30 April, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen: Start Your Gardens

Ladies and Gentleman Start Your Gardens
Welcome to May the craziest month in the garden business. Yes we had some teaser days in April and even a few dream days in March. Every spring has its' early warm spells which get sap flowing not only in maples but in our gardening bones as well. What seems to be happening though is the odd nice days in March and April are not just warm but WARM…..like June warm. Then the weather compensates shortly after by returning not to cold but COLD! At the end of the month the temps were actually normal after all when averaged across the whole month. It seems strange but if 15 days in April are 80* and the remaining 15 send the mercury up only to 30 the average temp for the month is……50*.
I am so glad I am not average.
I give upon April though. It seems every day is April Fool's Day. April has become a difficult time for gardeners. What used to be an early gravy month has become the month of starts and stops. June is now the month I count on for extra gardening days. If I were one who takes a late winter vacation to some place warm I would not go in March anymore but April. However April is gone and it is time to garden.
There are a lot of garden activities going on this month. I have joined an excellent online forum for gardeners and foodies alike. I think they are one and the same these days! Hudson Valley Food Network, hvfoodnetwork.com is home to local food lovers and gardeners alike. The site is a compendium of information and discussions on home farming and sourcing local food from field to table to mouth. For gardeners they have a list of seminars and events going on throughout the whole season.
The list of local classes on Hudson Valley Food Network is quite extensive. In addition there are garden activities listed for the whole season.
Another extensive garden activities calendar is located at Hudson Valley Garden Calendar, hvgardencalendar.com This site lists strictly garden related activities from classes to tours to fund raisers. I was surprised and pleased to find out the author of the site included most if not all of the seminars held at Adams over the winter. A really cool addition to this site is the ability to add comments. For instance I would want to know about a garden tour in Westchester before leaving my home in Greene County some two hours to the north. Plenty of times in the past I have read about a so called "great festival" of some sort only to drive a long way and find nothing except a card table and two people selling radishes. Well not that bad but I am sure you get idea.
Some of the offerings for May:
Build A Planter Box: Twin Ponds Greenhouses, 2865 Albany Post Rd, Montgomery, NY 12549 on Friday May 7th at 6Pm "Great workshop for Dads - bring a child to make a planter for Mom, just in time for Mother's Day. Practical advice on how to plant your box for growing success."
Springside plant sale Sat. May 8th 10AM-3PM at Springside, 181 Academy Street, Poughkeepsie, NY 12602
Proceeds benefit Springside Historic Landmark Restoration, a National Historic Landmark designed by Andrew Jackson Downing in 1850
Mother's Day Garden Talk May 9th 12-4 PM at Olana state historic site on RT 9G just south of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. The talk will feature a presentation on woodland plants & ferns with Bob Hyland from Loomis Creek Nursery.
For a change of pace try an herbal tea party. Visitors can enjoy an evening with Twin Ponds. Activities include games, drink some tea, and snack on herbal cookies. Share your experience with herbs. Twin Ponds Greenhouses, 2865 Albany Post Rd, Montgomery, NY 12549
Vassar College Farm and Ecological Preserve, Raymond & Hooker Aves, Poughkeepsie will be sponsoring a benefit for the Poughkeepsie farm Project n May 15th from 9 AM to 3 PM. Visitors can learn more about the farm's food  and education programs. For more information log on to farmproject.org
Vanderbilt Garden Tours at F.W. Vanderbilt National Historic Site, 119 Vanderbilt Park Rd, Hyde Park Tours will be conducted by garden interpreters highlighting the history of the garden, design and landscape elements and care and maintenance of the annuals, perennials, roses and shrubs. The volunteers at the Vanderbilt gardens are some of the most dedicated volunteers I have come across. They are frequent guests at our annual spring show.
Hand Bouquets of the 19th Century, With Ellen McClelland Lesser, NYBG and Sogetsu School of Ikebana  Fri, May 21 at 1:00PM - 4:00PM  Olana State Historic Site, 5720 Rt 9G, Hudson.
This lecture and hands-on workshop will show you how to make your own hand bouquet or posy using correct materials in the proper style of the period. Participants must bring their favorite flower scissors/ knife
So there you have a few other garden chores to add to your list. These events are just the ones listed for May!

