We know our extended family of gardeners and planters are as anxious to get planting as we are. The days are getting longer, and before you know it, we will be free of the lingering chill.
In the meantime, why not get started indoors? Seed Savers and NESeed Company have sent us a wonderful collection of vegetable and flower seeds. Included are some new varieties and of course the tried and true favorites.
Many people aren't sure when to start their seeds and which are best to start indoors. We are going to break it down and simplify things...
What can I start indoors?
Most of your favorites can be started indoors here in New England: tomatoes, peppers, beans, squash, and melons, to name a few. Also, many herbs like basil, cilantro, dill and parsley can be started indoors. Starting some seeds is a great way to get kids involved and interested in gardening. It also gives you a chance to try some different things and keep your harvest eclectic!
When should I get started?
March-May is the time to seed most plants that will be set outside later in the spring. Start by choosing what you'd like to grow this year. Gather your containers and growing medium. Times will vary depending what you have chosen and it is important to check each seed packet carefully to see how many days to sprout, to maturity, etc..Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are a few that take the most time. These should be started 6-8 weeks before the last frost which is mid/late May in Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Beans, pumpkins, and squash are among the easiest and quickest to start. These can be ready to transplant outdoors in about a week so no need to start them too early.
I've planted my seeds; now what?
The only other requirements you need are light, warmth, water and attention.
Seedlings need lots of light or they will be stalky, spindly, and feeble. A sunny south facing window will do for a handful of plants. If growing on a windowsill, rotate the plants every few days to avoid the plants bending toward the light. Some seasoned gardeners use artificial lights so they can raise more plants and make sure they get enough rays. Water gently as necessary to keep the soil evenly moist. With a little time and attention you will experience the pride of transplanting your own seedlings, where hopefully they will reward you with a bountiful harvest!
We know it can be a daunting process trying to decide which hydrangea is best suited for your landscape. We are going to break it all down and demystify these beautiful shrubs.
Let's start with the six main types commonly grown in North American gardens:
Big-leaf (Hydrangea macrophylla) Hardy to zone 5
also known as florist's hydrangea, hortensia,mophead or lacecap
Panicle (Hydrangea paniculata) Hardy to zone 3
also known as peegee hydrangea
Smooth (Hydrangea arborescens) Hardy to zone 3
also known as Annabelle hydrangea
Climbing (Hydrangea petiolaris) Hardy to zone 4
Mountain (Hydrangea serrata) Hardy to zone 5
Oakleaf (Hydrangea quercifolia) Hardy to zone 5
All hydrangea have similar cultural needs, requiring:
- Moist but well-drained soil (hydrangea will not tolerate wet feet - ever!)
- Some sun each day. Most people think of hydrangea as shade plants, but they look and flower best with at least 4 hours of sun, ideally in the morning. Panicle hydrangeas are the most sun tolerant, and can take full sun in the northern climates.
- Plenty of water, especially as they are getting established. Hydrangeas have shallow roots, so they dry out quickly. A 2-3" thick layer of bark mulch is a useful addition to any hydrangea planting.
- Panicle and smooth flower on new wood. Flower buds on these hydrangeas form after the plant leafs out in spring, and open a few months later in summer. These plants flower reliably no matter how cold the winter was.
- Big leaf, mountain, oakleaf and climbing flower on old wood. Flower buds on these hydrangeas begin to form in late summer and must remain undisturbed all through the fall, winter, spring, in order to flower the following summer. Pruning these types of hydrangea will remove potential buds. They can also be browsed by deer, which will eat potential buds. These types can also be damaged by weather. The cold weather isn't the problem, it is in spring, when several days of warm temps are followed by a sudden freeze, that flower buds are most likely to be damaged.
- Reblooming hydrangeas are types of big leaf and mountain that have the ability to flower on both new and old wood. Even if the buds are damaged in winter weather, the plant can still flower on new wood it produces that season.
- Avoid pruning rebloomers and those that flower on old wood. Instead, site these appropriately so they do not need to be pruned and choose varieties that don't get to big for their space.
- New-wood hydrangeas can be pruned each early spring, just as new growth emerges.
- Hydrangeas do not strictly require regular pruning. They will grow and flower well with nothing more than the removal of spent flowers and any dead wood each early spring.
