Category Archives: Gardening

Mid-July Trim

Veronica – Left – 50% cut – Right – cut to base. Note – I did end up cutting this to the ground.

By mid-July, there are a number of perennial plants which are pretty much done blooming and can benefit from a mid-summer haircut. Some will reward you with a second bloom, others will just look a bit neater in the garden. I also spread some organic fertilizer on the cut back plants.
Here’s a list of specific plants and how I handle them in mid-July.

Calamint – native – testing this by cutting back some and leaving some.

Maltese Cross – Save the seed and then cut back to the base. It will rebloom.

Nepeta – Walkers Low – Cut back to base. It will rebloom.

Penstemon – cut back to base. They do not rebloom.

Salvia – perennial – will bloom again when cut back to the ground.

Shasta Daisy – If I see buds below, I will deadhead, but when they are all done blooming, I cut to just above ground level. They do not rebloom.

Veronica – I usually cut these back down to the ground, but this year I’m doing a test and am cutting some down by 50%. Veronica will bloom again. Note – I ended up cutting this to the ground.

Here’s a good video on the process.

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Hardening Off Your Plants

If you start your own plants inside from seeds, they will be pretty wimpy compared to seeds that started their life outside.

Here’s what my milkweed looks like without hardening off.

Here’s the hardening off schedule I am going to try.

  1. May 4 – Leave in shade all day
  2. Put out in sunshine for 1 hour
  3. Put in sunshine for 2 hours
  4. Put in sunshine for 3 hours.
  5. Sunshine for 4 hours Had to bring plants inside because of possible night frost.
  6. Sunshine 5 hours
  7. May 11 – Put on back patio – faces east – gets about 6 hours of sun per day
  8. May 12 – still on back patio – gets sun from 7 am to 1 pm. Milkweed shows minimal damage.

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Marking Exceptional Plants

Marking Plants with fold plates or string.

Since I collect seeds every year, the question is always from which plants should I collect the seeds. In some cases, it’s obvious, but in other cases you might need some help.

What I do is mark the plants which have grown exceptionally well or bloomed well or attracted a lot of bees and butterflies.

I do two things to mark those plants.

  • I mark the plants with gold sprayed steel plates.
  • If the plant is large, I use gold string to tie up the plant.

Now when I go around to collect seeds, I know for sure which plants to use.

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A Way to Garden Podcast

I came across this podcast and thought I’d share it. It has lots of great information and would be a good companion while we garden in the yard.

Note – I usually listen to my podcasts on the Pocket Casts app. on my phone.

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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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New Plants in April

shelves-rollers-600 (1)

In St. Louis, Missouri, April is always a month for safety first when it comes to new plants. Many new plants that I buy or have started in the basement are much better off outside, but with temperatures below freezing at times, you have to figure out how to protect the plants.

I don’t plant until after May 1st, so I have to keep on top of the weather for all of April.

Here is one way I use to protect my plants.
I put them on a rolling shelf unit. When the temperature is above 45 degrees, I roll out the plants and give them water and sunshine. I don’t put them in full sun all day, but will start them out in sunshine and then move them to a shady area.

At night when the temperatures go below 40 degrees, I bring them inside the garage for protection.


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When to Plant?

I am already getting questions on when to plant in the St.Louis area, so I thought I’d do a little research on the weather averages.

May 1st is my standard answer for best planting date and it seems to stand the test of time. While you can certainly put in tougher plants like pansies, most annuals and more tender plants need the warmer temperatures.

If you look at the graph below, you can see that while the Normal Lows for April are in the 50’s by the end of the month, the Record Lows can be in the 20’s and 30’s. The Climate Graphs for May also show that there are no instances of freezing weather in the last fifty years.

May 1st seems to be a good planting date in this area. If you want to live dangerously you can plant earlier, but I would look at the 10 day forecast to be safe.



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Cleaning Up the Garden in the Fall

dead-plants-fall-800With the first frosts of fall, my garden turns from a lovely shade of green to a dirty brown with withered sticks and leaves.  While my first inclination is to clean up everything, there may be seeds that you can collect or even save for the birds.

Here’s a good video which talks about some of your options.

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National Organic Farming Handbook

Here’s a free book just out from the USDA. While it is meant for large farms, the principles can still be applicable to small home gardens. Here’s the link.


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Jesse Gilbertson – U City in Bloom

jesse-gilbertsonAt a recent GPHA (Gateway Professional Horticulturist Association) meeting, Jesse Gilbertson, who is the Horticulture Director for U City in Bloom, talked to us about what the group has been doing for the last thirty years. If he does this again, I’d encourage you to attend. It’s a great program for groups trying to put in gardens for a city. Here are a few notes from that presentation.

  • Mission Statement – Our mission is to enhance and beautify our community through public gardens, community partnerships, citizen involvement and environmental education.
  • 114 containers – 76 hanging baskets, 8 school properties, 115 – garden beds and 64 gardens -some big some small.
  • It’s a 501(c)(3) non-profit.
  • He doesn’t put in any new garden without a water source. Find money to get irrigation – at least a spigot.
  • On some of the front beds, they are all annuals. “Eyecandy.”
  • Depending on the bed, he uses a mix of annuals, perennials, cultivars,  natives etc. He gets some criticism for using some non-native plants.
  • Recommends the book – Parks, Plants, and People: Beautifying the Urban Landscape by Lynden Miller (Tom has this book.)
  • Talks about developing wildlife corridors.
  • They do have a water “truck” to water containers.
  • They work with Forestry and Parks Department and ask for help when needed.
  • Raising Money is a big part of what they do.
  • Plant Sales – they get plants from residents gardens and re-pot them up for sale.
  • Garden Tour
  • Donations and Grants
  • Ask for free plants from nursery.
  • He also asks June Hutson – MoBot for divisions of certain plants.
  • Some money from the city and the school district.
  • They have about 200 volunteers all together –  12 to 15 which volunteer on a regular basis in the beds. They also look for volunteer groups – companies?
  • Total revenue is about $160,000.
  • Have signs on all of their beds.
  • They do have events in some of their gardens with other organizations.
  • They don’t use Preen or landscape fabric.
  • Median – they put in water lines/irrigation, but have to watch for not blocking car sight lines.
  • They try to create a Bouquet theme – lots of different flowers and color.
  •  He went through a list of plants that he likes – here is the link from his blog.
  • He uses  wholesale plant sources
    He also use local nurseries.
  • He uses a lot of Calamentha nepeta – catnip.
  • They use a lot of Hardy Hibiscus.
  • New England Aster – October Skies
  • They send out a paper newsletter every year and also use a lot of social media.

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