Winter is Coming… and that is not just for all you Game of Thrones fans. It is that time of year and the veggie growing season is drawing to a close. Fortunately, we do not have to prepare for The Night King or his army of White Walkers heading from the north but it is really nice to prepare for winter and enjoy as much of your garden as possible. For tomato lovers it is tough to watch the fruits of your labor go to waste so you pick everything you can, but what about all the tomatoes that will not have a chance to ripen? Some of them might ripen on the counter but for a lot of them, they will stay firm and green. My family, particularly my wife, stores as much as possible and she can’t stand to see anything go to waste so even though those tomatoes are green, we are going to use them!

Have you seen or heard of the movie, “fried green tomatoes”? Yep, you know where I’m going next. For a guy who is not a huge fan of “raw” tomatoes, the first time my wife placed a plate of fried green tomatoes in front of me I raised an eyebrow. I will say I was pleasantly surprised! Although who am I kidding, it’s fried, throw a little sriracha mayo for dipping and now we are talking. It kind of tastes like a tangier version of fried eggplant so go ahead and make it “Parmesan style” with sauce and cheese.

Give this recipe a shot and let us know what you think!


Best Fried Green Tomatoes

Recipe By: Diana Swenson-Siegel

“You can also fry up red tomatoes with this recipe but make sure they are not overripe or they will be mushy. Serve these tomatoes outside with a glass of iced tea one summer night and enjoy the sunset with someone you love.”






You invested good money and time into your summer plants. You may have enjoyed tropical Hibiscus, sweet-smelling Gardenias, and luscious Lemons out on your deck or patio all summer long. All of these plants love the summer heat and the more sun they can get, the happier they are. BUT…There is always a BUT, isn’t there?! It is starting to get a little chilly. These plants are going to get a little sad once nighttime temperatures dip below 50 degrees. You don’t want sad plants, do you? I have some tips for cheering them up this fall and winter:

*Bring plants inside slowly. Baby steps always work best. If the pot is not too heavy, bring the plant in at night and back outside on a warm fall day. If you cannot move it in and out daily, tuck it in closer to the house to keep it a little more protected. If you must move it inside in one fell swoop, put it in the sunniest spot in the house if it was used to getting tons of sun outside.

*Treat plants first. Give them a nice shower with Neem Oil or Horticultural Oil. Spray the leaves, top, and bottom. Spray all branches. The oil will suffocate any sneaky insects or eggs trying to make their way into your cozy, warm winter house.

*Treat the soil first. Use a granular Houseplant Systemic Insect control on the soil. The systemic helps to eliminate soil-dwelling pests like fungus gnats. In addition, the plant absorbs it all the way through every branch and leaf, protecting houseplants from the inside out. Aphids, Whitefly, and Scale get one taste and they are toast!

*Treat the soil first. Fungus gnats can be a real bear to get rid of once they lay their eggs in the soil of your plants. They look like little fruit flies and are just as much of a nuisance. You can treat the soil with Systemic Houseplant care or with organic Mosquito Bits. Trust me, take a moment to do this because once Fungus Gnats make your home, their home, you will not be smiling.

*Fertilize. Use a slow-release fertilizer so they can feed slowly while spending the winter months inside.

See, the “BUT” wasn’t so bad. A little attention to your houseplants now will keep them from being sad inside. Keep them happy with a little extra TLC.

Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help!


*Neem Oil

*Horticultural Oil

*Systemic Houseplant Insect Control

*Mosquito Bits

*Van Wilgen’s All Purpose Control Release Plant Food

(Tucking your veggie garden in for the winter)

Thanks to my Dad and his wonderful veggie garden, we had delicious, fresh veggies all summer long. My daughter and I really miss the fresh tomatoes but we will enjoy his homemade tomato sauce this winter. To reciprocate, I am bringing home a little goody bag from Van Wilgen’s for my dad.

This year Dad did not plant any cool-season crops such as broccoli, lettuce, arugula, or Brussel sprouts, so his garden is all set to be tucked in for the winter. No excuses. Not only should I bring home an “over-wintering” goody bag for my Dad but if we were really good, my daughter and I would actually help him with the tucking-in process.

What is in this goody bag I am bringing home? I am filling the goody bag with Garden Lime, Garden-Tone, Diatomaceous Earth, and 3lbs of Winter Rye seed. For his little Strawberry patch, I picked up a bag of Mainely Mulch.

So what do I want my Dad to do with all these winter goodies? Why does his garden need all these treats? Fall veggie garden clean-up is very important. My dad already did one of the hardest chores. He pulled out all the spent vegetables. He composted a few that had no signs of disease or insect damage and the rest I forced him to put in a plastic bag and throw in the garbage. I did not want him to throw the old tomato plants showing signs of fungal leaf spot into his compost.

