“Help!!! I have been trying to get help from Jung Seed, but I don’t seem to get anywhere with their customer service.  Here are the emails I have exchanged with them:

Me on 10/17/15:

I think we have a fungus that is killing our blue spruce trees we bought from you this spring at the Sun Prairie Garden Center.  The staff at your store directed me to contacting customer service.  Is there a treatment or spray that we could do to try to save the trees. Thank you for any help/suggestions.

Lori in Customer Service on 10/23/15:

Are you sure this is a fungus?  What does it look like and exactly what is happening to the trees?  What part of the tree is being affected?  I need more information in order assist you.  You cannot treat the symptoms without accurately without being sure what you are dealing with.  We will wait to hear from you.

Me on 10/23/15:

Thanks for the reply.  I suspect it’s a fungus because our area has had a problem with it.  I’ve attached some pictures.  The needles are dropping – seems like from the inside out and bottom up.

Cytospora 1 Cytospora 2

After this, I never heard anything back.  I resent the above email twice during the next week, and then called.  The person that answered the phone named Rachel seemed as clueless about spruce trees as anyone I had ever spoke to and told me that it was not a fungus but me not taking proper care of the tree.  If I had further questions about tree care, I should go ask the extension agent in my county.

We don’t have one in our county anymore and the local Master Gardeners field the questions until the vacancy is filled.  From my past experience, they don’t know much at all.  When I asked and explained what I had been told by Jung’s, the Master Gardener lady said she agreed with them because the people there are so knowledgeable and would not be wrong.  Sure…  So, I come to ask you since Jung’s thinks I am nuts and Master Gardeners are inexperienced and naive at best.

Thank you!


Hi Myrna,

Thank you for the email regarding your blue spruce trees.  It looks like they are suffering from a fungal disease called Cytospora Canker.  Cytospora Canker is observed most often on older trees, especially those that are planted in poor sites. Trees weakened by environmental stresses, such as drought, freeze injury, or high temperatures, also are more susceptible to canker diseases. The Cytospora Canker fungus may attack many different species of hardwood trees, conifers, and shrubs.

Spruce trees infected with the Cytospora Canker fungus typically show scattered branch dieback, often starting on the lower branches. A close look at the dead branches usually reveals the presence of sticky white sap. Infected trees produce this resinous sap in response to the infection by the canker fungus.

The Cytospora fungus gains entrance into branches or twigs of trees through wounds or branch stubs. Over time, the fungus encircles or girdles branches, causing death. Brown needles can be observed on killed branches, but they eventually fall off, leaving bare branches.

As with many diseases, the best control for Cytospora Canker is prevention.  Plant trees in a good site, one that is well-drained and allows unrestricted growth as the tree matures. Adding mulch around trees increases overall health in many ways, including reducing competition from turfgrass. If dry conditions occur, water deeply if feasible. Any cultural practice that promotes good tree vigor helps prevent canker diseases.

Pruning out diseased branches is the primary means of treating trees showing symptoms of Cytospora Canker. Scout declining trees closely for cankers.  Prune at least 4-6 inches below any visible cankers. Some branches may need to be pruned back to the trunk. To minimize spread of the disease, prune only during dry weather. The fungal spores of Cytospora can be easily spread when conditions are wet. Fungicide sprays are generally not effective at controlling canker diseases.

For more information, I’ve included the local extension brochure on Cytospora Canker.  It can be found here:

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.



© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Potted Bulb Garden and Cutting Back Perennials

“It would be fun to have specific directions as to how to build a potted bulb garden.    I think it has to sit in the refrigerator (40 degree area) for 12 weeks.

Also you could write about the proper time to cut down perennials.  I’ve heard the new thinking is let them stand until spring (to feed our winter friends) and then chop them down inch by inch to create mulch.



Hi Denise,

Thank you for the email regarding your bulbs and perennials.

Forcing Bulbs

Bulbs made to flower at other than normal times are said to be forced. The practice of forcing is commonly used to flower daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, crocus and other spring bulbs during the winter. With proper planning and care, bulbs can supply color for the home from late November until early April, when they begin to flower normally outdoors.

Steps for forcing include selecting the most suitable varieties, potting bulbs properly in well-drained potting medium, providing proper
cold-temperature treatment, bringing bulbs into a cool room, and placing the plants in a display location when well-developed.

