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Edition 11.21 Paul Parent Garden Club News May 26, 2011
featured quote

Featured Quote:

"I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright."
~Henry David Thoreau

Product Spotlight


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Uses & Benefits
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• Safe for pets, people and the environment
• 100% water–soluble product
• Available in 20-gram, 2-ounce and new 18-ounce sizes
• One 2-oz bag treats 5,000 sq, ft. of lawn or 550 plants

For more information about Actinovate, please visit Natural Industries' website.


I remember my first Memorial Day Weekend in the garden center; it was incredible, because during that three day weekend we sold more geraniums than we did the entire year. Having never worked in a greenhouse before, I quickly learned that the geranium was the number one selling flower for gardens, window boxes, planters, containers and for planting at the cemetery.

We had one greenhouse with every bench filled to the max with geraniums of different shades of red, white, pink, and lavender--and under those benches were more boxes of geraniums. We had 4 inch pots, 6 inch pots, 8 inch pots, six packs of geraniums, hanging baskets with geraniums in them. Just as I was able to get all the plants off the floor and onto the benches, trucks arrived to bring us more geraniums. They were everywhere.

Along with the geraniums were dracaena spikes, and vinca vines. It looked to me that the geraniums would not grow without these two outer plants and everyone had to have them. I had also spent the previous week planting containers of every size and shape with geraniums, dracaena spikes, and vinca vines in them. I can remember telling my mother that this weekend should be called "Geranium Weekend," because we sold so many plants in just 3 days.

In college I learned that geraniums originally came from South Africa, and that they have been grown in the garden since Colonial times--maybe that was why they were so popular. In those days this was the weekend to get the family together to decorate the cemetery plot to honor our veterans and relatives that have passed on. Unfortunately, today not many of us decorate the cemetery like in the past and few take the time to honor our veterans with flowers at their gravesite. Maybe this is the year for you to resume this old custom again.

Geraniums are one of the easiest flowers to grow in your garden and in containers if you follow these easy requirements. First plant geraniums in full sunshine but they will tolerate a bit of shade late in the day, especially if watering is going to be a problem during the hot days of summer. When planting at the Cemetery during late May add a covering of bark mulch or Sweet Peat a couple of inches thick to help hold moisture in the ground when the heat of summer arrives. Condition the soil with organic matter like compost or animal manure before planting. Your soil should be welled drained as wet feet will cause the roots to rot or the foliage to turn yellow and flowers will stop forming on the plant.

Geraniums do best in soils with a near-neutral pH or slightly on the acid side. In the cemetery or in planters like window boxes that dry out easily, be sure to add a pinch of Soil Moist granules to the soil for every plant you put into the ground. I use Soil Moist on everything I plant and it does help cut back my watering by 50%! Be sure to water the plants well after planting and if you can visit the cemetery once a week for a couple of weeks, your geraniums will thrive once established. By adding mycorrhizae at the time of planting, your roots will develop much faster and become more able to tolerate the neglect of the cemetery planting. Go to for great information on mycorrhizae and see how it will make your plant grow better without constant care and fertilizing.

The types of geraniums we are most familiar with are called Zonal or cutting geraniums because they are grown from cuttings. This type of geraniums will form the best, the largest and the longest lasting clusters of flowers on the plant then all other types of geraniums. The new seed-grown geraniums are nice and have wonderful multi colored foliage, a wide range of flower colors, but the flowers are smaller in size, have shorter flower stems and if you have a strong rain storm they tend to shatter easily. The Zonal types have tall growing flower stems 6 to 12 inches high that are very strong, with flower clusters up to 6 inches in diameter. The seed types have flowered stems 4 to 6 inches tall and the flower cluster 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Each flower in the cluster is usually single petal and will last for a week or more. The Zonal geraniums are multi-petal and will last for several weeks on the plant. Seed types will grow to 8 to 12 inches tall and just as wide and last for one season.

The Zonal geraniums will grow 2 to 3 feet tall and just as wide. In the fall of the year before it gets cold, these plants can be dug up, potted, and brought into the house where it will flower on and off during the winter, depending on how much sun you give them. The more sun they receive the better they will flower and grow. If you feed them regularly they should flower regularly during the winter. In early March cut the plant back by half or to 6 to 8 inches tall and wide. You will have no leaves on the plant, just green sticks and you should also repot the plant at this time to a new pot 2 to 3 inches larger. Add Osmocote fertilizer to the newly potted plant and move the geranium to a brightly lit window, where it will quickly begin to make new branches and foliage.

