May Garden Chores
Wow… May already. Where did the time go? The gardening calendar for May provides a list of recommended food growing tips and <sigh> gardening chores.
As I mentioned in the last calendar update, April and May, about growing organic food, more people garden in April and May than any other time of the year. Winter is over, the hot months of July and August are not pounding you…. it is just a fabulous time to be outside. The date of last expected frost has come and gone (for most). Consult the growing zone maps to determine your garden’s date of expected last frost. Okay, okay, I said all that last month, I realize, but if you are far north, you are still waiting…. I realize. So you northerners (I’m in zone 7) still have time to get ready 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.
If you are receiving this email/blog post then you may have signed up to receive “Homestead Express” and you were sent a link to our “download and print” garden journal. If you did not get it or forgot where you downloaded it to your computer (or worse, crashed your computer with the journal on it) then send me an email and I will send you a link to the journal. It is as much a part of my garden as my seeds and greenhouse.
Remember, the below are just a sampling of all the many gardening reminders, tips, and ideas you will find on our monthly organic gardening calendar, so use the links to get to the rest of it. You will find the following categories for each month…
- Tools and Equipment
- Growing Food
- Perennials, Annuals and Bulbs
- Trees, Shrubs and Ground Covers
- Indoor Gardening
Tools and Equipment May Upkeep
- Always remember to take proper precautions to ensure physical safety while gardening, regardless of equipment choice. This includes the use of eye wear 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.
- Make a support rod for your hanging baskets using an old mop or broom handle. Place two sturdy hooks into your porch or patio roof about as far apart as the handle is long. Suspend the rod with two equal lengths of chain. The rod can hold several hanging baskets, depending on size.
- 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 5-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.
- When you remodel the kitchen, save a section of the old cabinets and use it for a potting bench. It provides a comfortable working height and storage below for pots, media, tools, etc.
Growing Food in May
Sow French beans outdoors.
Plant out summer cauliflowers.
Make further sowings of salad crops.
Sow runner beans and erect canes to support them.
- Peas are ready to harvest three weeks after the first blooms appear. Use little scissors or pinch off the peas by hand. Harvest often and they will produce more!
- Plant warm season crops such as watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber, squash, eggplant, okra, sweet potatoes and southern peas this month.
- Keep harvesting fresh asparagus until the size of the spear gets smaller.
- Sprinkle small seeds evenly by putting them in a shaker. A set of caps for seed sprouting jars will probably include one with appropriate-sized holes for the seeds you are planting. The problem of sowing fine seed too thickly can be reduced by mixing them with sand.
- Bothered by leaf hoppers already? Put out molasses traps to kill grasshoppers. Mix one part molasses to 8-10 parts water and place in a flat lid or container. Clean and replenish as necessary.
- Mulch raspberry and black currant bushes with well rotted manure or compost. Make sure you first water the soil around the area until it is quite moist.
- Mulch raspberry and black currant bushes with well rotted manure or compost. Make sure you first water the soil around the area until it is quite moist.
- Remove runners from strawberries to encourage fruit production; or try the growth method below…
- Plant new strawberries on top of old ones for a more productive crop. Allow the runners to cover the beds as thick as they can get. Later in fall cover them with about two or three inches of soil. The following spring you will be surprised at the strong production of foliage. The first year may be
less productive than years to come.
- Cut off garlic flowers for bigger bulbs. Harvest when leaves start to turn yellowish to brown. Store in a cool area that has good air circulation.
- Remove 2 or 3 peaches out of every 4 to produce larger fruit and keep limbs from breaking from too weight. Thin fruit when it is about the size of marbles.
- Cats like to dig in freshly cultivated soil. One way to deter them is to lay crumpled chicken wire over the bed and cut holes in it for planting. As the plants grow, they’ll hide the chicken wire, while it continues to discourage cats from using the bed as a litter box.
- When you see ants crawling on garden plants, look for aphids as well. Some ant species protect aphids, moving them from plant to plant and even taking them underground into the anthill for overnight safety. The ants do this to ensure a supply of honeydew, a sugary substance secreted by aphids, on which the ants feed. Discourage aphids by hosing them off your plants with a strong stream of water.
