Good Gardening in 2020 

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This year is a very strange and trying year because of a world scenario that has put a stop or slowed life's not only in the panorama of plants but just about everything. Make this a year to remember beyond the pandemic.

MAY is 360 degrees of Mother Nature natives, cultivated landscapes, water gardens, arid rockeries, pots galore that can be viewed and marveled at from decks, balconies, patios to broad expanses from bluff tops or river valleys, it is difficult not to see something that is breathe taking. Yes potentially there can be many things to be done now with rewards in coming days, weeks and months don't hesitate but be realistic on size and number of projects to insure more than enough time to appreciate each and every aspect of your choices. It time to evaluate, correct any spring related problems always keeping your mind and ideas flowing, knowing there could be a small nuisance that makes a big difference.

Addressing Various Scenarios (fertilizing, chemical-insecticides, fungicides, weed / problem control... applications)-getting best results require proper Timing (weather related), Reading / Understanding / Following-all how to from mixing to applying, what type of equipment is best to use, remembering common sense-is this problem really going to do considerable damage or not can time be spent working on more rewarding situations-these consideration relate to organic or inorganic products

Rainfall (too much or not enough) either can lead to root system / plant trouble making recovery iffy-during this period of major growth ideally 1" of rainfall every 7 days, should there be more hopefully plants have been installed according to varieties moisture needs to prevent drowning, if less than 1" irrigate with sprinklers, hand watering, or irrigation system to make up difference-moisture is crucial for plants installed less than 2 years ago-Reminder extended periods of gusty winds has a very drying impact 

Equipment Maintenance-sharpened blades and tools invaluable to prevent tip or end fraying (better chance for disease / insect / health problem), make sure mower blade height is correct for type of lawn-bluegrass / fescue 3.5-4", zoysia 3"-mowing frequency keep clippings less than 1"

Managing Investments-recently purchased, existing plant relocations / divisions-watch closely for 14-21 days (early root establishment period)-do not allow any drought stress-all plantings new or well established wilting during heat of day can be natural reaction to conserve moisture as plants by close breathing pores, check on any wilted plants next morning if drooping-water

Flowering is Exhausting for Plants-allowing spring blooming bulbs to keep foliage at least until 50% brown during this period after flowering is finished foliage is building strength for next year- all spring flowering woodies fertilize with proper type i.e. evergreens need iron / sulfur to maintain healthy colorful foliage, deciduous types purchase apply formulas if available for specific variety i.e. rose food-do not fertilize 2020 installations can adversely impact roots

Get Rid of Troubles-plants with bad aesthetic / growth history consider getting rid of, especially if attempts have been made to correct problems 

Most Expensive Landscape Part-Lawns-minimize likely never will eliminate troubles because of regions weather so-keep close eye on lawns-watch for any type of weeds (compete for nutrients / moisture), insects (depending on type-can damage above and below ground growth, disease / bacteria / fungus-possibility of minor spots to total devastation-AT FIRST SIGNS of puzzling changes get professional help at favorite garden center or lawn service to minimize damage before summer's heat arrives-GET SOIL TESTED to find out and use this information when doing anything related to lawn care

Welcome Immigrants-Monarch butterflies-could be arriving soon keep your eyes open-misc. facts-eating habits-small amounts of nectar in multiple locations on same flower cluster when possible, no flying on cloudy / rainy day, some live up to 5 years, migration from Canadian alpine forest to Mexico City (2000 miles each year), adult weight 1/2 gram, wing roof shingle like, pigmented with reds, oranges, grays, whites, blues, shiny metallic look is due to prism-like membrane on wing that bend / refract light, butterfly caterpillars-mouth has sensitive hairs (maxillae) for taste testing, butterfly adults-nectar sipping thru drinking straw like tongue, knob-like antennae extensions are used to smell, touch, orientation and protection

Misc. One Liners

Use potting mix vs. potting soil for any plants in pots, containers, window boxes...

