How to Keep Your Plants Healthy This Summer

Keep your plants healthy this summer with appropriate care.

Are you wondering how to keep your plants healthy during the warmest time of the year? Plants can naturally become stressed during summer, so you will need to watch over them carefully. Here are three ways to make sure your garden is in tip-top shape.

Scout Around for Insects, Pests and Other Problems

You definitely want to stay on top of problems so that you can treat them before they become too serious whenever possible. Some signs you may notice, among others, include:

  • Wilting
  • Rotting
  • Cankers
  • Spots on leaves
  • Leaves that turn yellow or brown
  • Holes in leaves, branches or trunk
  • Webbing
  • Galls
  • This one seems obvious, but insects themselves are seen

Once you notice a problem, you can do research to see what is causing it and how it can be treated. There may be several different methods including mechanical, cultural, biological and chemical controls.

Keep Your Watering on a Consistent Schedule

As I have mentioned before, it is usually better to water your plants just a few times a week, making sure that it is for a long enough period that they can get the amount that they need. If you do notice a plant that seems extra wilted, go ahead and give it a drink. However, do make sure that it needs water as overwatering can, strangely enough, cause wilting also.

Consider Moving Potted Plants to Shade

Container plants can have problems sometimes since their soil area is smaller than plants in bedding areas. The roots do not have the chance to fully spread out and can struggle when the soil dries out.

One way to help slow down this problem is to move the pots to an area that is a bit cooler. This can be under an umbrella or close to your house. You could also consider bringing them indoors as needed if it is really hot.

There are some factors to think about when deciding to move potted plants. Make sure that the specific plant is able to handle partial shade, since many need full sun. Your nursery should know if it can or you can search on the Internet by using the plant’s name.

If you bring them inside, you would need to harden them off when you do set them back outside. The environments are quite different between your house and your garden (with the latter usually being harsher,) so the plant can go into shock if it is just set outside. When you harden off, you take them out for a short period on the first day and gradually lengthen it over the course of about a week.

How are your plants doing this summer?

Image by David Berkowitz under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

Are There Foxtail Weeds in Your Grass?

Foxtail weeds can appear in your lawn

If you have noticed that some areas of your lawn look a bit different and there are spikes of seedheads shooting up, you may have foxtail weeds in your grass.

There are three different species that you commonly see throughout the United States. They are:

  • Giant Foxtail (Setaria faberi)
  • Green Foxtail (Setaria viridis)
  • Yellow Foxtail (Setaria glauca)

 Why Are Foxtails a Problem?

They form in clumps and tend to remain upright, breaking up the uniform appearance of your lawn. They send up seedheads that are full of seeds, producing new plants. These seeds are also able to cling to animals and clothing, causing potential pain and problems.

These species can act as a host for nematodes, which can then affect your lawn. Foxtails also produce chemicals that can actively harm other plants in the area to reduce competition through a process called allelopathy.

Controlling Foxtail Weeds

One way to help control these species is to apply preemergent herbicides. Since these plants reproduce by seeds, stopping them before they can really get growing is helpful. However, if seeds were dropped in that location before or are blown in, they can germinate after the herbicide has worn off. Applying more than once a summer can be helpful in this case to control foxtails and other weeds with similar tendencies.

As with all weeds, keeping your lawn grass in a healthy state helps keep undesired plants from taking over. Properly growing grass forms a good root structure that can grab the nutrients it needs and the plants can shade out seedlings.

How do you control foxtails?

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Can You Overwater a Lawn in Summer?

Overwatering A Lawn is Possible

As the weather heats up, you might think that your lawn needs as much water as possible to survive the summer and grow properly. Can you overwater a lawn in summer?

Water Longer and Less Often

It may seem counterproductive, but you only need to water once or perhaps twice a week in many situations. If you try to set your sprinklers so that they water a little daily, the roots get lazy and stay near the surface so that they can grab the water there. If the weather is especially hot and you do not water, the grass is now prone to scorch and other problems.

