Archive for the ‘Billerica Garden Clulb’ Category

Weeds, Weeds – Everywhere! – guest blogger Annette Presseau, Billerica Garden Club

In real estate we talk about first impressions all the time.  Many people when they first arrive at a house will walk around the yard – front and back – how better way to give a great first impression than have a nicely kept garden – this information is important…….Joan Parcewski, Woods Real Estate

Where did all those weeds come from?!


Weeds in the Garden.   Here in New England for June we had plenty of hot, humid weather and for July we had plenty of rain so weeds have sprouted up in the gardens.  Weeds steal moisture, nutrients and light from all your plants.  Here’s a tip: it’s much easier to pull out weeds  like dandelions, when the soil is deeply moistened so if you have had a lot of rain this past July then now’s the time to go out and pull all those weeds.  The roots will slide right out of the soil with a tug and most weeds are annuals which mean that they will pull up easily. When I look at my garden I see plenty of weeds to pull up but it’s not so much of a chore when they pull up easily.  While you’re weeding, observe what’s done well (or not); note what spots need reworking. Identify where weeds sow in madly—like the driveway, gravel surfaces, or cracks between pavers—places that probably require hours of finger-numbing work or are being left unweeded. If so decide what needs to be done to keep weeds from coming back.

GARDENS NEED AN INCH OF WATER weekly from you or the heavens. Check your rain gauge and soak beds deeply in the root zone; don’t spritz with a sprayer like you’re washing the car.  Containers, especially smallish ones in sun, need daily attention, but don’t waste precious resources on the lawn, which will bounce back when cooler, moister days return.

Garden Tours.  There are a lot of garden tours around in the month of August so start planning which garden you want to visit.  There are some great ideas out there that you can plan to work on your own garden for next year and if you are lucky the garden tour person might just give you a cutting for your own garden!

Purchasing Plants.  Believe it or not now is a great time to purchase the Perennials that you would love to add to your garden because they will start to go on sale soon so check out your local nurseries for some great deals!  The next time you are at your local nursery check out two new varieties from Proven Winners below.

Proven Winners has introduced two new varieties of Arrowwood Viburnums that only grow to 5X5, called “All That Glitters” and “All That Glows.” The reason for two different varieties is so they can cross pollinate and produce loads of the gorgeous blue berries that are so popular with birds. This is a great way to attract birds to your yard if you have a small space and this also would make an ecologically sound foundation planting.  And they are deer resistant.  I love anything deer resistant!  (I have deer in my yard.)

Shade Garden.   If you want season long garden color in part shade, look for plants with beautiful foliage that will hold its hues. Heucheras do that plus they do it in part shade and, unlike coleus, they are perennial and have flowers. What a plant!  New this year are Heuchera ‘Delta Dawn,’ which has round leaves with red centers and gorgeous gold and lime highlights. and “Paprika,’ with warm cherry coral foliage, ‘Blondie,’ a blooming machine with 8 inch creamy flower spikes rising from colorful foliage, and Huecherella ‘Sunrise Falls,’ a trailing foam flower especially for containers.

Vegetable Plants.  I decided this year that I would grow a Tomato Plant in a pot on my deck instead of trying to plant a vegetable garden and believe it or not my tomato plant is sprouting tomatoes!  I was shocked to say the least but I will have some tomatoes this year!  Yummm.  As you might have guessed I do very little vegetable gardening I do more flower gardening but thought it would be good to experiment this year.  There is nothing better than picking your own vegetables!

Does everything ripen at the same time?   It’s amazing how quickly the plants can grow and ripen all at the same time then it is what do I do with all these vegetables?  Most people can their vegetables and it’s not too difficult to do actually it is pretty simple it just takes time and patience and the bounty is great in the wintertime when snow is on the ground!  Check out this website for more information:

Hydrangeas, Phloxes and Sedums.  The hydrangeas are all in bloom as well at this time of year and what a color show that they are.  There are blues, whites, reds, purples, pinks and the flowers are so huge and vibrant that one just can’t help but notice them and they are great for flower vases and even to dry them to use as a dried flower in an arrangement.  The other plant that is blooming now is the Phlox plant and the flowers are absolutely gorgeous.  Sedums are also getting ready to bloom and it is such a unique plant to watch to maturity.

Daylillies can be dug and divided as they complete their bloom cycle, right into fall, if needed.

Peonies are best divided and transplanted in late August through September, if they need it. Their “eyes” must not be buried more than an inch or two beneath the soil surface.

Roses.  Roses in the garden are always a joy to see.  In my opinion there is nothing like roses in the garden.  Something like the Double Knock Out Roses plant will bloom all summer long and bring continuous color to the garden even in August.

