Gardener’s Corner

January 2020 

Happy New Year!  Have your thoughts yet turned to seeds, seedlings and new plantings?  Of course along with these winter dreams comes the thoughts of weeds and weeding (remember!).  Here is an interesting piece reporting some little known facts about dandelions (source unknown, thanks to Rita Nazareth): 

November  2019


What would be a Thanksgiving dinner without cranberry sauce, sherbert or other cranberry treat?  The wetlands and bogs around southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod offer the perfect environment for cultivating this crop.

At this time of year I very much enjoy visiting the cranberry farms in Tiverton, Acushnet or Wareham, learning about their growing practices and purchasing freshly picked fruits which are still attached to the vine with dark green leaves.
I was thus very much interested in reading the latest article of the Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment of UMass Amherst which features a cranberry pathologist. To consult the article, simply click Day job: Cranberry Pathologist. Off duty: Inspires Women and Farmers


Image by Zdeněk Chalupský from Pixabay

October  2019

Sidney Tynan’s October column

My old records show frosts on this date but what an amazing end of summer September gave us! Clear, sun filled, cloudless and windless (well almost) days in which we felt we could clear out every drawer and answer every letter. I don’t ever remember anything like them. Everything is still green and the Back 40 full of flowers. A young speaker from the URI Dept of Science and Entomology showed a slide of an invasive Knapweed which grows there and I had always thought was native as it looked like a soft, lavender thistle. So now I know. So counting the Knapweed I have EIGHT invasive plants and shrubs but fortunately not the miserable, vining Swallowort. This is a member of the Milkweed family and although the Monarchs do lay their eggs on it, but it gobbles up whole fields. URI has been able to introduce a moth whose caterpillars can destroy it but not the three varieties on which the Monarchs depend.

The chief Horticulturists at Blithewold suggested I read Bringing Nature Home: How you can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants. Of course the title is pretty explanatory but wait till you see all the photos of shrubs and trees and caterpillars and butter flies and helpful lists of what to plant in Rhode Island. So if you or a neighbor are planning on planting trees or shrubs, take a look at this wonderful book by Douglas W. Tallamy. Our library system has it.    

I dread to think that the next time I write there won’t be a leaf left but now you can put away the Hummingbird feeders.

September  2019

Claire and Steve Johnson’s Garden

On June 5, Claire and Steve Johnson offered a tour of their garden to members of the Sogkonate Garden Club. Participants were delighted to discover the various sections of the garden and this history of how it has evolved over the years from a lawn surrounded by woods to a colorful personalized heaven of seasonal plantings and garden decorations. 

Jeanne McAllister and Dominique Coulombe followed up with an interview with Claire who kindly offered to answer our questions. 

Can you tell us a little history about your “garden” and how it evolved?

I started gardening about 50 years ago as a child and a teen in central Massachusetts helping my Dad who had a huge vegetable garden and grew up on a farm in Vermont. My Dad’s garden was his pride and joy, and he is the person who continues to inspire the design, creation and maintenance of my garden. When my husband and I lived in an apartment in Fitchburg, we planted our own garden plot in a local Community Garden.

When we moved into our present home thirty years ago, there was no grass anywhere-just topsoil and plywood planks to walk on the mud!  We raked the stones and rocks and planted the grass ourselves, which was heavy work. In addition, we had several trees near the house removed over the years, among them were some tupelo and oak trees.  The first summer here, even without the grass all planted and growing, I couldn’t wait to plant a vegetable garden using a rototiller, my Dad’s compost (which was like brown gold) and some cow manure I obtained from Linda Wilde’s farm, driving over and shoveling some into trash bags.

As the shade from the growing trees nearby increased over the years, this eventually became a flower garden with Phlox and Goldsturm Rudbeckia plants, which eventually overtook the entire bed.

My second garden contained a collection of mail order day lilies, and other perennials, some of which over the years have survived. Every summer I would either enlarge a bed I had created, or dig a new one, always dividing plants I had and always finding something new to add.

One summer I had an abundance of seedling Hellebores, and they needed a new home. My eyes saw the mass of Goldsturm Rudbeckias, and I dug out almost two thirds of that garden, replanting the Rudbeckias in other beds, giving many away, but also finally heaping them in my compost.   I planted my baby hellebores in this newly created space and added  other deer resistant plants such as extra Astilbes, Greek onions, which remained from my first vegetable garden, and rhubarb, a special gift from my late Mother in law about 25 years ago.

When we first moved in, Ellen Burchard of Old Acre, offered to give us forsythia from her property on West Main Road, if we were willing to dig them up. We lugged them home, planted them, and they still grace our early spring every year. However, I have to remember to cut them back after blooming, and they demand regular heavy pruning.  I have lugged so many gallon containers of Azalea, PJM Rhodies, and Spirea and other bushes over the years, I have lost track of how many. This created a happy assortment of plants that bloom at different times and is especially pretty in the spring and early summer.  Over the years, each garden bed was created in circular flowing patterns with grassy paths between them.  

How have you personally developed and evolved as a gardener?

When I first work on a garden, I consider the location and what it already offers. In general, I favor perennials which are easy to care for and English gardens. I have learned to always plant in threes which helps create a swath and a broader color scheme. I also learned to divide and replant. Sidney Tynan has always been an inspiration with her gardens and back forty; she gave me the Sheffield pink chrysanthemums and Japanese Anemones, which are blooming now.  When they bloom, they always remind me of her. I now cultivate more varieties of plants and try to experiment with different combinations.

My two favorite theme gardens are the Cross Garden, which has the four quadrants and is the last one I created, with help from my son Will before he moved to California, and of course Steve.   Dad & Gunther’s Garden is dedicated to the memory of my father. I created that bed the year Dad passed away in 1999, and planted some of Dad’s favorite species: rhododendrons, day lilies, peonies and irises. We have always had cats, and Gunther died the same year as Dad, so the cat statue is there as a remembrance.

My newest garden is dedicated to my Mom who passed away last year; it has three little new hydrangea varieties called Let’s Dance and Twist and Shout. Mom was a professional piano player and played in dance bands all her life.

I didn’t even plan it, but after planting the hydrangeas I realized it was for Mom as she was the life of the party, and got everyone up dancing to the music!                                                                                 




What is your daily work like in the different seasons?

In November I cut back many of the plants and do some light raking. In late February I do more serious raking and in late March and April, I edge, weed, and divide. The early summer months, I finally get to mulch. Often my beds are so full of flowers, I need only mulch along the front of the bed.  In the winter I place the outdoor pots which contain my Black and Blue, and Purple Spire Salvias in the cellar after cutting the plants back. I remove the plants from the very large pots, replanting them in peat moss, and also place them in the cellar over the winter, watering them once a month.

I keep a garden journal which includes my own drawings, pictures and all my sales receipts, and plant labels, so I can keep track of what is still growing and what is not.

What have these gardens taught you?

