Enjoy your beautiful flowering summer perennials

The Drifters perform 'Under the Boardwalk' live on QVC
The Drifters perform 'Under the Boardwalk' live 
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Cone flowers make a great cut flower


During July and August, there is no finer daisy-like flowering perennial than the coneflower (Echinacea)! If you do not have coneflowers in your garden now, stop reading this newsletter and drive to your local garden center to purchase several of them for your gardens.


When you think of the purple coneflower, think of butterflies, birds, and a lot of color in your garden for the rest of the summer. Purple is the original coneflower color but in the past few years the new hybrids are making your garden even more exciting with new flowers in shades of white, yellow, orange, and red. You "NEED" this plant in your perennial garden at this time of the year.


The flowers are large daisy-like blooms with a spiky central cone with side petals that droop a little bit. The center cone begins as a flattened mound and quickly swells to the shape of a strawberry, point up. As the cone matures, in the middle of the daisy shaped flower, a small whirl of yellow flowers will form on the cone. These small flowers attract butterflies during the summer. The seeds that form in the cone will attract birds such as finches and sparrows to feed on the seed heads well into the winter.

In the fall, the side petals fade and the cone turns dark black on stiff stems. The foliage is also unusual--if the flower color is dark, the foliage is darker green in color. White and yellow flowering plants have pale green foliage. The leaves are oval with a point on the end and cover the plant beautifully.


Here is all you have to do to grow coneflowers in your garden: provide them with good drainage and full sun. Heavy clay-like soils or soils that stay wet will rot the plant quickly. Plants in partial shade will stretch to be tall and grow floppy. If you have a hot and sunny summer the flower color may fade a bit but the plant will produce more flower buds.


The plant will grow well in most types of soils--but the better you prepare the soil, the larger the plant will grow. So add lots of compost and animal manure when you plant the seedlings in your garden. Large-growing plants will need to be watered regularly during hot summer weather, so be sure to add "Soil-Moist" granules when planting, so your plant will cope better with the heat. This will also extend the blooming season on the plant. Well-established plants 2 to 3 years old can tolerate heat and become almost drought-resistant.


Coneflowers are slow growing when young, so I always plant them in groups of three, about 12 to 18 inches apart. In couple of years, they grow together, creating a focal point in my garden. When they mature, the plants, will drop seeds in your perennial bed and many new seedlings will develop. I prefer to transplant the seedlings that form around the mature plants, rather than dividing the mature plants in the fall or spring. Most of the time the plants do not have to be staked, but if your garden is in a wide-open area and receives a lot of wind, they may have to staked.


Fertilize with Plant-Tone or Natural Alternative 5-5-5 flower organic in the spring and use liquid feed on plants during the summer with Neptune's Harvest seaweed fertilizer or Rooting and Blooming fertilizer from Ferti-Lome a couple of times. Insects problems are minimal but Japanese beetles can be a problem, so spray the plant when the problems begin with liquid Eight garden insecticide from Bonide Lawn and Garden or Captain Jack organic --found only in garden centers. One application will last for 3 weeks and will not hurt the bees. Never use Seven insecticide on flowering plant as this old insecticide is very toxic to beneficial insects like honeybees.


Coneflowers make a wonderful cut flower for the kitchen table, and the flowers will last in a vase of water for over a week. So cut them and enjoy the flower indoors as well as in your garden. Enjoy!





Summer Sweet shrubs for butterflies and Humming birds in your yard



If you think about all the trees and shrubs around your home, how many of them have a fragrance? Most of the plants we grow around our home were selected by us for their flowers and foliage but few for fragrance. I hope that after you read this you will make a change.


The plant I am suggesting you look at is the summersweet or clethra. During July and August your yard will be filled with the sweet floral scent of the summersweet and the fragrance can be noticed 50 feet or more from the plant. The plant itself is not eye-catching until it flowers. For most of the growing season, it almost looks like a wild shrub, which it is in New England, as it is a native plant. So plant this shrub on the edge of your property line, near a deck or patio so you can enjoy the fragrance when you are relaxing.


Summersweet will grow like many of our spreading-type shrubs but is more rounded in appearance. Once established in your yard, the summersweet will make many suckering branches from the base of the plant, helping it to fill in quickly and grow larger. 


