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Pinching, is it rude?

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Pinching, is it rude?

Only if you’re pinching someONE you ought not to!  Oh, this is Garden Bite and we talk plants!

Pinching, pruning, deadheading are all a good thing FOR THE MOST PART.  I would caution you to quit pinching your Mums right now.  If you don’t you won’t have any flowers coming.

Pinching your herbs is a great way to keep them growing bushier.  You want the leaves more than the flowers.  So pinch, prune or use scissors to cut back the flowers.  Snip back to the next set of 2 leaves and they’ll form lateral or side shoots.

Take a look at the flowers on this peppermint.  They could all be pinched off at the next set of 2 leaves.  The reason I didn’t on this plant is that mint just grows crazy and I didn’t really need to.

However, with basil, chives, parsley, dill, any of the herbs are better off being pinched back before they get to the open flower stage.  The leaves can become bitter as the energy goes to the flowers.  Also, most herbs LOVED to be pinched!

Same goes for your indoor planted herbs!

A Garden Bite listener/blog reader question, what’s a biennial:

A biennial is a plant whose entire lifecycle takes 2 years to complete.  The first year, it grows a low set of leaves, the next year, it flowers, sets seed and dies.  The foxglove or digitalis is an example of a biennial that reseeds itself in our climate.

Foxglove aka Digitalis - this is non-toxic

Foxglove aka Digitalis – this is non-toxic



A perennial continues to live through our climate zone while an annual lasts just one season.  Although there are plants that drop seed and you’ll find more next year.  Cilantro is a good one for that.



Cilantro flowering

Cilantro flowering

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Renovating weedy groundcovers

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Renovating weedy groundcovers

What to do when the weeds are winning?  Renovate!

Dig up those great plants, “heel” them into another area, use a total vegetation killer to rid your bed of those weeds and then replant.

Heeling in your plants simply means that you dig a trench in an unplanted area and give your plants a temporary home while you renovate.  You could also leave them in pots buried in the ground.  That is,  if you have enough.   Note:  they can become root bound if in the pot too long.

Heeling in from The Plant Directory

The idea is to give them a fighting chance by saving your good plants and knocking out those pesky weeds.  You’ll see this often in nurseries.  In fact, most trees they have for sale are “heeled in”.  It’s also like the Minnesota Tip Method for roses.

vetch in groundcover

vetch in groundcover

Read the label directions on the chemical you choose to know when you can start replanting.  Round Up is probably the most widely known total vegetation killer.  You can also use heavy cardboard laid on the area and held down with stones over the winter.  That will kill those weeds!  Some Master Gardeners I know have used old carpet.  They didn’t seem concerned about any chemicals from the carpet.  Well, considering we lay on it, I don’t know why that would be a major issue.

after weeding the garden small

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Lawn herbicides and fertilizers

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Lawn herbicides and fertilizers

I’ve recently had questions about how people can get rid of weeds in their lawn now and what kind of weed and feed should they do.  First up – do NOT fertilize your lawn in hot weather.  Yes, we are coming off the wettest July in years and are out of a drought, but we’ve also had some very hot days and will likely have more.  NORMALLY, The best times to fertilize are later in August and mid-October.

stressed lawn

Fall is the best time to control perennial broadleaf weeds. At this time of year (mid-September through mid-October), these plants are storing carbohydrates for winter, actively growing and will readily take up the herbicide. Often, a one-time, relatively low rate of application of an appropriate herbicide will be effective. Since much of the other landscape plant material is either going dormant for the winter or has been removed from the garden and flower beds, there is less chance for off-target plant injury.  There are a number of broadleaf weed herbicides (weed     killers) available for use on lawns. Only apply to actively growing weeds.  Choices found in garden centers typically include 2,4-D (the most commonly used).  It was reevaluated by the EPA in 2005.  MCPP (2-(2-methyl-4-chlorophenoxy) propionic acid); or dicamba (3,6-dichloro-o-anisic acid); with two and three-way combinations available.

Could this be your lawn?  clover?  dandelions? 



This is an extensive article by University of Minnesota Extension “Control options for Minnesota lawn and landscape weeds”

The use of corn gluten meal as a herbicide was discovered during turfgrass disease research conducted at Iowa State University. CGM was observed to prevent grass seeds from sprouting. Further research has shown that it also effectively prevents other seeds from sprouting, including seeds from many weeds such as crabgrass, chickweed, and even dandelions.  Corn gluten meal [University of Minnesota extension] is effective only against seeds, not existing plants. Annual weeds that are already up and growing will not be killed by products made of corn gluten meal. They’ll die on their own, though, by the end of autumn. But most of the seeds they produce later in the season shouldn’t sprout – provided you’ve applied the CGM properly and at the correct time. Crabgrass, foxtail, purslane, and prostrate pigweed are examples of annual weeds found in lawns.  CAVEAT: The jury is still out with some folks on how effective CGM is and with it’s timing issues and the current price of corn, many are opting out of this option. 

July rains created a green lawn.

July rains created a green lawn.

