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Enabling gardens

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Enabling gardens

There’s no better stress reliever than to play in the dirt!  I have often taken for granted my ability to move through my gardens easily.  Oh maybe my knees give me a little trouble now and then, but I can bend down and pluck a weed or snip a flower with ease.  Other gardeners can’t.

Gene Rothert, the author of The Enabling Garden, is the Director Emeritus at the Chicago Botanic Garden and his book is a fantastic resource for those looking to make gardening easier for themselves or loved ones.  Life with Ease offers ergonomically designed garden tools for those less able.

There’s a table top method of gardening where you buy a bag of quality garden soil, lay it on a table, cut holes in the bag and plant!  Of course they need to be shallow rooted plants like marigolds, geraniums, lettuce blends and herbs.

Salad box

Carry On Gardening is a great website from the UK that is loaded with information.  Check them out.  Also check out the tab on my front page that says “Enabling Garden” for much more information!!!

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Sweet Begonia

Click below to listen to my  Garden Bite radio show:  Sweet Begonia

If you want some dazzle in the shade, then check out the new Jurassic Rex begonias from Ball Ingenuity.  Plant breeders are doing to begonias what they’ve been doing to coleus, manipulating the foliage to the fantastical.  The Jurassic Green Streak leaves are silver with the stems green streaked and a blush of pink in the middle.

Begonia - Jurassic Green Streak

Begonia – Jurassic Green Streak

‘Pink Shades’ is just what it sounds like.  Shades of pink with pink droplets along the green streaked edges.

Begonia - Jurassic Pink Shades

Begonia – Jurassic Pink Shades

For the brightest colors plant in part shade – meaning morning sun.  Jurassic ‘Silver Point’ is edged in maroon with silver displayed perfectly inside to follow the contour of the leaf edges then green at the stem.

Begonia - Jurassic Silver Point

Begonia – Jurassic Silver Point

The leaves of Jurassic Silver Swirl have softer edges, they literally swirl with a ruffled edge.

Begonia - Jurassic Silver Swirl

Begonia – Jurassic Silver Swirl

Jurassic Watermelon will blow your mind!  It’s edges are crisper and it’s colors are a blend of pink, maroon and green with droplets of cream.

Begonia - Jurassic Watermelon

Begonia – Jurassic Watermelon

There’s also the Shadow King series from Green Fuse.  ‘Cherry Mint’ looks like an edible treat with it’s pink, silver and maroon foliage.

Begonia - Shadow King Cherry Mint

Begonia – Shadow King Cherry Mint

Rex begonias headline the show for months on end in any shade garden, especially when grown in containers.  Typically these plants grow 12 to 18 inches tall and wide with leaf sizes that vary up to 9 inches long and 5 inches wide.  Plant these with silver dicondra and mondo grass and you’ll have the neighbors stopping by and asking you what they are and where you got them!

Finding the exact begonias I talked about today may be difficult but there are so many other options that I suggest you do some googling!

Here’s one place I found…  Park Wholesale Plants – I don’t guarantee their plants!



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A googling we will go


Click below to listen to today’s Garden Bite radio show:  A googling we will go!

Last week I was floating in a sea of plant catalogs.  If you’re like me, you were too.  Now that you’ve catalogued numerous hours selecting plants to purchase, might I make a suggestion.  Jump on the internet and do some googling.


You need to pay attention to the specifics of light requirements, what type of soil your plant likes best and how disease resistant a variety might be, this one is particularly valuable for vegetable growing if you’ve had issues in the past.  It’s also important to know what zone you live in.  USDA Climate Zone Map of US

Because our growing season in the north is short, we need to pay special attention to the “days to harvest” number on those veggie seeds.

seed packetSome packets will say “maturity” others may says “days to harvest” or “days to maturity”….  pay attention to that.  For zones 3 to 5 we “generally” have between 120 to 160 frost free days.  [Zone 3 is colder.]  That doesn’t necessarily mean warm, as we know!  Plants like tomatoes and peppers like it warm.  We’ll talk more about early warming of your soil in other Garden Bites.

Remember to check your local garden centers first for any variety of seeds or plants that you prefer.  Keeping it local is good for the economy, good for our planet in terms of shipping in trucks and it’s generally cheaper.  Getting your seeds and plant material locally is also handy in that you have a built in resource to go to if you have questions or concerns about your plants.  They’re most likely grown locally and are acclimated to our climate.

catalogs 2015

But there are always those seeds and plants that are not available locally, then do take advantage of those catalog offerings.  Check out my Favorite Links tab and for further research on online companies go to Garden Watchdog.

Here’s a quick guide to the more common plant disease resistance codes:

Johnny Seeds has a much larger list.  Click HERE


While much of what I focused on today is vegetables, it’s also a very good idea to research perennials, shrubs, trees and roses for your region as well.  I know that I’ve found some plants are listed with different climate zone tolerance depending on the site you go too.  In that case, adding a little extra mulch for the winter or planting them on a berm (generally slightly warmer) or out of the wind will make the difference.

