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Charlie’s Mid May Newsletter

Wildflowers for Pollinators, Planting Tomatoes, Organic Food Gardening Webinar Sale Continues, and Honeyberries

blue lupines in flowerAs I write this newsletter I have a long list of garden chores yet to do outside. The cool, rainy weather has been great in our zone 5 garden for transplanting, but the weeds and grass are growing strong. That’s okay. We will catch up and soon I’ll be planting the warm season flowers and veggies such as tomatoes.

One group of plants that we all should be planting more of is wildflowers for pollinators. Instead of No Mowing this May, try sowing wildflowers instead. Even a small patch of perennial wildflowers in your yard will help pollinating insects, not just in May, but all summer and fall. I talk about growing a mini patch of wildflowers for pollinators here.

tomato plantsSpeaking of tomatoes, we are planting ours this weekend. Gardeners in warmer regions already have them in the ground, but we’ve waited due to our cool, rainy spring. But we have raised beds and by this weekend the soil should be dry and warm enough to pop them in. I review all the tips you’ll need to know to grow tomatoes in this newsletter.

My Organic Food Gardening Webinar Sale continues all through this month. Thanks to those who have purchased the 6 webinars package. It’s a 1/2 price sale and you will have the webinars for years as a reference. Learn more about the sale here.

One of my favorite berries will be fruiting soon. Honeyberries are in the honeysuckle family and grow into attractive, small shrubs. They fruit 2 weeks before strawberries yielding dark purple fruits that are great for baking and shakes. Learn more about growing this low maintenance berry in this newsletter.

I’m continuing to highlight some of my most popular webinars. Below is a link to my All About Berries Webinar. If you’re thinking of growing strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or some unusual berries, this webinar is for you. Even if you have some berries already, this is a good way to get some growing tips. Check out this webinar to learn more about Growing Berries in your yard.


Webinar of the Week: All About Berries Webinar

Berries are some of the easiest plants to grow and they’re very rewarding. Strawberries, bluebmix of different berrieserries, raspberries, blackberries and honey berries grow well across the country and fruit in small spaces. To help you get started or to improve your berry growing techniques, I’ve created my All About Berries Webinar.

In my All About Berries Webinar, I talk about the best varieties of the various berries to grow in your area, how to choose a good site to grow berries, prepare the soil and plant berry bushes using different designs. You’ll  learn how to care for plants in the critical first year including watering and weeding tips, how to prune berry bushes, and how to use supports. Also, I include information about insect and animal pests and how to control them safely.

Check out my All About Berries Webinar here


Until next time, I’ll be seeing you in the garden.



Where to Find Charlie: (podcasts, TV and in-person)In the Garden TV tips

Perennial Wildflowers for Pollinators

mix of colorful wildflowers in meadowWhile there’s a lot of press given to No May May as a way to support pollinating insects during this important month for them, I like to take a different track. No Mow May is good for pollinators in May as weeds and wildflowers bloom in your lawn, but what about the rest of summer and fall? I think a better technique is to plant a small, mini-perennial wildflower meadow that will feed pollinators all summer long and be attractive.

The first step is to choose a site that is out of the way and one where you’re okay with it looking a bit “messy” at certain times of the year. This could be a side yard, a corner in your backyard or anywhere pollinators can find the plants. Ideally, it will be in full sun to grow the largest variety of pollinator-friendly, perennial flowers. It can be a small strip or area. Even only 4 feet by 8 feet will work.

White daisies in meadowThen you should choose the flowers. For a small area you can purchase plants, but sometimes seed is better and certainly cheaper. A regional wildflower mix with a combination of annuals, biennials and perennials would work, but I think for long term maintenance and flowering, let’s stick with perennials and self sowing flowers for this patch. Perennial flowers will be able to get established quicker and spread making for less work weeding and maintaining the patch. A Perennial Flower Mix is a good way to start. It has perennials and some self sowing biennials and annuals so you don’t have to replant each year. Certain perennials are no brainers in a pollinator garden patch. Start with early bloomers such as lupines. Then plant summer bloomers such as Shasta daisies, butterfly weed, yarrow and echinacea. For late summer, grow rudbeckia, Joe Pye weed, and penstemon. Finally, for the end the growing season plant aster, perennial sunflowers and compass plants.

Colorful wildflower meadowPrepare the site by covering the grass with layers of newspaper. Add a 6 inch thick layer of compost and topsoil mix on top. Plant right into the soil. The newspaper will help kill the grass. Sow the seeds throughout the area mixing the various flowers together as they would grow in a meadow. Press the seeds into the soil and water well. Keep well watered until the plants grow to a good size. During the first year or two you probably are going to have to weed out undesirable plants. You can even add wood chip mulch once your perennial wildflowers get established. Once mature, the perennials will spread and shade out other weeds. Leave plants all winter, and mow down the patch in spring.

Go here for more on growing a Perennial Wildflower Pollinator Garden

American Meadows Ad with wildflowers

How to Grow: Tomatoes

red tomato fruitsIt’s tomato growing season and time to have a little refresher on growing tomatoes. Most parts of the country have either planted their tomatoes or are about to plant. Here are some tips when planting tomatoes and ways to get them off to a good start this summer. 

