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Tag Archive | "Melinda Myers"

Back to Basics: Low maintenance flower garden care


SPR-Low-maintenance-flower-Ageratum

By Melinda Myers

Grow a beautiful flower garden with minimal care by investing a bit of time at the start of the season to reduce on-going care.

Always match flowers to the growing conditions and the care you are willing to provide. Low maintenance plants need minimal or no deadheading and staking. This means you’ll be growing good-looking plants with little effort on your part. And if the plants are suited to the growing conditions and resistant to common pests you’ll be doing less work managing insect and disease problems.

Further reduce your workload by selecting self cleaning or free flowering annuals and perennials and those bred for long bloom and compact growth. You’ll enjoy more colorful flowers with less pruning and grooming.

Ageratum, angelonia, calibrochoa and many of the newer petunia cultivars are just a few of the annuals that do not need regular deadheading for continual bloom.  Include perennials like willow amsonia, bugbane, Solomon seal, turtlehead and sedum autumn joy for lower maintenance and big results.

Prepare the soil and provide proper fertilization before planting. Work several inches of compost or other organic matter into the top 8 to 12 inches of soil to improve drainage and water holding ability. Incorporate a low nitrogen organic fertilizer like Milorganite (milorganite.com) at the same time. The slow release formulation provides needed nutrients throughout most if not all of the season. Plus, it promotes slow steady growth that won’t interfere with flowering, is less susceptible to pests and is more drought tolerant.

Properly space the plants, making sure they have sufficient room to reach their full size. Overcrowding means you will be thinning or dividing plants more often or battling disease problems instead of enjoying the full beauty the plants provide.

Consider removing flowers on annuals at planting. This allows plants to focus energy on establishing roots instead of flowers. Can’t bear to do this? Then remove the flowers on every other plant or every other row. Then a week or two later remove the flowers on the remaining plants. You will soon be rewarded with full compact plants that will produce more flowers throughout the season.

Pinch back long and leggy transplants. Use a hard pinch to remove the tip and several inches of stem. Use your pruners or fingers to remove stems just above a set of leaves. The remaining plant will still look good while you wait for new leaves and stems to grow and produce new blooms.

Encourage branching on single stemmed plants with a soft pinch. Remove just the uppermost portion of the stem where the leaves and tip are starting to develop. Soon you will have a well branched plant and more blossoms.

Improve plant posture and reduce the need for staking with early season pruning. Keep mums and asters compact by pinching them back to six inches throughout June to encourage compact growth. Eliminate floppy growth and the need for staking on late bloomers like Boltonia, Autumn Joy sedum, Russian sage and Heliopsis. Revive catmint and perennial salvia that flop open in the center with pruning. Cut flopping plants back halfway once or twice a season as needed.

And don’t forget to mulch. Covering the soil surface with an inch or two of shredded leaves, evergreen needles/pine straw or other organic material will conserve moisture, suppress weeds and improve the soil as they decompose.

Always water new plantings often enough to keep the top few inches of soil moist. Once established water thoroughly and only as needed. This encourages drought tolerant roots, so you’ll need to do less watering in the future.

With proper planning, plant selection and soil preparation you can keep your ongoing care to a minimum. That means more time to relax and enjoy your beautiful garden.

Gardening expert Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden MomentTV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and spokesperson for Milorganite. Myers’ website is http://www.melindamyers.com.

 

Posted in Diggin' Spring, FeaturedComments (0)

Low Maintenance Vegetable Gardening for a Bountiful Harvest


Low maintenance gardening. Intensive planting rows.

Low maintenance gardening. Intensive planting rows.

By Melinda Myers

Increase your harvest without increasing the size of your garden or workload. All you need is a bit of intensive planting, along with some low maintenance techniques.

Invest some time upfront to prepare the garden soil. This will save you time throughout the growing season.  Add several inches of organic matter and a slow release fertilizer into the top 8 to 12 inches of soil.  The organic matter improves drainage in clay soils and increases moisture retention in sandy soils. The slow release fertilizer feeds the plants for several months, reducing the number of applications needed.  You’ll have healthier plants that are better able to fend off pests and outcompete the weeds.

