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The Garden Mix



Make plans now to join Melinda on her famous Garden Walks at Boerner Botanical Gardens in 2014!

Nationally renowned garden expert Melinda Myers helps everyday gardeners find success and ease in the garden through her Melinda’s Garden Moments radio segments. Melinda shares “must have” tips that hold the key to gardening success, learned through her more than 30 years of horticulture experience. Listeners from across the country find her gardener friendly, practical approach to gardening both refreshing and informative! On this page, Melinda shares some more extensive garden tips, which expand on the information provided in her one-minute radio segments.

New tips are added throughout each month, providing timely step-by-step tips on what you need to do next in your garden! Visit Melinda’s website www.melindamyers.com for more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and answers to your questions.


Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) for Difficult Growing Conditions


Don’t let heavy shade or damp and clay soil stop you from gardening. Consider adding a Summersweet, Clethra alnifolia, to your landscape.

This North American native can be found growing in swampy woodlands, marshes, along stream banks and seashores. This suckering shrub has dense branching and grows 3 to 6 and occasionally 8 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide. It is hardy in zones 3 to 9.
 
The fragrant white flowers attract butterflies and bees, while brightening the landscape for 4 to 6 weeks in July and August. But the show doesn’t end there. The green leaves turn an attractive yellow in the fall. Plus, the tidy appearance makes it a nice addition to the winter landscape.
 
It grows best in full sun to part shade and moist to wet soil.
 
Use summersweet in rain gardens, shrub borders, narrow spaces and perennial gardens where its four-season beauty can be enjoyed.
 
A bit more information: This versatile shrub, also known as Sweet Pepperbush, is generally trouble-free. The cultivar Hummingbird is more compact, slow spreading and grows about 3 to 4 feet tall. Sugartina is even smaller at 30 inches with clear white flowers. Pink Spire has pink buds that open into pinkish white flowers.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Dragon and Damselflies – Nature’s Prehistoric Insect Hunters

Attract a few of nature’s prehistoric insect hunters, the dragonflies and damselflies, to your garden. You’ll enjoy their beauty, acrobatics and fewer insects thanks to their eating habits.

Dragonflies and damselflies eat mosquitoes, flies, gnats and other insects. A few strategic plantings and a water feature can help you attract them to your landscape.
 
If you have a nearby population of these beneficial insects, it will be easier to get a population started in your own yard.
 
Add a water feature with varying depths to provide a variety of plants these insects need to live and multiply. The immature nymphs live in the water. They need the habitat provided by plants growing in at least 2 feet of water. Plus, this depth protects them from predators like raccoons. The adults need reeds and other plants that grow in shallow water for laying their eggs.
 
A bit more information: Add a few shrubs around your water feature. These plants provide perches for the adults, giving them a great vantage point for hunting other insects. For more information on attracting these insects into your landscape, visit:

http://www.nwf.org/How-to-Help/Garden-for-Wildlife/Gardening-Tips/Attracting-Dragonflies.aspx
http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/arthropoda/uniramia/odonatoida.html
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
 
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Late Season Bloom, Moisture Tolerant Turtlehead



Add some late season color to your garden with the versatile turtlehead perennial plant.
 
A close look at the flowers will reveal the source of its common name. The clasping petals look like a turtle’s head. The botanical name Chelone comes from Greek mythology. A nymph named Chelone insulted the gods and was turned into a turtle.
 
These North American natives typically grow along stream banks, in bogs or moist woods. You can find cultivated varieties such as Hot Lips and Black Ace at some garden centers and nurseries. Use turtleheads in rain gardens, moist areas and for added late summer through fall color.
 
The deer tend to leave these alone, but the butterflies find them attractive.
 
Plants grow in full sun to shade, moist soil and are hardy in zones 3 to 8 or 9, depending on the variety. Plants growing in shade may need some staking or strong upright neighboring plants for support.
 
A bit more information: Hot Lips turtlehead has rosey-pink flowers and dark green leaves that have a bronze tinge as they emerge in spring. Black Ace has a blackish tint to the leaves and white flowers. Click here for more information.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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You Can Plant Cucumbers Next to Pumpkins

 
The old adage “don’t plant your cucumbers next to your pumpkins” is not true.  You can plant pumpkins next to other squash, melons and cucumbers.
 
When we purchase and plant a seed of one of these tasty vegetables; that seed grows into fruit we desire. If the bees carry pollen from one plant to another, cross-pollination can occur. This affects the seeds, not the fruit you’ll eat.
 
If you save the seed from these plants and use them in next year’s garden, you may be in for a surprise. The offspring might be a yellow and green acorn squash, yellow spotted zucchini or pumpkin with green warts.
 
And even if you didn’t save and plant seeds, you may find a few surprises in the compost pile or garden. Cross-pollinated fruit added to the compost pile or allowed to decompose in the garden leaves a few cross-pollinated seeds behind.
 
A bit more information: Cross pollination occurs within close members of this family. The female flower of the plant will only accept pollen from closely-related members. So a squash and cucumber cannot cross pollinate. But an acorn squash can cross with the more closely related zucchini or gourd.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Disease Resistant Major Wheeler Red Honeysuckle Vine

 
Add a spot of red to the garden and help bring in the hummingbirds.
 
Major Wheeler honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’) is a cultivar of the North American native honeysuckle vine.  It has been called the best red by many growers and is resistant to powdery mildew. Gardeners and growers report clean, mildew-free leaves even when plants are overcrowded or growing in droughty conditions.
 
The red flowers appear in late spring and repeat throughout the summer. Remove the first set of blooms as they fade to increase the intensity of summer blooms.
 
Grow this twining vine up a trellis, over an arbor, on a fence or climbing over a rock wall.  The stems grow 3 to 8 feet long. And the plant is hardy in zones 4 to 8.
 
