Get Ready for Spring

Martin’s Garden Notes

We are all itching to get back into the garden so now is the time to start cleaning up. Be careful as you rake as some of the tender shoots of perennials and bulbs are beginning to poke up.

Roses sould be pruned down to about 8-15 inches. Remove old woody parts and small twiggy branches leaving strong green canes. Climbers should be managed differently so stop in to your local Garden Shop and pick up a sheet on pruning roses. Fertilize the first of April and follow directions on the fertilizer package. Garden Shop plants should be arriving soon. Perennials are making their way out of the green houses.

At this early date, most blooming plants are just too tender to st outside just yet but Pansies and Daffodils as well as several other plants are tough enough to thrive with cooler temperatures. Should it freeze, these plants will take it in stride and pick up when the temperature moderates.

Fall Vegetable Gardening

Martin’s Garden News

The veggie season is far from over if you want to keep harvesting vegetables well into fall. As you clear out an area that has produced all it can, turn it over and plant Lettuce, Broccoli,Caililower,Collards,Kale and Cabbage. These will produce very well until we have a very hard freeze. You can also sow  spinach for harvest this fall and plant enough to leave over the winter for harvest in early April. You can also be successful sowing mesclum mix for a great addition to your salads.

With any luck you can sow carrots and beets and have them to harvest well after frost. Cover them with straw to protect from frost.

In areas of the garden that you don’t intend to replant, plant a cover crop of oats by mid September. If you clear out an area later, it is best to sow rye.  Just be aware that rye will live through the winter and must be turned under early in the spring as it will quickly grow to four feet tall. Both covers will store nutrients that you will turn back into the soil in the spring and will prevent erosion. 

Island Garden Shop, Inc.
54 Bristol Ferry Rd.
Portsmouth, RI 02871

The Joys of Perennials

Martin’s Garden Notes

Perennials, plants that return every year, offer forms and blooms that can’t be found with annuals. With perennials, the garden becomes more dramatic and colorful each year, with out replanting. The challenge is to have a long season of bloom with the understanding that each variety provides a few weeks of bloom. This makes for a garden that offers a changing look from week to week all season long.

While annuals have their place in the garden to bring all season bloom,perennials offer shapes and flowers that annuals can’t. The graceful display of Bleeding Heart or the elegance of Japanese Iris can’t be found in an annual.

Perennials, being more or less permanent residents in the garden should be prepared for fairly deeply with lime, compost and modest amount of fertilizer. This preperation will support growth and bloom for years to come.

As the hot summer weather comes, watering is helpful. Water deeply on a 7-10 day schedule to keep the plants happy. Mulch will aid in keeping weeds at bay and moisture conserved.

Roses for your Garden

Martin’s Garden Notes

Plant your roses in an open sunny area. Roses need more fertility than most plants because they grow so much. Follow package instructions on your rose food preparation. Add lime to maintain a pH of about 6.5. Spry insects as you see them. Spray the leaves with a fungicide before problems start. Remove old blooms to encourage more to develop.


Hybrid Teas:  These are the classic roses that produce large blooms on long stems. Most will bloom repeatedly all summer. They are great for cutting. Not much bloom at any one time. Good for cutting.

Floribunda:  Floribunda are shrubby and display numerous small blooms in clusters. Most bloom all summer. The “Carefree” and “knockout” series are especially effective.  

Grandiflora:  Large clustered blooms displayed on tall vigorous plants. For cutting or show.

Climbers:  Train the long canes of climbers on a structure. The 1 and 2 year old branches are the most productive. Most repeat blooms all summer.

Island Garden Shop, Inc.
54 Bristol Ferry Rd.
Portsmouth, RI 02871

Container Gardening

Martin’s Garden Notes

Container gardening is a way to enjoy the pleasures of gardening when you do not have the space or inclination to garden in your yard. It allows you to have flowers, herbs and vegetables up close to where you enjoy the outdoors. Here are a few tips.
Choose good sized containers. The increased volume of larger pots provides extra room for the plant’s roots.
Choose a soil mix that is well drained but high in moisture holding ingredients like peat moss. Porous containers such as terra-cotta, wood, and moss lined baskets allow the container to breathe, thereby keeping roots cooler and providing oxygen for the roots. Make sure your containers have drainage holes.
A ready source of moisture and nutrients is critical to produce good growth. Two products that help greatly are Osmocote, a slow release fertilizer, and Soil Moist, a material that increases the water holding capacity of your containers. mix these materials in your soil mix for superior performance.
When choosing plants, combine contrasting colors for an eye catching display, or use related colors for a more subtle effect. Many vegetables like lettuces, parsley, or even cabbages make attractive container plants to add to your flowers.

