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Bunnies – the good, the bad and monitoring your plants

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Bunnies – the good, the bad and monitoring your plants

It’s a good idea to monitor your outdoor plants, particularly those 3 years and younger, at this time to see if the critters have been nibbling.  If they have, you need to get some hardware cloth or chicken wire and surround them.

Hardware cloth comes in a variety of sizes, you’re best to buy one with small mesh.  Now on to Public Enemy Number ONE…  maybe….

Turns out, rabbit poop is really good for the garden…  just not your shrubs!  Those little brown pellets are a bonanza for your soil.  They’re filled with nitrogen.  If you have a pet rabbit, be sure to put their poo in your compost pile.

On a side note:  whenever I shovel the sidewalk, I add snow around my newly planted Crabapple.  It’s a great insulator and I can track rabbit tracks.  So far, they’ve left it alone!

Crabapple in snow

Lime Sulfur is reportedly good for killing scale, borers and mites.  It also works as a fungicide to kill black spot and powdery mildew.  Be careful which plants you use it on and be sure to follow the directions.  Do NOT use on Maples or Viburnums.

Eastern tent caterpillar egg masses can be spotted now.  You can prune out twigs that have these masses on them from now until March, before they hatch.

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Portable compost bin

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Portable compost bin

Trudging out to the compost pile in sub zero weather is hardly appealing!   Why not make a portable compost bin and use it all year long.  You can park it next to your recycling bin during the winter and then roll it around with you during the growing season to your gardens.

Portable compost bin with dimensionsPortable compost bin drawing

portable compost drawing

Use a 1 inch paddle bit to drill the holes.  Start the holes about 18 inches down from the top and the rows are about 3 1/2 inches apart.  Each hole is about 3 to 4 inches apart.

Attach your clean can to a dolly or hand truck with bungee cords and you’re good to go!

hand truck

What NOT to put in your bin:

  • animal fat
  • animal fat greasy napkins
  • milk
  • cheese
  • butter
  • meat
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Give me more green!

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Give me more green!

Since we were on a green streak yesterday talking about all the things a coffee bean roaster can do with husks, I thought I give you a few more green opportunities.

Driving less – becoming a Bike Friendly Community

the happy bicycle

and this one’s to make bicycling more fun!  The Happy Bicycle by Kathy McGee of Hemma Design

Of course I advocate growing your own vegetables but that’s not feasible all year, so buy local.  Many places have co-ops who contract with growers that use greenhouses and high hoops.  You get better quality food, put money into your local economy and there’s no trucking it in which is better for the environment.  Cooking at home is green too!

Harvest

Green Detox soupThe above soup is Green Detox Soup – kale, carrots, broccoli, vegetable broth, turmeric, fresh grated ginger, a little cinnamon.  Delicious!

Another green goal is to stop buying bottled water.  While many folks recycle those bottles, many don’t and they never biodegrade.  You’ve seen the stories on animals and marine life that are hurt by discarded bottles.  Might I suggest buying a reusable bottle and one of those filters for your faucet?  I have one of those Brita water dispensers that go in the fridge.

water bottles

I love love love my recyclable bags I take to the grocery store.  You can put SO much more in them and they don’t rip!

thumb_Olive_Green_bag

I also recycle paper constantly.  In my full time job, I use scrap paper all the time to take notes on.

And one more green item – turn off electronics when you’re not using them.  That means the tv, the computer and don’t forget the lights!

I just wanted to toss out some ideas for you to consider.  Send me YOUR green ideas at teri@gardenbite.com

 

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Beyond green with coffee beans

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Beyond green with coffee beans

One man’s chaff has become another part of his business.  Coffee bean chaff is the papery covering, think of the covering around a peanut inside the shell.

coffee bean chaff

coffee bean chaff

James Curren, owner of Providence Coffee, an organic coffee roasting company in Minnesota has taken multiple green steps forward by turning the coffee bean husks aka chaff into a line of fertilizer, soap, fire starters and mulch.

Providence coffee

Curren’s goal is to have zero waste from his coffee roasting business.  And the MN Pollution Control Agency has helped him find a way to do that.  They directed him to Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, a federally funded agency, that helps tiny firms develop partial ideas into real products.  After weeks of chemical analysis and thousands of dollars, they came up with a soil builder.  Gardens of Eagan has agreed to test JavaCycle in their Northfield greenhouses in March.

JavaCycle

Curren has his eye on more than fertilizer.  He has four other coffee-husk products in various stages of development. There’s exfoliating soap (sold at Mother Earth Gardens), pressed planting pots that dissolve into the ground, and husk- and dirt-encased “flower seed balls.” The latter can be tossed by urban gardeners into city parks or fields to produce flowers.

