We all love our lawns and spend quite a bit of time and money establishing and caring for our lawns. As you probably know there are a number of commercial companies available to assist home owners with this endeavor to have a beautiful lush lawn. If you love your lawn then this may not be the article for you. I like lawns too, but I prefer Mother nature's varies and interesting selection of plants. Lawns are mono-culture, offering little to no diversity, and is a virtual desert to wildlife. The U.S. has 48 million acres of lawns. It is the 4th largest planted crop behind, wheat, barley and corn. Turf grass lawns cover 62,500 square miles of ground more than 31 times the size of Delaware. Lawns have high maintenance cost - mowing, watering, fertilizing, spraying and minimal wildlife value, low aesthetic interest, and negative environmental impact. American spend $30 billion a year on lawn care. Options are to consider more low maintenance garden beds. Consider a planting of 2 to 3 trees with ground cover and mulch. Trees and shrubs provide shelter for wildlife and depending upon species of plants may also provide food.
However for those who really like their lawns, here is hopefully some useful information on lawn care. - At this time of year be sure the cutting blade on the lawn mower is sharp. Ragged edges on the grass blade make it more susceptible to disease. - Mow frequently, removing no more than one-third of the grass blade at each cutting. A grass height of two and a half to three inches will shade itself, have deeper root growth, resist disease and weed infestation and tolerate less water. - Do not apply broadleaf weed control to new lawns until they have been mowed twice. - Remember to water new lawns regularly. Like the rest of your garden, new lawns need about one inch of rain/water per week. Once a lawn is established water deeply and less frequently. This procedure will encourage root growth while reducing top growth in lawns. Deep watering increases the root-to-shoot ratio and produces plants that are more resistant to wilting when exposed to drought conditions. - Control grubs in the lawn to help eliminate mole problem. Milky Spore is a good non-chemical control for Japanese Beetle grubs. - Do not fertilize cool season grasses such as bluegrass and fescue heavily this time of year. You may make alight application of a nitrogen fertilizer in the second half of May or early June. - Dandelions in your lawn may be trying to tell you something. They suck up calcium, which means if you have a heavy crop of dandelions your soil is being depleted of its natural calcium component. Check you lawn's pH and you will probably find that lime needs to be added. Remember that Virginia Tech can analysis your soil for a nominal sum. Just obtain one of their boxes and follow the instructions on filling it. Send it off to VA Tech and they will send back detail information about what your soils needs to be a better growing medium for your plants.
In preparing this article use of the Landscape and Garden Guide published by Franklin County Master Gardeners was used extensively on providing some information about lawn care.
Division is a fast and reliable way to propagate perennials that form clumps of stems and multiple roots.
Dividing by division is a simple matter of digging plants, separating them into smaller plants with a few attached roots and replanting them as quickly as possible or potting them to either share or to replant later, perhaps in a new bed. Many vigorous perennials benefit from being divided. Dividing and replanting promotes healthy growth and renewed flowering of perennials, bulbs and tubers.
Spring and Fall are the best times to dig and divide perennials. During these seasons, cool soil temperature promote new root development, plants are not stressed by hot sun, and natural rainfall will reduce the amount of watering you have to do. For plants that bloom in the spring the best practice is to divide in the fall. For plants that bloom later in the spring or early summer you can successfully divide in the Spring.
If you can, divide perennials on a calm, overcast day when the wind and sun won't dry roots as you work. Also keep divided plants from drying out by moistening them with a hose and covering with moist newspaper. Perennials bloom best on young, active growth from the plant's perimeter, so discard old, woody centers that don't produce blooms.
If you wish replant divisions in the same place or use divided plants to fill new garden areas. Either way, it's important to have prepared soil ready to receive divided plants on the day they are dug. When replanting in the same area, place your dug plants in a shady spot and cover with wet newspaper. Use this opportunity to renovate the bed by working in compost or other rich organic matter into the soil. Then replant you division. When planting a new bed, prepare the soil ahead of time, so that it is ready to plant on dividing day.
Some perennials that benefit from division are: Ajuga, Artemisia, Aster, Astilbe, Bee balm, Chrysanthemum, Coreopsis, Delphinium, Daisy, Daylily, Dianthus, Foxglove, Helianthus, Hosta, Iris, Lamb's ear, Phlox, Yarrow.
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Horticultural Tip for March
During the cold winter months gardeners are thinking of days when they can begin to get back into their gardens. In thinking about your garden and landscaping consider the many choices you have with shrubs. Although we sometime think of insects and animals that share our landscape as pest, they are a most natural part of our world, and we all gaze in wonder at a most beautiful butterfly drifting slowly over a flowering plant. What are some of the best shrubs for wildlife? Here are some consideration for you to think about as you make plans for your home landscape.
Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) This evergreen ground cover's bright red berries are eaten by songbirds, game birds and mammals. Its flowers provide nectar, and it's a host plant for elfin and hairstreak butterflies.
Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentals) Naturally found in wetlands, this plant has wonderful globe-shaped flowers that are like magnet for butterflies. The seeds are also a favorite of waterfowl, and it's the host plant for sphinx moths.
Viburnums (Viburnum spp.) Nutritious berries and nectar producing flowers make viburnums some of the best shrubs for wildlife. Try varieties like maple leaf (V. acerfolium, arrow wood )V. dentate), Mooseberry (V. edule), common (V. ellipticum), nanny berry (V. lent ago), possum haw (V. nudum) or American cranberry bush (V. trillium) viburnums. As an added bonus, spring azure butterflies use viburnums as host plants.
