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Water saving tips

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show:  Water saving tips

Over watering is one of the most destructive things we do to our plants.  If they go limp, we automatically reach for the hose.  Many times, that’s a mistake.   PLEASE NOTE:  we don’t “normally” endure days of 90 degree temps without moisture, however, things (climate) is changing and we’re experiencing hotter summers with spots of heavy rains.  Plants as a general rule, need an inch of water a week.  Supplement if you have to.

MOST plants don’t like sitting in water, unless they’re water plants!  Think about you sitting in a bathtub, you get wrinkly!  The roots of our plants don’t like it either.

  • Water early in the morning.  Less chance of evaporation, so your plants get what you gave them.  This also allows leaves to dry throughout the day avoiding mold and mildew problem.
  • If you have a soaker hose, good for you.
  • Rule of thumb for plants in the ground is an inch of water a week
  • Planted in containers, your plants need to be watered at least once a day in this heat, twice a day if they’re in porous pots like terra cotta.
  • If you have clay soil, water less often as clay soil doesn’t drain as well.
  • On the other hand, sandy soil drains too quickly so water more.
  • Wind also dries out container plantings quicker



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Deer resistant plants

Click below to listen to my 2 min. 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!

deer busted

This delightful deer was on it’s way to my Hosta Cafe.  There are deer “resistant” plants.  Notice I said “resistant” not “proof”!

deer double


Due to their toxicity, fragrance or texture, deer seem to be repelled by these plants:

  • 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.  Walking by this stuff, grabbing a handful and crushing it to release the scent and then putting it to your nose is an olfactory delight!  😉




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Scarlet leather flower

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Scarlet leather flower

It’s hot, it’s summer, it’s the upper midwest.  I came across a clematis that I’d not heard of while perusing an Organic Gardening magazine.  This plant, clematis texensis also known as Scarlet Leatherflower is a native of Texas.

Clematis texensis ‘Princess Diana’

So why do I bring it up?  Somewhat because I’m feeling like we’re in Texas lately, but the other reason is that this Texas native offers a possibility for those of us in zone 4.  It’s different from other clematis that prefer shade on their roots, this little beauty loves a southern or southwestern exposure and at least 6 hours of full sun.  It’s also drought tolerant and blooms only on new wood.  That means you prune it every late winter down to 8 to 12 inches tall and then in the spring watch Scarlet Leatherflower climb your trellis, your rose bush, your fence to 9 to 12 feet!

If you have clay soil, add plenty of peat moss and compost to a depth of 8 to 12 inches.  Add a mild fertilizer in March and water weekly the first year.  Once this plant is established, the roots will dive deep for moisture making it drought tolerant.

‘Duchess of Albany’

For a deep cherry pink, ‘Sir Trevor Lawrence’ looks great rambling over your shrubs.  And then there’s ‘Gravetye Beauty’, one of the truest red clematis.  When autumn arrives, whirly seedheads create a soft display.  Check out gardenbite dot com for a peek at these potential perennials.

Gravetype Beauty



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Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show:  Biochar

I was just recently on a garden tour of local gardens in my hometown.  They were all lovely but there was one in particular that really intrigued as it was not the “usual” garden tour fair.  It was strictly about vegetables and this man’s quest for the best.

It’s all in the soil, or will be. He makes his own biochar.  What’s that you say?  First, I’ll tell you what it’s NOT, it is not ASH.

Basically, it’s organic matter (John uses wood) that is burned slowly, with a restricted flow of oxygen, and then the fire is stopped when the material reaches the charcoal stage. Unlike tiny tidbits of ash, coarse lumps of charcoal are full of crevices and holes, which help them serve as life rafts to soil microorganisms. The carbon compounds in charcoal form loose chemical bonds with soluble plant nutrients so they are not as readily washed away by rain and irrigation. Biochar alone added to poor soil has little benefit to plants, but when used in combination with compost and organic fertilizers, it can dramatically improve plant growth while helping retain nutrients in the soil.

One method of making biochar is to pile up woody debris in a shallow pit in a garden bed; burn the brush until the smoke thins; damp down the fire with a one-inch soil covering; let the brush smolder until it is charred; put the fire out. The leftover charcoal will improve soil by improving nutrient availability and retention.  It stays in the soil for millennia and is found all around the world, in particular, the Amazon.

USDA – biochar

Biochar is NOT the “answer” to everything but it has benefits.  Here’s another view Earth Island Journal




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My butterfly garden and other natives

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  My butterfly garden and other natives

I planted a butterfly garden earlier this year.  The rabbits got some of that too.  They’re prolific enough this year that I’ve contemplated severe measures, but I don’t think it’s legal in my neighborhood!  Anyway, there are some species growing as you can see!  I bought 48 plants from my County Soil and Water Conservation District.

May 2017

July 2017 butterfly garden

Here’s a LINK to my May Garden Bite on the above garden with cost and exactly what plants are in it.

