Cultivar Gardens Tue, 10 Feb 2015 21:09:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Minimalist’s Vegetable Garden Sun, 02 Mar 2014 00:45:17 +0000 http://localhost/?p=380 Did you plant a vegetable garden this spring?

I love my modest veggie patch. It isn’t pretty, but it produces.
Every vegetable gardener needs a trustworthy and detailed “how to” book for advice and troubleshooting. The Taunton Press, publishers of Fine Gardening magazine, recently released Growing Vegetables and Herbs, which offers planting and pest control advice for many vegetables along with recipes. I wrote the chapter on chard for this Taunton book, and enthusiastically recommend both the book and planting chard. Chard powers along through cool weather and hot, putting out new leaves to replace those you harvest. It earns a high plantability rating from me for having the lowest maintenance requirements of anything I grow, coupled with generous yields. No work? Lots of produce? Goes from spring to fall? My kind of plant. Check out my chard recipes in Growing Vegetables and Herbs.


Given how busy spring is around here, with the exception of tomatoes I don’t plant my vegetable garden until after July Fourth. This was originally a default move— one year I didn’t get around to planting until my clients’ gardens were set for the summer and my son went away to camp. Now it’s my preferred schedule.

By planting beans, squash, and cucumbers in early July you are out of sync with the flea and cucumber beetle life cycles so those hassles never materialize. The soil is warm and the weather is generally hot, so these plants grow and produce quickly. Chard, kale, arugula, cilantro and heat tolerant lettuces grow quickly, too. Last year we ate kale and arugula planted in July at both Thanksgiving and Christmas.


I have a share in a local CSA so we get early vegetables from the farm. For whatever reason my CSA and nearby Verrill Farm seem to have a lull in cucumber production right around when my July planted crop matures, so my crop fills a supply gap. My cucumbers and cilantro are going strong in late August/September when tomatos are at their peak– a happy match. Cukes and cilantro planted in May would have bolted by then.


If you plant an early July garden, give yourself a few days’ head start to weed out the crabgrass, spurge and nut sedge……..


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The Cultivar Blog Sun, 02 Mar 2014 00:15:58 +0000 http://localhost/?p=372 Clients sometimes ask whether there’s an ideal time to begin designing a garden, and the answer is no. Every month of the year is perfect for some aspect of the design and planting process, so dive in and begin.
I’ll take my own advice, apply it to blogging, and just start. The Cultivar web site and blog are ready to launch now, at the height of gardening season in New England. No easing into it during the quiet days of winter.
And what is on my mind during the hot days of July? Weeds. In particular crabgrass, nut sedge and spotted spurge which are the terrors of my home terroir. I should know better by now, but every spring I remove cool weather weeds from my perennial border, and by June they have given up and stopped growing back. “Ah” I think, “this year I’ve done it; I’ve beaten the weeds. An ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure, etc., etc” I pick peonies and roses and congratulate myself for being on top of things.
And then we get our first run of summer days with blazing sun and temperatures in the 80’s and 90’s. Thank goodness the garden is mulched and the weeds are under control. After gardening for clients all day I’m glad to view the flowers from within the air conditioned house. Days pass, and it’s still hot. I take a quick peek early in the morning and see a few tiny weeds sprouting—so small. I’ll get them later, when it cools off.
You know what comes next, right?
Warm weather weeds, unlike cool weather weeds, go from microscopic to gargantuan in mere hours and, like icebergs, what you see above the surface is just a fraction of the mass forming below. I know better, and shouldn’t be outraged by the speedy aggressive growth of crabgrass, spurge and nut sedge, but they sneak past me every season. You go from being ahead to behind on maintenance in a split second.
So now I’m pulling nut sedge, crabgrass and spotted spurge every day with more sprouting as soon as one batch is gone. These tyrants rule my days because THEY MUST NOT SET SEED. If you eliminate weeds before seeds form, next year you will have fewer weeds. Allow them to seed and a tidal wave of weeds will slam the garden. In past years the weeds won, so there’s a bottomless stockpile of seed in my soil. Maybe a few seasons of vigilance will tip the balance in my favor, but take this as a cautionary tale and stay on it!

