Out of all the grass seed companies in the country, we choose to carry Jonathan Green grass seed because it is the best, hands down the best.We can buy grass seed that’s cheaper, we can buy gimmicky grass seed like coated grass seed, but we choose to go with the quality of Jonathan Green.After sitting down with Barry Green years ago at a trade show, I realized I was not talking to a salesman, but a bona fide grass guru.This man helped me understand that his grass seed is far better than the competition’s seed, which are so often older varieties of turf seed that are out of date.
Customers are always telling us they’re trying to get rid of turf in their lawn and it’s clear that it’s because it came from a poor grass seed mix, plain and simple. High quality grass seed costs a bit more but when it comes to weeds and grass seed, you get what you pay for!
I invited seedsman Barry Green to talk about his product and like anyone who really loves and believes in what he does, he agreed. So here’s Barry Green, 4th generation seedsman.
by Barry Green, seedsman and president of Jonathan Green, Inc.
Our business was founded generations ago by Jonathan Green to supply professional grass seed customers, like sod-growers, with seed varieties and seeding results that met and exceeded their expectations.To accomplish this goal we knew that we would have to get into the turfgrass breeding business and in 1986 we did, when we established a turfgrass research farm near Salem, Oregon in the heart of the grass seed production region in the United States. Soon we were planting turfgrass evaluations plots at leading universities and on sod farms throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states in order to test our seed under all the stressful growing conditions we face in our marketing areas (including very hot and humid summers and icy- cold winters).
Big discovery - beneficial endophytes!
A few years later we learned of a new research breakthrough called “beneficial endophytes” which could be bred into turfgrasses to make them distasteful to surface feeding insects, such as chinch bugs and sod webworms, and soon after we introduced endophytes into our entire grass seed retail program.They also help the grass plant to be more drought-tolerant and disease-resistant.At this time, Jonathan Green, Inc. is the only grass seed company selling grass seed mixtures with beneficial endophytes to the general public.
More discoveries - heat- and drought-tolerant grass seeds
In 1993 we discovered another important breakthrough in turfgrass breeding - a cool-season grass was discovered surviving hot, desert conditions in Africa - because of an invisible waxy-cuticle coating on the outer leaf surface, which we discovered with a microscope. Then a few years later we discovered another grass seed with similar qualities closer to home - in Marquette, Michigan, where the winds are very harsh.
And Black Beauty was Born
After many years of evaluation and turfgrass breeding work, we were able to cross these two grasses to create what we now call the “Black Beauty Breakthrough in Turfgrass Breeding”. These tall fescues look very similar to Kentucky Bluegrass but are more deeply rooted, drought-tolerant and disease-resistant than any other grass seed variety which has previously been available.They grow in full sun and partial shade and in sandy or heavy clay soils.They will thrive under the adverse growing conditions of Eastern New England and will look great doing so!The Black Beauty grasses can be found in our original Black Beauty and Black Beauty Ultra Grass Seed Mixtures and as a key component in many of our other great grass seed mixtures.
Only at Independent Garden Centers
Our products are only available at fine independent garden centers such as Mahoney’s - because this is where homeowners must go to get the advice and instructions that they need to achieve success on their lawns.
Photo: Barry Green with Dr. Xunzhong Zhang of Virginia Tech University inspecting grass samples that were being evaluated for disease resistance.
This week, a friend came to visit my garden for the first time. It is always a treat to show someone around the garden but, I must confess, August is really not the best time for a showing at Ledge and Gardens. Her comment was ‘Your garden wears August well’. What a nice thing to say, especially to a gardener whose eyes have wearied of the view. I see the crabgrass gone viral in the lawn, wilting and browning foliage from drought, and a lack of color in the borders. It is very easy to have a colorful garden in May and June. The peonies and roses are at their best with full, lush blooms. August requires a definite plan. In August, the thick heavy air and languid heat combined with the rhythmic chirping of cicadas and crickets inspire this gardener to hit the lounge chair with a good book and that is as it should be.
