Tina talks to horticulturist and aborist David Jones from Bucks Country Gardens about tips to winterizing your garden.

The Winter months can be hard on our landscape. Harsh winds, snow and ice can take its toll on trees and shrubs, leaving them looking brown and bare come the spring. Fortunately there are steps you can take now to prepare your landscape for the long winter ahead.

Trees and shrubs need to be watered sufficiently throughout the fall. We have experienced a dry summer that has turned into a dry fall.

So how much water should we be giving our trees and shrubs? To find out I headed out to Bucks Country Gardens to talk with my friend David Jones who is a horticulturist and certified arborist.

“Normally plants this time of year, especially evergreens should be getting an inch of water per week,” he said.

Jones suggests using Tree Gator bags that hold up to 15 to 20 gallons and water over a period of 5-6 hours weekly. Remember to remove the bag once the tree has taken up all the water. The bags can attract field mice and other little critters that can crawl inside and chew on the bark. Younger trees are more susceptible to this problem. You can use tree guards to wrap around the bark to prevent this from happening. Jones says they will prevent sun scold and cracking as well. Adding an extra layer of mulch around the base of the plant helps, especially with freezing and thawing that can occur during winter.

Winter burn is another common problem. Branches turn brown in the spring and appear dead. Jones recommends using an anti desiccant, like Bonide Wilt Stop.

Mix five parts water to one part wilt stop. Spray liberally on a plant that has been well watered. Ideally when temperatures are above freezing, before Thanksgiving, again in December and finally if the weather permits, a mild day in February. Wrapping shrubs like boxwoods and other broad leaved shrubs with burlap or a shrub bag can help prevent winter burn as well.

If you plan to do a little pruning at this time, don’t. You can remove any dead wood or branches that you see. Any heavy pruning should be done in January when plants are in full dormancy.

We also need to prevent any deer damage that may occur during the winter. In our region the deer are a well-known problem and can leave extensive damage when feeding on trees and shrubs. Even plants that are considered deer resistant can succumb to the hearty appetite of a hungry deer in winter. Applying repellants can deter Bambi and friends from feasting on your Arborvitae and Cypress trees. Deer Scram and Liquid Fence are effective when used as directed.

Soon we will be covered in a blanket of snow and sometimes even ice. But don’t fret, most trees and shrubs are flexible enough to handle minor coverage. It doesn’t hurt to shake those branches free from any snow and ice once the winter thaw begins.

Feeding Birds In The Fall

Watching birds in the garden in summertime is one of my favorite pastimes, now that fall is here some birds plan their migration to warmer climates and some even make stopovers from far northern regions to the south. So what should we do to accommodate our feathered friends that are passing through along with the native residents as we prepare for winter?

Make sure to clean out feeders from the spring and summer. Make any repairs if needed. Tighten any loose screws or replace hooks. Don’t forget to clean out any grime and old food.

Keep a steady supply of food In the feeders. For the many birds that remain in the region they are preparing for winter. That means they need foods higher in protein and fat. Seed mixes that include hulled peanuts, nyjer, white millet and black oiled sunflower seed are ideal for a wide variety of birds.  Suet cakes are another great food source.  They have a higher in fat content and calorie count than seed. During the winter months birds tend to burn more calories staying warm. According to the national wildlife association ” Suet is considered a high energy food because it consists of fat that has 9 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates or protein.”

In addition to using feeders birds can feed naturally in the garden. During the fall birds don’t need to rely on feeders as their primary food source. They feed on the natural resources like berries, fruits and seeds. My garden is a flutter of bird activity this time of year with a variety of Sparrows, Blue Jays, Cardinals, and Finches, just to name a few. They are enjoying a bountiful garden. Plants like Viburnum, American Beautyberry, and Winterberry Holly are filled with berries now. Ornamental grasses are another great food source for their seed heads.  The Finches love to feed on the seed heads from the Echinacea, Lavender and Rudbeckia plants in the garden. One thing I have noticed through the years is that my Bridal Wreath Spirea seems to be a popular source for a variety of Sparrows. They flock to it all season long. It may be the seeds they are feeding on or the shelter it provides.

