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Box elder bugmania

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Box elder bugmania

Box elder bugs may be benign but it sure doesn’t feel that way when they fly in your hair!  EW, it’s like a scene from a horror movie as I approach my garage and have to bat away the bugs.  I’d scream but I don’t want to open my mouth – what if they fly in?!?  Egad.


Boxelder bugs on Boxelder tree!

Use caulk, expandable foam, fine mesh screens or steel wool to secure all your windows and doors.  Even those areas you don’t think they can get into, they can!

Mix a 1/2 cup of laundry detergent with a gallon of water and spray the daylights out of them!  They tend to cover the south side of homes during a day of sunshine.

There’s a Minnesota company with a non-toxic insecticide that I’ve heard good things about.  Boxelder B Gone

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Feeders are for the birds

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Feeders are for the birds

Yesterday we were all about the food, today it’s about the feeder…

There are numerous feeders out there.  Which ones work?  Well, they all do but which ones keep the squirrels at bay?  Ha!  None of them forever, unless you have them rigged for an electric shock when they touch it.  Someone I know actually did that!  He had fashioned a shocker that he could operate by remote control when the blackbirds would flock to the feeders.  Pretty soon, they’d get a jolt, fly away and then hover and try it again!  By the 3rd shock, they decided to go somewhere else…  I admit, it was entertaining!

However, this was an attempt to keep the squirrels away.  Notice in the picture the flashing on the sides and bottom of the feeder.  Makes it slippery for squirrels.

The above is a hopper feeder, you fill the top and can adjust the perch for weight.  If you want to make sure the smaller birds get a bite, then lighten the weight limit.  It also keeps the food fairly dry.  Hopper feeders hold a lot of seed.

Dome feeders are also a good choice for keeping the feed drier.  Cardinals and Blue Jays like this style.

Dome feeder

Dome feeder

Tube feeders are good for finches, chickadees and other smaller birds.  You can snip the perches back to keep the bigger birds from eating it all.  Tube feeders have different size holes for different size seeds, in fact, you may see the smaller size feeders called “Thistle” feeders.

Thistle feeder

Thistle feeder

Suet feeders hold the suet cakes, Woodpeckers love these, so do squirrels.

Window feeders are another option.  I’ve not tried these yet but might give them a go.  I’m just not sure how clean your window will stay!  They attach by suction cups.  This is a link to a place with a number of different styles.  I’ve never bought from them but they appear reputable.  birds-n-gardens.com

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Feed – it’s for the Birds

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Feed – it’s for the Birds

Winter winds will be blowin’ soon!  There’s nothing more calming to your spirit after a slushy, bumper to bumper ride home than watching the brilliant Red Cardinal feasting on birdfood out your window.

How many Cardinals can you count?  These are male and female.  Be sure to place your feeders where you can see them but where predators can’t get to them.  When choosing feed, think about what kind of birds you want to attract.

To attract the biggest variety of birds choose Black Sunflower Seed.

Goldfinches love Niger seeds, they’re a little more expensive.

Safflower seeds, which squirrels, starlings and blue jays don’t like, are great attracters for Cardinals, Chickadees and Downy Woodpeckers.

Suet is favored by Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, Purple Finches and Nuthatches.

Keep your feeders clean, nobody likes moldy seed!

Here’s a link to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and their Winter Bird Feeding Tips


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Battling buckthorn

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Battling Buckthorn

The bane of the backyard gardener! And everyone else that tends our parks! This beast just won’t die! Buckthorn came to the U.S. via some well meaning people in the 1800?s to create hedges. They were wonderful in Europe. Not so much here. They are invasive!!

Buckthorn has not been sold in the United States since the 1930?s and yet we are STILL trying to get rid of it.  There are discrepancies about whether some places still sold Buckthorn into the 1970?s.  Communities have Buckthorn Beatdown days to try to eradicate it. Buckthorn takes over our native plants and shrubs and is NOT good for birds. It’s not poisonous, it just doesn’t give them any nutrition as they don’t absorb it. They poop it out almost as fast as they eat it. That means they carry the seeds off somewhere and let nature do it’s thing by reseeding it elsewhere.

Buckthorn bark

The Minnesota DNR has some great information about Buckthorn from identifying the beast in your backyard to how to control it.  Here’s another article from the University of Minnesota Extension on Buckthorn Control.

