Gardening With A Purpose!

All the latest trends indicate that we as a society are doing our gardening with a purpose in mind – growing our own food, creating urban ‘green’ spots, planting flowers for bees & pollinators, reclamation and restoration, changing the esthetics of our neighborhoods and communities for the better, etc.

Folks are becoming more in tune with nature and are promoting gardening for a multitude of reasons. Not only is it a great stress reliever and source of relaxation, beautiful & satisfying, it’s important to the health and well-being of the Earth and all of us. We are Earth’s guardians and for the time we are here its ‘caretakers’. At the Vermont Wildflower Farm we encourage gardening as a way to connect with nature, improve our environments, grow our own food and create urban ‘green’ areas in our communities. It’s also important to connect our younger generation with gardening. We have definitely seen a positive impact with this trend. Since early last year, we’ve seen a significant increase in those that have gardens in their backyards, while more than one-quarter have gardens in their front yard. With vegetable gardening up almost 20 percent and community gardens up 60 percent over last year, growing food for the table is certainly on the rise as is gardening with native plants, wildflowers and forbs for the benefit of our pollinators and wild creatures. We are pleased to see more and more backyard conservationists transforming their yards, gardens, rooftops and urban areas into green and productive spaces which can only make a positive impact!

Plants can live without us, but we cannot live without plants.

So, this season why not try your hand at something new and different that will have a definite impact – here are a few good choices:

Kid’s Gardening – Try our new ‘Easy Kid’s Garden’. Let your children experience becoming one with nature with easy to grow wildflowers. It will provide positive entertainment and will be beneficial in not only learning about gardening in a hands-on experience but it will also attract wonderful creatures from butterflies to bees and more, giving your kids a chance to experience everything first hand!

Urban Container Gardening – Those with small spaces can grow flower and herbs in an urban or city environment. If you do not have space for a vegetable or flower garden or if your present site is too small, consider raising fresh, nutritious, homegrown vegetables and herbs or try flower gardening in containers. A windowsill, patio, balcony, deck, roof top or doorstep can provide sufficient space for a productive container garden.

Rain Gardens – The plants in a rain garden are chosen for their ability to uptake and store water and to withstand drought. They are also extremely good at cleaning water of the nutrients and poisons that fill our lawns and gardens. A rain garden captures the run-off from major storms and stops it from flooding our already strained storm drains and sewage systems. So, add a rain garden to your area today.

‘Grow Your Own’ Gardening – Grow your own vegetable and herbs. You don’t have to start with a full blown vegetable garden. Why not try just tomatoes, lettuce and a few herbs. You can do this right on the deck of your home in containers or set aside a small area of your garden. It’s super easy and we’ll bet in no time you will expand it!

Native Plant or Wildflower Gardening – Use only native plants or wildflowers in an area of your landscape. Just take a small space and start an area of all native plants. They can be just as pretty as greenhouse annuals or perennials and the birds, bees and butterflies will love you.

Vertical, Floor or Table Gardening – Create an instantly lush vertical, floor or table garden and experience the magical fun of plants and flowers absolutely anywhere from your living room to your patio, kitchen counter or on the wall over your fire place. Virtually any space can be transformed.

 

 

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Why Annuals Are a Must Have For Your Garden!

Don’t be just a perennial kind of person because you miss out on the wonderful aspect of annuals in your garden. Annuals are those that flower for only one year but they really are an essential part of your garden and you should plant some each year. The seeds are easy to sow, germinate quickly and bloom in just a short period adding spectacular colors to your landscape and gardens.

 

 

When all danger of frost has passed plant them according to our instructions in borders, beds, pots, tubs, troughs, window boxes and hanging baskets or your meadows and fields. Annuals are extremely diverse. They can be tall, short, low growing and they have nice lush green foliage with a whole array of color flowers in all different shapes. A choice you shouldn’t pass on!

For us here at the Vermont Wildflower Farm, it is extremely hard to imagine our gardens without them. They will fill gaps in our mixed beds and borders and make a dazzling colorful display in our fields. The neat thing is you can stagger your seeding of them in spring and early summer so that you have these beautiful displays all summer long right into fall.

Most gardeners can’t wait for their annuals to burst into flower and every year they feel the same astonishment at their dazzling displays. Many annuals produce loads of seeds after flowering and all in different forms of seed pods, just ready for you to collect. So, why not try sowing them and collecting their seed to sow the following spring. These seeds are all for free and will produce the annuals for next growing season! Many annuals also self-seed profusely and as long as the seed hits the bare soil at the end of the season and are left undisturbed they will usually germinate where they have fallen next spring.

So what does it mean? Propagating annual gardening plants from seed is easy, they don’t need much attention just a good watering in hot or dry weather, their colorful displays are un-matched and you can collect their seed each year for next years bloom! Plus, if you want to quickly attract pollinator’s, annuals are a sure fire way to do that!

Many annuals are used by florists as they are ideal in floral arrangements. You can use them for pleasing indoor floral arrangements bringing the scent of outdoors indoors.

So, exactly what’s not to like??

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How Will A Warm Winter and Even Warmer Spring Effect My Gardens?

As many of us have experienced, the winter has been unusually mild with an extended period of warm temperatures and very little snow.

Most of us have already seen some buds swelling in the trees, on garden plants or bulb foliage peeking up through the ground. For some, it may not be too early but for many it is, especially those of us in the Northeast and Midwest.

So, what is the prognosis and should we be worried about it? Well, the short answer is that there really isn’t anything special to do to help your plants. It would be difficult for us to predict if there will be any adverse effects of an unusually mild winter and early spring warm period but personally we’re not concerned about any of our plants or flowers, so neither should you. We suggest you take advantage of the warm weather and get outside. Prepare your soil, clean up any areas you need to and if you didn’t get to it this fall, now is a good time to mulch around trees, shrubs and perennials.

Any bulb foliage you have peeking through now will likely, for most, be touched by a frost or low temperatures at some point through April, Early May. What happens if this occurs is it may turn the edges of the leaves brown and dry, but it will have no lasting effect or hurt the plant and will not stop it from blooming.

