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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 November 2013


Balsam Fir Christmas Tree
The smell of a freshly cut balsam fir is a fragrant part of many holiday celebrations.

The resin blisters on this fir give it the distinct fragrance and the resin inside has quite an interesting history. It was once used to mount thin specimens on microscope slides. It was also sold in confectionary stores as a precursor to chewing gum.
 
Civil War soldiers used a resin balm to treat wounds and resin knots as torches.
 
And still today you may find people stuffing pillows with the aromatic needles. Today it is used as a festive touch to the holidays, in the past the “pine pillows” were used as a deodorant.
 
This evergreen thrives in cooler climates and prefers moist slightly acidic soil and humid conditions. So if your landscape lacks these conditions, enjoy your balsam fir for the holidays and look for a more suitable evergreen for your backyard.
 
A bit more information: As you hike through native stands of balsam you may find wildlife like moose and deer munching on the needles and chickadees, squirrels and porcupines eating the seeds. And others find cover under the fragrant branches.
 
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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The Ash Tree – November 22 – December 1 Birth Tree
If your birthday falls between November 22nd and December 1st your birth tree is an ash. You are said to be uncommonly attractive, very reliable and trustworthy.

The native white and green ash trees have long been an important part of native forests, urban landscapes and the lumber industry. The wood is used for sporting goods like bats and oars as well as furniture and flooring.
 
Unfortunately, the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) has found its way to North America and killed many native and urban ash trees. The adult beetle is metallic emerald green and feeds on the leaves. The immature worm-like larvae are the real troublemakers. They feed under the bark preventing the flow of water and nutrients between the roots and leaves. This eventually kills the plant.
 
Visit www.emeraldashborer.info to find out more about this pest.
 
A bit more information: You can help prevent and reduce the spread of this and other invasive insects. Don’t move firewood; instead buy it at your destination. Visit http://www.emeraldashborer.info for more tips on managing firewood, woodchips and other wood products. And look for local arborists, wood workers and communities converting EAB infested wood into pest-free bats, bowls and more.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Winter Care for Unplanted Trees, Shrubs and Perennials
Fall plant sales and all those tempting new varieties have many of us buying more plants than we have time or space to plant.  Protect them over the winter and reduce your workload by heeling them in until you have time to find a permanent spot in your garden.

Look for vacant spaces and sheltered areas in your landscape. An annual flower or vegetable garden, newly established planting bed or one earmarked for renovation work great.
 
Dig a trench deep enough to cover the whole pot.  Set the plants pot to pot inside the trench. Cover with soil and water thoroughly to remove air pockets and moisten the roots. Water as needed throughout the winter.
 
Add an extra layer of insulation with mulch. Cover the soil surface with several inches of woodchips or shredded bark. This helps conserve moisture and protects the plants from our often fluctuating winter temperatures.

A bit more information: No vacant space in the garden? Group plants together in a sheltered location. Cover the pots with woodchips or other material to insulate the roots and conserve moisture. Those in colder climates can move plants into an unheated garage for winter. Be sure to water thoroughly whenever the soil is dry.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Encourage African Violet Bloom
African violets are a favorite indoor flowering plant. Your mother or grandmother may have had windowsills filled with these flowering beauties. But getting them and keeping them blooming is not as easy as grandma made it seem.
 
Insufficient sunlight is the most common cause of poor flowering. Grow African violets in a warm location in front of a sunny window or under artificial lights. Avoid the intense mid-day sun if plants begin looking stressed. You will need a combination of natural and artificial light, a set of cool and warm fluorescent lights, grow lights or full spectrum lights to encourage flowering.
 
Allow the plants to become slightly potbound and fertilize with an African violet or flowering houseplant fertilizer. Water often enough to keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Use room temperature water and a gravel filled saucer to capture excess water. As this water evaporates it will increase the humidity around the plant.
 
A bit more information:  Do not use softened or highly chlorinated water. Both can cause browning of the leaves. Remove any salt buildup, the white crusty substance, which accumulates on the lip of the container. This can damage leaves and leaf stems, petioles, which come in contact with it.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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November 12 - 21 Birth Tree: The Chestnut
If you were born between November 12th and the 21st, your birth tree is the Chestnut.
 
It is an impressive tree that grew to heights of 100 feet tall and represents honesty. The American chestnut (Castanea dentata) is native from Southern Maine to Michigan and south to Alabama and Mississippi. It is the tree of holiday songs, you know, “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”. 
 