All hydrangeas undergo some color change as the flowers age, but only big-leaf and mountain hydrangeas can change their color in a predictable, controlled way. The pH isn't the only thing responsible for the change. It is the presence of aluminum in the soil that causes a change in color.
Generally speaking, the more intense the color, the less likely it can be altered. It is much easier to change pink to blue than from blue to pink. Both endeavors involve making chemical applications at specific times and in specific amounts. Garden lime and soil acidifier can be added to your soil to raise or lower pH. Both are available at the garden center.
It's a pretty common occurrence to hear our customers and fellow gardeners raving about Coast of Maine and their products. So we know how effective and nourishing it can be. The results speak for themselves but we wanted to dig a little deeper. So we called upon our Coast of Maine representative, Sue Lavalle. She agreed to meet with our staff and explain how and why it works as well as it does.
"Feed your soil, and it will feed you", Sue told us. In this case, let Coast of Maine feed your soil. Lobster and crab shells are rich in calcium and chitin and help make plants grow strong and disease resistant. Plants need calcium for cell wall development and growth which, in turn, increases plant vigor and disease resistance. Chitin has been proven to assist in controlling soil and foliar plant pathogens that cause fungal, viral and bacterial conditions.
Many of the Coast of Maine products are OMRI listed, by the Organic Materials Review Institute. This listing means that the listed products have been reviewed and are certified for use in organic production, handling and processing. They work closely with Pineland Farms, a Maine based farm that uses no bovine growth hormones or antibiotics. This is where they get their cow and poultry manure.
Sue also gave us some great tips for prepping your raised beds for planting. Did you know that the top 3 - 4 inches contain all the good microbes? All that tilling and turning of your soil can acually destroy and improperly distribute all that good stuff. Sue suggests just top dressing your raised beds with Coast of Maine Lobster Compost. Preferably about a 1/2 inch per year. And for your containers, she recomends a blend of 1/2 Bar Harbor Premium Potting Soil to 1/2 Quoddy Blend Lobster Compost.
We didn't think it was possible to love Coast of Maine anymore then we did, but we were wrong! To learn more about Coast of Maine and their process, you can click here... or stop in an ask a Level Acres associate.
3 for $ 25.00
Mix and Match
- Lobster Compost
- Potting Soil
- Complete Plant Mix
*includes $8.99 tagged bags only
We have expanded our line of Coast of Maine products to include:
Quoddy Blend Lobster Compost - OMRI
This is the original "seafood" compost. Made with chitin-rich lobster blended with peat and compost. The result is a dark-brown, complex soil that drains well and is ideal for conditioning beds and borders. Excellent for high yield, healthy vegetable gardens. This is their best Seller!
Bar Harbor Blend Premium Potting Soil-OMRI
One of the very few approved organic soils on the market. Made with peat, perlite, lobster, cow manure compost, and kelp, designed for potting indoor and outdoor container plants. Water and fertilize less with this compost based dark brown, nutrient rich,potting soil. Available in 8 qt., 16 qt., 1 & 2 cubic foot bags
Penobscot Blend Complete Planting Mix
This is the product that launched the company! Our all-in-one planting mix for annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees or conditioning gardens, beds and borders. A rich, smooth blend of salmon and blueberry compost, tiny mussel shell fragments and peat. The shell fragments help aerate and add texture to your soil, which helps improve root growth
Schoodic Blend Cow Maure Compost
For those who prefer traditional manures as a source of nutrients and organic material. This is an all-purpose soil conditioner designed for gardens, beds and borders. Made with a blend of cow manure from Pineland Farms Natural Meats and peat humus.
Lobster and Kelp Plant Food - OMRI
Created to complement their truly unique Quoddy Lobster Compost, Lobster & Kelp plant food is a "super premium", granulated, organic approved fertilizer. Made with lobster, crab, fish and kelp meal plus worm castings and other important natural ingredients. It is high in calcium (6%) to help boost plant vigor and immunity and prevent blossom end rot in tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.
* Product info and pictures courtesy of Coast of Maine
*Helpful hints courtesy of Sue Lavalle, C.O.M. Sales Rep.
It was a rough New England winter and we are eager to open and get planting! We will be opening the first week of April, with spring blooming potted plants. Perfect for Easter gift giving. We have lots of exciting new products to browse. We can't wait to see you all again. Here's to a great 2015 season!