• GardenBite@Facebook • GardenBite@Twitter

Gypsy Moths

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Gypsy Moths

It’s been all over the news but what is it?  The gypsy moth is an invasive forest pest from Europe that is one of the most damaging tree defoliators currently in the U.S. Aspen and oak top the list of over 500 preferred host species.

Gypsy Moths female on the left male on the right

Gypsy Moths
female on the left male on the right

Gypsy moth caterpillars feed on leaves of deciduous trees and are present in early to mid-summer.  The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is starting an aerial assault this week over 50,000 acres in northeastern Minnesota.  2013 trapping results showed a significant number of the pest yet small enough to be treated.

gypsy moth caterpillars 2

They are voracious eaters and can completely defoliate a tree in short order.  Repeated defoliation can kill a tree and change the mix of tree species which affects wildlife.  Outdoor recreation areas are then affected due to bare trees and the caterpillars and their waste fall from the trees.   ICK!

Gypsy Moth egg mass

Gypsy Moth egg mass

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is starting an aerial assault this week over 50,000 acres in northeastern Minnesota.  2013 trapping results showed a significant number of the pest yet small enough to be treated.  The males only live a couple of days so their only job once they emerge is to mate.

According to the MDA the treatment will disrupt their mating but is not harmful to anything else.  Areas to be treated include all of Duluth, Hermantown, Proctor and an area near Ely.  This pest is on the DNR’s invasive list.

Because the Gypsy Moth is a non-native, it has no natural predators allowing it to reproduce much more easily.  So, what can YOU do?  Don’t transport firewood.  That may sound like no big deal but it makes a difference.


No Comments Tags: , , ,

Dog Vomit Slime Mold – yes, that’s it’s name

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Dog Vomit Slime Mold – yes, that’s it’s name

Ugh, sounds awful!  It’s actually pretty amazing fungi!  Dog Vomit Slime Mold, aka DVSM,  loves decaying wood mulch.

It doesn’t take long to move across your mulch.  In fact, if you stand there long enough, you may see it move!  Check out Strange Things in my Yard.

More pics of DVSM:

Dog Vomit Slime Mold yellow

Another fascinating fungi is the “Fairy Parasol” aka Japanese Umbrella Inky Cap.  This fragile fungi is really quite pretty and loves to attach itself to dying trees.  I found this one growing on an old Cottonwood tree.

No Comments Tags: , ,

Chiming in on mini hostas

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Mini hostas

Sitting on my porch there’s a gentle breeze .  I can hear chimes in the background  It’s a beautiful low meditative sound that’s got me thinking about a fairy garden.  Hmmm…. well, these are gnomes but it was a start back in the day…

gnome garden

Add some fairies and some mini hosta, along with a few more fun plants and you’ve got yourself a Fairy Garden.  Of course, then you can add all kinds of fun things for your fairies.

The first mini-hosta I spotted was called “Cameo”.  An adorable little 6 inch tall variegated beauty that’s zone 3 hardy.  It has small round green leaves with creamy edges.

Hosta 'cameo'

Hosta ‘cameo’

It’s the opposite of ‘Pandora’s Box’, a mini hosta that’s hardy to zone 4.

Hosta - Pandoras Box

Hosta – Pandoras Box

One of the mini-hostas that is a must for a fairy garden is called ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ – an 8 inch little fella with thick blue/grey leaves that are adorable.

Hosta - Mouse Ears

Hosta – Mouse Ears

For a bright burst this little 8 inch hosta brings sunrise in.  It’s called ‘Rainforest Sunrise’, the leaves emerge a solid light green changing to a dark green edge filled in with radiant gold! The leaves are thick and glossy which helps deter slugs.  The thicker the leaf, the more textured the leaf, the less interested slugs are in munching on them.

Hosta - Rainforest sunrise

Hosta – Rainforest sunrise

Speaking of textured leaves, ‘Little Sunspot’ is just at the edge of a mini-hosta by growing to 10 inches but it’s gorgeous leaves are another bright spot in the Fairy Garden.

Hosta - Little sunspot

Hosta – Little sunspot

Certainly mini hosta don’t have to be used in a Fairy Garden.  They’d look great in a rock garden too.

No Comments Tags: , ,

Muscle (organic) mulch

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Muscle (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

more perennial elements


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 a few years.  It’s at least 4 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.

No Comments Tags: , , , , , ,

Superstar (inorganic) mulch

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Superstar (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 Superstar 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

Recycled rubber mulch

Here’s something I don’t recommend:

Rubber mulch tree ring

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.

No Comments Tags: , , ,


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

I was talking with a friend last week who told me about a friend of hers that just planted low maintenance grass and I was intrigued!  Who doesn’t like low maintenance grass!!  This stuff is called Grassology.


The claim is that the roots of this grass grows 4 times longer than “normal” grass seed, is a dwarf variety that needs little mowing and is even insect and disease resistant.  I searched for reviews and found plenty that seemed to have a connection to the company itself.  Not really a good sign.

No where on the website did I find what types of grass seed are in the mix.  However, I did find a University of Arkansas Extension review and they posted the label:

grassology seed mixThese are cool season grasses, that’s good for us, but not for Arkansas, where it was purchased from.  I found a video review from EpicReviewGuys:

Grassology seed mix epic review

I have no idea what “Go & Grow coating” is but there’s nearly 50% in THIS mix.  This review was done in Texas.  If you read the reviews on the Youtube sight.  There are more this guy did.  But you’ll see that while it turned green, it sure looked like a lot of weeds to me.  ALSO, it’s a lot more expensive.