28 April, 2010

berkshire Botanical Garden Plant Sale May 7-9

Mom like plants? Better yet does mom like really cool gardens? The Berkshire Botanical Garden in nearby Stockbridge, MA is holding its' annual plant sale Mother's Day weekend.
What I find really cool about this botanical garden is its' lack or pretentiousness. This is a botanical garden whose "products" could be done by anyone at home. On the way over stop by and visit my friends at Ward's Nursery in Great Barrington.  
Here is an excerpt from Berkshire Botanical garden's web site about the goings on at the plant sale:

May 7
8 a.m. – 11 a.m., members only
11 a.m. – 5 p.m., general public

May 8
9 a.m. – 5 p.m., general public

At the two-day sale, gardeners can choose from thousands of plants, shrubs and bulbs, many of which are grown right at Berkshire Botanical.  Members receive early buying privileges on Friday and a 10% discount throughout the weekend. New this year is a Garden Tag Sale offering pre-owned tools, pots and treasures.

Friday May 7; 1 PM will feature a special event talk and sale of rare plants with Adam Wheeler of Broken Arrow Nursery at PM on Friday; $30, reservations required.

27 April, 2010

Garden Calendar for the Hudson Valley

Looking for garden events/lectures to attend in the Hudson Valley? Check out Hudson Valley Garden Calendar chock full of garden realted events for the Hudson Valley region!

Hudson Valley iris and Daylily Society 2010 Events

I have been lucky enough to meet the fine folks who are fanatic about daylilies, iris and gardening in general. A very friendly bunch always looking to share their knowledge with anyone who will listen. Here is a sampling of their event calendar for this year:
(Contact the club below for times and further information)
Bruce Baird and John Heimke are master iris growers and members of the Capital Hudson Iris Society.  They will walk us through the process of preparing our irises for the annual Iris Show including selecting irises from your garden, transporting them to the show site, cleaning and tending them, and insuring they look their best when the judges come around and peer so intently at them.  Marlboro Free Library  May 2
14th Annual AIS Affiliated HVIDS Judged Iris Show and Public Exhibition
                        Center Court, Poughkeepsie Galleria, Poughkeepsie, NY  May 23
10th Annual HVIDS Daylily Show & Public Exhibition
                        Center Court, Poughkeepsie Galleria.    July 25
Iris Rhizome and Daylily Fan Sale, Adams Fairacre Farm
                        Route 44, Poughkeepsie, NY July 23
Iris Rhizome and Daylily Fan Sale
                        Center Court, Poughkeepsie Galleria Aug 14/15
Find out more about HVIDS happenings at the following ongoing web sites:
                        HVIDS web site - http://www.hvids.org
                        Garden Happenings - http://www.hvgardencalendar.com

26 April, 2010

Medical Cannabis Good for Garden Biz?

This from an article in Garden Center magazine, a trade journal for the lawn and garden industry:
And who said the garden business was dull?