Gardening has taught me that patience is a virtue. It’s important to take one step at a time. On some days I can work for as long as five hours. Those are my big project days; but I am finally learning it is very important to take s often, sit back and enjoy the view.


Do you have 3 top tips for others as they invest time and resources into evolving their personal gardens? 

  • Draw pictures /plans of your garden ideas
  • Use plants that work for you in your yard, those that are happy and thriving
  • Don’t be afraid to pull and clear overgrown beds and try new plants





What are you most proud of; what is most unique about how you have approached these gardens?

The Cross Garden with the Peonies and Dahlias which is the most formal garden, and the Aster Garden which blooms at the end of the season.


What else do you want to make certain your readers understand about your gardening process/experiences?

Surprise seedling baby plants that appear in my gardens bring me so much joy: for example, the Red Lobelia plants that have sprung up in new places in the garden for the past few years, as well as the Brunnera babies that seem to grow every summer in my brick walkway. I love finding surprise plants or even hydrangeas that have sprung up near the compost heap in the woods!

Plants keep on giving. So many plants given to me by a friend or relative over the past 30 years continue to bring a smile and memory of that friend or relative when I see them growing.

The quote “Your Gardening is your Zen” by Jenny Hendy summarizes my experience of feeling serene, at peace and centered when I am in my garden.



Sidney Tynan’s September column

For the past few weeks whenever I have looked out onto the back of my backyard from upstairs I have seen two pink fields. One is Joe Pye Weed, pale pink this year and always an indicator of damp ground and just across the path a Vetch with its pea like flowers. Although there are 140 varieties, according to Newcomb’s Wild flower Guide I am sure it is Cow Vetch – used for cow fodder. Now patches of yellow have opened up in all the fields – my three varieties of Golden Rod, and as I have mentioned in other years, I am too lazy to try and identify which of the 32 varieties I have.

That purple butterfly bush not only attracted Monarchs, but they stayed around to lay eggs. So in my dining room I have a cheesecloth covered aquarium where one Monarch caterpillar, with its wonderful stripes and long black whiskers, has already hung its chrysalis aka “pup” and an egg hatched a tiny little one, who now on a daily diet of fresh Milkweed leaves, has become huge and should be ready very soon to make its “pup”. The current chrysalis is where we can examine it every day with a flashlight. We hope to see if the walls of the “pup” are getting thinner so that we can see the folded up butterfly inside. A thrill every time.

I am sure you have noticed how quiet it is, although the crows are very raucous at times. All the Orioles have gone except for one who seems to be addicted to my grape jelly. Catbirds are still here and Gold Finches. Soon the noisy Blue Jays will start coming out of the woods looking for your filled bird seed feeders (and so will the squirrels!).

I am in deep denial over the name of this month as it means the end of summer. How can that be?

August  2019

Rikky and Roger Laberge’s Garden

On June 5, Rikky and Roger Laberge offered a tour of their garden to members of the Sogkonate Garden Club. Participants were very impressed by the scale, quality and purpose of their operation. They donate a large part of the produce they grow to two local Food Banks. Jeanne McAllister and Dominique Coulombe followed up with an interview with Rikky who kindly offered to answer our questions.

Can you tell us about your “garden” or food growing operation today?

Prompt: How would you describe its key elements/characteristics?

We are a sustainable no till growing operation. We eat and preserve a lot of what we grow but it is by choice that we grow far more produce than we can eat. Mother Nature presents us with some challenges every year. We are not a certified organic garden but do grow organic produce. We focus on soil health and fertility having our soil tested (not just pH) regularly. We have acquired some of our knowledge from many workshops, seminars, reading, and information from URI and UMass emails.

How have you developed and evolved as a gardener?

Prompt: How have your gardens evolved with you?

We are both lifelong growers. We have lived here 12 years. We started with the upper garden, then added the middle section, and finally the lower section. We also added seven rows of berries and pear trees. The high tunnel was set up five years ago allowing us to grow year round. When we started 12 years ago, we already had a surplus of produce. We started donating to the Food Banks about 8 years ago. Since we moved to Tiverton we have set a goal to reeducate ourselves in our gardening knowledge while improving our techniques. We are both Master Gardeners and members of the RI Chapter of the Natural Organic Farmers Association (NOFA), the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardener’s Association (MOGA), and the Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP).

 What is the daily work like in the different seasons?      

Prompt: Your husband helps you and describes beginning the day “spinning the wheel of work”. What do you do together and what do you each take responsibility for? How do you set priorities?

The year starts in January with seed inventory and ordering. Seeds are started with Grow Lights in February; the calendar is made up and I begin our gardening journal. Seed starting continues throughout the growing seasons. Pea seeds are the first ones to be direct seeded in March. The garden is at its most colorful beauty in June, however the biggest harvest time is July August with the tomatoes squash, garlic, potatoes, etc. The summer harvest continues until October with the squash and pumpkins which we grow in an offsite field.
A drip irrigation system takes care of the watering for the summer crops. Fertilizer is sprayed early morning when the leaves are wet or added through the irrigation system.

I (Rikky) am in charge of the food products and Roger takes care of the flowers, trees, and shrubs. He also takes care of the irrigation and the hardscape in the vegetables. We never leave any bed bare and do not till. We plant all beds or use cover crops such as rye, buckwheat or oat that will winter over. We work solo or together whenever needed.



You compost and even use a “compost tea”, can you tell us more?

We have three compost piles:

  •  One totally finished is for use
  •  One shut down in spring (to cook along)
  •  One started in spring to add to including shavings from chicken coop.

We add chopped leaves, garden and yard clippings, and kitchen scraps but the chickens get the weeds we pull. In a perfect world the compost would get hot enough to kill any weed seeds but we all know it isn’t often perfect. Leaves and debris are chopped with a chipper/shredder.


What is your relationship with the food banks and how did this evolve?  

Prompt: Do your “consumers” need recipes or guidance on how to make the best use of the vegetables available to them?

We deliver fresh produce to two food pantries (in Fall River and in Tiverton)
If the produce are uncommon (for example kohlrabi or hakurei turnips) we explain to the volunteers of the Food Banks how they may be prepared. Volunteers and recipients are very grateful for the food donations.

Do you have 3-5 top food growing tips for others that originate in your lessons learned as a food growing gardener?

  • Onions: a ring forms for every leaf that an onion grows. The goal for a perfect onion is 13 leaves. They should be watered from the bottom because if there is any disease on a leaf, it is transferred to the corresponding ring by watering from above. You then cut into the onion and find one ring rotted.
  • Tomatoes: need air circulation. I prune at least the bottom 2 feet of all leaves and remove all but one sucker from our indeterminate tomatoes. That one sucker then becomes another lead stem. Tomatoes are classified as determinate or indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes can grow in a large cage (4 to 5 “ tall); indeterminate tomatoes “climb” and need to be staked
  • Softneck and hardneck garlic: softneck garlic is what is found in stores; it has a mild flavor and multiple small cloves; I grow both hardneck and softneck garlic. Hardneck has fewer but larger cloves but doesn’t store as well as softneck.