Digital Pictures.  Now is a great time to go out into your garden and take some pictures so that you can plan what you want to do for next year.  I often look at my garden pictures in the wintertime when it is dull and dreary and it always cheers me up.

Dried and Pressed Flowers.  Now would be a great time to pick some flowers and dry them or press them.  Pick flowers in the morning after dew has evaporated. Harvest them when they are ready to open their buds or just before they peak.  To dry the flowers just wrap a bunch together turn them upside down then hang them in a cool, dry place.  To press flowers just put some in-between some books and let them dry naturally.

Trees & Shrubs.  NO MORE FERTILIZER!  Promoting soft growth isn’t good after July, when it’s time for woody plants to start moving toward the hardening-off phase of their cycle. No more feeding until late winter or earliest spring.

TREES ARE ESPECIALLY vulnerable to drought, particularly the oldest and the youngest (those planted in the last few years). Water deeply.

ALWAYS BE on the lookout for dead, damaged, diseased wood and prune them when they are discovered.

Well, it’s time to get out in my garden and pull all those weeds and do some targeted trimming, mulching and edging—and lots of deadheading, of course.  When it comes to August we can’t start over and redo our plantings but we can do a gradual clean up and take it one step at a time and one section at a time.  Besides the visual relief, editing out the worst bits reduces hiding places for pests and disease, it’s very much worth it.

Happy gardening everyone!

It’s Finally Time to Think Spring – guest blogger Annette Presseau

Spring Fever – Smell that Fresh Air!


Yard clean up time.  This is the time of year that I take a overview of my whole garden and see what needs to be cleaned up.  It’s surprising how much stuff gets into garden beds over the winter months even though they were cleaned up before the winter.  Now is a great time to get out in the yard and start clearing out whatever has accumulated.  Be careful not to pull out your plants that are starting to show up and surprisingly some things won’t be where you left them last fall and you might even see some new things sprouting up!  Once the beds are cleared up that add some all natural fertilizer and a layer of compost but wait to apply mulch until the soil warms up.  Prepare new beds by smothering grass or weeds with layers of recycled corrugated cardboard or thick layers of newspaper then put mulch on top.

My flower garden

Cool season annuals like pansies and violas can be potted up for spring color. I like to put a pot on my front steps which adds quite a bit of color during these spring days and is very pleasant to see as you approach my house.  As for your bulbs when the green shoots start to show up you need to feed them with an organic fertilizer.

Prune roses just as buds begin to push, removing dead, damaged and diseased canes and open up the plants to allow light and air and feed. You can plant new roses, especially those that have come bare-root.

Clematis pruning confuses many gardeners, but it’s not as complicated as you think so don’t worry it’s very hard to kill one by pruning it or neglecting it. That said, they will all benefit from regular care, and pruning should be a part of it.  Need more information than check out this website on how to prune:

I just love Hydrangeas they are just so colorful and look great as cut flowers.  The way to prune your Hydrangea plant is to cut back hard once you see the very first signs of life.

I love the smell of lilacs in the Spring so for Lilacs wait until after they bloom to prune them.  It’s too bad that the smell doesn’t last longer!

Straw Bale GardeningI know that you are saying “what?” Yes you can create a raised garden bed using straw bales.  It is a great option for gardeners who have poor soil or not a lot of room for a garden.  Straw Bales hold water, don’t need to be weeded and as the bales decompose they provide nutrients to the plants inside.  Check out this blog on straw bale gardening:  I would love to try this in my back yard this year maybe the wild turkeys will leave alone my flowers!

Landscape DesignAre you looking at your yard and thinking about changing it all up or just want to be more energy efficient?  Here in New England we always look for ways to be energy efficient because of our climate.  I found this book recently called Energy-Wise Landscape Design; A New Approach for your Home and Garden by Sue Reed.  Sue Reed in her book talks about how the surrounding landscaping can directly influence the energy efficiency around the home.  The book is an easy read and worthwhile to read.

Blub Planting.  Did you know that this is the perfect time of year to plant certain types of bulbs like dahlias, lilies and gladiolas?  Well, these flowering bulbs actually do well during this month, so make sure that you mix a few organic ingredients or some compost into the soil where these are planted (combine bulb fertilizer, as well as aged manure and peat moss). This certainly helps nourish both the soil and flowers.

Apart from flowering bulbs, you can also start planting annual seeds. You can plant asters, cosmos, marigolds, and even zinnias for starters. Now, other than annuals, if you have perennials, have these divided. These can be moved into a different area of your patch, or extras can be given out to your gardener friends..

What to do with houseplants?  Your houseplants can do well with a little bit of spring-cleaning in the month of April. And one of the best gardening tips for this would be to remove irregularities such as yellowing leaves, withered flowers, or even dead branches. Plants may also be able to breathe better when the dust from the leaves are removed using a light spraying. Pinching is also advisable especially for plants, as this helps invigorate new growth and volume.

