Click on a map to download the Ecoregional Planting Guide. Each guide will give you information on specific plant traits that pollinators prefer ( color, odor, pollen, nectar, flower shape ) as well as a list of plants to support pollinators in that region. There are many overlaps in plant varieties in these guides. We wanted to include specific regions because we have customers that are from nearby areas that may live in a different zone. Mankato is zone 4b and in the Prairie Parkland Temperate Province.
Sources: Pollinator Partnership. Selecting Plants for Pollinators, Prairie Parkland, Temperate Province. Published by Pollinator Partnership, San Francisco, USA. https://www.pollinator.org/guides#about
Pollinator Partnership. Selecting Plants for Pollinators, Eastern Broadleaf Forest, Continental Province. Published by Pollinator Partnership, San Francisco, USA. https://www.pollinator.org/guides#about
ABOUT POLLINATOR PARTNERSHIP MISSION
“Birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other small mammals that pollinate plants are responsible for bringing us one out of every three bites of food.
They also sustain our ecosystems and produce our natural resources by helping plants reproduce.
Without the actions of pollinators agricultural economies, our food supply, and surrounding landscapes would collapse.”
These perennials bloom during the early growing season and are a welcome sight after a long-cold winter. Mix these spring flowering perennials in with your summer and fall-blooming flowers for a show of sequential blooms all gardening season.
We hope you have found a perennial that caught your eye! Look for the perennials above in our nursery as well these other spring flowering perennials, listed below, when you are adding to your landscape this season.
When it comes to plants, reliable is a characteristic we love! This is our top 8 ‘tough as nails’ perennials that will come back every year and tolerate a wide array of conditions. We would like to mention, even though they are tough, it doesn’t mean they can be completely neglected of nutrients, sun, and water. These plants, after their first couple years of more watchful care, will definitely catch your attention with their beauty, tenacity and reduced level of care once established.
Yarrow Vintage Rose with Salvia in the background.
Achillea millefolium is a Native American plant. Yarrow adds light texture to a garden and one of the best low care perennials for adding a burst of color. It grows tall ( can be up to 3′-4′) with showy clusters of fragrant white, red, pink, or yellow flowers, depending on the variety. It does well in hot and dry spots and resistant to pests. Their blooms typically last from early summer through early fall and are a wonderful cut flower!
Feather Reed Grass
Feather Reed Grass
Calamagrostis x acutiflora is an upright clump forming ornamental grass, with multiple varieties, that adds architecture, movement, and the seed heads add floating fluffy textures in the fall through winter. It does best in moist, rich soil but can handle poor, dry soils as well. This is the perfect grass for urban areas and tough to grow sunny areas. In addition to its high tolerance for multiple conditions, it is pest and disease resistant. Prune down foliage to a couple inches above soil before new growth in the spring and add organic fertilizer if it’s in poor soil if you want to give it a boost and that’s it!
Phlox paniculata Coral Flame.
There are so many varieties of phlox it’s impossible to describe them all but they come in low, medium, and tall growing forms to fit in just about any garden. It’s one of the most versatile and colorful plants that have been used in gardens for over 100 yrs and for good reason. Most are long-blooming, often fragrant, and tall varieties don’t require staking. They prefer moist, rich soil and full sun, but depending on the variety, some don’t mind poor, rocky soils or part-sun. Flower colors range from pure white to red, with nearly every shade of pink, lavender, salmon and purple and some multi-colored petals. With proper planting, you can avoid most disease issues, such as powdery mildew.
Handwriting on the Wall Daylily.
Hemerocallis means “beauty for a day”because daylily buds blooms only one day but has successive blooms over 4-5 weeks. Some daylily varieties are labeled rebloomers since they perform a couple times in the season with successive blooms. The Daylily is considered “a perfect perennial” because it’s drought tolerant, can grow in almost any kind of soil, can grow in full or part-sun, offers an array of early season to late season blooming varieties, has showy vibrant colors, are pest and disease resistant, and attracts birds, bees, and butterflies. Can be grown on hillsides, around the city, or in a traditional garden with very little care needed.
Pure Joy Sedum with coneflowers.
Sedum, also called stonecrop, have thick succulent like leaves that form clusters of small colorful flowers (white,red,pink,or yellow) in late summer and fall that bees love! There are low-growing and tall varieties that love full sun and can handle drought conditions. Once these plants are established they require almost no care. Sedums are easy to split in spring and fall if they get too big for their space. These perennials can grow quickly! Foliage of the fleshy leaves are not only green but there are varieties with varying foliage colors. For example, Sedum Dragon’s Blood Tricolor has white and green foliage with pink edges or deep purple leaves like Sedum Dark Magic. Just make sure these plants have well-draining soil because they can succumb to root rot in prolonged wet soil.
Pow Wow Wild Berry Coneflower.
