What to Plant for a Bee-Friendly Garden

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the bee population is rapidly declining. Most people dislike bees, they are scared of them and think they sting; when in reality they are super-friendly little guys who like the fly around from flower to flower  to pollinate! While it is true that bees can sting a human, they only do it when there is a justifiable cause (e.g. protecting their hive, swatting them away.) Unlike wasps who sting for the fun of it. Gardeners are a bees best friend, and here are some flowers that you can plant in your garden to give them a home and be safe. 

Thank you to Jessica Damiano for the original information, you can read more here.

 

How To Start A Rain Barrel

For every inch of rain that falls on 500 square feet of roof, you can collect upwards to 300 gallons of water in a rain barrel. Using a rain barrel can save you significant amounts of money in one season! In most areas of North America, this means you can collect over a thousand gallons of water each year to use in containers, houseplants, the garden or even the lawn! Before you start, check  you local regulations. Rain barrels are illegal in certain areas. Making a rain barrel is more simple than you probably think. Here is what you need to get started: 

  • 1 Large plastic garbage can (the larger the pail, the more water you can collect.)
  • 1 Tube of watertight sealant (or roll of Teflon tape used in plumbing.)
  • 2 Rubber washers
  • 2 Metal washers
  • 1 Hose clamp
  • 1 Spigot
  • A drill
  • Landscaping fabric
  1. Start off by using your drill to create a hole near the bottom of the garbage can. This is where you will end up installing the spigot. You want to use a drill bit that is a little smaller or the same size as your spigot. Keep in mind not to drill a hole that is too low, you want space underneath to fill up water cans, or buckets.
  2. Place a metal washer onto the threaded end of the spigot, then snugly fit a rubber washer over the threads to hold the metal washer in place. This will prevent any leakage that may occur.
  3. Apply a bead of the waterproof sealant over the rubber washer and insert the spigot into the drilled hole. Wait for the sealant to dry and then run another rubber washer followed by a metal washer onto the threads inside the barrel of the spigot. Secure the spigot in place inside the barrel with the hose clamp. This will keep the spigot from coming loose. If you want double protection, you can also run watertight Teflon tape to seal the spigot hole.
  4. Carefully cut a hole in the lid of the garbage can. This hole should sit under your home’s downspout so the water runs right into your new rain barrel. Make sure you cut the hole large enough to accommodate the water flow from the downspout. You also want to drill a hole or two near the very top of the rain barrel, this will allow for overflow. If you want, run a short length hose or pipe from the overflow hole to another rain barrel to connect them! 
  5. Cut a piece of landscaping fabric to sit over the top, and put the lid on top of the garbage can. This creates a barrier that prevents any bugs like mosquitos from getting into the water.
  6. Position the rain barrel directly underneath the downspout of your home, in a convent spot. Now just wait for the rain! You can even set your rain barrel up on a platform to help give more pressure if you connect it to a hose. This will also make fill-up easier.

Thank you to Better Homes and Gardens for the original information. You can read more here.

Cover Crops

By now, you have started to overwinter some of your favorite plants. With your garden bare, it is the time to plant cover crops. What are cover crops you ask? These are plants used to help protect and renew your soil. Cover crops can:

  • Suppress weeds
  • Protect soil from rain or runoff
  • Improve soil aggregate stability
  • Reduce surface crusting
  • Add active organic matter to the soil
  • Breaking hardpan
  • Fixing the nitrogen levels
  • Scavenging soil nitrogen
  • Suppressing soil diseases and pests

Most plants can be used as cover crops, the most popular being Legumes and grasses (including cereals.) More and more people are gaining interest in using brassicas (such as rape, mustard, and forage radish) and continued interest in others, such as buckwheat.

Thank you to Cornell Cooperative Extension  and SARE for the original information. You can read about Cornell more here, and SARE here.

What to plant in the Summer for the Fall!

While summer is coming to an end, it doesn’t mean your gardening has to. There are many plants that should be planted now to insure they grow for the winter and fall season. Also many of the plants thrive better when exposed to the cold fall weather and frost. Some that benefit from the frost include Brussel Sprouts, Chinese Cabbage, Kale and even Turnips. But what do I mean by frost you ask? Frost is generally a light coating of ice that occurs overnight and is split into three categories of intensity. Light freeze is anywhere between temperatures 28 and 31 degrees, Moderate freeze happens between 24 and 28 degrees, and Severe freeze which occurs below 24 degrees. All of the previous plants noted should be harvested before the first frost. On Long Island, our first frost typically happens around October 15th. Here is a list of plants that can be seeded now, for a harvest in the upcoming seasons.

