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The Garden Mix



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.
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.
 
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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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Build a Bee House
Convert scrap lumber into homes for native bees to raise their young. Native bees are important pollinators needed for plants to produce fruits, seeds and berries. Planting native flowers such as asters and beebalm and trees like lindens will provide food to help attract bees to your landscape and keep them healthy. Providing housing will also help attract these visitors to your garden. Drill holes into, but not through, any size block of untreated wood. The holes should be about 3 to 5 inches deep and 5/16th an inch in diameter for Mason bees. Insert straws into each hole to make cleaning easier. Paper straws are good for nesting but glass or plastic reduce the risk of mold formation. Mount the bee house on the south side of a fence or building. Keep your bees safe by eliminating the use of pesticides on or near the bee house. Better yet, use bee-safe insect control methods in your garden and landscape. A bit more information: No construction skills? Don't worry - you can use hollow stemmed grasses and reeds as the nesting cavities. Place these in a bucket or bundle them together to create a bee house. Click here for more information on building bee houses. . For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Blossom Drop and Fruit Rot on Vegetables
Don't let blossom drop and fruit rot reduce this season's harvest. A few adjustments in your garden care can help reduce the risk. Many vegetables will drop their blossoms when temperatures and soil moisture fluctuate. Extreme heat and cold nights can cause peppers to drop their blossoms and tomatoes to stop producing. Use floating row covers to keep things warm on cool nights or during heat waves wait for cooler temperatures for the fruit to form. Be sure to water thoroughly to encourage deep drought-tolerant roots. Mulch with shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic matter to keeps roots cool and evenly moist. Even soil moisture also insures the uptake of critical nutrients. A lack of calcium can cause blossom end rot on tomatoes and other fruit. Adjust your watering and mulching before reaching for the fertilizer. A bit more information: Products like Blossom Set will help with tomatoes, but not peppers. The fruit will be smaller, but at least you'll have some. This will not work with peppers since they drop their blossoms during extremely hot or cold temperatures. A few diseases can also cause fruit rot. Remove the squash blossoms as they wilt to reduce the risk of damage caused by these diseases. And be sure to mulch the soil to reduce the risk of soil born diseases from infecting blossoms and developing fruit. Melon and Squash Cradles from Gardener's Supply Company help elevate your fruit off the soil further reducing disease problems. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Controlling Ragweed, the Allergy Sufferers Nemesis
If you suffer from a runny nose, stuffed up sinuses and itchy or watery eyes, the culprit may be hiding under your shrubs, next to your flowers or along a nearby roadway. Ragweed is the main cause of allergy and pollen asthma in North America and Central Europe. Common ragweed is an annual with ferny leaves that flowers in August and September. Giant ragweed has larger less dissected leaves and can reach heights of 8 feet. Mowing and removal not only eliminates the pollen, but also the 30,000 to 62,000 seeds that each plant can produce. Removing one plant means thousands less to weed next season. Keep your lawn mown, gardens weeded and replant ragweed infested areas with native and ornamental plants suited to the growing conditions. Proper selection and soil preparation will help your desirable plants crowd out this weed. A bit more information: A single plant can release as much as one billion grains of pollen throughout one season. And that pollen can travel more than 400 miles. Enlist friends, families and neighbors in the cause. The more we control this pesky weed the better for us all. For more information, click here. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Leaf Browning, Scorch, on Hostas and Other Shade Plants
Brown leaf edges are common on hostas and other shade lovers when the temperatures rise or the sun is too intense. Brown leaf edges, known as scorch, occur when the plant loses more water than is available or faster than the plant is able to absorb. Reduce the risk of this problem by growing shade lovers like hostas in shady areas free of hot mid-day and afternoon sun. Add organic matter to the soil to improve the water-holding ability of fast draining sandy soils. Water the plants thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil slightly moist. Mulch the soil with shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic matter to keep the soil cool and evenly moist. Yes, I know, this also creates the perfect environment for slugs. If a slug problem develops, capture these slimy pests with beer in a shallow can. A bit more information: If slugs are a problem considering planting more slug-resistant hostas. These tend to have thicker leaves like the 2014 Hosta of the Year "Abiqua Drinking Gourd." For more information, listen to my audio tip on Eco-friendly Slug and Snail Control. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Sneak Some Zucchini on Your Neighbor’s Porch Night