 

Native plants will fare the best, since they are well adapted to the temperature extremes in your area.

Continue your basic garden practices as you have always done. You may want to pay some extra attention to anything you wintered over in containers. They continue losing water through their leaves in winter, especially during warm and dry periods, and will perform better if you water them as needed.

Get ready for sowing your wildflower seed but make sure if you are in colder regions that normally get a frost in April-May, that you don’t jump the gun and sow your seed too early. A heavy frost will damage your annuals if they germinate and perhaps some perennials. It is great to purchase your wildflower seed now before the big spring rush of April and May occur, but don’t get over excited and sow it too early. Just store in a cool, dry place and your seeds will be just fine. Keep an eye on the weather and when it looks right and you are positive there is no further chance of frost/cold, it is time sow. Since weather patterns have been unpredictable, do a staggered seeding by sowing half of your purchase at the appropriate time and the other half a bit later. This will insure that if the weather has an extreme change and a cold snap occurs that was unforeseen, you still have half your seed to sow and you won’t have a total loss. Best practice is to sow when you normally do each year and enjoy your wildflowers this summer!!  

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In Today’s Cuisine Edible flowers Are ‘All That’

After being left by the wayside for many years, cooking and garnishing with flowers is back in style once again. Many chefs and innovative home cooks are garnishing their entrees with flower blossoms for a touch of elegance. The secret to success when using edible flowers is to keep the dish simple and not add too many other flavors that will over power the delicate taste of the flower. Today this nearly lost art is enjoying a revival. Flower cookery can be traced back to several cultures such as the Roman, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Indian.

Important Things to Always Keep in Mind

NOT EVERY FLOWER IS EDIBLE

DON’T USE PESTICIDES/CHEMICALS on ANY PLANT That Produces Blossoms

DO NOT COLLECT FLOWERS ALONG ROADSIDES

IDENTIFY YOUR FLOWERS AND WHAT PARTS YOU CAN ACTUALLY EAT

USE THEM SPARINGLY

 

Edibles to Choose From and Their Uses:

Flowers

Tuberous Begonias
(Begonia X tuberosa) – The leaves, flowers, and stems are edible. Begonia blossoms have a citrus-sour taste. The petals are used in salads and as a garnish. Stems, also, can be used in place of rhubarb. The flowers and stems contain oxalic acid and should not be consumed by individuals suffering from gout, kidney stones, or rheumatism.

Calendula                                                                                                                                             A Wonderful edible flower. Flavors range from spicy to bitter, tangy to peppery. Their sharp taste resembles saffron (also known as Poor Man’s Saffron). Pretty petals in golden-orange hues. Use them on soups, pasta or rice dishes, herb butters, and salads. Petals add a yellow tint to soups, spreads, and scrambled eggs.

Hollyhock                                                                                                                                        Very bland tasting flavor but pretty flowers for adornment.

Carnations                                                                                                                             (Dianthus caryophyllus – aka Dianthus) – Carnations can be steeped in wine, candy, or use as cake decoration. To use their surprisingly sweet petals in desserts, cut them away from the white base of the flower. Dianthus are the miniature member of the carnation family with light clove-like or nutmeg scent. Petals add color to salads or aspics. Carnation petals are one of secret ingredients that has been used to make Chartreuse, a French liqueur, since the 17th century.

Chrysanthemums                                                                                                     (Chrysanthemum coronarium) – Tangy, slightly bitter, ranging in colors from red, white, yellow and orange. They range in taste from faint peppery to mild cauliflower. They should be blanched first and then scatter the petals on a salad. The leaves can also be used to flavor vinegar. Always remove the bitter flower base and use the petals only. Young leaves and stems of the Crown Daisy, also known as Chop Suey Greens or Shingiku in Japan, are widely used in oriental stir-fries and as salad seasoning.

Cornflower                                                                                                                                Also called Bachelor’s button. They have a slightly sweet to spicy, clove-like flavor. Bloom is a natural food dye. More commonly used as garnish.

Dame’s  Rocket                                                                                                                                       Also called Sweet Rocket or Dame’s Violet. This plant is often mistaken for Phlox. Phlox has five petals, Dame’s Rocket has just four. The flowers, which resemble phlox, are deep lavender, and sometimes pink to white. The plant is part of the mustard family, which also  includes radishes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and, mustard. The plant and flowers are edible, but fairly bitter. The flowers are attractive added to green salads. The young leaves can also be added to your salad greens (for culinary purposes, the leaves should be picked before the plant flowers). The seed can also be sprouted and added to salads. NOTE: It is not the same variety as the herb commonly called Rocket, which is used as a green in salads.

Dandelions                                                                                                                                                     Member of the Daisy family. Flowers are sweetest when picked young. They have a sweet, honey-like flavor. Mature flowers are bitter. Dandelion buds are tastier than the flowers: best to pick these when they are very close to the ground, tightly bunched in the center, and about the size of a small gumball. Good raw or steamed. Also made into wine. Young leaves taste good steamed, or tossed in salads. When serving a rice dish use dandelion petals like confetti over the rice.

Daylily                                                                                                                                                      Slightly sweet with a mild vegetable flavor, like sweet lettuce or melon. Their flavor is a combination of asparagus and zucchini. Chewable consistency. Some people think that different colored blossoms have different flavors. To use the surprisingly sweet petals in desserts, cut them away from the bitter white base of the flower. Also great to stuff like squash blossoms. Flowers look beautiful on composed salad platters or crowning a frosted cake. Sprinkle the large petals in a spring salad. In the spring, gather shoots two or three inches tall and use as a substitute for asparagus. NOTE: Many Lilies contain alkaloids and are NOT edible. Day Lilies may act as a diuretic or laxative; eat in moderation.

Johnny-Jump-Ups                                                                                                                     Lovely yellow, white and purple blooms have a mild wintergreen flavor and can be used in salads, to decorate cakes, or served with soft cheese. They are also a great addition to drinks, soups, desserts or salads.