  • Beets (sow one-half to 1-inch deep and 1-inch apart in rows 12-18 inches apart)
  • Cabbage (sow one-half to 3/4-inch deep and 3-inches apart. Harvest when heads first feel solid)
  • Kale (sow one-quarter to one-half inch deep and 1-inch apart in rows 24 inches apart. Harvest when leaves reach full size)
  • Lettuce (sow directly into the garden one-eighth inch deep and 1-inch apart in rows 12 inches apart. Head lettuces should be harvested when head feels firm but before it bolts)
  • Radishes (sow directly into the garden one-half inch deep and 1-inch apart in rows 12 inches apart. Harvest before the ground freezes)
  • Spinach (sow one-half to 1-inch deep and 3-inches apart. Harvest when full sized or a few leaves as necessary)
  • Swiss Chard (sow 1-inch deep and 4-inches apart in rows 18-24 inches apart. Harvest by removing the outer leaves as needed)
What to do in December

What to do in December

December is upon us, that means plants have become dormant and grass has stopped growing. But there is always garden work that can be done! Here are some tips of what to do in the month of December for your garden.

1. In  the beginning of the month, you should incorporate lime and compost into your vegetable beds. By adding nutrients to the soil now, by the time spring rolls around you will have a rich soil ideal for spring planting.

2. Within the second week of the month you should move your house plants together in one area inside your house. It is ideal to run a humidifier near your plants and keep them away from radiators and heating vents.

3. By the third week of the month you should cover strawberries with floating row covers, to prevent frost and cold air to build up on the fruit.

4. Once the fourth week of the month rolls around, you should begin to bring inside lilies (don’t worry they should bloom by Easter!)

5. For the last week of the month restock bird feeders and remember to provide clean water for birds because they need to find food in the winter as well.

Throughout the month of December, it is important to check your Christmas tree for watering daily (if you always have a live tree). Be sure to keep it at least three feet away from radiators or any heat source and to always turn off the lights before going to sleep. According to the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) fire departments respond to an average of 210 structure fires caused by Christmas trees. When decorating the tree, make sure there is no broken, worn, or loose bulbs on a string of lights. After the holiday season is over, get rid of your tree when it begins to drop needles. Dried-out trees are just as much of a fire hazard than you think. Never keep it in a garage or placed outside against the home. For more information on Christmas tree safety, you can visit our page here.

What to do in November

November is here, which means changing colors, raking, and Thanksgiving. But before turkey time comes around, here are some chores that should be done in preparation for the coming winter months.

1. For December blooms, place Christmas cactus in the dark at 55-60 degrees for 14 hours each night, and in bright light for 10 hours daily.

2. Deadhead flowering houseplants and trim brown foliage.

3. Harvest Brussels sprouts.

4. Continue to plant bulbs as long as the ground isn’t frozen.

5. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

6. Resist the urge to apply new mulch; it’s still too early. The ground must be frozen.

Don’t forget that it is illegal to apply fertilizer from November 1st to April 1st in Suffolk County, and from November 15th to April 1st in Nassau County. As the ground starts to freeze, it becomes harder for water to absorb into the soil. When it rains, the excess nitrogen from the fertilizer runs off and gets in to the public drinking water supply, endangering the public health.

What to do in October

It is October, time for the cold weather, last minute garden cleanup, and celebrating Halloween.

1.Time to do final lawn repairs and seeding before it’s officially too late. For next June’s harvest, plant unpeeled organic garlic cloves pointy end up in the garden. For holiday blooms start those paperwhites now! Place the bulbs pointy end up in a shallow container of gravel. Add water to reach bulb bottoms.

2. Time to plant rhubarb (it is perennial). Also prepare a bed for peas and spinach so you can sow seeds in the early spring. When the vines die back, you can even harvest winter squash!

3. Cover your ponds with netting, to keep out pesky falling leaves. Also clear out vegetable beds, till soil and incorporate compost, manure and lime into the soil as well. Apply potassium around the base of roses to increase resistance against winter, but DO NOT apply nitrogen. Cut back long whips to protect from wind damage.

4. Now is the time to start smothering the grass, so you can prepare new beds. Get cardboard or thick layers of newspaper to cover the ground and mulch over to keep in place. Cut down bee balm, blanket flower, bearded iris, columbines and day lilies also.

