Category Archives: Master Gardeners

17 Jun

Top Tips on Growing Tomatoes in Your Garden

Growing your own vegetables and fruits is an exciting experience and it is not difficult to grow them in your own backyard or kitchen garden. Today, we are sharing expert tips from the folks at Carpenter’s Nursery on growing tomatoes in your own garden.

Growing Tomatoes at Home

First Crop / Image via Flickr

Growing Tomatoes

Tomatoes can be grown effectively in grow bags, hanging baskets (variety – Tumbler), pots, greenhouses or the ground. Despite being subtropical plants they are surprisingly resilient and versatile. For best results though the greenhouse provides the best crop – but if you don’t have one don’t let that discourage you.

If growing from seed, sow in early Spring indoors in seed trays. Seed sowing compost is the ideal germination nutrient. Once the seeds reach an inch in height transplant them into individual pots. Once they reach 6-8 inches transplant them into larger pots, grow bags or tubs etc.

Fertilizing Your Tomatoes

For best results add some long lasting feed or organic fertiliser to a good compost. You can buy it or use your compost heap – dark rich compost will give you the very best results. If you start with nice healthy plants and great compost you are 95% of the way there to getting the perfect results and a huge crop.

Once you have planted the tomatoes water only sparingly initially – then as the flowers come up you can water more. This will mean your tomato plants have a stronger root system.

Taking Care of Your Tomatoes

Tomatoes like warm and moist conditions and you should not let them outside until the weather has significantly warmed and the nights a frost-free unless you are putting them into a greenhouse. At night you can wrap tomato plants in fleece if they are staying outside or just bring them in each night until the weather warms.

Once established tomatoes are fairly easy to maintain. They require regular water (in evenings to avoid evaporation) and should be checked regularly for pests and diseases. Feed every one to two weeks once the plants are producing fruit. The most important issue to look for is Blight – which appears as a brown black fungus that quickly destroys plants. The only real way to protect from this is to grow in a greenhouse or buy disease resistant variety. Other common issues are viruses which will destroy leafs and eventually plants. If your tomatoes start to mottle or leafs die trip them off carefully.

Best Growing Tomato Plants

Carpenter’s Nursery recommends these varieties:

Sungold (Buy seeds online– A popular sweet tomato variety bursting with flavors. Yellow and orange and easy to grow.

Gardener’s Delight (Buy seeds online) – Large cherry tomatoes full of juice and incredibly succulent.

Alicante (Buy seeds online) – A classic variety of tomato and ever popular this is an English classic and always produces exceptional crop yields.

Shirley F1 (Buy seeds online) – Remains one of the most popular varieties for cultivating in cold or slightly heated greenhouses. This early maturing tomato has become an exhibitor’s favorite for its heavy crops of excellent quality fruit.

04 Jan

Gardeners: 30 Things to Do in 2014

Friends! What are your gardening resolutions for 2014? Why not try something that you have never done before? Here is a list of 30 things that I would suggest. If you have anything to add to this list, please do not hesitate to leave a comment below this post.

  1.  Build a miniature garden
  2. Start a gardening blog; share your knowledge
  3. Try a terrarium at home
  4. Grow a bonsai
  5. Invest in quality gardening tools
  6. Add new gardening books to your library
  7. Start/ participate in community garden
  8. Volunteer for a gardening project
  9. Prepare your own compost
  10. Go organic; ditch chemicals
  11. Participate in a seed/plant exchange program
  12. Donate plants to local gardens and schools
  13. Grow your own food (start a kitchen garden)
  14. Support a cause (lobby against GMO, promote organic food, save nature…)
  15. Visit your favorite garden
  16. Learn new gardening techniques
  17. Try growing plants that you have never grown before
  18. Participate in a plant show/ exhibit
  19. Give gift of plants on your friend’s birthday
  20. Pick up your camera and photograph plants/ flowers; share pictures online
  21. Try developing an espalier
  22. Replace your old lawn mower with a better one
  23. Grow fruit trees in your garden
  24. Reorganize your garden; make room for new plants
  25. Make potpourri from your own garden
  26. Host a meet up of local gardeners; share ideas
  27. Pool money with other gardeners to import new varieties
  28. Join a gardening club
  29. Collect, preserve and donate seeds
  30. Join a seed bank or start your own seed bank
20 Apr

Meet Master Gardener: Interview with Izhar-ul-Haq

I started interviewing master gardeners last year and posted nice conversations with a couple of gardeners. To resume the activity, I am posting a candid interview with Izahr ul Haq. He is a gardening enthusiast and an active member of Gardening Pakistan forum.

