Flowering Plants for Shade

Just because you have mostly shade in your yard, it doesn’t mean you can’t have colorful plants that bloom in this environment. Most of the shade plants have very interesting foliage that ranges in color from lime to deep blue green and by mixing these plants, you create a very pleasing landscape even when they are not in bloom.


Hostas are the first plant you think of when planting in shade and there are hundreds of varieties to choose from. Hostas are easy to grow and they spread as they age, so after 3-4 years, you will need to divide them and plant the divisions to increase your hosta plantings. They bloom around mid-June with bell-like flowers on tall spikes and most bloom in white, lavender or pink. Sizes range from mini to mammoth. Hostas leaves disappear in winter and poke up out of the soil again in spring. Plant with evergreens to hide the bare spots while they are dormant.


Another great, large plant for shade is Ligularia. These plants need plenty of water and will wilt in the middle of a very hot day, but they will recover if they have enough moisture. Water deeply  and keep the soil moist. Sizes range from 2-6 feet high and 2-4 feet wide. Flowers petals are spikey and yellow-orange on most varieties. Leaves range from light green to burgundy.


Astilbe grows very quickly and produces a flower that looks like a feather duster with their tall fluffy plumes. Plume colors range from white to dark purple and create a mass of color at bloom time when planted together. Different varieties bloom at different times, so if you vary them, you can have bloom most of the season. They produce the best blooms when allowed a couple hours of sun in the morning. The dried plumes create winter interest if left on the plant.


For a great ground cover in shade, try Lamium. It spreads quickly and doesn’t need much water after it gets established. The mostly white leaves are bordered in green and it stays green all winter. This plant flowers periodically over the season with soft salmon-pink flowers. Stems will root where they touch the ground and a new plant will form which can be dug up and planted elsewhere. Trim it back in late winter and divide in spring for new plants. Grows in full or part shade.

Continuous Color in Your Landscape

The goal of many gardeners is to have something blooming in the landscape all season. Planting annuals every year achieves this, but it’s nice to also have perennial plants that come back every year. The problem is, most perennials have a short bloom time. The resolution to this problem is to plant perennials that have different bloom times. The perennials below are just a sampling of plants readily available, but there are many more to choose from. Some of these bloom in overlapping seasons.

Bloom Times:

Spring Shade Perennials– Bleeding Heart, Columbine, Primrose, Foamflower, Bergenia, Hellebore, Jacob’s ladder, Lungwort, Viola, Solomon’s Seal.

Spring Sun Perennials– Alpine clematis, Candytuft, Creeping phlox, Dianthus, Sea thrift

Late Spring to Early Summer Shade Perennials – Coralbells, Meadow rue, Foamy bells, Lady’s mantle, Yellow corydalis

Late Spring to Early Summer Sun Perennials – Bear’s breeches, Baptisia, Fleabane, Iris, Lamb’s ear, Peony, Geranium, May Night Salvia, Poppies

Summer Perennials for Shade – Astilbe, Goatsbeard, Hosta, Ligularia, Lilyturf (Liriope), Lobelia, Meadow rue

Summer Perennials for Sun – Balloon flower, Bee Balm (Monarda), Bellflower (Campanula), Black-eyed Susan, Blanket flower, Liatris, Butterfly weed, Catmint, Coneflower, Crocosmia, Delphinium, Evening primrose, Phlox, Hollyhock, Agastache, Lavender, Shasta Daisy

 Late Summer and Early Fall Perennials for Shade – White turtlehead, Day lilies (sun to part shade)

Late Summer and Early Fall Perennials for Sun – Aster, Chrysanthemum, Japanese anemone, Joe Pye weed, Obedient plant, Russian sage, Sedum

The chart in the link below lists plants by color and height as well as sun or shade and provides a much more extensive list of plants.



Choosing a Paint Roller Cover

Spring is a great time to spruce up around the house and the easiest way to give your home a facelift is to paint. A good cutting-in brush, and a roller make painting a quick and easy project. But, who knew that there were so many different roller covers? What you are painting will determine the nap (thickness of the roller cover) you need to do the job. Roller covers come in different colors and materials and rollers create a smoother finish and better coverage than brushes.

Rough Textured Surface

If the surface is rough like a textured wall or ceiling, stucco, bricks, decks or masonry, you will pick up and distribute the paint best with a ¾ inch roller cover. The extra depth will pick up more paint and reach into the crevices for full coverage. It also holds more paint so you don’t have to go back to the pan as often.

