Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Happy Holidays with the Bucks County Master Gardeners at Venice Ashby

On December 9, 2015, children in the Venice Ashby After School program learned about evergreen trees and shrubs and their history as winter holiday decorations from the Bucks County Master Gardeners. Each child created and took home an evergreen centerpiece made from greenery and materials donated by the Master Gardeners.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Iris in November

Looking for a little November beauty?  This iris is now blooming in our Bucks County Extension Office Demonstration Gardens! 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Master Gardener "Fall into Spring" Workshop

THURSDAY NIGHT!  10/22/15, 7:00pm - 9:00pm

© Herry Lawford
In this workshop, the Penn State Master Gardeners of Bucks County will teach you what to do this autumn for a more successful spring garden!

Thursday, October 22, 2015, 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

© Matt Patterson
Neshaminy Manor Center – Health Building Auditorium
1282 Almshouse Road
Doylestown, PA 18901

During this evening of hands-on demonstrations and activities, learn about fall gardening topics such lawn care, seed saving, planting bulbs, perennial care, containers, putting your “beds to bed” for the winter, deer deterrents, pruning, growing Dahlias and growing fall/winter veggies.
Bring your favorite garden tool and the Master Gardeners will show you how to maintain it!

Light refreshments, too.

Cost is $5.00, cash or check payable at the door.
Questions? Call us at 215-345-3283.


Friday, October 9, 2015

Timely Tips for Your Autumn Garden

Photo Courtesy ©Dr. DeNo

·        After the first frost, pull up annuals and vegetables and add to the compost pile.  You can continue to add to the pile all winter.  Reserve leaves to add as browns.

·        Resist cleaning up your perennials for awhile and leave the dried seed heads for the birds.  Mulch around them after the ground has cooled. 

·        Dig and store summer bulbs such as dahlias, cannas, gladiolas and tuberous begonias.  Spring blooming bulbs can still be planted until the ground freezes.

·        Fertilize lawns by the end of November with a 10-6-4 or its equivalent at 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet.  Rake leaves off the lawn to prevent matting and killing the grass.

·        Remove and discard debris from under rose bushes.  Trim the canes back by no more than one-third if they are tall.  Major pruning is done in the spring.

·        Continue to water (if it doesn't rain) newly planted trees, shrubs and evergreens.

·        Check houseplants for insects before bringing them indoors.  Avoid overwatering and reduce the fertilizing schedule.

·        Winterize the lawn mower after the last mowing.  Clean the garden tools and rub a light coating of oil on them before storing for the winter.  Drain and store the hoses.

·        Keep firewood outside until ready to use.  The warmth of the home might "wake up" sleeping insects!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Winterizing Your Garden Tools

Photo Courtesy ©Thomas Hawk

Fall is here – time for winterizing! As you’re giving that last bit of TLC to your plants this season, remember your tools, too. They’re the key to success in every garden bed so spend a little extra time winterizing them as well.

First, be sure you have a dry location to store your tools this winter. File the edges of spades, shovels, axes, hoes and digging forks. Sharpen and oil your pruning tools, especially the pivot points. And let’s not forget the wooden handles - they also benefit from some attention. Run sandpaper over them to remove splinters and then rub with a soft rag dipped in a bit of linseed oil. How about hand trowels and smaller tools? Store them in a bucket of sand soaked in oil to deter rust.

A little winter prep can really pay off. Your tools will be just as ready as you are when spring arrives!

Bucks County Master Gardener Elena Parsons

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Leaf Mold is Garden Gold!

Photo Courtesy © David Goehring

Fall is my favorite season and with it comes one of my favorite activities: raking leaves. I love the fresh air, a bit of exercise and best of all, I end up with leaf mold for my garden. 

Leaf mold is a type of compost created from the fungal breakdown of leaves and it makes a superior soil amendment. It's
used to lighten soil, hold moisture and improve soil structure over time. It can also be used as mulch in garden beds and in containers to help with water retention.

