29 April 2010

Vegetable Gardening

Now that you have a great new area to plant in after the last “double digging” article, what are you going to plant?  Last year, we saw a huge increase in vegetable transplant sales thanks to all the national food scares (more about that another time) and the cost of fuel rising so high that it affected just about everything.

Vegetable gardening is very rewarding and is a wonderful activity to do with your kids too, instilling a sense of pride and self-worth after a realized accomplishment of a job well done and freshly picked vegetables to eat. It may even get your kids to eat more veggies since they helped to grow them. If you’d like to start early, try planting lettuces, spinach, peas, beets, carrots, rappini, radishes, onions, leeks, radicchio, braising greens, romanesco, kale, cabbage, cauliflower or broccoli. Those items can take lower temperatures and actually grow better in the cooler weather. Keep an eye on the lettuces and spinach, harvesting them while young so that they don’t bolt (become tall, leggy and go to seed). Vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, melons, pumpkins and squash should be put out a bit later, after the chance of frost is past.

Fertilizer is important here as well as watering properly. Sometimes during the summer months, I am asked why someone’s plants didn’t produce any fruit or maybe they have some other problem. The answers can usually be related to fertilizer, watering, or some weather issue. You'll find the answers to some of those questions under the appropriate labels in this blog.  Please feel free to ask more questions....that is the very reason we started this blog!

As for fertilizer, there are three main elements that you will see concentrations for on the fertilizer bag. Those are N-P-K, or Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium, respectively and the numbers (i.e. 15-15-15) tell what percentages those macronutrients are in. Nitrogen is mainly responsible for vegetative plant growth and strong roots, phosphorous for root expansion and flowering, and potassium for metabolism, leaf expansion and the quality and size of the fruit or vegetative parts of the plants that are harvested. Potassium is also responsible for the intensity and development of pigments and color in flowers.

Watering will encourage root growth as the roots will follow the water into the soil. The stronger the root system, the stronger the plant will be. Water accordingly with the weather; less frequently when cool and more when hot. Be careful not to overwater or keep the soil wet and soggy. Too much water will deprive the roots of oxygen. It’s O.K. to dig down with your hands to check water content of the soil if you are not sure. If you prepared your garden plot well you should have adequate drainage and aeration for the roots.

Happy Gardening…

Running Creek Farm Greenhouses, LLC
Valatie/ Hudson

15 April 2010

Garden Preparation

Now that the soil is warming up, it’s time to start prepping your gardens for the new planting season. If you have established perennial gardens, then not too much will be needed other than cleaning out the debris between the established plants. Now is also a good time to either pull or cultivate out the weeds that are beginning to grow. You may also choose to feed the perennials as you water with a liquid fertilizer, or spread a granular fertilizer on top of the soil between the plants at the recommended rate on the label and then water in well.

If you are developing a new area for your garden, you should evaluate the type of soil you have and determine if it needs additional drainage. Creating a new planting bed will require some effort on your part, but you will be rewarded handsomely by the fruits of your labor. (Pun intended)

A good weekend project, you will need a wheelbarrow, spading fork, square-edged shovel and some good muscle rub cream or access to a hot tub for afterwards. 

Start off by marking the area you wish to work in. Choose a spot that is neither too dry nor too wet. You will be double digging, which is a term /process originated by the French in the 19th century and not only will it give you a well-drained bed, but will also provide great aeration for your soil. Double digging, while a bit labor intensive, will create a bed that will last at least three to five years.

Beginning with the first row of your bed, dig down one shovel length (about 12 inches deep) and two lengths wide, placing the turf or soil in the wheelbarrow. Then using the spading fork, loosen the bottom layer of the soil about 12 inches or so deep. After loosening the soil, you should add compost and peat to the bottom of the bed about an inch or so deep. Complete the first row in this manner.

Move on to the second row, backfilling the first row with the soil dug up from the second row. Again, loosen the bottom layer of soil about 12” deep. Add compost and peat to the second row just as you did for the first row. Keep repeating the same procedure for each row. You will be backfilling your last row with the soil in the wheelbarrow from the first row you dug. The overall depth of your new garden will be about 24 inches.

