Lilies are the queen of the summer garden

Written by Doug Oster on .

nice lily'Altari' is just one of the great oriental trumpet lilies on the market. Photos by Doug Oster

The heavy perfume of 'Altari' lily hangs in the humid air in the summer garden. The intoxicating fragrance can be enjoyed from 30 feet away.


blog 3 better double lilyThese double oriental lilies were sent to me for a trial and I love them.'Altari' is one of my all-time favorites. It's several years old and has six or more tall stems filled with beautiful blooms.

The variety came from Brent and Becky's Bulbs, a great bulb house. I've learned many lessons over the years from Brent Heath has taught many of them. The best advice I ever received from him- "Buy bulbs from a place you can trust." I follow it for any plants I purchase.

'Altari' has found the perfect spot to thrive and I'm thrilled to see it increase in size annually. Can you imagine 20 stems after a few more seasons? Even though it's a sun lover, the lily is growing with just a several hours of sunshine. In this lighting, the tall stems need to be staked to keep them upright, especially during summer storms.


One of the great things about being a garden writer is trying out new introductions. I don't write about all of the things I try, but these double oriental lilies from Longfield Gardens are just wonderful. I'm a sucker for double anything and love the unusual blooms of these lilies.

They were planted a couple of seasons ago and are blooming like crazy. This variety has also expanded in the same bed.

The double flowers are beautiful, fragrant and are bred not to produce pollen. If you grow lilies and use them as cut flowers, you know what it's like to have the pollen dropping under the vase creating a mess.

No garden would be complete without daylilies. They are easy to grow and breeders have created a plethora of amazing colors, sizes and petal shapes.

There are lots of lily bulbs and plants at local nurseries which are on sale right now and great to get in the garden during the summer. You 'll probably see blooms towards the end of the season this year and then again for many more summers.

nice daylilyDaylilies are basically indestructible and come in a wide range of colors, shapes and sizes.






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Battling slugs organically

Written by Doug Oster on .


blog vertical 6 slugA slug climbs over a garden tomato. Photo by Doug Oster

By Doug Oster/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A long brownish-orange slug slowly slides across a cabbage leaf, pausing occasionally to feed on the tender foliage in my garden. Usually they attack under a shroud of darkness, causing gardeners to wonder what’s causing the holes in their plants’ foliage.
“During the day, they are underneath debris or mulch. Then at night they come out and feed,” says Matthew Quenaudon, integrated pest management specialist at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.
“A slime trail is also a good indicator.”
This is the third wet summer in a row and has the potential for being the worst we’ve seen for slugs in as many years.
The conservatory doesn’t have a serious slug problem since most of its rooms are changed out regularly for seasonal flower shows. That doesn’t give the slug population a chance to grow. When the pests do attack, Mr. Quenaudon’s reaches for an organic bait called Sluggo whose active ingredient is iron phosphate,
“That’s safe for people and pets,” he says.
Once slugs have ingested the bait, they stop feeding almost immediately and die within several days.
Mr. Quenaudon discourages gardeners from reaching for chemical slug pellets. “You might be hurting other things in soil, including toads and frogs.”
There are lots of predators that eat slugs and chemicals can negatively affect them, too. Slugs are a food source for everything from ground beetles to small mammals.
Mr. Quenaudon’s best tip to keep slug damage to a minimum is to keep the garden free of debris and weeds, two things slugs love. Cultivating under and around the plants will also help, he says.
Slugs are soft-bodied snails without a shell. Mr. Quenaudon has some fun facts about the slimy garden raiders.
“They have two sets of antennae. One set is for seeing the other is for smelling.” If one of the antennae is lost, it can regenerate. Slugs are also hermaphroditic and will reproduce prolifically in wet conditions.
If the rains ever stops, water in the morning, he says. The foliage and soil will have time to dry out during the day, making it a little harder on the slugs.
Handpicking is also an option but always use gloves -- slugs emit a sticky slime as a defense mechanism that is hard to wash off. Mr. Quenaudon recommends heading out into the garden for 20 minutes at night when slugs are most active with flashlight in hand.
When the ground does dry out, he says gardeners can use diatomaceous earth to keep the slugs at bay. It’s sharp on the microscopic level and punctures the slugs as they crawl over it. During rainy weather, the powder would need to be applied after each soaking.
Another technique is trapping the pests with beer. Place a grapefruit rind or a bowl in a hole at soil level. Fill the trap with stale beer. Slugs attracted to the yeast will crawl in and drown at the bottom of the trap. It's a disgusting chore to clean out the dead slugs each morning, but it does make quite a dent in the population.
Darcy Kennedy, manager of Penn Hills Lawn and Garden, is carrying a brand-new organic product called Slug Gone. It’s 100 percent natural and made of wool pellets which are applied under and around plants. When the pellets get wet, they swell to form a barrier. Slugs don’t like the texture and won’t crawl on it. The mat also acts as mulch for the plants.
Ms. Kennedy said one customer who bought some in May came back to report success.
“She used it first around her hostas and then decided to use it in her containers” with petunias and other annuals.” The barrier stopped slugs and weeds, she said.
A 1-liter bag of Slug Gone costs $7.99 and a 3.5-liter bag is $17.99 at Penn Hills Lawn and Garden.