Match the plants with the right growing conditions. Tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables that produce fruit need full sun. Leafy crops like lettuce are more tolerant of shade. Check plant tags and seed packets for planting details or download a free gardening app, like Homegrown with Bonnie Plants, for plant information, maintenance tips, weather reports, and more.

Plant seeds and transplants in blocks with fewer pathways.  Give each plant enough room to grow to its full size. Your rows will be closer together with just enough paths for weeding, watering, and harvesting. You will be growing more plants and pulling fewer weeds with this strategy.

Interplant to further maximize your planting space. Plant short-season vegetables like lettuce and radishes in between properly spaced longer-season vegetables like broccoli and tomatoes.  By the time the longer-season plants start filling the space, the shorter season plantings will be ready to harvest.  You’ll be pulling radishes or cutting lettuce instead of weeds. Plus, you’ll harvest two crops from one row.

Plant successive crops throughout the growing season. Plant cool weather vegetables like spinach, radishes, and lettuce in spring. Once these are harvested, replace with warm weather vegetables like beans, tomatoes, or cucumbers.  Finish off the season by filling any voids with a fall crop of cool weather vegetables.

Go vertical to save space, reduce disease, and make harvesting easier. Growing vine crops on supports lifts the fruit off the ground and increases the amount of light and airflow the plants receive, reducing the risk of disease. Plus, you’ll do less bending when it’s time to harvest.

Mulch the garden with pine straw/evergreen needles, shredded leaves, or other organic matter.  These materials suppress the weeds, conserve moisture and add organic matter to the soil as they decompose. You’ll have fewer weeds to pull and not have to water as often.

Save time and water with the help of soaker hoses or drip irrigation. These systems apply the water directly to the soil where it is needed. Less water is lost to overspray, evaporation, and runoff.  They also reduce the risk and spread of disease by preventing water from settling on the leaves of the plants.

Try a few or all of these strategies this season for an abundant harvest without a lot of extra work.

Melinda Myers has over 30 years of gardening experience has written over 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Bonnie Plants for her expertise to write this article. 

Posted in Home and Garden, Spring Spruce UpComments (0)

Create a garden anywhere with straw bales


Photo by: Melinda Myers, LLC
 Create a planting bed for seeds by covering the straw bale with a one to two-inch layer of planting mix.

Photo by: Melinda Myers, LLC

Create a planting bed for seeds by covering the straw bale with a one to two-inch layer of planting mix.

By Melinda Myers

Add productive garden space and raise your planting bed with straw bale gardening. This technique allows gardeners to create raised bed gardens on a patio, lawn or any area with poor compacted soil. Straw bale gardening has been around for centuries, but thanks to Joel Karsten’s book “Straw Bale Gardens” it has gained new popularity.

All that is needed are a few straw bales, fertilizer, a bit of compost and time to condition, plant and water the garden.

Be sure to purchase straw bales made from alfalfa, wheat, oats, rye or other cereal grain that have less weed seeds than hay. Start a few weeks before the designated planting date.

Place the bales in their permanent location with the cut sides up and twine parallel to the ground. Once you start the condition process, the bales will be very heavy and hard to move. When the bales are in place you are ready to start the conditioning process. This is done to start the inside of the straw bales composting, so they’ll support plant growth.

On day one, spread fertilizer over the top of the bale.  Use a ½ cup of a complete garden fertilizer or three cups of an organic fertilizer like Milorganite (milorganite.com). Then completely moisten the bale. The organic fertilizers feed the microorganisms that help decompose the straw into a nutrient rich planting medium.

Thoroughly soak the bale everyday. On days three and five you will add more fertilizer at the same rate used on day one.

Days seven through nine use half the rate used on day one. This would be ¼ cup of a complete garden fertilizer or 1 ½ cups of an organic fertilizer. Thoroughly water the bale each time.

On day ten you will add one cup of 10-10-10 or three cups of an organic fertilizer rich in phosphorous and potassium.  This completes the conditioning process.

