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Edition 18.11 H&H Gardening Newsletter March 15, 2018

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Vegetables to plant
You can plant a wide variety of cool-season and warm-season crops. Select from beet, cabbage, carrot, chayote, corn, endive, kale, leaf lettuce (and European salad greens such as arugula and the savory mixes called mesclun), New Zealand spinach, onion, pea, potato, radish, sunflower, Swiss chard and the early varieties of tomato. Wait until April or May to plant other varieties of tomatoes.

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Featured Quote:

"I appreciate the misunderstanding I have had with Nature over my perennial border. I think it is a flower garden; she thinks it is a meadow lacking grass, and tries to correct the error."
~Sara Stein, My Weeds, 1988

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Calla Lilies

Among the most beautiful of all flowers, calla lilies originally came from South Africa. They are a favorite of florists and those who like to plant a cutting bed, as they make excellent cut flowers. They also look great in containers. The larger varieties can put on quite a show planted as a focal point behind lower-growing flowers, or massed to create a large color grouping.

Although they only thrive year-round outside in warm climates, they make great houseplants, and everyone can grow them year-round inside.

They can deal with anything from full sun to partial shade, with a moist, fertile, well-draining soil. They are a good choice as a gift for someone who tends to overwater plants--but they don't like to be totally drowned, so make sure you have a pot that drains well. Make sure they don't dry out while they are blooming.

After blooming has finished, don't cut the healthy foliage off; it will gather energy and nutrients to store for the next blooming season. Leaves may be removed when they yellow.

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Heirloom tomatoes

Over the past twenty years, commercial growers have produced tomato varieties that valued shelf-life and unblemished prettiness over taste - and the result has been an almost tasteless tomato at your local supermarket (the baskets might taste as good). Put taste back on top with heirloom varieties - some can even flourish on your patio in a 7-gallon-sized container!

Heirlooms vary in their production time, so you can sequence your varieties over the summer. A vine-ripened tomato salad can be yours for the picking! These tomatoes may not look as pretty as the ones in the local supermarket - but the taste more than makes up for it.

Planting and growing directions:

The one disadvantage to heirloom varieties is that they tend to be less disease-resistant than the hybrids. If you've grown a few extra, and they all stay healthy, your non-gardening neighbors will probably be happy to take some of your great-tasting tomatoes off your hands.

Once you get your plants, if they are greenhouse-grown, harden them off for a week or so before transplanting (leave them outside for just a couple of hours the first day, then gradually increase the length of time, watering as needed). Before you transplant, amend your soil with a good planting mix, such as , or use a potting soil such as for tomatoes in pots. Plant them in the evening or on a cloudy day, and they will be less likely to droop. To make for a stronger plant, bury tomato stems up to the plant's second true set of leaves (they'll develop roots all along the buried stem).

Stake or cage as needed (depending on the variety), water as necessary, and fertilize with and you'll have a tomato crop that can't be beat!

A note to those growing tomatoes in pots on a narrow patio: you can espalier tomatoes! They won't produce as well but if it's the only way you'll have the room to grow them at all, try it - half a crop is better than being stuck with the tasteless 'tomatoes' sold in the supermarkets.

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Amazing Azaleas

Azaleas are easy to love. Their amazing flowers put on an incredible display of color every spring like clockwork, helping to herald the coming growing season. Whether in a formal or a woodland garden setting, azaleas make a great addition to any garden. When these plants are in full bloom, it's almost impossible to see the foliage underneath.

For centuries, azaleas were grown only in Japanese gardens. But then native species were discovered in North America and eventually types from both countries found their way to Europe. Deciduous species (Exbury hybrids) are primarily from North America, while evergreen species (Belgian, Southern Indica, as well as Girard and Satsuki hybrids) are from Japan and Europe.

Azaleas are versatile and can be used in almost any spot in the garden provided they have good drainage. While Belgian, Girard and Kurume hybrids prefer partial shade in the afternoon, Exbury hybrids, Southern Indicas and Satsuki hybrids can be grown in full sun in all but the hottest areas. Azalea flowers come in almost every color shade imaginable, and the bushes range from dwarf shade varieties of 2-3', to the sun lovers that can grow from 4-8' high and wide.

