January | February 2021 — Volume 11, No. 1-2
On the busiest day of summer 2001,
all staff worked
(Front, L to R: Priscilla, Rich, Lauren. Rear, L to R: Jenna, Joe, John)
Photo by Rich Williams
Hello Everyone,
I’m so pleased to be welcoming you to Pumpkin Brook’s 20th year in business! In some ways, it was only yesterday (January 15, 2001), that I founded the company with a Subaru station wagon, a bunch of hand tools, bags of North Country Organics fertilizer, and a few dedicated organic gardeners.

Look how far we’ve come since then: we now have a fleet of trucks, trailers, and a large chipper, a small group of dedicated year-round employees and numerous seasonal crew, plus departments to handle design, plant health care and fine garden maintenance. We owe a big thanks to you for welcoming us back year after year and recommending us to your friends and family. In this issue we’ll share some fun photos gathered through the years.

We are looking for a few more good employees! Open positions are listed in this PDF. Do you know any young people who love to work outdoors, have gardening skills, and want to explore sustainable, organic systems? If so, we’d love to meet them. Contact Kim <kimberly@pumpkinbrookorganicgardening.com> or Priscilla <phw@seedlingspecialist.com> for more information.
Priscilla tends the plant holding area in her driveway
Photo by Rich Williams
A garden storage shed, propagating and holding area
were built at Priscilla’s home to accommodate the new business
Photo by Rich Williams
Priscilla pots up divisions the first fall behind the shed
Photo by Rich Williams
Reaching out to Support Like-Minded Organizations
In your honor, we are so pleased each year to support three regional organizations that help us further our work through their training and outreach. Read more about them here:

Blueberry Pruning Time is Now
Small fruits are best pruned during the dormant season, and blueberries are no exception. This dormant period runs from November to early April, well before leaves appear. However, with the mild weather so far this winter season, we suggest getting down to blueberry pruning now.

Here are a few tips: Prune only on a clear day when temperatures are above 20 degrees - you’ll be so much more comfortable! Aim for a time without heavy snow cover so that there are no lower branches buried in the snow (never pull these out as they are brittle in the cold and will readily snap). As always, look for deadwood and crossing branches to eliminate. Prune just above an outward facing bud.
Blueberry ready to prune
You can now readily see the stems that will bear fruit - they have the largest buds and are the 1-3 year old wood at the tips of branches. Give these fruiting stems plenty of light and air circulation. Eliminate the oldest wood that is not budded as heavily, at the base of the plant if possible. Remove all pruning debris from the site, and we’re done!

If you’ve got a raspberry patch near the blueberries, plan to go after them as well in the dormant season but wait until March or April. We’ll discuss pruning strategies for these plants in a later newsletter.
Seed Inventory Tips for the New Season
Industry insiders say there’s going to be a big run on seeds this spring. If you like to sow a home vegetable garden, it’s a good idea to order seeds early. You may have some seeds left from last year. Our friends at Johnny’s Selected Seeds have compiled some tips for testing them. Included in this link is a viability chart that shows you how long seeds last if stored properly (a glass jar in your refrigerator or cool, dry cellar is the best spot).

Visit “Yarnstorm” Show at Tower Hill until March 31
Looking for something different to do outdoors while still getting in a walk? Tower Hill Botanic Garden has opened a new winter display featuring creative use of colorful knitted or crocheted artworks on woody plants and garden structures. This is called Yarnbombing or Yarnstorming.

Timed tickets are required for entry, with admission to this outdoor show included in the general entry fee. More info here: towerhillbg.org/yarnstorm
Plant Pick: Two Spruces
What could be better winter interest in the snowy landscape than a lovely evergreen? We’re all conscious that the deer population has been gradually increasing in our area. These two plant suggestions are not preferred by deer! And while not native to the Northeast, they are perfectly hardy in our region and harmonize well with other native plants that might be at your woodland edge or in your garden beds.

