Geranium, penstemons and petunias sometimes become infested by budworms. Foliage may be chewed, flowers may open tattered and full of holes or appear dried up and not open at all. Tiny black droppings on the foliage are left behind. The striped caterpillar larval form of a native moth is a close relative of the corn ear worm, the tobacco or geranium budworm. Moths lay eggs singly on host plants. After hatching, the caterpillars chew fully opened flowers and occasionally dine on the leaves. Spraying early on with organic BT is effective if done before the worms burrow inside the flower buds. Remove dried up buds and flowers that may harbor the caterpillars and pull up and destroy ragged, end-of-season petunias that my have eggs sticking to the plant remains. There may be two generations per year so preventative spraying with BT may protect established plants of geraniums or penstemon.
If your fuchsias aren’t blooming and the leaf tips look curled up and deformed, your plants are infested with fuchsia gall mite. First discovered on the West Coast in 1980, it is often mistaken for a disease because of the way it distorts and twists fuchsia leaves and flower buds. The damage caused can be debilitating. The leaves curl and distort so much that normal photosynthesis is disrupted and weakened plants fail to bloom Infested plants usually recover if further mite damage is controlled. Prune off all distorted foliage and buds. This may be the best method of control as petroleum oil or insecticidal sprays need to be made every 4-7 days to disrupt the mite life cycle. Neem oil is not recommended for use on fuchsia flowers.
There are several gall mite-resistant fuchsias, both hanging and upright, that are very bit as showy as the traditional fuchsia varieties. if you have been plagued by fuchsia mites, try growing one of these instead.
Just like the swallows that return each year to Capistrano I can set my own calendar by the Black-headed grosbeaks arrival in my garden. Although they eat a lot and dominate the feeders for several months I enjoy their antics. With vibrant orange, black and white coloring I could watch them all day. They are the clowns of the bird world and signal that spring is truly here and I better get to finishing up my garden chores. Everything is growing gangbusters these days with all the abundant rainfall.
Fertilize -Take advantage of the moist soil to fertilize your garden. I use an organic balanced granular fertilizer on everything. Your citrus may be looking yellow from lack of nitrogen which has leached out of the soil through the winter season and they may be lacking in iron. Perennials benefit from both a fresh layer of compost and a light application of balanced fertilizer. They respond to the phosphorus from bone meal especially in the spring for root growth, stem sturdiness and flower development. Make sure you keep fertilizer off the foliage and crown of the plants or wash it off with the hose. Wait to feed azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons until after they bloom and you see new leaves emerging.
Transplant – If you need to move or divide any plants that have outgrown their space or are not growing with other plants of the same water usage now is a good time. Plants are full of growth hormones and recover quickly from transplant shock. As you plant new additions to the garden add organic matter to the soil. If your garden’s soil is sandy, organic matter enriches it allowing it to hold water more efficiently. If your soil tends toward clay, organic matter will loosen it up and improve drainage. In well-amended soil, plants grow deep roots, are hardier for cold, more resistant to disease and more drought tolerant.
Spread fresh compost or wood chip mulch around all your plants to help plants get off to a strong start. Good soil is the secret to successful gardening. The first principle of organic gardening is to feed the soil and it will feed the plant. Remember that all gardening used to be organic. Layer 2-3″ of compost or wood chips on top of the soil letting it slowly decompose and filter down into the soil. Bark nuggets and shredded bark do not increase your soil’s fertility like compost or wood chips but they at least conserve moisture and help keep weeds at bay.
Check for aphids – They may be out in full force sucking plant juices from the tender new leaves of everything from roses to hellebore to Japanese maples. A strong spray from the hose may be enough to dislodge them. If they still persist, you can spray organic insecticidal soap, neem oil or horticultural oil to kill them. As with all pesticide sprays, do this early in the morning or later when they are not in the sun. Be sure to test first to make sure the spray doesn’t burn the new growth and always mix according to the directions.