Echinacea, comonly known as Coneflower are bright, upright, and tough perennials! They can take the heat and drought conditions once established ,deer resistant, and trouble free! Echinacea purpurea is the native coneflower to North America but there are varieties with many different bloom colors. These flowering perennials can have blooms that last from mid-summer though fall! Give coneflowers full sun and avoid other plants shading them. They don’t need much in regards to fertilizer if you mix in plenty of compost into the soil when planting. They attract bees and butterflies and if you leave the flowers on in the fall, birds like to eat the seeds. Prune off dead flowers in summer to promote more blooms for fall.
Denim N’ Lace Russian Sage. 2020 PW Perennial of the Year.
Perovskiaatriplicifolia, commonly known as Russian sage is a must have plant to add to your garden! Russian sage has grey-green leaves that are very aromatic with bluish-purple flowers that bloom mid-summer through fall. It can tolerate clay soil, dry soil, street salt, and are deer and rabbit resistant. It’s also disease and pest resistant! It really is a tough plant! They can fill up a 3′-4’x3’x4′ space in your garden quickly. Birds, bees, and hummingbirds will appreciate this valuable addition as well!
Blue Fortune Hyssop. Photo Courtesy of Monrovia.
Agastache, or commonly known as Hyssop or Butterfly Mint, have very fragrant foliage and flowers that attract bees and butterflies. The flowers bloom late summer through fall to add color when other perennials are winding down. Most hyssop varieties are native to North America and not only like compost rich soil but also lean, dry soil. They prefer a “tough love” approach so they don’t need much water once established and be sure not to over-fertilize. Only top-dress with compost in spring if you want. Hyssop prefer full sun but can tolerate part sun areas.
“What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.”
– Gertrude Jekyll, On Gardening
This post is about late spring/early summer gardening tips and things to look for that may be showing up soon in your garden.
Don’t forget water soluble fertilizers for container plants. Container plants are in a potting soil that do not contain enough nutrients for all season. Depending on the plant, you will need to add fertilizer to the water or use a slow release fertilize like Osmocote. Follow directions of product and individual plant needs for fertilization. Top dressing containers with compost can also be done to add some nutrients.
Boost for New & Established Plants
Most in-ground soils will benefit from adding organic material like compost and a starting fertilizer like Biotone Starter before planting or Plant Tone after planting. Top dressing the established perennials/shrubs with compost in the spring will give them an extra boost of nutrients. Plants like butterfly bush, delphinium, and clematis like if you put a mound of compost around their root ball.
Newly planted plants in the ground need deep watering so their roots reach down and establish themselves before winter and reduces stress on the plants. Water deeply a couple times a week. If it rains a little (pay attention to how many inches you get with a rain gauge), you can water around your new plants a little more to get water deep into the soil. It helps you conserve water and save time watering. 1″ of water per week is the recommended amount of water. Pay attention to the soil and if it is wet looking, hold off for another day. Best method is to stick your finger in the soil and if it’s dry a couple inches down, it’s time to water.
Remove weeds now while they are small, as they grow quickly. Weeding is easy when soil is damp since it’s easier to pull the whole plant including the roots. Be careful not to walk on soil around your plants to avoid compaction of the soil.
Prevent Fungal Diseases
With rain and warming weather you need to be proactive about fungal diseases. It’s best to prevent it, instead of treating it because once it starts, you can’t get rid of it completely. Treat your plants that have a higher chance of fungal issues with a fungicide before you see signs of it. For example, tomatoes usually get blight so best to treat with Bonide Revitalize or Copper Fungicide before it starts. Make sure to water your plants at the base and water in the morning when possible so the water can dry before it cools off at night. Mulch around your plants as well to help prevent fungus from the soil splashing on your plants.
Insect damage is going to start. Keep an eye on your plants for damage to their foliage. It’s important to remember, a little bit of insect damage is not bad and if you see an insect, it doesn’t mean they are bad. We need to move passed the thought that bugs are icky and nuisance. There are very important insects that are good for the garden and actually improve plant health.
Look for these invasive species instead:
Japanese Beetles: Metallic looking green/bronze beetles flying or munching on landscape plants. They love roses, hollyhock, cherry trees, plums, grapes, blackberries, and linden trees. They can be found snacking on other plants as well. Read more about them here. Incorporate plants that repel Japanese beetles such as catnip, chives, garlic, nasturtium, and white geranium around your susceptible plants. Jumping Worms: Although we haven’t had any recordings of jumping worms in our area, these can be very detrimental to lawns and gardens. There are sightings of these worms in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area so if you are doing any transplanting of plants from that area, purchases of mulches and soils, or any plant swap around our area. Read more about them here so you can know what to do to avoid them or if you see them, how to alert the U of MN Garden Extension. There are no proven ways to eradicate these worms yet.
Getting rid of insects isn’t always easy and great care should be taken if you choose to spray with insecticides, even ones labeled organic. It’s still an insecticide made to kill insects.
*Quick side note about fungus since we have been having cool springs the last couple years. With cool/wet weather you may encounter anthracnose on your plants. If you are seeing brown spots on trees and shrubs early in the spring it may be this.
