Sunday, July 21, 2019

Summer Gardening Checklist

Summer gardens are bursting with color and have had enough precipitation this year to keep trees, shrubs and lawns green.

Hardy Hibiscus

Butterfly and bee enjoy Joe-Pye Weed
 Annuals are at the height of their blooming period and summer blooming perennials like coneflowers, daylilies, sedums, and scores of other plants add color to the landscape. Crepe Myrtles dot the landscape providing beautiful pink, red, white and purple blooms throughout neighborhoods. All that work we did in spring has paid big dividends.
Gardens do need to be maintained. Here is a gardening checklist to help with summer tasks.
Scotty waters our perennial selection. Notice how he waters beneath the foliage

Summer heat dries out our gardens quickly. Focus first on newly planted trees and shrubs. Give them long, deep watering at the base of the plant. A five-gallon bucket with a hole drilled into the bottom of the sides will deliver water slowly to individual plants. A soaker hose can also provide water to the base of the plants if a new bed has been planted. Perennial beds and annuals could be watered this way as well. Overhead watering with a sprinkler is discouraged as much of the water evaporates and water on the leaves and flowers of plants may make them more susceptible to disease.
Pots and planters may need to be watered daily in the heat of the summer. Again, water deeply to encourage roots to go to the bottom of the pot. Water early in the day when possible.
Lawns will usually go dormant in the summer, so there is little need to water them. Fall's cooler weather will revitalize the grass.
Curbside calibrachoa planted densely keeps weeds to a minimum 

Weeds tend to grow where bare soil is in the garden. Plant more plants! A full perennial bed or annual garden will keep weeds from appearing. Weed after a rain to make weed pulling easier. Use a product like Preen to set a barrier where weeds won't germinate. Available in both organic and traditional formulations, Preen can be used around established plants. Transplants can go in the gardens with Preen, but seeds will not germinate once the garden has been treated.
Preen prevents weeds in garden beds
 Notice how crabgrass appears in thin spots in the lawn? Crabgrass is an annual weed, so will die off over winter. Overseeding with good grass seed in the fall and putting down a fall fertilizer will help deter crabgrass next spring. Jonathan Green, one of our lawn care product suppliers, has some informational videos available online.  Newly seeded lawns will require daily watering until the seed has germinated. Our garden shop can identify weeds and help get them under control.
Bad...too much mulch too high on the tree. Do not mulch above natural tree flare. Keep mulch 3-6" away from the trunk. 

I'm a big fan of mulching. Under established trees, mulch keeps the mower and string trimmers from damaging trunks and allows water to penetrate to the roots. Mulch keeps weeds out, warms the soil in early spring, covers plants' roots, keeps the garden from drying out, and adds organic matter as it decays naturally. Mulch should be applied to be 2-3 inches or so deep. Do not mound mulch, but instead keep a flat ring around trees.

Prune, deadhead or cut back plants to encourage bloom. Annuals will recover fast and keep blooming until frost and in some cases, into November. Many perennials benefit from deadheading too. A great read, The Well-Tended Perennial Garden, by Tracy DiSabato Aust, provides step-by-step advice for pruning plants.
For pruning large trees, be safe and call a certified arborist. Our go-to company is Bartlett Tree Experts. Their expertise has helped my own landscape thrive, handling pruning and pest control jobs that were beyond my ability.
Colorado Potato Beetle feeding on a tomato plant

Insects and Diseases
Watch for insects in both the landscape and in the vegetable garden. Detected early, insects might be able to be handled by hand or with a forceful stream of water. Insecticides are available in both organic and synthetic formulas.
Diseases, like Powdery Mildew and Blackspot, can be treated with a fungicide. Bring in a sample for identification and suggestions for treating diseases to our garden shop.
The Maryland Home and Garden Information Center is another good resource for pest, disease and cultural information about garden plants.

Enjoy the harvest

Enjoy cut flowers from the garden. Harvest tomatoes and other vegetables. Bring flower bouquets and your overflow of vegetables to friends and neighbors. Share the beauty and bounty of the garden.

