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Edition 10.38 Paul Parent Garden Club News September 23, 2010
Featured Quote

Featured Quote:

"A man should never plant a garden larger than his wife can take care of."
~T. H. Everett

Product Spotlight

Scotts® Turf Builder® WinterGuard Fall Lawn Fertilizer

Feeding in the Fall?

Wait a minute. Isn't fall when lawns start to shut down? Why fertilize then? Fall conditions are great for lawns. Grass roots start to store nutrients the grass will need when it wakes up again in the spring. So you want to help those roots grow by fertilizing.

Scotts® WinterGuard® Lawn Fertilizer is formulated to deliver the nutrients grass needs to get through the winter and come up strong the following year.

Cotton Day Oct. 3

Bring plants to Vegetable Building on the Topsfield Fair grounds, located on Rt. 1 in Topsfield, Mass., on September 30, between 9 am and 4 PM. Put a piece of masking tape on side of pot with your name, address and phone number. Plants will be on display until October 3, after my live broadcast from the Fair at 2 PM.

Plants can be left at the Fair and will be donated to the Agriculture School. If you have pictures of your plants growing, bring them and label them with your name and address for display. Some plants will be selected for a educational display in the vegetable building.

Listen to the program from 7 AM to 8 AM on Sunday, September 19th for information on growing cotton and what to do with your plants in pots or planted in your garden. Bayer Advanced Lawn and Garden will tell you everything you need to know about harvesting cotton in New England, where the season is short.

If you know anyone who has cotton plants, please let them know of this show. If your station does not carry the program at this time, you can listen via Internet at More information coming for you next week.

Cabbage and Kale

The first time you hear of flowering cabbage and kale you think, vegetables used in the flower garden--are you crazy! Well let me tell you that these vegetables will look wonderful planted around your home and in your fall garden with mums and New England asters.

Right now, most of the plants are colored blue green to light green, but this will change when the weather begins to get cold. As the temperatures dip down to the thirties and forties the foliage will begin to change color from the center of the plant and will quickly spread to all the leaves. Look for white, pink and purple shades to form during late September and increase during October.

What you will like about this plant is that, when all your garden plants have given up and gone dormant for the year, this plant will just be beginning to show color. It is not uncommon to see the flowering cabbage and kale in your garden as late as February unless the plants are covered with snow. When I lived in Massachusetts, I remember that one year we had snow for the holidays but warm weather returned and melted the snow, revealing the cabbage and kale in the garden--and they lasted for many more weeks.

The flowering cabbage will actually have a small head of cabbage that will form in the center of the plant, growing two to four inches in diameter. The foliage is broad, wide, coarse, thick and leathery. It will grow six to twelve inches tall and wide. The leaves grow in a whorl around the center of the plant and can spread 12 to 15 in wide, like a regular cabbage. Flowering kale grows as a clump of leaves like a head of loose-leaf lettuce. These leaves grow as large as the cabbage plants, but are ruffled on the tip of the leaf or margins.

Some new hybrid varieties grow in the shape of a coarse and thick feather, with the edges of the leaf ruffled with multi-colored foliage. The foliage will grow 2 to 4 inches wide and 12 to 15 inches tall, forming a wonderful-looking plant that will grow 12 to 15 inches tall and wide. Both types of plants begin to color up with cold weather and the color begins in the middle of the plant working its way to the edges.

These plants are started from seed during July and August, while the weather is warm, to help develop foliage, as cold weather stops the plants from growing. Like all cabbage and kale plants, cabbage loopers and foliar worms are a problem while growing from seedlings to mature plants. This problem is easily controlled today with the new organic Spinosad or Captain Jack insecticide. When the weather gets cold these insects die, due to the cold weather.

Plant in a sunny garden, as the sun and cold temperature combination will give you the best color. Cabbage and kale will also do very well in window boxes, planters and pots. On the ground, they seem to hold more of the foliage on the plant, as it is easier to keep them watered. So if your plants are in containers, be sure to water a couple times a week and fertilize them a couple of times after you plant them to give the plant better color. Use a liquid fertilizer such as Miracle Gro or Blossom Booster every couple of weeks until the ground freezes.

