Growing in Clay

I was recently asked how to plant in clay soil.
Here are some options.

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First off, kill off the grass and weeds. You can cover the area with a tarp or newspaper/cardboard or use a herbicide. Use a lawn mower with a bagger and remove all the weed seeds and waste. You don’t want to have to battle the weeds during that first year.


The easy way to plant with a clay soil base is to cover the area with 6 to 12 inches of a good soil/compost mix. You plant in the soil mix and not the clay soil. Over time, the roots and earthworms will break up the clay soil.

starting-seeds-outside-01Another option is to plant native seeds in the fall. Make sure the seeds come in contact with the soil. The above are Asclepias tuberosa seeds I planted last fall. I then cover the seeds with a soil mix so that the seeds are covered and will germinate easily in the spring. Native plants don’t need or want good soil for growing.


If you have the time, energy and money, you can dump lots of compost onto the clay and till it in. You can then plant directly into the soil. Unfortunately, in the process of roto-tilling you will bring up dormant weed seeds and will have to battle the weeds in the spring.


The final option is to make a hole for each plant and throw away the clay soil. You can then add a potting mix to the hole when you plant. I have used a large bulb planter in the past with this technique and it works well.

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When the plants are growing well, you can add mulch to help with the weeds and conserve water. I usually add a mixture of compost and mulch every year to help feed the plants and improve the soil. Note – I found out that the mixture I got was very hot and killed most of my grass in the center.


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2018 – Dates – Notes – Plants – ToDo

Plants for these people/schools/groups.
If you know of a St. Louis group or school that wants plants for 2018 – let me know.

  • Yvonne D – church – butterfly garden
  • Jonny – Mary S. – kids program – plant seeds – around March 1st.
  • Kennerly School – Sheri S. – BG
  • Cub Scouts – Pack 580

Seeds to Buy

  • Zinnia profusion double hot cherry – did very well in 2017
  • Marigold Golden Gate


Asclepias curassavica doesn’t compete well with Incarnata or large zinnias. In the back, only plant it without other tall plants.

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Garden Tour – June 17th

I am part of a Crestwood Garden Tour that I’m sure many fellow gardeners would enjoy.

Saturday – June 17th, from 9 a.m. to noon.
It will be followed by a get-together at The Barn to meet fellow gardeners.
1015 Sappington Rd, St. Louis, MO 63126

This is a FREE event, so we’re expecting a large crowd.
You can signup and get details by emailing

You may also just show up at my house and I’ll give you a list of locations and a map.
9016 Robyn Rd – 63126

Crestwood has some world class gardeners in our community who have been very gracious in opening up their yards to show us their beautiful yards.

Included in the tour, you will see:

  • Day-lilies and Hostas
  • Native and Pollinator Plants
  • Butterfly Gardening
  • Chickens in the Back Yard
  • Perennials and Roses
  • Raised Bed Gardening
  • Shade Gardening

If you are interested in learning more about Beautify Crestwood, you can subscribe to their website at or email them at
They are also on Facebook at


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Filed under Butterfly Gardening, Free

Mulch/Compost 2017

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I bought four cubic yards of Black Forest mulch from St. Louis Composting for a total delivered price of $155. It’s a combination of fine wood mulch and compost. It’s a very nice mix that looks great. It’s easy to spread, but took a week for me to put it all down. I really could have used five yards.

Unfortunately, the mixture was still very hot and burned the lawn in the center. I’m hoping that the grass will come back. Next year pay Linda to spread the compost when she cleans the garden.


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Butterfly/Pollinator Plants

butterfly-guide-maryannfinkThanks to Mary Ann Fink and St. Louis County Parks for this concise sheet of local butterflies and their host and nectar plants. This sheet also applies to other pollinator species such as bees, hummingbirds etc.

While this sheet is specific to St. Louis Missouri, it should also be useful for many areas of the country.

This is a google drive document which allows you to download the file.
Here is the link.

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MoBot Greenhouse Tour

I just got a tour of the Missouri Botanical Garden greenhouses as part of a horticulture class at Meramec Community College. Here are some of my notes from the tour,

  • They use a product called B-Nine 1250 ppm on Zinnias and other plants to keep them small and compact. This costs $78.70 for a pound on Amazon. Hummerts in St. Louis has this product for sale. It looks like they applied this when the plants were very young.
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  • They have pests in the greenhouses and use Integrated Pest Management. They use yellow sticky cards, geckos, beneficial insects and when things get out of control they will use many assorted pesticides – even neonics. They try to “rotate modes of action.” Don’t spray with the same pesticide all the time or bugs will become resistant.
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  • Water – in the winter they warm their water so as not to shock the plants.
  • They use soil mixes with Mychorrhizae. Most of their mixes come from Ball, but they do have some ProMix soils.
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  • Over by the EECC building, to the right of the main entrance, there is a bed which has common milkweed with caterpillars. They seem to only use wood chips and the plants are spectacular.  I would bet though that they have have put in a very good soil mix.
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  • They had common milkweed in this garden with quite a few Monarch caterpillars. I hope they don’t spray.
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  • The guide does not like Turface – over time it gets mushy.
  • is a way to look up where plants are located in the MoBot properties. At this time they do not allow the public to see the database records where they record what they do to particular plants.
  • Stratify seeds at 40 degrees – usually – put seeds in the refrigerator, not the freezer.
  • To keep seeds for a long time, they dry them out in a frig with Silica Gel Desiccant.
  • Orchids like high humidity – that’s why they don’t do well in most houses.
  • Vanilla comes from an orchid and has to be hand pollinated – that’s why it is so expensive.
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  • Ten people are responsible for growing 250,000 plants! They do have volunteers to help them.
  • They use a lot of Peters water soluble fertilizer for most plants that they grow. I found a similar bag on Amazon. They use 150 ppm.
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  • Fertigation – new word – adding liquid fertilizer to the water.
  • He likes Forrest Keeling trees because of how they grow them.
  • Even in the greenhouses, a Cabbage White had managed to sneak in and lay an egg.
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This is a great tour, but is only available to horticulture students at Meramec.  Our tour guide was a Meramec horticulture graduate and is a testament to their great horticulture program.

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Help Feed the Bees – Sunday 11 a.m.

bees-Andy-DSC05061-600We can use your help this Earth Day, Sunday April 23rd at 11 a.m. at Whitecliff Park in Crestwood., Missouri.

Crestwood has been designated a Bee City USA and the Boy Scouts have built a bee hive at Whitecliff and the bees will soon be arriving.

What we are trying to do at the Whitecliff Recreation Center is provide them with plenty of pollinator plants for them to make their honey and survive the winter.

If you have an hour to spare, we can use your help plating.
Adults, Boy/Girl Scouts and really any one who can dig a hole is welcome.
If you have any questions, email

Whitecliff Recreation Center
9245 Whitecliff Park Ln
Crestwood, MO 63126


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