Memorial Day is a day on which those who died in active military service
 are remembered!

Trace Adkins'
Trace Adkins' "Arlington" USA Military Tribute

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Geraniums  will bloom all summer long

I remember my first Memorial Day Weekend in the garden center; it was incredible, because during that three day weekend we sold more geraniums than we did the entire year. Having never worked in a greenhouse before, I quickly learned that the geranium was the number one selling flower for gardens, window boxes, planters, containers and for planting at the cemetery.

We had one greenhouse with every bench filled to the max with geraniums of different shades of red, white, pink, and lavender--and under those benches were more boxes of geraniums. We had 4 inch pots, 6 inch pots, 8 inch pots, six packs of geraniums, hanging baskets with geraniums in them. Just as I was able to get all the plants off the floor and onto the benches, trucks arrived to bring us more geraniums. They were everywhere.

Along with the geraniums were dracaena spikes, and vinca vines. It looked to me that the geraniums would not grow without these two outer plants and everyone had to have them. I had also spent the previous week planting containers of every size and shape with geraniums, dracaena spikes, and vinca vines in them. I can remember telling my mother that this weekend should be called "Geranium Weekend," because we sold so many plants in just 3 days.

In college I learned that geraniums originally came from South Africa, and that they have been grown in the garden since Colonial times--maybe that was why they were so popular. In those days this was the weekend to get the family together to decorate the cemetery plot to honor our veterans and relatives that have passed on. Unfortunately, today not many of us decorate the cemetery like in the past and few take the time to honor our veterans with flowers at their gravesite. Maybe this is the year for you to resume this old custom again.

Geraniums are one of the easiest flowers to grow in your garden and in containers if you follow these easy requirements. First plant geraniums in full sunshine but they will tolerate a bit of shade late in the day, especially if watering is going to be a problem during the hot days of summer. When planting at the Cemetery during late May add a covering of bark mulch  a couple of inches thick to help hold moisture in the ground when the heat of summer arrives. Condition the soil with organic matter like compost or animal manure before planting. Your soil should be well drained as wet feet will cause the roots to rot or the foliage to turn yellow and flowers will stop forming on the plant.

Geraniums do best in soils with a near-neutral pH or slightly on the acid side. In the cemetery or in planters like window boxes that dry out easily, be sure to add a pinch of Soil Moist granules to the soil for every plant you put into the ground. I use Soil Moist on everything I plant and it does help cut back my watering by 50%! Be sure to water the plants well after planting and if you can visit the cemetery once a week for a couple of weeks, your geraniums will thrive once established. By adding mycorrhizae at the time of planting, your roots will develop much faster and become more able to tolerate the neglect of the cemetery planting. Go to for great information on mycorrhizae and see how it will make your plant grow better without constant care and fertilizing.

The types of geraniums we are most familiar with are called Zonal or cutting geraniums because they are grown from cuttings. This type of geraniums will form the best, the largest and the longest lasting clusters of flowers on the plant then all other types of geraniums. The new seed-grown geraniums are nice and have wonderful multi colored foliage, a wide range of flower colors, but the flowers are smaller in size, have shorter flower stems and if you have a strong rain storm they tend to shatter easily. The Zonal types have tall growing flower stems 6 to 12 inches high that are very strong, with flower clusters up to 6 inches in diameter. The seed types have flowered stems 4 to 6 inches tall and the flower cluster 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Each flower in the cluster is usually single petal and will last for a week or more. The Zonal geraniums are multi-petal and will last for several weeks on the plant. Seed types will grow to 8 to 12 inches tall and just as wide and last for one season.

The Zonal geraniums will grow 2 to 3 feet tall and just as wide. In the fall of the year before it gets cold, these plants can be dug up, potted, and brought into the house where it will flower on and off during the winter, depending on how much sun you give them. The more sun they receive the better they will flower and grow. If you feed them regularly they should flower regularly during the winter. In early March cut the plant back by half or to 6 to 8 inches tall and wide. You will have no leaves on the plant, just green sticks and you should also repot the plant at this time to a new pot 2 to 3 inches larger. Add Dynamite fertilizer to the newly potted plant and move the geranium to a brightly lit window, where it will quickly begin to make new branches and foliage.

