Category Archives: Misc

Gardening with a Phone

Since I usually spend two to three hours a day working in a garden, I like to be entertained while I work.

The phone is a natural resource these days since you now have access to the world. The problem is that if I keep it in a shirt pocket, it likely will fall out and possibly break and while I can keep it in a pants pocket, it will get sweaty and possibly banged around.

I found a solution recently which works out well. It’s a “Hiearcool Universal Waterproof Case,Waterproof Phone Pouch” found on Amazon. For $10.00 you get two cases. It fits my Pixel 3a which is around 6.5″ diagonally and seems to fit perfectly. Larger phones will be tight or not fit at all. It hangs around my neck and I can manipulate the phone from the outside and even take pictures through the clear plastic. The phone sound is good through the case.

While this device is really meant for water protection, it seems ideal to keep my phone protected while I garden and listen to my favorite podcasts.

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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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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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How We Make it Through Winter

by Steve Rapp

My wife Nancy and I employ many strategies to aid us in enduring the non-working in the yard period known as winter. Like a lot of you that have a passion for being out in our gardens, seeing the positive effects on the environment and on ourselves, winter is a challenging time!

We start by planting yet more bulbs in the early fall then we are forced to turn our efforts indoors. We return to appreciating our long-term indoor plants, succulents, cacti, ferns etc. Even the not-usually too exciting lithops are in renewed focus. We’re constantly reminded how cool it is to see colorful blooming African violets and other gesneriads, Christmas cactus and the constant cut flowers we keep refreshing throughout the winter season. Of course, another key element of our winter survival strategy is always our every weekend trip to the Missouri Botanical Garden especially to visit the reinvigorating environment of the Climatron, we never get tired of that. These and reading the cool plant catalogs that show up this time of year along with the many gardening magazine subscriptions help us endure the dark days and serve as sources of ideas.

One of these ideas was to explore indoor cultivation of micro-greens not only for the nutritional value but also for the joy of actually putting my hands in dirt and growing something this time of year. I put together a relatively inexpensive seed germination and growth system consisting of a Jiffy Professional Greenhouse Peat Pellet system and a Ferry Morse high output 24”T5 daylight spectrum bulb system with stand. There is nothing particularly novel about this but I chose it as it is a compact system that I could set up in my home office, just to the left of my computer desk. By doing this, it is always at arms reach for easy viewing.

Adding water to the peat pellets induces swelling of the planting medium and enables immediate planting of microgreen seeds. In general, any vegetable can be planted and harvested when small as microgreens however I purchased a packet of Burpee Microgreens Rainbow Mix that contains 20% red beet, 20% cabbage pak choi, 20% kohlrabi purple, 20% broccoli and 20% Radish. I placed 3-4 seeds per peat plug and within 2-3 days all had sprouted and within 2-3 weeks, I was cutting micro-greens with a scissors and adding to salads. Watering with a couple quarts of water every other day or so keeps the growing greens hydrated especially in the dry indoor environment of winter.

Maybe it’s just me but working at my desk and turning to my left and seeing 3-4” tall plant growth is good for my soul this time of year, I recommend this to anyone feeling the agony of winter.

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Insect Apocalypse

Here’s a great article by the NY Times on our insect population loss.

I hope you are able to read it – it’s quite in-depth.

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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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Garden Calendar

This time table is for St. Louis Missouri, but should work for most Zone 6 areas. I will adjust it this year as my plants dictate.