The pieces you removed from the plant can be rooted at this time with rooting powder and placed in 4 inch pots with fresh potting soil. Each piece should be 4 to 6 inches long, contain only 4 leaves on the cutting and no flower buds. Keep in a bright room but not in direct sun until they form roots in just 7 to 14 days. Keep the soil moist at all times and when the roots begin to form fertilize weekly with "Blooming and Rooting" fertilizer made by Ferti-Lome. Once the cuttings begin to grow and reach 6 inches tall pinch the plant back to 4 inches to encourage branching. If flowers form, remove them so all the energy is used to make new growth and more branches on the plant.

In the garden or in the container be sure to fertilize often. I always use Osmocote pellet fertilizer that will feed the plant for up to 4 months and "Blooming and Rooting" fertilizer every other week all summer long. As the flowers fade be sure to remove them to prevent seed pods to form on the plant. This will encourage more flowers to develop on the plant also. Plants will do best when watered regularly; keep water off the foliage when watering. Insect and disease problems are few unless we get a lot of rainfall and cool temperatures.

Today you can find new variegated varieties of Zonal geraniums with white, pink, or red flowers and foliage in all color combinations. These variegated foliage type Geraniums do not have as large a flower or as many flowers as the green leaf types but they are very nice in a container or the garden. One of my favorite unusual Zonal Geranium is the "Rose Bud" geranium, with its double petal flowers that grow round like a flower bud not yet opened. The flower cluster will grow 3 to 4 inches round, come in shades of pink, and last on the plant for 2 weeks or more. The foliage is pale green in color, smooth with no hair on the leaf like most Zonal types and the flowers will continue all summer long.

In the same family but different are the scented geraniums and they will grow just like the Zonal. They have fewer flowers, the flowers are smaller, and fewer on the plant but the foliage had complex oils in it that make wonderful teas, and flavors for sauces, sorbets and vinegars. These plants also make great perfumes. The foliage is known for its aroma like peppermint, nutmeg, lemon, and apple--to name a few. I love rubbing the leaves with my fingers and smelling them after. There is one myth about these scented geraniums and that is that the lemon or citronella leaf type will repel mosquitoes. Unless you cover your patio with them and sit in the middle of the plants they will not repel these insects, but you will smell good.

This week as you choose your flowers for your containers, the garden and the cemetery, be sure to select a few geraniums; the flower that your mother and your grandmother grew in their gardens before all the so-called fancy flowers were developed. Enjoy !!!

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My favorite way to eat fresh tomatoes from the vegetable garden is by toasting two pieces of white bread until golden brown and spreading real mayonnaise, not the "light stuff," on the toasted bread. Then cut chilled tomatoes into thick slices to cover the toast completely, add salt and pepper, and cut the sandwich corner to corner not right down the middle. The hot toasted bread with the cold tomatoes make a sandwich worth all the work of the vegetable garden, no lettuce, no bacon just toast and tomatoes.

Back in the summer of 1984, my first year on radio, I asked my listening audience to join me for breakfast with this type of sandwich. I brought to the radio station on WRKO in Boston that morning: bread, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, a sharp knife, my toaster, and fresh picked tomatoes from my garden. I set up everything and began talking to every one listening on the radio as I took out the bread, placed it in the toaster, and pulled the microphone close to the toaster so everyone could hear the click of the toaster starting. I cut the tomatoes as I took a question from a caller about their garden and all of a sudden it happened. When I brought the toaster into the studio, I must have touched the dial that controls the color of the toast and the slices of bread began to burn, to my surprise and my producer's. Smoke came out of the toaster and just as fast the smoke detector in the studio went off.

You have never seen two grown men opening doors, and moving the air around the smoke detector as fast as we did that morning. For the next couple of hours my callers had a real field day with all that went on that morning and so did the program Director, Mel Miller, who called in during the show to find out if the studio was still in one piece. I did cook two more pieces of bread and made my sandwich so we could all eat together that morning but it was the last time I cooked toast at the radio station.

