Welcome to Empress of Dirt’s Two Minutes in the Garden—our podcast! Get bite-sized informative updates on gardening basics, gardening myths and other subjects of interest to gardeners both new and experienced.
Available wherever you find podcasts—just look for “Two Minutes in the Garden” in your podcast app or use one of the links below. You can also hear it as a flash briefing on Amazon Alexa devices. Scroll down to see a list of episode topics.
1Listen Right Here
Our podcast is hosted by my husband Gary. When we hear garden, nature, and environmental topics discussed, debated, or questioned, we look into the research and see what it has to say.
They are brief but satisfying bite-size episodes, just a few minutes in length.
If you have a topic you would like covered, send me a message at melissa @ empressofdirt.net (without spaces) and we’ll see what we can do!
2Subscribe to the Podcast
Click on any button to subscribe in your favorite player:
If you’re new to podcasts, and want to listen to episodes on your phone, you can install a podcast app to subscribe. Two very popular podcast apps are:
Install the app, and use the app’s search feature to find Two Minutes in the Garden. New episodes will be shown in the app as they are released.
3Listen to the flash briefing on Amazon Echo
To hear the briefing on Amazon Alexa devices:
- Open the Alexa app on your phone.
- Tap the menu icon (the three horizontal lines in the top left).
- Select “Skills & Games”.
- Tap the magnifying glass icon to search for “Two Minutes in the Garden”.
- Tap on the show.
- Tap “ENABLE TO USE”.
Once it’s enabled, say “Alexa, what’s my flash briefing?” whenever you want to hear the latest episode.
Or you can enable the briefing in the skills store for your country:
- United States | Amazon.com (US)
- Canada | Amazon.ca (Canada)
- United Kingdom | Amazon.co.uk (UK)
- Australia | Amazon.com.au (Australia)
- India | Amazon.in (India)
414 – Does Garden-Grown Produce Have A High Carbon Footprint?
A recent study claimed that urban-grown fruits and vegetables had a carbon footprint six times that of those from conventional farms. Rants ensued.
413 – Does Touching Soil Make Us Happier?
For the last 15 years, gardeners have been told that soil acts like an antidepressant, thanks to a particular bacterium. Is there anything to it?
412 – Do Gardeners Need Crop Rotation?
It can do great things on farms, but does crop rotation make sense in a garden? What are the benefits claimed for crop rotation, and can we get those same benefits in easier ways?
411 – Plant Nutrients (Part 4): “Up, Down, All Around” and the Phosphorus Myth
Do nutrients really specialize in one aspect of plant growth, like roots or shoots? Why adding more of one nutrient to your soil, like phosphorus-heavy bloom boosters, often don’t provide any benefit.
410 – Plant Nutrients (Part 3): The Trouble with Balanced Fertilizers
Are you using a balanced fertilizer in your garden? It may seem like a simple and effective way to provide nutrients to your plants, but it could also cause problems for your soil and for the environment.
409 – Plant Nutrients (Part 2): What Do NPK Labels Mean?
Most countries use a confusing and outdated NPK labelling system for fertilizer packages. What do the numbers mean? Depending on where you live, it’s probably not what you think. And why is a “balanced fertilizer” not so balanced after all?
408 – Plant Nutrients (Part 1): What You Need to Know
Our plants can’t live without them, but how do we know that they’re getting them? Do we need to feed them to our plants? And what are these essential nutrients?
407 – Mushrooms: Friends or Foes in the Garden?
Not everyone wants them in their garden, but others grow them deliberately. They aren’t even plants. So what are mushrooms and are they okay around our plants?
406 – Is Soap Safe to Use in the Garden?
What kinds of soap should we be using — or avoiding — in the garden? What about liquid dish soap? And we’re all familiar with soap, but what is it, exactly?
405 – Composting (Part 4): How Much Compost is Too Much?
Compost is great for your garden, but can you have too much of a good thing? What problems could there be if you use too much? Will it harm your plants … or something else?
404 – Composting (Part 3): What to Add and What to Avoid
What can you add to your compost pile? Is it any organic material, or are there some things you may want to avoid? What about dryer lint or hair?
403 – Composting (Part 2): Simpler Than it Sounds
Calculating C:N ratios? Regular turning? For anyone who’s been put off from composting because it sounds too involved — it really isn’t as hard as it’s sometimes made out to be.
402 – Compost: The Most Valuable Organic Matter for Your Soil
When it comes to building healthy soil, there may be no more important tool in the garden than compost. So what is compost, and how does it help our plants?
401 – Humus: What Is It and Why It Matters
We’ve heard that humus is good for our garden, but do we know what it actually is? And, for that matter, does ANYONE know what it actually is? And why has humus become a controversial topic?
400 – Plants in Water: A Balancing Act
We’re told not to overwater our plants, but some popular houseplants grow fine with their roots fully immersed in water and nearly all outdoor plants experience overwatering at times. How does that work?
399 – No Mow May: Does It Really Help Pollinators?
No Mow May is a popular initiative that encourages people to stop mowing their lawns for a month to help bees and other pollinators. But does it really work? And what are the drawbacks? In this episode, we explore the pros and cons of No Mow May from a gardener’s perspective.
398 – How Frogs Benefit Your Garden — And How to Attract Them
Frogs enrich your garden in many ways: they control pests, provide food for other wildlife, and indicate a healthy environment. In this episode, we explore the fascinating world of frogs and their role in the garden ecosystem.
397 – Fast-Growing Cool-Weather Crops for Spring
At the beginning of a new gardening season, temperatures are still low, but some vegetables thrive in cool weather and can be ready to eat in just a few weeks. Choose these vegetables and before you know it, you’ll eating your first batch of produce fresh from your garden.
