Garden Journal

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About this Blog

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser's backyard gardening tips. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer's Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer's Market.

May 17, 2018

After reading last fall about the drastic decline in bumblebee populations in my state, I feared I would not see the black-and-yellow bombers this spring, so I was greatly relieved when they visited my early-blossoming ‘Purple Gem’ and ‘Olga Mezitt’ rhododendrons last week. There were so many and they moved so fast flitting from flower to flower in search of pollen and nectar that it was hard to get one to stand still long enough to get a good picture. Female worker bees do the collecting... more

May 14, 2018

Where, oh, where should the tomatoes go? It is that time of year when, in the mad rush to get the garden planted, we forget all about something as important as crop rotation to help avoid disease.  If you have been growing your tomatoes in the same garden bed year after year, you have probably noticed a decline in productivity and an increase in pests and diseases. This year, break the cycle and move those tomatoes to a bed where the squashes grew last year. That will confuse those hornworms... more

May 14, 2018

Got weeds? Before you resort to weapons of mass destruction to eradicate weeds, take a closer look at the invaders. One person’s “weed” is another person’s edible green.  Many common garden weeds are not only edible and nutritious, but can be a great homegrown addition to our meals, especially when they’re young and tender. Here are five edible “weeds” with photos. Our ancestors harvested many of the plants we call weeds right along with their veggies for use in salads and as cooked greens.... more

May 13, 2018

Apples are the most pesticide- and fungicide-laden foods grown commercially and in home gardens. Last year, I grew apples organically with the help of fruit bagging. By bagging apples on my orchard trees, I harvested bigger, disease-free apples! Growers start spraying trees in late winter and continue, sometimes on a weekly basis, until fruit is harvested five to eight months later—all in the name of producing perfect apples with no blemishes. It’s what we consumers demand: defect-free,... more

May 7, 2018

Many gardeners complain they can’t grow any plants in the shade other than hostas. And those are devoured by slugs. Embrace the shade! Plenty of gorgeous, unique plants seek shady nooks. Most are cold-hardy and need little maintenance once they are planted correctly. My shade garden is colorful and work-free. I started with heuchera, which is commonly known as Coral Bells. Foliage color is their strength, ranging from washed amber of ‘Ginger Ale’ to the glossy black-red of ‘Black Beauty’. Add a... more

May 2, 2018

Tomatoes are the ultimate backyard crop, and growing them is easier than you might think. These tomato growing tips should help you to take care of your most delicious plants. Why You Should Grow Tomatoes There are a multitude of reasons to have a backyard vegetable garden, but for many of us, the only reason we garden at all is to grow our own tomatoes. Who can blame us? Is there anything better than a fully ripe tomato eaten while it’s still warm from the garden? Tomatoes annually rank as... more

April 30, 2018

Imagine how many more vegetables you could grow if you just had a few more weeks of warm weather. That’s what season extenders are for. In many areas of the country, the gardening season is in full swing, but spring is so fickle in the Northeast. The peas are planted but not up yet and I’ll be transplanting the onions soon, but there is so much more I’d like to do. Season-extending devices will let me leaf frog forward by protecting my plants from the cold, wind, and even pests. Here are some... more

April 30, 2018

Tomatoes will succumb to late blight (Phytophthora) if they’re experiencing cool, soggy summer weather.  However, there are several hybrid tomatoes bred to resist blight and other diseases. I live in the upper Midwest and last year my ‘Black Krim,’ ‘Brandywine,’ and ‘Green Zebra’ tomatoes were infected. 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  ... more

April 30, 2018

What are you doing in the garden this time of year? I’m weeding asparagus beds, dealing with voles, caring for peonies, and seeing which plants survived the winter! Hopefully, by now, you’ve picked up all the sticks around the yard and freed any spring bulbs from the fall leaves that were still hanging around. Spring soil is often squishy and moist. It’s important not to step on garden beds, compacting the soil.  Which Plants Survived? I love to see what has survived the winter. Spinach,... more

April 25, 2018

Asparagus has to be my favorite early spring vegetable. Though it is wonderful cooked. I think it is best eaten raw while working in the garden. Asparagus is often started from one-year crowns, however you can plant asparagus from seed, too!  It’s not hard to grow asparagus from seed; it just adds an extra year onto the wait period until you can begin to harvest. We planted ‘Argenteuil’ a French heirloom variety. The plants are only about 6 weeks old and they already have impressive root ... more

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