Friday, December 19, 2014

Bucks County Master Gardeners Holiday "Kissing Ball Workshop"

On Saturday, December 3rd, 2014, the Bucks County Master Gardeners hosted a holiday "Kissing Ball Workshop" where guests created an extraordinary holiday decoration for their homes out of gorgeous, fresh greenery and accessories donated by the Master Gardeners from their own home gardens.  A festive and fun time was had by all!

Our next Kissing Ball Workshop will take place on Saturday, December 5th, 2015. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Master Gardener Holiday "Kissing Ball" Workshop

Yes, there's a little ** snow ** in the forecast tonight for parts of Bucks County! This puts us in the mood for our upcoming Holiday "Kissing Ball" Workshop on Saturday, December 6th from 10:00am - 11:30am!

You'll see these beauties in garden centers for $50, $75 or more but the Bucks County Master Gardeners will teach you to make your very own extraordinary home holiday decoration in this workshop for just $25 - all materials included.

We supply gorgeous, fresh-picked greenery, ribbons, decorations and all needed materials. Simply bring your gloves, pruners and your imagination!

Workshop spaces are limited - your check for $25 per person reserves your space in class.  First come, first served basis.

Make checks payable to BUCKS COUNTY COOP EXT and send to:

Kissing Ball Workshop
Penn State Extension Bucks County
Neshaminy Manor Center
1282 Almshouse Road
Doylestown, PA 18901

The workshop takes place in the Health Building auditorium at Neshaminy Manor center, 1282 Almshouse Road, Doylestown, PA 18901.

Questions? 215-345-3283 or email us at

Friday, November 7, 2014

Timely Gardening Tips for Autumn by Master Gardener Bonnie Olliver

Honeybees enjoy Chrysanthemum 'Autumn Moon' in the Bucks County Master Gardeners Pollinator Demo Garden
Photo © Kathleen Connally

  • Lawns may be fertilized with 10-6-4 or its equivalent through November at the rate of 10 lbs. per 1000 square feet.  Soil test to determine if lime is needed and apply according to recommendations.
  • Keep lawns free of leaves to prevent them from matting and killing the grass.
  • Dig up tender bulbs such as gladiolas, dahlias, cannas and tuberous begonias, carefully clean off the soil and store them after they dry.
  • Spring blooming bulbs can be planted when the soil cools, anytime before the ground freezes. Try “forcing” daffodils, tulips or crocus to enjoy early spring blooms indoors. 
  • Bring houseplants back inside but rinse the leaves and check for insects first. The pots (with plants in them) can be soaked in water for 15-20 minutes to remove most pests, especially those hiding in the soil! 
  • Remove soil from garden tools and apply a thin coat of oil for winter protection. Drain hoses, and clean and winterize the lawn mower. 
  • Remove and discard all rose leaves and debris from around rose bushes. Protect crowns of hybrid teas roses by mounding them with 6-8” of soil; mulch after the ground freezes. Rose canes may be lightly cut back in fall but do major pruning next spring.
  • Remove debris from under fruit trees and shrubs to help reduce future disease and insect problems. 
  • Clean out vegetable and flower gardens and add the material to the compost pile. Cut back the stems of perennials if they have no winter interest or seed for the birds, but leave any green foliage that might be at ground level.  Consider leaving the stems of some herbaceous perennials for overwintering pupae or egg casings of beneficial insects. 
  • Continue watering recently planted trees and shrubs if rainfall isn’t at least 1” a week, giving them a thorough soaking, until the ground freezes. 
  • Pruning of dead, dying or diseased parts of trees and shrubs can be done anytime; selective pruning of shrubs is based on their blooming time. 
  • For de-icing on sidewalks and roadways near your garden, consider alternatives to salt such as Calcium chloride, urea or sand. Use in amounts recommended on the labels. 
  • Store liquid pesticides above 40 degrees. 
  • Keep firewood outside until ready to use to avoid “awakening” any insects that might be overwintering there.
    Tips provided by Bucks County Master Gardener Bonnie Olliver

Pest Alert: Spotted Lanternfly

Less than 40 miles from Doylestown in Berks County, Pennsylvania , a new threat to Pennsylvania and U.S. agriculture has been found:  the Spotted Lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula, a leafhopper type insect.   This insect poses a threat to grapes and at least 25 other Pennsylvania plant species.  The good news is that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Penn State University are hot on the trail of this critter, having identified its lifecycle and gridded and mapped its present location in northern Berks County.  This is a rare opportunity to contain and eradicate a new pest before it takes hold in the U.S.