Weed while the soil is moist and before weeds have gone to seed. Even if you don’t get the entire root of more persistent weeds, just keep pulling at the new growth. Eventually, the plant will give up having used up all of the food stored in its roots. Iím still battling hedge parsley with itís sticky seed balls that cling to my shoelaces and the dogís fur if I donít get it before it sets seed. Iíll be out there again this spring pulling them.
The most important to-do for early spring is to take time out and enjoy your garden and our beautiful surroundings. Those last few weeds will be there tomorrow but you’ll never get another today.
Early summer is the right time for many garden activities that you don’t want to leave to chance. Keep these reminders in the back of your mind to tackle when the mood hits you.
Look for any pest problems so you can do something about them before they get out of hand. Iím OK with a few holes here and there but a heavy infestation should be trimmed off or sprayed with an organic insecticide.I inspect the tips of my fuchsias regularly for fuchsia mites and clip off any distorted growth. I hate to spray even organics on fuchsias due to the hummingbird activity. Lately Iíve seen rose slugs making lace out of the leaves so I crush by hand or spray with organic BT. Walk around your garden with a beverage in hand to spot problems on a regular basis.
Many plants, both vegetable and ornamental, are bothered by aphids and other sucking insects as well as foliage and flower eating bugs. From cucumber beetles, flea beetles, stink bugs, weevils, curculios to borers , the list of trouble makers is endless.
To help deter them mix up some pepper spray in your kitchen.
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce or 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 quart warm tap water
Let stand I hour, strain and spray plants either in the morning or evening.
If you battle dandelions and don’t want to use chemical weed killers around pets and children, get out the white vinegar from the cupboard. On a hot sunny day spray straight white vinegar directly on the weed. This method will kill whatever it touches so direct the spray carefully. If the dandelion is in the lawn, wait a week, pour some water on the dead spot to dilute any lasting effects of the vinegar. Then poke some holes and drop in grass seed. Sprinkle a bit of fertilizer where the seed is planted and keep the area moist. In three weeks you won’t remember where the dead spot was and the dandelion will be long gone.
Another garden to-do this month includes summer pruning of wisteria. To increase flowering next spring and keep these vines under control cut new growth back to within 6″ of the main branch. If you want to extend the height or length of the vine, select some of the new streamer-like stems and tie them to a support in the direction you wish to train the plant.
While I have the pruners out Iíll be shearing back early flowering perennials to encourage another round of blooms. The season has just started and you’ll be enjoying lots more flowers in the months to come if you deadhead regularly. Perennials and shrubs that benefit from trimming an inch or two below the spent blooms are erysimum, lavender and Pink breath of heaven which will keep them compact.
Twist off spent rhododendron flower trusses and fertilize them.
Apply the second fertilizer application for the year to your citrus and fruit trees. The last one should be immediately after harvest. Apply the fertilizer to the soil around the drip line of the tree where feeder roots are located and scratch into the surface. Water in well. As with all fertilizers, make sure the trees are moist before you fertilize. Young trees in their first, second or third growing season should receive half the rate of established trees.
The autumnal equinox happened September 22nd. It’s the official start of fall when the sun crosses the celestial equator and moves southward. The earth’s axis of rotation is perpendicular to the line connecting the centers of the earth and the sun on this day. Many people believe that the earth experiences 12 hours each of day and night on the equinox. However, this is not exactly the case.
During the equinox, the length is nearly equal but not entirely because the day is slightly longer in places that are further away from the equator- like where we live. Also the sun takes longer to rise and set in these locations as it does not set straight down but in a horizontal direction.
It was a hot summer and Iím ready for fall. This is the perfect time for transplanting or adding new plants to your garden. Why? Cooler air is kinder to plant foliage while soil temperatures are still warm creating an excellent environment for new root growth. In the fall many plants and trees, even broadleaf evergreens, are entering a period of dormancy. With no need to allocate resources into foliage, plants are transferring all their energy into roots and storing nutrients for the cool months ahead. By spring, the new root systems should be well established.