The plant will grow 3 to 8 feet tall and often wider, but you can prune it in the spring to control the overall size of the plant.

The foliage is elongated, oval and comes to a point; it is 2 to 4 inches long, with little teeth on the edge of the leaf. The leaf is dark green and has a sheen to make it look lustrous but not striking. In the fall, you are in for a real treat as those dark green leaves turn to a pale yellow then to golden yellow.


Summersweet is now in bloom all over the Northeast with spike-like flowers that will grow from two to six inches tall and almost one inch wide. The flowers open from the bottom first and move up the spike slowly to give you enjoyment for 4 to 6 weeks, depending on the weather. Each cup-like individual flower is loved by butterflies and hummingbirds.


You will see this plant growing along country roads, near streams or along rivers. Summersweet prefers acid soil, a soil that is moist but it must be well-drained; the plant will grow in full sunshine or up to half a day of shade. This plant is amazing, because it will adapt quickly to where you plant it. Another reason it is a native plant in the Northeast. The summersweet is also heat and drought tolerant.


In the spring you will have to remember that the summersweet is slow to leaf out and many gardeners fear that it has died during the winter, but be patient and the leaves will come. Hold off the pruning until your see the new growth forming, unless you are pruning to control the size of the plant. To control size, prune while the plant is dormant in early April. Once the new growth begins you can remove any dead branches but this plant is very hardy and little pruning is needed. The plant is winter hardy to 20 to 30 below zero and will tolerate and thrive in windy locations.


Fertilize with  Plant-Tone in the spring to help increase the number and size of the flowers. When the flowers fade, a small seedpod will develop where the flower was and, like the foliage, will turn golden-yellow in the fall.


Summersweet is a wonderful plant for a woodland garden, in plant borders with perennials, near a pond, lake or river edge to help hold the ground firm. If you have a steep slope and have erosion problems, this is your plant. Visit your local garden center and look at the new hybrids with pink flower buds called 'Pink Spires' and the new 'Red Spice' with deep rose-colored flowers. I also like 'Hummingbird,' as it is more compact and covered with white flower spikes. Aroma, fragrance and the smell of summer is now possible with the summersweet/clethra shrub. Enjoy!


kenny chesney summertime
kenny chesney summertime
Tomato Horn Worm


It's a wonderful day to be in the garden until you notice some missing foliage on your tomato plants! On closer inspection you notice that the beautiful foliage has been removed from the upper part of your plant--and it was there last night. All that remain are the stems of the tomato leaves attached to the stems of the plant; some flowers are still there...and then it happens. You see that some of the tomatoes have been partially eaten. You're now upset and you begin the search for this CREATURE that had the nerve to eat your plant. You notice square shaped droppings on the foliage and on the ground and you smile because he must be nearby and you want him DEAD.


You look on top of the leaves and he is not there, he is not on the stems but you now begin to look under the leaves and you find him. WOW you say to yourself because he is the biggest caterpillar you ever saw--and he will get even bigger, up to four inches long and one inch in diameter, like a hot dog feeding on your tomato plant. You look at him closely and he is the same color green as your tomato plant foliage; no wonder you did not see him sooner! His head is bent over and he is busy eating and not scared of you. He has white and black lines on his body like medals he earned for each leaf he ate on your plant and on the end of his body a deep RED horn that waves back and forth warning you not to bother him while he is eating.


This creature is a giant eating machine that will eat up to 2 to 3 times his body weight in foliage every day, and he gets bigger every day so he eats more every day that he is in your garden. He is the largest caterpillar in North America; he has come to your garden--and he is hungry! Don't run back to the house to hide the kids and pets; it's time for action, and now is the time to act.


My Mother always used a coffee can filled with soapy water to kill them after she picked them off the plant with her garden gloves on. She made MAD faces and she talked to these creatures as she found them on the plant and then dumped them into their soapy water grave and laughed as they sank to the bottom of the container. Tomato horn worms don't swim very well, "HA HAHA!" I don't use a can of soapy water when I find them on my plants. I just drop them to the ground and tell them the end is near as I raise my leg off the ground and quickly drive the heel of my shoe on top of them driving them into their grave, "HA HAHA!"