After flowering – Amsonia – cut back a third and shape
After flowering – Baptisia – cut back a third and shape
After flowering – Maltese Cross – cut down to base
After flowering – Monarda – cut to base
After flowering – Salvia – cut back to base
After flowering – Shasta Daisy – cut to base
After flowering – Veronica spicata – cut down to base
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04-01 Rue – prune to 6″
05-15 Solidago rigida – pinch
05-20 Agastache – pinch
06-01 Ironweed (old) – cut down to ground when 2 feet
06-01 Monarda – cut back by half – once or twice.
06-01 Shasta Daisy – layer front row for lower display
06-05 Sedum – cut back to 4″ when 8″ tall
06-06 Solidago – cut back by half
06-07 Hibiscus – when 16″ tall – cut back by half
06-07 Echinacea – cut back some by 1/2 to delay bloom
06-10 Liatris – TEST – cut back by half when 18″
06-10 NE Aster – cut back by half for native – shape
07-10 NE Aster – cut back by half for native – shape
08-10 Coreopsis verticillata – shear blooms
08-20 Agastache – cut back to rebloom
08-30 Gaillardia – cut down to base


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Heimos Nursery Visit – Millstadt Illinois

After visiting the Heimos Nursery in Mildstadt, I’m posting a few notes about my visit.

They make their own potting mix.

  • 47% peat moss – fine/shredded
  • 47% Coir – coconut fiber husks – finely shredded
  • 5 % perlite (the speaker did not like perlite, but only put it in because the buyers insist on it.

They don’t use Osmocote or hard fertilizers. They use liquid feed which they tailor to each plant.

They don’t use rooting hormone. They said that plants are selected which are easier to root.

Most of their cuttings come from overseas – Mexico, South America…
One thing I noticed about the cuttings was that they were small and the stems were not large.  After the plants are rooted, they put them into a cooler temperatures so that the plants don’t grow large.

It seems like  big part of their business is rooting cuttings and then shipping them off to other growers and nurseries.

They use a product call Strip It to clean the hose drip lines and also use it to sanitize areas. She said they do this quite often. (Seems a bit much for home use.) This product is sulphuric acid!

They use yellow sticky cards to see if they have any insect problems.

They use Vernalization on many of their plants.

They don’t use Micorrhizae.

Seed Starting – they use tiny cells and just peat moss and cover the seed with small vermiculite.









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U City Garden Tour


Jesse Gilbertson, the director of horticulture for  U City in Bloom, is going to give a tour of some of the city gardens on Monday – August 8th at 9:30 a.m. We are going to meet at Centennial Commons in Heman Park on Olive Blvd. This should be quite an informative program for all types of gardeners. No reservations are required, just show up.

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Mary Ann Fink – Tips for a Better Garden

maryann-fink-01Recently, I was lucky enough to have Mary Ann Fink, one of the top gardeners in the St. Louis area, come and visit my garden. Here are a few notes from my conversation with her.

How can we grow flowers in a non-irrigated area?
Solomns Seal can take lack of irrigation.
Rudeckia will take lack of irrigation, but will look rough.

Shasta Daisy – to keep blooming, as soon as they are fading, not done, but just past their prime, take off just the top flower. There is a dormant bud just below the flower that may come into bloom. If you wait until they have gone to seed, it’s probably too late.

Asclepias tuberosa – plant pansies or small bulbs around it in the fall. It’s a late spring plant, and you want to mark the area where it is growing so you don’t dig it up accidentally.

Jerry Pence – great landscape designer.

Consider adding a walkway in my milkweed bed in the front to give it some visual interest and it’s easier to get into and weed.

10-6 Rule – This is for plants that tend to get tall. When it gets to ten inches, you cut it back to six inches. She suggested putting plants together that grow at the same rate so that you can just go in and trim the entire area at one time. New Englad Aster will take three prunings.

MA volunteered to help me during one of my talks.
(Possibly we could have her come and talk to Crestwood gardeners.)

Privet – cut to the ground every few years to rejuvenate.

MA likes the Claw – garden tool.

She suggests trying White Ball Buddleia – as it gets larger you can shear it.

She likes Veronica and Vervain.

Pom Pom Echinacea is borderline hardy,

Verticillium wilt – I may have in the soil. Killing Shasta Daisy?

Profusion zinnia – should be a good pollinator.

Bee Balm – cut to the ground when it is done blooming.

Hopefully Mary Ann will do a gardening program in the near future. I’ll keep you posted when she starts her class.








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