Kids and gardening are a great mix

Written by Doug Oster on .

I had so much fun today on Pittsburgh Today Live planting a container filled with edibles with the help of some kids. Their parents all work at KDKA and it was bring your child to work day.

Get those kids in the garden!

Here's the segment on Pittsburgh Today Live-


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Earth Day; 10 easy steps for you to make a difference

Written by Doug Oster on .

Earth Day 2015The earth is a pretty cool place to live. Do your part to make it last, it's easy. Photo courtesy of NASA

1. Go Organic

There's no reason to use chemicals in the garden. I've haven't sprayed anything in my garden for nearly 30 years and my garden thrives. Feed the soil, not the plant and you'll always have a great garden. Compost equals a green thumb.

When I made the switch decades ago, I read everything I could get my hands on about organic gardening. I found out EVERYONE was an organic gardener before WWII, as there were no chemical pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides.

2. Don't obsess about killing bugs

Unfortunately Madison Avenue has vilified insects. My radio partner and bug expert Jessica Walliser says this, "99 percent of insects in the garden are either good or benign." When you use a chemical pesticide, you kill the bad bug, but you also kill good bugs and soil life too. Mother Nature does a pretty good job of creating a cycle of life where good bugs control the bad. You'll always be a more successful gardener working with nature instead of against.

Dill is the number one plant to attract beneficial insects.

3. Nothing Grows Better Than Grass When It's Happy

That's why we try so hard to keep it out of our flower beds and vegetable garden. When a lawn has the correct pH and fertility the grass will outgrow anything. A soils test from the Penn State Extension Service is under $10 and will tell you everything you need to know about your soil and how to improve it.

4. Plant a Tree or Shrub

Trees are good, they take carbon dioxide and convert it into oxygen, make shade and are beautiful. Flowering shrubs do the same thing.

5. Don't Panic

When there's a problem with a pest or disease in the garden figure out what's going on and target the problem specifically in a way that doesn't disrupt the balance of nature.

6. Water Smart and Mulch

"Water is our most precious resource." That's a quote from every filmstrip or video we ever saw in school and it's true. Mulch your garden to preserve moisture and keep the soil evenly moist. When we don't get enough rain, soak the plants in the morning at their base.

7. Help Pollinators and Birds

Plant lots of flowers for pollinators like bees, butterflies moths and more. Create an attractive area for birds, they eat lots of pests. Birds need some cover for staging and nesting, something to eat like sunflower seeds and water. Not only do they help you garden, birds are fun to watch.

8. Get Help

Not sure what to do when there's a problem in the garden. Every good garden center has people who will help. They also have a slew of organic solutions to solve those problems. If you're bringing in insects or a diseased plant, make sure it's in a sealed plastic bag.

9. A Small Difference is Still a Difference

Don't think you're organic garden can change things, guess again. Every step in the right direction moves us all to a better place to live.

10. We All Live Downstream

Use your big brain to make decisions which will benefit you, your family, your pets, your neighbors and the environment.

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Surprises in the spring garden help cure jet lag

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog creeping jennyCreeping Jenny survived the winter in the greenhouse. What a nice surprise to return to. Photos by Doug Oster

The spring garden thrived while I visited the Netherlands for eight days, I was welcomed home by a few surprises and plenty of work to do.

Happy accidents are one thing which make gardening such a joy. The first thing I saw after driving home from the airport was a hanging basket in the greenhouse filled with color. The chartreuse leaves of creeping Jenny somehow thrived in an unwatered container. Creeping Jenny is an indestructible perennial which is invasive, that's why I try to keep it under control in a pot. The hanging basket must of been in the right spot to get enough dripping rain and thawed snow to keep the plant alive.

blog split corona pink

I walked through the garden a few days later still struggling with jet lag. I always have trouble flying back from Europe, but pink split corona daffodils sure made me feel better. I can't find their name, but as I often say, "do I need to know the name of something beautiful?" They might be 'Apricot Swirl,' I'll try to find the variety in my garden journal.

blog lots of daffs

blog pretty daffs

In just eight days, the garden had changed. No surprise there, but I missed a few flowers which came and went. Luckily the daffodils were just coming into their own as I returned. They are one of my favorite flowers, I look forward to having a few minutes to walk in the woods to cut a bouquet. For now they put a smile on my tired face every time I see them swaying in the spring breeze.

blog trillium still there

Since the deer have devastated most of the garden, these trillium were a wonderful surprise. The deer have been eating everything and they love trillium. I'm spraying them with Bobbex to enjoy the blooms for as long as possible.

blog thin radishes

The radishes need thinned. It's important to give them space to head up. I'll use those thinnings in a salad tonight along with early spring greens which exploded while I was gone.

I stopped by Hahn Nursery to get a few things for filming Digging with Doug and there was a broken gazing ball waiting for me. Nothing makes me happier than recycling something cool in the garden. It's perfect for my style..or lack of style, depending on how you look at it.

It's great to be home and in the garden again.

 blog gazing ballb


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Tulip river cruise reveals Holland's beauty

Written by Doug Oster on .

Blog Monday Day 1aThe faces of Amsterdam. Can you find Mick Jagger? Photos by Doug Oster

Cold wind and blowing rain greeted a small group of travelers who broke away with me for quick side of Amsterdam. We had just landed with a total of 26 people joined me on a Tulip River Cruise of the Netherlands last week, I blogged every day about our adventures and wanted to wrap up with some stories from a great trip.

