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Yard garbage becomes potting gold

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Yard garbage becomes potting gold

Turning yard garbage into potting gold is easy and a great way to get the kids involved. They can actually think they’re having fun cleaning up the yard as they hunt for treasures to create a piece of potting gold!   ;-)

Those fuzzy things on the left of the pot are clematis seedheads, there’s also sliced pieces of a boxelder branch.   Start by dividing your pot in thirds or fourths depending on how large your pot is.  Use twigs for the divisions.  This will make it easier to create a pattern.

With just a few tools and some imagination, you can create some very fun containers.  I use terra cotta pots because they look more natural and glue sticks to them better.

Materials needed:

  • various lengths of twigs (look for varied textures)
  • string or twine
  • thin wire
  • pruning shears
  • glue gun and glue sticks
  • pot
  • seedheads
  • bark
  • leaves that are still pliable
  • and whatever else you may see out there that won’t rot right away
  • poppy flower seed heads

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Green Tomatoes

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Green Tomatoes

Ahh, fried green tomatoes!  They’re not for everyone but at this time of year, that’s really all we can expect.  Green tomatoes, I mean.  Have you ever tried Green Tomato Pie?  It’s not too bad…  I still prefer apple pie but this works.  Check out my recipes tab for the recipe.

Pick your green tomatoes and place them on heavy paper (grocery bags work well) or roll them individually in newspaper if you don’t have a lot of room.  Keep them in a cool room of your basement.  They’ll ripen over a few weeks.  They don’t taste as good as vine ripened but no point in wasting them!

A few days before you’d like to bite into those tomatoes, bring them into a warm sunny area to ripen further.

You can also roast the green ones with olive oil, sea salt, garlic, jalapenos and herbs.  Low oven for a couple of hours.

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Monarch butterfly migration

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Monarch migration

The annual Monarch migration began last week.  Such as there is…  their declining numbers has prompted a petition to protect them.

Monarch butterflies

Monarch butterflies

The Center for Biological Diversity and other agencies is asking the Secretary of the Interior that the Monarch be granted threatened status.  Several studies estimate that 90 percent of the Monarch population has vanished in the last 20 years.


I checked out a site called MonarchWatch.org where they track all monarch sightings and they are very careful to let people know, they are NOT endangered.  That would mean they are threatened to extinction, and that is not the case.  However, the fact remains that their habitat has dwindled significantly.  Monarch larvae feed exclusively on milkweed.  There is a certain toxin inside the milkweed that the larvae can ingest and they use it as a defense against predators.  It makes them sick.  Monarchs also lay their eggs on milkweed.  With shifting land management practices, we’ve lost much milkweed from the landscape.  Ditches used to be full of it.  Now, the ditches are planted on mowed.  There are several types of milkweed, butterfly weed is one of them.

Common Milkweed

Common Milkweed

Planting a butterfly garden is a great step home gardeners can do.   Planting native species, such as common milkweed, is a plus.  The Minnesota DNR has a list of native plant suppliers which I will link you too.  Prairie Restoration is already in my favorites tab.  You can order online, they’re out of Cannon Falls and several other places around the state.

Monarch caterpillar

Monarch caterpillar

Several years ago, maybe 8 already, I lived on 5 acres in Lakeville and we had a group of Monarch butterflies come through.  There were hundreds of them in the trees, what a magnificent sight… I got to see once!  Monarch butterflies are the only insect that migrates to a warmer climate that is 2,500 miles away each year.

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Planting garlic

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Planting garlic

If you love garlic so much that you could ward off vampires just from the scent wafting off your body, then you might consider planting it!   I could qualify as I use a LOT for my roasted tomatoes.  I just love the smell.  Although I have been told I might also ward off a loved one!  For zone 4 folks, the beginning of October is a good time.  If you live in Zone 3 then a couple of weeks earlier is sufficient.

Garlic 'Early Italian' softneck

Garlic ‘Early Italian’ softneck

There are a LOT of varieties of garlic but the best type is called a ‘Hardneck’ variety.  They tolerate our climate conditions much better than the softneck type.

