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Earwigs and Japanese beetles – a B movie

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Earwigs and Japanese beetles – a B movie

That really sounds like a B movie!  And it kinda is!  The earwigs have been awful this year.  At least where I am.  We had a lot of rain and they multiplied!

The adult earwig is readily identified by a pair of prominent appendages that resemble forceps at the tail end of its body. Ahh, delightful!  The name comes from a myth that they actually would get into your ear and crawl into your brain.  I shudder to even think about it.



Earwig cluster

It was disgusting!  I used Safer insecticidal soap.  I got most of them.  The thing about this non-toxic soap is that it MUST hit the pest.

Earwig damage on hosta

Earwig damage on hosta

Earwigs munch on some flowers and leaves but their main meal are soft-bodied insects we don’t want such as aphids.  That’s why normally they’re not a problem.  If you are seeing copious amounts of earwigs, you can trap them with a moistened rolled-up newspaper, old tuna fish can, or an eight to ten inch section of garden hose. Place traps in shaded areas where earwigs are most likely to hide during the daytime. Check traps in the morning and shake the insects into a pail of soapy water.

Japanese beetles

Japanese beetles

And then there’s the Japanese Beetle.  These small, metallic-green beetles have adapted to our climate. You may see the adults feeding on your rose bushes from June through August. If you do, hand pick them off or use an insecticide that says it will kill Japanese beetles.

You want to kill the grubs…  here’s a link to the University of MN Extension with a plethora of information on the Japanese Beetle – they eat a LOT of different plants.




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Amber waves of grain

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Amber waves of grain

This weekend we celebrate the independence of this wonderful place we call America, we call home.  While we can certainly complain about some things, we can also rejoice in the freedoms we have.  And for that, I’m thankful.

As I look over amber waves of grain I think of native grasses and flowers that create such a beautiful landscape.

Amber waves

The diversity of flowers and grasses attracts beneficial insects and, once established, prairies are easy to maintain.  While a prairie in my yard isn’t practical, I’ve incorporated some natives into my own landscape. Starting with native grasses, you can add some soft edges and 3 season interest to your yard.  ‘Blue Heaven’ is a unique form of Little Bluestem developed by the University of Minnesota.  This grass stands  4 feet tall with blue to burgundy foliage turning reddish purple to violet in the Fall.

'Blue Heaven'

‘Blue Heaven’

There are several types of reed grasses, in particular the variety Karl Forester is quite pretty, easy to grow and withstands part shade, although it won’t grow as tall.  In sun, Karl Forester will grow about 5 feet and flowers early summer with fluffy bluish plumes. Below is a reed grass with cimicifuga and daylilies

grasses 6-28-15

Prairie Dropseed is a very pretty, elegant looking grass that grows to 3 feet with the flower heads drooping over. I have it incorporated with some steel sculpture.  Birds love this grass and it’s zone 3 hardy.

Prairie Dropseed

Prairie dropseed


Another great tall native is Indian Grass.  It’s considered one of the best for ornamental uses.  This grass grows to 8 feet tall with graceful seed heads that appear in late summer.

Indian grass.

Indian grass.

Check out my Favorite links for native plant nurseries

Have a very happy and safe 4th of July and remember, for our veterans who may suffer from PTSD, those neighborhood fireworks aren’t always welcome so please, be thoughtful and ask if it’s okay



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Canada thistle and the Red, White and Blue

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Canada Thistle and the Red, White and Blue

No, it’s not really from Canada!  We can’t blame it on them.  It’s other “handles” are ‘Lettuce from Hell thistle’ and ‘Cursed thistle’.  I don’t really get the ” lettuce” part, but I concur on the “from hell” part.

If you try to till this beast under, you’ll only multiply it!  Plants can start from broken off roots.  Digging it out is okay if there’s not much but will take a couple of seasons.  Do NOT compost roots or seed parts – unless your home compost pile gets to 150 degrees.

You CAN compost the foliage but let it dry in the sun for a few days on a paved surface – burn that baby!  That is the other option, burning it.  Check your local ordinances before you do that!!!!

The best organic method is to keep mowing it down until the plant weakens and then plant a cover crop like hairy vetch, crimson clover or rye.  You can then compost those cover crops!  This will take a couple of seasons.

From the Canada thistle to our Independence Day, I’m thinking of red, white and blue container plantings.  For shady areas combine Red begonias, White impatiens and Blue Lobelia.

red white and blue

In the sun, think Supertunias, Calibrachoa, Bacopa and Petunias, all have plenty of red, white and blue.

red, white and blue 2

With plenty of plant sales you could probably pick up some pretty perennials for perfect prices too.  Look for the healthiest plants.  If they’re less than luscious, you might try dealing for a better price.