Starting a Garden & Resources
Congrats on starting a garden! There has been a huge increase of people wanting to grow their own food as well as flowers, pollinator plants, and converting lawns to native species. This post will hopefully help bring some info together and be a place to update and share resources you have shared with us!
First, I’d like to link to our Resources page. For example, this is where you can find more info from Bonide, our recommended disease and pest control brand, or from Espoma, the plant fertilizers and amendment product line we have most of in store. Also info on maintenance of plants, or starting a victory garden.
This is a great video and article on what you should do when starting a garden. It covers everything from where to put your garden and down to soil health. It links out to other resources as well if you want to learn more. Space choice, soil health, etc can not only be used for vegetable gardening but perennials, native, and other gardening you’d like to do!
Hope some of this helps as a jumping off point to start your own garden this year! We have our greenhouse grown plants like annuals and produce starters, quality plants shipped from vendors so you can get mature perennials, as well as annual flowers for baskets and filling in landscaping, native plants, shrubs and trees for a living privacy fence, sun and shade perennials
It’s time to embrace your outdoor living space!
Early Spring Yard and Garden Tasks
The desire to start gardening and enjoy outside is hard to suppress. Each spring will bring us new weather patterns and it’s best to take Nature’s cues when it comes to accomplishing these yard and garden tasks
YARD AND GARDEN TASKS:
1. Wait to clean up dead perennial matter until temps are consistently around 55F-60F. Beneficial insects will be in their dormant state in leaf litter and dead perennial matter. You should wait to clean up dead plant material as late as possible into the spring.
You can top dress with compost as well as mulch around the root zone of your plants when you see perennials emerging.
2. Clean and sanitize your outdoor containers, bird baths, bird feeders, and garden tools. Check out the new garden decor and tools in store!
3. Prune off dead/damaged branches on shrubs and trees. Late winter/early spring is the best time to prune trees, before their buds are formed. Refer to our pruning guide in regards to shrubs and trees.
4. Clean debris from your vegetable garden and top dress the soil with compost at least two weeks before you plant. Avoid compaction of the soil by using designated walkways. Compaction of the soil will reduce the level of oxygen available for plant roots. Lightly till in compost if you notice your soil is compacted.
5. Early to Mid-April, depending on weather and ground temperature, is the best time to put down new grass seed or ground covers like clover. Wait to scatter seed until day temps are 60F+ consistently before spreading seed. Most seeds, including grass won’t germinate until the soil is 55F+. We carry bulk or bagged grass seed from Ramy Seed in Mankato. If you want to forego a conventional grass lawn, get a wildflower seed mix and scatter the seed in mid to late April.
Please note, if you want to do a weed killer in the same area you want new grass, you will have to wait to over-seed grass until summer or fall. If seeding is more important – forgo the crabgrass or weed killer and just use a lawn food
6. Apply crabgrass killer and weed pre-emergents just before we have consistent 60F days. Most products last 6-8 weeks and timing the application with the weather is important or you may need to reapply. Weeds germinate when soil is 55F. There are many turf products, likes Maxlawn Weed and Feed, that contain fertilizer as well as weed killers so you can accomplish both tasks if you have weeds throughout your lawn. Our staff can help you decide what is best depending on what you want to accomplish!
If you don’t mind weeds, use a lawn fertilizer around the time you have to mow for the first time.
Plant summer bulbs when the soil has warmed to above 40F and the soil isn’t soggy. Usually early April through mid May depending on the spring weather. The soil should be rich and well-draining to avoid bulb rot if cooler temps come back.
Find growing instructions in the store!
Cool Season Hardy and Semi-Hardy Vegetables:
Welcome new gardeners!
Late winter and early spring is the time to start seeds indoors. Our last frost date is projected as May 1- May 15th. The last frost date is what you work from when planting your seeds indoors. Keep your eye on the weather and it will help you know when you can acclimate your seedlings and then transplant outdoors.
First let’s talk about some of our early sowing seeds, cold hardy vegetables like the brassicas family which includes cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage can be seeded in early to mid-March as well as lettuces. These cold-weather crops can be put outdoors earlier and do well in a cold frame or hoop houses as well for an earlier start.
Important seed packet info:
Best time to plant for our zone
How deep to plant the seeds
Days to germination gives an idea how long it takes the seed to sprout
Days to maturity = the number of days from planting to harvest
Seedling thinning & spacing directions
Check if it’s a perennial or annual to help determine where you are placing the plant
Examples of plants sowing times before transplanting outdoors:
**Hardy perennials may require cold stratification or scarification for proper germination
What type of growing medium is best?
AVOID using soil from your yard/garden if possible! It is an easy way to introduce unwanted pest and disease problems. *Most at home compost piles do not get hot enough to kill harmful pathogens.
Some plants may require specific soil/drainage requirements.
Seed Starting Mix
-Fine textured, soiless medium
-Sometimes heat sterilized
-No nutrients, intended for germination only
Standard Potting Mix
-Easily sifted to achieve a fine texture for seed starting
-Available with or without added nutrients
Make your own!
