10 Tips For Growing Roses in Upstate New York

How to Grow Roses

Appreciated for both their beauty and fragrance, roses are often a popular choice for home and estate gardeners alike. While they don’t take much more care to grow than other flowers, there are a few things you should know to help ensure their success in your garden.

  1. Bareroot vs. potted roses – You can purchase roses in two different forms: bareroot or potted. Which option you choose depends on your gardening expertise. Experienced gardeners may prefer bareroot roses, since there are generally more varieties to choose from, but more care is needed after planting. Potted roses are perfect for beginners since they are already well-established and easy to plant.
  2. Start with only a few varieties – There are over 150 species and 20,000 hybrid varieties of roses available, so it’s tempting to go all out and plant lots of different varieties. Starting with just a small assortment, however, will help you better match their colors and sizes to the space you have available.
  3. Prime location – Roses love sunshine, so be sure to plant them where they can get 6-8 hours of sunlight daily. Since NY winters can be harsh, planting your roses along a south-facing fence or wall can help minimize winter damage from freezing temperatures.
  4. Proper timing – Planting roses early in the spring, after the last frost, is ideal for giving them enough time to get established before the heat of the summer. Similarly, rose planting in the fall should be done several weeks before the anticipated first frost date to give them time to root before winter arrives.
  5. Soil and spacing – Roses like to be planted in holes deep enough to fully cover their roots, and in soils that drain well. In areas where multiple rose bushes will be installed, make sure to plant them far enough apart to allow for future growth.
  6. Fertilization – As with most plants, roses like to be fed well. This includes regular fertilization with compost and other natural fertilizers. Follow application instructions carefully and you will enjoy impressive blooms!
  7. Consistent water – Roses like to have water, but not stay too wet. They grow best when the water levels are consistent throughout the growing season. This means automatic watering, such as an irrigation system, may need to be adjusted during times of excess rainfall. Watering should also be done directly to the roots, avoiding the foliage whenever possible.
  8. Pruning – Regular pruning every spring is helpful to remove dead or damaged canes and promote plant health. For specific pruning questions, feel free to ask one of our garden center associates or have the pruning done by our landscape maintenance division.
  9. Prevent disease – Choose disease-resistant varieties and your work to keep them healthy will be much easier. Avoid diseases such as powdery mildew by watering at the roots and also keeping plants pruned back to allow for sufficient air flow around the foliage.
  10. Display your results – Gardening isn’t any fun unless you have something to show for it. When your roses are blooming, don’t be afraid to cut some flowers to put in a vase or share with a friend. After all, they’re the flowers of love!

How to Care For a Christmas Cactus

maintaining a christmas cactus Indoor gardening is a popular pastime for many avid gardeners, especially in the Northeast where cold and snowy winters keep many of us inside for several months. Being able to keep something growing all year long, however, is a great way to beat the winter blues. Christmas cacti are an easy houseplant option.

Christmas Cactus Basics

Contrary to what their name would lead you to believe, Christmas cacti are not actually desert plants. They do like warmer daytime temperatures, but prefer a humid climate, not a dry, desert-like one. There are actually several different types of cacti with holiday names, including Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter cacti. They are differentiated by the appearance of their leaves and their typical bloom time.

Christmas Cactus Growing Conditions

Fortunately, Christmas cacti aren’t terribly picky about the soil in which they are planted. They do require proper drainage, however, so be sure their pot has drainage holes. When planted indoors, the cacti should have access to bright but indirect light and be kept at a daytime temperature of around 70 degrees F. Nighttime temperatures should be between 60 and 65 degrees F for ideal growing conditions.

Christmas Cactus Care

Although it is easy to grow, a Christmas cactus is not a plant-and-forget type of houseplant. You should check the soil periodically to be sure that it does not become too dry. Once the top inch of soil is dry to the touch, soak it until water comes out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. You will want a drainage tray under the pot to catch excess water, but be sure the pot does not sit in water very long as the roots can rot. Proper watering is important all the time, but especially when the plant is flowering. Prior to and during bloom times, it is also important to keep the plant cool (around 60-65 degrees F). Just like other plants, Christmas cacti grow better when they are fertilized. From spring to early fall, you can feed them with a houseplant fertilizer every two weeks, reducing to once a month during fall and winter. Yearly pruning (typically in June) can also be done to encourage new growth, branching of stems, and more blooms. Whether you are new to indoor gardening, or you’re a seasoned expert, we are here to answer any questions you may have. Stop by our garden center to get your Christmas cactus and get growing!  