Stage 1:  Preparation
Any spring-flowering bulb can be forced, but to be successful, select types and varieties known to be good forcers. Hyacinths and daffodils are generally the easiest to force. Tulips are slightly more difficult, but with proper treatments they can be forced successfully. Many small bulbs such as crocus, grape hyacinth and snowdrops also may be forced.

The general procedure for forcing all these bulbs is similar. Begin by buying only top-quality, flowering-size bulbs for indoor forcing. Good bulbs contain ingredients necessary for successfully producing roots, leaves and flowers.

Hyacinths are usually the most easily forced spring bulbs. They may be forced in water or potted in a container. Potting should be done in late September or early October. Plants will flower about one month after being brought indoors from the chilling treatment. Earliest bloom from bulbs can be expected about mid-January.

Many varieties of daffodils can be forced. Paperwhite Narcissus are suitable for earliest forcing either in pots or in water.

All varieties should be potted before the end of October for adequate root growth and chilling. Dates listed in the table are the earliest that bulbs planted in October should be brought into forcing conditions. Most varieties flower about one month after being brought indoors, although timing varies due to varieties and individual forcing conditions.

Hyacinth varieties for forcing:
Variety        Color        Pot no later than    Earliest date to bring indoors
Anne Marie        bright pink    Oct. 1            late December
Delft Blue        porcelain blue    Oct. 1        late December
Jan Bos        red        Oct. 1            late December
L’Innocence        white        Oct. 1            late December
Carnegie        white        Oct. 1            early January
Myosotis        pale blue    Oct. 1            early January
Ostara            dark blue    Oct. 1            early January
Pink Pearl        pink        Oct. 1            early January
City of Harlem    yellow        Oct. 15        mid-February
King of the Blues    deep blue    Oct. 15        mid-February
Lady Derby        rose pink    Oct. 15        late January
Orange Boven        orange-salmon    Oct. 15    late January

Daffodil (Narcissus) varieties for forcing.
Variety        Color                Forcing dates
Accent            white; salmon cup        March to April
Barrett Browning    white; orange cup        January to April
Bridal Crown        golden yellow        March to April
Carlton        double white; orange center    January to February
Cassata        creamy to pale yellow    January to April
Dutch Master        golden yellow        January to April
February Gold    bright yellow        January to February
Flower Record    white; orange-rimmed cup    January to February
Fortune        yellow; coppery-orange cup    January to April
Ice Follies        white; yellow cup        January to April
Las Vegas        white; lemon yellow cup    January to April
Mt. Hood        ivory white            January to April
Tete a Tete        yellow miniature        January to February
Unsurpassable    yellow                March to April

Tulip varieties for forcing.
Variety        Color                Earliest date to bring indoors
Apeldoorn        orange-scarlet        early February
Apricot Beauty    salmon-rose            early January
Attilla        purple violet        mid-January
Bellona        golden yellow        early January
Blizzaard        creamy white            early February
Christmas Gold    deep yellow            early January
Christmas Marvel    cherry pink            early January
Couleur Cardinal    cardinal red            early February
DeWet (General)    orange                early January
First Lady        reddish-violet        early January
Garden Party        white-edged red        early February
Gudoshnik        pale yellow streaked; rose pink    early February
Jewel of Spring    yellow-streaked red        early February
Kansas            white                early January
Make Up        white with red edge        early February
Merry Widow        red with white edge        mid-January
Olympic Flame    yellow-flamed red        early February
Orange Nassau    double-orange scarlet    mid-January
Orange Wonder    bronzy-orange        mid-January
Paul Richter        scarlet red            early January
Peach Blossom    double deep rose        early February
Preludlum        salmon with white base    early January
Queen of Sheba    mahogany-edged orange    early February
Westpoint        yellow                early February

Stage 2:  Potting

The following materials will be needed for potting bulbs:
–Pots 4 to 8 inches in diameter. Short pots known as azalea or bulb pots are preferred.
–A well-drained potting medium such as a blend of Sphagnum peat, vermiculite and perlite. High fertility is not essential, but good drainage is important. No fertilizer is needed at potting time.
–Wood, plastic or metal labels.
–Thermometer for checking temperatures.

All bulbs are normally potted in October.

