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LILaC – it’s not a shrub

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  LILaC – it’s not a shrub

Our views are changing on our home landscapes.  In particular, the all-American lawn.  The amount of fertilizers folks use to keep that lawn looking green is wreaking havoc in our lakes and creeks, which, in turn, causes problems with our drinking water, which is a major issue and not just for farmers.  There are over 20 million acres of lawn in the United States.  We spend $5 billion on fertilizers.

repaired lawn

repaired lawn

I realize that most folks like their lawns, but there is a way to use less chemicals AND less water.

Let’s talk LILaC – it’s an acronym for Low Input Lawn Care – that link is a comprehensive introduction to LILac.

LILaC

There are some caveats to the lilac approach.  It does take time and effort to transition your existing lawn to this low maintenance approach.  These lawns may not be able to take as much traffic either.  The benefits are long term in water conservation and chemical use.

Here’s another link to a more palatable version of LILaC

A couple of considerations are leaving your lawn at 3 inches in height and mowing often so that you can leave the cut grass on the lawn.  The nitrogen then leaches back into the soil, leaving you to fertilize just once a year at most.

Low Input Lawns allow for some weeds – these are usually in the form of clover.  Check out the photo below…  I wouldn’t mind my lawn looking like that!

low input lawn with clover

low input lawn with clover

Here’s a look at a different blend of grass seed!!  Dig this…

lawn clover

It’s called Fleur de Lawn and it’s from Pro Time Lawn Seed.  How well it works in YOUR area, I don’t know for sure but it looks worth checking out.  Find out your soil type, what your sun/shade conditions are and do a little research.

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Spring lawn care

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Spring lawn care

Ahhhh, the first full week of May and I have had lots of questions about lawns!  I know how anxious many folks are to get at their lawns but, really,  the best time to seed, sod, fertilize, aerate and dethatch is August into September in cooler climates.  That said….  here’s what you can do now

You have about a week to apply a pre-emergent for crabgrass, in mid-May it’s time for a post-emergent for crabgrass.   Weed control in lawns and turf [U of MN]

Crabgrass

Crabgrass

From May to early June, you can apply a broadleaf herbicide.  The best time is September through October but I know you’re anxious!

dandelions in the year

You can apply a fertilizer now through early June.  You do NOT want to fertilize during hot, dry weather.

fertilized lawn

fertilized lawn

You can seed your lawn now – but always make sure you have good seed to soil contact.  Just throwing seed on top of grass is a waste of time and seed!  That means you have to rake out the dead stuff, put the proper seed down for your sun/shade conditions and then keep the area moist while the seeds sprout.  Again, the best time to do this is late August into September.

dog pee spots

dog pee spots

My own lawn is in need of dethatching.  The best time is mid-August through September but you have a 2 week window right now to perform this task.  Dethatching is necessary when that brown, fibrous mat that’s between the soil surface and where the grass shoots start to turn green is about ¾ of an inch thick.  To find out how thick your thatch is cut a small, pie shaped wedge out of the lawn and measure.  Getting rid of thatch is best done with a power rake you’ll find at most rental places.  The thatch can then be composted or even used as a mulch.

Lawn thatch

Lawn thatch

You also have till the end of May to aerate your lawn.  Aerating  removes small cores of soil from your lawn and helps relieve soil compaction and improve drainage, water infiltration, and oxygen levels.   Again, this is best done mechanically with a core aerifier machine.

core aerator soil chunks

core aerator soil chunks

This is a comprehensive article on Lawn Renovation from the University of MN Extension.

 

 

 

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Northern long-eared bats

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Northern long-eared bats

Bats are being threatened and not just by tennis rackets or pots and pans from a freaked out homeowner who catches them indoors!  The picture below was the cutest I could find.  The others really kinda freaked me out!

Northern long-eared bat

Northern long-eared bat

The Northern Long-eared bat was just placed on the threatened list.  While they are not the cutest things, they serve a great purpose by eating ½ their body weight in insects each night and work to keep our ecosystem in balance.

According to the University of Minnesota, recent studies estimate that bats deliver $6 billion in insect control services to agriculture, forest industries and the public each year! bats

The Northern Long-eared has been the most affected by a disease called White Nose syndrome which has killed more than 6 million bats.  WNS is a fungus that appears on a bat’s muzzle and other parts.  It was first discovered in New York in 2007 and has spread very quickly moving west, south and north.  Bats with WNS act strangely during cold winter months, including flying outside during the day and clustering near the entrances of caves and other hibernation areas.

Bat with white nose syndrome

Bat with white nose syndrome

Scientists are still trying to figure out exactly what’s going on and how they might control it.  The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned in 2010 to have this bat placed on the endangered list.

Bat wing wtih white nose fungus

Bat wing wtih white nose fungus

In the meantime, the northern long-eared has been dying out in our forested hillsides and ridgelines where it likes to live.  What can we do?  Build a bat house.  More interesting bat facts and a how-to on building a bat house from the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service.

