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Garden Minute: Cranberry Farming

Cranberries are the most popular fruit of the season. In the first part of this series, Tina visits Lee Brothers Farm and talks about the history of farming cranberries in the region.

by Tina Sottolano-Cain

Though a well-roasted turkey may be the star of Thanksgiving dinner, the ruby-red, glistening side dish of cranberry sauce is always a stand out amongst the other like-hued offerings.

Likewise, the cranberry’s rich color and quirky harvesting make the bitter berry a serving of well-rooted Americana.

Cranberry plants are dwarf evergreen shrubs with vine like woody stems and leathery leaves that can grow up to six-foot long. They are found growing in sandy bogs and marsh lands in Wisconsin, Coastal Massachusetts and Southern New Jersey.

According to kitchenhistory.com, the cranberry was originally called “ibimi” or bitter berry by many eastern Native Americans. The Dutch and German settlers gave it the name of “crane berry” because the flowers look like the bill of a crane. Thus giving us the name we use today, cranberry.

The bright red color and semi-sweet flavor were believed to have many health benefits. Native Americans have many different uses for the berry.

They combined the fruit with deer meat and called it “pemmicanna,” once considered a survival food.

The Cape Cod Pequot and Leni-Lenape Indians in the eastern United States, also used it to make dyes for clothing, rugs and blankets because of its beautiful rich red color. It was also used medicinally.

According to the Natural Resource Educational Foundation/Lighthouse Center, It wasn’t until the early 1800’s when cranberries were planted commercially. In 1816 Henry Hall in Massachusetts was the first to grow the berry for production.

In New Jersey cranberries were first cultivated in 1840 by John Webb. In Ocean County the berries were brought to ship merchants and sailors on whaling ships to be eaten for its Vitamin C to prevent scurvy.

Now there are over 40,000 acres of cranberry bog in the Northern United States and Canada. New Jersey is the Third largest producer of cranberries. Many bogs producing cranberries today are more than 100 years old. Before the 1800’s, bogs were combed by hand, known as dry harvesting.

Since then things have changed and more efficient ways of harvesting the crops, know today as wet harvesting occur. The bog is flooded in October allowing the berries to float to the top.

Next week Garden Minute will visit one of the oldest Cranberry farms in Burlington County, New Jersey, Lee Brother’s Cranberry farm. The farm has been harvesting cranberries for over a hundred years and is part of the Ocean Spray Cooperative. We will talk about their methods of harvesting the cranberries from inside a bog.

A Little Fun Fact:

According to pineypower.com, cranberry grower Elizabeth Lee of New Egypt, New Jersey decided to take cranberries that were less than perfect, bruised or slightly damaged that would normally be tossed in the garbage. She boiled the berries into a jellylike sauce. It is believed that she like the sauce so much she started a business selling her “Bog Sweet Cranberry Sauce” beginning what is known today as Ocean Spray, which still operates in Chatsworth, New Jersey.

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN, GARDENMINUTE, inthegarden, VIDEO

In the Garden: Garden Art and Sculpture

by Tina Sottolano-Cain

In recent years gardens have become an extension of our homes.

In essence, the yard patio and deck have become outdoor rooms and people are spending more time perfecting and decorating these areas. Adding garden decor is another creative way to boost interest in your garden, enhancing what you already have.

Adding various architectural elements like garden benches, sculptures and containers, along with easy-to-add elements that include solar lights, can help define the space.

Garden furniture, specifically benches, are not a new concept. It can help define the garden space and provide a destination for anyone visiting your garden. Find an area in the garden with a wide open view to enjoy or place the bench along a pathway under a pergola giving visitors to your garden a destination. Garden benching can reflect your personality, depending upon the material and style you choose. Add a pop of color with a brightly colored bench. Natural materials like stone are great to add in a garden bed doubling as a piece of sculpture as well. Whether you have a formal garden with straight lines or a curvilinear garden there is a garden bench waiting for you to take a seat on.

Garden statues and containers are another way to boost visual interest in the garden. Sculptures can give the element of surprise when used in garden bed. Place them where you may not have an abundance of plant material or tucked under taller perennials and lower growing shrubs.

