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How-to : Fertilization for Young Plants
Young plants need extra phosphorus to encourage good root development. Look for a fertilizer that has phosphorus, P, in it(the second number on the bag.) Apply recommended amount for plant per label directions in the soil at time of planting or at least during the first growing season.
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.
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.
Conditions : Moist
Moist is defined as soil that receives regular watering to a depth of 18 inch deep, does not dry out, but does not have a drainage problem either.
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 : 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.
How-to : Pruning Flowering Shrubs
It is necessary to prune your deciduous flowering shrub for two reasons:
1. By removing old, damaged or dead wood, you increase air flow, yielding in less disease. 2. You rejuvenate new growth which increases flower production.
Pruning deciduous shrubs can be divided into 4 groups: Those that
require minimal pruning (take out only dead, diseased, damaged, or
crossed branches, can be done in early spring.); spring pruning
(encourages vigorous, new growth which produces summer flowers - in other words,
flowers appear on new wood); summer pruning after flower (after
flowering, cut back shoots, and take out some of the old growth, down to the
ground); suckering habit pruning (flowers appear on wood from previous
year. Cut back flowered stems by 1/2, to strong growing new shoots and remove
1/2 of the flowered stems a couple of inches from the ground) Always remove dead, damaged or diseased wood first, no matter what type of pruning you are doing.
Once you plant a perennial, it does not mean that you will enjoy years of maintenance-free gardening. Perennials need to be cared for just like any other plant. One thing that distinguishes perennials is that they tend to be active growers that have to be thinned out occasionally or they will loose vigor.
As perennials establish, it is important to prune them back and thin them out occasionally. This will prevent them from completely taking over an area to the exclusion of other plants, and also will increase air circulation thereby reducing the incidence of diseases like botrytis and powdery mildew.
Many species also flower abundantly and produce ample seed. As blooms fade it is advisable to deadhead your plant; that is, to remove spent flowers before they form seed. This will prevent your plants from seeding all over the garden and will conserve the considerable energy it takes the plant to produce seed.
As perennials mature, they may form a dense root mass that eventually leads to a less vigorous plant. It is advisable to occasionally thin out a stand of such perennials. By dividing the root system, you can make new plants to plant in another area of the garden or give away. Also root pruning will stimulate new growth and rejuvenate the plant. Most perennials may be successfully divided in either spring or fall. Do a little homework; some perennials do have a preference.
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.
How-to : Preparing Containers
Containers are excellent when used as an ornamental feature, a planting option when there is little or no soil to plant in, or for plants that require a soil type not found in the garden or when soil drainage in the garden is inferior. If growing more than one plant in a container, make sure that all have similar cultural requirements. Choose a container that is deep and large enough to allow root development and growth as well as proportional balance between the fully developed plant and the container. Plant large containers in the place you intend them to stay. All containers should have drainage holes. A mesh screen, broken clay pot pieces(crock) or a paper coffee filter placed over the hole will keep soil from washing out. The potting soil you select should be an appropriate mix for the plants you have chosen. Quality soils (or soil-less medias) absorb moisture readily and evenly when wet. If water runs off soil upon initial wetting, this is an indicator that your soil may not be as good as you think.
Prior to filling a container with soil, wet potting soil in the bag or place in a tub or wheelbarrow so that it is evenly moist. Fill container about halfway full or to a level that will allow plants, when planted, to be just below the rim of the pot. Rootballs should be level with soil line when project is complete. Water well.
Pest : Spider Mites
Spider mites are small, 8 legged, spider-like creatures which thrive in
hot, dry conditions (like heated houses). Spider mites feed with piercing
mouth parts, which cause plants to appear yellow and stippled. Leaf drop and plant death can occur with heavy infestations. Spider mites can multiply
quickly, as a female can lay up to 200 eggs in a life span of 30 days. They
also produce a web which can cover infested leaves and flowers.
Prevention and Control: Keep weeds down and remove infested plants. Dry
air seems to worsen the problem, so make sure plants are regularly watered,
especially those preferring high humidity such as tropicals, citrus, or tomatoes. Always check new plants prior to bringing them home from the garden center or nursery. Take advantage of natural enemies such as ladybug larvae. If a miticide is recommended by your local garden center professional or county Cooperative Extension office, read and follow all label directions. Concentrate your efforts on the undersides of the leaves as that is where spider mites generally live.
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 : Whiteflies
Whiteflies are small, winged insects that look like tiny moths, which attack many types of plants. The flying adult stage prefers the underside of leaves to feed and breed. Whiteflies can multiply quickly as a female can lay up to 500 eggs in a life span of 2 months. If a plant is infested with whiteflies, you will see a cloud of fleeing insects when the plant is disturbed. Whiteflies can weaken a plant, eventually leading to plant death if they are not checked. They can transmit many harmful plant viruses. They also produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface fungal growth called sooty mold.
Possible controls: keep weeds down; use screening in windows to keep them out; remove infested plants away from non-infested plants; use a reflective mulch (aluminum foil) under plants (this repels whiteflies); trap with yellow sticky cards, apply labeled pesticides; encourage natural enemies such as parasitic wasps in the garden; and sometimes a good steady shower of water will wash them off the plant.
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.
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.
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.