Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Caring for your Christmas Tree...

Caring for your Christmas tree is much like caring for a fresh bouquet of flowers. Both should have a fresh cut on the stem, should be placed in water as soon as possible, and should never be allowed to dry out.

Prior to putting your tree in a stand make a fresh cut straight across the trunk 1/4" to 1/2" from the base before placing it in water.  Place the tree in water as soon as possible if you can not set it up right away store the tree in a cool shaded area in a bucket of water. To display a tree indoors, the tree should be placed in a sturdy stand of appropriate size with adequate water holding capacity, generally one quart of water per inch of stem diameter. Check the base of the tree daily to assure that the level of water does not go below the base of the tree.

The tree must never be allowed to dry out, as a seal will form over the base of the tree. If this should happen, it would be necessary to make a new fresh cut across the trunk to allow the tree to take up moisture.

When ready to display your tree, choose a place in your home away from heat sources (fireplaces, heaters, heating vents, etc.) A fresh cut tree is no more flammable than a wet leaf, and in fact less than 0.0004% trees are ignited in house fires yearly.  However, common sense dictates a few rules of caution. Inspect lights, cords, and connections prior to placing them on the tree to be sure that they are in good working order and are not frayed and always unplug lights when unattended.

Christmas trees are biodegradable, which means that they may be reused and recycled. After Christmas, tree branches may be removed, chipped, and used as mulch. Many communities offer recycling and mulching programs. Check newspapers and the internet, or call your local county or city government to find recycling programs in your area.

Perhaps you have chosen to purchase a live Christmas Tree that may be planted in your yard after the season and enjoyed for years to come. Note that live trees are bulky and heavy, and may be more difficult to transport to your home. Caring for a live Christmas tree is very much similar to caring for a fresh cut tree. Adequate water should be used to keep the soil damp, but not flooded, while in the container. They may be decorated in the same way as a fresh cut tree when displayed in the home. Then plant the tree as soon as possible after Christmas. To plant your live tree, tap the container to remove the tree, leaving the soil on the root system, and then backfill the soil removed from the hole around the root ball. Water daily initially, and stake the tree as needed to prevent wind tipping or damage.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all...  Mark

Thursday, November 6, 2014

November Gardening Tips

Gardening Advice By the Month -November

The leaves are pretty much gone now, the first frost has come and gone, but we still have 60-70 degree days before cold fronts pass through, bringing the much needed rain for our reservoirs and aquifers across New England. Time to sit back and relax... not yet, but almost!

The name of the game in November is mulch, mulch and more mulch! Last month, we talked about mulching around tender plants and those susceptible to wind and cold damage. A good snowfall early in the season that stays put can usually do the job for us, but here in New England snowfalls have been sporadic and unpredictable. This leaves our plants exposed to the cold temperatures and howling winds and its just a good idea not to take a chance on the weather. Depending on La Nina or El Nino or any other of those ocean temperature patterns, the weather here swings wildly between frigid and temperate, with no guarantee of snow or snowmelt for that matter.

If you have a chipper, pull it out and get chippin' -- leaves, branches, anything organic that can be used as mulch. Just be sure to not use any diseased matter from this year's growth. Mulching it and spreading it out will only increase the chance for it to reappear next year and even spread. Diseased plants should be either burned (if allowed in your area), or left out with refuse to be taken to a recycling center, far away from your garden. This is especially true of vegetables.
Mulching should be done to about a depth of 2-3 inches, no more, no less. Leave a little room around the base of the plant to let a little air in as well. This way, the mulch can break down a little over the winter and you've got a headstart for preparing the garden for next year's growth.

pot amaryllis to bloom in the winter around christmas

Its really easy to force bulbs like paperwhite and amaryllis for holiday blooming!Now is the time to pot up some spring blooming bulbs for forcing indoors this winter. Good choices include hyacinth and paperwhites. Simply set them in a relatively shallow dish on a bed of pebbles. The bottom of the bulbs should just touch the water you place in the dish (for larger bulbs like hyacinth, sometimes it is easier to place the bulb in the neck of a small vase with the base of the bulb resting at the bottom of the neck. This provides extra support). Keep the water at a constant level and you will be rewarded with blooms in time for Christmas. Keep potting every couple of weeks for flowers all winter long! For amaryllis, simply place the bulb (large, about the size of softball, usually) in a pot about the same size as the bulb. It does NOT need a large pot or a lot of soil to bloom. Cover about two-thirds of the bulb with soil and water every few days. In about 4 weeks, you'll be rewarded with a 12-18 inch stem loaded with flowers on top.
forcing bulbs inside for winter bloom daffodils hyacinths

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Great Ideas from your local garden center

