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How-to : Fertilization for Established Plants
Established plants can benefit from fertilization. Take a visual inventory of your landscape. Trees need to be fertilized every few years. Shrubs and other plants in the landscape can be fertilized yearly. A soil test can determine existing nutrient levels in the soil. If one or more nutrients is low, a specific instead of an all-purpose fertilizer may be required. Fertilizers that are high in N, nitrogen, will promote green leafy growth. Excess nitrogen in the soil can cause excessive vegetative growth on plants at the expense of flower bud development.
It is best to avoid fertilizing late in the growing season. Applications made at that time can force lush, vegetative growth that will not have a chance to harden off before the onset of cold weather.
Conditions : Partial Shade
Partial Shade is defined as filtered light found beneath trees with high limbs. Partial shade usually offers some protection from direct afternoon sun.
Conditions : Dappled Light
Dappled Light refers to a dappled pattern of light created on the ground, as cast by light passing through high tree branches. This is the middle ground, not considered shady, but not sunny either. Dappled remains constant throughout the day.
Conditions : Light Conditions
Unless a site is completely exposed, light conditions will change during the day and even during the year. The northern and eastern sides of a house receive the least amount of light, with the northern exposure being the shadiest. The western and southern sides of a house receive the most light and are considered the hottest exposures due to intense afternoon sun.
You will notice that sun and shade patterns change during the day. The western side of a house may even be shady due to shadows cast by large trees or a structure from an adjacent property. If you have just bought a new home or just beginning to garden in your older home, take time to map sun and shade throughout the day. You will get a more accurate feel for your site's true light conditions.
Conditions : Filtered Light
For many plants that prefer partially shady conditions, filtered light is ideal. Good planting sites are under a mid to large sized tree that lets some light through their branches or beneath taller plants that will provide some protection.
Conditions : Partial Sun, Partial Shade
Part sun or part shade plants prefer light that is filtered. Sunlight, though not direct, is important to them. Often morning sun, because it is
not as strong as afternoon sun, can be considered part sun or part shade. If you live in an area that does not get much intense sun, such as the Pacific Northwest, a full sun exposure may be fine. In other areas such as Florida,
plant in a location where afternoon shade will be received.
Conditions : Types of Pruning
Types of pruning include: pinching, thinning, shearing and rejuvenating.
Pinching is removing the stem tips of a young plant to promote branching. Doing this avoids the need for more severe pruning later on.
Thinning involves removing whole branches back to the trunk. This may be done to open up the interior of a plant to let more light in and to increase air circulation that can cut down on plant disease. The best way to begin thinning is to begin by removing dead or diseased wood.
Shearing is leveling the surface of a shrub using hand or electric shears. This is done to maintain the desired shape of a hedge or topiary.
Rejuvenating is removal of old branches or the overall reduction of the size of a shrub to restore its original form and size. It is recommended that you do not remove more than one third of a plant at a time. Remember to remove branches from the inside of the plant as well as the outside. When rejuvenating plants with canes, such as nandina, cut back canes at various heights so that plant will have a more natural look.
Conditions : Light and Plant Selection
For best plant performance, it is desirable to match the correct plant with the available light conditions. Right plant, right place! Plants which do not receive sufficient light may become pale in color, have fewer leaves and a "leggy" stretched-out appearance. Also expect plants to grow slower and have fewer blooms when light is less than desirable. It is possible to provide supplemental lighting for indoor plants with lamps. Plants can also receive too much light. If a shade loving plant is exposed to direct sun, it may wilt and/or cause leaves to be sunburned or otherwise damaged.
Problems : Creating a Water Ring
A water ring, sometimes called a water well, is a mound of compacted soil that
is built around the circumference of a planting hole once a plant has been
installed. The water ring helps to direct water to the outer edges of a
planting hole, encouraging new roots to grow outward, in search of moisture.
The height of the mound of soil will vary from a couple of inches for 3 gallon
shrubs, to almost a foot for balled and burlapped trees, especially those
planted on a slope. Mulch over the ring will help to further conserve moisture
and prevent deterioration of the ring itself. Once a plant is established, the water ring may be leveled, but you should continue to mulch beneath the plant.
