Jumpstarting the Spring Garden with Doug at Wholey’s Sunday 3/22/15. Free Cooking/Gardening Demo

March 18th, 2015

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

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

I’m back at Wholey’s Fish Market in the Strip on Sunday March 22, 2015 at 1 p.m.
I’ll be talking about things to plant early in the garden. I’ve already got peas, lettuce, carrots and other crops in the garden. I’ll explain how to grow outside the limits of first and last frost.
I’ve got lots of free seeds of spring crops for everyone who comes.
Then we’re going to get the grill going and make tuna steaks with a twist.
Hope to see you there.

Peas and other cool weather crops jump start the spring garden as seen on Pittsburgh Today Live

March 18th, 2015

Peas soaked in water overnight will germinate quicker in the cool spring soil.

Peas soaked in water overnight will germinate quicker in the cool spring soil.

St. Patrick’s Day marks the traditional start of the gardening season by planting peas, but there’s still another month at least to get some seeds in the ground. It’s thrilling to be back in the garden.
I plant Oregon Sugar II Snow Pea every spring, soaking the seeds overnight in water. They swell to three times their size and sprout easier in the cool spring soil. But this year I decided to have some fun and try a couple different varieties. ‘Golden Sweet Edible Pod’ is from India and produces tall vines covered in pale yellow snow peas. Beside having a beautiful name which rolls off the tongue, ‘Blauschokker’ grows pretty, purple podded shell peas. The peas themselves are lime green and they look amazing, it’s going to be fun to add color to the spring garden.

My garden is filled with raised beds, they dry out quick. But, it was a wet winter and the snow took its time melting. I bought $20 worth of compost (half yard) and piled it onto the beds and then planted directly in the compost.
There are lots of cool weather crops that can be planted now, lettuce, radishes, Swiss chard, beets and more.
Plant something now and you’ll be picking with “normal” gardeners are just getting getting started. And that feels good.

'Blauschokker,' what a beautiful name for a pea. But the pods are amazing!

‘Blauschokker,’ what a beautiful name for a pea. But the pods are amazing!

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

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.