In the Garden: Making seed tape

If you are like me and save seeds from your garden every year or you like to direct sow cool season vegetables like carrots and radishes, you can’t wait to get in the garden and plant them. For anyone who has done this knows that seed cultivation by directly sowing them into the ground can be a tedious and tricky process, especially when the seeds are very tiny and lightweight. Making seed tape is a way for you to plant seeds without worrying about waste. They are so easy to make from biodegradable materials that you already have in your home. Seeds are evenly spaced and glued to strips of paper using newspaper, paper towels or toilet paper and glued using flour and water.

To make seed tape you will need:

— Toilet paper, newspaper or paper towels

— White flour

— Tweezers

— Ruler

— Small brush or Q-tips.

Mix about two tablespoons of white flour with one tablespoon of water to make a thick paste. You may have to adjust amounts. Thicker glue will dry faster. The paste should not be too watery. You don’t want seed to absorb too much water. The glue will hold the seed in place.

Using a ruler cut one inch strips of newspaper, TP or paper towels.

Place seed on the one inch strips in the middle. Space seed according to the distance on package. You can spread the glue on the paper using a tiny brush then using the tweezers place one to two seeds per space.

When you are done place a top layer of paper on top and glue together.

Wait for glue to dry overnight before storing in a dry container. Add rice to keep inside or container dry from humidity and or condensation. Don’t for get to label your seed tape.

When you are ready to plant take your seed tape to the garden and lay in the ground. Lightly cover the tape with soil and water in. Once your seeds germinate you will notice there is no need for tedious thinning and wasting of seeds.

Pruning Shrubs And Trees In Winter

You may not think of winter as the time to head outside and start pruning your trees and shrubs.  The fact is late winter is the perfect time to start thinking about gardening chores, like pruning.   Now trees and shrubs are dormant, many woody plants drop their leaves in fall and are not actively growing.  Rejuvenate trees and shrubs by pruning to remove dead, diseased wood and crisscrossed branches. This benefits the plants structure and appearance keeping them looking healthy.

Here are a few trees and shrubs to prune now:

Ornamental Pear




Fruit trees. Prune fruit bearing in late February and early March. Remove any dead wood or branches that have crossed or growing straight towards the center of the tree.  Apple, pear and cherry trees should have an open canopy.







Camellias, after blooming

Crepe Myrtle

Rose Of Sharon

Holly, prune early winter


Roses, like Hybrid tea and floribunda should be pruned in early spring, just before plant breaks dormancy. Shrub roses and Knockout roses can benefit from this as well.

Hydrangea paniculata and arborescens, bloom off of new wood.  Hydrangea macrophylla blooms off the previous years growth as well as new wood growth.

Pruning tips:

  1. Use sharp shears that are cleaned and sanitized to avoid spreading any disease.
  2. Remove diseased wood immediately.
  3. Make cuts at an angle and close to the collar of the tree.  This will keep insects out that can carry disease and harm the tree.
  4. Remove crossing branches.  Cut off the smaller branch
  5. Remove thin and spindly looking branches.  This helps to thin out the tree or shrub opening it up for more light and wind to pass through.
  6. Remove suckers growing from the trunk of tree.
  7. Cut shoots growing straight up towards the center of the tree off of bark or branches, ‘water sprouts.’
  8. Avoid pruning in fall.  Plants are still growing in the fall.  Pruning stimulates  growth in plants who are otherwise winding down their growing season and preparing for dormancy.   Freezing temps can injure plants pushing new growth.

Prune spring flowering shrubs like azaleas, lilacs, rhododendron, and viburnum are pruned when done blooming.

Other trees and shrubs to prune in spring and summer:







Hydrangea macrophylla 

In the Garden: Growing bean sprouts

Growing sprouts is a fun and easy indoor gardening project to do with the whole family. You can grow a variety of sprouts from certain bean, vegetable and salad seeds. Growing them yourself is a time and money saver as well as a great way to add healthy vegetables to your daily meals.

