Free Tickets to the Duquense Light Home and Garden Show to see Doug and free rare seeds too!

March 2nd, 2015
'White Pumpkin' is one of the rare tomatoes from Good Mind Seeds I'll be giving away at the Home and Garden Show. Photo courtesy of Good Mind Seeds

‘White Pumpkin’ is one of the rare tomatoes from Good Mind Seeds I’ll be giving away at the Home and Garden Show. Photo courtesy of Good Mind Seeds

I’ve got 20 pairs of tickets for every day of the Duquesne Light Home and Garden Show. The catch is you need to use them to see me when I appear.
Take a look at the schedule below, figure out what day you can come and then email me and I’ll get you the tickets. My email is dougoster@comcast.net

I’m also giving away free seeds from my friends at Good Mind Seeds. I’ve got two rare tomatoes, ‘White Pumpkin’ and ‘Lost Marbles’ cherry.

‘White Pumpkin’ is unique in both shape and color, the flavor of this fluted slicer is mellow and mild with a fruity undertone. It does not mind the cold and will continue to perform well into the fall. Indeterminate, regular leaved, mid season, and all purpose.
‘Lost Marbles’ is a sweet purple cherry tomato that’s late blight resistant and is prolific too. “They have a sugar content unlike anything I have tasted before, sweeter than ‘Sungold,’ owner Phil Seneca says, and with a flavor that differs from other tomatoes.” They are a mixture of multiple wild species of tomatoes and have incredible fungal disease resistance, it seems that septoria, early blight, late blight, and fusarium wilt have a really hard time holding this tomato back. The purple cherries are born in long trusses and are the perfect size for popping in your mouth whole or halving into salads. The plants are not super sprawling but reach to a considerable length prior to frost, up to 6-7 feet, with regular leaf foliage.

Friday 3/6 3-5pm “Grow Your Best Garden Ever”
Saturday 3/7 11am-1pm “Jump Starting a Spring Garden”
Sunday 3/8 4-6 “Travel Shots from Paris”
Monday 3/9 6-8pm “Grow Your Best Garden Ever”
Tuesday 3/10 6-8pm “Travel Shots from Paris”
Wed 3/11 6-8pm “Jump Starting a Spring Garden”
Thursday 3/12 6-8pm “Grow Your Best Garden Ever”
Friday 3/13 3-5pm “Jump Starting a Spring Garden”
Saturday 3/14 4-6pm “Travel Shots from Paris”
Sunday 3/15 4-6pm “Grow Your Best Garden Ever”

Hope to see you at the show!

Fairy gardens are fun! As seen on KDKA’s Pittburgh Today Live

February 25th, 2015

Meadow and Sandy Santucci love their fairy garden and plan to take it outside in the spring.

Meadow and Sandy Santucci love their fairy garden and plan to take it outside in the spring.


As I stood in Wholey’s after giving a garden talk, three year-old Meadow Santucci walked up to me and asked, “do fairies like parsley?” I told her yes and after talking to her mother Sandy I realized why she asked. The parsley growing in their fairy garden was struggling as the succulents thrived.
Fairy gardens have become all the rage, and why not, they’re fun. It’s a small garden for fairy’s, gnomes, trolls and more. Even though it’s wonderful project for children, big kids can enjoy making these gardens too. There are fairy garden Steelers tailgate decorations available.
I found everything I needed at Chapon’s Greenhouse in Baldwin. They have a huge selection of fairy garden supplies.
At the Santucci’s, the parsley needed water, the other plants wanted it dry. It would be hard to grow both together, that’s something to think about when choosing plants.
I prefer the succulents as they are almost indestructible. First pick a container with drainage, the Santuccis found a cracked pot which was the perfect home for fairies and everything they love. Fill the container with a moist planting mix and then the garden can be filled with small plants, moss, rocks small benches and more.
A fairy garden is only limited by your imagination.
Maybe you’ll be lucky like Meadow and get some fairies visiting your garden. She told me, “fairies blow pixie dust so our flowers grow.”

This is the perfect time (thyme) to grow herbs on the windowsill as seen on Pittsburgh Today Live

February 18th, 2015

Windowsill herbs will make you happy in the winter.

Windowsill herbs will make you happy in the winter.