Nasturtiums                                                                                                                                 Comes in varieties ranging from trailing to upright and in brilliant sunset colors with peppery flavors. Nasturtiums rank among most common edible flowers. Blossoms have a sweet, spicy flavor similar to watercress. Stuff whole flowers with savory mousse. Leaves add peppery tang to salads. Pickled seed pods are less expensive substitute for capers. Use entire flowers to garnish platters, salads, cheese tortas, open-faced sandwiches, and savory appetizers.

Pansy                                                                                                                                             (Viola X wittrockiana) – Pansies have a slightly sweet green or grassy flavor. If you eat only the petals, the flavor is extremely mild, but if you eat the whole flower, there is a wintergreen overtone. Use them as garnishes, in fruit salads, green salad, desserts or in soups.

English Daisy                                                                                                                                                                               The flowers have a mildly bitter taste and are most commonly used for their looks than their flavor. The petals are used as a garnish and in salads.

Gladiolus                                                                                                                                           Flowers (anthers must be removed) have a nondescript flavor (taste vaguely like lettuce) but make lovely receptacles for sweet or savory spreads or mousses. Toss individual petals in salads. It can also be cooked like a day lily.

Peony                                                                                                                                          (Paeonia lactiflora) – In China the fallen petals are parboiled and sweetened as a tea-time delicacy. Peony water was used for drinking in the middle ages. Add peony petals to your summer salad or try floating in punches and lemonades.

Sunflower                                                                                                                                 (Helianthus annus) – The flower is best eaten in the bud stage when it tastes similar to artichokes. Once the flower opens, the petals may be used like chrysanthemums, the flavor is distinctly bittersweet. The unopened flower buds can also be steamed like artichokes.


Herb Flowers:

Most herb flowers are just as useful and tasty as their foliage. Makes a very attractive feature when used in salads. Add some petals to any dish you were already going to flavor with the herb.

Alliums                                                                                                                                         (Leeks, Chives, Garlic, Garlic chives) – Known as the “Flowering Onions.” There are approximately four hundred species that includes the families of onion, garlic, chives, ramps, and shallots. All members of this genus are edible. Their flavors range from mild onions and leeks right through to strong onion and garlic. All parts of the plants are edible. The flowers tend to have a stronger flavor than the leaves. Most of us just eat the leaves and flowers mainly in salads. The leaves can also be cooked as a flavoring with other vegetables in soups, etc.

Anise Hyssop                                                                               Both flowers and leaves have a delicate anise or licorice flavor. Some people say the flavor reminds them of root beer. The blossoms make attractive plate garnishes and are often used in Chinese-style dishes. Excellent in salads.

Basil                                                                                                                                             Depending on the type, the flowers are either bright white, pale pink, or a delicate lavender. The flavor of the flower is milder, but similar to the leaves of the same plant. Basil also has different varieties that have different milder flavors like lemon and mint. Sprinkle them over salad or pasta for a concentrated flavor and a spark of color that gives any dish a fresh, festive look

Bee Balm                                                                                                                                               Also called Wild Bergamot, Wild Oswego Tea, Horsemint, Monarda. Wild bee balm tastes like oregano and mint. The taste of bee balm is reminiscent of citrus with soft mingling of lemon and orange. The red flowers have a minty flavor. Any place you use oregano, you can use bee balm blossoms. The leaves and flower petals can also be used in both fruit and regular salads. The leaves taste like the main ingredient in Earl Gray Tea and can be used as a substitute.

Borage                                                                                                                                         Blossoms and leaves have a cool, faint cucumber taste. Wonderful in punches, lemonade, gin and tonics, sorbets, chilled soups, cheese tortas, and dips.

Chicory                                                                                                                                         Earthy flavor, eat either the petals or the buds. Chicory has a pleasant, mild-bitter taste that has been compared to endive. The buds can be pickled.

Cilantro/Coriander                                                                                                                       Like the leaves and seeds, the flowers have a strong herbal flavor. Use leaves and flowers raw as the flavor fades quickly when cooked. Sprinkle to taste on salads, bean dishes, and cold vegetable dishes.

Dill                                                                                                                                                  Tangy; like their leaves, but stronger. Use yellow dill flowers as you would the herb to season hot or cold soups, seafood, dressings, and dips. The seeds are used in pickling and baking.

Fennel                                                                                                                                                It has a star-burst yellow flowers that have a mild anise flavor. Use with desserts or cold soups, or as a garnish with your entrees.

Lavender                                                                                                                                    (Lavandula angustifolia) – Sweet, floral flavor, with lemon and citrus notes. Flowers look beautiful and taste good too in a glass of champagne, with chocolate cake, or as a garnish for sorbets or ice creams. Lavender lends itself to savory dishes also, from hearty stews to wine-reduced sauces. Diminutive blooms add a mysterious scent to custards, flans or sorbets. NOTE: Do not consume lavender oil unless you absolutely know that it has not be sprayed and is culinary safe.

Marjoram                                                                                                                                      Flowers are a milder version of plant’s leaf. Use as you would the herb.

Rosemary                                                                                                                                     Fresh or dried herb and blossoms enhance flavor of Mediterranean dishes. Use with meats, seafoods, sorbets or dressings.

Sage                                                                                                                                              (Salvia officinalis) – Flowers have a subtler sage taste than the leaves and can be used in salads and as a garnish. Flowers are a delicious companion to many foods including beans, corn dishes, sauteed or stuffed mushrooms, or pesto sauce.


Vegetable Flowers:

Did you know that broccoli, cauliflower, and artichokes are all flowers? The general rule is that the flowers of most vegetables and herbs are safe to eat. Always check first, because as with anything in life, there will always be exceptions. NOTE: Avoid – the flowers of tomato, potato, eggplant, peppers and asparagus.

Arugula                                                                                                                                         An Italian green usually appreciated raw in salads or on sandwiches. The flowers are small, white with dark centers and can be used in the salad for a light piquant flavor. The flowers taste very similar to the leaves and range in color from white to yellowish with dark purple veins.  Arugula resembles radish leaves in both appearance and taste. Leaves are compound and have a spicy, peppery flavor that starts mild in young leaves and intensifies as they mature.

