Archive for March, 2011
Tuesday, March 29th, 2011
APRIL GARDENING CHECKLIST
-Apply Bonide’s “Tree and Shrub Insect Control” (or Bayer’s) around the base of Ash trees for EAB protection mid April and into May, as well as other trees and shrubs for protection against borers, scale, leaf miners, and other pesky insects (early April). Boxwood psyllids and leafminers a problem? Help control them with these soil drenches applied soon (or in the fall). Iris borer problems in the past? Try a soil drenching of one of the two previously mentioned systemics for help in controlling iris borer. Same goes for Rose Slugs on roses (Bonide’s Rose Rx).
-Plant trees, shrubs, roses, perennials, etc. Use “Pine Soil Conditioner” as a soil amendment to get new plants off to a great start. Feed with ‘Bonide’s Plant Starter’.
-Watch for pine sawfly eating needles on Mugho pines and other needled evergreens. Smash or blow off the plant with water. Watch for tent caterpillars in ornamental trees. Knock out nests with a stick or strong stream of water and smash caterpillars. If sprays are needed, use Bt or Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew for tent caterpillars. Pick off bagworms (and destroy) from evergreens, before they hatch in late May.
-Continue planting cool season crops (potatoes, beets, carrots, chard, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, mustard greens, onion sets, peas, radishes, spinach, turnips), as well as rhubarb, asparagus and horseradish. Remember that most of these are also grown in containers! Who says you need a garden to grow edibles? Not us!
-Begin planting herbs in containers. Protect annual herbs if planting early, especially basil (does not like cooler weather).
-Hang your hummingbird feeders / keep feeding the birds.
-Till soil as needed (and when not too wet). Also a great time to add fertilizers and organic matter (as needed) to soils – feed trees and shrubs if needed.
-Do major pruning of summer blooming shrubs and evergreens (not pines) before they send out new growth. Remember, if it flowers in the spring, prune after flowering. If it flowers in the summer (after June 1), prune it in the spring.
-Make sure dead stems have been removed from ornamental grasses and Liriope before they start to re-grow.
-Uncover roses, spray, cut back as needed, and feed lightly (mid April) to get them going for the season.
-Remove leaves and debris from garden ponds.
-Keep unwanted weeds under control with spot treatments of “Roundup”, “Kleenup”, Espoma’s “4n1 Weed Control”, or by hand pulling or hoeing. In the lawn, try Bonides “Weed Beater Ultra” for spot treating weeds, even wild onions. Still time to apply pre emergent herbicides to help control weed seeds.
-Repot houseplants, and feed lightly to get them re-growing for the summer season.
-Feed azaleas, rhododendrons, hollies, etc with Espoma’s “Holly Tone” after they finish flowering.
-Fluff up existing mulch before adding new. You may not need as much as you thought! Keep levels 1-3 inches deep, and never, ever, pile mulch against the trunks of trees.
-Allow spring flowering bulbs to remain green at least 6 weeks after flowering before cutting back the foliage. Do not braid or twist over and rubber-band.
-Start Caladiums, tuberous begonias and dahlias indoors for a jump start on May planting.
-Landscape Designer Weekend at the Garden Stores is April 9&10. Have our Landscape Designers help answer some of your landscape design problems. Watch for our Earth Day Weekend Specials, and then ‘Edibles Weekend’ on April 30 / May 1.
Feature Tip: -Mow your lawn as needed, not when you’re ready to mow. Never remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade each time you mow, and keep your mowing height higher rather than lower (3-3 ½ inches). Throw those grass blades back into the turf and recoup the nutrients and fertilizers still in the blades. Change directions each time you mow, and keep that mower blade sharpened all thru the season.
