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The poop on manure

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Manure happens!  And in abundance but fresh manure should never be put on a veggie garden!  You can buy composted manure at most garden centers.

Creekside compost with manure

Temperatures in a compost pile should reach 130 to 140 degrees to kill weed seeds and pathogens.  It should stay at that temp for at least 5 days.  Most folks stay away from pig manure.  It’s best to stick with dairy, sheep, horse or poultry manure.

Never use dog or cat manure.  It’s just not worth the risk as dogs may have worms and cats can carry parasites.  You can use your PET rabbit, guinea pig or hamsters bedding but only AFTER it’s been composted.  However, you CAN use wild rabbit droppings with no composting.  Those bunnies are usually depositing them in your garden for you!


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Shrubs for Color

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Tiger lily 1

Tiger Lily with bulbets

Yes, Tiger Lilies are pretty but they lined 25 feet of my garage and were not looking that lovely anymore.  They had become overgrown and leaned out as if on their last gasp.  So, I put them out of their misery and ripped ‘em out. Now what? Shrubs for Color of course!  First thing to consider is the mature size of the shrub(s) you’re considering.  When planting near a foundation, you need to give them room to grow and room to walk behind if need be.  So if you’re shrub will reach 5 feet wide, you’ll want to come out at the very least 2 1/2 feet from the building.I’m looking for something easy to grow, handles some afternoon sun, which is hotter, won’t get too large  and will add color.

The ‘Cool Splash’ dwarf honeysuckle has bright white and green variegated leaves, grows to a mounded 4 feet tall and has little yellow flowers in June and July.

Dwarf Honeysuckle - Cool Splash

Dwarf Honeysuckle – Cool Splash

Mix that with some ‘Cabernet’ Japanese Barberry which is a beautiful burgundy until Fall when it turns yellow and I might have my plan! (btw, I was told this is not invasive but have recently found out that that is up in the air)

Barberry - Cabernet

Barberry – Cabernet


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Earth Day and organic wet waste

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Time to celebrate!

Organic or wet waste composting is becoming a necessity as our landfills fill to capacity.  Some Cities around the country are already requiring homeowners use separate bins for their garbage, sorting out their wet waste, which includes food soiled paper napkins and pizza boxes, from their recyclables.  It can get confusing.  Check out this comprehensive list of acceptable organic waste via the city of St. Louis Park, MN.

The City I live in did a pilot program and it was obvious more education is required.  While home composters can deal with orange peels and potato skins, you can’t compost animal waste such as fat, bones and scrapings from your plate.  Don’t ever put those in your backyard composter, you’ll attract critters and possibly disease.  However, there are companies around the country who CAN process that waste, thus reducing the burden on our landfills.

 Programs are sprouting up all over the state to recycle and reuse, trying not to waste what we have.  That leads me to another very cool program in the Twin Cities called “Fruits of the City”.  They’re a volunteer organization within the 7 county metro area that will harvest your extra fruit and donate it to a local food shelf .   As always remember your local food shelf when you have an abundant harvest.

Despite any “ruin” that we may have done, it’s still the outstanding planet in our solar system.  Van Gogh once said “if you truly love nature, you’ll see beauty everywhere”.  I find that a true statement even in the weeds that fight to grow through our paved streets and sidewalks.

I get peaceful when I’m out there digging around in the soil.  Gardening is a great physical release as well.

bench garden

Do you have a favorite “green” thing that you do?  I’d love to hear it.  Email me at teri@gardenbite.com

Enjoy and do the “happy dance”!

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Easter Lily care

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If your plant came with a foil wrapping like the above photo, be sure to poke a couple of holes in the foil and place on a saucer.  When you water it, you want the excess water to drain out the bottom, then empty the saucer.  Water when the soil surface is dry.

Keep in bright indirect light.  Cut the anthers (those yellow stems inside the flower) before the pollen starts to shed.  This will prevent staining of the white flower and prolong the bloom time.  Lillium longiflorum, Easter Lily, likes the temps around 60 to 70 degrees.

easter lily anther

Easter Lilies are poisonous to cats but not to dogs.  You can plant your Easter Lily bulb outside after it’s bloomed but they’re not reliable here in Minnesota. 

Hope your Easter was blessed!


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Rain barrels and compost bins

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April Showers bring May flowers.  At least that’s the hope and that moisture isn’t in the solid form of snow!

May snowfall

May snowfall 2013

EEK!  I’m really hopeful that will NOT be this year!  I think the 2013/14 winter season was brutal enough.  In fact, climatologists are saying this MAY be a drier/hotter season.  We’ll see…

In the meantime, rain barrels are always a good idea for several reasons.  Rainwater is the best kind of water for your lawn and flower gardens and capturing it is a good thing for several reasons.  First, it’s free!  It’s also a good storm water management practice.  Corralling that precious water before it rushes down the storm drain and carries with it phosphorous that is a major contributor to unwanted algae growth in our lakes and ponds.  

Rain barrel

Rain barrel

The University of Minnesota Extension Rain Barrels – a way of collecting and using rain water.

I’ll be picking up my Rain Barrel from the Cannon River Watershed Partnership next week.  They offer the barrels and a quick class.  Where I live, my City offers a $20 rebate off my utility bill for verification of installation of a Rain Barrel.  Not a bad idea!

All Minnesota Counties have an online presence now. Albeit some better than others.  Nonetheless, here is a LIST of counties.  Check with them, your Master Gardeners and/or your City to find out what may be available to you.  Of course you can always just buy one or build one and place it.  Here are just a few ideas from TreeHugger.

One more thing, a rain barrel can save most homeowners 1300 gallons of water in one season!  Another good idea are compost bins.   They can be nearly any structure that can hold debris while allowing for air circulation, water and heat (as in some sunlight) to get to the pile. 