Problems : Waterlogged Soil and Solutions
Waterlogged soil occurs when more water is added to soil than can drain out in a reasonable amount of time. This can be a severe problem where water tables are high or soils are compacted. Lack of air space in waterlogged soil makes it almost impossible for soil to drain. Few plants, except for bog plants, can tolerate these conditions. Drainage must be improved if you are not satisfied with bog gardening. Over-watered plants
have the same wilted leaves as under-watered plants. Fungi such as Phytophthora and Pythium affect vascular systems, which cause wilt.
If the problem is only on the surface, it maybe diverted to a drainage ditch. If drainage is poor where water table is high, install an underground drainage system. You should contact a contractor for this. If underground drains already exist, check to see if they are blocked.
French drains are another option. French drains are ditches that have been filled with gravel. It is okay to plant sod on top of them. More obtrusive, but a good solution where looks aren't as important, think of the French drain as a ditch filled with gravel. Ditches should be 3 to 4 feet deep and have sloping sides.
A soakway is a gravel filled pit where water is diverted to via underground pipes. This works well on sites that have compacted soil. Your soakway should be about 6'wide and deep and filled with gravel or crushed stone, topped with sand and sodded or seeded.
Keep in mind that it is illegal to divert water onto other people's property. If you do not feel that you can implement a workable solution on your own, call a contractor.
Tools : Watering Aides
No gardener depends 100% on natural rainfall. Even the most water conscious
garden appreciates the proper hose, watering can or wand.
Watering Cans: Whether you choose plastic of galvanized makes no difference,
but do look for generous capacity and a design that is balanced when filled
with water. A 2 gallon can (which holds 18 lbs. of water) is preferred by
most gardeners and is best suited for outdoor use. Indoor cans should be
relatively smaller with narrower spouts and roses (the filter head).
Watering Hose: When purchasing a hose, look for one that is double-walled, as it will resist
kinking. Quick coupler links are nice to have on ends of hoses to make
altering length fast. To extend the life of your hose, keep it wound around
a reel and stored in a shady area. Prior to winter freezes, drain hose.
Sprayers: Are commonly thought of as devices for applying chemicals, but
can really be a step saver for watering houseplants or small pots of annuals
rather that dragging out a hose or making numerous trips with a watering can.
The backpack sprayer is best suited for this. Take care not to use any kind
of chemical in tanks used for watering!
Sprinklers: Attached to the
ends of garden hoses, these act as an economical irrigation system. Standing
Spike Sprinklers are usually intended for lawns and deliver water in a circular pattern. Rotating Sprinklers deliver a circle of water and are perfect for lawns, shrubs and flower beds. Pulse-jet sprinklers cover large
areas of ground in a pulsating, circular pattern. The head usually sits up on a
tall stem, except for when watering lawns. Oscillating sprinklers are best for watering at ground level in a rectangular pattern.
Conditions : Normal
Normal is defined as regular watering to a depth of 18 inches, but periodically dries out in the top 7 inches between waterings.
Conditions : Water Conditions
When selecting Water Conditions, take into account the amount of water
this particular area of your site receives naturally. If you have an
irrigation system, select the default normal. Some sites may be naturally wet
due to boggy areas by down spots or very dry due to a high sand content. By
working with your site's natural conditions, you will reduce maintenance. Do
note that even the most drought tolerant plant must first become established,
so be willing to provide about 1 inch of water per week during the first year or two.
Conditions : Regular Moisture for Outdoor Plants
Water when normal rainfall does not provide the preferred 1 inch of moisture most plants prefer. Average water is needed during the growing season, but take care not
to overwater. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering
is important. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week
and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.
Conditions : Moist and Well Drained
Moist and well drained means exactly what it sounds like. Soil is moist without being soggy because the texture of the soil allows excess moisture to drain away. Most plants like about 1 inch of water per week. Amending your soil with compost will help improve texture and water holding or draining capacity. A 3 inch layer of mulch will help to maintain soil moisture and studies have shown that mulched plants grow faster than non-mulched plants.
