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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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