Sprouts are said to have the highest concentration of vitamins compared to fully grown greens and beans. You can use a variety of seeds that include lentils, alfalfa, watercress, and assorted vegetable and salad greens. There are many seed packets already formulated with a nice assortment.

If you are buying prepackaged seeds make sure they have been tested negative for E.coli, Salmonella, and Listeria, as well as other foodborne pathogens. I am growing a mix of alfalfa, Daikon radish sprouts and red clover, all certified organic and GMO free. Sprouts germinate quickly and can be easily grown indoors all year long.

Sprouts can be grown in a variety of containers, I like to up cycle my clear plastic salad containers, or a mason jar. You can purchase a seed sprouter, some sprouters have enough room to grow up to five varieties at the same time. They have proper drainage and air holes for optimal circulation.

For this particular project I chose to grow my sprouts in a mason jar. I made sure the jar was clean and heat sterilized. Fill the jar about 1/5 full with seeds or about 1-2 tablespoons. Seeds will expand greatly once they begin to geminate. If you place too many seeds they will begin to push out of the top of the jar. Then fill the jar with clean water at room temperature and soak seed for about 8-12 hours or overnight. Cover the top of the jar with a mesh cloth or cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band. Leave the lid off the jar to allow for proper air flow. Poor air circulation can cause seedlings to grow white and gray mold.

The next day drain the seeds and rinse and drain again. Rinse seed and drain twice daily to keep seeds free from growing bacteria. Place jar away from direct sunlight. Seeds germinate in three to six days and are ready to eat when sprouts become big enough to harvest.

Be sure to eat sprouts within the week or you can store them in the refrigerator for up to six days. Add your sprouts to sandwiches, omelettes and even soups. With so many possibilities you’ll be growing these delicious greens over and over again.

Speak the language of flowers this Valentines Day

Thinking of getting the one you love flowers this Valentines day? If red roses just aren’t your thing, consider making a bouquet with flowers and herbs that have as much meaning as red roses, but say a whole lot more.  Roses come in a wide range of colors and we all know that red symbolizes love and passion, but did you know that lavender roses mean love at first sight? Here are a few alternative rose colors and their meaning.

Pink: Admiration, Appreciation, Grace and Gentleness.

Yellow: Joy, Friendship and Falling in love

Orange: Desire and Enthusiasm

Roses are not the only meaningful blossoms. Check out some these popular blooms, potted plants and herbs to add to your Valentines bouquet.

Aloe: Affection and Healing

Basil: Good Wishes

Calla Lily: Beauty

Chrysanthemum: Happiness

Daisy: Hope and Innocence

Delphinium: Saintly

Fern: Sincerity

Hydrangea: Understanding

Lavender: Devotion

Lily: Purity and Beauty

Orchid: Love and Beauty

Queen Ann’s Lace: Protection

Tulip, Red: Declaration of love

Violets: Loyalty and Virtue

Yarrow: Everlasting love

Design tips for the perfect floral arrangement:

When choosing flowers, always select healthy, fresh stems.  Avoid any flowers with browning edges or limp stems.

Once you bring your flowers home, place in water. Recut a 1/4″ to an 1″ to reopen the stems to take up water.   You will cut more depending on your arrangement size and remove any lower leaves on the stems. Use warm water in container and add a floral preservative.

Choose a color palette of no more than three colors in varying shades and tones.  Depending upon the size of the arrangement.  Too many colors can look too busy.

Choose flowers with a variety of shapes  to mix together.  Large round heads, and smaller clusters of flowers, mixed with tall spiked blooms will give your design good depth and dimension.    

Select container, whether it is a vase or a bowl shape you want to design the arrangement no larger than one and a half sizes taller than the container.

Add filler for extra dimension.  Having an arrangement filled with luscious blooms is just not enough.  Add a little greenery, like Baker fern, Pittosporum foliage, and even Eucalyptus seed heads in between flowers.  Add some drape around the base of the  arrangement.

Change water daily and keep arrangement out of the direct sunlight in a cool environment.  This will keep your bouquet fresher longer.


