Thinking about making a raised bed for this season? Well, we’ve got the perfect recipe. A bucket of this, a bag of that, and voila, you have the perfect base to grow the most beautiful veggies. Getting the right recipe for the soil in your raised bed is as delicious as making the perfect stock for your chicken and veggie soup!

Depending on the size of your raised bed(s) and how many you will be serving, determine whether or not you will be buying your soil and compost ingredients mostly in bulk or in bags. Luckily, Van Wilgen’s offers both. It’s a one-stop shop for your recipe list!

(Ideal for large raised beds or multiple raised beds)
•40% Topsoil in bulk
•40% Compost in bulk
Mix together as best you can. Do not leave in solid, unmixed layers. That leaves us with 20% more of that bed to fill. Here come the secret spices…

Fill remaining 20% of bed with equal portions of:
•Van Wilgen’s Organic Potting Soil (a perfect balance of nutrients and drainage)
•Garden Manure by Fafard (rich aged cow manure veggies love)
•Soilution by Sweet Peet (everything but the kitchen sink…Bio Char, Earthworm castings, Kelp, etc)

Mix all bags into the top 5 inches of bulk topsoil and compost blend.

(Serves 1 raised bed or small raised beds)
•40% Van Wilgens Topsoil (perfect base with great drainage)
•40% Van Wilgens Premium Planting Mix (nice blend of topsoil and compost)

Fill remaining 20% of bed with equal portions of:
•Van Wilgens Organic Potting Mix
•Garden Manure by Fafard
•Soilution by Sweet Peet

Sprinkle beds with Garden-Tone by Espoma (organic) or Van Wilgen’s All Purpose Slow Release (conventional).

Now that you have the perfectly blended base for your raised beds, time to add in veggies like tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, and squash.

Water and enjoy!

Note: For precise calculations, use the calculator on our website.

Remember, approximately 27 bags of soil = 1 yard of bulk soil!

With spring just around the corner, now’s the perfect time of year to consider giving your houseplants plants a little refresh. Give them a fresh start this season with some new soil and maybe even a larger container. So, gather up your plants, a bag of potting mix, and let’s get messy! (Your plants will thank you!)

Repot vs. Refresh

Before you immediately start hunting down larger pots for all of your houseplants, consider whether your plant actually needs it. Sometimes “repotting” can just involve refreshing your plant’s soil, and not necessarily putting it in a new container. Since plants can deplete the nutrients found in soil over time, just replacing the soil occasionally can actually be quite beneficial.

When to Repot

We frequently get asked how often you should be repotting your houseplants into a new container. Typically, you can expect to repot approximately every twelve to eighteen months depending on how quickly your plant grows. That said, there are some slow-growing plants that will be happy in the same container for many years before it’s time for a larger pot.

So how can you tell when it’s time to go for a larger container? Keep an eye out for some of these signs:


Still not sure? Push your finger into the soil and run it around the inside edge of the container. If you can go all the way around without hitting a root, you can hold off on upsizing.

Choosing your Pot

If your plant does need a larger container, generally you shouldn’t go more than 1-2” larger than the current one. You simply want a little extra room for your plant to grow into.

You might think that jumping up a few sizes will save you time in the long run but going to too large of a pot will lead to a few problems for your plant. When a houseplant has lots of extra space in the pot, the plant will focus its energy on growing new roots to fill the space which can adversely affect growth above the soil. Additionally, too much extra soil around the roots can actually absorb too much water, potentially leading to root rot.

When choosing your container, in addition to paying attention to the size, you should also be looking for containers that have drainage holes at the bottom, and a saucer to catch any excess water. Too much water collecting at the bottom of your container without a way out can also cause root rot, which is why we always recommend having containers with good drainage.

You should also be mindful of the material of your container. Something like terracotta, which is absorbent, will soak up water, meaning you may have to water more frequently. If you tend to overwater, or if your plant likes more of a dry environment (like cacti) this may actually be a beneficial material to use. Glazed ceramic containers on the other hand aren’t absorbent at all, so any excess water will either be absorbed by the soil or will drain to the bottom of the container. Plants that like a moist environment (like peace lilies) may do better in a glazed container. Be sure to check out our watering guide for additional watering tricks.