Removal azaleas and rhododendron blossoms as they fade is for aesthetic reasons Fertilize all spring blooming woodies after flowering is finished

Watch pines for sawfly caterpillars / worms eating needles just below candles

Plant summer bulbs i.e. caladiums, dahlias, cannas, elephant ears in ground or pots

When cool season annuals start declining replace with summer annuals pots or ground

Fertilize annuals second week after planting then every 2-3 weeks for best showing

First pinching of perennial mums remove 25% of stem

Enjoy birds which help with insect control

Lower care herbs (ground or pots) need minimal fertilizer and water for best flavor / scent

If moving houseplants outdoors don't place in direct sun for a few weeks, fertilize monthly   

Watch lawn for emergence of broadleaf weeds control with herbicide or digging out roots

Last feeding of cool season lawns, first for zoysia-use soil test results to determine type

Slugs leave shiny trails on foliage, if observed consider slug / snail bait to control

Time to plant tomatoes in ground or pots, keep watered, feed tomato food

Prune unwanted shoots on woody trees or shrubs, don't leave stub


APRIL'S panorama this year is way beyond what is traditionally thought, first full month of spring when all aspects of nature and landscapes explode with aesthetic excitement. Trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants reach out and warm everyone-this year's pandemic circumstances hasn't impacted plant materials just people ability to get out and enjoy in some cases. Though in a lot of ways people are out walking, running, riding bikes more than has ever, how long this will continue no one knows but again the outdoors welcomes all comers. Many garden centers have had hours curtailed or even shut down to minimize numbers of people gathering which has potential spreading factors of this Covid19-so if considering making a purchase at your favorite nursery contact them to make sure if and when they are open for business. Fantastic opportunity to spread time evaluating and working in your yard, landscape, deck, patio or balcony wherever you have plants growing. Additionally nothing can be more relaxing than working with plants, introduce children, kids, teens or any family members who historically have not been interested, so put down the ‘phones', put computers to sleep and GO HAVE THE TIME OF YOU LIFE- 

Creating New or Renovating Garden(s) and or Bed Space-some elements i.e. plant purchase may be delayed

a). Evaluate Planned Location-check drainage, amount of sunlight-when / how long, if location has underground or overhead utilities, possible tree feeder roots, access by pets or wildlife, near kids play area      

b). Transplant / Remove / Control existing vegetation-relocate or kill

c). Create Raised Bed Space-measure square footage, purchase soil (1-2 cubic yards per 100 sq. ft.) amendment to elevate bed area 2-4" depending upon designated planting for area

d). Work / Turn Over Bed Space-spread 2" of amendment on surface and blend with existing soil, continue adding and blending until all purchased amendments have been added, rake soil to level and create a slight slope away from any building or hardscape insuring correct water flow

e). Plant Purchasing-(only purchase plants that can be installed within 1 week)-give plant a careful once over, select most healthy strong appearing plants, sale plants will likely require more effort, prior to installation set plants in protected spot to minimize cold wind or sun burn, keep soil damp not soggy (potential root system damage)

f). Plant Installation-lightly water area day before (if dry), dig hole 3 times root diameter-depth 2/3 root depth, containerized-tip pot upside down-with stem / cluster between fingers, shake until plant slide out, shake gently to free some potting mix, check for healthy white roots, if roots overly tangled gently loosen, keep plant upright and spread roots out in bottom of hole, then backfill soil, before tamping make sure 10-20% of root ball is above surrounding ground, water if soil settles creating depression add more soil, mulch according to plant type (see mulch) faster acclimation by plant if flowers or fruit is removed

g). Establishment Period (ask garden center staff for recommendations)-watering and fertilizing (initially ½ label rate) according to plant type and size, morning wilting indicates water is needed, larger plants may need stabilizing / staking, routinely remove dying flowers or broken branches, leaves or stems, after 30 days plants should be well established and normal care and maintenance schedule initiated

Getting Instant Impact with Pots, Containers and or Window Box Plantings-cover drainage holes (with pieces of broken pots to insure holes don't get clogged and minimize potting mix exiting through holes) fill bottom ¼ with pea gravel, smaller pieces of rock for drainage, fill with potting mix within 1-2" top edge, water to check drainage and settling, dig hole into potting mix slightly wider than plant being installed, remove plant from existing pot by placing stem(s) between fingers, turn container upside down, shake causing plant to slide out, larger plants lay pot on its side roll and pull plant to remove or gently lift plant out of pot-when any plant is remove shake to loosen root system if root bound untangle roots somewhat, sit plant into hole, backfill with potting mix to top of root ball and  water, if potting mix settles backfill again, advisable to pinch flowers / fruit off to quicken establishment process, covering surface with mulch is optional 

Some Specifics

Moving Existing Houseplants / Tropicals Outdoors-or received a gift or made a purchase-initially place out of direct sunlight minimizing chance of sun burning foliage for first 7-14 days, then sun lovers should be ready to get full bright light of the sun, but keep an eye on them any signs of leaf burn move into a more shady location 