What are you most proud of; what is most unique about what you do?

 Prompt: What else do you want to make certain your readers understand about your gardening operation?

I feel very good about having my “retirement” job be something I love to do, it is in my own backyard and I work with my partner. It is extremely rewarding to take the deliveries to the Food Banks where specific needs are being met.


July  2019

Why Tetanus? – Because we are Gardeners by Bente Hoegsberg, MD.

Tetanus, or lockjaw, is a serious, preventable disease that results in death of 10% of cases; the risks of infection and death are highest in the >65 age group. Clostridium tetani, a bacterium found aplenty in soil and animal feces, produces a neurotoxin that is responsible for the symptoms.
Immunity is a result of vaccination, as few people have natural immunity. Less than 50% people of >65 have been (re)vaccinated in the last 10 years and are therefore at risk.
If you do not remember when you last were vaccinated, get vaccinated. You don’t need a doctor’s appointment or prescription, most pharmacies dispense to walk-ins. Tetanus vaccinations can be given alone or combined with vaccinations for diphtheria and pertussis (whopping cough), called Tdap.
The combination vaccine is recommended as many adults are not immune to whopping cough. Cases have been on the rise and pertussis is very serious in infants and small children. We can all do our part by getting vaccinated.

Sources: CDC and MMWR

To Deadhead or Not? by Marty Fisher


Many gardeners like to have a tidy, pretty and colorful garden to enjoy and share with others. Landscapers aspire to this end. To achieve this, all wilted petals and punctured leaves need to be pinched off, or deadheaded. However, here are some other things to think about when caring for your garden.


First, as a propagator of native plants I need fresh seed every year in order to grow perennials for several organizations. As the flowers wilt and start to produce seed heads, I watch for the stems to turn brown and the heads to do the same. Carefully the seeds are poured into glass jars to be saved until the correct time for starting the growing process. My collecting year begins the first of July with the native red columbine and ends when the fall asters finally have mature seeds, sometimes after the frost. In between these times my garden looks a little unkept with the brown heads mixing in with the late flowering perennials.

The second compelling reason to not deadhead is to preserve your favorite plants. If you don’t let some seeds return to the earth, in time your plants will disappear. Columbine, for instance, is a three to five year plant. If you deadhead or remove all the seeds, the plant in time will no longer be there. When collecting seeds, I drop some seeds back in the area to help new seedlings get started.

Next, the visual effect of standing stems of flowers with seed heads or standing grasses after a winter snow is amazing. Snow stacks up like cotton balls while the stems sway with the wind. This scene will remind you of what your garden produced last summer and you can dream of what is to come when the dreary months have finally passed.

Finally, and maybe most important of all, the seeds on our native plants provide the perfect blend of nutrition for our wintering birds. In my mind this must be better than some seed mix the farmers in Iowa have packaged up. Also, these seeds are beneficial for certain migratory birds when they start their long journey south.

So when you are tempted to “clean up” your drooping, spent flowers, pause and consider the benefits to the birds and other creatures. Look beyond the ragged edges and smile, knowing that you are giving a boost to the survival of all our native species.

Summertime by Sidney Tynan

My triple dining room windows reach almost to the floor and so I can look out on a wild tangle of deep purple Butterfly Bush flowers mixed with Christmas red Crocosmia with its tiny Gladiola like flowers. So it should be no surprise that all day long I can spy on Monarchs and Hummingbirds and of course they can’t see ME.
The orioles have undertaken the job of letting me know when they can’t reach the grape jelly and their fractious call doesn’t sound like an oriole at all, more like an electric typewriter having a bad day.
Having seen a wild pink Mallow in bloom I wanted to see if the ones I started from seed many years ago were in bloom too, as the deer won’t touch them. So with my new, sturdy walking stroller which lets me go over uneven ground, we went through the back 40. To my surprise it was pink with Joe Pye Weed which I usually see much later and then across the little bridge and into the Sluiceway Garden. No Mallows but a wonderfully enlarged area of Swamp Milkweed topped with its little tufts of pink flowers AND a pair of hovering Monarchs.
If you are enjoying bird song pause and listen because very soon you will realize something is different outdoors –and then it will occur to you – no songs.

Growing Herbs

Who doesn’t love to grow and collect fresh herbs from their garden? I certainly do! Recently, I was consulting the site of the UMass Amherst Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment and found this tipsheet for growing parsley, thyme, mint, chives, basil, lavender and rosemary. I hope people new to gardening will enjoy reading it as much as I did:


  • Basil grows best from transplants. There are many types of basil, even with purple leaves! Cut leaves for fresh use or for drying just before the flowers open for best results. Basil loves hot weather. Plant two weeks after last expected frost. Use fresh or dried spicy‐scented basil leaves to flavor tomato dishes. Try quick and easy basil pesto, made from fresh leaves.
  • Harvest parsley, grown from transplants, soon after planting. Choose curly or the Italian flat‐leaved kind, or both. The curly type grows 10‐12”, the Italian about 18” tall. As soon as the leaves grow to a respectable size, use fresh or dried in just about any thing!
  • Thyme grows only 6 – 10” tall with small purple flowers and fragrant leaves. Grow thyme from transplants. Tuck it along the sunny edges of garden beds or use in a rock garden. Cut leafy tops and flowers when the first blossoms open. Thyme adds its light, aromatic flavor to salad dressings and seafood.
  • The long‐lasting fragrant lavender leaves and flowers are used to make dried sachets, wreaths as well as in cooking. Lavender grows best from transplants planted in a sunny, garden with warm, well‐drained soil. Pick leaves anytime. For the best fragrance, cut
    flower stems, just as buds start to open.
  • Young rosemary plants will transplant readily. Rosemary grows best in well‐drained soil, in sunny gardens that have been limed. The narrow leaves have a leathery feel and a spicy fragrance. Pick leaves anytime. Use finely chopped leaves in soups, sauces, salads and pasta. Rosemary’s flavor complements chicken dishes well.Many gardeners take rosemary indoors and keep it as a potted plant during the winter.
  • Chives grow easily from transplants. Small dainty, onion‐like plants, they grow in clumps reaching about 10 inches high and bear light purple flowers in early summer. Chives need little care and will survive our winters. Plant as early as the soil can be worked. As the plants get large, divide and share with friends or move to a new place in the garden. Cut whole spears of chives from the outside of the clump; snip just above the ground level. Renew the clump during the season by cutting back tough leaves and faded flowers.Use chives for a delicious, light, onion‐like
    flavor to foods, especially potatoes!
  • Mints, ready for transplanting, come in a wide range of scents and flavor, such as spearmint, orange, peppermint, and apple. Mints thrive in moist soil in shade or sun and easily survive our winters. Mint tends to “bully” other plants; it spreads quickly and grows to up to 2’ tall. For this reason, some gardeners plant mint in containers, sunk in the ground, to corral the roots. Pick mint leaves when young and tender for
    best aroma and flavor. To keep plants producing leaves, nip off the flower spikes before they open.