Broccoli Florets                                                                                                                             The top portion of broccoli is actually flower buds. As the flower buds mature, each will open into a bright yellow flower, which is why they are called florets. Small yellow flowers have a mild spiciness (mild broccoli flavor), and are delicious in salads or in a stir-fry or steamer.

Okra                                                                                                                                                   It has hibiscus-like flowers and seed pods that, when picked tender, produce a delicious vegetable dish when stewed or fried. When cooked it resembles asparagus yet it may be left raw and served in a cold salad. The ripe seeds have been used as a substitute for coffee; the seed can be dried and powdered for storage and future use.

Pea Blossoms                                                                                                                                  Edible garden peas bloom mostly in white, but may have other pale coloring. The blossoms are slightly sweet and crunchy and they taste like peas. The shoots and vine tendrils are edible, with a delicate, pea-like flavor. Here again, remember that harvesting blooms will diminish your pea harvest, so you may want to plant extra. NOTE: Flowering ornamental sweet peas are poisonous – do not eat.

Radish Flowers                                                                                                                       Depending on the variety, flowers may be pink, white or yellow, and will have a distinctive, spicy bite (has a radish flavor). Best used in salads. The Radish shoots with their bright red or white tender stalks are very tasty and are great sautéed or in salads.

Squash Blossoms                                                                                                                        Squash and pumpkin blossoms are edible and taste mildly of raw squash. Prepare the blossoms by washing and trimming the stems and remove the stamens. Squash blossoms are usually taken off the male plant, which only provides pollen for the female.

Try Our Incredible Edible Mix!

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Drought Tolerant Perennials

Ask any experienced gardener and they will tell about different times when they have had issues with watering. You may never have had to worry about water shortages but sometimes even depending on spring rains at some point in certain areas we have to abide by new water rules or deal with what Mother Nature is handing out. While some gardeners continue uphill battles keeping their gardens watered others are now trying to work with climate changes. They are replacing high maintenance, water hungry annuals and perennials with drought tolerant ones that thrive with little or no attention on a yearly basis. There is now a wide selection of drought tolerant plants available on today’s market. You can choose from beautiful flowering plants in a multitude of colors and sizes. Just keep in mind that some are more tolerant of dry conditions than others.

What do drought tolerant plants look like? The description in itself “drought tolerant” most likely makes one think of cacti or desert plants and of course, these plants are definitely tolerant of dry conditions, but there are also many others to consider. Often, drought tolerant plants have a unique leaf structure such as:                                               Fine lacy foliage-reduced leaf surface means less water lost through surface evaporation Thick, succulent or waxy leaves-thick leaves store more moisture                           Hairy or fuzzy leaves-fine hairs keep moisture trapped at the leaf surface.

Most drought tolerant plants also have deep roots that seek moisture well below the soil surface. Some send up masses of fine feeder roots to collect available moisture at the surface and send it down below to the main roots.

 
 Where do drought tolerant plants grow best? Most drought tolerant plants perform best in hot, dry climates in full sun and well-drained soil. The most obvious form of this climate is desert, but you might not think that parts of the average homeowner’s yard which are perpetually dry are perfect places to grow drought tolerant plants. They are extremely effective where it is difficult to water or where water evaporates quickly such as on sunny slopes or next to pavement. The best practice for drought tolerant plants is to group them together in the areas you wish them, so they’re easier to manage.

 

Here are some general guidelines for the culture of drought tolerant plants.

SOIL – Well-drained, loose soil is best. Loose soil allows the roots to grow deep where the moisture is held. Many, also benefit from the addition of organic matter to the soil, which helps add nutrients and hold moisture. If your soil is heavy, add small rocks or coarse sand to improve drainage.

WATER – Even the most drought tolerant perennials require supplemental water until they are established. The smaller the root system, the more water they’ll need, but the general rule is one inch of water per week (including rain). Less frequent but deep waterings are better for plants than more frequent but light waterings because it encourages them to send their roots down deeper into the soil. As the plants begin to grow and thrive on their own, gradually decrease the amount of supplemental water.

MULCH – Mulch your drought tolerant perennials with about two inches of organic material such as shredded bark or leaves. Do not use stone as a mulch–it holds heat and reflects light which can damage the plants.

FERTILIZER – Use fertilizer sparingly on drought tolerant plants. If they begin to show signs of decline or discoloration, it’s time to fertilize.

DIVISION – Most drought tolerant perennials will perform admirably for years without being divided. Exceptions include the most vigorous or prolific perennials such as daylilies, hostas, and tall bearded irises.
The following plants have been reported to be drought tolerant in many areas of the country. We offer each variety in different forms – Plants or Seed. Each is marked accordingly. Click Here To Browse Perennials or Click Here to Browse Seeds

 
Drought Tolerant Suggested Plants
Yarrow – Available in Seed and Plants                                                                                        Queen Anne’s Lace (Bishop’s Flower) – Available in Seed                                              Hollyhocks – Available in Seed and Plant                                                                               Butterfly Weed – Available in Seed and Plants                                                                           Astilbes – Available in Plants                                                                                                      Indigo – Available in Seed and Plants                                                                                       Blackberry Lily – Available in Plants                                                                                          Butterfly Bush – Available in Plants                                                                                          Daylily – Available in Plants                                                                                                         Hostas – Available in Plants                                                                                                         Candytuft – Available in Seed                                                                                                     Gloxinia – Available in Bulbs                                                                                                            Bearded Iris – Available in Plants                                                                                                 Lavender – Available in Seed and Plants                                                                                     Blazing Star- Available in Seed and Plants                                                                                   Blue Flax- Available in Seed                                                                                                                 Rose Mallow- Available in Seed                                                                                                        Catmint – Available in Plants                                                                                                         Evening Primrose- Available in Seed                                                                                        Peonies – Available in Plants                                                                                                           Poppies- Available in Seed and Plants                                                                                               Beard Tongue- Available in Seed and Plants                                                                                     Sage- Available in Seed and Plant                                                                                            Cornflower- Available in Seed                                                                                                        Valerian – Available in Plants                                                                                                       Snow-in-Summer- Available in Seed                                                                                             Coreopsis- Available in Seed and Plants                                                                                             Creeping Phlox – Available in Plants                                                                                              Pampass Grass – Available in Plants                                                                                                 Sweet William- Available in Seed and Plant Form                                                                         Black-eyed Susan- Available in Seed                                                                                            Foxglove- Available in Seed                                                                                                         Coneflower- Available in Seed and Plant Form                                                                                 Sage- Available in Seed and Plant Form                                                                                             Hens & Chicks – Available in Plants                                                                                             Blanket Flower- Available in Seed                                                                                           Painted Daisy – Available in Seed                                                                                                   Creeping Thyme- Available in Seed and Plant Form                                                                      Baby’s Breath- Available in Seed                                                                                                       Lenten Rose – Available in Plants                                                                                                Mullein- Available in Seed                                                                                                                 We also suggest trying our Dry Area Mix