Here goes the conversation –



Tell me something about your garden (is it a lawn, terrace garden, rooftop garden, backyard, and what grows there, vegetables, perennials etc.)?

I started my gardening from balcony pots as I used to live in an apartment, we used to get eastern sun exposure so many of the plants did pretty well there. I am partial toward ornamentals and I learned that key to success is the potting mix that you use, mixing the soil initially with well rotted manure plus adding a little NPK fertilizer kept my plants green, healthy and blooming. Many seasonal plants tend to decline their blooming cycle quiet early in small pots as their nutrients level drops, I solved this issue by dissolving small quantities of NPK fertilizers with watering and it made a lot of difference.

Cosmos Flowers Bed

Cosmos in Izhar's Garden

We shifted to another place where I had three gardening places, one was an 11’ x 22’ lawn, another was 11’ x 5’ bed and the third one was 70’ x 2’ long bed containing 6 tall Asoka trees. The lawn and small beds were eastern sun exposures with some parts in shade and the long bed had a south west sun exposure. Careful selection of the plants was necessary according to the sun exposure they prefer. During the winter season in the eastern sun exposure area, I planted Dahlias, Asters, Petunias, Pansies, Shirley Poppies, Nasturtiums and Chrysanthemums while in the shadier spot I planted Impatiens, all these plants did beautifully, in the long bed I planted Salvias, Coleus, Ti-plants and Mirabilis jalapa (4’O clocks) and I was rewarded with some beautiful blooms and  foliage.  In the summer season the eastern exposure area was filled with Cosmos, Zinnias, Portulacas, Vincas, Tuberose and Cocks comb (Celosia plumosa) the shadier spot I planted Caladiums, plants looked gorgeous until the mid of season in July when portulacas and Celosia started to die but Zinnias, Cosmos and Vincas became more gorgeous with time and covered up the space. In the longer bed I planted multicolored Sunflowers and Gaillardia.

Salvias in bloom

Salvias in Izhar's Garden

The Sunflowers grew tall and had to support them with thin bamboo canes, the problem arrived when they started blooming as lots of birds trying to feast on the seed heads destroyed many blooms and plants, so it proved to be a not-so-good choice, while Gaillardia did well and bloomed entire season. The Mirabilis which were planted in winter season were still growing but they haven’t produced any blooms, by August end we left that house so the watering and nurturing was ended for these plants, after a month later in October I went to the same place and was amazed by the flower power of Mirabilis as each of the plant was literally covered with hundreds of blooms and it was an amazing sight.

In the present place I have made 11 beds in an open area in front of my house each bed is 10’ x 3’ and has south eastern sun exposure, the plants I am growing nowadays include Dahlias, Cosmos, Petunias, Hibiscus (from seeds), Antirrhinums, Marigolds (French & African), Rudbeckias, Holly hocks, Daturas, Mirabilis, Begonias, Ranunculus, Gladiolus, Gazania, Salvia, Geranium, Impatiens, Sweet peas, Nasturtiums, Pentas, Bellis, Poppies and some others. Dahlias, Cosmos, Petunias, Hibiscus, Daturas and French Marigolds have started blooming.


What is gardening to you (how important is it you to have a garden in your home)?

Gardening has become my major hobby (as I have other hobbies of pets keeping and fish keeping). As the size of my garden is increasing the involvement is also increasing my father supports me in this and we do not acquire services of any gardener and do all the work by ourselves. It’s been a great hobby and I love acquiring more knowledge about the plants and their needs through internet and books. Being member of international and national gardening forum helps me greatly in understanding the how-to stuff. Growing plants makes me feel the sense of accomplishment and I feel great pleasure just watching my garden and plants.


When and how did you start gardening?

I started gardening very early during my early school days, I use to save my pocket money to buy potted plants from nursery near my school.




What is blooming in your garden today?

Dahlias, French Marigolds, Petunias, Pentas, Mirabilis, Impatiens, Begonia, Salvia, Hibiscus and Cosmos


What type(s) of plants do you grow (flowering, fruits, cacti)?

I am partial towards ornamentals including annuals and perennials, but right now with some larger space I am growing Bell peppers, Tomatoes and Spinach as well.


