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Fall herbicide care and sowing seeds

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Fall herbicide care and sowing seeds

Now into October is the time to apply a herbicide for those broadleaf weeds.  Fall is the BEST time to attack them.   Broadleaf weeds include dandelion, plantain lily, white clover and wild violets.  After treatment, these guys will begin to die off and by Spring, they should be completely gone.





White Clover

White clover

Remember to follow directions precisely.  Wait to treat Creeping Charlie till after the first hard frost.  Don’t get nervous if you see Creeping Charlie start to grow again in the Spring, it should, hopefully, die off. Although I won’t guarantee that!  It’s a tenacious weed.  Part of me thinks the flowers are very cute and the scalloped leaves add a fun contract to the blades of grass.  That’s the story I’m sticking to anyway!   And a reminder that this is NOT the time of year to worry about crabgrass or other annual weedy grasses as the first frost will generally take them out.

Creeping Charlie

Creeping charlie

The other nice feature at this time of year is that our perennial lawn grasses ARE still growing which means they have an opportunity to fill in where you’ve killed the broadleaf weeds.  If you use a liquid herbicide you can add a little dishwashing liquid to the mixture.  This will help hold the liquid on the leaves longer providing better coverage.

Remember to use chemicals safely, follow the directions on the package, don’t over do it.  I had 2 new shrubs killed by a herbicide that a lawn service used.

From this:

Elderberry 'Lemon Lace'

Elderberry ‘Lemon Lace’

To that:

Elderberry wilting

Elderberry wilting


In late October you’ll want to put down your most important lawn fertilizer application.

repaired lawn

repaired lawn

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Autumnal Equinox

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Autumnal Equinox

I just love this time of year.  Leaving the windows cracked open at night with that cool air making good sleeping weather, that feeling of nesting as we bring our garden harvests in and can, dry or freeze them for winter.

roasted tomatoes

roasted tomatoes

'Yellow Pear' tomato in dehydrator

‘Yellow Pear’ tomato in dehydrator

Speaking of freezing, as we see those temps do start to dip,  remember your tomatoes and throw a sheet over them just to be safe.  I have a friend who said you can spray them with water and they’ll be fine.  I did a little research on that and while it MIGHT work, I wouldn’t count on it.  My tomatoes are done for the season.  It was a tough one this year.  I got a late start and then all the rainfall added to disease issues.

A friend of mine has been harvesting plums like crazy this year… and they’re delicious!  RECIPE for Plum Kuchen



Plum kuchen

Oh, and the apples are coming in.  ‘Honeycrisp’ are my favorite.  Take a drive and check out your local orchards.  Many offer a whole lot more than just bags of apples.  Oh, the pies, the tortes, the carmel apples, the petting zoos!

As you celebrate the autumnal equinox and begin your nesting routine, reflect on the season and think about the things that worked and those that didn’t so that you can plan for next year.  Then kick back and enjoy the change of seasons yet again!  It sounds like Winter might be more challenging this year than the last couple.  Of course, that could also mean lots more fun with outdoor sports!  What we DO want is snow before any real cold temperatures.  That blanket of white is just that for our plants, keeping soil from heaving and lifting new plants right out of the ground.

my maple


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Planting garlic

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Planting garlic

If you love garlic so much that you could ward off vampires just from the scent wafting off your body, then you might consider planting it!   I could qualify as I use a LOT for my roasted tomatoes.  I just love the smell.  Although I have been told I might also ward off a loved one!  For zone 4 folks, the beginning of October is a good time.  If you live in Zone 3 then a couple of weeks earlier is sufficient.

Garlic 'Early Italian' softneck

Garlic ‘Early Italian’ softneck


There are a LOT of varieties of garlic but the best type is called a ‘Hardneck’ variety.  They tolerate our climate conditions much better than the softneck type.

