Charlie’s Mid March Newsletter
The snows are finally melting in our zone 5 Vermont garden and it’s got me starting to peek, here and there, for spring wildflowers. The woodland wildflowers are always a welcome sight. Some even bloom through the snow.
While these natives grow and spread on their own in woodland areas, you can supplement the trilliums, trout lilies, columbines, gingers and other species by planting more. I talk about planting woodland wildflowers in this newsletter.
Culinary herbs are always a treat to have in your garden or indoors. Three of my favorite Italian herbs are basil (of course), oregano and Italian parsley. I talk about growing the big three of Italian culinary herbs and how to start them indoors from seed.
I love growing and eating sweet peppers. I particularly like growing varieties that turn a mature color such as red, orange or yellow. The flavor is more complex and certainly sweeter than green peppers. But, sometimes it’s hard to get your peppers to turn their mature color. You might wait until almost fall to see red fruits. Not so with these varieties. I talk about growing sweet peppers with an eye towards those varieties that turn the mature color fast. Learn more here.
If you love growing your own berries for fresh eating, freezing and cooking, but aren’t happy with how they’re growing, check out my latest webinar that I’ll be offering on April 15th, 2019. In All About Berries webinar I’ll talk about the varieties, planting, care and pest control of popular berries such as strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. Plus, I include more unusual berries, such as currants, honey berries and elderberries. I’ll chat about growing them in the garden and in containers.
So, consider signing up for my All About Berries webinar. You don’t have to be present to get the webinar. Everyone who signs up will get a Youtube link a few days after the webinar to watch it whenever and as many times as they like.
I’m including a photo here from this year’s The Philadelphia Flower Show. It’s always quite a show and didn’t disappoint. The best part is it gets me excited about spring and gardening.
Until next time I’ll be seeing you… in the garden.
- Vt Garden Journal on Vt Public Radio- This week; Pruning Grapes
- Ct Garden Journal on Ct Public Radio- This week; Elderberries
- In the Garden (WCAX-TV CBS)- This week; Indoor Succulents
- Where’s Charlie Speaking? April, 6th, 2019, Container Gardening- GSC Lebanon, NH
There’s something encouraging about woodland wildflowers or spring ephemerals. They pop up from the forest floor even when snow is still around and show us that, yes, another spring is coming. By early summer they’re mysteriously gone into dormancy and shade trees leaf out and other wildflowers take their place. But for a few months in early spring, they are the stars.
Probably the best know woodland wildflower is trillium. The White, Red and Painted trilliums are some of the most popular species. They look best planted in large groups and allowed to seed and spread. I’ve found they grow best in well-drained, silky soils and in open deciduous woodlands where they get light in spring.
Some of the earliest blooming wildflowers are the prettiest. Hepatica shines with its light blue flowers that hug the ground. They like rocky, well-drained areas where the soil stays moist in spring. Blood root has shining, white flowers in early spring and Dutchmen’s breeches is a wild version of bleeding hearts that also has white flowers. We have some poking out of a rock ledge on our property.
Whatever the woodland wildflower you desire to grow, there are a few things to keep in mind. These wildflowers grow best in open woodland settings, preferably under large deciduous trees. Look around where they have naturally thrived in your woodland or in natural areas and supplement them with more nursery raised plants. Another key is to only purchase plants that are nursery raised. Moving plants from the wild into your property is not good for the ecosystem and may even be illegal in some places.
Also, these wildflowers love to grow in groups. In fact, you can tell you have a good site if the woodland wildflowers you planted are spreading and moving around the woods. They will tell you what soil and sun conditions they like by where they move. Usually, the soil needs to be well-drained, but holds moisture in spring as they flower and grow. Woodland wildflowers finish their life cycle in early summer and then go dormant when the shade from trees and other wildflowers take over.
While I have to resort to dried herbs in winter, nothing beats the taste of fresh herbs in a sauce, soup and other dish. Plus, these Italian herbs are easy to grow in the ground, containers or even indoors.
