Gardening with Melinda: Work with Nature to Manage Garden Pests and Mosquitoes

By Melinda Myers, LLC A bee pollinating a coneflower.

By Melinda Myers, LLC
A bee pollinating a coneflower.

By Melinda Myers

A garden filled with flowers, birds, bees and butterflies is a sight to behold. These winged beauties add color, sound and motion to our gardens. Plus, they help maximize a garden’s productivity by pollinating plants and managing plant-damaging pests.

But what about those unwanted visitors to the garden? The aphids, mites and cabbage worms that feed upon our plants or the mosquitoes that feed upon us.  There are ways to have a beautiful garden and at the same time enjoy the outdoors when we work with nature to manage our landscape.

Add a birdbath, a few birdhouses and plants for the birds. They’ll repay Continue reading

Gardening with Melinda: Add extra appeal with garden art

Gardener’s Supply Company The Kaleidoscope Tomato Cage provides a sturdy support for tomato plants while adding color to the landscape

Gardener’s Supply Company
The Kaleidoscope Tomato Cage provides a sturdy support for tomato plants while adding color to the landscape

By Melinda Myers

Adding excitement to your garden is easy.  You can create instant, year-round color, structure, motion and fun to your landscape with a bit of garden art.

Just like shopping for plants, look for pieces that complement your gardening style. And consider all the benefits each piece of art provides. Many pieces are functional as well as beautiful, helping you get the most from your garden budget.

In centuries past, garden art included statues of gods and beautiful people as well as pieces that mimicked nature’s ornamental qualities. You can still find those traditional garden statues. But these days you will also find colorful pieces made from a variety Continue reading

Gardening with Melinda: Harvesting, Storing and Preserving Herbs from the Garden

Photo credit: Bonnie Plants Harvesting and preserving herbs allows you to enjoy fresh-from-the-garden flavor all year long.

Photo credit: Bonnie Plants
Harvesting and preserving herbs allows you to enjoy fresh-from-the-garden flavor all year long.

By Melinda Myers

Enjoy herbs all year round. Harvest herbs now for garden-fresh meals and preserve a few for the winter ahead.

Snip a few leaves or leaf-covered stems as needed. For the same intensity of flavor, you generally need two to three times more fresh herbs than dried except for Rosemary which has an equally strong flavor fresh or dried. Continue harvesting herbs as needed throughout the growing season. And don’t worry about harming the plant because regular harvesting encourages new growth which means more for you to harvest. Just be sure to leave enough foliage to maintain plant growth.

You can remove as much as fifty percent of the foliage from annual herb plants. This is about when the plants near their final height.  You can remove up to one third from established perennial plants that have been in the garden for several months or more. Harvest when the plant has formed buds, but before they open into flowers for the greatest concentration of flavor. This is the perfect time to Continue reading

Gardening with Melinda: Grow Your Own Tropical Paradise in a Container or Garden

Longfield-Gardens.com Elephant ears, like this Black Stem variety, can be grown in the garden or in containers.

Longfield-Gardens.com
Elephant ears, like this Black Stem variety, can be grown in the garden or in containers.

By Melinda Myers

Add an exciting new look to your garden, poolside, patio or deck with elephant ears.  These easy tropical plants have tall stems and giant leaves that measure up to two feet across. You can use them to create an instant focal point in the garden, screen an unwanted view, or extend a bold welcome at the front door.

Elephant ears can be grown in containers as well as the garden, so if space is an issue, try some of the more compact varieties like Hawaiian Punch. You’ll appreciate the impact this three-foot tall plant makes with its red stems and bright green leaves with dark red veining.

Or go big with six-foot tall Black Stem. Its smooth blue-green leaves are displayed atop striking purple-black stems. Variegated varieties are another option. The unusual foliage of Mojito, is decorated with blue-black dashes and splashes. No two leaves are alike on this beauty. For even more color and drama, don’t miss Black Magic. Its dark, blue-black leaves measure 2 feet across and can grow up to 5 feet tall. Continue reading

Gardening with Melinda: Grow an abundant tomato harvest in a pot

Photo by Gardener’s Supply Company Growing tomatoes in container gardens enables gardeners to jump start the growing season.