Bales treated with a complete fertilizer should be ready to plant. You may need to wait a few more days when using an organic fertilizer. The inside of the bale should be the temperature of warm bath water or cooler for planting. If it is hotter than this, wait for the bale to cool a bit before you plant.

Use a trowel to pry open a hole in the bale. Place the plant in the hole and cover the roots with potting mix or compost.

Create a planting bed for seeds by covering the bale with a one- to two-inch thick layer of planting mix. Follow the planting directions on the back of the seed packet.

Regular watering is critical for success with this method. Soaker hoses or drip irrigation make this an easier task. You can also use gallon milk jugs with holes in the bottom or inverted two-liter soda bottles placed near the base of each plant to provide water where it is needed.

Give your straw bale garden a nutrient boost about once a month or as needed throughout the growing season.

Follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to growing a productive straw bale garden to enjoy throughout the season.

Gardening expert Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and spokesperson for Milorganite. Myers’ website is www.melindamyers.com.

Posted in Spring Spruce UpComments Off on Create a garden anywhere with straw bales

Eco-friendly mosquito control  


 

Weeding the garden, adding some birdhouses, eliminating standing water and using fans and citronella candles are just a few of the eco-friendly ways to keep mosquitoes at bay this season.  Courtesy of James Gathany CDC.

Weeding the garden, adding some birdhouses, eliminating standing water and using fans and citronella candles are just a few of the eco-friendly ways to keep mosquitoes at bay this season.
Courtesy of James Gathany CDC.

By Melinda Myers

Courtesy of James Gathany CDC.

Courtesy of James Gathany CDC.

Don’t let mosquitoes keep you from enjoying your garden and outdoor parties. Look for environmentally sound ways to manage these pests in your garden and landscape.

Start by eliminating standing water in the yard. Buckets, old tires and clogged gutters and downspouts that hold water make the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Drain water that collects in these as well as kids’ toys, tarps and pool covers. Store these items in the garage or turn them over to keep them from becoming a mosquito breeding ground. Even small containers hold enough water for hundreds to thousands of mosquitoes to breed.

Change the water in birdbaths at least once a week. Consider installing a small pump to keep water moving to prevent mosquito breeding. Or use an organic mosquito control like Mosquito Dunks and Bits (SummitResponsibleSolutions.com) in rain barrels and water features. The Mosquito Bits quickly knock down the mosquito larval population, while the Mosquito Dunks provide 30 days of control. They are both certified organic and safe for pets, fish, wildlife and children.

Wear light colored, loose fitting clothing. These pests are less attracted to the lighter colors and can’t readily reach your skin through loose clothing. And be sure to cover as much of your skin as possible with long sleeves and pants.

Add a few birdhouses to the landscape to bring in the birds. You’ll enjoy their beauty and benefit from their diet of insects, including many garden pests and mosquitoes.

Keep the garden weeded. Mosquitoes rest in shrubs, trees and weeds during the day. Removing weeds and managing neglected garden spaces will make your landscape less inviting to these pests.

Consider using a personal repellent to protect you against disease-carrying mosquitoes. For those looking to avoid DEET, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has also approved products with the active ingredient picaridin (found in Skin so Soft products), IR3535, and the synthetic oil of lemon and eucalyptus. Avoid products that contain both sunscreen and insect repellents, as you need to apply the sunscreen more often than the repellent.

Add a bit more protection while sitting or eating outdoors. Use a fan to create a gentle breeze that keeps the weak flying mosquitoes away from you and your guests. Some gardeners even take a small fan into the garden, while weeding.

Then add a bit of ambience to your next party by lighting a few citronella candles for your evening events. Citronella oil and the scented candles do have some mosquito repelling properties. Scatter lots of candles throughout your entertainment space. Position the candles within a few feet of your guests. This can provide some short term relief from these pests for you and your guests.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening book. Myers is also a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.

Posted in Bloomin' Summer, FeaturedComments Off on Eco-friendly mosquito control  

Grow your best tomato yet


Plant tomatoes slightly deeper or in a trench for better rooting. Photo credit: “Melinda Myers, LLC.”   

