With the cold winter weather behind us and the warmth of Spring quickly approaching, we understand everyone is eager to return to their gardens and begin planting. But not everyone might understand how to de-winterize their garden or where to begin with Spring prep work. We wanted to share some of our spring gardening tips and tricks to help you have a successful garden.

Fourth of July is often used as a marker for pruning some shrubs, perennials, and annuals. Knowing when to prune is an important step in keeping your plants healthy and thriving. Now is the perfect time to prune the following :

Evergreen trees and shrubs










Mock orange


Veronica (halfway)


Bleeding Heart


Spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils

Montauk Daisy (halfway)

Painted Daisy

(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!


“Is it really spring?” This is the question most of us have been asking ourselves and others. “Yes, it is spring, folks!” I know the cool temperatures and the cloudy skies have been putting a gray cloak over spring this year but don’t despair. Let’s look on the bright side, shall we?! What are the advantages to the cooler, wet weather? Are there any? Of course, there are. Here goes, I am going to try and make you all feel a little bit better.


Advantage #1: With clouds, comes the rain. We have had lots of rain. This is a good thing friends. We have been struggling with moderate droughts for 2 seasons now. The rain is bringing us super green lawns, deep root growth on all of our plants, and saving us some time when it comes to watering our outdoor pots.

Advantage #2: We may not have as big of a gypsy moth problem this year. For the last 2 years, gypsy moths have been devastating our big oaks and many more because our springs have been so dry. This year, the rain will hopefully kick up the NPV virus and naturally eliminate some of these voracious eaters.

Advantage #3: The prolonged, cool weather has extended our grass seed & sod laying time. Grass thrives at this temperature. The rain has helped tremendously with the establishment. Keep sowing that seed. You still have time.

Advantage #4: Planting trees, shrubs, roses, and perennials are ideal in this weather. The cool temperatures and rainy days will really help plants establish themselves before the hot weather sets in. Keep planting!

Advantage #5: The cooler temperatures make it so much easier to work in. You can actually plant and mulch and weed without breaking a sweat and getting dehydrated. Take advantage of these cool days.

Advantage #6: Critters, such as chipmunks and squirrels are a little slower to wreak havoc in our gardens. I know they are waking up but they are still a little slow. Now is the time to start putting repellents out before they get too crazy. Start training them now to stay away in the future.

Advantage #7: Insects are just coming awake. There have only been a few aphids and lily leaf beetle sightings. Be proactive and arm yourself with the appropriate insect controls. You could even spray your garden down with Horticultural Oil and eliminate a lot of insect problems before they even start.

Advantage #8: You have plenty of prep time. Prep your veggie garden with lime, compost, and even a little green sand. Wake up the soil and get it ready for those tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers.

Advantage #9: Everything is a little slower to bloom this year but when they do, they will delight our eyes. Now that is a treat worth waiting for.

Advantage #10: Without the cold and rainy days, it would be more difficult to appreciate the warm and sunny days.

Patience really is a good thing. We spend so much time racing around and we want everything right away. “Good things come to those who wait.” Maybe that is the lesson Mother Nature is trying to teach us this cool, cloudy, rainy spring.

Come see us at Van Wilgen’s, where so much is already in bloom. We would love to help!

In my first year at Van Wilgen’s, I worked as a loader, putting bags in cars and doing odd jobs around the yard. One day, the job was mulching in the beds around the Garden Center, and I was doing it at the request of Bill Van Wilgen himself. Needless to say, 17 year old me was nervous. But I’ll never forget what Bill told me about compost that day. He told me that compost is the only mulch for annual beds because their tiny roots can’t handle the nitrogen that mulch puts in the soil as it decomposes. Compost is one of the most underutilized tools in any gardener’s toolbox. It’s the best top dressing for perennial beds, the number one mulch for annual beds, and an absolute must in your veggie garden. Here at Van Wilgen’s, we keep our bulk compost dry so that it’s ready and easy to spread the second it hits your property. We deliver our plant and leaf derived compost anywhere, and you can even get it on our website right here:

Will O’Hara

Perennial Manager


March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. I know March starts out a little chilly but we can still get a jump on that lion. Don’t let that lion intimidate you. It is time to get out into the yard and take care of some business. The more you accomplish now, the more assured that March will go out sweetly, like a little lamb.


