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Edition 11.15 Paul Parent Garden Club News April 14, 2011
featured quote

FEATURED QUOTE :

"Spring is a true re-constructionist."
~Henry Timrod


Product Spotlight

MAG-I-CAL by Jonathan Green

Mag-I-Cal is a highly soluble form of calcium, which is readily available for plant uptake. One bag is equivalent to up to ten bags of pelletized limestone.

  • Rapidly raises soil pH--faster than lime
  • Provides calcium, essential for healthy lawns
  • Releases "tied-up" nutrients in the soil
  • Pellets are easy to spread, saving time and money
  • Use on lawns, new seedings, sod lawns & gardens
  • "Wakes up" beneficial micro-organisms
  • Inhibits moss growth
  • Used by professionals

Lots to do in the gardens at this time of the year!

Things are beginning to warm up a bit and rainfall has increased--both are a good thing for our gardens. Now is the time to get out and start working with our garden plants while the weather is still cool and most of the plants are still dormant. Here are a few things for you to do during the next couple of weeks.

Transplanting Perennials:
This is the best time of the year to transplant and move any plant growing in your yard. Plants are dormant and by moving them now there will be less transplanting shock to the plant and they will adapt much faster and more easily.

Most perennial plants, including peonies and bleeding hearts, must be moved right now, while the new growth is just an inch or two tall. The ground is wet and that will help to hold the soil around the roots better, preventing the small feeder roots from being damaged during the move. When you replant into the new garden, be sure to set plants at the same depth that they were in the garden originally. Be sure to condition the soil before planting with compost, animal manure, or peat moss. Peonies MUST be planted in a shallow hole; be sure that the buds are no deeper than one knuckle below the soil surface or they will not bloom.

Roses:
If they are not flowering, they must be moved to a sunny location for more blooms and better growth. When you move the plant, look for the graft of the plant that resembles your fist--just below the branches--as the graft must be covered with soil for better winter protection and never allowed to be out of the soil. Look to see if growth is developing below this graft; if so, remove it, as these shoots (called "suckers") will steal energy from your plant that could be used to make flowers--suckers never flower.

Your bush-type roses should be cut back now to 18 to 24 inches tall to help stimulate new growth. Begin by removing any broken or dead branches on the plant before cutting the plant back. Fertilize now and add bark mulch around the plant to control weeds and help retain moisture in the soil during the summer. Spray your roses with natural non-chemical All Season Oil and Copper fungicide to kill overwintering insect eggs and disease spores on your plant.

Broadleaf Evergreens:
If you have azaleas, rhododendrons and holly that are not flowering very well or are getting too big for the present location, now is a wonderful time to move them. These plants are dormant right now and the new growth has not begun to form, so let's tie up the branches of the plants and dig them up while the weather is in our favor. Broadleaf evergreen plants do not have a tap root; they grow with hundreds of spider web-like roots; that will make it easier for you to dig and move the plant. Choose a location with more than half a day of sunlight if you want more flowers. If possible, find a sheltered location out of the wind. All broadleaf evergreens prefer a soil that is moist most of the year and rich in organic matter, so be sure to condition your soil when planting.

Blue or Pink Hydrangeas:
If your plants are not flowering it could be the location because these plants require sun most of day. If you live north of Cape Cod, these plants will also do better if planted near a structure like a building or fence to help block the winter winds. If your plants have become very large, now is also a great time to dig them up and split them in half and make two plants from the one.

The most important thing to remember about the ball-shaped blue or pink hydrangeas is to prune the plants only in the spring, and always after the new growth has begun to develop. The flowers form on the branches made on the plant last year, old wood. Only remove dead or broken branches but wait for the growth to start to form on the plant. One other possibility for no flowers is the type of hydrangea. If you received onet for Easter or Mother's Day in full bloom, you probably have a florist type variety; this type of plant is not winter hardy for the Northeast. It will make foliage but no flowers, because the flower buds die during the winter due to the cold.

Flowering Deciduous Plants:
Forsythia, lilacs, Roses of Sharon and similar plants should also be moved right now. If you can move these plants before the flowers open, the plant will have less stress and the flowering time will be longer. As the flowers fade, the new growth will develop more easily, because the root system is not disturbed as the foliage is developing on the plant.

When plants are moved before the foliage develops, the plant can adjust the amount of foliage made that spring so it can concentrate on the roots first, which will be critical in the summer heat. Eliminate stress for healthier plants when they have to be moved. If you can prune the plant by 25% after the flowering cycle, your plants will also adapt to the new location faster. Lime the lilacs in the spring for more flowers next year.

Non-Flowering Deciduous Plants:
Privet hedges, burning bush, tall hedge, barberry and similar plants will fill in better--growing thicker--and you can control the size of the plant more easily if you prune them at this time of the year. These plants can be cut back as much as 50% while the plant is dormant, so get out the pruners now and shape the future of the plant.

