Make plans now to join Melinda on her famous Garden Walks at Boerner Botanical Gardens in 2014!
Nationally renowned garden expert Melinda Myers helps everyday gardeners find success and ease in the garden through her Melinda’s Garden Moments radio segments. Melinda shares “must have” tips that hold the key to gardening success, learned through her more than 30 years of horticulture experience. Listeners from across the country find her gardener friendly, practical approach to gardening both refreshing and informative! On this page, Melinda shares some more extensive garden tips, which expand on the information provided in her one-minute radio segments.
New tips are added throughout each month, providing timely step-by-step tips on what you need to do next in your garden! Visit Melinda’s website www.melindamyers.com for more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and answers to your questions.
Paging through garden catalogues, looking at new varieties and old favorites while dreaming of the season ahead is a long-standing tradition with gardeners. And all the new garden planning websites and apps can help us turn these beautiful visions into reality.
Do an internet search before starting this year’s garden plan. Try searches like Garden Planner, Vegetable Garden Planner or Garden Planning software. You will be amazed by the many free options from very basic to a bit more complex.
Once your plan is in place you’ll be ready to head to the garden center. But this can be overwhelming, even for seasoned gardeners. Use one or more of the gardening apps to help with your plant selection.
And the on-line help doesn’t end there. Many Universities, publications and plant companies have mobile apps to help you keep your garden healthy and productive. Visit the National Garden Bureau’s website for a list of gardening apps, information on plants and gardening resources.
A bit more information: Having trouble finding the National Garden Bureau articles on garden apps?
Click here for their archive section as well as here for part 2.
Don’t throw out those eggshells. Wash and add to your worm composter or use them with your houseplants or in the garden as a fertilizer supplement.
Egg shells will add small amounts of calcium, potassium, a bit of sodium, but not enough to harm the plants, phosphorous and magnesium. They don’t provide all the nutrients a plant needs but could be used as a supplement to your regular fertilizing regime.
Jeff Gillman, Professor and author of several books including The Truth about Garden Remedies suggests using shells from 4 to 5 eggs per plant. Mix them in the garden soil or potting mix prior to planting.
The water used to boil eggs could also be used as a liquid fertilizer for plants. Just let it cool and apply about 2 cups per plant.
Though only providing small amounts of nutrients, both methods keep the egg shells out of the garbage.
A bit more information: Check out all of Jeff Gillman’s books for insight into garden remedies and organic practices that work and why at http://www.jeffgillman.net. His other titles include The Truth about Organic Gardening, Decoding Gardening Advice, How Trees Die and How the Government Got into Your Backyard.
If your birthday falls between January 21 and February 17 your birth tree is the Rowan, also known as mountainash. You’re said to be artistic and spiritual, a visionary, a progressive thinker and humanitarian.
These trees are also known as “the Lady of the Mountains” and were planted near entryways to ward off evil spirits. In the landscape use these four season trees for their beauty and bird appeal.
They grow 20 to 40 feet tall and up to 25 feet wide. They are hardy in zones 3 to 7 depending on the species. These beauties prefer cool moist conditions and when stressed are plagued by fireblight, borers and a variety of other insects. But when properly sited and managed it can be a beautiful addition to the landscape. And when a flock of cedar waxwings visit to feed on the fruit, it’s a site to behold.
A bit more information: The mountainash (Sorbus) is not the ash (Fraxinus) being attacked by the Emerald Ash Borer. The European mountainash (Sorbus aucuparia) is most popular with white spring blooms, orange-red berry-like fruit and yellow to purple fall color. Aucuparia is from Latin for capturing birds, referring to the fruit that helps attract birds to the landscape.
This long time favorite is relatively easy to grow but can be challenging to rebloom. Grow African violets in bright light and moist well-drained soil. Water thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil slightly moist. Their fuzzy leaves are sensitive to cold water so use room temperature water or water the plants from below.
Use an African violet or other indoor flowering plant fertilizer spring through fall when the plants are actively growing. Scrape off any white crusty substance that may form on the lip of the container. This is a salt buildup that can damage your plant.
Many African violet growers use artificial lights to supplement natural light and encourage the plants to flower. Natural light, a grow light or mix of warm and cool fluorescent lights will provide the full spectrum of light needed for flowering.
A bit more information: Prevent or eliminate salt build up with regular leaching of the soil. Water the plant thoroughly with warm water several times at 20 minute intervals. Repeat every few months or as needed to leach the salts out of the soil.
Plants are amazing. They often produce unusual growths, unexpected flower and leaf colors and other surprises. Sometimes these changes lead to the introduction of a new variety while other times it leaves gardeners perplexed. The latter is the case with rose flower proliferation.