Deer‐Resistant Perennials and Useful Tips for Planting in the Northeast

You take pride in your landscaping and we take pride in ensuring you, our valued  customers, have a positive experience in creating beautiful areas on your property.

We also know that in this area, we experience issues with deer feeding on our plants and flowers. We have compiled a list of deer‐resistant perennials, as well as some useful tips and options for keeping deer away. A deer‐resistant perennial is defined as a perennial plant or flower that deer may overlook and not eat in favor of a more preferred plant. Some deer‐resistant perennials are:

Broom (Genista tinctoria ) ‐ 3′ tall and wide, zones 3‐8, full sun. Conical‐shaped panicles up to 3″ long of golden yellow flowers adorn this deciduous shrub from spring to early summer. Adapts to poor soil.

Siberian Iris (Iris siberica) ‐ 28″ tall, zones 4‐9, full sun. Beautiful, grassy foliage makes a good contrast in any garden. Drought resistant but also does well in moist soil. Once established, there’s no weeding these expanding clumps.

Juniper (Juniperus sp.) ‐ Grows to a height of 3 to 10 feet with an equal spread. Form can be variable from low and spreading to an erect shrub. Cones are berry‐like. Leaves are evergreen needles but can turn light brown during the winter. Tolerant of a wide variety of soils. Grows best with full sun. Zones 2‐6. Native.

Peony (Paeonia sp.) ‐ 30‐36″ tall, zones 3‐8, full sun to part shade. Variety of colors, bloom times range from spring to early summer. Stunning cut flower. Avoid planting your peony too deeply and be patient with it as it can take a few years to settle in before it begins to flower ‐ the blooms are well worth the wait!

Oriental Poppy (Papaver Orientale) ‐ 30″ tall, zones 3‐7, full sun. Make your neighbors jealous with this superbly beautiful flower. Deeply cupped satiny petals, each with a pure black center, are borne above toothed, hairy foliage. Oriental poppies love to be planted in the fall for bloom the following spring. They love rich soil, feeding, and regular watering.

Potentilla (Potentilla cinquefoil) ‐ 2‐3′ tall, 5′ wide, zones 3‐7, full sun. White, pink, or yellow flowers throughout the summer. Blue‐green foliage, spreading habit. The name comes from the Greek word “potens,” meaning powerful, from reputed medicinal qualities. Enjoy the summer‐long flowering qualities of these selections and your deer will leave the taste testing to the drug companies. These tough, deciduous shrubs thrive in almost any soil.

Spiraea (Spirea sp.) ‐ Grows 2 feet high with 3 to 4 feet spread. Early bloomer with luxurious shows of white flowers. Yellow‐red new growth makes this spirea attractive all season. Best in full sun, tolerates shade, but will flower less. Moist soil. Zones 4 –8.

Ornamental Chives (Allium sp.) ‐ 6‐12” tall, zones 4‐9, full sun. Globe‐shaped flowers fascinate folks with their gravity‐defying structure. Even though many Alliums are all under a foot tall, they will catch your eye, accenting shrubs or borders. Foliage has enough onion smell to keep those deer at bay.

Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) ‐ Typically grows from 5 to 6 feet high but can reach 10 feet. Spreads easily and forms colonies. Foliage is semi evergreen, aromatic. Will grow well in dry, infertile, sandy, acidic soils. Grows best in full sun but will tolerate partial shade. Zones 2‐6. Native.

Other options include deer fencing, noisemakers, and deer repellents. Fencing seems to be the surest option, but selecting deer‐resistant perennials is highly recommended. Visit the Garden Center and our staff will help you pick the right perennial for the right place.

Fall Decorating Essentials For Home and Garden

Fall … goodbye hot summer days and hello crisp mornings and falling leaves. With the change in seasons, it’s time to also change the decorations, both in your home and in the garden. Here are some of our autumn favorites and maybe you’ll “fall” in love with them too!

