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Archives for April 7, 2014

Gardening with George

A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds.

  • Heliconia Rostrata in all its blooming glory

A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds.

HELLO garden Lovers! I love this time of year – the sting has gone out of the summer heat, the awful humidity has subsided and it is once more a pleasure to spend hours toiling in the garden. It also helps when you have what is termed ‘an autumn garden’, with annuals and perennials such as salvias, marigolds and dahlias at their peak.

The much-welcomed rain of late has freshened up the flowers, lawns, trees, and shrubs – everything that relies on this precious drop! But …it has also germinated the archenemy of the gardener – weeds!

I can’t recall a season in living memory when I have had to deal with so many weeds, and so many types of weeds. One weed that has taken hold in my garden and I doubt will ever be eradicated is something commonly called ‘hundreds and thousands’. Tiny seeds hang in rows on the underside of the small branches and in their removal, drop off in their hundreds and thousands to start the cycle all over again. I’m sure it arrived in a potted plant from ‘who knows where’, and in only a few years is rampant in freshly tilled soil. Mulching helps reduce the problem, but as with all weeds, they continually crop up in unlikely places.

What is a weed? Most gardeners refer to a weed as ‘any plant growing where it is not wanted’. A plant that becomes invasive, out competes your garden plants, takes valuable nutrients and moisture from the soil and due to its vigorous nature, destroys the ‘look’ and if left unchecked, the very garden itself. A darn nuisance!

On the other hand, many of us gardeners’ welcome some so called weeds into our gardens – agapanthus, arum lilies, busy lizzies, seaside daisy. These are regarded more as environmental weeds and have become thus through the thoughtless disposal of garden waste into our native bush. Where they in turn are out competing and taking valuable nutrients, space, etc., from our beloved native plants. If managed in the garden, they can happily reside along side your more treasured plants.

Currently I have many unwanted guests in my garden, but experience has taught me that with a lot of perseverance, some aching bones and a little bad language – a modicum of control can be achieved over time.

On a brighter note, autumn also offers some wonderful Open Gardens across the region to visit. I recently explored the delights of some gardens from Kendall to Laurieton, where I discovered a little tropical oasis tended by a (not young) lady. The jewel for me was a magnificent Heliconia rostrata in all its blooming glory, with flower lobster claws. One of the joys of these open days is meeting up with ‘garden friends’, swapping ideas and cuttings and generally enjoying ‘friendship through gardens’.

Happy Gardening, enjoy the rain and weed, weed, weed!!!

George Hoad

PS If anyone has any unwanted ‘weeds’ such as agapanthus, I am landscaping around my dam, Lake St George, in preparation for my charity Open Garden Day on June 29. I will happily dig and remove! Phone  6550 5890

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The trend towards homeowners wanting to improve and perfect the home they live in is a phenomenon that Dean Savarino sees constantly. In some cases, families have been discussing and imagining the changes they would like to make for years. Moving the dreamer’s vision to reality is a tough leap. Homeowners know the routine on adding space or renovating kitchens in their house: you need a plan and you call a designer or an architect. “Most of my clients are wanting to enjoy their home and their backyard,” he explains. “The majority of homes we work with are existing homes and we’re enhancing them.”

But when the improvements involves exterior space, when the homeowners want to put in a pool, an outdoor kitchen, a pavilion, a greenhouse, a pizza oven or a scenic garden—there is dissonance. Here’s what could happen: The homeowner, so thrilled with the interior renovation, gazes out the window of her new, high-tech kitchen onto the pristine blue water of the recently-installed pool, realizes that in order to get to the pool she has to cross a wide and dusty gravel road.

This is not exactly what happened one of Dean’s clients but it’s close enough. The family had nurtured a fantastic idea about an indoor-outdoor space. “Two flat screens built-in above the gigantic fireplace along one of the walls,” Dean readily accesses a farily dramatic set of photos of this unique renovation. The outdoor space is a great room with large comfortable seating, beautifully lit, windows showing bright green foliage decorating the front area of the house, visible through the back wall of the renovation. The other two sides of the space have no walls, but are flanked by classic stone pillars that extend out to a patio and a pool. The first time Dean saw it his jaw dropped. The thoughtful and carefully designed outdoor living space suddenly stopped. Piles of bricks, tufts of grass and pebbles surrounding the exquisite pool—he had seldom seen a contrast so stark.

