Good Gardening in 2018 

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MARCH-ING to nature’s drum beat as ‘winter season’ shuts down and ‘spring season’ opens officially on the 20th-during this transition time watch out for a great eruption of bud (leaf / needle and flower) growth from woodie to herbaceous keep an eye out for yellow witchhazel, cornelian cherry, and forsythia, crocus rainbows streaking across your view, purples, pinks, emerald greens, whites and maroons from so many different plants it will create a dizzy visual atmosphere. Daylight savings begins on 11th allowing for more time to enjoy, evaluate, re-orchestrate, add-to and or reduce…While embracing wonderfulness keep your senses attuned to possibility of trouble makers, catching eradicating them early is worth the effort.

BUG-GRRS-Many Insects (mites, tent caterpillars, bagworms, white flies, etc.) have wintered over in various stages of their lives, either eggs, larva, or adults in the natural splits or texture of the tree branches, trunks, twigs or who knows...March days get warmer increasing insect life cycle activity will become visually obvious whether flying, webbing, chewing needles / leaves.
Recommended courses of action:

     pre a). Always read or re-read label before applying any pesticide to insure it is safe to use on plant(s) and for insects that are targeted
a). if new leaves have NOT started to emerge from the buds, apply (spray) trees and shrubs there still is time to use a dormant oil which coats and suffocates all insect stages. Once leaf buds opening or flowering has begun on, it is too late to apply dormant oil or expect severe damage to any emerging leaf / flower         pre b). watch all (woodies-trees / shrubs) evergreen or deciduous, ornamental, fruiting, or otherwise-for any sort of insect activity-even simply crawling or flying around because they will soon be eating, damaging and or laying eggs
b). Make sure to identify insect correctly properly if control because of possible plant damage is needed-chemical (inorganic or organic), cultural, physical, natural bacteria, predators, or parasites. Choice is personal with each having pluses and minuses related to speed of ‘kill’, application device, equipment, and controlling product availability are examples
c). Maple trees (though not spectacular) are one of first spring bloomers, air temperature that starts blooming will trigger-tent caterpillar (thick webbing in branches of trees), pine sawflies (worms on ends of the pine branches) hatching / eating and spider mites feeding on underside of foliage, control effectiveness is prime because younger insects are more fragile and weaker Second wave of different insect activity will occur as red buds begin blooming
Reminder-many insecticides are contact killers meaning chemical must hit target bug directly, random preventive spraying is a waste of time, product and money
BULB-BLES-Leaves (not flower buds) of many bulbs are starting to peak up above the surface, are tough and protection is not needed. The foliage may experience tip burn (browning) if the weather dips back into the below zero wind chills where you live. This should not hurt the flowering. If the flowers are out and a snow comes, again not permanent damage will happen. This is all part of the game as frustrating as it can be. Getting the most and longest life from your spring flowering bulbs-benefit from monthly fertilizing with a balanced food diet and watering if dry through the growing season. Allow the foliage of any hardy bulb to persist, at the minimum, until it is half brown. It is best to allow the leaves to die entirely, which adds more strength for next year’s blooms. Do not bend, rubber band or braid leaves; this reduces surface, and hurts bulb strength. Pest and disease problem are minimal when bulbs are properly planted. 

MO-LES-TATION-their activity mole-st your lawn and bed spaces triggering activity is ground temperatures warming-meaning earthworms (main food source) and other in ground insects begin moving and that is how moles find food by listening, though moles are territorial, so quantity is quite small in each landscape, except this time of year, new babies were recently or are being born and what normally is a two mole yard could now be a 5+ mole yard, when young ones begin tunneling for food-Killing method proven to be most effective is flatten all tunnels any that pop back up in a day or two are being used-set several victor spear or choker loop traps along active tunnel, relocate if nothing is caught in 1-2 days repeat routinely even after some moles have been killed (now ones can move in especially if your yard / lawn are in good health this means more earthworms / insects for moles to hunt / eat, yards where pets or children are present-place bucket over trap
FLOW-ER-ING COLORS-from herbaceous plants options are almost endless whether bulbs (plant in fall), perennials, ground covers, vegetables, annuals i.e. creeping phlox, snow drops, Lenten rose, columbine, crocus forget me not, toad flax, pansy, linneria, broccoli, ornamental cabbage are examples early colorful plants is and want to make them part of your landscape. Annuals-cool season types if purchased planted in ground, pots, window boxes realize there could be some flower faces turning down when temperatures dip below 32