Tips for protecting your trees and shrubs from winter damage

Usually by the time you see winter damage on your trees and shrubs, it's too late to do anything about it. However, there are several things you can do before the winter to lower the risk of damage to the plants in your yard. Take the time to do these things now and save your self the money and energy of having to replace plants in the spring.
Winter Damage

1. Water

By thoroughly watering your trees and shrubs until the ground freezes, your plants are more prepared to deal with the moisture loss that occurs during the winter. Plants like holly, azaleas, rhododendrons, and andromeda are most susceptible to winterkill because they have relatively larger leaves, and more surface area for evaporation to occur. Read our tips for watering »

2. Use an anti-desiccant

An anti-desiccant is a spray that adds a protective waxy coating to the tops and undersides of the leaves of broad-leaf evergreens to help slow water loss through the foliage during the winter. We recommend Wilt Stop by Bonide. It's best to apply anti-desiccants when daytime temperatures fall below 50° in late-fall.

3. Wrap shrubs in burlap

Wrapping your trees and shrubs in burlap can help your plants in several ways. Like an anti-desiccant, burlap prevents water loss by keeping the foliage shaded, and out of direct sunlight. Additionally, burlap provides a barrier that keeps salt spray off plants near the road, and it prevents deer from making a meal out of your shrubs.

4. Use mulch or salt-marsh hay

Mulch and salt-marsh hay are useful for protecting the roots of your plants through the winter. They provide a layer of insulation that helps retain moisture and prevents roots from repeatedly freezing at night and thawing during the day when there is no snow cover.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

October Gardening Tips and To do's

Time to prepare your garden for the winter ahead.

Once the leaves begin to fall, your annuals begin to fade and your lawn has turned green again after a blistering-hot summer.  It's Mother Nature's way of telling us to put the garden to bed for winter.  

The Vegetable Garden
The first thing you want to do is to pull up old vines and vegetable plants.  Insect pests that feed on these plants during summer and fall often lay eggs on the old plants so be sure to get them all out of the garden.  If the vines are left on the soil surface, insect eggs will survive the winter and hatch in the spring.  If you are pretty confident that they are not diseased you can work the old plants back into the garden soil.   This adds valuable organic matter to the soil and, at the same time, destroys insects and their eggs.  You may also want to add other organic material to your garden this fall.   Composted manure, home-made compost, peat or leaves all are welcomed in the garden.  

Annual Flowers
Pull up spent vines and foliage of annual flowers and compost them.  However, if the plants are diseased be sure to discard them in the trash.

After temperatures hit freezing and the plants die back, cut the stems on most perennials to within an inch or two of the ground.  Dispose of the cuttings; they can harbor diseases that could survive the winter and return to the plants in the spring.   Some plants, such as Oriental poppies and iris, produce a cluster of green leaves in the fall.  Leave these intact.  Remove only the older, brown stems that remain form the spent flowers.
As the season progresses and the weather becomes colder, mulch the soil around the plants.  This is generally done in mid-to late November. Mulch keeps roots cold.   It doesn't protect them from the cold.  A plant can be hardy in more northerly latitudes where winter temperatures are severe but can be injured here, where winter temperatures fluctuate considerably.  The alternate freezing and thawing of exposed soil can damage roots and even heave them out of the ground.
Recommended mulching materials for perennials include hay or straw, evergreen boughs, pine needles, peat moss and cornstalks.  These mulches are light and won't pack or suffocate roots.  Apply to a depth of 4 to 6 inches.  A few plants, however, such as peonies and bearded iris, don't require winter mulching and , in fact, do better without it.  Mulching can cause their thick, fleshy roots to rot.  As with other perennials, though, they require watering during dry winter conditions.

It doesn't matter where the weds are--the vegetable garden, flower beds or the lawn--this is a good time to get rid of them. Consider this:  Weeds that are spread by seed produce thousands more seeds.   Better to pull them this fall to reduce their spreading now and next spring. 

Tree and Shrubs
Shorter days and falling temperatures are prompting deciduous trees and shrubs to drop leaves and prepare for winter dormancy.  Limit fertilization in fall, as nitrogen stimulates useless late-season growth and delays dormancy.

Do continue to water trees and shrubs through fall, sending them into winter with ample moisture.  It also will be necessary to apply water every three to four weeks throughout the winter.  Dry soil kills roots and puts stress on trees and shrubs.   Water when temperatures are above freezing and when the soil is not frozen.   Apply water early in the day so plants will have time to absorb moisture before soil might freeze at night.

Of course, if you don't feel like doing any of this work you can contact Pemberton Garden Services and let is take care of it for you.

Best of luck and happy fall.

Mark Saidnawey
Pemberton Garden Services

Time to Plant your Spring blooming bulbs.

Daffodils -vs- Tulips, Which one do you like more?

