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Growing Winter Onions and Shallots

Fall and winter – when most of the vegetable garden is slumbering – is a great time to get a jump on next year’s onion, scallion, and shallot crop.  Most members of the onion tribe (known botanically as Allium) are hardy perennials and biennials that tolerate winters in most areas of the U.S.  Garlic (as discussed elsewhere on this site) is one well-known and often-grown example – but winter onions and shallots are also ideal winter-growing crops […]

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Sustainable "Imperfect" Turf Options


The “perfect lawn” – that oft-celebrated but all-too-rarely achieved carpet of unblemished turf grass – is a seductive concept.  It’s also impossible to grow in most areas of the United States without major inputs of pesticides, fertilizer, water, and labor (as well as cash).  This is not to mention the significant secondary costs that come with chemically supported lawns, such as damage to beneficial soil microbes and the neighboring environment.  What’s good for […]

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Top 10 Tough Fast-Growing Shade Trees

Red maples are very fast growing and spectacular in fall.
What makes a fast-growing shade tree exceptional? First, it must be strong-wooded and long lived. Second, it must be attractive, providing desirable seasonal characteristics to make your yard look great. Those that are native, disease resistant, and well-adapted to a given region are also optimal. Finally, they should have minimal messy fruits to reduce the hassle of seasonal clean up.

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Surprise Lilies for Summer and Fall

The rosy blooms of Lycoris incarnata almost look candy-striped. (photo courtesy of Jim Murrain)
Commonly known as “magic lily,” plants in the genus Lycoris are, in fact, much more closely related to amaryllis than to their namesake. But they do bring plenty of magic to the landscape when they open their large funnel-shaped flowers on tall naked stems in mid- to late summer. Several are winter-hardy to boot, creating all sorts of delicious possibilities […]

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Patio Peaches

Bonfire is the most popular patio peach with its maroon-purple leaves, small size, and sweet little peaches.
Do you want to grow your own peaches, but lack a place for a full-sized peach tree? This is not a problem, thanks to a slew of recently introduced peach tree varieties that mature at a shrubby 4- to 6-feet in height.  Ideal for containers, urban gardens, and patios, these dwarf peaches bring big possibilities to […]

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Swallowtail Butterfly Gardening

Gardeners tend to have a thing for swallowtail butterflies.  Likewise, swallowtails tend to have a thing for certain plants – and certain gardens. The more you incorporate their favorites into your garden, the more they will favor you with their flighty visits.

Adult swallowtails of all species (including the half-dozen or so species native to eastern North America) share similar tastes in nectar.  A border brimming with coneflowers and […]

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Four Hardy Fruiting Vines for Edible Landscaping

Concord grapes are an old-standard hardy grape.
Hardy fruiting vines bring together two of the hottest trends in horticulture: edible landscaping and vertical gardening.  They are the perfect choice for grow-it-yourself gardeners with limited square footage and a tasty way to clothe a pergola or trellis or provide rapid aerial cover.

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The Best Reblooming Shrubs for Summer

Panicle hydrangea blooms through much of the summer.
Flowering shrubs do lots of good things in the garden, but their length of bloom often disappoints.  Exceptions do occur, with hybrid roses being the most obvious and ubiquitous example.  They’re not the only shrubs that bloom long and well, though.  Here are seven of the best of the rest.  Their individual flowers may not be as voluptuous as those of a hybrid tea rose, […]

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Pruning Apple Trees in Spring

Well-pruned apple trees look better and produce fruit more reliably in fall.
An unpruned apple tree is a snarly-branched, puny-fruited thing.  One of the best ways to keep that from happening to your apple trees is to give them an annual late-winter pruning.
Fortunately, backyard apple trees don’t need the complicated pruning regimens followed by commercial orchards.  A couple of hours of pruning per year can keep your trees looking good and producing reliably […]

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The Best Maples for Maple Sugaring

The best time to tap sugar maples is in late winter.
It’s sugaring season across much of southern Canada and the northern United States.  The sun is climbing higher, temperatures are moderating, and maple sap is starting to flow.
You don’t need sugar maples to make good maple sugar, however.  Purists may blanch at the thought, but several other maple species have sweet-flavored sap that flows on mild winter days and that boils down into […]

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