Smooth Surface

The 3/8 inch nap is most often used for smooth surfaces like walls and ceilings. It is also used for painting some wood surfaces like shelves or boards before they are turned into projects. Small ¼ inch covers produce the smoothest finish and are best for furniture, metal, and anywhere where you want a very smooth finish.


Rollers are generally 9 inches long, 6 inches long, 4 inches long, or 2 inches long. These sizes correspond to the projects you are painting. If you are painting a large surface, the 9 inch roller will cover the quickest. You may use the other sizes to fit the width of your project or reach into areas where the longer cover won’t fit. In some cases, such as painting a dresser or piece of furniture, you might use several sizes.


Synthetic covers like nylon, polyester, and microfiber work very well for water-based latex paints. If using oil paint, a natural material like mohair or sheepskin works best because it picks up more paint.  Blended materials such as a wool/polyester blend covers can be used with latex or oil paints. They have the absorbing ability of wool, and the longer life of the polyester material. There are also foam roller covers that work quite well for a seriously smooth finish.










Five Herbs for Your Kitchen Garden


Basil grown near tomatoes creates a strong scent that deters many pests. Basil loves heat and needs to be planted after nighttime temperatures stay at 55 degrees or above. The many varieties of basil will create a patchwork in your garden. Plant in full sun and fertile soil and you don’t need to add fertilizer. With shallow roots, basil needs damp soil, but only occasional deep watering. Snip out the growing tips to make it bush out and produce more leaves. Try these basil varieties: Purple Ruffles, Genovese Compact, and Italian Large Leaf. Makes awesome pesto.


Oregano is great for flavoring Mediterranean dishes. The Greek and Italian Oregano varieties are the most flavorful. Avoid fertilizing and don’t overwater. Harvest before the plant flowers. You can cut a leaf, or a stem, or cut the entire plant down to about two inches from the ground just before flowering and again about a month before first frost. Use leaves fresh or dried and stored in a jar.


Leaves of this plant are called cilantro but the seeds are known as coriander. They like rich soil, so before planting, amend the soil with some good compost. They don’t like being moved, so if you buy plants, plant them once and leave them there. You can plant from seed and repeat seeding every two to three weeks. This plant doesn’t like fertilizer but requires evenly moist soil. Use immediately after cutting as it loses flavor if stored.


Rosemary is a very fragrant herb resembling a small evergreen. The leaves are used to flavor stuffing and roasted meats. It is a very drought tolerant plant and loves hot dry climates and hates wet feet, so plant in well-draining soil and don’t overwater. Used for many centuries as a medicinal plant, it is reported to support memory.


This flowery, feathery, herb is essential if you are making pickles, seasoning seafood, and making chip dips. Dill attracts many beneficial insects to your garden with its aromatic scent. This plant grows best if left alone. Harvest the seeds by gathering the seed heads, putting them upside down in a paper bag and shake the seeds into the bag. Try Dukat, Hercules, and Fernleaf varieties.


Choosing the Right Rose

Determine What Features You Want.

Is fragrance important? What about disease resistance, repeat blooming, or thorns vs no thorns? If you are planting it near a sidewalk or entrance to your house, thornless might be right. Do you want it to bloom repeatedly? Do you want to have to deadhead the blossoms? Do you want bare root or a rose already potted? Is it easy to grow or does it need some tending?

Where Will You Plant It?

Knowing where you want the rose to live will help you determine what type rose to buy. If you want it to grow up a trellis, you need a climbing rose. If you want it to cover the ground, you need a ground cover rose. If you want to create a hedge, you need a shrub rose. If you want fragrance, be sure the label states that it is fragrant.

Selecting Your Plant

Not all classes of roses have the same kinds of flowers. Some have petals spreading out rather flat from the center core and look nothing like the full, many petaled, cup like roses we traditionally consider a “rose”. Check the picture on the plant’s tag and read the tag completely to be sure you get the petals you want. If the tag has a name for the type of rose, you may want to research its information online before buying.

Planting Your Rose

Roses develop very strong roots and those roots grow deep, so when planting a bare root plant, dig the hole at least 18-24 inches deep and wide. Put six inches of well-composted manure or bagged compost into the hole and form a cone in the center of the hole. Gently arrange the roots around the cone and fill in with soil. If it is a grafted plant (which many roses are) be sure not to bury the graft union (where the new and old stock were attached). For roses in containers, plant no deeper that the top of the soil in the pot. Roses will benefit from a little bone meal added to the hole at planting time


Roses need Nitrogen for shoots above ground, Phosphorus for root growth and Potassium for the whole plant. This is the N-P-K you see on fertilizer products. Look for fertilizers that include other nutrients like sulfur, boron, copper, iron, manganese, and zinc. Plants use these trace elements along with N-P-K to stay strong and strong plants resist disease and insect damage better. You have two choices on types of fertilizers: organic or inorganic.


