Vermont Garden Journal

muvuka / Morguefile

This time of year, everyone is in a gift buying frenzy. Gardeners tend to be down-to-earth and are as happy with a bag of compost as a designer handbag. But there are still worthwhile gifts to consider for your favorite gardener.

hotblack / Morguefile

There's something special about stomping through the snow on a cold winter morning to pick out a holiday tree. Although I grew up with the classic plastic tree, as an adult I love the feel and smell of a good balsam tree.

Here's how to select the best tree. First, decide on the type of evergreen. Balsam has a great fragrance. Blue spruce has stiff needles, but can drop needles in a warm room. Scotch pine has stiff branches and needles that stay on the tree even when dry. White pine has soft, long needles and weak branches that can support only small ornaments.

Peggy Greb / Public Domain

Charles Warner once said, “Lettuce is like conversation: it must be fresh and crisp, and so sparkling that you scarcely notice the bitter in it.” After our recent cold snaps, finding crisp, fresh and sparkling lettuce in your garden may be impossible. Unless you have a greenhouse or a hoop house system, you're probably relegated to buying your greens.

Suezoo / Morguefile

I was at a friend's house recently when he received a package in the mail marked “live animals”. Curious I asked what live animal was being shipped to Vermont in November, he replied “worms”. Yes, he and his wife are setting up a worm composting bin. 

Vermicomposting is a great way to decompose veggie and fruit scraps in winter. While we can keep adding kitchen scraps to a frozen compost pile, the worms will work 24/7 under your kitchen sink or in your basement turning banana peels, broccoli trimmings and coffee grounds into compost in about 3 months. Here's how to get started.

Yaarche / Morguefile

With the darker days of November upon us, this gardener's attention turns to indoor houseplants. One of the hottest trends in gardening is growing succulents. Succulents have thick leaves, stems or roots for water storage. There is a wide variety of succulents to grow and most are virtually indestructible! But don't get confused. While all cacti are succulents, not all succulents are cacti. True cactus have what's called an areole. It looks like a patch of cotton from which spines, flowers, and roots grow. While succulents may have spines, they don't have aeroles.

Al Behrman / AP

With the cold weather finally upon, most garden plants have gone dormant for the season. But don't get too comfortable in front of the wood stove yet. There are still a few chores to do and the most important is to protect your trees and shrubs.

Toby Talbot / AP

Now that the fall leaf color show is done, there's a lotta leaves dropped on lawns, gardens and yards. But instead of seeing them as a nuisance, look at them as an opportunity. Fallen leaves can be used as a fertilizer, protective cover and an herbicide. Here's how.

Betsy Blaney / AP

This time of year it's easy to pull out the remaining veggies, cut back your perennial flowers, clean out containers, clap your hands and say, “That's it, I'm done”! But wait. There are some other fall chores to do that will make life a lot easier come spring.

Keith Srakocic / AP

I recently returned from leading VPR's Gardens and Food tour of Spain and France. While in Provence I was struck by the pumpkins, or should I say lack of them. The round, orange skinned orbs we love to decorate and paint for Halloween are non-existent. But instead are the red, flattened, cinderella pumpkins. In French, they're called 'Rouge Vif d'Etampes'. Our French cooking class chef said they're the best for flavor. It got me thinking and noticing many different squashes on farm stands and markets right here in Vermont.

Lee Reich / AP

Planting spring flowering bulbs is an act of supreme faith. We hopefully pop our tulips, crocus and hyacinth bulbs into the soil now with dreams of a rainbow of colors next spring. Unfortunately, we aren't the only ones loving those bulbs. Squirrels, chipmunks and mice are just some of the creatures that will happily munch on your bulbs under ground so that come spring all you might see in your garden are the weeds you missed last fall.

Damian Dovarganes / AP Photo

When the calendar turns to October, it's garlic planting time. While many of us know of hardneck and softneck garlics, there are some unusual garlic relatives that are also planted now.

Lee Reich / AP

Although Vermont's new law on banning food scraps in landfills begins to take effect this fall, homeowners will still have a number of years to get their systems in place. But there's no reason to wait until the government tells you to do it. Food scrap composting is easy and produces great compost. Here's some tips to get started.

Vermont Garden Journal: Community Gardens

Sep 19, 2014
Peter Biello / VPR

If you're a gardener you already know the benefits of growing your own fruits, vegetable and herbs. Many of us are blessed with abundant, healthy gardens this time of year. But, the realities of everyday life often prevent many Vermonters from growing a garden. One of the biggest deterrents is time. We often spend more time at work, than at home.

Botbin / Wikimedia Commons

This common annual flower is in full bloom now, gracing hanging baskets and containers with its colorful double, sometime fragrant, blooms. It's origins go back to the Andes Mountains and it was all the rage in the late 1800's in Europe. But it wasn't introduced to North America until around World War I when a soldier, Carlton Lowe, saw it growing in Belgium and brought seeds back home to Ohio. What's the name of this globe trotting flower? It's the tuberous begonia.

Daniel Schwen / Wikimedia Commons

There's been a lot of talk in the news lately about insects as food. In many parts of the world insects are a common delicacy. Its estimated that 2 billion people around the globe regularly eat insects. And why not? They're a great source of protein and there certainly are lots of them. While I did dabble in eating ants in Thailand in the Peace Corps many years ago, there's one insect in my garden I'd love a recipe for. It's the tomato hornworm.

lightfoot / Morguefile

You start seeing signs around Labor Day at local garden centers. They start with a quiet 20 percent off and by October the signs are screaming up to 75 percent off! What's on sale? Trees and shrubs.

Fall is good time to buy trees and shrubs. Many nurseries and garden centers don't want to carry their stock through the winter, so they're eager to move plants. But, as with any shopping, you need to discriminate between healthy and not so healthy plants. Here are some tips.

bluescreen / Morguefile

This time of year it's usually a battle to keep my herbs from going to seed. We all know herbs like basil produce more and bigger leaves if you can slow the march toward flower and seed formation. But sometimes it's best to work with nature, instead of against it. Some herbs, such has dill, fennel and cilantro, produce seeds that are not only edible, but desirable. Cilantro seeds are also known as coriander, a favorite in Indian and other ethnic dishes. Dill seed is used in cooking and to make pickles, while fennel seeds are used in teas, breads and soups and it a good digestive.

Hermann J. Knippertz / AP

This common flower's botanical name means “to sit,” probably for the way it creeps along rocks. It is also called rocky stonecrop in England for the way it's perched on cliffs. We know it as sedum.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

I don't have any southern roots, but I sure can appreciate a “mess of greens.” Southern greens such as collards, mustards and turnips are staples in a soul food diet and easy to grow even in our northern gardens. Luckily, it's not too late to get some greens a-goin' for the fall.

Steve Miller / AP

I love wandering around the open meadows in places like California with large oak trees growing in a sea of grass and wildflowers. Well, but that's not here. In Vermont any meadow or field sooner or later wants to become a forest.

Unfortunately the first shrubs to move into open areas are not the ones we want. Invasive shrubs and trees crowd out native species and are not beneficial to birds and other wildlife. Here are three of the worst.

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