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Watering Your New Plants! Sun, 28 Apr 2013 21:14:37 +0000 It is Essential!

Once you have carefully selected healthy plants appropriate for your site it is essential that you implement an appropriate watering program.

Annuals and perennials:

An appropriate watering program would be an in-ground irrigation system with heads and watering schedule adjusted to cover all of the new plantings so that one inch of water per week is received. Proper adjustment depends on the water pressure at your home. You need to measure in order to get this right. Probe the ground with your fingers after watering to see that the ground is wet a good 6” or more in depth.

New trees and shrubs:


New trees and shrubs must be saturated daily for one week after planting, twice per week for the next month, and once per week for the remaining season. The irrigation system will not be adequate, and hoses must be used, if:


Lawn, shrubs and perennials are on the same irrigation zone. In this case adequate watering for shrubs or trees will swamp the lawn and perennials. Note: have your irrigation company put lawn and garden beds on separate zones.


New trees and shrubs share an irrigation zone with older established trees and shrubs. The older plants will be fine, but your water use will be higher than necessary. Hoses get the water to just the new shrubs and trees.


If the garden is entirely new and shrubs and trees have their own zone separate from lawn or perennials, then the irrigation system can be set to water the new material. Check to see that all plants are reached by the spray heads. If you see dry spots, adjust the heads or water by hand.


Watering schedule for the first year:


The rule of thumb is: water deeply every day for a week, twice per week for a month, and weekly for the rest of the season. Weekly deep watering is especially important in October and November in preparation for winter. Yes, keep that irrigation system running through October. Don’t winterize it too early!


Steady, generous water in the first growing season is the key to a healthy plant. Be consistent this season, don’t let the plants get stressed from lack of water, and they’ll grow beautifully in future years— with a much reduced watering schedule.


Cultivar will recommend plantings to suit natural growing conditions and offer suggestions for watering strategies, but cannot assume responsibility for watering clients’ gardens.


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A Gardening Fiend’s Perfect Day Wed, 10 Apr 2013 16:35:59 +0000 . . . of Plant Shopping in Metro West!

There are times in life when a self-indulgent day off is warranted, and if you are an avid gardener, a day in early May is definitely one of those times. How often have colleagues ducked out for an afternoon Red Sox game? It’s your turn. Go on— the moment to peruse this year’s crop of perennials, shrubs and vegetables is NOW. The sales tables are overflowing and interesting new varieties are calling your name.

Starting in Wayland and ending in Lincoln via Sudbury and Concord browse your way through five garden shops, nurseries and farm stands that will inspire discerning pros and newbie gardeners alike.


A. Russell’s Garden Center, 397 Boston Post Road, Wayland

Hours:  daily 9-5:30  508-358-2283

The perennial buyer at Russell’s does a phenomenal job.  You’ll find a a large and irresistible collection of plants from old favorites in every color and variation imaginable to unusual varieties rarely seen elsewhere.  Plan to spend one or two hours at Russell’s.  Go on a Wed. after 12 pm and catch the weekly Farmer’s Market for another layer of delight.

Food Stop!


Karma Coffee


100c Boston Post Road, Sudbury. 978-443-2073. 7 am – 2pm M-S.

This tiny hole in the wall hidden behind Papa Gino’s roasts and grinds its beans on the premises and attracts die-hard coffee lovers. If you prefer a comfortable table and a wider offering of beverages and food continue on to . . .


Sudbury Coffee Works


15 Union Ave. 978-440-9752. M-F 6am- 5pm, S 6:30am – 4 pm.


Sudbury Coffee Works has a fine selection of coffee, which they also roast on the premises,
and other beverages as well as a tempting menu of gourmet baked goods and sandwiches.