Every gardener needs a bit of a break but the garden should always be a pleasure to view. It is difficult to plan for the changes nature imposes on us in the form of moisture or lack thereof. Each season has its own challenges and rewards and the garden responds accordingly. This year, August has been very dry, requiring a daily struggle with the hose. The coneflowers, Russian sage and hyssop have barely noticed while the phlox and astilbe have sulked and shriveled.Hyssop Fortunately, planning can be done during the heat of these shortening days while any preparation, planting, or dividing of perennials can be done as the temperatures moderate in late summer and then be continued in springtime as the days lengthen. This season I did not mulch the gardens. Since last season was so wet, and the foliage of the garden perennials always fills in the gaps, mulch just seemed to be non-essential. This year, however, we have had a very dry August and mulch does help to retain moisture in addition to suppressing weeds. I think the garden would have suffered less with a layer of mulch and the plants would have been happier. Mulch also adds a layer of organic matter to the soil, improving it as it decomposes. Lesson learned, yet again.
I usually add annuals to my mixed borders to fill the gap. Some would say this is cheating. Hogwash! My garden, my rules. I like the color they add to both the border and the bouquet. Last year it was balsam, Impatiens balsamina, which is an old fashioned annual and one which blends well in a perennial garden. This year, I added zinnias and, to their credit, they seemed quite indifferent to the dry weather. Next year will include a wider variety of annuals for both color and texture in the August garden and they will include dahlias and cannas, which do extend the season, add bold foliage, and flowers for cutting. One more goal is to keep up with deadheading the perennials, which just helps to lengthen their bloom time. The bee balm has been continuously deadheaded and is still blooming as it has been since June, which the hummingbirds and bees also appreciate.
A garden can always be improved upon and that is one of the great joys of gardening. That said, it is also important to try to see your own garden through the eyes of another. One who has not seen it before and one who is obviously delighted to be invited into your imperfect sanctuary. That can be the ultimate satisfaction.
When I last showed off some of my favorite curbside gardens a commenter wrote to complain. “Sure, those tall plantings are great if you don’t have to, um, PARK and get out of your car.” True enough, so I promised to follow up with curbside gardens that WOULD work with parked cars.
And here ya go. First up, in a sunny spot along a busy street with parking, you see some liriope, another tough-looking short grass, some of the new petunia varieties that bloom like crazy without dead-heading, and the silver foliage of the Licorace plant (Helichrysum petiolare ‘Silver Mist’). All are super drought-tolerant except those petunias.
And for shade, how about good old hostas with liriope (for evergreen color) and strategically placed flagstones for human passage? Plants don’t get much lower-maintenance than these two workhorses.
Up here in the Northeast, we couldn’t have asked for better tomato weather…you need it hot, and we got it. My tomatoes have been almost disease-free this year, with just a few minor problems, very minor.
Surprisingly, I started harvesting early this year - June 15th, in fact, when I began picking cherry tomatoes, like Sun Gold and Sun Cherry. Now all the medium-size to large varieties are ripening so fast I don’t know what to do with them.
Of course I’m harvesting my Brandywines, too. I love this heirloom variety and for me it’s what summer is about. I grow lots of it because it doesn’t produce heavily but man what a taste!! Slice those babies up with some buffalo mozzarella and a little pepper, creamy Italian dressing, maybe some fresh basil (I don’t like balsamic…too much heart burn) and yum.
In addition to growing the heirloom Brandywines, I round out my tomato garden with some terrific hybrids. I’m talking varieties like Celebrity, Big Beef and Better Boy, all producing large, round, blemish-free tomatoes.
A new variety that we carried this past spring and that I’m growing in my garden is called Mini Charm. It’s a cocktail tomato or also described as “small grape tomatoes”. And seriously, they’re small and oval like an olive but the plant’s huge! In fact, it looks a lot like a Sweet 100 plant, which is quite aggressive and productive, with an absolutely great taste. I’ll go so far as to say I’d put its taste up there with Sun Gold and Sun Cherry, and they’re my absolute favorite cherry tomatoes.
What next? Fall crops
And now that my tomatoes are at their peak I’m harvesting them like crazy, but it’s also time to start my fall cold crops. So today I spent my morning sowing carrots and beets in empty spaces wherever I could find them, and I’ll harvest those in October or November. To me there’s nothing like fresh carrots from the garden - they just have more taste than the store-bought.
