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Our Front Porch Flower Containers

We are tickled with this year’s front porch containers after a little over a month since planting.  You can compare the current photo with the one I took when we planted back in mid April.

We planted a "Fireworks" Fountain Grass in the center, 2 each of three different Coleus and 3 yellow Creeping Jenny (click photo to enlarge)

We planted a “Fireworks” Fountain Grass in the center, 2 each of three different Coleus and 3 yellow Creeping Jenny (click photo to enlarge)

A little over a month after planting:  A single “Fireworks” Fountain Grass in the center, 2 each of three different Coleus and 3 yellow Creeping Jenny around the edges.  (click on photo to enlarge)

A little over a month after planting: A single “Fireworks” Fountain Grass in the center, 2 each of three different Coleus and 3 yellow Creeping Jenny around the edges. (click on photo to enlarge)

Our secret is to use great soil.  Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix (click here to learn more) works well because moisture is supplied to the plants as they need it.  This soil is less likely to pull away from the inside of the container when it dries between watering, which means your water does not bypass the soil to drain out of the bottom holes like you can experience with other potting soils.  Rita and I are big believers in this soil!  And before I forget, we start with fresh soil each time we plant.  We learned this lesson one year when we took a short cut to save a little money by reusing our soil the second year.  The containers were not as good that year.  We now mix the old soil into our garden.

And our other secret is to not let our plants starve.  We fed these containers with Osmocote (click here to learn more) a few weeks after we planted. The Miracle-Gro plant food that came in the soil gets the new plants off to a great start.  The Osmocote then takes over and provides continuous feeding throughout the summer.

Here is a link to photos of our front porch containers over the past four years.

How to Prevent a Lawn Grub Invasion

Grubs can eat the roots right out from under your lawn.  The visual warning of brown grass patches in late summer and fall and next spring can be too late. Infested lawn areas often turn yellow and then brown after the damage is already done. In severe infestations, your sod can often be peeled back like a carpet. Unfortunately, the entire lawn may then have to be replaced.

Grubs eat grass roots resulting in brown, dead lawn patches in fall and early spring

Grubs eat grass roots resulting in brown, dead lawn patches in fall and early spring

So what is the annual grub cycle and how do you stop it before it gets started this year?

In late spring and early summer beetles start showing up to feed on roses and other shrubs and trees in your landscape.  These beetles are coming from last year’s grubs.  Here are links to show you some of the more common beetles (adult grubs) that you may see this time of year hanging around your roses, garden or porch light at night:  Japanese Beetle, May and June Beetles, European Chafer, Northern Masked Chafer, Green June Beetle, Aphodius Beetle, and Oriental Beetle.

In summer, these beetles burrow into the lawn and lay eggs that will hatch into grubs.

In late summer and early fall, newly hatched grubs feed heavily on your grass roots before hibernating for winter. It is during this time that young grubs do the most lawn damage as they gorge themselves prior to hibernation.

The good news is that you can kill grubs before they destroy your lawn. You can easily protect your lawn investment with a single application of Scotts GrubEx, which provides season-long protection.

The ideal application timing is May or June prior to the time when adult beetles lay eggs in your lawn. The GrubEx protection kills newly hatched grubs before they get large enough to damage your lawn.

GrubEx doesn’t harm earthworms, which are so beneficial to your soil. Even though you rid your lawn of grubs, you may still get the occasional mole in your lawn feasting on any earthworms living in your soil.  If you want to rid your lawn of moles, check out these solutions from TomCat.

One last tip… Be sure to water your lawn after spreading GrubEx.

And by the way, you can kill Japanese Beetles and other plant eating insects before they destroy your roses and other plants.  Click here to get more info about Ortho Flower Fruit Vegetable Insect Killer.

Dandelion Questions

I get tons of Dandelion questions this time of year, so here are some of my answers.

Why not learn to love dandelions?

