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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.
Posts from May 2013


Herbs for Grilling
Make it fun and convenient to add some homegrown flavor to your cookouts.  Grow a few herbs in a pot or garden right next to the grill. 

Include some rosemary.  Better yet try the variety Barbeque.  The foliage is known for its especially good flavor and aroma suited to cooking.  Plus, the strong stems on these plants make the perfect skewer, something your guests are sure to remember.
 
The fine texture of dill combines nicely with colorful flowers and the flavor combines nicely with fish.  Grow in a container and harvest regularly to keep the plant looking its best.  And watch for seedlings in next year’s garden.
 
Add a bit of lemon flavor to chicken or fish with lemon verbena.  It’s suited to containers and grows to 6 feet tall in zones 9 and 10.  Harvest a few sprigs, gently crush to release the flavor and place on chicken or fish.
 
A bit more information:  Use herbs when grilling your favorite vegetables.  Basil, marjoram, oregano and thyme are a few that add a bit of extra flavor to your favorite grilled veggies.  And don’t forget the chives.  The leaves and flowers are edible and great on potatoes and much more.

For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Cankers (Sunken discolored areas) on Trees
The answer to your tree problem may lie just below the surface, of the bark that is. 
 
Sunken discolored areas, called cankers, are outward symptoms of problems inside the tree.  These cankers can be caused by physical damage from weed whips and mowers, diseases such as fireblight or stress such as extreme heat, flooding and drought.
 
Reduce these risks and increase your tree’s health and beauty with proper planting and care.  Select the most disease-resistant tree suited to your climate, growing conditions and available space.
 
Plant so the root flare is at or slightly above the soil surface.  Mulch the soil with a 2 to 3 inch layer of shredded bark or woodchips.  Be sure to keep the mulch a couple inches away from the trunk of the tree.
 
Water plants thoroughly when needed.  Keep the soil of new plantings slightly moist.  Water established trees when the top 4 to 6 inches is crumbly and starting to dry.
 
A bit more information:  Find the cause before managing cankers.  In general, you will prune these out at least 6 sometimes 12 inches below the sunken discolored area.  Destroy the cankered prunings and disinfect tools with a 10% bleach solution or alcohol between cuts.  This helps reduce the spread of disease.
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Edible Ornamental Container Gardens
Make it beautiful and edible by adding a few flowers to your vegetable container plantings. 

For sunny locations try one of these colorful combinations.  Use an orange fruited pepper, like Yummy, as your focal point in a 20-inch pot.  Dress it up with the orange flowered Dreamsicle calibrachoa and add some texture with the dark green foliage of curled parsley.
 
Or use Gretel eggplant as your vertical interest.  Add the light airy Diamond Frost euphorbia for contrasting texture and white flowers that echo Gretel’s white fruit. Then allow some tricolor sage with its cream, purplish-pink and green leaves to spill over the edge of the pot.
 
Shady combinations work as well.  Use greens as your edibles and more shade tolerant flowers for these combinations.  Bright Lights Swiss Chard makes a nice vertical accent.  Then add some golden moneywort and wishbone flower, also known as Torenia.
 
A bit more information: When selecting edibles for containers look for dwarf or compact varieties and those with colorful foliage, flowers, and fruit.  And consider increasing the beauty and your harvest by including edible flowers like calendula, daylilies and roses.  And avoid using pesticides on flowers you plan to eat. 

For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Low Maintenance – Big Impact Perennials
Don’t let a lack of time, energy or space stop you from growing perennials.  Instead select and grow low maintenance plants with big impact. 
 
Start with your design.  Once you develop your plan, cut the number of different perennials in half and double the number of each.  You will have fewer perennials to identify as they emerge in spring, less maintenance to learn and bigger impact.
 
Edge your beds to keep unwanted grass out of the bed and make managing the surrounding lawn much easier. I dig a small trench around the edge of my gardens and fill with woodchips.
 
Always select plants suited to your climate, soil and natural rainfall.  You’ll have healthier and more beautiful plants with much less work.
 
