• GardenBite@Facebook • GardenBite@Twitter

It’s shopping day! Gardener gifts

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show:  It’s shopping day!  Gardener gifts

Yesterday we packed our bellies, Today we’re packing shopping bags!

What do you get for the gardener in your life, or since you’re likely the gardener, what do you ask for?  OOOO boy, I want almost every plant I see!  But that would require a much larger lot!

One of my favorite tools in the garden beside really good gloves is a garden fork.  Shovels are great for digging holes but the garden fork allows you to dig up plants, shrubs and trees with minimal damage to the roots.  It’s easier to use and definitely kinder on your back! Look for a garden fork with 4 rigid tines placed fairly close together, it will have more strength.

This one even has an optional foot pad

It’s not cheap but it’s pretty darn nice!  Garret Wade

Fermentation is big this year.  I’ve seen classes listed at local libraries and garden clubs.  The benefit of fermented vegetables is the introduction of beneficial bacteria into your digestive system and the balance they offer which aids in the absorption of nutrients. That said, let’s shop equipment.  You can find a fermentation set for as little as $30 or authentic stoneware crock with weights for $80.  You can also pay more if you like!

There are numerous ways to make fermented vegetables.  Check out Make Sauerkraut! for A LOT of great information on fermenting.

Books are another great gift for the gardener.  For those who gardener in the cooler zones, I highly recommend Mary Schier’s book, The Northern Garden from Apples to Zinnias.  This one is hot off the presses and packed with 150 years of wisdom for cold-climate gardeners.  I just interviewed Mary, who is a delight, and will have more on her book in future Garden Bites.

There are a lot of folks with small spaces so consider giving them containers.   Google it and you’re head will spin with options from the Amazing to the 5 gal bucket!

For those who are concerned about bees, what about buying an Urban Bee House?  Again, there are a bzzillion of these to choose from!  Every garden center is now offering them.



No Comments

Happy Thanksgiving from Garden Bite

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show:  Happy Thanksgiving from Garden Bite

May your home and your belly be full today!  And your heart too!

This is my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner…

Mom's pumpkin cake dessert

Mom’s pumpkin cake dessert

The recipe is in my Recipe tab.

If you grew ornamental grasses, now’s the time to bring them indoors, put them in a vase with some red-twigged dogwood.  If you have berries still clinging to your trees or shrubs, use them as part of a centerpiece.  Just don’t eat them!!

Mountain Ash berries – some are more orange


Calamgrostis grass




Lay some pinecones and gourds in a ceramic dish and you’ve got a centerpiece.  We’re not Martha Stewarts, at least I’m not!, but we can still create some fun stuff right out of our own back yards.

pinecones-gourds-berriesWhatever you do, enjoy each moment, there won’t be another exactly like it.  If you have an abundance, perhaps you could give to a local foodshelf.

Look for the things to be thankful for and you will most certainly find them!  God bless you and yours from me and mine.



No Comments Tags:

Christmas tree selection

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show:  Christmas Tree selection

In my family, we always waited till after my brother’s birthday, Dec. 10th, to put up the Christmas tree.  Not a bad thought when you’re planning on a real tree.  HOWEVER, the local nurseries and big box stores have them out and I witnessed a tree on the roof of someone’s car last weekend!  Let the season begin!

There are lots of types of trees to choose from depending on what you like and whether you have heavy ornaments.  The White Spruce is probably the best known “Christmas Tree” for it’s short, sturdy needles and symmetrical shape.  This one can definately handle heavy ornaments or a “loaded” tree!  (something my sister definitely needs!  She’s saved every ornament her kids made or gave her and that been decades!  ?  )

White spruce

White Spruce tree

White Spruce tree

For fragrance, Balsam and Fraser Firs are the 2 most aromatic.

Balsam Fir needles

Balsam Fir needles

Another fragrant tree is the White Pine that also has good needle retention albeit the needles are longer and softer.

White Pine tree

White Pine tree

White pine needles

White pine needles

The Minnesota State tree, the Norway Pine is known for good needle retention also. I love these 2 types for their soft looking needles.   The Colorado Spruce is lovely for it’s blue/green color and ability to hold heavy ornaments.

Colorado blue spruce needles

Colorado blue spruce needles

For more information check out the National Christmas Tree Association.

We’ll talk more about the CARE of your real tree coming up.

Norway pine needles

Norway pine needles



No Comments Tags:

The unwanted houseguest – Mice

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show:  The unwanted houseguest – Mice

From bats to mice, every creature wants a warm place to hang out and your home is a haven.  It’s the time of year when you may hear the pitter patter of small creatures about your house.  I don’t mean the kids!

