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Connecticut Garden Journal

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There are some houseplants that are great for those gardeners who live or work in a dwelling with little natural light and are a bit forgetful about watering. One of the best is the snake plant.

Snake plant or Sansevieria also has the unfortunate common name of mother-in-law's tongue. That's due to the pointed leaf tips can pinch you unexpectedly if you touch it. The traditional snake plants stand 2- to -3-feet tall with broad, thick leaves. The leaves are dark green and some have yellow edges.

But with the boom in houseplants, there are many different types of Sansevierias that are smaller, more colorful and less likely to pinch you!

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“Essentially, all life depends upon the soil. There can be no life without soil and no soil without life; they have evolved together.” That was Charles Kellogg writing in the USDA Book of Agriculture about 100 years ago.

There's a new appreciation of our soils underfoot, especially as we search for ways to slow the pace of global warming. Soils and plant roots can capture carbon from the atmosphere and hold it in the soil for decades. Soil is also a living entity upon which all life depends. This view can change our gardening practices to be more soil friendly.

garlic
See-ming Lee (Flickr / Creative Commons)

The rush is on to get all the gardening chores done. But remember you should plant some garlic.

elaine faith (Flickr / Creative Commons)

It's estimated in Connecticut, that 22 percent of the waste we send to landfills is food scraps. That's a shame because all those food scraps can be turned into compost to feed our gardens.

Bennilover (Flickr / Creative Commons)

Halloween is right around the corner and many gardeners are decorating pumpkins for the holiday. A fun way to decorate is to make a pumpkin planter filled with succulents.

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As the leaves start dropping, many gardener's attention turns to fall garden cleanup. While this is an autumn tradition, there's some new advice about how and when to cleanup the yard and garden that might help make the work easier and help our bees, beneficial insects and birds.

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I recently returned from a trip to the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden and was thrilled to see large plantings of Japanese anemones. Japanese anemones are different from the spring flowering bulb anemones or the wildflower anemones. This Asian native is a hardy perennial that grows into a 2- to 4-foot tall beauty that flowers from August until frost. Depending on the variety, the flowers range from white to pink to a deep rose color. The daisy-shaped, single or double petaled blooms dance atop wiry stems and seem to float in the breeze. That's why this plant is also called the windflower. Most varieties, such as 'Bressingham Glow' and 'Honorine Jobert' stand 4 feet tall, but 'Whirlwind' is a good 2 foot tall variety that can even grow well in containers.

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It's October and time to think about planting spring flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, crocus and hyacinths. There's nothing like the look and scent of these beauties blooming on cool, gray April days. And now is the time to act.

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Our dahlias have been magnificent this year. The plants are growing large and flowering up a storm. Here are a few late season dahlia tips to keep them looking great.

Turns out, birds love to eat persimmons, too.
Rick Derevan (Flickr / Creative Commons)

Usually when I think of fall fruit trees, I think of apples and pears. They're great but there's another fruit tree that I've grown for a while now and it's a beauty.  

Fall webworm
Judy Gallagher (Flickr / Creative Commons)

Most insect populations in our gardens and forests are on the decline with the fall weather. But one insect is in its glory. The fall webworm is creating white webbed nests on branches of a variety of deciduous trees such as crabapples, plums, elm, oak, and ash. They're obvious this time of year from their large webs on the branch ends. Unlike the tent caterpillars that form webs in branch crotches in spring, web worms cover the ends of branches in fall and feed safely from predators inside the web mesh.

Strawflower
Tom Miller (Flickr / Creative Commons)

Each year, I often rotate growing various cut flowers in our garden. This year I went back to growing two old favorites; strawflowers and statice. I hadn't grown these annual cut flowers for years and I'm glad I did this year.

There's still time to plant carrots, beets and radishes in our gardens even though it's late August.
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It's easy with all the tomatoes, peppers, squashes, melons, cucumbers and beans flowing into our kitchens, to forget about the cool season veggies that have been waiting for us. We recently rediscovered our spring planted root crops. We did start eating beets and carrots earlier this year, then got into all the other veggies. Now, it's time to get back to our roots.

Beautifuclcataya (Flickr / creative commons)

You know fall is coming when the wild asters start to bloom. This native perennial flower is hardy, tough, and long blooming. It's also known as the Michaelmas daisy as it blooms into the end of September during the Feast of Saint Michael. But there's more to this wildflower than what we see in meadows. In the garden paired with goldenrods, sedum and rudbeckia, it's an amazingly easy perennial to grow for beautiful fall color.

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It's been a great summer for flowers. But it's a shame the hot temperatures forced many flowers to go by so quickly. To enjoy the flower season longer, cut some of your favorite annual, perennial and bulb flowers and arrange them in vases indoors. Before you run out and snip some blooms for the table, here are some tips.