  • Select the Right Varieties- If you haven’t started seeds yourself indoors, when buying tomato transplants check the label. Indeterminate tomato varieties, such as ‘Brandywine’ and ‘ Whopper’, will grow huge and need lots of support. Determinate varieties, such as ‘Celebrity’, will grow to about 4 feet tall and stop in mid-season. They produce a good quantity of fruit, but not as much as indeterminate types. Dwarf indeterminates, such as ‘Goodheart’, are a new type of tomato that produce fruits all summer on dwarf plants that stay only a few feet tall.
  • Prepare the soil- Prepare the soil well. We like growing tomatoes in raised beds so the soil warms up faster and drains water quicker. This allows us to plant earlier. Also, raised beds have less weeds and are easier to maintain. We grow using the No-Dig method, but even if you till the soil, add compost and any needed organic fertilizer based on a soil test.
  • trellising cherry tomatoesDecide on Supports- After planting, decide on the supports to keep your tomato plants off the ground. Tomatoes on the ground are more susceptible to insect, disease and animal damage. Create 6 foot tall, sturdy wire cages for large plants. Use large, commercial, circular tomato cages for medium sized plants. Use small cages or stakes for dwarf plants. You can also build a trellis system with teepees and horizontal poles and string to train the plants up. Get creative and check out these ideas on Trellising Tomatoes.
  • Cover the Soil- Cover the soil with organic mulch, such as grass clippings, hay or straw, or plant a companion plant of basil, greens or other herbs in between the plants. You’ll be harvesting this interplanted crop before the tomatoes get too big the shade them out. The interplanted crop will also crowd out any weeds. 
  • tomato hornwormLimb up the Plants– Once established, start limbing up the tomato plant by removing the lower branches, even if they’re healthy. This will slow down foliar diseases, such as early blight, but not curtail tomato production.
  • Maintenance– Keep plants well watered with a soaker or drip hose, add a side dressing of compost in mid summer and companion plant with basil to ward off tomato hornworm insects. Pinch off suckers on indeterminate plants after July 1st. In many areas the new stems that will grow from the suckers won’t have time to flower and fruit before frost.

Hopefully, these tips will get your tomatoes off to a good start and keep the tomato patch healthy and productive.

Go here for more on growing Tomatoes

Organic Food Gardening Webinar Package

Raised Bed Food GardenMay is often the best month to plant a vegetable, herb and fruit garden in many areas of the country. If you’re new to edible gardening, it’s good to have a reference to go back to if you have questions. If you’re an experienced edible gardener, there always are new questions, and new vegetables, to try. For all gardeners I created an Organic Food Gardening Webinar Package to help out.

Organinc Food Gardening Webinar Package photoIn my Organic Food Gardening Webinar Package I bundled together 6 of my most popular vegetable, herb and fruit growing webinars and slashed the price in half! This package contains the webinars on No-Dig Gardening and Raised Beds, Ecological Gardening and Companion Planting, All About Berries, Foodscaping or Edible Landscaping, Soils and Mulches, and Organic Pest Controls. There’s something for everyone in this Organic Food Gardening Webinar Package. My webinars take you from planting and building the soil, to garden design, to pest controls.

Normally these webinars cost $10/each. For the month of May only, I’m selling all 6 webinars for $29.99. That’s a $30 dollar savings.

Barrels with vegetables and herbs growingThe best part of this sale is once you purchase the Organic Food Gardening Webinar Package, you’ll have it for life. You can go back to it again and again to answer common garden questions related to food gardening. The webinars will teach and inspire you to plant more and different edibles in your yard so that you can save money by growing more of your own healthy, safe, nutrition food.   

Learn more about and purchase my Organic Food Gardening Webinar Package here










In Our Garden: Honeyberries

honeyberry bush with purple fruitsWe love growing our own fruits. We have a small orchard with plums, cherries, pears and unusual fruits such as paw paws and persimmon. But most of our fruit comes in the form of berries. Our blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and other berry plants produce in abundance most years.

When we were looking for another berry plant to add to our collection we came across honeyberries or haskap (Lonicera caerulea). Honeyberries are in the honeysuckle family, but are not invasive like some honeysuckle plants. They grow into 2- to 3- foot tall and wide plants that produce an abundance of dark purple fruits each spring two weeks before strawberries produce. It’s our first berry crop of the season!

honeyberry bushesThere are a number of different varieties of honeyberries available to grow. You’ll need two different varieties to get the best pollination and production. We grow ‘Blue Moon’, ‘Blue Velvet’ and ‘Blue Diamond’. They came as bare rooted twigs, but quickly grew. The first year they were 1 foot tall and wide. By the second year, they were 2 feet tall and producing fruits.

The fruits have a wild blackberry/grape flavor. They’re best harvested when they’re ripe enough easiest to fall off the stem for the sweetest flavor. We love them in shakes and for baking. The fruits are loaded with anti-oxidants so are good for you, too.

honeyberry purple fruitsHoneyberries have few insect and disease pests. Our only problem is with the birds. They love the berries as well. Since the plants are so small, it’s easy to lay bird netting over them to protect the berries. We usually harvest a few times to get all the berries we want, then open up the netting to allow the birds to feast on the rest. They usually clean out the bushes in a day or so. When not fruiting, honeyberry bushes look like a dwarf, mounded spirea, so are attractive in the landscape as well.

Go here for more on Honeyberries



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