Neil Moran gardens in northern Michigan and is anxious to see gardeners succeed in the cold climate. To this end he has published two books on gardening in the north country and an ebook on how to save money when buying garden tools and other products. He also taught horticulture for over 12 years and conducts garden workshops.


The Garden Scribe Organizer
by Neil Moran - posted 06/24/13

Between seed starting and turning over my garden, I got a chance to take a look at the Garden Scribe Organizer that arrived by FedEx the other day. And boy do I need organizing! My current system of keeping track of my plant collection and garden activities consists of a clay pot full of plant tags, a somewhat cohesive garden journal in a composition book, and a whole bunch of scribbles on papers and scattered notes in books.
                The Garden Scribe is my reminder that there is a better way. The large three- ring binder   contains a logical system to get organized. Colorful tabs divide plants into trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials. Plastic sleeves allow you to stick the plant tags adjacent to journal pages that indicate the information you should be recording (such as need for light, water, etc).  The work is done for you, in a lot of ways; all you have to do is add plant information that you should be paying attention to anyways.
                The Garden Scribe also includes a template so you can design your own flower bed or small landscape. Several sheets of graph paper are included so you can draw to scale. All you need is some colored pencils! If you’d like longer and wider paper to drawn your flower bed or landscape use larger paper with no lines and draw to scale using a ruler or architect scale, drawing to a scale of  1/2 “= 1’,1/4” =1’ or 1/8” =1.’
                I like the idea of using the sleeves and journal pages to help me get organized and have the growing tips at my finger tips. Cataloging my plants will also help me to remember the names of the plants. I think I’ll also use it to jot down where I purchased the plant and some personal notes about each one.
                The Garden Scribe Organizer also comes in a mini size, for those who think the popular selling three- ring binder is a bit much.
                As a required disclaimer bloggers need to adhere to, I must tell you I’ve done work (writing) for the originator of the Garden Scribe Organizer. I’ve been lucky to be able to writer about products that I believe in, including the Garden Scribe Organizer. If you’re interested in purchasing the Garden Scribe Organizer go to

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Growing Indigo Tomatoes in the Cold Climate
by Neil Moran - posted 04/19/13

There’s a new tomato in town that is sure to turn heads. Indigo tomatoes are as healthy to eat as they are colorful to look at. Indigo Rose is perhaps the first blue tomato, or at least the first one I’ve ever seen! It is blue because it has high levels of anthocyanin, which is the same natural dye that gives blueberries their color; and like blueberries, they’re full of antioxidants to keep us healthy.        

Since Indigo Rose requires 75 days to produce a ripe tomato, I advise northern gardeners to try the grafted kinds. I grew three different varieties of grafted tomatoes last year in my zone 4 climate and was amazed at the amount of tomatoes that were produced, especially from my Beef Steak and Sweet Million varieties. These tomatoes  are grafted from a hardy, vigorous root stock that have a little more getty up an go in the cool weather and will keep on going in the late summer after seed tomatoes have petered out. Grafted plants are a real Godsend for us northern gardeners.

I think the Indigos are going to be popular as people look toward healthier eating. They should also be a nice novelty at the farmer’s markets. Indigoes aren’t feeling the blues, so to speak. You'll find them in other fancy colors, including Indigo Ruby, Indigo Sun and the reputedly best tasting Indigo Kumquat, a tomato with an aromatic, semi-sweet tangerine colored flesh under "distinct deep violet shoulders." The Indigo tomato was developed by breeders at Oregon State University.

Planting Indigos from Seed

If you do decide to plant them from seed, which I'm going to try along with my grafted Indigos, deploy all of the season extending ideas you can muster. For me it means starting them from seed inside right now. I'll transplant them when the weather warms in a raised bed in front of my south facing greenhouse. The bed will contain lots of organic material, like compost and well rotted manure. I'll lay down black plastic and slice holes for plants. The black plastic will provide precious heat to these 75 day babes. I'll feed regularly with a low nitrogen fertilizer, perhaps my 5-1-1 fish fertilizer. But not too much! I don't want to end up with a lot of vegetative growth and no maters!

As for watering I'll go with the suggestion of tomato aficionado Alice Doyle, of Log House Plants and water deeply and let the the soil dry out completely before I water again. And if by golly they still haven't ripened by the end of our short season I'll pull up the plants (gently, of course) and hang them in my warm, airy greenhouse (you can do this in any warm building); the tomatoes will ripen on the vines in this warm environment.

So go ahead, give the Indigos a try and let me know how you make out.

Happy Gardening,


Sources for grafted Indigo tomatoes:


Sources for Indigo tomato seed:

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Labor Saving Gardening Tool
by Neil Moran - posted 03/05/13

Next to my garden hoe, there’s no garden tool I cherish more than my Proplugger 5 in 1. I’ve used this tool to plant tulip bulbs, garlic bulbs, and to repair the sod in my yard by pulling plugs of good sod from one area of my yard and plugging it into a bare spot.  I’ve even used it to plant bedding plants. With the Proplugger you can pull out a plug of soil with the tool, then drop a bedding plant through the top of the tool and it will slide right down and into the hole. It saves a lot of bending over!

The original purpose of this tool was to pull plugs of good turf from one area of your lawn and plug it into a bare spot you’re trying to repair. The grass you pull needs to be a spreading type of grass. In the northern part of the country we’re most likely talking about Kentucky Bluegrass or Creeping Red Fescue. This feature alone can save you a lot of time and money over fussing with seed or bringing in expensive sod. In my case, I removed several plugs of Kentucky Bluegrass from one section of a lawn and plugged it into some bare spots in another area.  I filled the holes with coco peat discs that expand when it gets wet. Time will tell how well the plugs will fill in the bare spots, but the theory appears sound. I’ll keep you posted on the results.

When using the ProPlugger to repair a bare spot in the lawn or plant sod plugs, be sure to prep the area to be repaired by removing the weeds either by hand or with an herbicide. If the soil is really crappy you may even want to add some good topsoil and/or well rotted compost to it, mixing it in to the top 4-6 inches of soil. Be sure to water once per week to encourage the plugs to take root and spread. Lightly fertilize with an all-purpose fertilizer.

I won’t go into any more details of how it works, you can view the video at

The Proplugger will make gardening easier for you. It has for me. This is a tool that was given to me by the manufacturer and I have written informational blog posts for the website, Above photo courtesy of

Happy Gardening,


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