The process of loosening the soil with the spade fork will allow the roots of your plants to thrive due to increased aeration and drainage. It will also allow them to move easily through the soil. The compost and peat will increase the fertility of your soil. You now have a wonderful space for your new garden and will be the envy of all on your block as your garden flourishes!

24 March 2010

Mixed Planters

We plant and grow many different mixed containers in our greenhouse. Many times I just create as I go, placing whatever suits my mood at the time. We sell a lot of ready-made containers, but we also have a lot of gardeners coming in to purchase plants for containers they wish to design themselves. I am asked all the time which plants work well together, how should the containers be planted or what do I think looks good together?

I want to start out by saying this is YOUR chance to be creative and get your juices flowing. I certainly don’t mind telling customers what I think looks good, but it’s their container garden and I want to know what they might like. It is easy to be overwhelmed when you visit your local garden center or greenhouse, so it helps to have some idea of what size planter you need, what colors you need and whether you are placing the container in a sunny location or shade. Take a look at your home or wherever you are placing your container gardens. In front of a larger home you can probably use a larger planter. Take note of where the sun is at different times.

I sometimes try to stick to a color scheme if I am doing containers for a particular holiday. For instance, on Independence Day I may try to stick to a red, white and blue theme. Sometimes I will plant variations of one color in a container garden, such as different shades of yellow or red. It is also fun to create containers with many different colors.

I generally will take a taller plant and use it as a focal point either at the back of the container or in the center. I will then take medium height plants, either flowering, foliage or a combination of the two, and plant them in front of or around the taller plant. Lastly, I will take “spiller” plants, (plants that trail or cascade) and plant them around the edges of the container.

Some tips:

Before planting, try different arrangements to see which looks best. That way, you don’t have to uproot the plants to move them around.

Don’t be afraid to mix annuals with perennials in the same planter. It will extend the life of your container garden.

By mixing in foliage plants, it will break things up a bit and keep the container garden looking fresh while the other plants are going in and out of flower.

Add some slow release fertilizer to your planting medium or use a liquid fertilizer when you water. Plants need to eat, just like people. We sell our own planting mix with nutrients already in it, but you should still add fertilizer on a regular basis to keep your plants lush and full.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and most importantly, have fun!

12 March 2010

Correction Made

In my last post, I mentioned that Argyranthemum would be a good early spring choice for cooler area gardens, but after discussing it with my husband, we decided maybe not so I struck it from the post and added a few other plants he suggested.  The list that is now there should give you a wider range of plants to chose from and also be more hardy to the colder weather.  I hope that clarifies any confusion.  Thanks for reading! :-)

New Beginnings

It's no doubt all this warmer weather has got us gardeners itching to get out and play in the dirt!  At the farm, we start in January sowing seeds for spring crops in the greenhouse, but the color starts around Easter time with the bulb crops. 

Easter brings visions of Spring...a new beginning for us all.  Lilies are bursting with blooms in the stores and Tulips spring to life even though it is still a bit chilly outside.  Bulb crops are cold tolerant for the most part, but if you are thinking of planting those Lilies or other Easter plants outside in hopes of them growing back next year, think again as most of the varieties sold at Easter are not hardy in our area. 

Bulb crops are very short lived as far as flowering is concerned as they quickly go into a phase known as senescense, where the leaves and stems yellow, or biologically age.  The longer they are kept at cooler temperatures, the longer they will last.  It is important to allow this process to continue without interference in the garden, even though the leaves are sickly looking.  Without this maturation, the bulbs will not have the nutrition they need for the following season.

In the case of plants such as Garden Mums, Cineraria and the like, which are best kept as houseplants, they will put their energy into vegetative growth (leaves and stems) once the short flowering period is over and likely not flower again until next year.