396 – Helping Ground-Nesting Bees: The Unsung Garden Heroes
Most bees don’t live in hives and most don’t live in hollow stems. They live in the ground and emerge from the soil in the spring and summer to join us in the garden. What can we do to make their winters easier?
395 – Protecting Your Garden From Deer Damage
Deer can cause a lot of damage to your garden, but there are ways to prevent or reduce it. Learn about different types of fences, repellents, deterrents and deer-resistant plants that can help you protect your plants from these hungry animals.
394 – Baking Soda in the Garden: Is it Really Harmless?
Also known in many parts of the world as bicarbonate of soda or bicarb soda — you see it recommended for dozens of uses in the garden. It sounds pretty harmless, but should we be using it around our plants?
393 – Starting Seeds: An Overview
What’s the advantage of starting seeds—especially indoors? What do you need? What do seeds need to germinate? And how can you improve your odds against diseases?
392 – Growing Carrots in Your Garden
Carrots are one of the most popular vegetables to grow in the garden, and you can get them in a range of sizes and a rainbow of colors.
391 – Whacking Tree Trunks and Other Strange Garden Tips
Does hitting the trunk of a tree with a baseball bat or or a stick make it produce more leaves—or maybe more flowers or fruit? It sounds crazy, but is there anything to it?
390 – Do Comfrey and Other Plants Grab Nutrients Deep in Our Soil?
In permaculture circles, they’re called dynamic accumulators—plants that accumulate above average levels of particular nutrients in their leaves, which we can then add to compost piles, use as mulch or in other ways make the nutrients available to our plants. Do they work?
389 – Humidity and Houseplants—Increasing Humidity Indoors
Humidity doesn’t get as much attention as temperature, light and soil moisture, but it can have a big effect on our plants. Many houseplants prefer more humidity than we give them, especially over the winter. What can we do about that?
388 – Growing and Propagating Aloe vera
It’s one of the world’s most popular houseplants. Easy to grow and easy to propagate—and maybe even a handy source of some skincare gel.
387 – Why Leaves Change Color (and Why Some Don’t Fall)
What makes the leaves of some trees change color? Is there a benefit to the trees? And what about deciduous trees that keep leaves over the winter?
386 – Is it Safe to Use Paper in the Garden?
Many gardeners put paper overtop of a lawn to create a new garden bed. Or add paper to their compost pile. Is it safe?
385 – Horticultural Oil: How Does it Work? Is it Safe?
You hear it suggested a lot in gardening circles as a pesticide and maybe even to prevent diseases, but what is horticultural oil and how does it work?
384 – Why You Can’t Have True Blue Roses (and Many Other Popular Flowers)
Blue flowers do exist in nature, but not in many of our most popular flowers. And it’s even been a struggle for scientists to create them.
383 – Using Human Urine in the Garden—Benefits and Risks
It’s not for everyone, but human urine in the garden has lots of enthusiasts. Urine contains lots of nitrogen and several other essential nutrients, but it also has some things that aren’t so good for plants.
382 – Monarch Butterflies and the Garden (Part 2)
We’ve all heard that we should be planting more milkweed to help a declining number of monarchs, but some reports say they’re actually doing fine without our help.
Related: How to Collect & Grow Milkweed Seeds
381 – Monarch Butterflies and the Garden (Part 1)
They’ve become poster children for the global decline in insect numbers and they face significant threats. How might we be able to help monarchs in our garden?
380 – Attracting Dragonflies to Your Garden
They’re big and colorful—powerful fliers that stand out in a crowd. And they eat mosquitoes. What can we do to attract dragonflies to our garden?
379 – Can We Sequester More Carbon in Our Garden—and Should We?
Keeping carbon out of the air and in our garden can help the environment, but can we keep carbon sequestered and have healthy soil at the same time?
378 – How Plants Capture Carbon and Help the Environment
Carbon sequestration is one way our plants help the environment—by taking carbon out of the air and holding on to it or putting it in the soil.
377 – Growing Oak Trees from Acorns
They aren’t the world’s fastest-growing trees, but you can start with an acorn and—with some patience—end up with a tree that supports a diverse range of wildlife in your garden.
376 – How Oaks Benefit the Garden Ecosystem
Oak trees not only look great, they support a diverse range of birds, insects and other wildlife, as well as microorganisms in the soil.
375 – Preventing Downy Mildew
Downy mildew can spoil the appearance of many plants, reduce yields of fruits and vegetables, and sometimes even kill plants. What can we do to avoid it?
374 – Long-Day vs Short-Day vs Day-Neutral Plants
Plants can detect changes in the length of the day as seasons change. Some will only flower—or can’t flower—when daylight reaches a certain length.
373 – What is Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade?
There are lots of plants to choose from for almost any amount of sunlight outdoors, but you have to match the right plant with the right area in your garden.
372 – Are Slugs Repelled by Beer? Copper? Eggshells?
For decades, baits have been a popular way to deal with slugs, but there are concerns about their impact on wildlife and the environment. Do any of the suggested home remedy alternatives work?
371 – Getting Rid of Slugs in the Garden
Slugs can cause a lot of damage to plants like hostas and lettuce and many others. Is there anything we can do to stop them?
370 – Will Bird Feeders Spread Avian Flu?
There’s been an outbreak in avian flu this year in much of North America. Do our bird feeders increase the risk of spreading the disease?
369 – Getting Rid of Mealybugs on Houseplants
They’re a common pest and one that’s not easy to get rid of but there are things you can do to lower their numbers to a level plants can deal with.
