Well, it’s May Day again. It’s probably one of my favorite days out of the year, as it usually marks the time when winter finally meets its death and spring officially begins in the North. Living in a cold climate means that there is a potential for wintery weather all the way through April and sometimes into early May.
I’m very interested in folk traditions, particularly regarding spring and harvest festivals. In rural England, there is much pageantry associated with the first of May, including several folk tunes. In Helston Cornwall, for example, they celebrate the Hal An Tow dance. The dance dates back to at least Shakespeare’s day, and is probably even older than that. Various costumed players take to the streets to act out certain events from religious and folk history of England, such as Robin Hood, St. George, and other figures. All the townsfolk gather to sing the Hal An Tow song decked in traditional garb, and wearing leaves and flowers. It’s a rather jolly occasion.
Padstow, another village in Cornwall, celebrates the Padstow May Dance. This dance involves two hobby horses (‘Obby ‘Osses) known as the Old Oss and the Blue Ribbon Oss, who are paraded through the street at the first light of day. The locals sing an old folk song, waking up various citizens. It is a great honor to be awakened on the morning of May Day in Padstow. The citizens then parade through the town, gathering about the May pole, where the ‘Obby ‘Osses then dance around the pole.
In Scotland, Ireland, and the Isle of Man, May Day is known as Beltane, and has its roots in ancient Celtic religion. The day is celebrated with dances, feasting and bonfires. It is said that faeries walk among mortals on Beltane, and it is customary to leave them a gift, such as beer or porridge. Other rituals to protect crops and cattle are frequently practiced.
For me, May Day is a day to celebrate the end of the cold weather, and act a little bit silly. Seeing the return of spring always makes me jolly, even if there’s a little snow on the ground.
No plant can grow without adequate fertilization. Sometimes they get enough nutrients from the soil, but if you find your plants are looking a bit less than green, it might be time to give your dirt a helping hand. Obviously, there is always the option of commercial fertilizers, but that can get expensive and some folks would simply prefer a DIY approach to fertilizer. It’s cheaper, and you have the confidence of knowing exactly what’s going in your soil. Here are four fertilizers that I know are cheap and easy to make.
Compost is so easy to make, a kid could do it! But there are a few dos and don'ts regarding what you put in your compost bin. It should be entirely plant-based: grass clippings, leaves, newspapers, last year’s annuals; whatever! You can compost animal excrement as well, just as long as it is not from your dog or cat; goat, sheep, or rabbit droppings are best. Meat, eggs, and oils are big no-nos.; avoid at all costs.
Stir and water your compost regularly to keep the environment healthy and you should have your own “gardener’s gold” in a matter of months. I’ll write a more in-depth article on composting another time, but these are the basics.
3) Rabbit Manure
Rabbits are probably one of the best critters to keep as a pet. They’re low maintenance, most of them are pretty friendly and best of all, they make great fertilizer. Veggies go in one end, fertilizer comes out the other! Best of all, unlike other animal manures, rabbit excrement can be applied to your garden beds without pre-composting! Even if you don’t or can’t own a rabbit yourself, you can find someone who does and bum some manure off them. I’m sure they’ll be glad to get rid of it.
2) Banana Peels
This is not a fertilizer that I have used myself, but I will be trying it soon. According to this article, all you have to do is leave a banana peel in a jar of water for a week or so, and bam! You have an all-natural liquid fertilizer.
1) Worm Castings
Worms are awesome little creatures. They eat garbage and excrete the most nutrient-packed fertilizer money can’t buy! There are three ways to benefit from nature’s fertilizer machines:
And there you have it. Four fertilizers to make your plants healthy and green this summer. Thanks for reading, and be sure to share this article with your friend. Happy planting!
And now the final article in my series on un-kill-able plants. For all the people who’ve told me that their garden is brown, there are at least two people who’ve told me that they kill houseplants. It’s even become something of an internet meme. But there really are a few house-plants that simply cannot die. I’ve tried killing them. I really have. So if you can’t seem to keep your plants alive, this article is for you.