June  2019

Cherish the month of June, by Sydney Tynan

At last Round Up is getting attention. As you probably know it now belongs to Bayer and massive suits have been brought against Bayer because of the cancers it has caused. Bayer has said they will continue to sell Round Up but will spend billions on making alternative weed killers. As Round Up has been found in breakfast oatmeal I hope every  parent will be careful and  demand a non toxic brand and see that school yards are no longer sprayed with it.

Icterus galbula1.jpg
By David Menke
This image originates from the National Digital Library of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service
Although the Orioles didn’t nest here this spring as there were no leaves on my windy hill to give them shelter, I have enticed them with a feeder that looks like a big orange flower and which screws onto a Smucker’s grape jelly jar. Of course the cat birds are always there and take their time gobbling up at least three mouthfuls, but the orioles do come, quietly, and snatch a quick bite.  I can tell when the jelly is beyond beak reach as one particular catbird sits in the tree and makes really nasty cat sounds to alert me.

Although we are being rationed extraordinarily beautiful days they remind us to cherish each moment.

May  2019

Spring Update, by Sydney Tynan

While we non-farmers have been counting up the rainy days and bemoaning the lack of warm and spring like weather the local potato and sweet corn growers have been in serious, deep trouble. The potato farmer in Tiverton would expect his tubers to be blooming by May 10th. This year he hadn’t even been able to plow under the winter wheat to get the fields ready by that date but of course potatoes can stay in the ground. For the sweet corn grower in Little Compton it’s a very different story. With luck and if the ground warms up maybe corn will be ready by mid-July. In other years by April 20th there have been three plantings. This year by that date there has only been one.  Now translate this into a normal 4th of July weekend when on Saturday AND  Sunday 50 bushels are sold at the stand, each bushel containing 5 dozen ears and this does not count the bushels sold  on the wholesale market.

 On a more cheerful note I promised you an alternative to the dreaded and dreadful Monsanto  Round Up. (It has now been proven to cause cancer in humans as well deforming salamanders and frogs and butterflies.) We have actually tested the following on my driveway which was turning green no matter what we tried and will be a boon to those who have flagstones and bricks and cobblestones.  The magic potion is D-LIMONADE which you will have to order on the web 888-854-3914. This is derived from citrus peel and used as follows (while wearing rubber gloves and protective glasses)  1Tbs dish soap, 2Tbs Limonade, 1 gal ordinary white household vinegar. You will need a good sprayer and as you will have a quart of the Limonade you will see that it lasts a good many summers. (Ace Hardware will have a non-toxic alterative to Round Up but they don’t know when).

My fact checker was correct about the hours for Sakonnet Garden – 9-6 Sat and Sun May 25 and 26, but really messed up on the Blossom and Sweets sale outside of Wilburs. It will be SATURDAY also, from 7:30 -10:30.

Enjoy every minute of our fleeting spring now that it has finally arrived.


Winter Moth Update, by Heather Faubert 

Cool weather is curbing plant and insect development. Winter moth caterpillars are still first and second instars – so very small caterpillars. It is a good time to scout your apple, pear, and blueberry buds for winter moth caterpillars and damage.   

and Franklin, but the orchard and blueberries in Portsmouth and South Kingstown had 10-20% of buds infested with winter moth, so an insecticide treatment was recommended. 

Over the last few days apples and blueberries were scouted in Portsmouth, Little Compton, Warren, and South Kingstown, RI and Franklin, MA. I found very few or no caterpillars in Little Compton, Warren  It’s pretty easy to see winter moth damage not if you use a magnifying glass, or have young eyes! Early next week should be a good time to spray a Bt insecticide. I see very few winter moth caterpillar in landscape trees and don’t think any insecticide is needed on landscape trees. [Apple buds with frass (insect droppings) from winter moth to right; blueberry buds with winter moss frass below]










My Meadow Intention by Sue Theriault 

I have this “random” area of my yard that is not shaded by trees and therefore bakes in the hot summer sun.  The grass there seems thin and dry and common milkweed likes to grow naturally.  When I run my lawn mower over this area it’s like giving a bald man a hair cut.   Maybe this is a perfect spot for a meadow?

I had this project in mind when I agreed to go with Donna Pilkington to Kathleen Connolly’s all day meadow presentation sponsored by “Grow Native Massachusetts”.  The presentation helped me to formulate a plan.  First, I am going to measure an area of approximately 250 square feet which was recommended as manageable for one person.  Next, I’m going to smother the existing grass and weeds by laying down a layer of cardboard and topping it off with wood chips.  This is by no means the only way to smother!  But I like to make use of materials that I already have and I think it will look halfway attractive.  I will do this in May and leave it for one year.  No mowing there this summer!

Next May I will scrape off the wood chips.  (I think it will be interesting to see if the cardboard fully decomposed.)  All of the grass should be dead, but there may be some viable weed seeds in the soil.  So I am supposed to encourage the sprouting of these seeds for up to two months by watering.  Then I remove the sprouted weeds with a rake or hoe.  I’m going to be honest, I am so tempted to skip this step because I want to get to the planting part.  Patience grasshopper…

Now after 14 months, I can finally plant.  A meadow is defined as a community of grasses and wildflowers that is self perpetuating, and so I plan to use plugs for the native grasses and probably a combination of plants and seeds for the native wildflowers.  Think of grasses as being either cool or warm season grasses, and either bunching or sod forming.  Cool season grasses are greenest in the fall and spring, while warm season grasses are greenest in the summer.  Most meadow grasses are of the bunching variety, and a combination of cool and warm season varieties can provide longer color.  The most amazing part of these grasses is not even visible – its their incredibly long root systems that can reach down for water during droughts, foster the absorption of water during heavy rains and sequester carbon from our atmosphere.  The shallow roots of turf grass can’t even compare.

Hopefully with some watering and weeding the grass plugs and wild flowers will take.  After about a year I will institute an annual mowing or weed whacking in the late spring to early summer to suspend the natural succession to woody shrubs and trees.  I may need to add more flowering plants or seeds over the years because although the wildflowers I’m planting are perennial, some may only live about three years.  But I’m getting ahead of myself!  Let me know if you would like a copy of Kathleen Connolly’s hand-out and list of resources.


The URIMGP Plant of the Year


And the winner is…Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). You will be able to purchase this popular winner at the annual Blossoms and Sweets Sale beside Wilbur’s Store in Little Compton on May 25, 2019 starting at 7:30 AM (artist Sara Dunn).  





April 2019

Springtime by Sydney Tynan

So you have made the Hummingbird  syrup/nectar(1 cup sugar to 4 cups water boiled)? And filled the feeder to greet the weary travelers? Good for you!

