Neighborly Garden News
Grow yourself a Victory Garden
In 1943 upwards of 40% of fruits and vegetables were grown in victory gardens across the country. Gardens were created in any available space; rooftops, backyards, empty lots, school yards, even old empty containers. All told about 20 million gardens were grown, which yielded 9-10 million pounds of fresh food at a time when there was rationing and food shortages. Ordinary citizens were growing tomatoes, corn, beans, lettuce, and cabbage etc., giving themselves a sense of purpose, while growing food to sustain their families during a time of need.
Vintage Victory Garden poster
Rationing and food shortages sound familiar to us in 2020 too? Our national food supply chain and health status are once again in sharp focus in the USA. As a nation, most will agree we do not eat enough of the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. The rising cost, and now availability, of fresh food is a huge concern to Americans of all walks of life. Much of our produce travels great distances from where it was grown, losing vital nutrients as the product ages. Not even mentioning the toll agri-business has on the environment, and the vast quantities of chemicals utilized in this method of farming. Starting your own modern version of a victory garden seems like an idea that is fresh again.
Here are but a few of the many reason why growing your own veggie garden is a good idea:
1. Growing your own fresh fruits and vegetables is a great way to stretch your food budget.
2. Homegrown vegetables provide readily-available nutrition (every day a vegetable is off the vine it loses its health benefits).
3. No harmful chemicals are sprayed on your veggies.
4. Provides fresh air and outdoor exercise for the whole family.
5. Forges bonding experiences for family and community members.
6. Allows you to control your food supply and be more self-sufficient.
7. Gardening is a great activity to help relieve stress and improve sleep quality.
8. Reduces your carbon footprint.
9. Statistically, gardeners live longer!
10. Reduces your visits to the grocery store during the pandemic.
Don’t let lack of space deter you. No matter how much or little room you have, you can grow your own vegetables in your backyard (or front yard, if this is more convenient for you). Even a space as compact as a 10 ft x 10 ft garden plot can grow a tremendous amount of food for your loved ones. You can even grow on a sunny fire escape or windowsill. Container gardening is also very achievable; tomatoes and their cousins; peppers and eggplant can grow very well in 5 gallon buckets. If you are a gardening ‘newbie’ don’t despair; just start out slowly. Buy a few tomatoes pre-grown in a six-pack and experiment with planting these few young plants yourself. You’ll need a bag of potting soil, and a good sized container with drainage holes in it, or use the simple 5 gallon bucket method, and simply drill about 10, half inch sized holes in the bottom. When choosing tomato varieties; look for ones labeled ‘Determinate’, as these will stay compact, best for growing in pots. If tomatoes aren’t your favorites, most well stocked garden centers, or big box stores carry a wide variety of vegetable starts to inspire your gardening soul. Need containers? Countryside has plenty of recycled 1, 3, or 5 gallon containers that you can have for free! Call and reserve yours now! (413) 458-5586.
Cherry Tomatoes grow well in containers
Once you’ve gotten the feel for what it takes to be the caretaker of this living vegetable plant, maybe next time try growing your favorite veggies from seed; lettuce and other greens are super easy, and grow very quickly, so you can usually sow successive harvests through the growing season. Some veggies have a two-fold purpose; beets are grown for the tasty roots, but we can also harvest the beet leaves for stir frying or steaming, without harming the root development. Borscht anyone?
There are so many ideas on the internet for building raised beds, also many different types of DIY kits that make it literally a snap to put together a raised bed in a few minutes. All you need do next is fill the beds with your own compost and soil mix, and you are almost ready to plant your garden. You’ll want to mix together whichever soil and amendments you choose to add, and rake it to remove any clumps, to prepare the seedbed. Now you’ll be ready to plant your veggie starts or seed a few rows of your favorite summer vegetables. Not up for a DIY project? Countryside has a large variety of raised-bed gardens that we can install. Call us for pricing.
