Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Northern Cardinal

American Elderberry   Sambucus Canadensis

  • Flowers provide nectar for many native pollinators.
  • The fruit is favored by birds and other wildlife.
  • Excellent for naturalizing in moist soil.
  • Easy to grow.
  • Fruit is perfect for jams and jellies.

Used for its antioxidant activity, to lower cholesterol, improve vision, boost the immune system, improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsilitis. Elderberry juice was used to treat a flu epidemic in Panama in 1995.
Elderberries have been a folk remedy for centuries in North America, Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa, hence the medicinal benefits of elderberries are being investigated and rediscovered. Elderberry is used for its antioxidant activity, to lower cholesterol, to improve vision, to boost the immune system, to improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsilitis. Bioflavonoids and other proteins in the juice destroy the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect a cell. People with the flu who took elderberry juice reported less severe symptoms and felt better much faster than those who did not. Elderberry juice was used to treat a flu epidemic in Panama in 19951
Elderberries contain organic pigments, tannin, amino acids, carotenoids, flavonoids, sugar, rutin, viburnic acid, vitaman A and B and a large amount of vitamin C. They are also mildly laxative, a diuretic, and diaphoretic. Flavonoids, including quercetin, are believed to account for the therapeutic actions of the elderberry flowers and berries. According to test tube studies2 these flavonoids include anthocyanins that are powerful antioxidants and protect cells against damage.
Elderberries were listed in the CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs as early as 1985, and are listed in the 2000 Mosby's Nursing Drug reference for colds, flu, yeast infections, nasal and chest congestion, and hay fever. In Israel, Hasassah's Oncology Lab has determined that elderberry stimulates the body's immune system and they are treating cancer and AIDS patients with it. The wide range of medical benefits (from flu and colds to debilitating asthma, diabetes, and weight loss) is probably due to the enhancement of each individual's immune system.
At the Bundesforschungsanstalt research center for food in Karlsruhe, Germany, scientists conducting studies on Elderberry showed that elderberry anthocyanins enhance immune function by boosting the production of cytokines. These unique proteins act as messengers in the immune system to help regulate immune response, thus helping to defend the body against disease. Further research indicated that anthocyanins found in elderberries possess appreciably more antioxidant capacity than either vitamin E or vitamin C.
Studies at Austria's University of Graz found that elderberry extract reduces oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Oxidation of LDL cholesterol is implicated in atherogenesis, thus contributing to cardiovascular disease.
1. J Alt Compl Mod 1995: 1:361-69 2. Youdim KA, Martin A, Joseph JA. Incorporation of the elderberry anthocyanins by endothelial cells increases protection against oxidative stress. Free Radical Biol Med 2000: 29:51 60

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” — Marcel Proust
“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” — William Arthur Ward

 “When we become more fully aware that our success is due in large measure to the loyalty, helpfulness, and encouragement we have received from others, our desire grows to pass on similar gifts. Gratitude spurs us on to prove ourselves worthy of what others have done for us. The spirit of gratitude is a powerful energizer.” — Wilferd A. Peterson

Butternut Squash with Apple & Cranberries 

      Yield: 4 servings
Holiday Butternut Squash with Apple & Cranberries Recipe
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 1-3/4 lbs.), cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 5 cups)
  • 1 medium apple, cubed
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup or brown sugar    


In 1 1/2-quart baking dish, combine all ingredients. Season, if desired, with salt. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until squash is tender. 

      * Mix melted butter with cinnamon, nutmeg, and maple syrup or brown sugar and stir to coat the squash.

Torenia aka Wishbone Flower

In the September newsletter we talked about downy mildew on impatiens and how widespread and devastating this disease was. Click here to read September's article. 

If you were one of the unfortunate individuals to have experienced this epidemic  first hand,  you will need to plant an alternative crop next year.   

One of my favorite shade plants is Torenia.  Torenia is often called wishbone flower and is a genus of plants in the snapdragon family.  If you look closely at the flower, you will see a tiny wishbone in the center. Torenia:
  • loaded with flower power,
  • come in a variety of brillant colors,
  • are easy to grow
  • provide continuous blooms from spring until fall.  
  • grow equally as well in sun or part shade. 
I hope you'll give Torenia a try next spring.  You won't be disapointed!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Do you see what I see?  Yes, a beautiful yellow finch enjoying the seeds of this black eyed susan!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Share the Bounty
Woodbridge Greenhouses is collecting donations of extra garden produce.
We deliver it to the Trinity Episcopal Church Food Closet.
Woodbridge is open and accepts donations every day from 9 to 5.

Thank you for sharing your bounty with those in need.

It's time for our

Annual End of Season Sale!

