Friday, December 27, 2019

New Year's Resolutions for Gardeners

Thank you to all of our customers, and all of the people who worked at Valley View Farms, for a successful and memorable 2019.
 The New Year is upon us and gardeners are busy plying through stacks of seed catalogs that have already arrived. We have a little time to sit and think about our gardens too. What should we resolve to do this year? Here is a suggested list garnered from friends and coworkers for 2020.

  • Visit Longwood Gardens. They're open all year, and, while spring and Christmas are the favorite times to visit, the quiet of winter in the gardens and in the conservatory allow us to slow down and look closely at individual plants and displays. Its the perfect stress reliever. 
  • Buy seeds for heirloom plants. 
  • Ask parents and grandparents what they planted in the garden. 
  • Visit your favorite garden center before the spring rush. 
  • Learn. Take in some seminars. Look for them here, Ladew Gardens, local Master Garden classes, Longwood Gardens, Cylburn Arboretum, and Horticulture Society of Maryland.
  • Invite a garden speaker to lunch at your business. 
  • Start a gardening journal. 
  • Join (or start) a garden club.  Reach out to Federated Garden Club of Maryland for clubs in your area. 
  • Add a compost bin to collect kitchen scraps to add to an outdoor compost pile later.
  • Exercise. Getting ready now will make gardening more enjoyable.

  • Plant one native plant. The National Wildlife Federation has a downloadable list for our region. 
  • Design and plant a container garden for vegetables. 
  • Buy one good pair of pruners and/or loppers. 
  • Plant blueberries for the fruit and fall color.
  • Have extra space? Plant perennial edibles like asparagus, horseradish, and rhubarb.
  • Try summer bulbs, like dahlias, gladiolus, and calla lilies.
  • Plant disease-resistant Beacon Impatiens and Imara impatiens in shady areas.
  • Try organic weed controls in the lawn and garden. 
  • Plant milkweed and other butterfly-attracting plants.
  • Plant some flowers for cutting. 
  • Get the GrowIt! app for sharing plant information on social media.

  • Install a rain barrel or two.
  • Water vegetable beds with drip irrigation.
  • Take some photos of your garden and those of your friends.
  • Try organic weed control in the lawn and garden.
  • Have a picnic out near your garden...vow to eat outside once a week. 
  • Manage the garden with a walk around it before or after work each day.
  • Cut flowers and put some in a vase.
  • Throw a garden party!
  • Plant some annuals for late summer and fall color.
  • Plant cool-weather vegetables in late summer for fall harvest. 

  • Seed and feed the lawn. The combination of warm soil temperatures and cool air temperatures make fall the perfect time to work on the lawn.
  • Compost the leaves or use the mower to shred them and leave them on the lawn. 
  • Plant trees and shrubs now. Consider plants to attract birds and other wildlife. 
  • Wait until the first frost, then plant bulbs like daffodils, hyacinths, alliums, frittalarias, and others that are deer resistant. 
  • Get the soil tested for pH (free at our store).
  • Put away shovels and other tools after cleaning them.
  • Evaluate your garden to see where improvements may be made. 
  • Rework the container plants with mums, pansies, ornamental cabbage and kale for fall color.
  • Add a birdfeeder to the garden.
  • Collect seed from flowers and vegetables for next year's garden. 
Okay, those are some resolutions for this year. We also resolve to have the best plants, from the best growers, with the best information available, for all of our customers. 
We at Valley View Farms wish everyone a Happy New Year. Thank you for allowing us to provide the products and advice to make gardening fun!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Gifts for Gardeners 2019 Edition

We're gardeners at Valley View Farms. All ages, types, interests; some of us like container gardening, others have beautiful landscapes, some shaded, some not. A few do mash-ups of potted plants, fun sculptures, water gardens, and traditional landscaping. What we all have in common is that we love tools, gadgets, apparel, more plants and cool stuff for our garden. We're easy to shop for, but we've put a few things together that might make the perfect gift for your gardening friend.