Besides sandwiches, tomatoes are used for Pasta sauce, tossed salads, fried green tomatoes, and juice just to name a few uses for this wonderful vegetable. Tomatoes are the number one vegetable planted in the garden in the spring time and the most popular vegetable grown today in America. Tomatoes originated in Central and Southern America and were brought to Europe during the sixteenth century. This vegetable took a long time to be accepted by gardeners but in colonial America it quickly became the plant that all must grow. It was easy to grow, it could be canned for the winter months, and the plants were very productive and today one of the highest yielding plants in your garden. Also popular because fresh grown fruit from the garden, tasted better that those purchased at the supermarket.

Not so many years ago tomatoes were picked green, put on a truck and ethylene gas was added to the truck as it made its way to your supermarket from southern growing climates. Today tomatoes are grown closer to your home and picked as they begin to ripen, giving them a much better taste. The tomato is the vegetable that more seed companies have hybridized looking for perfection than any other plant in your garden and it still continues today.

Think back to when you first started grow this vegetable in your garden--then, you only had a few choices to pick from, but today the new hybrids are endless and the taste is getting better all the time. Tomatoes contain Vitamin A, C, beta carotene and a whole bunch of anticancer properties like: lutein, lycopene and more. Just remember not to eat the plant foliage as it is somewhat poisonous, but not the fruit!

Plant your tomatoes in the spring when the air temperature stays above 60 degrees and the soil has warmed up almost to the same temperature. If you try to get a head start on the season and the weather is cold and wet like this year, your plants will just sit there and in some gardens the plants may even turn a bit purple. When this happens, your plants have been set back 10 to 14 days before they will recover with the return of warmer weather. Plant your seedlings in garden with full sun all day long and when the threat of frost has passed. Your plants do best when the soil has a PH of 5.5 to 7.5, neutral to a bit acidic is best.

When the weather is cool, cloudy and wet, the plant will produce less foliage and stretch for the lack of sunlight. When the weather gets warm and stable, the plant will produce more foliage that will make more sugar and better tasting fruit. This is the reason why the first tomatoes you pick are smaller and may have less flavor. That same plant will have bigger fruit and better tasting fruit as the days warm up later on during the summer.

Soil preparation is the key to success: as tomatoes love a soil rich in organic matter to hold moisture during the heat of summer, a soil that is well drained, and a soil that can provide your plant with the nutrients needed to grow properly. seasoned animal manure, seaweed, compost, peat moss, or a new product called "Sweet Peet" at your local garden center and better than peat moss for the vegetable garden, should be added to the garden before planting. When you plant your tomatoes add a pinch of Soil Moist Granules in the hole and work into the soil 6 to 8 inches deep to help hold moisture around the roots during dry spells. This is a wonderful product and it will expand 200 times in the soil, holding a lot of water around the plant's roots, working even better than peat moss and resembling Jell-O--and it's full of water for the plant. More water for the plant means more fruit on the plant and larger size fruit also.

I also use seaweed powder from the Vitamin Sea Seaweed Co. here in Maine, available at many garden centers. This sun dried kelp/seaweed is full of Microbes, such as mycorrhizae, and all the nutrients from the ocean to help get plants off to a quick start. Go to for more information on seaweed and your garden. During the year I apply Plant Thrive fertilizer with mycorrhizae 4 to 5 times during the summer and that all.

Because I live in Maine, where springs are not always kind to the garden like this year, I grow my tomatoes in the garden that is covered with a black fabric to help warm up the soil faster. This fabric not only warms the soil faster in the spring but keeps it warm all year, even into the fall season to help ripen those late green tomatoes. This fabric also keeps all the weeds out of the garden, holds moisture in the soil longer and the fabric I use has a built in watering drip system to prevent getting water on the foliage when watering the garden. If the foliage stays dry you will have fewer disease problems with the plant. Visit to see pictures of my garden last year, and you will see my tomatoes that grew to 8 feet tall--and even when the plants were spaced 3 feet apart they filled in the rows. This fabric with the watering system also prevented the fruit from cracking, as it does some years when we get little to no rainfall.

The biggest problem with tomatoes is disease; if you want to stay as organic as possible, I recommend you use Actinovate, a new microbial fungicide that will even protect tomatoes from early blight. Remember 2 years ago most of us lost our tomato plants when the foliage turning yellow, black spot developed and quickly turned brown from the bottom of the plant to the top almost overnight. This is a soil fungus that becomes airborne, moving from one garden to another when we get cool temperatures, wet weather, and cloudy skies, much like this year. Don't chance it, as this organic microbial product added to your plant will prevent problems all year. Go to for more information.

