You Bet Your Garden

By WHYY

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Mike McGrath hosts this call-in public radio program and offers light-hearted, organic gardening guidance.

Episode Date
Getting the Most Out of Your Garlic
44:19

Your garlic harvest is in…now what? Use it fresh before it sprouts? On the latest You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath will expose the secret to getting a season of good seasoning from your harvest—or from the great garlic you’ll find at local farmer’s markets. Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Aug 17, 2018
Got Skeeters Bad? Call in the Dragonflies!
48:37

Mosquito prevention time is over; now is the time to switch tactics to protection. On the latest You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath reveals how to attract dragonflies and explains why white is the color to wear this mosquito season. Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

I’m a 13-year-old boy and live with my grandparents on seven acres of land. We have a pond, but absolutely no dragonflies. We’re way out in the country, and you’d think we’d have plenty, but we have not seen any. It’s like they vanished. Is there any kind of smell or food we could use to attract them? We need them badly; I just counted thirty bites on my legs! Bug spray has been no help, so our only hope is dragonflies…
—Ethan in Brokaw, WI

How to attract dragonflies »

Aug 10, 2018
Beneficial Bugs? Or Filthy Flies?
48:50

A listener wants to attract beneficial insects, but instead is beset by flies! On the latest You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath discusses how this might not be the worst thing to happen to an urban gardener. Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Aug 03, 2018
Using Grass Clippings for Mulch
48:09

Is it ever right to use your grass clippings as a garden mulch?? On the latest You Bet Your Garden, we’ll bend–but not break–the rules as Mike McGrath looks at the pros and cons of collecting those clips. Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

My son has been trying to make compost out of three large piles of grass contained by plastic fencing. With all the rain we’ve had, the piles have become wet, compacted, dense and very heavy. What can be done to make these piles more effective at breaking down? They have been turned, but we recently added a lot of grass—and that plus the rain has made things a compacted mess. I examined one pile today and it’s actually like “green manure”; you know, all soft and squishy. That should be really great for the garden…no?
—Elizabeth in North Plainfield, New Jersey

How Elizabeth can fix her compost »

Jul 27, 2018
You Bet Your Garden Summer Special #2
46:43

Plants under glass, mushroom hunting, permaculture, and copper plugs. On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath talks terrariums, ‘shrooming, piling stuff up on top of old wood and much more in a series of our favorite interviews.

Question of the Week:

I’ve been looking into the different design systems I could use in establishing a new organic garden and food forest fruit orchard. I’ve heard about permaculture, biodynamic, and biointensive, but I’m really confused: What’s the difference between these three? And finally, which do you think would give me the best view on how to design my new garden in a functional way for the long-term? Thanks.
Joe from Greenville, NC
What do Permaculture, Biodynamic & Biointensive mean? »

Jul 20, 2018
Crossing The Pond with the Intent to Commit Horticulture
44:53

It’s often a bad idea to take plants across state lines with the intent to commit horticulture. On the latest You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath discusses what’s at stake if you’re thinking of crossing The Pond with your plants! Plus, gardening for the curious with Dr. Lee Reich.

Question of the Week:

I teach high school German & Spanish and run a reciprocal group exchange program with a teacher in Munich, Bavaria. (Bavaria is to Germany like Texas is to the US—very big, very conservative, very interesting & a lot of fun.)

Because of my affinity for hydrangeas I came up with an idea I hope you will find interesting enough to help with. When I’m in Munich (the capital of Bavaria) later this July, I want to give my foreign exchange counterpart Veit (pronounced like “fight”) and his new wife Effi a hydrangea (specifically hydrangea macrophylla bavaria), and take cuttings from it home with me, so that after the cuttings take root, we will effectively be sharing the same hydrangea plant across two continents.

The root of the problem (pun intended 🙂 is that Google as I may, I can’t seem to find out who to ask about bringing those cuttings home, as I believe it is highly frowned upon to bring plants into the US without going through proper channels. If you could help me, I would be ever grateful—and invite you to one of my wife’s outstanding dinners during Veit’s next visit this fall. “Danke schön”.

PS: If you think the cuttings might not be viable after transatlantic flights, I could probably just buy two identical plants, which might be clones anyway.

—Chad in New Hanover Township, PA

The legality of globetrotting hydrangeas »

Jul 13, 2018
You Bet Your Garden Summer Special
48:42

Radioactive roses; peerless pollinators; the famed “Banana of the North;” and puckering persimmons. On the next You Bet Your Garden, we gather some of our favorite interviews to cool down your summer with a wilder blend of topics than the ingredients in a Singapore Sling!

Jul 06, 2018
Keep Your Credit Cards Out of the Compost!
46:36

A British gardening magazine recommends pouring grass clippings on top of shredded paper to make “quick compost.” On You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath reveals what’s wrong with this picture and re-iterates the rules of non-bogus black gold brewing. Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

I was just watching a “Florabest Lawnmower” video at the Facebook page for “The English Garden Magazine”; and the host used grass clippings and shredded paper ‘to make a quick compost’. I know you always recommend mulching grass back into the lawn, but there have been times when my grass grew so fast and tall that I needed to bag it. I only have two small trees, so there are no dried leaves for me to rake up in the fall and use. Is it okay to add shredded copier paper and credit card advertisements to my compost pile? I compost a lot of ‘green’ veggie waste and egg shells.
—Judy in New Jersey

Keep your credit cards out of the compost!

Jun 29, 2018
The Many Foes of Roses
46:27

What’s eating your roses? On the latest You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath dons his detective’s cap to pinpoint the perpetrator chewing on them now…and details how to stop Japanese beetles from finishing the job later. Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

I’m fairly new to roses, so I planted three ‘Knockout’ variety roses I’ve been assured I cannot kill. But it appears that something still finds the leaves very tasty. I’ve attached a picture. What is eating my leaves and is there anything I can do to stop it? I haven’t seen any Japanese beetles and it seems like whatever is happening happens overnight.
—Sarah in Virginia

What’s eating those roses?

Jun 22, 2018
Gardening Without Sight
46:39

Gardening for the disabled includes plantings for those with little to no sight. On the next You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath discusses gardens that appeal to the other four senses. Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the week:

I’d like to hear Mike talk about handicapped gardeners. I went completely blind several years ago and I’d love a segment on this topic.
—John in Ocean Pines, Maryland
Visually impaired gardeners share their stories»

Jun 15, 2018
Gardening Against the Odds: High Altitude, Short Season, and No Water
47:25

How can you grow tomatoes in a short season…at high altitude…and with no water? On the latest You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath reveals just how they do it in Southwest Colorado! Plus, the wild and wonderful world of succulents and cacti…and your fabulous phone calls.

Learn all about gardening in a hostile climate »

Jun 08, 2018
Do Trees NEED Mulch? & Can a Tree Survive Severed Roots?
48:17

Do trees really NEED mulch? And can their roots be safely severed during construction? On the latest You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath reveals some surprising truths about trees. Plus: Square Foot Gardening legend Mel Bartholomew, and your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

I’m about to put an addition on my house that will require a foundation being built approximately six to eight feet from a well-established maple tree that’s about 30 to 40 feet high. The builder says there’s a chance the tree will die when the roots are cut during trenching. Is there anything I can do to help increase the tree’s odds of survival?
—Mia in Yellow Springs, OH

Can Mia’s tree be saved?

Jun 01, 2018
Special Report: Moderating Menacing Mosquitoes
53:27

On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath speaks with Dr. Dina Fonseca, professor of entomology in the school of public health at Rutgers University, about ways to prevent mosquito’s from thriving in your landscape and ways to protect yourself from being bit.

This way for tips to banish bloodsuckers »

May 25, 2018
You Say Potato, I Say Tomato
53:45

You say tomato, I say tomahto…but the soil sprouts potatoes! On the latest You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath discusses what you can do when Yukon Golds emerge right next to your Cherokee Purples. Plus: helping HOAs become more sustainable, and your fabulous phone calls.

Question of the Week:

Is it true that you shouldn’t plant tomatoes and potatoes close to each other? In rotating my garden areas, I planted tomatoes where potatoes were last year. Now a couple of overlooked potatoes are starting to sprout up. Do I need to dig them out of the soil?
—Mary in Oakdale, California
Mike’s advice »

May 18, 2018
What’s Not to Love About the Linden Tree?
53:45

The linden tree is slow-growing, has great fall color and produces beautiful, scented flowers in the Summer. On the latest You Bet Your Garden¸ Mike McGrath discusses the linden and why it isn’t used more often in the American landscape. Plus, your fabulous phone calls.

Question of the Week:

The Linden is a beautiful tree. (Berliners in Germany sure love it!) A couple of gorgeous specimens are at the library in Swarthmore, PA. Why is the Linden not used more? And why is it rarely encountered in local nurseries?

—John in Doylestown, PA

Learn more about the linden »

May 11, 2018
None Like it Hot: Even Sun-Lovers May Need Some Shade
53:46

Summer sun is good for our plants–up to a point. On the next You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath gives the lowdown on where and when your tomatoes might like you to throw them some shade. Plus: your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

“Greetings! I used to garden when I was much younger and I’m ready to try again now that I understand more of the do’s and don’ts. One thing you will find though, if you come here in the summer, is that it can get swelteringly hot. I plan to do some extensive container gardening in my treeless (and nearly shade-less) backyard, specifically tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and zucchini. What can be done to help my poor plants get through the hottest times of the year?
P.S.: your online questions and answers have already helped me get a leg up on my preparations! Thanks!”
—Matthew in Memphis, Tennessee

How much sun is too much?

May 04, 2018
Spring Bulbs: The Rules for Rebloom are the Same Around the World
53:45

This is the time of year you can ensure that your Spring bulbs return…or get nothing but leaves next season. On the latest You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath reviews the rules of Spring bulb rebloom. Plus: your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

I bought tulip bulbs, refrigerated them for a few months, planted them last fall, and now they are blooming. I read your wonderful explanation of how you have tulips that are now teenagers. I will follow those instructions. But I have a question: If I put the tulip bulbs in paper bags and put the bags in the refrigerator, will they propagate? Or do they propagate during the time when their leaves are still green to produce the next year’s flowers?

—Arabella “in the Kyushu Prefecture of Japan”
How to get those bulbs blooming next year »

Apr 27, 2018
Soil Solarization: What It Can and Can’t Do
53:45

Soil solarization is a powerful tool in the organic arsenal—but can you solarize a bed that has a tree in the middle?! On the latest You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath discusses how you can—and can’t—use the rays of the sun to wipe out wicked weeds and defeat dread disease. Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

I recently bought a home where the landscape has been neglected for decades and have a question about solarizing a flower bed with a tree in the center. The tree is about the diameter of the circle you make when you touch your fingertip and thumb together. It’s surrounded by very thick ground cover and poison ivy. I thought that if I tilled the area, removed the green and brown matter, soaked it with the 100% water saturation you recommend in your article on soil solarization, and covered it with the recommended clear plastic one to three mils thick, I’d be able to start fresh. But to do that I’d have to surround the tree with the plastic and I’m afraid that might cook the roots. I love the tree and don’t want to hurt it. Any advice?
—Milan in Lemont, Illinois

The dos and don’ts, cans and can’ts of solarization »

Apr 20, 2018
Tomato Season Update: Pruning Suckers and Poor Production
53:45

Tomato season will soon be here! On the latest You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath discusses ‘pruning suckers’ from your plants, and considers the curious case of the suddenly unproductive bed. Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

I’m getting my garden plans together and was wondering if you recommend pruning the shoots that grow from leaf nodes on tomatoes? I’ve heard that doing so will limit production but allow better circulation of air and may help with fungus issues. What’s your feeling about this?
—Hank in Ambler, PA

How to grow terrific tomatoes »

Apr 13, 2018
Can you transform a tree stump into a perennial show place?
53:45

What can you do with the stump that’s left behind after a dead tree is cut down? On this week’s You Bet Your Garden we’ll discuss whether the best answer involves Hügelkultur—or oysters! Plus your fabulous phone calls.

Question of the Week:

We moved into a new home last April and, as you often suggest, just took the first year to see what was going on naturally in the yard. The only real action we took was to change an existing flower bed into our new blueberry patch (thanks for that recent Question of the Week on blueberries!) and have a dangerously old cottonwood tree taken down.

There’s a big stump from the cottonwood left in the middle of an old flower bed. I remembered your radio show’s episode on Hügelkultur and went back to read the article on it at your A to Z archives. That specific question was about a tree that had fallen, but I only have the stump left. Once it gets decaying (I’m thinking about introducing edible mushrooms to accelerate this), can I “Hügelkultur” the stump and grow some shade loving perennials in that bed?

—Britt in Grand Rapids, MI
Stumped? Advice lies ahead »

Apr 06, 2018
Live from the 2018 Philadelphia Flower Show
54:15

What can you grow in a sopping wet spot? Are non-native plants ever OK? In a very special edition of You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath answers those questions and many more—recorded live on the floor of the famed Philadelphia Flower Show!

Question of the Week:

I planted running bamboo in my landscape that ‘they’ said wouldn’t run; but it’s run all over my garden. I want to know how I can smother or contain it…

When “good” bamboo goes bad…

Mar 30, 2018
Best Practices for Ornamental Grasses
53:27

Ornamental grasses make for great privacy screens. On the latest You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath discusses which big grasses work best, and how and when to safely prune them. Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

I checked the “A to Z Garden Answer” section of your website under “grass,” “ornamental grass” and “tall grass” and couldn’t find an answer to my question: Is it “okay,” “recommended,” or “forbidden” to cut off the dead stems of ornamental grasses? If it is okay, when is the best time?
—Chris in Devon, PA

How and when to cut your grasses »

Mar 23, 2018
How Much Ash Should a Gardener Use If a Gardener Could Use Ash?
53:27

Do you burn wood for heat and thus have lots of wood ash that you want to use on your landscape? On the latest You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath discusses the best and worst ways to use your ash. Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

I’ve got a lot of wood ashes and wonder if I can use them in the garden; and if so, where?
—Bob in Wardensville, West Virginia

The best spots in your garden to shake your ash »

Mar 16, 2018
Composting Kitchen Waste Can Be Tricky!
53:28

Recycling your kitchen waste into compost is the responsible thing to do, right? On the latest You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath reveals the surprising problems you can encounter when you make garbage to go. Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

I have filled three large black sealed composting bins with fruit and vegetable waste (pineapple skins, squash skins and seeds, mango & avocado skins and seeds, egg shells, coffee grounds, etc.) plus grass clippings and soil. But the material does not break down. I add water and chop up and stir the contents, but it still doesn’t break down. I can only guess that we used too much fruit and veggie waste. We don’t want to just put everything in the garbage. Your advice please, on how can we get this large amount of material to break down.
—Dan in North Augusta, South Carolina
The not-so-secret ingredient for quality compost »

Mar 09, 2018
What to Do When Your Lawn is a Lake
53:27

Removing plugs of sod and soil can work wonders for a struggling turf–if you do it at the right time of year. On the latest You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath discusses what to do when compacted soil needs to be aerated at the wrong time in the season.

Question of the Week:

Last summer my neighbor’s 85-foot-tall oak tree fell into our yard, crushing some treasured ornamentals and a retaining wall. By the time we sorted out the removal, a month had passed and the lawn was a mess. Much of the grass had been killed by the large crown falling onto it; and the coup de gras was delivered by the weight of the heavy equipment that had to be brought onto the lawn. The arborists did what they could to lessen the impact, putting gigantic sheets of wood under the crawlers and wheels, but large areas were still badly compacted. After a rainstorm, water pools for hours. The lawn is pretty much now total weeds and will need to be redone—but first we need to address the compaction problem; correct? I consulted the ‘soil compaction’ article in your A to Z archives and feel that core aeration would only provide superficial help.
—Carol in Wynnewood, PA

How to dry out that lawn »

Mar 02, 2018
Growing Blueberries Low and High, South and North
53:27

Lowbush blueberries may be the tastiest little fruits—but are you cold enough to grow them? On the next You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath lays out your options in growing these low-to-the-ground native fruits. Plus, the meaning of “chilling hours.”

Question of the Week:

Back in college I was spoiled by the taste of the delicious wild blueberries of New England. When I finally acquired space to garden a few years ago, I wanted to try and experience that great flavor again. So I put a couple of highbush varieties in 15-inch pots amended with plenty of peat moss. They produce ‘tasty’ berries, but I’m still disappointed.
I suspected this was because I live in northern California (USDA zone 9 b) and blueberries are a cool-climate crop. But the University of California’s “chilling hours database” reports that my local station recorded at least 800 chilling hours a year in each of the last 5 years. (Eight to 1400 hundred hours by the ‘lower than 45 degrees Fahrenheit’ criteria; and 800 to a thousand hours by the ‘more than 32 but lower than 45’ criteria.) This makes me hopeful that I might be able to grow lowbush New England-style blueberries. I’m crazy, right?
—Andre in Santa Rosa
Can you bring New England to Northern California? »

Feb 23, 2018
The Rules of Raised Beds
53:27

Pitchers and catchers report is here! That means it must be time to think about tomatoes! On the latest You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath reviews the rules of raised beds and takes bets on perlite versus vermiculite. Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

I’m in the process of resizing a majority of our raised beds from four feet wide down to three feet. When finished we should wind up with beds ranging in size from four-by-three to eight-by-three. (Just waiting for the ground to warm up before I can start the work.) Now: You have mentioned adding perlite to the soil mix in previous articles on raised beds. What is the difference between perlite and vermiculite? Also: I usually mulch the beds with grass and leaves collected from the yard in the Fall. How much of either should be added to any of the beds?
–Joseph in Warrenton, PA
Mike weighs in »

Feb 16, 2018
Tick Prevention-On Both Sides of the World
53:26

A listener wants to know how to stay safe from ticks–in her native Australia! On the latest You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath discusses tick control strategies that are common to both Australia and North America. Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

I have a phobia of ticks. The little suckers totally freak me out! I’ve read your amazing posts about the use of Permethrin spray products to create tick-protective clothing, but what would you recommend for the skin? I’m also keen to start a good-sized veggie patch but can’t stand the thought of them being on the food I’m going to eat – any ideas?
PS: You have a great following over here!
—Natasha in Australia (specifically the Queensland – Palmwood region)
Keep these creepy critters out of your garden »

Feb 09, 2018
The Right Mix for Starting Seeds
53:27

Thinking of starting your own plants from seed this season? Success begins with a soil-free mix! On the latest You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath reveals what to include in a seed-starting mix and what to leave out. Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

I’m really interested in starting my own vegetables from seed this year using soil blocks. But I’m finding quite a disparity in the basic “recipes” for soil block seed starting. They generally involve peat moss, soil from the existing garden, perlite, lime, compost and a fertilizer mix of bloodmeal, greensand and rock phosphate; but they vary. Some omit the garden soil, some omit the lime, and the amount of the fertilizer mix can vary greatly from recipe to recipe. I’ve also been told to find another source of potassium because greensand takes too long to break down to be effective for the young plant’s needs, but I am doubtful of this information. Can you give me any advice?
-Dave in Carlisle, PA

How to get your seeds sprouting »

Feb 02, 2018
Potash: How to Get the K in Your N-P-K
53:27

What is ‘muriate of potash’—and is it safe? On the latest episode of You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath discusses the many ways you can add the ‘K’ in ‘N-P-K’ to your landscape! Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

“Is ‘muriate of potash’ safe to use as an additive in the raised bed gardens I’ll be planting next spring? And if so, do you recommend it? I used it very sparingly along with bone meal and blood meal in an ‘in-ground’ garden I had in St. Louis, where the clay content of the soil was very high. The garden seemed to have no problem producing tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, and cantaloupe—although the cantaloupe was not very flavorful.
I plan on filling my new raised beds with premium topsoil and my own compost—which started out as a mix of fall leaves and food waste in a tumbler. The beds will be planted with the same kinds of vegetables as in St. Louis. I’ve purchased the blood meal and bone meal, but none of the garden/hardware/superstores around me carry muriate of potash. An internet search yielded plenty of results, but some sites had warnings that muriate of potash ‘is known by the state of California to cause cancer’, which led me to seek your advice.”
Jack in Richboro, PA
All you ever wanted to know about potash »

Jan 26, 2018
“Seeing Spots? Call for Help”
53:27

What’s grey and black and red and black and yellow with black stripes? On the latest You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath reveals the disturbing answer when he takes a close look at the newest pest in town–the Spotted Lantern Fly. Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Jan 19, 2018
Winter Got You Down? Curl Up In a French Hot Bed!
53:27

Who’s eating homegrown greens right now–in places where winter really means winter? On the latest You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath discusses how to extend your season with a French hot bed! Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

Last year I had some success constructing cold frame boxes to keep my greens going into winter. I have read about hot bed gardening, saw that you mentioned it briefly in an archived question of the week, and was wondering if you have heard of any success using this method without the manure? I was hoping I could maybe accomplish the same results with leaf compost, but wondered if there might be some trick I could try to make it more successful.
Victoria in East Greenbush, New York

Mike’s advice for a hot bed without manure »

Jan 12, 2018
Worms in Your Berries? There’s a New Pest in Town
53:22

There’s a new pest in town—and it wants to ruin your raspberries! On the latest episode of You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath will teach you how to protect your precious plants from the dreaded Spotted Wing Drosophila. Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

“I know that you’re a fellow raspberry fan and hope you can help me. I was picking loads of berries this past fall, but unfortunately, they all had little white worms in them. I’m wondering which insect is the culprit and what I must do to try and save the next harvest. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.”
—Roswitha in Emmaus, PA

How to defend your berry crop »

Jan 05, 2018
Ringing in the New Year with some of our best interviews
53:36

Are you imperiled by poison ivy? Sucked dry by mosquitoes? On this very special edition of You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath will help negate these nasty nuisances—and reveal the best small fruits to grow, build a rain garden and more!


Question of the Week:

Last year, we started having problems with poison ivy around our vegetable garden. I can’t go near the stuff, so my father-in-law kindly mowed it down and covered the area with weed block and wood chips. The poison ivy simply grew up around it, and instead of being behind my garden, is now starting to encroach it. Do you have any organic suggestions for getting rid of it? Thanks for your help.
– Laurel DWG; Billerica, Massachusetts

Polish off your poison ivy without personal peril with these seven secrets of successful PI pullers! »

Dec 29, 2017
You Bet Your Garden Christmas Spectacular!
53:11

You are cordially invited to the You Bet Your Garden Christmas Spectacular! Host Mike McGrath will be unwrapping fascinating facts about poinsettia, Christmas cactus, and mistletoe. Plus: holiday tunes from Kenn Kweder and Nalani and Sarina!

Question of the Week:

“You once offered a solution to the problem of paperwhites drooping on your show. Could you repeat the info? Thanks so much! I ABSOLUTELY LOVE YOUR SHOW!!!!”
—Holly in Laurel Springs, NJ

How to perk up those paperwhites »

Dec 22, 2017
OK—Maybe You CAN Eat Black Walnuts
53:11

There’s been a lot of discussion about collecting black walnuts on the show lately, but so far, it’s been all talk. On the latest episode of You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath gets into the nitty gritty details on how to husk, wash, cure, crack, and yes, eventually eat, the most controversial food of the forest. Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

“May I suggest you cover the topic of harvesting black walnuts? I know that some people consider the trees a pest and remove them from the landscape because they inhibit the growth of other plants, especially tomatoes. And the nuts are a mess to process—but harvesting and using them as food would be more popular if people had some pointers on the proper way to do it.”
—Pete in the Andorra section of Philadelphia

The arduous process of harvesting black walnuts »

Dec 15, 2017
Deer: A Threat to Cars, Trees, and People
53:20

They’re causing mayhem in the roads, eating our azaleas, and attacking the arborvitae. On the latest episode of You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath tries to deal with what seems to be a deluge of dangerous deer. Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

I love your show and am hoping you can help my ‘de-barked’ pine trees. The trees are about five feet tall, were planted last year and have been de-barked (most likely by a deer) about two to three feet above the ground. The scars are about a foot wide. In your expert opinion, what is the best way to save my trees? Any ideas on how I can prevent this in the future?
—Connie in Reston, Virginia

How to protect your garden from Bambi and friends »

Dec 08, 2017
Grass Wars: Bermuda vs. Fescue
52:58

Are warm-weather grasses taking over our turf? On the latest edition of You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath will help you decide: Favor the fescue or succumb to the charms of Bermuda? Plus: turning abandoned lots into drive-by flower shows, and your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

“Is there any sure way to kill the Bermuda grass that has taken over about 70 percent of my tall fescue lawn?”
—Dennis in Vienna, Virginia
Who will emerge victorious? »

Dec 01, 2017
Moving? Don’t Pack Your Landscape!
53:15

You’re moving; can you take your priceless plants with you? On the latest episode of You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath helps you hold on to your heirlooms and get a good price for your old house. Plus: a sneak peek at the 2018 edition of The Flower Show, and your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

We’re in the process of building a new house but will not be able to move in until February. We have not put our current house on the market yet. I have some plants I’d like to move to the new place, but the outside work isn’t finished and the ‘top soil’ is still in a pile at the back of the lot. Can I move the plants into large pots and winter them over in an unheated garage? I’ve been waiting for the weather to get cold to make sure the plants are dormant. The plants I want to move are peonies that originally belonged to my grandparents, old fashioned double-petal daylilies, Asiatic lilies and a rose bush, which is also from my grandparents.
—Sue in Fargo, North Dakota

Can you leave a house and keep the landscaping?

Nov 24, 2017
How Far South Can You Grow Raspberries?
53:15

Raspberries are delicious, super-nutritious and incredibly easy to grow. There are only TWO things you must supply in order to bag buckets of berries. On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath reveals just what those two things are.

Question of the Week:

“Can raspberries be grown successfully in central Florida? If so, when should they be planted? Do they like shade, full sun, or mixed? We have had nights drop into the mid to high twenties, usually warming into the thirties during those days. Cold snaps go in cycles of two to four days, and occasional frost is seen—mostly from January thru mid-March. I’m interested in trying raspberries partially because Pillsbury used to make great raspberry strudel toaster pastries, but I have not seen them in stores for months and thought maybe I could grow the berries and make my own. (P.S.: Blueberries do really well here.)”
—Marion in the Ocala area, about 40 miles south of Gainesville
A raspberry primer »


How to care for Figs in Winter
Jack from Altoona, PA is following up on a previous phone call from a few years back to update us on his fig tree. We love to hear from our listeners. Jack wants to know what to wrap his fig tree with during the cold winter. Mike suggested that he should use burlap or row cover materials to allow the tree to breathe.

Magnificent Monarchs
Janet from Bowie County, Texas wants to know more about monarch butterflies. “As the monarch population drops and rises, we are always trying to figure out if they are trying to tell us something about the environment,” Mike said. Mike suggested that monarch butterfly fans should follow three steps to keep them around their gardens: Don’t use pesticides, don’t grow genetically engineered corn or soy beans and find the right milkweed to flourish in your climate.

Hickory nuts
Lee in Puckett, Indiana has two questions about the hickory nuts on his tree. Lee wants to increase their size and he also wants to know how to keep the larvae out of their holes. “Hickories take a long time to produce full sized nuts,” Mike said. “What you’ll notice is that you will get some years where you get few, to no nuts and then every four-to-five years you will get a big crop.” Mike also suggested that Lee should use a spray-on clay called “surround” to ward off the larvae.

Reviving Red Buds
Jess in Glenside, PA can’t seem to get a break with her red bud trees. Every time she plants a new one in her yard it ends up dying. Mike thinks that she might have a soil problem. He suggested that she should get it tested to make sure her yard can grow healthy trees in the future.

Why do so many pinecones drop?
Richard in Doylestown, PA is curious to know why he has seen so many pine cones this year. Mike theorizes that there might be a nut dropping “cycle” going on this year which has resulted in a high number of pine cones. Mike also speculates that the warm weather may have given trees more energy to produce them.

South Carolina Peaches
Gregory in Gatlinburg, Tennessee wants to know if he can plant South Carolina peach seeds in his area. Yes you can, Gregory! Mike said that peaches need a cooling period to grow much like apples. Fortunately, Gregory’s area is not overly warm. Mike suggested that he should plant them in a pot with excellent drainage to store for the winter.

Pruning forsythia and azalea bushes
Annie in Buffalo, New York wants to know if she should prune her blooming forsythia and azalea bushes. Mike said that it is ok for the forsythia and azalea bushes to bloom now and that she should leave them alone until the Spring.

Nov 17, 2017
Prepping Raised Beds for the Winter
53:15

It’s time to put your raised beds TO bed for the winter. On the latest episode of You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath explains how to renew their vigor, protect their nutrients and avoid turning them into a sea of weeds. Plus, some handy tricks for avoiding basil blight, and your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

I’ve heard you talk about adding leaves to raised beds. I want to add compost to my raised beds instead, but I’m leery of buying bulk compost because I fear it may have originally contained treated grass clippings. I found bags of ‘raised bed soil’ in a big box store; I’ve copied and included the ingredients portion of the label. Do you think this would be a good addition? I also have some peat moss and thought about adding it to the beds. Would that be OK?
Henry in Ambler, PA

How to tuck your beds in for winter »

Nov 10, 2017
Protecting Plants from Winter, Deer & Wabbits
53:15

What’s the best way to protect your plants from deer, rabbits, mice and voles–and what’s so bad about ‘cleaning things up’ for winter? On the latest episode of You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath covers the best ways to protect your plants from herbivores…and YOU! Plus, your fabulous phone calls!
 

Questions of the Week:

I have a huge butterfly bush; it grows to around eight feet tall and six feet wide each summer—but the growth is not that sturdy; when it sleets or snows, the branches get bent down low or break off. How and when should I prune the plant in the fall to prepare it for winter? I have heard your advice to not prune in the fall, as it promotes new growth when the plant is preparing to go dormant, but my neighbors cut their butterfly bush back hard as part of their fall ‘clean up’ and it survives. (But it’s not nearly as large or hearty as mine.)
—Tom in South Jersey

I planted a darling Brown Turkey fig in my garden. It’s a Mediterranean plant and I have a somewhat Mediterranean climate. Perfect, right? I planted it in mid-September as the temperatures were cooling and the Oregon rains were beginning. Perfect planning, perfect execution; right? Sadly, the deer stripped it bare and continue to do so anytime fresh leaves emerge. My husband and I plan to fence in our little property this winter. In the meantime, do you think the fig can survive until spring? My husband says yes. I say no. Tell us your prediction.
—Anne in Medford, Oregon

Read Mike’s answers »

Nov 03, 2017
Cold clime? Bury your figs ALIVE!
53:15

What’s the best way to protect figs in climes where winter gets too cold? On the latest episode of You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath reviews your options—from building a little house to burying them alive! Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

I’m exploring methods of fig tree protection as we head toward winter. As my fig is completely exposed, I’m considering building the ‘fig house’ you mention briefly in your A to Z Answers section, but need more detail. What materials should be used? Should it be completely surrounded? All the way to the ground? What else should I know? I wish I could attempt your ‘bury it’ technique, but it just doesn’t seem practical in my yard—and my wife thinks I’m crazy for even entertaining the idea.
-Bill in Camden County, New Jersey

How to overwinter a fig tree »

Oct 27, 2017
Resist the Urge to Clean Up Your Landscape
53:15

This is the time of year many people feel compelled to “clean up the landscape.” On the latest episode of You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath counts the many reasons you should NOT be cutting back roses, figs, or any other plants in the fall. Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

I have two butterfly bushes—one of which is a new growth from an older bush. What do I need to do to prepare them for winter? I also have a rose bush in the back. It did not bloom this year but did grow and seems to be very healthy and strong. How do you prepare this bush for winter? Lastly, I have a sunflower which did very well this year. The stalk is beginning to bend; how do I prepare this plant for winter?
—Ruth in Dayton, Ohio

Mike’s advice for fall pruning »

Oct 20, 2017
When Drippy Trees Attract Danger
52:57

Are bleeding oaks some sort of sign? Or just a miserable driveway mess that attracts stinging insects? On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, we’ll reveal the surprising causes of excessive sap from oaks and other trees. Plus: organic answers to all your growing questions.

Question of the Week:

We recently moved into a home with a lot of trees, including a large oak that wonderfully shades our house and driveway in the summer. However, over the past few days, sap drippings (or something else that is oily but clear) have appeared all over the cars, sidewalk and driveway under the tree; and it’s is attracting bees, wasps and hornets. It’s becoming a hazard to try and get into our cars or enjoy our front yard. Our five-year-old daughter and many of the neighborhood children play right in front of our house; and she and one other girl were stung by ‘bees’ over the weekend. Is it normal for trees to drip so much sap that it attracts bees? Do I have to ban my daughter and her friends from the front yard?
—Steve in Rockville, Maryland

What to do about this drippy tree? »

Oct 13, 2017
Controlling weeds that have gone to seed
53:13

Weed woes can get really ugly when those weeds have gone to seed. On the latest episode of You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath gives the details on how to get rid of those weeds without planting next year’s crop of crab grass. Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

“I’m looking for advice on how to get an area of my garden back under control without using chemicals. I failed to keep up with the weeding in a section of my vegetable garden that is about fifteen by 30 feet. It had crabgrass, clover and a few other weeds that went to seed. I ripped them all out as best I could, but can’t get all the roots out—and I can see that a lot of seed has scattered on the surface of the soil. I wonder if covering the area with impermeable black plastic until next May would kill everything? Or maybe it makes things worse by keeping the area warm enough for the weeds to survive the winter?”
—Kat in Leesburg, Virginia

Mike’s fiery response »

Oct 06, 2017
The Problem with Pawpaws
53:28

Native paw paw trees are supposed to be easy to grow. On the latest You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath will help you figure out what to do when the famed “Banana of the North” doesn’t produce its distinctive fruits. Plus, your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

I have two pawpaw trees planted about ten feet apart (I think the varieties are ‘Wells’ and ‘Sunflower’). They’re around five years old and growing well. For the past two springs, they’ve set blossoms nicely, raising my hopes of getting my first crop of fruit, but within a few days, the flowers all dropped and no fruit developed. Not one. The trees appear very healthy otherwise. What could be wrong? I remember you fondly from your Organic Gardening days and appreciate your guidance!
—Ron in Cold Spring, New York

Mike’s unexpectedly gruesome pawpaw advice »

Image: Anna Hesser

Sep 29, 2017
Extend your hot pepper season and make “Monster Mash”

What can you do if your hot pepper harvest is behind schedule? On the latest episode of You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath helps bring those peppers indoors to give them extra time to ripen up. Plus: how to make hot sauce and “Monster Mash” from that hot pepper harvest!

Question of the Week:

I grow a variety of hot peppers and use them to bottle up my famous Hot Sauce. I amend the plants’ soil every winter with eggshells and coffee grounds, and in the spring a little organic fertilizer to get things started. I normally have enough peppers to make my sauce, but I’m getting very little fruit this season. A neighbor is having the same problem, and my local nursery said it’s probably due to the unusual amount of rain in the Philadelphia area. Have you heard of any similar complaints this season?
-Reggie, “a long-time listener and WHYY member in the Germantown section of Philadelphia”

How to grow productive peppers »

Sep 15, 2017
Rats, Snakes and Lizards! Oh My!
53:53

Are snakes the answer when rats invade an orchard? On the latest You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath talks about the pros and cons of reptilian releases. Plus: a lizard that defeats Lyme disease, and your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

I have rats eating my plums and would love to have snakes in my garden that would eat the rats. Many snakes are indigenous to my area (Rattlesnakes, Garters, Gopher snakes…); and I have many wonderful blue belly lizards in my garden—but unfortunately, no snakes. Would it be a good or bad idea to buy a garter or gopher snake from a pet shop and let it go in the back yard? I’m only talking about snakes that are already indigenous to my local area. Thanks for any information you can give me.
-Mark in Sacramento, California
Snakes vs Rats in a California Garden »

Sep 08, 2017
Native Plants Special
53:12

What to incorporate native plants into your landscape, but you’re not sure which ones are right for you? On a very special You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath goes native while perusing the Schuylkill Valley Nature Center.

Question of the Week:

I want to establish a food source to attract more wildlife to my yard. I have moved some thorn apples, chokecherries and salmon berries from the wild into my yard. What other plants would attract birds?
-Shelley in Poplar, Wisconsin

Audubon’s List of Ten Native Plants that Benefit Birds »

Sep 01, 2017
Summer Special #4
53:13

The only way to beat poison ivy; the beneficial insects in your backyard; the wasp without which you could not get figs and the most important fall pruning advice you’ll ever hear. On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath talks good bugs, bad ivy and much more.

Aug 18, 2017
The Right Time to Grow a Weed-Proof Lawn
53:13

Sowing seed at the wrong time of year may be the biggest cause of weedy lawns. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will reveal that the timing is now right to correct past mistakes and establish a truly weed-proof turf. Plus: answers to all your growing questions.

Photo: Dave Meier via pictography.co


Question of the Week:

“We removed our entire front lawn this spring when we had our gutters routed underground to carry rain water further away from the house. (It wasn’t much of a lawn; riddled with weeds and very uneven.) We re-planted using a “Pennsylvania Mix”, “Grass Seed Accelerator” and “lawn starter soil”, and now have quite a few weeds. My husband wants to treat the lawn to eliminate the weeds. In scouring your A-Z Garden Answers section I see that proper cutting height, wise watering, and corn gluten are the best defense against weeds in a well-established lawn. But our lawn is still in its adolescent phase, hopefully on its way to becoming well-established, but not there yet. I have been hand-pulling a LOT of weeds and trying to persuade my husband to NOT use chemicals. What do you suggest?”

— Gretchen in Bethlehem, PA

 

Learn more about growing grass near trees »



Highlights from show:

Beetles Eating Eggplants

Andy runs an organic garden for the Springhouse restaurant, a high-end mixed-cuisine restaurant on Lake Martin in the town of Equality, Alabama. Now, he’s recently had a problem with beetles eating his eggplants, and he wants to know of any organic methods of pest control. Mike recommends using row covers for these plants, which completely protects these plants from insects, but allows them to get the sun and air that they need. Mike also recommends for the eggplants that he ask the grower to hold on to the eggplant plants until they’re about eight to ten weeks old, so that they have plenty of biomass, and so that they’d have better luck standing up to these flea beetles. Mike also suggests growing them under those row covers, at least until the flowers form, removing the cover to allow the plants to pollinate. He also mentions an old “Italian trick,” dusting the leaves with wood ash. Even more effective than that would be DE, or Diatomaceous Earth, which is very sharp on the molecular level, keeping the beetles from landing on the leaves. Finally, get a hose with great water pressure, and a nozzle that has a very intense pressure release. Cradle the plant in one hand, and blast off any insects on the plant with sharp streams of water. “Water is the best insecticide.”

Aphids in the Greenhouse

Tom in Oklahoma City has aphids in his greenhouse! The aphids overwintered in the greenhouse and they destroyed all of his plants. Mike recommends that Tom close up his greenhouse, since it’s too hot to grow anything in there, then just allow the hot Oklahoma sun to cook anything in the greenhouse. Now, when the time comes to bring the plants in, set up three stations: pot up the plants. Then take those potted plants over to the hose. Cradle the plants and spray them with a sharp stream of water, and then put them off to the side, outside the greenhouse. Once you’ve done them all once, bring the hose over to them, and give them all another spraying. Then, after 24 hours, open the greenhouse, and then give them a final spray, including the pot. It’s not a bad idea to wipe down the rim of the pot with a wet rag, with a little bit of vinegar on it, and the outside of the pot. Then, if the threat of aphids ever emerges while they’re in the greenhouse, just pull them aside and do this again to the affected plants. They also sell yellow sticky aphid traps, which work great, not only to trap the aphids, but to tell you which areas of your greenhouse are affected by aphids, and then on a nice day, take them out and hose them down again. In terms of beneficial insects, you can buy lacewing eggs, whose larvae will eat up to 50 aphids a day, and whose adults are beautiful, fairylike insects that are great pollinators, and they’ll lay a whole bunch more eggs for you. “As long as there is pollen and nectar plants in your greenhouse, and as long as there’s aphids, these insects will keep it squeaky clean.”

Digger Bees

Yvette from Philadelphia recently bought a new property and noticed that she had numerous holes in the ground, and also bees coming out of the holes! She wants to know if these bees are good or bad, and if they’ll come back. Now, since they nest in the Spring, Mike quickly identifies them as ground-nesting native bees, or “digger” bees, not to be confused with ground nesting wasps, which nest in late summer. These bees are some of nature’s best pollinators, so the best thing to do is to leave them alone. This will ensure that she’ll have the maximum possible number of flowers per plant. These bees are also ephemeral, sticking around only for a few weeks, and then going away. One important distinction is that, unlike non-native honey bees, these bees do not sting, so they are absolutely harmless, and they will come back every year if you don’t mess too much with the landscaping. “You don’t have a problem, you’ve got beneficials.”

Growing Grass in the Shaded Areas

Jeff from Nashville, TN has a commercial lawn service and he’s just started feeding and aerating in the fall, and supplementing them with weed and feed treatments in the spring and early summer. Now, he’s been having problems growing grass in the shaded areas, and he wants to know what to do. Mike notes that most of Jeff’s clientele seem to have cool-season lawns. Fine fescues grow much better in the shade than tall fescue grasses, for one. Some are better for dry shade, others are better than wet shade. In a normal situation, where the shade is being thrown by buildings, you want fine fescue in those areas. Feed it less, and water it less, because a grass in “true shade” will use less nutrients, and so if you overfeed or overwater it, you can kill it. Meanwhile, the opposite is true of tree-shade. “Trees are bullies, trees get the first shot.” Mike says to look up at the tree and see how far out the tree branches reach, and the root system of that tree will extent AT LEAST as far out as those branches, sometimes extending as far as three times the length of the branches. That area under the tree should then be designated as an area that needs extra water and maybe extra food in the spring and fall. One more rule for shade-loving grasses is that they need to be cut higher: They need to be three and a half inches high after being cut. If you cut them down to two inches, they’ll die because they don’t get a lot of sun to begin with: they need more surface area to capture more light. Mike also recommends that since they’re clumping grasses, spread some matching seed every year or two. “If you do all those things, you don’t need pre-emergent. The lawn will take care of itself!”

BTG and Milky Spore

Stacy from Leesport, PA recently heard about BTG and wanted to know how it compares to Milky Spore. Mike says that BTG is still too new to really know how they compare. Bacilus Thuringiensis Galleriea, or BTG, was put on the market just this year, exclusively by Gardens Alive, and it comes in two forms: a spray form to spray on your leaves which will kill adult beetles as they eat the sprayed leaves, called BeetleJUS on the Gardens Alive website, and a powder form that can be applied to the soil and kill any grubs in the ground, called GrubHALT on Gardens Alive. Now, Milky Spore is also a naturally-occurring soil organism, native to the far east, which is the reason why they don’t have a Japanese Beetle problem in Japan. The primary difference between the two is that BTG will kill the grubs in the ground, no questions asked. Whereas Milky Spore will infect the grubs, turning them into little Milky Spore factories, keeping the organism in the soil longer. The two organisms cannot be used concurrently, as Milky Spore needs a live host, “Although,” Mike remarks, “They won’t be alive for long.” Mike recommends that if you have a major beetle problem in your lawn, you should use Milky Spore, but if you only have a small beetle problem, or if you’ve been using Milky Spore and it hasn’t been effective, then go ahead and try BTG and see how it works for you.

A Bad Case of Voles

Judy in Wilmington, DE has a bad case of voles! She’s always had them, but they have been much more plentiful this year. Mike clarifies that there are two similarly named and problematic underground creatures: Moles live completely underground, make raised tunnels, and don’t eat any plant matter. Voles, on the other hand, are little, mousey, shrew-like creatures that live half-underground, half-aboveground, make little runs in the ground, and eat lots of plant matter, especially spring bulbs. Now, since Judy says that she hasn’t noticed anything eating her plants, aside from the evil squirrels who’ve been taking little bites out of her tomatoes, and to which Mike prescribes the solution of a motion-sensing sprinkler, Mike is tempted not to do anything to these little furry guys. However, if they do become a problem, Mike recommends three possible solutions, the first one being mouse traps, baited with peanut butter, which Judy has already tried, and which the voles were able to defeat. The next is a castor oil solution, which will impart a scent to the soil which we can’t smell, but the moles and voles hate. He also recommends electric mouse traps, which will zap any little critters that go into the holes in the trap to explore. When it’s gone off, the light will come on, to tell you to empty the traps. “We can’t solve the world’s problems, but we can certainly take care of your voles!”

Fall Leaves for Compost

Andy from Pitman, NJ saves leaves from the fall to compost them. He had previously been burying them in the garden and he wants to know if there are any commercially available leaf shredders that can handle wet, matted leaves. Mike comments that it’s never a good idea to bury carbonaceous material in the garden: it’ll tie up soil nutrients and nitrogen, stunting your plants’ growth. “Nature don’t go burying nothin.” Shred the leaves as they come down to help them break down quickly, because if you don’t do that, that can create an impermeable surface and also starve your plants. Instead, get an electric leaf blower with a reverse setting and a bag to put on your shoulder. Suck the leaves up as you stand, they go into an impeller built into the machine, it gets collected in your bag, and then put that in your compost pile, or put it down as mulch. Just put down a 2-inch layer of leaves on the surface, and it’ll keep weeds down and bring worms in. As far as wet leaves go, you can just pile them up and let them compost, or spread them out to dry, then borrow a riding lawnmower with a bagging attachment and collect those leaves up, because you never want to suck up those wet leaves with your leaf blower.

Aug 11, 2017
Summer Special #3
52:57

Protecting birds from window collisions; keeping our little bats healthy; helping chickens thrive in your backyard; and how a little aqua can gain you an abundance of amphibians. On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, we’ll talk flying birds, backyard chickens, beautiful bats, and tremendous toads!

Aug 04, 2017
Paint Your Porch “Haint Blue”!
53:28

Does painting the porch a certain hue of blue keep out stinging insects—or restless spirits? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, discusses what the color ‘Haint Blue’ can do for you. Plus: Mike speaks with author Shawna Coronado about creating a living wall! And organic answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week

It all started when a caller said that his family down South always painted their porches a certain color that he called “haint blue” to keep stinging insects from nesting there. He said that he started doing it himself after years of having wasps build nests on his porch and hasn’t had a single nest since. I thought it was a pretty neat call; and then we were flooded with emails.

Does the Color Blue Repel Pest Insects? Or Spooks? »


Featured Interview

Shawna Coronado

Mike speaks with author Shawna Coronado. Her new book, Growing a Living Wall, allows you to make a beautiful, practical, environmentally conscious garden, even in a small space. Shawna offers easy ways to grow up, rather than out, by using non-traditional planting environments like gutters. She also recommends using mostly shade plants with this kind of system, like herbs, greens and Hosta.

Jul 28, 2017
All About Fireflies
53:28

Are you seeing fewer fireflies each season? On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, we’ll devote the entire hour to the fascinating creatures we call fireflies and lightning bugs – and what you can do to help them shed more light on your summer nights.


Question of the Week:

Most listeners who write in about fireflies/lightning bugs just report that they seem to see fewer of them each summer. But back in 2011 (soon after we did our first big Question of the Week about the wonderful bio-luminescent creatures), Sharon in South Brandon, Florida (just west of Tampa) wrote: “Is it possible to purchase larvae to reintroduce lightning bugs to an area? We have many wonderful boggy, natural areas that would provide a good home for lightning bugs. Is it possible to purchase their larvae to ‘seed’ this area again? They once were prolific here, and I suspect that many years of spraying for fruit fly control did them in. But today there’s not an orange grove in sight—so maybe they’d have a better chance now.”

Can we save the fireflies? »

Jul 21, 2017
The Wild Strawberry That Isn’t a Weed!
53:12

Most people think the phrase “wild strawberry” only refers to a vining plant that invades your lawn with tasteless fruits. On the next You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath will introduce you to a wild strawberry that’s worth the eating. Plus: Billy Penn plans for the greening, and your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

I heard you mention wild strawberries on a show last year, and how the small plants were used to develop modern strawberries. I was happy to hear that discussion as I have a story about them. About 25 years ago we were visiting friends who live near Sellersville PA, and they told us they had wild strawberries in their back field. We were skeptical, but they told us that the plants were fruiting, so we took a walk and finally noticed some small plants with the right-shaped leaves. After some searching through the leaves we found a few ripe fruits that looked like miniature strawberries, about 1/4″ wide at the most. They burst with a flavor that was at least as intense an any full-sized strawberry I’ve ever tasted.

We’ve always liked wild berries, and asked if we could dig up a few and take them back to our home in Southern Delaware County. The small plants had barely any roots, but they took hold and spread in every direction. They now cover an area of about 200 square feet, and in late spring we can generally find a few berries a day for several weeks. (I suspect that birds and slugs are also getting some.) It now occurs to me that I could use them as a ground cover in some of the small flower beds around the house. We love seeking out the green leaves and white flowers on our hands and knees every Spring. We only get three or four berries a day, but what a treat!

…But should I fear setting an invasive loose in the neighborhood? (They are so hardy and persistent that they’ve pushed out some Creeping Charlie!)
David in Ridley Park, PA

What’s going on here? »

Jun 30, 2017
Controlling Slugs and Using Grass Clippings Wisely
52:57

’Tis the season for slugs to do their ravenous damage to your plants overnight. On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath gives the lowdown on suppressing those often-unseen slimers. Plus: the only proper place for your grass clippings; and your fabulous phone calls!

Questions of the Week:

My wife and I have always composted our lawn clippings, but recently moved and our new backyard backs up to a golf course (with a creek and about five yards of wooded area in between). The previous owner says that the lawn is untreated, but the golf course obviously treats their turf heavily. Will we be able to continue to compost our clippings, despite the potential for run-off and cross contamination?
—Evan in Philadelphia, PA


Do you have any expert advice on how to control slugs? They have eaten the beans I planted, killed my flowers and are now on my basil leaves. I put a pie plate of saltwater out, but fear the problem will just get worse thru the summer as the veggies grow. Is there any commercial product I should be using around the garden?
—Deanna in Eastern Montgomery County (near Philadelphia)

A special summer double-header »

Jun 23, 2017
The Wonderful World of Melons
52:57

You say cantaloupe; I say muskmelon. On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath discusses that mis-naming of tropical melons and what it takes to grow these tasty treats of summer. Plus: the plant science in your backyard; and the answers to all your growing questions.

Question of the Week:

I have a ‘flat earth’ plot in a community garden here in Shawnee. My 7-year-old son Jack loves cantaloupe (aka muskmelon) and demanded that we try to grow some this year, so the pressure is on me to deliver. I haven’t tried to grow them before, but a couple of our other gardeners have told me they haven’t had any luck with them. Back around May 1st, we started some plants from seed under the lights I use to start tomatoes. Now what? A few websites say to use black plastic to keep the soil warm. Do you have any advice?

—Chris in Shawnee, Kansas
Is that a muskmelon or a cantaloupe? »

Jun 16, 2017
Full of Bees? Must be Swarming Time!
52:57

How would you react to having a tree filled with bees? On the latest episode of You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath discusses the crazy sights you can see during swarming season. Plus: how soil is going to save us all, and your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

We’re a horticultural society that runs a community garden. We suddenly have lots of wasps in the garden, especially by the edges of our mulched pathways. Can you help with identification? And a way to eliminate them? We do not like to kill bugs but there are children walking in this area and people actively gardening. Thank you so much.

—Anne in Ontario

The true identity of Anne’s wasps »

Jun 09, 2017
The Positives and Perils of Volunteer Potatoes
53:13

Potatoes are fun to grow–and you always miss a few at harvest time. On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath discusses what to do if these valuable volunteers pop up in the middle of another planting the following season. Plus: your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week:

“Every fall I accidentally leave some potatoes in the ground, and the next spring new ‘volunteer’ plants come up in the same spot super early in the season. I pull them out because I rotate my beds and always plan to grow something else there. But is it possible to deliberately plant potatoes in the fall and leave them in the ground over winter?”

— Steve in Bucks County, Pennsylvania

 

Learn how to harvest your potatoes »

Jun 02, 2017
Do trees NEED mulch? And can a tree survive severed roots?
53:42

Do trees really NEED mulch? And can their roots be safely severed during construction? On this week’s episode of You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath reveals some surprising truths about trees. Plus: Square Foot Gardening legend Mel Bartholomew. And your fabulous phone calls!

Questions of the Week:

I’m about to put an addition on my house that will require a foundation being built approximately six to eight feet from a well-established maple tree that’s about 30 to 40 feet high. The builder says there’s a chance the tree will die when the roots are cut during trenching. Is there anything I can do to help increase the tree’s odds of survival? Many thanks,
—Mia in Yellow Springs, OH


Do I really need to mulch around my trees or is it just a matter of aesthetics? I don’t like the ‘mulched circle’ look around the base of trees, so when I planted mine about twenty years ago, I just let grass grow up to the trunks. It looks natural. But recently a tree trimmer said that my trees looked “dry” and that I should dig out the grass and mulch them. Sounds crazy to me. What do you think?
—Rob in Clarksville, MD

Learn the truth about trees »

May 26, 2017
Can Mulching Hurt Your Garlic Crop?
52:57

Could leaving mulch in place possibly harm your garlic harvest? In this week’s edition of You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath discusses how to grow glorious garlic. Plus: a database that tells you what to plant to attract your favorite birds. And your fabulous phone calls.

Question of the Week:

I put leaf mulch on my garlic after I plant it in the Fall to retain moisture and keep out weeds. My question is: when do I remove the leaf mulch? I’m worried that it will cause the garlic to rot.
—Kathy in Hopewell, New Jersey

Can leaf mulch hurt your garlic crop? »

May 19, 2017
How to ‘Seed Bomb’ Responsibly
53:28

What could possibly go wrong if you spread some of your saved seeds around a lake? On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath discusses whether it’s ever a good idea to introduce the seeds of landscape plants into a wet area. Plus: your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

I saved seeds from some of my favorite perennials last season. Do you think they would germinate If I were to walk around a lake and drop them here and there? If not, what can I do with them? I’m just trying to make the world a better place!
—Pauline in Reading, Massachusetts
Is it wise to spread perennial seeds in the wild? »

May 12, 2017
Long Live Square Foot Gardening!
53:27

Want to grow twice as much in half the space with half the work? In this week’s edition of You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath celebrates Square Foot Gardening–the great Mel Bartholomew’s method of growing in grids and raised beds. Plus, answers to all your growing questions.

Question of the Week:

Learn the Ten Commandments of Square Foot Gardening here &raquo

May 05, 2017
All About Violets
53:27

Wild violets are beautiful but ephemeral—especially when a landlord can’t wait to mow them down! On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath will discuss how to try and save these wonderful wild things! Plus: Equal time for African violets; and your fabulous phone calls.

