Sunday, June 20, 2021

Repel Fleas Ticks and Snakes with Cedar Mulch

If you’re bothered by fleas, ticks, and other yard and garden pests including snakes then you will benefit from adding 100% natural cedar mulch to your garden beds. This mulch has a pleasing aroma derived from the natural oils and the chemical thujone is found in the cedar mulch. 

This summer I did mulch my gardens with cedar which is derived from cedar trees. Since there are snakes in my area as well as ticks, fleas, red ants, and termites I wanted to try a natural pest control and found on the first day that the cedar mulch repelled a rather large snake from my yard.

Yard and Garden Secrets blog

I was putting down mulch in my grass garden and the aroma from the cedar mulch was strong. A snake emerged from the rock wall and was moving fast. The snake fled my yard rather quickly and went back into the woods. 

Yard and Garden Secrets Blog

Yard and Garden Secrets Blog

Other Cedar Mulch Benefits 

Know that not only does this mulch repel garden pests it is also long-lasting / slowly breaks down you won't have to reapply in a few months. The cedar mulch also helps in retaining moisture and controlling weed growth.

Cedar mulch is also good at repelling other insects, moths, ants, termites spiders and cockroaches so it would be good to put a layer of mulch close to your foundation and add a layer of mulch in your crawl space to keep the snakes and other pests away.

Add a layer of cedar mulch to container gardens to repel pests and to also keep the soil most as container gardens tend to dry out quickly.

Yard and Garden Secrets Blog

Yard and Garden Secrets Blog

If you have a dog house put a layer of mulch under and around your dog house to repel fleas, ticks, spiders. Stop the pests from getting in the house and on your dog.

Where to Buy Cedar Mulch

I bought cedar mulch at Lowe’s Home improvement store and I would think every garden center would carry cedar mulch but if you are unable to find it you could also buy cypress mulch. 100 % natural cypress derived from the tree also has the natural oils and the chemical thujone that repel garden pests.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Vinca Annual Flowers Add Color to Sun Gardens

 Vincas are annual flowers that bloom profusely throughout the summer months and throughout the warm fall season. Dying off only after a frost.

This summer I planted 12 bi-color red and white and 4 solid red vincas in my ajuga garden and have enjoyed the added colorful blooms that attract butterflies to my yard.  

The Vincas were planted in well-drained soil that was amended with organic compost. The growing instructions said to plant in full sun, but seeing I don’t have a full day of sun in my yard due to living in the woods. I did plant the flowers where they would get 5 hours of sun daily. I suspect that they will not bloom as much or not fill in due to the lack of sun.

Here are some photos of my Vinca flowers that were planted in my Ajuga garden

Yard and Garden Secrets blog

Yard and Garden Secrets Blog

Plant Care

Apply a layer of mulch around the plants to aid in retaining moisture.

Keep the soil evenly moist until the plant matures.

Fertilize with a liquid feed, every other week to encourage new growth and continuous blooms.

When fully grown your plant will be a foot tall with a similar spread.

No need to deadhead as this flower is self-cleaning.

Okay to grow in containers or in the ground. Vincas are beautiful border plants especially along a sidewalk or around a tree.

Vinca is an annual for USDA growing zones 2-8, and a perennial for zone 9-11.

* Deer and Groundhogs do not eat this flower.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

ACE Hardware Sells High Quality Plants

 Today my husband and I shopped at ACE Hardware and discovered that not only do they sell paint and tools they also sell high-quality vegetables, herbs, flowers, and shrubs.  The garden area is off to the side, you have to go inside Ace then outside into their greenhouse. Once inside the greenhouse, you will view high-quality plants. Unlike other garden centers, the plants at Ace are well cared for by a plant expert.

If you have a question they will give you the right answer, inform you of proper growing tips will even tell you about proper container size, and how deep you need to plant in the soil. The garden expert is very nice and helpful.

On the day that we visited ACE the vegetables were on sale buy one get one free. We got lucky and bought 5 tomato plants that were 19 to 24 inches tall. We also bought an eggplant,  4 peppers, and an assortment of herbs.

Here is a photo of my plants in pots filled with organic soil and added cedar mulch to keep the insects away.

Yard and Garden Secrets
Tomatoes peppers and herbs
Yard and Garden Secrets
Culinary herbs that I bought at ACE

Find an Ace Hardware store by you here

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Must Have Plastic Face Shields For Gardeners

This spring I have been busy helping clients clean up their yards and gardens. Normally I wear goggles to keep garden debris out of my eyes. But this year I recycled the COVID19 plastic face shield and it works well.