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Recent storms and heavy rain

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Recent storms and heavy rain

Many of us have been hit with storms and heavy rain.  Effects can be dramatic or subtle.  The first step is check your gardens.  Large storm damage can be pretty easy to spot but there can be subtle damage you might not see unless you’re looking.

Storm damage

storm damage small

Check for small branch and leaf damage too and remove them.  Stake or support newer plants and trees that need it.  If the soil’s been saturated (like the 3 and 4 inch rains and more we’ve had) some plants will need a little help in keeping their footing!

Don’t walk on, compress or compact your soil.  Walking on or working in wet soil can actually compact it even more.  As I’ve said before on previous garden bites, you’ll wind up with dirt clods.

Watch for areas where the water is eroding your garden.  I have had a few spots.  One is from a neighbor that’s got all they can do to take care of their kids and their business.  So, I just moved some plants and have made a sort of drainage way.

water erosion

In the newly planted garden that I talked about last week, we added rock where the downspout is to help with drainage and used limestone to guide the water down into the yard.

neighbor encroach

The above photo is a shot of where water from my neighbors driveway drops down and crosses into my perennial bed.  There had been wood chips there… now they’re in the grass.  Oh well.


If you find exposed roots, cover them with soil but then consider ways to move any overflow water so it won’t happen again.

Don’t forget good garden hygiene. Remove all dead leaves and branches, if you see signs of a disease try removing those infected plant parts too and since they may be infected with molds or fungus, don’t put them in your compost pile, but throw them out with the trash.   As you consider options to help control the problem, adding more compost is a great one!

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Fun with fungi – DVSM

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Fun with fungi – DVSM

If you’ve listened to my show in the past, then you know, I’m a bit of a freak about fungi.  I really don’t like mushrooms for eating.  It’s a texture thing.  However, I do love seeking them out in my yard.  It’s a visual thing.  While some fungi look fearsome, others look fascinating.  For instance, the very descriptive Dog Vomit Slime Mold.  The name may be unfortunate but watching the daily changes that happen with this particular fungi is very interesting.

DVSM day one


DVSM later that day

DVSM later that day

DVSM the next day

DVSM the next day

DVSM late stage layers

DVSM late stage layers

DVSM seeks out wood chips so it was very active in a newly laid wood chip trail.  It starts out a bright cheery yellow, continues to crawl across the wood chips while the fruiting bodies continue to change shape and texture for the next couple of days and then as the “food” runs out the color fades to a dull grayish beige with (what looks to be) drops of blood forming on top.  This is the spore producing stage.  The entire surface, which can be at least 8 inches wide, starts to break off and moves to another area to continue the cycle.  The transition from a mushy blob of protoplasm to the release of spores is very fast, usually occurring within 48 hours.   Pics below are from the woodland trail we built on a former property.

Woodland trail

Woodland trail 2

For more fun with fungi check out Strange Things in my Yard.

I found this fella tucked under my Blue Salvia early this year….  still not sure what type he is.  If you know, let me know!!  You can email me at teri@gardenbite.com or check out my facebook page!

golden mushrooms

golden mushrooms


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Garden renovation with shrubs for shade

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Garden renovation with shrubs for shade

Once again, I’m renovating a part of my landscape and once again, I had a bunch of rock to remove.  Or rather my husband removed the vast majority of it!  We also spent time yanking up old plastic, scraping out some sod as I changed the border a bit and removing some old plantings  In particular were a couple of old peonies.

peony root

peony root

peony root

And what happened during removal….

broken shovel

The site is shaded at various times through the day with the ends having more sun, one side in the morning, the other in the afternoon.  I have windows to consider and a hose caddy.  I also wanted it to be pretty simple.  Shrubs came to mind right away.



I have much larger pictures on my Garden Bite with Teri Knight Facebook page!

south side with 1 box

The land dips down where the box is.  My husband built me two of them for this side.  In between is the downspout.  The boxes are stepped.  We need to finish the work by adding limestone.  The rainwater will follow the line out into the yard.

south side 2 boxes

south side with 2 boxes

I chose hydrangea paniculata ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ and ‘White Diamonds’.  Partly because I wanted them and partly because they were the best looking of the shrubs on sale and they went together well!  Sometimes that’s how you choose – it’s almost made for you so long as the cultural conditions match.  For the middle, I needed shrubs that could take more shade.  Buttonbush ‘Sugar Shack’ was also on sale at my local nursery and has really unique fragrant flowers that attract pollinators.  I will need to supplement water until these shrubs are well established.  The first 3 years.  And finally I planted Elderberry ‘Lemon lace’.

south side 4

south side 3

south side 2

south side 1



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Tomatoes and Peppers

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Tomatoes and Peppers

I just had my first ‘Big Boss Man’ ancho poblano pepper last week!  I loved it!  It has great texture, beautiful color and the heat is easy to take.  (some think it’s hotter than I do) Meaning you can taste it but it doesn’t overwhelm the dish.

Pepper 'Big Boss Man'

Pepper ‘Big Boss Man’

Recently we’ve experienced the real heat of summer and the tomatoes and peppers are really going crazy.  It’s a good idea to keep a close watch on these two warm season vegetables.