Sadly another gardening season is coming to a close but one of the last plantings you can do this fall is to plant of your favorite spring blooming bulbs for next seasons early color.  So what types of bulbs should you plant?  We all have our favorites, tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, crocus, and many more but for me I try and keep it simple and plant bulbs that are easy, beautiful and whose blooms last the longest.  
So which type should you plant?  Since Tulips and daffodils are the two most popular let's consider the benefits of both.
Tulips are a classic spring flower.  With over a hundred different species of tulips it seems the choice of colors and styles are endless.  For hundreds of years tulips have been grown in gardens, as a potted plant, or to display as fresh cut flowers.  Every garden must have tulips!

The bright yellow colors of Daffodils are often the very first signs of spring.  These vigorous, long lived flower bulbs thrive in all different types of soil and lighting situations making them very versatile and adaptable to most growing conditions.   What's also great is deers, squirrels and a slew of other creatures won't eat them, unlike tulips.  Daffodils, which are in the Narcissus genus, prosper and multiply with little care and over the past several years are being offered in more and more colors and varieties.  Gardeners can use daffodils to create a beautiful garden border, as cut flowers or also for forcing indoors.  

So which one do I plant, tulips or daffodils?   Lets consider a few of my personal observations and experiences.

1.  Longest bloom time - winner Daffodils
2.  Naturalize and multiply each year more prolifically  - winner Daffodils
3.  Most color choices - winner Tulips
4.  Best at NOT getting eaten by squirrels and deers - winner Daffodils
5.  Flowers which hold up better to wind - winner Daffodils

Well, as you can see I am believer that Daffodils are a better bulb to plant in your garden.  Overall they just do so much more.   The blooms last longer, they multiply easier and you don't have to worry about anyone digging them up for lunch!  However, in fairness, I do plant Tulips in my garden too, how can not you not love the colors.  So many different shapes,  heights, blooming times and colors of Tulips make it hard to not want some in your garden for spring color.  You think of a color and there's a Tulips to match it.  Just be prepared to treat them as annuals.  Although Tulips are classified as perennials I dig them up once the foliage has died and either store them in a cool dry place until next fall, give them away or toss them into my compost pile.

Regardless of which bulbs you like now is the time to plant them! Be sure to visit your local garden center and get them in the ground by Halloween.

Feel free to email any comment or questions to me.  Happy Fall.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New England Gardening Advice - September

New England Gardening Advice  -September

Ask a New Englander their favorite month of the year, and 8 times out of 10 they will say September. Warm, dry days and cool nights stir us out of our summer haze and back out onto the trails, bikes and gardens where we enjoy spending time.
If you followed our advice last month, you took care of the watering when mother nature didn't. By watering deeply and less often, you encouraged your plants roots to reach down deeper into the soil to find their moisture, and your tomatoes (amongst other temperamental plants) thank you. Right about now you should be up to your knees in red, ripe juicy tomatoes and many other summer vegetables.
fall mums thrive in the warm days and cool nights of fall in new england
But What About Your Flower Garden? For much of New England, the strongest blooms of the season have waned and it seems the plants have given their all for the season. That may be true for many plants, but there are plenty of plants out there that can take (and very much enjoy) the cooler temps that New England can dish up in the fall. The most popular of which for the season is the fall mum, which is a perennial in most locations and will come back year after year in the garden. After a very unimpressive spring and summer of leaf growth, the mum comes into its own in September and October, taking over the fall New England garden at many homes.
But there are other choices as well.... did you know there are fall-blooming lilies and crocus that will thrive in mid to southern New England gardens? They are a little harder to find than the average bulb but well worth the hunt. The Magic or Resurrection Lily is actually a relative of the winter-blooming Amaryllis and looks like a cross between the two.
autumn crocus and magic lily in the fall garden in new england
There's is only one more piece of gardening advice for September- go to the garden center and buy your perennials now, after they have bloomed and are dying down. Why? Because you will save big money over the prices they were charging for the plant just 2 months ago; and the plant is just as healthy and strong. Besides, now is the best time to get perennials in your garden anyway, with the cool temperatures allowing them to acclimate and grow roots before the cold weather sets in. The same holds true for trees, shrubs or any other large plant that may a while to get used to a new setting. So get planting in your New England garden and we promise you will be rewarded next Spring!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer time Gardening Tips

Summer time is when your garden needs you most.  Here is a list of 
Chores and Maintenance that you should be doing to help your garden grow and thrive.