Making leaf mold is an extremely simple procedure: just rake, mow or blow the leaves into a pile and let them sit for two to three years. The pile should be at least three feet wide by three feet deep. For a neater appearance the pile can be surrounded by a bin made of chicken wire or turkey fencing, which offers maximum air circulation. To cut down the "processing" time to a year, the leaves can be shredded, moistened and then covered, and they'll need to be turned once in awhile.

For an even simpler method, large black plastic trash bags can be used.  Just fill the trash bags with  shredded leaves, moisten, close and poke some holes in the bags. Every so often turn or shake the bags.
Leaf mold is easy, eliminates hauling or bagging and it's great for your garden!
- Bucks County Master Gardener Karen Murphy

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Autumn Succulent Pumpkin Workshop, Saturday, 09/19/15, 11:00am

Let the Master Gardener experts at Penn State Extension help you design and create a living succulent centerpiece for your autumn table! 

Succulent plants are hot!  Floral and landscape designers love them for their variety of colors, shapes and textures like rose, yellow, wine, chartreuse, aqua, variegated, ruffled, spiked, needled, rounded and berry-like.  Thanks to their juicy stems and leaves they’re easy to grow and care for, too. 
Succulents have adapted to arid areas so they don’t require frequent watering or fussing.  They like the dry and warm conditions in most homes and they adapt to low light as well.  They’re stunning planted in groupings and do very well in containers.

Join the Penn State Master Gardeners of Bucks County to create a decorative, unique 6-8 inch centerpiece for your autumn table made with these wondrous plants.   The Master Gardeners will also teach you to care for your succulent arrangement so the plants stay healthy. 
A workshop fee of $25 includes all materials, expert instruction and light refreshments

Class size is limited and spaces fill quickly. Your payment reserves your space in class -- first come, first served basis. 

Registration by phone only:  215-345-3283.  Visa/MC,  checks and cash accepted.
Saturday, September 19, 2015
11:00am – 1:00pm

Workshop location: 
Neshaminy Manor Center - Health Building Auditorium
1282 Almshouse Road
Doylestown, PA 18901

Penn State encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact Penn State Extension Bucks County at 215-345-3283 in advance of your participation or visit.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Horticulture Hotline to the Rescue!

Here's a story from our Horticulture Hotline desk. Today we received a call from a gentleman who was quite concerned he had seen an Asian Longhorn beetle in his yard. He offered to bring it to the office for identification by our Master Gardeners.

The Asian Longhorn beetle is a highly destructive invasive pest that kills deciduous trees. You can read more about it here:

What the gentleman delivered to the office is this green creature in the Mason jar: a True Katydid (Pterophylla camellifoli).  Katydids are the insects heard singing in the trees of Bucks County on a summer night. They eat the leaves of deciduous trees but they're not destructive, and they serve as a good food source for a lot of other critters like birds, frogs, etc.

We were so glad to put this gentleman's mind at ease! 

The Katydid was released unharmed into our Demonstration Gardens here in Doylestown.

Our Horticulture Hotline is open during gardening season (roughly April 1-Oct 1) Monday-Friday, 9am-12noon, with extra hours on Wednesday from 1pm-4pm.  Call the Penn State Master Gardeners of Bucks County with your home gardening questions and concerns!  215-345-3283.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Gulf Fritillary Caterpillars on Passion Flower

Photograph © 2015 Susan Schneck

Master Gardener Sue Schneck wows us again from her garden with this shot of Gulf fritillary butterfly caterpillars (Agraulis vanilla) on a passion flower (Passiflora).  

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Container Gardening Fun

Celebrity Container Gardening Crew

Do we have fun or what?  Last month our Bucks County Master Gardener Container Garden Committee created three beautiful container gardens in front of our building at Neshaminy Manor Center. They even made their own hypertufa container for the succulent display! 