When you water longer and less often, it trains the roots to go deeper into the ground. In times of drought, there is a greater chance of your grass being able to find some moisture since the roots are longer and more widespread.

Plants Can Drown Too

If your lawn is continually wet, your grass might drown. Plants actually do take up oxygen from the soil as part of their respiration. If the roots sit in water for a long time, they cannot get the oxygen that they need and can end up effectively drowning.

Too much water surrounding the roots for an extended time can also lead to problems like root rots and other fungal diseases. Fungi are especially drawn to moist areas and thrive there.

How Much SHOULD You Water, Then?

Cornell University here in New York suggests that all you need on average is an inch of water per week. You can experiment with your sprinklers to see how long you need to water to achieve that goal using a device like a rain gauge or simply collecting water in a can. You also need to examine how your soil absorbs the water to make sure it’s not being applied too fast.

How is your grass holding up this summer?

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Watch Out for Puncturevine in Your Garden

Spikes cover the puncturevine fruit

I have had the very unpleasant experience of stepping on the fruit of the puncturevine (Tribulus terrestris).  This weed produces an abundance of seed pods that are covered with very sharp spikes. They are so sharp, in fact, that they have the ability to embed themselves into your clothes, shoes or the tires of your vehicle.

Other names for this species include puncture vine, caltrop, goatheaddevil’s eyelashes, tackweed, cat’s head, bullhead, devil’s weed and devil’s thorn. Some people say that it offers benefits for improving fertility.

What Makes It a Weed?

As I have mentioned before, the simplest definition of a weed is a plant that has started growing where you do not want it. You definitely would not want to come across this species in your garden by accident! Weeds are often very prolific in their seed production and the puncturevine is no slacker; each plant can produce up to 5000 of these seeds in just one growing season. They harden as they age and are quite painful when you accidentally step on them or otherwise come into contact.

Each plant can quickly spread a few yards away from its base. It acts like a groundcover since it forms into a low mat.

How Can I Get Rid of Puncturevine?

You generally do not need to apply chemicals to control this plant in your garden unless it has been allowed to spread profusely. It reproduces by seeds, so you want to remove the plant when it is young and before it has a chance to start fruit production. This plant has one tap root (one long root that goes down) and you can kill the plant just by removing it. You also want to carefully remove any seed pods that are present on the ground.

Have you come across puncturevine in your garden? How did you get rid of it?

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Battling Common Mallow in Your Lawn

One weed found in lawns is the common mallow

If you have noticed a plant in your lawn with crinkly lobed leaves and flowers in shades of white, pink or light purple, it may be the common mallow (Malva neglecta). This relative of hibiscus, hollyhocks, cotton and okra is one of those plants that do offer benefits (in this case, nutrition,) but are too invasive to use as a garden plant.

The common mallow can be either an annual or biennial depending on where it is growing. In general, it tends to act as more of a groundcover and stay close to the ground, but it can reach a couple of feet high if left unchecked.

How Do You Get Rid of Common Mallow?

Watch out for this weed and pull it out while it is little. You definitely want to remove it before it produces flowers and goes to seed. As the plant matures, the roots also become stronger and woody, so it will be much harder to pull them out.

Using this method will help keep this species from colonizing your lawn. This is the best way to control this weed since chemicals do not usually work very well. You can use a tool like a dandelion digger to help you get out the long tap root. If the plant has been growing for a while, it can possibly resprout if some of the root is left.

As always, keeping your grass lush and healthy is another way to help stop this weed from spreading. When plants are growing well, their roots spread out appropriately and it is harder for other species like weeds to become established.

How have you stopped common mallow in your garden?

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Is Field Bindweed Taking Over Your Lawn?

Field bindweed in grass

At first glance, you might think the field bindweed is just another pretty little plant. It features many white or pink trumpet-shaped blossoms that are much like its relative, the morning glory. However, it is definitely one of the worst weeds that you could come across.

What Makes the Field Bindweed So Noxious?

