25 episodes

The monthly Garden Musings were written by George and Becky Lohmiller. Early recordings in the series were read by Almanac group publisher John Pierce, as well as Almanac copy editor Jack Burnett. Almanac editor, Heidi Stonehill became the narrator in 2012.

The Old Farmer's Almanac Garden Musings The Old Farmer's Almanac

    • Wilderness
    • 4.5, 2 Ratings

The monthly Garden Musings were written by George and Becky Lohmiller. Early recordings in the series were read by Almanac group publisher John Pierce, as well as Almanac copy editor Jack Burnett. Almanac editor, Heidi Stonehill became the narrator in 2012.

    Petunias

    Petunias

    Petunias are a common sight in almost any garden or landscape and with good reason: They are easy to maintain, come in a wide variety of colors and sizes, and can be bought just about anywhere. Their popularity, however, should not encourage you to take them for granted.

    Petunia cultivars tend to fall under two main types, the larger-flowered grandifloras and the smaller multifloras. The largest flowers can be up to 7 inches; the smallest, around 2 inches. Single-flower varieties generally produce bell-shaped flowers. The double-flowered varieties resemble carnations, with densely clustered petals forming fluffy balls. Colors include a range of pastels, plus deep red, blue, white, and several shades of yellow, and they can be solid, striped, or splotched with white. The petal edges may be wavy, ruffled, or fringed. Petunias provide constant color between the different blooming periods of perennials. They can also be used effectively in window boxes, patio containers, or hanging baskets, and there are several cascading varieties that work well in these locations. Though usually considered annuals, petunias are actually delicate perennials and may survive year-round in mild locations.

    All petunias thrive in full sunlight. Shade tends to discourage flowering and will also cause the plants to become leggy as they reach for more light. Even in full sun petunias can become spindly. The best way to control this is to pinch back the tips when the plants are still young to encourage bushier growth. Additional pinching and removal of spent flowers should be done throughout the growing season.

    The single-flowered varieties are more tolerant of poor soil — their main requirement is good drainage. All varieties are drought-resistant despite their delicate appearance. Of course, they will appreciate watering during a dry period—just be sure to spray manually underneath the flowers, lest they become water spotted. After a summer storm petunia flowers will look fairly ragged, but removing the most damaged flowers encourages a hasty rejuvenation. Fertilize petunias about once a month.

    In the evening your petunias will bring additional life to your landscape, for they attract beautiful moths, and the brilliant white-flowered varieties appear to glow in the moonlight.

     

    Cane Enable

    Cane Enable

    This month, our Garden Musings are about raspberries. Mmmm. See our article with plant care tips—or, give your eyes a break and listen to the podcast, read by our editors!


    Fresh raspberries are always sold at a premium. And not only is the price prohibitive, but quality is also often low, for raspberries are notoriously poor keepers. The solution, of course, is to grow your own. A single plant will yield about a quart of berries each year; 20 to 30 plants will easily meet the needs of the average family, with enough berries for instant gratification and plenty to put into jam or the freezer.

    Planting Raspberries

    Raspberries require the same growing conditions as a lawn. Choose a sunny, well-drained planting site. Compost combined with 5 pounds of lime and 1-1⁄4 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer, will adequately prepare a 100-square-foot area. For growing raspberries, the pH of the soil should be maintained at 5.7 to 6.5. As an alternative to regular liming, you can use wood ashes on your raspberry bed over the winter.

    Early spring is the best time to plant raspberries in most areas. Plants should be spaced 2 to 3 feet apart, in rows 5 to 6 feet apart. Unlike other small fruits, raspberries should be planted an inch or two deeper than they were growing in the nursery (check for the soil line on the plants).

    Raspberry Care

    All raspberries will benefit from support provided by wire running on either side of the plants, which in turn is supported by T-style posts at regular intervals. This support keeps the berries off the ground and increases air circulation between the plants—a deterrent to fungus development.

    Raspberries are shallow feeders and will lose out to weeds in the quest for nutrients. Deep mulching with sawdust, bark mulch, or pine needles helps to keep the weeds down.

