From June 2010

Rain + Mulch + Hostas = Slug Damage

Hostas damaged by slugs.
Hostas damaged by slugs.

Wood bark, shredded leaves, and other organic mulch are a staple in organic landscapes and gardens. Unfortunately, it is also a haven for slugs to hide out until the cover of darkness arrives when they come out in full force to destroy foliage.  Hostas are especially prone to damage by slugs, but they can do a lot of damage in a short time in vegetable gardens too.

Beer traps are somewhat effective but require that you keep the traps filled and it’s a shame to waste a good beer on slimy creatures!

There are a number of safe, effective options for ridding your garden of slugs and other garden pests.  An organic product, Monterey Sluggo Plus Insect, Slug & Snail Pellets For Organic Gardening contains iron phosphate and Spinosad, which is a naturally occurring insecticide made from soil microbes, are both very effective ingredients for safely protecting your gardens from damage caused by earwigs, cutworms, sowbugs, pillbugs, slugs, and snails.

Sluggo Plus granules are sprinkled on the ground and are effective for up to 4 weeks, but may need to reapplied after heavy rains. It’s safe for birds, pets, and other wildlife. For more information on Monterey Sluggo Plus Insect, Slug & Snail Pellets For Organic Gardening, Click Here.

Garden Fresh Basil Broccoli Tomato Pasta Salad

Garden fresh broccoli and basil salad
Garden fresh broccoli and basil make a very flavorful pasta salad.

Does anything smell or taste better than fresh basil from the garden?  I think not!  I absolutely love the smell and taste of sweet basil picked fresh from the garden.  Broccoli and tomatoes picked fresh from the garden taste so much better than store-bought too.   Here’s a recipe that uses fresh basil, broccoli, and grape tomatoes, is super easy to make and is very tasty.

Garden Fresh Basil Broccoli Tomato Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

1 head of fresh broccoli, washed and cut into bite-size pieces

8 sweet basil leaves, washed and chopped  finely (about 1/3 cup)

1/3 block cubed extra sharp cheddar cheese

12 sweet grape tomatoes, cut in half

6 oz. whole wheat medium pasta shells, cooked according to directions

2/3 cup Light Miracle Whip

Salt and pepper to taste

Prepared broccoli, tomatoes, cheese, and basil.
Prepared broccoli, tomatoes, cheese, and basil.

If you’re worried about cabbage worms in the broccoli, soak it in salt water to get rid any cabbage worms that may be hiding in the heads.  Rinse well after soaking.

Basil, broccoli, tomatoes, pasta shells.
Basil, broccoli, tomatoes, pasta shells.

Combine rinsed and cooled pasta shells, tomatoes, broccoli, basil, and cubed cheese in a medium size bowl.

Add Light Miracle Whip
Add Light Miracle Whip

Stir in Light Miracle Whip.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Colorful broccoli, tomato, basil pasta salad.
Colorful broccoli, tomato, basil pasta salad.

Chill. Serve with whole grain bread or crackers.  Great for a quick summer meal.

Rain & Hail Damages Garden & Floods Streets

More than 2" of rain in Saint Louis Park last evening.
Evening rain measures just over 2" in the Green Bay Packer's rain gauge.

We’ve had our share of rain this month and received over 2 inches again last evening.  High winds and hail the size of golf balls shredded leaves on the trees and in the garden.

Hosta leaves were shredded by golf-ball size hail.
Hosta leaves were shredded by golf-ball size hail.
Brussel sprouts were hit by hail too.
Brussel sprouts were hit by hail too.
Upside down tomato plant didn't suffer any hail damage.
Upside down tomato plant didn't suffer any hail damage and is thriving with all the rain and heat.

Thankfully, most of the rest of the vegetables, shrubs,  and flowers were not damaged by the storm.

Mushrooms are flourishing with the wet weather we've had in June.
Mushrooms are flourishing with the wet weather we've had in June.
A variety of mushrooms are popping up all over the lawn.
A variety of mushrooms are popping up all over the lawn.

The rain flooded freeways and side streets.  One creative snowmobiler used the opportunity to get his sled out and ride up and down a street that had turned into a stream.  Check out the video here: man rides snowmobile on flooded streets.

What Happened To My Gardens?