Save 25% on All Trees, Shrubs & Perennials

Come in and choose from our wide selection of Trees, Shrubs, & Perennials!

Stop in Soon for best selection.

Offer Good until October 14, 2012
"I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house.

So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air.

- Nathaniel Hawthorne

Multi-Layered Approach to Protecting Spring Bulbs

The temperatures are cooling down, which means it's time to start thinking about your Spring garden bulbs.

This year, with the groundhog family still threatening our garden, it's time to take some defensive action. Woodchucks, also known as groundhogs (among other choice names in my house) along with squirrels, moles and voles can wreak havoc on your bulbs and garden. Not only do they nibble on the flowers, but they also dig down to get at the bulbs. It may take a combination of a few measures that may protect your tulips and bulbs from groundhogs. I've come up with a three stage plan:

Moles and Groundhogs aren't entirely evil. Moles do a great job of aerating the soil, amending the garden soil with their "organic matter" and devouring grubs. My plan is just to keep them from devouring our bulbs.

Preparation: The Trench

In front of our porch where the bulbs share garden space with our peonies (it's time to give them a little TLC, too). The peonies need to be divided and their soil amended. I usually mix some bone meal, and peat moss into the soil.  Digging a trench is more time efficient than planting bulbs individually. I also prefer a mass of colorful flowers rather than a few bulbs here and there.
Stage One: Block pests from below.

A bottom barrier of 1/2-inch galvanized wire mesh below the level of the bulbs and peony roots will line the trench. You can place mesh around larger plants individually. The mesh will allow the roots to grow while will stopping moles from uprooting them and killing them.

Stage Two: Deter pests from nibbling.

1. Sprinkle Granulated Plantskydd in the bottom of your hole. (You may also choose to spray the bulbs with liquid Plantskydd. Follow the directions on the container and allow the bulbs to dry before planting.)

2. Cover the Plantskydd and wire mesh with a thick layer of soil.

3. Plant your bulbs - gently pressing them into the soil pointed end UP.

4. Cover with soil leaving an inch or two for Stage Three.

Stage Three: Block pests from above.

Top your trench with a piece of chicken wire that extends a few feet past the garden's edge. Top with a layer of soil and cover that with a thick layer of mulch.
Another option is to install a fence around your garden. It would need to be 3 feet above ground and 10-12 inches below ground to keep groundhogs from digging under the fence.

About Plantskydd's®  Granular Formulation:

Plantskydd®  is a natural repellent that REALLY works!  BONUS: Plantskydd's active ingredient is an organic fertilizer.

Protect your garden, plants, and trees from: rabbits, voles, hares, chipmunks, squirrels, mountain beaver, nutria, opossum and other small rodents with Plantskydd GRANULAR Repellents. One pound of granulated Plantskydd will cover approximately 600 square feet.
October is also a good time to spray liquid Plantskydd on your trees and shrubs that are susceptible to deer damage. The odor fades in a day or sy, but it keeps working for up to 6 months!

Article compiled by Renee C. Brannigan

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"The autumn always gets me badly,

as it breaks into colours.
I want to go south,

where there is no autumn,

where the cold doesn't crouch over one

like a snow-leopard waiting to pounce."

- D.H. Lawrence, Letters

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

URI Master Composter

The URI Master Composter program trains volunteers to compost and to become advocates for composting and recycling within their local community and around the state. To earn the title 'URI Master Composter' participants in the program must attend all classes and fulfill a volunteer commitment of at least 30 hours.

Classes will be held at URI's main campus in Kingston. Directions will be emailed prior to the class starting. For field trips we will meet at scheduled location. Directions will be provided during the first class. Carpooling is encouraged and time will be set aside to organize on the first class if people are interested.
Price: $100.00
payable by check or credit card during online registration.

Click here to Register.
For more information about this course and others, visit the URI Outreach Center's website here.

What a sad summer for Impatiens.

Impatiens are one of the most common and colorful bedding plants in the United States. If you've seen your lush, full colorful impatiens fade and wither to scrawny stalks, you've seen Downy Mildew (IDM) up close. It is a plant disease (specifically a fungal-like pathogen) that is spreading. Downy mildew was spotted on impatiens on both coasts last year.