*Add enough soil mixture to fill the pot so bulbs are placed as follows:
–Hyacinths and tulips: Allow only the tip of the bulb to show above the soil line.
–Daffodils: Plant so about one-half of the bulb shows above the soil line.
–Small bulbs (crocus, snowdrop, grape hyacinth, etc.): Plant so they will be about one inch below the soil line.

*Set the bulbs in the pot. One large bulb may be placed in each 4-inch pot.  Use six tulips, three hyacinths, five daffodils or 15 crocus (or other small bulb) in each 6-inch pot. All bulbs in a pot should be of the same kind and variety to ensure uniform flowering. Place tulips with the flattened side of the bulb toward the outside of the pot.

*Fill around the bulbs with potting medium to the proper height. Firm the medium with light pressure, but avoid tight packing. After planting, the final potting medium line should be about 1/4 to 1/2 inch below the rim of the pot.

*Label each pot with variety of bulb, date of potting and expected date to begin forcing.

*Add water until it drips through the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot. After about one hour, dump out any water remaining in the saucer.

Stage 3:  Rooting
After potting, keep hardy bulbs where temperatures range between 35 and 48 degrees F; 40 degrees F is ideal. These temperatures may be found in a cool north room, basement, crawl space, bulb cellar, outdoor trench, refrigerator or cold frame.

An unheated basement or storage cellar is most convenient because temperatures don’t fluctuate greatly and the cooling is quicker and more satisfactory. An old refrigerator may be used for a few bulbs.

A cold frame is easily built outdoors and may later be used for other gardening activities. Place the pots to be forced in the cold frame and cover them with sawdust, straw, leaves, peat moss, shredded styrofoam or other material. The cold frame should be in a shady place or on the north side of a building so the soil is as uniformly cool as possible in October and November. No sash is needed on the cold frame.

When preparing only a few pots, place them on the surface of the ground close to a building. Cover them with peat moss, leaves, straw or similar material and invert a box or bushel basket over them for protection.

Bulbs stored outdoors will normally get sufficient moisture from the soil around them after initial watering. Indoors, bulbs should be kept moist at all times. Overwatering, however, may cause bulb rot.

Roots should develop soon after potting. Excellent root growth is essential to good growth and flower formation. Potted bulbs should be placed outdoors at least three weeks before the first hard freeze is expected. This is an important period for good root development.

Stage 4:  Top-growth

A few varieties may be brought indoors after about 12 weeks of cooling, but most will require 13 or 14 weeks to develop the necessary roots and top growth. Indoor forcing takes three to four weeks. To extend the bloom period, remove potted bulbs from storage at weekly intervals.

If potting medium and tops are frozen when plants are brought indoors, place plants in a cool room (about 40 degrees F) for two or three days to thaw out slowly. Don’t touch the plant tops when they are frozen.

If plants are not frozen, bring them directly to a cool, bright window where temperatures range close to 60 degrees F. Don’t place them in direct sunlight. Keep bulbs watered, but fertilizer won’t be needed.

Stage 5:  Bloom

When flower buds are almost fully developed, pots may be moved to the area in the house where they are to be displayed. Avoid placing them in full sunlight or close to a heater. The life of the flowers can be lengthened by placing the plants in a cool room at night.

Bulbs that have been forced indoors are usually of little value for outdoor planting afterwards and should be discarded.

Forcing bulbs in water

Tender types of Narcissus such as Paperwhite and Soleil d’Or don’t require cold treatment before being forced into bloom. These are the most popular and dependable bulbs for forcing and may be grown in water with pebbles for support.

Hyacinths can be forced into bloom in containers that will support the bulb with only its base touching the water. Bulbs should be cleaned before placing them in glasses. The best time for starting the bulbs is in October.

Keep the glasses containing the bulbs in a cool (45 to 50 degrees F), dark location until tip growth is 3 to 4 inches long and the flower cluster emerges free from the bulb. This may take 8 to 12 weeks. When the top growth is well-developed, move the glasses to a cool, bright window.

