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Herbs for indoors

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Herbs for Indoors

Indoor herb gardening can be visually appealing as well as tasty!  Here are my selections:

I used a 12 inch terra cotta pot packed with Parsley, Sage, Thyme, Oregano, Chives and ‘Purple Ruffles’ Basil.  Note:  Trailing Rosemary is easier to grow than the upright variety.  And Basil is tough to keep growing!

  • Start with a light container soil mix and add some perlite.  Drainage is very important.
  • Water thoroughly, letting the water come out the bottom and then empty the saucer.  Let the soil dry out on top before watering again.
  • Fertilize with 1/2 strength fish emulsion once a month.
  • It’s important to add supplemental lighting, especially for the basil, which can be tricky to grow indoors.  It needs about about 10 to 12 hours of artificial light or 3 hours of sunlight and 6 hours of artificial light.  Use a flourescent bulb.  Incandescents don’t give off enough blue rays for basil plant health.
  • Humidity is also more important to basil which likes sun and warmth.  Place on a tray filled with gravel and water.  You can also ‘bag’ your plant for a couple of days a week.  They like south facing windows.
    bagging herbs

  • Bay likes an east facing window and plenty of air circulation
  • Oregano prefers a south facing window – more light
  • Rosemary prefers a soilless mix that stays moist, not wet.  Also a south facing window
  • Sage tolerates dry indoor air but likes sun
  • Thyme is pretty adaptable.  Would prefer a south window but does just fine in east or west
  • Cilantro and Dill don’t do well indoors

Below is a feature segment I did for a show called “Game On” with Rod Simons:


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Bringing houseplants indoors

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Bringing houseplants indoors

Ahh, the crisp Fall air has release that humidity and it feels good!  For those who’ve had tropical plants outside it’s time to start preparing to bring them indoors.  Some have already had to as temperatures dipped into the 30’s for northern zones.  If it’s just one day of cold, consider a blanket or inside a shed or garage.  The general rule of thumb is to bring those indoor plants inside when temperatures are consistently hanging in the 50’s.   University of Vermont – Bringing Houseplants Indoors

Elephant Ear - Imperial Taro

Elephant Ear – Imperial Taro

I’ve never tried bringing one of these Elephant Ears in the house but this one is just so beautiful I have to see what happens!  BTW, I went to a place called “UsedABit” to find some sort of plate or tray to place it on and found a Duncan Hines tin of some sort for a dollar!  I think it works…  The above plant is near sliding glass doors that lead to a large screened in porch.  The space between the “real” outdoors and the plant will hopefully be sufficient to not be a cold draft problem.

Preparing your plants for the move is the first step.  First, don’t even bother with those that are struggling… let them go to the great compost in your garden bed.  Unless they’re diseased then it’s the garbage bin.  Check for hitchhikers such as spider mites, ants, snails or mealy bugs.  You don’t want to bring in mold either.  Scrub the exterior of dirty pots with a 10% bleach solution and then rinse. Check for critters hiding in the potting medium.  The most effective way to do this is by soaking the pot in a tub of lukewarm water for about 15 minutes. Any unwanted pests will scramble to the surface in search of air.


For houseplants in large containers, where slipping the plant from the pot or dunking the entire pot in water is impractical, apply an insecticide to the soil surface and also to soil inside drainage holes. Apply enough insecticide to soak the soil, and you’ll kill pests or cause them to exit. If pests were present in soil by climbing through pot drainage holes, consider repotting the plant next spring and placing wire mesh or hardware cloth inside the base of the pot to exclude insects.

Here’s a link to one of my heroes!  Paul James ‘Gardening by the Yard’ was a must for me for years.  Here he talks about moving plants indoors

If you repot, spray the potting medium off the roots, clean the inside to the container with a 10% bleach solution and thoroughly rinse.  If the roots fill the pot, use a size larger one.  Finally, check the foliage for dead or yellowing leaves, remove as needed and prune if shaping is required.  For additional protection you can spray the foliage with an insecticidal soap.  Be sure to know where your plant will be placed indoors and make sure the conditions are appropriate.  Right plant, right place holds indoors as well as out!  Consider heat vents and drafts too.


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Vegetable harvest tips

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

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

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.

I grew ‘Octia’ brussel sprouts this year.  I’ve never been a fan but that stems from the younger days when mom took them out of a can.

Brussel sprouts - Octia

Brussel sprouts – Octia

The results:  I steamed them and added a little dill olive oil with salt, pepper and topped with a little parmesan cheese.  I like them.  My husband – not so much!  Will I grow them again?  No…  they take up too much room in the garden for the space I have.

brussel sprouts steaming

Brussel sprouts parmesan, forbidden rice and pork

Brussel sprouts parmesan, forbidden rice and pork



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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.