Kind of a nightmare, but a wonderful challenge in his mind. “We have a very unique, new program now, through technology and CAD renderings we can show our clients in 3D exactly what the project is going to look like. “You really want to start with a plan,” he says, whether you’re building a house, a garden or a landscape.” A good design matters especially when you are integrating it with an architectural interior design that is already in place. (It’s not unusual for Dean to work with another designer, architect, lighting company or implement a sound system into a master plan he’s created for a landscape.)

Now that Dean’s has powerful computers for design graphics he can produce complex and visually complete images and the drawings will incorporate pieces to the puzzle that come from other sources, plumbers, electricians, even materials vendors. Putting a client’s ideas into a plan—for a $500 fee–could require a 15-hour investment for Dean Savarino; he welcomes the risk. Whether he ultimately gets the job or not, he has done his best interpretation and the design he thinks is most likely to succeed.

And Dean finds that more and more his clients will opt for an artistic risk. The clients crave the authentic and original. “We had a client who wanted a large, circular granite couch with a fire pit in the center,” Dean says. “So I said this dinky fire pit is not going to look right, it’s too small. So, we built this fire table.” The table which is long and narrow, but runs across the center of the circular space in the front of the stone couch has coals and flames in a strip down the middle. It’s breathtaking. “We built a whole outdoor kitchen and worked with the heating company to run an extra large gas line. The bricks were cut and made custom.

“I don’t like the usual, but a lot of our customers don’t want the cookie-cutter approach either. You have to listen to what they want. Ask the right questions. And then you know the materials you are going to use. You know what it will look like in the sun, how the pool is going to work visually with the trees. I know what the atmosphere will be like. We have put in vertical gardens for clients for privacy, for instance.”

“The work is amazing and challenging,” Dean says. “When I stand back and look at what we were able to do together with our client, it’s really unbelievable.”





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As spring arrives, consider a native landscaping plan

When it comes to attractive plants on lawns and in flower gardens, beauty doesn’t have to be imported from elsewhere. Native varieties work well, too.

Many of the grasses and flowers that adorn our yards are exotic species — plants that were brought here from other parts of the world. Maintaining the beauty of these plants is often a high-maintenance job. Many exotic species require high amounts of water, fertilizer, pesticides or some other type of labor-intensive chore that takes more of your time — and money — than you had originally intended.

An increasing number of people are realizing that native plants — the trees, flowers, and grasses that were here to begin with — can be just as beautiful to look at and a lot less trouble to grow.

Native plants are a good choice for landscaping, whether you have a small plot in the city or large acreage in the country. Increasing environmental awareness, a desire to connect with nature on a personal level and limited time to devote to home landscape and land management projects are reasons to turn to natural landscaping alternatives. The plants and patterns that occur naturally in our prairies, forests, savannas, wetlands and glades can give us good landscaping ideas about what we can do around our homes.

There are many benefits associated with a well-planned, diverse native landscape. One of these is wildlife attraction. The songbirds, butterflies, small reptiles and mammals that you go to parks and other publicly owned facilities to see can often be enticed to your backyard with the proper plantings. These plants provide food, nesting and other habitat essentials required by these animals. Those instinctual needs will draw a variety of wildlife to specific plants, whether they’re growing at a nature center or in your backyard.

As mentioned above, native plants usually require much less care than exotics. The reason for this is simple: Millions of years of evolution have adapted these plants to the conditions found here. That means they’ve grown accustomed to the soil, weather, insect pests and many of the other factors that affect plant growth in the Ozarks. Exotic plants have few of these inherent adaptations and, as a result, can often only be sustained through extensive “life-support” procedures such as heavy watering, fertilization or pest-control applications.