In the Garden: Keeping your succulents healthy

Succulents and cacti plants continue to be a strong trend in home decor and indoor gardening. They are what I like to call ‘garden chic’.

This unique plant group store water in various parts of the plant, like the leaves and stems. Cacti store water in the main body of the plant. Generally found growing in warm arid regions of the world succulents have the ability to survive on very little water. So it is not surprising that they have become popular for being easy to grow and low maintenance house plant.

Grown for ornamental purposes many cultivars are uniquely shaped in various colors and textures. Even though they are hailed as super easy to grow the most common question I get from clients is, how do I keep them looking as good as the day I bring them home from the garden center? It is not a difficult task if you follow a few simple tips.

Always choose healthy plants. When you go to your local garden center look for succulents that are full in shape. Leave any plants that look irregular in shape or have a large number of leaves missing at the store. Leaves should be full and plump and avoid ones with yellowing leaves and soggy texture, this is can be a sign of poor watering habits or even insect damage. Plants should look clean and healthy. Leaves should not be sticky or have any powder-like residue.

Transplant succulents using the right type of soil. Cacti and succulents are not aggressive growers. In fact they are slow growers that don’t mind being being planted with other succulents in the same container. They like a dry, well-drained environment in a soil that contains a balance of sand, perlite and sphagnum peat moss to help with water and fertilizer retention for the roots. I recommend using a soilless mix that is specially formulated to keep plants healthy. Succulents can be planted in any type of container that allows for proper drainage. Make sure containers have a drainage hole for water to flow through.

Water plants when they are thoroughly dry. I always soak plants thoroughly and allow water to flow through, then wait a week and check again. If soil is still moist wait another week. I generally wait two or even three weeks between waterings. Some signs to look for if you are not watering properly are, drying and dehydrated looking leaves aren’t getting enough water and soggy leaves are holding too much water. Get into a regular watering schedule to help plants thrive.

Let your plants live in light. Succulents love bright, filtered light so find a bright sunny window where they’ll receive four to six hours of sun.

Occasionally give succulents a boost by fertilizing with a water soluble succulent food as needed. Remove dead or decaying leaves to keep plants looking clean. This is a good routine to acquire. It allows you to keep an eye out for insects or any potential plants problems you should avoid. These easy to follow tips will go a long way in keeping your succulents looking happy and healthy indoors all year.

Planting and Caring For Amaryllis

Well, I did it again…I forgot to plant to plant a few Paperwhites and Amaryllis bulbs I purchased a few months ago.  It never fails I always buy a bunch of Paperwhites and Amaryllis with the intent of planting them all winter long so I can have a little springtime indoors.  If you are like me and this has happens to you, you may be wondering if the bulbs are still viable.  If the bulbs are over a year old and haven’t been stored properly chances are they may not be.  Bulbs stored in a paper bag with peat moss or wood shavings should stay dry in a cool dark environment.

Here are a few easy tips on planting Amaryllis and Paperwhites bulbs…

They are big beautiful bulbs and extremely easy to grow. Cultivars are available in a wide range of colors, various shades red and white, even deep pinks and salmon, they have large multiple single blooms on one stalk or they are available in double flowered varieties as well.  Paperwhites have beautiful clusters of white star shaped flowers that are extremely fragrant.  One of my favorite varieties is ‘Ziva’, they have large flower umbels and sturdy stems.

When choosing Amaryllis bulbs make sure the bulb has a large circumference, that will give you the largest showy blooms. All bulbs should be firm to the touch and not spongey. You also want to make sure the bulb has no greenish or soft powdery looking spots, that indicates bulb is moldy.

You generally don’t need a large pot to plant Amaryllis bulbs.  A 6”-8” pot is sufficient, I like using terra-cotta. It’s simple natural look doesn’t compete with the beautiful flowers.  They also look great in glassware.  I have a ton of glass jars that I use for terrariums always at the ready.  Both Amaryllis are Paperwhites are so easy to grow in soil and decorative stones.