Providing shelter for birds is equally important as feeding.  Keep feeders in a sheltered location away from potential predators. According to the Humane Society Of The United States, “Place feeders twelve feet from a brush pile, evergreen tree, or bush. Birds can quickly fly twelve feet to reach the safe cover, yet predators cannot use it to hide within striking range of the feeder. ” You can also pile leaves around the base of the tree to provide shelter on the ground as well.

Water is essential for birds. We have experienced a very dry summer in Pennsylvania that has turned into a very dry fall. Keep birdbaths filled with clean water. As the winter and freezing temperatures approach make sure water doesn’t freeze over. Use a birdbath de-icer or heater to prevent water from freezing.

Have your binoculars ready! Fall is a great time for backyard bird watching. You may be surprised with the different species of birds that are migrating through your yard from the north to south this time of year.

Garden Minute: Growing Herbs Indoors

Buying fresh herbs in the grocery store can be expensive. Why not save some money, have them at your fingertips and ready to use by growing them indoors. They have a few key benefits to growing indoors vs. outdoors, and in addition they taste and smell wonderful, creating a cozy atmosphere in your home.

Growing fresh herbs indoors is a little different than growing them outdoors. I suggest you keep your herbs in or near a kitchen window if possible so you are able to harvest regularly, plus the closer to you they are the easier they will be to maintain. Too often herbs in an outdoor garden can suffer, especially with insect problems that may go unnoticed until it is too late. Another key benefit is to keep herbs in their own pot. Herbs can be opportunistic at times and can take over other herbs if they are sharing a pot.

Repot herbs into the next size up to allow for adequate root growth, using fresh organic potting soil. I recommend using terra cotta pots rather than plastic. Terra cotta is porous so it is breathable. It allows soil to dry out more thoroughly than plastic.

A few things to consider when growing herbs indoors is that many prefer to grow in a south facing window. But some can survive adequately in a north east facing window. Rosemary, basil, oregano, sage and lavender all prefer a southern exposure. If you don’t think you have enough light you can add a grow light kit to increase day length. Herbs like thyme, parsley, cilantro, chives and even mint can do well in medium to low light along with being some of the most forgiving to grow indoors.

All plants tend to slow down there growing in the winter time and herbs are no different, especially parsley. They do not grow as fast as they would during the growing season. I find that it is much easier to grow herbs using starter plants, instead of seeds. This way you are able to harvest a few sprigs right away, instead of waiting for seeds to germinate. Your success rate will be greater this way.

Allow herbs to dry between waterings. Overwatering can lead to fungal and insect problems, such as powdery mildew, whitefly and fungus gnats. Mist herbs 2-3 times per week or place pots on top of a saucer filled with moist crushed stones, this will help increase the humidity, which is beneficial for the plants.

Ideal temperatures for indoor herbs are between 65- 70 degrees during the daytime. Try to keep herbs away from dry heat vents and extreme cold.

Don’t forget to keep on clipping those herbs! This will encourage more growth, and after all that’s why you are growing your them indoors.

Garden Minute: Making a pumpkin centerpiece

by Tina Sottolano-Cain

There are many different decorating ideas for pumpkins this time of year, carving creative faces and scenes on pumpkins along with painting fun patterns. Why not step outside of the Jack-o-Lantern and make a planter out of a pumpkin or create a succulent centerpiece.

Planting in pumpkins is so simple, with my easy to follow steps. But first you want to soak pumpkins and gourds in a bleach and water bath at a 1:1 ratio for 20 to 30 minutes. This removes any dirt and bacteria on the surface.

Next hollow out pumpkin. You can use any size you want. Remove all the inner membrane and seeds and dry out the inside. If you have time you can spray the inside with acrylic or coat with Vaseline and let it sit for 2-3 days.

