Good Gardening in 2018 

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MAY-opening ceremonies for summer games, April’s cool grayness extended blooming period once flora buds finally opened, having said good-bye to crocus, snowdrops, later flowering witchhazel, and daffodils, tulips are on cusp bloom time ending. While dogwoods say hooray along with crabapples, quince, lilacs alongside maples, willows, hawthorns companioned with boxwood, kerria, sweet mock orange as purple palace coral bells, Japanese painted fern and peonies erupt to delight, zoysia greening up says remember me as bluegrass and fescues keep humming a great tune. Much to see and do many things done in MAY can have a huge impact on everything from problem solving / preventing and aesthetics not only in this month but further into summer. Best result happen when using correct fertilizer i.e. for acid loving plants, tomato food, rose food…       


Looking for Impact

Summer (perennial and not hardy) Bulbs

Common Name (Impact / Color)                  Botanical Name            Location / Usage

Earlier Summer

Giant Flowering Onion (pale purple)        Allium giganteum*             Sun-in ground

King’s Spear / Fox Tail (yellow)               Eremurus spectablis*        Sun-in ground

Caladiums (various)                                 Caladium X hortulanum    Partial or Shade-in ground / pot

Kaffir Lily (orange)                                    Clivia minata                    Shady-in pot / houseplant

Mid Summer

Agapanthus (blue)                                   Agapanthus africanus        Partial or Shade-in pot

Canna (various)                                       Canna X generalis             Sun-in ground or pot

Elephant Ears (white)                              Colocasia esculeria            Sun-Shade-in ground or pot

Gladiola (various)                                    Gladiolus X hortulanum      Sun-in ground or pot

True Lilies (various)                                 Lilium sp.*                          Sun-Shade-in ground or pot

Red Spider Lily (red)                                Lycoris radiata*                  Sun-in ground

Pineapple lily (yellow)                              Eucomis comosa                Sun-in pot

Late Summer

Dahlia (various)                                       Dahlia hybrids                    Sun-in ground or pot

Fire of Eden (bright red)                          Crocosmia masonorum      Partial or Shade-in pot

Fall Crocus / Saffron (various)                Colchicum autumnal*         Sun-Part Shade-in ground

Surprise Lily (pink)                                  Lycoris squamigera*          Sun-Shade-in ground


*perennials stay in ground, not hardy varieties dig in fall, store indoors for replanting next May


Summer Color

Annuals (great in pot or ground-Check Label-for best growing location)

Common Name                                       Botanical Name                              Best / Biggest Impact

Persian Shield                                         Strobilanthes dyeranus                 Foliage          

Ageratum (floss flower)                         Ageratum houstonianum               Constant Flowering               

Sweet Alyssum                                       Alyssum maritime                          Flowering Carpet

Balsam                                                     Impatiens balsamisa                      Height, Flower / Foliage

Begonia                                                   Begonia (numerous varieties)      Size, Color, Foliage, Flora         

Blue Sage                                                Salvia farinacea                              Flower Shape

Cosmos                                                   Cosmos sulpherus                         Very Tall, Fine Texture

French Marigold                                     Tagetes patula                                Shorter, Thick Dense        

Globe Amaranth                                     Gomphrena globosa                      Flower Dry Easily

Impatiens                                                Impatiens (numerous varieties)    Great Flowering in Shade

Periwinkle                                               Catharanthus roseus                     Loves Heat, Humidity

Hyacinth Bean Vine                               Dolichos lablab                               Pea-Like Flowers, Pods

Summer Bulbs and Annuals-perform best with routine fertilizing / watering

Keep an Eye Open-for butterflies these graceful flyers, gliders, likely will be paying a visit-getting to know about them-no flying on cloudy day-sun used for orientation, eating-adult’s tongue is 2 parallel linked tubes (drinking straw-like) for nectar sipping usually multiple locations on same flower cluster, larva / caterpillar-mouth parts have very sensitive hairs (maxillae) which are used for tasting and testing possible food whether floral or foliage-adult weight 1 / 2 of a gram-identification is by wing coloration which is a structurally a series of shingles (overlapping roof-like), pigmentation ranging from reds, oranges, grays, whites, blues which can have an iridescent metallic appearance this is created by a prism like scale attached on a shingle that bend and refract light


