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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 February 2014


Garden Conservancy Open Days Private Garden Tour
Get your tickets now for a peek into some of the most amazing private gardens in America. This one-of-a-kind private garden tour provides a great opportunity to gather ideas, exchange gardening secrets, and get inspired.

Known as Open Days, this private garden tour was started in 1995 by the Garden Conservancy.
Gardens are located in 21 states including the District of Columbia. There are more than 300 gardens featured and each region offers its own special variety of gardens.
 
All you need is a little time and a ticket to participate in the self-guided garden tours. A listing of the Open Days gardens and dates for each garden will be listed in the Open Days Directory, posted on the Garden Conservancy’s website or you can call 1-888-842-2442.
 
A bit more information: This program was started by the Garden Conservancy to create awareness and help support their mission of preserving America’s gardens. For more information on Open Days and the Garden Conservancy visit https://www.gardenconservancy.org
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Attractive Year Round Screening
How many evergreens do I need to screen the view of my neighbor’s house? This is a common question raised by gardeners across the country.

And even though arborvitae, junipers, and other evergreens provide great year round screening, consider creating something with more variety and seasonal interest. 
 
Start by determining exactly what views need to be screened. Evaluate the views from inside your house looking out. Then move outdoors and try standing and sitting in areas you want to create some privacy. Then consider your neighbors’ view looking into your home and garden. Several smaller strategically placed gardens can provide the needed screening or privacy.
 
Consider using ornamental grasses, perennials, and flowering shrubs along with the upright evergreens. Mixed borders are more interesting and much easier to maintain if a plant or two dies.
 
A bit more information:  Consider annual and perennial vines on decorative trellises and artwork for narrow spaces. These can provide quick screening as a short-term or long-term solution.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Pine Needle Scale
White flecks on your mugo pine does not mean the house painter was careless. It’s more likely that your evergreen is infested with pine needle scale.

The white flecks you see are hard shells produced by the adult pine needle scale.
 
Timing is critical for successful control. Their hard shell protects the adults and overwintering eggs from predators, the environment and pesticides. Apply insecticidal soap, Neem, light weight horticulture oil or another eco-friendly insecticide labeled for controlling this pest when the immature shell-less scales are active. This coincides with the bloom time of vanhouette spirea, often called bridal wreath, or as the flower buds on common lilac begin to swell in the spring. Repeat when the Annabelle hydrangeas bloom in the summer.  As always read and follow label directions.
 
A bit more information: A healthy plant can tolerate small populations, but continued attacks by this insect can weaken and ruin the appearance of your pine. If you decide to treat, make two applications of an eco-friendly insecticide 7 to 10 days apart for both the spring and summer treatment. Or kill the overwintering eggs by applying lime sulphur in late winter when the plants are still dormant. Be careful as the lime sulfur can damage some plants and stain nearby surfaces.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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2014 Perennial Plant of the Year – Northwind Switchgrass
Make room in your landscape for Northwind Switchgrass the 2014 perennial plant of the year.
 
Roy Diblik of Northwind Perennial Farm selected this cultivar from seed he collected along railroad tracks in South Elgin, IL. He noticed the unique growth habit of one particular plant and began trialing, propagating and finally introducing Northwind Switchgrass in 1992.
 
It was the upright growth habit and wide steel blue leaves that caught his attention. The 5 feet tall switchgrass is a clump forming grass perfect as a screen, vertical accent or filler in mixed beds.
 
The plant is topped by fine-textured flowers that remind me of fireworks in late summer. The yellow flowers turn into beige seedheads and the plant has an attractive golden yellow fall color. This sturdy plant remains upright throughout the winter, providing great winter interest.
 
A bit more information: Northwind Switchgrass is hardy in zones 4 to 10. This fine textured beauty is a nice addition to natural, informal, and formal landscapes. It is seldom bothered by deer.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Apple Tree Fails to Produce
No fruit and all leaves is a common complaint of gardeners new to growing apples.  Fortunately, with a little time and adjustments in care you will soon be rewarded with fruit.

