Michael Dirr to be Keynote Speaker at Master Gardeners of Mercer County’s 2013 Horticultural Symposium

Michael Dirr

If you live in NJ or plan on being in the Princeton, NJ area on March 16th, 2013 or if you enjoy traveling to symposiums, you might consider signing up for the Master Gardeners of Mercer County’s outstanding annual horticultural symposium. For the last few years, The Master Gardeners of Mercer County, NJ have held excellent gardening symposiums that are extremely popular and well appreciated by those who attend. Every year these symposiums have been sell-outs. This year they seem to have put together what promises to be their best symposium ever. So even before information about the symposium went public, over HALF the seats have been sold already.

Continue reading “Michael Dirr to be Keynote Speaker at Master Gardeners of Mercer County’s 2013 Horticultural Symposium”

Websites for solving your horticultural problems

Master Gardeners by Carol VanHook

Do you have problems with your plants? Who doesn’t? Do you often wonder where to go to answer your problems, besides writing to TheGardenLady?

Well, you can always call in with your question or take a sample of your problem to your local Master Gardener office. Every state and almost every county in every state in the US has a Master Gardener office. Master Gardeners are in Canada and also in England and New Zealand.  South Korea is considering starting a Master Gardening program. Good luck to South Korea.

Continue reading “Websites for solving your horticultural problems”

Planting in Wind Swept Areas

Wind Swept by druss101

TheGardenLady received this question from Joyce.

I have a small garden bed at the front of my house. It gets the sun in the morning only, and it’s very opened to the wind.  Could you recommend any plants I could get to make it nice and colorful.

Wind swept areas are difficult planting areas. The wind not only batters many plants but windy areas will experience drier soil conditions. But for anyone to give you answers to what might grow in your garden, you really have to provide more information.

Continue reading “Planting in Wind Swept Areas”

When To Plant Seedlings Outdoors

April 16th: Seedlings galore by flickrich

TheGardenLady received this question about starter planting.

We have plants that we started in the window and green beans are 4 in and our corn is right behind. We have other veggies that are a little slower. We live in Olathe Kansas. When can we put them all out?

People read the directions on packages of seeds and often it says to start the seeds by first planting them indoors a certain number of weeks before the last frost date and after that last frost to transplant the seedlings outdoors. The seed companies cannot tell you when to plant seeds outdoors because they have no idea where the purchaser lives.

Each temperature zone has a different last frost date – some Temp. zones don’t always get a frost some years. And even in the same Temp. zone no one knows exactly when the last frost date will be. Where you live might be warmer because you are near the ocean or colder because of various reasons. So how are you supposed to know?  (see here)

Continue reading “When To Plant Seedlings Outdoors”

The Master Gardener Program

Master Gardener pull up by Garden Organic

TheGardenLady has often suggested that when you, the readers, need your soil tested or if you have horticultural, gardening or insect problems you should call of go to your local Master Gardener Organization or to your Extension Office. I am sure that many readers know about this excellent program, but in case there are some readers who wonder what TheGardenLady is writing about, TheGardenLady thought that it might be interesting to have a column devoted to the Master Gardener Program.

First let me tell you something about why the program started. In the 1970s there had been such a rapid urban growth in the US, with so many new homeowners interested in home gardens and plants that County Extension Agents who helped farmers were overwhelmed with questions. The County Extension Agents couldn’t really help all these new amateur gardeners and professional nurseries and farmers, too. So someone in Seattle, Washington came up with the idea of training volunteers in horticulture. In exchange for the training those trained must commit to a certain number of volunteer hours to help the County Extension office solve home owners’ horticulture, plant and gardening problems thus freeing the extension agents to work with those professionals in the plant business, farmers or nurseries as well as having the time to do more research.

Continue reading “The Master Gardener Program”

Magnolia Bush Problems

The Sky’s Wallpaper by kubse

TheGardenLady received this question from someone whose name cannot be found.

My magnolia bush is turning yellow and then the leaves turn brown and drop off. The other leaves have black spots on them. I do not see any insects on them.  Could this be a blight?  And what should I do to save the bush?

There are about 80 species of magnolia. Not knowing what type of magnolia you have or where you live, my first question is whether you own a deciduous or an evergreen magnolia. If it is a magnolia bush, it may be deciduous and the thing that deciduous bushes do, is drop their leaves in the cool part of the year and regrow new leaves in the spring.   See here. So if the magnolia looks otherwise healthy, there is nothing you need do.

But if you have an evergreen magnolia, if the leaves are turning yellow you may have a problem. Is every leaf turning yellow then brown and dropping off?  Or are just a few dropping off?  If it is just a few, remember that even evergreen trees lose some of their leaves each year and there is nothing to worry about.

Sometimes trees are affected by environmental conditions. What has the weather been like in your area? Have you had the heat and drought conditions that we have had on the East coast of the US? This heat has affected lots of trees, shrubs and plants. No one can tell you whether these trees, shrubs and plants will survive from this excessively hot summer. Many of us are are having problems with or losing trees, shrubs and plants.  Trees don’t always die right away. Trees may struggle for a few years and then die. It takes a while for a tree to give up its ghost. Excessively cold winters can also have a similar affect on the life of plants. If the cause of your tree’s leaves turning yellow is from the environment, there is little that can be done other than to try to keep the soil at its optimum level.  See here.

Continue reading “Magnolia Bush Problems”

Garden Landscaping for Beginners – Part 1

Garden Landscaping by rainbow_landscaping

Because TheGardenLady has been asked about landscaping and/or choosing a good landscaper, TheGardenLady thought this would make an interesting column.

Below are a few suggestions for anyone who is interested in landscaping one’s property. There are many outstanding female landscapers as well as male landscapers. (The word “he” was used most of the time in this post just to make the writing of this column easier.)