Once again it's time to celebrate Sneak Some Zucchini on Your Neighbor's Porch Night. August 8th, National Zucchini Day, inspired Pennsylvania gardeners Tom and Ruth Roy to encourage gardeners to share their excess zucchini with neighbors. If you've grown zucchini you know it can create an abundance of fruit. Harvesting when the fruit is 6 to 8 inches long gives the best flavor and keeps the plants producing. So after you've enjoyed those first dozen or so zucchini on relish trays, stir-fried or in baked goods you may be looking for ways to "share" the harvest. After friends and family refuse your offering of this tasty veggie you may decide to join the fun and leave a few zucchinis on your neighbor's front porch. Just include a few recipes if you want to keep them as friends. Or better yet, take your surplus vegetables, zucchini and all, to a nearby food pantry. A bit more information: Many seniors and children benefit from the flavorful and nutritious surplus vegetables donated by generous gardeners. Visit Plant-a-Row for the Hungry's web site at or call 1-877-492-2727 to find a food pantry near you. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Love-in-a-Mist Flower Growing Tips
Add a little love and beauty to your garden with Love-in-a-mist. The fine foliage, white, pink, blue or lavender flowers and attractive seedpods provide season-long beauty. This annual grows best in full sun and moist well-drained fertile soil. The flowers float above the dill-like leaves on plants 15 to 24 inches tall and 12 inches wide. Harvest a few of the long-lasting flowers to enjoy in a vase. Remove the foliage as it tends to wilt much more quickly than the blossoms. And harvest a few of the seedpods to use in crafts and dried arrangements. Pick when the purple or bronze stripes are visible on the balloon shaped pods. Hang in a warm shaded location to dry. Love-in-a-mist is self-seeding. So once you have a plant growing and flowering in the garden, just leave a few seedpods on the plants, don't disturb the soil and you'll be rewarded with lots of new plants each year. A bit more information: This plant is known botanically as Nigella damascena. It does not transplant well. So buy new seeds or collect seeds from existing plants when you want to start this plant in a new location in the landscape. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Joe-Pye Weed for you and the Butterflies to Enjoy
Add some bold beauty and butterfly appeal to your garden with Joe-Pye Weed. This summer through fall blooming perennial is hardy in zones 3 to 9. It grows best in full sun to part shade and moist fertile soil. The leaves will scorch - form brown edges - if the soil is allowed to dry. So be sure to mulch with shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic matter to keep the soil consistently moist throughout the season. Joe Pye weed grows 5 to 7 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide. The leaves give off a hint of vanilla when crushed. The small purple or white flowers form large clusters known as panicles 12 to 18 inches across. If this sounds too big for your landscape, don't fret. Shorter varieties like Gateway at 4 to 6 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide and Little Joe at 3 to 4 feet tall and wide may work for you. A bit more information: The Chicago Botanic Garden recently evaluated the various Joe-Pye weeds and their relatives. They looked at plants as short as 17 inches and as tall as 90. See the results of their comparative study by clicking here. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Cutest Sibling Video EVER!
I can't even handle how cute this video is!!
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Great visit from Mom-Mom!
My Mother-In-Law’s been in town for the last 10 days, visiting from Phoenix.   There are 2 reasons that Mom-Mom came to visit:  to see her Grandchildren  and …to see her grandchildren!  Seriously!  That’s perfectly fine, we KNOW she loves us too!  Wait, make that 3 reasons…our house is spotless now too…THANKS MOM! I think we’ve shown Mom a great time during her visit.  Sarah and the kids took her to the Milwaukee County Zoo, then a pool day at Cool Waters and the last thing we did was Festa Italiana!  THAT was her favorite! Festa Italiana was AMAZING!  We went on Friday night and HOLY RICEBALLS!  And lasagna sticks!  And zucchini sticks!  And eggplant sticks!  And calamari!  And CHOCOLATE CANNOLIS!  SOOOO many great foods to eat, music to hear, things and people to see…was a great experience!  Can’t wait for next year! As always, THANK YOU for reading and for listening to 99.1 The Mix!  Hope you have a GREAT week!   -Mark Summers
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