Check your container plants daily, they’ll need to be watered daily, at least.  Any 90 degree days and you’d better water them twice a day.  Those containers just don’t hold moisture.  There are granules that you can use.

handpainted red, white and blue terra cotta pot

handpainted red, white and blue terra cotta pot

In fact, a product called Soil Moist has been on the market for quite a while.  If you use it, be sure to follow the directions exactly.  I’ve heard of people that overdid it and wound up with a foaming, exploding mess on their hands!


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July annual and perennial care

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  July annual and perennial care

Summer’s here and the livin’s easy!!

lounge chair

The temps are great for growing unless we get brutally warm! If you haven’t mulched yet, now is a good time. Mulch truly is a garden’s superhero.

2nd year garden bed

It will keep weeds out, moisture in and soil temperatures stabilized. This is important for some of our more tender perennial plants, annuals and newly planted perennials. Applying a thin layer, about an inch, right now will keep the soil temp a bit cooler and moisture in.

You should water well and deeply but less frequently this time of year. This will encourage the roots to grow deeper.

Stop fertilizing during extremely hot, dry weather.

Take advantage of all those plant sales but be sure to check over what you’re buying and don’t purchase anything that looks like it’s on it’s way out UNLESS you know what you’re getting into!

grasses 6-28-15

Everyone’s gardens are really starting to look great, take pictures of what you like and what you don’t like so you remember, “oh yeah, I didn’t like that plant”. I would really encourage you to have a garden journal.

Garden Journal

Garden Journal

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Garden garbage

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

I had a listener ask me why someone would put glass in their garden thinking that there must be a reason other than a garbage dump….

Well, turns out many people find all kinds of things in their yards as they dig to plant gardens.  Years ago I moved into a home on 5 acres that had been an old farmstead.  The house was gone and replaced in a different location but the garbage stayed.  We didn’t discover it till the following Spring having moved in just before winter.

That's me with a pile of barbed wire that was all through the woods

That’s me with a pile of barbed wire that was all through the woods

Iron in the lower left corner.  Bobcat clearing more garbage

Iron in the lower left corner. Bobcat clearing more garbage

While the vast majority of places never had THAT much junk, still many folks have found some pretty interesting items.  Also among the debris was broken pottery, cheap aluminum pie tins that the put bird seed in and never cleaned picked up!

This might be a little more than most folks would put in their yard!  Clever, though

This might be a little more than most folks would put in their yard! Clever, though

I talked with other gardeners who found way cooler stuff!  Many folks have turned their garbage in the garden it into a treasure hunt!  With an up-to-date tetanus shot (I highly recommend that), gloves, a shovel and determination these people are out there finding old pottery, childrens toys from 1800’s, pieces of farm equipment that they dig out and then display in their gardens!  Another gardener I know found an old bed frame and put that in her flower bed!

there is a use for broken glass!

there is a use for broken glass!

wheel barrow of flowers

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Rain chains

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Rain Chains

We got nearly 3 inches of rain overnight on Saturday/Sunday and as I walked out of the grocery store yesterday, it was a rainfall of mythic proportions soaking me within 3 feet of the door!  ;-)

So I’m feeling pretty good about talking rain chains….

very simple rain chain

very simple rain chain

A little research shows an abundance of these beauties to buy or you can make your own!  They look and SOUND wonderful as the rainwater follows the chain into a rain barrel or basin.  They come in a myriad of designs but you could easily make your own from left over copper tubing, aluminum pieces, old cowbells or whatever you may have laying around!   Terra cotta pots, old small metal colanders and the list goes on.  Talk about a cheap water feature!

rain chain terra cotta

For a tutorial on how to make the above terra cotta pot rain chain click HERE.  PS, use any color you want to paint them or none at all!  It’s your chain after all!

rain chain

First up – Choose where you want to put your chain.  Ideally it’s somewhere visible, maybe by your door or somewhere you can see from inside your home or near a garden.  Then, take down the downspout that’s there.  Measure the length from top to bottom so you know how long your chain needs to be.  By the way, make sure your gutters are secured well as the rain chains can be heavy and you may need to add additional gutter support.  You’ll need a gutter strap to attach inside the gutter opening at the roof line to secure the chain.

rain chain forks and spoons

Check out this easy tutorial from Michelle Kaufman and her Green-it-Yourself project on the fundamentals:

You can make this as simple as using curtain rings or as intricate as welding old spoons and forks for a unique design.  You’ll want to secure the chain at the bottom.  You can use a stake to secure it and place decorative rock around it OR you can hang it right into a rain barrel.

rain chain bottom

rain chain in a barrel

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

The little garden jewel, the hummingbird, the bestower of Joy…

Hummingbirds have long been a part of traditional western cultures.  Their joy, tenacity and, in Caribbean cultures, the belief that they are your loved ones who’ve passed on, make them a delight in the garden.