What grows in your dream garden (if climate allows, what would you love to grow in your garden)?

Flowers and lots of flowers… including Tuberous Begonias, Daffodils, Bearded Iris etc


Name your favorites?

I love almost everything I grow, so nothing but all are favorites


Why is it your favorite?

Any plant growing healthy and vigorously becomes by favorite


How much personal time do you spare for your garden every week?

One hour daily and 8 hours on weekends


Who/what inspired you the most towards gardening?

Gardens of home gardeners around the world inspire me most, like if they can do this why cant I.


Do you have a specific monthly budget for your hobby?

No not specifically


What is you take on organic and inorganic gardening?

For Vegetables I stick strongly to organic and for ornamentals both.


What is your major challenge as a gardener?

Workforce, with expansion of garden we sometimes think to have an additional hand as it takes a big chunk of time in cleaning and watering the beds


What was your last purchase (gardening item)?



Do you remember your first plant?

Jasmine sambac (Motia)


Are you an experimental gardener?

No but like trying techniques referred by other gardeners.


What is your most memorable achievement as a gardener?

Nothing as such


What is the mission behind gardening forum that you run?

The forum encourages every gardener to be successful in the hobby by learning techniques and sharing experiences, it leads to a sense of satisfaction and relaxes mind. Displaying the pictures of garden and blooms creates a feeling of pride and accomplishment, the complimentary remarks encourages the gardeners to pursue more in this field creating a pleasurable sight for themselves and acquaintance around them.

11 Jan

10 Gardening Blogs to Follow

Are you looking for inspiring landscape designs, gardening ideas, tips for greener lawn, finding suitable houseplants, or just seeking gardening advice from experts, follow these gardening blogs to find all you are looking for.

Top Gardening Blogs

1. Far Out Flora –

Gardening blog by Matti and Megan from San Francisco offer a lot of interesting information and articles on succulents, bromeliads, carnivores and other unusual plants.

far out flora gardening blogs

2. Central Texas Gardener Blog –

Central Texas Gardener showcases exquisite Central Texas gardens and teaches how to have your own beautiful garden.

central texas gardener blog

3. Eden Makers –

Interesting blog on landscape design and container gardening by Shirley Bovshow

eden makers blog

4. Allen Becker Garden Guru –

Allen Becker is a garden designer in Montreal, Canada and a garden book reviewer. His blog is a nice mix of garden chat, favorite plants, design ideas and tips on books for gardeners

allan becker gardening blogger

5. Walter Pall Bonsai Adventures –

Walter Pall’s main blog about bonsai and his work with trees from day to day. Lots of good pictures of good trees and lots of valuable information about bonsai.

walter pall bonsai blog

6. Cold Climate Gardening –

Just awesome gardening blog by Kathy Purdy

cold climate gardening blog

7. May Dreams Gardens –

A lot of interesting stuff

may dream gardens

8. Soul of the Garden –

Interesting photographs, articles and gardening ideas by Tom Spencer

garden blog

9. Victoria’s Backyard –

Winner of Garden Media Guild Award 2010 and Botanical Awards 2009, Victoria is a journalist and gardening enthusiast.

backyard garden blog

10. Simply Susan –

Susan lives in Florida and shares a lot of interesting information on her blog

susan's garden blog

Other Notable Gardening Blogs

My Nice Garden –

The Strolling Garden by Lynn –

Whole Life Gardening –

My Garden Path –


Digging –

NotCot –

Creative gardening and décor ideas

Conscious Gardening –

Toronto Gardens –

Rock Rose –

Ramblings from a Desert Garden –

Gardening at Draco –


Crops in Pots –

Garden Geek –

Garden Tropics –

Container Gardening Magazine –

Anima Bonsai by Marjia and Andrija –

Garden Voices –

30 Dec

Interview with Young Gardener

This is second interview in Meet Master Gardeners series. Today, I am interviewing a young gardener, student and blogger (with pseudonym, College Gardener).

Tell me something about your garden (is it a lawn, terrace garden, rooftop garden, backyard, and what grows there, vegetables, perennials etc.)?

