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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 May 2014


Grow a Pizza Garden
Add a little fun and flavor to your landscape this summer with a pizza garden. You can grow almost all the ingredients, except of course the cheese, sausage and anchovies, in your vegetable garden, amongst your flowers, or even in containers. And add to the fun by planting the ingredients in the shape of a pizza pie or just a slice.

You’ll want a Roma tomato or two for the sauce and as one of your toppings. Include a few green peppers, hot ones if you like a little heat, onions and any of your other favorite vegetable toppings.
 
Don’t forget the herbs. The low growing perennial oregano and upright basil are flavorful additions.
 
Add some red leaf lettuce for the pizza sauce color and to make a side salad to serve with your homegrown pizza.  And don’t forget the cheese. Consider planting yellow marigolds around the edge of your pizza garden to give it that cheesy look.
 
A bit more information: You can also grow your pizza garden in containers. A low, wide washtub with drainage holes filled with dwarf vegetable plants would work great. Or use individual pots of vegetables grouped together to form your pizza or set within existing plantings.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Learn About Composting Day
May 29th is National Learn About Composting Day. Celebrate by starting your first or adding an additional compost pile to your landscape.
 
And don’t let a lack of space stop you. My friend Ellen composts in pots on the rooftop of her Manhattan condominium. She saves time hauling plant debris out and compost in by converting her garden debris into compost one pot at a time. It’s good for her garden, the environment and her busy schedule.
 
Keep it simple and you will do it. Place plant waste in a heap and let it decompose. It’s as simple as that. The more carefully you build the pile, turn and monitor, the faster you’ll have compost.
 
The key to success is only composting insect- and disease-free plant waste. No perennial weeds or annual weeds gone to seed and no meat, fat or dairy products that attract rodents.
 
A bit more information: Fancy bins help keep the pile contained and dress up the process. They can also help with keeping multiple piles of compost decomposing quickly. A three-bin composter allows you to collect material in one bin. Then create a compost pile with layers of green (high nitrogen) and brown (high carbon materials) in the second bin.  Once this pile reaches peak temperatures and begins to cool, it is turned over into the third bin. The process is repeated until composting is complete.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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From the Faucet to the Garden – Water for the Garden
No matter where you live we are all concerned about our precious resource – water. And whether you live in an apartment or you garden a large plot of ground – you can make a difference one bucket at a time.

Think of all the water that goes down the drain as we wait for our bath water to warm. Stick a 5 gallon bucket under the faucet to capture that fresh clean water. Remove when the water has reached the desired temperature.
 
Then, head out to the garden. Use this water for containers and moisture-loving plants. I know - it’s not the prettiest bathroom accessory, but with a bit of convincing and training you can get your family to help in the cause.
 
And don’t forget about the water dripping from your air conditioner or dehumidifier. This is great for outdoor gardens, containers and houseplants, especially those like spider plants, Ti and dracaenas that don’t like the chemicals in treated water.
 
A bit more information: Many communities are allowing gray water, water that’s collected from showers, washing machines and kitchen sinks, for use on ornamental landscapes.  Check with your local municipalities on related regulations before installing a gray water collection system.
A bit more information: Plant in clusters whenever possible. Groupings of several pollinator favorites are more attractive than single plants. But if space is limited you can still bring them in with a container planting or small space garden. For more information, click here.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Plant a Pollinator Garden
Give nature and your garden a helping hand this season by planting a pollinator garden.

Over 75% of the world’s flowering plants depend on bees and other pollinators to form seeds and fruit, that we eat, use for medicine and most importantly for the plants to reproduce.
 
Increase the number of pollinators visiting your garden by planting a variety of plants so you have flowers all season long. Include a variety of colors and shapes to attract a wide variety of pollinators. You’ll also enjoy the variety and long bloom your pollinator garden provides.
 
Use native plants suited to the growing conditions whenever possible. You’ll attract more pollinators and provide food for many of their offspring.
 
And skip the pesticides that can harm the very insects you are trying to attract. Use the pluck, drop and stomp method or wait for lady beetles, praying mantis, and nature’s other predators to take care of garden pests.
 
A bit more information: Plant in clusters whenever possible. Groupings of several pollinator favorites are more attractive than single plants. But if space is limited you can still bring them in with a container planting or small space garden. For more information, click here.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Simple Combination Attracts Goldfinches

 
What do cosmos and lettuce have in common? You can start them both from seed directly in the garden for you and the goldfinches to enjoy.