All clays are pretty well unworkable with ordinary implements.
For the melted toffee consistency of winter, you might prefer a large soup-ladle;
for light working over summer, a hammer and cold chisel.
Is the soil always too wet or too dry?
No, there’s a period – usually a day or two in May – when you can actually use a fork.
– John Lucas, Backs to the Garden Wall
Lawns and Landscaping in May
Grass containing crocuses, colchicums and snowdrops can be mown short now.
Sharpen your lawn mower blade monthly since a dull blade can pull grass seedlings from the soil instead of cutting them.
- Reduce thatch layers from zoysia by verticutting or core aerating
- A slope of 6 inches per 100 feet is needed for excess water to run off your lawn and not pool up on it. Also, reseed any bare spots in your new lawn immediately to keep weeds from growing.
- The average family’s needs and activities change in cycles of six to seven years. The smaller the property, the greater the landscape planning challenge. Design outdoor areas and facilities to be modified easily with your changing needs.
- 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 that are more resistant to wilting when exposed to infrequent watering.
- Letting a young lawn grow too tall and then cutting it back to the recommended height is detrimental. Such extreme leaf removal stops the flow of food to the roots, weakens the plants, and opens the lawn to diseases. Never let it grow so tall that you have to cut off more than one third of the grass blade.
- Poor soil drainage can be improved by regrading and filling water-collecting areas, installing underground drain pipe/tiles, or a combination of both. When possible, connect rain gutter down spouts to drains to carry excess water away from foundations and other undesirable areas.
- 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.
- Save money on mulch materials by using 1 to 2 inches of wood chips before spreading 2 inches of decorative shredded bark. Wood chips are less expensive than shredded bark and last longer, too. Keep mulch several inches away from the trunks of trees and shrubs so air can circulate near the trunk discouraging diseases, and so that rodents will not feed on the bark.
- When you visit gardens and arboreta, take your camera and note pad with you. Plan now for changes you will make in your landscape to add spring glory.
- 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. Morning glory and its relative cardinal climber (Ipomoea spp.) can be started indoors or sown outside after the last frost date. Canary creeper (Tropaeolum spp.) can be grown in mountainous areas. For edible ornamentals try scarlet runner beans or Chinese bitter melon (Momordica spp.).
- Plan a landscaping project on paper first. Do not over plant, be sure you know the ultimate size of each plant, and allow for growth.
- Lawns maintained at the correct height resist disease and weed infestation. Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue should be kept between 2 to 3 inches in height. Mow frequently, removing no more than one third of the blade at each cutting.
- Don’t over water your lawn this summer. Too much water leaches nitrogen from the soil, encourages weeds, and invites disease problems.
- Creeping red fescue may be used for turf in shady, drought-prone areas. Keep this grass at 2 to 2 and 1/2 inches in height.
- If your lawn is bluegrass/fescue, resist the urge to fertilize now. Fall is the time to fertilize these grasses. Fertilizing now will keep you behind the lawn mower all spring and increase chance of injury to your lawn from summer disease and drought.
- Moles feed on white grubs and can ruin lawns while burrowing after them. Moles can be eliminated by eliminating the grubs.
- Grass clippings can be used as a mulch in flower beds and vegetable gardens if allowed to dry well before use. Fresh, damp, grass clippings will mat and may attract pests. Never use clippings from a lawn that has been treated with an herbicide.
Perennials, Annuals, and Bulbs for May
- After iris finishes blooming, feed iris and bulb foliage with an organic fertilizer like earthworm castings, composted manure or granular organic plant foods.
- Lobelia (Lobelia pendula) is a great annual for hanging baskets or container gardens with its stems that trail about 8 inches. The ‘Cascade’ series is especially vibrant in colors of pink, white, lilac, maroon, violet, and blue. Most flowers have a white eye.