Plant tomatoes slightly deeper or in a trench for better rooting. Photo credit: “Melinda Myers, LLC.”

By Melinda Myers

Nothing beats the flavor of fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes. Make this your biggest and tastiest tomato harvest yet with proper planting and care.

Reduce pest problems and increase the harvest by growing your tomatoes in a sunny location with well-drained soil or in a quality potting mix for container gardens. Improve your garden soil by adding several inches of organic matter to the top eight to twelve inches of soil prior to planting. Compost, aged manure, and other organic materials help improve drainage in heavy clay soil and increase the water holding ability of sandy soil.

Add a slow release organic nitrogen fertilizer according to label directions at planting. Slow release fertilizers provide a constant diet that is better for your plants and less work for you. Save yourself more time by mixing the fertilizer into the soil when incorporating the organic matter. Then give your plants a midseason boost as needed.

Once the soil is prepared, wait for the air and soil to warm to plant your tomatoes. Planting too early when the soil is still cool and the nights are chilly can stress the plant and delay your harvest.

Plant your tomatoes slightly deeper or in a trench for better rooting. Trench tomatoes by digging a shallow trench about 3 to 4 inches deep. Remove the lower leaves and lay the plant on its side in the hole. Roots will eventually form along the stem. Carefully bend the stem, so the upper leaves will be above the soil. Fill the trench with soil and water.

Stake or tower your tomatoes to reduce insect and disease problems and make harvesting easier. The type of tomato and your schedule will help determine the training system that works best for you.

Determinate tomatoes (look for the D on the tag) grow a certain height and stop. They work well in towers, containers or even hanging baskets. Indeterminate tomatoes, labeled with an I, keep growing taller, producing more flowers and fruit until the end of the growing season.  These do best when grown on tall sturdy stakes or extra tall strong towers.

Towering tomatoes is easy. Simply place the tower over the tomatoes at planting. Tomatoes grown in towers produce a larger, but later harvest than staked tomato plants.

Allow a bit more time if you decide to stake your plants. Place the stake in the ground at planting. Be careful not to injure the roots. As the plants begin to grow, prune off all side branches, and suckers that develop between the main stem and leaves.  Loosely tie the remaining one or two stems to the stake. Cloth strips, twine or other soft ties work well. Keep tying up the plants as they continue to grow. Staked tomatoes produce the earliest and smallest harvest.

Check new plantings every few days and water often enough to keep the developing root system moist. Reduce frequency as plants become established. Water established plants thoroughly whenever the top few inches of soil are slightly moist. Mulch the soil with evergreen needles, shredded leaves or other organic mulch to keep the soil consistently moist and suppress weeds. Consistent soil moisture encourages more flowering and fruiting, while reducing the risk of blossom end rot, cracking and misshapen fruit.

Harvest your tomatoes when fully colored. Leave them on the plant an extra 5 or 6 days for even better flavor. Unfortunately, the animals often move in and feast on the ripening fruit. In this case, you may need to finish ripening tomatoes indoors.

And once you taste that first red ripe tomato, you’ll be looking for more sunny spots for containers or to expand your garden.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments. Myers is also a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.

Posted in Diggin' Spring, FeaturedComments Off on Grow your best tomato yet

Simple steps to seed starting success


Gardening expert Melinda Myers

Gardening expert Melinda Myers

By Melinda Myers

Get a jump on the growing season by starting your favorite or hard to find plants indoors from seeds. Starting hard to find plants, like many of the heirloom or newly introduced varieties, from seed may be the only way you will be able to add these to your garden. Plus, you’ll be extending the growing season and bringing the fun of gardening indoors.

All you need is a little space, a few supplies and, of course, seeds to get started. Check the back of your seed packets for planting directions. Most recommend when and how to start seeds indoors, as well as any other special care the seedlings will need.

Purchase, recycle or make your own containers from newspaper. Sanitize used pots by dipping them in a one part bleach and nine parts water solution and then rinsing them with clean water.

Fill the containers with a sterile well-drained potting mix or seed starting mix. Once the containers are filled, plant the seeds according to the seed packet directions.