Occasionally gardeners find individual rose blossoms sprouting flower buds that develop into another layer of bloom. This proliferation of flower buds is due to a physiological disorder called rose flower proliferation. Basically, for some unknown reason, the cells continue to divide even after the flower forms. This results in a cluster of new buds forming in the center of the blossom. This growth disorder usually occurs in spring and though it can occur on any rose, certain varieties seem to be effected yearly. It is not harmful to the plant just annoying to the gardener.
A bit more information: Proliferation can affect other flowers such as clovers, opium poppy and members of the daisy family. Bellis perennis ‘Prolifera’ produces smaller flowers beside the main bloom. This led to its common name Hens and Chicken daisy.
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
Celebrate a January birthday with one of the two January flowers. One, snowdrops were often found growing in graveyards and were considered bad luck. Now they represent hope and beauty.
The snowdrops bloom in early spring. Drooping white flowers top the 6 inch plants that thrive in part to full shade. These spring blooming beauties are hardy in zones 3 to 7 and prefer cool moist well-drained soils. Warm region gardeners will have to buy pre-cooled bulbs or give them a 15 week chill in the fridge before planting them in the garden.
It may be too early or late to give a gift of blooming snowdrops this January. But plan ahead for next year. Buy bulbs next fall, plant in a container, water and set in the fridge for at least 15 weeks. Then surprise your January birthdays with a pot of their birth flower to grow and nourish.
A bit more information: You may need to buy a picture, give a gift certificate for bulbs or find another creative way to include this early spring blooming flower in your birthday celebration. The other January birth flower is the carnation.
Toads make great gardening partners. They eat insects, slugs and snails and ask for very little in return. Help attract these natural predators to your garden with just a few changes in your gardening habits.
Create an inviting habit for these critters. Leave some leaf litter under trees and shrubs and in the garden. Use groundcovers, preferably native ones, in place of lawn whenever possible.
Include a shallow pond or water feature. Even a shallow saucer filled with chlorine-free water is effective. Use rocks in and around the water for added toad appeal.
Reduce or better yet eliminate the use of pesticides. These can be harmful to the toads and kill the insects they like to eat.
Build a toad abode from a ceramic or clay pot. Place it directly on the soil so the toad can dig. Elevate one side with stones or use a cracked or broken pot that provides an entryway for the toad.
A bit more information: Place your above ground toad abode in a shady spot near water. For more details on creating a toad abode click here. Or go underground. Dig a shallow depression in the soil. Create sides and a roof with stones so the house is 6 to 8 inches tall. Be sure to leave an entryway for the toad to have easy access. For more details, click here.
As you plan your gardens for 2014, be sure to include a few or all of the All America Selection Flower Winners. They are tested throughout the U.S. and Canada and selected for their unique qualities and suitability for the home garden.
Gaura is a wonderful long blooming perennial that is often grown as an annual. The delicate flowers float above the foliage. Sparkle White is an early flowering gaura with a more controlled growth habit.
Petunia ‘African Sunset’ has eye-catching flowers in shades of orange. Uniform growth habit and long season of bloom made this a judges’ favorite.
The naturally dwarf Suntastic Yellow with Black Center sunflower is the smallest sunflower currently on the market; great for small spaces, containers and even window boxes. It produces up to 20 5 to 6 inch flowers per stem in three successive bloom periods.
A bit more information: 2014 marks the first year All American Selections Winners are including regional flowers and vegetables. The plants were trialed and selected as outstanding performers for the specific areas of the country. For more information, check out their website at http://www.aaswinners.com/winners/.
If your birthday falls between January 12th and 24th your birth tree is the Elm. You are said to be cheerful, noble minded, have a good sense of humor and are practical.
The elm has a long history in native and urban landscapes. Many remember the American elm lined streets of the past. Unfortunately, Dutch elm disease wiped out most of these trees.
Use a Dutch Elm resistant cultivar like Valley Forge, New Harmony, Princeton and Delaware #2 if you plan on gifting or planting an American elm in your landscape. They have the characteristic vase shape, but have exhibited good Dutch elm disease resistance.
Better yet, consider the Chinese elm also know as lacebark elm. The smaller leaves and exfoliating bark add to its ornamental appeal. It is a tough and durable tree and can be found throughout the grounds of Disney World in Orlando FL.
A bit more information: Don’t mistake the beautiful lacebark elm (Ulmus parvifolia) with the much inferior Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila) that is often mistakenly called Chinese elm. For a unique look consider a Camperdown, Pendula or Horizontalis cultivar of the Scotch elm. They add interesting form and texture to the landscape.
As you scour this year’s catalogues be sure to watch for the 2014 All America Selections Vegetable Winners.
Mama Mia Giallo (jowllo) is a sweet yellow pepper. It was selected for its compact habit, large yield, uniform shape and yellow/gold color when mature. Enjoy its sweet flavor fresh or grilled.
Grow the small scale Mascotte bean in the garden or container. The white flowers and long straight pods add to its ornamental appeal. The crisp stringless fruit make it a nice addition to any meal.
