This is how you plant a new tree.

Chris Janson - Corn
Chris Janson - Corn

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Spring is finally here, when the Forsythia is bloom.

Even if you're not a gardener, you know the forsythia flowering shrub because of its wonderful golden yellow waxy flowers at this time of the year; it's our first and most beautiful plant of spring time. Each flower has 4 petals and the center looks like a tiny trumpet, 1 to 1.5 inches long and wide.

Some people do not know the name of the plant but they know that it's beautiful and they want "One of those yellow shrubs that are in bloom right now, for my yard." Forsythia is so popular because it will grow in most soil types, it will grow in a yard with full sun exposure to half a day of shade, and it will tolerate a climate where the temperature drops to minus 10 degrees during the winter.

I think forsythia is the most recognized flowering shrub because it is the first to flower in the spring time and because the entire plant is covered with flowers from the ground to the top of every branch. Most flowering plants flower on the tip of the branches, on the new growth on top of the plant or along the stems but few plants flower right to the ground.

At this time of the year when we have had cold, cloudy, and wet weather for many weeks, the golden yellow flowers are like the sunshine we miss most during the winter. Forsythia is a plant that will grow in everyone yard, no matter how much or how little you know about gardening.

Let me tell you how forsythia will grow better for you in your yard. This plant will grow large, so give it plenty of room when you choose a spot in your yard. If you do not prune your plant, it can grow 8 to 10 feet tall and just as wide. If you want to keep the plant smaller and under control you will have to prune it every spring when it finishes flowering.

The pruning is best done by cutting back the individual branches by 1/3 to 1/2, or removing the largest branches to stimulate new growth from the base of the plant. This pruning must be done before the new foliage begins to form on the plant, so all the energy in the plant can encourage new growth uniformly throughout the plant. What makes this plant look so nice in the spring is that all the branches are tangled, growing in all directions, and--if pruned properly--the plant will grow in a rounded spreading mound with branches that grow upright or cascade to the ground.

I prune my plants when half of the flowers have fallen and like me, you should NEVER use hedge shears when pruning. Hedge shears shape the plant to grow too rounded--sometimes like a ball-shaped shrub because you are pruning all the branches the same length. Prune each branch separately and at different lengths to keep the plant looking graceful and more natural. Pruning in the early spring encourages new growth to thicken the plant and encourages more flower buds to form on the plant for next spring.

When you plant, condition the soil with compost, animal manure, or peat moss to encourage the plant to get established quickly in your garden. I encourage you to add kelp or mycorrhizae at the same time for better root development. You should water the plant every other day the first month and weekly right up to frost the first year. In the fall (early September), fertilize with Plant Tone or Turf Trust Shrub fertilizer to prepare it for the winter.

You will notice that the branches of the forsythia plant are covered with small raised bumps. These bumps are like spots of a cork-like material very similar to the raised edge, or wing-like growths of the burning bush, and are very noticeable when the leaves are off the plant. When the new growth first forms, the bark will be golden yellow in color; it matures to gray. The flower buds develop around the stems in clusters facing in all directions, and when they are open cover the entire plant.

The foliage is medium green, oval, 2 to 4 inches long and 1 to 1 1/2 inch wide, with tiny teeth along the edge of the leaf. In the fall, the foliage will change to a bright purple-red color if the plant is in the sun all day. Plants in partial shade will not change color; the foliage falls from the plant when still green.

Forsythia makes a wonderful plant for a privacy hedge and will grow very well along the side of the road where salt can be a problem for most other plants. Use it in mass plantings to bring color into your yard, as individual plants in your foundation planting, or as a background plant behind your perennial gardens.

Forsythia has few to no problems with insects or disease, and aside from spring pruning requires little to no attention from you during the year. Because it does grow so thick but looks open and airy, the plant will make a great place for nesting birds to make nests once the foliage develops. The stems are very strong and when the foliage falls from the plant, snow can easily fall through the branches of the plant, causing little to no damage during the winter.

There are some varieties that are more weeping than upright growing. These are wonderful when planted on top of a wall or on the side of a hill, allowing branches to hang down to the ground or over the wall; look for forsythia suspensa v. sieboldii.

If the tall growing varieties are too tall for you and you like the yellow flowers in the spring, look for the new dwarf types like forsythia 'Bronxensis,' which grows one foot tall and will spread to 3 feet wide. This plant will make a great ground cover or low growing hedge.

Also for a bit more height, look for forsythia 'Arnold,' a dwarf which will grow 3 feet tall and wide. This plant has wide arching branches, and when the branches contact the soil, they will root easily. Just dig up the rooted branch and you will have a new plant for your garden. This forsythia is wonderful for planting on slopes or banks.

