Ask the Expert

Wisconsin State Farmer
Plants flourish in a raised garden bed.

Q: What is an easy method for starting a vegetable garden in a raised bed?

A: One way is to simply lay cardboard over an area you wish to plant, then alternate with compost, garden soil and topsoil to make a desirable planting bed. Vegetables prefer loose, loamy soil. This should be placed in full sun. Be sure the raised bed is at least 10 to 12 inches in height. Most common vegetables will grow quite well in a raised bed.

Many gardeners have also discovered the joys of gardening in 5 gallon pails or storage totes. Simply create drainage holes in the bottom and fill it with a loose, organic garden soil.

Q: Where can I see tundra swans as they migrate through Wisconsin?

A: There are many great spots just see them as they work their way west through the state. Horicon Marsh, Collins Wildlife Area, Goose Pond Sanctuary, Lake Winnebago, the west shore of Green Bay and the Wolf River bottoms are popular swan watching destinations.

Q: How can I keep voles out of my garden?

A: There are many fine garden products that work to repel voles. There are a number of granules, as well as sprays that can be used. However, in my opinion, physical barriers and simply cleaning up your garden area work best. Voles take advantage of long grass and vegetation during winter. Keeping the grass mowed late in the fall, and cleaning up excess vegetation will keep their numbers down. Protect valuable trees and shrubs from damage by surrounding them with a foot wide ring of pea gravel. Voles do not like to travel over the rough surface.

Q: Can you give some plant selections for a night garden?

A: Casa Blanca oriental lily is one of my favorites. Also, giant flowering tobacco. Silvery plants, such as lambs ears and Dusty Miller make great accents. Plants that bloom in white are favored, especially those with a heavy fragrance, which is amplified after dark. White Swan coneflower, white daylilies, along with white blooming hostas such as Stained Glass, Guacamole and Fragrant Bouquet are great choices. Annuals that bloom in white include petunias, sweet alyssum, stock, moonflower, white sweet peas, white snapdragons, white zinnias and cosmos.