-Many recipes online for DIY germination mix and potting mix
Materials you may need:
– When choosing a size: How many plants do you want to grow? How big is the seed, and how much room do the roots need?
-Provides a controled environment for proper germination
-Soak in water to expand the pellet
-Plant entire pellet into your pots or garden
-With drainage holes: Fill with seeding mix and scatter seeds. Divide and up-pot/plant out
-Without drainage holes: Use under plug trays to catch water/soil
-Fits over most plug trays and open flats
-Short dome for seed starting
-Tall dome for cuttings
-Helps keep soil moist
-Use various sizes to start seeds if desired. Divide and up-pot/plant out
-Choose the RIGHT sized pot when up-potting! Too big and it may not dry out fast enough, causing root rot. (Can up-pot again to a larger size if needed.)
-Plastic, Coco Coir, Biodegradable options
Watering Can/Spray Bottle
-Stream from watering can may be too harsh for seedlings
-Most homes are not warm enough for proper germination
-Raises soil temp 10-20 degrees above room temperature
-Be careful when using in combination with dome and lights!
Lights & Timer
-Supplimental light is essential to growing happy seedlings indoors!
-Prevents weak, leggy plants
-Full Spectrum/Daylight. T8 & T5 Florescent, Standard Bulbs, LED
-Use a timer to make life easier! 14-16 hrs. of light per day
-A light breeze helps grow strong plants!
Caring for your seedlings.
Proper watering is essential.
-Allow tap water to sit out overnight to dechlorinate. Avoid using soft water.
-Keep soil evenly moist until germination
-Know your plant’s specific needs
-Find a routine and water early in the day.
-After germination, allow soil to dry slightly between watering. This encourages root growth! (Avoid “loving your plants to death”, aka over watering)
-Bottom watering keeps foliage dry
-Seedlings do not need nutrients right away. Wait until they have a few sets of true leaves before feeding
-Know your plant’s specific needs
-Half strength, balanced fertilizer works well for most
-Granular soil amendments
-Allows your plants time to adjust to light, temperature, and environmental changes
-Start in the shade on a calm day, for an hour or two. Slowly increase time outside and sun exposure over several days
Here is a pdf version of instructions on seed starting indoors and some guidelines on when to start certain crops!
We carry grow lights, seed starting kits, seedling potting soil, fertilizer, and seeds. Later in the spring we will have vegetables and herbs that we have grown for you to purchase if you don’t get to starting your own seedlings.
Planting Fall Bulbs for Spring Blooms
Get an early welcome to spring with tulips, crocus, daffodils, and more when you plant bulbs this fall.
When to plant:
When the overnight temperatures start dropping, around 40°overnights or 6-8 weeks before the ground freezes. You can buy bulbs before this time and we highly recommend it so you’re ready to plant! Store the fall bulbs around 60 to 65 degrees F in a dry area before being planted.
Things to consider when choosing bulbs:
Bloom Time – Read the labels of bulbs to see when they are expected to bloom and you can plant for a succession of blooms through the spring into summer. This bulb bloom graph from Netherland Bulb Company is showing the planting depth and bloom time for fall planted bulbs to help envision the succession of color.
Where to Plant – First, make sure the soil is well-draining. Bulbs don’t like wet feet or else they may rot. Add amendments like compost or top soil to ensure proper drainage. Try not to plant in low lying areas where water pools and stays wet for awhile. Add Bulb Tone to your soil when you plant to give them proper nutrients before and after blooming.
Most bulbs need full or part sun. Check the bulb packaging to see sun requirements.
Layout – Bulbs look best in groups. Consider adding them to areas where you already have perennial plants to fill in bare spots. They will brighten that area early spring and then the foliage will be camouflaged by other herbaceous perennials and shrubs as they fill out.
It’s called “naturalizing” when you plant bulbs in sporadic groups throughout your garden to make it look like more natural, like a meadow.
Bloom Colors – You may like a certain color repeated throughout your yard or if you want to dive into color combinations you can go back to what we learned in art class and use color schemes! Analogous, complementary, monochromatic, and split complementary colors are color schemes that you can build with flowers and other plants!
List of Fall Bulbs at Drummers:
Allium – purple pom poms atop wand-like stems.
Crocus – very early color. Some even bloom in snow!
Daffodil (Narcissus) – sunny yellows and white. These are great in groups. Great for forcing.
Grape Hyacinth (Muscari) – purple or pink.
Hyacinth – fragrance that will stop you in your tracks! White, pink, purple. Great for forcing.
Tulip – Huge variety of colors, sizes and bloom times. Have a ball! Great for forcing.
Cornell University actually did tests with planting bulbs with other perennials to see how they looked. Click here to see the results!
TOP 5 TIPS for Summer-Planted Landscape Plants
Spring and fall planting has the least amount stressors for new trees, shrubs and perennials IF we have mild weather, and rain. Planting in the summer, with the peak sun, searing heat, and drying winds are just added stressors to new plants but it doesn’t mean you can’t plant. With a few extra precautions you can make it work and your plants will do fine!