- Scented geraniums make fabulous air fresheners. Rub the leaves together, and they put forth aromas of coconut, rose, nutmeg, citrus, or mint. Scented geraniums have several different,attractive foliage forms and colors, often very finely lobed and light green. Place them near a patio or porch to add an
intriguing scent when visitors brush against them.
- As soon as the danger of frost is over, amaryllis that was forced into bloom can be placed outdoors for the summer. The potted bulb should be placed in a shaded location and fertilized with 1 teaspoon of 5-10-10. Bring it back indoors before frost, and let the soil dry completely so the bulb will go into dormancy. After leaving it in a cool, dark place for eight weeks, bring it back into the light and begin watering again. In another eight weeks, your amaryllis should bloom again.
- If you love to garden, but don’t have a lot of time, choose plants that are easy to maintain. Plants that do not need “deadheading” include begonia, impatiens, coleus, alyssum, ageratum, lobelia, vinca, and salvia.
- Mix and spray 1 tablespoon of baking soda in a gallon of water for blackspot on roses. Deadhead spent blooms.
- An interesting plant to grow is the umbrella palm (Cyperus alternifolius). It is excellent as a water plant or in very damp sites. It grows from 1- to 3 feet tall with 3 to 12 very slender, raylet leaves per stem (an umbel) in an umbrella-like pattern. Cyperus grows best in direct sun and very, moist soil. Maintain an adequate fresh water supply to provide oxygen for the roots. Insect pests include spider mite, mealy bug, thrip, scale, and whitefly. Propagating Cyperus is easy — divide the existing plant, or cut off and turn one of the umbels upside down in a glass of water and watch it root!
- Caladiums need generous amounts of water and fertilizer to encourage continuous production of new leaves during the summer. Apply a light, side dressing of compost every two weeks, and water thoroughly to encourage bright-colored foliage.
- Recycle tea grounds around roses, azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias. Recycle coffee grounds around lilies. Unless you use unbleached filters, toss the filters to the trash. Otherwise, bury or compost the filter too.
- If you are looking for plants that flower each year, require little care, and are rarely bothered by pests or disease, try some of these perennials: coneflower, bleeding heart, coralbell, daylily, geum, hosta, bergenia, Virginia bluebell, and veronica.
- 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.
- Potted plants, when placed outdoors, may need to be watered more frequently than if they were inside. If you place plants in clay pots inside larger plastic pots or cover clay pots with aluminum foil, you will reduce the frequency at which you must water. Remember to punch a drainage hole if foil is used.
- Increase blooms on crape myrtles by sprinkling a light handful of Epsom salts around the roots.
- Gladiolus grows best in well-drained soil, protected from wind. Bulbs can be planted now. For best bloom, water thoroughly once a week after the spike begins to show above the soil.
- Plant asters in a different part of your garden each year to minimize the possibility of aster wilt.
- Dig and divide dusty miller in the spring and replant the more-vigorous, outside portions of the clump. Feed liberally during the growing season.
- Bright-red and deep-red salvias are good for concentrated color in full sun. Use the lighter or pastel shades of salvia in partial shade.
- Some seed catalogs are selling seed mixtures of flowers that produce edible blossoms for salad excitement. Try a sample from your flower border. Possibilities included are nasturtium (spicy flowers, buds, and leaves), calendula (bright color and warm flavor), various mints, borage (cucumber-flavored petals and foliage), violets and violas (somewhat of an apple flavor), and polyantha rose (aromatic).
- Lisianthus (Eustoma spp.) is a rediscovery in flowering plants. This half-hardy perennial has tulip-like buds that become poppy-like with maturity. A double form resembling a rose is also available. The flowers come in shades of white, pink, or blue. Lisianthus is outstanding as a cut flower and would be a welcome addition in any cutting garden you may be planning. Lisianthus is best started in individual containers to avoid disturbing roots when setting out. It is slow growing until roots are fully established. Pinch back to promote bushiness.
- Pinch back annuals when 4 to 6 inches high to promote bushy growth. Some that require pinching are zinnias, petunias, and salvia.