LAWN-DIARY-Winter Early Spring Lawn Fungus Problems-Fusarium Patch (Pink Snow Mold)- Can occur whether snow has occurred or NOT--from 1-12” rounded bleached tan, whitish gray, reddish brown spots appear randomly, key identification--dense white to bright or pale pink mold covers the grass blades on the outer edge of the spot--Typhula Blight (Gray Snow Mold)- as snow melts again rounded grayish to straw colored, size from 2’ or more can merge together making an unusual pattern. Matted down grass is first covered by a fluffy mold that becomes a silvery crust--Leaf Smuts (Stripe and Flag)- occurs in spring / fall, pale green or yellowed blades which are stunted from very small to large patches. Stripes will develop on blades, turning gray, finally releasing a black dust (spores). Additionally, blades will twist and turn downward--Yellow Patch- 2 foot rings of brown grass-with the center greenish (frogeye-like, though not the summer disease). Best control core aerate and or power rake in spring and fall, do not allow grass to be longer than 3” going into the winter, prevent build-up of fallen leaf debris.

To or Can Do-Quickie List
Pruning Woodies-(cut off any cracked / broken branches ASAP)-always make cuts at 45 degree angle for fasting healing-prune spring bloomers right after flowering, prune summer bloomers (ASAP) before buds break open-use sharpened tools, and clean blades (bleach / water mix) after cutting off anything diseased Mow-all lawns make first cut with blades set at 2” (don’t scalp) to help clear thatch / debris (bag if possible), cool season (bluegrass, fescue) next cut blade height 3-4”-ground covers-(liriope, ivy, vinca set blade height 4-5” should remove winter burn, gathered fallen leaf debris, after mowing lawn and or ground covers inspect and control any ‘weeds’ observed Allow Hardy Bulb Foliage to Remain-until at least 50% brown before removal, no cutting, bending folding over, any foliage that did not produce flowering is likely to old and may never flower again Perennial Plant Foliage / Stems-from last year cut down, remove to help reduce potential troubles Tropicals / Houseplants-to soon to move outdoors, start fertilizing at ½ label rate, if planning repotting do so now allowing for settling if plants are scheduled to movement outdoors later

Must Do
Keep Eyes Open-anything that doesn’t seem right-whether suspected weed invasion, fungi, bacteria, disease, animal or insect damage-unsure get professional help ASAP to minimize headaches, longer any problematic situation is let go-longer and more expensive (real and mental money) it becomes


HELLO FEBRUARY-January’s severe cold spells, spiced by later month warm-ups may have done damage (heaving / thawing / refreezing / tearing and upheaval to root systems) not only to newer (3 years or less) installations but to plants considered well established. As soon as possible irrigate your landscape to give root systems a needed thirst quencher, it could make a big difference related to damage / recovery. Begin and Finish ASAP (exception allow fall blooming perennials foliage to remain until new growth is obvious usually at ground level-provides protection to plant crown during any extreme cold snaps) Cleaning-Up last year’s plant debris to help reduce possible troubles i.e. insect (overwintering eggs…) and diseases (spores…). Watch for Signs of winter relief; Cornus (cornelian cherry) multiple small yellow blooms exploding open almost overnight by this cousin of classic dogwood, Hamamelis (Ozark witch hazel and cousins) larger multi-stemmed shrub with small fragrant yellow / orange flowers, while underneath small blooming bulbs usually first to show color Eranthis (winter aconite) yellow blooms, followed by native Claytonia (spring beauty) multiple white / pinkish flower upright clusters, immigrant Crocus (Dutch crocus) variety of colors usually with streaked petals, Galanthus (snowdrops) white dangling flowers, also perennial Hellebores (Lenten rose +) flowers color varies according to variety but all hid under evergreen foliage. As daylight length increases indoor tropicals wake up expect to see emerging foliage, elongating stems, flower bulb forming / opening some fragrant all saying winter may not be over but let’s party. While all this plus more is going on cool season lawns could show signs of blade growth, just remember any and all of these plant events will be dependent upon weather patterns, plant exposure, plants historically receiving correct care and maintenance and always a bit of luck.



