Vermont Garden Journal

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.

Lee Reich / AP

This ancient vegetable was found thousands of years ago in caves in Northern Thailand, Egyptian tombs and Swiss bronze age villages. It wasn't until the Italians started cultivating it as fresh vegetable, and introduced it to the French, that it really took off. The petit pois or fresh garden pea is normally a spring treat. But, it grows equally as well as a fall crop. Let me tell you how.

Lee Reich / AP

It's been a great growing season so far with the right amounts of sun, warmth and rain. But flowers, fruits and veggies aren't the only things growing well. Weeds can take over this time of year turning a well-planned out garden into a jungle. Weeds can fill in any veggie or flower garden quickly when given a chance, but remember they're just plants growing in the wrong place.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

Rudbeckia or black-eyed susans, are such a common flower we often overlook them. These wildflowers are found naturalized along roadsides and, of course, in many home gardens. While the native version is very common and popular for discerning true love, you know she loves me, she loves me not, there are some great new varieties of rudbeckia that expand the color pallet and size of this perennial flower.

Dr. Scott M. Lieberman / AP

There's nothing better than watching the summer birds soaring around my yard, except when they decide on eating my prized berries! After coddling berry plants for years, bird protection is serious business. Cherries, strawberries, blueberries and elderberries are just some of the berry crops that birds love. Here are some ideas on preventing the damage.

The Cook's Garden / AP Photo

This vegetable was once the rage at the court of Louis the 14th. It was made famous when Mark Twain called it a cabbage with a college education. Yes, it's the cauliflower. But before you go ho-hum over white cauliflower, let's look at how its changed. Through breeding there are purple headed varieties, such as "Graffiti," orange headed varieties, such as "Cheddar" and green headed varieties, such as "Panther." My favorite is the Romanesco cauliflower that features green heads with swirling spirals. These colorful selections contain more vitamins and nutrients than white varieties.

Jusben / Morguefile

Although my wife Wendy and I have plenty of room to grow flowers in the yard, we always plant some in containers as well, especially the fragrant ones. Planting fragrant annuals in a pot on a deck, patio or near an open window is an easy way to indulge in the sweet smells of summer. Here are three of my favorites.

University of Illinois' Dixon Springs Agricultural Center, Ron Hines / AP

I'm not going to get cute with this topic. There's nothing sweet about Japanese beetle grubs. We recognize grub damage as bare patches in the lawn. Of course, those grubs will turn into adult Japanese beetles in summer and devastate roses, grapes, and many other common garden plants.

Matt Rourke / AP

This buttercup family plant literally means ”vine” in Greek, but there's not a more international flower. Clematis are native to North America, Europe, India, Australia, China and Japan. There are clematis that bloom in full sun to shade. Some are rampant climbers, while others are more tame. And with careful selection you can have a clematis blooming in your garden from spring until fall.