View Beautiful Red Rose face Shield Here

Know that I said yes to helping a neighbor do a garden clean-up...worked yesterday and everything was fine until they said "use the string trimmer to remove the weeds instead of doing a hand pull"...I didn't bring my COVID19 plastic face shield but thought what could happen...poop in the face happened. And the client said, "a raccoon likes to poop there"...I washed my face with bleach, then rinsed my eyes a few times with Bausch Lomb eye relief.  I wanted to go home but had to finish the day.  When I did go home I was exhausted and annoyed that I had forgotten my plastic face shield.  

The plastic shield would have prevented the poop from flying in my face. It also stops other debris, including wood chips and flying bugs from getting on your face and in your eyes.

If you have a plastic face shield then wear it to do gardening, but if you don’t here are a few that have flower designs and are perfect for gardeners.


If you like flowers then you will love this floral crown face shield. This safety shield features a transparent covering with a floral print for the side of your face and forehead. The flowers are transparent so you can see but unlike other face shields, this one is so girly.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Remove Leaves from Gardens in Early Spring


The fall season leaves are a natural mulch in the flower garden and a good way to enrich the lawn. However, the leaves must be raked in the early spring to remove the excess leaf matter from your gardens and lawn in the early spring. Or as soon as your days warm to an average of 40 degrees.

Last fall I left the leaves on my gardens and in late winter I removed a patch of the leaves I found that the leaves were beneficial to the earthworms and the soil was richer due to nutrients found in the leaves. The leaf matter also made my heavy soil lighter and the sandy soil retained moisture.

Know that it takes an average of six to twelve months for leaves to decompose. I was not waiting the full six months because I saw new growth under the leaves and did not want to block the daffodils that were coming up.

I am glad that I winterized my lawn and garden with a light layer of leaves as it was beneficial but you would not want to leave a thick pile of leaves on your garden or on your lawn.

Excess leaf matter will inhibit plant growth and it will attract mice snakes and other undesirable garden pests including borers that will eat your Irises. So its best to remove any excess leaves from your gardens in the fall and only use a light layer of leaf mulch on your gardens.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Plants that Stop Deer from Eating Tulips

I love tulips but so do the deer and since my home is locating in the woods I have deer in my yard daily. We have tried everything to keep the deer away from the tulips but they are determined to eat them because they are rich in nutrients and the liquid in the stem is hydrating.

Photo of Deer by Yard and Garden Secrets
Deer in the garden, note the lilrope grass is left alone

My husband thought it would be good to compromise with the deer so he filled a bucket of water for them and put out a mineral lick along with corn and sunflower seed mixture in our side yard where there are no tulips. The deer sure did like that but when they were done with their snack they came back into my backyard to look for tulips.

Yard and Garden Secrets
Hide tulips in daffodils 

Yard and Garden Secrets
Repel deer when you hide tulips amongst plants that deter. 

We thought about installing a deer fence around in the backyard because that would certainly stop the deer from coming into our yard but it would also block all animals from drinking from our pond. So we decided to hide the tulips from the deer by planting them in the middle of plants that deer do not like. 

Deer do not eat daffodils we also read that planting your tulips in the center of  lilrope grass is a good idea but would need a thick border of the grass to deter the deer. Other plants that deter deer are bee balm, peppermint, chives, cosmos, oleander, oregano, and rosemary 

A friend said that any low growing ornamental grass will work as it provides good coverage for the tulips. So this fall I hid the tulips by planting the bulbs in my garden. I planted bulbs in the middle of the daffodil garden and in the ornamental grass garden. I will let you know next spring if the hiding of tulips really works.

Note if you are not a fan of wildlife in your yard then buy a scarecrow motion activated pressured water animal deterrent. The sting from the water burst makes all wildlife leave your yard. Learn more by reading my article here

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Growing Pumpkins from Seed

I grew a pumpkin from a seed that I found in my wild bird food. I did not know anything about growing pumpkins until I planted that seed.

The seed was planted into a container that was directly next to a raised garden bed. Germination was in a few days and from there the pumpkin plant took off. The rambling vine grew to be 20 feet long and was covered with large leaves, and yellow flowers followed by pumpkins.

Planting the seed in a container was not the best idea but I did provide the vine support and it naturally grew into the raised garden.

I grew the pumpkin in Miracle-Gro potting soil that was amended with compost. The stem was surrounded with mulch to help aid in moisture retention. To prevent the soils from getting dry I watered the pumpkin plant in the morning and in the late afternoon. The combination of soil, sun, and water aided in a healthy pumpkin plant.

One pumpkin seed produced a 20-foot vine that was covered with pumpkins.

Most people have common pests such as beetles snails and slugs which eat the pumpkin leaves, roots, and flowers. I had beetles, grasshoppers, deer, and a groundhog.

To control the pest I sprayed the pumpkin with organic Neem oil, (after the flowers had bloomed because neem oil is toxic to bees) then I put up a fence that was made from chicken wire to keep the animals away from my pumpkins.

