Great Gift Ideas for Gardeners🎁

Great Gift Ideas for Gardeners

The garden-lovers on your gift list are sure to be pleased with any of the nifty gift ideas below. No need to look any further than these National Garden Bureau members who have a garden’s worth full of great inspirations. To shop all of NGB’s retail members, click here.

Chef’s Garden Gift Set from Harris Seeds

Moon Mini Magnet Succulent Garden, Set of 3 from Gardeners Supply

Love to Garden Ornament from Burpee

TubTrug from Johnnys Selected Seeds

ProPlugger Planting Tool

Gift certificates are a much-appreciated idea for gardeners dreaming about their 2017 seed purchases!

Brent and Becky’s Bulbs
Cobrahead Tools
Edmunds Roses
Jung Seed
McClure & Zimmerman
NatureHills Nursery
Longfield Gardens
Proven Winners
RH Shumway
Roots & Rhizomes
Select Seeds
Totally Tomatoes

Vermont Bean Seed Co.

Cottage Bee House from Park Seed

Automatic Watering System for Pots from American Meadows

Book on Monarchs from St. Lynn’s Press

Fermenting Crocks from Territorial Seed

Kitchen Linen Towels from Sustainable Seed

Take our poll! What do you think?

Hey everyone!  It’s Mertie Mae here!

As a busy entrepreneur, horticulturist, gardener, office holder, wife, mommy, daughter, and some days a Jill of all trades, my life has become just a bit busier than it was when I started this blog in 2009.

Way back then, I was working for a seed company and was doing this blog as my ‘stress reliever’ – let’s just say that a lot of the things I witnessed each day went against my personal beliefs.  My boss likely meant well, but he lacked the most up-to-date information for his position and he was more concerned about making the big bucks instead of necessarily doing things in a 100% morally and physically correct way.  Throw in people in positions that really didn’t have the skill set or education to be in their position (don’t we all know people like that???), and you get me:  little overworked horticulturist that wrote blog articles by night so she could do the right thing for other gardeners.

Now it is late 2016.  A big move, leaving my job in a blaze of glory, starting my own business, getting married, and having babies has become all part of the picture now.  If/When I want to find someone that doesn’t like what I am up to, it usually involves my neighbor that drives by creeper-style to make sure I am not crossing the property line.  All said, life is good, quiet, and much more stress-free.

I know I don’t post as much as I used to – partially because I lack questions to respond to and partially because some days it just doesn’t happen.  Often times I will put up a post that I am really excited about or think everyone will love… only to have it get maybe 100 views a month (quite low ratings).  Then I put up a post that I have reservations about (“ugh, this one will be boring”) and I get over 100K views in a month. Huh?

I want to be in touch with my readers and be helping you!  The entire reason to start this was to break away from the cookie cutter horticulture pages out there that are simply a regurgitation of somebody else’s thought.  Or to break away from the product descriptions in catalogs and the paid company plants on forums that extrole the virtues of said products. Or to just give a perspective that isn’t “plant the seed and spray the chemicals and sit around all summer and you will have a beautiful garden”.

However, in order to be in touch with you, I need your help!  Below is a survey to give me some perspective for my future endeavors.  I want to be putting out content that makes you excited to stop by this page and read. In a world where most blogs are sponsored by someone and are trying to get you to buy something you don’t need, mine is straight up mine.  Tell me what you want, and I will deliver!

Click here to take the poll!

Thanks for your time and I look forward to your responses!





Is Your Argonaut Green?

I just picked an Argonaut squash about 24″ long weight about 10 + lbs. but was dark green in surface color. Ran all the photo’s I could find of those that I had planted.

Does this variety remain green and then change to Orange when it becomes ripe or ready to pick -today is 10/27/2016-L.I.,N.Y.

(See Carrolle’s question here )


Hi Carrolle,

Thank you for the email regarding your Argonaut Butternut Squash.  Sounds
like you have grown a typical Argonaut!  It never ceases to amazing me as to
how large the fruits can get.

Image result for argonaut squash
Argonaut is a little bit different from other butternuts in that it starts
out green and turns to gold (other butternuts start out buff and turn tan).
It will turn when it is ripe — usually about 125-140 days after planting or
transplanting is when you will see it start to color up.