  • Christmas ornaments----personalized. We love these! Plants, wheelbarrows, greenhouses, you name it!
  • Pruners and gloves; I'm always leaving them somewhere. Gloves have such cute patterns! Buying for a man?
    Every gardener needs pruners and gloves

  • Birding things, like feeders, cool birdbaths, and bat houses, are great add-ins to the garden to attract pollinators.
How about a bat house? Natures own insect control 

  • Gardening aids are used by this blogger who has bad knees, to say the least. Kneelers, seats, and ergonomic tools are very useful as we age.
Flip it over and it's a garden seat!
  • Bulbs, like amaryllis, are fun and a great way to instill confidence in a new gardener. Huge bulbs yield huge, gorgeous blooms in 4-8 weeks. Pair with a container for a lovely gift. 
  • Lights to grow all year long are wonderful gifts. Seed starting, propagating plants, and keeping existing plants happy are some useful ways to use lights!
Houseplant enthusiasts need these!
  • Garden apparel is always welcome. Keeping healthy by shielding oneself from the hot, summer sun is always a good idea. Pair with some Sloggers gardening shoes. Just hose them off after a day of gardening. 
  • Garden art, including fountains, statuary and wall hangings, are fun add-ons to the garden. Some are quirky, others, like the Japanese style pagoda, are classics. 
    Classic garden art
  • I love books about gardening. Timber Press offers a wide variety of gardening publications. 
  • Last, but certainly not least, gardeners love plants. This time of year, houseplants and holiday plants are the stars of the greenhouse. Our crew can help with selection, potting and customizing the perfect plant for a home or office. Or, consider a Valley View Farms Gift Card to give your favorite gardener one more reason to anticipate spring. 

Enjoy gift-giving this holiday season. And stop in to browse our Christmas Shop and all of our other departments for a fun, relaxing outing. We're open every day from 7am-9pm. 


Friday, November 29, 2019

A Gift of Bonsai

 love watching bonsai go out the door as gifts during the Christmas season. It is so gratifying to see them grow, that the joy that I find in gardening, especially bonsai, is going to be shared and encouraged in another.
I also end up talking to many people in January who were given bonsai as gifts and have no idea how to care for them. So, let’s go over bonsai gift giving 101.

In this climate, there are indoor trees and outdoor trees. Bonsai is a growing style, not the name of the plant. Trees such as pines, junipers, and maples are outdoor trees. They need cold temperatures and will not thrive indoors, though they may live for a time.
Indoor trees, such as portulacaria, ficus, and bougainvillea, will not survive Maryland winter temperatures and must remain inside throughout the winter and early spring.

The best way to determine the light and water requirements of your tree is to know the plant material. Knowing the variety of trees will give you an idea of the amount of water and light the tree needs for optimal growth. Your tree may need more, or less than recommended, but you will learn that as you learn your tree. A little research, or a trip to your garden center, can help you identify the tree if you don’t already know.

A few other tips:

Place the tree and leave it. Every time you move it, the tree is forced to adapt to a new environment. The only way a tree can adapt is by growing new leaves, which means it will shed the old leaves.

Water thoroughly. You can water from the bottom: allow the pot to sit in water that comes about halfway up the side of the pot until the top of the soil is moist to the touch. Or, you can water slowly and gently from the top until water comes out the bottom.
Check before you water. Though the top of the soil is dry, underneath the soil may still be moist. Don’t be afraid to stick your finger in to check, or pick up a water meter to go with your tree.
Humidity is key to indoor plants. With the cold temperatures, we are turning up our heat and drying out the air. A humidity tray beneath the tree will increase the moisture in the air around the pot. Place small pebbles in a saucer and set your tree on the pebbles. Keep water in the pebbles but not touching the pot.