Tuesday, March 29th, 2011
Problems in the Garden
As the temperatures start to warm, the wild onions (and wild garlic) begin to appear! And they appear just about anywhere – lawns, landscape beds, gardens, wooded areas, you name it they’ll usually grow there. For the most part, we’ll see wild onions (garlic) during the cooler times of the year – late winter and spring, and again in the fall. The plants will flower, aerial bulblets / seeds are formed early summer, and the foliage then generally dies back (bulbs go dormant). So, how to control them? In the garden, landscape beds, or lawn, physical removal works nicely as long as you dig out the bulbs, bulblets, and root system. You must get everything. And assuming no seeds were dropped in that area, this should work. They can also be sprayed with Roundup, Kleenup, etc, in landscape beds or the garden, but be sure to use a surfactant to help penetrate the waxy coating on the outside of the foliage. It may take a couple applications, but these will eventually kill them foliage, bulbs and roots. In the lawn, it can be a bit tougher as these non-selective herbicides will also kill the grass. Cultural practices in the lawn can help quite a bit (keeping it full and thick). Physical removal works. And there are some herbicides labeled for their control in the lawn – be sure to read the label to make sure wild onions are listed for control. Bonide’s Weed Beater Ultra does a very good job on wild onions in the lawn, and can be used during the cooler times of the season (when many other weed killers are not effective). Again, may take a couple apps, but does a good job in eventual control of existing plants (remember their seeds may lie dormant for a long time before coming back up). One last note: these plants are highly edible, and very tasty in the earlier stages! Makes sure they haven’t been sprayed with non edible chemicals, and if not, feel free to eat. Removal of the foliage over time will weaken the bulbs down below. And remember this – green onions are 99 cents at the grocery, free in your backyard! If you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em!
Tuesday, March 29th, 2011
Garden Questions of the Week
“I purchased some spring flowering bulbs in pots. Can I save these for next year’s flowers?” -You can! You’ll find all your favorite spring bulbs in pots for you to enjoy indoors this time of the year – tulips, daffodils, and the ever fragrant hyacinths. And you can recycle these and replant back in your garden! Enjoy them as they flower, and when you water, use a little water soluble fertilizer like Miracle Gro to feed them. Once finished flowering, remove the spent flowers, and move the pot outside to allow the foliage to continue to grow. When the foliage begins to yellow, cut it off, remove the bulbs from the pots, and plant them in the garden. They’ll stay dormant all summer, fall and winter, and re-grow next spring. And don’t forget, you can do the same thing (forcing spring bulbs in pots for spring colors) starting this fall!
“I hear you talking about improving clay soils by adding organic materials, but how do you do that if there are already plants growing in the beds or how about in the lawn?” Great question! Adding organic matter to improve soils in the open beds or garden is easier as you can top-dress with whatever you’re adding and till it in. But in the lawn or established beds, we have to go a different route. Here’s what I suggest. For the established beds, take a garden auger (attaches to drill) and drill multiple holes around the existing plants into the ground about 8, 10, 12 inches deep – then backfill those holes with a fine compost or pine-fines. We’re vertical mulching on a smaller level around our landscape plants! These holes open up the soil for better drainage and air flow, and you’re backfilling with organic matter down into the clay soil. Of course, mulching will also help as it breaks down and works into the top of the soil. For the lawn, that’s where core aerating comes in. Pulling those plugs out of the soil in the lawn helps to open up compaction, improve drainage and air flow, etc. But if you take it the next step, and rake in a ‘fine’ compost over the top to drop down into those holes, you just added organic matter down into the clay soils. Do that several years in a row and watch your lawn really improve. And, of course, returning your grass blades back to the turf helps to add organic matter at the surface level, and eventually down into the top layer of soil.
“As we go thru the spring and have cold night move thru, how do we know when or what to cover?” -Good question. Here’s my theory – when in doubt, cover it up. And when you do, make sure you never use plastic unless you have a frame and create a greenhouse effect above the plants (never lay plastic on plants). Cardboard boxes, upside down empty pots, etc all work nicely. If covering with frost covers, sheets, burlap, etc, make sure the weight of the material isn’t too heavy and cause more damages to the new growth and flowers than the cold (especially if raining or snowing), and anchor them down so the wind doesn’t blow them away. New growth on Japanese maples and very tender hosta growth are a couple biggest concerns. Open flowers are subject to freezing. If light frost later in the spring, many times a good hosing of the plants before the sun hits them does a nice job (light frost).
“My mother used to have a perennial that flowered in the late winter and early spring, and the name had something to do with Easter. Can you tell me what she had?” -It sounds like your mother had ‘Lenten Rose’. A great evergreen perennial, it loves the shade and is very easy to grow. And yes, late winter / early spring, it produces drooping bell like flowers, which are now available in about 6 or 7 different colors. By the way, Lenten Rose is very much deer resistant!
