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John McDonough

The Garden Mix




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.


Growing Scented Geraniums Indoors and Out

Add a bit of aromatherapy to your indoors with scented geraniums.

Give the leaves a gentle pet and enjoy the lemon, rose, apple, peppermint or pine fragrance. Place the plants in areas where you brush by the leaves or can easily give them a pat to release and enjoy the fragrance.

Though grown for the fragrant leaves, these plants will produce attractive, but less showy flowers than the popular bedding geranium. Both are truly Pelargoniums, but most gardeners know them by their common name of geranium.

Grow these as houseplants in a sunny window or a sunny location outdoors during frost-free weather. Scented geraniums are hardy in zones 10 and 11 and must be moved indoors for the winter in most areas.

Use a quality potting mix for indoor plantings or grow them outdoors in well-drained soil for best results. Remove the faded flowers and pinch back the stems as needed.

A bit more information: Start new plants from cuttings taken from healthy plants. Take a 4-inch piece of the stem with leaves, remove any flowers, and root. Or use trimmings made when pruning back your plant. For more details, listen to my audio tip on Starting New Plants from Cuttings.

For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com

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Tips for Seed Starting Success

Starting plants from seed can save you money, extend your garden season and be lots of fun.
 
But sometimes things don’t go as smoothly as planned. Here are tips for increasing your success.
 
Read the directions on the seed packet. Quality seeds provide all the information on indoor and outdoor planting dates, sprouting directions and seedling care.
 
Always start with clean containers and sterile potting or seed starting mix. You’ll avoid damping off and other diseases that can prevent sprouting or kill the seedlings.
 
Keep soil moist. Cover seeded containers with wet newspaper or plastic to conserve moisture and reduce your need to water. Remove once the seeds sprout.
 
Germinate seeds in a warm location. Most seeds sprout more readily in warm temperatures.
 
Move the seedlings to a sunny window or under artificial lights as soon as they break through the ground.
 
A bit more information: Clean previously used containers with a one part bleach and nine parts water solution. Then rinse in clear water. And look for new products to reduce your workload and increase success.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com

 
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Extend the Vase Life of Daffodils

Daffodils are a cheerful addition to the garden and your spring flower bouquets.

Extend your enjoyment to a week or more by conditioning your daffodils before adding them to your spring arrangements.
 
This also protects the other cut flowers in your bouquet from the stem clogging sap the daffodils release into the water.  Professional florists do this for you; if in doubt, do it yourself.
 
In the garden you’ll need to start with proper harvesting. Pick daffodils early in the morning. Harvest single flowered varieties when the stem below the flower bud is at a 90 degree angle. Wait for one bud to be fully opened before harvesting varieties with several flowers on each stem.
 
Recut the stem to the desired length and place in 3 inches of water. Move to a cool dark location for 12 hours. Rinse, do not recut the stems, and add to your arrangement with other flowers.
 
A bit more information: Follow the same steps to condition all the flowers you harvest from your garden. But be sure to always condition daffodils in a separate vase to prevent its sap from damaging the other flowers. Investing a bit of extra time will result in many more days you’ll be enjoying your flowers.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com

 
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Diagnosing Tree Problems

We’ve all seen seemingly healthy trees fail. Once the tree is removed, a hollow center reveals the cause of this tree failure.
Arborists now have a minimally invasive tool that helps them diagnose the soundness of a tree. This information can help them diagnose tree problems and reduce the risk of unexpected tree failures that create a hazard for people and property.
An electronic high-resolution needle drill makes a fine hole in the tree. As it travels through the trunk it measures the resistance encountered. A print out is produced, mapping out the internal structure of the tree.
The graph line aligns with the decay pattern inside the trunk.
Arborists use the results of this measuring tool to get a look inside sick and declining trees. These test results can help them determine if a tree is a hazard and should be removed or one that can be saved.
A bit more information: A hazardous tree is one that can cause damage to people or property when it fails. Though not always easy to detect, see the Friends of Tree City USA bulletin #15 for tips on spotting and avoiding hazardous trees. And consider working with a certified arborist to keep your trees healthy, detect and manage or remove hazardous conditions.
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com

 
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Renovating Overgrown Shrubs

Quickly tame overgrown shrubs with renovation pruning in late winter or early spring.

This drastic approach to managing shrubs is not for the timid pruner or for all plants. Many shrubs like potentilla, spirea, privet, butterflybush, beauty bush and abelia can be pruned back to 6 to 12 inches above the ground.
 
Wait for new shoots to emerge. As these stems develop pinch out the tips of the new growth to control the size. Then thin out a few of the stems to ground level to make room for those that remain.
 
Use a ratcheting lopper or reciprocating saw to extend your reach and increase your cutting power when pruning back large or hard to reach stems. Hand pruners work well for cutting smaller stems and stem tips.
 
Wait until after flowering to renovate forsythia, spring blooming spirea and other spring flowering shrubs.
 
A bit more information:  A less stressful way to manage overgrown shrubs is with rejuvenation pruning. One fourth to one third of the older stems are cut back to ground level each year. The height of the remaining stems can be reduced by about one fourth as well. In three or four years you have reduced the size and improved the beauty of the shrub. For more on pruning, planting and care of trees and shrubs see my Great Courses DVD, How to Grow Anything: Make Your Trees and Shrubs Thrive.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com

 
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The National Garden Bureau Names 2015 The Year of the Coleus



Colorful foliage and shade tolerance gained this plant favor in gardens for many decades. But the increase in varieties, sun tolerance and our love of foliage plants resulted in 2015 being named the year of the coleus.
 
