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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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Salt tolerant plants

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Salt tolerant plants

I’ll just go ahead and say it out loud!  The time is near when we’ll hear the scraping of blades on our streets.  The mighty MN Dot trucks (or our local streets and parks department trucks!) will be plowing and salting our streets once again.

Salt accumulates in the soil and affects the roots of plants impairing their ability to absorb water and nutrients.  That’s why you usually see only weeds at the end of your lawns.

Salt tolerant shrubs:

  • Rugosa Roses
  • Alpine Currant
  • Common Snowberry
Rugosa Rosebush (unknown variety)

Rugosa Rosebush (unknown variety)


  • Honeylocust (one of my favorites)
  • Jack Pine
  • Poplars
  • Gingko
Honeylocust 'Sunburst'

Honeylocust ‘Sunburst’

Perennials including grasses:

  • Daylilies
  • Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’
  • Russian Sage
  • Columbine
  • Dianthus
  • Barren Strawberry (a good groundcover)
  • ‘Karl Forrester’ grass
  • Miscanthus grasses
  • Little Bluestem grass
Reed grass 'Karl Forester'

Reed grass ‘Karl Forester’


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Last chance to plant

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As the summer fades into fall, it’s our last hoorah for planting.  You still have time to get trees, shrubs and perennials in the ground, taking advantage of the sales.  However, be sure to add in organic matter into your planting hole and water well right up until the ground has frozen.  That’s usually in December.

Never plant too deep.  Place your plant in it’s new home at the same depth in was in it’s container.  You can add a 2 inch layer of mulch, but no more than that for now.

AFTER the ground has frozen you can add more mulch to keep from heaving.

Here are a couple of gorgeous choice plants to consider!

The above is a reblooming iris!  Check out White Flower Farm, a link is listed in Favorite Links.

The above Wisteria is only rated to Zone 5, but if you live in southern Minnesota or have a microclimate this beauty might be worth trying.  The above photo is from Sooner Plant Farm.

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Mildew and other maladies

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This year we suffered through the wettest June on record, then had some very dry times.  That didn’t seem to stop the powdery mildew.  I noticed that my monarda really got it.  Now, I did give it plenty of space when planting but, still the wet weather didn’t help.  I’ve sprayed it with a fungicide and will cut it back and do a thorough fall clean up.

Monarda with powdery mildew

Monarda with powdery mildew

My squash also didn’t perform well.  I have 2 on the vines which, what’s left of them, look awful.  My first thought was too much water and fungal disease took over, then I noticed some weird looking flaking (almost looked like fungal growth) near the base of the vine, I cut it open and there it was the squash vine borer.   Once they’ve invaded, there’s really nothing you can do.  The time for me to have looked for them was late June, which was all wet.

squash blossom with vine borer

squash blossom with vine borer

squash hanging in nylon

squash hanging in nylon

squash vine borer

squash vine borer

The good news is I noticed plenty of soldier beetles.  They’re closely related to fireflies and are classified as beneficials due to their eating habits.  My little soldiers are yellow and black but they can be orange and black.  I’ll have pictures along with more information on my website gardenbite dot com.  Soldier beetles overwinter as pupae in the soil, and females mate but once in early summer. Eggs are laid in soil, where larvae feed for up to a year on the eggs and larvae of other insects.

Soldier beetle

Soldier beetle


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Fall picks for the landscape

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Fall picks for the landscape

As we work our way into Fall there are some plants that we all associate with that time of year.  Certainly annual mums, Maple trees and Burning Bush.  But there are some other plants to consider.  Smooth Blue Aster is a true native plant with sturdy growth habit of just 3 feet tall.  The foliage is a waxy blue-gray that stays neat and clean all season long.