Growing from seeds.  A few years ago I tried to grow flowers from seed and used a soilless mix instead of regular soil and had great success with it.  There are many kinds of soiless mix’s containing a vast assortment of ingredients but most contain things like Spaghnam moss, Perlite and Vermiculite.  Most soilless mixes retain water well and have great wicking action while still holding a good amount of air, making them a good growing medium.  You can also save money but growing from seeds.  If you have never grown from seeds give it a try it’s really fun to watch them grow and a great project for your kids!

Water Conservation.  Just this month signs have gone up all over town to conserve water so when planning your garden consider water conservation.  Use organic mulch in your garden this year so that you can improve the soil, reduce moisture loss but remember when you’re putting mulch around the plant keep mulch away from the plant trunk.  Make sure you water your garden infrequently and use rain water to quench the thirst of your flowers.  Water your garden during the coolest part of the day to reduce evaporation.  Use a trigger nozzle or a soaker hose instead of a sprinkler.  When picking out plants choose native plants because these survivors have adapted to their environment and need less water and water only when necessary and only when the top 2 to 3 inches of the soil is dry.  Did you know that more plants die from over watering than under watering?

Vertical Kitchen Herb Garden.  I was searching as I usually do for garden information when I came across this beautiful Kitchen Herb Garden at DIY Projects (see website below) and if you are very handy you can make one yourself and you can even have a few plants outside on your deck with a few herbs in them so that you can go out from your kitchen and pick some fresh herbs – what a great idea!  It is a great space saver.

I just love the weather at this time of year and I enjoy getting outside and seeing what is coming up in the garden and I also enjoy sitting on my deck and watching the birds fly by.  The only thing that I don’t enjoy is the wild turkeys that have decided to be in my yard and who enjoy eating some of my flowers!  Oh well, I guess I’ll have to share my bounty with the birds too!

Happy gardening everyone!

Annette Presseau    Billerica Garden Club

January/February Mid-Winter Blues

Welcome back to guest blogger Annette Presseau….Missed your garden blog….Glad you are back……


Are you feeling blue these days with the shorter days and the cold dreary landscape? There are some days that I feel that way until I realize that it is only a few months until Spring and even better the days now are brighter longer and before we know it the Crocuses will be coming up!  So take heart Spring is not far away!

The first day of spring (Spring Equinox) is March 20 this year but it isn’t really Spring until the nice weather gets here around mid-April.  It would be fun to come up with a nickname for this time of year like betwixtism?  What do you think would be a good name for this time of year?  Maybe we can come up with one!

Crocuses.  I just love Crocuses they are the first to pop out of the soil when the weather gets a little warmer and even through a dusting of snow and they add so much color to your garden and if you didn’t plant any this past fall well there will be plenty in the stores for you to purchase and you can leave them in the ground or dig them out and replant them in the fall for next year!

Amaryllis. One of my Christmas gifts was an Amaryllis which is a great flower to have inside during the winter months their blooms are just stunning.  I also gave one as a gift this past Christmas and we have a contest going as to which one will bloom first!  Winter doesn’t have to be dull we just have to make it interesting!

Painting Classes.  How about taking a painting class and painting a garden scene?  If you have kept you calendar from 2012 you could paint from some of those pictures and discover your own talent!  There are all sorts of painting classes that start in January at schools everywhere you could even take a sewing class and learn to sew a flower lap quilt or maybe take crochet lessons and create a spring shawl the possibilities are limitless.  As I’m writing this I’m thinking of a painting I did last year of flowers in bloom and how it is bringing a smile to my face just thinking of it.  There are limitless possibilities out there all you have to do is just think outside of the box!  As adults we sometimes don’t use our imagination enough we are programmed to think inside of the box so let your inner child come out and experiment with something fun to do!

The Beauty of Snow.  I know what you are thinking is she crazy?  Well maybe a little!  Here in New England we have already had snow and a lot of it and if there is one thing I can say is that after I shovel the snow I have noticed how beautiful it is and how serene it is and I just stop for a minute and take in the beauty of my surroundings before I go back inside it takes my breath away to just take a moment and be in awe of the serenity.  There is such a peaceful feeling after a snowstorm and it is really beautiful to look at just not so beautiful to shovel!

