Win a copy of The Gardener’s Garden as seen on Pittsburgh Today Live

December 17th, 2014

a gardener's garden
When I first received The Gardener’s Garden I wondered what kind of book it was. I was blown away by this comprehensive collection of the world’s greatest gardens. Some of them I’ve even seen in person, but most were complete surprises.
I’ve spent hours enthralled with the book.
I’ve got one copy to give a way. Just send me email with “I want to win the book” in the subject line. Send it to by 12 midnight on Thursday 12/18/14 and one name will be chosen randomly.
I’ll contact the winner and get the book shipped.

Good Luck!

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

Gardeners need holiday plants to get through the season. As seen on KDKA’s Pittsburgh Today Live

December 10th, 2014

There isn't much prettier than a amaryllis blooming on the windowsill.

There isn’t much prettier than a amaryllis blooming on the windowsill.

I love to give plants as gifts during the holidays. My favorites are amaryllis, Christmas cactus, cyclamen, rosemary plants trimmed like trees and paperwhites.
There’s not much out there prettier than an amaryllis.
Amaryllis offer some of the most beautiful flowers for the holiday season. For the first season the bulb has everything in it that the flower needs. The job of the gardener is to treat the plant right to get blooms next season. I’ve got about a 50/50 record for re-blooming. I never throw them away and they will bloom when they are happy. Sometimes that’s every year, sometimes it takes three.
After the plant is done blooming remove the flower stalk leaving the tall, floppy foliage. Grow it as a houseplant all winter and start fertilizing in March. Mid-May it goes outside in the shade. Sometimes transplanting to a pot one size bigger will help. Keep feeding the plant every couple weeks through the season.
In August stop all watering and fertilization and bring the amaryllis back inside. I put mine down in the basement for six to eight weeks until they go into dormancy. The leaves will turn brown, which feeds the bulb. Then bring the plant back to the windowsill add a little water and hope for buds to emerge.
I rarely get them to bloom at Christmas, but anytime they flower, it’s wonderful. Usually it’s about being too busy at the end of the season and not getting them into dormancy fast enough. Others never make it outside, are forgotten about and bloom after given a little water.

The Christmas cactus is a perennial favorite gift for gardeners. It’s indestructible, usually killed with kindness. It’s not really a cactus, so it’s watered like any other houseplant, but prefers dry over wet. I like to grow them in eight inch and bigger pots so they don’t need watered as often and they get nice and big.
They are triggered to bloom in the same way poinsettias are. That means when growing on the windowsill they are often turned into an Easter or Thanksgiving cactus.

I forgot about one out in my unheated greenhouse and it received the perfect light to be in full bloom on Christmas day.

For many gardeners a Christmas cactus becomes a family heirloom passed down for generations. I’ve done stories on plants that were 100 years old.

The rosemary tree is easy to find and a great gift for gardeners who cook. Give them a haircut here and there and use the trimming for cooking. The trick to keeping the alive over the winter is to make sure they stay moist, but do not over water.
Cyclamen needs constant moisture too, if they are allowed to dry out, they will die. They will bloom for months if given the right amount of water.
Not everyone loves the fragrance of paperwhites, but I do. They are white indoor daffodils which go to the compost after blooming since they are not hardy and tough to make rebloom.

Enjoy your holiday plants now and for years to come.

Come see “gardening” Santa at Hahn Nursery Saturday 12/13/14 from 1-3pm

December 3rd, 2014
Come see Santa for free at Hahn Nursery in Ross on Saturday 12/13/14 from 1-3pm.  Big and little kids will always enjoy time with Santa. Who knows, you might even get your gardening questions answered too!

Come see Santa for free at Hahn Nusery in Ross on Sunday 12/13/14 from 1-3pm.
Big and little kids will always enjoy time with Santa. Who knows, you might even get your gardening questions answered too!

Santa Claus will appear at Hahn Nursery in Ross at Babcock and Three Degree Rd. on Saturday 12/13/14 from 1-3 p.m. Stop by to see the old guy and get some cookies too! Call 412-635-7475 for more information.

Poinsettias are for more than the holidays. As seen on KDKA’s Pittsburgh Today Live

December 3rd, 2014

This poinsettia, from Janoski's Farm and Greenhouse is brand new and only has a number for a name. It's EK LUP 3511 and I love it!

This poinsettia, from Janoski’s Farm and Greenhouse is brand new and only has a number for a name. It’s EK LUP 3511 and I love it!

I love poinsettias, especially some of the “weirder” varieties. My favorite is a double called “Winter Rose.” But there’s certainly nothing wrong with the more traditional varieties. There’s a brand new one I saw at Janoski’s Farm and Greenhouse called EK LUP 3511. They are trying it out to see if this variety might be a winner.
Poinsettias can live for years both inside and outside.
Don’t throw your poinsettias away after the season. Not only will they keep their color for months, they are a cool garden plant too. By the way they are technically poison, but taste so awful, no child or animal would take more than a bite. They would have to eat a a plate full just to get a stomach ache.
I like all the weird ones, different colors and forms, but they all have similar growing requirements.
The first job is to remove the foil, place the plant on a saucer, you can use the plastic ones they sell at the garden center or old plates from the thrift store. This will allow water to go through the soil, flush out the bad stuff and the plant can drain properly. They like it a little on the dry side, just poke your finger into the soil. If it’s dry a couple inches down, add some water. Depending on the temperature of the house and the amount of light it gets, that might mean once a week.

Poinsettias need some light, and will only last a couple weeks if used as decorations up a dark staircase. Move them onto a table near a window.

There’s no reason to fertilize any indoor plants this time of the year, there isn’t enough light for them to process the nutrients. Wait until March to add some liquid organic fertilizer.

When there’s no chance of frost (around May 15 in our area), poinsettias can go outside and will make a handsome plant in the garden. Some folks will bring them in and out for years.

Getting them to bloom again is tough, requiring exactly 12 hours of light and the same time in the dark. That’s really hard to do unless you have a greenhouse. Back in the day gardeners would put the plant in the closet at night, then bring it back out into the daylight. What a pain, I wouldn’t bother. They will color up when they the light is right, but usually not as nicely as the plants from a good greenhouse.

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.