Choosing your Soil

Be sure to use the appropriate soil for your plant. We recommend our own Van Wilgen’s Professional Potting Mix for most containers, though with some finicky plants you might need a plant-specific potting mix, especially for orchids, cacti, succulents, and African violets. The main difference is how quickly the soil will drain. Potting soils tend to be “heavier” since they retain water, while cactus mixes, for example, are “lighter” since they’re more porous and don’t absorb as much water. For this reason, we would also recommend against using something like garden soil since it’s much heavier and can actually smother your houseplant’s roots.

How to Re-pot

Steps to Re-pot:

  1. Carefully remove the plant from its container by tilting it sideways and gently pulling on the base of the plant until it slides out. If the container is a thinner nursery pot, you may be able to squeeze from the bottom of the pot to easily remove it.
  2. Remove old potting mix from around the root system. We recommend removing about one-third of the soil that’s in the pot.
  3. Take a few moments to loosen up the plant’s roots. If the plant has been in a too-small container for too long, you may notice that the plant is root-bound. Carefully pull apart tight coils of roots, especially along the bottom of the plant. If you happen to notice any signs of root rot, carefully clip away affected areas, making sure to clean your tools in between cuts.
  4. Add a few inches of fresh potting mix to the bottom of your container, and then carefully set your plant atop the new soil, making sure it’s straight and centered. Add additional potting mix around the sides until it’s stable. Avoid packing the soil too tightly in order to let the roots breathe
  5. Give your plant a drink, until you see water draining from the bottom of the pot. Even out the soil at the top of the container, and if necessary, top off with some additional soil.

The ground is starting to thaw, temperatures have started to rise just a bit, and that means it’s time to get outside and dust off your lawn and gardening tools.

It’s nice enough out now that we’re encouraging everyone to get outside and start your spring clean up. March might seem early, but I promise it isn’t. Getting a head start on clean up is a fantastic way to set yourself up for success in the season to come.

Here are my five top tips for planning ahead for the spring and summer season.

  1. Start with a clean slate. Get out in the yard and start cutting back plants, cutting out weeds and clearing all the sticks and debris left on the ground by the winter weather and recent wind. All the other prep work in the world will be less effective if you haven’t done the general spring cleaning your yard needs.
  2. Find out if you’re sweet or sour. One of the best things you can do for your lawn is have the pH tested right away. This can be done easily at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven. The sooner you find out if your soil is sweet or sour, the better, because it will determine your next steps to get a jump on your lawn’s health. Sweet soil has a basic pH while sour soil is acidic. You want to have sweet soil for a great lawn. A sour lawn will shut down and absorb no nutrients, so if you find your pH balance isn’t right, apply fast acting lime all over your lawn as soon as possible. Lime is an all-natural calcium and magnesium source so there are no concerns if you have kids or pets at home.
  3. Gain control. Moss can be a tricky intruder in your lawn, so if you want to tackle it, start now. This is the perfect time to apply a moss control product, like Moss Max, as moss is actively growing when it’s cold. Take this step now vs. trying to battle moss in the heat of the summer.
  4. Take on ticks. It was a warm winter, so ticks didn’t retreat into full dormancy, meaning you may already have active ticks in your yard. The sooner you work to combat them, the less problems you’ll have throughout the rest of the year. I recommend a hose-end liquid spray you can apply to the perimeter of your property where the manicured and un-manicured portions of your lawn meet. This treatment will reduce the number of ticks coming into your yard. If you’re looking for great control choices, synthetic or organic, we offer, Bonide Flea Beater Flea & Tick Control and Eco-Smart Mosquito & Tick Control.
  5. Freshen up. There is nothing like a pop of color to brighten your home after the long, winter months. Once you’ve put in the hard work to get ready for a beautiful spring, grab a pot of cold weather hardy pansies and put them on your front porch as a primer of things to come. Pansies are a great way to reward yourself with something pretty to look at that can handle the temperatures dropping down to as low as 28 degrees.

