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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 June 2014


Eco-friendly Control of Bean Beetles
Holes in the leaves of bean plants mean insects have moved in to share the harvest.  Don’t fret there are some easy ways to manage these pests.
Several insects can feed on bean plants and their pods. The bean leaf beetle, Mexican bean beetle and spotted cucumber beetle are the most common.
The bean beetle is ¼ inch long, yellow-green to red with four black dots on its back. High populations can devastate a planting. Cover plantings with floating row covers to keep the insects off. Firmly secure the edges to prevent the beetles from crawling underneath.
The Mexican bean beetle is a bit larger and can be yellow or coppery brown with 16 black dots. The immature stage, larvae, is orange or yellow, fuzzy and rather hump-backed. Remove and destroy any of the insects and their bright yellow eggs that you find.
A thorough clean up in the fall will reduce future problems.
A bit more information: The spotted cucumber beetle can also be found nibbling on your bean plants. It is long and narrow, yellowish green with black spots. Remove insects as found or use one of the more eco-friendly products like Neem, if needed.
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Start New Perennials from Root Cuttings
Expand your perennial plant collection or share a family heirloom with friends and family. Root cuttings of butterfly weed, bleeding heart and oriental poppies to start new plants to share.
 
Take root cuttings of most fleshy rooted perennials in late winter or early spring before growth begins. Wait until after the bleeding heart has stopped flowering and oriental poppies go dormant to make these root cuttings.
 
Start by raking the soil away from the base of the plant so that several roots are exposed.
 
Use a sharp knife to remove several roots. Cover the remaining roots and water the plant.
 
Cut the roots into 2 to 3 inch segments. Lay them on a well-drained potting mix, moist sand or other rooting media. Cover the roots and keep the rooting media moist but not wet.
 
New growth should appear in several weeks.  Young plants can be moved into the garden or container in a sheltered location.
 
A bit more information:  Division is the easiest way to start new plants. Simply use a sharp spade to dig the plant and lift it out of the ground. Use a sharp linoleum knife, drywall saw or two  garden forks to cut the original plant into several small pieces.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com

 
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Medinilla for Indoor and Outdoor Gardens
Add a bit of the tropics to your patio or indoor garden with a Medinilla Plant.
 
This Philippine native is a relative newcomer to the North American garden scene. It produces exotic pink flowers several times a year. The colorful buds slowly open and expand into a spike covered with pink flowers and bracts.
 
Grow your plant in bright light indoors or indirect sunlight outside. Water thoroughly whenever the soil just starts to dry. You’ll water less often in the winter.
 
Pour off any excess water that collects in the saucer or use a gravel tray to elevate the pot above the water. This will save you time and improve the growing conditions by adding humidity around your plant. 
 
Only fertilize actively growing Medinilla plants. Use a dilute solution of a flowering plant fertilizer whenever your plant needs a nutrient boost.
 
Keep plants indoors when outside temperatures are below 54 degrees F (12 degrees C).
 
A bit more information: Remove faded flowers as your Medinilla finishes blooming. Fertilize regularly as the plant produces new growth. Once stems are at least 10 inches long you can start the reblooming process. Move your plant to a cooler location with temperatures about 64 degrees F (17 degrees C). Continue to provide bright light throughout the reblooming process.  Move back to its original location once the buds are at least 1 inch long. For more information visit http://www.medinilla.ca/plant-care.html
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Eco-friendly Control of Asparagus Beetles
You wait all winter for your asparagus harvest and so do the common and spotted asparagus beetles.
 
These common pests of asparagus feed on the emerging stems causing browning, scarring and crooking of the stems.  Later in the season the larvae of the common asparagus beetle feed on the foliage.  Severe defoliation can weaken the plants.
 
Both beetles are about ¼ inch long and oval in shape. The common asparagus beetle is bluish black with cream-colored spots while the spotted asparagus beetle is reddish orange with black spots.
 
Start watching for these pests as soon as the asparagus peeks through the ground.  Remove and drop the beetles and their worm-like larvae into a container of soapy water.  Smash any of the eggs as soon as they are discovered.
 
Avoid chemicals as these also kill the parasitic wasp that helps control these pests. A little time controlling these insects means a bigger and better tasting harvest.
 
A bit more information: Control the weeds and you will also increase your harvest. Regular removal and mulching will keep annual weeds under control. Quackgrass and other perennial weeds require more persistence to remove these from the garden.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Cilantro
Add some flavor and potassium to your family meals with a bit of homegrown cilantro.
 
