Planting Tips

Home/Planting Tips

The Buzz on Pollinators

      Pollinators are your garden’s best friend! Pollinator insects are key to the environment, they ensure the production of seeds for flowering plants as well as producing 1/3 of the food that we eat.  The decline of pollinators is an ongoing problem for the environment, so at Ken’s Gardens we decided to “bee” proactive! Both of our main locations, Intercourse and Smoketown, have a honey bee hive on site.  Smoketown had a beehive last year, and it was so successful for both the plants and the bees that we added one to the Intercourse location for this year! What is the best part of our bees? They will leave you alone! The only time to use caution is on a breezy day where they might get caught in your hair. We comfortably work right next to the hive, but wearing a hat is the best way to prevent stings.

Bees are always welcome in our vegetable garden!

Bees are always welcome in our vegetable garden!

      Smoketown’s beehive is located directly next to the trial vegetable garden beds. Our vegetable garden yields are indeed higher because of the beehive! The Smoketown hive has currently 50,000 to 60,000 bees and has produced 120 pounds of honey this season so far. The Intercourse beehive is located in the perennial growing area, which is off limits to customers since the hive is still growing.  If you have visited either store, you wouldn’t be surprised to see our honey bees filling their bellies with pollen and nectar in our perennial yards and in with the annuals. We have made it our mission to minimize any spraying of chemical insecticides on our plants to ensure our bees safety. 

Smoketown's Beehive

Smoketown’s Beehive

Ronk's Beehive

Ronk’s Beehive

     Larry Beiler, of Beiler Beehives, cares for both of our beehives; he checks on them weekly and will harvest honey when necessary.

Larry checks on the Smoketown hive.

Larry checks on the Smoketown hive.

     Bees require a lot of honey to be stored throughout winter, and Larry is sure to keep them well stocked! Honey combs can only have honey harvested once the comb is capped like so:

Larry holding a capped honeycomb.

Larry holding a capped honeycomb.

 Larry will also check the hives for mites; he sets up a drone comb to examine the amount mites and to watch for any diseases.

Larry holding a drone honeycomb.

Larry holding a drone honeycomb.

     Honey bees have a lot of different roles within the colony; here is a stinger-less drone bee! Yes, you can hold drones with the help of a beekeeper.

A drone bee from the Smoketown hive.

A drone bee from the Smoketown hive.

If you see a swarm of honey bees, don’t panic, call a local beekeeper. Swarming bees mean their queen bee has left the hive for some reason and the bees need to be rehomed. To learn more about honey bees, National Geographic has some good information.

Larry holding an active honeycomb.

Larry holding an active honeycomb.


Our thriving flowers and hardworking beehive gives us a lot to “bee” happy about here at Ken’s!

Organic Gardening with Ken’s Gardens

seeds“Do you have any organic flowers, vegetable, or herb plants available?”

We are often asked this question here at Ken’s Gardens, and we wanted to tell you about our practices. While we are not a certified organic grower here at Ken’s Gardens, we do our best to offer organic compliant solutions for our customers.

Vegetable and Herb Gardening:

Although we are not OMRI certified, we use many organic methods to ensure that our vegetables and herbs are healthy, vibrant, and free of chemical pesticides.

  1. We start with all GMO free seeds. Some, but not all, are from organic seed sources.
  2. We blend our own potting mix which includes either compost or organic fertilizers to provide biological activity in the soil that is critical to the long term success of your plants.
  3. We use a combination of conventional and organic fertilizers depending upon the nutrient requirements of each type of plant.
  4. By keeping our growing areas clean and plants healthy, we are able to minimize the use of any pesticides. However, when necessary, we use only organic solutions for our vegetable and herb plants.

We grow herbs and vegetables the way we would want them for our own gardens, which by the way, is where some of them end up every year. If you are looking for organic seeds, non-GMO seeds, or untreated seeds – don’t worry! We have those too! We offer Lake Valley Seeds, some of which are certified organic, and all of their seeds are untreated and non-GMO. All of Rohrer’s vegetable and flower seeds are non-GMO, as well as all of Crosman’s Seeds are non-GMO.