If rain is lacking, practice water-wise horticultural techniques.  Determine which plants are most important, and water them first.  Water plants early in the day through drip irrigation or hand-held hose with shut-off nozzle.
- Re-apply mulch to plantings to help conserve moisture
- Continue to remove weeds that compete for water
- Continue to stake floppy plants and vines
- Mow lawns regularly to keep grass height at 2 to 2 1/2"
- Continue to aerate and moisten compost pile to speed decomposition
- Continue to apply acid mulch to azaleas and rhododendrons, and other ericaceous ornamentals
- Apply a summer mulch to rose beds to preserve moisture and control weeds
- Deadhead annuals and perennials to encourage continuous bloom, and cut back any rampant growth
- Continue to spray roses weekly with a baking soda fungicide  
- Remove any fallen leaves and debris that can harbor insect pests and disease organisms
- Pinch back asters and chrysanthemums one last time
- Finish deadheading rhododendrons and lilacs
- Continue to apply deer repellent


- Continue to re-pot any houseplants as needed
- Continue to lift, divide, and propagate spring-flowering perennials
- Sow seed of lettuce, kale, broccoli, cabbage, radishes, and arugula for fall harvest
- Continue transplanting container grown plants


- Deadhead hybrid tea, grandiflora, floribunda, miniature, repeat-blooming shrub, and climbing roses
- Prune climbing roses after flowering
- Prune and thin large shade trees to increase light for lawns and planting beds
- Prune evergreens, and deciduous and evergreen hedges into early summer
- Prune all raspberry canes that have completed fruiting to the ground
- Fertilize broad-leaved flowering evergreen shrubs with topdressing of compost and/or cottonseed meal
- Fertilize needle evergreens with acid type fertilizer
- Fertilize roses
- Continue to fertilize annuals and container plants each month
- Fertilize chrysanthemums every 2 to 3 weeks until buds form
- Fertilize vegetables
- Leave nitrogen-rich grass clippings on lawn

Thursday, May 22, 2014

How to Care for Roses

Plants: How to Care for Roses spacerspacer          spacerspacer
Total Rose Care

See Rose Families

 AARS Roses
 Antique Roses
 Climbing Roses
 David Austin Roses
 Drift Roses
 Easy Elegance Roses
 Floribunda Roses
 Flower Carpet Roses
 Grandiflora Roses
 Hybrid Tea Roses
 Knock Out Roses
 Landscape Roses
 Rugosa Beach Roses
Roses are heavy feeders, requiring a constant supply of nutrients to sustain growth and bloom production. A well-fed rose will reach its maximum height; produce abundant flowers as well as resisting attack from diseases and insects. Roses require three primary nutrients-nitrogen (N) for green growth, phosphorous (P) for flower growth and potassium (K) for root growth. These nutrients are available from either organic (plant or animal derived) fertilizers, or inorganic (synthetic or inorganic) fertilizers.
Organic sources of fertilizer, such as fish emulsion, alfalfa meal, bone meal, cottonseed meal, manure, or bat guano are all valuable sources of nutrients for roses. However, there are many organic prepared rose foods, such as Espoma and Rose Tone.

Insects and Diseases
The key to growing healthy, disease free roses is to select disease resistant varieties and to practice good horticulture. It is essential to grow your roses in at least six to eight hours of sun each day, provide optimum circulation and water as well as feeding them on a regular basis. Addressing pest management with natural products before an insect or disease gets out of control does not affect the natural balance of the garden. However, if you are looking for exhibition quality roses, you will have to use chemical sprays in order to prevent insects or diseases from becoming a problem.

Pruning Basics
Pruning enhances the shape of your plant, ensures a vigorous first bloom and encourages new growth.
It's good to prune roses back in the spring, after the last frost. Usually late April in the Boston area. If you are pruning old roses, prune them after their bloom time since they bloom on old wood.
Always prune out dead wood and suckers (sprouts from below the bud union). After that, remove older woody canes and then thin, if necessary, to ensure that the center of the bush is open for good air circulation. When finished pruning, remove any remaining debris from around the bush. (Do not use in compost pile)

Total Rose CareCaned Type Roses (Teas, Floribundas and Grandifloras)
Tea roses, what we call Exhibition, Show or Cutting roses, make long-stemmed individual blooms. They grow tall and upright, in the 4-6' range. Grandiflora's, also in this group, are nearly identical to the teas but cluster-bloomers. Floribunda's also fall into this pruning group. Their flowers are similar in look to the teas but clustered like the grandiflora's and grow about two-thirds the size of the others, usually in the 2 ½ - 3 ½' range.
Caned roses are treated alike in regards to pre-spring pruning. Cut the whole plant back to 12". Next, visually choose 3 or 4 fat, fresh looking canes to retain. Ideally these should be away from the center of the plant and away from one another, making for maximum air and sun and minimal crowding. Cut all other canes and side branches as far back to the ground as you can. You should be left with 3 to 4 lone single separated canes about 12" high.
Shrubby Type Roses
Shrubs (shrub and hedge roses) grow dense and twiggy without the typical fat and upright canes. They branch heavily and grow 2-5' tall. Blooms are clustered, smaller and less sophisticated in form. Groundcover's are shrub roses too, only lower and spreading. Rugosa's (Seaside or Beach roses) are similar to shrubs in that they are shrubby-caned and many-branched, forming a hedge.Total Rose Care
For maximum blooms, pruning should be more of a light grooming than severe. One-time bloomers should be pruned immediately after blooming while repeat bloomers in the early spring. If your shrub becomes lanky over time, you will need to prune some of the oldest canes to promote new growth. There should be a balance between new growth and the old growth.

