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Paul's Tips for the months...

Tips for September

The month of September is a wonderful month because of the many changes it will bring us, and the plants in our garden. Lets us begin with the day length, as this climatic factor will begin to limit the amount of flowers and vegetables that our garden can produce. The plants that grow during the summer need long days too become productive and as the days grow shorter your production will begin to fall off. When this happens our shrubs, trees, ground covers, roses, and the lawn, begin to prepare for the winter. Fall is a season too prepare for a rest period, just like, spring is a season to prepare for a growing period. Our plant, slowly stop growing and redistribute their energy to thicken the bark of the plant to prepare for winter. Other change such as thicker cell walls in roses to better cope with cold weather, and the grass begins to store more food in the roots for the winter than it uses to promote new foliage. Our trees begin to send the energy that the leaves are making down to the roots for winter storage. As the temperature changes begin to cool off, the leaves will shut down the production of energy, burst in to brilliant colors and sadly fall to the ground where the winter weather will begin to break in down like compost to feed the tree in the spring to come. This is a wonderful plant growth cycle, that as gardeners we should enjoy. With all of these changes happening, what should we do to help our plants to prepare for the winter? Well, the list is long and here is what I suggest that you do this month in the garden. If these suggestions should not all be done in September, we still have October.

Lets start with the lawn, because fall fertilizing is the most important step to grow a good -looking lawn in the spring. Food applied now is used to thicken the root system so the plant can gather and store extra food and water for winter in the plant. In the fall, 75% of the fertilizer is stored in the plant and 25% is used to produce foliage, just the opposite of spring fertilizer. This energy keeps the lawn strong during the winter when snow and ice can create problems. Most lawn have been thru a rough summer with heat and reduced amounts of water available to them. The fall fertilizer helps to repair the plants damage it suffered during the summer and prepare it for winter. Fall is also the best time to apply limestone to the lawn. Always remember, that ground limestone will take up to 6 months to change the acidity in your soil and it is best applied in the fall.

Grass seed planted in the fall is less work for you and germination is better in the fall. The reason is that the soil is already warm when you plant the seed. Weed problems are almost nonexistent and those weeds that do germinate will die with a good frost in October. Frost will not hurt new grass unless you planted "Annual Rye" seed, so please read the back of the box for seed types. May I suggest that you always double the amount of seed you use when planting a new lawn at any time of the year. The cost of grass seed is small when compared to the labor of replanting thin spots later. Traditionally the fall season will also begin a period of more rainfall and morning dew to help encourage quick seed germination. Less watering will be needed on your part and that is time and money saved.

The vegetable garden must be cleaned of spent plant at this time to remove potential disease spores and insect eggs attached to these plants, that if left could become a problem next year. Place these plants in your compost pile and let Mother Nature destroy the problems for you. To help rebuild your tired soil, plant "Winter Rye" seed this month in your garden. Winter Rye will grow a root system up to one mile long during the fall and early spring season. In the spring cut the grass down and till the soil over. The roots and grassy top of the Winter Rye that you till will become organic matter in the soil much like adding peat moss to garden. Planting Winter Rye in your garden is a great thing to do, if your soils are sandy! The more organic matter your soil has the less water and fertilizer your plants will need to grow. Also, don't forget to add limestone in the fall to your garden, especially if the bottom of your tomatoes and summer squash had a brown rotten spot on them.

If you planted a tree that is taller than 6 feet this spring, it would be helpful to the tree to be staked this fall. Staking kits can be purchased at most garden centers and nurseries. Winter winds can bend the top of the tree, this action will cause a reaction underground snapping small new roots and this will hurt the tree come spring. Keep watering until all the leaves fall from the plant this year. If you have not fertilized since spring sprinkle a little Superphosphate fertilizer 0-20-0 around the plant to keep the roots growing right until the ground freezes. A thick layer of pine bark mulch 3 inches thick will also help protect the roots during the winter.