Another crop I love growing in fall is lettuce and its leafy greens. You’re probably seeing more of these in the garden centers this year, starting this month but also into September, thanks to the growers stepping up at the supply end.
Speaking of which, I got some lettuce flats the other day that I need to get in the ground soon, so I’m back to the garden for now.
Have you’ve seen our herb and vegetable plants and wondered, “Who is Uncle Mike?” Uncle Mike is Michael Mahoney, one of the six second-generation Mahoneys. With a face full of beard and too-well-worn hat, Uncle Mike is a genuine down-to-earth guy.
With a passion for vegetable gardening Mike...
Does your dining room look like this? Yeah, mine, either. But for my friend Cheryl in the Northern Neck of Virginia, this is just the beginning of the putting up she and her hubby are up to their elbows in this time of year. Pretty impressive to me, having never canned or preserved any foodstuff in my whole life. (Okay, and barely having grown any food until recently.)
And check out their stash of Brunswick stew, as of almost a month ago. I remember this delectable, old-fashioned dish famously served in the taverns of Colonial Williamsburg. My family adored it and we’d go out of our way to stop off and get some on the way home from the beach. I tried some of Cheryl’s (actually made by her manly, football-coaching husband) and it was deelish!
Above you see just part of the garden where all this food comes from (minus the chicken in that stew, which they acquire in the usual, modern way).
I remembered Cheryl’s impressive canning operation the other day when I received some recommendend national websites on the subject from the University of Maryland. They’re all listed below and to beautify their excellent list, how about a photo of Cheryl doing her daily checking of the crab pots? This is one of the four that she’s allowed to have along this creek, which leads to the Potomac River just about where it meets the Chesapeake Bay. Pretty glam-looking crabber, I’d say.
Wine Tastings are all the rage these days but with the tomaoes producing volumes this year, why not consider hosting a ‘tomato tasting’ party? You will need to have a variety of tomatoes but, should you decide to have a party you could ask your guests to bring those from their garden or some from the Farmer’s Market to add to the collective fun. While wine tastings are limited to adults and wine lovers, tomatoes, the universal vegetable/fruit crop, can include the whole family. Those who don’t like tomatoes can satisfy their palate with the fresh mozzarella which serves as the ‘palate cleanser’.
Sunday evening was the day for the ‘tomato tasting party here and all tomatoes tasted were grown here at Ledge and Gardens. The only plant not grown from seed was the cherry variety ‘Sungold’ which I picked up at the local independent garden center. Somehow, I forgot to plant my favorite cherry tomato. That is okay, though, since the garden centers are well stocked with a wide variety of both heirloom and hybrid tomato plants early in the season.
All tomato plants were started here under lights in mid-April. This gardener takes no chances with the vagaries of Mother Nature. I have started the plants earlier only to have to pot them up to bigger and bigger pots in order to keep the root system healthy and vigorous. All plants were planted out the weekend of Memorial Day, which fell on May 31st this year. All plants were planted with organic fertilizer and subsequently fertilized with liquid fish solution. In spite of the different “days to maturity,” which varied from 55 days to 82 days, all tomatoes started producing within a week of each other.
The cast of characters included the following:
‘Brandy Boy’ - 75-78 day maturity, indeterminate vine, a hybrid of Brandywine. This tomato is large and most fruit are in excess of five inches across. The skin is thin and pink and this plant produces quite a few fruit. It is much more prolific in production than ‘Brandywine’ . The flavor was described as tangy, sweet, zippy and robust. It was the clear favorite.‘Early Wonder’ - 55 days to maturity, determinate. This tomato is smooth and round with dark pink color. It was rated sweeter than Brandy Boy and two of the eight guests loved it. and all others only had good things to say about this pretty tomato.‘Glory’ - 75 days, indeterminate vine. This tomato is a hybrid of two heirloom varities, although I could not find out which two. It is a plant which yields quite a few fruit which are beautifully round. The flavor was described as tomatoey, good, sour, acidic and tasty. It does have a fairly thick skin, which is quite noticable in comparison to the thinner skinned varieties. The fruit was nice and clean and very round and uniform.