One last problem with tomatoes, especially when grown in containers, is blossom end-rot, a blackening of the fruit on the underside as it matures. This is a stress related problem and also a lack of calcium, Magnesium and Iron in the soil for the plant. A new Organic product called "Tomato Maker" will prevent this problem when used at the time of planting or added to the soil before the fruit begins to form on the plant. It is available at most Garden Centers and also a great Tomato fertilizer 4-2-6 with minor elements to keep your garden growing organically. Go to for more information.

The last problem is those large green tomato horn worms that find their way to your garden in July. To keep your garden free of them and stay organic look for Spinosad, a natural pesticide that keep them out and will also control Colorado potato beetles, asparagus beetles and many more garden pests.

This is the weekend to get out in the garden, as Memorial Day Weekend is the official start of the Vegetable Garden Season, so let's get those Tomato plants in the ground...finally.

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The month of May is filled with beautiful flowering shrubs and trees and if you had to pick just one plant to add to your garden this year, it would be a difficult choice for most of us to make. I want to make a suggestion of a plant for you to consider if you're making such a choice. The plant that I know you will love to add to your garden is called the Doublefile Viburnum, and for just one reason, because every year it will get more beautiful! This Viburnum, when young, has no real appeal, no pizzazz, but in just a couple of years in your garden it will quickly become your favorite. This plant has it all, and in just a couple of years in your garden, you will see flowers, fruit, fall color, and growth characteristics most plants would die for. There is only one word for this plant, "WOW!"

As the Doublefile Viburnum makes its new growth in the spring, the new branches that form will grow horizontally, and they are graceful because when the wind blows in your yard they will move like waves on the water. The plant will make foliage and flowers at the same time during May. The foliage is beautiful. Each leaf will grow from 3 to 5 inches long; they are shiny and clean looking, the shine on the leaf will last from spring to fall. The shape is oval, 2 inches wide near the stem but narrows to a point on the end, and along the edge of the leaf is a row of small teeth. The leaf is covered with a unique network of sunken veins, like stitchery. In the fall these leaves will gradually change from the deep green summer color, to rich red wine colored foliage that the plant will retain for several weeks. When the color changes occur to the foliage, the sunken veins become even more pronounced and the leaf seems to almost glow.

The flowers form on 2 inch stems placing them above the new foliage, like a pedestal. The flowers that form are unique because this flower cluster has two types of flowers in the cluster: a small fruit-bearing and a large sterile type of bloom. The inside of the cluster is filled with 25 or more fertile small, 1/4 inch, white, 5 petal flowers, and not showy. But around this flower cluster are 5 or more sterile, large, 1 inch, very showy, 4 petal white flowers. The flowers combine to make a wonderful 4 to 5 inch in diameter flat flower that will cover the entire stem of the plant from the main stems to the tip of every branch. The flowers will last on the plant for 4 to six weeks depending on the temperature and frequency of heavy rains. Bees and butterflies seem to flicker from flower to flower like in a dance around the Maypole. There are so many flowers on the branches they will bend with their weight and the lower branches will touch the ground. If you're able to enjoy a full moon night outside in your garden the plant will almost glow from the light the moon sends into your garden.

The fruit, "O the fruit," that this plant makes is wonderful to look at on the plant. You know those wonderful small fertile white flowers in the center of the flower cluster you enjoyed in May to early June have now become shiny, 1/4 inch, oval, bright red fruit. Each fruit cluster is 3 inches in diameter and the 25 or more fruit in the cluster lie flat on their stems above the foliage. The rich shiny green foliage below makes the fruit stand out just as wonderfully as the flowers did on the plant earlier in the season. The fruit ripens in July to early August and then without a notice turns bright shiny black in late August telling the birds that supper has been served. All of a sudden, all the berries are gone and the plant can now prepare for the fall by making flower buds for next spring and slowly change the foliage to the rich red wine color.

Doublefile Viburnum loves a soil that is moist, rich, and fertile; if planted in a dry, sandy soil it will not perform very well for you. Condition the soil before planting with lots of compost or seasoned animal manure. I always add Soil Moist granules when planting new shrubs to insure the roots stay moist as the new roots develop in your garden. Mycorrhiza has shown me how wonderfully Mother Nature's microbes work in the soil and I will never plant anything again without using this product. Your Garden Center should have either Plant Thrive liquid or Nature's Technologies powder form of Mycorrhizae available; use it and see the difference in the growth your plant will make.

