If you are starting a new garden or replacing an existing one, here is some general information that may help you decide what to plant and where to plant it.




 

Q:  I love Hostas, but all my gardens get 4-to-5 hours of sun.  Are there varieties that will tolerate the sun? 

A:  Hostas…Sun, Partial Sun, or Shade?

A simple rule to follow with Hostas:  Those with yellow leaves or fragrant flowers can withstand sun better than green, blue, or white-and-green leaved varieties.  And the key to success with Hostas planted in partial to full sun is water—gardeners must provide enough water to keep the soil moist which provides the ‘strength’ if you will, to withstand the sun and heat.

Generally, yellow Hostas should be located in a sunny spot to keep their color vibrant.  If these Hostas do not get at least a couple hours of full sun, their color will fade to green, or even more disappointing, appear to be a green leaf that is turning yellow.

Like the yellow Hostas, fragrant Hostas need the same sunny location for full development of their flowers.  Hosta plantaginea is one of the most sun-tolerant, and a parent of many excellent Hosta cultivars with fragrant flowers (see below).

Your Hostas will let you know if they are unhappy.  Signs of too much sun are browning leaf tips or edges, and dull colored leaves or faded spots on the leaves.  These faded spots are actually patches of sunburned tissue, which will eventually die and drop out, leaving a hole in the leaf. Make sure you water them enough, and if you determine that they are better suited to a shady location, you can dig them up and move them…any time.  Hostas are hardy, durable, and will not suffer a from a move…just remember to water after replanting.

The following are some sun-tolerant Hostas:

·          Yellow Hostas: ‘August Moon’, ‘Gold Drop’, ‘Gold Regal’, ‘Golden Sculpture’, ‘Rising Sun’, ‘Rosedale Golden Goose’, ‘Squash Casserole’, ‘Sum and Substance’, ‘Sun Power’, ‘Vanilla Cream’

·          Yellow Variegated Hostas: ‘Golden Tiara’, ‘Inniswood’, ‘Paul’s Glory’, ‘Regal Splendor’, ‘Sundance’

·          Fragrant Hostas: H. plantaginea, ‘Aphrodite’, ‘Fragrant Bouquet’, ‘Fried Green Tomatoes', ‘Guacamole’, ‘Honeybells’, Invincible', ‘Royal Standard’, ‘Summer Fragrance’, ‘So Sweet’, ‘Sugar & Cream’

·          White Variegated Hostas: H. undulata ‘Albomarginata’, ‘Francee’, ‘Heartsong’, ‘Minuteman’, ‘Patriot’

·          Green Hostas: ‘Honeybells’, ‘Invincible’, ‘Royal Standard’

Some Hostas that will do well in partial sun include 'Blue Angel', sieboldiana 'Elegans', 'Halcyon', and 'Krossa Regal'.  Check out http://gardening.about.com/od/perennials/qt/Sun_Hosta.htm for more information about growing Hostas successfully in sun or part sun.

Q:  Each year my Hostas become riddled with holes by late summer.  What can I do to prevent this?

A:  In most cases, the damage you have described is caused by slugs.  Hostas are a particular favorite of slugs, although other perennials also are affected, particularly in wet seasons.  In order to reduce slug populations, clean up all plant debris in the fall each year to reduce the habitat for over-wintering slugs.  Slugs become active in early spring, mating and laying their masses of round, clear eggs while the temperatures are still quite cool.  Continue clean-up measures in the spring and cultivate the soil to destroy egg masses.  Then begin applications of slug bait during May and continue throughout the summer.  Read the label on the package of slug bait you intend to purchase – some (but not all) baits are toxic to pets.  The practice of setting out shallow containers of beer to attract the slugs has been proven to be effective, although emptying and re-filling the containers can become a nuisance.  Gritty materials (such as crushed egg shells, finely ground limestone or chick-grit) placed around the plants will deter the soft-bodied slugs.  You also can trap slugs by placing wet boards near the plants.  The slugs will crawl under the boards, where you can collect and destroy them.

Q:  What is meant by full sun and partial sun?  I see these terms on plant identification tags quite often.