Pumpkins and Gourds

pumpkins and gourds displayIt just wouldn’t feel like fall without these traditional mainstays. From tiny Jack Be Little to Dill’s Atlantic Giant that can grow to over 1,000 pounds, pumpkins come in every shape and size, making it easy to spice up your fall display. Add different colors by including white Baby Boo and blue Jaradale with your traditional orange pumpkins. Shapes can be varied too, with the square-like Blue Doll and flattened Cinderella that looks like a cheese wheel. With harder shells than pumpkins, and less “meat” inside, gourds often outlast pumpkins in a display and can last for months if cured properly. From the warty looking skins of some ornamental gourds to the mottled, long necks of the Speckled Swan variety, gourds are sure to add unique colors and textures to any fall arrangement.


This vine-like plant sports orange-red berries and has a woody stem, adding some more of Fall’s color palette to your autumn display. It can be mixed in with other decorations, used on its own, or made into wreaths- use your imagination!

Cornstalks and Hay Bales

Cornstalks are great for adding height to fall displays, especially when the display is next to a vertical feature such as a lamp post or tall mailbox. Although hay bales are similar in color, they are more useful for creating layers, providing “seats” for other decorations such as pumpkins, and allowing your arrangement to have multiple levels.


decorating with mumsWe would be remiss if we didn’t include mums, fall’s flower of choice. Either planted in a garden bed or simply in a pot on the porch steps, these beauties can provide long lasting color that’s still around when the trees drop their leaves and the landscape becomes drab. Mix and match colors or plant all the same, the choice is yours! If you’re like us, you’ll find it fun to experiment with all of these seasonal elements until you get the arrangement you’re looking for. If you need help to make it all come together, talk to our friendly Garden Center staff, or even better, let our Retail Services division do all the work for you … just sit back, relax, and enjoy the season!

Grow Fruit to Perfection with These Zone Hardy Raspberry Varieties

raspberry growing guideThere’s nothing quite like Grandma’s homemade raspberry jam, and you can’t beat being able to pick plump, juicy berries right in your own backyard. The good news for raspberry lovers living in the North Country is that there are plenty of varieties that grow well here. The USDA currently has us in growing zone 5a, so we’ve compiled a list of 9 raspberry cultivars that can survive our unique climate. Raspberries are organized into two different categories, summer bearing and everbearing, so the first step is to decide which one makes sense for you, or if you want both types in your berry patch.

Summer bearing raspberries

This type of raspberry bears fruit only once per year, usually in July. These varieties grow well here since our growing zone is right in the middle of the acceptable range:  
  1. Boyne (zones 3-8) – Berries from this variety boast excellent flavor and are bright red, while the plants are cold hardy and disease resistant.
  1. Killarney (zones 4-7) – This cultivar is extremely cold tolerant, a sure benefit in our area, and is great for those gardeners eager for their first berry crop, since it bears fruit the first year after planting. These plants will impress you with pink flowers in the spring, instead of white like most other varieties.
  1. Royalty (zones 4-7) – With elegant purple berries, it’s easy to see how this variety got its name. Once the plants are established, you can expect a bountiful harvest and large berries.

 Everbearing raspberries

raspberry growing guideThis type of raspberry produces two harvests – one in the summer, typically in July, and one in the fall. Here are a few of our favorite zone-hardy picks:  
  1. Anne (zones 4-9) – These plants produce beautiful golden berries whose taste is slightly tropical. They are also cold hardy, heat tolerant, and disease resistant. Since they are self-pollinating, they are an excellent choice for gardeners with limited space for a berry patch.
  1. Fall Gold (zones 4-9) – Another variety with golden fruit, these are unique in that they have both sweet and tart berries. Plants are also cold tolerant all the way to -25°F!
  1. Heritage (zones 4-8) – This rapidly growing variety boasts fruit in the first year, producing mild tasting medium red berries.
  1. Jewel (zones 3-8) – These raspberries might surprise you – the berries start out red and turn black as they ripen. The fruit is sweet and has very few seeds, making this variety a top choice of gardeners who like to make preserves.
  1. Polka (zones 4-8) – Among the first varieties to ripen at the start of the season, these plants make for easier picking with fewer thorns and lots of berries.
  1. September (zones 4-8) – This variety produces sweet red or yellow berries, and is a gardener’s friend since it grows in less than ideal conditions, including a variety of soils, partial, or full sun.
Once you’ve picked the variety that’s right for you, talk to our garden center staff and get some tips about how to care for your new plants. Before long, you’ll be enjoying your own homemade pies, preserves, and other raspberry delights!

