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.
Make a resolution to keep your tools clean and ready for use by creating a tool cleaning station in your shed or garage.
If it is easy and convenient you are more likely to do it. So set aside a small space where you can clean and care for tools.
You’ll need soap, access to water and a scrubby to remove dirt and grime from all your tools. Keep a jug of vinegar handy to help dissolve rust and mineral spirits to remove stubborn tree sap from pruners.
Include steel wool and wire brushes to help with soil and rust removal. Don’t forget the linseed oil for cleaning tools and lubricating oil for keeping tools working smoothly.
Buy needed sharpening tool and files and replacement blades for pruners with removable blades.
Make sure you have plenty of rags. And don’t forget safety glasses to protect your eyes from flying dirt and debris.
A bit more information: Reduce your workload by washing the dirt off tools after every use. Stop by the faucet and wash away the soil before stashing them in the shed or garage. And remove any plant debris wedged in the tools. This is a great place for disease organisms to linger and infest the garden with the next use. And always store tools inside to reduce rust and extend their life.
If you were born between December 23rd and January 1st your birth tree is the apple. It is said to represent scientific talents, charm and a carefree philosopher with imagination.
Give the gift of an apple tree or plant one in your own yard to honor a friend or loved one with this birth tree. You’ll need two trees or a nearby crabapple for pollination and fruit formation.
Look for disease resistant varieties. Consider dwarf apple trees that will fit the available space when mature and be much easier to harvest when it starts producing fruit.
Or consider a crabapple. These apple trees have smaller, less than 2” diameter, fruit. You’ll enjoy four seasons of interest while bringing in the birds for added color and motion in the landscape.
Look for disease resistant crabapples and those with persistent fruit for the greatest impact, fewer problems and less mess.
A bit more information: Look for these and other apple varieties listed as disease resistant. Liberty is a crisp and juicy dessert apple. Freedom was introduced in 1983, ripens a week before Delicious and is great for pies. Redfree is an early apple that has limited storage life, but is a good choice for home gardeners looking for an earlier producer.
Holly is a popular plant in holiday displays, one of the birth flowers for December and a favorite evergreen in the landscape.
Holly as the birth flower symbolizes domestic happiness. In ancient times it was shared with friends and planted around homes to protect the occupants from lightening, poisoning and mischievous spirits.
But many gardeners complain their plants do not form the beautiful fruit they so desire. You need at least one male for every five female hollies for fruit to develop. Look for male plants listed as good pollinators for the female hollies you select. Some growers plant a male and female plant in the same container to insure you have both sexes. Only problem, if one plant dies, you must look at the flowers to determine which gender survived and which one needs replacing.
Make the needed changes and enjoy your holly, berries and all for seasons to come.
A bit more information: Lack of maturity, late spring frost and poor growing conditions can also result in little or no fruit forming. Make sure to plant your holly in a sheltered location with moist well-drained soil. You may need to wait a few years for your plants to reach flowering and fruiting size. A close look at the flowers will reveal the difference. The male flower has a straight stem and a flower containing pin like structures called stamen. The female flower has a swollen base, almost vase like, in the center.
Celebrate December birthdays and have a bit of fun by forcing a few daffodil bulbs into bloom.
The daffodil, botanically known as Narcissus, is one of the birth flowers for December. It symbolizes sweetness and the desire for your loved one to stay just the way they are.
All you need are a few daffodil bulbs, a container, and potting mix. If you don’t have any healthy left over bulbs go on-line. Many bulb companies are still selling spring flowering bulbs and some offer pre-cooled bulbs that are ready to bloom.
Place a layer of potting mix in the bottom of the container. Pack in as many bulbs as you can fit in the container for an impressive display. Cover the bulbs with potting mix and water. Then store the bulbs in the refrigerator or other 35 to 45 degree location. After 15 weeks, move the container to a cool bright location and water as needed.
A bit more information: Add a little something extra. Once the bulbs are planted, sprinkle grass seed over the soil surface. Lightly rake to insure seed-to-soil contact. Then water in. The grass will remain dormant during the cold treatment and start growing once you bring the potted bulbs out of cold storage.
Light up your winter containers. Add some solar lights and accents to give your planters a bit more sparkle during the drab days of winter.
Use solar powered or battery operated optic lights, globes or lighted twigs as vertical accents, focal points or fillers in your outdoor containers. Just make sure whatever you choose is rated for outdoor use.
No containers, don’t worry you can quickly create a few. Just fill a weather-proof pot with potting mix or sand. Purchase greens from your favorite garden center or trim a few from your landscape. Stick the cut end of the greens in the potting mix or sand to create an attractive display. Add some colorful berries, decorative twigs, ornaments and ribbon.
Then add some light to your winter containers with one of the many solar lights. Set your planter by the front entrance to welcome guests or on the balcony for you and your neighbors to enjoy.