“How do I know when the soil temps are right for crabgrass to start growing?” -It’s simple – buy a soil thermometer. That way you always know the soil temps for crabgrass germination, when to plant early crops, summer crops, even when to stop planting and time for winter mulching. For about $10, it’s worth the money. As for crabgrass germinating, it needs air and soil temps to be 55 degrees consistently to start. And if you don’t have a soil thermometer, watch the forsythia. When they bloom, the temperatures are right – and I’d say the time is right!
Tuesday, March 29th, 2011
From the Garden to the Kitchen
Yardboy, I’ve been getting requests again for my Chai tea mix. I always forget just how popular and healthful this recipe is, not to mention economical, in the long run.
RITA’S FAVORITE HOMEMADE CHAI TEA MIX
Herbal and spice teas are taking the country by storm and no wonder – they are healthful, delicious and cure a variety of ailments! At the top of the list is Chai tea – one that is getting a lot of attention lately. Now Chai tea is made mostly of spices, while herbal teas are made mainly of herbal leaves (or flowers, in which case they are called tisanes). Chai tea is expensive to buy, and today I’m showing you how to make your own. Making your own blend of Chai allows you to be creative and “customize” the blend. Here’s a basic recipe, and I will tell you that mixing the spices is like blending a perfume. You decide what to add to make it more to your taste, whether it is some dried orange peel, fennel seeds, nutmeg or even dried rose petals or lemon herbs.
5 tablespoons cardamom pods (I use green cardamom)
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
Cinnamon sticks – about 6-8 sticks, 2” long each
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 whole star anise
1-1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Combine all of the ingredients except the ginger in a non-stick ungreased heavy skillet. Over low to medium heat, toast the spices for about 3 minutes, until fragrant. Add the ginger and blend.
Now you have to pound everything briefly, just enough to crush the spices coarsely. I like to do this with a mortar and pestle, but you can do it in a spice/coffee grinder, or put the spices in a plastic bag and pound with a mallet or rolling pin. Transfer to an airtight container where they’ll keep nicely for about 4 months.
DIRECTIONS FOR BREWING CHAI TEA:
Combine 1 cup milk with about 2 teaspoons Chai mix and brown sugar, agave syrup, or honey to taste (start with 1 teaspoon). You could also use stevia. Simmer and then turn off heat. Cover and let steep for 10 minutes while you brew a pot of Assam or Darjeeling (these are Indian teas – you could also use regular tea) using 2 cups boiling water and 2 teaspoons or 2 bags of tea. Reheat the spiced milk if necessary and strain it into 2 large teacups. Pour in the hot tea and enjoy!
HEALTH ASPECTS OF CHAI TEA:
Cardamom is an anti-spasmodic and a digestive stimulant.
Cloves are antiseptic (dentists used to use clove oil to soothe gums) and is a warming, healing spice. Cloves are good for gastric discomfort.
Cinnamon is pungent and warming and is good for the digestion. It is also anti-spasmodic and antiseptic.
Ginger has been used as a medicinal herb in the West for over 2,000 years. It helps the circulation, is an expectorant, and is very calming to the stomach. There is research going on currently regarding ginger’s effect in combating nausea in cancer patients on chemo.
Star Anise is the star-shaped fruit of an evergreen native to China. It tastes a bit like licorice and is a stimulant and diuretic, and is thought to relieve sore throats.
Monday, March 21st, 2011
Early spring is an excellent time to dig and transplant trees and shrubs that may have gotten too large, or may have been planted in the wrong location, or just need to be moved for whatever reason.
Perennials are also typically divided in the spring or fall. As a general rule divide summer and fall bloomers in the spring, spring and early summer bloomers in the fall. And there are some perennials, like this clump of daylilies, which can be moved spring, summer, or fall. To divide your perennials, it’s usually easiest to dig up the entire clump first. Then, pull the clump apart into several smaller pieces. In some cases, the clumps may be too thick with intertwined roots, and may require using the sharp spade or a sharp knife to cut the clumps into individual sections.
