This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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May 2, 2007


Patience Pays...
I think that it is safe to say that patience has paid off. Mother Nature is rewarding us by replenishing new growth on most shrubs and trees. I have noticed that several boxwoods in our area are starting to produce new foliage (photo) - a good thing considering they looked so pathetic. Time, it has been known to heal all types of wounds and we are getting to see this happen in our gardens. Friends who live close by were concerned about their Japanese Maple but just this week new foliage could be seen throughout the tree. What a relief. There are still some plants that are trying to recover from the freeze so give them another week or two just to be safe. I am finding that some plants are bouncing back faster than others. A couple of more weeks should do the trick and then you will know for sure what is dead and what is alive, what to prune back and what to get rid of.

It is raining again today. A slow soaking rain, better than those torrential downpours like we experienced last Wednesday evening. That was some storm! We were out and about and could not believe how fast the rain was coming down and how fast the creeks were flooding. A pretty scary thing. I am not a fan of fast moving water. It is bad for the gardens. It washes mulch and soil away so keep torrential rains in mind when choosing plants for specific locations, particularly those with a sloping nature. More rain expected tomorrow and maybe some more on Sunday. I am beginning to grow webbed feet :-)

~ Shelly  

Oh Say Can You Sow...
Savvygardeners all across the metro will be out this weekend buying bedding plants, vegetable seedlings, and all manner of transplants for the garden.  Keep in mind that some plants actually prefer to have their seeds sown directly in the garden.

  • Among vegetables these include: beans, beets, carrots, celery, peas, squash, and turnips.
  • Among flowers: alyssum, aster, bachelor's button, cosmos, marigold, morning glory, sunflower, sweet pea, and zinnia.

Buy the seeds, read the directions, watch them grow!

Ants In Your...
Not your pants, but your peonies!  If you have peonies you no doubt have noticed a proliferation of ants scurrying to and fro across the flower buds.   Those ants are the source of many "old gardener's tales" that have been handed down over the ages.  Here's the deal:  The ants are there because of the nectar-like substance secreted by the peony.  Chances are that the ants you see on your peonies are already living in your garden - the peonies just draw them out of the soil and make them more visible.  In other words, peonies are not increasing your local ant population (which creepily number in the hundreds of thousands or more).  Some say that the ants actually help peonies bloom.  Most experts disagree but since they do no harm it's best to just let them enjoy your peonies as much as you do.

Cutworms Collared...
Cutworms can be a real problem for gardeners setting out transplants.  Protect your newly transplanted plants with collars.  Simply cut strips of cardboard 2 inches wide by 8 inches long and staple them into a band.  Place this collar around the plant stem and press it about 1 inch into the soil.  Simple and very effective!

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A Clip In Time...
The proper time to prune continues to vex many gardeners.  This time of year can get confusing because some shrubs are flowering, some are done, and others are still getting ready.  Here's the deal:

Shrubs that flower in the spring are normally pruned immediately after flowering.  Examples of these types of plants include forsythia, Vanhoutte spirea, flowering quince, lilac and mockorange.  Though pruning during the dormant season does not harm the health of the plant, the flowering display will be reduced.  Shrubs that bloom on current season's growth or that do not produce ornamental flowers are best pruned in late winter to early spring.  Examples include Rose-of-Sharon, Bumald Spirea and Japanese Spirea.

There are three basic methods used in pruning shrubs:

  • Thinning is used to thin out branches from a shrub that is too dense.  It is accomplished by removing most of the inward growing twigs by either cutting them back to a larger branch or cutting them back to just above an outward facing bud.  On multi- stemmed shrubs, the oldest canes may be completely removed. 
  • Heading back is removing the end of a branch by cutting it back to a bud and is used for either reducing height or keeping a shrub compact.  Branches are not cut back to a uniform height as this will result in a "witches-broom" effect.
  • Rejuvenation is the most severe type of pruning and is normally done during the dormant season.  It may be used on multi-stem shrubs that have become too large with too many old branches to justify saving the younger canes.  All stems are cut back to 3-5 inch stubs.  This works well for spirea, forsythia, pyracantha, ninebark, Russian almond, little leaf mock orange, shrub roses and flowering quince.


Controlling Cankerworms...
Cankerworms, also known as inchworms are a common pest at this time of year. There are actually two species of cankerworm: spring cankerworm, Paleacrita vernata, and fall cankerworm, Alsophilia pometeria. Though the common names may suggest otherwise, larvae from both species appear in the spring. "Spring" and "fall" refer to when the females lay their eggs.

Cankerworms feed on a wide variety of deciduous trees including oak, ash, elm, linden and apple. Larvae vary from green to reddish-brown to black and have one or more white, pale green, or black stripes. Cankerworms are general defoliators and may skeletonize leaves. Eventually, only the midribs of leaves remain.

Cankerworms can be detected by rapping on branches. This disturbs cankerworms, which betray their presence by dropping down on silken threads. If necessary, insecticidal treatments may be applied. Labeled insecticides include permethrin (Bug Stop, Bonide Eight, Kill-A-Bug II), carbaryl (Sevin) and cyfluthrin (Bayer Lawn and Garden Multi-Insect Killer).


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Getting Rid Of Girdles...
Remember to remove old stakes, ties, and labels from your trees and shrubs.  Stems and trunks grow in diameter this time of year and it is important to remove any constrictions that exist around them.  Even a thin wire can completely girdle a branch causing it to eventually die. While it's true that tree trunks may grow around wire, nails, or ties, they will forever have a structural defect that may be unsightly and is likely prone to storm damage.


The Turfgrass Two-Step?
Most of us are creatures of habit.  When it comes to mowing your lawn you probably follow the same back and forth pattern every time you cut the grass.  Unfortunately this regular practice will eventually wear ruts in the lawn where the mower wheels repeatedly follow the same path.  To avoid this problem try a four-way rotation of cutting patterns.  Picture your lawn as a sheet of paper and try these patterns.  Next week - tango lessons:

  1. Horizontal - left-to-right, turn, right-to-left across the lawn.
  2. Vertical - top-to-bottom, turn, bottom-to-top across the lawn.
  3. Diagonal 1 - bottom-left to top-right, turn, top-right to bottom-left.  Work toward corners.
  4. Diagonal 2 - bottom-right to top-left, turn, top-left to bottom-right.  Work toward corners.

"The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied. They always look forward to doing better than they have ever done before."

~ Vita Sackville-West

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