Garlic - rocambole hardneck

Garlic – rocambole hardneck


Garlic grows best in sandy loam soil due to it’s texture and draining capabilities.  Make sure you add lots of organic matter to your planting area.  Your soil should be loose and fluffy for optimum growing.  A raised bed is a great option.  Plant cloves pointy side up about 6 inches apart in rows about 24 inches apart.  Three to 5 weeks after planting, mulch your garlic bed with a 3 to 4 inch layer of straw to keep temperatures more moderate.

garlic planting

garlic planting


The cold isn’t the problem its the ground-heaving that can push the bulb out of the ground that’s the problem.  You can remove the mulch in April.  Watering is most critical from mid May through June as garlic has a shallow root system.  For hardneck varieties, it’s recommended that you remove what’s called the scape once it starts to curl.   Your garlic clove yield is reduced by 20 to 30 percent if you leave the scape on.   In some countries it’s considered a delicacy and used in stir fries, salads and steamed veggies.  Garlic scape Recipes

Garlic scape

Garlic scape


Garlic parts!

Garlic parts!

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Craft brewers hopping for joy

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Craft brewers hopping for joy

Thanks to some growers in Minnesota, craft brewers are hopping for joy as they grow their own. Hops, that is.  The number of hops growers in the upper midwest has more than doubled in the last 4 years according to the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.


The intense interest in small craft breweries has upped the ante for scientists to collaborate on research that helps to lessen the major hindrance to hops growers from the Dakotas to Vermont.  It’s downy mildew and it’s very aggressive and destructive.  But with colleagues across the country, C-FANS, is create mildew tolerant varieties, fine tune growing techniques and share the knowledge with local growers.  Angela Orshinsky is assistant professor of Plant Pathology at C-FANS.  She says a lot of growers are new to this and don’t know how to apply fungicides legally and appropriately.  People don’t always realize that’s what they need to do.  She said it takes a good 3 years to develop the best practices for specific climate conditions.  Craft brewers use more hops than mass-market beers and consumers are interested in locally sourced product, so the market is there.

'Centennial' hops with downy mildew

‘Centennial’ hops with downy mildew



Hops at Hippity Hop Farms

Hops at Hippity Hop Farms

Now if you’re just growing the vine for your home garden, then be aware, they need room.  The vines come in male or female and only the female produces the cones for use as hops. Flowering plant’s genders are easily recognized by the male’s five petaled flowers. It’s best to pull these out. They’re non-productive.  There’s a joke there, but I’ll be kind!  If given proper care, your backyard hops plant will send out rhizomes from which new plants will grow.  I suggest you talk with your local county extension for the best information on fungicides in your area.

Growing hops

hops trellis


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Emerald Ash Borer bores down

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Emerald Ash Borer bores down

In the continuing saga of EAB it continues trek across 27 states and has killed 10’s of millions of trees.  Yes, that’s millions!


The larvae kill ash trees by tunneling under the bark and feeding on the part of the tree that moves nutrients up and down the trunk. EAB was first discovered in Minnesota in 2009.  Native to eastern Asia, is typically found at low densities and is not considered a significant pest. Outside its native range, it is an invasive species and is highly destructive.  It was first discovered in North America in Michigan in 2002 and swiftly spread east, west and south.  From Vermont to Colorado, Texas to Minnesota.  The hardest hit states include Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.  Canada is also been heavily hit.  EAB has been just recently confirmed in Delaware and Nebraska.   The following comes from BioForest Technologies.  Click on the link to find out MUCH more.

  • In North America, EAB attacks and kills all 16 species of ash (Fraxinus spp.), native and exotic.
  • Six native ashes are valuable commercial species, while the others are important in communities as integral parts of rural and urban landscapes.
  • The mountain ash (Sorbus spp.) is not related to ash trees and EAB does not attack it.
  • EAB attacks healthy and unhealthy ash of any size, in woodlots and urban environments.

Quarantines have quelled it’s movement to a certain extent.  This allows some time for scientists to figure out some types of control including chemicals and biological efforts such as certain wasps that eat the larvae.  The economic impact is hard to imagine.  Mature trees are incredibly valuable and the years it takes to replace them must also be part of the equation.

The best defense is to plant other species.  Some folks are planting other species in their yard now to start them growing while they decide when to get rid of the Ash tree they have now.  Tough call but one that may be necessary if you want to have shade…

Suggestions from Purdue University include Maples, Buckeye, Birch, Hackberry, Gingko and many more.