The pieces you removed from the plant can be rooted at this time with rooting powder and placed in 4 inch pots with fresh potting soil. Each piece should be 4 to 6 inches long, contain only 4 leaves on the cutting and no flower buds. Keep in a bright room but not in direct sun until they form roots in just 7 to 14 days. Keep the soil moist at all times and when the roots begin to form fertilize weekly with Neptune's Harvest. Once the cuttings begin to grow and reach 6 inches tall pinch the plant back to 4 inches to encourage branching. If flowers form, remove them so all the energy is used to make new growth and more branches on the plant.

In the garden or in the container be sure to fertilize often. I always use Dynamite pellet fertilizer that will feed the plant for up to 4 months and  Espoma super blossom booster fertilizer every other week all summer long. As the flowers fade be sure to remove them to prevent seed pods to form on the plant. This will encourage more flowers to develop on the plant also. Plants will do best when watered regularly; keep water off the foliage when watering. Insect and disease problems are few unless we get a lot of rainfall and cool temperatures.

Today you can find new variegated varieties of Zonal geraniums with white, pink, or red flowers and foliage in all color combinations. These variegated foliage type Geraniums do not have as large a flower or as many flowers as the green leaf types but they are very nice in a container or the garden. One of my favorite unusual Zonal Geranium is the "Rose Bud" geranium, with its double petal flowers that grow round like a flower bud not yet opened. The flower cluster will grow 3 to 4 inches round, come in shades of pink, and last on the plant for 2 weeks or more. The foliage is pale green in color, smooth with no hair on the leaf like most Zonal types and the flowers will continue all summer long.

In the same family but different are the scented geraniums and they will grow just like the Zonal. They have fewer flowers, the flowers are smaller, and fewer on the plant but the foliage had complex oils in it that make wonderful teas, and flavors for sauces, sorbets and vinegars. These plants also make great perfumes. The foliage is known for its aroma like peppermint, nutmeg, lemon, and apple--to name a few. I love rubbing the leaves with my fingers and smelling them after. There is one myth about these scented geraniums and that is that the lemon or citronella leaf type will repel mosquitoes. Unless you cover your patio with them and sit in the middle of the plants they will not repel these insects, but you will smell good.

This week as you choose your flowers for your containers, the garden and the cemetery, be sure to select a few geraniums; the flower that your mother and your grandmother grew in their gardens before all the so-called fancy flowers were developed. Enjoy !!!
David Ball Riding With Private Malone
David Ball
 Riding With Private Malone

It is time to plant your potatoes in your garden

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 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 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.
He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother - The Hollies
He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother - The Hollies

When I was growing up in central Maine, my parents always had a very large vegetable garden because they had five children to feed and they both love to garden. My mother always found room for flowers in the garden and around the yard. But one year my parents had the driveway asphalted, and as a border around the driveway my dad built a small wall garden made of cinder blocks so my mother could have additional room for the flowers she loved so much in the holes of the concrete blocks.

It was a family project, and the boys moved the cinder blocks from the car to the edge of driveway while my dad set them in place. We then added the soil behind the cinder blocks to give them additional strength and more room to plant flowers before the asphalt trucks showed up to install the driveway. My sisters and mother filled the holes with soil that had been conditioned with peat moss and cow manure--and when the driveway was installed, she was ready to plant her new garden.

She came home from the greenhouse the following weekend with a new plant for her and she called the flowers she purchased "cockscomb." She told us that the flowers would look like the hat on top of the rooster head and that in the fall she could pick them and dry the flowers to use in a vase for the winter inside the house. The flowers she planted that spring were the talk of the neighborhood because of their unusual shape and the wonderful bright colors of the flowers. This spring, plant a few cockscombs in your garden and you will see why my mother loved them so much.

Cockscomb is a member of the Celosia family. Back then there was only one variety to choose from but today the new hybrids are just fantastic and come in different styles. Let me tell you about the Celosia family so you will know what to expect in your garden. The word Celosia means in "burned" Greek, because of the fiery flower colors the plant produces--in brilliant shades of yellow, orange red, pink, salmon and cream. There are two major varieties in this family of plants--the Cockscomb and the Plumed Celosia.