I think it is OK to love dandelions.  We all have fond memories of blowing dandelion puffballs in spring and have enjoyed watching our kids enjoy this too.  Some folks look forward to making dandelion wine from the flowers (click here for several recipes).  Other folks grow dandelion greens in their vegetable garden because they are good for you (click here to learn the health benefits and to get a few recipes).   A dandelion is not a weed in these cases because folks want it to thrive.  (One note, dandelion greens from your vegetable garden are better than ones growing in your lawn because they have the room to reach maximum leaf growth since there is no mowing and no competition from the grass.  This is the same reason you would not want to grow your spinach or lettuce in your lawn.  You also would not allow the dandelions in your vegetable garden to create puffballs unless you wanted nothing but dandelions in your garden.  You also would not harvest dandelion flowers from an area where weed controls were used.)

Why get rid of dandelions in the lawn?

Yellow dandelion blooms in spring are pretty.  If it stopped there we would love them in our lawns.  The trouble begins when their puffballs start blowing seeds into areas that we do not want them growing like in our landscape.  But here is the real reason to put these lawn wreckers on your hit list:  a foot long tap root that steals water from your good grass all summer long and plants that thrive flat on the ground under your mower blade to restrict grass growth.

Dandelions spread into ground cover beds via seeds from puffballs.

Dandelions spread into ground cover beds via seeds from puffballs.

Why is it hard to get rid of dandelions by digging them?

It’s tempting to pull the top off of dandelion weeds that pop up in your yard.  If you miss getting the whole root it will easily come back. Dandelions grow like carrots and produce what is called a tap-root. If you plan on pulling weeds then try using a slim trowel or dandelion puller to get the whole root.

This is the top of a dandelion root with a young dandelion beginning to grow.  Notice that dandelion tops have been pulled off about 4 times leaving scars where it has grown back each time

This is the top of a dandelion root with a young dandelion beginning to grow. Notice that dandelion tops have been pulled off about 4 times leaving scars where it has grown back each time

How do you kill dandelions without hurting your good grass?

If you have lots of them, put down Scotts Turf Builder Weed & Feed.  The unique, small particles in this lawn food stick like glue to your dandelions.  This is absolutely crucial for penetrating and killing them root and all.  Plus your lawn gets a deep Turf Builder feeding to help it fill in where the dandelions once grew.  For best results apply to a moist lawn when rain or watering is not expected for 24 hours.  Do not use on St. Augustinegrass, Floratam, Dichondra, Lippia, carpetgrass or bentgrass.

If you have only a few dandelions and other weeds, you can spot spray them with Ortho Weed B Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Killer. Do not use on Floratam (a variety of St. Augustinegrass), Centipede or Bahiagrass lawns.

If you planted new grass seed this spring, hold off treating those areas until your new grass has been mowed 4 times.

Dandelions are pretty when they bloom, however they soon spread seeds by puffballs to take over your landscape and vegetable garden.

Dandelions are pretty when they bloom, however they soon spread seeds by puffballs to take over your landscape and vegetable garden.

Why do I have dandelions even though I put down a weed & feed?

Some folks think you need to put the weed & feed down before the dandelions appear.  Not true.  Unlike the crabgrass preventer that goes down before you see the crabgrass, dandelions are perennials and can’t be prevented because they grow back from their root as well as from seed.  So for dandelions and many of the weeds in your lawn you kill them after you see them.

The dandelions looked like they were starting to die after I treated them, but why did they grow back?

If the dandelions got an adequate dose of weed control, they will be dead root and all. What I have typically seen is a 90% plus kill after an application of a good weed & feed (like Turf Builder Weed & Feed) that went down at the correct rate. If the lawn is loaded with lots of mature dandelions, sometimes it takes the second application in fall to do a complete kill plus kill baby dandelions that grow from seed in the soil during late summer.

Also keep this in mind: getting rid of the weeds is only half the battle. Your lawn will be a stronger competitor against new weeds if you feed your lawn regularly (about 4 times a year) and mow your grass a little bit taller.  Most lawns are healthier if the grass height is 2-1/2 to 3 inches tall after you mow.