After all that I had to give you a CUTE bat eating a grape!  Enjoy!

 

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Dividing the divine perennial

Click below to listen to my  Garden Bite radio show:  Dividing the divine perennial

Now’s the time to divide your perennials.  GENERALLY speaking, perennials can be divided every 3 years.  Hostas are one of these plants!  The plants below were too large for division.  Divide when the plants are peaking up about 4 inches or so.

hostas

I have divided these hosta a couple of times and moved some out to wooded gardens.  A garden fork is your best friend for digging up plants.  You do minimal root damage by using a fork.

Another suggestion is to place a tarp near your digging area, when you dig up the plant(s) place the dirt and plant on the tarp.  You save a lot of mess that way!

If any of your plants have mushy parts, release them to the Great Beyond.  They’re not going to produce as you would want them to and may infect other plants.  You want to make sure that you have plenty of roots and growing points (3 to 5) for each plant.

You can use a spade, a knife or your hands to divide your plants.  Also, IF you see any possible disease, clean your tools each time you slice them a plant.  Use rubbing alcohol or Lysol.  Do NOT use Pine-Sol, it’s too corrosive.
If you have an abundance and your family, friends and neighbors don’t want any more of your bounty, you can donate them to Master Gardener plant sales or church sales or any other creative outlet.

 

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Zone envy for American natives

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Zone envy for American natives

Those of us with northern gardens sometimes have zone envy!  It’s been pretty warm “up north” and I’m thinking we could test the waters for zone 5 native plants.  There are a few that really caught my eye as I perused my Northern Gardener magazine.  Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica) is a tropical looking plant that grows to about 18 inches.

Indian Pink

Indian Pink

Indian Pink 2It’s the flowers that really knocked my socks off.  They’re radiant red tubular flowers with yellow throats just made for hummingbirds.  Butterflies also dig them.  This is a great plant for a rain garden in part shade.  They really do like moist soil.  Plants will fill in to form a groundcover in the right conditions.  Indian Pink blooms early to mid-summer.

Another really cool zone 5’er is Camas (camassia leichtlinii).  This is a neat clump forming plant that grows to 3 feet tall from a tulip-like bulb.  The blue-violet flowers appear in loose racemes in late spring and last up to 3 weeks.  Van Engelen Inc. source for plant

camassia leichtlinii

camassia leichtlinii

camas 2

Camas is another great  plant for the raingarden although it prefers more sun than Indian Pink.  The nectar attracts bees, butterflies and more.  Camas will naturalize in moist soils.

And then there’s a great groundcover called Allegheny spurge.  The plant grows 6 to 12 inches tall and has blue-green strongly toothed leaves mottled with purple and white.  There are tiny white fragrant flowers but it’s really grown for foliage. It’s great for the woodland garden.

Allegheny spurge

Allegheny spurge

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Warmed soil and planting

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Warmed soil and planting

The soil temperature has been warming up quickly with the recent above average temperatures.  Folks are very anxious to get planting.  Cool season crops are a go right now.  You can sow seeds of peas, beets, greens and radishes…

Garden radishes offer far more flavor and many varieties…

For instance, black radishes have a horseradish (hot) flavor if eaten fresh but when cooked mellows to a nutty sweetness.  ps these are not small…

Radish - Black Spanish courtesy of Rareseeds

Radish – Black Spanish courtesy of Rareseeds

Baker Creek Heirloom seeds – Rareseeds – they carry a wide selection of unusual radishes

Daikons are long white Japanese radishes that are wonderful in stir fry.

Radish - Japanese Daikon

Radish – Japanese Daikon

Another source for rare radishes High Mowing organic seeds

Green meat radish Fedco seeds

Burpee is another source for rarer radish seeds.  The Watermelon radish aka red meat radish come from China and is sweeter than most radishes.

Radish - Chinese Watermelon courtesy of Burpee

Radish – Chinese Watermelon courtesy of Burpee

And as for the Lime Radish I mentioned….  tough one to find seeds for!  In fact, all I could fine were places to buy the radishes as produce.  Specialty Produce

Radishes are very easy to grow and like cool weather.  Plant in early Spring and again in late Summer.

 

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Dandy dandelion roars

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Dandy dandelion roars

One gardener’s weed is another’s lunch!  Let the dandelions ROAR!

Dandelions

Dandelions

From the roots to the flowers, from culinary to medicinal, all parts are edible!  From soup to egg salad to coffee and wine.   Allrecipes.com– wine

Johnny’s Selected Seeds sells an Italian dandelion called ‘Clio’.