Native plants come in many shapes, colors and forms. Those interested in growing indigenous plants have a wide variety of flowers, shrubs, grasses, small trees and large trees from which to choose. The best natural landscaping plan is one that involves a mixture of plant types, but space can be a limiting factor and, if it is — that’s still all right. Native plants can work for you whether you have 10 acres on the edge of town or a single flowerbed alongside your driveway.

Some people shy away from native landscaping techniques because they think a native-plant landscape will have a rougher, “woollier” appearance than the well-manicured flower beds to which they’re accustomed. That’s not necessarily a fair criticism, because you still control the neatness of your plantings. Just because you have native plants doesn’t mean that you can’t mow, weed-eat, edge and do all the other aesthetic maintenance procedures that are done with exotic plantings.

People can learn more about native plants and their landscaping benefits on April 5 at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Naturescaping Symposium and native plant sale at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center. No registration is required for this event, which is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Grow Native program, which is supported by the Missouri Department of Conservation and public and private organizations, also contains excellent information about how native plants can fit into your backyard design schemes. More information about the program can be found at your nearest Department of Conservation office or on the Grow Native website,

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10 Welsh secret gardens that you must visit this year

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They may not be as widely known about as our stunning National Botanic Garden of Wales, but across the nation there are dozens of incredible gardens to visit, lovingly nurtured by gardeners who want to inspire others. Rachael Misstear looks at 10 wonderful Welsh gardens that deserve a visit this year

1. Dyffryn Fernant, Pembrokeshire

Dyffryn Fernant garden is a wonderful surprise. Six acres of garden tucked into a valley in the lee of the Preseli uplands just before they plunge into the sea at Dinas Island in North Pembrokeshire.

A modern garden, made since 1996, it ranges from richly planted high colour and exotic planting in formal areas, journeys through a bog garden to wild marsh, pond and stream. Then it meanders through large blocks of ornamental grasses making sound and movement in the wind.

The wide variety of environments and the abundance of seating invite you to take your time and to investigate this place from different angles and perspectives, to bring your own beliefs, thoughts and feelings to your experience of the garden.

2. Erddig, a National Trust property on the outskirts of Wrexham

Shrouded in brambles and nettles when the National Trust first took over in 1973, the skeleton of the early 18th-century walled garden at Erddig could just be seen. In one of the largest garden restorations of its time – a total of four years – the garden has been restored to its original 18th-century design, with some later Victorian additions.

So what is it that makes the 13.5-acre walled kitchen garden so special? Maybe it’s the extensive statement lawns sprawling in front of the spectacular Victorian parterre, the trained fruit trees (there’s 148 different apple varieties grown at Erddig) reaching around one of the longest herbaceous borders in Wales, says the garden’s Lorraine Elliot. Or perhaps it’s the tranquil canal and pond water features inviting you to sit a while or the double avenues of pleached limes, Tilia, where ladies once walked in the shade. 

3. The Veddw, Monmouthshire

The garden is set in the wonderful countryside of the Welsh border above Tintern. There are two acres of ornamental garden and two acres of woodland.

Good things about Veddw? “The amazing view over the hedges when you arrive; the dark black reflecting pool which either makes people very sombre or very giggly; the grasses parterre, where ornamental grasses in box hedges echo the surrounding countryside, or the reminders in the garden of the previous inhabitants in their turf and mud huts,” says the owner Anne Wareham.

“The garden is part living sculpture and part a celebration of the colours and forms of plants. Old unploughed grassland is now conserved as meadow and the garden features robust plants, happy mostly to look after themselves, living together in mild disorder but made effective by their containment in the strong lines of hedges and paths. It’s a country garden, comfortable in its setting.”

4. Clyne Gardens, Swansea

Since William Graham Vivian, the son of a wealthy industrialist, bought the Clyne Castle estate in 1860, some of the historic figures to have visited include Neville Chamberlain, Stanley Baldwin and King Edward VIII.

But it was William’s nephew, Algermon, the estate’s owner from 1921 to 1952, who had the greatest influence on the gardens as we see them today. This is because he sponsored collecting expeditions overseas, including many of the internationally-famous rhododendrons that still bear their original collector’s numbers. His influence can also be seen in the landscaping, which features a Japanese Bridge, the Admiral’s Tower and the Gazebo that once gave a spectacular view of incoming ships to Swansea Bay.

