Garden 101

How to Plant Tomatoes

How to Plant Tomatoes

Tomatoes are often the very first vegetable most gardeners try to grow, and who can blame them—there’s nothing like the taste of a freshly grown, ripe tomato from your own garden. While there can be challenges, overall, tomatoes are a pretty easy plant to grow—they’re a good (and tasty!) choice for new gardeners of all…

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The Container Garden Guide

Learn about the Container Garden Shopping Guide

Containers, urns, pots and hanging baskets are a lot of fun to put together and they can add a lot of pizzazz to your garden.     Planters are a big deal for me. I create a lot of container plantings for my own garden every year, along with a few for clients. On my…

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How to Photograph Plants for Identification

How to photograph plants for identification

Whether you’ve just moved into a new garden where everything’s a mystery, or see something unfamiliar sprouting in a garden you’ve had for years, a good way to figure out its name is by taking a photo and sharing it with knowledgeable friends and acquaintances. However, your success at this depends not just on your…

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How to Divide a Bleeding Heart

How to divide Bleeding Hearts and other perennial plants

Although you might mistake the title of this post for an 80’s rock ballad, I’m referring to a plant with the common name of “Bleeding Heart”. The flowers do look like little dropping hearts.   The method I’m going to show you of creating multiple plants out of one, works not only for Bleeding Hearts…

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Two Recommended Tools to Sharpen Secateurs

Two methods for sharpening your secateurs (aka pruners)

It is infinitely more enjoyable, and better for your plants, to use sharp secateurs than dull ones. I’ve written elsewhere about how to choose a good pair of secateurs. In this post I’m going to show you how to keep your secateurs sharp so that you can enjoy pruning.   I have a pretty big…

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How to figure out your zone

Figure out your growing zone

Has a gardening friend or nursery salesperson ever asked you if you “know your zone?” It’s not a pick-up line (well, it’s usually not a pick-up line. I suppose someone might try…) or a way to ask your astrological sign. They’re trying to talk about your growing zone. “Growing zone” is gardener shorthand for what…

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Storing Tubers Over The Winter

Storing Tubers For The Winter

I wrote previously about how to dig up tender tubers–the roots of dahlias, cannas, and begonias–to store them over the winter. I know that a picture tells a thousand words but moving pictures with talking are even better, so I’ve done a short video to walk you step-by-step through the process of packing up your…

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Preventing Snow & Ice Damage to Cedars

Prevent snow and ice damage to cedars without turning them into burlap mummies

When winter storms come and pile on heavy snow and ice, it can spell disaster for some trees, especially evergreens, which have needles that hold a lot of snow and ice.   Evergreens with a strong main trunk, like pines, are best suited to weather this type of weather. But evergreens that grow with many…

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Fuss less in the fall

Fuss less in fall--focus on essential garden tasks

Every year at this time articles about “putting your garden to bed” seem to pop up like dandelions. Worried new gardeners stop me to ask “do I need to put my garden to bed?” “what does it mean to put your garden to bed?” and “what am I supposed to be doing now?”  The underlying…

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Frost protection

How to protect your plants against early fall or late spring frosts

When you live in a climate with real winter, frost is a fact of life. But when frost comes too early, a gardener has to take action!   What’s too early? Well, I’ve been hearing from gardening friends slightly north of me who had frost warnings in August. They were posting photos of what looked…

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Tomato problems. But are they really a problem?

Tomato leaf problems aren't cause for panic

In an ideal world, our plants would never have a blemish and would produce bumper crops continuously.   I do my best to practice good garden hygiene, taking any dying or diseased leaves and stems out of my garden throughout the season, and for tomatoes, being sure to remove the old plants at the end…

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How to save your coleus for next year

Coleus can be rooted from cuttings

I’ve written before about how much I love coleus and how I’ve had a hard time finding my favourite variety at any of my local nurseries.   To keep growing this plant, I’ve been growing cuttings, starting with my original plant, season after season. In this post I’ll show you how I make cuttings and…

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Rain barrels and why gardeners should have one

Rain barrels and why every gardener should have one

I think everyone who has a garden would benefit from having a rain barrel–I have four in my yard (three catching rain off the house and one from the garage). There are two main reasons I think everyone should have at least one; the first is that rainwater is free and tap water isn’t. Why…