WARNING: GARDENER’S DISCRETION ADVISED – SOME IMAGES MAY BE TOO GRAPHIC FOR TIDY GARDENERS – VIEW AT YOUR OWN RISK

Neglected garden has not been tended for two years.
Neglected garden has not been tended for two years.

There was a time when I took great pride in the appearance of my gardens, making sure to pluck each weed and nurture each plant to it’s prime.

Then along came a handsome man who stole my heart away. I began to spend my free time with him riding bikes along the trails of Minnesota, attempting to master the sport of golf, and generally just having a great time hanging out with that wonderful, kind, humorous soul who eventually became my fiance’.

My gardens started to lose their closely tended appearance.  An occasional spear of quack-grass poked through the decomposing layers of mulch.  Soon there were patches of grass and thistle poking through and threatening to choke out those precious perennials.

Then on a fateful day in September, 2008 that handsome man was late to arrive at work.  When I went looking for him, I discovered him lying on his kitchen floor, unable to move his left side. It was the second time in my life that I’ve called 911 in a panic (I’ll write about the first another time).

That fateful day changed our lives forever.  A stroke had immobilized my big, wonderful, hunk of a man.  It would take three months of in-house exhaustive therapy to get him back on his feet. Caring and nurturing the gardens at my house stopped that September day, as I turned my attention to the care and recovery of my soul-mate.  (Click Here to learn about signs of stroke).

Two weeks ago I began the clean-up of what becomes of gardens that have suffered two years of neglect.  My daughter accompanied me and photographed the gardens while I began to weed and mulch one garden at a time.  My goal is to have each of the gardens back in shape by the end of the summer.  As you can see, I have my work cut out for me.

These photos were taken by my daughter Heidi, as I began the “Garden Rescue Project.”
CLICK HERE to see the neglected gardens (view at your own risk).

A pull-behind sled makes a great container when you’re harvesting YARDS of weeds.

A sled full of quack grass, thistles, and creeping charlie.
A sled full of quack grass, thistles, and creeping charlie.

That evening, after several hours of intense weeding and mulching, one of the gardens began to start to look like a garden instead of a weed patch.

The weed patch began to look like a garden again.
The weed patch began to look like a garden again.

Thankfully, the company that I work for allows a flexible summer schedule so I’ll have Fridays off to tend my neglected gardens.  If all goes as planned what currently looks like this:

Neglected pond
Neglected pond

Will be on track to look like this again (in a year or two):

Pond in September, 2007
Pond before neglect set in

10 Reasons Why I Grow Organic

Bees on flowers
Bees on flowers

The benefits of gardening without the aid of toxic pesticides and herbicides seem very obvious to me, yet it was only about 10 years ago that I stopped using chemicals to control insects and weeds.

I was recently reminded of some of the reasons why I stopped using herbicides and pesticides on my lawn and in my gardens.  My neighbor was applying lawn spray to her yard and the smell of the chemicals in the overspray that blew into our yard as I was tending my garden was overpowering, to the point that I almost couldn’t breath.  I had to quit my outdoor chores and go inside to get away from the overpowering odor.  I kept our dog inside for as long as possible after she finished spraying so that he wouldn’t be exposed to the spray too, since most lawn chemicals are toxic to animals as well as humans.

Here are some reasons for choosing to “grow organic.”  I’m sure there are many more, but these are my own personal motivators.

10 Reasons to Grow Organic

  1. No exposure to toxic chemicals for humans and pets
  2. Don’t need to worry that toxins aren’t totally washed off before eating produce
  3. Less expensive
  4. Builds soil quality year after year instead of degrading it
  5. Encourages beneficial insects (and subsequently birds) in my gardens
  6. No contamination of runoff into sewers
  7. Reduces waste in landfills – compost used to build soil encourages recycling of kitchen and yard waste
  8. Organic (heirloom and non-hybrid seeds) can be harvested for next year’s crops
  9. Food tastes better
  10. Teaches kids to take care of the environment

I’m interested in hearing what motivates you to grow organic – or why you choose not to.  Please  share your comments.

Deadheading Endless Summer Hydrangeas (Update)

Deadheading Endless Summer Hydrangea
Deadheading Endless Summer Hydrangea

Several weeks ago,  I posted about deadheading Twist and Shout Endless Summer Hydrangea shrubs because the blooms had faded and I wanted to encourage new growth.  The shrubs have been blooming all along.  They have new growth and it’s time to deadhead the old blooms again.