Buckthorn berries

Buckthorn berries

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Landscapes and N,P,K

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Landscapes and N,P,K

Earlier this year I built a new garden bed in front of our home, on one side.  All summer I looked at the other side and thought, hmmm, I should get after that, but then the weather would be nice enough to ride motorcycle and, well, that’s what I chose instead!  So last week, with windy conditions and temps in the low 50’s, it was perfect to tackle the OTHER side.

siberian iris GONE

won't get finished this year

won’t get finished this year

But it’s a start!  I’ve got some grasses, cimicifuga and a First Edition Rose ‘Campfire’ in there right now.  Also a golden barberry that was looking pretty tough.  Good sales at this time of year!

I received my soil test results from the University of Minnesota extension on my vegetable garden.  Wow, I had no idea there was that much phosphorus and potassium in my soil and so little nitrogen.  (I spoke with a local organic grower who said that’s fairly typical for our area in southeastern MN)

On fertilizer bags N or Nitrogen is listed first, P or phosphorus is listed 2nd and then K which is potassium.   It would appear I was overzealous in adding manure to my soil and that’s what likely raised the P level.  Only time and not adding P or K, to the soil will lower those levels.  The U suggested I add a 33-0-0 fertilizer next Spring.  As nitrogen leaches out of the soil more quickly, there’s no point in adding N this year.



I could plant a cover crop but it’s getting a little late in the season for that.  Cover crops or green manure keep your bed weed-free, prevent soil erosion, and add organic matter to the soil.  Peas, beans and soybeans are nitrogen fixers.  I’m going to add cow manure and/or compost.  I buy it from our local nurseries as this will go into my vegetable garden  I want it to be organic.  The U recommends 3 to 5 bushels per 100 sq. feet.

I’ve tried scanning the Soil test document but can’t figure out how to convert it to a pdf to put here.  There’s no way you could read it as a picture…  I need a techy!





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MDA October weed of the month – Giant hogweed

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  MDA October weed of the month – Giant hogweed

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has been highlighting a weed each month.  This month, they’re being proactive as this weed has not YET been found in Minnesota but is in neighboring Wisconsin. The Giant hogweed – Heracleum mantegazzianum  [Now you know why I didn't even ATTEMPT to say this on my show!]  Native to Central Asia, Giant hogweed, was introduced to Britain as an ornamental in the 19th century, and it has also spread to many other parts of Europe, the United States and Canada.

Giant hogweed flower

Giant hogweed flower

Giant hogweed with person

It’s a stunningly tall plant with a serious public health risk. When the sap comes in contact with skin and is exposed to sunlight, it can cause painful blisters and scarring. Additionally, the sap in contact with eyes can result in blindness.

Giant hogweed burn and this is MILD

Giant hogweed burn and this is MILD

I didn’t want to put some of the other pictures here because it’s really kinda gross…  you can google it on your own!

This thing is HUGE!  Giant hogweed has many identifiable characteristics including deeply cut massive leaves up to five feet across.  The plant flowers on a 10-15 foot stalk. The tiny white flowers form clusters that reach up to two and a half feet across. The stalks are two inches in diameter and hollow with purple mottling. Both the stems and undersides of the leaves are covered in coarse white hairs. It can be mistaken for Cow Parsnip (Heracleum maximum), a native plant that is common throughout much of Minnesota, has similar leaves and flowers, and reaches 3-10 feet tall with 4-8 inch flowers. However, giant hogweed has much larger, strongly dissected leaves and huge flowers.

Giant hogweed leaf

Giant hogweed leaf

Giant hogweed bud

Giant hogweed bud\

Not only is giant hogweed a serious public health hazard, it can also negatively impact soil dynamics, fisheries, and outcompete native plants. In states where it has been confirmed, it can be found growing in yards, ditches, along stream banks, in disturbed areas, open wooded areas, and thrives in sunny locations. Giant hogweed spreads by seed that can be moved by wind, water, wildlife, and humans.

Giant hogweed with haz mat suits

Even though this plant has not yet been discovered in Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture regulates giant hogweed as a prohibited noxious weed on the eradicate list because of its close proximity of establishment in Wisconsin.  It is also a Federal Noxious Weed regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. By law, all above and below ground plant parts must be destroyed, and no transportation, propagation, or sale of the plants is allowed. If you suspect you have seen giant hogweed, please contact the MDA’s Arrest the Pest voicemail at 888-545-6684 or email arrest.the.pest@state.mn.us.



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Peony division

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Peony division

Whatever your peony pronunciation proclivity, soon will be the time to dig and divide them!  Wait for the tops to be killed by frost, cut the stems to near ground level then, using a spading fork, dig out the rhizomes.

peony rhizomes

peony rhizomes

Make sure you dig a hole wider than the plant to avoid damaging the root system.  Take out the entire clump with as much of the root system as possible, cut it into smaller pieces, leaving at least 3 to 5 eyes per division.  This part’s very important, without those eyes, you won’t have a plant.

peony eyes

The above photo comes from Viette’s Beautiful Gardens.  Check out the link for step by step pictures and instructions.