This time of the year, I always plant a windowsill herb box. But this year, with the help of Chapon’s Greenhouse, I’ve found some new varieties to try. I’m planting African Blue Basil this year. It will do better than most basils with the low light of the window.
Choose a container with good drainage so the soil can dry out. Water will also flush salts out of the soil. I love the new containers I got at Chapon’s, one is a faux watering can and the other has a place for scissors to harvest the herbs.
These other herbs work well on the windowsill too- Oregano, thyme, chives, sage and rosemary are all good choices to grow.
It’s wonderful to pick them and use them in the kitchen.
It’s also great to grow something through the winter.

Here are some other flowers for Valentine’s Day, as seen on KDKA’s Pittsburgh Today Live

February 11th, 2015

Roses aren't the only flowers which make great gifts for Valentine's Day.

Roses aren’t the only flowers which make great gifts for Valentine’s Day.


Ok, you’ve got to buy roses, right? I think there are better choices for Valentine’s Day, but no one wants to end up in the dog house.
Keeping roses looking their best means cutting the bottoms of the stems before putting them in water and adding a drop or two of bleach to keep bacteria at bay. Change the water daily and give the roses another cut at the bottom after a few days.
For some reason a penny in the vase helps too.
There are lots of plants which will last longer than a dozen roses. Every time your significant other looks at these plants, they will think of you.
Potted miniature roses will live all winter on the windowsill and can go into the garden in April where they will last for many years.
Cyclamen is one of the only houseplants which should be kept on the moist side. When watered frequently they will bloom for months.
How about an orchid, they will bloom for months too.
I found some really cool plants at Chapon’s Greenhouse, including a heart shaped topiary.
I love giving tulips and hyacinths in bloom. When they are done they can sit on the windowsill until they can be planted in the ground and will come back year after year in the garden.
One more tip for those roses, dry them when their time is done in the vase and they will last forever, just like your undying love for your partner.

Lets go to Paris!

January 28th, 2015

I shot this picture from the top of Notre Dame. It's quite a climb, but worth it for the view.

I shot this picture from the top of Notre Dame. It’s quite a climb, but worth it for the view.


I can’t wait to show you Paris. This is the first trip that I’ve helped build myself, and I did that since I’ve been there before.
I think it’s the most beautiful city in the world. One big bonus, is the fight is direct! It makes the journey so much easier.
You’ll eat dinner at the Eiffel Tower, tour Notre Dame Cathedral, see Monet’s garden, Versailles, the secret gardens of Paris and more.
On Friday come with me as we get lost in Paris. It’s one of the best ways to see the city and don’t worry, we’ll find our way back to the hotel. That’s also a day to kick back if you’d prefer. Sit at a street side cafe and people watch or check out the little shops near our hotel.
Here are all the details, sign up soon, like all my other trips, it’s going to sell out. I will only take a maximum of 32 people, that way we get to know each other. I’ve made many good friends as we’ve enjoyed traveling together.
This is the easiest way to travel as my friends from Collette provide us a local guide who cares for us through the whole trip.