368 – Hydrogen Peroxide in the Garden: Is it Safe?
You’ll find exuberant lists online with 10 or more uses for hydrogen peroxide in the garden—is it something we should be using?
367 – How Gardening Helps Our Well-Being
Physically and mentally, gardening has been shown to promote our health and well-being—as exercise, an outlet for creativity and learning, relaxation, and more.
366 – Perlite or Vermiculite: What’s the Difference?
They’re two popular options as components of potting mix. What are they, what do they do, and what advantages do each provide?
365 – Spider Mites: How to Avoid or Get Rid of Them
They’re tiny but can cause big problems for your plants—indoors and outdoors. How can you improve your odds of avoiding them, and what can you do once you have them?
364 – Using Cinnamon in the Garden: Does it Really Work?
It has lots of fans for all sorts of uses in the garden. But do they have a scientific basis or are they just “it worked for me” stories?
363 – Tomato Cracking: Can You Prevent It?
Your tomatoes are coming along nicely and then—out of nowhere—they’ve got big cracks down the side. Now what do you do? And is there something you should have done to avoid it?
362 – Avoiding or Fixing Compacted Soil
In compacted soil it can be harder for roots to grow properly—and that can reduce our plants’ ability to access nutrients and water and create other problems. How can we prevent it from happening, or fix it if it does?
361 – Getting Rid of Fungus Gnats on Houseplants
They’re definitely annoying and possibly harmful to plants, although often not. What can you do to avoid fungus gnats? Or, if that fails, get rid of them?
360 – Lichens and Their Role in a Garden
You see lichens growing on trees, rocks, walls and lots of other places. Do they harm trees? And what do they contribute to the garden?
359 – Can You Test Seeds By Floating Them in Water?
You’ve got a bunch of seeds that should still be viable to some degree—is there a quick way to find out?
358 – Radishes: The Easiest Vegetable to Grow in Your Garden
Not only are they easy to grow, but radishes are also one of the fastest growing vegetables and one of the first to plant in the spring.
357 – Why Are Sprouts Growing in Your Tomato? (Vivipary)
You pick up a tomato and see that something’s not right. Cut it open and there are some creepy looking sprouts growing inside. What’s that about and what do you do with the tomato?
356 – Growing Peas In The Garden
They’re one of the most popular garden vegetables and easy to grow, but there are some things to know about peas before choosing ones for your garden.
354 / 355 – Is Tap Water Safe for Plants? (Part 1 & 2)
Is it safe to use unfiltered tap water on our plants? Lots of people do, but are there risks—especially from substances like chlorine and fluoride added at water treatment plants?
352 / 353 – Do Houseplants Really Clean the Air?
We wouldn’t have air as we know it without plants, but do our houseplants act as an air filter? And was that really proven by NASA?
351 – The Enduring Myth of Poisonous Poinsettias
It’s the season for poinsettias and for warnings on social media about how you’re putting your pets at risk by having poinsettias in the house.
350 – Beneficial Nematodes (Part 2): Do They Actually Work?
They’re sold as an alternative to pesticides to kill a wide range of insects. But will they make a difference to your garden or lawn?
349 – Beneficial Nematodes (Part 1): How Do They Work?
You can buy nematodes to apply to your lawn or garden to control a wide range of insects. How do beneficial nematodes control pests?
348 – Why Plants Wilt—And How Watering Can Make it Worse
We know that unhappy limp look plants give us, especially on hot, dry days. Should we reach for the watering can or is there something else at work here?
347 – The Best Soil for Raised Beds (Part 2)
We know the properties we’d like the soil in our raised beds to have. What should we put in the mix to get them?
346 – The Best Soil for Raised Beds (Part 1)
Is there such a thing as ideal soil for raised beds? If there is, how do you know you’re actually getting it when you place an order or go to the garden center?
345 – Grow Lights and What You Need to Know About Light
There are lots of lighting options—especially with LEDs—and we may feel uneasy about whether we’re providing our plants the right kind of light.
344 – Why Photosynthesis is Essential to Plants
The oxygen we breathe, the food we eat, and most of the dry weight of the plants in our garden— they all come from photosynthesis, which depends on plants getting the light they need.
343 – Turning Autumn Leaves Into Leaf Mold
Leaf mold is a favorite organic addition to garden soil, and one that you can have at almost no cost just by keeping your fall leaves and letting them rot.
342 – Introduction to Hydroponics (For Soil Gardeners)
Even if you plan on sticking with soil, hydroponics tells us a lot about plants and soil. And if it appeals to you, then it’s a way to grow plants year-round.
341 – Planting Garlic in the Fall
Fall is peak garlic planting time. What do we need to know to grow garlic in our garden … and whatever happened to garlic seeds?
340 – An Introduction to Seed Saving
Saving seeds can be simple … or complicated depending on how ambitious you get. What are some of the challenges you may face saving seeds?
339 – Growing Asters for Vibrant Fall Colors
They’re a popular source of blues, purples, pinks and other colors in the fall garden … although, as far as botanists are concerned, most of them aren’t actually asters.
338 – Using Keiki Paste to Clone Orchids and Grow Other Plants
Keiki paste is used to propagate certain kinds of orchids. But what’s in it, does it really work, and can we use it on other plants?
337- Hollyhock Rust And How to Deal With It
There are more species of rust fungi than any other plant pathogen. Once you have it, there’s not much you can do about it, but you can make things more challenging for the rust.
336 – Rooting Hormone Alternatives—Do They Work?
Willow water, honey and many others are touted as natural alternatives to rooting hormone. But do they work as well as rooting hormones or at all?