Question of the Week:

“Every spring a portion of our lawn is a carpet of wild violets. I love it, but our landlord doesn’t. He hates all flowers and wants a sterile lawn. (A neighbor planted flowers that climbed up her trellis—a feat she accomplished despite having only one hand—and one day she came home to discover that he’d ripped out the flowers and trashed the trellis!)

To the point: I love plants, especially violets. Is there a way to grow them indoors? Once the lawn is mowed, they’ll be gone until next year. I see questions in your archives from people who want to get rid of them – why? They’re so very beautiful!”
—Cynthia in Nashville
Can you grow violets indoors?

Apr 28, 2017
How to decipher compost testing results
53:27

Compost made by local municipalities can be a great resource — if you know how to decipher the paperwork that comes with it. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, reveals what all those numbers mean to your plants. Plus your fabulous phone calls.


Question of the Week:

I have been going to the recycling center in Fairmount Park and bringing home buckets of their free compost. But as I listen to you more carefully I’m wondering if the compost is full of pesticides. An analysis from the soil lab at Penn State is posted at their website, but I don’t know how to make sense of it. Can you help? I know I should just make my own. And I’m working on getting a worm bin set up!

— Lucinda in the Germantown section of Philadelphia

 

Find out if it’s good compost or bad compost »


Highlights from show for April 23, 2016:

Manure for compost

Suzie in Southern, California has a miniature pony and horse. She collects their manure and places it in piles. In order to do that, she scoops it at the expense of her bad back. Because of her back she wants to know if there is a manure in particular, that is already composted to save her less work. Mike tells her horse manure is just rich in nitrogen and will inhibit fruiting, but sheep manure would be her best fit, because she wouldn’t even have to compost it. He says after she collects the sheep manure, she only would have to place it under the fruit trees and it’ll do the rest. Also horse manure contains too much nutrients that’ll just over-fertilize the crops; therefore sheep manure would work best.

Troublesome voles

Mark in Appleton, Wisconsin has a vole problem and wants to know how to get rid of them. Mike suggests he get rid of the wood mulch he has, because that is where the voles are living and is no good for his landscape. After he gets rid of the mulch, Mike tells him to spray it with a concentrated castor oil product heavily in the Spring to introduce a bad smell in the ground that’ll make voles move away. If that doesn’t seem to work; Mark then could set up a trap in the soil to catch them.

Troubled tree

Mike in Washington, New Jersey has 2 acres of trees on his property. He suspects the bark and limbs on the trees are beginning to fall apart; believing termites are the problem. Mike tells him, it’s probably not termites attacking, because they usually eat dead wood. He says the limbs detaching is normal, but for people passing by under it is dangerous. He suggests calling a certified arborist for a pruning job over the winter to help the trees recover.

Apr 21, 2017
Selective feeding is better for the birds-and you!
53:27

Could it possibly be bad to feed your birds? On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath reveals how to use well-timed feedings to get those birds to eat your bad bugs! Plus: how to get your landscape certified as a healthy habitat for wildlife, and your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

When should I stop putting suet in my feeders? I have filled them up all winter and have had lots of wanted visitors; and the squirrels have (mostly) been defeated by a greased pole! But should I still be filling the feeders now that it’s getting warmer? The birds are still stopping by. Should I gradually stop? Any advice?
-Paula in Cinnaminson, New Jersey

How to keep your avian visitors happy year-round »

Apr 14, 2017
YBYG live from the Philadelphia Flower Show
53:26

Is it possible to grow landscape plants in a bed of aggressive ivy? On this week’s You Bet Your Garden we’ll answer that question and many more—live from the floor of the famed Philadelphia Flower Show! That’s a very special edition of You Bet Your Garden live on stage.

Question of the Week:

Mike here: I’ve had the honor of speaking at the Phabulous Philadelphia Flower Show pretty much every year since sometime back in the early nineties; and thanks to our magnificent friends at the Show, we were able to record this year’s talk—a lively Q & A with a great crowd of almost 400 people—to create a special ‘live’ edition of our Public Radio show, You Bet Your Garden…
Mike answers audience questions »

Apr 07, 2017
Maybe taking a year off from your garden isn’t so bad!
53:42

What should you do when a garden has to sit empty for season? Mike McGrath reveals how you can take a year off and improve your soil, kill weed seeds and disrupt disease! Plus the maven of moss, author Annie Martin talking about her new book The Magical World of Moss Gardening.


Question of the Week:

“For various and sundry reasons there is a strong possibility I may have to take a break from my garden this year. I won’t be able to plant, weed, water, etc. Is there something I can do that would help the garden benefit from this time off? I have six raised beds that are each four feet by 12 feet. In the winter they are each covered with black plastic to keep out weed seeds until spring, and at the beginning of the season when the plastic is pulled off they are perfect; just bare soil and compost. It would be nice when I do go back to gardening to have done something good for the soil while I was gone. And it would also be nice not to have it all turn into a field of weeds! I love the show and thank you so much for your help!”

— Jana in Matawan, New Jersey

 

Learn how to care for your garden during off-time »


Highlights from show for March 26, 2016:

Apples and aphids

Kristen in West Chester, Pennsylvania, has an apple tree that bore tons of fruit this year, yielding a lovely and tasty variety of apples, but they all had a black tar-like film on them. She said the film comes off when the apples are scrubbed down, and she speculates it might be fungus. The tree is a standard tree standing at 10 to 25 feet tall. Mike tells Kristen it’s probably not fungus at all, but rather aphid frass(excretions). Aphid frass is black, sweet, and sticky. Fungus, he says, would have permeated the skin and run into the flesh. Mike advises Kristen to mail-order a quart or a gallon of ladybugs, hose the tree down with water, and release the lady bugs after sunset. Then, the ladybugs will breed in the tree and their offspring will eat the aphids.


Destructive caterpillars

Bernard in Medford, New Jersey has an old smoke tree with a caterpillar problem. He tried spraying it, but the caterpillars keep coming each August and stripping the tree down anyway. Mike says using systemic insecticide will kill bees and butterflies and other pollinators you need when the tree flowers. After hearing that the tree leaves each year, Mik

Featured Interview: Mossin’ Annie

Annie Martin, otherwise known as Mossin’ Annie, was welcomed onto the show this week to speak with our producer, Alexis Landis. Annie is a plant rescuer, farmer, landscape designer, lecturer, educator, and author. Born and raised in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, she passionately advocates the advantages of gardening with eco-friendly mosses by imparting how-to knowledge from a practical point of view. She has earned her reputation as an expert through years of personal research and experimentation with moss gardening methods. Mossin’ Annie emphasizes environmental benefits to our world while placing value on the interconnectedness of nature and the human spirit.


Who eats adult mosquitoes?

Carol in Califon, New Jersey has a question about mosquitoes: who actually eats adult mosquitoes? She heard that bats and dragonflies typically feed on these tiny insects, but was skeptical. Mike says that bats, in fact, don’t primarily feed on mosquitoes because they’re not out for very long, so when they hunt, they look for larger prey. He also adds that the biggest consumers of mosquitoes outdoors are dragonflies and birds – specifically, in this region, birds like swallows.


Creeping Charlie

Bill in Penn’s Creek, Pennsylvania uses shredded leaves to mulch his asparagus beds. Lately, the beds have been invaded by a weed called creeping charlie. He says the creeping charlie crawls under the mulch and loves it. He used a weed burner, to eradicate the creeping charlie, but fears he might have accidentally cooked the asparagus. In doing so, he might have also burned up the eggs of beetle pests. However, Mike suggests focusing on the source of the creeping charlie, and asks where the creeping charlie is coming from. Bill says the asparagus is around the perimeter of his lawn by a fence, and mike suggests getting some better edging for the asparagus bed, to keep the grass (and the creeping charlie) out for good.


Planning a permaculture garden

Steve in East Hampton, New Jersey is a senior in the environmental science program at Stockton University. He is working on a class project, trying to begin a permaculture garden. He wants to design a garden that is full of perennial vegetables – things that are enticing to eat and can be picked on the way to class. Raspberries, Mike says, are the perfect fruit because they’re so low-maintenance. He also suggest blueberries, but he says the soil must be very acidic and the bushes would have to be protected from birds.

Mar 31, 2017
Mosquito identification and eradication
53:13

The Zika virus has people worried sick, and it seems that gardeners may be among the most at risk. Mike McGrath devotes the entire hour of this week’s show to mosquito identification and non-toxic methods of eradication.

Mosquitoes are hot in the news now with the intense worry about the spread of Zika virus, and mosquito season is right around the corner. Mike speaks with Dr. Dina Fonseca, professor of entomology in the school of public health at Rutgers University, about ways to prevent mosquito’s from thriving in your landscape and ways to protect yourself from being bit. Dr. Fonseca has specific and extensive experience with developing tools to examine the introduction, expansion, and transformation of invasive species especially disease vectors, and how they affect local and worldwide disease transmission. She says the vast majority of public health programs do not cover vector-related diseases. Recently, she was summoned to give information at a congressional hearing featuring testimonies by the heads of the CDC and NAID.

In the interview, Dr. Fonseca speaks about protective clothing, bug repellent, and environmental measures you can take to manage mosquitoes. For example, you can use lemon eucalyptus as a bug repellent, because it is as effective as DEET, but has fewer harmful chemicals (just make sure to reapply often!). Also, treat containers of standing water with BTI to kill mosquito offspring upon hatching.

Read the published study that Mike and Dr. Fonseca discussed about the effectiveness of spraying BTI over large areas »

Music credit: The Mosquito Song by Kathy Johnston


Question of the Week:

You can greatly diminish the number of mosquitoes that would otherwise plague your backyard this summer by taking action now.

 

Special Report: Moderating Menacing Mosquitoes »


Mar 24, 2017
Beat the Beetles
53:28

Flea beetles are the bane of eggplant growers! On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath discusses how to use clay to turn them away. Plus: what potential harm can a warm winter do to our poor plants? And your fabulous phone calls!

Question of the Week:

I always have a problem with flea beetles on my eggplant. I follow your advice and grow the plants under row covers when they’re young, but the beetles attack as soon as I take the row covers off for pollination. I sometimes use “Pyola”—but would “Surround” kaolin clay spray work better and longer to control them?
—Deb in “Wagon Town” in Chester County, Pa

Will a spray of clay conquer the beetles of flea? »

Mar 17, 2017
Weeds in the Walkway
52:57

Brick walkways are great–if you’re a weed looking for a place to live! On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath will reveal how to turn this problem into an opportunity. Plus an inside look at this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show.

Question of the Week:

I’ve been searching for a responsible way to keep my very large brick terrace free of weeds. (I will not use Roundup.) All the advice I can find is about weeds in garden beds or lawns, not growing up between bricks. I tried pulling the weeds out by hand after a good rain but they keep returning.
“Newbie” in Alexandria, VA

How to deal with weeds in walkways »

Mar 10, 2017
Growing unruly forsythia
52:57

What’s the deal when forsythia starts growing sideways? On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath will discuss the layering aspect of this abundant Spring bloomer; and reveal how its extra sugars can cut your Japanese beetle problems in half!

Question of the Week:

I currently have a forsythia that is growing along the ground. I heavily pruned it after flowering last year (after letting it grow out of control for years). Is there something I should do to control it now? Or just leave it be?
—Jason in Kettering, Ohio

What to do when forsythia becomes a ground cover »

Mar 03, 2017
How to beat a late frost
52:57

Do you fear losing your fruits to a late freeze? On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath will reveal the fruits that are the most frost-free. Plus everything you need to know about drip irrigation and your fabulous phone calls.

Question of the Week:

First of all, love your show and can’t thank you enough for your efforts. Keep it up forever!!
Now: I’ve been vegetable gardening for seven years and have had a place of my own for three years now. On that one acre, I have raspberries, blueberries, red and black currants, red and black elderberry, chokecherry, gooseberry, serviceberry, apples, pears, paw-paw, etc….
I’m wondering if you can steer me towards fruiting trees and shrubs that are less susceptible to being blasted when a warm winter is followed by a ‘normal’ cold snap at the beginning of Spring. That’s what happened to a lot of us last winter (2016), and I can only imagine it will happen more often. As I plant more of my acreage, I would like to concentrate on crops that set their fruit later.
—Charles in Vernon, Connecticut

How not to lose fruits to frost »

Feb 24, 2017
How to choose a greenhouse
53:54

What can you really expect a greenhouse to do for you? On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath will explain how the best ones can give you a happy harvest, while the cheap ones will just stress you out.

Question of the Week:

I find your show to be interesting and helpful. I recently read your article at the Gardens Alive website about greenhouses and was wondering if you had any recommendations for a specific greenhouse I could buy in the two-hundred-dollar price range. I realize this is a super tight budget, but it’s all I can afford, especially considering that I’ll still have to buy a lot of other supplies.
– Sallie in Richmond, Virginia

What can an Inexpensive Greenhouse Do for You? »

Feb 17, 2017
The real meaning of your Valentine’s Day bouquet
53:28

What hidden message can a Valentine’s Day bouquet convey? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden will demystify the secretive “Language of Flowers.” Plus — Mike talks with author Andrew Moore about Paw Paw trees; and your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week:

This week’s ‘question’ is more of an answer for people who didn’t know to ask the correct question, which is: “What message does my Valentine’s Day bouquet convey”?

Become fluent in the language of flowers »

Feb 10, 2017
Can you plant something new where another plant perished?
53:57

Is it safe to plant something new in the same spot a previous plant perished? On this week’s You Bet Your Garden we’ll say yes! And no and maybe … plus your fabulous phone calls.


Question of the Week:

Greetings from Zone 6a in the Great White North! Before I heard your warning that peaches are a difficult fruit tree to manage, I planted a Red Haven. I struggled with it for five years as the amber ooze just kept getting worse. Last year some of the ooze was hanging two to three inches down on all of the branches and the tree finally succumbed. Can I plant anything in that spot now or is this condition still in the remaining roots of the peach tree and the soil and likely to spread to any newly planted item? I am considering a fig tree.
-Bruce in Toronto

Is the soil the problem? »

Feb 03, 2017
Are opossums dangerous or nature’s helpers?
53:28

Is there anything weirder than America’s native marsupial? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will discuss whether danger or benefit lurks behind the beady eyes of opossums! Plus: Mike speaks with Howard Garrett, AKA The Dirt Doctor, about fighting fire ants with a plant you would never suspect; and answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week:

“We’re attaching photos of some holes that we’ve just noticed the past couple of days. We have a fenced-in yard and the holes are on the outside of the fence; several holes all along the fence line. Do you know what could be doing this? I know we’ve had some opossums in the yard lately as our dog chases them away frequently. Could they be the culprit? Thanks for any help you can offer.”

— Bob & Peg in Locust Grove, Virginia

 

Are the opossums helpful or hurtful? »


Highlights from show for February 1, 2014:

Hot tub gardening

After hearing Mike sing the praises of raised-bed gardens, Tom from Cedar Hill, Tennessee wants to start his own to grow salad greens. But Tom wants to plant his garden in his old hot tub! Mike thinks the hot tub will make an excellent giant container garden. He advises to Tom drill holes for drainage and then fill the hot tub with lightweight stone and a mix of professional mix, compost, and perlite. Mike also gives Tom a tip about growing salad greens: “Line it up so that you can run some row covers down the center for your salad greens. You can grow salad greens all winter long, so you’ll grow your summertime plants on the outskirts, run salad greens down the center, you should go to town!”


Making the dream of growing your own tea a reality

Debra from Wagon Town, Pennsylvania calls to ask Mike about her amaryllis. The amaryllis has thrived for many years, but after a recent proliferation of small bulbs around the two central bulbs the plant did not bloom this year. Mike explains the basics of amaryllis care: cutting off the seed-head, feeding the bulbs, taking the plant outdoors in the summertime, and allowing the plant three months of total dormancy. He advises Debra to remove the small bulbs and cultivate them separately: “I would just be brave, just snap one off. Take it in your hands, think of somebody from back in the old prom days and snap that sucker right off. Be fearless! And I don’t think that you’re going to hurt those two main bulbs.”


Special guest Howard Garrett

Mike spoke with Howard Garrett, AKA The Dirt Doctor who has a surprising way to fight fire ants. Many people think of fire ants as a Southern problem, but Mike notes that they have been seen as far north as Virginia and Howard agrees that they are creeping in that direction. The mystery ingredient is Mistletoe, which Howard advises chopping up and putting in and around the fire ant mound in several ways that Howard details in his interview. This will drive the ants away. But always be safe with your practices as fire ants can be very dangerous! Similar to a yellow jackets nest, you want to approach a fire ant mount with care as their bites can really pack a wallop.


— This week’s post was written by Marissa Nicosia, You Bet Your Garden intern

Jan 27, 2017
The Joys of Sweet Corn

One of the true joys of summer is home grown sweet corn. On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath will reveal how you can extend that happy harvest by at least six weeks! Plus your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week:

I’m in USDA Zone 6a; is it possible to get two harvests of corn in a season with any specific varieties?
—Doug in metro Detroit

How to enjoy sweet corn all summer long »

Jan 20, 2017
Growing supermarket herbs is harder than it looks!
52:57

Have you ever tried to grow those tempting super market herbs that still have their roots attached? On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath will reveal why the task seems so hard—and suggest a better way to get herbal indoors. Plus your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week:

I’m an amateur gardener and cook. I buy live herbs at the grocery store for 2.99 each and repeatedly try—but fail—to keep them alive for more than two weeks in my kitchen. My house is on the water and gets a lot of light, but my kitchen faces North and West; and after just a few days cilantro, parsley, basil, sage, dill and everything but mint droop and then die. Please help; I set my alarm every Saturday to catch your show with my coffee!
– Michelle, near Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Mike to the rescue »

Jan 13, 2017
It’s our Annual Christmas Spectacular!
53:17

Hoe, hoe, hoe! That’s H O E, of course! Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will guide you through our annual Christmas Spectacular, featuring festive interviews about holiday plants, the great Kenn Kweder; and the beautiful voices of Nalani and Sarina!


Question of the Week:

“You once offered a solution to the problem of paperwhites drooping on your show. Could you repeat the info? Thanks so much!”

— Holly in Laurel Springs, “New Joysey”

 

Keeping Paperwhites Tidy and Poinsettias and Amaryllis Alive »


Dec 23, 2016
Should you cover your compost over the winter?
53:13

The holidays are fast approaching, and so a young man’s thoughts turn to … compost! Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will discuss whether it’s a good idea to cover your pile over the winter or to let it go commando. Plus your fabulous phone calls.


Question of the Week:

I’m using leaves, grass clippings, coffee grounds, etc. to make compost. Would it be helpful to cover the compost pile with a plastic tarp for the winter? Would that help break down the leaves and grass clippings? (I could water the pile if the cover would keep it too dry.)
—Henry in Ambler, PA

Compost 101 »

Dec 16, 2016
Learn how to safely plant a live Christmas tree
53:28

Thinking of buying and planting a truly live Christmas tree this holiday season? On this week’s You Bet Your Garden we’ll walk you through what you need to know to make the result merry and bright. Plus your fabulous phone calls.


Question of the Week:

We interrupt our regular programming to provide important help to all of the people who are going to buy a truly live Christmas tree this season; one with its roots all tucked up in burlap that they intend to plant in their landscape after the holidays are over.

Mike walks you through the process »


poinsettias

Poinsettia Plant

George from Nashville, Tennessee wants to know if his poinsettia will turn red again. He bought the plant last year during the holiday season and now its leaves are green. Mike informs George that they will turn red, just not on their own. These “fascinating plants”, as Mike calls them, in their natural habitat look nothing like the Christmas poinsettia we are all familiar with.

“The poinsettia is a tropical plant that is specially bred and heavily pruned to look that way” said Mike. “If this plant is given the correct care, the leaves in the center of the plant will turn red, and inside of the red are yellow true flowers.” They are given 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark, and this induces the red bracts in the center of the plant.

He recommends George to give them artificial light if he wants to turn his leaves red. Give the plant bright light for 12 hours and darkness for another 12, and in 60-90 days he should see his leaves changing from green to red. In the future, if George wants his poinsettia plant to turn red in time for the Christmas season, Mike also suggested to begin this process in late August or early September.


flowers-1696047_640

Crepe Myrtle Tree

Jon from Birdsville, New Jersey has a crepe myrtle tree that needs to be pruned. A few years ago, he planted half a dozen crepe myrtle trees that grew five or six feet tall. Currently, his trees are 15 feet and he wants to know what can do to scale back their height.

“Never prune anything in the fall,” Mike’s voice echoes in the background. He recommends that Jon pick an adequate height for the trees, and in the spring prune 2-3 weeks after the trees begin to grow again and take off the previous years growth.

Pruning in the spring will avoid crepe murder, in the words of Mike. It will also control the trees size and will help it bloom. Mike instructs George to make sure the height of the crepe myrtles is no more than 12 ft and not to take off more than half when pruning.

Dec 09, 2016
Find out how to rid your lawn of thatch!
53:28

Is your lawn full of thatch? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will reveal the surprising cause and even more shocking cure for that unsightly layer of brown down low. Plus your fabulous phone calls.


Question of the Week:

“My lawn has a heavy layer of thatch. Is there anything I can use to encourage it to decompose? Does this mean I am over-fertilizing?”

— Gayle in Columbus, OH

Thatch all, folks »


a dead hydrangea blossom

 

Pruning Hydrangeas

Joy from Ringoes, NJ planted amethyst hydrangeas last year and wants to know if she made a mistake by pruning them early this November. She pruned the dead flowers and pulled the dried flower heads off.

Mike informed Joy there is a difference in pruning and deadheading, which is removing the dried flower heads. The downside to deadheading is that birds may feed if there are seeds on the flower, and will sometimes use it for nesting. He also told Joy that pruning in November was not the best choice to make, although pulling her dried flower heads off would not have damaged the plant. Her flowers should be fine if she didn’t cut off many branches.

“Even if you have done the worst damage it would only cost you one season of bloom…the roots are very hearty.”

Mike ends with assuring Joy that these flowers have “inherent bloom in them” so don’t be discouraged in winter when they look like sticks.

“Leave the plant alone so it can have enough biomass to survive winter.”


exposed tree roots

 

Exposed Tree Roots

Bob in Coatesville, PA has exposed tree roots in his backyard and wants to spread compost around it. He also wants to know whether or not planting grass seed now will benefit him by next spring. He has collected compost for over twenty years with grass clippings and leaves and wants to revive his dying grass.

Mike suggests that if the roots are a significant problem, then Bob can cover the tree roots. “If you are tripping over the roots, or they are a problem, start spreading compost around lightly two inches deep; if it doesn’t cover, then wait and do it again.”

As for Bob’s dying grass, Mike advises not to plant grass seed, as it would lose its vigor in the winter. He should wait until mid-August, then sow his seed, but make sure that it matches his lawn. Bob also should also space out his grass seed in proximity to his tree. The area underneath the tree should be free of other plants.

“Grass does not grow naturally beneath the canopy of a large tree.”

Bob should create an area under the tree that looks nicely mulched with black compost around it.

Dec 02, 2016
How To Grow Rosemary in the Cold

Keeping rosemary alive furiously frustrates growers in cold climes. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, reveals how to grow a small tree in areas where ice storms are imminent. Plus answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week:

“I try every year to grow rosemary. It does great but does not return after winter. Is there a certain type of rosemary that would be more hardy over the winter, or should I pot it for the first year or two, and then transplant it permanently into my herb garden? We’d like to have a really tall and bushy rosemary.”

— Dan in Sellersville, PA

 

Turning Christmas Rosemary into a Full-Time Plant »


Nov 25, 2016
Are all wood mulches created equal?
53:16

Are all wood mulches equally bad for plants? Mike McGrath host of You Bet Your Garden, reveals which wood mulch actually makes a really good  mulch— if you use it correctly. Plus Mike speaks with fruit expert Lee Reich about his favorite fruits and of course, your fabulous phone calls. 

Question(s) of the Week:

We had several large trees go down during hurricane Matthew and so we spread the resulting wood chips in an island in the middle of our driveway that contains palmetto trees and a large magnolia. Was that okay? And do we need to routinely treat the area with a fungicide and high nitrogen fertilizer to offset the potential nitrogen robbing and fungus producing qualities of the wood chips? – Ted in Edisto Island, South Carolina

I recently came across a 2007 article from Washington State University that seems to refute much of what you’ve said about the dangers of using wood mulch. Now I’m confused. Care to comment? – Tom in New Britain, PA

Yes, Virginia, there is a good wood mulch »

Nov 18, 2016
What should your raised beds be filled with?
53:16

Snails? Nails? Puppy dog’s tails? What should your raised beds be filled with? On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath will reveal why the answer is definitely NOT tilled-in leaves. Plus your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week:

I’m making raised beds for my veggies; four feet wide, as you’ve suggested. I’ve filled them with soil and was wondering about amendments. Thus far I’ve added peat moss and composted cow manure. Do you recommend adding perlite and vermiculite? I’m also tilling in some double-shredded leaves. Is this OK? – Henry in Ambler, PA

Mike talks tilling »


Squash Bugs

Cindy from Topeka, Kansas is concerned about squash bugs damaging her plants. They crawl on her squash and leave much of the vines wilted.She would like to get rid of them, but without using chemicals.

“One of the problems with squash bugs is that they transmit disease to the plants”, Mike says. This disease can be worse for the plant.

Cindy is growing plants in raised beds, as well as flat earth and starts planting seeds in February. Mike suggests she not rush the season by planting so early and “start out with the healthiest transplants and don’t put them outside until the night’s temperature are in the 50’s consistently.” He also recommends placing row covers with hoops on her plants early in the season until the flowers form on the plants.

“The plants will be much stronger, much bigger and much better able to resist attack.”

Another non-chemical alternative is attracting toads to her garden. “Toads are a voracious predator.” Mike strongly recommends Cindy read YBYG’s article on attracting toads to your garden.


Spotted Lanternfly

Ken from Berks County, PA wants to alert residents in the surrounding counties of the Spotted lanterfly. This “invasive insect”, as described by Mike, was imported and has been in the US since 2014.

Ken provides an in-depth description of the insect. He informs Mike that it looks like a butterfly, very colorful, and goes after fruit trees and grapevines. When these insects nest for the winter, the adults die.

Mike cautions people not to transport wood around. “It is imperative that people not move firewood around and inspect your plants and look for egg masses.”


lacecap hydrangeas

Lacecap Hydrangeas

Barbara from Malvern, PA recently moved into a new house and was left with four lacecap hydrangeas in the garden. The first year they bloomed, but she is wondering whether or not she should begin to prune them?

“Do not prune anything in the fall,” Mike tells her. He informs Barbara that pruning stimulates growth and that the plants “need to send that energy down to the root system to survive winter.” Mike also warns that new growth may be damaging to the plants if they receive a harsh winter. This past winter was one of the warmest winters in history, with plants not going as dormant, so she is off to a good start.

Barbara tells Mike that she has a mixture of compost and manure for her plants and he advises against using manure on flowering plants. He recommends using just compost.

“Your plants will green up at the normal time and start to produce flowers,” he says. “Then that is the only safe time to prune hydrangeas.”


Flat Earth Garden

Bradley from Morehead City, North Carolina is concerned with his church’s flat earth garden. The church grows vegetables and donates them to a local food bank. They fertilize with horse manure and Bradley suggests they should consider using hardwood leaf shredded compost as an alternative.

Mike suggests that if they are having success with their garden, let their vegetables continue to thrive.

“If somebody is doing something and they’re having repeated success, I don’t see any reason to change that just because philosophically or ideally it wouldn’t work for other people.”
Mike thinks that maybe there is a symbiotic relationship with the horses and sandy soil in North Carolina, or that there are nutrient differences based on what the horses eat. It could also be that while the soil doesn’t hold nutrients well, it does drain well and contains minerals.

Mike suggests to “congratulate them on their success and not to change a thing.”

“This is good advice for me as well,” Mike said. “No matter how much I believe something is going to happen, nature and physical reality will always throw you a wild card.”

Nov 11, 2016
Keeping Your Plants at a Distance
52:57

Is it ever OK to plant right up against the house? On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath will help you correctly distance your horticulture. Plus: How fig trees started it all and may save us all in the end. Or prevent the end. And your fabulous phone calls.


Question of the Week:

“Are there ornamental grasses or other plants with less invasive roots that I can plant right up next to my house? I have a brick home with a concrete foundation and would like to plant something next to the house to cover up the first brick or two and give some ‘volume’ right next to the house. Obviously, moisture and roots are problems I have to worry about. I know that the conventional advice is to plant further out than the plant’s dripline. But is there anything I can plant closer in, right up against the house?”-Phil in Wyndmoor, PA

Find out how close you can plant next to a house »

Image: filarwilliams

Nov 04, 2016
Can the grisly groundcover Creeping Charlie possibly be any good?
52:57

Creeping Charlie sounds like a character in an old monster movie, but is this aggressive groundcover eminently evil—or just misunderstood? On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, we will open the castle doors and let Charlie creep right in. Plus your fabulous phone calls.


Question of the Week:

“I unknowingly made a huge mistake by mowing over a patch of creeping Charlie last fall and it has now taken over almost ALL of our backyard. We have small children so we wanted to solarize the entire yard with clear plastic sheeting instead of spraying poison. Is it too late for that this year? If it is too late, when should we try? Are there any other methods that are “safe”? We were hoping to have a nice lawn by next Spring but now I think that might be impossible.”
-Holly in Silver Spring, Maryland

“My lawn is two-thirds covered with Creeping Charlie. My lawn guy recommended applying weed killer this Fall, but I’m balking as I hate chemicals—and he says my lawn would be all muddy in the Spring. So—If I use the 20 Mule Team Borax home-made herbicide solution as described in your A to Z article on creeping Charlie, when would be the best time to apply it? Or would you just leave Charlie alone to finish killing the lawn and be happy ever after? (Not counting my having to periodically weed the flower beds.)”
-Susana in Minneapolis

Mike ponders this persistent plant»

Oct 28, 2016
Top Ten Tips for your Landscape this Fall
53:13

That chill in the air means it’s prime time for chores! Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will reveal Ten Tips that’ll help you have an awesomely agricultural Autumn — indoors and out. Plus answers to all your growing questions.

A Dozen Things to Do in Fall – and One Big Don’t »


Photo by Flickr user Chiot’s Run

Highlights from show:

Correcting tree damage

Whitney in South Philadelphia shares her story about a blood Japanese maple tree who’s trunk has been nibbled on by her well meaning dog. After the dog bite the poor tree is now about 1 ft/10 inches with a leafless trunk/sticking out the top and huge leaves sprouting out the bottom creating a mini bush look. Mike tells her to leave it alone and await the results. “Pull it close to your house in a sheltered spot with shredded leaves” he consoles her. He suggests waiting to see if it leafs out next year. Although if it survives, it may resemble a red maple shrub. On the bright side she will have a unique looking plant.


Where’d these tomatoes come from?

David in Cherry Hill, NJ has cherry tomato plants going bonkers. He never imagined himself becoming an “accidental gardner”, but one day he recognized lots of golden cherry tomatoes growing in his yard. He wants to know how they started growing and will they come back next year? Mike answers him with a definite yes that they will come back next year and the resolution to this tomato booming mystery in his backyard. Mike poses that maybe, a squirrel brought a tomato into his yard or a seed blew over a fence and conceived those plants. If he would like to continue growing them for next year, Mike advises taking the seeds from the tomato’s and putting them in a glass of water, stirring them twice a day for three days. This will remove the gelatinous covering. Then David can air dry them and save them for next year.


Mexican beetles

Tara in Reading, PA has a Mexican bean beetle problem! Although at first she thinks they are lady bugs, but Mike sets her straight. They have been demolishing Tara’s wonderful string beans. Tara is growing in flat ground, which may be the problem Mike says. He suggests that Tara build raised beds with a good soil mixture of shredded leaves and compost. Finally he recommends a pressurized sprayer and if the insects do come back, to spray them with sharp streams of water, first thing in the morning and put bird baths and toads in her garden that will prey on these pests.


Planting young trees

Todd in Warrington, PA needs advice on some young trees that he planted in pots with his daughter. He wants to know if he should keep his plants in pots or plant them in the ground for the Winter. Mike gives him two options as to what he thinks he should do. First, he can take them out of their pots and plant them in the ground, with roots above ground. Mike warns to not amend the soil or mulch with any kind of wood and not to touch the trunks. His second option is, if he wishes, to keep them in the pots, but drop the pots into the ground. This way the roots will be underground under the frost-line and the trees will be protected.

Oct 21, 2016
Rock Your Raised Beds with Rock Mulch!
52:57

“Rock Mulch” would be a great name for a band, but does it make sense in a flowerbed? Mike McGrath will review the reality of trying to prevent weeds with river rock. Plus your fabulous phone calls.


Question of the Week:

“My wife and I just moved into our first home in May of this year. We’re currently in the process of trying to address all of the landscaping neglect that has affected the yard over the years and trying to make the yard ‘our own’ at the same time. The previous owner put down what looks to be ¾-inch river rock in all of the landscape beds around the house. The stone goes down at least 1-2 inches. I know the stone is expensive, and it seems to be effective as a weed block but it makes planting/replanting troublesome and feeding difficult. I’m wondering what your thoughts are on the benefits of keeping the stone vs replacing it with a high quality compost. Thanks in advance. I’ve become a recent fan and listen to your podcasts daily.”
– Ryan in Wilmington, Delaware

Does river rock actually…rock? »

Oct 14, 2016
Can you really use railroad ties in your garden?
52:58

Old railroad ties are inherently dangerous, but are they actually illegal to use in the home landscape? Mike McGrath host of You Bet Your Garden will discuss the criminality of the colossal cancer columns.


Question of the Week:

“In the article in your “A to Z archives” concerning the use of old railroad ties for landscaping you say incorrectly that this practice is “illegal”. Even your own EPA link on the subject states that the agency does not “approve” creosote wood for home or landscape use. That means they don’t recommend it. It is only illegal to use creosote based pesticides, according to the link. State and local restrictions may apply, but to the best of my knowledge it has never been illegal here in Georgia. Please correct your mistake for your readers and listeners.”
-George in Americus, Georgia

Find out why Mike calls railroad ties ‘cancer columns’ »

Oct 07, 2016
Fruit trees, tar spot, leaf mulch and more with special guests Howard Garrett and Lee Reich
52:57

What do you do when you graft a Dirt Doctor and a fruiting spur? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will be joined by master fruit grower Lee Reich and Texas organic advocate Howard Garrett for a very special show that will include your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week:

“A large maple tree in my backyard developed black spots on all of the leaves this year. A maple belonging to my neighbors across the street has the same issue. I believe these may be ‘tar spots’. The trees otherwise seem to be doing fine. I suspect this happened last year as well but I wasn’t paying much attention then. Can I just use the leaves in my compost? Can I use them if I get my compost hot enough? And if so, how do I get it hot enough?”

— Simon in Windsor, Ontario, Canada

 

Learn more about identifying and using diseased tree leaves »


  • organic gardening

Highlights from show:

Fig Trees in Winter

Eric from outside of Philadelphia, has about a half a dozen fig trees, and attempts to grow them each year even though they seem to die after each cold winter. He wants to know how to produce them successfully in his garden, and what the issue might be. Lee Reich advises him to bury the figs alive in the ground so the trees won’t be exposed to low temperatures. Eric wants to know if maybe he could bring them into a garage over winter, but Lee warns that the trees still need a bit of cold, so it’s not best to bring them inside. Mike also warns not to use plastic to protect the trees, because it could create a green house effect and warm the trees too much.

Getting Rid of Sandburs

Cathy from outside of Oklahoma City in the country, has severe sandburs, and wants to know how to get rid of them. Howard who can relate to this scenario being an organic gardener in Texas, suggests that she build the available carbon in the soil to generate better growth. Howard believes that is the key to good soil.

Hot and Muggy Gardening Weather

Mona from Orlando, Florida has an herb garden and has a tough time managing the plants due to the hot and muggy weather there. Howard tells Mona to make sure the herbs are in raised beds, and to water very carefully making sure to not over water, which could really damage a plant especially Rosemary. Mike seconds that, saying Rosemary really doesn’t like “wet feet”. Mike says, to try a lot of perlite in the raised beds to improve drainage and retain moisture.

Overgrown Ivy

Andrew from Madison, Tennessee has several hackberry trees on his property. In the front of the yard, he has a huge one that is overgrown with ivy. He’s hacked at it and the vine just keeps coming back. Lee says to just keep an eye on it, and keep hacking away gently. All three suggest to get the ivy out of the tree, which will be beneficial for its growth and health.

Lots of Leaves

Larry from Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania lives in an area where there are so many leaves, that they had a company come out, and haul away nine dump trucks full, and needs suggestions on the right way to manage all the leaves. Howard recommends that he mulch the leaves into the turf no matter the amount piling up. If there is excess he can put that in a compost pile. Lee then suggests for him to get fencing material and pile the leaves so they can compost down. Lee and Mike disagree on the topic of shredding leaves. Mike is pretty adamant that all the leaves should be shredded to maximize the decomposition. Plus you can fit ten times the amount into bags if they’re shredded.

Fig Tree Trouble

Rita from Coatesville, Pennsylvania ordered a fig tree at one point, nurtured, and planted it while a baby, but as it grew she noticed a cylinder shaped saw dust coming out of the wood and there remained a hole. The tree eventually died. Is this a beetle? Lee thinks it might be the asian ambrosia beetle. He concludes it wasn’t so much the insect killing the tree, but may have been the fungus carried by the beetle killing the stem. Lee continues by adding he doesn’t have a definite cure but a peculiar smell added like cinnamon, and hot pepper painted around the bark might help.

Sep 30, 2016
The Sorrow of Wood Sorrel
52:57

The leaves look like clover but the flowers tell a different tale— and then they explode. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will try and help overcome the sorrows of wood sorrel. Plus: a quick course on nitrogen fixing; and answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the week:

I have had a ‘clover-looking’ growth invading my vegetable garden for a very long time. I now suspect it is wood sorrel (oxalis). I hadn’t been vigorously weeding it out because I thought it was clover and its root nodules were fixing nitrogen and enriching my soil. Does wood sorrel provide any such soil enhancement?
– Carol in Pennsbury Township in Southern Chester County (near Kennett Square PA)

The Not-So-Great Imposter »

 


tulips

 

Margaret hails from Enid, Oklahoma and wants to plant tulips in her garden. She became a master gardener in Arkansas and was informed that this flower is an annual, but recently read on the YBYG website that tulips do well if they are not overwatered or overfed. Mike thinks that the “warmer winter climate” would be the reason for the tulip information she received. He explained that some plants such as apples, peaches and blueberries have a “chilling requirement”, which is a certain hundred number of hours that the temperature drops below 40-45 degrees, and suggested that pre-chilled bulbs were purchased in Arkansas. It is possible to grow spring bulbs down in warmer climates, but advised her to purchase reliable ones: “the big red ones, or Species tulips.” The least reliable are the Darwin and the Parrot tulips.

In this climate, the tulips go underground to get away from “the summer searing heat”, become dormant, are watered by melted snow and bloom again in the spring. Mike warns Margaret not to cut their greenery off so they can grow, but overall her climate is great for growing tulips.

 


800px-Guignardia_bidwellii_(black_rot)_on_grape_2-1
 
Jeff from Irvin, PA has a dilemma involving his great-grandfather’s concord grapevine. His grapes have black rot and as a result, he cut the vine down. But, the fungus has spread to his roses, blackberries and peaches and he needs helpful advice on the next step. Mike suggested a yearly ritual of pruning and cleaning up after the season was finished. “The first rule of growing peaches, apples and grapes is to clean up the dead fruit at the end of the season so you can start off with a clean plate.”
He also gave tips on the best time to prune. Grapes should be pruned in the winter and peaches should be pruned as soon as they begin to flower. To solve Jeff’s problem, Mike recommended to clean up underneath the fruit, prune in the spring, and use yard waste compost. i.e. fall leaves. “Your plants will come back strong and healthy.”

 

Sep 23, 2016
Taming Out of Control Peonies
52:57

Many plants that people put in place to honor loved ones fail to thrive. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will try and figure out what to do when peonies are planted with a purpose, but are perhaps thriving a bit too much.


Question of the Week:
We love your show, listen every Sunday at noon on WYSO and have a question for you. We have six mature peonies around my Mother’s and Grandmother’s headstone. They are beautiful and bloom like crazy in May, but have grown so large that they are covering up their names. My Dad wants to cut them back; I don’t want to. Please advise.
-Susan in Southwestern Ohio

Here’s what to do when peonies block an important view »


Asian Hornbeam Trees

John from Yellow Springs, OH is concerned with his asian hornbeam trees. In April, his mother paid the local tree community $400 to plant two amelanchiers between the sidewalk and street. They unexpectedly got asian hornbeam trees instead of amelanchiers. John is perplexed because the planter left burlap below the wood mulch, and if the burlap remains the roots will girdle and the trees will die.
Mike advised John to wait until fall to after the leaves have fallen to dig up the tree, and take the wrapping off of the tree. “When you put it back in the ground , leave mulch overtop the soil, and spread out not deeper than 2 inches and not touching the trunk of the tree.” From there, John can water it and watch it grow!


Hydrangeas

Sarah from Hershey, PA wants to know why her hydrangeas haven’t bloomed in the last two years. She has a garden in Stoneharbor, NJ that has a bed of hydrangeas since the mid-90’s: four mophead and four lacecap. Professional landscapers prune them twice a year and Sarah wants to see her flowers bloom. She says they haven’t bloomed in the last two years and wants to know why.
Mike reminded Sarah of the “savage winters”, and its damaging effect on plants, including killing the top growth but saving the roots. He recommended her to cut off the part of the plant that is protecting the crown, and by doing that, will salvage the plant and “insulate the root system.” She should also not prune in the spring or fall and when she does, wait until the flowerheads form, then prune.

Sep 16, 2016
The proper way to propagate luscious plums!
52:57

European plums are the tastiest types. Mike McGrath host of You Bet Your Garden will plumb the depths of proper propagation, discuss the safe hunting and preparation of wild mushrooms in advance of Fungus Fest and answer all your growing questions.

Question of the Week:

I’m currently renting a house with an ‘Italian prune tree’ in the yard. We love these plums; they are delicious, and no one else seems to have this variety around here. We’re thinking about buying a place of our own in the future—no move actually slated yet—but we don’t want to lose out on these plums later down the road.

This tree sends up suckers all the time. Do you think it’s possible to dig a few of those up, temporarily pot them, and eventually move them to our future new home? Would the suckers produce the same type of plum? Or are plums commonly a tree that is grafted? If so, would we be better off trying to propagate a cutting from the branches? I’m assuming that starting a tree from seed isn’t a good idea as there are lots of ornamental plums around the neighborhood that our tree is likely ‘breeding’ with. Finally, regardless of the best way to ‘transport’ this tree, what’s the best time of year to do the work?

-Sara in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon

How to propagate a plum tree »

(Photo: Greg Jordan)

Sep 08, 2016
To Prune or not to Prune? That is the Question of Summer
52:57

We’re smack dab in the season of very bad pruning decisions! Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will answer questions about a hornbeam, a magnolia and some very unhappy fruit trees. Plus: Mike speaks with author Ken Druse about why shade is important in the age of climate change and your fabulous phone calls!

Photo: Pat Sullivan via AP Images


Question of the Week:

“When is the best time to trim a Magnolia tree? I have one whose branches are drooping down to the ground and the tree’s profile is uneven. Can it be trimmed without hurting it?”

— Marcus in Clarksville, Tennessee

Learn more about pruning trees in summer »



Highlights from show:

Loosestrife Finds a Way

Margee from Collegeville, PA heard a call a few weeks ago about propagating Purple Loosestrife and she had a few comments about this invasive plant. First of all, the sale of purple loosestrife is actually illegal in many states, as it has a tendency to push out native plants and generally disrupt the local ecosystem, however in some states it is still legal to sell a “noninvasive” or sterile variety of loosestrife. Unfortunately, as Margee notes, “sterile” only means that these cultivars aren’t capable of self-pollinating or even pollinating with other loosestrife plants of that same cultivar. Meaning that while these plants do produce seed, if that seed was pollinated with pollen from that same plant, or one of its many brothers and sisters, that seed won’t be viable. It’s not capable of eating its own tail, so to speak. However, when crossed with other varieties of loosestrife, or really with any other genetically compatible plant, they can, and very often will, produce viable seed, and they become just as invasive as its relatives. Mike notes that she is not the first person to call us about the loosestrife problem, only the nicest to do so. Mike had thought that the original call was interesting because he had never heard of a noninvasive cultivar of this plant and gave his advice assuming theoretically that the variety was indeed noninvasive. But Margee notes that she thought he’d handled it well with his warnings, as Mike had taken the same stance as Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park. “Life will not be contained. Life breaks free. It expands to new territories. It crashes through barriers, painfully and maybe even dangerously. Life finds a way.”

Raised Beds

Bill from Clinton, NJ has been a flatland gardener for quite some time, and in light of his weed problems this year, he’s decided to build raised beds. He wants to know what sort of stuff he should fill them with. Now, in terms of construction, Mike gives the following advice:

  1. Till the soil one last time. This will bring weed seeds to the surface, but there are ways of taking care of that.
  2. Construct areas no wider than four feet, but as long as you want. Mike recommends 4×8 foot beds, as they use standard sizes of lumber, and they’re easy to walk around.
  3. Make sure you have two-foot walking lanes between the beds.

Now, when Mike first built his raised beds, he discovered that with all of the soil he pulled out of the lanes and with all of the hoeing he had done, he had more than enough soil to fill the beds. His soil also didn’t need much lightening at first, but it’s never a bad idea to add perlite to lighten. “You will never regret that you added a lot, especially when we get really rainy times.” If times are dry, you should be watering your raised beds. Now that your soil is ready, the weeds will begin to emerge. Now, about two weeks after building the beds, get a really sharp hoe and gently slice off any plants that grow up out of the beds at the soil line. “That’s about 95% of all the weeds that’ll emerge in these raised beds.” And since you don’t step in the beds, you don’t ever need to plow them ever again. “You’ll just add an inch or two of fresh compost, every year, maybe mixed with more perlite.”

Featured Interview: Ken Druse

Mike speaks with Kyla Kruse, Communications Director for the Energy Education Council and she gives us some great tips on what kind of tree to select and how far to put it from power lines. When you are selecting a tree to plant she stresses thinking about how tall it will be in 10 years or 20 years and imagining what objects it might impact near by. Also don’t forget to check whats in the ground before you dig.

Zucchinis and Cucumbers

Sean from NW Pennsylvania has grey leaves on his zucchinis and cukes. Now, the cucumbers are growing on the ground, so Mike recommends that he give them some kind of structure to support them. If these plants are growing on wet ground, they’ll stay wet and get moldy. He recommends getting a tomato cage, or some kind of fence, or even just putting in a trellis. Anytime a plant is called a vine, that means it should get some sort of support, which mimics its natural state. The zucchini, on the other hand, are bush style, and they’re growing close together. Mike says that he spread them apart a bit. “I know this seems counterintuitive, but you’ll get more fruit and better fruit from four plants in a raised bed that have a lot of room in between them than eight or nine plants all jammed close together.” And this is for the same reason as the cucumbers. There needs to be a lot of air flow between the plants so that they can dry off, keeping them from rotting. He further recommends going in and pulling off any grey leaves before taking a closer look at those zucchini plants, determining which ones to keep and which ones to lose. “The more air you get around the plants, especially underneath the leaves, the better you’re gonna do in a wet season.”

Rhubarb Plants

Lillian from State College, PA has a couple fifty-year-old rhubarb plants that are growing quite well, with very thick stalks, but they are growing some tiny spindly stalks. She’s wondering if she has to transplant them. Now Mike doesn’t personally grow rhubarb, but he says that it’s an interesting and unique plant. For instance, there are dozens of fruits that we eat as vegetables, but rhubarb is the only vegetable we eat as a fruit. Mike could tell right away what was wrong the minute she told him how old it was. Every five years, the root system will become so internally crowded that production just drops off. What you need to do is, in the spring, or even in the fall, dig up the entire root, cut it up into pieces, then replant those pieces. “With a smaller plant, we would divide it maybe by pulling it apart with garden forks. This may need a chainsaw.” After all, this is a fifty-year-old plant. These sections should be planted in loose ground, up high. And then, in the spring, it won’t hurt to feed them with compost or worm castings, or even well-composted horse manure. After all, rhubarb is a nitrogen-loving plant. Just make sure that the manure no longer smells, and has no heat, as fresh manure is too weedy. “You’re gonna have tons of rhubarb. People are gonna be coming by to take it off your hands to make delicious rhubarb pie.”

Disappearing Cucumbers

John from Germantown, PA has a large raised bed garden, and in that garden is growing all sorts of things, including cucumbers. One day he went out and say five little cucumbers growing out there, but the next day, he saw they were gone. A few days pass, and this keeps happening until one evening, he sees a big fat field mouse running off with his cukes. Mike recommends that John go out and get a material called hardware cloth. It’s much like window screening, but made of thicker more durable material. Cut it to fit over your garden, sink it into the ground around the outside, then bend the tops out as a baffle, making a structure not unlike a barbed wire fence. This keeps them from scaling that tiny little fence. Mike also recommends a new style of mouse trap called “Rat Zapper.” Mice go in, and they don’t come out alive. “One or both of those is gonna be your answer.”

Sep 02, 2016
Why Some Weeds Might Be Better Left Alone
52:57

The plant known as porcelain berry vine provides food and shelter for wildlife and prevents erosion in sensitive ecological areas. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will discuss the ill advised notion of spraying it with kerosene and why some weeds are best left alone. Plus answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week:

Arlene in Silver Spring recently forwarded us an email from a friend of hers named Nancy. It reads: “Look carefully at these photos of porcelain berry vine so that you can identify this awful plant. It showed up here in Montgomery County (Maryland) some years ago and started taking over. The vines you see draped over everything along The Beltway are porcelain berry. It produces enormous numbers of lovely little berries that the birds adore…and each one can become a new plant when those birds poop out the seed.

“If you see a young plant, pull it right away, because the roots become very strong after the second year and are very hard to get out. It looks much like a grape vine, and has tendrils that attach to other plants. They are like WIRES and hard to remove. If you already have an established plant, you may need to use an herbicide to kill it.”

Mike’s horrified response »

porcelainberry

Aug 26, 2016
It’s Garlic Planting Time!
52:57

It’s almost time to plant garlic in the North, but what about in more roasty regions? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will discuss how to grow your own garlic where you live! Plus, your fabulous phone calls.


Question of the week:

I enjoy growing herbs but my husband (who does the cooking) doesn’t use many. He does use a ton of garlic. I know it’s normally grown over the winter, and I’d like to try it this year. My concern is our warm climate in central Florida. Are there specific types that would do better here? Any special tips?
– Nicole in Tampa

Growing Garlic, North and South »

 

garlic

Image:Luis Miguel Bugallo Sanchez


Marie from Princeton, NJ planted a lilac bush ten years ago, but only gets about one flower a year. “A planted lilac probably won’t produce a good number of flowers for four or five different years,” says Mike, who had a similar experience when planting his own lilac bush. Once the plant put on some height, however, Mike began to see an increase in flowering. He suspects Marie’ s lilac lacks the proper exposure. “Lilacs are very sensitive to sunlight. They will always bloom their best in absolute, drop-dead, full sun,” Mike says. He suggests Marie plant another lilac this fall in an open area that gets both morning and afternoon light. “That is the kind of condition it likes…they don’t want any kind of ground cover around them or competition,” Mike says. A little bit of compost and a little bit of wood ash, along with a lot of sun, should encourage her new lilac to flower.


Bob from Havertown, PA has twelve tomato plants that have produced only seven tiny tomatoes in total. Since they blossom, Bob suspects that proper pollination is the problem. However, Mike thinks the issue may come from their owner’s overzealous attention. This past year, Bob put epsom salt, starter fertilizer, and egg shells into the holes of plant, sprinkling soil overtop and packing on compost, being careful not to touch the stem of the plant. “I want you to stop putting all this junk in the hole,” Mike says. “The only thing that should go in the hole is egg shell.” Any fertilizer should only be applied to the surface to work with the soil microbes. “You have all the symptoms of someone who has used too much nitrogen, who has over-fertilized,” Mike says. For now, Bob should spread bone meal on the surface of the soil around each plant and cover it with compost. Additionally, he should mix the bone meal with water to use during their next morning watering. In preparation for next year, Mike recommends that Bob dust rock phosphate over his entire garden and mix it into his soil at a low rate. These steps will help combat the high levels of nitrogen that are inhibiting the fruit’s growth.


Lindsay from Dublin, Ireland calls about an attack on her busy Lizzies, which were left with only their stalks. The flowers had vanished to an unknown pest. In the United States, busy Lizzies are called “Impatiens,” and can frequently fall victim to hungry slugs. “Let’s talk about slug control,” Mike says. “One thing that is common in both of our countries is beer.” He suggests that Lindsay put out tiny dishes filled with a few inches of cheap beer in the evening. “If the culprit is slugs, your little dishes will be filled with drunken, dead slugs in the morning,” Mike says. “They are attracted to the beer and are overcome by the alcohol when they crawl in.” Another tactic Lindsay can try is copper. If she puts a line of copper around the top and bottom of her busy Lizzie containers, the slugs won’t be able to crawl up. “When slugs touch copper they actually get an electrical shock,” Mike says. Nemaslug, which is available in Great Britain, could also help our caller combat the pesky mollusk.


Doug from south Jersey has a line of roses along his front porch, which are suffering from a bit of the owner’s admitted neglect. The leaves have veiny holes, a result of beetles from the Japanese, Oriental or Rose Chafer families. “All of these beetles have been very active this season,” Mike says. “What you are describing is classic Japanese beetle damage.” Unfortunately, it is very difficult to get a handle on Japanese beetles after they show up and start feeding. The pests release pheromones that then attract more of their species. For the time being, Mike recommends Doug remove any wood mulch from the area and replace it with a high quality compost, which will protect his roses from disease and strengthen them internally. He should then prune the plants by removing the “hips,” or the fat bulbs where flower heads used to be. Since most damaging action from Japanese beetles is over for the season, deadheading the plant could potentially induce a late bloom. “I want you then to leave the bushes alone,” Mike advises. “Do not prune them in the fall, that’s the other worst thing you can do.” The spring is the perfect time to prune new roses and put down a fresh inch of compost.

Aug 19, 2016
How to Keep Your Lovely Lilacs Blooming!
53:13

Lilacs are lovely, demanding, easy to grow and/or misunderstood. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will discuss how to care for — or leave alone- the plants that bring us that wonderful scent of  spring— or don’t. Plus your fabulous phone calls. 

