Saturday, June 25, 2011


Sometimes the mere thought of re-doing something just makes me want to lie down until the urge passes. Having to make decisions and then do the actual work can be daunting. Fortunately for me I have several friends who enjoy telling me what to do, so at least the decision parts are done for me and all I have to do is the physical part, which can be enjoyable.
What used to be in the raised beds were
 a purple sand cherry, euonymous
and some boxwood and holly.
It really didn't do much for me
although it was easy to care for.

So, a couple of weeks ago, at a friend’s urging, I did a little tweaking in the front garden and I do admit the results are quite pleasing. And it really wasn’t a lot of work.

Newly planted impatiens
My parkway tree had some creeping sedum planted around it and it didn’t really provide a lot of color "pop." So out it went– I gave some to neighbor Dave and some to another friend and moved some to the back– and the rest "gasp" I just threw out. It was really quite cathartic. In its place went a flat of colorful Impatiens. Yes, they will have to be replanted every year, but for a few minutes work I will be rewarded with blooms all summer long.

On either side of my front door are raised planter beds but the wall blocks were so high you couldn’t really see the bedding plants until the end of the summer when they had finally grown tall enough. So, we took off the top layer of block and res-set the cap stones and now you can see the pink begonias I planted last month.
The re-purposed arbor
On the right side of my house was a really nice arbor that at one time had clematis growing up the sides. It was too shady so the clematis eventually died, except for one which was struggling. So, we took the arbor apart and used the sides for trellises in the aforementioned raised beds. I replanted the struggling clematis and bought another one (The President) for the other side.
The finished project

So, for just a few hours time and a little cash at Countryside I now have a whole new look at the front of the house. I feel really good about re-purposing the arbor, tho I still don’t know what to do with the arched top.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

At Ease Disease, There's a Fungus Among Us

Powdery Mildew
We’ve had a wet spring and that
means two things—mosquitoes and diseases.  It doesn’t matter if it is cold and wet or warm and wet, some disease thrives in it.  Some plants are naturally more prone to fungal infections.  My monarda get powdery mildew every year and garden phlox are also susceptible.  Powdery mildew usually doesn’t do lasting harm, tho it can look a little unsightly.  Roses are also prone to many types of disease, including powdery mildew and black spot.  Other types of diseases can be devastating to some crops, including tomatoes, squash, and potatoes.
Mosaic disease
Plant diseases are spread in a variety of ways.  Sucking insects, like aphids, can transfer the disease and some diseases are spread by spores in the soil.  Rose Mosaic Virus is spread through vegetative propagation (cuttings).  Some are preventable, most are not treatable.

Late blight on tomatoes
The best way to fight disease is to follow good horticultural practices.  Water early in the morning and don’t water from overhead; that is water the soil not the plant.  In the vegetable garden, rotate your crops from year to year.  Mulch between the rows so soil borne spores aren’t splashed up onto the undersides of the lower leaves when it rains or when watering.  If you know you have plants that are susceptible to certain diseases, such as the monarda, or if your vegetables become diseased year after year, start applying fungicides before you see the problem and follow the good horticultural practices outlined above.  If you don’t catch it in time, the only thing to do is to remove the affected leaves or stems and begin a spaying program.  Dispose of the diseased material by putting it in a bag and then in the trash.  Do not throw the diseased prunings in the compost pile.  There are organic fungicides that you can use on vegetables and other edible crops, but always, always read and follow the label. 
You can also use seed or buy plants that are certified disease resistant.  When buying tomato plants, for example, you may see the letters VFNT, or only some of those letters.  The V stands for verticillium, the F for fusarium, the N for nematodes and the T for tobacco virus.  The Champion tomato variety is certified VFNT, which means it is genetically bred to be resistant to those for pathogens. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Vegetable Gardening

Ed's new veg garden
My neighbor roto-tilled up part of his back lawn and put in a vegetable garden. It was an ambitious project that took most of two weekends to finish and now I see rows of something green beginning to sprout.

The vegetable garden at Countryside has been in for several weeks now. This year Richard and Lori have planted potatoes, broccoli, chard, tomatoes, radishes and peppers.

The Countryside Garden

You might think that June is too late to put in a veg. garden but it really isn’t, especially since our spring was so cold and wet. Most of the traditional veg crops do best in warm weather anyway. So, really, now is the perfect time.

Even if you think my neighbor was a little ambitious, many vegetables are easily grown in containers. I grow my herbs and tomatoes in half whiskey barrels where I can position them to take best advantage of the sun in my otherwise shady garden.

Netting over the spinach to keep
our little friends out.

Some vegetables, in particular the leafy chards, beets and lettuce can be interspersed amongst your ornamentals. One year at Ball Seed field days we saw beets used in ornamental annual containers and I just love the look of Bright Lights Swiss Chard in containers. My friend, Jean, does the containers at the Brink Street Market and uses them. Chard is a great alternative to spinach, which has a tendency to “bolt,” or go to seed in the hot weather.

Planting vegetables, even in containers, is a great way to get your kids interested in gardening and interested in eating what they grow. When we lived in Denver I planted pole peas up the one side of our deck. We never had enough for a whole meal but we would use them raw in salads and my girls enjoyed harvesting and shelling them.

If you need some ideas about what to plant, the Cornell University vegetable variety project has vegetables rated by actual gardeners.  It is not just specific to New York, but has garden profiles from all over.  The University of Illinois extension web site also has information about growing, harvesting and storing vegetables.  And, not to brag, but we here at Countryside are a vertible font of knowledge on vegetable growing.

We still have plenty of starter vegetables at Countryside and of course seeds. So come on in and let us help you get started. It’s not too late!