July is here, with that comes fun times with all our family and friends. Some of my best memories are of all the family barbecues which generally started on the fourth of July weekend.
I love to decorate and create elaborate displays for these special times. It’s my way of creating an inviting setting to create memories with everyone that I love.
The easiest way to set the mood for your family barbecue is to find or make a centerpiece for the spot that everyone gathers to. For some that could be the family table, and for others, it could be the deck or patio of your home.
Here at Van Wilgen’s we say grow it for the glory. The glory of the celebration, whether it’s the celebration of the 4th, the celebration of summer, or the celebration of time spent with those we love.
For the 4th we have fun flag pots with red, white, and blue flowers. Super cute way to add a splash of color to your party table. Our own Billy P. says to add a few prince papyrus grasses for the firework feeling. Or maybe you grew your own glory. There’s nothing like going out into your own garden of Van Wilgen grown flowers (of course) and cutting a few to add to a mason jar with some nice festive ribbon. Doesn’t get any easier than that.
If you’re looking for something bigger we have that too. We can create anything to your specifications, we love to make custom containers at our potting bench in the greenhouse. Come in with an idea and we will make it happen.
Our patio is overflowing with color for your quick holiday decorations. Our ready -to go patio pots are looking awesome and ready to go home to your house and get the party started. It’s easy, pick your favorites, bring home and place around the patio, invite some friends and make some memories.
“Grown for the glory” for every celebration big or small.
It’s never too late to start an edible garden. Different fruits and vegetables thrive in all types of conditions, so you’re bound to find the perfect fit for your garden, regardless of the season.
In fact, some summer favorites can be planted now for a delicious late summer or early fall harvest. Make sure to use Espoma’s Organic Garden-tone when growing veggies this summer.
Consider these options for late June – early July planting.
These little red veggies thrive in conditions with warm days and cooler nights, making them perfect for areas with a mild summer climate. They can also adapt to grow in cool weather, making your harvest last through the fall and winter. Beets prefer full sun when possible, but still, produce leafy greens in the shade.
Aside from being delicious, beets also have a ton of nutritional benefits. With loads of vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, and calcium, beets can help protect you from heart cancer.
Nothing says summer flavor like a delicious, crisp cucumber. Cucumbers serve as a perfect addition to any summer salad or cocktail, or they can stand on their own as a yummy snack. Cucumbers thrive in warm weather and that hot summer heat will give you delicious sprawling cucumbers in as little as 50 days.
Harvest cucumbers before they get too big to encourage continued growth.
Sweet, crisp, and crunchy – what else could you want from a summer vegetable? Sugar snap peas need at least six hours of full sun every day and thrive in sunny spots. As sugar snap peas grow up, support them with a trellis or stake. They will be ready to harvest within 60-90 days of planting, which will give you a delicious late summer – early fall treat.
Zucchini is definitely a fan favorite when it comes to summer squash. This fast-growing vegetable will be ready to harvest within 45-55 days after sowing seeds. Zucchini tastes best when it measures around 4-6 inches. If it grows much bigger, the flavor will become bitter.
Be sure to give your zucchini plants plenty of room to grow as they often produce lots of vegetables very quickly.
If you live in a climate where the hot summer heat lasts well into the fall, try planting watermelons in your vegetable garden. Watermelons are extremely pest and disease resistant, making them perfect for an organic garden. Watermelons typically need 80-100 days of hot, humid weather to develop their delicious sweet taste, so only plant if you live in the right climate.
For those in climates a bit milder, try planting honeydew or cantaloupe. These melons prefer warm weather but don’t require the same amount of heat as watermelons.
There is absolutely no debate the most asked for plant in the tree and shrub yard are hydrangeas! The great thing about hydrangeas is there is a perfect type for each customer’s specific needs. Here is a list of some of our favorites here at Van Wilgen’s.
This little cutie has been around for a few years and quickly went to the top of our list. A compact grower that matures to 3’x3’. It produces dense white cone-shaped flowers from summer into the fall. As flowers pass, the color changes to a rosy pink. Flowers are perfect for cutting. The best part of this little guy is it flowers on new wood and thrives in full sun. Extremely cold hardy.
The newest addition to the Endless Summer Collection. Bloomstruck is a no-brainer! It produces pink flowers in sweet soil and purple-blue flowers in acid soil. The red stems of the plant give great contrast against the green foliage. It will grow to about 4-5’ tall and about as wide. It prefers morning sun and afternoon shade. It flowers on new and old wood so be careful when you prune. Very heat tolerant as well.