 A:  Full sun means the location receives sun all day long, usually 6-8 hours of sun or more each day.  These locations are normally in an open area with no trees or buildings blocking the sun from any angle, or in a south or southwestern exposure with no trees blocking the sun.  Partial sun normally means the planting area receives 4-6 hours of direct sun.  Partial shade on the other hand, defines a location that receives about 2 hours of sun, or filtered light throughout the day. And finally, shade categorizes a garden spot with no direct sun, and little filtered light during the day.

 

Q:  Is spring or fall the best time to plant perennials?

A:  Both!  Spring and fall are usually cooler, with more precipitation, yet warm enough to provide the perfect growing environment to promote new root growth.  However, perennials can also be planted during the summer; just remember that they will need more frequent watering to help them get established. When planting, make sure to loosen the roots of pot-bound plants before placing them in the ground.  Mixing in some sphagnum peat moss can help provide both moisture control and good soil aeration.

 

Q:  I would like to put in some perennial beds, but my soil isn’t very good.  What is your suggestion for amending the soil?

A: 
One of the best amendments for soil is available for free, right in your own backyard.  Here at Specialty Growers, all of our beds are amended each fall with what I call “leaf-mulch.”  Fallen autumn leaves are put through a shredder, and the resulting mulch is applied to the beds. (You can also run over the leaves with a lawn mower to achieve the same effect.)  We put the shredded leaves around the perennials, not over them. As the leaves decompose, they add nutrients and improve soil structure.  Leaf mulch is effective in improving both sandy and clay soils.  In sandy soils, it adds organic matter, which increases the soil’s moisture-holding capacity.  In clay soils, the decomposing leaves break up tight clay particles and improve aeration.  In both cases, decomposing leaves add valuable nutrients.  This enriched soil also provides an ideal environment for beneficial microbes, further enhancing the health of the soil.  Do not be overly concerned about the type of leaves available. Almost all leaves (including oak leaves) are beneficial when shredded before use.

 

Q:  I would like to grow a vegetable garden.  How do I begin?

A Vegetable gardening is one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling forms of gardening.  The benefits are many:  you can grow the vegetables your family enjoys; you can grow them organically if that is a priority for you, and you’ll save money on your grocery bill.

 If you are attempting veggie gardening for the first time, a little pre-planting planning goes a long way.  First, choose your garden site.  Vegetables require full sun—eight hours or more a day.  It should be located near a water supply, hoses, etc.  Gardens need to be watered regularly, especially during the dry months of July and August, and toting hoses sometimes becomes a chore.  You don’t want to take the fun out of it!  

Start small at first, and as you become more confident, increase your space the following year.  A good size to begin with is an 8 foot or 12 foot square.  You’ll be surprised just how many vegetables you can grow in this small space.  Mark off the perimeter, and add a stake and chicken wire fencing all around to keep the critters out.  At this time, you might determine whether you need to add any soil, such as top soil or garden soil, so that the garden bed is high enough for proper drainage.   

Then rototill the ground and add compost, or another type of nutrient rich soil additive like leaf mulch, grass clippings, or manure.  Continue turning the soil to make sure the organic matter is worked in completely.  Adding nutrients should become an ongoing practice—fall leaves should be mulched and thrown in the garden.  It’s easy to making your own compost bin (a 5’x5’ fence with 4 stakes) into which you’ll toss leaves, grass clippings, kitchen scraps (no meat or dairy), a little dirt, and non-diseased garden waste.  As this matter decays, it becomes humus—the black gold your vegetable plants will love!   Protect your garden’s fertile soil by not overworking it, and never work it when the soil is excessively wet or dry.

Pay attention to your local last frost dates, and plant accordingly.  Watch the weather reports for frosty nights that can occur after the frost dates, as you will have to protect your plants from frost damage.  Use plastic milk jugs, upside down pots or pails, newspapers, sheeting material, but never allow plastic to touch the plant. 

Selecting vegetables for your garden is both fun and difficult at the same time, as there are so many to choose from.  For beginners, stick with the easier-to-grow types, and then graduate to more difficult ones later.  Some of the easiest include tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, pole or bush beans, squash (both summer and winter varieties), lettuce, radishes, Swiss chard, kale, beets, and most herbs. 