As for your perennials, you can chop them down if they herbaceous (not recommended for roses or other woody perennials that come back on the same stems/foliage).  However, the only thing to keep in mind is to wait until the foliage had died back.  If the stems or leaves are still green, the foliage is still feeding the plant and preparing it for winter.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Pruning Raspberries and Blueberries

“We purchased many bare root raspberries and blueberries in the spring for our new garden…. Many of the raspberries bore fruit this fall.  I’m wondering how they should both be pruned this fall?  Please



Hi Jesse,

Thank you for the email regarding your raspberries and blueberries.

First question: do you have summer-bearing/everbearing or fall-bearing types of raspberries?

Raspberry PruningIf you have a summer-bearing and everbearing types of raspberry, you do not want to prune it in general.  The berries will be produced on canes from the previous year.  The only ones that you should think about pruning would be those that have grown up beyond the area you have designated for them, or any that are spindly or diseased.

As for fall-bearing types, you definitely want to prune them in late winter/early spring before the buds break dormancy.  Prune all canes that bore fruit last year; they won’t fruit again. These will have grayish,
peeling bark.  To force your everbearing raspberries to produce only one crop in the fall, prune back the entire raspberry bush in early spring. As the canes grow back in the summer, remove outside suckers and thin the canes to about 6 inches apart. Keep the sturdiest canes. This technique will give you a larger fall harvest and is good if you also have summer bearing raspberry bushes and you want to stagger the harvests.

As the summer goes on, you can always prune out any dead, broken or diseased canes or those that are outside your designated row area. Of course, you can prune broken, dead, diseased or infested canes at any time of the year, the sooner the better.

And one other thing:  wear thick gloves as raspberries have some serious thorns on them. And use clean, sharp tools.

As for the blueberries, spring is the best time to prune. Before domancy has broken, remove any diseased or broken wood, plus crossing branches. You want the bush to have a narrow base and a wide, open top that allows sunlight and air in.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Winter Protection for a Tree Rose

“Hello – this is the first year that I bought a Tree Rose.  I placed it near a main walkway in a condominium complex.  When maintenance shovels snow, they will most likely pile it up in the area where my rose tree is.  Can you recommend something that I can place around it in order to protect it?  Would it be alright to put a plastic pipe around it if it has enough room around it?  Please let me know……….thanks for any advice you can give me.



Hello Nancy,

Thank you for your inquiry on winterizing your rose tree.  I understand that you are in Zone 6 New York, and as roses can be a bit finicky, it is best to give them a little bit of love and care and then bundle them up well.

Winter Tree RoseRemove all old mulch from under and around the roses; it might harbor insect eggs or disease spores from infected fallen leaves. Just before the first hard, or killing, frost of the season, spread fresh mulch of wood chips, shredded bark, or chopped leaves around the base of the plant, extending as far out as the branch tips. Wait until after the ground freezes to spread the mulch if rodents are a problem in the yard. Mice, especially, like to build their nests in mulch. Water the rose well, especially if it’s been through a dry summer.

There are a few items that you will need to help in the winterizing process:

— organic mulch (I recommend leaves from the yard)

— binder twine or heavy duty string

— burlap

— stakes (wood, bamboo, etc.).  You will need at least four, and possible more depending on the circumference of your rose. They should be just a bit taller than the height of the tree rose.

Begin by setting four stakes in the ground around the rose and just beyond the mulched root zone.  Wrap a protective barrier of burlap around the stakes and tie it in place with the twine (at least at the top, middle, and bottom with more in between as needed to accommodate for the height of the plant. Then fill in the middle with an insulating layer of dry leaves (pack them in so they are not loose and full of air pockets that can get cold). The rose is now shielded from harsh winds and should look kind of like an upright gunny sack of potatoes.

I hope this helps you out.  If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me.


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Staking Fall-Bearing Blackberries

“I purchased some fall bearing blackberries.  How do we stake these up?  There are about three blackberries on the plant, but I feel we are going to have frost before they ripen. But, my question is how do we stake or tie these up?

Mary Weiner”


Hi Mary,

Thank you for the email regarding your blackberries.  I’m glad to hear that they are doing well.

Fall Blackberries

Various trellis or support systems can be used with blackberries, but staking is simpler. Also known as the hill system, staking blackberries requires first planting bare root berries about four feet apart in a row.

1.  Drive in a metal T-post about 6 inches from each plant so that posts also stand 4 feet apart in the row.

2.  Run one strand of wire tightly between all posts in the row–attaching to each post–at a height of about 4 1/2 feet above the ground.