Finally, If you are not sure, why not try a gift card and make an outing of it. Attend a bonsai class, Valley View Farms has a free class every month except May, and then head out to our greenhouse and check out the stock. Spending more time together is always a great gift!
Jen Kostick, pictured below, is an avid bonsai enthusiast and today's guest blogger. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019


Thanksgiving is around the corner, and, like many, we find ourselves grateful for so much of what we have today. Following are the Top Ten Reasons We are Thankful!
Founders Billy and Punkey Foard, and Andy Foard, owner
Our founders, Punkey and Bill Foard  Fifty-seven years ago, the brothers opened the doors of a roadside market where they were able to sell produce grown at their family farm directly to the consumer. Today, Billy's son, Andy, is at the helm, extending their legacies

Spring aerial view of Valley View Farms
Our Cockeysville location This property seemed so far out in the country all those years ago. We love that it is the world headquarters of McCormick, Sinclair Broadcasting Group, and AAI. Gaming companies,  software corporations, and even small breweries call Cockeysville home. And scores of independent small businesses like us have settled in the area. It's no wonder that Wegman's, Proctor and Gamble and others saw the opportunities and moved branches of their businesses here to Cockeysville.

One of 12 greenhouses at the farm was rebuilt a few years ago
The Foard family farm Just 12.5 miles away, our farm greenhouses grow and deliver hundreds of thousands of plants here through the season.

Mason, Lisa' and Mark Hecklinger with our grower John Miller, and General Manager, Tim McQuaid
Our network of independent wholesale growers Mostly family-run, like us, our growers are the best! Many, like Hillcrest Nursery, Radebaugh Greenhouses, Babikow, Quality Greenhouses, Meehan's Miniatures, and Cavano's, are nearby. Others, like Hecklinger's Greenhouses, ship from Ohio, Still more from Florida, Ontario, and neighboring states. Some are first-generation, others have been in business for three or more, and all are committed to growing beautiful plants.

Beth Tfiloh Preschool presented us with this beautiful banner for our water garden area
Community support and involvement Whether it's local Girl Scout Troops, high school horticulture classes, or our partners in local media like WBAL, we are part of a larger Cockeysville, Baltimore County, and Maryland community that we are lucky to serve.

German Smokers; just add incense
Unique suppliers from around the globe Our Christmas Shop, Garden Center, Pottery department and other parts of our store are able to work with manufacturers, importers, and brokers worldwide.

Every Saturday in spring, these two have our 8 dozen donuts ready to pick-up at 5:30 am
Community services that keep our business running Our computer services, plumbers, greenhouse builders, electricians, truck painters, parking lot pavers, waste removal services, and others, keep our business moving ahead smoothly.

Our relationships Our local government, trade organizations like the MNLGA (Maryland Nursery, Landscape and Greenhouse Association), friends and mentors that we've learned from over the years, have helped us keep our focus.

Brian, Andy (owner) and Tim

Carrie, Andy, Sue, Kathy, and Scott
Long-time managers and employees Like second-generation owner Andy Foard, many of our managers have been here for DECADES! Some started while still in high school, others after college or after having gained experience with other companies.

The arrival of the Giant Pumpkin 2018.
Don't know who the little guy is...future employee?)
Ruth, Yelena, Nina, Joann and Cynthia of our Plant Dept.
The best employees anywhere! We have been lucky to have multi-generational employees from single families, retirees from other careers, high school and college 'kids', and people who want to learn and work at something they enjoy be a part of our team for years. And, what's really great is that they stay in touch and visit Valley View Farms with their families year after year.

We love our customers taking part in our seminars! Nice bonsai tree!

Snow on the festive!
Our customers The reason we still exist is thanks to our loyal customers, who, over the years have trusted us to bring them the goods and services we offer. Some people's names we know, others we know by sight. We've been a part of each other's lives for a long, long time. Thank you!

