2008-02-28 / News

The Island Garden

By Roger Marshall

I was reading an English magazine last week and learned that, according to one study, birds that are fed during the winter months have an average of one and half more eggs than birds that are not able to eat at a winter feeder. It seems to me that this is a pretty good reason to put a bird feeder or three in your yard. My feeders have already gone through almost 200 pounds of sunflower seed. Providing nesting sites is another feature that we can provide for our feathered friends. What's this got to do with gardening? Not a lot, but in summer encouraging birds to visit your yard can help cut down on insects and provide additional color to the garden palette.

While we're talking about birds and insects, you might want to check out the Kinsman web site. (www.kinsmangarden.com) The company offers a variety of unusual garden objects as well as hanging baskets that you can set on columns called patio stands or border columns. This is a unique way to offer more color in a relatively flat garden or a large deck. The basket flows over with plants and offers a higher visual focus point that you can't get with conventional plantings. You might also want to try their slow release fertilizer in your containers. It is an NPK 13- 13-13 mix that is reputed to last all summer. (NPK refers to nitrogen, potassium, phosphate and a 13-13-13 mix is well balanced for good growth and good flowering.) Kinsman also offers rolls of cocofiber, wall and window plant boxes and hangers. You can also buy sheet moss, burlap, moss, garden gnomes, and a host of other products to brighten up your garden.

That said, the real gardening chore this week is to get everything ordered before the rush starts. Check out what's new in all the catalogs, order seeds, and get organized to start planting seeds next month.

First, catalogs. Most of the catalogs are pushing new flowers, shrubs and vegetables. I like to look for new varieties for hanging baskets and containers that spend the summer on the deck. Thompson and Morgan (www.tmseeds. com) are offering a new compact sweet pea that is ideal for hanging baskets. I already have mine and will be starting them this week directly in the hanging basket. They also offer a new begonia "Bayou Pink Bicolor" which should do well in a hanging basket. I love to add lobelia to any hanging basket, because it provides summer color over a long period. T & M offers a new variety called "Cascade mixed." Another hanging basket or container garden plant is Viola "sweeties." When grown properly it will fill a basket with tons of color.

If you are a fruit person and like to have fruiting plants indoors you might want to take a look at www.raintreenursery.com. They have a huge variety of fruiting plants. I have ordered from them before and found their plants to be superb. This year I plan on starting some lingonberries on a slope that doesn't seem to like anything but briars growing on it. Lingonberries are native to Scandinavia and make terrific sauce, wine and preserves. Eventually the plants become a dense mat of bushes that crowd out almost everything else, then you get to harvest the berries. If you want to grow unusual apples you might look at the varieties they offer from all over the world. I'm growing one of their Bramley trees as well as a Wolf River russet. Bramleys are used in Britain as a cooking apple and in my opinion, there is no better apple pie than one made with Bramleys. Also from Raintree you can get rare fruits like goumis, serviceberries, aronias, sea buckthorn, olives and tea plants for your own green tea.

While you are looking at seed catalogs you might want to buy seed starting trays, potting soil, and plant markers. Jamestown Hardware has a lot of garden supplies, as do many of the other garden centers and seedsmen, and its getting near spring, in spite of the snow we had last week. In about three to four weeks or so, we'll cover starting plants in your basement, greenhouse, or cold frame and discuss how to get set up for spring.

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