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Decorate your fall table with fancy gourds
Welcome to the Paul Parent Garden Club 2014 Newsletter
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Ilex Verticillata - Winterberry

The leaves have begun to fall from our shrubs and trees and now those leaves are very colorful, but soon these colorful plants will look barren. For the next several months, our landscape will look drab with gray or brown tree trunks, branches and stems, but there are plants that actually look better when the foliage falls from the plant.

My favorite shrub is large-growing and will thrive in a moist to wet soil--even boggy. During the fall and early winter it will be the talk of your garden. Most of us know it as winterberry; we have seen it growing on the side of the road where water seems to collect, boggy areas where in the spring you can find pussy willows growing wild, and on the edge of ponds and lakes.

This plant--the winterberry--is in the Holly family and known as Ilex verticillata, just in case you go looking for it at your favorite nursery. The first thing you should know about this plant is that it will drop all its foliage during October; that is called a deciduous plant.

The beautiful holly plants we are accustomed to growing in our yard are evergreen, and we adore them for the beautiful dark green foliage as well as the fruit. This plant is hardier than many of our evergreens, as it will grow from Canada to South Carolina and tolerate winter temperatures to minus 30 to 40 degrees below zero. If you're looking for a plant to add to your landscape that will give your property a natural appearance and require no maintenance from you, this is your plant.

Winterberry will grow 6 to 8 feet tall and just as wide, but some of the new hybrids will stay smaller, without pruning, about 3 to 5 feet tall and wide. The plant will grow oval to round, with a dense growing habit of branches that are fine and twiggy looking. Branches are dark gray and smooth looking but, grow with an unruly appearance, twisting and turning in all directions.

The leaves are one and half to three inches long, oval and, unlike the evergreen varieties, has no sharp thorns on the edges of the leaf. The foliage is dark green, shiny and has visible lines or veins running through the top of the leaf. In the fall, the leaf changes to yellow-purple before falling from the plant.

In the spring, white flowers will develop on the new growth. These flowers are white, made up of five petals arranged in a circle with an indented center like a small trumpet. The flower is 1/4 inch wide and forms in a cluster, all around the stem of the plant, on the tip of the branches, before the leaves develop.

If you have grown holly before, you will know that unlike most plants, the holly needs male and female plants to make fruit; this is also true with this variety of holly. Only female plants make fruit, but both male and female plants make flowers and you need both to have fruit on your plants. Now the good news: all you need is one male for every 5 female plants to make berries in your garden, so purchase large female plants and smaller male plants for more fruit in your yard.

Choose a sunny location with fertile soil that is moist and acid. Plant with compost and fertilize every spring with Holly-Tone or Dr. Earth evergreen fertilizer. The winterberry will look great all by itself but in groups or mass plantings it will be eye catching all fall and early winter. When the snow begins to fall, make sure there is a plant nearby so you can enjoy the red fruit that covers this plant when the ground is covered with white snow.

The birds love the 1/4 inch red fruit and will feast on them in February. It is not too late to plant now, as these plants are very hardy. Winterberry produces the same red berries you will see at your local garden center or nursery this winter, cut into bunches to be used to decorate for the Christmas holidays. Winterberry is truly a wonderful plant for all seasons--Enjoy!



Luke Bryan- Harvest Time Video
Luke Bryan- Harvest Time Video
Putting the gardening tools away for winter

It's November and the time to put your garden and the gardening equipment to bed for the season. Let's start with your equipment, because it's time to move it to the back of the garage or tool shed and prepare for the winter weather ahead of us. Power equipment like the rototiller, lawn mower, and your gas powered cutting tool should be cleaned, and then prepared for the winter by first filling up the gas tanks with a fuel that has been treated to prevent water buildup in the tank or fuel line. Start them up and let them run for a few minutes, so the treated fuel has a chance to move up into the engine. This little bit of maintenance will ensure a quick start up next spring.

I want you to purchase a can of WD-40 and spray all metal surfaces to prevent rusting from the dampness of the winter air. Be sure to coat all cutting surfaces extra well to keep your blades nice and sharp. This will also prevent moving parts from rusting together and keep the blades and wheels moving properly. If you have electric power tools, treat all metal surfaces the same way and coil up the power cords to keep them from being all tangled up in case you need them for the Holiday lights.

Equipment that you push like the wheelbarrow, fertilizer spreader, dollies, and even the hose reel should be washed and cleaned of debris. Spray WD-40 into all wheel sockets and treat any exposed metal to prevent rusting. Now is a great time to take a wire brush and clean your metal wheelbarrows, but instead of treating with WD-40 purchase a can of Rustoleum metal spray paint and paint the bowl of the wheelbarrow to keep it strong and rust free. With a cloth rub Linseed oil on the handles along with any wood pieces to keep them from drying out, splintering, and rotting during the winter, because handles have the most stress on them when used to move heavy loads. One last thing I want you to do is spray all your rubber tires with Pledge furniture polish to hold the moisture in the rubber and help prevent them from drying out and cracking.

