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Growing your own grapes

This spring, if you're looking to try a fun project in your back yard please consider growing grapes. Grapes for fresh fruit, desserts, homemade juice or maybe if you're adventurous, even make your own home-made wine. Grapes will grow well in most gardens, and with a bit of help from your local garden center or nursery to select varieties that will be hardy in your area, you're on your way. Here are a few things to consider if you want to grow grapes in your garden.

First of all, grapes are pollinated by the wind, not bees, and most varieties are self-fertile, which means that you are more likely to have fruit no matter what the weather is like. Like other fruits, the crop will be better if you plant at least two plants in the same area.

Grapes are available in the spring as a potted plant and actively growing from your local nursery. Or you can buy plants bareroot (no soil around the roots) from catalog companies and they will ship them to you in the mail while the plants are dormant in the early spring. If you buy plants from a catalog company, make sure plants are for your growing area--and once you receive them they must be potted or planted immediately, or the roots will dry out and you will lose the plants.

If you have a choice, always select varieties that are seedless. These plants are kid-friendly and it's easier to process the fruit for juices, fresh fruit, and desserts. Go on the internet and look up fruit and berry catalogs to get more information on variety choices, taste, uses, and hardiness for your area.

Now let's look at the soil in your yard and see if it will grow grapes. The roots of the grapes grow deep and wide in the soil and are able to thrive in most soils. The exception is heavy clay types that hold a lot of water and hold that water for a long time. Soils that are well drained, sandy, and stony or dry out quickly will grow grapes, as long as you can provide water during the heat of summer. The best soil is one that is well drained and fertile; if your soil is not, you can condition your soil before planting this spring to help the plant grow better.

Dig a big hole 2 feet deep and 2 feet wide and fill with conditioned soil to help get the plant off to a good start. Once the plant gets established in the prepared soil it will adapt to the soil around the plant easily. Grapes grow best in a soil with a PH of 6.0 to 7.5 so adding lime around the planting bed yearly will help the plant to perform better. It will take 2 to 3 years for the grapes to really produce, so be patient, as they can last for 25 years or more in your garden.

Several years ago I was in France and our group did visit a vineyard. To our surprise, the entire vineyard was covered with 2 inches of stone as mulch. The stone mulch kept weeds out but it started the plant growing 2 weeks earlier in the spring for a head start on the season and extended the fruit-ripening season by 2 to 3 weeks in the fall for sweeter tasting fruit. The results were a better tasting wine--and they could sell the wine for more money. Better profit with the crop. If you live where the season is short, you may want to try this on your plants after you plant them this spring or on established plants in the garden.

The location to grow grapes has to be full sun; stay away from areas that set low on your property, as they may be frost pockets. Location should have good air movement but away from strong windy areas. Keep grape plants away from areas where you have in-ground irrigation, as constant irrigation on the foliage will cause disease problems and encourage insects on the plant.

Watering is important; grapes newly planted or grown against a wall will need regular watering during the spring and summer. Grapes grown on wire trellis or arbors, as well as those grown in the open areas, will require less water. Grapes need regular feedings in the spring, but do not get carried away or the plants will grow too rampant and you will have just vines. In the spring, check plants often to make sure birds do not make nests in vines or they will eat your fruit when the grapes are ripe. I did not do this when my grapes got established and one year the birds ate the grapes, not me!

Now get yourself a good fruit and berry garden book that will explain how and when to prune the grape vine. The pruning will depend on how you grow them, on what type of device such as an arbor, fence , or on wire support and the type of grape you chose to grow for fruit, cooking, juice, or homemade wine. Like anything else it will take some work and time but is well worth the effort on your part. Insect and disease problems are minimal if you follow these rules. Read the fruit and berry book now before you plant in the spring so you know what you are going to experience. Have Fun!

A video to show you what you need to do to prune: prune video
Abraham * Martin and John *** Dion
Abraham * Martin and John *** Dion


If you like to cook, then you must plant a row or two of shallots in the vegetable garden this spring. Shallots are a very special member of the onion family; they have the flavor of sweet onions, the zip of garlic, and are easier to grow than both. Next time you go food shopping, look for shallots where you find garlic and onions--and be prepared for a shock when you see the price of these delicacies.

