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Archive for July 2009

Should I plant asparagus in the fall?

July 22nd, 2009


Should I plant asparagus in the fall? The short answer is no. It's not the optimum time to plant asparagus. Spring is the preferred season to plant so there is more time for the asparagus crowns to mature before going dormant for the winter. Want to know more about planting asparagus? Read Just About Everything About Asparagus.

Fall is, however, the best time to prepare the asparagus bed for next spring’s growth. Adding decomposing leaves, compost or manure to the site is one of the best things you can do for your plants. This can be done throughout the cold months. The more organic matter that gets added into the soil, the longer your plants will produce good quantity spearsand plenty of them. Fall is also a good time to remove all grass and weeds from the bed, since nothing should be competing with your asparagus plants for nutrients in the soil. For more tips on getting your asparagus ready for winter, read Fall Asparagus Care.

What causes brown spots in the lawn

July 17th, 2009

What causes brown patches in your lovely green lawn? Well, lots of things, including the neighbor’s dog and your teenage kid doing burnouts with his new tires. But then it might be lawn grubs. The bad news is, lawn grubs can cause really serious and very unsightly damage to your lawn. They can also be persistent and reoccurring. The good news is they can be managed by various means. They might be easier to control than the dog next door or your hot-rod kid. It depends on the dog and the kid.

Lawn grubs are of several sorts. All do damage. You will need to find out which particular kind you have, and how badly you are infested. On way to check is to use a spade to make a sort of flap of turf that you can lift up, several inches thick if you can manage it. Look under there, especially around the edges of the brown patches. You ought be able to find some of the critters. You can then compare to pics online, or get a sample down to your local ag agent or other expert. You will need to be accurate in your identification, because they have different life cycles and are controlled in different ways.

There are several pesticides used for the control of lawn grubs. Once you have identified the creature, you can get the right kind, and apply at the correct time. You’ll need to do a little research, and read the labels. One called Merit is often quite effective, and can be found in well-known brands. Be sure you don’t just get something that says “controls lawn pests” and dump that on. Agents that will control bugs at the surface might not do a thing to the grubs, happily feeding several inches below ground. The reliable product you choose will have directions, which will most likely include watering in well, to get the stuff down to the grubs.

There are also several non-toxic ways to approach the problem. For Japanese Beetle grubs, you can get Milky Spore and apply that according to directions. That won’t hurt you but will hurt the grubs. There are also beneficial nematodes that will help control the critters. Whether you choose a reliable pesticide or one of the natural cures, you will need to do your research, identify the creatures, and get the timing right. You have to get at them while they are vulnerable, if you want to kill lawn grubs.

aerating_sandalsNow, there is one more way. I saved it for last because it is the most fun. You know those spike sandals that are sold to put on over your shoes and walk around over your lawn to aerate it? Research has shown that repeated passes over lawn turf with those spikes can be as effective as pesticide control for lawn grubs. You will need to go over the lawn several times, in order to get at least a couple of pokes per square inch. You could get healthful exercise, while providing an entertaining spectacle for the neighbors. You could buy several sets and get the neighbors involved, perhaps using a pitcher of lemonade or a well-stocked cooler of the refreshment of your choice as inducement. Or your could hold the sandals in one hand, and that teen-agers car keys in the other, rattle the keys, and see how fast they can do five times over the whole lawn. I’m just trying to help here. Sometimes you have to think outside the box, especially when trying to control those pesky lawn grubs.

Help needed with my Viburnum plant

July 16th, 2009

blue_viburnumI hope to get your advice about a Blue Muffin Viburnum that I planted in my backyard about 5 years ago.  I live in Brooklyn, NY.  This is the only viburnum growing in my garden.  And it is receiving southern exposure light, so it receives lots of sun.

Here are my two problems:

1) In the first 2 years, it produced lots of beautiful white flowers that turned into little unripened green berries but which never reached its maturity.  I would see the unripened berries for a few days, and then the next day, most would disappear and whatever remained seemed to have broken off.  We get many sparrows and a few mockingbirds visiting our garden.  Perhaps the birds are responsible…I can’t be sure because I have never caught any of them eating the berries.

2) For the past 3 years, the viburnum did not produce any flowers, just lush green leaves and lots of them.  This past spring, it produced not more than 4 clusters of flowers which then turned to unripened tiny green berries that eventually disappeared.  

I am befuddled about this and would sure appreciate any advice you can give.  I am so disappointed that my viburnum has never reached its full potential and hope there is some solution to rectify this problem.

Thank you,

Is it okay to use old car tires in the garden?

July 15th, 2009

There are a number of different views floating about and there seems to be no definitive answer to your question. The majority seem to be in favor of the use of tires as planters, hot beds, composting bins and insulating walls for greenhouses.  There are quite a number of other projects you can create. 

Some people are skeptical, as you are, that there are still toxins left in the old tires that might leach out into the soil and be absorbed by the plants.  However, the negative reports focus mainly on the chipped rubber mulch and astroturf made from old tires.

There are quite a few folks who love their tire planting beds. There are downsides and upsides, depending on what area you live in.  The black rubber tends to superheat the soil. One solution is to just paint them a light color, or you can use it to your advantage like a cold frame. Quite a few people have perfected the method of creating towers of tires for growing potatoes, creating a compost bin or growing tomatoes. 