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Do you know the dry spots in your garden?

water doesn't fall evenly over the entire garden

Rain doesn’t fall the same everywhere.   I’m not just talking about the difference in rainfall between one side of town and another, I’m talking about within your own garden. Even in my tiny city garden some spots get more rain than others. The cause isn’t some magic invisible shield–it’s the fact that I have…

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Deadheading makes a difference

From the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the NYBG

Deadheading is the process of removing spent flowers from a plant—in plain language that means cutting off the dead flowers. There are two main reasons to do this. The first is aesthetic—dead flowers just don’t look good. Take a look at these geraniums before they were deadheaded:   And then take a look a few…

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Pruning tomatoes

I manage the growth of my tomato plants in order to keep them growing on one or two main stems. Left to their own devices, tomato plants will produce many branches, flop over, and become a tangled mess. This isn’t good for the condition of the fruit–it will rot more easily on the ground, and…

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Sedums grow better if you pinch them back

Sedums, sometimes known as Stonecrops, are great plants–they have nice flowers, they’re drought and heat tolerant, and they are beloved by bees and other pollinators.   The only downfall with them, in my opinion, is their tendency to flop over late in the season. One day you have a nicely rounded mound of plant and…

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Supporting heirloom tomatoes

I really enjoy growing tomatoes, especially somewhat unusual heirloom varieties. By nature, these tend to be very tall plants, growing 8 to 10’ tall in a season, so figuring out how to support them has been part of my learning on how to grow tomatoes well. One of the first things I figured out was…

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Support structures to keep your plants from flopping over

Supporting plants so they don't flop over

Have you ever admired the beautiful blooms on a peony but lamented that they were at ground level, possibly splattered with mud, because the flowers were so heavy? It doesn’t have to be that way and the time to act is now. If you wait until they start to topple over it’s very difficult to…

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Lavender needs a spring haircut

Lavender with new growth, ready to be pruned

Lavender, latin name Lavandula, is a heat and drought tolerant woody plant. Its native climate is the Mediterranean, so it grows well in fast-draining soil (i.e. dry spots) where it will receive direct sun for at least 6 hours a day.   There are many varieties of lavender, not all of which will grow well…

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Dividing rhubarb

Rhubarb is one of the earliest foods you can harvest from the garden. Other than a spot to grow with full sun and an annual feeding of compost or manure, it’s not a demanding plant. But it is a big plant–a mature plant can be 1.5 metres (almost 5′) across.   It is good for…

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Tree peonies – how do you prune them?

Peony plants that die back to the ground each winter and then send up new shoots each spring are known as herbaceous peonies–the term herbaceous means that they don’t have a woody stem. I think it’s safe to say they’re the most common type of peony grown in North American gardens–they’ve been around a long…

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How to prune roses

Roses should be pruned each spring. Cutting back rose canes (i.e. the stems/branches) every year helps to foster healthy, good-looking plants and encourage more blooms. The time to prune is in the spring, once you can start to see buds emerging.   If you didn’t protect your roses for the winter, and you live in…

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Easy care hellebores

Hellebores seem to be getting a lot of attention these days–they’re a great looking, easy care plant that blooms in late winter to early spring. Chosen as the Perennial Plant Association’s Perennial Plant of the Year in 2005, more and more bloom colours have become available, due to the diligent work of breeders.   I…

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It’s time to unleash the roses!

It's important to protect roses for winter, but also important to remove that winter protection at the right time

One of the first spring tasks in the garden is to remove the winter protection off of roses. As I explained in my post on how to protect roses in winter, the recommended way to ensure that your roses make it through the winter intact (and note that I’m writing this for those of you…

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7 Garden Tasks for the Pre-Season

Seven Pre Season Garden Tasks - including cutting back ornamental grasses

You can’t really get out in your garden and do a lot until the weather warms up and the ground dries out a bit. That happens for me sometime in late April—we’ll still have frost for another month after that, but by late April I can start dividing and moving perennials and really “gardening”. However,…

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Dahlias are easy to grow and now is the time plant them!

Dahlias have spectacular blooms but are very easy to grow. You can buy plants already started from the nursery in late spring, but for the best selection I recommend buying the tubers (i.e. the fleshy roots of dahlia plants–they’re like tulip bulbs) now and starting them growing indoors so that they are ready to bloom…

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Will late snow and ice harm my spring bulbs?