- Set out marigolds, petunias, ageratums, and fibrous begonias.All are good border plants.
- Impatiens is the most satisfactory annual for use in shady areas. Begonias, coleus, ageratum, salvia, and vinca prefer light shade (5 to 6 hours of sunlight.)
- Need a tall, bold plant in the back of the border, along a wall or fence, or even standing alone? Try these: cleome or spider flower makes a fine, airy, 4-foot or taller display; ‘Giant Imperial’ larkspur produces 4- to 5-foot spikes of white, red, and purple blooms; ‘Summer Carnival’ annual hollyhock bears 4- inch double flowers on 5-foot stems.
- Multiflora petunias withstand heat much better than other types and are more attractive throughout the summer. They are more resistant than other types to botrytis, a disease that cripples petunias, especially in damp weather. And they branch more easily, meaning less maintenance. Multifloras are most useful for massed effects in beds.
- Set petunia plants among fading tulips or daffodils to hide the unsightly wilting leaves. After the bulb foliage begins to fade, you can tie the leaves in gentle knots to neaten them, but don’t remove them until they have dried completely.
- Grow your own dried flowers. Start seeds of statice, globe amaranth, strawflowers, and other everlastings to provide flowers for this year’s arrangements.
- Plant unusual summer flowering bulbs like Peruvian daffodil or Mexican shell flower for variety of form or color in the midsummer garden.
- In the past, begonias were recommended for areas of partial sun and full shade. However, they will also do well in full sun if kept moist and well mulched. ‘Pizzaz’ and ‘Basel Hybrid’ are two varieties that do particularly well in full sun.
- Design wildflower borders with the same care as any other border. Consider harmonies and contrasts of color, form, texture, plant height, and bloom times. The seed bed should be tilled thoroughly to a depth of 6 inches and compost or other organic material added. Force the weed seeds in the soil to germinate before sowing flowers by keeping the soil moist for a few weeks, then rake out the sprouting weeds. Mix the wildflower seeds with builders’ sand in a 1 to 4 ratio and broadcast over the area. Rake the seeds in lightly and keep the bed moist until plants are well up.
- To grow annuals in pots on the patio, use a light-weight soil mixture. Keep the plants well watered, as container-grown plants dry out fast. Apply compost tea every two weeks.
- Don’t be surprised if variegated hosta has green leaves when grown in the sun. The best, variegated, color pattern is developed on plants in a semi-shady location.
Trees, Shrubs, and Ground Covers in May
If you grow fruit trees, help prevent “June drops” by pruning now – most fruit trees will grow more fruit buds than they can effectively mature; the early fruit drops at the end of the spring.
If you want large fruits come fall, the trick is to thin the early fruits now – trim them about three to six inches apart for small fruits, like apricots and plums, and about six to eight inches apart for larger fruit like peaches and pear.
This can be difficult to do. (I have to do it when my husband is not looking or he will have a cow) But there are real, tangible benefits… larger and tastier fruits for one thing but more importantly long term, you do not take the risk of branches breaking because of too much fruit.
Even though the biggest job of pruning is done earlier in the year, when plants are dormant this “maintenance pruning” is necessary on the garden calendar in May. Remember to dispose of diseased limbs properly, no need to give anything a foot up.
Remove tree wraps for summer growth.
Prune spring flowering shrubs after bloom to shape plant and encourage flowers next year.
Most evergreens have many roots near the soil surface. Avoid deep cultivation that might wound roots.
- When choosing a tree or shrub, it is important to consider the characteristics of all cultivars, keeping in mind the climate and cultural conditions of your site. Some cultivars may be resistant to diseases that are not a problem in your location, while others may show heat tolerance, pest resistance, soil tolerance, or other similar characteristics that better fit your situation. Choosing a plant appropriate for your location must be more than an aesthetic decision.
- 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.
- When planting a new shade trees, consider whether it is messy or neat in appearance, weak- or strong-wooded, and long- or short-lived. Resist the temptation to plant a fast-growing, weak tree for quick shade.