If you're doing a major pruning to these plants, be sure to fertilize them with Plant Tone fertilizer to help produce new dark green foliage after the pruning. These plants can also be moved easily at this time of the year to a new location without the foliage on the plant.

Vines:
Clematis, honeysuckle, grapes and wisteria are such are likely to survive a move without your cutting back the plant. Just pull down the plant from its trellis or arbor, tie it up for easier handling--and you're ready to dig and move it to a new location. Secure the plant on the new trellis or arbor and your vine will have few problems with the move. Keep it wet once the new growth develops on the plant, and your vine will fill in quickly. Use twist ties to hold the vine on its new structure and feed with Plant Tone fertilizer.

Transplanting from the Wild:
Digging wild-growing plants such as white pine, birches, mountain laurel, pussy willow, cedars, and more should be done during April. Several years ago I moved several eight to ten foot tall wild growing birches from the wild during April with great success. Plant them like a new tree from your favorite nursery and be sure to stake them in place so the wind does not move the root ball in the soil. These plants will have a better success rate if dug without foliage on them--while the plant is dormant.

Wild beach roses, bayberry and ferns will move more easily now than later. If you can use the new Thrive with mycorrhizae bacteria, it will help to quickly replace the roots you were not able to dig with the plant when you moved it. This is new technology in gardening and it will help you move your plant around your yard more easily and with better results when you use it this spring.

Anything can be moved now while it is dormant; if you get busy now, your success rate will be better! Once you dig up a plant, if it is too heavy for you to pick up, try rolling the plant onto a plastic tarp, and then pull the tarp across your lawn. Two years ago I moved a eight foot rhododendron with a 3 foot wide soil ball across my lawn with little effort; it will just slide--don't pick it up. Transplanting in April is wise use of your time in the garden.

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Bleeding Heart/Dicentra

Did you know that a bleeding heart is a wild flower that grows as a native plant under the deciduous tree canopy in the forest from New York to Georgia? The variety that grows wild is called Dicentra eximia or fringed bleeding heart, and is also known as dwarf bleeding heart. The larger-growing variety, known as the old-fashioned bleeding heart, came from China.

There are two distinct types of plants: the larger growing, taller growing and spring flowering, bleeding heart Dicentra spectablis and the dwarf types that bloom later in the season and throughout most of the summer. If you have a shade or partial shade garden, these plants should be in your garden. If they aren't, add them to your list to plant this spring. And yes the flower looks like a heart that has broken, with a tear falling from it.

The old-fashioned bleeding heart (Dicentra spectablis) is one of the earliest flowering perennials in our gardens to bloom. It will begin in mid-spring/late April and last well into June. When your tulips, daffodils and crocus are in all their glory and your forsythia, dogwoods, and wisteria are the show makers in your yard, the bleeding heart is the king of the perennial garden.

The foliage is almost fern-like and deep green in color (though there is a cultivar with almost golden foliage). This foliage develops early--a soft fluffy mound of greens that quickly grows 2 to 3 feet tall and just as wide. Once the foliage is formed, look for tall growing arching branches that will grow another foot tall with no leaves on them; these will develop all over the plant. Then the flowers begin to form in the shape of deep pink hearts that develop quickly on the tip of the stems. As the flower matures and grows in size, they seem to break open at the base of the heart and a tiny white tear-like flower emerges. The flowers develop in rows along the tip of the stem and may number a dozen or more in each row, making the stem arch even more with the weight of the flowers. Each flower will grow to an inch in diameter and last several weeks on the plant, especially if the weather is cool.

The bleeding heart is a perennial plant that needs little to no care once established in your garden, so leave it alone and do not move it around once it has been planted. If you divide the plant, it will take several years to recoup from the division--especially the mother plant. You're better off to buy new plants if you want more plants for your garden. When the heat arrives in July, the plant will begin to turn yellow and go dormant for the summer unless you have a cool moist summer. Just cut it back to the ground and wait for next year as the plant did give you a beautiful flowering plant from April to July.

Plant the bleeding heart in a soil rich in organic matter--the more organic matter the soil contains, the larger the plant will grow and the more flowers it will develop. Compost and animal manure are the best soil conditioners but peat moss and well-rotted bark work well also. I always use "Soil Moist" granules when planting to help hold moisture around the roots, especially if the soil is on the sandy side. Keep the soil moist when plants are in bloom and place a 2 inch thick layer of compost or bark mulch around the plant to control weeds during the growing season and to hold moisture around the plant when it gets hot out during the summer.

Fertilize with Plant Tone fertilizer in the early spring when you see the plant emerge from the ground; no additional feeding will be needed during the rest of the year. You can lime the garden if you begin to notice moss growing in the garden or in the grass around the garden to prevent the soil from getting too acidic. These plants are very hardy and will tolerate -10 to -20 degrees below zero during the winter and even thrive in a climate as far south as northern Florida, where winters are cool.

