Almanack Contributor Amy Ivy

Amy Ivy

Amy Ivy is a Regional Vegetable and Berry Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture Program. Amy also often leads local foods production research funded by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program. She can be reached at 518-570-5991, adi2@cornell.edu.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Winter Gardening: Reading, Houseplants


DiffenbachiaCornell3002Here are a couple of books to consider reading this winter from the comfort of a cozy chair as you wait for spring to come.

Anyone interested in growing any kind of plant should be glad to receive How Plants Work, the science behind the amazing things plants do by Linda Chalker-Scott, a professor of horticulture at Washington State University. This is not a how-to garden book but instead a book to help you understand and appreciate how plants grow. The author has a very readable writing style and explains the whys of many gardening practices and plant functions. She also debunks several garden myths about nutrient supplements and management practices. Every serious gardener should read this book this winter! » Continue Reading.


Friday, October 30, 2015

Fall Garden Tips: Use Those Leaves!

MapleLeavesCornellUHILeaves. Some folks love them, some folks hate them; I think it mostly depends on how much room you have for them. Folks who live in towns or cities with small yards and large, mature shade trees can feel overwhelmed with all the leaves. But the rest of us with a little more space really cannot complain as those leaves are a wonderful resource!

While I waited for the young trees I planted around our house to grow I used to gather those bags of leaves along the city curbs. Now my trees are finally large enough that I have plenty. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Gardening: Rehabbing And Establishing Raised Beds

Raised bedsThe boards that form my raised beds are rotting away and I’m glad. I’ve been wanting to rearrange the beds so having to replace the boards gives me the opportunity and motivation to finally get this done.

One of the most frequent questions we get about setting up raised beds is what kind of lumber to use. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Harvest Time Is Well Worth The Wait


CFLocalLivingFairNCBountyfoodonlyBPWhattamNorth Country gardeners are a patient, hardy lot. Our growing season is short enough in a good year, and this year got off to a very slow start with endless rain and cold temperatures well into July.

While there are many cool season crops that do well up here, most home gardeners spend the summer waiting for the royalty of crops to ripen: tomatoes! » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Amy Ivy: August in the Garden


Cornell farmer education (Amy Ivy Photo)Anyone growing tomatoes or potatoes needs to be on the lookout for signs of late blight. By mid-July this devastating disease had been found on potatoes in western New York and western Vermont.

This means Northern New York is basically surrounded by it and the cool, wet weather we had in June through mid-July created ideal conditions for this disease. Only tomatoes and potatoes are affected by this particular pathogen. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Gardening: Pinch Now for More Flowers

flowers - courtesy Cornell Home Gardening Growing Guide onlineNothing provides a steady shot of color to your yard more than annual flowers. Once they begin to bloom they will keep producing flowers for the rest of the summer. Perennial flowers are beautiful but are usually only in bloom for a couple of weeks. For non-stop color and plenty of flowers for cutting, annual flowers are ideal.

After waiting for seedlings or young transplants to get established and begin to push out growth, the last thing gardeners are inclined to do is cut them back. But some judicious pinching right now will pay off with many more stems and flowers than if they had been left alone. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

June in the Garden: Transplants and Seedlings Care


SeedlingsJune is a critical time to get vegetable and flowers established. Whether planted as seeds or transplants, these young plants need some extra attention now to help them survive the rigors of summer.

Transplants go through a period of shock as they adjust to their new growing conditions. Bright sun, pounding rain and drying winds can all be a challenge for these tender plants. Their roots are limited to the container they were growing in but they need to reach far into the surrounding soil to seek out water and nutrients and to provide support to the plants as they become top-heavy. The important feeder roots grow horizontally through the soil where there is oxygen and lots of microbial activity, only a few roots grow down deep. To encourage that lateral growth keep the soil around the new plants moist and avoid letting it dry out. It should dry somewhat between waterings but for the first month, pamper these young plants with extra water during dry spells. By August they will be better able to withstand moderate droughts, but not now. » Continue Reading.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Tips: Coping With Common June Garden Pests


k11094-1potatobeetleusdaPeggyGrebWhenever you have a few minutes, take the time to get up close to your plants. Turn the leaves over to look for eggs or newly hatching insects. Here are some insect pests that show up in gardens every June.

