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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 October 2013


Walnut, Birth Tree for October 24 – November 11
If you were born between October 24th and November 11 your birth tree is the walnut. It represents intellect, passion and confidence.

We all know our birthstones and perhaps birth flower, but often we don’t know our birth tree. Consider planting a tree in honor of a child’s birth, someone’s birthday or just for fun. And using their birth tree, if suited to the growing conditions, can make it that much more special.
 
Walnuts are the oldest known tree fruit dating back to 10,000 B.C. These highly nutritious nuts are prized for their omega 3-fatty acids.
 
The popular English walnut is native to southeastern Europe, the Himalayas and China and hardy in zones 6 to 9 and 10 in the western United States. Give walnuts plenty of room to grow as they can reach a mature size of 50 feet tall and wide. And be patient as it takes 7 or more years for them to start bearing nuts.
 
A bit more information:  In the past they were used for medicinal purposes, including reduction of inflammation, wound healing and even improving bad breath. Be sure to watch for signs of Thousand Cankers disease. This deadly disease has been found in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and now, Tennessee. Click here for more details.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Halloween Has Gone Pink
Support the fight on breast cancer and add a twist to your Halloween and fall décor.

The Porcelain Doll Pink pumpkin is an eye catching deeply ribbed pink pumpkin. The unique color was part of the inspiration for the Pink Pumpkin Patch Foundation. Growers, retailers and organizations have teamed up to grow and sell these unique pumpkins in support of breast cancer research. A portion of every pumpkin sold goes to the foundation to support research in the fight against breast cancer.
 
The unique color made it the perfect breast cancer fundraiser and the delicious deeply colored flesh makes it a good purchase for gardeners and cooks.  Use this pumpkin for pies, soups and other dishes.
 
As a gardener you’ll appreciate the plant’s excellent performance.  It showed great powdery and downy mildew tolerance and productivity in trials across the country.
 
Visit the Pink Pumpkin Patch Foundation website for more details.
 
A bit more information: Want to grow your own Porcelain Doll Pink Pumpkin next year? All you need is a bit of sun, a container or fertile patch of soil and of course the Porcelain Doll Pink Pumpkin seeds. Start seeds outdoors once the soil is warm and you will be harvesting these unique pumpkins in about 100 days.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Storing and Cleaning Pots
Fall is about clean up and preparation for the season ahead. Don’t overlook your containers when packing away summer garden supplies.

Fall cleanup can save you time during the frantic planting season. Removing organic matter and salt build up can increase the beauty of the container and reduce the risk of disease in future plantings.
 
Don your rubber gloves and start by soaking pots in a 9-part bleach to one-part water solution for 10 minutes. Move them to a solution of dish soap and water and then rinse with clear water.
 
Use steel wool to remove any lingering salt build up on clay pots and a scouring pad for plastic planters. This white often crusty, material is an accumulation of minerals from water and fertilizer. It can be unsightly and may be harmful to some plants
 
Rinse, dry and store the pots until you are ready to fill with fresh healthy plants
 
A bit more information:  Moss covered pots are considered a beautiful addition by some and something to eliminate by others. Conserve the moss coating by only cleaning the inside of the pot. Use a paint scraper and clean as described above if you want to eliminate the moss.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Skip the Rubber Mulch
Gardeners are always searching for better looking, longer lasting and less expensive mulches.  Rubber mulch has been advertised as an attractive and permanent alternative. Think twice before using rubber mulch in the landscape.

Recycling tires is important, but the lack of performance in the garden and harmful qualities make rubber mulch undesirable in the garden and landscape.
 
Research found woodchips were more effective at suppressing weeds rather than rubber mulch. They also found it was one of the more flammable mulch materials and hard to extinguish once it caught fire.
 
Leachates from rubber also contain metal and organic materials that are known to be harmful to human health and the environment. They can cause skin and eye irritation, major organ damage and more. 
 
So stick with the organic materials that not only suppress weeds, but improve the soil as they decompose.
 
A bit more information: Save money and be kind to the environment by using fallen leaves as mulch in the garden. Shred the leaves with your mower and spread over the soil surface. They are great in annual gardens since they can be dug into the soil at the end of the season. For more on rubber mulch, click here.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Fall Fitness for You and Your Garden
Stay fit as you work in your garden this fall.
 
Fall involves raking, planting and preparing for the season ahead.  Keep your back straight and movements close to your body to avoid strain. 
 
Look for ergonomic tools that allow you to work longer and avoid injury from repetitive motion. And keep your hands in a neutral position. You’ll be amazed at the difference this small change can make.
 
Reduce your workload by mowing, not raking leaves.  Small leaf pieces quickly break down and improve the soil. They can also be used as a mulch around perennials, trees and shrubs or as a soil amendment.
 
