Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It's Time for a Walk Through the Garden

Hello again,

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM. Paul recently sent this article out called "It's Time for a Walk Through the Garden" (I occasionally add a few comments in italics) and here it is:

"We are now half way through June (this post was released by Paul on June 16, 2011), and so far the season has had its ups and downs--but the best of the ups are still ahead of us, and you should be excited about what's happening around you! The plants in your garden will make more growth in the next couple of months than they have so far all year. The flowers, the vegetables, the herbs, the berries and the fruit are now preparing for their special season in your gardens.

Try to explore your gardens every day if possible, because things are happening so fast now you will miss the changes. Today's walk through my gardens showed me that flower buds are now forming on my lilies, some of my daisies and on my delphiniums. The strawberries are beginning to turn pink and will soon be ready for picking, while the blueberries are growing larger on the plant but still need time and maybe a little extra fertilizer to help them grow larger and juicier.

Because of my garden walk, I noticed that my 'Annabelle' hydrangea are having a problem with a caterpillar type insect that has "stitched" the new leaves on top of many branches together, creating a bag look to the new growth. I pulled them apart to separate the leaves and found a small 1/2" long green caterpillar inside, preparing to eat the young flower buds. These small green caterpillars weave the leaves together and create a weatherproof home for themselves while they feed on your flower buds.

I took a few minutes and opened up each leaf cluster to free up the flowers so I would not lose them to the insect and then sprayed the plant with Spinosad organic insecticide or Captain Jack to destroy the caterpillars and prevent future damage. The plant looks great now, the foliage will continue to grow normally, and I will soon enjoy all those flowers on the hydrangea that would have been lost if I did not walk through my garden this morning.

With all the rain and cool temperatures, I was looking for a bug that is common at this time of the year called the "spittle bug." This unique creature can be found on many perennials, roses, and some evergreens--if you look at your garden you will see him right now. This insect resembles a tiny grasshopper about 1/4" long and pale green. To protect himself from predators, he will take the extra moisture on the plant and blow bubbles around himself. This bubble cluster looks like "spit" on stems of your plants and makes it easy for you to find him. As the weather dries up, all you will find is his damage--holes in the foliage. But right now he is easy to find, so just squeeze the spit-like formation on the plant to remove him, and then crush him. If you have many, use Garden Eight, Bug–B-Gone Max or Bayer Complete insect killer to control them or they will riddle the foliage with holes in that garden in just a few days.

I noticed that in the vegetable garden my cold weather crops like broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts are growing like crazy with all the rain and look wonderful, but while in the garden, I did notice several small dull white moths about an inch in diameter flying from plant to plant. This small moth is laying eggs on these plants that will in a couple of weeks hatch to become the cabbage lopper that will eat holes in the foliage. There is not much you can do right now but as soon as I see small holes in the foliage I will use Spinosad or Captain Jack to eliminate the problem naturally. Seeing the moth has given me a warning of the problem to come and time to prepare for when it arrives.

My tomatoes now have yellow flowers on them, so it might be time to give them a boost with a bit of liquid fertilizer (use Fish and Seasweed fertilizer by Neptune's Harvest) to help them make fruit faster. Also tomatoes are wind pollinated--not pollinated by bees--so I gently shook each plant to help make the pollen airborne for better pollination. Give your plants a shake every time you're in the garden to help them make more fruit if the weather becomes calm, so shake, shake, shake your tomatoes.

My peppers are also making flowers and now is the perfect time to give them a bit of Epson Salt in water to help them make bigger peppers. I dissolve one tablespoon of Epsom Salt to a gallon of water and give each plant about a quart of the mixture and you will not believe what it does for the plant. This was a garden tip from my Grandfather many years ago that stills work today.

I looked at my roses as the flower buds are just about ready to burst open and noticed some of the lower leaves had been skeletonized and had a white tinge to them. I found some small one-inch long pale green caterpillars eating away--a bit of Captain Jack or Spinosad takes care of them, and the damage will stop. All I want you to do is look at your plants regularly, so you can spot the damage on the plant before it gets out of hand and ruin your hard work in the garden.

Clematis is now growing fast and now is the time to train it, and tie it up on your trellis or arbor so you can better enjoy the flowers on the plant. Remember clematis loves a sweet soil so if you want your plants to grow better, be sure to use limestone or wood ash around the plant every year. If your plant is in full sun, place a brick or cobble stone standing up on the ground, on the south side of the plant about 2 to 3 inches from the stems. This will create shade on the stems as they develop from the base of the plant and prevent sun damage during the summer and winter months. Keeping the bottom six inches of stems cool during the summer and protected from the sun during the winter is the most important tip that I can give you for growing clematis.

If you're growing fruit trees, be sure to re-apply your fruit tree spray as soon as possible as all the rain has washed off the protection you put on the earlier. If you want to stay organic with your fruit tree, look for a wonderful product call "Organocide," a combination insect and disease control product developed for the citrus growers in Florida, which works great on all your fruit trees and berry plants. If you want clean fruit, you must apply this product every 10 to 14 days just like the orchards do--more often if you get heavy rain.

If you planted lettuce, Swiss chard or spinach by seed, it may be time to thin your planting bed or do a bit of transplanting while the weather is still cool. Give your plants room to grow and you will have better and more productive plants in your garden. Clean around your onions, leeks and shallots, as crabgrass is now beginning to grow in the garden--I know it is in my onion patch.

If you grew garlic for the first time and want larger bulbs and more garlic cloves on that bulb in the ground, look closely at your plants now for the flower bud that is forming on top of the plant. This flower bud looks like an arrow; it's a pointed bud. It looks like a garden gnome hat that grows by twisting and curling on its long stem. When this twisting begins to happen, remove the flower stems right down to the closest leaf on the plant and all the energy will go to the bulb--or you could leave it on the plant and it will make seeds for next year. I remove mine and use some of the flowers or "scapes," as they are called, for use in flower arrangements--cool looking with cut flowers in a vase. You can also steam them like you do asparagus and they taste wonderful with a bit of butter, salt and pepper. Try them this year if you never have before; they have a mild flavor of garlic. Enjoy!

Thanks Paul!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
June 21, 2011

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