Powdery or Downy?
Since downy and powdery mildews are managed differently, it's really important to identify the issue correctly.
Downy mildew:
  • Appears very rapidly and is difficult to control.
  • Found on the underside of leaves
  • Causes the leaves and flower petals to drop off, and begins with leaf stippling, downward curling of leaves and leaf yellowing. After losing their petals and leaves, infected plants will die and appear like they had heavy frost damage.
  • Also affects basil, coleus, snapdragon, salvia, alyssum, pansy, rose, rosemary, and ornamental cabbage, and Perennials including aster, coreopsis, geranium, geum, lamium, potentilla, veronica and viola.
Powdery mildew:
  • Can occur on either the upper or lower surface.
  • Spreads slower than downy mildew.
  • Causes minor long-term damage, stunting growth.
  • Different species affect different plants/crops.
  • Powdery mildews are most severe when the weather is warm and dry, and they affect virtually all kinds of plants: cereals and grasses, vegetables, flowers, weeds, shrubs, fruit trees, and broad-leaved shade and forest trees. Many plants have been developed to be resistant to or tolerant of powdery mildew.
GOOD NEWS: New Guinea Impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri) are resistant. Next year, you can plant them in rotation with susceptible impatiens in fresh planting beds.

Largely considered a minor nuisance since the 1940s, DMI has been known from scattered and minor occurrences in the U.S. beginning in 2008 it began to spread in eastern parts of the U.S. It is a type of “water mold” that is weather dependent requiring humid, moist conditions and spreads by both airborne and water spores.

Without a susceptible host the pathogen will eventually die off in the planting bed.
To prevent the disease from living in your soil over the winter and returning next year: 
  1. Remove and dispose of infected plants (roots included) immediately.
  2. Don't compost the infected plant material.  
Speaking of next year, plan to plant your impatiens in different flowerbeds to avoid a re-occurrence of the disease.   It is safe to plant other flowering or foliage plants in affected beds next season.

Don't give up hope, with a few adjustments, common garden impatiens will continue to be a mainstay of our landscapes.


More Resources:
Click here for the Ball Horticulture fact sheet.
Click here for the Syngenta fact sheet.

Click here for more information and photos.

Information compiled by Renee C. Brannigan

Sunday, September 9, 2012

"A late summer garden
has a tranquility
found no other time of the year."
- William Longgood

Friday, August 31, 2012

Share your Bounty

Woodbridge Greenhouses is collecting donations of extra garden produce.
We deliver it to the Trinity Episcopal Church Food Closet.
Woodbridge is open and accepts donations every day from 9 to 5 .
Thank you for sharing your bounty with those in need.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

"The moon is at her full, and riding high,
Floods the calm fields with light.
The airs that hover in the summer sky
Are all asleep to-night."
- William C. Bryant

(1794 - 1878)

American romantic poet, journalist,

and New York Evening Post editor.

"There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart."

- Celia Thaxter

(1835 - 1894)

American writer and poet
"In August, the large masses of berries,
which, when in flower,
had attracted many wild bees,
gradually assumed their bright velvety crimson hue,
and by their weight again
bent down and broke their tender limbs."
- Henry David Thoreau
(1817 - 1862)
American author, poet, philosopher

Not so lush Hosta?

A new plant?
Last week my dear hubby asked about the new plant in the garden bed behind the house. With a closer look, it wasn't a new plant, but a bare plant. The next morning, we found a clear set of hoof prints near the plants, we identified the culprit.
One of my favorite plant groupings in our garden is a varigated hosta next to a giant blue hosta. We planted this garden bed about three years ago, and it's really doing well. In front of the bed is a large area of crushed stone.
Woodbridge carries many different variegated varieties and currently has these BIG Hostas in stock:
  • Frances William,
  • Big Daddy (blue) and
  • Elegans.
Crushed Stone...a deer deterent?
Occassionally, hungry deer wander into our yard from the woods. Most often, they graze their way across the lawn and meander back into the woods. I felt really lucky that they weren't attracted to our garden beds. I had been told that our paths of crushed stones are a good deterrent, since walking on it is too noisy for the stealthy deer.

When deer are hungry enough, so I've been told, they will eat anything and take unusal risks.They must be hungry now. They discovered that by circumventing the crushed stone, they could approach our hosta from the back of the garden.

It was time to apply on my most-reliable deer deterent, Plantskyd. It is a bit smelly for a day, then the smell fades, but it's strength lasts for months. Luckily, Debbie sells it at Woodbridge Greenhouses. I sprayed it that night on the hostas and around our vegetable garden. We haven't seen any deer since.
Thank you, Debbie for the great plants in the garden. 
Thank you, Plantskyd for protecting the plants in my garden.

~ R.C.B.

Black Eyed Susans

Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia)

are some of the most useful perennial landscape plants of them all.  

Susans are North America's most popular native plant. Their assets are many and their liabilities are few.
Rudbeckia flowers are clear, golden yellow, and a bit larger than the wildflower, but very much the same.  Each mature plant will produce a long-lasting bouquet of about two dozen of these beautiful flowers, even in the heat of mid-summer.