Spacing…  Should you go with the old standard of rows, all neat and in order?  This method is tried and true, and works well with a square or rectangular garden.  Or try arranging the garden into 3’x3’ squares, allowing walking and working space between the squares.  Sow a band of lettuce on the outer edge, with Swiss chard plants down the center, and basil plants just inside the lettuce.  Always remember where the sun shines…you’ll want taller plants such as tomatoes toward the rear of the garden so they don’t cast a shadow on the other shorter growing plants.   

Again, remember to water well after planting, and routinely when there’s no rain.  Most gardeners also use some form of fertilizer.  There are many to choose from.  Some are organic and earth friendly.  Some are made especially for tomatoes—some simply for vegetables.  Read the labels to select the type you prefer, and follow the instructions on the package for application amounts and frequency. 

Succession planting allows an even larger number of vegetables to be grown in a small space.  This practice calls for planting another vegetable as soon as one is harvested and the plant is spent.  Get to know the early cool-season veggies (lettuce, radish, peas, broccoli etc) to plant first and the hot weather ones to plant afterwards.  For example, when the spring lettuce is tired, plant some beans or Swiss chard in its place.  You can also create more space by using cane teepees and trellises to help plants like cucumbers and peas grow up rather vining across the garden. 

When harvesting your vegetables, do so when they are ready.  This keeps the plant producing as abundantly as possible.  Procrastinating will result in wasted and rotted food, or an overabundance all at one time.  Always use scissors or garden snips when ‘picking’ vegetables; pulling and tugging at the plants may damage them. 

Another great thing about having your own vegetable garden is that you can grow what you and your family like to eat.  There are many wonderful heirloom vegetables that are not available in the grocery store.  Heirloom tomatoes are especially tasty! 

Don’t forget about container gardening, or growing vegetables and herbs among your flowers.

There’s nothing like walking out onto your deck or porch to pick fresh veggies and herbs for dinner.  And smart gardeners find open spaces to squeeze in a basil plant here, a rosemary plant there, and some Swiss chard behind the sedum in their perennial gardens.  Good luck and good eats!

 

Q:  What is the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes?

A:  Determinates ripen their fruits over a period of 3-4 weeks, on bushy vines that require little or no staking.  Indeterminate vines continue to grow, bloom and produce fruit all season, until frost.  These longer, taller vines need support, and the plants can become quite large.  There are determinate and indeterminate varieties of all types of tomatoes: cherry, grape, plum, and large round tomatoes.  Most heirloom tomato varieties are indeterminate.  

 

Q:  Can I plant tomatoes in pots?

A:  Absolutely!  Growing tomatoes in pots and even hanging baskets on the deck or balcony can be a very satisfying gardening experience.  It’s wonderful to be able to open your door and harvest your dinner!  The best varieties for growing in pots are the determinate varieties, which produce smaller, shorter, and better-behaved vines than the indeterminate varieties.  Determinates will be easier to manage in pots, and require less staking.  Small-fruited varieties, such as cherry, grape, and plum tomatoes, are also popular for container gardening.  Be aware, though, that many cherry and grape tomatoes produce large, indeterminate vines – check the plant tag for this information before choosing tomatoes for growing in pots.  Even large-fruited varieties can be grown in pots, but you may have to provide some support for the heavy fruits.  You may also want to choose varieties that have an early maturity date, so you don’t have to grow them all summer long to get ripe tomatoes..  For container growing, we recommend a tomato variety that matures in 75 days or less.  Again, this information is available on the plant tags.  Some good varieties for growing in containers include ‘Celebrity’, ‘Health Kick’, ‘Patio’, ‘Roma’, ‘Siberian’, Tumbling Tom’, and the ‘Husky’ series.  

Keep in mind that tomatoes in pots require frequent watering and fertilizing; pots and hanging baskets don’t retain moisture like the soil in a garden does.  Provide nutrients for your potted tomato plants by mixing in a slow-release fertilizer at the time of potting, or use liquid fertilizer when you water the plants. 