The most popular tall growing varieties are 'Lynwood Gold,' 'Spring Glory' and 'Robusta.' Look for them this spring at your favorite nursery or garden center. One last thing to remember about the forsythia is that this plant can be pruned from January to April. The branches you cut can be brought into the house, placed in a tall vase of water and the buds will burst open, giving you a peek at what spring will look like in just a few weeks. Enjoy!!!
Sunflower : Glen Campbell
Sunflower : Glen Campbell

Growing potatoes is easy and lots of fun to dig

I grew up in Maine, a state recognized for superior potato production. I still live there today and my favorite vegetable is the potato--no matter how you cook them. My mother grew up in Bangor, Maine and she often told stories about her life as a child, and how potatoes affected her life. She told me that every spring when the season was right to plant, all schools were closed for a few days so everyone could get out into the fields and prepare for the planting season. My mother's first job--at age SIX--was to pick the rocks that she claimed grew during the winter in the potato fields. She also said that often there were more rocks in the spring than there were potatoes in the fall some years. The children picked the rocks and placed them in piles so the men could come through the fields with the tractors and pick them up and discard them, making the planting and maintenance easier.

In the fall, when the potatoes were ready to be harvested, all the schools were closed again for a week or more for the potato harvest, and she then picked the potatoes and placed them in barrels for the men to collect. Today, in many areas of Maine a similar process still exists so the farming families can harvest the crops while the weather is favorable-- the work is much easier with the help of new hybrid farming equipment but still a lot of work. Growing up, the first thing my mother did when she came home from work was fix the potatoes for supper and she often said that if she did not eat potatoes every day she would have the shakes. So you had better believe I ate a lot of potatoes growing up!

Many years ago, my parents' families both came from Canada to Maine because of the opportunity in textile mills, shoe shops and farming. Both my parents told stories of friends' families who also came to America because of the big potato famine in Ireland--and also in search of a better life for their families. My dad told me that in the mid 1800s, a terrible blight hit the potato crop in Ireland and over a million people died of starvation in just a year or two. The problem was that Ireland grew only ONE kind of potato and this blight destroyed everything in its path, due to a wet spring after the potatoes were planted, they rotted in the ground. Because the potato was the major source of food and income for most of the people in Ireland, many families lost everything to the great famine. Then social, political and economic problems hit the nation and entire families left Ireland to go to America and other parts of the world. Just a few years after the famine, the population of Ireland dropped by one half due to emigration in an attempt to escape the Great Famine in Ireland.

In America, botanists worked very hard on this problem--trying to stop the disease on the potato and end the starvation for the Irish people. Luther Burbank, a well-known horticulturist and farmer, developed a new potato he called the 'Russet Burbank' potato; his efforts are credited to introducing a blight resistant potato for the people of Ireland. Because the soil in Ireland was so rich and the climate was perfect for the production of potatoes, its people grew most of its land in potatoes. The average family had one acre of land and they were able to feed and generate income enough for a family as large as 10--but the potato blight destroyed everything and entire families died. Now you know a little bit of history about the potato, so let me tell you how to grow them in your garden.

Today's gardener has many varieties of potatoes to choose from: early, mid-season and late harvesting types. Potatoes now come in white, yellow, red or purple flesh or skin color and are used for baking, boiling or frying. With proper care, you should be able to produce one to two pounds of potatoes per each foot of row in your garden. So let's begin with your soil. It should be fertile and well-drained, as a heavy soil that is not well drained will produce fewer potatoes and those potatoes will be misshapen and of poor quality. If your soil is rich, well-drained and lighter, you can plant earlier in the season with increased crop production, and those potatoes will store longer after harvest without spoiling.

Potatoes prefer a soil that is on the acidic side with a pH, of 5.3 to 6. If your pH is higher than 7, your potatoes are more likely to develop "scab," a potato disease that will destroy the crop. A quick soil test in the spring will tell you how to adjust the soil pH to better grow potatoes before you plant. If you cannot lower the pH below 7 and you want to grow potatoes, look for the famous 'Russet Burbank' seed potatoes, as they are scab-resistant.

What is a seed potato and why should you use them? A seed potato is a specially raised potato that will produce a better crop for you. Never use potatoes from the supermarket, as they are treated with a product to help prevent sprouting while in storage. They will eventually germinate but because of the treatment, the production will be less. Look for certified seed potatoes at your local garden center or feed and grain store. When you choose your seed potatoes, select small to medium sized potatoes with at least 1 to 2 eyes or sprouts on them, and plant them whole. If you use large potatoes and cut them into pieces for planting it will take energy to heal the cut surface and produce a protective scab, resulting in less energy for growth of your crop. Dip the cut side of the seed in garden sulfur to help with the healing process to prevent rotting once planted.

