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GARDENING TIPS FOR SONOMA COUNTY


May 2017 Gardening Tips

www.thegardeningtutor.net - Clematis 'Multi-Blue'
Clematis ‘Multi Blue’

MAY 2017

WHAT IS EATING MY PLANTS AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

    What are all those holes in the middle of the leaves and flowers of my plant? Why are mostly the edges chewed off the leaves? How do I get rid of the bugs that are damaging my flowers? Are all holes in leaves made by ‘bad bugs’?

    We’ve all been there at one time or another; either we plant new baby plants or we wait and wait for our plants to bloom and seemingly overnight the plants are either eaten completely or progressively chewed to death!

    Before you apply bait or a spray, the most important thing to do is read the directions but equally important is to know what is causing the damage to your plant in the first place. Identifying the pests will help you decide whether just a blast of water every few days will help solve your problem and will lead you to buy the correct product, such as insecticidal soap, if you need one.

    On the one hand, if the leaves have the edges unacceptably chomped it may be a type of caterpillar or grasshopper and spraying insecticidal soap on the leaves will not kill these two, since once the soap dries it is ineffective. Insecticidal soap needs to land on the insect you are trying to kill, such as aphids and mealybugs, in order to begin destroying the cells of their bodies. Insecticidal soap will kill beneficials also, so be mindful to spray only the insects you mean to eliminate. For the caterpillars and grasshoppers there is a product called BT or Bacillus thuringiensis. The BT stays active after you spray the leaves, so when the chewing starts again the insects ingest BT and basically get the flu and they die off within days. Butterflies go through a caterpillar stage so proper identification helps you make sure you are killing off only the pest you mean to kill.

    On the other hand, some leaf damage is acceptable in The Gardening Tutor Demo Garden. For instance, when there are perfect cutout circles from the rose leaves there is no need to take any action. The circles are made by leafcutter bees; the bees use the leaf parts to make their nests.

    Of course, this article could go on and on about pest control. The point is, to identify the pest before you start your counter attack. To find the culprit you may need to go out into your garden with a flashlight late at night or really early in the morning (make sure to check under leaves) but it will pay off in the end when you defend your plants by making a well informed decision about how to take care of the problem. Creating the healthiest environment for your plants will help them be strong and less attractive to pests. Also, start with the least toxic action, like repeated applications of a strong water spray to knock pests, such as aphids, off the plant. If the water doesn't fix the problem, then step up to insecticidal soap and then Neem oil.

    One of the best books Mary has found for diagnosing plant problems is by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth called: What’s Wrong with my Plant? (And How Do I fix It?). If you want to skip the reading and get some help right away contact Mary at The Gardening Tutor.


    May 2017
    Gardening Checklist*
    What to SHOP for . . .
    Checkbox Vines - Clematis Hybrids, Passiflora (Passion Vine-Plant in enough sun so it will bloom well and provide plenty of room for growth). Early blooming Clematis’ such as Clematis armandii and C. montana have finished flowering by now; however, May is the perfect time to find some beautiful large flowered Clematis varieties at your locally owned nursery! Remember that photos of color can be very deceiving, so choose plants that have at least one bloom to make certain you are getting the color you desire.
    Checkbox Shrubs - Camellia (late season bloomers), Cistus, Euryops, Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold', Citrus.
    Checkbox Annuals - Celosia, Cleome, Impatiens, Salpiglossis, Marigolds.
    Checkbox Veggies - Herbs, Pole Beans, Corn, Potato tubers, Basil, Tomatoes, Zucchini.
       
    Tasks to do . . .
    Checkbox Prune - Early Flowering shrubs, such as Forsythia and Lilac (mainly pruning out the old flowers), after they finish flowering. Before you prune, take some time to clean and sharpen your pruners and loppers. Keep pruners sharp for best performance.
    Checkbox Pest Management - Control ants around your shrubs and trees. Ants running up the trunks are a sign that your plant has an infestation of aphids, mealybugs or other pests that ants 'farm' for food. Continue to bait for or hand pick snails, slugs, earwigs and cutworms.
    Checkbox Plant Tomatoes - Frost season has ended now in Zone 9. It's time to plant tomatoes. Plant deeply (with about 3 sets of nodes above soil level and the rest of the stem under soil), place a tablespoon of bone meal in the bottom of the planting hole and cover with a little soil before placing plant into hole, add 3 inch layer of compost mulch on top of soil, place stake or cage around young plant.
    Checkbox Amend Soil - If you were not able to amend (mixing organic matter into soil) your veggie garden soil weeks ago, make sure that you use well aged compost now. If you use fresh compost you may get plenty of green growth and little or no veggies.
    Checkbox Shop for Plants - You will find many different warm-season annuals in the nurseries now. When choosing your new plants, pick the plants that have just enough flowers to make certain it’s the color you like and lots of buds that will flower in your garden instead of at the nursery.
    Checkbox Irrigation Maintenance - Before you start your irrigation for the new season, flush the irrigation system. Also, check for leaks and broken emitters. Contact Mary when you are ready to learn how to install and maintain drip irrigation.
    Checkbox Compost as Mulch - May is a good time to protect soil and fertilize plants by adding a layer of compost to your garden beds.
    Checkbox Fertilize - If you choose not to mulch and you cannot see yourself using liquid fertilizer for your containers and more ‘needy’ in ground plants, try using a time release, all purpose fertilizer for your plants. Remember products such as Osmocote begin to release the fertilizer once the soil has warmed.
    Checkbox Weed, Weed, Weed, Repeat
    Free printable . . .
      Looking for a way to stay organized in your garden?
    Download this Free Printable Gardening Checklist* and you’ll be amazed how inspired you’ll feel!
    Let us know how you’re doing. You can do it!
    Remember, this printable was created as a short list of tasks with minimal information. If you would like more in-depth information,
    you can always refer back to the checklist above each month for more details.
     

    The Gardening Tutor February 2017 Printable

    *Colors may vary depending upon your computer screen and printer.


*For More Detailed Gardening Tips
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