 

Q:  I'd love to plant some ornamental grasses but I’m intimidated by their size and care.  What can you recommend?

A:  Ornamental grasses, when used with complementing perennials, can bring your garden to life with movement, texture and sound.  Most grasses are drought tolerant and require only once-a- year care and very little fertilizing.  Because of their delayed appearance in spring, many gardeners plant early-blooming bulbs and perennials in the vicinity of the grasses, to fill the void until the grasses begin to grow.  The most difficult thing about growing grasses is deciding which ones to choose!  Start with an evaluation of the environment and site for the grass; is it in full sun or shade, dry or moist, heavy soil or sand?  There is an ornamental grass for every garden situation.

Care of the taller grasses, like the sun-loving Miscanthus, Panicum, and Erianthus, may seem like a daunting task—particularly when confronted with a mature specimen at its peak.  However, with a schedule, gardeners can care for these big beauties easily…and without a creating a “chainsaw massacre!”  The majority of grasses should be cut down to 2-4 inches from the ground in spring before they start growing; leave them standing over the fall and winter for ornamental effect during the off-season.  The best way to manage the large grasses is to keep a log of when you plant them, monitor their growth, and plan to divide them after 3 or 4 years.  At that time, they should be dug up and split.  If you keep to this schedule, you’ll be able to accomplish the task with a shovel, sturdy boots, hand pruners or hedge shears for the stems, and a handsaw for splitting the roots—wait any longer, and you’ll have to bring in the army.  Time ages a grass; their stems and roots become tougher and thicker.  If a grass has been left to grow for many years, you’ll most likely find a dead zone in the center -- a circle where it is no longer growing.  A grass in this condition should be lifted entirely out of the ground, cut into viable sections (the dead parts discarded) and a smaller division replanted.  The best time to split grasses is the spring, before active growth begins.  At that time of year, you’ll be cutting back last year’s dry foliage, and you can accomplish both tasks at the same time.

The medium-height grasses require much the same care as the larger, taller ones.  Cut them to the ground in spring and split them every 3-4 years.  Shorter grasses, such as Hakonechloa, Carex, Festuca and Helictotrichon don’t need to be divided quite so often, and can usually be maintained by closely cutting them to the ground each spring.  Some Carex varieties are semi-evergreen and can be kept looking good by simply removing any old, browned leaves.

Certain grasses can self-sow in the garden, and the excess seedlings become a nuisance. We recommend cutting these types back in late fall, after you have enjoyed their ornamental plumes, so that the viable seed is removed before it falls to the ground. Chasmanthium, the Northern Sea Oats, is quite fertile, so we like to harvest the long, elegant flowering stems in November. They make excellent dried arrangements which last for years indoors.  In some environments, Pennisetum, Panicum, and Schizachyrium can also become self-sowers.  Depending on the site, this can be a plus or a minus – for instance, if you are establishing a native meadow planting of Schizachyrium, the Little Bluestem, the surplus seedlings can aid in filling out the site.  However, in warmer climates (zone 7 and warmer) the self-sowing habit of many Fountain Grasses (Pennisetum) and some varieties of Maiden Grass (Miscanthus) has caused some professionals to reassess the use of these grasses in environmentally sensitive sites. In the north (zones 4, 5 and the colder parts of zone 6), these grasses rarely pose problems with self-seeding, because our growing season is too short for viable seed to be produced.

For more information on selecting ornamental grasses for your garden, please see the Grass section of our Catalog.

 

Q:  What is the difference between an annual, a perennial and a biennial?

A:  An annual is a plant that completes its entire growth cycle in one season.  In the temperate climates, annuals are killed by freezing temperatures in fall and winter.  Depending on the species and variety, annuals may produce viable seed, which drops and germinates the following year.  This process is referred to as self-sowing.  Often gardeners mistake self-sowing annuals for perennials, because they are “back again” the following year.  Some examples of self-sowing annuals are cosmos, cleome, larkspur, Euphorbia marginata and Verbena bonariensis.  Many annuals do not produce viable seed in temperate zones, and, hence, cannot be depended on to “return” the following year. 