1). Improve Soil Quality Routinely (from large mature trees to seasonal planting beds, lawn, display gardens…)-enabling plants provide anticipated aesthetic rewards and personal satisfaction, to better withstand attacks from trouble makers (disease, insects, storm or man’s physical damage)-do so every few years-under canopy of any trees (evergreen-conifer or broadleaf, ornamental, shade, deciduous) starting halfway out from trunk to drip line encircle with auguring holes 1-2’ apart, move outward 1-2’ augur another series continue with final circle just beyond dripline then backfill holes with compost, cool season lawns (core aerate or auger holes) top dress with ½-1” compost spread over surface, perennial beds and garden areas minimize damage herbaceous plants wait to augur holes / compost until emerging growth is visible, unplanted areas rototill or shovel compost into ground-light watering areas ‘augured / compost’ is recommended / advisable

2). Fertilize any and all plant showing signs of growth (indoors and out)-best results-is to use a fertilizer formulated for specific scenario i.e. lawn, tree and shrub, bulbs, acid loving plants, guidelines provided by results from soil testing-option also includes organic and inorganic

3). Mobile Garden Lovers - Get Window Boxes / Containers / Pots Ready-with existing potting mix (unless contained diseased plant material-then discard, in addition wash contaminated containers), blend with some new potting mix for a ‘breath’ of freshness then refill to correct level, check containers for cracks / flaws determine if still functional, optional cleaning all containers inside and out (dish washing / liquid soap / water) allow to dry before re-filling

