Strawberries…the Crop that Kicks Off Summer

Strawberries are famous for being the first fruit of the season to ripen, and their arrival is eagerly anticipated. Strawberry picking is a fun family activity, and certainly the way to get the freshest fruit possible. When picking strawberries there are a few things to remember:

  • Strawberries are very tender and bruise easily, so handle with care.
  • Grasp the stem and pull gently using a twisting motion.
  • Look under the leaves…sometimes the best fruit is hiding underneath.
  • Only pick berries that are fully red…they won’t continue to ripen once picked.
  • Strawberries are fragile! Carefully place them into your container to avoid bruising.

Fresh picked strawberries are best when eaten right away, but if you are storing them here are some tips:

  • Don’t wash them until you are ready to use them.
  • Store berries in an uncovered shallow container in the refrigerator.
  • Strawbs will remain fresh in the fridge for about three days after picking.
  • When ready to use, rinse berries under cold water and drain them well.

 Not only is strawberry picking fun, it’s a great opportunity to select your own fruit and enjoy vine-ripe quality. And remember, the season is short…only about three to four weeks long…so get picking!


Humming Jewels

The ruby-throated hummingbird is the only species found east of the Mississippi, and they are easily attracted to your garden. While feeders supply a constant source of nectar, one lone feeder isn’t easily found by hummers. The wise gardener uses a combination of plants and feeders.

red petunia
hummingbird feeder

Hummingbirds prefer to drink from small to medium tubular flowers. Cardinal lobelia, a perennial with red salvia-like flowers is a real hummingbird magnet…they can’t resist the tall scarlet spikes. Black & blue salvia is another favorite. It’s usually treated as an annual in this area, but sometimes overwinters. This tall plant prefers a sunny location.

Petunias grow well in hanging baskets where hummers will easily find them. While red always works, the birds also like pink and purple flowers. You can also hang cardinal climber. Create a hummingbird garden with salivas, lobelias, petunias, and a feeder hanging above it all. Then, sit back and enjoy the hum!


Get Your Landscape Ready for Spring

It’s spring…and time to plant primrose, pansies and other early spring annuals and perennials like hellebores and dianthus. Blooming perennials and annuals add early color to your garden and brighten up not only a dreary landscape but also your mood!

The nursery at Shady Brook Farm is starting to fill up with all sorts of beautiful, cold tolerant plants, with truckloads literally arriving daily. If you don’t see what you want one day, check back the next for something new.

Not sure if it’s too early to plant a certain thing? If you find it outside in our Garden Center, then it’s safe to plant. Some tender annuals, like lettuce, do need to be covered if temps fall below 30 degrees. Using a flattened cardboard box or sheets of newspaper is just the ticket.

We love spring around here and are happy to help with all of your landscaping needs. We not only have annuals & perennials, but also all sorts of lawn care products. Karen, our Nursery manager, is always on hand with helpful tips and expert advice…as are all of our Garden Center staff. Come on in!

winter berries

Winterizing Your Perennial Garden

Fall is not the time to give up and ignore your perennial garden. Proper clean-up and pruning will ensure that the garden is even better next spring. Perennials fall into several general categories regarding their pruning needs:


Shrubby perennials like lavender, Russian sage, and caryopteris (blue spirea) should not be hard-pruned in the fall. While a gentle “tidy up” trim is permissible, leave any hard pruning to the spring, when you can assess any winter-kill, and shape the plant for the coming season. Hard-pruning encourages a plant to flush out with new growth, exactly what is not wanted in the fall., as the new growth will likely be killed in a harsh winter.


Daisies, yarrow, rudbekia, salvia, and coneflowers keep a small low tuft of leaves through the winter. While birds will enjoy the seedheads, the tidy gardener will want to cut down the dead top growth and leave the low basal growth to over-winter.


Heucheras, liriope, pulmonaria, and several other shade perennials require no pruning, and will actually stay fairly attractive over the winter. In the spring, the dead leaves can be pruned out to make room for the new growth.


Peonies, lilies, hostas, coreopsis, and many other perennials are killed to the ground by hard freezes. After the foliage blackens, it can be cut several inches about ground level (leave stubs so you remember where the plant is!). Diseased foliage should never be composted, but discarded in the trash.