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Melinda Young Stuart (Flickr / Creative Commons)

We've been busy watching many different butterflies this summer in our garden. It seems they love this heat and humidity. And there's been enough water for them to thrive. Of course, this time of year the Monarch butterflies become more noticeable. Their prized plant is the milkweed. Many insects only feed and lay eggs on a few different types of plants. That's certainly true of monarchs. Anything in the milkweed family is fair game. Monarch caterpillars have the unique ability to eat the milkweed leaves even with the toxic, white, milky sap. It actually makes the Monarchs less appealing to birds, so it's a protection device, too.

Genovese basil is the basil cooks reach for when making pesto.
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Basil is one of those quintessential tastes of summer. Growing up, it reminds me of my mom's eggplant parmesan, Caprese salad and tomato sauce. You can't grow tomatoes without growing some basil.

Raspberries
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July is raspberry season. But you might have noticed some damage on your raspberry canes. Two common problems you'll see this time of year are raspberry cane blight and raspberry tip borer. Although neither problem will wipe out your raspberry crop, they both will reduce your yields.

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We’re reaching the middle of the summer here in Connecticut. Although many of our favorite summer activities aren’t feasible this year, there are lots of ways to get outside.

Ground cherries
anneheathen (Flickr / Creative Commons)

Some vegetables are just fun. We've been growing ground cherries for years. This tomato-family vegetable looks like a mini version of a tomatillo. It's a sprawling 2-foot tall plant that produces an abundance of green turning to brown papery husks. Inside the husk is the fun part. Small, cherry-sized fruits mature from green to golden. Unwrap the husk, harvest and snack on the fruits. They taste like a cross between a tomato and pineapple. They are sweet and delicious and something kids really love.

Japanese Stiltgrass
NY State IPM Program at Cornell University (Flickr / Creative Commons)

This time of year it's important to be on the look out for weeds in the lawn and garden. One new Asian weed import that's spreading around the state is Japanese stiltgrass.

Harvesting 'Red Golds'
Chiot's Run (Flickr / Creative Commons)

We grow potatoes in our garden. Even though they're cheap and plentiful, there's more to potatoes than russets and white boiling potato varieties. There are many unusual potato varieties you won't find in most markets. These varities feature red or blue skin and flesh and unusual textures, shapes and sizes.

Geranium 'Ann Folkard'
troistoques (time-out) (Flickr / Creative Commons)

There are geraniums and then there are geraniums. The classic geraniums everyone knows are the annual flowers my mom used to love. She'd pot up some red geraniums every year at her house. While I still grow annual geraniums in honor of my mom, I also like perennial geraniums.

strawberry
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It's strawberry fields forever. The delicious red berries are coming in strong and it's time to take care of the berries and plants for next year.

Starting a garden with your kids this summer? Let them take the lead so they'll enjoy the space and want to be there.
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Kids have been home for months now and with summer on our doorstep, many parents are looking for kid activities. Gardening is the perfect solution. Here's some ideas for starting a kids garden with your young children this summer.

Cucamelons grow the size of a cherry tomato and are striped like watermelons.
Page (Flickr / Creative Commons)

Cucumbers are one of those staple vegetable garden crops everyone grows. Most gardeners are familiar with the green slicing cucumbers and pickling cucumbers. But, if you have a little extra room in your veggie garden this spring, try some unusual cukes. You'll be surprised by their color, texture and taste.

Lavender 'Hidcote'
Gwendolyn Stansbury (Flickr) / Creative Commons

There is nothing like the sight and smell of lavender. I was fortunate enough to travel to the South of France and see the lavender fields. But we don't have to travel to Europe to enjoy this prized herb. There are lavender farms in Connecticut and you can grow it in your own backyard. You just need to select the right varieties and grow them properly. It's the National Garden Bureau's Plant of the Year, so let's grow some lavender.

Hosta (Multiple Varieties)
Dianna Ott (Flickr) / Creative Commons

This ancient, common shade perennial flower originates from China and Japan. It grows wild in the forested mountains. It's a favorite wild spring edible, collected when the shoots are young and then roasted or sautéed. It didn't reach Europe and United States until the 1800's but now there are thousands of varieties. This shade perennial is the hosta. Hosta is the go-to shade plant for many gardeners. It grows easily with colorful leaves and pink or white flowers.

Dandelions
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Americans have an obsession with dandelions. This much maligned weed, actually was brought to North American for its culinary and medicinal uses. It's high in vitamins and was considered a delicacy during Victorian times.

Florence Fennel
Quinn Dombrowski (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Growing up in an Italian-American household, one of the treats of spring was eating raw bulbs of Florence fennel. My mother would prepare it with a simple dressing of olive oil, salt, pepper and a dash of balsamic vinegar. I grew up loving this anise flavored vegetable.

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