Since I am a college student who goes to school in different state, my garden situation is a bit unusual at the moment. When I am home from school, I work on my family’s moderate-sized suburban garden in Michigan, which has lawns, herbaceous borders, shrubs, and quite a few trees, as well as a sizeable collection of potted plants that adorn the terrace in summer and spend the winter in various rooms of the house. The rest of the year – roughly from the middle of September until the middle of December and from late January until mid-May – I grow an assortment of houseplants on the windowsills of my suite in the college dormitory.

What is gardening to you (how important is it you to have a garden in your home)?

Gardening is my oldest and most important hobby and even when I do not have access to an actual garden, I always have to at least grow some potted plants. At school, for example, I try to have some house plants in every room of my three-room suite. I even keep some pothos (Epipremnum aureum) on the bathroom windowsill.

When and how did you start gardening?

I cannot remember when exactly I started gardening – As far as I can remember, I was always very interested in plants and captivated by their beauty. We lived in an apartment until I was seven, and among my first plants were a Queen of the Night cactus (Selenicereus grandiflorus) and some Phalaenopsis orchids which I kept on the windowsill of my bedroom. However, the woman who took care of the flowerbeds around the building would often let me plant a few things in some corner, so I did get to do some gardening in open ground. There was also an old lady who kept a large and beautiful old-fashioned flower and vegetable garden in the lot adjacent to the building, and she taught me some things, such as to plant hostas in shady spots and hellebores for winter interest or how to properly deadhead flowers. When I was seven we moved into our first house, and from then on my parents pretty much let me take care of our gardens.

What is blooming in your garden today?

The garden outside is frozen and covered by patches of snow but inside a number of houseplants are blooming. There is a beautiful white cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum), some poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima), a Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi), and a red-flowered Abutilon x hybridum. A young olive tree (Olea europea) is flowering as well but those flowers are rather inconspicuous. Also, in my dorm room at school an African violet (Saintpaulia ionantha) was just beginning to  bloom as I left for break a week ago and a red crown-of-thorns (Euphorbia milii) has been flowering vigorously for months.

What type(s) of plants do you grow (flowering, fruits, cacti)?

At the moment I grow mainly ornamentals and some herbs, though I have also planted some fruiting trees and shrubs, such as peaches and red currants, in my family’s garden and hope to add grape vines and other fruits in the coming years. When I was still in high school and at home all year round I also grew some vegetables as well as strawberries and rhubarb and once I am again settled permanently in one place I definitely hope to resume vegetable gardening in addition to growing all kinds of ornamental plants.

What grows in your dream garden (if climate allows, what would you love to grow in your garden)?

That is a tough one, because I would want to grow almost everything… I would definitely like to have roses, peonies, and camellias, as well as lots of old-fashioned flowers, such as stocks, carnations, and opium poppies, but also more tropical fare like bananas, ornamental ginger species, and various palm trees. Scented flowers would be another priority, and I would want to have such plants as jasmine, tuberose, and different species of citrus.

Name your favorites?

Among plants which I have grown so far, tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) are among my favorites, while for plants I have not had a chance to grow myself yet, lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) and Himalayan blue poppies (Meconopsis sp.) top the list.

Why is it your favorite?

I love tree peonies because they are very tough, vigorous plants which need almost no care yet produce some of the largest and most stunning flowers of any plant hardy in a temperate climate. Even so they are still relatively rare. As for lotus and blue poppies, they are incredibly beautiful and I rarely get to see them in real life, because relatively few people in the US plant lotus plants and they are very expensive, and the poppies do not tolerate the hot summers we get here.

How much personal time do you spare for your garden every week?

When I am at home in the summer, probably around ten hours a week. The rest of the time, I spend a total of about one hour a week taking care of my plants.

Who/what inspired you the most towards gardening?

My paternal grandmother and my aunt and uncle are great gardeners and have certainly encouraged me and taught me a lot. Then there were people like that old lady with the garden next to our apartment building. Apart from that, I have just always been very aware of pretty plants and beautiful gardens, and whenever I saw something particularly arresting, I wound want to recreate it. I got a lot of ideas from my family’s travels, for example, and sometimes even an image seen in a book or magazine would spark an idea. Long before I first travelled to South Asia, for instance, I planted large rectangular beds of African marigolds (Tagetes erecta), cockscomb (Celosia cristata), and other annuals in our lawn after seeing beautiful pictures of such beds in the Mughal gardens in Kashmir.

Do you have a specific monthly budget for your hobby?

No – I generally try to be thrifty though and get my money’s worth when buying plants or supplies .

What is you take on organic and inorganic gardening?