These bulbs are prized by cooks, and if you have never used them when you cook, buy a few this week and use them when you make omelets, sauces, gravies and soups--just to name a few uses for this incredible onion family member. Shallots will keep very well during the winter in your basement, but mine never last long enough to store. So, this week try some when you cook--and you will see why you will need room in your garden this spring when you plant the garden; move over, squash!

Shallots have a great yield; if you plant one pound of bulbs you should expect five to seven pounds of shallots in the fall--if you could only do that with your investments! Plant bulbs rather than seed in the spring. You can find loose bulbs at most garden centers or feed & grain stores right now. What I do is select the medium size bulbs for planting--less than one inch in diameter--and that will give me 25 to 30 bulbs to plant. I also pick out the big fat ones and use those for cooking now, as mine are all gone and at $4.00 a pound, it's cheaper than the supermarket.

Plant your shallots in a full sun location in the garden; they will grow just about anywhere, even in-between other vegetable plants. Shallots do not take much space. I plant them 6 inches apart in rows on the edge of the garden. The bulbs are very hardy and can be planted in your garden during mid-to-late April and will tolerate the cold. I have found that if you use compost when planting the bulbs, they will develop faster and get established before the heat of summer arrives. The onion family loves heat and if the roots are already developed when the heat arrives, the bulbs will grow bigger and--in the case of shallots--develop more and larger bulbs during the summer.

Prepare your soil with compost; your pH should be slightly acidic to neutral--6 to 7 is best. The soil should be well drained and on the sandy side, if possible. If your soils are heavy and you have clay, add extra compost, animal manure, or peat moss to help break up the clay. Run a string from end of the garden to the other if planting in rows to help dig a straight trench about one inch deep.

I add mycorrhizae and sea kelp to the trench and blend together. Plant the bulbs 6 inches apart and just let the tip of each bulb stick out of the soil so you can see it. When you water, you will see the top third of the bulb sticking out of the soil and that is OK. I always plant a double row about twelve inches apart for better use of the garden. Shallots love to grow half out of the ground so do not cover the bulbs if you notice them exposed.

The onion family is vulnerable to weeds because the foliage is small and creates little shade over the garden--so weeds can be a problem. Weed often when you notice them developing or use a garden weed preventer like Miracle-gro weed preventer for the vegetable garden--and follow the directions! You can also use straw or pine needles around the plants to keep out weeds once the green shoots appear. This will also help hold moisture in the soil during the heat of summer and prevent it from drying out.

Shallots are somewhat drought tolerant but weekly watering does help produce more and bigger bulbs from the bulbs you plant this spring, if the weather gets very dry. A moist soil but never wet is the key to better plants. I fertilize every 2 to 3 weeks with compost tea that I make, or you can now purchase compost tea at your local garden center.  You can also use Dynamite every other week. If your soil is heavy, use Soil Logic's liquid gypsum soil conditioner also known as Thrive. This will break up the clay in the soil, improve drainage and help the roots to develop better.

Insect and disease problems are very few with this plant. Keep the weeds away, and add moisture to the plants when they are dry and shallots will grow almost all by themselves. Overwatering is the biggest problem I have found, so be careful or you could rot the roots. In the past, if you have had problems with soil insects called "root maggots" in your onion plantings I have great news for you. There is now a solution that will prevent them from damaging your crop. Bonide Lawn and Garden have a new product called Eight Granules, that is applied to the trench when planting; it will totally eliminate the problem. This is also effective to control wire worms in potatoes, and root maggots on radishes, beets, and all your cold crops like broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts. If you have a cut worm problem it will do the job quickly but safely.

Harvesting is easy; just pull them out of the ground as soon as the top green foliage has turned brown. If you pull the shallots out of the ground before the foliage dies back, they will not keep as well during the winter months. You can pull bulbs early if you want to use them in cooking, and the green foliage will taste great in any dishes you create.