If your growing season is not long enough to allow the fruit to mature, it
may be possible to use it green.  The closer it is to ripening, the easier
it will be to use.  Many people use green squash and pumpkins as a
substitute in zucchini and apple dishes or in dishes that call for marrow or
courgette squashes.  The only thing would be that you need to use the squash
up fast because unripe squashes don’t have a long shelf life.



© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2016. 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.

Four Ways to Invite Pollinators to Your Edible Garden

Invite Pollinators for Dinner
Pollinators are critical to a bountiful fruit and vegetable harvest.
Year of the Delphinium
Register your pollinator garden HERE!
As winter thaws and the spring gardening season begins, the National Pollinator Garden Network has an important message for those about to plant vegetables, fruiting shrubs and trees, and other types of edibles: Pollinators are critical to the success of your harvest.

From the zucchini patch to the apple orchard, honeybees, butterflies, bumblebees and other pollinators visit flowers in the search for food. While doing so they also transfer pollen from flower to flower and plant to plant. Without this process, chances of setting fruit are low to nil for many species in today’s edibles garden.

Pollinators are the workhorses of not just home gardens and landscapes, but also the millions of acres of farms in the U.S. They are responsible for one in every three bites of food Americans eat each day. For those who grow their own food, that number could be even larger during the growing season. The key to a bountiful harvest is encouraging the many species of pollinators to visit the garden, and to visit often.

Attracting Pollinators to the Edibles Garden
Attracting pollinators to the edibles garden requires deliberate actions on the part of the gardener. Here are a few suggestions for increasing the chances they’ll make a stop—and keep visiting throughout the season:

1. Plant flowers near edibles. With a few exceptions, vegetable plants don’t have the bright and showy flowers that pull in passing pollinators. Native flowering perennials and shrubs will be familiar and attractive to local pollinators. Annual flowers such as marigolds, zinnias and sunflowers are also pollinator favorites. Check with your local garden center for suggestions for the best pollinator-attracting plants for your area.
2. Plant in groups. Choose one type of flower and plant them in a group covering 10 sq. ft. or more, increasing the chances pollinators will see them and drop in for a visit.
3. Find the best location. Make the flower plantings suitable for pollinators by situating them in a sunny place with minimal disturbance from wind and foot traffic.
4. Provide shelter. Encourage pollinators to live nearby so they visit often. Beehives are just one option. Many pollinator species create tunnels and nests underground or in trees. Leave a patch of bare ground for pollinators to dig nests, and provide a wood block drilled with small holes for those tunneling insects.

Register your pollinator garden HERE!
The Pollinator Challenge 

The National Pollinator Garden Network has created the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge which encourages Americans to plant and register 1 million pollinator gardens by the end of 2016. From window boxes to expansive landscapes, community plots to patio tomatoes, every garden that is planted with pollinators in mind gives honeybees, butterflies, bumblebees and others a chance to thrive.

The National Pollinator Garden Network is led by the national gardening and habitat organizations American Public Gardens Association,, National Wildlife Federation and Pollinator Partnership and is joined by the horticulture industry organizations AmericanHort, American Seed Trade Association, Home Garden Seed Association and National Garden Bureau with significant support from network partner GrowIt! mobile. These organizations believe that helping our nation’s pollinator species survive and build their populations and contribute to our food system is a responsibility all Americans share. The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge has three simple steps for gardeners:

  1. Plant for pollinators
  2. Register your garden
  3. Keep the challenge growing

Join the cause at

Know Your Pumpkins!

Reposted with permission of the National Garden Bureau:


It’s Fall, Y’All! The season for everyone’s favorite…Pumpkins!

Native to North America, pumpkins are a type of winter squash, genus Cucurbita, that are a category all their own, species pepo or maxima (this species is for the really big pumpkins). At this time of year, the market is filled with many different types of pumpkins besides the basic orange globe. If you see an unusual one at your market, try it for a different look in your fall decorations or as a completely different culinary taste treat.
By the way, did you know pumpkins are technically a fruit, not a vegetable?
Enjoy your exploration!