Endless Summer Hydrangea - Twist and Shout
Endless Summer Hydrangea - Twist and Shout

To deadhead the old blooms, I clipped them back to the second set of leaves as shown below.

Clip back to the second set of leaves to encourage new growth
Clip back to the second set of leaves to encourage new growth, and shape shrub.

While trimming the shrubs, I noticed that some of the leaves had brown areas.

Brown areas are likely a fungus caused by water on the leaves.
Brown areas are likely a fungus caused by water on the leaves.

It’s likely that this is a fungus that is commonly caused by water on the leaves.  It’s not harmful to the plants, but I’ll have to be more careful when I water them and make sure I soak the base of the plant and avoid getting the leaves wet.  I learned that it’s also best to water in the morning, rather than at night.  In the fall, I’ll trim the affected leaves off so the fungus doesn’t carry over to next year.

© 2010 The Good Thing – About Gardening

Transplanting Roses so you Have Strong and Healthy Plants

If you grow roses, expect that at some point, moving them from one location to another will eventually happen.  For instance, transplanting roses might be due to the initial location not providing the bushes adequate sunlight.

Regardless, you want to make sure you choose a place for the roses where they will get six to seven hours of direct sunlight and about five hours of indirect sunlight every day.  That way with proper rose bush care, the bushes would grow strong and produce large, fragrant blooms to enjoy.

Now, before transplanting roses or rose planting, it is imperative that you make proper preparations first.  This means getting the soil ready and the hole where the bushes will be placed.  Roses have what is known as a root ball and if exposed for too long, the bush would die.  In addition to proper soil, you want to make sure the day prior to transplanting roses that they be watered well.  Even with this, once the bush is taken out of the ground, the root ball should be wrapped in a moist cloth or piece of burlap so it stays wet until it goes back into the ground.  Of all steps taken for this process, keeping the root ball moist is one of the most imperative.

Keep the root ball well hydrated to ensure transplanting roses to a new home is successful.  Typically, following a few simple steps will make the movement easy but even with this you might have a plant die, which is common.  Often, the younger or weaker bushes would have a more difficult time so while
no one wants to lose roses during transplanting, it could happen.  As mentioned, the hole of the new home would need to be an appropriate size so the root ball fits, giving the bushes the best chance of thriving and producing large, colorful blooms.

As far as pruning, usually, transplanting roses would not involve any type of pruning until later on.  To keep pruning needs to a minimum, just be sure the root ball you dig up is kept intact.  From there, the bush would be set into the ground carefully.  Now, the exception is that if you were to notice a bush showing signs of damage or any portion of the plant starting to die, pruning might be required but we suggest this be minimal.

As you set the rose bushes into the soil, make sure the top of the bushes have adequate support so blooms can grow big and strong.  If for any reason, the plant starts to look wilted or weak after being moved, you may need to cut the top portion back.  Then, when placing the bud union in the ground when transplanting roses, always keep it about two inches above the rim of the hole.  Over the following week as the bushes are watered, the soil will naturally start to settle and along with the soil, the bud union would fall into place.  At that time, push soil around the plant’s base, covering the roots and giving the rose bush support at the bottom.

While the best time of year for transplanting roses is when the bush is dormant, if you are moving from one home to another, you may not have luxury of waiting for dormancy.  The reason this is so helpful is that when rose bushes are dormant, they are in a state of rest, meaning they are not growing.  Therefore, transplanting roses at this time keeps the plant from going into shock or even dying.

In addition, if you have the chance to move the plant while dormant, chances are pruning needs would be decreased.  The bottom line is that for transplanting roses, you want to have healthy soil, a hole large enough to accommodate the root ball, keeping the root ball well watered, providing the plant with support, and choosing a location with proper sunlight.

Endings and New Beginnings: A New Garden

Planted the first 100 bulbs in this full-sun garden.
Planted the first 100 bulbs in this full-sun garden.

After a very stormy evening, I made a trip out to my hometown to see if there was any damage since there was a tornado that touched down just west of Winsted yesterday afternoon.  Fortunately the tornado touched down in a bean field and did not cause any severe damage or injuries.

There were as many as 70 tornadoes that tore through the state of Minnesota during the course of the evening, likely an all time record.  Unfortunately three cities did not escape damage.  Windom was devastated by the storms.  A tornado flattened most of the buildings in town.  It will likely take years to rebuild.  There were three deaths from three different areas of the state.  My heart goes out to their families and loved ones.

