Category Archives: Misc

Dragonflies – Another Migration

Chuck Evans Mcevan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons – Common Green Darner

About a week ago, I noticed about 20 dragonflies hovering in my backyard and wondered where they had come from. It turns out that some dragonflies migrate between the Southern states and Canada.

Yvonne, a local expert said, “Almost certainly those Common Green Darners were migrating. Others that migrate are Variegated Meadowhawk, Black Saddlebags (they also breed here), Wandering Glider, and Spot-winged Glider. Maybe more. I’ve noticed an uptick in the #of CGD at ponds. Also Wandering Glider. Whenever you see that many at one time, it’s a migrating flock. “

According to a Washington Post article, there are three generations of dragonflies. One flying north, one flying south and one staying in the south for winter.

It appears they have moved on since their first visit, but if they come to visit your garden enjoy them in your yard.

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St. Louis Resources

If you are new to the St.Louis area, here are a number of resources to get you started.

Grow Native

Journey North – Monarchs

Missouri Botanical Garden

Missouri Native Plant Society

Missouri Prairie

Missouri Wildflowers

Monarch Watch

North American Butterfly Association – St. Louis Chapter

Shaw Nature Reserve



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Butterfly Pictures Tip

Since butterflies don’t stay in one place very long, it’s tough to get that perfect picture.

John reminded me of this tip which I had forgotten.

Instead of trying to take the perfect picture, take a series of pictures in burst mode and then choose the best picture of the bunch.

Every phone and camera is a bit different so you may need to look up directions on how to do this.

The Pixel 3A, my preferred camera, does this by holding down the button for a few seconds and it then later shows you each frame and you choose which is best.

Below is a video of the process.

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Spring 2021 – Nice Finds

Here are few new products which seem to be doing well this spring.

Promix potting soil – available at Walmart.
This is slightly moistened and breaks up easily.
It also has Mycorrhizae added to the mix.
You will need to add Osmocote fertilizer.

Sherwood’s Forest has a nice looking triple ground mulch which is easy to spread.
You can see the difference between its dark brown color and the Black Forest Mulch.

Swamp Milkweed – Asclepias incarnata.
Amazon – Outside Pride – Carmine – Rose.

I’ve never seen Incarnata germinate this easily without cold stratification. These plants are only two weeks old and are thriving.
I will separate these soon into individual containers.

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Plant and Mulch Calculator

If you want to either start a new garden bed or renovate one, has a free calculator to do basic calculations. Just enter the Square Foot, and the Spacing between the plants and it will come up with the number of plants to buy. Note that you still need to do some research to see how large each plant will ultimately grow.

It also has a mulch calculator to figure how many cubic feet you need to buy for your area.

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Filed under Compost, 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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Filed under Compost, Misc, Mulch, No Dig

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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