M/G vegetable demo garden.. Earth boxes growing peppers , eggplant and tomatoes. 2015

It’s mid-summer and early morning. The sun is spreading across the lawn.  The long  shadows, combined with the still, dewy grass just made fall seem a little closer. That’s ok, it helps with preparing the soil for those wonderful fall vegetables, while the soil is still warm. What typically gets planted for fall harvesting? Cold weather vegetables, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, chives, kale, peas, lettuce just to name a few. At this point you could purchase seed, sprout seeds or use purchased transplants.

Preparing for the fall planting can begin.  The soil will be much warmer then  in spring. When planting, make sure you allow your plantings to get 4-6 hours of sun.

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Prepare your soil –soil is the backbone of your garden. Amend if possible with compost and /or organic matter. Some vegetables are heavy feeders, while some are listed as medium feeds and light feeders. They will require fertilizing. It’s always beneficial to plant crops together by their fertilizing requirements.
  2. Plan your planting area – 4 ft. X 4 ft. – then subdivide in 1 ft. squares. ( see photos M/G demo vegetable garden)


    M/G vegetable demo garden. Row planting with one ft. square spacing 2015

  3. Plant transplants (transplants allow for a long growing period – unless you sprouted your seeding.)
  4. Pack the soil gently but firmly up against the plants to keep out air pockets.
  5. Keep tender roots moist, not drenched.
  6. Lightly mulch to help keep moist and protected.

Be creative. Try planting flowers and herbs among your garden. Lavender and Rosemary are used by many along with nasturtium.  Pictured are various garden growing ideas.

M/G vegetable garden. row with spring planting with new fall season crops 2015.

M/G vegetable garden. row with spring planting with new fall season crops 2015.

Did you know that there is a bean variety that will grow as a shrub?  Yup! See the  photo they look great.


M/G vegetable demo garden. Bush beans planted in one ft square. 2015

M/G vegetable demo garden. Bush beans planted in one ft square. 2015




Take a good look at your plants within your garden. If any damage is present remove those pieces. Weeding can be done, decide if plants need to be moved for more space and which ones would be better in another place. I encourage you to take photos of your gardens. A garden picture can do two things: let you see how nice it looks while allowing you to judge if you like it or changes are needed. Perhaps more color is wanted. Take notes to use to get to know your garden.  Well now you have plenty to do – enjoy!  Until later, El

Praying Mantis - 2015 Cumru

Praying Mantis – 2015 Cumru

Ever have the kind of day in the garden that makes you step back in amazement? Let me share with you a glimpse into my garden adventure ….


Slope garden in front of tool shed...work in progress.

Slope garden in front of tool shed…work in progress.                                                                                                

It began mid-morning while weeding on a rather large slope that I have been trying to create a garden backdrop. Like a painter painting but using plants with warm colors and different textures are my paint brush. Among the plantings, I spy a praying mantis traveling on the mulch. Praying mantis are called “Beneficial – Insects” -aka good garden insects that will help keep your gardens’ pest at bay,  and consume just about any other moving insect. The praying mantis has a humongous appetite that grows larger as they grow. At full size adult mantis will eat crickets, grasshoppers and beetles just to name a few. Praying mantis are named for the way their front legs appear to be clasp together as if praying. But don’t be fooled those clasping front legs are strong and move very quickly to capture its prey. A praying mantis can actually turn its head and look over its shoulder, so far it’s the only insect known to do so. The mother mantis to be looks for a bush, twig or branch to make her Styrofoam looking egg case.

praying mantis egg case found in Spiraea bush

praying mantis egg case found in Spiraea bush


Praying mantis egg case 2015

Praying mantis egg case

This egg case is thick enough to protect the growing eggs over winter. Eggs, hundreds of them, are laid in the egg case. I found one tucked inside a bush that was being trimmed back. If you or your children should find one, don’t bring it into your home. Why? The warmth from inside your home will encourage hatching. The eggs will hatch and you’ll have hundreds of hungry praying mantis hunting in your home after they emerge from the case. Praying mantis, greet the world hungry & ready to hunt, even siblings – they are not picky eaters. While in the garden they are quiet and constantly on the prowl. They use their large eyes to watch and follow a potential meal. They also use their one ear to alert them to any movement. That one good ear is on its underside just in front of the hind legs. So if a praying mantis is spotted in your garden let it be. But do watch it. I still find it rather cool to get a peek at nature’s wonderful beneficial insects. Other beneficial insects for your garden are the green lacewing, assassin bug and lady bugs just to name a few. Also, not to be left out are the soil nematodes who’s only purpose is to feast upon bad soil insects. But that’s a conversation for another day.