Garlic - rocambole hardneck

Garlic – rocambole hardneck

Garlic grows best in sandy loam soil due to it’s texture and draining capabilities.  Make sure you add lots of organic matter to your planting area.  Your soil should be loose and fluffy for optimum growing.  A raised bed is a great option.  Plant cloves pointy side up about 6 inches apart in rows about 24 inches apart.  Three to 5 weeks after planting, mulch your garlic bed with a 3 to 4 inch layer of straw to keep temperatures more moderate.

garlic planting

The cold isn’t the problem its the ground-heaving that can push the bulb out of the ground that’s the problem.  You can remove the mulch in April.  Watering is most critical from mid May through June as garlic has a shallow root system.  For hardneck varieties, it’s recommended that you remove what’s called the scape once it starts to curl.   Your garlic clove yield is reduced by 20 to 30 percent if you leave the scape on.   In some countries it’s considered a delicacy and used in stir fries, salads and steamed veggies.  Garlic scape Recipes

Garlic scape

Garlic scape

Garlic parts!

Garlic parts!


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Imprelis update 2014

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Imprelis update 2014

In the Spring  of 2011 many landscape companies and golf courses started using a product called Imprelis.  DuPont, the manufacturer claimed this turf herbicide would knock out Creeping Charlie and other broadleaf weeds without adverse effects.  It was a miracle.  Not long afterward, housing communities and golf course owners were losing trees, evergreens in particular.  The park across from where I lived lost a bunch!

Imprelis damage on White Spruce

Imprelis damage on White Spruce

Just last week the DuPont Company was penalized $1.8 million by the Environmental Protection Agency for improper reporting and labeling of the product.  In June of this year, DuPont settled a nearly $400 million class action lawsuit as thousands of trees across the midwest were wiped out by the application of Imprelis.

Imprelis drift damage

Imprelis drift damage

Several agencies including the Minnesota Department of Agriculture played an important role in discovering and gathering information that led to the penalty and the payout to over 25,000 claimants.  Their data forced the EPA to take a closer look at the product and found there were serious violations on the part of DuPont.  Imprelis was registered with the EPA in 2010, and was sold primarily to commercial pesticide control services for controlling weeds in lawns, parks, golf courses and athletic fields.

A closer look at Imprelis damage

A closer look at Imprelis damage

In August 2011, DuPont was ordered to stop selling and distributing Imprelis without prior approval from them, then in September of 2011, they prohibited the sale, distribution or marketing of Imprelis. The complaint charged that DuPont failed to disclose the risks Imprelis posed to trees, even when applied as directed, and failed to provide instructions for the safe application of Imprelis.

It just shows that there are no miracle “cures” for weeds.  A pristine lawn can come at a high price.


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Fall herbicide care

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Fall herbicide care

This is the last week to put down a herbicide for those broadleaf weeds.  These plants are actively growing right now so it’s a good time to get at them.  The broadleaf weeds include dandelion, plantain lily, white clover and wild violets.  After treatment, these guys will begin to die off and by Spring, they should be completely gone.  I kind of like the wild violets and generally let them go, but oh, those irritating dandelions!



White Clover

White Clover

Remember to follow directions precisely.  Wait to treat Creeping Charlie till after the first hard frost.  Don’t get nervous if you see Creeping Charlie start to grow again in the Spring, it should, hopefully, die off. Although I won’t guarantee that!  It’s a tenacious weed.  Part of me thinks the flowers are very cute and the scalloped leaves add a fun contract to the blades of grass.  That’s the story I’m sticking to anyway!   And a reminder that this is NOT the time of year to worry about crabgrass or other annual weedy grasses as the first frost will generally take them out.

Creeping Charlie

Creeping Charlie

The other nice feature at this time of year is that our perennial lawn grasses ARE still growing which means they have an opportunity to fill in where you’ve killed the broadleaf weeds.  If you use a liquid herbicide you can add a little dishwashing liquid to the mixture.  This will help hold the liquid on the leaves longer providing better coverage.  In late October you’ll want to put down your most important lawn fertilizer application.

repaired lawn

repaired lawn




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Happy Autumnal Equinox

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Autumnal Equinox

I just love this time of year.  Leaving the windows cracked open at night with that cool air making good sleeping weather, that feeling of nesting as we bring our garden harvests in and can, dry or freeze them for winter.  Speaking of freezing, as we see those temps do start to dip,  remember your tomatoes and throw a sheet over them just to be safe.  I have a friend who said you can spray them with water and they’ll be fine.  I did a little research on that and while it MIGHT work, I wouldn’t count on it.  I’m a bit dubious, perhaps I’ll try it but then again do I want to risk losing my plants?