Plant transplants or sow seeds directly in the garden after the danger of frost has passed. Cilantro grows best in full sun, cool temperatures and well-drained soil. Gardeners in cooler climates can sow seeds every 3 to 4 weeks throughout the summer for continual harvest. Those with hotter summers will have the best results growing cilantro in the cooler temperatures of spring, fall and even winter in some areas.
 
Harvest the leaves back to the ground when they are at least 4 to 6 inches long. Only harvest a third of the plant to allow it to keep producing. After several harvests or as temperatures warm the plant will set seed. After the white flowers fade, green seeds appear and eventually turn brown. Harvest and use the seeds, they are the herb known as coriander, or allow them to drop to the ground and sprout new plants. 
 
A bit more information: The 2006 All American Selection Award Winner Delfino Cilantro has fine ferny foliage. It branches freely, producing more leaves to harvest and enjoy. Plus, it tends to form flowers and seeds later than other varieties.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Pick a Bit of Purslane for Your Salad
Put down the weeder and break out the harvest basket. The weed you are trying to kill may be a tasty addition to your salads and sandwiches.

Purslane is an aggressive annual weed that can be found anywhere from cultivated gardens to vacant patches of earth. It grows flat on the ground with thick succulent leaves similar to a jade plant. It spreads by stem pieces and seeds that can last for up to 40 years in the soil. You’ll see more of this weed during hot dry summers.
 
Harvest young plants and use the leaves fresh in salads and on sandwiches. Stir-fry, puree or steam the leaves and use it as a spinach substitute. Just don’t overcook as it gets a bit slimy.
 
Be sure to wash the plants before eating and only harvest plants growing in areas where pesticides, including weed killers, have not been used.
 
If you become a fan of purslane, consider purchasing the seed of varieties bred for better flavor.
 
A bit more information:  If you decide to control this weed, pull the plant before it goes to seed. Then mulch the soil with a one to two inch layer of shredded leaves or evergreen needles to help prevent the seeds from sprouting.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Plant Bee-Friendly Plants for National Pollinator Week (June 16-23)
Celebrate National Pollinator week June 16th to 23rd by adding a few new bee-friendly plants to your garden. Both our native bees and the honeybees are important to our gardens and food supply.
 
Borage is an annual herb that grows 24 to 36 inches tall and is topped with beautiful blue flowers. It can be used for seasoning meat, the flowers can be candied and the leaves are steeped to make tea.

Calendula also known as pot marigold thrives in full sun and cooler temperatures. The bees will enjoy the nectar and you can harvest the white, yellow or orange flowers for cooking in soups and stews.
 
Goldenrod is not the cause of hayfever, but is a favorite of bees and other beneficial insects. The bright yellow flowers combine nicely with asters for a beautiful fall display.
 
And put away the pesticides. These products can kill the good insects as effectively as the bad guys.
 
A bit more information: Further help the bees by providing the raw materials they need for nesting. Leave a few small brush piles, dried grasses, reeds and deadwood for the wild bees. Or invest in one of the bee houses or beneficial nesting boxes like those available at Gardener’s Supply.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Gift Ideas for Father’s Day

Looking for the perfect gift for dad? Consider the gift of time.
 
Help him enjoy gardening more or reduce time spent gardening, so he has more time to fish, golf or just relax under a shade tree.
 
Look for tools that make dad’s job easier and fun. Convert an old snow sled into a nifty plant sled. Add a longer secure rope so he can drag heavy items across the lawn.  Or maybe that old wagon can be painted and find a second life as a means of moving watering cans and bags of mulch around the landscape.
 
Buy a stand-alone tool caddy or one that wraps around a five gallon bucket. Fill it with a hand pruner, Dee Weeder, pair of gloves or any of those small gardening tools that seem to disappear when needed.
 
And add a garden journal where he can not only record his garden successes, but also his secrets to share.
 
And don’t forget to offer your time to help him with weeding, mowing or whatever garden chore he least enjoys.
 
A bit more information: Here are a few other projects that will help dad be organized and save time in the garden. Purchase a plastic container with a lid for all of his seeds. Organize seeds alphabetically, label with dividers and take inventory. This way he can store seeds in the fridge to maintain their viability, quickly find seeds he needs and reference the inventory when seed shopping at the garden center or from a catalogue.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Caring for Bromeliads

Looking for an easy indoor flowering plant? Try adding bromeliads to your collection.

These long blooming beauties require minimal care. Many bromeliads are epiphytes, naturally growing on trees and gathering nutrients and water from the environment, not by parasitizing the plants they live upon. You will find bromeliads at garden centers and florists mounted on boards, rocks or growing in well-drained potting or orchid mix.
 
Water the plants often enough to prevent the roots from drying out. Those bromeliads with a rosette of leaves that form a vase or tank absorb the water more efficiently through their leaves. So be sure to keep water in the leaf “tank” to keep these thriving.
 
