Friday, July 3, 2009

"I pledge allegiance to my flag
and the Republic for which it stands,
one nation indivisible
with liberty and justice for all."
- Francis Bellamy, 1892

"O beautiful for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountains majesty
Above thy fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!"

- by Katharine Lee Bates - 1913

July Bug: The Annoying Mosquito

  • Rhode Island is home to 46 different mosquito species!

  • Repellent effectiveness varies by mosquito species, location, person, and from mosquito.

  • Mosquitoes are attracted by perspiration, warmth, body odor, carbon dioxide, and light.

  • Mosquito-Borne Diseases in RI include Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV). This year, to date in Rhode Island, no mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile Virus or Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

  • Mosquitoes bite more often at dawn and dusk, in the shade and at temperatures above 55 degrees.

  • Only the female bites for the blood she needs to make eggs.
  • The four stages of development are: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
    Mosquitos spend their larval and pupal stages in water.
  • A single cup of standing water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes.

  • Several days after ingesting the meal, a batch of up to 250 eggs is laid.

  • Some species lay egg "rafts" on the water surface which hatch in two days.

  • The larvae "wiggle" in the water for five days to several months, depending on several factors.Larvae then become the non-feeding pupal stage, which lasts for several days before adults emerge...and the biting begins.

mosquito lifecycle

These facts were gathered from RI DEM's website and Rutgers University.

"Home grown tomatoes,
home grown tomatoes

What would life be like
without homegrown tomatoes

Only two things
that money can't buy

That's true love and
home grown tomatoes."

- John Denver, Home Grown Tomatoes

"Gardening imparts

an organic perspective

on the passage of time."

- William Cowper

Maintaining Your Hanging Plants and Planted Containers

This time of year I love seeing the living floral arrangements hanging on peoples porches, near local stores, and decorating decks. Container gardens and hanging plants are arrangements that will bloom brightly all summer, especially if you give them the right care.

Although our region has been in a wet (okay, really, really, really wet) weather pattern, hopefully we can expect the weather to heat up and dry out sometime this summer. In anticipation of the seasonal weather to come, prepare yourself to water your plants at least two to three times each week. If you can keep your container gardens and hanging plants moist, yet well drained, you have mastered the most important way to help your container plants thrive.

Basic Container and Hanging Planter Care

  • Water them two or three times each week, if not every day during the hottest summer days. Watering is the most critical and time-consuming part of maintaining container gardens. This is particularly true as plants mature and roots crowd the container.
  • Vegetables in containers need consistent moisture.
  • Herbs should be watered when the top 1 inch of the soil is dry and remember that container plants kept outside will require more water, so check them frequently. Water requirements will of course vary from plant to plant.
  • Fertilize them, especially if they are in a soil-less mix. Slow-release fertilizers that supply all the nutrients needed for a container garden are available. Slow-release fertilizer, nitrogen is slowly released to plant roots, providing necessary fertility throughout the growing season without burning plant roots. Fertilizers are salts and when overused can burn or kill plants.

    • A water-soluble fertilizer (i.e., Miracle Grow, Peters, and others) can be used to supplement. Follow label directions on all fertilizers, and keep records of planting and fertilization dates.
  • Deadhead flowers, such as petunias, to greatly increase your blooms.
  • Pinch new growth off the ends periodically to avoid leggy plants and encourage fuller plants.

  • Stake or trellis climbing tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, etc. Anchor these containers to prevent them from blowing over.
Avoid Hot Pots: If you place you sunlight-loving potted plants in the 4 to 6 hours of sunlight they want, check your containers in the mid-day sun to see if they heat up.
  • Use clay pots in the hot sun. They stay cooler since the moisture they absorb sweats out as temperatures rise. Avoid plastic and glazed pots which heat up easily.
  • Keep your pots cooler by double potting them. Place your planted pot inside another pot to create an insulating layer of air.
Drainage problems may develop if a pot is set directly on a solid surface (patio or paved area). A quick fix is to place your container on legs, bricks, coasters, or saucers to allow drainage and to protect the surface underneath.
  • Containers can be placed on trays filled with gravel or marble pebbles covered in water, keeping them cool and providing moisture without creating a drainage problem. Change this water regularly to prevent mosquito problems.

Container gardens and hanging planters will require just a little more commitment in terms of watering and feeding, but otherwise they are fairly easy to maintain. Whether your pots are filled with colorful blooms neatly hanging from a front porch, tomato plants lined up on your deck, or herbs near your kitchen door, you will enjoy them more knowing they are getting the correct care.

Information compiled by Renee C. Brannigan
"By far, my favorite place to see potted arrangements is at Woodbridge. New wonders await my eyes with each of my regular visits. The combinations of plants are often unexpected and perfect at the same time. They are truly artists who paint with their plants." RCB
Photos taken throughout June at Woodbridge Greenhouses.

RI DEM Warning: Late Blight Threatening All Local Tomato and Potato Crops

Please follow the link to learn more about Late Blight. DEM is asking gardeners, as well as commercial growers, to check their plants DAILY for brown lesions. Of course, the blame for this outbreak is the damp and humid weather we are experiencing.

The news release provides all the information you need. They are concerned that the spores, which spread easily, will reach commercial growers.
"DEM views the disease as a serious threat to agriculture."

Plant of the Month: Blueberry Bushes

Did you know that
the United States produces
over 90% of all of the blueberries in the world?

In 1999 July was officially proclaimed to be "National Blueberry Month". July is perfect since it is the peak of blueberry season.