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How To Create Your Own Italian Herb Garden

Add pizzazz to your cooking by using your own home grown Italian herbs. Growing your own Italian herbs involves a few seeds, a dash of knowhow, and a pinch of patience. Mix the three together and you will soon have a garden of herbs waiting to enrich the flavor of your next Italian meal. This article will address four common herbs found in nearly all Italian gardens, plus some useful tips to help determine the overall design.

BASIL

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There are a variety of basil species available on the market. The most common variety for cooking is called sweet basil which is used frequently in Italian cooking. Basil can be used in many ways to create simple dishes, such as tomato basil salad or tomato and basil with pasta. If planting by seed, start in late March or 3 weeks prior to the last frost date. Make sure the temperature is at least 65 degrees F. not dipping below 50 degrees F. during the night. Make sure the soil is rich with lots of organic matter and has good water drainage. Pre-moisten the soil and sift it to help with aeration. Sow the seeds on the soil with adequate spacing. Tamper the soil lightly then add a 1/4 inch of soil gently on top to cover the seeds. Sprinkle gently with water. Continue to water on a regular basis making sure the soil does not dry out. Within 7 to 10 days the seeds will begin to sprout. Once sprouted, thin the seedlings 4 or 5 inches apart to avoid overcrowding. Do not pull the seedlings up by their roots as this could cause damage to the roots of nearby plants. Instead use a scissors and cut at the base of the plant. To keep your basil bushy, pinch off right above the larger leaves when the shoots are approximately 3 inches in height. Use a good fertilizer such as fish emulsion. Spray directly onto the plant every 2 weeks while the herbs are growing, then once a month for the remainder of the season.

PARSLEY

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Although often used as a decorative garnish positioned on the side of many pasta dishes, the Italians have long recognized its usefulness in many culinary recipes. Fresh chopped parsley can be used in pastas as well as chicken and other meat dishes such as leg of lamb. There are two types of parsley -curly and flat leaf, which is also called Italian parsley. Each variety has distinct characteristics. The curly parsley is more commonly grown, but the flat leaf is also good to have on hand. Both require the samegrowing conditions. To plant from seed, it is recommended to soak the seeds in warm water up to 24 hours prior to planting. This step will speed up the germination process. Parsley has a longer germination period than other Italian herbs, taking as long as 4-6 weeks. Plant the seeds 1/2 an inch deep with spacing of approximately 6-7 inches between each seed. Cover the seeds gently with soil and pat lightly. Parsley benefits greatly when a layer of bone meal is added to the top layer of the soil. If planting multiple rows of parsley, keep the rows at least 7 inches apart since the plants will spread. Water each week keeping the soil moist but not water logged. The soil must have good drainage and should be fertilized only one time while the plants are growing. It can take up to 6 weeks for parsley to germinate, therefore it is good to get an early start and plant the seeds in mid or late March after the last frost date. Make sure the soil is warm, at least 75 degrees F. The plants will begin to grow by late April or early May. Thin the plants between 7 and 10 inches when they start to grow. Use an organic fertilizer or feed once a month during growth and harvesting. The plants will be ready for harvesting within 3 months. To help keep the soil moist under the parsley, add some light mulch to prevent overexposure to the heat of the sun.

OREGANO

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What is a pizza without oregano? If it wasn’t for the soldiers after WWII raving about their overseas oregano spiced pizza, it may not have become as popular as it is today. Oregano is an Italian classic. There are different types of oregano, Greek is the most common variety used in Mediterranean regions. Start planting oregano seeds a few weeks before the last frost date in an area which receives full sunlight. The temperature should be no less than 45 degrees F. The soil should not be a rich soil and should provide good water drainage. Interestingly in the case of oregano, a rich soil will weaken the flavor of the herb. Plant the seeds ¼ inch deep in the soil. If planting in multiple rows remember that these plants can grow to 20 inches wide. Use an organic time released fertilizer only once at this point. It will take up to a week for the seeds to germinate. Once the plants are small seedlings, thin them out to 10 and 12 inches apart. Use a liquid fertilizer every 2 – 3 weeks. Be careful not to over fertilize the herbs. Unlike basil or even parsley, oregano is not a thirsty herb and does best with just a weekly or bi-weekly watering. Once the herbs are mature, pick off any flowers as this will help promote faster growth.

FENNEL

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Related to parsley, this herb is also called sweet fennel or finocchio. It develops feathery branches sometimes reaching 4 feet in height. The bulb of the fennel can be prepared like an onion, although it tastes much sweeter. In addition the leaves can be used in salads. To grow fennel, plant the seeds after the last frost in an area which has full sunlight. Make sure the soil is rich, has good water drainage and the temperature is at least 59 degrees F. If you need to add some fertilizer to help the soil’s nutrient content, use a good organic feed. Sow approximately a foot apart keeping in mind these seeds grow into tall bushy plants. If planting in multiple rows, allow for 3 feet between each row. Germination takes between 1 to 2 weeks, at which point it takes about 3 months to become a mature plant. Water the fennel frequently during the germination period until shoots start to appear. At this point, water at most 2 times a week. Do not be surprised if you need to stake the plants if they get too big. Humans are not the only ones who enjoy fennel, aphids do as well. Try to keep the fennel away from other aphid attracting herbs, such as oregano.