Image: LtPowers


Question of the Week:

I heard you say recently that Lilacs require acidic soil, much like azaleas. I was curious about your source of information and data on this subject. A lot of us spend a lot of time, money and effort trying to get our plants to grow and live long and successful lives. It is important that we receive good and accurate information from those who purport to be experts. We look forward to elaboration on this topic.
-Tom in Greenville, North Carolina

Mike sets the record straight »

lilacs
Image: Marissa DeMeglio

 


Highlights from this week’s show:

Charlie from Forked River, NJ is struggling to grow fruit on his tomato plants, which are staked or caged in both big containers and a flat earth garden. In an attempt to spread the pollen, Charlie stimulated the plants with an electric toothbrush, achieving only a minimal amount of success. Mike suspects that this did more harm than good. “Something like an electric toothbrush might be damaging the flowerhead…doing too much destruction for the tomato to form adequately after that,” he says. Instead, Mike suggests that Charlie take an oscillating fan and turn it on the plants in the morning so that the leaves and flowers are moving around. A battery powered camping fan would be an ideal tool to do so. “Doing that a couple days a week would be more effective…and less destructive,” Mike says. “It’s also a lot less time consuming than traditional hand pollination.”


Laura from Upperville, VA asks Mike about the use of corn gluten when treating grass surrounding the Oak Spring Garden Foundation, where she works. Since the Foundation is a botanic educational center, she hopes this organic method will combat weeds and make for a visually appealing lawn. “The most important thing is that the grass can never be cut lower than three inches,” Mike says. “The real secret to having weed-free turf has nothing to do with chemicals or organics…most of it is cultural.” This begins with making sure the grass is high enough to shade its own soil in the heat, or else the beating sun will result in an infestation of warm season grasses, like crab grass. Corn gluten meal can be applied during the spring when the soil temperature begins to approach 55 degrees about four inches below the surface. However, with Virginia lawn care laws, Laura has to be careful only to spread nine to 10 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet. “You could do that once when you are approaching that [soil temperature of] 55 degrees, and again 6 weeks later,” Mike says. “That would give the grass a very strong, but natural feeding and prevent a lot of dormant weed seeds from germinating.”


Joanne from Oklahoma is an organic gardener struggling to battle peach tree borers, an insect that lays eggs in the bark of the tree. So far, she has lost three peach trees, one apricot and a plum to the pest. “We have to start out by acknowledging that this is probably the toughest crop, not only for a home gardener to grow, but even for commercial orchards,” Mike says in reference to peach trees. “If your trees are getting old, don’t be afraid to cut them down and plant new ones in slightly different locations.” Garden author Lee Reich is a good resource for problems with peach trees, like early death, pests, and improper soil. In the past, Lee has told Mike that the trees prefer acidic soil, so Mike advises Joanne to test the pH of hers. Since she lives in Oklahoma, the soil could be much more alkaline than that in the northeast. “You may want to use a lot peat moss or maybe even some sulfur to bring it down,” he says. In terms of the borers, Mike recommends the use of a pheromone disrupting device to interfere with the invasive moth. He also suggests applying Surround clay spray to the bark, which would also keep them off.


Aug 12, 2016
Are ‘Yellow Flying Insects’ Honeybees? Or Yellow Jackets?
52:57

Yellow insects flying in and out of a garden wall might be dangerous yellow jackets — or a colony of escaped honeybees. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, discusses how to tell what you got and then what to do about it. Plus your fabulous phone calls!

Image: Tom Houslay


Question of the Week:

You mentioned Yellow Jacket nests on a recent show and I found the timing serendipitous, as I just discovered ‘bees’ living in a stone wall in my yard. I think they’re Yellow Jackets, but have not wanted to get close enough to be sure. In any case, there are a lot of them and they are yellow. How would you suggest I deal with these bees?

— Sean in Alexandria, Virginia

 

How to tell if you have bees or yellow jackets »

a bee


Highlights from this week’s show:

Battling fungus gnats

Mike from the Lower East Side of Manhattan worries that his potted plants are attracting black house flies and asks our host what he can do to get rid of them. After further investigation, Mike identifies the pest as fungus gnats, which would indeed be breeding in the soil of his house plants. It didn’t help that our caller has a heavy hand with the watering can, either. “I’m going to recommend BTI, an all-natural larvicide,” Mike says. “We mostly use it against mosquitos.” It comes in donut shaped dunks or as a granular substance available at hardware stores. “The granular form is EPA approved for treating house plants,” Mike says. “…Drenching your plants with BTI and having a lighter hand on the water will get rid of the fungus gnats.” BTI will get rid of any members of the fly family breeding in the wet soil. For the larger, more matured gnats, Mike suggests fly paper. “There is nothing better than old fashioned rolls of fly paper.”


How to prevent a zucchini disaster

Anne from Media, PA had planted a zucchini with her neighbor in their community garden. When the plant began to suffer from either squash borer and/or drought, the two followed instructions given in Mike’s prior shows and managed to rejuvenate the crop by watering. It has left them with not only a healed plant, but also new growth! However, Anne isn’t sure what to do in the future to avoid another zucchini crisis. “Make sure that during hot and dry times it gets a long, deep watering at least once a week…maybe twice a week,” Mike says. “Not little waterings every day, they are useless.” He also suggests Anne spread mulch on the soil’s surface to keep the water in, and to check and see if the vine was damaged. “If you see damage, just heap some soil up around the damaged part, pull off any really destroyed leaves, and enjoy your zucchini!”


Save your garden from herbicides

Carol from Salt Lake City, UT grows an organic heirloom tomato, pepper, and cucumber garden outside her apartment complex. Unfortunately, her land lady arranged for TruGreen to spray on the property, inevitably coating her plants in the herbicides. “Overspray of those kinds of herbicides is very stressful to plants,” Mike says. “You could lose the plants closest to the area of spraying.” For the next couple of days, Carol should get out first thing in the morning and try to wash her plants with a strong stream of water, as much as she can use. “Really soak the ground,” Mike tells her. “Herbicides are more deadly to plants that are hot and dehydrated. The only thing you can do is flush it out with water.” Dilute, Dilute, Dilute. On the outskirts of garden, this could be the difference between life and death for Carol’s plants. Over the winter she should create a temporary guard, even just butcher paper, to physically deflect any chemicals that are applied to the surrounding lawn.


To prune or not to prune

Kevin from Newbern, NC asks Mike if he should prune a newly planted assortment of trees during the fall season. “You should never prune anything in the fall,” Mike says. “In the fall they are trying to go dormant, but pruning stimulates growth.” If these trees are not yet fully asleep and Kevin prunes them, they would have no option but to start growing again. Then, a rare winter cold snap could freeze the sap, ultimately killing a tree. Mike suggests he wait until the spring, after the trees have begun growing again. Kevin had planted a Penn Oak, River Birch clump, Red Maple, Profusion Crab Apple, Stellar Pink Dogwood and Kousa Dogwood, which should make for a colorful yard. “Whoa, Kevin the arborist!” Mike admires his selection. “You’re getting a botanical garden going.” The only tree that truly needs pruning if crowded or misshapen is the Crab Apple, which can be pruned after the flowers have completely faded. “The other trees are always going to look better if you don’t prune them,” Mike says. “Only prune out dead or damaged wood, the entire branch, but don’t cut into the bark of the tree.”

Aug 05, 2016
The weird weed known as horse nettle
52:58

It looks like a yellow cherry tomato, but it’s a poisonous plant. On You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath discusses the weird weed known as horse nettle. Plus a garden retreat that helps our veterans heal and your fabulous phone calls!

Image: BlueRidgeKitties


Questions of the Week:

We bought our first house two years ago. Lots of old trees and space to garden, but also horse nettle, which looks like potato or eggplant, but has spikes from the tips of the leaves all the way down to the soil. It spreads like crazy, and while pulling it out makes it go away for a little while (and makes me feel good), I’m only holding the line, not winning the fight. What’s the best way for me to control this tenacious weed?

— Maizie in Lewes, Delaware

 

Learn what to do about horse nettle »


Ken and Julia Falke

Our featured interview this week:

Mike speaks with Julia Falke and Ken Falke, co-founders of Boulder Crest Retreat for Military and Veteran Wellness. Boulder Crest Retreat is a rural sanctuary that provides free accommodations, recreational and therapeutic activities and programs to help our nation’s military and veteran personnel and their families recover and reconnect during their long journey of healing from physical and invisible wounds of war. The 37-acre retreat is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Bluemont, Virginia, just 50 miles west of Washington, D.C. The Retreat is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and is entirely funded through private donations from individuals, foundations and corporations. For more information about Boulder Crest Retreat, please visit www.bouldercrestretreat.org.

Jul 29, 2016
Learn more about the dreaded squash vine borer
52:57

If your squash and zucchini plants are wilting, blame a pest, not the heat. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will have an update on that unseen garden foe, the squash vine borer. Plus answers to all your growing questions.


Questions of the Week:

“I am a 99% organic gardener, and as I prepare for another summer, I wonder if there are any new ways to combat vine borers; they are a common problem down here, and always get my zucchini vines. I have used row covers, injected the vines with BT, and even used a butterfly net to try and catch the adults as they fly around the garden. But they are smart and hard to catch; I think they know what ‘a guy with a net’ means!”

— Manuel in Austin, Texas

Learn how to get rid of squash vine borers safely »

Jul 21, 2016
Learn when to pick juicy tomatoes this summer
52:57

The final stages before reaching real ripeness are often a treacherous time for tomatoes. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet your Garden, will discuss how to protect— and when to pick— these fabulous fruits of summer. Plus answers to all your growing questions.


Questions of the Week:

” I’ve been hearing you talk about tomatoes splitting as a response to heavy rain following dry times. Does this debunk the theory that the fruits stop taking in nutrition after ripening has started? I had always heard that the first break in color signaled that abscission had occurred and the fruit had been cut off from receiving additional nutrition from the main plant. If tomatoes that are ripening split after a heavy rain, does this mean that they are not completely abscised from the plant? On another note, what’s your take on picking tomatoes at the first signs of ripening vs waiting a little longer? The mockingbirds (our state bird down here in Texas) are killing me when I try to wait.”

— John in Texas (“zone 9A; southwest of Houston”)

Learn how tomatoes ripen and when to pick them »

Highlights from show for July 14, 2016:

Getting the best out of your raised bed

Mike from Westfield, Indiana bought a cedar raised-bed garden container in order to make gardening his vegetables a bit easier, but he’s having some trouble. He used premium potting soil, an organic fertilizer and has the plants in full sun, steps that should have presented him with a garden in full bloom. Mike recommends that the caller Mike go out and get a liquid organic fertilizer to feed the garden, which he had already fed once. “In the future, don’t feed seed,” Mike says. “When you grow plants from seed you wait until they have their first set of true leaves before you give them any food, and then you give them very diluted food.” In order to help his garden along, Mike advises our caller to put an inch of compost on the surface of the soil, which would hopefully spur a positive reaction. Then, he should follow with the use of the liquid fertilizer. “You have a nice, long season left. So don’t panic!” Mike says.


Battling poison ivy

Barbara from Dayton, Ohio is struggling with an invasion of poison ivy around her cottage, so much so that it looks like it was planted intentionally. “The smartest thing to do is work small areas at a time,” Mike says. Barbara should use plastic shopping bags to cover her hands and totally saturate the soil with water, grabbing a hold of the plant and pulling very slowly to get the entirety of the root out of the ground. Wrap the bags down over top of each other and the ivy, tossing them into the trash. This ensures that the poisonous oil stays away from gloves and clothing. If the plant accidentally touches bare skin, Mike tells Barbara to wash the area with cool water alone, which dissolves the oil- no wash rag, no soap. Finally, Mike recommends poison ivy specialist Umar Mycka as a resource, in case Barbara decides to hire help. “He’ll help you find someone in your area,” Mike explains. But be aware: new plants will always pop up, since animals eat and “recycle” those seeds. More information can be found at Umar’s website, idontwantpoisonivy.com.


Vine squash borers

Courtney from Kinston, North Carolina has been fighting vine squash borers for the past two seasons and needs help defeating the pests. These are day flying moths who lay eggs at the base of hollow squash vines, those of Zucchini or Pumpkin, which allows the hatching caterpillars to crawl inside the vine and feast. When trying to salvage these plants, the bottom will disintegrate as a result. Luckily for Courtney, her southern location gives her time to try planting again before the season ends. Mike advises that she plant in a protected area, keeping the seedlings warm and watered. Never direct-seed summer squash with hollow vines straight into the ground. When they’re about a month old, Courtney should wrap one loose layer of medical gauze starting where the roots come out of the bottom of the stem up to the first leaf. She can then replant them in the garden so that the gauze is about an inch below ground and two or three inches above ground. “Believe it or not, that should be enough to protect your plants,” Mike says. Late planting may also help a gardener avoid squash borers.

Jul 14, 2016
Plants you can grow to keep away menacing mosquitoes
52:57

The Zika virus has taken mosquitos from outdoor annoyance to fearsome foe. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will review the plants you can grow to use as mosquito repellant. Plus answers to all your growing questions.


Questions of the Week:

“Mike mentioned a number of plants that can repel mosquitos on his Public Radio show several months ago; but my memory has failed me. Could you please go over the names again? Several of us down here are waiting to hear from you; we’re on the water and have lots of mosquitos. We completely enjoy and learn from You Bet Your Garden!”

— Bettye in Oriental, North Carolina

Repel mosquitoes naturally »

Highlights from show for July 9, 2016:

Splitting tomatoes

John from Houston, Texas is curious about splitting tomatoes and whether they continue to absorb nutrition even after they start to ripen. He has heard that once a tomato starts to ripen, it’s actually separated from the mother plant. Is this true? “The problems with tomatoes splitting become the most evident when the tomato is very close to ripe, or dead ripe,” Mike says. In other words, the plant must still be accepting water from the root system or else the skin wouldn’t split, so it is indeed still absorbing nutrition. “Don’t be afraid to harvest a little bit early,” Mike also advises. You don’t only taste a tomato with your taste buds, but with your nose, due to volatile, aromatic oils that build up as the tomato is ripening. If a tomato becomes dead ripe and sits on a vine, it can lose up to 30% of its flavor in one day, because those oils are so aromatic. John should harvest around what tomato professionals call the “breaker” stage- when the fruit has received about half its color. The tomato will then continue to ripen fully off the vine. John recommends the website Tomatoville to fellow listeners for additional tips.


Composting cedar apple rust

Lisa from Smithfield, Virginia- the ham capitol of the world- wonders if she can remove and compost cedar trees that have been infested with cedar apple rust spores. She is fearful of infecting additional trees. “Cedar apple rust is one of the weirdest diseases in the plant world,” Mike says. “It needs both hosts- a member of the cedar family and a member of the apple family.” The disease is then passed back and forth from both hosts, and results in an orange growth Mike likens to little Chinese lanterns. Mike suggests Lisa get rid of the apple tree and monitor the cedars over the next two years or so. Without the disease’s other host, the cedars should improve.


Rabbiteye blueberries

Ron from Rincon, Georgia is growing rabbiteye blueberries and plans to extend the plot across his entire acre into a makeshift blueberry farm. “That can bite you- to have a monoculture like that,” Mike warns. He advises Ron to break up the stretches of blueberries with something different in case a pest or disease finds his farm and takes advantage of the continuous fruit. As for Ron’s current plants, Mike says not to prune until winter’s end and to keep the orchard floor clean of weeds and dead fruit. “Weeds and birds are the worst banes of blueberry growers,” Mike says. “You want to have lanes that are wide enough to mow. Then it’s hand cultivation with specialized hoes and gentle weed whacking.” Mike advises Ron to have a gardening partner use a piece of PVC pipe against the plant for protection while he tackles the weeds. In addition, Ron should go out and get milled peat moss, putting it down as a mulch and covering it with compost, which would both feed the plants and keep the soil acidic.


Combatting squirrels

Ken from Media, Pennsylvania has squirrels eating the fruit from his peach, nectarine and cherry trees. He asks Mike what he can do to protect the fruit and keep the animals away. Mike explains that Ken has a case of what should be referred to as “evil” squirrels, who are getting at the trees from the ground up. Since the trees are too far apart for the squirrels to leap from the branches of one to another, Mike suggests that Ken use a sticky substance called Tanglefoot. By painting this on the middle of trunk, Ken would protect the fruit from the mangy animals, who would shy away from getting tangled in the glue-like barrier. Ken could also aim motion activated sprinklers at the trees. “The nice thing about the motion activated sprinklers is that you can move them around and aim them at different plants, wherever you are getting attacked,” Mike says. He also advises Ken to use Surround, a micronized clay spray, several times a season to protect the trees from insects and disease.


Proper tree planting

Colin from Kingston, Ontario planted a sugar bush maple tree that died quickly after bloom. He asks Mike what caused the young tree to turn so brown and dry. Unfortunately, Colin made a few simple, but damaging mistakes. By placing the tree too deep, Mike says he “planted it like lollipop,” suppressing the roots from flaring above ground. Colin had also used a wood mulch, which can inhibit proper breathing and allow for insects and mice to attack undetected. Above all, the young maple lacked a correct watering schedule. Colin watered the tree upon planting, and again in weekly intervals, which is not enough for a brand new bloom. “I think it probably died from lack of attention,” Mike tells Colin. “What you should have done is drag a hose over and let it drip at the base for about 24 hours…then if it doesn’t rain in the next couple of days, you do that again.” For the first year, a newly planted tree should get a good soaking a few times a week. “The biggest cause of premature tree death is inadequate watering in the first week,” Mike says. He recommends that Colin see if the tree is salvageable by digging it up and checking for rotten bark underground. If it is indeed dead, Colin can look for a replacement to plant again in September after the hot summer has passed.


How to fertilize your plants

Paula from Newtown Square, PA is having problems with her rosemary plants, whose leaves are becoming stippled by tiny gray insects. She has them situated outdoors in ceramic pots and is feeding them with Miracle Grow and horse manure. Mike immediately notes that this mixture is harmful. Miracle Grow makes the soil too salty, an effect similar to growing too close to the ocean, and horse manure does nothing beneficial. “Rosemary bushes are Mediterranean plants that thrive on poor soil, good drainage and little to no extra nutrition… I would rather you feed them nothing,” Mike says. “These are what I consider- in a good way- ‘trash plants.’ They get by great with no nutrition.” As for the bugs, Mike tells Paula that for the next five mornings she should cradle the plant in one hand and use the other to spray a laser sharp beam of water at the insects, blasting them out of the plant. “Be relentless,” Mike says. Do each plant in a row, again and again, early in the morning, continuing for two days after the bugs are gone. According to Mike, “water is the best pesticide.”


Rose chafer beetles

Ken from Roscommon, Michigan has a backyard filled with wildlife but infested with rose chafer beetles. Rose chafer beetles are from the Scarab family, which leave behind a lacy destruction on leaves. Mike recommends that he combat the insect eggs with beneficial nematodes- tiny microscopic wormlike creatures- which he can water into the ground. When ready, Ken should soak his garden, drop the nematode sponge into a watering can to release 50 million of these microscopic predators, and then water around the areas underneath where he had the worst infestations. Overnight these nematodes will bury into the soil and attack the eggs and larva of the chafer beetles. “You also definitely want to apply milky spore in the fall,” Mike says. This is a naturally occurring soil organism that inhibits the development of Scarab pests. “At the end of the summer, apply this milky spore powder to your entire landscape,” Mike tells Ken. “It will go down into the warm soil where the beetle grubs will ingest the spore…they die and their body turns into a milky spore factory…that way you knock out next year’s generation in advance.”

Jul 07, 2016
Is it safe to use cinder blocks in raised beds?
52:57

Are there cinders in cinder blocks? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will investigate whether the big blocks are safe to use around people and plants. Plus Mike speaks with author Lynn Steiner about native plants that will add beauty and attract pollinators to your landscape.


Questions of the Week:

“A couple of years ago I started re-reading my old ORGANIC GARDENING magazines from when you were the Editor (I kept them all!), which led to me finding your podcasts and I’ve been listening ever since. Now I have a question: Are cinder blocks safe to use to make raised beds? My daughter would like to use them for this purpose but the information pro and con on the internet is confusing and unconvincing. Is there really a risk of the substances used in making the blocks leaching into a raised bed? (In the Pacific Northwest we get a lot of precipitation, which can cause a lot of leaching). I told her that I would trust your opinion. Thank you for continuing to help keep our world safe. P.S. I was one of those subscribers who had to fight to get the issue with the infamous comic book cover away from my kids! “

— Wanda in Scappoose Oregon (20 miles north of Portland)

Learn about using cinder blocks in your garden »

Highlights from show for July 2, 2016:

Reigning in overgrown landscaping

Nicole from Brooklyn, New York recently purchased a hundred-year-old farmhouse as a weekend country home in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Left to its own devises over the past few years, the yard has become overgrown with a beautiful, but wild, landscape. Nicole wonders what is the best way for her and her husband to tackle the yard, which includes an in-grown garden, fruit trees, and bushes of all varieties. “I think you need a hired man. You can’t keep a summer garden, with vegetables and things like that, going with only two days a week,” Mike tells her. “You pretty much need somebody there every day doing a walk through.” Not all plants will need daily care; cane fruits and berries do well on their own. As for the upkeep of their fruit trees, a hired landscaper would provide proper care during the week while the couple works in Brooklyn. “If you bought this house for a weekend retreat, you have to keep that mindset,” Mike advises. “You are not there to work, and if it needs to be done, you pick up the phone and have somebody come and do it.”

Strawberry tips

Frank from Saltville, Virginia is having trouble with his strawberries. Although the plants are blooming nicely, they fail to produce berries. With the plants filling a raised bed about 80 feet long and 2 feet wide, it is disappointing for Frank to harvest only a gallon this season. Mike asks about the composition of those raised beds, which Frank believes to be only the local dirt and a composted top soil, which he tilled into the dirt. “In the future, any time you get a nice load of compost, don’t till the soil,” Mike says. “When you till the soil you release nutrients and you expose weed seeds to the trigger for germination.” In a big strawberry bed, weeds are your worst enemy. Mike tells Frank that if he wants to buck up any nutrients for flowering, he should look into purchasing rock phosphate. “That’s the nutrient that encourages plants to put on a lot of bloom and allows those flowers to become fruits,” Mike says. Rock phosphate is the most natural form of phosphate and a little bit goes a long way. For Frank, this means a cupful per 20 feet on his row of strawberries. This process only needs to be done every three to five years. Mike recommends that Frank try a new line of liquid fertilizers by Espoma, one of which is called “Bloom!” Mike also advises Frank to purchase a bag of rock phosphate and dust it around the plants in preparation for next year’s bloom.


Featured interview: Lynn Steiner

Mike speaks with Lynn Steiner, author of Grow Native: Bringing Natural Beauty to Your Garden. Mike and Lynn help a caller figure out what native plants to plant on top of a septic system. Lynn gives some great species of plant that would be an excellent way to plant it and forget it. Service berries are a favorite of her and are most underutilized native plant. Some of the positive aspects include an early spring bloom, one of the first genera to set fruit in the summer and humans can actually eat service berries . Lynn says in 30 years of gardening she’s learned a lot. “Gardening isn’t always such a green hobby and I try very hard to become what I call a responsible gardener.”


Landscaping around septic mounds

Kristin from Franklinville, New Jersey received advice from both Lynn and Mike about what native plants to feature in her new backyard, currently an open space sprinkled with grass seed and bordered by forest. The only presence in the clearing is a septic mound covering recently installed plumbing. Lynn warns about gardening on an area covering a septic system, emphasizing the importance of planting something shallow rooted. “Don’t dig down too deeply in this area and don’t use a Roto tiller,” she says. “Wear gloves, the soil can have some contaminants.” She advises to plant with things that can be left untended. Fiber rooted grasses such as little bluestem and prairie dropseed would do well, along with herbaceous plants such as nodding wild onion, native coreopsis, and purple coneflower. Once you get away from the septic area, then the “sky’s the limit.” Some of Lynn’s favorite plants include the long, tough blooms from anise hyssop, amsonia blue star, and butterfly milkweed, which always tops the list due to it’s attractiveness to monarch butterflies. Later in the season, asters flowers and sneezeweed look nice in a natural landscape. As Kristin’s yard nears the woodland, Lynn recommends things that can tolerate shade, such as maidenhair fern, wild ginger to cover the ground, bleeding hearts, and bowman’s root. “There are so many beautiful plants that give you a tapestry of foliage colors and textures,” Lynn says. As Kristin begins her journey gardening with native plants, Lynn recommends she visit Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve and Mt. Cuba Center, two excellent local resources in eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware.


Growing gardenias

Sharon from Byhalia, Mississippi is struggling to grow her gardenias due to the excessive shade they receive from her front porch’s overhang. She asks Mike if she can dig them up and move them into the sun at this time of year. Mike admits that we’re probably into the worst two months to do so. Instead, he suggests Sharon wait until next spring, after all chance of frost is done. “If you do it now, the heat stress will absolutely kill them,” Mikes warns. To keep the plants safe in the winter months, Mike says to drive tall stakes into the ground around the plants and wrap burlap around them as high as the stakes go, creating a wind break and heat sink. This is the best way to protect the plants without harming them. “Don’t put anything directly onto the plants, they don’t need it and it can crush them,,” Mike says. Some winter damage to the top of the plant is inevitable. By waiting until spring and correctly shielding the plants from frost, Sharon should be able to safely relocate her gardenias next spring. “They won’t even know they were moved!” Mike says.


Gardening under water restrictions

Bill from Ortley Beach, New Jersey is moving to the central valley of California and has concerns about gardening in the dry heat with state water restrictions. Mike recommends the installation of a gray water system. As white water is what comes into your house, gray water is what leaves from things like the shower, sink, and washing machine. “All of that water can be diverted,” Mike says. After installed, the water waste will go into a holding tank. which funnels into drip irrigation lines. These lines then feed into the garden underneath the mulch to maintain the least amount of evaporation. Under this system the water will be applied to the plants at the time it leaves the house, when it is perfectly safe. “You should be able to keep a good size garden well watered,” Mike tells Bill. In addition, he’ll never actually have to go outside and water the plants, since they’re watered every time he takes a shower. “Try to avoid doing it in the heat of the day because the plants are closed up tight,” Mike advises. “You want to time that big water use to the morning or evening.”

Jul 01, 2016
Proper pruning, plucking and picking produces the best grapes
52:57

Do you have a grapevine that looks great in the Spring but awful by harvest time? Mike McGrath reveals how proper pruning, plucking and picking can produce grapes you’ll be proud of!


Questions of the Week:

“Every year I get a nice initial production of grapes from my backyard vines, but they eventually develop blackish spots, dry up and die. My father says it’s “black rot.’ Is there anything I can do to prevent it?”

— Angelo in Springfield (Delaware County) PA

“Every year in the late spring I get beautiful little green grapes. But by mid-summer they’re all dry and dark looking. I’ve tried all kinds of fungicide sprays, but none helped. I showed the grapes to my local extension office, but they had no idea what it was. I remember Mike mentioning a product called “Surround” in one of his shows. Do you think that it’s applicable here?”

— Jing, “doing well in Clinton, NJ”

Tips and tricks for growing grapes »

  • Growing grapes

Highlights from show for June 12, 2015:

Pruning Roses

Lyn in Edmond, OK would like to know when to prune roses. On a previous episode, she had obtained a partial answer that pruning can take place 2 weeks after they have bloomed. Mike explains that many people injure their flowers by pruning them in the fall, especially those who live in colder climates; pruning stimulates growth at any season of the year except for winter. When this is done, one is forcing their roses to grow and actually weakens the root system. Mike advises to wait for new growth to be visible in the Spring and make sure to prune 2 weeks after they bloom or grow. Lyn confesses that her roses began to leaf out early this year and then winter came along and killed a lot of them. Mike explains that since she pruned them in February, which is too early, the new growth froze. Mike advises for the future, if this kind of situation were to take place again, she needs to be patient until the area is out of the frost zone to remove the dead parts. This would most definitely help Lyn’s situation.


Mole Control

Bruce in Raleigh, NC has no idea how to get rid of his neighbors moles, whose yard is filled with raised tunnels. Mike warns that moles are very hard to get rid of. Mike suggests for his neighbor to apply “milky spore disease” to his lawn this fall as we get to August; this is a naturally occurring soil bacterium that will get rid of any kind of scarab beetle larva or white grubs in the soil” continues Mike. By doing this, it eliminates the one of the top food sources of moles. Step two would be to purchase a castor oil based repellent. It is important to purchase the highest concentration of its kind. It should be put down once in the fall and once in the spring. Lastly, traps for moles would be effective too in the process.


Community Gardening

Mary in CA would like to know if it is possible to grow a vegetable garden in her apartment that only receives about half an hour worth of sunlight. She is interested in vegetables such as tomatoes. Mike informs her that plants like tomatoes need six to eight hours of sunlight; therefore, she will not be able to grow them in her home. What Mike would suggest, considering her circumstances, is community gardening. Additionally, he adds that by gardening in the local garden, she can allow her tomatoes to get enough sun but to also take note that they need some shade in the afternoon and she can do that with an umbrella. Mike warns that growing plants in such little light is not healthy at all for it concentrates too much nitrogen which isn’t beneficial.”


Yellow Jackets

Dee in Emporium, PA has been stung by a yellow jacket and doesn’t have access to the entrance hole of the nest due to the structure of her house. Mike informs her that if these insects are nesting in the ground underneath,it is safe to say that they are merely beginning to populate. Over the winter these yellow jackets tend to save their eggs so they can be able to populate and the month of July seems to be the month where it ‘explodes’ Mike states. Mike would typically advise his callers in this situation to cover the nest up with some sort of cloth or fabric and smother; however, Dee’s case is different. Mike suggests that she purchases an electric trap used to kill mosquitoes for they will fly into the light and electrocute themselves. It is best for her to set up this equipment on a cool night when they aren’t active. She can also get empty quart-sized jars and remove the lid “ using a screwdriver, drill a hole in the lid and insert something such as ham or cat food in the jar with the lid on. Placing that jar nearby their hive would be ideal. Mike adds on that two jars, one with a sweet bate such as a rotten peach and the other with a meat bate; this will allow them to get inside but not out. When they are in the jar it is best to let them ‘cook’ in the sun rather then empty them out.


Blueberries & Bees

Drew in PA would like to know how much sun blueberries need, since he has just begun growing them. His second question is how to attract bees to the area where he is growing his blueberries, so they can reap the benefits? Mike reassured him that adding bees is great to pollinate the blueberry bushes. Mike says that blueberries want as much sun as they possible can get. The more sun they receive the more berries will establish. Also, the more plants are around the more blueberries are likely to grow according to Mike. The three seasons for blueberries are early, midseason and late varieties; “instead of having a big three or four cluster, you can put four different varieties of each seasonality and you can extend the harvest to go for many, many months” informs Mike. Peat moss mixed in with well-drained mulched soil, and removing most of the native soil is essential to helping them grow and produce to their fullest potential. These fruits require the most acidic soil in order to thrive.

Jun 24, 2016
The Wonderful World of Melons
52:58

Call it a cantaloupe, a muskmelon or a netted melon, it’s a delight to eat, but difficult to grow. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will delve into the wonderful world of mis-named melons! Plus your fabulous phone calls.


Question of the Week:

“I have a ‘flat earth’ plot in a community garden here in Shawnee, Kansas. My 7-year-old son Jack loves cantaloupe (aka muskmelon) and demanded that we try to grow some this year, so the pressure is on me to deliver. I haven’t tried to grow them before, but a couple of our other gardeners have told me they haven’t had any luck with them. Back around May 1st, we started some plants from seed under the lights I use to start tomatoes. Now what? A few websites say to use black plastic to keep the soil warm. Do you have any advice?

PS: Thanks for doing your show. I listen to the podcasts as soon as they are available. I also liked your tomato book so much I bought a copy for my mom. This year I grew so many tomato plants I had enough to give away to six friends and family members. I would never have attempted anything that elaborate without you egging me on. Thanks again!”

— Chris in Shawnee, Kansas

Is that a cantaloupe in your pocket? Or a muskmelon? »


Highlights from show for June 6, 2015:

Hydrangea Troubles

Janet from Jenkintown, PA has in the past had issues with downy white scale on her hydrangeas. This year, the hydrangeas are, for the most part, healthy, but the scale has migrated to one of her blueberry bushes! In the area where her hydrangeas were growing, it’s nothing but shrubs and hosta and the like. When the problem first arose, she discovered that underneath her layer of mulch and soil was a layer of thick, black, plastic, which she had to remove. The blueberries, on the other hand are not mulched, and only one of the blueberries has the scale. Mike recommends that she try to raise the acidity of her soil there with a mulch of milled peat moss, covered with compost, and an organic acid fertilizer, such as Holly-Tone. Then, cradling the plants, try to blast the scale off of the plants with a high-pressure stream of water from your hose. “Believe it or not, in a situation like this, high pressure streams of water are the best pesticide. Think of a cartoon fire hose.”


Dog Barf Fungus

Dave from Chicago has set up three bins of shredded fall leaves and coffee grounds for composting when he noticed that at the top of one of the bins he saw a yellow growth! Mike notes that his method is slightly different from the traditional three-bin method, wherein you fill one bin, after some time turn it over into the second, then into the third, where you keep your finished compost. Dave’s bins are not made of wood, but from hardware cloth, providing great airflow for his compost. Dave also has an apple tree growing right above these bins, which regularly deposits all sorts of plant matter into the bins on its own, although it hasn’t borne fruit for a while. Mike believes that these bins are infested with “Dog Barf Fungus,” a type of “nuisance mold” related to the slime mold. It is more common in rotting wood, so it’s likely that some branches fell into the pile, giving rise to the fungus. The fungus is completely harmless, so Dave should take a pitchfork and make sure that the fungus is mixed more thoroughly throughout the pile, and maybe add some coffee grounds to get some nitrogen in there. “It might even make the compost more nutritious in the end.”


Featured Interview:

Mike speaks with author Linda Chalker-Scott about her new book How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do. This book is a great resource for gardeners who want to understand why and how plants do what they do. Mike clearly found a kindred spirit in Chalker-Scott’s organic methods for planting and caring for trees. She shed light on how tree roots bring in air and why it’s important to spread the roots of plants. .


Left Over Compost

Marissa in North Wales, PA is getting ready to get a raised bed for her new house, and has just gotten a whole bunch of compost to fill them. However, she’s got an awful lot left over. She wants to know what to do with the leftovers, and how to store it for next season. Mike explains to her the most important rule of gardening: “nobody gets to August and wishes they’d bought less compost.” Mike is concerned that she won’t have the bed ready until it’s too late, but she assures him that she’s building it as soon as she moves in, and that she’s even going to take the day off of work to build the bed. Mike recommends that she add pearlite to the soil, to keep it light, and to take it slow to build the beds. After all, the inside of the house is going to need a lot of work already, and if she’s working inside during the day, she only needs to work out there in the morning and the evening, when the sun is much more forgiving. Since she’s starting so late in the season, Mike also says to pick lots of plants that grow later in the season, and garlic and salad greens to grow during the winter and spring respectively. For this purpose, she should also add some metal hoops over the top to stretch row cover fabric over the top of it. “Then you can probably grow salad greens all winter long through the spring, and you’ll have really warm soil to plant in for next season.”


American Hornbeam

Rich in Philadelphia wants to know about an American Hornbeam planted in front of his office in Center City. Now, this tree was newly planted in early January and looks to be about twenty years old. Rich had used a tree spike fertilizer in the early spring and Mike appropriately chastises him for it. “I wish you hadn’t done that,” he says, “When we go walking through Fairmount Park and we see the trees, has nature come along and spiked them?” And if this is a commercial fertilizer, it’s probably full of chemical salts, which, the tree most certainly doesn’t need, considering how salty the soil was after this past winter. Rich notes that the tree has a lot of growth on it and it looks very strong, but the leaves are struggling. Rich has taken it upon himself to take care of this tree and mentions that he waters it every night, which Mike also chastises him for. “You don’t wanna be watering at night, and you don’t wanna be watering shallowly every day.” He says to instead, go out at least twice a week in the morning, drop a quart of water into the soil, let it settle, and then, after a few hours, repeat until there’s a good gallon of water surrounding the tree, and only when there’s no rain. Get a liquid fish and seaweed mix, put a little bit of that in the water. There’s not enough room for compost, so that’ll have to do for nutrients. He also says to remove the mulch from around it so the root flare is exposed, because right now it’s too crowded. “Here’s the deal, we don’t know really what situation it’s in,” he says, “It seems like an overly large tree for this space; to me they should have put in a sapling or busted up more concrete.”


Safe Soakers

Marianne in Orange, MA, two hours west of Boston wants to get a new hose. She has finally found a hose that is lead free and suitable for potable water, and wants to find a soaker hose that isn’t made from recycled tires, or anything else that might cause health problems down the line. Mike has also recently been researching garden hoses to find cleanly-made hoses, and the ones that he’s found have been very durable and work very well for him. Now, if Marianne can’t find any cleanly-made soaker hoses he recommends going out and buying some drinking-water-safe hoses on sale, laying them out on a driveway, taking an ice pick or an awl, heat it up with a lighter, and then make a series of holes, six inches apart in a line. This is most definitely a job for two or more people! It won’t be too hard to find a cap for the other end of the hose. Marianne is concerned about the water pressure in the hose, that it might burst if not enough water can escape through those holes, and that poking these holes might compromise the safety of the hose. Mike points out that there are herbicides in our rainwater, and that she won’t be able to get to 100% regardless. He also points out that the safety should not be compromised, and that if there is an issue with pressure, she would certainly be able to fine-tune it to her liking. “Thank you for thinking so much about trying to have a clean environment around.”


Jun 17, 2016
Make your second-year mums look like first class plants
52:57

Your rhubarb is a family heirloom. But you’re moving from a cold clime to Oklahoma, where it can’t survive. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will offer some options for this seemingly impossible problem. Plus: your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week:

“I have lots of chrysanthemums. My mother taught me to “pinch off” the top leaves as they grow to force the plants to get bushy rather than spindly. But I have so many plants–and it is arduous work for my tired old hands. Can I just cut them off with shears or hedge clippers? I’m guessing that large-scale professional mum growers don’t do this by hand.”

— Linda in Pennington, New Jersey

Learn how to care for mums »

Jun 09, 2016
All about rhubarb
52:57

Your rhubarb is a family heirloom. But you’re moving from a cold clime to Oklahoma, where it can’t survive. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will offer some options for this seemingly impossible problem. Plus: your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week:

“We’re moving from Colorado to Northeast Oklahoma and really want to take our rhubarb with us. The plants have been passed down through my husband’s family and have been in the ground here in Colorado for 16 years. (We’re harvesting this season’s crop right now—in late May.) I understand from reading the article on rhubarb at your website’s “A to Z Answers” section that we’ll need to plant them in an area that’s protected from the afternoon sun in their new, warmer climate. But what should we do with the clumps when we arrive in Oklahoma around August 1st? Should we store them in a cool, dark place and plant them later in the Fall? I really don’t want to leave these family plants behind, but it sounds like our timing is all wrong!”

— Megan, moving from Broomfield Colorado to Northeast Oklahoma

Learn about climate zones for rhubarb »


Don’t bundle your bulbs!

Anne in Media, PA, a former grower of daffodils, questions a trend she’s seen in other gardens around her neighborhood: bundling up the leaves of these spring plants. Well, “bulbs in bondage is a terrible idea,” Mike immediately clarifies. He explains that in nature, spring bulbs appear naturally in the most insane climates of winter chill and summer heat, which is why they have developed a lifestyle of hiding underground. That brief period in time right after the winter snow melts and the soil warms, however, gives those plants an opportunity to quit hiding and safely reveal their beautiful flowers and leaves. Mike emphasizes that after the flower is spent, we enter the most important part of a bulb’s life, when its leaves are nice and green. That’s when it’s growing next year’s flower, Mike tells Anne. People should avoid mowing over those leaves in order to preserve the flower for the following year. Mike advises to let the leaves “luxuriate” in the sun, collecting as much solar energy as possible. The harmful idea of “bulbs in bondage” most likely came from gardeners attempting to create that “perfect” garden appearance. In other words, no floppy, flowerless leaves allowed! According to Mike, daffodils, tulips, crocus, and all other spring bulbs should have their greenery left in place. But as soon as those green leaves begin to change color and yellow- go right ahead and get rid of it. Want to plant other flowers in its place? Dig up the bulb first! “That’s the smartest thing to do,” Mike says to Anne. “Bring them inside and store them in a cool dark place. Right after Halloween take those bulbs out of storage and plant them fresh again.” This way, you can plant all the annuals you’d like without rotting the spring bulbs underneath. That is the best way to ensure return bloom.


Mosquito prevention

Aubrey in Richmond, VA asks Mike about mosquito prevention measures he can take in his garden as the summer season begins to unfold. Mike mentions the basic organic substance, “BT, ” which stands for Bacillus Thuringiensis, a large group of soil dwelling organisms with surprisingly helpful properties in the world of agriculture and pest control. Purchasing BTI Mosquito Dunks at your local hardware store and tossing them into a pond can help prevent mosquitos from breeding there for 30 days. BTI also comes in charcoal briquette and granular form, useful for any standing water. “Early in the season you can leave out buckets of water that you’ve treated with BTI and female mosquitos will lay their first clutches of eggs in those buckets, but the eggs won’t hatch,” Mike tells Aubrey. Aubrey also inquires about the planting mixtures Mike has discussed over the past few shows: compost, vermiculite, and peat moss. Mike pays tribute to Mel Bartholomew and his square foot gardening brainchild, Mel’s Mix, which combines one third of these elements to create a mixture that both drains well and retains water. Mike, however, prefers Perlite to vermiculite. “If you ever buy plants from the garden center and you think there’s little styrofoam balls in the dirt, that’s Perlite. It’s actually a mined volcanic glass that’s popped,” Mike says. “It’s a great way to lighten up the soil.” The importance behind these mixtures and Mel’s square foot gardening method is this light soil, which allows the plant roots to get lots of air, water, and nutrients. But don’t step on those raised beds! It is the uncompressed ground that does the trick.


Reviving asparagus

Jack in Haddon Heights, NJ calls Mike with asparagus problems. This year’s late winter hit the northeast with April snow showers, leaving Jack’s garden soaked and his budding asparagus spears missing and seemingly unsalvageable. After some discussion, Mike discovers that Jack has been planting in soil situated two feet higher than the ground around it. “Generally, asparagus is a crop that’s planted in flat ground because it’s a perennial. You want it to be at the normal level in the ground for winter frost protection,” Mikes tell Jack. Without sufficient drainage, the buried crowns of asparagus were left to rot and die. Mike advises Jack to try again, but to plant at ground level with loose and enriched soil. This is a great opportunity to use well composted horse manure or Perlite. “Make sure you’re not on a raised bed, but high ground. An area that really drains well,” Mike says. “Don’t give up!” Additional tips on planting asparagus are available under Garden Answers A-Z.


Caring for aging trees

George in West Chester, PA lives in a house once owned by 19th century arborist David Townsend, who planted beautiful species across the acre of land, some of which remain. A gorgeous, 200 year old weeping cherry tree still stands over 40 feet tall and approximately nine feet in circumference, splitting into two thick branches about 25 feet up. Unfortunately, George had discovered that half the tree has died, leaving only one of these branches to flower and bloom. With great respect for such an old tree, George had trouble accepting prior advice to just cut it down. Luckily, Mike explains he can indeed save it by cutting the bad part off, but may want to consider other alternatives. Mike suggests that George contact a certified arborist and have him or her look at the tree to estimate it’s remaining life span. If the tree’s life is close to over, cutting off half may shortly lead to complete removal. “Contact local horticulturalists or even the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Or, there is a historical tree society that propagates trees like this,” Mike says. “This would be a good time of year for them to take cuttings and make clones of the original tree.” This would give George an opportunity to not only remove the tree, but replant one or more saplings with the same DNA, carrying on the original tree’s heritage. In terms of respecting the tree’s history and the magnificence of these flowering cherries, duplicating would be George’s best option. With Mike’s advice, it can be kept alive in a different form.

Jun 02, 2016
Could a city street light attract pests to your garden?
52:57

Could a city streetlight near a garden cause a dramatic increase in pest problems? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, suggests some strategies when you can’t shut the light shining brightly in the night. Plus answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week:

I have a question about the possible effects of having a street light above your garden. I’ve been gardening successfully for five years, but last year we moved to a new house and I’ve been having pest issues in my raised beds ever since. Last year I had swarms of aphids, hornworms, and cabbage loppers. It was a constant battle despite this being an entirely new garden; and the pests greatly diminished our yields and even killed some plants.

— Coleen in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia

Find out if Bright Light at Night = Caterpillar Delight »

May 27, 2016
Do trees NEED mulch? And can a tree survive severed roots?

Highlights from show for April 13, 2013:

Gardening in cold climates

Christopher from Switzerland is concerned about his heirloom tomatoes not bearing many flowers. Mike explains that many varieties of heirlooms benefit from a long, warm growing season, something that he suspects is problematic in Switzerland’s climate.

“Typically with some of these huge wrangly heirlooms, even here in the states with a hot climate, we don’t get any significant tomato action until mid-August, sometimes late-August, which is why a lot of people cheat and grow some of those short-stature, fast producing tomatoes with lots of fruit early in the season and then work their way up to the big heirlooms. So I think you should take somewhat of a lesson and you should put a couple of short-season determinants. I’m growing Stupice this year — that’s something that I like to joke is named after me — but it’s actually a Russian heirloom that produces lots of tomatoes and is bred to flower and produce fruit in colder-than-usual climates.”

Mike McGrath


Improving garden protection aesthetics

From Branchburg, NJ, Debbie wants to know how to undo the harsh look of her vegetable garden that her husband had surrounded with chicken wire to keep out groundhogs, rabbits, and deer. While using deer wire would have been a better alternative to chicken wire, given its high effectiveness while also being nearly invisible, Mike suggests getting wire that is coated in green vinyl, or simply spray-painting the current fixture to a color that will blend into the background. However, Mike does not recommend growing some type of rosebush to hide the wire, “I would not suggest covering it with a really dense planting material that’s going to interfere with the main needs of your garden which are good airflow and good sunlight.” If there must be some type of plant he would recommend, though, it would be the Scarlet Running Bean, which attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.




“You could grow the same crops better in six inches of perfect soil than in twelve inches of improved soil.”

Mel Bartholomew

We remember Mel Bartholomew, founder of “Square Foot Gardening”, who died on April 28, 2016. He was 84.

Author of Square Foot Gardening, Mel Bartholomew discusses his updated book and answer guide with Mike on the show. “If you’re a beginner you can learn the whole system in about one hour, because you’ll accept and you’ll say, ‘I could do that.’ But if you’re an expert, it takes you about three weeks to learn the system, and of course that’s because it’s so radically different than conventional gardening. For example, we do not use the existing soil,” Mel explains. “You could grow the same crops better in six inches of perfect soil than in twelve inches of improved soil.” Mike agrees that it truly is “all about the soil, stupid.” Along with this basic tenant of Square Foot Gardening, Mel advises against using any pesticides, keeping it organic, not tilling the soil, and using grids in your raised beds. Indeed, Mike admits that having even a single raised bed in your garden reduces pest and disease problems in the plants. Raised beds with grids are not only highly functional and organized, but also highly attractive.

The 10 Basics to Square Foot Gardening, from squarefootgardening.org

  1. Arrange your garden in squares, not rows. Lay it out in 4′x4′ planting areas.
  2. Build boxes to hold a new soil mix above ground.
  3. Space boxes 3′ apart to form walking aisles.
  4. Fill boxes with Mel’s special soil mix: 1/3 blended compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 coarse vermiculite.
  5. Make a permanent square foot grid for the top of each box. A MUST!
  6. NEVER WALK ON YOUR GROWING SOIL. Tend your garden from the aisles.
  7. Plant a different flower, vegetable, or herb crop in each square foot, using 1, 4, 9, or 16 plants per square foot.
  8. Conserve seeds. Plant only a pinch (2 or 3 seeds) per hole. Place transplants in a slight saucer-shaped depression.
  9. Water by hand from a bucket of sun-warmed water.
  10. When you finish harvesting a square foot, add compost and replant it with a new and different crop.

Replanting daffodils

Anne from Media, PA inquires about how she could best handle her daffodils once the flowers are dead and the leaves are wilted back. In response to whether she is better off replanting the flower now or waiting for it to completely dry out, Mike encourages her to cut off the flower head and give the plant plenty of full sunlight for the leaves to absorb the solar energy while feeding it with organic plant food. By June, the bulb will be ready for next season and can be brought inside and left alone in a closet or basement until about November when it can be replanted.

Slideshow below: Daffodil varieties


Super Amaryllis

Tom from Denver, Colorado has an amaryllis that finished blooming and now has three new flower stalks coming up. Should he cut the old flowers or leave them be? Mike explains, “You’ve got Super-Amaryllis…this amaryllis just does not know the word quit. So it sounds like you could get another run of flowers completely, which is unusual, but not unheard of.” He advises Tom to cut the old flower stalks and give the plant plenty of bright, but not direct sunshine. He then recommends leaving the pot in a basement for three months before trying to replant it.


Coping with cedar-loving carpenter bees

Albert from Tuckahoe, NJ needs a cure for the mass influx of carpenter bees that are attracted to his cedar wood house every year. Mike’s advice is to get some rotten, 3rd grade cedar blocks and hang them in nearby trees. The next step is to purchase gallons of almond oil, which is available at multiple massage therapist locations. “Who knows how researchers figure these things out, but years ago it was discovered that almond oil repels carpenter bees,” Mike says. “Paint or spray some oil onto the surfaces that they attack. So when the new generation of bees come this year, they will be repelled by the wood of your own home, but they will then use the nesting blocks that you’ve provided nearby.”


Question of the Week: Do trees NEED mulch? And can a tree survive severed roots?

I’m about to put an addition on my house that will require a foundation being built approximately six to eight feet from a well-established maple tree that’s about 30 to 40 feet high. The builder says there’s a chance the tree will die when the roots are cut during trenching. Is there anything I can do to help increase the tree’s odds of survival? Many thanks,

Mia in Yellow Springs, OH

Mike McGrath’s answer:

Builders generally like to have nearby trees removed, stump and all, so that they can work with a blank slate. Homeowners generally want to try and keep established trees for their shade and massive beauty. No one can honestly predict with any accuracy whether such trees will survive the construction process, but they often do.

I wanted desperately to keep an adjacent tulip poplar when we built the first big addition on our home, and so I called every tree expert I knew for advice. Most said to just get rid of it, but one guy felt that if only about 20% of the roots would be severed, the survival odds were good. He advised me to make sure the root cuts were sharp and clean and to coat the cut root surfaces with white latex paint before replacing the soil around them, which I did. That was 23 years ago and the poplar—which is exactly five feet from the foundation—is doing fine.

But if I had guessed wrong, the cost to remove the dead tree would have been exponentially higher because of the added difficulty of protecting the newly adjacent structure. And I would no longer have the option of having the stump pulled for fear of damaging the foundation. So weigh your options carefully and realistically.

If you decide to take a shot at preserving the maple, ask the builder to try and limit the use of heavy machinery near the tree as much as possible during construction, make sure the cuts are clean, seal the cut portions with white latex paint and then fill in around the roots with the same soil you removed. Do not feed the tree or use any form of wood mulch near it. Do apply a one inch mulch of compost beginning six inches away from the trunk and water the tree deeply and slowly during any prolonged dry spells, especially over the summer.

Do I really need to mulch around my trees or is it just a matter of aesthetics? I don’t like the ‘mulched circle’ look around the base of trees, so when I planted mine about twenty years ago, I just let grass grow up to the trunks. It looks natural. But recently a tree trimmer said that my trees looked “dry” and that I should dig out the grass and mulch them. Sounds crazy to me. What do you think?

Rob in Clarksville, MD (just outside Columbia)

Mike McGrath’s answer:

I think he’s got a really big load of wood mulch to unload, Rob.

Of course trees don’t need mulch—just look at the woods! There isn’t mulch around any of those trees and they do just fine. Mulch serves no purpose for established trees other than what some people see as decorative (I personally find it to be ugly and insulting to the tree) and as a way to get rid of all those pallets from China. And many ill-advised modern mulching practices are real tree killers.

So, if people feel they must use mulch around their trees, there are two rules they should follow:

  1. Don’t let any kind of mulch ever touch the trunk of the tree. Trees are healthiest when their root flare is visible and all of the bark is exposed to the air, allowing that bark to ‘breathe’ and stay dry. Trees that are ‘volcano mulched’ with big moist piles of wood up against their trunks are guaranteed to have shorter lives, as that constantly moist bark invites rot, insects and vermin to kill the tree.
  2. Don’t let any mulch be deeper than two inches. Overly-deep mulching prevents rainwater from reaching the roots.

Yes, this is the opposite of what you often see, especially in public spaces. And every time you see wood trash wrapped around a tree, it is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Now, it is very unusual for grass to grow right up to a tree and for both tree and turf to thrive. I emailed this observation to Rob, who explains: “My land was once a farm, and the trees are widely spaced and get plenty of light from all sides—so it’s not like I planted a forest or anything.”

Good man! The only time I see grass growing close to the trunk of a tree IS when the tree is what’s called a ‘specimen’—out in the open, all alone, getting sun on all sides. So if the grass and trees continue to be healthy, don’t change a thing. Just be careful not to injure the bark when trimming the grass, and don’t use chemical herbicides on the lawn; some of the newer ones are real tree killers.

Find this Q&A helpful? Find more gardening solutions at Gardens Alive »

— This week’s post was written by Jolie Higazi, You Bet Your Garden Intern

May 19, 2016
Learn to grow with the “Square Foot Gardening” method!
52:58

Want to grow twice as much in half the space with half the work? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, helps us celebrate Square Foot Gardening–the great Mel Bartholomew’s method of growing in grids and raised beds. Plus answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week:

And this week we pay tribute to one of the true giants of the organic gardening world with two ‘top ten’ lists that Mel created when he revised his classic but heavily engineering-oriented 1981 book into the much more accessible and readable “All New Square Foot Gardening” in 2005. Biggest change: Instead of the old advice of digging out a hole and filling it with a soil-free mix and compost, Mel moved up to placing raised bed frames overtop of your existing soil and filling them with his famous “Mel’s Mix”. No digging. But the grid system—square foot areas divided by strips of wood lathe—did not change one bit. To many people, the grids are Square Foot Gardening.

Learn the 10 commandments of Square Foot Gardening »


Highlights from show for May 14, 2016:

Keeping dogs out the garden

Michelle from Nashville, TN shares a common thread with Mike, as she just rescued a new Pyrenees, Russell, the same breed to which Mike was a proud owner. Michelle is having a hard time keeping Russell out of her garden. He’s constantly ripping up the soil and digging pits. Mike acknowledges that Pyranees are the best dogs in the world, but reminds us that these large dogs are known to protect, guard and warn predators. The best way to keep her new dog from the garden, says Mike, is to train him. “The dog wants to please you,” says Mike, they’re simply looking for a place to cool down and relax in the heat of the summer. The best way to do this training is to go out to one of his spots, use your hands or a shovel and start digging in one of his holes. Continue to do this week after week and soon the dog will realize that this is his dedicated spot. Reward him as he learns this, Mike adds, because that’s the best way to get a dog ten times stronger than you to learn.