Know that it is best to keep the pumpkins up off the ground because they will not grow evenly and will not have the same color. I did lift them up with support and the other pumpkins have grownup the side of the fence so no worries of them lying on the ground.

Other Information:

  • Pumpkins can be grown from seed indoors then transplanted outdoors after the threat of spring frost has passed. It takes 80 to 100 days for them to mature.
  • Make sure you have plenty of room for the plant to grow. If you do not have ample space in your yard then grow the small pumpkin-like pie pumpkins or sugar pumpkins” 
  • Maintain your pumpkin patch by removing all weeds.
  • Prevent pumpkins from rotting by lifting then off the soil, the moisture in the soil is what causes them to can put newspapers under the pumpkins or you can add a thick layer of straw under the pumpkins as they grow. 
  • Turn your pumpkins every few days so they ripen on all sides.

Photo of pumpkins in the patch by Pixabay.other photos are by Susan Golis

Friday, June 12, 2020

Growing Sunflowers from Birdseed

I had not planned on growing sunflowers from birdseed but when I saw that seedlings grew from fallen seeds I was excited. All of the seedlings needed to be transplanted because they were growing too close. I did transplant all seedlings into a sunny garden bed. 

Sunflowers grow best in a sunny location and in soil that is well-drained. I found that the sunflowers are not particular about the type of soil as flowers have grown in rocky dirt as well as rich organic soil. The sunflower is a strong plant and as long as you give it what it wants, sun, water, and protection from wildlife; birds, squirrels, and deer then the sunflower will grow well.

How to grow sunflowers

Since I was planting birdseed I was not aware of the type of sunflower. The birdseed could produce a large flower or medium size so to be safe I did separate the seedling by planting them 2-feet apart.

I dug a trench that was two inches deep then added the seedling 2 feet apart. Back-filled the trench and firmed the soil around the seedling stem.

The seedlings were watered twice a day, morning and mid-afternoon so that the soil never dried out. Once the sunflower was established (20 days) I watered once daily as this plant is drought resistant.

To help retain moisture I added cypress mulch around the sunflowers stems.

The sunflower is a hardy and fast-growing flower on average the plant matured and developed seeds in approximately 80 days.

The birdseed produced flowers that were medium size but I did grow a few rather large sunflowers that were three feet tall. The taller flowers did need to be staked because the stems would break easily during a rainstorm or on a windy day.

Throughout the summer I would add new seedlings that grew from the birdseed as a new row planting and by doing this I had continuous sunflower blooms until the frost in fall.

Enjoy this end of summer blooms as cut flowers for a centerpiece or harvest to enjoy the tasty seeds.

Pest Control

The sunflower is a magnet for birds, squirrels, and deer. The deer enjoy eating the entire plant but really like the flower blooms. Squirrels and birds love the seeds.

To keep the deer away from sunflowers I installed a 6-foot chicken wire fence around my sunflowers. To keep the birds and squirrels away I kept the bird feeders filled with their favorite seed. Of course, there were always a few birds that preferred fresh seeds from the flower.

Here are some products I created from photographs, watercolor illustrations and graphic designs of sunflowers.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Gardening on First Warm Day in Winter

This winter has been long, cold and there has been more snow this year than in previous years. Being unable to putter in the garden has been hard on me. Normally our winters are mild and my husband and I can work in the yard and gardens throughout the winter months.  So you can imagine how excited I was when I learned that tomorrow would be the first warm day in winter.

The alarm went off at 5 AM and I started to get ready for the first warm day in winter. I was out of the house at 7 AM but found it was still too cold 36 degrees. This afternoon the high will be 55 degrees and that is perfect weather for getting garden beds ready for early spring planting.

I intend on concentrating on cleaning up the gardens. There were branches that fell from the trees during the last ice storm. The debris (branches and leaves) will be removed from the gardens, then any wild grass will be dugout.  I will add a layer of compost to feed the perennials that are planted in the garden beds before moving on to my next garden project. 

The warm weather will last only two days then snow is in the forecast. So I am enjoying the winter warm weather while I can.

If you reside in a cold climate and love to garden, why not plant seeds indoors. You can plant annual, perennial flowers and vegetables in the grow kits. Then transfer the seedlings outdoors in the spring.

Here are a few photographs of my gardens.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Christmas Cactus After Holiday Care

If you love indoor plants that have beautiful flowers and are easy to grow, then a Christmas cactus may be the perfect plant for you.

I received a Christmas cactus that was covered with buds but had no blooms. So I fertilized it with Miracle-gro bloom booster every two weeks and in no time I had beautiful pink blooms. The flowers only lasted one day but I had many buds to enjoy during the Christmas holiday.

Unlike other cactus, the Christmas cactus will thrive in cooler temperature. An ideal temperature would be 68 degrees. So a cooler room with moderate light is best for your Christmas cactus. Do not put your cactus in direct light and a southern exposure would be too hot and would burn the leaves. I prefer to set my cactus off to the side so that the light is moderate and not direct.