Container gardening is a superb option for those with limited space, time and/or mobility. You can grow just about anything in a container, from decorative plants like those in the photo, to veggies like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash!  Check out this link from Penn State Extension about growing veggies in containers:

If you'd like to know more about container gardening, get in touch with one of our Bucks County Master Gardeners at 215-345-3283 or and we'll get you started with instructions and information from Penn State Extension.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Insects, Diseases & Weeds ... Oh My!

Photo courtesy

It's that time of year.  If you're noticing insect problems, diseases or weeds in your garden, Penn State Extensions Home & Garden website is here to help identify and control the issue before it gets out of hand!

Here's where to get started:

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

It's Veggie Gardening Time!

This full-color publication from Penn State University is $10.00 - but it's available FREE on line!

The book provides information about growing vegetables, from selecting the best site for your garden to harvesting your vegetables. Vegetables discussed include asparagus, beans, brassicas, bulb vegetables, cucurbits, leafy vegetables, peas, peppers, root peppers, sweet corn, baby corn, and pickling corn, eggplants, and tomatoes.

Check it out here!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Cedar Apple Rust

Photo © 2015 Sue Schneck
Photo © 2015 Sue Schneck

Thanks to Master Gardener Sue Schneck for these wonderful photos of Cedar Apple Rust taken with her Galaxy S5 phone camera!  This disease requires two separate living host plants. In Sue's garden the host and alternate host were juniper and crabapple trees.  When Sue removed the juniper from her garden, the cedar apple rust disease disappeared.

Read more about this fascinating disease here:

Free Bucks County Pest Walk

Photo courtesy Mario Quevedo

An afternoon of insect pest and disease identification and discussion of controls with Penn State Entomologist Greg Hoover and Temple Plant Pathology Instructor Allison Brown.

Tuesday, June 9th, 1pm-3pm
Delaware Valley University
700 East Butler Ave.
Doylestown PA 18901

Meet at the Welcome Center

FREE! Pre-registration required: 215-345-3283 

Questions: Kathy Salisbury, Horticulture Educator, Penn State Extension, Bucks County 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sour Mulch?

Over the past few days we have received a number of phone calls from landscapers and homeowners with the same problem: within 24 hours of applying mulch plants in the area all have dead leaves and appear burned:.

Read more about what we learned in this blog post by Bucks County Horticulture Educator Kathy Salisbury:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Timely Garden Tips for Spring 2015

Photo © Jenny Pansing
  • Now is the time to test garden soil for plant nutrient needs. Call Penn State Extension’s Horticulture Hotline for information about how to soil-test:  215-345-3283.
  • Mulch garden beds before most weeds start growing.  Apply 1-3 inches of mulch after watering and weeding anything that’s already there, being sure to keep mulch away from plant stems and woody tissue.
  • In May, remove the dead flowers from spring bulb plants.  Leave the foliage in place while it’s green so the bulb can store energy for next spring. When the foliage turns yellow, it can be removed.
  • Even though many “big box” stores are selling summer vegetable plants such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, eggplants, it’s not safe to plant them outside until May 15 in Bucks County.  Watch the weather reports for late frost and adjust your planting schedule accordingly.
  • Remember to “harden off” any flower or vegetable seedlings that were started indoors in March or April before they’re planted outdoors.  Plants need a slow transition time from a controlled indoor climate to the great outdoors; this helps them develop strong cell structure to survive the elements. Gradually introduce them to the outdoors in a sheltered area away from direct sun and wind, being careful they don’t dry out:  one hour the first day, then add one hour each day for the next seven days.   At this time they should be ready for planting. 
  • Continue spraying fruit trees according to spray schedule.  Do not spray when they are blooming.
  • For lawns, apply pre-emergent crabgrass control through the end of April.  Fertilize now through the end of May.
  • Spring-blooming (June or before) shrubs may be pruned - if needed - after the blooms fade.
  • Chrysanthemums can be “pinched” for fullness until the end of June.
  • After blooming, peonies should be deadheaded.
  • Plant summer-flowering bulbs late April through mid-May.
  • Remove the protective winter mulch around roses carefully, pruning away dead or diseased canes. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tomorrow Night! Master Gardener Composting Presentation

Wednesday, April 15, 7:00pm-9:00pm
Creating Compost - Garden Gold!
Turn your yard waste and kitchen scraps into valuable organic matter that will help your garden flourish! Master Gardener Donna DiMella teaches you the fine art of home composting.