DESIGNERS CORNER

There are many ways to create a garden. Your choice may be due to personal preference or your circumstances may make the choice for you. Here are three points to consider when planning for your garden.
1. Location – Choose an area which receives 8 hours of full sunlight. The four herbs listed in this article all require full sun. Not only do you want full sun, but choose a location which is convenient. Last minute dashes to the garden for a few leaves of basil should not involve walking to the far end of a large backyard. Keep the garden in close proximity while making sure the house or other structures do not block the sunlight.
2. Size – This is perhaps one of the harder parts of the equation to figure out. A simple solution is to decide how many plants you want of each herb, and then figure out the maturity size of each plant. Diagram it out and you will be able to determine the approximate size required for your garden.
3. Aesthetics – Some gardeners get double usage out of their plants by strategically growing them in various areas around the yard to act as decorative foliage. For example, oregano acts as wonderful edging while fennel with its flowery and feathery long stems can be used as an ornamental bush. Another idea is to design your garden with a specific shape such as a semicircle to add softness to your landscaping. Planting the herbs around a statue or other objectlike a sun dial is another decorative idea.

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Creating your own garden can have many benefits. From making fresh tomato basil salad served in decorative herb pasta bowls to roasted chicken with a parsley and garlic rub – your Italian herb garden will not only enhance the decor of your landscape, but also the flavors of your meals.

This article is contributed by Elizabeth Krause. She grew up in an Italian home where gardening and cooking went hand in hand. It wasn’t until later in life she decided to rekindle the joy of gardening and discovered a new love for cooking simple and fresh Italian dishes, especially pasta recipes Today she publishes her own Italian website where she shares her experiences. She enjoys cooking and experimenting alongside her husband in the kitchen. After returning from a trip to Italy, she got an Italian espresso maker for a stovetop and fell in love with the conveniences of simple style cooking. She and her husband hope to return to Italy and cook side by side with their Italian relatives.
Visit Liz’s Website today for more great stuff: Click here

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Strawberries – So Easy to Grow in Your Own Garden!

Strawberries are so yummy and who wouldn’t want to grow them right in their backyard? They are one of the easiest to grow fruit crops and will bring a huge reward to the home gardener as they produce ample harvests that last year after year. Each strawberry plant produces one quart with the right conditions. So, how do you do it??

HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR PLANTS

There are 3 types to choose from but we feel the best is the everbearing strawberry which produces 2-3 harvests of fruit during the spring, summer & fall. They do not send out many runners.

WHERE SHOULD I PLANT MY STRAWBERRIES?

You should consider the following when choosing a site to plant your strawberries.

-       Full Sun

-       Well drained soil, loose loam is best

-       They shouldn’t be planted where you have previously or recently grown tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or eggplants

HOW DO I PLANT MY STRAWBERRIES?

The hilling method for everbearing strawberries is best, here are the requirements you should apply to do this:

-       Plant in spring as so as the soil can be worked or in late fall

-       Be sure of the source you are receiving your plants from

-       Amend the soil by adding 1-2 inches of organic matter/soil

-       Keep weeds from competing

-       Make sure the hole you provide is large enough to spread out the roots of your plant.

Hill the center of the hole and place the crown at soil level and spread the roots downward on the hill and then bury the plant so that the soil only goes approx. half way up the crown.

DO I NEED TO MULCH MY STRAWBERRY BED?

The short answer is yes. Mulch between the plants after they are planted to the keep the soil temp cool. It will also help deter the weeds and keep the fruit off the soil. Straw is traditional strawberry bed mulch. We like it best. Do not use black plastic since it raises the soil temps.

DO I WATER MY STRAWBERRIES?

Of course you do! 1-2 inches of water per week is need for nice, big juicy fruit. Water is very important while the fruit is forming, from early to end of each harvest.

SHOULD I FERTILIZE?

Starting with a rich, organic soil is great and you can use a fertilizer that is well balanced, like 10-10-10 at a planting rate of one lb. per 100 sq. ft. You can fertilize again for the everbearing strawberries after the second harvest. Do not over fertilize so it doesn’t result in excessive leaf growth and poor flowers. Never fertilize your strawberry plants late in the season for colder climates so you prevent new growth late in the season which will be damaged by frost.

WHERE DO I GET MY EVERBEARING STRAWBERRIES?

You can get them from us in our 50% Off Advance Sale! You can see them here and read about each variety we offer!

ENJOY, EAT and BE BERRY!

 

 

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Cool Facts About the Visitors to Your Gardens – We bet there’s at least one of them you didn’t know!

We all get wildlife visitors to our gardens.  While we all have certain likes and dislikes regarding who might be visiting our garden, we should all try and enjoy god’s creations – just as long as they are not eating our hard work, right? We’ll talk about organic options in another blog to control those you don’t want in your garden but in the meantime, here are some facts about garden creatures we thought you might find enjoyable!

Hummingbirds are able to fly up, down, forward, backward and sideways. They can stop in midair. Hummingbirds are famous for their aerial display. Some displays are courtship displays; other displays are aggressive. Hummingbirds fly great distances when they are migrating. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird migrates approximately 600 miles across the Gulf of Mexico.

Did you know that the only natural enemy of a bumblebee is a skunk! Bet you didn’t!

Robins and Wrens will find the strangest places to nest. Any odd place for them to build their nest, you can be certain they’ll find it. Greenhouses, sheds, open covered areas, decks and even clothing on a clothes line if left hanging too long.

Blackbirds take separate vacations from their mate but never forget their love for that mate. In spring, they will always return to their regular partner to hatch new babies each year.

Starlings are one of the most incredible garden birds. They can actually copy the sounds of other animals perfectly. They can also mimic machines, frogs, mammals and other bird songs. Wow!