Leaves - piled

Those leaves take up space ’til you squish ’em down!  😉  No, this isn’t my place…

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October perennial care

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  October perennial care

Fall is fully underway with the splash of red and golden hues in our lovely state! I hope you have a chance, amongst your chores, to get out and enjoy.

Maple and Burning bush

Maple and Burning bush

fall color

Nerstrand Big Woods

There’ve been some great sales at local nurseries as well.  Your purchases should be in the ground and establishing themselves for a delightful display next year!

Right now you can collect seeds of coneflowers and rudbeckia.  Cut the heads off in the afternoon when the plant is dry, open the flower head and collect the seeds.  Be sure to label them, unless you like surprises!

A how to from Fine Gardening magazine ‘Collecting and Storing Seeds’

coneflower seedhead

coneflower seedhead

coneflower seeds

coneflower seeds

Milkweed seeds

Milkweed seeds just because they’re pretty!

Cutting back your perennials is up to you.  I would suggest you cut out any diseased foliage and also take out your hostas.  If you do have some flower seeds left from your Hosta, you can leave them as the birds will munch them over the winter season.

to be left up for winter

to be left up for winter



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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
  • pine cones
  • 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.

Green tomato pie – taste is akin to apple pie

More green tomato recipes from Taste of Home.

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.  For faster ripening place a banana in the box/bag with the tomatoes.  The ethylene gas given off from the banana helps ripen the tomatoes faster.  They don’t taste as good as vine ripened but no point in wasting them!

green tomatoes

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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2016 David Austin roses

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  2016 David Austin roses

I just received the list of new David Austin English roses available to gardeners for the 2016 season!  David Austin has been breeding roses in England for 50 years and these are not the grandiflora, tea rose types that are sensitive and picky but rather lovely old fashioned type shrub roses that hold their fragrance, are mostly repeat bloomers and will grow in full sun to part shade.  Two of the three would be suitable for Minnesotans with winter protection.  The rambler might be really stretching it with it’s zone 7 rating.  However, you could certainly try it in a microclimate and also using winter protection.

‘Olivia Rose Austin’ is the name of, what David calls, “possibly the best rose we’ve ever bred”.

Rose - Olivia Austin

“It’s remarkably healthy and disease-free, incredible for a fragrant rose that blooms in such abundance. Its bloom season starts quite early, typically three full weeks ahead of other English Roses. All season, the blooms keep coming in full-blown flushes that follow in quick succession, hot on the heels of the one before.” The soft pink flowers have an Old Rose formation that opens to a lovely cupped rosette. The medium-strong fragrance is lovely, with distinctly fruity tints. The dark green foliage shows off the flowers beautifully.

Details: Repeat-flowering.  Pleasing fruity fragrance. The fully double flowers are 4-inches in diameter with approximately  90 petals each. Grows to 3.5-feet tall by 3-feet wide. Hardy in USDA Zones 5-10.

Introducing ‘The Poets Wife’…

Rose - The Poets Wife

Austin’s scent expert (rose nose) Robert Calkins gives ‘The Poet’s Wife’ a top-ranked score of 5 out of 5 for fragrance, describing it as Old Rose with strong hints of unripe lemon rind, peach and mango that becomes stronger and sweeter with age.  For the lay nose, said Marriott, that translates to “a rich fruity citrus fragrance that sweetens.” Marriott has just added ‘The Poet’s Wife’ to Austin’s list of Most Fragrant English Roses.

Details: Repeat-flowering. Very strongly fragrant. The fully double flowers are 4.5-inches in diameter with approximately 80 petals each. The bush is nicely rounded with shiny dark green foliage. Grows to 4-feet tall by 3 ½ -feet wide, taller in warmer areas. Hardy in USDA Zones 5-10. (David Austin 2014, Auswhirl).

And finally ‘The Lady of the Lake’…

Rose - the Lady of the Lake

A resurgence of interest in billowy, flower-laden rambler roses is greatly inspired by the new beauties bred by David Austin Roses. Now, Austin introduces ‘The Lady of the Lake’, its fourth short rambler to be bred for repeat-bloom, fragrance, and heights of 10 to 15 feet. These are ramblers made for climbing arches, trellises, pergolas, walls, fences, obelisks and small trees. They are perfectly scaled to draping structures with flowers and fragrance, without overwhelming them with size or weight.    Details: Repeat-flowering. Strongly fragrant. The semi-double flowers are 2-inches in diameter with approximately 30 petals each. Grows to 10- to 15-feet tall.  Hardy in USDA Zones 7 -10 (to grow in Zones 6 and colder, provide winter protection).

All of these roses are purchased bare-root and available on their website.

I also talked about Mycorrhizal fungi which are believed to have developed 400 – 500 million years ago. In the wild, most plants are highly dependent on them as they create a secondary root system that helps the roots extract water and nutrients out of the ground.


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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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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.

Crabapple Royal Raindrops 2015

Crabapple Royal Raindrops 2015

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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