 $5 includes handouts and light refreshments. Pay at the door. Space is limited; first-come, first-served.

Class is held at:
Penn State Extension Bucks County
Neshaminy Manor Center - Health Building Auditorium
1282 Almshouse Road
Doylestown, PA 18901

Questions? Email: or call 215-345-3283

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Master Gardener Plant Sale - Saturday, May 2, 2015

Mark your calendar!

Bucks County Master Gardeners Annual Plant Sale
Saturday, May 2, 2015

All proceeds support the Penn State Master Gardener Program of Bucks County

8:30am - 1:00pm
This is a rain or shine event.

Neshaminy Manor Center - Health Building
1282 Almshouse Road
Doylestown, PA 18901
(Corner of Route 611 & Almshouse Road)

  • Unusual perennials, annuals & woodies
  • Native plants
  • Pollinator plants
  • Large selection of veggies & herbs, including heirloom varieties!
  • Pond plants
  • Butterfly garden plants
  • Shade plants
  • Deer-resistant plants
  • Container garden plants
  • House plants
  • Hanging baskets - perfect Mother's Day gift!
  • Master Gardeners' own donated plants!

Bring your wagon or cart.  Cash & checks accepted.

40+ Bucks County Master Gardeners on-hand to answer your home gardening questions!
More info:  215-345-3283 or

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Container Gardening Workshop

Photo courtesy

Tomorrow night!  Discover the magic and ease of container gardening with the Penn State Master Gardeners.

Container Gardening Workshop
Wednesday, April 1, 7:00pm – 9:00 pm
$5 includes handouts and light refreshments. Pay and register at the door. Space is limited; first-come, first-served.
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 Gardener Jeanne Mantell to learn about soil, light, feeding and watering requirements as well as choosing the right plants for your specific conditions.
Class is held at:
Penn State Extension Bucks County
Neshaminy Manor Center - Health Building Auditorium
1282 Almshouse Road
Doylestown, PA 18901
Questions? / 215-345-3283

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Container Gardening

Bucks County Master Gardener Container Garden Committee
Today our Container Garden Committee brought new life to our planter at the Penn State Extension office!  Thank you to our dedicated Master Gardeners! 

Let the Master Gardeners teach you to make your own wonderful container garden! 

Container Gardening Workshop
Wednesday, April 1, 7:00pm – 9:00 pm
$5 includes handouts and light refreshments
Pay and register at the door / Space is limited. First-come, first-served.

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 Gardener Jeanne Mantell to learn about soil, light, feeding and watering requirements as well as choosing the right plants for your specific conditions.

Class is held at
Penn State Extension Bucks County

Neshaminy Manor Center - Health Building Auditorium
1282 Almshouse Road
Doylestown, PA 18901

Questions? / 215-345-3283

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Are you planting peas on Saint Patrick's Day?

Photo courtesy

It's said that starting peas on Saint Patrick's Day brings good luck to the gardener.  Are you planting peas today?

If you're looking for instructions on how to plant peas, we love this publication from the University of Minnesota: Growing Peas in Your Home Garden

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Photo © 2015 Kathleen Connally
Are you longing to get outside and into your garden after this frigid, 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. Doors open at 6:45pm. Register and pay at the door, cash... or check only. Space is limited; first-come, first-served basis. 
Workshops are held in the auditorium at Penn State Extension Bucks County, Neshaminy Manor Center – Health Building, 1282 Almshouse Road, Doylestown, PA 18901

Map: :
For more information please call 215-345-3283.

