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Chester Kiwanis
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Ted's Corner 2010

    Ted's Corner 2010 Everything you always wanted  to know about plants and lawns, but were afraid to ask

According to all of the averages, we have passed the last frost date for this spring.  Now this does not mean that we will not get another frost in the next few days, but we probably will not.  This means that you can set out all of those veggies that you have been wanting to plant.  I’m sure that a lot of you have radishes, lettuce, and other items that will stand some cold weather growing already.  I have leeks, radishes lettuce, beets, spinach and carrots growing in my raised beds.  It is just about time to put the tomatoes into the ground.  So long as the temperature does not dip below 40 degrees, they will be fine.  Tomatoes that experience temperatures below 40 degrees will be stunted and will not do very well in their lifetime. 

Many of you have stated that between the deer and the squirrels it is very difficult to grow anything.  Squirrels can be very difficult, especially when it gets hot and dry.  They will look for water where ever they can find it and that usually means the tomatoes that are just getting pink or even the green ones.  If you cannot chase them away with your dog then try to put bird netting loosely around the plants that you do not want the critters to attack.  With deer the problem is harder to solve.  Bird netting placed several feet away from the plants to be protected can be partially effective once the deer find out that it is there.   The only full proof method is an 8-10 foot high fence with an angle of wire pointing away from the garden.  I’m sure that most of us would find that it is much cheaper to purchase our veggies.  There are other solutions that work dogs, guns, and just planting enough for them and yourself.  One thing that works at least some of the time and is cheap is an egg spray.  Break about one dozen eggs into a bowl then add about one quart of warm water and whisk so that there are no jelly like globs left in the mixture.  Pour into a hand sprayer and spray on all of the plants and ground.  This will discourage the deer until the next rain, and then it has to be done again.  If you plan to use this method make sure that you use a sprayer dedicated to this mixture.  The only reason for this is that if you use it for other chemicals they may be sprayed on the veggies and that is not good for our living.

The grass season is here and in about one month, end of June, it will be time to spray for summer weeds.  These are the pesky weeds like crabgrass (digitaria) and ragweed (a-artemisiifolia).  Just as a side light ragweed was used by the Indians to sooth an upset stomach, relive the itch of poison ivy and other things that we all fall into during our lives.  There are many others so during the last part of June kill those off with broad leaf weed killers.  And of course put down some more pre- emergence crabgrass preventer.  This must be done by the middle of June if you are going to reseed the lawn in late September.

This year the peonies have been extremely good looking for some reason.  I would imagine that most of you are familiar with these beautiful plants.  They are herbaceous perennials that the Chinese call the king of flowers or the flower fairy.  There are about 30 species.  Some are woody shrubs (tree peonies).  They were named for Paeon, the physician of the gods.  They are native to Asia, Southern Europe, and Western North America. The Romans first transported them to England about 1200. They are very hardy and need very little care and they live through very severe winters.  


It is hard to decide which is more beautiful, the plant with its flowers or a cut bouquet.  They produce flowers every year in the spring.  The plant will live for up to 50 years some even longer.  Growers like our local Mike Locatell have a good selection of the newest cultivars for sale.  I purchased one from him last year called ‘Peony Bomb’ it is a single red with a yellow center and it is simply fantastic.  They make very good cut flowers and will last 2-4 days if cut and the stem is immersed in water immediately.  As a matter of fact it is probably best if the stem is re cut under water.

The Japanese name for the peony is ‘Ebisugusuri’ which means medicine from China.  In their traditional folk medicine, the peony root was used as a treatment for menstrual cramps, asthma and convulsions.  They do not like to be transplanted, taking 2-3 years to regain their original vigor.  So once the plant is in the ground it should be left alone and not moved or you will loose a year or two of good flowers. 

Problems include planting the tuber too deep (the longest node should be no more than 2 inches below ground level.) and fungal diseases. The most frequently occurring pests are botrytis blight and leaf blotch, both fungal diseases. Especially prevalent during wet springs, botrytis affects leaves, stems and flowers. Spots appear on leaves, stems soften and decay, and flowers either rot or buds blacken and fail to open. Prompt removal of infected material and a thorough fall cleanup are essential for control. In spring when shoots emerge, use a fungicide labelled for botrytis according to package instructions. Leaf blotch develops during warm, moist weather. Glossy, dark purple spots form on the upper surfaces of leaves. Again, removal of infected leaves and good fall cleanup are necessary for control. At first signs of infection, apply a properly labelled fungicide. Avoid overhead irrigation.

