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One of the many of Gardens at Monet's home
Welcome to the Paul Parent Garden Club 2014 Newsletter

Do things together in the garden


Things are beginning to warm up a bit and rainfall has increased--both are a good thing for our gardens. Now is the time to get out and start working with our garden plants while the weather is still cool and most of the plants are still dormant. Here are a few things for you to do during the next couple of weeks.

Transplanting Perennials:

This is the best time of the year to transplant and move any plant growing in your yard. Plants are dormant and by moving them now there will be less transplanting shock to the plant and they will adapt much faster and more easily.

Most perennial plants, including peonies and bleeding hearts, must be moved right now, while the new growth is just an inch or two tall. The ground is wet and that will help to hold the soil around the roots better, preventing the small feeder roots from being damaged during the move. When you replant into the new garden, be sure to set plants at the same depth that they were in the garden originally. Be sure to condition the soil before planting with compost, animal manure, or peat moss. Peonies MUST be planted in a shallow hole; be sure that the buds are no deeper than one knuckle below the soil surface or they will not bloom.


If they are not flowering, they must be moved to a sunny location for more blooms and better growth. When you move the plant, look for the graft of the plant that resembles your fist--just below the branches--as the graft must be covered with soil for better winter protection and never allowed to be out of the soil. Look to see if growth is developing below this graft; if so, remove it, as these shoots (called "suckers") will steal energy from your plant that could be used to make flowers--suckers never flower.

Your bush-type roses should be cut back now to 18 to 24 inches tall to help stimulate new growth. Begin by removing any broken or dead branches on the plant before cutting the plant back. Fertilize now and add bark mulch around the plant to control weeds and help retain moisture in the soil during the summer. Spray your roses with natural non-chemical All Season Oil and Copper fungicide to kill overwintering insect eggs and disease spores on your plant.


Broadleaf Evergreens:
If you have azaleas, rhododendrons and holly that are not flowering very well or are getting too big for the present location, now is a wonderful time to move them. These plants are dormant right now and the new growth has not begun to form, so let's tie up the branches of the plants and dig them up while the weather is in our favor. Broadleaf evergreen plants do not have a tap root; they grow with hundreds of spider web-like roots; that will make it easier for you to dig and move the plant. Choose a location with more than half a day of sunlight if you want more flowers. If possible, find a sheltered location out of the wind. All broadleaf evergreens prefer a soil that is moist most of the year and rich in organic matter, so be sure to condition your soil when planting.


Blue or Pink Hydrangeas:
If your plants are not flowering it could be the location because these plants require sun most of day. If you live north of Cape Cod, these plants will also do better if planted near a structure like a building or fence to help block the winter winds. If your plants have become very large, now is also a great time to dig them up and split them in half making two plants from the one.

The most important thing to remember about the ball-shaped blue or pink hydrangeas is to prune the plants only in the spring, and always after the new growth has begun to develop. The flowers form on the branches made on the plant last year, old wood. Only remove dead or broken branches but wait for the growth to start to form on the plant. One other possibility for no flowers is the type of hydrangea. If you received onet for Easter or Mother's Day in full bloom, you probably have a florist type variety; this type of plant is not winter hardy for the Northeast. It will make foliage but no flowers, because the flower buds die during the winter due to the cold.


Flowering Deciduous Plants:
Forsythia, lilacs, Roses of Sharon and similar plants should also be moved right now. If you can move these plants before the flowers open, the plant will have less stress and the flowering time will be longer. As the flowers fade, the new growth will develop more easily, because the root system is not disturbed as the foliage is developing on the plant.

When plants are moved before the foliage develops, the plant can adjust the amount of foliage made that spring so it can concentrate on the roots first, which will be critical in the summer heat. Eliminate stress for healthier plants when they have to be moved. If you can prune the plant by 25% after the flowering cycle, your plants will also adapt to the new location faster. Lime the lilacs in the spring for more flowers next year.


Non-Flowering Deciduous Plants:
Privet hedges, burning bush, tall hedge, barberry and similar plants will fill in better--growing thicker--and you can control the size of the plant more easily if you prune them at this time of the year. These plants can be cut back as much as 50% while the plant is dormant, so get out the pruners now and shape the future of the plant.

If you're doing a major pruning to these plants, be sure to fertilize them with Plant Tone fertilizer to help produce new dark green foliage after the pruning. These plants can also be moved easily at this time of the year to a new location without the foliage on the plant.