When planting the bulbs always use fresh potting mix, place a little soil in the pot, covering the bottom place your bulb inside and fill in around the bulb with soil to about there.  Leave the upper portion or neck of the bulb exposed.

Place in a warm sunny window, once they start to push some growth lightly water. Once they are actively growing let plants dry between waterings.  In 7-8 weeks you’ll enjoy these beautiful long blooming flowers. Plant now and throughout the winter months. Be careful not to over water your bulbs, this is a common mistake.  Overwatering can soften the bulbs and promotes mold growth.

Here are a few easy tips for Amaryllis care post blooming…

So your Amaryllis bulbs have stopped blooming, what do you do now.  It is possible to keep the bulbs and force them to flower the next year.

Cut off flower and the stalk, leaving 1-2″ above the bulb, keep foliage.  The leaves providing essential nutrients that are stored in the bulb for the next years growth cycle.  Keep in a sunny location and continue to water when soil is dry. Fertilize every 2-3 weeks with a water soluble houseplant food.

In mid may put plant outside in a shaded location, and don’t repot.  Bring indoors at the end of summer.  By then leaves will turn yellow. Cut back to the crown of the bulb.  Now it’s time to give your plant a rest, let it go dormant for 6-8 weeks.  Place plant in a cool place…55 degrees is ideal, in a low lit room and don’t water.

In November repot and place plant in a warm sunny window and water regularly, be careful not to overwater until leaves appear.  Buds and blooms are soon to follow in time for the holidays

In the Garden: Flowering houseplants

Winters can be grey and colorless, especially when you are looking from the inside out. Consider adding a little color to your indoor landscape with a few easy to grow flowering plants.

African Violets have been a perennial favorite for generations. It is one of the most collected species for many plant enthusiasts. It is compact in size and produces a huge pop of color periodically throughout the year.

African Violets can be a little fussy when it comes to watering. If you follow these simple tips you should not have any problems. One key tip is to water plants from the bottom. African Violets have furry leaves that prefer to remain dry. Repot violets in a self-watering container, a pot within another pot. The pot the the violet is planted in is porous and absorbs water from the reservoir. This helps prevent overwatering and keeps the leaves dry. They prefer to dry between waterings and like a Northeastern exposure to bask in the morning light.

When repotting use African Violet mix and fertilize bi-weekly with a 8-14-9 nutrient ratio.

Begonias range from flowering Tuberous Begonias to Rex Begonias. Tuberous begonias like Non-stop and have rose like blossoms. Rieger Begonias also known as the winter begonia burst with a wide variety of beautiful colors and bloom prolifically in bright light throughout the season.

Rex begonias are technically not known for their flowers, but pack a punch with their brightly colored foliage. Both are low maintenance and prefer the soil to dry thoroughly between each watering. Don’t be afraid to bring your Begonias outdoors for the summer. They are awesome in shade containers and bloom all summer. Fertilize weekly during the growing season with all- purpose 20-20-20 nutrient ratio. Dead head spent blooms to encourage more blooming.

Calandiva, a type of Kalanchoe, is a tropical succulent in the Crassulacaea family. Its tiny clusters of double-star shaped flowers bloom for six weeks and takes little care. Keep in a bright sunny location and allow the soil to dry out. Once the plant is done blooming cut off spent blossoms. Plants can bloom again when light exposure is manipulated.

Gerbera Daisy have large daisy like flowers that are color saturated in rich jewel tones as well as pretty pastels. You can find Gerbera Daisies during the winter months at your local garden center and grocery store. They are happy growing indoors as well as outdoors in flower beds and containers. Keep plants in a bright, indirect sunny window with daytime temperatures at 70 degrees.

The key to keeping these flowers happy is careful watering. You want to be sure to water when the soil is dry to the touch and the pot feels light in weight. Soak the plant thoroughly and allow to drain properly. When blooms are spent snip the flower and stem to promote more blooms. Fertilize monthly using a water soluble fertilizer. I recommend using an acid fertilizer at half the rate once per month. This will help maintain the 6.2 ph level that is ideal for Gerbera Daisies to keep blooming.