Imagine stepping outside your home and harvesting pounds of fresh blueberries from just one bush each year! Whether you choose highbush or lowbush, blueberry bushes take up less real estate, and are easier to care for, than most fruit trees or vines. Blueberry bushes are attractive, low-maintenance shrubs. They are easy to grow; they produce delicious and extremely nutritious berries; plus some varieties offer beautiful fall color.

Some varieties of blueberries available at Woodbridge Greenhouses are "Blueray" Highbush, "Berkeley" Lowbush, and "Brunswick" Wild Lowbush.

"Brunswick" Wild Lowbush Blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium

Native to Eastern United States, "Brunswick" makes a nice ornamental groundcover with delicious berries that have a wild flavor and high antioxidant levels. In spring you'll have clusters of bell-shaped, white flowers tinged with a bit of red. The fruit is a favorite among humans as well as birds, small mammals and box turtles. In the fall, "Brunswicks" lustrous blue-green leaves turn bronze, scarlet and crimson.It grows well in dry, acid, nutrient poor soil.Forms dense groundcover grows 8-12" high and 3-4 ft wide.Plant so that the top of the root ball is no deeper than ground level.Annual pruning is not necessary, but the plants yield best if 2/3 of the growth is sheared back every third year in late winter. Zones 3-7.

"Blueray" Highbush Blueberry, Vaccinium corymbosum

This is a midseason, very hardy, upright vigorous bush thatproduces large, light-blue, tart fruit. It is perhaps the heaviest blueberry producer. In spring it produces white, sometimes pink-tinged flowers to 1/2 inch across. Flowers are followed by edible, sweet, round, deep blue berries to 1/2 inch across. In the fall its foliage turns red or yellow. Plant with another blueberry bush for best pollination. Left unpruned, "Blueray" can grow to heights of 4 to 5' and the same in diameter.

"Berkeley" Highbush Blueberry, Vaccinium corymbosum

In late spring, "Berkeley" has white, sometimes pink-tinged flowers to 1/2 inch across.Flowers are followed by edible, sweet, round, deep blue berries to 1/2 inch across."Berkeley" will give you good quality, light-blue fruits late in the season.It is a vigorous producer of some of the largest berries.These tasty berries store very well in the refrigerator.In winter, "Berkeley's" bright yellow wood contrasts nicely with red-wooded varieties.


As with most perennials: the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap (not literally, of course). The first and second year you may be lucky enough to harvest some fruit. By the third year your newly established blueberry bush will bear a bounty of fruit and grow well for years with just sunshine, water. Also, give it some fertilizer in the spring and a bit more late in the summer to promote next years flowers.


  • Plant in full sun to partial shade.

  • Grows easily in light, well-drained, acidic soil. If you don't know how acidic your soil is, we have forms at Woodbridge Greenhouse to have your soil tested at University of Massachusetts-Amherst or the University of Connecticut.

  • Tolerant of a wide range of temperature and rainfall.

  • Lowbush varieties stay compact and can be planted as a ground cover on slopes.

  • Provides food, nectar and shelter for Hummingbirds, Butterflies and Songbirds

  • Blueberries are native plants which require little care and watering once established


With a little winter pruning (when the plant is dormant), you will have a healthier blueberry bush with larger berries. Some pruning tips to keep in mind:

  • First and foremost, simply remove any dead or diseased branches and stems.

  • Clip back any branches that are rubbing against another branch.

  • Blueberry plants normally do not need to be pruned for the first three years. Remove blossoms that appear in the year of planting and second year after planting to stimulate vigorous growth. Blueberry bushes tend to produce smaller berries when they are over loaded with fruits. Hence, it is important not to have too many flower buds.

  • If you think your plant is too bushy, cut away some of the crowded stems. Just remember that next years fruit will grow on the woody stems that are two years old.

  • Next, trim back your bush to maintain an acceptable height. But, be careful not to cut away more than half of the newest growth.


As with other plants in the garden, control weeds with a thick three-inch layer of mulch that will also conserve moisture. Increased organic matter from decomposing mulch will help improve soil structure and nutrient uptake of blueberry bush. Replenish mulch as needed to keep the mulch depth at 2 to 4 inches.

Now, What to do with The Delicious Harvest

Blueberries are so easy to prepare and versatile. You can eat them fresh, make jelly, jam, pie, tart, or juice. The health benefits of eating fresh blueberries are too numerous to include here. How about a fresh blueberry parfait with some low-fat vanilla yogurt and crumbled graham crackers layered in a tall glass? Delicious!

Freezing Blueberries
According to the North American Blueberry Council, you should not wash your blueberries before you freeze them. Blueberries in a pint box should be wrapped tightly in cellophane to make it airtight, or slip it into a resealable plastic bag (squeeze out as much air as possible). Then freeze. If you have a large amount of berries, freeze them on a cookie sheet first and then transfer them into a freezer container. Keep frozen until ready to use for year-round fresh berries.

Oh, and Birds Love Blueberries, too!

Forget the story of the birds and the bees. We're talking the "birds and the blueberries". Specifically, birds love blueberries. The best protection for your berries is inexpensive bird netting wrapped lightly around your bushes. With care, it should last you a few seasons. If you have planted enough bushes to share your bounty, the birds will appreciate your generosity.

Please stop by Woodbridge Greenhouses to see our selection of Blueberry Bushes. We're open from 9 to 5 every day, except July 4th.

Do you have a favorite blueberry recipe? Please share it by clicking on the comment link below.

Information compiled by Renee C. Brannigan.