Your landscape will benefit by fall care and you’ll burn a few extra calories. Raking leaves burns up to 260 calories per hour and works out all the muscles of your upper body. And turning a compost pile makes a good workout for your oblique muscles.
 
A bit more information: Fall is a great time for planting.  Seeding the lawn or those bare spots left from a stressful summer can use up to 155 calories per hour.  You can burn as many as 260 calories per hour when planting spring flowering bulbs, pansies, mums and other perennials.  And those bigger plants like trees and shrubs need more muscle power and can burn up to 295 per hour when planting.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Evergreen Needles Good for the Garden
Put pine, spruce and other evergreen needles to work in the garden.

Evergreen needles don’t make the soil too acidic. They do, however, add organic matter and nutrients to the soil as they break down.  And a look under your evergreens confirms they’re a great mulch.  The lack of plants and weeds growing under evergreens is due to the lack of light, limited soil moisture and the weed suppressing needle mulch.
 
So spread a layer of evergreen needles around trees, shrubs, flowers and edibles to suppress weeds and conserve moisture.  They are free and look good in the landscape.
 
Evergreen needles can also be added to the compost pile. Limit them to about 10% of the mixture for faster composting. The evergreen needles have a waxy covering, are very dry and take a long time to decompose, making them great as a mulch, but less so for fast composting results.
 
A bit more information: Many gardeners are reluctant to use oak and large maple leaves as mulch or in their gardens. These are great additives, but slow to break down. Shred them with your mower or leaf shredder before using them as a mulch or adding them to the compost pile.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Managing Plants that Outgrew their Space
So, that small tree or shrub outgrew the ideal space where it was planted. Now what?  It’s time to decide whether to prune, move or sacrifice the plant and start over with something more suitable.
 
Pruning a large plant down to size takes an ongoing commitment to regular pruning.  This can reduce the health and beauty of the plant and certainly increases your maintenance.
 
Moving large shrubs and trees is difficult and heavy work.  The larger the plant, the larger the rootball needed for transplant success.
 
Consider hiring a professional to move large trees with sentimental value. Keep in mind large transplants are slow to recover and usually surpassed in growth by younger plantings.
 
Sacrificing a large tree or shrub is a difficult decision due to the money and time invested and attachment we have to our plants. It may, however, be the best solution for you and the plant.
 
A bit more information: If you decide to move it, fall after leaf drop and spring before leaves emerge are great times to transplant. Moving trees and shrubs at other times is possible, but a bit more risky.  Listen to my tip on transplanting shrubs by clicking here.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Pentas for Indoor and Outdoor Beauty
 
Pentas, also known as Egyptian star cluster, are a great addition to both the indoor and outdoor garden.

Many of you may know this beauty for its heat and drought tolerance and butterfly appeal. Others may have grown this as a houseplant long before it gained popularity in the garden.
 
Take 4 inch cuttings from healthy plants. Remove any flowers and buds and the lower most leaves. Stick cuttings in a well-drained potting or similar mix to root. Place in a bright location and keep the rooting mix moist.
 
Once rooted, grow your Pentas in a sunny window or under artificial light. Water thoroughly when the top few inches of soil just starts to dry.  Pinch the tips off leggy stems to encourage compact growth.
 
And only fertilize actively growing plants with a dilute solution of flowering plant fertilizer.
 
With proper care and a bit of cooperation from nature you will be rewarded with flowers this winter.
 
A bit more information: Try growing other common outdoor plants indoors in a sunny window. Coleus, geranium, annual vinca (Catharanthus), and begonia are a few you might want to try.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Convert Lawn to Gardens
Tired of mowing all that grass? Consider converting a portion of the lawn into a flower or vegetable garden.
 
If you have a healthy lawn, your soil is probably in good shape.  Simply edge the area you plan to convert into garden. Use a sharp spade or edger to cut through the grass roots. Then cut the grass you plan to eliminate as short as possible. Cover with several layers of newspaper or a layer of cardboard. Top this with shredded leaves, herbicide-free grass clippings, evergreen needles or woodchips.
 
The newspaper or cardboard layer provides an additional barrier to the weeds.  And, as it breaks down and the grass beneath dies and decomposes, they add organic matter to the soil below.
 
You can plant immediately, but you’ll need more effort to dig through the paper layer and freshly covered turf.  Or wait a few months for everything to decompose for easier planting.
 
A bit more information: You can also remove the existing sod with a sod cutter or flat shovel. Use healthy sections of grass to repair damaged areas in the lawn. Or place it in the compost bin, grass side down. It will eventually decompose into compost for use in amending garden soil.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Time to Evaluate and Plan for Changes in the Garden
Stop and take a few minutes to evaluate the success, challenges and failures of the past growing season. Investing time now can save you additional time, money and frustration in next season’s garden.

Start by taking pictures, video or making notes on areas and combinations you like and may want to repeat. Note areas in need of extra color or seasonal interest.
 