Beautiful Blooming Bulbs

Flowering BulbsThere’s nothing more exciting after a long winter than seeing little shoots of green popping up through the ground and new flowers showing their faces soon after. In order to have spring blooms, however, there’s some planning ahead that is required. Here are some of our favorite tips for choosing and planting bulbs that will make your spring yard a blooming paradise:

Choose quality bulbs

Beautiful blooms start with high quality bulbs. Be sure to check them for firmness and freshness (you want them firm and full, not mushy and moldy). In general, the larger the bulb the larger the bloom. Purchasing bulbs locally from the garden center will allow you to personally inspect them before you buy.

Pick the right planting area

Like any plant, bulbs require proper conditions in order to survive and thrive. Most prefer full sun and soil that drains well, both of which will help prevent bulb rot, but be sure to ask us if you are unsure of the ideal planting area for the bulbs you have chosen.

Plant at the proper time

What time of year you plant the bulbs is determined by when you want to see blooms. For early spring flowers, bulbs should be planted in the fall when the soil is cooler. For summer blooms, plant bulbs in the spring after the last frost date.

Plant at the right depth and position

One of the most common concerns regarding bulb planting is how deep and in which direction to plant them. In general, they should be planted in a hole that is two or three times the height of the bulb. Not every bulb is exactly the same, however, so be sure to read instructions carefully or ask us for help. If the bulb has a pointed end, plant it with that end up; otherwise, look for roots and they should be planted down.

Soil, water, and mulch

To ensure that your bulbs get the nutrients they need, add compost to the soil and make sure that the soil drains well. Furthermore, bulbs require watering, just like any other plant- just make sure they don’t stay too wet. Adding several inches of mulch on top of the planting area will help keep weeds at bay and won’t prevent the bulbs from poking through.

10 Simple Tips for How to Garden in Small Spaces

If you live in an urban area, don’t want the maintenance of a big garden, or simply don’t have the space for very many plants, your green thumb might need a little help growing the garden of your dreams in the space that you have. With the right design and the proper planning, however, you can do a lot with small space gardening. Here are some helpful tips to get you growing:

1. Decide what to grow

Choose appropriate plants for where you are going to plant them. Some plants must be planted side by side, while others, such as climbing vines, can be planted vertically, giving you color and texture and saving space at the same time.

2. Decide where to grow

If you live in a city apartment, you may only be able to grow plants on your porch or balcony, but if you have a small yard, you may be able to plant directly in the ground. Growing can be successful in either place but location does affect what varieties of plants you can grow.

3. Watering considerations

All plants need water so determine where you will get it from before you plant. Ideally, choose a growing place that is close to an outside water source or not too far from your door if you have to water with a watering can.

4. Decide how to grow

Some plants take a long time to produce either flowers or fruit, while others take less. Decide ahead of time whether you want to plant something that will grow and produce all season, or whether you want to rotate crops. This is true for both flowers and vegetables.

5. Planting budget

Determine how much you want to spend and then find the best price. Sales around holidays such as Memorial Day, Father’s Day, or July 4th are great for saving you a little money.

6. Time and maintenance

If you’re short on time as well as space, choose plants that require less for daily maintenance, are drought and disease tolerant, and can be planted in pots where weeding will be less of a concern.

7. Function or beauty

Before shopping, decide whether you want plants that provide function, beauty, or both. For example, some lilies are beautiful to look at but can also be put on top of salads so you get two-for-one in the same space.

8. Plan for sunshine or shade

Pay close attention to how much sun your chosen garden spot gets every day and at what time of day it gets it. This will help you choose whether you need to buy full-sun plants or ones that are shade tolerant.

