Garden Center Buying Tips

On Lunch breaks these days I am found, lurking around the garden centers in my area.  I am always on the look out for something new and beautiful.  Most people are looking around for the plants with the most flowers blooming.  There is really nothing wrong with that, I suppose.  But lets face it, plants are expensive.  So why not get a little more bang for your buck.

Do a quick scan of the leaves are they green? Do they have insect or sun damage?  If you removed the brown/damaged leaves would the plant be bare?  Buy a plants with uniformly green leaves, free of insect damage.

Is the plant well proportioned?  Or lopsided?  Unless you are going to take the time to even out the plant (which usually involves snapping half of it off), it will never look nice.

Pull the plant out of the pot, Do the roots look healthy?  Is the plant pot bound (ie Are the roots growing out of the bottom of the plant)?  Steer clear of root bound plants, they never grow well. 

Buy the plant with no flowers/buds.  This is the rule everyone throws out the window.  Before you plant at home, you should snip each of the flowers off.  That way the plant with concentrate on the roots and not those flowers.  It is just the begining of the season, there are plenty of time for flowers.

Another sad fact that I have found:  In the spring you can by plants everywhere.  Every hardware, home improvement, discount, grocery store is selling plants.  Unless you are at full-time garden center, much of the staff does not know  what it is talking about.  It is a sad fact, but true.  They are always helpful, but if you are looking for gardening advice, it may be best to go somewhere else.

Have a question, I can help.  I worked as a grower and landscaper for 5 years.  Email me at

Good Luck and Happy Shopping!


Indoor Gardening

Who needs a cat, when I can have worms?

Ever since I read Amy Stewart’s From the Ground Up (great book! I read it every year), I have wanted a worm composter.  I am not sure why, maybe it is the EWWWW factor, maybe because it is something that no one else does around here (and Lord only knows, I like to be different).

Worm bins are plastered all over the garden catalogs theses days, there was even one in my Lehman’s catalog the other day for just under $100.

The Hubby is none to thrilled about the concept, he was on board until I told him the worms would have to live in the house.  “What if they get out?’  I shook the catalog at him and said, “This thing is so awesome they would never want to leave!!”

I found this video on the GardenGirlTV site last night about making your own worm composter:

I love Patti’s site, it is full of ideas and video, for both beginners and people who have played in the dirt for years.

I am practicing my worm speech at work today:  I can make it myself!  They will eat 5lbs of food waste per week! It won’t stink!  It will make great fertilizer!

Wish me luck!

Etsy Love: TinyTerrains

So yesterday it snowed.  7 inches worth of it.  Since I have been planning my small garden this year it was kind of let down.  So today I logged on a new fav of mine on Etsy, TinyTerrains.  I have a love affair with terrariums since we made them as a class project in elementary school.

Check out these beautiful terrariums, for a little of the woodlands in your home.


Tiny Terrains

TinyTerrainsAll images TinyTerrains

11 garden tools I can’t live without

Spring is finally starting to show her head in my neck of the woods.  I have gone through the seed catalogs, looking through my gardening books, dreaming big and making plans.  You know, basically driving my husband up the wall.  This year we are moving my raised bed out to the Farm (aka my Dad’s house) and I am going to plant up his along with my own.  I am going to focus more on curb appeal at our house than having a huge garden. 

I have worked for landscaping companies and greenhouses over the years and I have used my share gardening equipment.  There are lots of tools to choose from but these are the ones that I have found the most versatile.
When I worked in landscaping I pruned, a lot.  You will need a good quality hand pruner and a holster.  I use a Felco bypass pruner and an old pliers holster with a metal belt clip.  Keep your pruner sharp and well oiled and it will last you a long time.   The holster really comes in handy when you are out in the yard and see a low hanging branch or water-spout you want to grab, your pruners are right there at your side. 
Another handy pocket tool is a folding saw.  This is another tool I picked up from my landscaping days.  With a bit of elbow grease and the correct pruning know how, you can go through a fairly large branch.  Don’t expect to cut down a tree, but you can get most small tree pruning done without having to get a chainsaw or hire a professional.
You cannot garden too long without a spade or trowel. Invest in good quality tools, and if you take care of them they can last you for years.  There are many ideas floating around out there about the best way to take care of your tools, everything from stiff brushes to buckets of sand and oil.  I clean mine up after every use, taking a little more care at the end of the gardening season.  Keep the spade sharp, it will make your job easier.
On that note, invest in a file and oil.  You will need a larger one for your shovel or spade and a smaller one for your pruners, loppers or hedge trimmers. Check out the felco website for more info and directions on how to sharpen and oil your pruners.
There are more gardening gloves out there than I can count, and most of them are pretty much worthless.  Many are pretty and may keep your hands from getting dirty but that is pretty much it.  If you are that worried about getting dirt under your nails, gardening may not really be your thing.  I love these gloves from Atlas with the rubberized palms and fingers.  You are able to grab barberry clipping without sticking your hand.
There are two different kinds of rakes:  a leaf rake and a garden rake.  Leaf rakes are pretty self-explanatory but make sure you invest in one with a metal head that is actually bolted to the handle. After a couple of hours (or less) or raking the glue that holds some cheaper rakes to the handle will come off and never really stay on well again.    The same goes for garden rake (which is used to rake dirt, mulch, rock, sand, basically smoothing out any surface.  Invest in a heavy-duty one.
One of the cheapest and best clean up tools you can have is a tarp.  The same blue (or green) tarp you can get at the hardware store for a couple of bucks.  You just unfold the tarp (or fold it in half or fourths if you job is smaller) and drag it along behind you as you do yard clean up dumping branches, leaves, etc as you go.