These creatures came from a giant moth, called the "hawk moth," and it's also known as the "hummingbird moth." The eggs were laid under the leaf so you cannot find them and they hatch just a few at a time so if you think you found them all, you're mistaken; more will come to feed on your tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and potatoes. The eggs hatch in 4 to 5 days and when the hornworm emerges from the egg, it will feed for up to 4 weeks on plants in your garden before it falls to the ground and pupates until next year. The pupa spends the winter in your garden soil and emerges in the spring to mate and start the cycle all over again.


Now do you control them in your garden? The best way is to roto-till your garden every fall to destroy them in the soil, with results of up to 90% kill. Now there is a better way to do the job and that is with a small wasp called Cotesia congregatus. This wasp will lay eggs in the back of the tomato hornworm and as they develop they will feed on the inside of the hornworm until they are ready to pupate. The cocoons will appear on the back of the tomato hornworm; they resemble white puffed wheat. As the wasps emerge from the cocoons, they will kill the hornworm and fly to others in your garden, killing them by parasitizing them. These wasps also feed on cabbage loppers and other garden caterpillars. If you see a hornworm with this puffed wheat-like growth on his back, move him to a plant where he will not be hurt as each infected hornworm can contain 15 to 25 wasps that will help keep your garden free of this creature.


Other than the wasps, the best, most effective and natural method to KILL these tomato hornworms is a new bacterium called Spinosad found in the Caribbean a few years ago. Just spray on your garden and all the caterpillars will die in just a few hours. Spinosad is safe for beneficial insects, birds, pets, and the environment as it kills only caterpillar-type insects. You can eat vegetables the same day you spray as long as you rinse the vegetables well before eating. Spinosad is also sold under the name Captain Jack made from Bonide Lawn and Garden. The old product we did use was Sevin Garden Dust or Spray, but it is very toxic to beneficial insects like bees and should never now be used in the garden. Sevin is old school pesticide and harmful to the pollinators in our garden, so stay away from this product. Enjoy!


"More than anything, I must have flowers, always, always."
Claude Monet
Janis Joplin - Summertime (Live -1969)
Janis Joplin - Summertime
 (Live -1969)



Blossom End Rot on Tomatoes



The tomato plant is the number one vegetable grown in the home garden and there is nothing more frustrating than watching your tomatoes develop and then find that the bottom of that tomato is all black and rotten. It usually happens to the first tomato to ripen in your garden and that is the one tomato we really wanted to pick and eat...just devastating. What's worst, we never saw this rot until the tomato began to ripen, because it develops on the bottom of the tomato and the top and sides look perfect.

Blossom-end rot is a plant disorder, not a fungus problem treatable with a fungicide. The rot develops at the base of the flower where it was attached to the young tomato. In its early stage it is unnoticeable unless you look real close to the tomato for a soft depression or soft water-soaked spot. It can happen at any time during the growth of the tomato, but in most case it begins to develop quickly when the tomato is one- third to one-half full matured. The spot will enlarge quickly as the fruit matures and it will usually cover as much as one-third to half of the bottom of the tomato. This spot will eventually dry up creating a leathery looking, black flattened bottom on the tomato.


The good news is that this plant disorder will not spread from plant to plant, nor from tomato to tomato on the same plant. The environment is the cause of the problem and this is easily corrected. The first problem causing blossom-end rot is moisture to the plant, and that is why it is most frequently found on container grown tomatoes, it is caused by uneven watering practices in your garden. When your tomatoes are growing fast, especially in the spring and you forget to water or in the case of the containers, they are too small for the plant, the roots will dry up and the plant will go into a stress condition. Tomatoes need one inch of water EVERY week to prevent this from happening. During hot weather, water your container grown tomatoes every morning!!!


The second problem is the lack of calcium in your soil. Calcium is needed to grow a mature fruit on the tomato plant. Acid soils are a common cause to this problem and adding limestone each fall to the garden will prevent this from happening. Espoma Lighting Lime or Bonide Turf-turbo  or wood ash will help fix the soil pH faster in the spring. A soil test should read 6.5 to 7.0 PH to prevent this problem. Also adding Garden Gypsum will help to break up the clay in your soil.


