Plant Garlic Now and get Four Harvests! As Seen on Pittsburgh Today Live

October 22nd, 2014

“It would be a sad world without garlic,” says my friend Johno Prascak. The Pittsburgh artist shares my obsession with garlic from the garden.

This is the perfect time to plant.

The first step is to start with the right garlic. It needs to be hardy for our areas, so farmer’s markets, local nurseries and garlic farms will well you the right thing. Most of the grocery store garlic isn’t hardy and is treated to retard sprouting.

I know for sure Hahn Nursery and Chapon’s Greenhouse has garlic for sale. But you’re favorite nursery might too.

Bob Zimmerman from Bobba-Mike’s Gourmet Garlic Farm in Ohio told me he has lots of ‘Music’ left. That’s my favorite variety, I’ve been ordering from Bob for over 15 years. The folks at Enon Valley Garlic have plenty of garlic left to order too. We’ve also become friends and they sell locally at the Sewickley, Ellwood City and Chippewa farmer’s markets.

Once you have the right garlic, separate the head into cloves. Plant the biggest cloves three inches deep, six inches apart in good soil. I save the smaller cloves for the kitchen.

These garlic seeds are tasty. The only way to get any is grow your own.

These garlic seeds are tasty. The only way to get any is grow your own.

In my garden, I mulch the bed with straw. Now all we have to do is wait until spring. Garlic growers get four harvests, not just one.

The first happens early in the spring when the greens sprout. They can be harvested lightly, remember the greens provide energy for the bulbs. But those early fat little sprouts sharing their show with the crocus signal the start of the season are delicious.

In early June a seed head called a scape will emerge. It must be removed so the bulb can reach its potential. They are a delicacy, I use them for pesto or grill them.

I leave some of those scapes in the garden. Even though they are no longer attached to the plant, the seed head will continue to swell and grow little bulbets that are a clone of the bulb.

When more than 50 percent of the greens turn brown in July it’s time to harvest the bulbs. They can be pulled out or gently coaxed with a garden fork. If you’re growing bulbs to store all winter they will need to be cured in a warm dry place for three weeks. Garlic lasts longer if the stalks are left attached.

There’s nothing like garlic from the garden, the fresh stuff is filled with oils that will make any recipe special. I even know a gardener who eats raw cloves out in his garden, guess who?

Saving tender bulbs like dahlias as seen on KDKA’s Pittsburgh Today Live

October 15th, 2014

It's amazing something so ugly like these dahlia tubers can produce such beautiful flowers.

It’s amazing something so ugly like these dahlia tubers can produce such beautiful flowers.


It’s so easy to save the tubers and bulbs of tender plants like dahlias, cannas, caladiums, begonias and more.
Just dig the tuber or bulb and remove the foliage. Lay the bulb on newspaper in an airy location for a day or two. Do not wash it off, let the dirt dry on the bulb.
Fill a box with a 1/2 inch of perlite or vermiculite and lay the bulbs in the box so they are not touching each other.
Add another layer of perlite, then bulbs and continue the procedure until the box is filled.
Store the box in a cool place that won’t freeze.
Check the bulbs once a month for rot.
When chance of frost has passed the next year, plant the bulbs.
But remember, if you don’t want to save them, it’s OK to grow them. Just treat them as annuals and let them freeze. Don’t deny yourself the beauty of these flowers just because you’re not interested in storing them for winter.

Extending the season by planting now as seen on KDKA’s Pittsburgh Today Live

October 8th, 2014

How about flowering kale and pansies growing together? I love planting both in the same pot.

How about flowering kale and pansies growing together? I love planting both in the same pot.


It’s an annual ritual planting pansies in the fall. They are the one plant that can take the cold and pump out the blooms through the fall and maybe all winter.
I like to feed them a good liquid organic fertilizer about once a week to keep the flowers coming.
You can buy them in baskets, bowls and flats. The colors will really brighten the garden and they are great for containers.
The trick to getting them to go through the winter is to keep them watered all the way up until a hard frost.
Pansies and violas won’t flinch at a frost and will keep color in the garden at least until Christmas.

It might seem strange to be gardening this late in the season, but pansies, violas and flowering kale will thrive deep into winter.

I always plant flowering kale and pansies as the annuals fade. I’m substituting the tender container plants with these hardy varieties.

Lets look at the garden timeline for my pots. March 7th pansies are planted in containers close to the house, then more in two weeks along with some other tough cool weather flowers. They were replaced in July with discounted annuals. Now we’re back to pansies and of course the flowering kale.

Site them where they can be seen from inside the house, or walking up to the front door.

You’ll be surprised how a few plants will bring a smile after slogging through a few inches of wet snow.

When the winter sun is right, the kale explodes with color.
In the vegetable garden, there’s still time to to get lettuce plants and other cold loving greens in the ground. I found them at Chapon’s Greenhouse and Best Feeds.
Protecting the greens with a floating row cover might make them last until next spring.
If that happens, you’ll have three or more harvests into June.
It’s fun to brag about picking when most people are just starting.

Just a few seats left for the Tulip River Cruise with Doug.

