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Garden garbage

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Garden garbage

I had a listener ask me why someone would put glass in their garden thinking that there must be a reason other than a garbage dump….

Well, turns out many people find all kinds of things in their yards as they dig to plant gardens.  Years ago I moved into a home on 5 acres that had been an old farmstead.  The house was gone and replaced in a different location but the garbage stayed.  We didn’t discover it till the following Spring having moved in just before winter.

That's me with a pile of barbed wire that was all through the woods

That’s me with a pile of barbed wire that was all through the woods

Iron in the lower left corner.  Bobcat clearing more garbage

Iron in the lower left corner. Bobcat clearing more garbage

While the vast majority of places never had THAT much junk, still many folks have found some pretty interesting items.  Also among the debris was broken pottery, cheap aluminum pie tins that the put bird seed in and never cleaned picked up!

This might be a little more than most folks would put in their yard!  Clever, though

This might be a little more than most folks would put in their yard! Clever, though

I talked with other gardeners who found way cooler stuff!  Many folks have turned their garbage in the garden it into a treasure hunt!  With an up-to-date tetanus shot (I highly recommend that), gloves, a shovel and determination these people are out there finding old pottery, childrens toys from 1800’s, pieces of farm equipment that they dig out and then display in their gardens!  Another gardener I know found an old bed frame and put that in her flower bed!

there is a use for broken glass!

there is a use for broken glass!

wheel barrow of flowers

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Rain chains

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Rain Chains

We got nearly 3 inches of rain overnight on Saturday/Sunday and as I walked out of the grocery store yesterday, it was a rainfall of mythic proportions soaking me within 3 feet of the door!  ;-)

So I’m feeling pretty good about talking rain chains….

very simple rain chain

very simple rain chain

A little research shows an abundance of these beauties to buy or you can make your own!  They look and SOUND wonderful as the rainwater follows the chain into a rain barrel or basin.  They come in a myriad of designs but you could easily make your own from left over copper tubing, aluminum pieces, old cowbells or whatever you may have laying around!   Terra cotta pots, old small metal colanders and the list goes on.  Talk about a cheap water feature!

rain chain terra cotta

For a tutorial on how to make the above terra cotta pot rain chain click HERE.  PS, use any color you want to paint them or none at all!  It’s your chain after all!

rain chain

First up – Choose where you want to put your chain.  Ideally it’s somewhere visible, maybe by your door or somewhere you can see from inside your home or near a garden.  Then, take down the downspout that’s there.  Measure the length from top to bottom so you know how long your chain needs to be.  By the way, make sure your gutters are secured well as the rain chains can be heavy and you may need to add additional gutter support.  You’ll need a gutter strap to attach inside the gutter opening at the roof line to secure the chain.

rain chain forks and spoons

Check out this easy tutorial from Michelle Kaufman and her Green-it-Yourself project on the fundamentals:

You can make this as simple as using curtain rings or as intricate as welding old spoons and forks for a unique design.  You’ll want to secure the chain at the bottom.  You can use a stake to secure it and place decorative rock around it OR you can hang it right into a rain barrel.

rain chain bottom

rain chain in a barrel

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Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Hummingbirds

The little garden jewel, the hummingbird, the bestower of Joy…

Hummingbirds have long been a part of traditional western cultures.  Their joy, tenacity and, in Caribbean cultures, the belief that they are your loved ones who’ve passed on, make them a delight in the garden.

Attract hummingbirds with:

  • Clethra
  • Azaleas
  • Cardinal flower
  • Heuchera
  • Helitrope
  • Salvia
  • Petunias
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Bee Balm aka Monarda
  • Honeysuckle vines
  • Trumpet Vine

Along with a myriad of other flowers, be sure to give them sugar water.  Use table sugar NOT koolaid, sugar substitute, jello or honey.  There’s no need to color the sugar water.

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Sugar water:  Mix 4 parts water to 1 part table sugar.  Boil it, cover it and let it cool.  It should last for 4 days before changing it.  You don’t want it to get moldy!

And then there’s this one!  This is my tattoo cover up.  The first one was in 1980 – the cover up was done in 2010…




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Vines for shade

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Vines for shade

Last week I talked about vines for trellises and I had some folks ask specifically for vines for shade.  So, here you are!  There is a caveat – all of these vines need some sun to flower.  Full shade will never do!

For fast growth and pretty, fragrant white flowers that last summer into Fall, there’s a vine called polygonum aubertii  or more commonly, Silver Lace.  I found it sold at Farmer Seed & Nursery in Faribault which has an extensive online catalog. I also found it at a local nursery and it was already getting quite large in it’s small container!

