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Gardening with Laurie: Knock the winter off your plants

April 20, 2010 at midnight
Updated April 19, 2010 at 11:20 p.m.


By Laurie Garretson

We gardeners know nature does not always follow an exact schedule. Take this past winter for example. Cold temperatures haven't been on our schedule for many years. And what's up with all this wind? Isn't that a March thing? Oh well. We get what we get and should be grateful for each day no matter what it brings.

Many plants hit by the cold winter have not yet shown any signs of life. That doesn't necessarily mean the plant is dead. We have just not had enough warm weather and sunshine to warm our soil enough. Just be patient a few more weeks and keep a watch out for green growth at the base of your frozen back plants. If you're lucky some of the plants may still be alive.

Unfortunately, even with the cooler temperatures the usual pests still show up. Besides complaints about snails, pill bugs, and fleas, there have been many grasshopper sightings. Now is the time to prevent these pests from becoming an even bigger problem. Smaller grasshoppers are easier to kill than the larger mature ones. If applied at this time, grasshopper baits such as Semispore can help to decrease their population. It's so easy to broadcast and covers a large area. Grasshoppers are attracted to it and it only takes one bite of it for them to become sick and soon die.

If you haven't yet put Trickagramma wasps out to help get rid of all kinds of unwanted worms and caterpillars now is the time. These beneficials are the safe and easy way to never have to worry about having web worms, case bearers, cabbage loopers or any other kind of worms. For better control, release the Trickogrammas about 10 to 14 days apart to ensure a better kill. This time of year there are several types of worms that cause severe damage to several types of trees. Frequent releases help to keep the trees protected.

This spring the azalea blooms seemed to have been exceptionally beautiful. Most azaleas are now finishing their bloom cycle. This is the time to do any trimming if needed. Also give them a good dose of fertilizer and an extra dose of cottonseed meal or apple cider vinegar to give them the acidity they require. Add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to 1 gallon of water, and water the plants with this solution when the plants need a drink. This can be given once a month. It's also a good soil additive for any other acid-loving plants.

This has been a wonderful season for roses. The cooler temps and rain have helped these beauties. All over town I notice roses in full spectacular bloom. If there's a certain type rose you'd like to add to your landscape now's a good time to do it. Now is also the time to spray your roses with a fungicide to help with fungal problems. Black spots or a white powdery coating on the foliage are signs of this. All roses are prone to fungal diseases. Horticultural cornmeal can also be used for this problem.

Do not cut back roses now that they are in bloom. You can dead-head the faded blooms as needed to encourage more blooms. Feed each bush every month until about the end of October with a natural fertilizer.

High winds and warm temperatures can dry the soil quickly. Hanging baskets are great additions to any landscape, but they can really dry fast, especially in these conditions. Any newly planted additions to the landscape will need regular watering. Remember to add soaker hoses to all your garden areas and flowerbeds. Topped off with a few inches of mulch and you're ready for summer. The soaker hoses will slowly keep the soil watered and the mulch will help to keep the plant roots cooler, the moisture in, and help to keep weeds out.

Until next time lets try to garden with nature - not against it - and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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