Once you’ve divided your clump, simply replant each clump in new areas ( amend soils with pine fines), and of course, replant one in the hole where the original clump came from. And Make sure you replant the clumps at the same depths they were growing. Re-planted too deep, will cause lack of flowering, and in some cases, loss of the plants.
Water in well, and feel free to use a root stimulant / Plant starter solution to help get those roots off to a better start. Now you’re newly divided perennials are ready to grow for the upcoming season.
By the way, if you have ornamental grasses that need to be moved or divided, or have divots in the center that need a plug to replace the divot, now is the time for them as well. Move and divide ornamental grasses in the spring only.
Don’t forget, as the soil warms and dries out a bit, now is the time to start planting potatoes, onions, peas, and many of the early greens. Interested in straw bale gardening this year? Click the link for great tip sheets on Gardening by The Bale and Taters in a Basket http://www.natorp.com/tips/index.asp?mid=89&mid2=188&mid3=101&rd=1#Gardening%20by%20Bale.
Monday, March 21st, 2011
Garden Questions of the Week
‘Is it okay to prune my lilacs now?” -Well, you can, yes. But you will be removing the flower buds for this spring. If you want to enjoy the flowers, let them bloom, and then prune right after the flowers are finished. Lilacs are one group of spring bloomer that need to be pruned within a few weeks after flowering, or you can be removing some of next years flower buds!
“Can I be re-mulching beds right now?” – Now is a great time to be cleaning out those beds, raking and removing left-over dead foliage. And with the raking, you’ll typically fluff up you mulch, and be amazed at how fresh it looks after fluffing! Don’t be in any hurry to re-mulch your beds. Let the temperatures warm up, let the soils dry a bit and warm up, and then worry about re-mulching later, if needed. It’s amazing how fluffing the mulch does give it a new look, as well as showing you that you may not need to re-mulch as much as thought you were going to have to do! Now, you can re-mulch now if you want. You’ll see many landscape companies re-mulching now. But if can fluff and wait until later, that’s even better. How deep should mulch be? 1-3 inches – and as far as I’m concerned, in many areas, the less the better. Do remember to keep all mulch away from the trunks of trees (avoid the volcano mulch look!). Mulch piled up on the sides of trees will cause decay and eventual tree problems down the road. Technically, mulch around trees should look like a donut. Mulch as usual up to within a couple inches of the tree trunk, and then taper it back down to the soil level next to the trunk, but never touching the trunk. If you have trees that are mulched like that, re-do it this spring, the ‘donut way’. And if you landscape company insists on piling mulch against the sides of the trunks of your trees, ask them to change it. Your trees will be glad you did! Ps…Don’t forget to apply pre emergent herbicides either below or on top of the mulch to help stop weed seeds from growing.
“I want to take care of our lawn without using synthetic fertilizers or weed killers. What do you suggest we use?” -Going natural for lawn care products is becoming more and more popular, and you’ll find several natural products available! To stop crabgrass and other weed seeds from growing, as well as giving the lawn a nice shot of nitrogen, look at Espoma’s Weed Preventer plus Lawn Food. It’s made from Corn Gluten meal and provides pre emergent coverage as well as a 7-10% nitrogen feeding – naturally. Now, this pre emergent only lasts about 45 days so reapply as needed. Don’t need a pre emergent and just want to feed the lawn? There are plenty of natural fertilizers, including Espoma’s Lawn Food, made from Feather Meal, poultry manure and beneficial microbes, and an oldie but goodie, Milorganite, made from sewage sludge, but processed so that it’s safe for the lawn and for the vegetable garden! Milorganite also gives the lawn a nice shot of iron to help keep those grass blades good and green. And there is even an all natural ‘selective’ weed killer for the lawn – its Ortho’s Eco Sense Lawn weed killer. Spot treat weeds in the lawn and kill them with all natural ingredients! Combine these natural products with good lawn care cultural practices, and you can have a nice looking lawn, naturally. NOTE: By the way, Milorganite can be used to feed the lawn, the garden, trees and shrubs, etc, and we have found that it also has pretty good repelling action helping to keep deer away, as well as helping to keep raccoons and skunks from digging in the lawn. Naturally feed and repel critters at the same time!