Smooth Blue Aster

Smooth Blue Aster

Blueberry bushes are thought of mainly for their fabulous blueberries but as I’ve found out they offer stunning red Fall foliage.  At a previous home, I had some plants from a friend that I believe to be ‘Northsky’, a dwarf blueberry that grows to just 18 inches tall with a 2 to 3 foot spread.  The berries are a beautiful sky blue and are quite tasty and produce prolifically once established.  Remember that blueberries require an acidic soil, which means you’ll have to add peat moss to the planting hole and ammonium sulfate each Spring.

Blueberry 'North County'

Lowbush Blueberry fall color

Lowbush Blueberry fall color

rnamental grasses are spectacular now.  I love them all!  As I don’t have time LIST them all, let’s talk about heaven.  A University of Minnesota cultivar of little bluestem known as ‘Blue Heaven’. It grows to just over 3 feet tall with a stunning combination of blue leaves and burgundy flowers.

'Blue Heaven'

‘Blue Heaven’

Check out a Miscanthus grass called ‘Ferner Osten’ that grows to 5 feet with spectacular burgundy leaves, in August ‘ferner osten’ blooms are pink.  Check out local nurseries or go online to search out some of our native grasses for Minnesota.  I don’t limit myself.  I’ve planted many different varieties.  Just be wary of invasives.

Miscanthus - Ferner Osten

Miscanthus – Ferner Osten


Reed grass 'Karl Forester'

Reed grass ‘Karl Forester’




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

I bought a mint plant several years ago, pieces of it have been given to many a relative, friend and acquaintance.  It lives in various areas throughout a couple of places I’ve lived.  That peppermint plant became many plants and never failed to wake up my senses every time I mowed near it, over it or tried to destroy it by pulling it up by the roots.  Mints are aggressive to put it mildly.  I guess you could say they are as aggressive as their intoxicating scent is strong.  There are many types of mint but my Peppermint is one of the prettier plants with NO insect issues (what insect would DARE chew on those leaves!) and no diseases.



It flowers July through September.  This plant thrives in sun and partial sun, in nearly any type of soil although it likes a nice supply of water!  This plant WILL take over where it’s planted.  If you want it in an established garden then you need to sink a pot into the ground and plant in that.  I used it as a ground cover and let it go wild.  Once placed it’s very difficult to get rid of too!

clipping peppermint

clipping peppermint



A favorite use for peppermint is as a flavoring for tabouli (recipe taken from the Vegetarian Times Cookbook, Macmillan General Reference, 1984):

3/4 Cup Boiling water
1/2 Cup Cracked wheat or bulgar
1/2 Cup Minced parsley
1/4 Cup Minced mint leaves
1/2 Cup Green onion, finely chopped
1 Tomato, diced
3 Tbs Oil
1-2 Tbs Lemon juice
1 tsp Sea salt
Pepper and allspice to taste

Pour boiling water over wheat. Let stand 20 minutes. Add parsley, mint, onion, and diced tomato. Combine other ingredients and add to mixture, tossing to mix. Serve on lettuce.

Serves 4.

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American Hazelnut

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Do you live in a county where they offer bareroot trees and shrubs?  Take advantage if you can and have the room.  You usually have to buy bundles of at least 10 at a time but it’s worth it for the price.  You just need to give them a little extra TLC to begin with and plant as soon as they arrive.

Soil and Water Conservation District for your county

One of my favorites is the American Hazelnut.  It takes years to get the nuts but this shrub is a zone 3 hardy plant that will tolerate partial shade, it’s nutmeats are more nutritious than acorns or beechnuts and it’s leaves change color in the Fall to surprise you with varying shades of yellow, orange and red. This shrub will grow to 12 feet and has a similar spread. The male catkins are also a food staple for ruffed grouse during winter. It’s not the prettiest of shrubs and wouldn’t be a choice for a landscape plant but it makes a great plant for wildlife and for a property border.

American Hazelnut nuts!