Perennials are plants that have “hardy” roots and can survive freezing temperatures. The leafy portion of the plant usually dies down to the ground each fall/winter, and new shoots emerge the following spring.  Examples of this type of perennial are numerous and include astilbe, bleeding heart, daylily, peony and hosta. Some perennials do not die to the ground in the winter, but retain some foliage all year long.  Examples include candytuft (Iberis) and creeping phlox. The foliage of these perennials should not be cut to the ground during routine fall garden clean-up.  Doing so will reduce the flowering of these plants in the spring.
 
Another group of perennials produces woody or semi-woody stems, which may remain over the winter.  These perennials are sometimes referred to as sub-shrubs and include lavender, Russian sage, butterfly bush and certain varieties of Artemisia.  Pruning of these perennials is usually done in the spring.
 
Tender perennials are plants that, though perennial by nature, are not hardy in our zone, and are usually treated like annuals.  If proper over-wintering conditions can be provided, they may be dug, held over winter, and re-planted in the spring.
 
A biennial is a plant that takes two full years to complete its life cycle.  During the first year, the plant produces only vegetative growth and does not flower.  The foliage that forms is often referred to as a “rosette” because of its circular, low-growing habit.  During the second year, the plant enters the reproductive phase and produces flowers.  After maturation and dispersal of the seed, the lifecycle has been completed, and the original plant usually dies. 

Gardeners are often confused by the growth cycle of the biennial, and are additionally disappointed by the short lifecycle.  However, there are a several ways to handle biennials that are much more satisfying for the gardener.  Since the goal of the biennial is to reproduce through the spread of its seed, the gardener can remove the flowers just as soon as they have faded, preventing the plant from maturing its seed.  In this way the gardener may “trick” the plant into “believing” that it has not accomplished its goal in life.  It may return for a third year to bloom and attempt to produce seed again.  At Specialty Growers, we have kept common biennial foxgloves alive for five years, simply by never allowing the plants to form seed.  The same can be accomplished with the biennial Sweet William. 

Another satisfying way for gardeners to handle biennials is to allow the plant to form seed and establish colonies through self-sowing.  In order to provide a continual display of flowering-stage plants, the gardener should purchase young non-blooming vegetative plants for two successive years.  In this way, there will always be some blooming and non-blooming plants in the garden.  The non-blooming plants will, of course, bloom the following year.


Q:  I would like to attract butterflies to my garden.  How can I create an attractive garden that also suits their needs?

A:  Plant your butterfly garden in a sunny location.  Butterflies need both warmth and sunlight.  If possible, avoid windy locations, because butterflies prefer to feed in a calm environment.  Like all creatures, butterflies need a source of water.  In nature, you’ll notice that butterflies congregate around mud puddles. In the garden, provide a shallow dish of water or create a depression filled with sand or soil that is constantly kept wet.  Butterflies prefer nectar-rich flowers, particularly those with wide, open-shaped blooms that can serve as a landing pad or pedestal.  Flat-topped corymbs, like Yarrow and Sedum, and daisy-like flowers are good examples of flower shapes that attract butterflies.  Butterflies seem to prefer brightly colored flowers. 

Never use pesticides in a garden designed for butterflies.  Since caterpillars are the immature stage of the butterfly, it’s essential that you do not harm them, or you will have no butterflies!  Butterflies themselves require a source of nectar, but their larvae may require a totally different plant as a food source.  Remember, the larvae eat leaves, so expect some damage to foliage.  Many weeds, trees and shrubs also provide food for the larvae. The following lists will help you choose perennials that suit both life stages.