Your fertilizer spreaders should be washed to remove fertilizer or lime dust that has built up on the moving parts and application ports. Let it air dry and then treat all moving parts with WD-40, especially the holes at the bottom of the spreader so they do not rust and become larger. If your holes get larger due to rust, you will be applying more product to the lawn than the bag calls for. When more product comes out it will cost you more money to teat that area and you may also burn the lawn with the extra fertilizer you applied. No one likes a lawn with stripes in it, plus if you over-feed your lawn it will grow faster and you will have to mow it more often.

Now for your hand tools and long handled tools. Clean them well and treat metal surfaces with WD-40 and wooden handles with linseed oil to help keep them strong. Last year I hung a 5 gallon bucket on the side of the tool shed and I now have a place to put all my hand tools, pruners and small gardening equipment--even gloves. I always know where to find them when I need them now. I also hate driving over them when mowing the grass, not very good for the tool--or the lawn mower blade. I did the same thing for all my watering tools and now I can always find the nozzle when I need it.

Drain your hoses of all water in them by throwing one end of the hose over a fence and pulling it to you as you coil it up in a neat roll. I then tie it in two places so it won't untangle, and it's ready if needed to wash road salt off the car during the winter; a frozen hose can be a real problem if you need it later. I hang it on the wall so I won't trip on it during the winter-- that also gives me more floor space for storage. Put the nozzle and the sprinklers in your bucket hanging on the side of the shed also.

I take all my granular or powdered fertilizers and insecticides and place them in a black plastic bag to help keep out moisture and place them on top of a bench so they stay loose, and don't turn into a solid block of product. Dampness from the floor will encourage your product to become solid and unusable in the spring. All liquids, especially pre-mixed products like Round-Up RTU, have a lot of water in the bottle, and they will freeze, affecting the performance of the product next year. Box them up and move them to your basement to prevent a decrease of the effectiveness of the products or breakage of the container causing a chemical spill--and real problems.

If you have a pump sprayer, remove the plunger and turn the sprayer upside down to keep moisture out and prevent corrosion. The rubber gasket around the plunger will go bad quickly because it is in contact with many products during the year, so every fall I coat it with a bit of Vaseline to keep it from drying out. Bottle sprayers used to control weeds on the lawn or apply insecticides on your plants should also be cleaned and opened to prevent corrosion in the mixing valves.

Bring in your garden statuary, clay, or ceramic pots, and gazing balls, also bird baths that are deep and hold a lot of water, because they will freeze and break. If you want to provide water for the birds purchase a bird bath that has a gradual slope and no lip on the bowl or it will break with the cold. If you have a large fountain, drain it of all water and cover it up with a piece of plastic sheeting. Now tape it together to prevent moisture from getting into the fountain and the wind from blowing it off. The pump should spend the winter in the tool shed.

If you're plowing or using a snow blower during the winter to remove snow on your driveway, now is the time to place stakes along the edge to help guide you and prevent damaging your lawn when it's covered with snow. After the snow storm we had last week, let's buy a couple bags of salt or sand and salt mix now so we are ready for the next storm. Do you have a snow shovel, wind shield about a battery charger? If you're using gas during the winter months and storing it in gas cans, let's purchase a fuel treatment activator to keep that gas free of moisture. If you have a walkway with gardens near it, how about a salt free product to prevent damage to those plants.

Before you close up the tool shed for the winter, make a list of tools you will need to replace for next year's garden. Christmas is coming and this note will help Santa bring you what you need for next year. If you have had problems with rodents spending the winter in your shed, place a couple packets of Bonide Mouse Magic in the shed and close the door tight to keep them out and your equipment safe. I always add a couple of additional packets after Christmas just to be sure they stay out.

One last thing--before you close up the tool shed, buy a bag of potting soil and store it the shed just in case you need to re-pot one of your house plants during the winter or you want to start some early seedlings on your window sill. Lettuce or spinach will do quite well in pots during those long days of winter. Get to work this weekend while the weather is nice--you never know when the next big one will come. Enjoy!





Putting the garden to bed for winter

The weather has been mild for most of us but let's use these remaining nice days to our advantage and close up the garden for the year. The weather has a way of changing without much of a notice so let's get it done and move our gardening skills indoors now.