Homeowners in mild climates can select almost any species of azalea for their garden. But in colder areas, Exbury hybrids and some of the newer winter-hardy hybrids should be used. They also reward gardeners with good fall colors in shades of orange and red. Many have sweetly-scented blooms. If you are short on space in your landscape, consider planting azaleas in containers to add another dimension to your garden.

Azaleas grow well in evenly moist and slightly acidic soil. They perform best when the soil is amended with peat moss or an acid planting mix before planting. They also like to be fed every few months with cottonseed meal or an acid plant food. We recommend feeding from the end of the blooming season through early fall.

Azaleas don't require much pruning if the proper varieties are selected for the desired mature size. If occasional pruning is needed to control size or wayward branches, prune from one month after the blooming season has ended through August. Pruning any later can remove the new blooms that are starting to set for the following spring--these can start as early as September.

Whether pruned formally into shapes or left natural to blend in with the local surroundings, azaleas make a wonderful addition to any garden, with their extraordinary offering of beautiful spring flowers.

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The Evolution of the Rose--Antique Roses

Have you ever wondered how roses became what they are today? From a humble, single, five-petaled flower in just a few colors, we now have a plethora of colors, flower forms, plant sizes and bloom periods to choose from. What countries and time periods has the rose journeyed through to reach its destination in the present time? What will it become in the future?

The thousands of varieties of roses available today are organized into categories called "classes." These classes help us understand the history, parentage and growth habits of each variety. Because some roses can be a member of more than one class (for example, a tall "shrub" rose with an open growth habit might also be classified as a "climber"), this class system is not completely rigid; nevertheless, it does provide us with an idea of when, where and how a certain variety came into existence.

Although most these classes of roses are not very popular in gardens of today, you may have one or more growing in your garden, anyway--as rootstock for your more beautiful modern rose!

Species and Hybrid Species Roses
Species roses are the parents of all the other roses that have come after. These vigorous bushes adapted themselves to surviving and flourishing with no care in extreme conditions. The 5-petaled, single flowers appear in the early spring and are followed by a good crop of rose hips, which provided winter color and food for birds.

Hybrid species roses are the results of the earliest breeding attempts. These retained the extreme hardiness of the parent plants, but many bore double or semi-double flowers.

Originating from Roman times, they were saved from probable extinction in medieval times by the European monasteries that grew roses for medicinal purposes. Normally upright, they are renowned for their old rose fragrance.

Like the damasks, the gallicas also originated from ancient Rome. Because they are extremely tolerant of poor soil and neglect, they were able to survive the fall of the Roman Empire by becoming naturalized wherever they had been planted. The compact shrubs bloom once in the spring and also provide additional color when their dark green foliage turns to dark red in the fall.

Alba Roses
Known as the "White Roses" of Shakespeare, these very vigorous, hardy, disease-resistant roses range in color from pure white to pink shades. Their spring blooms are usually followed by a crop of large red rose hips that persist through the winter.

If you have seen a still life by a 17th century Dutch artist, you have probably seen images of centifolia roses. More commonly known as cabbage roses or hundred-petaled roses, they were prized for their full, large flowers. Blooming once a year, in the spring, they are extremely hardy plants; most grow tall with an arching growth habit, although a few are more compact, with smaller blossoms.

Moss Roses
The moss roses get their name for the mossy appearance of the buds and sepals and are sports of the damasks and centifolias. Although they were first recognized in 1696, most varieties were bred in the mid-19th century. Bearing a fragrant, piney scent, the hardy bushes grow stiffly upright. (These are not the same as Portulaca grandiflora, also known as moss rose.)

China, Tea and Noisette
Introduced in the late 16th century from the Far East by sea traders, these are somewhat tender plants that offered repeat bloom, a classic pointed rose-bud shape and a wider range of colors. The first hybrid tea rose ('La France'--introduced in 1867) was a product of this class, and marks the dividing line between old garden roses and modern roses.

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Growing an Indoor Herb Garden

Everyone associates St. Patrick’s Day with Ireland--it's a celebration of Ireland's most-recognized patron saint, right? Aside from the fact that Saint Patrick wasn't Irish (he is said to have been born in either Scotland or Wales), the holiday did, of course, originate in Ireland. But which country, do you suppose, is at the head of the list when it comes to celebrating the big day? Why, none other than the good ol' USA!