The weather can change so quickly this time of the year, often with very little advanced warning.  Every day brings a new beginning, and often endings – sometimes unexpected, sometimes not.

Today is a new beginning for a flower garden in the front lawn.  Eleanor (my soon-to-be-mother-in-law) ordered several hundred flower bulbs including gladiola, anemone, allium, and acidanthera.  It seems we received a double order and I had already planted the first shipment.  Since there was no more room in that garden for more, it seemed necessary to start another garden.  Gardeners can never have too many gardens, right?

The front lawn at my new home is half shade, half sun.  The shade is created by the umbrella of a massive oak tree.

Oak tree in the front lawn
Oak tree in the front lawn provides shade for half the yard.

Several years ago, Steve and I landscaped the area beneath the tree because it was impossible to get grass to grow in the deep shade beneath the tree.  We covered the ground with black plastic, then hauled in loads of mulch from the free mulch pile and added a border of field stones.  We planted several different types of hostas, which have been doing well even though they get very little sun.  Hostas are one of my all-time favorite perennial plants because they grow pretty much anywhere and as long as you keep the slugs and rabbits away, they are happy to grow in even the deepest shade year after year.

Landscaped front lawn in 2006.
Landscaped front lawn in 2006.

After assembling the tools and a quick trip to the local garden center to purchase some sun loving plants, I’m ready to begin creating the new garden.

Plants and tools assembled to begin the new garden.
A Double Knock-Out Rose, Zinnias, Dianthus, and Petunias will add color until the bulbs get started.

Laying the garden hose out in the shape that I want the garden to be, I use a sod cutter to cut through the lawn.

Using a step sod cutter, the garden shape is cut out.
Using a step sod cutter, the garden shape is cut out.

Using a flat edged shovel, I dig up the sod, clearing the area that will be the new garden.  Because the oak tree roots are just below the surface of most of the lawn, I’ll fill in the areas with organic compost from the very large “compost bin” area beneath the oak tree.

The decomposed mulch and shredded oak leaves make a very rich compost for the new garden.
The decomposed mulch and shredded oak leaves make a very rich compost for the new garden.

The new garden will be somewhat of a raised bed, since I don’t want to dig into the ground and disturb the oak tree roots.  This way I don’t have to worry about cutting into underground utility lines either.

Rich compost made of decomposed bark mulch and oak leaves.  Earth worms make there home in the compost.
Rich compost made of decomposed bark mulch and oak leaves. Earth worms help create the compost.

An easy way to transport dirt, mulch, and rocks is to use a tarp.  Just load the material on the tarp, drag the tarp to the new locations and dump it off.

Tarps work well for transporting mulch, dirt, and rocks to the new location.
Tarps work well for transporting mulch, dirt, and rocks to the new location.

Now it’s time to plant.  A trick I learned from my father-in-law who was an avid gardener, is to dig the hole (three times larger than the root ball), then fill it with water before planting.  This works well for tomatoes, shrubs and anything that is transplanted from a pot into the ground.  It works especially well for plants that need a lot of moisture and are planted in the heat of the day (it’s 85 degrees and pretty humid as this new garden is being created).  It also means that I am officially playing in the mud now.

Filling the hole with water before planting the Knock-out rose bush.
Filling the hole with water before planting the Knock-out rose bush.

The same method is used for planting the Zinnia, Dianthus, and Petunias.

Double Knock-Out Rose Bush

Dianthus
Dianthus
Yello Zinnia
Yellow Zinnia
Purple Petunias
Purple Petunias

Steve, being a loyal Green Bay Packer fan often wonders why there are so many yellow and purple flowers in the gardens.  I can only say that this is Minnesota, and also point out that there is a lot of green in the gardens too:)

Here’s the final result.

Knock-out Roses, Zinnias, Dianthus, and Purple Petunias provide color until the bulbs grow.
Knock-out Roses, Zinnias, Dianthus, and Purple Petunias provide color until the bulbs grow.

Another (cooler) day, I’ll add an edging of field stone to give the garden a more defined look. But now it’s time to hose off my garden clogs, cool down, and have a cold beverage.

Cleaning (and cooling) my garden clogs and feet.
Cleaning (and cooling) my garden clogs and feet.