Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

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!



In the Spring Garden – guest blogger Billerica Garden Club

The Billerica Garden Club is very active in the community. They hold their May plant sale each year just in time for Mother’s Day (the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend), often exhibit at the New England Spring Flower Show, participate in Yankee Doodle Homecoming, prepare corsages for the annual Sweetheart Dinner for seniors who have been married to each other for 50 years or more, and participate in the annual Green Up Clean Up Day. In addition they have adopted several areas in town to maintain – Billerica Town Common, Memorial Walkway behind Billerica Memorial High School, as well as Marshall Island in Town Center. And as a special project in the community members of the club present gardening projects at area nursing homes and the senior center, including maintaining a butterfly garden at Billerica Crossings
In The Spring Garden
How to handle Perennials, Annuals and Bulbs in April
Did you know that the perfect time to plant dahlias, lilies, and gladiolas is during April? 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 will help 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, they have to be divided. They can be moved into a different area of your patch, or extras can be given out to your gardener friends. In addition to this, if you have a water garden like a pool or pond, utilize this by adding aquatic plants after the first half of the month.

What to do with houseplantsYour 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 light spraying. Pinching is also advisable especially for plants, as this helps invigorate new growth and volume. Continue to inspect for insects and fertilize at half strength. Cut the plants back if they are getting leggy.

Nourish your Flower BedsShoots have been driving up out the ground for weeks now, so you know that Mother Nature is doing her part to get your flowers and shrubs back to their beautiful selves. Why not give them a boost with a layer of compost? Clear out any old leaves or sticks, weed your gardens and then sprinkle an inch of compost throughout your flowerbeds. Water the beds and then cover with mulch to keep it in all in place.

The Practice of Container GardeningHave you ever tried bringing plants inside your home or placing them out on your garden using different kinds of containers? You probably have but have not been too conscious of how to prepare it the right way. Container gardening can be very beneficial in a lot of ways. So if you happen to have a very spacious garden (an area that you’re too lazy to fix but would still want to have plants around), or live inside an apartment or condo unit (an area that has no yard space for use), then you can definitely do some container gardening at your very own convenience.
Whether you’re into some flower, herb or container vegetable gardening, the material for which you will plant and store these should have a good drainage system. You can choose to use an array of containers such as plastic bins, baskets (anything that will help hold in your organics), but you will always have to take note of the drainage factor.

As an alternative to planting your organics under the ground, you can fully concentrate on the containers itself especially if these were houseplants (for indoor container gardening). When growing different kinds of plants, you also get the chance to nurture these with some well-preserved soil. When the soil is of high-quality, then you can be assured that your plants will grow free from diseases. Other than that, when you do this kind of gardening, you’re also eliminating the possibility of weeds cluttering your garden. Apart from that, you are also given the chance to move your containers around, should the need arises.

Check out more information at:

Is your garden doing double-duty? Is it a fun, happy view that exudes energetic energy? That’s the philosophy behind the selection of Tangerine Tango as Color of the Year for 2012, according to color expert Catherine Falqoust. Check this website out for more ideas on colors in your garden:

What about planting seeds? If you are growing plants from seed, don’t oversow. For fine seed, mix it with sand so it is easier to spread over a larger area.

Perennials and Flower Borders• If you didn’t clean-up your borders in March, do it now. (It’s important to remove weeds now while they’re still small and haven’t flowered yet it’s also easier to remove now instead of when they are fully matured.)
• Cut back all ornamental grasses to 6-12″ if you haven’t done it already, and don’t wait any longer to do it. It may already be difficult to cut off the dead leaves without also harming the new ones.
• Plant, divide or move perennials – it’s now or never! Okay sure, you can still do it in May, especially planting new ones, but it’s best to get all this jostling around of perennials done before it gets hot. Continue dividing perennials. If the perennial bed was fertilized in the fall no need to do it now — the plants haven’t used the fall treatment yet. Remember that compost, which helps the plants take up nutrients by maintaining good soil structure, is not fertilizer. Continue making notes of the location of flowering bulbs and bloom time — you’ll be glad you did when it comes time to plant more bulbs in the fall.