Creating healthy footpaths in your garden

Charles from Gloucester County, NJ is helping his father with the large undertaking of starting a small organic farm. His father is currently using shredded leaves in the walkways in between his permanent beds. However, Mike advises him that this is “the worst thing he could do.” Mike warns that tilling carbonaceous materials such as wood chips, whole leaves, or shredded leaves into the garden beds can stop the breakdown of carbon and prevent the plants from getting oxygen. Additionally, the carbon will try to attract nitrogen, and in turn steal food from the plants. Tilling in the garden beds, Mike says, could prevent growth for years. Mike advises Charles and his father to first be sure he has a good bulk source of compost for his soil. He also suggests using two inches of shredded leaves with a mulch on the beds. This way, earthworms will colonize the leaf litter and their casting will help feed the plants. Never forgetting that earthworms in the garden improve productivity immensely. He could use true wood chips, as in chips from actual trees, in the walkways between the beds. Mike also encourages Charles to get in touch with NOFA NJ, which stands for the Northeast Farming Association of New Jersey. This great organization provides a support group for organic farmers, with workshops covering everything from marketing and finances to the actual crop growing.


Mosquito control

Hollis in Middletown Delaware is having a problem with a large number of wasps and mosquitos attracted to the shade of the evergreens in her yard. She’s currently using a chemical spray to keep them under control, but wants a more natural fix, so she’s been reading up on bat boxes. Mike tells Hollis that while bat boxes do produce great results, the only ones sold in the US are extremely large, about the size of a television set, and must be placed at least thirty feet in the air. Additionally, the idea that bats eat mosquitos is a myth created back in the 1950s; they only eat very large night-flying insects. Mike also informs Hollis that wasps do not fly at night, so a bat box would be virtually useless to her. However, he does encourage her to look into dragonflies, which are natural predators of mosquitos. In fact, there is a whole family of dragonflies known as mosquito hawks. Hollis can attract dragonflies to her yard with perches that are much simpler than bat boxes and will work much better for her. Mike also suggests buying BTI traps. BTI is a naturally occurring soil organism that can be put in standing water to attract mosquitos to lay their eggs. These eggs will not hatch and Hollis will be cutting down their population in her yard. Mike points out that the “creepy European hornets” that Hollis is so afraid of do not even have stingers and eat a ton of pest insects. In fact, these hornet pose less of a threat to her than the chemicals she is using to get rid of them. Mike suggests buying a bug vacuum to ease her nerves when it comes to these bugs.


Tree care in a new home

Taylor in Noble, OK just moved into a new house and is left with the remains of the former owner’s hobby for horticulture. He asks Mike about caring for two specific trees, a Dogwood in the front yard and a Magnolia in the back. Taylor was told that they needed special care, as they aren’t very common in his area of Oklahoma, but does not know what to do. Mike tells Taylor the basic rule for a Dogwood is that they need morning sun and afternoon shade. Since the Oklahoma summers are so hot with so much wind, this afternoon shade is even more important than it would be on the east coast. Taylor tells Mike that the former owner must have known what he was doing, as an Oak tree blocks the afternoon sun from hitting the Dogwood. According to Mike, there is nothing Taylor needs to do for the Dogwood. Maybe he could provide a slow drip of water around the base if there is an intense heat wave with no rain, but nothing more than that. As for the Magnolia, Taylor is worried because it didn’t flower as much as he was expecting. Mike informs him that there are many different types of Magnolias, and as the flowers are replaced with fruits at the end of the summer, he can look online and identify his type of Magnolia. With this information, he can find specific care instructions. Mike tells Taylor that as long as the leaves are nice and glossy, which they are, then the trees are healthy. There is nothing he should do for the Magnolia tree either. Mike says that the best Magnolia specimens he has ever seen were in abandoned farm houses. This reminds us, says Mike, that “we need these plants more than they need us messing around with them.”


Neighboring chemicals

Lisa in Northwest Missouri moved away from city-life so that she could have her own organic garden, only to learn that two of her neighbors are spraying herbicides to grow GMOs. One neighbor is using a ground spray, which Mike acknowledges is not too bad, while the other is using a crop-dusting method. Mike informs Lisa that every county has a local EPA office and she should register there and use them as a resource. He tells her that if she has enough land to put out a farm stand and maybe sell some excess produce in the summer, she should announce that as her intention, giving her more rights than just a home gardener. These farmers are not allowed to spray on a windy day, nor can they have their material drift more than a certain number of feet off their property, Mike says. Lisa should monitor the plant death outside of their fields; if the brown areas are only a foot or two outside their property, then they are doing a pretty good job. The crop-duster should focus his herbicides to the center of his fields, letting them drift to the outside instead of onto Lisa’s. However, Lisa should not be afraid to contact her local, not national, EPA office and turn them in if she sees any violations. Mike tells Lisa that she has the right to protect herself from the sprays and their drifts.


DEET

Cheryl from Princeton Junction, NJ is an over-protective owner to a new dog. She wants a safe alternative to the harsh chemicals her husband sprayed to keep mosquitos away. She does not want to harm her dog, but she is a mosquito magnet and now cannot go outside without coating herself in DEET. Mike says that all professional companies that spray for mosquitos now have an organic option that is a bend of several highly effective botanicals such as lemon eucalyptus and catnip. These natural repellents are just as effective, but won’t harm Cheryl or her new dog. Mike tells Cheryl that though many people believe you need to reapply spray with DEET because is comes off into the air, it really goes into your blood stream and excretes through your kidneys and liver. That is why it’s so important to use these natural repellents. According to Mike, putting such a harmful chemical on your skin is crazy. He also tells Cheryl she can buy BTI at any local hardware store or home center. She can leave out this BTI in standing water, attracting the mosquitos to breed and lay their eggs, only the eggs will not hatch in the BTI. Mike encourages Cheryl to visit the garden answers section of the “You Bet Your Gardens” website and read the articles there on mosquitos if she wants to be more informed. Another alternative is to try this commercial, all-natural lemon eucalyptus repellent made by Repel, a company that also manufactures DEET products. Mike tells her to remember that these botanically based insect repellents have been proven to be just as effective as the chemically based products.


LEDs versus fluorescent lights

Mark from Ewing, NJ is ready to discuss with Mike the use of LEDs versus fluorescent lights. Mark, who is evidently a lighting expert, explains how fluorescent lighting is perfect for plant growth because it has an ultraviolet component of 400 nanometers, which is close to what the sun produces. This makes it perfect for plant growth within about one inch of the tubes, as Mike always says. LEDs on the other hand have almost no ultraviolet component. In fact, LEDs are used in places like art studios, where they do not want degradation cause by ultraviolet light. Mark brings this up because of Mike’s advice on another week’s show. Mike explains that he had recently made a personal appearance where he was told that people had seen “shop light” fixtures that looked like fluorescent lights but were really LEDs. As LEDs are much cheaper and last forever, he thought that this would be a great thing. This brought Mike to the question, “Is it impossible for an LED to have a UV component?” The answer: it is not impossible to create, however this product is not on the market yet. It may be coming soon though, so look out! Mark suggests testing your lights with a calculator that has a small solar disc on it. If you put this piece under the LED in an area of complete darkness, you can barely see it glow.

May 12, 2016
Beware of Old Landscape Timbers
52:58

It’s a story as old as time, but definitely not from Disney. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will discuss what to do when you discover that your ‘new’ house comes with old landscape timbers. Plus answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week:

“I recently bought a house just over the Pennsylvania border in Maryland. The previous owner had many garden beds, and the one he used for vegetables had old timbers surrounding it that looked questionable. I asked him if they were ‘treated wood’ and he said he didn’t know; that were there when he purchased the house over ten years ago. The timbers are rotted and in bad shape. How do I find out whether they are treated wood; and if they are, do I need to remove all the soil? Is there a place I could take a piece of wood to show someone or have it analyzed?”

— Pattie in Pennsylvania

Railroad Ties are NOT Legal for Home Landscape Use »


Highlights from show for May 8, 2015:

White Grubs

Nyla in Alexandria, VA wants to find out if there is an organic method to get rid of white grubs that are demolishing her vegetable gardens. She has also done some research in hopes of resolving her issue and came across nematodes and would love Mike’s feedback. For Nyla to understand the life cycle of these insects, Mike first states that scarab beetles such as these white grubs in the summer time do eat away at plants; females of this variety, search for places of “moist open ground” to lay their eggs such as garden beds. To prevent it from happening as we begin to enter into summer, one thing Nyla can do is add a mulch of shredded leaves or pine straw that might discourage the females from laying eggs there. Mike warns Nyla not to use the nematodes just yet, it is best to save it for when the soil gets warmer for they will not be as productive. Mike adds that the white grubs delve deep in the soil, below the frost line, in the winter; therefore, Mike advises her to be patient until the soil is warmer that way the grubs will eventually reach the top where nematodes can obliterate them. Mid-May, is the perfect time to begin. Additionally, nematodes are bred to purposely kill grubs and do not harm earth worms.”


Killing Mushroom Spores

Ed in Detroit, MI has had the misfortune of discovering cup mushrooms growing on his spinach in his green house. He tells Mike that he has been picking them out and composting them, only to realize that the more he picks the more the mushrooms spread. He mentions that his soil is mushroom soil. Mike informs Ed that spent mushroom soil is commonly used, especially in Pennsylvania; however, the mushroom growers in farms steam the soil in order to kill the spores so that when it is sold to consumers mushrooms will not grow. Mike believes that Ed has purchased soil with active spores. Mike advises piling up the compost and allowing it to sit in the sun and somehow steam the soil with either pouring boiling water over it or using some kind of steaming machine or tool to kill any visible spores if spotted this summer. If this procedure is done, most likely this soil can be reused again in the fall.”


Community Gardening

Mary in CA would like to know if it is possible to grow a vegetable garden in her apartment that only receives about half an hour worth of sunlight. She is interested in vegetables such as tomatoes. Mike informs her that plants like tomatoes need six to eight hours of sunlight; therefore, she will not be able to grow them in her home. What Mike would suggest, considering her circumstances, is community gardening. Additionally, he adds that by gardening in the local garden, she can allow her tomatoes to get enough sun but to also take note that they need some shade in the afternoon and she can do that with an umbrella. Mike warns that growing plants in such little light is not healthy at all for it concentrates too much nitrogen which isn’t beneficial.”


Fruitless in New Jersey

Fred in NJ has zucchini plants that he believes have been doing very well with gigantic leaves and flowers. However, “they bear no fruit whatsoever” and has noticed the lower section of the plant is deteriorating. Mike says that at the start of it’s reproducing, it only reproduces male flowers. The plant takes a while for it to produce female flowers especially if it is grown in flat earth, has poor drainage, is chemically fertilized, etc. However, it will be notable when it does happen because female flowers have a bulge underneath them unlike male flowers that have a straight line and make the plant appear straight. Mike believes that Fred is infested with the squash vine borer: these are night flying pests that lays eggs at the base of squash plants; they hatch and make their way deep into the vine making them invisible and demolish the plant. Mike offers him some suggestions. Either he can lightly wrap gauze above where the roots end. The gauze should be halfway above and underground. This procedure serves as a physical barrier against the night flying moth. If Fred wishes to prevent them, once weekly he should spray water in a sharp stream on the plants to ‘blow the eggs off’. Eventually, Mike states that he may notice a hole where he sprays in the ground and he should dig out, with a single edge razor blade, and remove the caterpillar(s).”


Testing the Soil

Jonathan in Philadelphia, PA wants to become a gardener by replanting a year old abandoned garden and would like to know some first-time gardener tips on what crops to plant. He mentions that it is grown into a small square plot that is bricked off and he has recently added new soil and mixed in compost. Mike emphasizes how important it is to test your soil for lead, especially in urban environments like Jonathan’s; he adds that if you inhale the dust it can have a negative affect, but the crops will not absorb it unless there are hugh amounts of it. Mike suggests that it would be better if he layered it with another layer of bricks and fill the extra space with clean top soil and compost and make it a raised bed, avoid working in the existing soil. Wearing gloves, according to Mike are essential for Jonathan; the best gloves for this situation are baseball leather gloves to protect himself from contaminated soil. Once the bed is raised, he can purchase the plants he’d likes.”


New Grass

Rose in NJ has a small grassless property she wants to cover with grass. Her property has varying elevations and in the winter she receives a lot of standing water that turns to ice. She is thinking about installing Zoysia grass and wants Mike’s input on it. Mike ensures her that it is “very tough” and considering her region, installing it will only allow her grass to be green about half of the whole year. Mike prefers that Rose buy rolls of sod. The best way to install a new lawn, says Mike, is to remove what you had before and level the area or even it out. She can hire someone to level the area out, to improve the drainage. “Zoysia grass is really low maintenance, really doesn’t need to be fed, only have to cut it a few times a year”, Mike adds. It is a powerful plant and doesn’t harm anything else. “


May 06, 2016
What is permaculture?
52:57

Many people are fascinated by “Permaculture”. Mike McGrath host of You Bet Your Garden will discuss ‘permanent agriculture’ with certified Permaculture instructor Paul Wheaton. Plus: Compost, grass clippings and mushroom soil and your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week:

“I’ve been looking into the different design systems I could use in establishing a new organic garden and food forest fruit orchard. I’ve heard about permaculture, biodynamic, and biointensive, but I’m really confused: What’s the difference between these three? And finally, which do you think would give me the best view on how to design my new garden in a functional way for the long-term? Thanks.”

— Joe from Greenville, NC

Learn about permaculture »

Apr 29, 2016
Tips for first time gardeners
52:57

First year gardening often resembles the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Mike McGrath discusses how to avoid running away from a giant boulder as you try and grow your first tomatoes. Plus: Mike talks with fruit tree expert Lee Reich and your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week:

“I’m really excited about starting my very first vegetable garden! I started some lettuces and planted pepper and tomato seeds in biodegradable pots with organic seed starter. I’m doing a raised bed filled with 50/50 compost and top soil. Are there any particular bugs to look out for in my area? And what would you recommend to combat them? I know I need to put some type of fencing up to keep out deer and rabbits. Any other tips for a first timer would be great.”

— Roseann in Phoenixville, PA

Read Mike’s tips for first time gardeners »


Highlights from show for April 16, 2016:

Fixing lawn patches

Maureen in Delaware County, Pennsylvania has eight white pine trees in her yard, and therefore much of her lawn is shaded. The grass in her lawn is very patchy and, in some spots, completely dead. Mike says the trees are intercepting all of the moisture and nutrients in the soil. Mike tells Maureen to plan over the summer to have a nice load of top soil or compost delivered, and then find the most shade-tolerant grass seed she can find. Then, Mike suggests using moss as an alternative lawn cover in the front yard.

Manure for compost

Paul in Reading, Pennsylvania just adopted a dog, and wants to know if he can use her fecal waste to fertilize his lawn. Mike says there are two kinds of manures: manure from herbivores, and manure from carnivores. Cats and dogs have soft paws, so they’re very prone to picking up parasites, and those parasites are often found in their feces, so it can be dangerous to handles those materials. Mike suggests disposing of canine excrement in the same sewer system humans use, that way the waste is treated the same way before it returns to nature.


Featured Interview: Lee Reich, PhD

Lee Reich, PhD is an avid farmdener (more than a gardener, less than a farmer) with graduate degrees in soil science and horticulture. After working in plant and soil research with the USDA and Cornell University, he shifted gears and turned to writing, lecturing, and consulting. This week he joins us to talk about grafting. He tells us about this exciting cloning method, and exactly how we can go about performing this horticultural magic. Lee is the author or many books including Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden and Grow Fruit Naturally.

  • Lee Reich, PhD


Applying mulch

Anne in Haverford, Pennsylvania wants to mulch her azalea bushes and is thinking about buying some licorice root to do so, because she heard some bad things about wood mulch. Mike defines mulch as any substance you apply to soil that prevents weeds and retains moisture. Not all mulches are bad. It just so happens that wood mulch is often misused. Mike says no mulch should ever be deeper than two inches, and no mulch should ever touch a plant. Rather than licorice root or wood mulch, Mike recommends milled peat moss for the azalea bushes.

“No mulch of any kind should ever be run directly up to a house because that creates an underground passageway for subterranean termites to get to the house.”

Mike McGrath


Creating compost

Tony in Cherry Hill, New Jersey started composting last year, but his compost hasn’t fully broken down. He wants to know how long it needs to decompose before it can be used. In his compost, tony included egg shells, coffee grinds, leaves, some yard waste, and some kitchen waste. When asked, Tony said he did not shred the eaves, and Mike then asked him if the leaves made up at least three quarters of the compost. Mike points out that kitchen waste does not break down as well or as quickly as leaves, and it also can attract vermin. He tells Tony not to be discouraged because even leaves can take years to decompose, and most people fail on their first tries. Tony will have to wait to use his compost pile, but Mike suggests buying some in the meantime. Lastly, he recommends using worm bins to accelerate the decomposition of kitchen waste.


Failing forsythia

Trish in Wilmington, Delaware has a huge forsythia bush that used to bloom in an amazing golden hue, but has recently failed her. She says it now has no golden blooms, and very few green leaves. Trish admits she is not much of a gardner and has never pruned the bush, but Mike remains astounded because he couldn’t kill his forsythia bush if he tried. Trish describes her forsythia as a wonderful bird sanctuary. Mike asks if there are sunflower seeds in the bird feeder near her plant, and Trish affirms his suspicion. Mike tells us that there are two mysteriously harmful plants allopathic: one is the black walnut tree in its entirety, and the other is the seed of the sunflower.

Apr 15, 2016
How to attract frogs and toads to your landscape
52:57

Little amphibians are already peeping their appreciation for the start of spring. On You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath discusses what to do if you don’t have any frogs or toads to call your own. Plus your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week:

“The back of my property line is a wetland boundary, and I’ve noticed that it’s gotten a lot quieter out there in the past 10 years… there is no longer a single bullfrog ‘harrumphing’ on summer nights and only a few peepers peeping in the Spring. Where have they gone? I miss their cheerful cacophony. “

— Gary in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Attracting Amiable and Advantageous Amphibians »

Apr 08, 2016
How to refresh your lawn for Spring!
50:15

Spring is here and many of you just noticed that you need a new lawn. Mike McGrath reveals who can accomplish that easily and who needs to sit on their spreader. Plus: Mike speaks with Emily Boell, from Delaware Valley University and Justin Barclay from the Rodale Institute who are working together to help veterans learn organic farming techniques.


Question of the Week:

“My lawn is mostly weeds. I recently removed a large bed of English Ivy that surrounded two dogwood trees and bordered the driveway. I want to plant grass seed this spring but am not sure which type. Can you give me some advice?”

— Patty in Elkton, Maryland

Learn how to grow grass in the spring »


Highlights from show for April 2, 2016:

Working with wood mulch

Patty in Bucks County, Pennsylvania heard that wood mulch is not recommended to treat plants, but she noticed that it’s being sold and used everywhere. Patty wants to know what she should use instead of mulch. Mike tells us some history about the rise of wood mulch popularity: wood mulch was heavily marketed to people after the lumber industry was told they could no longer dispose of their waste at landfills. Mike says that wood mulch is okay as a divider in raised beds, and it’s even okay to use on plants as long as it doesn’t touch the plant itself, and isn’t spread deeper than two inches, because that will prevent rainwater from reaching the roots. Lastly, wood mulch should never be used on disease-prone plants such as tomatoes, roses, lilacs, or dogwoods.


Controlling crabgrass

Josh in Annapolis, Maryland wants to control crabgrass in his lawn by applying corn gluten meal. Mike says that Josh may have missed his window of opportunity because of the especially warm soil temperatures we have experienced this year. However, Mike says Josh should still put down as much corn gluten meal as he is allowed to use. Mike also advises wetting the corn gluten meal when putting it down and then letting it dry out because that’s the way it inactivates seeds the most effectively. Lastly, Mike says that the best method is getting a flame weeder. It’s like a shepherd’s hook and it has a bottle of propane gas attached to it. The best way to eradicate crabgrass is to torch it.

Featured Interview: Emily Boell and Justin Barclay

Mike speaks with Emily Boell, Organic Farming Program Coordinator at Delaware Valley University and Justin Barclay Veteran Farming Program Coordinator at the Rodale Insitute. They are working together to help returning veterans learn organic farming techniques, how to take their produce to market and how to find farmland to grow on. Find more at: www.delval.edu


Composting with eucalyptus

Robert in Los Angeles, California just started a garden this year, and wants to get into composting, but doesn’t have access to fall leaves out on the west coast. Finally, he found a supply, but all the leaves are from eucalyptus trees. Robert asks Mike if the resin and oil from the eucalyptus plant might damage his garden. Mike says eucalyptus in general is highly bioactive, and highly insect-repellent. He suggests using it on the garden to deter pests. As far as compost goes, Mike advises Robert to use his personal food waste, along with coffee grounds. He supposes that dried palms from local palm trees could serve as good west-coast substitutes to our fallen leaves here in the east. Lastly, Mike highly recommends using worm bins.


Grubs and Beetles

Anne in Dayton, Ohio has large patches of torn-up grass in her yard, as though some critter had been messing around there. Mike immediately thinks it’s a beetle problem. The beetle larva, the grubs, feed on grass roots in the late summer and early fall. During that time, if you see grass turning brown as autumn approaches and temperatures drop, you should suspect grubs. To check, you can lift up the grass and you will see them. Mike asks if Anne has any raised tunnels or obvious holes in her yard. When she says no, Mike concludes skunks are the problem. These nocturnal animals can hear and smell the grubs underground, and will dig around these patches to get at the grubs. Mike advises cutting the grass at a height of three inches (no less) and with a new blade. Lastly, around August 15, Mike tells Anne to sow matching grass seed in the damaged areas, and to apply a product called milky spore which will kill the grubs.


Getting rid of mosquitoes safely

Kay in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania is trying very hard to avoid mosquitoes this year, but does not want to use sprays or pesticides. Her neighbors signed up for a six-spray package from a company called Mosquito Platoon, and were trying to recruit Kay to get a group discount. Kay wants to find alternatives that she can use for her own yard, and that she can recommend to her friends. Mike first suggests BTI as a way to treat standing water, which halts mosquito eggs from hatching. Next, Mike discusses garlic oil spray, a substance that is repellent to many insects. Last, Mike mentions that some spraying companies offer botanical spray options that are less harmful.

Apr 01, 2016
Should you ever put tomatoes out early?
52:57

Should you put plants like tomatoes out early if summer heat typically shuts them down? Mike McGrath discusses the perils of early planting and super-hot summers. Plus your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week:

“My father and I are having an argument. I have a Bachelor’s in Botany, but he has more gardening experience than I have years in my life. Oklahoma City has been having an incredibly mild winter, and our last frost dates have been coming earlier and earlier (I think the most recent was around March 30th), so I think we should put our peppers and tomatoes out now* and cover them with blankets in case of a cold snap. Dad thinks we should wait until after the last frost date. I’m concerned that if we wait that long, summer will set in early as it often does here, and we won’t be able to get any good harvests because of the heat. Is there a middle ground, or is one of us right?”

— Lisa from Oklahoma City

Learn about the perils of planting your tomatoes early »


Highlights from show for March 19, 2016:

Deterring toads and frogs

Catherine, in Oklahoma, has a problem with toads and frogs that inhabit a creek near her property. Though they don’t harm her, and they do such a good job eating up mosquito larvae, Catherine suffers from a horrible fear of toads and frogs. Catherine asks Mike how to deter these slimy critters from her concrete patio without using chemicals. Mike suggests making the lighting in her backyard motion-censored lighting, because the lights attract insects, and the insects attract the frogs. Lastly, Mike advises diverging the toads to another location by setting up a small body of water under a light at the very edge of her property. It will give the frogs a better option. Furthermore, to prevent mosquito infestation in this little pond, Catherine can sprinkle BTI in the water, which won’t hurt the amphibians, but will halt mosquito hatching.


Pruning fruit trees

Jerry, in Michigan, has some concerns about his apple trees and his cherry trees. Mike tells Jerry about the “chilling requirement” that apple trees have. Apple trees need to grow in colder areas. Mike even says that the trees can be pruned in the middle of winter. Sometimes, it’s better to wait until the trees flower, so you can see which parts didn’t make it, which ones are thriving, etc. Mike says, when pruning, Jerry should remove whole branches, branches that are pointing straight up, and branches that are in crowded areas. When it comes to his cherry trees, Jerry is concerned about frost. Mike advises that he string some old strings of incandescent Christmas lights in the trees to keep them warm at night.


“With apple trees and peach trees especially it’s always smart to cut the tallest branch from the time that the trees are little, and that’s called creating a new central leader. That’s one way to keep the height of the tree under control.”

Mike McGrath


Growing hops at home

Paul, in Texas, wants to raise hops from rhizomes to create and brew beer. In his area, Paul reports there is either an abundance of water, or basic drought. He says the soil is like clay. Paul wants to create raised beds to grow the hops, but doesn’t know what size the beds should be. Mike says hops, like wine grapes, are best grown in areas that are dry. Hops, Mike says, are climbing plants that can grow anywhere from 10 to 20 feet high in a season! Mike advises putting the rhizomes in the ground, and then as the plats grow, he says to shovel compost around them on the surface. Mike advises choosing the specific hop plant carefully (one that is best suited for Texas humidity) and to only plant a few of them, 20 feet apart to make sure that there is good air flow between them.


Ridding rose bushes of disease

Ellis, in Oklahoma, has a couple of rose bushes that are dear to his daughter, but they seem to be diseased. One of them, a short-stemmed rose, was a gift, which ended up being planted. The other bush, a long-stem variety, is about six feet tall. Ellis reports that both plants are browning, and are dead and gray at the top, some are even dead down to the root. Immediately, Mike asks if the rose bushes are mulched with anything. Ellis had been mulching his rose bushes with wood chips. Mike says the wood chips are killing them, and just moving the mulch away can cut the likelihood of disease by more than half. After that, Mike recommends pruning the diseased portions of the branch, and treating the rose bushes with compost.


Raising raspberries

Rebecca, in New Mexico, has a question about her raspberry plants. She planted them in a raised bed, filled with soil she took from a nearby corral that had cows over 30 years ago. She reports that her plants have been growing well, with thick bushy branches and green leaves, but she hasn’t seen any flowers or berries. Mike says raspberries do not want to be in a raised bed, and they do not want to be in a rich soil. They like to grow in flat ground, in your worst soil. All they need is a shovel full of compost every four or five years.


“Raspberries are, in the best sense of the word, trash plants.”

Mike McGrath



Fire ants

Anne, in Oklahoma, has a problem with fire ants. Anne read online that she should drown the fire ants with water, but Mike highly advises against that. Mike has an organic alternative that is much safer. It is comprised of two parts. The first is orange oil, a product called Orange Guard, which is an insecticide. First, you pour the Orange Guard down the holes into the colonies. Then, you put Spinosad on the ants. Spinosad is a naturally occurring soil organism, and when it gets on the ants, it creates a fungal infection and the whole colony dies. Ant Zap, a medium-sized cylinder of CO2, can be used to displace all of the oxygen in the colony, thus killing the ants. Lastly, fire ants are notoriously attracted to electricity, so a bug zapper will do just the trick!


Voles and Moles

Arlena, in Pennsylvania, wants to know if using castor pellets to deter voles and moles will affect the flavor of anything she grows in her garden. Mike says, “Absolutely not!” Moles only eat live food like worms and beetles, and voles only eat the roots of plants. So it’s not the taste of castor oil that deters them, it’s the smell! Therefore, the flavor of castor oil won’t permeate, because it has no flavor.

Mar 18, 2016
Bad beetles and wicked weevils
52:58

What flies by night, eats your plants and is now found from north to south? Mike McGrath, examines the antics of an asiatic beetle on spring break and discuss a new way to control all kinds of bad beetles and wicked weevils.


Question of the Week:

“I have a raised-bed garden in Florida, and recently found a bug feeding on the leaves of my Zinnia plants at night. The bug is about a quarter to a half inch long and I think it may also be harming my basil and bean plants. I was wondering if you could help me identify this pest and if there is a way to get rid of it organically.”

— Illyce in Hollywood, Florida

Learn more about asiatic beetles and weevils »

Mar 04, 2016
Find out if Hugelkultur (Hoogle Culture) is right for you!
52:57

If a tree falls in your backyard and nobody hears it, can you plant a garden on it? Mike McGrath will answer yes as we delve into the basics of “hoogle culture”.


Question of the Week

A big tree fell over in our backyard this winter. Luckily it didn’t hit anything important. The main part of the tree has been cleared away. Now there is a giant root ball covered in dirt that pulled out of the ground. Instead of disposing of it, I think it would be cool to add more dirt to make a big mound and grow plants and flowers on it. What plants would grow well on a decomposing stump? It would be nice to have flowers and plants that are beneficial to bees and birds. It’s in a sunny location.

Joanne in Delaware County PA

Learn what to do when your houseplants outgrow your house »

  • Photo by Flickr user Mark


Highlights from show for February 27, 2016:

Phalaenopis Orchids

Carol in Oklahoma rescues plants that grocery stores throw away after the holidays. This year, after Valentine’s Day, Carol rescued about eleven dozen long-stem roses. She also acquired about 11 or 12 orchid plants and called Mike to inquire about how she should care for them. Mike says these phalaenopsis orchids are the most common, they’re easy to raise, and inexpensive. He said they flower repeatedly, with up to 30 buds on a stem, each bud blooming after another, so they look like butterflies. Mike advises getting rid of anything around the pot that will hold moisture, like decorative foil. Orchids, Mike says, are naturally epiphytic in the rainforest, and enjoy shaded ares beneath the canopy of the trees. He says to keep them out of direct sunlight in ambient light. Lastly, he says these rainforest plants enjoy humidity, so Carol should mist them daily.

“The flowers will open up in sequence, so that when you get seven or eight of them open at once, it really does look like butterflies, or the person who gave it the common name of moth orchid thought they looked exactly like tropical moths they had seen in the rainforest.”


How to trade moss for grass

Bill in West Philadelphia is looking to buy a home in the Philly suburbs, but has concerns about its lawn. Bill wants to know why the entire backyard is covered in moss, as opposed to grass. Mike says moss has both pros and cons. Some people prefer moss because it is low-maintenance. Moss, Mike says, needs three things: moisture, shade, and most of all, an acid soil. If the goal is to get rid of the moss however, one could treat the lawn with lime or wood ash to raise the pH to give the grass a chance to grow. Mike says that even the most shade-tolerant grass needs at least four hours of direct sunlight a day. So, if there is not enough sunlight to sustain a grass lawn, moss is an alternative option.


Rehabilitating apple trees

Nathan in Springfield, Massachusetts has concerns about apple trees. He developed an interest in them when he lived in New Jersey, and brought seeds up to Massachusetts with him. He has been raising the trees from seedlings, and now has six-month-old sapling bushes in his basement, growing under lights. They’re getting too big for the basement now, and Nathan needs advice.

Mike says he is concerned because the trees were experiencing summertime in the basement when it was wintertime outside, so they never got a chance to be dormant. Apple trees have what’s called a “chilling requirement,” which means they need hundreds of hours below 40 degrees. Mike tells Nathan to immediately lower the temperature, and make sure the lights are off at least 12 hours a day. Mike says that Nathan should start taking them out in March for a little bit every day. Then, Mike says, bury the pots in the soil, and make sure they’re protected from the deer or other animals in the area.


“Apples were grown less for fresh eating than they were for making hard cider. Alcohol was hard to come by, but if you had a grove of trees producing who-cares-what-kind of apples, then you could make cider and then ferment it, and the cider was universally tasty and very high in alcohol.”


Greenhouse growing

Michelle in Haines, Alaska has a greenhouse rehab project going on, and she has a small eight-by-eight foot greenhouse on a plywood platform. She wants to put some raised beds in the greenhouse, but wants to know how to construct a drainage system that won’t rot the wood of the floor. Mike says that when he built his greenhouse, he built a bench and put containers on top of the bench. He also suggests putting planking down on the floor. Mike also suggests grow boxes on stilts, because they’re easier to reach and further from the cold ground. He says modular systems are more fun because they make rotation easier. Michelle asked about a potential heat sink, and Mike suggests using stones or a stone wall that will absorb the heat from the sun during the day and continue to radiate that heat at night, thus creating a passive heat source.


Preserving your pulmeria

Lisa in Manayunk, Pennsylvania has a basement with grow lights and a nice deck for outdoor plants. She is about to be the proud owner of a five-gallon rooted plumeria. She is nervous about how to prepare for this tropical plant that will be delivered from Florida. Mike says there are not many places in the United States that this plant can naturally grow outside. Mike says these plants go through a period of “true dormancy.” He tells Lisa not to panic if the plant drops all its leaves and the leaves turn yellow. He says this is normal. This is what happens when the plant is not outdoors in very warm weather. He tells Lisa to ask the shipping company or nursery if the plant that is being shipped will be dormant or flowered.

“Get it down to your little shop of horrors, get those bright lights on it, lie to the thing. Try to convince it, ‘Now it’s June! It’s June! It’s really June outside!” and then when it really is June outside, you take it out.”


Healthy Lawns Act

Julie in Montgomery County, Maryland was working on a bill with her local county council called the Healthy Lawns Act. Maryland’s Montgomery County became the first county in the country to restrict the use of lawn pesticides and herbicides. Julie says the law will take place in two phases. First, this summer, bill will go into effect for county properties. Then, in the second phase, the act will restrict use of these chemicals on private property. To learn more about the organization, or to help out, our listeners can visit safegrowmontgomery.org.

Feb 26, 2016
Keep fruit flies away from your compost
52:57

Composting your food scraps is good for the planet; but fruit flies are bad for your BP! Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, reveals an easy way to keep airborne annoyances out of your kitchen waste and worm bin. Plus your fabulous phone calls.


Question of the Week:

“I’ve been using worm bins for several years and currently have a fruit fly issue. I have a glass of red wine sitting next to the stack and use a vacuum cleaner to capture as many as possible. I just listened to several of your old shows and loved hearing about Bt. I use mosquito dunks in my rain barrels outside; can I also use them to kill fruit flies in the worm composters inside?”

— Donna in upstate (Hobart) New York

Learn more about feeding baby plants »


Feb 19, 2016
Seed starting time is almost here!
52:58

Seed starting time is fast approaching! Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will review the basics of growing your own plants, with a focus on proper feeding. Plus your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week:

“I’ll be starting basil and tomatoes under some LED fixtures that I can adjust to keep the lights just above the plants. I’ll use a timer to provide the appropriate amount of light each day (which I still need to research). My question is about feeding. I’ve heard you say that potting soil has almost no nutrients. So how should I feed my young plants? Once they’re outside, I’ll use my own compost (made from fall leaves), but I don’t want to use it inside the house. Is there some kind of granular feed you would recommend?”

— Tyler in Harleysville PA

Learn more about feeding baby plants »


  • seedling

Highlights from show:

Hemlock Trees

Michelle, in Haines, Alaska, has a question about her hemlock trees. The trees tend to filter and block sunlight from her property, and sunlight is very valuable during those long, dark, Alaskan winters. She has tried to trim the trees back, but is afraid to damage them. With the fluctuating winter temperatures, it is hard to tell if these hemlock trees are dormant. If Michelle prunes them when they’re too warm, the trees will bleed. Mike advises to prune the trees a little at a time, but only during cold weather. He says it is best to do the trimming a day or two into a cold snap.

Coffee Grounds in Fertilizer

David, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, collects discarded houseplants, and wants to know if he can utilize his used coffee grounds to fertilize these plants. Mike says that coffee grounds are very rich in nitrogen, which is the primary plant food. Nitrogen is best used in bulk on plants that do not flower. Also, coffee grounds are slightly acidic, though there’s no consensus on just how acidic they are. Houseplants, Mike says, do not need a lot of food, especially in the winter, and overfeeding houseplants can hurt them.

Potted Orchid

Fran, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has a small orchid plant in a 3- or 4-inch pot. It’s just the kind that you could buy at a local market. It’s white with a yellow center. She is concerned because its leaves are wilting and wrinkling. Fran’s orchid is a basic moth orchid or phalaenopsis, and she keeps it in her laundry room about 2 feet beneath fluorescent tube lighting. Mike says that this is not necessary, and informs Fran that orchids are epiphytes. Epiphytes wrap around the roots and trunks of trees in very dark, damp areas. Mike says these plants like warmth and very ambient, subtle light.

Hackberry Trees

Andrew from Madison, Tennessee has several hackberry trees on his property. In the front of the yard, he has a huge one that is overgrown with ivy. He’s hacked at it and the vine just keeps coming back. Lee says to just keep an eye on it, and keep hacking away gently. All three suggest to get the ivy out of the tree, which will be beneficial for its growth and health.

Snowy Azaleas

David, in Indianapolis, Indiana, has a question about his former azalea bush. In the winter, when it snowed, he would brush the snow off the bush to prevent the branches from breaking under the weight of the heavy snow. Now, his father is in possession of the bush, and David is worried his father won’t remember to tend to the azaleas during the winter. He wants to know if this kind of maintenance is really necessary. Mike says that the plant has enough room between the branches to endure the snow, and that trying to brush the snow off might damage the plant more.
Eventually, David wants to transport this 15- to 20-year-old azalea bush to his new home. David wants to know how to move it. Mike advises to trim the plant back by a third just after it has completely flowered. Then, Mike says, David needs to shovel the plant out of the ground with the roots in-tact. To do this, Mike says, David has to dig deep and wide around the plant. Mike also advises to protect the plant from the wind. Alternatively, Mike suggests taking cuttings from the plant and trying to root them.

Tropical Salvias

Linda, in Kimberton, Pennsylvania, has a few tropical salvias. This year, Linda says she only had flowers for two weeks because they bloomed late and then an early frost came. So, Linda decided to bring her plants inside. To her surprise, they started sprouting in her warm basement. She waters them lightly and loves them well, but doesn’t know how much to water them. Mike tells us that salvia is another name for sage. He says sages/salvias are winter hardy. You can leave them out year after year. Linda says they don’t usually return after the winter. Mike says that, like pepper plants, salvias are perennial if they are protected from frost. Mike suggests that Linda grow them in containers, keep them outside in the warm weather, and bring them inside during the winter. He advises Linda to purchase 4-foot-long fluorescent lighting tubes, hang them on top of a table in her warm basement, and place the salvia right under these lights. Mike says, under these conditions, the salvia should flower all winter, eventually growing into small trees.

Feb 12, 2016
Prevent sap beetles from invading your garden
52:58

A little pest called the sap beetle is often found feeding on ripening fruits. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden will reveal how you can prevent the problems that attract these and other ‘opportunistic insects’. Plus your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week:

“For the last three years, half-inch long slender black beetles have infested my tomatoes. Are they flea beetles? They only show up in August and only go after my tomatoes. They enter through any crack or bruise that happens, usually when the fruit is approaching ripeness, and can do a lot of damage. I have resorted to picking the fruit a little early, before the pests can get in there, and then allowing the tomatoes to ripen on my windowsill.”

— David from Traverse City Michigan

Learn more about dealing with sap beetles »


  • sap beetle
Feb 05, 2016
Can you compost leaves from a tree with tar spot?
52:56

What do you do when you graft a Dirt Doctor and a fruiting spur? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will be joined by master fruit grower Lee Reich and Texas organic advocate Howard Garrett for a very special show that will include your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week:

“A large maple tree in my backyard developed black spots on all of the leaves this year. A maple belonging to my neighbors across the street has the same issue. I believe these may be ‘tar spots’. The trees otherwise seem to be doing fine. I suspect this happened last year as well but I wasn’t paying much attention then. Can I just use the leaves in my compost? Can I use them if I get my compost hot enough? And if so, how do I get it hot enough?”

— Simon in Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Learn more about identifying and using diseased tree leaves »


  • tar spot

Highlights from show:

Fig Trees in Winter

Eric from outside of Philadelphia, has about a half a dozen fig trees, and attempts to grow them each year even though they seem to die after each cold winter. He wants to know how to produce them successfully in his garden, and what the issue might be. Lee Reich advises him to bury the figs alive in the ground so the trees won’t be exposed to low temperatures. Eric wants to know if maybe he could bring them into a garage over winter, but Lee warns that the trees still need a bit of cold, so it’s not best to bring them inside. Mike also warns not to use plastic to protect the trees, because it could create a green house effect and warm the trees too much.

Getting Rid of Sandburs

Cathy from outside of Oklahoma City in the country, has severe sandburs, and wants to know how to get rid of them. Howard who can relate to this scenario being an organic gardener in Texas, suggests that she build the available carbon in the soil to generate better growth. Howard believes that is the key to good soil.

Hot and Muggy Gardening Weather

Mona from Orlando, Florida has an herb garden and has a tough time managing the plants due to the hot and muggy weather there. Howard tells Mona to make sure the herbs are in raised beds, and to water very carefully making sure to not over water, which could really damage a plant especially Rosemary. Mike seconds that, saying Rosemary really doesn’t like “wet feet”. Mike says, to try a lot of perlite in the raised beds to improve drainage and retain moisture.

Overgrown Ivy

Andrew from Madison, Tennessee has several hackberry trees on his property. In the front of the yard, he has a huge one that is overgrown with ivy. He’s hacked at it and the vine just keeps coming back. Lee says to just keep an eye on it, and keep hacking away gently. All three suggest to get the ivy out of the tree, which will be beneficial for its growth and health.

Lots of Leaves

Larry from Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania lives in an area where there are so many leaves, that they had a company come out, and haul away nine dump trucks full, and needs suggestions on the right way to manage all the leaves. Howard recommends that he mulch the leaves into the turf no matter the amount piling up. If there is excess he can put that in a compost pile. Lee then suggests for him to get fencing material and pile the leaves so they can compost down. Lee and Mike disagree on the topic of shredding leaves. Mike is pretty adamant that all the leaves should be shredded to maximize the decomposition. Plus you can fit ten times the amount into bags if they’re shredded.

Fig Tree Trouble

Rita from Coatesville, Pennsylvania ordered a fig tree at one point, nurtured, and planted it while a baby, but as it grew she noticed a cylinder shaped saw dust coming out of the wood and there remained a hole. The tree eventually died. Is this a beetle? Lee thinks it might be the asian ambrosia beetle. He concludes it wasn’t so much the insect killing the tree, but may have been the fungus carried by the beetle killing the stem. Lee continues by adding he doesn’t have a definite cure but a peculiar smell added like cinnamon, and hot pepper painted around the bark might help.

Jan 29, 2016
Can you grow your own mistletoe?
52:57

Can you grow your own holiday mistletoe? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will discuss how and where this popular parasite likes to grow and reveal how mistletoe may be environmentally beneficial. Plus answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week:

“I want to grow mistletoe. My husband passed away in April. We ALWAYS had mistletoe during the holidays and always tried to get it fresh instead of plastic. He would have loved the idea of it growing in our yard. Internet research reveals that it’s ‘doable’, but takes time and poses the risk of becoming invasive—and my landlord is not thrilled with the idea of my planting trees. Can you suggest a couple of trees that mistletoe likes that might do well in a pot?”

— Randi in Piqua, Ohio

More on growing mistletoe »


Highlights from show:

Pine Trees

Paulene from North Carolina recently moved and now has a back yard with pine trees. She always used shredded hardwood leaves and put then in a leaf cage to decompose until they turned into wonderful leaf mold, but now has pine needles in the mix as well and wants to know if they’re going to be good to add to the shredded leaves. Mike says it won’t do any damage, but tells her to test the resulting compost with a PH tester. If it does happen to cause a difference he suggested for her to dust a little lime or wood ash into it.

Hydrangea without Flowers

Marion from Oklahoma City, OK has hydrangeas at the side of her house. Every year she says they become big green bushes, but don’t produce flowers and wants to know what is going wrong. Mike says the best way to keep any hydrangea plant looking good is to wait until summer when the blooms have formed and prune out the old wood so she can see the flowers better. He says because of the severe winters Oklahoma City has she needs to get some burlap so that the plants are protected from the wind.

Figs in the City

Jack from Altoona, PA has a small city plot and wants to plant Fig Trees and would like Mike’s suggestions as to whether he should plant them in the ground or in containers. Mike suggests finding someone near him that he knows that grows fig trees so he’d have a fellow fig grower to hold hands with that year. Mike says if he decides to plant it in a pot, be sure to leave it with a lot of bio mass and prune less during winter so it has a good height in Spring.

Yucca Plant Troubles

Lesley from Springfield, Missouri has a Yucca plant in her house, which can be very dangerous due the sharp points on the ends of the leaves and the knife like edges. Recently, she says she stumbled and fell into it and wants to know if she is possibly poisoned or could have any other bad reaction. Immediately, Mike advises her to never place a Yucca plant in a walkway because it is hazardous, but lets her know she’ll be okay and to be more careful.

Straw Bale Gardening

Michael in Lancaster, Pennsylvania called in about his gardner mom who has arthritis and is struggling to maintain her garden. She heard about straw bale gardening and thought that might be an option. What does Mike think? Mike is not a huge fan of the straw bale gardening method. He says it needs a lot of watering and fertilizing and would recommend table top gardening because everything will be at the perfect height and she won’t have to deal with weeds.

Jan 22, 2016
Does a ‘burning bush’ really burn?
52:57

What can you do when your so-called “dwarf burning bush” gets taller than you are? Mike McGrath host of You Bet Your Garden will reveal what ‘dwarf’ really means in the plant world. Plus: The burning bush of the Bible, secrets of the Flower Show, and your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week:

“I have what they call a dwarf burning bush, and if it’s a dwarf I would hate to see its big brother. It’s over six feet tall and blocking my window and the view from my porch. What is the best time to trim my big dwarf burning bush? It has flat branches and red berries; it’s beautiful in the fall and early winter and I don’t want to do anything to hurt it.”

— Teddy from Harlan County, Kentucky

More on caring for a dwarf burning bush »


Jan 15, 2016
Should you be scared of a hornet’s nest?

What should you do when you notice a hornet’s nest? Mike McGrath host of You Bet Your Garden will explain when it’s safe to take that nest to show and tell; and when that would make you look like Elmer Fudd. Plus answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week:

“Dear Mike: I heard somewhere recently that Roundup kills frogs and toads. Is this true? I have poison ivy (or maybe it’s poison oak) on our property. If it’s just one little sprig I pull it out, but for a larger area I had been using Roundup, which I will stop using if it really does harm frogs and toads. But then what do I do?”

— Gwen in Newtown, PA “

More on preventing Poison Ivy problems »


Highlights from show:

Winter Composting

David in Middletown Township grew up in the pines and never saw leaves as nutrients for his garden, but realized he could use leaves in his garden if he composted them correctly. He wants to know what to do with drums he has from his event business in order to have a successful composting process over winter. Should he drill holes on the side? Mike suggests shredding the leaves and definitely using a leaf blower that has avacuum setting, because it shreds as it is taken up into a collection bag. He says shredding them accelerates the the composting process and makes the leaves safe. Mike also suggests leaving the lids off of the drums, because with more air holes it’ll compost faster. He advises once he makes a unit to leave the compost alone and to not add anything else the pile.

Raspberry Bush

Lyn in Southampton, Pa established a wonderful raspberry bush years ago that has early and late crops. She’d always prune them in March as recommended on the YBYG site. However, this fall her lawn care guys wanted to be helpful without her permission and pruned them to a height of 8in in late November. Now she’s worried they may be really damaged and simply wants to know what the long term effects may be. Mike says she’s lucky because it’s really hard to damage raspberry bushes unless you have poor drainage. He says it won’t harm them at all, but still unfortunate that they cut them so low.

Plastic Tubes and Trees

Stephanie from West Chester, Pa has a son that is on the Robotics Team at school and they are working on a class project to keep the neighborhood clean and green by planting trees in the community protected by plastic tubes. He says the problem is that these plastic tubes add to the unwanted trash in our rivers and streams and wants to find an alternative to using the plastic tubes. Since the tubes already exist Mike recommends simply re-using them to keep them out of landfills, etc.. Mike says to monkey with them, and simply take the tubes off and re-use them over and over again. He recommends cutting more holes in the tubes to allow more airflow.

When to Mulch

Kiera from Absecon, NJ just put in a native plant garden in her yard and was struggling this fall with when she should mulch her garden with shredded leaves. Mike recommends waiting till the first freeze, but we had such a warm fall that she would have been waiting a long time. Mike says to just put them down when you are ready in a situation like we had this fall. Mike says the native plants are great, but keep them mulched.

Rose Bush in Winter

Linda in Anderson, Indiana has a rose bush in a pot since she recently moved. The rose has been doing fine, but she’s worried about what to do with it for the winter. Should she bury her rose in the ground? Mike advises her to put the rose back into the ground still in the pot just to get the root system back under the soil line. He says she could eventually kill it in the pot, but in the spring she should plant it in a place where the sunlight is best and make sure to flare out the roots when you plant it.

Jan 08, 2016
Mike’s most valuable tips and tricks
52:58

Are you imperiled by poison ivy? Sucked dry by mosquitoes? Mike McGrath will help negate these nasty nuisances—and reveal the best small fruits to grow, build a rain garden and more!


Questions of the Week:

“Last year, we started having problems with poison ivy around our vegetable garden. I can’t go near the stuff, so my father-in-law kindly mowed it down and covered the area with weed block and wood chips. The poison ivy simply grew up around it, and instead of being behind my garden, is now starting to encroach it. Do you have any organic suggestions for getting rid of it? Thanks for your help.”

— Laurel DWG; Billerica, Massachusetts

“One of our mulberry trees has a 4” thick poison ivy vine clinging to the bark and climbing the entire tree. It has beautiful foliage in the Fall, but my spouse is very allergic and I need to kill it off. Any suggestions?”

— Terry Martin; Southeastern Michigan

“Mike, it’s that time of year again! I’m getting over my first poison ivy rash and a friend has a bad case just starting. Can you go over the details of your poison ivy plan?”

— Elaine Wolf; Philadelphia

How to polish off your poison ivy without personal peril »

  • Getting rid of poison ivy

Highlights from show for May 31, 2014:

Interview with Lee Reich, author of Grow Fruit Naturally

Lee Reich author of Grow Fruit Naturally is a frequent guest on You Bet Your Garden and is one of our most trusted fruit experts. Lee spoke to Mike back in September of 2012 about the easiest fruits to grow for beginners. His top choices turned out to be pears and blueberries! Pears for their disease resistance and blueberries for their easy going nature.


Interview with Lauren Mandel, author of Eat Up: The Inside Scoop on Rooftop Agriculture

Lauren Mandel, author of Eat Up: The Inside Scoop on Rooftop Agriculture spoke to Mike in August of last year and got us caught up on the hottest trends in roof top gardening. She shows us how anyone can create a garden on top of their building as long as they follow safe guidelines and consult professionals to make sure the job is done right. Most important tip of all? Make sure you have access to the roof so you can carry heavy containers of water or soil or better yet get a plumber to install piping.

  • Photo by Flickr user A Roo


Interview with Lyn Steiner, author of Rain Gardens: Sustainable Landscaping for a Beautiful Yard and a Healthy World

Lyn Steiner, author of Rain Gardens: Sustainable Landscaping for a Beautiful Yard and a Healthy World spoke to Mike in February of 2012 and details the real benefits of having a rain garden in your landscape. Lyn explains that while many people think it is the answer to a wet landscape rain gardens are really better for plants that hold the water for only 24hours. The benefits to the environment are enormous and they attract beneficial insects and butterflies.


Interview with Umar Mycka, poison ivy expert

Umar Mycka has been a groundkeeper at the Philadelphia Zoo for over 40 years and is a poison ivy expert. Umar talked to Mike last year right before the annual Poison Ivy conference in Philadelphia. He explains how poison ivy appears, which is strangely tied to the flying and eating habits of birds. Also how to remove it using Mike McGrath’s own technique.


Interview with Howard Garrett, or “The Dirt Doctor”

Howard Garrett “The Dirt Doctor” (http://www.dirtdoctor.com/) spoke with Mike last year about the terrible issue with mosquitoes carrying west nile virus around the country and specifically in Texas where they combat the problem with aerial spraying. This is not only bad for the environment and for people, but it is not effective. Howard gives tips on reducing the population of mosquitos in your area using BT, a harmless substance that will kill them if they try to breed in water. He advises setting traps in bird baths, cat food cans or buckets. Mike loves this dastardly approach!

  • Photo by Flickr user m0nt2

Jan 02, 2016
Grow your own ornamental sweet potato vine
52:57

Can you grow your own ornamental sweet potato vines? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will reveal how to start all versions of the plant that is neither regular potato nor ‘yam’. Plus your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week:

“I recently pulled out a decorative sweet potato vine as I was cleaning out my planters for the season and found HUGE tubers under the soil. I understand that they are not the tastiest kinds of sweet potatoes, but I would like to save them to plant again in the spring. What’s the best way to store them for the winter? And should I cut them apart in the Spring and bury the pieces in my planters?”

— Candy in Port Murray, NJ, “near the Delaware Water Gap”

Grow Your Own Sweet Potato Vines »


Highlights from show:

Native Flowers

Marilyn from Simpsonville, Kentucky is a Bee Keeper that has a farm, but is down to just 5 acres now. With one-half of the acre she wants to plant a native flower mix for the bees in the field. Her area is thick with fescue grass, and wants to know how best to plant these seeds. Mike suggests for her to simply plow up the field to knock back at least half of the fescue. He then suggests getting a wildflower mix closest to her region, so it would behave properly in her micro-climate.

Garlic Garden Beds

John from Morristown, NJ put his garden to bed, tilled it, and put garlic in it this fall, but came to find it all came up. Mike says the sprouts coming up are fine, but asks what caused him to till his garden in the fall, because it really just damages the soil and activates weed seeds. Mike tells him he should freeze the soil, and after the soil freezes up for the season, put an inch of well shredded fall leaves over the beds in between the garlic sprouts, which insulates the soil.

Ornamental Vines

Cheryl from South Central, Arkansas heard another callers’ question about an alternative ornamental plant to poison ivy. The caller liked how the berries from the poison ivy attracted birds. Cheryl heard Mike suggest getting a pyracantha, because it behaves like ivy but wasn’t poisonous. However, he wasn’t sure if it attracted birds. Sharell assured him that, yes, pyracantha does attract birds where she lives and wanted to highlight that point.

From Raised Beds to Potted Plants

Richard from Williamstown, NJ recently moved to a new home where at first he had raised beds, but now he’s in a condo and can only pot his plants and keep them inside. He has two other plants where he’s unsure what to do, because they’re 4 ft tall and now loosing all its leaves. Mike says he did a good job by bringing them inside, but for the 4 feet tall plants he needs to get them in a plastic pot, lay them outside, and cover them up with shredded leaves for winter.