Dandelion - Clio

Dandelion – Clio

Remember to NEVER eat anything that’s been treated with a pesticide…  pick only clean greens.  One of my favorite magazines has an article about dandelions along with some recipes:  Mother Earth News.  Yes, the picture below is my yard…  I like to do other stuff in the garden than the lawn!  ?  I’ve lived here for almost 3 years now and have concentrated on perennial beds and a vegetable garden.  Last year my husband won the battle over chemical use to get rid of dandelions and right now, our lawn does NOT look like the picture below…  that’s our neighbor.  We are surrounded.

dandelions in the year

 

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Earth Day

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Earth Day

Van Gogh said “if you truly love nature you’ll see beauty everywhere”.  It’s true, even the weeds can be pretty amazing.  This photo was taken at a parking lot tollbooth in Minneapolis!  I love the tenacity of this petunia.

petunia in pavement

petunia in pavement

You can’t see an ounce of soil but those weeds don’t give up, life doesn’t give up!  I so appreciate the life that lives in our soil,  allows us to grow our own food, feeds the trees that offer us shelter, warmth and some really tasty maple syrup, as well as a myriad of mouthwatering fruits and nuts!  The flowers that bring a delightful scent to our gardens while also attracting beneficial bugs to help our veggie gardens produce.

daylilies, sneezeweed, monarda, salvia

daylilies, sneezeweed, monarda, salvia

The increased awareness of taking care of our planet Earth keeps us active in more physical pursuits as well.  Gardening is a great physical activity as well as a release for the mind.  I get peaceful when I’m out there digging around.  It lifts my spirits after a long, cold winter.

Wahoo

Wahoo

No need to go all “Ed Begley Jr.”, but ALL of us doing a few things green makes a significant difference!

  • Shopping without plastic bags is my favorite.  Not only are the bags recycled but they’re so much sturdier and I can pack more in them without worrying they’ll bust.  Plus, some stores give a nickel credit.  ?    Cotton, jute and natural fiber bags are washable!  Plastic bag statistics
  • TURN THE LIGHTS OFF.  This is the one my husband and I have a problem with.  He is notorious for not turning the lights off!
  • Quick showers with warm water – not hot
  • Recycle scrap paper at work for notes.  I don’t think we’ll put 3M out of business if we used scrap paper for notes rather than post-its.
  • Change the temperature on your thermostat 2 degrees in either direction depending on season and save on heating and cooling.
  • Compost!
  • When you mow your lawn, leave the cuttings, letting them settle and decay back into the soil.
  • Don’t rake leaves into the street.  If the storm drain near your home is loaded with debris, get some gloves and clean it out.  All that gunk goes into our rivers, streams and lakes and damages their ecosystems.

If you want to go all “Ed Begley Jr.” then check out Green Living Ideas for home energy use and a whole lot more.

 

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Dig Rig – saving your sole

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Dig Rig – saving your sole

For about 7 bucks you can save your sole!  The Dig Rig was created by two old farm boys that were tired of busting their backs and soles!  Made in the U.S.A

The Dig Rig attaches to your shovel and rests on the foot rest.

dig rig 2

dig rig 3

Another cool tool is the Soil Scoop.   Check your local garden center to see if they sell the Soil Scoop first, there are several online places that sell it as well.   I’ve talked about both of these before but it’s always nice to have a reminder and for the new listeners!

If you’re like me, you might tend to leave your tools laying about busying yourself from one job to the next…  Consider wrapping your tool with some neon gaffers tape, it’s a vinyl cloth tape you’ll likely spot in the dark!

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Ground cherries and grandma

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Ground cherries and grandma

A friend of mine was reminiscing about his grandma’s garden.  He said he missed her ground cherries and the jam she made.  Having no idea what they were, I did a little research.    Don’t let the name fool you—ground cherries have very little in common with those juicy red treats we all know. In fact they’re part of the nightshade family and are related to tomatillos and Chinese lanterns.

Ground cherry

Ground cherry

The marble-sized, orangey fruits have a unique flavor, which is sometimes described as tasting similar to anything from pineapple or cherry to kiwi and tomato, mostly they’re tart.  As you can see from the pictures, there are 2 types of ground cherries.  Virginia Ground Cherry and Clammy Ground Cherry.  The flowers are nearly identical, the leaves are different.

ground cherry flower

ground cherry flower

Ground cherry plant

Ground cherry plant

Ground cherry plant

They’re called ground cherries because the fruits fall to the ground before they’re ripe beginning in July for most areas and continue up to frost.  The plants grow like tomatoes so you may want to stake them.  One site says to let them ripen with inside their papery shells or husks for about a week until they turn gold.  In the photo below you can see a few lying in the bottom of the container.

ground cherries ripening

ground cherries ripening

Plant seed after all danger of frost is gone.  These annuals reseed themselves, which means they can become invasive which leads me back to my friends grandma’s farm where the plants started to grow wild around her house!

The most popular to plant (and eat) is Physalis pruinosa – Aunt Molly

ground cherries in husk

Ground cherries can be found at Rareseeds, Territorial Seeds, Seedsavers

Five ways to eat Ground Cherries [Smithsonian.com]

ground cherry dipped in chocolate

ground cherry dipped in chocolate

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