The foliage will begin to die back in late July to early August so get the bulbs in your garden early this spring to give them time to mature. Pull the whole bulb cluster as one, they will come out easily. Place them in a shady area to dry. Don't break them apart until you're ready to use them. That way, they will keep better and the bulbs are less likely to dry out while in storage.

Store them in a cool dry place like your basement for the winter, and if some begin to sprout use those first or move them to the vegetable crisper in the refrigerator to slow down the sprouting. You can also plant those sprouting bulbs in a small container of soil and grow the bulb on your windowsill during the winter for the great tasting foliage--much better tasting than chives, when used in mashed potatoes.

This is a great tasting vegetable for you to grow in your garden this year. It's easy to grow, it's productive, it keeps well all winter, and the flavor will amaze you. All I want you to do is buy a couple bulbs this week when you food shop and try it, then decide if this bulb vegetable is for you. Just remember shallots have a reputation of elegance and their delicate flavor will make you a better cook. Enjoy!

To most of us, blueberries are a wonderful, juicy, and sweet flavored blue food, something rare in nature. But research has shown it is much more, as this wonderful berry is packed with antioxidants that help to slow down the aging process, it will help forestall memory loss and help make you more stable on your feet, with better coordination. The state of Maine is the country's leading producer of the lowbush blueberries, and this industry of managing and harvesting thousands of acres of wild plants is truly a remarkable feat. This type of farming is known as sustainable agriculture and with the help of the state University it will continue to grow and prosper each year.

The blueberry is a plant native to North America and was eaten by Native Americans for hundreds of years for the berries they produced. It was used in pies, jams, and dried fruit during the winter months and as a dye for their clothing. The wild blueberries on today's farms in Maine have much the same taste as the plants of their ancestors so many years ago. The wild Maine blueberry is the smaller type of berry and often considered a gourmet blueberry. If you are looking to purchase some of these plants, ask for low bush blueberries, "Vaccinium angustifolium." They can be found at specialty berry plant producers rather than the retail nursery.

The highbush blueberry is also a native plant of North America and was also used by the Native American as a fresh food and dried for the winter use. Neither of these types of blueberries was grown under cultivation until the mid-1920, as they were widely available and easy to find and pick in the wild. The highbush blueberry got its start in New Jersey where it is still a major farming crop today! This crop quickly spread all over the Mid-Atlantic states and then to Michigan in the 1930, where it found the perfect soil and climate to grow. Today Michigan is the leading area for highbush blueberry production in the world. During the 1940 the highbush blueberries moved to the Pacific Northwest but the soil had to be conditioned, as this plant loves acidic soil and the soil there was alkaline. The cost was worth the effort taken by the farmers and it grew to become a major fresh-pick crop for the local market rather than for processing like the Mid-Atlantic states and Michigan.

Now...how about you growing blueberries in your garden and what do you need to know about this plant? The first thing you need to know is that your soil MUST be acidic, with a pH of 4.5 to 5.0, for the best growth and production. Next your soil needs to be kept uniformly moist, not wet, and (really important) your soil must be nutrient poor! Your soil must be conditioned with compost, peat moss, or seaweed to help get plant off to a good start. Organic matter is important because it releases nutrients slowly to the plant but not enough to make it grow quickly.

Blueberries have something special that lives on the roots of the plant, called Mycorrhizae fungus. This fungus is able to take unavailable fertilizer from the soil and change it to available food for the blueberry plant. In return the blueberry plant provides carbohydrates for the fungus to grow. This unique behavior with the root and the fungus is called "mycorrhiza." In Latin myco means fungus and rhiza means roots. So the fungus is able to take nitrogen fertilizer from the organic matter you add to the soil and make it available to the plant. In return for the nitrogen, the blueberry plant makes sugar for the fungus through the photosynthesis process in the foliage and passes it on to the fungus.

 This is the new technology that has been added to fertilizer to help plants grow stronger with less fertilizer, and it's all natural and organic. It is now available in some potting soils and some granular fertilizer also.

The roots of the blueberries grow shallow and are fibrous. Their main job is to collect water and nutrition in the soil; if roots are damaged by cultivation around the plant your plants will suffer and will not thrive and produce fruit. One important thing for you to do is cover the garden soil with a 3 inch layer of compost, saw dust, seaweed, pine needles or straw to help control weeds around the plant and to hold the moisture in the soil during periods of hot weather. NEVER cultivate around the plants, and always use organic matter.