3.  Spread fruiting branches out along the wire. Twine these branches around the wire and attach them loosely with plastic plant ties.

4.  Tie later new canes, as they emerge, to the post, establishing the center of the berry hill. Continue to prune and train canes to the wire support and post as plants get established.

5.  Cut back and remove all floricanes–fruit-producing or second-year canes–after harvest, when they die back.

6.  Thin the remaining canes early in the following spring, leaving just 5 to 7 of the sturdiest canes per hill. Cut side branches of the canes back to 12 buds and then tie canes to the post or wire.

7.  Pinch off the growing tips of new canes when they reach the wire, to encourage side branches, or laterals, that will bear fruit the following year.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.



© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Time to Plant Your Garlic!

“Dear Mertie Mae,

What do I need to know about growing garlic?   Just the basics.

Thank you,



Hi George,

Thank you for your question regarding growing garlic.  Here are a few basic points to keep in mind:

1.  Where to buy
The first thing you need to figure out is if you want to buy organic or conventional grown and heirloom or non-heirloom types.  Some places sell great garlic and others not so much.  I personally recommend Seed Saver Exchange (get your order in when you buy your garden seeds!!! They sell out insanely fast!), and Territorial. Additionally, Botanical Interests (they have garlic assortments that give you a bulb of a few different varieties), Burpees, Dominion Seed House, Harris Seed, Jung Seed (order early or you will have a slightly mushy bulb based on my experiences), and Cook’s Gardens all receive high ratings on websites like the National Garden Bureau and such, but I’ve found that their quality and selection aren’t as good as SSE and Territorial.  There are many other places that offer garlic too, but as I haven’t tried them, I can’t say for sure if they are worth spending your time with.  If you are in the north, plant hard neck varieties (require winter chilling). If you are in the south, grow soft neck varieties.

2.  When to plant
Most experts say that in areas that get a hard frost before winter, it is recommended that you plant your garlic 6-8 weeks before that frost. While this may work in places other than Wisconsin, I have found that planting my garlic that early makes it not so hardy come winter.  I usually plant mine here in West Central Wisconsin (and in Central or Southern WI when I lived there back when) between October 1-14.  This allows the cloves to get established, but not spend a ton of energy growing.  They need that energy to get through winter!  And it works — even the old timers around use the rule of thumb to plant on Columbus Day (October 12).  If you are in a southern area with no winter, February or March is a better time to plant.

Garlic prefers well-drained soil in a sunny spot with lots of organic matter. It’s a rather narrow plant, so I like to plant it in double rows that are about 6-8 inches apart and then alternate (zig-zag) the plants down the rows to give them a little more space.  Plant the cloves 6-8 inches apart (12 inches if growing Elephant Garlic).  Garlic should be planted 3 inches deep.  Fertilize as you would onions.

3.  To scape or not?

Garlic Scapes
Trimming the tops of hardneck garlic (garlic scapes) is often recommended… but I don’t do it.  I’ve found that it never fails that if you trim them, there will be a rainstorm or heavy dew and the tops will get weird or you will get disease.  Also, letting them mature gives you small bulb-like cloves that you can put into the ground at harvest time and grow for next year’s crop (which I suspect is why the seed companies say cut them off — less profit for them if you let them grow!)

As long as you are properly tending your garlic with water and fertilizer, the bulbs will grow just as big.  If you decide to cut them off, they are edible.

4.  When to harvest
Harvest time depends on when you plant, but the key is to look for the garlic leaves to turn brown. Unlike onions or shallots, they don’t just fall over.  In Northern climates, harvesting will probably be in July or August, depending on the variety. In Southern climates, it will depend on your planting date. Either way, stop watering so the outside skin can dry out a bit and harvest within one week of matuity.  Waiting too long will allow the outer skins to disintegrate.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask!



© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

20-30 Gardening

This is an excerpt from The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff (St. Lynn’s Press, 2014) by Dee Nash.  Dee is a follower of the Horticulture Talk Blog and requested we post it.

Urban farming is a movement sweeping the country: growing food closer to where we live, whether it’s on a condo deck, in a backyard or in a community garden. Statistics show that many of these urban gardeners are in their 20’s or 30’s and are looking for ideas and how-to’s for their own spaces. The 20/30-Something Garden Guide gives that busy, mostly urban, cohort a fun, non-intimidating introduction to the basics of gardening.