In the vegetable garden let's pick all the roots crops, such as carrots, beets, turnip, and rutabagas. Remove all the foliage but do not cut into the flesh of the vegetable, I usually cut the foliage to one inch of the top and toss the greens into the composter. Store these vegetable in your garage or cold basement in a box of sandbox sand. All I do is cover the bottom of the box with a thin layer of washed sand and then place the root crop in the box and cover with the rest of the sand. This keeps the air off them so they do not dry up while in storage. Sandbox sand can be purchased in 50 pound bags at your local garden center and it keeps the vegetables much cleaner than using peat moss. When you're done eating the vegetables, use the sand on the snow and ice on your walkways as needed.

If you have not pulled your onions, shallots, sweet potatoes, or regular white potatoes, now is the time to do so. Shake off any soil, wash them with the garden hose, and let them air dry. Remove any dried foliage and place them in your garage or cold basement in open baskets or mesh bags to create good air circulation while in storage. . Check often for possible rotten vegetables and dispose of them as needed. (One rotten potato can and will destroy all your work.) When everything is removed, rake the garden clean of debris and spread limestone over the garden to keep the soil from getting too acid.

All your winter squash can also be kept in the same storage conditions in baskets and dry. Butternut, acorn, buttercup, Hubbard and more will keep well most of the winter. Many places are having specials on winter squash right now so take advantage of the price and stock up while it is available.

Brussels sprouts can stay outdoors in the garden until you are ready to eat them; along with kale. Many years I have picked both of them right up until Christmas; several years I had to dig them out of the snow and they tasted real good.

Let's not wait any longer--winterize your roses now. First, if you have potted rose bushes, potted tree roses, or miniature potted roses they must spend the winter in an unheated building like your garage or tool shed, NOT your house or basement. Roses must go dormant for the winter and rest. If you keep them alive they will grow themselves to death. Like you and me, they need downtime and winter is their time to rest. Once all the foliage has come off or turned brown, water the planter well and move it indoors. Do not feed them, do not prune them; just let them rest in the cold building until mid-March. When the weather changes, move the container outside, water well, and wait until April first before pruning the plant and feeding it to begin a new season in your garden.

Roses planted in your garden need extra protection for the long winter if you live in a cold climate like New England. Right now build a mound of soil, compost or bark mulch on top and around your plant 12 to 18 inches tall and just as wide. This will help protect the delicate graft on the plant. I also recommend that you spray the branches or canes of the rose bush with an anti-desiccant like Wilt-Stop or Wilt-Pruf to prevent the winter winds from drying out the delicate canes. Do not prune your rose bushes during the fall ever; wait until April to prune them and at that time start your monthly application of rose fertilizer. If you have climbing roses, make sure to tie them up to the structure they are climbing on so the branches are not damaged with the winter wind and snow. In April, spread the mound of protection material around the plant to help keep the roots cool during the heat of summer.

Hydrangeas should be cleaned of all dead flowers on the plant to prevent heavy snow or ice damage. Those large dried flowers will catch the heavy wet snow or ice and the weight will bend, possibly breaking the branch. Just remove the dead flowers; do not cut back the branches until spring. Your summer flowering blue hydrangeas are the least hardy, and if you live north or west of Boston, in northern New York State or in western Pennsylvania, they should be protected much the same way as the roses are. Follow the same steps with the mound of mulch and a spraying of an anti-desiccant to help protect the delicate flower buds on the plant for next year.

Newly planted trees over 6 feet tall should be staked to the ground to prevent the wind from moving the plant around during the winter months. If the tree moves around during the winter, the root ball in the ground will also move and the small newly developing roots will snap off, preventing the plant from establishing itself. If you have a flowering or fruit tree, it should also be wrapped with tree wrap to prevent the bark from cracking or splitting with the fluctuating temperatures.

If these trees are planted near open fields or near a wooded area, there is the possibility of rodents damaging the plant by eating the bark the first couple of years, until the bark toughens up. Please take the time to build a ring around the trunk of the tree with hardware cloth wire from the ground to the first branch. Make the wire collar so it has a 1 inch space from the trunk of the tree to the wire. If you don't, mice, moles, and rabbits will feed on this tasty bark when the snow gets deep; if they eat the bark off the plant, the tree will die.

If you have new arborvitaes, look at them closely and see that they are multi-stem plants; ice and heavy wet snow will split them, breaking them apart. Just take a piece of rope, like clothesline rope, and tie a piece at the base of the plant and wrap the branches together like a cork screw around the plant. Go 3/4 of the way up the plant to prevent damage and leave it on the plant from November to April. This will need to be done for the first 2 to 3 years until the plant has begun to mature and the branches harden.

If you have a new or established birch clump it might be a good idea to tie them together to prevent them from falling over with heavy wet snow. Tie one tree with the rope and wrap the rope around the others--like the arborvitae--in a corkscrew pattern. T,here is strength in numbers, so tie all the individual trunks together. Birches have weak stems and easily bend under heavy snow never to return to the same position in your yard.

