Gardening Tips and Tricks

Select a month:
April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November

April [back to top]

• Seeds indoors

There is nothing more wonderful in my view, then to have baby seedlings growing in your window. It is very refreshing to see them grow daily. You give the plants a head start in your garden. The plants will flower and fruit earlier in the season, producing more veggies and flowers more resistant to insects and diseases because they are established. Cell packs with a dome cover seems to work the best. Use only a sterilized soilless mix for seeds, and make sure that you wash the trays and cell packs with 1 part bleach, 10 parts water. When filling the pots or cell packs, leave a 1/2” space at the top for watering. On the individual seed packs, it will explain the planting depth. Water carefully or bottom water. Keep the soil moist and place in a warm sunny place. Transplant when the seedling has at least 2 sets of leaves.

from the 4/24/2003 Hamlen's Helping Hints.
Subscribe below to receive them by email

May [back to top]

• A special rose for mom

Miniature or fairy roses are a compact perfect rose in miniature. They come in fantastic colors and perfect in ornamental ceramic containers or planters. They are hardy in the garden and little pruning is necessary. Easy to grow, they work well with annuals hiding the soil. Roses do not like wet feet but need to be watered regularly and deeply. Use a humus type soil and keep moist. Mulching with wood chips works well to keep moisture in and helps control some soil borne diseases. The plant likes good air circulation to prevent mildew. A great plant that should be in the front of your garden so that it can be enjoyed.

from the 5/8/2003 Hamlen's Helping Hints.
Subscribe below to receive them by email.

• Using your garden compost

Perennials need the garden soil to be ammended regularly. The plants will respond with beautiful blooms and stronger growth. When using your own compost, sift with a screen to keep back the larger pieces. Before spreading, weed area thoroughly and then spread compost 2-3” thick on the surface. Lightly fork into the top surface of the garden soil. The rain and insects will help move the compost down to the root zone. Mulching after composting will help to keep the weeds controllable during the growing season and then can be tilled into the garden in the fall to add more organic material. Mulch only after a good rainfall. This will insure that the soil is moist. Wood shavings or leaf mold are the best to use. Apply 2-3” thick on top of the soil.

from the 5/28/2003 Hamlen's Helping Hints.
Subscribe below to receive them by email

June [back to top]

• A helping hand in your vegie garden

Mulching can help cut your weeding and watering time by half. By mulching your garden, you are shading the roots from hot days and slowing the evaporation time down. Cutting out the light on the soil surface stops weed seeds from germinating. Choose a biodegratable mulch that can be tilled in the following year. Leaf mold or wood shavings work well. Layers of newspaper can be used under the wood shavings for more aggressive control. It is always a good idea to wait until after a steady rain fall to ensure that the soil is moist before mulching. The thickness will vary, usually between 1”- 2” for a vegetable garden.

from the 6/5/2003 Hamlen's Helping Hints.
Subscribe below to receive them by email.

• Lawn care: mowing the lawn

There are many helpful hints that if put to practice, can cut down on weeds, insects and provide you with a beautiful green lawn. Mowing should be simple enough, but often people cut their lawn too short in the summer which results in a brown burnt lawn. Some people cut the grass too long in the fall and this allows fungus to grow in the root zone. On almost all lawn mowers, you can adjust the height of the blade. 2” is the normal length the grass should be cut to during active growth. During the heat of summer, do not cut as short and cut less often. The longer grass blades help shade the roots and help it to stay moist. During the fall, cut more frequently and cut at 1 1/2” length for the last cut of the season. Detatching can help benefit if there is more that 1/2” of thatch. Usually done in the fall, you can also top dress with a light layer of peatmoss, lightly racked in and watered thoroughly.

from the 6/19/2003 Hamlen's Helping Hints.
Subscribe below to receive them by email.

