dsc_0676There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments.”-Janet Kilburn Phillips

That is a quote I live by. Gardeners are constantly changing locations of plants, trying new plant varieties, and sometimes just putting the wrong plants in the garden, but that’s what gardening is all about-trial and error. It’s really the passion of wanting to be in the garden, trying new plants, the excitement when it starts to bloom or produce fruit. I recently visited an Olive Tree and Lemon Tree farm north of Sorrento, Italy. It was amazing, acres of lemon trees and olive trees, I was in heaven. But while on the tour what I found so interesting and inspiring was not only the amazing lemons and olives these trees produced but the dedication and commitment this young man(who was a 4th generation farmer-his great grandfather had planted all these trees)and how proud he was to show us his farm. This wasn’t some mass producing farm, it was a local farm that made olive oil, sold lemons to local farm stands and markets and of course made the most amazing Limoncello!

dsc_0653Hydrangeas-We all love hydrangeas and why wouldn’t we? The constant blooms from July until October are spectacular with so many different varieties.  I often get asked- “Why aren’t my hydrangeas blooming?” There are several factors. 1. Is there too much shade? Hydrangeas like 4-5 hours of morning sun. 2. Many varieties bloom on dead wood(the year before).If you are trying to control the size of the hydrangea I recommend pruning right after it blooms. 3. If we have a late spring freeze that occurs after the plant breaks the dormancy it can damage the tender new growth and buds. There are so many new varieties that seem to be a lot hardier here in the Northeast. A couple of new favorites are “Pinky Winky” and “Vanilla Strawberry”. Pinky Winky is incredible, because it produces a flower that starts pure white during July and in August, then starts to turn pink, then red on the lower part of the flowers, keeping a white tip. Vanilla Strawberry  flowers are enormous, up to 12 inches tall and 6 plus inches wide. The plant develops a wonderful pure soft white cone shaped flower during early August, and when the weather begins to cool off at the end of the month you are in for a treat. The lower part of the flower begins to turn soft pink and it moves up the flower until it is all pink. Plant in a full sun location garden, but the plant will take a bit of shade late in the day. The better you condition the soil with compost, animal manure and peat moss the more flowers the plant will make for you. During the summer, water as needed once the plant is established in your garden. They will grow in moist soil except soils that stay wet, especially if puddling occurs and soil ices over during the winter months.

Fertilize in the spring and again in the late summer as the flowers begin to develop to increase the size of the flowers and their numbers on the plant. When you plant the hydrangea in your garden give the plant room to grow, as it will grow 6 to 7 feet tall and spread as much as 4 to 5 feet wide. The plant is very strong and can tolerate wind and cold weather with temperatures down to -30 degrees. The one thing you must do in the fall when the flowers are all finished flowering is to remove the flowers from the plant; prune just below each flower for the winter months. The flowers are large and if you leave the faded flowers on the plant and you have an ice storm or heavy wet snowstorm, the faded flowers will catch the snow and ice and the branches will bend with the weight and possibly break the branches of the plant. You can plant these as a hedge also for a mass effect which would be lovely.

unknownCritters-Ok, many of you may think he is cute, I strongly disagree. This little bugger and his family and friends are wreaking havoc on my vegetable garden! For years it was the woodchucks(they got the message) then the deer-which still pay me a visit every morning, the insects, but now the chipmunks.  They seem to love basil, parsley, sunflowers, even some of my zinnia flowers. I changed my fencing around the garden, I have placed marigolds and moth balls-I have had enough, as I am sure many of you have as well. I was told to try this-Strain and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Shake and pour into a spray bottle. Spray this on plants you wish to keep the chipmunks from. Other chipmunk repellent suggestions include castor oil, predator urine and ammonium soap. I plan on trying this tomorrow, stay tuned, if it doesn’t work, I am taking matters into my own hands(don’t see any woodchucks anymore).

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Lastly, I would like to share a photo of a maple syrup bucket that my friend Paul gave to me the other day. I went to visit him and spend some time in his beautiful garden and he gave me this as a gift. I went home and planted it right away and it looks perfect on my goat house(this is the photo before Valentino reached his head over and had a taste). Something as simple as an old maple syrup bucket can transform an area of the garden or add interest even to a smelly goat shed. Just an experiment-just being a gardener! Happy 4th of July to you all and enjoy your gardens!

 

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