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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.
Posts from March 2013


Kokedama Moss Ball & String Gardens
 
Put an ancient twist on the art of growing indoor plants with kokedama, the Japanese practice of growing plants in a soil filled moss ball.

These moss balls can be used for bonsai, seasonal wild flowers or just about anything green.  Japanese gardeners displayed these moss ball gardens on alters.  Gardeners today are also wrapping them in twine and hanging them from the ceiling.  In either case the construction is similar.
 
Find or make a clay based planting mix.  Some gardeners combine akadaka clay-based bonsai soil alone or combined with peat moss or potting mix.
 
Thoroughly mix, then moisten and form into a ball the size of an orange or grapefruit.  Wrap the ball with sheet moss and secure with fishing line, twine, or wire, depending on your taste.  Punch a hole in the ball. Set a bare root plant in place and tamp to insure good root to soil contact.  Adjust these planting steps as needed.
 
A bit more information:  You will need to do a bit of experimenting, but isn’t that what gardening is about, to find the planting mixture that works best for you and the plants.  A search of the internet will provide additional insight.  Check out Tovah Martin’s fun insight on the background and construction of these gardens by clicking here.  
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Create a Collage from Old Catalogues and Garden Memorablia
 
Don’t let outdated garden catalogues and magazines go to waste.  Give them a second life by creating a colorful collage. 

This art form is not just for kids.  In Ellen Spector Platt’s book Artful Collage from Found Objects she shows you how to repurpose all kinds of items from the garden, junk drawer and catalogues.  The projects vary in skill level and style.  You are sure to find one for you and even your family to try.
 
Or use the plant photos to help you plan your garden.  These can be easily moved around a piece of paper to give you a better sense of color and texture combinations.
 
And, if this isn’t your style, pass them along.  Schools, churches, and daycare centers are often looking for pretty photos to work in craft projects.  Or contact horticulture students and master gardeners that may be interested in using the catalogues and garden magazines as a reference.
 
A bit more information: Get a preview of Ellen’s Spector Platt’s book Artful Collage from Found Objects at www.stackpolebooks.com
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Spring Clean Up & Proper Disposal of Pesticides
 
Spring is a time of new beginnings and fresh starts.  And that often means cleaning out the garage, shed or basement.  Don’t toss those outdated, unwanted garden chemicals in the trash.  They can contaminate our environment, including our drinking water.
 
Leave these and other unwanted chemicals in their original container.  Gather and store in a secure location.  Then contact your local municipality’s department of public works, Department of Natural Resources or Extension Service for a recommendation on handling these materials properly. 
 
Many communities sponsor a Clean Sweep Program, giving homeowners an opportunity to dispose of hazardous household waste, including pesticides, in the safest method possible. 
 
Reduce your use of chemicals in the future to eliminate this extra task and negative impact on our environment.
 
A bit more information:  Incorporate more eco-friendly pest management strategies into your garden maintenance.  Select the most disease and insect resistant varieties planted in their preferred growing conditions with the proper care.  And when problems arise look for natural products that are hard on pests and gentle on people, beneficial insects, wildlife and the environment.  And eco-friendly products should also be handled according to label directions.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Garden Planning: Frost Dates and Frost-Free Growing Days
 
Grab the calendar, your garden plans and take a look at your area’s climate history before you start planting. 

We talk a lot about cold hardiness when planning our gardens and selecting plants.  But we also need to look at the number of frost-free days in our area.
 
This number influences our plant selection and planting time indoors and out.  Planting dates, indoors and out, are often based on the average last spring frost.
 
Next, count the number of days between the average last spring and first fall frost.  This is the average number of frost-free days in your location.  Compare this to the plant tag, seed packet or catalogue descriptions.  Most provide a  “number of days to harvest or bloom”. You may need to grow shorter season cultivars, start the seeds indoors, or use season extending techniques to grow plants that require a longer growing season than yours.
 
A bit more information:  Heat is also a limiting factor when gardening.  Many plants suffer damage when temperatures rise over 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius).  The American Horticultural Society Plant Heat-Zone Map has divided the United States into zones based on the average number of 86 degree and warmer days.  Visit http://www.ahs.org/publications/heat_zone_map.htm  for more information.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Vernal Equinox – Celebrate the Change of Seasons
 
Celebrate the equinox with a walk through a nearby botanical garden, a bit of garden maintenance, an indoor garden project or by starting a bloom chart.
 
Today is one of two days a year when the daylight hours are equal to those of the night.  The vernal equinox, March in the Northern Hemisphere, and September in the Southern Hemisphere is often used to mark the first day of spring.
 