I love this time of year as almost every morning something new has started to bloom.  Outside my south facing window I have a Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata) whose double row of white petals give it a frilly look . The first to bloom of the four types of Magnolias I’ve seen here. Next comes the yellow Magnolia acuminate closely followed by the pink tulip like Magnolia soulangeana. There are a few of the large leafed Magnolia grandiflora that we think of as southern. I have not seen them bloom and they have a bit of a hard time in our northern  winters. The very last to bloom, our only native and I bet you’ve never seen one , is Magnolia virginiana. This blooms in July or August and the air smells like Ponds Cold Cream. It does really well if it can have damp feet.

If you are making your plans for May please note that Sakonnet Garden is open this year the two days BEFORE Memorial Day, May 25 and 26 from 9-6. They suggest you come late in the day as it is less crowded. However do not overlook Memorial Day as the Blossom  and Sweets sale of local plants and home -made cookies and muffins  takes place next to  Wilburs. Sales  open at 7:30 and the local plants, known  to be hardy, just  fly  out.

My next letter will tell you of our  success  in  an alternative to  the dreaded  Round Up.    


Gardening for Water Quality in the Ocean State

At the April 3 program of the Sogkonate Garden Club, Elizabeth Herron, program coordinator for the URI Watershed Watch program, Rhode Island’s largest volunteer water quality monitoring, spoke about the impact of gardening and garden care products on the water bodies in Rhode Island.  She explained the difference between point (a single, identifiable source such as a pipe or a drain) and nonpoint sources of water pollution ( generally results from land runoff, precipitation, atmospheric deposition, drainage, seepage or hydrologic modification).

To reduce pollution she recommended to:


  • choose the right plant for the right site
  • reduce pesticides and fertilizer
  • avoid excess nutrients (nitrogen and phospherous)
  • avoid over-watering


The URI Watershed website offers a wealth of information, with tip sheets, resources and workshop announcements. To access these click on safewater publications.  For publications focusing specifically on the use of pesticides and fertilizers, click on Proper Use of Pesticides and Fertilizers

Winter moths, gypsy moths and ticks

        Spring is finally here …  and while we are delighted to enjoy warmer and longer days, we also need to worry about winter moths, gupsy moths and ticks adjusting to warmer temperatures and invading our trees and shrubs.  The news are not so grim for winter moths and gypsy moths as announced by Heather Faubert from the URI Cooperative Extension in her first Winter moth & Gypsy moth update of the 2019 season.  

         The news about ticks’ are unfortunately not as good.  To keep current, you can consult the URI TickEncounter Resource Center for information on identification,  testing and prevention.  One way to reduce the tick population in your yard is by the use of tick tubes.  Since mice are the primary culprits for producing infected ticks and are always on the lookout for nesting material, tubes filled with cotton impregnated with permethrin help control the tick infestation. If you prefer to make your own, easy directions on how to make tick tubes are available on YouTube.  

March 2019


Wet, Wet, Wet by Tara Bradley

It’s been a wet winter here in Little Compton. The new normal, I think. There have been several days I’ve looked out at my landscape and felt afloat—literally. While we’re used to seeing this kind of water in the spring, it’s unusual to see it in the winter, like this winter, or the fall, like last fall. In low spots in my lawn and perennial beds, pools of standing water covered everything in January, and this is not a good thing. Standing water compacts the soil and inhibits a plant’s ability to grow roots. Shallow roots inhibit the plant’s ability to feed itself, and the lack of oxygen in compacted soil makes it hard for a plant to breath. Plants intolerant of these conditions, including turf grass, will suffer and, likely, die.
So what are my options come spring?
One is installing a French drain. A French drain is a shallow, sloped trench that directs surface water or groundwater away from a particular area. Traditionally, it’s filled with gravel. Sometimes, it also includes perforated pipe. The key to the success of any French drain, for my landscape or for any other, is identifying the proper slope and direction of the trench. At my place, my French drain will need to slope downhill from an already low area to an even lower area, or outlet, with better drainage. I’m already eyeing a couple of existing shrub beds on the west end of my property that might serve as ideal outlets. Dry wells and rain gardens are two other excellent outlets for a French drain.
A second option for me this spring is to simply expand my garden beds where the standing water occurs and plant more plants. As we know, there are plants for just about every circumstance in a landscape, including wet areas with midday sun, like my place. Some possibilities include sedges, daylilies, ferns, hostas, iris, lamium, and bee balm. Some shrub ideas include summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), winterberry (Ilex verticillata), and red-twigged dogwood (Cornus sericea).
Wet or not, winter is a wonderful time to reflect on, think about, and plan for your garden, to ponder its bones and structure without the distraction of foliage and color. While most plants are dormant, our minds and creative energy can be awakened in these winter months, with dreams, plans, and improvements being imagined for the season to come.


February 2019

February Surprises! by Claire Johnson


Despite the absence of snowfalls exceeding 4 inches this winter, (no I promise not to jinx it~) these small dustings of two inches or more have  given the frozen brown landscape a refreshing frosting of confectioners sugar. My two Chinese Witch Hazels have warmed my heart on these cold days, and their blossoms are the most prolific they have ever been!
The first to open around February 3 was Hamamelis x intermedia “Pallida”.  I bought this delight at least seven years ago, during a trip to Sylvans with Sidney Tynan. The fullest bloom it has had thus far, it continues to remind me of that day when I brought it home in the back of my car in a 3 gallon tub, with Sidney. 

My second Chinese Witch Hazel, is Hamamelis x intermedia “Arnold Promise”.  As Pallida is beginning to fade, Arnold is growing bright yellow, and catching the eye. Steve and I planted this one at least 11 years ago, finding one of our son or daughter’s plastic blue shovels deep in the hole as we dug it out. Such a find! That little blue shovel came with the Teddy Peanut Butter tub probably 25 years ago!  Arnold  Promise is coming into peak as I write; and the contrast of the yellow and the little blue composter in the back, looks as I had hoped it would when we planted it. 


No this is not my backyard, or one of my pets! A rare treat, this Harp Seal had “hauled out” on Warren’s Pt. Beach two weekends ago; and Steve caught this amazing photo with his cell phone before we moved away and left the little buddy to rest and bask in the sun. He was still there the next day as well; not injured, but resting happily curled up in the sun. By then, DEM had placed  a “Keep Away” sign near the seal.




Country Letter by Sidney Tynan

  Well I don’t know about you, but the Weatherman has introduced me to new words about the weather. Before 2004 I used the word tidal wave then after the horrific one in Indonesia tsunami became forever substituted. Now this winter it is vortex and although we on the East Coast were spared, tragic pictures of the effects in the middle of the country are surely in our minds.

  A cane in my right hand has been a “must” for some time as I will not fall and break something as three friends have recently done. This means I can no longer go out on the deck to fill the birdfeeder and must be content with the daily sighting of a red bellied Woodpecker as he visits the same tree and circles the same way in front of my computer.  Sometimes a flock of Robins lends interest and late afternoons are livened by a small group of noisy crows as they head for bed. It’s a long time until the bird bath, now tipped on its side, brings the excitement and wonder of our warm weather visitors.