This is the itinerary-

Spotlight on Paris

Day 1: Monday, August 10, 2015 Overnight Flight
Set out for captivating Paris. Come to know this city famous for its world-renowned art, food and fashion. Its rich history will astound you while its style dazzles.
Day 2: Tuesday, August 11, 2015 Paris, France
Arrive in the “City of Light.” Take this day to meander two of Paris’ most well-known gardens. First, visit Luxembourg Gardens, spanning 60 acres, which was created beginning in 1612 by Marie de’ Medici, the widow of King Henry IV of France, and inspired by the Boboli Gardens in Florence. Next, you will visit the Jardin des Plantes, a 17th-century royal garden complete with a natural-history museum, greenhouses, alpine garden, iris garden, rose garden, remarkable trees, and a menagerie. (B)
Day 3: Wednesday, August 12, 2015 Paris, France – Tour Begins
Today you travel to Bois Richeux. Feel like you have stepped back in time when exploring the medieval gardens, established more than 2000 years ago. After this visit, you travel to another of France’s famous gardens in Giverny. The tranquil gardens here combine flora and water elements, and also inspired Monet’s greatest works when he lived in Giverny for more than 40 years. Tonight, enjoy breathtaking views of the city during a dinner featuring delicious French cuisine at the Eiffel Tower. Following dinner, get a different perspective on the city during a Seine River cruise. As you glide along, admire Paris’ glittering skyline. (B, D)
Day 4: Thursday, August 13, 2015 Paris
Come to know the dramatic highlights of Paris – the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, Champs-Elysees, Place de la Concorde and the magnificent Place Vendome are just some of the amazing landmarks you will see while on a locally-guided tour. Your day continues with a guided tour at the famous Louvre. Dine this evening at one of Paris’ fine restaurants. (B, D)
Day 5: Friday, August 14, 2015 Paris
The entire day is yours to enjoy the city in your own way. You may choose to get a new perspective and leave the city to explore the surrounding countryside. Your tour manager will be on hand with suggestions on exciting ways to spend your free time. (B)
Day 6: Saturday, August 15, 2015 Paris – Reims – Épernay – Paris
Today our journey takes us to Champagne country. Make a stop in ancient Reims to visit its towering centerpiece, the Notre-Dame de Reims. This UNESCO World Heritage site was once the place where French kings were crowned. Discover Reims’ pedestrian streets lined with art galleries and cafés during an included walking tour. Next, travel a short distance to the village of Épernay. Set on the banks of the river Marne, it is home to the world’s leading champagne makers. Stroll down the most famous street in Épernay, the Avenue de Champagne, before making a visit to one of the cellars dug here between the 4th – 15th centuries. Here we see the traditional equipment and enjoy a guided tour and a tasting of the notable champagne varieties. (B)
Day 7: Sunday, August 16, 2015 Paris
During your free afternoon, enjoy an interesting visit to the incomparable Palace of Versailles. The palace and gardens of Versailles reflect the extravagant tastes of King Louis XIV, the “Sun King.” On this excursion travel by coach to Versailles, where your local guide will recount the history of the palace and lead you through the various rooms of the State Apartments. Of particular interest are the Queen’s bedchamber and the famous Hall of Mirrors. You then have leisure time to explore the incredible gardens, some of the most famous in the world, which took over 40 years to complete. Celebrate the end of a fabulous trip with a special dinner at the Paradis Latin*, Paris’ oldest cabaret theatre. Enjoy a sumptuous dinner complete with wine, champagne and a delightful cabaret show. (B, D)
Day 8: Monday, August 17, 2015 Paris – Tour Ends
Your tour comes to a close today. Head home with many wonderful memories of your Parisian adventure. (B)

Grow something indestructible, succulents are beautiful and easy. As seen on KDKA’s PTL.

January 28th, 2015

I planted this "purse" with Kristine on the show last year and it's still going strong.

I planted this “purse” with Kristine on the show last year and it’s still going strong.


I’ve fallen under the spell of succulents. Although they look formidable, only the spines of the cactus pose a threat to fingertips. I think of them as friendly dinosaurs, rough on the outside, but happy to share a garden together. As the light changes throughout the day the plants transform with the angle of the sun.
There are lots of other succulents who don’t bite back. Those are the varieties I used on Pittsburgh Today Live.
They are the perfect choice for cool containers like the pursed, boots, hats and other things I found at Chapon’s Greenhouse in Baldwin. The moss like shoe and purse I used on the show came from there along with the little shoes and other containers.
Not everyone enjoys their charm, but every once and a while a visitor will discover their merits. A friend came over a couple weeks ago and fell in love with the containers, pledging to create her own.
Kristine and I planted one of the purses last year and a shoe, both are thriving on my windowsill!
It’s fun to grow these plants during the winter, to keep us gardeners sane.

Doug’s at Wholey’s on Sunday, 1pm. Big give-a-way!

January 21st, 2015

I’ll be presenting another free gardening/cooking demonstration at Wholey’s in the Strip on Sunday January 25, 2014 at 1 p.m.
I’ll be talking about using the garden to eat healthy and we’ll be cooking some fresh fish too.
I’ve got just about every great gardening book released this year along with some garden tools and bulbs to give-a-way.
Hope to see you there.

Houseplants are fun to grow and clean the air. As seen on KDKA’s Pittsburgh Today Live

January 21st, 2015

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I was at Chapon’s Greenhouse in Baldwin with manager Matt Hirsh looking over some of the beautiful plants.
They keep me sane in the winter. One of my favorites is Mother of Thousands. Small plantlets form on the leaves which drop to the base of the plant and sprout. All houseplants are bulletproof and will happily grow all winter on the windowsill. There are some things you can do now to keep them looking their best.
Look carefully at the leaves, if there are yellow or brown foliage, remove them. Any part of a plant that’s looking worse for wear should be cut off and put in the compost (you do compost don’t you?). Look at the plants closely. If there are discolored leaves, maybe a purple tint, that’s a clue they are not getting what they need, so hit them with some organic fertilizer. There are a couple ways to do that. One is to use a liquid fertilizer like fish emulsion or something seaweed based.