It has long been viewed as a day of renewal and in many areas the start of the growing season.
 
This is a great time to start a bloom chart.  Observe and record bloom times of the trees, shrubs and flowers in your landscape.  These yearly observations will help when looking for new plants to fill in low or no bloom times in the landscape.
 
Or lend a hand at a nearby nature center or botanic garden.  They often need volunteers to record bloom times at their facilities.
 
A bit more information: The vernal witchhazel (Hamamelis vernalis), a North American native shrub, is named for the spring equinox.  This winter blooming witchhazel produces yellow, orange or red flowers that appear sometime between January and March.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Recycle Fast Food Containers
 
Don’t throw away or recycle those fast food containers just yet.  Reuse them when gardening indoors and out. 
 
The bottom of salad, pasta and other containers make great saucers for your indoor plants. Many are black, giving them an elegant look and feel while others are clear so they are less noticeable. Place a few marbles or pebbles in the bottom to capture the excess water and increase humidity.  The plants rest on the pebbles above the existing water, preventing root rot. As the excess water evaporates it increases the humidity around the plants. You also save time and the mess created pouring off the excess water each time you water houseplants thoroughly. 
 
Or use them for starting seeds and growing microgreens.  Fill the bottom of a clean container with seed starting mix, plant your seeds, and gently water.  Then close the clear lid and you have a mini greenhouse.
 
A bit more information:  Use plastic airtight containers for storing extra seeds.  Save any leftover seeds in their original packets.  You’ll preserve the needed planting and growing information as well as the seeds.  Place seed packets in the container, close the lid, and store in the refrigerator until the next planting season. 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Plant Propagation: Layering Vines

 
Start new plants from your favorite heirloom grape, rose, trumpet creeper or other vine.

Start the process at the beginning of the growing season.  Locate one or more long, healthy and pliable stems. Make a notch about 9 inches from the tips of the vine. Carefully bend the stem over, bury the notched portion in the ground, and leave the top 6 inches of the stem above the ground.  Anchor with a metal wicket or stone.
 
Or set a pot filled with a well-drained potting mix next to the plant.  Bury the notched portion of the stem in this container.  Anchor the vine in place.  Water the cutting thoroughly and throughout the growing season to encourage roots to form.  The parent plant will continue to supply water and nutrients while the new roots are forming.
 
Disconnect the layer from the parent plant.  Dig and plant your rooted layer in a new location in fall or the following spring.
 
A bit more information:  Look for natural layering to occur in your garden.  Vines and long stems that lay upon the soil often root.  Separate these from the parent plant and move to a new desirable location.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Grow a Bountiful Harvest All Season Long
 
Boost your garden’s productivity and harvest garden-fresh vegetables all season long.
 
Enlist some space saving techniques to increase your harvest.

Use succession planting to harvest two or more crops from the same row.  Start with a short, cool season crop, like lettuce.  As the weather warms and greens fade, replace it with a warm season plant like beans or tomatoes.  If time allows, plant another crop or two to finish out the season.
 
Interplanting doubles your harvest by growing a short season crop like radishes between a long season crops like broccoli or tomatoes.  By the time the tomatoes have filled in, the radishes have been harvested.
 
Relaying is staggering the harvest time of certain crops.  Let’s say you’re growing beans.  You can make two plantings several weeks apart or plant two different varieties at the same time that mature at different times.
 
A bit more information:  Proper harvesting will also increase your garden’s productivity.  Regular picking keeps plants producing.  Continually harvest the outer leaves of leaf lettuce when they reach 4 to 6 inches to keep it producing.  Remove just the head when harvesting cabbage.  Then wait for 4 to 5 additional smaller heads to form on the remaining plant.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Selecting Ground Covers
 
Do a bit of remodeling in your landscape this year and dress up the ground beneath your feet with groundcovers.

Groundcovers can add texture, seasonal color with flowers and foliage and help unify your landscape design.  But they are more than pretty plants.  Proper selection and use of these plants can provide big benefits. Use groundcovers to prevent erosion, reduce maintenance on slopes and improve the environment around trees and shrubs.   
 
Select plants that are suited to the growing conditions.  Consider the amount of light, type of soil and moisture they will receive.  Consider drought tolerant plants to reduce moisture needs once the plants are established. Check on their longevity and care required to keep them looking good for the years ahead.
 
And consider their place in the landscape.  Select those that tolerate foot traffic when using as a walkway or surrounding steppers. 
 