The foliage opens first in May and is followed with the flower buds a week or two later, depending on the weather. By June the plant is in full growth and fruit production; this is called a flush of growth. Now, blueberries have a second flush of growth in August to September; during this time the plant is making the new leaf and flower buds for next spring. The leaf buds are on the lower part of the new growth while the flower buds, larger and fatter looking, are found on the top of the new growth. So, you can tell what your plant is going to do for next year in the fall this year. The genetics of the variety you selected will determine the size of the berries on the plant, along with moisture and nutrition available to the plant in August and September.

Now that you know this, keep the garden watered regularly--but not wet, as too much water can make large fruit with a bland taste. Fertilize with a fertilizer such as Holly-Tone with Bio-Tone microbes. The use of organic fertilizers is the secret, as they feed the plant slowly and contain beneficial microbes; apply them in the spring as the plant begin to grow and again in early August. Stay away from chemical fertilizers like 10-10-10 or 5-10-5 as they have not beneficial microbes and feed the plant quickly, forcing a lot of foliage to develop on the plant--but little fruit.

Her are the best varieties for your garden if you live in a cold climate and have snow during the winter months.

Very early varieties:
'Weymouth,' very hardy and medium producer.
'Earliblue,' hardy and medium producer.
'Bluetta,' hardy and medium producer.
'Duke,' very hardy and high producer.

Early varieties:
'Blueray,' very hardy, high producer.
'Bluetta,' hardy and medium producer.
'Collins, 'very hardy and medium producer.
'Patriot,' very hardy and medium producer.

Midseason varieties:

'Bluecrop,' very hardy, high producer.
'Berkeley,' hardy and medium producer.
'Brigitta,' hardy and high producer.
'Sierra,' very hardy and high producer.

Late season:

'Bluegold,' very hardy and high producer.
'Corville,' hardy and medium producer.
'Elliot, 'very hardy and very high producer.
'Jersey,' very hardy and high producer.

a link to show you how to for blueberry bush pruning
1952 Eisenhower Political Ad - I Like Ike - Presidential Campaign Ad
1952 Eisenhower Political Ad - I Like Ike - Presidential Campaign Ad

"If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden."

from the Secret Garden

Broccoli and Garlic Bread soup.
At this time of the year vegetables like Broccoli are easy to come by at the supermarket and very reasonable priced. Did you know that bright green and compact florets have the best taste and flavor? Yellowing florets with limp long woody stems can have a pungent smell and an indication that the Broccoli is over ripe and will not have the wonderful taste you're looking for. So choose a bunch that resembles a mushroom cap for the best flavor and freshness.


1 to 2 pounds of Broccoli spears
7 1/2 to 8 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
1 Tablespoon of lemon Juice
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

To serve:

6 slices of garlic bread like Texas Toast
1 Large garlic clove minced
Grated Parmesan cheese optional

1} With a small knife peal the broccoli spears from the bottom to the florets, the peel should come off easily. Chop the broccoli into small chunks inch or less.
2} Place your stock into a large pan and bring to a boil. Add the broccoli and simmer for about 10 minutes, until soft.
3} Puree about half of the soup and then blend with unblended soup. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice.
4} Reheat the soup. Toast the Texas Toast on both sides under the broiler until brown. Cut into quarters and place 4 piece of toast in your bowl. Ladle on the soup and serve immediately with shredded Parmesan cheese on the side. Enjoy! Serves 6

Day to look forward to:

Daylight Saving day March 13 only 24 days away

St. Patrick's Day March 17 only 28 days away

Spring arrives March 20 only 31 days away

Easter Sunday March 27 only 38 days away



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

Regular price $34.95  Special Price $31.95!  special!        Supplies are now limited!


Don't forget to get ready for the stormy weather ahead of us.  Make sure to get your Ice Melt it is organic and safe for plants, pets and Children.
Mention Paul Parent Garden Club and save 10% and get free shipping. 

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