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Tomato/Pepper planting

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Tomato/Pepper planting

It’s time to put those tomatoes in the ground!  Tom McKusick was my guest on Dig In Minnesota.  He’s the publisher of Northern Gardener magazine and an heirloom tomato aficionado.  He shows us his best practices for planting tomatoes!  He IS the Tomato Man!

The ground temp should be about 60 degrees for tomatoes and about 70 degrees for peppers.  They like it hot!

Tomato 'Fresh Salsa'

Tomato ‘Fresh Salsa’

Once again I’m planting ‘Fresh Salsa’ tomato.  It’s flesh is firm yet flavorful. It’s a prolific producer, makes great fresh salsa.  It’s also great for sandwiches because it doesn’t get the bread soggy.  It’s also great for roasting!

Tomato - Brandywine Pink

Tomato – Brandywine Pink

Another choice this year is my favorite heirloom, ‘Brandywine’.  It’s large, sweet, juicy and a great producer.   I’m also planting ‘Mighty Sweet’ cherry tomato and ‘Sungold’.

Tomato 'Sun Gold'

Tomato ‘Sun Gold’

I’ve also planted ‘Mighty Sweet’ cherry tomatoes!  I planted them deep, added Two Mikes fish fertilizer rather than fish heads!  Tom has a ready supply from a fishing friend!

For the peppers, I also added Two Mikes.  I planted ‘Flavorburst’ – a wonderfully prolific sweet pepper and ‘Big Boss Man’ – an ancho poblano hybrid that I’ve not tried before but sounds wonderful.  I’ll also be planting a jalapeno, just haven’t gotten to it yet!

Pepper - Flavorburst

Pepper – Flavorburst

Pepper - Flavorburst 2

Pepper 'Big Boss Man'

Pepper ‘Big Boss Man’

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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!

Deer headed toward my hosta

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

Deer by Raised bed2

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.

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The worker plants

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  The worker plants

There are a number of workhorses for the garden if you’re someone who doesn’t like to putz with plants.  You’d like color and fragrance but no fuss.

Some folks call them invasive.  They are or can be, but that might be just what you’re looking for.

Physostegia aka Obedient Plant

Why would an invasive flower be named “Obedient plant”?  Was it a joke?  No, it’s because the flowers are bendable!  They will stay where you put them.  The roots however, won’t…  If you have a mostly sunny spot that you want to fill out, then this is your flower!

Monarda ‘Bergamo’ from Park Seed

 

Wild Bergamot, Monarda, Bee Balm.  Any way you say it, this is a working plant!  The above cultivar, ‘Bergamo’, is also powdery mildew resistant.  That’s a huge plus.  It will bloom all summer in full sun and you can cut flowers for indoors, it just keeps blooming.  There are MANY more colors to choose from.

Peppermint

Once planted, you’ll never get rid of Peppermint!  I love the smell of this plant.  I was known to deliberately hit it with the lawn mower to inhale that wonderfully invigorating scent.  Use for tea or to infuse oil.

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In Memory… Memorial Day

Memorial DayClick below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  In memory… Memorial Day

Garden Bite would like to thank all those who serve in the United States Military and their families.  We honor those who gave everything.

In Flanders Fields by John McCrae

Written in Flanders on May 3, 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.  Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved, and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

American Legion or Corn Poppy

American Legion or Corn Poppy

Obviously, the post-war, blood red bloom from the fields of battle had a huge impact on all who saw or heard about it. But surely the most lasting memorial is the famous poem by Canadian battle surgeon/poet, John McCrae. Like the Star Spangled Banner, written in Baltimore Harbor during the bombardment, this poem was written on the spot, as he gazed at fresh graves of his friends and comrades, and poppies “blowing” in the wind.

The Corn Poppy can be found at Millington seed company and Texas Bluebonnet seeds .  I’m sure you can find other places if you do a google search.  This will get you started.

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The dirt on plant shopping

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  The dirt on plant shopping

When plant shopping, bigger is not always better.  Tis better to bloom in your garden than in the garden center.