Chef’s Choice Orange is an indeterminate tomato with deep orange beefsteak shaped fruit. The white flesh is firm, sweet and mild flavored.
The determinate bush Fantastico tomato produces flavorful grape shaped fruit. This high yielding tomato produces up to 12 pounds per plant.
A bit more information: All American Selections Winners are tested at trial gardens throughout the US and Canada. Winners are selected for their unique or improved qualities and suitability to the home garden. Check out their website, http://www.aaswinners.com/winners/, for current and past winners.
Looking for an easy to grow houseplant? Try the low maintenance uniquely shaped ZZ plant.
You may have seen this indoor beauty in the mall, office buildings, garden center or friends’ homes. This easy-care plant is also known as zulu, fat boy and eternity plant. An East African native it has adapted to periods of rain and drought making it a great houseplant. It prefers bright light but will tolerate low light and dry soil. Avoid overwatering that can lead to root rot.
The fleshy rhizomes store water and nutrients helping the plant survive difficult times. Dig and separate the rhizomes to start new plants. Avoid damaging the rhizome as it can lead to root rot. Patient gardeners can try starting new plants from a single leaf. Remove a leaf, stick the cut end into a well-drained potting mix. Keep the soil moist and wait for several months for a new rhizome and eventually a new plant to form.
A bit more information: You can find more information about this adaptable plant using its botanical name Zamioculcas zamiifolia. It is hardy outdoors in zones 9 and warmer. This evergreen plant can eventually grow 3 feet tall and wide.
One of January’s birth flowers is the carnation. Like the rose, the color of the flower is used to represent certain meanings and feeling.
Give that someone special a red carnation that means I love you. Pink reflects affection while white stands for pure love. If things are going badly you may choose a striped carnation that represents a love that is not shared or yellow for disappointment or rejection.
Or just select the recipient’s favorite color. Carnations are long lasting cut flowers that look great combined with greens or other flowers in a mixed bouquet.
In the garden you can also grow annual, biennial and perennial carnations, also known as dianthus. Though specifics may vary a bit, most carnations prefer full sun and cool temperatures. Use as cool season annuals. Or select heat tolerant varieties and provide a bit of afternoon shade to get these beauties through warm seasons.
A bit more information: Try some of the new carnations for a little extra garden and cut flower appeal. Green Trick carnation has pompom shaped vivid green flowers the size of tennis balls. Listen to my audio tip for more on this stunning cut flower. Sweet black cherry (Dianthus barbatus ‘Sweet Black Cherry’) is a dramatic garden annual. The flowers are almost black and these frost and heat tolerant plants grow 18-24” tall x 10-12” wide.
Bird watching and gardening go hand in hand. Celebrate National Bird Day, January 5th, by taking a moment to stop and observe the birds visiting your garden.
As you watch make notes on what plants provide food and shelter. Then look for opportunities to add more to the landscape.
Consider evergreens for shelter. Junipers and pines tolerate hot dry conditions. Hemlocks tolerate shade and need shelter from winter winds. Spruces and firs like moist well-drained soil and full sun. And the many dwarf varieties make it possible to add evergreens to even small yards and balcony gardens.
Consider trees and shrubs with berries such as dogwood, crabapples, viburnums and hawthorns. These add color to the landscape for our enjoyment and food for the birds. And when possible, use native plants suited to the growing conditions in your backyard.
A bit more information: Thorny bushes and trees like hawthorn, pyracantha and raspberries provide songbirds with shelter and protection from predators. Include a birdbath or water feature with a shallow pool or strategically placed stones. A constant water supply will also help attract birds to your landscape.
January 1st is National Bloody Mary Day. As you start the New Year consider growing all the ingredients, including the straw, in this year’s garden.
You know about growing tomatoes, peppers and the other main ingredients, but you may never have considered adding a bit of lovage to the mix. This easy to grow herb has hollow stems and a celery flavor. Place one or two plants in a sunny corner of the garden or one in a large pot for a vertical accent in moist well-drained soil. This perennial herb can reach 6 feet in height, grow one foot wide and is hardy to zone 4. Harvest sections of the stems, leaves and all, as needed. Use as a straw in your Bloody Mary or tomato juice for a little home-grown celery flavoring.
And watch for seedlings you can dig and share with friends.
It’s sure to add lots of fun and make your cocktail party or weekend brunch a special event.
A bit more information: The leaves begin to yellow as the plant flowers and sets seed. Harvest, grind and use seeds to flavor a variety of dishes. Or cut back the plants to encourage fresh new growth. You’ll miss out on the seeds, but have plenty of fresh green leaves to use throughout the remainder of the season.
If you ever get a chance to see Milwaukee from the water...do it! I don't know what it is about the water but everything looks beautiful when you're on the water. I took these over the weekend and just looking at them calms me. We have a beautiful city enjoy it and enjoy what's left of summer:)