Compost bins The Self Sufficient Living

Compost bins The Self Sufficient Living

The above photo is from The Self Sufficient Living.  The University of Minnesota Extension offers homeowners a comprehensive Composting Guide.

Portable compost bin drawing

Portable compost bin with dimensions

The above compost is made from a garbage can and can be bungeed to a dolly for portability.

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Sun/shade terms

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What the heck is dappled sun?  Do you get confused by some of those sun/shade terms on plant tags?

Here’s an explanation:

  • Full sun is at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.  8 hours is best for tomatoes, peppers, melons.
  • Dappled sun is the lightest shade.  It’s full sun filtered through open-branched trees such as honey locust, aspen and birch.
  • Light shade/partial sun are interchangeable.  These plants need 3 to 6 hours of direct sunlight, usually in the morning or afternoon.  If the tag emphasizes shade, then plant in morning sun.  If it emphasizes sun, then plant in afternoon sun, which is hotter.
  • Medium/partial shade is 1 to 3 hours of sunlight, this could be dappled sun.
  • Full/heavy shade is could be a wooded area or on the north side of your house under eaves and generally receives no reflected light.

Sun from the west is hottest, followed by south, east and finally north.  How does your site light up?  Check the sun throughout the day, keeping in mind as the season continues, this changes.

Dappled sun - Honeylocust is upper left

Dappled sun – Honeylocust is upper left

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What to plant outside right now

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Much of Minnesota is now Zone 4 while we still have some areas of zone 3 to the north and zone 5 to the south.  Click on the map to your right to find out where you are.

So long as your soil is workable (NOT wet), you can start planting seeds of beets, peas, lettuce and onion sets right now!  You can also plant transplants of broccoli, brussel sprouts and rhubarb.  Potato tubers should be planted now.  If you’re new to gardening, follow the packet directions.  I like to toss the lettuce seed, willy nilly!  ;-)   The above mentioned vegetables can tolerate light frost and some shade.

Tomatoes and peppers are the last veggie to be planted.  It’s best to plant them AFTER Memorial day in zone 4 and 2 weeks after that in zone 3.

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The Foundation of Life – Soil

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Our Foundation

Our Foundation

Soil  holds the keys to a plant’s ability to take up nutrients, water and oxygen.  Soil also acts as a filter for rainwater, cleaning it as it makes it’s way into our aquifers.   If you prepare your garden beds, you give your plants the best chance to, not only survive, but thrive.

Soil is simply amazing when you learn more about it.  This forum doesn’t give us enough time, and frankly, there’s way more to it than this lay person could possibly explain!  ;-)  What I do know is how essential it is and how wonderful it smells as I first start planting my Spring garden.  I know how wonderful it feels in my hands as I dig.

This MAP will give you a rough idea of the types of soils we have in Minnesota.

Soil types

Soil types

To that end it’s important for gardeners to prepare their garden beds.  It is the single most important thing you can do for your plants.  Having fluffy, nutrient rich soil that can hold your plants while allowing the roots to grow is ideal!  Take the time for a soil test and then build from there.

Adding organic matter every year won’t hurt but tilling every Spring and Fall will.  This breaks up your soil’s structure and CAN lead to compacted soil.  Soil has oxygen in it, air pockets if you will, that keep it fluffy.

The Colorado Master Gardener Program has 2 types of tests you can do at home to find out if your soil texture is sandy, loam or clay.  Click HERE and scroll down to the jar test and the feel test.

Remember, the most comprehensive test is through the University of Minnesota (if you live in MN!).

Soil type jar testing

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Soil test

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Getting a soil test is always a good idea!  A reminder as we head into possible flooding season, flooded soil loses some micronutrients and compost.  Getting a soil test through the University of Minnesota offers much more comprehensive information and is worth the money.

soil testing lab

Soil Testing Labratory [University of Minnesota Extension] I also have a link in my Favorite Links

soil test certified

Before you start digging for samples, make sure you’re soil is dried out sufficiently.  You can test it by taking a handful of soil, squeeze it in your hand.  If it stays in a tight ball, it’s too wet;  if it crumbles apart, unlikely right now, it’s too dry;  if it stays in a loose ball, it’s just right!

good dirt!

good dirt!

I want to welcome my sponsor Creekside Soils.  They blend a number of soil amendments as well as potting soil and topsoil.  Available around the state in a nursery near you.  Gardeners who know, use Creekside.

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Spiral gardens

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If you don’t have a lot of room, spiral gardening may be the way to go.  It’s really catching on and offers you the chance to be creative.  Spiral gardening allows you to stack plants vertically for small spaces. 

Spiral Garden from Microgardener

Spiral Garden from Microgardener

The above photo is from a woman who blogs at The Microgardener.  She has a 4 step method for creating a spiral garden with all types of materials.

Spiral herb-veggie garden

This one has herbs and veggies, you can plant flowers too.  Really, anything you like!

Depending on the material you use, you can add your soil and compost or straw as you go.   There will be some settling, so don’t plant immediately.  Place plants that like it a little drier at the top, the bottom will remain a bit more moist as water seeps down.  As for the plants, most people use this for herb gardening or other edibles, especially those who don’t bend as well.  You create little micro climates in this type of gardening.

The south side of your garden will be the sunniest and warmest, making the north side the shadiest and coolest.  Keep that in mind when choosing plants.  I found lots of videos on the internet which means plenty of ideas.  choose what makes sense to you.  Throughout all the videos and information, the constants are:

  • laying down cardboard in the place you plan for your spiral garden
  • wet the cardboard and/or put wet soil on top of it
  • lay out your first layer of spiral

Check out this video from The Nature Learning Center

Here’s another video where the instructor adds detail.  The video itself isn’t the greatest but you get a good idea of how this works.



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