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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 September 2013


Transplanting Peonies
Looking to expand your peony collection, share a division with a friend or move an ill-placed plant? Fall is the best time to transplant peonies.
Wait for the leaves to yellow or be killed by frost before digging in. Use a shovel or spading fork to carefully dig up the root system. You can divide the clump into smaller pieces with at least three to five eyes per section.
Prepare the planting site by adding several inches of organic matter such as compost to the top 12 inches of soil. Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the roots. Place the rhizome, that’s the swollen underground stem, so it is no more than 1 to 2 inches below the soil surface.
Water the soil thoroughly to remove air pockets and ensure good root-to-soil contact.
Don't be alarmed if your peony fails to bloom the following spring. It will bloom the next year as long as it was properly planted.
 
A bit more information:  Peonies often fail to bloom the spring after transplanting. If the problem continues evaluate the growing conditions and your maintenance program. Rhizomes planted too deep, over fertilized, or placed in an area with heavy shade may fail to bloom. Correct the problem to ensure future flowering.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Fall Décor for Your Landscape
The cooler temperatures of fall signal a change of season and an opportunity to add some fall décor to the landscape.

Garden centers are filled with fall favorites like pansies and mums, but you don’t need to stop there. Use straw bales to cover leggy perennials or mask unsightly foliage of powdery mildew infested beebalm or phlox. They also make nice stands for your potted mums and asters.
 
Use corn stalks and broom corn to frame an entryway or add vertical interest in the garden. Secure to a nearby post, tree trunk or sink a stake in the garden for support.
 
Set pumpkins and large ornamental squash in the garden amongst perennials or to cover fading summer annuals. One gardener allowed them to decompose in the garden and the next summer she had a great crop of bold leaves wandering through her perennials and squash of all sizes and colors brightening the fall garden.
 
A bit more information:  Once fall has passed put your straw bales to work in the winter landscape. Set the bales around planters filled with tender plants as they can provide root insulation.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Plant a Few Minor Bulbs
Do something different this fall. Add a few of the smaller often underutilized bulbs, known as minor bulbs to your landscape.

Consider expanding the spring bulb season with early bloomers like snowdrops and winter aconites.
 
You can double your enjoyment by mixing minor bulbs with larger bulbs like tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. Or, plant two different types that bloom at the same time to double your bloom or combine two different bulbs with different bloom periods to extend your spring garden season.
 
Make sure the bulbs are suited to your climate and growing conditions.
 
Expand your selection by growing outside your zone. Northern gardeners can winter tender bulbs, like rain lilies, indoors for winter and plant outdoors in spring. Warm region gardeners can purchase pre-cooled bulbs or store those that need a chill in the fridge for at least 15 weeks.
 
A bit more information: Try using minor bulbs like crocus, squills and grape hyacinths in the lawn. Create a sea of color with crocus or faux rivers and pools of blue with squills and the grape hyacinths. Just make sure you want this for years to come; as anything that kills the bulbs will also kill your lawn.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Edible Fall Containers
Make it beautiful and edible, fall garden containers, that is. Bright Light, Ruby Red and many other Swiss chard cultivars have colorful stems to brighten any fall combination.

Kale and collard greens also provide vertical interest in containers. Wild Garden Frills Russian Kale has blue-green frilled leaves while Lacinato has crinkled foliage.
 
Colorful leaf lettuce, mustard and other greens make great fillers. Redina and Sea of Red are just two of the many colorful leaf lettuce cultivars. Try Garden Ferns lettuce for something unique with a sweet delicate flavor. Red Cardinal and Red kitten spinaches have green leaves with red veins. Harvest throughout the fall for fresh-from-the-container-garden flavor.
 
Then add some cool season and edible flowers like pansies and calendula. They provide added color and flavor to fall meals.
 
A bit more information:  Harvest Swiss chard, kale and collards when the outer stems are 8 to 10 inches tall for the best flavor and to keep your container looking its best. Pick lettuce when the outer leaves are 4 to 6 inches tall.  Use healthy pesticide-free flowers as they just reach their maturity.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Fall Lawn Care
Keep your lawn healthy and looking its best with proper fall lawn care. 

