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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 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 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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