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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

Peony root!

Peony rhizomes from old plant.  It needed to be dealt with!

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

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 mixing 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.

Red peony on the north side of my home!

Red peony on the north side of my home!

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Rubbing Alcohol vs Bleach!

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This isn’t the most exciting garden bite, but as we move into Fall, there are chores to do.  One of them is cleaning up containers and pruning dead or diseased branches.  I repeat, the pruning should ONLY be on dead or diseased wood.  The ideal time to prune for anything else is in late winter or early spring.

I’ve used a 10% bleach solution to disinfect tools and clean pots but rubbing alcohol comes cheap and is less corrosive.  Should you use bleach, be sure to rinse your tools thoroughly to help prevent corrosion.

The 70% solution that you can buy at the pharmacy or grocery store works great.  That’s according to the University of Minnesota Extension publication on pruning.

Master Gardeners from around the state have been weighing in on this issue and there are alternatives.  One suggests vinegar as told to her from a grower’s rep at a professional growing range.  I looked this up and found that it does have some control over Powdery Mildew but the jury is out on other diseases.  We’ll skip the vinegar as a good disinfectant for pruning tools and containers.  How about heat? that was a recommendation from a U of M Dept. of Forestry rep…  Well, heat would definitely kill bacteria and may work for a small pair of pruners but isn’t practical in many other applications.

You can also use Listerine or LySol.  Do NOT use Pine-Sol, it’s corrosive.

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Transplanting trees

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Transplanting trees

This is the 2nd best time of year to transplant trees.  Once the leaves start to drop, you can safely move it.  Keep in mind, if your tree is larger than 2 inches in diameter, you may want to get a professional to do it.

For you do-it-yourselfers, first thing to do is loosely tie the lower branches to prevent damage and keep them out of your way as you dig a trench around the tree slightly larger than the rootball you want.  Depending on the diameter of your tree, you’ll dig a different size rootball.

Tree transplanting guide

Tree transplanting guide

Using a sharp spade, undercut the rootball.  Use hand pruners and loppers for large or tough roots.  Slide a piece of burlap, canvas or tarp under the rootball and with the help of some good friends with strong backs, lift your tree out of the hole and slide it to your other prepared site.

undercutting a rootball

undercutting a rootball

Personally I use tarps, they slide better, I also use them when digging a hole to pile the dirt on, keeps the lawn cleaner and it’s easier to move around the yard.  Make sure the hole your transplanting your tree to is about twice as wide but only as deep as the rootball.

tree transplanting

Set your tree in its spot, cut away or slide the trap out, then backfill with the soil, water well and mulch.  Add about 2 inches of wood chips or any organic matter.  Keep it watered well till the ground has frozen then add more mulch to a depth of 6 inches.

It’s a good time to plant trees and shrubs.  Most nurseries have great sales going on right now but that’s not the only reason to plant trees and shrubs.  The soil is still warm but the air has cooled off making transplanting of larger perennials a lot easier on them.

Maple 'Autumn Blaze'

I took out a Bur Oak that was planted too close to my home and replaced it with a crabapple.

'Royal Raindrops' crabapple

‘Royal Raindrops’ crabapple

Crabapple 'Royal Raindrops'

One of those tips is to be fairly brutal in pruning those roots.  Leif uses a utility knife and slides it down the sides of the root ball about every inch or two making sure there are no roots winding around the root ball.  Another point is that you can flair roots out as well.  If a tree or shrub starts out with circling or girdling roots, you might as well kiss it goodbye now.

To plant properly, take a look at this video with tree expert, Leif Knecht from Knecht’s Nursery and Landscaping.  This was from my show Dig In Minnesota – 2013

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Fall herbicide care and sowing seeds

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

Now into October is the time to apply a herbicide for those broadleaf weeds.  Fall is the BEST time to attack them.   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.





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.

Remember to use chemicals safely, follow the directions on the package, don’t over do it.  I had 2 new shrubs killed by a herbicide that a lawn service used.

From this:

Elderberry 'Lemon Lace'

Elderberry ‘Lemon Lace’

To that:

Elderberry wilting

Elderberry wilting


In late October you’ll want to put down your most important lawn fertilizer application.

repaired lawn

repaired lawn

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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.

roasted tomatoes

roasted tomatoes

'Yellow Pear' tomato in dehydrator

‘Yellow Pear’ tomato in dehydrator

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.  My tomatoes are done for the season.  It was a tough one this year.  I got a late start and then all the rainfall added to disease issues.

A friend of mine has been harvesting plums like crazy this year… and they’re delicious!  RECIPE for Plum Kuchen



Plum kuchen

Oh, and the apples are coming in.  ‘Honeycrisp’ are my favorite.  Take a drive and check out your local orchards.  Many offer a whole lot more than just bags of apples.  Oh, the pies, the tortes, the carmel apples, the petting zoos!