Garden Books: I just love looking at garden books this time of year it gives me inspiration and makes me feel great!  Now would be a great time to pull out your garden pictures and put them in a scrapbook or album for future reference.  Check out your library for garden books you will be surprised at what you will find!  How about this book “The Winter Garden: Create a Garden That Shines through the Forgotten Season” by Val Bourne which is an inspirational guide that shows how trees, shrubs, seed heads, berries and evergreens can bring your garden to life in winter and check out this book “Don’t Throw It, Grow It” 68 Windowsill Plants From Kitchen Scraps” by Deborah Peterson & Millicent Selsam.  In this book for instance, did you know that Sweet potatoes have small purple flowers that resemble morning glories, or that Chickpeas make great looking hanging baskets? With this book you will find indispensable little tidbits of information like that and so much more. So the next time you take a look around your living room and think I could probably use a nice potted plant in that corner of the room, think about growing your own little Pomegranate or Avocado tree for a change of pace.

Flower Shows.  Yes, it’s that time of year again to plan to see a Flower Show in March and before you know it the show will be here.  Check out your local Horticultural Society for lectures during the winter months.  Flower shows are a great way to make you feel happy and also give great ideas for planting flowers.

Garden Clubs.  What about joining a Garden Club?  You can get some really great ideas from them and most of them are very reasonable and welcoming.  I absolutely love flower gardening and was reluctant to join a garden club but it has been one of the best things that I have ever done.  I have learned a lot about gardening and have made a lot of friends.  If you don’t have a garden club in your area maybe you can connect with one outside your area or start one.  Think about taking a course in Horticulture who knows you might really like it!

Cut FlowersHow about purchasing some cut flowers at the supermarket?  Every now and then I pick some up especially in the wintertime just to brighten up my home a bit.  One can also pick up some silk flowers and make a nice centerpiece for your table.

Garden Art.  Now would be a good time to plan what garden art you would like in the garden and it would be a great time to either make something or go antique shopping to find that unique piece for your garden.

Yes, Spring will be here before you know it and birds will begin looking for materials to feather their nest and bulbs will start to show their heads.  Yes, appreciate every season, savor winter, and the gifts she brings and remind yourself that without winter, spring would never be here for us to enjoy.

For now I’m going to go back to my flower book, my cup of tea, and my warm afghan and dream about the garden I would like to see this summer and plan to start to grow it this Spring.


Happy Spring dreaming everyone!



Celebrate Harvest Time – by guest blogger Annette Presseau

Recently we here in New England had a frost which lets us know that winter is not far away the air is crisp and refreshing and it is a great time of year to work outside in the yard removing your dead plants, falling leaves and planting bulbs.  The trees are so pretty with all the colors of fall take time to look at them and see the beauty around you also the leaves make great mulch.  I don’t feel ready for the cold weather yet and would love to have the warm weather last just a little longer but October weather can be very enjoyable too so get out and enjoy before it is too cold.


Brighten up spots with color.  Do you see spots in your yard that don’t have any color left then consider adding Mums or Chrysanthemums to brighten up your garden and you can also add Ornamental Kale and what about adding pumpkins or a scarecrow to liven up your garden?  Do you know the difference between mums or Chrysanthemums?  I have often wondered what is the difference between them?   The name Chrysanthemum creates further confusion because it does not differentiate between the two type commonly available.  Garden mums produce underground shoots or stolons which enable these mums to survive from year to year. Florist mums produce few or no stolons and are easily winter-killed. They are available nearly year round in floral shops, department stores, and grocery stores.  Both types are “photoperiodic,” meaning they bloom in response to short days and long nights.  They require a specific amount of time under short day growing conditions in order to set flower buds.  Typically, many garden varieties require 5 to 7 weeks to flower after the start of short days and can withstand several light frosts. Florist mums require 8 to 14 weeks of short days.


Apples, apples and more apples.  I just love apples and enjoy eating them and having apple pie, apple sauce, apple crisp anything with apples and one of my favorites is apple pancakes so whatever you like to have this time of year apples are a great fruit that is in season.  There is quite a variety of apples to choose from look for your local apple farm and go and have a great time picking apples or just pick up a bag of apples.


Pansies, Mums, Asters and Kale.  Now is the perfect time to plant Pansies, Mums and Kale which will bring great color to your yard and you can remove some of your summer flowers that are starting to look pretty bad.  Pansies can be planted in a pumpkin and all you do is scoop out the middle, make some holes in the bottom and take your plant add some soil and put in the pumpkin.  Pansies are the perfect autumn flower and they seem to just smile back at you and they also love this cool weather.  The more faded flowers you pick off the Pansies the more they will bloom.  Mums are really beautiful this time of year and flowering or ornamental Kale really gives a different color to the garden.  Asters are absolutely beautiful and all of these plants would really look great in your garden.


Garden cleanup.  Now is a good time to divide perennials and replant them and keep in mind that cleaning up your garden will help prevent pest problems in the coming year.  Fall plowing or tilling works wonders for any garden you can mix in organic matter to improve your soil and keep in mind that you do not apply any fertilizer to your plants in the fall.  One of the best ways to a successful spring garden is a thorough fall cleanup.  Make sure you completely clear the garden of weeds before they drop their seeds and create a problem for next year.