335 – Rooting Hormones for Successful Cuttings
Rooting hormones an easy way to improve the odds that our cuttings will take root—and also to speed up the process a little bit.
334 – Do You Need Soil Amendments?
There’s a whole slew of amendments to buy or make and many do some good for our plants. But there’s also a lot to be said for keeping things simple.
333 – Improving Your Garden Drainage
You hear all the time that some plants need well-drained soil, but what does that mean, exactly? How do we know if we have it and what can we do about it?
332 – Nematodes: Good or Bad for the Garden?
They’re the world’s most abundant animal. Almost all of us have nematodes in our gardens. They do a lot of good for the soil but some of them can badly damage your plants.
331 – Compost Tea: Does it Help the Garden? (Part 1)
It has lots of enthusiastic supporters among gardeners and it also gets called snake oil. Can we come to any conclusions about compost tea?
330 – The Debate About Epsom Salt (Part 2)
What does scientific research tell us about the effectiveness of Epsom salt in the garden?
329 – The Debate About Epsom Salt (Part 1)
It’s a divisive issue in gardening circles. Will Epsom salt do wonderful things for your plants, or it is a load of unscientific hooey?
328 – Variegated Leaves: Causes and How to Keep Them
Variegation is very highly sought after, both in houseplants and for the garden. What is variegation and what challenges can it create for gardeners?
327 – Do Sunflowers Move to Follow the Sun?
Maybe the best-known attribute of sunflowers is that they follow the sun as it moves across the sky during the day. But do they? Or is it just a popular misconception?
326 – How to Grow Sunflowers in Your Garden
Sunflowers are very easy to grow and pretty low-maintenance. You just need to get a few things right—and make sure you buy the right seeds.
325 – Sunflowers: Not Always What They Seem to Be
Their flowers aren’t exactly flowers and their seeds aren’t actually seeds, but sunflowers are one of the world’s most recognizable and loved garden plants.
324 – Double Flowers … and Their Value to Pollinators (or Not)
All those extra petals provide a dense bundle of color, so gardeners love them. But pollinators and other garden wildlife may take a different view.
323 – Preventing Heat Damage to Your Plants
Extended periods of hot temperatures can create stress for your plants and cause damage—some that you can see and some you can’t. What can you can do about it?
322 – Bolting Vegetables: Can You Prevent It?
Bolting can ruin your vegetables in a blink of an eye. You can sometimes avoid it, but it’s really just part of the natural lifecycle of plants.
321 – The Science Behind Pruning and Deadheading
Why would we ever want to wound our plants? Can we really get more growth by cutting parts off? And what about more blooms?
320 – Powdery Mildew: How to Treat or Avoid It
It’s one of the most common garden diseases and one that gardeners quickly learn to identify. What is it and can we do anything about it?
319 – Using Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) to Control Pests
It’s a popular organic insecticide touted for being effective on caterpillars and harmless to people. How does it work? And does it live up to its billing?
318 – How Flowers Communicate with Pollinators
Some plants have developed flowers that send a message to pollinators—hey come check this out, you won’t be disappointed.
317 – Does Planting By Moon Phases Work? (Part 3)
Concluding our look at moon gardening. Is there reason to believe we’d get better results in the garden if we planted by moon phases and the zodiac?
316 – Does Planting By Moon Phases Work? (Part 2)
Lots of people love to do it, others have a hard time taking it seriously. Much of the growth in popularity in moon gardening over the last century is due to the influence of Rudolf Steiner.
315 – Does Planting By Moon Phases Work? (Part 1)
Lots of people love to do it … many others think it’s wacky. Is there any basis for gardening by the phase of the moon?
314 – Straw Bale Gardening: An Introduction
It’s been riding a wave of popularity since Joel Karsten’s book came out in 2013. What is straw bale gardening, and why might you want to try it?
313 – What is Square Foot Gardening?
Millions of people have bought the book over the last 40 years. Is square foot gardening something you might want to try in your garden?
312 – Using Milk in the Garden
You name it, and milk is suggested as a solution in the garden as a fungicide, insecticide, bactericide, fertilizer, biostimulant, disinfectant, hand sanitizer and more. Is there actually something to it?
311 – Should We Leave Dandelions in the Garden?
They’re not always the most welcome plant in the garden, although many people like to have dandelions for themselves and … maybe for bees too?
310 – What Does it Mean to Garden Organically?
Most of us would probably call ourselves organic gardeners to some degree—and maybe entirely. But what is organic gardening, exactly?
309 – Can You Propagate a Patented Plant?
You buy a plant from the garden center, bring it home, love it, and decide to divide it or take some cuttings so you can have even more. But in some cases you’re actually breaking the law.
308 – Using Neem Oil as an Organic Insecticide
It’s widely touted as a safe, organic alternative to synthetic pesticides, and it will kill a long list of pests including beneficial insects.
307 – Aphids and How to Control Them (Part 2)
They can drain the energy out of your plants and inject them with viruses. What can we do to stop aphids? What about ladybugs? Diatomaceous earth? Sticky traps?
306 – Aphids and How to Control Them (Part 1)
They’re tiny insects that can sap plants of their energy, give them viruses, and coat them with black mold. They’re also born pregnant and can quickly multiply on your plants.
305 – Mulch: What It Is and Why You Should Use It
It’s not just some pretty decoration for your garden! Mulch delivers benefits to your plants, your soil … and will even save you some work.
304 – Protecting Seedlings from Damping-Off
One of the biggest threats our new seedlings face is damping-off. What is it, and what can we do to improve our odds of avoiding it?