Wholesome Cracker Spurs Home Farming Movement

Say what you want about corporate green washing. In many cases green washing is a marketing crime. But can a major household brand name properly introduce and even encourage back yard farms across the nation. Consider that going it alone and attemptingto establish a brand name will cost you six million dollars. That is a lot of money with no promise of any ROI. Six million dollars can but a lot of plants, soil, and tools for a lot of community gardens
Enter Triscuits from Kraft. Triscuits, the much loved little wheat cracker is joining  the home farming movement by enclosing plantable "cards" in Triscuit boxes. The cards have seeds already in them. Just place in the garden or a pot and water.
At first thought you may wonder what Kraft is up to. Are they using their name on a famous brand of cracker to say they are actually  small town folks? I think not. I think the folks who get hooked on gardening, especially kids, are not going to buy more crackers. I think the promotion benefits both Kraft and future gardeners. Kraft gets some good PR, a lot of web site write ups already, the garden inudusry gets a plethora of new customers, and the new gardeners get  wholesome homegrown food.
Here is some more information from Triscuits home farming web site:
In an attempt to help Americans celebrate the values of simple goodness found on farms and encourage the growing of fresh herbs and vegetables at home no matter where you live, Triscuit has launched the Home Farming Movement in collaboration with the non-profit organization Urban Framing. Together, Triscuit and Urban Farming plan to create 50 community-based home farms across the country in 2010 in order to connect communities through growing food together. 
To help get this fantastic program off the ground, Triscuit is putting plantable herbs seed cards in four million boxes of Triscuit crackers to be grown on home farms in backyards and balconies.  This spring proves ideal for incorporating home growing values into your family's life. Head to the Triscuit Home Farming Movement Web site, www.triscuit.com/homefarming, for more information on how you can start your own home farm or get involved in the Movement.

22 April, 2010

How I Plan to Spend Earth Day (Satirical)

To celebrate Earth Day I am....Cranking up the AC with the windows open, turning my heat up to 85* tonight, driving to Stewart's twice..once for milk and again for bread.......
And then congratulate Green Peace, Sierra Club and the Almighty Scenic Hudson for saying nothing about the environmental damage caused by the government of Iceland's refusal to control emissions from volcanic eruptions within their borders

21 April, 2010

The Compassionate Gardener program at Catskill Animal Sanctuary

 From the Albany Times Union food blog:
The Catskill Animal Sanctuary in Saugerties will kick off its new Compassionate Cuisine cooking and gardening program with an open house from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday (4/24). There will be vegetarian samples from newly hired chef Kevin Archer.
According to the CAS web site there will be Friday night take out available as well. One class is called five easy main courses and includes instructions of making;
  • Turnover with Mushroom Gravy
  • Stuffed Peppers
  • Portabella alla Puttanesca
  • Grilled and Glazed Tofu
  • Lasagna
    This class runs from 10-4 on , May 1, June 6, July 17 and the cost is $60 each class ends with a meal on the CSA grounds
    The next offering is Tempeh, Tofu, and Seitan. Dates:May 2, June 27, July 31 10 AM to 4 PM and the costs again is $60
    Other classes in clude comfort foods, brunches, Italian and Indian cooking as well.
    Only catch is each class is limited to 10 people, I suggest you register early at info@casanctuary.org or 845-336-8447.
    The CAS is an outstanding organization in Saugerties, actually just above the Kingston Adams off 9W 

    18 April, 2010

    Ralph Snodsmith

    Gardening legend Ralph Snodsmith has passed away. I have no other details other than a post on my facebook page and other information corroborating his passing. I knew Ralph my entire gardening career.
    He will be issed.

    on the hudson, ny

    15 April, 2010

    Really Cool Volunteer Garden Helper Group

    It's called the Crop Mob. They are based in New York City and the concept is to get a group of gardeners or small farmers together and descend on farms in the metro NYC area to assist small farmers and urban community gardens with projects.
    I joined with the hopes of getting this concept spreading throughout the Hudson Valley. I especially like the photos of a group setting up a large garden in Brooklyn with the Manhattan skyline in the background.

    13 April, 2010

    How to Make a Cold Frame

    Cold one again last night. And more cold (normal) weather predicted for the next few nights as well. With that in mind I have been fielding a lot of requests for cold frame construction.
    Here are two good sites with excellent information on the subject as well as easy to follow plans.
    Trust me if I can follow these plans anyone can!
    I really like the simple wood frame one because it takes the hard work out of getting the slanting front done correctly!

