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Marie Iannotti

Gardening

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Waiting for Lilacs

Wednesday April 23, 2014

When will the weather make a decision one way or the other? It sure has been playing with us, this year. Daffodils announce that winter is over, but I don't really know it's spring until I can smell the lilacs. You get just a whiff of fragrance, as the flowers begin to show some color. For the full blast of scent, you have to be patient and let them completely open. Cross your fingers they'll finish opening before the rains knock them down, but hedge your bet and grab a few to bring indoors and scent the whole house.

Lilacs have been off  limits for warm climate gardeners, but that's beginning to change. New hybrids, like the Descanso series from California, bloom without a period of winter chill. Soon there will be no excuse not to indulge yourself in their heady scent. After all, they require minimal maintenance. You may need some extra patience, because lilacs can take several years before they flower. All the more reason to plant one right now.

Plants Undercover

Monday April 21, 2014

It looks like spring is going to pounce on us, with little warning. That means I'll be pushing my luck and moving plants outdoors, with no guarantee the temperature will remain above freezing. Frost happens, even when you least expect it. In the fall, it can be a relief to finally be able to put your garden to bed. In the spring, it can send you into a panic, because you just put your plants out and wish you hadn't.

When that happens, I run around outdoors and throw covers over the plants. I used to use sheets, which work pretty well. They do get heavy when wet and can crush young plants. I eventually bought some row covers. They don't look like much and I wouldn't trust a coat made from them to keep me warm outside, but they are a quick and easy way to extend your growing season by a couple of weeks. Much to my surprise, they really work.

Row Covers, sometimes referred to as Floating Row Covers, are lightweight spun bonded synthetic fabrics that are laid over plants for protection against pests and temperatures. They are light enough to rest on the plants and allow light, water and even fertilizer to get through. In general, they add about 2-4 degrees F. protection. Depending of the weight of the fabric, you could keep your plants growing even when nighttime temps dip down into the mid-20s.

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The Fastest Growing Vegetables

Sunday April 20, 2014

There are finally some flashes of green, in my vegetable garden. The first leaves I harvested were from a perennial vegetable, sorrel. It actually started out a rosy-pink, but it has filled in nicely, despite the chilly nights it's been exposed to. But the spinach and arugula, and even the lettuce and peas have all broken ground. Apparently they are much hardier than I and I am delighted to see them. This is not the spring for patience. If you agree, here are the 6 fastest maturing vegetables to get started in your garden, for some much needed gratification.

Moss - Shade Plant or Eye Sore?

Saturday April 19, 2014

It's that time of year again, All the dampness has given many areas of my yard a lovely cover of moss. I like to revamp this post every year because few things divide gardeners like moss. I get as many letters about how to get rid of it as how to grow it. I can fully appreciate not wanting moss on the roof or the side of the house, but you can't beat it as a low-maintenance lawn alternative or for adding character to rocks and stone walls.

I won't pretend to be an expert on the different types of moss. That's something I'm saving for my retirement. But I can share how I make the most of mine and I've included some comments from prior years, so you can see what others think. For those of you who just can't share my enthusiasm for moss, David Beaulieu has some ideas for getting rid of it.

It's National Garden Month!

Friday April 18, 2014

April is National Garden Month. I hope you've been able to get out in your garden despite the crazy weather, because April is also the start of our Spring Flowers photo challenge. While you are out there working hard, it is so easy to forget to take photos of your spring garden. Put your camera in your garden tote and take some time to enjoy spring's surprises - and then share them with us.

And if you'd like to take things a step further, the National Gardening Association has 101 Ways to Celebrate National Garden Month. How about setting up a Pruning Calendar, learning how to make Compost Tea, organizing a Plant Swap or maybe a Park Clean up Day? Any suggestions you'd like to share? We can do a lot in a whole month.

And the Winner Is...

Wednesday April 16, 2014

Congratulations, Anne (goannerun), your "Winter Garden" photo was the favorite! Winter decided to pay (hopefully) one more visit to many of us this week, but voting for our Winter Color Garden Photo Challenge has ended and this evocative shot of birdhouses, trees and chimes weathering the storm is the winner. Well done, goannerun.

Thank you to everyone who participated. And don't forget to get your photos in for our current Spring Flowers Photo Challenge.

Photo Submitted by goannerun

Last Chance to Vote for Winter Color

Tuesday April 15, 2014

Unfortunately winter won't quite let go, but at least we know we're on the upswing. Here's one more look at the winter that over-stayed its welcome. Look through the photo gallery of finalists in our Winter Color Garden Photo Challenge, then come back to the poll and place your vote. Voting ends tonight, at midnight EST! The winner will be announced tomorrow. Good luck everyone!

Thank you, the poll is now closed.

Guaranteeing Healthy Plants

Monday April 14, 2014

It's been a long, long, long winter. Plants are arriving in the garden centers and I just want to hug them. Every year, I try to make a list of what I want to buy, before I venture into temptation. I can't always stick to my resolve, but I can at least be discerning about which impulse buys are robust enough to be worth giving in to.

It's easy to be seduced by plants at the nursery and narrowing your choices is hard. But selecting the strongest, healthiest plants can save you heartache, in the long run. Take some time to look over your purchase, before you introduce a problem into your garden. Here are some guidelines for selecting healthy plants.

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Seeds or Seedlings?

Sunday April 13, 2014

Every year someone asks me if they have to start from seed, to grow vegetables. Good question. Actually, not every vegetable will do well, if direct sown in the garden. Some simply won't have enough time to mature and others need a bit more pampering than they are likely to get outdoors. Those racks of seeds are very tempting in the bleakness of winter, but now the tables are filling up with even more tempting seedlings. There is something to be said for either approach, so check out my tips and then fill up your garden.

Read more:   Tips for knowing whether to plant Seeds or Seedlings

Pea Shoots & Tendrils
An Early Spring Treat

Saturday April 12, 2014

I know many of you were able to get your peas in the ground on St. Patrick's Day. I'm still dealing with frozen peas, myself. But even if you don't have peas yet, some of you have pea plants and that means  you can indulge in one of the freshest tastes of spring - pea shoots and tendrils.

All parts of pea plants are edible and the young shoots and tendrils make elegant, tasty additions to salads and side dishes. By snipping a few stray tendrils, I don't have to wait weeks to enjoy my first harvest. Just take a little from each plant and allow them to keep growing, so you'll get plenty of peas.

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