48 May 12, 2010

Its mid-May and we seem to have gone backwards in the weather department. We have had some cold nights recently. Earlier this week, the temperatures came close to a frost on several of the nights. This is, as it turns out, a typical month of May.

If you haven’t begun to fertilize your plants, you should begin now. There are many plants that need fertilizer early in the spring. Let me go over a short list of plants and when you should be fertilizing those plants.

Once your spring flowering shrubs have finished with their flowering, they begin to put out new growth and begin the process of setting flower buds for 2011. Forsythia, Bridal Veil, Crabapples and Flowering Pears are just a few of the early flowering plants that need fertilizer now. Rhododendrons and Azaleas need to be fertilized as soon as they have finished flowering. Your summer flowering plants need to be fertilized now to help them to form flower buds. Rose bushes need a constant supply of fertilizer to form flowers and to continue to put out new growth. All of your perennials need a regular application of fertilizer to form new flower buds and to put out new growth.  Lack of fertilization can lead to weaker plants. This makes the plants susceptible to attack by insects and diseases. Lack of fertilizer also makes it harder for the plants to fight off these attacks.

It may be early in the season, but we are beginning to see signs of slugs attacking plants. You may look at your plants and see holes in the leaves and you may not see any insects on the plants. Hosta is a good example. Hosta is the favorite food of slugs. The reason you hardly ever see what causes the damage to the leaves of the hosta is because slugs only feed at night. If you were to go out to your garden at 10 PM, you would see the slugs feeding on the hosta. There is a great slug control that is organic, safe to use around pets and easy to apply. The product is sold under several brand names, but the brand Sluggo is probably the easiest to find. The pellets are spread under and around the plants attacked by the slugs. The slugs eat the bait and they die quickly. By the way, insect sprays are not effective at controlling slugs. Slugs are not insects. They are a mollusk, making them a relative of clams!

We have had many windy days during the month of May. Windy weather is hard on newly transplanted plants. These plants are trying to put out new growth and trying to get out a strong root system. Windy days cause the plants to lose moisture through the leaves at a rapid rate. It would be best to keep up with the watering of your newly transplanted plants. If you don’t, the plants may dry out due to the constant buffeting of the wind.

Speaking of newly transplanted plants, many small plants are an easy target for an insect called flea beetles. The feeding of this insect causes tiny holes in the leaves. A constant attack by flea beetles on young plants can cause the plants to die. If flea beetles are attacking your plants, they can be eliminated by usually one application of an insecticide. Once the plants have grown up a bit, the flea beetles usually leave the plants alone.

New transplants are usually prone to cutworms. Cutworms will feed on the stem of the plant. This causes the plant to be cut off right at the soil line. Cutworms seem to be more of a problem with vegetable plants. Once you set your vegetable plants in the garden, you should immediately treat the soil with an insecticide that will control the cutworms. There are both organic and chemical control methods. Once the plants get big enough, cutworms won’t go after the plants.

The hanging flowering baskets that were given as Mother’s Day gifts will need to be fertilized on a regular schedule if the plants are to remain in peak flowering form. I would recommend that you fertilize the plants with a water-soluble fertilizer that has an analysis of 20-20-20. This type of fertilizer is used by many of the greenhouses to fertilize the plants. You should use this fertilizer every 14 days. As the plants grow larger later in the season, you should apply the fertilizer every 7 to 10 days.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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