Beautiful Raised Beds make it easy to garden
Need a helping hand getting your garden growing? Please contact us: (413) 458-5586, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
May’s ‘to-do’ list
Spring came in like a lamb this season, and I was actually able to plant early veggies on Easter Sunday. Working with raised beds allows me to plant a bit earlier, than if I was planting in the ground. “Thanks” to my visiting Son-in-Law for helping turn the compost pile and spread my ‘black gold’. We are supposed to have a few inches of snow overnight, as I write this month’s newsletter, so it remains to be seen how good an idea to plant this early will be after all. When I moved to New England, I heard the expression, “Spring snow is the poor man’s fertilizer.” There is truth to this saying because: snowflakes absorb nitrates from the atmosphere, as they fall. When the snow melts into the unfrozen ground, it gradually releases these nutrients back into the soil. So bring it on!
May is tick awareness month! Tick borne diseases can be prevented. Ticks are not born infected with disease, but acquire them during their lifecycle from the host. White-footed Mice are the primary hosts of tick borne diseases. Other small mammals usually groom (eat) any ticks they find in their fur, but not mice. Anything you can do to eliminate mice in your yard will go a long way to decreasing the tick population. Our unusually mild winter has encouraged ticks to become active even earlier than normal. The mild winter has also allowed many rodents to overwinter successfully, and begin breeding early.
My granddaughter has already had 2 ticks attached before Easter! Now everyone is on high alert for tick inspection and prevention. Take precautions (long sleeves, insect repellent, pant legs tucked into light colored socks for easy detection) for your family, visitors, and your pets. I can personally recommend the Seresto flea and tick collar for dogs, as a preventative. It has given us 100% protection over 8 months for my 80lb hound dog. Invest in a tick I.D and removal kit, and familiarize yourself with early onset symptoms of Lyme disease in humans as well as pets. Countryside offers many options for tick management; please contact our spray program manager, Scott Higley (email@example.com) for more information.
This past winter has been dry; we have only received a little more than half the normal amount of snow for a typical winter (37.6 inches compared to 58.6 inches in Berkshire County). Soils are still moist, especially with our recent rainfall, but if you have planted or transplanted trees and shrubs within the past 2 growing seasons, please remember to begin applying supplemental watering to them. These newly planted trees and shrubs will not have the full root system in place to source water from deep within the soil profile. So to be sure to give your new trees and shrubs a good start on life in your yard, please give them a drink! We have a watering department if you need this service done for you.
Dandelions may be considered a weed, but they are nature’s little powerhouse. One of the first flowers to bloom in spring, Dandelions provide much needed nectar and pollen for bees before other types of flowers bloom. The early leaves are a tasty addition to salads and veggie dishes, and pack over 300% of your daily requirement of vitamin A, are rich in anti-oxidants, minerals and other compounds vital for good health. Their bitter flavor is reminiscent of Arugula. Be sure you collect Dandelion leaves in areas you are sure are not sprayed with chemicals.
If you’ve started a compost pile last year, turning it over in the spring, will aid in decomposition, and give you access to all your ‘black gold’. Use your finished compost as a side dressing for perennials, a top dressing for trees and shrubs, and in the planting hole for transplants, and new plants. Watering the compost pile during dry spells also helps speed decomposition, and helps turn up the ‘heat’ to kill off weed seeds.
Edge and mulch your beds for a clean and professional look. Avoid colored mulch, as it is often made of inferior waste wood products and dyed to make it look uniform. Young plants and seedlings, especially, can be sensitive to dyed mulch. Applying a good quality mulch also helps keep weeds down, and conserves soil moisture. Countryside only uses natural hardwood bark mulch.
Continue to deadhead spring bulbs but leave the leaves intact. Even if you have fertilized your bulbs, the leaves are still needed to nourish the underground bulb. Once they begin to wither and turn yellowish, you may safely trim them back.
Please contact our office for help with spring chores or information about tick control. (413) 458-5586 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Design a pollinator garden to attract bees and butterflies!
Planting colorful nectar rich flowers is the best way to attract insects that will pollinate your plants, and help your garden grow. The sugar rich nectar is a valuable source of nutrients for bees and butterflies. Seeing these nectar plants will immediately attract them to your garden. Create a nectar zone to feed and shelter them. This can be in a dedicated bed or within the flower border, or easily a window box or container. Encouraging pollinators is essential for our ecosystems and for successful crop production. It’s also fun to observe the interaction of insects and birds in the garden.