JavaCycle soap

JavaCycle soap

Last year I bought coffee bean burlap bags at a big box store for next to nothing and used them for my hanging baskets. burlap basket 2014

What’s so fun about this is the continuing experiments into reusing, recycling, repurposing our lives!

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Vegetable garden cost comparison

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Vegetable garden cost comparison

Someone asked me if you really save money planting your own vegetable garden.  That depends.  Things to consider:

  • how much effort will you put into creating your garden
  • how much you spend on seeds and/or plants
  • are you buying soil?  amendments?  fertilizer?
  • your time spent watering, weeding and harvesting
  • will you be building a raised bed
  • do you need to buy equipment

Your first garden will always cost more but as I noted in my radio show, the upfront cost, especially if building a raised bed, will be worth the money because your crop yield will be higher.

raised vegetable bed

And then there’s the benefit of being outside in the sun, working with nature, eating fresh, organically grown veggies!  PRICELESS

“The garden is no place to stress for success but to soak up some sun and renew your spirit”  Teri Knight

A recent happiness study gave big kudos to “communing with nature”, having a hobby, involving the community and eating well.

Daylily 'Big Smile' - Wayside Gardens

So, is it more expensive to grow your own, I guess you’ll have to answer that for yourself.  For me, no, it’s all worth it.

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Enabling gardens

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

There’s no better stress reliever than to play in the dirt!  I have often taken for granted my ability to move through my gardens easily.  Oh maybe my knees give me a little trouble now and then, but I can bend down and pluck a weed or snip a flower with ease.  Other gardeners can’t.

Gene Rothert, the author of The Enabling Garden, is the Director Emeritus at the Chicago Botanic Garden and his book is a fantastic resource for those looking to make gardening easier for themselves or loved ones.  Life with Ease offers ergonomically designed garden tools for those less able.

There’s a table top method of gardening where you buy a bag of quality garden soil, lay it on a table, cut holes in the bag and plant!  Of course they need to be shallow rooted plants like marigolds, geraniums, lettuce blends and herbs.

Salad box

Carry On Gardening is a great website from the UK that is loaded with information.  Check them out.  Also check out the tab on my front page that says “Enabling Garden” for much more information!!!

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Sweet Begonia

Click below to listen to my  Garden Bite radio show:  Sweet Begonia

If you want some dazzle in the shade, then check out the new Jurassic Rex begonias from Ball Ingenuity.  Plant breeders are doing to begonias what they’ve been doing to coleus, manipulating the foliage to the fantastical.  The Jurassic Green Streak leaves are silver with the stems green streaked and a blush of pink in the middle.

Begonia - Jurassic Green Streak

Begonia – Jurassic Green Streak

‘Pink Shades’ is just what it sounds like.  Shades of pink with pink droplets along the green streaked edges.

Begonia - Jurassic Pink Shades

Begonia – Jurassic Pink Shades

For the brightest colors plant in part shade – meaning morning sun.  Jurassic ‘Silver Point’ is edged in maroon with silver displayed perfectly inside to follow the contour of the leaf edges then green at the stem.

Begonia - Jurassic Silver Point

Begonia – Jurassic Silver Point

The leaves of Jurassic Silver Swirl have softer edges, they literally swirl with a ruffled edge.

Begonia - Jurassic Silver Swirl

Begonia – Jurassic Silver Swirl

Jurassic Watermelon will blow your mind!  It’s edges are crisper and it’s colors are a blend of pink, maroon and green with droplets of cream.

Begonia - Jurassic Watermelon

Begonia – Jurassic Watermelon

There’s also the Shadow King series from Green Fuse.  ‘Cherry Mint’ looks like an edible treat with it’s pink, silver and maroon foliage.

Begonia - Shadow King Cherry Mint

Begonia – Shadow King Cherry Mint

Rex begonias headline the show for months on end in any shade garden, especially when grown in containers.  Typically these plants grow 12 to 18 inches tall and wide with leaf sizes that vary up to 9 inches long and 5 inches wide.  Plant these with silver dicondra and mondo grass and you’ll have the neighbors stopping by and asking you what they are and where you got them!

Finding the exact begonias I talked about today may be difficult but there are so many other options that I suggest you do some googling!

Here’s one place I found…  Park Wholesale Plants – I don’t guarantee their plants!

 

 

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A googling we will go

 

Click below to listen to today’s Garden Bite radio show:  A googling we will go!