A bit more information: Change out the holiday adornments for more natural materials. Adding ornamental grasses, more berries and decorative twigs collected from your landscape can keep your container looking fresh throughout the winter. And the solar accents will continue to welcome and impress evening visitors. Here are just a few of the many possibilities: fiber optic solar lights or solar northern lights sphere.
December 19th is National Look for an Evergreen Day. Don’t worry if you already have your holiday tree; take advantage of this unique holiday to get outside and look at the evergreens in your neighborhood.
As you walk through your neighborhood, nearby park or botanical garden try to identify some of the more common evergreens. Evergreens with needles in bundles are a type of pine.
Spruce needles are short, usually stiff and individually attached to the stem. Remove a needle, with permission of course. Roll it between your fingers and feel the ridges.
Firs also have singular needles, but they are flat. Remove one of these needles and you will see a circular needle scar on the branch. The base of fir needles look like suction cups where they attach to the branch.
Now that you can identify more evergreens than most, if not all your friends and family, pass your ID skills along.
The Christmas cactus is a favorite gift that often grows into a family heirloom. With proper care you can keep this holiday favorite flowering for 4 to 8 weeks.
Keep your flowering Christmas cactus in a cool bright location to extend its bloom time. Avoid drafts of hot and cold air, moisture stress and other changes in the environment. This can result in bud and flower drop.
Water the soil thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil slightly moist. This tropical plant may look like a succulent, but prefers a bit more water.
Fertilize with a dilute solution of flowering houseplant fertilizer once it has finished blooming. Then move it to a sunny window or under artificial lights with your other houseplants.
Rebloom your cactus by providing cooler temperatures, drier conditions and as some experts believe 14 hours of total darkness each night. Start on October 1st for blooms next Christmas.
A bit more information: The Thanksgiving and Easter Cacti look very similar to the Christmas cactus, though the bloom times vary. For more information on identification and care of these plants - click here.
Fire and candles have long been used to guide and welcome travelers and guests. Give this tradition a twist by making your own icy luminaries this winter.
Use milk cartons, coffee cans, tins and buckets as a mold for your icy luminary. You will also need a smaller container to create the space for the candle.
Fill the container with water. Add food coloring, glitter, berries or other decorations for a festive twist. Sink the smaller container in the water. Use stones to weight it down and keep it in place.
Set these in a spare refrigerator or outside in cold climates to freeze. Once frozen, and just prior to use, bring your luminary out of the cold and rinse with warm water to release it from the mold. Remove the center container at the same time.
Place an outdoor light or votive candle inside the luminary and then set it outside to greet your guests.
A bit more information: Sound like too much work? Consider purchasing a make-it-yourself kit like the Ice Globe Luminary Kit. All you do is add water to create your own family fun and holiday centerpiece or outdoor lighting.
Move those poinsettias out of their foil wrapper and onto your table for the holidays.
Use miniature poinsettias like Mini Star as a place setter. Some come in their own decorative pot or dress them up with a bit of festive tissue, wrapping paper or fabric and ribbon. Then send your guests home with their own mini poinsettia to enjoy throughout the holidays.
Or dress up each place setting with a cut poinsettia bloom. Simply cut the flowers off a potted poinsettia plant to the desired length. Sear the end over a flame and place it in a florist water pick. Tuck the bloom into a napkin, set it in a small bud vase or add a ribbon to dress it up.
Don’t have the heart to remove the flowers? Then place several potted poinsettias in the middle of the table. Cover the pots with greens. Then add some colorful pepper berries, cranberries, apples or ornaments.
A bit more information: Use poinsettia flowers to add beauty to other holiday adornments. Individual cut blooms make great package adornments. Or use cut poinsettia flowers to create a centerpiece for the table. Combine with greens or display a single bloom in a decorative vase. Dress up your arrangement by adding some faux snow or filling the vase with cranberries, small ornaments or other colorful adornment.
Create a festive holiday tree outdoors for you and the birds to enjoy.
Dress up your evergreen trees or shrubs with strands of cranberries and popcorn. Add some orange slices for added color and food for the birds.
And keep small hands busy by making some birdseed ornaments. Use cookie cutters to cut slices of bread into festive shapes. Punch a hole near the top. Then toast or allow the bread to dry. Coat with peanut butter and sprinkle with birdseed. Run a colorful ribbon through the hole and hang it in the tree.
Or collect and decorate evergreen cones. Cover the scales of the cone with peanut butter or suet. Roll in birdseed. Use colorful yarn to hang these from the tree.
Bird seed ornaments also make great gifts for gardeners and bird watchers. Wrap them in cellophane add a ribbon and you have a perfect gift. No dusting or batteries required.
A bit more information: Once the holidays are over, move your fresh cut Christmas tree outdoors. You’ll provide additional shelter for the birds and have another tree to decorate for you and the birds to enjoy. See my Family Fun Feeding the Birds video for more ideas.
Add a bit of color and fragrance to the holidays with Freesias. The spikes of flowers come in a variety of colors from white to purple, yellow to red and even blue.