If the tips of the leaves are turning brown there might be a salt build up from chemical fertilizers. Be sure your pot has good drainage to flush those salts out.

The leaves of houseplants are more important than the flowers — they need to be kept clean so they can stay healthy. My house is old and often dusty, so I let the houseplants dry out and then place them all in the bathtub and run the shower over them once or twice a year. This is also a great way to flush out the soil. With plants that have big sturdy leaves, I wipe them down as they go back near the window.
When nurseries started offering houseplants, the reason they chose certain varieties was due to their indestructible nature. They knew people would forget to water them.

The only thing that can kill houseplants is too much water and fertilizer. Keep most of them on the dry side, but not completely without water.

I’ve got a few cool flowering plants which will enjoy the winter on the windowsill and then can go out in the garden at the end of May. Begonias, bellflower and coleus are things many gardeners have outside in the shade, that’s why these three work so well inside.

African violets will provide flowers for months at a time. One trick for them is to water them from below. Put a dish underneath as the leaves don’t like getting wet.

It’s great to have something to take care of inside during the winter, and neglect is actually a good thing. As the days get longer, the birds begin to sing, the air smell different and it won’t be long until the crocus poke through the soil. When that happens there’s nothing left to stop us.
I’ve written about clean air plants in the Post-Gazette before. Kelly Ogrodnik, former Phipps’ sustainable design and programs manager did lots of research about what’s in our air and how plants can filter the bad stuff.
Here’s a list of plants grown indoors that will help take toxins out of our indoor air-

English Ivy (Hedera helix)
Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Golden pothos (Scindapsus aures or Epipremnum aureum)
Peace lily (Spathiphyllum ‘Mauna Loa’)
Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)
Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea sefritzii)
Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata‘Laurentii’)
Heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron oxycardium, syn. Philodendron cordatum)
Selloum philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum, syn. Philodendron selloum)
Elephant ear philodendron (Philodendron domesticum)
Red-edged dracaena (Dracaena marginata)
Cornstalk dracaena (Dracaena fragans ‘Massangeana’)
Janet Craig dracaena (Dracaena deremensis ‘Janet Craig’)
Warneck dracaena (Dracaena deremensis ‘Warneckii’)
Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)
Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
Pot Mum (Chrysantheium morifolium)
Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica)

Feeding the birds will help the garden as seen on KDKA’s Pittsburgh Today Live

January 7th, 2015

Black Capped Chickodees are a common bird around the feeder. Photos by Doug Oster

Black Capped Chickodees are a common bird around the feeder. Photo by Doug Oster

I love watching the birds, but there’s an advantage for gardeners to attract them now. They’ll stick around the food source in the spring and will hunt lots of bad bugs, which makes our gardening life easier. The main feed I use is black oil sunflower seeds.
But during the winter, I always like to give them something else to boost their energy. Suet is something that helps them thrive during the hardest part of winter. I love these little suet nuts that Cole’s offers, they also make a suet called Hot Meats filled with hot pepper. The squirrels won’t touch it, and the birds can’t taste the pepper. The company makes my favorite varieties of bird seed and suet and it’s easy to find in your area by using this link. If you can’t physically block squirrels and chipmunks from the feeder, they have a whole line of feed laced with hot pepper.

They also have a liquid hot pepper to apply to seed you buy in bulk. I just put out one of the Hot Meat suet cakes and forgot to wash my hands. I rubbed my eyes and now I was the one who was sorry. I feed the squirrels at their own feeder.

I also enjoy making my own suet. I usually make enough to last most of the winter and keep it in the freezer. Suet is a type of fat from a certain part of a cow; you can find it at the meat counter of the grocery store. If you don’t see it, just ask they’ll get you some.

Here’s everything you need to know about suet including lots of recipes for making your own.

This is one of my favorites-

1 cup suet

1 cup peanut butter

3 cups corn meal

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

Melt the suet in a saucepan at low heat; add the peanut butter while stirring until it’s blended with the suet. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir.

Anything that a bird likes can be added to the recipe. If I have raisins or peanuts, I’ll put them in too.

I use hamburger patty makers to form the suet cakes and also pack it into big pine cones and hang them from the feeder.

Bringing birds into the yard is not only fun, it will help you garden next spring.
Here’s where you can get Cole’s products.