Conditions : Outdoor Watering
Plants are almost completely made up of water so it is important to supply them
with adequate water to maintain good plant health. Not enough water and roots
will wither and the plant will wilt and die. Too much water applied too
frequently deprives roots of oxygen leading to plant diseases such as root and
stem rots. The type of plant, plant age, light level, soil type and container
size all will impact when a plant needs to be watered. Follow these tips to
ensure successful watering:
* The key to watering is water deeply and less frequently. When watering, water
well, i.e. provide enough water to thoroughly saturate the root ball. With
in-ground plants, this means thoroughly soaking the soil until water has
penetrated to a depth of 6 to 7 inches (1' being better). With container grown plants, apply enough water to allow water to flow through the drainage holes.
* Try to water plants early in the day or later in the afternoon to conserve
water and cut down on plant stress. Do water early enough so that water has
had a chance to dry from plant leaves prior to night fall. This is paramount
if you have had fungus problems.
* Don't wait to water until plants wilt. Although some plants will recover from this,
all plants will die if they wilt too much (when they reach the permanent
* Consider water conservation methods such as drip irrigation, mulching, and
xeriscaping. Drip systems which slowly drip moisture directly on the root
system can be purchased at your local home and garden center. Mulches can significantly cool the root zone
and conserve moisture.
* Consider adding water-saving gels to the root zone which will hold a reserve
of water for the plant. These can make a world of difference especially under
stressful conditions. Be certain to follow label directions for their use.
Conditions : Normal Watering for Outdoor Plants
Normal watering means that soil should be kept evenly moist and watered regularly, as conditions require. Most plants like 1 inch of water a week during the growing season, but take care not to over water. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering is important for establishment. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.
Conditions : Indoor Watering
Plant are composed of almost 90% water so it important to supply them with adequate water. Proper watering is essential for good plant health. When there is not enough water, roots will wither and the plant will wilt. When too much water is applied too frequently, roots are deprived of oxygen and diseases occur such as root and stem rots.
The type of plant, plant age, light level, soil type and container size all will impact when a plant needs to be watered. Follow these tips to ensure successful watering:
* The key to watering is frequency. Water well then wait long enough until the plant needs to be re-watered according to its moisture requirements.
* When watering, water well. That is, provide enough water to thoroughly saturate the root ball. With containerized plants, apply enough water to allow water to flow through the drainage holes.
* Avoid using cold water especially with houseplants. This can shock tender roots. Fill watering can with tepid water or allow cold water to sit for a while to come to room temperature before watering. This is a good way to allow any harmful chlorine in the water to evaporate before being used.
* Some plants are best irrigated by sub-irrigation, i.e. watering from the bottom up. This avoids splashing water on the leaves of sensitive plants. Simply place the pot in a shallow pan filled with tepid water and let the plant sit for 15 minutes to allow the root ball to be thoroughly wet. Take out and allow sufficient drainage.
* Use an unpainted dowel to help you determine when to re-water larger pots. Stick it into the soil ball & wait 5 minutes. The dowel will absorb moisture from the soil and turn a darker color. Pull it out and examine. This will give you an idea of how wet the soil root ball is.
* Roots need oxygen to breath, do not allow plants to sit in a saucer filled with water. This will only promote disease.
How-to : Planting Shrubs
Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball and deep enough to plant at the
same level the shrub was in the container. If soil is poor, dig hole even wider
and fill with a mixture half original soil and half compost or soil
Carefully remove shrub from container and gently separate roots. Position in center of hole, best side facing forward. Fill in with original soil or an amended mixture if needed as described above. For larger shrubs, build a water well. Finish by mulching and watering well.
If the plant is balled-and-burlapped, remove fasteners and fold back the top of natural burlap, tucking it down into hole, after you've positioned shrub. Make sure that all burlap is buried so that it won't wick water away from rootball during hot, dry periods. If synthetic burlap, remove if possible. If not possible, cut away or make slits to allow for roots to develop into the new soil. For larger shrubs, build a water well.
Finish by mulching and watering well.
If shrub is bare-root, look for a discoloration somewhere near the base; this mark is likely where the soil line was. If soil is too sandy or too clayey, add organic matter. This will help with both drainage and water holding capacity. Fill soil, firming just enough to support shrub. Finish by mulching and watering well.
Pest : Thrips
Thrips are small, winged insects that attack many types of plants and
thrive in hot, dry conditions (like heated houses). They can multiply quickly
as a female can lay up to 300 eggs in a life span of 45 days without mating.