If you see a little wilting it could be a sign of a root problem.  Look for plants with good color on the leaves.  Look under the leaves for any possible insects.  If you have a plant loupe, bring it with you!  You’ll look ultra cool, I promise.  ;-)

Plant loupe

Seriously, in some of the big box stores where plants are shipped in from all over, it’s not a bad idea.

Your local garden nurseries are generally more reliable but always do a look see.  I had a horticulturist from the U of MN tell me that, if she sees any sign of wilting, she’ll tip the plant out of it’s pot to see the roots.  They should look white and plump.  No yellowing or mushy spots and no wrapped roots.

Take a look at these root systems!  Obviously you want the one on the right.  The roots on the left are wrapped around and around and you can see the plant is not doing well.  You CAN do some root pruning.  Take an exacto knife and slice those roots!  If you’re feeling like that’s too brutal, then shake the plant out.  Just remember that it’s important those winding roots are NOT planted that way.

Root systems

If you’re looking for rare plants, check out the smaller local nurseries.  And check the paper for Charity Plant Sales.  By the way, know what your needs are.  Sun?  Shade?  Height?  Color?  Bloom time.  In other words, make a list!

plant purchases 1

More plant purchases

More plant purchases

Just getting started with planting those purchases!

Just getting started with planting those purchases!

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Blueberry – the antioxidant Superhero

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Blueberry – the antioxidant Superhero

The Blueberry is the antioxidant  superhero and Minnesota’s state muffin.  Growing blueberries in Minnesota DOES offer it’s challenges if only that the soil likely needs amending.  Ideally the pH is 5 or 6 to grow this delicious fruit.  In Minnesota, most of us have alkaline soil which has a pH level of 7.

Blueberry Patriot Hybrid

Blueberry Patriot Hybrid

But the University of Minnesota has created some delectable varieties for Northern Gardeners everywhere.  Just get a soil test and make amendments!  For complete information go to Blueberries in the Home Landscape.

Select  what’s called a “half high” variety, a clever name for a cross between a high bush and a low bush blueberry.  “Polaris” is a U of M introduction that has good flavor and ripens early.  For a mid season blueberry, “Northblue” is a great option and one of the most popular varieties.  “St. Cloud” is the tallest half-high at 4 ft. and delivers up to 7 pounds of blueberries in a season.  You’ll need to plant more than one variety of blueberry bush for pollination.   Below is ‘North Country’.

Blueberry 'North County'

Blueberry - St. Cloud

Blueberry – St. Cloud

Fall coloration is outstanding with blueberries!

Lowbush Blueberry fall color

Once you’ve modified your soil, you should only need to make one application of an acid-producing fertilizer each year.  An azalea fertilizer that’s formulated for acid-loving plants works well for the backyard gardener.  For information on Chelated Iron to amend soil.

One more piece of information you may not want to hear, you should pinch off the flowers the first couple of years and let the blueberries roots and vegetation grow.  You’ll build a better blueberry for great harvests for years to come!  Let me know and I’ll be over for pie… or a muffin!

blueberry muffins

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Pollinator plants

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Pollinator plants

Whatever all the reasons are for the bee decline or colony collapse, we can still plant for pollinators.  That includes butterflies and hummingbirds!

butterfly and hummingbird

Planting native species is a good thing and there are plenty of nurseries that offer good native stock.   Check out my Favorite Links tab.

I talked this week about Monarda and it’s attraction to bees (as well as butterflies and hummingbirds).  Today let’s talk Echinacea.

Echinacea - native purple coneflower

Echinacea – native purple coneflower

I also enjoy  new cultivars.  The one thing we have to understand is that there is always a trade-off of some sort.  While you can have a spectacular rose, you may lose some of it’s fragrance.  Or perhaps you get a disease resistant tomato that lacks that full flavor you love.

Echinacea - Salsa Red

Echinacea – Salsa Red

Salvia is another standout for pollinators.  It’s a standup plant that grows to 2 feet tall and again that wide.  ‘Lyrical Blues’ is one I planted 2 years ago and really love it.