What's not to love? Her assets include...
  • Great flowers for naturalizing in a meadow garden,
  • Lovely planted in drifts, in formal beds or alone.
  • Perfect with variegated ornamental grasses
  • Excellent for cutting.
  • Black Eyed Susans are deer resistant (but remember a hungry deer will eat almost anything).
  • Plant in a border with marigolds around your garden for colorful, protective border (unfortunately, the groundhogs devoured our marigolds this year).

Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm' is the variety of Black Eyed Susans sold at Woodbridge Greenhouses. Goldsturm was voted Perennial Plant of the Year for 1999 by the Perennial Plant Association.
Goldsturm could be the king of perennials. It is one of the most popular and widely-planted flowering plants in America. Developed in Germany in the 1930's, it's name is German for “gold storm”.
A storm of great features:
  • Grows to about 2-1/2 to 3 feet high
  • Blooms profusely from mid-July to October
  • Lush, dark-green foliage fills your garden until the blooms pop open in July.
  • Blossoms last several weeks
  • Flowers attract butterflies
  • Thrives in full sun, but can tolerate afternoon shade.
  • Does well planted in containers.
  • Brown, button-like seed pods add interest to winter gardens and attract birds in the fall.  
  • Will self seed if flower heads left to seed. 

Carefree Susans with few liabilities:
  • She is easy to grow and very low maintenance.
  • Let her branch out, give her about 2 feet from neighboring plants.
  • She enjoys an even layer of light mulch
  • Snip the fading flowers from her crown to encourage more blossoms
  • Once established, she can tolerate drought conditions
  • Few disease and insect will bother her.
  • Spread her joy and divide her after three years (optional).
My lovely groundhogs enjoyed a light snack of this Black Eyed Susan.

Poetic Name...
Legend says this flower's name comes from an OldEnglish, post-Elizabethan era poem called, “Black-Eyed Susan,” written by the poet, John Gay (1685-1732).  The poem tells a “Legend of Love” that these two wildflowers re-enact each summer.
"All in the downs, the fleet was moored,
Banners waving in the wind.
When Black-Eyed Susan came aboard,
and eyed the burly men.
'Tell me ye sailors, tell me true
Does my Sweet William sail with you?'"
Several stanzas follows and describe how Susan's William was “high upon the yardarm”, and descended for a fond farewell with his lady love.  He promised ardently to be safe and true and return from his trip on the high seas.
"Though battle call me from thy arms
Let not my pretty Susan mourn;
Though cannons roar, yet safe from harms
William shall to his Dear return.
Love turns aside the balls that round me fly
Lest precious tears should drop from Susan’s eye."
Enjoy Sweet William and Black-Eyed Susan planted together when they bloom together. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Woodchuck Woes...update

Yes, they are still here, and they're not too camera shy.

Earwigs (aka Pincer Bugs and SleeSlacks)

Have you ever uncovered earwigs after moving something in your garden like a bag of mulch, composted manure or potting soil?

When I was little, my sister and I would find them crawling around the foundation of my parents' house. Afraid of the large forcep-like pincers at their tail end, we called them pincer-bugs. (My husband's family called them "sleeslacks".) Intimidating as they may be, the pincers won’t hurt you. They only use their pinchers when eating and mating.

Despite their creepy appearance, earwigs have a taste for aphids, mites, nematodes, snails and slugs that qualifies them as a beneficial insect. On the other hand, they are ominivores who will also enjoy munching on many of the plants in your garden. Some of their favorite snacks are herbs, lettuce, strawberries, potatoes, corn silk tassels, and flowers like butterfly bush, hollyhocks, dahlias, marigolds, roses, and zinnias. They can also be a pest of fruits like berries and apricots and

Like other uninvited creatures in our gardens, in small numbers they're tolerable. Once they begin noticibly damaging your fruit, tunnel into flower buds and eat your seedlings and foliage, even leaving their droppings in your lettuce patch, they become pests. When that happens, a little patience and knowledge can solve your problems.

Night owls...
Earwigs eat at night and escape the heat of the day by sneaking into damp, cozy places (under potted plants, between leaves, under mulch, etc.). With a nearby food supply, earwigs think a red carpet was rolled out for them. Usually the damage is minor, unless their populations are hgh. They are unusual among insects in that the female fusses over her eggs and nymphs, and uses her pincers to protect them. Adults overwinter in the soil. Earwig damage mimics damage from caterpillars and slugs; be sure you've identified the real culprits by looking for feeding earwigs on your plants after dark.