Soil, Fertilizer, and Treatments:

This is where Ken’s Gardens really comes through with giving you the most natural and organic products. We love the BlackGold line of soils! They offer many OMRI listed soils from seedling mix, to garden compost blends, and natural and organic potting soil. For fertilizer and garden treatments we carry Espoma’s organic line, Safer Brand, Monterey Organics, Captain Jack’s, Bonide’s natural line of products, as well as many other organic gardening products.

Pesticide Use at Ken’s Gardens:

Pesticide use with growers has been a hot topic with the decline of pollinators. So is Ken’s Gardens pollinator friendly? Yes, we keep bee hives to ensure we are doing our part to help the pollinators. We will not do anything in our power to destroy our beloved honey bee hives. Last year, only the Smoketown Ken’s Gardens had the honey bee hive, but our Intercourse location will be home to a honey bee colony this season. Our beekeeper has said that our beehive did better than all of the other hives in our care, and it was easy to see how much our flowers really benefited too! We are in the process of transitioning to biological control of pests here at Ken’s Gardens for more stubborn problems.

Ken’s Gardens is always looking for more ways to be sustainable and environmentally friendly, we want to ensure a healthy planet for our future family members. Keep a look out for our upcoming Arbor Day event!

Tags: |

Square Foot Gardening

Spring means planting season in Central Pennsylvania and it’s a time of year when the ground awakens and locals dream of beautiful gardens filled with color and hearty vegetables. Farmers are out walking the fields and gardeners grow restless with anticipation of the coming season. Whether our customers come in by engine or buggy, everyone is asking the same big question- “What can I plant now?“

The spring season in Lancaster County is often difficult to decipher. Days in March awaken to a frost and thaw out to an average of 55°F. Our evenings tend to drop down below 40 and often land in the 30’s. For that reason, frost is a concern in the horticulture world and can be fatal to freshly planted seedlings that are not protected from these extreme temperature ranges. Plants that are not cold tolerant will show signs of stress and may experience irreparable harm.

Luckily, the natural world is a beautiful and tolerant place that offers hardy plants the ability to adapt and grow in even the most unpredictable days of spring.

So come to Ken’s Gardens and fill the wagon with an assortment of cold tolerant plants waiting to feel the touch of morning sunshine.


Ken’s Gardens has cold tolerant seedlings on the self and currently recommends the following cold tolerant vegetables:

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrot
  • Hardy Herbs
  • Lettuce
  • Mustards
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Radish
  • Swiss chard

Our complete vegetable inventory for 2016 can be found here.


However, not all seedling varieties are on the shelves. Mid-April will bring the release of our entire Tomato collection and May will start the beginning of our early summer vegetables. We greatly appreciate your patience as we grow from seed to seedling.

Our Ronk’s location has the perfect example of how a garden can look when planted in early March. Sitting in front of our green roof shed is a 4×4 square foot box. This garden style is called “Square Foot Gardening”. It’s a simple approach to gardening and utilizes every inch for efficient growing, leaving behind the space waste of row gardening.

green roof & square foot garden


This box of cold tolerant annuals and vegetables were planted on March 8th, 2016. It was as EASY as 1-2-3. Here’s how we did.

2016 Vegetable Inventory

Here is an inventory of all our vegetables for 2016. Crossed out  signifies vegetables we no longer carry. [highlight color=”eg. yellow, black”]Highlighted[/highlight] vegetables are new for the 2016 year. We look for durable varieties tolerant to our Lancaster County area and love vegetables with good yields and flavor. Our stock is chosen for the backyard and urban gardener, the canner, and of course your mother’s favorites.

March brings out the cold tolerant vegetables. The early summer vegetables will be available in April. Ask our employees for a recommendation suited to your garden’s needs.



Hot PeppersPumpkins-squashSquash-Tom JulTom-supersonicTomatoes SupersteakTom Verde-burpee

Artichoke-CabbageCaulf-CeleriacEggplant-KolLettuce-onionsOnions-S Peppers

Looking forward to 2016!