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MDA September weed of the month – Oriental Bittersweet

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If you’ve driven along our roadways you’ve likely seen this vine covering shrubs and anything else in it’s way.   It’s a woody vine with colorful red fruit. It was brought to North America from Asia and used as an ornamental plant. The attractive vines have been used for wreath decorations and in floral decorations; unfortunately, the plant escaped cultivation and has become invasive in residential and natural areas in Minnesota.  You can see from the photo below how the vine literally chokes the other vegetation.

651dda0669b3764523c842e8b5da1501Oriental bittersweet spreads by several means. The persistent red fruit is consumed by birds, which spread the seed to uninfested areas. Humans also spread Oriental bittersweet infestations by physically moving the plants. Oriental bittersweet was commonly propagated and sold in Minnesota through nurseries and retail garden centers before 2010.  Its use in floral arrangements and wreaths also increased its spread.

Oriental Bittersweet Fall berries

Oriental Bittersweet Fall berries

To learn more go to the MDA site on bad plants!

The American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) is much more rare unfortunately.  The easiest way to tell them apart is the location of their berries.  The American berries grow on the tips of branches while the Oriental grow along the branch.

American Bittersweet

American Bittersweet

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Eco-friendly furniture

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Eco-friendly furniture

Eco-friendly furniture does not mean a hollowed out rotting log found in the woods.  Although there are certainly uses for it, till, well it disintegrates.  On my television show, Dig In Minnesota, I had the opportunity to find out more about a company that is really doing something great with plastic bottles.  I stopped by Paddy o’Furniture in Eden Prairie and discovered Breezesta.  Check out the video below where I interview Pat Schindler from Paddy O’Furniture in Eden Prairie.

Eco-friendly furniture on Dig In Minnesota

Breezesta is a company has their own onsite recycling facility, manufacture the “lumber”, so to speak, and then create sturdy and, I think stylish, patio furniture.  Each chair takes about 400 plastic bottles to make.  There’s a vast array of colors for a large selection of chairs, tables, benches, tables and more!  There are LOTS more but here’s a sneak peak:

Breezesta Adirondack

Breezesta bar stool

Breezesta bench style

Breezesta Bar collection

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Annuals for Fall

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By now most of our summer annuals, if they survived the heat, are looking browned and leggy.  Honestly, I tossed my petunias and put my poor pansies out of their misery.  This hanging basket I got at Eco Gardens in Northfield!  Love the basket!  The annuals are moss rose, ornamental peppers and flowering kale!

Eco Gardens hanging basket

I wish my camera took better pictures!  Or I download a program to color correct the photo!  It’s really pretty and the basket is a metal cone with leaves attached to the outside to form it.  Lovely

So that means plant shopping!  ;-)  There are some annual plants that can tolerate both heat and cool temps, a light frost won’t kill them.

Osteospermum is one of my favorites.  I bought it aplenty this spring and it’s hung in there but some sprucing up is in order.  This flower is also known as the African Daisy.   Breeders are creating scads of lovely colors in shades of purple, yellow, orange, white, pink and blue and varying petal shapes to make them even more enticing.

Coleus, osteospermum, sweet potato vine

The bright yellow Osteospermum is one of my favs but there are so many more.  Gaze through these beauties on Osteospermum.com

Osteospermum 'nasinga cream'

They can be the showcase to your trailing plants like calibrachoa, the mini petunia also called Superbells.  This wonderful little eye popper also comes in lots of colors and is more heat tolerant.  I have some coral superbells that are still working for me.

Coleus, Guara, superbells

Pretty in pink!  Superbells in this container are repeating their bloom!

Bacopa trailing plant

Bacopa is another great trailing plant to go with your Osteospermum.

Lantana is a plant that I’ve recently had several people say “I love this plant, what is it”.  Lantana is a native of the tropical Americas and Africa.  The flower clusters come in many colors including several in one cluster.  Lantana is easy to grow and truly looks happy anywhere!  Lantana can be grown indoors!  Check out this website for more colors!  The Growers Exchange

Lantana 'Fuchsia'


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