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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.
 
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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