Gardening With Laurie: Prepare for summer heat, pests
By Laurie Garretson
Here we are in April, one of the busiest times in the garden - also, one of the most important times in the garden. Our short spring is the time that we prepare landscapes for the upcoming months of summer. Taking the time now while temperatures are still pleasant can mean less work and problems in summer.
With the lack of any sufficient rain for many months now, it is now even more important to make sure your landscape is as healthy as possible. A well fed and watered landscape will mean less maintenance during the harsh summer.
April is a great time to start feeding everything in the yard: flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, lawn grasses, fruit and nut trees, groundcovers and container plants. Your favorite granular organic fertilizer will be easiest to apply to trees, lawns, vegetable and flower gardens, and groundcovers. Rose-Glo fertilizer is good to use on roses and any other plant that makes a flower. That means it can also be used to feed hanging baskets and container plants. There are also organic liquid fertilizers that can be used on all plants to soil or foliar feed. This is also a good time to spread a thin layer of compost over the lawn.
All blooming shrubs, perennials, annuals, hanging baskets and container plants should be fed in the cool early morning hours if possible, at least every three to four weeks.
Check your lawn for thatch problems. Thatch is a layer of old grass clippings and living or dead plant tissue that forms on top of the soil. As this layer gets thicker it can cause problems for the lawn. With a thick layer of thatch, water and fertilizers are not able to penetrate the soil, as well and insects can hide beneath the buildup. Thatch build up can make it difficult to control diseases and insects. If a thatch layer is thicker than inch, rake the layer up before fertilizing.
Using organic fertilizers, along with molasses, will provide the soil with happy microbes that help to break down thatch and allow the lawn to take in all the beneficial nutrients and improve water up take and movement.
Any bare soil will be susceptible to weeds. Wise gardeners know to keep all bare soil well-mulched. A good combination for the top of any bare soil area is to spread 1 inch of compost and 2 to 3 inches of mulch to help control weeds, to help with moisture retention and to keep the soil cooler and to increase microbial life.
Spring is the time of year when insects become a big problem if you're not watching for early signs. Many reports have been made recently of small worms dangling from threads in oak trees, webs in ash trees and worms feeding on Mountain Laurels. All these pests can be safely treated with BT Worm Killer. This product will not harm anything other than worms and caterpillars. It's safe to use on all plants and safe for all the beneficial insects. Trickogramma wasp are very beneficial helpers to rid your landscape of all types of worms and caterpillars while their still in egg form.
Several gardeners already are reporting grasshopper problems. While grasshoppers are small, they will be easier to get rid of with biological natural baits like Semaspore.
Until next time, let's 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.