Category Archives: Summer


It’s hot out there for newly planted trees and shrubs. These plants may be struggling to survive the heat and drought because their root systems haven’t had a chance to get established in the native soil yet. That’s why it’s important to pamper spring-planted trees and shrubs during the first year after planting. Most trees fail after the first year of planting because they were stressed and never recovered from transplant shock. Here are some ways to take the shock out of tree planting.

Keep them watered. Young trees need moist soil to survive the first summer. If you have sandy soil, the roots will dry out quickly and the leaves may shrivel and drop. If you have clay soil, the dry ground will rack, exposing roots and causing them to dry out. You should water your trees a few times a week and deeply. Add 5 to 10 gallons of water per tree each time.

Use a gator. If you don’t want to be a slave to tree watering all summer, try this product. Tree gators are plastic-sleeved devices that wrap around trees. Fill them with water and they slowly release the water over time, keeping the soil around the rootball moist.

Mulch them. Keep the soil around the tree or shrub mulched with an organic mulch. This will help keep the soil moist, plus prevent weeds from growing. Be generous with your mulch ring size. Spread it outside the drip line of the plant. The feeder roots will be more likely to penetrate the native soil if there is no competition from other plants and the soil stays moist. Add a 2- to 3-inch-thick layer of mulch around each tree and don’t pile it up next to the trunk or the tree may suffer from crown rot.

Stake or no stake? Staking usually isn’t recommended for newly planted trees. The gentle swaying from the wind helps the new roots get established. However, if you have a windy location, you may want to stake the tree for just the first year so it doesn’t blow over.

BUG OFF! Nature’s Way

Not all insects are harmful to your garden; in fact, many are beneficial and are an important part of the ecosystem. Chemicals used to eliminate insects do not discriminate between the good bugs and the bad ones, so you can limit the damage done to beneficial insects and, at the same time, keep harmful chemicals out of the environment by practicing organic pest control.

Here are a few simple and effective ways to eliminate bugs and other pests naturally:

Handpicking: Insects can be handpicked from plants, and pests like potato bugs can easily be shaken from plants into a box. Use a butterfly net to capture white cabbageworm butterflies before they lay their eggs on your crucifers.

Traps: Slugs love to slurp beer from cans strategically placed in the garden, but don’t open the tops all the way lest the openings become two-way streets. Sticky traps hung in apple trees attract and trap apple maggot flies. Brush-on insect trap coating can be applied to small boards on stakes and used throughout the garden. Painting the boards a bright color will make them even more effective. Pheromone traps draw insects like Japanese beetles to their own hormonal scents and safely capture them in boxes away from prized roses and peonies.

Covers: Using lightweight floating covers on crops such as blueberries keeps those pesky birds, rabbits, and deer from eating you out of house and home. Of course, don’t install them until after pollination so that bees can do their job first.

Biological Pest Control: Releasing beneficial bugs into your garden to feed on bad bugs is a fine way of eliminating pests. Ladybugs love aphids, and certain wasps lay eggs on the eggs of other insects, such as cutworms and cornborers; when the wasp eggs hatch, they feed on the pest eggs. The bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is found in spray form and is used to control cabbageworms and their cousins.

Botanical Pest Control: Natural insecticides made from plants like the pyrethrum daisy (Tanacetum coccineum) are used very effectively and are a major force in the bad bug patrol. Pyrethrum, rotenone, and sabadilla are a few of these botanicals, which disperse quickly and do not leave residues.

Growing Edibles in Containers

A trend that passes fad and goes straight to fabulous – fabulous
food that is!

This trend took a jump several years ago and is still growing…on decks, balconies and patios in every region! The desire to enjoy fresh food, with less space and time needed than for a  full-fledged garden, is a key reason this trend is hot. Containers of edibles are also user  friendly for those with limited mobility and can be just as decorative as pots of flowers – with a higher return on their equally simple care.

A quick trip through the garden center can make  you an insider to this trend in no time. Veggie, herb, and fruit, filled containers are easy to create yourself or purchase ready-made.  Options range from a tomato planted straight into in bag of potting soil to highly specialized  containers filled with varieties bred to produce an abundance of food on scaled down plants.

Look for ornamental peppers to bring hot color to the patio and then spice to the dinner plate.  Another tasteful and tasty choice is a container combo of tomatoes and classic Italian herbs.  Seek out patio blueberries, in decorative containers, to flank an entryway and provide  multi-season appeal with spring blooms, summer fruit and autumn color. For some kid friendly  fun, try a Potato Planter designed with an inner pot that can be lifted for sneak peeks, and
harvesting, of the dirt dwelling spuds!

Cover It Up!

Cover Crops; Repaying The Soil For The Benefits We Reap

You may think that as the gardening season is winding down that it’s time to sit back and enjoy the harvest. Think again!

Consider the age old practice of planting a cover crop, which has been around throughout agricultural history. Many home gardeners assume that planting a cover crop is something that only farmers do. Not true! You too can grow more vigorous plants, harvest more fruit, pull fewer weeds and introduce beneficial insects to your garden plot with a small investment of your time and treasure. Let’s face it; one of the keys to having a successful home garden depends on good soil quality, and repeatedly growing plants year after year simply wears the soil out!

Why, When and Where

Just as our plants give us abundant satisfaction and nourishment, cover crops in turn nourish the soil, replacing the energy we remove with every growing and harvest season. A cover crop, planted either in the early spring to prep the garden for summer or more commonly, in early autumn to prep the bed for the upcoming season is a sure way to improve your soil quality. In addition to replenishing nutrients to the soil, cover crops are also a surprising champion in the war on weeds, which means using less herbicide in the garden. The simplest cover crops grow quickly during the cool days of autumn, creating a flourishing, green blanket over the garden soil, which by the way, is much prettier than a bare, empty garden bed. Below the surface, the roots are doing their job, of breaking up compacted layers of soil. Succumbing to the winter temperatures, the vegetation dies back,
leaving behind a natural mulch to protect the soil and keep the weeds at bay. Finally, the roots decompose, adding rich organic matter to the soil, improving its overall health for the next growing season. Even if you are growing your edibles in raised garden beds, the same methods apply to you! Think of a raised garden bed as a large container. You wouldn’t plant new plants in a container year after year without refreshing the soil, so don’t be afraid to use what nature can provide to achieve the same results in your raised beds.

So after your crops have been harvested, don’t let your garden plot sit dormant and be unproductive; instead plant a cover crop and repay the good earth for the bountiful harvest you have enjoyed.