    The fruit-bearing potential of raspberries is dramatically affected by pruning. For summer-bearing varieties, remove all fruit-producing canes after harvest, and in the spring thin the remaining canes to the 3 or 4 strongest per row foot. Fall-bearers can be treated the same way if you want two light crops, but for one heavy crop in the fall, simply cut all the canes to ground level after harvest. Remove all old canes.

    See the Almanac's free and complete Guide to Growing Raspberries. 

    Growing Beans Can Be a Snap

    Growing Beans Can Be a Snap

    Among the most enthusiastic vegetables you can have in your garden is the humble bean. Though they can not be planted until the earth has been well warmed and the danger of frost is past, beans are quick to peep up through the seedbed, pulling their folded leaves from underground into the sunlight. You can assist in this process by turning the soil over several times to loosen it before planting and by mulching it lightly right after planting.

    If your beans are a pole variety, make sure the pole is firmly in the ground before planting. Given the opportunity, pole beans may reach a height of 10 to 15 feet. Unless you have an unusual garden (or you play for an NBA team), such a height is not practical, but you can take advantage of the potential by making an arch with two poles. Several arches in a row make a cozy tunnel, and beans can be harvested from the walls and the ceiling. Beans growing on poles enjoy better ventilation than bush beans, making them less susceptible to disease. Many gardeners grow both bush and pole varieties.

    Beans must be grown in full sunlight, lest the plants grow spindly in the search for more light. Too much heat, however, will reduce their productivity; 70° to 80℉ is ideal. In hot weather, mulch helps to cool the soil and retain moisture. Most beans will tolerate a wide range of soil types, but they won’t do well in soil that is poorly drained.

    Soil inoculants (available from most seed suppliers), which help to fix nitrogen in the soil, promote healthy growth and a better root system. Toss the seeds in the bean-inoculant powder before planting. Once the beans emerge, they can be fertilized with a low nitrogen fertilizer such as 5-10-10. Pole beans tend to be heavier feeders than bush beans.

    There are so many varieties of beans that you can easily experiment with new ones every year and also grow your old standbys. Purple beans add color to a salad, but they turn green when cooked. The ‘Kentucky Wonder’ is famous for its good, reliable flavor, but you’ll find excellent flavor from ‘Romano’ and ‘Roma’ types as well. While you may develop preferences, a good fresh bean of any kind is bound to please your palate.

    Plant Parenthood

    Plant Parenthood

    Taking divisions from your own (or your neighbor’s) perennials is the easiest way to add to your perennial garden. Divisions guarantee what you’ll get; however, your choices are necessarily limited to what is available (usually plants that spread quickly and are quite common). Commercial seeds will also provide a known quantity, but if you’re willing to trust to serendipity, many pleasant surprises can develop by starting perennials from seeds you have collected.

    For greatest success in starting perennials, create a small raised bed in an area protected from drying winds and too much direct sun. Use the frame of the raised bed to support some shading material to protect seedlings. Perennials will grow and thrive in loose soil that holds moisture without becoming waterlogged. A sandy loam to which organic matter such as peat moss or compost has been added is ideal. A small amount of dehydrated manure will provide all the nutrients that the seedlings will require until they are potted or set out in the perennial garden.

    Many perennial seeds need to be exposed to cold temperatures for a certain period of time—a process known as stratification or after-ripening—before they will germinate. With seeds sown in the late fall, this happens naturally over the winter. If seeds are to be planted in the spring (or if they are held over from the previous season), first mix them with moistened peat moss and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for three to six weeks.

    Just before sowing seeds in spring, soak them overnight in warm water to expedite the germination process. Press small seeds firmly into the soil, and plant larger seeds at a depth 2 to 3 times their thickness. Water regularly, and once the plants have developed three or four sets of leaves, thin the bed by pulling out all but the healthiest plants. Most of the seedlings will benefit from a season in the nursery.