In the perennial garden, you should remove all dead foliage right to the ground when possible. As the plants turn brown or yellow its time to clean the garden to remove possible problems for next year. If your soil is on the acid side, add a little lime to the entire garden to sweeten up the soil for next year. If you have any open spots in the garden mark them with fist size stones now and later when you have the time plant some spring flowering bulbs like tulips, crocus, daffodils or hyacinths. This same spot can be planted with annuals in June for summer color.

New fruit trees should have a hardware cloth wire collar around the trunk of the tree, from the ground to the first branch or 3 feet high. This will prevent rodent damage during the winter and early spring when food supplies are scarce. Moles and mice love the taste of sweet young fruit tree bark. Collars should be 2 to 3 inches larger than the tree trunk and must stay around the tree for 3 to 5 years or until the smooth bark, begins to get rough looking. Also, be sure to clean area around tree of all fallen fruit as they may attract animals. If the tree is new this year wrap the trunk of the tree with tree wrap to prevent sun damage to the delicate bark. Newly planted dogwood and flowering crabs, cherries, and plum will benefit with this protection.

If your houseplants have been out all summer and your thinking of bringing them back in the house do it by the end of the month. Plants will adapt better if they are moved indoors before the heat is turned on in the house and before the storm window are put on the house. Check the plant from top to bottom for possible insect problems and it will be easier to spray outside than when in the house. I never take a chance with plants brought inside from the patio. Use Horticulture Oil spray on everything before you move plants inside. Also, fertilize them and mark your calendar when you did so you will know when to do it again in 4 weeks.

If you have summer flowering bulbs like gladiolus, dahlias, begonias, and other non-winter hardy bulbs it's a good time to label them with name, color, height of plant and size flower. That way when the frost arrives you will know which bulb is which for next year. Start looking for grape boxes from your local market to store the bulbs in during the winter. Your local nursery or garden center will also have a bulb dust to treat bulbs before putting them in storage in your basement. Bulbs store best in a room where temperatures do not drop below freezing but is cold, like your basement and on the floor! Never store bulbs in plastic bag as they will sweat and the moisture build up will rot the bulbs in the bag. Label bulbs with a string tag and use a pencil to mark them not a pen, as it will fade.

Begin to set up your bird feeding stations this month so the birds will find the location of your feeders early. Your local nursery will be receiving fresh seed by the end of the month. New bird feeders usually arrive in the fall also. Keep the bird food in your basement rather than the garage or you may have mice that move in. Water is important during the winter and if your birdbath is cement or clay it will freeze and break, use a top of your plastic trash barrels as a birdbath.

Spring flowering bulbs can be planted any time now in your garden or potted for indoor forcing. I will explain this process of forcing bulbs into bloom indoors on a separate page later on this month, its easy and fun for all. Planting spring flowering bulbs is easy and will be a success if you purchase quality bulbs. Avoid bargain bulbs from non-agriculture stores. The bargain bulb may not flower, as they are small and lower grade size bulbs. Shop early for the best selection and keep the bulbs in a cool location until your ready to plant. When planting be sure to use superphosphate fertilizer 0-20-0, not bone meal or you will have problems with animals digging up your bulbs.

Tips for June

The spring gardening season has been very dry and cool except for a few very hot days in early may. If you have planted a lawn from seed do not panic if you do not see a lot happening yet, it is not your fault it's the weather.