Prepare your new site by tilling in several inches of compost into the top 12 inches of soil.  Replant your division, keeping the eyes no more than 1 to 2 inches below the soil surface.  Again, this is a very important step.  If you plant too deeply, you won’t see blooms.  Water thoroughly and keep watered until the ground freezes.  Mulch your new divisions with a couple of inches of pine needles, straw, wood chips or chopped leaves.

Short, sturdy peony is called ‘Big Ben’ and he’s a beaut!

Peony 'Big Ben'

Peony ‘Big Ben’

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Peaches in Minnesota

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Peaches in Minnesota

Really?  Peaches in the frozen tundra?  Yes.  Some people are having luck with the stone fruit although the University of Minnesota Extension says we’re not supposed to be able to grow them well enough to produce fruit.

‘Reliance’, ‘Harrow Beauty’ and ‘Madison’ are three cultivars that gardeners have said they’re having luck with.

The above photo I snagged from Nature Hills Nursery.  I would ALWAYS look locally for a peach tree source but I wanted you to see more information.

Peach - Madison

Peach – Madison

Peach - Harrow Beauty

Peach – Harrow Beauty

The U of MN extension does recommend Apricot trees!  Two in particular are ‘Sungold’ and ‘Moongold’.  It’s best to plant 2 cultivars for best fruit production.

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Veggie harvest tips

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Veggie harvest tips

By this time your veggie garden is nearly compost, or is it?

Harvest the root crops you plan on eating soon but you can leave some carrots, late planted radishes, beets and turnips in the ground for winter harvest.  Once the topsoil has become crunchy with frost, mulch those root crops with straw or evergreen branches.  Then harvest at will or until the ground has frozen to the point you can’t dig them out.  You could be munching on a fresh carrot in December!


If you plan on keeping your tomatoes green, store them in a cool spot about 55 degrees in humid air.–  You can also store sweet potatoes and winter squash this way.—I once lived in an old farmhouse that still had a root cellar, it was the best room in that house.  Some folks are making a modern version of the root cellar in their newer homes.  You can do this by insulating a small basement room that has 2 outside walls and closing off heat to the room.–

Root cellar

Root cellar

If you’ve got an asparagus bed, leave the stems and leaves.  They help catch snow which makes for an excellent mulch.  – If your rhubarb is still around you can make one more rhubarb harvest before a killing frost!   It won’t hurt your plant and the stems are still good.  Once we’ve had a hard frost, cut the plant back and remove any debris.  –

Rhubarb plant

Rhubarb plant

Cut back any vines or stalks from your veggie garden to eliminate any disease issues and get that compost working in your veggie garden.  I leave behind some of the green beans that I didn’t get at, the fallen leaves I’ve shredded.  I could also fork in grass clippings.

My raised bed is 2 years old and has settled, I need to add more organic matter to keep it fluffy.   I’ve also sent off soil samples to the University of Minnesota.  When I have the results, I’ll let you know!  I’m also having them test for soluble salts as my garden is fairly close to the road and it can get spray from salt trucks and cars in the winter.  As I was writing this, I received my report from the U of MN about my soil.  I was quite surprised!  Way too much phosphorus and potassium and lacking in nitrogen.  Also a pH of 7.7 which is alkaline and also surprised me!

I’ll add a 33-0-0 fertilizer mix next Spring.  That’s full on nitrogen!  They suggest adding it in the Spring as nitrogen leaches easily in the soil.

I also plant on adding compost on top this fall.

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Best time to fertilize your lawn

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Best time to fertilize your lawn

is NOW until the end of October!  Most plants are shutting down right now but your lawn is actively growing roots.

Use a slow release nitrogen fertilizer with the numbers 45-0-0.  This way you won’t add unneccesary phosphorus or potassium.  The rule of thumb is to apply 1 to 11/2 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft.  This translates to 2 to 3 pounds of Urea per 1,000 sq. ft.

Your lawn will use some of the nitrogen now but the rest will be stored in the soil until Spring!

You can also use a broadleaf herbicide for Creeping Charlie, but don’t expect miracles next year.  ALWAYS follow directions on chemical packages.

Creeping Charlie

Creeping Charlie

Rather than raking your fallen leaves, mow them over several times to chop them up and leave them on the lawn.  They’ll release a small amount of nitrogen also.  You could also pack those fallen leaves into a plastic bag and surround your tender perennials or rose bushes.  Just use a brick to hold the bags down, making sure not to damage your plant.

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