Please see the following links to learn more about the Spotted Lanternfly and what you can do to help eradicate this pest:
PA Department of Agriculture website:
PA Department of Agriculture Pest Alert bulletin:
Berks County general quarantine information:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Timely Gardening Tips for Summer

Photo courtesy USDA
  • Water trees and shrubs planted within the last two years with deep, weekly watering, if rain isn't sufficient.
  • Give the lawn a rest from fertilizer and weed control during the hot summer. Wait until September.
  • Continue deadheading annual  flowers to promote continuous bloom and enhance appearance.
  • Stop deadheading in early September if you want seeds to mature for "self-seeding" next spring.
  • Divide iris in late July; divide peonies and daylilies in August.
  • Pinch chrysanthemums and perennial asters for the last time right now.
  • Monitor for bagworms on arborvitae, cedar and juniper. Hand-pick to remove "bags" which may contain the eggs of this pest.
  • Watch for tomato hornworms; hand-pick these large caterpillars off the plants.
  • Visit a local farmers market.  Here's a great list from the Bucks County Foodshed Alliance!
  • Make some space for a fall garden of lettuce, beets, chard, cabbage family plants, and radishes.
  • Continue adding "greens and browns" to the compost bin and adding water during hot days to keep the pile moist.
  • Select spring-blooming bulb varieties to order from catalogues, or purchase locally, to plant this fall.
  • Stop fertilizing and deadheading roses in late August. Dead or diseased canes may be removed now but major pruning is done in the spring.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Timely Tips for Spring by Master Gardener Bonnie Olliver

·         Now that the soil can be worked (crumbles in your hand when squeezed), consider doing a Penn State soil test. Kits are$9 and available at our Extension office.

·         Direct-seed cool weather crops such as peas, radishes, spinach, arugula and Swiss chard.

·         Indoors, start seeds of tender vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.

·         Prune peach, plum and cherry trees in mid-April.

·         Fertilize spring flowering bulbs when the leaves become established. Remove faded flowers to eliminate seed formation and fertilize once more with a 5-10-5 or its equivalent. Allow foliage to grow "naturally" (don't braid it) and remove when it turns yellow and comes out when gently pulled.

·         Keep mulch on plants until soil temperature remains well above freezing to prevent frost from "heaving" the root system.

·         Seeing forsythia plants in full bloom is usually a good indicator of when to apply pre-emergent herbicide for crabgrass control.

·         Prune spring flowering shrubs shortly after the flowers fade.

·         Spring pruning of roses should be done a week or so before the last killing frost in your area. Leave three to six strong canes, pruning out dead or “spindly” branches.

·         Cut back perennials and ornamental grasses that were left standing for winter interest.

·         When they first emerge and are small, divide summer and fall-blooming perennials such as asters, astilbe, chrysanthemum, coral bells, daylilies and hostas.

·         Prune out old raspberry canes.

·         Celebrate Earth Day on April 22 and Arbor Day on April 25th!

Master Gardener Plant Sale, Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Don't Guess - Soil Test!

Photo credit:
Proper soil fertility is the foundation for plant health. Different types of plants have specific nutritional requirements and Soil pH and nutrient levels vary greatly from site to site, so guessing about nutritional needs often misses the mark.

Turfgrass, woody landscape plants, fruits, vegetables, and annual flowers all have specific nutritional requirements. Soil pH and nutrient levels vary greatly from site to site, so guessing about nutritional needs often misses the mark. However, a $9.00 investment in a Penn State soil test will ensure that you are applying the proper amounts of fertilizer.

Soil tests often reveal that adequate quantities of soil nutrients are present, thus preventing unnecessary or harmful fertilizer applications. The Penn State soil test measures the levels of several essential plant nutrients and recommends proper amounts of lime and fertilizer. The test will measure soil pH, the levels of phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium and will also make a nitrogen recommendation. For an additional fee, you may request a test for organic matter, soluble salts, and several micronutrients. Special tests for several potentially harmful elements, such as arsenic and lead, are also available. Penn State does not check for pesticide residues, gas, oil or unknown pollutants. A complete list of tests that the lab will perform can be found on their website. For most situations, the standard $9.00 test is sufficient.

Here’s the procedure for using the Penn State soil testing service:

1. Purchase a soil test mailing kit ($9.00) for each area you plan to sample. The “kit” consists of a pre-addressed envelope, instructions, and a soil sample bag. The kit price includes the testing fee. Each area (lawn, flower garden, vegetable garden, etc.) requires a different test kit. The kits are available from all Penn State Cooperative Extension offices. You may also get soil sample submission forms from the Ag Analytical Services Lab Web site, and send payment to the lab along with your soil sample.

2. Define the area to be tested. It may be a flower bed, pasture, small orchard, or community athletic field. In any event, zigzag your way throughout the area and collect soil from 12 to 15 locations. Put subsamples all together into a clean container. The goal is to get a composite sample that represents the entire site. Paper lunch bags or a clean bucket will work well. Sample 3–4 inches deep for turf and pastures, and 6–10 inches deep other plants. Avoid sampling odd spots in any site. Throw out stones, sod, and thatch.