Little Quickfire Hydrangea
Without a doubt one of my favorites! This plant has a great compact habit for a small area. The flowers are more open than other panicle forms, emerging white then changing to pinkish-red. The stems of the plant are a deep red that gives excellent contrast to the deep green leaves. My favorite quality is its scarlet red fall color of foliage. Prefers full sun. Flowers on new wood. Very cold hardy.
Hydrangea Tiny Tuff Stuff
What a performer! It is a variety of mountain hydrangea so that means it’s about as cold-hardy as it gets! You will be treated to lace cap flowers that will be blue to purple in acid soil. Handles an unbelievable amount of shade and will still flower. Great for container plantings as well because of its hardiness. Compact grower.
Original Endless Summer Hydrangea
The one that started it all! Flowers will be pink or blue depending on soil ph. Flowers very heavily. Grows to 5’x5’. Flowers emerge on new and old wood. Performs best in afternoon shade. Great for mass plantings.
Our friends at Proven Winners have created a Hydrangea chart to help if yours isn’t flowering, Click below to learn more.
Now that we are starting to see and enjoy some nice weather, my family’s container gardens at our house are starting to take off. My wife always requests that we have at least one big pot of herbs growing on our deck each summer and this year we have two. My daughter, Nora, planted an herb bowl for Mother’s Day
at our Kids Klub event and Kirstin potted up a great assortment for us a few weeks ago. My wife uses a lot of fresh herbs when she cooks and this time of year it is so convenient to walk right out on the deck and snip some herbs. We all have our must-haves but on our list is definitely: BBQ Rosemary, Genovese Basil, English Thyme, Flat leaf Parsley and Mojito Mint. If you are looking for something fun and different, try Pesto Perpetua Basil. It is a variegated leaf, great grower, EXTREMELY pungent and flavorful as well as looks great in containers even amongst flowers. A bonus for all you foodscaping enthusiasts. This past weekend she made one of my favorites, Turkey Meatloaf that she has adapted from The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. Give it a whirl, let me know how you like it!
Turkey Meatloaf with fresh Thyme:
Pre-heat oven to 325
Olive oil for sautéing
2 medium sweet onions chopped up
3 tablespoons fresh thyme (pull the little leaves off of the woody stems)
3-4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons ketchup (we use Heinz Simply Ketchup)
2 LBs lean ground turkey meat
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup fresh parmesan cheese
1 large egg beaten
Ketchup for topping.
Heat the olive oil on low/medium in a medium sauté/frying pan and add the chopped onions. Sauté until slightly translucent. *Hint* In our house we always start the onions with a few tablespoons of olive oil but usually use a little water if they start sticking to the pan to cut down on the amount of oil we use. After the onions have been sautéed for a few minutes, add the Worcestershire sauce, 4 tablespoons of ketchup, and the fresh thyme leaves and cook for about 5 minutes. Pull the pan off of the stove and let it cool.
Line a large cookie sheet (with sides) or a Pyrex cooking dish with a sheet of tin foil for easy clean-up later.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, egg, and cooled onion mixture. Make sure to take off any rings you have on because we are about to get messy! Using your hands, mix all ingredients together. Once everything is mixed, form a “loaf” on the cookie sheet. Grab your ketchup bottle and pour a generous amount of ketchup over the top of the “loaf”. Using a spoon, spread the ketchup evenly across the top.
Slide your cooking sheet into the oven (middle shelf if you can) and let it bake for about an hour or until the internal temperature of the center of the meatloaf reaches 165.
Not only does this make a great dinner, but even better is leftovers on a sandwich for lunch the next day!
Ryan Van Wilgen
Everyone loves to watch this beautiful bird. There are many ways to attract them to your yard.
Let’s start with hummingbird feeders. There are feeders for hanging or with suction cups to attach to your window. Some come with a built-in ant moat or you can buy them separately to keep the ants out of the nectar.
One of the most important things to remember is to change your nectar every 3-5 days before it begins to ferment. The weather can affect how long it will take. When the nectar begins to get slightly cloudy it is time to make the change. Remember to clean the feeder when you change the nectar. A quick wash with hot water will do.
Now the best place to hang them… place them in a spot where you can enjoy them. You need to know they are territorial and are not really into sharing. Hang additional feeders close to each other and you will attract multiple hummingbirds at a time. This limits his (yes, the males are the worst) ability to hog more than one feeder.