Garden Care.  You can spread compost or manure in the garden now to enrich your soil for next spring.  Bring plants indoors that you would like to keep over the winder.  Fall is also a good time to clean up foliage from roses, peonies, and any other plant with diseased foliage.


Bird Food Feeders and Other Things.  Avoid the temptation of cutting back all of the dead stalks in your flower gardens. Let purple coneflower, Black-eyed Susans, Sunflowers, and other plants with seeds and berries stand.  They’ll provide hours of enjoyment as you watch birds feed from them in the winter. Especially leave any local, native plants standing, since they’re the most likely to be edible for local wildlife.  Now is a great time to clean off birdfeeders; clean out and put away birdbaths for the winter.  Plant garlic for harvest next summer and sow wildflower seed for bloom next spring.  At this time you can harvest herbs, grasses and flowers for drying.


Thoughts for next Spring.  As winter sets in, you don’t have to abandon your garden—just move into the planning stage for spring planting. With a hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate in hand, you can map out what you want to plant next growing season. And make sure you order your favorite seed catalog (we like Seed Savers Exchange and Seeds of Change) to peruse during the colder months.  I just love perusing through a flower catalog during the winter months it gives me great inspiration for next Spring!


Fall FoliageThis is a great time of year to go out and check out the fall foliage the colors of the leaves in New England are absolutely beautiful this time of year.  There are also a lot of fall fairs that are great to visit.


Fall Festivals.  It isn’t fall with a fall festival so check out the one’s in your area weather it is a arts and craft show or maybe a pumpkin festival or even an Octoberfest celebration whatever the festival is now is the time to get out and enjoy it.


Bulbs and more bulbs.  Autumn is a great time to plant bulbs for next spring like tulips and daffodils they come in all colors, styles and sizes and they look awesome in the spring.  Crocuses are the first to show up in the spring then Daffodils then Tulips so when you want to get a good flow of color when it is still cold outside then consider planting in bunches for a full dazzling display. 


Well I’m off to rake leaves, plant tulips and enjoy the beautiful foliage!


Annette Presseau      Billerica Garden Club




Autumn Senses – guest blogger Annette Presseau (Billerica Garden Club)

Autumn Senses



What a great time of year the air is crisp, the leaves are starting to fall and turn all sorts of colors and here in New England we see a quilt full of colors this time of year and we have a bonus of Indian summer to top it off!  I absolutely love apple pie or anything to do with apples this time of year because the apples are crisp, sweet and juicy my mouth is just watering thinking about them.  This is also a great time to start clearing up your garden weather it is a vegetable garden or a flower garden and get rid of anything that is past it time.  I love working in the yard this time of year too.


Gardening and Exercise.  Do you consider gardening as exercise?  I recently read an article that stated that this time of year there are a lot of injuries related to gardening like back pain and most gardeners spend hours weeding, digging, planting and clipping and they don’t think about stretching before working in the garden I know I never stretch before gardening.  Most gardeners don’t view a day in the yard as a workout but it is very much a workout.  A third to one half of all summer recreational injuries can be related to gardening and gardening can case repetitive-stress injuries from gardening without stopping.  When I garden I enjoy it so much that I forget to periodically take a break or change my position.  We need to approach gardening like a workout and stretch your muscles. Change position and activity, and after 15 minutes stand up stretch and switch what you are doing and exercise different parts of your body.  Also, the right equipment helps like using a bench or using long handles tools but use equipment that is comfortable.  If you start getting pains then limit your activity.  If gardening causes you too much discomfort then try container gardening and window boxes.  You might even try Yoga and read Gail Dubinsky’s “Yoga for Gardeners” book or “Gardener’s Yoga:Bend and Stretch, Dig and Grow” which outlines 21 yoga stretches that can help gardeners both prepare for and recover from a day playing in the dirt!

Leaves in the yard.  At one time I lived where it seemed that all the leaves in my neighborhood landed in my yard no sooner did I rake them all up the yard was full of leaves again now I use a mulcher mower and fortunately I don’t have a lot of leaves in my yard so my work is minimal! There are many gadgets out there that help with leaf cleanup besides a mulcher mower I use a bagger in the back of my lawn mower that picks up the excess and I can use it for compost next year so it works out very well. 


