Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Birding Place!
Our new bird area is filled with everything you need to keep your feathered friends happy and content this winter.  

* 12 different kinds of bird seed 

* Squirrel corn
* 4 flavors of suet cakes
* Ashcombe's own mixed bird seed blend

* Small and large quantities of mixed seed and black oil sunflower seed

* Black oil sunflower seed - 50lb. bag for $22.00 (reg. $24.99)
* A Case of Suet (12-pack of suet cakes) $13.99 (reg. $17.99)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Planting A Fairy Garden

Fairy gardening is a popular past time for many children, youth and adults.  It is a great way to create a beautiful, creative masterpiece that is limited only by your imagination!

A sure way to attract fairies into your garden is to create a magical miniature fairy garden.  Fairies are peaceful, yet mischievous magical folks that like to frolic and dance in the garden.

To design and plant a garden for fairies, begin by thinking small.  You'll need a small container like a terrarium, box or basket; a selection of small plants that fairies like; and small ornaments and treasures to tempt and please the fairies.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


Cyclamen is a lovely flowering plant appreciated for its habit of blooming in winter when flowers are so scarce.  The plant develops from an underground corm, or tuber, similar to a bulb.  The leaves are generally deep green with pale green markings, which nicely set off the pink, white or red blooms.  Even when not in flower, the foliage, with its mottled markings, is interesting.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gardens Of London Presentation

Gardens Of London Presentation
Saturday, December 5th, 10:00am

Why are English gardens so numerous and  what makes them so special? Master Gardener Wendy Plowman, who visited many of them, will share with you the ins and outs of these gardens in her "Gardens of London" presentation.  Sit back, relax, and enjoy a cup of English Breakfast tea and scones during the show.  
Pre-registration and payment required.  $10.00

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Christmas Cactus

The unusual stems and timely blossoms of these commonly grown house plants are both delightful and fascinating.  Christmas cactus is an old favorite.  It has striking, bright green arched branches made up of flat, scalloped 11/2 inch long joints.  The branches droop, especially when in bloom.  It's multi-trumpeted, 3-inch long, rosy red flowers, plus other colors, appear at Christmas time.

Click here to learn more about the popular Christmas Cactus

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Growing African Violets

African Violets are beautiful little plants that can be grown indoors all year long.  They are great for small spaces, window sills or any sunny, bright room of the house.  They are easy to grow with a little bit of tender love and care!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015



Terrariums can be a fun, indoor project for kids and adults.  Let your imagination run wild and develop a miniature world to enjoy throughout the winter months.  Ashcombe offers a great selection of small, terrarium- sized plants and many accessories to customize it exactly the way you want!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Put Color In Your Fall Garden

We have a fantastic selection of cabbage, kale and pansies still available.  They will thrive in your garden until a hard freeze or the first snowfall!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Christmas Is Coming!!

Christmas Is Coming!
Can you believe Christmas is just around the corner?  It's hard to believe, but here at Ashcombe, we are working hard to get our poinsettias beautiful for your holiday enjoyment.  This picture shows one of our larger greenhouses filled with green poinsettias.  Our growers are busy taking care of them and tending to their every need.  Soon, color will begin to appear on their leaves!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Pumpkin & Squash Recipes

Some of the best tastes of the season are created with the squash and pumpkin varieties that are found this time of the year.  Try some of these family favorites for your next 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

2015 Fall Harvest Days

Great Family Fun!
October 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17 - 25, 30 & 31  
(weather permitting - please call ahead)
Hours:  Monday - Saturday
9am-6pm // Sunday 11am-4pm

Farm Animals
Hay Slides & Jumps
Corn Box, Tunnels and Field Games
Pick-Your-Own Pumpkins
Horse Drawn Hayrides
Corn Maze
Kettle Corn
Face Painting
Ticket Prices:
Hayride:  $4.00   /Hayworld:  $4.00
Combo Ticket Hayworld/1 Hayride:  $7.00
Season Pass to Hayworld plus 1 Hayride Ticket:  $20.00
Children under 1 FREE
Call for group rates

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Pick-Your-Own Pumpkins
It's that time of year.  Can you guess what the favorite symbol of the season is?  It's orange, and round, and sometimes smiles...a Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin of course!  