303 – The Strengths of No-Dig Gardening … and Objections
What is it about the no-dig approach that is so appealing, what are some of the objections, and what does the research say?
302 – The History of No-Dig Gardening
No-dig methods lower the apprehension of many new gardeners and have attracted lots of adherents over the years. Others question if a garden can really go without a good digging.
301 – Does Brushing Seedlings Make Them Stronger?
You can help strengthen your seedlings by giving them a quick, gentle brushing—maybe with your hand or something lighter.
300 – Should We Be Shaking Our Houseplants?
It’s a plant hack that has taken off on social media. Is shaking your plants just silliness, or is there actually something to it?
299 – Welcome Back Hummingbirds!
In much of the U.S. and Canada, we will soon be welcoming hummingbirds back to our gardens. When will they arrive and how can we prepare?
298 – How Salt Can Injure Your Plants
Salts are the source of essential nutrients for your plants, but they can also interfere with plant growth and even kill plants.
297 – How Important is a Soil Test?
It’s often recommended but seldom done, in practice. Do we really need to get our soil tested?
296 – Self-Seeding Plants Can Save Money and Effort
Free plants that you weren’t expecting to find in your garden can be a nice surprise—but may not always be what you want.
295 – Types of Seeds for Your Garden – Part 1
Seeds all have different labels on the packets—open-pollinated, hybrid, heirloom, organic—so what do those labels mean?
294 – Can You Clone Plants Through Seeds?
When we propagate plants from seeds we usually get a genetic combination of two parent plants. But some plants can actually produce clones of themselves through seeds.
293 – What’s the Problem With Starting Seeds Early?
Many of us are getting to the time of year when we can start seeds indoors—but we may need to hold off just a little bit longer. Why is that?
292 – Is it Safe to Use Wood Ash in the Garden?
Many people end up generating a lot of ashes over the winter from fireplaces and wood stoves. There’s some good stuff in there for plants, so can we use wood ash in the garden?
291- Why Plants Need Scientific Names
Some gardeners come to love scientific names and take pride in learning them … for others they can seem a bit pompous. But there are good reasons that our plants need scientific names.
290 – When is a Fruit Not a Fruit?
Juniper berries, ginkgo fruit and others may look like fruit, but botanists say otherwise. So, if they aren’t fruit, what are those fruit-like structures produced by non-flowering seed plants?
289 – Get Ready to Start Seeds Indoors
We’re heading into peak seed-starting season in this part of the world. If you haven’t started seeds indoors before, this is a great year to start—and now is the time to get ready.
288 – Using Manure in the Garden
Manure from different animals is a popular addition to garden soil but you’ll also hear a lot of warnings about its use. And what about using waste from your pets?
287 – Do Plants Have Sexes?
Have you heard the one about how you can tell a female bell pepper from a male? Well, that one’s just a myth: fruit isn’t male or female. But plants can be.
286 – Feeding Houseplants: Fertilizer Basics
It’s very different from what we do with plants growing outdoors in the soil. With houseplants, it’s all on us to make sure that the essential nutrients are available.
285 – Mimicking Changing Seasons to Break Seed Dormancy
Stratification is a technique used to give dormant seeds the experience of changing seasons even when they’ve only gone from a drawer into our fridge.
284 – Breaking Seed Dormancy with Scarification
There are things we can do with dormant seeds to prod them along and get them to germinate. One of the most important for gardeners is scarification.
Related: How to Winter Sow Seeds
283 – How Seed Dormancy Helps Plants Survive
Seed dormancy can be frustrating for gardeners—having seeds that won’t germinate—but it’s an important part of the survival of many plant species.
282 – Creative Ways to Reuse a Christmas Tree
Most places now have recycling programs for Christmas trees—or you can try one of the 25 creative projects from our list to put your tree to good use.
281 – The Benefits of Snow in the Garden
It’s no fun to shovel, and it can look lovely … but is that blanket of snow good or bad for your plants?
280 – Caring for Your Christmas Tree
Lots of reports this year that Christmas trees have been harder to find. Also lots of questionable advice out there about the best ways to care for your tree.
279 – Growing Holly Bushes
Holly is another of the popular plants of the Christmas season—although they are considered to be invasive in many areas. And maybe just a little toxic too.
278 – Poinsettia: The Christmas Plant You Can Keep Year-Round
Native to Mexico, poinsettias have been a symbol of Christmas for over 100 years. They can be kept as perennials … and, no, they aren’t actually poisonous.
277 – Mistletoe: Toxic Parasite and Popular Decoration
One of our favorite Christmas decorations is a parasitic plant that feeds off of others and is sometimes thought to be toxic, although that part is often overstated.
276 – Grafting: What You Need to Get Right
What needs to happen for a graft to be successful—and what can we do to improve our odds that it actually does happen?
275 – A First Look at Grafting
Grafting is one of the fundamental techniques of plant propagation where you create a new plant by connecting pieces of different plants.
274 – A Great Year for Gardening
Lots of year-in-review articles and surveys have started to appear, and, by all accounts, it was a fantastic year for garden centers and for gardening.
273 – Are Plastics Safe for Gardening?
We know a lot about plastic in the ocean, but we’re only beginning to understand its effect in soil. Are plastics safe for gardening and what can we do to make them safer?
272 – Is Foliar Feeding Effective?
Can you really give your plants the water and nutrients they need through their leaves from sprays instead of through their roots from the soil?
271 – Why Cuticles are Essential to Plant Health
The cuticle is where your plants interact with the world. Among many roles, they largely control how effective plant sprays are.
