(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

Hey, we got some notorious bugs comin’ at ya this spring. Keep your eyes open for these trouble makers. Here is the line-up:

THE 4-LINED PLANT BUG is tearing it up on Catmint, Montauk Daisies, Basil, Salvia, Hydrangeas and many more.

Damage: Usually you see the damage before you see this speedy artist. Look for irregular, depressed circles on leaves. Circles are small and dark in color. If many feeding spots are close together, they tend to coalesce and turn into one large, brown area. Leaves may curl, dry up and look plain ole’ ugly. I’ve seen them destroy an entire Montauk Daisy. Ugh!

Insect: This tricky shapeshifter looks completely different as a young nymph than as an adult. Unfortunately, these bad guys do damage at all stages. They are fast and hard to see. The young nymphs are tiny and reddish/orangish in color. They have tiny little wing pads that show a little black color. The grown adults do not set a good example for their young ones. These limey yellow and black striped adults keep sucking the good stuff out of our plants and injecting bad stuff as they feed.


*Organic – Pyrethrins work the best to knock down this thug. You can use straight Pyrethrin or you can find it in Japanese Beetle Killer or End-All.

*Conventional – There are so many choices that work but my go-to products are Rose & Flower Insect Killer or Eight.

*Be sure to cut back affected plants in the fall and throw clippings into the garbage. They lay their eggs in these plants. Eggs overwinter and then the bad bugs hatch and begin their party.

THE ROSE SAWFLY is wreckin’ it on our beautiful rose bushes. In particular, it loves the Knock Out roses.

Damage: These bad dudes are sneaky and just eat the green layer of the rose leaf, top, and bottom. The leaves end up looking like skeletons of themselves. They become tan-colored window panes that you can see right through. Eventually, these flimsy window panes break and become holes, often mistaken for a disease.

Insect: It’s the babies of the Rose Sawfly that are the real trouble makers. These little slug-like characters use camouflage to go about their dirty business. You can barely see these light yellowish-green insects creeping around your rose leaves. Their head is usually orange and the whole body is just about a ½ inch long.


*Organic – The best product is Captain Jacks Dead Bug Brew. Not many organics are labeled for Sawfly larvae. I also like End-All & Insecticidal Soap. They will give you good control with direct contact. Don’t be fooled by these little buggers and try and use BT. BT is only good for caterpillars. This is not a caterpillar. I repeat this is not a caterpillar.

*Conventional – Bayer Rose & Flower Insect Killer is my go-to product, however, Eight also does a great job.

THE GYPSY MOTH is putting on a big show this year, showing up on every Oak, Maple, Rose, and even Blueberry.

Damage: They chomp through every part of the leaf, tearin’ it up. Little pieces of leaves fall to the ground as they eat it to nothing, bite by bite.

Insect: The Gypsy Moth Caterpillar is the culprit. When it first hatches in the spring it looks small, grayish-black, and fuzzy. As it grows, it gets fancier with blue and red spots. Don’t be fooled by this handsome caterpillar. He is up to no good!


*Organic – BT is great when the Gypsy Moth Caterpillar is small. As the caterpillar gets bigger switch to Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew. It will take them out.

*Conventional – Eight with the hose-end sprayer works great. For smaller areas, Rose and Flower Insect Killer will take them down.

*Note – Banding the trees with Paper Tree Wrap & Tree Banding Gum will catch those culprits as they travel up and down the tree.

Holla’ back at these bad bugs. Don’t let them take over and destroy your favorite plants.

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


*Pyrethrin by Bonide

*Japanese Beetle Killer by Bonide

*Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew

*End-All by Safer

*Insecticidal Soap by Safer


*Eight by Bonide

*Paper Tree Wrap

*Tree Banding Gum