Peek At Our Vegetable Garden

Finding a sunny spot for our vegetable garden was a challenge for Rita and I at our home here in Georgia.  (We do appreciate all our abundant shady spots in August!)  Since we had to locate our vegetables on a small hill, we created three tiers of raised beds.  We also grow veggies in containers on our deck.

We are especially pleased with the improvement in our soil texture. Our great soil is the result of mixing Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Garden Soil into our red Georgia clay every time we planted over the past few years.  This year we used a new product we like a lot:  Miracle-Gro Nature’s Care Organic Garden Soil with Water Conserve.  We feed our plants Miracle-Gro Nature’s Care Plant Food.  We use ground up leaves as our mulch.

We have been picking our spinach, lettuce, arugula, peas and kale for some time and they are about done as the weather is heating up.  We will soon start enjoying our potatoes, onions, tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers and beans.  Here are a few pictures I took this morning.

Yukon Gold Potatoes

Yukon Gold Potatoes (click photo to enlarge)

Walla Walla Sweet Onions

Walla Walla Sweet Onions  (click photo to enlarge)

Sweet 100, Better Boy, Cherokee Purple, Indigo Rose and Black Krim Tomatoes  (click photo to enlarge)

Sweet 100, Better Boy, Cherokee Purple, Indigo Rose and Black Krim Tomatoes (click photo to enlarge)

Carmen, Padron and Lunch Box Peppers  (click photo to enlarge)

Carmen, Padron and Lunch Box Peppers (click photo to enlarge)

Creative Way To Celebrate Mothers Day

Even though I pass this suggestion along just about every Mothers Day, here is an idea that is guaranteed to be remembered as an extra special surprise for Mom or Grandma.

So here’s the plan:  This Mothers Day weekend your family makes a visit to the local garden center to pick up the components for an extra special Mother’s Day gift. And… the best part is Mom (or Grandma) is in on the “picking-out-part.”  She selects a container, several herb or flowering plants and the secret ingredient to success:  Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix.

Then here is the cool part.  When you get home you teach your kids how to plant the container.  Kids learn something cool, Mom is impressed that she has such a thoughtful family, and oh yes… you score some extra points that are sure to come in handy.

Note to Mom:  Hint dropping is allowed in this instance!

Note to Dad:  You may get some kind of payback on Father’s Day!

We planted a "Fireworks" Fountain Grass in the center, 2 each of three different Coleus and 3 yellow Creeping Jenny (click photo to enlarge)

We planted a “Fireworks” Fountain Grass in the center, 2 each of three different Coleus and 3 yellow Creeping Jenny (click photo to enlarge)

Select herbs that have different colors and textures.  Pinch frequently to enjoy fresh herbs in the kitchen and to keep the container looking good.  (Click photo to enlarge)

Select herbs that have different colors and textures. Pinch frequently to enjoy fresh herbs in the kitchen and to keep the container looking good. (Click photo to enlarge)

 

California Drought Tips

I lived in California back in the 70’s during a serious drought so my heart goes out to all of you who want to garden AND do your part to conserve water.  Luckily, there are simple and effective ways to use water wisely and make the most of your valuable supply.

Click here to get helpful information you can use now:  www.scotts.com/california

Here are some of my tips that have helped me conserve water over the years:

Build Great Soil: Amend soil every time you plant to improve growth and moisture holding capacity by mixing in an inch or two of Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Garden Soil, which contains a pre-mixed blend of rich organic materials, specially formulated to increase the water holding ability of soil by up to 25%.

Timely & Gentle Feeding: Miracle-Gro LiquaFeed combines watering with gentle feeding for all your flowers, vegetables, perennials, shrubs and even containers. It’s the convenient way to nourish all plants with both water and nutrients during dry conditions. For continuous feeding for up to three months, try Miracle-Gro Shake ‘n Feed.

Water Judiciously: Water after planting and when needed (before leaves wilt). If you do not already have one, consider installing a drip irrigation system to keep plants from drying out. When additional watering is necessary, do so in the morning. Watering from 6:00 to 10:00 a.m. is best, due to less wind and cooler temperatures, for soil to absorb the water. When watering, remember to water deeply making sure the soil is moist by inserting a finger a few inches into the soil.