It’s every gardener’s nightmare: spring seems to have arrived, tulips, daffodils and other spring bulbs are emerging and WHAM! an unexpected snow/ice storm accompanied by plunging temperatures blows in from out of nowhere, engulfing everything in an ice blanket. Will your bulbs be ok? What do you do? The good news is that spring-blooming bulbs…

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Do I need to use potting soil in my pots?

When I first started growing plants in pots I wondered if I really needed to buy potting soil, or if I could use something cheaper, like topsoil or regular garden soil. I read a few articles that said you really should use it, but aside from potting soil being lighter, and therefore the pots easier…

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Birdfeeders: what gardeners need to know

Cardinals love backyard bird feeders

I spend a lot of winter hours staring out the windows at my sleeping garden so the concept of having something of “winter interest” in the garden is pretty important to me. When you read about creating winter interest the discussion usually centres on making sure you plant some evergreens, ornamental grasses, and trees and…

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What is that giant green thing on my tomato plant?

Manduca sexta tobacco hornworm on tomato

Last summer I was in my tomato patch, admiring the ripening tomatoes and pruning off excess growth, when something caught my eye. Now I should pause and explain that I grow a lot of tomatoes; 17 plants last season, in fact. And they aren’t little tomato plants—I love to grow heirloom tomatoes, many of which…

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Plant profile: Nigella

Nigella (Nigella damascene) is a beautiful and easy to grow flower for your summer garden. Nigella blooms are unlike anything else—to me, they look a bit like a firecracker or a sea creature. They come in a few colours, including white and soft pink, but it’s the blue varieties that I think really stand out…

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Protecting roses in winter

Rose bush in rose cone on post about winterizing roses

One of the last tasks of the garden season is to protect roses for winter. And by last tasks, I mean you need to wait to do this until winter sets in–the ground is frozen (or in the process of freezing) and no more balmy days are forecast. I won’t lie, this can be a…

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Saving begonias, dahlias and cannas for next year

The tubers to grow dahlias can be lifted and stored for the winter

I’m always sad to see my beautiful flowers freeze and die in the fall. However, I am heartened to know that my begonias, dahlias and cannas will live again the next year, as long as I lift and store their fleshy root systems, called tubers and rhizomes. (If you want to get technical, begonias and…

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Why you need to empty your pots for the winter

I grow a LOT of plants in pots. A lot. I love their versatility and the way they can add height and colour to any spot. The only thing I don’t enjoy about growing plants in pots is having to empty the soil out of them in the fall. And because I live in a…

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How to plant garlic

How to plant garlic - image of trowel and clove of garlic

Garlic is one of the easiest foods to grow. Just drop a clove in the ground, provide minimal care, and some time later—out comes a full head of garlic. In this post, I’ll take you step by step through the process. Or, for the quick version, watch this video: Still with me? Great–read on! Garlic…

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Early fall garden tasks

Fallen leaves mean it's time for fall garden cleanup

As frost hits and the growing season winds down there are some things that need to be done to keep your garden fabulous:   Annuals Remove and compost annual plants once they die. A bed full of wilty dead coleus is not attractive.   Vegetables Most of your vegetable plants are annuals, so should be…

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How to plant bulbs

Planting Bulbs with The Fabulous Garden

Spring flowering bulbs are one of the easiest things to grow in your garden. Plant them in the fall, protect them from squirrels, and they’ll reward you with lots of colourful blooms in the spring—a welcome relief after a colour-deprived winter. Squirrels really are the only significant obstacle that I’ve found when growing bulbs. They’re…

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It’s time to buy bulbs!

Assorted packages of spring blooming bulbs

If you want to have a fabulous garden next spring now is the time to go out and buy bulbs. I was in two nurseries this weekend and both of them had just received the bulk of their spring blooming bulbs, which means the best selection is to be had right now. I would imagine…

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Dealing with weeds

Dealing with weeds

Weeding is an inescapable part of gardening. You can minimize the amount of it you have to do by using mulch and planting intensively (less space between plants means less space for weeds) but you’re always going to have some weeds to deal with. Ignoring them just leads to more weeds, so it’s a battle…