Originally from Madagascar, Kalanchoes are mostly found in semi-arid or arid landscapes. Their bright flowers, and deep green succulent leaves are sure to brighten any room, and they are near indestructible! I was once pruning one of ours (we have several) and left a branch on a window sill for weeks. It was completely dry, but the MINUTE it came in contact with moisture, it sprouted new leaves and roots! It was the most astounding thing I’d ever seen.
While they are un-kill-able, they need the right amount of light and fertilizer in order to thrive and flower indoors. Make sure they have a good soil mixture and indoor fertilizer (I recommend Miracle Grow). Water the soil once weekly, giving it just enough moisture that it’s about as wet as a wrung-out rag, and they should remain happy and healthy plants.
Most of us who know anything about plants know about the aloe vera plant, famous for its healing qualities. They, and many of their close relatives, are extremely easy to keep in your home. I’ve never had one die on me. Given proper watering (about 1/3 cup once a week should do it) they should live and thrive for many years.
Philodendrons are a trailing vine from tropical America with mottled-green, heart-shaped leaves. This may be one of the most indestructible plants on this list. Put ‘em in a sunny room and they will grow and spread. 1/2-1 cup of water a week, and they might even take over a room if you let them!
Crown of thorns
The crown of thorns is an arid-climate plant from Cambodia, which, as the name suggests, has a very thorny stem. Probably the only drawback to this otherwise great houseplant. As an arid plant, they can go for weeks without water! But that being said, don’t push it. 1/3 cup a week should be enough to keep them healthy, depending on how big your plant is. Put them by a bright window, and you should expect white flowers all through winter.
I hope this list was helpful for you as you attempt to find your niche in the plant world. Please feel free to comment about your own experiences below, I’m happy to hear from you. Happy planting!
Last time I wrote to you, my dear readers,I gave you a list of un-kill-able garden plants, mostly flowers and ornamentals. Today, I’m adding four vegetables to that list. These veggies are ones that I’ve found are virtually idiot-proof! A child could grow them! So let’s get right to it.
Well, that rounds out the un-kill-able veggies. I wish you all the success in the world with your gardening efforts this season. Happy planting!
Every so often, somebody tells me that they have a “black thumb”. They reportedly kill every plant they touch. This may be a fact for a lot of folks, or it may be that they just haven’t found the right plant. There are some plants that you genuinely cannot kill. I know. I’ve tried. They simply won’t die.
In this three part article series, I’m going to outline a few plants that I’ve found to be virtually indestructible. In this first part, I’ll discuss common garden plants; these include ornamentals, herbs and flowers. The second part will be houseplants, and the third part will be garden vegetables. Let’s start things off.
And there you have it; 8 plants for people who don't know jack about gardening. I hope you have good luck this coming season, and let me know if these work for you. Happy planting!
One of the main challenges to beginning gardeners and even seasoned gardeners is finding good seeds. You receive these free catalogs from various companies, all bright-colored and shiny, and you have no idea which company is really worth dealing with. Here are my top 5 seed companies that I’ve worked with.
I think Gurney’s was the first seed company I ever ordered from; of course, I didn’t know of any other seed company, so there was really no contest. Their inventory is pretty fair. They’re not as diverse as they used to, and you’d be hard-pressed to find any heirloom varieties. I don’t know much about their customer service; I’ve never had a problem with them.
I discovered Jung’s early in my gardening career. They’re a fine, family-owned company, and their customer service is spot on. My only complaints are that sometimes the seeds I bought didn’t sprout (they did replace the product I complained about, however) and they’re lacking in variety.
Agway is a well-known and well-liked company in the Eastern US. They are a wholesale product distribution company, specializing in the agricultural industry. Each Agway store is locally owned and operated, featuring products specifically tailored to the needs of the community; including seeds. I’ve bought Agway seeds at the country store several times, and have always had good results. Variety may be limited based on where you live.
