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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 March 2014


Tar Spot Disease on Maples
Don’t let the black tar-like spots on your maple tree make you fret. Though one of the more noticeable, it is one of the less damaging of the fungal leaf spot diseases. 

Tar spot symptoms look as if someone dripped tar on the leaves. A European tar spot that has found its way to North America can also attack Norway and striped Maples. These spots are thinner, less tar-like and surrounded by a yellow halo. 
 
You’ll see more spotting during summers following a wet spring. The disease organism survives the winter on the tar spot infected leaves lying on the ground. Raking and destroying the leaves will help reduce the source of infection but is usually not practical. Everyone in the area must do the same in order for this method of control to be effective.
 
So be patient and wait for a drier spring and the disease to run its course.
 
A bit more information: Chemical control is not practical, nor recommended. You must treat before the spots have developed and have complete coverage. This is difficult on large mature maple trees. Proper care is the best defense against this and other diseases. Water properly and mulch trees to keep them healthy.
 
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Waterwise Vegetable Gardening
You can grow garden fresh produce while conserving water and limiting the time spent watering.
 
Water gardens early in the morning to minimize water lost to evaporation. Always water thoroughly but less frequently to encourage deep more drought tolerant roots.  Use a soaker-hose or drip irrigation to slowly place the water directly on the soil where it is needed.
 
You can create your own slow watering device.  Use old gallon milk jugs to apply water where it is needed.  Punch several small holes in the bottom of the milk jug.  Fill with water and place next to your tomatoes, peppers or other large plants. The water slowly seeps into the soil where it’s needed.
 
And don't forget to mulch with shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic material.  Mulching helps keep the soil cool and moist, reduces weeds and adds organic matter to the soil as it decomposes over the season.
 
A bit more information: Most gardens benefit from an inch of water each week.  Monitor rainfall with a rain gauge and supplement as needed. Apply needed water in one application to heavy soils. Make two applications of 1/2 to 3/4 an inch of water in sandy soils.  Remember to let the weather and plants, not the calendar, be your guide.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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The Edible and Ornamental Chokeberry (Aronia)
Though chokeberry is not an appetizing name, this four season beauty is making a big impact in edible and ornamental gardens.

Include this beauty in your landscape. Hardy in zones 3 to 9 it prefers full sun to part shade and tolerates moist and even wet soils. The white flowers appear in spring and glossy green leaves turn a beautiful crimson or purplish red in fall. The black fruit is edible and high in antioxidants and vitamin C. But nibble on just a berry or two as they are very tart and astringent. Or use the fruit for jams, baked goods and wine.
 
And if the flavor is a bit much for you, just wait and the birds will eventually feast on the fermented fruit in late winter.
 
Use these edible beauties as informal hedges, in mixed borders or rain gardens. Viking is a popular cultivar grown for its large black fruit and compact size.
 
A bit more Information: Chokeberries can be slow to establish, so be patient. The red chokeberry has similar flowers, fall color, but red fruit instead of black. Brilliant is an outstanding cultivar with waxy leaves, more fruit and excellent red fall color. Visit the Midwest Aronia Association’s website for recipes and more.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Easy to Grow Houseplant - Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior)
Looking for a tough as nails houseplant? Consider the cast iron plant.

This unassuming houseplant tolerates low light, temperature extremes and irregular watering. It is also known as saloon plant because it was often found growing in the dark corners of bars.
 
You may have to do a bit of research to find a local source. Most garden centers only sell the straight species with solid green leaves that grow about 2 to 3 feet tall. The variety ‘Variegata’ has white stripes while ‘Ginga Minor’ has yellow spotted 15 inch long leaves.
 
Cast iron plants produce one long strappy leaf on each short stem that arises from the soil. Propagate new plants by dividing older clumps into several smaller sections.
 
Although most people know it as a houseplant you will find cast iron plant used as a groundcover in southern landscapes.  And some claim success growing this plant outdoors year round in southern New Jersey.
 
A bit more information: So consider adding a cast iron plant to your indoor décor. Though the flowers are small, brown and not real showy, you’ll get a little greenery with minimal care. Check on-line sources if you are having trouble finding this or its more decorative cultivars at your local garden center.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Lime Tree Birth Tree for March 11 to 20
Lime Tree Birth Tree for March 11 to 20
 
If you were born between March 11th and 20th your birth tree is the Lime tree. You are said to be intelligent, hard working, hate fights and stress and can be jealous, but extremely loyal.
 