MosquitosMosquitoes need stagnant water to breed, and most mosquitoes stay around where they were born, so the easiest way to do this is after it rains, or after you use sprinklers and hoses, and thoroughly go around your property and empty any container containing water, but you do have to be thorough. Mosquitoes like water that sits for 4 or 5 days, but they can breed in as little as a tablespoon of water, as little as a bottle cap full, so you must be very thorough.  Places often forgotten about are the insides of old tires, all the various nooks and crevices in children’s toys, and gutters. If your gutters are not clean and water sits in them over time, that is prime mosquito territory. So clean your gutters.  Keep your pool and hot tub chlorinated and they will be fine. Your bird bath needs to have water changed regularly; you can also place agitators in your bird bath to keep the mosquitoes at bay. Your ponds or water features need to be well stocked with fish, and the fish will deal with the mosquitoes. If they aren’t, you need to add something that will kill them, such as mosquito dunks which are this bacteria that kills mosquito larvae in water, but doesn’t harm anything else, a good product. If you have a rain barrel make sure it is fitted with a secure mesh opening that prevents any bug entrance, and you can also use the mosquito dunks in it as well.

So remove the water you do not want, and maintain the water you do want, and you should be okay.

Pansies, Mums and Kale.  Now is the perfect time to plant Pansies, Mums and Kale which will bring great color to your yard and you can remove some of your summer flowers that are starting to look pretty bad.  Pansies can be planted in a pumpkin and all you do is scoop out the middle, make some holes in the bottom and take your plant add some soil and put in the pumpkin.  Pansies are the perfect autumn flower and they seem to just smile back at you and they also love this cool weather.  The more faded flowers you pick off the Pansies the more they will bloom.  Mums are really beautiful this time of year and flowering or ornamental Kale really gives a different color to the garden.


Moving plants indoors.  Stop fertilizing your plants and bring summer vacationing houseplants back indoors while the weather is still nice so that you don’t shock your plants. Check carefully for hitchhiking pests too.  Start fall clean-up in the flower beds, cutting back anything that has finished blooming or is diseased and remove any plants that have died.  Photograph your gardens and containers for a record of the year’s triumphs and frustrations and you can take some cuttings of your plants indoors so that you can have them next year or remove the seeds from your plants and grow them from seed next year.  Another great thing to do is to make some pressed flowers to save and maybe start a scrapbook album!  Make sure you divide and move perennials and dig and store tender bulbs like: dahlias, caladiums, cannas and tuberous begonias. Now is a good time to plant fall bulbs.  Irises and other early-blooming perennials still can be divided this month but make sure you give them plenty of water after replanting.  Take cuttings from geraniums, 2 to 4 inches, for indoor winter flowering.


Check out these pictures:


Christmas Cactus Care.  It’s scary to think that Christmas will be here in a few months and that we need to get our Christmas Cactus ready but this is a good time to do it.  If you want them to bloom on schedule, begin conditioning your Christmas Cactus to get ready for the upcoming holiday season. The key to getting Christmas cactus to flower during the holiday season is proper light exposure, correct temperatures and limited watering.


Because this plant is thermo-photoperiodic, it will set buds when day length is about equal to night length and when the temperature drops to 50 to 60 degrees F for several weeks.  Keep in a dark bathroom for the night. During the fall months, the Christmas Cactus should be placed in a spot where it receives indoor indirect, bright light during the daylight hours but total darkness at night (absolutely no artificial light). The Christmas Cactus requires long, uninterrupted dark periods, about 12 or more hours each night. Begin the dark treatments in about mid-October to have plants in full bloom by the holidays. Place the plants in a dark area from about 12 or more hours each night for 6-8 weeks or until you see buds forming. A closet or unused bathroom are ideal places.


From September and October, the Christmas Cactus should be kept in a cool room where temperatures will remain around 50 degrees, give or take a few degrees. Don’t expose the plant to freezing temperatures. Plants should be blooming for the holidays if cool treatments are started by early November.

Be especially careful with watering at this time. Reduce the watering slightly. Do not soak the soil after a dry period; only moisten the top few inches, since buds, flowers and even leaves can fall off if the roots are suddenly saturated.

Prune the Christmas cactus about a month after blooming. This will encourage the plant to branch out, especially after a period of “rest” has been granted. It will not look very pretty after the blossoms have faded. Some people wait until March or so, when new growth begins, to prune the cactus.

Perennials.  Mark your perennials with permanent tags or stakes, or create a map showing their locations so you’ll know where and what they are when they die back at the end of the season.
This will help you so that you don’t accidentally dig up something you intended to keep when you work in the garden this fall and next spring.


Birdfeeders and other things.  Now is a great time to clean off birdfeeders; clean out and put away birdbaths for the winter.  Plant garlic for harvest next summer and sow wildflower seed for bloom next spring.  At this time you can harvest herbs, grasses and flowers for drying.


