Black Blister Beetle Battles

Another unforeseen issue has arisen in my garden: blister beetles!  These voracious beetles are systematically devouring the foliage of our plants.  So far they've taken turns tasting our tomatoes, tomatillos, and even a clematis.  I'm not heartbroken over the clematis as it's a sweet autumn clematis that grows like a weed - it will come back.  But I do want the tomato plants in the vegetable garden to prosper and so I need to find a way to eliminate the blister beetles before the foliage is all removed. I have what are called black blister beetles.  Blister beetle larvae are predatory insects that love to eat grasshopper eggs but when the larvae mature they become vegetarian and only eat the leaves of your favorite plants... Black Blister Beetle with droppings I noticed our blister beetles when I saw some strange droppings on top of the leaves and on some tomatoes…

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5 Vegetable Garden Design Tips

For several years now I've written about the value of planting in raised beds.  One of the most viewed posts on Growing The Home Garden is my post Designing a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden: 11 Things to Think About.  It has 11 design tips that will help your vegetable garden layout achieve its maximum potential.  Hopefully you'll find them useful!  I've been thinking lately that it may be a time for an update on these design tips.  Whether you use raised beds or not the concepts are easily applied to every vegetable garden!  5 Vegetable Garden Design Tips Before you start your garden plan what you want to plant, how much you want to plant, and how much garden you have time to maintain.  It's very easy to go overboard on garden in the spring time when the plants are small.  You think to yourself "Oh, I can squeeze in…

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Creating a Deer Resistant Shade Garden (Part 2)

A shade garden just isn't a shade garden without plants right? So what plants should get planted in a deer proof garden? Oops I said proof again. Nothing is 100% proof against a deer. Resistant is a better word. So let's try this again.  What kind of plants should be planted in a deer resistant shade garden?  Surprisingly there are quite a few good deer resistant candidates for shade gardens.  Take heucheras for instance.  Heucheras or coral bells are fantastic plants for shade gardens.  Heucheras like it dry, have quite a few colors to make things interesting, and can take the damage from deer and rabbits once established.  They also aren't extremely tasty for deer either! In addition to heucheras, hellebores are very deer resistant. In fact the foliage is poisonous so deer really won't want to nibble on them very much. There a quite a few other plants possible…

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Creating a Deer Resistant Shade Garden! (Part 1)

I've always loved shade gardens.  Foliage plants like hostas and heucheras are two of my favorite types of plants and I just don't have enough space in my yard for them.  The other issue I have is deer.  They've eaten many of my plants over the years.  They love sampling a little bit of everything in the garden and there truly are few plants that are 100% deer proof.  But there are ways to make a garden resistant to deer to minimize their damage.  For my Lowe's Creative Ideas project this month I've set about to solve my deer problem by creating a deer resistant shade garden.  All the materials for the setup of this garden were purchased at our local Lowe's and paid for by Lowe's Creative Ideas. To create a deer resistant garden of any kind you have to do several things: plant the right plants, disguise the…

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Blackberry Lily (Belamcanda chinensis)

A couple years ago I was given a blackberry lily (Belamcanda chinensis) to add to my garden.  I planted it when it was covered with seeds and let it go to grow as it could as I do with so many plants. I forgot about it but apparently several seeds landed in different location near our front porch entry area and surprised us with its flowers this year. Blackberry Lily with 'Powis Castle' artemisia and potato vines Blackberry lily is a member of the iris family and resembles irises with its foliage.  The color and texture of the leaves is very similar but the formation of the leaves differs.   The flowers are about 1 and a half inches in diameter and are colored bright orange with specks of darker orange to red colors.  The flowers eventually produce a seed that resembles a blackberry hence the name.  It readily grows…

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Three Favorite July Flowers

It's always nice to have a few flowers that are so extremely reliable that you can count on them even during the most awkward periods of weather.  Recently it's been raining which has been helping us recover from our drought but these flowers were doing great in the drought conditions.  Let's take a look! Orange cosmos is always a standout.  I haven't planted it in a while.  Cosmos is a prolific self sower, but not to the extreme that the beautiful orange flower can't be controlled.  It's a great flower for attracting beneficial insects!   'Black and Blue' salvia gets fairly large and spreads by its roots but will always have a place in my garden.  I've always been a big fan of salvia in general (see my posts Salvias of Fall or How Much Salvia is Enough?) but Black and Blue stands out to me with its dark stems…

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5 Vegetable Garden Things to Do in July

This July has been very strange for us here in Tennessee.  We ended June with intense heat and dryness which continued into July then the weather changed.  Rains came back and with them came the hope of producing a quality crop from the vegetable garden.  To achieve the best results from the vegetable garden there are a few things that gardeners should be doing this month.  Here's a short list of ... 5 Vegetable Garden Things to Do in July! Keep on top of the weeds.  Weeds left uncontrolled are infinitely worse than those dealt with on a regular basis.  Lots of moisture and high heat are good conditions for weed growth so they will be growing fast!  Fortunately rainy days loosen the soil and make pulling invasive weeds a simple chore! Continue to harvest vegetables.  The more you pick the more you'll get!  Constantly harvesting vegetables from the garden…

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Garden Status Report: Mid July

It hardly seems to me that spring had even started before it was gone.  This growing season has gone by so quickly, or maybe I'm just getting too busy!  Unfortunately the garden has been through some rough times.  Drought and unbelievable record heat have crippled gardening in many ways from killing plants to keeping gardener's with common sense indoors (although I'm not sure I completely fit in that category!)  Here are a few photographs of how the gardens are doing now.     Zucchini - Costato Romanesco The vegetable garden is growing along just fine despite the weeds and weather.  I need to spend 3-4 days out there getting the weeds in check which should be a lot easier now that we've had rain to loosen the soil.  Before the rains removing weeds was like trying to remove the Sword In the Stone!  If successful I guess that would make…

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Clearing a Shady Area for a Garden

In the very back of our property we have a shady area.  It's about the only shady area that has occured naturally in our landscape.  A mixture of walnut, sassafras, hackberry, and maple trees create a shade area that until recently was completely unusable!  It was a problem area in our landscape which I thought would make a great subject for my next Lowe's Creative Ideas project.  Why is this area a problem?  First of all it's an area I would like to utilize for growing more plants (mostly heucheras and hostas).  But also because it has housed a couple invasive plants that really need removed from our property: Japanese honeysuckle and poison ivy!  Brushy area in the shade in need of clearing. Poison Ivy mixed with Virginia Creeper I'm sure you know why poison ivy needs removed.  Fortunately I am not allergic to it however that doesn't mean my…

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5 Heucheras and How They Perform

Over the years I've accumulated quite a few heucheras for my garden.  Heucheras or coral bells are becoming more and more popular as a wide array of unique cultivars continue to come on the market.  You might even think that heucheras are relatively new to the horticultural world when in fact they've been tinkered with by horticulturalists since the late 1800's.  Heucheras are native to North America and can be found naturally from the west coast to the east coast.  Heucheras thrive in rock gardens and in dry shade where other plants might not be so happy.  Heuchera breeders are working on developing more sun tolerant heucheras as well as heucheras with larger flowers. As a general note I'm fascinated with them.  Foliage colors range from green to amber to brown to purple while the bell shaped flowers general stay between a mid range pink to white in color. Today…

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