Attract hummingbirds with:

  • Clethra
  • Azaleas
  • Cardinal flower
  • Heuchera
  • Helitrope
  • Salvia
  • Petunias
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Bee Balm aka Monarda
  • Honeysuckle vines
  • Trumpet Vine

Along with a myriad of other flowers, be sure to give them sugar water.  Use table sugar NOT koolaid, sugar substitute, jello or honey.  There’s no need to color the sugar water.

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Sugar water:  Mix 4 parts water to 1 part table sugar.  Boil it, cover it and let it cool.  It should last for 4 days before changing it.  You don’t want it to get moldy!

And then there’s this one!  This is my tattoo cover up.  The first one was in 1980 – the cover up was done in 2010…




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Vines for shade

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Vines for shade

Last week I talked about vines for trellises and I had some folks ask specifically for vines for shade.  So, here you are!  There is a caveat – all of these vines need some sun to flower.  Full shade will never do!

For fast growth and pretty, fragrant white flowers that last summer into Fall, there’s a vine called polygonum aubertii  or more commonly, Silver Lace.  I found it sold at Farmer Seed & Nursery in Faribault which has an extensive online catalog. I also found it at a local nursery and it was already getting quite large in it’s small container!

Silver Lace from Farmer Seed in Faribault

The reported spread varies from 20 to 40 feet with the possibility of growing 12 to 20 feet in the first year alone.  Then there’s the Dropmore Scarlet Honeysuckle Vine.

Dropmore Honeysuckle vine

It’s also a rapid grower and can handle light shade.  They grow up to 15 feet and flower from mid-spring through summer.  They’re fragrant and very attractive to Hummingbirds.

Virgin’s Bower is a native clematis that’s been growing in another Master Gardeners garden quite nicely.  Here’s more information from Minnesota Wildflowers.  The pictures are from their website.

Virgin's Bower clematis native

Virgin's Bower seedheads

It flowers from July through September and has some very interesting looking fruit.  As I gathered some research on this clematis, the hardiness varies widely.  I found places where it indicates a zone 2 hardiness, yet another area says zone 6.  Since it is most certainly growing well in zone 4, I would venture to say we’re good throughout the state.  I found this growing along a path and absconded with some seedheads that I used to decorate a terra cotta pot.

My artistic endeavor using virgin's bower flowers.  They're on the bottom left

My artistic endeavor using virgin’s bower flowers. They’re on the bottom left

Dutchmans pipe is a zone 4 vine used as a screen mostly.  It will grow in part shade and has huge heart shaped leaves with brownish purple pipe shaped flowers in early summer.

Dutchman's Pipe vine 2

There are several local nurseries that sell it.  Below is from Pahl’s market.   Dutchman's Pipe vine

For more information on vines of all kinds to grow a living screen check out this article from the University of Minnesota Extension.  Vines: Growing a Living Screen


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Weed blocking superheroes

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Weed blocking superheroes

Weeding not your bag?  Me either!  Although occasionally I find it cathartic, I prefer not to HAVE to do it.  How about some weed-blocking plants!  They pack a punch to knock out weeds, but they are invasive.

The samurai of weed blockers do so by shading weed seeds and not allowing them to germinate.  Here are just a few to get you started:

Lady’s Mantle is a great part shade plant and grows to about 18 inches tall.  Try a variety called ‘Thriller’.

This pretty groundcover, moss phlox,  likes full sun and is zone 2 hardy!  wow…

Liriope handles nearly any condition.  Plant in part shade in zone 4.

Creeping Jenny is another weed blocker that appreciates sun but will do fine in part shade.

Creeping Jenny

creeping jenny multiple

Sedum can be grown in sun to part shade and offers several cultivars.  I have green with red stems and little yellow flowers and also ‘red dragon’

sedum red dragon sedum

Snow-on-the-Mountain is a great weed blocker for shade.  This stuff can’t hardly be killed.

Snow on the Mountain for soundcloud

And yet one more…  Creeping thyme

Creeping Thyme

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Perennial weed whipping

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Perennial weed whipping

I enjoy an occasional weeding session, it’s cathartic.

Okay, he's actually trying to pull a beet out of the ground but you catch my drift

Okay, he’s actually trying to pull a beet out of the ground but you catch my drift

Annual weeds tend to be easier to pull out, it’s the perennial weeds that drive us crazy!  Those roots that break off in the soil will spread and make more!

When the weeds start winning, it’s time to break out the heavy artillery.

Choose a windless day, using a cheap sponge paint brush and a cool whip container of weed killer, paint the weeds leaves on both sides.  This will send the chemical through the plant into the root system killing the weed.

paint sponge

The other method is to use a gallon milk jug with the top and bottom cut out, place the jug over the offending weed and spray it with weed killer.

milk jug to spray weed

Major thing to remember – SAFETY first!  Use protective gear as indicated on the package and be very careful not to get the chemical on any plant you want to keep!

What is a weed

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