We have a great selection of these beauties in all sizes, shapes and colors!  Choose from our large display beside the main entrance, or pick your own in our Fall Harvest fun area (during Fall Harvest hours).  

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Using Winter Squash

Have you ever wondered what to do with all those colorful, weirdly shaped squash you see in the fall?   They are rich in vitamins and quite healthy, so you just might want to give them a chance!  Most of them are easy to prepare for mealtime.

Toasted Squash Seeds (any winter squash) - Rinse seeds thoroughly in a strainer.  Place on paper towels and dry.  Remove fibers from seeds.  Rinse seeds again and spread evenly (without drying) on a cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with salt or garlic salt.  Bake in a 350°F oven for 15-20 minutes.

Squash can be baked, boiled or sliced and fried; mashed and buttered or mixed with other 
ingredients to create breads, cakes, pies, desserts, casseroles, soups and salads.  

Acorn Squash can be green, orange or buff in color.  They are shaped somewhat like a huge acorn with ribs or ridges.  The orange flesh is sweet and  is excellent for baking.  It is an early producer and can be stored well.

Banana Squash are long and pointed and grayish or creamy in color.  Some grow to over 2 feet long!  This squash has excellent flavor and keeping quality.

Buttercup Squash usually have flat green tops and a dark green body with stripes.  They are drum or turban shaped  The flesh is thick and orange and has a rich aromatic flavor.  Excellent for pies.

Butternut Squash have an elongated bell-shape and are buff-colored with smooth skin.  They are sweet and tender and excellent for baking.

Cushaw is a pear shaped squash that ranges from a striped green to orange color.  The flesh is golden and a good quality for baking.  It is used commercially for canned pumpkin and makes 
excellent pies.

Hubbard Squash grows quite large and thick and is cylindrical in shape.  Its color ranges from bluish to gray to orange.  The flesh is pale yellow and of good quality for baking.

Spaghetti Squash has smooth skin and is orange to pale yellow in color.  It has yellowish strands inside and a good crunchy texture.  This squash can be prepared and eaten like spaghetti noodles, with sauce and all.  Bake or boil to fork out the center like strands of pasta.

Sweet Dumpling as round as dumplings and as sweet as honey!   The golden flesh bakes up tender.  Hard ivory and green striped skin - an ideal keeper.

Turban - The most popular variety of this squash is called the ‘Turk’s Turban’.  It grows to about a foot in diameter and is crown-like.  It is not the best eating quality, fine-grained and somewhat like a sweet potato.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

How Often Perennials Require Division

Some perennials need division frequently, while others do better left undisturbed.  The following list illustrates how often to divide many common perennials.  These recommendations assume suitable growing conditions and overall healthy plants.  The time frames given for division are those required to maintain plant health.  Some of the plants on this list can be invasive under certain conditions and many need division more frequently than indicated if their size must be limited.     

Divide These Every 1-3 Years
Achillea (Yarrow)
Aegopodium podagraria ‘Variegatum’ (Snow on the Mountain)
Arabis caucasica (Rock Cress)
Artemisia ludoviciana (Wormwood)
Aster Novi-belgii (New York Aster) 
Campanula carpatic (Carpathian Harebell) 
Campanula persicifolia (Peach Leaved Bellflower) 
Centaurea montana (Bachelor’s Button) 
Centranthus ruber (Jupiter’s Beard) 
Cerastium tomentosum (Snow in Summer)
Coreopsis grandifolia (Tickseed) 
Coreopsis verticillata (Threadleaf Tickseed)
Delphinium elatum (Delphinium)
Dendranthema morifolium (Chrysanthemum)
Dianthus deltoids (Maiden Pinks)
Gaillardia grandiflora (Blanket Flower)
Geum (Avens)
Helenium autumnale (Helen’s Flower)
Heuchera micrantha (Purple-leaved Coral Bells)
Heuchera sanguinea (Coral Bells)
Iris germanica (Bearded Iris)
Leucanthemum superbum (Shasta Daisy)
Lychnis coronaria (Rose Campion)
Monarda didyma (Beebalm)
Penstemon barbatus (Beard Tongue)
Phlox paniculata (Garden)
Phlox subulata (Creeping) 
Physostegia virginiana (Obedient Plant)
Veronica spicata (Spiked Speedwell)