1.MOST IMPORTANT! – WATERING
Proper watering is vital to the plants survival. Proper watering doesn’t mean watering everyday. At least 1″ of water a week spring through fall season is the recommended amount. Frequency will vary in the type of soil you have. In clay soils, infrequent yet thorough deep watering is needed. This is because the water doesn’t percolate quickly through the soil. However in a sandy soil, water percolates easily. This requires lower volume and more frequent watering.
A slow stream of hose water for 5 min-10 min should give you a deep thorough watering of trees and shrubs. We like to use one 5 gallon bucket every week to two weeks, with 1/8th holes drilled in to slowly drip.
Perennials should be watered every 3-7 days depending on soil type and weather.
Check the soil regularly by pushing your finger a couple inches into the soil before you water, EACH TIME. You can also insert a screwdriver into the soil and if it’s easily penetrated, the soil is moist. If the soil is moist, wait to water. Remember, even drought tolerant plants need a couple of years to fully mature and need deep thorough watering. Searing heat and windy days can require you to water more often as well since your plants are losing more moisture.
2. PROPER PLANTING TECHNIQUE
Make sure to follow our planting guide (See image below) on the back of our Winter Hardiness Warranty Slip that comes with all trees and shrubs. Mix in compost and slow release fertilizer with beneficial fungi, bacteria, and nutrients, like Bio-Tone, into your native soil to help get your newly planted shrubs, trees, and perennials off to a strong start!
Use 2-3 inches of mulch around your plants to help retain water and keep soil cool during hot and dry days. Mulch around the root zone and keep the mulch 2-3 inches away from the stem of the plant.
4.READ THE LEAVES
Summer-planted plants may wilt regularly if you are under-watering or from heat stress. More water sensitive plants, especially new perennials with shallow root systems, will tell you if they need more water. If there is slight wilting during the day yet they have moist soil, they may be succumbing to heat/light stress if no other signs of pests or disease are present. If they are still wilting after the sun is going down, they are most likely under-watered if the soil is dry or the roots have already been stressed from over-watering. The best method to quickly learn how much water you plant needs is to check it regularly. You’re plant will start establishing it’s roots and watering frequency may decrease.
5. PLANTING TIME
Planting on a cloudy day is also less stressful for them. If the cloudy day is followed by a day or two of rain, all the better! You can also plant in the evening, deeply water, and that give it half a day before it gets blasted with the summer sun.
We also made a video of planting a shrub for how to properly plant a landscape plant.
During extreme heat, wind, and sun weather, you can watch this next video for some tips.
Top 10 Perennials 2019
Back in January of this year, the full-time staff went to the Northern Green Conference up in the Twin Cities for continuing education and to see what is new for this year in landscaping and gardening. One of the more popular sit downs was the Top 10 lists of perennials, shrubs, and trees. Since June is Perennial Gardening Month we thought we’d share the Top 10 Perennials of 2019 decided by Mike Heger. Mike has been in the horticultural industry for over 40 yrs and has even written a book on growing perennials in cold climates. He of course prefaced the list with saying this was a very difficult list to make and was focusing more on natives and pollinators this year. Check out the quick list of his Top Ten Perennials!
Top Ten Perennials 2019
Baptisia Lactea ‘ White False Indigo ‘. Tough, long-lived plant, and tolerates many different soils and light conditions. Great nectar plant. The Blue False Indigo, Baptista ‘ American Goldfinch ‘, and Baptisia Decadence Series are other Baptisia he mentioned.
Calamintha nepeta ‘ Montrose White ‘ (Catmint). Clump forming mint with long bloom time. Great for bees and hummingbirds love it. Considered a zone 5 but could possibly survive our winters in the right spot.
Clematis ‘ Arabella ‘. A rambling ground cover that can have flowers all summer long. Mike said his bloomed 14 weeks! Bees and Hummingbirds enjoy!
Helianthus ‘ Lemon Queen ‘ (Hybrid Sunflower). Blooms late summer and fall and great for all kinds of pollinators. It’s a great tall, background plant. Blooms 2-2.5 months!
Native Liatris ligulistylis ( Meadow Blazing Star ). It blooms from the top down and monarchs and butterflies love it. Tolerant of many soils and high light. Another good native option is Liatris Pycnostachya.
Nepetax faasenii ‘ Purrsian Blue ‘ Catmint. A low maintenance clumping mint with 4-6 mths of color. The ‘Cat’s Pajamas’ is the shorter version with similar qualities. Will see butterflies, moths, bees, and hummingbirds around it!
Origanum ‘ Rosenkuppel ‘ (Ornamental Oregano). Burgundy blooms June-September and even past September at times. It prefers full sun and no wet feet. It is a zone 5 plant so may not survive winters in southern MN.
Salvia nemorosa ‘ Blue Marvel ‘. This perennial sage has violet-blue blooms and the butterflies and bees flock to it. Other forms of Salvia have white, pinks, and purple blooms and there are plenty of varieties to choose from.
Stachys monieri ‘ Hummelo ‘ Boteny. This is the 2019 Perennial of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association. This perennial tolerates many different soil and full sun to light shade.