Hazelnuts (Corylus spp.) American filbert (C. americana) and beaked filbert (C. cornuta) are perfect if you don't have room for larger nut trees such as oaks, hickories or pecans They're also the host plant for hairstreak butterflies.
Hollies (Ilex spp.) Both evergreen and deciduous species provide fine cover and food, Try possum haw (I. decidua, inkberry (I. glabra), myrtle leaf ( I. myrtifolia), winterberry (I. verticalata) and yaupon (I. vomitoria) hollies. Yaupon holly if a host plant for the Henry's elfin butterfly.
Dogwoods (Cornus spp.) They provide highly nutritious fruit for migratory birds. Some species offer nectar and some are host plants for spring azure butterflies. Shrub species include alternate-leaf or pagoda (C. alternifolia), silky (C. amomum), gray (D. racemosa), round leaf (C. rugosa), and red osier or red twig (C. sericea), dogwoods.
Bayberries (Myrica spp.) Birds relish berries from these shrubs, including the northern (M. pensylvanica), Pacific (M. californica) and southern wax myrtle (M. cerifera) species. Wax myrtle is a host plant for hairstreak butterflies and the northern bayberry for silk moth caterpillars.
Elderberry (Sambucus spp.) Birds like the fruits, whether they are the blue-black berries of the common species or the ruby ones of the red elderberry. The flowers offer nectar to insects, and in the case of red elderberry, hummingbirds. Native bees are also know to nest in hollowed out elderberry branches. (Remember our native bees are solitary bees and do not form hives, and are not aggressive.
Other shrub species to consider are Roses (Rosa spp.) Sumacs ( Rhus spa.) and Blueberries (Vaccinium spp.) An article from Birds and Blooms was used extensively for this article on shrubs.
Tips from the Horticultural Committee
It's the time of year, when we can only dream of being in our gardens, so maybe some indoor activity is in order. Turning to our computers there are some web sites that are helpful and interesting to pursue on the subject of gardening. First, I hope everyone is familiar with the excellent information that is provided on the Virginia Cooperative Extension sites. Our state has an excellent one with a great variety of helpful information. However don't stop there because close neighboring states like North Carolina, Kentucky and Maryland Cooperative sites can also provided needed information that would generally apply to our area and climate.
The Plant Database at Dave's Garden.com is billed as the largest plant data base in the world. Have you ever wonder just how do you pronounce some of those botanical Latin name. At the Fine Gardening Magazine site you can hear the correct pronunciation of these scientific names, as well as see the phonetic spelling.
If gardening catalogs are your thing then Cyndi's Catalog of Garden Catalog is the web site for you. It list 2000 catalogs around the world.
Want to know what the insect is that you found on your plant on under the flower pot in your house. Our own VA Tech Insect ID Lab, Department to Entomology is a rich site with excellent insect images. Also this site includes information about control measure and pesticide information. Wondering what is going on with your veggies you planted last summer try checking out Vegetable MD online. Also Cornell's Veggie ID is a popular site, because of the photos ID on what is wrong with the plant pictured. This site has photos of plants with either insect damage or disease damage. Along with the photo gallery problems are ID, and a fact sheet is included for solving the problem and IPM (Insect Pest Management) links to keep your plant healthy. Cornell University also has an information database on poisonous plants.
Try looking up some of these web sites to see if they would be of interest. Also remember the importance of using web sites that end in edu. for education, or gov. for government, as these are generally the more reliable sources of information. Some org. sites (organization) are good, but not all, so beware.
Tips from the Horticultural Committee
How does wildlife affect you and your garden and landscape plants?
Whether you are a city dweller or a country dweller we share our earth with many other animals. How do we manage and control the destruction caused by animals? How extensive is the damage? These are some of the questions several agencies are trying to answer and provide support to the community. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) in conjunction with USDA have joined in a collaborative effort to provide a more unified support and data collecting system. A toll free helpline manned by biologists, has been set up to answer questions and to provide consistent information on the human/wildlife conflict. You can call 1-855-572-9003 Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. With further funding, there are plans to add another specialist working with Virginia Cooperative Extension who would complement positions already working at Virginia Tech.
According to Glen Askins, Terrestrial Wildlife Biologist Manager, since the fall over 3000 calls have been fielded. The top five animals inquiries have been white tail deer, black bear, raccoon, coyote, and skunk. There was total and complete mast failure this past winter which has contributed to an even higher incidents of animal destruction to landscapes and farms.
Just like understanding the life cycle of an insect can give insight to appropriate treatment for the garden, understanding mating and seasonal trends can help in understanding animal patterns.
For example, the mother black bear kicks her two year old cubs out in May. These cubs will begin to travel long distances in search of a natural home base - sometimes up to 10 to 15 miles a day. On the way, they may meander through some neighborhoods. Now, if there is no food source they will move on. It is during these time, bird feeders, garbage, etc. need to be removed. NEVER should a bear be fed. (And it is illegal.) Bears naturally are afraid of humans; however feeding them can create desensitization and can cause problems. Although there has never been a fatality with black bears in Virignia, the few instances of altercations have come because of poor choices humans have made. Seeing a black bear on it's hind legs is intimidating. But, according to Mr. Askins, this is an effort on their part to smell what is going on! If you run into a be lack bear, stop; slowly back up' and retreat. A video of black bears is available at the VDIGF website.
Credit: Most of this article came directly from the Roanoke Master Newsletter and was used extensively for this article.
Tips from the Horticultural Committee