Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson, Kim Palmer and Mary Jane Smetanka 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.

Posts about Critters and pests

Look what the birds planted

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: September 17, 2013 - 10:48 AM

I didn't plant sunflowers this year -- or any other year, for that matter. But I've got gigantic 5-foot-tall sunflowers now blooming in my back-yard garden.

I noticed them sprouting there a couple months ago. They've never sprouted there before. But my husband discovered birds this spring and bought a bird feeder, which he filled with sunflower seeds and placed on the deck.

That deck is right above my garden, which is how I wound up with sunflowers.  

From a strict garden-design standpoint, the sunflowers aren't a great addition to my garden bed. Theyr'e way too tall, compared to what's planted around them, and look kind of silly. But I can't help smiling whenever I see their sunny yellow faces.

They provide a welcome burst of bright color, at a time when the flowers around them are winding down.

And -- best of all -- they've turned out to be irrestible to bees. I don't know what kind of sunflowers they are, but every time I venture outside, morning or evening, bees are buzzing around them, and camped out on the flowers and even nearby leaves. 

The three new flowering natives I planted this spring with bees in mind haven't done as well as I expected. One plant died after a few weeks. One stayed tiny and never flowered. The third plant, a coneflower, thrived and attracted a few bees. But nothing like the sunflowers, which are bee magnets.

What are the bees liking best in your garden this September? And did your garden have any surprises up its sleeve?

Where the bees are

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: September 12, 2013 - 12:46 PM

Most of the year my garden has had to rely on wasps as pollinators, with the bees conspicuously absent. But last week I noticed my garden was suddenly bee central, with swarms of them orbiting some basil plants that desperately needed topping.

I don't know why they finally descended upon my yard. Maybe they're just picky eaters and the fall asters and goldenrod are more to their liking than the spring and summer blossoms.

What's your bee population been like this year? And has it been constant throughout the year or are you also seeing a late season influx? Bee mavens: What causes bees to shift territories mid-season?

While I'm happy to see them -- something as a child I could never imagine saying about bees -- they did increase the degree of difficulty points once I finally got around to harvesting that basil. But the pesto was worth it.

Oh, and I learned it's really hard to take pictures of something has twitchy as a bee.

Next year's garden trends

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: September 3, 2013 - 12:24 PM

 

The growing season is winding down, but trendwatchers are already looking ahead to how we'll be gardening next year.

 

So what crops, methods and looks will be hot in 2014? Here are a dozen top trends from the Garden Media Group, presented  by trendspotter Suzi McCoy at the recent Garden Writers Association Symposium in Quebec City: 

1. Ground up. Food scraps are the new recyclables, according to McCoy. About 25 percent of Americans are currently composting and building their soil from scratch, and more will jump on the compost bandwagon, inspired by new user-friendly compost products.

2. Super Foods Super Models. The veggie-growing renaissance that emerged a few years back is still robust, with more gardeners branching beyond the basics to grow hard-to-find specialty veggies, fruits and herbs.

3. Drink Your Yard. Homegrown goes liquid, with more gardeners growing hops for homebrew, grapes for wine, ingredients for craft cocktails and "green smoothies." Homemade pickles and kimchi also will be big. "Fermentation gardens are the new chickens," according to Rebecca Reed of Southern Living.

4. Dress Up Your Yard. Outdoor living enthusiasts are in the mood to accessorize, using artsy pots, chandeliers and other "garden jewelry" to add flair to their landscapes. 

5. Bee-nificials. Pollinators are in peril, and consumers are primed to help, planting pollen-rich natives, moving away from monocultures and adding habitat, both natural vegetation and bee-friendly innovations such as "bee hotels."

6. Cultur-vating. Locavores are taking local to the next level, embracing plants that are local to their region but mixing them with plants from other cultures.

7. Simple Elegance. Gardens are taking a cue from fashion with color-blocking and other simple-yet-high-impact color schemes, including classic black and white.

8. Frack'd Up. Neat clean lines are passe. The trendiest gardens will feature fractional shapes such as triangles, circles and squares. Umbels -- a flower shape featuring spiky stems topped by round clusters of blooms -- will be especially popular.

9. Young Men Get Down and Dirty. Who spends the most money in the garden? Right now, it's young guys, ages 18 to 34, who shell out $100 more than average during the growing season. They're growing food for grilling, hops for homebrew and peppers for homemade salsa.