Now before you go out and invest in a citrus plant, consider that lime is the common name for Linden in the British Isles. This group of trees is also called basswood and Tilia.
 
Basswoods grow in zones 3 to 9, generally prefer full sun to part shade and moist soils.  They produce fragrant yellow flowers in summer that the bees enjoy. In fact, basswood honey with its floral scent and complex flavor is considered one of the best in the world.
 
Large linden varieties make great shade trees, while smaller ones have been used as street trees, pruned into hedges or planted along walks and roadways to create allees in the landscape and public spaces.
 
A bit more information: Lindens also have great fall color. The leaves turn a beautiful yellow in fall. The common name lime is supposedly an altered form of lind. And the word linden originally was used as an adjective meaning “made from lime-wood”.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a Bit of Greenery
Add a bit of greenery to your St Patrick’s Day celebration with a green or purple leaf shamrock plant. You’ll find them in garden centers, florists and even grocery stores.

Grow these holiday plants in a bright location to keep them blooming and growing. Water thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil slightly moist, but not wet.
 
Newly purchased plants do not need fertilizing for several months. Use a dilute solution of any flowering houseplant fertilizer if your plants are actively growing and in need of a nutrient boost.
 
And don’t be alarmed when your plant starts to yellow and dry. It is normal for these plants to go dormant for a short period. Reduce watering frequency as the leaves start to yellow and dry. Place the plant in a cool dark location until new growth begins. Then bring it back into the sunlight, start watering and enjoy the show.
 
A bit more information: The original shamrock plant was likely a white clover. It symbolizes the arrival of spring, the season of rebirth.  St. Patrick is said to have used the Shamrock plant when he spread the word of Christianity in Ireland. He used the three leaves to symbolize the Holy Trinity, the father, the son and the holy spirit.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Sweet and Tasty Homegrown Carrots
Grow the best crop of carrots yet with proper selection, timing and care.
 
Select carrot varieties known for their sweet flavor. Dantes, Little finger, Short ‘n Sweet, Sweetness, and Tendersweet are just a few to consider.

Be sure to plant carrots early in the season for an early summer harvest, midseason for a fall harvest or fall for a winter harvest in milder climates. Carrots grow best and have the highest sugar content, giving them the sweetest flavor in cooler temperatures.
 
Proper care will also improve the appearance and flavor. Be sure to water carrots and other garden plantings as the top few inches of soil feels moist, but crumbles in your fingers. Thin carrot seedlings to provide space for the remaining plants to grow to full size.  Try several different varieties to see which tastes best to you and your family.
 
Grow short or half longs if you are gardening in heavy or rocky soil. You’ll have fewer misshapen carrots.
 
A bit more information: Little Finger baby carrots are 5 inches long and ½ inch thick. These golden orange carrots are sweet and crisp and ready to eat in 65 days. Nantes Sweetness is a bit longer and thicker but still sweet and crunchy and matures in 63 days.  Tendersweet Imperator is a long carrot with a tapered root. The orange carrot is coreless and sweet and ready to eat in 75 days.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Gardening on a Budget
We are all looking for ways to make our dollars go further. And that includes landscaping and gardening projects.
 
Buy smaller plants and space them properly. You will be amazed how quickly they will grow and fill the available space. Use annuals or perennials to fill the empty spaces. You’ll need fewer annuals each year and the perennials can be transplanted to another garden when the trees and shrubs reach full size.
 
Start fast growing annuals from seed right in the garden. Marigolds, zinnias, cosmos, nasturtiums, moss rose and sunflowers are a few to try.
 
Always buy quality plants suited to the growing conditions. They require less effort to grow successfully and live longer.
 
Use available resources. Shred fallen leaves and use as mulch. Create arbors and wattle fences from tree and shrub trimmings. Use handles from broken tools for a trellis, old grill for a planter and leaky aquarium for a terrarium.
 
A bit more information: Join forces with friends and neighbors. Share the cost and use of a weekend rental of tillers, chippers and other infrequently used garden equipment. You’ll save money and avoid storage and maintenance issues involved in owning specialized equipment.
 