Clematis, honeysuckle, grapes and wisteria are such are likely to survive a move without your cutting back the plant. Just pull down the plant from its trellis or arbor, tie it up for easier handling--and you're ready to dig and move it to a new location. Secure the plant on the new trellis or arbor and your vine will have few problems with the move. Keep it wet once the new growth develops on the plant, and your vine will fill in quickly. Use twist ties to hold the vine on its new structure and feed with Plant Tone fertilizer.


Transplanting from the Wild:
Digging wild-growing plants such as white pine, birches, mountain laurel, pussy willow, cedars, and more should be done during April. Several years ago I moved several eight to ten foot tall wild growing birches from the wild during April with great success. Plant them like a new tree from your favorite nursery and be sure to stake them in place so the wind does not move the root ball in the soil. These plants will have a better success rate if dug without foliage on them--while the plant is dormant.

Wild beach roses, bayberry and ferns will move more easily now than later. If you can use the new Thrive with mycorrhizae bacteria, it will help to quickly replace the roots you were not able to dig with the plant when you moved it. This is new technology in gardening and it will help you move your plant around your yard more easily and with better results when you use it this spring.

Anything can be moved now while it is dormant; if you get busy now, your success rate will be better! Once you dig up a plant, if it is too heavy for you to pick up, try rolling the plant onto a plastic tarp, and then pull the tarp across your lawn. Two years ago I moved a eight foot rhododendron with a 3 foot wide soil ball across my lawn with little effort; it will just slide--don't pick it up. Transplanting in April is wise use of your time in the garden.




Dave Mallett - Garden Song
Dave Mallett - Garden Song
         Sing along and maybe spring will come quicker!
  Garden Song Lyrics


Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe
And a piece of fertile ground

And inch by inch, and row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
Till the rain comes tumblin' down

And pullin' weeds and pickin' stones
Man is made of dreams and bones
Feel the need to grow my own
'Cause the time is close at hand

And rain for grain, sun and rain
Find my way in nature's chain
And tune my body and my brain
To the music from the land

Inch by inch and row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe
And a piece of fertile ground

And inch by inch, and row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
And someone warm them from below
Till the rain comes tumblin' down

Plant your rows straight and long
Temper them with prayer and song
And mother earth will make you strong
If you give her love and care

An old crow watchin' hungrily
From his perch in yonder tree
And in my garden I'm as free
As that feathered thief up there

Inch by inch and row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe
And a piece of fertile ground

And inch by inch, and row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
And someone warm them from below
Till the rain comes tumblin' down



Magnolia Stellata-Star Magnolia


From Maine to Minnesota and south to Florida, there is no more exciting tree than the flowering star magnolia in the springtime. As April approaches, the tree begins to open its flower buds, which resemble pure white eggs that burst into pure white star-like flowers, quickly covering the tree branches.

On a bright full moon evening look at your tree for a real treat, as those flowers will glow in the moonlight and light up your garden with color. Next fall, plant white-flowering daffodils in the garden around the base of the tree and you will be in for a very special treat. White reflects the moonlight and your garden will amaze you--try it.

The star magnolia is the first flowering tree of spring time and it will show you that warm weather is not far behind, so get ready for spring. This type of magnolia will grow as large as a flowering crabapple, from 15 to 20 feet tall and just as wide--but if placed in a sheltered area with evergreen trees protecting it from the winds it can and will grow larger. The star magnolia can be grown as a single trunk small tree or multi stem shrub-like tree; it will depend on the shape of the plant you select at the nursery.

If you want more of a tree shape, select a plant at the nursery with just one main trunk and remove all the other smaller branches that develop at the base of the plant. Your pruning techniques will shape the future growing habit of the plant and determine its overall shape. If you allow the side branches or the shoots that will form the base of the plant to form, the plant will stay shorter and spread out more like a large shrub does. If you prune out the side shoots and lower branches, the plant will grow taller, stay more narrow and spread out less, resembling a tree more--it's up to you.

The bark of the plant is smooth, gray, and very clean looking. The branches have many small side shoots that will form; these side shoots will all make flowers in the spring. The flowers look like giant daisies when in bloom and each flower can have 25 or more white petals that grow 2 to 3 inches long and 3/4 to 1 inch wide. The star magnolia flowers will last 2 to 3 weeks, sometimes longer if the weather is not too severe and warm as the flowers begin to fade. Because the flower petals are long and narrow, the wind seems to flow through them easily.

The saucer magnolia, a wonderful sister to this plant, has much larger flower petals and if the weather gets stormy will blow apart easily, causing the base of the tree to look as if a box of Kleenex exploded under it. So if your yard is in an exposed area with lots of wind, plant the star magnolia, not the saucer magnolia and you will enjoy the flowers longer in your garden.

