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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 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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Harvest and Enjoy Edamame (Soy)
Get the best flavor and nutritional value from your homegrown edamame, also known as edible soybeans, with proper harvesting and care. Harvest soybeans when the pods are plump, green, rough, and hairy. Check frequently and pick when the seeds are fully enlarged, but before they get hard and begin yellowing. Waiting too long to harvest the seeds reduces the flavor and quality. Since the seed-filled pods usually ripen at the same time, you can pull up the whole plant and harvest the seeds from the pods, while sitting on a chair in the shade. Use them cooked or uncooked as a snack or as a fiber rich ingredient with other vegetables and meat dishes. Many gardeners eat them right out of the pod like peanuts. Boil or steam the pods for 4 to 5 minutes, cool under running water and pop the seeds out of the pods. Use immediately or freeze after cooking. A bit more information: These nutritious legumes help promote overall health, reducing the risk of high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Plus, the high fiber in soy helps fight colon and some other cancers. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Add Color to the Fall Landscape with Asters
Add some color to your fall garden with Asters. Brighten up your container gardens with a few of these fall beauties. Or create fall containers filled with asters, ornamental grasses and pansies. Set them in a pretty pot on your front steps to welcome guests to your home. Or place on decks and tabletops as a seasonal centerpiece. Move them into the garden as they fade. Or add to the compost pile where they can eventually help improve your garden's soil. Use asters to replace fading annuals or fill in voids in your garden. They grow and flower best in full sun with well-drained soil. Asters are hardy in zones 4 to 8, but can be grown as an annual anywhere they are sold. Leave the plants intact for winter to increase overwintering success. Northern gardeners often cover the plants with evergreen boughs or straw once the ground is frozen. A bit more information: The plant taxonomists have been at it again. The plants we commonly call Aster have been reclassified and names for these new groups include Symphyotrichum, Ionactis, Eurybia, and Doellingeria. 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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