270 – Grow Avocado Plants from Seed
You may never get fruit from it, but it’s actually pretty easy to grow an avocado plant from seed. If you’re fairly new to plant propagation, it’s a great way to start.
269 – Freezing vs Frost
We hear a lot about frost and freezing and the difference between them, but nothing suddenly happens with the first frost on the ground or with the first freezing temperatures.
268 – First Frost: How the Cold Damages Plants
In the fall, we may scramble to bring some plants indoors or cover them—while others will make it through the winter fine. What do frost and cold temperatures do to plants?
267 – What You May Not Know About Pumpkins
They’re one of the easiest plants to grow — even if they are garden hogs—and were one of the first vegetables ever cultivated.
266 – Do Leaves Rob the Soil?
Some people are still reluctant to “leave the leaves”—and one objection is that leaves will “rob the soil” of an essential nutrient.
265 – What Should We Do With Fall Leaves?
There’s lots of good nutrients in fall leaves—and we know not to send them to landfill—but can we really just “leave the leaves”?
264 – How Deep Should You Plant Bulbs?
You’ll find all sorts of conflicting advice online about planting depth, but does it really make much of a difference how deep you put your bulbs?
263 – Planting Bulbs and Keeping them Safe from Wildlife
When it comes to planting bulbs, you’ll hear a lot of old school advice—but how much of it should you follow? And how can you protect bulbs from squirrels and other wildlife?
262 – When is the Best Time to Plant Bulbs?
You’ll hear a lot of conflicting advice about when to plant bulbs in the fall. You have a range of options, and each has strengths and weaknesses.
261 – Are Green Tomatoes Safe to Eat?
Will green tomatoes make you sick? As with green potatoes, they do contain higher concentrations of a toxin, but is it anything to be concerned about?
260 – Should Tomatoes Go in the Refrigerator?
We found the usual advice not to put potatoes in the fridge was iffy, but what about their close relatives—tomatoes?
259 – Do Potatoes Belong in the Refrigerator?
The usual advice given to gardeners is not to store potatoes in the fridge. But is this good advice and what is it based on?
258 – Storing Potatoes Safely
How should you store potatoes and how long will they keep? And is it safe to eat green potatoes?
257- When to Harvest Potatoes
They’re the world’s most popular vegetable. End of the season is the time to harvest mature potatoes, but you have to be careful when you do.
256 – Growing Chard in Your Garden
It may not the world’s best known vegetable, but Swiss chard is a favorite for many gardeners all through the fall.
255 – Choosing Plants for Alternative Lawns
If not chosen carefully, plants for alternative lawns can end up being mushy or patchy and needing frequent reseeding. And you’ll probably want a mix of several different kinds.
254 – Lawn Alternatives: What Will the Neighbors Think?
Some lawn alternatives can be pretty wild—maybe too wild for your neighbours or your neighbourhood, but there are way to help manage that.
253 – The Search For Alternative Lawns
When we talk about alternative lawns, we could mean an alternative TO a lawn—such as a meadow — or an alternative FORM of something we’d still recognize as a lawn. You can take either path.
252 – Lawns: Both Loved and Loathed
We’re less obsessed today with the traditional “perfect lawn”—and the water and chemicals needed to achieve it. But lawns aren’t going away — and there’s increased interest in alternative kinds of lawns.
251 – Roots We Use to Make New Plants
We rely on adventitious roots for plant propagation—as does the horticultural industry. Sometimes we force them and with some plants they happen naturally.
250 – Healthy Shoots Need Healthy Roots
Flowers, leaves and stems need healthy roots to thrive. And how far from the trunk do a tree’s roots extend?
249 – Understanding Plant Roots
How do plant roots work? What are the different kinds of roots—and why are they important to plants?
248 – The Best Way to Store Seeds
What’s the best way to store your leftover seeds? Or is there a best way? Is the fridge better than a drawer? And what about a freezer?
247 – The Weed that Became One of the World’s Most Important Plants
If you found thale cress in your garden, you’d probably pull it out. Even insects don’t find it interesting. But much of what we’ve learned about flowering plants comes from this weed.
246 – Get Free Plants You’ll Love with Cuttings
There are different ways to make cuttings and different times of the year to make them, but they’re all pretty easy to learn.
245 – Preventing Pests Organically with Diatomaceous Earth
It’s used in all sorts of things from pool filters to kitty litter—and in gardening diatomaceous earth is touted as an effective organic pesticide.
244 – How to Grow Bee Balm and Attract Pollinators
It’s a very popular garden flower from the mint family that not only adds vibrant colour to your garden, but also attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
243 – Tomatoes: The Most Popular Garden Veggie
It’s one of the most popular plants grown in gardens around the world—and one of the biggest vegetable crops worldwide. But it wasn’t always that way.
242 – Preventing Blossom End Rot (Part 1)
We’d all prefer a simple solution, but preventing blossom-end rot isn’t as easy as adding calcium to your soil—or even consistent watering.
241 – How to Get Rid of Japanese Beetles
What can you do to avoid getting Japanese beetles in your garden—or at least reduce the damage they do? And do traps do more harm than good?
240 – Japanese Beetles: The Basics
They only live about 10-15% of their lives above ground, but as both larvae and adults, Japanese beetles can do a lot of damage to your garden.
239 – Is That a Bee? Or a Wasp?
As much as we love them, most of us would have a hard time reliably picking bees out of a lineup.
238- Which Bees Should We Worry About?
Gardeners love bees and what they do for our gardens. But some bees get a lot more attention than others. And that may not be good for bees in general.
237 – Identifying and Treating Plant Disease
Fungicides and other sprays. And can you really identify diseases from symptoms?
