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Mildew and other maladies

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Mildew and other maladies

This year we suffered through the wettest June on record, then had some very dry times.  That didn’t seem to stop the powdery mildew.  I noticed that my monarda really got it.  Now, I did give it plenty of space when planting but, still the wet weather didn’t help.  I’ve sprayed it with a fungicide and will cut it back and do a thorough fall clean up.

Monarda with powdery mildew

Monarda with powdery mildew

My squash also didn’t perform well.  I have 2 on the vines which, what’s left of them, look awful.  My first thought was too much water and fungal disease took over, then I noticed some weird looking flaking (almost looked like fungal growth) near the base of the vine, I cut it open and there it was the squash vine borer.   Once they’ve invaded, there’s really nothing you can do.  The time for me to have looked for them was late June, which was all wet.

squash blossom with vine borer

squash blossom with vine borer

squash hanging in nylon

squash hanging in nylon

squash vine borer

squash vine borer

The good news is I noticed plenty of soldier beetles.  They’re closely related to fireflies and are classified as beneficials due to their eating habits.  My little soldiers are yellow and black but they can be orange and black.  I’ll have pictures along with more information on my website gardenbite dot com.  Soldier beetles overwinter as pupae in the soil, and females mate but once in early summer. Eggs are laid in soil, where larvae feed for up to a year on the eggs and larvae of other insects.

Soldier beetle

Soldier beetle


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Fall picks for the landscape

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Fall picks for the landscape

As we work our way into Fall there are some plants that we all associate with that time of year.  Certainly annual mums, Maple trees and Burning Bush.  But there are some other plants to consider.  Smooth Blue Aster is a true native plant with sturdy growth habit of just 3 feet tall.  The foliage is a waxy blue-gray that stays neat and clean all season long.

Smooth Blue Aster

Smooth Blue Aster

Blueberry bushes are thought of mainly for their fabulous blueberries but as I’ve found out they offer stunning red Fall foliage.  At a previous home, I had some plants from a friend that I believe to be ‘Northsky’, a dwarf blueberry that grows to just 18 inches tall with a 2 to 3 foot spread.  The berries are a beautiful sky blue and are quite tasty and produce prolifically once established.  Remember that blueberries require an acidic soil, which means you’ll have to add peat moss to the planting hole and ammonium sulfate each Spring.

Blueberry 'North County'

Lowbush Blueberry fall color

Lowbush Blueberry fall color

rnamental grasses are spectacular now.  I love them all!  As I don’t have time LIST them all, let’s talk about heaven.  A University of Minnesota cultivar of little bluestem known as ‘Blue Heaven’. It grows to just over 3 feet tall with a stunning combination of blue leaves and burgundy flowers.

'Blue Heaven'

‘Blue Heaven’

Check out a Miscanthus grass called ‘Ferner Osten’ that grows to 5 feet with spectacular burgundy leaves, in August ‘ferner osten’ blooms are pink.  Check out local nurseries or go online to search out some of our native grasses for Minnesota.  I don’t limit myself.  I’ve planted many different varieties.  Just be wary of invasives.

Miscanthus - Ferner Osten

Miscanthus – Ferner Osten


Reed grass 'Karl Forester'

Reed grass ‘Karl Forester’




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

I bought a mint plant several years ago, pieces of it have been given to many a relative, friend and acquaintance.  It lives in various areas throughout a couple of places I’ve lived.  That peppermint plant became many plants and never failed to wake up my senses every time I mowed near it, over it or tried to destroy it by pulling it up by the roots.  Mints are aggressive to put it mildly.  I guess you could say they are as aggressive as their intoxicating scent is strong.  There are many types of mint but my Peppermint is one of the prettier plants with NO insect issues (what insect would DARE chew on those leaves!) and no diseases.



It flowers July through September.  This plant thrives in sun and partial sun, in nearly any type of soil although it likes a nice supply of water!  This plant WILL take over where it’s planted.  If you want it in an established garden then you need to sink a pot into the ground and plant in that.  I used it as a ground cover and let it go wild.  Once placed it’s very difficult to get rid of too!

clipping peppermint

clipping peppermint



A favorite use for peppermint is as a flavoring for tabouli (recipe taken from the Vegetarian Times Cookbook, Macmillan General Reference, 1984):

3/4 Cup Boiling water
1/2 Cup Cracked wheat or bulgar
1/2 Cup Minced parsley
1/4 Cup Minced mint leaves
1/2 Cup Green onion, finely chopped
1 Tomato, diced
3 Tbs Oil
1-2 Tbs Lemon juice
1 tsp Sea salt
Pepper and allspice to taste

Pour boiling water over wheat. Let stand 20 minutes. Add parsley, mint, onion, and diced tomato. Combine other ingredients and add to mixture, tossing to mix. Serve on lettuce.