Herbs can provide loads of fragrant nectar rich flowers for pollinators, and also fresh herbs for cooking and teas. Lavender, thyme, and oregano are easy to grow herbs, and are perennial when situated in sunny well-drained areas. These herbs also promote bee health, because they contain naturally occurring chemicals that help to combat pests and viruses in the hive. Bergamot and Sage are two delightfully aromatic plants that produce vibrant flowers for pollinators. Growing Fennel will also add some architectural height to your pollinator garden; while also encouraging hoverflies. Later in the season, the fennel seeds will attract many types of seed loving birds.
Everyone loves Lavender
Culinary Sage in flower
Pollinators prefer insect friendly flowers, so chose ones that provide the easiest access to them. Simple single-form type flowers work best; think single dahlias, cosmos, and daisies. Natives like Echinacea or Helenium are stunning eye catchers, in addition to being a butterfly magnet. Be sure to include flowers with tubular shaped flowers to attract long-tongued bumblebees. Using foxgloves, penstemons, native blue or red flowered lobelias will attract long-tongued bumblebees.
Bumblebee on Red Sage
Helenium in flower
Make your garden more pollinator friendly. Don’t use pesticides; try alternative methods to promote a healthy environment for your plants. Provide bee resting places around your yard to give bees a safe place to rest in between nectar collecting flights. Bees frequently travel long distances to find nectar sources, providing a bee hotel; either store bought or one you make yourself, can protect a hard working bee. Provide a water source for bees, a shallow dish with pebbles filled with rainwater, or filtered water (water without chlorine) can help a thirsty bee during a hot summer.
DIY Bee Hotel
Visit the FYI section of our website for more information on pollinator gardens. www.countrysidelandscape.net
Summer blooming trees and shrubs add color and texture to the lush green foliage of summer. It’s a welcome sight after the early blooming varieties have faded. A properly situated tree will also help shade your home or yard from harsh summer sun, and help block chill winter winds.
Cladrastis kentukyea, the Yellow-wood tree is a member of the legume family; and can tolerate very poor soils because it makes it own nitrogen supply. Yellow-wood trees have wonderfully fragrant sweet-pea-like panicles of white or pink flowers. This native tree grows 30-50 ft tall x 40 ft wide at maturity. The low branching habit and smooth, silvery bark make this tree handsome in all seasons. Prefers full sun, and well drained soil.
Cladrastis kentukyea in flower
Oxydendrum arboretum is our native Sourwood tree and has distinctive panicles of fragrant, creamy white flowers blooming over a 4-week period in June-July. The Sourwood will grow in sun or partial shade, and prefers acid soil, (pH range of 5.5-6.5) as it is in the same plant family as blueberries and rhododendrons. Mature height: 20-25 ft tall x 20 ft wide. Fall leaf color is outstanding; turning shades of yellow, red and purple.
Sourwood tree in bloom with fall leaf coloration
Liriodendron tulipfera, The Tulip tree is a stately native tree with unusually shaped glossy green leaves, which turn a rich golden yellow in fall. The yellow, orange and green tulip flowers are borne in late June. Interesting cone-shaped fruit develops and will persist through the winter. This is a fast growing, tall tree that can reach 70-90 ft tall x 35-50 ft wide at maturity. Prefers full sun situations, and consistently moist, rich soils to do its best.
Tulip tree flowers
Aesculus parviflora, the Bottle-brush Buckeye is a handsome large native shrub. It is very adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions. The interesting palmate-shaped leaves turn bright butter-yellow in the fall. The very fragrant white and pink flowers are formed on 12” spikes at the tips of branches. Grows to 10-15 ft tall x 8-15 ft wide at maturity. Michael Dirr, horticulturist and author, reports that this shrub is one of the best specimens for use as a ‘lawn shrub’; the foliage effect makes it appear as if it is flowing across the landscape.
Aesculus parviflora the Bottle-brush Buckeye