Charlie’s Late March Newsletter
It must be the end of March. The weather is as changeable as a toddler’s mood, yet the sun is strong and warm, out of the wind. While we in New England still have snow, many parts of the country are enjoying this spring with early blooming flowers. We’ll have to settle for the flower show. This weekend I’m in Boston seeing the drifts of daffodils, tulips, and redbuds that have been forced into bloom. But soon it will be an outdoor flower show.
Flower shows are good places to get plant ideas and I saw some beautiful coreopsis at some recent shows. So I decided to chat about them in this newsletter.
While it’s still too soon to plant beans in most areas, now is a good time to take stock of your bean seeds. I’ll try to expand your horizons with beans talking about a few unusual varieties and types and how to grow them.
I hear the desert Southwest is ablaze in wildflowers this spring due to all the rain they’ve had this winter. One of the classics of the West is the California poppy. I talk about them and other seed poppies here as well.
Finally, as I travel the country speaking about gardening, I has the thought to offer a talk for anymore to watch no matter where they live. In my Spring Webinar on April 20th, I’ll talk about Small Space Edible Gardening giving you ideas for planting food in containers, hanging baskets, planters of many shapes and types, walls and raised beds. It’s a good way to learn how to maximize your garden space while still getting something good to eat. Learn more here.
As a reminder for those readers in Vermont and upstate New York, consider joining Leonard Perry, formerly of the University of Vermont Extension Service, and I on a bus tour of the Gardens of the Philadelphia Area from July 21st to 25th. We’ll be touring famous gardens such as Longwood, Chanticleer, and Burpee’s Fordhook Farm. Check it out and join us.
Until next time, I’ll be seeing you in the garden.
Daisy-shaped flowers are very popular. From Shasta daisies to rudbeckia, they always make me feel cheery just by looking at them. Coreopsis or tickseed is a smaller version of these other perennials, but just as nice. The 1 to 2 foot tall plant blooms from early to late summer depending on the variety. Traditionally the flowers are yellow, but now many different colored varieties are available. ‘Mercury Rising’ features 3-inch diameter velvety red blossoms. ‘Peach Sparkle’ has a red center with pale yellow edges. It only grows 15 inches tall, but is a consistent bloomer. ‘Heaven’s Gate’ features pink petals with a red center, while ‘Sweet Dreams’ has white petals with a raspberry center.
Corpeosis likes full sun and fertile well-drained soil to grow their best. Many of the new hybrids are hardy to USDA zone 5, so they may need protection in colder areas to survive the winter. This clumping perennial has few problems. Even deer don’t seem that interested in them. Butterflies and birds are attracted to coreopsis flowers. They will bloom for weeks and it’s also nice to leave the seed heads at the end of the season. I love watching the finches pick off the “tick-sized” seeds in fall.
Coreopsis makes a great front of the flower border plant as well as a nice plant in a meadow. You can even harvest some flowers for fresh bouquets in summer. Some gardeners add them to their cutting garden for this reason.
For more on growing coreopsis or tickseed, go here.
Okay. So beans are not the sexiest vegetable in the bed, but I’m guessing most gardeners that grow food, grow beans. While the green bush and pole beans are the most popular, I thought to add a few other bean ideas into your plans for this year’s garden. How about a bean of a different color. ‘Royal Burgundy’, ‘Royalty Purple Pod’, ‘Roc D’Or’ and ‘Gold Rush’ are some of the purple and yellow types that add color to any dish. Remember, the purple beans will lose their color if you cook them.
Then there are beans that can be eaten fresh or dried as a shell bean. ‘Rattlesnake Pole’ and ‘Dragon Langerie’ feature green beans with red or purple streaks on the pods. Harvested young they’re great fresh green beans. If harvested when the pods are dried, they can be used for making winter soups.
Of course, my favorite beans are the French fillet types or haricot vert. Varieties, such as ‘Nickel’ and ‘Taverna’, feature pencil thin beans that melt in your mouth when cooked with a little butter. The key is to harvest early and often. Finally, why not grow fava beans, such as ‘Windsor’. These are great cool weather beans that not only produce tasty edible beans, but they’re a great cover crop breaking up clay soil and adding fertility to your garden beds. Plant early, since fava beans, unlike other beans, don’t like the heat.
Otherwise, plant beans after the soil has warmed. Consider planting succession crops of small patches of bush beans every 2 to 3 weeks in summer to have a constant supply of young, productive plants until frost.
Learn more about growing beans here.
The Desert Southwest is bursting with wildflowers this spring and California poppies are one of the best. We’ve been growing California, Breadseed and Shirley poppies for years in our garden. Some of it is by choice. Now it’s just about managing these easy to self sow flowers. If you thought California poppies were only golden, try these varieties. ‘Buttercream’ has a pale yellow flower. ‘Copper Pot’ has a fiery red glow. ‘Dusky Rose’ has a deep rose color. And ‘Tropical Sunset’ features colors of rich deep red, warm carmine-rose, ruffled flame and tangerine bi-colors and an occasional vanilla. If you love the peony-shaped poppies try the purple ‘Lauren’s Dark Grape’ or the pink ‘French Flounce’. A nice mix of unusual colored Shirley poppies is ‘Angel’s Choir’. The flowers feature watercolor colors such as cream, apricot, peach, coral, lavender, pink, bi-colors and picotees.
Poppies are very forgiving as garden plants. They love full sun on well-drained soil. They’re drought tolerant once established. Our California poppies bloom 3 times a year in Vermont. The early summer blooming plants self-sow readily and grow quickly into flowering plants in summer and self sow again for fall. Because of their prolific nature, they can become weedy, so we spend most of our maintenance time with these seeded poppies pulling them out of unwanted places.
Also, don’t get too attached to the flower colors. In may experience, as they self sow the colors will change over time, but that just adds to the romance of the poppy. They always change, yet they always look beautiful.
In Our Garden: Edible Gardening Webinar
If you’ve been following my newsletter you know I’ve been promoting my Spring Garden Webinar happening on April 20th. I’m excited about offering this first webinar on a subject that I see as being near and dear to many gardener’s hearts. Small Space Edible Gardening will address two trends in our gardening world. Many older gardeners are downsizing to smaller residences, but still want to garden. At the same time rental housing is at a 20 year high, so as more renters want to garden they may have a hard time committing to permanent gardens in a place they may not be living in for a long time.
n this talk I’ll cover the varieties, products and techniques to make raised bed, container, wall and hanging gardens the most productive in a small space. Plus I’ll talk about low maintenance techniques as well.
So consider joining me on April 20th. If you can’t make the live webinar that night, it will be recorded so you can watch it later as many times as you like. Plus, all those who sign up will get exclusive access to my 8 new gardening videos on topics such as growing blueberries, bird protection, harvesting vegetables, tomato blight and Japanese beetles.
Go here for more information and to sign up for the webinar. The discounted early bird registration ends on April 1st.