Organic fertilizers include manures, compost, alfalfa, bone meal, fish fertilizer, and kelp extract. Organics are better for the environment, improve soil texture and feed soil micro-organisms, but are usually more expensive.


Inorganics are synthetic or man-made fertilizers and include most of the products you will find at the store. They can be more concentrated, but less expensive than organics and are available in water-soluble, granular, and slow-release. They do not help condition the soil, however.

Whatever you choose, there is a rose that fits your needs.




Pollinators in the Garden

You may think that the bees, wasps, flies, and beetles in your garden are a nuisance, but you would do well to allow them access to your plants if you want flowers and food. These insects pollinate your plants and transfer pollen from one bloom to another. Without them, there would be no flowers and no fruit or vegetables would grow from their blooms.

 Crops Need to be Pollinated

Some vertebrates such as birds and bats, and small mammals also pollinate plants and wind and water play their parts, too. The presence of pollinators in any area where crops are grown, including grains, vegetables, and fruit, is critical to the successful development of those crops. Approximately 75 percent of crop plants grown worldwide for food, fiber, beverages, condiments, spices and medicines need pollinators to produce their harvest.

 Beneficial to the Ecosystem

In addition to pollinating food crops and flowering plants, pollinators assist plants in providing food and habitat for wildlife, help prevent erosion and help keep waterways clean. The seeds pollinated plants provide are a major source of food for birds and mammals.

 Decline in Pollinator Populations

Many pollinators face decline or extinction because of widespread destruction of their native habitats and food sources. One example is the Monarch butterfly which only lays its eggs on specific and scarce plants such as milkweed. As milkweed is mowed down and eradicated from the landscape, the Monarch has no place to lay its eggs and is in danger of extinction today. Incorrect use of pesticides pose another danger to native pollinators.

 We Can Help

How can we help preserve the pollinators? Grow flowers in masses rather than a few here and there. Control invasive plant species so habitats aren’t taken over by them. Use pesticides, when necessary, on calm days and spray carefully. Plant vegetation that provides habitat. Plant flowers that pollinators are attracted to and provide a source of water.

Easy to Grow Veggies for New Gardeners

Peas – Sweet or English peas can be planted now as they can handle a light frost. Try Green Arrow, Maestro, or Patriot. These are dwarf varieties that can be grown without a trellis. For tall varieties, try Alderman or Lincoln. The tall peas need a fence or trellis to climb. Shell when pods are full.  You can plant for a second crop in late August.

Sugar snap peas and snow peas are grown like sweet peas and will need a trellis. These peas can be eaten in the pods and are delicious raw or cooked. Snow peas should be picked and eaten before the pods fill completely.

Carrots – Carrots need very loose soil, good drainage, and space to fill out. Plant seeds 2-3 inches apart and cut off any seedlings that are too close together.

Squash – Zucchini, yellow squash, spaghetti squash, butternut and other varieties can be planted from seed. Create a little hill of soil and put three seeds on each hill. Space the hills about three feet apart. Watch the squash as it grows and pick before they get too big.

Radishes – Radish seeds are very small, so just place them in rows and when they come up, cut out the extras, leaving about 2-3 inches between plants. These grow to maturity in about 3 weeks. After harvesting each batch, replant to have fresh radishes all summer.

Lettuce – Lettuce and many types of greens like spinach, kale, arugula, and Swiss Chard also like cooler weather. Greens mature quickly and can be replanted again. Most greens do not like intense heat, so you may need to plant in an area that gets some shade in the middle of summer.

Peppers – Sweet and hot peppers like sun and heat, so plant them outside when the night time temperature stays above 50 degrees. They do best with some kind of support, whether a cage or stake. Peppers come in all kinds of sizes and colors.



How to Plant Tomatoes

Tomato plants take up a lot of nitrogen to produce those juicy red fruits, so the soil they grow in each year is depleted of nitrogen. The best policy is to rotate them to another area of the garden every year for four years.

Restoring Nitrogen

When the tomatoes are done for the season, plant a winter cover crop such as legumes, clover or winter peas. The following spring you simply cut them down and turn back into the soil.  As they decompose they will raise total nitrogen in the soil and make the nitrogen available for other plants.

