Saturday, October 31, 2020

Herbs to Banish Evil


Guest blogger Jen Kostick shares this blog about herbs that may ward off evil spirits.


Legends say that on Halloween the veils between the real world and the spiritual world thin. Spirits, both good and evil, can cross from the beyond into our world. In fact, one of the most recognizable symbols of Halloween, the jack o’lantern, was thought to ward off evil from entering the home.

Many herbs were also used for similar purposes. Deemed to have protective properties, the herbs were scattered around the home, crafted into wreaths, even tied into bundles, and placed over doors and windows. Perhaps one of the most well-known herbs for this purpose is white sage. White sage is often burned as an incense after being formed into smudge sticks. The bundle is burned to cleanse a space of negative energy.


Other herbs such as dill and rue were also used to ward off evil spirits, while rosemary was used to increase happiness. A few cultures planted basil as a protective charm to rid the area of evil. Though not technically an herb, garlic is a famous deterrent to evil, specifically vampires, so the legends say. But a braid of garlic hung in the home was said to ward off evil as well.

According to the Aztecs, marigolds were the “flowers of death,” the only flower that spirits could smell from the other side of the veil. Not sure if the spirits can smell it, but it has also been widely used to keep bunnies out of the flower bed. My mother swears by it and I must plant it every year…but we do not have a bunny problem to begin with.

My research turned up many other herbs that have been used to banish evil, including angelica, borage, hyssop, horehound, and marjoram. I’m not sure how effective these are against banishing evil. I’ve planted them all in my garden and they certainly make it a happy place. But whether these herbs help keep you safe from evil; I hope you have a safe and fun Halloween.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Putting the Garden to Bed

 New gardeners have joined us this year as Covid 19 has changed our lifestyles and kept us at home much more. 

We've been asked by several organizations to provide a virtual meeting about cleaning up the garden and putting it to bed.  Fall is the single best time to promote good gardening habits. Start with simple observations. What did well this year, and what were some of the challenges? My phone records much of that for me.  For example, my tomato plants were perfect this year. When I went to harvest the tomatoes, I was surprised to see spots on the fruit. It turned out that I had a disease called anthracnose. As I researched the cause, I realized I had planted the transplants in soil from last year (in pots). That will not happen again. I will get rid of the soil, disinfect the pots, and be more successful next year. 

Here is a to-do list in the garden this fall. 

Late fall color ar Longwood Gardens

Putting the Garden to Bed and other Fall Chores

·         Observe, take pictures, keep a garden diary.

·         Remove dead branches from trees and shrubs.

·         Clean up leaf litter around diseased plants.

·         Is the right plant in the right place? What may have changed?

·         Don’t be too neat. Leave spaces for turtles, and native beneficial insects like mason bees.


The Lawn

John is adding Leafgro to add organic matter for a seedbed

·         Seed the lawn now. Fill barespots or redo entire areas that were struggling.

·         Feed with a fall lawn food, high in the nutrients that lawns are looking for this time of year. 

·         Aerate to create air spaces in compressed soil.

·         Mow high and let it lie. Most of the grasses we currently use are best at about 3".


The Perennial and Annual Gardens


A fall perennial garden

·         Move, divide, cut-back. Read The Well-Tended Perennial Garden for great tips.

·         Plant perennials from containers into the garden.

·         Use shredded leaves as mulch.

·         Don’t cut back woody or evergreen perennials.

·         Spray deer deterrent.

·         Clean up leaf litter around diseased plants.

·         To mulch or not to mulch…reseeding annuals, Ghost ferns, Black-eyed Susans.

·         Leave seed heads up or  collect seed for next spring.

·         Remove summer blooming bulbs.

Dahlias, Cannas and other summer flowering bulbs should be dug up andh stored over winter

·         Plant bulbs…deep. Use Bobbex as a bulb dip for protection against rodents. Consider many of the deer resistant bulbs. Plant them around tulips and other deer food.

·         Use pansies or violas as cover over the bulbs. 

 Trees and Shrubs

·         Plant while air is cool and soil is warm.

·         Continue to water newly planted trees  and evergreens as needed.

·         Consider an anti-dessicant for broad-leaved evergreens; use for cut greens at holiday time too.

·         Leaf drop is normal as is needle drop in some evergreens.

·         Prune as needed. Wait until March for butterfly bushes, and grasses. Hydrangeas that grow on old or new wood can be cut-back anytime. Do not over prune those hydrangeas that bloom on old wood.

·         Used decayed compost in beds and around trees. Leave a trunk flare. Avoid mulch or compost too close to the trunk of trees where voles may gnaw on bark.  Stamp down snow around trees as well.

·         Remove snow load from bushes, especially under the eaves of rooflines. Use a broom or blower.

·         Spray Deer Stopper to prevent rutting on bark of trees.

Deer Stopper comes in a spray as well. I like the ribbon around the garden or a group of trees. Use it 30" high for best results. 