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Finding the Right Plants with Valley View Farms' Plant Finder

Do you know about the new feature on our website that will help gardeners find the right plant for the right place in their landscape? Take a tour through our Plant Finder, a fantastic tool and resource that gives gardeners one more great way to find that perfect plant.
Six of the 20 categories on Plant Finder
Look up, research, view photos and browse through pictures and descriptions of thousands of plants in over 20 categories. Know the common name, but not the botanical one? Plant Finder is here to help. Have an idea of the plant characteristics that will fit into the landscape? Enter them to create a list of suitable plants. Print a custom list and stop by our store in season to see, touch, feel and smell the plants. We will not have all the plants all the time; a phone call or visit will confirm if we have what you're looking for on a particular day. And, we get new plants all the time that may have not been updated on our Plant Finder.
We're crazy about signs. Every variety of annual, perennial, herb, houseplant, tree, shrub, vegetable, tropical plant, and water plant has a custom-made sign at Valley View Farms. 
Take a look at our fantastic signage in-store to get even more information and talk to our very knowledgeable staff to put it all together.
Ben is here to help, rain or shine
The gardening season may be ending, but the next several months is the perfect time to use Valley View Farms' Plant Finder to browse, learn and be inspired to plan and plant the landscape in Spring 2020! Try Plant Finder and tell us what you think.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Monarch Butterflies

Pam, in the center, with her crew of volunteers, including Terri Ferguson, Mary Anne Pakark Carroll, and Steven Michael Wilson. 
On Saturday, September 14, we had the honor of having Pam Spencer, her husband, Steven, a Master Naturalist, and several Master Gardener volunteers, at our store to help children and adults tag and release Monarch Butterflies. Over 100 people took part.
A certificate, with the tag number, will allow participants to follow the migration. Last year, 4 of Pam's Monarchs were recorded in Mexico

Tiny tag carefully attached

The family is learning more about our natural world

The butterflies were released and will be heading south to Mexico. The volunteers were amazing, allowing each participant to hold the butterflies by their wings, and attach the tiny label that will track the Monarchs on their flight. As soon as we opened our palms, the butterflies headed up and away.

This little girl watches as the butterfly takes flight

It's rewarding to watch as a connection is made

 A few stragglers seemed reluctant to leave.
Getting to know each other pre-flight
We hope to do the event next year after holding a class that will teach us more about the metamorphosis of this winged wonder. We released them near our walkway butterfly habitat. Our butterfly garden near the pond posed a bit of a risk to the butterflies who may have gotten too close to the resident koi.

Immediately following the release, I left with two friends and headed up to Maine, to the Schoodic Peninsula. Just east of Bar Harbor, the peninsula is home to a smaller section of Acadia National Park. Early Sunday morning, we headed to Schoodic Point.
Goldenrod at Schoodic

They seemed to like the ferns too
What a wonderful surprise...Monarchs were taking advantage of some wild plantings of Solidago, Goldenrod, right there! A National Park Naturalist nearby was leading a migratory seabird count. She informed me that in the past week, she'd seen 500 Monarchs migrating through the area. The rest of the week, as we hiked through Petit Manan Wildlife Refuge, and several botanical parks along the coast, we saw Monarchs.
Other butterflies were present in Thuya Gardens

We saw the butterflies feeding on Goldenrod, Joe-Pye Weed, Salvias, Dahlias, and scores of other plants. We need to have plenty of fall-blooming natives in our own gardens to create islands of food and shelter for these and other wildlife as they travel through our areas. To learn more about the migration of butterflies, follow their journeys. Monarch Watch is another website dedicated to education about Monarchs. And, visit our store to pick up a free handout on Attracting Butterflies and Hummingbirds to the garden.
Hummingbirds are on the move south as well. Look at this fat little guy

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Seminars and Events this September-December---WOW!

We love fall! Cool-weather, fall planting, piles of pumpkins, the haunted house, the straw much fun for families. Here are some of the seminars and events coming our way this fall!

Plant a Bonsai Forest will be hosted by Martha Meehan, with help from bonsai club members.   Five trees, for indoors or outside, will be styled and planted in a larger pot or forest tray. There is a 90 dollar fee for this class. September 7 at 9 am.