If your planning to plant a new lawn this month you will be ok because the weather will determined the rate that the grass seed will germinate. For example, Perennial Rye seed will germinate in 7 to 10 days with 70+ degrees and Tall Fescue takes 14 to 21 days and Blue Grass will take 21 + days. This is the reason you should purchase a blended seed rather than a box of just one kind of seed. Perennial Rye is a permanent grass that will germinate quickly to hold the ground during a heavy rainstorm and show you that your hard work is now paying off. The next seed to germinate will be Tall Fescue the seed that makes your lawn look good all year long. This plant will produce a root system 3 to 4 feet deep into the ground to find water during dry periods and water bans. Tall Fescue will need half the amount of fertilizer that other grassed do and the plant produces a chemical on the roots that will kill insects if they try to feed on it call Endofites. The Perennial Rye and Tall Fescue are clump type of grasses and as the plant grows the clump expand and both types will grow in full sun to full shade all day. The final grass seed to germinate is the Blue Grass and this plant fills in all the thin spots in your lawn because as the plant matures it will develop runners from the main plant and spreads throughout your lawn. Besides taking so long to germinate, this seed has a few problems that we must put up with. The root system only grows 6 inches deep into the soil and when water gets scarce it will quickly go dormant and turn brown. A good blue grass lawn needs heavy fertilizer on a regular basis and it will not grow in the shade well.

When planting a new lawn always use a seed starter fertilizer to stimulate the seed to produce a large root system. Lime if your soil is acid to help the fertilizer work better and the grass to grow better. One more recommendation, always use extra seed at the time you plant the lawn because the cost of grass seed is small when compared to the cost of preparing the area for planting and having to start all over. Just remember the secret to a good new lawn is water! The best seed for your money today is one that I recommend, is Blue Seals, Easy Green Grass Seed, for sun or shade because this seed blend has all the new hybrids for this year, the best of the best.

Do you have a flowering plant hanging on your home or deck that start flowering great but tends to flower less and less during the summer? This is common but it can be avoided if you follow these tips: Fertilize the plant weekly with a liquid fertilizer such as Neptune Harvest Fish and Sea fertilizer. The roots are trapped in the container and once the food supply has been used up, the plant will rely on you to supply fertilizer to keep it flowering. Did you know that once a plant has begun to produce seed it may also produce less flowers? Once a plant flowers and the flower was pollinated you will see a seedpod where the flower once was. The plant has a goal to produce seed to reproduce itself for next season and once the plant has reached this goal, it will stop flowering. You can stop this from happening by removing all the faded flowers so the plant has to work harder to make flower that make seeds. So for better flowering plants fertilize regularly and pick off the dead flower when you feed.

Lilacs are a wonderful flowering shrub and will bloom for years to come if you use the following tips. When the flowers fade, remove those faded flowers from the plant. The reason is once the flowers fade the plant will try to make seed pods instead of making new flower buds for next year. You do not want hundreds of small seedlings growing at the base of the plant. By removing the faded flower all the energy is used to build a stronger and more productive plant. Lilacs love a sweet soil so each spring or fall add limestone around the plant. I like to feed them with Superphosphate 0.20.0 fertilizer in the spring to help them for next year: Use 1 hand full per 3 feet of plant for small plants, or one pound per 3 feet of clump for large plants, Use the limestone at the same rate. When the summer arrives and the air gets humid a foliage disease will develop called Powdery Mildew. This disease will cover the foliage with a white dust like film that does not kill the plant but it blocks out the sunlight and the plant has a hard time making energy for plant growth. Treat the plant with a good fungicide such as Mite-X by Bonide or Daconil fungicide. When watering during the summer keep the water off the foliage if possible.

Japanese Andromeda should also be cleaned of faded flowers this month if you want the plant to stay full and have many flowers next year. Be sure to check the plant for a potential insect problem called Lacebug. The damage is easy to spot because the foliage looks pale in color and if you look close, the foliage looks like some thing made tiny pinholes in the foliage. The spotting is very noticeable and the plant has been weakened a great deal. Lace bug looks like a large aphid with clear wings and is found under the leaf this month sucking the life out of the plant. Spray the plant with Cygon to control this insect and fertilize the plant at the same time. The Japanese Andromeda flower resembles a tassel drooping from the plant that has tiny white bell like flowers running down the tassel. Flowers begin in April and last well into May.