Vernonia fasiculata ‘ Common Ironweed’. This native perennial can get up to 6′ tall and is a wonderful nectar plant. Painted lady butterflies love them and are a great plant in the back of the garden due to their height. Their blooms are a bright purple and bloom July, August, and September.
Acidic Soil Loving Plants
Water, Sun, and Soil (Nutrients). These are plants three basic needs.
Plants need nutrients and a relationship with elements in the soil can determine the health of plants. Soil pH is important to the uptake of nutrients and related to some common issues that may arise. For example, you may add fertilizer to your garden but still have little effect on your plants if for some reason your soil pH is off.
The texture of the soil is an additional variable (loamy, silty, sandy, or clay) and another topic all together. There is a method at the bottom of the post that will also improve soil texture/aeration.
Now, we will go over acidic soil ranges, what plants grow best in acidic soil, and what you can do to improve your soil’s pH.
What is acidic soil?
The range of pH is from 0-14. Acidic soil is considered anything below 7.
Most plants like to grow within the 6-7.5 pH range for optimal nutrient uptake. In Southern MN, you may notice a lot of clay soil with lime, which tends to be more alkaline, 7 or above. Water coming from hoses in this area are usually more basic (increases alkalinity) as well.
Other factors that affect soil acidity are rainfall, nitrogen fertilizers, plants like pines, and subsoil acidity. The best way to know your soil acidity level is a quick home test. We have soil pH tests plus soil nutrient tests. If your plants are thriving than you probably wouldn’t need to test it unless you are curious.
Plants that enjoy acidic soil:
Plants that enjoy slight acidity, 6.0-7.0 range:
Most plants! Each plant has a pH range it can tolerate and many plants can handle 6.0.
Plants that tolerate extremely strong acidity, 4.5:
Trees and shrubs – Azalea 4.5-6, Blueberry 4.5-6, Hydrangea-Blue flowered 4.0-5.0, White Pine 4.5-6.0, Rhododendron 4.5-6
Flowers – Lily-of-the-Valley 4.5-6.0
As you may have noticed, plants have a range of pH that they will grow in and thrive. Those plants that have very strong and an extremely strong acidic soil needs, may need additional amendments to keep soil pH down. If you are noticing any issues like yellowing leaves, no fruit production, growth seems stunted, and not blooming, checking the pH is recommended first before using fertilizers.
What can you do to change soil pH?
The best way to improve soil pH is through addition of amendments and adding organic material. To increase acidity, add sulfur, and to decrease acidity, add lime. With both of these amendments, you will have to do it in stages as to not shock the plant. Read instructions on any product you use since each may differ.
These are our favorite supplements to use to adjust the soil pH and will not shock the plants if used as directed:
Epsoma Soil Acidifer – Organic, Safe, long-lasting, and won’t burn the plants if used as directed. Repeat in 60 day intervals if needed.
Epsoma Berry Tone for Berries – Organic, Good if you need to slightly increase acidity, Use early and late spring, Use on blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, Will help produce bigger plants and more berries.
Ways to adjust soil pH by adding organic material:
Add compost, manure, and peat moss to your garden beds. If you add compost and manure your soil, it may become more neutral so the addition of peat moss, which is acidic (3.0-4.5) can help temporarily adjust acidity. This is best to do in the fall since it takes more time to adjust the soil pH using this method but feel free to feed plants with top dressing of compost/manure during the growing season which is another great way to improve the soil’s aeration.
Modifying your soil’s pH will take some time. Depending on the type of soil you are working with, the addition of supplements and organic material may be needed year-after-year.
If you test your soil and notice you have troubles with keeping your soil more acidic, choose plants that will tolerate more neutral or alkaline soils. There are plenty out there!
Gardening by the Moon – A Fascinating Lore
We have all heard of the moon effecting the water tides but have your heard of it effecting soil moisture?
From The Farmers Almanac, gardening by the moon “is an age-old practice of completing chores around the farm according the the moon phases and that the moon governs moisture.”
Growing in Popularity
It is growing in popularity for various reasons but prominently because people are trying to find ways to stay in touch with nature. If people pay attention to the seasons, weather conditions, and natural patterns they can start to feel more in touch with their environment and surroundings.
There are certain garden centers that plant solely on moon phases and swear by it. We have yet to find current research projects that proves it to be more effective. However, we can find anecdotal evidence of its effectiveness online. To be in touch with your environment and weather conditions is an important part of your gardening success. Even if it is gardening by the moon’s phases or not. On this website , they list some sources of research, anecdotal accounts, and their findings for gardening by the moons phases.
The over arching rule is that people plant specific crops based on the phase of the moon. It is also believed there are better times to prune, build fences, wean animals, fish, etc. What do they mean by better? Everything from better yields, increased growth, stronger fences, juicier meat, and even to more flavorful produce.
The general rules, from The Farmers Almanac website, is “the new and first-quarter phases, known as the light of the Moon, are considered good for planting above-ground crops, putting down sod, grafting trees, and transplanting.