Thanks Dad for doing the hardest part. Now, we will help! I brought home the Garden Lime because it is very important to keep the pH level neutral for vegetables. Almost all veggies like the soil sweet. Potatoes are an exception, so don’t throw the Lime in the corner where they are planted. My daughter and I will sprinkle the Lime onto the soil of the cleaned-up veggie garden. The next layer is Garden-Tone. Garden-Tone is a good, all-purpose, organic, vegetable garden fertilizer. You are probably wondering why the heck I am fertilizing the soil with no veggies in the ground! I am crazy. That is why. Well, that is not actually why but maybe there is some element of crazy. The good crazy, of course! Vegetables use up the nutrients from the soil bed all summer. They need the energy to give us all those delicious veggies. Now, it is time for us to give back. Sprinkle Garden-Tone right on top of the Garden Lime.

What’s next? Diatomaceous Earth. Not everyone does this but being the “bug lady” that I am, I like this step. Sprinkle a layer of organic Diatomaceous Earth as your next layer on top of the soil. It is great for killing overwintering insects that may be hiding in the soil.

My daughter can help me spread all of these products onto the soil. We are dealing with all-natural products that will completely benefit the garden bed. Now it is important to till all the products into the top 6 inches of soil. Voila! We have magically restored the soil in my Dad’s veggie garden. His veggies will be so much happier next year and we will all benefit. Thanks Dad!

One more step to take and we are done. My daughter will like this part. Time to spread the Winter Rye Seed. Winter Rye is a very inexpensive and great cover crop for your vegetable garden. October and November are perfect months to plant Winter Rye. Winter Rye does so many good things to the soil…stops erosion, aerates, keeps weeds from taking over, allows water to flow through, and nourishes the soil. Winter Rye must be mowed or cut down in the spring before it goes to seed head. Till it into the garden bed 3 weeks before you are going to plant. It is a wonderful “green manure.”

p.s. I almost forgot about the Mainely Mulch. Simple. Just spread it a few inches thick over your sweet strawberries to protect them from the cold.

Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help!

Winter is coming- not just for Game of Thrones, but for your garden too. And like many people at the first sign of cold, you’re off and ready to prepare for the worst of it- raking, mulching, composting, and of course, pruning, right? Well, hold on just a second.

While cutting back your perennials after the first frost and cleaning up your vegetable garden are certainly recommended right now, try to fight the urge to fire up hedge trimmers and oil up your pruners in anticipation of a good fall trim. Most summer flowering plants, like roses, panicled hydrangeas, rose of Sharon, and others, much prefer to be left alone for the coming winter and cleaned up in the early spring. Even your ornamental grasses would much rather be left alone for the winter and pruned in the spring. By leaving these plants alone, you allow any winter damage to occur at the tops of the plants, where you would be pruning it out anyway, instead of much deeper in the plant, where it will take longer to recover.

But when exactly should you prune? Spring flowering shrubs like azaleas, lilac, and rhododendron should be pruned after flower and before the fourth of July, whereas summer flowering shrubs, roses, and grasses should be left alone until late winter or early, early spring. Any evergreens can be pruned in mid-spring after the plants have begun to flush lush new growth.

Winter is coming- make yourself a drink and stay warm. Your plants will thank you in the spring.

Will O’Hara

Perennial Manager


Question: Can I still seed?

Answer: Absolutely, 100%, most indubitably, with no doubt, yes!!!!!!

Question: It is getting a little chilly out. Are you sure?

Answer: Absolutely, 100%, most indubitably, with no doubt, yes!!!! That is a good question though. It does feel a bit chillier out. I have been bundling up a bit more at night but grass likes the chill much more than I do. The warm daytime temperatures we have been experiencing this fall combined with the cooler nights make for perfect grass growing weather.

Question: Do I have to do anything different this time of the year than if I were seeding in the spring?

Answer: Not really. Seeding procedures are basically the same, however, you do get a teeny tiny break with watering. I say this with hesitation because if I give you an inch, I do not want you to take a mile. Meaning, if I tell you that you get to water a little less in the cooler fall, I am afraid you will not water at all! Moisture is still key to germination folks. Seed, whether it is hot or cool, still needs water to grow. Be sure that the seed feels damp daily. Remember, no puddles!

Question: If I seed, what kind of fertilizer do I put down? Do I still put down the Fall Lawn food?

Answer: I would prefer that you put down a Lawn Starter for a fertilizer with your new grass seed. But guess what folks?! I still want you to put down your Fall Lawn Food, just a little bit later. It is better to put Fall Lawn Food down after the last mow of the season. In other words, put your new grass seed with Starter Fertilizer, and in about a month, apply the Fall Lawn Food. This is the ultimate program for your new and existing lawn.

Question: What about Lime? People always mention Lime in the fall. Do I need it if I seed? Can I put it down with grass seed?

Answer: Lime, ah sweet lime. Yes, Lime this time of the year is great. Lime is slow to change the pH of your soil, so if you apply it in the fall, it will work its magic all winter and make for a better lawn next spring. You absolutely can put Lime down with a new grass seed. It will not hurt it at all or you can wait and put Lime down at the same time as your Fall Lawn Food, after the last mow of the season.

Question: What if it gets really cold and my new grass seed does not finish growing?

Answer: Have no fear, your grass will continue its growth in the spring as soil temperatures warm up.

Question: So are you telling me that my fall projects are not over yet for the year?