Silver Lace from Farmer Seed in Faribault

The reported spread varies from 20 to 40 feet with the possibility of growing 12 to 20 feet in the first year alone.  Then there’s the Dropmore Scarlet Honeysuckle Vine.

Dropmore Honeysuckle vine

It’s also a rapid grower and can handle light shade.  They grow up to 15 feet and flower from mid-spring through summer.  They’re fragrant and very attractive to Hummingbirds.

Virgin’s Bower is a native clematis that’s been growing in another Master Gardeners garden quite nicely.  Here’s more information from Minnesota Wildflowers.  The pictures are from their website.

Virgin's Bower clematis native

Virgin's Bower seedheads

It flowers from July through September and has some very interesting looking fruit.  As I gathered some research on this clematis, the hardiness varies widely.  I found places where it indicates a zone 2 hardiness, yet another area says zone 6.  Since it is most certainly growing well in zone 4, I would venture to say we’re good throughout the state.  I found this growing along a path and absconded with some seedheads that I used to decorate a terra cotta pot.

My artistic endeavor using virgin's bower flowers.  They're on the bottom left

My artistic endeavor using virgin’s bower flowers. They’re on the bottom left

Dutchmans pipe is a zone 4 vine used as a screen mostly.  It will grow in part shade and has huge heart shaped leaves with brownish purple pipe shaped flowers in early summer.

Dutchman's Pipe vine 2

There are several local nurseries that sell it.  Below is from Pahl’s market.   Dutchman's Pipe vine

For more information on vines of all kinds to grow a living screen check out this article from the University of Minnesota Extension.  Vines: Growing a Living Screen


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Weed blocking superheroes

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Weed blocking superheroes

Weeding not your bag?  Me either!  Although occasionally I find it cathartic, I prefer not to HAVE to do it.  How about some weed-blocking plants!  They pack a punch to knock out weeds, but they are invasive.

The samurai of weed blockers do so by shading weed seeds and not allowing them to germinate.  Here are just a few to get you started:

Lady’s Mantle is a great part shade plant and grows to about 18 inches tall.  Try a variety called ‘Thriller’.

This pretty groundcover, moss phlox,  likes full sun and is zone 2 hardy!  wow…

Liriope handles nearly any condition.  Plant in part shade in zone 4.

Creeping Jenny is another weed blocker that appreciates sun but will do fine in part shade.

Creeping Jenny

creeping jenny multiple

Sedum can be grown in sun to part shade and offers several cultivars.  I have green with red stems and little yellow flowers and also ‘red dragon’

sedum red dragon sedum

Snow-on-the-Mountain is a great weed blocker for shade.  This stuff can’t hardly be killed.

Snow on the Mountain for soundcloud

And yet one more…  Creeping thyme

Creeping Thyme

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Perennial weed whipping

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Perennial weed whipping

I enjoy an occasional weeding session, it’s cathartic.

Okay, he's actually trying to pull a beet out of the ground but you catch my drift

Okay, he’s actually trying to pull a beet out of the ground but you catch my drift

Annual weeds tend to be easier to pull out, it’s the perennial weeds that drive us crazy!  Those roots that break off in the soil will spread and make more!

When the weeds start winning, it’s time to break out the heavy artillery.

Choose a windless day, using a cheap sponge paint brush and a cool whip container of weed killer, paint the weeds leaves on both sides.  This will send the chemical through the plant into the root system killing the weed.

paint sponge

The other method is to use a gallon milk jug with the top and bottom cut out, place the jug over the offending weed and spray it with weed killer.

milk jug to spray weed

Major thing to remember – SAFETY first!  Use protective gear as indicated on the package and be very careful not to get the chemical on any plant you want to keep!

What is a weed

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What’s wrong with my plant?

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  What’s wrong with my plant?

We’ve officially crossed into summer!  Wahoo for that.  Of course, that means bugs (be it insect or disease) and weeds are coming in with abandon.  I think the toughest part of gardening is trying to figure out why a plant isn’t thriving!  Is it an insect, is it a disease, are my plants getting the nutrients they need?  Enough water, too much water?  Maybe this particular plant doesn’t like afternoon sun or one day you’re looking down on something that makes you go “eeewww, what’s that?”  I know enough to know that I will be forever learning.  Especially when it comes to diagnostics.

Rose sawfly damage

Rose sawfly damage

Here are some questions that a Master Gardener might ask of you to find out what’s wrong with your plant?