Most of the damage to plants is caused by the young larvae which feed on tender
leaf and flower tissue. This leads to distorted growth, injured flower petals
and premature flower drop. Thrips also can transmit many harmful plant viruses.
Prevention and Control: keep weeds down and use screening on windows to
keep them out. Remove or discard infested plants, keep them away from
non-infested plants. Trap with yellow sticky cards or take advantage of
natural enemies such as predatory mites. Sometimes a good steady shower of
water will wash them off the plant. Consult your local garden center professional or county Cooperative extension office for legal chemical recommendations.
Pest : Aphids
Aphids are small, soft-bodied, slow-moving insects that suck fluids from plants. Aphids come in many colors, ranging from green to brown to black, and they may have wings. They attack a wide range of plant species causing stunting, deformed leaves and buds. They can transmit harmful plant viruses with their piercing/sucking mouthparts. Aphids, generally, are merely a nuisance, since it takes many of them to cause serious plant damage. However aphids do produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface growth called sooty mold.
Aphids can increase quickly in numbers and each female can produce up to 250 live nymphs in the course of a month without mating. Aphids often appear when the environment changes - spring & fall. They're often massed at the tips of branches feeding on succulent tissue. Aphids are attracted to the color yellow and will often hitchhike on yellow clothing.
Prevention and Control: Keep weeds to an absolute minimum, especially around desirable plants. On edibles, wash off infected area of plant. Lady bugs and lacewings will feed on aphids in the garden. There are various products - organic and inorganic - that can be used to control aphids. Seek the recommendation of a professional and follow all label procedures to a tee.
Fungi : Rusts
Most rusts are host specific and overwinter on leaves, stems and spent flower debris. Rust often appears as small, bright orange, yellow, or brown pustules on the underside of leaves. If touched, it will leave a colored spot of spores on the finger. Caused by fungi and spread by splashing water or rain, rust is worse when weather is moist.
Prevention and Control: Plant resistant varieties and provide maximum air circulation. Clean up all debris, especially around plants that have had a problem. Do not water from overhead and water only during the day so that plants will have enough time to dry before night. Apply a fungicide labeled for rust on your plant.
Fungi : Powdery Mildew
Powdery Mildew is usually found on plants that do not have enough air circulation or adequate light. Problems are worse where nights are cool and days are warm and humid. The powdery white or gray fungus is usually found on the upper surface of leaves or fruit. Leaves will often turn yellow or brown, curl up, and drop off. New foliage emerges crinkled and distorted. Fruit will be dwarfed and often drops early.
Prevention and Control: Plant resistant varieties and space plants properly so they receive adequate light and air circulation. Always water from below, keeping water off the foliage. This is paramount for roses. Go easy on the nitrogen fertilizer. Apply fungicides according to label directions before problem becomes severe and follow directions exactly, not missing any required treatments. Sanitation is a must - clean up and remove all leaves, flowers, or debris in the fall and destroy.
Pest : Caterpillars
Caterpillars are the immature form of moths and butterflies. They are voracious feeders attacking a wide variety of plants. They can be highly destructive and are characterized as leaf feeders, stem borers, leaf rollers, cutworms and tent-formers.
Prevention and Control: keep weeds down, scout individual plants and remove caterpillars, apply labeled insecticides such as soaps and oils, take advantage of natural enemies such as parasitic wasps in the garden and use Bacillus thuringiensis (biological warfare) for some caterpillar species.
Pest : Scale Insects
Scales are insects, related to mealy bugs, that can be a problem on a wide variety of plants - indoor and outdoor. Young scales crawl until they find a good feeding site. The adult females then lose their legs and remain on a spot protected by its hard shell layer. They appear as bumps, often on the lower sides of leaves. They have piercing mouth parts that suck the sap out of plant tissue. Scales can weaken a plant leading to yellow foliage and leaf drop. They also produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface fungal growth called sooty mold.
Prevention and Control: Once established they are hard to control. Isolate infested plants away from those that are not infested. Consult your local garden center professional or Cooperative Extension office in your county for a legal recommendation regarding their control. Encourage natural enemies such as parasitic wasps in the garden.
Diseases : Southern Blight
Plants with Southern blight have lesions on the stem at, or near, the soil line.