Dec 12, 2015
Don’t let your tree get “jammed” up by this pest
52:57

Peach jelly is great for a snack, but not when its oozing out of your tree! Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will discuss the pest that causes this not-so-peachy problem. Plus your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week:

“I have a four year old peach tree with a heavy presence of a jelly like substance on the branches and around the base. Cause? Cure?”

— “C. R.” in West Chester, PA

Protect your Peach Trees »


Highlights from show:

Lemon Tree Pruning

Randy in Glen Mills PA got a Meyer Lemon tree in a pot 7 or 8 years ago. It has rewarded Randy with many lemons this year, but he thinks he accidentally pruned it properly last year and wants to know how he should do it this year now that it’s bared so much fruit. Mike commends Randy on a job well done and he says he did a great job. Mike says that he should just stay the course and give it a gentle pruning in the spring and “expect great things”!

Compost Worms

Dani in Chicago is vermicomposting and has been amending her garden with compost that generations of her worms are producing. They love their worms! This year they are going to be living in a temporary situation while their new house is being built. What should she do with her worms while the house is being built? As long as Dani can keep the worm bin inside in her temporary place the only difficulty she’ll have is she can’t mix in the worm castings with outdoor compost. Mike has been mixing the worm castings in with the outdoor compost and it has all the benefits of both.

Growing Pear Trees

Michael in Carney’s Point, NJ recently had a ladder accident. He shifted the ladder while he was on it and got a little banged up. Mike says anytime you are up on the ladder and you need to move it you get down first and then shift . Michael and his family love to forage pears from his neighbors tree. He would like to grow their own tree with these pears. Mike says that pears might not come true from seed. If you start from seed your first fruits will come three to five years later then if you start with a tree. Mike suggests looking for a European type pear that is self fruiting. If he goes online to a supplier they could probably identify the variety and buy professionally started trees. Mike always like’s to get two trees just incase one is a poor choice. If Michael really wants to do he could try to start one of the pear seeds, but he recommends professionally grown trees.

Bare Apple Trees

Terri in Duboise PA has apple trees that in the 30 years of life they’ve had she’s only gotten maybe 50 apples. Terri says her neighbor has trees as well and between the both of them they can’t get any real fruit. Her husband is threatening to chop down the tree at this point. What should she do? Mike asks his basic questions and Terri says that the tree does not produce little apples even though they get blossoms in the spring. She bought the trees from the county extension agency. Mike says that the late freezes she gets is the answer to her conundrum. Even though she bought the trees from county extension it seems they aren’t the right variety for her micro- climate. The blossom’s are getting frozen in the spring and then little apples can’t form.

Dec 05, 2015
Create a Garden Under Glass
52:57

What could be more festive for the holidays than an indoor garden under glass? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will discuss the basics of crafting a terrarium with Maria Colletti, author of Terrariums: Gardens Under Glass. Plus: ants in your plants; and your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week:

“Mike: Can you recommend a treatment for lemon trees, hibiscus, and coleus that have spider mites, aphids, and sticky black spots on the leaves before I bring them in from their summer outside? Please hurry! I only have about a week left before it freezes here!”

— Lise in Tiverton, Rhode Island

Protect Your Houseplant From Pests »


Highlights from show:

Dangerous Ivys

Heather in North Carolina has a Poison Ivy vine in her backyard, but amazingly she is not allergic to it. She is, however, allergic to the more common English Ivy. She is selling her house and knows she needs to remove the vine, but wants to replace it with something equally beautiful. Mike is suggesting for her to get a Pyracantha Firethorn, which isn’t allergenic or poisonous, but has similar structuring and produces beautiful berries in the Fall and Spring.

Featured Interview: Maria Colletti

Mike speaks with Maria Colletti author of Terrariums: Garden’s Under Glass. Colletti is the terrarium designer and store manager for theShop in the Garden at The New York Botanical Garden. She gives many helpful tips on how to create a delightful terrarium and urges everyone to use their creativity. Terrariums come in many shapes and designs.

Damaged Fig Trees

Monique from Philadelphia, PA has fig trees that are damaged and wants to know how to save them from dying over the Winter. Mike says she should keep the fig protected by getting a role of burlap, then drive some stakes in the ground and wrap the protective burlap around the stakes to keep the fig protected from freezing winds.

Bug Invasion

Meredith in Kutztown, PA is dealing with a home invasion from box elder bugs and wants to know how to get rid of them. Mike advises her to come up with a trap plan, like cutting holes in a pizza box and placing it on the outer side of her door, so, as the bugs invade all they’d be able to see is a dark warm box causing them to crowd inside. Mike thinks this would knock out about 95% of their population.

Nov 28, 2015
Dried Hydrangeas are both Bold and Beautiful
52:57

Interested in using some of your hydrangea blooms as dried flowers? On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, a listener reveals how to successfully preserve the many types of these fabulous flowers. Plus your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week:

“I composted last year’s shredded leaves with coffee grounds, turned the piles, and finally have finished compost! Should I put it on my beds now—in the Fall? I need to make room in my compost bins!”

— Andy in Pitman, NJ

Shred Your Leaves & Fall Into Composting »


Highlights from show:

Ferns in the Cold

Michael in Traverse City, Michigan buys fern every fall but as winter arrives he takes them inside to protect them from the cold. He questions why they seem to always die, and wants to know how to get through winter with them thriving instead of dying. Mike advises him to take the fern out of the pot, and split it in half. He says then to repot half in his garden outdoors in a suitable comfortable spot for the fern where it can still receive sunshade; and the other half inside, should receive ambient light for better chances of survival.

St. Augustine Fungus

Karen in Delaware has a question for her father because he has St. Augustine Fungus in his grass, and wants to know how to decrease it. She says the grass has tons of brown spots in it looking like it was eaten. Mike says Karen’s dad might have rotted the lawn with frequent watering. He says because it’s so humid down South the lawn needs to be fed much more. He advises him to buy a gentle organic fertilizer for the grass and says the grass will begin to look healthier.

Trumpet Vine Trouble

Sierra in Oklahoma has a problem with trumpet vines that are all around her house and up the fence. Mike suggests for her to cut them off at ground level yearly to exhaust the rootsystem. He says then the vine will become skinny and weak and begin drying out. She should also make sure to never feed the vine, or anything around it to kill out the vine altogether.

Formidable Forsythia

Ken in Maryland has forsythia that is completely outrageous and tall. It continues to expand and take up space in his garden. He wants to know how much should be trimmed back to stop its expansion. Mike says after it has bloomed in the spring, it can be trimmed back 2 ft yearly to get it under control.

Digging Up Bulbs

Barbara in Essex Maryland is asking Mike for guidance on digging up her tiger lily and iris bulbs and storing them over the winter so she can plant them in the Spring. Barbara says her new house doesn’t have a basement, but it does have a crawl space. So, Mike tells her to put the bulbs in a bag or box lined with landscape fabric or something else to deter critters from chewing through and she can bring them back out in the Spring.

Nov 21, 2015
Using your Compost out of Season
52:57

What do you do when it takes a year for your compost to be finally finished? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will explain how to use your black gold out of season. Plus: new plants under attack by the Emerald Ash borer; and answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week:

“I composted last year’s shredded leaves with coffee grounds, turned the piles, and finally have finished compost! Should I put it on my beds now—in the Fall? I need to make room in my compost bins!”

— Andy in Pitman, NJ

Shred Your Leaves & Fall Into Composting »


Highlights from show:

Mandevillas in Winter

Barbara in Cherry Hill, NJ has a healthy Mandevilla plant on her deck with a 6 foot trellis. It’s still flowering even now and she wants to know if she should bring it in to protect it from the harsh, cold winter. Mike says he’s surprised the plant is still alive with all the cold nights we’ve had in the Philadelphia/New Jersey area. Mike says that the plant will die “twice” if she doesn’t take action. Once because it’s a tropical plant and the second time because it doesn’t have its roots in the ground. First Barb has to spray off any traveling insects that might be on the leaves. Then she can bring it in and take care not to over water the plant. She can take it outside again next summer.

Featured Interview: Don Cipollini

Don Cipollini, Ph.D., Professor of Plant Physiology and Chemical Ecology at Wright State University in Dayton Ohio talks with Mike about a brand new discovery about the infamous pest, the Emerald Ashborer and its eating habits. After 12 years of intensive study and thinking it only eats Ash trees, Cipollini discovered it would also eat a related species called White Fringe tree. Cippollini talks to Mike about what this means for trees everywhere and possible ways to knock back their numbers.

Jasmine Plants

Joanna in South Philly wants to know how to properly bring her Jasmine plant in for the winter. The plant is in her small South Philly back yard and it’s been very happy, but she’s terrified to do the wrong thing as she brings it in for the winter. Joanna tells Mike she bought the plant at a big box store, but repotted it with compost from an organic garden center and she’s been “hardening” off the plant each day by bringing it in at night and then out during the day. Mike is impressed with all the measures she’s taken so far. Mike strongly suggests spraying the plant down with sharp streams of water to get any aphids off of the plant before bringing it in. Then Joanna just has to place it in a south facing window and she should be fine.

Climate for Cherries

Jim in Midwest city Oklahoma wants to know what variety of cherry tree would grow well in his climate. Mike levels with Jim right away and says that he can’t grow sweet cherries in his climate, but he could grow “pie making” cherries. Mike explains that he had an experience trying some of these cherries and they really weren’t sour at all. They were pretty good right off the tree. Mike points out that now that he has the basics and knows he wants sour cherries he should go to his local extension office and ask them for a list of varieties that do well in his climate. Mike suggests getting three different varieties, because he says, ” even if one tree fails on you you will still have an enormous amount of cherries”.

Nov 14, 2015
Are indoor lady bugs helpful predators or just a nuisance?
52:59

Are indoor ladybugs any good at getting rid of aphids on houseplants in homes? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will discuss whether this Asian invader is a real lady or just a bad bug. Plus your fabulous phone calls.


Question of the Week:

“I don’t yet have a garden. I do have about 30 houseplants, plus herbs and some experiments that are going fairly well. Thinking I had an easy solution to an aphid problem, I took some (ladybugs) inside and put them on my plants. Then it hit me that I should probably have checked first to see if lady bugs are dangerous to humans, homes and so on.”

— Karina in Laval, Canada

Can Invasive Asian Ladybugs Control Indoor Plant Pests? »


  • organic gardening
Nov 07, 2015
The Wild World of Bees
52:57

What do brown-belted bumblers; friendly flower lovers; and hemorrhoid diggers have in common? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden will look at some of the mind-boggling members of the wild world of bees. Plus: Saving toads from potted plants; and answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week:

“I’m a long-time listener of your show and finally have a question for you. A toad has taken up residence in one of the potted petunias on my back porch. The pot is terra cotta; approximately 6″ tall & 10″ wide. The toad has burrowed all the way down to the bottom of the pot; I’ve seen him there every day for a few weeks now. My question is what to do with him now that winter is coming? I’ve never grown petunias before so I don’t even know how to winterize them! If I leave the pot outside, will it be too shallow to protect the toad over the winter? Should I evict him now while the weather is still warm enough for him to find a new home? Thanks!”

— Dave in Newton, Pennsylvania

Learn more about caring for potted plants »


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Highlights from show:

Squash Vine Borers

Dave in Traverse city Michigan is having trouble with squash vine borers along with many of his fellow gardeners. Dave mentions he’s tried to till the soil and Mike warns not to till as that causes weeds. He hasn’t had any luck with finding eggs or using row covers. Mike explains that the squash vine borer attacks most squash and comes from a night flying moth that lays its eggs at the soil line. The borer eats a small hole into the vine and is munching away from the inside. Mike suggests in mid-May to start the plants from seed in little garden six packs with soil free mix. When the plants emerge let them grow in the containers until they are 6-8 weeks of age and then when you put them in to the ground you can wrap medical gauze around the vine. This will create a physical barrier to stop the caterpillar’s from eating into the vine.

Bare Tomato Branches

Donna from Avalon, NJ, who called in before to get tips on the tastiest tomato from Mike, has won two years in a row using Mike’s directions. This year she had no Brandywine tomatoes emerge and very little flowers. What should they do? Mike warns you can never predict the season, but says we did have some bad heat waves over the summer. Donna starts the plants in March inside and then puts them out in May. The seeds from this season were ordered for a catalogue. Mike suggests that she should buy seed from a variety of sources and instead of putting plants in the ground that came from all the same seed to maybe use all different seed types. Don’t use really long maturity times of course.

Featured Interview: Sam Droege

Mike speaks with Sam Droege, co-author of Bees: An Up Close Look at Pollinators Around the World. Sam wrote this book with Laurence Packer. This book will give readers a new appreciation for the amazing world of bees. In his conversation with Mike, Sam paints a picture of a tiny world with purple bees, tomato colored bees, bees with long noses and strange eyes. They all have a purpose in nature and partner with flowers in an intricate dance of pollination.

Magnolia Tree Trouble

Laurie in ambler PA has a magnolia tree that is four or five years old and now it’s growing and doing well, but after Laurie came back from vacation the tree looked half dead. Branches were dry and leaves had dropped. Mike wants to know was the tree in a pot or burlap and was it removed? Laurie thinks it was. Mike also wants to know if you can see the root flare and if it’s mulched? She says that there is no mulch and you can see the root flare. Laurie does admit her neighbors lawn is treated. Laurie has done most things right in the care of this tree, so Mike decides there is really nothing she can do, but wait till the Spring and see how it leafs out. He warns her not to do anything drastic and just to wait till Spring to make any decisions.

Oct 31, 2015
Caring for your lovely lilacs this spring
52:57

Diseases make them sick! Hornets harvest their bark! Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will help you correctly care for your beautiful spring blooming lilacs.


Question of the Week:

“I have a ‘patch’ of lilacs, (i.e., one big bush with multiple canes). Every year a white flaky substance appears on the trunks and branches, as well as a white coating on many of the leaves. A lot of the branches covered with the dreaded white stuff are dead the next spring. What can I do?”

— Linda in West Chester

Learn more about caring for lilacs and more »


  • Webworms Web in Tree
Oct 17, 2015
Don’t get Spooked by Webworms
52:57

Are there webs ‘decorating’ your trees that have nothing to do with Halloween? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will discuss cures for the highly un-ornamental homes of fall webworms. Plus: answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week:

“I have a beautiful large pecan tree that came with our new home. The first couple of years we lived here, it didn’t really do anything. The third season, the tree was so full of nuts the branches were dragging on the ground! I would stare at it and dream of pecan pie, but before they started to drop, the tree was picked clean! Not sure if it was the squirrels or crows, but I did not get one single pecan!!! Now I’m afraid I have bigger problems than creatures stealing my nuts. At the end of the summer last year, I noticed two small areas of fall web worms. Didn’t think much about it until we returned from a long vacation this summer to find webs all over the tree. Can I just cut out the infected branches and throw them away? Can I collect and compost the leaves from the tree or will they be infected with worms?”

— Emily in Edmond, Oklahoma

Learn more about webworms and tree care»


  • Webworms Web in Tree

Highlights from show:

Tomato Plants

Allen in North East Philadelphia has only one nice section to plant tomatoes in his garden and has to replant in that section all the time; so naturally he’s susceptible to verticillium wilt, which is a fungus in the soil caused by planting in the same spot over and over. He’s curious if a product called root shield, a cure he found online that’s suppose to fight off this disease, will help him. Mike suggests for him to try the root shield out, test it, and wants to hear back from him on the end results.

Plum Tree Regions

Sarah between Muncie and Gaston, Indiana wants to know the type of plum tree she’s able to grow specifically for her gardening region. She’s tried planting Plum trees many times with very little progress and she wants to know what she is doing wrong. Mike suggests for her to go to the Indiana State extension services website and see what they recommend on plum trees in Indiana. He tells her the wind is stopping her progress, because it whips the moisture out of the plants in the orchard so she must check the website and look at the recommendations for plum trees in Indiana.

Trumpet Vine Trouble

David in College Station, Texas is dealing with a trumpet vine invasion and wants to know how to get rid of the problem. The root system is so established Mike thinks the vines might be under and around the other side of his house. Mike advises him to cut the vine completely down and once the leaves start opening up afterward, cut the vine again to solve the problem. He lets him know he must be dedicated to eradicating the plant and might not see progress until a year later. Once it gets low again he should spray it with organic herbicide so it’ll remain calm and settled.

The Pumpkin Garden

Colleen from Carlisle, PA is the new director of a Garden Club at her school and is in charge of a 180 by 40 foot pumpkin garden. The previous garden club instructor said that the pumpkins last year died of a fungus. Mike immediately tells Colleen that the previous instructor wrong. He also instructs her to divide the garden into raised beds or at least defined growing areas. It’s also important to have defined walking areas so you don’t walk on the plants or crush the roots. He also bets “dollars to donuts” that the squash vine borer is the culprit with the old plants. Mike suggests that she start the pumpkin seeds inside with the kids as a learning exercise and when the vines start growing just wrap them with gauze to prevent the night flying moth from laying it’s eggs, which then turn into nasty caterpillars that eat the stem.

Oct 03, 2015
Resist the urge to clean up your landscape
52:57

This is the time of year many people feel compelled to “clean up their landscape”. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will review the many reasons you should NOT be cutting back roses, figs or any other plants in the Fall! Plus: answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week:

“I have two butterfly bushes—one of which is a new growth from an older bush. What do I need to do to prepare them for winter? I also have a rose bush in the back. It did not bloom this year but did grow and seems to be very healthy and strong. How do you prepare this bush for winter? Lastly, I have a sunflower which did very well this year. The stalk is beginning to bend; how do I prepare this plant for winter?”

— Ruth in Dayton, Ohio

Learn more about garden clean up and Fall pruning »


  • fall cleanup
Sep 26, 2015
Growing Scrumptious Garlic
52:57

The best tasting garlic is always home-grown! Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will help you get your garlic in the ground now for harvest next Spring! Plus: Mike speaks with Charlie Mazza, a knowledgable tour guide from the Morris Arboretum about their tree tours. And your fabulous phone calls.


Question of the Week:

“This year will be my first attempt at growing garlic. In one of your previous questions of the week, you state that “the best way to plant garlic is right in the ground.” Since you force so many of your callers to reveal whether they grow in flat earth or raised beds, I thought I’d turn the tables and ask you to clarify what you mean by “ground”. Should I plant my garlic in a raised bed or flat earth? Obviously, my raised beds contain the loosest, richest soil, but I’m afraid of the winter cold.”

— Kelly in Point Pleasant, New Jersey; a proud member of WHYY, WBJB, WNYC, KRVS, and NJTV!

Learn more about growing garlic »


  • growing garlic

Highlights from show:

Fruit Trees

Josh from Southwestern Missouri likes fruit trees and wants to produce trees in his garden, but questions why his tree hasn’t grown since it has been in the ground for a year. Mike suggests for him to remain patient until about 3 to 4 years. He says don’t be cavalier about moving your trees around, because he might be taking a hitchhiker with him. For advice he tells him to wait until he starts seeing flowers and then prune the trees for airflow so the branches come out sideways not straight. In the meantime he tells him to take care of them well, because if he lets the fruit grow too large it’ll become a disease fest and unhealthy site.

Gardening during a Drought

Devon who lives in New Jersey is interested in relocating to southern California. She at the present time has a vegetable garden and wants to know if she’ll be able to properly continue it when she moves to California with all the excessive droughts. Mike advises her having a house with a grey water system (a system that diverts excess shower and sink water) is a necessity due to the extreme temperature there. With that in mind, having awater system will divert the water in a large holding tank and then feeder tubes would distribute water out into the garden. Mike tells her with rich soil her garden could be very successful.

Featured Interview: Charlie Mazza

Mike speaks with Charlie Mazza, an experienced and knowledgeable guide for Morris Arboretum. The Arboretum has Small Trees for Small Spaces tours going on in September and October. (http://www.business-services.upenn.edu/arboretum/events_special.shtml) Charlie talks with Mike about why small trees are perhaps better for our landscape than huge trees. Tree planting takes planning and research and is not a decision that should be made hastily. He feels people look past what the outcome of the width and height will actually be not to mention; some of usdon’t have suitable room for a huge tree and encourages us to look briefly into what small trees can do for the community like saving space, and creating agreat look.

Trees and Nuts

Jeff in Harmony, New Jersey wants to know what classification his tree falls under; whether it’s producing walnuts or butter nuts and if so, are they edible and useful? Mike gives him a definite answer describing them to be butter nuts and having similar properties to black walnuts are extremely hard to open. He lets him know he’d probably have to buy a vice grip to get them open, so it might not be worth it to explore this possibility.

Sep 19, 2015
Combatting the Infamous Emerald Ash Borer
52:57

Are you worried about the emerald ash borer annihilating your arboretum? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will examine your organic options for keeping this tree-killing pest at bay! Plus your fabulous phone calls.


Question of the Week:

“I recently started two dozen bonsai ash trees and am hoping you can offer some advice on overwintering them safely with the emerald ash borer so prevalent in our area. I plant all of my deciduous bonsai outside in their pots for the winter, but I’m concerned about keeping the ash trees safe from borer infestation. The trees are small enough that it would be easy to treat them, but is there anything organic that would selectively go after the borer? I’m guessing not, otherwise these trees wouldn’t be facing extinction in the wild.”

— Robert, who “Loves your show in Huntingdon Valley, PA”

Learn more about protecting trees from pests »



Highlights from show:

Crab Grass

Julie in New Jersey is frustrated with her lawn. It gets taken over every summer by tall spiky grass that is sharp edged. Julie had landscapers re-seed the whole lawn last fall then again in the Spring and it seems great and then mid summer hits and again the same grass is coming back. Mike says it sounds like crab grass or Japanese Stilt grass. Mike thinks the issue may be with the lawn cutting height and suggests that the first thing she does in the spring should be to sharpen the blades and raise deck up to 3 inches, which might make the difference and could end all her problems right there. Mike explains that the lawn doesn’t have the energy to fight back if it’s scalped. Mike also suggests getting a mulching mower so she can return the clippings to the lawn for a source of food. Julie says she waters once a week for about an hour and Mike reminds her that is the minimum amount of time and that it takes grass twenty minutes to accept water. Mike also suggests feeding the lawn in the spring with corn gluten meal just as the forsythia and red buds start to bloom. This will prevent any weed seeds from germinating and it will feed the lawn.

Gnat Attack

Aaron in Elkins Park, PA recently moved there from Philadelphia and has a couple of house plants with small insects in the dirt and on the outside of the plants. They look a little like fruit flies. Mike explains right away that they are fungus gnats. If Aaron were to look inside the soil he would see the wormy like larva living in the soil of the house plants. Fungus gnats require moist soil so if they appear it is usually a sign of over watering. However, there is a way to combat these gnats by applying BTI granules to the soil– a naturally occurring soil organism.

Outdoor Shower Mosquitoes

Rachel in Emerald Isle, NC has lived there for about year, a block from the ocean, and like most homes around there she has an outdoor shower to get the sand off. Annoyingly, every time Rachel takes a shower she is being assailed by mosquitoes. She was curious if the BTI was dangerous to other insects or animals in any way and if setting up traps was a good idea. Mike assures her that BTI only stops the breeding of biting flies in water (like mosquitoes) and does not harm any amphibians or fish or any other organism. First, absolutely create BTI traps with big buckets and donut shaped dunks. The other thing Mike recommends is creating a fan system so that air is moving across the shower.Mosquitoes are really weak fliers and they can’t fly in the slightest breeze. Mike also reminds Rachel that dragon flies are your best friend since they eat mosquitoes and she can put up homes for birds that like to eat mosquitoes as well.

Sep 12, 2015
Helping the Cub Scouts Compost
52:59

Why are cub scouts punching holes in trash cans? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will puncture some holes in this ill-advised concept and suggest how scouts of all ages can learn to make great black gold! Plus: answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week:

“I’ve listened to your podcast for a couple of years and know that you are the king of compost. That’s why I’m writing. Boy Scouts of America has a new program designed to teach Cub Scouts about composting. But they’re telling the kids to dig a hole in their back yard and sink a trash can with holes drilled into it into the hole. That’s a big task to ask of some families. Is there another way they can make their own compost out of food scraps? I’m attaching the Scout handout on the trash can method. How would you go about teaching eight-year-old youngsters about composting? “

— Jim, a Cubmaster in Illinois

Learn more about composting »



Highlights from show:

Chemicals in the Lawn

Patty in Edmond, OK is concerned about the chemicals that her lawn people have been spraying to take care of her grubs. She loves a lot of the things that these chemicals have been doing, namely killing Japanese Beetle grubs, but she is worried that they might be killing her beneficials, like earthworms and ground nesting bees. Mike says that she is right to be concerned, because, as he puts it, if you haven’t made an arrangement ahead of time, they’re probably spreading harsh chemicals on there, and while it’ll do a great job of killing those grubs, it’ll kill everything else living in that lawn. Mike recommends that she have them put down Milky Spore, a naturally-occurring soil organism that’s been sold in the states for more than fifty years. Right now is the best time to put down Milky Spore, as the soil is now warm enough to apply, and the grubs are feeding right now, so they’re especially susceptible right now. He also mentions Gardens Alive’s brand new variety of BT, known as BTG, which is quite effective against all beetles. It comes in two forms, one effective against adult insects which you spray on plant leaves, known as beetleJUS, and one you sprinkle on your lawn to take care of grubs, known as grubHALT. grubHALT works similarly to Milky Spore, and like Milky Spore, both varieties of BTG will not harm the environment and only affect beetles, especially those in the scarab family. Mike closes by telling her to “Go and sin no more!”

Planting Fall Crops

Pete from Wilmington, DE is looking to plant a few things that’ll grow in the fall, and if now is the right time to plant fall crops. Mike says that fall is a great time for growing. Mike himself just planted his fall crops a few weeks ago, but it is not too late to plant by any means. All that you need to do is take some plants out of the beds, level the soil, saturate the soil with water, spread lettuce seeds all over that, not unlike a lawn, then cover those seeds with a loose soil-free mix, and then finally, gently mist the surface. The reason you want to water the undersoil so much more is so that you keep as much of that seed in place as possible. Within the week, that lettuce will begin to sprout. Let it keep growing, and then once it’s four to six inches tall, go out and cut it with a pair of scissors, leaving about an inch attached to the root system. It’ll grow right back. If we have a gentle winter, it’ll survive, and you can harvest again in the spring, and they’ll definitely survive if you decide to invest in a row cover. “I love the second season. These crops are a lot less picky than the boys of summer.”

Sep 05, 2015
How to Keep your Potted Plants Happy in the Cold
52:57

Can fruits in pots possibly survive a Chicago winter? Mike McGrath host of You Bet Your Garden will reveal your options for keeping container plants alive in cold climes. Plus: Building soil from the ground up with author Elizabeth Murphy; and your fabulous phone calls.

Photo: madraban via flickr


Question of the Week:

“I planted three blueberry bushes in large containers in my back yard. I know it’s still the height of summer, but I want to have a plan in place to keep them alive over the winter. The way I see it, I can do one of three things: 1) Move the containers to my uninsulated, South-facing, enclosed back porch, which gets good sun, but still gets very cold at night. 2) Build a small “greenhouse” for them out of corrugated plastic. Or 3) Mulch the tops of the containers and not give them another thought until spring. Eek! Do I have a chance? I’ve never tried to keep container plants through the deep freeze!”

— Paul in Chicago, IL

Learn more about protecting blueberries and other potted plants in winter »



Highlights from show:

Troubled Tomatoes

Roberta in Newcastle, DE is upset that her award-winning Jet Star tomatoes aren’t doing well this year. Last year, her troubles began. The lower leaves began to curl, and they got little black dots on the bottom of the leaves, and those leaves would eventually turn rust coloured. Mike immediately identifies the problem: Roberta does not rotate her tomatoes, leading to one of the two common tomato wilts, Verticilium or Fuserium wilt. Tomatoes don’t like growing in the same spot, and in the third year in the same spot, the leaves begin to discolor from the soil up. Now, Roberta has been taking care of this correctly by cutting off the diseased leaves. Mike explains that this is good for two reasons, the first being that the leaves could be spreading disease, and so by cutting the leaves, she’s removing a potential disease vector. The second, and more important reason, is that it makes her look like a better gardener, helping her keep up appearances and make others jealous of her garden. It’s also not a bad idea to have airflow at the bottoms of these plants. Roberta also notes that recently, her grandson built raised beds for her and mixed some of the preexisting soil with Miracle-Gro and spread that along the top and Mike warns her to stay away from potting soil mixed with fertilizers. “If you’re having disease problems, just spread two inches of compost over the surface of your soil. That’ll feed the plants naturally and help prevent disease.”

The Espalier Technique

Jim from Huntington Valley wants to grow an orchard using the espalier method. Now, the espalier technique involves growing a tree in two dimensions, growing it along a trellis. This has been done for several reasons in the past, one of which being to help the tree grow in a colder climate. Attach the tree to a stone wall, the sun beats down upon that stone wall, heating up the stone and keeping the plant warm through the night. Another reason is to grow something up the side of an arbor other than grapes, and make sure that it has good airflow, quite the opposite of the previous reason. Plant the tree at the base of the arbor and as the tree grows, prune it to keep it in two dimensions. You don’t have any branches coming out. Mike asks Jim if he has any experience with fruit trees, and Jim says that he hasn’t, so Mike notes that Jim is making a major commitment here, that growing espalier trees is a heck of a lotta work. Mike asks Jim why he wants to grow in this style, and Jim says that he’d read online that you can get more fruits per square foot, and that he wants to grow a sort of natural fence near his property line. He also likes the benefits of the open airflow. Mike recommends he pick up one of Lee Reich’s books on growing fruits, including his most recent book Growing Fruits Naturally and especially an older book of his called Landscaping with Fruit, which is where he talks the most extensively about espalier. “What you’re describing sounds entirely doable and should be really attractive, especially when the trees are in flower.”

Featured Interview: Elizabeth Murphy

Mike speaks with author Elizabeth Murphy about her new book Building Soil: A Down-to-Earth Approach: Natural Solutions for Better Gardens & Yards. Murphy has been quoted: “A big part of the problem is our fundamental lack of understanding of soils. Not only do we treat them like a non-renewable resource, we treat them like they are inanimate matter. We shovel and scoop and mine and move soils around like the world is our sandbox. This is our downfall. Soils are alive!”

Shady Trees

Eric in Oklahoma City, OK is just moving into a new house and he has a big pecan tree in his backyard and it casts so much shade that nothing can grow. Mike stops him and lets him know that shade is good, and that where he’s at, he needs shade more than most humans. Eric assures him that he wants to keep the tree, but he just wants something that’ll grow well in the shade. Mike recommends he grow St. Augustine grass, which is the most shade-tolerant of all the warm-season grasses. Since it’s a warm-season grass, he should wait until the spring to plant it. Mike also notes that it’s not just the shade of the tree that’s keeping anything from growing, but also the roots of the tree, so he’s going to have to water much more. Mike also recommends that at the base of the tree, instead of growing in the ground, get some boxy planters, put them up on stilts, and then grow shade-loving flowers, like begonias or impatiens to help give his backyard some more colour. “I don’t think you’re going to have any luck growing directly beneath the tree, and if you do, you can interfere with production.”

Too Many Chestnuts

Elana in Lincoln, DE has chestnut trees in her backyard, growing taller than her house. Now she gets thousands of chestnuts every year, and she wants to know what to do with them. Now, they all fall off the trees until they cover her entire backyard. She wants to know when they’re ripe and ready to pick. Mike says that they’re ready the moment they fall off the tree, and they have to be picked up the same day they fall, or else they’ll get moldy. The next step is to cure them. For that, Mike says that if she has a screened-in porch and a ceiling fan, leave them sit under the fan on a table, move them around, rotate them, and then after a week or two, they’ll be ready to store. Mike also recommends that she store them in the freezer because that’ll kill any pests that might be in them, but won’t harm the nuts at all. She has boiled them in the past, and they tasted really good, but she hasn’t gotten to roast them yet and Mike lets her know, “You gotta do that for Christmas!”

Weed and Feed Warnings

Hope from Norman, OK shares a sad tale involving Weed and Feed treatments and small animals. If you have ever looked at the labeling on a package of lawn chemicals, you’ll see a disclaimer: “Keep children and pets out of treated areas until the product has been watered and allowed to dry.” This is why. In Hope’s words, people apply all of these chemicals on their lawns either to get rid of weeds like dandelions or crabgrass, or pests such as moles and voles, but they don’t stop to think about how this affects the critters you want. Not too long ago, Hope’s neighbor had her lawn treated with a generic Weed and Feed product, and later that day, she noticed some kittens from down the way playing in that lawn, as they often do. The next day she looked over there and saw two dead kittens in her neighbor’s driveway, with blood coming from their mouths. Mike notes that this is a sign of a reaction to toxicity, and he gives his rationale on why this could be the case: not only are the kittens nibbling on the grass, which gets a little bit of it into their systems, when they’re in a good mood in a sunny spot, they roll around on the ground, and after they’re all done, they lick themselves clean! “I don’t think you could get more of the pesticide inside of them if you’d fed it to them.” The same is true of dogs: they have soft pads on their feet, and they roll around too, and while they don’t lick their bodies clean, they do lick their paws clean. But he also notes that it’s not even all that necessary to spray your lawn to make it grow. “Grass is one of the most invasive weeds there is. You don’t have to overfertilize it, you don’t have to herbicide it. You just need to cut it at the right height and leave the clippings on the lawn.” Hope also notes, to close, that after this event, her neighbors threw out the bag of lawn chemicals and were out there working hard to get rid of the chemicals. “I think they really did care, they just weren’t aware.”

Aug 29, 2015
Why Grass Doesn’t Thrive Near Trees
52:57

When grass fails to thrive near trees, shade gets all the blame. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will reveal that aqua is often the actual antagonist. Plus your fabulous phone calls!

Photo: Dave Meier via pictography.co


Question of the Week:

“My lawn was once immaculate, but then my wife and I planted several trees without understanding the damage the shade would do to the lawn. I now have more dirt and weeds than grass. And the grass keeps dying. I’m in the process of getting dirt delivered and having it spread, leveled and tapered for the natural flow of rain fall. My worry is how to keep the grass healthy with limited sun that after all that prep work.”

— Tim in Hendersonville, Tennessee

Learn more about growing grass near trees »



Highlights from show:

Charcoal and Compost Tea

Will from Kennedy, NY does a whole bunch of composting and would like to know about infusing charcoal with compost tea, like a Mayan Supersoil. Mike says that this “biochar” isn’t just charcoal, but woody plant material, burned very slowly in a low-oxygen environment, and if done incorrectly, it can cause more problems than good. Furthermore, the Bartlett Tree Company says that the best time to use biochar is when preparing a new planting area. You shouldn’t use it on a pre-existing garden or lawn. Now, if you were installing a new lawn, make sure you have real biochar, then bury it six inches deep through the subsoil, spread more soil on top, and sow the lawn on top, and this will improve the health of the lawn. Bartlett has also had great success with it when planting new groves of trees. They have also found that when this woody material has been burned like this, it becomes very porous, becoming a habitat for beneficial microorganisms. Mike also addresses Will’s original question, saying that he may have better luck if he just adds compost on top of the buried biochar, but he’s welcome to try infusing it with compost tea. But he does give the following warning: “All wood ash is alkaline, so it’s best used in a soil that’s already too acidic where you grow plants that like a more neutral pH.”

Growing Flowers in Pots

Rick in Downingtown, PA is growing flowers in pots, and so Mike gives him his standard line: Don’t use any garden soil: fill them with soil-free mix, perlite and compost. And make sure that they have good drainage and you should have just as much luck growing in pots as you’d have growing them in the ground. Rick follows up with a question about the pots themselves: he has a container garden growing on his deck, and each winter, if he doesn’t empty them out, the pots all crack and have to be replaced. He’s been growing mostly in plastic and terra cotta containers. Mike explains that terra cotta comes from parts of the world that don’t freeze, so those have to be emptied every winter. On the other hand, thick, strong, heavy, plastic will be more resistant to cracking. You might have better luck if you cover the pots over in the winter, keeping the soil from getting saturated. Meanwhile, what Mike uses are half-whisky barrels, which he has stuff growing in all winter as well. “They are the bee’s freakin knees!”

Pennellia

Nancy in Merion, PA wants to know all about Pennellia weed. Now, this is a small cruciferous weed that looks like a miniature Jack-in-the-Pulpit, and it spreads like crazy. Mike tells us all about his experience with it, saying that when he first saw it, he quite enjoyed how it looked and kept them, refusing to heed the warnings of those around him. The next year, he found that they’d taken over his beds! After some time, he’s got it down to about a third of its previous number. Mike recommends that she solarize the bed, and to do it correctly, she must level the ground, saturate it with water, and cover it with clear plastic. However, if there isn’t enough sun, Mike recommends that she dig deep and pull out their bulb, because they have a unique and interesting root system: they have a long, spindly root, connected to a small potato-looking tuber located off to the side so that when you pull the plant, you get the whole root, but none of the tuber, so you’ve got to dig deep and pull the whole thing out. “If something pops up in the garden that looks like what we’re describing, get rid of it as soon as you see it! Screen that soil and get those little potato jobbies outta there, or you will have a new hobby for the next three or four years.”

Tall Tomato Plants

Eric in Wayne, PA raises chickens. He likes to mix their waste in with the municipal compost so that everything gets all mixed up and well-composted, and then puts that in his tomato beds. Now, he’s been seeing a lot of growth on these plants, growing up to about twelve feet. Eric has had to do some serious pruning to keep these plants from outgrowing their support system. Mike notes that Eric has been cutting off the new growth, which will give him all of his late-season tomatoes, and that they’re supposed to grow that tall. Mike recommends that Eric ditch his bamboo stakes, and replace them with tomato cages. Now, proper tomato cages are made out of animal fencing, such as rabbit wire, or turkey wire. FIrst, cut this fencing into a six-foot linear length, and then form it into a tube. After that, get the bamboo stakes off of the tomatoes, then center the cage around the tomatoes. Use the bamboo stakes in the sides of the cage, to keep it from wobbling. The vines will grow up toward the sun, but since it’s flimsy like a vine, not solid like a tree, it will lean against the cage, growing up the sides of the cage and filling all of that space. And because it’s growing up a greater surface area, a 12-foot vine won’t exceed a 6-foot tomato cage by too much. Eric finally asks about what he should prune, and Mike has this to say: “Every leaf you remove takes away energy from the plant.”

Nut Sedge Problem

Arthur from Ocean County NJ has a nut sedge problem in his over-55 community, and the landscaping committee has recommended treating the problem chemically with several recurring treatments over the course of several years. They live very close to Barnegat Bay, and Art wants to know if this would pose a threat to the environment. “Oh, heck yes!” says Mike. “And it probably wouldn’t knock back the nut sedge.” Nut sedge is a weed of “cultural problems,” meaning that the conditions in this community’s soil is perfect for growing nut sedge. Mike remembers that back in the 1970s, there used to be popular gardening books that would tell you what’s wrong with your lawn, based entirely upon what weeds are growing there. He says that nut sedge is a sign that the soil is too compacted, and that the lawn needs to be core aerated as soon as the summer heat stress is over. Just pull little plugs out of the lawn to relieve soil compaction. The loose soil favors the grass, and the nut sedge doesn’t like that. They’re also feeding the lawn way too much, likely because they’re trying to get more money out of the community. The lawn should only be fed in once in the spring, then again in the fall. And if they’re using any fertilizers containing phosphorus, they can also pose great threat to local waterways. The third thing this nut sedge is telling Mike is that these lawns are getting watered too much. With the wet summer we’ve been having, you shouldn’t be watering your lawn. “If these lawns are aerated, the feeding is cut back, they’re allowed to dry out between waterings, and they’re cut to three inches, as opposed to a way too low cut, right now, I can virtually guarantee that the nut sedge will disappear by itself.”

Aug 15, 2015
The Mystery of the Wild Violets

Most people want their wild violets to vanish. But on this You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath will help someone whose purple posies are being eaten before she can enjoy them, and identify the ‘culprit’ as a creature most welcome in any landscape! Plus: A primer on proper tree planting with Kyla Kruse, Communications Director at the Energy Education Council; and answers to all your growing questions.

Photo: H. Zell (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Question of the Week:

“We moved into a new house two years ago, and the back lawn was more weeds than grass. Despite the two large silver maples that shade the lawn, I have most of the weeds under control, but have not been able to control the spread of violets. It seems that the only way to control them would be to kill everything and start over or dig them all up (an impossibility due to their sheer numbers). I tried mowing at a low setting to lop off the flower buds, but that goes against the normal advice of not scalping the lawn. It also didn’t get rid of them! “

— Rolf in Alexandria, VA

An unexpected beautiful benefit of violets »



Highlights from show:

Help for a rose bush

Elliot from Michigan has inherited his mother’s rose bush down in Florida that has a few issues that need to be addressed. Elliot has noticed a plethora of pesky “leaf-cutter bees” that have been ravaging his precious rose bush. Mike reminds Elliot from his previous show that there are such a thing; leaf cutter bees AND leaf cutter ants that make clean bits out of plants and use it for food and nesting material. Mike tells Elliot that a little bit of feeding by an insect on target parts of the plant can often stimulate a response that will surprisingly, give Eliot more roses! So, Mike says to leave it alone and Elliot, over time will indeed have plentiful roses!

Ant troubles

Carol from Prospect Park, PA has a severe ant problem; her poor garden is overrun with these tiny black bugs that are devouring everything in sight! (Even inside her bathtub!) Carol definitely has a multi-colony ant issue that needs to be resolved immediately. You can’t get rid of all the ants by attacking the worker ants directly as you need to get the workers to kill the queens, says Mike. Mike suggests to head over to the local gardening store and get some boric acid ant traps, which are comprised of Boric acid and sugar water. Because the dose of Boric acid is so low, it will not kill the worker ants right away, but instead they will take a sample back to the nest and it will be feed to all the other ants and the queen. This deadly cocktail will be sure to rid Carol of her ant problem as it will eventually destroy the entire ant family.

Kyla Kruse on planting treees

Mike speaks with Kyla Kruse, Communications Director for the Energy Education Council and she gives us some great tips on what kind of tree to select and how far to put it from power lines. When you are selecting a tree to plant she stresses thinking about how tall it will be in 10 years or 20 years and imagining what objects it might impact near by. Also don’t forget to check whats in the ground before you dig.

Moss lawns

Genevieve from Allentown, PA and her husband just bought a house nested in a quiet, woodsy area. She was wondering how she can have a decent looking lawn under the thick cover of trees that surround her property. Genevieve is here to ask Mike for recommendations regarding moss lawns; are they worth it? Moss, according to Mike, loves damp, acidic and shady environments, which is exactly what Genevieve has in her area. You never have to feed or cut moss and it is green all year long; the perfect “no-care” lawn, Mike says. Moss simply sits on the surface of the soil, as it has no root system whatsoever, but it is great for shady, moist places, like where Genevieve lives. Sounds like moss is the perfect solution for those lucky enough to live in a forest-y abode like Genevieve!

Vegetable gardening

Joe from Bowie, Maryland has recently planted a wonderful veggie garden consisting of tomato plants, squash, and zucchini. Joe notices that blossoms and fruit forming on this plants, but they quickly drop to the ground. How can this be, he wonders? Mike needs to know if Joe is using raised beds, or just flat earth to grow his garden; and Joe tells Mike he is using pure earth with a bit of soil mixture with fertilizer. Growing in wet ground is pretty treacherous, says Mike, as it does not allow the roots to dry out. Mike informs Joe to grab some nice organic compost from a local gardener and to put an inch of compost around the plants and to only water it once a week. Make sure you don’t walk around the plants, as that will inhibit growth and to definitely plan to use raised beds for next year. Good luck, Joe!

Emerald ash borer

Mike from Northwest Chester county PA has a severe ash tree problem; the majority of his lovely trees are infected with the dreaded Emerald Ash Borer; a green beetle native to Asia and Eastern Russia that is incredibly invasive. Mike (the caller) wants to know how to remove them or what can be done? Mike says to call the homeowners insurance company; as it is a VERY expensive project to take on. Mike tells the caller that the trees need to be removed immediately, as the Emerald Ash Borer works very quickly and can jump to the next tree and destroy it in the blink of an eye.

Yukon gold potatoes

Kathleen from Cape May has questions regarding her raised beds. She and her neighbor share about 10 raised beds between the two of them that are 4 by 9 made of cedar. One of the beds is dedicated to yukon gold potatoes and it’s the first time the bed has been planted. Within the last week, Kathleen informs Mike, all of the plants start to turn yellow and brown and are dying. Mike tells Kathleen that as soon as the green growth comes up from potato plants, an inch of shredded leaves should be put down all around the bed. Kathleen’s potatoes appear to be just fine though; she informed Mike she has been eating them but is just worried about these yellow and brown plant colors. Mike tells Kathleen not to worry; it could be that the potatoes didn’t flower this season; which is totally fine, says Mike, as this particular type of potato plant doesn’t need to flower to produce great spuds!

Aug 01, 2015
Equal fertilizer numbers are not necessarily a good thing
52:57

A lot of people rely on fertilizer with 10-10-10 on the label. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will reveal why it’s one of the worst things you can give to your plants and why equal numbers are actually unbalanced. Plus Mike speaks with Mary Gardiner about her new book Good Garden Bugs and your fabulous phone calls.


Question of the Week:

“I’ve been having issues with a pin oak, and one of the suggested fixes was an application of 10-10-10. I had a bit left over afterward and sprinkled some around two ten-inch high cherry tomato plants as an experiment. All my other plants kept growing, but the two I gave the 10-10-10 to first looked stunned, then wilted and are now about to expire. How could a “fertilizer” be the end of these plants?”

— George in Norristown, PA

Find out more about soil tests, sick trees and fertilizers »


Highlights from show for June 28, 2014:

High-Altitude Blueberries

Ken from Costa Rica wants to grow blueberries on the slopes of a volcano back in the place he calls home. Now, Ken has been living down in Costa Rica for thirty years now and he has been searching for new plants for small independent farmers down there in order to help them hold onto their plots of land. Now, among the issues he is taking into consideration are the day length, and the short period of frost that he’d be getting up on the mountain. Having been a farmer in Northern Vermont, he’s seen blueberries grow in the alpine climate up there, but he says the soil may be more acidic up there. Mike agrees that one of the nice things about growing up in the mountains is that even though Costa Rica is largely tropical rainforest, there is a much more pronounced cold season, and that allows for the growth of cold-loving plants like blueberries and even blackberries. Ken tells him that the temperature is largely constant year-round. At the highest altitudes, the temperature is never higher than 80 and never lower than 30, usually hovering around the 50 degree range. And another nice thing about where Ken is situated is that “you can go down the mountain and grow pineapple, or go right up and grow brussels sprouts.” Mike says that he would likely be able to get the right amount of “chilling hours”–meaning hours where the temperature dips below 42 degrees, not necessarily below freezing–for traditional varieties of blueberries growing higher up on the mountain, but he also recommends that Ken try out some of the varieties bred for southern climes, as these varieties, in his climate, may even grow fruit year round. “You may get the kind of extended season that people only dream of!”


Rain Barrel Water

Amy from Wisconsin recently installed a rain barrel and, after hearing all kinds of different conflicting information on the internet, she wants to know if it’s safe to put the water from this barrel on her vegetable garden. Mike replies, “Yeah, otherwise, why would you have it?” Now, Wisconsin hasn’t yet had any dry spells this season, so Amy has been collecting quite a bit of water in this barrel. Mike mentions that rain barrels are more useful in drier climates, or at least ones that go through dry spells. Even though she has this great source of water, it’s dangerous to drown the plants. Another thing that Mike mentions is that rain barrels are really useful for watering containers, as containers, being aboveground, are likely to dry out very quickly. If the rain barrel is high enough to fill a watering can from, then it would be easy for her to use the rain barrel water to water her containers, and that rain water doesn’t contain all of the adulterants such as chlorine and fluorine added to water to make it potable. Mike asks what sort of bad things people have been saying about rain barrels, and Amy mentions that there might be things like bird poop on the roof running off into her rain barrel, but she figured that the birds are pooping all over her vegetable garden anyway. Mike responds that bird poop is a great fertilizer, so that while the water isn’t safe to drink, it’s great to put on the garden. However, shingle debris from the roof is a much greater concern, which is why the spout in these rain barrels is usually a bit higher than the bottom. The solids sink to the bottom allowing one to decant it, leaving the potentially harmful solids behind. The water is very good, however after a period of time, if it just sits there unused, it can turn into what’s called black water just by sitting in the sun. “It wouldn’t be a bad idea to drain it and allow it to refill like once a month.”


Featured Interview: Dr. Mary Gardiner

Mike speaks with Dr. Mary Gardiner, author of Good Garden Bugs: Everything You Need to Know about Beneficial Predatory Insects. Mary gives us a sneak peak into the world of beneficial insects and why they are so important to the health of a garden. Just because something is moving doesn’t mean its bad! In fact many insects you might label as a pest are actually eating the real pests; the ones that are damaging your garden. Good Garden Bugs is a great reference guide for the strange, often wacky and wonderful world of beneficial insects.”


Japanese Beetles

Patty from Philadelphia was recently given the task of shaking Japanese beetles off of her parents’ cherry tree, but she noticed that every time she did this, they would always just come right back. She noted that they have the traps hanging up there, and Mike tells her that she should do away with those traps, as that’s probably the reason why they keep coming back. “Japanese beetle traps attract four times the number of beetles to a given area than would occur normally, and only kill half of them,” thus effectively doubling the Japanese beetle population on the property. There are feelings that you can get the most out of them if you put them around the outskirts of your property away from anything growing that they like to eat, but Mike recommends that she not even bother with them. Patty asks if he has any recommendations to control these seasonal garden pests, and Mike says that he does, in fact. He’s recently fallen in love with a brand new offering from Gardens Alive, who are, quite coincidentally, the sponsor of the question of the week. Gardens Alive has been at the forefront of funding new discoveries in organic pest management, having paid the EPA registration for corn gluten meal, many years ago. They’ve recently released a new form of BT, a naturally-occuring soil organism that has multiple subspecies which can kill all kinds of pests, each one specialized to a different pest. This subspecies is known as BTG, and ONLY AFFECTS BEETLES who eat the leaves. There are two varieties, one you spray on the leaves to kill the beetles, and another you spray on the ground below the plant to kill the grubs before they hatch. “You get the eaters, and you get the next generation, and you don’t harm anything else: these BTs are highly specific!”


Trees and Phone Lines

Lynn hails from Easton, PA in Bucks County, home of one of the best farmer’s markets in Bucks County, and she has an issue with her silver maple. Now, this tree has been growing into the phone lines nearby, and she doesn’t have the kind of dough to maintain it. She’s been unemployed for about a year now, and has been looking for someone to help her take care of this tree, but the quotes she’s received from pruning services have been astronomical. She’s also considered taking the tree down, but not only is the monetary cost too high for that, so too is the emotional cost for her to remove this beautiful old tree. Lynn also notes that this shouldn’t be necessary, as the tree is actually quite healthy, aside from a bit of ivy growing on the trunk. It’s just growing up into the phone lines, so if it isn’t trimmed soon, it’s going to be a problem. Mike comments that if that’s the case, she doesn’t have to bear the cost of it, and that taking care of the ivy won’t be too cost-intensive for her, since it’s not poison ivy. She’s tried to trim along the bottom, and while that’s killed the ivy up on the tree, it’s done nothing to the ivy down in the ground. Mike says that ivy can block sunlight and keep moisture on the bark, causing the bark to rot, killing the tree. And she doesn’t even need to worry about accidentally cutting into the bark as long as she doesn’t cut a ring around the trunk, preventing water and nutrients from getting up to the top. But she doesn’t have to pay for the tree maintenance, as that falls entirely on the phone company or cable company. “They’ve got the trucks to do this, and if the lines are right there on the tree. It’s not so much that it’s their responsibility, they don’t want you or private workers up there. You could knock out the power to all of Easton, you could knock out everybody’s cable TV during the world series! All that I’d suggest to you to keep this tree healthy is to just keep gettin’ away at that ivy.”

Jul 25, 2015
The good side of weeds like stinging nettles and thistle

Could “weeds” like stinging nettles and thistle possibly be a good thing? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet your Garden, will reveal that the answer is yes! Plus: How almost anything can be modified to become a really cool place to plop our plants; and your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week:

“I have been an avid listener for years and wanted to share some garden methods that are new to me, thanks to a landscaper I was able to hire. Because of arthritis, I need help in the yard and am now able to garden fairly well with raised beds that are a mix of three foot high cedar framed boxes and some lower raised beds for tall plants. My landscaper’s company, ‘Garden Starters’, installs beds filled with VERY high quality soil. When I hired them, they invited me out to their farm, where they have a huge ‘vermicomposting’ operation; and because their compost still contains a lot of the red worms that make it all happen, I have lots of worms in my beds! As a result, my kale never seems to slow down, the radishes, spinach and peas have been crazy with flavor and the herbs are aromatic and plentiful. Why do I share this? To tell you about the type of mulch they provide. I never saw anything like it before, but it sure works well to prevent weeds and keep moisture in the soil—it’s made of finely shredded nettle stalks. This mulch has a lovely smell, and they get the raw material from a local organic herb company, thus making it sustainable as well.”

— Aviva in Eugene Oregon

Find out the benefits of stinging nettle »


Highlights from show for June 28, 2014:

Identifying and treating brown rot

Maryanne from Shreveport, Louisiana has two different plum trees that have a strange coating on them and she has no clue what it could be, but Mike lets Maryanne know it is a disease called “brown rot.” Brown rot which is a disease of high humidity that mostly attacks trees that have not been properly cared for. Mike tells her that these trees must be heavily pruned every winter, and he suggests going out and purchasing books by Lee Reich called “The Pruning Book”, and “Grow fruit naturally.” Lee is our resident fruit expert and has great tips on pruning. Mike suggests that Maryanne prune any branches that are shooting straight up or are crowded together, preferably in late winter, before the trees flower. She should remove a good third of the branches; getting light and air to all parts of the tree. The fruits should then be pruned as they are developing throughout the seasons to produce the best fruits.

  • PeachBrownRot1

    Peach with brown rot


Pruning techniques to revive trees

Ernest from Germantown, PA has issues with his beloved crepe myrtle he planted a few years ago; he is troubled as a car ran it over and now it will not grow back as tall or strong as in previous years. Mike suggest to keep pruning his Crepe Myrtle in the spring as it rejuvenates them and helps them with their flowering. Ernest tells Mike that a few leaves would form and he would continue to cut them back each fall, but as of right now, there are no leaves on it. Mike sadly informs Ernest that the “tree is just dead, man”, and to contact the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society (PHS) and go online to look at their tree tenders program and they will suggest trees that are more rugged for an area where Ernest planted his Crepe Myrtle. Crepe Myrtle’s really aren’t “street trees” where they can be planted near a lot of foot or car traffic. If Ernest wants to plant another Crepe Myrtle, he should do so in the fall and leave it alone till spring when he can give it a light pruning, which will ensure a beautiful tree for years to come!


