How to know what to grow

    It’s great getting emails from readers with their gardening questions, and even better when I can answer them.

    Responding to these makes me appreciate how dealing with the outdoors and what lives there is a long study, and one that is a lot more satisfying (and less frustrating) when you can find good information when you need it.

    With that in mind, I did a little research into some of the extensive gardening resources that are available in the Philadelphia area.  Our region has a long and deep tradition of horticulture. Because of this, support for gardeners exists that is hard to find anywhere else. And a lot of it is free.

    The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has a huge number of programs about everything from trees to flower arranging to starting a neighborhood garden. There is a lot of information online; the website is packed. Check out their garden subject guides that give links to the best books, videos, photos and articles that have been collected by PHS librarians. There’s also a garden Q and A where you can post questions as well as read advice from master gardeners on a number of topics. And you can look at their searchable database of photos and descriptions of the plants that have been given the PHS Gold Medal for excellence.

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    Penn State Extension’s Philadelphia office is another good resource. Staff Master Gardeners and garden educators will answer questions and their website has links to a bunch of pdf articles on different gardening practices. This is also the place to order soil tests.

    And if you want to treat yourself to a full day of top-tier information about gardening, one of the best opportunities is coming up on July 25th. The Woody Plant Conference will take place at Villanova University this year and has an amazing roster of speakers covering topics from plant breeding to insect pests to garden design. This large conference never fails to educate and inspire. If you go, come over and say hi. I’ll be giving a short presentation on using Old Roses in the garden.

    And you can always direct gardening questions or suggest topics you’d like to see covered at If I can’t answer them, I’ll at least try to point you in the right direction.

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