Now you are ready to plant. I chose to use indoor plants for this project, but you can use mums and cabbage for outdoors as well.

Another fun project is creating s succulent centerpiece. I love this idea because it combines succulents and floral arranging. For this project you can use gourds as well as pumpkins.

What you will need:

1 flat pumpkin or gourd

Spray adhesive

Hot glue gun and glue


A variety of succulents

Begin by spraying the top of the pumpkin with adhesive and add a thick layer of moss. Now you can start making your arrangement.

Take your succulents and start your arrangement from the middle, creating a mound. Then work your way around and out from the center. Keep adding and filling in spaces with a variety of sizes. When gluing tips be sure your hot glue gun is set on low and don’t worry, the succulents will not mind being glued.

A few tips you need to know: Select a blend of colors and textures so your arrangement is visually interesting.

Arrange cuttings upright or perpendicular when you are working along the edges of the pumpkin.

Add extras like seed pods, pinecones and twigs. Take walk around your property and you’ll be very surprised by the variety of cones, nuts and seed pods that can be used in different floral arrangements.

Caring for your living centerpiece is easy. Treat them like you would any houseplant. Place in bright indirect light and keep away from any heat vents and freezing temperatures. Allow pumpkin planter to dry out thoroughly in between waterings. Mist succulent centerpiece with water daily to keep moss and succulents looking fresh. Arrangements should last up to 3 weeks.

Garden Minute: Bring your garden indoors

The fall weather is finally here, temperatures are turning too cold and damp to continue to enjoy gardening outdoors so why not bring the garden inside.

Gardening indoors can be a challenge for many people, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether you have a north, south or east facing window you can design and create your own garden oasis in a window. Plants can provide beauty to your home as well as added health benefits. According to NASA, studies have shown that plants can improve the quality of air indoors by removing toxins. “Plants take the carbon dioxide from the air to produce oxygen that humans can breathe.” That alone is enough to motivate me to bring the outdoors in, how about you?

Before you head out to your local garden center to shop for plants here are a few things you need to know. Once you get there, it can be a little overwhelming walking into that warm garden oasis with beautiful flowers and tropical foliage. You have no idea where to start.

You first need to locate the brightest window or area in your home. For some that could be a north or north east facing window, where you only get early morning light. Knowing the lighting exposure is half the battle. Now you will be able to find the right plant for the right location. Always select healthy looking plants that have full lush green foliage. Avoid yellowing or brown leaves. Add additional light if you need to, depending on what you are growing, grow lights are a great source of supplemental lighting. If you have a bright southern exposure consider yourself lucky, you can grow a combination of herbs and foliage in your garden.

Remember that your indoor garden should enhance the beauty and interior of your home. I like to keep my pots the same style, that way your display will look like a cohesive design with intention. Otherwise it can look too busy instead of complimentary to your interior. I also like to add layers and dimension. If you don’t have a deep sill in your window use plant stands to create a platform or varying heights. Be creative and reinvent an old bar cart or tea caddy for plant storage. They usually have two or three shelves with wheels ideal for plants and movability. For hanging plants, remove the green growers pot the plant is already in and select a more decorative option, like a decorative hanging bowl shaped planter.

Always follow proper watering guidelines based upon each variety of plant. My golden rule is, allow plants to dry before watering and keep a calendar handy to log watering and fertilizer days. You will have a better idea of how often or not often you are watering and feeding. Feed with a water soluble fertilizer, 10-10-10 concentration weekly and reduce during the winter months.

Indoor gardening is a great way to stay in touch with nature all season long.

Here are my top 10 easy to grow foliage and flowering indoor plants:

1. Philodendron

2. Aglaonema Chinese Evergreen

3. Dieffenbachia Dumb Cane

4. Schefflera

5. Dracaena

6. Rieger Begonia

7. Spathiphyllum Peace Lily

8. Bromeliad

9. Phalaenopsis Orchids

10. Succulents