In your gardens, minimize the use of overhead watering, where up to 90% can be lost to evaporation. Instead use drip irrigation or a soaker hose, which target the water directly to the plant roots. Watering is more efficient if you do it early in the morning. Water your plants infrequently and deeply to encourage deep, sturdy root systems, which will help them stand up to hot, dry conditions.

In your gardens, minimize the use of overhead watering, where up to 90% can be lost to evaporation. Instead use drip irrigation or a soaker hose, which target the water directly to the plant roots. Watering is more efficient if you do it early in the morning. Water your plants infrequently and deeply to encourage deep, sturdy root systems, which will help them stand up to hot, dry conditions.

Try Containers: Reduce watering chores by choosing light-colored, non-porous containers such as plastic or glazed pottery. Protect pots from full sun and wind. Plant containers using Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix to help containers hold water better. Large pots helps keep plants from becoming root-bound quickly and thirsting for water. The more room plants have to grow, the less watering needed.

Mulch Everything: Whether your garden is in the ground or in containers, apply a two to three inch layer of Scotts Nature Scapes Advance mulch around all plants—vegetables, shrubs, perennials, flowers. This holds more moisture in the soil longer for your plants, keeps water-stealing weeds away by blocking access to sunlight, and directs water down towards the soil, allowing it to absorb water better.

Is It Too Late to Prevent Crabgrass?

Answer:  Maybe not depending on where you live or your particular lawn situation.  Crabgrass is an “annual” weed, which means it germinates in spring, in summer the plants produce seed and then they die in fall with the first frost.  To do the best job preventing crabgrass, you should have spread your crabgrass preventer by the time all the yellow blossoms fall off the forsythia bush, or by the time lilacs begin blooming, or by the time you are starting to see lots of dandelion puffballs.  If based on one of these indicators you conclude it is too late to apply your Turf Builder with Halts, allow me to offer some additional info for you to consider.  Crabgrass seeds germinate over several weeks like waves hitting a beach.  The first germination is where the soil warms up first, like next to a driveway or sidewalk, or a south facing slope.  If you had lots of crabgrass last year, and you have not gotten your crabgrass preventer down yet, you might still consider making the application as soon as possible even though you are seeing one or more of the nature indicators I mentioned.  That is because you can still prevent the later germinating crabgrass if you act fast.

You should apply your crabgrass Preventer by the time forsythia bushes in your neighborhood have stopped blooming and lost their flowers, or if you do not have forsythia, by the time you see lilacs in bloom, or before you start seeing dandelion puffballs.

You should apply your crabgrass Preventer by the time forsythia bushes in your neighborhood have stopped blooming and lost their flowers, or if you do not have forsythia, by the time you see lilacs in bloom, or before you start seeing dandelion puffballs.

If you decide it is too late to prevent crabgrass because you way past the forsythia blooming in your area and you are seeing it growing in your lawn now, you can I still get rid of it.  Ortho has a very effective crabgrass killer that not only kills crabgrass after you have it growing in your lawn, but also takes out hundreds of other kinds of weeds without harming your good grass.  You can use Ortho Weed-B-Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Killer on most any kind of lawn except Centipede, Bahia and St. Augustinegrass.  It is best to spray on a day when temps are between 45 and 90 degrees with no rain or irrigation for at least an hour after spraying.

Crabgrass germinated in this area where the grass was thinned from a lawn fungus problem.  It is easier to kill before it gets big.

Crabgrass germinated in this area where the grass was thinned from a lawn fungus problem. It is easier to kill before it gets big.

This photo of a mature crabgrass plant appeared in a Scotts publication about 20 years ago.  The caption:  “A single seed produced this monster crabgrass plant, which crowded out good grass as it grew.  Each plant is capable of producing tens of thousands of seeds for an even bigger problem next year.”

This photo of a mature crabgrass plant appeared in a Scotts publication about 20 years ago. The caption: “A single seed produced this monster crabgrass plant, which crowded out good grass as it grew. Each plant is capable of producing tens of thousands of seeds for an even bigger problem next year.”

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