August 17th, 2014

How To Control Pests – Part III

This post is the third in a series of posts on the control of pests.

The third question a gardener has to ask is “Will the pests spread to other plants?”

Knowing about  the pest that is affecting your plant is important so that you can know enough to outsmart the insect with the minimum amount of force or effort. Some insect pests love many crops while others insect prefer only one family of plants.

The insects that eat only one family of plants are easiest to eradicate. By getting rid of the family of plants, you eliminate that insect population. Sadly, that is what is happening to the Monarch butterfly. The Monarch butterfly’s caterpillar can only feed on the asclepias or milkweed plants – no other plant family. Milkweed is a weed pest on farms and are destroyed when builders build houses with gorgeous lawns. So the Monarch butterfly is dying out.
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August 7th, 2014

VIDEO: Using horticultural oil to control insects

Horticultural oil is a great way to control many insects on plants. The oil acts to smother the adults or egg stages of several different species of pests. Horticultural oils are refined petroleum oils combinedwith an emulsifying agent. Some plant-derived oils also are used.Depending on the weight of the oil, you can use them all year or just in winter. Be sure to read the labels carefully. Horticultural oils can damage some sensitive plants. If you use the oil that i…

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August 5th, 2014

How To Control Pests – Part II

This post is the second in a series of posts on the control of pests.

The second question a gardener has to ask when seeing pests or pest damage in the garden is: “Are the pests still actively damaging the plants or have they long since left or matured?”

Many pests have a brief lifespan. They do their damage and in a few weeks of damage their eating-part of their life cycle is finished. In that brief period when they are eating the plants they may do what seems like a lot of damage because they eat a large number of plants including flowers and herbs. Their damage is ugly. Then when the move on to another phase of their life cycle, they might not need to feed on the plant leaves or stems.

This spring the the four-lined plant bug did a job on my mint and my Russian sage. Almost all the leaves were eaten and affected. But I knew that when it was time for the flowers to emerge, they would not be eating and the flowers would look fine. My flowers and plants recovered. But I am not a farmer, so I can be tolerant. And in my garden the plants they ate were mostly weeds, so I did not have to be concerned.

Get to know the insects in your garden. By knowing about the the four-lined plant bug, I knew that in my garden I did not have to do anything drastic like use any strong pesticides (see here).

If you want to ID the insect and learn about it but cannot find the information online, take the insect in a closed jar to your local Master Gardener office or agriculture extension office. Do NOT squish the insect. To kill it put the closed jar into your freezer overnight.

July 30th, 2014

How To Control Pests – Part I

One of the challenges of gardening is how to control the pests that like your garden as much if not more than you, the gardener. Some of these pests’ lives depend on your garden for their livelihood- literally eating to remain alive to repeat their own life cycle. So when you have insects on your plants you have to decide “How important is the damage to the overall appearance of the flower in my garden?”

Some insects that eat plants in the garden are good and helpful insects. We all know that bees are beneficial insects. Yes, they might sting us, but basically they are helping to pollinate the flowers or to get nectar to make honey. Without bees we wouldn’t have most plants. So we allow the bees to remain in our garden and don’t use insecticides to kill them.

But there are other equally good or beneficial insects that come to our plants that even do damage to the plants. But because we like these insects, we don’t want to kill them. For example, everyone seems to love butterflies and no one wants to kill them or eliminate butterflies from their gardens. But before they become the butterfly that we love, they were caterpillars that had to eat plants so that they could become (metamorphosis) that beautiful insect fluttering in our garden. Caterpillars need some of the plants that we grow and can become a pest especially if you are a farmer whose livelihood depends on your crops. For example, among the plants butterfly caterpillars need, depending on the type of butterfly, are parsley, or dill or fennel or even carrots or black-eyed-Susans.

Most of us are gardeners who do not rely on our crops for a living, so do we really care if caterpillars eat these plants in our gardens? To rephrase my original question: How much damage is being done by the insects in your garden and are you willing to live with that damage?




July 26th, 2014

Helping a Languishing Maple Tree


TheGardenLady received the following question from Jean.

I live in a condo-type community and some of my yard is maintained by the management company. There is a maple tree that was planted about 8 years ago. It’s the third one in that spot because the first two died. After eight years, it doesn’t look much different than it did when they planted it. Every year, it hobbles along and the leaves turn before the surrounding trees, and fall off sooner. The bed it is planted in is sort of a high mound. It is watered with a sprinkle type irrigation system every few days. I haven’t fertilized it, and I’m not sure if the landscape company does. But I’m sure they treat it the same as everyone else’s trees. The other ones grow, and mine doesn’t. Do you have any suggestions?