We were on our way to the Floating Flower Market, a place filled with just about everything you could imagine for the garden. Amsterdam is a beautiful city, charming row houses look out over canals. In Europe there are always surprises for Americans walking the streets. Bike lanes and roads are hard to figure out and we spend lots of time alerting our friends to fast moving bicycles, cars and trolleys headed in their direction. While walking down the street past coffee shops reeking of marijuana, we're greeted by a strange window filled with faces. I have no idea what this business was, but it was one of those things you see in Europe that makes you wonder and laugh at the same time.

Blog Monday Day 1d roof top daffsEver seen daffodils planted on top of a roof before?

We were there to see how the locals garden and see how they use plants. In one town we saw daffodils planted on the roof of a Dutch home. It was just one of the cool ways they plant.

Blog Monday Day 1e cemeterySomeone left flowers at the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery.

But there's a rich and painful history here too. I did a story a Emmy Busmen, who's mother endured living under Nazi occupation for most of her teen years and I visited the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery, filled with 1749 soldiers, most killed in WWII's Battle of Arnhem. Many of the grave stones included personal messages from family. J.W. Hope was killed on September 20th, 1944. This was written on the bottom of his grave; "I miss your smile. With you I spent the happiest days." Standing among all those white grave markers and reading the personal messages on each puts life in perspective.

Blog Monday Day 1g windmillOne of the windmills at Kinderdijk.

No trip to Holland would be compete without seeing windmills. One of the best places to do that is Kinderdijk. It's a place to see lots of them together and climb a working mill to see how the miller lived there with his family.

But the highlight of the trip was a visit to Keukenhof Gardens. Only open for eight weeks, this bulb display is one of the most magnificent gardening displays I've ever seen. It's something I wish every gardener could see. Of all the gardens I've seen over the years, Keukenhof stands shoulder to shoulder with the best.

I think the one thing that made our trip to the Netherlands so wonderful, were the Dutch people. They are resilient, funny and love to garden. What else could you ask for?

blog long hyacynth bedThe fragrance of these hyacinths at Keukenhof Gardens was heavenly.

blog fringe tulipsBeautiful fringe tulips at Keukenhof Gardens in Holland.


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Beyond belief -- The colors, scale and blooming tapestry of the Keukenhof Gardens

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog selfie ny

After close to an hour on the road, our tour bus filled with myself and 26 other travelers arrived and the legendary Keukenhof Gardens. It was a good sign when our guide suggested to the bus driver to take a little spin around the bulb fields. As the intoxicating aroma of hyacinths filled the cabin we were awed by the rainbow of colors which stretched for miles. There were millions of bulbs covering flat fields, it was a unique and stunning sight.

We had a feeling the bulb display here in Holland was going to be spectacular, but never could have imagined the grandeur we were about to see.

blog purple tulips

Once inside, the gardens were beyond belief. I’ve been lucky enough to see some the greatest landscapes in the world, and Keukenhof is second to none.

Working my way along the edge of a small stream on the outskirts of the display trying to get just the right angle on those amazing bulb fields, I ran into Michelle Nawaz of New York City. She was working on taking the perfect selfie, using a tapestry of bulbs as her background. She hadn’t seen much of the garden yet, but when she turned to look at the huge display behind her she said, “it’s beautiful, the colors are breathtaking.”

blog pink tulips inside

Turning back to Kuekenhof, the afternoon light danced around the flowers, sometimes filtered through the blooms of spring blooming trees, other times forming long shadows which changed as the the clouds drifted through, pushed along by a soft breeze.

blog fringe tight

The garden is overwhelming as each bed offers another magical combination. Deep orange fringe tulips are set off by dark blue grape hyacinths and tiny white flowers make the perfect background for small purple fritillaria blooms.

blog holding hands

While standing on a little bridge, a French couple walked hand in hand examining bright yellow daffodils. As they walked up to me, I showed them the photo I’d just made of them. For a second there was an uncomfortable moment, not knowing why I handed them the camera, thinking I wanted them to take a picture of me. “It’s you,” I said, and when they looked at the screen, both smiled, then laughed and said, “merci.”

blog long bed

There were unimaginably long beds, hundreds of yards long with repeating patterns of three of four different bulbs in full bloom and other beds containing varieties which waited patiently to become the stars of the garden.

blog lone tulip

One small, brilliant yellow daffodil bravely stood among a huge bed of blue hyacinths. I wondered if it was a survivor from last year’s show. Keukenhof is only open for eight short weeks, opening in March and closing in May. The rest of the time is spent preparing the nearly 80 acres for the next show.

Inside a building draped with white cloth are a multitude of bulbs and plants in full bloom. New introductions of tulips and just about anything else you can imagine are showcased. The colors are spellbinding and the fragrances of lilacs and others are sweet relief from a long winter.

blog selfe garden

There’s a cool place called the selfie garden. All you have to do is take a picture in one of the many oblong mirrors. Old people (like me) are confused and forced to ask the young exactly how to take the right photo. The youngsters were struggling themselves, but figured it out quicker than the oldsters and were more than happy to fill them in for the proper technique.

blog framed tulips

As the sun slowly slipped lower, the flower combinations became even more beautiful. Walking back to the bus, I turned back to see three or four drifts of tulips backlit and framed with a flowering crabapple.

After taking the photo, I put the camera down. Standing there looking at the scene all I could do was smile. It was one of those moments when you want to pinch yourself, “is this really happening,” I though to myself.

I can check Keukenhof off the garden bucket list, but hope to return again to spend a couple days exploring this special place instead of a couple hours.

The bus ride back to the cruise ship was spent in the afterglow of an experience I’ll never forget.

(Top image: The Keukenhof Gardens. Doug Oster photos)


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