Basil is the best known of the Italian herbs. The ‘Italian Genovese’ is the most popular for its large leaves used in sandwiches, pizzas and pesto making. But there are many variations on basil. ‘Mrs. Burns’ Lemon basil has a piquant flavor unusual in basil. You get the flavor of basil and lemon all in one herb. There are even basils that grow well in small containers, such as ‘WIndowbox Mini’ basil, ‘Italian Cameo’ and ‘Spicy Globe‘. These all grow well in window box, railing plants, hanging baskets or other small containers because the plants stay less than 1 foot tall. They grow well indoors with enough light. There’s no excuse for not growing basil somewhere inside or outside your home.
Oregano can be a bit trickier for some gardeners. You have to remember it’s a Mediterranean herb that likes well-drained soil, sun and heat. Start seeds indoors a good 6 weeks before transplanting into a container or the ground. Always use Greek oregano for the best flavor on pizzas and in sauces. Oregano is slow to germinate, so keep the soil evenly moist and be patient. Once growing, find a sunny spot where it can creep and harvest stems to stimulate more new growth, which has the best flavor.
Italian flat leaf parsley is an easy to grow cooking herb. It has a stronger flavor than curly parsley, but is great in sauces, soups and roasts. Again, like oregano, the seeds are slow to germinate, but once you have a plant, it’s hard to kill. It grows well in sun to part shade, but really likes moist, well-drained soil. I like to take a handful of leaves in the summer and just munch on them in the garden. They are nutritious and clean your breathe!
Living in Vermont, growing sweet peppers that naturally turn to their final color is sometimes difficult. The summers can be cool and cloudy, not giving our plants the time and warm temperatures needed to mature ripe fruits. But I’ve found certain varieties that are not only prolific, but mature their fruits early. This makes a difference because red, yellow, orange or purple sweet peppers taste better and are more nutritious than mature green ones.
Try some of these varieties for getting more, and sweeter, sweet peppers. ‘Carmen’ was the first, early maturing pepper I discovered. Literally, I’ll have 8 to 10 large red peppers per plant. ‘Escamillo’ is a newer hybrid variety that’s similar to ‘Carmen’ but matures to yellow. ‘King of The North’ is a standard, sweet bell pepper that produces early, red, mature fruits. ‘Madonna’ is a yellow bell pepper that matures quickly. The ‘Picnic Peppers’ feature orange, yellow or red fruits, depending on the selection, and these small, sweet peppers are fast growers.
Start pepper seed indoors now in most areas to grow. Transplant about 2 months later into the garden. Plant on compost amended, raised beds and keep the plants well watered and fertilized. In cool areas, consider planting seedlings in black plastic mulch or containers to encourage more heat and faster growth. Keep well weeded.
Sweet peppers take an additional 1 to 2 weeks to mature from the green stage to their final color. Be patient. Mature sweet peppers are worth waiting for. That’s why they are more expensive in the grocery stores. Harvest when they fully color up. If cold weather threatens, you can pick them at any stage. Those peppers that are starting to turn the mature color will continue after harvest.
In My Garden: Free Youth Gardening Symposium
Everyone knows about the importance and influence gardening can have on kids. It’s been widely proven that kids who garden learn better, develop better social skills and have a life long appreciation of nature. But working in a organized kids gardening programs can be difficult with problems such as adequate funding and lack of volunteer support.
That’s why the Vermont Community Garden Network, Kids Gardening, Common Roots and Dealer.com are teaming up with me to offer a free Get Up and Grow Kids Gardening Symposium on April 4th at 4pm to 6pm in Burlington, Vermont. You’ll learn the whys, whats and hows of kids gardening In this symposium. Participants will learn practical examples of ways to engage kids and volunteers better and tips for funding raising.
The symposium is free, we do ask you to RSVP. So check out this opportunity to network with like-minded garden educators from different venues and get inspired to start your 2019 kids gardening program.