Divide These Every 4-5 Years
Acanthus hungaricus (Bear’s Breeches)
Armeria maritima (Sea Thrift)
Astrantia lactiflora (Mugwort)
Asteromoea mongolica (Kalimeris) 
Astrantia major (Masterwort)
Astilbe (Astilbe)
Bergenia cordifolia (Bergenia)
Boltonia asteroids (Boltonia)
Campanula glomerata (Clustered Bellflower)
Campanula rotundifolia (Harebell)
Cerstostigma plumbaginoides (Plumbago) 
Chelone lyonii (Turtlehead)
Chrysogonum virginianum (Golden Star)
Dianthus gratianopolitanus (Cheddar Pinks)
Dicentra eximia (Fringed Bleeding Heart)
Digitalis grandiflora (Perennial Foxglove)
Erigeron (Fleabane)
Eupatorium maculatum (Joe-Pye Weed)
Helianthus (Perennial Sunflower)
Heliopsis helianthoides (False Sunflower)
Hemerocalllis (Daylily)
Liatris spicata (Gayfeather)
Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ (Black Eyed Susan)
Rudbeckia nitida ‘Herbstonne’ (Shining Coneflower) 
Scabiosa (Pincushion Flower)
Solidago (Goldenrod)
Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ear)
Stokesia laevis (Stokes Aster)
Tiarella cordifolia (Foamflower)
Tradescantia andersoniana (Spiderwort)
Veronicastrum virginicum (Culver’s Root)

Divide every 6-10 years
* = resents disturbance
^ = tough woody roots or taproot

Alchimelia mollis (Lady’s Mantle)
Amsonia tabernaemontana * (Blue Star)
Asarum europaeum (European Ginger)
Begonia grandis (Perennial Begonia)
Brunnera macrophylla (Perennial Forget-Me-Not)
Echinacea purpurea (Purple Conflower)
Echinops ritro *^ (Globe Thistle)
Epimedium * (Barrenwort)
Filipendula rubra ‘Venusta’ ^ (Queen of the Prairie)
Filipendula ulmaria ^ (Meadowsweet)
Geranium (Cranesbill)
Hemerocallis (Daylily) 
Hosta (Hosta)
Iberis sempervirens * (Candytuft)
Iris siberica (Siberian Iris)
Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)
Ligularia (Ligularia)
Limonium latifolium * (Sea Lavender Statice)
Nepeta (Catmint)
Papaver orientale * (Oriental Poppy)
Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’ (Variegated Solomon’s Seal)
Pulmonaria (Lungwort)
Rodgersia aesculifolia (Rodger’s Flower)
Salvia nemerosa (Meadow Sage)
Sedum spectabile (Stonecrop)
Thalictrum aquilegifolium (Meadowrue)
Tricyrtis hirta (Toadlily)
Trollis * (Globeflower)
Ornamental Grasses (variety)

Divide every 10 + years
* = resents disturbance
^ = tough woody roots or taproot

Aconitum * (Monkshood)
Adenophora lilifolia (Ladybells)
Anemone hybrid (Japanese Anemone)
Aquilegia (Columbine)
Aruncus dioicus *^ (Goatsbeard)
Asclepias tuberosa *^ (Butterfly Weed)
Baptisia australis * (False Blue Indigo)
Cimicifuga racemose * (Bugbane)
Dicentra spectabilis (Old Fashioned Bleeding Heart)
Dictamnus albus * (Gas Plant)
Eryngium *^ (Sea Holly)
Euphorbia (Spurge)
Gyspophilia paniculata *^ (Baby’s Breath)
Helleborus (Lenten Rose)
Hibiscus moscheutos (Hibiscus)
Hosta (Hosta) 
Paeonia (Peony)
Platycodon grandifloras *^ (Balloon Flower)
Polemonium caeruleum (Jacob’s Ladder)
Thermopsis Caroliniana * (Carolina Lupine)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Ornamental Cabbage & Kale

A great plant for fall!  Cabbage and Kale keep their brilliant color long after the rest of the flowers have gone to bed for the winter.  The perfect accent with mums, pansies or asters, cabbage and kale add a crisp bold look to flower beds and containers and are easy to grow!

Description:  Leaves are thick like cabbage and they are edible.  The blue-green leaves are showy and open from the center.  Centers are usually white tinged with pink, red or purple.  Kale has curled leaves.  Cabbage has smooth leaves.  