This is a LONG list of some replacement alternatives by the University of Wisconsin – Madison

Hackberry tree

Hackberry tree

Gingko Biloba

Gingko Biloba

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Salt tolerant plants

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Salt tolerant plants

I’ll just go ahead and say it out loud!  The time is near when we’ll hear the scraping of blades on our streets.  The mighty MN Dot trucks (or our local streets and parks department trucks!) will be plowing and salting our streets once again.

Salt accumulates in the soil and affects the roots of plants impairing their ability to absorb water and nutrients.  That’s why you usually see only weeds at the end of your lawns.

Salt tolerant shrubs:

  • Rugosa Roses
  • Alpine Currant
  • Common Snowberry
Rugosa Rosebush (unknown variety)

Rugosa Rosebush (unknown variety)


Alpine Currant

Alpine Currant


  • Honeylocust (one of my favorites)
  • Jack Pine
  • Poplars
  • Gingko
Honeylocust 'Sunburst'

Honeylocust ‘Sunburst’


Perennials including grasses:

  • Daylilies
  • Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’
  • Russian Sage
  • Columbine
  • Dianthus
  • Barren Strawberry (a good groundcover)
  • ‘Karl Forrester’ grass
  • Miscanthus grasses
  • Little Bluestem grass
Reed grass 'Karl Forester'

Reed grass ‘Karl Forester’

Grass 'Karl Forrester'

Grass ‘Karl Forrester’

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Permeable pavers

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Permeable pavers


When most of our neighborhoods were built, the idea was to get the water off our paved surfaces as quickly as possible neglecting the fact that the water, and it’s pollutants, must go somewhere.  It travels into our waterways which, in turn, changes our ecological system.

Permeable pavers are a way to let that water, and it’s pollutants, soak into our soil where it can be filtered and cleaned.  Yes, I said, cleaned!  Microbes in soil eat the bacteria that poisons our waterways!

The University of Minnesota Extension has a wonderful article on permeable pavers.

permeable pavers 3

For your perusal: Willowcreek Paving in Oakdale.  I am not endorsing them but want to give you a chance to look at other permeable possibilities! Greenway pavements use only recycled products.

permeable paver driveway

There are many different styles for these pavers and also different materials used including recycled.  Do a search in YOUR area and then ask if you can see examples of homes or businesses where they’ve been used.  If possible, talk to the homeowner or business owner.  The possibilities are endless!!

pavers made with recycled tires

pavers made with recycled tires

Here’s more on pervious pavers from Macalester College



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Soil Potpourri

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There’s still harvesting to do, perennial, tree, shrub and bulb planting; but this is also a good time to start preparing a new garden bed.  Maybe you want to expand your vegetable garden or start a new perennial bed, add some shrubs.   Starting a new garden bed requires some prep work.  You need to kill the existing grass and weeds.  Chemicals are an option but for those of us who would rather not use them, there’s a cheap, organic way to do it but it takes time!

You can lay old carpet, tarps, cardboard, thick newspaper down on your garden bed and let nature do it’s thing.  It doesn’t look pretty but works well.  The coverings hide the sun, squelch the oxygen and don’t allow for much water to pass through, thus killing any vegetation underneath.  The challenge is to keep covering in place.   Do this now and by Spring, you’ll have a good start.

using cardboard to kill weeds

using cardboard to kill weeds

Whatever your plan is, make sure you mix in plenty of organic matter.   Fallen leaves are usually abundant and certainly cheap.  Run your lawn mower over the pile of leaves a couple of times to chop them up before mixing them in.  If you have pine trees, scoop up those dried needles and gently stir those in.

We used to tell you to till organic matter into the first 6 to 8 inches of soil.  Now, I would suggest using a garden fork or just lay the “ingredients” right on top of your existing bed!

If you’ve been composting, good for you!  Check to see how decomposed your material is, if it looks like dirt then you’ve got black gold.  If there are still some small chunks in it, that’s okay it will break down further over the fall and winter months.  But leave the big stuff to decompose longer.   Fold in your grass clippings and if you’re really into it, buy some manure.  Your local nurseries will have bags of composted poo that’s safe to use.  Never use fresh manure in your home gardens, it’s just not worth the risk.  Adding organic materials will add some minor nutrients but, more importantly, will fluff up your soil, improving the texture and drainage capabilities.

long view of hosta, compost, iris 5-26-15

compost with swiss chard

compost with swiss chard

This swiss chard was not finished growing yet!  Sprung back to life in the compost bin.