    These plants tend to be poor dividers and are therefore good candidates for starting from seed: poppies, cardinal flower, foxglove, baby’s breath, monkshood, gas plant, lupine, geum, and mallow.

    Certain plants are not recommended for starting from seed: astilbe, lily-of-the valley, mayflower (trailing arbutus), daylily, anemone, trumpet flower, sweet lavender, germander, and spiderwort.

    Frame and Good Fortune

    Frame and Good Fortune

    No matter how long the gardening season, it always seems to fall a bit short. Frame gardening is one way that many gardeners extend the growing season for a variety of flowers and vegetables. To make a cold frame, construct a bottomless box and set it in the garden or atop other good soil in a sunny location. Frames are usually made from scrap lumber, but concrete blocks or bricks can also be used. Top the box either with glass (perhaps an old storm window) or a frame covered with clear plastic. Hinge the cover so it may be opened for ventilation on warm days.

    Gardeners use frames to “harden off” seedlings that were started indoors or to start their vegetable and bedding plants from seed. Sow seeds of crops such as radish, lettuce, endive, and scallions directly in the frame for an early or postseason harvest. You can even raise them there all summer as long as the cover is removed when warm weather arrives.

    Cold frames can also be used to good advantage for over-wintering potted herbs and perennials or for holding cuttings of woody plants taken during the summer. The trick to winter framing is insulation. Cover the plants and cuttings in the frame with salt marsh hay or straw, then cover the glass with plywood or a thick tarp to keep out light and prevent snow damage.

    A hot bed is a cold frame that is heated. This can be accomplished with electric heating cables, but the old method of using horse manure or compost works quite well and is more economical. For a nonelectric hot bed, excavate 18 to 24 inches under the frame and add manure or compost. Turn and moisten this material every couple of days for a week until it settles, then cover it with 6 inches of soil. As the manure or compost decomposes, it will generate enough heat to protect against early or late frosts.

    Temporary frames or “cloches” can be made by leaning old storm windows tent-style over the plants along the length of the garden row. To protect individual seedlings or small plants, cut the bottoms out of plastic milk j**s and place them over individual plants, holding the j**s in place with mounded soil. During sunny days, remove the caps for ventilation.

    Wave Reviews

    Wave Reviews

    A “foot-candle” sounds like a gadget that might have been advertised in an early edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, but actually it is a measure of light, specifically the amount of light cast by a candle over a one-square-foot area from the distance of one foot away. To put things in perspective, note that on a sunny summer day an exposed garden gets 10,000 to 15,000 foot-candles of light. A fluorescent lamp (two 40-watt bulbs) can provide 800 foot-candles if it is practically sitting on top of a plant, but move it back even a foot and the number drops to under 300.

    In order to conduct photosynthesis—the process of converting raw nutrients to carbohydrates, thus enabling the plant to grow and bear fruit—plants require both quality and quantity of light. Windowsills and greenhouses can supply plants with most of the light quality and energy sent from the Sun, but certain wavelengths, such as ultraviolet, are altered when they pass through even one thickness of glass. This is why you can’t get a suntan by sitting in front of a picture window.

    While many houseplants and seedlings will do quite well over the winter in a window location, most benefit from a supplement of artificial light and, when weather permits, a few hours basking on a sunny porch. Variegated leaves, for example, will be more pronounced with improved lighting. Seedlings have especially high energy requirements and do best indoors under grow lights.

    Duration of light, called the photoperiod, is critical. For most plants this period is at least eight hours daily, regardless of how many foot-candles are being produced. Conversely, plants also respond to darkness. Short-day plants, such as poinsettias, chrysanthemums, and Christmas cacti, can actually be prevented from coming into flower by lengthening their days with artificial light. Lengthening the hours of darkness by putting these same plants in darkness by the end of the afternoon will encourage bloom. Most fall-blooming perennials are short-day plants.

    You may want to set up a “light station” where you can rotate your plants that seem to want a little luminary boost. You might also consider setting up your seed-starting area a bit earlier for use as a light nursery for winter-weary houseplants.

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