Habit:  Grows 10-15” tall with rosette leaves.

Culture:  Full sun, prefers moist, well-drained soil.

Utilization:  Provides attractive color contrast for accent and 
pattern plantings or pots and containers.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Deer Resistant Perennials

Gardens in the Northeast are increasingly becoming “fast food” for deer.  In a drought situation, the deer especially appreciate our efforts to keep our gardens watered.  Flower buds are a deer delicacy not to be passed up!  There are no plants that are completely deer proof, however there are several things you can do to keep deer away from your garden.  Commercial repellent sprays can be used, but they are not completely effective.  The sprays need to be re-applied after every rainfall.  If you have a wet spring, this could mean a lot of spraying.  Human hair (available at your nearest hair salon) spread in among your plants, repels deer for awhile.  “Soap-on-a-rope:, strategically hung in various spots in your garden, is also somewhat effective.  Continually changing the scents in your garden by alternating these methods is very effective.  Once something becomes familiar to deer, they are no longer afraid.  The only way to keep deer away is to use plants they do not like.  Deer seem to avoid leaves which are aromatic, leathery or very hairy.  Below is a list of plants not so tasty to deer.

Ageratum (annual)
Allium (bulb)
Bignonia (vine)
Calendula (annual)
Campsis (vine)
Chionodoxa (bulb)
Clematic (vine)
Colchicum (bulb)
Crocosmia (cover buds)
Crocus (bulb)
Cyclamen (bulb)
Eranthus (bulb)
Gladiolus (bulb; cover buds)
Hibiscus (cover buds)

Lilium (cover buds)
Lonicera (vine)
Parthenocissus (vine)
Polygonatum (vine)

Sedum (groundcover types)
Snow Drop (bulb)
Wisteria (vine)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ornamental Peppers

This annual ornamental pepper is usually available from late summer into fall and provides traditional color during the fall season.

The cone-shaped miniature peppers change color as they ripen.  Yellow, red and purple 1-inch fruits are sometimes found on the plant.  the fruits are not edible -- but very hot!   The peppers should remain attractive for 2 to 3 months with care.  Some direct sunlight is essential, and the soil must never be allowed to dry out.  White flowers precede the fruit.  Remove shriveled peppers to keep plant looking its best.

TEMPERATURE - Cool or average warmth; not less than 55°F.

LIGHT - Bright lit spot with morning or afternoon sun.

WATER - Keep soil moist at all times.

AIR HUMIDITY - Mist the leaves frequently.  Hot dry air will cause fruits to fall.

FERTILIZER - Feed monthly with mild liquid fertilizer.  Cease when fruit appears.

POTTING - Use standard potting mix.

PROBLEMS - Attacks of aphid and red spider mite are a possibility; also white flies.  Treat with horticulture oil or soap.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Growing Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums are lovely, semi-hardy perennials that bring color to the late summer garden.  Here are a few tips to help insure growing  success.  Plant early to establish good roots.  Plant garden mums in a spot where they get full sun, in peat moss, perlite, or organic matter (humus, leaf mold, manures will help to loosen it.)

Plant mums 24 inches apart or more.  You will be surprised at how much growth they put on 
the second year.  Keep moist throughout the fall so they do not suffer stress and can get well 
established before winter arrives.

At the holidays, cut the branches off your Christmas tree with you are done with it.  Lay them across the mums about two layers thick.  If you don’t have a tree, many tree lots will give you trees after the holidays free of charge.  A layer of straw can be used if it is not applied too 
heavily.  The idea is to keep the mums at an even, cold temperature.  Cold doesn’t usually kill mums, heaving from the frost does.  Leave your mums covered until mid March, or about when the crocus bloom.

In the spring after uncovering, trim back dead stems to the ground and feed the plants with a 
5-10-10 formula fertilizer.

To keep the small, compact bushy shape that typifies your mums the first year, cut them back
to a height of 8 inches until mid-July.  They grow quickly and you may have to cut them back 
several times through the season.  After mid-July, let the stems grow and form flower buds.  Without the “haircuts” your mums will still bloom.  They will be taller and may need support 
when in flower.

Mum plants can be divided every other year.  To divide, wait until early spring, dig up the clump and cut into sections.  Make each section at least 6x6 inches to be sure you have a good 
number of rooted stems.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Fall Vegetables Are Here!

