Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What's that shiny bug on my plants?

One day everything in the garden looks good then, seemingly overnight, the damage starts to show up, especially on vegetables. Leaves will appear riddled with holes, often lacey looking. These symptoms are the result of flea beetle activity. Flea beetles are common pests of many vegetable crops, but they will also damage flowers and shrubs. The adult flea beetle is small and often shiny. If disturbed, they will jump hence the name “flea beetle”. Flea beetles will attack most vegetables. They particularly like plants in the cabbage family, potatoes and spinach, but they will also feed on flowers, shrubs and weeds, depending on the availability of food.

Flea beetles winter over in the garden under debris or leaf litter and emerge as temperatures warm up in the spring.
 Flea beetle can be controlled with dusts such as Captain Jacks DeadBug (Spinosad), or liquids such as Bonide Eight or Neem oil. 
Diatomaceous earth can also be very effective when applied directly to the plant and surrounding soil.
Floating row cover is made from a woven cloth that allows light and moisture in, but keeps bugs out. The key to row covers is to keep the edges sealed so the bugs cannot get in. Do not install row covers if beetles or other insects are already present. Treat the crops first to remove any insects then install the row cover to prevent further damage.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Getting your lilacs in shape



Keeping lilacs strong, healthy and blooming season after season, requires some maintenance. Now is the time to prune lilacs. Most lilacs bloom on new wood, so timing is essential. The flower buds form during the summer, so you want to avoid pruning in the fall or late winter, if you want the plant to bloom the following spring. To keep your lilac growing vigorously and to avoid having to do major renovation, remove any dead, broken or crossing branches. Make sure you remove spent blooms and seed pods. This will help the shrub produce more flowers next season. To assure the shrub is always growing on the best wood, remove about a third of the canes each year. This includes suckers. You can leave two or three suckers to grow into mature canes.

This is also a good time to look for evidence of scale or borer damage. Severe insect damage should be pruned out. Persistent insect problems can be treated with systemic.
If indeed, your lilac has seen better days, consider cutting every cane of to 4”- 6” above the ground. This drastic approach will result in many vigorous canes next season, forming a two-three foot shrub.  
 Finally, work in 2” of sheep, peat and compost; add a balanced fertilizer, such as 11-15-11 and mulch to about 3”. Your lilac will be prepared for the rest of the summer and ready to bloom next spring.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mulch helps your perennials in many ways.

Mulch applied to perennials now will help reduce the stress brought on by summer heat. Mulch can help maintain soil temperatures and moisture levels and as well as control weeds and improve the overall look of your garden. There are many different kinds of mulch materials, but only two types, organic and inert. Organic mulch includes shredded cedar mulch and bark chips.  
Inert mulch includes weed barrier, rock and gravel. Rock mulch can provide a very uniform appearance. It looks great. It stays in place, won't blow away and it doesn't decompose. Rock mulch is available in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. You can save yourself some time by applying a pre-emergent, to keep seeds from ever germinating. You should prepare the area by first removing any weed or unwanted plants. You will want to install the rock mulch over a weed barrier, for best results.
Though not as common, weed barrier can be used as mulch by itself. Be sure and choose a fabric weed barrier, which will let moisture move into the soil and allow the soil to breathe. Plastic weed barriers smother the soil and will break down over time. This type of fabric weed barrier is convenient, because it is marked every 12", making planting and landscaping alignment easy.  The advantage of laying a weed barrier first, is that you can always add rock or wood mulch later.
One of the most common types of mulch is cedar mulch. Cedar mulch is very advisable for perennial beds, because it maintains its look and consistency for a long time and the color highlights the plants well.  It should be applied to a depth of 3" to 4", after the weeds have been removed from the area. Mulch this deep should be sufficient enough to prevent weeds from establishing and help maintain moisture, while adding a uniform and neat appearance to your perennial bed.
Remember, each landscape is different and unique. You may have to use a mixture of mulches in order to achieve the best balance between plants needs and overall looks.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Spring Cleaning Time for Houseplants

This is a great time to reinvigorate your indoor plants. Dust and grime may have accumulated on their leaves. Some could use a good pruning, others may have outgrown their pots. After being cooped up all winter, there’s nothing like spending some time in the warm summer air. It’s great for you and your plants.
Some things you'll need: pruning scissors, potting soil, a soft sponge or cloth rag, some new pots, fertilizer, insect spray, leaf shine. Select a shady spot and give your plants a good bath. Use a spray bottle or watering can (the hose water may be to cold). Gently wipe each leaf clean with your sponge or rag. This is a good time to check your plant's health. You're looking for signs of insect damage or disease. If you find problems, using a triple action product that treats for insects, mites and fungus, will help resolve many issues. Remove any leaves that are stunted or have lost their color. Take time to check the plants roots by sliding the plant out of its pot. Are the roots white or are they black and kind of smelly. Does the soil feel light and fluffy or dense. Are the roots pushed up tightly against the pot.
You may encounter any or all of these conditions.

  If you decide your plant needs repotting, go to the next largest size. Make sure the pot drains. No matter how careful you are, water will build up in containers that don't drain. This is disastrous for your plant! Use a good potting soil. You want the plant to fit in the new container at the same level it was in the old pot, so add soil accordingly. Next, feed your plant with a well-balanced fertilizer (such as 20-20-20). Plants are in a growth mode right now, so feeding them every 7 to 10 days will ensure they have the nutrients they need for the summer months ahead.  Using a leaf shine will restore luster and help prevent dust and grime from settling.  Your plants will benefit from these activities and respond with renewed growth and flowering.