I also wanted to share some of the amazing native options for our area.  First up, Purple Lovegrass. That link will take you to a native supplier for Wisconsin.  Prairie Nursery.   Prairie Moon Nursery is based in Minnesota.  You’ll find MUCH the same plants!  This darling grass offers up rosy-purple little flowers above spiky foliage from now through Fall.  It grows to about 2 feet tall and likes full sun and a drier soil.  It’s a bunch grass and grows in clumps of about 10 inches.  It’s lovely as a border or mass planting.  And is deer resistant!  Maybe rabbits too??

Purple Love Grass

Prairie Onion is not favored by the bunnies, BONUS, strategically placing this in the landscape may even protect other plants.  I think I’ll try this!  Prairie Onion blooms from now into early Fall.  It grows up to 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide and likes full sun to part shade.  The soft purply pink flowers also attract butterflies and bees.  By the way, the bulbs of wild onions are edible.

Prairie onion

For something completely different, try Eastern prickly pear cactus.  Yes, a cactus that’s not only able to grow here but is a native to the upper midwest! Look for the latin name, ‘Opuntia humifusa’.   If you have a hot, dry, sandy spot then try the prickly pear.  From June to July, the cactus puts out some of the most stunning flowers. Bathed in bright yellow, the 3″ wide blooms are immediately set upon by a myriad of different pollinator species. Beetles, bees, and butterflies, this plant attracts them all. After flowering, the pads produce bright red, edible fruits that are almost as attractive as the flowers.

Eastern Prickly Pear



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A second season

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  A second season

I have been so disappointed this year in my vegetable garden.  The rabbits have feasted on everything but my tomatoes, herbs and onions. Gone are my peas, spinach, broccoli and beets.  For years I’ve used a product called Plantskydd that worked wonders, but not this year.  I doubled the dose, it’s harmless to pets and people but smells like a predator to little critters.  Or, at least it did!  UGH.  I tried small fencing, hoping that the combination would deter them.  Make a little harder for them.  No luck.

Bunnies love beet tops

2017 beet harvest. That’s my thumb!

If you’re still hankering for some lettuce, more beets, some carrots or kale – you can plant a second season.  We’ve got about 10 more weeks of growing.  Maybe more, maybe less.  Check on the days to maturity of certain vegetables that you might want to give a second planting too.

The seeds will sprout quicker with the soil so warm.  You will want to keep the seeds moist but not wet!  Once you’re vegetable seeds get about an inch, you can usually tell if there’s 8 seeds in one spot!  Thin out the seeds as the instructions say on the packet.

Detroit dark red beets 7-6-14

Obviously when Plantskydd was working!

Some plantings will taste even better after a light frost – kale for instance, and carrots and beets.  Lettuce and cilantro bolt in the heat, with cooler temperatures as they grow, that will slow down their bolting.  Bolting is when the plants flower and then become bitter.

Red Russian kale

Red Russian kale

Second season veggies and herbs:

  • beets
  • carrots
  • radishes
  • kale
  • peas
  • swiss chard
  • kohlrabi
  • lettuce
  • dill
  • cilantro
  • anything that has a maturity date up to about 65 days  except for tomatoes and peppers – they likely won’t grow well or ripen as quickly with cooler temps
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Good bug – bad A!! bug

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Good bug – bad A!! bug

When you think of crickets, you likely think of hot summers.  Likely not, that they’re detritivores and more.  They eat decaying plant matter, among other things.  For a gardeners purpose, that’s okay.  It also means they excrete it back to your soil.  Sounds gross but it’s not a bad thing!  Of course if you have an infestation, like this year’s Earwig population, you might consider them a bad bug.  (Insect!)

Okay, I had no idea but apparently you can buy crickets, keep them in an aquarium type container, feed them, water them, keep them healthy and not stressed …  and then feed them to your reptiles.  The things you learn on the  internet…  There’s even a video of how to keep your crickets happy and healthy until you feed them to your snake.

From the moment the assassin bug hatches, it’s a killing machine.  They eat insects including Japanese beetles and stinkbugs by using their mouthparts to pierce the soft areas between the exoskeleton and sucking out their innards!

Assassin bug

The above is just ONE of 3,000 types of assassin bugs!  do a google search and you’ll find a gazillion.  Well, maybe not quite THAT many!  Their bite is painful to humans.  Wear gloves or be prepared for a little pain.  These dudes do their duty in the garden but the bite might not feel right to YOU!

The little hoverfly seems like it would be useless but au contraire! their larvae eat aphids.

Hover fly

Tachnid flies look like bristly houseflies and all of them are parasitoids, they kill their hosts!  They help keep garden pest populations down!

Tachnid fly

Parasitic wasps are not choosy, they attack and eat all insects but their favorites include aphids, mealybugs and caterpillars.  And then there’s the robber fly.  It’s known as the shark of the insect world.  A powerful predator, they dart from perches and catch grasshoppers, dragonflies, wasps and even japanese beetles.  They paralyze their victims with venom.  Below is a look at just one type of Parasitic Wasp!

parasitic wasp

BugGuide is a great site to peruse all kinds of crawly creatures.

Rather than killing insects willy nilly, it’s a good thing to know WHO you’re dealing with.  You might want to keep that wasp or fly or cricket or assassin bug in your garden!