    09 April, 2010

    Even More Bad Advice From a Box Store

    "Raised-bed gardening is the easiest way to grow flowers and vegetables. Instead of planting in the hard ground, you garden on top of the ground. Build a frame from wood or resin boards, and fill it with easy-to-plant, highly-nutritious soil. Raised-bed gardens allow you to plant intensively, require less weeding and watering"
    This from a leading home improvement stores garden newsletter. 
    You garden on top of the ground:   Wrong. Unless your bed is taller than 30 inches you are still gardening IN THE GROUND. Most raised beds are about a foot tall. This means that many plant roots are still finding their way INTO the ground beneath the bed. A raised bed filled with gorgeous fluffy soil that sits on chunky hard clay is a waste of money. Any raised bed needs to incorporate the existing soil to be successful. This simply means mixing to a depth of 6 to 8 inches, the gorgeous fluffy soil , with the poor soil. No doing so will result in your gorgeous fluffy soil floating away in the next round of heavy rain. 
    Allow you to plant intensively:    Plants have no idea if they are being planted too close together in ground or on the ground. Fact is intensive planting, aka square foot gardening, results too often in overcrowding, drought starved plants.
    Require less weeding:   Ever see weeds grow in compost! They don't grow, they explode, just like tomatoes do in rich composty soil. Raised beds are not a deterrent to weeds. In fact raised beds often require more weeding earlier and later in the season because the sun warms raised beds before flat ground and keeps them warmer in the fall.
    Less watering:  Let's see now, warmer soil, nutrient rich soil and intensive planting. Since when does that mean less watering?  There are steps you can take to reduce watering in any garden: Mulching, compost, soaker hoses, drip irrigation etc, but just because you have a raised bed does not reduce watering needs. In fact it increases the need for water.
    I use raised beds because of back problems and soil problems. They do make gardening easier but not fool proof. Harvesting is easier. The growing season is up to 8 weeks longer when raised beds are combined with row covers or clear plastic. Those 8 extra weeks alone can mean more water use.
    So there you have it. Urban Legends have invaded the garden world. It should not come as a surprise though. This home improvement center feels the need to hire outside bloggers to fill their garden content needs. What would you say if your local independent garden center hired outsiders to dispense vital information on tomatoes? Most horticulturists are not journalists as I am and may need to hire someone to put their thoughts and advice into words. That is ok. But to outsource the entire information flow on a subject you say you are an expert in?
    Stick to lumber..............................

    Simply Bad Advice

     "......... buy seedlings already in flower (and some with marble-size fruit). " This is the quote I found in my e-mail this morning from a big box store gardening newsletter. Needless to say the article was written by someone who does not work directly for the company and not a gardening expert. To tell customers to seek out tomato plants already in flower with marble size fruit in early April is absurd. Any tomato plant in flower now, unless in a very large container, is most likely pushed too hard, spindly and so stressed out at producing flowers it will not survive transplanting stress.
    We still have potential of frost in the north east for another five weeks with an outside chance of frost for another seven weeks.
    Yes tomato plants in four or six packs will be seen in stores wth flowers on them.......in late June when the prime planting season is over with.

    08 April, 2010

    Get those Seedlings Outside

    With the recent warm spell about to end I hope you have had your seedlings outside like I have. For almost a week two dozens Marjoram seedlings joined their leggy partners, Summer Savory on the the front walk. The front walk gets a good dose of morning sun until early afternoon. After that the fresh air bathes the seedlings until sundown. The only damage I have incurred was on my year old Lemon Lerbena. Lemon Verbena is a Mediterranean woody herb. Mine did not like a forty degree night last week and got some burnt leaves.
    It is hard to know if we will continue to have above average temps. By Friday things are supposed to return to normal. However just in case growing weather stays around your seedlings will benefit from 1) the warm sun 2) fresh air 3) real light and 4) be ready to stay out should the weather remain conducive to growing.
    Those seedlings and any potted plants placed outside will need a good feeding right about now. I am using a couple of new fertilizers from General Hydroponics. Both are organic, one formulated fore blooming the other for greening. Too early to tell how well they are working. Both are suited for container gardening and in ground gardens. I do not recommend them for recirculating systems as they are quite viscous and are almost certain to clog tubing.
    So what do you have to lose? Nothing.....just remember to place tender plants like basil, bay etc on the porch on colder evenings and bring everything in when the weatherman calls for frost. On average we have a chance of frost for the next five weeks and a 30% chance of frost until Memorial Day. 

