June – how does your garden grow? – guest blogger Billerica Garden Club


Flowers smiling back at me

As I look around outside at my garden bed I can see all sorts of flowers smiling back at me and there are even some that I didn’t expect that are growing!  Of course, I always have room for more flowers even if I have to make a new flower bed.  Lately, I’ve been looking at those pre made flower beds and they are really nice and very easy to put together.

The birds are quite happy and abundant in my garden just lately I saw a Hummingbird happily going in and out of my Rhododendron what a sight! I just love this time of year and it usually takes me at least a month of planting before my flower garden is just right.  Have any of you thought about planting herbs in pots?  I’m going to do a few herbs this year and that way I can use them when I cook.  There are quite a few varieties out there to choose from.


Decide first whether you want to use organic or synthetic (chemical) fertilizers. Organic fertilizers are earth-friendly and pose little danger of burning a plant’s roots; they also tend to improve the soil’s texture. Synthetic fertilizers are usually less expensive than organic fertilizers, but they also are easier to misuse and do nothing to improve soil texture.

Check out the nutrient content of the fertilizer, listed on the package. Many synthetic fertilizers have various balances of nutrients for a specific purpose, such as feeding roses or for root development. Organic fertilizers also have varying ratios of nutrients. When in doubt, use an all-purpose or general fertilizer.

Apply a liquid fertilizer to most annual flowers every two to four weeks and to most perennials or small shrubs – including roses – every four weeks. Follow package directions exactly.

Apply organic fertilizers according to package directions.

Apply a slow-release granular fertilizer as an alternative. Apply once or twice a growing season, following package directions exactly.

Fertilize with compost two different ways: One way is to spread 1 to 2 inches thick on the top of the soil so that nutrients trickle down to the roots. The other way is to put it at the bottom of large planting holes or to work it into a planting area when adding new plants to your garden.
Plant some more flowers


Brunnera macrophylla or “Jack Frost” is the 2012 perennial plant of the year and is a wonderful addition to any shade garden. Its heart-shaped silver leaves that are delicately veined with mint green stand out while sprays of bright blue Forget-me-not flowers appear in mid to late spring.  Whether it be sun or shade areas of your yard there is a flower that will fit that spot.  I always add a Perennial or two to my garden but in-between I plant Annuals that way my garden is a work in progress and is like an artist’s canvas when I am done.  Don’t forget to take some pictures of your garden and log it in a book so that next year you can see what looks good and what doesn’t.

A City Garden

If you don’t have a lot of room a container garden is a good choice I always plant a few container gardens in my yard to give it a little depth and dimension.  You can do vegetables or flowers in container gardens. 

Even the smallest patio or porch can boast a crop of vegetables or a garden of flowers in containers. Planter boxes, wooden barrels, hanging baskets and large flowerpots are just some of the containers that can be used. The container gardener is limited only by his imagination. Consider the following guidelines when choosing your container.

  • Avoid      containers with narrow openings.
  • Cheap      plastic pots may deteriorate in UV sunlight and terracotta pots dry out      rapidly. Glazed ceramic pots are excellent choices but require several      drainage holes.
  • Wooden      containers are susceptible to rot. Redwood and cedar are relatively rot      resistant and can be used without staining or painting. Avoid wood treated      with creosote, penta or other toxic compounds since the vapors can damage      the plants. One advantage of wooden containers is that they can be built      to sizes and shapes that suit the location.
  • Use      containers between 15 and 120 quarts capacity. Small pots restrict the      root area and dry out very quickly. The size and number of plants to be      grown will determine the size of the container used. Deep rooted      vegetables require deep pots.
  • Make      sure your pot has adequate drainage. Holes should be 1/2 inch across. Line      the base of the pot with newspaper to prevent soil loss you can even use      pine cones to line the bottom of the pot.
  • In      hot climates use light-colored containers to lessen heat absorption and      discourage uneven root growth.
  • Set      containers on bricks or blocks to allow free drainage.
  • Line      hanging baskets with sphagnum moss for water retention. Keep baskets away      from afternoon sun.
  • If      you choose clay pots, remember that clay is porous and water is lost from      the sides of the container. Plants in clay pots should be monitored      closely for loss of moisture.

Growing Mixture

Make sure your planting medium drains rapidly but retains enough moisture to keep the roots evenly moist. Your compost will make an excellent potting soil. Check the requirements of the plants you grow to determine whether you will need to add sand. If compost is not available, purchase a good quality potting mixture or make your own from equal parts of sand, loamy garden soil, and peat moss. Commercial potting mixes are usually slightly acidic, so you may want to add a little lime.

Most container gardeners have found that a “soilless” potting mix works best. In addition to draining quickly, “soilless” mixes are lightweight and free from soil- borne diseases and weed seeds. These mixes can be purchased from garden centers.

When you add your soil to your container, leave a 2 inch space between the top of the soil and the top of the container. You will be able to add 1/2 inch or so of mulch later.