The Cockscomb Celosia is found in the Cristata hybrid group. The flower is a tight rounded and curled flower that resembles a rooster comb, fan shaped; the newer varieties resemble a head of cauliflower and are more rounded. The flower is actually a flower cluster and it consist of hundreds of tiny blossoms caused by a mutant gene in the plant that causes FASCIATION, giving the flower a fused and flattened look to it--to me the top of the flower looks like a brain. The flower will grow in the shape of a V or a fan, growing taller and wider as it matures but it holds it color all summer long--never fading like other flowers. The sides of the flower seem to be covered with feather-like petals giving the plant much character. The V shaped varieties are called Bombay hybrids and the cauliflower or rounded types are called Kurume hybrids.

The Plumed Celosia will grow more like a central plume and is surrounded by a series of many other upright growing plumes that develop on this main plume, so a big plume with smaller plumes growing all over it. The plumes will grow up to 6 inches tall on long sturdy stems, making a wonderful long lasting cut flower for summer arrangements or drying later in the season. Some newer varieties of the Plumed Celosia have clusters of individual plumes or flame-shaped flowers on them, and many gardeners call this type the Feathered Amaranth.

Grow the Celosia family in a full sun garden, but it will tolerate a bit of late day shade. They love a rich soil and they will grow larger and produce more flowers if you condition the garden with compost, seaweed kelp or animal manure before planting. These plants must have a well-drained soil to thrive or the roots will rot if you have a wet summer or soil that is heavy. These plants love the heat and humid weather and that is why they did so well in the cement blocks, as the cement held the heat all summer long. These plants also do very well in large containers and will complement other flowers when planted in a mixed flower container.

When you select plants for your garden look for young plants, even plants with no flowers on them yet, as plants that have become pot-bound often stay stunted and will not flower as well. Most greenhouses carry the standard types of Celosia in limited colors, so try them, and if you like the plants this year, go to a catalog such as Harris Seed Co. next year for the newer varieties and new colors--even individual colors of the same type. Harris Seed Co. has the new Kurume types with the rounded flowers and a new variety called 'Celway' that looks like fireworks exploding during the Fourth of July.

Celosia comes in many heights--from the dwarf hybrids that mature at 6 to 8 inches tall to the giant that will reach three feet or more in height. If you start plants from seed next year, start them six weeks before the last frost date and you can grow all the new hybrids that will give your garden a special look. Once you plant the seedlings, fertilized with Flower-Tone every 6 weeks or Espoma super bloom booster every other week to produce better-looking plants and more flowers.

Insects and disease are not a problem with these plants; they stay clean without much care from you. I like them in groups or cluster in the garden rather than in rows, as the color is more effective and showier (unless you are using them to line your flower border). The taller varieties are best for drying in the fall of the year. All you have to do is cut the plant at ground level, strip the foliage off the plant and hang them in small bunches in a warm and dry building like the garage or tool shed. They will be ready to arrange in 3 to 4 weeks or less. Best of all, the colors do not fade, especially the red flowers-- they will last almost indefinitely in your home as long as you keep them out of direct sunshine. Enjoy!
"What is the cause of the growth of an acorn?...
The oak that is to come!" 
 Joseph Campbell

Stir Fried Asparagus with Sesame Seeds

Asparagus is coming from the garden now, so enjoy them while they are fresh and tender. If you're not growing them, they are readily available at the supermarket at great prices and they are young and tasty. This recipe is easy and you avoid the soft and mushy boiled method. Give it a try as it only takes 6 minutes to cook in a Wok or frying pan. Serves 4 people.

1 tablespoon of sesame seeds
2 tablespoons of olive oil or truffle oil
I clove of Garlic, finely chopped or use the garlic in a jar all chopped
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 pounds of fresh Asparagus trimmed and cut into three pieces, about 2 inches' long
teaspoon of fresh ground pepper
teaspoon of white sugar
2 teaspoons of sesame oil
1 tablespoon of soy sauce

1} heat your Wok or Frying Pan: add the sesame seeds and stir fry over high heat for about 2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside.

2} Heat the oil in the wok and add the garlic, ginger and asparagus. Stir-fry over high heat of about 3 minutes or almost tender. Sprinkle the asparagus with pepper and the sugar. Stir-fry over high heat for 1 minutes.

3} Sprinkle with Sesame oil, soy sauce and sesame seeds and serve in your favorite bowl.

Day to look forward to:
May 30th - Memorial Day is 4 days
June 14th - Flag Day is 18 days
June 19th - Father's day is 23 days
July 4th -  Independence Day is 39 days

Keep records will make you a better gardener!!


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!


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