    01 April, 2010

    More Dirt on Late Blight

      There continues to be a lot of confusing contradictory information on tomato blight circulating not just on garden blogs but at university web sites as well.  Many are under the assumption that the 2009 strain of Phythoptera infestans, the fungus that causes late blight, is not the kind that over winters. However the University of Maryland in late 2009 felt there was a good chance it was a variety that can over winter. Meanwhile the University of Massachusetts feels that no strain of P. infestans that is capable of over wintering has been found in the Northeast. The University of Maryland counters this with a study showing that new exotic strains capable of over wintering have been found throughout the US as early as the 1990s. The past strains of P. infestans over wintered on potatoes left behind in the garden or fields. P. infestans in the past required live tissue in order to survive. It was always thought that if plant tissue froze the fungus died too. That may not be the case anymore. Sexual reproduction between two differing strains of P. infestans leads to over wintering spores of the fungus. 
    As to controlling disease in general in gardens solarization is a safe chemical free alternative. The longer you leave the plastic on the garden the "deeper" the sterilizations go into the soil. To get control deeper and quicker and not rely on erratic spring temperatures I suggest the following: solarize the soil undisturbed, no tilling, for several days. Then to hasten the results you can till lightly, say to a depth of 4-6 inches to bring up other potential spores. Replace the plastic and solarize again for several more days. It would seem better to till deeper than 6 inches in theory. But tilling too deep may actually bury spores that are in the top few inches of soil. Garden beds heavily mulched before winter may have pockets of earth that do not freeze. Another thing to consider is this: many gardeners till garden beds before winter sets in and then apply a heavy layer of mulch. At depths not that far down the earth does not freeze. Tilling, adding a layer of deep mulch and snowfall creates a deep layer of insulation bringing the "freeze free" zone that much closer to the surface.
    As for fungicides to control late blight there is little that can be done. Some university Co-operative Extensions are recommending copper sulphate as a control. Copper sulphate as no effect on late blight. It does however control early blight and several other tomato diseases. Since early blight and late blight symptoms are easily confused copper sulphate can't hurt. Just don't feel mislead if leaves continue to brown in an accelerated fashion. Daconil, chlorotholanol, is an affective control but must be used at first signs of anything gone awry.
    The best recommendation is to remove any plants that have late blight and not risk infecting others by attempting to treat late blight with fungicide sprays. Now back to the controversy!
    Compost or not to compost plant debris? First off no diseased plants should ever be composted. I am not in the practice of composting tomatoes period. Everywhere I put compost that has had tomato debris in it I am rewarded with new baby volunteer tomato plants. While the common strain of P. infestans is killed off in freezing weather gardeners practicing hot composting have compost that may not freeze even in winter! A compost bin made from recycled dark colored plastic may warm enough from the winter to sun to keep the contents in the center of the bin from freezing. Again there is conflicting information on web sites about whether of not to compost diseased potato or tomato plants.
    P. infeastans does spread IN tomato seed but can spread ON it.
    So there is my take on the whole tomato blight issue. My control measures call for erring on the side of safety through deep soil solarization. The jury is still out as to what strain of P. infestans we had in 2009. Some universities say we have never had the exotic varieties capable of over wintering tin the northeast while others say we have had those around since the 1990's. Soil solarization at least will kill off weed seeds, other over wintering tomato disease and provides a good first line of defense.