Serves 4.

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American Hazelnut

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  American Hazelnut

Do you live in a county where they offer bareroot trees and shrubs?  Take advantage if you can and have the room.  You usually have to buy bundles of at least 10 at a time but it’s worth it for the price.  You just need to give them a little extra TLC to begin with and plant as soon as they arrive.

Soil and Water Conservation District for your county

One of my favorites is the American Hazelnut.  It takes years to get the nuts but this shrub is a zone 3 hardy plant that will tolerate partial shade, it’s nutmeats are more nutritious than acorns or beechnuts and it’s leaves change color in the Fall to surprise you with varying shades of yellow, orange and red. This shrub will grow to 12 feet and has a similar spread. The male catkins are also a food staple for ruffed grouse during winter. It’s not the prettiest of shrubs and wouldn’t be a choice for a landscape plant but it makes a great plant for wildlife and for a property border.

American Hazelnut nuts!

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MDA September weed of the month – Oriental Bittersweet

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Oriental Bittersweet

If you’ve driven along our roadways you’ve likely seen this vine covering shrubs and anything else in it’s way.   It’s a woody vine with colorful red fruit. It was brought to North America from Asia and used as an ornamental plant. The attractive vines have been used for wreath decorations and in floral decorations; unfortunately, the plant escaped cultivation and has become invasive in residential and natural areas in Minnesota.  You can see from the photo below how the vine literally chokes the other vegetation.

651dda0669b3764523c842e8b5da1501Oriental bittersweet spreads by several means. The persistent red fruit is consumed by birds, which spread the seed to uninfested areas. Humans also spread Oriental bittersweet infestations by physically moving the plants. Oriental bittersweet was commonly propagated and sold in Minnesota through nurseries and retail garden centers before 2010.  Its use in floral arrangements and wreaths also increased its spread.

Oriental Bittersweet Fall berries

Oriental Bittersweet Fall berries

To learn more go to the MDA site on bad plants!

The American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) is much more rare unfortunately.  The easiest way to tell them apart is the location of their berries.  The American berries grow on the tips of branches while the Oriental grow along the branch.

American Bittersweet

American Bittersweet

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Eco-friendly furniture

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Eco friendly furniture

Eco-friendly furniture

Eco-friendly furniture does not mean a hollowed out rotting log found in the woods.  Although there are certainly uses for it, till, well it disintegrates.  On my television show, Dig In Minnesota, I had the opportunity to find out more about a company that is really doing something great with plastic bottles.  I stopped by Paddy o’Furniture in Eden Prairie and discovered Breezesta.  Check out the video below where I interview Pat Schindler from Paddy O’Furniture in Eden Prairie.

Eco-friendly furniture on Dig In Minnesota

Breezesta is a company has their own onsite recycling facility, manufacture the “lumber”, so to speak, and then create sturdy and, I think stylish, patio furniture.  Each chair takes about 400 plastic bottles to make.  There’s a vast array of colors for a large selection of chairs, tables, benches, tables and more!  There are LOTS more but here’s a sneak peak:

Breezesta Adirondack

Breezesta bar stool

Breezesta bench style

Breezesta Bar collection

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Annuals for Fall

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Annuals for Fall


By now most of our summer annuals, if they survived the heat, are looking browned and leggy.  Honestly, I tossed my petunias and put my poor pansies out of their misery.  This hanging basket I got at Eco Gardens in Northfield!  Love the basket!  The annuals are moss rose, ornamental peppers and flowering kale!

Eco Gardens hanging basket

I wish my camera took better pictures!  Or I download a program to color correct the photo!  It’s really pretty and the basket is a metal cone with leaves attached to the outside to form it.  Lovely

So that means plant shopping!  ;-)  There are some annual plants that can tolerate both heat and cool temps, a light frost won’t kill them.

Osteospermum is one of my favorites.  I bought it aplenty this spring and it’s hung in there but some sprucing up is in order.  This flower is also known as the African Daisy.   Breeders are creating scads of lovely colors in shades of purple, yellow, orange, white, pink and blue and varying petal shapes to make them even more enticing.