Oh sure, he looks cute but the destruction and, egad!, waste left behind by these little creatures is NOT something you want in your home.  Some facts about mice:

  • as cold seeps in, so do mice
  • gestation period is just 19 days
  • they can have 6 or more babies per litter
  • they can have 13 litters a year
  • that’s a minimum of 78 mice
  • where you find one, there are more
  • they will eat whatever you have on hand and use glue, paper, soap, anything to make nests
  • they can jump, swim and run up to 8 mph

The best way to catch them is with a snap trap using peanut butter, just make sure you don’t have curious pets or children that could have access to the traps!!  There are a myriad of mousetraps.  Here’s some information from VictorPest.

If you do, you can use a live trap – for those, sunflower seeds are the best bait.  Just remember, you’re going to have to dispose of them once caught!  I’m one of those who can “dispatch” them.  I don’t like to but releasing them will just mean they’ll get back in or go to your neighbors…

There’s always getting a cat!

Dino V

Hard at work!

No Comments Tags: , ,

Oriental bittersweet

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show:  Oriental bittersweet

Oriental Bittersweet is obnoxious.  This invasive weed will literally take over any native plants, smothering them.

Oriental bittersweet

Oriental bittersweet is an attractive vine that’s been used in holiday decorations, and other crafting items, for years because of the beautiful fruiting branches which have red berries and yellow fruit capsules spread along the stem. However, these same persistent berries that make wreaths delightfully charming easily spread the seed of this terrible invasive.

Oriental bittersweet is an ecological threat to forests, grasslands, and parks. The vines twine around trees, girdling them in a snake-like fashion. Though it prefers forest edges and sunlight, Oriental bittersweet can grow in forest understories, eventually reaching forest canopies, shading the trees and understory and preventing native plant species from flourishing.

Vining over native vegetation

Notice how the vines below are literally embedded in the trees….

Oriental bittersweet vines strangling a tree

Burnsville, MN

Infestations can become so thick that wildlife, such as deer, can have difficulty navigating through wooded areas filled with it.

This is not our native American Bittersweet!

The seeds of Oriental bittersweet are easily dispersed, and are commonly spread when birds eat the fruit or people dispose of craft or floral arrangements in compost and brush heaps. Reproduction also occurs through vegetative root suckering.

Check out more information on the vine and what to do about it from the Wisconsin DNR and the University of MN Extension

More interesting information on The Spruce


No Comments Tags:

Keeping the birds around

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show:  Keeping the birds around

As I write this, big fat snowflakes are falling and I’m watching the birds flock to feeders.

I touched on types of food and feeders that certain birds like a couple of weeks ago on Garden Bite.  I want to expand a bit on that subject today.

When you buy seed mixes for the birds, be sure to look closely at the package.  If you’re going to spend the money, you want to know you’re getting quality goods.

Some cheaper stuff is loaded with wheat, empty hulls and small sticks.  Put that package down and go for packages with more cracked corn, sunflower seed and peanut hearts.

Make your own little bird feeders with the kids. There are tons of ideas online.  In fact, when I googled it, over 28 million results showed up!  I don’t think there are that many ways to make a birdfeeder but if you want to sift through all of that, go for it!

In the meantime, the easiest are Pinecone feeders.  Grab some peanut butter, mixed seed, wax paper, string and pinecones.  Spread the peanut butter inside any openings, all round the center and bottom of the cone, filling up any spaces.  Put the bird seed on the wax paper and roll the cone in it.  Measure your string to hang from a branch where you can see it and out far enough to hold back the squirrels (at least for a while!) and then tie to your pinecone.


You can do this with oranges too.  Cut the orange in half, eat the goodie inside and then, using a nail, poke 2 holes near the top on opposite sides.  You’ll put a string through the holes making a little handle.  Load your orange half with peanut butter and seed mix then tie another string to the handle you made and hang it from a branch the same as you did the pinecone!

Check out the Crafty Crow for ideas!

No Comments Tags: ,

Recycling greywater

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show:  Recycling greywater?

It’s pretty clear that our world is changing in many ways.  One of the great changes is in the way we’re teaching our kids about recycling, reusing and reducing.  We’re also moving ever closer to taking better care of our natural resources.  One idea that I find interesting is something called recycling greywater.

First let’s define it, greywater is your homes waste water… no, not THAT waste water.  Toilet water and food preparation water (your kitchen sink) is called black water and must be treated before it can be reused.  However, the water that’s drained from your bathtub, sinks, shower and washing machines is called greywater.

Diverting this water to use in your landscape has a lot of potential benefits.  It conserves resources, recycles water on site and reduces the volume of water entering waste water treatment facilities.