At this time of year, the heather beds come into their own by providing bright early spring colour. Near the beds is a large lime tree planted by Princess Mary of Teck to commemorate her visit to Clyne Castle in the latter part of the 19th century.

5. Norwood gardens, Llanllwni, Carmarthenshire

Norwood Gardens extends to nearly three acres and consists of nine linked themed gardens. There is plenty to interest the keen gardener or the casual visitor throughout the season. The Bamboo Garden is home to a wide variety of architectural plants whilst the Mediterranean Garden evokes the hot gardens of Southern France (although weather to match is not guaranteed!).

Owner Michael Oliver said:“The Quiet Garden is cut off from the rest by a high privet hedge. Here the visitor can sit and enjoy relative seclusion.”

6. Plas Yn Rhiw, Pwllheli, Gwynedd

A woodland garden, a stone’s throw from the sea, protected by the formidable slopes of Mynydd Rhiw, The National Trust’s Plas yn Rhiw garden boasts a vast array of flowering trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. Borders are framed with established box hedges, gravel and grass paths meander their way past exotic and unusual species that thrive in this unique microclimate.

Gardener Llifon Jones said: “There is something for all seasons, with the snowdrop woodland being a well-known local favourite in winter; magnolias, camellias and rhododendron dominating spring; hydrangeas, fuchsias and herbaceous perennials creating a sea of cool summer tones is followed by nature’s own fireworks display of autumnal reds, orange and yellows.

“Woodland walks, passing through a wildflower meadow leads to the recently planted native fruit orchard containing more than 30 different varieties of Welsh throats. The view over Cardigan Bay from the orchard is breathtaking.”

7. Gelli Uchaf, Rhydcymerau, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire

Visitors to this garden under the National Gardens Scheme (private gardens open for charity) often describe it as magical and inspiring, which is how the owners feel about this special place in upland Carmarthenshire. Centred around an old longhouse with spectacular views, the sloping site has allowed several different garden areas to be created. Masses of insect friendly flowers are used to create a garden alive with colour, interest and biodiversity throughout the seasons. There’s even an exhibition of butterfly and moth pictures and some of Julian and Fiona’s artwork inspired by the garden for visitors to explore. If you can’t visit in person, then share the experiences, innovative ideas and views with Julian and Fiona through their fascinating garden blog and website:

8. Glansevern Hall Garden

Over 25 acres of glorious gardens surrounding a Greek revival house on the banks of the River Severn, the gardens are a mixture of formal planting, lawns, a huge lake, as well as many unusual and ancient specimen trees, not to mention spectacular views over the surrounding countryside.

There is little record of the original layout, except that the Walled Garden is known to have been planned to its present dimensions in 1805. Its interior was entirely remodelled in 2001 to offer nine separate “rooms” including “The Roses” and “Fairytale”.

The impressive Rock Garden and Grotto is said to date from around 1840, and there is a garden plan of 1880 signed by Edward Milner, father of Henry Ernest Milner who wrote ‘The Art and Practise of Landscape Gardening’ in 1890.

9. The Dingle Garden, Welshpool

The Dingle Garden is a secret gem hidden in the beautiful mid-Wales countryside just a few miles west of Welshpool.

A stunning four-acre garden, making imaginative use of the dramatic deep valley and connecting small lakes. A network of paths meander down through an informal mix of shrubs and trees with thoughtful underplanting offering unexpected and stunning views of the main lake and the hills beyond.

A garden for all seasons with colour co-ordinated beds offering the visitor realistic and achievable ideas for their own gardens. Many of the plants grown here are available for sale in the large nursery alongside.

“Autumn is probably the most stunning time but any season will give you a chance to relax in this peaceful place,” said Jill Rock at the garden’s nursery.