Increase success and encourage even growth by growing seedlings under artificial lights.

Increase success and encourage even growth by growing seedlings under artificial lights.

For most seeds, plant them twice their diameter deep and gently water. Continue to water often enough to keep the soil slightly moist. Extend the time between watering and increase your seed starting success by covering the container with plastic. Or purchase a seed starting kit, like the self-watering Growease seed starter kits.

Move your containers to a sunny window as soon as the seedlings emerge from the soil. Turn plants often to encourage even growth. Or increase your success by growing seedlings under artificial lights. You can make your own light system or purchase tabletop, shelf units or easy to assemble light systems, like Stack-N-Grow (gardeners.com). Keep the lights four to six inches above the top of the seedlings for best results. As the seedlings grow, be sure to maintain this distance by simply raising the lights or lowering the containers.

Move overcrowded seedlings to larger containers once they have two sets of true leaves. The first leaves that appear are rather indistinct and are called seed leaves. The next set of leaves look more like the mature plant’s leaves and are called true leaves. Once the next set of true leaves forms, it is time to transplant overcrowded seedlings.

Use a fork or spoon to carefully lift out the seedling. Clusters of seedlings can be dug and carefully teased apart before planting in individual pots. Be careful not to pinch and damage the young tender stems.

Place seedlings in their own clean container filled with moist sterile potting mix. Plant the young plants at the same depth they were growing in the original container.

Thin seedlings started in individual containers as needed. If you planted several seeds in each small container remove all but the healthiest one. Prune the weaker seedlings to ground level, so the remaining seedling can develop into a strong transplant for the garden.

Continue to grow your plants in a sunny window or under artificial lights and water thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil slightly moist.

Soon it will be time to move your homegrown transplants into the garden.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.

Posted in Featured, Spring Spruce UpComments Off on Simple steps to seed starting success

Add Some Sparkle to Your Holiday Décor


HOL-Holiday-decorating

By Melinda Myers

Liven up your holiday décor with lights, a bit of glitz and some colorful blossoms this season.

Start by gathering greenery from your landscape. Use needled evergreens like pines and firs, broadleaf evergreens like boxwood, holly and evergreen magnolia as well as junipers and arborvitaes to create wreaths, swags, centerpieces and garland. And don’t forget to include cones, holly berries, crabapples and the bluish-colored fruit of junipers.

Be selective as you prune your trees and shrubs when collecting these materials. Use sharp bypass pruners that have two sharp blades and will make a clean cut that closes more quickly. Make your cuts above a healthy bud, where the branches join another branch, or back to the main trunk. Take only a few branches from each tree or shrub to maintain the plants’ beauty.

Place freshly cut greens in a cool location away from heaters, fireplaces and open flames. Set them on colorful fabric or paper to catch the sap and avoid damaging your woodwork and furnishings.

Check your greenery for freshness every few days. The needles, leaves and stems should bend, but not break. Replace dried greens with fresh materials.

Then brighten up the display with some cool burning LED lights. Create a mantle display or centerpiece with the help of LED pillar lights. Or add a string of LEDs to your garland. Look for something unusual like pinecone string lights (gardeners.com) to add sparkle and charm to your display.

If you have artificial greens that could use a facelift, add fresh berries, cones and seedpods for a more natural look. Increase the glitz with the help of silver and gold metallic paint or glitter.  Paint milkweed, lotus and other pods and then tuck them into the greens. Painting allium seedheads white will add the appearance of flowery snowflakes in your indoor arrangements and outdoor container gardens.

And don’t forget the fresh flowers and flowering plants. Poinsettias are a long-time favorite, but you may want to change things up with Amaryllis, spring flowering bulbs and lily of the valley.  Look for unusual varieties or combinations to increase your enjoyment. Combine large flowered amaryllis with small flowering bulbs like star of Bethlehem. Or go for a unique size shape or flower color like that of the Honeybee Amaryllis with its beautiful yellow flowers that are sure to brighten your days.