If you decide the risk of growing edibles is too great, there are a number of other uses.  Save your old tires, or go out and rescue a couple from your local landfill, find some bright paint, and create some funky yard art.  Then plant some colorful flowers in them!

Bats: Nature's Mosquito Destroyer

July 10th, 2009

bat_houseWorldwide, there are some 1,000 species of bats. Don't worry: vampire bats don't hang around these parts. North America is home to around 40 different species and they are predominantly insect-eating, although bats in other geographic regions also feed on fruit, plants, and other animals.

Bats are the only mammal that fly.  They are tiny and very lightweight, measuring only 3 to 5 inches in length, and they only weigh up to an ounce.  Nocturnal creatures, they usually are most active at dusk and they fly around until dawn.

Bats are thought to be blind, but they see just fine.  However, the insect-eating varieties find their food through echolocation, meaning they bounce a high frequency sound off of insects to determine their size and location, and then they go in for the catch. Bats are a necessary and welcomed part of the food chain, keeping insects and other pests under control. The common small brown bat can consume up to 1,200 insects each hour!

Not the most beautiful of animals to look at, with their tiny faces, oversized ears, and huge thin wings, bats do a beautiful job of keeping our environment in harmony. They are good plant pollinators and are revered for their ability to control the insects that can destroy crops, as well as for keeping pesky mosquito populations down. During cold weather some species of bats relocate to warmer climates, but many hibernate until the spring.

Bats roost during daylight in hollow trees, under bridges, in caves, and in man-made structures such as old buildings and bat houses.  They tend to cluster in colonies, but they do need shelter and you can lure these natural mosquito controllers to your yard or farmland with houses designed specially for attracting these curious creatures.

Bat houses will draw bats to your property and keep them there.  Bats like dark, tight spaces and an area to keep their young warm and protected.  If the inside surfaces of the bat house are roughened, they will resemble tree bark and the bats will feel right at home. The textured walls give bats something to grasp as they perch.

Bat houses come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and materials such as cedar, redwood, and recycled plastic.  A bat house kit is also a great project for Scout troops or other young people to build, as it teaches them about the environmental value of bats.  More than half of the species in the U.S. are now endangered.

Hang bat houses by late winter, because the bats will come seeking shelter in the spring. They should be 15 to 25 feet off the ground, on the side of a building or chimney, and away from power lines and tree branches. The bat house should face south or southwest and the opening and ventilation vents should be free from obstructions.  It can take 6 to 12 months or more to attract bats to bat houses, but be patient.  When you hear chatter in the bat house or find bat droppings nearby, you know you have provided a home to a colony of mosquito eaters ready to keep those little biters at bay.

Attracting Wrens the Easy Way

July 6th, 2009

house_wrenWrens are not particularly colorful. They're small, plain brown birds but they have one particularly endearing quality: they eat insects!  These songbirds also have a distinct high-pitched, bubbly voice and are one of the most popular invited guests to backyards all across North America.  They favor suburban yards and man-made birdhouses.

Commonly called the house wren, this bird is attracted to residential yards, brush piles, low tree branches and clusters of bushes, for habitat and protection against the elements, and also because those dense, low-lying areas provide great insect hunting.

In order to attract wrens to your property, you only need to supply three things:  food, clean water, and shelter.  The food is in abundant supply in most natural areas, in the form of insects like grasshoppers, spiders, crickets, flies, beetles, and caterpillars. Water can be supplied using countless ways. Wren houses provide the shelter and come in a wide variety of styles, sizes, and colors.  What they share in common is the opening size, usually about one inch, which will allow entry by wrens but not larger birds.

Wrens are attracted to houses made of most any materialwood or plastic resins. Among green-thinking birders, the wren houses constructed of recycled plastic bottles are a huge hit with both the homeowner and the wrens themselves.

Wren houses can be hung from low-lying tree branches, posts, outbuildings, the side of the house, or even from a rose bush.  They sometimes contain roughened interior floors, to give the birds traction as they enter, and to emulate tree bark.

Since birds aren't known for housekeeping skills, look for easy-opening, low-maintenance wren houses for your yard or birding sanctuary.  Make sure you have access to the birdhouse interior, so you can keep it clean.  Regular removal of dropped feathers or dirt that the birds might have tracked in will keep your wren house a welcoming quiet place to rest for future visitors.

Wrens are also happy if you provide water features nearby, so keep a birdbath or clean pond available to them as a source of drinking water and a place to splash their feathers.  They'll find the birdhouses easily and want to stick around, if the accommodations are clean, well-stocked, and inviting.

Garden Harvest Supply knows that most wren houses will attract wrens, but not all birdhouses will be attractive to all homeowners. That's why we have many different wren houses available. Each one has its own unique look and features. Some are rustic, some are classic Americana, and some are contemporary. There is a style to suit every taste and budget, and with so many wren houses to choose from, it might not be a bad idea to try a few, to attract as many of these insect-eating beneficial songbirds as possible to your yard.  We hope you enjoy the music!

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