Sally Roth a frequent contributor to Birds and Blooms magazine shared this great combination.  One summer her lettuce had gone to seed. She soon discovered the goldfinches feasting on the seed.
 
This inspired the cosmos and lettuce combination that keeps her garden looking good and the goldfinches happy. She plants lettuce and cosmos together in her garden. She harvests the outer leaves of lettuce throughout the spring. As the cosmos grows it shades the lettuce, extending her harvest.
 
Once the heat of summer arrives and the lettuce bolts (or sets seed), the tall cosmos masks the view. The finches feed on the lettuce seeds and butterflies visit the cosmos. Once the cosmos sets seed the finches return for a late season feast.
 
A bit more information: Look for other unexpected bird and butterfly-attracting plants. You just may be surprised how many of these plants are already growing in your garden. For more bird and butterfly gardening tips and ideas from me visit http://www.birdsandblooms.com/melinda-myers/
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Time Vegetable Plantings for Greater Success
 
It’s all in the timing and that goes for planting vegetables.
 
The unusually cold winter, late spring as well as seasonal and long-term droughts have gardeners everywhere a bit anxious. One key to gardening success is timing your planting based on weather not the calendar.

Cool season crops can tolerate cool air and soil. The flavor is better and you’ll use less water if these are harvested before the heat of summer.
 
Warm season crops need warm soil and air to thrive. Waiting for the right temperature results in less transplant shock and faster seed germination. Beans and corn planted in cool soil are slow to germinate and more susceptible to root maggot.  Tomatoes and peppers planted too early can be stunted and your harvest delayed.
 
Use planting guides from your local extension service, along with the local weather forecasts and a soil thermometer to keep you on track when it comes to planting.
 
A bit more information:  Provide a bit of shade to extend the harvest of cool season crops. Gardeners in heat and drought stressed areas need to get their plantings in as soon as possible so the harvest can occur before the extreme temperatures of summer increase water use.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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A Low Maintenance Perennial Garden
 
You can have a beautiful garden and still have time to relax and enjoy it.
 
Roy Diblik just released his new book The Know - that’s KNOW Maintenance Perennial Garden. The idea is to group plants of similar needs and assertiveness into communities. This is the basis of any attractive low maintenance garden. But he pushes the limits of our imagination and creates unexpected and attractive combinations.
 
In fact, he provides sample combinations and the grids for planting. Find one that meets your needs and repeat to fill the space available.
 
He also provides low maintenance tips. Roy recommends using a long handled Dutch hoe. You’ll be able to weed in an upright position, reducing back stress and time spent weeding. Spring cleanup of larger perennial gardens is reduced to several passes with the mulching mower. The plant debris is left in place to improve the soil – just like in nature.
 
A bit more information:  Roy developed this method from years of growing, tending and designing gardens. He has created these durable gardens at private homes and public gardens like the Art Institute of Chicago or his Northwind Perennial Farm in Burlington WI.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Preventing Floppy Growth on Sedum Autumn Joy
 
Tired of floppy sedums? A little grooming and the right location can improve their appearance and decrease your workload.

Sedums, including the ever popular Autumn Joy, prefer full sun and well-drained soil. They tend to flop when grown in the shade and overly moist soil.
 
Move your plant to a sunny location with good drainage if needed. Add organic matter to heavy clay soil to improve drainage and increase your growing success.
 
Avoid high nitrogen fast release fertilizers that promote lush succulent growth more likely to flop. Use a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer, like Milorganite, if your plants need a nutrient boost.
 
If the plants still flop, it’s time to get out the pruners. Prune plants back halfway when they are 8 inches tall. Or pinch out the growing tips. This encourages more compact growth. The flowers will be smaller, but you’ll have more of them to enjoy.
 
A bit more information:  Early season pruning is a useful technique for encouraging more compact sturdier growth on many late season perennials. Russian sage, coneflower, asters and mums are just a few.
 
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Growing Vegetables During Drought

 
Don’t let seasonal or long-term drought stop you from gardening. A few changes in your gardening habits can help you conserve water while growing fresh produce in your backyard.
 
Grow just what you need and will use. You’ll waste less produce and water growing vegetables that never get harvested and eaten.
 
Be sure to plant in blocks or wide rows. Leave just enough space for vegetables to reach their full size.  The plants will shade the bare soil, helping to conserve moisture. And you will harvest more from less space.
 
Improve your soil and you’ll use less water. Add organic matter to increase the water holding ability in fast draining soils and improve drainage in heavy clay soils.
 
And use an organic mulch like shredded leaves or evergreen needles to conserve water, suppress weeds and improve the soil as they decompose.
 