Did you know that Robin’ s care for all birds? If they find a hungry baby chick in another nest, they will go out and get food for it before the real chick’s parents return. Now, that’s the way it should work for all creatures!

Did you know Songbirds evolved about 50 million years ago?

Dragonflies are the world’s fastest insects and, although estimates of their speed vary wildly, most credible authorities say they are capable of reaching speeds of between 30 and 60 km/h (19 to 38 mph).

The Monarch themselves are not threatened but monarch migration is a threatened phenomenon.  Monarchs also have an effective chemical defense to protect them from predation; when they eat milkweed, they sequester the poisonous cardiac glycosides in the milkweed. Cardiac glycosides are poisonous to vertebrates; as a result, most monarchs face little predation from frogs, lizards, mice, birds and other species with backbones. Their bright colors also serve as a warning to predators that they contain these poisonous chemicals.

A ladybug beats its wings 85 times a second when it flies. Aphids are a ladybug’s favorite food. Ladybugs chew from side to side and not up and down like people do. Ladybugs make a chemical that smells and tastes terrible so that birds and other predators won’t eat them. If you squeeze a ladybug it will bite you, but the bite won’t hurt. The spots on a ladybug fade as the ladybug gets older. During hibernation, ladybugs feed on their stored fat. Ladybugs won’t fly if the temperature is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Did you know that rabbits absolutely love licorice? They can sniff it from a mile away but they shouldn’t eat it because rabbits cannot digest sugar.

Did you know that research has shown that whitetail deer actually make up to 400 different vocalizations? Most of the vocalizations they make are so soft only skilled observers can recognize them. In fact they are sometimes mistaken for insects buzzing and other background noises.

Garter (garden) snake babies are born live, usually 20 to 40 at a time. The largest number of babies born at one time is 98!

Toads use their eyeballs to help swallow their prey

Skunk babies are born blind and a skunk always warns before spraying: it turns its back to the target, hisses, and stamps its feet. You should move quickly LOL!

 

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Creating A Butterfly Garden – Easy How To Information

Everyone loves butterflies and as they flit around your garden visiting all the flower treasures, it is enchanting to watch. Butterflies are just about as beautiful to look at as the flowers that attract them. Let’s talk about creating a butterfly garden and how to do it! It is really very easy and most likely you will find flowers in your garden that already are attractive to butterflies so with a bit of extra effort you can create a truly beautiful and beneficial haven for these winged creatures and the butterflies will love you for it!

Location: Choose a spot that is not isolated from other plants. Butterflies are more comfortable in an area with other plants and flowers. It will also be easier to get from one plant or flower to another. Butterflies will spend more time in your yard if they have enticing plants to choose from rather than a sea of grass with scattered patches of flowers.

What Should My Garden Include? There are a variety of plants that attract butterflies and those you choose should be varied in color and height. Consider shrubs like Lilac, Weigela, Azaleas, Rhododendron and Butterfly Bush. While butterfly bushes are considered invasive by many folks, you can always purchase a sterile variety that does not drop seeds like ‘Grande Vanilla’. When choosing wildflowers you must have Butterfly Weed. Butterflies are attracted to its bright orange color but it also provides food for caterpillars. No caterpillar, no butterfly! Herbs like Dill and Parsley are also a good food source. Common milkweed is one of the few plants in which the Monarch Butterfly will lay its eggs. Common perennial wildflowers to use are Hollyhocks, Black-eyed Susans, Purple Coneflower, Bee Balm, Cleome, Cosmos, Sedum and Asters. Add in a few annuals for quick bloom like Baby’s Breath, Lemon Mint, Red Poppies, Dwarf Sunflower, Catchfly, Nasturtium and Zinnia. You can also try our Hummingbird/Butterfly Mix!

Planning Your Garden: You should insure that you will have bloom for your entire growing season. The bushes like lilac, rhododendrons and azaleas provide a good source of food in spring. These will be followed by the annuals for first year and perennial wildflowers for second and successive years. In the fall, asters, butterfly bushes, butterfly weed and sedum will keep them fed right up until they migrate.

 

What Else Should I Have in My Butterfly Garden: Along with flowers for food and other sources, your garden should also include a place for butterflies to rest and give shelter from wind, rain and cold. To create a shelter, try a small pile of logs, if not you can purchase a butterfly house which comes with slots that the butterflies enter and perches for them to rest. It keeps predators out as well. Just check your butterfly houses periodically to insure wasps and others don’t start nesting or your butterflies won’t enter. Try some flat rocks in the garden, butterflies love to sun themselves. If you can find flat rocks with a shallow indentation, this will also allow water to collect and give your butterfly colony a place to drink. If not, purchase a butterfly feeder. They work really well. The best thing you should add to your butterfly garden is an iron chair or some type of bench where you can sit and enjoy the beautiful butterflies. After all, this is why you have created the garden so that both you and the butterflies can enjoy it!

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PERENNIALS – The Mainstay of Your Gardens

PERENNIAL EDUCATION

What Are Perennials?

Technically, perennials are plants that live and bloom for more than 2 years. This is in contrast to annuals that live for one year and die. Some varieties of perennials are short-lived (lasting 3-4 years) but most have very long life spans such as peonies which have been known to live 100 years or more! Perennials come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. The best thing about perennials is that you only have to plant them once and then they come back bigger and better every year. What a great investment! An important distinction between annuals and perennials is that most perennials need to be vernalized (exposed to cold temperatures for a prolonged period of time) in order to bloom every year. Most perennials bloom once per season, but some re-bloom again in late summer or fall. New advancements in hybridizing are expanding the population of perennials that bloom continuously for many months at a time. Other perennials, such as hostas and ornamental grass, are grown for their decorative foliage rather than flowers.

How Do I Use Perennials In My Garden?

There are lots of ways to use perennials in your yard, garden or landscaping. Mixing up the gardens is very popular by combining annuals with perennials, and woody plants. Single varieties of perennials are sometimes planted in large patches alongside a driveway or fence line. You can fill planters with a mix of annuals and perennials which has become increasingly common in modern landscapes. Of the many perennials available today, there is something for every growing environment: sun, shade, hot & dry, cold & wet, and everything else.