- Some trees that are messy and weak-wooded include silver maple hybrid poplar, mimosa, weeping willow, black cherry, and Eastern cottonwood. Better choices are Chinese elm, Japanese zelkova, pin oak, red maple, river birch, tulip poplar, and willow oak.
- Rough or careless handling of balled-and-burlapped trees can break the soil ball, damaging or breaking off most of the roots, and result in the death of the tree. Never pick up a B&B tree by its trunk; instead, carry it by the root ball, being gentle when putting it down.
- If cotton burlap was used to wrap B&B tree roots, it does not need to be removed. Just untie and roll it down from the trunk until it does not stick above the soil line. If a synthetic material wrapped the roots, remove it completely if possible, or at least turn it back to expose the sides of the ball and cut it off or push it to the bottom of the hole. If the species of tree you are planting is one that grows a taproot, remove all the synthetic material or the root will not be able to grow properly.
- If an old tree shows signs of advanced rotting, remove it before it becomes a safety hazard.
- Red and silver maples, willows, poplars, and elms can clog septic lines with their roots. Plant these species well away from water lines and sewers.
- 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.
NEVER burn poison ivy! The resulting smoke can cause severe lung damage if inhaled, it can even kill someone. If you ever do burn out an area of brush, stay out of the smoke.
- When planting shrubs on a steep slope, be sure to mulch or use an erosion control netting if grasses or ground covers are not already present. Digging planting holes and watering the new plants will result in erosion problems on bare soil.
- Plant ground covers under shade trees that don’t allow enough sunlight to sustain grass. Periwinkle, English ivy, and liriope are a few ground cover plants that grow well in shade.
- If you are building a home on a wooded lot, save young, vigorous trees. They will adapt to changes in their environment better than older trees. Trees that once grew in shade and are suddenly exposed to increased sunlight, wider temperature fluctuations, and drying winds may not survive.
- Regularly water newly planted trees and shrubs during the first year or two after planting to help establish a good root system. They need at least 1 inch of water each week. It is better to water deeply once a week than to water lightly every day; the former practice encourages deep, drought-resistant roots while the latter practice encourages surface roots that may suffer during dry spells. Mulch to conserve moisture and control weeds.
- Prune out winter-killed wood on trees and shrubs by cutting back to green wood after new growth begins.
Indoor Gardening May
- When placing your indoor plants outdoors in your flower borders during the summer, clay pots can be set directly in the ground so the soil is 1 to 2 inches below the pot rim, allowing moisture to go through the porous clay. If your plants are in plastic or glazed containers, re-pot them in to clay containers or check frequently for water because moisture will not move through the plastic.
- Move plants outdoors for summer by gradually increasing the exposure to sunlight
- Adding food to a dry root ball burns the roots, damaging or killing the plant, so water dry houseplants before fertilizing and NEVER feed wilted plants.
- Maidenhair ferns need at least 50 percent humidity and grow well in a terrarium. You also can group ferns around an aquarium to raise the humidity around the plants.
- Once established on a house plant, powdery mildew is very difficult 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.
- Four to six inch cuttings are a great way to start new plants, root in potting mix under low light
- For an unusual house plant, try water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes). Float its perfect rosette of fuzzy, greenish-yellow leaves in a container of water about 12 inches square and 5 to 9 inches deep. Give it part sun and temperatures over 60 degrees F, and fertilize with a high-phosphorous, water-soluble fertilizer at one-quarter strength every three weeks in summer, every six weeks in winter. Change the water every two to three months, and as new plants arise from runners, remove the old ones to make room.
- Divide indoor plants when new growth starts in spring. Root cuttings during spring and summer when the plant is actively growing.
- Vacation hint: Sink house plants, pots and all, in the soil in a shady area of the garden. Mulch to reduce the need for frequent watering.
- House plants in containers without drainage holes are poor candidates for outside. A rainstorm may drown and rot them. All plants perform better in containers with drainage holes.