Amending the Soil

It’s important that the soil in your tomato beds is loose and full of nutrients. It should fall apart when you try to make a ball of dirt. If it sticks together, you have clay soil, and will need to add amendments to loosen it up and add compost for nutrition.

Planting the Tomatoes

Tomato plants develop roots along the entire stem that is under ground, so to have a healthy root system, they need to be planted deep.  Plentiful roots make plenty of sweet juicy tomatoes. Dig a hole about 8 to 10 inches deep. If you use a post hole digger, you will not compact the soil around the hole and one scoop gets the job done quickly. Dig holes a minimum of two feet apart. Tomatoes need room to spread out.

Add some compost into the hole along with a few tablespoons of dried crushed eggshells, which add calcium, and some used coffee grounds. Your plants will love it. Remove as many lower leaves as you can and plant the tomato as deep as possible. Then put some eggshells and coffee grounds around the base of the plant and water in well.

What if the Plants are Short or too Tall?

Most tomato plants you find in the garden center will be well developed and ready to plant, but if you find a smaller plant, simply bury as much of the stem as you can without removing all the leaves. If your plant is tall and leggy, you can dig a trench about four inches deep and lay the plant in the trench sideways, allowing just the top leaves to appear above the ground.

Enjoy the best tomatoes ever!!!

How to build a raised bed garden

There are several materials you can use to build a raised bed garden. Some of the most popular are cedar, pine, and concrete blocks.  The advantages of raised beds are numerous. The soil warms up earlier in spring, drainage is excellent, you do not have to till, and it’s easy to add a layer of compost twice a year to keep the soil healthy.


Most raised bed frames are a minimum of 6 inches high and 2 inches thick. The side boards are two inches thick for strength and durability.  Remember you are using these boards to hold back a significant amount of dirt.

You can use 2X4 lumber if you are growing shallow rooted vegetables like lettuces or radishes, but most other vegetables need more depth.  Tomatoes in particular need to be planted deep.

How wide you make the beds depends on whether or not you can reach the middle. If you want to build a bed four-feet wide, you would need to have access on either side of the bed in order to reach plants in the middle that need tending, and for weeding.  Any width can work as long as you do not have to step in the beds to reach the middle. You do not want to compact the soil.

Building the Bed

You can use lumber the height you want your bed, or you can use narrower lumber and stack it to build whatever height you want. For example, you want to build the sides of your bed 24 inches high. You would simply build each box the width and length you want and stack them. To keep them together you would build braces on either the inside or outside.

You would need three 2X8X8 rectangles, two 2X12 rectangles, or two 2X10X8 rectangles and one 2X4X8 rectangle to build the sides to 24 inches.

Pressure Treated or Not?

It is not recommended that you use pressure treated wood in building beds for vegetables. The chemicals used in the pressurization process can leach into the soil and into your food. If you want to use this for longevity, cover the interior of the bed with sheet plastic and staple in place.

Straw Bale Gardening


Straw bales can be set up anywhere. You can set up this garden on your driveway, patio, grass, or dirt plot. At the end of the season, you have wonderful compost for your other gardens or to build new in-ground beds.

You can configure the garden any way you want in rows, squares, or u-shapes. You can very successfully grow vegetables and flowers without much work. This method is great for people who can’t bend down to ground level or are in wheelchairs.


The bales are basically composting bins, so as you water them, any seeds left in them can sprout, so you have to pull out the sprouts before they get away from you.

Toward the end of the season they can become unstable and start to fall apart because of the composting. While most critters will leave them alone, ground hogs may be a problem. You may need to fence around your bales or garden to keep them away.

Setting Up the Bales

Bales are heavy after watering, so set them up where they will stay. Position the ends of the bales in a north/south direction to take advantage of the east/west sunshine. Place the side without bindings on top (cut side).

Conditioning the Bales

You need to start the decomposing process by adding fertilizer to the bales. There are many recipes for this conditioning process online. Many use UREA in a 32-0-0  formulation with nitrogen being the highest, but I have seen as high as 48-0-0 used. If you want to grow vegetables organically, use organic fertilizer. (see blog below for recipe). The process takes about 10 days applying fertilizer on odd days and watering every day.

Planting the Bales

 Planting is quick and easy. For seedlings, simply use a trowel to make a hole in the bale and plant your seedling.  Some people add a little compost or potting soil to the hole, but it is not necessary. For tomatoes, use a crow bar or long stick to open up a deeper hole. If you want to start seeds in your bales, add compost or potting soil to the top of the bale and plant your seeds.


Straw Bale Gardens Complete by Joel Karsten (Amazon.com)

Organic Fertilizer


Straw Bale Gardening