A bit more information:  Groundcovers improve the growing conditions around trees and shrubs.  They keep the roots cool and moist and keep damaging mowers and weed whips away from their trunks and stems.  And when possible, use groundcover plants that can hide the falling leaves and fruit when grown beneath trees.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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What’s On My Plate Day: Grow Nutritional Vegetables
 
Celebrate “What’s on my Plate Day” and surprise your family with a plate full of nutritious vegetables.  Serve ‘em cooked up as ratatouille, chopped and mixed in a stir-fry or tossed in a tasty salad.

In 2012 the United States Department of Agriculture declared March 8 as “What’s on my Plate Day” to encourage us all to eat better. On their website, www.choosemyplate.gov, they recommend using the three P’s before we eat; Plan, Purchase and Prepare healthy nutritious meals.  I want to add a fourth P – Plant.  Consider adding nutritious vegetables to your gardens, even containers this year. 
 
Plant a container full of leafy green vegetables like lettuce and spinach for a crispy dose of vitamin A and calcium.
 
And during warmer weather grow a trellis or fence full of purple or yellow snap beans, high in B1, phosphorous, protein and fiber.
 
A bit more information:  And those of you on Twitter, tweet a picture of what’s on your plate and include #My Plate hashtag.  Or team up with others using the #MyPlateYourPlate hashtag.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Easy-Grow Ponytail Palm
 
Add a ponytail palm to your indoor garden.  This easy-to-grow plant is perfect for new and brown thumb gardeners.  Its unique shape makes it fun for those who are more experienced.
 
The ponytail palm, also known as elephant’s foot palm, is not a palm but rather a succulent.  The base of the plant is swollen and resembles an elephant’s foot, while the narrow stem is topped with long curved leaves that look like a ponytail.
 
Grow this succulent in a bright sunny window.  The biggest problem is overwatering.  So always water thoroughly whenever the top few inches of soil are slightly dry. Occasionally spritz the plants with warm water and wipe off the dust and any mites with a soft cloth.
 
They need very little fertilizer.  You can apply a dilute solution of any houseplant fertilizer once or twice between spring and fall.
 
These plants are slow growing and long lived.  It can take these plants 20 years to reach 6 feet in height.
 
A bit more information:  Brown leaf tips can be an indication of too much or not enough water.  Monitor your watering schedule and adjust as needed.  You can start these plants from seed or remove offsets (small plantlets) in spring if any form at the base of the plant.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Celebrate Daffodil Month: Daffodil Cut Flowers

Whether you grow them yourself or purchase them at a florist, celebrate Daffodil Month with a vase of cheery daffodil blooms. 

Increase your enjoyment of these spring blooms by extending their vase life.  If you are harvesting your own, pick them in the morning. Pull and twist the flower stem so it breaks off right at ground level.
 
Select daffodils with the flower bud just starting to show color and bent at a 90 degree angle from the stem.  Harvest those with multiple flowers per stem when one of the flowers is fully open.
 
Cut the bottom of the stem on an angle.  Place your daffodils in warm water with floral preservative. Move them to a cool dark location for 12 hours or overnight.
 
Arrange daffodils in their own vase to avoid damaging other cutflowers with their gooey sap.  Or after 24 hours in their own vase, rinse the daffodils stems and combine with other flowers.
 
A bit more information:  Further extend the life of daffodil and other cut flowers by using a floral preservative.  Add a few forsythia or pussy willows to your daffodil bouquets for added seasonal interest.  And those with sensitive skin may want to wear gloves to avoid irritation from this plant’s sap.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Growing Bromeliads Indoors

Brighten your indoors with a colorful long blooming bromeliad.  These easy care plants will provide months of enjoyment. 

Grow these plants in a container with drainage holes filled with a well-drained potting mix.  Water thoroughly whenever the top few inches of the planting mix is dry. 
 
The leaves of many bromeliads come together to form a cuplike structure known as a tank.  These bromeliads can absorb water from the tank.  Clean the tank to reduce the risk of salt buildup and fungus that can cause rot when watering through the tank.
 
Avoid overwatering that can lead to root rot.  Increase humidity by grouping with other plants or creating a gravel tray.  Place pebbles in the saucer to elevate the pot above any excess water that collects in the saucer.  As the water evaporates it increases the humidity around the plant.
 
Grow these plants in a bright location for best results.  Move to a sunny south window in winter.
 