Leaf mold (it’s just decomposed leaves), grass clippings, kitchen compost and composted manure do wonders by adding micronutrients but, more importantly, fluffing up the soil.  There’s always Creekside Soils!  They have several products to consider.  Click on their link on the right hand side of this page.

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Soil moisture gauges

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Soil moisture gauges

As soggy as these last 2 months have been, lots of folks are asking questions about the moisture level in their soil.  The University of Minnesota Extension shares some useful tools that I will share with you.  The most inexpensive type of moisture sensor follows the principles of a battery. The shaft of the instrument is made of one metal while the tip is of another, generally copper and lead. The soil water functions as the electrolyte which moves the electrons from one metal to the other.


High meter readings mean high soil moisture and, likewise, low readings mean low moisture. One note of caution about these meters. They’re designed to take a soil moisture reading and then be removed from the soil.  If you leave them in the soil the “battery” will continue to discharge and the meter will quickly become kaput. But, what can you expect from a meter that might cost less than 10 bucks? There are better meters but they’re significantly more expensive, I’m talking closer to $300.

Gardenbot.org has instructions on how to create your own soil moisture sensor.  It uses a block of foam with a couple of wires stuck in it!


Normally at this time of year, most of us are used to brown, crunchy lawns.  We don’t normally have to mow for a few weeks at a time.  Not this year!  The lawn is green and must be mowed at least once a week.  Ideally every 5 days!  Oh and the mosquitoes have been horrific this year.  I must have hit a nest of them because I swear I swatted at least 50 of them!  Note to self – bring bug spray!  Find my Garden Bite facebook page and send me your comments, questions and suggestions for future garden bites.  What’s on your mind and in your garden!

Now, all that said, WHY would you want to know the soil moisture?  Too much water and you can kill your plants, too little water and you can kill your plants…  One of the reasons we use compost is for better drainage.  Knowing what the moisture content is like in your soil, can help determine whether you need to keep adding it.  (Although it NEVER hurts to add compost!)

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Plant sales and planting

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On a recent project, I was asked to figure out something to cover up septic tank covers.  The property came with fake rock covers, which work okay but, well, let’s face it, don’t look real at all.  And they also made it impossible to mow in between.  The weeds out there were taller than me.  And prickly too!




The good news for the owner, is that plant sales are abundant and now is a great time to plant perennials.  I chose native grasses as the homeowner wanted no future maintenance.

I went to my local nursery and shopped the variety they still had.  The area required 20 plants, which meant a little creativity.  I found the perfect mix with 10 miscanthus purpurascens, Flame grass and a switchgrass called ‘Northwind’.


While the flame grass flowers are white and graceful, the switch grass flowers are red, open and airy.  Both plants leaves turns red in the Fall.  After I purchased, it was planting time.  Well, no, not really, it was weeding time!  After pulling weeds that had grown into and over black plastic, which had about 6 inches of soil over it after years of being there.


When purchasing plants in the late season, that means many of them are root-bound in their pots.  That calls for an aggressive pruning session with a knife.  I mean one that’s got some guts to it.  Get up in that root ball and prune out any twisting roots.  Don’t worry about pruning the smaller fibrous ones, those can be pulled and splayed out, however, you need to make sure the thicker roots are not going to strangle the plant later down the road.




After pulling the weeds, I used no chemicals, so there will be some maintenance to keep at that until the grasses take over, it’s time to place the plants.  I used a tape measure to place the plants about 3 feet apart.  I put the Flame Grass to the road side of the “rocks” as they will grow to 4 to 5 feet.  The Northwind switchgrass are behind them.  They grow to about 5 to 6 feet.


I dug holes twice the width.  Place plants at the same depth they were in the pot UNLESS there’s a bunch of soil on top of them.  That will happen sometimes especially with trees.  The idea is to have those fibrous roots at soil level.  If you plant too deep, they might not get the water, air and nutrients they need as readily.  The anchoring roots will grow down and establish the plants.  Native grasses are tough plants, they don’t need to be mulched but I recommended to the homeowner to place woodchips down.  The plants will spread 2 to 3 feet, filling in the area after a few years.











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