Cicada skeleton case from an emerged cicada

Cicada skeleton case from an emerged cicada

While the air is beginning to fill with the sounds of cicadas, crickets and distant sounds, the heat of day is subsiding. It is with joyful anticipation I look forward for the sun to set to watch the flickering lights of the lighting bugs aka fireflies in the evening air. Until later, El




“Summer Garden Experince” – Trial Gardens

Trail Gardens - Summer Garden Experience 2015

Trial Gardens -” Summer Garden Experience” 2015

Summer Experience - Trial Garden 2015

Summer Experience – Trial Garden 2015

Saturday began with myself and a bus load of Penn State Master Gardeners off to “Summer Garden Experience”. An event that takes place at the PSU Southeast Research Farm, Landisville Variety Trials in Manheim, PA.

Trial Gardens -2015

Trial Gardens -2015

The anticipation of what lay ahead for the day was enhanced by the opportunity to socialize with fellow Master Gardeners. The bus was filled with chatter about what we may find and what we hoped to see.

Upon arrival you are greeted by the rows and rows of wonderful plants and information some of the newest and improved plants that are being introduced to commercial growers and gardeners. There are flowers, vegetables, and garden ideas. Tours are provided to see fields of produce trials as well. There are working Gardens to satisfy just about every gardeners fancy. From butterfly attraction to rain gardens and how to create your own. Green Roof construction was offered along with Green Roof plant Selection & Care.

There were speakers on hand to talk about everything regarding gardening for flowers, vegetables, bees and there were cute fairy gardens tucked throughout the vegetable garden…very nice.

Speaker Lee Reich, PhD, spoke about how to “Grow Good Fruit Naturally & Easily” along with “Fruits for Small Gardens”.  George Weigel, PA Certified Horticulturist provide “Beneficial’s & Biologicals in the Garden” and “Eat Your Yard”. Both were very easy to understand and both shared great tips.

Trial Gardens -2015 Wheel Bug

Trial Gardens -2015
Wheel Bug

All in all this was a great day – so full of information, ideas and wonderful people. In the “Pollinator Garden” I was able to get a picture of a wheel bug actually consuming a Japanese beetle. He would be considered a “beneficial” bug. Mountain mint was another plant I found to be a butterfly magnet. I could go on and on. Gardening is something everyone can do in so many different ways. Until later, El

"Summer Garden Experience" - Trail Gardens 2015

“Summer Garden Experience” – Trial Gardens 2015

Afternoon Delight……


Butterfly bush: Buddleia - davidii "Dubonnet"

Butterfly bush: Buddleia – davidii “Dubonnet”

As with all things “waiting is the hardest part”. My “Little Shangri-La” aka “She shed”, “Backyard Getaway” is progressing nicely. My wonderful husband David along with our two terrific sons worked on this surprise for me while I was out of town visiting our beautiful daughter and family. This will be my new writing space and a place others can go and enjoy the beauty of being tucked in with nature. So it is with great anticipation I look forward to moving my books and writing materials in.  I took another peek this afternoon and it is amazing.

Early afternoon in the garden is perhaps one of my favorite times of the day. Today especially, there is no humidity it’s a warm 82 degrees and its Friday. The air is a buzz with the sound of pollinators and the gentle tingle of the glass wind chimes. Songs of the neighborhood birds in the surrounding trees hidden from view fill the air. My constant companion Espen our cat is busy dreaming her own sweet dreams.



Cumru 2015 Buddleia: davidii - "Dubonnet"

Cumru 2015 Buddleia: davidii – “Dubonnet”

A yellow swallow tail has just flittered by on its way up to the butterfly bush.   My Butterfly bush – Buddleia: davidii “Dubonnet”, is a great pollinator. This particular variety is one that blooms early in June on old & new wood.  The beautiful soft fragrant flower is purple/violet with a small deep orange throat. This plant is an easy one to please, likes loamy soil, full sun and drought tolerant. The leaves are light green/gray. The branches can grow long and require a lot of space in ones’ garden or you can trim and keep it as a shrub. The branches are light enough so that as the blooms bloom and cascade they are able to gentle sway with the lightest breeze. Which adds to the beauty of this plant. Yes, it has been labeled invasive in some states, PA is one.  With regular garden maintenance it does just fine in the garden. There are varieties – hybrids that will perform as designed. Buddleia: davidii “Dubonnet” is one of my favorites for the garden. It can even be a container planting. No matter where you plant one it is sure to be a butterfly / pollinator magnet.

Buddleia - davidii: "Dubonnet"

Buddleia – davidii: “Dubonnet”

Hummingbirds enjoy visiting as well as butterflies, bees and flies who look like a bee. Bees will have two sets of wings while the bee fly will have only one set. Then of course there is the moth who forages for food before dusk and aren’t quite sure if they are butterflies or moths. Today there were black swallow tail, yellow swallow tail and monarch butterflies visiting and it was such an afternoon delight! Until later, El

Garden Delights from the Garden……..

