Gardening Blogs

Welcome to the Almanac’s blog on gardening and gardens! Whether you’re a beginning gardener or a green-thumb, we’ve got lots of advice and inspiration to help you in your backyard. Look through this page for a variety of topics, including gardening with vegetables, herbs, fruit, flowers, containers, houseplants, and more!

March 31, 2011

A continuous supply of nutrients and fertilizer is an absolute for lush container bouquets and productive edibles, I learned the hard way as a novice gardener. My containers filled with petunias, salvia, lettuces and tomatoes looked awful, especially when compared to those I planted in the ground later. I was starving the container plants, because I didn’t replace nutrients that were leached out of the potting mix every time I watered. Now I use this three-step fertilizer program, and my... more

March 27, 2011

Forget those crunchy, bland, red, pink and white radishes found on relish plates. They’re tasteless in comparison to Rat Tail radish pods. In another couple of weeks, I’ll be planting radishes that grown for their pods, not their tubers. Plants produce abundant foliage, and tall flower stalks quickly early in the spring. When the lavender flowers are pollinated, they turn into crispy pods with the signature mustard-nuanced flavor all in the radish family have. Rat Tail radish pods are crunchy... more

March 11, 2011

Last week, there was a foot of slushy snow on the ground. Today, as I cleaned out the front flower bed, trimmed roses and admired the daffodil and woodland hyacinth sprouts, I spotted crocus in the middle of the lawn. The crocus popped up overnight and bloomed promptly in the balmy 50° F weather. Black and iridescent green Diptera or two-winged flies, which feed on rotting matter were around the flowers chewing up turf decayed during the long winter. The bugs are back, so it must be spring!... more

March 7, 2011

With thoughts of crisp blue potato skins heaped with bacon bits and melted cheese, I planted my first All Blue potato in 1990. I’ve been hooked ever since. I even eat blue mashed potatoes. As a kid I hated potatoes. My Mom cooked only mashed potatoes, the consistency of wallpaper paste, with no gravy. Adulthood wasn’t much better; I even avoided French fries. Children changed the equation; I needed to set a positive example. A seed catalog arrived one spring with photos of vivid blue-skinned... more

February 28, 2011

I’m able to trial the new flowers and plants a year or two before they come to the market.  A few I’ve grown recently are stunners and will be in garden centers in 2011! In the spirit of full disclosure, plant producers send me their introductions to grow, hoping that I’ll write and speak about them.  However, I’m a tough sell. My climate is severe, prone to late freezes and summer drought, plus the growing season is short, 100 days if we’re lucky. I’ve grown so many flowers and vegetables that... more

February 17, 2011

I missed it two weeks ago, but Sainsbury, the largest grocery chain in the United Kingdom, premiered heart-shaped cucumbers for Valentine’s Day customers. The grocery giant announced it plans to start selling star-shaped cukes this summer. A half of one sells for $1.66, which is equivalent to one English pound of currency. Both shapes have been sold in Japan for more than four years and soon will be available in U.S. stores. My first question was, “Is this more genetic tinkering?” Upon,... more

February 9, 2011

After the blizzards and sub-zero temperatures of the last two months, I’m more than ready for spring. I’m also depressed by the endless gray, cold days filled with intermittent snow storms. So, I’m banishing the blues by doing a few winter chores so I can hit the ground running when the first crocus pop. You can prune fruit trees any time it’s warm enough to be outdoors. Pruning needs to be done when the trees are dormant to control size and encourage fruit blossoms. Doing it now means I have... more

January 21, 2011

As you flip through seed catalogs assembling your wish list, think about dirt. It’s the most important element for success with fruit, flowers and landscape plants. Find out what type of soil is in your garden. It affects how and what will thrive for you. Despite living on a rocky glacier, my gardens thrive. Credit: Doreen G. Howard Eons ago the Rock River Valley, where I live along the Wisconsin-Illinois border, was carved out by the Wisconsin Glacier, leaving deposits of silt, sand, loam and... more

January 18, 2011

NASA calls it Sick Building Syndrome. I know it as a stuffy house that needs a good airing, as my Mom put it. By the end of January, if it weren’t for the forest of houseplants in my home, I’d open the windows, despite the snow and freezing daytime temperatures. I did open them before I learned that tropical houseplants clean indoor air of pollution. Houseplants help rid the home of toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde, carbon dioxide and trichloroethylene, all chemicals that off-gas from man-... more

January 7, 2011

In 2009, most tomatoes grown in the eastern half of the country succumbed to late blight (Phytophthora) due to a cool, soggy June. I live in the upper Midwest, along the Illinois–Wisconsin border, and my 'Black Krim,' 'Brandywine,' and 'Green Zebra' tomatoes were infected, too. Late blight had never been a problem previously, but we also had a chilly, rainy growing season. Below photos show late blight lesions on tomato fruit and leaflet. Credit: Cornell University   When I lived and gardened... more

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