Climbing Type Roses
Known as Ramblers, Climbers, Trellis and Pillar roses, these don't climb via tendrils or wrapping, so they need to be attached to a structure.
A general guide is minimal pruning for four years, then a hard pruning the fifth year. If there is a decline in blooms or the rose appears to decline, the next winter is time for the hard pruning. For most years, just cut out dead wood and do a little thinning so branches don't crowd and cover one another. Then for the hard prune year, go in and remove the oldest looking main stems and severely thin.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Spring Gardening Time...

The month of April truly ushers in the season of Spring in New England. Snowdrops, crocuses, and then daffodils seem to sprout and bloom overnight, usually on the heels of a two or three day warm spell. These occur in the early part of April in the south coastal regions of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, and in the latter part of the month in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine.
As soon as the outside temperatures allow, its time to remove any dead or decaying matter in your New England garden that may be covering up your spring flowers.

Its important to rake the garden beds BEFORE they start growing or you can damage the plants, removing the flowers accidentally or even killing the plant before it gets a chance to flower and set leaves.
spring crocus in the New England garden

If you have a vegetable garden, or are planning one for this year, now is also the time to turn over the soil from your annual vegetable areas and rake any debris covering perennial vegetables such as asparagus. Again, doing this early makes clean up MUCH easier than trying to work the soil around the vegetables later on after they are established and growing. Believe it or not, by the end of April you can plant peas and lettuce in most of New England directly by seed in the ground for a beautiful spring crop of snow peas and boston lettuce. These vegetables love the cooler days and nights and actually grow much better than in summer heat.

Lastly, if you are inclined to grow your own vegetables from seed, many of the summer ripening varieties of tomato especially will benefit from an early head start from seed on a sunny windowsill. If you don't have adequate light, however, the seedlings can become long and weak over the next 8 weeks and may be unusable in the garden. So, be sure you have them in a south facing window that gets at least 4-5 hours of direct sun daily. On warm days, open the window and let the breeze blow on the plants. This helps to harden the tissue on the stem so that when you plant them outside, their stems will be able to take the strain of blowing in the wind. It can take up to two weeks to "harden" plants from windowsill to garden so every little bit helps along the way.

Best of luck and Happy Spring!!!

WBZ Spring Weather Special Promo (+playlist)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Snow is Good News for your Gardens

Though your aching back may not agree, snow is actually good for your garden and landscape. Snow provides moisture as well as protection from cold and wind.

Snow is an excellent insulator against low temperatures and excessive winds. The extent of protection depends on the depth of snow.   Generally, the temperature below the snow increases by about 2 degrees F for each inch of accumulation.  In addition, the soil gives off some heat so that the temperature at the soil surface can be much warmer than the air temperature.  One study found that the soil surface temperature was 28 degrees F with a 9-inch snow depth and an air temperature of -14 F!

Snow brings welcome moisture to many landscape plants, which will in turn help prevent desiccation injury. Even dormant plants continue to lose moisture from twigs (as water vapor) in the process known as transpiration. Evergreen plants, which keep their leaves through the winter, are at even greater risk of injury.

On the other hand, some evergreens can suffer from too much snow load. The weight of snow and ice can bend or even break branches, particularly on multi-stemmed shrubs such as arborvitae. Snow should be gently removed by brushing away with a broom. Do not try to remove ice since it is more likely that you will break the stems. Multi-stemmed shrubs that are known to be susceptible to breakage can be bound with twine to hold branches together.

Of course, there's still much more winter to come before we'll know how well our plants fare. In the meantime, rest assured that there really is a silver lining to this storm cloud, at least in the areas that received the snow.

So think spring and be thankful that it's snowing in February and not May.

Email any questions of comments to me.  Thanks, Mark Saidnawey

Friday, January 3, 2014

Thinking of spring? You can purchase your seeds now.

Seed Starting Indoor... Time to get growing!

As winter continues to move along it is time to start planning what this years crops for your garden and
Pemberton Farms has all the seeds and supplies you need to get started.   This year we have decided to continue to carry seeds from a wonderful family owned company called Botanical Interests.    