Plant your seed potatoes when your soil reaches 50 degrees for the best germination. Dig your trench 6 to 8 inches deep and just as wide and then add a slow release organic fertilizer such as Vegetable-Tone or Protolizer from Natural Alternative at the rate of one pound per 10 feet of row to your trench; add it as you would add rock salt on ice. Now work the fertilizer into the soil in the trench about 2 inches deep with a cultivator. Keep the seed potatoes away from the fertilizer you have applied. Plant your seed potatoes 8 to 12 inches apart in the trench, with 3 feet between rows of potatoes.

Now fill the trench with the remaining soil and be sure to mark the planting bed with stakes to prevent walking on them. You want to prevent damage to the tender sprouting shoots and compaction of the soil--remember, loose soil means more potatoes! Once the shoots develop and grow to about 6 inches tall, add soil around the shoots and create a mound of soil down the entire row of plants. Now sprinkle the same amount of fertilizer on the ground in two bands on each side of the row and work it into the soil again keep fertilized away from the plant and mix well in the soil. You should pull some of the soil from the walkway 3 times during the year as the plants continue to grow taller and create a mound of soil 18 inches tall and just as wide to help encourage additional potatoes to form in this mound of soil. New potatoes will develop on the stems of the plant that grow in the mound of soil. NEVER use any form of animal manure around your potatoes, as it can encourage scab disease to develop in your garden.

Water weekly as the weather gets hot and keep the soil moist. If you see potatoes forming above the ground, be sure to cover them with soil as green skin on the potatoes will contain a toxic alkaloid called solanine and it will make you sick if you eat the skin, so cover the potatoes or be sure to remove the green skin when peeling your potatoes.

Potatoes are usually harvested at the end of the growing season when you have had a frost or if the foliage has dried up due to a hot dry summer and lack of watering by you. Dig carefully, so as not to damage the skin of the potato so it will keep better and longer for you. Once dug, place them in a cool dark area like your basement once you shake off the excess soil--do not wash the potato before storage.

The only major pest is the Colorado potato beetle and it is easily controlled with the new Natural insecticide called Spinosad from Bonide or Captain Jack from Bonide. The beetle is bright orange-red with spots. It will lay a row of yellow eggs under the leaf that will in time hatch and produce a slug-like creature that will also eat the foliage. Spray whenever you see a problem, as these products are all natural and not toxic.

If you have been growing potatoes for a long time, there is a chance of an insect called the wire worm. It is copper in color and looks like a piece of wire about 1 inch long and 1/8 inch thick. It will drill holes into the potato and destroy the crop, often found in the potato but not very common. Last year Bonide did develop a new pesticide that will control the problem, called Garden Eight granules, and it must be added to the soil at the time of planting. So, now we have a product for a serious but rare problem with this crop--but most of us won't need this product unless we had the problem last year!

Good varieties to try are:
'Superior' a large potato and early-season.
'Kennebec' a medium potato, mid-season and good winter keeper.
'Russet Burbank' medium to large potato late-season and good winter keeper.
Also 'Red Pontiac' a red skinned potato, late-season and stores well.
'Yukon Gold' a yellow flesh potato, late-season, buttery tasting and a good winter keeper
And for the fun of gardening-the 'All Blue' with blue flesh-a late-season, small, finger-shaped potato.


The Potato Song
The Potato Song

The pussy willow is a native plant to wet areas all over the northeast U.S. and is winter-hardy to 20 to 30 below zero. So if you have a wet spot on your property, you must plant the pussy willow this spring so next spring you can enjoy a sign of hope after a long winter.

The pussy willow is a tall-growing shrub; if not pruned too much, it will grow 15 to 25 feet tall and 15 feet wide, about the size of a flowering crabapple. This plant is loved for one thing: its beautiful soft creamy-white catkins that form on the plant during March and April. The plant will grow upright with an oval appearance or shape. It is a plant of many trunks or branches--not a single stem plant like the flowering crabapple.

The pussy willow is fast growing; if planted in a wet area on your property it will grow 2 to 3 feet every year. The new growth is long and slender, making wonderful branches for cutting. They will look wonderful in a tall vase on your kitchen table. These branches are also very easy to force into bloom earlier than normal by just cutting the stems from the plant during February or March and placing them in a tall vase of water in a warm room. The buds will open, casting off the bud covering, and in just 7 to 10 days the soft catkins will emerge. When these buds get to the size of a jelly bean or larger, drain the vase of water, and keep them in the dry vase for several weeks.