Last week I was floating in a sea of plant catalogs.  If you’re like me, you were too.  Now that you’ve catalogued numerous hours selecting plants to purchase, might I make a suggestion.  Jump on the internet and do some googling.

google

You need to pay attention to the specifics of light requirements, what type of soil your plant likes best and how disease resistant a variety might be, this one is particularly valuable for vegetable growing if you’ve had issues in the past.  It’s also important to know what zone you live in.  USDA Climate Zone Map of US

Because our growing season in the north is short, we need to pay special attention to the “days to harvest” number on those veggie seeds.

seed packetSome packets will say “maturity” others may says “days to harvest” or “days to maturity”….  pay attention to that.  For zones 3 to 5 we “generally” have between 120 to 160 frost free days.  [Zone 3 is colder.]  That doesn’t necessarily mean warm, as we know!  Plants like tomatoes and peppers like it warm.  We’ll talk more about early warming of your soil in other Garden Bites.

Remember to check your local garden centers first for any variety of seeds or plants that you prefer.  Keeping it local is good for the economy, good for our planet in terms of shipping in trucks and it’s generally cheaper.  Getting your seeds and plant material locally is also handy in that you have a built in resource to go to if you have questions or concerns about your plants.  They’re most likely grown locally and are acclimated to our climate.

catalogs 2015

But there are always those seeds and plants that are not available locally, then do take advantage of those catalog offerings.  Check out my Favorite Links tab and for further research on online companies go to Garden Watchdog.

Here’s a quick guide to the more common plant disease resistance codes:

Johnny Seeds has a much larger list.  Click HERE

Harvest

While much of what I focused on today is vegetables, it’s also a very good idea to research perennials, shrubs, trees and roses for your region as well.  I know that I’ve found some plants are listed with different climate zone tolerance depending on the site you go too.  In that case, adding a little extra mulch for the winter or planting them on a berm (generally slightly warmer) or out of the wind will make the difference.

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3 ways to ruin your garden

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  3 ways to ruin your garden

Huh?  Only 3 ways to ruin your garden?  I already discussed soil, which is the number ONE mistake folks make by not adding organic matter, these are just a few more!

newspaper shot

  • Planting “easy spreaders” or “fills in rapidly” plants.  Better known as invasive!  These plants will take over your carefully planned garden.  There may be areas you want to plant these, you decide!
  • Tossing all your fireplace ashes on your compost is also a way to ruin your garden.  The reason is that wood ash has a high Ph.  That means alkaline.  The soil in Minnesota generally leans to alkaline, so we don’t need to add any more.  GET A SOIL TEST!
  • Never work a wet soil!  Moist is fine but working wet soil will turn that soil into dirt clods.

Always add organic matter to your soil.  Tilling once a year is okay, every other year is better.  Tilling tends to break up the soil too much.  Top dressing with compost or any organic matter is the best way to go.  In the picture below, I’m using a tarp to pile up the weeds and grass I’ve dug up from the garden area.  It keeps the area “cleaner” and it’s a lot easier to pull over to the compost pile! 

weeding

By the way, I don’t use landscape fabric anymore.  Instead, I try to make sure the garden area is weed-free (as much as is possible) place wetted newspaper and then use mulch.  No matter what material you use, weeds will find a way.  It’s easier to get at those little buggers without any type of fabric or plastic put down to prevent them!

female gardener

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Resolutions

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

We’re into the 3rd full  week of January and by now most of us have already recanted those silly resolutions we made in week one!  ;-)  The Snickers bar wouldn’t stop calling my name!

You already know how I feel about garden journals, that was the number one resolution I suggest.  However, there are a few more, should you care to resolve!

  • Right plant, Right place.  The master gardener mantra.  Resolve to plant only those cultivars hardy to your zone – unless you’re willing to take a risk.  And there’s nothing wrong with that so long as you go in with your eyes open!
  • Space plants for better air circulation.  Let them breathe and they’ll have a better shot at staying disease free.  You can pack annuals together for quick fill in as they’ll die out in one season anyway.  However, perennials will continue (hopefully) to grow which means you need to consider their mature size.
  • Do not spray chemicals on a, possibly, diseased plant without knowing what you’re dealing with.  Just hitting a plant with a chemical because it lists a ton of different uses does not mean you’ve got the right one and it could damage plants nearby.
  • Along those lines, buy only healthy plants.  Unless you know what to do to nurse that plant along.

Find me on Facebook at Garden Bite with Teri Knight and check out videos from Dig In Minnesota.  Below is a step inside a Balinese inspired garden created by Glenn Switzer.

Bailey Nursery ‘Easy Elegance’ roses

Dig Info tip

 

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