Garden expert Dee Nash divides her book into four types and sizes of gardens, starting with “Farming Your Patio, Balcony or Deck,” and giving incremental goals for the first year, and the second and the third. With this guide as a basic roadmap, new gardeners can be as creative and out-of-the-box as they want–it’s theirs to enjoy.

About Her Busy Schedule
Caring for the garden can be worked around tight schedules, including the 40-plus-hour work week and the topsy-turvy lifestyle of new parents—both of which provide little time for the great outdoors. I understand the constraints of a busy schedule. I had three of our four children in six years and also worked full-time outside the home. As a result of my own hectic life, I had to learn to work in 30-minute increments. Was it worth it? Absolutely. There was nothing like pulling into my driveway at the end of the day and seeing containers full of flowers by the front door, welcoming me home.

Why am I writing a book for 20-30 Somethings? Because those were some of the busiest years in my own life, and because two of my children are now 20-30 Somethings themselves. I understand only too well the challenges of trying to “do it all” and still keep some balance, beauty and connection in our days.

Community Gardening
Do you literally have no room to garden? No patio, no balcony, no rooftop? Lucky for you that nearly every city, town and village across the country, community gardens bloom with vibrant good health. Not only can you socialize as you grow, you also benefit by learning about your climate and growing conditions from gardeners nearby who care and want to share.

Why would you want to grow plants with a group of people you hardly know, in someplace other than your home? I can think of at least five reasons:

  1. You want to make friends and gain knowledge
  2. You want to grow more than your own space allows
  3. Your neighborhood association covenants or municipal ordinances don’t allow for front yard garden expression
  4. Your yard is too shady for vegetable production
  5. You’re an extrovert
Community gardens are a way to recreate that neighborly life of yesteryear—a way to bring back the meaning of “neighbor” where one chats with you over the fence or who sweats with you as you sow more seeds.

These gardens are a wealth of information and fun. Most garden organizers see part of their role as catalysts to make the world a better place through education and great food. Gardeners in cities are leading the way by rehabbing vacant lots and remediating urban soils from chemical toxins. They also gather leftover vegetables from local stores and restaurants and make compost.  It’s one more way to keep refuse out of our overburdened landfills and return it to the soil. You can’t help but be inspired. This is community giving, and growing, at its best and most basic.

A Partial List of Dee’s Favorite Beautiful Edibles
Along with beautiful flowers, there’s been an explosion of gorgeous vegetables in recent years. Gone are plain-Jane green beans. They have been replaced with speckled (and even purple!) varieties in both runner and bush bean style. Below are my favorite beauty queen vegetables to delight both your taste buds as well as your eyes.

BEETS: ‘Bull’s Blood’ beet is an heirloom from 1840. I grow this one primarily for its deep burgundy foliage, but I also eat the beets when they’re small. Both the fruit and greens are excellent.
LETTUCE: ‘Redina’ French red-leaf lettuce is so attractive that you may not want to eat it, but leaf lettuces, no matter what the color, are great additions to your garden and taste better than anything you can buy from the store. Darker leaves also contain extra vitamins.
KALE: ‘Lacinato’ kale is still in the greens category, but its leaves are a dusky blue/green. It is tender when small and works well in winter and spring soups. It’s especially sweet after a cold snap.
SWEET PEPPERS: ‘Bullnose’ sweet peppers ripen to a deep red. Their fruit is short and stout with thick walls. A version of ‘Bullnose’ was grown by Thomas Jefferson and although cross-pollination changes heirlooms over time, the ones grown today are considerably larger.
CAYENNE PEPPERS: ‘Long Red Slim’ cayenne peppers stand out in the garden like a spotlight. Although I grow several ornamental peppers just for looks, I think chile peppers, especially cayenne types, are hot in both looks and taste.
SWISS CHARD: ‘Rhubarb’ red Swiss chard is the last on my list of beautiful edibles. I’ve grown all of the popular colors, including pink, yellow and white, but I love the ruby red ones best.

For more inspiration, Dee’s book is available from Amazon, Barnes & NobleSt. Lynn’s Press and other booksellers.