Other fungal diseases include Phytophthora blight and Verticillium wilt. These are soil borne fungi with no cure other than destroying infected plants. Do not replant in diseased soil.   In order to properly identify a problem take a sample to the local county mastergardners office or the county agent.  In general the peony is very disease and bug free and will give you many years of large sometimes fragrant flowers.

Ted Rayman,  Master Gardner Chesterfield County. 
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Are you ready for spring?  Tomorrow is the first of March and usually the weather breaks about now to a wonderful spring time temperature and the days get longer and longer.  With all of this happening most homeowner’s thoughts turn to gardens, grass, or fishing.  Since this is an article about plants and growing things I guess that I’ll skip talking about fishing and will concentrate on plants and grass.

With temperatures moderating most bushes either have or will shortly start to “break bud”, i.e. start growing.  It is time to prune the plants that do not bloom in the spring.  Roses are to be pruned when the new growth gets to be about ¼ inch long.  Take out the weak canes, the dead canes and thin out the excess growth leaving healthy canes 18 to 24 inches long.  All cuts are to be made just above the new growth bud.  Also cut at an angle so that water will not set on the cut.  While you are carefully looking at the rose bush look to see if any canes are growing from below the graft at ground level, if they are, remove these canes because they are growing from the root stock and not the rose you are used to seeing.

Trees can now be pruned.  Remove all crossing branches, all so called water spouts, any broken branches, and any dead or diseased branches.  When cutting up to the trunk cut at the collar.  If it is a heavy branch the first cut is made from the bottom of the branch, about 10 to 12 inches from the trunk cut upward for about 1/3 of the way through the branch.  The next cut goes all the way through the branch and is from the top about 2 to 3 inches beyond the first cut.  This will prevent splitting of the branch.  The next or third cut is at the collar.

Reducing the size of a bush or tree probably is not the best thing that you can do to a plant because the plant has a genetic predisposition to grow to a specific size.  Pruning merely reduces the size for about 1 year, the plant will be stimulated to grow faster to get back to the size it wants to ultimately be.  In doing this it uses much more energy and food than it normally would and it uses up the stored food which causes the tree to loose vitality. 

Crape Myrtles probably endure the most problems caused by humans than any other plant.  Somewhere in antiquity someone said that the way to make a crape myrtle look fuller and make it bloom more profusely is to make the plant look like a horned animal.  The branches are cut in the same location year after year so that the branches have huge knots.  This is usually called crapemurder.  The crape myrtle does have the ability to live through these unkind cuts for several years before they finally expire.


Wouldn’t you like to have this mess in front of your house?  I borrowed this picture from Southern Living so I do not know where it is located.

Grass will come up green and lush this spring if you followed the SOD or SON fertilizer application regimen last fall.  Even if you did not, RESIST the inclination to put fertilizer on the grass now or in the next month or two.  You will accomplish two things if you put fertilizer on the grass now;   1. The nitrogen will fire up the grass to grow like crazy so that you will have to mow every other day   2.  The rapid growth of the grass will deplete the food stores of the root.  Of course during a heavy rain some of the nitrogen will be washed off of the lawn and will end up flowing toward the nearest stream.  Grass can only be so green; once it gets to that point you are fooling yourself trying to make it even greener.  Not only that, once the summer gets here you may loose that wonderful green lawn and will have to spend an unknown number of $$$ in the fall renovating. 

Weed treatment of the lawn will soon be here.  Preemergent herbicides are now being sold in the local stores.  AGAIN RESIST purchasing the Preemergent that has a load of fertilizer included in the mix.  It is to be applied when the yellow forsythia and daffodils are blooming but before the dogwoods are done blooming.  Apply according to the directions on the bag and ether water in or apply just before a rain.  At least ¼ inch of water is needed within 48 hours of application to keep the sunlight from degrading the material.  RISIST weed and feed products.

Post emergent broadleaf weed control is done in the spring when the daytime temperature stays above 70 degrees, usually this is in April.  A second application in May will control most all summer weeds.  The product used should have 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid); mecoprop or MCPP (2-(2-methyl-4-chlorophenoxy) propionic acid); or dicamba (3,6-dichloro-o-anisic acid).  If you have sedge type weeds in your lawn then you need a product that has MSMA and bentazone as some of its ingredients.

This is a picture of a typical sedge.  There are 99 other varieties but this is the most common in our area. 

Copyright © by Kiwanis Club of Chester, Virginia All Right Reserved.

Published on: 2009-10-12 (13801 reads)

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