Equipment-before first use and then each month take time to check-sprayers to sprinklers, mowers to pruners, hoses to shovels, spreaders…clean, oil, sharpen, check, calibrate for correct application rate, replace as needed, invaluable to prevent tip or end fraying (better chance for disease / insect / health problem) don't take chances spreading diseases or physically damaging plants


Reminders-always read / understand / follow label(s) prior to making chemical application (whether organic or inorganic), there is no advantage (maybe damage) to upping douse beyond label instructions, and when using new chemical for first time cut label rate in ½ and observe results re-treat again at ½ label rate with 2-3 days, if satisfied use at full label rate for future applications, rainfall within 24 hours of application rain may diminish or eliminate desired results


New Plant Installations-check closely before buying for insects / diseases once planted water daily for 7-14 days, then monitor closely through summer (root establishment period)-wilting during heat of day can be natural reaction to conserve moisture by plant closing breathing pores, check wilted plants after sunset or early morning if still wilted, watering is needed-woody plants no pruning first year except dead or damage parts, herbaceous plants remove damaged foliage / spent flowers


Fungus-any plant with history of problems, whether lawn, roses, lilac, hawthorn, crabapple, phlox, start application of fungicide before problem is obvious / visible to minimizes potential damage-check with favorite garden center if unsure what’s happening and for best product for specific situation


Insects / Bugs-there are many options for insect control, determine specific bug, amount of potential damage when making decision on action and what if any product should be used- most chemical insect controls / sprays must hit ‘bug’ directly or it is a waste of time, energy and money-tent caterpillars-destroy web / nests, red clover mites (scampering tiny dots-when squashed smear red) minimal plant damage for any type of mite (have eight legs vs. six)-apply ‘miticide’ not insecticide-bagworms-easiest killed when young / small in crawler phase movement along branch / twig-proper diagnosis is followed with appropriate action to minimize damage-watch lawn areas for sod webworms emerging-scale are hatching (crawler stage-mobile, adults are stationary appearing as small lumps) is best time to apply summer weight horticultural oil which will suffocate, several types of scale can be found on conifers, evergreen euonymus, and some deciduous trees and shrubs-Scotch and Mugho Pines-watch for sawfly larva (black caterpillar) eating needles-squash to kill or apply insecticide

Weeds (cool season annual types) i.e. henbit, speedwell, chickweed…disappear as temperatures rise after dropping tons of seed (germination next mid/late August-apply pre-emergent at that time to control)-warm season perennial (thistle, clover, dandelions, violets…) and annual (spurge, nutgrass, plantain, crabgrass…) weeds development accelerated with higher temperatures-control hand dig or herbicide (with positive identification) before application, many perennial types will take repeated applications and possibly over several years to entirely eradicate


Lawns-keep close eye in all lawns for any broadleaf weeds, take immediate action whether spot treatment or wider range, Adjust mower blade height according to lawn type; bluegrass and zoysia 2.5”, fescue 3.5”, mowing frequency to insure clippings are 1” or less, bagging not necessary, fertilize zoysia lawns but use caution when considering feeding fescue or bluegrass could cause problems for cool season types as temperatures rise


Quickies-Reminder-this is busiest month for garden centers / staff, when in need of help-be patient