Water the plant weekly or more often during warm weather to motivate plant growth. Fertilize in the spring with Plant-Tone or Dr. Earth shrub fertilizer with Probiotic each spring to encourage good growth during the summer months. Place 2 to 3 inches of bark mulch or compost around the plant to control weeds around the plant and to help hold water in the soil during the summer months. Lots of moisture around the roots will result with more, bigger, and brighter fruit during the summer months on the plant.

Doublefile Viburnum will grow in full sun to partial shade in your garden. The flowers and berries will do as well in either growing locations. Just make sure the location you choose is well drained and has no standing water, especially during the winter. Give the plant room to grow as this plant needs room display the flowers and berries during the year. This plant will grow 8 to 10 feet tall and will spread its beautiful branches 10 to 12 feet wide. You can prune the lower branches on the plant as it matures and create a small tree-like plant with multiple stems.

This Viburnum will make a great plant to grow under tall trees that had the lower branches pruned out to let daylight in under them as an understory plant. If you want to create a tall growing privacy hedge along your property line or cut back the traffic noise from your patio during the summer this is your plant, space plant 10 feet apart. You can also use it as a vocal point or specimen plant in your yard or large planting of mixed plants like Rhododendrons, Azaleas, and Mountain Laurels. If you have a Japanese Garden this plant will make a great specimen flowering plant near a pond or small stream. Plant this Viburnum on the side of a hill to prevent erosion and to create a background of color all summer long with its beautiful flowers and berries. If you have bird houses or bird feeders this plant will ensure that the birds stay from season to season and because of its dense foliage and horizontal branching it also makes a great plant for the birds to build nest in.

The flower closely resembles the flower of the climbing hydrangea; many people think that this plant belongs to the hydrangea family but it does not. And best of all, no insect or disease problems with this plant and once established, it needs little to no maintenance. Look for it at your local nursery; you will not regret purchasing this wonderful shrub, the Doublefile Viburnum. You will enjoy it!!!

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Last week I was very fortunate to travel to Ireland with 66 wonderful gardeners and now friends. I was told at an early age, that one of your goals in life should be to learn "something new every day." Last week I learned many new things about gardening and people who enjoy creating a garden, and I hope that the people that traveled with my wife Chris and I did too. One of the many things that I learned in Ireland was the definition of a garden.

I always thought of a garden as a specific area on your property, like the vegetable garden, the perennial garden, the flower garden, or the rose garden. After this trip to Ireland I have to change my thoughts of what a garden truly is, because the entire property you live on is your garden! Your home is a place to live in, so you can better enjoy the garden that you have created around it. If you are fortunate enough to travel to Ireland in the future, please visit at least one of the many gardens planted by the gardeners of Ireland, and your idea of a garden will also change as mine has. Ireland is a beautiful country, its towns and cities are clean, the homes are well kept, and it's a real pleasure to travel across it and enjoy the ever changing landscape of the country side, as I did.

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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.


This Week's Question:

Because of a poem, Memorial Day and Veteran's day are associated with a particular flower. What flower?

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.

Last Week's Question
On what continent will you NOT find frogs and toads?

Last Week's Winner:
Alice Owerka

(P.S We forgot to announce the winner for the week before last - it was Alva Erickson. Sorry.)

Last Week's Answer:

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!

Article Image

Caribbean Sweet Potato Salad

What You'll Need:

  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and quartered
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and quartered
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 teaspoon prepared Dijon-style mustard
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped peanuts

Step by Step:

  • Place the russet potato pieces into a large saucepan, and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Add the sweet potato, and cook about 15 minutes more. Remove a piece of each potato, and cut it in half to see if it is cooked enough.
  • Once the potatoes are tender, add corn kernels; cook another 30 seconds. Drain through a colander.
  • Fill the saucepan with cold water, and drop vegetables into water. Cool for 5 minutes, and drain.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together mustard, lime juice, cilantro, and garlic. Slowly whisk in oil. Mix in salt and black pepper.
  • Cut cooled potatoes into 1 inch cubes, and add to dressing along with cucumber and red onion. Toss well.
  • Serve at room temperature or chilled.
  • Toss the peanuts in just before serving.

Yield: 5 servings


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(207) 985-6972

Paul Parent Garden Club
2 Blueberry Pines Dr
Kennebunk, ME 04043

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