  The birds enjoy our amazingly warm weather but don’t count on it lasting!


December 2018

Solstice by Sidney Tynan

  As we approach the date that promises longer daylight hours I thought I would learn a little bit about mistletoe. Well, what a surprise, that which the Druids and the Romans and the Norse worshipped or included in their folk tales is a different species from that which grows in the warmer parts of the United States although they are both parasites and draw fluids from the host trees. ( I will not bore you with the Latin names.)

  My mind’s eye chooses not to dwell on the Romans or the Norsemen instead I see white robed Druid men with golden knives cutting off the woody bunches. Scattered around Ireland there are abandoned circles of once holy stones and you would have to be there at the right time to know if the sun came into the circle for the winter or the summer solstice. (I am too lazy to look up Stonehenge)

  And here is where my mind’s eye is having a hard time, at the same time that we are freezing, south of the equator it is hot and the Peruvians are celebrating the beginning of summer in many ways that the early Incas did (albeit only animal sacrifices.)
So over the centuries wise men have messed around with the calendar and as far as I’m concerned December 21st is the beginning of the New Year and I hope it is a safe and healthy one for all of us.

Swags by Sandi Sparks





The Sogkonate Garden Club has been making swags to decorate the Commons for the past 25 years.

Members of the Club have donated greens and supplies to make the bows as well as their talent and time to start off the celebration of the holidays during the first week of December.    They gather each year on a chilly morning at the home of Sandi Sparks with as few as eight Club members and as many as 22 working on this yearly project.  Caroline and Gabe Faria deliver the greens and berries and then the work begins using wire, snippers and garden pruners.  One mustn’t forget the large red bow to complete the festive and fragrant decorations.

Once the swags are ready, members of the Highway Department come by to collect the swags and hang them up.

Garden Club members now make the 32 swags that adorn the pole lights around the Commons….with the extra greens going to the Wilbur & McMahon School for holiday projects.


This is a wonderful time of year and our members enjoy being together for this creative program and sharing their talents with the entire community.







November 2018

Garden Tips for the Fall  by The Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment of UMass Amherst


    The October newsletter “Garden Clippings” (vol. 37:8) provides excellent information about garden maintenance before the cold winter months.


  • Perform fall clean up. Rake leaves and cut back spent perennials. Be sure to remove plant debris to prevent disease and pests from occurring next year. 
  • Get a soil test to determine if lime should be applied. Fall is the best time since the wait time at the lab is much shorter and any needed lime applied in the fall has enough time to change soil pH by next spring. For more info, go to the UMass Soil and Plant Nutrient Testing Lab at
  • Drain irrigation systems and hoses. Be sure to keep access to water when needed for fall planted plants.
  • Fall bulb planting tips:
     Bulbs should be planted when nighttime temperatures average between 40-50 degrees F. 
    •    Plant 6-8 weeks before the ground freezes. 
    •    Plant in well-drained soil in areas that will be sunny in the spring at the time of bulb emergence. 
    •    Smaller bulbs are planted approximately 5” deep (crocus and grape hyacinth), whereas larger bulbs should be planted about 8” deep (most tulips, daffodil, allium). The general rule for planting depth is three times the height of the bulb. Make sure the growing tip is up!
    •    It is important that bulbs are planted in time for rooting to occur so that winter freezing and thawing doesn’t push bulbs out of the ground. 
    •    Fertilizer needs to be in the root zone area. Any fertilizer applied is to support the bulb for the following year, as the bulb already has the reserves it needs to flower in the spring.
  • Bury plants that were infected by powdery mildew and other foliar diseases. Most diseases that infect plant leaves do not survive underground.  
  • Pot up amaryllis bulbs at two to three week intervals through November and December for a continuous show of the large and showy flowers. Blooms appear about a month from the time the bulb is started.  
  • Place mulches over flower beds and around roses when the ground begins to freeze. A 3 or 4 inch layer of mulch is all that’s needed. Pine needles, pine boughs, straw, salt marsh hay or shredded oak leaves can be used for mulching. The purpose of winter mulch is to prevent root injury from alternate freezing and thawing cycles rather than to protect the plants from cold temperatures.
  • Don’t neglect fallen leaves on the lawn.  A thick layer of leaves will smother grass plants. Rake up the leaves and put them on the compost pile.
  • Lower cutting height of the lawn mower by ½ inch with the next mowing. Continue lowering the cutting height by ½ inch with each subsequent mowing until a final cutting height of 1 ½ to 2 inches is achieved.  Keep mowing at that setting as long as grass continues to grow – that may be as late as December.
  • Sift compost through a screen of quarter inch mesh and spread the compost over lawns, no more than 1/4 inches deep.  Rake the lawn to help the compost settle between the grass plants.  This top-dressing of compost helps keep the soil biologically active, supplies some nutrients, aids in the breakdown of thatch, and suppresses turf grass diseases.  
  • Don’t shear shrubs now since it can stimulate growth. New growth occurring this time of the year may not have time to harden prior to onset of cold weather and may therefore be damaged or killed. On the other hand, any dead, diseased, or damaged branches should be pruned.
  • Take advantage of the soft, moist soils now to grub out roots of invasive plants such as honeysuckle, briars, sumac, bittersweet and poison ivy (protect your skin – even the roots contain the irritating chemical). 


October 2018

Electric Fences by Rob Marra

Dear Fellow Gardeners,

We gratefully share our Town with an abundant animal population. Sharing the hard work of our vegetable gardens with the local herds of deer does not make for productive vegetable gardens.

In a single night, early this summer, visiting deer visited the buffet table of our garden. Tomato plants were trimmed, top, bottom and they ate unripe fruit. Beet tops, green beans and squash plants nibbled to the ground. They love parsley. Our pumpkin and squash plots were trampled, flowers disappeared.

Our vegetable garden is protected with wire sunken six inches into the soil and controls damage by rabbits and raccoons.  Deer can easily jump a fence less than eight feet.

The damage this Summer was probably intensified by the lack of rain and the deer sought moisture from the plants.

We protect a row of arborvitae trees every fall with an application of Deer Off. The deer were oblivious to the application of the repellant around the vegetable garden perimeter.

After consultation with our neighboring dairyman, Andrew Morley, he suggested installing an electric wire above the four-foot garden fence.

We called his electric fence supplier, Wellscroft Fence 1-855-327-6336.

In three days, they shipped half inch seven-foot poles, a power pack, connectors, grounding rod, wire and the woven ribbon wire that would carry the electric current.

A friend at a local marina provided a used 12V marine deep cycle battery We also bought a small solar panel to charge the battery.

A half day of carpentry built supports for the system components. Jeremy Allen and I installed the system in an hour. The fence provides 5000-9000 volts of shock. We baited the ribbon with apple syrup to acquaint the deer with the new sensation.

The deers have moved on to a different late-night buffet.

Please do not ask the cost, we do not have a vegetable garden to save money.


