Overview: Thyme is in the mint family. Thyme is well known for its fragrant smell and strong flavor.
Planting: You should plan on planting your thyme in the spring, when the frost is done. Thyme thrives in well drained and fertile soil. It needs to be in a sunny area. You can grow thyme from a seed or you can grow it from an already existing plant. If you are growing from an already existing plant, you need to space the plant 12”-24” apart. If growing from a seed, you should start it in a pot in the early spring and scatter the seeds over the soil, then cover with a thin layer of soil and lightly water. (Source: Bonnie Plants)
Growing Advice: In order to thrive, you need to grow thyme in a sunny and warm environment. The more sunlight the crop receives, the stronger the flavor will be. (Source: Love the Garden)
Harvesting: On average, thyme will be ready to harvest between 75 and 90 days of planting. However, some varieties take up to 200 days until they are ready to harvest. You should plan to harvest your thyme before the flowers bloom. Cut the top 5-6” of the plant. The best time of day to harvest thyme is in the morning after the dew has dried. (Source: Almanac.com: Thyme)
Check out this recipe for Thyme Roasted Potatoes. This is one of the simplest and easiest sides if you want to impress a crowd. This is one of my favorite sides to make when our thyme is ready to harvest.
2 pounds of your choice of potatoes (I like baby red potatoes)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic powder
Salt & Pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
Shredded parmesan cheese
Optional: fresh garlic and lemon slices for added flavor
Preheat oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit
Wash and slice your potatoes
In a large bowl, add your potatoes, olive oil, garlic powder, salt & pepper and mix
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the potatoes out evenly. If you halved your potatoes, make sure they are flat side down to ensure a crisp
Roast the potatoes for 30 minutes, at 15 minutes, add the parmesan cheese
Remove the potatoes from the oven and toss them with fresh thyme, add another drizzle of olive oil and use a spoon to carefully mix
Optional: squeeze the lemon wedges on for a tangy flavor
Hydrangeas bushes are beautiful pom-pom looking flowers that are native to our zone 6 climate. Hydrangeas bushes can be seen all over Massachusetts in various assortments of colors based on the soil. Before planting your hydrangea, you should plan out which type you’d like to bloom. Use acidic soil for blue or purple-blue hydrangeas. Alkaline soil with a pH above 7 for pink and red hydrangeas. Alkaline soil with a pH below 7 creates a purple hydrangea. (Source : HGTV).
Seed Starting Advice
Most people who are starting to grow hydrangeas start with the root. This can be done in the ground or in a pot.
Plant in an area with partial sun.
Trim around the root for parts that look rotting.
Dig a hole deep enough to cover the entire root, leaving 2 to 3 inches on the sides of the root.
Make sure that the top of the root meets the top layer of soil.
Remove root from hole, fill soil with water halfway.
Once water has absorbed, replace the root back into soil and fill the hole with water.
When growing hydrangeas bushes, you will need to plant them at least 3 to 10 feet apart (Source : The Almanac). This will give them plenty of space to grow out and not be on top of each other. When it comes to protecting them from pests, you should keep your eye out for holes within the flowers. Slugs can be discovered when there are munches on your petals, and can be reduced using slug traps. Other insects, like scale, aphids, beetles and fruit worms, can be reduced using an insect control spray. ( Source : Esponma).
Avoid cutting your hydrangeas when it is hot outside, since this will cause the flower to wilt. Cut within the months of August and October, which is when they are at their blooming season. Pick when the flowers are fully bloomed. (Source : Garden Guides).
The most perfect bouquet featuring hydrangeas include different types of roses, like spray roses and African roses. They also pair well with peonies and dahlias. Alongside these statement flowers, you can add smaller greens, such as babies breath, eucalyptus, delphinium, foxglove, freesia, and bells of Ireland (Source : Cascade Floral Wholesale) When it comes to the colors of the arrangement, you want them to match based on what color hydrangeas you are using. When using blue or purple hydrangeas, you should stick to a more cool toned bouquet, and when you’re using pink, you should use more warm toned flowers- white is the middle ground and can be mixed with either color. Below is an example of a bouquet mixed with both warm and cool colors that looks beautiful as well.