How Do Your Perennials Come?

Our perennials come in three forms: bare roots, plant plugs or potted plants. You will find this information on each species pages. We select the form in which the plant will be shipped to you for specific reasons. Since the shipping of plants is a delicate matter and great care must be taken, we select each species by 2 criteria; what is better for that species performance wise i.e. better started as a bare root or plug or potted or what is better for that species shipping wise depending on growth rates of a particular variety. For example, we ship Columbines as plant plugs since they are just breaking dormancy and have small top growth as a plug vs. a more mature potted plant which is delicate and would get damaged during shipment. Baptisia, for example, is shipped as a bare root because they have more eyes, and are bigger and better when grown from a bare root than receiving one as a plug or potted plant etc. etc.  Most of our bareroots and plants are 1-2 years old and have already been through a bloom stage, so most will bloom for you the first year!

What is a Bare Root, Plant Plug or Potted Plant?

A bare root is the root of a plant in a dormant state, and depending on the species, will have eyes or sprouts. It is a plant that is sold with the roots exposed, rather than potted in soil. Bare roots are healthy and usually grow quickly depending on the species. A plant plug is the general term for seedlings or rooted cuttings that have been started in trays of individual cells. Plant plugs have healthy root systems and can be dormant or breaking dormancy. Plugs and bare roots are the most economical way to purchase perennial plants. A potted plant is one that is usually in a 4-6” pot and is well on its way to growing. We rarely offer larger potted plants but those we do offer are those that need a head start, like hydrangeas or other bush-type plants because of their longer growth time.

Our Commitment to You on Quality:

Vermont Wildflower Farm has a strong commitment to provide only the most healthy, vigorous stock to our customers. We are committed to only offering plants that our customers will be successful with. We have built our reputation by offering a wide variety of items to choose from, only the finest quality and we stand firmly behind our product. We offer superior customer service and we, like you, are gardeners too, so we won’t sell you anything that does not meet our high standards and that we would not plant ourselves. In fact, all of our products are planted at our homes and our business. If something does not meet your expectations or does not grow, just call or e-mail us so we can assist you. We are also available 7 days a week to offer advice, answer questions or help you plan your gardens. Your success is our success!

Perennial Growing Tips:

- Perennials are colorful flowers and vibrant foliage that come back year after year. You should decide what type of garden you want and where you wish to locate your garden so you have the most effect and enjoyment. Your perennial plants should be provided as best you can with the right soil, light and water. In doing so you will enjoy a fairly maintenance free area for years to come.

- Prepare your garden soil in spring as soon as you can work the soil. This usually occurs after the last frost of winter. Dig and turn your soil at least 8 inches for perennial plants. Add nutrients to the soil if need be. You can do this by simply mixing in 3-4 inches of compost.

- Plan your flower bed according to height with the taller flowers in the back and shorter in the front or plan individual groupings.

- Ensure you have a season-long display by choosing varieties that bloom at different times. Most perennials bloom for just a few weeks. Example: Peonies in spring, tiger lilies during the summer, and purple coneflower in early autumn will ensure flowers all season.

- Group your plants by their light and water requirements. Most perennials like at least six hours of sun each day. Some, like columbines, will tolerate shade. Plant drought-tolerant varieties, like candytuft and tickseed close to each other. Bellflowers and asters need regular water and could be grouped together etc. etc.

- Leave enough space between plants to allow them to grow. Plant perennials at least as far apart as the plants mature spread. If the tag doesn’t show the spread, set your plants 18 to 24 inches apart.

-Dig a hole for each plant as deep as the pot it came in and add a bit of fertilizer. Hold the plant loosely at its base, up-end the pot and slide out the plant. Gently spread the roots and set the plant in the hole, making sure that the top of the plant’s root ball is not below the surface.

-Fill in the hole and water the plant thoroughly to establish the roots. Applying mulch around the base of the plant will help to preserve moisture and discourage weeds.

What to Do When My Shipment Arrives:

Arrival of Your Shipment
• If you are unable to plant right away, we suggest the following:
• Store your bare root or plug perennials for a short time at a temperature between 35 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. A cool basement is perfect.
• Open the boxes for good air circulation to discourage surface mold growth. (surface mold is not harmful to firm and otherwise healthy looking roots and can be rinsed away prior to planting)
• Many perennial varieties including berries may not have visible top growth when received. This does not mean the plants are dead. These cultivars emerge from root or tubers and are late to break dormancy. Rest assured, that just because there are no leaves or top growth, the roots are healthy and ready to be planted. Be patient. To assist in their breaking of dormancy, warmer night temperatures of 65-70 degrees will help. Once ready to plant your new perennials, make sure you take a few steps to insure success:
• Plant as soon as you can. Make sure you wait until all chance of freezing weather has passed. If it takes a bit longer in your area, let your perennials get some sun and keep moist. (Do not over water your perennials. Leave your bare roots in their package. If you notice the contents becoming dry, moisten with a spray bottle but do not soak the bag and packing material/soil. You can transplant you plugs if you need to into gallon size containers until you can get them outside.
• Make sure you choose the right spot for your plant.
• Plant according to tag instructions.
• Make sure you follow moisture requirements for your new perennials.
• Don’t pull on any top growth when removing your perennials from their pots; you can damage the plant/stalk.
• Make sure if you have specialized perennials, that you following care guides for each species.
• Make sure when planting your bare root perennials that they are planted in the proper direction (root ball at the bottom). Some don’t care but others do!
• Stake those plants that need it, like Delphiniums but try to avoiding staking those that do not need it.
• Make sure that for taller plants that you fill in some ground – all summer growth to cover the areas once any particular perennial has passed its bloom time.
• Many of our perennial plants bloom for very long periods.

As always, if you have any questions, please just shoot us an e-mail or call us toll-free and one of our experts will be happy to answer your questions!

Bulbs, Perennials & Berries are all on Advance Sale for Spring Delivery at 50-60% Off!

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