Norway Spruce, Picea abiesis a massive tree with graceful sweeping branches native to central and northern Europe. It can reach 100’ tall in our area, although usually it is listed as reaching 40’-60’ height by 20’-30’ wide. I suggest that you treat this plant as a stand-alone specimen with plenty of space around it. It can also be used in groupings for screening but has to be spaced properly to allow for future growth! Note that it does not respond well to prolonged high heat so will need careful irrigation in droughty summers. Norway spruce features large downward hanging cones - this is an easy diagnostic from a distance.
Norway spruce closeup
Norway spruce full view
Serbian Spruce, Picea omorika, hails from southeastern Europe. This plant has a very elegant form and is full and broad for screening purposes. It can also stand alone in a smaller garden. Trees reach a 50’-60’ height by 20’-25’ wide. Cones also hang downward but are smaller at about 2” long. This spruce is quite adaptable to many soil conditions and can be grown in partial or high shade.

Worried about pests and diseases of spruces? One of the experts at UMass Extension says that needle blight diseases (discoloration of needles) can be an issue in our area on these plants. Avoid planting blue spruces for this reason as they are better adapted to the high altitudes of the Rockies. White fir, Abies concolor, can be a good substitute for the blue spruces in our region. As with all woody plants, paying attention to soil conditions through a soil test, implementing an amending program, and watering during dry spells can make the difference with the pest and disease issues.
Serbian spruce closeup
Serbian spruce full view
Annual Free Public Lecture - Groton Garden Club
Saturday, February 13 at 2 pm
This year’s topic is “Natural Control of Pesky Invasive Plants in the Home Landscape” featuring my colleague and friend, Mike Nadeau. We met in 1999 when I joined the NOFA Organic Land Care Committee and wrote the Standards for Organic Land Care together with other landscape professionals. Mike has lots of wisdom and experience with this topic, so be sure to reserve your seat now for this virtual event:

Make Plans with Us for 2021
Reese makes a deep root application of compost tea
Photo by Lee Gadway
Did you know that Pumpkin Brook offers Plant Health Care using all-organic materials? Our department manager, Reese Crotteau, is working this month on new contracts for the coming season. In February, you can prepay, receive a small discount with our thanks, and sign up for any of the following:

  • Compost tea applications that will build beneficial soil biology right at the roots of the plants that need it
  • Bi-monthly tick and mosquito applications from April through November using essential oils that repel these pests and cut down on their populations
  • Deer repellent sprayed on vulnerable bulbs, perennials or shrubs in season
  • Anti-desiccant applied to vulnerable shrubs to prevent potential damage from winter winds and cold temperatures
For more information or to initiate a new program in 2021, please contact Reese, <reese@pumpkinbrookorganicgardening.com>
Priscilla’s Garden To-Do List for January/February 2021

  • Take a winter walk for exercise and to broaden your perspective
  • Check yourself for ticks after time outdoors if it’s above freezing, as ticks will be active in ALL seasons above 32 degrees
  • Allow ice and snow to naturally melt from outdoor plants, as branches are brittle and will crack readily if handled now at low temperatures
  • Prune blueberries, Roses of Sharon, fruit trees, crabapples and other deciduous trees/shrubs on a dry day above 20 degrees
  • Avoid foot traffic on frozen lawns as this may injure turfgrass
  • Water amaryllis plants when the soil surface has dried out and place plants in full sun to encourage stem elongment (turn as needed to keep straight)
  • Force hyacinth and paperwhite bulbs on water at cool temperatures (45 degrees); discard after bloom
  • Water houseplants deeply once per week and do not fertilize until mid-February (use weak solution of fish fertilizer)
  • Keep indoor plants on trays filled with pebbles and water to boost indoor humidity
  • Remove dead or discolored leaves from houseplants, check for aphids, whiteflies and scale
  • Inventory your collection of seed packets and plan reorders
  • Onion and pansy seeds can be sown indoors now
  • Inventory garden tools; sharpen and plan replacements or additions
  • Begin planning your 2021 garden design
We want to thank you again for your continued support of our small business. This is especially appreciated during the pandemic! Mail service has been somewhat erratic recently. If you still have an outstanding balance on your account, may we suggest the use of the online payment system Zelle (if offered by your bank). Simply use the email address associated with our account: <bookkeeper@pumpkinbrookorganicgardening.com>

We look forward to sharing more information about our spring season in the next issue. In the meantime, we’ll be halfway to spring on February 1! Watch for our spring letter in your US Mailbox around February 15, and we’ll see you before long in the garden again,

Priscilla and the PBOG Crew
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Pumpkin Brook Organic Gardening, Inc. 
All rights reserved.
(978) 425-5531