Containers, on the other hand, are multi functional. Nowadays you can find large glazed pottery. These urns are modern and formal and can be placed in the garden as a focal point. The beauty of theses giant pots are you don’t have to fill them with plant material. If you use smaller potted containers in the garden along the patio or pathway always cluster in groups of three in varying sizes making the display more visually appealing.

Quick and easy elements to add to the garden include whimsical garden stakes that are colored solar lights perfect for guiding you on a nightly garden stroll. More traditional solar lights can outline garden beds and pathways as well as accenting a piece of garden art you want to highlight. When adding anything to your garden always remember to have fun. The outdoors is a space to feel relaxed, it is your very own sanctuary.

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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

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February Gardening ‘To Do’ List

black and white watering can

Before the spring season officially arrives get started in the garden with these projects:

1. Start seeds for cool season crops. Now is the perfect time to plant seeds for lettuces, cabbage, broccoli and early fruiting tomatoes. You can even start planting flowering verbena, stock and pansies. Be sure to check the seed packets to check germination times.

2. Start fertilizing houseplants.  Schedule weekly fertilizing for your houseplants. Use an all purpose 20-20-20 formula. Remember to mist leaves 2-3x per week. And rotate 1/4 turn.

3. Prune fruit trees and spray with horticultural oil.

4. Sharpen tools and take inventory of your tool shed.

5. Cut branches to force flowering indoors. Branches like magnolia, forsythia, and quince are great to force flowering so you can enjoy a taste of spring.

6. Force bulbs to flower indoors. Tulips and daffodils will bloom in mid March if planted now.  Crocus and grape hyacinths will bloom in early March.

 

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Forcing Bulbs Indoors

DSC_9471Spring can’t come fast enough for myself and my friends who love to garden. Forcing bulbs indoors during the winter is the perfect excuse to get our hands dirty and do some gardening. Here are a few things to remember if you are planning to force flowering bulbs.

Fooling mother nature is not as hard as you think. To force spring bulbs in January and February you have to plan in the autumn. If you have purchased already bulbs you may notice that the package is labeled “prechilled”. if they are not chill bulbs for approximately 10-15 weeks at 35-45 degrees depending on the type of bulbs. Place bulbs in a cold dry place, like an unheated basement or even a refrigerator. Once they are planted blooming occurs in 10-12 weeks. Amaryllis and paperwhites don’t need to be prechilled, they prefer cooler temps to set roots and flower in 6-8 weeks.

1. Plan ahead. Purchase bulbs in fall from a local nursery or garden center. Look for bulbs that are “prechilled” to save yourself some time.

2. Planting. When bulbs are ready to plant use an all-purpose potting mix and a pot that is twice as wide as it is deep with drainage hole. Fill pot half way with soil. Place bulbs in pot. The number of bulbs you plant is determined by the width of the pot. Leave space between each bulb to allow room for growth. Lightly cover top of bulbs with potting soil leaving the tips of the bulbs above the soil. Water in bulbs.

3. Re-locate once bulbs have been chilled and begin to show green tips place in a warm sunny location.

4. Check watering occasionally keeping in mind that bulbs do not like heavy wet soil. Make sure soil dries between waterings.

DSC_9455Growing bulbs in water.

If you are planting in water add stones to help stabilize the bulbs when they set roots. If you are using a bulb forcing jar you don’t need stones. Leave the neck of the bulb above water,.

Remember when forcing bulbs to schedule the time you want the bulbs to bloom. For January bloom time be sure to chill bulbs in September. For February and March bloom time chill bulbs in October and early November.

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A Beginners Guide To Planting Spring Bulbs

Fall is a great time to plan your spring garden and there isn’t a better way than planting spring flowering bulbs.