10. Colby Woodland Garden, Amroth, Pembrokeshire

Steve Whitehead, head gardener at the National Trust garden, said: “One of the joys of working in a garden all year round, is the chance to watch the seasonal cycles of nature at close quarters. It’s a source of constant amazement, how the same view slowly takes on a different mood with the growth of one plant, the flowering of another, the seed heads of a grass opening, or the slow turning of leaf colour. There’s a whole valley full of colour and constant change at Colby, but the walled garden is the part of Colby most

of us see most often, and it gives us a concentrated, constantly renewing microcosm of the changes happening outside in the wider landscape.

“Perhaps that’s why gardens appeal to us. They root us firmly in natural cycles that deep down we know we are still tied to.”

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Western Pennsylvania gardeners get their grow on at annual symposium – Tribune

The Garden Landscape Symposium of Western Pennsylvania is an annual rite of spring for many plant enthusiasts — even before they slip their green thumbs into their garden gloves for the first time after a long winter.

The event features a day filled with presentations by horticultural experts and a garden marketplace for stocking up on new plant varieties, garden accessories and botanical artwork. A new addition this year is the annual daffodil show hosted by the Daffodil Hosta Society of Western Pennsylvania.

Keynote speaker Michael Dirr, a retired professor of horticulture at the University of Georgia, is well known for his numerous plant introductions and has written more than 300 articles and scientific papers and several books, including an encyclopedia of hardy trees and shrubs. He says the reference book took nearly two years to complete and was a labor of love.

One of the plants that Dirr popularized is the’ Endless Summer’ hydrangea, a hardy plant that can bloom on the current and previous seasons’ growth, providing colorful flowers all summer. He came across the plant in a test field in a nursery in Minnesota.

“ ‘Endless Summer’ was a serendipitous happening,â€� he says. “I was proud of the excitement it generated among gardeners. It also stimulated a breeding frenzy with companies trying to produce reblooming Hydrangea macrophylla. The garden world is better because of the introduction of ‘Endless Summer.’ â€�

Dirr is a partner in a plant-breeding business and says he is constantly traveling and reading to research where the ornamental-plant market is heading. He also is committed to spreading the word about the importance of planting “noble trees,� which he defines as deciduous broadleaf trees that change color with the seasons and stand more than 50 feet tall.

In one of his two talks at the symposium, “In Praise of Noble Trees,� he will elaborate on the rationale for planting noble trees and the best of new tree introductions according to function, ornamental traits and pest-resistance.

“I hope to inspire and educate the attendees to plant noble trees. The payoff for such activity is multigenerational,� Dirr says.

Also speaking will be Sinclair Adam, Penn State Extension floriculture educator in Lebanon County, who will discuss new perennials for 2014 and the importance of incorporating native plants in gardens.

“Native plants are the fundamental building block in Pennsylvania plant communities,� he says. “It is environmentally sound thinking to incorporate those species and their selections — sometimes called nativars — in Pennsylvania gardens and landscapes. These plants will support many species of insects, including our very important pollinator insects.�

Adam says new plant selections and hybrids are an exciting aspect of horticulture. Some of them turn out to be assets to gardens; others don’t stand the test of time. Some of the new plants that will be presented at the symposium include Tiarella ‘Sherry Kitto,’ Penstemon ‘Red Riding Hood,’ Coreopsis ‘Electric Avenue,’ Echinacea ‘Guava Ice’ and Brunnera ‘Silver Heart.’

Jeff Gillman, horticulture instructor at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, N.C., will give a presentation about the benefits and drawbacks of organic gardening.

“Organic gardening can be healthy for us and good for the environment, but not all organic gardening practices are created equal,â€� he says. “The greatest benefit is an improvement in soil through use of mulches and compost. The biggest challenge is figuring out which organic practices are really worthwhile. Just because it’s organic, it doesn’t mean it’s good for us or the environment.â€�

Maryann Frazier, senior extension associate in the Department of Entomology at Penn State, will address declining pollinator populations and how gardeners and landscapers can improve habitats and reduce risks in her presentation, “Will There Still Be Honey for Your Tea?�

Some 15 regional vendors representing nurseries, garden centers and farms will have a variety of plants and related items for sale, including 20 varieties of scented geraniums, dwarf conifers, Japanese maples, drought-tolerant plants, deer-resistant perennials and shrubs, cyclamen and Colocasia tubers, onion and leek plants, garden tools and books. Penn State Master Gardeners will be available to answer gardening-related questions.

Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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Fairview landscape company wins prestigious award

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Colin Parbery from charity The Share Community

Gardening expert Colin Parbery from charity The Share Community shares top tips for April.

Colin Parbery from charity The Share Community

Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party”… Well, I think that is what Robin Williams is quoted as saying.

Like any good party, your garden will benefit from a little planning but ultimately it’s your guests that make it a success.

Taking a look at the use of colour can modify the overall style of your garden as well as reflecting your personal taste.

The use of a colour wheel can help in forming effective colour combinations.

Opposite colours on the wheel, such as blue and yellow mix well together. We often find these combinations in nature and are gentle on the eyes.

Adjacent colours are strongly contrasting. For example, yellow, orange and red. These are more difficult to mix but can be used to dramatic effect.

In the vegetable garden, we can now start to sow beetroot, carrots, and lettuce. At this time of year, there is a significant difference between night and day temperatures, so it is ideal for sowing parsley but far too early for basil.

House plants, citrus and any patio plants that you have kept in overwinter can be put outside, taking care to place them in the shade to they don’t get sunburnt.

Showbiz news
  • Novelli couldn’t admit hearing loss

  • Winstone: I’ve made some bad films

  • Hi-tech plaque marks Tin Pan Alley

  • Cumberbatch to play TV Richard III

  • Dani Behr announces marriage split

  • Jen: Paul is extraordinary director

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Gardening expert shares top tips for April

Gardening expert Colin Parbery from charity The Share Community shares top tips for April.

Colin Parbery from charity The Share Community

Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party”… Well, I think that is what Robin Williams is quoted as saying.

Like any good party, your garden will benefit from a little planning but ultimately it’s your guests that make it a success.

Taking a look at the use of colour can modify the overall style of your garden as well as reflecting your personal taste.

The use of a colour wheel can help in forming effective colour combinations.

Opposite colours on the wheel, such as blue and yellow mix well together. We often find these combinations in nature and are gentle on the eyes.

Adjacent colours are strongly contrasting. For example, yellow, orange and red. These are more difficult to mix but can be used to dramatic effect.

In the vegetable garden, we can now start to sow beetroot, carrots, and lettuce. At this time of year, there is a significant difference between night and day temperatures, so it is ideal for sowing parsley but far too early for basil.

House plants, citrus and any patio plants that you have kept in overwinter can be put outside, taking care to place them in the shade to they don’t get sunburnt.

Showbiz news
  • Novelli couldn’t admit hearing loss

  • Winstone: I’ve made some bad films

  • Hi-tech plaque marks Tin Pan Alley

  • Cumberbatch to play TV Richard III

  • Dani Behr announces marriage split

  • Jen: Paul is extraordinary director

Comments (5)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

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Planting the Garden: Tips for Success

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Gardening tips: What to start doing right this moment – The Express

For those who hold fast to the tradition of planting peas and
onions in the garden on St. Patrick’s Day, chances are it didn’t work this

That was the week the area narrowly avoided a snowstorm but
was left with bone-chillingly cold days.

It’s not just the temperature that has avid gardeners
waiting and wishing.

Jim Heck, sales manager for the Northampton Farm Bureau Co-op
in Tatamy
, says people are waiting for the ground to dry so that they can get
out in the garden to till and prepare the soil for planting.

Doug Hall, managing editor of Rodale’s Organic Gardening
, echoes the sentiment.

“If I step on the ground it’s like stepping on a wet sponge —
a sign it’s too wet to be in the garden,” Hall says.

Heck worries the harsh winter will shorten the growing
season, chiefly by hampering the early planting window that some gardeners are
used to taking advantage of in mid- to late March.

But is there something home gardeners can be doing now to

“That’s a million dollar question,” Heck says.

Get ready

“People are buying seeds now, and starting to purchase soils
and starting mixes for transplants,” Heck says.

Beyond that, it’s kind of a waiting game.