3. A garden trowel is a good tool for sampling in tilled or mulched soil, but a soil sampling probe or auger is faster, especially when sampling through existing sod. Regardless of the tool used, be sure to sample to the proper depth and get a representative sample by collecting at least 12 subsamples from the area. Mix the sub samples into one composite sample. Spread the sample on clean newspaper and allow it to dry overnight. Do not heat the sample.

4. Complete the questionnaire that comes with the soil test kit. The directions are self explanatory. Follow them carefully. Be sure to indicate what “crop” you are growing. Add 1/3 pint of soil to the soil pouch. Take it to the post office to determine the appropriate postage and send it off using the pre-addressed envelope. Results will return from the Penn State lab in about 2 weeks. A copy of your results is made available to your county extension office as well. If you have questions about interpreting the results, contact the Bucks County Horticulture Hotline at 215-345-3283.  This is a free service for Bucks County residents.

Friday, February 21, 2014


Are you longing to get into the garden after this cold, snowy winter?  If you are, this series of workshops is for you! Penn State Extension Bucks County is here to help both novice and seasoned gardeners with a series of four short gardening courses. 

Classes are 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm and cost $5 per session which includes handouts and light refreshments.  Pre-registration is required: please call 215-345-3283.  

Class size is limited – register early to avoid disappointment. 

Workshops are held at:
Penn State Extension Bucks County
Neshaminy Manor Center – Health Building
1282 Almshouse Road
Doylestown, PA 18901

Photo credit:
#1 -- Seed Starting
Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Have you tried starting plants from seeds only to end up with spindly seedlings that don’t thrive? Join Master Gardener Bonnie Olliver as she shares the secrets for successful seed starting.

Photo credit:


#2 - Creating Compost - Garden Gold

Wednesday, April 2, 2014
7:00pm–9:00 pm  

Turn your yard waste and kitchen scraps into valuable organic matter that will help your garden flourish!  Master Gardener Peg Lawlor teaches you the art of composting. 

#3- Grow Your Own Veggies

Wednesday, April 9, 7:00pm–9:00 pm

How can you eat well and save money at the same time?  Grow your favorite veggie varieties at home! Join Master Gardener Mike Gordon as he offers important information about growing traditional and unusual vegetables in your own backyard.

Photo credit:

#4 - Container Gardening
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
7:00pm – 9:00 pm

Discover the magic and ease of container gardening!  If you can grow it, you can probably grow it in any beautiful, zany, repurposed or just plain ol’ practical container on your deck, patio or landscape.  Join Master Gardeners Gail Donegan and Bonnie Olliver to
learn about soil, light, feeding and watering requirements
as well as choosing the right plants for your specific conditions.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Timely Garden Tips for Winter by Master Gardener Bonnie Olliver

Photo courtesy of

  • Choose seeds, bulbs and woody plants from catalogues and order early.  Some varieties sell out quickly!
  • Start slow-growing seeds such as parsley, rosemary, begonias and petunias now indoors. Broccoli, cabbage and other cole crops can be started indoors in late February and transplanted outside in early April.
  • Carefully remove heavy snow from evergreens and woody shrubs by tapping upwards from under covered branches to minimize damage.
  • Check trees and shrubs for animal damage.  Pull any mulch away from trunks where bark can be gnawed or stripped off.
  • Water recently-planted trees and shrubs if there is little or no rain or snow and if the ground is not frozen.
  • Prune apple and pear trees in late winter. “Seed” fruit trees such as peach, plum and cherry are pruned in mid-April.
  • Monitor houseplants for spider mites, aphids, white fly, fungus gnats and mealy bugs.
  • Using a purchased, soil-less potting mix, transplant rooted cuttings brought inside last fall. Keep soil evenly moist.
  • Keep poinsettias out of drafts, evenly moist and in bright, indirect light to prolong their beauty.
  • Check stored summer-blooming bulbs for rot or decay and discard those affected. Lightly mist any that are “wrinkled.”
  • Continue adding kitchen scraps to the compost pile.  Use wood ashes sparingly on the garden, lawn and compost pile.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Eight New Trees in the Almshouse Arboretum

© 2013 Gary Dunbar

The Bucks County Master Gardeners planted a total of eight new trees (four species) in the Almshouse Arboretum on Saturday, November 23, 2013, under the direction of Arboretum Committee Chair Gary Dunbar.  We now have Kentucky coffeetree, sugar maple, red maple and hackberry beautifully planted, mulched and about to be labeled.

Thanks to Kathy Leas, Genya Hopf, Andy Chirico, Mike Flagg, Joann Cosgrove, AnnaMarie Chiofolo, Joan Pavlica, Sue Stenken, Roberta Chadwick, Elaine Hagey and Gary Dunbar for their hard work and a job well done!