If you are looking for garden plants that tolerate the cool temperatures in our area toward the end of April and early May, look for Pansies, Violas, Stocks, Dianthus, Primrose, Ranunculus and Osteospermum (Cape Daisies).   The latter is my favorite, as it will be loaded with blooms until the real heat kicks in, then they go out of flower but grow like crazy until the cooler fall weather, when they come back into flower with even more blooms and last until frost!

01 March 2010


I know this may seem an odd time to talk about a plant that is traditionally a Holiday item, but many people still have Poinsettias in their homes after Christmas is over.  I thought I'd mention a bit about them, and a few tips on keeping them growing until the following season. 

Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are native to Mexico and can grow from 2 - 16 feet in height, although here in the Northeast, we typically see the shorter ones.  In places such as Florida, they can be grown as shrubs due to the warmer, year round weather.  I imagine they lost many of them this winter though with the frost, as Poinsettias cannot tolerate temperatures below 50 degrees.

The plant bears dark green leaves and brightly colored bracts, which many think are flower petals.  Actually, the bracts are colored leaves.  The leaves change color due to photoperiodism which means that the plant requires 12 hours of continued darkness to change color.  They also like bright daylight which will keep the colors vibrant.   The actual flowers are small and yellow and grouped in the center of the bracts.  They are called cyathia.

As the days get longer and the nights shorter, the Poinsettia will lose it's vibrant colors and turn green altogether.  To keep your Poinsettia healthy, allow the water to drain completely from the pot as it will not tolerate sitting in water.  In fact, if it is allowed to sit in water, it will probably die rather quickly.  As a rule, we generally recommend to water lightly and allow to dry a bit between waterings when indoors as they generally require less water indoors than they would outdoors.  You can search indoor gardening tips on this blog as it relates to watering, feeding, lighting, etc. 

The Poinsettia can be placed outdoors during the warmer months, where morning sun and afternoon shade are available. Keep it in its pot so you can bring it back in when it starts getting cooler.  Temperatures of about 70 degrees are good.  Higher temperatures tend to shorten the life of the plant.  In May, you can actually pinch back the plant.  This is a process whereby the tips of the plant are removed down to the next set of leaves.  By doing this, you remove the natural growth hormone from the tips of the plant and force the plant to develop side-shoots or more branching.  This will keep the plant full and lush, along with the use of a good fertilizer during the warmer months.

Getting the  plant to come back into flower the next winter can be difficult as it requires 12 continuous hours of darkness for about 2 months beginning in Autumn when the nights grow shorter.  Any stray light during those 12 hours will interrupt the flowering process and make it more difficult.

It is rumoured that  Poinsettias are poisonous, and it is just that, a rumour.  There is a white latex material, or sap, in the stem and leaves that can cause  mild irritation to the skin and stomach, but it is not poisonous.  If ingested, it can cause diarrhea and vomiting.  Of course, if one is allergic to the plant or latex, one could suffer a severe allergic reaction.

27 February 2010

Spring is Coming!

It's almost March 1st!  Feels like we just were celebrating the Holiday Season, doesn't it? 

Well, I have to apologize for not writing much....it has been a very crazy past year.  My niece was married last summer, my dad had surgery in the fall (he's fine), and trying to keep up with our daughter's activities has been insane.  Insane but well worth it!  She sings quite well and takes voice lessons.  She would someday like to be a professional singer and wants to attend the Julliard School of Music. She participates every summer in the local theater and now this year, she joined the acting troupe at school.  And here's the kicker....she joined the boys wrestling team at school and won her first match a few weeks ago...against a boy!  It took her two solid weeks of her begging me to let her join; I was a nervous wreck!  When she won her first match, I jumped up and down and screamed so loud that I think I not only embarrassed her, but everyone at the meet!  ;-)

Have to run now....need to get her up and going as she has a full day of rehearsal for the school play coming up soon.  Before I go, I want to tell you to be sure to grab your copy of the new March issue of the Columbia Insider, coming out soon.  Our friends  over at the Columbia Insider do a great job advertising for our wonderful community and they also have a fun contest where you can win some cash each month!  Go check it out and we'll see you soon!