Monarch butterfly emerging from the chrysalis
Monarch Butterfly Tag and Release, hosted by Monarch butterfly enthusiast Pam Spencer. About 100 butterflies will be tagged and released from our butterfly garden, with your help. Tags will have a corresponding certificate so that participants may check to see if their butterfly has been spotted on its way to Mexico. The event is free. The first 100 people will be able to participate in the release.
September 14 at 11 am. (Raindate September 15)

John testing soil pH
The Fall Lawn Clinic will be held by our own lawn and garden experts. Please bring a soil sample (Solo cup-sized) for free pH analysis. Also, feel free to bring in weed samples for identification and control options. Fall is the best time to seed or reseed a lawn. Brian Brannan and his team will help you have the best lawn ever! September 28, 9 am

The Autumn Garden, presented by Cynthia Mann, will showcase many of the shrubs, trees, and perennials that go dormant late in the season. Extend the gardening season by choosing plants that thrive in the fall garden. September 28, 11 am.

October brings with it tons of activities, color, and fun at the garden center. Bring the kids and the camera to create a memorable adventure.

The arrival of one of our giant pumpkins
The Arrival of the Giant Pumpkin is always a special event at Valley View Farms. Pumpkin hunters Andy and Matt will deliver the giant orb to our north gate, then onto the stage on Wednesday, October 2 at 10 am. The pumpkin will remain onstage until October 26th; we will open the pumpkin and count the seeds inside.

Bonsai Show and Tell give our bonsai enthusiasts a chance to brag about their bonsai projects. They may count on each other to tweak the various projects. October 5, 9 am

Ryleigh showing off houseplants as Eric moderates
Hip Houseplant Revue II presents houseplants on the runway! Look for the new, fascinating, fun houseplants while learning great care techniques. Our employees and volunteers will showcase the plants as our staff talks about each 'model'.October 12, 11 am

Owls visit us every October thanks to Kathy
Owl-o-ween has become an annual event for us. Wildlife rehabilitator Kathy Woods heads up the Phoenix Wildlife Center. Birds of prey, including owls, are taken care of after an injury, then released back to the wild. Get a close look at these beautiful creatures up close. October 19, 1 pm

Laurie Tasslemyer gives Tom a helping hand during the seed count
The Great Pumpkin Seed Count, featuring WBAL meteorologist Tom Tasslemyer, is always fun. Tom will count all of the seeds in the giant pumpkin. Contestants who have put their guesses in our book, have a shot at a 300, 200 or 100 dollar gift card to Valley View Farms for their correct prediction of the number of seeds. October 28, 12 pm

November and December are all about getting ready for winter and the fast-approaching holidays. More events are will be posted regarding our Christmas Shop Events as we get closer. 

WinteringYour Bonsai, featuring Martha Meehan, will go over the best ways to care for bonsai trees during their slower growth or dormant season. Bonsai classes are open to beginners to expert enthusiasts. November 2, 9 am

Winterizing the Water Garden helps gardeners prepare elements of their ponds for winter. Tips on fish, plants, and pond elements will be presented by Tim McQuaid. November 9, 9 am

 Creating Winter and Holiday Container Gardens is a great way to decorate porch pots. Our specialists will demonstrate the elements needed to arrange greens and branches for a beautiful winter planter. November 23, 11 am
Bonsai Winter Work, presented by Martha Meehan, is a class detailing projects that can be completed over the next few months caring for a bonsai tree. December 7, 9am.

Our annual Live WBAL Radio Broadcast takes place on Thursday, December 19 from 5 am-9 am and on Friday, December 20 from 5 am-6 pm. This fundraising event will feature radio personalities, area choirs, bands, Santa and much more.

Stay tuned to facebook and our homepage for updates, additional seminars, and events with our Christmas Shops. 

For additional information, or to set-up a class for a group, including garden clubs, school fieldtrips, scouts, and civic organizations, contact       

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!