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: 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: 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

Gardening: Add some eye candy to your garden this fall

Photo credit: Longfield Gardens Dutch Master daffodils, Involve tulips and Muscari provide several layers of color in the garden.

Photo credit: Longfield Gardens
Dutch Master daffodils, Involve tulips and Muscari provide several layers of color in the garden.

By Melinda Myers
Shorten the winter season with the help of spring flowering bulbs that you plant in fall. These beauties often provide the first bit of color, fragrance and winter relief each year.

Look for new and unique ways to incorporate bulbs into your landscape. Create a seasonal water feature with a river of blue scillas and grape hyacinths meandering through the garden. Welcome visitors with a front door or walkway garden that blooms from early spring through early summer and is loaded with crocus, tulips, daffodils and allium.

Don’t overlook those shady spots. Many of these locations provide enough early season sun, before the trees leaf out, for bulbs to grow and flower. Use more shade tolerant spring bloomers like snowdrops, grape hyacinths, scillas, anemones, daffodils, fritillarias and Camassias in shady areas among hostas, ferns and other shade tolerant perennials.

Whether you’re new or experienced, growing bulbs is an easy endeavor. Just follow these simple steps to a beautiful spring garden.

Selection

Purchase bulbs that are dense and firm, and free of bruises or mold. Shop early for the best selection. Mail order sources will ship your Continue reading

Gardening: Turn Yard Waste into Gardener’s Gold – Compost

Another column by Melinda Myers, well-known gardening and columnist: 

Gardener’s Supply Company Tumbler composters are great for small spaces and make loading, unloading and turning much easier.

Gardener’s Supply Company
Tumbler composters are great for small spaces and make loading, unloading and turning much easier.

Save time and money by turning landscape trimmings into a valuable soil amendment.

The idea is simple, just collect disease- and insect-free plant debris into a heap and let it decompose into a fine, nutrient rich material that helps improve the soil. Don’t add meat, dairy, invasive plants, weeds that have gone to seed or perennial weeds that can take root and grow in your compost pile.

Speed things up by layering yard waste with soil or compost, adding a bit of fertilizer to each layer and moistening to a consistency of a damp sponge. Further speed up the process by making the pile at least three-feet tall and wide.

Turn the pile as time allows, moving the more decomposed materials from the center to the outside of the pile. It’s a great work out and speeds up the decomposition. The more effort you put into composting the sooner you have rich organic matter for your garden.

Build the pile in a location that is convenient for adding raw materials and harvesting the finished compost. Consider placing the pile near a water source to make moistening the pile easier.  Avoid poorly drained locations that may lead to the pile of compost becoming waterlogged.  Soggy materials break down more slowly and may smell.   Continue reading

New garden feature at www.BirdsofNewEngland.com

https://birdsofnewengland.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/fawn.jpg

Photo by Melinda Myers, LLC
Deer damage can be devastating to vegetable and flower gardens, making fencing, repellents and other tactics essential.

I’m happy to introduce a new feature and page for http://www.BirdsofNewEngland.com

It’s a garden column from Melinda Myers, a well-known gardener and columnist. I have read her garden column in Birds and Blooms for years. Her columns will appear from time to time with permission on http://www.BirdsofNewEngland.com.

Here’s the first one. I hope you enjoy this occasional series.

Five Ways to Protect Your Garden from the Deer
By Melinda Myers

Don’t let your vegetable and fall flower gardens succumb to hungry deer. Even if you’re lucky enough to be deer-free now, be vigilant and prepared to prevent damage as these beautiful creatures move into your landscape to dine. Here are five tactics to help you in the battle against these hungry animals.

Fencing is the best, though not always practical, way to control deer. Install a 4- to 5-foot-high fence around small garden areas. This is usually enough to keep out deer that seem to avoid small confined spaces.  The larger the area, the more likely deer will enter. Some gardeners report success surrounding their garden or landscape with strands of fishing line set at 12” and 36” above the ground.

Low voltage electric fencing or posts baited with a deer repellent are also options. Just be sure to check with your local municipality before installing this type of fencing.

Scare tactics are less effective on deer in urban environments. They are used to human scents and sounds. Many gardeners report success with motion sensor sprinklers. As the deer passes in front of the motion sensor it starts the sprinkler and sends them running. Just be sure to turn off the sprinkler when you go out to garden.

Repellents that make plants taste or smell bad to deer can also help.  You will find products containing things like garlic, hot pepper oil, and predator urine.  Apply them before the animals start feeding for the best results. And reapply as directed on the label. Look for products like Deer Ban (summitchemical.com) that are easy to apply, odorless and last a long time.

Include deer resistant plants whenever possible. Even though no plant is one hundred percent deer-proof, there are those the deer are less likely to eat. Include plants rated as rarely or seldom damaged by deer.  And be sure to provide additional protection if you include plants known to be frequently or severely damaged.

Constantly monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the methods used.  Deer often change their feeding location and preferred food. And if the populations are high and the deer are hungry, they will eat just about anything. Be willing to change things up if one method is not working. Using multiple tactics will help increase your level of success.

So don’t let hungry deer stop you from gardening.  Be vigilant and persistent and send them elsewhere to dine.

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 was commissioned by Summit Responsible Solutions for her expertise to write this article. Myers’ website is www.melindamyers.com.