In the vegetable garden if you had problems last year with a brown rotting spot on the bottom of your tomatoes or squash you had Blossom end rot. A problem with calcium shortage in the garden soil that is normally controlled with limestone added to the soil in the fall. If the problem develops again this year look for new liquid Nutritional Calcium by Bonide co. The product will be available at nurseries this spring. Also, if the weather gets wet like last year and the bees do not pollinate your tomatoes flowers you will have another year without many fruit also temperatures over 90 degrees will cause the same problem again. This year you can do the pollinating yourself by using Tomato and Blossom Set spray by Bonide co. This new product will also work on squash and peppers. Fruit will be almost seedless and ripen 3 weeks earlier.

Did you take a soil test this spring of your garden? If things are not growing like they should the soil P.H. could be off. A normal application of limestone in the fall or spring will keep things right but soil can change easily. To increase the soil acidity applies Aluminum Sulfate for example to your Hydrangea will turn them a deeper shade of blue. To decrease the acidity and make the soil sweeter you can now apply Hydrated Lime to sweeten the soil quickly and raise the soil P.H. making the hydrangea a deeper shade of pink. Small 5 pound are now available at your garden center.

Have you had problems with cold weather crops like broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts or cabbage because they just wilt and die during June? This could be the Root Maggot a tiny worm like insect that feeds on the roots of your plants. The adult flies lay white eggs at the base of the plant or in cracks in the soil near the plant and, the eggs hatch and tunnel into the soil to feed. To help prevent this pest cut a piece of tar paper12 inches square or round and then cut a slit to the center to accommodate the plant and lay on the soil and this will discourage flies from laying eggs. If problem is severe mix Diazinon granules into the soil before planting.

In the perennial garden, be sure to fertilize the plants monthly for bigger plants. Check frequently for possible insect and disease problems. Pull the weeds as they develop or they will soon takeover the garden. Most perennials will bloom a second time if you deadhead the faded flowers. Tall growing flowers should be staked as needed or sudden thunderstorm could blow plants over easily. As perennials start to die back and turn brown cut them back to the ground and plant annual flowers to replace them and fill in the holes. By the end of the month cut back mums, tall sedum, and fall asters in half for a bushier plant that will produce twice the number of flowers it did last year. The cuttings can easily be rooted with a rooting powder found at the garden center when placed in containers of fresh potting soil. The artificial type will give you better results. When cuttings root plant 5 per pot or directly in the garden and pinch the tip on the plant off with your fingertips to allow the plant extra time to root in properly. When watering water for a long time and less often to force the roots to grow down looking for water. Never water the perennial garden at night get it done before 5 P.M. to prevent attracting insects and disease problems to the garden.

If weeds start to get ahead of you get out the garden hoe and weeding tools. The best time to weed is during the heat of the day or first thing in the morning. When you disturb the roots of the weeds and the sun is hot, they will wilt and die quickly. Just break up the soil and watch them die. Do not water the garden that night or some of the weeds will come back to life. After you have cleaned the garden of all weeds put down a weed preventer and water well to disperse the product into the soil. There are good chemical methods on the market today that will do the job for you or if you want to control the weeds without chemicals think organic and use Corn Gluten. The New England Organic Farmers Association recommends corn Gluten. This product is available at garden centers, feed and grain stores.

If you have a privacy hedge of pine or spruce trees on your property keep an eye open for the leader or tops of the tree turning yellow, and then brown and dry. The branch tip will seem twisted or distorted and pitch will accumulate around the dead needles. If you cut into the branch tip you will find a small ¼ to ½ inch worm some times reddish brown to white eating the wood fibers in the center of the branch. The worms feed from the top eating down the branch some times as much as 3 to 4 feet. The small moth reddish brown to gray lays the eggs on the new growth that resemble candles on the tree. The eggs hatch and the maggot like worms begin to eat there way down. This insect is called The Nantucket pine shoot tip moth. You may not see the moth fly because it is active at night only unless the branches are disturbed. Prune out and destroy infested twigs with fire. Spray the entire tree with Cygon insecticide and repeat every 4 weeks May to August.