Photo by Gardener’s Supply Company
Growing tomatoes in container gardens enables gardeners to jump start the growing season.


By Melinda Myers

Harvest and enjoy the garden-fresh flavor of tomatoes right outside your kitchen.  Grow them in containers set on your patio, balcony, deck or stairs. You’ll enjoy the convenience of harvesting fresh tomatoes just a few feet away from where you prepare your meals. And your guests will enjoy harvesting fresh tomatoes to add to their salad or sandwich.

Tomatoes need warm air and soil to thrive. Containers give you the ability to jump start the season. Plant tomatoes in containers earlier than in the garden and leave them outdoors when it’s warm (but bring them inside whenever there’s a danger of frost.)  Protect your plants with the help of season-extending products like cloches, red tomato teepees or garden fabrics.  These will help warm the soil and air around the plants, reducing the number of days to your first harvest.

Select flavorful and disease-resistant varieties for your container gardens. Consider ‘determinate’ tomatoes that are more compact and generally less than four feet tall. But don’t eliminate your favorite indeterminate tomato. Just provide a strong tall support for these plants that continue to grow six feet and taller throughout the season.

Grow your tomatoes in a sunny spot that receives at least eight hours of direct sunlight.  You’ll grow the biggest harvest and reduce the risk of disease.

Fill your container with a quality well-drained potting mix. Add a slow release organic fertilizer to your potting mix if needed.  This type of fertilizer feeds the plants for several months. Give the plants an additional feeding midseason or as directed on the fertilizer package.

Check soil moisture daily, water thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil slightly moist.  Maintaining consistent soil moisture means healthier plants and fewer problems with blossom end rot. This disorder is not a deadly disease, but it causes the bottom of the first set of fruit to turn black.

Reduce your workload by using self-watering pots like the Gardener’s Revolution® Classic Tomato Planter (gardeners.com). These pots have a 5-gallon reservoir for holding water that moves up into the soil to the plant roots as needed.  This means you’ll be filling the reservoir less often than you would normally water other planters.

Stake or tower your plants to save space, increase air circulation around and light penetration into the plant.  You’ll further reduce the risk of disease and increase productivity by growing vertically.

So start gathering your favorite tomato recipes now, as soon you’ll be harvesting armloads of tomatoes to use in salsas, salads, sauces and of course BLTs.

Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. 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 Gardener’s Supply Company for her expertise to write this article. Myers’ web site is www.melindamyers.com.

Gardening with Melinda: From the garden to the party

Melinda Myers Add a bit of color and interest to salads with edible flowers like nasturtium.

Melinda Myers
Add a bit of color and interest to salads with edible flowers like nasturtium.

By Melinda Myers

Make every meal a special event by bringing the garden to the table. Serve your favorite dishes made from homegrown ingredients. Then allow guests to add their own herbal seasonings right from the garden or container.

Start by growing the ingredients for your favorite recipes and beverages. Consider those, like tomatoes, that taste best fresh from the garden.  Or create a salad bar by filling window boxes and raised beds with greens, hot peppers, green onions and more. Just hand your guests a plate and let them create their own fresh salad.

Dress up the table or balcony with a few containers of herbs on your patio, deck or near the grill.  Use small herb containers as edible centerpieces. Just include a pair of garden scissors and allow your family and guests to season the meal to their taste.

Add a bit of color to your meal with edible flowers.  Try nasturtium and daylily blossoms stuffed with cream cheese, calendula petals sprinkled on your salad and mint leaves a top a slice of chocolate cake.

Include a few herbs and vegetables that can be blended, muddled or added to your favorite beverage. Use the hollow stems of lovage as a straw for your tomato juice or bloody Mary.  You’ll enjoy the celery flavor this edible straw provides. Or pluck a few mint or rosemary leaves to flavor iced tea and lemonade. Continue reading

Gardening with Melinda: Family Gardening Provides More Than a Bountiful Harvest

Gardening can be a great family activity and children exposed to the outdoors and gardening are more focused, have less issues with attention deficit and score higher on tests.