Now through October, divide summer blooming perennials like alstroemeria, agapanthus, coreopsis, iris, daylily, yarrow, rudbeckia, calla lily, aster and penstemon that are overgrown and not flowering well. You can also divide spring blooming perennials like candytuft, columbine, astilbe, bergenia and bleeding heart although they don’t always bloom the first spring afterwards due to the energy they use re-establishing themselves. Start perennial flowers seeds now so that they will be mature enough to bloom next year.
Fertilize shrubs lightly one last time with an all-purpose organic fertilizer or layer of compost. Use compost only on California natives.
Fertilizing roses now will encourage them to bloom again this fall. To keep roses blooming make a habit of pinching and pruning off old flowers. Always cut back to an outward facing branchlet with five leaves. There are hormones there that will cause a new flower bud to grow much sooner than if you cut to one with only three leaves.
Plant cool season veggie starts like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, lettuce, spinach, brussels sprouts, onions and leeks in soil enriched with 4-6″ of compost as summer vegetable crops will have used up much of your soil’s nutrients.You can sow seeds of beets, carrots, radishes, spinach, arugula, mustard and peas directly in the ground.
Cut back berry vines that have produced fruit. Canes of the current season should be trained in their place.
Spider mites are especially prolific during the summer. If some of the leaves on your plants are pale with stippling, spray the undersides of infected leaves with organics like insecticidal soap switching off with neem oil as they build up a resistance to one of the pesticides. Plan to spray with a horticultural oil in the winter to kill overwintering eggs.
The weather these days is perfect for being outside. Enjoy it and this place we call home.
Pruning is a good way to spend a couple of hours in your garden. Iím not talking about trimming plants into little balls but the kind of pruning that makes for a healthier and happier plant.
If you grow Japanese maples now is the time to remove dead branches and train your tree to look like one of those specimens you see in the magazines. Thinning cuts build your ideal tree limb structure. If yours is a young tree, though, donít be tempted to head back long branches too soon. As these mature they give your tree that desirable horizontal branching.
This principle is important to keep in mind when you train any young ornamental tree. Lateral buds grow along the sides of a shoot and give rise to sideways growth that makes a plant bushy.
Summer pruning of fruit trees controls size by removing energy-wasting water sprouts. Summer is also a good time to remove leafy upper branches that excessively shade fruit on the lower branches. Winter pruning is meant to stimulate the tree. Summer pruning uses thinning cuts-where the branch is cut off at its point of attachment instead of part way along the branch- and these cuts do not encourage new growth but control the size of your tree making fruit harvest easier.
Summer pruning also can control pests like coddling moths, mites or aphids. Just be sure to dispose of these trimmings and donít compost them.
If you have apricots and cherries, summer pruning only is now advised as they are susceptible to a branch killing disease if pruned during rainy weather.Prune stone fruits like peaches and nectarines after harvest by 50%. They grow quite rapidly. Apricots and plums need to have only 20% of their new growth pruned away.
Be sure to thin the fruit on your trees. Thatís another good reason to keep them smaller so you can more easily reach the branches. The best time to do this is when the fruit is still small. Thinning fruit discourages early fruit drop and improves the quality of the remaining fruit. It helps to avoid limb damage from a heavy fruit load. Also it stimulates next yearís crop and helps to avoid biennial bearing. Left to their own devices, a fruit tree may bear heavily one year and then light or not at all the next year. Some types of fruit trees like peaches and Golden Delicious apples are likely to bear biennially if the current yearís fruit crop isnít thinned.
While I have the pruners out Iíll be shearing back early flowering perennials to encourage another round of blooms. And Iíll add some more mulch to areas that are a little thin. Iíll be checking the ties on my trees to make sure they arenít too tight and remove the stake if the trunk is strong enough to support the tree on its own.
Also Iíll be looking for any pest problems so I can do something about them before they get out of hand. Iím OK with a few holes here and there but a heavy infestation should be trimmed off or sprayed with an organic insecticide. I also inspect the tips of my fuchsias regularly for fuchsia mites and clip off any distorted growth. I hate to spray even organics on them due to the hummingbird activity.
Most importantly, enjoy your time outdoors. If a task is too big to do at one time, break it down into smaller sessions. As they say, take time to smell the roses.