A bit more information:  Once the original plant finishes blooming it will start to decline.   Small plants called offsets or pups arise around the original plant.  These can be removed, potted, and grown to maturity in their own container.  Once the young plant reaches full size you can force it to bloom.  Place the plant in a plastic bag with a piece of apple for several days.  The apple releases ethylene gas that initiates flowering.  Remove the plant from the plastic, return to a brightly lit location and wait for the flowers.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Low E Glass Impact on Houseplants
You can conserve energy and still grow healthy houseplants. Light, water and nutrients are the keys to growing healthy plants. Many energy conscious indoor gardeners are concerned when considering replacing their windows with Low-E glass. Fortunately it only reduces the visible light needed by our plants by an additional 5 to 10%. A side benefit to your plants is the Low-E glass moderates temperatures indoors keeping plants, especially those growing near windows, warmer at night and cooler during the day. And no matter what type of glass is in the windows – keep them clean to maximize the amount of light reaching your plants. Adjust your watering and fertilization practices to match the indoor growing conditions. Less light, lower humidity and the type of potting mix and containers used all impact the watering frequency and fertilizer needs. A bit more information: Plants need a variety of light (color/wavelength) for proper growth and flowering. Blue light promotes leaf and stem growth, while red combined with blue promotes flowering and bud development. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Don’t Let Aggressive Bargain Plants Take Over the Garden
So you've found a plant that blooms all season, tolerates a wide range of growing conditions and needs little maintenance. Sound too good to be true? It probably is. Lots of fast growing easy care plants are overly aggressive. They crowd out their more timid neighbors and often need concrete barriers or regular weeding to keep them in check. Invasive plants go one step further. These plants leave the bounds of our landscape and invade our natural areas. They crowd out native plants that provide food and shelter for wildlife. These should be eliminated from gardens in regions where they are a threat. And beware of bargain backyard plant sales. These are often filled with aggressive plants that have overrun the seller's garden. Ask the seller about the aggressive nature of the plant before purchasing. Years of weeding is not worth the money saved on bargain plants. A bit more information: A good example is common yarrow (Achillea millefolium). This perennial flower can be found in both weed and perennial books. It tolerates hot dry conditions and readily reseeds and spreads. Select less aggressive species and cultivars that do not reseed. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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So far, SO GREAT!
3 & 1/2 months and counting since my family and I packed up our stuff in NJ and made the trek to Milwaukee! Anytime you leave what you've "known" for years and years, you always worry that: It won't work It's not a great fit It'll take a LONG time to FIT IN Well, I'm here to say that all of those answers couldn't be farther from the truth! From DAY 1, my radio family here at The Mix has welcomed my family and I with OPEN ARMS (My favorite JOURNEY song btw) and it's like we've known each other forever! At the same time, my new family of radio listeners (ALL OF YOU reading this right now) have also made me so incredibly comfortable and happy and as stated above, it's like I've known you well, longer than the 3.5 months I've been here! You've helped my family and I find a place to live, great restaurants (my family and I love to eat), great places to visit to entertain my kids, a travel baseball team for my oldest son Anthony and of course, great karaoke so I can get my sing on! I will continue to ask for your advice on different things along the way and I know WITHOUT A DOUBT, you'll be there to answer whatever questions my family and I have! For that, I'm very grateful! Just wanted to take a few minutes to say THANK YOU for welcoming Me, my wife Sarah, and children Anthony and Benjamin with such warmth and kindness! We look forward to being a part of the community for a long time to come! Thank you for listening to 99.1 The Mix! I'm havin' a BLAST! Hope YOU are too! Sincerely, Mark Summers
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Invite Frogs and Toads into the Garden
Celebrate National Frog Month by inviting insect and slug-eating toads and frogs into your garden. Start by providing water. A pond at least 20 inches deep with gently sloping sides will work. Include water plants that provide oxygen, shelter from predators and weather and breeding sites. Include a few rocks or logs in the pond for basking and a few alongside the water for shelter. Build a rock pile in the garden. Select a location that receives sun and shade each day. Position the rock pile in more sun if your summers are cool and more shade if your summers are hot. Line the bottom with stones for added protection from winter cold and leave cavities between some of the bottom rocks for nesting, shelter and hibernation. Use a pipe 1 to 2 inches in diameter and less than 2 feet to create an entryway. A bit more information: Look, but do not touch the frogs and toads you attract to your landscape. Bug repellent, lotions and oils on your skin can harm these creatures. For more information see Oregon State University Extension's publication Attract Reptiles and Amphibians to Your Yard. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Grow Potatoes in the Garden or Container