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3 ways to ruin your garden

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  3 ways to ruin your garden

Huh?  Only 3 ways to ruin your garden?  I already discussed soil, which is the number ONE mistake folks make by not adding organic matter, these are just a few more!

newspaper shot

  • Planting “easy spreaders” or “fills in rapidly” plants.  Better known as invasive!  These plants will take over your carefully planned garden.  There may be areas you want to plant these, you decide!
  • Tossing all your fireplace ashes on your compost is also a way to ruin your garden.  The reason is that wood ash has a high Ph.  That means alkaline.  The soil in Minnesota generally leans to alkaline, so we don’t need to add any more.  GET A SOIL TEST!
  • Never work a wet soil!  Moist is fine but working wet soil will turn that soil into dirt clods.

Always add organic matter to your soil.  Tilling once a year is okay, every other year is better.  Tilling tends to break up the soil too much.  Top dressing with compost or any organic matter is the best way to go.  In the picture below, I’m using a tarp to pile up the weeds and grass I’ve dug up from the garden area.  It keeps the area “cleaner” and it’s a lot easier to pull over to the compost pile! 


By the way, I don’t use landscape fabric anymore.  Instead, I try to make sure the garden area is weed-free (as much as is possible) place wetted newspaper and then use mulch.  No matter what material you use, weeds will find a way.  It’s easier to get at those little buggers without any type of fabric or plastic put down to prevent them!

female gardener

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

We’re into the 3rd full  week of January and by now most of us have already recanted those silly resolutions we made in week one!  ;-)  The Snickers bar wouldn’t stop calling my name!

You already know how I feel about garden journals, that was the number one resolution I suggest.  However, there are a few more, should you care to resolve!

  • Right plant, Right place.  The master gardener mantra.  Resolve to plant only those cultivars hardy to your zone – unless you’re willing to take a risk.  And there’s nothing wrong with that so long as you go in with your eyes open!
  • Space plants for better air circulation.  Let them breathe and they’ll have a better shot at staying disease free.  You can pack annuals together for quick fill in as they’ll die out in one season anyway.  However, perennials will continue (hopefully) to grow which means you need to consider their mature size.
  • Do not spray chemicals on a, possibly, diseased plant without knowing what you’re dealing with.  Just hitting a plant with a chemical because it lists a ton of different uses does not mean you’ve got the right one and it could damage plants nearby.
  • Along those lines, buy only healthy plants.  Unless you know what to do to nurse that plant along.

Find me on Facebook at Garden Bite with Teri Knight and check out videos from Dig In Minnesota.  Below is a step inside a Balinese inspired garden created by Glenn Switzer.

Bailey Nursery ‘Easy Elegance’ roses

Dig Info tip


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Restful herbs

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Restful herbs

I don’t know about you but after the holidays, I was really looking forward to some restful downtime.  It hasn’t really happened yet!

snoopy sleep

Mostly that’s my own issue, so in that light, I looked up some restful herbs that might help and it just so happens we can grow them ourselves.

Chamomile flowers have been used through the centuries for many medicinal purposes including insomnia and anxiety.  Brew the flowers from German Chamomile – the most popular of the varieties.

Chamomile - german

Chamomile – German


Lemon Balm leaves promote relaxation.  As a member of the mint family, lemon balm is easy to grow yourself.  On a side note, growing spearmint is super easy and I LOVE grabbing a few leaves, rubbing them between my fingers and taking a deep breath!  It’s so refreshing!

Lemon balm

Lemon balm

Valerian is another easy grower that you’ve likely seen on the market as a sleep aid.  Pour boiling water over water over chopped, dried roots to make a restful tea.  You’ll likely need to sweeten this.  Honey would be a great additive or Stevia, you can grow that too.  While valerian is easy to grow, it may not be a favorite as it grows large and doesn’t really smell the best!



One herb that DOES smell good is Lavender and that’s precisely why it’s used for sleep.  Tuck dried handfuls of lavender flowers  into a small pillow and place near your head for a restful snooze. There are different cultivars of lavender, to grow it in zone 4 choose ‘Munstead’.  It requires full sun and good drainage.  It’s really a wonderful low growing shrub like plant once established.  I’ve used lavender to infuse sugar, it’s really tasty in tea.

Lavender - Munstead

Lavender – Munstead

Taking a bath is always relaxing but throw in fragrant rose petals and it’s just like a spa!  The rose bush below smelled fantastic!

Rugosa Rosebush (unknown variety)

Rugosa Rosebush (unknown variety)

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Red-headed Woodpecker

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Red-headed Woodpecker

In the Spring of 2014, Audubon Minnesota chose the Red-headed woodpecker as a high priority target for conservation.  They report that there were 20,000 of these birds in Minnesota in 2012, while in 2004 there were an estimated 94,000.  That’s a nearly 80% decline in less than 10 years.

Red-headed woodpecker

Red-headed woodpecker

The loss and deterioration of the woodpecker’s prime habitat, oak savannas, is considered the primary culprit. It is the most endangered type of habitat.  A savannah-type landscape is characterized by a large open understory and small clusters of mature trees.