If you have a flowering or fruiting pear tree that all of a sudden starts to turn black from the top of the branches and it works its way down turning everything black, you have a problem. This can also happen to Crabapples, Walnuts, Pyracantha, Mt. Ash, and Spirea. This is a bacteria disease called Fire blight and it can be controlled if you act now. Prune out infected branches 12 to 15 inches below the infection. Sterilize pruning tools after each cut by dipping shears in rubbing alcohol to prevent spreading the problem even further. Spray the plant with Fire Blight Spray that contains Streptomycin Sulfate. Next spring start the spraying before the buds break open and repeat at 5 to 7 day intervals until the end of flower bloom. The bees spread the bacteria to the flowers and the wind and rain finish the job.

One of our most beautiful spring flowering trees is the Dogwood. The beautiful pink or white flower of the Dogwood is a sign that spring has arrived. The dogwood has one real major disease problem and it is called Anthracnose. Look for the following signs: Circular reddish purple spots appear on the flower petals. The center dries out leaving a hole in the petal, also the bloom is malformed. The leaves are infected after the bloom with the same problems. The leaf wilts, turns brown on the plant and hangs on the twigs and the disease moves from the tip inwards on the branch. Wet weather is worse and it spreads faster. Prune out and destroy infested branches 12 to 15 inches in front of problem. Spray the tree with Daconil fungicide and repeat every 4 weeks until September. Rake up all leaves and destroy. Next spring begin spraying as soon as the flower buds begin to open. Fertilize the tree spring and fall with shrub and tree fertilizer to help replace energy to the plant. When pruning plant be sure to dip the pruning shears in bleach after each cut to prevent spreading the problem. Do not play with this problem or in 3 years you will loose your tree.

May Tips

Growing plants in containers or window boxes can be very satisfying and enjoyable if your soil is prepared properly. Just remember that the plant in the container is totally dependent on you for its survival. You and only you control all its needs and if those needs are not provided, the plant will not perform to its potential. Your plant is confined to this container and it is unable to search out alternative sources of water and nutrients. The better a job you do in providing for the plant needs the better your containers will look. The soil in the container does not have to be replaced every year but it does have to be conditioned yearly to replace and missing ingredients that would effect, the quality of plant growth. Begin by emptying the container into a garden cart and chop up the soil, as it will be filled with last year's plants root system. Add animal manure, compost, peat moss and if the container is small like a window box a new product to help retain moisture in the soil that will help retain as much as 50% of the water the plant will need weekly, called Soil Moist. Blend all the ingredients, fill you container with this new improved soil and your ready to plant. Feeding will increase the quality of the plant so be sure to set your self up on a schedule for regular feedings or use Osmocote fertilizer pellets at time of planting for 90 days of continuous feeding.

During May the Dandelions and other broad leaf lawn weed will begin to develop quickly. Treated at the first sign of flowers with a weed control product design for the lawn will control the problem. You can use Weed and Feed, a fertilizer and weed control products to kill the weeds and fertilize the grass. This helps the good grass to fill in the holes left in the lawn by the dead weeds. If you have fed your lawn in the past 30 days with a good lawn fertilizer then use a liquid weed control applied with your hose end bottle applicator. If you have stubborn weeds like Ground Ivy, Ajuga, or Wild Violets it will take 3 applications 7 days apart to control these weeds. The most effective lawn weed control product on the market today is Weed Beater made by the Bonide Co. New this year from Bonide Co. is Weed Beater Plus that will kill all broad leaf weeds and Crabgrass. Just remember to apply these products when rainfall is not expected for 24 hours so the product has time to work properly and keep off the grass until it dries.