These plants are unique and will give your plantings a lot of character for many weeks to come. If you do not get a centerpiece for Thanksgiving, cut one of the plants from your garden and use it as an centerpiece. If you get tired of the look and want to decorate for Christmas, cut the plants at the soil line and bring them inside the house to cook, as both plants are very tasty. They are great in cold salads and make great garnish for special meals. Great plants for fall color around your home or your next meal--the flowering cabbage or flowering kale. So pick some up this weekend when you are visiting your favorite nursery or greenhouse. You will like these plants as much as I do, so enjoy!


If you live in the country, you might have noticed a small daisy-like flower in bloom on the side of the road at this time of the year. The daisy-like flowers, half an inch to one across, cover the plant with white, blue or purple flowers. These native wildflowers are grown at many nurseries for fall color and will grow well in your perennial garden.

This wildflower will thrive from Northern New England to Georgia but only grows wild in New England. Ancient Greeks called asters "stars" and legends say that Astraea, goddess of the sky, wept when she saw that there were no stars on earth, and asters sprouted where her tears fell. This Greek goddess must have loved looking at New England, as she graced us with millions of these plants. They are everywhere you look as you travel in New England.

The flowers begin to open in early September and last well into October, surviving cold nights and frost. The flower is daisy shaped and the petals form like the spokes of a wheel, with a dense button-like center that is traditionally yellow in color. New hybrids come in violet, lavender, pink, ruby-red as well as the common white, blue and purple. The same plant can have single or double flowers on the same plant, making them very showy. In the wild, asters will grow 6 inches to several feet tall and spread just as much. These fall-flowering New England asters grow along the side of the road in front of my house. I mow the grass there but they still bloom at the height of 3 inches tall, a great weed.

Asters grow best in full sun but will tolerate a bit of shade. The plants prefer a well-drained soil, rich in organic matter like pine needles and rotted leaves. If you can keep the area well watered during the heat of summer, your plants will grow and spread quickly but they will also tolerate a dry soil and just produce smaller plants. If you find Asters growing on the side of the road, fertilize them with a regular lawn fertilizer in the spring to create a real show of flowers in the fall, in the perennial garden.

Use compost, animal manure or a balanced fertilizer to feed asters. Apply it in the spring to help build a bigger plant for the fall. Because the plants can get quite large, I recommend that you pinch them in early July like your mums, tall-growing sedum and Montauk daisies to control the size of the plant. If your New England fall asters grow along the side of the road like mine do, do not mow them when the plants are in bloom, but when the plants turn brown, mow them down with your lawn mower as this will spread the seed to make more plants for next year.

This fall-flowering perennial is a wonderful plant to attract bees and butterflies to your garden, as they are rich in pollen for food for these insects. This fall aster will make a great cut flower for your home and will last for 2 weeks or more in a vase of water. Use them in perennial gardens, wildflower gardens, woodland gardens, in a mixed border.

Plant in the back of the garden as they will get tall and you may have to stake the plants or you cut back in early July to control the height of the plants. At this time of the year, plant with mums, sedum, flowering cabbage and flowering kale.

When you clean the garden in the fall and the plant has turned brown, shake the plant on the ground to spread the seeds for next year. This plant will make a great filler plant for your flowerbeds and wildflower or meadow gardens. If you started with hybrid plants, they will stay true to color and form. The new seed-grown plants will look different due to pollination from the wild or native varieties growing along the side of the road, but still very nice. If you clean the garden late in the fall, many small birds like finches and chickadees will feed on the seeds produced on the plant. Enjoy!

The Fall Garden Chrysanthemum

This fall, as you work in your garden, let's plant fall-flowering mums as the gardeners of Asia did over 2500 years ago. Mums were wild flowers then that grew everywhere and flowered in the fall all over Asia. This flowering wildflower plant, the chrysanthemum, was collected by gardeners and planted in their gardens during the fall season for fall color just like you and I do today.

The original plant has been hybridized a great deal to give us the hybrids that we have today. The chrysanthemum was collected in Asia and brought to Japan, where it is still grown as a sacred flower and symbolizes "Happiness and Longevity."

My love for this flower developed when I was thirteen years old, as I worked at a farm stand in Scituate, Mass., and spent weekends digging up mums in the field for customers. I dug the mums that customers selected and put them in empty beer boxes for the trip to their gardens. Back in the early sixties, mums were field grown and seldom grown in pots--some of you may still remember this. Mums grown this way in the good old days usually survived the winter better than potted mums do today.