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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An Evergreen Harvest – Cooking with Spruce
A long time favorite in Europe, spruce shoot syrup and beer are gaining popularity in North America. The tender new growth of spruce, pines and firs were also used by Native Americans and early settlers for food and medicine.
 
For the best flavor, harvest the tender new growth as it emerges in spring. Remove the papery brown covering before eating or processing.
 
Use them fresh to flavor fish dishes, sauce or salad dressing.
 
Or try something simple like tea. Just dry the needles and brew into tea. Or create spruce vinegar with brown rice, vinegar and pine or spruce shoots. Just place the shoots in a glass jar, cover with brown rice vinegar, seal and let it age for a month.
 
Spruce shoots are also used to add the unique flavor to the Canadian martini.
 
Ask before harvesting spruce shoots from private and public property. And only use shoots from evergreens free of pesticides.
 
A bit more information: For more tips on harvesting and recipes click here.. And for more on the history of brewing and cooking with evergreen shoots click here. If you want to skip or give them a try before harvesting and preserving your own, you can find them for sale on-line at Forbes Wild Food.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Leaf Spot on Philodendron
Philodendrons have long been considered one of the easiest to grow – hardest to kill houseplants. But even these robust beauties can suffer from too much love and attention.
 
Don’t be embarrassed if you’ve killed this supposedly indestructible plant – many gardeners have. The most common complaints are yellow leaves with brown spots.
 
Leaf spot diseases are usually the culprit and improper watering the cause.
 
Take a close look at the container and your watering regimen. Make sure the pot has holes in the bottom for drainage.  No matter how good a gardener, it is impossible to provide exactly the right amount of moisture every time you water. 
 
Move your plant to a container with drainage holes if needed. For best results water this and most houseplants thoroughly whenever the top couple inches of soil feels like a damp sponge.  Pour off any excess water that collects in the saucer.  Plants sitting in water are more subject to root rot and leaf spot diseases. 
 
A bit more information: Reduce your work load and improve your plants’ growing environment by placing stones or marbles in the saucer.  The excess water can collect in the saucer while the marbles elevate the pot and plant roots above the water.  As the water evaporates it increases the humidity around the plant where it is needed.
 
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Narcissus, Daffodil or Jonquil, March & December Birth flower
Is it a Narcissus, daffodil or jonquil?  Whatever you call it, it is the birth flower of March and December.

The terms daffodil, narcissus and jonquil are often used interchangeably.  Narcissus is the botanical name for daffodils. Daffodil was the common name English speaking people gave to this group of plants. Jonquils are actually a type of daffodil botanically known as Narcissus jonquilla. They usually have 1 to 3 small fragrant flowers per stem. The leaves are more rounded than those of other daffodils.
 
And as birth flowers go the daffodil stands for devotion, unequaled love and the sun is always shining.
 
And if you invest in a celebration bouquet – be sure to keep these flowers in a vase all their own. The stems exude a thick sap into the water. The sap plugs the cut end of other flowers, preventing them from absorbing water.
 
A bit more information: Visit the American Daffodil Society’s website www.daffodilusa.org for sources and more information on the various types of daffodils.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to garden videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com.
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Harvest and Enjoy Edamame (Soy)
Get the best flavor and nutritional value from your homegrown edamame, also known as edible soybeans, with proper harvesting and care. Harvest soybeans when the pods are plump, green, rough, and hairy. Check frequently and pick when the seeds are fully enlarged, but before they get hard and begin yellowing. Waiting too long to harvest the seeds reduces the flavor and quality. Since the seed-filled pods usually ripen at the same time, you can pull up the whole plant and harvest the seeds from the pods, while sitting on a chair in the shade. Use them cooked or uncooked as a snack or as a fiber rich ingredient with other vegetables and meat dishes. Many gardeners eat them right out of the pod like peanuts. Boil or steam the pods for 4 to 5 minutes, cool under running water and pop the seeds out of the pods. Use immediately or freeze after cooking. A bit more information: These nutritious legumes help promote overall health, reducing the risk of high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Plus, the high fiber in soy helps fight colon and some other cancers. For more gardening tips, how-to 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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