Covering Ground

Nancy Ballek Mackinnon It's winter. Are houseplants happy?

Can we lose the insects and still keep the flowers? According to greenhouse grower Nancy Ballek Mackinnon of Ballek's Garden Center in East Haddam, CT, we can. She and her team grow several thousand indoor species at their retail greenhouse where, on a recent visit, I found myself in a riot of flowering houseplants.

Books by fireplace The gift of good reading for gardeners

Garden books and magazines have been some of my best friends over the course of my career in the outdoors. Here are some suggestions from 2014 that may please the gardeners on your holiday list and you, too. These four were featured in my recent column in The Day community papers.

Amaryllis photo by Colorblends Bulbs Eight gifts for gardeners

My quest for interesting gifts from regional suppliers netted eight ideas this year. Categories include planting pots from Connecticut River mud, amaryllis bulk purchases, rain barrels, local seeds, high quality tools and composting systems.

Micro Basil Greens Homegrown salad in winter

Most home gardeners surrender to the calendar this time of year. Fresh greens and tomatoes are not on the menu, unless you are lucky enough to find a winter grower. But it doesn't necessarily have to be that way. The possibilities range from easy-to-grow microgreens to difficult, but not impossible tomatoes. 

Deer damage to arborvitae. Peaceful co-existence with Bambi?

Yes, they are handsome animals, even fun to watch. But many property owners, when they look at deer, see only 165+ lb. creatures that require 6 – 8 pounds of vegetation daily during their 16-year lives. They've been called a "stomach on four legs" (and worse) by those whose landscapes are ravaged by the hungry critters. 

Spear Head Spade The sharpest shovel in the shed
Years ago, my mom gave me a book called "Everything You Can Buy in Garden Centers." I used it for a long time as I learned the difference between pruners and loppers, spades and shovels, grass rakes and garden rakes. I used the book until it fell apart--and by that time, I knew my tools pretty well. 
Farmer's Market Display Thirty years: How gardening has changed

It was about this time of year in 1984 when I put my first home garden to bed. At the end of that season 30 years ago, I had a thousand questions about how to garden better in 1985. Now, after three decades, some questions remain unanswered. As Thomas Jefferson said, "But tho' an old man, I am but a young gardener."

Five myths about mulch

Got mulch? I hope so. Winter mulch is like giving your garden and landscape a nice new coat for the weather that's coming. But there are some pesty, persistent myths that don't do us any good. Want to see if any of these are keeping you from getting the most out of your mulching efforts?

Fall: Time to sow next year's meadow

I've had a half-acre meadow for the past 18 years. I wonder how much lawnmowing that has saved? Meadows are a great way to replace lawn—and they’re great for the bees, butterflies and birds as well.

Farmers markets now number more than 120 around CT Love your local farmer's markets?

Buy local: It's entered the public consciousness in a way never imagined 10 years ago. If foot traffic was the only indicator, we could only assume prosperity for the vendors below the colorful tent tops. But that may not be the case unless more and more consumers make it a habit to spend a percentage of their household dollars on locally grown and locally made.