#1 - Wednesday, March 25, 7:00pm – 9:00 pm — Seed Starting
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.

#2 – Wednesday, April 1, 7:00pm – 9:00 pm — Container Gardening Workshop
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 Gardener Jeanne Mantell to learn about soil, light, feeding and watering requirements as well as choosing the right plants for your specific conditions.

#3 - Wednesday, April 8, 7:00pm – 9:00 pm — Grow Your Own Veggies
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.

#4 - Wednesday, April 15, 7:00 - 9:00 pm — Creating Compost - Garden Gold!
Turn your yard waste and kitchen scraps into valuable organic matter that will help your garden flourish! Master Gardener Donna DiMella teaches you the fine art of home composting.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Seed Starting Time!

It may be 7 degrees outside, but inside it's seed starting time!

We love this publication from the University of Maryland that'll help get you started.

We're always available to help, too. 

Call us at 215 . 345 . 3283 or email us at BucksExt @ psu . edu

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

"Over the Fence" E-Newsletter

Photo courtesy

Did you know?

Penn State Extension Bucks County sends out a free, quarterly e-newsletter called "Over the Fence" to Bucks County residents interested in horticulture. It's chock-full of good, timely gardening advice and tips, including local trends and horticultural events. And no advertising! 

Sign up by emailing us at or call us at 215-345-3283.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Don't Guess - Soil Test!

Photo courtesy

Don't guess - soil test!  That’s what Penn State says when it comes to garden soil fertility.  Regardless of your gardening style, the plants you grow require good soil fertility. This means moderate  amounts of the seventeen essential elements required by all plants.  Fortunately, Mother Nature takes care of most of these; they’re provided by soil, air and water.  That usually leaves just five elements… nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) that need adjustment.  Here’s where soil testing becomes important.  Rather than guess how much of these elements are needed, let Penn State measure them and make a recommendation specifically for your garden soil.  Within two weeks of submitting the sample you’ll receive a report and recommendations to adjust soil fertility.  This often means lime (supplying Ca and Mg while decreasing soil acidity) and fertilizer (N-P-K).  Gardening organically? No problem.  Call the Extension office and we’ll help you substitute organic sources for the fertilizer.

Convinced?  OK!  Here’s how to proceed.  Purchase a soil test “kit” from the Extension office.  You’ll pre-pay nine dollars for the testing when you purchase the kit.  Follow the instructions provided.  Prepare a representative sample of your soil by collecting sub-samples from several areas in the garden.  Each garden requires a separate kit - for example your vegetable garden requires a different kit than your lawn.  Mail the pre-addressed pouch of soil to the lab and expect results in less than two weeks.  You can collect soil samples anytime the soil isn’t frozen.
Check out Penn State’s soil test lab at  You can even obtain a soil test submission form from the site and skip the trip to our office.  The site also describes additional testing services.  Worried about arsenic or your soil’s organic matter content?  They’ll do a test for an additional fee.  Note that only a limited number of additional tests are offered.  No pesticide residue testing or testing for “unknowns.”
Like the subject of garden soils? Check out “Soil Management in Home Gardens and Landscapes” a free, eight-page publication at
Don't guess - soil test!  It's an investment in your plants' health.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Timely Gardening Tips for Winter