Keep mowing as long as the grass is growing. Mow high to encourage deep drought tolerant and pest resistant roots. Grow cool season grasses like bluegrass, fescue and ryegrass 2 ½  to 3 ½ inches tall.  Warm season grasses like bermudagrass, carpetgrass, centipedegrass and zoysia should be grown at 1 to 2 inches tall, while St Augustine should be a bit higher, about 2 to 3 inches, for best results.  Taller grass is also better able to compete with weeds. 
 
Mow often, removing no more than one third the total height, to reduce stress on grass.  Leave clippings on the lawn.  A season’s worth of clippings equals one fertilizer application.
 
And no need to make the last cut of the season shorter. It won’t hurt the lawn, but it is not necessary.
 
A bit more information:  And make sure the blade is sharp for a better look and quicker recovery of the grass.  Gardeners growing cool season grasses like bluegrass and fescue can improve their lawns health and vigor with fall fertilizations. Those growing warm season grasses need to make their last fall fertilization at least 4 to 6 weeks prior to the first fall frost.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Skip the Bonemeal
Fall means bulb planting and for many gardeners it means breaking out the bone meal to get them well-rooted and growing. Consider skipping the bone meal. You’ll save money and have better long-term results in the garden. 

Bone meal is composed mainly of calcium and phosphorus. Most garden soils have plenty if not excessive amounts of these. Adding more is not helpful and can be harmful.
 
Excessive levels of phosphorus can inhibit mycorrhizal fungi connections with the plant roots.  This relationship helps plants efficiently absorb water and nutrients from the soil. When these connections don’t exist plants must expend their energy reserves on water and nutrient absorption and they are not available for other important functions.
 
You can’t remove the excess phosphorus from the soil, but you can stop adding to the problem. Select phosphorus and calcium-free fertilizers unless your soil test indicates they are deficient.
 
A bit more information:  Recent research on Milorganite, a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer, found it helps put these excess levels of soil phosphorus and potassium to work. As the soil microorganisms released the nutrients from the Milorganite, some of the phosphorus and potassium bound to the soil was made available for plants to use.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Stop Topping Trees
Topping trees is bad for the look and health of your trees and landscape. Plus, it increases maintenance and the risk of tree failure.

Topping is the removal of large branches and trunks from the top of the tree. This severe pruning stimulates the growth of many weakly attached branches right beneath the cut. As these grow in size they will need additional pruning. If they are left intact, they weaken the trees overall structure, making it a potential hazard.
 
So how do you bring a large tree down in size? First decide if you need to. Trees are designed to support normal size and growth. If necessary hire a certified arborist
 
Qualified arborists will use a reduction cut, also called drop-crotching or thinning to a lateral, to reduce the height of the tree. Longer branches are cut back to a side branch that is at least one-third the diameter of the limb being removed.
 
A bit more information: Consider hiring a certified arborist to prune large trees. They have the equipment, training and knowledge to do it correctly. Visit Trees are Good to find a certified arborist in your area. And click here for more information on topping trees.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Keep Leaves Out of your Water Feature
Fall leaves are a great addition to the compost pile. They aren’t, however, a good addition to your pond or other water feature.
 
As leaves fall into water they decompose releasing nutrients and gases that are harmful to fish and encourage the development of algae. Avoid this problem and reduce your workload with a bit of creative prevention.
 
Cover your pond with plastic bird netting just prior to leaf drop. The black netting won’t be visible from a distance.
 
Plus, you’ll probably find it worth sacrificing a bit of the view for the health of your pond and reduction in your workload.
 
Carefully slide the leaf-filled netting off the pond to avoid spilling the leaves.  Or ask for help and roll the netting to keep the leaves contained. Dump the leaves in an area to be shredded and composted or used for mulch. Repeat as long as leaves are falling and blowing.
 
This method also works great for keeping leaves out of groundcover beds.
A bit more information:  Shred leaves with mowers and use as a soil mulch in perennial gardens and mixed borders. Or dig them into vacant annual gardens or new planting beds. The leaves decompose over winter, improving the soil for next season.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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New Herb Plants from Old
Bring a bit of flavor indoors for fall and winter. Take cuttings of your favorite herbs to create a windowsill garden.
 
Use a pruner or garden scissors to take 4 to 6 inch cuttings of rosemary, oregano, sage, mint and other herbs. Stick the cut end into a container filled with perlite, vermiculite or a well-drained potting mix.

Place the container in a brightly lit location out of direct sunlight. Keep the soil moist. Once rooted, the herbs can be planted in their own individual containers or together in a larger pot.
 