Colorado potato beetles (shown at left) love potatoes, of course, but their favorite crop of all is eggplant, which is related to potatoes. Luckily, they don’t have much appetite for tomatoes, another relative. The eggs are bright orange, about the size of a fat sesame seed and are laid in clusters of 8-12 on the undersides of the leaves. Crush and egg clusters you see. By crushing them now you prevent that whole generation from developing. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Focus On Soil For Gardening Success


NRCS7028ScottBauerSoilHand300Nothing is more important to the success of any garden than the quality of the soil. Rarely is the soil in your yard ideal for growing flowers or vegetables without some amendments or improvements. In almost every situation, the best thing a gardener can do is add organic matter. Adding it just once won’t be enough. Try to add some kind of organic matter at least two or three times each year.

But what is ‘organic matter’? » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Cold Start to Spring: Yard and Garden Tips


SnowCrocusMeneerkeBloemThe one good thing I can say about this slow start to this 2015 growing season is that it has been just that: slow. A gradual warm up will delay things a bit, but plants will usually catch up, and by mid-June it will be hard to tell it was so cold in early April.

It is much harder on plants to have a roller coaster of spring temperatures, from early thaws to cold snaps to warm spells and then back down below freezing. Those early warm spells can induce plants to come out of dormancy ahead of schedule, and the tender, new tissue is especially vulnerable to below freezing temperatures. It doesn’t kill a plant to have tip dieback or to lose flower buds, but it can affect that season’s bloom and fruit set. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Houseplants Can Thrive With Attention Now


6214PothosIvy3004The days are getting noticeably longer now, and even though our snow-covered gardens are weeks away from spring planting, my houseplants have noticed the difference and are starting to put out some new growth. March is a good time to direct my yearning to garden towards my houseplants while I wait for spring to arrive outdoors.

During the depths of winter most houseplants go into a slowed state of growth, so pruning or dividing them then would not be such a good idea. But now that they are waking up and putting out some new growth, they will be able to respond to the stress of pruning and re-potting with no problem. These practices do cause some stress to the plants but it also induces them to push out more new growth in response, so this really is the ideal time to work on your houseplants. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Growing Local Greens In Winter


winter greens trial - Willsboro 3-2012With the cold weather we’ve had lately it’s hard to imagine that anything could be growing in the unheated high tunnels around our region. While some growers do let their tunnels rest over the winter, others keep them in production, growing crops of cold hardy winter greens – how do they do it?

The first step is to use a full-sized high tunnel. You might think that a smaller tunnel would be easier to keep warm but in fact, the opposite is true. The large volume of air in a high tunnel acts as a buffer, warming up quickly on a sunny day and cooling down more slowly than the outside air at night. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Seed Catalogs: Reading Between the Lines


seed catalogsIt’s January and my dining room table is covered with seed and garden catalogs. I you’re a gardener and you’re not getting catalogs, something is wrong! Most have toll-free phone numbers and websites, so just let them know you’d like a free catalog and you’ll be set for life.

If you have high speed internet and like to surf the web, the online catalogs have a lot of information and links, but I enjoy having the catalogs around the house, and I’ll often grab one to flip through as I drink a cup of coffee or wait for my toast to brown. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Amy Ivy On Holiday Gift Plant Care


poinsettiasIf you were lucky enough to receive a gift plant or flower arrangement over the holidays, you may be wondering how to help it last as long as possible.

The most critical factors, and this goes for all houseplants, is to water them properly and be sure the excess water can drain out. Some potting mixes are loose and drain quickly while others are more dense and hold water longer.  It’s essential to look closely and give your plants as much water as they need, when they need it, rather than setting a schedule of watering everything once a week. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Stock Up: Local Vegetables in Soups and Stews


winter vegetablesCookie baking season is here, but before I bring out the sugar and butter, I’m going to cook up some healthy soups and stews for the freezer. My garden potatoes are starting to sprout so I plan to make a potato soup using my own onions and garlic, as well as the corn I froze in September.

I’m busy, so I like to make a big batch of soup or stew and then freeze it in pint-sized canning jars to get a lot of meals out of the one effort. These single-serving sizes are easy to grab on my way out the door in the morning and then heat in the microwave for a warm lunch at work. » Continue Reading.


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