I much prefer organic gardening and never use any chemical pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides. In my  mind, adding more harmful chemicals to the environment somehow contradicts the whole point of gardening.

What is your major challenge as a gardener?

At the moment, my greatest challenge is not living in one place year-round and thus not being able to take care of my garden throughout the seasons.

What was your last purchase (gardening item)?

My last purchase was a Tradescantia spathacea for my windowsill.

Do you remember your first plant?

I remember my Queen of the Night cactus (Selenicereus grandiflorus) as one of my first plants but I am not sure if it was absolutely the first…

Are you an experimental gardener?

Yes, very much so. I am always trying to push the boundaries of hardiness and grow things that people are convinced cannot be grown in a particular place or plants that for some other reason are not very common. I have been growing Japanese fiber bananas (Musa basjoo) in Michigan for six years now, and one of the joys of my late-summer garden is a pink crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), which I brought back from a trip to Florida and which no one can believe is hardy here.

What is your most memorable achievement as a gardener?

I think the success of my eastern prickly pear cacti (Opuntia humifusa), which line the edge of the flower bed next to the front entrance of the house and which erupt into shimmering yellow bloom in early summer, is something of which I am particularly proud. To be honest, however, I am not sure how much credit I can take for that, beyond finding a suitable spot for the plants, because despite their exotic appearance they are actually quite tough.

Here are a few pictures of ‘College Gardener’s’ plants.

16 Dec

Interview with Muhammad Khabbab

This is first interview in Meet Master Gardeners series. Today, I am interviewing Muhammad Khabbab – a passionate gardener and founder of Gardening in Pakistan forum. Khabbab also writes his gardening blog and loves to photograph plants in his lovely garden. Here is my favorite article from his blog: Tips for buying plants from nursery.

Here goes my conversation with Khabbab.

Tell me something about your garden?

It is a terrace garden where I grow water lilies, jasmines, annuals, perennials, tomatoes and climbers. I also have some soil beds that host bulbs including Paperwhite, Freesia, Anemone, Ranunculus, Nerine Lily, Agapanthus and climbers like Wisteria, Bauhinia, Snail Vine, Stephanotis Floribunda, Japanese honeysuckle etc.

What is gardening to you (how important is it you to have a garden in your home)?

Gardening is a passion to me.

When and how did you start gardening?

In 2008, inspired by Jasmine Vine blooms.

What is blooming in your garden today?


What type(s) of plants do you grow (flowering, fruits, cacti)?

I grow flowering plants specially climbers.

What grows in your dream garden (if climate allows, what would you love to grow in your garden)?

Lots of flowering plants especially Aquilegia, Alliums, Lilly of the valley, Hyacinths, fragrant Orchids, Snow Drop, Tree Lilies and Tulips.

Name your favorites?

Tropical Water lily, Jasmine Nitidium, Murraya Pacinulata, Wisteria, Passiflora and Nerine Lily.

Why is it your favorite?

Fragrance and exotic look of blooms.

How much personal time do you spare for your garden every week?

About an hour in summers and 3 to 5 hours in fall.

Who/what inspired you the most towards gardening?

Tropical Water Lilies.

Do you have a specific monthly budget for your hobby?

No, it varies.

What is you take on organic and inorganic gardening?

I am strongly in favor of organic gardening. Pesticides keep butterflies away from your garden so a big no no.

What is your major challenge as a gardener?

Keeping plants live in extreme summers on my terrace.

What was your last purchase (gardening item)?

It was a spade.

Do you remember your first plant?

Yes, it was Jasmine Sambac (motia).

Are you an experimental gardener?

Only to the extent so that I know this particular plant should adapt to my climate. No out of climate experimenting.

What is your most memorable achievement as a gardener?

Overwintering water lilies and saving spring bulbs in summer.

What is the mission behind gardening forum that you run?

So that we could learn from other’s experiences.

Here are a few pictures from Khabbab’s terrace garden.

16 Dec

Meet Master Gardeners

I started The Lovely Plants as a platform for sharing knowledge and promoting the hobby of gardening. This blog has helped me connect to a lot of passionate gardeners and experts who love to share their experiences. In coming weeks, I would conduct interviews with these gardeners to know their gardening habits, experiences and secrets.

Come back to this website for a fresh dose of gardening tips and experiences from experts. The first interview in this series is with Muhammad Khabbab.