Eearwigs live throughout North America. The European earwig (Forficula auricularia) is most problematic in the north, while the ringlegged earwig (Euborellia annulipes) lives in the South. Some even have wings, although you won't see them fly.  Earwigs overwinter as adults under garden debris, stones, and boards as well as in soil. They lay clusters of round, white eggs in the soil in late winter. The babies, aka larvae, hatch in spring and are just smaller versions of the adults.

Predator or Prey...
The earwig's only insect predator in North America is the tachinid fly. Planting alyssum, calendula, dill, and fennel attracts tachinid flies.
Roll Up The Red Carpet...
  • Mulch does so well at retaining moisture, it provides great daytime hiding spots for earwigs. and pull mulch slightly away from plants and foundations You only have to do this temporarily, until the earwigs move on.
  • Near foundations switch your mulch to dry gravel, stone dust or crushed rock.
  • Space plants like peas and beans further apart to avoid an earwig infestation by reducing dark, damp spaces.
  • Sprinkle bay leaves on top of the soil to deter Earwigs from entering your house and container plants.
  • Earwigs are attracted to lights, so eliminate or reduce lighting around foundations.
  • An even coating of petroleum jelly (aka Vaseline) on the stems of flowers like dahlias will keep earwigs out. at the base of woody plants.
  • Diatomaceous earth is often cited as a great way to deal with slugs and earwigs. It is a fine, powdery dust made up of tiny shards that are painful for the pests to cross.
    • Sprinkle a 2-inch-wide circle of diatomaceous earth only around garden beds, at the base of plants, and anywhere you've caught them hanging out during the day.
    • Repeat applications after heavy rains.
    • Breathing the dust is not good for your lungs.
    • Wet the plants or ground first to reduce some of the dust. Wearing a mask is a good idea.
    • Be sure to read and follow all package directions and cautions EXACTLY.

Earwig traps can be made from many common household items. Set your traps where you've seen earwigs and near victimized plants before dark. In the morning, dump the contents of your traps into a bucket of soapy water or dispose of the trap and its victims in a tightly tied plastic bag.
1. Roll-up newspapers or cardboard filled with straw and taped shut at one end.
2. Roll up and dampen  a few newspaper(s) and secure them with an elastic.
3. Water and Oil Traps Vary, but should be sunk into the ground so that the rim is level with the soil.
a. Fill small tuna or cat food cans with 1/4 inch of oil (preferably fish oil). Adding some soy sauce or rotting fruit helps to attract earwigs.
b. Plastic lids punched with small holes filled with some water and a layer of oil and a drop of dish soap is another type of trap.
4. Lengths of old hose, or small boxes with holes cut in the sides and baited with oatmeal have been known to attract and trap earwigs. 

Place a light-colored cloth beneath an infested plant and shake or tap the branches. The earwigs should fall onto the cloth and can be disposed of in soapy water.

"The Garden Stomp" is also known as the pick-squish-stomp method. Put on your favorite dance music (optional) and footwear and stomp on them as they skitter across the patio or sidewalk. You won't get great numbers this way, but it's satisfying and burns some calories. This method is equally effective on Japanese Beetles.

Since earwigs have beneficial qualities, the above methods are meant to reduce their population and limit their damage to your garden. With the exception of the Diatomacious earth (which my Daddy swore by), the above methods are safer than chemical treatments and empower you as Master of your own Garden.

Good luck, everyone.

Article Compiled by Renee Brannigan
Sources include:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"From an aunt, long ago:
"Death has come for me many times
but finds me always in my lovely garden
and leaves me there,
I think, as an excuse to return."
~Robert Brault, Writer, CT


We have descended into the garden

and caught three hundred slugs.

How I love the mixture of the beautiful

and the squalid in gardening.

It makes it so lifelike.

~Evelyn Underhill

Writer, December 6, 1875-June 15, 1941

July in your garden...

In the heat of July days, little happens in most gardens. There’s still time for more planting on a cool July morning or evening. Just because the weather is HOT, doesn’t mean you can’t plant. July is the perfect time to plant another crop of warm season veggies for a late fall harvest. Perennials, like Iris, that finished blooming for the year, can be divided. Raspberry and Blackberry canes that are done producing can also be trimmed back.

  • Dead flowers should be trimmed off plants, unless you are trying to collect seeds from those plants.
  • If they are leggy (lean and lanky) may be cut back by one-third safely. The snip often encourages new growth or fresh blooms.
WATERING is THE biggest garden chore during hot, dry summers. Native plants will need less water than flowering annuals and hanging planters.