The new growth or branches are dark brown, smooth, and shiny looking. They are about the thickness of a pencil, and the length is determined by the amount of water around the plant during the year. During the winter the stem is covered with pointed, 1/2 inch long, purple-brown buds. When the weather begins to warm up these buds will open to expose male catkins or flowers that will grow 1 to 2 inches long before turning yellow and falling from the plant. When they fall, new growth will develop and so will the foliage. The leaves are 2 to 4 inches long and about 1 inch wide. These leaves are dark green and the edges seem to be wavy and oval, with a dull point on the tip. This new growth starts off almost kelly green, but when they mature, the stems will quickly turn a rich dark brown.

The pussy willow will grow best in full sun but will tolerate a bit of shade late in the day. Too much shade will the make plant grow tall and thin, and it will produce few new branches with buds. This thinness will also make them vulnerable to snow damage when the snow is wet and heavy.
There is no special soil needed to grow this plant; just be sure to add plenty of compost, peat moss, or animal manure when you plant, so the roots will develop quickly in the spring. Wet soil is preferred--and this plant will help drain wet spots in your yard, making them more usable especially in the spring time. Like the giant weeping willow tree, keep this plant away from leaching fields or septic tank areas in your yards or the roots will quickly create problems for you by plugging the system.

The plant does look great all by itself but when planted in groups or in a row to create a barrier planting, it will wake up your yard in the early spring with color. If you like this plant and want to start your own plants, it is very easy to do. Take an empty half-gallon milk or juice bottle and cut off the top couple of inches of the container, fill it with soil from your garden and add water so the soil is now mud. Cut fresh pussy willows or buy fresh-cut pussy willows from your local garden center or florist and push them all the way to the bottom of the container of mud. The buds will soon fall from the branches, and make foliage and below all that mud, roots will also form quickly.

Put 3 to 5 branches in your container and arrange them to create a nice looking cluster of branches. When the foliage has grown to 3 to 5 inches long and you can see roots thru the milky plastic container it is time to transplant into your yard. Plant them as a single plant, and do not pull apart when planting. Keep wet until fall and fertilize with Plant-Tone fertilizer when you put them into the ground. The roots grow horizontally, so firm in place, but do not stamp the ground around the plant with your feet or you will break off the new roots.

If you want a truly fascinating variety, look for the Japanese Fantail pussy willow, called Salix sachalinensis 'Sekka.' This type has flat, twisted, curling branches with multiple rows of soft fluffy buds, and is often found at spring flower shows. They are wonderful for flower arrangements, but in your yard the shrubby tree will get you wonderful comments. The foliage will grow 4 to 6 inches long and the plant has more of a weeping growing habit to 15 feet tall and wide. If you have the room on your property, this is a plant you can grow, cut, and sell the branches to your local garden center in the spring time. Most businesses would jump to buy these branches from you. I would also check with them about growing plants for them to sell at their nursery, this plant is that unique!
Peter Paul & May - Lemon Tree Lyrics
Peter Paul & May - Lemon Tree Lyrics
"Gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes"

Crustless Tomato Ricotta Pie

If you're planning a brunch or light dinner here is something I think you will like. Great if you have vegetarian friends and when you can pick fresh from the garden basil and mint leaves the flavor Will be unbelievable. Fresh from the market or farm stand will also bring out the flavor. You can even make it the day before, refrigerate and reheat before serving the next day. It looks good, taste good and a real crowd pleaser so give it a try. A fresh made salad, crusty bread, and a glass of white wine for a complete meal. Enjoy!

15 ounces of Ricotta cheese
4 extra large eggs
cup of grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon of ground black pepper
cup of milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
cup of loosely packed fresh basil leaves chopped
cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves chopped
1 pound of ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced, about 3 medium size

1} Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk ricotta cheese, eggs, Pecorino-Romano cheese, salt and pepper and blend well.

2) In a measuring cup, stir milk, and cornstarch until smooth: whisk into the cheese mixture. Stir in the Chopped Basil and Mint leaves.

3} Pour the mixture into a nonstick 10-inch skillet with "oven safe handles". Arrange the tomato slices on top, overlapping slices if necessary. Bake the pie 35 to 40 minutes or until lightly browned and set around the edges and the center is puffed. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

4} If you making it the day before slide the pie out of the pan on an oven proof dish, let cool and wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.

Day to look forward to:

April is National Gardening Month

April 22 - Earth Day is 1 days
April 27th - Secretary's Day is 6 days
May 8th - MOTHER'S Day is 17 days
May 21st - Armed forces day is 30 days
May 30th - Memorial Day is 39 days

28 Garden Journals left


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! 

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