236 – Controlling Disease in Your Garden
We’re never going to stop them entirely, but what can we do to reduce our risk of losing plants to disease?
235 – Disease in Your Garden: The Challenges
One of the big challenges with plant diseases is that the symptoms plants display can be the same for a variety of diseases. And there are thousands and thousands of plant diseases.
234 – Plant Diseases: A First Look
Plant diseases take away from our enjoyment of gardening and undo our hard work. Before we can figure out how to avoid them, we need to understand what diseases are.
233 – Growing Lavender in Your Garden
It’s been a garden favorite for hundreds of years. And with about 40 species and hundreds of varieties, you can likely find one perfect for your garden.
232 – Stay Safe From the Sun While Gardening
Gardeners spend a lot of time under the hot sun—and UV rays are the main cause of skin cancer, sunburn and aging skin. What’s the best way to stay safe?
231 – Companion Planting: Why the Skepticism?
Science supports many of the principles of companion planting, but the specific companion plant recommendations you see everywhere are a different story.
230 – How Companion Planting Might Work
Current evidence may be skimpy, but there’s reason to think that there could be something to companion planting.
229 – Companion Planting: A First Look
It’s a gardening practice that has won a lot of supporters over the years—and plenty of skeptics too. What is companion planting and how might it help in the garden?
228 – Removing Weeds From Your Garden
When your prevention efforts fail—and they will—then what? It helps to know a few things about the weeds you’re trying to remove.
227 – Don’t Accidentally Add Weeds to Your Garden
Weed seeds can sneak into your garden with anything you put in or on your soil. Also: one easy way to get rid of many weeds.
226 – How to Get Fewer Weeds, Part 1
You’ll never prevent weeds from getting to your garden, but there are things you can do to reduce the number you get.
225 – Weeds in Your Garden
Botanically, there’s no such thing as weeds, but even the most upbeat gardener can get a little down in the dumps thinking about weeds they’ve done battle with.
224 – Is Biochar Right for Your Garden?
It gets very impassioned recommendations as a way to help your garden and the earth. So what is biochar and should we be using it in our garden?
223 – Do You Need to Use Fertilizer?
The two most important points for gardeners to know about plant nutrition and fertilizer.
222 – Fertilizers: Organic vs Synthetic
When we want to add nutrients to our soil we can choose between organic fertilizer and synthetic fertilizer. So, what’s the difference?
221 – Questionable Fertilizer Formulas
For growing plants in soil, you cannot know what nutrients to add—if any— without knowing what’s already there.
220 – Most Important Lesson on Nutrients
If a particular nutrient is essential to plants and delivers great benefits, it may seem like you should be adding it to your soil. But there’s a flaw in that thinking.
219 – Nutrients Your Plants Need to Thrive
There are about 20 nutrients plants need, but only a handful that gardeners have to spend much time thinking about.
218 – Soil pH: Change It or Adapt to It?
You want to know what your garden soil pH is, but—as with soil texture—it’s not because you’re going to change it.
217 – Why Ions are Critical to Plants
You can’t get far in understanding what’s happening to your plants without a rudimentary understanding of ions … which brings back some high school science.
216 – The Difference Between Annual and Perennial
Annual awards come back every year. Annual plants don’t. Gardeners soon learn the difference between annual and perennial, but it can be confusing.
215 – Growing Strawberries in Your Garden
Reports say the sales of strawberry seeds are way up this year—even though it takes some patience to start strawberries from seed.
214 – Get Your Seedlings Ready for Life Outdoors (Hardening Off)
The move outdoors can be rough on seedlings. You need to help ease them into the harsher conditions of their new life outside.
213 – Mulch Volcanoes: A Gardener’s Peeve
Somebody must like those mulch piles at the base of trees—you see them everywhere—but gardening experts have a different opinion.
212 – How Mulch Benefits Your Garden
From reducing weeds to keeping moisture in your soil, mulching provides a lot of advantages to your garden.
211 – Mulch in Your Garden: A First Look
Mulch can seem like the parsley of gardening—a nice garnish to add to the top. But it delivers some significant benefits.
210 – A Quick Look at Victory Gardens
Lots of mentions of victory gardens in the news lately—created in turbulent times when people in large numbers turned to vegetable gardening.
209 – How to Read Seed Packets
They’re a source of information you don’t want to overlook. Many of the questions you’ll have about growing from seeds are answered right on the packets.
208 – The Best Time to Sow Seeds Outdoors
As daytime temperatures starting getting pretty nice, we start thinking about sowing seeds outdoors. But when is the time right?
207 – Avoid Overwatering Your Plants
Many plants die every year from overwatering. It’s one of the easiest ways to harm your plants—as you’re trying to help them.
206 – Should We Worry About Walnut Trees in the Garden?
Something seems to be going on around walnut trees, but is it poison in the soil or something else?
205 – Do Walnut Trees Kill Other Plants?
It’s a question that’s been asked for millennia. So you might reasonably think that we’d have a conclusive answer by now.
204 – Getting to Know Hummingbirds
Some fun facts about our little garden friends. For one, they’re the only bird that can really hover … but they can’t walk.
203 – Hummingbirds Are On Their Way!
In much of the U.S. and Canada, we will soon be welcoming hummingbirds back to our gardens. When will they arrive and how can we prepare?
202 – Plenty to Do in the Spring Garden
Spring is going to be different this year, but plants and birds will carry on as if nothing has happened and there’s lots to keep you busy.
201- Fling Into Spring
It may be the only good news we’re getting this week, but it’s the beginning of spring and gardens will soon be blooming.