Below is some great helpful tips for selecting and starting seeds indoors, and outside.  Of course, when the weather permits.
 Starting Seeds Indoors by Botanical Interests
Whatever your motivation is for starting seeds indoors, the process can be fun and simple. When you understand what factors influence a seed you'll be able to create a formula for success, and then repeat it again and again.

Light is one of the most important factors to creating a healthy, strong seedling. There are some seeds, usually very tiny ones, which receive part of their signals to germinate from light. These seeds should be only lightly covered or sprinkled directly on top of moist soil. Some seeds, usually larger ones, can have their germination inhibited by exposure to light. It is vital that these seeds are sown deep enough to be in complete darkness until germinated. Your Botanical Interests seed packet will have any special sowing instructions you need to consider.
Ample light is also one on the major factors influencing the physical strength of seedlings. Sufficiently intense light of the right duration will make a shorter, stronger seedling than weaker light sources. A basic and adequate setup can be as simple as four fluorescent tubes, two cool and two warm spectrum, hung no more than three inches from the top of your seedlings. A timer will help you consistently deliver 14 hours or more of light per day.

Temperature is the factor in the life of a plant, especially germination, which governs the rate at which things happen. While the ideal germination temperature for some plants may be higher or lower, normal household temperatures are usually within the range that encourages germination in a vast majority of commonly grown plants. If temperatures are too low, germination may slow or stop entirely. There are some plants that germinate at a higher ideal temperature. Many of these are tropical plants grown as annual flowers and vegetables in cooler climates. They include but are not limited to: asparagus, begonia, celosia, impatiens, petunia, tomato, watermelon, cucumber, eggplant, pepper, pumpkin, zucchini, and melons. All of these plants germinate at an ideal temperature above 70° F. You can increase germination percentage and speed by applying heat to your soil. You can do this by placing trays and pots near a heat vent, radiator, or other gentle heat source. You can also buy a specially designed heat mat made for this purpose at your garden center.


There is more water in a plant than any other constituent. The way you apply it becomes one of the most important factors in determining the overall health of your seedlings. When a seed comes in contact with water it begins to absorb it. This signals to the plant that it is time to come out of dormancy, germinate, and grow. The plants are fragile in the early stages of life. At this time, consistent moisture is vital. When starting seed indoors, they depend on you to create and maintain the right amount of moisture in their surroundings. After sowing, seeds should be watered gently, but thoroughly. If your seeds are tiny, or are to be sown shallow, you may want to wet your soil before sowing. Moisture should be maintained consistently after the first watering, but never to the point of soggy soil. Saturated soil can create conditions that will rot your seeds before they germinate. You can cover your seeds with plastic wrap, removing it after seedlings emerge. There are also capillary mats that supply water, via wicking, to the bottom of containers. This is a good choice if your containers are relatively shallow. If your sown seeds are allowed to dry out too much after germination, they may die.
Now that you know what a growing seed requires you can try starting some, or all, of your garden indoors. The best place to start is with your Botanical Interests seed packet. The back and inside of the packet contains all the information you need to you plan your garden and start your seeds. First, read the packet and determine if the seed you've chosen should be started indoors, and if so, when. Next you'll notice that the packet tells you how deep to sow the seed. Following the guidelines above, assemble your containers and soil, and then sow your seed. After watering your seed, vigilance and the right temperature will produce a seedling that immediately needs to be placed in a very well lit environment. Now it is time to carefully grow your seedling into a viable and healthy transplant.

For more information you can contact us or reach out to the folks at Botanical Interests...


Mark Saidnawey
Pemberton Garden
2225 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, Ma 02140 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Winterizing Roses

“Of all flowers, methinks rose is best,” said Shakespeare. That sentiment still holds true today, since (arguably) rose is America’s most popular flower. Perhaps the fragile nature of the rose (and the plant on which it is borne) is a part of its mystique. In other words, if roses were easy to grow they might not be as popular among gardeners. A major factor contributing to plant fragility is a lack of cold hardiness of many popular types of rose. Early December is an ideal time to get rose plants ready for the upcoming winter or, in short, to “winterize” them.

Most of our modern roses, (e.g. hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora) need some type of protection during the winter. Since the past growing season was fairly kind to garden plants, most roses are going into the winter in relatively good condition. The goal of winterization is to keep them that way.
Protection from cold especially is important for the graft union—the point at which the named cultivar was budded onto a more vigorous rootstock. Abrupt changes in temperature (especially from fairly mild to very cold) can be especially damaging. Many of the things done to winterize rose plants are aimed at keeping temperatures more uniform throughout the winter.