From full Moon through the last quarter, or the dark of the Moon, is the best time for killing weeds, thinning, pruning, mowing, cutting timber, and planting below-ground crops.”
Working on your garden and land by the moon does seem like a good way to keep track of when to do certain tasks. If it produces better yields and healthier plants that would be an amazing bonus!
Conditions Are Important
If you choose to plant by the moon please remember that other planting conditions still need to be paid attention to.
Present and forecasted weather conditions
Specific planting needs of the crops you want to grow
If you have any questions about when to plant something please contact us or stop in and chat about your gardening goals!
Living soil is all about diversity. Diversity of fungi, bacteria, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods, and earthworms breaking down organic matter that produces nutrients for plants to use. Who knew it was all of those things that makes a soil healthy…a living soil!
First, let’s talk about healthy fungus and bacteria.
Mycorrhizae is “a fungus that grows in association with the roots of a plant in a symbiotic or mildly pathogenic relationship”. Imagine a network of fungi that connects plants to one another and their relationship to eachother as mutually beneficial.
Plants feed the Mycorrhizae and Mycorrhizae help feed the plants. Untamed Science has an article that goes into more depth on Mycorrhizae. Have you heard of how plants have their own internet and can talk to each other? Read about it here from the BBC.
The three different kinds of Bacillus contained in this label on the right all have their own roles in the nutrient uptake of a plant. For example Bacillus megaterium is a phosphate solubilizing bacteria (PSB). As the name suggests it helps the nutrient phosphate become available for the plant. Others are nitrogen solubilizing bacteria and some are potassium solubilizing bacteria. Bacillus and Mycorrhizae will improve the growth of the plant, it’s nutrient uptake capabilities, and boost its immunity to disease.
Hopefully you will read more about these amazing underground webs of fungi and bacteria to better understand what they are doing but sometimes we just need to know…
“How can I ensure my soil is a ‘living soil’?”
1. Test your soil pH and nutrients. We carry SOILKIT, soil testing kit that you send in, with a postage paid envelope included, for them to analyze or you can submit a soil sample to the U of M.
2. When you plant a new plant into the ground use a fertilizer that contains these Bacillus and Myccorrhizae (Ectomycorrhizal Fungi – as seen on the label above). This will help build those highways of networking fungi and bacteria to boost your plants nutrient uptake. See the second image down of the tomatoes grown with and without Biotone. Incredible difference!
3. Try practicing a low till method of gardening. No-till farming has become a conservation effort for soil and water and low till or no-till gardening experience has shown that tilling the ground can interrupt these networks of fungi beneficial to our plants. If you add organic compost or manure on-top of your soil instead of tilling it in, it will slowly add the nutrients your soil needs. Less hard-work digging up dirt and better for the soil! Win win! You may need to use tilling to break up compacted sod when converting soil for a garden but even then if you lay a thick layer of compost over the sod or try the “black-out” method of covering the sod with newspaper, cardboard, or whatever blocks the sun out until it dies, then putting dirt on top, has worked just fine! Just keep in mind this takes a few years to create the healthiest soil, depending on how deficient or compacted it was before.
4. No bare soil! Keep your soil covered with mulch or a living ground cover. If you have dried grass clippings, use that! If you have leaves, use that! It is important to note that any diseased foliage should not be used as mulch.
Any mulch will help reduce evaporation of water (less watering, yah!), stop weeds from growing, and add nutrients to your soil over time as it breaks down. Another method to cover your soil is planting a cover crop or ground cover to stop weeds and to feed the soil! Some examples are oat, field pea, hairy vetch and buckwheat. See the buckwheat cover crop on the image to the right. This piece of soil was very nutrient deficient and needed a nitrogen fixating plant. The plant actually puts nitrogen into the soil! The blooms were great for pollinators also!
5. An added bonus of using a cover crop is it makes your own green manure. When you grow a cover crop you can leave the uprooted or sown crop to die once winter hits and leave it there until spring and lightly work into the soil or use as a natural mulch.
6. Soil aeration is very important. Keep permanent paths to walk on in-between your crop rows. This prevents the soil around your plants from compacting and interrupting the proper water and oxygen balance. Just like us, we need water and oxygen and when soil gets compacted it doesn’t hold the correct percentage (25% of each) of water and oxygen for healthy plants. The compost you added to your soil is also going to help aeration because it adds non-compacted organic matter and brings in earthworms who help aerate soil. If you don’t see earthworms, you know you don’t have enough delicious organic matter for them to eat. Add composted plant material and manure to help bring in the worms!
Soil health is one of the important part of our gardening efforts and understanding what it needs will help grow vigorous, healthy, and productive plants.
Sometimes we have this grand plan to large bushes of herbs and many varieties and then when it comes to using them you only use a few leaves or stalks. Or am I the only one? This quick list of ideas might help you when you when we want to try a new cultural dish, add some freshness to cooked or baked dishes, or maybe you want to have all year round use of herbs to enjoy that extra deliciousness without buying from the grocery store.