10. Think Gardens. As more people get the message that plants help us de-stress and work smarter, look for more outdoor garden meetings, indoor gardens at work and even desktop gardens.

11. Fingertip Gardening. Gardening goes digital. Instead of asking friends and neighbors for growing advice, we're now turning to the Internet and mobile apps.

12. Tree-mendous Reversal. Between development and pests, we're losing 4 million urban trees a year -- and we're increasingly aware of what that's costing us -- environmentally, economically and emotionally. Thus, we're going to be planting a lot of trees, trying to restore our arboreal balance.

That's what's in. Here's what's out, according to McCoy. "Fairy gardens are over," she said. (Although I'm not sure Minnesota gardeners are ready to let go of them, judging from the many fairy gardens entered in this year's Beatuiful Gardens contest.)   

So now it's your turn to weigh in, fellow gardeners. Which of these trends resonate for you? Which ones will you be embracing? Or ignoring?  

 

 

Eew!

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: August 8, 2013 - 8:14 AM

 

OK, so I don't like crawly things in general, but I really dislike them in my garden since they're most often after something I'd prefer they didn't eat.

 

This one is a new one on me. At first I thought it was a big rolled-up leaf on the sidewalk, but then I realized it was the fattest green worm I'd ever seen. My first instinct was to smash it to kingdom come before it could do any damage. My second was to run for my camera and the Internet to see what I was up against first.

It turns out that if you Google: extremely large fat green worm, you get a lot of hits, and several image hits that look like this creature. My first thought was hornworm, but my second was some sort of sphinx moth in the making. Since the only worm I'm really fond of is a book worm, I'm more into etymology than entomology, and don't share the same enthusiasm some people clearly have for finding obscure roly poly green blobs in their path.

So those of you who know, what is this thing, and how worried do I need to be? It's about three inches long. For perspective, that's a piece of small bark mulch in the upper right of the photo. I did an inspection but so far haven't found either more like it or any sign of what it might have been eating to get that healthy. I found it the morning after the recent storm, so perhaps somehow it was knocked out of a tree.

I do know that some worms are beneficial, and I avoid stepping on monarch caterpillars, but somehow this one strikes me as more foe than friend.

I realize it's no plague of locusts. And I'm still thankful that I don't face the same gardening menaces that my grandmother did. While homesteading in Wyoming, she would send my grandfather out armed with a hoe to dispatch the rattlesnakes before venturing out to weed and harvest. They came back with a box full of rattlesnake tails, and tales. So as always, it could be worse.

What's your least favorite garden visitor? Slugs are right up there for me.

Japanese beetles are here

Posted by: Mary Jane Smetanka Updated: July 29, 2013 - 11:12 AM

 

I saw the Japanese beetle pictured above on my walk this morning. Master Gardeners have been talking about seeing the beetles for at least two weeks now.
In my Minneapolis neighborhood, I’m not seeing many beetles. The last two years, this rose bush was covered in beetles. Today this was the only bug I could find, which made me wonder if they are just emerging or if this year’s population is at a cyclical low point.
Still stores are pushing all sorts of chemicals and tricks to kill Japanese beetles. This weekend at a big-box store I saw pesticide with KILLS JAPANESE BEETLES screaming from the front of the spray can. When I checked the ingredients on the internet, this product contains chemicals that also kill bees.
I haven’t used a pesticide in years and I won’t now. It’s clear that bees are in trouble and that means we are too, because we need pollinators. Too often, I think, we pull the chemical trigger when some bug upsets our idea of landscape perfection. For several years my climbing rose has been aggressively attacked by Japanese beetles, but it has always recovered. Unless trees or plants are being defoliated repeatedly, they will survive a beetle attack.
Japanese beetles are here, now we have to learn to live with them, just as we do with aphids and other pests.
Skip the traps — they may attract more bugs than they kill. Get revenge by patrolling your garden in the morning with a bucket of soapy water and flick the little devils to their death. Shake a grape vine or rose bush and stomp on the critters.
And if you feel you have to use a pesticide to control beetles, be careful. Spray early in the morning when the beetles are still dopey and easily targeted and bees tend to be inactive. Better yet, skip the chemicals.
Here’s some good information on Japanese beetles from University of Minnesota entomologist Jeff Hahn:

blog.lib.umn.edu/efans/ygnews/2013/07/ready-or-not-here-come-japanes.html

And have you seen many beetles this year?

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