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How-to : Fertilization for Annuals and Perennials
Annuals and perennials may be fertilized using: 1.water-soluble, quick release fertilizers; 2. temperature controlled slow-release fertilizers; or 3. organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion. Water soluble fertilizers are generally used every two weeks during the growing season or per label instructions. Controlled, slow-release fertilizers are worked into the soil ususally only once during the growing season or per label directions. For organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion, follow label directions as they may vary per product.
Conditions : Full to Partial Sun
Full sunlight is needed for many plants to assume their full potential. Many of these plants will do fine with a little less sunlight, although they may not flower as heavily or their foliage as vibrant. Areas on the southern and western sides of buildings usually are the sunniest. The only exception is when houses or buildings are so close together, shadows are cast from neighboring properties. Full sun usually means 6 or more hours of direct unobstructed sunlight on a sunny day. Partial sun receives less than 6 hours of sun, but more than 3 hours. Plants able to take full sun in some climates may only be able to tolerate part sun in other climates. Know the culture of the plant before you buy and plant it!
Conditions : Full Sun
Full Sun is defined as exposure to more than 6 hours of continuous, direct sun per day.
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 : 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.
Diseases : Verticillium or Fusarium Wilt
Wilts may be contracted through infected seed, plant debris, or soil. This
fungus begins and multiplies during the cool, moist season, becoming obvious
when weather turns warm and dry. Plants wilt because the fungus damages their
water conducting mechanisms. Overfertilization can worsen this problem. Able to overwinter in soil for many years, it is also carried and harbored in
Prevention and Control: If possible, select resistant varieties. Keep nitrogen-heavy fertilizers to a minimum as well as
over-irrigating as they encourage lush growth. Practice crop rotation and prune out or better yet remove infected plants.
Pest : Mealybugs
Small, wingless, dull-white, soft-bodied insects that produce a waxy powdery covering. They have piercing/sucking mouth parts that suck the sap out of plant tissue. Mealybugs often look like small pieces of cotton and they tend to congregate where leaves and stems branch. They attack a wide range of plants. The young tend to move around until they find a suitable feeding spot, then they hang out in colonies and feed. Mealybugs 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: Isolate infested plants from those that are not. Consult your local garden center professional or the Cooperative Extension office in your county for a legal insecticide/chemical recommendation. Encourage natural enemies such as lady beetles in the garden to help reduce population levels of mealy bugs.
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 : 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 : Flea Beetles
Flea Beetles are about the size of a flea and are black, bronze, or blue-black in color. They get their name from the way they jump when disturbed. Flea beetle populations are usually more severe when conditions are hot and dry. They can pose problems in the garden; they leave small holes in chewed foliage.
Prevention and control: You've heard it a thousand times, but here it is again - clean up the garden to remove places where these insects over winter. A well-watered, moist garden will not be as attractive to an egg laying mother either. Aside from handpicking, spray with a recommended insecticide. Cultivation between rows will help to destroy eggs, too.
Fungi : Leaf Spots
Leaf spots are caused by fungi or bacteria. Brown or black spots and patches may be either ragged or circular, with a water soaked or yellow-edged appearance. Insects, rain, dirty garden tools, or even people can help its spread.
Prevention and Control: Remove infected leaves when the plant is dry. Leaves that collect around the base of the plant should be raked up and disposed of. Avoid overhead irrigation if possible; water should be directed at soil level. For fungal leaf spots, use a recommended fungicide according to label directions.
Weeds : Preventing Weeds and Grass
Weeds rob your plants of water, nutrients and light. They can harbor pests and diseases. Before planting, remove weeds either by hand or by spraying an herbicide according to label directions. Another alternative is to lay plastic over the area for a couple of months to kill grass and weeds.
You may apply a pre-emergent herbicide prior to planting, but be sure that it is labeled for the plants you are wishing to grow. Existing beds may be spot
sprayed with a nonselective herbicide, but be careful to shield those plants you do not want to kill. Non-selective means that it will kill everything it comes in contact with.
Mulch plants with a 3 inch layer of pinestraw, pulverized bark, or compost. Mulch conserves moisture, keeps weeds down, and makes it easier to pull when necessary.
Porous landscape or open weave fabric works too, allowing air and water to be exchanged.
Fungi : Downy Mildew
Downy Mildew, a fluffy white fungal growth that develops on the underside
of leaves, is most common during cool, humid conditions. Foliage often discolors
and is stunted.
Prevention and Control: Use disease free plants and space far enough
apart so that air circulation is good. Remove and discard infected leaves or even
entire plants. Use a recommended fungicide and always follow the directions on the label.
How-to : Cut Flowers
Flowers suitable for cutting maintain their form for several days when properly conditioned and placed in water or soaked oasis. A cut flower should have a fairly strong, long stem, making it easy to work with in arrangements. There are many short stem flowers that make good cut flowers too, but they look best when floated in a bowl or clustered and placed in a juice glass size vase.