A quick look at HOW you hydrate your plants may save you some time and water:
  • First, MULCH HEAVILY to reduce evaporation and help to conserve moisture. If you haven't already, this is a great time to apply a thick layer of mulch on flower beds and around trees and shrubs 2-3 inches around the base of plants. It reduces weeds, conserves moisture, and prevents disease. Great stuff! Lawn clippings are great mulch in your vegetable garden.
  • Give them a LONG DRINK, rather than several light drinks a week (they encourage root growth near the top of the soil where it dries out quickly). A long, thorough watering will soak the top several inches of soil. Your plants will stretch their roots deeper to reach the moist soil and become stronger and hardier as a result.
  • Sprinklers, soaker hoses and drip systems are ideal since you can set them and work nearby.
• WATER key during hot weather, especially if you plant another crop of warm-season VEGETABLES, like heat-tolerant and bolt-resistant lettuce, greens, beans, beets, carrots, chard, now for fall harvest. Plan to water newly planted seeds and seedlings more than once a day. Heavily mulch plants to keep the soil moist and cool.

• Deeply water HERBS like Basil, Mint and other water-loving herbs. Herbs like rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme and aloe like it dry, so don't over-water them.

•FRUIT TREES & VINES should be watered heavily within the root zone (under the leaf canopy) when you find the soil is dry at 3 to 4 inches deep. Be sure to support limbs that have a heavy fruit load.

• HARVEST your ripe fruit and vegetables as soon as they are ready. IF they fall to the ground and rot, they will attract insects and cause disease.

•NATIVE PLANTS - Allow natives to go into summer dormancy. Many established natives need little or no water during summer months but most are happier being watered once or twice a month. Spray the landscape by hose, it mimics a summer storm and washes the leaves. Mulch around plants with shredded bark or gravel.

•Please remember our friends, TomatoHornworms. If you choose to hand-pick them from your tomato and pepper leaves, but try to choose a plant they can have to themselves, perhaps near the manure or compost pile. Remember, they become Hummingbird Moths!

Please take care of yourselves while tending your plants. TIPS for YOUR HEALTH & SAFETY: 
  • As the weather gets warmer, schedule your gardening for early morning and late afternoon when the air is cooler and the sun not so intense.
  • Sun block will protect your skin for hours.
  • Drink one glass of cool water each hour you spend working outdoors.
  • Eliminate any puddles of stagnant water where Mosquitoes can breed.

Article Compiled by Renee C. Brannigan

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The 2012 Summer Programs

This series is a joint effort of the URI Master Gardener Association and the RI Wild Plant Society:
Propagation on July 17, 2012, Tuesday at 10:30 AM

Designing for Habitat in Small Places on September 18, 2012, Tuesday at 10:30 AM

A Rhody Native presentation on November 20, 2012, Tuesday at 10:30 AM

Members and public are invited at no charge. Master Gardeners receive Education credits for attending. If interested in attending, please call Joyce Crook at 268-1590, X402; or email her at:jcrook@northkingstown.org. North Kingstown Beechwood Center, A Center for Life Enrichment. Click for more info.

* * *
What's that insect and what's it doing with that plant? insectplant talk july 2012
Step into the diversity and specificity of plant and insect interactions as presented in Doug Tallamy's riveting book, "Bringing Nature Home".
Short lecture by Lisa Tewksbury, research associate at URI, followed by a field experience to observe closely how plants and insects depend on one another.   East Farm at URI in Kingstown.  Tuesday July 24, 2012 .
Click for More info.

Free Programs at the:
Roger Williams Park Botanical Center Botanical Center
All workshops are FREE, start at 10am and are held outside in the Roger Williams Park Community Garden or in the Botanical Center if it rains.

July 14: Creating Nectaries: Attracting & Keeping Beneficial Insects: plants and cultural practices that create habitats for beneficial insects including native species and honey bees. The importance of beneficial insects as pollinators and predators will be discussed.
*This workshop will be hosted in the Botanical Center Blockhouse Classroom.
July 21: Gardening Tools: Learn how to clean and sharpen your garden tools to keep them in shape all season long.
Find more about "What Grows on in Rhode Island" here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hummingbirds Love...Weigela

Pink Poppet Weigela

Perennial Gardening Month: Buy 5 Get 1 Perennial Free COUPON

"If there were nothing else to trouble us,

the fate of the flowers would make us sad."

- John Lancaster Spalding,
Aphorisms and Reflections
Oso Easy Cherry Pie
Landscape Rose

"What a desolate place would be a world

without a flower!

It would be a face without a smile,

a feast without a welcome.

Are not flowers the stars of the earth,

and are not our stars the flowers of the heaven?"

