By Paul Epsom   |   Monday, August 23, 2010
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It's time to get those shears out and start pruning. While you may think pruning is mostly a late summer/early fall activity – I have news for you – the time is now!

Anytime right around this week you will want to prune back any spring-flowering trees, dogwoods for example, or bushes like azaleas, rhododendrons, forsythia, and lilacs. Don't feel like you need to prune every year—but every two or three years is a good thing.

By now, these trees have likely stopped flowering and soon enough they'll be making new buds for next season - so if you wait too long you will end up cutting off next year's flowers, which you don't want to do.

Begin by pruning off dead or injured branches.

Then prune back tall, gangly limbs shooting out of the top of the bush—this will make for a better-shaped bush for next season.

If you want to add some mulch at this point—make sure it's acidic mulch—like pine straw or pine needles. Since mulch eventually does break down, the acid mulch will help these acid-loving trees through the summer and into the fall.

Raised Beds

By Paul Epsom   |   Monday, August 23, 2010
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By Paul Epsom from The Victory Garden

Today we're talking about raised beds. Raised beds make gardening easier, there's just no doubt about that. It's easier to control the soil, the drainage—it's also easier to reach—for anyone who is tired of crawling around in the dirt.

Start by building the box. This can be done with wood or concrete, old barn beams or dismantled sandboxes, as long as the perimeter is sturdy and the box is deep enough to hold enough for a foot or two of soil you should be good to go. Make sure there are no toxins on your building materials though. No creosote, or anything like that. It can be any shape or size. Most are rectangular or square.

Once you've made the box, fill it in with a mix of rich top soil, peat moss, manure and/or compost.

Make sure your raised bed is in plenty of sun—point your bed North-South for maximum sun exposure.

Now, plant your vegetables or flowers in rows—lettuce, herbs, tomatoes—whatever you want.

Because the beds are relatively shallow, make sure you keep them watered.

Then sit back and watch as your veggies grow strong and healthy.


By Paul Epsom   |   Monday, August 23, 2010
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The Victory Garden's: What's Growing This Weekend with Paul Epsom

Today we're talking about trees. Early June is the perfect time to plant potted or ball-and-burlap trees—especially fruit trees. You don't want to plant trees any later than now as heat will stress out your tree.

First, select a site with direct sunlight and make sure there is enough room between the planting site and surrounding buildings and other obstructions. The tree will grow so you should plan for that and give it some room.

Make sure your soil is well-drained with a minimum of 18 inches of soil above any ledge or hardpan. Watch out for cable lines, or anything underneath the soil that might interfere with growth.

Start by digging a big hole—two or three times the width of the root ball. Place the tree in gently, make sure the ground level of the tree is, well, at ground level. Fill in the hole with top soil, peat moss, and add in some compost or manure for good measure.

Pack the soil down, jump around a little and stomp on it with your feet.

After the hole is filled, water the tree with two to five gallons of water. Cover around it with mulch. It's important to make a mulch ring around the tree —about the width of the canop—don't put mulch directly up to the tree or it will likely retain too much moisture around the base of the tree, and will cause problems.

A newly planted fruit tree will benefit from being staked; generally it will grow straighter and stay healthier.


By Paul Epsom   |   Monday, August 23, 2010
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"By Paul Epsom from The Victory Garden
Posted on July 23, 2010

Today we're talking about hydrangeas. One very popular problem with hydrangea flowers is not having them turn blue.

As you may know, there are many species of hydrangea. A very common species is the Hydrangea Macrophylla, the big leaf hydrangeas with the massive mophead flowers. These come in shades of red, white, pink and blue.

And if your blue hydrangeas are not turning blue it is probably a problem of soil acidity. The more alkaline in the soil the less blue the flowers become. You need to make the soil slightly more acidic to have the flower develop more of that desirable deep blue color.

Turning the soil more acidic is actually more difficult than turning it alkaline. One solution is to add sulfur to the soil—an aluminum sulfate or iron sulfate. Peat moss or even pin needles are naturally acidic so you can try adding some of those too.

The best way for making a soil acidic is to mix in one of those rhododendron or camellia fertilizers back when you start gardening in the spring. There are lots of these fertilizers out there.

No, one word of caution—do read the instructions. It's easy to over fertilize—thinking that is going to make the flowers bluer and bluer—but too much fertilizer and acid can damage the plant.