Look for perennials that require no staking and little or no deadheading.  Avoid those that reseed, are aggressive and do not plant perennials that tend to escape the garden and invade our natural spaces.
 
A bit more information:  Use color to help increase the impact without increasing the number of plants.  Warm colors of red, orange and yellow grab your attention. Repeat colors, known as color echoing, from one plant to another to provide unity and balance.  Use complementary colors, those across from each other on the artist color wheel, like red and green and blue and yellow to create a focal point.

For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Grow Your Own Pickles & Celebrate National Pickle Week
Celebrate National Pickle Week by growing a few of your own cucumbers for pickling.

All you need are a few seeds, a sunny location and a bit of garden space or a large container.  Train these large vining plants up a fence, trellis or decorative obelisk to save space.
 
Consider planting National Pickling Cucumber Seeds developed by the National Pickle Packers Association and Michigan Agriculture Experiment station.  These were bred for their versatility and perfect pickle shape.  You’ll be harvesting cucumbers in about 52 days after planting.
 
Or save some space with Bush pickle.  This cucumber forms a 3 to 4 foot wide mound and produces an abundance of 4-inch fruit.  It’s a perfect size for containers.  And save even more space and grow straighter fruit by training these smaller plants up a cage or trellis.  Cucumbers are ready to pick in about 45 days.
 
A bit more information:  Cucumbers are generally ready to harvest in 45 to 60 days after planting.  This makes them a great option for mid and late season plantings.  Just calculate the number of frost-free days left in the growing season to see how late you can plant.  And further extend the season by using floating row covers like ReeMay, Harvest Guard, and Frost Covers to protect plants from frosty weather.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Celebrate Clean Air Month – Grow Some Air-Purifying Houseplants
Celebrate National Clean Air Month by growing a few houseplants to improve your indoor air quality. 

NASA teamed up with PLANET (Professional Landcare Network, formerly ALCA) and found adding 15 to 18, 6 to 8 inch diameter container houseplants will improve the air quality in an 1800 square foot house.  Keeping them healthy will increase their beauty and ability to cleanse the air.
Consider adding a bamboo palm (Chamaedorea sefritzii).  Use this large houseplant to create a warm welcome for guests, dress up a blank wall or mix in with other houseplants for an impressive indoor garden.

This palm is an understory plant in Central America.  It is hardy in zones 10 to 11 and adapted to the lower light conditions indoors.  Grow it in a brightly lit location and keep the soil slightly moist.
Cut off fronds as they die, leaving the leafy stem covering intact.  Once it is fully dried, remove to expose the attractive stems.

A bit more information:  Start new plants by division.  Remove suckers and offshoots that form at the base of the plant.  Slide the bamboo palm out of its pot.  Use a sharp knife or drywall saw to separate the offshoots from the main plant.  Repot the parent plant and offshoots in a container slightly larger than the remaining root ball.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Perennial Garden Renovations
Give your tired perennial garden a boost without a total renovation. Topdressing your garden with compost every year or two provides most if not all the nutrients your perennials need.

Pull back the mulch if needed.  Then spread an inch of compost over the soil surface.  You can buy a quality compost or make your own.
 
Leave the compost on the surface or lightly mix it into the soil.  The earthworms, ground beetles, and other organisms will take it from there – moving the compost into the soil and around the plant roots where it is needed.
 
Or, do a bit of vertical mulching.  Use an auger bit on your cordless drill.  Simply drill holes into the soil between plants.   Then fill the holes with compost.  This gets the compost closer to the plant roots and soil organisms that will help mix it into and improve the soil.
 
Soil preparation and repair will help transform your garden.
 
A bit more information:  Apply a plant strengthener such as JAZ spray to increase plant vigor and their natural ability to tolerate environmental stresses, insect attacks, and disease problems.  These natural products aren’t fertilizers or pesticides.  They can be applied to established plants at the beginning of the season to boost their ability to deal with stress or as soon as problems arise.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Growing Banana Plants Indoors or Out
Add a bit of the tropics indoors or out with a banana plant. 
 
The large leaves are great for screening views and creating a bit of privacy on a balcony, patio or in the yard.  Add a wicker planter or chair and you have your own tropical get-away.