You’ll find coleus in a wide variety of colors resulting in its other common name, painted nettle.
 
Grow coleus in containers or in the garden. Use en masse or mixed with other flowering and foliage plants.
 
But wait for the danger of frost to pass and temperatures to warm before planting coleus outdoors. They thrive in warm temperatures and struggle as temperatures linger below 55 degrees F.
 
Grow coleus in shade or morning sun. Or use Sun coleus for those sunnier spots in the garden. Avoid over and under watering that can lead to decline.
 
And remove the small flowers as soon as they appear to encourage more compact and vigorous growth.
 
A bit more information: Coleus has gone through several name changes in the past few decades. For many years it was botanically known as Coleus blumei and Coleus hybridus.  In 2006 they were grouped together under the name Solenostemon scutellarioides. And then in 2012 the taxonomists declared Plectranthus scutellariodes was the correct name. Fortunately, gardeners know what you mean when you say coleus. For a colorful slide show of a few of the many varieties, visit the National Garden Bureau website.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com

 
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Indoor Plants with Fragrant Flowers

Add a little homegrown aromatherapy to your home with fragrant flowered indoor plants.
 
Gardenias may be the first plant that comes to mind. They can be challenging, but worth the effort. Grow gardenias in moist acidic soil, bright light and surrounded by other plants or on a gravel tray to increase the humidity.
 
Jasmines are known for their sweetly fragrant flowers. The Arabian jasmine (Jasmine sambac) will flower indoors for most of the year, if it receives sufficient light.
 
Citrus are valued for their fruit, but also produce fragrant flowers. Give them bright light and keep the soil slightly moist for best results.
 
Plumeria are the fragrant flowers often used in Hawaiian leis. Grow in a warm location with moist soil. Allow the soil to go a bit drier during winter. The plants usually go dormant and drop their leaves. Don’t panic; new leaves will appear as temperatures warm.
 
A bit more information: Some orchids, hoyas and even begonias can be fragrant. Do a nose test before investing.  For more on these and other fragrant houseplants, click here.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com

 
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Heart Shaped Plants to Give for Valentine’s Day

 Looking for something different to give your Valentine this year? How about an indoor plant with heart shaped leaves or flowers.

Anthuriums are an easy-to-grow long blooming indoor plant. The red or pink heart shaped flowers rise above glossy green leaves.
 
Pothos and philodendron are easy-to-grow and long time favorites. Select one of the newer variegated varieties like Brazil philodendron or Neon pothos with bright lime green leaves for an updated look.
 
Caladiums and Elephant ears are popular in the garden, but also make great houseplants.
 
Or maybe it is a living heart sculpture your Valentine would prefer. Stems of lucky bamboo are often trained into heart shapes or maybe it’s a topiary of English ivy trained into a heart.
 
Or add a few cut flowers placed in water picks to any pot of indoor plants. 
 
A bit more information: Enjoy a Valentine’s Day celebration with a friend or family member that is sure to refresh your spirit without adding calories. Join the Feb 13-16 Great Backyard Bird Count. You and thousands of others from around the world will help researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society learn more about the health and population of the birds. Beginner and experienced birders are welcome. All you need is 15 minutes or more on one or two of this three-day event. Click here to join the fun!
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Dahlias – A Traditional Favorite Perfect for Today’s Gardens

Add some elegance, color or fun to the garden with dahlias. These traditional plants come in a variety of sizes, shapes and color, making them a great choice for any garden.
 
You can find dahlias as short as 12 inches and as tall as five feet. Flowers can be two to ten inches in diameter, depending on the variety.
 
And then there are the unique flower shapes. The cactus types with curved petals that resemble spines. The fringed flowers of laciniated provide interesting texture while the ball types form balls of neatly arranged petals. And then there are the orchids, anemone, decorative, waterlily and more.
 
Start the tuberous roots indoors for earlier bloom in the garden. Or plant them directly in the garden or container for an added late season bloom.
 
Grow in a sunny location with moist well-drained soil. And add a decorative stake to support the large flowered and taller varieties.
 
A bit more information: Visit your favorite garden center or check bulb catalogues and online sources for an even greater selection of dahlia varieties.  For tips on starting these bulbs indoors, watch my Melinda’s Garden Moment video on starting cannas, dahlias and other non-hardy bulbs indoors.
.
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Moonlight (Night) Garden

Create a beautiful garden that reaches its peak once the sun sets.
 
A moon or night garden extends your outdoor enjoyment with white and light colored flowers that just seem to glow in the dark. They even appear to float in the air as the green leaves disappear in the dark.
 
Add some vertical interest with white flowered vines like moonflower vine (Ipomoea alba), clematis or climbing roses trained on a trellis. White flowered roses and hydrangeas or Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia arborea) brighten the background. Then look for white flowered perennials for seasonal interest. And don’t forget to add some white flowered annuals for season long color.
 
Add a few bright highlights with variegated folaige and splashes of light with silver leafed plants.
 
Then finish off your garden with a bit of nighttime fragrance. Include a few four o’ clocks, flowering tobacco and evening stock. As always, match the flowers to the growing conditions as well as your design scheme.
 
A bit more information: Light up the garden and pathways with candles or landscape lighting.  And increase your landscape’s nighttime beauty by up lighting a few trees and shrubs with interesting form or bark.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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