Most of us know this plant with the deep pink flower with the white tear, but did you know that a red or white heart is now available with the white tear. The all-white or red and white flowering types do not grow as large but will stand out in your garden. Plant them with other shade loving plants like hosta, astilbe, primrose, lily of the valley, helleborus, and ferns.

The dwarf- type fringed bleeding hearts, Dicentra eximia, grow differently but do develop a dense mound of deeply cut fernlike foliage much like the taller growing type. The foliage is gray-green, more feathery looking and stays closer to the ground. This variety is a summer bloomer and it will flower most of the summer despite the heat as long as you can provide enough moisture to keep it happy. It is heat -resistant and will take a bit of morning sun but you will have to water more. I add "Soil Moist" when planting and that will help a lot in the long run to keep moisture around the roots when you forget to do so.

The flower stems are like the spring-flowering types, with no leaves on them; they contain fewer flowers per stem, but the plant produces many more stems during the season. The plant will grow 10 to 18 inches tall and spread the same width. If your soil is rich with organic matter and you provide moisture during the hot days of the summer, your plant can grow up to two feet tall and just as wide. If your soil dries out with the hot weather, your plant can turn yellow and go dormant earlier than normal. The plant will not die but will stop growing for that year.

The dwarf varieties will vary on height and spread, some staying small--under a foot tall--so be sure you read the plant label when you purchase the plant and check with the salesperson for more information. Also like the spring-flowering types you can select white, pink, red and coral pink flowers varieties. The flowers on the smaller growing varieties are not as dramatic looking, with big heart-shaped flowers of spring flowering types, but look very nice in your garden during the summer.

Both types of plant will produce a flower stem that can be cut and used with other flowers in a vase of water on your table. The flowers will last well over a week as a cut flower. Insects and disease problems are few and the plant is not eaten by rabbits and deer--a real plus if these animals come to your yard.

Both plants will attract butterflies, birds, and hummingbirds to your garden. Use bleeding hearts in perennial borders, mixed planting flower beds, plant them as wild flowers under tall growing trees to create color in a wooded lot, in shrubbery beds as a foundation planting around them for additional color--and they look wonderful when planted along shaded streams on your property with other wild flowers.

The bleeding heart plant will be in bloom for Mother's Day and will make a great present for Mom!

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Shallots! The gourmet onion for your table.

If you like to cook, then you must plant a row or two of shallots in the vegetable garden this spring. Shallots are a very special member of the onion family; they have the flavor of sweet onions, the zip of garlic, and are easier to grow than both. Next time you go food shopping, look for shallots where you find garlic and onions--and be prepared for a shock when you see the price of these delicacies.

These bulbs are prized by cooks, and if you have never used them when you cook, buy a few this week and use them when you make omelets, sauces, gravies and soups--just to name a few uses for this incredible onion family member. Shallots will keep very well during the winter in your basement, but mine never last long enough to store. So, this week try some when you cook--and you will see why you will need room in your garden this spring when you plant the garden; move over, squash!

Shallots have a great yield; if you plant one pound of bulbs you should expect five to seven pounds of shallots in the fall--if you could only do that with your investments! Plant bulbs rather than seed in the spring. You can find loose bulbs at most garden centers or feed & grain stores right now. What I do is select the medium size bulbs for planting--less than one inch in diameter--and that will give me 25 to 30 bulbs to plant. I also pick out the big fat ones and use those for cooking now, as mine are all gone and at $4.00 a pound, it's cheaper than the supermarket.

Plant your shallots in a full sun location in the garden; they will grow just about anywhere, even in-between other vegetable plants. Shallots do not take much space. I plant them 6 inches apart in rows on the edge of the garden. The bulbs are very hardy and can be planted in your garden during mid-to-late April and will tolerate the cold. I have found that if you use compost when planting the bulbs, they will develop faster and get established before the heat of summer arrives. The onion family loves heat and if the roots are already developed when the heat arrives, the bulbs will grow bigger and--in the case of shallots--develop more and larger bulbs during the summer.

Prepare your soil with compost; your pH should be slightly acidic to neutral--6 to 7 is best. The soil should be well drained and on the sandy side, if possible. If your soils are heavy and you have clay, add extra compost, animal manure, or peat moss to help break up the clay. Run a string from end of the garden to the other if planting in rows to help dig a straight trench about one inch deep.

I add mycorrhizae and sea kelp to the trench and blend together. Plant the bulbs 6 inches apart and just let the tip of each bulb stick out of the soil so you can see it. When you water, you will see the top third of the bulb sticking out of the soil and that is OK. I always plant a double row about twelve inches apart for better use of the garden. Shallots love to grow half out of the ground so do not cover the bulbs if you notice them exposed.

