Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Major Heat Event and Drought

Plants, Trees, and Shrubs Suffer from Drought

I guess I should be careful what I wish for…..  Summer.  Not the laid-back,warm, sunny time I was thinking.  As the charts above indicate, the oranges show a major deficit of rainfall in the range or 4” to 6” in a vast part of the mid-west.  And the local weather forecast for SW Ohio, has the next seven days at or above 90 degrees. 
The rain barrels are empty and even the forsythia are in a major droop.

Some watering tips for salvaging the landscape:
Shrubs and trees that have been planted within the last year need water now.  Soak the ground at the base to saturate the top 6”-8” of soil.  Tree roots are not too deep, so this depth will greatly increase the likelihood of survival of the plant. 
Newly planted perennials need to stay moist to assure their survival.  Even the drought resistant natives need to be watered in this extreme heat. 
Here I have Shasta Daisies, Bee Balm, and Purple coneflowers and daylilies– all have shown major stress.  I have the clematis tucked in back, so they are getting a good drink too.

Ideally, this oscillating sprinkler is NOT a good choice to manage water efficiently.  The evaporation is high, and the foliage – not the root zone- is getting wet. Soaker hoses and drip systems deliver water much more efficiently, but until I can set this up I’ll have to make due and pay through the ‘hose’.
a soaker hose goes straight to
Water is a precious commodity.  I urge gardeners to group plants with similar water needs.  Then watering can be focused in a limited area, and more drought tolerant plants can be put off till ‘next time’!
If you are tempted to move plant material – don’t!  Fall is a more desirable time to transplant or install new plant material.  Take notes on the sun and shade areas, and the water needs of the plants and make the moves in the cooler more rainy autumn. (Hope, Hope).

The lawn we have installed this year is an example of ‘planning’ to save water.  I purchased a seed mix of a drought tolerant variety.  Ask the garden center staff which varieties are best for your space, but always keep the watering issues in the back of your mind.  A Kentucky bluegrass may be a desirable look in the landscape, but is a high maintenance – and high water usage – choice.
save water
When the lawn does get on the watering schedule, water deeply.  Most experts recommend at least 1 inch of water a week. ( I have taken a straight sided baking dish under the sprinkler so I can measure this 1 inch.)

 Deep roots and organically fed soils take water deeply, and hold moisture better than hard, cracked soils.
water waste
Avoid this scene – having water dousing the sidewalks, and driveways.  If water is draining off into the gutters, stop the watering and let the water sink into the soil.  Resume watering later to finish the deep watering the grass needs.
Using extra water was not my plan.  Water is expensive and limited.  However, the plant material – worth hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, is too valuable to let it perish.  So, I urge my gardening friends, to water now.  The drought and heat are not going away any time soon. 
Stay cool - 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Native Coneflowers-Challenges and Remedies

Native Coneflower Stands up to Challenges

Echinacea, Purple Coneflowers, are a heat resistant, drought tolerant native plant that is a staple in my garden. I have divided them around the garden for so many years, that I’m not sure of the cultivars anymore. 
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Being a native, this group of plants has overcome threat from insects and diseases.  However, that does not mean that coneflowers don’t have some challenges. 
Insect pests that can affect coneflowers include caterpillars, Japanese beetles, grasshoppers, aphids,  mealy bugs, spittle bugs, and thrips.
grasshopper aphids on coneflower
Aphids are sucking insects that can weaken the stems.  Usually a firm spray of water from the hose will dislodge them. 
japanese beetle
Japanese beetles can chew a blossom to shreds in a very short time.  Hand pick them (I use gloves!) and pinch or drop them into a soapy solution.
Mealy bugs and spittle bugs are easy to spot.
The mealy bugs are soft-bodied wingless insects look like fuzzy cotton. They feed by inserting long sucking mouthparts, called stylets, into plants and drawing sap out of the tissue. Damage is minimal when only a few pest are present. However, at higher numbers they can cause leaf yellowing and curling as the plant weakens. Mealy bugs feeding is usually accompanied by honeydew, which makes the plant sticky and encourages the growth of sooty molds.
A strong water spray will dislodge mealy bugs, and is usually all that is needed.  If further control become necessary, spray with a soap/oil mixture if the water alone doesn't do the job. Mix 1 tsp. insecticidal soap, 1/2 tsp. horticultural oil, and 1 quart water in a spray bottle.
mealy bugs w sooty mold 
spittle bug2 spittlebug on aster
Spittle bugs suck!  Even though they look icky, the really do not do any harm to the plant. They hide in the bubbly secretions seen on plants.  Control of mealy bugs is using the water spray as well. Spray the underside of leaves where the spittle bugs hide. 
Other pests that attack coneflowers are rabbits and deer.  The young plants are often targets.
Some pests are not quite as obvious as the deer or rabbit.  The microscopic Eriophyid mites are such pests.  As these mites feed, the plant produces  tufts of growth on the flowers.eriophyid mites and tufts on blooms 
The mite will over winter in debris or the plant crown, and will infect subsequent years growth.  No controls are called for, but a plant can be removed to prevent spread of the mite. 