2. Everwilde Farms
Everwilde Farms is a family-owned company that prides itself on offering high quality, environmentally sustainable, Non-GMO, organic seeds for a fair price. I have never had a problem with them or the seeds they offer, they are certified organic and non-GMO. I was very pleased with the seeds I bought.
1. R.H. Shumway
Probably the best company I’ve bought seeds from was R.H. Shumway. They have the widest variety and the best prices on vegetable seeds. You can order small packets, you can order in bulk. Almost any vegetable you can think of, they have seeds for it. If you’re a repeat customer, they will even send you free seeds! I’ve gotten lots of free vegetable seeds from them, with mixed success. You can’t pick and choose which free seeds they send, but come on, free seeds!
So these are my top five. If you have any other companies that you’ve used, drop a comment. I’ll be happy to hear from you.
It’s winter in the North Country, which means the gardening season is over and done with. Or is it? There are a number of plants that you can start early and grow indoors for planting in the garden in the spring when the weather is warm enough. This can save you a lot of time waiting for your plants to grow. It can also save you the money of buying your plants at a greenhouse.
But before I get to what plants you should plant, I should cover how to start seeds indoors. You should have some type of seed-starting kit. These can be purchased at any hardware store. You can also make one yourself, using clear tupperware containers, and peat discs. Peat discs are discs of dehydrated peat moss that you can start seeds in. They can be readily obtained at a hardware store or greenhouse. Water the dry peat discs and wait for them to expand to their full size before planting your seeds.
If you’re planning on planting large plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, or herbs, or you expect to be growing them inside for an extended period, you should instead purchase peat pots and seed starting soil mix. The peat pots are literally just pots made of peat, that you fill with the seed-starting soil. They are biodegradable, so you can stick them right in the ground in spring.
Whichever you decide to use, you should place your plants near a well-lighted window, or purchase a full-spectrum grow light.
And now, without further ado, here are the six best plants to start indoors.
Tomatoes come in hundreds of varieties suited to any grower or cook out there. They start readily indoors given a warm windowsill and some soil, but they need a lot of time. You should start them six to eight weeks prior to the last frost date.
Those are the six plants I would recommend. If you have any further questions, or have your own thoughts about planting times, please don’t hesitate to comment below. Happy planting!
If you’re like me, you love blackberries. They are one of my favorite fruits and certainly my favorite berry. Several years ago, I was delighted to find a patch of wild ones growing in my backyard. Since then, I have been cultivating this patch; though they are wild, they do require some maintenance in order to reach their full potential.
Blackberries typically grow in partial shade; they like the sun, but not too much. If you have a part of your property that is shaded by trees of any type, it is probably a good spot. They don’t mind acidic soil. It isn’t necessary to rake around them every autumn, but one should not allow the leaf litter to pile too high.
Blackberries typically flower in June in the Northeast, and you can expect fruit in July and August. Blackberries are open pollinated and rely on bees, so it’s a good idea to plant brightly colored wildflowers nearby to attract the bees to your property. Because blackberries typically grow wild in the Northeast, there’s a lot of variation among them. You'll see the ubiquitous black type, of course, but you may also find red, pink, and even golden berries. These are all perfectly safe to eat, and delicious.
Blackberries don’t require much fertilization to thrive. A bit of epsom salts and some basic fruit and vegetable fertilizer (either liquid or solid) will suffice if you’re concerned about nutrition, but don’t overdo it. Pest control isn’t too much of an issue with blackberries. Their main pests are Japanese beetles and rose chafers, and these can be mitigated for the most part. I have had almost no issues with either. Deer and rabbits may take a liking to the berries, but are generally more interested in the leaves.
At least once every two years, in the autumn, you need to cut down your blackberry brambles to the ground in order to get the best yield out of them. The aging brambles can develop fungi and rot, which is unsightly and will ruin your crop. They grow at an astounding rate; by July the next year, you can't even tell they've been cut.