Make sure you know your property or do what is called a site analysis.  Know where North, South, East and West are on your property. This is important because some plants prefer to get morning or evening sun and light. And when you plant, you want plants that will be happiest in a location. You want roses? They want sun, sun, sun; but some varieties will take just 5 hours of sun.  So if you write down notes to yourself telling exactly how much sun a spot gets, this will be very helpful in your planning. Know existing conditions on your property such as hills, or areas of elevation and if you have good or bad drainage. You may want to try to eliminate the problem or work with it.

Know the Temperature Zone in your area. Even within one state, there might be different Temperature Zones. Plants that grow in the Northern part of the United States might be unhappy in the South and vice versa and some plants might grow in a broad range of climates. A clematis that grows in Zone 9 or 10 won’t live outdoors in the winter in Zone 6. Or you might want a cactus garden, but if you live in NJ, it is trickier to plant cactus than it would be in Arizona. Yet there are some cactus that will survive in NJ, even in NJ winters. So be sure to check your temperature zone and be sure that when you buy plants, you buy plants that will survive and thrive in your area.  See here.

Most people want plants that are easy to raise in your area, but if you like a challenge like Wayne Daniels in California who raises tulips where they usually don’t grow (see here) you have to know the needs of the plants in order to accommodate them in your area.

Have your soil tested.  I cannot stress the importance of soil testing. And I really recommend using your local Master Gardening chapter or your local extension office. When you get it tested, get different areas where you want to plant different things tested in separate tests. For example, if you want a vegetable garden, test that area separately from an area that you might want to plant lawn. The tests will then send you back information for what to amend the exact amount for that need. Though the tests might cost a few more dollars than a soil kit you can buy in a store, you will get a thorough readout of what you have and what you need to amend your soil. And visiting the Master Gardeners with your questions and or problems is FREE. They will even explain your soil test results if you want – for FREE.

Examine your property and note what conditions there are. Note existing conditions on your property like hills, or bogs or areas of elevation and if you have good or bad drainage. Do you have walls blocking the sun or making a micro climate that might be hotter than the rest of your property? Are there trees?  If so what types of trees are on your property?  Few plants will thrive under nut trees and if you want perennials under the nut trees, be sure you get those plants that will live near a nut tree. You will also note, by the size of the trees or how large they can grow, how expansive a root mass it has or will get.

Locate wet or dry sites on your property to know what will live – for example land near a blacktop driveway or roadway may give off too much heat for some plants and might also be salted to remove snow – plants cannot tolerate excessive salt. And you would need different types of plants for under your rain spout.

Know your site boundaries and where the house is located on your property. When you are designing your landscaping, consider the views from both inside your house looking out as well as how the plants will look outside your house. You might even want to consider your neighbor’s house when you plant.  Do you want your neighbor to see your beautiful plants from his house? Or do you want to make a hedge so you and your neighbor can’t see each other’s house?

Check your soil consistency. You want soil that is friable, not compacted or if you live in a sandy area, you want to know what can grow in that type of soil. You can always amend the soil with the compost TheGardenLady knows you are saving.

The Master Gardeners of Michigan Need Help


TheGardenLady just learned distressing news for people who live in the state of Michigan who love plants and love to garden but have questions about gardening or about insects in the garden or in the home. TheGardenLady has written about an organization called the Master Gardeners that offers free advice about gardening, plants, including trees and insects both indoors and outdoors. The Master Gardening program helps people across the country and in Canada and a few other countries with this free advice. Master Gardeners also help beautify parks and gardens in their states and/or teach about plants and gardening. Because the Master Gardeners are educated volunteers, this service has been free or perhaps there was a nominal cost- like for soil testing kits in NJ. It is offered through the county that you live in – through the agricultural extension, your state agricultural school.

The article TheGardenLady read that so upset her was in the Upper Michigan News by TV6 & FOX UP . The article wrote “For about 150 years MSU extension offices in every county have helped people get information about a wide variety of subjects. It was actually part of the deal when the state received federal money to create Michigan State University. Today MSU extension receives state federal and local money to cover their costs. ”

Now, after all these years, this wonderful service might be terminated because of the budget. Please read the entire article on this dire news for people in Michigan. The Master Gardeners are volunteers but they need an office to work out of, phone service and printed material, etc. If MSU won’t have any money in their budget, where will the Master Gardeners go to help the public?

TheGardenLady read this article about the problem and would like you to read the article to see what is happening. There is another article that you can read to learn how you can help prevent this from happening.  And there is a petition you can sign if you live in Michigan to tell your government how important the program is for you and why you wish it should be saved.

If any of TheGardenLady’s readership is in Michigan or if my readership knows people who live in Michigan, please contact them immediately and tell them about what is happening. Tell them to read the articles and see if people in Michigan will get involved and see what they can do to keep the extension service there to help. This has to be done immediately- two weeks time is all there is.

Good Luck.

When to Plant a Magnolia Bush

Photo by Fadadomar

TheGardenLady received this questin from Betty:

When is the best time of year to plant Magnolia bushes?

TheGardenLady never heard of a Magnolia bush; but since there are about 80 different species of magnolia that are native to the eastern United States and southeastern Asia as well as hunderds of named hybrids, there might be a plant that has the common name of Magnolia bush.

One difference between a bush and a small tree, TheGardenLady was told, is the height- a bush is under 20 feet tall and a tree is over 20 feet tall. So you can see how arbitrary the word bush can be in a plant name. That is why it is imperative to ALWAYS give the Latin name of a plant when asking a question about a plant. With the Latin name, the person answering your question knows exactly which plant to talk about.

Continue reading “When to Plant a Magnolia Bush”