Move the plants to a sunny window or under artificial light. Water thoroughly whenever the top few inches of soil are starting to dry.
 
Allow the plants to get established before you start to harvest. Remove leaves and stems as needed to add flavor to your favorite dish. Regular harvesting will encourage branching and that means more for you to harvest and enjoy.
 
A bit more information: No plants to propagate? Talk to gardening friends and relatives. And, if your garden center is out of plants, check in the produce department of your favorite grocery store. Many now sell plants so you can grow your own.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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National Acorn Squash Day
Roast it, bake it, or cook it into soup.  However you like it, include some acorn squash in one of your meals.
 
September 7 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 when harvested at its peak. These as well as butternut and hubbard squash are ready to pick when the rind has turned from a shiny to a dull color and is too hard to penetrate with your thumb nail.
 
Use a hand pruner to cut the fruit from the vine. Leave a two inch stem attached if possible.
 
Only store mature blemish-free acorn squash for later use. You can maintain the quality and flavor for about 5 to 8 weeks by storing acorn squash at 50 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% to 75% humidity.  Squash stored at warmer temperatures develop yellow rinds and stringy flesh.
 
A bit more information:  Don’t compost the seeds. Instead roast them and enjoy them just like pumpkin seeds. Scoop out the pulp and rinse. Dry the seeds and roast at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Collecting and Growing Roses from Seeds
Add some challenge and mystery to your fall gardening. Collect and sprout seeds from your favorite rose.

The challenge comes from trying something new. The mystery; you never know if the offspring will grow up to be like its parent, a beauty or an ugly duckling.
 
Start by collecting the rose hips soon after they turn their normal yellow, orange or red color.  Rose hips are small apple-like fruit found on roses. Slice the hips into 2 to 3 pieces to expose the seeds.
 
Collect and soak seeds in water for 12 to 24 hours and then pack in a mixture of moist sphagnum moss and vermiculite. Then store the seeds in a plastic bag in your refrigerator for three months. Don’t forget to mark the bag!  You don’t want anyone snacking on your experiment.
 
Plant the chilled seeds in a seed starting mix just as you would other seeds. Grow in a brightly lit location at 65 to 70 degrees.
 
A bit more information:  Save some rose hips for enjoying at the dinner table. They are high in vitamin C and can be made into jelly, tea and syrup.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Collecting and Growing Roses from Seeds
Add some challenge and mystery to your fall gardening. Collect and sprout seeds from your favorite rose.

The challenge comes from trying something new. The mystery; you never know if the offspring will grow up to be like its parent, a beauty or an ugly duckling.
 
Start by collecting the rose hips soon after they turn their normal yellow, orange or red color.  Rose hips are small apple-like fruit found on roses. Slice the hips into 2 to 3 pieces to expose the seeds.
 
Collect and soak seeds in water for 12 to 24 hours and then pack in a mixture of moist sphagnum moss and vermiculite. Then store the seeds in a plastic bag in your refrigerator for three months. Don’t forget to mark the bag!  You don’t want anyone snacking on your experiment.
 
Plant the chilled seeds in a seed starting mix just as you would other seeds. Grow in a brightly lit location at 65 to 70 degrees.
 
A bit more information:  Save some rose hips for enjoying at the dinner table. They are high in vitamin C and can be made into jelly, tea and syrup.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Fall Webworm
Webby tents can often be seen on the tips of tree branches in fall. Apples, willows, birch, and ash are just a few of the more than 100 species that can be infested. These webby tents are the home to the Fall Webworm.
 
Fortunately this is a cosmetic problem. The worm-like caterpillars generally feed late in the season and only on the leaves of one or two branches.
 
Birds, parasites and other predators usually keep the populations of this North American native pest under control. 
 
If the damage has been severe or you can’t abide the looks, use an eco-friendly control. Gently knock the webs out of smaller trees. Then dislodge the caterpillars with a strong blast of water.
 
Or treat trees early in the season with Bacillus thuringiensis. This bacterial insecticide kills only true caterpillars. Apply to the leaves in and around the nest. You’ll have the best results when the caterpillars are small.
 
A bit more information: The webby tents you find in the branch crotches of cherries, crabapples, apples and other deciduous trees and shrubs in spring is the eastern tent caterpillar. Birds, toads and other insects help keep this pest under control. You can knock the tents out of the tree or treat with Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki if control is needed.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden 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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