Winterizing roses starts with thoughtful pruning. Remove excessive top growth, especially where rose plants have become over-grown. Tall canes (e.g. four to five feet) should be cut back about two-thirds of their length. Canes that are short but have abundant, bushy growth at their top should be pruned to allow about three-fourths of their height to remain. At the same time, weak, thin canes emanating from lower on the plant should be removed. Canes such as these can be damaged by winter winds.
In addition to pruning the top of the plant, application of mulch around the base of the plant is considered the best way to protect the delicate graft union. As previously mentioned, the graft union is the part of the plant most sensitive to cold temperatures. During severe winters, the root system of unprotected plants might be the only part that survives. The result will be the production of root suckers the following season. If the suckers flower at all, the flower will not be similar to the named cultivar that was budded onto the root stock.

Any one of a number of mulches can be used to protect roses over the winter. Soil is excellent, readily available and inexpensive. If soil is used, it should not be dug from between plants unless spacing is quite wide. Additionally, bark, wood chips, aged sawdust or any other fairly dense material can be used. For best results, form a mound about 10 to 12 inches high and 18 inches wide at the base of the plant, covering the stem and bud union. Additional mulch may need to be added during the course of the winter should the original application settle.

Carefully remove all plant debris around the base of the plant before applying mulch. The inoculums of troublesome diseases such as blackspot may be present on this debris and will serve as a source of infection the next growing season. Any diseased leaves that remain on the rose plant should be removed as well.

The timing of rose winterization is important. Because of the latent heat contained by the ground, mulch applied too early will keep the stem of the rose warm and moist. The latter encourages the establishment of stem cankers. Delay winterization until several “hard” (killing) frosts have occurred but before the soil freezes should prevent the previously-mentioned problem. Treating the stems with a fungicide used to control blackspot before mounding is a good precautionary measure, but not an absolute necessity.

Winterizing shrub roses such as the very popular cultivar ‘Knock Out’ is not necessary at our latitude. The latter was bred, along with other desirable traits, to be very cold hardy.

Best of luck and happy winter...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

To Sod, or to Seed, that is the Question!

When planning a landscaping renovation, most home-owners are bound to face a common dilemma. To Sod, or to Seed, that is the question? Unless you have a background in landscaping or other extensive experience, these options may leave you wondering which will be the fastest and most cost-effective way to go. Although both methods will eventually lead to similar results, a beautifully manicured luscious lawn, the path to achieving this diverges right from the start! Whether you choose to lay sod in your lawn or scatter seeds, the decision ultimately depends on the circumstances of your outdoor renovation.

Read this excerpt from The Daily Green:
If money were no object, we’d probably all put down sod, which is fully grown grass that gives us a nearly instant lawn. Seeding a lawn from scratch can take several months to fully fill in, and any number of environmental challenges – wind, pelting, rain, sweltering heat, a drought – can make new lawns difficult. As for value, seed is still usually the best bet; initial costs of sod lawns make them 10 to 20 times more costly than seed.

Laying Sod
Sod is your best bet if you are limited on time. After laying sod, you instantly have a green lawn! Although the initial labor involved is a bit more intensive than scattering seeds, the benefits are seen much faster than other methods. The downside to sod lawns is the cost. As stated above, sod lawns are noted for being much more expensive than see lawns; something you might want to take into account! In summation, if you’re not on a budget and willing to put in a good days work, sod will be the ideal method for your landscaping project!

Seeding Your Lawn
Contrasting the exorbitant prices that are associated with sod, seeds are only a fraction of the cost and often readily available. Furthermore, seeds are available in a wide variety of species, making seeded lawns ideal for home-owners searching for a particular type of grass. In warmer climates, it’s best to begin a seeding project during the spring or summer months to see the best results. On the other hand, seeded lawns will take much longer to grow and they also require much more attention as your lawn matures. If you are the gardening type, this could be a fun project for you to take on as extensive watering and upkeep is included in the job description!

Other Helpful Tips to Growing a New Lawn
Whether you choose to go with a seeded lawn or take a weekend to lay sod, the success or failure of a new lawn hinges on the same factors. Regular watering is the key to growing a new lawn. In fact, lack of water is the most common cause of new lawn failure!

Moving forward, soil preparation is the key to creating the best environment to grow thick roots that will yield healthy blades of grass. If you have segments of weeds popping up, think about applying an herbicide to kill the entire lawn and the weeds. This will give you a fresh new start. Also, be sure to till the soil prior to laying sod or seeding to make sure nutrients are mixed into the soil. This will provide the ideal conditions for your new lawn!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Popular gardening questions. Have you asked any of these?

Enjoy some of the most popular gardening questions found on the web.

Q. Many of my daffodils failed to produce flowers last spring. Most have been in the garden for many years. Should I feed them and are they likely to bloom again next spring?