Salvia - Lyrical Blues

Salvia – Lyrical Blues

I also want to share with you a new rose by Minnesota breeder David Zlesak.  It’s called ‘Above and Beyond’ and is rated to zone 3b.  Incredible cold hardiness.  This 10 to 14 foot climbing rose has a beautiful yellowy apricot that blooms early in the season and then sporadically throughout summer.  Bailey Nurseries, who I talked about earlier this week, introduced it last year but it is now more available.  ‘Above and Beyond’ is a vigorous grower and disease resistant.  You can train it to climb or let it arch.  Plant in full sun and you’ve got yourself a lovely semi-double to double apricot rose with light green foliage.  It has a lightly spiced scent.

Rose - Above and Beyond

Rose – Above and Beyond

 

List of Plants for Pollinators from the University of Minnesota Extension

daylilies, sneezeweed, monarda, salvia

daylilies, sneezeweed, monarda, salvia

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Neonicitinoids

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

There are likely several factors for the Colony Collapse or bee decline.  That is my unscientific yet, I believe, common sense belief.

Neonicotinoids, also called neonics, are a large part of the discussion. This type of insecticide is a systemic, meaning that it is taken up into the plant itself making the entire plant toxic to insects such as aphids, and by the looks of things, bees.  Neonics attack the Central nervous system causing paralysis and death.

neonicitinoids

They were the first new insecticides introduced to the market in the last 50 years with high hopes due to it’s lower toxicity to mammals, however European countries have linked the bee colony collapse to the insecticide and are now banning them in some cases.

Honey bees

Recent research states that neonics disrupt the immune system of bees because they have a unique system.  Bees pollinate 45% of the world’s crops. The very real challenge is that large agricultural companies have used neonics to treat approximately 80% of their seed. While intentions were good, there’s much more to learn.   Click on the below links for more information…

The Canadian Press

Christian Science Monitor May ’15 article on colony collapse

Penn State University

University of Minnesota – scientific – Forbes article

The Xerces Society

Ontario Beekeepers Association

neonics 2

 

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Bee friendly gardening

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Bee friendly gardening

The bee decline or colony collapse continues to make headlines.  Just recently it was reported that beekeepers lost 42% of their colonies.  They do reproduce but that loss is the 2nd highest in 9 years.  Scientists, while continuing to debate all they “Whys” are actively researching more ways to counteract the collapse.

In the meantime, we can do our small part and plant to attract bees.

Monarda aka Bee Balm (I know, makes sense doesn’t it?!) is one of the top bee attractors and beautiful to boot!

Monarda 'Jacob's Cline'

The above picture is my Monarda ‘Jacob Cline’.  It’s a gorgeous red that smells marvelous and, although it was supposed to stay put, does not.  That’s very typical.  I don’t mind because this beauty did not get powdery mildew!

Last year I planted some trial plants from Ball Horticulture including the new ‘Balmy Purple’ monarda.  It did not do well for me, I won’t plant it again.  What has done well and the bees like is Purple flowering onion or Allium ‘Globemaster’.  It’s gorgeous.

Allium - Globemaster

Allium – Globemaster

As promised, here’s a list of neonicotinoids and their brand names from Honey Love.

The native Purple Prairie Clover (Prairie Nursery is out of Wisconsin) has a lot to offer.  A bee attractor that also delivers nitrogen back into the soil and has sweet little purple and yellow flowers that bloom in July and August on 1 to 2 foot stalks.

Purple Prairie Clover from Prairie Nursery

The Cup Plant is also a great native that the birds love too.  It does prefer moister soils and can grow up to 5 feet.

Cup Plant

I’ll have more on pollinator plants coming up this week.

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Mud pies for the kids AND you!

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Mud pies for the kids AND you!

Finally, research confirms dirt’s good for you…  even eating it is okay.  Well, so long as you don’t over indulge!

good dirt!

There’s a certain bacteria in soil that reportedly raises serotonin levels in the brain leading to a more relaxed and happy kid (or adult).

The National Wildlife Federation reports that bacteria along with parasites and viruses help build strong immune systems.  Kids that are kept in an ultraclean environment are more likely to suffer from asthma and allergies.

Let's have fun!

Let’s have fun!

The Garden is no place to stress for success but to soak up some sun and renew your Spirit” by Teri Knight

SO, get out there and GET DIRTY!!

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