Special guest: Stacy Hirvela

Mike speaks with Stacy Hirvela, author of Edible Spots and Pots Small-Space Gardens for Growing Vegetables and Herbs in Containers, Raised Beds, and More. Mike was especially impressed with the author’s knowledge of potting plants and her use of unconventional containers to create great pots for flowers and veggies. One of the most important things to remember is to get over the myths you’ve heard about potting plants like putting rocks at the bottom or crushed up pottery. Good drainage is key and the right mix of soil free mix and compost.


Eradicating Japanese stilt grass

William from Snecksville, PA has a Japanese stilt grass problem; his entire lawn is being overrun by it! This pesky grass is all over his yard, in his trees, bushes and flowers. He first noticed it about 5 years ago when a big patch of it in his gravel driveway turned up and continued to expand. Will went and bought corn gluten meal at a local supplier as he did his research and wanted to use it as a pre-emergent technique for the stilt grass. He put it down all over his yard but three weeks later, Will noticed new patches of Stilt grass sprouted up everywhere, so it looked like the corn gluten did way more harm than good. Maybe he spread it way too early, or perhaps he is just using the wrong stuff? Mike informs WIll that the Stilt grass came in naturally where the clumping grass couldn’t grow and to cut his lawn at three and a half inches to keep the good grass as healthy as possible.

Jul 18, 2015
How to Tell if your Compost is Lovely or Lethal
52:57

Are you yearning to buy a load of bulk compost but suspicious of its contents? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will reveal two easy tests that’ll tell you if that load is black gold—or the black plague! Plus answers to all your growing questions.


Questions of the Week:

“I’ve noticed a lot of leaf curl on my tomatoes and pepper plants this year; the first year I’ve used the free compost that my town makes from all of the yard waste they collect. I’ve read that some lawn herbicides, two that Dow makes in particular, may not be breaking down during the composting process. What do you think? Is there a lab that will test for herbicides?”

— Zach in Phoenixville, PA

Tips and tricks for composting »

  • Compost

Highlights from show for July 11, 2015:

Pond Chemical Spill

After a particularly nasty rain, Karen from LaFontaine, IN found that a pond in her backyard had overflowed, sending a bunch of chemical-laden water toward her garden. Karen wants to know how long she’ll have to wait before she can claim her garden is organic again. Mike says that in her case, the organic moniker isn’t as strict as if she was a commercial farmer. He explains that the organic certification only applies to those who sell more than $2500 worth of produce per year, and those individuals who want organic certification for their farm need to refrain from using inorganic chemicals for three years, and that they promote good soil health. Karen grows tomatoes and squashes in a flat earth garden, and she says that they were only underwater overnight, and didn’t die. Mike recommends that she build raised beds, so that if this reoccurs, the plants will be protected from the overflow of the water. He says that, going forward, she shouldn’t touch that soil with bare hands, garden using baseball batting gloves. “If this is gonna happen again and again and again, move your garden to an area of higher ground, and get raised beds so that the water doesn’t get to the soil the plants were growing in.”


Pear Trees

Paul from Wildwood Crest, NJ planted four ornamental pear trees. Three of them are doing really great, and the fourth one is doing fine, but not as well. They’ve been in the ground for about ten years, but they were not planted correctly. Mike says that when planting trees, you want a wide hole, not a deep one, so that the root flare isn’t covered, and then fill in around with the soil that’s been removed. The reason not to refill with nice loose soil is that the roots will only stay in the loose soil, never venturing out into the cruel world around them. In Paul’s case, Wildwood has very sandy soil, which works really great when mixed with compost, creating a nice, loose-draining soil. Paul had also put down peat moss, which increases the acidity and does nothing for the structure. Paul also planted Bradford Pears, which are generally a cheap tree which run into many problems and even when planted correctly, they have to be replaced sooner than other varieties of pear. In terms of the one that isn’t doing well, it has been receiving the same treatment as the other three. However, they are mulched with wood mulch, which Mike recommends he get rid of and replace with a compost mulch. “Wood mulch is death to all plants. Replace it with a good two inches of black yard waste compost.”


Over-mulching Trees

Diane in Center City, Philadelphia noticed a problem in Rittenhouse Square. All of the trees are horribly overmulched, burying their root flares. Mike says that this isn’t exclusive to Rittenhouse Square, that it’s very common in public spaces all up and down the east coast. Now, there are a couple reasons for it: landscapers are paid more if they use more mulch, and it also works as a somewhat sinister form of planned obsolescence, if the tree dies, the landscaper will be called back to replace it. Mike also mentions a recent visit to a historic site in New Jersey. He is good friends with the landscaping people there, and upon noticing the mulching around those trees, they told him that the landscapers who did the mulching on those trees refused to fix it, and they can’t fire them because it is a state project, and those guys were the lowest bidder. Mike calls for guerrilla action. Organize a group of people together, give them gloves, and remove the mulch yourselves. Don’t count on these landscapers to do anything. “When I retire, that’s all I’m gonna do. I’m gonna drive across America and rescue trees from mulch.”


Loosestrife

Many years ago, Mary from Havertown, PA bought a non-invasive variety of loosestrife. For those who don’t know, purple loosestrife is a beautiful but aggressive plant, pollinated by bees, producing thousands of seeds per plant. Now, many nurseries don’t carry loosestrife for this reason, so Mary wants to know what to do to replace her plants that have died. Mike recommends that she let her remaining plant go, let it pollinate, and then collect the seeds, keep them cool and dry over the winter, and then in Spring, get them started in a loose, light, soil-free mix on top of a heating pad, and see what grows. As for the one that’s still around, don’t give it chemical fertilizers, don’t mess with it, and if it spreads, then she doesn’t have to worry. If it hasn’t, and if it’s achieved a good size, when spring comes, take it out of the ground and separate the roots into new plants. “If you’ve got problems with your car, take it back to the dealer.”

Jul 11, 2015
How to Rescue Trees with Wrapped Up Roots
52:57

Is it possible to rescue a tree that was planted with its roots all wrapped up? Mike McGrath will bravely battle on behalf of the balled and burlaped. Plus: Mike examines a brand new variety of strawberry that has been developed at Rutgers University. And your fabulous phone calls!


Questions of the Week:

“Mike, the ‘proper tree planting’ portion of your recent conversation with plant scientist Linda Chalker-Scott scared the heck out of me. About three years ago, we bought a fringe tree, a crabapple, and an evergreen from a local nursery and paid them to plant all three. The crew dug the holes wide but not deep, as you always instruct; but they left the burlap and wire cages around the root balls. I ran outside yelling, “no, no, no!”, fought with them for a while, and then called the owner. I told him I wanted the wrapping off and the roots spread out, citing my previous success planting trees that way. He refused, saying it would harm the roots to unwrap them, that he always planted trees this way, and that they would be fine.”

— Lisa in Jenkintown, PA

Tips and tricks for tree maintenance »

  • tree roots

Highlights from show for July 3, 2015:

Fruit Trees for Fall

Reid from St. Paul recently bought a house and wants to know what to do this July to get ready to plant some fruit trees this fall. Mike says that his job right now is primarily to research what sort of trees would do well up there in Minnesota. He especially recommends talking to local nurseries to find plants that thrive in the cold climate up there, plants that either originate in that area, or were bred to thrive there. Mike says that there are a few major concerns that Reid needs to take into account when looking for trees. These plants need to be cold-hardy, disease resistant, and won’t get too tall to manage. He recommends dwarf or semi-dwarf varieties, and pruning any growth that shoots directly up, high in the tree. “You want the growth to look like a pair of hands stretched sideways.” Then, once you’ve found these trees, make sure that they’ll be available in the fall. If they won’t be, don’t be afraid to take them home in their planters, and then keep them out of the hot sun all summer. Planting is easy: if they’re balled and burlapped, make sure the roots are completely uncovered once you go to plant, and spread those roots out so that they have an easier time acclimating to their new environment, and if they’re in a container, knock some of the soil off in order to, once again, spread out the roots. Dig a hole that is wide, but not deep, in order to keep the root flare aboveground. When you’re done planting, mulch the top with two inches of the highest quality compost available. There are also some great articles on fruit trees on the Gardens Alive website in the Gardens A to Z section. “With apple trees, be prepared that they’re gonna take up a lot of your time in the spring, but the rewards will be great.”


Ant Invasion

Pat in South Brunswick, NJ has a plethora of ants invading her garden, and she doesn’t want to use pesticide on them. She thinks they might be eating her plants, but Mike corrects her: “Ants aerate the soil and they keep termite colonies away from your house, but they don’t eat little holes in your plants.” They are likely to run off with seeds, but they won’t do any damage to already-growing plants. Pat amends her question. She wants to know what could possibly be eating her plants, and how to deal with them! Mike says that since it’s been a very wet season, so it could be slugs, but Pat says that she has already ruled out plants. According to Mike, this means that she probably has caterpillars, as most of her plants being devoured are cruciferous. He recommends that, going forward, she should grow these cruciferous plants under row covers, but to get rid of the pests now, she should go out and get a compound known as BT, mix it and spray it on the plants so that when the caterpillars go in for a little snack, they die. It persists for up to two weeks on the leaves and can be sprayed at any time, day or night. BT is a naturally occurring soil organism that’s been on the market for more than fifty years. “The nice thing about BT is it can only harm caterpillars that are eating the sprayed plants, so you don’t harm birds, or toads, or even butterflies! “


Featured Interview: Peter Nitzsche and Bill Hlubik

Mike speaks with Peter Nitzsche, New Jersey extension agent out of Rutgers University and Bill Hlubik, a professor and agricultural agent also out of Rutgers. They are developing a new variety of strawberry called Rutgers Scarlett, that claims to balance acidy and sweetness perfectly. Much like a tomato, there must be a certain level of acidity to make the fruit flavorful. Without acidity it could seem bland. According to Bill and Peter, this variety can be used in not only commercial settings, but home gardens. If you continually think strawberries just don’t taste like they used to, that might be because you are not consuming local varieties grown near you. You won’t get the same sweetness with strawberries that have been shipped a long distance. Check out Rutger’s Garden Field Day/Open House and sample locally grown produce.


Squirrels and Solar Panels

Dana with the Academy of Natural Sciences has had problems with squirrels getting into the photovoltaic system on her barn. They found a nice warm place to overwinter: right under her solar panels. Now, we all know that squirrel incisors grow constantly, as this is a characteristic of all rodents, so one of the things they do best is chewing on things, including electrical wiring! This brought her system down over the winter, and much of that had to be replaced for a very hefty bill. Mike expounds upon this tendency among squirrels outlining their master plan: “At a given signal, squirrels will chew through the ignition wires of every car in America, then through the phone lines to the house, and then they would send suicide squirrels into the transformer to cut off electricity to the house. Then once you can’t get away, you’re cold, and you can’t call for help, that’s when you find that they’ve eaten all your stored food.” He had previously postulated that the only reason we were still around was because the squirrel overmind lacked the foresight to prepare for the advent of cell phones, but Mike finds this development disquieting: solar panels will not save you either. Dana has had to reinstall the entire system, so that the panels are closer together and walled-in underneath to keep the squirrels out. Mike recommends that she install some cameras in there and check in every once in a while to see if they’re getting back in. Down south there is a rodent known as the packrat, which loves to get under the hood of your car and chew into all of the wiring. They sell a type of packrat repellent that you can spray on your wires which may be effective against squirrels as well, and any other type of animal repellant would also be good to try. “There’s no one listening who hasn’t lost a fight to the evil squirrels, Dana.”


Droopy Tomatos

Laura in Bucks County, PA has planted tomatoes in quadrants for the past few years. Last year, they were thriving, but then began to grow limp and droopy later in the season. She wants to know what to do to prevent that from happening this season. Mike questions her on the term quadrants, and she specifies that they are six beds, outlined with wood not unlike raised beds, only flush with the ground. They are no wider than four feet. Mike asks if the tomatoes begin with yellowing leaves near the bottom of the plant, working upwards, and Laura says that she has observed yellow at the base, but the limpness is all over, and she doesn’t have any spots on them. Mike diagnoses verticillium wilt. “When you grow tomatoes in the same spot, year after year, this naturally occurring soil organism begins to build up in the soil. It makes its presence known by wilting and turning yellow the lowest leaves on the plant, and in the beginning, progressing upwards slowly.” If you plant tomatoes in the same spot next season, the wilting will begin earlier and progress more rapidly. The only solution is to rotate the tomatoes to other quadrants where tomatoes haven’t been growing in the past. Those tomatoes growing right now will not survive the season. Now, if that’s not an option, if, say, you don’t have enough room to rotate them, it might not be too late to go to your local garden center and find tomatoes that they’ve been nursing which have, after their variety name a V and an F (The V being Verticillium and the F being Fusarium, a similar ailment occurring down south) or even a tomato that’s been grafted on top of a Verticillium-resistant root stock. Just avoid planting tomatoes in those quadrants for the next three years, and just make sure that the plants get rotated. “As long as you keep moving them around and you don’t go back to the first spot for three years, you’ll never see this problem again.”


Peach Trees

Henry in Lansdale, PA has been growing peach trees and they haven’t been doing so well lately. About five years ago, he accidentally dropped some peach pits onto his lawn and, quite unexpectedly, two peach trees sprouted up on that spot. Mike, being an expert on peaches, says that it’s important every winter and spring to prune back the branches heavily, especially the branches that are sticking straight up, in order to ensure that the tree branches get plenty of light and air, something that Henry has been doing, and as a result, his tree is flowering very nicely. However, he hasn’t been thinning out the little fruits that emerge. In growing apples and peaches, when those little bitty fruits emerge, you need to pull three quarters of them off the tree. “I have about five active trees right now, and I fill up multiple five-gallon buckets with tiny little fruits, but that’s the only way that you’re gonna get healthy fruit that gets to be big enough and tasty enough and avoids these kind of disease and pest issues.” One of the things to keep in mind when doing this is that in between each fruit you leave, there should be room for two full-size peaches, and on a young tree like Henry has, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to remove even more than three quarters of these baby fruits. The base of the tree should also be clear, meaning no wood mulch, no grass right up to the tree, and no fruit on the ground from last year. Leave a “clean orchard floor,” and composting the base is also a great idea, as it can also help protect against disease and pest issues going forward. “I’m so glad you called, because there’s still time for people who don’t know that to remove most of the baby apples and peaches and still get some good fruit at the end of the season.”

Jul 04, 2015
When Tree Roots Are Up to No Good
52:56

When tree roots grow into a sewer line it’s only a matter of time before your basement goes blahooey. On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath will explain why it’s not the fault of the tree; and how to get that flow going again. Plus answers to all your growing questions.


Questions of the Week:

“I purchased an older home with a 40 year old maple tree planted near the house. The previous owner told us that the sewer line had backed up due to the roots of the maple growing into the line. She said she had the pipes cleared with an auger and did not have any further problems. But I’m sure it won’t be long before those roots go back into the pipe to gain access to that ample supply of water and nitrogen. Is there anything I can do to prevent this besides flushing nasty chemicals down the toilet or cutting down the tree?”

— Luke, who handles the books at Mulhall’s Nursery in Omaha

Tips and tricks for tree maintenance »

  • Growing grapes

Highlights from show for June 26, 2015:

Growing Grass in Shade

Richard in Hacienda Heights, CA has beautiful a St. Augustine grass lawn, over which towers a gigantic stone pine, under which his lawn won’t grow. Rich wants to know this: is there any kind of grass that can grow directly beneath a large pine tree? Mike says that there are, but not in the arid conditions of SoCal. Most often when people see a lawn struggling beneath a tree, they think it’s the shadow cast by the tree keeping that lawn from flourishing, while it’s really the root system. “Trees are bullies. They’ve evolved to dominate the world of plants.” The tree roots always eat first, and they will suck up any water they can get before the lawn can even use it. When you see your lawn browning out further and further away from the tree, it means that the tree is expanding further, sending feeder roots out to find more water, allowing it to outcompete the lawn. Additionally, if the feeder roots are a dense webbing, it will actually beat up the lawn and overtake the lawn underground. Mike recommends that Rich does what many in California have opted to do in the recent drought and allow the lawn to die. Then, switch to a system of “permeable pavers,” laying down a network of walkways that are easy to walk on like traditional pavement, but allow water through. Then, between these walkways, plant some low-growing, drought resistant plants. “I assure you that lawn does not have a chance. You can throw water and fertilizer on it from now until the end of the world and it’s not gonna help.”


Knockout Roses

Mimi in Wallingford, PA has three large bushes of knockout roses, on whose leaves have developed several brown spots and holes. Mike says, “When it comes to almost any plant, the problem does tend to be cultural, in that we’re doing something wrong for the plant.” But Mike also mentions that some experts believe that knockouts have been over-planted, which encourages pests and disease to develop new ways to attack them, negating some of their disease resistance. Now, Mimi sheepishly admits that she pruned her roses at the wrong time, having pruned them in the fall. Mike says that by pruning them in the fall, she’s taking the energy out of the root system, weakening them before the winter. It is better to prune them in spring, two weeks after they start growing. Mike mentions a type of scarab beetle that only comes out at night which may be the culprit, so he advises that Mimi keep her eye out for any of these bugs and he prescribes this additional course of action: remove any brown or lacy leaves from the plants. If there is a disease at work here, this can help stymy its spread, and it will also keep the knockouts looking great. It’s also a good idea to prune the bushes back this time of year to stimulate new growth.


Clay Spray and Squirrels

Kristine in Princeton, Nj has been having great success using clay spray to keep squirrels off of her tomatoes. She tends a vegetable and herb garden for a golf club and the kitchen staff there love to feed these squirrels scraps when they come poking about the kitchen. After this veritable feast, the squirrels then head down to the garden to have a nice light salad, presumably for digestive aid. Every day when Kris comes in to tend the garden, she finds a jumbo tomato or two, lying on the ground, with a couple of squirrely teeth marks in it. Mike says that research has found that these satan-spawn don’t even particularly like tomatoes. Some have postulated that they attack these fruits to get at the water inside, but Mike knows better: they do it because they are evil. “They know that taking a single bite out of every tomato will bring the homeowner running out in their underwear, waving brooms, and screaming and yelling and putting on a good show for all the squirrels.” Mike also notes that the clay sprays are also very effective against insects and disease, as insects don’t even like to land on the clay, and it easily washes off in the kitchen. “Now tell that kitchen staff to stop feeding the squirrels. It’s kinda like inviting anthrax to come over for dinner. What are they thinking?”


More about Manure

Jeff is a cattle rancher down in Northeast Oklahoma and he heard something rather strange when he tuned into the show the previous week: one of the callers insisted that the modern cattle industry today operates without the use of antibiotics and growth hormones. Mike admits that the call had completely blindsided him, as she had told him ahead of time that she wanted to talk about using manure in the garden. In that call, Mike had mentioned that at one time he had advocated cow manure as the absolute best kind of manure to use in the garden, but in recent years, he has become more and more concerned about the medications given to cows and the conditions in which they are raised. “I’m not sure that I want to use manure from an unhappy animal.” Jeff agrees, saying that his main mission in raising beef is simple: “I want you to feel good about the meat you eat, but the overwhelming majority of beef raised in this country is not raised in the conditions that most people would be comfortable with.” Jeff is a fourth generation cattle rancher trying to raise beef as antibiotic-free as possible for a company that markets antibiotic-free beef. He mentions that there is an economic premium for this kind of beef, but they are producing for such a small niche market that it’s impossible to extrapolate trends within the beef industry based upon their practices. Mike responds, “I think your market is only going to grow, and if I were in Oklahoma I’d come and get your manure.”


Poison Ivy

This spring, Harold from the Bronx discovered that his garden has been overrun with Poison Ivy! What can he do to get rid of it? Mike recommends that he do one of two things: either hire a professional to suit up and remove all of the vines, or do it himself. Keep in mind that chemicals have no effect on poison ivy, for although the vine is dead, the chemicals are still present in it, and once it’s dead, it appears to be an innocuous brown dead thing, posing even more of a threat. No, if Harold opts to remove it himself, here is what Mike recommends: wait until pouring rain, then either at the end of the rain or immediately after go out there with either a rolling trashcan or a big trash bag, as well as every single plastic shopping bag you can find. Wear long sleeves and long pants and be sure to wear gloves. When the plant itself and the ground around it is soaked, put these shopping bags over your hands and find where each vine meets the soil, then gently pull it out. If the soil is fully saturated, the entire root system should follow. Pull another plastic bag over it, covering the entire plant with two plastic bags you haven’t touched. Then throw that in the trash and move on to the next one with fresh bags. “I know it seems like it would take forever, but my property was totally covered with poison ivy top to bottom when we bought it, and it took me a couple weeks of working maybe twenty minutes of every third day.” He also advises to keep a hose handy, and if you think you’ve touched yourself anywhere on your body with a vine, rinse yourself off with cold water. When you go inside, keep some fresh bags on you, then immediately throw your clothes in the washer on cold, just to rinse them off, then take a cold shower, no soap, no warm water. If they re-emerge, just spray the baby plants with white vinegar. “Once you get the big plants outta there, the little baby plants are easy to control.”


Fallen Birdseed

Ted from Lockhaven has birdseed fallen from his feeders and he wants to know what to do with all of this fallen seed. Mike says that Ted should avoid feeding seed and should instead put in suet feeders, in order to attract carnivorous birds, and then once it starts to warm up, stop feeding them. “The birds don’t move, they already live there. They already have your children enrolled in the local schools.” Then, since these birds stick around, they eat all of the pests that would otherwise plague your garden. Mike also says that if Ted were to continue feeding seed, to keep that seed from falling to the ground, and this is important for a few reasons. Now, Ted, like most people, feeds sunflower seeds, and sunflowers, much like black walnut, contains a compound that can inhibit the growth of other plants, and so if the seed falls down, it can stunt the growth of nearby plants. For that reason, it’s also not the best material to put into a compost pile. The second reason is that any seed on the ground will attract mice, rats, and voles, as well as the evil squirrels. Therefore, Mike also recommends putting the fallen seeds back into the feeder. “It’s fun to try to get a squirrel-proof feeder to see how long it takes for them to defeat it.”


Fertilizer Chemicals

Kellyn in East Grand Rapids, MI recently bought a house and wants to know about the claims of an organic landscape service, and whether he needs to feed his lawn at all. Their natural fertilizer line contains bone meal, feather meal and fish emulsion and is free of harmful chemicals. Mike says that bone meal is unnecessary, as bone meal raises the phosphorous content of the soil, and most lawns don’t need any more phosphorous. The fish emulsion and feather meal promote nitrogen, making them good natural foods, but with Kellyn’s climate and considering how little sunlight his lawn actually receives, his lawn is a light-feeder. Mike also notes that lawncare companies need to come by more often than is actually necessary in order to make any money. There are a few bare, mossy spots on the lawn, which signals to Mike that the lawn is very acidic, so he recommends that Kellyn spread around some wood ash or lime to lower that. Then, in the fall, aerate the lawn to relieve the soil compaction and lay down premium topsoil or compost on those bare spots, and then lay down seed. Then, by the springtime, he’ll have a nice stand of grass. And as long as you leave the clippings behind every time you mow the lawn, in a damp climate like Michigan’s, that lawn will probably never need to be fed. “It should be self-sustaining if you leave the clippings where they lie, because they’re 10% nitrogen. You’ll be feeding the lawn every time you cut it.”

Jun 27, 2015
Can a Rose be Two-Faced?
52:57

How can a rose suddenly change color? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will explain how a prized plant can present a very different face; and tell the battle-torn tale of the world’s most amazing rose. Plus answers to all your growing questions.


Questions of the Week:

“My “Peace” rose was negatively affected by the cold bitter winter, but it did come back and is looking healthy. The problem is that it is no longer a Peace rose. It is now a “red” rose. What happened and what can I do about it? “

— Sharon in Allentown, PA

Tips and tricks for growing roses »

  • Growing grapes

Highlights from show for June 19, 2015:

Dwarf Holly Dilemma

Susan in Germantown, Philadelphia may have lost her Dwarf Burford Holly. She gave it Holly Tone once a year, and paid close attention to it for several years, but this spring, she looked outside to find that the leaves were brown, instead of its usual dark green. Mike mentions a caterpillar pest that can turn the leaves brown, but it’s unlikely that she has that, as she would have seen chewed leaves on that plant, and it would have easily migrated to one of her other holly plants. It’s more likely that there’s something wrong with the conditions in which the plant is growing. Now, Susan uses wood mulch, which Mike says raises the pH of the soil, and might be the culprit here. He recommends that she get rid of that wood mulch and replace it with peat moss, then cover that over with compost, then prune it back by six inches to a foot. “Make sure that it gets water during any dry stretches that come, and we’ll know where we are at the end of the season.”


Over-Mulching

David from Long Island is an arborist with a public service announcement about over-mulching. He says that in addition to covering the roots with mulch, it’s also bad to leave the cages on the root balls of these plants. Mike asks if it’s possible to save these trees, and David says that while in some cases these trees cannot be saved, he has been able to cut the cages off with bolt cutters, after unearthing it with an air spade, a cool little tool that excavates soil using pressurized air. Many say that after a few years, the burlap will rot away, but due to the anaerobic environment underground, the burlap stays intact, further suffocating the plant roots. “I used to think that landscapers were just misinformed, but we recently had a guest who postulated that you can plant a lot of trees really quickly and move on to the next house and the next paycheck if you do don’t unwrap them.” David agrees and says that you can also charge more for your services if you put down more mulch. This explains the prevalence of a style of mulching known as “volcano mulching,” where the mulch is piled high around the tree trunk roughly in the shape of a volcano. This suffocates the roots and can kill the tree as the trunk grows. “If you can’t see the root flare of your tree, your tree isn’t going to prosper.”


Bay Laurels

Tajka hails from Ljubljana, Slovenia, and she has a fifty-year-old bay laurel tree which has fallen on hard times. She has consulted tree experts, who tell her that it’s time to cut the tree down. The bay laurel is a warm weather tree, which thrives in her backyard: new sprouts grow like weeds! A while back, the original tree has been fighting a scale insect infestation for many years, which does not affect the young sprouts, but they have been affected by her most recent problem: a sort of floppiness in new growth and an early loss of leaves. She had a dry, cold winter, though the ground didn’t freeze, and because none of the other plants in her garden are affected by this new problem, it is unlikely to have affected the tree. Tajka also says that other laurels in the neighborhood are experiencing scale, but they deal with it by cutting the trees down and planting new, but she wants to keep this tree for as long as possible. Now, last year, she gave the tree some manure, which Mike advises her not to repeat. Instead, he tells her to go and get potting soil, and then scour the area for the biggest, healthiest specimens of these volunteer bay laurels, pot up four of them, and then keep them safe. Take them inside in the winter, and put them out in the sun in the summer. As for the big tree, he recommends putting out suet feeders all around the tree to attract carnivorous birds who will eat the scale. Meanwhile, once these youngsters are a good enough size, cut down the old tree and put one of these new trees in. “I’m happy that you have these baby bay laurels around, because these young plants, like our kids, are the future.”


Browning Hedges

Glenn from Clayton, NJ planted leyland cyprus to form a hedge years ago, but there’s a lot of browning going on. Last year, he used a fungicide known as Kocide 2000, which Mike notes sounds pretty scary. Mike also tells him that fungal infections don’t turn plants brown. Now, this browning is only occurring on the inside and is not visible from a distance. Glenn says that these plants are growing near a treated lawn, and used to be mulched, but no longer are. Glenn also feeds them with 10-10-10, for which Mike admonishes him. “No plant wants an equal amount of the three basic fertilizers. There is not a single plant on the planet that that is a balanced ratio of.” Since they are growing near a lawn that’s being treated with chemical salts, these plants, which are already stressed, don’t need even more chemical salts in their systems. He also mentions that lawns don’t really need any herbicides in order to grow properly, and that the cyprus may be too far gone, mentioning persistent herbicides that work very hard to kill all plants, including the ones you want to grow. He also says that the insides of the trees aren’t getting enough sun, so he recommends planting a second line spaced further apart in case the first line doesn’t make it. “Sun is everything.”


Silver Maples

Kaye from Dayton, OH recently moved into a new house, which has two silver maples growing in her yard, and the one in the back didn’t leaf out until much later than the one in front. It did drop a lot of seeds, but when the leaves did finally come in, they came in very small. Mike says that there are a couple reasons why trees drop lots of seeds. They do it either when they’re very happy, which is unlikely here, or it could happen as part of a cycle, or, the most likely in this case, when trees are under serious stress and may be heading towards death. Silver maples are very “trashy” trees. They grow fast, they’re brittle, and they aren’t very long-lived. Kaye has a lot of plantings around the base of the tree, which Mike advises she remove, uncovering the root flare. Then, in a ring around the tree, extending about six feet, put down a layer of compost. If this tree has to come down, Mike advises that she take down the other one around the same time, as it probably won’t last much longer than the one in back. “Start saving quarters in a jar, honey.”


Ants in Potted Plants

Pamela from Edmond, OK has ants living in her plant pots and she wants to know what to do. Mike says that she doesn’t need to go as far as replacing the soil, and that the ants are just living in there because the soil down in Oklahoma is so poor and hard to live in, and so the ants prefer to live in the light, moist soil in the pots. Mike has two methods for getting rid of ants, and one is to flush the pots with water. Typically he wouldn’t recommend this, but because of where she lives, and because of the hot, dry, summer they’ve been having, she can really saturate the soil, even keeping saucers underneath the pots. Let the water sit for about an hour before draining. The other solution is boric acid ant traps, which can be found in most hardware stores or garden stores. These are premade traps, composed mostly of sugar with just a bit of boric acid in it. He recommends to put a little bit of the solution on a piece of cardboard, or just set the trap down on top of the soil, then put a towel around the top of the container to keep bees from getting into it. Since the solution contains very little boric acid, the ants won’t get sick for a few days, but will have brought some back to the colony, poisoning the queen and bringing the colony to its proverbial knees. The solution is safe for humans, having been used to clean babies eyes and mouths. It is only harmful to ants. “Don’t get anything that’s a jumble of letters and numbers ’cause that would be a chemical insecticide and you just don’t need it in this case.”

Jun 20, 2015
Proper pruning, plucking and picking produces the best grapes
52:57

Do you have a grapevine that looks great in the Spring but awful by harvest time? Mike McGrath reveals how proper pruning, plucking and picking can produce grapes you’ll be proud of!


Questions of the Week:

“Every year I get a nice initial production of grapes from my backyard vines, but they eventually develop blackish spots, dry up and die. My father says it’s “black rot.’ Is there anything I can do to prevent it?”

— Angelo in Springfield (Delaware County) PA

“Every year in the late spring I get beautiful little green grapes. But by mid-summer they’re all dry and dark looking. I’ve tried all kinds of fungicide sprays, but none helped. I showed the grapes to my local extension office, but they had no idea what it was. I remember Mike mentioning a product called “Surround” in one of his shows. Do you think that it’s applicable here?”

— Jing, “doing well in Clinton, NJ”

Tips and tricks for growing grapes »

  • Growing grapes

Highlights from show for June 12, 2015:

Pruning Roses

Lyn in Edmond, OK would like to know when to prune roses. On a previous episode, she had obtained a partial answer that pruning can take place 2 weeks after they have bloomed. Mike explains that many people injure their flowers by pruning them in the fall, especially those who live in colder climates; pruning stimulates growth at any season of the year except for winter. When this is done, one is forcing their roses to grow and actually weakens the root system. Mike advises to wait for new growth to be visible in the Spring and make sure to prune 2 weeks after they bloom or grow. Lyn confesses that her roses began to leaf out early this year and then winter came along and killed a lot of them. Mike explains that since she pruned them in February, which is too early, the new growth froze. Mike advises for the future, if this kind of situation were to take place again, she needs to be patient until the area is out of the frost zone to remove the dead parts. This would most definitely help Lyn’s situation.


Mole Control

Bruce in Raleigh, NC has no idea how to get rid of his neighbors moles, whose yard is filled with raised tunnels. Mike warns that moles are very hard to get rid of. Mike suggests for his neighbor to apply “milky spore disease” to his lawn this fall as we get to August; this is a naturally occurring soil bacterium that will get rid of any kind of scarab beetle larva or white grubs in the soil” continues Mike. By doing this, it eliminates the one of the top food sources of moles. Step two would be to purchase a castor oil based repellent. It is important to purchase the highest concentration of its kind. It should be put down once in the fall and once in the spring. Lastly, traps for moles would be effective too in the process.


Community Gardening

Mary in CA would like to know if it is possible to grow a vegetable garden in her apartment that only receives about half an hour worth of sunlight. She is interested in vegetables such as tomatoes. Mike informs her that plants like tomatoes need six to eight hours of sunlight; therefore, she will not be able to grow them in her home. What Mike would suggest, considering her circumstances, is community gardening. Additionally, he adds that by gardening in the local garden, she can allow her tomatoes to get enough sun but to also take note that they need some shade in the afternoon and she can do that with an umbrella. Mike warns that growing plants in such little light is not healthy at all for it concentrates too much nitrogen which isn’t beneficial.”


Yellow Jackets

Dee in Emporium, PA has been stung by a yellow jacket and doesn’t have access to the entrance hole of the nest due to the structure of her house. Mike informs her that if these insects are nesting in the ground underneath,it is safe to say that they are merely beginning to populate. Over the winter these yellow jackets tend to save their eggs so they can be able to populate and the month of July seems to be the month where it ‘explodes’ Mike states. Mike would typically advise his callers in this situation to cover the nest up with some sort of cloth or fabric and smother; however, Dee’s case is different. Mike suggests that she purchases an electric trap used to kill mosquitoes for they will fly into the light and electrocute themselves. It is best for her to set up this equipment on a cool night when they aren’t active. She can also get empty quart-sized jars and remove the lid “ using a screwdriver, drill a hole in the lid and insert something such as ham or cat food in the jar with the lid on. Placing that jar nearby their hive would be ideal. Mike adds on that two jars, one with a sweet bate such as a rotten peach and the other with a meat bate; this will allow them to get inside but not out. When they are in the jar it is best to let them ‘cook’ in the sun rather then empty them out.


Blueberries & Bees

Drew in PA would like to know how much sun blueberries need, since he has just begun growing them. His second question is how to attract bees to the area where he is growing his blueberries, so they can reap the benefits? Mike reassured him that adding bees is great to pollinate the blueberry bushes. Mike says that blueberries want as much sun as they possible can get. The more sun they receive the more berries will establish. Also, the more plants are around the more blueberries are likely to grow according to Mike. The three seasons for blueberries are early, midseason and late varieties; “instead of having a big three or four cluster, you can put four different varieties of each seasonality and you can extend the harvest to go for many, many months” informs Mike. Peat moss mixed in with well-drained mulched soil, and removing most of the native soil is essential to helping them grow and produce to their fullest potential. These fruits require the most acidic soil in order to thrive.

Jun 13, 2015
The Wonderful World of Melons
52:58

Call it a cantaloupe, a muskmelon or a netted melon, it’s a delight to eat, but difficult to grow. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will delve into the wonderful world of mis-named melons! Plus your fabulous phone calls.


Question of the Week:

“I have a ‘flat earth’ plot in a community garden here in Shawnee, Kansas. My 7-year-old son Jack loves cantaloupe (aka muskmelon) and demanded that we try to grow some this year, so the pressure is on me to deliver. I haven’t tried to grow them before, but a couple of our other gardeners have told me they haven’t had any luck with them. Back around May 1st, we started some plants from seed under the lights I use to start tomatoes. Now what? A few websites say to use black plastic to keep the soil warm. Do you have any advice?

PS: Thanks for doing your show. I listen to the podcasts as soon as they are available. I also liked your tomato book so much I bought a copy for my mom. This year I grew so many tomato plants I had enough to give away to six friends and family members. I would never have attempted anything that elaborate without you egging me on. Thanks again!”

— Chris in Shawnee, Kansas

Is that a cantaloupe in your pocket? Or a muskmelon? »


Highlights from show for June 6, 2015:

Hydrangea Troubles

Janet from Jenkintown, PA has in the past had issues with downy white scale on her hydrangeas. This year, the hydrangeas are, for the most part, healthy, but the scale has migrated to one of her blueberry bushes! In the area where her hydrangeas were growing, it’s nothing but shrubs and hosta and the like. When the problem first arose, she discovered that underneath her layer of mulch and soil was a layer of thick, black, plastic, which she had to remove. The blueberries, on the other hand are not mulched, and only one of the blueberries has the scale. Mike recommends that she try to raise the acidity of her soil there with a mulch of milled peat moss, covered with compost, and an organic acid fertilizer, such as Holly-Tone. Then, cradling the plants, try to blast the scale off of the plants with a high-pressure stream of water from your hose. “Believe it or not, in a situation like this, high pressure streams of water are the best pesticide. Think of a cartoon fire hose.”


Dog Barf Fungus

Dave from Chicago has set up three bins of shredded fall leaves and coffee grounds for composting when he noticed that at the top of one of the bins he saw a yellow growth! Mike notes that his method is slightly different from the traditional three-bin method, wherein you fill one bin, after some time turn it over into the second, then into the third, where you keep your finished compost. Dave’s bins are not made of wood, but from hardware cloth, providing great airflow for his compost. Dave also has an apple tree growing right above these bins, which regularly deposits all sorts of plant matter into the bins on its own, although it hasn’t borne fruit for a while. Mike believes that these bins are infested with “Dog Barf Fungus,” a type of “nuisance mold” related to the slime mold. It is more common in rotting wood, so it’s likely that some branches fell into the pile, giving rise to the fungus. The fungus is completely harmless, so Dave should take a pitchfork and make sure that the fungus is mixed more thoroughly throughout the pile, and maybe add some coffee grounds to get some nitrogen in there. “It might even make the compost more nutritious in the end.”


Featured Interview:

Mike speaks with author Linda Chalker-Scott about her new book How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do. This book is a great resource for gardeners who want to understand why and how plants do what they do. Mike clearly found a kindred spirit in Chalker-Scott’s organic methods for planting and caring for trees. She shed light on how tree roots bring in air and why it’s important to spread the roots of plants. .


Left Over Compost

Marissa in North Wales, PA is getting ready to get a raised bed for her new house, and has just gotten a whole bunch of compost to fill them. However, she’s got an awful lot left over. She wants to know what to do with the leftovers, and how to store it for next season. Mike explains to her the most important rule of gardening: “nobody gets to August and wishes they’d bought less compost.” Mike is concerned that she won’t have the bed ready until it’s too late, but she assures him that she’s building it as soon as she moves in, and that she’s even going to take the day off of work to build the bed. Mike recommends that she add pearlite to the soil, to keep it light, and to take it slow to build the beds. After all, the inside of the house is going to need a lot of work already, and if she’s working inside during the day, she only needs to work out there in the morning and the evening, when the sun is much more forgiving. Since she’s starting so late in the season, Mike also says to pick lots of plants that grow later in the season, and garlic and salad greens to grow during the winter and spring respectively. For this purpose, she should also add some metal hoops over the top to stretch row cover fabric over the top of it. “Then you can probably grow salad greens all winter long through the spring, and you’ll have really warm soil to plant in for next season.”


American Hornbeam

Rich in Philadelphia wants to know about an American Hornbeam planted in front of his office in Center City. Now, this tree was newly planted in early January and looks to be about twenty years old. Rich had used a tree spike fertilizer in the early spring and Mike appropriately chastises him for it. “I wish you hadn’t done that,” he says, “When we go walking through Fairmount Park and we see the trees, has nature come along and spiked them?” And if this is a commercial fertilizer, it’s probably full of chemical salts, which, the tree most certainly doesn’t need, considering how salty the soil was after this past winter. Rich notes that the tree has a lot of growth on it and it looks very strong, but the leaves are struggling. Rich has taken it upon himself to take care of this tree and mentions that he waters it every night, which Mike also chastises him for. “You don’t wanna be watering at night, and you don’t wanna be watering shallowly every day.” He says to instead, go out at least twice a week in the morning, drop a quart of water into the soil, let it settle, and then, after a few hours, repeat until there’s a good gallon of water surrounding the tree, and only when there’s no rain. Get a liquid fish and seaweed mix, put a little bit of that in the water. There’s not enough room for compost, so that’ll have to do for nutrients. He also says to remove the mulch from around it so the root flare is exposed, because right now it’s too crowded. “Here’s the deal, we don’t know really what situation it’s in,” he says, “It seems like an overly large tree for this space; to me they should have put in a sapling or busted up more concrete.”


Safe Soakers

Marianne in Orange, MA, two hours west of Boston wants to get a new hose. She has finally found a hose that is lead free and suitable for potable water, and wants to find a soaker hose that isn’t made from recycled tires, or anything else that might cause health problems down the line. Mike has also recently been researching garden hoses to find cleanly-made hoses, and the ones that he’s found have been very durable and work very well for him. Now, if Marianne can’t find any cleanly-made soaker hoses he recommends going out and buying some drinking-water-safe hoses on sale, laying them out on a driveway, taking an ice pick or an awl, heat it up with a lighter, and then make a series of holes, six inches apart in a line. This is most definitely a job for two or more people! It won’t be too hard to find a cap for the other end of the hose. Marianne is concerned about the water pressure in the hose, that it might burst if not enough water can escape through those holes, and that poking these holes might compromise the safety of the hose. Mike points out that there are herbicides in our rainwater, and that she won’t be able to get to 100% regardless. He also points out that the safety should not be compromised, and that if there is an issue with pressure, she would certainly be able to fine-tune it to her liking. “Thank you for thinking so much about trying to have a clean environment around.”


Jun 06, 2015
How to ward off pesky squirrels!
52:58

When fruits get ripening, Evil Squirrels get going! Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will discuss several ways to try and save your precious harvest from these long-tailed Servants of Satan! Plus answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week:

“I use four-foot high, 16-foot long cattle panels to create a huge tomato trellis, tying the vines to the panels as they grow up and then tossing them over to the other side when they reach the top. It provides strong support; and perhaps makes it too easy for Mr. Squirrel to pick the best tomatoes. Any ideas? Would it be wrong to hide in the garage and shoot squirrels?”

— “MJ” in Hampton, Virginia

Keeping evil squirrels out of your tomatoes and other fruits »


Highlights from show for May 30, 2015:

Gluten Meal

Barbara in Abington, PA recently bought corn gluten meal for her lawn to put down in the spring, but since she bought it, it hasn’t rained. She wants to know what she needs to do to get the most out of it in this recent dryness. Mike explains that corn gluten meal is a great fertilizer, rich in nitrogen, what your lawn wants, and poor in phosphorous, what your lawn doesn’t want. And when it’s applied at the right time, it can prevent weed seeds from germinating. The first window was in March, but it’s “still a fairly safe time to feed your lawn,” as it hasn’t gotten too hot yet. Now, if you have a cool-season lawn, a much more important time to feed your lawn is in early to mid-August, which will prevent a great deal more weeds. However, since Barbara has Zoysia grass, a warm-season grass, Mike assures that in her case, and in the case of anyone else with a Zoysia lawn, “this is the perfect time to feed it.”Additionally, since Zoysia lawns are so low maintenance, they don’t require much feed, and feeding doesn’t need to be coordinated with watering. “The only drawback is the brown color in the winter; other than that, they’re close to perfect.”


Salt Water Trouble

Following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Joe in Brigantine, NJ was faced with a gardener’s nightmare! The year after the storm, most of his annuals, including rhododendron and holly, died off. When the storm came in, his property was underwater for quite some time, so he wants to know if that salt water could have killed them. Since then, he has flushed the soil with fresh water quite a few times, so he wants to know if there was anything more he could have done to save them. Mike explains that it would have been better to saturate the lawn with fresh water immediately after the storm, and that since the storm hit in the fall, and they were just starting to go dormant, many more of them could have been saved. But he commends Joe for his efforts, because had Joe not watered them so early in the spring, he would have lost them all. Mike says that the best thing to do going forward is to avoid chemical fertilizers, which are salts, and put compost on the surface., which will help retain water and feed the plants gently. He also explains that a more proactive approach, to prevent this kind of thing from happening again, would be to raise those raised beds higher. “In your region, where this has happened and could happen again, everyone should be planting high, in the highest possible sense.”


Carpenter Bees

Ashley from IN is the director of a preschool, and she has carpenter bees living in the wooden playset out on their playground. The bees, while harmless, are scaring the little ones, keeping them away from the play equipment. Mike replies that “even though they’re scared now, they will never forget that these big bees didn’t harm them.” In fact, this lesson is true of all native bees, as the only bee-like creatures that sting people are wasps and hornets, as well as the European honey bee. Mike also explains that carpenter bees are not too fond of Almond oil, which is very inexpensive if bought in bulk. Carpenter bees also avoid any painted wood, so repainting the equipment is also an effective means of control. However, these bees might be hard to get rid of, as they may have already laid their eggs in the playset. Then, once the bees are gone, build little bee houses with blocks of cheap pine, and drill holes in them, and then hang those blocks in unobtrusive places. Mike and Ashley both agree that as long as they’re there, “the bees could be a great teaching experience.”


Kid’s Garden

John in Bethlehem, PA is looking to start a vegetable garden for his three-year-old granddaughter and wants to know Mike’s recommendations for what sort of soil to use. Mike says that the best soil would be fifty-fifty leaf compost with rich, black, screened topsoil. Mike also likes to use pearlite, a natural popped volcanic glass that will lighten the soil. However, he does not recommend this to gardeners living in a dry climate, like in California or Arizona, as they want to do as much as they can to keep the moisture in the soil. John is also planning to begin composting in earnest, and wants to know if he should compost black walnut leaves. Mike says that this is not advised, as all parts of the black walnut tree contain a compound known as Juglone. However, if we’re dealing with only one black walnut tree amidst several other trees, Mike says not to worry, as the concentration is too low to worry about. But if there is a section that’s just black walnut trees, then leave those leaves on the ground.”


Getting Rid of Moles

Chris in NJ has moles, and wants to know the best way to get rid of them! Now, moles are absolute carnivores, eating mostly larvae and other bugs, and are not to be confused with voles, which are carnivores. They love to eat plant bulbs and roots and all of those other things your plants need to survive. Mike advises not to use poison gummy worms to get rid of moles, as they’ll generally not eat the worms. In fact, these poisoned gummy snacks pose a greater threat to small children and dogs than they do to any mole! “These are very dangerous, they should not be sold, and it’s foolish to use them.” Mike instead suggests using castor oil. Simply spread it around the lawn where the moles have been tunneling. As it rains, the smell of the castor oil permeates the subsoil, and since the moles don’t like that smell, they’ll get outta your lawn as quick as they can. If castor oil doesn’t work, another good poison-free alternative is a product called Mole Zap. This method does kill the moles, as it suffocates them down in their tunnels, displacing their oxygen and replacing it with CO2.”


Variety In the Garden

Angel in Oklahoma City, OK is curious about what sort of things she should plant in her garden to add some color and variety. Mike notes that Angel has some tough gardening conditions down in Oklahoma, with the “hellish”winds; hot, dry summers; and poor, alkaline soil. Mike recommends peppers and eggplants, which are nice, edible, ornamental plants. Specifically, he recommends asian varieties of eggplant, as they come in myriad shapes and colors, and hot peppers, which have great ornamental varieties that grow really well in Angel’s climate. Mike also notes that it’s a little late in the season for planting, so it would be ideal to go to the local Garden Center, where you can find these plants already growing and ready to be transplanted. Mike would also like to remind everyone that “’Ornamental’ just means it looks pretty too, the eggplants and the peppers are perfectly good to eat.””


May 30, 2015
Mike’s most valuable tips and tricks
52:58

Are you imperiled by poison ivy? Sucked dry by mosquitoes? Mike McGrath will help negate these nasty nuisances—and reveal the best small fruits to grow, build a rain garden and more!


Questions of the Week:

“Last year, we started having problems with poison ivy around our vegetable garden. I can’t go near the stuff, so my father-in-law kindly mowed it down and covered the area with weed block and wood chips. The poison ivy simply grew up around it, and instead of being behind my garden, is now starting to encroach it. Do you have any organic suggestions for getting rid of it? Thanks for your help.”

— Laurel DWG; Billerica, Massachusetts

“One of our mulberry trees has a 4” thick poison ivy vine clinging to the bark and climbing the entire tree. It has beautiful foliage in the Fall, but my spouse is very allergic and I need to kill it off. Any suggestions?”

— Terry Martin; Southeastern Michigan

“Mike, it’s that time of year again! I’m getting over my first poison ivy rash and a friend has a bad case just starting. Can you go over the details of your poison ivy plan?”

— Elaine Wolf; Philadelphia

How to polish off your poison ivy without personal peril »

  • Getting rid of poison ivy

Highlights from show for May 31, 2014:

Interview with Lee Reich, author of Grow Fruit Naturally

Lee Reich author of Grow Fruit Naturally is a frequent guest on You Bet Your Garden and is one of our most trusted fruit experts. Lee spoke to Mike back in September of 2012 about the easiest fruits to grow for beginners. His top choices turned out to be pears and blueberries! Pears for their disease resistance and blueberries for their easy going nature.


Interview with Lauren Mandel, author of Eat Up: The Inside Scoop on Rooftop Agriculture

Lauren Mandel, author of Eat Up: The Inside Scoop on Rooftop Agriculture spoke to Mike in August of last year and got us caught up on the hottest trends in roof top gardening. She shows us how anyone can create a garden on top of their building as long as they follow safe guidelines and consult professionals to make sure the job is done right. Most important tip of all? Make sure you have access to the roof so you can carry heavy containers of water or soil or better yet get a plumber to install piping.

  • Photo by Flickr user A Roo


Interview with Lyn Steiner, author of Rain Gardens: Sustainable Landscaping for a Beautiful Yard and a Healthy World

Lyn Steiner, author of Rain Gardens: Sustainable Landscaping for a Beautiful Yard and a Healthy World spoke to Mike in February of 2012 and details the real benefits of having a rain garden in your landscape. Lyn explains that while many people think it is the answer to a wet landscape rain gardens are really better for plants that hold the water for only 24hours. The benefits to the environment are enormous and they attract beneficial insects and butterflies.


Interview with Umar Mycka, poison ivy expert

Umar Mycka has been a groundkeeper at the Philadelphia Zoo for over 40 years and is a poison ivy expert. Umar talked to Mike last year right before the annual Poison Ivy conference in Philadelphia. He explains how poison ivy appears, which is strangely tied to the flying and eating habits of birds. Also how to remove it using Mike McGrath’s own technique.


Interview with Howard Garrett, or “The Dirt Doctor”

Howard Garrett “The Dirt Doctor” (http://www.dirtdoctor.com/) spoke with Mike last year about the terrible issue with mosquitoes carrying west nile virus around the country and specifically in Texas where they combat the problem with aerial spraying. This is not only bad for the environment and for people, but it is not effective. Howard gives tips on reducing the population of mosquitos in your area using BT, a harmless substance that will kill them if they try to breed in water. He advises setting traps in bird baths, cat food cans or buckets. Mike loves this dastardly approach!

  • Photo by Flickr user m0nt2

May 23, 2015
Are you really a gardener at heart? Take Mike’s quiz!
52:58

Have you ever had to wash your hair to get your fingernails clean? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will ask 50 quick questions that will reveal if you really are a gardener! Plus your fabulous phone calls.


Question of the Week:

Think You’re a Real Gardener? Take The You Bet Your Garden Quiz and Find Out!

Think You’re a Real Gardener? »


Highlights from show for May 15, 2015:

Salt Damage

Rob in Philadelphia, PA has a Wisteria plant that’s about eight or nine years old that normally blooms in spring, but this year it did not bloom at all. He is concerned that there may have been some foul intentions involved from an ex-roomate. He mentions that he has observed some kind of white residue on the surface of the soil as well as tasted it; he suspects that salt was was poured over the soil. Also, according to Rob, he dug out all the soil from the pot and has been drenching it with water daily. Mike assures him that the actions he has taken are exactly right and what he would recommend to anyone who is experiencing salt damage in either a lawn or garden. Flushing is the best solution in this case and flushing with as much water as a possible. Mike advises Rob his next move should be to fill it back up again with potting soil, compost, and pearlite. He emphasizes how it should be very rich but light as well. If Rob provides the plant with nutrients through compost; washing to remove the salt; and pruning to stimulate its natural regrowth, Rob’s precious wisteria plant should regrow to the way it once was.


Browning Arborvitaes

Judie in NY noticed browning on one side of all her arborvitaes about a month ago. She is curious if they can be saved. She adds that she has put down holly-tone and has watered them with a soaker hose about eight hours at a time. She wonders if they will come back and what she should do in order to prevent further damage. She mentions that they have been receiving a lot of wind and dryness lately in her area. Mike believes one possibility could be wind burn. Mike also suggests having them examined for bag worms; these are the major pests arborvitaes are plagued with and this kind of damage is usually the work of bag worms. Additionally, keeping them hydrated during this period of drought in her area is essential and compost can help with that effort.


No Saw Dust in the Composter

Sarah in Ambler, PA recently purchased a “NatureMill” electrical heated composter; Sarah states that the instruction manual says to add saw dust pellets that it provides for the consumer and overtime continue to buy more saw dust pellets from the same company. The instructions suggest a ratio: every one saw dust pellet to five cups of food scraps. She fills it with kitchen waste and it turns the compost every four hours. Mike informs Sarah that he sees why the instruction manual says to add saw dust pellets for it is better to add dry browns to compost because nitrogen-rich materials cannot compost without them. He emphasizes the benefit of her heater, but stresses the reason it is said not to put saw dust into one’s compost pile is because the base of your compost should be shredded fall leaves. Mike states “for you to put saw dust in there, it shuts everything down”.


May 16, 2015
Beware of Old Landscape Timbers
52:58

It’s a story as old as time, but definitely not from Disney. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will discuss what to do when you discover that your ‘new’ house comes with old landscape timbers. Plus answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week:

“I recently bought a house just over the Pennsylvania border in Maryland. The previous owner had many garden beds, and the one he used for vegetables had old timbers surrounding it that looked questionable. I asked him if they were ‘treated wood’ and he said he didn’t know; that were there when he purchased the house over ten years ago. The timbers are rotted and in bad shape. How do I find out whether they are treated wood; and if they are, do I need to remove all the soil? Is there a place I could take a piece of wood to show someone or have it analyzed?”