Other than insects, Echinacea can get a couple of diseases.  One is stem-rot.  This usually occurs when over-watering occurs, or the planting site does not drain well.  Compost added to the soil will allow water to drain, and will keep the roots of the coneflower from staying too wet. 
stem rot
The Aster yellows is a disease the is transmitted by insects, particularly leaf hoppers, or poor growing methods.  Aster yellows is a viral-like disease and is caused by a phytoplasma (previously called mycoplasma-like organism) and is spread by aster leafhoppers.The densities of aster leafhoppers, and incidence of the disease, can be strongly influenced by the occurrence of certain host weed species. These weed species include quackgrass, plaintain, chickory, knotweed, pineapple weed, stinkweed, wild asters, lambs quarters, sow thistle, ragweed, Kentucky bluegrass and wild carrot.
leaf hoppers
asters yellow disease   100_0798
Plants with Aster yellows have distorted, green flowers, and stunted growth. This one is in my garden, and I’m planning to dig it up and throw it.  Aster yellows is not treatable and spreads quickly. 
Black spot, a fungal disease is seen on coneflowers occasionally.  Black spot usually set up during, cool, moist periods. Powdery mildew can also infect coneflowers.
  blackspot on coneflower leaf For the most part, diseases can be prevented by utilizing proper cultural practices such as variety selections, plant and soil nutrition, irrigation and humidity management,  pruning, and row spacing. Air movement is key to reducing these fungal diseases.  Water only when needed, and avoid wetting the leaves.  Remove debris since the spores from these diseases can linger in the soil. 
Once black spot or mildew are observed, the steps to control them are less effective.  Pre-treat susceptible plants before the fungus are seen.  Mix 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon baby shampoo, and 1/3 teaspoon baking soda in 2 cups of water. This solution comes right from the kitchen! sum2007_compost_tea
Compost tea as a spray is a good option too.  In a five gallon pail, soak a scoop of compost for up to 24 hours.  Strain and spray. 
Echinacea is a long-lived perennial, and thrives in a sunny location.  Soil can be average to poor.  Plants have a  long taproot, to find moisture deep in the soil.  Hardy to Zone 3-8, coneflowers bloom for long periods during the summer. Many cultivars are being developed to extend the sizes and colors.
  Fancy Frills  Fancy Frills
Doopleganger Doopleganger

 double echinacea 'razamatazz' Razamatazz
Hot Lava Hot Lava
meringue Meringue
Echinacea is a native that has many attributes for the landscape.  Prairies or sunny borders, this plant holds it’s own. I feel the coneflower is definitely a keeper in my garden.
Thanks for stopping by today.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My July Garden in June-2012

Summer Garden is Early


Wow, what a strange year we are having!  So many blooms are three to four weeks earlier than usual. 
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Daylilies are usually putting on their show near the July 4th holiday.
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As are the oriental lilies.

The plumbago, normally seen in bloom in my August garden, is starting to show it’s blue petals.
This cactus is blooming!  100_0701
The blooms only last a day, so I was thrilled when two blossoms bloomed the same day!
The red monarda has a cute visitor.  See the hummer?

100_0706 Another early scene this year is the loving, couple here on a rose – Japanese Beetles!  Generally see these guys the first week of July.  I noted in my Japanese Beetle blog of 2010, that I had seen beetles on June 9.  So my typical sightings are getting earlier. (Check out that post for remedies for Japanese Beetles here.)

Tomatoes are showing signs of blossom end-rot so Hubby gave the plants a feeding of Winchester Gardens Bone Meal.  Bone meal is a good source of calcium which the tomatoes need.Winchester Gardens Bone Meal  has an N-P-K of 9-6-0, and a 7% calcium – all natural, all organic.(Winchester Gardens has given me these products in exchange for a review.)

The yard reno is still moving forward.  We’ve had such low humidity, and cooler temperatures, that I’ve been able to move the Penstemon, Husker Red and partnered it with the Heuchera, Purple Palace.  I like the burgundy shades of each.

I transplanted eight daylilies to the new bed too.  Stella D’Oro, a repeat bloomer is at the back, and a reblooming red daylily is tucked in to the front.  I’m not sure which variety this is. 100_0649

This space was where the daylilies were, and the stacked stone wall is going away soon.  More grass is coming.  Yet another area where we are reducing planting areas to make more lawn. 
I have been ruthless in this area.  A yellow circle flower, Lysimachia, and Obedient plant were dug out.  Both plants are just so-so to me, and I won’t miss them.


This mass of yellow is a St. John’s Wort.  I gave it a couple of handfuls of Triple Phosphate in the early spring.  The phosphate is a root and bloom stimulator and I can definitely see the advantage of this feeding.  Last season I had a mere six or eight blooms.  Quite a difference!

Also fed the hydrangea we divided last summer.  In its original location I went
four or five years without any flowers. 
I know we had a very mild winter, so I’m not sure what caused this shrub to
perform, but I like the results!
Even the Endless Summer hydrangea is thriving!   It got the Triple Phosphate feeding too.
Rose Campion is a favorite of mine.  It likes full sun, at least six hours a day, and is drought tolerant.  The flat blooms tend to seed readily, and I’ve had Rose Campion appear here and there.  It is easy to deadhead, if the seeds become a problem.  As a short lived perennial, I like new seedlings to keep things interesting.
Garden is really changing.  I like the new ‘feel’ and that is why I garden in the first place. 
Thanks for stopping by today.