While celebrations take place in most cities across America (where everyone suddenly becomes Irish overnight), one of the earliest St. Paddy's Day parades (second only to Boston) took place in New York City in 1762. Today, this parade is the largest celebration and parade in the USA, with around 150,000 participants each year that attract millions of people lining 5th Avenue. Floats, cars and exhibits are not allowed in this parade that will be celebrating its 251st consecutive year.

Because of its 1 million plus residents of Irish descent, Chicago's celebration of St. Patrick's Day is a huge event. Green is everywhere, including the Chicago River, which is dyed green especially for the holiday. Interestingly (if not appetizingly), the idea originally came from sewer workers, who would dye the river green to look for sewer discharges. Other U.S. cities that employ green water especially for the day are Savannah, Georgia (the water in all public fountains is dyed green) and Indianapolis, Indiana (it dyes its main canal green).

Boston has a special tie with Ireland--being the closest U.S. port to Ireland, it was the port though which many of the Irish that were immigrating to America passed. Boston also has the distinction of hosting the world's first recorded parade for the holiday in 1737, beating Dublin, Ireland by a couple of hundred years. And if you would like to spend your St. Patrick's Day engaging in the time-honored pastime of drinking, there is no better place to go than Boston, which has more Irish pubs than any city outside of Ireland. Its popular parade, featuring bagpipers, floats and bands, generally attracts upwards of 600,000 people each year.

Savannah, Georgia's St. Patrick's Day parade began as a small affair in 1813 to honor a group of men of Irish descent on the anniversary of the death of St. Patrick. Today, it is the city's largest annual celebration, attracting over half a million people.

If you are on the west coast, make your way to "the city by the bay"--San Franciso--and enjoy their fabulous St. Patrick's Day parade that dates back to 1852.

We hope you enjoy your St. Patrick's Day, no matter where you find yourself. In closing, let us leave you with these Irish words of wisdom, particularly true on St. Patrick's Day:
"There are only two kinds of people in the world, the Irish and those who wish they were."

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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Garden Primer

How often should I feed my lawn?

We recommend feeding lawns every two months during the growing season. You can start off by applying a lawn food in late winter to early spring that contains a pre-emergent herbicide to help prevent crabgrass and other weeds from germinating.

After that, switch to a complete lawn food. If summer weeds become a problem, apply a weed and feed fertilizer.

Make sure to give your lawn a final feeding in fall, before it goes dormant, to keep it green through winter. If a lawn goes into the winter looking yellow, you won't be able to green it up much until temperatures warm up again.

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Shepherd's Pie
  • 2 lb. potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 6 tbsp. whole milk
  • 1 stick butter, cubed
  • 1 tbsp. butter for the sauce
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp. lard or dripping
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup finely diced carrots (see substitutions below)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups ground or minced lamb
  • 1 3/4 cups beef stock
  • 1 cup chopped white mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (if you can get an Irish cheddar, by all means, do!)

  • Vegetables: you can also use peas, corn, mixed veggies...if you use frozen veggies, thaw first. Canned veggies are not recommended.
  • If you don't like mushrooms, add another cup of veggies.
  • You may substitute ground beef for the lamb--but then it's a Cottage Pie, not a Shepherd's Pie.

Step by Step:

  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Boil the potatoes until soft; then drain into a colander.
  • Place the milk and butter in the pan used to boil the potatoes, return to the heat and warm gently until the butter has melted.
  • Add the potatoes and mash. Salt and pepper to taste and keep to one side.
  • Melt the lard or dripping in a large deep pan.
  • Add the onion and carrot and fry for 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Add the ground lamb and one-third of the beef stock to the onion and carrot mixture and cook, stirring constantly until all the meat is browned.
  • Add the remaining stock, parsley and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes.
  • Mash the flour into the remaining 1 tbsp. butter then add in small pieces to the ground meat sauce, stirring until all the flour has dissolved and the sauce has thickened slightly, approx. 5 mins (use more or less flour to adjust to your desired consistency).
  • Place the meat and sauce into an 8" X 3" deep ceramic of glass baking dish and cover with the mashed potato.
  • Sprinkle the grated cheese on top of the potato and bake in the heated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the surface is crisp and browned.
  • Serve immediately