Hijinks Pumpkin
Looking for pumpkins that are petite, round and have a sweeter flesh, perfect for pie making? Try Hijinks (left) and Baby Bear (right) both All-America Selections Winners. These pumpkins are petite and round and have a sweeter flesh, perfect for pie making and baking. Their smaller size makes them the go-to choice for younger children when pumpkin picking because they are “Just my size!”
Cinderella’s Carriage (left) is a recent All-America Selections Winner and was hybridized from the French heirloom Cinderella that dates back to the 1800s. The flesh is dense, mildly sweet (good for use in pies and soups) and the shape is said to have inspired the pumpkin shaped coach in the fairy tale of the same name.
Wee-B-Little Pumpkin
Munchkin Pumpkin
Wee-B-Little (left) is another All-America Selections Winner. Munchkin (right) is a shorter, Cinderella shaped miniature pumpkin, both of which are great to display in multiples for fall decorations. Miniature pumpkins are easy to grow and quite productive, usually producing about a dozen fruits per plant.
Jarrahdale Pumpkin
This lovely, decorative pumpkin with stunning blue-green skin is an heirloom from New Zealand. It’s a medium-sized fruit with mild, sweet aromatic golden-yellow flesh.
Don’t be put off by the look! Those warty-looking growths are actually sugar secretions over a light pink skin which mean this type of pumpkin has one of the sweetest non-fibrous flesh of all pumpkins so it produces a smooth, creamy and deliciously delicate and fluffy puree. Galeux d’Eysines is one variety to try.
Pepitas Pumpkin
Super Moon Pumpkin
Every year, it seems that new novelty pumpkins can be found in the market.  This year, you’ll find two new AAS Winners to add to the list: Pepitas Pumpkin and Super Moon.  Pepitas pumpkins are a decorative orange and green and named for its hulless or naked seeds (pepitas) that lack the tough outer hull making them easy to eat after slow-roasting. Super Moon, a new white pumpkin on the market, can grow up to 50 lbs (Cucurbita maxima as referenced above!)!

For more information: Contact Diane Blazek at National Garden Bureau by e-mail.

Founded in 1920, the National Garden Bureau is a non-profit organization whose mission is to disseminate basic instructions for backyard gardeners and those who want to garden, that will inspire them to spend more time outdoors, enjoying all nature has to offer. 

Growing Spinach through the Winter in Wisconsin

“There is a fellow around here who plants bulk spinach in his garden each fall and then harvests it in early spring. I’ve only heard about this guy; I’ve never actually met him, so I can’t ask any questions. Do you know whether it actually is possible to plant spinach in the fall? If so, which variety would you suggest? We have a 20 foot X 20 foot plot we plan to plant out. I usually plant it with winter rye to prevent erosion, but this alternative sounded really nice.

John Mueller”



Hi John,

Thank you for the post regarding spinach.  Yes, it is possible to grow spinach in Wisconsin during the winter, but you have to have a few tricks to get around old man winter.

I’m not sure if you and I are thinking of the same farmer, but there is one down by Paoli or Monroe that does this as a business and sells spinach through the winter at the Madison Farmer’s Market.  I want to say the lady’s name is Judy Hagman or Hageman or something similar, because she spoke to our organic horticulture class when I was in graduate school.
The way that spinach can be grown here is by using a high tunnel, which is a form of hoop house.  If you are not familiar with them, they are pretty much like a poly-plastic greenhouse.  The heating inside comes from the sun and there usually is no mechanical equipment like fans and heaters involved.  Depending on the parameters of a farmer’s operation, they may be stationary or moveable.  They can be used to extend a growing season (planting corn or tomatoes in April inside) or to use over the winter.

Spinach planted in the autumn can be harvested with repeated cuttings through the winter and into the spring. Autumn planting date is critical to winter harvests.  Through the short cold days of winter spinach continues to grow, but at a much, much reduced rate.  This growth reduction takes effect around mid-November around here.  Autumn crops must grow vegetatively before this time to carry the crop through the winter.  Usually a good time to plant to get crop to the proper stage of growth is in September.

If you are interested in having your own high tunnel, I recommend first checking out a book called “The Four Season Harvest” by Eliot Coleman.  You can get it from your local library or you can purchase it online or in person at Barnes and Noble (because they usually have at least one on the shelf when I’m looking for new books in that area. Coleman is from Maine and he is VERY knowledgeable about how to grow just about everything in high tunnels — and even has one attached onto his house.  Definitely a good read.

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!, 2016. 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.