Tracking Monarchs and Hummingbirds

If you are outside looking for Monarch butterflies and Hummingbirds, the good news is that they are close and coming north. They could be in St. Louis in as little as a week.

To be ready, have plenty of milkweed on hand and nectar plants/feeders for the hummingbirds.

Hummingbird Migration – April 3, 2020

Monarch Migration – April 3, 2020

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Ten Day Vacation Germination

Since I had a ten day Florida vacation planned, I thought I’d try and germinate my tropical milkweed seeds while I was gone.

March 11, 2020

The trick is to keep the seeds moist and warm during that time and make sure they don’t dry out. I not only watered the seed bed well, but I also covered it with a plastic well-fitting top. I put the shop lights right above the plastic lid. I then left on vacation and after ten days, this is what I came home to.

March 21, 2020
March 21, 2020

I came home to hundreds of seedlings and look forward to transplanting them into other containers.

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When You Can't Go to the Nursery

If you’re stuck at home and can’t get to your regular nursery, big box store or plant sales, there are lot of options to start new plants. Here are a few tips.

  1. Dig up the perennials you have and divide them.

2. Look for seedlings in your garden and repot them or replant them into a new area.

3. Take cuttings of new growth and put them in a pot to root. Rooting hormone does help.

4. Online sources of seeds are numerous. is one of the cheapest.

5. Seeds from previous years will probably still germinate – give them a try.

6. If you have just a few seeds, only put one seed per pot.

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Gardening with Kids

Monarch on Salvia – Lady in Red

If your kids are home and you’re looking for an activity to not only keep them busy, but also learn about plants and nature – start your own seeds.

You can buy seeds for as little as $1.00/packet from or also find deals on Amazon.

If you prefer not to go to the store to get supplies, you can buy them from Amazon or just use with what you have around the house. I have used old yogurt containers for seeds, just punch in holes in the bottom for drainage. You may need some slow-release fertilizer like Osmocote, depending on the type of soil you have.

If it’s warm enough in your area of the country, you may be able to plant directly into the soil. In St. Louis, I usually wait until May 1st to plant.

Here is the process I use. The main point is to keep the seeds warm and moist so that they will germinate.

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Garden Cleanup

March in St. Louis is a good time to start to cleanup your gardens. It’s warm enough to work outside and most of the plants are just starting to bud out.

The first thing to do is bring your arsenal of weapons. I use lopers, hand pruners, lawn trimmer, rake, a leaf blower, hedge trimmer and even a sawzall for larger branches. Make sure you sharpen your tools before using them. I use twine to bind the larger pieces and paper recycling bags for the small stuff.

Hopefully, you will know the difference between your annuals and perennials. In general, I prefer to cut both groups off near the base and leave the roots in the soil to decay. For shallow rooted annuals, it may be easier to just pull them out of the ground.

Clean from the outside in. You want to stay off the soil as much as possible so that you don’t trample plants and compact the soil.

This is 1 of 3

I cut off most plants as close to the soil as possible.

You may notice that I use concrete blocks to define my garden. I find that it has a few advantages. It helps to define the garden and slows down the bermuda grass invasion. It also catches seeds and provides a lot of new plants in the spring.

Some plants require a bit more finesse. Each plant is a bit different and you will need to know its growing habit.

  • Buddleia – I cut to 9″ above the ground
  • Hydrangea paniculata – just trim off 6″ of the top growth. I am going for a eight foot hedge.
  • Roses (Knock Out) – I cut back to 18″
  • Trees – yes I even cut back one tree, hackberry, to a six foot height.
  • Viburnum – cut back to keep its size in check.

I do add a layer of compost/mulch after everything is cleaned up. It not only makes things look good, but also feeds the soil. I don’t use any fertilizer. In St. Louis I like the Black Forest mulch which is fine aged mulch mixed with compost.

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Filed under Compost, Misc, Mulch, No Dig

Starting No Dig Gardens

One of the easiest ways to start new gardens or even rejuvenate old gardens is to implement the No Dig System.

Charles Dowding is one of the experts in the field and has great YouTube videos on how the process is done.

I would mow the weeds and grass as low as possible and get rid of the waste. Cover the area with overlapping cardboard and then add two inches of compost on top.

If you start the process in March, you should be able to plant in May/June.
If you start later in the year, I’d suggest adding six inches of compost so that it’s easier to plant.

I have found that other local dirt/compost mixes is not optimum and may have big clumps of clay soil.

Another planting implement I have used in the past is a large bulb planter. It makes a great hole. You can throw away the clay soil, put in your plant and cover with compost.

My favorite local compost facility is St. Louis Composting

Below is one of the videos where Charles explains the process.

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2020 – Dates – Notes – Plants – ToDo

Schools/Individuals Who Need Plants

  • Feb. 11 – Sperreng – start milkweed seeds for LEAP kids.
  • March 27 – 18 girl scouts
  • April Late – Sperreng Middle School – plants for garden
  • June 13 – 9 to noon – tour of my garden.
  • June 15th – 6:30 pm – Oakcrest Garden Club to visit my garden
  • East St. Louis – they need compost and plants
  • Jean – 80 kids after school – possible greenhouse.

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