The fiber banana (Musa basjoo) is hardy in zones 5 to 11.  It grows in full sun.  It will die back to the ground and benefit from winter mulch in northern areas of its hardiness zone.
 
Less hardy and smaller, the blood banana (Musa acuminata ‘Zebrina’), has large leaves with red markings on 6 to 8 foot plants.  It’s only hardy in zones 10 to 11, but can be overwintered as a houseplant or allowed to go dormant in other areas. 
 
Combine these tropical beauties with palms, ginger and bird-of-paradise.  Or add some hardy tropical look-alikes such as Japanese forest grass, large leaf hostas and trumpet vines.

A bit more information:  Push the limits of your growing region with special wintering techniques developed by Dr. David Francko, author of Palms Won’t Grow Here and Other Myths: Warm-Climate Plants for Cooler Areas. And for those in warmer regions check out Creating the Tropical Look.
 

For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Eco-friendly Crabgrass Control
Reduce crabgrass problems in your lawn and garden with a few basic lawn and garden care practices. Crabgrass is an annual weed grass with a small fibrous root system. The wide grass blades lay flat on the ground. Each fall they release hundreds of seeds before dying. Crabgrass thrives in hot dry weather. Reduce the problem in your lawn by mowing high and often. The taller grass shades the soil, preventing many weed seeds from sprouting. Leave clippings on the lawn and fertilize at least once, preferably in the fall, to help your lawn grass outcompete the weeds. Pull the plants in the garden before they set seed. This will reduce the number of weeds you'll be fighting next year. Mulch the garden with shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic material. The mulch will help prevent many of the weed seeds, including the crabgrass, from sprouting. It also helps keep roots cool and moist. A bit more information: If cultural control measures have failed, you may consider the organic pre-emergent crabgrass killer made from corn gluten meal. Apply in spring about the time the forsythias are in bloom. These chemicals prevent seed germination. This means both the weed and good grass seeds will be affected. Wait until late summer or fall to reseed or overseed treated lawns. And as always be sure to read and follow label directions carefully. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Starting Roses from Seed
Expand your garden and have a little fun by growing a few plants from the seeds of your favorite rose. Collect the rose hips, those berry-like fruit on your roses, as soon as they are fully colored. Cut open the rose hip exposing the seeds. Soak the seeds 12 to 24 hours, drain and mix with equal parts of moistened sphagnum moss and vermiculite in a plastic bag. Seal the bag and place in the refrigerator for at least three months. You can begin planting the seeds anytime after the chilling period is complete. Plant seeds in a container filled with a mixture of sphagnum moss and vermiculite. Keep the mixture warm and moist. Move to a sunny window or under artificial lights as soon as the seeds sprout. Then transplant seedlings, if needed, after they form two sets of true leaves. Just remember seedlings may not look like the original plant. A bit more information: You can also start new roses from cuttings. Take a 6 to 8 inch cutting from a healthy stem. Remove any flowers and buds. Dip in a rooting hormone and plant in a well-drained potting mix. You'll have roots in about 3 weeks. Keep in mind you cannot propagate patented roses. These rights belong to the breeders that introduced the plant. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Fall Webworm
As you drive through your community in late summer or fall you may spot webby nests in the branches of apple, ash, birch, cherry, sycamore, walnut and willow. These are the home of the North American native fall webworm. This pest attacks more than 100 species of deciduous, those that lose their leaves in winter, trees and shrubs. The pest is a green and yellow caterpillar that spins its nest near the ends of the branch. These worm-like insects eat the leaves on the branches near their webby nest. Fortunately this is a cosmetic problem since it occurs late in the season and only a few branches are affected. Keep your plants healthy and they'll be better able to tolerate the feeding. Several natural predators and parasitoids help keep the populations in check. You can knock the nest out of the tree with a stick or a strong blast of water if desired. A bit more information: An organic insecticide, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), is effective against young caterpillars. Apply it to the leaves surrounding the webby nest early in the season. As the webworms eat the treated leaves they stop feeding and eventually die. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Dividing Spring and Summer Blooming Perennials