- The mother fern (Asplenium bulbiferum), so-called because it produces plantlets on its fronds, is exceptionally tolerant of dry air in the home. It does well at 30 percent humidity. For homes with 50 percent humidity, button ferns (Pellaea rotundifolia) are an excellent choice.
- Move your house plants outdoors when the night temperatures stay above 50 degrees F. Avoid sunburning the foliage by moving the plants gradually from the relative darkness of the house to their bright, summer location. Start by putting them in a well-shaded location and progressing to increasingly lighted areas.
- If you plant your Easter lily outdoors, it may flower again in late August.
Miscellaneous Gardening Reminders for May
- Greenhouses and conservatories can heat up quickly in May – shade with greenhouse shading fleece or greenhouse shading spray.
- Experiments in England suggest that sugar water might be a more effective bait for slugs than beer. Slugs preferred an agar gel containing 2 to 5 percent sucrose (table sugar). Artificial sweeteners were ineffective. (HortIdeas June 1993)
- Chitin has been found to reduce nematodes in garden soil. Chitin can be found in seafood meal made from dried and pulverized crab and shrimp parts.
- Watch for pests in outdoor containers. Weeds may develop from seeds blown into the pot, and insects need to be controlled using appropriate measures. Be on the lookout for chewing insects, such as caterpillars and loopers, since they can do a great deal of damage in a short time. Spider mites, another offensive pest of many plants, can be partially controlled by frequent spraying of water from the garden hose.
- USDA entomologists are testing the biological control potential of an insect that preys on the azalea’s worst enemy, the lacebug. Lace bugs suck nutrients from azaleas and other plants producing unsightly white spots on leaves. An adult of the insect predator, Stethoconus japonicus, can consume two to six lace bugs per day.
- Transplants become less stressed when they are set out on a cloudy, calm day. Unfortunately, gardeners may need to transplant when they have the time, regardless of the weather. Strong sun and wind are hard on new transplants, so set out plants in the late afternoon when the wind comes down and the plants have overnight to acclimate. Provide shade and wind protection with berry baskets, small crates, or screens. Mulching helps since it lowers the rate at which water evaporates from the soil and controls the soil temperature.
- 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. Be sure feeders and nesting boxes are located where they cannot be reached by cats. A smooth, metal cylinder or cone at least 12 inches long attached to the pole or tree will cat-proof most locations.
- Cover sprouting seedlings with berry baskets to keep birds from pulling them up. When the young plants outgrow their protective covers, they are at a size where birds have little interest in them.
- To keep garden plants growing at a steady rate, fertilize them with manure tea or diluted fish emulsion every six weeks.
- The efficiency of air conditioner compressors can be increased by up to 10 percent if they are shaded by trees or shrubs. However, if you have an evaporative cooler, let the sun shine on it. Evaporative units need the sun to operate efficiently.
- 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 tot heir home.
- Recycle kitchen scraps, such as meat trimmings, in a compost trench to avoid attracting birds or animals to your compost pile. Dig the trench between garden rows, and cover each addition with garden soil. The material will enrich your soil as it breaks down.
- 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.
- Where earwigs and sowbugs are a problem, try trapping them with rolled up newspapers moistened with water. The insects will hide in the papers by day. Gather up the traps and dispose of them frequently.
- 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, algae and lichens generally do not harm trees; often they indicate stressful conditions, such as 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 a 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.
- Most snakes are beneficial to the farmer and gardener. They eat insects and rodents. Of particular value is the large, black, rat snake which consumes large numbers of mice, rats, and other small mammals.
- 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.
- When you see ants crawling about on garden plants, look for aphids as well. Some ant species protect aphids, moving them from plant to plant and even taking them underground into the anthill
for overnight safety. The ants do this to ensure a supply of honeydew, a sugary water substance secreted by aphids, on which ants feed.
- Insect plant galls may be unsightly, but cause no damage to the plant affected. They are nothing more than an insect dwelling formed when the insect injects a growth-promoting chemical into the plant. The plant walls off the insect to prevent damage to other tissue, and the insect is protected by the gall until it emerges as an adult.
"So many seeds — so little time."
~ Author unknown
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