Holiday gifts for gardeners as seen on Pittsburgh Today Live

December 17th, 2014

I love the compact and comfortable Dramm ColorPoint Hand Pruner

I love the compact and comfortable Dramm ColorPoint Hand Pruner


Gardeners can be a challenge to buy for, but there’s always something out there for them. Gloves make great stocking stuffers along with hand pruners and maybe a few packs of seeds. Here are some great ideas for the gardener in your life.
The Gardener’s Garden retails for almost $80, but it’s worth every penny. This amazing coffee table book is filled with the greatest gardens in the world. I’ve spent hours carefully examining this wonderful book and have got lots of ideas for my own garden.
Atlas Garden Gloves are inexpensive and are a great choice for that stocking stuffer. They can be find locally at most good nurseries. I know for sure they have them at Hahn Nursery in Ross.
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George Wiegel’s Pennsylvania Getting Started Garden Guide (Cool Springs Press, $24.95) is not only great for beginners, the book is an essential resource for experienced gardeners too. It’s filled with great regional information about growing just about anything including flowers, shrubs, trees, vines and ground covers. Besides being an encyclopedia of plants, the author includes favorite varieties, many of which he’s grown himself over his long gardening career. It’s the perfect book to enjoy by the fireplace planning for next year’s garden. Get a copy here.
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Winter is a tough time for anyone who loves to get their hands dirty. If you know an adventurous gardener who likes to cook, try growing mushrooms indoors. It’s fun and easy and the mushrooms are delicious. The Shiitake Mushroom Kit is $19.95 and comes with two small logs inoculated with mushroom spores. They will grow just about anywhere inside. If you can keep a houseplant alive, you can grow mushrooms. Treat your foodie the the freshest mushrooms, available from Gourmet Mushrooms.
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Gardeners are always on the look out for tools, and good ones will last a lifetime or even longer. The stainless steel potting scoop from Joseph Bentley Tools is great for moving planting mix. The business end is made of polished stainless steel and the handle is quality contoured oak. I’ve got one in my potting shed used for starting seeds, potting up plants, filling up containers and other chores too. The tool is perfectly sized, filling a six inch pot with one scoop. At $15.99 it’s a bargain and is available at independent garden centers, Home Depot and through Amazon.
Dramm makes a wide variety of gardening accessories, many of them in cool colors. Their Touch ’N Flow Pro Rain Wand makes watering easy. A soft stream of water won’t overwhelm the plants and the tool has a lifetime warranty. The Rain Wand comes three lengths. There’s a version that’s 16 inches long and 30. If the garden is filled with hanging baskets, the 36 inch version will make watering safe and easy. The smallest retails for about $20 and go to $28 for the biggest. I also love their Colorpoint pruners. They are small, colorful and indestructible, what else do you need to know.
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Dramm products are available at independent garden centers and hardware stores and through Amazon of here.
Radius Garden Tools are all built with wonderful ergonomic handles and are virtually indestructible. Their PRO Edger uses a large “O” handle, like many of their tools. The edger is an essential tool for any gardener. The tool makes all the difference in making a clean line between garden and lawn. The Pro Edger has a sharp semicircular stainless steel blade, is lightweight, balanced and offers an encased steel core shaft which is most probably unbreakable. For around $50, it’s a steal. Radius products are available locally at garden centers and online here.
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My son gave me a Plant Nanny last Christmas and I love it. It’s a terra cotta watering stake which uses recycled wine bottles to water your plants. There’s also a version which uses plastic bottles.
The bottle is filled with water and just dropped into the Plant Nanny. It will slowly release the water into the pot. Great if you’re out of town and can’t get anyone to water you’re precious houseplants. The product also works for outdoor containers. (sans freezing temperatures). A set of four is under $20. You can find the product locally by typing a zip code into the dealer locator here.
Cole’s Wild Bird Feed offers some of the best seed and other products to keep the birds happy in the winter. Once they find the bird seed, and you keep the feeder full, they will use the area on their foraging routes this spring. Since birds eat lots of bugs too, we take care of them in the winter, they take care of us when things warm up. Hot Meats are seeds covered with a hot pepper concoction which the squirrels detest, but the birds can’t taste. I use it in areas where I can’t keep the squirrels of the feeders. The Blue Ribbon Blend is a real treat for the birds, filled with a mixture of their favorites. You can find their products locally by searching their web site.