Fertilize actively growing plants during the growing season with a dilute solution of flowering houseplant fertilizer. Once the flowers fade, the parent plant begins to decline. Don’t worry - new plants will soon appear.
 
A bit more information:  Divide and repot the young plants that form as the parent plant declines. Once these plants reach maturity they can be forced to flower. Place a piece of an apple and the plant in a sealed plastic bag for three days. Remove and wait for flowers to form.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Contrast Colors and Texture to Add Pizzazz to the Garden

Is your garden looking a bit drab? It’s time to liven things up with a few new plant combinations.  

Pair plants with opposite features to create a focal point and add a bit of pizazz to the landscape.
 
Start with color. Pairing plants with colors on the opposite side of the color wheel is sure to grab your attention. Blue salvia and yellow coreopsis, purple heliotrope and orange blackberry lily are just a few examples.
 
Look for opportunities to add some interesting textures. The fine leaves of ornamental grass are great against the bolder leaves of Canna. Or, mix Russian sage with your coneflowers.
 
And look for interesting and contrasting forms. Plant tall spiky speedwells next to round flowered zinnias or set a squatty round birdbath in front of a stand of tall hollyhocks.  These contrasting combinations emphasize each partner’s unique features.
 
A bit more information: The same design strategy works in the shade.  Combine the yellow daisy flowers of Leopard’s bane with the spiky blue flowers of Camassia. Or try mixing Japanese Forest grass (Hakonechloa) in front of a big blue leafed hosta
.
For more ideas on design strategies, click here.  
 
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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National Gardening Exercise Day
It’s National Gardening Exercise Day, so get out and workout in your garden today!
 
Whether you have a large landscape, small city lot or garden in containers, indoors or out, you will burn calories, lower your blood pressure and improve your mood through gardening.
 
Plus, you will be nurturing beautiful flowers for bouquets and fresh fruits and vegetables for your dinner table.
 
No garden? Then plant one. Consider planting a pot of your favorite grilling herbs to grow right next to the grill. Or plant a pot or patch of black and blue salvia, cuphea, also known as cigar plant, and fuchsias to bring hummingbirds to your garden.  And don’t overlook the benefit of growing tomatoes and peppers in a garden or container. They provide lots of vitamins and antioxidants – a perfect complement to your garden workout.
 
Make sure to follow a sensible routine, just like your workout at the gym.
 
A bit more information: Warm up with slow gentle motions. Then ramp up your garden workout with a few lunges as you weed. And be sure to finish gardening with some gentle stretches and slower movement.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Grow Your Own Chocolate – Chocolate Mint, That Is!
Add some chocolate to your diet and garden without adding all those calories.

Chocolate mint is an easy to grow plant with a strong minty fragrance and flavor topped off with a hint of chocolate. It makes the perfect garnish for desserts and as an ingredient in tea, ice cream, mojitos and anything chocolate.
 
Like most mints this is an aggressive plant. Grow it in a pot on your patio, deck or porch to keep it accessible and contained. Place your pot of mint in full sun or partial shade. It prefers cool moist soils, but as most gardeners have discovered, it tolerates a variety of conditions.
 
Harvest leaves and sprigs of your chocolate mint as needed throughout the season.  Don’t be timid - the more you harvest the more new stems and leaves will be produced. This fresh new growth has the best flavor.
 
Store sprigs of fresh mint in a glass of water or dry and wrap in plastic in the refrigerator.
 
A bit more information: Make larger harvests for drying and freezing just as the flowers begin to appear. You’ll get the greatest concentration of flavor. Larger harvests will not weaken the plant. Watch for fresh new growth and continue to harvest as needed.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Celebrate Rose Month – Eat Your Roses
The from-the-garden-to-the-table movement is not just about fruits and vegetables. Edible flowers like roses can provide beauty in a vase or on your dinner plate.
 
Rose petals are edible fresh in a salad, seeped in tea or cooked into jam and bakery.  The flavor varies with the variety and weather conditions, but you may taste a hint of strawberries or green apples when munching on a rose petal.
 
Harvest petals from recently opened flowers. Remove the individual petals and cut out the often bitter portion at the base. Spritz the petals with water to wash off bugs and dust. Pat dry then use fresh or dry for future use.
 
Make sure no pesticides have been applied to or near the plants and that they have not been exposed to roadside pollutants.
 
Leave some flowers on the plant to enjoy and develop into fruit that is decorative, edible and high in Vitamin C.
 
A bit more information: Harvest rose hips when they are fully colored, and better yet, after a light frost when they are sweetest. Use to make tea, candy, sauce, jams and jellies.
 
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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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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