Planting in Clay Soil with a Bulb Planter

bulb-planter-200This week I brought in lots of plants for a school garden, which had not been prepared in any way. Ideally, the soil would have been amended or they would have added 6 to 9 inches of top soil and compost. In this case we were dealing with soil that had landscape fabric on top – probably for years.

After taking the landscape fabric off, the soil turned out to be wet clay which would have been very tough to dig in and impossible to break up.

I had brought my heavy duty bulb planter which made short work of creating nice size holes to put in the plants. This  particular model was made by Hound Dog and is an older model. Its opening tapers from 2 3/8″ to 3 1/4″. You pull on the handle to open up the bottom and release the clay. There appears to be a new model being sold which has some bad reviews. I’d advise buying one from a local store so you can return it if you have trouble.

I added potting soil at the bottom of the hole, put in my plant and added more potting soil.

This technique works very well when you have wet clay soil. You can put in lots of plants with a minimum of time and effort.

airport-elementary-01-300This technique works great for schools which have young kids and terrible soil. Here’s what the end result looks like.



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Buying Soil for the Garden

stlcompost-02-600I recently had a friend by a soil mix from  St. Louis Composting. It was supposed to be a mix of 50% top soil and 50% compost. She ended up getting big clumps of clay in the soil and I was disappointed in the mix. There response was this, “With the wet winter and now wet spring, it has been hard for us to pull soil out of our fields. This has led us to go to other sources of receiving the material.”  Their new source seems to be more clay than anything like topsoil.

I also went to Grants View library community gardens. They have just completed their raised beds and were also filled with those large boulder like clay clumps.

The lesson learned is this.

Go to the source of your soil and check it out before you buy it. Look at it, feel it and check the quality of what they are going to send you.

After they dump the soil on your lot, it’s too late to do anything about it. Check out the soil or soil and compost combination ahead of time and make sure they get exactly what you want.

Note – St. Louis Composting also has a product called SLC Raised Bed Mix which might be better, but is more expensive.

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Green House – Danger Pesticides

greenhouse-pesticides-400This is a recent picture I took at the greenhouses at Forest Park.

The picture says it all, yet hundreds of people were jamming into the greenhouses to buy plants to give to mom for Mother’s Day.

While I know that Home Depot is marking their plants with pesticide labels, I wonder how many of the other plants we buy from other sources, have pesticides used in or on the plants and soil.

Note – a friend told me that she did buy some plants from Home Depot, but did not see the label. When she got home and took the plants out of the pots, she found the pesticide labels pushed down into the soil.

That’s the Catch 22 we face as gardeners. We want beautiful gardens that will attract pollinators, birds and wildlife, but we may be  killing them by planting pesticide laden plants.

I was talking to a candidate for state office who was walking the neighborhood and he bragged about the fact that he raises bees. We talked about colony collapse disorder and I asked him if his bees had been affected. He told me that despite the mild winter, he had lost all four of his hives. I wonder if all of the pesticide protected plants that we are putting into the ground may be part of the problem.

Even the “Organic” label may not be enough to indicate safe plants. Here’s a document on the permitted and prohibited items for the organic label.

Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware – is something that we all need to heed when buying plants this year.


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Butterfly Gardens in a Pot

I’ve got a school that doesn’t have room for a traditional in the ground garden, so we are going to plant in large pots. The question that comes to mind is, “What kind of soil should we put in the pots?

Here are two solutions from two experts.

  1. One expert, Jesse, suggests this for a mix to fill the pots.
    2/3 – potting mixI like ProMix – BX – it has micorrhizae
    1/3 compost – this provides a lot of the nutrients that the plants need. I like the Black Gold compost that you can buy at
    If you don’t need a large quantity they do sell it for $3.50/bag or 3 for $10.00.
    Jesse does not use Osmocote or any other fertilizer, but every year he might just add extra compost to the pots.
  2. Another expert from a Horticulture program suggests using ProMix BX. Don’t use any other amendments, but after you put in the plant, you sprinkle Osmocote on top. There are two types of Osmocote – I buy the one with the micro-nutrients. Another tip she had was to put in an upside down pot to help take up some of the space if you want to save money on potting mix.

Below are three pots I did for a school. They are fairly large pots and are filled with Miracle
Gro potting soil plus a Miracle Gro Compost. Each pot took about a dozen plants and then some of the kids planted marigold seeds around the outside. One pot with the stake was entirely different types of milkweed.  The other pots were combinations of host and nectar plants. I put in close to a whole tray of plants into each pot.

May 10, 2016 – I’m also testing out a pot at home to see how the various plants do.
Here’s a list of butterfly plants I have put into pots.
Alyssum, Bronze Fennel, Coreopsis, Echinacea, Pussy Toes, Salvia, Shasta Daisy, Tropical Milkweed, Verbena bonareinsis, Verbena trailing, Veronica.

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Gardening for Monarch Butterflies


Date: Saturday – April 23, 2016
Time 10:00 a.m.
Crestwood Community Center
9245 Whitecliff Park Ln
Crestwood, MO 63126
(Registration is not required for this free event.)

Join Tom Terrific as he shows you what you need to do to not only attract Monarch butterflies, but keep them coming back to your garden.

While the Monarch butterfly population has decreased dramatically, the question that Tom Terrific tries to answer is, “What can I do to help the Monarch butterfly population rebound?”

Tom will discuss the causes of the Monarch decline and what host and nectar plants we can grow to attract and keep Monarchs in our garden. He will also talk about pests, diseases and which varieties of milkweed do best in our urban gardens.

Let’s make St. Louis a Monarch Paradise!

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Plant Sales – 2016

Missouri Wildflowers – Kirkwood Farmer’s Market
April: Saturdays from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm
Pre-orders can be Picked up Fridays from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm
150 East Argonne, Kirkwood MO 63122

April 23rd-24th – 9am-5pm—St. Louis Horticulture Society Plant Sale – MoBot.

April 28 – 30, 2016 –  Herb Sale – Location: Orthwein Floral Display Hall

April 28-29 – 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. – Meramec CC.

April 30 – U City in Bloom 2016 Annual Plant Sale
9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.; Sunday May 1, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Where: Heman Park Community Center, Olive Blvd. west of Midland Blvd. 975 Pennsylvania Ave.

MAY 6, 2016 – Pre-sale for Garden members only FRIDAY,  4 to 7:30 p.m.  Shaw Nature Reserve

MAY 7, 2016 – 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. – Saturday – Shaw Nature Reserve

May 7, – 8 a.m. – Flora Conservancy – Forest Park Greenhouse.


May 7, 9am-3pm. – South Tech High School Greenhouse. Saturday

I you know of any other sales, please let me know and I will add them to the list.



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Pesticide Alert – Home Depot


On a recent trip to Home Depot, I was looking at some of their plants and they all had neonicotinoid pesticides. They are hiding the pesticide label behind the main label so most people won’t even see the notice.

While I complained to Home Depot last year, obviously they are not demanding that their growers stop using these dangerous pesticides.

Don’t buy these plants as they will kill local pollinator insects.

Here’s a 2013 report on the use of Neonicotinoid pesticides.



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