Mother And Daughter Working On Allotment Together With Vegtables And Watering Can Smiling

By Melinda Myers

Gardeners know digging, planting, harvesting and even viewing a garden is good for the mind, body and spirit. It improves strength and flexibility, lowers blood pressure and elevates our mood. And this is true for all members of the family from the very young to the more seasoned.

Plan on sharing these benefits with yours or a friend’s children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews this growing season. Children, and even adults, who grow their own vegetables are more likely to eat them.  But gardening does even more to help our children. Research shows children exposed to the outdoors and gardening are more focused, have less issues with attention deficit and score better on tests. Girls exposed to gardens and green spaces are more confident and better able to handle peer pressure.

Here are a few ways to make gardening with family more fun and memorable.

Involve the whole family when planning the garden. Talk about the flowers everyone wants to grow and vegetables you all like to eat. Then break out the paper, old catalogs, scissors, crayons, pencils and rulers.  Young children can cut out pictures of their favorite vegetables and flowers and glue them on the paper. Older children can draw the garden to scale on graph paper and plot their choices in the garden. Continue reading

Gardening with Melinda: Grow a bigger garden in a smaller space

Gardener’s Supply Company Planter boxes with built-in trellises like this Apex trellis planter enable gardeners to maximize their garden space for growing vegetables and flowers.

Gardener’s Supply Company
Planter boxes with built-in trellises like this Apex trellis planter enable gardeners to maximize their garden space for growing vegetables and flowers.

By Melinda Myers

Whether in the ground or on a balcony or deck, there’s always room to grow your own garden-fresh produce and beautiful flowers.  Space saving gardening techniques and products can help you increase productivity in any available space.

Consider elevated gardens and planter carts that not only save space, but make gardens more accessible. Movable carts like the Demeter Mobile Planter Cart allow you to grow flowers and produce in narrow spaces, store garden accessories and move the garden into the sunlight or out of the way of guests as needed.

Save more space by going vertical.  Look for containers and raised garden beds with built-in trellises and plant supports.  Just plant your pole beans, peas, cucumbers or tomatoes and attach them to the supports as they grow.  Support the large fruit of squash and melons with cloth or macramé slings. Just cradle the fruit in the sling and secure it to the trellis. You’ll not only save space, but reduce disease problems and make harvesting a breeze. Continue reading

Gardening with Melinda: Grow a High Yield Vegetable Garden This Season

Image by Gardener’s Supply Company he High Yield Vegetable Garden Plan enables gardeners to grow more than 50 pounds of produce in only 18 square feet of space.

Image by Gardener’s Supply Company
he High Yield Vegetable Garden Plan enables gardeners to grow more than 50 pounds of produce in only 18 square feet of space.

By Melinda Myers

Spend less time and money while growing a bounty of flavorful vegetables this growing season. Increase your harvest, even in small garden spaces, with proper planning and easy care, high yielding vegetables.

A productive garden starts with a plan, but choosing the best vegetables to grow and where to plant them can be overwhelming.

You can break out the graph paper and pencils to design your garden or turn to technology for help. Many websites and apps provide ready-to-use garden plans or planning guidelines. Gardener’s Supply (gardeners.com) offers free pre-planned gardens that do the planning for you.  Reduce maintenance by Continue reading

Gardening: Bring in the birds this winter

Photo credit – Gardener’s Supply Company

Photo credit – Gardener’s Supply Company

By Melinda Myers

Brighten your winter days by inviting birds into your landscape. Their beauty and motion help enliven the garden and lighten your spirit. Not only do they provide entertainment, but also an opportunity for all ages to stay involved with nature year-round.

Increase the number of visitors to your yard by including all the essentials these winged visitors need; food, shelter and water.

Plants are the easiest way to bring birds into your landscape. These natural feeders provide seasonal food and shelter for the birds. Take a walk through your yard and look for trees, shrubs and perennials that provide food and evergreens that provide year-round shelter.  Plan on adding a few of their favorites that provide food and shelter and seasonal beauty you can enjoy. Continue reading