  1. Get your soil pH tested for free at the Solution Center at Van Wilgen’s. A balanced pH is the key to a good start.
  2. Apply Encap’s Fast Acting Lime to areas of the yard that need it. Keep in mind, veggie gardens, lilacs, and clematis love extra lime.
  3. Moss Out will work great in this cooler, rainy weather. Moss is most actively growing when it is cooler, so the early application works well to get rid of unwanted moss patches.
  4. In addition to taming the March lion, you need to control some other bothersome critters.
  1. Apply I Must Garden’s Mole & Vole Repellent now to keep moles and voles from taking over the lawn and garden. An early application will slow down their spring establishment in your yard.
  2. Apply now! Use one of our many Deer Repellents to train deer in advance. Deer are creatures of habit. Break their habit before they start. We have a new, convenient deer repellent system called Scent-inal. It is all-natural and easy to use.
  1. I love All Seasons Horticultural Oil. It is a great part of your Integrated Pest Management program. Spray down your trees and shrubs early in the season to eliminate overwintering insects and insect eggs. This early application will cut down on your pest problems later.

Put the above 5 steps on your March to-do list and you can whip that lion into shape. The March lion will be intimidated by all your pro-active moves in the garden, put his tail between his legs, and crawl away like a little lamb.

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


*Encap’s Fast Actin Lime

*Lilly Miller’s Moss Out

*I Must Garden’s Mole & Vole Repellent

*Bonide’s All Season Horticultural Oil

It’s time to start your seeds. Most seeds should be started about 6 weeks before our last frost day. In the gardening world, we like to use Mother’s Day as the last frost date.

For cold weather crops like peas, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, and kale you can sow them outside now. We have a great variety of cool weather vegetable seeds to choose from. I have read that is it lucky to plant peas on St. Patrick’s Day. Not sure if other cool-weather plants will bring you luck but they sure will be delicious fresh-picked from your garden this year. Remember New England weather is erratic. We may get a few cold/frost nights where you will want to cover your seedlings with a warm harvest blanket to protect them.

There are many ways to start your seeds. You can begin them in starter kits, trays, and peat pots. Peat pots can be placed right into the ground when ready. Espoma Organic Seed Starting Mix and Fafard Seed Starter Mix are excellent soils to start your baby seeds. Don’t forget to label your seeds.

If you have a south-facing window place your seeds there. If not, we have many different grow lights to help your seeds get the approximate 15 hours of daylight they need.

Flowers have many different attributes. Start your favorite flowers by seed now. Some flowers/herbs are excellent pollinators and help keep certain bugs away from your vegetable garden. Marigolds attract bees and butterflies. Nasturtiums, besides being edible, also help keep away many unwanted insects. The very fragrant lavender is also an excellent general pest repellent flower to use in your garden.

Stop in and get your seeding started right away!

Is spring coming early this year?

Am I jumping the gun by changing the words to an old rhyme?! It doesn’t quite feel like I am. We have had a mild winter and the warm weather makes me feel like spring is already here. What does this mean? It means, all of us gardeners and people who just like to be outdoors, don’t have to chomp at the bit anymore. Let’s get going. Let’s open up those garden sheds and start shaking those tools up a bit. There is so much fun work to be done!

Where to begin…? Which tool to start with…? I know….

*Rake: Get the rake out and start raking. Clean out those garden beds and clean up that lawn. Start with a nice, clean slate.

*Cultivator: Use this sharp pronged tool to help you pull out some of those unwanted weeds that are sprouting up. The sooner the better.

*Shovel: Dig up a few soil samples from your lawn and garden and bring them in for me to test the pH level. The proper pH level is key for a successful lawn, veggie garden, and perennial bed.

What products do I need now…?

*Preen: After you spend all that time raking up the garden beds, apply Preen to help keep those pesky weeds at bay all season long. Don’t do all that hard work for nothing!

*Lime: The snow has melted and the lawn & veggie garden needs some sweetening up. It takes a while to raise the pH of your soil, so get going now. Please.

*Fertilizer: Get ready. Lawns, trees, and shrubs can wait a little bit longer but as soon as those yellow Forsythias start to pop, it is time. Usually, the Forsythia start showing off in April but I have a hunch they will start to show yellow earlier than that.

I don’t want you to feel rushed. I just want you to be prepared. If you need a little inspiration, come to Van Wilgen’s and get yourself a little treat. We have happy pansy faces of every color and they can handle the temperatures down to 28 degrees. If they don’t get you in the mood for spring, I do not know what will.

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

Your Shopping List: Preen, Fast Acting Lime by Encap, and Espoma’s Plant Tone