4). Be Conscious of Rising Air Temperatures-(watch for anything unusual, unexpected, unnatural) in anticipation of germination / launching / hatching / morphing, wildlife activity, spore eruption by trouble makers damaging insects, maddening diseases, hassling weeds and bothersome wildlife triggering germination or spread; fungus / bacteria, scale (black, brown, white small immobile bumps), mites (numerous colors-almost microscopic-spider family member) along with other bugs overwintering eggs hatching, anything suspect and if unsure what if any action is needed check favorite garden center for identification and control recommendations-i.e. dormant oils (scale), miticides (mite control traditional insecticides-not effective), Eastern tent caterpillars (webs in branches)-use broom handle or pole and physically destroy protective web exposing caterpillars to be consumed by birds---before applying any chemical READ or REREAD and UNDERSTAND LABEL to get best results and lessen chances of damage-(continue to monitor tropical / houseplants for problems-too early for moving outdoors)-Various 4 Legged Trouble Makers-will be active from underground to high branches in trees and everything in between expect wildlife to become more prominent in your neighborhood, near-by common ground, woodlands with spill over likely right into your yard / garden / lawn / garden space. Depending upon where you live everything wildlife from squirrels digging that exposes roots, crowns, bulbs to cold damage-lay physical barrier / screen over important spots, skunks rutting lawn for grubs-apply grub killer-moles damage landscapes as surface food seeking tunnel exposes plant root system to dehydration and cold damage-main food source earthworms will become more active creating underground sounds with moles listen for and burrow towards, eating most insects (milli / centipedes, grubs or larva of any type, crickets, spiders…) found during earthworms search-mole control university studies indicate traps (choker loop or spear traps to be most effective), if there is history of mole damage check routinely for new activity-reminder February is birthing month so population / tunneling damage could increase-other rodents voles, mice and chipmunks eat some bulbs, bark, bird seed, roots, bugs while using abandoned mole tunnels for easy access to food, while living under porches, patios, steps-control baited mice / rat traps-deer do realize home landscape are easily accessible food source vs. agricultural fields, open areas or woodlands, eating any fresh / newly growth foliage / vegetation-control-wildlife repellents, bars Irish Spring soap, physical barriers effectiveness iffy-Unwanted Plants-weeds or out of place plants (herbaceous and woodie) growth is triggered by soil temperature (related to air temperature) monitor bare, lower, wet, unstable spots and be prepared to be surprised to see unexpected numbers of unwelcomed guests even among healthy well established planted areas, wide invasive adaptability, tough durability in well prepared soil or unbelievably bad growing environments, save yourself grief make proper identification before any treatment other than hand digging or results could be counter-productive control options; organic or inorganic, pre-emergent (kills seeds at germination), post emergent (kills actively growing) or hand digging, weeds lifespan vary from annual, biennial to perennial with basic categories broadleaf-leaf wide veins branched-i.e.-dandelions, violets, chickweed, spurge, grasses-slender blades veins running parallel to edge-i.e.-crabgrass, wild onions or garlic, goose grass, sedge-greenish yellow grass-like triangular stem at ground surface-i.e.-nut or water grass-Rule 1-before acting correct identification is first step towards best control or could waste time / money-Disease Details (leaf spot, mildew, cedar apple rust, anthracnose …)-damage can range from cosmetic, general weakening or killing outright, any and or phases can happen to new cuttings, 2” cell packs to established lawn, perennial garden, massive mature trees any and every plant is susceptible-first determine what is going before taking any action, if cosmetic with actual, suspected or potential fungus problems (rose, crabapple, lilac, lawn…) realize in some scenarios regardless to what is done nothing will help---Use caution when applying any control whether chemical or physical, organic or inorganic to avoid causing problems for pets, children, people or other plants…Finally UNSURE what it is, what should be done GET PROFESSIONAL HELP

5). Be Smart and Start with Clean / Sharpened-Tools, Equipment and Accessories (especially if used to eradicate known disease problems)-anything used for application of chemicals, in or on soil, potting mixes either indoors or out-reduce potential carry-over of last year’s problems; wheel barrows, hand to power tools, wheels, rollers, carts, rakes, shovels, boots / work shoes, pots, containers, mower or rototiller blade-use diluted bleach (9 parts water 1 part bleach), dishwashing soap and water) or professional cleaning solution-ask at favorite garden center what they use

6). Be Realistic-give strong consideration to removal, correct rejuvenation (may be long term recovery) renovations to locations, any / all plant (lawn, ground cover, shrubs and trees, houseplants, also) material with a history of weakness, disease / insect troubles, generally weak underperformers no matter what-these sites or plants are basically incubators for another series of new whoa, mental tears and frustration or a rerun of past heartaches


7). Stay Conscious-related to weather, slowing down, speeding up of emergence of Enjoyable Qualities you have worked for with time, effort, real, mental monies while participating in this great Plant Marathon-give yourself a Tip of the Trowel-you deserve it!!!       


Early January frozen in time as yearly baton was passed from December ’17 which was typically untypical, early month warm temps in low 70’s gave way to Arctic blast which by months end daily temperature sank into single digits with severe wind chills, dry soil relieved somewhat by hit and miss occasional rainfall and smattering of snow during December providing some root system relief. Truly no way to determine what if any impact this weather scenario has had on plant material, obviously healthy plants should have least real / aesthetic damage. New (less than 2 years) installations and any under performers may have some major struggles / hangover effect. January weather, temperature and moisture wise will have a say on how well late winter / early spring emerging foliage and flower buds perform and if there will be a longer echoing influence throughout our regions plant world. Anticipation is great, especially for bad circumstances that have been re-occurring on an annual basis but knee jerk reaction could problematic, take time and effort to find out what did happen and determine best course of action, seeking help from multiple sources is best garden path to take.