B. New England Garden Ornaments,  81 Union Ave, Sudbury

Hours: T-F 10 am- 5 pm 978-579-8900,

NEGO moved to Sudbury from North Brookfield MA in 2009,  shortening the pilgrimage that designers and gardeners in the know had been making for 20 years to shop this collection of imported antique containers, urns and statuary.

C. Cavicchio’s

Wholesale only

Continue north on Union Ave and look to your left for an amazing sight. Acres and acres of potted annuals and perennials  create blocks of solid color at Cavicchio Wholesale Nursery. What you see is a fraction of Cavicchio’s inventory.  It’s clear from just a glance that Cavicchio is the largest wholesaler of container-grown annuals and perennials in New England.  Cavicchio sells exclusively wholesale so drive on by. Undoubtedly you will see their plants at garden centers this season.

D.  Verrill Farm 11 Wheeler Road, Concord

Hours:  9am-7pm daily,  978-369-4494

The next stop is 6.5 miles away at Verrill Farm in Concord, just at the Sudbury line. Wave hello to the Mahoney’s just across the street, but save that stop for another day when you can check out their flagship store in Winchester.  Verrill Farm is a minor plant hunting spot, but a major source of inspiration.  The shop is surrounded by Verrill’s beautiful fields. They sell a small assortment of vegetable, herb and flower plants, and carry a wonderful selection of their own vegetables and home made foods.

Food Stop!


Plan your route to stop at Verrill Farm for lunch — or pick up dinner so you can spend the afternoon planting all your new treasures.  Verrill’s menu is built around the food that they grow. They are locally famous for their apple pie.  Bring a cooler— bet you don’t leave empty handed!


E. Brigham Farm Stand, 117 Fitchburg Tpke, Concord

Hours:978-287-4334, open daily 10-5

Just around the corner from Verrill Farm is Brigham’s, a sweetly old fashioned farm stand that packs an unexpected punch.  Just to the left of the building, under the shade of a large maple, are low tables full of exotic elephant ears and other unusual annuals grown in their greenhouse.  The choice of dark hued foliage and dramatic statement plants is excellent.

F. Stonegate Gardens, 339 South Great Rd, Lincoln

Hours: 8am – 6 pm M-S, 9am- 5 pm Sun.781-259-8884.

Up to this point the focus has been on annuals, perennials and vegetables.  While Stonegate has plenty of those,  this is your chance to shop the area’s best collection of dwarf conifers, Japanese maples, and other small shrubs and trees.  You will also find a large and discerning collection of containers awaiting your creations or pre-planted by Stonegate’s designer.  For design inspiration this is the place to stroll and take notes.  Colors, textures and  gorgeous vessels present a unique and modern spin at Stonegate. Don’t skip this one.

Food Stop!

Dairy Joy

331 North Ave., Weston,
5 miles east of Stonegate Gardens on Rt. 117

 Try their javaberry soft serve.

Now get planting!


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Fruit Trees Sun, 07 Apr 2013 17:31:42 +0000 Matthew Cianci, Cultivar’s lead horticulturist, has a passion for growing fruit trees. The orchard that Matthew planted with his grandfather produces an amazing variety of apples: old types, new ones, grafts from trees spotted in abandoned orchards—you name it. Growing apples and other fruits organically is tricky: you must track “degree days” to know when temperatures are right for pests to appear and apply deterrents at just the right moment. Matthew has tried and true methods for organic pest control, including his own blended spray of oils and soap to ward off attacking insects.

In late winter you might spot Matthew pruning 30 plus fruit trees on busy Wellesley Street in Weston for Barbara Zenker, a Cultivar client. More than 20 years ago Barbara began planting apple, pear and peach trees in what was a typical suburban front lawn. When Barbara’s trees are blooming in early May the drive to the house becomes a romantic pastoral scene. It’s beautiful, unusual, bountiful and—believe it or not— plays up the essence of a lawn, with grass carpeting the little orchard.

We encourage our clients to plant fruit trees, confident that Matthew’s expertise and organic care make this a fun and healthy adventure for the whole family.

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