Hardy bulbs like daffodils, tulips and hyacinth are just a few varieties of bulbs that can be planted in the fall when the soil temperature cools.
When choosing bulbs be selective. Make sure the bulbs are firm and not soft, or have a moldy white powdery coating. Bulbs with mold are not healthy or viable and should be discarded.
Plant in a sunny location, most bulbs prefer full sun to part shade. Even the healthiest plants don’t have a chance for survival if they are not planted in the proper location.
When planting know which end is up and how deep. Some of the most common mistakes made when planting bulbs is not planting the bulbs with the right side up and at the right depth.
Always plant with the pointed side up and flat side in the earth. Most bulbs have dried roots showing on the bottom.
Dig hole for bulbs 2-3 times the size of the bulb, if bulb 3″ plant 6-9″ deep. By 6″- 12″ wide. There are exceptions to the rule do always check the recommendations on the package.
Prepare the soil by adding organic matter. By adding compost you are helping to condition and add nutrients to the existing soil.
Protect bulbs by adding a layer of chicken wire over top of bulbs. Cover with soil and add 2-3″ layer of mulch. This will help keep squirrels and rabbits from digging up what you have already planted.
Don’t forget to water in the bulbs. Bulbs are plants too. They need light and water just like your other plantings.
But keep in mind to water on the light side. Bulbs sitting in cold wet soil for a long period of time can lead to rotting and decay, thus resulting in no spring blooms.

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Tips For Overwintering Tender Bulbs

Tips for lifting tender bulbs such as Canna, Dahlia, Colocasia etc. before first frost. 

Cut off any top foliage at the crown and dig bulbs up from the ground and remove any excess soil. 

Allow bulbs to dry out thoroughly.  

Once bulbs have dried place in a brown paper with peat moss.

Store bulbs in a cool dry location, where temps do not get below freezing. Temps ranging in the forties are ideal.

Keep away from warm temps and light to allow bulbs to remain dormant till next spring.

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Spring Into Gardening with Containers

Container gardening is one of the quickest ways to jump start the growing season.  Once the snow has melted and the northerly winds of winter shift slightly to the south, spring is not far behind.  Ahead is the rebirth of all that is green and glorious in the garden.  Bulbs are bursting with color and Pansies and Primrose are filling the air with their sweet scent of the season.

Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinths and Pansies are not exclusive to the garden flower bed anymore, nor are they the only cool weather annuals either.  This spring try combining flowering bulbs together in pots for instant color.  Wow your friends with some unique design know-how by grouping different cool weather annuals and perennials in individual pots know as mono cultured pots.

A mono – cultured pot is a single plant in a single pot.  These pots can be grouped together on the patio or entry way of the home to create layers of color and texture much like your garden beds.  Start with three pots in small, medium and large, you can add more if your space allows.  I always design in threes or odd numbers to create layers of texture and color to add visual interest.  When planting any type of container garden begin with a centerpiece or tallest plant in the arrangement.  Consider perennial Columbine with its delicate flowers and soft color palette.  Another alternative is the little known annual bulb Ranunculus,  the flower has looks like a cabbage rose and continues to bloom throughout the spring.  The colors range from bright orange, to the softest yellow and the hottest red.  If you are looking for architectural interest consider adding an obelisk or trellis to the large pot, or bunches of cut curly willow or pussy willow branches, these can add new dimension to your display.

Continue next with the medium sized container planted with bright colored Osteospermum, commonly known as African Daisy.  The watercolored flowers last through the summer since certain varieties have been bred to withstand the heat of the summer.  The ‘Symphony’ series is a great example. The ‘Lemon Symphony’ variety is a soft pale yellow that is the perfect compliment to any color palette you choose.  If you want to add a little fragrance to the garden add Stock, an annual with medium size flower stalks and a delicious spicy fragrance.  Nemesia, another fragrant spring annual, adds delicate texture to any container combination.

Complete the arrangement with the third, small container filled with low growing annuals or perennials.  Pansies are the perennial favorites with there wide range of colors and faces. Primroses are great for early spring planting,  they tolerate the coolest of temps and can be planted later in the garden. For a softer texture try a pot of Alyssum, an annual that blooms throughout the early summer.  Alyssum adds brightness with its white color  and sweet fragrance flowing over the container.  Even Petunias, Million Bells and lush green English Ivy can make their seasonal debut in the month of April and possibly late March if we are lucky!

Once you have your pots planted begin arranging them according to size.  Place the largest and tallest pot towards the back, then place the medium size pot off to one side toward the front and the smallest place on the opposite side toward the front as well.  Think of a triangular pattern, or whatever is visually pleasing to your eye.

Remember spring containers should not remain empty waiting to be filled with summer annuals.  Try some of these new ideas to bring your containers to life this spring season.