Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson and Kim Palmer are dishin' the dirt from the back-yard garden and beyond. Whether you're a greenthumb or greenhorn, they're eager to learn from your mishaps, mistakes - and most importantly, your sweet successes - all growing season long.
Oh deer! It’s only April and deer have already chomped on three hydrangea bushes I just planted last summer. The young shrubs were about two feet tall and the hungry critters devoured the branches clear to the ground. I hope adversity makes hydrangeas stronger and they come back in May.
I checked the University of Minnesota Extension Service, and as expected, hydrangeas are on the list of deer “Generally Preferred Plants.” And keep an eye on your sprouting hostas - they love to feast on those, too.
A couple of summers ago, I was checking on the progress of my lilies -also a deer preferred plant - and discovered clumps of empty stems The tender buds were cleanly bitten off like a lollipop by deer - or maybe rabbits. So last year, I took a bar of Irish Spring soap and used a potato peeler to scatter soap shavings around the base of the lilies. It kind of worked - they only chewed off some of the buds. I guess deer only find certain lily varieties tasty.
Deodorant soap is one of the repellents suggested by the U of M Extension Service article “Coping with Deer in Home Landscapes” (http://bit.ly/1rEBNfO.) There are two types of repellents - one applied to the plants, causing them to taste bad. The other type is a repellent placed in the problem area, which keep deer out because of a foul odor. Someone even did a study and tested six different repellents - with Deer Away, an egg-based product, the most effective.
But I like the homemade remedies - like eggs blended with cold water and sprayed on foliage or hanging mesh bags of human hair in the garden. They’re organic - and cheaper.
Have deer or rabbits munched on emerging plants in your yard and garden? What repellents have worked for you?
Photos by Hostasdirect.com and Ecologicalwildlifesolutions.com.
Happy Earth Day. Here are five ways to incorporate earth-friendly garden practices, many of which also save you some green:
That’s just a handful of ideas to get you started. What are your favorite ways to “green up” your garden? While I’m certainly not greener-than-thou, a few simple steps can make you feel better about your place in the world. And even if you're not about saving the Earth, it can help you save on your wallet. So happy Earth Day, and go out and play in the dirt!
Eco-friendly rain gardens are smart for the environment - but aren’t always pretty. They can turn into an overgrown mishmash of out-of-control foliage and flowers if you don’t know what you’re doing.
That’s what happened to my compact backyard bed. I planted a combination of deep-rooted perennials like rudbeckia and purple coneflowers in a super low part of my yard. Most of them absorbed and survived the rain water - and stream from my neighbor’s sump pump hose - that rushed down to the garden. Each summer, I mindlessly added plants - not paying much attention to creating an appealing cohesive design - and hardly ever divided them.
True rain gardens capture and filter rainwater runoff before it can pollute our lakes and streams. The garden is bowl-shaped and composed of deep-rooted hardy wildflower and prairie plants that can handle rainy and dry spells. If you’re digging a rain garden - there’s plenty of step-by-step instructions and long plant lists all over the Internet.
But make sure to check out the city of Maplewood’s website. That community has been at the forefront of promoting rain gardens. And they’ve done us well-meaning, but challenged rain gardeners a huge favor. Posted on the website (http://bit.ly/1HANkWM) are ten fool-proof color-coded rain garden designs that show exactly what plants to pick and where to place them. Have a sunny spot? There’s a layout for a sunny border garden. Like prairie plants? Follow the “Minnesota Prairie garden” diagram. When I dig a real rain garden - hopefully this summer - it’s going to look exactly like one of the designs
.Have you planted a rain garden and does it still look pretty? What plants do you like the best?
Designs from the City of Maplewood and Bonestroo.
If you plant them, they will come.
I'm talking about pollinators and the native plants that attract them and provide nectar and habitat.
The best thing in my inbox this morning was a short simple e-mail and two beautiful pictures. They were sent by Rich Erstad of St. Paul, a gardener I don't know, who just wanted to share the fluttering clouds of Monarch butterflies that started congegrating in his urban yard after he planted a cluster of native liatris.
It doesn't even have to be a cluster. Just a few plants can bring a noticeable increase in pollinator visits. Last summer, I planted one swamp milkweed plant in my garden. ONE! It quickly became a bee and butterfly magnet.
If you're heading to the State Fair this week, stop by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture booth in the Ag/Hort building. The department has launched a public awareness campaign to protect pollinating insects, and has developed best practices for homeowners and other land owners. Here are a few simple things you can do to protect pollinators and invite more of them into your landscape:
1. Plant more flowers in your yard or on your balcony.
2. Let early dandelions flower -- they have nectar.
3. Leave areas of your lawn un-mowed.
4. Reduce pesticide use.
5. Find pollinator protection information on pesticide labels.
6. Set out water bowls and birdbaths for pollinators to drink.
7. Let clover grow and flower.
8. Start a beehive.
What are you doing in your garden to make it more pollinator-friendly?
Remember last year's Edible Estate? That was the front yard in Woodbury where an artist/horticulturist tore up the traditional lawn and replaced it with a dense forest of food crops.
So what's going on this growing season, now that the Schoenherr family is on their own, with no donated plants or free expert help?
Pretty much the same as last year -- that was the surprising news when I visited the family last week. They're still growing more than 100 edible crops, covering almost all their large suburban front yard. About half of last year's crops returned or self-seeded. The rest -- about 1,000 plants -- they started from seed in their basement, under grow lights.
Now that they can choose their own crop mix, they're growing fewer eggplants, but they've added some new edibles, including tomatillos and borage.
And their gung-ho neighbors, who dug in last year to help tend the mini-farm in their midst, are still at it, showing up for weekly "garden nights" to help pull weeds and help themselves to some produce.
"We really do have a lot of help," said Catherine Shoenherr. "It wouldn't be very fun to do this by yourself."
How has the family managed to turn their private front yard into a community garden? Find out in next week's Variety Home + Garden.
|Annuals (68)||Books and resources (9)|
|Chickens (4)||Compost (9)|
|Critters and pests (48)||Farmers markets (14)|
|Flowers (115)||Fruit and berries (40)|
|Grasses (25)||Green gardening (31)|
|Lawn care (25)||Perennials (133)|
|Preserving (9)||Rain gardens (5)|
|Seed starting (14)||Soil prep (15)|
|Tools (8)||Transplanting + dividing (13)|
|Trees (43)||Vegetables (139)|
|Weather (80)||Weeds (28)|
|Weekend chores (69)|