Patience is the first step. The first few years after planting, your apple tree spends its energy on developing a healthy root system. This is good for the longevity and productivity of the plant.
 
You will need to start pruning young trees to develop a strong and productive structure.  Consider using the central or modified central leader system. You will have a single trunk with several large branches spiraling up the trunk.
 
Train 5 to 7 main branches for dwarf trees and 7 to 9 for standard size apple trees. Dwarf trees should start blooming and be allowed to develop fruit about 4 or 5 years, while standard trees take a bit longer, 6 or 7 years, after planting.
 
A bit more information:  Avoid excess pruning and over fertilization that promotes leaf and stem growth and discourages flowering and fruiting.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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A Perennial Valentine - Valentine Bleeding Heart
Looking for a unique Valentine’s Day gift for that special someone? Give a gift that brings joy and beauty year after year.

Bleeding Heart was originally brought to America as a Valentine’s Day gift. The new variety, Valentine, provides a twist on this long time favorite. The bright red flowers have white tips and dangle from deep red arching stems in late spring.
 
Keep the plants blooming into early summer with ample moisture and moderate temperatures. And don’t forget to cut a few flowers to enjoy indoors. These last for several weeks.
 
Give this plant room to grow. It forms a 24 to 36 inch mound. And don’t be surprised when the plant begins to fade in mid-summer. It’s normal and will return next spring. You may need to give your Valentine an IOU and deliver this present once the plants arrive at your favorite garden center.
 
A bit more information: The leaves on Valentine bleeding heart emerge with a tinge of purple and then turn green, providing a nice contrast to the blooms.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Abe Lincoln Heirloom Tomato
Add a little fun and history to this year’s vegetable garden and grow some Abe Lincoln tomatoes.
 
This heirloom tomato was introduced in Illinois back in 1923 by the Buckbee Seed Company. Abe Lincoln is an indeterminate type tomato, meaning it continues to grow throughout the season until frost kills the plant or a gardener prunes off the growing tip.
 
This slicing tomato can be found on plant recommendation lists of Universities across the country. Abe Lincoln tomatoes have good disease resistance and produce medium size bright red tomatoes with a rich slightly acid flavor.
 
You may need to start your own plants from seed or find a local grower or hobbyist that specializes in heirloom vegetables. Start these and other tomato seeds indoors about 6 to 8 weeks before the outdoor night temperatures are hovering at 50 to 55 degrees.
 
A bit more information: With proper care you will be harvesting Abe Lincoln tomatoes in less than 80 days. Speed up the process by keeping the plants warm on chilly days and nights. Cover plantings with floating row covers like ReeMay, frost blanket or garden fabric. Try cloches or wall-o-waters to cover individual plants.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Tree and Shrub Growth Rates
Now is a great time to plan for additions to your landscape. And as you scour the catalogues and read plant tags you will often see trees rated as fast, medium or slow growers.
 
These are average growth rates, but just like a plant’s mature size it can vary with local climate, growing conditions and the care you provide.  A slow growth rate means the plant usually grows 12 inches or less each year.  Medium growers add 13 to 24 inches each year, while fast growing trees grow 25 inches or more in one year. 
 
The American Conifer Society (ACS) has classified cone bearing plants by their size in any direction (height or spread) and growth rate.  They range from Miniature (M) conifers that grow less than 1 inch a year and reach less than 1 foot size at 10 years of age to large (L) conifers that grow more than 12 inches a year and are greater than 15 feet tall at ten years of age.
 
A bit more information: The other ACS growth rates and classifications include dwarf (D) conifers that grow more than 1 inch but less than 6 inches a year and reach sizes of 1 to 6 feet by 10 years of age.  Intermediate (I) conifers grow more than 6 and less than 12 inches a year and are more than 6 feet but less than 15 feet in size.  
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Birth Tree March 1 through 10 - Weeping Willow
The lovely and graceful weeping willow has long been a part of our landscapes. And, although it is the birth tree for those born between March 1st and 10th, think twice before planting this beauty in your backyard.
 