Fall lettuces and cole crops extend the gardening season

Plan for Fall Gardens
Vegetables, like broccoli, cabbage, kale, and lettuce, can be planted in late July and early August for fall harvest. Perennials, trees, and shrubs can also be added to the garden in the fall. Warm soil will encourage root growth before plants go dormant for the winter, making them hardier for spring and summer next year. We have a new tool on our own website, Valley View Farms, called Plant Finder that will allow gardeners to search for plants according to their height, width, color, time of bloom, sun or shade tolerance and other attributes. While all of the plants listed may not be in stock, a phone call to the store will let customers know what is available now. Reach us from 7am - 9 pm Monday through Saturday and 7 am-6 pm on Sunday at 410-527-0700.

Summer is a time to kick back and relax. Spending time in the garden is a wonderful way to nurture your plants and yourself. Enjoy the last half of summer!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Seed Starting Workshop

It's still winter; snow is falling as I write. But, just last Friday, the sun was shining and temperatures were advancing to almost 70 degrees! While there is time to garden in earnest, this is our opportunity to plan our summer vegetable and flower gardens.

If you choose to start from seed, Valley View Farms has the most extensive selection in our area, with varieties from 10 different seed companies. Local favorite Meyer Seed, Burpee, Ferry-Morse, Renee's Garden, Botanical Interest, Lake Valley, Livingston, Sandia, Hudson Valley, and Baker Creek feature hundreds of seed varieties. They are all non-GMO.
10 companies featuring vegetable seds

We carry organic and non-organic seeds vegetable seeds, sprouting seeds, herb seeds galore, and seed tapes for ease in planting the smaller seeds (radishes, lettuce, and beets).
Got herbs?
 Some rare vegetable seeds came to us from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, such as a 1500-year-old Cave Bean. For the hot pepper aficionado, Sandia Seed has provided us with the Hot Peppers of the World, including Carolina Reapers, Scotch Bonnet, and Trinidad Scorpion--Hot!
World's Hottest Peppers

Valley View Farm's flower seed selection is equally extensive! Perennials and annuals, including more than 30 varieties of easy-to-grow zinnias and sunflowers, fill up a full aisle of racks. Flowering climbers for your lightpost and trellis are offered. Create a natural meadow of wildflowers with mixes named Save the Bees, Bring Home the Butterflies, Hummingbird Haven, Fairy Meadow, and Songbird Delight; these are just a few of the choices. Supporting our pollinators is again a priority throughout the store. The seed aisle has plenty of milkweeds, borage, and Mexican sunflower seeds, to name a few.
Butterflies love Milkweed

Seed starting indoors requires a few necessary supplies. The proper growing medium, trays for planting, grow lights, seed markers and heating mats can be a huge help.
Windowsill plantings

Lights, seeds. action!

 Our store has it all to help you achieve success, including a Seed Starting Seminar on Saturday, February 16 at 9 am.  At that time, I will explain the steps to successfully grow from seed, show several time-honored tips, as well as provide examples of the numerous supplies that Valley View Farms offers to support success. I hope to see you there!

Guest blogger and seed expert Donna Steele

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Winter Gardening Classes January -March 2019

Eric teaching about orchids
Our  2019 Seminars and Special Events Schedule through March has been published in-house and will be available on our website later this week. Most are free of charge and are held in the back of our store or in the greenhouse on Saturdays at 9 and 11. In addition, we can host your garden club or civic organization here at a time to be arranged. Contact or call 410-527-0700 for additional information.

January 5, 9 am
Welcome to the World of Bonsai, presented by our long-time grower, Martha Meehan, introduces Bonsai to budding enthusiasts.
Martha has hosted our Bonsai seminars since 1985

January 26, 9 am
Succulents I, In Containers, is a class exploring the many non-hardy plants displayed in our greenhouse. Ideas on displaying and planting succulents indoors and out will be discussed. Succulents II, on hardy plants, will be presented in April.