The next problem is cultivating to close to the plant and hurting the root system, so it cannot move the amount of water needed up to the plant as it is growing. If weeds are a problem, use mulch or straw around the plant and keep the garden hoe away! Landscape fabric is wonderful also and that is what I use to control weeds and warm up the soil ahead of the season, giving my plants a jump on the season with a nice warm soil.


Also over-feeding the plant early during the season can cause this problem making the plant grow too quickly. If you grow your own plants, be sure to harden them off properly by bring them out of a warm house to the cooler outside during the day and then back inside at night for several days to prepare the plant for the change of environment.


If you see infected fruit, remove it from the plant as soon as possible so the plants energy is sent to good healthy fruit and not to damaged tomatoes. Organic Laboratories from Florida has developed a special fertilizer for tomatoes that will eliminate this problem in your garden and especially in container grown tomatoes, called "Tomato Maker." It is available at most good garden centers. If you have this problem on your plants now, be sure to apply this special product around your tomatoes and the problem will be solved.


Blossom end rot will also happen to all types of peppers, summer-type squash and eggplant. Peppers have black rotten holes on the side and at the bottom of the fruit. Squash and eggplant will begin to shrivel just below the flower and quickly resemble a chewed up cigar as they rots and fall over on the planta. Use the same method to control the problem. If you do not try to change these problems you could lose up to 50% of your vegetables on these plants this summer, so do not put it off any longer--especially with all this heat. Enjoy!


Hot Summer Night Watermelon Salad



This is a great combination for the hot night you don't want to cook because it's so hot and humid in the house.  The combination of sweet cold watermelon and salty Feta cheese is refreshing and full of flavor for your family.  Make it ahead of time to give the salad time to chill and the flavors time to work their magic together.  All you will need is fresh crusty bread and some butter or dipping oil and your favorite beverage.  Enjoy!




4 slices of seedless watermelon, about 4 cups

1 cup of crumbled feta cheese

2 cups of cherry tomatoes or chopped regular tomatoes

2 cups of cucumbers that have been sliced and the slices quartered

cup of sweet Vidalia or red onions sliced and cut into 1 inch pieces

The zest of one lemon, fresh

The juice of one lemon, fresh

A bunch of fresh basil, washed and chopped to 1 inch pieces

A handful of salted sunflower seeds

15 to 20 black olives such as Kalamata Greek olives, sliced in half

4 Tablespoons of Olive oil




1} Cut the rind off the watermelon and removes any seeds.  Cut the slices into 2 inches pieces that are irregular shapes and place in a large bowl.


2} Add your crumbles Feta cheese, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, olives, and seeds.  Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill everything.


3} In a small bowl combine the Olive Oil, lemon zest and lemon juice and blend well.  Add the chopped basil and stir until all the mixture coats the basil.  Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve


4} Just before serving add the oil and lemon dressing to the salad and blend together with the main ingredients and serve.


5} You could also add a can of small cooked shrimp, drained of all liquids to the salad.  Found in the supermarket near the sardines, Chill before adding for additional flavor.  If you're feeding a big crowd add a head of Romaine lettuce that has been chopped to the Watermelon salad just before serving. Enjoy!




Beach Boys - Surfin Usa (Live, 14 March 1964)
Beach Boys - Surfin Usa 
(Live, 14 March 1964)



Garden Journal

        Garden Journal - A garden is a friend you can visit any time. Gardens require planning and cultivation, yielding beauty and joy. This garden journal helps make planning and organizing easy. This book makes a great gift for gardeners, family, friends, birthdays, Christmas, new home or as a self purchase.


Cover holds a 5 x7 or 4x6 photo, Heavy-duty D-ring binder

1. 8 tabbed sections
2. 5 garden details sections with pockets for seeds, tags....
3. Weather records page
4. 6 three year journal pages
5. Insect & diseases page - 3 project pages
6. 3 annual checklist pages
7. Plant wish list page
8. 2 large pocket pages
9. Sheet of garden labels
10. 5 garden detail sheets
11. 5 graph paper pages for layouts
12. 5 photo pages holds - 4- 4x6 photos in landscape or portrait format

Journal, Planning, Inspirations. 

 To Order call 207-590-4887

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