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.

November 17, 2017

Colorful squash and gourds are signs of Thanksgiving to me—harking back to the Pilgrims—and the Thanksgiving table would not be complete without them. I especially love discovering the unusual varieties—warts and all! Unusual Pumpkin and Gourd Varieties Have you seen those warty pumpkins and gourds at farmers markets, orchards and garden centers? The ones with growths that look like big zits or peanuts?  I first saw ‘Knuckle Head’, a slightly warty orange pumpkin, last year at a local orchard... more

November 16, 2017

Most of the garden has been stripped down to bare bones but I am in no hurry to cut down any plants that have interesting seed heads. The birds fully appreciate having a smorgasbord of seeds to choose from and we love watching them.  While bird feeders are always nice, wild birds like to forage for their own bird food. Plants with seed heads not only provide nourishment but also and nesting material. Leave them until spring. Flower arrangers and florists also know the value of dried seed... more

November 10, 2017

Prepare your perennials for winter! Most perennials can be cut down after the first killing frost; others can add interest or help birds and beneficial insects during the winter months. See our tips. CutTING BACK Perennials After several hard frosts, most perennials can be cut back. To cut back your perennials, use bypass pruners and make clean cuts through the stems of the plant. I usually leave 6-inch stubs so I can find the plants next spring.  Plants need to be cut back after frosts to... more

November 9, 2017

Several years ago, I was given a potted agapanthus or African lily. After waiting all summer for my agapanthus to bloom, I had to finally admit that maybe it was time to repot it. What is an Agapanthus? Also called the Lily of the Nile, the agapanthus is actually native to South Africa—nowhere near the Nile. There are seven species of agapanthus, which are in the same family as the amaryllis—another South African native. Most have similar strap-like leaves and the flowers consist of a large... more

November 5, 2017

I was first turned on to growing Asian pears by a friend of ours who grew a wide range of uncommon fruit. A member of the North American Fruit Explorers, he had a yard that was full of berries, apples, plums, pears, apricots, kiwi, persimmons, peaches, and more but he said that the Asian pears were by far his favorites. Asian Pear Varieties We planted ‘Chojuro’ which has a butterscotch rum flavor and a late-season one called ‘Hardy Giant’ which has a mild, sweet taste. Both have rough,... more

October 31, 2017

Eye-catching and easy to grow, ornamental onions, of the genus Allium, deserve a place in every garden. Fall is the best time to plant these deer- and rodent-resistant bulbs. Every fall I am seduced into planting more bulbs. After 30 years you would think I couldn’t possibly need any more daffodils. Maybe not but that doesn’t stop me from planting more. I can’t get enough of allium. Distant cousins of edible allium such as onions and garlic, there are over 700 species of ornamental onions to... more

October 16, 2017

The gardening season is winding down. Last call for filling in those bare spots in your landscaping with a shrub or two. Perennials are beautiful but once they have finished blossoming and are gone by, hardworking shrubs will still be there acting as a backdrop. Fall is a good time for planting and many garden centers are offering deep discounts on leftover trees and shrubs. Now that the weather is cooler, there is less stress on the newly planted shrubs—and on you! Digging planting holes isn... more

October 5, 2017

I confess to being a lazy cook. For example, the idea of peeling, coring, and slicing apples makes me a reluctant pie maker. Here are three of my favorite kitchen gadgets to preserve the harvest. In past years, after spending a few of the most beautiful days of fall inside processing tomatoes, apples, and pears, I could sympathize with Robert Frost when he wrote “I am overtired of the great harvest I myself desired.” He was referring to apples and this year was a banner year for apple growing... more

October 2, 2017

Usually, when we see a green tomato, it’s just unripe and will eventually turn red.  However, there are green tomatoes that are meant to be green!  The two taste very different. If you’ve had an unripe red tomato, it’s usually very hard with a tart taste. We either wait for the tomato to turn red, ripen the tomato off the vine, or we might make yummy fried green tomatoes. However, some green tomatoes aren’t just unriped versions of red tomatoes. When is a green tomato not a “green” tomato?... more

October 1, 2017

Tulip bulbs are typically planted in the fall, but what happens when you forget to plant them or you miss a few? Here’s how to plant tulip bulbs in winter! One January, I came across a bag of tulip bulbs that had gotten misplaced in my gardening shed. Evidently, the dozen tulips hid when I planted over 150 other bulbs in October. I was looking forward to seeing this variety’s colors lining my garden path. At least, that was the plan. After doing a little research, I came across a study about... more

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