2018 Ideas-Volunteer at Operation Brightside, Gateway Greening, Forest Part Forever, Missouri Botanical Garden, conservation groups…Spending Time-checking out new plant design options via Catalogs, Classes, Internet-enabling smarter decisions i.e. sizes, silhouette, compatibility with existing near-by plants, amount care / maintenance required…Help Your Yard-soil testing finds out lacking, just rights or way too much, plants will benefit by modifying / eliminating / reducing unhealthy soil chemistry scenarios, Green Thinking-recycle / re-use storm damaged debris or those ‘real’ trees / wreaths -first remove anything artificial, at home cut / place under acid loving plants (azaleas, dogwoods…), donate to parks with fish ponds (call first) provides fish nesting locations, drop off at designated parks or St. Louis Composting for shredding into mulch   

Don’t Go Cheap-regarding your neighborhood flyers and or singers, crows, blue jays, grackles, wrens, sparrows, titmouse, mocking birds, woodpeckers, sapsuckers, juncos, cardinals, finches (gold and purple), doves, chickadees, each having ‘personal’ preferences related to favorite seed. Cheaper seed generally contains high percentage of filler that ends up getting raked out of feeders or simply bi-passed, and then becomes an invitation to squirrels, starlings…Remember birds also need moisture to stave off winters harsh temperatures just like plant material.  

Slippery-How Water Becomes Ice-water is tiny molecules in motion, faster when warm, slower if cold, when water temperature is 32 movement stop and molecules stick together forming ice, colder temperature faster and stronger bonds are formed-Chemical De-Icers (multiple types available-with varied effectiveness) raise temperatures breaking bonds melting ice, most effective type will also break bond formed by ice and hardscape allowing for easier physical removal vs. trying to melt ice require large volumes of product and is environmentally and financially to costly

Take Inventory and Create Visual Interest-though plant installation can’t happen right now (weather and availability at garden centers) by adding evergreen woodies, perennials and ground covers definitely a welcome sight and will make views more interesting-so take a picture with phone, make some notes to improve vistas for future winters 

Wounds Obvious or Suspected (above / below ground)-lower trunk bark chewed-mice / vole, upper trunk branch bark frayed-deer, tunnel / mounds-mole among others each can have long term health impact either vein and or root system loose, take action to stop damage with traps, physical barriers, chemical repellents or combination, series of ¼" horizontal oozing holes on tree trunk is woodpecker or sapsucker-minimal damage to healthy tree 

Lawns-frosted or frozen minimize foot traffic breaks crowns (growth points) causing decline, prevent any blowing leaves from piling up on lawn can smother grass, 2 winter fungus-pink snow mold-symptoms-patches of bleached / pale dead lawn, grass blades can appear slimy / matted, random blades having pinkish tint-favorable conditions temperature high 32-45 degrees, higher humidity levels in specific location from snow melt, areas that fallen leaves were allowed sit (not raked / removed) and or lawn not power raked or dethatched for several years, fall fertilizer with nitrogen level greater than 15%combination of any or all can cause fungus growth, gray snow mold requires snow cover)-symptoms-random gray to straw brown patches few inches to 2’+, not visible until snow melts-initially infected patches grass blades will look puffy dirty bluish tint with shiny crust coating favorable conditions prolonged snow cover- 5 days plus, then temperature high 32-45 degrees  

DON’T Waste Time / Money-by spreading grass seed during snow cover there’s no advantage; seed migrates during melting or strong rain storms, and realize no germination until ground temperature gets above 45+