Cut Down Spring Flowering Bulb Foliage-when it’s ½ brown-Ground Covers-fertilize ½ label rate-Ornamental Grasses-existing-cut and discard brown blades, can divided or relocated-Roses-carefully remove any remaining mulch, fertilize and begin insect and disease control-Ornamental Trees-watch for disease and insects, anticipate final petal drop and foliage emergence-Shrubs-no pruning on summer blooming varieties (except stem, branches showing no signs of new growth) prune spring (after flowering), and evergreen types to control growth and habit, fertilize with granular or water soluble, monitor insect and disease problems-Perennials-fertilize actively growing plants, with granular or water soluble-Trees-keep an eye out and look for any unusual growth identify the problem take action if needed-Vines-no pruning on summer bloomers, remove dead stems- Broadleaf Evergreens-fertilize after flowering get best results by using a formula specific formulated for acid loving plants, transplant now and or install new plant material-Tropical Houseplants-whether indoors and out fertilize monthly, water to keep potting mix damp not soggy-Herbs-low care grow in full sun, well-drained soil or in pots with potting mixes, no need to fertilize, over fertilizing impairs taste / fragrance-Birds-can consume some insect pests, so provide water and good habitats for resting / nesting-Lightning Bugs-begin showing up on warm nights, reminder both larvae and adults are predators of several damaging insects / bugs-Mums-cut 1/3 stem length to increase branching, adding to fall flower count and fertilize


EXPECT APRIL AESTHETICS to be FANTASTIC ala roller coaster ride-whether enjoying status quo and or adding to current landscape characteristics while MARCH'S wet / coolish hangover and APRIL FOOLS DAY sleet / rain / snow, unexpected low temps during April first week should soon be forgotten, marvel as Spring Explodes with brand new 2018 happenings-APRIL equals unbelievable

Flight-ed Happenings-Hummingbirds heading north from winter home in Central America, wasp and hornet queens begin nesting, bees of all sorts will be out and about-be(e) conscious of their presence along with other pollinating insects, please don't spray insecticides on blooming fruit trees or flowering shrubs

Making Best Bed Space, then Picking Out / Purchasing Plants-a)-check everything where water sits / runs, underground utility lines / wires, near-by plantings-b). new garden, additions to existing one-delineate area, control / remove unwanted vegetation-c). measure square footage of space, purchase or have on hand amendments (compost), 2 cubic yards per 100 square feet of garden-d). work / turn over ground, layer 2" of amendments mix with existing, continue adding 2" at a time and blending, this will raise planting area 6", rake surface to insure slope away from any building-e). purchasing plants-spend time checking leaves / stems-consistency of size, color, rigidity, is plant leaning, thin or stretched out, feel potting mix for moisture (not soggy-or moldy smelling), any insects present on plant, soil surface, pot bottom, purchase only healthiest plants-now at home place plants out of direct sun and water-keep damp until planting time-best if not held more than 7 days

Down and Dirty-Plant Installation / Transplanting-day before installation / transplanting water designated area planting area, plant material schedule for relocation and keep all newly purchased plants (pre-installation) well-watered-Containerized Plant Installation-many plants decline and or are very slow to establish due to improper planting follow these steps dig hole 3 times root diameter-depth 2/3 root length so top of root ball is above surrounding ground / bed space, potted plant removal-tip container upside down-with stem cluster between fingers, jiggle until plant slips out, shake free some potting mix look check for white (healthy) roots, overly tangled roots gently loosen, and spread, root check hole depth-if okay hold plant upright, backfill soil and tamp, check depth again top of roots above surrounding surface, water immediately-if soil sinks around plant add more backfill, suggest pinching off flowers / fruit to reduce stress on newly installed plants, spread mulch over crown, watering is last step before walking away, reducing chance of root dehydration, do not allow wilting for at least first 2 weeks after installation check daily and water if needed, but don't over water this can cause root rot which will give a wilted appearance

Finished Planting now What About Now Empty Plastic Containers, Pots, Flats, Cell Packs-consider recycling, ask at favorite garden center or check MO. Botanical Garden to see if they collect / recycle clean plastic containers / flats info Pots / Containers Part 2-any that contained diseased plants last year-empty and discard potting mix, wash pot inside and out with dish washing soap and water before re-using, refill with new potting mix