What also makes the flowers last longer on the tree is that the flower buds do not all open at the same time, happening over a week or two in April. At this time of the year, the weather is cooler and this also helps to keep the flowers blooming longer. The flowers have a mild fragrance when the days are warm and the weather is dry. If you have a branch that is growing out of shape, prune it off while it's in bloom and place it in a tall vase of water to enjoy on the kitchen table for a couple of weeks.

The leaves are dark green, oval in shape, growing from 4 to 6 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide. Some years the leaves will develop on the tree at the same time as the flowers are in bloom. In the fall, if the wind and insects did their job properly, a pod will form where the flowers were on the plant. The pod is cone-shaped, with swollen bumps along its side that contain small red seeds. The pod is gray, and it will burst open and reveal its seeds when the weather gets cold in the fall, as the leaves drop to the ground from the tree. Birds and small animals like chipmunks will eat the seed during the winter, or you can pick them and store them in your vegetable crisper for the winter and plant them in the spring time.

Magnolias will grow in full sun or half a day in the shade. They will grow much better if there is moisture available to them all year long. If your soil is sandy, be sure to add lots of organic matter like compost, animal manure or peat moss when planting. To help get your magnolia off to a good start, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of Soil Moist granules to help hold moisture around the new roots that form. I have had great results also adding kelp seaweed and mycorrhizae at the time of planting to help the roots to develop more quickly.

Always plant magnolias in a planting bed and cover the soil with bark mulch to help hold moisture around the roots of the plant and keep out weeds. Planting beds also help prevent damage to the trunk of the plant from your lawn mower and weed whacker. The bark is smooth and thin; it will not tolerate bruising from your garden equipment. The planting bed also gives you room to plant spring flowering bulbs like white daffodils for your moonlight garden in the spring and annuals for summer color.

I have always noticed that flowering plants that have flowers planted under or near them always flower better in the spring. This is because you are feeding the flowers during the summer, and your flowering trees get some of the food you're giving your flowers. This feeding will help produce more energy for your plants and make flowers for next year on your trees.

Keep the plant well watered the first year in your garden; if the plant is taller than 5 to 6 feet, I would stake it in the fall to help keep the winter winds from blowing it around during the winter and damaging the new roots. If you're planting the tree in an area where there are tall grasses or a wooded area close by, be sure to wrap the trunk of the tree a couple of feet high with tree wrap the first winter to prevent mouse damage.

If the winter is one with lots of snow and the snow lasts into early April, don't be surprised if squirrels eat the flower buds before they have a chance to open; it does not happen often but it does happen. They also like rhododendron flower buds so if you see those disappearing, use an animal repellent on them quickly.

Plant the star magnolia as a single tree, or plant several in a row to create a wonderful tall-growing privacy hedge on your property; they also make a good noise barrier to buffer road noise and quiet the traffic. If the side of your house has a large blank wall between windows, a tall fence, or evergreens as a background, the star magnolia will soften the area during all seasons of the year. This is also a great plant to place a spotlight under to highlight the unique branches and flowers.

The star magnolia is a tree that will give your garden the look and feel of the South in the cold of the Northeast. All you need is a mint julep and a rocking chair near the tree to enjoy the arrival of spring!





Vegetable School Soil Preparation and Extending the Growing Season

This past Sunday we spent time on ways to prepare the soil for the up and coming growing season and a few tips of extending the vegetable growing season from the beginning to the end. Kate Del Vecchio from Johnny's Selected Seeds is a farmer and works at their contact center answering questions about your garden plants during the busy part of the growing season, so she has heard it all.

Right now is the best time to condition the soil in your garden if you did nothing in the fall. Step one is to have your soil tested to see what it needs as far as fertilizer and how your P.H. or acidity level is in the garden. Know what fertilizer and trace elements are needed will make a big difference in your plant ability to produce vegetables. Soil test kits are available at your local garden Center or have it tested at your local county extension agent for a small fee.

Step two is to check how much organic matter you have in your soil. If you dig in your garden do you find any Earth Worms in your soil? I you answered no or very few then you need organic matter to add to the garden before planting, such as Compost, Animal manure, Peat moss, Coir fiber, shredded leaves, pine needles, and seaweed. This will encourage earthworms to live in your soil and they will improve the quality of that soil every day they live there. Organic matter also helps to hold moisture in a sandy soil, break up clay soils particles to improve drainage and compaction   But most important is organic matter holds the fertilizer you apply in the soil longer to better feed your plants.