‘Green Zebra’ - 78 days, indeterminate vines. This hybrid was developed as recently as 1985 and it is small and round with clear green stripes. It turns a yellow/gold when ripe. I think that I picked and served these a bit early as the flavor, usually quite zippy and acidic was described as neutral and one guest said it was like eating a leaf. Hmmmm… Catalog descriptions say it has a lemon/lime flavor and I would concur with that. It is very pretty on the vine and plated with other tomatoes, adding interest to the dish. It was a favorite of one of the guests.
‘Legend’- 68 day, determinate vine. This hybrid is said to be resistant to late blight which was such a problem in many gardens, mine included, last year. The fruit sets without pollinization (parthenocarpic). The fruit of this vine is blemish free. The flavor was described as complex, mellow, pleasant. I would grow this again just because of its’ resistance to late blight.
‘Mortgage Lifter’ - 82 day, indeterminate vines. This hybrid has a great history. It was bred from four large heirloom varieties by M. C.‘Radiator Charlie’ Byles who actually had no plant breeding experience. His day job was fixing radiators, hence his moniker. As the story goes, once Radiator Charlie developed his hybrid, he sold the seedlings to tomato afficionados from all around the area for $1.00 each. A supreme sum in the 1940’s. With the proceeds, he payed off his mortgage. The fruit of this hybrid are over a pound and a half and can weigh in at four pounds. I have to say that this is my favorite and the flavor was described as delicious. While I do like it for the size and flavor, only one slice for a good BLT, the plants produce many fruit. I find that an all too important and often overlooked characteristic. Give me fruit count in a description.
‘Sungold’ - 65 days, indeterminate vines. Very fruit forward…sounds like a wine tasting doesn’t it? This was the only cherry tomato tasted and everyone loved it. It had much more flavor than any of the larger tomatoes but who can make a sandwich from a cherry tomato?
GuestsOf the eight guests, four liked ‘Brandy Boy’ the best, two liked ‘Early Wonder’, one liked ‘Green Zebra’ and one liked ‘Mortgage Lifter’. The general consensus was that all the tomatoes from the garden were distinct and delicious and there was no comparison to those bought at the supermarket. I should have had a supermarket tomato as part of the tasting but, next year.
In conclusion, I would like to add that I am firmly convinced, but have no scientific experiment to back up the hypothesis, that tomatoes, like grapes, respond to terroir. Terroir (click on this) is the term for the specifics of the soil. The soil in which the tomatoes are grown gives them a unique flavor depending on its particle composition and nutrient analysis. Maybe this will be proven sometime in the future.
You can be sure that I have made a note of Mike’s favorites. I will be planting some ‘Mini Charm’ cherry tomatoes next year. Please share with all of us the name of your preferred tomato. Just make a note in the comment section. We would all love to know.
I coach all kinds of homeowners in gardening and see two very common situations with the identical solution. Beginners often have a blank slate, so where do they start? Others have been gardening for a good while and seen improvements, but their gardens still don’t thrill them. Something’s missing and it’s almost always shrubs, especially big, fast-growing ones that will soon create a nice Eastern fullness and presence in the garden. They’ll provide the sense of enclosure that’s essential in an outdoor space the family can enjoy. And they’ll be the perfect backdrop to perennials and annuals that the homeowners may also want to grow (and gardeners definitely will).
Luckily, there are plenty of great shrubs that, in addition to doing all that, will put on quite a show when it’s their turn to bloom. So without further ado, here are some of my favorite flowering shrubs that help make a yard look like a garden. I’ve provided links to my web page for each one, for additional details. Oh, and best time to plant any of them? September-October. The second-best time is spring, as early as possible.
The doublefile viburnum is perhaps the best-looking viburnum of all, of which there are dozens of great ones for the garden. The doublefile is almost as tall as a dogwood and blooms at the same time. It definitely needs supplemental watering in periods of drought but beyond that, just some renewal pruning after it’s a few years old. My method is to remove a third of the stems to the ground after they’ve bloomed, and they respond well to it.