If you have Birch trees on your property and want to help them fight off Birch leaf miner this year without spraying the tree or possibly hurting nesting birds here is a tip for you. Visit your local garden center, nursery or Feed and Grain store to pick up a produce called Cygon systemic insect control. Pour the Cygon in a used tin can full strength. Measure the diameter of the tree to be treated and for example if it is 2 inches in diameter paint the Cygon on the tree at eye level with a 2 inch ban around the tree. If there are several trees to the clump, each must be treated according to its diameter. As the sap moves up the tree, it will pick up the Cygon and move it to the leaves at the top of the tree. This method will work on tree up to 25 to 35 feet tall and best of all you will not have to worry about rainfall because the product is in the tree and will not wash off and the birds are safe. When you finished applying the Cygon, empty the remaining Cygon from the tin can back into the bottle for future use. Put the paintbrush into the tin can and crush the top rim together, now wrap in newspaper and dispose properly.

Lilacs are wonderful multi stem flowering shrubs that produce beautiful fragrant flowers this month. These flowers will develop if you plant the shrub in full sun, not half a day of sun but all day. Lilacs can be very particular with the soil they grow in because if the soil is acidic the flowers will not form. To prevent this from happening be sure to apply lime stone yearly around the plant at the rate of 2 to 3 hand full per 3 feet of height or with of shrub. Also, be sure to edge the grass away from the base of the plant to create a nice planting bed. Cover the soil with bark mulch to keep the soil cool during the summer and hold moisture during periods of drought. To help increase the number of flowers apply a fertilizer with the numbers 0.20.0. In the spring of the year is the best time to apply this fertilizer. When the Lilac finishes flowering remove the faded flowers so the plant will not use its energy to make useless seed pods and the energy is used to produce more foliage for a better plant.

Rose bushes need to be cared for now and should be fertilized monthly if you want flowers on the plant all summer long. Check for insect weekly on the plant especially on the new growth near the top or on flower buds. Granular products that are mixed into the soil with out spraying are available that will control insects on the plant. Look for Systemic Granules or Systemic Rose & Flower Care at a garden center near you. If you notice new, growth that seems to grow straight up and quickly check for the location of this growth. If it is developing from below the graft, a fist like growth at the soil line it should be removed because it will not flower just rob the plant of valuable energy. As the weather gets warm, be sure to water the rose weekly to encourage flowers. Roses need 3 to 5 gallons of water per week to grow properly. Try and keep the water off the foliage to prevent leaf spots so do not use sprinklers or irrigation systems. Hand water around the base of the plant and apply the water in the morning never after 5:00 P.M. or you will encourage disease and insect problems.

In the perennial garden, apply a 0.20.0 fertilizer to encourage flowers on your plants and a stronger root system. Apply at the rate of 2 lbs per. 10 ft by 10 ft of garden 100 sq. ft. Perennials plants should be fertilized monthly with a general-purpose fertilizer such as 10.10.10. If weeds have been a problem in the past apply Corn Gluten to the flower bed and water well to activate the product. Corn Gluten will prevent weeds for one year in the garden and best of all it is not a chemical and effective on all type of weeds. Water as needed to keep plants happy and apply the water in the morning to help prevent foliage disease problems. As the flowers go by, be sure to remove the faded blooms, as many of the perennials will flower again if the plant is cleaned. When planting perennials make sure you like the foliage because you will be looking at that foliage all season while the flowers last only 4 to 6 weeks.

In the vegetable garden, be sure to plant your cold crops early in the month. Cabbage, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Celery, Lettuce, Peas and Onions should be planted during the first week of May. Such plants as Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, Squash, Melons and Pumpkins should be set out only after the threat of frost is over, usually mid to late May. Seeds like Carrots, Beets, Beans, Swiss Chard, Cucumbers, Okra, Radishes, and Potatoes will germinate better if the soil is warm at time of planting so wait till mid to late May before planting. Don't rush the season or you may have to re-plant again later. Apply 0.20.0 fertilizer at the rate of 2 lbs. Per 100 sq. ft. or 10 ft by 10 ft. of garden to stimulate flowers and a strong root system. Water daily to keep seeds wet for better germination and to help establish new seedlings for the first 2 weeks, then as needed. Fertilize monthly with 5.10.5 or 10.10.10 or as needed, see Vegetable School notes for special plant needs.