Fall Vegetables

It's hard to imagine, but it is time to plan for the fall garden!  Extend your harvest season with cool weather favorites including cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale and cauliflower.

Need some growing help?  Our experts are ready with answers to all your gardening questions.  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Beauty Of Butterflies

Our Annual butterfly event and release will be held this Saturday.  Come join us for a day filled with all things butterflies!  Click here for a complete schedule of events: 


Plant Your Own Butterfly Garden!

Sure, you can attract a couple of butterflies just by planting a few of the right flowers in a window box or a corner of your vegetable patch, but to observe a true diversity (as many as 40 different species) and watch their transformation from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis and finally adult, you’ll want to create a haven specifically for them - A SEPARATE BUTTERFLY GARDEN!

Your butterfly garden should offer plenty of sun and protection from strong winds - the south or southeast side of a stone wall, building, hedge or slope are excellent.  If you don’t have such a sheltered site, you can arrange the plants in the garden in a bowl shape, with the taller ones on the outside creating a sheltering effect.

Your butterfly garden doesn’t have to be large, but the more naturalized the better.  Chemical pesticides are, of course, deadly to butterflies and their offspring.  But if you’re an organic gardener, you don’t have to worry about accidentally killing what you’re trying to attract.

Good butterfly plants HAVE three traits:  shape, color and fragrance.  Butterflies sip nectar through their tongue (proboscis) so plants that allow them the easiest access to that nectar are preferred.  Many butterfly flowers are purple, lavender or pink, but because butterflies see differently than we do, their response to flower colors is not entirely predictable.

A heavy perfume appeals to butterflies, so stick to the old-fashioned or heirloom varieties in place of the faint-scented modern forms of the same flowers.  Butterflies have an acute sense of smell.  They can detect the most fragrant flowers from afar and will delight on them rather than on modern hybrids that have little or no fragrance.

The average adult butterfly lives only two weeks, and much of that time is devoted to reproduction and egg-laying.  To lay those eggs, females search for a proper host plant on which to deposit their eggs.  When those eggs hatch, the larva (caterpillars) emerge and begin feeding, usually on the leaves of that host plant.  These host plants are often different than the plants that adult butterflies use as nectar sources.

You don’t absolutely need host plants in your butterfly garden, but by having a few of them around - either in your main planting or somewhere nearby - you will help to increase the local butterfly population and increase your opportunity for observation of the next generation’s adult form.  Most butterflies travel only a few hundred yards from where they grow up as caterpillars.

You can raise your own butterflies indoors - even after summer has passed.  No matter what your age, it’s fun to watch the metamorphosis from egg to butterfly.  By releasing the adults, you may even help to increase the butterfly populations in your outdoor garden and neighborhood.  If you have just one square foot of space, you can easily raise 50 to 100 butterflies.  It’s relaxing and rewarding.  When you release a new butterfly that you’ve raised, you can make a wish or simply watch your cares fly away with it.

The first step is making an aviary - or butterfly house.  To begin, identify the proper host plant for the kind of butterflies that you wish to raise, and pot one up so that you can bring it indoors.  Then use two long pieces of wire to construct a teepee-like frame work over the plant.  Cover the framework with mosquito netting or an old sheer curtain and fasten the bottom of the net to the pot with string or a rubber band.

Now find a female butterfly - the right species for your host plant - and catch her.  What’s that?  How do you tell a male from a female?  The best way is to consult a good field guide to butterflies:  Males and females of the same species often have distinguishing marks or flight patterns that will be illustrated or described in the guide.  For example, the male monarch’s scent pouch on its hind wing looks like a large black dot.  (Hold the butterfly upside down by its wings, and look at the tip of its abdomen.  You’ll see claspers on a male, but not on a female.

Butterflies are most active, and therefore easiest to spot on sunny days.  Late morning is prime time.  Late afternoon is also good for seeing and catching butterflies, but they often hide during the hottest part of the day.  To catch your butterfly, wear subdued colors and approach very slowly.

Almost any female that you catch in your garden will already be fertilized.  After you put her in the cage, add a small melon cube for food (sugar), or provide a few nectar flowers, such as cosmos or zinnias.  A brand new, never used orange pot scrubber in a shallow dish filled with sugar water also works.  At first you may need to coax her to eat by opening her proboscis with a tooth pick (Yes, you can do this!  It’s easy!)  and she’ll soon catch on.