And look for ways to decrease water and pesticide use while maintaining a beautiful garden.  Move struggling plants to a location that better matches their needs. Or make a note on the calendar to thin perennials like beebalm and phlox in the spring.
 
Move moisture lovers together to save time and water spent keeping them looking their best. And mulch or refresh mulch as needed to conserve moisture, reduce weeds and eventually improve the soil.
 
A bit more information: Thinning perennials like beebalm and phlox increases air circulation and decreases the risk of powdery mildew and some other diseases. It also encourages stiffer and sturdier stems. Proper spacing is another way to reduce the risk of disease and increase your plants health and beauty.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Lawn Disease: Fairy Ring
A ring of mushrooms or one of dark green grass is a sign fairy ring disease has moved into the lawn.

The fairy rings can vary from a few inches to a few feet in diameter. This fungus feeds on old roots, thatch and stumps not the grass. It can, however, cause droughty patches in the lawn. The thick fungal mass prevents water from reaching the grass roots.
 
Living with the problem is the easiest solution. Water infested areas slowly, thoroughly and often enough to penetrate the fungal mat and combat drought stress. Rake or mow to destroy the mushrooms as they form to improve the appearance and reduce the temptation to kids and pets.
 
Determined gardeners can remove infested soil and replace with fresh disease-free topsoil. Carefully remove the soil 12 inches below and slightly wider than the ring being careful not to drop any infected soil on the lawn.
 
A bit more information: The name fairy ring is the results of many folktales and lore. Some cultures believe the fairy rings mark the spot where fairies danced while others believed there was a connection to witch dances and the devil.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Celebrate National Apple Month
Celebrate National Apple Month with a trip to the farmers market or nearby orchard to purchase or pick-your-own favorite apples. 

Apples are a healthy choice. One apple provides up to 20% of the daily recommended fiber, 14% vitamin C, they’re high in antioxidants, contain no fat and are less than 100 calories.
 
Pick a few to eat fresh, cook with meat, sauces and stuffing and of course a few more for baking into your favorite apple dessert.
 
Be sure to store unwashed apples in the refrigerator to maintain their crispy texture. Wash just prior to eating and baking.
 
Buy your favorites and try a few of the newer introductions. Honeycrisp is relatively new on the market. Known as an excellent snacking apple, many cooks are finding it is also a great apple for baking.
 
Pink Lady is an all-purpose apple that can be eaten fresh or used for cooking, baking, and making apple butter.
 
A bit more information: Have a bit of fun and save a few apples to make applehead dolls and Halloween monsters. Listen to Scary Apple Heads for Halloween by clicking here for instructions on making your own.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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October Birth Flower – Calendula
An edible beauty serves as the birth flower for those born in October.  The yellow and orange blooms of calendulas were considered sacred by some and magical by other cultures of the past. And many used them for dyes, insect repellents and medicinal remedies.

In the garden, calendulas are easy to grow. They thrive in full sun, moist well-drained soil and cool temperatures. In hot weather they slow or stop blooming. Just continue to water as needed and wait for cooler temperatures and the flowers to return. And watch for seedlings in next year’s garden.
 
Brighten up your flower, herb or vegetable garden with these 12 to 18 inch tall flowers. And pick a few to enjoy in your cut flower bouquets.
 
Use the petals to brighten and spice up a salad or dry and brew as a tea. Or add them to soups and stews cooking in a pot. Thus, how they received their common name, pot marigold.
 
A bit more information: The botanical name Calendula officinalis provides insight to the plant and its uses. Calendula comes from Latin “calends” and the English “calendar”. It was said to bloom at the beginning of each month leading to its botanical name. Officinalis means medicinal and refers to the fact the flowers have been used in healing wounds and treating illnesses.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Think Twice Before Staking Newly Planted Trees
Break out the shovel and get busy planting. Fall is a great time to plant trees. The soil is warm and the air is cool, reducing transplant shock.

And once the tree is properly planted resist the urge to stake the tree in place.  Trees allowed to sway in the wind develop a thicker and stronger trunk. They also have a more developed root system increasing their stability and ability to withstand wind damage.
 
Staked trees tend to grow taller, have thinner trunks and poor root development.  Once the stakes are removed the tree is more subject to breakage and toppling.
 
Only stake bare root trees, those subjected to extremely harsh winds, or trees with an extremely small root system and large canopy. If the tree must be staked, use stakes no more than 2/3 the tree’s height, secure the tree to the stake with flexible materials, and remove within the first year.
 
A bit more information: The scientific term for long term changes in a plant’s appearance due to repeated touching is Thigmomorphogenes. Repeated even gentle touching and wind can cause stouter stems in plants. Some avid gardeners use a fan to circulate air and increase the stems on transplants grown indoors.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden 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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