September 2018

September Favorites by Sidney Tynan

Our lovely summer has slipped away but if we can have another week or two of the present weather I am not complaining. The fall perennials are at their peak – Japanese anemones both white and pink, asters tall pink and low lavender, phlox and finally the annual Morning Glories that I have waited for all summer. The back 40 has turned from pink Joe Pye Weed to a mass of yellow with three kinds of Golden Rod – round top with a sweet scent, another with curling finger tips and a tall one ending in a sharp point. As there are 33 different kinds according to my Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide I have no intention of figuring out which is which, any more than I ever plan to try and figure out which fern is which or which warbler I’m seeing in the bird bath.
Along the paths the dainty Queen Anne ’s Lace has folded up its edges to make little brown cups that look as though they wanted to be little nests for dozens and dozens of tiny birds. No such luck although there are a great many Gold Finches enjoying the Niger seed all day long and a huge Seven Brothers tree (Heptacodium) is so covered with little white flowers that it looks like a enormous snowball and is visited by Hummingbirds as well as Bumble and Honey bees. Just because our local Hummers are gone, don’t forget to keep the feeders filled for the weary travelers as they make their long voyage south. (October 15th is the last day to do this.)

Bring back the Monarchs by Sue Talbot

While walking on Goosewing/South Shore Beach last September, I saw a ribbon of monarch butterflies flying along the shore. For years, I have been cultivating milkweed in my garden to welcome monarchs. Each year I have seen a few more monarchs, but never the numbers that I saw on the beach that day. I knew that volunteers, along the Dartmouth, Westport and Little Compton shorelines, have been tagging monarchs since the early 1990s. I wanted to know the outcomes of these studies.
To learn more about the monarch migration, I contacted John Berg at The Nature Conservancy. He directed me to Mark Mello at the Lloyd Center in Dartmouth. I asked Mark two questions:
1. When is the best time to view the monarch migration?
2. What is the winter destination of “our monarchs”?

Mark replied that peak times for viewing monarchs depend on the weather. It may be as early as mid-September or as late as mid-October. The best time is a day or two after the passage of a cold front when the wind comes from the north or northwest.

“Our monarchs” are heading to Mexico, but they do not all make it there. Mark tags monarchs with school children at Barney’s Joy, the Lloyd Center, and Gooseberry Neck. He has received notices from the Monarch Tagging Program that some of these monarchs died before leaving Rhode Island (poor things) but others were recovered in Florida, Texas, and Mexico.

I also contacted Cheryl Wiitala at The Nature Conservancy, RI. She directed me to the website It has a great deal of information about monarch tagging, population status, waystations, and habitat restoration.
If you are interested in learning more about the monarch migration rent the documentary film, The Flight of the Butterflies. The film follows the butterflyhighway from Mexico to Canada and back again.




August 2018

Demonstration Meadow Project by Donna Pilkington

In June 2017, the Sogkonate Garden Club sponsored a free day long program by noted sustainable plant experts Doug Tallamy and Rick Darke. Funds for the program came from 22 private donors and 7 community environmental groups. With leftover funds, the club decided to put lessons learned into practice and created a ‘demonstration meadow’ project at the newly built Recreation Complex in Little Compton. The goal was to show the community that sustainable plantings are both beautiful and biodiverse.

On October 17, 2017, the 20×30 foot plot was rototilled and covered with black plastic to solarize and smother vegetation over the winter.

It was uncovered and planted on June 5, 2018 with a combination of small plugs and plants of native plants and grasses and later mulched with composted leaf litter. The plants thrived over the dry summer, needing very little weeding and watering.

In the future, the club plans to monitor the plantings, erect a descriptive sign, and install plant markers for the public to learn about the project. The plot has generated many favorable comments from those who use the Recreation field.

This project has been a true community effort.







Summer Days by Sidney Tynan

Somehow June and July slipped through my fingers but we still have half a summer left. (Labor Day is NOT the beginning of Fall.) Have you noticed how quiet it is in the mornings now? Our summer birds are still with us but except for the Goldfinches who are waiting for thistles to bloom so that they can make nests of thistledown; the others no longer need to defend their nests as their babies have fledged. (I knew fledgling as a noun but the use of “fledge “ as a verb is new to me. You too can use it and pretend you are an experienced bird watcher.)

I t surprises me that the front field and the “Back40” separated by only a stone wall can be so different. The front field is full of wiry stemmed sunflowers and Goldenrod waiting to bloom and the “Back 40” is a dream of soft pink with Joe Pye Weed and something new, feathery and tall. The paths through the field are edged with Queen Anne’s Lace, which like the blue flowered Chicory, only wants to grow as an edging.

Soon Clethra, the very last of the sweet scented vines and shrubs,will  bloom in shady, damp areas.  As a child their scent made me sad as I knew it foretold of our move soon to the noisy, busy city and the confinement of school. Of course now I can just enjoy and I hope you can too.


July 2018

Information on Ticks and Mosquitoes by The Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment of UMass Amherst

The July newsletter of the Center of “Garden Clippings” (vol. 37:5) provides excellent information about ticks and mosquitoes.

  • Ticks
    Be vigilant and conduct daily tick checks and take precautions against deer ticks when outdoors this summer, especially in wooded or grassy areas and areas with leaf litter, even in the yard. Deer ticks are at the tiny nymph stage, which is about the size of a poppy seed. After feeding, the tick nymph may be the size of a sesame seed (Photo 2 – Deer tick nymph after feeding). Deer ticks are capable of transmitting several disases, including Lyme disease. Conduct tick checks frequently, especially on children and pets.
    If you do find a tick, you can send it to the UMass Laboratory of Medical Zoology (LMZ) and have it identified and tested – info at (link is external); click on the red “Test a Tick” button for more information. The cost for this testing is currently being subsidized by a grant from the state’s public health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which will allow the LMZ to provide tick testing for just $15 for Massachusetts residents for a limited time until the subsidy runs out.
  • Mosquitoes
    Mosquitoes are numerous and bothersome in many areas this year, so consider applying a repellent when working or playing outdoors. Remember to empty containers of standing water, prime breeding habitat for mosquitoes, or treat the water in bird baths, rain barrels, plant saucers, etc. with Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti), which will kill the mosquito larvae. Bti is a naturally-occurring soil bacterium registered for control of mosquito larvae.

 June 2018

Garden Surprises by Claire Johnson; photos by Stephen Johnson

Don’t you love happy surprises in the garden? Despite the dreary cold rainy days we had earlier on in April and May, some surprises have sprung up in my gardens. I don’t know if it was the abundant rains, the lack of Woody the Woodchuck and his huge family this year, the Deer visiting my neighbor’s buffet instead, or the decrease in the winter moths.

My neighbor Anthony got tired of Woody the woodchuck et al. eating all his veggies, and used his Have a Heart trap 5 times, to relocate the clan to greener pastures away from people. We also had numerous fox families raising their broods in Oak Forest this Spring as well. They still are about, and we see the orange red kits romping about in the yard near the woods. Maybe that is the reason why some of my plants are thriving. But, a few lovely new blooms have happened that I have included here.