Grow drought tolerant vegetables like amaranth, eggplant, chard, rhubarb, and asparagus. Look for varieties listed as drought tolerant.
 
A bit more information:  Position your garden in a sunny, but sheltered location.  Reducing wind flowing over the plants will reduce moisture lost through transpiration (evaporation of water from the upper parts of plants). And that means less water needed. For more information on drought tolerant plants click here.
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Managing Self-seeding Perennials
Self-seeding perennials can be considered a gift or curse.  Put these plants to work for you in your garden.
 
Self-seeding perennials like blackberry lily, phlox, columbine, hellebore and purple coneflower are notorious self-seeders. Keep this in mind when adding these plants to your garden.
 
Otherwise, allow their seedlings to develop into large masses for an informal look when space allows. Dig and divide when they outgrow their location.
 
Or use seedlings to fill in bare areas and to start new planting beds. Trade extras with friends or donate them to community groups or gardeners on a budget.
 
Still too many? Then deadhead heavy seeders to prevent them from setting seed and propagating more plants than you need.
 
And always eliminate invasive plants, those self-seeders that jump the bounds of the garden and take over nearby natural areas.
 
A bit more information: Those with limited time or an aversion to thinning may want to avoid these plants. Look for sterile cultivars of your favorite flower or those marketed to be less prolific.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Garden Workout
May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. And though gardening is not considered an Olympic sport, it is a great way to burn calories, increase strength and flexibility while creating a beautiful garden.

Start with gentle back stretches or light activities before digging, hauling and other more intense gardening activities. Once you get started gardening, alternate intense activities like digging with lighter activities like weeding. Mix up your gardening tasks to vary the muscle groups used. Prune a while, then plant, dig and rake.
 
Then take a break. Rest your muscles, admire your work and reassess what needs to be done next.  And be sure to drink some water and stay hydrated throughout your gardening workout.
 
Practice good posture and deep breathing as you garden. Keep your back straight and use your core muscles to extend your gardening time and avoid sore muscles. Invest in ergonomic tools for more pain-free gardening.
 
A bit more information:  Don’t let a bad back and sore knees stop you from gardening. Try raised beds or green walls for easier access. Invest in a garden bench, kneeler or other garden accessories that help ease the strain on painful joints.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Chemical-free Quackgrass Control
It seems to be everywhere – your garden, lawn and cracks in the sidewalk.  Quackgrass is that aggressive perennial grass that can quickly take over lawns and gardens.

Quackgrass spreads by a long white root-like rhizome.  Every piece of that rhizome that breaks off and lands in the soil can start a new plant. This makes control difficult. Cultivation with a hoe or tiller breaks up the rhizome resulting in more plants.
 
Twice monthly cultivation for at least one, preferably two, growing seasons can control this weed. You must be diligent or you will end up with more not less quackgrass.
 
Solarization is also an option. Remove your desirable plants. Check for and remove any quackgrass that may have infiltrated these plants. Edge the bed and cover with clear plastic for 6 to 8 weeks during the hottest part of the growing season. This is usually enough to cook the quackgrass and other weeds.
 
A bit more information:  Some of the new eco-friendly products use plant or soap based products to burn the tops of this and other plants. Unfortunately it will not kill the roots and rhizomes. Repeated use can eventually starve and kill the plant. But you must be more persistent than this weed. I find this strategy is fairly effective for controlling quack and other weeds in my walks and pavers.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Gardening on a Budget
Walking into a garden center filled with beautiful new varieties of plants is a temptation many gardeners succumb to. You can include some of the cool new plants in your landscape even when your plant budget is limited or you are trying to make it go further.

Add a few of the cool, usually pricier new plants to a container filled with less expensive favorites.  Or dig and divide some overgrown perennials. Use those with great foliage as fillers.
 
Shop with friends! It’s often cheaper to buy plants by the flat.  Buy in quantity and share the plants and the cost.
 
Start with smaller size plants or seeds. Perennials in quart size pots, trees and shrubs in gallon containers are cheaper. Just provide space for this small transplant to reach its full size.  Fill in the voids with annuals started from seeds. You’ll not only save money but, have fun watching the plants grow and fill in the space over time.
 