— Pattie in Pennsylvania

Railroad Ties are NOT Legal for Home Landscape Use »


Highlights from show for May 8, 2015:

White Grubs

Nyla in Alexandria, VA wants to find out if there is an organic method to get rid of white grubs that are demolishing her vegetable gardens. She has also done some research in hopes of resolving her issue and came across nematodes and would love Mike’s feedback. For Nyla to understand the life cycle of these insects, Mike first states that scarab beetles such as these white grubs in the summer time do eat away at plants; females of this variety, search for places of “moist open ground” to lay their eggs such as garden beds. To prevent it from happening as we begin to enter into summer, one thing Nyla can do is add a mulch of shredded leaves or pine straw that might discourage the females from laying eggs there. Mike warns Nyla not to use the nematodes just yet, it is best to save it for when the soil gets warmer for they will not be as productive. Mike adds that the white grubs delve deep in the soil, below the frost line, in the winter; therefore, Mike advises her to be patient until the soil is warmer that way the grubs will eventually reach the top where nematodes can obliterate them. Mid-May, is the perfect time to begin. Additionally, nematodes are bred to purposely kill grubs and do not harm earth worms.”


Killing Mushroom Spores

Ed in Detroit, MI has had the misfortune of discovering cup mushrooms growing on his spinach in his green house. He tells Mike that he has been picking them out and composting them, only to realize that the more he picks the more the mushrooms spread. He mentions that his soil is mushroom soil. Mike informs Ed that spent mushroom soil is commonly used, especially in Pennsylvania; however, the mushroom growers in farms steam the soil in order to kill the spores so that when it is sold to consumers mushrooms will not grow. Mike believes that Ed has purchased soil with active spores. Mike advises piling up the compost and allowing it to sit in the sun and somehow steam the soil with either pouring boiling water over it or using some kind of steaming machine or tool to kill any visible spores if spotted this summer. If this procedure is done, most likely this soil can be reused again in the fall.”


Community Gardening

Mary in CA would like to know if it is possible to grow a vegetable garden in her apartment that only receives about half an hour worth of sunlight. She is interested in vegetables such as tomatoes. Mike informs her that plants like tomatoes need six to eight hours of sunlight; therefore, she will not be able to grow them in her home. What Mike would suggest, considering her circumstances, is community gardening. Additionally, he adds that by gardening in the local garden, she can allow her tomatoes to get enough sun but to also take note that they need some shade in the afternoon and she can do that with an umbrella. Mike warns that growing plants in such little light is not healthy at all for it concentrates too much nitrogen which isn’t beneficial.”


Fruitless in New Jersey

Fred in NJ has zucchini plants that he believes have been doing very well with gigantic leaves and flowers. However, “they bear no fruit whatsoever” and has noticed the lower section of the plant is deteriorating. Mike says that at the start of it’s reproducing, it only reproduces male flowers. The plant takes a while for it to produce female flowers especially if it is grown in flat earth, has poor drainage, is chemically fertilized, etc. However, it will be notable when it does happen because female flowers have a bulge underneath them unlike male flowers that have a straight line and make the plant appear straight. Mike believes that Fred is infested with the squash vine borer: these are night flying pests that lays eggs at the base of squash plants; they hatch and make their way deep into the vine making them invisible and demolish the plant. Mike offers him some suggestions. Either he can lightly wrap gauze above where the roots end. The gauze should be halfway above and underground. This procedure serves as a physical barrier against the night flying moth. If Fred wishes to prevent them, once weekly he should spray water in a sharp stream on the plants to ‘blow the eggs off’. Eventually, Mike states that he may notice a hole where he sprays in the ground and he should dig out, with a single edge razor blade, and remove the caterpillar(s).”


Testing the Soil

Jonathan in Philadelphia, PA wants to become a gardener by replanting a year old abandoned garden and would like to know some first-time gardener tips on what crops to plant. He mentions that it is grown into a small square plot that is bricked off and he has recently added new soil and mixed in compost. Mike emphasizes how important it is to test your soil for lead, especially in urban environments like Jonathan’s; he adds that if you inhale the dust it can have a negative affect, but the crops will not absorb it unless there are hugh amounts of it. Mike suggests that it would be better if he layered it with another layer of bricks and fill the extra space with clean top soil and compost and make it a raised bed, avoid working in the existing soil. Wearing gloves, according to Mike are essential for Jonathan; the best gloves for this situation are baseball leather gloves to protect himself from contaminated soil. Once the bed is raised, he can purchase the plants he’d likes.”


New Grass

Rose in NJ has a small grassless property she wants to cover with grass. Her property has varying elevations and in the winter she receives a lot of standing water that turns to ice. She is thinking about installing Zoysia grass and wants Mike’s input on it. Mike ensures her that it is “very tough” and considering her region, installing it will only allow her grass to be green about half of the whole year. Mike prefers that Rose buy rolls of sod. The best way to install a new lawn, says Mike, is to remove what you had before and level the area or even it out. She can hire someone to level the area out, to improve the drainage. “Zoysia grass is really low maintenance, really doesn’t need to be fed, only have to cut it a few times a year”, Mike adds. It is a powerful plant and doesn’t harm anything else. “


May 09, 2015
How to make compost WITHOUT fall leaves

Mike McGrath shares tips for gardening in the Northwest, using sheep for weed control, how to care for a row of blue spruce, using banana peels in your compost pile, how to rotate tomatoes to keep them healthy, the best way to keep cats out of an urban garden, and how to make compost without fall leaves.


Question of the Week:

“You often mention that one of the secrets to making successful compost is to include sufficient “brown” material in the mix, specifically shredded fall leaves. But in the fall, I mow all my leaves and use the shredded leaves as mulch for my shrub and flower borders. As a result, I have little left over to use in my compost pile. I’m hoping you have some suggestions for other sources of brown material. Thank you,”

— Bonnie in Centreville, Delaware

How to make compost without fall leaves »


Highlights from show for May 3, 2014:

Gardening in the Northwest

Chuck’s struggling to grow healthy plants in his organic garden in Western Washington State. Mike remembers seeing a lot of innovative gardens on a trip to the Northwest. Mike explains: “The weather is much milder than
people think… but there just is not often enough sunlight or temperature in the outside world to grow the most popular fruiting crops that people remember from the east coast, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers … peoples outdoor gardens were cold crops, root crops, leafy crops like salad greens and potatoes.” Mike thinks that Chuck’s garden will be greatly improved if he installs raised beds. Mike also suggests that he try out “hobby greenhouse” methods like using a high-tunnel or row covers. These covers will extend Chuck’s growing season and help him concentrate sunlight to grow fruiting crops.


Shrub-taming sheep?

Julie from Northport, Michigan wants to graze sheep on her new pasture. But there’s one problem: The pasture is overrun with the aggressive shrub Autumn Olive. Mike says: “With many of these so-called invasive shrubs, goats are one of the answers! There are professional weed-eating goats that go into fragile ecosystems.” Since sheep, like goats, enjoy eating new shoots and leaves from shrubs Mike thinks Julie’s flock might aid her in her reclamation effort. He recommends that she cut back the Autumn Olive working in sections over a few seasons and let her sheep do the rest.


Caring for a row of blue spruce

Mark’s blue spruce pines are thinning and developing white blotches. Mike tells Mark that this is a common problem and the white blotches are harmless “spruce schmutz” caused by leaking sap. “All of these evergreens have a tendency to brown-out at the bottom and have some branch loss at the bottom if they don’t receive full sun on all sides. These beautiful spruces that we see in the occasional front yard that have that skirt that covers their feet, that goes all the way to the ground and is perfect? They’re getting all sun on all sides, they’re not getting any kind of shade.” And Mark’s spruces definitely get some shade. Mike thinks that these trees will be just fine. He recommends that Mark do some pruning to create better airflow between the trees.


Banana peels in compost?

Jay from Wyncote, Pennsylvania is from a family of avid gardeners. His sister informed him that he shouldn’t put banana peels in his compost. He calls Mike to see if this is compost myth or compost gospel. Mike thinks it’s a myth: “I can tell you that banana peels have a long gardening lore and are objects of almost veneration. There are people who religiously burry banana peels around their plants with the theory that bananas themselves are loaded with potassium, potassium of course is one of the three essential plant nutrients and they think this is a good way to get potassium to their plants … The only problem with banana peels and citrus rinds and other things of that nature … is that they don’t compost at the same rate as apple cores or lettuce leaves.” Mike thinks that bananas are just as good, or better, than other kitchen waste you can add to your compost pile. He recommends chopping the banana peels before adding them to the pile to speed up their decomposition.


Tomato rotation solutions

Leigh from Princeton, New Jersey has a raised bed garden with limited space. She knows she should rotate her tomatoes, but she doesn’t want to throw the rest of her garden into shade. Mike thinks Leigh’s tomatoes are at a high risk for Verticillium wilt, but she might be able to continue planting in the same area if she selects resistant or grafted varieties or performs a major soil swap before planting. “What you want is tomatoes that on the plant tag or on the seed packet have the letters V and F, that’s Verticillium and Fusarium … those are the disease resistant plants … You have a lot of hip nurseries in your area, see if anyone is selling grafted tomatoes … these are tomato varieties that are grafted onto the roots of a different variety and the root system is probably the most known resistant to these soil born wilts. So if you plant them correctly, make sure that graft is never buried, the roots will be the only thing that enters the soil and that’s a disease resistant tomato .. there’s no limit to the varieties that they could put open these roots.”


Keeping cats out of an urban garden

Dana from North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and her friends have been gardening in a vacant lot for the past five years. She calls Mike because stray cats are leaving dangerous droppings all over the area. Mike urges Dana to act quickly to fix this problem. “This is very common. Ninety-percent of people misunderstand these dangers. The danger is
immediate, it’s not being transferred to the vegetables. Obviously everybody knows that pregnant women shouldn’t go near this material. But there is a danger to the children being in an area where urban cats have done their business. And there’s a physical danger to people like you if you’re not wearing very heavy gloves when you touch this material.” Mike suggests that Dana reinforce the chain-link fence around the lot with cheap chicken wire. By running wire around the bottom of the fence and building a baffle near the top, she’ll keep out most of these pesky felines. Mike also reminds Dana that the soil in this lot is most likely full of lead from the old buildings that once stood on it and all gardeners should wear masks and gloves to avoid inhaling and touching dangerous lead particles.


Electrified squirrel deterrent

Jeff from New York has a squirrel problem. Recently he’s been trying to keep them away from his fruit trees with an electrified pipe. Mike is tickled by Jeff’s innovative solutions. “I use a motion activated sprinkler; you seem to be setting up an electric chair!” Mike shares Jeff’s rage against the squirrel, but suggests listeners use less-dangerous methods, like sprinklers, in their own squirrel control efforts.

May 02, 2015
Some Tips and Tricks to Fight Miserable Mosquitoes
52:57

Tired of giving blood to miserable mosquitoes? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath will reveal how you can fool the females into laying eggs that will never hatch into big bad biters! Plus: Mike speaks with Maya Moore, author of The Rose Garden of Fukushima, a sad, but beautiful tale of roses gained and lost in the wake of the nuclear power plant explosion in Japan. And your fabulous phone calls.


Questions of the Week:

Last summer I organized 150 of my neighbors to participate in mosquito control using the BTI strategy for which you credit Howard Garrett, “The Dirt Doctor” down in Texas. Each neighbor put out buckets of water treated with a piece of BTI dunk, which was replaced monthly. The first half of the summer was relatively mosquito free. In August the system started to fall apart when people became lax about replacing the dunks. All in all, it was a good first season, and we are getting ready to try it again this year.”

— Connie in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia

Learn how to trick female mosquitos;

  • mosquito laying eggsPhoto: From flickr user Sean McCann


    Featured Interview

    Maya Moore

    Mike speaks with Maya Moore, author of The Rose Garden of Fukushima. This beautiful hard cover book, filled with amazing images of perfect roses and Zen-like landscapes, tells the tale of one man who created a magnificent multi-acre rose garden just a few miles from the Fukushima nuclear plant; yes, the one that exploded after a tsunami struck the coast of Japan on 3/11/11. The extraordinary garden is now overgrown as it sits under the weight of invisible but deadly radioactivity. Katsuhide Okada has lost his priceless garden, but its images (and one plant he risked his life to retrieve!) live on. (Note: When we recorded the interview, the book was only available through Amazon Japan. But it just became available (yesterday!) at Amazon US–making things a lot easier for those of you who want see this beautiful book.) Learn more


    Highlights from show for April 24, 2015:

    Coffee Grounds as Fertilizer

    John from Dayton, OH would like to know Mike’s opinion on using coffee grounds as a garden fertilizer or soil amendment when used in large amounts. Mike advises him that plants that do not flower and prefer their soil acidic are great choices for coffee grounds. He adds that plants that like acidic soil such as blueberries, rhododendrons, and azaleas are good matches for coffee grounds, however, since it is very high in nitrogen, plants that thrive in nitrogen are usually plants that do not flower, or plants one wishes to impede the flowering like potatoes, salad greens and lawns. Mike advises John that there actually is a method to neutralize their negative elements and yet receive the positive ones: “mixing the fertilizer with a tremendous amount of fall leaves. When you shred fall leaves, break them up so they are ready to make compost much faster and mix in a lot of coffee grounds as you build your pile of shredded leaves”. The finished compost will be more nutritious, the pH level will be balanced resulting in “the perfect plant growing material” Mike warns, coffee grounds alone is not recommended.


    Root Problems

    Miles in Egg Harbor Township, NJ has planted three raised beds in the past year with tomatoes, peppers and herbs. However, he confesses that he planted mint in the herb box and the mint took over leaving behind “a mass of roots.” As background information, Miles mentions he added two layers under the soil of weed barriers. So, to resolve Miles’ issue, Mike instructs him to clear out the soil of that specific bed with a shovel or machete. Miles can ” theoretically compost the soil and kill the weeds” Mike states; although, for his case it is better to put the soil with the roots inside a big plastic bag and allow it to ‘cook’ in the sun for the whole summer. After the summer has ended, it should be safe to reuse the soil once again and allow Miles with ease to sort of ‘peel away’ the weed fabric. However, before ‘peeling away’ the entire fabric Mike advises to drench the soil with water and after doing so will it be okay to peel it along with the mint roots. Then, the mint roots along with the fabric should be thrown away, and to re-line the bottom of the bed with a single sheet of cardboard. Next, Miles should fill the bed with whatever soil he wishes to start a clean slate.

Apr 25, 2015
Bring in the Birds and the Bees with these plants
52:57

Mike McGrath reveals ten native plants that the Audubon Society says are great at attracting awesome amounts of auspicious animated aviators.


Questions of the Week:

I want to establish a food source to attract more wildlife to my yard. I have moved some thorn apples, chokecherries and salmon berries from the wild into my yard. What other plants would attract birds?

— Shelly in Poplar, WI

Learn how to lure birds to your garden »

Slideshow below: Bringing birds to your garden Photos by Will Stuart


Highlights from show for April 17, 2015:

Vine Squash Borers

Vicky in Philadelphia, PA has pumpkins, that were grown from seed, in her well tended school garden. Sadly they have been invaded by pesky vine squash borers and she wants to find out how to avoid this as she plans her garden this year. Mike gives a brief introduction about the vine squash borers: They are night flying moths who lay their eggs at the base of very hallow vines. A physical barrier for her pumpkins, Mike points out, is what will be the best option for Vicky. Mike suggests to grow them out doors in containers and remove them from the containers to plant them in the garden when they are about two feet long. Additionally, Mike recommends, with gauze bandage, to “wrap the whole bottom of the vine going down to the dirtball with this gauzy material”. If Vicky wishes, she can also spray under the leaves every couple of days, forcefully, and where they lay there eggs. This process washes them away.


Epsom Salts and Tomato Plants

Bob in Mantua, NJ would like to confirm with Mike whether adding epsom salts to tomato plants adds magnesium and will it help them grow. If not, what will aid in healthy plants? Mike first informs Bob that adding a tablespoon or teaspoon of epsom salt in the planting hole is what many gardeners do to put magnesium in the soil and can help tomato plants process certain nutrients better if there is a lack of magnesium in the soil. Mike suggests to test this procedure on a couple of his plants and compare it with others that are left untreated.To encourage the roots of the tomatoes to spread out, it is preferred or ideal to not put any compost or amendment inside the hole where the plants will grow. On top of the plants, to serve as some kind of mulch, shredded leaves or compost is better. Earth worms will appear and benefit the soil and plants if leaf mulch is spread over the top.


Moving an Azalea Bush

Cameron from Norman, OK is calling on behalf of a relative who will be moving from California to OK and would like to take their azalea bush with them. Cameron is curious as to what would be the best method in caring for it as it moves from one location to the next. Mike reminds Cameron that he should clear this with the new owners first. Secondly, Mike wants Cameron to prune approximately eight inches from a lot of the branches, wrap them in moist towels and in a plastic bag unsealed. Then, he should dig out a “ridiculously huge root ball, much bigger than you need”, says Mike, to place into a pot and add soil and soak it in water for awhile and let the water drain out. Next, when it arrives in OK, where sunlight is present but also receives afternoon shade, the roses should be planted there with peat moss in the evening. If there isn’t a spot such as described, it is best to keep it potted and planted in the fall.


Pottery Mildew

Lianna in Deer Park, WA is concerned by her peonies that are not fully blossoming and she notices “pottery mildew” on them. She mentions that they are wood mulched. Mike believes that peony bushes tend to produce more buds than actually bloom and advises to get rid the mulch as it might be holding them back. When they emerge, it is optional to leave an inch of compost at the base to feed them. Then, when the flowers have begun to blossom, support them so they can have something to sort of “hold on to”; the more they are supported, the more air flow they will receive and mildew will soon disappear. However, if mildew is seen on the leaves again, pull off them off and remove all the unblossomed flowers at the end of blooming season to allow the leaves to absorb solar energy.


Box Woods Turning Yellow

Karen near Chesapeake City, MD planted several box woods on her property 25 years ago with compost at their base and nothing has been done to them since. However, a year and a half ago they started turning yellow and she doesn’t know why. Mike explains that box woods are considered ever greens, which like acidic soil, however this kind of plant likes their soil on the alkaline side. Mike says dusting around their base with wood ash and giving them a feeding of an inch of compost will help. Also, if she’d like, she can test her soil pH and determine whether her soil is too acidic for them by referring to a number on a PH scale, 7 being neutral and under 7, acidic.


Plants on a Boat

Emma in Philadelphia, PA wants Mike’s opinion on what he thinks of growing plants on a boat she will soon be moving onto herself. Mike suggests to take one or two plants that are ‘tough’ or can take the conditions of traveling on the boat. Mike suggests Rosemary or herbs as possible options. Plants thats are very stable and can migrate easily form sunlight to shade are ideal for her situation.


Organic Gardening

Andy from Michigan would like to grow his lawn organically and obtain some ideas for gardening. For Andy’s region, in the beginning of August, establishing a lawn is ideal. Mike emphasizes leveling the lawn, and laying compost and then seeding with a cool season grass in mid August. Mike urges Andy to create a relationship with a local garden center and to articulate exactly what he is looking for in his lawn. Mike informs Andy that plants that are planted late Summer to early Fall have much better results and survival rates.

Apr 18, 2015
Ways to Prevent Snow Mold on Your Lawn

An early snow on vigorously growing grass can lead to a condition known as snow mold. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will reveal how to prevent and/or treat it. Plus: Mike speaks with Diane Lewis, M.D., author of The Great Healthy Yard Project, about the new findings from The World Health Organization that glyphosate, the chemical in leading herbicides, is linked to several types of cancer; and answers to all your growing questions.


Questions of the Week:

As this winter’s relentless snow finally began to melt, it exposed small patches of fuzzy mold on some parts of my lawn. Could this be snow mold? The lawn is in full sun and was planted new last August. I had a truckload of screened topsoil delivered, levelled the area, and planted Tall Fescue. (Yes, I now know that fescue is better for shady spots; d’oh!)….

— Dave in Randolph NJ

Learn how to treat snow mold? »

Highlights from show for April 10, 2015:

Diane Lewis, M.D.

Mike speaks with Diane Lewis, M.D., author of The Great Healthy Yard Project about The World Health Organization’s recent announcement that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in many herbicides, the largest being Roundup. Dr. Lewis discusses the implications for these findings with Mike and how dangerous this chemical really is to humans, animals and our environment as a whole.


Plant and Sunlight

Leila in Philadelphia, PA has a yard with little grass, mud and lots of shade. Her husband has been trying to have a garden in that area, but she wants to convince him to install raised beds in another area that has sun. She also wants to know what to do with the bare part of her yard. Mike suggests using pavers to create a walk way in the shady/muddy area. Mike encourages Leila to plant in sunlight because studies have shows that plants that are forced to grow in low light environments are close to not safe for consumption for they develop high levels of nitrates.


Killer Wood Mulch

Dave from Vineland, NJ has a couple of rhododendron bushes that have “dime-size holes” in their leaves and are beginning to die off. He also adds that he mulches his plants with wood mulch and their sun exposure has increased over the years. Mike says the wood mulch is killing the rhododendrons, because it is making the soil alkaline and is stealing the nitrogen that it contains. Mike adds that they possibly could have had “sun-scald” as well. Mike instructs Dave to remove the wood mulch, and purchase bricks peat moss and spread it around the base of the entire plant and cover with compost.


Growing Shishito Peppers

Darem in Bethlehem, PA would like to know how to grow shishito peppers in his area in the summer. Mike recommends to first get a pack of seeds and take them to the nursery so people there can grow out starter plants. Mike wants Darem to to take the first step by potting them into containers into a mixture of soil-free mix and compost. He should grow them in an area where there is lots of sun, because all peppers are ‘sunny-plants’. After the first six weeks, in approximately 60 to 65 days, there should be full sized green peppers. Before the nights begin to get cold, wash them down thoroughly with a sharp nozzle. Then, bring them inside and let a shop light hover over them (either 2 – four foot long fluorescent tubes or 4- four foot long fluorescent tubes). These plants can survive in the winter and can be set out outside again in the spring time.

Apr 11, 2015
Some Tips and Tricks for the Sun Challenged

What can you do when the only sun on your property falls directly on a driveway? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will suggest a few tricks that’ll allow you to park some plants there for the summer. Plus your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week

Would it be possible to garden in a raised bed on my driveway? (It’s the only place that gets enough sun.) Or would it be too hot there for the plants?

Penny in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia, PA

Can You Park Your Plants on a Driveway? »

Highlights from show for April 4, 2015:

Fish Fertilizer

Josh in Sundance, WY has heard of an old method that Native Americans used to fertilize their plants by burying a fish beneath it. He was wondering if it was true and if it was safe to do so, since he would like to begin growing his tomatoes and peppers. Mike explains that this process is best used when trying to grow corn and not for fertilizing fruit crops such as tomatoes and peppers. Mike advises that if Josh wishes to grow corn fish heads and fins are ideal to bury it in soil under corn. However, Mike warns Josh that corn may attract raccoons and other creatures who will might be attracted to the fish in the soil.


Drainage

Maryanne from Milltown township, NJ has been experiencing a ‘wet powder’ of some sort on her lavender, rosemary, and sage leaves. She turns to Mike to check what she should do to get rid of these white powder patches. Mike says this is an air flow and drainage problem. Rosemary and lavender only want superb drainage and good air flow and to prevent this a good idea is to have a fan blowing on them throughout the whole day to keep the air moving. Mike also adds that she should blast or spray them with lots of water. Next, he would apply the cornell formula on the plants which is a pint of water mix baking soda and oil and let the fan continue blowing on them. Which, Mike guarantees, will prevent the problem from coming back.


Rusty Leaves And Lichen

Eric in NJ has been noticing “dark, rusty leaves” on his laurel plants that have been dying off and decreasing in number year after year. Another problem he is facing are green lichens that have been growing on branches in one area of the property. Mike first instructs to cut back from any feeding of plants or fertilization; if there is any possible pruning that can be done-do it. Put an inch of milled peat moss or bricks that are sold at garden centers, around the plant and cover that with an inch of compost. This process will feed the plants naturally and prevent any disease into his area. For the Lichen problem, Mike says to open up the area and give it better air flow or circulation and prune the plants around the branches with the lichen.


Iris Borers

Alaina in WI has a little fit with Iris borers and doesn’t know what method is best to prevent eggs from hatching. Mike gives a brief explanation of the cause of Alaina’s problem: “Sometime in the mid-summer ,night-flying moths will lay their eggs down at the base of your Iris. It is my understanding that then the eggs over winter, the actual pest hatches out in the spring and does minor damage to the leaves and will show leaf damage of little tunnels in them”. As soon as plants begin to grow once again in the spring, it is advised to spray BT or organic pest control on leaves. Additionally, it will not cause any harm to humans, animals nor any other plants in the garden for this spray only applies to caterpillars who eat the leaves. However, “After your flowers are all faded for the season, and the greenery is starting to fade down, you know you can dig these up and store them or you can cover them with whats called remay, this is a floating row cover”. Contacting one’s local extension service can notify when these pests are in the air, and if the row cover is placed over the plants for about month, the moth will find a new place to lay eggs and the cycle can be broken. As a tip, Mike adds not to add lights over night for that definitely attracts moths.


Animals Eating Compost

Bob in Frenchtown, NJ has had deer coming in and eating things in his compost pile. Mike is surprised and warns that a compost pile that has kitchen scraps will attract raccoons, rodents, etc. There are multiple ways to prevent animals eating bob’s compost pile and one way would be to move it indoors as a worm bin. Another would be to set up fences around the compost outdoors to keep the animals away. Lastly, the most simple method would be to set up a motion activated sprinkler for when they deer pass the beam barrier, it sprays them with cold water, which will send them running!


Squirrels Eating Tomatoes

Tom in Merion Station, PA has raised beds in his garden full of tomatoes that pesky squirrels continue to nibble on. Mike gives Tom his first piece of advice which is to put up welded-wire fences that have holes that are too small for squirrels to enter around these raised beds to keep out squirrels. It is recommended to cut six foot linear lengths, lay it out on your drive-way, cut out a six foot linear length and turn that into a tube and then you’ve got a cylinder thats around two feet across the top. Place it over top of the center area of the tomato plant and don’t restrict the plant you need to steak the cage if your growing big tomatoes. “Tomatoes are vines they will always reach towards the sun but they are not attaching vines, they don’t cling to anything so they’re just going to lean against the side of the cage. Also it is important to take the wire and make a top for the cage” instructs Mike. An alternative method is to purchase a motion activated sprinkler which will spray the squirrels when they break the beam and keep them away as well as other creatures.


New Jersey Tomatoes

Charles from Chester County, PA would like to know why New Jersey tomatoes seem to taste better than others. Mike first points out that it’s something from their child hood to remember the taste of a Jersey tomato. New Jersey is the garden state and a lot of tomatoes were grown there. Mike discusses that back then there were big commercial farms out in NJ such as Campbell’s and Heinz. New Jersey soil is rich, high amounts of sand in the soil as well chemicals weren’t used as frequently as they are today which allows the tomato to have more flavor.

Apr 04, 2015
Avoid the “Dirty Dozen” When Choosing Your Produce

There’s a new list of the twelve fruits and veggies most heavily sprayed with pesticides. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, reveals which members of the “Dirty Dozen” are easy to grow at home. Plus: Southern fried plant care with Steve Bender from Southern Living Magazine; and answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week

A few weeks ago, the Environmental Working Group released their annual “Dirty Dozen” report, revealing which supermarket produce has the highest levels of pesticide contamination. (My radio show’s producer just told me that she has the list from a previous year posted on her refrigerator, to remind her of which things are the most important to buy organically!)

Peppers, Potatoes & Cherry Tomatoes; Heavily-Sprayed Produce that’s Easy to Grow at Home »

Highlights from show for March 28, 2015:

Featured Interview

Mike speaks with Steve Bender, Senior Editor for Southern Living Magazine and editor of a brand new version of the Southern Living Gardening Book. Steve is also known as the Grumpy Gardner (http://thedailysouth.southernliving.com/category/the-grumpy-gardener/), where he blogs about Southern gardening. The Southern Living Gardening Book a reference guide with over 700 pages that Mike frequently uses to look up obscure plants, trees and shrubs. Steve tells us about gardening in extreme heat during the summer, spring bulbs for warmer climates, the wonders of North Carolina and much more.


Mar 28, 2015
Protect Precious Hummingbirds!

What can you do when hummingbirds become prey for wasps and mantises? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will try to help these beautiful little birds survive predation. Plus your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week

I have managed to attract a colony of Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds to my inner-city patio for the past three summers, but I’m having trouble with two predators: Aggressive wasps that compete at the feeders and occasionally try and sting the birds; and a garden friend turned enemy, the Praying Mantis, which I understand are wonderful to have in the garden, and as you know are a protected insect species here—but they are also one of the top predators of hummingbirds. Can you please give me some advice as to how to deal with these problems?

Wilma in Philadelphia, PA

How to Protect Hummingbirds From Predators? »

Highlights from show for March 21, 2015:

Edible Landscape

John in Allentown, PA wants to create an edible landscape consisting of cranberries, honey berries and other edibles. The trees will be bare root and he has no idea what to since they are arriving in very cold weather. Mike tells John that after receiving them John should mist them with water and store them in a cool place. When John is prepared to plant the trees he should soak the roots for a couple hours prior to planting. This will hydrate the roots. Prune anything dead that will stimulate growth.


Apple and Walnut Trees

Ferell from the Catskill Mountains in NY State is curious as to what she can do to see better results on her apple and carpathian walnut trees. Mike states that for Ferell to receive fuller, and richer apples she must preen and clear about half to three quarters of the apples after they’ve formed in the spring. Unfortunately, according to Mike, Most English walnuts won’t do as well or produce to their full potential in her area, because they are mostly grown on the west coast. He recommends walnuts such as hickory nuts for farell to produce in upstate NY. However, she may continue to grow them but she should beware of the toxic chemical that walnuts trees produce in their leaves and roots called juglone. Therefore, it is advised to not plant other plants near it.


Raised Beds

Karen from Maryland wants to know what the proper soil layers are to start an organic garden in raised beds that are prone to having moles and voles. Mike assures Karen that moles do not crawl up into raised beds and eat plants; they eat grubs and earthworms. However, voles eat roots of plants and it is excellent that she has her beds about 14 inches high. To properly prepare the garden, Karen should cover grassy areas where the frames will be dropped with a sheet of card board. Rich black top soil and pearlite should be mixed equally, not layered, in the frames. If desired, hardware cloth is best for lining the frames.


Grafting

Archie in Jacksonville, NC feels that Mike didn’t properly discuss certain grafting techniques during a call that was recently on the show. Archie used to graft apple trees with his Grandfather in Ohio. Mike agrees that he should have added that grafting was an option to this previous caller and applauds this old way of gardening. He adds that people forget and only rely on the new customs of gardening and that there are many extraordinary old techniques that work.


Bluebird

Diana in Jackson’s Gap, Alabama wonders why this peculiar bluebird perches on her deck, tries to fly into her glass door, and falls down, continuously. Mike answers her by highlighting the fact that birds, in wooded areas, only see the reflection of the woods. Also, he adds that it can be another type of bird activity: it is a male bird and sees his own reflection, thinking it is another male bird trying to attack. The Bird Saver product we talked about on the show will not resolve this situation where the bird sees an up close reflection. To resolve the case, hanging a plastic mirror nearby, the bird will be distracted. Also, shades that can be pulled down will not allow the bird to see the ‘other bird’.


Black Knot

Donna from Dowingtown, PA has a rich and very bountiful plum tree that unfortunately has black knot. Mike first instructs Donna to remove the worst branches on the tree. Mike says to mulch the tree with compost and continue with aggressive pruning of dead branches. Also, clay sprays are very good to help increase her yield.


Caterpillar Eating Pecans

Dennis in Oklahoma City, OK wants to protect his trees from caterpillars that have eaten his pecans the prior year. Mike wants him to use clay spray a couple times a season and spray the nuts after the fruit has formed for it provides a physical barrier. Mike adds that Dennis should have the pest identified, researched and learn their life cycle to have some knowledge on how to get rid of them.

Mar 21, 2015
Caring for African Violets

What’s the most likely cause when African violets go into decline? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will discuss the special care these popular plants require. Plus your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week

“I have two African violet houseplants that are between 15 and 17 years old. They are kept on a plant stand near a window that faces south east and were thriving until recently. One of the plants has started to wilt and droop, basically looking like it’s ready to die off. I have cut back on watering as I thought maybe it was too moist, but to no avail. The top of the other one fell right off when I brushed the plant with my hand. I promptly placed the broken part (leaves, flowers and thick stem) into a glass of water. How can I save it? Can I re-root it? Or should it be put directly back into soil? “

Sandy in Chester County, PA

African Violet Care and Damage Control »

  • African Violets

    Photo: AP Photo/John Russell


Highlights from show for March 7, 2015:

Arrowhead Worms

Richard in Rockport, PA was picking cabbage and found strange worms on them and found out they were Arrowhead worms. Mike was surprised to hear that name, because they are mostly found in Texas. These look like earth worms with a hammerhead shark shape to their head. Richard said they did no damage to the cabbage. Mike says that they could be beneficial because they are predators of slugs and snails, which could be very helpful to a gardener. Their only downside is that they go into the ground and prey on the occasional earth worm. Mike urges Richard to find out more info from Howard Garrett (The Dirt Doctor) or the Texas State Extension Service.


Pruning Elderberry

Stephanie in Newport, Washington about an hour north of Spokane just moved into a new house and the property has some mature elderberry trees and wants to know how to prune the tree. Mike points out that she needs to wait and see what she has on the property, as she enters spring, before she does anything drastic. He notes that elderberries are the most potent anti viral in the plant world, so she’s very lucky to have them. Mike says that she doesn’t have to prune them, but right around this time of year it’s good to go out and remove some of the older wood that is more gnarly and less green. “They are kind of wild plants and get by pretty well on their own.”


Growing Vegetables in the Shade

Nate in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia, PA has a series of small raised beds to grow veggies, but he has a very shaded lot. He’s interested in using cover crops for raised beds. Mike assures him that his square footage is so small that he doesn’t have to worry about doing that as long as he’s applying fresh compost to the best. Mike is much more worried that the veggies are sun starved. Nate admits that he only gets sun starting at Noon and the plants didn’t bare fruit till late in the summer. Mike suggests going crazy with salad greens, herbs and potatoes, but to stay away from fruiting crops, because of the lack of sun.

Mar 07, 2015
Decorate your deck with delectable fruit

Will any fruits grow well on a deck or a balcony?! Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will discuss the possible cultivation of sweet treats outside and off the ground; plus Mike speaks with Dr. Chris Williamson who has some exciting news about fighting grimy grubs; and your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week

“My kids and I want to grow fruit on our deck. I was thinking of strawberries and blueberries. We get plenty of sun and I’m just wondering what type of pots to use and when to start planting. I looked online for a few tips but they vary. Any direction on this would help tremendously.”

Matt “in a townhouse outside of Philadelphia”

Growing fruit in containers on a deck »


Highlights from show for February 28, 2015:

Mike speaks with Dr. Chris Williamson

Dr. Williamson is a professor in the Department of Entomology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His work focuses on the management of insect pest of turf grass and ornamental with emphasis on biological and cultural control strategies. The particular pest control that Mike is most interested in,however, is a new product that can combat Japanese Beetles. Dr. Williamson has been testing the effectiveness of this new control for Japanese Beetles called BTG. This product would work on both the early stage larvae and the adults, which is a huge break through.


Weed Control

Veronica calls into the show from Jefferson Township, Pennsylvania in order to get some help ridding herself of weeds after the snow melts. Veronica has identified the menacing weed as Creeping Charlie and she’s wondering whether she can use high-strength vinegar to get rid of it. Mike tells her Creeping Charlie can be pulled out… if not by you, then perhaps by some eager young men in the neighborhood. He is hesitant about using vinegar, especially since it requires the use of eye-protective gear. Mike suggests a ‘pulling party’: inviting people over for food and barbeque, and pulling those weeds. Mike also recommended completely saturating the weeds with water until they are bloated. If that still isn’t possible. or a ‘pulling party’ just won’t fly with your crowd, there are herbicides based on iron (there is one called Iron X), which could be a good idea as well. To use that, you are going to want to wait until it is dryer outside, and saturate the weeds around noon time. As soon as you do that, spread a mulch. If the only thing you can find is wood mulch – be sure that it isn’t dyed.


Railroad Ties

Cory calls us from frigid Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has discovered that there are railroad ties on the edges of his garden. The fear is that railroad ties, being loaded with creosote and other cancer-causing chemicals, should not be around plants or the gardener themselves. The danger lies in touching the wood, or in children playing in the garden or eating the soil. The elements in railroad ties usually do wash out. You need to have gloves on when touching the material and to use a respirator, covering your mouth and nose. He also asks Cory about where he intends to dispose of the railroad ties, and if Minnesota has a hazardous waste disposal, because those can become a real issue, and you should be careful about that.

Feb 28, 2015
Grow your own sprouts!

Cold weather can’t stop you from growing your own sprouts! Mike McGrath discusses the rules of safe sprouting and micro-green growing. Plus: Beloved children’s show host, Gene London, brings historic Hollywood to the Flower Show; and your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week

“I grow sprouts in the winter as I wait for the Phillies to leave Clearwater and Spring to come to The Garden State. However, I have been warned of the dangers of sprouting. It’s said that sprouting creates conditions that are ideal for the growth of bacteria, including Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli. I use various methods to grow my sprouts 1) a Mason jar with a cheesecloth top 2) organic soil with seeds in a small tray; and 3) spreading seeds on a moist paper towel in a tray. I get about the same results. Do you know the safest and/or best way to grow sprouts? Any thoughts on sprouting safety?”

Don in Lawrenceville, NJ

Growing safe sprouts indoors over winter »


Highlights from show for February 21, 2015:

Keeping wasps and pests away

Ryan from Edmond, OK had been told to paint the celling of his front porch light blue a few years before to keep away paper wasps, birds, and mud daubers from nesting after experiencing attacks of such pests; To his surprise, he has had no problem with either of those in the past two years. Ryan is eager to know whether it was a placebo effect on his porch or is it a scientific fact. When he used to receive much of these mud dauber wasps on his porch, the ceiling had been painted brown. Mike stresses that he thinks mud daubers and paper wasps are very enticed by that color for it is natural and mimics trees and other things that they attach themselves to. Perhaps, the blue isn’t seen by the pests because they believe it to be the sky, Mike proposes.


Combatting poison ivy

Bob in Media, PA has a case of poison ivy growing in his yard. The root of the ivy, as Bob describes, is hairy and thick, running up the side of his tree. Bob hopes that Mike can assist him with some information on how to get rid off it. Since there are various kinds of ivy, there are various procedures to follow to get rid of that ivy, depending on the type. Mike suggests to first identify it, and sever it as it runs up the tree and then the ivy above will die. However if it isn’t toxic, all you have to do is “wait a season, and then you pull the dead stuff out of the tree”. If it is a “gigantic poison ivy vine” Mike explains, cautiously identifyit and go to our website, youbetyourgarden.org. and we have a couple of articles there on poison ivy removal. We do address the topic of what to do when there’s a giant vine growing up a tree’.


Grape leaf hoppers

Eric in Spokane, Washington had a question about his grape vines. A treasured place to sit and relax under, he is worried that the fact that the leaves are yellowing and falling earlier in the season and that they discovered some bugs might spell destruction for their tree! Mike reassures him that it is relatively easy to protect grape leaves, and that the white bug Eric mentioned, the grape leaf hopper, could also be taken care of. When asked if he had done anything different in the garden, Eric mentioned that they have been killing off a large number of wasps. That’s worrisome. Mike tells Eric, “You’ve killed all the cops in your city, and now you’re complaining that your house is getting broken into all the time!”. Mike tells him that he fears that Eric might have been what killing what had been keeping his tree safe, and if the wasps come back, that he should not kill the wasps.


Special guest: Gene London

Mike speaks with Philadelphia’s cherished kid show host, Gene London who was the host of a long-running, Philadelphia local children’s show, Cartoon Corners (aka The Gene London Show). This long running show was on the air from 1959-1977. Now Gene is the owner of thousands of hollywood costumes and is bringing them to the Philadelphia Flower Show From February 28th to March 8th. From Grace Kelly to Marilyn Monroe Gene will have it all and will even be making appearances and talking to fans.


The four lined plant bug

Phyllis in Yellow Spring, OH has tried ranges of oils and soaps to obliterate the infestation of ‘the four lined plant bug’ from her garden for the last three years. Phyllis claims she’s followed the procedures correctly that the extension service, that diagnosed her herbs having the four lined plant bug, gave her, but the pest is continuing to devour her plants. Mike encourages her to purchase a row cover with hoops and put it over the herbs, “with edges tucked well down completely surrounded with soil the pests can’t get through to it”. Another piece of advice Mike offers Phyllis is to place bird bath saucers in the ground, sinked all throughout the garden. An area with shade, preferably close to where the infestation is, place bricks on the ground and a board upon the bricks and it is to be covered with something such as carpeting or plant containers. The idea is to keep a moist, cool area where toads will be attracted to and creep in through the night and eat the bugs that are infesting the garden. Lastly, he urges to place a bird bath in the center of where it is all occurring, so birds, when they swoop down into the bird bath, they will notice the bugs all around, and eventually they will help get rid of them as well.


Uses for horse manure

Virginia in Berwyn, PA is constantly seeking ways in which to reuse her horse manure. Mike cautions Virginia that horse manure is not a balanced fertilizer , when it’s fresh, before it has composted, you can see that horses have an inefficient digestive system, therefore it tends to be very weedy. Horse manure, for whatever one may want to utilize it, it has to be completely composted. It will reduce in size, no longer be hot to the touch, but rather a cool or normal temperature, and no longer smell of horse manure. He assures her that when it is dry and crumbly, free of heat and smell, “ it is an ultimate food for lawns, lawn grasses, sweet corn, field corn, asparagus, and virtually any other crop that does not produce fruit”. To make a balanced fertilizer, she can use composted horse manure mix it with other organic elements such as rock phosphate, green sand, and bone meal.


Coaxing your queen’s tear

Don in Priest River, Idaho seems to have had a queens tear for several years, yet it has never flowered; he wonders if Mike can assist him with some information on the plant, along with some handy-dandy advice. Mike informs Don that this plant in fact belongs to the bromeliad family and is actually said to be the easiest of all to grow. These plants prefer shade, temperature ranging in the seventies in the day an declining to forties, and little watering. If Mike was Don, he would not pot it in potting soil, such as Don did. Mike suggests to pot it up in rough bark and take it outside during the summer to expose it to that ‘preferred’ temperature to provoke it to bloom, but keep it out of direct sun.

Feb 20, 2015
To use ash or not to use ash, that is the question!

This time of year many wood stove owners are looking to recycle their ashes. Mike McGrath answers a listener’s question about using ash to kill clover in groundcovers. Plus a bit about Bio Char; and your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week

“Can hardwood charcoal from a wood-burning stove be used the same as ashes? I would like to use the chunks I sift out to help the 4000 square feet of groundcover surrounding my driveway overcome clover. I’m hoping the alkalinity (if charcoal is alkaline) will abort the clover and allow the Dianthus and Periwinkle and Phlox to prosper.”

Ted in Downingtown, PA

Learn about recycling your ashes »


Highlights from show for January 17, 2015:

Composting grain

Benjamin from Camden, New Jersey, just across the bridge, calls to ask us a question that relates to his work in Cooper River Distillers, where they distill rye whiskey. He says that during the distilling process, there is about 200 pounds of grains that are left over, and would it be possible to compost them? Mike talks about how he has encountered that as well, that his hometown has also had a resurgence of breweries and distilleries, and what they would do in Emmaus, PA is give it to the farmers, since it makes for some very high quality animal feed. Benjamin then also asked that since it has a very low pH (~4.1 to ~3.9) if it’s safe for the pigs to keep eating it. To which Mike responds that this pH would be ideal for growing blueberries! For more information about industrial food composting, Mike recommends his friend’s website biocycle.com.


Gnats in your houseplants

Trisha from Buck’s Country, Pennsylvania, has a question about gnats in the office where she works. They have an infestation of gnats living in houseplants. Mike tells her they are fungus gnats, that breed in the soil of the houseplants. They breed in the soil, which is moist and presents ideal conditions. Mike recommends BTI granules to kill all the young gnats, although the adults will remain. However, that also shouldn’t be a problem because the adult generation won’t be able to lay their eggs, and would then die off.


Grape leaf hoppers

Eric in Spokane, Washington had a question about his grape vines. A treasured place to sit and relax under, he is worried that the fact that the leaves are yellowing and falling earlier in the season and that they discovered some bugs might spell destruction for their tree! Mike reassures him that it is relatively easy to protect grape leaves, and that the white bug Eric mentioned, the grape leaf hopper, could also be taken care of. When asked if he had done anything different in the garden, Eric mentioned that they have been killing off a large number of wasps. That’s worrisome. Mike tells Eric, “You’ve killed all the cops in your city, and now you’re complaining that your house is getting broken into all the time!”. Mike tells him that he fears that Eric might have been what killing what had been keeping his tree safe, and if the wasps come back, that he should not kill the wasps.


Growing a citronella plant indoors

Nefertina from West Philadelphia, has a citronella plant that she usually has outside to control the mosquitoes, but when the weather got too cold, she brought it inside. It is growing too big, and she wanted to cut some pieces of it so that she could spread it out. However, she does not want to do that when it is winter, and it is inside the house, since she does not want it to die before it is time for it go back outside. Mike begins by first explaining to her that the real citronella plant grows in the tropics, while the plant she has is more likely to be a scented geranium. He also goes into the fact that there is no such thing as a mosquito repellent that simply operates as a potted plant; a mosquito repellent works much like any other skin protector. You need to cut it, crush it with your hands, and rub it over your exposed skin. After some questions, Mike uncovers that this citronella plant, as sold to Nefertina, is a scented geranium masquerading as a citronella plant. Mike says that getting a bag of seed-starting mix, potting soil or soil-free mix, and by using some compost, snip off the four or five of the newest leaves (remembering to put the soil in a pot with good drainage holes!)

  • Photo by Flickr user Fiona


Feb 13, 2015
Mike’s top beginner gardening books

What are the most essential gardening books for beginners? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will share his short list of treasured truck patch tomes. Plus; a new way to stop birds from crashing into your windows and your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week:


“Dear Mike: I’m a librarian with the Nashville Public Library, where we’re about to begin the second year of our community seed library. I’m looking for suggestions for a list of essential books for beginning backyard gardeners, including your excellent books of course!

— Crystal

See Mike’s recommended reading for beginner gardeners »


Highlights from show for February 7, 2014:

How to stop birds from flying into windows

Mike speaks with Jeff Acopian, inventor of Acopian Birdsavers, which is a product that deters birds from crashing into windows. BirdSavers consist of 1/8 inch diameter nylon cords hanging about four inches apart in front of your window and is a warning to birds that they should stop their trajectory. The material is the same as what Parachutes are made from making these strips almost indestructible. They are also designed to seem invisible so they won’t be an eye sore.

Feb 07, 2015
Lets bust some myths about birds!

Does peanut butter kill birds? And do they really explode if they eat rice thrown at a wedding? Mike McGrath looks into the best—and safest—ways to feed your feathered friends. Plus Mike speaks with St. Joseph’s University Professor Karen Snetselaar about the Fungi in your landscape! And your fabulous phone calls!


Question of the Week

“A few weeks ago, I repeated some {ahem} ‘advice’ about what to do with your leftover cut Christmas tree. I said you had two main choices: Either prune off the branches and use them to protect pansies over winter or to mulch azaleas and rhododendrons; or “stand the tree up in your backyard unpruned and cover it with suet feeders and big globs of peanut butter to create the most natural bird feeder imaginable.” The latter is actually my preferred use, because the birds you nurture and attract are also the best eaters of insect pests in the Spring and Summer. “

Mike McGrath

Read more »

  • Photo by Flickr user Mike


Highlights from show for January 24, 2015:

Raised beds vs flat earth gardening

Steve in Maple Glen, PA is thinking of starting a vegetable garden, but does not know whether he should grow them in raised beds or till them out onto the field. Mike provides Steve with some facts on flat earth gardening, which has no advantages, it really is not a good idea, and raised beds will most likely give better results. He might want to assemble boxes, 4 foot wide and can be at any desired length. The whole concept of raised beds is that you never compress the soil, so you may never need to till the soil, and also have good drainage. In a situation such as Steve’s, he may want to scalp the grass area a few times, cover the entire area with a single layer of cardboard and drop the raised beds over the cardboard. Then he will want to fill them up with a mix of screened top soil, meaning it’s black when dry, with a good amount of compost.


Holding contractors accountable

Landscape architect, Lauren from Ringoes, NJ actually has a response to a caller from a previous show who had their property trampled by a contractor, and she wanted to comment that depending on how much of the area the contractor damaged, that they may be required by law to reestablish vegetative cover or a mulch cover for soil erosion and sediment control is something perhaps she may want to delve into. She mentions that PA has similar laws to NJ about soil erosion and sediment control requirements. She also says most contractors aren’t aware that they are on the hook to keep the mulch all throughout the season until permanent vegetative cover has been placed. Home owners should know their rights that your contractor is obligated to keep the temporary cover over the winter before vegetation can grow.


The nematode nemesis

Looks like Don’s vegetable garden in Parrish, FL has an enemy: the southern root knot nematode. This plant-parasite feeds off plants and in some other cases, off of bacteria, and fungi, and such. Apparently, they have been munching, chewing, and eventually destroying Don’s poor tomatoes; not to mention these are the nematodes favorite. When Don’s tomatoes are pulled up by the body, the roots are a “twisted mass of knots”. Don has planted a healthy crop of French marigolds in hope of helping to control them, which he has had some success with. His pole beans are getting affected by these nematodes too, that are in the same soil he treated by growing the marigolds. Mike has some suggestions: since he is Florida and it is easy for him to do, he would want to solarize his soil. Which is the use of an environmentally friendly method of using solar power for managing pests such as nematodes. Mike instructs him that he must turn over and break down the soil well and level and saturate it with water until the soil over flows and cannot take in any more water. He should spread clear plastic material over the top of the soil, do this as you creep up to the hottest month of the season. Stretch it tight and anchor it down at the sides. Mike says to let it it cook about 2 months for he lives in a certain climate that will allow it to completely eradicate the nematodes and any other parasite, disease born in the soil.


Caring for newly installed sod

Lin in West Cape May, NJ had sod installed in her front and backyards. Concerned about what might be causing her backyard sod to turn brown, she questions Mike if there is anything she can do or if he can confirm the cause is her installing the sod too late in the season (mid- December). She mentions she has watered it religiously ever since she had them installed 10 days ago. Mike replies that one does want to saturate the sod for the first 2 hours but not water it again for a while for it will drown it. Mike rejects the idea of being planted too late, because plants grown in the winter time, do grow but at a much slower pace; therefore, her plant is alive. Also, it only needs one-tenth of the water it’s receiving right now. Since they’re are a variety of sods, if Lin’s sod is the turf type tall fescue sod, which he mentions is very popular, she can easily replace dead areas with seed. On the other hand, “If it is a variety of blue grass or if it’s a mix of blue grass and fescue, the blue grass is a running grass and will fill in any bear spots”. Mike tells Lin to see how it goes through the Winter and in the Spring she will be able to recognize if there are any dead areas. To treat this she can either go to a nursery and get supplied with seeds to match the dead spots if she has the first variety of sod.


Caring for your fig tree

Ron from Ambler, PA is lost as to when he should prune his fig tree. He also mentions that in the winter, he protects the tree by wrapping it in a light tarp and stuffs it with mulched up leaves. He receives many figs but they seem to never want to ripen, says Ron. Mike says his figs are not ripening, because his tree gets hit with winter winds. Figs are Mediterranean plants and are sensitive when in cold temperatures. At the end of the season Ron should not touch his plant. in the spring when all is animated, take the cover off earlier than later. Also he should prune his fig tree during the spring time and get rid of any dead wood, anything that isn’t green, which will actually provoke the figs to fully mature by the end of the summer. If he still is not getting any new and ripe figs, he should get a new plant that is designated for the north.

  • Photo by Flickr user Jon

Jan 23, 2015
Are persimmons pleasing or puckering?

Are they a delicious fruit? Or an astringent annoyance only to be eaten under puckering protest? Mike McGrath, reveals the surprising truth behind the much-maligned persimmon.


Question of the Week

“Our radio show received quite a bit of ‘feedback’ after I told a listener named Loki (yes, ‘Loki’) who was looking to replicate the taste of a specific (and delicious) persimmon that wild persimmons tasted astringent, and that named, grafted varieties would taste much better.”

Mike McGrath

Read more »


Highlights from show for January 17, 2015:

Harvesting garlic

Lisa in Nashville, TN planted 155 bulbs of Garlic and can’t wait to harvest them. However, she noticed that, after a few warm days, the little bulbs began to sprout through her leave mulch. Will they still be ok? Mike assures Lisa that it’s not a problem and is curious what variety she chose for her Garlic. The Garlic, she explains, is hard neck, which according to Mike is more associated with areas in the North. Mike tells Lisa that when she sees sprouts from her garlic it’s just the garlic rooting itself and if the greenery turns brown that can just be from a cold wind or other weather changes.


Caring for peach trees

Ed in Kimberton, PA just moved into his home in the last year and realized last summer, to his incredible surprise, that he had five peach trees. However, they got so heavy with fruit that the branches broke and one of the trees actually split. He hopes Mike can help him care for these trees in a better way. Mike explains the fruit tree basics. “Here’s what you do: First they need to be pruned, that will get rid of the excessive branches and give more light and air.” Mike goes on to explain that the peaches need to be thinned as well so the tree can put its energy into making larger peaches. It’s also really important to get rid of any diseased peaches.


The limits of potted plants

Christy in South Jersey recently bought two baby, blue Colorado Spruces and wants to use them as ascetically pleasing plants through Winter in outdoor pots. Mike is a little skeptical of this plan since trees like this really like to have their roots in the ground. Mike says that Christy should look for a conifer that is rated down to Zone 3 and offers this advice, “(put them in) fairly large containers, the containers should be in a sheltered location, as close to the house as possible, but still where they can get full sun, but they have to be a plant that is rated down to Zone 3 or 4.”


Jan 17, 2015
How to have the first ripe red tomatoes on the block

Mike McGrath reveals the secrets behind super-early tomato success. Plus answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week

“Last week, Jim “near Chicago” asked about the earliest fruits he could grow. We named strawberries, honeyberries and Serviceberries as the earliest maturing true (as in sweet) fruits, but then thought, ‘what if he means fruiting plants, like tomatoes?’ So we promised a follow up this week—although I teased the answer by saying ‘Start the plants indoors under bright lights two months before you’re going to plant them out, use season extending devices to put them out early in the season, choose varieties labeled ‘early’ or ‘cold hardy’ and you can pick tasty little tomatoes by the fourth of July.'”

Mike McGrath

Read more »


Highlights from show for January 10, 2015:

Rehabilitating your hydrangeas

Terry in Glenside, PA is in desperate need of advice and tips for caring for her hydrangeas after experiencing a brutal winter. Wondering if she could of done something differently, Terry explains how, “I had nice big bushes this year but not one bloom”. Mike replies that nothing could of been done for everyone’s plants took shots this winter. He adds that there are types of hydrangeas that grow exclusively on new wood. While others bloom on the previous year’s wood, which most likely will survive a typical winter not including last year’s winter. However, Mike orders her to leave them alone and wait another year. Also, Mike throws in a tip for next year when Terry begins to notice flowers blooming to prune anything that isn’t a flower after a week of no blooming for that will make it appear that she has more flowers and that the plant looks fuller.