- A.J. Balfour

Intrigue - amazingly fragrant

Hummingbirds love...variety

Hummingbirds love variety. It is is the spice of life. Fill your garden with a variety of great flowers that hummingbirds really enjoy. Since most flowers bloom for just a short time, adding many varieties ensures a constant buffet for our tiny feathered friends. Not just red flowers, either. Hummingbirds visit nectar-rich flowers of all colors. Choose diverse flowering plants to add interest to your landscaping.

Hummingbird friendlly flowers are available as annuals, perennials, vines, shrubs, trees, bedding plants and hanging plants.

Early-blooming perennials like Lupine and Columbine (Aquilegia) is another deep-throated flower that awaits the return of hummingbirds in the spring.
Shrubs with appealing flowers include Butterfly Bush, Rose of Sharon and some Rhododendrons. Pink Poppet Weigela is a lovely, repeat blooming shrub (3-4').
Butterfly Bush at Woodbridge Greenhouses 2011
Pink Poppet Weigela

Tall perennials like Hollyhock, Delphinium, and Foxglove (Digitalis), with their tubular flowers, are excellent for hummingbirds, and ideal for the back of the garden since they reach 3 to 5 feet tall.

Other perennials visited by our hummingbirds include: Four O'Clocks (Mirabilis jalapa ), Nicotiana (Flowering Tobacco) is a nicely scented addition to the garden. Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), Verbena bonariensis receives frequent visits from hummingbirds. Sunset Hyssop (Agastache rupestris) is a large perennial loved by hummingbirds.

Biennials (bloom every other year) such as Foxglove (Digitalis) and Evening Primrose (Oenothera 'Lemon Sunset'). Evening Primrose is more likely to receive morning visits from hummingbirds before the blooms close for the day.

Vines like Honeysickle and Morning Glory (Ipomoea) which often receives morning visits from hummingbirds are wonderful for hummingbirds. Trumpet Vines, with their tubular red flowers, are natural hummingbird magnet.
Morning Glory

Annuals like Salvia and Zinnias are common blooms that are sure to be enjoyed by your hummingbirds. Lobelia cardinalis is a red version of the popular blue annual. Salvia (Sage) attract hummingbirds and do well in containers and as border plants. Asclepias Curassavica is also known as Mexican Butterfly bush and comes in yellow and orange (the orange petals contrast nicely with the yellow stamens).

Asclepias curassavica Yellow
Asclepias curassavica Orange
Long-blooming perennials are nice additions to the garden and quite appealing to hummingbirds. Bee Balm (Monarda) grows in front of our dining room window. Quite often we watch a hummingbird or two stop by our magenta and red bee balm for a quick snack.

Hanging plants are another great way to incorporate hummingbird-friendly plants and flowers on your property. Consider including Lantana, petunias and salvia, in addition to fuscia.

Self-seeding plants like Cleome (serrulata and spinosa) appear in our yard have been visited by hummingbirds.

Sugar water in feeders is a great supplement for hummingbirds to get a quick dose of calories while hunting for protein-rich insects. Feeders are a convenient way for us to observe them up close, too.

Compiled by Renee C. Brannigan and Debbie Luchka

A Drumlin Woodchuck

by Robert Frost
One thing has a shelving bank,
Another a rotting plank,
To give it cozier skies
And make up for its lack of size.

My own strategic retreat
Is where two rocks almost meet,
And still more secure and snug,
A two-door burrow I dug.

With those in mind at my back
I can sit forth exposed to attack
As one who shrewdly pretends
That he and the world are friends.

All we who prefer to live
Have a little whistle we give,
And flash, at the least alram
We dive down under the farm.

We allow some time for guile
And don't come out for a while
Either to eat or drink.
We take occasion to think.

And if after the hunt goes past
And the double-barreled blast
(Like war and pestilence
And the loss of common sense),

If I can with confidence say
That still for another day,
Or even another year,
I will be there for you, my dear,

It will be because, though small
As measured against the All,
I have been so instinctively thorough
About my crevice and burrow.

"The Drumlin Woodchuck"
 Published in A Further Range, in 1936.

Woodchuck or Groundhog...I call 'em trouble

aka Woodchuck
aka Marmot
Before I realized how much of my garden that “cute” little groundhog would eat, the children and I enjoyed watching one in our garden one morning. We watched quietly through the window. Perched on his hind legs, munching on leaves, with his little black nose wiggling, he was adorable. In a few days, though, he had decimated our beans, carrots, and peas. I hear they really like brocolli, too.

But, Mom, it's so cute...
Not long after admiring the latest visitor to our garden, we stared through the window again after supper, but this time at stubs where our green beans were growing, empty butternut squash vines (one of the few plant parts they didn't devour) and a clearing where our greens had been growing so lushly. Woodchucks average eight pounds, but have been known to reach twelve pounds. My little friend was bigger than a house cat, maybe around 10 pounds.