Here are a few key tasks for the month of April:
• This is the last opportunity to plant any bare root trees, shrubs or hedging.
• Herbaceous perennials like Yarrow or Butterfly Weed or Bearded Iris over time can form large clumps and become very congested. Now is an ideal time to divide and re-plant. Simply dig out large clump and separate using garden fork or spade and re-plant. Ideally this process should be repeated every 3-5 years. Check out the website from Colorado State University for more information on Herbaceous perennials:
• Time to plant summer flowering bulbs (Dahlia, Gladiola, Lily etc). It’s also a good time to plant evergreen shrubs and trees.
• You can also apply a top dressing of bark mulch to planted beds to conserve moisture and impede weeds. It also creates an attractive neat and tidy look to the border. (Tip: water soil before applying top dressing)
• Continue to cut/remove the faded blooms of spring bulbs; do not remove foliage for at least 4-6 weeks in order to allow the bulbs to replenish food resources for next year. Lawns can be cut more regularly now especially if ground conditions are firm and dry. When mowing begins, set mower blades to cut high — 2 inches for shady lawns — to encourage well grass rooting and discourage weed growth. If the lawn is mowed on schedule, the clippings will not need to be removed. They will decompose and return essential nitrogen to the lawn.
• General lawn care includes tidy edges, rake and remove thatch. Apply a weed & feed to encourage healthy grass growth and discourage weeds, but be careful, grass can be easily damaged ‘scorched’ with excess dosage, if in doubt use liquid feeds. Wet area first before applying liquid feed. It’s also time to check and start your in ground sprinkler system to make sure everything is working correctly.
• Check planted borders for any new weeds; a quick tidy up with the hoe will significantly reduce the need for any weeding later in season. Remove any blooming invasive weeds such as Dandelion which will self seed profusely throughout the garden. Might help to remember, ‘One year’s seeding is seven years weeding’.

In a normal spring daffodils can be taken inside to enjoy them. The daffodils that are open and in full bloom tend to get destroyed, but the ones still in bud are more resilient, so you can pick them for vases inside the house.

You can add to hanging baskets and containers a water-retaining gel or even to the compost, which will swell up and retain moisture for a lot longer. Give your plants a good watering two to three times a week, stopping just as baskets start to drip, but before the water runs out the base of the containers, so as not to waste too much.

Are you keeping up your Garden Journal with bloom dates and spring events in this most unusual spring? Make notes now of the places where spring-blooming bulbs, planted next fall, will look perfect next year.

Check out the book on Rain Gardens: Sustainable Landscaping for a Beautiful Yard and a Healthy World
by Lynn M. Steiner and Robert W. Domm
In recent years, awareness has risen not only about the problem of water collecting in places where it shouldn’t, but also the problem with run-off, and what to do with it. All sorts of toxins run unfiltered into our waterways. Not good. What’s a homeowner to do? One of the answers comes in the form of a pretty simple solution: rain gardens. Lynn Steiner and Robert Domm have compiled a comprehensive guide for constructing them in their new book, Rain Gardens. With explanations that are easy to understand, and illustrations and photographs that show and tell, the home gardener can plan and build a rain garden for their own property with confidence.
Check out the review at:

What about those pesky animals that pick at your flowers and vegetables? One good way to protect your garden is to put a chicken wire fence around it. You can also put old shear curtains over blueberry bushes they make very good netting and if you wrap a brown paper around the root of your tomato plants and leave about 3 inches above the soil line that will protect them. Also, Marigolds planted throughout the garden will keep Aphids away and are quite beautiful to look at. These are just a few ideas for helping protect your hard earned work creating that beautiful garden. More to come next month. By the way does anyone have any ideas on how to get rid of wild Turkeys they are all over my neighborhood!