A. After afew years daffodil bulbs can become overcrowded, restricting their ability to grow and develop; this reduces or puts a stop to flower production. You could lift, divide, replant and feed, but it is probably more sensible to lift and dispose of the old bulbs and plant new ones. Daffodils and narcissi are an inexpensive commodity so you certainly get value for money if they last a few years.

Flower production can also be disappointing if the foliage has been cut down too early, or if it dies back quickly due to drought. The foliage needs last long enough to feed the bulbs ready for next year’s flowers.

Q. I love lavenders and keep planting them in my garden but they rarely survive. Usually they thrive in the first summer and then deteriorate over winter; any suggestions?

A. Some lavenders are excellent long-term plants, and others are not quite as hardy as they might be. The best ones to choose for general planting are selections of Lavandula angustifolia with narrow silver-green leaves. ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Imperial Gem’, although they have been around for many years, are still the most reliable dark blue lavenders. If you are on heavy damp soil add plenty of grit and mulch the soil surface with coarse grit.
As soon as the flowers start to fade in late summer trim the plants back to just below the bottom of the flower stalk.

Q. I planted a wisteria several years ago. It is in a sunny spot on the house wall and has grown vigorously but refuses to produce many flowers. How can I encourage a better display?

A. Wisterias fail to flower well for a number of reasons. Grafted plants which are propagated from selected free flowering cultivars are the most reliable. Seed raised plants are variable when it comes to flower production. However pruning has a big influence. You should prune twice a year, summer and winter. In summer shorten back the long new shoots to 6inches. The resulting long, thin shoots are then pruned back in Late Fall.

Wisteria sinensis 2

Q. What’s the difference between climbing and rambler roses?

A.Climbing roses are generally less vigorous and have larger flowers, more like hybrid tea, floribunda or shrub roses. Ramblers are usually stronger growing, larger plants that produce clusters of smaller flowers. Most climbing roses repeat flower, most ramblers bloom only once in early summer, however there are exceptions in both cases. Many climbers are climbing forms of bush roses, or just shrubs that are tall enough to train as a short climber.

Q. What is the best safe method of controlling slugs and snails?

A. There are countless recommendations for controlling slugs and snails; probably the most despised but persistent garden pests. You can of course use nature friendly slug pellets; these are the ones without metaldehyde which should be avoided. To protect individual plants the pellets based on wool waste make an effective barrier. Some recommend beer which attracts the pests and they drown in it. Others say that wheat bran from the health food store is really effective;the pests basically overeat and it kills them. I have more snails than slugs and I find slate tiles in shaded positions, and stacks of old flowerpots are brilliant at attracting the snails. I the collect them and take them up the lane to a hedgerow where I hope the birds find them. I suspect they make their way back, but I feel better about it!  See also how to protect hostas from slugs and snails


Q. I grew tulips in pots last year. When they had finished flowering they died down naturally and I have kept them in the pots over the summer. Should I repot them or feed them, and will they flower again next spring?

A. I never recommend that you grow tulips in pots for more than one year; normally they are very disappointing in the second year. It would be better to start with new bulbs. If your tulips are hardy single varieties: Darwin, triumph or single late they may well produce some flowers and can establish well if you transfer them to the open ground.

Q. I was given a lovely Phalaenopsis; it bloomed beautifully and produced side branches with more flower buds. Recently these have been dropping off the plant without opening. What has caused this?

A. Bud drop is nearly always caused by either overwatering or temperature variation. If your plant has been on a windowsill where it gets warm in the day, and then is cold at night when the curtains are drawn, it may drop its buds, especially if the compost is too wet. Either leave the curtains open at night, or move the plant onto a table near a window and keep it there all the time.
Usually the label warns against direct sunlight. This is usually only harmful in scorching weather in summer; you must make sure that your plant has enough light, otherwise it will not flower. The best way to water is to immerse the pot in a bowl of room temperature water once a week until it stops bubbling. Then drain thoroughly before replacing in a pot cover. If the compost is too dry both flowers and leaves tend to wilt; if too wet the roots suffer and the buds drop. 


Q: I have a number of Hellebores in the garden. Should I cut off the leaves in winter or leave them alone until the new shoots appear next spring.

A: It is really only Helleborus x hybridus (varieties of Helleborus orientalis) that you remove the leaves from before the plants flower. Personally I leave the leaves in place until late winter, when the buds start to poke through the soil surface. Then I cut back the leaves to ground level and mulch the plants with multi-purpose compost. This gives a nice clean, dark background to show off the flowers. I would remove the leaves earlier if the start to show any signs of spotting on the leaves. This fungal disease can spread to the flowers; removing the leaves prevents this. 

Helleborus x hybridus double

If you have any gardening questions please feel free to email me and I will get you the answers.

Cheers, Mark