PS, you might find anthracnose in your garden due to the very wet weather.  That’s a fungal disease.  It’s not really something to be too concerned with but identification is always a good thing.

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Drought tolerant plants

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

It’s coming…  the “dog days” of summer.  90 some degrees will brings on crackling lawns and drooping flowers

Characterisitics of a drought tolerant plant:

  • fuzzy leaves – fine little hairs capture water
  • gray leaves – their light color reflects sunlight
  • large fleshy roots – below ground storage units
  • succulent leaves – above ground storage units

fuzzy leaved Lamb’s Ear

Russian Sage

large fleshy rooted Yucca filamentosa

And one of my favorites!  Sea Holly

Sea Holly

While large fleshy roots hold water underground, succulent leaves like those on Sedums, hold their water above ground.  ‘Autumn Joy’ is probably the most popular sedum but I have a little ground cover variety known as ‘Dragon’s Blood’ that survived winter in a small container only partially buried in the ground, the year after, I didn’t even bother to do that.  Just left it in it’s container on the deck.

Dragons blood

Sedum ‘Fulda Glow’

‘Dragon’s blood’ leaves turn red in the Fall.

An annual that’s drought tolerant and tasty too is Rosemary.  It’s waxy leaves are coated with a dense barrier preventing water loss.  You can FEEL the wax when you snip them off for cooking.  For dry shade areas, one of the toughest places to grow plants, choose Wild Ginger, Goatsbeard, Lady’s Mantle and the clematis ‘Virgin’s Bower’.

‘Virgin’s Bower’ flowers


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Jumping worms!

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Jumping worms!

It’s sounds like a B-rated movie but Jumping Worms are real and leaping from Wisconsin to Minnesota.  They’re the latest invasive species threat.   Beware of the video!  😉

In October of 2013, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources discovered a population of jumping worms in Dane County — the first to be identified and reported in the state.  They’ve just recently been discovered in Loring Park in Minneapolis.  University of Minnesota Extension with more information

The “jumping worm” is an earthworm with a nasty disposition and an invasive species that threatens the natural decomposition process.

They eat their way through the plant litter on forest floors at a much faster rate than other worms.  Forest floor leaf litter is comparable to the skin on an animal. It retains moisture, protects roots, breathes, prevents erosion, deters pathogens and non-native plants and promotes seed germination. When leaf litter is consumed by earthworms it’s like removing the skin of the forest floor.  This exposes the soil and causes erosion, compaction and increased rainwater runoff which also means invasive plants can sneak in, beginning a cycle of non–native invasions competing for critical resources. The result is less diversity of native plants and animals in our forests.

In the home garden, they also wreak soil, leaving it dry and grainy while also harming plants and turf.  Jumping worms are darker than earthworms and have a distinctive white or gray band around their body and when disturbed, they thrash violently, slither like snakes and even jump into the air.  I told you it was like a B movie!

These worms mature in about 2 months and are asexual, meaning they can procreate all on their own.  They drop their cocoons in the soil where it can overwinter.   While Wisconsin has been battling the jumping worm for several years, Minnesota is just now seeing it.

Likely they got a free ride on leaf mulch, a potted plant or bulk soil and made themselves at home.


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Edamame – the soybean with flair

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Edamame – the soybean with flair

Is it all in a name?  Soybeans hardly sound all that delicious, but edamame sounds exotic and unique, although it’s becoming more and more mainstream.  The name means “beans on branches” in Japanese.


Edamame grow pretty much like bush green beans, plant them the same way in rows about 2 1/2 feet apart with about 3 inches between plants. As we talked last week about planting for another harvest, consider Edamame.  It tolerates hot, dry weather better than green beans, in fact, they don’t like to be real wet, so keep the soil just moist when first planted.   They’ll grow to about 2 feet tall at maturity.  Be patient; germination and maturation periods for soybeans are longer than most other crops.  Edamame don’t suffer any real disease or insect damage but you could also cover them with a row cover to protect from the deer and rabbits.  Harvest the pods when they’re fully plump and still bright green.

edamame aka soybeans

Cooking edamame pods

Bring to boil a large pot of salted water, toss the pods in and cook for 5 mins. after the water returns to a boil. To use in salads and stir-fries, just pop the steamed beans out of their pods and into your salad or wok.

For Japanese-style snacking, cook pods as above then drain in a colander. Toss with flaked sea salt and serve immediately. (In place of popcorn!) You can put the whole pod in your mouth, drag it across your teeth popping out the beans as you go. YUM!


Simple edamame salad

Combine edamame with a bit of olive oil, fresh lemon juice, snippets of fresh herbs, sliced cherry tomatoes, slivered red onion and cooked quinoa. Season with salt and pepper.

You can freeze edamame, too. Parboil as above and then stick them in ice water. Drain thoroughly. Spread the pods on a cookie sheet in a single layer and freeze till they’re solid. Pack the frozen beans in plastic bags taking out as much air as possible. They’ll keep for several months.

Hoisin Shrimp and Edamame stir-fry with soba noodles – this was delicious! Click on the PDF below…

Hoisin Shrimp and Edamame Stir Fry



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