Archive for October, 2014

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

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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.

Thursday, 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).

Thursday, 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.