Blue berries love to be fertilized with an Acid type fertilizer such as the one you use on your broad leaf evergreens. In May apply three inches layer of sawdust or bark mulch around the plant to help prevent weeds and conserve water during hot dry periods. If you are planting, Blue berries for the first time be sure to plant 2 or more varieties for better pollination and for a longer harvesting time. All fruits love the sun and this plant is no exception, plant in a full sun location. If birds are problem use netting or the new spray from Hot Pepper Wax, that will keeps the birds off your plants called Bird Repellent. This product is all natural. Bird Repellent will not hurt the birds but they do not like the taste and will not eat you berries. Just wash the berries before eating to remove the bitter tasting bird repellent.

Fruit trees should be put on a spraying schedule for the season to prevent insect and disease problems. Spraying should begin as soon as the flowers begin to drop from the tree and not before or you could hurt beneficial insects that are doing the pollination. Now if you have a fruit tree that you do not want fruit from that tree because of the mess then be sure to spray the tree when in bloom with Fruit Eliminator from Bonide Co. Fruit trees will usually take 3 to 5 years before that are strong enough to produce fruit so be patience. Fertilize with Jobes Fruit Tree Spikes during May and 0.20.0 fertilizer at the rate of 2 lbs. Per tree. Water as needed and keep the water off the foliage or you may have leaf spot problems during the summer.

In the Annual garden be patience and hold off planting until mid to late May. Plants will do better in a warmer soil and if you're a day or two late annuals make up for lost time quickly. Early May is the right time for Pansy, Violets and Johnny Jump Ups but wait for the rest. Mix peat moss, animal manure and compost before planting to condition the soil properly. Fertilize monthly with 10.10.10 fertilizer or every 2 weeks with Neptune's Harvest Fish and Sea fertilizer. Weekly remove all dead flowers from the plants. If the plant holds dead flowers, the plant will make seeds and not new flower buds. Your garden will be a beautiful but it could be better. Water in the daytime never after 5 p.m. or you will attract insect and disease problems. Spacing is a major problem for most of us because we plant the seedlings to close together. Why, because we want instant color and we want it fast. Give your plant room to grow this year and see the difference in your flowers. Your flowers will have thicker stems and they will stand up better. Your plants will have more flowers because they are not competing for sunlight with other plants and less disease problems because the air can circulate better. Try a new annual this year in the annual flowerbed, you may find something special that you would really like.

March Tips

For me, the month of March is the most exciting month of the year, because it begins the spring gardening season. For some of us it's the time to begin working on the lawn, cleaning the garden, pruning the fruit trees, or planning a new look to the shrubbery beds around the house. Mother nature always has the last say and only when she is ready may we begin. Some years by mid march we're running and enjoying the season, but the opposite is also possible and the cold and snowy weather limits our outside activities. Look around you and let the trees, birds, and weather tell you what to do. Use your gardening books as a guide and let your experience guide you through the next few weeks. Don't be to scare to get out and work outdoors.

Here is a list of things for you to do this month. Pick and choose what can be done and try doing a little bit each week.

Start your power equipment to see if they will need repairing. Your lawn mowers, rototillers and chippers could need a tune-up, blades sharpened, or belts replaced. March is a slow time for repair shops and during April and May could bring a wait of several weeks to get the work done.

Clean your gardens of branches, leaves, and dead foliage you forgot to remove in the fall from your plants. It's also a good time to apply limestone if your soils tend to be on the acid side and moss is a problem. If your soil is heavy and water seems to sit there, apply some garden gypsum to soften the soil and improve drainage.

When you can walk on the lawn and the ground feels firm then begin to rake it to remove the dead foliage from last year. Pick up the branches that fell during the winter and leaves that blew in from your neighbors yard. Cleaning now will help to eliminate disease problems if our spring is wet. Since you have opened up the lawn with the raking, the air can circulate properly and disease is less a problem.