Cover the entire cage with a brown paper bag to keep the butterfly calm; strong light will cause her to become active and she may hurt herself in the enclosed space.  After 24 hours, begin checking the leaves of your host plant for eggs - a female will generally begin laying in one to seven days.  (After she’s laid a few eggs, you can release her.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Preventing Late Blight on Tomatoes and Potatoes

Late blight is spread by a fungal infection that produces millions of spores during wet seasons and quickly infects healthy plants.  Not only can spores survive in infected tubers and soil, once active, spores can travel great distances and infect neighboring areas 5-10 miles away.  Late blight was responsible for the Irish potato famine in the 1840’s and is detrimental to entire crops.  Late blight generally emerges in August when weather is hot and humid and can destroy plants in days.  Rain can gather and carry spores for miles away.  Once the infection is evident, very little will save the plant, but you can prevent the spread to other plants.
1.  Check plant daily.  Dark brown or gray lesions on the leaves, stems, joints and new 
growth are common.  Leaf browning, white powdery mold or lesions on fruit are all 
signs of blight.
2.  Avoid overhead watering; water plants at the base not on the leaves.
3.  Remove infected plant immediately and put in the garbage - do not compost or bury 
plants because blight can continue to survive and spread.
4.  Spray healthy plants with fungicide every 5-7 days (read the label).  Active ingredients 
include maneb, mancozeb, chlorothalonil or fixed copper.  Apply liberally.
5.  If a wet season, spraying early may prevent blight all together.  
6.  Use mulch or landscape fabric as water splashing from the ground onto plants may set 
blight into motion.
7.  Plant tomatoes at least 2 feet apart to allow for air circulation.
8.  Rotate crops to other areas from year to year especially tomatoes and potatoes.  

Bonide Copper Fungicide - Apply in flower bed as soon as plants are established.  Repeat at 4-14 days intervals throughout the growing season (available in liquid and dust).

Bonide Garden Dust - to control insects and blights.

Bonide Tomato and Vegetable 3 in 2 - fungicide, insecticide, miticide.

Organicide K Neem Oil - apply weekly (organic option)

Late blight on Potatoes:  On potato tubers, late blight appears as a shallow, coppery-brown dry
rot that spreads irregularly from the surface through the outer 1/2 inch of tissue.  Lesions on the surface can be brown, dry and sunken.

Peppers and eggplant can also be infected with late blight. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

How To Mulch A Tree Or Shrub

Mulching seems natural.  After all, mulch helps re-create a forest environment, where decaying leaves, twigs and branches blanket the ground.  As they break down, they slowly feed plants and they help the soil stay moist.  Plus, the natural carpet looks nice.

What is unnatural is the current practice of making gopher mounds of mulch around the base of plants.  Not sure what I mean?  Drive around your neighborhood and look, especially at newly landscaped areas.  There they stand - poor, helpless trees and shrubs being swallowed by wood-chip piles the size of the Great Pyramid (well, almost).  Not only do those mounds look unnatural, but they also hurt plants by depriving roots of air and water.  

Below are the basic steps to mulching the right way.  Use whatever mulch works for you - bark, compost or shredded leaves, for example.  But no matter what you choose, make sure that it is fully composted.  
Uncomposted mulch will tie up soil nitrogen as it decomposes, starving your plants and it may steam, or 
create heat and acid that will burn tender new plant roots.

•  KEEP MULCH SEVERAL INCHES AWAY from the trunk.  Mulch helps to hold moisture; that’s a good thing  except when mulch is piled against a plant base.  Stems, unlike tree roots, are not adapted to being moist all the time.  By putting mulch too close to the stem or trunk you risk problems with moisture-loving insects, fungi and rodents.

•  APPLY MULCH so that when it settles, the layer is no more than 2 to 3 inches deep.  If mulch is applied too deeply (or has a fine texture like sawdust), air and water may have a hard time penetrating the mulch layer.  Deep mulch is especially problematic for plants with fine root systems, such as Azaleas, Rhododendrons and Japanese Maples.