9. Use existing structures

Look at how you can add to or enhance existing landscape features. Planting vines that grow up a wall or annuals around an existing lawn statue can provide more color and texture without taking up a lot of space.

10. Have fun

Gardening should be enjoyable so have fun with it! Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time- evaluate what works and what doesn’t and soon you’ll be gardening like a pro!

Now, it’s time to get to work! Following these simple tips will get you growing in the right direction but if you still need a little help, give us a call or stop in to the garden center.    

Caring for Your Mums – The Fall Diva


Chances are you have a lot of time and money invested in your gardens and outdoor spaces. You have spent a large portion of the summer tending to your flowers and plants, keeping them healthy, growing, and lasting. As fall quickly approaches, we must come to terms with the end of the season for many of these colorful, attractive flowers. But for fall gardens, our attention turns to the chrysanthemum. Chrysanthemums have enjoyed a rich history of over 2,500 years in cultivation starting in Asia. The blooms last for weeks, not days, and the sheer number of flowers per plant will convince anyone that this flower really likes to show off. Here at Toadflax Nursery, we have a colorful array of mums to create the perfect outdoor fall setting.

Because of their tight, mounded placement and stunning bloom cover, garden mums are perfect for mass plantings. To really make a statement from a distance, stick to a couple of colors. But to create an interest to on-lookers, you can mix and match the beautiful colors to reflect your own personality and the perfect fall backdrop. Look around your yard to see what colors would best complement the existing landscape. Landscape designers offer many tips for decorating with the chrysanthemum; garden mums make great container plants. They’re just right for popping into a clay pot, lining up in a row in a window box, or placing in the center of a mixed container with trailing foliage plants all around. Likewise, if you decorate for fall with pumpkins and gourds, choose orange, bronze, yellow, and creamy white mums. If you have a lot of evergreen plants that provide a backdrop of varying shades of green foliage, try bright pinks, lavenders, pure whites, or reds. With such bold colors, a large grouping of mums can excite even the drabbest of fall landscapes.

Caring for your garden mums is just as important as choosing the right variety. They may give you the color you need, but we here at Toadflax Nursery put together some expert tips on how to make this flower last and thrive in your garden or outdoor space. First, decide whether you want this flower to be an annual or a perennial. Because they are an inexpensive flower, many homeowners buy the flowers each year. One expert explains that fall planting lessens the chance of winter survival since roots don’t have time to establish themselves. If you want something more permanent and are willing to provide proper care such as mulching and pinching to encourage compact growth and more blooms, plant mums in the spring and allow them to get established in the garden. This will improve their chances of overwintering and re-blooming the following year. Some plants will even produce a few blooms in the spring before being pinched for fall flowers.

Chrysanthemums grow best and produce the most flowers if they are planted in full sunshine. Plant them in full sun and well-drained soil, enriched by compost. Chrysanthemums are “photoperiodic” – they bloom in response to the shorter days and longer nights experienced (in the Northern Hemisphere) in fall. They respond to plenty of food (fertilizer) and moisture. Mums also work well as container plants to decorate patios, porches, and decks. Go easy on the water, however, to prevent root rot. On the other hand, be sure to water thoroughly until they become established. Potted mums probably will not do well inside as lower light levels often result in yellowing leaves and droopy flowers. There are hundreds of varieties of chrysanthemums, giving you a multitude of options for height, color, flower size and time of bloom. In northern climates, it is wise to purchase the earlier bloomers. Mums can be started as seeds, from cuttings and dividing, or can be purchased at a nursery in sizes from bedding plants up to gallon size and larger plants. They should be planted into well prepared, fertile, sandy soil with a deep hole.

To make them last throughout the winter, experts say to fertilize chrysanthemums once per month through July (any growth after that is too late to harden off for winter). Hardy mums will be even harder with winter protection. Mulch them and create a microclimate to shelter them from winter winds. If you can’t plant them on the south side of your house, build a modified version of the shrub shelters used for winter protection. Don’t prune in fall: existing branches offer the roots protection.

