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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 July 2013


Tree Problems
Cracks in tree trunks, stunted leaf growth and thin canopies are all signs your tree is struggling. Diagnosing the cause of the symptoms is the first step in improving your tree’s health.

Several factors can cause bark on trees to crack and peel. Trees planted too deep and pruned with flush cuts are more subject to frost crack and sunscald. 
 
Girdling roots can also result in stunted growth and dieback on trees.  These circling roots place pressure on the expanding trunk and stop the flow of water and nutrients between the roots and leaves. It is usually a flattened trunk, decline or other above ground symptom that indicates there is a problem below ground.
 
Physical injury to the trunk or improper pruning can also result in poor wound closure.  Proper care is about the only option at this point.   Make sure the tree is properly watered and mulched to reduce further stress. 
 
A bit more information: Consider contacting a certified arborist when these types of problems arise.  These tree care professionals inspect the tree, evaluate its condition and recommend possible treatment options, including the removal of a hazardous tree. Visit www.treesaregood.com for a list of certified arborists in your area. 
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Holes in Leaves of Morning Glory and Sweet Potato Vines
Holes in the leaves of morning glory and sweet potato vine may be the first clue your plants are infested with goldbug.


This 5 to 7 mm long bright gold beetle is also known as the golden tortoise beetle.  Both the adult and larvae feed on the leaves of all members of the morning glory family. Their feeding creates numerous small holes that often create a lacy look to the leaves. 
 
Fortunately, their damage usually does not warrant treatment.  Natural predators, like parasitic wasps and damsel bugs, will feed on the golden tortoise beetles, keeping their populations under control.  Plus, the morning glory and sweet potato vines produce enough leaves to mask the damage.
 
If you feel you must control these pests, try hand picking the beetles off the plant and dropping them into a can of soapy water. Or use one of the eco-friendly insecticides, like Neem, labeled for controlling this beetle.
 
A bit more information:  Aphids may also be a problem, especially in hot dry weather. They suck plant juices, causing leaves to curl, wilt or discolor. A strong blast of water will dislodge and control small populations. Insecticidal soap and horticulture oils can be used if needed.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Propagating New Plants from Root Cuttings
Expand your oriental poppy planting this summer. These poppies, butterfly weed, gas plants and other fleshy rooted perennials can be started from just a piece of the root.
 
Wait until the leaves have turned brown and the oriental poppy is fully dormant to start this process.  Then rake the soil away from the crown of the plant to expose the fleshy roots. Use sharp pruners or a knife to cut just a few pencil size roots.  Rake the soil back over to cover the remaining roots.
 
Cut each harvested root into 2 to 3 inch sections. Plant the root sections horizontally in a flat of moist peat moss and sand. Cover the flat with plastic to keep the mix moist and place in shaded location.
 
Shoots will eventually appear. Move to a larger container and water thoroughly. Grow in a protected site until plants are well rooted. Harden off and plant in their permanent location in the garden.
 
A bit more information: Try this technique on other fleshy root perennials. Bear’s Breeches, Butterfly weed, Japanese anemone, sea holly and pasque flower are just a few. See the University of Washington’s publication on various ways to propagate specific perennials.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Eco-friendly Control of Squash Bugs
Don’t let squash bugs ruin your harvest. Incorporate an integrated and eco-friendly strategy to keep their damage to a minimum.

These slightly oval coppery gray bugs feed on pumpkins and squash. They suck plant juices and can transmit the deadly Cucurbit yellow vine disease. Start by keeping your plants healthy.
 
Remove weeds and other debris that provide great habitat for these pests. A thorough fall cleanup along with crop rotation will help reduce future problems.
 
Control small populations of the adult and immature squash bugs by knocking them into a can of soapy water.  Be sure to check under the leaves and along the stems. Crush the small (1/16th inch) yellowish-bronze eggs found on the underside of the leaves and stems. 
 
And trap the adults with wet newspaper, boards or shingles laid on the soil around the plants.  The squash bugs will gather under these. Then collect and destroy and them. 
 
A bit more information:  Exclusion is another control option. Cover squash at the time of planting with a floating row cover such as ReeMay or Harvest Guard. Secure the base to insure the squash bugs are unable to lay their eggs on your squash plants. Remove the covering as soon as the plants begin to flower, so pollination can occur.  This delays the attack and is often enough to manage the damage.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Deadheading Leggy Annuals and Perennials
Add new life to your summer landscape with a bit of deadheading, pinching and planting. 
 