By Kerry Healey   |   Monday, August 23, 2010
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"I confess that I’m a horrible gardener—I’ve always considered it the outdoor equivalent of doing dishes—and I don’t usually do infomercials, but brace yourself because my goal in the next 3 minutes is to convince you to buy yourself some nice new grass.

It all started last week on Fan Pier, where Mass Challenge announced the winners of its business plan competition. There were all kinds of cool high tech entrepreneurs and then in the middle of it all I saw Pearl’s Premium Grass Seed. Not even a fancy bio-engineered grass seed, just an old fashioned, plain native type plant seed. Pearl’s founder and CEO, Jackson Madnick, is a humble, but determined man who, like me, apparently didn’t like yard work.

He set out on a personal mission to find a kind of grass that needed mowing only occasionally—say once a month—and he found one. And it didn’t need water, either, or fertilizer. He named the beautiful wonder-grass after his environmentalist mother and her namesake granddaughter, Pearl.

Along the way, Jackson found out some disturbing things about our American obsession with grassy, golf-course-like lawns. Here are some of the highlights: Did you know that on the East Coast we use 30% of our clean water on our lawns? Out West, fully 60% of the drinking water goes to the grass. And no wonder: there are more than 20 million acres of grass planted in residential lawns across the US. All in all, that’s half the drinking water in America devoted to lawn maintenance. As someone who spent four years listening to municipal officials fret over dwindling water supplies, that got my attention!

But as they say on wee-hour TV, “But that’s not all!” Each week some 54 million Americans mow their water-hungry lawns, generating 5% of the nation’s air pollution. In fact, the EPA estimates that one hour of mowing on an older gas mower is the polluting equivalent of driving 350 miles in a new car. All this mowing also contributes to our dependency on foreign oil, consuming over 800 million gallons of gas a year.

But wait, there’s more! Some 67 million pounds of synthetic pesticides also grace our lawns, much of which runs off into ponds and ground water, playing havoc with our health and sickening our pets.

""So come September, I'll be making some changes to my lawn--perhaps some new grass, or, given my history with gardening, perhaps I'll go straight for the astro-turf or ornamental rocks!"""

Every Foodie loves a garden

By Cathy Huyghe   |   Thursday, August 12, 2010
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Gardening season is upon us — and as we so often realize this time of year, gardeners and food lovers are close kin. Whether you’re a fan of The Victory Garden’s What’s Growing This Weekend with Paul Epsom or Food Trip with Todd English, you know that every Foodie loves a garden.

Last night, Barbara Emerson, brought home this concept when she spoke about “Edible Landscapes” at the public library in Manchester-by-the-Sea, giving her audience a wealth of gardening inspiration. Emerson, a gardening consultant and master gardener, is founder of Have Green Thumb in Manchester-by-the-Sea.

While I’m not (yet) a gardener, what I learned from Emerson was liberating. For example:

    * Vegetables don’t have to grow in rows. You don’t even need a plot of land. Emerson has grown vegetables in every kind of container — including cloth bags. All that’s really required is a small spot of sun and decent soil.

    * Interplanting is mixing ornamental plants and vegetables. Imagine violets or nasturtiums interplanted with cucumbers or lettuce. (Your dinner salad is practically done!) Putting a lot of plants in one place leaves less open soil, which means less weeding and less work.

    * Plant according to the time you have available, and according to the vegetables you enjoy eating.

    * PMO – Pretty Much Organic – is okay. Really.

    * Roses are edible. Put the leaves in salads, use rose water in cooking, make rose hip tea. Nasturtiums – also edible – have a peppery flavor.

    * New trends in gardening: Pink blueberries (a recent phenomenon, available locally from Corliss Bros Nursery in Ipswich), cloth garden bags made from landscape fabric that let you garden without a plot of land (check them out at, and self-watering containers (high-end versions available from Lechuza).

    * Make it easy and realistic for yourself. Place vegetables or herbs close to the kitchen, within easy reach. If they’re too far away when you’re cooking, you simply aren’t going to grab them.

A trend survey conducted by the Garden Writers of America indicated that the number of home vegetable gardeners was up 37% last year, and it’s expected to boom again this year. With Emerson’s advice on gardening — practical, fun, liberating, and realistic — I can envision it booming in my own backyard.

Cathy Huyghe writes for the WGBH Daily Dish blog. Read new WGBH Daily Dish posts every weekday, where you can explore myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

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