It is recommended that you not grow your mums in the same spot for more than three consecutive years to help prevent associated disease and pest problems. The plants should be spaced 18-30 inches apart for best results. Feed lightly every 2 weeks with a balanced all-purpose fertilizer. When the plants are 6 inches tall, pinch about 3/4 of an inch from each branch to promote more blooms and bushier plants. When they reach a foot tall, pinch them again. Chrysanthemums should be divided every three to five years to avoid overcrowding and promote maximum flowering. They should be divided in the spring when new growth appears. Dig entire clumps and separate the plants with a sharp, clean knife or spade. Remove all dead and diseased plant parts. Replant the divisions as soon as possible in a loose, well-drained, rich organic soil.

Gardens need special care to help prepare them for winter and for the next growing season. Lighter colors tend to bloom earlier than the darker reds and purples, so select different colors for a longer display of color. This flower will be the perfect addition to your fall foliage.

Growing Asparagus

Asparagus has unfortunately earned a bad reputation for being notoriously hard to grow, but that is simply not true. Asparagus is a fabulously hearty perennial vegetable that once established will continue to produce an abundant crop of spears every spring for the next 20 to 30 years. The key here is “once established.” Asparagus is not for the impatient, greedy gardener who wants to harvest bushels of spears right off the bat. It does need a couple yearsof babying to allow the roots to develop and strengthen, then it will be one of the top consistent producers in your garden.

We love asparagus because it gives gardeners the opportunity to start out right. This is going to be a long lived crop so take the time to pick out the perfect growing location and the perfect variety. Asparagus does best in a sunny, well-drained garden with a soil pH between 6.5 and 7.5 and if you have ever wanted to try a raised bed garden, asparagus is a great candidate to start with as they thrive in a raised bed.

Soil preparation is also a key component to a healthy asparagus crop. Asparagus are the introverts of vegetables, they insist on growing by themselves and will not produce if there are other vegetables, weeds or grasses competing for their space. They need room to grow and a completely weed free environment. So when preparing the soil, make sure there are no weeds growing and keep it mulched and weeded regularly to ensure proper growth.

The location is set, the soil is prepared; now let’s get on to the planting stage. We recommend planting one of the newer varieties which are less work to plant and produce almost twice as many spears per plant than the old Martha Washington standard; you will need about 10 plants per asparagus lover in the house. The newer varieties are also more resistant to fusarium rot and asparagus rot, two common asparagus diseases.

First, dig a trench about 12” deep and a foot wide, then put a shovel full of compost and a cup of all purpose fertilizer in the trench about every 18” along the length, mix it up with a little soil and shape it into a small mound. Place an asparagus crown on top of each mound of dirt, allowing the roots to dangle down around the mound of soil, the crown should be about 6” below the rim of the trench. Cover the roots and the top of the crown with soil and generously water. As the shoots begin to spring up, continue adding soil until the trench is full and the ground is level once again.

You can harvest a few spears this first year, but only a few. Go ahead and harvest spears when they are about 5” to 7” tall but only for about two weeks this first year and then stop so that the fern like fronds can develop. These fronds feed the root system and give it the energy reserves it needs for hearty development. The next year, you can harvest for three weeks and after that, your asparagus should be hale and hearty and you can harvest for four to six weeks or until the spears only produce stems less than ½” in diameter. The last tip to keep you asparagus crop booming for years is to let it go ahead and grow after the harvesting season is over. The spears will continue to grow four to six feet high and develop beautiful lacy green fronds with pretty red berries. The longer they are left to grow unhindered, the more energy the roots will store up for the next year so let it grow and grow. Once the fronds turn yellow you can trim them down to a couple inches off the ground for overwintering and when the spring returns, be ready to feast on an abundance of asparagus once again.