Unfortunately chestnut blight killed most of the native stands of chestnuts. Root sprouts from blighted trees may grow to 20 feet tall and a few isolated trees remain.  The American Chestnut Foundation is working to reestablish the chestnut. In 2005 they harvested what they hope will be the first blight resistant American Chestnut trees. They hope to reintroduce chestnuts to benefit wildlife and the environment.
 
The Chinese chestnut is similar and also produces edible nuts. These plants aren’t immune, but are resistant to Chestnut blight.
 
A bit more information:  A gift membership to the American Chestnut Foundation may make a great birthday gift for family and friends with a chestnut birth tree. The recipient will receive information on chestnut tree research, receive blight resistant seeds and know that they are supporting the reintroduction of their birth tree.

For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Growing Orchids Indoors
 
Add exotic long lasting blooms to your indoor garden with the help of orchids. They’re much easier to grow than you think.
 
Orchid care varies a bit with the type of orchid you are growing.  But here are some general guidelines to get you started.  Grow your orchid in a sunny window. Don’t let the leaves touch cold windows and never trap the plant between curtains and the window in winter. 
 
Keep the soil evenly moist, but not too wet. City tap water is fine, but avoid softened water that can damage the plants.  Fertilize actively growing plants when the soil is moist.  Use a dilute solution of a complete fertilizer such as a 20-20-20 labeled for use on orchids or flowering houseplants.  Avoid excess fertilization that can cause damaged black root tips, green floppy growth, and no flowers. Most orchids prefer daytime temperatures around 70 and cooler at night.
 
A bit more information:  For more detailed information and culture sheets on yours and other orchids visit the American Orchid Society website
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For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Bulb Forcing Project for all Ages and Experience
No matter your age or gardening experience - you can have a bit of fun growing your own mini bulb garden indoors. 
 
All you need is a small container with drainage holes, potting mix and a few bulbs. Short daffodils and tulips, crocus, squills or grape hyacinths work well.
 
Cover the bottom of the container with soil.  Set several bulbs, pointed side up, on top of the potting mix. Pack them in tight for an eye-catching display.  Cover the bulbs and fill the container with potting mix.
 
Now sprinkle some grass seed over the surface and lightly rake with your fingers.  Water thoroughly.
 
Set the planted container in your fridge for its 3 month chill. Make sure the soil stays slightly moist, but not soggy wet.  Bring the container out of cold storage, anytime after the 3 month chill. Move it to a cool sunny location in your home and watch the beauty unfold.
 
A bit more information:  Keep your bulbs away from apples and pears when chilling in the refrigerator. These fruits give off ethylene gas, a natural hormone that does not harm people, but can hasten ripening and interfere with flowering when susceptible fruits, veggies and flowers are stored in the same refrigerator compartment.
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For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Scale Insects on Weeping Figs (Ficus benjamina)
Falling leaves on weeping figs is common with a change of season. It’s also a common response to insect feeding. 

Take a close look at the leaves and stems of your ailing weeping fig. If you find a clear sticky substance, your plant is being attacked by one of several insects.
 
Examine the stems, undersides of the leaves and the place where the leaf stem, petiole, joins the plant stem. Check for brown bumps that can be scraped off with your finger. These are adult scale insects, a common pest of weeping figs grown indoors. Gently scrape off the scale using your fingernail or an old toothbrush. Then spray the plants with insecticidal soap or Neem to kill the translucent immature scale that are sure to be present. Continue the treatment once a week or so until the scale are no longer present.
 
Persistence is the key to successfully controlling this pest.
 
A bit more information: Aphids and mites also secrete honeydew, but are less common problems on weeping figs. Dislodge small populations with a strong blast of water. Make several applications, one week apart, of insectidical soap or Neem if needed to control these pests.
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For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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National Sweet Potato Awareness Month
Celebrate National Sweet Potato Awareness month by including these tasty and nutritious vegetables as a main course, appetizer or side in your meals.
 
Sweet potatoes, also known as kumara have long been an important food crop in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. You’ll also find the golden skinned sweet potatoes labeled as yams in many locations. True yams are starchy, drier and less sweet. They have a tough black skin with white, purple or reddish flesh.
 
The true sweet potato is a relative of the morning glory. Those with golden skin and creamy flesh have a crumbly texture. The orange-fleshed varieties are soft, sweeter and higher in Vitamin A.
 