Rusted Garden Tools.  I have to admit that my tools are rusty so now is a good time for me to clean them up and what needs to be done is to put on gloves then Scrub rusty tools with a steel-wool pad that has been dipped in white vinegar. If the rust is heavier, you can soak the tools in a bath of distilled white vinegar. The acid in the vinegar helps to lift the rust and the steel wool works into the finer cracks and crevices. Rusty garden tools can be cleaned easily this way without harsh, expensive chemicals.

Fill a 5-gallon bucket 1/2 way full with sand and mix in some used motor oil. If you do not have used motor oil you can use some inexpensive baby oil for this job. Mix the oil and sand well and store your tools with their metal heads sunk in this bucket. The sand will act as an abrasive deterring future rust and the oil keeps your newly cleaned tools conditioned. This is also an effective way to store garden tools through the winter time. Mechanic’s tools can be cleaned and conditioned the same way.

Treat tools with significant rust damage — or damage you don’t feel like scrubbing free of rust — with a rust-inhibiting spray paint designed to protect metal. A rust-converting primer may also be necessary.



Fall Festivals.  Right now is a great time to go to country fairs and festivals so check out your local listings and see what is in your area and Farmers Markets are still going strong so you can still get many vegetables and flowers and some state fairs are happening now.


I’ll leave you with a thought about a beautiful autumn sunset where the sky turns a bright orange and the clouds are flowing over the beautiful blue sky while the moon is showing it’s brightness in the distance.  The next time you are gardening stop and feel the gentle breeze on your face and watch the hummingbird fly past and stop and wonder at all the beautiful things that are in your garden and just sit there and smile at the peace and beauty of what surrounds you.


Annette Presseau      Billerica Garden Club

July’s Hot Time in the Summertime – guest blogger Annette Presseau

Welcome once again to guest blogger Annette Presseau from the Billerica Garden Club.   Gardening and making our homes stand out from the rest is a year round activity….  And every once and a while take a break from your garden to enjoy the Farmer’s Markets (Billerica’s Farmer’s Market is every Monday from 3pm to 7pm Rain or Shine on the lawn of the Billerica Senior Center thru October 22nd)  Joan Parcewski  Woods Real Estate 


Summer has arrived!

As I look around my flower garden I see a lot of weeding to do and usually I do this early in the morning because it is the coolest time of the day or late in the evening when things cool off I save the afternoon to be in air-conditioning!  My flowers are coming up beautifully.  In my flower garden I’m constantly changing things around especially if they are in pots sometimes it will look better in another part of my garden instead of where it is.  That’s the beauty of having plants in pots its fun to change them around the garden!


I like to check out the Farmers Markets this time of year too they have all sorts of stuff at Farmers Markets especially fresh vegetables grown by local farmers.  Now is also a good time also to check out farms in the area it is a great time to pick blueberries.  Last year I went to Parlee Farms here in Massachusetts and picked a whole bunch of blueberries and they were great so check out the farms in your area to see what fruits are ready for picking.



If you didn’t put something in place for watering like soaker hoses you need to water your plants on a regular basis.  Water deeply and thoroughly as needed this is very important if you want beautiful plants and also water first thing in the morning or late in the evening not in the middle of the day.  One of the more damaging, and wasteful, practices of summer is watering for a few minutes every few days. Light irrigation promotes a shallow root system which can easily be injured by summer drought. Apply water slowly over a longer period of time to allow the soil to be wetted to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. This will promote a deeper, more extensive, healthy root system. Physically check the soil next time you water to find out how deep you are watering. This will also help you to water less often.


Also, this is a great time to put in a water garden or even maybe just a water fountain for effect.  I usually place a small water fountain in the front of my yard and I love to watch the birds drink from it or take a bath in it.  Use your imagination it’s surprising what you can add to a garden to give it that special effect.  You can visit some botanical gardens to get some ideas.
House Plants


This is a great time to take your house plants outside and watch them grow.  I just put out a few of my house plants yesterday.  Some house plants like being outdoors just check on your particular plant to make sure it will survive outdoors.  This is also a good time to repot your houseplants and put them into bigger pots and to fertilize them.



Container gardens and Hanging Baskets

Containers and hanging baskets dry out faster than plants in the ground and require daily watering as plants grow larger and if the weather is hot and windy.

One thing to note that frequent watering to the point where water runs out of the drain holes in containers will leach out fertilizer and plants may start to have yellow or purplish foliage and fewer flowers.  It is a good idea to use a water soluble fertilizer at ½ the label rate every week to keep container gardens and hanging basket plants growing and healthy.

Flower Gardens

Annual and perennial flower plants are available at garden centers all summer and new plants can be added to fill in bare spots or add color at any time or to even replace a plant that has died.  Add compost or peat moss to planting areas to help hold water and water new plants regularly until they are established.