And that’s it. Simple, isn’t it? This is one of the reasons I love blackberries; they require almost no maintenance! Just pick and enjoy!
Well, here we are at the end of the growing season for Northern New York and New England. It’s been quite a year for many of us; there is a lot of crazy stuff going on in the world, but gardening must go on. This year, I grew most of my standard crops. These include Boston lettuce, carrots, potatoes, squash, and peas. In addition, I also grew parsley, which I elaborated on in an earlier blog.
Boston lettuce grows extremely well around here, and always tastes delicious. My problem being, I bought double the amount I’d need. You see, earlier in the spring, my sister’s rabbit (my main customer for lettuce) died suddenly. So I had all this lettuce but nothing to feed it to except myself and my family. Unfortunately, a lot of it went to feeding my worms. Oh well.
For potatoes, I grew a blue type; bluish skins and blue flesh. They have an interesting flavor and texture, but they’re not very good for baking. Most other dishes, however, benefit from them, and they are actually healthier than those with white flesh.
Peas are pretty much peas; you can’t really go wrong with them. Every time I plant them I get a great yield, and they are super easy to care for. My one mistake was that I did not stake them. You see, last time I grew peas, I did stake tem, but they refused to climb the stakes, so I thought “well, I guess peas don’t climb.” Wrong; some do and some don’t.
My carrots did not do well at all, due to poor planning on my part. I typically plant lettuce and carrots on different days of the year, and I like to companion plant them. This was not a good idea. I accidentally dug up the carrot seedlings while planting the lettuce. So there will be a dearth of carrots this year.
This year, I planted butternut squash. Last year I planted acorn squash. While I had an impressive yield of squashes this year, I don’t think I will plant butternut again. They take an extremely long time to ripen as compared to acorn, and with our growing season being as short as it is, I simply can’t afford that. Next year, I may plant zucchini.
Of course, I always plant a hedge of marigolds around my vegetables to deter any pests that might find them attractive. Marigolds are useful, hardy plants and that every gardener should grow.
In summary, I’d say 2020, for all the mayhem, was a good year for gardening.
I posted some time back about my experience with worm farming. I touched briefly on what not to feed worms and the difference between worm food and worm bedding. If you haven’t already, you should read that post. Anyhow, I would like to expand on that subject here, for the edification of budding worm farmers.
Most worm farming websites will tell you that worms will eat almost anything and there are only a few things they can’t/won’t eat. Well, from my experience, the list is somewhat longer than I initially thought. Pretty much any worm farmer will tell you never to give worms meat or any meat products (cheese, milk, yogurt, etc.) or anything oily or greasy. They’ll also tell you that worms do not eat foods like onions, garlic, or chives; basically anything hot and spicy is out of the question. This is all accurate, however, there are a few other things I’d add.
Worms seem to like some vegetables more than others. Lettuce seems to be a perennial favorite, but only if it’s wilted. They really like food that’s already rotting; the ickier the better in my experience. Make sure your veggies are good and wilted before you feed them to the worms. They can’t digest anything acidic, so lemon and orange peels are out. They also seem to have no love for banana peels. I’ve fed them banana peels a few times, and they just ignored them for several days until they attract flies. Not good. I also seem to have trouble convincing them to eat apple cores, strangely. Perhaps they just need to rot some more. They love peaches, though. Also, celery seems to be hard for worms to digest.
If you want to get them to breed, put some oatmeal or oat bran in the worm farm; they gobble that up like it’s going out of style. Use sparingly, however, as it might start to ferment. That’s a general rule of thumb for worms. One should never overfeed them, or the food will ferment faster than they can eat it. That’s just a smelly, unpleasant mess that you don’t want to deal with. Trust me.
So far, those are all the things that I know of that earthworms will not eat. If I think of any more, I will be sure and update this blog to reflect that. Until next time, happy gardening.