You’ll have the best results growing this plant in full sun and moist well-drained soil. It is heat and drought tolerant once established and will tolerate a bit of light shade.
 
A bit more information: Try growing this and other vines in a container. It is a great way to add vertical interest to your container garden or a colorful accent on a patio or deck.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Build a Bee House

 
Convert scrap lumber into homes for native bees to raise their young.
 
Native bees are important pollinators needed for plants to produce fruits, seeds and berries. Planting native flowers such as asters and beebalm and trees like lindens will provide food to help attract bees to your landscape and keep them healthy.  Providing housing will also help attract these visitors to your garden.
 
Drill holes into, but not through, any size block of untreated wood. The holes should be about 3 to 5 inches deep and 5/16th an inch in diameter for Mason bees.  Insert straws into each hole to make cleaning easier. Paper straws are good for nesting but glass or plastic reduce the risk of mold formation.
 
Mount the bee house on the south side of a fence or building. Keep your bees safe by eliminating the use of pesticides on or near the bee house. Better yet, use bee-safe insect control methods in your garden and landscape.
 
A bit more information: No construction skills? Don’t worry - you can use hollow stemmed grasses and reeds as the nesting cavities. Place these in a bucket or bundle them together to create a bee house.  Click here for more information on building bee houses.
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For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Blossom Drop and Fruit Rot on Vegetables

 
Don’t let blossom drop and fruit rot reduce this season’s harvest. A few adjustments in your garden care can help reduce the risk.
 
Many vegetables will drop their blossoms when temperatures and soil moisture fluctuate. Extreme heat and cold nights can cause peppers to drop their blossoms and tomatoes to stop producing. Use floating row covers to keep things warm on cool nights or during heat waves wait for cooler temperatures for the fruit to form.
 
Be sure to water thoroughly to encourage deep drought-tolerant roots.  Mulch with shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic matter to keeps roots cool and evenly moist.
 
Even soil moisture also insures the uptake of critical nutrients. A lack of calcium can cause blossom end rot on tomatoes and other fruit. Adjust your watering and mulching before reaching for the fertilizer.
 
A bit more information:  Products like Blossom Set will help with tomatoes, but not peppers. The fruit will be smaller, but at least you’ll have some. This will not work with peppers since they drop their blossoms during extremely hot or cold temperatures.
A few diseases can also cause fruit rot. Remove the squash blossoms as they wilt to reduce the risk of damage caused by these diseases.  And be sure to mulch the soil to reduce the risk of soil born diseases from infecting blossoms and developing fruit. Melon and Squash Cradles from Gardener’s Supply Company help elevate your fruit off the soil further reducing disease problems.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Controlling Ragweed, the Allergy Sufferers Nemesis


 
If you suffer from a runny nose, stuffed up sinuses and itchy or watery eyes, the culprit may be hiding under your shrubs, next to your flowers or along a nearby roadway.

Ragweed is the main cause of allergy and pollen asthma in North America and Central Europe. Common ragweed is an annual with ferny leaves that flowers in August and September. Giant ragweed has larger less dissected leaves and can reach heights of 8 feet. Mowing and removal not only eliminates the pollen, but also the 30,000 to 62,000 seeds that each plant can produce. Removing one plant means thousands less to weed next season.
 
Keep your lawn mown, gardens weeded and replant ragweed infested areas with native and ornamental plants suited to the growing conditions. Proper selection and soil preparation will help your desirable plants crowd out this weed.
 
A bit more information:  A single plant can release as much as one billion grains of pollen throughout one season. And that pollen can travel more than 400 miles. Enlist friends, families and neighbors in the cause. The more we control this pesky weed the better for us all.
For more information, click here.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Leaf Browning, Scorch, on Hostas and Other Shade Plants


 
Brown leaf edges are common on hostas and other shade lovers when the temperatures rise or the sun is too intense.

Brown leaf edges, known as scorch, occur when the plant loses more water than is available or faster than the plant is able to absorb. Reduce the risk of this problem by growing shade lovers like hostas in shady areas free of hot mid-day and afternoon sun.
 
Add organic matter to the soil to improve the water-holding ability of fast draining sandy soils. Water the plants thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil slightly moist.
 
Mulch the soil with shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic matter to keep the soil cool and evenly moist. Yes, I know, this also creates the perfect environment for slugs. If a slug problem develops, capture these slimy pests with beer in a shallow can.
 
A bit more information:  If slugs are a problem considering planting more slug-resistant hostas. These tend to have thicker leaves like the 2014 Hosta of the Year “Abiqua Drinking Gourd.” For more information, listen to my audio tip on Eco-friendly Slug and Snail Control.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Sneak Some Zucchini on Your Neighbor’s Porch Night


Once again it’s time to celebrate Sneak Some Zucchini on Your Neighbor’s Porch Night.  August 8th, National Zucchini Day, inspired Pennsylvania gardeners Tom and Ruth Roy to encourage gardeners to share their excess zucchini with neighbors.
 
If you’ve grown zucchini you know it can create an abundance of fruit. Harvesting when the fruit is 6 to 8 inches long gives the best flavor and keeps the plants producing.
So after you’ve enjoyed those first dozen or so zucchini on relish trays, stir-fried or in baked goods you may be looking for ways to “share” the harvest.
 
After friends and family refuse your offering of this tasty veggie you may decide to join the fun and leave a few zucchinis on your neighbor’s front porch. Just include a few recipes if you want to keep them as friends.
 
Or better yet, take your surplus vegetables, zucchini and all, to a nearby food pantry.
 
A bit more information: Many seniors and children benefit from the flavorful and nutritious surplus vegetables donated by generous gardeners. Visit Plant-a-Row for the Hungry’s web site at or call 1-877-492-2727 to find a food pantry near you.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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