“I have mostly clay and very little soil. I read in the paper last week that I should add gypsum, washed river sand, and organic matter to the garden and mix it all up well. What do you recommend?” -Without getting into scientific details about soils, soil structures, and the many benefits of clay soils, let me just say this. If you use the wrong type of sand and the wrong ratio, you will create concrete. And as for the gypsum, let’s just say don’t use it unless a soil test suggests that you do. Not that it would harm adding it, but just don’t at this stage. The best way to improve the clay soils in our area is to continue to add organic matter – tilling it in, mixing it with the soil when we pocket plant, and as a top dressing to break down and slowly work into the soil. Over time, and yes it takes time and does not happen over night, adding organic matter will begin to increase microbial activity, earthworm activity, drainage, and over all soil structure and tilth. Organic matter is your best friend when it comes to improving clay soils.
Monday, March 21st, 2011
Problems in the Garden
Grub Control in Lawns – Many times we get folks who say they had high grub populations last summer / fall and want to known what to do this spring. Just a reminder that grubs go deep into the soil to over winter, then move back up as the soil warms to eventually emerge as an adult beetle. There are many species of grubs / beetles, and will emerge at different times. So, using grub ‘controls’ in the spring can be tricky, and usually not all that effective. Plus spring grub damages are generally minimal. But, if one wants to treat for grubs in the spring, use a grub killer (curative), not a grub preventer. Sevin, Dylox, 24 HR Grub Killer, etc, are examples of what to use in the spring after the soils warm and the grubs have moved closer to the soil surface. These are generally applied no later than early May. Yes, they need to be watered in well to be effective, and could take 10-14 days before grubs start to die.
‘Curative’ controls in many cases are not as effective as ‘preventative’ controls, which are applied after the existing grubs emerge as adult beetles. (Applied June / July). Grub preventers are very effective controlling the small grubs of all beetle species hatching from their eggs thru their earlier grub stages (mid to late summer). Applied in late May, they may also help control other lawn insects in bluegrass lawns, but later applications (June / July) are usually best for grub prevention. Last but not least – although figures have varied, a healthy lawn can support 10-12 grubs per square feet without showing grub damages. So keeping a full healthy lawn can help minimize grub issues.
Protect your Ash Trees from the Emerald Ash Borer! Visit www.natorp.com or call 398-4769 to find out how we can help!
Monday, March 21st, 2011
From the Garden to the Kitchen
Yardboy, I’ve been in a bread-making mood lately. But not the yeast raised breads, which take so much time, but the breads leavened quickly, by baking soda. That way, I can still get out in the gardens to ready the soil for planting. Here’s really good soda bread that is as nice looking as it is good tasting.
MY FAVORITE SODA BREAD
You know how soda breads can be dry? Not this one – it’s nice and moist and incredibly flavorful. Addictive served warm from the oven.
2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 stick real butter, softened
1/2 cup dried cranberries, currants, raisins or whatever dried fruit you like
1 cup full fat sour cream
Milk for brushing
Preheat oven to 375.Mix flour, soda, salt, sugar and butter until mixture is crumbly. Add raisins, caraway and sour cream. Beat until blended. Form into mound-shaped circle on sprayed cookie sheet. Brush with milk. Bake 45-55 minutes.
-Rita Heikenfeld, CCP / Herbalist www.abouteating.com
Wednesday, March 16th, 2011
Believe it or not the hummers are on their way! Now, you may think I’m crazy saying this, but its time to get your hummingbird feeders cleaned and ready to go. And if you don’t have any hummingbird feeders, then time to purchase a few and be ready to feed them! That’s right – the ruby throated hummingbirds are already working their way north, and right now, have entered southern Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Florida, and could be arriving in our area in about 3 weeks, weather pending. Now, you can track their migration north, by going to www.hummingbirds.net/map. The map will show you exactly where they are now, so you’ll get a better feel for how soon they’ll be here!