5. Time to clean those terra cotta pots and store them inside (if left outdoors in the winter, they will surely crack). Do not panick if the inner needles on evergreens turn brown. It is normal for the older needles to do that before shedding. Also buy some candy at the grocery store, and hand it out to little superheros and princesses on Halloween!

Thank you Jessica Damiano for the original information. You can read more here. 

What to do in September

It’s September, school is starting back up again and fall weather is coming quickly. Here are some helpful tips to keep you on schedule for the month of September in your garden.

1. Now is the time to reseed and/or renovate the lawn. Also now is the time to celebrate Labor Day! Sow your lettuce, cabbage, arugula, collards, kale, radishes, spinach, kohlrabi, Asian greens, mustard greens, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussel sprouts for the fall harvest. You can also plant ferns in shady garden beds and borders.

2.Test your soil and add lime if needed to correct the pH, it will work on the soil all winter long. If your tomato plants are still producing blossoms, remove them. We want the plant to focus solely on ripening the existing fruit. Do not prune your spring-flowering shrubs now or they will not bloom next year.

3. Time to harvest grapes! You can also stop deadheading roses, so the hips will form. You can either make tea with them (only if they are chemical free) or leave them on as an accent to the plant. You can also plant witch hazel, red-twig dogwood, deciduous holly and beauty berry for winter interest. Bring in those tender pond plants and keep them moist by a sunny window.

4. It is the official beginning of fall! You can use last summers crops that are left to make soup (go crazy!) Pot up those rosemary, chive and parsley plants from the garden and bring ’em indoors near a sunny window.

5. Rake your soil well and get rid of fallen leaves and plant debris. We don’t want disease to overwinter in the soil, where it will attack again next year. Wait until your pumpkins are a rich orange color before harvesting. Leave several inches of stem attached to prevent premature rotting.

Thank you Jessica Damiano for the original information. You can read more here.

Helpful Hint:

  • Crickets coming into the house? Just vacuum them up and discard the bag.

What to do in August

It’s August already! Almost time for kids to go back to school, have a last away summer vacation and enjoy the last bit of summer heat. Here are some helpful tips to keep you on your garden schedule for the month of August!

1. No matter how tempting it may be to let your zucchinis grow to a larger size, they are more tender and taste better if you pick them while they are small. It is officially safe to relocate evergreens now through October, just make sure you dig up as much of the roots as you can.

2. If your cabbage heads begin to split, bring them inside immediately or they will surely become inedible. You should also be monitoring the moisture levels of potted plants daily, because they lose moisture more quickly than garden plants. You should also clean up the fallen fruit around the bases of trees to prevent pest infestations.

3. When beets get 2 inches wide, it is time to harvest them. You can also saute and eat the leaves too (this is not true for all vegetables though; tomato foliage is toxic– stay away from those). You can also transplant spring-flowering bulbs that need to be relocated. It is now the time to take cuttings from inpatients, geraniums and wax begonias, and root them indoors for a new generation of free plants next year.

4. You can collect seeds from daylilies, Cleomes, rose campions and other plants that produce pods. Store in a paper envelope in the fridge, away from fruit until spring. You can also replace faded annuals with pansies. They’ll bloom through fall and again for next spring!

5. It is now the time to move your potted tropicals and houseplants into a shady spot for a couple of days before bringing them indoors until next spring. Dig up and divide daylilies as well after they have stopped blooming.

Thank you Jessica Damiano for the original information. You can read more here. 

What to do in July

Happy July! With an unpredictable month ahead of us, it is time to get down to buisness in the garden. Here are some helpful tips to help you stay on your garden schedule for the month of July!

1. To make sure your potato and tomato plants are protected against late blight, spray with a fungicide containing chlorothalonil (copper if you are growing organic) and reapply weekly. For top notch grass, set mower blades to 3 inches and keep them sharpened to lessen the chance of lawn disease. It is also time to celebrate the Fourth of July! Go America!

2. If you have a pond, add bunches of eelgrass per square foot of the surface water to keep algae under control. It is a good idea to set automatic sprinklers manually to make sure that your lawn gets 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water per week (adjusting for rainfall), Soak deeply in the early morning. When the skins of melons turn yellow, and stems loosen the hold onto the fruit–pick them!

3. Most vegetables planted in the garden need once inch of water per week, while their potted friends dry out much quicker (so check them daily). When the zucchini fruit reaches 5-6 inches long pick it, or the plant will stop producing. For a fall crop it is now the time to sow seeds of lettuce, radish, spinach cabbage, broccoli and cabbage directly into the garden.