The simple definition of a weed is a plant that is located where you don’t want it. Some plants have such difficult growing habits that you would not want them anywhere! For starters, they are very good at survival. This species is a perennial, so it is naturally structured to live more than one year.

The stems tend to act like a vine, twirling around surrounding plants and strangling them. One plant can spread across several yards, so it would not take many plants to overtake your lawn if you leave it unchecked for several years. It bears an abundance of flowers that can produce thousands of seeds, perpetuating the problem.

It gets even worse when you look at the root system. This tenacious plant develops an extensive mass of roots that can spread several feet beyond the width of the top plant. It has one main taproot, but also sends out side roots that grow for a few feet, then move down. It has the ability to send out new stems from any roots left behind after pulling as long as it has buds.

If It’s That Bad, What Can You Do?

There are systemic herbicides available that can help curb this problem. As the Penn State Extension office suggests, you should apply this when the flower buds have formed or just started to bloom. The plant is focusing its energy towards pollination and fruit production, so it uses up some of the energy stored in the roots to accomplish this. When you apply the herbicide, it has a greater chance of killing off the roots, though you may likely have to repeat this several times to truly get rid of the plant.

You can also achieve the same effect with manual removal over the long-term. If you keep removing the plant, it will slowly starve. Penn State asserts that a good time to remove the new growth is about 2 weeks after it appears.

Have you wrangled with field bindweed? How did you finally conquer it?

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Try Drip Irrigation for Your Trees, Shrubs, Vegetable Gardens and Flower Beds

Drip irrigation can help you save water in your garden and keep your plants healthier.

These lettuces are being watered using drip irrigation

For the past few weeks, my mother and I have been working on our plots at the community garden. I have been in charge of setting up the drip irrigation system. I love how you can deliver water straight to the plant instead of using a general spray.

Why Should You Try Drip Irrigation?

Since lawns continuously cover a large area, sprinklers that shoot over a wide area work well. However, it can sometimes be problematic if you try to water other plants in the same way.

  • Diseases can set in if parts of the plant like the leaves and trunk stay wet for a long period of time.
  • Since the sprinklers are set to cover a general area, specific plants may not receive enough water. They may also be overwatered.
  • You use more water than is needed in this case. Drip irrigation is designed to deliver water to the roots of each specific plant.

Types of Drip Irrigation

There are several different types of drip irrigation that can be utilized in your garden. Some lay on top of the ground, while others can be buried. In the example of my vegetable garden, we have some hoses that have drip emitters embedded into the hose every 18″. You can just plant your seeds or starts near these holes so their roots can get watered.

Elsewhere, I have hoses where I have punched holes as needed to attach smaller hoses that are outfitted with a drip emitter at the end. These allow more flexibility in getting water to your plants, especially if you are trying to add this to an established garden.

Finally, I will be setting up some soaker hoses this week for our rows of corn since they are placed closer than 18″. These are made out of recycled tires and have small holes punched throughout the hose to slowly ooze out water along its length.

They also sell small sprayers and bubblers that you can place in the vicinity of your plants, as well as garden hoses with holes punched along the line.

How Do You Plan Out Your Drip Irrigation?

I would suggest creating a map that is to scale of the current layout of your garden that includes each of the current plants, as well as any future plants that you are considering. Head out to a sprinkler supply store or home improvement store. Associates there should be able to help you pick out the right parts for your situation. We can also definitely help you figure this out!

Do you use drip irrigation in your landscape? What has worked well for you?

It’s Time to Prune Spring Flowering Shrubs and Trees

 

Prune forsythia after blooming

Forsythia should be pruned after it is done blooming in the spring

You may have heard that you should do much of your pruning in the spring while your trees and shrubs are still dormant. However, this could destroy the floral display of some species. Why would this happen and which species are affected?

Last Year vs. This Year: Wood and Buds

Trees and shrubs vary on when they produce their flower buds and generally fall into two groups: the “planners” and the “procrastinators”. We are prone to imagine that they fall on the procrastination side and produce flower buds every spring as new wood emerges. These are safe to prune in late winter or early spring before the plant blossoms since you won’t be disturbing the blooms.