Don’t store your sweet potatoes in the fridge – you’ll reduce their sweet flavor. Instead, store them in the pantry with your baking potatoes. Extend their storage life to a month by keeping them in a cool dry location, like your basement.
 
A bit more information: For more ideas on growing, using and the nutritional value of sweet potatoes listen to these Melinda’s Garden Moment segments: Growing Sweet Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes Tasty and Nutritious.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Take a Pass on the Tree Trunk Wrap
Skip the tree trunk wrap when planting and caring for your trees.
 
Research has shown that tree wraps are not effective at preventing sunscald, frost cracks or insect and animal damage. Some insects actually prefer the shelter of the wraps and many animals chew right through.  Plus, scientists found greater temperature fluctuations when certain wraps were used. These changes in temperature can contribute to frost cracks.
Protect your trees from animal damage with a fence of hardware cloth.  Create a protective cylinder at least 4 feet high around the tree. Sink the bottom few inches into the soil to keep out the voles.
 
Reduce the risk of frost cracks and sunscald with proper planting, pruning, and care. Plant trees with the rootflare at or slightly above the soil surface.  Water thoroughly as needed and don’t pile mulch over the base of the trunk. And when pruning, be sure to make cuts flush to the branch bark collar not the trunk of the tree. 
 
A bit more information: If you decide to wrap your tree, apply it in fall and remove it each spring. Wrapping the trunks year round or for more than 2 years can actually increase the risk of damage.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Chrysanthemum (Mum) November Birth Flower
Born in November your birth flower is the chrysanthemum often called mum. This fall beauty symbolizes cheerfulness, optimism and friendship.
 
The word chrysanthemum comes from the Greek words chrysos meaning gold and anthemon meaning flower. But this popular cut, holiday and garden flower comes in many more colors. And the flower shapes vary from small button mums to daisy shaped to the large pompom chrysanthemums and more.
 
Grow your own mums in the garden or add a few container plantings to your fall landscape display.  And pick a few blossoms to enjoy indoors. Harvest them early in the day and just as they’re starting to open for the longest-lasting cut flower display.
 
Or stop by your nearby florist and purchase a potted plant or a few flowering stems. The variety of flower shapes and long-lasting vase life have made them one of the most popular florist flowers, second only to roses.
 
A bit more information: So celebrate yours or someone else’s November birthday with a bouquet of mums.  And when you grow potted mums indoors, you’ll help improve the indoor air pollution in your home.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Croton Add Fall Color Indoors
Bring a little fall color indoors with the help of the tropical plant known as Croton.

The colorful leaves may be a combination of green, red, yellow, orange and purple. The leaf shapes can vary adding to its ornamental appeal. The colorful leaves can be broad or narrow, shaped like an oak leaf, twisted like a corkscrew, or somewhat pinched in the middle.
 
Grow crotons in a warm bright location free from drafts of hot and cold air. Water thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil slightly moist during the summer months. Cut back on watering slightly during the winter as growth begins to slow. 
 
Only fertilize actively growing plants with a dilute solution of houseplant fertilizer. Avoid cold temperatures, droughty conditions and drafts that can cause leaf drop. Just correct the problem and wait for new leaves to appear.
 
Start new plants from cuttings to expand your indoor garden or share with friends.
 
A bit more information: Add a little fall flare to your indoor garden with the help of flowering potted plants. Combine small potted mums and foliage plants in a decorative basket or sink a small pot into a large planter.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Prepare for Winter Bird Feeding
 
Fall is a great time to prepare for the winter bird feeding season. A bit of house cleaning will help attract more birds and keep your winged visitors healthy.

Clean feeders regularly throughout the season. This helps reduce the risk of disease caused by bacteria and other disease-causing organisms that can develop in dirty birdfeeders.
 
Wear rubber gloves to protect yourself and use a stiff bottlebrush or old toothbrush to clean those hard to reach places. Use a one-part bleach and nine-part water solution, commercial birdfeeder cleaner or a mild solution of unscented dishwashing soap.
 
Wash the inside and outside of the feeder, perches and feeding ports. Once cleaned, rinse and dry before refilling
 
And don’t forget to clean the area around the feeder. Remove any damp and rotten seed and fruit birds may have dropped.  Then finish it off by adding a fresh layer of mulch to cover the droppings.
 
A bit more information:  Monitor your landscape for bird-friendly plants. Look for trees, shrubs and perennials that provide food and evergreens that provide shelter. Plan to add a few more along with feeders for future seasons.
 
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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