4.   Hooray! You can still plant shrubs and trees! Container grown are usually the best (although expensive). If you buy balled or burlapped make sure that the roots are fresh. To prevent powdery mildew , space plants to allow air circulation and avoid wetting leaves, water early in the day. Now is the time to also plant peas again for the fall harvest.

5. Make sure that your tress you newly planted get 1 1/2 inches of water per week, and also water established trees if two weeks have passed without rain. To lure slugs from your garden, place a wooden board inside the garden and overturn it in the morning scraping them off into a pail filled with soapy water.

Thank you Jessica Damiano for the original information. You can read more here.

Helpful Tips:

  • Cut flowers will stay fresher longer if you pick them in the morning, but if you’re going to dry them, pick them late in the day.
  • Living on Long Island it is good to know that if you’re near the beach, spray tree leaves with antidessicant to protect against salt and wind damage.
  • Smokers aware! Cigarettes can transmit tobacco mosaic virus to your plants. Don’t smoke in the garden, and wash hands after smoking before handling plants!

What to do in June

It’s June, a month full of graduations, proms, the start of summer vacation, and father’s day. June is also a busy month for the garden. Here are some helpful tips, that you can follow for your garden!

1. In the first week, snake hoses through perennial and vegetable gardens to have a direct water source for the roots. You should also spray plants  susceptible to mildew with one tablespoon of baking soda and ultrafine horticultural oil diluted in a gallon of water.

2. Time to remove wilted yellow leaves from bearded iris plants to help prevent iris borer infestations, and also stay on top of weeds. It is much easier to pull them after rainfall.

3. To increase tomato production, remove suckers, the small stems that grow in the crotch between the main branch and stems. Don’t forget to harvest lettuce before it bolts and turns bitter!

4. You should keep an eye out for Japanese beetles, pick them off in the morning or late evening when they are at their slowest. Drop them into soapy water. Also pinch back vining houseplants. Harvest your herbs in the morning, just after the dew has dried for the best flavor.

Helpful tip: Throughout the month you should keep an eye on mowing the lawn.

Thank you Jessica Damiano for the original information. You can read more here.

What to do in May

May is here! Time for Memorial Day parties, the start of summer, Mother’s Day and more gardening! Here are some tips to help you keep on your garden schedule for the month.

1. Within the first week of May, apply mulch to your beds and borders. Also give cool-season vegetables like lettuce, spinach, and cabbage a helping of fertilizer and also mulch (if you haven’t already).

2. It’s the second week of May, time to sow the summer-blooming biennials and perennials into the garden. It is also time to plant sweet corn! You may also want to prune the gray tips from the branches of juniper.

3. In the third week of May, mound soil over the lowest leaves of your potato plants when they reach 8 inches tall (They will produce mire when their stems are buried). You also want to transplant your herb seedlings outside. However there is no need to fertilize.

4. The fourth week of May is upon us, time to fertilize those tulip bulbs, and remove the yellow foliage. Celebrate Memorial Day with your family and friends! Plant seedlings of cucumber and squash around a support, now you can also sow seeds directly into the ground!

5. In the last week of May, place peppers, melons, eggplant and tomatoes into prepared beds. Add compost to planting holes, then mulch. You can also prune spring-flowering shrubs immediately after they have finished blooming.

For an easier way to pull your weeds, wait until after it rains or saturate the area first– the weeds will come right out of a wet ground.

Thank you Jessica Damiano for the original information. You can read more here.

 

April 2014

What to do in April

It’s officially Spring! Its April– warm weather, gardening, and happy days are upon us. It’s been a while since last spring but here are a few tips that will get you back into the ‘Spring Grind’.

1. In the first week, pinch off the tips of leggy seedlings that are growing inside to make them grow stockier.

2. The second week of April means you can finally plant blackberries, strawberries and raspberries! You can also plant your potato and sweet potatoes.

3. Deadhead rhododendrons immediately after flowering, and prune azaleas after they bloom. Unfortunately it is also tax day on the 15th, but it is also the last day for frost! Rejoice!

4. If you haven’t already, pull out those weeds before they overtake your garden! Celebrate Earth Day! Scratch one half cup of Epsom salt into the soil around the roses to boost flower production, and fullness.

5. Resist the temptation to remove foliage from spring bulb plants before it turns brown. The bulbs are busy storing food that will be needed to bloom next year. And finally start mowing the lawn when the grass is 3 inches tall, but don’t fertilize until Memorial Day!