Be Colorful and Generous-did you happen to buy more plants then you need or when making purchases why not pick up a few extra plants, or if plant divisions provided some overflow-contact Gateway Greening, Brightside St. Louis and make a donation of these plants for community gardens and public spaces-

Bulbs, Bulbs and more Bulbs-fertilize all spring (crocus, snowdrops, daffodils...) bloomers at label rate, remove shriveled flowers, don't rubber band leaves (reduces food production capabilities) increasing chance of disappoint for spring '19-summer / tropical (elephant ears, canna, caladiums...) types pot up and place in warm locations to break dormancy and stimulate growth, locate bulbs or pots in permanent location mid or late month or early, Easter lilies-are hardy, plant outdoors post blooming, dig hole 5-6" deep in well drained area, allow foliage to remain to build bulb strength for next year

Instant Impact - Tropicals / Houseplants-over-wintered or new purchase-even sun tolerant varieties need to acclimate to direct sunlight after 11:00a.m.-initially place in part shade location for 2-4 weeks so they can adjust and minimize leaf sun burn, after that sun loving plants should be ready for afternoon or all day sun bathing, but always be conscious of leaf burn / scorch, all plants need to be fertilized / kept watered routinely 

Be Pro-Active-Catch Troubles Early-control is easiest during early stages of any problems-Insects (mites, tent caterpillars, bagworms, white flies, etc.) have wintered over in various stages from eggs, larva, or adults hidden in natural splits of tree bark, in last year's fallen vegetation, underside of boards (slugs / snails) rockery crevices, downspout piping, stacks of wood, virtually everywhere - remember some even tried to come inside your home (box elder bugs or lady bugs) to wait the winter out, 1). Realize soil and air temperatures that trigger grand showings by plant material do the same thing for head and heartaches-examples as maple trees finish flowering look out for-tent caterpillar (thick webbing in branches), pine sawflies (worms on candles of pines), spider mites (on houseplants just brought outdoors), other insects eating and or laying eggs-Correctly identify insects in area of concern (many aren't problematic) look at options in relationship to potential damage-chemical, cultural, physical, and natural bacteria, predators / parasites each with pluses and minuses- regardless of choice always read and follow label before applying / releasing anything to best results-Diseases (fungus, bacteria) and keep an eye for spring lawn fungus especially if there is a history of trouble, watch for orange, jelly-like galls / blobs on cedars / junipers, this is cedar apple rust can impact apples, crabapples and hawthorns foliage, new growth, overall health Weeds-very diverse group-control is very type specific, vary adaptable to almost everywhere either annual, biennial or perennial life cycle, spread with underground growth and or seed dispersal-broadleaf wide with branched veins-examples; dandelions, violets, chickweed, and spurge-grass slender reeds with veins running parallel to margin-examples; crabgrass, wild onions / garlic, goose grass-sedges / nutgrass-narrow greenish yellow grass-like blades forming a triangle at ground-Control-first correct identification apply labeled herbicide--other control options digging, landscape fabric, mulch remember total eradication can take several years of battling, no matter course of action taken

Fertilize-many cases if is best to apply fertilizer formulated for special group / type (i.e. acid loving, annuals, vegetables) of plant, begin at first signs of active growth plants, amount and frequency according to label

Lawns-sharpen mower blades (reduce disease potential) blade height 2.5-3.0", core aerate / compost spreading, or power rake cool season (blue grass / fescues) varieties, can be seeded or sodded, zoysia action weather dependent when greening starts make first mowing blade height 1-1.5" if possible bag or mulch clippings to reduce thatch, for additional mowing blade height 2-2.5"

Roses-reduce mulch leave 1-2" over crown, set fungicide (read label) program for black spot, mildew, etc. spray every other week (weather dependent), make first application of rose fertilizer 

Water Bog Garden-clear / clean surroundings, basin, waterfalls, pots of debris, change out water if needed, check survival of hardy plant, discard any showing soft bruised areas, check fish
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



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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