If you want your mum plants to better survive this year, here are a few ideas to help make it possible. Plant your mums in September; this will give them time to be established in your garden before winter arrives. The roots of your mums are growing in a circle in your pot, unnatural. Pull the mum plant out of the pot. Now cut into the root ball with a sharp knife--three slits on the side of the root ball from top to bottom of the root ball about 1/2 inch deep into the soil. Next turn the root ball over and cut a cross into the bottom of the root ball about 1/2 inch deep.

This gardening technique is called "root pruning," and stops this circular growth of the root system, allowing the roots to grow out into the soil in your garden. Plants that grow away from the original root ball stay in the ground when frost begins to harden the soil. If you just dig a hole and set the roots in the garden soil, the frost action will actually move the plant up and out of the soil and kill the delicate roots.

Fall gardening is very different from spring gardening for most of us. In the spring we dig a nice big hole, add compost and animal manure, and place the plant gently into the garden. Firm it in place, fertilize monthly and water every few days to help get the plant established, RIGHT? In the fall we all garden differently, now think of this! We dig a hole for the fall flowering mum, add no soil conditioner, and drop the plant into a small hole. Now we kick the soil around the root ball to fill the hole with our feet and step around the plant to compact the soil around the root ball. If the plant is lucky, we water it--but only when it wilts or it rains. Be honest now--have you ever-fertilized mums that you planted in the fall?

Plant mums in a full sun garden if you want them to return next spring. If you are planting them for fall color only, it will not matter if you plant them in the shade, because most will not survive and become colorful annuals. If you want them to become part of your perennial garden, a rich soil that is well-drained is best. Add animal manure, Soil Moist water retention pellets and a garden fertilizer that contains mycorrhizae. Liquid feed your mums every two weeks until flowers fade. Water mums twice a week; when the flowers fade remove them from the plant.

When the foliage turns brown, cut plants back to the ground and cover the soil with bark mulch or pine needles 3 inches deep for winter protection of the roots. The sooner you plant your mums, the better chance you have of them surviving the winter. Pick mums with a bit of color showing and other plants with just flower buds on them for extended color in your garden this fall. Mums make a great cut flower, so if you should break a branch or two from the plants re-cut the stems and place them in a vase of water; they should last in your home for two weeks or more.

If your mums survive the winter and begin to grow in the spring, all you have to remember is that your mums were forced to stay short when you bought them at the nursery. To control the height of the plant and make the plant bigger, fuller and to make it grow more flowers for next fall, just remember to cut your mums in half on the "Fourth of July". By cutting the plant in half in early July your plant will produce 3 to 4 new branches on every stem you cut back. This cutting back of the plant will help to more than double the size of the plant by the fall and keep it short. The cuttings you get by pruning the plant back in July can be easily rooted with the use of a rooting powder, this will make more plants for your garden. Again: PLANT EARLY and PRUNE THE ROOTS.


This Week's Question:

Oops! Sorry - we messed up - there is no question this week.

Espoma Organic Potting Mix

This Week's Prize:
Espoma Organic Potting Mix

  • Contains Myco-toneŽ mycorrhizae
  • For all indoor and outdoor containers.
  • In 4, 8, 16 qt., 1 and 2 cu. ft. bags.

Last Week's Question:

Cotton is mostly grown in the south. But where was Eli Whitney, Jr. (the inventor of the the cotton gin) born?

Last Week's Winner:
Richard Leufstedt

Last Week's Answer:
Westborough, Massachusetts

Last Week's Prize:
Espoma Organic Potting Mix

One winner per question - we choose winners from the list of those who answer correctly. Winners must be newsletter subscribers. We'll ship you your prize, so be sure to put your address in the form in case you win!

Coconut Curry Tofu

What You'll Need:

  • 2 bunches green onions
  • 1 (14 ounce) can light coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons chili paste
  • 1 pound firm tofu, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 4 roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 4 cups chopped bok choy
  • salt to taste

Step by Step:

  • Remove white parts of green onions, and finely chop.
  • Chop green parts of green onions into 2" pieces.
  • In a large heavy skillet over medium heat, mix coconut milk, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, brown sugar, curry powder, ginger, and chili paste.
  • Bring to a boil.
  • Stir tofu, tomatoes, yellow pepper, mushrooms, and the white parts of the green onions into the skillet. (Don't use the green parts of the onions yet.)
  • Cover, and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Mix in basil and bok choy.
  • Season with salt and remaining soy sauce.
  • Continue cooking 5 minutes, or until vegetables are tender but crisp.
  • Garnish with the 2" pieces of green onion.

Yield: 6 servings


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