Some annuals stretch out during the warm summer months. Cut leggy annuals back half way, just above a set of leaves. In a week or two you will see new growth that will soon be covered with fresh blooms.
 
Early blooming perennials will also benefit from a little mid-summer care.  Prune back the plants after their last blooms fade.  Sprinkle a little low nitrogen slow release fertilizer around the base of the plants.  Water as needed and watch the plants recover.  Some will put on a second floral display – a great reward for such little effort.
 
Replace faded annuals or poorly performing perennials with fresh new plants. Many garden centers sell larger size annuals that can be popped into these voids. Or move a thriving container into the garden. It is a great way to add height and vertical interest to a bed.
 
A bit more information:  Next year avoid the mid-summer slump with regular grooming throughout the growing season. Pinching and deadheading encourage full compact growth and more flowers.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Spittlebug
No, the neighborhood kids have not been spitting in your garden. The spittlebug, also known as the froghopper, is the culprit. 

These insects suck plant juices and secrete the excess as a clear substance. As it does this, the spittlebug uses its hind legs as a bellows to cause the secretion to form a bubbly mass that looks like spit. This helps prevent desiccation and hides the insects from predators. Spittlebugs are usually found in the leaf axil near the stem.
 
They are usually small in number so control is not needed. Some types of spittlebugs serve as a vector carrying disease from sick to healthy plants. But even this does not usually warrant control.
 
You can use a strong blast of water to dislodge these insects from the plants. Or remove the infected branch. The next step is insecticidal soap. Use natural products to avoid killing the natural predators and parasites that help control these pests.
 
A bit more information: Gather the kids and do a little detective work. Remove the bubbly mass from the plant and look for the insect below. With the help of a hand lens you will easily see the source.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Blueberries – National Blueberry Month
Celebrate National Blueberry month this July by planting a few of these ornamental and edible plants in your landscape. 
 
The blueberry produces attractive flowers, tasty and nutritious fruit and colorful fall foliage.
 
The lowbush blueberries are native to Eastern North America and produce delicious fruit that lacks uniformity. Highbush are cultivated blueberries yielding an earlier crop of larger less perishable fruit. Halfhighs are a cross between the two.
 
Those gardening in warmer regions need to grow Low Chill blueberries like Southmoon or Sunshine Blue.

Though self-fertile you will have a bigger harvest if you grow two or more.  
 
These plants do best in moist well-drained acidic soils. Add organic matter to your soil and mulch with shredded leaves, evergreen needles or shredded bark to create better growing conditions. Or grow them in containers to create the ideal soil.  
 
A bit more information: Birds are the biggest pest problem. Protect your harvest by covering the plants with netting as soon as the fruit begin to develop. Or try scare tactics and repellents labeled for food crops.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Beebalm (Monarda) – It’s Not Just for the Perennial Border
Wild bergamont also known as Beebalm and botanically as Monarda fistulosa is the 2013 Notable Native Herb of the Year. Include this beauty in herb, perennial and natural gardens. Plant them in areas where you can enjoy the flowers as well as the butterflies and hummingbirds they attract.
 
This North American native is hardy in zones 3 to 9. It prefers dry to moist soil and is somewhat drought tolerant. The 2 to 4 feet tall plants are topped with uniquely shaped lavender flowers from mid-summer into fall.
 
Monarda can be used as a substitute for thyme and oregano. Flavor can vary so taste a leaf before adding it to your dish. Or use the leaves and flowers for teas or adding fragrance to bouquets and potpourri.
 
Harvest when the leaves are full size and in their prime. Cut stems early in the morning just as the dew is drying for maximum flavor.
 
A bit more information:  Most beebalm, especially the popular garden species Monarda didyma with bright red flowers, are susceptible to mildew. Monarda fistulosa, however, tends to be resistant to mildew, but may suffer some problems with rust.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Propagating Snakeplants – Starting New Plants from Old
Starting new plants from old is a rewarding part of gardening and it is easier than you think.
 
Some plants, like snakeplant, can be started from a section of the leaf. This popular plant is tolerant of low light and dry conditions. It’s perfect for busy and low maintenance gardeners.
 
Start by cutting a leaf into 3 to 4 inch segments. Notch the bottom of each segment. That would be the part that is closest to the roots. This is the end that goes into the potting mix.
 
Set the cuttings vertically into a well-drained potting mix. The bottom half of the cutting should be buried in the mix. Water thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil just slightly moist.
 