February 2, 9 am
Bonsai Fertilizers and Soils is today's topic. Join us for a repotting demonstration and methods to grow bonsai.

February 2, 11 am
Itsy, Bitsy, Teeny, Weeny Fairy Gardens are a fun project for families. Bring the kids to create a mini-garden they can enjoy. Materials costs will vary.

February 9, 9 am
Growing Plants Year-Round Using Lights is a subject that is very familiar to our speaker, Eric. Learn more about lighting techniques to produce herbs and vegetables all year.
Eric is an indoor light/plant enthusiast

February 9, 11 am
Orchid Care and Repotting is a skill that many find intimidating. Eric will demonstrate the process, and even assist in repotting your orchid. Learn how easy the process can be with the right products and instruction.

February 16, 9 am
Seed Starting and Germination as discussed by our own Donna S will increase the gardener's ability to grow vegetable and annual flowers for transplanting. Donna will talk about the best lighting, seed starting media, heating and the many choices available to those who start their own transplants.
Donna is our in-house seed guru

February 16, 11 am
The Displaying Airplants Workshop, led by our own Jen K, promises to be a fun project, as participants frame a group of tillandsias for display. Cost of class will vary.
Master Gardener Jen loves plant projects

February 23, 9 am
Gardening Under Glass is a fun way to make houseplant gardening easier. Make your own terrarium after a wee bit of instruction. Buy a glass vessel from us, or bring your own.

February 23, 11 am
Square Foot Gardening 4 U is presented by Air Force veteran Kim Roman. Kim is a fervent disciple of Mel Bartholomew, presenting a method of intensive gardening utilizing smaller spaces to produce abundant harvests.
Kim loves her fruits and veggies!

Weekends in March
Tool Sharpening, by C J, is a must for gardeners who need working pruners, loppers, garden scissors, chainsaws, mower blades and other implements that make our garden tasks easier. C J will be here on weekends in March. Customers may leave their tools with C J and have them returned the next day or week. Times to be announced.

March 2, 9 am
Build Your Own Bonsai is one of our most popular workshops. Participants are provided with a tree, soil, wire, pot, tool rental and advice from other bonsai enthusiasts to create a bonsai for inside or out. Cost is 35.00.

March 2, 11 am
1st Annual Hip Houseplant Revue is a houseplant fashion show, complete with a runway. Our models (let me know if you'd like to be one), will present plants as our moderator speaks of each plant's unique properties and care. Let's have some fun! Stick around later as a panel of experts answer questions anyone may have about the best plants for their home, office or living space.

March 9, 9 am
Bartlett Tree Experts Presents---Preventative Care and Techniques for Growing Healthy, Happy Trees. Last year's talk 'How to Kill a Tree' was a hit, so we are trying again, with a new name to help gardeners care for the largest investment they may have in plants on their property. Bartlett Tree has been Valley View Farms' partner in providing tree care for over a decade.

March 9, 11 am
Vegetable Gardening Boot Camp will give new gardeners much-needed information on soil prep, fertilizers, plant selection, garden placement, and other items. Bring your questions and a 16 oz. cup of soil from your yard for us to test while you attend the class.

March 16, 9 am
Herbs, organically-grown locally for us, have seen increased demand as their health benefits and ethnic flavors are much sought after. Our own herb specialist, Jeff M, will help gardeners navigate through the many choices we have in edible gardening.
Jeff is our urban herb expert

March 16, 11 am
Vegetable Gardening in Containers will be presented by Marty Gottlieb, of Smart Pots fame. Marty's passion to share his gardening successes have made him a staff and customer favorite here at Valley View Farms. You will be very inspired after today's presentation.
Marty is very enthusiastic about vegetable container gardening

March 23, 9 am
Spring Lawn Clinic is presented by our garden shop manager, Brian B. He will review timetables, products, methods- both organic and traditional, necessary to maintain a beautiful lawn all season. Please bring in  16 oz. of soil for free pH analysis.
Brian knows lawns!