Late summer through early fall is a great time to dig and divide overgrown spring and summer blooming perennials. The soil is warm, air much cooler and the plants will have time to adjust to their new location before winter. Dig and divide plants that have stopped blooming, flopped over, or have a dead center. Use a sharp spade shovel or garden fork to dig up the plant. Cut the clump into 2, 4 or more pieces. Remove the dead center and add it to the compost pile. Some gardeners use two garden forks back to back to pry the clump apart. I prefer a sharp linoleum knife or drywall saw. Though some fleshy rooted plants like daylilies and willow amsonia may require a hatchet or machete. You can replant one piece back in the original location after amending the soil with compost. Use other divisions in other areas or share with friends. A bit more information: The old adage "Divide spring blooming perennials in fall, fall blooming perennials in spring and summer blooming perennials in spring or fall" is a good guideline. But experienced gardeners have all stretched these limits. Sometimes necessity and your schedule determine when you divide perennials. Proper post-transplant care will give your plants the best chance of survival no matter when you divide them. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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National Acorn Squash Day
Bake it, broil it, microwave it or stuff it– acorn squash that is. And if you didn't grow your own, visit the Farmer's Market and buy it. Acorn squash is typically acorn shaped, dark green with longitudinal ridges. They are ripe when the fruit is a solid deep green and the rind is hard. Use a knife or pruners to remove the fruit from the vine. Leave an inch or two of stem attached to the fruit, if possible, for better storage longevity. And be sure to use any blemished or frost damaged fruit as soon as possible. Store this and other winter squash in a cool, preferably 50 to 55 degree, dry location. Place the fruit in a single layer spread out to avoid fruit from touching. The better the air circulation the greater the storage longevity and less likely one rotten squash will affect its neighbors. If space is limited, don't pile more than two high. A bit more information: September 7th is National Acorn Squash Day. This member of the squash family contains vitamins C, B6, A, thiamine and more. You'll get the best nutritional value and flavor by harvesting it at its peak. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Bluestem Goldenrod
Add some bright yellow to your late summer and fall garden with Bluestem Goldenrod (Solidago caesia). This plant is also known as wreath goldenrod and naturally grows in open woodlands and bluffs. It is hardy in zones 4 to 8 and is native to 32 states in the continental U.S. and 3 Canadian provinces. Bluestem goldenrod grows about 18 to 36 inches tall and wide and works well in native gardens, woodland gardens, borders, meadows, cottage gardens and more. The cluster of bright yellow flowers occur along the stem and attract butterflies and other beneficial insects to your garden. Grow the plant in full sun to part shade and well-drained soil. Bluestem goldenrod tolerates clay soil and once established, it is drought tolerant. This fall bloomer is basically pest-free and the deer tend to leave it be. A bit more information: Fireworks goldenrod (Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks') is a popular ornamental cultivar. It is hardy in zones 4 to 8 and grows best in full sun with moist to wet, well-drained soil. The plume-like flowers that top this 2 ½ to 3 feet high plant resemble fireworks. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Eco-friendly Control of Thrips
Poorly developed flowers, stunted plants and silvery streaks on leaves are indications thrips may be feeding on your plants. These tiny insects have file-like mouthparts they use to puncture the outer surface of leaves, stems and flowers and suck out plant sap. They are very small and difficult to detect. Hold a white piece of paper under the plant and shake. Or remove the petals of damaged flowers, place in a sealed jar with 70% alcohol and shake the jar to dislodge and detect the pests. Control is difficult and often not needed as the damage is discovered after the thrips have finished feeding. Provide the proper growing conditions and care for your plants. Avoid excess nitrogen that promotes lush succulent growth these pests prefer. And remove spent flowers that tend to harbor the insects. Manage weeds in the garden and keep thrip-susceptible plants away from weedy areas where the pest populations tend to be high. A bit more information: Beneficial insects like predatory thrips, green lacewings, minute pirate bugs and some parasitic wasps feed upon plant damaging thrips. Invite these good bugs into the garden by planting a diversity of plants and avoiding persistent pesticides. Visit the University of California IPM online for more details on this pest. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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