200 – What Can You Do About Soil Texture?
Once you’ve tested your soil texture, you’ll probably find out that it’s less than ideal. What do you do next?
199 – How to Know Your Soil Texture
Tiny bits of minerals in your soil are going to make a big difference in your garden—and it’s easy to find out your soil texture.
198 – What Determines Soil Texture?
So much of the success of our garden depends on our soil—a very thin layer where rocks, the atmosphere, living things and water all come together.
197 – Soil: The Foundation of a Garden
So much of the success of our garden depends on our soil—a very thin layer where rocks, the atmosphere, living things and water all come together.
196 – Garden Bulb Basics
We know that we plant bulbs in the ground to get new plants, but what are they exactly?
195 – Extending the Longevity of Seeds
There have been seeds that remained viable after more than 1,000 years, but we’re usually happy with 5 or 6. How can we extend the life of seeds?
194 – How to Avoid Damping Off
The best ways to improve your chances of avoiding damping-off — and how basic plant care and seed starting mix help.
193 – Damping Off: Causes and Appearance
It’s the biggest threat your seedlings may face — diseases caused by fungi and other pathogens in the soil.
192 – Watering Options for Seedlings
Seedlings need water, but you can give them too much of a good thing.
191 – The Right Lights for Starting Seeds
Even experienced gardeners can feel anxiety about all the choices for lighting, but it doesn’t have to be that complicated.
190 – Starting Seeds: Temperature and Planting Depth
Continuing our look at what you need to provide your seeds in the stages leading up to germination.
189 – Starting Seeds Indoors: What Seeds Need
Part one of a series on starting seeds indoors. We start off start off with a look at when to start seeds and what they need to germinate.
188 – Germination: Where Seeds Become Seedlings
When we start plants from seeds, our first goal is germination. And it usually happens … even though plants have developed a range of ways to block it.
187 – Seeds: The Embryo of the Plant
We know seeds are important for gardeners, but much of the world’s nutrition also comes from seeds.
186 – How a Tomato is a Fruit and a Vegetable
Some of our vegetables are fruits, most of the nuts we eat aren’t nuts and our berries aren’t berries — but a tomato is.
185 – How Flowering Plants Create Seeds
Starting off a look at seeds: why they’re important and how they form in most of the plants in your garden.
184 – Supporting Mycorrhizal Fungi in Your Soil
What can you do in your garden to protect and encourage the mycorrhizal fungi in your soil?
183 – Should You Buy Mycorrhizal Inoculants?
They help most of the plants in your garden, but does that mean you should buy more mycorrhizal fungi to add to your soil?
182 – How Your Garden Benefits from Mycorrhiza
Improving your plants’ access to phosphorus and other nutrients is just one of many ways mycorrhizal fungi help your garden.
181 – How Mycorrhizal Fungi Help Plants Grow
180 – The Flower That Grows Entirely Underground
179 – How to Push the Winter Blues Aside
178 – Does Wood Chip Mulch Steal Nitrogen from Your Soil?
176 – Are Gardeners Happier than Non-Gardeners?
173 – The Annual Christmas Bird Count
172 – What Makes a Tree a Tree?
170 – Hairspray on Christmas Trees? No!
168 – Tree Basics: Rings and Trunks
164 – Thanksgiving: A Hat-Tip to Veggie Growing
163 – The State of the Garden Center Industry
153 – Why Are Some Falls More Colorful Than Others?
151 – Extend the Life of Fruit with Dehydration
143 – Rubber Mulch: Benefits and Toxicity
142 – Ripening Green Tomatoes
141 – The Controversy Around Peat in Gardening
136 – Vermicomposting Problems
132 – What’s the Best Way to Stay Safe in the Sun?
131 – Is Sunscreen Safe for Us?
129 – Why is water so important to plants and what do they do with all this water?
122 – Poison Ivy – What to do for skin contact
120 – Poison Ivy – Such a beast
119 – Do Plants Have Thoughts and Feelings?
118 – Do Garden Center Plants Attract Pollinators?
114 – Update for Amazon Echo listeners
099 – Are Tastier Tomatoes on the Way?
094 – Dubious Method for Weed Control
093 – Backyard Farming…in 1889
091 – Were Vegetables More Nutritious in the Past?
090 – Is Gardening as Good as Going to the Gym?
087 – Are People Oblivious to Plants?
085 – Can Gardening Help our Memory as We Get Older?
079 – Our Favourite Gardening TV Show is Gardening Australia
075 – The Compost Tea Debate – Part 2
074 – The Compost Tea Debate – Part 1
073 – Can Plants Solve Air Pollution in the Home? – Part 3
New research shows plants can remove dangerous chemicals from the air—after being genetically modified.
072 – Plants as Air Purifiers – Part 2
Do you only need 15-20 plants to clean the air in your house … or is it more like 700?
071 – Do Plants Remove Chemicals from Our Air?
It’s been talked about for decades but are houseplants really natural air fresheners?
069 – Keeping Birds Safer from Cats in the Garden
068 – Should Cats Roam Free?
067 – How Frost Harms Gardens
062 – Do Plants Hear Water?
061 – Can Plants Hear?
054 – Benefits of Gardening: New Research
- The History of Seed & Nursery Catalogs for Gardeners
- United States Seed Company Directory | Online Sources
- Canadian Seed Company Directory | Online Sources
027 – Does Vinegar Kill Weeds?
023 – Bee Hotels in the Garden
016 – Do Pot Shards and Gravel Improve Drainage?
009 – Rooftop Farms: Growing Food in Cities
I hope you enjoy the show!
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