July [back to top]

• Pruning tomatoes

Before you prune your tomatoes, you need to know the difference between indeterminant and determinant growth habit of tomato plants. This just means continuous growth or not. The patio tomato will grow to a certain length, the plant will set flower at the same time. An indeterminant tomato will continue to grow and flower throughout the growing season. These plants need to be pruned. Remove sucker growth that has grown between the leaf axil and the stem. Stake the plant 1' away from the stem. Use a soft garden twine or old nylons cut into pieces. Tie a figure 8 around the plant and the stake. There will be less rotting and less problems with slugs if the plants are off the ground.

from the 7/3/2003 Hamlen's Helping Hints.
Subscribe below to receive them by email.

• Pruning lilacs

The most important feature of a lilac are the fantastic blooms in the spring. To prune or not to prune. That seems to be the common question. Only prune the old spent flowers on the shrub. Cut just below the spent flower, taking care that you do not cut the buds below the base of the flower. The flower buds are produced at the tips of young stems grown the year before. The flower bud forms in pairs where leaves join the stem.Pruning too far below the old flower will prune out next years rejuivinate an mature shrub, remove a few of the oldest branches by cutting them right back to the ground. Cut out also anything that is dead, dying or diseased.

from the 7/17/2003 Hamlen's Helping Hints.
Subscribe below to receive them by email.

• Water plants

The most common question I am asked in the garden center for water plants is “ what are oxygenating plants?” These are water plants that either float or are fastened to the bottom of the pond. floating plantsThey do not have to be fastened . Their roots hang down into the water and the plants are free to move over the surface of the pond. The roots help to clean the water and put oxygen into the water.The most common types are water lettuce and water hyacinth. Oxygenating grassesThis type of grass is one of the ponds most important aquatics, remaining completely submerged. Sufficient amounts of oxygenating grasses will make it difficult for algae to grow. The plants will also provide food and shelter for the fish.

from the 7/31/2003 Hamlen's Helping Hints.
Subscribe below to receive them by email.

August [back to top]

• 4 main problems with tomatoes

Cracking of fruit
Cracked fruit is a common problem for most gardeners. This is caused by water droplets on the surface of the tomato. Water is absorbed by the fruit, then swells and ruptures the cells. To help prevent this from occuring, when the plant is full of ripe fruit, water from below.

Blossom end rot
A symptom of water stress on the plant. The biggest cause is water defficency and hot dry locations, also a lack of calcium. Adding bonemeal or wood ash when you prepare the soil. Avoid using too much nitrogen fertilizer and water deeply and regularly during hot spells.

Tabacco mosiac virus
Plants show yellow mottling of the leaves, sometimes curling upward. Do not smoke in the garden or in the greenhouse. Wash hands throughly before handling plants. Remove infected plants and discard.

Tomato horn worm
A viracious eater that is sometimes hard to spot considering that they are a large fat bright green caterpillar. The best method is to hand pick them off the plant.

from the 8/14/2003 Hamlen's Helping Hints.
Subscribe below to receive them by email.

• Success with house plants

Every plant needs various nutrients in order to grow well. 3 basic chemical elements are essential for balanced growth. Nitrogen, phorporus, and potash. A common fertilizer example is 20-20-20. The first number is nitrogen and is good for foliage growth. The second number is phosphorus and is good for building stong root systems. The last number is potash and is good for flower and fruit production. Fetilizers come in different forms. Liquid, granular and powder are diluted in water and then watered directly onto the plant. Spikes are inserted into the soil around the root ball of the plant. Small pellets or osmocote are mixed directly into the soil medium before planting and is a slow release method of fertilizer break down. Always follow directions and when in doubt, use 1/2 recommended strength. Feed house plants only during active growth, from April until September.

from the 8/28/2003 Hamlen's Helping Hints.
Subscribe below to receive them by email.

September [back to top]

• Increasing your stock by dividing your perennials

On average, most perennials should be divided every 2-5 years. If the plant is overgrown and not flowering well, this is a good indicator that the plant needs some attention. Spring and early fall is the best time to transplant. The plants are usually inactive and take to being divided more easily. Cut around the plant and lift. Try to get as much of the root as possible. Divide with 2 pitch forks inserted into the center of the plant. Spread handles and pry apart. Separate pieces into sections and replant. Improve the soil with compost to the area that you removed the plant from. If you can not plant on the same day, cover clumps with wet burlap and place in a shady location. Plant firmly and water thoroughly.Your perennial garden will benefit and florish from your hard work.

from the 9/11/2003 Hamlen's Helping Hints.
Subscribe below to receive them by email.