The farm bureau is celebrating its 80th year and sells a
variety of plants and gardening equipment. He says that in a week or so, they’ll
have some frost-tolerant vegetable transplants for sale.

“The weather’s that secret ingredient that none of us control
but has a huge impact,” Heck adds.

Heck advises customers to start with a soil test, especially
for those gardeners who haven’t had success with backyard gardens in the past.

The $10-$12 kit, sold at the farm bureau, lets a homeowner
know exactly what they’re working with and what will flourish or may need help
in their soil. Heck says the directions are easy to follow, and gets sent to a
reputable lab for testing.

Other tips could be to start applying compost or fertilizer
to the ground in the near future, though Heck says most people wait until
they’re ready to till the soil.

Heck cautions against jumping into the garden too early, as
overworking the soil when it’s wet can compact it and degrade the soil

“You have to hope there will be some sense of normalcy for
the month of April,” Heck says.

And his best advice is to buy seeds and equipment now so that
gardeners are ready to jump in once the weather breaks.

Best tips for success

For Hall, gardening has been both a job and a hobby that he’s
been honing for more than 40 years. Hall studied horticulture in college, and besides working for Organic Gardening, he’s also the manager in charge of
Rodale’s test garden at the Rodale Institute near Kutztown,

The weather may not be very encouraging at this point in the
year. But Hall says this is the time for possibility, likening the garden to “a
fresh slate to be reimagined.”

Those with a sunny window sill or growing light can get seeds
started indoors to give their garden a jump start.

Hall planted pepper seeds last week, which need eight weeks
to grow before being planted outside. And he hopes to get some tomato seeds
started this week (which need, on average, six weeks to grow).

The ground may not be ready for the heat-loving crops like
peppers and tomatoes until next month, though he’s optimistic he could be
planting those outside as early as Mother’s Day.

Hall says gardeners don’t gain anything by setting those
tomatoes out early. It’s better to wait to be sure the overnight lows won’t dip
below 40 or 50 degrees.

Once the ground dries out, hopefully in two weeks or so,
plants that are frost-tolerant should be ready to be planted, Hall says.

Peas, onions, leeks, broccoli, collard greens and kale would
be likely contenders.

Try something new

Every year Hall tries a few new things in his own garden and
the test garden, the latter of which fuels the magazine’s stories and
photographs throughout the year.

This year nearly half the test garden is dedicated to
varieties of baby vegetables, ones designed to be harvested at an immature stage
and those bred genetically dwarfed.

What will work in your garden? It’s hard to say.

Experience is the best guide for gardeners, Hall says. Those
new to the hobby could gain tips on the best varieties to plant in the area
from friends or co-workers who garden or by reaching out to a local master
gardener program or cooperative extension.

“Anyone that gardens knows there’s no one way to do things.
Just leap in and plant something,” Hall says. “It’s just amazing that nature
will take it from there.”

* * *

Best varieties to plant locally

  • Heck says he’s found:

“Leaf or cutting lettuce is easier to grow than a head of

“Beets take a little longer to grow but are relatively easy.

“Kale, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, tomatoes and beans, are
all good starters, though each may have its own feeding requirements.”

  • Hall says:

has a very accommodating climate, and evenness of rainfall.”

He adds leafy greens, onions, radishes and green beans to
Heck’s list. 

He directs curious gardeners to Penn State Cooperative
Vegetable Variety Recommendations list.

The guide outlines the days to harvest, disease resistance, growing
notes and specific varieties that have proven successful. Find it here:

Find other gardening tips from fledgling seeds to natural pest control methods, plus monthly gardening to-do lists, at

* * *

A sale’s cropping up

Rodale Institute will
host a Cold Crop Plant Sale at its farm, 611 Siegfriedale Road near
Kutztown, Pa.

Stock up on organic lettuces,
broccoli, cauliflower, kale, chard, herbs, trees, shrubs, tools, compost, seeds
and equipment.

When? 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 11 and 12.

Rodale will also host a Preview
Party 4 to 6
p.m. April 10
with the first pick
of plants, light refreshments, music and expert tips. Tickets cost $25 per
person and $40 per family. Call 610-683-1443 or email to
reserve a spot.


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