How to Dry Flowers

Dried Flowers are beautiful to look at and can be used for many crafts and decorations. Many people buy their flowers already dried from the flower shop, but here is an easy way to dry your own flowers at home (saving you money.) If you want your flowers to retain their color, you should cut them when their color is at peak; this is usually in the morning. A classic way to dry your flowers is to let them sit in a vase with no water then let nature and the environment take its toll. Some people like to hang their flowers upside down to keep the strength of the stems (but this is unnecessary.) The one downfall to air drying your flowers is their color will fade from its original beauty. 

One trick to use, so your flowers retain their color- is silica gel. You may say “Silica gel? You mean the stuff you find in new coat pockets?” Yes! Those small crystal packets absorb moisture, which is great when drying flowers. Silica gel can be found at local craft stores in large quantities. How do you use it? In a plastic food-storage container, lay down about an inch or two of the silica pearls. Depending on how large your flowers are, depends what crystal size you need to buy. Place your flowers upside down on top of the crystal bed- making sure not to crowd them. Crowding your flowers can cause distortion in their original shape. You many need to use multiple containers, with one bloom in each. Cut the stem down to 2 inches or so, then scoop some more crystals over the underside of the petals. Continue to fill the container with silica gel until either the container reaches half full or your flowers are completely covered. Snap on the lid and leave undisturbed for four days. 

After your flowers have dried, carefully pour out your silica gel and remove your flowers. You can now use your dried blooms for decorations or crafts!

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

How To Care for Poinsettia Plants

Every December, poinsettia plants (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are given or received as gifts. These beautiful red plants have become a sign of the holidays, but usually are thrown out as soon as the holidays are over. They are specifically grown for the holidays (those bright red leaves just scream Christmas,) but what if you could keep them growing all the way into the summer season? 

Lets start at the beginning. When poinsettia plants are first purchased they should be in prime condition; dark green foliage, be well shaped and have bracts free from defects. The soil should be kept moist at all times, but not excessively wet. When the soil begins to feel dry, apply enough water so it dampens the surface but also runs through the drainage hole. In between waterings do not let the leaves begin to wilt. Poinsettia plants should also be kept away from cold drafts and excessive heat- this can also cause the foliage and bracts to rapidly wilt.

Thank you to CCE for the original information. You can read more here.

Free Admission to State Parks on Black Friday

This year, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced free admission to all New York State parks this Black Friday (November 24th.) He wants to encourage New Yorkers and their families to take advantage of the 335,000 plus acres of state-owned land. During Thanksgiving weekend, State parks offer many different events and programs that are great for all ages. To see a full list of state park programs happening on Black Friday and the holiday weekend, click here. “On Black Friday this year I urge New Yorkers to get outside and to take advantage of the world-class parks in every corner of this state, By offering free admission, we encourage families, nature-lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike to enjoy the unparalleled natural beauty right in their backyards.”

Best Hiking Trails on Long Island

Summer is nearly here, which means getting out of the house and having some fun with friends and family in the sun. Want something to do other then go to a beach? How about hiking! It’s something fun that any age can do! Here are the best hiking trails on Long Island (that are family friendly): 

Connetquot River State Park Preserve
4090 Sunrise Hwy., Oakdale (Open Wednesdays – Sundays)
Price: $8 Parking Fee

Sunken Forest National Park
Sayville Terminal, 41 River Rd. (Ferry ride to Sailors Haven, next to park)
Free Guided Tours are available Wednesdays through Sundays
Price: $13 adult ferry fee, $7.50 children younger then 11

Quogue Wildlife Refuge
3 Old Country Rd., East Quogue (Open Sunrise to Sunset Daily)
Stroller friendly
Price: Free

Sagamore Hill
20 Sagamore Hill Rd., Cove Neck (Open Sunrise to Sunset Daily)
Price: Trails are free, Museum $10 for ages 15+

Southhampton Trails
377 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Tpke., Bridgehampton
Price: Trails are free, Guided tours available, Museum $7 ages 12+, $5 ages 3-12

Blydenburgh County Park 
Northern Entrance is located at the end of New Mill Road, Hauppauge (Open Dawn to Dusk Daily)
Price: No Parking Fee on Northern Entrance 

Tackapausha Preserve 
2225 Washington Ave., Seaford (Open Sunrise to Sunset Daily) 
Price: Trails are free, Museum $3 for ages 13+, $2 for ages 5-12 and seniors, free for 4 and younger

Planting Field Arboretum State Historic Park
1395 Planting Fields Rd., Oyster Bay (9AM-5PM Daily)
Price: $8 per carload

Richard D. Fowler Preserve
Wickapogue Rd., (East of Narrow Lane) Southhampton
Price: Free 

Downs Farm Preserve 
Route 25, Cutchogue (Open Dawn to Dusk Daily)
Stroller Friendly
Price: Free


Thank you to Newsday for the original information, You can read more here.

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.