Berks County is really lucky to have a nice variety of Farmers Markets with wonderful heirloom vegetables, flowers, cheese and so much more.  I chose Antietam’s Farmers Market on Saturday and it was so pleasant.   This venue was smaller, but don’t be fooled as it has a very nice selection for those mornings you don’t have a lot of time to spend on wandering.  As you can see, I found a few different heirloom tomatoes.  The grower knew her products and was so eager to share the information. The selection of flowers was nice too. The flavor of vegetables fresh from the farm have a true taste all their own.  Treat your self and your family.

Sunflowers, heirloom tomatoes, acorn squash and rosemary bread.

Sunflowers, heirloom tomatoes, acorn squash and rosemary bread

Here are a few of the local Farmers Markets in Berks County

  • PA Dutch Market : 845 Woodland Rd., Wyomissing (https://farmersmarketofwyomissing.com )
  • Fairgrounds Farmers Market 2934 N. 5th St. Hwy, Reading.(https://fairgroundsfarmersmarket.com)allow your self time to discover all the different vendors.
  • Shillington Farmers Market, 10 S. Summit Ave. Shillington, Pa.  What better way to get to know what your community has to offer.
vegetable beds




Vegetables growing in earth boxes & soil.

Vegetables growing in earth boxes & pots..

raised veggie bed

raised veggie bed



I hope you take the time to explore your neighborhood Farmers Markets and discover how good fresh can taste.  Until later, El


A Sunny Disposition…..until the next storm.




Cumru 2015: Cone Flower, Bee Balm, Hydrangeas &  day- lilies

Cumru 2015: Cone Flower, Bee Balm, Hydrangeas & day- lilies

Rain, rain and more rain has been happening here in Berks County gardens.

Tomatoes are currently being hit the hardest along with a few other garden plants. As I survey the situation I found myself engulfed by the early morning air which is filled with the sweet song sung by unseen birds – accented by the buzz of the pollinators already working.  The Black Eyed Susan sway as nature’s guest land upon it.   As if by magic a small light-green praying mantis suddenly appears before my half open eyes, as if to greet me.  It is so easy to stroll along the rain soaked grass, usually in July we here in Berks County don’t often experience this.  Oh, the occasional thunder storm was a nice welcome from July’s hot summer sun. Recently here in Berks county we have experienced our fair share of odd summer weather. Rain has been our constant companion. the small moments within our gardens and the promise of what they will bring can bring one’s disposition back to joy.  There is still time to plant beans, corn, eggplant, peppers along with other grown above ground vegetables according to the, “Farmers Almanac ” which uses an “old-age formula” aka “Moon Calendar”.  The best dates to plant these yummy vegetables are July 21/22, 23rd thru 25 and July 30/31.  (website:  https.://farmersalmanac.com/calender/gardening/)  Thought can even be given to early fall planting crops.

By now most gardeners are silently wishing for a few more days of those long ago remembered hot July sun filled days.   My tomatoes are not where they should be. They appear to be withering on the vine.  What can be done? First thing is to inspect your tomato stems – you are looking for any pitting, caving or sunken spots.  If you found any your plant is doomed for the compost pile.  Those pitted, caved or indents are fungal disease.  If  none were found –  that’s a good thing, there is still hope. Can your water drenched tomato & pepper plants be saved – I would say only if the stems are firm and leaves are present.    The first thing you will want to do is get them off the ground, don’t allow the fruit to set on the ground this can encourage another problem.  What I did was get a stake 1/2″ x 1/2″ by 4 ft. place it beside your plant and use twist ties or hemp to secure the plant to the stake.  Then remove the lower leaves. This will aid in the plant focusing on producing fruit while allowing air circulation to keep the soil moist not soggy.

Cumru - 2015 Red Chile Peppers

Cumru – 2015 Red Chile Peppers


These chile peppers are doing well – their stems are strong and the peppers are without damage, so far.

Herbs can pinched back to keep them from flowering and allowing for a longer growing season, as shown I pinched the flower bud that was beginning.

Cumru 2015: Basil

Cumru 2015: Basil





Cumru 2015: Cone Flower, Bee Balm, Hydrangeas &  day- lilies

Cumru 2015: Cone Flower, Bee Balm, Hydrangeas & day- lilies

I can say my hydrangeas (hydrangea macrophage) are doing extremely well.  As my wondering eye moves through the garden I must admit I simply love those large round mop head hydrangea.  as you can see they are beauties that will bloom until the end of the summer season, early fall.  You can prune to the next new bud and you can clip off any dead/unsightly wood stems.  You should also clip a few flowers to vase, they can also be dried and used in making wreaths.  Any questions, email mail me here and together we will get the right answers.  Until later, El


For your FYI: From Caterpillar to Butterfly -Wed. July 29th @ 10am

at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary – Kempton, Pennsylvania.

Cumru 2015 : Hydrangea Macrophylla

Cumru 2015 : Hydrangea Macrophylla