October 2nd, 2014

Come with me to Holland, we'll have a blast.

Come with me to Holland, we’ll have a blast.


First it was London, then Italy, now I’m taking gardeners to Holland and Belgium in April of 2015 to see amazing sites and spectacular fields of tulips. This trip needs to be booked soon to get the cabin you want. Both of my other trips sold out quickly, so if this one is for you get a deposit in. The next payment won’t be due until December and of course, as always there’s travel insurance. If anything prohibits you from being part of the trip, you don’t lose a dime.
This is a trip for gardeners and non-gardeners alike. We’ll be cruising on a cozy luxury boat which holds less than 200 people. The ship will be our home for the trip which takes us all over Holland and Belgium. There’s no packing or unpacking and we have wonderful local guide who know just about everything about our destinations.
The trip is nine days and includes 20 meals along with airfare and lodging on the ship.
Here are just some of the highlights-
Keukenhof is a kaleidoscope of color in bloom with SEVEN MILLION tulips.
Tour of Holland’s capital Amsterdam.
Bruges, one of Europe’s most perfectly preserved medieval cities.
Join a local expert exploring Antwerp’s historical sites including the “Liebfrauenkirche,” Belgium’s largest Gothic church; the legendary “Brabo” fountains; and Rubens’ house.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
These trips are set up to make traveling easy. I’ll be with you from beginning to end. The goal? To have fun of course!
Here are all the details and itinerary.

Plant Bulbs Now! As Seen on PTL. (You’ll be happy you did).

October 2nd, 2014

This snow crocus heralds the start of spring! Photo by Doug Oster

This snow crocus heralds the start of spring! Photo by Doug Oster


Planting bulbs is a leap of faith. There’s no instant gratification, but after a long winter, nothing can compare to the beauty of their blooms.
There are thousands of choices and I’m obsessed with double daffodils.
I’ve experimented with many ways to plant and I’ve settled on the bulb auger as the easiest tool to use.
It’s just a giant drill bit and when attached to a drill it makes bulb planting pretty easy and fun.
Planting bulbs right now doesn’t give us blooms right away, but after a long winter there’s nothing like seeing snowdrops or crocus blooming. They might not be around long, but the flowers provide welcome relief from the bland surroundings of the season.

If you ever get a chance to watch Rick Sebak’s Cemetery Special, there’s a segment on Lake View that includes me explaining how the flowers affected me. It’s where my grandparents are buried and they have a place there called Daffodil Hill.

I’ll plant the big three; daffodils, tulips and crocus, but there are many different bulbs to consider. Here’s a list of my favorites-

Snowdrops an early bloomer, I plant them close to the house and have seen flowers as early as February 15th. My first planting was a gift from a reader who thought I would enjoy them. These little white flowers would be lost in June, but are the star of the show as one of the first flowers in bloom.
Chionodoxa (glory of snow), blooms with the crocus, if deer resistant and forms a colony over the years. ‘Pink Giant’ is one of my favorite cultivars.
Hyacinths are beautiful and wonderfully fragrant. One bloom can fill a room with the aroma of spring.
Alliums come in many shapes and sizes but are probably best known for their globular purple blooms. I like to mix white blooms with the purple.
Fritillaria is a wide ranging genus that offers something different in the bulb garden.

Asian lilies offer amazing early summer blooms and many are intensely fragrant. They are easy to grow and will provide more blooms each season when planted where they are happy.

I like to buy bulbs locally when I can find what I want. Right now, I pay retail, but as the season progresses nurseries will mark them down. By Thanksgiving the price drops to 50 percent, then down from there. As long as the ground has not frozen solid, you can still plant. One year I put in 1000 grape hyacinths in January and it only cost $11.

When ordering online, use a reliable bulb house, my favorites are Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, Old House Gardens, White Flower Farm and Dutch Gardens. If you see an ad for bulbs and it seems too good to be true, it is. You’ll be shipped small bulbs that won’t reach their potential until seasons to come, if ever. The best bulb catalogs tell you how big the bulbs are.

Plant some bulbs now, you’ll be so happy you did in the spring.

Doug at Wholey’s Sunday 11am 9/28/14 for a free cooking/gardening demo

September 24th, 2014

Join me at Wholey's this Sunday. I'll cook some swordfish for you and we'll talk gardening.

Join me at Wholey’s this Sunday. I’ll cook some swordfish for you and we’ll talk gardening.


I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be appearing monthly at Wholey’s in the Strip. This Sunday 9/28/24 I’ll be there at 11 a.m. cooking swordfish with a Wholey’s family recipe and talking about fall planting. I’ll be serving you some of the swordfish too.
There’s plenty of free parking on Sundays and we’re going to have a lot of fun.

Making Mums Last as seen on KDKA’s Pittsburgh Today Live

September 24th, 2014

Choosing mums which are just budding will make them last longer this season. Photo by Doug Oster

Choosing mums which are just budding will make them last longer this season. Photo by Doug Oster


The hazy world of “hardy mums” causes both confusion an consternation for gardeners. “Why don’t they come back,” I’m often asked.