Answer: Absolutely, 100%, most indubitably, with no doubt, yes!!!!

Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help!


*Van Wilgen’s Premium Grass Seed

*Starter Fertilizer

*Fall Lawn Food


Let’s face facts- there are way too many great ornamental grasses to hope to limit yourself to one type. Panicum, bluestems, miscanthus, Pennisetum- the list goes on and on. But after you’ve gone crazy and put sixteen of every type in your yard, how the heck do you tell them apart? It’s actually easier than you’d think.

Pennisetum, or the fountain grasses, have a classic, bottlebrush seed head that almost looks like a rabbit’s foot or pipe cleaner. As an added bonus, these will produce a seed head earlier than any other large growing ornamental grass.

Panicum, or switchgrass, is one of our native grasses. Its seed head is airy, loose, and almost transparent until you’re close by. Fun fact- One of the most popular varieties, Ruby Ribbons, was bred at UConn and features a great mix of purple and green colors to the grass.

Bluestems fall into two pretty self-explanatory categories- the dwarf little bluestem and the larger growing big bluestem. Both produce a long, wiry seed head that opens sporadically down the line while having the added benefit of being one of the only grasses to have vibrant purple to red fall color after the first frost.

Miscanthus, or maiden grasses, are often referred to as Zebra grasses, as many cultivars have a distinctive yellow stripe either horizontally or vertically along the grass. The seed heads have a braided texture and bright golden color that sways in the wind.

Muhly grass is the most unique of the bunch. Our current favorite, “Fast Forward,” has bright pink seed heads, but any and all varieties will produce a unique seed head that resembles a thick cloud of smoke and holds onto morning dew to create a shimmering show at sunup every day.

Will O’Hara

Perennial Manager

As the days get shorter it is now time to start thinking about what we need to do to over-winter our plants. While your plants have enjoyed being outside this summer they need to come in before the temperatures dip below 50 degrees.

The proper way to handle the transition is to slowly inch their way back inside, from being out in full sun to under a tree or a covered porch. This will give your plant time to acclimate slowly to the changing temperatures.

Houseplants, tropicals, and citrus are the plants that require this method. By transitioning slowly, you will help your plants in a big way. They are less likely to stress out and cause leaves to drop from your treasured plants. Before bringing them inside there are a few things you should do.

Now that covers most plants. But, there is one plant that over-winters very differently.

The fruit-bearing fig tree you will over-winter completely the opposite from those plants we discussed above.

Follow these simple rules.

1)Let the fig tree get hit by the first frost or two.

2) Once the frost has done its job it’s time to take the remainder of the leaves off and trim up your fig tree. You basically want to make your tree look like a stumpy stick figure by trimming the branches way back.

3) next wrap it up loosely in some burlap and place it in a cool dark spot for the winter. Usually, an attached garage or attic works best.

4) Now that your plant is ready for its long winter sleep, you will give it about 1 cup of water every month during this time. It’s enough to keep it alive but not letting it come out of dormancy.

We are always here to help, any questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to call or email us.

October has arrived and with it comes fall flavors. Pumpkin spice pops up practically wherever you go. And there’s nothing like a freshly picked apple or glass of apple cider.

Pollinators know it‘s fall too and they could use some help from your garden. This time of year is known as nectar flow, where many major nectar sources are blooming. They want their own fall fixes as they prepare to hibernate or migrate.

You’ve probably added perennials and trees to your garden for pollinators, now add fall flowers to bring pollinators to your garden.


5 Fall Blooming Plants for Pollinators


All kinds of pollinators are attracted to this fall-blooming plant — bees, butterflies, native birds, and other insects. This double-duty plant will bring vibrant colors to your garden while providing nectar from summer into late fall. Asters are appealing to pollinators due to their friendly flower structure. They grow 2-3 feet tall and are happy in both sun and partial shade.


The fall color scape isn’t complete without the echinacea’s vibrant color. This easy-to-grow plant brings butterflies and bees to your garden. It grows well in full sun to part sun and blooms continually through the summer months. It is also deer resistant making it a great choice if you are challenged with deer problems.

Verbena Bonariensis

Bring the fall colors to your garden with this deep purple plant. The flowers cluster at the top of a long slender stem, which butterflies and bees adore. Verbena responds better to late fall sowing as it likes cold temperatures. They grow 2-4 feet tall and are happy in full sun.

Joe Pye Weed

Joe Pye Weed is perfect for gardeners looking to add some height. It may be called a weed, but it brings the classic fall mauve to play with large dinner plate-sized blooms. They are loved by butterflies and will bloom late summer into the fall. They can grow up to 5 feet tall and are happy in full sun.

Autumn Joy Sedum

If you know the classic sedum for the large pink blooms, you will be in for a surprise with Autumn Joy. This variety offers burnt red blossoms on top of tall gray-green stalks. The vibrant fall color complements your garden this season. Butterflies are frequent visitors to this plant. It will last through the fall until the flowers dry in the winter. They grow 2 feet tall and are happy in full sun.

Be sure to keep fall blooms big and vibrant!