Add a few flowers to your greenery and houseplants for some instant color.  Stick your greenery and flowers in dampened floral foam to create a long-lasting holiday centerpiece. Or place cut flowers in floral picks and set them in dish gardens and houseplants to brighten things up. Then swap out the flowers as they fade.

And consider making a few extra planters or centerpieces to give as holiday and hostess gifts this year.

Now is the time to put on your gardening shoes, grab the pruners and get started decorating for the holiday season ahead.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has a master’s degree in horticulture and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. Her web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos, podcasts and monthly tips.

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Checklist for Fall Garden and Landscape Care


AWE-Checklist-fall-gardening

by Melinda Myers

You can see and feel the change of seasons. Fall color is starting to appear, pansies, mums and asters are in the garden center and your thoughts are turning to preparing your landscape for winter.

Those in warm climates are switching to winter annuals, while those in colder regions are fortifying their landscapes for the cold winter ahead. No matter where you live, invest some time in preparing your landscape for the change in seasons. Dedicating some time now will pay off with healthier more beautiful plants next spring.

  • Continue to mow the lawn high as long as it continues to grow. There’s no need to cut it short unless that is the look you prefer.
  • Fertilize the grass with a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer like Milorganite. Fall fertilization provides the greatest benefit to your lawn and gives you the best value for the time and money invested.
  • Those in cooler regions growing bluegrass, fescue and perennial ryegrass should fertilize around Labor Day when temperatures start to cool. Then make a final application between Halloween and Thanksgiving before the ground freezes.
  • Those in warmer climates growing centipede, Bermuda and zoysia should also fertilize around Labor Day.
  • However, be sure to make the last fall application at least one month prior to the average first killing frost.
  • Shred leaves as they fall. Leave some on the lawn to add organic matter and nutrients to the soil. As long as you can see the grass blades through the shredded leaves your lawn will be fine.
  • Use the rest of the shredded leaves in your compost pile, as mulch on top of the soil or as a soil amendment. Just dig a two to three inch layer into the top 12 inches of annual or new planting beds. These leaves will break down and add organic matter. By spring the leaves will decompose and the garden bed will be ready to cultivate and plant.
  • Plant a few bulbs now for a colorful early spring display. Incorporate compost, aged manure or other organic matter into the planting area. Add a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer at the time of planting. In general, plant bulbs two to three times their vertical diameter deep. Follow specific planting and spacing directions on the package or tag.
  • Select animal-resistant bulbs to avoid squirrels digging up the bulbs and deer and rabbits eating the blooms. Daffodils, hyacinths, grape hyacinths and squills are a few to consider. Little Tommies (Crocus tommasinianus) tend to be more squirrel resistant than other crocus varieties.
  • Those gardening in mild climates need low chill bulbs that will thrive and flower after a mild winter. Or purchase precooled bulbs for winter planting and spring flowering.
  • Allow disease- and insect-free perennials to stand for winter. This will increase their winter hardiness and your enjoyment. The dried leaves, stems and seedheads provide beauty for you to enjoy, seeds for the birds and overwintering homes for many butterflies and beneficial insects.
  • Plant trees, shrubs and perennials. The soil is warm and the air is cool – perfect conditions for planting and establishing trees, shrubs and perennials. And for those lucky enough to garden in warm climates, add a few winter annuals.
  • Continue to water the landscape as needed throughout the fall. Be sure to water evergreens and new plantings thoroughly before the ground freezes.

No matter where you live or the size of your garden, get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of fall. And be sure to invest a bit of energy now to insure your landscape is ready for the season ahead.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening. Myers’ web site, (http://www.melindamyers.com/) offers gardening videos and tips.

 

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Grow your own backyard paradise in a pot


By Melinda Myers

 

Create a backyard escape with the help of container gardens. Whether you’re looking for a visit to the desert, an English garden or tropical paradise, a few planters can help create the mood.

Reduce your workload and increase your enjoyment with a bit of planning and proper planting.

Select a container with drainage holes and one that mimics the color and feel of the location you are trying to recreate. Use troughs, stone or other containers made from neutral colors when growing succulents. The container should complement, but not overpower the simple beauty of the desert plants.