Coleus, osteospermum, sweet potato vine

The bright yellow Osteospermum is one of my favs but there are so many more.  Gaze through these beauties on Osteospermum.com

Osteospermum 'nasinga cream'

They can be the showcase to your trailing plants like calibrachoa, the mini petunia also called Superbells.  This wonderful little eye popper also comes in lots of colors and is more heat tolerant.  I have some coral superbells that are still working for me.

Coleus, Guara, superbells

Pretty in pink!  Superbells in this container are repeating their bloom!

Bacopa trailing plant

Bacopa is another great trailing plant to go with your Osteospermum.

Lantana is a plant that I’ve recently had several people say “I love this plant, what is it”.  Lantana is a native of the tropical Americas and Africa.  The flower clusters come in many colors including several in one cluster.  Lantana is easy to grow and truly looks happy anywhere!  Lantana can be grown indoors!  Check out this website for more colors!  The Growers Exchange

Lantana 'Fuchsia'


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Make the switch – to Switchgrass Panicum virgatum

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Make the switch – to Switchgrass Panicum virgatum


With the recent heat we’ve had and thoughts on more garden space for me, I was pondering plants and, as you know, I don’t like fussy plants.    I love grasses and have planted plenty!  No, there’s always room for more!

Switchgrass 'dallas blues'

‘Dallas Blues’ has broad steel blue to gray-green foliage with purple panicle flowers.  Plant height is 4 feet with the showy flowers topping it out at 5 feet in all their glory in late summer and fall.  Now I did some more checking and the height of this plant varies all the way up to 8 feet (I’m thinking that’s in southern climes) and some folks say the flowers are pink not purple.  Guess that’s a matter of eyesight!  ;-)  They all agree that this is a beautiful plant with blue leaves.

Switchgrass 'Heavy Metal'


‘Heavy Metal’ looks like it sounds, truly a steel blue color with rosy flower plumes, the seed heads are brick red.  The foliage turns an orangy/yellow in the fall.  It grows to about 4 feet tall.

Switchgrass 'Northwind'

‘Northwind’ is another switchgrass with some real class standing sturdy and upright. It’s foliage is an olive green that turns gold in the Fall and again has pretty rosy plumes with red seedheads.

Any Switchgrass is a great accent plant that will tolerate some shade and some road salt.  Underplant them with some low growing perennials like the new dwarf monarda ‘Pardon my purple’.  They tend to get a little leggy.

Monarda 'Pardon my Purple'


For more information on grasses check out this article from Friends of Eloise Butler wildflower garden

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EAB update 2014

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  EAB update 2014

Once again, Emerald Ash Borer is on the move.  The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) confirmed an emerald ash borer (EAB) infestation in Olmsted County near the interchange of I-90 and U.S. Highway 63. The infested trees are about 45 miles away from the nearest EAB find in Winona County.

Because of this find, Olmsted County will join Hennepin, Houston, Ramsey and Winona counties in a state and federal quarantine. The quarantine is in place to help prevent EAB from spreading outside a known infested area into new areas.

Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald Ash Borer

MDA Entomologist Mark Abrahamson said that while EAB can move on its own, they suspect this new infestation was caused inadvertently though human assistance.  “This is why it’s so critical that people be aware of and follow the quarantine. He said the risk is greatly reduced if people stop moving firewood and other ash materials.” With a billion ash trees, Minnesota is highly susceptible to the destruction caused by EAB.

EAB damage under bark

EAB damage under bark

Emerald ash borer larvae kill ash trees by tunneling into the wood and feeding on the tree’s nutrients. Since its accidental introduction into North America, EAB has killed tens of millions of ash trees in 24 states.  The metallic-green adult emerald ash borer beetles are a half-inch long, and are active from May to September. Infestation signs include one-eighth inch, D-shaped exit holes in ash tree bark and winding tunnels under the bark.

EAB larvae

EAB larvae


EAB tree die back

EAB tree die back

Emerald Ash Borer Minnesota Department of Agriculture

The Arrest the Pest Hotline is available for a wide variety of questions related to emerald ash borer. Contact us at 1-888-545-6684 (voicemail) or arrest.the.pest@state.mn.us.

Emerald Ash Borer Minnesota Department of Natural Resources


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Labor Day

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Labor Day

A day set aside to NOT Labor!  Hopefully…  or to get ready for back-to-school!  A great day to celebrate the American Worker.  Here’s the quote I read on my radio show:

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom and leadership, the American Worker.

We may have our problems here in America, but there’s no where else I’d rather live!  Although I did love Australia as a child!  ;-)

Happy Labor Day and I hope you enjoy the fruits of your labor!  I’m having roasted tomatoes with cheese and crackers.  And likely a brat too!

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