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These plants repel bugs

Written by Doug Oster on .

 blog july basil bbBasil is one plant which is purported to repel mosquitoes. Photo by Doug Oster

There are lots of plants which are filled with essential oils that help repel things like mosquitoes and other pests.

In this week's Pittsburgh Today Live segment, I show many of the varieties which can be planted on the patio to repel bugs.

Here's a link to the segment.

There are plants which help repel insects, But know that simply including some of these plants in your won’t get rid of every pest.

As a matter of fact, the best thing you can do to battle mosquitoes is to remove standing water from the garden. I also use something called mosquito dunks. They are organic and are put into water to kill the larvae of the insects.

Plants with a high concentration of essential oils are usually avoided by insects, therefore, planting them should help in the battle against insects.

Basil repels house flies and mosquitoes. Since it’s so easy to grow, fill pots with the herb and put them around areas outside.

Lavender repels moths, fleas, flies and mosquitoes. Although people love the smell of lavender, mosquitoes, flies and other unwanted insects hate it. Grow it in a sunny location.

Lemongrass repels mosquitoes. Citronella is a natural oil found in lemongrass, an ornamental that can grow up to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide in one season, it’s grown as an annual.

Mint and rosemary repel mosquitoes. Never plant mint in the garden, it will take over, always grow it in a pot. I always plug the drainage hole as the mint can escape that way too.

Rosemary has a wonderful perfume that helps keep mosquitoes away.

Dill repels aphids, squash bugs, spider mites, cabbage loopers and tomato hornworms. It also attracts good pollinators to the garden and once you have dill, you’ll always have dill as it reseeds prolifically.

Nasturtiums repel whiteflies, squash bugs, aphids, many beetles and cabbage loopers.

Science tell us these plants will help keep some of the bugs at bay, but no one knows to what extent. Enjoy the plants and hopefully they will battle the pests too.



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Take time to enjoy the "little" things in the garden

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog  nice bee in flight aJewelweed is a great pollinator plant. I didn't get these plants pulled early and the peas used them for support. When the peas are done, the jewelweed will probably be done blooming and can be removed. Photos by Doug Oster

Tiny green, luminescent bees dance around the pink petals of cosmos flowers. It's a stunning color combination and one which is often missed as gardeners are overwhelmed with chores this time of the year.

Even though the garden is thriving with all the rain, the weeds are doing even better. With so many jobs to do and so little time, it can be difficult to stop and observe the magical tiny creatures which help us garden.

Those wild patches of weeds are great for the good bugs, so they have a purpose. At least it's a good excuse until there's time to clean things up.

Growing without chemicals also gives all the pollinators and other insects a chance to create a balance in the garden. Nature does do a great job of making things work, without our interference.

Slow down and explore the plants in the garden. It's fun to take a few minutes to closely look at what's going on in there, you might be surprised at the beautiful things happening right under your nose.

blog bee cosmos 1I'm no bug expert, I love watching these bright green bees in the garden. Just because I don't know what they are, doesn't mean I can't enjoy them.

blog damsel 1The colors on this damsel fly are amazing.

blog bug on daylily 2This little guy was happy to sit for a portrait regardless of how close I got.

blog butterfly 2Annabelle hydrangeas are a magnet to butterflies and other pollinators.

 blog bee in hydrangeaThis little bee was happy in the flowers of an Annabelle hydrangea.

blog spider backlitSmall Venusta Orchard Spiders are all over the garden waiting for something to get caught in their webs.



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Free gardening/cooking demonstration Sunday with Doug and free garlic and garden swag too!

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog Janoskis GarlicThis 'German White' garlic was just pulled at Janoski's Farm and Greenhouse when I arrived. I wish you could smell it! Photos by Doug Oster

blog 3 Victoria BlueWe've got two flats of 'Victoria Blue' salvia to give away.This Sunday, June 28, 2015 I'll be joined by my radio partner Jessica Walliser for our free monthly gardening/cooking demonstration at three Giant Eagle Market District Stores on Sunday.

We're at the Bethel Park GEMD at 9:30am, Waterworks at 12 noon and Pine at 2:30pm.

The event is all about herbs. How to grow them and use them in the kitchen. We'll be cooking Grilled Trout with Oregano and Grilled Rosemary Onions. They'll also be an herb tasting with the Giant Eagle chefs too. The Organic Gardeners also have lots of garden swag to giveaway too. Seeds, AAS winning daylilies, BrazelBerry blueberry plants, Soergel Orchards gift certificates, two flats of 'Victoria Blue' salvia courtesy of Janoski's Farm and Greenhouse. Janoski's has also sweetened the pot with 50 heads of fresh 'German White' garlic for planting!

Hope to see you there!

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