Know that over watering your cactus will kill it. Evenly moist soil is not good for your Christmas cactus. I would recommend that you let your cactus soil dry. before watering. Allow the water to drain out of the pot. Do not allow the water to collect in the saucer. Instead of watering your plant daily you should lightly mist the leaves of your plant daily to maintain a level of humidity around your cactus plant.

After Christmas caring for you cactus is easy as long as you keep the plant in a cool room away from a draft or a heat source, provide it with moderate light and do not over water then your plant should thrive and live a long life of 20 to 30 years.

If you have cats or dogs you do not need to worry about the Cactus plant. According to the ASPCA poisonous plant database the Christmas cactus is not toxic or poisonous to cats or dogs.

Learn how to force your Christmas cactus to re-bloom by viewing this video.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Grow Bee Balm Flowers for Late Summer Blooms

The Bee Balm flower a native perennial in North America is commonly called horsemint, Monarda, and wild bergamot. This plant is in the mint family and has a unique white, pink, purple or red flower that blooms in mid to late summer.

Here is a greeting card that I created from a
 photograph of a red bee balm flower.

Red Bee Balm Garden Flower Blank Inside Photograph Card

The entire bee balm plant is very fragrant, the leaves, stems, and flowers have a mint/oregano aroma. So if you enjoy fragrant flowers then I would recommend that you grow bee balm close to your outdoor living space.

I have red and purple bee balm growing close to my garden path and flagstone patio. Butterflies and hummingbirds find the bee balm to be attractive and we enjoy watching the wildlife.

Here are some photographs of bee balm
 flowers that grow in the garden.

The bee balm in this photo has powdery mildew 
due to excessive rain in June.

Bee balm growing wild in a field

My bee balm flowers bloom at the end of June and continue to bloom through August provided I deadhead all spent blooms. In late summer I will not deadhead because the seed-heads provide a source of food for the sparrows and finches during the fall to the winter season.

Bee Balm Growing Tips

  1. Grow from seed, cuttings, and root divisions.
  2. Plant in spring or in late summer / early fall
  3. Choose a planting area that has ample area for this plant to grow and spread. Grow plants 20 inches apart in a loamy soil that is slightly acidic. Soil should be moist but well-drained.
  4. Plant in full sun, however, this plant will tolerate part sun in the late afternoon as long as it has six hours of direct sun daily.
  5. Grow bee balm in an area that has good air circulation. Avoid planting next to a wall or a wooden fence as these structures will prevent proper airflow and powdery mildew will form on leaves and stems. Excessive watering will also cause powdery mildew.
  6. Water plants to prevent soil from drying out.
  7. The bee balm is hardy in the USA growing zone 3.4.5,6,7,8,9

Care and Maintenance

  1. Fertilize in the spring and weekly with a bloom booster flower food. I use Miracle-Gro a water-soluble weekly throughout the blooming season.
  2. Apply a layer of mulch around the stem to help to retain moisture and to prevent weed growth.
  3. Water plants to prevent soil from drying out. Soil that is moist but well-drained is best.
  4. After a hard frost cut back the flower stems to 2-inches above the soil. (or leave seed-heads throughout winter for the birds.
  5. In spring when plants start to grow in check your plants for overcrowding. Divide and transplant when needed or every two years.
  6. If not maintained in your garden this plant can become invasive.

Related articles that you may like

Friday, April 5, 2019

Removing Weeds From Flower Garden

Today I worked in the yard and garden by pulling the crabgrass and chickweed from the backyard irises I had weeded the bed in the fall but suspect that the leaves that had fallen onto the garden over the winter caused the weeds to grow in the spring.  

Due to the rainy weather, the weeds grew in thickly and my husband would like to use a chemical on the crabgrass and chickweed but I do not recommend using a chemical weed killer or a natural weed killer like Vinegar, salt and dawn dish soap in the yard or the gardens. It is best to keep those products away from your flower beds. Even if they have a safety cap to spray only the weed, the liquid seeps into the soil and can kill your flowers from the roots.

Know that at first I was overwhelmed because our flower garden is quite large. But made up my mind to remove the weeds by hand-pulling them.

The best way to hand pull weeds is to do the following. For weeds with a shallow root, you can hold the plant by the stem that is closest to the soil and pull up the weed gently.  Then for the crabgrass with the deep roots and the trailing grasses, you will need to use more care in removing. The best way is to loosen the soil around the crabgrass. Then with a small hoe or hand-held shovel, you will dig the grass out a little to loosen it then grasp the stem close to the soil and pull out. Try to get the roots because crabgrass will grow back

It took me three and a half hours to complete the backyard irises. Then my husband and I stood at the front of the garden and admired the clean weed-free appearance.