A new plant will form at the base of the leaf in one to two months. Variegated snakeplants will produce non-variegated offspring. The gene for variegation is contained in the rhizome not the leaves. This makes for a colorful lesson in genetics.
 
A bit more information: Divide larger mature plants to create more plants. Use a sharp knife to cut through the rhizome, leaving at least one growing point per section. You’ll maintain all the plants genetic characteristics with this method of propagation.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Elderberry International Herb of the Year
Hardy, edible and the 2013 International Herb of the Year make elderberry a great plant for any size landscape or even container gardens.
 
Elderberries flower and fruit best in full sun, but will tolerate shade. They prefer moist soil but also tolerate drought, making them great choices for rain gardens.
 
The American Elder (Sambucus canadensis) grows 5 to 12 feet tall and produces white flowers mid-summer on new growth. The flowers are used for perfumes and food. You and the birds will enjoy the fruit that appears in late summer. Though self-fruitful you will have a larger crop with several plants.
 
Cultivars of the European Elder (Sambucus nigra) provide additional ornamental value to the landscape. Black Lace has dark purple dissected leaves and grows 6-8’ tall. With a bit of pruning it can be a good substitute for Japanese maple in areas where that plant struggles.
 
A bit more information: The European Red Elder (Sambucus racemosa) grows 8 to 12 feet tall and has yellowish white flowers in May and red or scarlet fruit in June/July. One if its’ cultivars, Sutherland Gold, has gold, finely cut leaflets that fade with heat. The Scarlet Elder (Sambucus pubens) is similar to European Red and is supposedly inedible for humans though the birds love the fruit.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Heat Stall: Caring for Nonblooming Annuals
As the temperatures rise many annuals slow down or stop flowering.  Don’t let heat stall stop you from enjoying your summer garden.

Look for more heat tolerant cultivars of annuals that tend to stop blooming during hot weather.  Techno and Laguna lobelia, Snow Princess and Frost Knight alyssum are a few to consider. Or plant more heat tolerant African and triploid marigolds in place of the French varieties.
 
Continue to water heat stalled flowers but do not fertilize.  Once the temperatures cool the plants will start flowering.  Trim back leggy plants as needed.
 
This is a good time to make a list of the plants that thrive in these conditions.  Use this list to help you design future gardens better suited to the dog days of summer. 
 
And consider trying a few heat tolerant flowers like celosia, moss rose, Mexican sunflower and zinnia. 
 
A bit more information: Here are a few more heat tolerant annuals to consider: cosmos, Gazania (treasure flower), lantana, sunflower and creeping zinnia.  Or add a container of cacti and succulents.  These can be moved indoors for you to enjoy in the winter.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Visit a Park and Improve Your Mood
Gather family and friends and head out to a nearby park to celebrate holidays, family events or just to relax and escape the stress of everyday life.
 
July was deemed National Parks and Recreation Month in the United States back in 1995.  This designation was made to help people realize the value of parks and outdoor recreation.
 
Recent scientific evidence shows parks and green spaces can have a big impact on our health as well as the health and vitality of our communities. 
 
More and more parks are looking for strategies to improve access to healthy food through community garden programs.  Many provide walking, jogging and bike paths to encourage more physical activity.
 
In Montgomery, Alabama the parks and recreation department provided leadership and healthful activities to help that community reduce obesity from 34% to 30.9%.
 
A bit more information:  When you visit a park you will find your stress and possibly blood pressure will decrease and mood will improve. Consider joining forces with your Park and Recreation Department to help improve the quality and increase the use of your community’s parks.  
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Summer Care for Houseplants
Help your houseplants summering outdoors get the most from their vacation.  You can keep them healthy and looking their best with just a little help from you. 

Help discourage millipedes, pill bugs and other soil insects from entering your houseplant containers.  Slip the pot into the toe of an old nylon stocking before placing it inside a decorative pot or sinking it into the ground. This barrier can reduce and possibly eliminate these pests from entering the soil.  And that means fewer will be moving back inside with the plants.
 
Keep aphids and mites at bay by giving your plants an occasional shower.  Strong blasts of water help dislodge aphids and mites. If the populations increase try using eco-friendly products like insecticidal soap, horticulture oil and Neem labeled for this use.  Always read and follow label directions carefully.
 
A bit more information:  Mulch the soil with shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other fine organic material to keep plant roots cool and moist. Or use chunky style bark or stones to discourage animals from digging in the pots.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden 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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