First, lets talk hardy. Some mums sold as hardy mums aren’t, others are. That’s easy, right? I always buy mine from a good nursery where the good folks there will know the variety and if it’s actually bred to overwinter in our climate.

Bet even though a mum is tough enough to make it through the winter, there’s only a 50 percent chance it will.

Here’s how mums are forced to bloom in the fall. Growers pinch back the buds at least two times so the plant will be filled with flowers now. Since the plant has used so much energy to produce all those flowers, it’s usually just too tired to get established in the ground.

Here are a few tips to get the most out of your mums and attempt to get them to winter over.

Always buy from a place you trust. A good grower will never let the plants dry out and starting with a healthy plant makes all the difference in the world.

Pick plants that are still budded tight and not already flowering. You can usually get a good idea of what the color and flower type will be by looking and the plant tag and other blooming plants nearby.

Improve the soil with compost to make the plants happy. Buying a bag or two of good compost will go a long way to giving the mums everything they need.

Keep the plant watered and deadhead the first flush of blooms. When the mum has bloomed once, there should be more buds ready to bloom. Remove the spent flowers and the plant should bloom again.

At the end of the season, don’t cut back the dying branches. There’s research showing leaving the plant alone and cutting back in the spring is better for over wintering.

Mums are a big part of our fall gardens, enjoy the blooms now and cross your fingers for the plant to return in the spring.

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Gardens as seen on Pittsburgh Today Live

August 28th, 2014

This 'Double Hot Cherry Profusion' zinnia is one of the AAS winners growing at Schenley Plaza.

This ‘Double Hot Cherry Profusion’ zinnia is one of the AAS winners growing at Schenley Plaza.


Today on PTL I shared the stage with Angela Yuele from the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.
We talked about three of the conservancy’s gardens. The All America Selections Display Garden at Schenley Plaza, Mellon Square Park and featured the gardens at Highland Park.
You can learn all about the gardens here.
Here’s a plant list of what’s growing at Schenley Plaza.
Blanket Flower ‘Mesa Yellow’ and ‘Arizona Apricot.’
Zinnia ‘Double Zahara Fire,”Profusion Double Hot Cherry,’ ‘Zahara Starlight Rose,’ ‘Profusion Double Deep Salmon,’ ‘Double Zahara Cherry.’
Vinca ‘Jams ‘N Jellies Blackberry.’
Gaura ‘Sparkle White.’
Salvia ‘Summer Jewel Red’ and ‘Summer Jewel Pink.’
Coneflower ‘Cheyenne Spririt’ and ‘PowWow Wild Berry.’
Canna ‘South Pacific Scarlet.’
Geranium ‘Pinto Premium White to Rose.’
Marigold ‘Moonsong Deep Orange.’
Ornamental pepper ‘Black Olive’ and ‘NuMex Easter.’
African daisy ‘Alka Daisy White.’

Red Ripe and Roasted Tomato and Garlic Festival; Gardeners can help the hungry at Phipps

August 20th, 2014

I pay my daughter $25 to dress up as a tomato for Red Ripe and Roasted.

I pay my daughter $25 to dress up as a tomato for Red Ripe and Roasted.


It’s the 10th year for Red Ripe and Roasted, the tomato and garlic festival I helped start with the help of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. On Sunday August 24th, 2014 from 11-4 p.m. visitors can enjoy great food, a farmer’s market, participate in a tomato contest and more. I’ll be cooking my Extreme Garlic Pesto recipe at 12 noon for you to taste.

The idea of the festival is to get as much fresh produce for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. The festival is free, but gardeners who bring a bag of food get into the conservatory for free to see the Summer Flower Show and Butterfly Forest.

Bring your own tomatoes to be judged for the biggest, smallest and ugliest fruit.

The festival includes a farmer’s market of all certified naturally grown produce, cooking demos and fun activities for kids.

It’s also a place where gardeners can buy a wide variety of garlic for planting without paying shipping.

I’ll be signing copies of Tomato Garlic Basil too.

Please join me for a day of fun and help the hungry.

Hope to see you there!

Free Pot Luck Picnic for all gardeners with Doug Oster and Jessica Walliser

August 13th, 2014

Jessica Walliser and Doug Oster are holding a free Pot Luck Picnic this Sunday

Jessica Walliser and Doug Oster are holding a free Pot Luck Picnic this Sunday


I’ll be joined by my radio partner Jessica Walliser this Sunday 8/17/14 for a free Pot Luck Picnic from 2-4 p.m. for all gardeners at Schenley Plaza in Oakland.

It started out as a thank you for all the gardening fans who have come to see us at Giant Eagle Market District and has grown to a celebration of gardening for everyone.

Bring your favorite dish, but if you don’t have food, I’ll give you some of mine. Bring your own non-alcoholic beverage and we’ll supply the plates, napkins and utensils.

We also have lots of wonderful gardening products to give away including books, plants, seeds and some really cool stuff from Dramm.

It will be two hours of gardening fun a chance to exchange ideas, talk about the season and share some wonderful food along with great stories.

Schenley Plaza is located at Forbes Ave and Schenley Drive directly across from the Cathedral of Learning.

Hope to see you there.