There are many plants that attract hummingbirds. Here a few of our favorite perennials: Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, and all varieties of Penstemon and Agastache. Add these plants around your feeder and hummingbirds are even more likely to pay you a visit.
Enjoy your hummingbirds!
Pancakes, tarts, pies, we love adding blueberries to any recipe. And we’re not alone.
Take advantage of the peak fruiting season this July to celebrate this delicious little berry.
Not only delicious and popular, but blueberries are also one of the top 10 healthiest foods.
These nutritional powerhouses are packed with antioxidants that help guard against cancer and heart disease. Blueberries are low in calories, but rich in fiber and vitamins. One serving of blueberries serves up almost 25 percent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C. Plus, blueberries have a favorable impact on blood sugar regulation in persons already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Grow your own blueberries – It’s easy!
The secret to blueberry success is the Four P.S. — planting, pruning, picking, and protecting.
Simply follow these four simple tips to help bushes flourish season after season!
First, plant the right variety. Compact blueberries, like those from Bushel and Berry, are perfect for growing in containers, raised beds, or even directly in the garden.
Once you’ve chosen a blueberry bush, plant it in a sunny spot with at least six hours of sun each day.
Next, consider the soil. Blueberries love acidic soils. A pH of 4.5-5.5 is ideal. A simple soil test indicates acidity, which can easily be adjusted with a balanced organic fertilizer. Soil kits and amendments are available at any local garden center.
Give the plant’s roots plenty of growing room when planting in a container.
Plant dwarf blueberry bushes in pots 16” or more in diameter and water deeply and regularly to make sure all of the soil within the pot is moist.
Cutting branches off any plant can be daunting, but it’s best for the plant. Pruning gives berries more space between branches, allowing air to flow freely and preventing disease.
It’s best to prune blueberries in late winter when the plants are still dormant. Remove stems that are damaged, old or dead. Take out up to a quarter or even a third of the bush, then trim it up to a neat and tidy look.
Fertilizing is recommended in early spring. Choose a balanced, organic, slow-release fertilizer for acid-loving plants.
We recommend a second application of fertilizer in late spring to give the plants an extra burst of energy for fruit production.
With planting and pruning in the bag, the next step — picking — is the payoff. Be sure to watch your berries carefully and pick them before the birds do! Aust suggests getting one berry for yourself and one for the birds.
A little protection ensures your blueberry bush will thrive for another bountiful season. Keep critters away by covering bushes with bird netting in the spring.
Winter weather poses the biggest risk to berry bushes, so be sure to protect roots.
Blueberries in pots are easiest to protect from the cold — just move the pots into an unheated garage or against a building and cover with thick mulch, burlap, or a blanket.
Spring’s sudden cold snaps endanger emerging growth, as well. Be sure to cover blueberry bushes with burlap or blankets when the forecast calls for frost once buds and flowers are emerging.
Are you growing berries this year? What will you be making with them?
National Pollinator Week is a time to give bees, birds, and bats a little recognition. Pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, play a big part in getting our gardens to grow. Honeybees are directly responsible for pollinating one-third of the food we eat. They help fertilize flowers, carrying pollen from one plant to another in exchange for food.
This week, we’re helping to educate people on the purposes these pollinators serve. Keep reading for three ways to celebrate pollinators in your garden.
1. Plant a Pollinator-friendly Garden
To keep your garden beautiful, you can attract pollinators by planting flowers that appeal to them. Try adding native plants to an existing garden or creating a whole new garden specifically for pollinators. Choose plants that bloom at different times throughout the year, providing long-term food and shelter. Follow this simple formula. Plant tall flowers 18-20” apart, medium flowers 12” apart and short flowers 8-10” apart, and then use Espoma’s Bloom! liquid plant food regularly for a boost.
Pollinators especially love these flowering plants:
- Bee balm
- Globe thistle
- Wild rose
2. Build a Bee Hotel
Solitary bees, bees that live alone and not in hives, need a place to make their nests. Welcome these gentle bees to your garden by adding a bee hotel. Solitary bees don’t make honey and rarely sting. Females lay their eggs inside a small hollow tube and then they patch the door with mud. DIY or purchase a bee hotel at your local independent garden center to encourage pollinators to check in to your garden.
3. Increase Feather Pollinator Population
Insects aren’t the only pollinators around town. Hummingbirds are also great pollinators. Build a Hummingbird feeder in your yard to encourage our furry friends to stop by. Ask kids to help to build a feeder that will attract these polite birds. The plants that are pollinated by Hummingbirds tend to produce more nectar than plants pollinated by insects, so penciling in some time to create a feeder will pay off in the long run.
