Category Archives: Gardening

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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Grow Native Program – Soil – Pollinators – Organic Gardening

Saturday, November 21, 2015, 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Location – Meramec Comm. College

There is a $35 fee.

Here’s the link for more information.

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Botanical Garden at Sue’s House

I just visited Sue Leahy’s house in Brentwood, MO and immediately knew I was at the right place when I noticed that there was no front lawn.


She has quite a variety of plants in the front that just gets mid-day sun, but the plants are thriving. She uses a combination of Black Gold compost and shredded hardwood mulch to feed the plants and keep down the weeds.

As you go around the back, you notice all of her accreditations – she said she still had a couple more to put up.


In the back she has a couple of rain gardens, a beautiful pond and stream setup and even five turtles that need to be rounded up before the lawn is mowed.

One tip she mentioned was that she got a local grant to put in the rain gardens – check with your local Sewer District and send them a proposal if you have an area that gets a lot of runoff.

I also noticed that her Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, seems to be quite happy in the pond. I’m going to put a plant in my pond this year as an experiment. She mentioned that she thought the larvae might drop off into the water which would be a problem. I’ll probably collect the larvae and move them to a different location.

I admired her professional labels and she mentioned that her husband Andy had access to a professional laser engraving machine. I guess I’ll have to stick with my label maker.


Andy, with the help of a friend, has moved as much rock and stone as one of the Egyptian pyramids – just a slight exaggeration.


Thanks to Sue and her husband for such a lovely morning visiting her fantastic gardens.



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Cover Crops in the Home Garden

One of the new ways of farming and gardening is to use cover crops to improve the soil structure and nutrients, instead of the traditional tilling and chemical fertilizers.

Here’s a free book on the benefits of using cover crops on a farm. I’m going to try and bring some of these concepts to the home garden.
Managing Cover Crops Profitably.

Here’s another great source of Cover Crop Information from the USDA.

I decided to try this on a test area that I use mainly for tropical milkweed. It’s one of the few areas in my yard that is open enough to plant extra seed.

March 16th I planted the Interseed Mix from Walnut Creek Seeds. I used half the packet and will reserve half in case the first seeding does poorly.  I will later on plant my milkweed and hope all the crops will co-exist.


Below is what the cover crop looks like on April 27th.


I next used my trimmer and cut most of plants down to a couple inches high so that I could plant my milkweed. I’m not sure how much the cover crop will recover.



You can see from the picture below that the cover crop came back dramatically and is growing faster than my milkweed in some places.

  • Angelia Phacelia – pretty flower – dead by July 1st.
  • Barley – gets large and turning brown around July 1st. I would not plant this again – too much maintenance.
  • Crimson Clover – 12 34
  • Flax – poor germination
  • Millet – poor germination.
  • Radish – fast grower and tall – cut it down about June 1st.

Other Cover Crops

Crimson Clover – planted in the fall.


Fall Cover Crops

This is another seed mix from Walnut Creek Seeds




Notes from video below.

  • Legumes add Nitrogen, but they have to be inoculated – most come pre-inoculated.
  • Crimson clover – his favorite cover crop – usually winter kills, makes a lot of Nitrogen.- earthworms love it – easy to kill.
  • Radish tops scavenge more nitrogen than the tubers – don’t throw this away. Leave on the soil?
  • – articles are old.

Crimson Clover

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Mid-July Rejuvenation


By July 15th, many of my plants have gone to seed and are done blooming. Most people would just let these plants keep growing and just taking up garden space. I choose to cut most of these down to the ground. The advantage is that they will come back and re-bloom and look very nice for a late summer season. Now this is not true for every plant, but for many I grow it is true. Maltese Cross, Salvia, Dianthus, Veronica and others will all give me a 2nd and sometimes a 3rd bloom. You can give them an extra boost of fertilizer, Miracle Gro or compost if you think they need it.

Some plants which don’t re-bloom, like Penstemon, I cut off the seed stalks so that I can get more sun onto the remaining plants.

Any plants that are diseased or don’t appear to be doing well are dug up and pitched.

I also use this time to fill-in with plants that I may have dug up from other spots.

You can also plant some annuals, like Zinnia, to fill-in some of these areas.

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