March 23, 11 am
Growing a Deer Resistant Garden will be presented by Kathy Jentz, a gardener, garden communicator and publisher of Washington Gardener magazine. Bambi may be cute, but we don't want him and the whole herd feeding on our gardens. Kathy will cover proven and humane tactics to deal with deer and other wildlife to keep them out of our edible and ornamental garden.
Read Kathy's magazine; follow her advice!

March 30, 9 am
Spring Pond Opening, featuring our own Tim M, details the steps necessary to get fish, plants, pumps, filters and other components of the pond up and running for spring.
Tim knows ponds!

March 30, 11 am
Answers to Frequently Asked Gardening Questions from a Pro features our Garden Center manager Brian B. He will offer a basic how-to for a wide variety of gardening topics, including how and when to apply and use fertilizer, how much grass seed to use and when to use a spreader vs. a sprayer. Have questions? This is the perfect venue in which to ask them.

Look for more topics in our April - June schedule to be published in early March. Any ideas for seminars or workshops? Let us know by emailing

Friday, December 14, 2018

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree!

 Three of us go to Longwood Gardens every year to celebrate our friendship. This year, we found some Christmas trees we may have to try to replicate next year in our greenhouse here at Valley View Farms. While I love my own tree and the hundreds that surround me at work each day, the displays we saw at Longwood kept us clicking our iPhones with the new ideas we encountered.

Birdhouse tree with smaller trees to the side, decorated with seedheads and other bird feed

Paper trees in the music room

Orchid tree overhead

Loved the protea and ginger

Beautiful use of natural materials

Tillandsia trees are always a personal favorite

Tillandsia trees mimic the conifers on the outside

Roses and ivy

Pilea, pepperomia, and lysmachia add contrast and color

Simply poinsettias

Christmas Tree Spaceships?

We loved the trees at Longwood, and are sure to return for next year's displays. Like our own Christmas Shop, it is fun to spot the new displays while still treasuring the older ones.  
Enjoy the holiday season, with an outing with friends to the local botanical gardens, or a drive to see the area's beautiful outdoor light displays. 
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Poinsettias; are They Poisonous?

Dear WBAL TV Noon News Viewers,

I got in a lot of trouble and some unwanted attention today when I said on WBAL TV, our local NBC affiliate, that poinsettias are not poisonous. I have gathered research from both Ohio State and Cornell Universities citing poinsettias' non-toxicity, but I may not have said forcefully enough that pets should be kept away from all houseplants as we often don't know how they have been treated. The link presented here was published just yesterday by a scientist from Cornell University. 6 Tips to Keep Your Pets Safe This Holiday Season does mention holiday plants that may be harmful, including mistletoe and holly.  As I mentioned in passing during the segment, I personally got sap from a Euphorbia (a poinsettia relative) and suffered for some time with an irritated eye.

I apologize to everyone who found my response to the question to be lighter than it should have been. I have had dogs and cats and am very careful to keep them away from plants that I bring into my home. The Ohio State University also cited research providing answers as to whether poinsettias are poisonous. Some sites that I have since checked do say that poinsettias have a low toxicity, including the ASPCA website on toxic plants.

I'm hoping Dr. Kim Hammond addresses the question during his pet segment on WBAL. To any of you who have additional questions or concerns on what I presented during the noon show today, feel free to email me at, or call the store at 410-527-0700. I am generally in from 7-3 except on Wednesdays and Thursdays. I will respond to any emails in the next few days as soon as possible.

Again, I apologize for any concern my comments have caused. I am a pet and plant enthusiast and would never place my animal's or anyone else's purposely in harm's way. We had agreed as a company at one point to not discuss plant toxicity as each situation is different, and some pets may have allergies that we are unaware of. I answered this question, often asked during my work as a garden center employee, thousands of times. Please feel free to send me any information from reputable sources that I may learn more.


Carrie Engel

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Benefits of Trees

Trees add instant value to the home, save energy with shade in the summer and windbreaks in the winter, provide food and shelter for wildlife and so much more. Recently, while researching some material for a talk to The Kent Island Garden Club, I was able to spend some time looking into all that trees provide.