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A quick & easy upgrade for hanging baskets

hanging basket of geraniums

Hanging baskets are a must have in my garden. In particular, I love to have a big basket of bright red geraniums hanging on the front of my garage. They’re easy to find at a good price and they pack a lot of oomph. What I don’t love is the cheap plastic hanger and basket…

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5 Rules for Watering Your Garden

water spray from hose on Japanese forest grass

Watering plants is really straightforward in many ways. We learn early on in science class that plants need soil, light, air and water to grow. But how to water and when are the questions that generate answers that begin with “It depends on…” and then follow with qualifiers about temperature, type of plant, whether it’s…

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The (not so secret) secret to growing great garlic

garlic scapes

Garlic is really easy to grow—you plant it in the fall and then just keep it watered and weeded until harvest, except you do have one task to complete right about now. And that’s chopping off those curly things that have formed at the top of the garlic plants. Those are called scapes. Essentially, they’re…

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Coleus, the most useful plant

several varieties of brightly coloured coleus

I noticed an empty open spot at the front of our garden, near the sidewalk. Bare soil (or bare mulch) is a rarity in my garden, by design. Actually, saying it’s by design sounds like have a plan—if there’s an empty space I see an opportunity to cram in another plant! I still have a…

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How do I prune my lilacs?

Lilacs in bloom

I have a friend with a beautiful garden, designed and installed by professional landscapers. She loved it, but her one complaint was that her lilacs had bloomed the first year and then never really put on much of a show after that. When I visited her lovely garden my one question, that revealed the problem,…

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Is your garden hungry?

sign saying Gardeners tend to soil their plants

Do your roses lack vigor? Your shrubs seem sparse? Your tomato plants puny? It may be that they’re hungry!  Plants take nutrients from the soil and, over time, if the soil is not replenished, will exhaust the supply available. It’s just like if you or I were to keep taking food out of the refrigerator…

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The gardener’s shadow

dragonfly on bright green leaf

One key to a fabulous garden is being aware of what’s going on in your garden. My garden mentor often quotes the old adage “The best fertilizer is the gardener’s shadow.” That phrase went through my head often this week as I was doing rounds early in the morning; I still have a lot of…

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What’s coming up in my garden?

Monarda plants emerging in spring

Or how to make sure your garden gets better every year. Walking through my garden in spring is like meeting up with a bunch of friends I haven’t seen in months—it’s a series of happy surprises and reunions as I reflect on the good times we had together—the stunning bloom on this particular tulip, the…

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What grows in shade?

assortment of shade tolerant plants

“What do I plant in the shady areas of my garden?” is one of questions I’m asked most frequently. All plants need light, water and soil in order to grow, but the amount of each varies from plant to plant. Plants that tolerate less light are often called shade plants, although shade-tolerant plants is probably…

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What’s the difference between an annual and a perennial?

annual and perennial flowers with The Fabulous Garden watermark

“Are you looking for annuals or perennials?” is often the first question you’re asked when you go to a garden centre. “Erm…I’m not sure” can be uncomfortable to say–perennial and annual are terms you’ve heard before but just haven’t quite remembered the definitions of as they only tend to come up occasionally–like right now, in…

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How do I take care of my lawn?

close up of grass lawn

“Jen, when should I fertilize my lawn?” “Should I just put some topsoil on my lawn now?” “Hey, Jennifer, is this the right time to overseed?” These are the questions often directed at me by friends and colleagues when they find out that I know a bit about gardening. This happens even with friends who…

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Which seeds should I plant right in the ground?

In a previous post I talked about how new vegetable gardeners can feel pressured to start their plants inside, from seeds, when really, they would be much better off buying baby plants (seedlings) from the nursery. This is true for plants that need to be started ahead of time, inside, in order to reach maturity…

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How do you find gardening advice you can trust?

mosaiculture gardener planting a tree

There are all sorts of website, people, and businesses willing to provide advice to gardeners, but the question, especially for the new gardener, is whose advice do you trust? I’ve seen a “gardening magazine” publish advice that’s just plain wrong and refuse to correct it. Irresponsible? Yes. Surprising? No. Gardening is big business, editorial teams…

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What new gardeners need to hear about starting seeds

Basil seedlings

I believe a lot of new gardeners are being set up for failure. They’re told from multiple sources that growing their own plants from seed is a great way, in fact, the only way, to really start gardening. When a new gardener tries to grow something and has a bad experience right off the bat,…

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