Food sources for Butterflies:

These perennials will attract butterflies, which use the nectar as a food source:
Achillea (Yarrow)
Allium (Ornamental onion, Chives)
Alyssum
Armeria (Sea Pink)
Asclepias species (Butterfly Weed)
Aster
Buddleia (Butterfly Bush)
Catananche (Cupid=s Dart)
Centranthus ruber (Jupiter’s Beard)
Cephalaria (Pincuchion)
Coreopsis (Tickseed)
Dianthus (Pinks)
Dictamnus (Gas Plant)
Echinacea (Coneflower)
Echinops (Globe Thistle)
Eupatorium (Joe-Pye Weed)
Gaillardia (Blanketflower)
Helenium (Sneezeweed)
Iberis (Candytuft)
Lavandula (Lavender)
Leucanthemum (Shasta Daisy)
Liatris (Gayfeather)
Lilium (Lily)
Lobelia (Cardinal Flower and hybrids)
Lupinus (Lupine)
Malva (Mallow)
Monarda (Bee Balm)
Phlox
Physostegia (Obedient Plant)
Primula (Primrose)
Salvia
Scabiosa (Pincushion)
Sedum (Stonecrop)
Tanacetum (Painted Daisy and Feverfew)
Teucrium (Germander)
Verbena
Veronica (Speedwell)


Food sources for larvae (caterpillars)

To create a perfect habitat for butterflies, provide a source of food for larvae as well.  These plants are usually different species than those used as a nectar source.
 
Alcea (Hollyhock) - Checkered Skipper, Painted Lady
Anaphalis (Pearly Everlasting) - American Painted Lady
Antennaria (Pussytoes) - American Painted Lady
Arabis (Rock Cress) – Falcate Orangetip
Artemisia – American Painted Lady
Asclepias incarnata (Milkweed) - Monarch
Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed) - Monarch
Aster - Northern Checkerspot, Pearl Crescent
Baptisia (False Indigo) - Gray Hairstreak
Chelone (Turtlehead) - Baltimore
Dill - Black Swallowtail
Fennel - Black Swallowtail
Leontopodium (Eidelweiss) - American Painted Lady
Lupinus (Lupine) - Orange Sulphur
Malva (Mallow) - Gray Hairstreak, Checkered Skipper
Parsley - Black Swallowtail      
Sunflower  - Silvery Checkerspot, Gorgone Checkerspot
Violet - Great Spangled Frittilary
 

Q:  We have a Black Walnut in our yard.  Are there any plants that can be grown in its vicinity?

A:  Gardening beneath or near a black walnut tree can be challenging.  The roots of the black walnut exude a substance called juglone, which is toxic to many plant species. This property is known as allelopathy and is a protective devise used by plants to help preserve their resources.  Plants growing near an allelopathic plant absorb the toxins and fail to thrive. In some cases, they are killed outright.  In this way, the allelopathic plant has less competition for soil moisture, nutrients, and sunlight. 
 

The following plants have been shown to grow reasonably well near a black walnut.

Perennials

Achillea (Yarrow)
Anemone
Antennaria (Pussytoes)
Arisaema (Jack-in-the-Pulpit)
Asplenium (Spleenwort Fern)
Aster
Athyrium (Lady Fern)
Dennstaedtia (Hay-Scented Fern)
Dryopteris marginalis (Wood Fern)
Erigeron (Fleabane)
Eupatoirum coelestinum (Mist Flower)
Eupatorium purpureum (Joe-Pye)
Gallium (Sweet Woodruff)
Geranium
Geum (Avens)
Helenium (Sneezeweed)
Helianthus (Sunflower)
Heuchera (Coralbells, Alumroot)
Lespedeza (Bush Clover)
Lobelia syphilitica (Great Lobelia)
Oenothera (Evening Primrose)
Onoclea sensibilis (Sensitive Fern)
Podophyllum (May Apple)
Polystichum (Christmas Fern)
Pycnanthemum (Mountain Mint)
Rudbeckia (Brown-eyed Susan)
Sedum
Sisyrinchium (Blue-eyed Grass)
Solidago (Goldenrod)
Verbascum (Mullien)
Vernonia (Ironweed)
Veronica (Speedwell)