If you don’t have a hummingbird feeder, there are definitely many for you to choose from – basic hummer feeders to multiple feeding stations to fancy glass globe feeders. But they all work. And the common factor between all of them is that they hold liquid hummingbird food, and the feeding stations are usually red, or a bright color, which attracts hummers. As for the hummingbird food, you’ll find several available, from instant nectar mixed with water, to ready to use nectar. You can also make your own, using 4 parts water to one part table sugar (thanks Nature Girl – Wild Bird Center). And do not use red food coloring to color it red! Research has shown hummingbirds cannot properly digest food coloring – and the red coloring isn’t necessarily needed. If you find red colored nectar, make sure its colored using fruit and vegetable coloring. So, whether you watch the migration map or just want to be ready for those early hummingbird scouts, get those hummingbird feeders filled and hung up in about 3 weeks. We’ll help keep you posted as we get closer to their arrival. By the way, feeding the hummers with the feeders is one way to attract them to your yard – planting flowers that hummers enjoy is another! Using the two together really keeps the hummers happy. Stop by our garden stores and let our garden pros show you plants that the hummingbirds will love for you to be planting in your landscape!
Wednesday, March 16th, 2011
Garden Questions of the Week
“Is there anything we can apply to our perennial beds that will kill grass and weeds without harming the good plants?” -Yes! Don’t forget the pre emergent herbicides to help stop the seeds from growing. Preen and Organic Preen (Corn Gluten Meal) work nicely (read the labels for any restrictions). For those grasses and weeds that are growing, spot treat with Roundup, Kleenup or Espoma’s 4n1 Weed killer (all natural) without spraying the desirable plant’s foliage. And for the weedy grasses only, try Fertilome’s ‘Over the Top’ or Bonide’s ‘Grass Beater’ which can be sprayed over the top of many desirable plants without harming them (again read the label before using).
“St. Patty’s day is this week. Isn’t that a signal for planting potatoes?” Can be! The timing is usually right around St. Patty’s Day – the soil needs to be around 45 degrees or higher and not soggy wet. If that’s what we have by then, go for it. If not, wait until the conditions are right. By the way, there are other ways to grow potatoes besides in the ground – on top of the ground mounded in straw and compost, in chicken wire cages, stacked tires, raised beds, large pots, laundry baskets (drain holes in bottom), and even the Potato Bags that have Velcro pockets on the sides so you can reach inside, grab a ‘tater’ and close it back up! St. Patty’s day usually signals time for planting peas, onions, and other cold crops (weather / soil condition pending).
“When can I mow my grass for the first time?” -I say as soon as the weather is in the 50’s and you can walk on the lawn without leaving any tracks! It’s amazing what the first mowing will do to help the lawn get off to a good start – cleans off the dead blades, picks up debris laying on the soil surface, and pulls the grass blades ‘up’. All this makes the lawn look better, and opens up the soil for quicker warming and quicker green-up. Just amazes me how lawns respond to the first season mowing!
“Just in case, how would I know the difference between a termite and an ant?” -Good question! Termites have straight antennae, two pairs of wings about the same size and shape, broad waist (like mine is!), and short legs. Ants have elbowed antennae, two pairs of wings with the rear wings smaller than the front wings, a narrow waist (not at all like mine!), and longer legs. If you discover termites, don’t try to control them yourself, call in the professionals.
“Every year my Columbine get leaf miners. What can I do to get rid of it?” -This is a very common problem with Columbine and really is more aesthetic than a problem to the plant. You can try a systemic like Bonide’s or Bayer’s Tree and Shrub Insect Control (apply early spring), but many folks will simply cut off the infested foliage after the plants are finished flowering, and let them re-grow the rest of the season.
“When should I prune back my roses?” -Although I see many gardeners out already cutting back roses, my experiences along with the advice from the rose doctor himself, Dr. Pottschmidt, have been to wait until late March to early to mid April. Sure they may have already started to leaf out, but just wait. Pruning encourages new growth, and pruning a bit later, gets you closer to warmer weather and less chance of freeze damages to that new foliage.
“Some of my over-wintering container plants in the garage are starting to bud. What should I do?” -Move them outside at this stage to let them come back to life just as the ones outside are doing. Garages will be getting too warm as we go along for plants to stay dormant and will pop out early. If the weather makes a sudden change to really cold, you may have to move them back in overnight or as needed. But get them outside to come along as the weather dictates.