You asked for some suggestions about the maple tree that does not look like it is thriving. I will give a few suggestions since it is difficult to give an accurate diagnosis without seeing the tree or at least some good photos of the tree.

First you did not mention if you checked to see if the tree has any visible diseases or pests that could cause problems. Maple trees, though hardy, do have some disease and pest problems. Check the tree carefully to see if you notice any problems. Some things to look for are on this website. I always recommend that you take some tree samples and photos to your nearest Master Gardener office or your state agricultural extension office for a diagnosis.
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July 22nd, 2014

How To Choose The Perfect Pond Location

Ponds are a great addition to any garden and there is something ever so peaceful about looking out over the garden to your pond. Location, however, is one of the biggest factors when deciding whether to get a pond in the garden. Here is a short list of things to consider when placing that perfect pond.

Low and Wet

Ideally a pond does not want to be situated in the lowest point of your garden or in a location that is always wet. Placing a pond in the lowest point will encourage run off from the rest of the garden to head straight to the pond. This is turn can silt up the pond increasing the amount of maintenance that is needed to keep the pond healthy.

Under Trees

Whilst placing a pond under trees looks amazing, the trees reflected elegantly in the water, it is not usually a good idea. Trees, particularly deciduous trees, have a tendency to drop things into a pond such as pine needles, leaves, nuts and berries. Whilst this can be combatted with netting, it has to be cleared away nearly daily to prevent silting up. Placing a pond under trees will increase the amount of maintenance that needs to be performed.

Partial Sun

Ponds need sunlight for at least half of the day to encourage any plants to grow. Plants such as water lilies thrive in the sun. However too much sun can cause algae to grow, so it is always advisable to have plenty of pond cover with water lilies in the water and grasses around the edges.

Power Cords and Amenities

It is important to know the layout of the garden, and where electrical wires and other amenities run. The last thing anyone wants to do is put a spade through a power cord whilst digging the pond. In addition nobody wants to have to dig up all their wires and re-route them through the garden!

Level Ground

Whilst building a pond on level ground is not the biggest factor in pond location, it is fairly important if you do not want to have to create waterfalls and cascades which require extra work with pond pumps. These are readily available from aquatics shops and online such as at Swell UK. In addition to this non-level ponds end up with very deep and very shallow water, which have to be carefully planted.

Easily Seen

Of course one of the key things to consider is the fact that the pond needs to be seen from the house. Not only does this mean any potential problems can be spotted and acted on but looking out over the garden and seeing the pond is usually a key driving force for getting one in the first place, so make sure the view is not restricted and enjoyment can be had by all!

This article was written by David Wharton.

May 22nd, 2014

Taking Care of Your Fig Tree in the Winter

TheGardenLady received this question from Cheryl on the post “Buying a Fig Tree in New Jersey“.

I have a 15 year old turkey fig tree that I started from shoots. Last year I could not keep up with the amount of fruit growing on the tree. This May there are no leaves on the tips of the branches. The branches are red, turning to a deep gray almost black, which is different from the natural color of the tree bark. The branches snap in half and are not pliable. I cut a large branch. Inside the branch it is hard yellow in color with a white center. Has my tree died from the cold winter freezing? I have never covered it in the past. Was this winter too much for the tree? Help!

It was a really harsh winter through much of the US. This winter my fig tree froze and died. I was so disappointed. I understand your feelings. I lost a number of shrubs this winter.

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April 28th, 2014

VIDEO: Metro’s ‘Phantom Planter’ strikes again

When part-time lawyer and artist Henry Docter planted flowers at the Dupont Circle Metro station, Washington’s transit agency ripped them out. Now, Docter is back with a visual message.

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April 9th, 2014

VIDEO: Photos of the Day – Garden of Europe From the Air

In today’s pictures, flower fields near Keukenhof Park are seen from above in the Netherlands, Syrian opposition fighters carry a wounded comrade in Aleppo, a competitor performs in the Pizza World Championship in Italy, and much more. Photo: Reuters

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April 4th, 2014

VIDEO: Cherry Blossoms: April 4 at Brookside Gardens

The cherry blossoms for which Washington is famous may be in the Tidal Basin—but pockets of cherry trees can be found all over. We’re bringing you a daily video portrait of cherry trees around the region—and asking you to share blossoms in your neighborhood with the hashtag #DCblooms.

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