For best results, always cut flowers early in the morning, preferably before dew has had a chance to dry. Always make cuts with a sharp knife or pruners and plunge flowers or foliage into a bucket of water. Store in a cool place until you are ready to work with them, this will keep flowers from opening. Always re-cut stems and change water frequently. Washing vases or containers to rid of existing bacteria helps increase their life, as well.
Glossary : Bird Attracting
The term bird attracting applies to any plant that has flowers, fruit, nuts, or structure that attracts birds. Most plants on ""bird attracting"" lists have favorable fruits or flowers that serve as food, but the trunks, limbs and foliage cover that trees and shrubs provide should not be overlooked as they add shelter for raising young and protection from foul weather.
Glossary : Butterfly Attracting
Many plants, perennials being the largest group, attract butterflies.
When you add butterfly attracting plants to your garden, not only do you get to enjoy these winged wonders, but you provide habitats for their survival, as well. Yellows and reds seem to be favorite flower colors, while some plants offer food and shelter for laying eggs on. To complete your habitat, don't forget to add a shallow dish of water.
Glossary : Sandy Loam
Sandy Loam refers to a soil that drains well, with excellent air space, and evenly crumbled texture when squeezed in the hand. A good workable garden soil that benefits from added fertilizer and proper watering. Dark gray to gray-brown in color.
Glossary : Loam
Loam is the ideal soil, having the perfect balance between particle size, air space, organic matter and water holding capacity. It forms a nice ball when squeezed in the palm of the hand, but crumbles easily when lightly tapped with a finger. Rich color ranges between gray brown to almost black.
Glossary : Clayey Loam
Clayey loam refers to a soil that retains moisture well, without having a drainage problem. Fertility is high and texture good. Easily forms a ball when squeezed in the hand, and then crumbles easily with a quick tap of the finger. Considered an ideal soil. Usually a rich brown color.
Glossary : Annual
An annual is any plant that completes its life cycle in one growing season.
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 : Heat Zone
The 12 zones of the AHS Heat Zone map indicate the average number of days each year that a given region experiences ""heat days"" or temperatures over 86 degrees F(30 degrees Celsius). That is the point at which plants begin suffering physiological damage from heat. The zones range from Zone 1 (less than one heat day) to Zone 12 (more than 210 heat days). The AHS Heat Zone, which deals with heat tolerance, should not be confused with the USDA Hardiness Zone system which deals with cold tolerance. For example: Seattle, Washington has a USDA Hardiness Zone of 8, the same as Charleston, South Carolina; however Seattle's Heat Zone is 2 where Charleston's Heat Zone is 11. What this says is that winter temperature in the two cities may be similar, but because Charleston has significantly warmer weather for a longer period of time, plant selection based on heat tolerance is a factor to consider.
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 : 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 : 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.
How-to : Getting the Most Out of Cut Flowers
Cut flowers bring the garden into your home. While some cut flowers have a long vase life, most are highly perishable. How cut flowers are treated when you first bring them home can significantly increase how long they last.
The most important thing to consider is getting sufficient water taken up into the cut stem. Insufficient water can result in wilting and short-lived flowers. Bent neck of roses, where the flower head droops, is the result of poor water uptake. To maximize water uptake, first re-cut the stems at an angle so that the vascular system (the ""plumbing"" of the stem) is clear. Next immerse the cut stems in warm water.
Remember when the flower is cut, it is cut off from its food supply. Once water is taken care of, food is the resource that will run out next. The plants stems naturally feed the flowers with sugars. If you add a bit of sugar (1 tsp.) to the vase water, this will help feed the flower stems and extend their vase life.
Bacteria will build up in vase water and eventually clog up the stem so the flower cannot take up water. To prevent this, change the vase water frequently and make a new cut in the stems every few days.
Floral preservatives, available from florists, contain sugars, acids and bacteriacides that can extend cut flower life. These come in small packets and are generally available where cut flowers are sold. If used properly, these can extend the vase life of some cut flowers 2 to 3 times when compared with just plain water in the vase.
Glossary : Viruses
Viruses, which are smaller than bacteria, are not living and do not replicate on their own. They must rely on the cellular mechanisms of their hosts to replicate. Because this greatly disrupts the cell's functionality, outward signs of a viral infection result in a plant disease with symptoms such as abnormal or stunted growth, damaged fruit, discolorations or spots.
Prevention and Control: Keep virus carriers such as aphids, leafhoppers, and thrips under control. These plant feeding insects spread viruses. Viruses can also be introduced by infected pollen or through plant openings (as when pruning). Begin by keeping the pathogen out of your garden. New plants should be checked, as well as tools and existing plants. Use only certified seed that is deemed disease-free. Plant only resistant varieties and create a discouraging environment by rotating crops, not planting closely related plants in the same area every year.