Check with your local garden center, favorite catalogue or order the corms on-line. Plant them in a well-drained potting mix with little or no perlite to avoid fluoride damage.
Set the corms pointed side up about one inch deep and 2 to 3 inches apart. Water thoroughly.
Precool the planted corms for 45 days at 55 degrees to encourage more compact growth. Move to a sunny location as soon as growth appears.
Grow in a cool, about 65 degrees, bright location. Keep the soil moist and fertilize with a dilute solution of flowering houseplant fertilizer.
Stake tall strappy leaves to prevent them from falling and keep your plant looking its best.
A bit more information: Purchase ring stakes or make your own with bamboo stakes or twigs and twine to keep floppy leaves in check. Or set the plant in a tall container whose sides help support the leaves and flower stems.
Is your mailbox filling with next year’s calendars? Put them to use managing pests in the garden.
No, I’m not talking about smashing insects with the rolled up calendar. Instead, use them to develop a pest-monitoring calendar for next year.
Take a few minutes to review this year’s garden journal. Look for notes on any pest problems you encountered. Make a note to watch for these pests in next year’s calendar. This helps with early detection; a key to successful control.
Consider adding notes about the weather and control measures you tried that were effective. Try using preventative eco-friendly measures like barriers and traps to prevent problems. Covering your cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower before the cabbageworm moths are active allows you to prevent damage.
Setting out shallow cans of stale beer will help you minimize feeding damage by slugs and snails during wet weather.
A bit more information: No garden journal? This is a good opportunity to create one that includes your growing successes, failures as well as pest problems. Use a spiral notebook, three-ring binder or computer calendar or spreadsheet. Just make it easy and fun. That way you are sure to keep recording, referencing and putting your gardening experiences to work.
The pantry is full of fall favorites like squash, pumpkins and sweet potatoes. But busy schedules may find a few things growing in the back of the cupboard. Don’t discard those sweet potatoes that sprout in storage. Make it a fun gardening activity for the family.
Plant the sprouting sweet potato in a container of well-drained potting mix. Plant it with the growing point just below the soil surface or lay it on its side and cover with potting mix. Grow your new plant in a sunny window and water as needed. Sweet potatoes make a great indoor plant.
To see what goes on below ground, try growing your sweet potato in water. Stick 3 or 4 toothpicks around the middle of the sweet potato. Set the toothpicks on the lip of a water-filled glass. Keep the water covering the bottom half of the sweet potato. Place it in a bright location out of direct sun for rooting.
A bit more information: Take a look at other kitchen scraps you can grow into houseplants. Plant the base of the celery used in your dressing or the top of your pineapple. It’s a great way to move the garden indoors and keep little hands busy during the holidays.
Plant Some Animal Resistant Bulbs this Fall
Don't let flower hungry wildlife stop you from planting spring flowering bulbs. Plant a few animal resistant bulbs in your garden this fall for added color and beauty next spring.
Start off the season with a few minor bulbs. Winter aconite and snowdrops are some of the first bulbs to appear in spring. Mix grape hyacinths with daffodils to double your flower power and pop in some Siberian squills for a bit of blue in the spring garden.
Try little Tommies, botanically known as Crocus tomassinanus. Garden catalogues claim and I have found them to be resistant to squirrels.
Daffodils are well known for surviving hungry animals and now there are lots of new varieties to choose from.
And don't forget to try some alliums you may know as ornamental onions. There are small and large flowered varieties and those that bloom in spring, summer or fall.
A bit more information: Consider Camassia with blue flower spikes that resemble hyacinth, but tolerate partial shade. Snowflakes (Leucojum) Autumn crocus (Clochicum), Fritillaria and of course hyacinths are a few other animal-resistant bulbs. Southern gardeners need to select low chill varieties or use precooled bulbs if their winters are too warm for forcing spring flowering bulbs into bloom.
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
Vote for your Favorite Flower
There is still time to cast your vote for your favorite flower.
The American Garden Award program is your opportunity to vote for your favorite of several beautiful flowers bred for the home garden. Some of the most prestigious flower breeders have chosen their favorites to enter in the competition.
Celosia Arrabona Red is a plume type cockscomb and it was selected for its easy care, drought tolerance and long bloom.
Cuphea Sriracha Violet is heat tolerant and covered with unique violet blooms from spring through summer.
Illumination Flame Digiplexis is a foxglove hybrid with spikes of red-pink flowers with flaming orange throats.
Last but not least is Petunia Anguna radiant blue. This new hybrid has blue flowers with a white throat.
So visit www.Americangardenaward.com today and cast your vote.
A bit more information: The 2013 winner was Verbena ‘Lanai® Candy Cane’ with red and white striped blooms. Santa Cruz Sunset Begonia was the 2012 winner. This cascading begonia is perfect for hanging baskets, containers or mass plantings. This is the sixth year for this program. Check out information on previous winners and contestants at www.americangardenaward.com.
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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