This post is brought to you by Espoma
The Eastern Redbud ( Cercis canadensis ) is a spring-flowering tree, native to the northeast. Its delicate lavender-pink flowers emerge late in April before the foliage develops and continue to sparkle into mid-May. Clusters of tiny, fairy-like flowers cling to the branches, covering the tree in a soft purple haze with charming heart-shaped foliage developing as the flowers begin to fade. Surprisingly, it is not as commonly recognized as the flowering Cherry or the ornamental pear, but it’s defiantly a show stopper! Every spring as the blossoms begin to unfold several curious customers stop by the garden center and ask “What is that tree with the beautiful purple flowers?… ”
The Redbud tree is one of my personal favorites. The original species is described as a small understory tree growing between 20 and 30 feet tall and wide. It naturally grows in woodland areas under a canopy of tall deciduous trees that lose their leaves every fall. Many exciting new cultivars have been developed over the last few years including dwarf varieties, weeping specimens, and those with colorful leaves such as burgundy, peachy-yellow, and variegated green and white.
There is a magnificent old maple tree in my neatly packed, urban neighborhood about two houses away that stands roughly 60 feet tall. Despite the fact that it is not very close to me, it provides cooling shade from the strong summer sun from late morning into the afternoon. This type of available light is often referred to as “high shade”. There is a limited amount of direct sunlight but the area is still very bright and opened.
So the Eastern Redbud will be one of the first plants installed in my brand new garden. Some varieties of Redbud do best in full sun. Others prefer some shade like our original native. Because I am working in a small space I have decided to go with a weeping variety that will mature at about 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Redbud trees grow pretty quickly and this one will serve as a focal point on one corner of my patio.
After much deliberation, I chose “Pink Heartbreaker”, a weeping variety with a strong upright branching habit that cascades in a rambling, informal, way. Just right for my casual cottage garden!
The entire garden was amended with compost and Gypsum to improve my clay soil as I mentioned in my last story but we did mix in some “Van Wilgen’s planting mix” and of course “Jump Start” to get my new baby off and running with vigorous root development for a good foundation.
As you can see in the photo, it already looks great and I am confident that it will just get better and better but I am really looking forward to the flowers next spring that I think will look fantastic glowing against the background of my neighbors Blue Spruce.
I have several ideas for planting under my Redbud with colorful shade tolerant perennials, more about that next time!
I was in a little bit of a jam last week, we were down a trailer because it was being serviced and I needed to move our mini excavator to a friend’s house; I was helping him level out his front yard. I called in a favor from Rose’s next door and they let me borrow one of their trailers. When I went and grabbed it, we took a walk over to check out the progress of their newly planted vineyard. Each grape has this blue tube around them which protects the plant, makes them grow up towards the wire support system, keeps water at the root zone, and creates a little greenhouse effect for each grape plant. Pretty cool, now you know when you drive down route 139 and see all those blue things, there are grapes in there! Walking back to the truck, I laid eyes on their strawberry fields, I couldn’t believe how many strawberries there were and so
many ready to pick. I immediately started laughing thinking of Nora and her friend Theo. Last year they went strawberry picking at Rose Orchards and Theo’s mom joked that they looked like extras in The Walking Dead. I told this to Jon and Nate, then I quickly retracted my statement, “I mean of course they paid for all the strawberries they picked they wouldn’t have tried any”. Maybe instead of weighing the container of strawberries picked they should weigh the kids before and after they pick!
Every time Nora comes to the farm she has to check out Papa’s garden and see the strawberry plants. My wife kept telling her that it is too soon for strawberries but Nora, being a toddler, has to check for herself. Our strawberry plants are pretty young and they will take a few years to become plentiful but it is amazing to teach Nora how to pick her own strawberries. “We only pick the red ones, right?” Nora is doing a pretty good job at not picking too many that aren’t ready.
Strawberries are Nora’s favorite and one of the few foods that we know she will never refuse to eat.
Now that strawberry season is upon us, I can wait for Nora and my wife to harvest their hearts out. Sometimes it means daddy gets one of my favorite desserts! Strawberry Buckle! Not quite cake and not quite a cobbler, aka an excuse to eat it for dessert or for breakfast. After a little persistence, my wife has let me share the recipe with all of you! Happy baking and happy strawberry season!!