A bit more information:  Starting plants from seeds directly in the garden is not only economical, but can increase your selection. Just make sure the seeds you select will have enough time to grow and flower or fruit during your growing season.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Making Flavored Vinegars
Liven up your meals and extend your garden enjoyment with flavored vinegars. Gather glass jars and bottles free of nicks and cracks. Use non-corrodible metal or plastic screw on caps or new pre-sterilized corks. Wash and rinse thoroughly then sterilize the bottles by immersing them in boiling water for 10 minutes. You'll fill the bottles while still warm. Place 3 or 4 sprigs of washed fresh herbs in each container. Wash the herbs and blot dry. Then dip in a 1 teaspoon bleach and 6 cup water solution, rinse with cold water and pat dry. Heat the vinegar to about 190 degrees and pour over the herbs in your warm clean jars. Leave about ¼ inch of space between the vinegar and jar opening. Wipe the rims and attach the lids. Store them in a cool dark place. Allow to sit for 3 to 4 weeks, strain and rebottle. A bit more information: Don't stop with herbs. Try creating fruit flavored vinegars. For more details on this and safely preserving your garden harvest, click here. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Drying and Preserving Hot Chili Peppers
Don't let those hot chili peppers go to waste. Use them fresh, preserve or give as gifts. Chili ristras are not only decorative, but a traditional way of drying and storing hot red chili peppers for future meals. Create your own ristra with cotton string, red chili peppers and a series of knots to secure the peppers onto the string and eventually the twine. Or dry your peppers in a dehydrator or on a foil lined cookie sheet in the oven. Wipe the peppers clean and spread in a single layer. Speed up the process by slicing through the peppers or dicing into smaller pieces. The peppers are dry and ready for storage when they are dark red, shrunken, but still flexible. Thoroughly dried peppers can be crushed into flakes. Or try canning, freezing or pickling a few peppers to enjoy throughout the winter. And be sure to wear gloves and wash hands thoroughly when you're done. A bit more information: Always label peppers at harvest. Some hot peppers, like Hungarian half sharp peppers, look just like the banana pepper. Try using separate harvest pails or labeled plastic bags to separate the sweet and hot peppers. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Landscape Plans & Planting Records
Fading plant labels and disappearing tags can make planning and maintaining your garden a bit challenging. Avoid these frustrations by writing it down. Use a piece of paper and sketch out the shape of your garden. Don't worry about the artistic value or scale. Right now you just want to capture the general location and name of the plants in your garden. You can fine tune the design when time allows. Write the name of the plant at its approximate location. Or better yet use numbers for each plant and create a list to accompany the plan. You may want to record additional information about each plant such as where it was purchased, when it was planted and the like. If you still have the plant tags you may want to keep these for future reference. Place them in a page protector or container or attach them to the garden map. A bit more information: Put your cell phone camera to work. Use it to take pictures of your garden, plants and tags throughout the season. It is a convenient way to record the information while in the garden. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Tips for Proper Tree Planting
Fall is a great time to plant trees. Follow these important planting tips to insure the health and longevity of your plants. Make sure the root flare, the place where the roots flare away from the trunk, is at or slightly above the soil surface. Dig the planting hole the same depth as the distance between the root flare and bottom of the root ball. Digging deeper can result in the soil settling and creating a water collecting depression around your tree. Roughen the sides of the planting hole to avoid glazed soil that can prevent roots from growing into the surrounding soil. Water thoroughly whenever the top 4 to 6 inches of soil are crumbly and slightly moist. Spread a 2 to 3 inch layer of wood chips over the surrounding soil. And pull the mulch away from the trunk of the tree to prevent rot and disease. Wait a year to fertilize your newly planted tree. A bit more information: No need to stake most newly planted trees. Staking should only be done for bare root trees, trees with large canopies and small root balls, and those exposed to high winds. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Every now and then I watch "Ted Talks" on YouTube. I came acoss this post and I wanted to share it...call it my "Monday Motivation!"
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Colorado Blue Spruce
Colorado blue spruce are a favorite tree of many gardeners. Their bluish green needles and pyramidal shape are a nice addition to the landscape. But several diseases can kill branches and distort their beauty. One such disease is Needle cast. It's usually not deadly, but it ruins the beauty and screening value the trees provide. Promptly remove and destroy infected branches to help slow the spread of this disease. Disinfect your tools with a one part bleach and nine parts water or 70% alcohol solution between cuts. Make sure your trees receive sufficient water during dry periods, mulch the soil and give them plenty of room for light and air to reach all parts of the plant. Copper containing fungicides are listed as effective against needle-cast and some formulations are considered organic. Proper timing and thorough coverage are critical for effective control. A bit more information: One of the other common disease problems on blue spruce is cytospora canker. There is no effective chemical control. Removal of diseased branches, mulching and proper watering can minimize the damage. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Moss in the Lawn