As you celebrate the autumnal equinox and begin your nesting routine, reflect on the season and think about the things that worked and those that didn’t so that you can plan for next year.  Then kick back and enjoy the change of seasons yet again!  It sounds like Winter might be more challenging this year than the last couple.  Of course, that could also mean lots more fun with outdoor sports!  What we DO want is snow before any real cold temperatures.  That blanket of white is just that for our plants, keeping soil from heaving and lifting new plants right out of the ground.

my maple


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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

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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Craft brewers hopping for joy

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Craft brewers hopping for joy

Thanks to some growers in Minnesota, craft brewers are hopping for joy as they grow their own. Hops, that is.  The number of hops growers in the upper midwest has more than doubled in the last 4 years according to the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.


The intense interest in small craft breweries has upped the ante for scientists to collaborate on research that helps to lessen the major hindrance to hops growers from the Dakotas to Vermont.  It’s downy mildew and it’s very aggressive and destructive.  But with colleagues across the country, C-FANS, is create mildew tolerant varieties, fine tune growing techniques and share the knowledge with local growers.  Angela Orshinsky is assistant professor of Plant Pathology at C-FANS.  She says a lot of growers are new to this and don’t know how to apply fungicides legally and appropriately.  People don’t always realize that’s what they need to do.  She said it takes a good 3 years to develop the best practices for specific climate conditions.  Craft brewers use more hops than mass-market beers and consumers are interested in locally sourced product, so the market is there.

'Centennial' hops with downy mildew

‘Centennial’ hops with downy mildew



Hops at Hippity Hop Farms

Hops at Hippity Hop Farms

Now if you’re just growing the vine for your home garden, then be aware, they need room.  The vines come in male or female and only the female produces the cones for use as hops. Flowering plant’s genders are easily recognized by the male’s five petaled flowers. It’s best to pull these out. They’re non-productive.  There’s a joke there, but I’ll be kind!  If given proper care, your backyard hops plant will send out rhizomes from which new plants will grow.  I suggest you talk with your local county extension for the best information on fungicides in your area.

Growing hops

hops trellis


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Emerald Ash Borer bores down

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Emerald Ash Borer bores down

In the continuing saga of EAB it continues trek across 27 states and has killed 10’s of millions of trees.  Yes, that’s millions!


The larvae kill ash trees by tunneling under the bark and feeding on the part of the tree that moves nutrients up and down the trunk. EAB was first discovered in Minnesota in 2009.  Native to eastern Asia, is typically found at low densities and is not considered a significant pest. Outside its native range, it is an invasive species and is highly destructive.  It was first discovered in North America in Michigan in 2002 and swiftly spread east, west and south.  From Vermont to Colorado, Texas to Minnesota.  The hardest hit states include Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.  Canada is also been heavily hit.  EAB has been just recently confirmed in Delaware and Nebraska.   The following comes from BioForest Technologies.  Click on the link to find out MUCH more.

  • In North America, EAB attacks and kills all 16 species of ash (Fraxinus spp.), native and exotic.
  • Six native ashes are valuable commercial species, while the others are important in communities as integral parts of rural and urban landscapes.
  • The mountain ash (Sorbus spp.) is not related to ash trees and EAB does not attack it.
  • EAB attacks healthy and unhealthy ash of any size, in woodlots and urban environments.

Quarantines have quelled it’s movement to a certain extent.  This allows some time for scientists to figure out some types of control including chemicals and biological efforts such as certain wasps that eat the larvae.  The economic impact is hard to imagine.  Mature trees are incredibly valuable and the years it takes to replace them must also be part of the equation.

The best defense is to plant other species.  Some folks are planting other species in their yard now to start them growing while they decide when to get rid of the Ash tree they have now.  Tough call but one that may be necessary if you want to have shade…

Suggestions from Purdue University include Maples, Buckeye, Birch, Hackberry, Gingko and many more.

This is a LONG list of some replacement alternatives by the University of Wisconsin – Madison

Hackberry tree

Hackberry tree

Gingko Biloba

Gingko Biloba

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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)


Alpine Currant

Alpine Currant


  • 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’

Grass 'Karl Forrester'

Grass ‘Karl Forrester’

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Permeable pavers

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Permeable pavers


When most of our neighborhoods were built, the idea was to get the water off our paved surfaces as quickly as possible neglecting the fact that the water, and it’s pollutants, must go somewhere.  It travels into our waterways which, in turn, changes our ecological system.

Permeable pavers are a way to let that water, and it’s pollutants, soak into our soil where it can be filtered and cleaned.  Yes, I said, cleaned!  Microbes in soil eat the bacteria that poisons our waterways!

The University of Minnesota Extension has a wonderful article on permeable pavers.

permeable pavers 3

For your perusal: Willowcreek Paving in Oakdale.  I am not endorsing them but want to give you a chance to look at other permeable possibilities! Greenway pavements use only recycled products.

permeable paver driveway

There are many different styles for these pavers and also different materials used including recycled.  Do a search in YOUR area and then ask if you can see examples of homes or businesses where they’ve been used.  If possible, talk to the homeowner or business owner.  The possibilities are endless!!

pavers made with recycled tires

pavers made with recycled tires

Here’s more on pervious pavers from Macalester College



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