• Healthier evergreens

Most junipers and cedars shed previous years needles. Often the spent needles and fallen leaves will collect in the center of the plant. This creates an environment for disease and insects to florish. Thick gloves and a pair of pruners are all you need, (disinfect pruners with 1 part alcohol 10 parts water.) Cut any dead or broken wood back to a main stem. Remove all debris from the center of the plant. Shake out or use your hands to brush off the remaining old needles. Prune or shear regularly and fertilize with evergreen food. Mulch the base with wood shavings and water during drought conditions.

from the 9/25/2003 Hamlen's Helping Hints.
Subscribe below to receive them by email.

October [back to top]

• Extending your season

In our area, our growing season is very short. For many of the vegetables that we grow, sometimes two or three more weeks of growing time can make all the difference. Covering your plants with a miniature plastic greenhouse will help keep in the heat at night. Roll up the sides on warm days to allow excess heat to escape. There are water insulated sleeves for tomatoe plants that you can use to keep them warm at night.To extend your tomato harvest, pick all obvious full sized fruit and any small ones that have begun to turn whitish on the top surface. Sort them into different stages of maturity. Store simular sizes together. Wrap the tomatoes loosley in newspaper and store in a well ventilatad cardboard or wooden fruit box in single layers. Check regularly

from the 10/9/2003 Hamlen's Helping Hints.
Subscribe below to receive them by email.

• Mass planting of daffodils

Select the right bulb for your location. Choose for height, bloom time, color and foliage type. If the soil has been prepared by rototiller or is in existing beds, use a trowel or dibble. For naturalizing, a soil auger on a electric or gas powered drill works well. Watch out for sudden kick back. Use a bulb guide to choose proper planting depth. To have a more natural effect,lightly toss them onto the ground and plant where they land..The spacing is more uneven and natural. Fertilize with a phospate type fertilizer when planting. Fertilize in the spring of the following year.

from the 10/23/2003 Hamlen's Helping Hints.
Subscribe below to receive them by email

November [back to top]

• The dreaded job of pruning a rose bush.

There are 2 groups. Shrub or rugosa roses, and tea, grangiflora and florabunda roses. First, shrub roses. A double layer of thick gloves and sharp pruners dissinfected with alcohol are the only tools you need. Prune in the late fall after the leaves have fallen off the plant. Remove anything dead, dying or diseased branches. Then prune out the weak sucker wood and thin out the center of the plant. When cutting stems, cut as far down in the crown as you can. Remove any debris from the crown and allow air and water to penitrate. Tea, Grandiflora, and florabunda'sHealthy growth should not be reduced by more than 1/3. Remove any dead, dying or diseased wood. Remove any cross branches and thin out older wood. Mulch and use a protective coverings for winter protection.

from the 11/6/2003 Hamlen's Helping Hints.
Subscribe below to receive them by email.

• Flowering poinsettia's for a second year

A fantastic plant that often is thrown out after the holidays because no one knows what to do with it. Poinsettia's are photoperiodic, meaning that flowering is controlled dy day and night length. Classified as a short day plant, it will not flower when nights are shorter that 11.5 hours. Instead of tossing the plant, cut it back and place it outside for the summer. Bring indoors by September 1. Repot and place in a warm sunny location with no drafts. October 1 is when you can start to alter day length by covering plants with a black cloth. Some people like to use a cardboard box . This works fine, make sure the box provides complete darkness. My grandmother put her poinsettia in the closet every night. Keep it consistant from 5 pm until 8 am. This process should be continued every night until the end of november. Water and feed regularly. The plant should be in bloom for Christmas.

from the 11/20/2003 Hamlen's Helping Hints.
Subscribe below to receive them by email.