The website also claims that it’s “scientific”.  I found no evidence of that on their website or anywhere else.  I DID find how they suggest to seed.  The exact same way you would with any other seed mixture.  Make sure the weeds are gone, there’s good seed to soil contact and water every day for about 30 days and then baby it while it grows roots.  BTW, the best time to seed your lawn in Minnesota is about August 20th or so into the middle of September.  Here’s a link to the University of Minnesota Extension about seeding lawns.  This includes the type of seed mix for sun/shade conditions and how to do it.  Buying your seed from your local nursery and talking with their professionals makes a lot more sense to me.

Honestly, if it sounds too good to be true…  well, you know how that goes!

Below is a picture of a patch of lawn that was done at my previous home with grass seed from a local nursery:

lawn prep

lawn prep

repaired lawn

repaired lawn

This area was kept moist every day for a few weeks until it started to sprout and then it was kept watered periodically.  It still looks this nice after a few years.

No Comments Tags: , ,

Deer resistant plants

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Deer resistant plants

While I admire the brown-eyed beauty of the white tail deer, I do NOT admire their munching on my plants!

These 2 delightful deer were on their way to my Hosta Cafe.  There are deer “resistant” plants.  Notice I said “resistant” not “proof”!

Well, short of not feeding them, there are some plants that deer don’t particularly care for.  They include:

  • Columbine
  • Coneflower
  • Sage
  • Yarrow
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Lenten Rose
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Foxglove
  • Heliopsis
  • Beebalm aka Monarda
  • Boxwood
  • Barberry
  • Juniper
  • Mint

Think plants that are hairy, thorny, prickly, sticky, poisonous.  Really the things that bother us, bother them.  They don’t care for the intense scent of mint.  Personally, I love it but it IS invasive.

No Comments Tags: ,

New plant labeling to protect pollinators



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Tuesday, July 15, 2014


New plant labeling law is in effect to protect pollinators


ST. PAUL, Minn. – A new plant labeling law is now in effect in Minnesota to protect pollinators, such as honeybees, from expose to toxic levels of insecticides. The new law become effective July 1 and requires that plants advertised as “beneficial to pollinators” must be free of detectable levels of certain systemic insecticides.


The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) will enforce the law. MDA Director of Plant Protection Geir Friisoe says the law is meant to protect plant pollinators from exposure to detectable levels of insecticide residues that may persist in flowering plants sold in Minnesota nurseries.


“The new law does not allow labeling or advertising of plants as “beneficial to pollinators” if the plants have been treated with certain systemic insecticides. Systemic insecticides are compounds that move within the tissues of a plant which means they can potentially reach the plant flowers where pollinators may be feeding or collecting pollen,” said Friisoe.


The MDA has developed a fact sheet about the new law that is posted on the agency’s website at www.mda.state.mn.us/labelfactsheet. In addition, Minnesota business owners and residents with questions about the new law can send an email to mda.nursery@state.mn.us for information about the law, compliance, and labeling options.

No Comments

Blossom end rot

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Blossom end rot

I had one red tomato so far…  yup, I ate it!  ;-)  It wasn’t quite ripe but still tastier than any store bought!

Homegrown tomatoes are the BEST!  But blossom end rot is not!

A calcium deficiency will bring about blossom end rot.  Uneven watering is one of the biggest culprits.  There are foliar sprays but they only help BEFORE the tomato has blossom end rot, and, as you’ll see from the University of Minnesota, there’s disagreement on how well they work.

If you start to see this problem, remove the affected fruit, spray the rest of the plant.

Give your plants plenty of room.  Best Practice is to give a good 4 feet for each plant.  Keep as evenly moist as you can.  The hardest thing on a tomato plant is to let them dry out like the Sahara and then douse them with water like a Fargo flood.

Here’s a bit more information from the University of Minnesota Extension on Tomato Blossom End Rot

No Comments Tags: , ,

Cover crops and groundcovers

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Cover crops and groundcovers

Your lettuce is probably looking limp now.  This heat is ridiculous and it’s taking it’s toll on our cooler climate veggies.  Well then, perhaps you should take advantage of that bare spot and plant buckwheat!

Buckwheat is a fast growing crop that will enrich your soil. When tilled in, the buckwheat adds organic matter and makes soil nutrients, like phosphorus and calcium, more accessible to fall crops.  Buckwheat’s dense foliage also blocks out sun to weed seeds.

Scatter seeds to about 1 inch apart, lightly rake into the soil and water.  Keep watered until germination, then water as needed.  Approx. an inch of water a week.  In 4 to 6 weeks they’ll start to flower, cut them down a week after the flowering starts or you’ll have another crop in the Spring when you don’t want it!

Are you tired of wood chip mulch?  Want to try a living mulch for your plants?  One of the best is Canadian Ginger.

Canadian Ginger is hardy to zone 3, shade tolerant and smells wonderful.  It is NOT for eating.  It’s large leaves will form a nice cover to shade weed seeds preventing them from sprouting.

Other possible living mulches include:

  • Wild geranium aka cranesbill
  • Ajuga
  • Wild violets – some people find these annoying, I think they’re cute.
Wild Cranesbill

Wild Cranesbill

Ajuga Reptans 'Burgundy Glow'

Ajuga Reptans ‘Burgundy Glow’

wild violets

wild violets



No Comments Tags: , , , ,