There is more information on this at http://www.gardenguides.com/685-guide-container-gardening.html


It seems as if this is the year when everything happens early, including the need to spell relief with water for much of the landscape. Here’s some basic watering information-

All plants are best watered early in the day with the rising sun for several reasons. One of the best reasons is that watering early in the day allows any foliage that become wet to dry before nightfall, thereby reducing the potential for many diseases.

Except for lawns, which are watered with overhead sprinklers, most other plants are best watered by concentrating the water near the base of the plant rather that watering “over the top”.

A good method to conserve water and concentrate the needed relief in the root area of the plants is to use a soaker hose.  A drip irrigation system also works well for plants in containers and in the landscape.

Plants in containers require frequent attention and need to be watered more often that those planted in the ground. The frequency and amount of water needed will depend on many variables, including the media, the type of container, exposure to the sun and the type of plant itself.  A thorough watering should given when the soil begins to dry, but not before. Care must be taken to avoid overwatering practices that keep the root system continuously wet and soggy.  Add water-retaining granules or water crystals to keep your plants well watered so they never get over watered or dry.  I have used water-retaining granules before and they work great.

Vegetables, bedding plants and perennials are usually small when planted and initially have a rather shallow root system and will need to be watered with a greater frequency than others that are planted in the ground. Encourage an expanding root system by watering well but less frequently as the plants become established.



I’m sure I’ve pulled out some flowers over the years that I thought was weeds and wondered why my flowers didn’t come up so I can’t stress enough on labeling your plants that you put in the ground.  If you plant enough flowers to cover your soil you won’t have to weed too much but even if you do have to weed hopefully it will only take you a short time to do it.  Weeding is essential to a beautiful garden.


Any plant that grows where you don’t want it can be considered a weed. Besides taking up valuable space in your garden, weeds compete with other plants for nutrients, water and light. If you have trouble moving around the garden, bending or pulling, you will still have to deal with the problem of weeds.

  • Pull      up weeds before they go to seed and self-spread around the garden.
  • Try      to get the whole weed including the root
  • Younger      weeds are easier to pull because they haven’t established a strong root      system
  • Wet      the ground with a drip irrigation hose before weeding and your job will be      easier – Better still, weed after it has rained
  • For      tap roots like dandelions pull straight up with a little pressure on      either side of the stem using a tool with small V-shaped end. If you have      a lot of dandelions look for a long handled tool that will help safe your      back
  • For      weeds growing between cracks in pavement, decks, etc., try pouring boiling      water over them to kill them. If this doesn’t get them all use a weeding      blade, a thin blade with 90 degree bend and sharp edge for cutting between      stones, bricks, etc. These are also available with long handles if you      have a lot of paving stones to clean out
  • Mulch      between plants to help prevent weeds from establishing.
  • Try      to relax about the weeds. A few weeds won’t destroy your garden. If you      overplant with hanging bushy perennials, weeds will not be as apparent.      It’s amazing what you can live with if you don’t know it’s there.

Sometimes plants just don’t make it


Everybody and believe me everybody at some point in time kills their plants even the experts kill them so don’t feel bad about a plant dying.  If the plant dies then remove it and replenish the soil add water and fertilizer and put a new plant in its place.  Always check that the soil to see if it is a good aerated soil and that it lets your plants breathe.  Also, look at where you have planted your plants in your yard maybe the plant needs to be moved to another spot.  I have a Hydrangea plant that was not doing well and didn’t bloom I moved it to the back of my yard which was a less sunny spot and it started to bloom.  If your plant looks diseases it might be better to just remove the plant entirely than to have the disease spread to your other plants.


Why do we garden?


I have been known to spend a few hours in the garden after supper and it never fails that I keep finding things to do in the garden sometimes even just sitting in a chair and watching my garden is so relaxing.  Why do I spend so much time and effort on the garden?

I can think of a few reasons. There is a sense of contentment and tranquility that comes from observing either a single flower – or patchworks of color and texture that seem just right. The same feeling comes from watching a hummingbird climb in and out of a flower, or a monarch butterfly nectaring on a flower, or goldfinches feeding on flowers.

In my view a garden can be a comforting, relaxing place to go where the world seems at peace with itself and there is no yelling no negativity just serenity.  It is a relief to leave that world behind and literally get my hands in the soil. Of course, in addition to touching things that are real, the senses of sight and smell are also gratifying.

Finally, gardening helps me be more connected to my human community. I’ve gotten to know some of my neighbors (especially the dog walkers and those with small children) while gardening in the front yard. Without gardening, I’m sure that community connection would be greatly diminished. I even had neighbors comment on how beautiful the flowers look in my yard which brings a great big smile to my face.  Flowers to me are like my children I pamper them guide them and watch them grow!

June is National Perennial Month


The season is still young and there are still a lot of Perennials that you can plant in the ground.  As gardeners we can always find a spot for a plant even if there are no more spots in our yard. If you would like to change your plants in your yard so that you can add different Perennials then contact your local Garden Club they would be happy to remove your plants for you and find a home for them.


I’m off the pick up some more annuals to plant in my yard I just find another spot to plant them!

Happy Gardening!

Billerica Garden Club http://www.ilovebillerica.com/GardenClub.html

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