Oak savanna

Oak savanna

The open understory facilitates the bird’s habit of swooping down from a high perch to capture beetles, grasshoppers, and other insects during spring and summer months. A few mature trees that produce beech nuts or oak acorns provide food for fall and winter months. But the real key is the presence of large dead trees, or ‘snags,’ for nesting, roosting, and food-caching.

Red-headed woodpecker in snag

Red-headed woodpecker in snag

Resources for further information:

Overview of Oak Savanna from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Red-headed Woodpecker Recovery Project


Red-headed woodpecker - long ago


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Mountain Pine Beetle

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Mountain Pine Beetle

At the first of the year, a new pest quarantine was put in place to protect Minnesota’s pine forests. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has implemented an exterior state quarantine for the mountain pine beetle.

Mountain Pine Beetle

Mountain Pine Beetle

Mountain Pine Beetle and larvae

Mountain Pine Beetle and larvae

While most of us think of invasive pests as those coming from other countries, the Mountain Pine Beetle is native to the western United States and Canada.  It spends most of its life in the area of a pine tree between the bark and the wood. It is a natural control in it’s native habitat but in places like Minnesota, the adult beetles can release a pheromone, or natural scent, to attract other beetles and eventually they may overwhelm the health of entire stands of pines to the extent they all die off. This makes the mountain pine beetle one of the most damaging forest insects in North America.

Mountain Pine Beetle bore holes

Mountain Pine Beetle bore holes

Although the beetles are about the size of a grain of sand, they have destroyed 45 million acres of pine trees in western North America over the past couple decades — the world’s largest forest insect outbreak in recorded history.  On two recent occasions the beetle was found in Minnesota on wood transported from the west. Both times the bugs were already dead.

Mountain Pine Beetle damage in Canada - so many dead pines

Mountain Pine Beetle damage in Canada – so many dead pines

This quarantine will reduce the risk of the human-aided movement of the insect from happening again. It limits the import of pine wood with bark from western state’s with known infestations. Currently, there are 13 states with mountain pine beetle.

Here are some links for more information:

Minnesota Department of Agriculture quarantine

Colorado State University MPB – more complete and easy to read information

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Terms for the tenderfoot gardener

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Terms for the tenderfoot gardener

As I talked about yesterday, the plant and seed catalogs have filled my mailbox and I am in Heaven.  As you all know by now, I could spend countless hours curled up on the couch with a good plant and seed catalog!

catalogs 2015

Anyway, what I was noticing is there are terms in these catalogs that not everyone might be familiar with.  So the following is a mini glossary to get you started:

  • Slow to bolt – this term is usually associated with lettuce and is a good thing.  It means the plant doesn’t flower to early
  • Determinate – this is associated with tomatoes (and a few peppers) and means that the plant will grow only so big and stop.  It’s a good thing for patio plantings or if you don’t want a HUGE plant with a lot of green tomatoes late in the season.
  • Indeterminate – again, this goes with tomatoes and means it will continue to grow and produce.  You need room for these plants and you can make Green Tomato Pie at the end of the season!
  • Bareroot – bareroot stock means that the plant comes to you with no soil around it’s roots.  These plants are cheaper but need your attention right away.
  • Field grown – refers to a more mature plant that’s been grown in a field for at least a year, they’re usually more expensive but hardier plants
Burpee 'Gourmet blend'

Burpee ‘Gourmet blend’ greens

Bareroot shrub

Bareroot shrub

Nasturtium, kale, lettuces

Nasturtium, kale, lettuces


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Catalog overkill or Nirvana

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Catalog overkill or Nirvana

catalogs 2015

My head is spinning with possibilities!  ;-)  Here’s a tantalizing treat…

2015 is off to an interesting start at Territorial Seed Company of Oregon.  They’re offering the first plant in the U.S. that combines tomatoes and potatoes, a TomTato called ‘Ketchup and Fries’.  This grafted plant was introduced in the U.K. last year with great success, so they say.  My research says it’s taken them 10 years to perfect this plant that produces 500 red cherry tomatoes and later in the season, 4 ½ pounds of delicious white potatoes.  It’s one plant with no genetic modifications but an all natural grafting process.

TomTato 'Ketchup and Fries'

TomTato ‘Ketchup and Fries’

TomTato - ketchup and fries 2

This plant is perfect in a large container or in the open garden.  Territorial Seed offers lots of vegetable plants for containers.

If you plan on starting tomato seeds indoor, then check out Totally Tomatoes.  They offer an astonishing array of tomatoes from heirloom to hybrids, from giants to cherries and everything in between.  They also have a selection of peppers that also makes my mouth water.  NOTE:  I have not personally ordered from Totally Tomatoes but my research shows mostly positive reviews.

And finally Burpee’s “go-to” summer squash looks simply delicious on the cover!  ‘Cupcake’!  Plant in full sun, days to maturity are 52

Squash 'Cupcake'

Squash ‘Cupcake’

Squash - Cupcake

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