Overview: Known as one of the easiest plants to grow, Sunflowers come in a variety of colors, and can be used in bouquets as decor or harvested for their seeds as a tasty snack.
Seed Starting: Sunflowers prefer warm sandy soil and a sunny location. It is best to sow them directly in your garden but they can also grow well in outdoor containers. Regular varieties prefer a soil depth of around 1 to 1 ½ inches deep spaced about six inches apart, (source: Farmer’s Almanac) (If planting multiple seeds make rows 30 inches apart from one another) Thin sunflowers to the strongest ones once they’ve hit about 6 inches tall. Due to their large stems, if planting larger varieties of sunflowers it is recommended to plant them in an area sheltered from winds as their heads make them top-heavy and susceptible to blowing over, damaging their stems.
Growing Tips: A small amount of fertilizer mixed in with the soil at the time of planting will help encourage strong root growth which will help support stems. It is best to plant sunflowers after spring frost has passed, which means if you live in New England, could mean anywhere from April to mid-June.
Harvesting Flowers for bouquets: Cut the main stem of the flower just before the bud opens. Cut stems early in the morning to avoid wilting. Handle flowers gently and keep them in a tall container, changing the water every day to keep them fresh. In floral arrangements, roses, snapdragons, chrysanthemums, and irises pair well with sunflowers.
Harvesting Seeds: Let the flowers dry on or off the stem until the back of the head turns brown and the leaves turn yellow, the petals die and the seeds look large and loose. Using sharp scissors or gardening pruners, cut off the head of the plant leaving about 6 inches, and place the head in a container to catch seeds. Lie the flower head on a clean flat surface, to remove the seeds, run your hand over the area you’re trying to remove, and pull seeds off the plant.
Overview: Kale is a cold-tolerant, versatile green, useful in salads, soups, “chips,” and as a steamed side dish. Kale can have two crops in New England: one planting before the last spring frost and one planting at the tail end of summer, with a harvest lasting into fall.
Seed Starting Advice: Kale can be started indoors under grow lights or on a sunny windowsill about 8-10 weeks before the last frost (end of March is good). Or, direct seed it in late April. Same goes for mid-to-late August–either direct seed or start in pots. Choose seed starting soil or a potting mix and plant seeds about ¼ inch deep.
Growing Advice: Space seedlings about 12-16 inches apart. Slugs may attack young seedlings. If starting seeds in pots, it helps to wait until they’re about 2-4 inches tall before transplanting. Collars made of toilet paper rolls or paper cups may also protect young seedlings. (photo needed) Common pests include the cabbage worm. Pick off worms (which often color match to the kale) or consider an organic spray of Bt (which will kill other types of caterpillars such as monarchs) or Neem oil.
Harvesting: Pick just a few leaves off a plant as needed and watch the plant continue to produce for months. Baby kale is excellent for salads. Some cooks will even massage the leaves to soften them. Kale that is older, more leathery, and even ruffled will be great for kale chips. (Flatter kales tend to stick to the baking sheet.)
Recipe for Kale Chips (from Lisa)
Wash the leaves and rip into bite-sized pieces.
Dry them well. If you have time, let the leaves sit in a bowl in the fridge for hours of even a few days.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 300.
Use a tablespoon of olive oil and two dashes of soy sauce for about 3 cups of kale leaves. Rub the oil and soy sauce into the kale leaves, spreading the mixture well.
Next, place kale leaves in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Bake for about 12 minutes.
Leaves should be crispy but not be too dried out. It also works well to check at about 10 minutes, remove already-crispy leaves, and let the rest bake for 2 minutes or so longer.