These lesions develop rapidly, girdling the stem and resulting in a sudden and
permanent wilting of the plant. High temperatures (above 85 degrees F, 29 degrees C) favor the disease. The fungus attacks a wide range of plants and survives for long periods in soil. To control, treat with a recommended fungicide according to label directions.
Glossary : Evergreen
Evergreen refers to plants that hold onto their leaves or needles for more than one growing season, shedding them over time. Some plants such as live oaks are evergreen, but commonly shed the majority of their older leaves around the end of January.
Glossary : Old Fashioned or Heritage Plant
Old Fashioned or Heritage Plant is any plant that is reminiscent of early times or tied to a particular region. Often found in the yards of grandmothers or abandoned home sites.
Conditions : Site Conditions
When setting criteria for site conditions, check boxes that apply to your planting area. This will narrow the search for appropriate plants. Naturally, you'll need to select a USDA Hardiness Zone. Selecting a specific soil type and pH are just as important as light and water conditions because they enable a search that will find plants best suited to your site.
Glossary : pH
pH, means the potential of Hydrogen, is the measure of alkalinity or acidity. In horticulture, pH refers to the pH of soil. The scale measures from 0, most acid, to 14, most alkaline. Seven is neutral. Most plants prefer a range between 5.5 and about 6.7, an acid range, but there are plenty of other plants that like soil more alkaline, or above 7. A pH of 7 is where the plant can most easily absorb the most nutrients in the soil. Some plants prefer more or less of certain nutrients, and therefore do better at a certain pH.
Glossary : Plant Characteristics
Plant characteristics define the plant, enabling a search that finds specific types of plants such as bulbs, trees, shrubs, grass, perennials, etc.
Glossary : Large Shrub
A shrub is considered large when it is over 6 feet tall.
Glossary : Small Tree
A small tree is less than 30 feet tall.
Glossary : Flower Characteristics
Flower characteristics can vary greatly and may help you decide on a ""look or
feel"" for your garden. If you're looking for fragrance or large, showy flowers,
click these boxes and possibilities that fit your cultural conditions will be
shown. If you have no preference, leave boxes unchecked to return a greater
number of possibilities.
Glossary : Foliage Characteristics
By searching foliage characteristics, you will have the opportunity to look
for foliage with distinguishable features such as variegated leaves, aromatic
foliage, or unusual texture, color or shape. This field will be most helpful to you if
you are looking for accent plants. If you have no preference, leave this
field blank to return a larger selection of plants.
Glossary : Landscape Uses
By searching Landscape Uses, you will be able to pinpoint plants that are best suited for particular uses such as trellises, border plantings, or foundations.
Glossary : Soil Types
A soil type is defined by granule size, drainage, and amount of organic material
in the soil. The three main soil types are sand, loam and clay. Sand has the
largest particle size, no organic matter, little to no fertility, and drains
rapidly. Clay, at the opposite end of the spectrum, has the smallest particle
size, can be rich in organic matter, fertility and moisture, but is often
unworkable because particles are held together too tightly, resulting in poor
drainage when wet, or is brick-like when dry. The optimum soil type is loam,
which is the happy median between sand and clay: It is high in organic matter,
nutrient-rich, and has the perfect water holding capacity.
You will often
hear loam referred to as a sandy loam (having more sand, yet still plenty of
organic matter) or a clay loam (heavier on the clay, yet workable with good
drainage.) The addition of organic matter to either sand or clay will result
in a loamy soil. Still not sure if your soil is a sand, clay, or loam? Try
this simple test. Squeeze a handfull of slightly moist, not wet, soil in your
hand. If it forms a tight ball and does not fall apart when gently tapped
with a finger, your soil is more than likely clay. If soil does not form a
ball or crumbles before it is tapped, it is sand to very sandy loam. If soil forms a
ball, then crumbles readily when lightly tapped, it's a loam. Several quick, light
taps could mean a clay loam.
Glossary : Tolerant
Tolerant refers to a plant's ability to tolerate exposure to an external condition(s). It does not mean that the plant thrives or prefers this situation, but is able to adapt and continue its life cycle.
Glossary : Fertilize
Fertilize just before new growth begins with a complete fertilizer.