"The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day." USDA

"A mature tree can often have an appraised value of between $1,000 and $10,000." Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers

"The planting of trees means improved water quality, resulting in less runoff and erosion. This allows more recharging of the groundwater supply. Wooded areas help prevent the transport of sediment and chemicals into streams." USDA Forest Service

As important, how do trees make us feel? A summer's day on a tire swing beneath the shade evokes days gone by. Just relaxing in the woods has now been identified as shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. Leave devices behind, wander into the trees, and hours later, breathing, seeing and feeling becomes easier.

A Chinese proverb states "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."

Franklin D Roosevelt cautioned us years ago when he said "A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people."

"Trees exhale for us that we may inhale them to stay alive. Can we ever forget that? Let us love trees with every breath we take until we perish", said Munia Khan.

This fall, as we enjoy the annual autumn showing of colorful leaves and the changing tree landscape, let us appreciate trees more, and maybe even add a few to keep our land and ourselves healthy.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Why We Love Fall, or, 10 Reasons to Visit Valley View Farms in October

Fall is a beautiful season. We get it! The weather, the trees, the time off between vacation and Christmas, the festivals and so much more add up to a good time. We're busy setting up the Christmas Shop, helping gardeners get their plants and lawns rebooted, and enjoying autumn. Here are our own Top Ten Reasons to come see us this month, not in any kind of order.

  1.  Ravens football! We love our team and have plenty of spirit. Honestly, we love the Monday, Thursday and late Sunday games best because they give us a chance to enjoy the daytime outside here at the garden center.
    Ravens gear for the home, the dog or you
  2. Mums and pansies are cool weather performers in the garden and oh, so colorful too. We grow them at our farm in Hydes, MD, and can have them delivered every day.
    4 sizes available 
  3. Trees, shrubs and perennial get the benefit of fall planting because the ground is still warm, even as the air temperatures cool down. Plants planted now will root in, providing a healthy, drought-tolerant plant come spring and summer. 
  4. Bulbs are some of the easiest things to grow, especially daffodils. Deer and smaller varmints don't like them, and who can resist their sunny, yellow blooms heralding spring. 
    Daffodils, tulips, crocus and more!
  5. Lawns may be hurting from too much rain this summer, so seeding now is a great way to have a beautiful grassy space come late fall and spring. 
    Grass seed for most situations
  6. Pumpkins! As one of our founders, Billy, used to say, "Pumpkins are like puppies; everybody loves them." And our BIG pumpkin will go on display Wednesday, October 3 at 10. You've got to see this thing up close and personal. 
    Our own pumpkin people!
  7. The Straw Maze is a fun place to watch the little kids test themselves. They may get a bit rambunctious at times; all the more fun. 
    We all need a hand sometimes
  8. The Haunted House in the back of our greenhouse is dark, scary and fun. We love to watch kids (and adults) work up the nerve to walk through the darkened tunnel. See the display of Halloween houses and accessories too!
    Are you afraid of clowns?
  9. The Christmas Shop is getting set-up. It's fun to watch the transformation and to spot all the new items. But, if it's too early for you, avoid the main building and stay with all that is fall outside and in the greenhouse. 
  10. PEOPLE! If you are a people watcher, love seeing children and families having fun, and are looking for remarkable photo ops, this is THE go-to place for fall. And we'll have face painting available on weekends from 10-6.
    This family arrives for their annual photo shoot
We could go on and on. Phoenix Wildlife Center celebrates Owl-o-ween
Wait until you see his head turn almost all the way around
with us on October 20, Paul DeRemigis will be here working on beautiful, original art all about Maryland, and we even have a guess-how-many-seeds-are-in-the-pumpkin contest. We will be open every day from 7 am-9 pm through fall. There's something for everyone in the family; we welcome your leashed pets too.
We love our pups!
See you soon! In the meantime, enjoy all of your other fall activities.