The Garden Spotter

5 Garden Books for Giving


5 All Natural Mulches


IMG_8198 Mulch is so important to your garden plants. It helps regulate soil temperature, keeping soil cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. (more…)

The Thriller, Filler, Spiller Technique


thriller filler spiller Above: A neon pink geranium is the thriller in this hanging basket, purple alyssum is the filler and the grey-blue helichrysum is the trailing spiller.

Choosing plants and flowers for that hanging basket on the porch or that urn at the end of the driveway is no easy task, especially if you’re strolling through three greenhouses full of endless possibilities. (more…)

Citizen Science – 5 Projects for Mainers

citizen science

Common Loon via Wikimedia Commons

Citizen science has been around for centuries.  John James Audubon, for example, traveled the country sketching and painting all the birds of North America with precise detail. (more…)

Saving Summer Geraniums


This year, I finally got fed up with buying new geraniums and decided to overwinter mine.  As tender perennials, geraniums will not last long in our zone 5b winter.  So, the choices  are few: you can let them die and simply purchase new plants in the spring; you can bring them inside and grow them as houseplants during the colder months; or you can remove them from their soil, cut them back hard, and store the roots in a cool, dark place and replant them in the spring.

My goal is simple. I have a pink ivy geranium that I enjoyed in the summer and it has continued to bloom into the fall. I’d just like to see if I can get more of that happiness through the winter.

To do this, I first made sure that I chose plants that were free of insects or disease; in other words, good specimens. I took them out of their terracotta pots, cleaned them of most dirt, trimmed the roots some, and re-potted them in some nice stone pots I got cheaply at the Goodwill.  I trimmed the plants of dead leaves and spent flowers, and cut them back sharply, like a good haircut. I could not resist cutting the flowers, so I left them for now, but will eventually cut those long stems back.  geranium 006 With my Felco pruners,  I trimmed and trimmed and trimmed. geranium 013 And into fresh new potting soil the geraniums went, ready for a new season, albeit a much colder one.  Later this winter, I might also cut some leaves from my overwintering geraniums and try growing them in a special medium. The little babies that should result will likely produce more than the original “mother” plant.  In the meantime, I will enjoy more blooms come January and February. Hopefully. We’ll just have to wait and see. geranium 026 I’ve got the perfect spot for these girls: upstairs in a walk-in closet in the bedroom. It just so happens to have a roll out window, which will provide ample sunlight, and cool temperatures. Perfect. A little bit of summer tucked away in my closet.
Color Stress Away with Coling Books at Interweave

How I Got Rid of Those Pesky Fruit Flies


The fruit fly invasion started several weeks ago with just a few of the critters flying around the blueberry juice left in the sink. Before I knew it, there were hundreds buzzing around the kitchen, the sink, the oranges on the table, and the trash can. I’ve had fruit flies before, but usually they disappeared in a couple of days on their own, not multiply in epic numbers. This time, they were out of control and I had to do something about it.

So, I searched the internet for how to get rid of fruit flies without chemicals or having to go out to the store to purchase anything new. I also scanned my small collection of old gardening books for answers.

Some of the ideas:

      • Squirt the flies with water, which immobilizes them, then wipe them up with a paper towel.
      • Pour boiling water down the drain to make sure to eliminate any fruit fly eggs. (They can lay hundreds of eggs at a time.)
      • Make a trap using a jar filled with apple cider vinegar and a little dish soap to “break the surface tension.” Then, make a paper cone, leaving a tiny opening at the end, and place down inside the jar. The theory is, the fruit flies go in after the apple cider vinegar, fall in and drown.
      • Make a trap similar to the one above, but put plastic wrap over the top of the jar, secure it with elastic and poke holes in it.  Again, the theory is the flies will go after the apple cider vinegar and drown.

Fruit_fly_trap Downtowngal/Wikimedia Commons

I also read that fruit flies basically like anything that’s sweet and fermenting. The only things I had on hand that I was willing to forfeit to the cause were balsamic vinegar or hard apple cider.

I tried the balsamic vinegar first and apparently it was not appetizing enough for the flies because they barely touched it. Because I was getting very weary of battling the tiny bugs and wanted them gone, I reached next for the hard cider.

And, Bingo! fruit flies 001

Hard cider mixed with a couple of drops of dish liquid did the trick. Within a day or so, I had hundreds of fruit flies dead in the dish. As an extra precaution, I poured boiling water in the sink drains to kill any eggs, and emptied and cleaned the garbage can. So far, so good, as they say.

I did not try the paper cone or the plastic wrap. For some reason, I thought it would take longer for the flies to fly into a hole and I didn’t want to wait that long.  I also didn’t try apple cider vinegar or kombucha tea, but I suspect they would work equally well.

I am very happy to have my kitchen to myself again. I got rid of the fruit flies without using any harmful chemicals, and I didn’t pay a cent to do it. Boom!

5 Father’s Day Gifts for the Gardener (Made in Maine!)


Looking for a Father’s Day gift for the dad with a green thumb? Turns out, Maine has a number of small businesses that make garden tools and other related gardening products. He’ll love that it’s something he can use, and that it’s “Made in Maine,” a phrase which suggests a certain quality, creativity and independence all rolled into one. Here are five cool gifts with connections to Maine for your pop who loves to garden:

Father's Day Gifts 2 Father's Day Gifts 1
From Top:

  • Sure, Ashfield Tool is based in Ashfield, Massachusetts, but its key component, a birch wood handle, is made in Maine. This harrow by Ashfield is also known as a hand tiller, used to break up clumps of soil.
  • Hunting Camp Soap from Portland Apothecary is a scrub soap with bits of pumice for extra abrasiveness,  because sometimes a guy needs a good hearty scrub.
  • The Original Pike’s Garden Hod is something any gardening dad should have, whether he grows food or flowers. This is the genuine Maine hod, a type of trug used to carry harvested products.
  • Not Far From the Tree, written by Maine’s apple expert John Bunker.  Book available from the Maine Farmers and Garden Association MOFGA.
  • Byer of Maine makes all sorts of garden furniture, but it is its Brazilian hammocks that get all the attention. Byer is the sole U.S. distributor of Amazonas hammocks, woven from recycled textiles. Available at

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