However, some trees and shrubs do fall more into the “planner” category. They are efficient and start forming their flower buds in the fall before the next growing season since they tend to put forth their flowers so early in the year. If you were to prune them while they are dormant, you definitely run the risk of stripping away a lot of the flower buds and destroying your blossom display. Instead, you would prune spring flowering shrubs and trees once they are done blooming.

Which Trees and Shrubs?

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but here are some of the most common trees and shrubs that should be pruned after they are done blooming. It is a good idea to ask a professional about the specific trees and shrubs in your yard to be sure.

  • Azalea and rhododendron
  • Beautybush
  • Deutzia
  • Flowering crabapples
  • Forsythia
  • Hawthorn
  • Honeysuckle
  • Kerria
  • Lilac
  • Quince
  • Viburnum
  • Weigela

Do you have any of these trees and shrubs in your garden?

Image by Elvert Barnes under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Consider Adding a Rain Sensor to Your Irrigation System

Rain sensors can conserve water in your landscapeOne of my personal pet peeves is hearing or seeing sprinklers go off during a rainstorm. It seems like such a waste both environmentally and financially. It is also potentially harmful to the plants since the extra water can lead to root suffocation or fungal problems. If you don’t want to run outside to manually turn off the sprinklers each time it rains, a rain sensor may work very well for you.

A rain sensor is mounted somewhere on or near your house (such as a fence or gutter) and can be either hard wired or wireless depending on the type and how much your budget allows. Many use a part called a hygroscopic disc to collect any rain that happens to fall during the day. These discs are designed to expand when water hits them. When they reach a certain size, they flip a switch. The system sends a message that overrides the sprinkler system and causes it to stop watering or not turn on at its normally scheduled time.

You do not need to worry about resetting your sprinkler system after the rain sensor is triggered. They are designed to dry out once the moisture stops and then your regularly scheduled sessions will continue as normal unless rainfall is again detected.

An additional feature found on some of these rain sensors is the ability to stop the system if freezing weather sets in before you have winterized your system for the year. If the pipes are full of water when the weather gets too cold, they can burst. Installing one of these types of sensors can stop this from happening.

If you are interested in adding a rain sensor to your current irrigation system, give us a call. We would be happy to help you choose the right one for your landscape.

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Get Your Irrigation System Ready for the Growing Season

Tune up your sprinkler system this springSpring is here in all its glory. Plants are coming alive again and the temperatures are creeping up. There are still days here and there that are colder, but it’s definitely on the upswing. For much of spring, rain is enough to take care of all of your landscape’s watering needs. However, you should work on getting your landscape ready now for the rest of the growing season.

Can You Turn It On Yet?

Even if the air temperatures are above freezing, the ground can still be frozen for a little while more. Find a spot where you can easily try to dig down and see if the soil has thawed yet. You want to be able to reach at least one foot down.

Get Your Irrigation System Back Up to Speed

You properly winterized your sprinklers last fall and shut them down, so they should be ready to go, right? The freezing temperatures in winter can be harsh, possibly dealing damage to your watering lines. There could also have been damage from snow plows or other garden equipment. Sprinkler parts also fall apart over time from normal wear and tear.

Before you turn it on, walk around your yard and physically inspect sprinkler heads, valves and other parts of your system to see if they show signs of problems. Make sure that the water pressure is not too high. According to Rainbird, a sprinklers manufacturer, this range should be within 40-65 PSI (pounds per square inch). We can help you measure this if needed and otherwise check over your system.

Turn It On Carefully

As Hunter Industries mentions, you should start turning things back on slowly. If you switch the valves on full blast, the surges can damage the pipes and cause problems. Make sure the timer settings are appropriate for the time of year; you need less water in spring than in summer, so start out lower. Once you have turned everything on, walk around again and see how the various sprinkler heads are doing. Note if there are areas that are especially wet, since this can be a sign of a leak.

Has your ground thawed out? Give us a call if you want to get your irrigation system ready to go.

  Image by Phu Son under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License