Keep things warm and natural when going for a more tropical feel. Wicker, bamboo and other natural materials work well with the lush foliage and vibrant colors of tropical plants.

Add a few terra cotta, metal and basket type containers when creating an English cottage setting. Set them on your patio, steps or in the garden to create a focal point.

Keep your plants looking good throughout the season with the proper planting mix. Look for potting mixes with good drainage and water holding abilities, like Schultz Potting Soil Plus (schultz.com). Check the label as some mixes contain enough fertilizer to last the entire season and water-retaining crystals to reduce the need to water.

Use a cactus mix that provides the perfect growing conditions for cacti and succulents. The potting mix should retain the moisture and nutrients the plants need, while providing the excellent drainage that is a must for these plants.

Plant any orchids added to your backyard tropical paradise in a potting mix designed for these plants. Use an orchid mix that has excellent drainage and aeration, yet retains the moisture and nutrients these beauties need to thrive.

Check your planters daily and water thoroughly whenever the top few inches of soil are crumbly and slightly moist. Allow cacti and succulents to go a bit drier.

Mulch the soil in tropical, herb, vegetable and annual container gardens. Spread a thin layer of shredded leaves, evergreen needles or twice shredded bark over the soil surface. Use fine pebbles for cacti and succulents that like things hot and dry.

And don’t forget about garden accents. A wattle fence and arbor of twigs and branches work well for an English garden setting, while a water feature can enhance a tropical paradise themed garden, and some southwest garden art can complete the desert scene you’re going for.

So start your vacation this year with a trip to the garden center. Invest in a few containers, the right potting mix and plants. Then plant your way to the retreat of your dreams.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments. Myers is also a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.

 

 

Posted in Diggin' SpringComments Off on Grow your own backyard paradise in a pot

Fruitful container gardens


DIG-strawberries-in-a-potBy Melinda Myers

Picture yourself harvesting a few fresh strawberries for your cereal in the morning or perhaps picking a few apples from your own backyard tree to cook up into a pie. It is possible, even if you garden on a balcony or small lot. And even if you have plenty of space, you will still appreciate the fun and convenience of reaching out the backdoor and harvesting some homegrown fruit.

Strawberries are excellent container plants. Grow everbearing or day neutral varieties, so you will be harvesting strawberries throughout the growing season. Reduce your workload and increase success with a self-watering hanging basket (gardeners.com). Or dress things up a bit more with a decorative container. The haystack hanging baskets have the beauty of the coco fiber lined planters, but require half the watering. The AquaSav™ liner is a combination of coir and recycled plastic designed to conserve moisture. This means better results with less watering.

But don’t stop there. Add some dwarf fruit trees to your patio plantings. A dwarf apple, peach or pear will provide beautiful spring flowers, nice foliage for the summer and fruit for you to enjoy. Select self-fertile varieties, those that only require one plant to produce fruit, if space is limited. Grow your dwarf trees in large weather-proof pots with drainage. Those in cold climates will need to provide some winter protection, but the first harvest will make that extra bit of work well worth the effort.

Or try your green thumb at growing lemons, limes and other citrus in a container. The fragrant flowers and glossy green leaves are a beautiful prelude to the tasty fruit. Even cold weather gardeners can put their green thumb to the test by growing a Meyer lemon, Kaffir lime or other citrus in a container. Just move the potted plant indoors for the winter and back outdoors next season once the danger of frost has passed.

And don’t forget the blueberries that are high in antioxidants and flavor. These nutritious beauties require moist well-drained acidic soil. Something most gardeners do not have. This makes growing them in containers, where you control the soil, a good option. Blueberries provide seasonal interest with their nodding white bell-shaped flowers in spring, colorful fruit in summer and yellow, orange or red color in fall. Though only one plant is needed to bear fruit, keep in mind that your harvest will more than double if you grow two.

So survey your patio, deck, balcony or garden for space to add a container or two of fruiting plants that are sure to add beauty and flavor to your garden and meals this season.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments. Myers is also a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.

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