fruit production, colorful stems and foliage should wait until it is recommended for the proper growth of the plant.

                                       


    Because there is so much information on pruning and how to proceed with it, I'm going to focus this first post on fall pruning. Fall pruning is recommended for summer-flowering shrubs such as Spirea, Barberry, Weigela, Ninebark, Viburnum and most other summer blooming varieties just to name a few. Fall can be an ideal time to do rejuvenation pruning with certain shrubs. This simply means shearing a shrub nearly all the way back to the ground leaving only about 12-18". If you do decide to do a rejuvenation type of pruning, it may be another full year before the tree/shrub flowers again.  
   
 
    Use sharp shears or pruners that will result in a smooth and clean cut.  It is recommended to cut on an angle; prune a 1/4 inch above the bud, sloping down and away from it. Avoid pruning too close to the bud or too steep. Cut with the slant facing away from the bud is recommended to reduce the risk of disease to the bud below. Be sure to sterilize equipment between each prune to avoid cross contamination of any potential disease from plant to plant. Chainsaws and mowers are not on the list for giving a uniform shape or clean cuts to your shrubs :)

   You most likely have experienced that many plants can handle fall pruning, however if you are in doubt, you can wait until early spring while the plant is still in dormancy. This same pruning regime also applies with trees. It is best to avoid pruning flowering trees during the fall season if you wish to see blooms in the spring. Summer and early-autumn flowering shrubs such as butterfly bush, rose of Sharon and Hydrangeas bloom on the current season's growth or “new wood,” which means flowers have developed since growth started that spring. These plants should be pruned just as growth starts in spring.
                                                      


   Avoid pruning any flowering shrub in late summer or autumn because this can stimulate tender new growth, which is susceptible to damage from cold temperatures.Trees such as Magnolia, Lilacs and Forsythias, for example, are avoided for fall pruning because flower buds have already formed on them at this time and if they were pruned in the fall, you would be removing next years flowers. These types of shrubs and trees are pruned right after flowering.
                                                  
   Once leaves have fallen and you can clearly see the shape of deciduous trees and shrubs, it’s a good time to prune. In fact some trees should be pruned in late fall or early winter because they are prone to dripping sap for weeks if they are left to be pruned in spring while sap freely flows. You can prune trees such as Willow, Birch, or Maples by removing branches that are broken, diseased or misshappen.
                                                  

   There are many discussions centered around when it is best to prune roses. I will focus a blog on that topic in more detail during the winter season. There is always much that can be learned about pruning, especially of roses. As for fall pruning, Climbing roses can be pruned, but only cut back smaller side branches a few buds away from the main frame as well as tall gangly shoots that could get damaged in the winter.  Most other rose bushes are best if left until the spring when the buds begin to swell and redden.
  

   So... now I trust that your thumb is a little GREENER and you will be well on your way to enjoying happier, healthier plants as a result of these simple pruning techniques. Stay tuned for future seasonal pruning blogs and to learn more of each individual plant visit us at Vesey's Seeds
    Have fun raking your leaves and don't forget to jump in them first!
                                                        
                                                         

                                                          







Wednesday, November 4, 2015


It's not too late for garlic!

      It is now November, and most people think planting season is all finished for 2015. Not necessarily! Fall is a fantastic time to plant garlic - fall planted garlic produces bigger and better bulbs and most garlic grows best when planted in cool soil. Find out which type of garlic is best suited for your growing area.



      Let’s begin with site preparation. Prepare a bed in a well-drained area. We don’t want any water sitting on or around the beds, so raised beds work really well.  Apply a generous amount of well-composted manure and mix it well into the soil. Level the top of the bed with a garden rake. This allows the garlic to grow in a nice uniform stand.  I used a “custom” garlic dibble that I made from scrap wood from around my barn. The dibble makes 4 holes that are 4” deep with 6" spacing and slightly over 1” in diameter. This allows me to plant the cloves in symmetrical 6” by 6” rows, as one of my professors would say, “Symmetry is beauty!”


      Once the holes in the prepared bed are complete, start breaking the cloves apart and place one clove in each hole with the pointed end facing upwards. Ensuring the cloves are roughly 4” deep. Then cover all the holes over with soil and gently pack the top layer of soil. Do not pack the soil too much though! Now that all the garlic is in the ground and covered with soil, we need to cover the bed with mulch. I use straw as my mulch, although leaves, hay or eelgrass (if you are lucky enough to live near the ocean!) will also work. If you are using leaves make sure to shred them, as full leaves will create an impenetrable surface and the garlic will not be able to poke through in the spring. The mulch layer should be at least 3” thick and not much more than 6”. The mulch provides protection for the cloves throughout the harsh winter conditions. And helps suppress weeds the following season, while keeping moisture in the soil during dry periods. Now wait until your garlic pokes through the mulch in the spring!

Cheers!