Next, two of the many weigelas filling up my garden. Also easy-care, they have the added feature of growing really fast. I’ve been happy to see more great varieties of weigela available lately – people need more plants like these that are as close to self-sustaining as you’ll find.
Spireas are another group of shrubs that breeders are working with, and we’re seeing amazing new varieties these days - lots of shorter types, and an array of chartreuse-leaved beauties. This is the old-fashioned bridal wreath type doing great work as a foundation plant in front of my house. Even in the winter when the leaves are bare, it has a large woody presence.
Another fast-grower is this oakleaf hydrangea. In addition to the virtues you see here, its exfoliating bark makes it a focal point all winter. Seriously.
And I couldn’t resist showing off one more hydrangea – the later-blooming ‘Tardiva’ that gardeners just don’t use enough. Garden writers are touting its virtues, so we may be seeing more of them soon. They’re larger and more drought-tolerant than the familiar mophead hydrangeas that bloom in pink and blue.
Welcome to the exuberant gardening-like-crazy city of Buffalo, NY. For 15 years now they’ve wowed everyone with their two-day Garden Walk in late July, where over 300 gardens are open to the public free of charge, with no judging. Their main goals are to encourage neighborhood beautification and to promote community pride, and they’ve succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. The Walk is now just part of 5 weeks of gardening events, and the national media is paying them lots of attention. You hear stories of people attending the Walk and deciding to move back to the city.
I’ve visited Buffalo for several of their Walks and big events, so I looked through my photos to find ones conveying something they’re really good at - art and whimsy.
As summer winds down in late August and early September, the perennial border can look a bit sparse, a bit dry and a bit tired, but there are several sturdy perennials which can bridge the gap and add color to the border between the blooms of the daylilies and asters.
The following featured perennials are all drought-tolerant, full-sun plants that have the flowers of a supporting cast member rather than being sassy showgirls, although Helen’s Flower could qualify as a showgirl depending on your point of view. The flowers of this plant are small, about an inch across, but there are many and this plant stands a good four to five feet tall. Helenium autumnale is a vigorous clump-forming perennial. It does best in full sun and seemed to barely wink at the dry conditions of this August. It starts to bloom in late August and continues through the bulk of September. There are several cultivars to choose from at the garden center and their color ranges from deep mahogony through yellow. This plant is native to Eastern and north central North America and the butterflies and bees love it.
Leadwort or blue plumbago, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, is a low-growing, spreading groundcover which tolerates dry conditions. Its blooms are electric blue highlighted by a reddish tinge of the stems. This plant could be used in a curb garden, in the front of the perennial border, or as a groundcover. Blue plumbago actually thrives in well-drained soil in full sun and its late blooming attribute only adds to its charm. Blue plumbago hails from China and is quite a hardy plant, growing well in Zones 5-9. I find that it does spread to a larger clump fairly quickly. I have underplanted it with spring-blooming Scilla siberica, which works well as the plumbago is late to emerge and leaf out. When the blue plumbago finally does send out leaves, the scilla is past bloom.
Calamint is a plant growing in popularity due to its low-maintenance attributes. It has small, glossy green leaves with upright stems and a stalk of tiny white to pale pink/lilac flowers. It hails from Southern Europe and has a minty fragrance when the leaves are bruised. It makes a great edging along a walkway in addition to blending into the border, where it remains shy until it is covered in flowers in late summer.
Hardy geraniums, or the cranesbills, are indispensible to the perennial border and there are over 400 species of hardy geraniums. There is a geranium for just about every different garden location and soil type, but one that has been developed and is used almost to the point of overuse is Geranium ‘Rozanne’. Can a plant which blooms for three or four months be overused? Probably, but this geranium is a welcome addition to any border. I find that in richer soil, Rozanne gets a bit gangly but with pinching and clipping, it produces a wonderful pinky purple flower all summer long. It can be a bit of a weaver with its blooms appearing above or entwined in other border flowers. That just makes it a great cottage garden plant. In average soil it remains quite well behaved, forming a good-sized clump with respectable flowers. ‘Rozanne’ I include it because it received no special treatment this dry season and it is still loaded with blooms. Do you have any sturdy perennials to add to this list? Please feel free to share.