I like to edge my flower and shrub beds at this time also. When edging save the clumps of grass you cut out and place them in the lawn if you have small bear spots here and there. Dig out the dead spot and fill in with the grass clumps. This grass will adapt to the move easily and prevent weeds from filling those spots in the lawn.

Mulching can be done at this time also. Cultivate the mulch around your plants before adding new mulch to the gardens. Cultivating will help you determine if you need to add additional mulch and how much. The mulch should be 3 to 4 inches deep on the bed to do the job correctly and that is preventing weed growth and controlling moisture loss during the hot days of summer. If you apply more mulch than is required you could rot the bark around the stem of the plant and it will die. Apply 2 inches around the stem of the plant and taper it thicker in open areas to 4 inches. If you planted spring flowering bulbs last fall be careful around those planting area so the mulch does not get to thick.

If you have fruit trees be sure to prune them no later than this month. Its also a great time to spray the trees with Horticulture Oil to help control insects and Lime Sulfur to help control disease. I like to spray all my shrubs, the roses, the garden soil and structures that the plants live near or on at the same time, it helps. To help detect insect arriving to your fruit trees tie a red apple near the tip of a branch on the trees. Large trees use 2 apples per tree and coat the apple with Vaseline. When the insects arrive they will stick to the apple, you will see them and this will signal the beginning of your spraying program. This method will give you perfect timing to when the insects are arriving.

In the rose garden be sure to tie up your climbing roses and remove any suckering branches that have developed. Remove any winter covering placed around the plants last fall. You can now add bark mulches to the rose garden, lime if the garden needs it and use the Horticulture oil and Lime sulfur spray to cut down on problems later. Do not feed or prune till April when the Red Sox begin playing in Fenway Park.

By mid month you should be ready to dig up and move perennials if needed. It's also the time to divide plants that have grown too large. Weed beds, add limestone if moss is a problem and set up your watering system before you mulch the beds. If weeds are a problem apply weed preventer such as corn gluten meal or Preem before the mulch is put down. Make a plan of the perennial bed on paper so you know the names of the plants, this will also help you to plan out future additions to the flowerbed.

If you planted spring flowering bulbs last fall be prepared for the magic of spring but ready if animals arrive to feed on the flowers. Use the environmental safe products like Deer-off to protect plants. Remember that bulbs need 6 weeks of growing time to replace the energy it took to make the flowers after they bloom. Don't cut back the foliage until then or they will not flower the next year. Fertilize them as they begin to flower with chicken manure to help them produce a better flower that will last longer. Chicken manure will help keep some animals away for your bulbs.

In the berry patch, weed around your berry bushes and prune broken branches from winter. Transplant strawberries if needed and apply straw mulch around them to keep out weed, preserve summer moisture, and keep the berries clean and away from insects. Raspberries should be tied to wire strung from end to end of the row. Did you know if raspberries canes are tied up vertical in the spring they will produce 100% more fruit in the summer and you must remove the old canes that produced berries last year. Fruiting canes fruit only one year the next year they use your fertilizer for foliage and no fruit.

If you have asparagus in your garden be sure to feed them with animal manure early to stimulate those early spears, that taste so good. Use 50 lbs. of cow manure per 25 ft of row planting or 10 lbs of dehydrated chicken manure. Weed bed before to spears appear and cultivate the top inch of soil, no deeper or you will damage the new shoots. During April apply 0.20.0 super phosphate fertilizer to help thicken the bed.

Check your gardening tools for possible rust problems. If your lawn spreader has rusted around the holes at the bottom of the spreader, you are applying too much fertilizer, it may not be a big deal now but you 're applying more fertilizer than the lawn needs and it's costing you more money to feed your lawn each year.

If you have long handle tools such as rakes, shovels, and cultivators be sure to use linseed oil on them to keep them from drying up and getting brittle. How about checking the hose for holes and leaky washers, let's repair them now before they burst.

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