One last thing that needs to be talked about and that is Poison Ivy – that nasty plant that causes us extreme annoyance and now would be a good time to kill it before it starts to grow too much. Last year I tried something different see the recipe below:

Heat to boiling1 gallon of white vinegar with 1 cup of salt until clear then add 8 drops of liquid detergent after you heat the vinegar with salt then let cool and spray or pour over Poison Ivy and it will kill the plant and anything else that is there. I tried this last year and it worked great! Keep in mind that it will kill any plant that is in the soil. This is all natural and no side effects!

Happy Gardening!

Become a member of the Billerica Garden Club by visting their website at Or join your own local garden club. They provide an invaluable service within any community

Garden Projects for February –

It is with excitement and pleasure that I introduce another guest blogging from the Billerica Garden Club – whether you have a green thumb or not, owning a home means when that we want, when someone drives by our home, to get noticed.  It is not always about the paint or fancy lawn item.  It could be that well manicured lawn or beautiful shrubs and flowers.  It’s an expression of you.  Let’s get started.  And if you like what you read, visit their website at


Gardening in February?  Yes, you can dream up a great garden this time of year and lift your spirits up.  Now is a great time to look at books and garden magazines and plan your gardens out whether it is a flower garden or vegetable garden that you are planning on doing.  Take a section at a time and work out a design plan then put in on paper and take the time to decide what flowers or vegetables you want to have there.  Books and magazines give you a great list of flowers and descriptions of best places to plant them in your yard.  Start a garden journal for the new growing season and jot down your ideas, hopes and goals for your great outdoors.   Garden journals become excellent references year after year, helping you keep track of how and what you grow, as well as reminding you of your planting successes – and failures.  If you took pictures of your garden last year look at them again and see if you need to make any changest to your garden this year.


Plants from last year

Did you take in some plants from last summer?  I took in a few Geraniums and they are doing beautifully (to my surprise!) blooming profusely and it is a pleasure to see this in February of course I have them in a sunny window and I also make sure I water them often.  Did you take any plants in last fall how are they doing?  Now is a good time to add fertilizer to your plants to get them ready for when you put them outside.  You could purchase a orchid to put in your house or drop by a garden center to see what plants are available.  Check out this website for African Violets:  I just love African Violets inside the home and I also enjoy planting Pansies outside they are one of the earliest plants and can tolerate the cold weather.  Check out this website on Pansies:


If you planted bulbs last fall soon the Crocuses will be starting to show up soon as well as violas and inside a Christmas cactus might bloom again.  Consider making a plant Terrarium to test out plants see this website on making one:


Check out this wall Terrarium at Modern Living:


Those feathered friends

The first bird to signal that spring is near is a Red-Breasted Robin and they have colorful reddish-orange feathers on their breast.  Did you know that as songbirds, the American male robins can often be heard singing a lovely tune late into the evening. It has been said when night starts to fall, the last birds you will hear singing will be robins. They are usually the first to begin singing in the morning as well, when they get up to start their very active day. In terms of food, their diet consists of mainly of beetles, fruits and berries.  Check out this website on Robins it is a great read:   Have you ever noticed what birds are in your back yard?


Flower Shows, Farmers Markets and Garden Centers

You can also check on indoor farmers markets and previous summer farmers markets like: and flower shows like the Connecticut Flower Show:  and the Boston Flower Show there is also a Vermont Conference check this out: take a class on gardening there are plenty out there to take check out this one from the New England Wild Flower Society and how about this one at Tower Hill Botanic Garden   Visit garden centers to get ideas on how to set up your garden.


Winter Sowing

Winter Sowing is a great idea at this time of year what you do is make mini-greenhouses which can be made from recyclables; there are no heating devices, no energy wasting light set-ups or expensive seed starting devices.  Check out this website on Winter Sowing:



Here are more ideas for February:

*Order perennial plants and bulbs now for cut flowers this summer. Particularly good choices are phlox, daisies, coreopsis, asters and lilies. Send off seed orders early this month to take advantage of seasonal discounts. Some companies offer bonus seeds of new varieties to early buyers.


*Check stored bulbs, tubers and corms. Discard any that are soft or diseased.


*Don’t remove mulch from perennials too early. A warm day may make you think spring is almost here but there may be more cold weather yet to come.