☼ Don’t toss your wood ash - use it sparingly in your compost pile, garden or lawn. It raises soil pH and supplies potassium.
☼ Consider using sand or sawdust for traction rather than salt.  If salt is used, spread it carefully so garden beds, grass and shrubs aren’t damaged.
☼ Accumulated snow and ice can severely damage evergreens, so as soon as possible after a snowfall, brush snow from evergreen branches with a broom in an upward, sweeping fashion to avoid breakage. 
☼ Avoid heavy traffic on dormant lawns which can damage or kill grass by breaking the crown of the plant.
☼ Consider a smaller, more efficient vegetable garden this season.  With fewer weeds and insects, a smaller garden may produce more veggies.  
☼ Check out 2015 garden catalogs for new varieties, improved pest and disease resistance as well as drought-tolerance.   Don’t wait until late winter to order – many varieties sell out early.
☼ For houseplants:  1) turn and prune them for good shape,  2) pinch back new growth to promote bushiness, 3) check closely for insect infestation, e.g., spider mite, mealy bug & scale, 4) increase humidity levels by placing plants on trays lined with pebbles and filled with water, within a half inch of the base of the pot, 5) wash large-leaf plants, e.g., philodendron, dracaena, rubber plant, to remove dust and keep “pores” open,  6) wait until vigorous growth begins in spring to transplant pot-bound houseplants, 7) fertilize sparingly now, 8) water enough so it runs through the soil and out the drainage holes which helps reduce toxic salts and minerals.
☼ Maintain shovels, spades and hoes by soaking and scrubbing to remove dirt, then sharpening blades and coating with light oil to protect metal surfaces.  Sand handles and paint them red or orange to preserve the wood and make the tools easier to find among the foliage.
☼ Start shallow trays of microgreens in a sunny windowsill. Leftover seeds for lettuce, spinach and arugula can be mixed and scattered over the surface.  Or try a more exotic mix of beets, kale, radish, Chinese cabbages, mizuna, amaranth, pea, broccoli, mustard, sunflower and chard. Harvest by cutting close to the soil level when the seed leaves and the first true leaves have emerged.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

10 Ideas for Recycling Your Christmas Tree in the Garden

Photo courtesy
Your Christmas tree is biodegradable and recyclable, so don't put it out with the trash ... reuse it in your garden!  Here are ten ideas after you've removed all the baubles, tinsel and hooks:

1) Place your Christmas tree, in its stand, near an existing bird feeder to provide protective cover for our feathered friends. Or make the tree into a naturalistic feeding station, hanging feeders, suet, fresh orange slices, peanut butter pine cones or strung popcorn from the branches. The birds will come for the food and stay for the shelter. 

2) Use evergreen boughs to insulate planting beds where perennial flowers, strawberries, parsley, carrots, pansies, etc., are trying to survive the winter.  The limbs can also act as a sunscreen and windscreen for broadleaf evergreens like boxwood, hollies, and rhododendrons. Be sure to remove limbs in the spring after the danger of severe weather has passed.

3) In spring when the Christmas tree limbs have lost their needles, use the bare stems to stake peas and vining vegetables, or perennials like delphiniums and peonies that need a little extra support.

4) Use the Christmas tree trunk (stripped of its limbs) as edging in a garden bed.

5) Use a chipper to shred the branches into mulch or a natural path material.  If you don't have a chipper, ask a local garden center or municipality to shred it for you and take the mulch home.

6) Start a new compost pile with a layer of thin Christmas tree branches. The branches allow airflow at the bottom and will break down over time as you continue adding kitchen scraps and other compostables.

7) Saw the trunk into small logs to burn in your outdoor fire pit. (Don't burn them in the fireplace because evergreens cause creosote buildup.)

8) Strip the branches of their needles and store them in a brown paper bag, which helps keep their aroma, and use the needles to make aromatic sachets or potpourri to enjoy the rest of the year.

9) Transition into spring by creating window boxes using Christmas tree branches cut to size. Add birch twigs, boxwood, preserved moss and sugar pine cones to fill in and add texture.

10) Create an eco-friendly alternative to rock salt by using Christmas tree boughs on your walkway. During a January thaw, let the boughs freeze into the ice for good traction and a pleasant scent... but leave your boots at the door so you don't bring sap into the house.

Kathleen Connally
Master Gardener Coordinator
Penn State Extension
Bucks County, PA