Preheat the oven to 375
1/2 cup Smart Balance spread or other vegetable spread
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups flour
21/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup French vanilla yogurt (we use stony fields farm)
2 pints of strawberries cut up
1/2 cup+ sugar
1/2 cup + flour
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup smart balance or other spread
Cream together 1/2 cup smart balance, 1/2 cup sugar, egg, 21/2 teaspoons baking powder. Stir in flour and yogurt a little at a time. Spread batter into a 9×12 Pyrex style pan and sprinkle strawberries over the top. In a separate bowl, combine softened 1/2 cup smart balance 1/2 cup + of sugar and 1/2 cup flour. Add cinnamon.
Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
** hint place a baking sheet under the pan in case the strawberry juice bubbles over.
Ryan Van Wilgen
Have you ever been innocently working in your garden or enjoying a cocktail on your patio, when all of a sudden, “IN-COMING!” you get dive-bombed by a beetle that proceeds to get trapped in your hair or stuck to your shirt?! This crazy kamikaze pilot is either the Japanese Beetle, Oriental Beetle, Asiatic Garden Beetle, or European Chafer. They are notorious this time of the year in Connecticut.
The metallic, brown and green, Japanese Beetle gets all the fame or blame, depending on how you look at it. Every hole we see on a rose, a weeping cherry, basil, or pepper plant, we tend to blame the showy Japanese Beetle. Its coppery color shines in the sun and they tend to cluster on a plant while they feed and mate. They get all the glory but they should be sharing the spotlight with a few other scarab beetles. Oriental Beetles can be out spotted during the day but their mottled gray and black body is just not as interesting as the Japanese Beetle. Because they do their flying at night, they are not as obvious until they end up tangled in your ponytail. The Asiatic Garden Beetle and European Chafers are other nighttime flying beetles that fall under the radar due to their nighttime clandestine activities. Don’t be fooled by that plump, little, chestnut brown Asiatic Garden Beetle. It can do a lot of damage to plants at night and then it stealthily burrows itself in the soil during the day. Have you ever noticed devoured Basil leaves but no critter? I bet the Asiatic Garden Beetle is the sneaky bandit. Dig at the base of an eaten Basil and you may find him hiding in the soil.
This nighttime dive-bombing of Kamikaze Scarab Beetles will not last forever. They are busy flying, eating, mating, and laying eggs right now, but in a couple of weeks, they will be done. BEWARE OF WHAT LURKS BELOW…GRUBS! All of these Scarab Beetles lay eggs in the soil of our gardens and lawns. The next phase that we have to pay attention to is the white, c-shaped grub stage that will be hatching sometime in August. We can’t see them lurking below the mulch or our turf but they can really be a menace, especially to our lawns. It’s hard to believe that these ugly-looking grubs come from these somewhat flashy beetles. The newly hatching grub babies are very hungry and feed on roots from summer hatch too late fall. We don’t even notice the damage until next spring. Those sneaky, little devils!
What should we do to stop these dive-bombing beetles and sneaky little grubs?! The beetles are pretty easy to control. There are several good products that will wipe them out especially when it comes to ornamental plants.
Products for Ornamentals:
- Japanese Beetle Killer by Bonide
- Eight by Bonide
- Rose & Flower Insect Killer by Bayer
Products for Veggies:
- Japanese Beetle Killer by Bonide
- Eight by Bonide
- Pyrethrin by Bonide
- Vegetable Garden Insect Spray by Bayer
Products for Herbs:
The discreet grub stage of the beetle requires a different form of treatment and product timing. Here are the products that work to control the grubs on the lawn.
Pro-Active Product to control grubs before they hatch:
- Bayer Season Long Grub Control applied June 15 – August 15. This product is best if watered in or applied before a rainfall. If applied within this time frame, it will control grubs throughout the rest of the fall season!
- Nematodes. An organic way to control grubs in the soil. Apply now through August to take care of grubs naturally. Definitely needs to be watered in for a week following application to keep Nematodes from drying out and to spread them over a larger area.
Re-Active Product to control grubs after they hatch:
- Bayer 24 Hour Grub Control Plus applied toward late August/begin September. This product must be watered in or applied before rainfall to be effective. It kills on contact. You may need to make a follow-up application a month later.
- Nematodes. They will work pro-actively and re-actively!
Take charge of these crazy nighttime feeders and sneaky underground dwellers. Don’t spend one more evening untangling them from your hair.
Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help!