The onion family is vulnerable to weeds because the foliage is small and creates little shade over the garden--so weeds can be a problem. Weed often when you notice them developing or use a garden weed preventer like Miracle-gro weed preventer for the vegetable garden--and follow the directions! You can also use straw or pine needles around the plants to keep out weeds once the green shoots appear. This will also help hold moisture in the soil during the heat of summer and prevent it from drying out.

Shallots are somewhat drought tolerant but weekly watering does help produce more and bigger bulbs from the bulbs you plant this spring, if the weather gets very dry. A moist soil but never wet is the key to better plants. I fertilize every 2 to 3 weeks with compost tea that I make, or you can now purchase compost tea at your local garden center. Look for Nature's Solutions Compost Tea, available this spring at your favorite garden center. You can also use Miracle-Gro every other week. If your soil is heavy, use Soil Logic's liquid gypsum soil conditioner also known as Thrive. This will break up the clay in the soil, improve drainage and help the roots to develop better.

Insect and disease problems are very few with this plant. Keep the weeds away, and add moisture to the plants when they are dry and shallots will grow almost all by themselves. Overwatering is the biggest problem I have found, so be careful or you could rot the roots. In the past, if you have had problems with soil insects called "root maggots" in your onion plantings I have great news for you. There is now a solution that will prevent them from damaging your crop. Bonide Lawn and Garden have a new product called Eight Granules, that is applied to the trench when planting; it will totally eliminate the problem. This is also effective to control wire worms in potatoes, and root maggots on radishes, beets, and all your cold crops like broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts. If you have a cut worm problem it will do the job quickly but safely.

Harvesting is easy; just pull them out of the ground as soon as the top green foliage has turned brown. If you pull the shallots out of the ground before the foliage dies back, they will not keep as well during the winter months. You can pull bulbs early if you want to use them in cooking, and the green foliage will taste great in any dishes you create.

The foliage will begin to die back in late July to early August so get the bulbs in your garden early this spring to give them time to mature. Pull the whole bulb cluster as one, they will come out easily. Place them in a shady area to dry. Don't break them apart until you're ready to use them. That way, they will keep better and the bulbs are less likely to dry out while in storage.

Store them in a cool dry place like your basement for the winter, and if some begin to sprout use those first or move them to the vegetable crisper in the refrigerator to slow down the sprouting. You can also plant those sprouting bulbs in a small container of soil and grow the bulb on your windowsill during the winter for the great tasting foliage--much better tasting than chives, when used in mashed potatoes.

This is a great tasting vegetable for you to grow in your garden this year. It's easy to grow, it's productive, it keeps well all winter, and the flavor will amaze you. All I want you to do is buy a couple bulbs this week when you food shop and try it, then decide if this bulb vegetable is for you. Just remember shallots have a reputation of elegance and their delicate flavor will make you a better cook. Enjoy!

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Garden Journal

Are you looking for a great gift for a gardener (or yourself)? This garden journal helps make planning and organizing easy. This journal, autographed personally by Paul, makes a perfect gift for gardeners. The cover holds a 5x7 or 4x6 photo and a heavy-duty D-ring binder.

Also included:

  • 8 tabbed sections
  • 5 garden details sections with pockets for seeds, tags...
  • Weather records page
  • 6 three year journal pages
  • Insect & diseases page - 3 project pages
  • 3 annual checklist pages
  • Plant wish list page
  • 2 large pocket pages
  • Sheet of garden labels
  • 5 garden detail sheets
  • 5 graph paper pages for layouts
  • 5 photo pages, each holding four 4x6 photos in landscape or portrait format

Click here to order online.


trivia


This Week's Question:

What is the active ingredient in catnip (the ingredient cats react to)?

This Week's Prize:
Espoma Organic Seed Starter Mix

  • Contains Myco-toneŽ mycorrhizae
  • For all seedlings and cuttings.
  • Promotes Root Growth.
  • In 8 and 16 qt.bags.
Myco-tone

Last Week's Question
If you suffer from seplophobia, you'd probably not have a compost pile. Why?

Last Week's Winner:
Audrey Torrey

Last Week's Answer:
Because seplophobia is the fear of decaying matter.

Last Week's Prize:
Espoma Organic Seed Starter 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!


Sloppy Joes

What You'll Need:

  • 3/4 pound ground round
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 12 buns or rolls

Directions:

  • In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook the ground round, onion and green pepper until beef is browned, stirring to crumble.
  • Stir in tomato sauce, tomato paste, mustard, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, salt, sugar, oregano and pepper; reduce heat to medium-low.
  • Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Spoon 1/4 cup beef mixture over bottom half of buns or rolls, cover with top half.

Yield: 12 servings

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