My peonies are breathtaking and heavy with blooms this year. So many I am giving some away, and have bouquets all around the house. It may have been the abundant rains, but what sweet fragrance and lovely colors.


My Dutch Iris has opened with the loveliness of a watercolor; Woody and the Deer used to devour these before I could enjoy, and what a joy to see them opening once again!


And my early clematis, The President, has commanded a beautiful purple display, against the green of the woods, at the back of the yard.


Last summer I mistakenly pulled up a small clump of Bearded Iris when weeding, and stuck it in the raised bed. Everything goes in my two raised beds, which are supposed to be primarily for tomatoes. Whenever I mistakenly pull up something that needs a new home, I quickly plunk it into the raised bed. The soil is full of compost and so easy to access.

Dill has overtaken one of them, along with surprise tomato seedlings and Verbena bonariensis, which loves to reseed itself.

Well, I stuck this small iris in there, and after one year of maturing and getting a nice new home of rich earth, this lovely golden yellow Iris has graced one of my beds. I was so inspired, I have begun digging and replanting my other irises as well, which are in need of new homes and soil.

Presently, my phlox in the back gardens near the woods, are growing beautifully again. This is new, as for the past 4 summers, they have served as Woody’s daily buffet. I had started replacing them with Agastache, and a few Caryopteris bushes, two of which sadly didn’t make it after three summers. (New iris bed in the planning!)

But all those assorted phlox seem to be back! They were some of my first plantings, 30 years ago, when we moved into our house, and the colors have morphed and combined into so many new colors schemes. I can’t wait to see all the colors return, come July and August, and pray that the Fox families keep Woody and the Deer away!

May 2018
Alliums by Barbara Passmore

Alliums are one of the most graceful and beautiful flowers in bloom from late spring to early summer and beyond. Pollinators love them, but deer will not eat them. Alliums also deter aphids and plant eating rodents from the garden. They are easy to grow and are drought tolerant.
There is a great deal of diversity in the allium genus. Colors range from purple and pink to pale yellow and green. The tallest and most architectural alliums have 10 inch globes on 3-4 foot stems, although some alliums can be 8 inch tall and just as dramatic.
To see a lovely group of alliums swaying in the spring breeze this May-June, drive by the Burchard Triangle on the corner of Meeting House Lane and West Main Rd in Little Compton. These bulbs were planted in the fall of 2014 by members of the Sogkonate Garden Club. The variety is called ‘Ambassador’ and can be ordered from Van Engelen in Connecticut.
And here is some expert advice on the subject by Barbara Passmore:
When growing alliums in the garden, don’t remove the leaves after they flower, no matter how unsightly they are. Wait until the leaves have completely browned to remove them. The leaves supply energy to the bulbs for the next year’s crop.


Spring Soil Tests by Tara Bradley

As the soil warms in April, consider testing the pH in your garden beds to determine if your soil is as healthy and productive as it can be. A pH or soil test tests the “potential of hydrogen” in your soil and will give you a good indication of the nutrients your soil has (or lacks).

pH is a measure of your soil’s acidity (or sweetness) on a scale of 1 to 14. Soils with a low pH (1-5) are considered acidic. Soils with a high pH (8-14) are considered sweet or alkaline. Neutral soils have a pH between 6 and 7. Most garden plants grow best in a neutral soil.

To test your soil, you’ll need a sample of it. Collecting soil samples is easy to do. You’ll need a trowel or spade, a couple of garden buckets, some newspaper, some plastic bags, and a Sharpie.

Identify the garden bed or soil you want to test. Dig at least ten holes in the bed between 6”-8” deep and collect a cup or so of soil from each hole. Be sure the soil you collect is at the depth where the roots of your plants grow. Mix these soil subsamples together in a garden bucket and collect a cup or so of that mixture. This mixed sample is the soil you’ll test. Dry the sample overnight on newspaper, bag it in a plastic bag, and label it (e.g. rose bed, driveway bed, patio bed, etc.). Your sample is ready to be tested.

There are a couple of options for soil testing in the Rhode Island / southeastern Massachusetts area. Some require payment, others are free.

UMASS Soil and Plant Nutrient Lab, Amherst, MA

UMASS charges $15 per sample for a routine soil test or analysis. It’s a very thorough test and for an area of your landscape you’re particularly worried about or intend to plant expensive things in (e.g. trees, shrubs, roses, etc.), it’s probably worth it. Click on Soil-plant-nutrient-testing-laboratory to download the proper form for the test you want. Mailing and payment instructions are included on the forms. The usual turnaround time for a routine soil test is 5-10 business days.


For a quick pH test without a lot of detail or analysis, the URI Master Gardeners conduct free soil tests in the spring at two locations nearby.

— Prescott Farm, Middletown, RI (Sundays, 10:00am–12:00pm, beginning in April)

— Mount Hope Farm, Bristol, RI (second Saturday of the month beginning in April)

The results of your soil test will tell you the amendments your soil needs, if any. Spring is a great time to make these amendments. If your pH is low (acidic), you’ll need to add lime to your garden (or wood ash or bonemeal). If your pH is high (unlikely in this area given our native acidic soil), you’ll need to add sulfur or an acidic mulch (e.g. pine bark, pine needles). Adding organic material to a garden (e.g. leaves, mulch, compost) will also lower the pH.

Healthy soil is the key to a healthy, productive, and beautiful garden, and a soil test every 2-3 years is a great way check in on the health of your soil and to make improvements, if necessary. Your plants will thank you!


January 2018

The Creation of a Meadow by Donna Pilkington

In June 2017, the Sogkonate Garden Club offered a free public program, ‘The Living Landscape’, by Doug Tallamy and Rick Darke.  Several local organizations and residents donated funds to sponsor the event and some money remained.

With the leftover funds, the club worked with town officials to create a demonstration meadow of grasses and pollinators to be a part of the walking path at the Recreation Center dedicated in the Summer of 2017.  The purpose of this demonstration area is to show the community one way to plant a small area with native plants and to give ideas for plant selections.

In October 2017, Billy Ryan tilled an 11×27 foot rectangle between the walking path and stone wall – near Dundery Brook Trail and the tennis courts.  A donation of black silt cloth was laid down and weighted with stones to smother and heat the vegetation (soil solarization) underneath.  (Readers may wonder what is going on with the unsightly black plastic along the path).
Recently a plant list of 3 grasses and 13 pollinators, native to New England, were selected for their attractiveness to people and sustainability for wildlife. In late spring, the plants will arrive, Billy will till again, the garden club will plant and mulch the new area and hopefully many birds and insects will visit.  Future plans are to have plant markers and an informative sign installed. 

Please pause and notice the demonstration area – count birds, bees and butterflies.   It is something that will evolve over time and change with the seasons.  We welcome your comments.


Looking for good readings? In December 2011, Dominique Browning published a list of books about gardening in the New York Times book review section called: Reliable sources for Gardeners