May 2008
Featured Articles


It’s still not too late to fertilize your trees and shrubs. Use a ‘rhododendron’ or an ‘evergreen’ type of plant food to feed evergreens and acid-loving plants like rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas, junipers, etc. Use an all-purpose garden fertilizer (10-10-10) to feed roses, deciduous shrubs and trees. Be sure to water the fertilizer in thoroughly after it is applied.

Work lime in the soil around your hydrangeas to produce pink flowers or aluminum sulphate for blue.

Lightly sidedress perennials with an all-purpose 5-10-10 or 10-10-10 fertilizer. Avoid spilling the fertilizer on the plant, and use care not to damage the shallow roots when you cultivate it into the soil.

As the growth rate of your house-plants increases with the seasons, adjust your feeding schedule to provide additional food. Feed your plants a good all-purpose houseplant food at half of the manu-facturers recommended rates, increasing the proportion slightly to accommodate growth spurts. Overuse of fertilizers can cause root and foliage burn, as well as the death of the plant.

Feed lawn with high-nitrogen fertilizer from April to September for really green grass. Make sure you use a spreader to ensure fertilizer is spread evenly.

To keep garden plants growing at a steady rate, fertilize them with manure tea or diluted fish emulsion every six weeks.


Early flowering deciduous shrubs like forsythias, weigela and spiraea should be pruned back when they have finished blooming. Cut back a third of the oldest canes to ground level, then cut back one-third of the remaining branches by one-third of their height.

Remove the wilting seedheads from rhododendrons and azaleas so the plants energy can go to foliage growth and next years flowers, rather than seeds.

Prune rhododendrons immediately after flowering. Old clusters should be snapped off when partly dry, but remove with care in order not to decrease or prevent bloom next year.

Remove any sucker growths from fruit trees as soon as they appear.

Pines and other conifers can be kept to a compact size by pinching off the new growth ‘candles.’

Continue to prune spring-flowering shrubs after flowers fade.

Pinch back annuals when four to six inches high to promote bushy growth. Some that require pinching are zinnias, petunias and salvia.

Prune out winter-killed wood on trees and shrubs by cutting back to green wood after new growth begins.

Pest Control

• Keep a vigilant eye
on the roses. Keep them sprayed for aphids and other pests and diseases like black spot.

Watering with soaker hoses or drip irrigation will reduce the spread of black spot in roses.

Carefully examine your houseplants for pests and problems. It is much easier to fight an insect infestation or disease in its early stages than to wait.

Slugs and snails are out in full force right now. Be sure to take steps to control them before they have a chance to reproduce and devastate your garden.

The first flowers you’ll see will be your weeds. Work to eliminate the weeds (roots and all) before they have a chance to go to seed, or you will be fighting them for years to come!

Weeds encourage pests and diseases. Keep plants well-weeded and re-firm soil around plant if loosened.

If you wish to use weed killers, you should do so now while the grass is growing rapidly. Do not use a weed killer if your soil is too wet, too dry or if you have a young lawn. Do not mow your lawn for at least a week after an application. Never add your cuttings to the compost after a treatment.

Don’t spray pesticides on a windy day. Not only is pesticide wasted, it may endanger other crops, animals or people.

Remember, some insecticides cannot be used as preventatives, but are only effective if they come in contact with the insect. Do not spray them until you are sure you have an insect problem. Use all pesticides with caution. Always read and follow the directions on the label, and buy only as much as you need.

If you sow radish seeds in cucumber and squash beds, you will have fewer problems with the striped cucumber beetle.

Dill attracts the tomato hornworm, so plant it on the opposite side of the garden from tomatoes.

Sage repels cabbage moths and black flea beetles. Don’t count on sage working under heavy pressure from these insects, but it might be worthwhile to plant a little sage with cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. Chives have some repellant properties for aphids. Marigolds will repel a variety of insects.

Once established on a house plant, powdery mildew is very difficult to eradicate. If there are only a few spots (gray or white, fuzzy looking), pick off and destroy the affected leaves. If the problem is more serious, the best answer may be to get rid of the plant before the fungus disease spreads to other plants. Powdery mildew is caused by stale, moist air and too much water. Provide better ventilation or use a small fan to circulate the air. Cut down on the watering.

Odd Jobs

Break off wilting tulip or daffodil heads but continue to feed and care for the plants until the foliage has died back naturally. Old plantings of daffodils may be divided and moved when they have finished blooming, but treat them as growing plants and use care to protect the foliage and roots. Water them thoroughly after transplanting. It is best not to dig or move other spring-flowering bulbs until their foliage has ripened and died back.

Don’t overwater your lawn this summer. Too much water leaches nitrogen from the soil, encourages weeds and invites disease problems.
Setting the stakes next to your taller flowers early in the season will help to support the plant against winds and make it easier to ‘train.’

Newly planted strawberries should have the blossoms picked off until they become well-established.

May is a good month to repair your lawn. Fill in the bare spots by slightly loosening the surface of the soil and sow a good-quality lawn seed over the area evenly. Tamp the seed in gently and water.

Setting your mower for a higher cut during the spring months will help the grass to grow in fuller and help choke out the weeds.

Check to see if your house plants are rootbound. Water them thoroughly and carefully remove them from their pots. If the roots have compacted around the outside of the rootball, it is time to repot.

Gladiolas bulbs may be planted at two week increments until the first of July to provide cut flowers until the first frost.

Container-grown green goods can be planted any time of the year.

The compost pile should be getting a lot of use these days, both in utilizing this prime garden resource and adding fresh garden refuse to it. The compost pile should be kept damp. Frequent turning will turn your garden waste into plant food much faster.

Remember, once Easter Lilies have established in your garden they will bloom in mid-summer, rather than spring. If you want Easter Lilies to bloom at Easter, you will need to force the bulbs.