•  SPREAD MULCH all over the ground directly below the canopy.  (This area is known as the drip line).  Doing so keeps weeds and grass from competing with roots.  It also prevents injury to the stems due to close shaves with the lawn mower or string trimmer.  Finally, it allows more of the root system to benefit from the moisture-conserving advantages of mulch.

Information courtesy of Organic Gardening

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Growing Vegetables In Containers

Would-be vegetable growers in urban areas have alternatives to the challenges to outdoor gardening.  If you have a passion for vegetable gardening, you need not give up as there are alternatives such as growing vegetables in containers.  Vegetables and even flowers and herbs grown in containers can be placed or moved to any spot such as windows, balconies, patios and doorsteps where there is sun.

There are several types of containers that can be used for growing vegetables.  These include 
polyethylene plastic bags, clay pots, plastic pots, metallic pots, milk, jugs, ice cream containers, bushel baskets, barrels and planter boxes.

It is very important to use containers that can accommodate the roots of the vegetables you want to grow as the vegetables vary in size and root depth.  The container also needs to have good drainage, and should not contain or be made up of chemicals that are toxic to plants and human beings.

Vegetables suitable for container gardening are the ones that require small space, particularly the dwarf or determinate types, or bear fruit or other harvestable parts over a longer period of time, require full sun or partial shade, and plants that will make the landscape look beautiful.

Use potting mix (soil-less media) in vegetable container gardening as these mixes are light, disease-free, weed seed-free and have good drainage.

Some potting mixes have pre-mixed plant nutrients but its very important to read information on the label about how long the pre-mixed nutrients will support plant growth before you start applying fertilizers.  
You can also make your own two bushels of potting mix by using the following recipe:  one bushel of shredded sphagnum peat moss; one bushel of vermiculite; 11/4 cups of ground limestone; one-half cup of 0-20-0 phosphate fertilizer or one-fourth of a cup of 0-45-0 fertilizer; and one cup of slow-release granular fertilizer such as 5-10-5.  

Most vegetables grown in the backyard can be grown in containers, although container diameter and depth need to be considered.  The plant density (number of vegetable plants per pot) depends on the individual plant space requirement and rooting depth.

Here are some general guidelines:
~ Half gallon containers:  parsley (one plant)
~ One gallon containers:  cabbages (one plant); cucumbers (two plants); green beans (two to three 
plants); leaf lettuce (four to six plants); spinach (direct seed, thin to one to two inches apart); 
Swiss chard (one plant); cherry and patio tomatoes (one plant).
~ Two gallon containers:  beets (thin to two or three inches apart); carrots (thin to two to three inches 
apart); eggplant (one plant); pepper (two plants); radishes (thin to one to two inches apart).
~ Three gallon containers:  standard tomatoes (one plant)

Vegetables require full sun, except for the few that are grown in partial shade.  Most fruit-bearing vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash and eggplant require full sun.  Leafy vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, collards, mustard greens, spinach and parsley can tolerate partial shade better than root vegetables such as turnips, beets, radishes, carrots and onions.

Put the containers in a spot where vegetables can receive at least six hours of sunlight per day.  Plants grown in containers need frequent watering because the containers dry quickly.  Watering on a daily basis is necessary to provide adequate moisture for plant growth.  Apply enough water to reach the bottom of the container and allow the excess to drain out through drainage holes.  Avoid wetting the leaves when watering as this will encourage the development of foliar disease.

Do not allow the containers to dry out completely between watering as this will lead to flower and fruit drop.  Do not over water as the container will become waterlogged and the roots will lack oxygen leading to poor growth and eventual plant death.

Container grown plants require more frequent fertilization than field grown plants because of the limited space within the container.

Nutrient solution can be made by dissolving soluble fertilizer such as 10-20-10, 12-24-12 or 8-16-8 in water following label directions.  The nutrient solution is applied once a day when the plants are watered.  Frequency of watering may vary with vegetables, but once a day is adequate.

Leach the unused fertilizer nutrients from the potting mix once a week by applying tap water.  It is also important to water occasionally with nutrient solution containing micro nutrients such as copper, zinc, boron, manganese and iron.  Follow label directions in order to give plants the right amounts.

Vegetables grown in containers can still be attacked by insect pests and diseases.  Inspect the plants periodically for insect pests and diseases.  Use recommended insecticides and fungicides or contact your local Extension office for assistance.