Right now I’ve got LOTS more “Mighty Sweet” cherry tomatoes ready for roasting.

roasted tomatoes

‘Fresh Salsa’, a roma tomato, makes for greating roasting…  I tossed them with olive oil, sea salt and ‘spicy globe’ basil.  Add some jalapenos and fresh garlic and roast in a warm oven for a couple of hours.  Then I freeze them and use them in all kinds of soups, stews and pasta dishes.

There’s a yellow cherry tomato called ‘Sungold’ that is supposed to be spectacular.

 Tomato ‘Sun Gold’
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Roundup failing

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Roundup failing

Roundup has been around since  the 70’s. when a chemist for Monsanto discovered what glyphosate could do to weeds.  Glyphosate is a broad spectrum herbicide that was introduced under the trade name – Roundup.  It was quickly adopted by farmers, even more so when Monsanto introduced glyphosate-resistantcrops, enabling farmers to kill weeds without killing their crops.



n 2007 glyphosate was the most used herbicide in the United States agricultural sector, with 180 to 185 million pounds applied, and the second most used in the home and garden market where users applied 5 to 8 million pounds  and in addition to THAT  industry, commerce and government applied 13 to 15 million pounds .  that’s a lot of chemical use.  And now, weeds are becoming resistant.  In Minnesota, common ragweed, giant ragweed and common waterhemp are the top three weeds resistant to Roundup.

spraying roundup

Giant ragweed

Giant ragweed

Waterhemp in soybean field

Waterhemp in soybean field



As farmers discuss the use of other chemicals and more product used, I can’t help but think about the goats I told you about yesterday.  While impractical for corn and soybean fields, it does make those of us who prefer not to have so many chemicals in our food ponder our local CSA’s.  CSA means  community supported agriculture.  CSAs generally focus on the production of high quality foods for a local community, often using organic or biodynamic farming methods..That means fewer chemicals.  That’s not to say they DON’T use them but it may be in a more judicious manner.  I’m not against using chemicals but The problem with ONLY using them is not only a buildup of resistance but also it doesn’t lend itself to more crop rotation which ins better for our soil.

Something to think about!

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Goats for grazing

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Goats for grazing

Buckthorn and white sweet clover are two invasives no one with any acreage wants.  I recently read an article I found really interesting for those of us who prefer not to use chemicals.  Goats have been hired to eat their way through buckthorn and, later, white sweet clover, at the River Bend Nature Center in Faribault.


An entrepreneurial couple started Goat Dispatch and call themselves a landscape cleaning service.  They even have their own Facebook page!  Goat Dispatch placed 10 goats in a fenced area at the Nature Center for controlled grazing.  Talk about eco-friendly and on many levels.  No chemicals but plenty of fertilizer.  Goats prefer broad leafed plants so they eat those before they take out any grasses.  They also like to chew on branches, that means they take out the bark which then kills the plant .  Through their grazing habits, goats reduce the production of seeds by consuming seeding stems. Therefore invasive plant species such as Buckthorn can’t sprout as the immature seeds consumed don’t survive passage through the digestive tract.

goat smiling

Now, is this practical for your front yard, well, not likely unless you don’t live in town.  However, it’s great to know that there are other methods, more natural methods that are being used.

Goat Dispatch Facebook page





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The Gopher state

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  The Gopher state

You know, I hadn’t really that too much about Minnesota being called the Gopher State.  I didn’t attend the University of Minnesota, so have no real desire to wear a gopher t-shirt; and as a gardener, well, I’ve generally been more inclined to do battle with the little rodents.  However, I just came across an article from the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum called “The Aerator of the Plains”. (scroll to page 7 for the article)

All hail (or Oh Hell)  the Pocket Gopher

Pocket gopher

gopher mounds

From the above photo you can see how they aerate the soil – and damage your lawn!  ugh.

Gopher in soil

A study in Yellowstone National Park estimated that one little pocket gopher may excavate as much as five tons of soil each year.  Whoa, okay, I’m impressed with their work ethic.  Their underground tunnels can run up to 500 feet in length.  The soil that is pushed above ground increases plant regeneration and distribution and allows rainfall and snowmelt to more efficiently permeate the soil.  AND their tunnels are some to snakes, mice and ground squirrels.  Again, not my favorite critters but they DO have a purpose.

Shoshone Indians believed gophers were medicine animals that could cause or cure sickness.

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