What is white, red or yellow, can be eaten fresh, fried or even raw and is one of the most important staples of the human diet? If you guessed potato, you are right. Grow your own in the garden, planting bag or containers. You can plant small potatoes or pieces of larger potatoes to start new plants. These contain "eyes" that grow into potato plants. You may have seen this happen on potatoes stored in the pantry. Buy certified seed potatoes at garden centers or from garden catalogues. Cut whole or large seed potatoes into smaller pieces containing at least one good "eye". Plant them in a 2-3 inch deep furrow, 10 to 12 inches apart, leaving 24 to 36 inches between the plants. As the plants begin to grow, mound the nearby soil over the tubers until the rows are 4 to 6 inches high. Keep the planting weeded and wait for the harvest. A bit more information: Save space and have some fun by growing your potatoes in a planting bag. Fill the bottom few inches of the bag with potting mix. Set the potato pieces on the mix. Cover with several inches of soil. As the potatoes grow, continue adding a couple of inches of soil at a time until the bag is full. Harvest by dumping the bag and lifting out your potatoes. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Brown Needles and Leaves on Evergreens
A walk through your garden this spring may reveal browning on both needled and broadleaf evergreen trees and shrubs. Winter winds and sun, exposure to deicing salt and record low temperatures are likely the cause. Evergreens continue to lose moisture through their leaves and needles throughout the winter. The winter sun and wind increase moisture loss. Those gardening in areas with frozen soil are likely to see the most damage. But even those in warmer regions may see winter scorch on newly planted or exposed evergreen plants. We can't turn the needles and leaves green, but we can provide proper care to speed recovery. If the branches are pliable and buds plump you should see new growth this spring. Broadleaf evergreens will replace the brown leaves with fresh new growth. Brown needles will eventually drop and the new growth this spring may mask the damage. Wait for warmer weather to see what if any new growth appears. A bit more information: Once plants have started to show signs of new growth, you have a decision to make. Is the plant healthy and attractive enough to nurture and keep? Or, would you be better off starting with a new plant and one better suited to the growing conditions. A difficult decision, but one that can save you time, money and frustration in the long run. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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A Multi-Season Beauty – The Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus)
Add seasonal interest and bird appeal to your landscape with the white fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus). This slow growing small-scale tree can grow up to 20 feet tall and wide. The slightly fragrant white flowers cover the plant in spring. The male plants produce slightly larger and showier flowers, but the female plants produce an abundance of blue fruit in late summer. Though the fruit is somewhat hidden by the leaves, the birds seem to have no problem finding and devouring it. But don't worry however as they won't leave behind a mess. The fall color can vary from a good yellow to a yellowish green. And the smooth gray bark become ridged and furrowed with age. Fringetree is hardy in zones 4 to 9, grows well in full sun to part shade and though it prefers moist fertile soil, it is adaptable to a much wider range of conditions. It can be found in nature growing along stream banks and the woodland edge. A bit more information: Use fringetree as a small tree or large shrub, as a specimen plant, near buildings, or in mixed borders as an understory. And be patient in spring as it is late to leaf out. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Daisy – the April Birth Flower
Celebrate April birthdays with a bouquet of daisies. This April birth flower symbolizes childhood innocence or according to the Farmer's Almanac they were given between friends to keep a secret. Many flowers share the common name daisy. It comes from the English name "days eye" referring to the fact many daisy flowers open during the day and close as the sun sets. Bellis perennis, known as English daisy, is most often designated as the April birth flower. It is hardy in zones 4 to 8, grows about 6 inches tall and flowers from spring through mid summer. You will find this plant listed as an attractive perennial or nasty weed. In the south the plants often burn out after flowering during the heat of summer. In cooler climates they are often dug after flowering to maximize enjoyment and minimize spread. The young leaves can be eaten in salads or cooked. A bit more information: Sweet peas are also considered the April birth flower. This is especially true in April. This flower represents modesty and simplicity. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Garden Longer with Less Aches and Pains – It’s National Garden Week
Avoid sore and strained muscles that often arise after a long day in the garden. A few simple changes in your gardening habits can keep you gardening longer and with fewer aches, pains and strains. Use long-handled tools to extend your reach and minimize bending and stooping. And if you need to get a bit closer to the ground, try placing only one knee on the ground or using a stool and keep your back straight. Keep your tools handy by wearing a carpenter's apron with lots of pockets or using a tool caddy. An old wagon, wheeled golf bag or trash can make moving long-handled tools a breeze. Use foam or wrap your tool handles with tape to enlarge the grip and reduce hand fatigue. Or better yet, invest in ergonomically designed tools with larger cushioned grips. They are designed to position your body in a less stressful position, allowing you to work longer. A bit more information: Further extend your energy by taking frequent breaks. Use sunscreen, wear a hat and drink lots of water. For more ideas, check out my 10 Pain-free Gardening tips. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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