Woodchucks are also known as ground hogs, perhaps because they “hog” all the ground in vegetable gardens. I haven't seen them touch (or chuck) any wood, but they can chomp right through it.

I'll admit that it is pretty interesting to watch wild animals browse on the landscape...especially if you're not a gardener. Last weekend our guests went for a late afternoon walk and stood back to watch as momma woodchuck helped one of her FIVE little ones who didn't want to follow her across the road.  To our guests it was a wonder of nature to watch the little ones with their momma. To the gardener in residence, all I could think was "Cute?  Oh no. Now she has five  hungry mouths to feed."

Know your Nemesis
Whether you call it a woodchuck (Marmota Monax) or a groundhog, they are the same creature and also known as a marmot. They can carry rabies, but it is seldom transferred to people. While they can live six years, they are pretty low on the food chain, and seldom reach four years of age.
Groundhogs hibernate in winter, staying in their burrows, deep underground in a wooded or brushy area. Their winter burrow is where they mate at the end of their hibernation, and raise their young. A woodchuck burrow will often have one main entrance and up to five other escape/entrance or spy-holes. Be cautious when walking near their dens. The entrances are steep enough to cause bodily injury.

Some groundhogs keep a summer burrow in the middle of a grassy area. Their summer home is where they sleep and hide from predators. Groundhogs are solitary animals who send their young packing by early July. They are also good climbers when they need to escape, they can climb a tree, or a fence.

Many a frustrated gardener has asked, “WHAT are they good for?” Actually, their diligent digging aerates the soil, provide dens for other wildlife, and in February, their cousin Phil down in Pennsylvania predicts when winter will end.

Batten Down the Hatches!

Friends, once you see any sign of a woodchuck, if you want to keep any portion of your garden, you'll need to take some action. Ignoring the tell-tale signs of groundhogs can be fatal for your garden.

It's a good idea to start by locating their burrow. Ours has a large one under our front porch, and another in the undergrowth near the end of our driveway (where there is less activity). Each burrow usually has an entrance and a spy hole, but can have additional exits.

Controlling the Situation:

There are many ways to try to control the situation. You will be wise to choose more than one:

  1. Keep it moving: Groundhogs are very timid. They don't like movement around them, so install pinwheels, or anything else that moves, all around the garden to frighten groundhogs away.
  2. Fido Patrol. A large active dog may be one of the best deterrents. Remember, though, that a woodchuck, with those rodent teeth, can fatally wound a small dog.
  3. Spray around the garden and burrow with natural Plantskyd. It has a potent smell that fades after a day or two, but the scent is powerful enough to discourage groundhogs, deer and other garden raiders for weeks, if not months.
  4. Trapping is not recommended unless you are ready to humanely euthanize the creature. Foothold traps, snares and poison are prohibited in Rhode Island.
    Relocating them to an area far-removed from your garden is illegal (due to the rabies concern), and not effective since most find their way back. If you're the type, groundhog meat is said to quite tasty.

    ~ Bait your trap with salad greens, whole kernel corn, carrot tops, carrots, apples, potato, beans, pea pods or cucumber. We were told they LOVED cantaloupe, but our little friend didn't take the bait. Placing logs on either side of the path to help funnel the groundhog into the trap. Camouflage the trap with canvas or vegetation.
  5. Funnel to catch a critter.
    Remove tall grasses, weeds and brush piles that allows them covert access to your garden.
  6. Make the food less tasty:
    ~ A sprinkling of Epsom salts on your garden plants. The Epsom salt is good for many garden plants. Repeat the application after rain.

    ~ Plant distasteful marigolds throughout your garden.
  7. Ammonia-soaked rags smell foul. Form a stinky barrier of them around the perimeter of your garden to repel groundhogs. Placed in the burrow, it may be repellent enough to evict the resident. Refresh the rags with more ammonia once the smell fades.
  8. For fencing to be effective, it must prevent them from climbing over and tunneling underground. The entrance shaft to their den is often a four foot deep vertical shaft.
    ~ Fencing should be at least 4' tall.
    ~ For best results, bend the bottom of the fencing at a 90-degree angle, and bury a portion at least 18” below the surface, with the bottom of the fence pointing away from the garden.
    ~ Supplement the fence with an electric hot-shot wire installed 4"-5" high and 4"-5" away from the fence, all along the outside
  9. If you are especially generous and considerate, you can plant your new groundhog friend a garden of her very own. Some crops that are woodchuck favorites include alfalfa and clover. They are perpetual diggers, so that will continue.
Remember, your groundhog will not leave your garden as long as it is easy pickings.
Good luck. We'll need it.

Renee C. Brannigan