Serious About Weeds-considering using pre-emergent, purchase soil thermometer and routinely take soil’s ‘temperature’ at various locations (sunny and or southern exposure areas will warm fastest) related to crabgrass and other weed seed germination threshold is 45 degrees (approximate date is when yellow forsythia start blooming) and to control any weeds currently growing (henbit, mouse ear, clover…) hand digging most effective, reason to minimize weed seed production by these cold season loving weeds

Indoor Paradise-tasteful and or fragrant herbs (lavender, rosemary tree, basil, parsley…), exciting foliage maybe flowering; clivia, calla lily, fiddle leaf fig, philodendron, X-mas / Thanksgiving cacti, Mandevilla vine, hibiscus, cactus, bulbs (amaryllis or hyacinth, tulips / daffodils potted for forcing), poinsettias, sansevieria are just a few possibilities-many are in ‘hibernation mode’ whether pace in front of sunny window or not, any under plant grow lights may be more active, overview anticipate foliage browning / dropping, keep watering according to plant variety (minimal-cacti succulent-routinely to orchids)  and once a month shower helps by washing off surface dust, fertilize (bloomers bi-weekly, all others monthly at ½ label rate), keep looking for sticky leaves / stems (bugs) determine cause take action wiping off or application of insecticide, if plant appears to be in decline i.e. blackened stems and or major leaf drop, wilting (over or under watering)-isolate all plants showing trouble to prevent spread chances of recovery iffy at best, any trouble take picture to favorite garden center for advise on action ranging from discard, either minor or major adjustments to care / maintenance, NO TRANSPLANTING right now, disrupting root system could be bad news




                                                 Take Time to Enjoy the Nature of Plants both In and Outdoors 



December-2017 calendar growing season comes to an end, looking back this year had a wonderful, spring explosion, difficult late summer / fall due to lack of rainfall, unexpected fantastic fall coloration. Now as usual who knows what Mother Nature has in store related to temperature (last year was wonderfully mild) and rainfall amounts. Landscape that were care for and maintained properly should experience minimal adverse impact, but remember in this great marathon called ‘gardening’ expect the unexpected. Make sure to relish good memories, learn and remember past disappointments. Page through catalogs, attend classes / lectures, stop at favorite garden center and Missouri Botanical Garden to gain insight, either subtle or obvious for 2018. Look forward to enjoying diversity of great outdoor and indoor plant material that you can, could, may, might delve into.

Should Ice, Sleet, Snow Occur-don’t beat if off your plants (bruising is slow to heal) and remember using rock salt (sodium chloride-though it is cheaper) can de-hydrate ground / root system, may damage hardscapes, alternatives calcium chloride (90% less de-hydration) or traction sand are less damaging

Stop Guessing Game-find out what is overly abundant and or lacking in your soil by Getting Soil Tested and do so every few years, avoid potentially costly disaster (mental and financial) don’t wait until there’s an obvious problem, don’t bother with do it yourself home kit-several private, universities and not for profit organizations offer service-go on line for possibilities

Indoor Seasonal Pizazz-any plant in bloom, fertilize using type for tropical plants apply at ½ label rate every few weeks while flowering continues-plant options include: Bromeliads-easy care, striking foliage, keep in bright light or color fades, keep water in center leaf cup, Christmas/Thanksgiving cactus-do not over water, set in bright sun repositioning may cause bud drop, Cyclamen (bulb) same care as cactus, Poinsettias-place sunny window (min. 4 hours sun), keep soil slightly damp (not wet)

Iffy Planting Spring Flowering Bulbs-ground is getting colder and possibly freezing (cold soil restricts root system development by bulbs and could impact flowering) but better to plant previously purchased crocus, tulips, daffodils, grape hyacinth etc. into ground or large

Good Gardening--To each and everyone that stops by-I say to you the world of life and gardening is simply wonderfully wild and crazy

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