           Here at Ken’s Gardens we are looking ahead to 2016! We have a lot to look forward to this new year: workshops, sustainability and being able to do more for our customers. A lot of you have voted on a new logo, which will be coming out in 2016, as well as a new tagline. This year we would like to refocus on what Ken’s Gardens is: a family owned full service garden center that grows plants and knows plants. While there are plenty of plant farms and garden centers, there are seldom together. Ken’s Gardens grows most of their own plants and we know everything else we get in well. This allows our customer to get the best plant care prior to purchase and we know exactly how to help you at home with these plants. We also carry reliable and unique plants, supplies, and décor!

            We are also working on becoming even MORE sustainable! Ken’s is also moving towards biocontrol for growing our plants to be more environmentally friendly, as well as doing more community outreach programs. Be on the lookout for events to attend and ways you can help us! 

             You may be wondering what a garden center would be doing with plants in the winter… Well, we are busy doing what we do best: growing plants! We have been very busy seeding and propagating.  Ken’s has also been getting together a fresh inventory of décor and supplies for 2016 and we love what we are getting in!DSCN0011 (2) DSCN0016 (2)DSCN0007 (2)DSCN0011 (2)


              Ken’s has been anxious to give our loyal customers more, and we have been listening to your questions. So in 2016 we will be bringing you workshops and activities! We will be having workshops for fairy gardens, terrariums, urban and contain er gardening, landscape basics and more.  Field Pansy day is also coming as soon as the weather is good and the pansies are ready! Come out and experience a tradition our Smoketown store has been doing for years: dig your own pansies from the field! FullSizeRender [126167]

Can’t wait to show you all we’ve been working on in 2016! – Ken’s


Indoor Herb Garden Tips



Very easy to grow, chives are a member of the onion family and are used to flavor soups, potatoes and eggs. The linear leaves should be trimmed when they reach 4 inches, and frequently afterward.

Start from seed or divide an existing clump and plant directly in soil.



Though short-lived, dill’s tangy leaves make it a good winter candidate. Plant the seeds thickly, about 20 per pot. Trim the entire plant once leaves reach 3 inches tall, and frequently thereafter. Toss at season’s end. Start from seed.



Opt for Hidcote or Munstead varieties for easy growth, plus flowers and fragrance that last all winter long. Good drainage is essential; lavender is prone to root rot. Remove flowers as they fade. Start from crown division or buy a starter plant.



Choose a variety with a fragrance profile you prefer: peppermint, chocolate or even apple with its fuzzy, grayish leaves. Mint spreads abundantly outside, but works well in a container with regular trimming. Start from seed or cutting.



Varieties of this hardy perennial like well-drained soil and low humidity. Snip sprigs when the plant grows several inches tall; keep trimming to promote growth. Plant from a crown division or starter plant.



This is another plant that grows easily inside. Eating parsley aids digestion and reduces inflammation. Transplant it outside come spring, and you’ll attract swallowtail butterflies. Plant from seed.



Trim the leaves and flowering tops of this needled herb to flavor fish and meat or infuse aromatic oils and soaps. The Herb Society of America recommends cutting stems above any woody growth and avoiding dry, brown or yellowing leaves. Plant from cutting or seed.



This dense, hardy plant will come back year after year. Use green leaves in poultry dishes. Avoid cutting woody stems and remove flowers to encourage growth.

Plant from seed (a three-month process) or use a crown division.


Sweet basil (Genovese)

You can use the leaves and seeds of this leafy green often associated with Italian dishes. The Herb Society of America recommends pruning it when it has three to five sets of full-size leaves to maximize growth. Start from seed or cutting.



Versions of this herb grow tall or spread wider to form a mat that “trails nicely” over a pot’s lip. Versions like lime, lemon, coconut or the more common Italian can perfume a room with just the touch of a hand. Crown division or buying a starter to transplant.


Planting Blueberries

growing blueberries

Blueberries are a popular home grown favorite and we have the tips you need to get your crop up and growing.

Click the image for details.

Shade Loving Alternatives

Downy Mildew has affected Impatiens in the landscape all over the United States. Below are suggested alternatives for the shade and part shade garden.
Shade Loving Alternatives

Shade Loving Alternatives


Downy Mildew has affected Impatiens in the landscape all over the United States. Here are suggested alternatives for the shade and part shade garden.

Click the image for details.