Deadhead large flowered plants such as geraniums, daylilies and lilies to prevent seed formation, encourage re-bloom and keep plants more attractive


Don’t allow weeds to go to seed.  Mulch will help control weeds, keeps soil cooler and add organic matter to the soil as it breaks down.


Garden beds can be edged with a sharp spade or power edger. Grass can be prevented from creeping into gardens with a carefully applied application of Roundup herbicide. Roundup will damage any green plants and needs to be applied very carefully on a calm day.


Stake tall, floppy plants such as delphiniums, balloon flower and dahlias otherwise you will not be able to enjoy the beautiful display of flowers that the plant produces.


Monitor plants for insect pests such as aphids and control large infestations with insecticidal soap.


Don’t be afraid to cut flowers for indoor bouquets and arrangements.  Cutting flowers actually encourages re-bloom in some species.


Trees and Shrubs

July is a good month to prune maples and birch and other trees that bleed when pruned in late winter.

Both evergreen and deciduous shrubs may be shaped or informally sheared to keep plants full to the center and stay within available space. Woodchip or bark mulch will help control weeds and gradually improves the soil as it breaks down.  I often see too much mulch piled up under a tree note that you only need a few inches of mulch not 12” of it if you put too much mulch it will harm the tree and will cause the bark to rot.


Garden Centers


Check garden centers for markdowns and start planning your fall garden.  You can get some great deals on perennials for next year.


Other flowers


Summer blooming perennials (like mallow hibiscus) and annuals can be induced to bloom more if you will remove flowers as they fade. The plant’s energy required to ripen seed will be then be redirected to produce new flowers for your enjoyment.

Butterfly Gardens

To attract a variety of butterflies to your garden you need a mixture of spring and summer nectar producing flowers for them to feed on. Butterflies lay their eggs on plants that the newly hatched caterpillars will eat. Here are some of the plants that butterflies like.

  • Herbs: Sage, Hyssop, Thyme, Dill*,      Catnip, Lavender, Parsley*, and Common Rue*.
  • Wildflowers: Queen Anne’s Lace*, Bee Balm,      Goldenrod, Red Clover*, Milkweed*, Purple Coneflower, and Butterfly Weed*
  • Vegetables (let flower): Cabbage*, Kale*,      and Broccoli*
  • Misc.      plants: Globe thistle, Yarrow, French      Marigolds, Sunset Cosmos, Mexican Sunflowers, Phlox, and Alfalfa*.      (*especially good)

Check for bugs


Always check to see if any bugs are on your plants especially Roses and make sure you deadhead your plants for two reasons one to promote more flowers and the other is the get rid of bugs that might be on them.


Gardens to check


Get out and check out the gardens that are in your area recently while on vacation I went to see the Botanical gardens in St. Louis, Missouri and I had a great time looking at all the flowers and plants.  In Massachusetts there is a place called “Garden In the Woods” that is a awesome place to visit so get out there and take some pictures and dream about your garden next year!


By the way July is National Ice Cream month wouldn’t it be great to have some fresh blueberries with vanilla ice cream?!


Happy Gardening!


Farmers Markets Are Back

There are a few that are winters farmers markets that are indoors and open during the winter months – But now the outdoor markets either have or will shortly be opening.  Remember that farmers markets are for farms, those who make fresh food, specialty foods (eg sugar free) etc.  They are a place for socializing and buying.  Support your local farmers market – They help you eat nutritious.   For those who like to travel around to the different markets, here are the ones opening by the end of June

Andover –  Opens June 30th  Saturdays 12:30 to 3:30    at 97 Main Street

Arlington – Opened June 13th  Wednesdays 2pm to 6pm  at Russell Common in Arlington Center

Billerica – Opens June 25th   Mondays 3pm to 7pm  Billerica COA lawn in Billerica Ctr

Carlisle – Opened June 16th  Saturdays 8am to noon  Kimball Farm in Carlisle

Lexington – Opened May 29th   Tuesdays 2 – 6:30pm  corner Mass Ave/Woburn/Fletcher

Stoneham/Farm Hill Farmers Market – Opened June 14th  Tuesdays 2pm to 6pm Stoneham Town Common

Wakefield – Opens June 23rd  Saturdays 9am to 1pm  Hall Park  North Ave Lakeside

Westford – Opened June 19th   Tuesdays 2:30 to 6:30  NE Historic Town Common

Wilmington – Opened June 17th  Sundays 10:30 to 1:30  corner Middlesex Ave and School Street

Woburn Farmers Market – Opened June 10th  Sundays 10 to 2   41 Wyman St

More will open in July and a few in August – and the season will be in full swing

For more information on MA farmers markets – promoting locally grown – visit and you will find a complete list throughout the state.  It will be fun for the family – as you travel this summer – to find a local market – eat health and have some fun!


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