Trees and Shrubs
Acer rubrum (Red Maple)
Acer saccharum (Sugar Maple)
Amelanchier (Serviceberry)
Betula nigra (River Birch)
Celastrus scandens (Bittersweet)
Cercis canadensis (Redbud)
Chionanthus virginicus (Fringetree)
Clematis virginiana (Virginsbower)
Cornus alternifolia (Pagoda Dogwood)
Cornus floridus (Flowering Dogwood)
Crataegus (Hawthorn)
Fagus grandiflora (Amer. Beech)
Gleditsia triacanthos (Honeylocust)
Halesia carolina (Silverbell)
Hamamelis virginiana (Witchhazel)
Hypericum prolificum (St. Johnswort)
Ilex opaca (American Holly)
Liquidambar (Sweetgum)
Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip Tree)
Nyssa sylvatica (Black Gum)
Picea abies (Norway Spruce)
Pinus strobus (White Pine)
Platanus occidentalis (Sycamore)
Quercus coccineus (Scarlet Oak)
Quercus rubra (Red Oak)
Thuja occidentalis (Arborvitae)
Tillia americana (Basswood)
Tsuga canadensis (Canada Hemlock)
Viburnum prunifolium (Blackhaw)


Q:   Would like to grow my own herbs.  Are herb plants easy to grow?

A:  Herbs can be grown in any sunny location in the garden.  Although a separate herb garden can be a delight to all of the senses, herbs are just as happy growing in the vegetable or flower garden.  Their primary requirements are full sun and well-drained soil.  Many herbs, including thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage and savory, are of Mediterranean origin and therefore are quite tolerant of drought and low fertility.  Do not keep these types too moist, and use fertilizer sparingly.  Growing them on the “lean” side increases the concentration of essential oils that gives them their characteristic flavors and scents.  Basil, parsley, and mint, however, prefer regular watering and fertilization for best results.  Most of the smaller herbs are good subjects for growing in containers.  If you grow your favorite cooking herbs in pots, you can keep them handy on your patio or deck, where they will certainly be used more frequently than if you have to make a long trip out to the vegetable garden to gather seasonings for dinner.  Grow mint in a container to prevent its spreading rhizomes from taking over the garden!


Q:  Our gardens are being browsed by deer.  What can we do to deter them?  Can you recommend any deer-resistant plants?

A: 
As more and more housing goes up, the habitat for deer is reduced, thereby forcing them into our yards and gardens.  The best preventive method is deer fencing – however, this is not always practical or aesthetic.  There are many methods for deterring deer, but none is 100% effective.  Stringing fishing line around the perimeter of the property, hanging soap in the branches of trees and shrubs, and spraying with animal deterrents or home-brewed garlic or egg mixtures are all methods that have been used with some success. Among the sprays available, the hot-pepper waxes have proven to be effective for up to two weeks without re-spraying.  Other sprays may need to be re-applied after a rain.  At Specialty Growers, we have found that motion-detector sprinklers provided the best protection.  As the deer approach the plants, the sprinkler emits a short burst of water, chasing the deer away.  Unlike other methods, where the deer become accustomed to the “deterrent,” this method remains viable all season, because the deer never do adapt to being sprayed with water.  Unfortunately, this method cannot be used to protect plants that are browsed during the winter, such as shrubs and young trees.


Here is a list of plants that are rarely eaten by deer.  Contact your local county extension office for a more complete list for your particular area
.
Woody plants that are rarely damaged:

Berberis spp. (Barberry)
Buxus sempervirens (Common boxwood)
Picea pungens (Colorado blue spruce)
Forsythia spp. (Forsythia)
Herbaceous plants and perennial flowers that are rarely damaged:                                       
Achillea spp. (Yarrow)
Agastache (Anise Hyssop)     
Allium spp. (Allium)
Aquilegia spp. (Columbine)
Brunnera macrophylla (Perennial Forget-me-not)
Convallaria majalis (Lily-of-the-valley)
Coreopsis spp. (Coreopsis)
Dendranthema spp. (Chrysanthemum)
Dicentra spp. (Bleeding heart)
Digitalis spp. (Foxglove)
Iris spp. (Iris)
Lavandula anustifolia (Lavender)
Liatris spicata (Gay-feather)
Linum perenne (Flax)
Lupinus polyphyllus (Lupine)
Lychnis (campion)
Narcissus spp. (Narcissus, Daffodil)
Perovskia (Russian Sage)
Pulmonaria (Lungwort)
Salvia spp. (Sage)