Before doing this – you must check with your local water utility company to make sure it’s okay to do so.  There may also be some plumbing regulations as well.

You can do it yourself by draining your washer into buckets OR you can buy a do-it-yourself kit OR you can hire a company to replumb your appliances.


This website, Greywater Irrigation, is maintained by a man named Carl Lindstrom.  I don’t know him but I believe he has some interesting information.  I direct you here as he offers a lot of information that you may find quite useful.

This site, Greywater Action, is also filled with some great information showing different kinds of systems for different applications.

No Comments Tags:

Indoor compost stuff

Click below to listen to my 2 min Garden Bite radio show:  Indoor compost stuff

I’m not much for trudging out to the compost bin in winter.  So, I wanted to make sure I had a good collection before I put on my Sorels and snowmobile suit to head out to the pile.

Gigi preferred to play

I wasn’t sure about those compost buckets that sit on your countertop.  I was pleasantly surprised at how great they work and that they don’t stink like I thought they would!

I had a stainless steel bucket I bought for cheap at a local big box store that worked just fine.  But then I saw really cute ones that add to your decor!  Who’d a thunk it!  I suppose that may be subjective to your idea of cute!  ?  I have the white one, it’s matches my white cupboards.


Compost pails from Gardener’s Supply

There are numerous styles to choose from.  You can find them in many places but I went online and checked out Gardener’s Supply.

Not only can you pack in your coffee grounds, eggshells, onion skins and pepper innards, but you can also compost pet rabbit and hamster droppings, lint from your dryer and spent flowers.  Get a full container, then head out to the compost pile!

And then there’s this….  I’m not quite sure what to make of it but thought I’d throw it out to you!  Biovessel


I found another very interesting indoor composter for small spaces such as apartments or urban living.  It’s a prototype of the product, they haven’t gone into production but it IS interesting.  The product is called Zera Food Recycler.


No Comments Tags:

Winter shrub care and salt tolerant suggestions

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show:  Winter shrub care and salt tolerant suggestions

Piling snow up to (not on top of) your shrubs is not a bad idea so long as you don’t send the kids out there without some supervision!  The reason?  Well, if you’ve ever been a kid, and I suspect you were, you know that worrying about damaging tender branches is not at the top of your brain.  More likely you’re trying to hurl the snow onto your little brother!  Heavy, wet snow can damage your shrubs and trees when it’s allowed to just pile up on top and weigh down the branches.  Gently knock down the snow.

snow laden evergreen

The idea is to gently surround your shrubs with snow to insulate them from temperature fluctuations.  That’s the hardest thing on our plants and is what causes “heaving” which can lift roots out of the ground exposing them to winter elements.

Crabapple in snow

If you have shrubs planted along a walkway or driveway, then you likely use some sort of chemical to de-ice.  I would suggest using sand (yes, I know it’s messy), magnesium chloride or calcium acetate.  This will really reduce damage to shrubs.

You could also consider planting more salt tolerant plants.  My favorite, hands down, is the Rugosa Rose – they can take salt like a margarita!

Hybrid Rugosa 'LD Braithwaite'

Hybrid Rugosa ‘LD Braithwaite’

Rugosa Rosebush (unknown variety)

This rosebush was in another yard I lived in!  It was stunning and kept blooming all summer.  It was close to the end of the driveway so got salt from the driveway AND the roadway.

Alpine Currants, Staghorn sumac and Snowberry are also good choices for salt tolerance.

Alpine Currant

Alpine Currant

Snowberry bush

Snowberry bush


No Comments

Saving your woodies for Winter

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show:  Saving your wooodies for Winter

Winter sun, wind, temperature fluctuations, snow and ice can make for a deadly combo for your trees and shrubs.  Sunscald happens on bright winter days when the sun heats up the cambium layer on the south and/or west side of your trees.  The cambium layer moves water and nutrients through the tree, if it heats up, it starts to move and then freezes when the sun goes down and can kill your tree.  Great information can be found at Missouri Botancial Garden.

Sunscald on Spruce


A white tree wrap or guard can help prevent damage to smaller (younger) and/or thin barked trees.   Wrap them from the soil to the first set of branches.

white spiral tree guard

Don’t fertilize now.  But DO water your trees, shrubs, perennials up until the ground freezes sometime in December.  Especially newly planted trees and because we’re experiencing drought this year.

Evergreens commonly suffer from winter damage.  Winter Injury [University of Illinois Ext.]   Another great site on tree/shrub injury  of a variety of issues is from the University of MN Ext.

The most susceptible evergreens are Yews, Arborvitae and Hemlocks.  The best protection is to wrap them in burlap, although not attractive, it can really be worth it.


wrapped evergreens

wrapped evergreens


No Comments