*Branches of forsythia, pussy willow, quince, spirea, and dogwood can be forced for indoor bloom.  When collecting the branches from forsythia, quince, redbud, pussy willows, and other spring-blooming shrubs and trees to force indoors make long, slanted cuts.  Simply cut branches of flowering woody plants once you can spot the tiny developing buds.  Submerge the branches in cold water (like the tub) for a couple of hours or up to a full day. Then stick just the ends in a bucket of cold water about a foot deep for a week in a cool (no warmer than 60 degrees F) spot. Arrange in a vase, put in a warm room, and watch the buds open over the next few days.

Change the water every four days.


*Late winter is the time to prune many deciduous trees. Look over your plants now and remove dead, dying, or unsightly parts of the tree, sprouts growing at or near the base of the tree trunk and crossed branches.


* If bird feeding has been a favorite activity this winter, order trees and shrubs which provide cover and small fruits for your feathered friends. Consider species such as crabapple and hawthorn which can help lure hungry birds from cultivated fruits, if planted on the opposite side of the yard.


*Check any vegetables you have in storage. Dispose of any that show signs of shriveling or rotting.


*This year plan to grow at least one new vegetable that you’ve never grown before; it may be better than what you are already growing. The new dwarf varieties on the market which use less space while producing more food per square foot may be just what you’re looking for.


*Don’t start your vegetable plants indoors too early. Six weeks ahead of the expected planting date is early enough for the fast growth species such as cabbage. Eight weeks allows enough time for the slower growing types such as peppers.


*Prune fruit trees and grapes in late February or early March after the worst of the winter cold is passed but before spring growth begins.


* Fertilize fruit trees as soon as possible after the ground thaws but before blossom time.


*Late February is a good time to air layer such house plants as dracaena, dieffenbachia and rubber plant, especially if they have grown too tall and leggy.


*Check all five growing factors if your house plants are not growing well. Light, temperature, nutrients, moisture, and humidity must be favorable to provide good growth.


*Repair and paint window boxes, lawn furniture, tools and other items in preparation for outdoor gardening and recreational use.  This is also a great time to clean your garden tools and garden equipment.  Check out this video on cleaning garden tools:



Top “to do’s” for February

  • Think about last year’s garden      so you can look ahead to the new season. One of the things you will want      to do is collect those beautiful seed catalogs, find those “must have”      annuals and select some unusual varieties of veggies.


  • Check your tools inventory to      see if you need any new ones. It is worth spending a few months talking to      other gardeners, checking catalogs, and surfing the Internet before buying      so you will know exactly what you want and need.


  • Send for plant catalogs. It is      a good idea to order early because nursery inventories are usually in      limited supply.


  • Start indoor seeds of annuals      that require a long growing season, e.g. lobelia, petunia, vinca,      snapdragon, verbena, etc.


  • Prune away storm-damaged      branches promptly from trees and shrubs in order to prevent tearing the      bark and other damage.


  • Unfortunately, a few warm days      can stimulate plants into new growth. If you are beginning to see life in      your dormant shrubs be prepared to protect them for when another cold snap      occurs. Tender new growth is much more sensitive to cold than their      dormant counterpart. Covering large plants is difficult, but you can throw      on some extra mulch or even a cardboard box over a small shrub.


Zone Maps and Frost

As a rule of thumb, start most seeds six to eight weeks before your region’s last frost date.  Get general ideas of your last average frost dates from a garden map, but to be sure, give any local garden center a quick call.  Check out the Zone Map at the National Gardening Association’s web site:


Garden Projects

Now is an excellent time to start some of those garden hammer-and-nail projects you’ve wanted to do — window boxes, planters, arbors, and more. Check out for a list of dozens of garden projects.


Well I think that will keep me busy for the rest of February since I haven’t started yet to do any of these suggestions but it will be great to start thinking of gardening again and the warm spring weather I can already feel the warmth of the Sun and hear the birds singing.  So I’m off to start looking at my garden catalog for ideas!



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