  • Exactly what kind of plant is it? (may sound easy but some folks don’t know)
  • Is it growing in the right conditions?  Are it’s requirements being met?
  • Compared to a healthy plant, what is wrong with yours?
  • If the leaves are brown or yellowed, are they crispy or flexible?
  • Do you see signs of insects?
  • Are there brown spots on the leaves?  If so, are they round or random?
Rose sawfly

Rose sawfly

Oftentimes there is more than 1 reason a plant is not doing well.  In trees, it can take years to show decline.  Weather conditions play a huge role in issues with large plants!

winter damage on pine

winter damage on pine

What’s Wrong With My Plant [University of MN Extension diagnostics]

Plant Disease diagnostic clinic [Cornell University]

And here’s a twist for you:

I had planted 3 lilacs in a row.  Two were doing great but the third one had 2 branches dying.  I could not figure out what was wrong.  Upon further research (getting down on the ground and crawling underneath it) I found that a white wire with flag used to identify a new planting (so you don’t mow it over) killed 2 branches of one of my lilacs.  Apparently “someone” got too close to the shrub with the weed whip and wound that wire completely around 2 branches essentially choking them to death.  It took about a year and a half to kill them.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of it!  This happened years ago when I wasn’t documenting so much!  ;-)

Chemical damage can also kill:

Imprelis damage on White Pine

Imprelis damage on White Pine

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Summer Solstice on Sunday

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Summer Solstice

Wahoo!  Sunday Funday is also Summer Solstice day this year!  Oh yes, and it’s Fathers Day too!  My own dad loved to grow tomatoes in buckets and had a banana tree plant that he dragged in and out of the house for years.  Drove my mom nuts!  ;-)

don't know who these people are but it's a cute photo!

don’t know who these people are but it’s a cute photo!

Happy Summer Solstice (on Sunday)!  I think those of us in the north enjoy this day more than most!  After our winters, summer never looked better!  Even with the humidity, rain and mosquitoes!

Sun comic

The Celts and Slavs celebrated the first day of summer with dancing, so cut loose and do the Happy Dance!

We’re beginning to enjoy some harvests from our vegetable gardens and taking advantage of Farmers Markets all over the state.  How DO they get those veggies so soon?  Well, some have greenhouses, others use what’s called High Hoops [University of MN].  They’re not very practical for most home gardeners but I’m sure thankful for the delightful veggies they produce!

Farmers market early season



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Rain gardens

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Rain gardens

Well, with the amount of rain we’ve had, this just seemed like an appropriate subject!  Minnesota is out of a drought!

A modest 1500 sq. ft. house on a small lot may produce 5,000 gals. of runoff from a 1 inch rain storm!  Holy cow, that’s a lot of water down the storm drain.

Rain garden for soundcloud

Rain gardens prevent much of that runoff allowing the water to soak into the soil, get cleansed as it passes down and then helps to fill our aquifers.

There are a couple of sites I suggest for complete information.  The University of Minnesota Rain Gardens and Blue Thumb.

Check out information on rain gardens in your city or county.  Many of them may offer some kind of assistance as well.

rain garden 2

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Little reminders

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Little reminders

Sometimes we forget that not everyone knows how to do things we’ve done for years.  In that spirit, today is about Little Reminders.

When planting containers:

  • Right Plant, Right Place (I know we talked about this but always a good thing to reinforce)
  • In container planting, mix perlite with your potting soil to lighten it and allow better drainage
  • Check out my Green Bite about adding a piece of plastic…
  • plant your purchase at the level it was growing in (most of the time)
  • remember to allow enough room to water your plant, don’t plant it at the top of the container – allow about 1 to 2 inches from the top
  • place your plants and tamp down, if you need more soil, add it and tamp again being sure not to bury the plant
  • In hot weather you’ll need to water those plants twice a day
Yellow lantana

Yellow lantana

Coleus, sweet pot vine, osteospermum


When planting perennials:

  • dig your hole at least twice as wide as the plant’s temporary pot – the reason being to allow the roots an easier time growing into the soil.  IF you’ve already prepared the planting bed (adding compost) then the soil should be fluffy enough that you don’t have to dig a hole that big, just enough for the plant to fit in!
  • plant your transplant at the same level it was in the pot it came in (unless there’s more soil on TOP of the container it’s in)
  • be sure to loosen the plant gently out of it’s container – place it on it’s side, tap the sides, make sure any roots coming out the bottom aren’t going to “catch” and pull the plant out
  • make sure you water that dry plant before filling the hole with soil
  • tamp down the soil with your hand or a tool, gently.  This takes out air pockets that may make your plant sink too deep
  • if the roots of the plant are wound around itself, then unwind them and loosen them up.  This will allow the roots to spread more easily.  You don’t want them growing around rather than out, this will girdle the plant and potentially kill it
  • When placing your perennials, keep in mind their mature size and space accordingly
  • And be sure to keep a close eye on your new plantings for the first month in particular
  • bareroot plants should be soaked 24 hours before planting

perennial bed 2

more perennial elements

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