Color it Up and or Become a Farmer-cool season annuals and edibles types (pansies, lettuce, cauliflower) install into prepared bed space or containers with potting mix, fertilize and water-warm season (basil, periwinkle, begonia, tomato, pepper) may be available at garden centers but remember these plants can be damaged if temperatures or wind chills drop into mid 30's, if making purchase be prepared with an idea on protection i.e. covering overnight with upside down pot, landscape fabric / burlap-no plastic sheeting

Be Generous-extra plants (existing or new purchases)-contact Gateway Greening, Brightside St. Louis related to making donation of plants for community gardens

Brighten Up with Bulbs-spring bloomers-fertilize at ½ label rate, cut off declining flowers, allowing foliage to remain until ½ brown to build bulb strength for next year cut spent foliage at ground level, do not bend / rubber band green leaves, summer bulbs (elephant ears, canna, caladiums) can be planted into ground or containers, once new growth is obvious fertilize at ½ label rate, keep watered 

Healthy Plants-determine which fertilizer is best according to type of plant, ask at your favorite garden center if unsure, i.e. rose food will have nutrient levels and specific micro-nutrients for roses, same true for acid loving (evergreens among others) plants contain sulfur / iron, tomato food to not feed trees either deciduous and evergreen until fall-Water / Rainfall Required Amount-1" every 7-10 days-REMEMBER Healthy Plants in-ground really start with strong robust organic rich soil-fertilizer or water is not a substitute just part of the game

Newly Emerging Trouble Makers-(disease-bacteria / fungus and insects-scale /mealy bugs / caterpillars / pine saw flies...) triggered by weather / air temperatures which triggers eruptions of disease and insect activity-unsure of problem don't guess and react it could be more problematic, check plant(s) and neighboring plants over-all health, take sample to garden center, ask if cause is multi-facetted, or single source, what (physical, chemical-organic / inorganic) options, whether ‘trouble maker' is already gone and or better / routine maintenance, repellents could prevent future problem keep a close eye on any planting (especially any with a history of problems) and take action at first signs of ‘trouble' by doing so you will minimize length of impact whether health or aesthetic wise-Don't forget about Wildlife-below ground and possibly just about everywhere-Weeds-determine problem, use post emergent (after sprouted) herbicides, most prominent weeds; violets (clumped shiny leaves bluish flower), dandelion (rosette leaf yellow flower), wild onions and garlic (straight up leaf smells like onion if crushed), crabgrass (flat grass whitish center), clover (3 leaf shamrock white flower)-options include organic (horticultural vinegar) or inorganic step on damage foliage plant opening wounds for quicker access inside wed leaves just prior to spraying, if weeds are located among desirable plants place a barrier (i.e. cardboard) to isolate weed and preventing herbicide drift onto ‘good plants' WALK AROUND SLOWLY AND LOOK CAREFULLY-BE SMART

Our Lawn World-transitional zone meaning cool and warm season types have their ups, downs and all around-general thoughts-overseed bare and thin areas-cool season varieties (fescue / bluegrass) can be core aerated and or power raked followed by spreading ½" of compost, areas can be seeded or sodded as well, if seeding use seed starter fertilizer and water daily for 2 weeks afterwards water to insure 1" per week, mower blade height 3-3 1/2", fertilize established lawn, best to use type determined by soil test nutrient analysis-zoysia initial mowing set blade low-1-1 1/2", next cutting and throughout spring, mower blade height 3-3 1/2", first fertilizing as lawn greens up

One Liners

Dog Urine-has high nitrogen content this is what damages plant material     

Mole Problems-traps are best solution

Ornamental Grasses-cut off any brown blades, option to divide or relocate

Prune Spring Bloomers-after flowering has finished, time to fertilize also

Plastic Re-cycling-old or new containers, flats, check for info

If Relocating and or Dividing-do so ASAP, make sure to get plenty of root system and water in

First Rose Feeding-when new growth reaches 2", watch for disease problems-act quickly

Groundcovers-can be mowed to shape up and rid area of fallen leaf debris

Easter Lilies-are hardy and can be planted outdoors (sunny location) after blooming is finished

Hedges-evergreen / deciduous can be pruned, removal of extreme amounts may cause problem

Honeybees and Hummingbirds-become very noticeable 










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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