Thank you Jessica Damiano for the information. You can read more here.

What to do in March

It’s March already, and many things are upon us. Daylight Savings, St. Patrick’s Day, and yes–more gardening chores. Here are some helpful hints of what should be done in your garden.

1. Time to start cutting back on the ornamental grasses and remnant’s of last year’s perennials. Houseplants should also being replanted into pots that are 1 to 2 inches larger, you can even give them a little bit of organic fertilizer like seaweed!

2. By the second week of the month, it is necessary to start the seeds of annuals indoors. You can also plant cool-season crops like lettuce and spinach outdoors.

3. It’s the third week of March, Happy St. Patrick’s Day! To celebrate you can buy a potted Oxalis regnellii Shamrock Plant. Or you can sow broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower indoors. In the vegetable garden, if the soil isn’t too moist you can incorporate lime and compost into the soil, then cover with plastic mulch to warm the soil.

4. Now is the time to remove broken stems from lilacs and rhododendrons, but DO NOT prune intact ones with buds on them. You can also start the seeds of peppers, tomatoes and eggplants indoors.

5. In the last few days of March, you should rake your beds and clear out any debris. No matter how well you did this in autumn, there is likely more to do now.

Keep in mind, that Daylight Saving’s begins March 8th, and it is illegal in Suffolk and Nassau County to fertilize your lawn before April 1st. Also, Spring officially begins at 6:45 PM on March 20th, rejoice for the warm weather!

What to do in February

February has rolled around again, time for Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, and President’s Day. But also an important time to perform certain task’s in your garden. Here is a list of helpful tips to follow.

1. In the first week of the month, you should check on stored tubers and bulbs, mist those that re drying out and get rid of the rotten ones. Lavender should also be started along with thyme indoors on a sunny windowsill. It may not seem like it but the compost pile should be turned, it is still cooking out there!

2. In the second week you should prune summer blooming trees and shrubs to tame size and shape. Also remove dead branches and those that crisscross. Orchids should be replanted that are outgrowing their pots.

3. It’s the third week, if you haven’t properly cleaned seed-starting supplies yet, wash the one part bleach to 10 parts water and rinse well. Bring an early spring indoors by force-blooming flowering shrubs like crab-apple, forsythia and quince. Cut branches and place into vases of water indoors.

4. The last week of February is just as important as the beginning of the month. Start pruning deciduous trees (those that lose leaves in the fall) except “bleeders” like maple, beech, dogwood, elm, and sycamore. Wait until those leaf out. When house plants begin to show signs of active growth, give them a boost with a shot of water-soluble fertilizer. Finally, you should start celery, leeks, onions, beets, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower indoors; it is way too early for anything else.

Just a helpful hint about roses. If you are planning on buying them for Valentine’s Day, remember the colors! Red signifies  romance, Pink means affection, Yellow is for friendship, and White is for purity.

 

What to do in January

What to do in January

With January, comes the new year, new weather and new things to do in your garden.

1. In the first week of January, wrap recently planted evergreens with burlap to avoid wind and snow damage. Also, don’t forget to rotate houseplants and keep away from heat sources!

2. Once you take down your Christmas tree, don’t throw it all away! Trim branches and use as mulch over your precious garden beds! But don’t forget, avoid walking on frozen turf outside or you will shatter grass blades causing noticeable damage in the spring.

3. Once the temperature is above 40 degrees, spray your broad leaf evergreens with an anti-desiccant to protect from the harsh winter damage.

4. By the fourth week of January you should start parsley, onions, and leeks indoors in a dark location. Once they begin to sprout, move them into a bright spot! Also begin to prune dormant fruit trees but make sure to complete the task before the end of March.

5. In the last week of January, there is a bit of maintenance that should be done. Firstly, you should cut branches of forsythia, dogwood, honeysuckle, lilac, quince, and redbud, and place them in vases to force early blooming indoors. Secondly, you should begin the slow grow of annuals like ageratum, nicotiana, snapdragons, and verbena indoors. Thirdly, African violets and other flowering houseplants should be deadheaded. And last but not least, hold a steaming pot of water over frozen ponds to melt an opening in the surface that will release trapped gases that can poison fish (also those fish need to get some air too!)

Just a tip, avoid using salt to melt snow, its toxic to most plants. Instead you should try using sawdust, sand, cat litter, or even good old fashioned elbow grease!