1. Eating Herbs
Of course this is one way to use those herbs! The thing is, we tend to just use a couple sprigs here and there and letting the rest rot or go to waste. Here are a few ideas on how to use more of them.
-Take a handful of herbs…yes handfuls…and mix them up in a salad. Make it part of your greens. Try to stick with parsley, cilantro, chervil, tarragon, mint, and dill since they are lighter. A vinaigrette would pair nicely as not to overwhelm or mask the flavor of the herbs with a thick Ranch for instance. Add some protein and viola!
For herbs like parsley, basil, mint, and cilantro, a great method of storing them to not degrade the flavor is by freezing. All you have to do is remove the leaves and discard the stem, and chop them according to how you envision using them in the future (soups, stir-frys, etc). Not generally good for fresh eating after thawing so think of a way you could use by cooking or baking.
Another way that you can store herbs is by drying them first. First and foremost, remember to use containers that are clean and dry when storing herbs. An article I found is really helpful on how to dry herbs for storing. https://theherbalacademy.com/6-tips-for-storing-dried-herbs/There are a few ways of doing this but hanging them in loose bundles in an area that gets good air circulation until crispy dry is a great way to have a little bit of farmhouse feel decoration as well as readily available herbs to use. Slowly drying will help keep the smell and taste integrity over a fast drying method in the oven.
This is something that I don’t hear many people doing but it’s a great way to change up our coffee, tea, cocktails, dressings, and whatever your herbie heart desires! The two ways I like to do it is by making a simple syrup or infusing an oil. You can make edible oils or just massage oils!
Do not buy a simple syrup in the store ever again! Use this for cocktails, coffee, tea, or something you want to sweeten up and impart the flavor of whatever you infused.
Basic Simple Syrup:
Equal parts sugar ( typically white sugar but try raw or demerara- great for Whiskey drinks) * I have not tried using a sugar substitute but give it a try!* +Equal parts water
+Now add your flavor! Rosemary, lavender, mint, ALL THREE?! Bring it to a boil and once the sugar is dissolved (will be really quick) take off heat. I like to let it sit with the herbs in there until room temp and then strain into whatever clean container with a snug lid I have. Keep it in the fridge!
Infusing with Oil
You can blend the herbs in the oil (EVOO could be really strong and over power the herb taste so a more neutral oil is best) and then bring to a boil. Sieve out the herbs through coffee filter and store! I always try to keep the oil away from the sun and even chill it in fridge so it lasts longer.
You can also just put herbs in oil and let it sit until the flavor is in the oil. Jojoba oil and olive oils tend to have long shelf lives so its good for making massage oils, hair treatments, salves, etc.
Two of our employees have a great business that make herbal teas! Click “Herbs for tea” for a file you can browse to look at few recommendations for annual and perennial herbs to grow and uses for tea!
5. If your herbs go to seed some can be used for your spice cabinet. Cilantro seed is coriander so you can crush or powder to make your own seasoning. Dill seeds are great for pickling! Chive flowers are edible and have a delicious mild onion flavor. Fry them up or eat fresh! If the seeds/flowers are not something you want to eat, then dry the seed pods of your favorite herbs and plant next year or for another summer to fall crop.
6. Even if you don’t use them for culinary purpose, don’t forget herbs and their flowers can attract pollinators, and even be a repellent for unwanted pests like mosquitoes.
Basil: repels asparagus beetle and the tomato hornworm. Plant side by side with your tomatoes
Catmint: repels aphids, asparagus beetle, Colorado potato beetle, and, squash bugs. Careful because this can easily spread from flower seeds.
Chives: repel aphids and Japanese beetles. Flowers attract bees.
Dill: repels cabbage moths and attracts beneficial insects. Flowers attract beneficial pollinators and predators like ladybugs, green lacewings, braconid wasps, tachinid flies, hoverflies, mealybug destroyers, and aphid midges.
Garlic: repels aphids, cabbage moths, and Japanese beetles. Plant under rose bushes to help repel Japanese beetles to their favorite food.
Hyssop: repels cabbage moth and great companion for all cole crops (any plant in the Brassica family…leafy greens, broccoli, kale, cabbage, turnips,bok choy)
Parsley: repels asparagus beetle. Best if you lightly crush the leaves to release the scent.
Sage: repels cabbage moths and carrot rust flies. Flowers attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
Rosemary: repels cabbage moths, carrot rust flies, and Mexican bean beetles and mosquitos.
Lavender: repels mosquitos. Attracts butterflies and other beneficial insects.
Mint: repels mosquitoes, aphids, cabbage moths, and even ants. Be sure to plant in pots or else this may take over your garden!
Culinary herbs such as mint, thyme, tarragon, oregano, dill, and chives can also be interplanted throughout the garden to help repel deer.
Whatever you want to do with your herbs, go for it! Experiment! If you don’t have time to use them, start giving them away! I love the gift of fresh herbs with some flowers!
We have some really great people here at Drummers so when you are picking up seed or a potted herb plant ask someone what they use a specific herb for.