For tomatoes, check their growth every day as some of the fruit can get mighty heavy and you don’t want a stem to break that might be lying across the metal cage.  If you have fruit on the ground, place straw or untreated grass clippings underneath to prevent rot.  This also helps keep the moisture in as we already talked about this week with organic mulch.

Tomato 'Brandywine'

Tomato ‘Brandywine’

Tomato - Brandywine heirloom

I’ve also planted ‘Fresh Salsa’, a roma style tomato that I’ll use for roasting.  The flavor is still wonderful fresh but the meatier structure and more uniform size is great for roasting.  I’m also trying the famous cherry tomato ‘Sun Gold’.   Just a week after writing this GB, I’m seeing more fruits than when I recorded it!  I also have ‘Mighty Sweet’ cherry tomatoes (they’re loaded with fruit).

Tomato 'Fresh Salsa'

Tomato ‘Fresh Salsa’

I’m also growing ‘Flavorburst’ peppers (a tasty and prolific sweet bell pepper) and jalapenos!

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Organic mulch

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Organic Mulch

I believe I made myself clear yesterday about my feelings on rock mulch!  So what would I use?

I prefer wood chips.  The above are colored red to add contrast.  (Some people don’t like colored mulch as they think it’s takes away from the plants, as always, it’s your choice) I did this back in 2007 and laid down landscape fabric.  If I had to do it again, I would just cultivate and lay down the wood chips right on the ground.  The weeds find a way no matter what.  The landscape fabric ends up becoming a problem later anyway.  The below pics are more recent, I pulled weeds, incorporated compost and laid down newspaper, then mulch.

Rejuvenation of perennial garden



Karl Forester grasses, cimicifuga, rose

Karl Forester grasses, cimicifuga, rose

The above is a gentle reminder to create a “donut” of mulch NOT a “volcano”!  ;-)  By the way, that’s a ‘Parker Pear’ tree that has delivered pears for several years.  It’s at least 6 times the size now.  It’s planted next to a ‘Summer Crisp’ for pollination.  Very tasty!

There are plenty of other organic options for mulch:

  • non-chemically treated grass clippings
  • shredded leaves
  • pine needles
  • pecan shells
  • cocoa bean – some people think that this is toxic to dogs, I think they’d have to eat quite a bit of it
  • aged corncobs (I tried to find a picture for you but no such luck)

Iowa State University has a good article on Organic Mulches.

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Inorganic Mulch

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Inorganic Mulch

I think it’s time for the mulch talk.  We know it’s a good idea but what KIND of mulch should you get.  Organic vs Inorganic.  The first question to ask yourself is what do I want my mulch to do?  Do I want it to just sit and look pretty or do I want it to work for the money I put into it?   There are good reasons for both options.  Today we’ll focus on inorganic mulch or Trophy mulch as I call it.

Rock Mulch, okay, I have a bias against this stuff.  It’s a pain the b….ack.  Side.  If you’re using it as a weed suppressant than expect to have to use chemicals to kill the weeds that eventually come up through it because moving it is HARD work.

However, there are people who still want it, so if that’s you, then go ahead.  But first, take a sample home.  Most places will allow you to take a sample and see if it’s really the color you want.  Also, I would limit where you put it.

rock mulch stonescape

This isn’t a bad place to use rock, however, you’ll still be cleaning this out from blown leaves and weeds will show up.  LIFE wants to grow!  ;-)

rock mulch display

As you can see there are certainly plenty of choices.

Recycled Rubber Mulch is another inorganic choice.  It’s an idea for the childrens playground or in an area you have no plans to plant.  Rubber mulch doesn’t breathe.  No weeds will come up but getting water, nutrients and air to the plants you want to thrive, will be a problem.  There are some studies suggesting it gives off toxins and gets too hot for plants.  There are 2 schools of thought on the subject and I think it’s one you have to decide for yourself.

Recycled rubber mulch

Here’s something I don’t recommend:

Rubber mulch tree ring

They claim that air, water and nutrients can get through, if that’s true, then so can weeds.  And then you’ve got the weeds coming up through rubber.  Tough to pull!  Also, rocks and rubber heat up.  That’s not a good thing for most plants, they don’t need the extra hot soil.

Here’s some information from Nature’s Way Resources.  Of course they do not recommend rubber mulch but you might want the information they offer.

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The first year they sleep

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  The first year they sleep


You’ve planned, purchased and planted those wonderful plants, now it’s time to weed, watch and wonder how long it will take them to become the size of the plants in those plant books!

There’s a great garden adage that rings true most of the time.

“The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they leap”

Patience has never been my strong suit but through gardening I’m learning to endure it!  It’s worth the wait.  It’s best to buy your plants small, they establish much easier as they won’t suffer as much from transplant shock.  It’s also more cost effective!  Start them with a large planting hole that you’ve added organic matter into and be sure to water them well especially for the first couple of years.  Three years for larger plants.

Grass Sticks

They’re sleeping!

New perennial bed with

New perennial bed  2nd year

3rd year!

3rd year!

And my very own quote:

“The Garden is no place to stress for success, but to soak up some sun and renew your Spirit”

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