·         Plant for wildlife…berried treasure like dogwoods, calicarpa and many hollies are sought after. 

Feed the birds. Trees and shrubs provide shelter for our feathered friends. 


·         Identify the evergreens and others to prune later for decorating for the holidays

Vegetable Gardens

Extend the growing season by adding Harvest Guard over the raised bed hoops

If you have knowldge and skills to share, reach out to a community garden

·         Harvest.

·         Clean out and do not compost diseased plants.

·         Plant radishes and carrots to improve soil drainage in spring.

·         Plant a cover crop of winter rye or clover as green manure.

·         Add organic matter, lime and other soil additives now. Test the soil for pH.

Though we are not offering soil testing at this time, we do sell DIY kits


·         Remove old soil from containers; clean and store pots.

·         Cut back, dry and preserve herbs.

·         Take photos, re-design garden to foster crop rotation.

·         Mulch strawberries and other berries. Cut-back raspberry canes.

·         Okay to add ash from fireplaces to the compost pile.

·         Protect figs.

·         Prune stone fruits…peaches, plums.

Tools, house, etc.

·         Clean and sharpen pruners.

  •      Sand wooden long-handled tools. Rub with linseed oil.  

·         Caulk around house to prevent rodents, stink bugs, lady bugs

·         Feed the birds; store birs seed and pet foods in rodent-proof containers

·         Use Mouse Magic around mowers, grills, covered furniture….



Houseplants add fresh air inside the home

·         Move houseplants inside.

·         Use horticultural oil, soap or systemic insecticide to treat any insects.

·         Fertilize one more time, then hold off until March.

·         Give the plants a shower.

·         Consider a humidifier.

·         Turn them a quarter a week to keep growth even. 

Add grow lights if needed.


·         Check leaves for sticky-ness; treat accordingly.

·         Keep Christmas Cacti cool.

·         Pot up paperwhites and Amaryllis for Christmas gifts.

·         Poinsettia, Cyclamen, Violets, Kalanchoe, and orchids offer beautiful color indoors.

·         Force bulbs. Use the beverage fridge to cool bulbs for about 12 weeks. Pot them amd put them in the refriferator. 

There is always something to do in the garden, but do take the time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Working on these tasks now will save time in the spring when we'll all be ready to get started again. 

Enjoy and let us know if we can help.  





Friday, October 2, 2020

Harvesting Herbs by Guest Blogger and Herb Department Manager Jen Kostick

Fall is by far my favorite time of year. The crisp cool air after the heat of summer, apples, spices, pumpkins, and the changing colors of the leaves. My only regret is that another gardening season is ending and it’s time to clean up and cut back.

With the falling temperatures, it is time for the final harvest. It is a bittersweet moment, cutting down the last of the fresh basil, but use this time to preserve your bounty and let your hard work grace your table until you can plant again.

Here are a few tips for harvesting your herbs and putting the garden to bed for the winter:

·         Think about how you will use your herbs over the winter. This makes a big difference. For example, while I’ve made and frozen pesto already this year, I’m much more likely to toss some dried basil in the pot while I’m cooking dinner. 


      Most of my basil will be dried this year so that I have it available for just that. Herbs can be frozen, dried, and even turned into herb butter, oil, and vinegar. With the coming holiday season, these make simple but thoughtful gifts!

           What did you wish you grew? What didn’t survive the week-long trip to the beach you finally got to take? There’s still time to plant perennial herbs! Chives, lavender, oregano, sage, and thyme will overwinter beautifully in this area. If you have a dedicated area for mint you can plant that as well, but it can be quite aggressive so be careful where you plant it.


·         While I only have a little luck bringing my herbs in for the winter, there are many varieties that will do well inside in a sunny area. They may not look as lush as they did over the summer, but they survive well inside with minimal care and it’s a great way to get a jump start on the season. Scented geraniums, bay, myrtle, rosemary, and even lemongrass survive for me in a southern window. Just remember that while they don’t like the soil to be soaking wet all the time, you do have to water occasionally. Whoops!


·         Harvest! Get out there and harvest! Don’t let all your hard work go to waste. Offer fresh herbs to friends and co-workers, try adding a new herb to that dinner you’re cooking, or look up new recipes. This year I Googled recipes with lemon verbena. I’ve grown it for years and rarely used it. I’m super excited to try spaghetti with lemon verbena grilled chicken! And remember you can preserve herbs by drying, freezing, and making butters, oils, and vinegars – even in crafts! I make catnip mice for my cats, as well as shoe sachets out of old socks.


·         Finally, after a hard frost, remember to get out there and clean up. Cut back the perennial herbs to encourage new, tender growth in the spring. Take out annual herbs and, if they are disease and pest free, add them to the compost pile. Cover the area with straw so that weeds don’t spring up. Cleaning the area now means that come Spring, all you’ll have to do is plant and not deal with last year’s mess. I think we can all agree, we don’t want any part of 2020 in 2021!