The soil around Stargazer Lilies and daffodils should be kept moist and mulched during growing period. Later, throughout the summer a thorough drying will do them good. They will not do as well if you keep the bed watered to suit the needs of other plants.

Remember to rotate vegetable crops to help control pests and disease and to keep the soil in good condition.

Plant taller vegetables north of shorter ones to reduce shade problems.

Using a hoe, pile earth up around your potato plants now.

If you have pine trees on or near your lawn, make sure you rake the needles regularly. Pine needles will kill anything underneath them. They pack so tightly light is unable to get through. This makes them an excellent mulch and natural weed killer for under trees and shrubs.

When mowing your lawn, make sure you use a mower with a sharp blade. If the blade is dull it will tear the young seedlings from the soil.

Add gentle curves to your lawn for the appearance of a larger area. Gentle curves are also easier to mow than sharp curves or corners.

When placing your indoor plants outdoors in flower borders during the summer, clay pots can be set directly in the ground so the soil is one to two inches below the pot rim, allowing moisture to go through the porous clay. If your plants are in plastic or glazed containers, repot them in clay containers or check frequently for water because moisture will not move through the plastic.

Adding fertilizer to a dry rootball burns the roots, damaging or killing the plant. So, water dry houseplants before fertilizing and NEVER fertilize wilted plants.

Divide indoor plants when new growth starts in spring. Root cuttings during spring and summer when the plant is actively growing.

Lengthening the time between waterings combined with deep, heavy watering encourages root growth while reducing top growth in lawns. This increases the root-to-shoot ratio and produces plants more resistant to wilting when exposed to infrequent watering.

Mulch around newly planted trees and shrubs. This practice reduces weeds, reduces fluctuations in soil temperature, retains moisture, prevents damage from lawn mowers and looks attractive.

When you visit public gardens, take your camera and notepad with you. Plan now for changes you will make.

For maximum landscape interest in a small space, try annual vines. They can disguise ugly walls and enliven fences. When trellised, they create shade and privacy while hiding undesirable views.

Do not overplant your landscape; be sure you know the ultimate size of each plant and allow for growth.

Moles feed on white grubs and can ruin lawns while burrowing after them. Moles can be eliminated by eliminating the grubs. Visit your local Co-op for suggested strategies.

Transplants become less stressed when they are set out on a cloudy, calm day.

Birds have five basic needs: food, water, shelter from hot and cold weather, nesting sites and protection from predators. Supply these and you will have many more birds around your home to entertain you and control insect pests.

Toads eat cutworms and other insect pests. Give them a home in your garden by placing inverted, clay flower pots in shady spots. Chip out a piece of the pot rim to give the toads an entrance to their home.

To better evaluate your gardening successes, keep weather records along with garden records. The most important items to report are daily minimum and maximum temperatures, precipitation, cloud cover and frost occurrences.

Algae and lichens are primitive plants that grow nearly anywhere there is adequate moisture for them. Although they are often found growing on tree trunks, they generally do not harm trees; often they indicate stressful conditions, like soil compaction, poor drainage or insufficient fertilizer.

Large, plate-glass windows are apparently invisible to birds. Hang small, mobile twists of reflective ribbon or hanging baskets in front of the glass to prevent crashes.

Avoid using peat moss as mulch. It tends to form a tight mat, virtually impermeable to light rain once it becomes dry. It is best mixed in with soil as a conditioner.

Introducing your children to gardening can be a rewarding experience for the entire family. Give them a small plot of their own with full sun, good soil and drainage. Geraniums and begonias from pots are easy for little hands to handle, and marigolds, radishes and favorite vegetables can be added. It’s a pleasant and productive way to spend time together.

If you love to garden, but don’t have a lot of time, choose plants that are easy to maintain. Plants not needing to have their faded blooms removed include begonia, impatiens, coleus, alyssum, ageratum, lobelia, vinca and salvia.

These flowers save time and work in the garden by dropping dead blooms and thus requiring no trimming or dead-heading: mignonette, love-in-a-mist, cleome, scabiosa and daylily.

Plant asters in a different part of your garden each year to minimize the possibility of aster wilt.

Grow your own dried flowers. Start seeds of statice, globe amaranth, strawflowers and other everlastings to provide flowers for this year’s arrangements.

Always remember to take proper precautions to ensure physical safety while gardening, regardless of equipment choice. This includes the use of eyewear to protect from liquid splash and dust particles when mixing chemicals or to protect from rocks, twigs or other loose objects when using power equipment; helmets made of high-impact plastics for head protection during tree and shrub pruning and other overhead tasks; gloves to protect hands and wrists from abrasion, blistering, burns and dirt; and, most importantly, if you must use power tools while gardening, wear ear muffs or ear plugs to protect your hearing.

Mark the handle of your spade or hoe in inches for a handy measuring device for row width and planting distances. Paint or tape the measurements on the handle. A coat of varnish can make the marks last longer.

Make cleaning and oiling garden tools quick and easy by keeping a five-gallon pail of coarse sand near your tool storage area. Moisten the sand with used motor oil. Whenever you return tools to storage, all you have to do to keep them clean and rust free is plunge them a few times into the sand.

Put your tools away at the end of the day; clean them and hang them up, if possible. Keep the cutting edge sharp for easier use.

Poison ivy is dangerous all year round. You can get an irritation from the leaves, roots, berries and even smoke from burning the vines. Learn to know the leaves so you can guard against it. If you think you may have come in contact with it, wash immediately with soap and water and remove any clothes that may have the oil on them. Prevention is the best medicine for this ailment.

Plant ground covers under shade trees that don’t allow enough sunlight to sustain grass. Periwinkle, English ivy and liriope are a few groundcover plants that grow well in shade.