Step three is plant your seedlings and seeds properly and at the right time depending on where you live and what the weather is like this year, as no two years are alike when planting your garden. Gardening books are a great source for reference but use it as a guide for the average year and adjust for early seasons or a season like this year when everything is late.

Step four is to use straw mulch around plants to help hold the heat in the ground from the day's sunshine. Under the straw place 2 to 3 layers of newspaper to create a barrier to prevent weed development, use only the black and white parts of the newspaper as the colored pages could have ink that could create a problem with your plants and you eating the vegetables later. In the fall you can till the straw and newspaper into the garden to help build additional organic matter.

Step five is to use a product called " Floating Row Cover" to put over the vegetables you planted a bit earlier than normal and the weatherman is calling for cold weather with the possibility of a frost. This material is a fused together fabric that is white in color, has pours in it to let water run right thru it and allow for air circulation to allow excess heat to escape on those hot days early in the spring. The fabric is very light in weight and will not hurt the new delicate growth the plant is making under it. Material is a great frost protector for all types of plants. When the weather stabilizes, roll it up and put it in your garage for use in the fall to extend the growing season, some years until Thanksgiving where I live in Maine.

Step six is to use an organic fertilizer with Pro-Biotic, beneficial soil microbes, mycorrhizae, beneficial bacteria, Humates, and beneficial Fungi. These ingredients are not found in an old fashion fertilizer like 10-10-10 or 5-10-5 and also never in a blue liquid fertilizer. Only organic fertilizers help to rebuild the soil by supplying these beneficial elements to replenish the soil of missing nutrients and encourage the plant growth, for roots, foliage, and fruit.

Step seven is to cut back the use of chemicals when all possible and use organic and natural products first to control insect or disease problems. If you must use chemical products follow the direction! Natural predators are also very useful like Lady Bugs, Praying Mantis and lace bugs.

Step eight is crop rotation to allow the soil to repair and replace the fertilizer used by the last crop in that area of the garden. If you plant the same crop in the same area every year it will use the same fertilizer and soon your soil will be depleted of it and your plants will have a hard time growing. I split my garden in thirds and move the crops from part one this year to part two and next year to part three and then back to part one the following year. This allows the soil to rest and get ready for next year.

Step nine is to clean the garden every fall and remove all dead plant material to place in your compost pile to improve the soil a year from now. Weeding and cleaning removes potential insect problems for next year also disease problems and yes weed problems also. Grow a cover crop to help build organic matter naturally like: Winter Rye grass, Buckwheat, and even red clover in the fall when the garden is put to bed.

Step ten is to add organic matter like well-aged animal manure, 6 months old or older. Seaweed from the beaches up to 3 inches thick over the garden, the old straw you used for weed control and to help retain soil moisture should be tilled under, Shredded leaves in the fall and also pine needles, Compost, Coir fiber/coconut hull fibers, and grass clippings unless you have crabgrass and it is beginning to make seeds, good weed free grass only. Old fashion limestone should be added in the fall at the rate of 50 pounds per 500 sq. ft. of garden. Wood ash can also be added during the winter to the garden at the rate of "two 5 gallon buckets per 500 sq. ft. of garden." 

This Sunday at 8:00 am all you need to know about Cucumbers.



Beer and Cheese Soup


2 or 3 slices of rye or pumpernickel bread

3 tablespoons of water

3 tablespoons of cornstarch

1 tablespoon of butter

cup of finely chopped onions, Vidalia will be sweeter

2 cloves garlic, minced

teaspoons dried thyme

I can of chicken broth 14 oz.

1 cups 6 ounces of shredded American cheese

1 cups 6 ounces of shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1 cup of your favorite beer or ale

teaspoon of ground paprika

1 cup of milk, whole or 2%

Preheat the oven at 425F Cut bread in inch cubes: place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minute or until crisp, stir bread crumbs so both sides have color and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, stir water into cornstarch in a small bowl until smooth. Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat. Now add the onions, garlic and thyme; cook and stir for 3 to 4 minutes or until the onions are tender. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the two types of cheese, beer, and paprika. Reduce to low: wick in the milk and cornstarch mixture. Stir until the cheese has melted and the soup begins to bubble and thicken. Ladle into bowls and top with croutons. Sprinkle a bit more ground paprika on bowl of soup to add a bit of color. Feeds 6 and for added flavor a tall chilled glass of your favorite beer cold beer will hit the spot. Enjoy! 


Join The Paul Parent Garden Club for The Grand Tour Of France July 31 through August 12, 2014. With special 70th Anniversary tours of the Beaches of Normandy and Monet's Garden.


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