There are so many benefits when we incorporate fresh herbs into our diet, not only do they add such amazing flavor to our foods, they have the added benefit of being healthy for us. They have been used for centuries to treat illness and are even found today in some of the medications we take. Let’s take a look at the health benefits of some of the herbs we can find in our garden:

  • Oregano fights inflammation According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, mice with inflamed paws were treated with beta-caryophyllin (oregano’s active ingredient) and their inflammation was reduced in 70 percent of the cases.
  • Parsley can reduce breast cancer risk Parsley has high levels of apigenin, which has been proven to reduce and delay tumor formation in lab rats. Apigenin blocks creation of new blood vessels required for the tumors to grow and multiply.
  • Peppermint can soothe irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) Peppermint activates an anti-pain channel in the colon and reduces pain-sensing fibers, particularly those activated by eating chili and mustard.
  • Rosemary boosts brain power Scientists at the Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Center in the U.K. conducted a study on the aroma of rosemary. They reported that when the aroma is absorbed, it was linked to speed and accuracy of brain response in the participants; The higher the level of the compound in the blood, the better the outcome.
  • Thyme provides vitamins and antioxidants Thyme has the second highest amount of antioxidants among fresh herbs (sage is the first). It is also an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, as well as iron and dietary fiber.

If you don’t already have an herb garden or just want to expand your existing one, we have a few tips to help you out.

  • DETERMINE THE RIGHT SIZE First, you need to decide on what size you want your herb garden to be. Think about the variety of herbs you want and that should help you determine how large it needs to be. As a general guideline, an adequate kitchen garden measures 20 feet by 4 feet. Dividing it up into 12 x 18” plots should be enough to keep your herbs separated.

    To make it more aesthetically pleasing, try planting some of the more colorful and frequently used herbs, such as parsley and purple basil around the border. If you keep your annual and perennial herbs separated, it will make it much easier to clean up the space at the end of the growing season. A diagram of the area and labels for the plants will also help.

  • SITE AND SOIL CONDITIONS Herbs will not grow in wet soil so if you want your herb garden to be successful, make sure the site you choose has good drainage. If your site does not drain properly, you will need to modify it for any chance of success. The best way to do this is to remove the existing soil down about 15 to 18 inches and then put down a 3 inch layer of crushed stone. Before returning the soil to the area, mix some compost or sphagnum peat and sand with it to help lighten the texture. Refill the beds a little higher than the original level to allow for some settling.

    Don’t worry if your soil is not particularly fertile, herbs actually produce better flavor without the excess fertilizer. Some plants such as chervil, fennel, lovage and summer savory do well with moderate fertilizer but otherwise, just add several bushels of peat or compost per 100 square feet. It will help improve the condition of the soil and retain the right amount of moisture.

  • STARTING FROM SEED Nearly all herbs can be grown from seed, however for instant gratification go ahead and buy some that have already been established. If growing from seed, start them out in shallow containers in late winter and the seedlings should be ready to be transplanted in your garden by spring. Don’t plant the seeds too deep; as a rule, the finer the seed, the shallower it should be sown. Some herbs don’t transplant as well, so if possible, plant anise, coriander, dill and fennel directly into your bed in the spring.

    Be sure you check the growing guidelines of each plant. Some herbs such as mint tend to overtake a garden; a way to keep them contained is simply to plant them in a bucket with several holes punched just above the bottom rim to allow for drainage, and then plant the bucket in the ground. Perennial herbs planted this way should stay confined for several years.

    Herbs can also be grown in containers, window boxes, or hanging baskets. Try mixing them up with some flowers in some containers, they add some amazing scent as well as making your pots unique and eye catching. The only drawback of planting in this fashion is that they will require more care, especially watering as they tend to dry out rather quickly.

  • HARVESTING As soon as the plant has enough leaves to maintain growth (usually around 6 to 8 weeks if planting from seed) go ahead and start harvesting. If at all possible, collect what you need early in the day, just after the dew has dried up but before the sun become too hot, this is when you will get the best flavor.
  • PROTECTING HERBS DURING THE WINTER If you have perennial or biennial herbs, make sure you keep them protected during the winter months. With the harsh winters here in Upstate New York, many shallow rooted herbs will be uprooted during the spring thaw or not be able to survive the cold. In order to keep your herbs protected, generously mulch the beds after the ground has frozen, in early winter. The mulch should be at least 4 inches deep and you can use regular mulch, straw, oak leaves or even evergreens. When the plants are showing signs or growth again in the spring, you can go ahead and remove the mulch. Be careful to not take it off too early though or you might get some frost damage.
As always, Happy Gardening from your friends at Toadflax Nursery Garden Center!