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Growin’ Green

Mulch Now For Hot And Dry Protection

By Brent Gray

Mulching flower and shrub beds now is easy insurance against dry spells and hot weather later.  Apply at least two to three inches of organic mulch to keep soils moist and cool. Do not pile the mulch directly around the base of perennials or against the bark of trees or shrubs.


Now is the time to plant clematis. Find a well-drained spot with plenty of sun for foliage and shade for the roots.  Enrich poor soil with organic matter, and add several inches of organic mulch after planting to keep the root area cool and moist—some gardeners cover the root area with large, attractive stones or shade the root area by planting the clematis under the edge of shrubs. To encourage optimum growth you may fertilize every six weeks throughout the first growing season with a soluble fertilizer. Follow label directions for rate of application at this frequency. Clematis will need support to climb.  It climbs by twining so a trellis or fence would work nicely. Good selections would include Clematis montana Rubens (rosy red to pale pink), Henyri (white), Nelly Moser (mauve pink with deep-pink centers, and Jaqckmanii (purple).
Summer Bulbs
Bulbs, corms, and tubers can be planted now for a flower display that lasts until fall.  Try calla lilies, crinum, ginger lilies, tuberose, and cannas.  The dwarf types of cannas, such as Tropical Rose, grow only 18 to 30 inches high and offer the same large lush flowers as their taller kin.
Wilting or discolored new growth are common signs of aphids.  Spraying with insecticidal soap and blasting with a jet of water from the garden hose are two safe and easy controls.  The key to keeping their numbers down is persistence.  Check plants every few days for signs or reinfestation and treat as soon as possible. For pesticide recommendations to control aphids refer to the MSU Extension publication 2369, Insect Pests of Perennial Plants in the Home Landscape.
Broccoli matures very quickly when temperatures are in the eighties. The beads can grow from too small to almost open in forty eight hours. Check the heads every day and harvest when you see the beads starting to crack.
Tomato plants should be growing rapidly now. The lower and upper leaves will display the nutrient status of the plant. Lower leaves that are turning pale or yellow may indicate a shortage of nitrogen or sulfur. Don’t reach for fertilizer before you make sure the discoloration is not due to shade from the upper part of the plant or from adjacent trees.  Young upper leaves may be yellow with green veins if the soil  is  alkaline or deficient in micronutrients. Micronutrient deficiency is common in containers or raised beds with artificial soil mixes.  The cure is adding very small doses of fertilizer containing iron or zinc.  One of the good things about the blue water soluble fertilizers is their content of these nutrients in the proper amounts.
Some of us received rain last week, many did not  The wet part of Spring may be over. Remember that vegetables require an inch of water every week. Okra is an excellent addition to the garden because it is one of the first plants to wilt when water is scarce. The droopy big leaves are noticeable from a distance and are the signal to irrigate.
Cabbage loopers are here. These pale green caterpillars can damage leaves and ruin heads of cabbage in a short period of time. Natural Bt insecticides do a good job of controlling these insects.
It is eggplant planting time. Be sure to monitor them for flea beetles. These tiny round beetles are attracted to young eggplant and can actually eat the terminal bud and stop the plant from growing. A sure sign of flea beetles is the appearance of small round holes in the young leaves.

Horticulture Tips
Lelia Kelly, David Nagel

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