Island Garden Shop, Inc.
54 Bristol Ferry Rd.
Portsmouth, RI 02871

Summer Blooms

Martin’s Garden Notes

You can create a garden with many shrubs and even trees that will display blooms for most of the summer. In general, most shrubs will bloom for 3 to 4 weeks. With attention to blooming period, the blooms will come in succession.
We are mostly all aware of the blooming potential of Hydrangeas but adding Spirea, Potontilla, Russian sage and maybe a Crepe Myrtle your garden can have something blooming all summer and into the fall.
Crepe Myrtle can grow into a small tree that blooms in August. Spirea comes in pink, purple and white with some varieties having gold foliage. If you trim off the spent blooms it will continue to bloom all summer. Potontilla comes in white, pink or gold and can be treated in the same way.
Russian sage is light lavender while bluebeard is dark lavender-blue. Removing spent blooms will extent their blooming potential as well.
Be aware that all of these plants are bare of leaves in the winter so should be used where winter appeal is not important.

Island Garden Shop, Inc.
54 Bristol Ferry Rd.
Portsmouth, RI 02871

Help Your Plants Beat the Heat

Martin’s Garden Notes

Here are a few tips on how to help your plants beat the summer heat.
Watering is only necessary when we have had an extended period of dry weather that creates stress on your plants. Annuals, vegetables and lawns are most at risk because of their shallow root system. Perennials, are somewhat less at risk, while shrubs, and trees have an even less
problem with dry weather. The depth of the roots seems to be the determining factor.
When you determine that your plants need water,( it is dry in the root zone, not just on the surface) water slowly and very deeply. Water enough to fill a coffee can 1″ deep. It is only necessary to water every week or ten days if you have very sandy and droughty soil. Shrubs and trees need even less frequent watering but just as deep.
My father was a proponent of “dust mulch” in the vegetable garden. He achieved this with frequent cultivation creating a dusty surface that prevented weeds and conserved moisture.
When you think about it, at 1 inch rain or water you provide every week all summer would keep all our gardens lush and green.

Island Garden Shop, Inc.
54 Bristol Ferry Rd.
Portsmouth, RI 02871

Planning your landscape

Martin’s Garden Notes

When trying to lay out your landscape, it works best to draw the space on a good size paper to scale. It lets you see the relationship of the various parts of the property to each other.

Start by understanding the function of each space and how they are going to be used. Entry areas are seen year ’round so they need to look good all the time, so choose plants that have leaves or needles for winter or summer. For confined spaces choose dwarf plants.

Back yard areas are not seen as much so deciduous shrubs that bloom in the summer like Hydrangeas and Rose of Sharon might be good choices. Add plants that have winter interest that can seen from the house if you have room. Winterberry, a native  shrub has bright red berries most of the winter offers early arriving birds some food before insects become available. Witch hazel (Arnold’s Promise ) blooms from mid-February most years for an early sign that winter is ending soon.

Holiday Gift Ideas

Martin’s Garden Notes

Elegant Bonsai plants are for those who can give them frequent care. The techniques for growing bonsai are not particularly difficult. They just need attention more often than other houseplants.

Humming Bird Feeders in a variety of colors and styles are both beautiful and functional.

Amaryllis Bulbs or Paperwhite Narcissus are easy and fun to grow.

Orchids may be exotic do not have to be difficult. Phaelenopsis(moth orchid) are easy to grow and blooms for many months. It will be a welcome gift.

Activity in the winter garden is enhanced by attracting birds. Birdfeeders of several sorts can be found here.

Wind Chimes are beautifully tuned for a pleasing sound no matter what size or style you choose.

Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs Now

Matin’s Garden Notes

Tulips and daffodils are very well known and popular flowering bulbs they offer a welcome addition to any garden.

Alliums (onion relatives) are quite a diverse group that range from the giant purple allium to the small rock garden allium molly. They range in height from 3 feet to only 6-8 inches. Most bloom quite late.

Bulb sfor the woodland setting are all very early bloomers so they are finished by the time the leaves come out on the trees. Siberian squill, chionadoxa and crocus are good subjects for under trees.  The long term success of bulbs on the north side of the house or where the shade is year -round is not good. There is just not enough sun power to grow new bulbs every year.

It’s great fun to pot up some bulbs for winter blooms, in the house. Tulips, all types of daffodils, and hyacinths are good subjects for this effort. Plant the bulbs in pots with 5-10 bulbs per pot, water well and keep they will get normal winter outdoor temperature. A bulkhead is a perfect place for this. Alternatively, set them on the ground in a protected location and cover with about a foot of  loose straw. You can start bringing them into the heat of the house starting about 12 weeks. There is nothing more cheerful than spring blooms on your windowsill in the dead of winter.