Any newly-planted broadleaf evergreen like azalea, rhododendron, boxwood, holly or mountain laurel should be sprayed with an anti-desiccant like Wilt-Pruf or Wilt-Stop NOW and AGAIN in early February to keep them fromdrying out in a windy location. To me it's worth spending a dollar per plant to prevent damage on a plant worth $25.00 or more, now, isn't it?



Luke Bryan - Rain Is A Good Thing
Luke Bryan - Rain Is A Good Thing



"The man who has planted a garden feels that he has done something for the good of the whole world"

Charles Dudley Warner

Free organice matter - seaweed from the beach

Growing up, I can remember my mother saying, "Spring cleaning is for me and fall cleaning is for Dad." My mother cleaned the house every April from top to bottom and there was not a spot untouched. In November my dad did his cleaning in the yard, garden, garage, and basement, just as thoroughly as my mother did the house in April.

When everything was winterized in the garage and in the basement, my dad would sneak out the vacuum cleaner for the final touches. My mother would have killed him if she knew he used her vacuum cleaner in those places--and a quick trip for an ice cream cone kept us kids quiet about all that happened.

My dad always put organic matter back in the garden every fall to help the soil recover from a summer of hard work. My brothers and I would rake the leaves around the house and pile them in the garden for my dad to spread and turn over.

If there was not enough, we walked the street on Saturday morning looking for trash bags fill with leaves to bring home for the garden. In those days there were no rototillers--you used a pitchfork to blend the leaves with the garden soil, and that was work I will never forget.

Once the leaves were turned over, we spread limestone over the entire garden and then the lawn. At 50 cents a bag, it was a cheap way to help rot those leaves and keep the soil from getting too acidic. I remember that it took two of us kids to push that spreader all over the yard and garden. I think we liked coming into the house with white shoes and waiting for mom's expression before we were allowed in.

In the spring, my dad spread chicken manure from a local farm all over the yard and in the gardens. We kids were not to be found when it came time to spread fresh chicken manure--oh, the smell! I still can remember the smell, but I will tell you that it did work well.

Several years later we moved from Maine to the South Shore of Boston. In the fall, when we had a storm like the one we just had on Monday, the seaweed would wash onto the beaches. That next weekend, the kids would pile into the car and we all headed to the beach to rake up the seaweed for the garden. We filled trash bags until we had enough to cover the garden 4 to 6 inches deep, and the following weekend Dad used his rototiller (we had one by then) to blend it into the garden.

Our pay for that work was the best--a submarine sandwich from Scituate, Massachusetts' best sub shop, called "Maria's," and a can of Coke. They still have the best subs--you can find the same owner--and whenever I go back home, I always get a submarine sandwich from Maria's. I eat it on the beach like I did so many years ago, ham and cheese with pickles and tomatoes, salt and pepper, and a bit of hot peppers and oil. Can you taste it?

Seaweed is like a bale of peat moss for your garden but it also contains all the goodness found in the ocean to fertilize your garden soil. Do not worry about the sea salt in the seaweed, as it will not hurt your garden soil. If you have not conditioned your garden soil yet, head down to the beach this weekend if you live near one and collect that seaweed for your garden.

If not, use your leaves or pine needles to conditioned the garden soil. If you can find and purchase "seasoned" animal manure, you should also spread it this fall and turn it over in the spring if time gets short. The windows in the neighborhood are all closed now and the smell will not bother anyone like it does in the spring time.

Organic matter will grow better plants in your garden and improve your soil at the same time. This fall feed the microbes in your soil for a better garden next spring. Enjoy!




Portuguese Sausage and Kale soup

      Portuguese Sausage and Kale soup  





¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil

2 large yellow or Vidalia onions, finely chopper

4 to 6 cloves of garlic, depending on size

3 large potatoes about 2 ½ to 3 pounds

6 cups or 48 oz. of chicken or vegetable broth

1 one pound package of Kielbasa, sweet, mild, or

Hot, sausage, cooked and cut up into ½ inch thick slices

1 bunch of fresh Kale that has had thick center stems

Removed and thinly sliced

Salt and Pepper to taste

Extra virgin oil for drizzle




In a large soup pot over medium heat, heat up the olive oil.

Add the onions and cook until golden brown about 7 to 8 minutes.

Add the Garlic and cook an additional minute. Add the Potatoes,

Mix well and sauté for 2 to 4 minutes longer. Add the broth, blend

well, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook

until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the sausage,

cover return to medium heat, and simmer until the sausage is heated

through, about 5 minutes. Add the Kale and cook uncovered until it

is wilted but still bright green, about 3 to 5 minutes. Season to taste

with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle with

Extra Virgin Olive oil, about a teaspoon. For extra flavor grate a bit

Of Asiago cheese over the soup before serving. Serve with fresh crusty bread.





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  Written by Paul Parent                         Produced by Christine Parent

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