Moss gardens are a beautiful trend in the gardening world. But for many gardeners moss in the lawn and garden is a source of frustration. Moss, like other lawn weeds, is an indication of poor growing conditions. This unwanted plant thrives in shade as well as compacted, poorly drained, acidic soil. Correct the cause and you will eliminate the problem for years to come. Improve drainage and reduce compaction by adding several inches of compost or other organic matter to the top 6 to 8 inches of soil. Core aeration of the lawn can also help with compacted soil. Increase the light reaching the grass by having a certified arborist thin the crown of overhead trees. Only use lime if a soil test indicates your soil is too acidic. There are moss killers on the market, but if you don't eliminate the cause you will be fighting this weed for years. A bit more information: If it is too difficult or impossible to eliminate the cause of the problem, consider embracing moss as a part of the landscape. Many gardeners pay money for the very plant you are trying to eliminate. Add a few steppers for a walkway or add a few stones and call it a moss garden. Many gardeners in your situation have quit fighting the moss and embraced it as a groundcover. In fact, you will see moss for sale from several gardening sources. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Poor Garden Harvest
Blame it on the weather. This could be one cause for a poor garden harvest. Late spring frosts can damage the flowers preventing pollination. Cool wet weather reduces bee activity and extremely hot dry weather can also prevent flowering or cause blossom drop and all can reduce our harvest. But we also can be the culprit. Overfertilization promotes lots of leaves and stems and discourages or prevents flowers and fruits. Growing plants in too much shade can also prevent flowering and fruit production. Some plants need a male and female or two different varieties to insure pollination, fertilization and fruit production. Don't let all this dissuade you from growing your own produce. Just do a bit of reading and be sure to check the plant tags and seed packets when planning your garden and purchasing your plants. And if things don't work out – just blame it on the weather. A bit more information: Not sure if you have a male or female plant? Take a closer look at the flowers. Female flowers contain a swollen vase-like structure called a pistil. Male flowers have long, thin filament or pin-like structures called stamens. Some flowers are "perfect" and contain both the male and female parts. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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New Ways to Display Pumpkins
Fall is pumpkin time. Find new ways to display these fall favorites. Scoop out the inside and use it for a planter. Fill with potting mix - you'll have a biodegradable pot for the compost pile when finished - or set a planted container inside. Try an ornamental cabbage, short ornamental grass or trailing pansies like cool wave for a fun fall container. Or carve an opening in the side of your pumpkin after removing the center. Create a fall or Halloween display inside. Use faux moss, figurines and your imagination. Scoop out the insides of small pumpkins and use them for vases to create a fun fall centerpiece for your table. Or use them as soup bowls for butternut squash or your other favorite fall soup. Or leave them intact and set them in your container gardens to fill voids or add some fall interest to your plantings. And add a few to your indoor planters as well. A bit more information: Large pumpkins and squash make great additions to the fall garden. Set them in voids, in containers or on top of hanging baskets that are a bit thin on top. For more ideas, visit http://www.countryliving.com/crafts/projects/pumpkin-decorating-1009#slide-10 For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Plant Some Animal Resistant Bulbs this Fall
Don't let flower hungry wildlife stop you from planting spring flowering bulbs. Plant a few animal resistant bulbs in your garden this fall for added color and beauty next spring. Start off the season with a few minor bulbs. Winter aconite and snowdrops are some of the first bulbs to appear in spring. Mix grape hyacinths with daffodils to double your flower power and pop in some Siberian squills for a bit of blue in the spring garden. Try little Tommies, botanically known as Crocus tomassinanus. Garden catalogues claim and I have found them to be resistant to squirrels. Daffodils are well known for surviving hungry animals and now there are lots of new varieties to choose from. And don't forget to try some alliums you may know as ornamental onions. There are small and large flowered varieties and those that bloom in spring, summer or fall. A bit more information: Consider Camassia with blue flower spikes that resemble hyacinth, but tolerate partial shade. Snowflakes (Leucojum) Autumn crocus (Clochicum), Fritillaria and of course hyacinths are a few other animal-resistant bulbs. Southern gardeners need to select low chill varieties or use precooled bulbs if their winters are too warm for forcing spring flowering bulbs into bloom. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Making Flavored Vinegars
Drying and Preserving Hot Chili Peppers
Landscape Plans & Planting Records
Tips for Proper Tree Planting
Colorado Blue Spruce
Elizabeth Kay on National TV!
Elizabeth Kay on National TV!
Moss in the Lawn
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