Trust me, the work will be worth it! Putting in a little time now will save a lot of headache later.

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

The seasons have officially changed. With that, it’s time to start thinking about some new homes for all those house plants that have made their home outside for the summer. As you bring each plant in it’s a good time to clean up your plant babies, check their roots and repot if necessary.

Depending on which plants you have will depend on what soils you will use.

For most houseplants, we recommend using one of the following 3 potting mixes.

Most of your plants will do just fine with the professional potting mix, this is lightweight soil that does not retain extra moisture in your potting mix which can cause issues with some plants.

For plants that love their water, I recommend using the premium container mix.

This potting mix has a wetting agent which allows the mix to retain water which helps keep those water-loving plants very happy. Peace lilies, anthuriums, crotons, and all ferns would love this mix.

Cactus and succulents would do better if you used a cactus and succulent potting mix. This mix allows the plants to drain well while letting each plant get what it needs in the way of water. If you do not have any of this mix available go ahead and use the professional potting mix but add 1 to 2 parts sand to your mixture.

Along with cactus and succulents, I would add ZZ plants and snake plants to the list for this potting mix.

I also have a preference for what to use for repotting orchids.

We do carry both sphagnum moss and bark for orchids. Everybody has their favorite but, I prefer the bark. The bark holds just the right amount of moisture that your orchid needs. Sometimes the moss will either hold too much or too little water. And please remember to water your orchids in the sink DO NOT USE ICE CUBES! We don’t get our water from ice cubes alone and neither should our plants.

Any questions or concerns about any of your plants can be answered by any of us here at Vanwilgens garden center. Email or call us any time. We are always here to help.

(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!

Small-scale gardening is a hot topic! Many great books have been written on the subject and growers are developing more and more dwarf trees and compact shrubs to fit those needs. Baby boomers are “downsizing” and Millennials are moving into their first homes, creating a growing demand for ornamental and edible plants that fit comfortably into these smaller spaces.

My personal interest in small-scale gardening is especially keen as I fall into the latter category of those of us who have sold the large family home and are moving into smaller more manageable properties. I purchased a new home about a year ago. A smaller house, on a much smaller lot with a challenging irregular shape. I spent a lot of time over the last several months observing the conditions of the yard and planning the design I would like to implement. I can’t wait to start planting!

My back yard is roughly about 1200 square feet and late last fall I had a patio and walkway installed reducing the potential planting area to under 1000sq. My goal is to create a cozy backyard retreat with small trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals, along with a small sitting area to enjoy a cup of tea in the morning and maybe a late afternoon drink.

Because the space is small and I am hoping to keep maintenance at a moderate level I am completely eliminating the lawn. There are no trees in my small space. It’s currently a blank page other than the pavers but there are several large maples surrounding the yard creating a high shade situation that will influence the plants I choose. Before I can start putting them in the ground however I will have to deal with the soil.

I have designed and planted many gardens but this may be the most challenging soil I have ever worked with. Bright orange clay! Clay soil is composed of very fine particles. It absorbs water very slowly and holds it for a very long time. It can also become very compacted, making it difficult for plant roots to penetrate the soil.

I know that I need to improve the soil and adding organic matter is the first step. But because I have only a little experience with clay I stopped by the main store and had a chat with Stacy. Compost was something we both agreed would be beneficial but she gave me an additional tip that I was unaware of. Gypsum, she said would help reduce compaction, improve drainage, decrease acidity and eliminate soil salts. Sounds good to me!

With all the rain we’ve had I will have to wait a while until my soil dries up to begin the process. It’s never a good idea to work with clay when it’s wet because that can add to the compaction problems. Once the compost and gypsum have been turned into the soil I can finally start the planting process.

I have big plans for my small-scale garden and I would love to share them with you as my cozy retreat begins to take shape. Choosing the right plant for the right location can be challenging but that’s just part of the fun!

Cecile Bardinelli, Guilford Garden Mart Manager