Growing rosemary

New gardener, Tom in Roanoke, VA has a Rosemary plant and is curious if he lets it go to seed can he save the seeds and grow new Rosemary plants indoors. Mike gives instructions that Tom must pollenate the flowers: taking pollen from one flower to the other. Then, if he is lucky enough to get seeds, to leave the seed pots on the plant as long as possible. Mike forewarns him about the difficulties of making sure the seeds are mature, and that the pods stay on the plant long enough to reach full maturity. Mike tells Tom that if he doesn’t want to go to the trouble of seed starting Rosemary is easy to root and layer to make plants you can both take cuttings from and root. With those plants that have low hanging branches, all that is needed to do in the summer is to put a rock where the branch meets the ground and pour water on it daily and that will root, also known as tip rooting.


Jan 10, 2015
Be the first to show off your produce this year

When growing time arrives, which fruit will be the first to appear? Mike Mcgrath names three sweet treats that produce their produce in the merry month of… well, June.


Question of the Week

“I’m planning a garden and would like to get fresh fruit for as much of the year as possible. What’s the earliest fruiting plant I could grow here? I have full sun, and would be willing to start things indoors or put up a hoop house if it wasn’t too huge (5′ would be about as high as I could do).”

Jim “in Zone 5 near Chicago”

Learn which fruits produce the earliest »

  • Photo by Flickr user Caroline.32


Highlights from show for January 3, 2015:

Reclaiming contaminated compost

Robin in Texarkana, Texas had a little misunderstanding with her spouse (although she doesn’t want to play the blame game) when “someone” dumped cooking oil all over the compost pile. Now she is wondering what she can do to remediate any damage this may have done. Robin puts leaves and kitchen scraps in her compost and Mike reminds her that kitchen scraps really aren’t always the best ingredient for rich compost. Especially since they attract vermin and other animals to the pile. That’s why he moved to an indoor worm bin to utilize his kitchen waste. The basic answer to her problem is for Robin to look for any congealed chunks in her compost pile of where the oil may have gathered and get rid of that. He recommends turning it a couple of times and Robin should be on her way to great compost!


How to encourage more produce from your fig trees

Phil in the South Philly section of Philadelphia, PA has a fig tree that didn’t seem to do very well after our harsh winter last year. He thought it was a goner, but it came back and fruited. However, the fruits never matured and just stuck to the tree. He is wondering what he should do now. Mike tells Phil not to prune the plant at this point. “Your basic choices are: take the figs off, bring them inside and see if anything happens. If not just compost them.” Mike assures Phil that no matter, what the Fig tree should be fine as long as we don’t get hit the way we did last year with a terrible winter.


Building raised beds

Melissa in Ardmore, PA is looking to build a planter box for flowers and wants to know what to fill it with. She is getting a pre-made box of Cedar wood, which Mike says is great, because it’s rot and insect resistant. Mike suggests checking out Garden on Wheelz, which is a great portable system for raised beds. Listen to Mikes interview with the inventor of Garden on Wheelz here. The easiest thing would be to use window boxes, but if Melissa doesn’t want to do this she should find good potting soil that has perlite in it and some good compost. Mike says that she can create a false bottom with good drainage or fill the bottom with some rocks so she doesn’t have to waste a few feet of good soil if she’s only growing flowers.


Adding coffee grounds to your compost

Jim in Sewell, NJ has an open compost pile that he would like to add coffee grounds to. He can gain access to 10-15 cups of coffee grounds a week from a neighbor. He mentions that in the center the pile was up to 94 degrees, but Mike says that really it should be closer to 140 and the kitchen scraps might be the limiting factor. Jim is worried that he is adding too much acid, but Mike assures him that you need the acid to create the chemical reaction that is breaking down the ingredients in the compost.


Perking up your peonies

Marsha outside Phoenixville, PA has a twenty year old peony garden that seems to be getting a little tired. The blooms were not that great this passed year. Marsha has a lot of wood ash and she’d like to use it on her Peony garden. Mike warns her ” just because you have a lot of something doesn’t mean you should put it on your garden.” Mike recommends that Marsha get a big bag of Rock Phosphate that has an element that promotes blooming. Mike says she should spread no more than a 1/4-1/2 cup per plant right now and then cover it with compost. If she can’t do it right now that right away in the Spring. This should help her blooms come back!

Jan 03, 2015
Christmas spectacular!

It’s time to say hoe-hoe-hoe — that’s H O E, of course. Mike McGrath hosts You Bet Your Garden’s annual holiday special. Only Charlie’s Brown’s is better!


Question of the Week

“You once offered a solution to the problem of paperwhites drooping on your show. Could you repeat the info? Thanks so much! I ABSOLUTELY LOVE YOUR SHOW!!!!”

Holly in Laurel Springs, “New Joysey”

Learn how to keep paper whites tidy and poinsettias and amaryllis alive »


Dec 27, 2014
Big, Bold Amaryllis

Big bold Amaryllis are one of the most popular holiday plants. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, reveals the secret behind my sister-in-law’s run of decade-long Amaryllis success! Plus, answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week:

Last Christmas a friend gave us an amaryllis that bloomed beautifully. I kept it alive after the holidays and then moved it outside, where it grew lots of new leaves all summer and fall. But the leaves never turned yellow, and I finally brought it back inside just before our first freeze. Should I cut off the leaves, or are they still nourishing the bulb? How do I care for it so that it will bloom again?

— Rebecca in Silver Spring, Maryland

An Easier Way to Get Amaryllis to Re-bloom »

Highlights

Coffee Bean Plant

Phyllis in Somerspoint, NJ has a coffee bean plant that she’s had for about seven years. Now around 25% of the leaves are turning brown and she is calling Mike to find out what to do to get this plant healthy again. Mike is surprised to hear the plant isn’t doing well, but explains that coffee plants are relatively easy to grow and make great indoor houseplants. If the conditions are right you can get up to a pound of beans each year. Phyllis admits that she’s kept the plant inside next to a fire place and Mike says “ding ding ding”! Too much dry heat. The plant likes to be moist and would really like a good misting each day. Mike says it likes bright, but indirect sunlight and suggests maybe even hanging an LED shop light over it to get those green leaves back to their full shine!

Ling Ling and Bay Rum

Irene is in beautiful St. John in the Virgin Islands has a Ling Ling tree and a Bay Rum tree that she planted in terra-cotta pots. The soil has dropped down low in the pots and she’s wondering how to remedy that. Mike wonders if maybe the roots are trying to come out the bottom. Irene says that used to happen, before she put the pots up on blocks. Mike has an interesting suggestion: he says to get some help and actually pull the tree up a little and then funnel soil underneath the tree into the pot. The issue is that you really don’t want to cover the trunk with soil.

Dec 20, 2014
Do plants need to be buried alive this winter?

Do grape vines and roses need to be completely covered in soil to survive the winter? Why some people’s plants really DO need to be buried alive to thrive. Plus, host Mike McGrath speaks with Abby Eisenhart from the Arbor Day Foundation about their efforts to shore up New Jersey with tons of trees. And, answers to all your growing questions.

Photo from cod_gabriel on flickr


Question of the Week:

I understand why not to mound mulch around the base of trees, but even viticulturists who agree with that stance strongly recommend mounding grape vines for the winter—and I’ve been getting newsletters from state ag agencies telling me that it’s time for me to start mounding. Why the different practices between trees and grapes?

— Tony in Pittsburgh

Do Grape Vines Need to Be BURIED ALIVE? »

Highlights

Elderberry Plant

Harvey in North Carolina is interested in the elderberry plant. He is concerned that the elderberry plant does not do well in his part of the country and wanted some reassurances from Mike. Fortunately, Mike quells his fears by explaining that the plant is recommended for areas like Harvey’s. The only accommodation, however, is to make some afternoon shade if Harvey were to grow his own elder berry plant. Mike adds that,”this is one of the most useful fruits known. As I like telling people on the show, the elderberry produces the best, most quantified, most studied, natural anti-virals”.

Dogwood Tree

Mary Ellen in Haddonfield, NJ is mourning her dogwood tree. Confused as to why it died when the other plants in front of her house survived, she made the assumption it received too much sun throughout the afternoons. Mike tells Maryellen that it should be the opposite way around: In the morning the plant should get sun to dry it off, and they prefer shade during the afternoon to prevent from them burning up. He adds, that since she gets so much sun during the afternoon, to get herself a native tree that does not require that much care.

Abby Eisenhart

Mike speaks with Abby Eisenhart, tree program manager at the Arbor Day Foundation. They are undertaking a massive effort to get trees back to home owners affected by Super Storm Sandy, which occurred in the fall of 2012. The Arbor Day Foundation is rasing throusands of seedlings to offer to New Jersey residents. If you would like to get on the list for a possible tree to replace a damaged one on your landscape in New Jersey visit the Arbor Day Foundation.

Blackberry Bush

Mindy in Delaware County, PA has a blackberry bush that bears amazing berries over the growing season but the thorns sometimes make them unreachable and has poked her many times. Mike advises that most people in her situation would use a powerful lawn mower or brush cutter and when the patches become big it will cut lanes through them. Also he added she should get herself gloves that were specifically made for rose growers that are leather and come up to your elbow with holes in the fingers to feel the branches as she goes.

Christmas Tree

Carl in Philadelphia, PA has a Christmas tree that takes up half his living room. Mike instructs him to lightly prune the skirt of the tree outside in a big bucket of water to keep it hydrated. Mike advises sealing everything up and putting the tree back inside after 24 hours. Mike assures Carl he won’t harm the tree by pruning about 6 inches to a foot of every branch to make the tree look more like a christmas tree and less like a tree found in the wild.

Fig Tree

Rita in Bristol, PA has a fig tree that she got about 30 figs from last summer, but over the winter it died and turned completely white. She also got a lot of shoots coming up from the bottom. Not knowing what to do, she let it go. Mike assures her that she should be patient until “those big leaves start to appear and prune off any dead parts, any parts you don’t like but the more leaves the more potential figs you are bound to get”. She should not reduce the height of the plant in this winter season and continue the wrapping the plant with a sheet around sticks. However, this may only be temporary so Mike says to leave it for right now, because regardless she will have a clean slate in the spring.

Dec 13, 2014
Bring the outdoors in no matter where you live

Do you live in an apartment and long to bring the outdoors in? Mike McGrath helps a young couple give their children something green to look at besides boiled broccoli. Plus Mike speaks with Pat Stone, editor of GreenPrints magazine celebrating 25 years of garden culture. Mike speaks with Pat about how the magazine got started and what the future holds. Also, answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week


“My wife and I are big fans of your Public Radio show. What started as casual drive time listening has led to us sitting in the parking lot at the grocery store as we eagerly await the Question of the Week at the end of the show. Anyway, OUR question: How can our family get into gardening when we live in a fifth floor apartment in the Old City section of town? We’d like to get some plants into the house and have our older daughter (3 1/2) help us water and care for them. At the same time, we’d like to avoid creating a mud pit for our ten month old to play in as she starts cruising around looking for trouble.”

“We don’t have any outside space; no roof access, no courtyard, no window boxes. Are there some hearty plants that can live entirely indoors, don’t require a ton of light, and won’t poison a toddler if she happens to eat a leaf or two? Or, if our kids are too young and our living situation too impractical, maybe it’s best we take our family circus on the road? Are there garden clubs or groups we can join where both adults and kids can get involved?”

Ryan in Philadelphia

Learn more about local community gardening »


Dec 06, 2014
Harvest holiday greens from your landscape

Looking to your landscape as a source of free holiday greens? Mike McGrath reveals how to healthily harvest holly. Plus: Mike speaks with author Marta McDowell about the gardening lives of Emily Dickinson and Beatrix Potter; and answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week


“Every Fall, I yell at you not to prune, because pruning stimulates growth, and you don’t want to do that when your plants are trying to go dormant. But once they ARE dormant, you can prune away! Winter is the perfect time, for instance, to open up the canopy of big trees to let in more light and to prune fruit trees for shape and air circulation.”

Mike McGrath

Learn more about harvesting holiday greens »


Highlights from show for November 29, 2014:

Special guest Marta McDowell

Mike speaks with author Marta McDowell who has written two books dealing with famous poets and their gardens. Her first, Emily Dickinson’s Gardens, talks about the reclusive poet and how her writing reflects her relationship with the garden. More recently she’s written Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life, which tells the story of an eccentric woman growing up in the Victorian age and how her childhood helped shape her amazing talent for drawing animals.


Stinkbug season

Margaret Ellen in the East Falls area of Philadelphia, PA has a problem with stink bugs coming into her house and garden. She has read they don’t like citrus and mint, but Mike says that since they are already inside it’s a lot harder to get them out of the house and those deterrents won’t work. Mike says he has a couple of options: one is a stink bug trap that she can buy that uses pheromones as a lure. The bugs go into a trap and can’t get out. A second option is a kit with an LED light system because research has shown they go toward lights. Since Margaret Ellen has a black light Mike says put that on and then put a sticky paper or a saucer of soapy water under it and the bugs will drown in the water or get stuck.


Caring for potted plants through winter

Mitch in Greenville, NC has some citrus trees that are in pots and he wants to get them through the winter. In NC they have some days that will get in the 70’s in the Winter, but they will also get cold snaps, which could stress the trees. Mitch wants to know if he could drag them out in the warmer days? Would it affect them adversely in dormancy? Citrus by nature is a tropical plant, Mike explains, and never really goes dormant, so Mike is not quite sure the garage is making the plants go dormant at all. They might just be waiting for a sunny day. Mike suggests putting little dollies under these pants to help Mitch move them around, but he also suggests that Mitch buy some 4 tube shop light fixtures and hang them right over top the plants. Then Mitch should put them on a timer for 12 hours on and 12 hours off and then they will react as if they had artificial light. With that method there is no issue with giving them the real deal a couple days during the winter.


Can you use pine needles for mulch?

Rick in Levittown, PA has a question about using pine needles for mulch. Mike says that shredded fall leaves are the best mulch, but you can use pine needles. Rick is worried that they are too acidic as he wants to grow blueberries, but Mike says that the acidity is actually good for blueberries. Rick wants to use coffee grounds as well, but Mike says just be careful not to use too much to limit fruiting. Mike adds a tip that apparently dog hair is the best mulch for Tulips.

Nov 29, 2014
Protect your landscape from unwanted critters this winter

Winter’s upcoming arrival means lots of hungry herbivores laying waste to your landscape. Mike McGrath discusses how to best protect your plants from deer, rabbits, voles and other vandals.


Question of the Week


“In the Spring I planted two Pinky Winky ‘hydrangeas in “standard” form, meaning there’s a four-foot-high trunk before they branch out. The trunks are about two inches in diameter and the nursery told me to be sure to protect the bark from deer over the winter. What kind of protection would be safe to wrap around my Pinky Winky trunks?”

Gail in Traverse City, Michigan

Learn how to protect your plants against pests in the winter »


Highlights from show for November 22, 2014:

Reclaiming your elderberry bush

Ken from Reading, PA is trying to grow an elderberry bush from a graft of a plant he’s had for about 3 years. He’s allowed it to flourish up to 20 feet high, which has become unmanageable for him. Mike assures Ken he can, “remove all the suckers coming up from the base of the plant this winter”, and to “remove a third of the plant” every year for the next 3 years to keep at at a manageable height. Mike also throws in a tip about not mangling it with pruners too much for the best fruit will sprout from the old wood, and by doing this, he will obtain rich, bountiful harvests. These plants always do best when pruned during the Winter.


How to get rid of bed bugs

In San Antonio, TX, Sandy’s apartment has been infested with bed bugs for the last three months and she would like to get rid of them. Mike suggests performing a heavy duty vacuuming process and informs her that bed bugs do not live in your bed, but in the floor and in cracks they live in. However, they crawl up in one’s bed and attack and retreat to their original location. Mike recommends filling up small containers such as cat food cans or margarine tubs with soapy water or vegetable oil, and place the bed post in them to catch these pests before they reach the bed. It is said to be tremendously effective, says Mike and will free Sandy of these bugs.


What to do for your Yew

Clifford from Medford, NJ is curious as to why his Yew bushes, he’s had for 20 years, have not been doing well. He says new growth begins to die and the green needles have been turning yellow, beginning at the tips, and working its way up to the wood which triggers the whole needle to die and eventually the whole branch. Mikes advice to Clifford would be to get rid of the wood mulch, and put an inch of compost all around the plants for that can help amend the PH of the soil. For the Winter, Mike urges, pruning the branches severely at the end of the season of beginning of Spring. In addition, Clifford can cut them back about a third over the next 3 years to restore them.


Improving the health of your burning bush

Amy in Upper Bucks County, PA has a burning bush that has only gained about a quarter of its leaves back after the Winter season, she wishes for her bush to be fully covered in leaves, as it was prior to last Winter. Mike encourages Amy to mulch the plant when it re-grows in the Spring, with an inch of compost and remove the grass that is around, or on the trunk of the bush. If she follows the procedures Mike has provided for her, the bush will get healthy again and she will be able to regain what she lost last Winter.


Harvesting your cinnamon tree

Jerry in Cambridge City, IN is worried about killing a cinnamon tree if he took some bark off of it to make cinnamon with it. Mike enlightens Jerry that cinnamon trees are cut down as if they are cutting them for timber, and the bark is stripped and processed and harvested. In a few years, the tree will be re-grown and it’s then possible that the new growth will provide better cinnamon due to the tree being younger, and fresher. Therefore, the same tree will provide the same bark over, and over again.

Nov 22, 2014
What to do when houseplants outgrow your house!

Can a massive philodendron possibly survive winter outdoors? Mike McGrath discusses what to do when houseplants get bigger than your house. Plus: Answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week

“First, I want to tell you that we have marvelous gardens thanks to all we’ve learned listening to you—FAITHFULLY—on WTEB, Public Radio East. Our concern is an Elephant Ear philodendron we purchased more than 35 years ago. It thrived in the window of our record shop for 20 years, but when Mom & Pop record stores closed all across the country in the early 2000’s, we took it home, bringing it inside for the winter and outside during warm weather. We’ve re-potted it a few times and it’s now an eight foot tall MONSTER.

We know that you have to bring your tropical plants in for the winter, but YOU live up north. We have plenty of room, either under giant pines and magnolias or out in full sun. It can get cold here—last year was awful!—but our neighbor’s banana trees come back every spring. Can our Elephant Ear Philodendron do the same? We’re getting up in years and the thought of lugging this heavy, beautiful creature up and down the stairs is becoming overwhelming!”

Tom & Rebecca in eastern North Carolina

Learn what to do when your houseplants outgrow your house »


Highlights from show for November 8, 2014:

Wild wisteria

Amanda in Tuckerton, NJ, near the shore, recently moved in to a house that was poorly taken care of and there are stumps everywhere from trees that were taken down. But that’s not even their biggest problem. They have a huge infestation of wisteria. They have two pigs that like to dig the wisteria out of the ground. They are mini pigs that are good rooters. Mike warns that wisteria can be as invasive as running bamboo and can damage the foundation of homes. One of his recommendations is the “rope a dope” method, instead of attacking it directly what Amanda should do is allow the new shoots to come up and then cut them back to the ground. If you continually do this over the course of a couple seasons faithfully it will use up all the energy and nutrients in the root system and you will notice that the sprouts are much smaller. But Mike also suggests utilizing the natural enemy, her pigs! Mike reminds Amanda to ask about getting the massive root system pulled out of the ground when they pull the stumps. To keep the wisteria from coming back the landscaper should install a rhizome barrier to keep it at bay.


Starting strawberries

Spencer in San Tan Valley, Arizona near the metro area of Phoenix, has no winter and in the summer it’s tough to handle the heat. However, Spencer loves to garden and has strawberries with armies of runners the he wants to plant in a bed this Spring. Mike says they are going dormant during his off season, so Mike’s advice is to put each of the “daughter” plants into little seed starting cups and once they sprout replant them in a prepared bed right near by. Spencer says the runners are hanging over the bed right now. Mike warns that is not good for them, because of the low humidity. Mike says to replant them as quickly as possible. Mike does suggest that he gets ever baring strawberries, because he could harvest ten months out of the year.


Rehabilitating a Japanese maple tree

Donna in Nashville, TN has some really sick Japanese maple trees that she inherited when she bought her house. She’s been there 2.5 years and mentions there are juniper shrubs very near thee trees. Donna pulled mulch away from the tree two weeks ago, but noticed some dark spots. Mike suggests taking out those junipers and putting them somewhere else in the yard and thinks the mulch is to blame along with the plantings at the base. At this time of year their leaves are turning and dropping. Donna says there are a lot of leaves on the trees, which is good, but there is a white silver coating covering the leaves. Mike wants Donna to get out there and tie ribbons on the dead branches so that she knows in the dead of winter which one is dead and can prune off those branches and open up the rest of the tree. He thinks all of these measures will get the trees back in shape.


How to get your fig tree to produce

Bobbie in Middletown, Delaware has a beautiful fig tree, but over last winter it got very damaged and she didn’t get any figs this year. Bobbie has had it six or seven years and it has been baring great fruit. Mike reminds Bobbie that last winter was extreme and many people had similar issues with their fig trees. Mike explains that figs are Mediterranean plants, but are very Winter hardy toward the ground level. The roots don’t care where they are and can re-grow the whole plant again even after a frigid winter. Mike says it’s a good idea to prune it every spring and look for any winter damage and prune it off. In addition, Mike says,”All you need to do is drive a couple of stakes in the ground around the tree and wrap the burlap around the stakes”. Bobbie should not put the burlap around the plant, just the stakes, and this will protect it from winter winds.

Nov 15, 2014
Chickweed: Wicked or wonderful?

Is it a wicked weed? Or a delicious, nutritious and attractive ground cover? Mike McGrath reveals what you can do when chickweed comes to play. Plus answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week

“I used corn gluten meal as a ‘weed and feed’ in the Spring, and my grass looked great. But I did use some chemicals to control chickweed in the summer. What should I do to get rid of the chickweed without chemicals?”

Bill in Merion Station, PA

Learn what to do about chickweed »


Highlights from show for November 8, 2014:

What to do when slugs are eating your tomatoes

Paul in Broomall, PA has been noticing holes in the top half of his 7 foot tall tomato plant. Not knowing exactly what it is that is eating his precious, red tomatoes, he calls up Mike for answers. As Paul suspected, Mike confirms that slimy slugs are responsible. Mike suggests, to get rid of them, building raised beds and to buy slug bate at any big garden center or online. He explains that old slug bate from the 60’s and 70’s is very toxic, but he can buy a more modern version that contains yeast and iron. Mike explains that slugs are very attracted to yeast, but when they consume the bait the metal from iron will get in their system and kill them. Mike recommends that it should be sprinkled all over the base of the plant.


Worm box clean out

Teresa from Stillwater, OK has been raising red worms for 2 and a half years, and somehow larva has been invading the box where the red worms are being kept. Teresa has cleaned it out to clear the infestation, however, they keep coming back. And even more each time! Mike recommends to “get them out of the house, get them into the compost. If you heat up the compost enough they might not even survive, but harvest some of your worms, keep them in nice, clean soil for a week, and start everything over again. You know every couple of years everybody’s got a worm bin…has to clean it out and start over again for some emergency reason.”


Are these plant antibiotics working?

Jerry in Princeton, NJ has a large oak tree that she has been getting a yearly treatment of antibiotics. The tree had a lot of dead wood on it, and she doesn’t know whether she should continue giving the tree the antibiotic. Mike gives her some handy-dandy ideas: Stop putting chemicals in the soil, have the old wood removed in the Spring when the tree has leafed out do some selective, additional pruning to open up the canopy, let more light and air in there, and try to clear the soil at the base of the tree. This will expose the root flare, which isn’t visible. In addition, all trees need good drainage, so Jerry has to solve her issue with water pooling up in the yard.


How to get better blooms from your hydrangeas

Bill from Lee Summit, MO has “a couple of hydrangeas, that look beautiful…lots of green, but no blossoms.” Mike explains that hydrangeas are much more fragile than we thought. Mike proposes that winter might have had an effect on them, and took its toll on these delicate flowers. Mike advises him to leave them alone, and wait until Spring time. Check if the plant has any green growth along the stems that survived winter, if so, he should be okay. Mike suggests moving them to a more protected area. When flowers appear, that is when Bill should prune out the branches that don’t have any flowers on them. This little trick makes them appear as if he has three times more flowers than he actually does.

Fighting fungus

Arlene in Philadelphia, PA has a Japanese maple, about 50 years old that had fungus on some of the branches. Later on she called a certified arborist to give it a feeding that was apparently too strong for the tree, practically hurting it. Mike likens the fertilizer to a high explosive. Mike says that the green on the branches can either mean it has become too crowded and there isn’t enough air getting to the canopy or it is getting a little moldy and those branches were already dead and this is a fungal organism trying to turn them into soil while they are on the tree. However, Mike considers Arlene lucky for she’s dodged a bullet. Since this summer we had a lot of showers, the water deluded the chemicals out, preventing the tree from actually getting burned from that unbalanced fertilizer.


Don’t bring in ants with your plants!

Keith in Camden County, NJ has a meyer lemon tree that he’s been bringing it outside when the sun is out, and in his garage every other day. Keith is concerned about ants and other insects getting into the soil before he brings it in for good this winter. Mike suggests that Keith should take his tree out the next sunny day, set his hose nozzle to the sharpest stream possible and spray the plant thoroughly, repeat after allowing the plant to rest for an hour. “And indoors, make sure it gets bright indirect light”, Mike adds, “You want the sunniest window sill in the house, but you don’t want one that leaks cold air in.”

Nov 08, 2014
Turn your fall leaves into black gold!

What’s the best way to turn your fall leaves into commendable compost? Mike McGrath answers four questions that will help you procure the best black gold. Plus: Mike speaks with researcher and arborist, RJ Laverne, about new research, which reveals how trees in an urban environment can be extremely beneficial; and your fabulous phone calls.


Question of the Week

“I just watched the video of your TEDx talk on composting fall leaves and found it to be tremendously enlightening. Can you do the same thing with lawn clippings and/or hay?”

Cenzo in Finland, PA

Learn how to make compost with your fall leaves »


Highlights from show for November 1, 2014:

Special guest: RJ Laverne

Mike speaks with RJ Laverne, researcher and professional arborist, who talks about the many benefits of trees in an urban landscape. Most compelling is his experiments showing what an area sounds like before trees are installed and after. It’s quite different. Simply having trees outside your window has been shown to lower blood pressure and stress levels and even helps people focus. Laverne became passionate about this when he saw hundreds of trees being decimated by the emerald ash borer, which is a particularly difficult pest to control.

Nov 01, 2014
Mound No More

It’s stupid, senseless, and as ugly as the dogs’ breakfast. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will try to turn the tide against the deadly practice of mounding mulch up onto innocent trees. Plus your fabulous phone calls.

Photo via eXtension.org: Gardens, Lawns, and Landscapes on Flickr.


Question of the Week

I often see trees in my town and neighboring communities ‘mulched to the hilt’—six to 10 inches of mulch packed right up against the bark. The majority (if not all) of those trees are diseased, dying, or dead, yet the “mound mulching” practice continues to be rampant…

Lori in Lawrenceville, NJ


It’s Time to Declare War on the Mulch Mounding of Trees! »


Highlights from show for October 25, 2014:

Rabbit Fertilizer

Carey in Texarcana, Arkansas is using rabbit fertilizer in his garden and puts it around his fig trees. The fig trees are growing like crazy, but is it too much to use the rabbit fertilizer? Mike is curious where he is getting the fertilizer. Carey has a tenant who supplies him with it from her own rabbits. Amazingly, Carey is getting two pounds every two days from three trees. Mike warns that rabbit manure is a little powerful when its fresh. So, don’t close up the bag you put it in. Leave it out so it can air out for a while. Mike says, this is a very well balanced fertilizer and he’s not surprised the figs are responding to it.

Grass Rot?

Barbara in New Hope, PA has a 9×12 spot that never had grass, so she prepared the area and put the seed in and grass came in and looked great. Then at about three inches high it suddenly looked like someone had poured motor oil on the lawn. Barbara remembers a caller who spoke about rot in their grass and she figured that was what was going on. She’s curious if she should I feed the grass in the fall? Barbara admits she planted the grass in July and Mike says it had no chance of survival whatsoevef. “The middle of summer is the absolutely worst time.” Barbara says she was watering the grass at night and once she stopped the disease went away. In addition, she own a Shetland Pony who grazes on the grass and keep sit short. Mike suggests letting that Pony get out there every time the grass is 4 to 4.5 inches high and let him nibble and see how it works out over time.

Mature Pines

Robert in Edmund, OK recently bought a property that has 30 pines trees on it that are all mature. They have been clearing the land of cedar trees to reveal the pine trees. He’s worried, however, about the the pine bark beetle and wants to know how to prevent them from taking down some of these trees. Mike wants to know if Robert is using the wonderful Cedar wood, which he is doing some of the time. Mike says not to feed the pine trees and not to mulch the trees. People who pile mulch up agains t trees are inviting insencts like the pine bark beetle to set up residence. Mike also suggests suet feeders for foraging birds in the winter to help keep the insects at bay.

Lilac Care

Larry from Auburn, Maine, has lilacs that he fertilizes each year and spreads a little lime at their base and is wondering why he’s not getting a lot of flowers. Mike stops him right there and expresses his surprise that Larry is using lime. Mike also says feeding in the fall is awful. “Just as you should not feed a dormant person, you should not feed a dormant plant.” Mike also warns that if Larry must mulch the the lilac then he should make sure that no mulch touches the trunk and make sure the leaves are really well shredded. After some light interrogation Mike realizes that Larry’s lilac really isn’t getting enough sun and Mike determines that might be an issue for him.

Magnolia Scale

Lloyd from Wayne, PA is worried about Scale on his magnolia trees. He notices secretions coming from the magnolia, which attracts yellow jackets through the summer. Mike wouldn’t necessarily care about the scale as long as the tree is healthy, but the added issue of the yellow jackets is dangerous. Mike asks some investigative questions and realizes that the tree is heavily mulched by a landscape company that comes around Lloyd’s condo community. Mike begs Lloyd to get them to stop and tells him to rake all the mulch away from the tree. Once the tree is healthy it won’t attract insects anymore.

Bag Worms

Jack in Mullica Hill, NJ has what he calls “bag bugs” on his evergreens. Mike corrects him that they are “bag worms” and are actually caterpillars. He instructs Jack to get as many of the “pinecones” off the trees, cutting into the branches if need be. Then he should treat the tree with BT in the Spring, which will kill the caterpillar infestation.

Oct 25, 2014
Pruning big trees down to size

Is it ALWAYS wrong to cut the tops off of trees? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will reveal the correct way to keep big trees somewhat short without destroying their form. Plus: answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week

“I love the show’s ‘fascinatin’ phone calls’; and a recent one about cutting the tops off of trees made me wonder about our pruning for ‘view preservation’. We live on a hilltop overlooking the Susquehanna River amid 17 acres of mature deciduous trees. We do top some of these trees every few years to keep our view, but are now questioning this practice. What do you think about our situation? Is there a best way to do this?”

“Devoted listener” Linda in Montour county PA

Learn the limits of tree pruning »


Highlights from show for October 18, 2014:

How to plant lavender

Ralph in Newtown Square, PA, would like to plant lavender but he has no clue where to plant it or what kind of soil to plant it in. Sadly, like any other Pennsylvanian, Ralph is cursed with clay-like soil. Ralph, however, is in luck; according to Mike, lavender plants want poor soil. Being grown in rich soil and overfeeding can kill the plants. Although, “These plants need excellent drainage, to look for an area where water does not pool,” says Mike. As an extra tip, Mike suggest that Ralph should buy bags of perlite and mix it in to the soil to make an excellent bed for lavender. Resulting in lots of blooming flowers.


Getting more blooms from your crepe myrtle tree

Regina in Mantua, NJ, has a crape myrtle tree that is 4-5 years old and hasn’t blossomed this year. She trimmed the tree and now is starting to have second thoughts on whether she should have done that. “Yes, you should have trimmed it.”, answers Mike. He warns though, to never prune any tree in the fall for they do much better if they get a light pruning at the right time of year because plants such as crepe myrtles, go dormant during the fall. Regina shouldn’t take any action until Spring comes along and she see’s new growth in her tree. After acknowledging that her plant is beginning to grow again, she should prune as much as it grew the previous year. This she shall do each and every year so her tree can be easily maintained and and grow back healthier.


Righting a tipping tree

Kevin is struggling with a weeping crabapple tree in Lancaster, SC. His tree is leaning to one side and is unsure of how to upright it and when to do this. Kevin has mixed compostand sand in which to plant his tree. Now he is seeing it wasn’t a very bright idea, causing the soil to be loose and the tree to lean. Mike suggests, in the “dead of the winter”, around January, to rock the tree back and forth with a couple of extra helping hands. He should mix in some of his lousy soil underneath it to stabilize it in its new position. Rock it more to the other side, get some regular dirt in there and get some clay from other parts of his property to prop it up, tamp it down, and put compost over the surface, instructs, Mike. In the Spring gently prune the tree so the shape can turn out to be more to his liking, and less like the tree is falling to one side.


Why green cones instead of red cones?

Ninette in Ambler, PA has a red Norwegian spruce tree that’s been growing only green cones. Confused and upset as to why the same tree that flourished with tons of red cones last year, hasn’t had many this season. Mike assures her she can tell if it is healthy by keeping an eye on new needle growth. As long as it’s a lighter color, there is nothing to be alarmed about. New needle growth depicts the plant is healthy and she has no control over the desired color of her cones.


How to care for potted plants while you’re away

Victoria in Wilmington, Delaware is looking to travel for a period of time, but her only concern is what she should do with her potted lilac and pomegranate plants that have been doing so well in her protected garden area. Lilacs, who aren’t tender plants at all, are happier with roots in soil in an open spot in full sun. More sun equals more blossoms, urges Mike. While the pomegranates do need the protected area, the sun is a must for this plant. Mike suggests to give it away to someone for handle and care. Hopefully it can be planted in the ground with the same wind shielded, walled garden kind of scene, exactly like Victoria’s.

Oct 18, 2014
Top ten tips for autumn

That chill in the air means its prime time for chores! Mike McGrath reveals Ten Tips that’ll help you have an awesomely agricultural Autumn–indoors and out. Plus answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week

Read Mike’s top 10 tips for autumn — and one big don’t! »


Highlights from show for October 11, 2014:

Correcting tree damage

Whitney in South Philadelphia shares her story about a blood Japanese maple tree who’s trunk has been nibbled on by her well meaning dog. After the dog bite the poor tree is now about 1 ft/10 inches with a leafless trunk/sticking out the top and huge leaves sprouting out the bottom creating a mini bush look. Mike tells her to leave it alone and await the results. “Pull it close to your house in a sheltered spot with shredded leaves” he consoles her. He suggests waiting to see if it leafs out next year. Although if it survives, it may resemble a red maple shrub. On the bright side she will have a unique looking plant.


Where’d these tomatoes come from?

David in Cherry Hill, NJ has cherry tomato plants going bonkers. He never imagined himself becoming an “accidental gardner”, but one day he recognized lots of golden cherry tomatoes growing in his yard. He wants to know how they started growing and will they come back next year? Mike answers him with a definite yes that they will come back next year and the resolution to this tomato booming mystery in his backyard. Mike poses that maybe, a squirrel brought a tomato into his yard or a seed blew over a fence and conceived those plants. If he would like to continue growing them for next year, Mike advises taking the seeds from the tomato’s and putting them in a glass of water, stirring them twice a day for three days. This will remove the gelatinous covering. Then David can air dry them and save them for next year.


Mexican beetles

Tara in Reading, PA has a Mexican bean beetle problem! Although at first she thinks they are lady bugs, but Mike sets her straight. They have been demolishing Tara’s wonderful string beans. Tara is growing in flat ground, which may be the problem Mike says. He suggests that Tara build raised beds with a good soil mixture of shredded leaves and compost. Finally he recommends a pressurized sprayer and if the insects do come back, to spray them with sharp streams of water, first thing in the morning and put bird baths and toads in her garden that will prey on these pests.


Planting young trees

Todd in Warrington, PA needs advice on some young trees that he planted in pots with his daughter. He wants to know if he should keep his plants in pots or plant them in the ground for the Winter. Mike gives him two options as to what he thinks he should do. First, he can take them out of their pots and plant them in the ground, with roots above ground. Mike warns to not amend the soil or mulch with any kind of wood and not to touch the trunks. His second option is, if he wishes, to keep them in the pots, but drop the pots into the ground. This way the roots will be underground under the frost-line and the trees will be protected.

Oct 11, 2014
Have you ever wondered if you could grow a giant tree in your yard?

What’s the difference between a giant Sequoia and a regular old Sequoia? And can YOU grow either one? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will take a close look at the world’s two tallest trees. Plus: answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week

“I would like to grow a Giant Sequoia in my backyard. My property is very narrow and there isn’t a lot of choice for placement; the tree could only be 20 or 30 feet away from our driveway. The yard currently has some mature trees that form a canopy about 75 feet up, but the area does get sunlight for a good part of the day. It’s not wet or swampy, but water can pool up there for a few hours. Do I have any chance of success?”

Brian in Camden County, New Jersey

Read Mike’s advice on growing a Giant Sequoia »


Highlights from show for October 4, 2014:

Look to the leaves

Cymie in Kingston, NJ moved there three years ago and bought a piece of land with big, beautiful trees on it. She has a big copper beach tree that looks like someone backed into it with a car at one point. The bark is all broken and rotting and she wants to know what she should do to nurse it back to health? Mike reminds that the only thing that defines future death for a tree is if the bark is completely gone in a circle around the trunk — then the tree will die. Damage to one side or a chunk may look scary, but just pay attention to leafing out of canopy in the Spring. If it leafs out well then you are ok. If there are problems with it leafing out than you really want to call in an expert.


How to get your fruit tree to produce fruit

Michael in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA has an orange tree that was 15 years old when he got it. However, this wonderful tree stopped bearing fruit recently, so Michael thought it might be root bound. He laid it down and thinned out the root. Michael is worried he shocked the tree for years to come. Mike wants to know if the leaves are green and glossy. Michael assures him that they are and Mike thinks that Michael is in good shape and he should be able to get this tree to fruit again. Mike suggests going out to an independent garden center and getting true compost and putting a two inch layer on the top of the soil. Then when the flowers finally appear again he suggests using a paint brush to pollinate each flower by hand. That should help get this tree going once again.


Protecting your fig trees

Jeff in Vineland, NJ got two little twigs that he planted and they grew up to be two foot tall fig trees. Mike remarks on how amazing the fig leaves are if you have never seen a fig tree up close. Jeff is worried about protecting these trees over the winter, so Mike has some suggestions. He wants Jeff to pick a site on his property that is protected from “dessicating winter winds”. The area should drain well and can be poor soil, since Fig trees like those conditions. Then Jeff should plant stakes in the ground and wrap burlap around the stakes to protect it even further. Mike wants Jeff to take the other fig tree and keep it in the pot and put it in a garage where it can go dormant over the winter.


Planting a pineapple

Opal in Shreveport, Louisiana got really lucky this year with a pineapple when she cut the top off, put it in some water and actually got another pineapple growing out of it! Opal wants to know if she might get another pineapple out of this same plant. Mike congratulates Opal and says that this is a great activity for children. You just cut the top off of the pineapple put it in some water and then let the roots appear. Mike says once that happens you should really plant the pineapple in a pot. Opal did so well because of her proximity to the equator and having a much more tropical climate. Mike thinks that if she gets the plant in soil in a pot and feeds it with compost she could possibly get another fruit.

Oct 04, 2014
The mysterious wild American strawberry

Mike McGrath explains why fall is the best time to plant a tree, how to get your fig tree to produce more fruit, how to rid your garden of Mexican bean beetles, why ivy needs to be cleared from your tree trunks, the best way to cure a gourd, and the mysteries of the wild American strawberry.


Question of the Week

A couple of weeks ago, our Public Radio show, “You Bet Your Garden” got a very sweet phone call from a guy named Jeremiah in Tennessee. He explained that he’s now blind, but back when he was sighted, he stumbled onto a beautiful plant growing in the woods. He said that he researched it and thinks it might have been something he called a “wild American strawberry bush”, but wasn’t sure. He called it “the most amazing plant”, and wanted to know where he could buy one and how to grow it.

Read more about wild American strawberry »


Highlights from show for September 27, 2014:

Transplanting an oak sapling

Sean from Hubert, North Carolina received a potted oak tree sapling and after caring for it indoors for a year, now wants to transplant outside. He’s concerned about the salty, sandy soil in his yard and asks Mike for help. Mike says: “The great news is that this is the perfect time of year to plant a tree. The survival rate for trees that are planted in the fall, especially the early fall, is much higher than plants that go in in the spring, especially in a climate like yours where summer can suddenly warm up and get really torrid. Your tree will have the winter to go dormant, which its been trying to do — this poor thing is sleep deprived! — and then when it wakes up it’ll have some good root growth established and it’ll do some more root growth before summer comes a calling.” Mike goes on to explain that when planting, Sean should dig a wide, shallow hole and place the tree high enough in the ground so that the point in the trunk where the roots begin to flare out is exposed. Planting the tree high in the ground and leaving this musculature of the plant exposed ensures a strong, steady tree in the future. Mike also advises Sean to add compost to his sandy soil for a nutritional boost.


What to about a healthy fig tree with no figs

Eileen Green Creek, New Jersey has a healthy fig tree that isn’t producing figs. She has the Mike assures her that this is a very common problem. “You have a very common problem. Now, this fig tree is in a very exposed area that you’ve identified. What happens with fig trees is typically over the winter, even in a non-culling winter, they will suffer some amount of die-back. And then in the spring, depending on how much old growth they have and new growth, that’s going to decide for you how many figs you get. The smart money would go back in time and plant your fig closer to the house. Believe it or not, being closer to the structure in a somewhat protected area — especially with ocean winds, the winds down there when they pick up can be enormous — closer to the house, you’d probably be eating figs right now as we’re talking.” Mike advises that if the tree is going to stay where it is, Eileen should take extra steps to protect it through the winter. Staking the tree and loosely covering with burlap will protect against winter damage during the upcoming season, and a healthy pruning the following spring will promote healthy growth, and hopefully, some figs.


That’s not a ladybug

Tara Reading, Pennsylvania has started her first garden and is looking for an organic solution for what she thinks are ladybugs snacking on her string beans. Mike corrects her and explains that she has a different pest on her hands: “Well, you don’t have ladybugs. There are two creatures who look like ladybugs a little bit but are destructive, and you have what’s known as the Mexican bean beetle. And of course, ladybugs only eat aphids and other insect prey. So you would never mistake a true ladybug for a Mexican bean beetle. Although, I would tell you that the adults look remarkably similar — they are both true beetles, you know, they’ve got the spots and everything.” After assessing her gardening set-up, Mike finds that a few simple mistakes have probably created a stressful situation for her plants, causing them to be more vulnerable to pests like the Mexican bean beetle. He recommends making moves to set up a healthier garden next year: building raised beds, filling them with locally sourced mushroom soil and start string beans from seed rather than from seedling plants. If the Mexican bean beetles make another appearance, Mike advises spraying the plants with sharp streams of water first thing in the morning. And then “And then put some bird baths in the soil — just the saucers of the bird baths — and get toads to come into your garden. Toads are the greatest controller of Mexican bean beetles and the Colorado potato beetle, which is the other pest that looks like a ladybug.”


“Put some bird baths in the soil — just the saucers of the bird baths — and get toads to come into your garden. Toads are the greatest controller of Mexican bean beetles and the Colorado potato beetle, which is the other pest that looks like a ladybug.”

Mike McGrath



Keep ivy away from your tree trunks

Mario from Audoboun, New Jersey has a large white pine that’s fairly healthy, save for the clumps of brown needles that have been appearing on the tree. He explains that the tree is 30 feet tall with a little ivy growing near the base of the tree. Mike stops him there and says: “Has it occurred to you that the ivy is a bad idea? It should not be anywhere near where it can reach the trunk. If your white pine is 30 feet tall, it has an extensive root system that goes out — in many cases — as far underground as the furthest branch goes out upstairs. And ivy is a tremendous competitor for food and water. And when it gets on the trunk, it gets the trunk damp. So really there should be at least a foot of open space all around the trunk.” Mike explains that while all evergreens lose their needles continuously, white pines can be “drama queens” and lose piles of needles at once. To keep his tree healthy, Mike advises Mario to clear any ivy that’s near the trunk of the tree, feed his lawn organically in the fall and see if the tree improves in the spring, explaining “White pines can do darn good roll over dead impression and be perfectly healthy.”


Curing gourds

Kyle from Mertztown, Pennsylvania has thirty mature bottleneck gourds in her garden and doesn’t know how to cure them for an alternate use. Mike says: “You know, before we had metal implements and when glassware was really expensive and ceramic was really expensive, these gourds were used for the storage of liquids, made into ladles, carved into birdhouses.” Mike explains that since she has all the gourds she needs, she should clip any new flowers that are appearing on the plant. This will allow the plant to concentrate its remaining energy on maturing the gourds that Kyle wants to pick. To know when to pick the gourds, Mike says to knock on the oldest, largest gourds and listen for a hollow sound, and shake them gently to see if she can hear any seeds rattling around. If the gourd has hollowed and sounds like it has loose seeds it’s is ready to pick and bring inside for curing. If the seeds aren’t rattling around, leave the gourd outside to mature on the vine longer. Cure the gourds indoors in a cool dry place until they are totally solid before carving.

Sep 27, 2014
Don’t underestimate the weed known as “Jack in the Pulpit”

Mike McGrath explains how to get rid of yellow jackets and borers safely, what benefits thousand-leggers offer, the best way to grow a palm tree indoors, how to prune vines from a lilac bush, and why the weed “Jack in the Pulpit” should not be underestimated. Plus, Mike speaks with Elizabeth Millard, author of Indoor Kitchen Gardening.


Question of the Week

“The most pernicious weed I have ever encountered in my 50 years of gardening has invaded my soil. The only garden center in the Philadelphia area that even knew of it told me there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to get rid of it except sift every inch of soil to remove all the rhizomes. I have spent hours doing this and they continue to roar back. The “flower” is a variation of a cobra head with a thin purple thread-like stem emanating from the hood (in and of itself very sinister looking). Its scientific name is Pinellia. Please help me with this!”

— Susan Miller; greater Philadelphia

Read how to get rid of “Jack in the Pulpit” weed »


Highlights from show for September 20, 2014:

How to get rid of yellow jackets safely

Kathy, in Wayne, Pennsylvania has unfortunately discovered a nest of yellow jackets in her compost pile. Clueless on how to get rid of them and not wanting to poison her compost in the process, she hasn’t gone anywhere near it. Giving Kathy a mini-bio of yellow jackets, Mike explains there is no point in spraying or pouring anything on these wasps, because their nest is so protective and shielded with many layers. All those chemicals go off the sides and hurt us or taint our drinking water. What Mike suggests is either A: leave them alone and unharmed, because it is just a short term problem, as soon as the winter comes they will all die and not return to to the same nest they once inhabited. If it’s really bothering her she can B: cover the nest with a tarp, wading down the edges with rocks, using a can of cooking spray to neutralize any of the wasps that might escape. This will “cook” the nest and kill these dangerous creatures.


Correcting an insect infestation

Tyler from Marion, Indiana has a maple tree in his backyard that looks as if it has been infested with borers, which are insects that range from caterpillars to beetle larva. They have been poking holes in his tree. Mike goes into how insects such as these, like to be in damp, moist areas and how to prevent from them spreading any further such as, getting into Tyler’s house. Mike suggests exposing approximately 6 inches to a foot of soil around the foundation of his house because to them, it is like a desert, and they will die anywhere that is dry. But to treat the source of the problem, Mike has advised Tyler to buy “Beneficial Nematodes” along with a garden syringe, which are microscopic creatures that prey on whatever is infesting plants. Tyler should inject it into the tree to maintain a healthy tree.


Special guest Elizabeth Millard

Mike speaks with Elizabeth Millard, author of the new book, Indoor Kitchen Gardening: Turn Your Kitchen Into a Year-Round Vegetable Garden. Millard is a proponant of growing microgreens in her indoor kitchen gardening system and uses them for many different purposes. However, you can grow plants as large as tomatoes. Although Millard warns that is about as big as any indoor gardener should go.

Why not? That’s the whole impetus for almost everything that I do. Why not grow microgreens on your dining room table?”

Elizabeth Millard


Thousand leggers: Friend or foe?

Dan in Central Pennsylvania, has been crushing, everyday, on average, 5-10 creepy crawlies throughout the night in his basement. These creatures are known as house centipedes or thousand leggers. Dan has been suffering with these centipedes running all over, although they pose no threat to him, only to other insects they want to eat in his basement. Mike suggests having a merciful approach to these unwanted predators, as they are not threat to humans, but are great ridders of insects and are keeping Dan’s basement free of bugs. If Dan has to get rid of them, Mike recommends vacuuming them up and letting them go outside.


The ever-growing palm tree

Amber from Claymont, Delaware has an unknown variety of palm tree that she bought a year ago. The tree, while beautiful, is getting too large to keep in her home. The first year she actually used it as a Christmas tree, but now she wants to know how she can keep it safe during winter without taking up the whole living room. He urges her to remove any damaged leaves because they will not be able to photosynthesis. However, he states that it’s not a bright idea to taking off the tips of the plant without knowing if they will regrow or not. Most importantly, he suggest that she should keep it pot bound and in the bay window where she originally kept it, for that is the ideal location for the plant.


A mysterious vine choking a lilac bush

Carol in Ventnor City, New Jersey is a part-timer at her vacation house in New Jersey, and is there for a part-time care taker of her Lilac bush as well. Last year she realized that a vine had made its way around her bush almost choking her plant. This year, once again, after pulling the vine off her plant from last year, it has regrown and choked her bush. This time, however, it covered the entire bush. To treat this vine, Mike has recommended that Carol cut the vine where it comes out of the ground with loppers or pruners instead of pulling the vine. “When you sever it at the root, the top growth will die” explains Mike. Repeatedly cutting those stalks , while opening up the roots of the plant will cause the inside to rot, and eventually die.

Sep 20, 2014
Let dragonflies eat your mosquitoes

Dragonflies are voracious predators of mosquitoes and other airborne annoyances. Mike McGrath reveals an easy way to coax these beauties into eating your pestiferous problems! Plus: Mike speaks with the co-founder of Mole Zap/Ant Zap about a new cure for moles.

AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach


Question of the Week:

This isn’t really a gardening question, but I’m curious about dragonflies. I know they’re very beneficial so I’m always glad to see them in my yard down the shore. (I call them all dragonflies, even though I believe that some of them are actually called ‘darners’.) Anyway, my question is: do the larger ones catch and eat the smaller ones?”

— Jim in Villas, New Jersey

Learn how to attract ‘mosquito hawks’ to YOUR landscape »

Highlights

A Problem with Snails

Lidia in Avalon, NJ has a major problem with snails. They are eating almost everything she plants in her garden. Mike assures her that there is a solution and that it’s best to tackle these creatures directly. He recommends a product called Slug-Go that is Iron Phosphate wrapped in a yeasty bate. The bonus is that yeast and iron are both really good for your garden!

Make a Poinsettia Bloom

Charles in Churchhill, Tennessee has a beautiful poinsettia that he nursed since last Christmas. The plant has done wonderfully in a 2.5 gallon pot on a column at the end of his driveway. Charles wants to know if he can make the plant bloom in time for Christmas this year. Mike gives Charles a history lesson telling him about the first poinsettia that was exhibited at the Philadelphia Flower Show in the 1800’s, which had many red bract’s, otherwise known as the red leaves on the plant. Mike is happy to tell Charles that he has picked the perfect time to try and do this and that he can absolutely force these beautiful blooms. All he has to do is put a box over the plant at night for 12 hours so it achieves an equal amount of darkness and light simulating conditions near the equator. This process will bring about the beautiful red leaves.

Mole / Ant Zap

Mike speaks with co-founder Sam Noto of Mole Zap/Ant Zap, an ingenious new way to humanely kill moles and ants in their tunnels without danger to you or your family. The product uses C02, which puts the creatures to sleep permanently in their tunnels. All you do is drop it in and wait. This is especially good for people plagued with fire ants, which are incredibly dangerous and sometimes lethal. This product allows you to quickly deal with the ant mound without harm to you. More information on Mole Zap/Ant Zap.

Wood Mulch Woes

Barbara in Egg Harbor Township, NJ has heeded Mike’s warnings about wood mulch, but was sad to see her neighbor spread cheap wood mulch all over her garden. Now the neighbor is dealing with mushrooms popping up that have a particular likeness to a certain body part. These mushrooms smell terrible and are a real nuissance! Barbara is worried that her own garden will be affected by these mushrooms springing up. Mike warns her not to kick these ‘stink horn’ mushrooms, as they are properly named, because they will send up a horrible odor. He suggests using agricultural lime or woodash to nutrilize the mulch, but the best bet is to never spead the stuff in your garden in the first place.

Stink Bug Control

Rick from Dayton, Ohio has a problem with stink bugs on his tomatoes. They are all over the plants, but so far the tomatoes seem to taste ok. However, he still wants to get rid of these pests. So, he bought a systemic pesticide that he used, which seemed to work at first. Mike is astounded that there is a systemic pesticide for home use on the market and strongly urges Rick to never use this kind of chemical again as it is in the fruit he and his family are eating! Mike’s recommendation is to make the plants strong from the get-go so they are not attractive to these pests. One way to do that is to get high quality compost and to make sure not to put the plants out till after the last frost date. If Rick can make some changes he’ll have a healthy garden!

Sep 13, 2014
Save your annuals!

Winter’s icy grip will soon put an end to our annual plants. Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will reveal how you can bring the brightest member of your shade garden inside for free indoor color all winter long! Plus Answers to all your growing questions.


Question of the Week:

I planted ‘Dragon Begonias’ this year on the advice of a friend after complaining that NOTHING would flower in my shady yard. I bought a dozen plants mail order, put them in the ground in early spring and by Mother’s day, all but one were thriving. My husband bought me another four plants at a local nursery and I planted them in the same area. It is now near the end of August and my begonias have thrived, providing me with a beautiful bounty of non-stop lovely red blooms that delight me every day. My question is: Can I somehow preserve them for replanting next year? I’ve been asking friends and I’ve gotten as many answers as I have friends. Some say, “no way; when they die, they’re done”. Some say to cut them way back at the end of the season and bring them indoors in pots. Some say to hang them bare root in my basement thru the winter. What do you say??”