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