As birth trees go, the weeping willow represents beauty filled with a bit of melancholy. Individuals with this birth tree are also said to be tasteful, dreamers, restless and have good intuition.
 
Today the golden weeping willow is considered the standard and the one most of us know as weeping willow. This fast growing tree is hardy in zones 2 through 9, develops a stout trunk and is covered with long pendulous branches.  It is tolerant of moist to wet soils and is often found growing along ponds and streams.
 
This large tree is perfect for wet areas where other trees fail and where the leaf, stem and fluffy seedpod litter and aggressive roots are not a problem.
 
A bit more information: The golden weeping willow can grow 50 to 80 feet tall with a broad canopy. If your yard is too small or you don’t want the litter issue, visit this graceful beauty in a nearby park or natural setting.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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2014 Hosta of the Year - Abiqua Drinking Gourd
Hostas are a favorite of many gardeners. All the new introductions allow you to create a fresh look with an old time favorite.  But with so many choices it is helpful to have a bit of direction.
 
The American Hosta Growers wanted to help take the guess work out of hosta shopping. Each year, starting in 1996, they select an outstanding hosta variety that makes a good garden plant throughout the country, is readily available, and retails for about $15 a plant.  This year’s winner is Abiqua Drinking Gourd.
 
The large blue-green leaves are cupped and have an interesting seer sucker texture. These attractive thick leaves have good slug resistance.
 
White flowers top the plants in early summer, brightening the shade and providing nectar for the hummingbirds. Plants are hardy in zones 3 to 9 and grow 18 to 24 inches tall and 36 inches wide.
 
A bit more information: Consider adding a few or all of the past winners to the shady parts of your landscape. Use them as a groundcover or in combination with ferns, bugbane and other shade tolerant perennials. Visit the American Hosta Growers Association website for a list of and information about past winners.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Poplar - Birth Tree Feb 4 to 8
Those with birthdays between February 4th and 8th have poplar as their birth tree. They’re said to be artistic, reliable partners, organized and know how to make life comfortable.

As a tree most poplars are fast growing and moisture loving. This group includes the quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) best known for its leaves that flutter in the wind and turn a beautiful yellow in fall.
 
The cottonwood (Populus deltoides) is also a member of this family. It produces cottony seeds that cover the ground like snow in the summer. As a result many municipalities have banned this tree.
 
The Lombardy poplar was brought to North America with the colonists. This fast growing upright poplar was used for hedging and screening. Unfortunately, a deadly canker disease has limited its use.
 
So choose your poplar tree wisely or purchase your early February birthday friend an item made from poplar wood.
 
A bit more information: The quaking aspen is the most widely distributed tree in North America. The National Champion is located in Coronado National Forest in AZ. It was 130 feet tall and 36 feet wide when last measured.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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February Birth Flowers – Violet and Iris
If you were born in February you have two birth flowers, the violet and the iris.
 
Both are perfect flowers for this month filled with messages of love for Valentine’s Day. The violet is a symbol of love and fertility while the iris shares its name with the messenger of the Gods and Greek goddess of the rainbow, Iris.  And an appropriate name as the iris comes in a wide array of colors.
 
Most violets thrive in shade and moist soil. There are many varieties with purple, blue, white, cream, yellow or a combination of colored flowers. Select carefully as some are vigorous, escape the garden where planted and become a weed. 
 
Most iris prefer full sun and moist well-drained soils. Sizes vary from the short 4 inch crested iris to the 4 foot tall bearded iris. The Japanese iris requires abundant moisture during the growing season while the bearded iris must have adequate drainage.
 
A bit more information: Try growing crested iris (Iris cristata) as a seasonal groundcover. It is hardy in zones 3 to 9, grows 4 to 6 inches tall, and performs well in partial shade with well-drained soil.
 
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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