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Gardening Tips for Spring in Vermont

Mar 27, 2018 07:47PM ● By Melanie Heisinger

People in the know when it comes to growing plants are sharing their insider advice to make gardening easier. Start planting and have fun!
TIP: Save the earth and save toilet paper rolls to start seedlings indoors. Use a shoe box or container so rolls are close enough to stand. Follow seed packet instructions. Rolls can be planted directly into the soil. Don’t forget to label! For more on seedlings visit The Old Farmer’s Almanac at
TIP: Don’t forget to label your garden! There are a lot of creative ways to tell parsley from cilantro, and to remember what you planted where. Consider inexpensive, easy to see wood shims, painted white and written on with indelible markers. Decorative rocks get lost in the overgrowth.
TIP: “Peas take a long time to grow. If you want nice tender peas in June, you’ll want to plant them as soon as the ground is workable, sometimes as early as March,” advises Suzy Hickey of the Woodstock Farmers’ Market. The ground shouldn’t be too hard or too soggy. Peas are a vining plant, usually grown on a trellis.”
TIP: For all you ever wanted to know about just about every plant, check out Better Homes and Gardens’ Plant Encyclopedia at

What You Need to Know About Pesticides 

Authors Mark Richardson and Dan Jaffe offer more advice and information from their recent book Native Plants for New England Gardens for enjoying beautiful plants while helping to care for the environment.

“We always recommend that people ask these questions at their local nurseries,” Mark advises. “What native plants do you carry? Have any of your plants ever been treated with systemic pesticides?”

Most people by now have heard the term “neonic,” which refers to a specific class of systemic insecticides called neonicotinoids. Neonics are used to prevent insect damage because they are absorbed by treated plants, making the entire plant toxic to insects. They are long lasting; in fact, researchers have detected neonics in treated hemlocks up to seven years after an application. This is of course a big problem for native beneficial insects, particularly pollinator species like moths and butterflies that feed on leaves of native plants as caterpillars.

Unfortunately, neonics and other systemic insecticides are used widely throughout horticulture, agriculture, and other industries. Maryland and Connecticut have passed legislation restricting the use of neonics, and Massachusetts is considering legislation as well. Some stores have begun voluntarily labeling neonic-treated plants, while others have yet to grapple with this issue at all. People who are interested in using native plants not just for their aesthetic value, but also because they support pollinators, must make sure the plants they purchase have never been treated with neonics.

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